Best Music Radio Station 2014 | KNON-FM 89.3 | Best of Dallas® 2020 | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Dallas | Dallas Observer

Perhaps the most jarring segue in Dallas radio is at 4 a.m. on Sundays, when extreme metal gives way to gospel music. What makes KNON work so well is that it has no use for mainstream or pop music, even if some of the artists that various shows play are household names. Each show has a particular focus, whether it's zydeco, Jewish music, '60s psychedelia, hard country, rockabilly or blues. What that results in is volunteer DJs who are extraordinarily passionate and knowledgeable about their respective genres — the narrower the niche, the better. And then, counter to this notion but equally enjoyable are the station's new weekday Morning Blend shows from 7 to 9. Each day, it's like a different host puts KNON's weekly programming on shuffle. You'll hear folk, blues, country, rock, reggae, metal, cumbia and more, all in the span of a couple hours, like a JACK-FM with better taste.

"KRLD's traffic and weather on the 8s" is the go-to program for Dallasites banging their heads on their steering wheels during rush hour or stuck in a torrential downpour. Which is to say, everyone. When the typical waves of massive storms and a few tornados roll through North Texas in the spring, KRLD's coverage is one of the most exciting things to happen on local news radio. The station goes all out: Angry siren noises, panicking announcers, the works. "Get in a shelter NOW," announcers tell listeners repeatedly, creating chicken-with-its-head-cut-off drivers all over the area. Weather excitement aside, KRLD is a staple to Dallas radio with its reliable and thorough coverage.

David Finfrock is an institution in this town. Every kid growing up in Dallas was glued to the Finfrock's coverage when there was even a hint of a tornado or flood or other sign of impending Armageddon. He's been with NBC forever (or since 1975), and is always incredibly soft-spoken and calm in the face of natural disaster. But more than someone who seems very nice on TV, he's someone you'd want to be your grandfather. He likes gardening and maps (he's the editor of the Texas Map Society newsletter, which is as awesome as it sounds) and nature hikes. He would probably bake you chocolate chip cookies for no reason. Also you could write sonnets about that mustache, and many people probably have.

On Sunday nights when long-time local radio host and musician Paul Slavens takes over KXT's signal for a few hours, the otherwise dull, listener-supported station comes to life. You can hear literally anything from Slavens' show: experimental music from locals, French standards, Italian horror soundtracks, an actual person of color, even. That's because Slavens has built a reputation on great taste and actually listens to what his listeners suggest he plays. Think of it as supported-listeners radio.

On the air since 1983, Lambda Weekly claims to be the longest-running gay and lesbian radio show on the air anywhere on Earth. We were unwilling to do the work required to substantiate that claim but considered it irrelevant anyway: Lambda Weekly is just such a great show, gay or lesbian or longest-running or not. Captained by the genial and always well-informed David Taffet, the show is an informative and thoughtful window on local and national issues. With his very smart and loyal lieutenants, Lerone Landis and Patti Fink, at his side, Taffet has interviewed Charo, Lisa Loeb, Jagger, The Dixie Chicks, SONiA, Jaston Williams and Joe Sears (), Alan Sues (Laugh In), Dan Butler (Frazier) — a bunch of celebrities and many important national political figures. It's never a mistake to catch Lambda Weekly on Sunday.

OK, so Mark Lamster wins this by default since he's the only professional architecture critic in Dallas, but don't let that take away from his importance. Imported from New York City through a partnership between the University of Texas at Arlington and The Dallas Morning News, he is a public intellectual, which is rare around these parts. He not only critiques Dallas' fancy new buildings — though there's plenty of that — he casts a critical eye on how the city is built. He's not the only one doing this, but he's the most visible, and he's too intelligent and too good a writer to be ignored.

It may not technically be in Dallas, although a new location is expected to open in The Cedars sometime in 2015, but this Austin transplant stands out for what it has, and what it doesn't. For a movie theater, the food and beer selections are fantastic, as is the chain's special programming, like sing- and quote-alongs and screenings you can't catch anywhere else. What you won't see is anyone texting or peeking at Twitter after a movie has started — that merits an ejection from the theater after one warning, seriously — or any unaccompanied kids, as every person at every showing must be accompanied by someone 18-plus.

A good actor doesn't just act when he or she is speaking. Acting is reacting, and Stormi Demerson, a veteran of DFW theaters and star of recent productions at Amphibian Stage and Theatre Three, is expert at listening and reacting to the actors around her. Always enhancing the roles she plays with just the right touches of humor and vulnerability, Demerson is a strong, sure presence in any show. In Death Tax at Amphibian, she was a nurse crushed by the pressure of a Faustian bargain with a dying patient. In T3's By the Way, Meet Vera Stark, she played an aspiring actor in 1930s Hollywood, tired of being cast as mammies and maids, commanding the scene where her character railed against the racism of showbiz. Good acting, says Demerson, is good storytelling that goes beyond the relationship between the viewer and the viewed. "Our energies are dependent on one another," she says. "But I have a responsibility to help tell a story that will make the audience feel something when they leave."

Over the past decade on Dallas stages including Undermain, Kitchen Dog, Shakespeare Dallas and Second Thought Theatre, Drew Wall has matured past roles as the goofy kid and silly sidekick. Now in his early 30s, the Baylor drama grad, part of Second Thought's regular acting company, is a confident, handsome leading man. This season he gave his best performances yet. In Second Thought's Nocturne, a one-man show by Adam Rapp, Wall delivered a wrenching 90-minute monologue about the lasting effects of childhood traumas — a stunning tour de force that left audiences weeping. In the debut of Steven Walters' Booth, Wall was comic relief as part of John Wilkes Booth's band of conspirators. Wall's acting résumé lists his extra skills: ice skating, juggling and welding. We'd happily watch him do any of those.

Many theater directors have wrestled with the most difficult works of Shakespeare, Albee and Stoppard. Only one we know of has done them to critical acclaim with actors under the age of 16. Jeff Swearingen is director and resident playwright at Fun House Theatre and Film, the all-youth company he founded three years ago with partner Bren Rapp. He takes the craft and art of acting seriously and is passing along all he knows to budding actors, some as young as 6, who clamor to be in his Fun House shows. This summer he wrote and directed two new comedies, Game of Thrones Jr. and Stiff, which both sold out their two-week runs. Strict about behavior when he's working, Swearingen allows no flip-flops, food or texting at rehearsals. Now if only he could direct the audiences.

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