I’m not one for this pillar-of-salt take on each year, but it is not only expected but somewhat required, so I did my best to offer you a variety of views on well, ourselves. I asked a couple of other writers besides, in order to get appropriately closeup views on Denton and Fort Worth. I took Dallas for obvious reasons.
What follows is a very simple setup: two perspectives for each city or town filtered through the torturous punishment and reward parental threat that is often made this time of year. So, North Texans: Naughty or nice?
Fort Worth: By Anthony Mariani, associate editor Fort Worth Weekly.
One of the most villainous forces in the Fort Worth scene isn’t a shady promoter or prima donna frontman— it’s a city councilman. The shenanigans of W.B. “Zim” Zimmerman have been nothing less than flatly obstructionist toward Jerry Shults, the owner of the Gas Pipe Southwestern chain of smoke shops who saved the historic Ridglea Theater from being transformed into a bank. The latest hoop Zimmerman has produced from thin air for Shults to jump through concerns parking. In November, the councilman tabled until January a proposed zoning change that would affect parking at the Ridglea complex — after learning that the TCU-area venue The Moon is going to transfer operations to the complex, Zimmerman began to worry whether or not concertgoers would have ample parking, because he cares so much, of course. Zimmerman’s sudden benevolence, however, isn’t fooling Shults. See, there are about 150 parking spaces behind the Ridglea complex, owned by a man with whom Zimmerman has lunched once or twice (a million times), Michael Mallick. Basically, Shults thinks the squeeze is on. “I will eventually sign a lease with [Mallick] for that parking,” Shults told me in November. “But if Zim’s trying to force me into signing a lease, I’m not going to get the deal I want. That way, [Mallick] can ask anything he wants.” The good news is that Shults’ spring grand opening is still on track, assuming Zimmerman doesn’t have any more tricks up his sleeve.
Several impressive new artists popped up in the 817 this year. Some formed. Others have been active for a while but have only now appeared on the radar. The Rakim-esque Kyeyote is a recent Chicago transplant who made his Fort Worth debut on a slow Thursday night at Lola’s Saloon a few months ago — and floored the dozen or so people there with his knotty, hyper-articulate rhymes. Lola’s was the site of another dazzling performance, this one by the newish indie-prog quartet The Cleanup: super-tight, super-dynamic, super-moody. Abstract rockers Skeleton Coast had a breakout year, gigging steadily and with a stage full of costumed dancers wowed the thousands at a summer installation of the Weekly’s free monthly outdoor concert series, First Friday on the Green. 2011 also saw the creation of one of Fort Worth’s most interesting —and badass-est—outfits, the deadly groovy jazz-improv group Gunga Galunga, featuring saxophonist/keyboardist Jeff Dazey (Josh Weathers & The True+Endeavors, EPIC RUINS, Dazey Chain), drummer Lucas White (Rivercrest Yacht Club, The Missile Men), bassist John Shook (Dirty Pool), and DJ Databass.
Fort Worth albums and EPs released this year also have been killer. Listen for yourself to Heavy Sugar by Calhoun, Burning Hotels by Burning Hotels, Syzygy by The Hanna Barbarians, ¡Torquila Torquila! by Quaker City Night Hawks, Laptops and Voicemails by Killa MC, Endless Nights by Wild//Tribe, The Universal Answer Is Both by Alan, Quilt Chamberlain by Two Knights, Demos by Doom Ghost, Computer Lovers by Sym, Psychosomatic Immortality by Secret Ghost Champion, Cycles by Constant Seas, Diaspora by Earthquake Country, Year of the D-g by War Party, Gryphoemia by Beauxregard, Grasshopper Cowpunk by Holy Moly, Transmission by Triple SP, Dinosaurs and Fireworks by Jefferson Colby, Scott Copeland by Scott Copeland, Awash in Feedback by Stone Machine Electric, The Dead Sea by Spacebeach, Fish Out of Water by Lou Charle$, Big Black Smoke by The Apache 5, Stare Down by JJ & The Rogues, Make It Alright by The Will Callers, Some Easy Magic by Fungi Girls, Phantom Caste by Phantom Caste, Townies by Exit 380, Clearcutting the Human Forest by The Owl and The Octopus, Sustrepo by Hentai Improvising Orchestra, Academician Drifts in Fjords by Joe and the Sonic Dirt From Madagascar, and, of course, the 2011 annual Fort Worth Weekly Music Awards compilation CD, featuring new or previous unreleased live recordings from Telegraph Canyon, Quaker City Night Hawks, Stella Rose, The Hanna Barbarians, My Wooden Leg, Josh Weathers & The True+Endeavors, Beauxregard, JJ & The Rogues, Fate Lions, The Hendersons, and more. Proceeds from the $5 sale of each CD go toward our Music Awards charity sponsor, American Red Cross: Chisholm Trail Chapter, the Fort Worth chapter of the esteemed international relief organization.
Denton: By Cody Robinson, Production Director at Denton Record Chronicle.
The recent turmoil at Hailey’s.
Not that I agree with the recent business decisions at Hailey’s that has everyone up in arms, but you can’t fault a business owner for doing things the way they think is best for their business. Even if it means turning what could be the premiere indie music venue in DFW into an odd cross between House of Blues and a Hooters. Not that I don’t love a good plate of hot wings. But the real fault lies with the music scene as a whole. Why can’t a town with so much talent support a medium-to-large venue that sports one of the best sound engineers and the one of the friendliest staffs in the business? Well, if I had the answer I’d be running a venue of my own. All I know is things could have gone down better, and maybe they will in 2012.
The ever-scandalous “Denton Holiday Lighting Committee.”
I know for a fact I’m not the only music fan in Denton that doesn’t own a Brave Combo CD. Why would I? I like 90’s rock bands. Ok, and some 80’s pop. So sue me. There’s nothing wrong with booking them for a holiday thing on the square. There’s also nothing wrong with booking any of the other multitude of bands that call Denton home. Here’s to those guys “taking a chance” and booking some “new kids.”
Dallas: By Christopher Mosley, Music Writer at FrontRow.
The oppressive nostalgia factor in North Texas music reached its logical conclusion this year, when the Toadies, Old 97s, and Centro-matic all headlined the Dallas Observer’s music awards showcase concert. What exactly was supposed to be conveyed here is still left to wonder two months later. Could it be that the outgoing editor knew his days were numbered and packed it all in with an aggressively unimaginative show on his way out the door? The worst part in planning this event must have been that an even more well-known editor worked in the same building, had more experience with said acts, and could occasionally just come out of his cave of daily civic musings and write circles around you…about music. You know, the subject in which you’re supposedly the expert. The same thing could easily happen to me if Mr. Crain ever decides to dust off his cape and cowl, but luckily for me so far, that’s not an issue.
Former music editor Pete Freedman could have taken a chance by highlighting the newer acts he had championed, but instead took the easiest way out imaginable. Those acts played elsewhere, and center stage was given to bands that have almost nothing to prove. He also took away a secret weapon for his next two or so successors by gobbling up these names up for a single show when just one would be a suitable “special guest.” He got greedy. Spread out over a few years, and the pandering wouldn’t be so noticeable. But as I look at the lineup, the timing, and the legacy, I only notice one thing: This is a Dallas music editor who single-handedly set the music scene back some fifteen years. And that’s something for which none of us should ever be nostalgic.
Aw, Dallas, where do I begin? So many of you have put down your respective virtual arms, slings, arrows, and taunts this past year. You forgave me for the occasional underhanded joke or tepid review. You put the calling out of seemingly unscrupulous associations behind us both. Heck, as soon as it was known that I’d be blogging for the D arts blog, some of you even added me on Facebook. Especially those of the older white male variety. And frankly, I’m glad to have you. It’s been a really special year of leaving anonymity behind, and you are now free to treat my social media pages like an abused “leave a comment” section, threaten me on Twitter, and even interrupt one of my many meals in public. I hope you get exactly what you want this year. You deserve it. Okay, you’re right. I deserve it too.
Image: The Burning Hotels