Editor: This year, we're celebrating the 25th Dallas Observer Music Awards. Our coverage will include recollections from last quarter century of North Texas music. Here, our clubs editor remembers the radio show that's won more DOMAs than any other.
When I was growing up, radio had so much power. I was 10 years old when Napster's online debut began to change the way we consume music. Though the download and play mixed CD format excited me, I still relied heavily on the educational content fed to me through Dallas radio waves. During junior high summer nights, syndicated episodes of Loveline taught me everything I wanted to know about sex, while fostering my schoolgirl crush on Adam Carolla. Even more instrumental in shaping the person I am today was KDGE-FM 102.1's Sunday night fare. The Adventure Club with Josh Venable exposed me to a world of music I doubt I would've discovered on my own. Though I was too young to join in the fun yet, the show opened my eyes to the Dallas music scene in my own backyard. It showed me groups and collectives of people throughout the city that cared just as much as I did about music.
In 1994, Josh Venable got his first big break since he'd started interning at 102.1 The Edge at the age of 15. When original host Alex Luke left the station, Venable's mentor and KDGE music director, George Gimarc, presented Venable the opportunity to take over as host. He was 19, with little to no on-air experience. Out of nervousness, he tapped fellow KDGE staffer Kevin McAllister to join him at the helm. McAllister would do just that until he left the industry in 1997 to pursue a career making documentary films about Texas musicians. For about the next 20 years, Venable alone was responsible for exposing Dallas to not only the depths of its own local scene, but seldom-played national bands who would become mainstream staples in the coming years.
A couple of close friends once told me in high school that I was "always a cool kid" because of a lifelong specific taste and adoration for music often ignored by the mainstream. For this, all the credit in the world is due to my '80s post-punk hipster turned '90s suburban Clinton liberal parents. Mama had me dancing to "Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me," "Combat Rock" and "Meat Is Murder" by the time I could even walk. Daddy campaigned hard to name me Veronica, after the Elvis Costello song.
What these close friends didn't realize until I steadfastly corrected them, was that because of the music tastes bestowed upon me, I was absolutely never a cool kid. Morrissey- and David Gahan-obsessed tween girls in suburban North Texas rarely are. Music was all I really cared about. Even though I liked the Destiny's Child and J.Lo singles that my peers collected and passed around on the weekends, I was met with their rolling eyes when I managed to sneak the occasional New Order song into rotation. My parents assured me high school would be better, that I would find people I could really connect with there. But in the throes of puberty and general exclusion from junior high cliques, I grew depressed, wondering if anyone my age would ever truly "get me."
One Sunday night, I was sprawled out on my living room floor reading The Bell Jar (like any happy go lucky 13-year-old girl), when Mama got home from grocery shopping.
"Vanessa, have you ever heard that radio show that comes on The Edge on Sunday nights?" She asked, "You should put it on, they're playing some pretty cool stuff on there."
I went upstairs to my room and did just that, beginning my own personal musical awakening.
I listened as Venable played records I'd never heard before. The first, I remember being Death Cab For Cutie's "We Laugh Indoors." My mind was blown. Venable's selections were new and uncharted territory for me. Some of it I liked, like the garage revivalism trend of the era, spearheaded by The White Stripes and The Strokes. Some of I didn't, like the far-too-dad-rock stylings of Guided By Voices or Doves. Some intrigued me, like the local records from bands like Slobberbone and Lucy Loves Schroeder. From there, my knowledge base and tastes evolved, becoming my own. Not my parents', not my friends', but solely mine.
A new weekly routine would become the norm for the next few years of my life. Sunday nights I'd listen intently and religiously, taping episodes onto cassette or writing down titles and artists track by track. I called in often to request my favorite songs from Mr. Venable himself, who I was convinced was just the coolest person I had ever talked to. Then, I'd spend the rest of the week begging Mama to take to record shopping, hoping to find anything I couldn't download online from The Adventure Club's playlist for the week.
I remember crying to "Top Three" by Taylor Reed of Denton's Cordelane after Venable played it the week my eighth-grade boyfriend dumped me. I remember hearing Telescope Eyes by Eisley for the first time, and singing it to audition for my high school musical during freshman year (which I nailed, by the way). I remember hearing "Molly's Chambers" by Kings Of Leon and knowing they were going to be huge one day. I even remember wishing Venable well the night he announced on the show that he'd proposed to his longtime girlfriend.
As I began to collect these memories, things started to get easier. I grew happier. I no longer felt invalidated or unreciprocated in my love for music. My parents ended up being right, and I met kids in high school who spent their Sundays the same way I did -- kids who had cars we could drive to the record stores. Starting with The Adventure Club with Josh, everything sort of just fell into place, leading me to here. The tradition is carried on to this day, with The Adventure Club's Mark Schectman.
After all these years, it's amazing to watch this generation of the Dallas music scene come of age, after being raised on Josh Venable's curatorial tone. Hopefully one day, some huge radio conglomerate will have enough sense to return him to the DFW market from his current gig at Z104.5 in Tulsa.
Dallas should be so lucky to get a weekly dose of Venable's vision for another couple of decades.
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