By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
It comes as no surprise that the Granada Theater ran away with the Best Venue category this year. For starters, it was by far the most spacious of the nominees on this year's list. But, then again, if size was the only thing that mattered, the American Airlines Center would have a lock on this thing year after year.
Instead, owner Mike Schoder credits the club's success to his background in the resort industry.
"We take a lot of time teaching the staff about care," he says. "We're a resort, not just an arms-folded club."
Booking high-quality acts certainly helps too. Schoder says his time behind the counter at his CD World store taught him a lot about local music lovers' tastes. In 2008 alone, artists ranging from Neko Case to Todd Snider to Roky Erickson to Del Tha Funkee Homosapien performed or are scheduled to perform at the theater.
Last year, Schoder brought local musician and man-about-town Kris Youmans to help pick out the cream of the indie-rock crop. That worked out well; Youmans is this year's Best Booking Agent winner.
While some of the city's newer, larger venues may land the occasional Wilco, Waits or Wolf Parade, they can't match The Granada's peaceful, inviting vibe, from the friendly staff of "serenity" guards to the enormous "Love Yourself" sign above the stage (not to mention the pristine sound system).
"We create an environment where people are comfortable," Schoder says. "It's more of a family feel than what they may get at other venues, especially now that we've got these big corporate venues like crazy." —J.H.
Most nights there's a show at the Granada, you'll find booking agent Kris Youmans there. And at some point in the night—several points, if we're being realistic—he'll be standing out in front of the theater clad in a guayabera, hair pushed back in his sunglasses, cigarette dangling.
He's a schmoozer, chatting up audience members, scenesters and musicians. And make no mistake; that's not a bad thing. Working local audiences and musicians (local and national) is needed to consistently book quality shows that wow audiences.
"You have to be up-to-date with what is going to be a draw," Youmans says.
Seeing as how he's been at the booking trade since he first booked Dallas' old Major Theater in the spring of 1995, that's a lot of keeping up. It also makes for a fair amount of success—and a few pans.
"Booking is always a gamble, but the most important thing is believing in what you are trying to book."
The behind-the-scenes also offers a fair amount of betting, he says.
"The hand is dealt from the agent when they give you dates to look at with an artist. You make an offer, and then once the show is confirmed you have to play the rest of the hand."
This past year, Youmans won a fair share, and some of it is because of his experience as a musician (he plays cello for The Paper Chase and Sarah Jaffe). He can relate to what artists need and want from a show.
With shows such as Neko Case, Roky Erickson, Calexico and others coming up at the Granada, it's clear Youmans has a knack for bringing Dallas more of the bigger indie shows it needs. But it's good to know he's also keeping an eye on locals—working the crowd, cigarette by cigarette. —M.M.
Spend more than a night or two in the North Texas music scene and you're bound to run into Chelsea Callahan. She heads up distribution and the online stores department for Crystal Clear Sound, where her duties range from getting CDs into sales bins to filling online merchandise orders for Erykah Badu, Forever the Sickest Kids and Bowling for Soup, among others. She's also a DOMA-nominated booking agent for The Double Wide, where in the past three years she's brought bands ranging from Riverboat Gamblers and The Sword to Dove Hunter and Will Johnson.
Above all that, though, she's a relentless promoter for local music, championing shows for the bands she loves even when she doesn't have a stake in them.
"It's a big city, but the attendance for shows—especially for local music—isn't as high as it should be," she says. "I just want people to go to more shows."
No wonder so many bands are eager to play at The Double Wide time after time.
Callahan gets particularly excited about bands that draw from various genres, which is why bands like blues-rock duo RTB2 and roots-rock act Dove Hunter are listed among her favorites.
"There are a lot of bands that are hard to put in one genre, and I think that's cool as shit," she says. "I think because it's Texas; [there is] alt-country-, bluegrass-, Americana- and roots-influenced music here, and that's especially interesting. I'm not saying this is the only place that happens, but I've really noticed it in the past couple years."—J.H.