By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Before we get too deep into our budding relationship, Dallas—me being your new music editor here at the Observer and all—and before I start telling you guys just how much of a must-see Local Act A is or just how much tighter Local Act B would be if it took more/less guitar work cues from National Act C, there's something you should know.
For the past, oh, I don't know, two months or so, I've been stalking you and your scene. Stalking you long and stalking you hard—like I was 45 and balding, like you were barely legal and coming into your own, and like we both had MySpace accounts.
So, yeah, it sounds creepy. But in the world of journalism, we call it "research." And, y'know, I had to do it.
See, I'll be the first to admit that I'm not incredibly familiar, at this point, with your city and its musical history/climate. I have my reasons—not being from around here being the most glaring and obvious—so I did what I could to learn on ya. And learn I did; the Internet's truly an amazing place when you're not just using it to scam free song downloads off of elbo.ws and Hype Machine.
I picked up tidbits on your scene here and there, taking what I could from Observer articles and blog postings on WeShotJR, FineLineLive, GorillaVSBear and the like. I read your Deep Ellum sob stories. I heard your gripes on the lack of Denton scene coverage. I learned about the new Fort Worth venue developments. I took note of it all. And I found some real gems while perusing area MySpace band pages.
Baboon? Big fan.
Black Tie Dynasty? Not hard to see why they're a big draw 'round these parts.
Sarah Jaffe? More, please.
My overall thoughts on the Dallas crop of musicians before I got here? Very high.
Indeed, from afar, your scene proved quite intriguing. So did you. It's obvious that you're proud of your scene—and for good reason. You seem to have a real sense of ownership when it comes to your local products. That's good. Real good.
Of course, y'know, that can be bad too. From afar, it looked like you were practically tripping over your own pride, Dallas: You love your Badus, Vincents and Sprees, sure, but you hate the fact that you're not getting credit for them in any national forums. That's fine, completely understandable. But—again, from afar—it looked like it jaded you a bit. It looked like you gave too much credit to your local indie acts and hated on your local radio-friendly set for taking cues from national products. Hardly a condemnation—Hell, I still agreed to take the job, didn't I?—just an observation from a computer 12-plus hours of drive-time away.
Given all that, I knew I'd have to wait to see this town in action before I started to pass judgment. That was the no-spin, fair-and-balanced way to go.
So when I arrived in town around midnight a few Saturdays back, after a hella boring drive from Colorado Springs, I figured I had to start my in-person sleuthing immediately. Minutes after checking into my just-this-side-of-rinky-dink temporary residence on LBJ Freeway and sidestepping the likely hooker and apparent John patiently awaiting check-in behind me at the front desk, I went right out to see a show—which I also did two nights later, and two nights after that, and the night after that, and so on and so on. You get the idea.
What I found didn't really surprise me so much as it kind of caught me off-guard. Maybe I was just reeling from moving to a new city and a new state, finding a new apartment and setting up my utilities and whatnot (in case you didn't already know, the hold music over at TXU and Time Warner utterly blows) and the whole starting a new job thing we've already discussed, but my absolute first impression? There's a whole lot going on around here. I caught eight shows in my first two weeks in town despite being bogged down by mindless, annoying new-to-town errands, and I still felt like I was missing out. I probably was; Dallas certainly isn't lacking a variety of shows to take in on a given night, that's for damn sure. The venues, meanwhile? Kickass. The Granada's freakin' dope, the Double Wide's bringin' it with intimacy, The Cavern's got a cozy charm and Sloppyworld's just oozin' with potench.
Hell, even the scenesters seemed like good people. Some are a bit too proud of their roles, true, but certainly not all of them. Most seemed a mixed bag of nervousness, uncertainty and eagerness. And the problems they gabbed about in their scene weren't all that unique to this city. Actually, listening to their diatribes about an abundance of local talent, a lack of a consistent audience and a dearth of proper media coverage, well...it kinda reminded me of the dismay of Colorado Springs scenesters. That had me smiling—not because it squelched any homesickness I may have had—but because it reeked of naïveté. As in: Maybe those of you who are too immersed in this local music scene don't know just how good you've got it here. Sure, there aren't huge lines and crowds at every single deserving show held around the area on a given night, but when and where is there ever? Besides, it's not like a number of the shows I saw in my whirlwind opening weeks tour weren't shoulder-to-shoulder packed.
Which brings us (oh yeah...) to the music itself. Some of the live performers I caught in my Dallas early-goings were really fucking good: indie rockers Ella Minnow, grindcore duo the Akkolytes, Centro-matic frontman Will Johnson, Pleasant Grove frontman Marcus Striplin and the guys who spin at The Cavern's Cool Out Mondays. Some were really fucking weird: Loop 12 and The Great Tyrant, upon first sight/listen weren't the surefire hits I was promised. And some were really fucking sleep-inducing (really!): Victory March's instrumental rock sound wasn't exciting enough to keep a member of Here in Arms from falling asleep on a couch in the back of The Cavern when the two acts shared a bill there.
So what does this all mean? Hell if I know. But I'm pretty stoked to continue trying to finding out. And I'm pretty excited about the fact that I'll no longer have to use MySpace as my main means of doing so. Because, really, I have too many e-prostitutes in my top friends as it is.
Oh, and in case you were wondering: Local Act A is absolutely amazing. Transcendent, even. They're pretty much the greatest thing to ever come out of Dallas. They'll definitely get signed by a major (even though they repeatedly say they don't want that), and they'll definitely be on the next Zach Braff movie soundtrack, which will inevitably turn them into overnight national media darlings. It will be epic.
Ha! I was kidding...
They totally suck!