Do It, Dallas
The first time I ever went to famed music venue Trees was in 1997. The pony-tailed bouncer looked at my brother's driver's license and ran through the series of pointed questions...the ones that get asked of underage kids carrying fake IDs. My brother was tan and skinny in the photo, and well...
I got the sign right--Cancer--but accidentally said July instead of June. Pony-tailed man took the ID and told me to piss off.
Almost a decade later, I became music editor and Trees shut down. Coincidence?
Truly, there was no sweet revenge to it; I would've rather gone to Freebirds years later and ordered a quesadilla from that particular bouncer than see an entire historic building be dismantled. But that night at Trees was perhaps the only proper introduction I could've had.
From there, I upgraded my ID and slowly worked up the courage to talk to local musicians--huge rock stars, as far as I was concerned. In 2000, the great Idol Records trilogy of Chomsky, Deathray Davies and Centro-matic made my frequent out-of-town visits to Dallas worth the mileage (and acted as my gateway drugs to the other greats). As the years went on, I made acquaintances with more than a few band members around town; one of my best early memories was an afternoon in 2003 when I somehow found myself throwing a football to Centro's Will Johnson. (Dude throws a mean spiral.)
It was this strange mixture--talented, inspired musicians with whom I could practically clink bottles--that made the music coming out of Dallas, Denton, Fort Worth and the surrounding cities so special to me. Anybody can have a buddy in a hometown band, but how many of those buddies create epics such as [DARYL]'s Ohio or Pleasant Grove's Auscultation of the Heart?
Yet here we are, hiding in this little scene ignored by too much of the country. In Dallas, our conflicts are frequent talking points: Is Midlake overrated? Is the Polyphonic Spree a cult? Are bands such as Black Tie Dynasty, the Hourly Radio and Comrade a little too radio-friendly? But outside of our area codes, such conflicts are mere drops in a typhoon of confused music labels and here-today-gone-tomorrow hipster bands, most of whom don't even get as much radio airplay as less-deserving tripe such as Blue October.
Dallas is a tough music town, complete with a massive staff of pony-tailed bouncers and naysayers. I've been accused of being one of those bouncers; perhaps that's fair, but I've striven to be a local Robin Hood instead, giving hell to the overvalued and shining light on the publicity-poor.
Then again, in that effort to be honest (and certainly abrasive), I think I've wreaked a bit of havoc, waving my arms around like a dopey Lennie in Of Mice and Men and not understanding my impact. I've lashed out against venues, against bands, against radio stations, when perhaps I should have tried extending a hand and creating something better in the city. Perhaps that would've made for less interesting copy, but noble efforts are worth the pitfalls.
So here's to nobility. Dallas music can only grow with people cooperating--with differing genres finding common points of agreement, bringing the frat boys and the hipsters (equally annoying crowds, mind you) together in some fashion. It'll take smart music festivals and events, ones that focus on brevity (no nine-hour marathons) and convenience to get as many people out as possible. It'll take more variety on the airwaves, radio stations perhaps partnering with papers or Web sites to find truly fine bands (not market-researched ones) and using their collusion to give them an extra step up. (Local compilation CDs published by said entities would be a good start, you know.) It'll take separate blogs networking together on the few things they agree upon.
Most important, it will take an extended hand toward the kids, the high schoolers who want the same thing I found when I fell in love with this city's music scene. More all-ages shows that aren't cluttered with their friends' bands. More access for kids on early Wednesday and Thursday night gigs. More chances for teens and underagers to meet our city's huge rock stars, from the Theater Fire to Bosque Brown, from Current Leaves to Money Waters, from PPT (congrats on signing to Idol Records, guys!) to Red Monroe...and on and on (see below for more).
And you guys are gonna have to do it; I'll try my best but not from this vantage point, as this is my last column at the Dallas Observer. I'm just an Internet click away, so come say hi, and maybe I can help the city while in the trenches; it's not like I'm gonna stop attending concerts around town anytime soon. I'll keep the scissors handy in case I see any pony tails.
Last handstamps (don't wash 'em off): All that crap I said about great shows for teens? Rubber Gloves' Free Week begins on Monday, and in only its second year, the all-ages event has ballooned. If you're a teen or new local, check out as many nights of free music as you can, with local champs such as Record Hop, Fishboy, Shiny Around the Edges and Eat Avery's Bones sharing the free stages with national acts Smog, the Advantage and the Howling Hex...Still haven't bought Sorta's new record, Strange and Sad but True? A free in-store at Good Records on Saturday at 3 p.m. might persuade you otherwise...head to the Meyerson on Thursday to see a special, amazing, intimate performance by Jewel.
Hey, I couldn't leave without a laugh.
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