Last year at some point, we forget when, we heard rumors that NextStage, the 5,000-or-so-capacity concert venue in Grand Prairie, was on the verge of bankruptcy, on its way out. Millions and millions spent to get the joint up and running, we were told, and not a dime in return. Mainly, it seemed, because NextStage was often emptier than a Mary Poss campaign promise. The problem wasn't concert attendance. More like there weren't any concerts to begin with.
If you haven't been, we can tell you that NextStage is one of the finest venues in the area, spacious enough for the big names but intimate, too, so you can see those big names up close. (Of course, that was more a theory than anything else for quite some time.) Kind of like a newer, better, bigger version of the Bronco Bowl. Not a far drive from Dallas or Fort Worth, either. And the staff is just one "please" or "thank you" from being too nice. We couldn't figure out why it wasn't working or, specifically, why the booking agents weren't putting it to work.
Never really got to the bottom of any of it, and now, it appears the point is moot. NextStage has a crowded summer schedule, including appearances by Crosby, Stills & Nash (June 12); Matchbox Twenty and Sugar Ray (June 21); Jackson Browne, Steve Earle and Keb' Mo' (July 16); Widespread Panic (July 20); Norah Jones (July 23); David Gray and Turin Brakes (August 5); and R.E.M. and Ed Harcourt (September 19). Sure, it's not exactly packed with hip names, but it's loaded with crowd pleasers. More important, it's loaded. No reason you can't find a show on that list to hit so you can see what you've been missing. And what you almost missed completely.
Not terribly surprising that Fry Street Fair ended up in Dallas this year instead of Denton on, you know, Fry Street. Actually, we kinda sorta thought the festival would never happen again, period, after watching the turf war that's been playing out between the Delta Lodge (FSF organizers) and the city of Denton the past few years. You can't beat Denton City Hall in a game of one-on-one; just ask the nice people over at Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studios. Doesn't help that the Delta Lodge's event involves several thousand kids getting 'faced all day.
The folks at dentonrockcity.com have better odds, since their shindig, The Big Get Down 2003, will probably only entail several hundred kids getting schnockered all day. That day will be May 3, and the music starts at 1 p.m. at Riprock's (1210 W. Hickory) with a set by Mr. Furious. The Big Get Down continues until around 8 or 9 with Hand of Onan, The Vain, Bagg, Burnt Sienna, Blueprint Sea, Record Hop, Silver Arrows, John Wesley Coleman, Little Grizzly, Jackson 8 and Jetscreamer, along with a few special guests. (Maybe.)
So if you missed drinking way too much cold beer on a Saturday afternoon in Denton because of Fry Street Fair's absence, here's your chance to make up for it. Prolly wanna bring your own turkey leg, though.
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One more concert venue note: Trees and Gypsy Tea Room have changed ticket companies, trading Star Tickets for the Austin-based Front Gate Tickets. There will be local Front Gate outlets in the extremely near future (maybe by the time we finish writing this), but for now, you'll want to head to www.frontgatetickets.com for advance tix for, say, the Nickel Creek show at Gypsy Tea Room (May 19) or the Ash gig at Trees (May 31). Just so you know. Oh, and shows already on sale through Star Tickets should remain that way for now...
If you didn't have the money or time to make last weekend's Coachella Festival in California, here's another chance at a huge outdoor throw-down: The second annual Austin City Limits Festival happens September 19-21 at Austin's Zilker Park. Passes go on sale May 3 at www.aclfestival.com for $65, and confirmed acts include R.E.M., Al Green, Lucinda Williams, Rosanne Cash, Mavis Staples, Liz Phair, Ben Harper, Jack Johnson, Patty Griffin, Alejandro Escovedo, Ween, Gomez, Beth Orton, the Beta Band, Old 97's, Ben Kweller, the Shins, Spoon and a ton more. Stop screwing around...
Hand stamps: KTCU's Noise Fest happens May 2 at the Ridglea Theater, with My Spacecoaster, Soviet Space, the Chemistry Set, Chao, Alan, the Danes and the Audiophiles; Faceless Werewolves and Single Frame Ashtray play Club Clearview on May 1; Chomsky opens for OK Go at Gypsy Tea Room on May 3.