Over the summer, writer and Girls to the Front author Sara Marcus reviewed Ellen Willis' collection Out of the Vinyl Deeps for the L.A. Review of Books. The first five paragraphs of her review gave me goosebumps when I read it and have stuck with me since. She talks of going to an older music critic's house to pick up some old jazz cassettes. He asks what she's writing about. She says music mostly, but she's trying to branch out to politics, etc.
His response: "Good luck getting out of the music ghetto."
To folks who've written about music for a while, this will resonate from spine to heart to brain. I've had the plastic-spoon moment Marcus talks about, when you want to dig your way out to something, anything else. Maybe I've heard too much of the "If you love something set it free" bullshit for 10 lifetimes.
I bring up this passage because, since landing in Dallas last week to become the Observer's music editor, the idea of being part of the "music ghetto" and starting over has been on my mind, in the memory of other cities and sounds and experiences. In the idea of listening to and processing music. I had to spend some time away from music recently; it is a long-term relationship, and it had to sleep on the couch.
All week I've been getting scene histories, anecdotes, lore, advice. So, I went on an anthropological dig, tried to connect some dots on my own. Friday at Queen City Hall, the annex of Queen City Tattoo on Carroll Avenue, four hardcore and metal bands stacked a bill in the brand new venue. Akkolyte drummer Stefan Gonzalez anchored the kit with Doom Siren, reminding me what a rhythmic monster he is beyond family avant-jazz band Yells at Eels, soldiering through thrash anthems of the bullet belt/leather jacket/7-Eleven tallboy crowd. One young lady stood directly in front of the singer, eyes closed, taking decibels as religious experience. This I'd forgotten: That psychic link to listening.
Saturday night's Canton Co-op show, headlined by Austin trio Love Inks, had the same DIY vibe, a neat space that didn't do the club code. Their heavy-lidded sway was a perfect complement to the cold drizzle outside, as was singer Sherry LeBlanc's assessment of the new Muppets movie. A late-night swing past East Dallas' Far West assured me I wasn't getting into the club, though I've been curious about the tribal scene since Vice told me I should think it's cool. Something else I'd forgotten came back to me: The idea of having a space for your scene to grow. Over the weekend, I saw the markings of different tribes; DFW may be sprawling, but there are deep pockets.
Much later that night, a Velvet Underground album was randomly put on a record player, a band that Willis wrote about with a critical ear and passionate gaze. When "I'll Be Your Mirror" came on, I got goosebumps. It all came back to me, having a musical experience in the moment. The psychic link is still intact. All this is to say, I'm looking forward to this new adventure, of humoring, offending, learning from and enlightening Dallas.