Best Theater Festival 2010 | Festival of Independent Theatres | Best of Dallas® 2020 | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Dallas | Dallas Observer

Everybody's got to start somewhere and many a Dallas actor, director and playwright have been launched from this annual summer festival of fringe theater companies overseen by Bath House regulars Marty van Kleeck and David Meglino. Only troupes that don't have their own home stages can qualify for this three-week event, which features mostly new scripts (none more than an hour long) and fresh, new faces. Such up-and-coming talents as The Drama Club started at FIT, as did Matt Lyle's Bootstraps Comedy group, which has since transferred to Chicago. A dozen different one-act plays rotate in repertory throughout the festival, with marathon viewings on weekends. For diehard theater lovers, FIT is a feast.

Ain't no party like a Cool Out party 'cause a Cool Out party don't quit. Quite literally, actually: For the past few years, Dallas has flocked to Tony Schwa and Big J's weekly residency upstairs at the Cavern, which remains the best DJ-helmed party in the Dallas area. Even as more DJs have become hip to the fact that Monday nights are the new Fridays, and that Greenville Avenue's the place to bring those weeknight crowds, Schwa and J have never skipped a beat. They spin their disco and hip-hop tunes for their loving, regular, strong crowds and let the music do the talking. Even in the face of new weeklies at Kush, Sugar Shack and Billiard Bar, all of which aim to take a bite out of Cool Out's reign as the best weekly in town, the duo just seems to be getting stronger and stronger. Perhaps it's their infectious energy and welcoming spirit. More likely, though, it's that they know what music to play to get people dancing without inhibition. It's time the competition came to grips with a certain fact: Cool Out's not in danger of cooling out any time soon.

Kidd Kraddick, 106.1 Kiss FM
Angelika Film Center

The goal of Art Conspiracy is simple: to bring artists together to create, in 24 hours, art that can then be auctioned to folks who can't/don't generally buy art...while they enjoy live music. The proceeds may benefit a pre-selected charity, but in reality, the event draws so many creative people (and fans of creative people) that the entire art scene gets a boost. There's just one thing: That 24-hour art is how-you-say amazing. The auction scenes are animated thanks to talented auctioneers and can be, well, politely cut-throat if two folks are really gunning for the same piece. Prepare yourself ahead of time. Thaw the credit card or visit the ATM for a couple-three days. Practice your mantra: "It's OK. It's for charity. It's OK. I can write it off my taxes." Exercise your dominant arm, making sure you can raise it, wave a program or achieve a predetermined signal in a quick, smooth motion. Get there early and do a once-over of all the pieces. Now you're ready to bid Art Conspiracy.

There's a reason why WFAA's 10 p.m. newscast is consistently atop the Nielsen ratings: Veteran anchors Gloria Campos and John McCaa are the strongest duo in the game, and relevant stories take precedence over those, found on other stations, that we sometimes confuse for infomercials. Gary Reaves, Rebecca Lopez, Jason Whitely and Chris Hawes highlight a deep crop of reporters who track down stories other stations either aren't looking for or are afraid to touch. Top-notch investigative reporters Brett Shipp and Byron Harris, political guru Brad Watson, popular weatherman Pete Delkus and opinionated sports director Dale Hanson round out a stellar team, and even if local news isn't your thing, it's always worthwhile to watch the uncomfortable banter between Delkus and Hansen—always a train wreck waiting to happen.

In 1997, three years after taking the nation by storm with their still-holds-up-quite-well major label debut, Rubberneck, the now-seminal North Texas rockers in the Toadies went back into the studio to record their follow-up. The resulting album was Feeler, a disc that the band now looks back upon as perhaps the best in its catalog. Thing is, Interscope Records, to which the band was signed at the time, didn't agree. In fact, it straight up hated the sucker and just scrapped it. And with that move, the Toadies' eventual breakup in the early '00s was essentially cast. Sure, the band came back to Interscope and released Hell Below/Stars Above in 2001, but the damage had been done; the band had all but been forgotten in a world suddenly obsessed with nu-metal and rap-rock. But the Toadies would eventually get their revenge. After re-forming in 2008 and releasing their well-received comeback record, No Deliverance, on local label Kirtland Records, someone pitched the idea of re-recording Feeler and putting it out for the fans to finally judge; after all, Interscope may have still owned the recordings, but the Toadies owned the songs. Earlier this year, the band got its revenge, releasing Feeler on Kirtland and continuing its resurgence—a resurgence, mind you, that finds the band bigger now than it ever really was in its supposed heyday. Oh and one more thing: Releasing Feeler on Kirtland gave the band the chance to finally do something it had always wanted to do, but never could while on Interscope—talk shit in the press about the terrible, terrible judgment of the major-label hacks who clearly don't know a good thing when they hear it.

It's no small thing being branded an activist judge in Texas, particularly because judges are elected and the state is so conservative and activist judges raise the ire of heavily financed tort reformers. Add to this the fact that the judge is in family court where the law is rarely challenged or changed, and you can sense how much courage it would take to grant a divorce to a gay couple in Texas, when there's a state constitutional amendment forbidding that same gay couple from ever getting married here in the first place. Yet in October, two men who were legally married in Massachusetts and had moved to Dallas presented themselves before the 302nd District Judge Tena Callahan and requested a divorce. Not so fast, said Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who tried to intervene in the case, representing the state's interest in defending the constitutional ban. But Callahan refused to let him join the party and then ruled that the Texas ban on same-sex marriage violated the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution. She later amended her ruling and based it on the Texas Family Code, but what the heck, the line was drawn. Although the conservative 5th Court of Appeals in Dallas reversed her ruling, Callahan's decision might have sparked an Austin judge to rule in the same manner. With this ruling also on appeal, before the more liberal 3rd Court of Appeals, the case may be in the courts for quite some time. We can only hope that Judge Callahan will be too.

You really have to hand it to KKXT-91.7 FM. Even if its playlists are pretty random, the station, with its tag line "music to the core," is a refreshing entity amid the national corporate-helmed options cluttering your FM dial. Never is the KERA sister station and NPR affiliate's free-form nature more evident than for two hours on Sunday nights when Paul Slavens takes over the airwaves. Slavens knows no format. He'll play whatever he wants—and, more often than not, whatever you want—so long as it's original and different from what you'll hear elsewhere. He'll play old, forgotten AM classics, oddball pop tunes and, perhaps most endearingly, plenty of local tunes. A musician himself—a genius behind the keys and in improvised lyrics—Slavens knows firsthand that not everyone wants to hear the same Rihanna song over and over. Or, in KKXT's case, even the same Wilco one. Slavens takes us on a sonic adventure that's perfect, calming listening to end your weekend and start your week. His cool-as-ice on-air vocal delivery doesn't hurt either.

Pardon Me, Jonathan Tyler And the Northern Lights

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