Smoke on the Water

Out where the Jšgermeister flows, we rock

Rock 'n' roll history has a long tradition of bizarre incongruities: Sha Na Na at Woodstock—what was that all about? So when I first heard that Black Tie Dynasty was going to play at FireWater, that bastion of mid-cities metal, a place that boasts one of those cold Jägermeister machines, I didn't think much of it.

But after a bit, it sounded interesting...those dark clad boys ripping out their shiny riffs, '80s-inspired vocals and disco drums, surrounded by ladies sporting the latest from Wet Seal and dudes sporting backward baseball caps. I figured at the very least, Black Tie might need me there to make sure they didn't get their asses kicked in the parking lot.

On that count, I needn't have bothered; the band went over quite well, out in the hinterlands off Interstate 35, a surprise that fosters some investigation.

For those who have never been there, FireWater is a large nightclub/bar out around Northwest Highway and I-35, not that long a trek, but definitely a smidge out of the way if you're used to Deep Ellum or Lower Greenville. It's fairly easy to reach highway-wise, but once you exit, things get a bit tricky. After a single left turn, you end up in what might be the world's largest parking lot—kinda like Arlington—flanked on one side by a giant honky-tonk whose name I forget but where, apparently, people like to make out by their cars.

There's a Chili's, I think, and maybe a Hooters—in all honesty it's difficult to tell if they're really there or they just should have been there, implied like a grace note in guitar tablature, but either way, FireWater is planted smack in the middle of a hell of a lot of concrete and difficult to find until you spot the fountains that spout like baby geysers in front of the establishment, out by the outdoor stage, and hear the singular sound of shot glasses clinking.

It's only a 20-minute drive if you include getting lost in the asphalt jungle of chain restaurants, but for those of us who frequent dank clubs, FireWater might as well be on the moon. It was packed this past Saturday night, a fact that I, with raised eyebrows, assumed was due to the BTD show, until a man who was probably around 35 but looked, with his paunch and rough drinking face, much older, informed me that he and others thought a KISS cover band was playing that night. Still, much of the crowd was young and eager to party. There were girls who seemed they must have been members of some lesser sorority, or maybe they went to community college. The fellas were clearly on the make, almost all of them sporting short haircuts and flip-flops. There were a lot of cargo shorts. At one point—and I'm not making this up—I overheard one guy say to another, "Do you like Fall Out Boy?"

You get the picture. After Longview's The Vehicle Reason provided a tepid set of generic alt-rock, a large group of FireWater denizens gathered near the front of the stage, waiting for BTD to start their set. And once they did, damn if the Fall Out Boy-loving crowd didn't dig it. There was dancing, arm pumping, fist waving. People were paying attention, in a way I hadn't seen in a long time. Sure, the majority of the few hundred folks out at the bar that night were more interested in the Coors Light and ESPN, but a shockingly high ratio also never turned their heads from the stage.

The stage in question is outside, a raised extension of the expansive wooden deck, so close to those Bellagio-wannabe fountains that when the wind blows the right direction, you get a slight spray of water in the face, which isn't entirely unpleasant. This particular night, the wind whipped in confused circles, whisking bass player Blake McWhorter's awesomely giant pile of hair—his coif resembles Marie Antoinette's 'do after an absinthe binge—into intricate configurations. (At certain points, I would look at it and try to find a recognizable figure, like when you play that cloud game. Look—there's a shark! And now it's a balloon!) The breeze was a tiny reminder it won't always be 105 degrees; the blur of smiling faces, each completely lacking in irony, a reminder that a party's a party; the friendly bartenders a reminder that surliness is not a virtue. And, as Black Tie singer Cory Watson raised his arms and stretched them toward the crowd and all the pretty girls stretched theirs back, I remembered that we were lost. And that was a good thing.

Handstamps: Tired of that wannabe alt-country? Check out Sean Reefer and the Resin Valley Boys at Dan's Silverleaf, Denton, on Thursday, August 23. Reefer et. al. must smoke a special strain, because they, er, puff out a mellow backwoods brand of pure yee-haw...California, here we come—by way of Arlington, that is—when Phantom Planet, PPT, the Last of the Ashfords and DJ B Smoove host the MavsMeet afterparty Friday, August 24. At first we thought this was the Dallas Mavericks, but then we realized it's the UTA Mavs. Oh well, with that lineup, it'll still be fun...The 2007 version of the B.B. King Blues Festival gets really low down with the Rev. Al Green and Etta James and the Roots Band Sunday, August 26, at Nokia Theatre...Salim Nourallah releases his latest, Snowing in My Heart, with help from Radiant, the Slack and Johnny Lloyd Rollins at the Granada on Friday, August 24. See you there—till then, B Smoove, y'all.

 
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