So what is the public to make of this Deep Ellum “revival” narrative that has been sold to it for years, now that LaGrange has shut its doors? After all, Elm Street was once described “as having as powerful a musical one-two punch as any other neighborhood in North Texas can claim.” Which neighborhood claims that now? To state that something as complex as an entertainment district has “come back” or is “back on top” is not something that is easily quantifiable, unfortunately. It is irresponsible for writers to sell these dreams prematurely. How many successful new businesses constitute an actual comeback? Just one business closing does not necessarily represent a decline, but what are we supposed to draw from the occurrence, since LaGrange was singled out as a sign of Deep Ellum’s robust activity? Often these conclusions are drawn in hindsight. Though nostalgia can be wrong, it’s still a better bet than the likely faultiness of cultural or even economic soothsaying.
In the same manner that has been done to up and coming music acts, this is what happens when unfair projections are put upon venues and artists alike. These “revival” narratives and “next big thing” narratives serve no purpose other than for writers to unnecessarily be seen as the harbingers of progress and change, quite often out of respect for the friendships they have forged with local business owners, promoters, bartenders, and the like. When that doesn’t pan out, then it’s egg on the collective journalistic face, and the readers and supporters feel a little cheated. Hard numbers, whether from the IRS or SoundScan have a way of snuffing out dreams and debunking the myth-makers. Don’t mistake this as glee over the loss of a venue in Deep Ellum. I had a fine time whenever I visited LaGrange, and specifically last weekend. But tread lightly following the next instance that you’re sold a tale of revival, especially on the back of a young business.
Update: According to this real estate story by Steve Brown in yesterday’s Dallas Morning News, “Almost a third of the retail, restaurant and club space is sitting empty” today in Deep Ellum.
Onto lighter topics:
The Sea and Cake/Matthew Friedberger/The Cush (Trees): I happened to be in the vicinity of a Sea and Cake show less than a year ago, though that was in Austin, a place where brainy, breezy bands like Sea and Cake always do well. Is Dallas still excited by the prospect of post rock-influenced pop music? Hard to tell at this point, but at least their original fans can go see them where post rock bands actually played in Dallas about sixteen years ago. I was just browsing one of those ancient show tape want list sites, and I realized I saw Stereolab at Trees in November of 1996. I snuck in with an older friend’s ID. Deep Ellum may not be completely revived, but some of it is still twitching.
Matthew Friedberger is a very gifted songwriter, something he proved for years in Fiery Furnaces. But that group had such a penchant for self-sabotage that one would hope he’s toned it down a bit. The Fiery Furnaces show at the Nightmare a while back was very odd, and a bit too forceful for how gorgeous some of the man’s music is. It will be interesting to see if he can capitalize on his strengths, of which there are many.
VHS or Beta/At Night (The Kessler): It’s always encouraging to see a show like this pop up at the Kessler; they do roots and jazz better than anyone, but I also like it when they book especially contemporary music at the venue. For the fan, it’s a best-case scenario if your favorite act plays here. And I’m also for anything that makes Oak Cliff after dark seem less like I imagine post-war Europe was. Having spent the last few months there exclusively, it’s a pretty sleepy part of town. Something tells me its residents are just fine with that assessment.
Take 5 Thursdays (Swallow Lounge): Tonight’s guest artist is Jose G.
“DaVerse Lounge: 8 Year Showcase” with Melody Memory/DJ Killtron (Life in Deep Ellum): This heavily packed show is condensing quite a bit of spoken word talent into three hours. Featuring Joaquin Zihuatanejo, Will Power, Ashley Wilkerson, Natasha Carrizosa, Topic, and more.
Shiny Around the Edges/Eccotone/Forever Home (Macaroni Island): Though they are far from being danceable, Shiny Around the Edges has a new record out called, The Night is a Disco, and this show is honoring that very release. I look forward to actually hearing the record, to see whether this non-dance music judgement is a valid one.
In other Shiny-related news, founding member Jenny Seman is in an upcoming short film which she co-wrote and in which she co-stars entitled, Seven Knots. The short film should be out some time next year and you can see a rather mysterious and brooding trailer here. If you happen to be at this show and you’d like to ask about the film, please refer to it as just that and not a video. For the love of everything holy, don’t call this thing a video in Denton. Sheesh.
Tamaryn/Boy Friend/Nervous Curtains (Club Dada): After stumbling upon a recent Tamaryn interview, I really want to see if I can start freelancing for Nylon. Questions such as “What was behind the decision to go blonde?,” and “I hear you’re a big-time thrift store shopper. What’s your secret?,” are just awesome.
Semigloss. Magazine Release Party (Oliver Francis Gallery): Full disclosure: Sally Glass is my former associate at an esteemed music blog I used to write for, but she was the only public face of the site. That certainly helped to smooth out some of our personality-based rough edges. Her photographs provided a very honest look at nightlife during that very specific time in North Texas. Her current work is often installation-based and is far different from what she turned out in mass quantities in the late ’00s.
Sally has now started a hardcopy art publication called Semigloss., which, and I’m paraphrasing, may or may not be the “We Shot JR of the art world.” I may or may not be helping to select the music for this celebration. Consider that fair warning. More info here.
Pocket Change/discontinYOU/Aeolous/Earthshine/DJ Don’t Know/Foolish 2 (Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studios): Little is known about most of these acts, but you don’t need a special guest to see Pocket Change. They’re always great.
Devin the Dude/Le$/Yeah Def (Club Dada): This show is being billed as “Danksgiving,” and I’ll just go ahead and let your parents figure that out on Urban Dictionary if you’ve just asked permission to attend. I’m such a square, I know. In fact, Devin addressed this parent and child dynamic in his fantastic track, “Who’s that Man, Momma?”:
They tell me to straighten up because of all the kids and stuff
Are gonna be there looking at you perform
So keep your lyrics calm
They might be there with their moms
And pops, you need to drop something clean with no cussing
But my s**t is, but nothing, don’t wanna hear these parents fussing
Fair enough, Devin! So, no kids table at “Danksgiving.” Le$ is a member of the respected Houston collective, Boss Hogg Outlawz, and you can still hear his summer mix-tape by going here. Speaking of Houston, did you know the Geto Boys are playing Austin in January? Let’s carpool.
Rock Lottery 11 (Dan’s Silver Leaf): Since the event has taken five years off, there may be a good lot of you that are not familiar with the Rock Lottery concept, which was started by the Good/Bad Art Collective in 1997. I feel like I shouldn’t remark on it too much since I was part of the committee involved in the selecting of musicians this year, but it is for charity, so this is for no personal monetary gain. The Rock Lottery stunned me by how explosively entertaining it was when I finally attended, and I definitely had my doubts leading up to the show. I remember thinking at the time that it was little more than an insular music scene scrubbing its own back. But once there, I realized that it was a way for those in a fiercely competitive industry to abandon their egos and expectations and simply enjoy each other. It’s often hilarious but it’s also a testament to just how good some of these musicians are, even out of their element. It is a concept that has lasted for a reason.
Young Prisms/The Young/Midnite Society (Bryan Street Tavern): I caught Midnite Society last week in the basement of the vastly reformed Lion’s Den DIY venue, which is currently known as “Bitch Manor.” I don’t know if that name is sticking, but the place looks and sounds fantastic. Midnite Society seemed like they hadn’t played in a while, and were a little dusty and clunky at times. This only added to their charm, and it’s not every group that has mistakes and false starts working in their favor. Emotional without being cheesy and noisy yet melodic without being indulgent, there are few bands like them in the area.
Pop Up Art Party (Ash Studios, located at 3203 Ash Lane in Dallas): As a preview for the up and coming Ash Studios, this will be an opportunity not only to see what sort of artistic activity the studio will showcase, but also to continue your evening past closing time, since the event runs until 4 am. The only cause for concern here is that the party is described as “BYOA: Bring Your Own Art.” Can someone curate at the door?
Diamond Age/Blackstone Rangers/Depth and Current/Skeleton Coast (Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studios): This is an easy chance for Dentonites to catch some of the more celebrated acts in Dallas proper of late, so take it. Along with Vulgar Fashion, Diamond Age was the last band I saw, or ever will see at the aforementioned LaGrange, and that’s a heck of a good note on which to end.
Mary J. Blige (American Airlines Center): For more information, see our events calendar entry.
Afrolicious/Blixaboy/Mikey Rodge (Bryan Street Tavern): Blixaboy himself sent me a small list of reasons why you should see this show:
Afrolicious is on ESL Music which is the label run by Thievery Corporation. Thievery’s percussionist is driving up from Austin to play the gig. My occasional Blixaboy Drummer is also sitting with him. I will be doing a combination live/DJ set of Bass Music and Afrofunk. Free show and well worth your time.
Image: Shiny Around the Edges performing live in Denton earlier this year. Photo by Andi Harman.