Gerard Dirkx fidgets in his chair, dancing around any questions about his age. Obviously annoyed, he finally declares, "I'm 35 but extremely dyslexic." Despite his receding hairline and gray beard, his edginess is nearly the same as when he fronted Dallas' first--and best--new wave band, the Telefones, more than two decades ago.
Back in 1981, there wasn't a cooler band around town. Their vinyl debut Vibration Change (which can still be purchased on CD at home.flash.net/~soupcan/theTelefones.html) was picking up airplay on radio station KZEW's Rock and Roll Alternative, and the Telefones consistently sold out gigs at the semi-legendary Hot Klub. Songs like "Rocket Rocket" and "The Ballad of Jerry Godzilla" were funny and edgy rejections of the sad state of popular music. Things were going so well that Dirkx and his two brothers decided to ply their craft in the brighter lights of Los Angeles. The results were sadly predictable.
"We were lost in a sea of a thousand other bands out there," Dirkx says. "We wanted to get somewhere, and we ended up right back in Dallas."
Fat Palace performs at the Texas Tea House on Saturday, February 18.
Once back home, the Telefones would continue to be popular into the '90s; they had a couple of high-profile gigs opening for the Toadies and distributed a cassette-only release. But time brought family and job obligations for every Dirkx brother--except for Gerard, whose obsessive desire to make it in music continues today.
Now the bassist, songwriter and elder taskmaster for greasy rhythm-and-blues quintet Fat Palace, Dirkx is still a quixotic figure on the Dallas music scene, playing all over the area and still hoping this time things will work out and he can finally quit his day job.
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Formed six months ago, Fat Palace has played regularly in Deep Ellum and well-suited dives like Lee Harvey's. With a swarthy look and a Van Morrison-influenced sound--quite a cry from the skinny-tie days of yore--Fat Palace is the quintessential bar band: loose, loud and suitably rude.
Their debut EP Enter: The Palace is a bit slight, but live, Dirkx and crew, especially singer St. John Whitten, work up a legitimate cold sweat, mixing propulsive, hook-laden funky rockers with smoldering Southern soul.
"Right now, the band is halfway to where I want it to be," Dirkx says. "I want to take it in a more hard-core, funky direction."
A quarter of a century after pointing Dallas toward the musical future, Gerard Dirkx looks to embrace the past with Fat Palace. It's not what you'd expect from a guy with such a youthful mindset and a zealously dogged determination, but at his pace, he just might still quit that day job.