OK, I'll just come out and say it: Last weekend kicked some serious ass.
Between Good Records' eighth birthday/National Record Store Day celebration on Saturday and the Mokah Music Summit & Showcase (M2S2) on Sunday, anyone with a little up-and-at-'em in their step could've caught 30 or so of the best regional music acts this weekend—and spent only seven bucks to do so (M2S2's $7 cover charge supported two worthy causes, Life in Deep Ellum and the Carter Albrecht Music Foundation; Good Records' event, meanwhile, was free to attend in the hopes that crowds would spend their money on the store's merchandise, which they did).
If you missed out on this weekend's shows, well, shit, man, you missed out on a lot. Let's run down the most impressive performances of Saturday and Sunday:
• Grapevine arts collective Mount Righteous wowed the crowd that spilled out onto Good Records' parking lot by playing an amp-less, mic-less, organic set in the searing Saturday afternoon sun. The 11-piece marching band act sweated out poppy, optimistic compositions and did so with a spirit that encapsulated the let's-support-one-another idea behind the day's event.
• Somewhat local rap impresario Astronautalis spat a hilarious freestyle in which he thanked Good Records for believing in him and promised that, upon making his first million, he'd return to buy jet skis for everyone who attended the birthday party.
• Denton's Record Hop blew minds with its heavy, heavy brand of indie rock, leaving blown-away crowd members rushing to the register to ask if the store was carrying the band's new, self-titled disc. (They were—just to the right of the register, in fact.)
• PPT proved that, even though their new record Denglish might hit on some concepts a bit too far outside of the hip-hop act's reach, no one in this city knows how to command an audience like they do. Their endearing onstage personas had the entire Good Records crowd crouching on the ground, jumping up on command and, yes, waving their arms in the air like they just didn't care.
• Austin's The Black Angels psyched the crap out of the audience as the final performers of the Good Records celebration, its droning, bass-heavy music drawing the tired crowd into a willing trance.
• Waxahachie's Something in the Wheel offered up an impressive batch of politically charged folk on Sunday afternoon at M2S2, which was especially something of a spectacle because of the hillbilly, shoeless garb the group wore as it performed.
• The Taylor Davis Band's otherwise pretty average-sounding indie-tinged pop-rock had audiences swooning thanks to Davis' vocals, a compelling, higher-pitched version of Barenaked Ladies' Steven Page.
• Smile Smile charmed the crowd in Life in Deep Ellum's gorgeous main stage space with its hilarious (if somewhat painful) onstage banter about the members' past love lives with each other. And, as fun as that was, it didn't hold a candle to the band's soft-spoken performance, which impressively came off as the tightest, most professional one of the weekend.
• Bridges and Blinking Lights' closing set on Sunday, meanwhile, rocked the pants off of the few people who lasted until the band's 9:15 set. The crowd was, in fact, quite sparse by then, but B&BL, despite guitar troubles, still managed a frenetic performance befitting their driving rock sound.
Really, if there was only one downside to the whole weekend, it was that it was almost too much rock to handle at once. There was a lot of music to take in over this two-day, 23-nonconsecutive-hour period. And, as a result, M2S2's Sunday crowd was hardly impressive—certainly, its attendance took a hit because Good Records' Saturday event was a fairly debauched affair that wore its audience out. (Although, to be fair, there were plenty of shows to see on Sunday: Negativland at Sons of Hermann Hall, The New York Dolls at the Granada and, hell, even Los Lonely Boys performing in Fair Park in honor of Earth Day.)
I get that. As someone who spent pretty much his entire weekend at these festivals, I can confidently say that doing so took some serious effort. It wasn't always easy. There were a handful of uninspired performances along the way, and, naturally, over the course of a weekend filled with music, there are times when you just have to give up, leave the room and hear some silence—if only for your own sanity's sake.
At least a handful of truly dedicated people did actually manage to attend nearly all 23 hours of this weekend's performances, though, and three of those people do deserve some sort of special recognition for their efforts—they truly went above and beyond in supporting the local scene over this two-day period. First, there's Cindy Chaffin, who runs local music site finelinelive.com and spent the weekend painstakingly recording the performances at both venues for her site's visitors. Second, there's Chelsea Callahan, who books acts for the Double Wide and gave up her weekend to help run both Saturday and Sunday's events. And, lastly, there's Mike Biggs, the man behind the Life in Deep Ellum organization. After finding out that Good Records' celebration was scheduled to happen on the same day in which his M2S2 festival was originally supposed to take place, Biggs bit the bullet, moved his event to Sunday and spent his Saturday at Good Records reminding people that his event was still scheduled to happen, just now on a new day.
But, really, these people are pretty much involved in the scene already, and, on some level, their participation in events like these should almost be expected.
The most remarkable observation of this past weekend's festivities came with the number of new faces in the crowds. Yes, the music community in Dallas does at times feel fairly small, but as the night came to an end Saturday at Good Records and the crowds still remained large enough to spill out into the parking lot, it was tough not to be shocked and reminded of the sheer size of the city we live in. There's a big audience here to be tapped into. Good was able to do that on Saturday.
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M2S2's event unfortunately wasn't, and its at-times nice, but mostly sparse audiences revealed the flip side of that same coin.
Still, having both these events take place last weekend showed that, audiences be damned, there's enough of an infrastructure in the scene for two events like this to be thrown. That's pretty impressive.
This last weekend was a big one for the local music scene. It was a step in the right direction, a step toward a collaborative community, a step toward something bigger.
Yes, this past weekend kicked ass. But it was also something of an ass kick. Looks like the scene's starting to get itself in gear.