Granada Theater

Imagine, if you will, the type of live music venue that'd be opened by a grown-up, matured hippie—one who's survived years of hitting the road and following his favorite jam bands for entire tours. It'd probably look and feel exactly like the Granada Theater. And that's just what the Granada is. This year, Mike Schoder, former owner of CD World and a diehard live music fan, and his friendly serenity—and not, mind you, security—staff, are celebrating five years of bringing top-notch touring acts to town and supporting the locals when it can. In this economy, that's incredible; in any economy, the Granada's well worth toasting.

Audiences fell for exceedingly handsome Ian Sinclair in The Nibroc Trilogy, staged by Echo Theatre first at the Bath House Cultural Center, then revived to sell-out crowds at Theatre Too. Sinclair, 25, played the leading man in all three plays, an experience he says "had a profound effect on me as a person." Raised on Swiss Avenue, the Texas Christian University drama grad debuted professionally with Shakespeare Dallas in a 2007 reading of Titus Andronicus. He's worked steadily as an actor ever since, earning good dough as a voiceover artist on commercials and "funimation" cartoons. This fall he co-stars in a revival of The Black Monk at Undermain Theatre (through October 3). His immediate goal: To act at the new Dallas Theater Center and Kitchen Dog Theater. Dream roles? "Being a leading man is a lot of fun. I wouldn't mind staying on that train."

Classically trained at the London Drama Studio, Emily Gray and husband Matthew (a company member at Dallas Theater Center) tried New York before settling in Dallas. In the past year, Emily's been acting up a storm, from the violent Popcorn at Theatre Three (she played a serial killer in short-shorts) to the wacky Season's Greetings at Theatre Too (where she romped in a red nightie), to Trinity Shakespeare Fest's Romeo and Juliet (she played the Nurse and stole the show), and right into Seagulls at the Festival of Independent Theatres. In her mid-30s, Emily has a Streep-y blond beauty that she doesn't mind disguising for a character role (for Shakespeare's nurse, she browned her teeth and glued on moles). Using her native Brit accent or an assortment of American dialects, she's a total pro. And if her voice sounds familiar, you probably heard it on an audio book. She's the reader of the popular Shopaholic series.

Twelve tracks and a hair over 37 minutes long, this late spring release from Denton's Teenage Cool Kids surprised more than a few people with something poppier than listeners might've come to expect from this previously kinda snotty, lo-fi punk quartet of Andrew Savage (guitar, lead vocals), Daniel Zeigler (guitar), Bradley Kerl (drums) and Chris Pickering (bass). It's reminiscent of the earliest, best Built to Spill—and yet somehow, no joke, a little improved. And it doesn't take long to realize as much—actually, it only takes 53 seconds. That's the point at which, on album opener "Reservoir Feelings," the music switches from a somber guitar melody to the muddled, beautiful mess the next 36 minutes will provide. Cued by Savage's words "There's a lake in the caverns of my heart," that moment also signals the kind of head-spinningly-confused-by-love wordplay that shines throughout the rest of the disc, but especially on the catchy sing-along anthems "Foreign Lands," "Speaking in Tongues" and "Poison Sermons." An immediate must-have for any music fan, this is the kind of disc that transcends the term "local music." This is just "music," dammit, and great music at that.

While his columnist colleagues at The Dallas Morning News abuse the word "ridiculous" or parlay their day jobs into multimedia careers, Sherrington routinely turns a pretty cool magic trick. He writes like he's old, without actually being old. Granted, he recently survived a serious health scare, but came out the other side as cynical and stylish as ever. Sherrington's prose isn't always filled with in-depth interviews or on-the-scene imagery, but his perspective and finger on the pulse of Dallas sports history makes his offerings delicious, even important. In Gary Cartwright's biting Texas Monthly piece about the "Death of Sportswriting," he gives Sherrington clemency, referring to him as "Sherrod Lite." Good enough for us.

Last we heard, NX35 still hadn't secured funding for next year's festival, but that doesn't mean the March 2009 one put on by the Baptist Generals' Chris Flemmons was a failure. In fact, it was arguably the biggest local music event of the year, with roughly 90 local bands and road acts descending on Denton for four incredible nights of music. The sets by Bandera's Possessed By Paul James and Tel Aviv's Monotonix burned themselves into many an attendee's memory, but it was the festival's surprisingly efficient organization and vast display of local talent—from True Widow to Warren Jackson Hearne and the Merrie Murdre of Gloomadeers and everything in between—that left the biggest impression.

There's not much to it, really. In fact, NTXshowlist is solely what its name makes it out to be: a Web site that does nothing but display each day's concert listings, offering up gigs from touring and local acts alike. But, in today's convoluted, Flash-driven and commenter-ruined Internet age, the site, run by Gutterth Productions' Michael Briggs and Brent Frishman (who are also maybe the two biggest music fans in the entire region), the site's biggest strength is its simplicity. There are no pictures, no descriptions of the shows, and no critiques of the bands playing. Again: It's. Just. A. List. Here's how it works: Briggs and Frishman, ever-attentive watchers of the local scene, keep an eye on each venue's upcoming calendars, compile them into one place and add in the shows that their readers send their way. And that, an incredibly simple but undeniably useful tool, is all it needs to be.

Director Billy Fountain has gained the reputation of doing a lot on a stage with very little money. The Pleasant Grove native has been teaching for 20 years, but he's slowly been building an impressive résumé of shows in community theaters during the past three seasons. This year he staged a critically acclaimed One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest at Onstage in Bedford, then re-created some of Monty Python's best bits for a small theater in Grapevine. He wet down his actors for The Tempest at The Dallas Hub and directed singing zombies for Evil Dead: The Musical. For his new Level Ground Arts company, he'll direct a series of Edgar Allan Poe stories this fall and do a play he wrote about Lee Harvey Oswald called Crushing Grain (opening November 22), then mount a stage adaptation of Plan 9 from Outer Space (December). What would he direct with an unlimited budget? "The musical Chess," he says. "I'd kill to put that onstage."

Baby Dolls Saloon

Designing a topless bar is like cooking a bowl of porridge for Goldilocks. Dim the house lights, flood it with too much black light and pump up the DJ's volume, and the environment is just too distracting, making it hard to see what you came there to see. On the other hand, boost the lighting too much, and sometimes you can see things you'd really rather not (cellulite, dudes, Dad). Burch Management Co.'s nationally celebrated club Baby Dolls gets it just right, with a huge rectangular bar overlooking a gigantic turntable stage lit by an array of lights that strike the perfect balance, letting you see what you came there for—the free lunch buffet. OK, maybe not the buffet, but certainly a feast of tanned, beautiful women. Six mini-stages scattered about the massive, well-lit room add to the variety, and a dim upstairs area is the perfect little hideaway for a private dance. Tired of looking at fit and fantastic women? Then check out the more-than-50 widescreen televisions tuned to sports. (What's wrong with you?) The whole club has a friendly vibe, like the lobby of a Vegas hotel but with none of the aggressive pushiness that makes a club-goer feel like a mark. It's the perfect strip club for tasteful shy folk who appreciate the aesthetics of a well-toned body. Yeah, that's it...

The revitalization of Oak Cliff couldn't happen without the efforts of selfless, community-minded volunteers like Jason Roberts. He's an IT consultant, a husband and a father, but his volunteer efforts alone would be enough to drive a lesser man mad. He co-founded the nonprofit Art Conspiracy, which raises money for art and music charities; in fact, his band, Happy Bullets, often plays Art Conspiracy fund-raisers. Roberts is also spearheading the effort to rehab the historic Texas Theater for community use and helped found two transportation-related neighborhood groups, Bike Friendly Oak Cliff and the Oak Cliff Transportation Authority. The OCTA is working to secure $96 million in federal funds to build new streetcar lines in Oak Cliff. BFOC, meanwhile, is planning a 10-day bike festival for October as well as a Safe Routes To School initiative. It's this kind of effort that earned him the Oak Cliff Chamber of Commerce Volunteer of the Year award in 2008. Now if only he'd get cracking on the next Happy Bullets album.

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