By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
The other venue resurrected from the dead in the last few years is the Bronco Bowl. Mention it, and any rooted Dallas rock fan gets that nostalgic gleam in his eye, recalling the great shows that graced that stage throughout the 1980s: the Replacements, U2, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Frankie Goes to Hollywood. These were the college-radio acts that were too big to play a club, but not big enough to fill an arena, making the 3,000-seat space so ideal. After a short sabbatical, rock fans once again make the trek to Oak Cliff to enjoy the Bronco Bowl in its refurbished state, all the better to enjoy the likes of Lou Reed, Beck, Elvis Costello and the Attractions, Portishead, and the like. Great sound, not a bad seat in the house--and hell, after the show, you can even bowl a few games.
Local Record Label
Record labels are an anachronism: Better to record at home using a four-track and DAT and release a record by yourself than share the profits with businessmen who refer to your art as product. Major label, indie label--what's the diff anymore? But with that in mind, the list of this year's local-label nominees does offer some evidence of what's right with record labels, especially when you consider that the finest label in all the land--Leaning House Records--is run by two young men going broke fast as they try to preserve jazz in its purest, finest sense.
Indeed, Mark Elliott and Keith Foerster's daydream has amassed a dandy collection of discs by the likes of Earl Harvin, Marchel Ivery, Shelley Carroll (with the Duke Ellington Band, no less), Donald Edwards, and Fred Sanders (featuring homeboy Roy Hargrove, a most impressive coup for a struggling indie). Even more impressive, come May 30, Leaning House will record a Village Vanguard session led by alto saxophonist Wessell Anderson, a member of Wynton Marsalis' sextet. Elliott and Foerster have chosen to bet the farm on selling jazz, which accounts for such a small percentage of major-label sales (forget indie), they might as well give the records away. Elliott, who has Joel Dorn's ears and Gandhi's patience, and Foerster, well, they're doing God's work.
The rest of the nominees are less about risk and more about rock: Aden Holt's One Ton is home to the noisiest batch of musicians this side of a train wreck: Doosu, Slow Roosevelt, and Holt's own Caulk. One Ton, which broadened its palette with the signing of most-likely-to Buck Jones, also was the springboard for Jeff Liles' one-man show cottonmouth, texas, which made its Virgin Records bow last year. RainMaker Records, which introduced the world to the Nixons and Deep Blue Something and deserves a reduced rate in hell for the favor, is still around offering up its flavor-of-the-second rock: Soak and Quickserv Johnny are among the most notable. Idol Records is home to more notable acts, such as American Fuse and Mazinga Phaser (which may not exist anymore).
Steve, the Crystal Clear imprint, is still plugging away despite the demolition of its two franchise players, Funland and Sixty-Six. But at least something good came of the bust-ups. Ex-Funland drummer Will Johnson's Redo the Stacks (released under the nom de rock Centro-matic) was high among last year's local releases, while the forthcoming record from former Funland frontman Peter Schmidt, recording as Legendary Crystal Chandelier, is by far his best work ever.
But of all the local (rock) labels, Last Beat Records is by far the most label-like, boasting an actual roster: Fireworks, Darlington, the Necro Tonz, Riot Squad, Clowns for Progress (their one out-of-town contribution), and rubberbullet, among others. (The label's finest act, the tomorrowpeople, released one of 1997's best homegrown discs, Golden Energy, but Last Beat lost the band to Geffen Records. Or not: The tomorrowpeople are managed by Last Beat's Shaun Edwardes, proof that some indies exist solely as minor-league training grounds where artists prove they're good enough to start in the Big Show.) Last Beat also exists to give major-label bands a little indie cred: Both Tablet and Slowpoke released CD singles through the label before their Mercury and Geffen releases, respectively, hit stores. And Last Beat even has its own studio, which makes it less a label and more a self-contained scene.
Local Radio Program
If you're truly into music, radio exists solely as a part-time housekeeper, someone with more time on their hands than you who can keep an ear out for the latest and coolest sounds and then bring them to you in a nice, convenient package. And who has more time on their hands than college kids? In fact, I'm pretty sure that's what "college music" means: music that no one who works for a living has time to listen to. KTCU-FM (88.7)'s In the Red, which kicks off at 11 p.m. Sundays--when students are still awake and working people are fast asleep--does a nice job of tidying up. Jared Blair and Chip Adams always keep it refreshingly more music than monkey business, with just enough background information delivered in a but-you-already-knew-that tone to make you feel that you did already know it, even when you didn't. KTCU can sound like it's broadcasting out of an Igloo cooler, but that only adds to the college-radio vibe, and "In the Red" usually doesn't sound any more amateur than KDGE-FM (94.5)'s The Adventure Club used to a few years ago.