By Jeremy Hallock
By James Khubiar
By Observer Staff
By Kelly Dearmore
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
Rock hasn't been that innocent beast so blissfully celebrated by the narcotized performers at Woodstock since Stevie "Guitar" Miller--the Curt Flood of the music business--utilized his high-dollar education to hold out for what was probably the first six-figure advance in music history. Even so, claims of political intrigue on the local front persist--and are in no way unique to the Moon Festival. Members of at least three struggling new bands indicated, off the record, that they too feel stifled by the tight-knit fraternity of music insiders in the Deep Ellum power structure.
"Of course music is political!" Salim exclaims. "And Dallas is just a microcosm of that concept, particularly so far as booking and who's on what bill are concerned. What does that mean? Well, the art of politics involves a bunch of self-interested groups. I'm not complaining--because we've had chances over the years with the Dragon Street deal and some nice shows back when Artists Development Agency booked Jackopierce, the Spin, and the Shagnasties. But that was then, and we're still here."
"And if a band isn't part of a self-interest group as far as the Dallas music scene today is concerned, then no one has a reason to promote you. We'd be perfect playing with Grand Street Cryers or pop poppins--wonderful--but you know what? We're not gonna get any of those shows because it's not in the self-interest of anyone behind them."
Chris Chaney, booking agent for Alliance, scoffs at the notion that the agency holds some sort of monopoly on gigs. "We have people say that all the time," she says. "In fact, it's a joke around here. But it's not true. We go after gigs like anyone else--aggressively. We fight for shows. Sometimes we don't get them. To say that it's impossible to get booked in this town unless Alliance does it is simply not true."
As for a Moon Festival assertion that they've been replaced on certain bills by newer, connected groups, Chaney says, "That's hilarious. When any band is on a bill and they get bumped, that's up to the club. They're the ones that are going to make money on the strength of a bill, and if they want to drop an act that's going to threaten the potential crowd and add a stronger drawing band, well, that's just an evil fact of the talent-buying business. And it happens to Alliance just like everyone else."
Chaney adds that while she hasn't been approached by the Moon Festival for bookings during her time with Alliance, she did book the band while performing that duty for Fitzgerald's in Houston some years back. "They're a good band," she says, "and they put on a good show, though there weren't many people there.
"There's nothing wrong with the Moon Festival. It's just that, so far as Alliance is concerned, right now our roster is full. We recommend that everyone send us a promo pack and a tape, and we review them and keep them on file for when a slot does come open."
The Moon Festival readily admit that they haven't approached Alliance, Rainmaker Records, or Robinson/Wood management, claiming that, by those organizations' very philosophies, they are anathema to the Moon Festival's musical worldview.
"We're not a punk rock band," Salim says, "but we have a very punk rock attitude. We have very hard-core beliefs about music and doing it because it's in your heart. Frankly, I think too many people in the music business, who are in it to make money, are fucking idiots. Because, you know, if that's your motivation, be a lawyer or a doctor."
Perhaps the Moon Festival are missing the point. Why the hell would a person want to spend 12 years in the whole medical school/intern routine when it's much more attractive and lucrative to enter into the business of entertainment? As anyone who's read Fred Goodman's The Mansion on the Hill knows, a scathing examination of rock's transformation from art to commerce, rock 'n' roll is rarely about music anymore. Which makes the Moon Festival's frustration understandable, and their philosophy of the future admirable.
"We'll take the blame for a lot of why we're not really a well-known band," Salim continues. "The Moon Festival's been plagued with recurring personnel problems [Davito is seemingly the group's 400th drummer], and it seems we're always kind of misfits. But we're in it for the music--and the long haul.
"I like to compare us to Guided by Voices. They made four-track records--like 14 or 15 of them--and couldn't get arrested. Now they're all in their late '30s and early '40s, and all of a sudden they're the hottest indie band going. Where were all the people that dig them now, back 14 years ago? Probably telling them they sucked."
The members of the Moon Festival strongly assert that they'll be making albums into perpetuity--even if they themselves are the only audience. Like some bizarre musical militia, they've quietly stockpiled recording equipment, songs, distribution theories--even graphic design skills--to ensure that, somehow, there will always be a Moon Festival CD in some mom 'n' pop record store somewhere.