Good Records assistant manager C.J. Davis is the kind of guy for whom time and history are not defined by important geopolitical events or scientific breakthroughs, but by music. When trying to describe how it feels to look down the barrel of the big 4-0, the first thing that comes to mind is that he was born the same year Sgt. Pepper's was released.
So it's fitting that Davis—named "Best Record Store Employee" in the Dallas Observer's latest "Best Of" issue due to his reputation as an obsessively knowledgeable yet approachable tastemaker—will mark his 40th birthday with a concert at the store where he's made himself an irreplaceable fixture. This being a birthday party for grownups, it's BYOB with free beer and food for those arriving early enough to scarf some down. But feel free to affix a conical cardboard novelty hat to your head, preferably at a jaunty angle, until the under-chin elastic strap painfully snaps five minutes later.
Davis picked the four bands—all playing free—and the set order as carefully as he would arrange a mix CD. "I always get aggravated when I go to a show and everybody does rock," he says. "It's just more and more of the same type of influences, so I wanted to do four different types of music, basically."
C.J. Davis' birthday party concert begins at 8 p.m. Friday, January 12, at Good Records.
Davis offers his thoughts about the four acts helping him "celebrate [his] oldness with music."
"Mom are these kids that shop at the store and have really healthy ears. They like experimental stuff. They dropped off a demo one day, and it was just beautiful. They do this beautiful electro-acoustic improvisation stuff. It's really, really beautiful. Lots of samples, lots of noise and acoustic manipulations. Mom's a duo, two guys. One does samples, and the other plays guitar and cello. Should be a really nice opener."
Davis minces no words in describing Paul Slocum's brainchild, in which Slocum produces complex pop tunes from reconstructed old computer consoles and equipment (including an Atari 2600 and a dot-matrix printer).
"He's brilliant. Genius. It'll be the first time he's performed alone, without [singer Lauren Gray], so it'll be a little more experimental. He's gonna cover a Brian Eno track—maybe—but you really never know what Paul's gonna do."
Davis has a lot of love for—along with a business interest in—these Texarkana prog-rockers, as Pilotdrift's 2005 Water Sphere was released by Good Records' recording label.
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"Octopus Project opened for Pilotdrift once a couple of years ago when we first discovered those kids and set up a show at Trees. Pilotdrift is a very moody band, with lots of peaks and valleys, and they played after the Octopus Project, and it didn't go as well, so we figured we'd switch it around this time. Pilotdrift will do a lot of new work. Probably three to four new songs and three or four of their staples off Water Sphere and Iter Facere. No telling with those kids. I told [the bands] they get 40 minutes each and can do whatever they want to do. Entertain the people and let's have fun."
Davis ponders how to describe the Austin group.
"Spastic art rock? Really, really tight, spastic art rock. Instrumental, of course. They're gonna have a new guitar player. We wanted them to go last because they're such a party band and everybody will be having a blast by then."