By Kelly Dearmore
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
"Shit, man," scoffed John Dufilho, riding next to me in the passenger seat. "If I'd known about the 500 bucks, I would've brought my band to compete." Dufilho is the lead singer of The Deathray Davies and I Love Math. He's been my best friend since high school, so I asked him to do me a favor and judge the event, too.
I basically agreed to the gig as a family favor (my niece was helping host it), but having watched some of those VH-1 Behind the Music things, I admit I also had vague hopes of discovering the next Dallas-bred pop star--another Norah Jones, Jessica Simpson or Erykah Badu. I imagined myself interviewed under soft lights, saying, "The second he/she got onstage, it was obvious to everyone in the room that he/she was going to be a superstar."
"Should we stop and get some beer?" Dufilho asked.
"Dude, it's a Catholic high school."
"So they probably won't have beer then, huh?"
Student volunteers wearing headsets buzzed all around us.
"Wow," I thought to myself. "We didn't have headsets when I was in high school."
The walls were decorated with some drug-education student project, including a poster designed like a race track of addictions, titled "Dash for Hash."
"That's what I do when I get off the airplane in Amsterdam," Dufilho said in an Elvis-impersonator voice.
We entered the auditorium, decked out with a full stage setup and a life-size Jesus on the cross.
"Wow," I thought to myself. "We didn't have girls like this when I was in high school." I hadn't seen so many stunning girls in one place in years. It beat any nightclub hands down. I regretted not dressing a little nicer.
Dufilho leaned over and whispered, "Man, it's a good thing no one from my band came. They would've been trying to take these girls home, like, for real."
It was going to be a long night. Disappointingly, there were no girls in any of the bands. Where was the next Sleater-Kinney, Hope Sandoval or Lauryn Hill? Furthermore, where were the rappers and DJs? There weren't even any black people anywhere. I can't bear to see another generation stuck in the same format: four white guys playing guitars and drums. The rest of the world has progressed beyond that--why can't Dallas?
But there were pleasant surprises, like the Jesuit High School band Casual. When these guys hit the stage, I was blown away. Not only by their ability to rock, but by the musical influences that extended well beyond their age--it was as though they'd digested the best of 1980s British rock, from XTC to the dawn of Pulp, and emerged with something all their own. They ended their three-song set with a cover from Jimi Hendrix's Axis: Bold as Love that sounded like it'd been played by the Stone Roses. Fucking brilliant. After their set, I asked 18-year-old lead singer Bill Stevenson and his bandmates what life was like for them at Jesuit High School. "Everybody hates us," he said. "We're total geeks." I explained to them that there was no greater compliment. It's a sign of great things to come. Case in point: Feature Friday. Here was a band adored by their peers. They had CDs for sale, probably a manager and a record deal to boot. What they didn't have, however, was a soul. In my critique, I explained how sad it was to see kids so young sell out so early. They were a band custom-made for commercial alternative (a paradox if ever there was one) radio, and I hated them for it. Apparently so did the other judges, because they didn't even score in the top three--despite legions of Linkin Park fans swearing they were "the shit."