Gorilla Vs. Bear's Dallas Coming Out Party

Can influential music blogger Chris Cantalini's latest venture -- a festival at the Granada -- finally put the site on his hometown's map?

Gorilla Vs. Bear's Dallas Coming Out Party
Sachin Teng

Chris Cantalini is generally a pretty unassuming presence. But he's a little jumpier today, a little restless, and for good reason. He's got a lot on his mind.

Thirty-three years old, Cantalini just upgraded from renting a place near White Rock Lake to paying the mortgage on one in Plano, where he grew up. There's work to do at the new house — and not just because it's new. "My wife's just about to have a kid," he says, before laughing and correcting himself. "I mean, we're about to have a kid." Painters and workers have been coming and going, preparing it for his growing family — a ruckus Cantalini can't avoid since he now works from home full-time.

In the simplest terms, Cantalini's a music blogger. That's been his title since late 2006, when he left his job at the mental health department of an insurance company, the most recent in a series of nine-to-five gigs that included stints as a behavior therapist, teacher and volleyball coach. But it's in his current job that Cantalini carved out an identity. The blog he launched in 2005, Gorilla Vs. Bear, is arguably the most influential and successful mostly independent site of its kind.

In a good month, he says, the site attracts a million visitors. In a bad one, it tallies a mere 800,000. If that and impending parenthood don't keep him busy enough, last spring, Cantalini, the site's main contributor, co-launched a small, mostly vinyl-focused record label called Forest Family Records. A few months later he became a founding contributor to the online music-media giant Pitchfork Media's newest band-breaking entity, Altered Zones. And, as he's done since 2006, he hosts a weekly radio show on SiriusXM's Left of Center.

Now he's squeezing something new onto his plate: a music festival. On Saturday night at the Granada Theater, he'll throw the first-ever Gorilla Vs. Bear Fest. Since its inception, Gorilla Vs. Bear has logged on as a co-sponsor for various concerts, both in the North Texas region and at festivals like South by Southwest. But this one, he admits, is a different undertaking. A more imposing one.

"There are no traditional headliners on the bill," he says with palpable concern, between bites at Whiskey Cake, a new-ish restaurant near his new home. The closest thing to a headliner is Preteen Zenith, the new band from Tripping Daisy and Polyphonic Spree mastermind Tim DeLaughter. It's a nice get, and it helps that DeLaughter went on KTCK-AM 1310 The Ticket last week to promote the performance, the band's first. But, Cantalini concedes, it's nowhere near the draw that a Spree performance would attract.

Joining Preteen Zenith at the top of the bill are Seattle hip-hop group Shabazz Palaces and Austin indie outfit White Denim, each of which boasts one of the underground music scene's most talked-about records of the first half of 2011. But neither resembles a household name, and the other performers are small too: Pure X, Grimes and Denton's own Dreamed (which, like Preteen Zenith, will be making its live debut at this show), among others.

It's sort of Gorilla Vs. Bear's shtick. The site has always been known for breaking bands. Cantalini and his partner in GVB, David Bartholow, are adamant in describing the event as a non-traditional one. Bartholow depicts it carefully as a "boutique, summer's night kind of deal."

But it still represents a major step for the site. As GVB continues its "quasi-expansion," the festival will serve as an interesting barometer of the brand's strength and pull. Not nationally; the site has already earned its recognition in music meccas like New York and Austin. The interesting thing is whether Dallas will ever notice.


The genius behind pretty much everything Cantalini does is its minimalism. He's no celebrity, not even in the small circles where he has influence. He's reclusive. He hates being photographed. He rarely agrees to interviews, and when he does, he prefers to do so via email or instant message or, in a few rare instances, over Twitter's direct messaging feature.

He rarely injects his voice or untethered opinion into the blog. He simply posts items related to musicians that his site endorses — mp3s mostly, abetted by music videos, album announcements, monthly playlists and, in what ended up being an especially inspired move, Polaroid-style picture slideshows. Intent on keeping his site from feeling like a catch-all, the content is somewhat sparse; a busy day means four posts, maybe, and the site often goes a couple of days without any new content at all. The key to his success, Cantalini says, is how carefully he curates his site, and the emphasis he places on the music rather than on his opinion of it.

It's a simple, clean objective, and it works. He's also a direct beneficiary of being in the right place at the right time. He started his site using the popular early 2000s hosting service Blogger, and only recently did he switch the site off of the user-friendly Google-owned network. At the time of GVB's launch, hosting large files like mp3s had suddenly become a nominal expense. Conversely, free music file-sharing sites such as Napster, Limewire and Kazaa were dropping off the map. Almost instantly, Gorilla Vs. Bear and a handful of other blogs (Aquarium Drunkard, My Old Kentucky Blog, etc.) were thrust into the spotlight.

1
 
2
 
3
 
4
 
All
 
Next Page »
 
My Voice Nation Help
13 comments
Astralape Msw
Astralape Msw

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...

Let us not forget that Pete Freedman is a bitch. I pray to Jesus that we do not. For if we, as a society, forget that Pete Freedman is a bitch, then we are doomed to become that very thing to which we once were so vehemently opposed. Signed,Astralape.mswPresident and founding member Society for Proliferation of the Actuality that Pete Freedman is a Big Ass Bitch

D in Dallas
D in Dallas

It'll be a good show, and still pretty damn cheap. 30 bucks is what you'd pay for a 2-act show at the House of Blues franchise in the West End after you add all the stupid fees to their already high ticket prices. If you have a problem with going to support GvB go to support the Granada. They've got affordable prices, awesome and diverse booking, great customer service, the list keeps going. Seriously, that place has easily "earned" the right to your patronage, especially when you know you're going to get your money's worth.

Anybody who'd dog on GvB about not "supporting" local acts is an idiot. It's a BLOG, its audience is international. The musical aesthetic has to have some kind of cohesion; it wouldn't make sense to just throw bands on there because they live near the guy at the computer, especially if the audience only connected with every tenth band posted. Also, unless the music is ready (good enough) to be heard, it would probably be harmful to expose them to critics and taste-makers. Besides all that, GvB has supported plenty of local acts who would have trouble getting coverage elsewhere. And if you broaden your view a little and include Texan acts in general, they definitely favor local, like any decent Texan would.

I'm just glad they help to convince so many great acts to stop by Dallas on their way through. I enjoy going to a great venue like the Granada or the Loft and joining a sparse, but enthusiastic crowd watch a performance I'd probably have to pay through the nose and fight a mob off for in another city.

THEBIZARROKIDS
THEBIZARROKIDS

dear guest,

stop being so dramatic. who says if you start a music blog you have to support local talent? What happened to just being a fan who loves music and wants to share it with others? I am in a dfw band and gvb has not once mentioned anything about us. however, I hear about tons of great music from that site. I'm going to the festival because it's a great line up with great bands. I am appreciative of the awesome opportunity to see these great bands all together in 1 night.

WE SHOT JR
WE SHOT JR

Me no see Chris before eva man. For no times. Dis boy say he come from Dallas but no evah see for tha local. Got beef for I to him then nah. One love.

Guest
Guest

Apologies for the long rant, spelling and syntax errors,. I was in a rush and upset.

Guest
Guest

Great article, Pete! I take particular umbrage with GVB's flippant attitude towards Dallas. As I also do with their unreasonable expectation on behalf of GVB to hopes Dallas to just show-up and sell-out their music fest when they have not cared about listening to nor supporting of local talent from DFW (except the ones who made it to the big time..um hypocracy?) And NO, I am not in the business. So let me get this straight GVB: 1)You expect us to pay $30 per to see only a couple of local acts who will debut for the first time even though GVB never has invested the time nor energy to "have perspective on" the Dallas music scene. 2) GVB implies that they are too good for Dallas in assuming this same GVB Festival would sellout Austin. So then what? We should feel pre-guilt if we don' show-up to your show? Sounds like you are making a foregone conclusion which gives you both more cause to NOT support Dallas although this scene provides you the home and financial ecosystem to succeed. 3) We have to PROVE to you that Dallas can support acts like that?? Hey brothers, you run a great, yet discombobulated site. Please, don't deficate on all these Dallas-based peeps that help put food on your proverbial tables. If you want us to support you, you have to support us. We don't have to go to your site and click-through to your advertisers just to be exposed to good music. We can hang out with each other, in person, those of us who aren't recluses. Or I can go to Good Records where I know I'll get an insightful opinion or just inspiration. Or I can get lucky on KXT! No one needs GVB. But it looks like you need DFW, when you'd rather need Austin. Feel free to click over to Move-4-Free.com and don't blame Dallas for not being a friend when you never invested the effort to be its FRIEND. Best of luck GVB, my suggestion to you is that you give pennance and start supporting non-profit local causes with your own dough, then you'll at least get real respect and impression that you think you deserve. But then again, maybe that Escalade is just too shiny to pass-up parking in front of your Plano abode - A Dallas-based Music Fan & Tireless Supporter living in Oak Cliff

Guest
Guest

The funk is this bro talking about?

sarahspy
sarahspy

unfortunately the moral of this entire rant is you're clearly not really the intended audience of the site/show

Lemmonhead
Lemmonhead

very good read, thank you. it's nice to get a closer perspective on Cantalini. perhaps one reason why no one knows that he based in texas (to a smaller degree) or Dallas (to a larger degree) is: 1.-there arent a lot of article written about GVB locally, 2.-GVB has never done a community outreach of any sort. you cant be a shadowy blog and expect for yokel locals to know it's around the corner from them.

though that's precisely what's nice about GVB; it's not one of the self-serving, vomitous Austin or Brooklyn blogs.

also, it's hard to throw a "festival" indoors...in the summer. if something is indoors and $30 it's got to be Kenny G...or Van Morrison...or Lyle Lovett. Indie band with 40 minute sets are a different breed.

sure this type of show in Brooklyn or Austin would sell out, but that's also unfair to compare. they have 2 of the highest concentrations of indie music fans, awareness, demographic, etc. in the country.

Gavinmulloy
Gavinmulloy

It's gonna sell out here. Seen a great response locally. Plus, who knows Preteen Zenith may have a bear on keys.

Gavin Mulloy
Gavin Mulloy

Who has laser beam eyes? The Bear or the Gorilla.(I ask the questions that others are afraid to ask)

Nick R.
Nick R.

One of humanity's biggest philosophical mysteries.

 
Loading...