Over the Weekend: Toadies, Old 97's, Centro-matic and Sarah Jaffe at the 2011 Dallas Observer Music Awards Showcase

The Toadies, the Old 97's, Centro-matic and Sarah Jaffe
2011 Dallas Observer Music Awards Showcase Main Stage
Saturday, October 15, 2011

On Saturday afternoon, Deep Ellum boasted a buzz the area hadn't felt in years, as the Dallas Observer Music Awards Showcase brought together four acts that have defined the area music scene for over two decades.

It was a splendid return to form for an area that seems to be gaining its sea legs after years of closing venues, rising crime and apathetic city leadership.

In an open field located just north of the Prophet Bar, well over a thousand local music fans (and various folks dressed as zombies) gathered under a glorious October sun to watch Sarah Jaffe, Centro-matic, the Old 97's and the Toadies display their impressive talents.

Running about 15 minutes late, Sarah Jaffe hit the stage at 4:45 when the temperature was a little too warm for the singer-songwriter and her top-notch band.

"Thank you for sweating it out with us," joked Jaffe before opening up her set with "Rest Your Head," followed by a stunning version of The Supremes' "You Just Keep Me Hangin' On."

At first, the crowd seemed rather timid; many people lined up for food and beer before making their way closer to the stage. Jaffe was a good four of five songs into her set before a hearty gathering of 300 were front and center. Once in place, the audience was treated to Jaffe's intense and personal songwriting. Lines like "You're such a baby; it's just a nosebleed," (from "Vulnerable") rose into the early evening air like cool breezes as Jaffe's band locked into a 80's new wave groove. Jaffe's stylistic range is quite remarkable as she can go from alt-rock to alt-country in an instant. By the time Jaffe closed her set with "Clementine," the crowd had swelled to over 500 and they responded to the singer with wild adulation.

"It's an honor to be a part of this," Jaffe said, beginning a sentiment that would be echoed throughout the evening.

Surprisingly, the crowd thinned a bit when Centro-matic hit the stage at a little past 6 o'clock. Too bad for those who wandered off: Will Johnson and crew put on one of their best shows in recent memory.

"Outdoor rock can sometimes intimidate me, but not tonight," said Johnson before the band launched into "Monument Sails," one of several songs from 2005's Fort Recovery, one of the band's best efforts. "Calling Thermatico" and "Patience for the Ride" were other highlights in Centro-matic's ragged-but-right, 14-song set. At the very end, a mini-Funland reunion took place as the Toadies' Clark Vogeler joined in on the action during a rousing take on "Only in My Double Mind" from the recently issued Candidate Waltz.

Reveling in the joyful vibe of the evening, Johnson said of his own band's music: "It's like LSD. You look at your friend and ask, 'Should we take some more?"

Johnson need not worry. He and his band had given the crowd plenty.

By the time the Old 97's hit the stage, two things had happened: It was too damn dark out there to see what was going on inside a port-o-potty, and the Rangers game had started. A large group of fans headed to the south corner of the lot where a huge screen was showing the sixth game of the American League Championship Series. It was odd to hear cheers going up for each Ranger run right in the middle of songs from the Old 97's, but Rhett Miller and crew didn't seem to care. In fact, the Old 97s performed with their usual cheerful professionalism. Even though the band's set was peppered with newer songs from the two Grand Theatre releases, the crowd ate up such classic Old 97's fare as "St. Ignatius," "Victoria Lee," "4 Leaf Clover" and "Time Bomb." Even slower numbers like "Question" and "Weightless" managed to keep the rowdy crowd thoroughly engaged. The relationship between band and audience has never been as symbiotic as it is with the Old 97's and their fans.

As further treats, both Miller and bassist Murry Hammond talked about their ties to Deep Ellum. Hammond even jokingly told a fan up front that she might need to move, seeing that Miller once urinated in that particular spot.

By the time the Old 97's were finished, so were the Detroit Tigers' World Series chances. Most, if not all, of those in attendance headed towards the stage to catch the Toadies. It was interesting to notice how the large female contingent that was present for Sarah Jaffe and the Old 97's had somehow vanished when the Toadies led off with "I Come From the Water." Like the music of the Toadies, the crowd was all muscle and testosterone. During songs such as "No Deliverence" and "Quitter," the fist-pumping male contingent looked like a tea party rally in front of the White House.

The band responded with equal aggression. There was noticeably less stage banter during the Toadies' set. It was all about the power inherent in the songs. These guys played like it was the '90s again. When the opening chords of "Possum Kingdom" were played, the now well-inebriated crowd went nuts.

Ending their set with "Away," the Toadies then released the crowd to the various clubs in Deep Ellum where even more local music was to be performed. It had been four bands and nearly five hours of music. And the Rangers won, too.

A great night of music in Big D.

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