By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Hey, not to be a dick or anything, but when did everyone around here stop being a dick? When did the DFW music scene lose its sense of entitlement? When did it stop demanding our attention—and start asking kindly for it?
When did everyone around here start getting so...so...nice?
I know it didn't just happen overnight, and it for sure didn't just start on a whim this past weekend. But, man, on Saturday night alone, this new attitude sure was especially tough to avoid.
On that day alone there were not one, not two, but three benefit concerts occurring around town (well, downtown, actually) inadvertently competing against one another (which is unfortunate) for the hearts of the kind, good-natured local music fans: At City Tavern, 10 bands filled a lineup meant to benefit the local chapter of the SPCA; at Club Dada, local rock products Lovie and El Gato hosted their annual Ultraviolet show with five other acts to benefit the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation; and at the new-ish Mosaic building location of Opening Bell Coffee, another 11 local singer-songwriters gathered to help local performer Karen Naomi's mother with her medical bills as a quadruple amputee and septicemia survivor.
And these weren't just no-names out there doing their part. Some pretty well-respected artists popped up at these shows. The Opening Bell show boasted the likes of pop crooner Johnny Lloyd Rollins and local instrumentalist extraordinaire Chris Holt. The Dada show featured the holy-crap-these-guys-rose-up-fast duo The O's and the super street cred-filled résumés of the musicians in The Boom Boom Box. And then there was the City Tavern lineup. Among others there: Ryan Thomas Becker, one of the most animated performers in town (who performed in two bands on this day); the bouncy-but-spacey pop-rock of Airline; the Cure-like goth-pop of Binary Sunrise (whose "Five Minutes" just might be the song of the year); the The Wrestler-approved bar rock of Macon Greyson; maybe the tightest band in town in The Slider Pines; and one of the most underappreciated acts this town has, alt-country act Somebody's Darling.
In total, some 2,854 local musicians, I think, performed some sort of good-deed show on this day to benefit the causes championed by their acquaintances and friends in need. A ridiculous show of support on the bands' parts? Absolutely. But though all three boasted crowds to be proud of, not one of them necessarily possessed the audience it should have. Which is to say this: Causes were helped, yes, but not to the extent that they could have been.
Why'd this happen? Well, c'mon now, that's easy: because that audience was spread out amongst each of these events.
Of course they were. Problem is, "Well, there were all these other events going on at the same time..." is becoming the most tired complaint in the local music scene.
Don't get me wrong: This isn't an indictment of any of the bands that performed this weekend—some great acts, as already noted, performed this past weekend (some bad ones too, but let's leave them nameless for now)—but rather, it's a dig on the area audiences.
The local music scene needs to face an ugly truth: There's only so big of a pie to go around in this town when it comes to the number of supporters you have. Slice it up too many times, and no, it's not going to be a very fulfilling treat.
We can talk for hours, days, even weeks about any number of reasons as to why this is—a lack of engagement, a lack of excitement, a lack of ingenuity in the chosen direction of certain acts—but that's not the point of this argument, which, I admit, is slowly turning into an ugly rant. The point of it, rather, is to say this: know your audience, know what it's capable of, and know when you're asking too much of it, or, worse, giving it too much credit.
I'll give the proprietors of City Tavern and Club Dada their due: They saw this coming. In the weeks leading up to these events, when each venue realized that the other was hosting its popular, annual benefit show on the same day, the owners got together and discussed the possibilities of moving some dates so the shows wouldn't conflict with one another. They didn't reach a compromise, but at least they tried, which is important.
Why? Because, for the most part, no one remembers when events with good intentions—or three of them for that matter—do OK for themselves over the course of one day. People remember when one event does insanely well for itself to the point where it becomes an annual tradition worth looking forward to (e.g., Good Records' annual Revolution bashes). People look forward to championing the events that champion good causes, but more so to events that have earned their respect and fandom.
Instead, because they were competing, these events were forced to hope that a mostly casual area music fan base would sit through three events to show support that doesn't quite yet exist.
It wasn't going to happen. Because, instead of demanding the local music fans' attention, the people who make up its scene, as happens all too often, just kindly asked for it.