Monday, April 25, 2011

Where we were this weekend

A busy Friday, and a quiet Saturday made for a pretty well balanced weekend.

A couple of recommendations come out of Friday night:

1. Meddlesome Moth on Oak Lawn in the Design District. Pretty cool place, if a bit Uptowny. Heck of a beer selection. Food was very good. It's sorta tapas-y, so I wasn't sure how much to order. We split a "Share Plate" of hummus and a "Stick Meat" plate of a Caribbean chicken (exact name escapes me) and it was plenty. And very good.

Worth a check-out.

2. Lakewood Bar and Grill on Gaston right in the heart of Lakewood. It's sorta mind-boggling to me that I've gone this long without hitting this joint before. Nothing fancy, but a good, eclectic crowd, low on the douche-quotient. Beer's cold, there's lots of parking, and the bathrooms are on the plus side of clean. What more do you want.

3. The Mumbles, a cover band (mostly) made up of (I think) a bunch of 40-something white guys. They play a lot of punk and New Wave, stuff you haven't heard live in a while. And they are fun! Friday night was the send-off show for one of the guitarists, who is apparently moving to Michigan. It was a fond, if profane, bon voyage indeed! Loud, tons of energy, great song selections. Again, what's not to like? Not sure what the loss of Tommy the Guitarist means for these boys, but it they're around, I'd definitely go see 'em again.

Along the way, we also made a stop at Allgood Cafe in Deep Ellum for a swim through a King Bucks set. I really could have sworn the show posting said, "Kick in what you think appropriate", but there was Mike Snider collecting $10 a head in his little drum. Not that $10 is outrageous to pay for King Bucks - it's not. I was just a little surprised. I know Mike and Allgood are nearly revered in this town, and I would think running a successful business in Deep Ellum takes some doing, but I have to say I have never felt very welcome in that place. I may get tarred and feathered next time I'm down there for saying all this, but it's the truth.

In other news, all the Friday night festivities meant we missed one of our favorites, Soul Track Mind, at good ol' Lochrann's. Hated to miss those boys, but sometimes you gotta make tough decisions.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Orbans news is always welcome!

Peter Black has a brief convo with UTA's student newspaper.

  • The boys plan to start recording a new record in the fall.
  • Justin remains more commercial than Diet Coke, touring the galaxy with Ben Harper.
  • "Orban" comes from a brand of digital sound compressor Blaine ran across in a NY studio - that's some deep trivia, folks.
Next Orbans show on the Dallas side is May 21 at The Kessler with El Cento and Bravo! Max. I am currently interviewing baby-sitters for that evening. Please submit a resume and urine sample via the blog!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A long time ago at The Kessler–pt 2

Now, on to the show itself:

The Denton electronica four-piece Binary Sunrise kicked things off. Featuring a slightly hyperactive drummer (even by drummer standards, he was slightly hyperactive), a frenetic guitarist wearing Chuck Taylors instead of the de riguer cowboy boots, a disinterested bass player, and a somewhat doughy Robert Plant Starter Kit keyboardist/lead singer, they were not really up my alley. I thought they played well, kept it pretty tight, and did a few songs that had a little something. They might be more fun at a club or somewhere the audience is a little more participatory. I think you have to be pretty musically sound to play a venue like The Kessler, where there’s little interplay with the crowd, and not much opportunity to draw energy from the audience. I imagine it’s tough for newer, rawer bands to really crank it up there.

Next came Austin’s Happen-Ins. All I have to say about this bunch is “Holy effin’ ess”.


Four guys from Austin, each of whom came straight from Central Casting – rough-looking, no-BS drummer, slightly awkward, hair-too-long, legs-too-skinny bassist who’s on-stage movements resembled an unfolding beach chair, an Elvis-ish guitarist/vocalist with a bit of a sneer and an awesome white guitar, a slightly androgynous other guitarist/vocalist who, in better light, turned out to have something of a beard and a deep, growly singing voice – these four guys rocked like nobody’s business. Loud, bluesy, dirty, driving, geez, choose your adjective. Thinking back now, I’m not sure why these guys blew me away like they did. They didn’t do anything really unique, nothing you hadn’t seen or heard before. They just did it, I dunno…more? Harder? Something.

Whatever it was, I loved it!

I think The Kessler was probably not the best place to see these guys. I suspect they are FAR more fun in some dingy, beer-soaked dive on Sixth Street. They’d probably kick ass at the Double Wide. The Kessler crowd is a little too laid back for this kind of energy.

Still, I was enthralled. Go see these guys. For the faint of heart, maybe bring some earplugs. They Happen-Ins will melt your face.

And then the headliners took the stage. The Orbans played about a dozen songs, maybe a few more. Almost all of When We Were Wild (do you have this record yet?). “Carolina” off the EP. The same Traveling Wilbury’s cover they’ve been playing for a while – “Handle Me With Care” – perfect, again. And something called “San Francisco Song” that was either a cover I didn’t recognize or something new. It didn’t really grab me, but that may have been because I spent the entire song trying to figure out where it came from.

I’ve run out of superlatives for The Orbans. They are so good in terms of musicianship and songwriting there’s just nothing left to say. Clearly the best, and not by a little bit, in the current local crop. I don’t know how they get past regional success – I don’t know how anyone does it now that radio is useless and media is more corporate than ever.

Next time I see those boys, I do intend to ask them about new stuff, the next record, etc. For this one, I got a chance to talk with Peter, Justin, Cliff, and Kenny (no idea where Blaine was) for a bit before the show. I am embarrassed to admit that I geeked out badly. I turned into a little schoolgirl. I couldn’t believe the crap that was coming out of my mouth. I hope they don’t go running next time I approach them. It was really bad.

Well, in penance, I will do what I can to help these guys get over the hump to the national attention and success they deserve. Go see them. The next Dallas-side (they’ve got some Super Bowl-related stuff coming up this weekend in Ft Worth) show I know about is Friday March 11 at Dada with the more honky-tonk stylings of Dan Paul Balis and more drunken stylings of The O’s, who are releasing their new CD that night. It promises to be a good ‘un.

Go buy the record. Go buy the EP. They’re cheap, and Peter has a new baby to feed. It’s all great.

And stay tuned to CIT for more Orbans news.

A long time ago at The Kessler–pt 1

Back in late Feb, I ginned up this post and never did anything with it. In hopes that late is better than never, here it is, in it’s full two parts.

Back a few months ago, I made my way down to The Kessler Theater in North Oak Cliff to catch my absolute favorite local act for the past year, The Orbans. Along with, I got to see Denton electronica band Binary Sunrise and Austin’s garage-rocking Happen-Ins. And the whole experience was outstanding. Best show I’ve seen so far this year.

The Kessler, if you haven't been there, is a marvel. Tucked in behind some hair salon and immigration service storefronts along Davis, the Kessler is a 40’s-vintage movie house, lovingly restored and improved into a showpiece on it’s own. The art-deco marquee, entrance, and bar are sleek and clean in the best possible way. And the listening room is without equal amongst small-to-mid-sized venues in the region. Lots of wood, good sight lines, reasonably comfortable seating, it’s as intimate as a place that seats 300ish (guessing there) can possibly be.

Every band I have seen perform at The Kessler has gone out of their way to be complimentary of the venue, it’s staff, and its management. “This place could finally put Dallas on the map,” said Ricky Lee Jackson of the Happen-Ins – pretty representative of the comments heard from other musicians, both local and touring.

I don’t know much about the reps of other venues in town. I’ve heard Lochrann’s in Frisco mentioned as a place that treats bands reasonably well, but some go on to say the audience there is not very appreciative or knowledgeable – that’s a post on its own right there.

Other places, though, I haven’t heard one way or the other. But the obvious respect performers hold for the team at The Kessler is noteworthy.

If I have a quibble about The Kessler, it’s that it’s maybe a little too much a “listening room”. The audience is well-behaved and appreciative, sure. But they are also sorta non-participatory past the appreciation part. Dancing seems to be, well, foreign to this bunch. Which, I dunno, part of me likes and part of me is weirded out by. I got there early on Sat to stake out a good seat, front row, stage right. That no one was dancing in the small clear area in front of me ensured I had an exceptional view, which is what I wanted. But, the Happen-Ins were clearly surprised by the passiveness of the crowd. I expect those guys are far more accustomed to sweaty, beer-soaked crowds on Sixth Street. Playing a “listening room” may have been a new experience for them, and even led the band to make a Back To The Future reference – “Your kids will love it!”

It depends on the show, I guess. I’ve seen some folk acts at The Kessler, and the vibe is perfect for that genre. I’m sure jazz, and the “Storytellers at The Kessler” series are well, and completely appropriately, received. I wonder how the New Year’s Eve show, which included up-tempo, long time local heroes Slobberbone and Centromatic, went over. Same passiveness? Its hard to imagine.
I just need to see more shows at The Kessler, I guess. Which is a challenge I enthusiastically take up.

Go see a show at The Kessler. It’s totally worth the drive, however long it may be. There are a ton of really good restaurants along Davis (go to Bolsa at least once). You’ll be pleasantly surprised to see what’s happening in North Oak Cliff, I promise.

The rebirth of CIT

So, obviously, a whole lot of time has gone by since I’ve paid any attention to little CIT. As I’ve struggled to screw my head back on, I’ve struggled equally with a basic sense of worth. That struggle has manifested itself in any number of ways, most pertinent here being the basic question of “What the hell do I have to say that’s worth anyone’s time?”

Here endeth the self-analysis. Except, of course, when it makes for good comedy.

A nagging little thought coursing around the back of my melon has been music, the small community around North Texas music, and the place I have sought to carve out for myself in that community.
I am not, much to my chagrin, a musician of any sort. I play no instruments, know practically nothing about music theory, and even the cats think my singing is horrible.

However, I am an appreciator of music. Thanks to some of the people I have encountered along the way, I have been exposed to a wide variety of music – classical to bluegrass to metal to jazz/big band to who knows what else. I know what I like, and I know it quickly. And I appreciate the talent, perseverance, and effort required to make music, especially good music.

I see a lot of shows, go to a lot of venues, keep up with the local news, and listen to a lot of music from musicians most people don’t know much about. While I am not an inner member of the North Texas musical community, I am on the fringes, and I am more a part of the community than many.
I have opinions. I’m semi-literate. And I have this silly little blog.

So, here is, I hope, the rebirth of CIT as a North Texas music blog, a little insight into what’s happening musically in our midst, and maybe, for me, a step closer to the community I admire and appreciate.

Big enough intro? OK, then. On to the meat!