The 2013 Dallas Observer Music Showcase came and went this weekend in eight hours of North Texas' most interesting music. The unique thrill of this thing is walking from a delicate show by a singer-songwriter to the thrash of a punk band to the beats of an electronic act, on and on, and seeing the members of those bands inspire each other. Tomorrow night we'll hand out trophies, but the real reward of this whole DOMA enterprise was to be in those crowds this weekend. And we were! There was too much to describe here, but what follows are a few of the highlights observed by our writers and photographers.
My evening started and ended with Dallas Uber Alles. Walking down Elm Street as the sun set, I saw the four members of the Dead Kennedys tribute act holding up signs about voting for the band in the DOMAs. I had to smile because I figured this was an homage to when original Dead Kennedys frontman Jello Biafra ran for mayor in the 80s. Later, as I started to leave Deep Ellum for the night, I ran into DUA frontman Jacob Sereno and asked if the signs were indeed an homage. He confirmed they were, and I figured it was very smart of the band. These guys don't just play the part on stage; they play it off the stage, too. And when they do play, you can enjoy the music and performance and not worry about which original Dead Kennedys members are currently suing each other. Eric Grubbs
Nicholas Altobelli turned in a very engaging set on Reno's patio. With only his pedal steel player and keyboardist, Altobelli played a number of new songs that may or may not end up on his next record. The soft country folk sounds were perfect as the evening chill set in. EG
Brutal Juice was the early evening's gem, half an hour or so of punishing melody. Front man Craig Welch is a wide-eyed nerve ending of a presence, staring at the Reno's crowd through the strobe lights on stage, his neck muscles straining against his skin. Kiernan Maletsky
Throughout their DOMA set, Yell at Eels exhibited a freeness of form like a tableau straight from Jackson Pollock's studio: Dennis Gonzalez' trumpet supplied the wiry tendrils, Stefan's drum solos were violent splatters, and Aaron's superb bass was like earthen globs of velvet streaked upon the air. The visual plotting of YAE's sound seems like a natural reaction, as their spirit of music making imparts a very organic, muscled sense of poetry. Apart from the stellar unpredictability of their musicianship, my deepest memory of these guys has to be the cool aura of father Dennis Gonzalez. I'm not talking about just any coolness either, I mean the type of blasé confidence reserved for only the rarest of presences, think Miles Davis on the cover of "'Round About Midnight" cool. Jonathan Patrick
While I wanted to loosely plan my Showcase schedule around band names with marine themes (Yells at Eels, Violent Squid, Sealion, and Catamaran) I ended up playing Deep Ellum venue pinball all night, bouncing around with no real set lineups in mind. And what I did see, was no less a perfect snapshot of Dallas' best local music in the last year.
On stepping into the Prophet Bar, I immediately disregarded the 20 ounces of Mocha Java that now sat uncomfortably in my bladder. My beeline for the bathroom was halted by an unbelievable drum solo by Stefan Gonzalez of Yells at Eels. The entire room pulsated with every percussive punch. Aaron Ortega
Violent Squid was fascinating, as always, Saturday at the Prophet Bar. All three Yells at Eels Gonzalez men were on stage with ringleader Ty Stamp and I think a half dozen other players. How Stefan and Aaron as the rhythm section managed to underpin this psychedelic chaos with something of a structure, I have no idea, and Dennis looked like he was having the time of the life adding free-floating squiggles of trumpet above the fray. They've got to be the coolest family band in town, if not the world. Jesse Hughey
If you've seen Danny Church Band live before, you may already be familiar with their Radiohead cover. The stripped down, R&B version of High and Dry was the eye of the storm during this year's DOMA showcase. The lush and languid rendition was made by Church's gorgeous vocals and the audience enjoyed a small break from the frenetic energy buzzing outside of Trees' doors. Vanessa Quilantan
I knew Vulgar Fashion would be a treat.They test the abilities of the sound man as well as photographers. Vocalist Julie McKendrick was caught in a crossfire of camera flashes as soon as she stepped onto the floor, towing a microphone chord behind her as she danced in an almost intimidating manner between two fans, the blood from her fake head wound glimmering in the venue lights. AO
We all love the hustle and bustle of the showcase night, I am sure I won't be the only contributor who mentions the delight of walking into a room while Yells At Eels is playing on your way to see MAYTA, only to cross back into a DJ Sober set on your way back through the entrance. And while all these bands playing at the same night can take on a stressful "Can I be in two places at once?" feeling, the best moments are when something like that particular intersection happens entirely by accident.
Saturday night was my first night to see MAYTA, nominated for Best Latin Act this year. For me the DOMA showcase night always rights a few of my live music wrongs. MAYTA was a band I kept meaning to see, kept not seeing, kept saying I'd make it to the next gig and was my sole requirement on Saturday. Now I wish I had gone sooner. Their particular flavor is hard to describe but easy to consume. The beginning of the set sounded like a grittier version of a Latin Jamiroquai but managed to transition into stranger and more psychedelic places with ease. Bryan Gonzalez is an especially charismatic figure behind the mic, keys, theremin and probably other instruments strewn about the stage. The Brother Rimach lead with an effective stage presence, but that some A&R person hasn't exploited Renato Rimach's obvious lead singer appeal is .... well, I am sure it's just pending.
When a band is too many things it can be distracting, I am sure it's not encouraging to read that MAYTA plays in areas of Latin Funk, Jazz, Psychedelic Rock and still manages to add a Cumbia without being a bit messy. I am sure you don't believe me, but you should. Quit making excuses, go see the band. Deb Doing Dallas It started with squiggles of knob twiddling and a bass tone that sent the 'Dallas Obsever' banner a flutter; Blixaboy's set at Three Links was a revolving slideshow of Wanz Dover's well-read versatility. As opposed to simply blending or mixing elements, Dover constructed acidic dance anthems by setting opposing components side by side. This calculated manner of structure allowed the audience to experience each ingredient in its full spectrum, granting a privileged glimpse into how each moment progressed into the next. It was an end-to-end melee: the metallic squelches of classic Detroit, the stuttering jumping-bean rhythms of Derrick May, the cavernous echo-trails of neo-techno, and moments that sounded like Daft Punk gone avant garde--house swaddled in grim shadow. This was cosmic-disco at its finest. JP
Runner-up for best multi-tasker award (after Son of Stan's Jordan Richardson) goes to Alex Velte from Cutter. His face was washed over in smiles and hair as he mashed his head into the keys of his synthesizer during a rhythmic, trance-inducing song of their short but amazing set. It was the only encore performance I saw -- show-goers pleaded, "One more!" as they attempted to leave the stage. The band happily obliged. AO
The Son of Stan, Jordan Richardson's solo project (and recent DO cover story), put on one of the best sets of the night. Backed only by a live drummer (and a guest appearance of a bari sax on one song), Richardson played to a large and enthusiastic crowd at Dada. Combining the best of '80s pop rock with brokenhearted lyrics, almost every song of the set felt like a closer. DFW, be thankful we have an act like this, because you'd be hard-pressed to find one like it anywhere else. EG
The most bliss I found at this year's Showcase was during Parranda Venezuela's set at Trees. The small Latin orchestra played with bright, consistent certainty -- it was a generous sound built to help the dancers find their footing and keep it. By the time their rolling machine came to a halt, everyone in the building was moving. KM
Def Rain lead singer Ashley Cromeens was mesmerizing. Although barely visible in a metallic gold hoodie with cat ears, she commanded everyone's attention. The trippy, sweet sound of electronic pop mastered by Grant Ring coupled with the laser lights onstage gave you a strong feeling of watching Blondie on acid. When you thought you couldn't be more entranced, Ashley jumped in front of the speakers and sang the last two songs, dancing among the audience. She moved like a star accustomed to theatrics -- especially towards the end, where, displaying an enviable lack of any inhibition, she lay on the floor, crawling and moaning repeatedly. Eva Raggio
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This was a mellow crowd that seemed to be there just for Miss Marcy. Three or four couples danced through her performance, kind of a cross between swing-dancing and slow-dancing. The couples were all middle-aged or older and the men were wearing cowboy hats. Amy Silverstein
Though we've been awaiting a full release of Dive Hi Fly Lo, the project A.Dd+ debuted to a nearly sold out crowd at the Granada Theater in January, don't think these two haven't been busy. The Nawfside duo has been sitting on a whole other mix tape that's in the can and ready to go. During their midnight set at Trees, A.Dd+ played three new songs of the yet to be released project, and the new material was met with roaring applause. VQ
The room was packed for the A.Dd+ concert, it felt like they were the headliners. They had lots of energy and Slim Gravy danced through the whole set. I was standing at the stage,and toward the end, Slim approached the edge, pushed me aside and jumped into the crowd with Paris. They performed the last song in the audience with a circle jumping around them--everyone was dancing terribly but in a fun way. There was also a moshpit nearby. Both of the performers were covered in sweat. AS
My Tinnitus from Terminator 2 Only 2 minutes into Terminator 2's performance and a cluster of people were seen leaving, clutching their ears. A gentlemen behind me said, "I don't know if my body is ready for this," followed by, "I know my mind isn't." He too would be a casualty. Those first few minutes were one extended rupturing wave of noise, like metal being torn and chewed between iron jaws. Then, it got much louder. It was the Mt. Everest of volume, a rippling inferno of concussive symbols, guttural screams, spacey reel-to-reel tape effects, and the unnatural bellows of David S's growling bass. It wasn't so much doom metal, as it was speed metal deep fried in tar and turned up to 11. In turn, sleep didn't find me till around four am the following morning, chased away for hours by lingering strips of sound burrowing deep into my brain. If the shrill ringing in my ears is still Terminator 2, then by my calculations their set has lasted for over ten hours now; that's some persistent music. Impressive.