Tuesday, April 19, 2011

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.

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