D vs. d

Moral dilemma: What do you do when one of the bands performing at your newspaper's very own showcase proves disappointing, and you feel compelled to write about it? Compelled, not because you want to be an asshole or because you maintain some inner drive to take on Dallas' sacred cows, but because this particular disappointment relates to a characteristic pattern of Big D music that bears exploring. Compelled, knowing that you're not a particular fan of negative reviews—despite what some of your readership thinks—unless there is meaning behind them. Seriously, there are a lot of horrible bands out there—way, way too many—but who wants to bag on someone who's engaging with the Dallas world in an attempt to be creative? And there are a lot of good bands who have bad nights, so who wants to point out a singular instance of anomalous suckiness? So what do you do?

Answer: Sigh...you write about it anyway.

Here's the deal: Saturday, I found myself hopping from venue to venue, trying to at least sample select bits of the humongous number of music events taking place at basically the same time all around town (to give you some idea of the musical saturation, I had to forgo the rare Roky Erickson concert at the Granada in order to catch more local gigs, a fact that crushed my heart with sledgehammer intensity, but which ultimately is an encouraging testament to the volume of Dallas' musical output). I dropped by the Dallas Observer Music Awards Early Voting Party at the Lakewood Theater, to catch The Crash That Took Me, a local supergroup-type deal made up of members of Black Tie Dynasty and [DARYL], both of which are among the top groups in the area.

I've heard TCTTM a few times before, and I've rather liked them, but this night, something was different. Usually, the group pumps out some high-quality, hard-pounding, semi-experimental rock. One of their tunes, "Julianne," for instance, could have been a tepid Clear Channel-favored Top 40 hit, but its subtle touches make it better: Perfectly fuzzy guitars; pretty, tinkly piano; and a touch of restraint on the ol' bombast save the tune from the Goo Goo Dolls song it could be. Other works such as "Star-Shaped Octagons," which is deliciously spacey in a Doves kind of way, and "Faster Than the Light," which sounds like a less moody My Bloody Valentine (and may be TCTTM's best song), may not change the world or trigger an adrenaline rush, but they are iPod/CD changer staples, welcome on a mix CD and not to be skipped over.

Only, this night, I realized something I had noticed the last time I saw the band, at the Granada, and had tucked away in my brain. An inordinate number of Dallas bands are a bit stuck in the '90s, and sometimes that's kind of boring.

That's not meant as a sweeping, giant slam of all things Dallas music. This doesn't not mean they suck intrinsically and we should blow up Greenville/Deep Ellum/Lakewood and start afresh, or that I have an answer or that the situation even needs an answer. It's just a detail, an oddity I haven't quite figured out, and that makes the Big D a little behind the curve of, say, the Little D. Think about it: Denton's Ghosthustler, Faux Fox, Midlake, etc., each have an edge about them. Sure, they might have roots in other decades—who doesn't?—but they lean decidedly forward; Ghosthustler and Faux Fox both twist spastic '80s synth/disco/new wave/rock into freakish future dance music, while the driving drone of Midlake's keyboard-focused melodies yank '70s prog rock into the modern world of Animal Collective-type soundscapes. Maybe that's why Pitchforkmedia.com published a story on July 15 claiming that Denton—not Dallas, which has more resources—may be the next big hot spot for indie rock.

But even the best Dallas show last Saturday evening felt dated. Sure, the Radiohead tribute show at Club Dada, which I blazed over to post-Lakewood, was a blast, and the groups who performed there fucking nailed that shit. It was not just a kind of blah cover band experience; it was one of those nights where everything converged into a perfect moment. Hendrick creeped everybody out with their eerily exact replications of the work of Mr. Yorke and Co., for example, and anyone who was there just could not stop talking about it for days afterward.

And these are good things, of course. But there's just that nagging idea that keeps nipping like a pesky mosquito: Was this a fun night of tribute, or is it all we got? Maybe we gotta catch up with our neighbors to the north.

Then again, judging from most of the nominees on this year's DOMA ballot, I might just be dead wrong. Make sure you vote for your local faves, either via the paper ballot available in the DO every week, or online at www.dallasobserver.com. Voting ends August 11 at the DOMA showcase event that takes place on Greenville Avenue (keep checking for the final lineup—it's gonna be a doozy). And, of course, don't forget the awards show Tuesday, August 14, at the Granada Theater. See ya there.

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Jonanna Widner
Contact: Jonanna Widner