From the good (one day festivals) to the bad (closing venues, pandering musicians), Christopher Mosley breaks down the musical trends that made 2012 the year it was.

From Galleries and Brunch to Pools and Novelty Rap, Local Music Mashes High- and Lowbrow in 2012

This year-end local music trends list is by no means meant to be comprehensive, definitive, authoritative, or even a value judgment. These trends may not have even started in 2012, in fact they could have started earlier, but this is when we noticed them. That’s what writers do — they act as if something exists only when they happen upon it. They talk about Ariel Pink and Johnny Jewel as if they just came on the scene in 2012. Weren’t you there at Hailey’s in March of 2006? Didn’t you see Glass Candy at Art Club in Expo Park the same year? I mean, what were you doing then? Listening to Burial? Probably.

So, the following occurrences, both local and otherwise, either never existed until we noticed, or we wish they didn’t exist, or they were actual trends in 2012. It’s probably all somewhere in between, really. Thanks to Andi Harman and Sally Glass for their help in compiling the following.

1. Increasing cross pollination between music, galleries, theater, dance, and performance art:

You’re starting to see it and hear it with increasing frequency now, this interdisciplinary clash of subcultures, middle-brow entertainment, and even high culture. It would have been quite poorly received for an unconventional rock band in Dallas to have a dance troupe performing with them in a bar that sells pizza ten years ago. And yet, that’s exactly what happened at a recent album-release show for Unconscious Collective at Bryan Street Tavern, when they had the Danielle Georgiou Dance Group along for their set. Georgiou has even performed with Ishi, though the chasm between those two acts is planet-sized.

Just the other night, I saw a packed show at Circuit 12 that seemed to be thrown for no other reason than hosting a couple of DJs and serving some drinks. The crowd looked somewhere in the low two-hundreds, and that’s with a bit of help from a semiofficial source. It was basically a hip hop event in a nice gallery. “This reminds me of the old days at Public Trust,” said a friend.

The Harakari Series at CentralTrak featured people making noise on guitars in an academic gallery setting, and theater productions have singer-songwriters and hardcore drummers involved in the music-making. The conceptual act Christeene, a former artist-in-residence at CentralTrak, was the only sold-out show at Double Wide I saw all year, which is pretty significant, not to mention unexpected.

Today’s Dallas bands and fans are a little less uptight about the odd and even the theatrical—costumes and body-paint and so on—than they used to be. And I know, because I remember having to defend just about anyone in a wig or strange outfit onstage six years ago, and it made me lose quite a bit of faith in the local music community at the time. Congratulations for becoming a little less conservative, North Texas.

Not so fast. It appears we did find at least one writer (and Radio DJ) who doesn’t like music at art galleries. While we’re at it, we even found a writer who doesn’t like people reading in public. I rescind my congratulations.

2. Musicians eating brunch:

Can I get a table around here without bumping into the entirely hungover whole of everyone in the music community on a Sunday? No, I can’t. I thought musicians woke up and ate cold pizza with a warm, half-full lager (optimism). When did they get so classy and able to afford one of the most historically expensive and unnecessary meals of the week? The answer is probably somewhere in that first trend.

3. Day Fests or Popup Fests

You don’t need three days to host a festival, which is just fine. They’re exhausting, they don’t always provide the best environment in which to “experience music,” food, or drink. Okay, they have drinking down pretty well, actually. As for the food, you’re going to pay a lot to huddle around a truck in either and talk about how great kimchi is with someone who mostly eats cheese fries, or choke down whatever you can get your hands on in order to keep walking briskly to make it to the next abbreviated set. Some are merely a day, such as Hot Wet Mess. Some are two, as with Index Fest. When day-festivals are at their best, such as with the Gorilla vs Bear festival, there is almost never a bad moment in the entire celebration.

4. Venues Closing in Deep Ellum and Expo Park

Everyone is thrilled to see the opening of Craft and Growler, and while I’m sure it’s a fine addition to the neighborhood, I keep returning to the fact that there used to be a live performance space years ago in that same spot called “Sloppyworld.” Okay, so maybe that was doomed from the start, no matter how much we crossed our fingers. But this was before the supposed revival of Deep Ellum, just down the street. It was disheartening enough when Fallout Lounge closed after nine years in June. This was followed by Tucker’s Blues closing in September (unbeknownst to some, apparently), and finally LaGrange ceased operations in November. As I mentioned in those linked-to LaGrange thoughts, The Dallas Morning News took even more wind out of this frayed narrative by stating that “Almost a third of the retail, restaurant and club space is sitting empty” in Deep Ellum as of November 2012.

5. Live art at Rock Shows

Music can work in the gallery. Is it as successful to see the artistic process in a dark, noisy club?

6. The Return of the After-Party

Some of the most notorious summer after-parties ended at 6 am. The cliche is that “nothing good happens after 2 a.m.,” but when is it early enough for “good things” to start happening again? This brings me to my next point…

7. Swimming Pools at Shows and After-parties

I don’t work out enough for this Frankie and Annette culture to start taking over the music industry (again). How short is your attention span that you need a hot tub or a pool or a water slide while you’re also watching drug addicts perform in 100-degree weather to a field of half-naked college kids? I rode that water slide. I may have smiled. Never again.

8. Kickstarters Asking Exorbitant Amounts of Money for Undeserving Projects

Oh, so the Polyphonic Spree ”needs” the cost of four or five houses in South Dallas to keep being a band, huh? Local recording engineer and musician Britt Robisheaux recently raised this issue on Facebook. I chimed in (and I’m plagiarizing myself here;  you can call my editor if you have a problem with that):

Either raise money for charity, or public radio, or something that serves the community, or raise money for no reason at all. This is someone paying you to be you and paying for your hobby and paying for your toys. The music made by people who ask for money is noticeably different from music made by people who don’t ask for money. Music made my people willing to sacrifice sounds sadder, prettier, angrier, lovelier, and basically more believable in every way. There’s no hustle to it and the artist(s) believed in its need to exist. 

The projects I see getting Kickstarter money have gotten exponentially worse. It used to be employed more for hopelessly noncommercial ideas (fine with me), and now it’s paying known conventional artists to continue making poor decisions. 

I would respect it much more if someone started a Kickstarter and said, “Here, pay me to be myself and I’ll send you a video of me being a jerk with my friends. Or maybe I won’t. Who cares?”* At least that way, both parties know the score and nobody can feel ripped off, or secretly suspicious that maybe this “art” just doesn’t need to exist if it requires so much begging.

*Yes, I know people actually do this.

9. Meme and Novelty Rap’s Continuing Influence (But it’s Not Enough)

There was a time when I might have been a little more irked by the novelty of someone like Kreayshawn. But then I helped judge a high school “battle of the bands” at House of Blues this past Fall, and I realized how important she is. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw a fifteen-year-old boy singing out of a Peter Frampton “talk box.” These kids need Riff Raff possibly inspiring James Franco, and they need Lil B speaking at NYU. Soulja Boy is not the “worst artist in American Music History.” Someone needs to tell these poor suburban kids that there’s life after classic rock.

By the way, Kreayshawn was much better than I expected at Fun Fun Fun Fest, and this interpretation of rock music by rapper Lil B should be playing in a loop on the biggest screen at Cowboys Stadium or on an equally-large Jumbotron over the MOMA for the next twenty-five years. I dare you to “get it.”

10. Slime Raves and Day-Glo Raves

There is supposedly a German saying that goes, “You meet everyone in life twice.” I never thought I would meet the world of raves, Hypercolor, fractal art graphics, and slime humor ever again. But it was big this year. I went to an “Easter Rave” in a loft on Ross Avenue, and saw fluorescent crosses. Somewhere my Catholic ancestors are gently weeping.

11. Hard Copy Zines and Pubs

On back-to-back nights in November, I went to opening parties for the lifestyle zine, THRWD, and “regional arts” publication, Semigloss, respectively. It was one of the most interesting weekends I had in Dallas all year, and it was very welcome. When I think back to how much semi-quarterly projects like Art Prostitute struggled with costs and other obstacles, I thought, “Who in their right mind would self-release something on paper in 2012?” And yet, there it was, what we need most in the city: A certain amount of fearlessness moving forward. To not be stopped by the operating costs without resorting to pandering, to not be discouraged by the cultural conservatives, or by the external economic realities, nothing. The art and music and activity that can survive all that is always worth pursuing.

Full disclosure: I helped to DJ the Semigloss party as a favor to my old associate, Sally Glass. I took a plastic party cup and I wrote “Do You Like Live Muisc?” on it with a felt-tip marker. I stuffed two dollars in the cup to get the tips going. I left with the same two dollars. That was another trend: Writers DJ-ing parties. Deb Doing Dallas does it and House of Plates does too. I occasionally do it, but only when asked. Do the lot of you like the concept of us taking over another part of your life?

12. And finally: Fire

Do you seriously need a bonfire at a show? In the summer? In Texas? Are there s’mores? Then, the answer is no.

Photo: The stage at Hot Wet Mess (Credit: Kasumi Chow)