The Biggest Local Music Stories of 2010

As a whole, 2010 sure felt like a good year for music, at least as it was happening. There was no shortage of events to attend, new bands to hear or trends to keep watch over.

As it happened, though, it felt more like a blur than anything else.

So, if you, like us, are scratching your head, trying to remember exactly what did happen this year, well, we've got you covered—both this week and next. Next week, we'll use this space to go over our favorite local album releases of the year. For now, though, let's recall the year's 10 biggest stories.

10. Radio, Radio. Technically, the National Public Radio-affiliated offshoot of KERA, KKXT-91.7 FM KXT, made its formal debut in November 2009. But the real effect that the new music station on the left end of the dial had on the local music scene wasn't felt until this year, when the station really started embracing local music. Sure, the station still has some problems—we're still hard-pressed to come up with a succinct way of describing the station's rather, um, eclectic playlists—but this much is certain: No other station in town played even close to as much local music as KXT did in 2010.

9. The Death of the D-Town Boogie. 2010 started off looking very much like 2009—at least so far as the local hip-hop set was concerned. After two consecutive years of seeing the D-Town Boogie and the various dance crazes that it spawned (the Dougie, the Stanky Legg, the Nature Boy, etc.) blow up, it seemed the outside reaction to the craze happening here in town—that it was fun, but was bound to have a short shelf life—started to finally take hold locally. Quite suddenly, the instructional dance-focused song structures that had been so prevalent in the local scene started to fade away. So, too, did the artists most responsible for their dissemination (we'll miss you, GS Boyz and B-Hamp). In their place, a different and significantly improved scene started to pop up. After a few years of emphasizing lyricism and creative beat-making in their craft, a trio of local duos—Damaged Good$, A.Dd+ and Sore Losers—started finally drawing the crowds their music deserved. Meanwhile, another prominent artist inherently tied to the Boogie scene (because his rise came during that scene's peak), Dorrough, capably distanced himself from that movement and found his sophomore album, Get Big, earning significant airplay across the nation.

8. The Neighborhood Shuffle. Perhaps more than anything else, it was just the natural cycle of things. But as Denton's bigger names (Neon Indian, Fergus & Geronimo) left the college town for greener pastures and Lower Greenville finally saw the meat market crowd fully take over its dwindling number of music venues, two other neighborhoods stepped up and took the torch. Oak Cliff venues like the Kessler Theater and Tradewinds Social Club offer homes for shows with reverent and oddball fan bases, respectively. And Deep Ellum, suddenly bolstered with venues like Trees, La Grange, and even smaller outlets like 2826 Arnetic, saw the storied music neighborhood regain its rightful place atop the musical destination heap.

7. A Family Business. They kind of came out of nowhere, a merry bunch of musicians happy to embrace the rootsier side of things and not afraid to busk on street corners for attention. At places like the Granada Theater and the North by 35 Conferette, where the so-called Dallas Family Band first appeared, they got attention aplenty. Turns out, though, those random acts of music were just a sign of things to come: As 2010 continued along, affiliates of the collective—namely The Beaten Sea and Lalagray—started rolling out their debut albums. Just as the Family Band charmed, so too did these releases.

6. Not-So-Hot Topics. For years, pop-punk aimed at the Hot Topic set reigned supreme in the Dallas-Fort Worth suburbs, as day-long festivals drew thousands of teens, and horribly named band after horribly named band popped up and did its best to serve these crowds. This year, though, as the number of those festivals dwindled, a handful of that scene's biggest stars began trying to break out of the mold. They did so pretty successfully: Analog Rebellion (formerly named PlayRadioPlay!) and The Secret Handshake jumped ship by embracing alternative rock and Motown pop, respectively, and each released stellar outputs this year, if to smaller, less-prone-to-shrieking audiences.

5. Dance, Dance Revolution. Between the Lizard Lounge crowds and the local raver set, there has always been a substantial electronic dance music audience in Dallas-Fort Worth. But 2010 found even those outside of that crowd embracing this scene's offerings—including, in an odd turn of events, the city of Dallas. This year, the annual Meltdown Festival took place at the Dallas Convention Center, and the inaugural area edition of the Electric Daisy Carnival (which brought superstars Moby, Benny Benassi, Kaskade, Rusko and Klever to town for one debauchery-filled night) took place at Fair Park. Even weirder than the city's willingness to host these events? Its reaction to them. After EDC, city officials raved to us about the event and its planning, and even expressed a desire for these kinds of events to return.

4. Celebrate Good Times, Come On. Speaking of festivals, this year—finally—saw some good, albeit small for now, fests taking place. Aside from Meltdown and Electric Daisy, the region also saw the local debut of the MusInk Tattoo Convention and the debut of the Homegrown Music Festival. The former, which combines tattoo and music artistry, hosted Lucero, the Old 97's and The Used, among others; the latter found an all-local cast of musical outfits, including Jonathan Tyler & The Northern Lights and This Will Destroy You, joining forces for a day of local music celebration in downtown's Main Street Garden Park. All encouraging stuff—especially when you also factor in the biggest year yet from NX35, which hosted the Flaming Lips as its headlining act, and our own Dallas Observer Music Awards Showcase, which this year returned to Deep Ellum, featured an outdoor stage and drew its largest crowd ever.

3. Everything Old Is New Again. Dallas has always embraced the new and cast the old aside. Thankfully, 2010 saw a change in that thinking, as a number of old, shuttered venues were revitalized and reopened. In Oak Cliff, two old movie houses, the Kessler Theater and the Texas Theater, reopened and embraced the idea of hosting music. Meanwhile, in Deep Ellum, Trees, which reopened in late 2009, was a major factor in crowds returning to the neighborhood. Expect the trend to continue in 2010's final days, as Club Dada, closed for the past two years, plans to reopen New Year's Eve.

2. Hey, Ladies! It's always been a difficult task, trying to explain the one thing that ties North Texas music together. This is a sprawling region that embraces a wide array of musical styles, but in 2010 one thing became increasingly clear: This town supports its women. It was a hugely successful year for a whole bunch of Dallas-based female musicians. Erykah Badu was on the receiving end of the greatest critical acclaim of her career since the release of her 1997 debut, Baduizm, thanks to her New Amerykah, Part II: Return of the Ankh release. And a whole slew of newcomers—impossibly endearing folk hero Sarah Jaffe; rising R&B sensation Dondria; and the Dallas Family Band's piano-toting indie-pop darling Lalagray—released powerful debut full-lengths.

1. Meet The New Bosses, Same As The Old Bosses. Four of the region's biggest stars released new albums this year: Badu; Midlake, with their engrossing The Courage of Others; the Old 97's, with their return-to-form The Grand Theatre, Vol. 1; and the Toadies, who finally got around to releasing their shelved-since-'97 album, Feeler. All that was missing was a new disc from The Polyphonic Spree. As tired as these artists' story lines may now be, the fact remains: These are our region's greatest musical treasures, and in 2010, they proved it again.

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Pete Freedman
Contact: Pete Freedman