Michael Pyeatt on the Secret Jazz Gems of Dallas and Deep Ellum's Glorious '90s

Michael Pyeatt has been watching music go down in Dallas for a long spell. If you rewind far enough into Club DaDa's history, it was Michael running the door (often wearing an IHOP dress, according to his own recollection). As you'll read, Pyeatt is also apparently sitting on some golden video footage of DaDa and Deep Ellum from the early '90s that we just have to get him to convert and share.

More recently, he's been freelancing doing audio and lighting production (he is currently for hire!), and helping to manage a reggae act from the area. Nowadays, in addition to occasional work at the Kessler Theatre, he's got a front-row seat to experience Dallas' underrated (and still somewhat underground) local jazz scene, bartending at a cool little joint next to Lakewood Theatre called The Balcony Club.

I sure would like to see Dallas' jazz scene break out a little bigger, and get the attention it deserves. Who's good to see over at Balcony Club?

There is so much good music at The Balcony Club. It's sometimes hard to separate the pieces from the whole. Some of the backbone players there are: Art Riddles, Dave Burris, Bill Eden, Aaron Irwinsky, Phillip Todd Brewer, Chris Holmes.

It's great to see someone taking a chance on the local jazz scene a little. How's the club doing so far?

I hope the Balcony Club doesn't run out of miracles. I love the nights during the week where it's not crowded, the music can be otherworldly. A perfect date place, or chill out alone place. At the same time, something's got to give! There are way too many dynamics to go into here but if it survives, things needs to be more managed and cared for. I say that out of love. David Williham's band ATON used to play every Monday night there for a few years, and it was packed. The reggae music was good, there was always free food. Colin Boyd plays Happy Hour from time to time. He is awesome, himself. Recently, he brought in a new/young artist named Riley (Deaver). Very talented, very soulful. Similar to Fiona Apple.

How far back does your history go in Dallas music?

In 1989 or so, I was without a car and riding DART. I was living in Duncanville and working as a security dispatcher for DISD. I would have to walk a few miles to catch the bus near what was then called Red Bird Mall. I didn't have to be at work until 11 p.m., so I'd get off the bus at Commerce and wander around Deep Ellum before I walked over to the DISD Administration Building on Ross Avenue. There was SO much going on back then.

On my walk, I could see Tom Shinness at Crescent City Cafe, Goodfoot at Club Dada and maybe DR. TONGUE at Trees! It was such a beautiful, diverse scene. I credit George Gimarc for getting me in touch with the local scene. George would play End Over End and Three on a Hill and the likes on Rock and Roll Alternative. He would also host the aforementioned with The Trees and Shallow Reign at the Longhorn Ballroom and Theater Gallery. Then, I'd see Three on a Hill opening up for Lords of the New Chuch and Shallow Reign opening up for The Alarm. Favorites from way back when included Trio of One, Pop Poppins, Melt/Funland, Course of Empire, New Bohemians, Whild Peach, Mildred, The Martys and Rumble.

I understand that you managed to capture a good bit of that Deep Ellum history on film.

I got an 8-mm video camera not long after I started hanging out in Deep Ellum. I think I have some great footage, most of it still needs to be digitized. Club Dada was the hub of the neighborhood for me. I hung around long enough that they eventually let me work there. During Tom Prejean's Open Mic on Sundays, I would often hook my video camera to a TV above the stage via a 200-foot coaxial cable and video whatever was happening on Elm Street.

Wow. That would be so crazy to unearth and share now! Is there anything archived on video that especially sticks out in your head?

Pepe's (Loco Gringos) wake at Trees comes to mind. I don't remember if I shot video that day, but I know Jeff Liles did. It's classic. Reverend Horton Heat stops playing and gives the stage/mic to Russell Hobbs for about 15 minutes. Russell starts talking about Jesus, and the crowd is pretty angry. Then the Rev takes the mic back and says something to the extent that "Jesus is better than heroin, M.F.-ers" and then kicks back into "Psychobilly Freak Out." A classic Deep Ellum moment.

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Alan Ayo