The Lazarus Effect

Homecomings and familiar faces could be the start of Deep Ellum's resurrection

"Next, please!"

For one whole week you get to read my take on Dallas' music scene. Having lived here for all but a few ill-fated months after high school (no need to discuss those), I have strong beliefs that, like the popularity of skinny jeans, Dallas' music scene is cyclical in nature. Scenes prosper and wane. Genres lose and regain popularity. The live music equation always begins with the venue or a bigger name giving the wee babe a chance. But sometimes, an artist gets the opportunity to feed their roots. Erykah Badu and Norah Jones give back to Booker T.; other artists could offer that same appreciation for their early club education. Some actually do.

Club Dada has enjoyed increased popularity thanks to weekly showcases booked by, case in point, someone who frequented the joint in its heyday. For five months, Amanda Newman of The Fine Line has offered weekly "Listening To: Presents" showcases each Thursday, featuring burgeoning artists and an "Artist in Residence" series that has seen the likes of Travis Hopper, J.D. Whittenburgand Fishing for Comets.

Last week, a fixture in Texas music returned home, in a way, for his own month of Thursdays. Before Latino pop-rock twanger Davíd Garza and friends (including local greats Reggie Rueffer, Clay Pendergrass and Pete Young) rocked out everything from bluegrass to Prince, in addition to favorites from Garza's own expansive catalog during a three-hour set with no breaks save his sprint to a parking meter, he had time to make Newman blush at least 23 times and offer his thoughts on Club Dada and Deep Ellum.

"You know, the first time I played Club Dada was 1988, and I was 17 years old...that's 18 years," Garza says. "And I'm not, you know, I'm not walkin' with a cane. I can live to tell about 18 years in the scene." With a shot of Patrón in his hand and an enormous smile on his face, he motions toward Elm Street. "It's just like every step I remember a different band or a different song. I can't begin to say how many bands have really influenced me that I heard on this block right here," he reminisces. "It's the belt of it. It's the river of music of my early upbringing."

Garza has nearly two decades experience in Dallas and Austin venues, countless self-releases on his own Wide Open Records, battle scars from major labels (This Euphoria and Overdub were released on Atlantic/WEA), as well as tours with Ani DiFranco and Fiona Apple, among others. But more important, Garza has a connection to his audience and fellow musicians and affection for the scene that reared him. It's that connection and affection that have him making the drive from Austin and offering his poppy/folky services every Thursday in September.

"I know the feelings I get when I hear a Ten Hands song or a Fever [in the Funkhouse] song or whatever, even Bohemians for that matter," he muses. "So it's not about 'How much is cover?' or 'Is your label gonna be there to pass out fliers?'...It's because you make people smile, you make people dance, you make people have a good time. I don't come here and do this to make my money, I do this to make my fun." Ah, proof that somewhere out there, musicians can remain unjaded and enthused.

Newman has seen ever-expanding crowds at her shows over the course of "Listening To: Presents," but Garza's generosity brings her, literally, to tears. "The fact that Davíd is donating his time and playing these shows all month long for no pay is a testament to his conviction to playing music, but also to his love for Dada," she says. "Not to evangelize, but Davíd's commitment to Dada should really be eye-opening to young bands." She cites Garza as an artist who shares her own philosophy for creating a community around music, not a competition--something intrinsic to reviving the neighborhood.

"It's so beautiful to see Dada having this phoenix-like uprising," Newman says. Things were bleak on the Dada horizon not so long ago, but the club is now enjoying a stream of familiar faces--patrons and musicians such as Garza.

Garza, discussing this resurgence of Club Dada, that will, with any luck, spread down and over other blocks in Deep Ellum, offers a feel-good in his patented upbeat nuevo-hippie style, "We can sit around and moan for the old days, or we can sit around and get jazzed for the new days. And there's gonna be a lot of new days."

Garza's next new day at Club Dada is Thursday, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Admission is free.


Handstamps: Meat Radio's Grits 'N' Gravy DJs Gabriel and Jeff have taken over Wednesday nights at Club Dada with Current Leaves in residence for September...This weekend's Austin City Limits Festival not only offers three days of possible dust devils and sweltering concerts in glaring sunlight, but also local shows by bands smart enough to stop off here for some air-conditioned rock. These peeps hit ACL and Big D: Phoenix (Friday at the Gypsy Tea Room), Ben Kweller and Sam Roberts Band (Friday at Granada Theater), The Stills (Saturday at Gypsy Tea Room), Cat Power & the Memphis Rhythm Band (Saturday at Gypsy Tea Room, in the ballroom), and Marah with the Drams (Sunday at Sons of Hermann Hall).

 
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