It was Dec. 4, 2018, when the one-man show that is King Camel's Jeffrey Brown took to the Canton Hall stage to accept the Dallas Observer Music Award for Best Talent Buyer, hoisting his trophy in the air and telling the cheering audience, "We fucking rule, dude! Suck my ass!"
Everyone who was there still remembers the "Suck my ass!" portion of the acceptance speech. The next morning, Three Links manager Scott Beggs questioned in a public Facebook post if those might be "The greatest words ever spoken at a DOMA?"
It was the local version of the memorable "This world is bullshit" speech by Fiona Apple, though Brown's message was purely celebratory. Perhaps understandably, people often forget the first part of Brown's speech.
In the moment that Brown had worked so hard for — booking his weekly Locked & Loaded series of three local bands at Armoury DE on Saturday nights, inviting everyone to learn more about the local music scene with his annual Local Education and Camelversary festivals and organizing the epic concept bands for Damn Fine and Sci-Fi Music festivals — he looked out into the audience filled with local talent that he had largely worked with and acknowledged that it was "we" who "fucking rule, dude."
Though Brown insists that there are "haters" out there, his colleagues sing his praises.
"Even before meeting Jeff, I knew that seeing the King Camel logo on a show flyer was a sign of quality," The Delzells' Justin Casey says. "After meeting him, I was also able to see the quality of his character. He’s one of the most likable faces you could ask to run into on the streets of Ellum. He also puts together a mean rock 'n' roll bill."
This is a sentiment echoed throughout Dallas, sometimes by people who have never worked with him personally.
"He's one of those guys that's actually involved in the scene," The 40 Acre Mule's J. Isaiah Evans says. "He's entrenched in it. He's out seeing shows. He's out seeing new music. He's out getting to know people. And he remembers you. I've always been a fan of King Camel and what he was doing there. I've always had an eye on it and really appreciate what he does for North Texas music."
It's arguable that without Brown's efforts, Dallas would not have ever seen what is the hottest band at the moment.
"Jeff found me at Crown and Harp when I was 15, and from that point on, he made me a part of the scene," Rosegarden Funeral Party's Leah Lane says. "He booked me with my first band [Moon Waves] at Three Links for a Local Education Fest bill. He not only gave me my start, he believed in me when no one else did — he saw something in me when no one else did. He is the best friend anyone could ask for and an unrelenting advocate for artists. We all owe him something."
And it's not just the bands that owe him. There are many fans like Darren Haffner as well who found acceptance and belonging in the warmth of a King Camel show.
"When Jeff puts on a show, he makes sure everyone has a good time, both the bands and audience," Haffner says. "Without him, I wouldn't have seen some bands that are now among my favorites."
To say that Brown deserved the award he received that chilly December night in 2018 is an understatement. Everybody felt that the true king of the Dallas music scene had finally received his crown, though he would lose it soon after, in a sense.
In the months that followed DOMA, King Camel shows became less and less frequent, Sci-Fi Music Fest II changed venues and its concept, Damn Fine Music Fest III, just didn't happen and the Locked & Loaded series came to an abrupt end after a consistent three years.
"You've got to have those times of healing, you know, to kind of reset yourself so you can help people out again," Brown says, looking across a couple of LoveTinis, the signature drink he created as the new manager for Cretia's Eatery & Bake Shoppe in Oak Cliff.
"I was in a time of crisis, and I just needed to take care of myself, which I had not been doing for years," Brown continues. "I was giving myself out too much — all my energy and love. I was partying too much — not giving myself something stable. Everything in my life was chaos. As much as I love chaos, it can't be everything. There was no balance. I needed balance."
Brown doesn't go into detail about the partying and chaos. Some things are best kept private, even for someone who'll tell a crowd of hundreds to suck his ass. Rather than dwell on the past, Brown is focused on the future, especially in business.
The manager job at Cretia's allows Brown to put into practice everything he learned about hospitality and management working for BrainDead Brewing and with Peter Novotny and Dan Murry of Ruins and Armoury DE.
Cretia's has already seen an uptick in traffic since Brown brought his magnetic energy to the bake shop and restaurant only a month ago.
"I've had people come up and say that the energy feels so much better in here," Brown says. "Not that it was bad before, but it's like people seem to be having a lot more fun here. I think this place is for people our age [30-somethings] when they're looking for a non-rowdy place."
The people who work for Brown can attest to the fact that what he once brought to the Dallas music scene at large can likewise be felt by his daily presence.
"He's getting everyone to communicate and that wasn't something that was here before," Cretia's server Alex Beausejour says. "Jeff has changed the vibe in a good way. He's friendly — just a good person with good energy."
Brown has big plans to develop the culture in the restaurant. Besides adding drinks to the cocktail menu, he has plans to start a trivia night, host small art shows to showcase local artists — as he did most recently with LOAFER's Taylor Smith and Upsetting's Kevin Adkins — and bring in local musicians for more intimate acoustic sets.
"I just got Leah [Lane] for next month to do a solo acoustic gig up here, and I got some other irons in the fire," he says raising an eyebrow. "This is just a great place to come, chill, hang out, have some drinks, have a little food and discover some art. That's what I'm going to be cultivating, with just a dash of that King Camel nonsense."
Brown says that there is still a place for the King Camel nonsense that went on in the past, but he wants to take his time before diving right back into the chaos that nearly swallowed him whole.
"I want to choose my next step very carefully and make sure that I'm bringing out the most quality product," he says. "I don't want to get sucked into that old BS that you get sucked into in the music industry — you know, drama, relationships with people, your own fuck-ups and everything. I'm reevaluating things in my life and what I want to accomplish professionally."
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Rest assured, Damn Fine Music Fest and Sci-Fi Music Fest will happen again when Brown has the right people involved. For all of the drama, Brown has missed the Dallas music scene as much as it has missed him.
"I've been a little lonely not having those people around me," he says of his peers. "When you're doing all these things with all these people, it kind of gives you a rallying point for your friends to come hang out, and then when that leaves, there's no longer that rallying point."
Creating a new rallying point is what is central to the King Camel-ness Brown hopes to bring to Cretia's. King Camel is not gone, just growing up, inviting everyone to slow down just a little bit, enjoy some of the finer things in life but never lose your edge.
"Whatever void I left [in the Dallas music scene], somebody will pick up that torch hopefully," Brown says. "I'm still the same old guy. I do want to kind of elevate this place a little bit. I want to elevate some things and de-escalate others. All that stuffiness and pretentiousness around art can go fuck itself. You know what I'm saying?"