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Making Dallas Even Better

Something To Chew On: Summer Pop

Because today the State Fair announced that Kacey Musgraves will be the first act hitting its stage this fall. Because June 1st seems like it should be the official start of the summer. And because I have the power to post whatever I want here. (I think. If you’re reading this, then I do.) I give you this ear candy from Musgraves’ collaboration with R&B artist Miguel. It’s delicious:

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RIP, Merle Haggard

I wasn’t expecting it to, but Merle Haggard’s death on his 79th birthday last Wednesday knocked me for a loop, because he’d been such a big influence on me (and millions of others) for so many years. There’s going to be a private funeral for him today on his property in Palo Cedro in Northern California, and wouldn’t you know the ruggedly independent country singer/songwriter and musician preplanned his own service.

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Before You Head to 35 Denton, A Look Back at the Denton That Was

This weekend, the fifth installment of the music festival currently called 35 Denton will take over the “little Austin” north of Dallas. In many ways, the growth of the festival has mirrored the growth of the reputation of the town, which has even attracted its first celebrity relocation in Jason Lee. But the music hub and home to the University of North Texas has long fostered its own particular and peculiar culture. If you remember Denton before the Fry Street Fire, then these old photos uploaded to Alec Williams’ Flickr account will more than prick your nostalgia. Taken between 1977 and 1986, the images of high school marching bands, crumbling buildings, cavorting college kids, interiors of shops, old store fronts and more are accompanied by extended captions that set the images in a particular place and time. For example, here’s the one he includes for the image above:

Here are some nice folks posing for me on the steps that led to the high ground on West Hickory. The camera is looking due west. The steps are by Strawberry Fields, and you can see the Sound Warehouse sign in the background. Walking due west would take you past Reader’s World, Voertman’s, and on up the hill to Jack in the Box. To the right is the entrance to Benny’s Jazz Club.

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A Look at The World’s Greatest Session Drummer

In the middle of this special New York Times Magazine package, “25 Songs That Tell Us Where Music is Going,” is a short profile of Matt Chamberlain, whom they bill as “the world’s greatest session drummer.” (It’s No. 8, and revolves around a Keith Urban song.) I bring it up here, because Chamberlain got his start with Deep Ellum’s own Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians, after the California kid dropped out of UNT. He went to Pearl Jam (where he was eventually replaced by another drummer from around here, Dave Abbruzzese) and then went onto the Saturday Night Live house band and then pretty much everywhere.

ANYWAY, check out the whole package, because it’s a clever approach with A-plus writers involved.

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.

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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.”

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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:

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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:

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