Arthur Peña, founder and director of Vice Palace, will close out the roving venue’s second year with a two-day show at RBC in Deep Ellum featuring a lineup of local talent. The event is both a retrospective and a hint of what to expect from year three. Peña’s cassette label, Vice Palace Tapes, will also be unveiling its first releases for the event. Vice Palace: Year Two will unfold over two nights and feature DJs on RBC’s upstairs patio while bands perform on the main stage inside.
But this isn’t exactly a music festival.
“I don’t consider it a festival just because it’s two days,” Peña says. “Festivals have a connotation of being family friendly. I’m not so sure that every musician on this bill — or Vice Palace as a whole — is family friendly. The kids probably shouldn’t see the Street Sects because they’ll be traumatized. These bands all have sharp edges.”
Vice Palace has always been a platform for local talent aimed at getting the art and music scenes to rub shoulders. “I think this last year was more about showcasing,” says Peña. “The first year was more about exposing.” The first year mostly involved chaotic shows in warehouses, but the roving venue has increasingly moved toward clubs ever since.
After getting the city of Dallas to pay for Vice Palace Tapes, a label that will release live performances of local acts on cassette, through an arts grant, Peña started thinking differently once he recorded bands at Aqua Lab Sound Recordings last summer. The space was smaller, but he didn’t have to worry about gathering the equipment necessary to turn a warehouse into a venue.
The crackdown on DIY shows that started on New Year’s Eve was also a consideration as Peña planned his most ambitious show yet. He had been contemplating where it would take place for a while when Moody Fuqua took over as talent buyer at RBC. “It’s kind of an outlier space in Deep Ellum,” Peña says. “It feels cavernous.” Indeed, RBC is essentially a speakeasy hidden behind Twisted Root.
But having Vice Palace’s biggest show at a legitimate venue also eliminated a great deal of stress. Peña won’t have to worry about the show getting shut down, having to rent a generator from Home Depot a couple hours before it starts, or dealing with sound problems. “Before it was like pulling teeth trying to get things working right,” he says. “But everybody at RBC is a pro and bands get to shine in a space that sounds amazing.”
This doesn’t mean that Vice Palace will leave DIY spaces and art galleries behind. After all, Peña is about to have a brutal metal band, Dead to a Dying World, perform at Deep Vellum Publishing this weekend. Anticipating the group murdering a set in front of a backdrop of books makes him laugh gleefully. Finding unusual spaces to activate with shows will always be of interest to Peña.
But along with being pleasantly surprised that Vice Palace is about to enter its third year, Peña enjoys having the option of hosting events at a legitimate venue in the heart of the North Texas music scene. “This came from a place of me wanting to cause trouble in Dallas and trying to figure out how to do something that wasn’t happening in places that weren’t being used,” he says.
Peña never imagined he would be capping off Vice Palace’s second year with a two-day showcase in Deep Ellum that will also celebrate the first releases from a cassette label. “This is all about following the energy from the musicians as well as the audience and support from the city,” Peña says.
He says he constantly reviews the lineup for the upcoming Year Two retrospective in amazement. “I can’t believe they said yes,” Peña admits. “But they were also excited about being a part of this.” He sees a unique voice in each act, but also notices how they all perfectly correspond with his vision for Vice Palace.
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“It’s been about highlighting an edge that’s sort of grimy,” Peña says. “It’s the voice of Dallas. We’re used to it because this is home. But Dallas is brutal and socio-economically challenged.”
With a great deal of Vice Palace’s second year focused on recordings for the cassette label, Peña expects to have more shows at mainstream venues in year three. But that’s not all. After videotaping hours of footage from shows over the last couple of years, Peña is in the very early stages of putting together a documentary on Vice Palace, which will be a primary focus of year three.
But every facet of Vice Palace is about celebrating local talent. “If someone isn’t familiar with Dallas music they should come out to Year Two,” Peña says. “You will get a full spectrum of what is happening here and what it sounds like to be a part of this city.”