Welcome to Local Music 'Mericans , where we meet some of the people behind the local music scene -- those who aren't necessarily members of local bands, but more the people who make the scene move.
Our local music scene's bartenders are, without a doubt, some of the hardest-working individuals in the known galaxy -- especially when the weekend is heating up.
We've all witnessed our loyal barkeeps keeping a pace that's exhausting just from a spectator's standpoint; for most of them, the job alone seems to take most of the wind out of their sail.
One exception among this talented pool of drink slingers? Crystal Smith, who appears to possess almost superhuman powers from a work ethic standpoint. For starters, Smith is a single mother of four, which, if anything else, more or less ensures (especially considering that one of her kids plays the drums) that she's likely to never get caught up on her rest. And that's just from a parenting standpoint.
You can't help but be impressed when you add in the fact that she's putting herself through college for software engineering, that she grabs tons of bartending shifts from a few different spots and that she manages to find the time to involve herself in the local music scene in a handful of different roles. Somehow, she's found the time to try her hand at booking and managing a couple bands, working alongside (former KEGL-91.7 FM jock) Robert Miguel with his series of local rockshows known as "Robert Miguel Presents." And, recently, she's been jocking on internet radio in the name local music -- previously at 81X Rocks, and now at the newborn Deep Ellum Radio.
Before Smith makes a run for an extended and very well-deserved vacation (we hope), we'll try to get to the bottom of her seemingly tireless work ethic and one-woman support staff. Check out our Q&A with Smith after the jump.
A lot of people know you as "La Diabla." How on earth did you earn that moniker?
That's kind of a funny story, and completely unrelated to my involvement in the local music scene. I tend to be a dark chick and quick to give an evil response to lame pick-up lines. A Spanish-speaking coworker of mine thought this was hilarious and nicknamed me "La Diabla," or She-Devil. It just kind of stuck back in the day when everyone had their silly names on Myspace.
It's tough to keep track of all the venues you've worked at. Care to remind us?
My first venue was Skillman Street Pub. I also worked there when it was still Tomcat's in Deep Ellum. There were a lot of good times and great metal shows there. James McWilliams, the "sound god," mixed the bands there, and I worked with some awesome bartenders. I also worked at Bryan Street Tavern. That's a great place with some interesting indie bands such Hello Lover and Zapruder Sequence. My favorite so far has been Reno's Chop Shop Saloon in Deep Ellum. Everyone in the scene hangs out there. Its like being at home because everyone that hangs out there is like family. I love the atmosphere, the people and, of course, the bands that play Reno's Live, like Dead Rising, The Phuss and It Ends in Black.
Is there a reason you ended up so involved in the local music clubs? Or just coincidence because you were on the lookout for bartending work?
I became involved in the local music scene and a bartender by accident, I guess. After moving back to Dallas after so many years, I didn't know anyone. I worked with a guy that finally talked me into going to see his band play, and I realized there that there is nothing better than standing in a venue with the work of passionate artists drowning out the rest of the world. So, I found solace in live music. This is where my interest and heart for the scene began. It wasn't long before I had networked my way up and started promoting with Robert Miguel's "Scream for Me Dallas" and working with Zoviet Records with marketing. I also managed a few bands and started booking shows. Every chance I had to get the word out to the rest of the world about all of the great art they were missing made me feel better and better. Booking shows and supporting the scene was the reasons I was approached to bartend and be on internet radio. I never even thought of pursuing either but adore both!
Is there a hands-down, best local band performance that sticks out in your head that you've witnesses while working?
That is a difficult one, especially for someone with such passion for so many kinds of music. If I had to pick just one it would be RivetHead's black-light performance. Even the bartenders had black-light makeup and bulbs behind the bar. They are incredibly talented, and just fun! Another performance that's also awesome is live shows from The Razorblade Dolls. So much effort is put into the theatrical side, and it always makes you think.
Tell us about your involvement with Deep Ellum Radio, and what you've done on there so far.
My involvement with Deep Ellum Radio is new. I was recently asked by Kim Keebler and Chad Lovell to join the team and had my first show live at the Deep Ellum Arts Festival. I'm not sure yet which night of the week my show will be airing, but it will be soon. I will keep everyone posted, for sure. My show will be like the show I had before on 81X, all about local music. I will be playing new and favorite stuff from Deep Ellum's finest, as well as talking about and reviewing shows and CD releases, and a few artist interviews. I am so excited to be back on the air. Especially with a station that has the same love for the scene that I do. Local bands that want to send me their upcoming show dates or music can email me here.
Is there a goal you've set for yourself to be a part of the local entertainment scene?
My goal is to devote all the time I can to spreading the word about the amazing artists that pour their hearts and talent out for us every weekend, and to hopefully have an entertaining radio show. I have two jobs now, and I am in school, so I am not able to devote the time that I was able to before, but I never stopped being a part of the scene -- even if it means just posting an announcement of a show and getting out there and supporting the bands. I hope to have more time after I graduate but, in the meantime, I will continue to devote what time and effort that I can.
Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.