Casey Hess of the Dallas Observer Music Awards-nominated Descender (Best Hard Rock Act) is -- perhaps too quietly these days -- one of Dallas' great rock heroes. Since his stints in a few influential and popular area bands going back to the 1990s glory days of Elm, Main and Commerce, few have boasted the Deep Ellum rock bona-fides that Hess has.
As leader of Doosu, Hess and crew flirted with so-called big-time success alongside with the likes of Tripping Daisy, the Toadies and a seeming dozen other Dallas-based bands of that period. A few years later, Hess joined up as guitarist for the successful, post-Toadies project, The Burden Brothers.
Needless to say, he's seen a ton of stages nationally. But, regionally, Hess has quite clearly mastered the stages in our neck of the woods.
Descender's two studio albums, Army of Elephants and this year's Dark Water, both have the menacing and unpredictable feel of a time when alt-rock was a legitimate alternative to what mainstream audiences were flocking toward. Neither album is an easy-going listening experience, nor are they intended to be. Even better, songs like Dark Water's "Armor," soar into a pounding, possibly seizure-inducing frenzy that exhilarates more than simply rocks out.
With the free-to-attend Music Awards Ceremony taking place starting at 8 p.m. tonight at the House of Blues -- and to commemorate this past weekend's Deep Ellum-located showcases -- we figured it high time to chat with Hess about his all-time, top five favorite Deep Ellum bands. After the jump, he indulges us.
Casey Hess' All-Time Top Five Deep Ellum Bands
5. Course of Empire. No one can make a guitar sound the way Mike Graff can. No one back then was as inventive, hands-on and sonically ambitious as this band. And with [Chad] Lovell and [Michael] Jerome duel drumming? Live, they were unstoppable.
4. Funland. Man, The Funland Band album is close to a lot of hearts. It could be a soundtrack to that time and place. Whether it was a packed, drunken car ride at 3 a.m., the jukebox or seeing them play at any given bar, if "Shitty Weather" was blasting, we were all singing along.
3. Baboon. These guys are still doin' it! Yes! Baboon can croon at the dance or set the building on fire, and seeing them live is like witnessing both.
2. Red Animal War. Yet another band still doing it! Love it! The real deal punk. Smart, angular and progressive without losing the groove. A talented four-piece, fueled by [Justin] Wilson's conviction.
1. Toadies. They're still around and owning it. They beat the odds. The first hit had a wheels-off feedback solo. In the '90s, record labels, club owners and "talent scouts" were telling bands what not to do if they wanted to "make it." The Toadies took all of that advice, along with a Marshall and an SG, and shoved it straight up everyone's ass. I like that. That makes me happy.