20 Bands 7 Days

For one week, Sarah Hepola saw every band that invited her. God help her.

"We're doing all the heartbreak songs tonight," he says. "Well, that figures, it's about 45 percent of my material." I'd venture more like 80 percent. The crowd, dotted with baseball caps and not-so-natural blondes, sings along and starts to two-step in the crowded aisle. At the end of the evening, Stalling returns for an encore. He raises his arm to wave goodbye and accidentally sticks it into the ceiling fan. Did we mention he's tall?

Friday, 11 p.m., Barley House It's 20 minutes into Rahim Quazi's set at the Barley House when I'm forced to pull myself away. Too bad. He didn't invite me, but I'm glad I caught his set. Quazi, of the band OHNO, makes smart, poppy tunes comfy as a featherbed. Speaking of, I'm getting sleepy again. I swear, sometimes the hardest part of this job is just staying awake. Back in college, the moon could beat me to bed, and I'd hardly bat an eye. Now, pushing 30, a midnight show can feel like running underwater. But I'm determined to make it to the Graffiti Rock Room for Major Issues, a band who tagged its invite with the promise of being "Dallas' best-kept secret." No kidding. The Graffiti Room's secret is so water-tight that no one at the bar has ever heard of it.

I stop by my apartment to look it up online. With 20 minutes to kill, I sit down on my bed and think about what to do. You know what's sometimes a nice way to prepare for a late night of standing up? Lying down. You know what's nicer? When a sweet, orange kitty cat pads its way across the bed and on your belly to keep you company, and it's so soothing, the way the cat breathes, the way his eyes close--slowly, slowly. The gentle rhythm of his purr. It makes me so calm, lying here. It makes me so, so, so...

2 a.m., awaking in my bed DAMMIT!!!!!!!!!!

Saturday, 6:30 p.m., Mayfest at Trinity Park Back when my older brother and I read Circus magazine every week, the music of AC/DC was rather shocking. My mother, whose musical tastes run toward Bach and early Beatles, didn't quite know what to make of the cock-rock that is "Hell's Bells." So what am I to make of Mayfest, a family festival whose main-stage attraction is an AC/DC cover band, Back in Black?

All around me, hundreds of adults and children sit in the audience, nodding contentedly and tapping their feet. Near the back, a middle-aged woman in jogging pants points to the stage emphatically with every word. "I'm on the hiiiiiighway to hell," she sings, slapping her hands with delight. The band, for the record, sounds exactly like AC/DC, full of screech and power chords, and they even look like them, too, although younger and not quite so ugly. Meanwhile, parents sit with their kids, nodding their heads and mouthing the lyrics. "Hey, Satan! Paid my dues/Playin' in a rockin' band."

A friend who teaches guitar to teens was telling me recently that parents today aren't afraid of rock and roll like ours were. They grew up on the stuff. Once a sure-fire path to rebellion, rock music is now something parents encourage their kids to pursue. They see it as a viable art form. And hey, it's a lot cooler than the piccolo.

Saturday, 10 p.m., Across the Street Bar "Happy birthday, Ian!" yells a group of girls, collapsing into giggles.

Ian McRoy is onstage with a mike and an acoustic guitar, playing his own birthday party. His grin stretches for miles. He starts out his set with David Gray's frat-boy ballad "Babylon," so you can probably guess the kind of singer-songwriter McRoy is. He's a nice, sensitive guy who writes rather limp songs about love lost and love found and not being able to fight the feeling and whoa, whoa, whoa. He has a pleasant voice that sometimes reaches a little too far. But to paraphrase Leslie Gore, it's his party, and he'll crack if he wants to.

After each song, McRoy seems genuinely surprised to hear applause. "Now I know you're drunk," he tells the crowd. It's one of the many endearing things about Ian McRoy--not a great talent but still interesting enough to earn a small fan base. One girl in the audience knows all his songs, and she sings along happily. It's quite sweet, actually. Maybe there really is someone for everybody.

Sunday, 8:15 p.m., The Red Blood Club Deep Ellum is eerily vacant save a couple of skate punks, who trail me into the Red Blood Club, a scruffy warehouse tucked behind Crescent City Café on Commerce Street. They last two songs; I last three.

A Foot Ahead is a quartet of young, good-looking boys who hop around onstage and sing rote blasts of power-punk layered with '80s synth. Maybe it's the former high school teacher in me, but I find myself torn between wanting to encourage them and wanting to critique them. I mean, they're kids; of course they're green. But the truth is they're not good, and they could be one day.

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