Find a back issue

Making Dallas Even Better

Jaap van Zweden Named New York Philharmonic’s New Maestro

We knew he was a finalist for the job. Now the New York media says it’s his:

Mr. van Zweden’s tasks at the Philharmonic will include more than music-making. He will be the orchestra’s public face as it works to raise $360 million to renovate David Geffen Hall and to bolster its endowment; act as the leading artistic voice as the hall is redesigned; and be charged with making sure the orchestra manages to retain its audience when construction, which is slated to start in 2019, leaves it homeless for at least two seasons.

“It’s a challenging time, but it is also a time where I would say that there are an incredible amount of possibilities,” Mr. van Zweden said in an interview at his Midtown hotel.

He will be music director designate for the 2017-2018 season and officially begin his five-year contract in New York with the 2018-2019 season. The Dallas Symphony Orchestra is releasing him a year early. His final season as music director at the Meyerson will be 2017-2018.

Read More

Surprise Report: Is Jaap Van Zweden Bound for New York?

Jaap van Zweden could be close to bolting his job as music director at the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. According to today’s New York Times, the Dutch-born celebrity conductor is one of two leading candidates to become music director at the New York Philharmonic. While the paper said a representative of the Dallas conductor declined to comment, the under-the-radar development came as a “surprise” to one observer who’s intimately acquainted with the DSO. The reason: reports of van Zweden’s “abrasive” treatment of some DSO musicians, which the observer assumed would have knocked van Zweden out of contention for the prestigious New York post. The music director’s contract with the Dallas orchestra runs through the 2018-2019 season.

UPDATE: Van Zweden is also music director of the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra. Earlier this week, he was asked by the South China Morning Post about the New York Philharmonic job and replied: “Well, whatever is going to happen, I have a phenomenal relationship with that orchestra, and it’s the same type of relationship which I found when I came [to Hong Kong], this eagerness, this enthusiastic music-making of the highest level. And of course it’s such an institution, it’s one of the top orchestras in the world, and I’m very honoured that I’m being named in these [newspaper] articles. But we will see.”

Read More

Remembering David Bowie’s 1983 Las Colinas Sessions With Stevie Ray Vaughan

I’m still trying to wrap my mind around a world without David Bowie. The innovator, the legend, the icon — a man who belongs on a short list of the most important artists of the late-20th century — passed away from cancer last night at the age of 69. Amidst the many obituaries and tributes that are surely to come pouring out over the coming days and weeks, I thought I’d pass along 90 minutes of bootleg Bowie recorded at the Las Colinas Studios on April 27, 1983.

Let’s set the stage:

Read More

What Brian Wilson Thinks of Don Henley’s Music

A Los Angeles Times article today about the remarkable 2015 that actor John Cusack has had on-screen ends with Cusack recounting a story he heard during his preparation to play troubled Beach Boys legend Brian Wilson in the movie Love & Mercy. It involves Dallas’ own Don Henley, famed Eagles founding member and noted Highland Park Whole Foods regular:

Cusack says most of what he gleaned from the rock legend came from “just being around him,” seeing “how he was around people, how he navigated the world.

“Brian, you don’t know if he’s kind of in his own world because he can’t get out of it or he’s tired of everyone needing the ‘Brian Wilson moment’ and it’s easier just to stay in his own world. So he’s a bit of Cheshire cat that way.

“He just doesn’t lie. Don Henley came and said, ‘Could you please sign this record, it meant so much to me?’ ‘OK, OK. “Dear Don, thanks for all the great music” ‘ and he crossed out ‘great’ and wrote, ‘good,'” says Cusack, laughing. “Don Henley, like, framed it.

(H/T Tom Junod)

Podcast: Sarah Jaffe on Dallas Music, Writing For Eminem, and Farming

The “Willy Wonka of Dallas music,” singer/songwriter/pop-folk-alt-rock-hip-hop-confectioner Sarah Jaffe stopped by the Old Monk (her first visit ever to that establishment) to chat with Zac Crain and “T-Bar” Rogers about how a hook she wrote in her driveway ended up on an Eminem record, what she and her touring band listen to on the bus (Radiolab), and how much she looks up to her farmer sister.

Now, a few helpful notes:

Read More

Edwige Belmore, Parisian Punk and Starck Club Tastemaker, Has Passed Away

Maybe you were lucky enough to be there. Maybe you just saw one of the documentaries or read one of the many articles. But those who remember Dallas’ legendary Starck Club at the beginning, in those heady early days in 1984 when Dallas, of all places, opened one of the most lavish and well-appointed nightclubs in the world, remember that to get into the club you to meet the demanding high standards of the woman manning the door. Her name was Edwige Belmore, and, sadly, she has passed away.

Edwige was in Dallas by way of Paris, London, and New York, where she hobnobbed with just about anyone who mattered in the late 1970s, early 1980s. Via Vogue:

[She] palled around with Yves Saint Laurent, Loulou de la Falaise, Bianca Jagger, and Farida Khelfa. She was photographed by Helmut Newton, Maripol, and Pierre et Gilles; reportedly dated both Sade and Grace Jones; kissed Andy Warhol on the cover of Façade (“The Queen of Punk Meets the Pope of Pop”); and walked the runway for both Jean Paul Gaultier and Thierry Mugler. At the former’s 1979 James Bond extravaganza, she took to the catwalk in ripped fishnets and a black feathered jacket, singing “My Way” (the Sid Vicious version, bien sûr).

Yes, there was a time in Dallas when you couldn’t just hobble up McKinney Avenue with your drunken sorority sisters and stumble into the latest hot night spot. You had to impress someone who went to Studio 54 for the first time with Andy Warhol on her arm. Not many made it through the door at first (the crowded Starck in the old photos largely came after management relaxed its standards in early 1985), but those who made it into Starck in those early days were greeted with something Dallas — or the world — had never imagined before: black polished terrazzo floors, Romanian crystal champagne flutes, one of the best sound systems west of the Mississippi, a one-of-a-kind sunken dance floor, and, of course, legal Ecstasy.

Dallas isn’t the same city it was when the Starck Club opened, and, in part, it has the Starck to thank for that. And the style and soul of the Starck owes much to Edwige Belmore. It is sad to hear of her passing.

This NPR Piece About Leon Bridges Makes No Sense

As I was scrolling through my various social media feeds this morning, I happened upon this piece from a few days ago, titled “A Rational Conversation: Do We Need New Old Soul Music?” Which is a bit of a dodge, because a more accurate title would be “A Rational Conversation: These Two People Think Leon Bridges Is Garbage.”

What follows is a conversation between writer Eric Drucker and Emily Lordi, an author and assistant English professor at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. After a bit of setup, the talk turns to Bridges and Lordi says, “I haven’t listened to the whole album, but I have many thoughts.” OK, as someone familiar in the art of faking my way through a musical conversation every now and again, here is my analysis: Lordi has listened to one song from Coming Home, the title track. Which is pretty alarming, since she accuses Bridges’ soul music of having no soul and, essentially, the singer of not being black enough.

Read More

Belle and Sebastian Salutes Dallas

I was at the KXT Summer Cut Festival on Saturday night at South Side Ballroom to see Scottish band Belle and Sebastian perform in Dallas for the first time since 2006. Back then they played the Granada, which frontman Stuart Murdoch remembered as a “rockin'” place. (I was there then too, and it was a great show. By comparison, I found the sound quality at South Side a disappointment.)

Midway through their set, in lieu of the usual introduction of band members, they played a video inspired by the opening credits of Dallas. It was a nice way to have them acknowledge that they knew where they were, beyond the typical “We love you, fill-in-the-blank-city!” shoutout.

Read More

The Convention Center That Ate Dallas

A couple of weeks ago, after reading that the taxpayer-funded Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau apparently wanted to lend us the letter “D” from their “DALLAS” logo to replace the City of Dallas’ existing letter “D” logo, I got to thinking once again about the outsized influence the DCVB wields over municipal affairs.

Late last year, after Philip Jones, the DCVB’s president, tossed out a plan to have taxpayers pay for a $300 million addition to the convention center, I took a look into the finances and found that it lost $37 million per year before debt service and $54 million after interest expense — amounts that were virtually identical to its losses prior to the opening of the half-billion-dollar city-owned Omni Convention Center Hotel in 2010 (one of the primary justifications for building the hotel was that it would drive more business to the convention center and stop its losses). Some of the most interesting observations, however, came from reader comments to my post. Former city council member and the executive director of the Dallas Arts District, Veletta Lill, made the following observations:

Read More

Leon Bridges Played Deep Ellum Last Night

Leon Bridges is a good person. He was the surprise guest at last night’s best of Big D party at the Bomb Factory. After Tim Rogers got on stage to thank sponsors, crack Philip Kingston jokes, and say all the things you have to say when you’re the tux-toting editor of the city magazine hosting the party, he asked Bridges to join him. Spinderella’s birthday is this week, and before the DJ brought the evening to its finale, Bridges was to surprise her by singing happy birthday.

Bridges looked sharp, of course. He wore a crisp grey suit, a white collared shirt with a skinny black tie, and black patent leather shoes. He took the mic, led the crowd in a brief acapella rendition of “Happy Birthday,” waved to his fans, and exited stage right. He was a good sport to make an appearance for us, especially in light of his ever-busy schedule, which saw him performing in the UK last week and will bring him to the West Coast later on this week.

But that’s not why Bridges is a good person.

Read More

NY Times: Jaap Mentioned in Search for New Conductor at New York Philharmonic

Late last year in the Big Apple, guest conductor Jaap van Zweden led the New York Philharmonic in some bang-up performances that were met with “rowdy enthusiasm.” But, was he so good that the New Yorkers decided they want him full-time? According to a report today in The New York Times, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra music director is among those who’ve been mentioned in a search to succeed Philharmonic music director Alan Gilbert when Gilbert steps down in 2017. Says Denise McGovern, the DSO’s communications director: “There’s nothing to say right now about what they’re doing. There have been reports speculating on a lot of different things. I don’t have any information about that. He’s here, and his contract with us is through” the 2018-2019 season.

New Gaston Light Single, ‘Wake Up and Fight’ Is Best Song in the History of Recorded Music

The Dallas band Gaston Light (aka Jason Corcoran) dropped a new single yesterday. You can listen to “Wake Up and Fight” with your own ears and learn about the inspiration for the title right here. God’s honest truth: it is the greatest song ever recorded. And I’m not just saying that because Corcoran asked if he could use for the single’s art a nighttime picture I took of the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge.

Read More

Is the Dallas Opera the Best Run Opera Company in the United States?

Okay, that headline is going to take a little more to answer than what I have here to back it up. But let’s just put it this way. Last year the New York City Opera went bankrupt. Earlier this year, the head of the Metropolitan Opera in New York said the seminal institution could be facing a “bankruptcy situation in two to three years.” Here in Dallas, after the Dallas Opera flirted with young dynamo George Steele, the kind of up-and-coming hot shot you’d expect Dallas to hire (and the man who eventually marched the New York City Opera out of existence), they opted for a more conservative approach, bringing in the San Francisco Opera’s COO/CFO Keith Cerny. Cerny cuts the profile of corporate accountant. As Willard Spiegelman has written:

Read More