Success Sucks

Sean Kirkpatrick was Listen To:'s final artist-in-residence.
Kris Youmans

The first time I met Amanda Newman was about four months ago, when I attended my first Dallas show in eight years. It was the inaugural event of my Dallas Observer music editorship, which at that point was about two days old.

The show was at Club Dada, a FineLine Thursday night "Listening To:" showcase, specifically the Dallas Observer Music Awards Losers show. I couldn't figure out if the theme was meant to be funny and lighthearted or sarcastic and threatening.

I attended the show because I had been told repeatedly upon my arrival in Dallas, "You have to meet the blog people," which sounded like a band of some sort of human/alien hybrids. Or something out of Land of the Lost. Between that and the potentially hostile atmosphere—What was I walking into?—I figured I was in for a rough introduction to the Dallas music scene.


Amanda Newman

The first "blog person" I met was Newman. She marched right up to me and introduced herself, then proceeded to talk to me for about half an hour straight about Dallas, about music, about the bands she booked every Thursday at Dada for "Listening To:." As she spoke, she grew increasingly enthusiastic, gradually edging closer and closer to me, until finally, somehow, the upper part of my arm became nestled firmly in between her breasts. It was a perfect fit. "Hmm," I thought. "I think I'm gonna like this job."

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Despite my lecherous assumptions, however, Newman wasn't hitting on me; her tendency to go barreling through the walls of personal space was driven not by libido but by her fervor for music, her voracious appetite for local bands and her emotional investment in their success. I've never seen anything like it.

Which is why I'm so bummed that Thursday, February 1, will be Newman's last "Listening To:" show.

Newman booked the weekly gig for only eight months, a mere blip on the radar screen as far as the history of this town goes, but it was her sheer intensity that magnified her significance. Amidst all the hand-wringing and jibber-jabber and angsty concern over the decay of Deep Ellum, Newman's one of the few people who actually said, "Fuck it, I'm doing something about this."

She knew her life had changed, she says, when she fired off an angry response to Rocky Presley's letter to the editor—which disparaged Dada and the "dying" music scene—in a March 2006 issue of the Observer.

She backed her words with action: She started booking bands. She ratcheted up her music-centered blog, She joined forces with fellow blogger Cindy Chaffin, responsible for FineLine, and the two became a promotional juggernaut.

Sometimes Newman booked shitty bands, sure, but most of the time she booked amazing bands, the showcase's quality increasing, it seemed, weekly. She also initiated an artist-in-residence plan—scoring month-long stints at Dada for artists to work out new material with an audience—that hosted Texas legend David Garza and, most recently, the Paper Chase's Sean Kirkpatrick.

Chaffin and Newman eventually split ways, with Newman continuing to hold the reins at Dada...until now.

Newman's quitting the Thursday shows, she says, so she can focus on the growing roster of bands she manages and promotes, including Blackheart Society, J.D Whittenburg, the Felons and Eastwood (all of whom will play at the final show). She'll still occasionally book at Dada, among many other spots in town, so it's not as if she's abandoning the scene. But there was something about those Thursday nights that was heady and charged and rare, and that's tough to replicate. Eight months later, its time has already come, and that's a shame.

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