Jeff Liles, artistic director of the Kessler Theater, discovered a trove of unseen Dallas music history when he resurrected one of his old hard drives. It contained never before seen live performances dating to the Texas International Pop Festival of 1969. The musician and talent buyer shot most of the video himself over his three decades of experience on the North Texas music scene. Below are some of his choicest finds.
Lollapalooza, 1997, Detroit
There were three Dallas bands on the Lollapalooze tour in 1997: Ben Kweller’s first band, Radish, the Old 97's, and Liles’ band, Cottonmouth, Texas. “They had this tent,” Liles says. “It was almost like a rave tent. We played in it, Porno for Pyros and a bunch of DJs played in it. Everyday the same thing would happen. The Old 97's would go on at 2 o’clock in the afternoon playing in front of 1,500 people. Then Korn would start playing five minutes later on the bigger stage. A huge group of people would just stand up and run over the hill to see Korn.” The video shows the Old 97's performing, Liles’ old tour van and Tricky walking around, among many other things. Liles remembers the tour not receiving much press, but gathering attention by word of mouth. Unable to draw more than a few thousand to the first few dates, the tour eventually started gathering crowds of 15,000.
James Hall at Good Records
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James Hall should have been a rock star in the '90s, and he should be a rock star now. The footage is from a quick impromptu performance at Good Records. Liles brings Hall to the Kessler on a regular basis. If Liles ever invites you to a party in Austin, go by any means necessary. You will get to see Hall perform for several hours. “He’s the best kept secret in rock 'n' roll,” Liles says. "Anybody who’s ever seen him is completely blown away by him. When Greg Dulli was here a week and a half ago he said James Hall is one of the best artists he’ll ever see.” Hall was just glad to hear that Dulli wasn’t still upset about turning down a place in his band, the Afghan Whigs, many years ago. Michael Jerome, who used to play drums for both Liles and Hall, is currently in Better Than Ezra.
Scratch Acid reunion at Trees, 2009
“Scratch Acid is one of my all-time favorite bands,” Liles says. “Incredible band. I had them two or three times back in '80s at Theater Gallery. At Longhorn Ballroom I had them open for Motörhead.” Liles also remembers working at Trees in the early '90s. “I was there the first three and half years it was open. We were doing all the preeminent hip-hop acts of the time: the Geto Boys, A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, Cypress Hill.” He points out that back then Trees had pool tables and a DJ booth upstairs.
UFOFU at the Electric Lounge in Austin
Liles has no idea who shot this footage of the Dallas band in Austin; he isn’t even sure how it ended up on his hard drive. UFOFU were one of Dallas’ best rock bands for five years in the '90s. The group went on tour several times, including stints with other local bands like Hagfish and Tripping Daisy. The trio included brothers Benjamin and Brandon Curtis, who were later in Secret Machines. Benjamin Curtis was also in School of Seven Bells before passing away in 2013.
Rev. Horton Heat at Fry St. Fair, early '90s
In the '80s and '90s, Fry St. Fair was an epic annual fair in Denton. “This was the year it got so big that they put it in the parking lot of a shopping center behind Fry Steet,” Liles says. “They used to just block Fry Street off. This was when Jim [Heath] was pretty much just starting Rev. Horton Heat; he had been doing it for maybe a couple years.” Fry Street was the hippy street of Denton. Bands would play in venues or just setup in the street. The Fry St. Fair started off as a party in the backyard of a frat house called the Sammy House.
Loco Gringos in the backyard of the Sammy House
“Loco Gringos were epic,” Liles says. “They were the preeminent freak band in Deep Ellum from like 1986 to '88. That day there were bales of hay, just hay flying everywhere while they were playing. It was fucking insane. It was like all these hick motherfuckers slam dancing." Liles remembers the band having a house in East Dallas. “They had an old school bus that was painted in the colors of the Mexican flag and they always had 20 or 25 people on it. They had an old hearse with a stage built on top of it. There was literally a hearse driving around with them playing on it.” The Dallas music scene was once centered on the Loco Gringos, but frontman Tom Foote (aka. Pepe Lopez) passed away in 1990.
Brutal Juice, Club Dada, 2009
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“I love Brutal Juice,” Liles says. After releasing albums called How Tasty Was My Little Timmy? and I Love the Way They Scream When They Die, Denton’s answer to the Butthole Surfers released an album called Mutilation Makes Identification Difficult on Interscope Records in 1995 and had a music video MTV played exactly once. They stayed busy with shows and tours for years, often sharing bills with the Toadies. Liles had just bought the camera he would use to film shows at the Kessler and used it to capture Brutal Juice playing his favorite song on the patio at Club Dada.
Texas International Pop Festival, 1969
“I bought a video tape on a street of New York City,” Liles says. “This dude was selling bootlegs, he had a big rack with like 300 tapes. I saw the label was handwritten, it said ‘Texas International Pop Festival.’ It had Led Zeppelin and Ten Years After. I was like, ‘What is this?’ I didn’t even know that had happened.” Somehow, the guy he bought it from knew all about it. The footage was from a planned film of the festival that was never released. In New York, Liles bought two hours of unedited footage from an incredible event in Texas. Two weeks after Woodstock, over 100,000 hippies descended on Lewisville, more than doubling the city's size. The footage has now showed up on YouTube.