By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Hey, look! There's a big festival in Austin this weekend!
Hey! Look at this too! Dallas is getting a nice little runoff from that action!
Sounds a little familiar, huh?
Well, it should, dammit. Seems we run this same goddamn article twice a year. There are minor tweaks to it each time, of course, like the specific names of the bands involved and, depending on the time of the year, whether the influx is because of South by Southwest or Austin City Limits.
But the gist of it remains the same.
Lest we forget: Dallas isn't Austin.
And oh, how lucky we are! We're this close to the Live Music Capital of the World! The perks! The joys!
Everyone now: Yay! Oh, how good we have it!
It's true. Really, it is!
Let's say you don't want to drive three hours to Austin this weekend to see a pretty lackluster lineup for the normally high-quality Austin City Limits Music Festival. Maybe you just want to see one of the bands on the bill—really badly, no less. Well, a lot of the top talents on the ACL bill are coming through Dallas (or just did): Neko Case, Iron & Wine, The Swell Season, The Black Keys, Hot Chip. Drive-By Truckers, Del Tha Funkee Homosapien, Roky Erickson, Spiritualized, Fleet Foxes, Louis XIV, Electric Touch, Delta Spirit, Dan Dyer, Colour Revolt. There's a chance, and perhaps a good one, that your top choice is on that list.
Think of all the time you'll save! And the gas money! Oh, the gas money! Especially in this economy!
Wait. No. That can't be right. There has to be a downside to all this. Surely, the great gift that Austin bears twice a year (if not more than that, really) brings some negatives, no?
Like, well...OK, how 'bout this: The fact that Dallas is kind of being set up for a fall here.
ACL and SXSW offer their attendees something of a Golden Ticket. Entrants get the chance to see all these acts at one venue (or, at venues that, in the grand scheme of things, aren't too spread out). But Dallas, when it bears the fruits of Austin's labor, doesn't offer fans that luxury. Instead, these shows are all thrust onto the calendar in a four- or five-day stretch, and because of that, the calendar gets a little too big for its britches.
Yeah, we get all these shows, sure. But we also get the unfortunate task of having to pit all of these shows up against each other, instead of on the single bill that Austin provides. And because these shows are all competing with each other, their potentials are squandered, at least from a business standpoint.
On Thursday night alone, there's a wealth of talent in Dallas (with no help from Fort Worth or Denton, thank you very much): Del Tha Funkee Homosapien at the Granada Theater; Spiritualized and Grand Ole Party at the Lakewood Theater; Hot Chip and Drums of Death at the Palladium Ballroom; Drive-By Truckers and Shooter Jennings at the House of Blues; and home-kid-done-good Ben Kweller at the House of Blues' Pontiac Garage. Those are five stellar shows—each of which, on a slower week, would kill. Instead, Del and Hot Chip will compete for the hipster dance set, and Spiritualized and Drive-By Truckers will compete for the slightly older, more schooled, vanilla-flavored set. Ben Kweller? Well, he's just the odd man out, oh well—besides, last week's The New Year show at the Granada Theater helped prove that Dallas doesn't really support its great local talents, anyway.
And, oh yeah, that's just Thursday. Kind of a clusterfuck when you actually think about it.
But it gets worse: "All these bands would've hit the market at some point during the year anyway," explains Spune Productions' Lance Yocum, who books shows to The Cavern, Lola's Saloon in Fort Worth and Hailey's Club in Denton. With Colour Revolt in Denton, Fleet Foxes in Fort Worth and Dead Confederate in Dallas, Yocum's been able to reel in a slew of interesting shows this weekend. But even he finds the weekend's bounty to be a little bittersweet. "It's because of routing. The industry is based off routing, and, unfortunately, you don't have the choice of date. If you don't jump on these bands, someone else will."
Of course: There's money to be made off shows like this. Or, rather, there should be. But with audiences only able to attend so many shows a night, and with the economy taking its toll on the ticket-buying power of the area's fans, there's just no way that all of these shows do well.
Just the girls now: Booooooooooo!
If anything, Dallas' proximity to Austin probably hurts it more than anything else. When a band playing one of these Austin festivals decides to book a Dallas piggyback date, they're putting a lot of undue pressure on Dallas' music-attending marketplace. With a few exceptions—Friday night's already sold-out show at the Granada with The Black Keys, and Monday's Palladium show with The Swell Season and Iron & Wine, which, AEG officials say, is close to doing the same—these shows probably aren't going to do as well as they would have had they been booked to the area during another time of the year. The bands even seem to realize this a bit, Yocum explains. The upcoming shared bill of Colour Revolt and Neva Dinova at Hailey's in Denton, for instance, is an example of two bands that were looking to book a show in the area on the same night—and because they realized that the area venues were seeing an influx in talent this weekend, they sucked it up and agreed to play the same venue, on the same ticket. Same with the Iron & Wine and Swell Season show, actually.
But that means a smaller take in the profit the venue runs that night. And it means, more than likely, a bitter taste in the mouth of the band whenever they think of Dallas—unless, of course, its members are truly versed (not too likely) in the fact that this weekend's diluted crowds and rationed payments are the result of an above-average area concert calendar.
If someone were really, truly inspired to take in a bulk of these acts on the same weekend, they'd head to Austin for ACL. Or, at least, they should: It might be a little more expensive, but it'd be more convenient—and certainly more of an experience than driving around from venue to venue in Dallas would be (as if anyone's actually considering doing as much, which I doubt).
So, not to get all Debbie Downer on this otherwise phenomenal weekend of concerts, but as great as this weekend looks coming in, it's gonna be pretty nasty on the way out. That's just the unfortunate side effect of being so close to Austin, really.
Until, of course, Dallas gets a worthwhile festival of its own.
(No offense, Ozzfest.)