I'll be honest: I've only been here a little more than three months. I don't feel particularly qualified to give you a year-end retrospective about a town where I still don't know the best way to get to the grocery store. But I will say this: Music-wise, this is a damned interesting place, with odd quirks and a unique timbre that I am just now beginning to get a feel for. What follows, then, are the Top 10 impressions about Dallas that have struck me over the past 100 or so days.
1. The bloggers...my God, the bloggers!
Never in my life have I seen such a rabidly passionate dedication to cyber-coverage of a music scene. Finelinelive, bigDlittled, Pegasus News/Texasgigs, Gorilla vs. Bear, We Shot JR—holy caca, it's like Bill Gates' wet dream, a world where there is no paper, only bits and bytes and the hum of hard drives. It's impressive, I gotta admit, the way all these sites—and many others—have taken the music blog to a new level of sophistication. They've also taken it to a whole new level of obsessiveness—the up-to-the-millisecond posts, the dozens and dozens of comments and comments about comments, the fixation on minutiae, the consistent critiques of other media. These are all good things.
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2. We need to get over Deep Ellum.
Once upon a time, Deep Ellum seduced us. We fell for her, hard. And with good reason. She was exciting, fun, full of potential. She turned heads on the street, and we were proud to be associated with her. But after a while, the spark started to sputter—who knows why these things happen—and she grew distant. We started seeing less and less of each other, and we grew apart, and finally we stopped seeing each other all together. Maybe it was for the best, maybe it wasn't; maybe someday we'll reunite and things can be like they were before, but at this point, things just aren't working out. We need to let go. It's time to move on.
3. People are stunningly passionate about the music scene...
If the blogs attest to anything, it's that people care. The conversations I've had with a number of folks over the past few months indicate that people care a lot, actually. Almost daily I will meet someone new or run into someone I already know, and invariably the conversation turns to the Dallas music scene: its history, its problems, its positive aspects, its future. Each time, the conversation ends with the question: What can we do? What can we do to inject new life into a scene that so many people seem to care about? What can we do to help Dallas reach its potential?
4. ...but no one ever seems to actually go out to hear it.
This is where the weird, confounding contradiction comes in. The evidence that Dallasites maintain a deep interest in the music scene is there—the blogs, the multitude of opinions, the huge number of bands—but no one ever comes to the shows. I have attended one, maybe two shows in the past three and a half months that were filled to capacity, the kind of thing where the struggle to get from your place up by the stage to the bar takes 45 minutes of shoving, cajoling and saying "excuse me." Most of the time, it's been an empty, cavernous room with about 20 people. Is it a MySpace effect, wherein folks would rather stay home and hear their favorite bands online than live? The economy? It certainly ain't for lack of good music.
5. We kick Austin's ass.
Still, Dallas remains underrated while Austin remains overrated. "Music capital of the world" blah, blah, blah. We have Polyphonic Spree, Cartright, Pilotdrift, PPT, Theater Fire, Big Tuck and more stunningly good unknown bands than Austin has sorority girls. They can take their cheesy music conference and stick it up their rotunda.
6. We need a rallying point.
Big D has all the ingredients: A restless hipster population, good bands and passion. What we need is a focal point—one band that breaks big nationwide—to push us into the next level. One lucky break for one band, and suddenly a fractious scene can find harmony, suddenly folks turn off the computer and go, you know, out. Mötley Crüe did it for Los Angeles. Nirvana did it for Seattle. Who's gonna do it for Dallas?
7. Dallas is the tribute band capital of the world.
Seriously, dozens and dozens of Dallas denizens have dedicated their lives to music—other people's music. We've got a Steely Dan tribute band; a Van Halen tribute band; a Hendrix tribute band; three Beatles bands; a Cream tribute band; Judas Priest, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Poison (does the world really need a Poison tribute band?), not to mention the countless one-off tribute groups that get together for a single show, like the Edge Anniversary night that featured Elvis Costello, Bruce Springsteen and Oasis. What's up with that?
8. Where my ladies at?
I'll tell you where they at: behind the scenes. While the chicks are hard to find onstage (with some exceptions, of course), they are often pulling the strings in the area of promotion and production. Crystal Clear, the FineLine ladies and all their offshoots being good examples. Now if we could just find Dallas' answer to Joan Jett, we'd be set.
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9. Best karaoke scene in the country.
Rock Star Karaoke. That's all that needs to be said.
10. Wanz Dover is a crazy genius from another planet.
But you already knew that.