Best Of :: Arts & Entertainment
Dallas actor and director Jeff Swearingen has created a small but exciting theater company for kids up in Plano. They do plays, musicals and short films, sometimes all in one production, on shoestring budgets. Best of all, he isn't teaching his young thesps the hammy habits some kiddie theaters inflict. Swearingen's actually getting subtle, intensely interesting performances out of very young beginners. His production of Matt Lyle's comedy The Chicken Who Wasn't Chicken made brilliant use of simple props and costumes, but also included impressively done film sequences placing barnyard characters into famous movie scenes. Cute kids dressed as chickens doing dialogue from Gone with the Wind and The Godfather is just downright genius. His adaptation of The Little Prince was another multimedia triumph. This company's latest is an all child-and-teen production of the musical Man of La Mancha. Keep dreaming impossible dreams, Mr. Swearingen. You're doing amazing work.
At first glance, this might seem an unconventional choice. In between shows, Oliver Francis Gallery looks more like a cross-fit workout facility than a high-gloss showcase arena. But that's the thing. With so many Dallas spaces representing the biggest names in art, we've come to look to OFG for something else: difficult to market but important to see contemporary work. Owner and curator Kevin Rubén Jacobs balances the scales by presenting art he loves made by people he finds interesting. It's that simple. Whether he's passionate about an international sculptor like Rachel de Joode, whose exploration of art as documentation is still lodged deeply in our robotic hearts, or he's interested in emerging local talents hiking their way up, Jacobs offers their collections a temporary home. At Oliver Francis Gallery, you won't see art as décor. You will find things that make you feel uneasy. Frustrated, even. But that's the kicker: You will feel. You will think. And a couple of years down the road, it's these exhibitions that you'll remember.
Mind Spiders started out as a solo project for former Marked Men singer/guitarist Mark Ryan. Fast forward a few years, and it's now expanded to a six-person wrecking ball with two drummers. Last year's self-titled was an impressive amalgam of all Ryan's influences: punk, soul, new wave, pop. Meltdown, released in February, is more focused in its attack, and finds Ryan sharpening his ax. One of the best North Texas albums this year. Maybe even all of Texas.
It's sort of become a running joke for Black Dotz frontman Wanz Dover to take to Facebook and declare that the quartet's next show will be their last in a while. Inevitably it's not, but they always keep us on our toes, which is what a good rock and roll band should do. If you've caught them live, you understand: All four members are accomplished musicians in their own right, but together, they pull up their soul, R&B and punk roots and claw out your eyes in a white-hot blast. If you haven't seen them, what are you waiting for? This could be your last chance.
Ah, the much maligned "special guest" is the scourge of fliers and Facebook invites everywhere. This Fort Worth punk group decided to cut out the middle man and just own the name, and we support this kind of script-flipping and mischief-making.
Jeff Siegel is funny and all that, but he also has an incredible talent for getting stuff first, which makes him not only a fun read but a must. He writes a regular column that is called, as best we can tell, "Jeff Siegel" (catchy, what?) in the Lakewood and Lake Highlands Advocate magazines, free-distribution monthlies. If they already hang the magazine on your doorknob, you know Siegel. If they don't, you need to go find him in a rack, or you will miss a steady diet of insider scoops: He was way out front on the Trader Joe/Greenville Avenue story, first to tell the tale of Lincoln Properties wanting to re-name Gaston Avenue "Arboretum Way" or some such nonsense and first to hear the Andres brothers had put most of Henderson Avenue up for sale. Siegel is also author of a blog called "Wine Curmudgeon," which often is the only place to go for plain talk about wine in Dallas — a topic that cries out for plain talk. Beneath all that writing and attitude beats the heart of an old-fashioned newspaper reporter. Siegel's got good ears, good sources, and if a really good story walks up and bites him in the ass, he gets it on the page or up on the web faster and better than anybody else in Dallas. If it bites him anywhere else, we're not sure what happens.
Southfork's own Jock Ewing haunts Texas Theatre, looking just a tad rough around the edges. Moviegoers at the historic Oak Cliff cinema palace are always treated to a special pre-flick spot from Ewing (played by local musician and lovable cable-access weirdo George Quartz). The ghost of the great man is shown lurching unsteadily toward the bar, tipping his 10-gallon back on his head, boring the bartender shitless with a semi-intelligible story about a giant catfish. "Whence using the powder room, I like to sneak a cigarette and get myself a bourbon," he advises the audience. We can do the same, he adds, or go over to the concession stand and get a snack. But Ewing has a few words of warning, ones that never seem to get less funny: "If you want to bring your own car phone in, you best turn it off," he glowers. "Last thing I want to do when I'm watching a movie is kick your ass."
It's been almost a year since Martin Creed's exhibit at the Nasher closed, but we're still talking about it, because we miss it so. It was a giant room filled from floor to ceiling with some 9,000 yellow balloons, and you could run around through them. Technically, the piece was called "Work No. 1190: Half the air in a given space." What did it mean? Damned if Martin Creed knew. "I'm not a conceptual artist," he told an interviewer just before the show opened. "I don't believe in conceptual art." The balloon room was nothing less than a giddy, transcendent experience: the noise of the balloons like waves, the sensation of kicking them aside to walk, the gold color filling your field of vision as you tried to find your way forward. Please come back, Mr. Creed. Bring more balloons.
Dallas has a wealth of plaster bulls scattered around town, by which we mean two. One is pretty good; it sits proudly atop a steak joint on Oak Cliff's Jefferson Avenue. It's cute, you know? But the longhorn outside Raul's Corral Mexican Food is absurdly, gloriously excessive, a larger-than-life testament to the noble cow, sitting atop a stone platform and surrounded by a low iron fence. It has enormous, slightly dingy white horns and an "RR" brand on the left flank, a tribute to restaurant owner Raul Ramirez. We also feel compelled to mention that it's (sort of) anatomically correct. Visit the bull, honk at the bull on your way home from work, but for God's sake, don't try to steal the bull. We've thought about it. Can't be done. Besides: Raul's longhorn deserves to reign on his throne of rocks forever.
Anime lovers from all over the country flock to Dallas each year for the A-Kon convention. The three-day event is jam-packed with events in which folks get to live out their anime fantasies and participate in everything from art shows and costume contests to role playing. This year, during the 23rd annual A-Kon, tens of thousands of costumed fans took over the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Dallas. But since the convention has gotten so large, it'll move to the massive Hilton Anatole in 2013. Not a fan of dressing up? We recommend grabbing a seat at the hotel bar and spectating.
When Wanz Dover first made a splash in the Dallas music community with his band Mazinga Phaser, he wasn't a DJ at all. At least that's not what he was known for. Nowadays, he has several DJ projects going, and with his German techno moniker Blixaboy as the flagship, Dover has made a bigger splash in Europe than he has stateside. But typically, when you catch a DJ set from him these days, you're going to be hit over the head with his incredible collection of punk garage soul. He's passionate about the music he spins. A simple request while he's behind the ones and twos can lead to a long conversation about music, a subject in which Dover is an expert.
Erykah Badu contributed vocals to a cover of Ewan MacColl's "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" on the Flaming Lips' recent album of collaborations, The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends, and also took part in the video. The latter is where things went awry. Badu and her sister Nayrok were both nude in the video, which includes self-indulgent slow-mo shots of Lips members and a tub full of glitter and a white creamy substance meant to look like jizz. Badu balked at getting in the tub, but her sister didn't, yet the final cut of the video suggests it was all Badu. She then took to Twitter to ream Coyne, telling him to "Kiss my glittery ass." Coyne responded with apologetic tweets interspersed with jokes that suggested he wasn't so repentant after all. It was hard to tell whether the feud was real, a publicity stunt or perhaps some mix of both, but it was the most amusing musician Twitter exchange this side of Courtney Love's stoned ramblings.