Concert Reviews

Vice Palace Showcased the Best of Dallas' Experimental Side on Saturday

Vice Palace One-Year Anniversary Party With iill, Lily Taylor, Rat Rios, $kaduf, Orgullo Primitivo and Tony Q and Plain Jane Francis. Oak Cliff, Dallas Saturday, April 25, 2015

It has been a helluva year for Art Peña. From the opening of Vice Palace last April to having it nominated for Best New Music Venue at the 2014 Dallas Observer Music Awards, to scoring a $5,000 grant from the city of Dallas to start his own record label - Peña has been busy, to say the least. This past Saturday, in celebration of reaching the year-mark into his Vice Palace project, Peña threw one of his trademark DIY, guerilla-style shows, featuring a fashion show, artists and musicians in an old, abandoned warehouse just on the other side of the Margaret Hunt Hill bridge..

See also: Vice Palace's Art Peña Gets Grant from City of Dallas to Start Cassette Tape Label Pleasant Grove Rapper $kaduf Rides the Bus Three Hours Just to Perform in Dallas

Peña's ability to mold himself into whatever medium he is interested in at the time has allowed him to make a name for himself in Dallas' artistic community. But this time he took a different route, culling the lineup from nominations by Central Track, Crown & Harp's Moody Fuqua, Dallas Distortion Music, King Camel and THRWD.

First up was local avant-garde hero and Yells at Eels drummer, Stefan González. González has been spearheading Dallas' experimental noise scene for years - and Saturday night was no different. Onlookers were wowed by Gonzalez's ability to fuse his token coil spring explosions with a kick drum and other odds and ends used to generate his musical virtuosity. And for those not familiar with this particular brand of musical art, González's set was the perfect introduction - complete with drum-based acrobatics, primal screams and the type of electro-musical emissions that would make Tesla proud. One could be forgiven, too, for thinking the night looked an awful lot like those that González books himself each Monday at Crown & Harp.

Although González is a tough act to follow, King Camel's nomination, Rat Rios, did an excellent job doing so with her otherworldly, synth-pop vibes. Rios, equipped with her triangle-shaped shades, bright red lipstick and synth-station, was the absolute picture of 80's new wave. (Imagine the love child of Chryssy Hynde and Angela from My So Called Life.) Rios' musical style could be described as an electronic, almost whimsical exploration into the mind of a young, highly talented, ever-changing artist who is not afraid to push the boundaries on what other people think her art should be.

Next up was one of Dallas' most driven rappers, Crown & Harp's nominee $kaduf. Following the release of the 21 year-olds EP, Grove Side the Realist last October, our very own Jeremy Hallock had a chance to interview $kaduf last month about his musical and time-consuming journey to develop his craft. However, watching this young emcee on-stage, spinning his self-produced beats, blended perfectly with his raw, sincere lyrics make it clear to anyone that this kid is doing the proverbial "it" right. $kaduf's set, which included a freestyling pit-stop along the way, energized the crowd and most assuredly garnered the young rapper several new fans.

In keeping with the theme of the starkly contrasted lineup, THRWD's nominees, the ethereal avant-pop songstress Lily Taylor (with support from her video artist husband, Sean Miller) was up next. Taylor took to the stage with her signature, vintage-inspired fashion and visual effects, belting out haunting renditions of tracks from her critically acclaimed album, The Ride. The singer's visceral, harmony-laced rhythms are permeated with influences from shoegaze to hip-hop and demands to be felt by using every sensory ability available.

Shortly after Taylor's exit, Central Track's choice pick, Tony Q and Plain Jane Francis bounded onto the stage. These two eclectic, independent hip-hop artists, simply put, are everything. Both artists have this amazing ability to capture the attention and appreciation of audience members, no matter what their personal music interests are -- and not only that, but maintain that attention throughout their entire set. Tony Q. and Plain Jane Francis have a symbiotic, energetic, positive stage presence that had the entire crowd singing along and begging for more when they announced their last track. And also, someone needs to address the fact that Tony Q's hips don't lie. #SomebodyCallLabare

Dallas Distortion Music's own iill had the honor of closing out the night. When their set was announced, the crowd was informed that the show would be moved to the middle of the warehouse floor, as opposed to the stage. And it was there, lit only by a single, small lamp and the occasional DSLR flash, that the synth-focused experimental band commanded the audience's attention. Frontwoman Greer has a definitively eerie, yet pop-like quality to her vocals, which is complemented perfectly by synth-master Alex Velte and electronic drummer Robert Gracian. iill is completely electronic, intelligent and awe-inspiring. At first glance, the band's style and swagger might evoke thoughts of Eraserheard or The Fifth Element, but this band is so much more than new-wave, punk rock visual anarchists; they are something new altogether. And whatever that is, it's completely and utterly addictive.

For critics of Dallas' music scene, who are of the opinion that we don't encourage anything "new," you just need to drag yourselves out to a Vice Palace show for a heavy dose of reality. Peña's ability to network, encourage all avenues of art and willingness to support local ventures is not only refreshing, but much appreciated in a scene as hard to break into as Dallas. The only thing left to say is: Well done, Art. Well fucking done.


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Molly is a Dallas/Austin-based writer who's been published in the Austin Chronicle, Phoenix New Times, Euphoria Magazine, Listen Hear and Nakid Magazine. When she's not writing about music, this diehard non-vegan is tirelessly searching for the city's best elotes, discussing East versus West Coast rap and forever asking for 10 more minutes of sleep. For a good time, tell her your favorite band is Muse and wait for the five million reasons why you're wrong.
Contact: Molly Mollotova