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Deep Shit

Strangleweed, led by a grown man who calls himself "Starchild," is seen here at last year's disaster of a Dallas Music Fest.

People, I am royally pissed about Deep Ellum right now. I become angrier every time I read and re-read a page from last weeks Dallas Observer. Its like a car wreckI cant help but repeatedly look at the page and feel an overwhelming mix of shock, hopelessness and frustration.

Im not talking about last weeks column, in which I wrote at length about the arrest of Michelle Metzinger on Elm Street on Friday, January 13. Nor am I talking about Robert Wilonskys news piece on John Beard Brewer, although the way he got dropped on his ass by Club Dada and Steven Shin still burns my hide.

No, theres an advertisement in last weeks Observer for something so heinously bad it will do more damage to Deep Ellums reputation than the Metzinger arrest, the closure of Trees and the Jesse Chaddock beating combined.

Im talking about the Dallas Music Festival.

This three-day event, lovingly referred to by most as the one that isnt the North Texas New Music Festival, descends upon Dallas from Thursday to Saturday. The annual eventup for its third renewalhas always been a crap circus, but truly, this years iteration is the mother of all butt-rock beatings. More than 150 bands that have never gotten anything resembling a kind word in this publication will fill up Deep Ellum venues like Gypsy Tea Room, Texas Tea House, Galaxy Club, Renos Chop Shop and the Curtain Club.

The schedule looks like some seventh-graders notebook, filled with totally sweet band names like Gods Joke, Scared to Be Fearless, Under the Black Hat and Shiver Tree, but this is no middle-school dreamits a nightmare come true, headlined by such train wrecks as One Up, Hope Dies Last and freaking Drowning Pool.

To be fair, a few worthwhile acts sneak in. Seattle no-name singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile was apparently tricked into coming all this way for the fest. Also, two solid rap actsKin Folk Kru and solo artist Voice Rockwill provide a much-needed dose of local hip-hop to the festivities, though the latter is playing with Blunt Force Crew, a gaggle of Rage Against the Machine wannabes that lack both the musicianship and passion of their mentors.

But thats only three standouts in a sea of sewage, and the blame for that rests solely on John Michalaks shoulders. The DMF organizer (who, by the way, doesnt even live in Dallashe operates this and other fests through his Cleveland company Sugarlight Productions) has run the fest into the ground two previous times with a selection process weve bemoaned: The bands that sell the most tickets get priority scheduling.

Sarah Hepola took this process to task last year, pointing out how likely it is that quality and sales are going to link up, and 2005 top-sellers Strangleweed are utter proof of that. But worse, this allows pretty much any band in town to play. You can sell 20 tickets? Yeah, sure. We dont care if you suck. Youll be the opening band at Tom Cats on Thursday. Thats over $100 for us and nothing for you idiots.

Last month, I received a bizarre cold call from Michalak. He told me how he wanted to win back bands that were screwed-over in previous years by last-minute schedule switcheroos but then said that schedules couldnt be finalized until the last minute. Um, Michalak, you cant have bothand judging from the schedule, you dont, because nobody good was foolish enough to sign on. In addition, his adamant stand about his selection processincluding explanations about how good bands generally sell more ticketswas nowhere near rational. In the end, all he could do was insist that his company barely broke even last year. Boo-fucking-hoo.

I have no sympathy, John. Even with the districts reputation on the line, youve been allowed to fill Deep Ellum with your crap for another year and collect as much profit as possible. Because of you, anybody who walks through Deep Ellum this weekend will hear the musical equivalent of a barium enema coming out of every club. Because of you, those people will think that local music is a wasteland for butt rock and generic emo rather than the fruitfulif decentralizedhub of worthwhile, original music that it really is.

Right now, Dallas musical reputation is already shaken enough without your fest stinking it up. People all over the city are talking actively about what to doin Deep Ellum or anywhere elseto reinvigorate the live music scene; in particular, people such as Lance Yocom are doing a much better jobsee Critics Picks, page 68, for details on his Spune Back2School bash on Saturday. But we definitely dont need DMFs help.l


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