By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
I walked to the Curtain Club on Friday night and asked a young lady at the door about press entry to the Dallas Music Festival. She gave me a puzzled look, said she wasn't sure about press access and fuddled around a bit. I pulled out my wallet--I didn't want to make a fuss, even though I was pissed that I was about to give money to the lowly, despicable fest--when another woman walked up to the door.
"He's cool, the press passes are right there." She turned to me and, in a near-whisper, said, "I can't believe you're actually here!"
Guess she read my opinion of the fest in last week's Dallas Observer--"musical equivalent of a barium enema," "worse than the closing of Trees and the Jesse Chaddock beating combined," that sorta thing. Some people accused me of hyperbole--and more than a few bands wrote e-mails pleading that they were, in fact, the exceptions to my condemnation.
While those e-mailing bands didn't change my mind, I knew I had to see the fest, mostly because I was prepared to eat a heaping slice of humble pie. In all honesty, a person can't bash 150 bands in one fell swoop and expect to get away with it, right?
Well, forget humble pie--the only treats on the DMF menu were poop steak, fart coleslaw and peanut-butter puke.
I ran all over Deep Ellum on Friday to see as many bands as I could, hoping and praying that the next one I'd see was actually good, but Deep Ellum was seething with butt-rock--Egypt Central, The Future Unlived, IMI and Fall of Man were the worst no-melody, nothing-new rockers I saw first-hand, and many more generic, "extreme" guitar chords could be heard echoing across Main and Commerce streets all night (I'm looking at you, The Vanished). In addition, rap was shamed by petty rhymespitters like Goat and Malvado, and even trivial Dave Matthews-wannabe material was given a spotlight by Army of Fools.
Did anything good come out of Friday's fest? Kin Fok Kru, as I'd predicted, threw a hip-hop party with guest performers, hot tracks and power-packed rhymes, but if anything else good happened that night, I missed it. And so did the massive crowd--I hadn't seen that many teens and rock-loving patrons wandering around Deep Ellum in more than a year.
When I arrived at 9 p.m., the streets were already teeming. I wanted to grab someone and shout, "See? People in Dallas still want live music! Deep Ellum's not dying--look at the crowd!" Sure, they'd shown up because their friends gave guilt trips (most people answered my "why are you here" question with a story about a co-worker being in some band), but that was still a means to an end.
A few hours (and awful bands) later, the "end" was clear. Patrons were in Deep Ellum for their first time in months--or, for a lot of teens with X's on their hands, I'd say ever--and only heard pitiful groups that weren't ready for a high school battle of the bands. Even if one or two unknown groups made a splash, the sea of sewage overpowered it.
I know the Deep Ellum Association threw a fit about my slam against the DMF, but guys, really, I was upset on your behalf. A lot of people who barely read the Dallas Observer, who don't tune in to local radio shows, who don't know about the Theater Fire, Bosque Brown, Saboteur, Red Monroe, Record Hop and on and on and on, only know about Dallas' music scene thanks to this weekend's shows. Those people are not coming back for seconds.
And what about Sugarlight Productions, the Cleveland-based DMF organizers who not only made bands play for free but also required them to sell tickets? They left a plenty bad taste in some performers' mouths--for example, half-decent teens the Veldt were forced to pay $40 before their gig to cover the cost of "unreturned tickets." This was to make sure bands didn't sell DMF tickets and pocket the cash--heaven forbid they make a penny while playing your fest, Sugarlight--but the Veldt was caught off-guard by the requirement and left feeling cheated. (You can find more complaints from DMF bands in our letters section.)
Enough pessimism; Sugarlight's gone now, but the good music's still here. Hailey's hosted a great Spune Productions showcase on Saturday night celebrating the best in Dallas rock, and Spune's at it again this weekend with two big shows (see And Another Thing, page 61). Nothing--not Deep Ellum, not lack of radio support, not Sugarlight--will ever stop DFW/Denton from churning out quality music, but would DMF-size crowds return to Deep Ellum to see it?
Not if IMI has anything to scream about it.