Winners by default

Here's the deal. If January 7 rolls around and there still exists some semblance of civilization (damn!), take a trip to -- ugh -- the Galaxy Club. The club itself doesn't have much to recommend it: surly doorguys, a merciless no-ins-and-outs policy, shitty bathrooms (pun fully intended), and a chintzy bar that charges for ice water. The sound system has a reputation and history more squirrely than George W's. But on January 7, you at least won't have to worry about that ins-and-outs trapdoor problem, because every band playing that night is solid, and you won't be tearing off your own ears waiting for the headliners.

So Galaxy can't even spell the names of the acts: In its print ad, "Deathrow Davies" sounds far more menacing than the affable Deathray Davies, perhaps a metal doppelgänger to the affable lads headed up by the ever-affable John Dufilho. And "Chompski?" Try Chomsky -- as in Noam, and as in one of the region's strongest live bands. Galaxy's promoters managed to eke out Budapest One and Adventures of Jet without such errors, but if there's any lineup that best illustrates what this area can turn out musically, it's this one.

As part of Deep Ellum's First Friday series, where you can pay six bucks to hop around eight clubs in the not-so-mean streets of downtown, the Galaxy showcase is the best of the lot and maybe the best show it has staged in months. Despite its otherwise constant fixation with punky little new bands (not that there's anything wrong with that, if you don't mind digging through the endless sludge to find an occasional gem), this night veers toward pop perfection: big, guitar-laden power pop with Jet; clever-clever lush pop with Chomsky; winsome cocktail pop with Deathray; and growling cabaret pop with Budapest One (around here, you gotta get the Denton reps on any bill that considers itself "complete"). This nearly lends a nostalgic tone to Galaxy, which was, once upon a time, one of the only games in town, booking acts as excellent and diverse as Bedhead, Jeremy Enigk, Girls Against Boys, and, of course, the indomitable UFOFU and Funland. Jet, under its earlier monikers Bobgoblin and the Commercials, is certainly not new to Galaxy's stage, though it might not be a stretch to call it estranged: Galaxy's once-muscular ties to big-league local music has seemingly dried up and withered in the wake of Curtain Club and Trees.

If anything, this show could be a heartening kickoff to a new year. While the national music industry seems to have hit an indiscernible, utterly confused slump, the local scene is doing something it hasn't before: It's fortifying itself from the bottom up. This can happen to a local music scene only when the right planets are in place -- plenty of talent, plenty of room to play, but not too much fleeting hype. The bands are all grown up and grinding away, whether fickle fans -- or any major labels -- are there to hear them or not. Local radio isn't playing local music, and there isn't a flavor-of-the-month band drawing record crowds for a few weeks only to be forgotten just as it's putting out its best record.

Every group seems to be occupying its own comfortable space, biding its time as a schizophrenic industry struggles and fails to create a template for a new era. Thing is, the bands have outrun the evil industry and have cashed out their interest in swollen label deals and endless tours. This is giving acts the confidence to speed along under their own momentum. Jet, Chomsky, Deathray Davies, and Budapest One are four to epitomize the new kind of local power bands -- the ones who know how fucking great they are and believe in a more democratic, more liberated future for music, even if they are playing at a God-forsaken hole in the wall.

Christina Rees

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Christina Rees