By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Last Saturday night, the death knellof Deep Ellum reached all the way to Lower Greenville. The stomach-churning news that another legendary door was closing—Gypsy Tea Room—was being digested, even as dozens of people milled around the lobby of the Granada Theater, waiting for the likes of Smile Smile, Faux Fox, The Crash That Took Me and Black Tie Dynasty to take the stage inside. You could see the moment when the few Dallasites who didn't know received the news; their faces fell and they clutched their bellies.
Of course, after a few beers, everybody forgot about it. And that's probably for the best; after all, a killer lineup awaited, with four quality bands and a full house eager to hear them. The mourning could wait till, uh, morning.
Smile Smile kicked things off with a gorgeous set, their first ever with a full band and their first time setting foot on the Granada stage. Smile Smile's subtle touch is their strength; their just-odd-enough melodies, harmonies and sweet keyboard lines are more than the sum of their parts. That is, made up of distinct, individual, almost simple elements, their songs coalesce into tight, gorgeously rendered units. I'm not sure they even need a full band.
And then, swerving in the opposite direction, Faux Fox. It's possible my opinion of a live Faux Fox show has been corrupted by the band's brilliant (and awfully long) video for their single "Nothing Gold," off their latest disc Endless Pursuit. It's a freaky joy to watch, a new take on the retro fetish that has overtaken music of late, centering on some sort of apocalyptic motocross race. It doesn't hurt that the song is a bouncy bass-and-keyboard-infested piece of wiry booty shake. Nor does it hurt that FF's front man, George Quartz, works his body like an electrocuted monkey.
Which he did onstage as well. As skinny as Nicole Richie, clad in green pants with an unidentifiable animal head motif, Quartz was a transfixing focus point. Yes, Faux Fox is derivative. (In fact, let's get all the comparisons out of the way: Joy Division, Wire, Depeche Mode, Joy Division, Duran Duran, The Cure, Joy Division. There.) But who cares? Certainly not the audience at the Granada that night. Yes, it's been done before. But Quartz is one of those rare figures who scare the shit out of you while rocking your pants off at the same time. It's an age-old rock 'n' roll tradition (Little Richard, Iggy Pop, Glenn Danzig, anyone?) and I prefer to think of his antics as continuing a tradition versus trying to suck some life out of old ghosts.
Next up, perhaps the most anticipated crew of the night, none other than the Crash That Took Me, the supergroup built of pieces of [DARYL], the Earlies and Black Tie Dynasty. They sounded the way a supergroup should: loud, anthemic, wall-of-sound-driven. Live, the group proved less ethereal and sparkly than their recorded works; instead, they pumped out what sounded like a fusion of Oasis and the harder edges of the Doves. It was pure updated stadium rock.
Finally, Black Tie Dynasty. If ever there were a band tailor-made to take the Granada stage, it's this Fort Worth quartet. Almost as rail-like as Quartz and clad in fly-eye sunglasses, BTD's lead dude Corey Watson carried the show with his echo-drenched voice. Effect-laden keyboard lines interlaced with dancing bass lines; guitar shifted from distorted to clean and chime-y. And, best of all, BTD's melodies snaked their way through the room and housed themselves in the "Really Catchy Pop Songs" section of everybody's head. Yes, they're retro—Joy Division, etc.—but as Watson's gyrations and dance moves evoked Prince, of all people, BTD did nothing but inspire hands in the air and hips swiveling and ladies swooning. And there's nothing more rock 'n' roll than that.