I admit it: I am definitely a Scrooge this time of year. Not because of the usual cliches of aggressive commercialism, cattle-like department store lines, or extreme traffic. I can actually have a pretty good time against that backdrop. It’s not even the often rushed, poorly-executed, Christmas music you hear emanating from every inappropriate place. It’s actually the well-executed, mostly secular music that somewhat needlessly associates itself with Christmas that gets to me.
Our own Dick Sullivan made the point in a review yesterday that perhaps rock doesn’t meld so well “with the world of money and good breeding and high minds.” Well I’d add Christmas to that list too. Unless, you’re Phil Spector, or a true anomaly like Low, what business do rock groups, rappers, and DJs have throwing Christmas-themed shows? It’s often pandering of the lowest order.
Earlier today I received an email from a talented young band, notifying me that there were “ONLY…TWO DAYS LEFT” to purchase their Christmas EP for “25% OFF.” In lieu of payment, I emailed the band the famous scene of the oddly thin-haired Linus van Pelt explaining the origins of the season in A Charlie Brown’s Christmas. Not because I wanted to proselytize to the band. But because I wanted to imagine that when the group opened up the video, they then crowded around the beautiful blue glow of the laptop, became collectively misty-eyed, and ceased their digital checkout processing to ask themselves: Did we really start this band to ultimately make a killing on Christmas-themed recordings? Or to exploit the novelty of holiday-themed shows?
Only our most conflicted yuletide-obsessed artists can answer that first question. As for the latter, leave that to the professionals.
Scratch Acid/Baboon (Trees): Never before have I encountered a show where it was so presumptuously concluded that I would be in attendance, but I’ll take it. There are much worse events to accused of attending before the fact. I’ll unfortunately be out of town; however, I was lucky enough to catch this reunited act on their exclusive 2006 “tour,” which included stops in Austin, Chicago, Seattle, and, well, that’s it. If I remember correctly, Scratch Acid put on a terrific set at the Touch and Go Records 25th Anniversary Festival in Chicago, and I have no reason to believe they won’t do the same over five years later. Listening to one of their most requested tracks, 1984’s “Cannibal,” you can still hear not only the entire genres that have been influenced by the song’s deliberate pace, but all the crazed-Texas frontmen that still use this as a behavioral blueprint (which includes singers that are neither crazed, nor Texan, nor men). And as for that 2006 performance, here’s what a young, naive, me said at the time:
I really wished I had caught Scratch Acid play their hometown of Austin the weekend before. David Yow has not lost any credibility as the world’s greatest front man in his absence from music. I got flashbacks of a 90’s Jesus Lizard show where I hid in the balcony at Trees because the pit was so out of control. Scratch Acid was the only band I saw that played an encore, and Texas should be proud that their oft-copied sludge noise is our state’s gift to the world. The only thing that could top a Scratch Acid performance and encore was the improbable reunion of Big Black.
Well, it turns out Big Black isn’t playing this show, but I promise, Scratch Acid will be more than enough of what you’re looking for tonight. It will certainly be one of the most memorable shows you’ll see at Trees in the foreseeable future. As for The Jesus Lizard, that reunion three years later was every bit as enjoyable. The oft-forgotten Dallas fans really deserved this show half-a-decade ago, and it’s a great thing to see that it’s finally arrived.
Klever (Rio Room): As part of the “Lights All Night Winter Series” in the lead-up to the big New Year’s Eve event, Rio Room brings one of the most recognizable names in dance music and the seemingly vanishing art of scratching and turntablism: DJ Klever. You might want to show up a little earlier than usual to secure a spot, Dallas. When I attended last week’s show, I couldn’t believe the enormous influx of people through the door as soon as midnight struck — a city full of reverse Cinderellas. Jacques Renault was quite a draw, but this could potentially have you waiting a little longer to get in.
Darstar/Soviet (Andy’s Bar): A quick note about Darstar: I get the feeling in the bit of press I’ve read on them that the writers act as if the group fell from the sky. But the truth is, front-person Lisa Hardaway had been expressing herself with such catchy directness in Gun Gun (along with Ashley Cromeens) quite a while ago.
Power Trip/RZL DZL/Hoodrat/Modern Pain/Nigh (Queen City Hall): Queen City Hall continues to make a name for itself. Though it’s a baby venue a this point, and still in the experimental stages, it received some considerable help from the likes of new Observer editor Audra Schroeder, who dropped its name in her newest piece, and instantly shines quite a bit of light on a previously unexplored subject, as only a proper paper editor can. The difference this time is the light is a little less clumsy, and Shroeder obviously knows what she’s talking about as she surveys the scene.
Odor/Odder Moniker/Benign (1919 Hemphill): Do I like every show that 1919 Hemphill puts on? No. However, I do list as many as I can because I think the greater service they do for their community outweighs whether or not I like a particular style of emo, pop, punk, or all three combined. And of course they host much more than that, but the booking does get caught up in that realm on occasion. Do the organizers of 1919 Hemphill like everything I post? Heavens, no! And I’m sure to hear about it when I make the trip out west. 1919 has somehow existed for almost a decade now, and I often regret never volunteering when I was looking for an entity in which to contribute after a move back to North Texas from Austin, around 8 of those 9 years ago.
Recently, it came to my attention that somebody stole a significant amount of money from this venue. Let me remind you that this is a non-profit, community-run space. These are desperate times, sure. But can we draw the line somewhere, even in the shadows? I suppose not. But what you can do, in case you don’t feel like seeing a band called “Odor” or taking in the “hip hop styled-jams” of Odder Moniker, is donate. You can also donate at Spiral Diner, if you’re not feeling up to taking in a live music experience tonight.
Greenville Block Party (Various Businesses on Lower Greenville): Greenville Avenue is all healed-up, and just like anyone else, I couldn’t be more pleased. Even far before it was finished it started to look pretty clean, with The Billiard Bar area in particular looking vastly improved. Of course, with all of this improvement, comes new questions, but those are broached almost daily elsewhere. My lone inquiry: Is La Casita open right now?
Neeks/Sol Tax/Vulgar Fashion (Dan’s Silver Leaf): Dan’s has a certain reputation for consistent programming, but then again they’ve always broken it up with shows like this one. Vulgar Fashion and Neeks don’t fit into the weekly acts that the venue is known for hosting, perceived or otherwise. I’ve seen my share of wild things happen here, sometimes to the dismay of the staff. But it’s my parents that would stop by both Dan’s and The Granada on occasion, well before I went to either on a regular basis. I think that goes a long way in explaining my initial perception of both venues. Thankfully, it has been tempered by experience over the years.
This is a good time to mention the upcoming Grimes show that was announced to take place at Dan’s next spring. It will be the first chance I’ve had to catch the singer in a smaller setting, and considering what she has done with the two daunting festival scenes I’ve seen her conquer, it should be no issue.
Cats and Dogs Benefit with Greg Ginn/CS Flemmons/On After Dark/Brent Best/The Treelines/RTB2/Dust Congress/Adult Books/Peopleodian (Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studios): Benefitting the Humane Society of Denton, this always well-attended event usually includes a smartly gathered group of acts with a very reasonable cover. This year is no exception. But especially eyebrow-raising is the addition of former Long Beach, CA resident, SWA producer, SST Records owner, and…fine, Black Flag guitarist, Greg Ginn. Though I wouldn’t ask too many questions about that last detail. He seems a little tired of it. Ginn mostly plays musically long-winded prog of late, but actually, he’s been doing that since the mid-80s if you’ve been paying attention. Never thought I’d see any of these names on the same bill with Ginn, but that’s why I’m intrigued. Adult Books will certainly understand the gravity of the situation.
“The Bollywood Connection” (Fallout Lounge): Give the Fallout crowd credit for constantly trying something different, this multimedia event covers the obvious films and music implied by the Bollywood title, and “you’ll also get Indian funk and disco…dashes of Turkish psych, grooves from [The] Middle East, deep cuts from the Lollywood and Kollywood picture house and more!”
I’m hoping that by “Turkish psych” that includes the wonderful Selda Bagcan, the passionate and persecuted singer who was almost one of the great lost voices of the 20th Century, were it not for a brilliant reissue campaign by Finders Keepers records a few years back. So obviously this isn’t strictly Bollywood, and the DJs are even experimenting within the formula. Never a bad thing. Featuring DJs Idayasree and Gabe.
Polyphonic Spree’s 9th Annual Holiday Extravaganza (Lakewood Theater): There is so much going on in a mere six hours, that I don’t really know where to start. Live reindeer? Okay. Photos with Santa? Family-friendly. Can’t argue with that, even if you’re without this year. Guests are encouraged to bring a canned food item for the North Texas Food Bank. That’s solid. Oh, and a new toy for Toys for Tots? Well, that’s one of the redeeming things about this time of year. Who doesn’t love the Lakewood Theater, by the way? I know I do. I wish it was 2008, and I was watching that acceptance speech there all over again. Wasn’t that a blast? But back on subject, what am I forgetting…oh, yeah! Go, if only to see We’re Not Dudes at 7:30 pm. They are a group of young ladies between the ages of 8 and 13 that play rock music, and they may even inspire your own child to pass up law school and start a band instead. Just kidding, folks. Happy Holidays.
Sines/DJ Yayyay/Track Meet (Beauty Bar): Featuring everything from forward-thinking bass music out of Houston (Sines) to a self-described “capitalist DJ Crew” out of Dallas (Track Meet — is there any other kind?), and you just might have the perfect antidote to the thematically-grating headaches some of the other events this weekend are.
“A Spune Christmas” featuring Seryn/Doug Burr/Spooky Folk/The Angelus and more (Dan’s Silver Leaf): I was about to launch into another 500 word talk on Christmas, but I’ll instead redirect you to the wonderful summary of this heartwarming program penned by a writer so cheery, she’s a veritable helpful little elf of an events editor. Suddenly remembering that she’s already summarized one of these shows is better than milk and cookies. Enjoy.
Image: A very merry Polyphonic Spree