By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
By 1997, Gonzalez and Simons had released a tape (with drummer Laura Ellis), Nightgown. With Laura's move to college approaching, Gonzalez's best friend, Andrea Couch, was recruited as a replacement. Simons says, wholeheartedly, "We started again with Andrea. This incarnation is all about her. She's such a good drummer, she's part of the songwriting just like Aaron is or I am." Andrea learned the drums in less than a year; their first show was at her parents' house, playing to other parents, neighbors, and a crowd of kids fast losing a place to see and make music.
Both bands' stories may sound the same, but it took a while before they were reading off the same page. It was at Booker T. Washington, where they both focused on classical music, that Couch and Gonzalez met up with Raul Espinosa, then a visual arts junior, who, although from the same neighborhood, was scarcely aware of the younger band. "It was so cool, meeting people who were doing things and lived down the block," Couch recalls. The two bands fast became each other's much needed allies, setting up shows together where, as Trish Rodriguez hoped, "kids are working off each other's energy."
In mid-1998, those kids worked with the nearby Oak Cliff Coffeehouse to begin hosting all-ages, late-evening shows. Along with Blush and Swivel, these increasingly frequent and well-attended concerts brought along like-minded acts such as the the Fed-Ups, Vasanic Switch, and Time and Pressure. Gonzalez organized the last show held at the coffee house this summer, featuring Akkolyte (his noise no-wave project with 14-year-old brother Stephan), Bread and Water (an amazing girl-fronted grindcore outfit), and Stephan's hardcore band, Target Rats.
Moon Tunes, 1816 Cockrell Ave.
Shows at the coffeehouse ended by order of the ownership after mid-July 1999. At that point, regular show attendance had outgrown the front room, moving the performance space to an unused back room of the retail strip. The success of the coffeehouse shows, along with neighborhood newcomer Dave Aponte's orchestration of sometimes raucous shows in the Cockrell Avenue space Moon Tunes, were proof that the once thriving all-ages inner Dallas scene had begun to re-emerge independently of the governing rock music sensibilities downtown.
The members of Swivel, along with longtime friend Jens Larsen, an SMU art student, now rent a studio space one block down Bishop from the coffee house. Serving as mixed-media art space and an all-hours hangout, the space also houses a small gallery storefront, an answer to the established art scene similar to the one they have given the music community. "Everything we're doing is in reaction to the place we're living," Patricia declares.
Managed by Rodriguez and brothers Martin and Alex Campos, the space shows their work as well as that of Larsen and Rene and Raul Espinosa. The group took upon the task of showing their own work after the local galleries showed little interest. Similarly, Alex Campos is helping Rene to head up 111 Records, an imprint whose first releases were Time Framed in Real Time and The Night Sky. They plan to release a Blush and Swivel split seven-inch next, featuring "Hopscotch," a stunning pop song and the best thing Blush has ever recorded.
"Slowly, I'd like to put out seven-inches of bands that I like: friends and other people in the same situation, people getting ignored in Dallas," Rene says. Young (Patricia and Rene are the oldest of the group at 23), moralistic, and unwilling to "buy their way in" to any scene, they're skeptical of the cottage industry of rock music in Dallas just as they're skeptical of the mainstream galleries. Rene states flatly, "If we [Swivel] wanted to play in a bar on a Friday night, we would. But we've stopped playing clubs...We don't want to be any part of that".
Raul, who at 20 has had to stand outside waiting before shows at bars, recounts now-deferred plans for a "Revolution" show. "We wanted to play a big show [outside of the clubs], and people were all worried. People were worried about offending the clubs they weren't playing in the first place."
Couch and Gonzalez, both 19, can't help but agree. "In Dallas, you have to put your foot down to make music that's different and do things outside the norm, even if it's just making music you think is worth doing," offers Couch.
"My Dad got me interested in music at a very young age," Gonzalez says of his father, jazz musician and longtime KERA-FM DJ Dennis Gonzalez, and more important, "in making music that I thought was interesting. There's not really much else you can do, I think."
Blush has stayed in Dallas as a way of staying together, yet for the most part, only the band is located here; Simons lives in Austin while he finishes a degree in sound recording technology at Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos; Couch lives in Denton while she goes to the University of North Texas. Gonzalez is the only member still in Dallas. They practice almost every weekend at Simons' house off of Jefferson. Simons, 22, says, "I like living in Dallas, and I like making music here. Our shows in Dallas, in Oak Cliff, those have been so much better as far as shows were concerned...It's not that we don't want to play clubs, but we don't want to be known for playing clubs. There are bands that are 'stars' in those clubs. That's so insignificant."