Best Radio DJ 2011 | Big Gus | Best of Dallas® 2020 | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Dallas | Dallas Observer
We will forever have a soft spot for the late-night disc jockey, The Midnight Hour-man who rocks us to not-sleep while we polish off this one last drink and finish off this one last smoke and try like hell to nod off but just can't so you might as well play some Sonny James. Big Gus hosts Lonestar Underground, which is already the best six hours of music (real goddamned country) on local radio in a single stretch. He doesn't say much (the best ones never do), and when he does he drawls us through the wee small hours in a raspy how-y'all-doin' that reminds us to tump the ashtray and crack another cold one (sponsored by Shiner!) and that tonight might be the night when we see the sunrise if we're lucky.
Really, you have not celebrated July Fourth Weekend till you've spent a Saturday night by the radio listening to Maggie from Northern Exposure read from the Declaration of Independence before welcoming on to the show Ann Coulter and Gary Sinise. "Gather family, gather friends," she beckoned on that magical eve, before y'all-ing her way through the doc while bells of freedom chimed in the background. Best Not Christmas Eve Ever! She's so right she's around the bend and says things like "I'm a Texan, but I'm also an American" and considers herself a Constitutional historian ("History is fascinating," she once said) and welcomes the likes of Newt Gingrich and Herman Cain and Peter Guber — a regular Tom Snyder, ladies and gentlemen. Like recent guest Kinky Friedman told her, when speaking of Governor Rick Perry and his presidential run, "You don't know where greatness will come from." Here, it comes from here.
It hasn't been a long time since Aviation Cinemas took flight. In 2010, the group comprising Eric Steele, Jason Reimer and Adam Donaghey took over operations at Oak Cliff's newly reopened Texas Theatre. In doing so, the trio has brought life to the once-abandoned cinema by screening a wide variety of indie movies, documentaries and decades-old television series that otherwise would not have been seen in Dallas. Their love of film doesn't end with The Texas Theatre; each member has worked in film as an actor, producer or composer.
Jun Kang is one of the videographers over at YouPlusDallas, and his work can be seen all over the website, where he's helped shoot FC Dallas games, chefs and food at local restaurants and even the Dallas Observer Music Award Showcases. His best work, though, takes place in the beautiful short films he's created, which have included several Dallas landmarks. In the wordless A Christmas Tale, Kang highlights the famous Neiman Marcus window displays and the Children's Medical Center Holiday Parade. He shot Greenwood Cemetery in the historic cemetery of the same name. Each of his films tells a story and explores a deeper meaning while using Dallas as the backdrop.
She can be a fiery vixen or a bubbly comedienne. Or, in the case of her recent starring role in the hit comedy Five Women Wearing the Same Dress at Contemporary Theatre of Dallas, both in one play. Emily Scott Banks launched her acting career in 2002 after studying the Meisner method with acting teacher Terry Martin (his class is a must for serious thesps). In shows at WaterTower Theatre, Stage West, CTD and Echo, where she recently played the author George Eliot in A Most Dangerous Woman, she's grown into one of this area's most interesting, versatile, dangerously talented theater stars.
There are concert promoters who do what they do for a living, and then there's Parade Of Flesh's John Iskander, a DISD middle-school math teacher who counts himself as little more than a music fan. But that's what makes him such a good promoter: He only books bands that he loves. Since he has a broad musical palate, ranging from metal to indie-rock, that means he has a show at least once a week. This year, highlights include Those Darlin's and Why?, but his biggest event this year was the third annual Bro-Fest, a music festival that featured some of the world's best up-and-coming indie-rock and metal acts.
Mike Brooks
For decades, people have traveled northbound over the Trinity River to hear live music in Dallas, and rarely was it the opposite. But in 2010, the year Edwin Cabaniss reopened the 70-year-old Kessler Theater in North Oak Cliff, all that started to change. The shows being booked at The Kessler rivaled and often trumped shows happening elsewhere in town. The key ingredient was in hiring one of the founding fathers of Deep Ellum, Jeff Liles, to manage the place. Thanks to his booking, a healthy mix of local bands and legendary national artists including the likes of St. Vincent have graced the stage, as well as some reunited Dallas rock alumni like Chomsky, Earl Harvin and Mike Dillon.
Their 2008 self-titled debut went criminally unheralded by most, but, somehow, True Widow's first disc still caught the ears of the people over at New York City-based Kemado Records, who quickly snatched up the group and agreed to release their 2011 mouthful of a follow-up. The second True Widow release isn't much different from the first; it once again moves about as quick as molasses, but scores major points for its loud volume and aesthetic — a sound that the band calls stonegaze because it lies, as you'd expect from the name, just about smack dab between shoegaze and stoner rock. But it is a slightly more focused effort, and maybe a more focus-grouped one too. After taking a backseat throughout much of the band's debut, save for the must-hear "Duelist," bassist Nikki Estill is given a bigger vocal role on the newer effort, her angelic pipes cast in more of a secondary lead role to that of guitarist Dan Phillips. The move was a smart one — the juxtaposition of her sweet vocals to the band's heavy sound and Phillips' own gritty pipes is stunning. Really, though, the band is at its best when all members, including drummer Tim Starks, are cast in equal roles, with Phillips and Estill harmonizing over Starks' restrained beats and with their own instruments filling the holes as need be. Too often, bands that are reliant on excessive volume tend to come off sounding rather harsh; True Widow, especially on their second release, have a remarkable talent for making loud sound beautiful.
This year and last have been especially good for local indie folk darling Sarah Jaffe, who was born in Red Oak, found her audience in Dallas and perfected her craft in Denton. It's been a steady climb, but one that took a steep upward turn following the April 2010 release of her sophomore album, Suburban Nature, which found the performer earning praise from outlets as wide-ranging and varied as Paste and USA Today. Front to back, it's a strong, revealing release from the 25-year-old, but the album's unquestioned highlight is "Clementine," a song that Jaffe says she wrote as something of a throwaway — a means to fill out her once rather short live performance set. These days,"Clementine" has become about as unavoidable as a local song can be; it's in frequent rotation on KKXT-FM 91.7 KXT, as well as in Starbucks coffeehouses around the country. That much is understandable enough; "Clementine" is a really pretty song. But it becomes an especially impressive track when heard repeatedly. That's when Jaffe's rather self-loathing lyrical content shines through. "I wish my name was Clementine," she sings in the song's chorus, claiming that such a name would afford her the chance to be "a little more delicate." It's a song about being self-aware, about growing up and choosing to accept or reject the person that you've become. As she performs it, Jaffe seems uncertain that she's becoming the person she wants to be. On the listeners, it has the opposite effect. To them, it's clear that Jaffe's just fine exactly as she is.
When it opened this summer, Ro2 Art Uptown seemingly filled the art-scene lull that usually comes with the hot weather. Mother and son owners Susan Roth Romans and Jordan Roth expanded their reach from their downtown gallery space and promised exciting exhibitions featuring new talent, and did they deliver. Earlier this month, the Uptown gallery hosted An Evening of Arts and Jewels in conjunction with Fashion's Night Out, and the most recent exhibition features works from local artists Kathy Robinson Hays, husband Terry Hays and newcomer Val Curry. It doesn't hurt that the West Village gallery is situated within a stone's throw of popular retail and dining destinations, plus the inviting space is open seven days a week for aficionados who need a daily dose of art.

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