By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Deep Ellum was on fire on Saturday. And, no, that's not some sort of lame-ass reference to the heat (which, let's be honest, was fairly oppressive).
2709 Elm St.
Dallas, TX 75226-1425
Region: Downtown & Deep Ellum
Rather, it's a lame-ass reference to the incendiary performances offered up by the 46 acts that played our fourth annual Dallas Observer Music Awards Showcase, for this, our 22nd annual music awards season.
(Sorry. We're all still a little partied out after the weekend.)
At the risk of sounding too wistful, too optimistic and too, well, cheerleader-y, the whole thing—from the very first performance of the day from Lucero, to the very last performances that wrapped up as the six indoor stage venues were getting ready to close their doors for the night at two—proved a pretty magical affair. Really. On all fronts, too.
For starters, there was the neighborhood itself. On this night, Deep Ellum not only proved its mettle as a back-in-business-for-good area capable of supporting local music, but it pretty much exceeded all expectations. Sure, people came out on Saturday night expecting some decent music and a pretty good time. But what they got—what Deep Ellum gave them—was a heavy-handed reminder of the neighborhood's glorious past, and its potentially really bright future. I mean, c'mon: That many clubs in that small of a vicinity, and with this many impressive acts around the region, waiting to play them? It just makes too much sense. Of course the neighborhood is bound to once again boast a viable music scene.
At this point, it'd be stranger if it didn't.
So it was no wonder, then, that you couldn't walk five feet hearing someone raving about the way this event recalled the neighborhood's '80s and '90s heyday. Because, well, it did. It was great. And, with any luck, it won't take an event of this magnitude to create a night like this again down the line.
Surely, that much won't be necessary: The 46 bands brought in to play this event all made fine cases to be booked for return visits at these clubs. Early evening sets from the likes of The Hope Trust, RTB2, The O's and others proved that even in the face of outdoor stage performances from popular national acts just a few yards away, their draws merit regular bookings. Other performers, like Air Review, Emotion Brown, Florene, THe BAcksliders, Spector 45, Leg Sweeper, Bad Sports and Mount Righteous similarly awed—if not for their own impressive draws, then with their exciting live displays.
Speaking of impressive live shows: We'd be remiss if we let Ishi's 11 p.m. set at Trees go without comment. I mean, let's be honest, that sucker turned out to be a bigger deal than anyone could have anticipated. Boasting its new five-piece lineup (producer Brad Dale has backed out of performing at the band's live sets and has now been replaced by former Odis guitarist Rob Bastien and DJ T0MMYL33J0N3Z), the band performed to a crowd at Trees that, at a few points, seemed to exceed the room's capacity. And, crazy thing is, there were still people waiting in line at that point, hoping to get in and see what all the fuss was about. What those stragglers would find upon entering was a staggering sight: A room full of show-goers not even upset at the fact that they were standing shoulder to shoulder, with no room to move; a room full of people more intent on watching the show and dancing along to the band's fan favorites of "Pastel Lights," "Shake Your Dandelion" and even its so-good-it's-surprising cover of the Bangles' "Walk Like an Egyptian" to care about being too close to one another for comfort.
Actually, that's the big takeaway from Saturday night's entire ordeal: For the first time in a long time, people are doing more than just checking out local music. They're doing so in the face of blistering temperatures and uncomfortable surroundings. And no one is forcing them to do so.
Most important, they're enjoying it.
So let's applaud it—all of it. The venues that had us, the fans who joined us, the bands that played for us and the people behind the scenes who made it all happen.
Here's hoping that we all just took the next step.
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