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Making Dallas Even Better

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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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.

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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.

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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:

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Can Indie Music Drive Economic Growth, Transform Neighborhoods?

The Washington Post has a story today that looks at how independent music scenes can transform local economies, focusing on Omaha, NE, where the city invested in an indie rock club with the hope that it would kick-start the economy.

It’s an experiment in arts investment for other mid-sized cities to watch, a government-backed indie rock weapon against urban decay.

At the center of the research behind the story is Michael Seman, a “music geographer” who is a senior research associate at the University of North Texas’s Center for Economic Development and Research. Seman is also a singer and guitarist in the Denton band Shiny Around the Edges. In a accompanying interview on the Washington Post‘s website, Seman talks about his field (music geography) and how music can help struggling towns and economies. A taste:

Music scenes can act as branding agents, spur urban redevelopment and emerge as industries in their own right. I’ve also found that music scene participants are civic-minded and often become involved in philanthropic pursuits, run for political office, and seek employment in city departments.


A Less Than Complete Recap of Last Night’s ‘Best of Big D’ Party That Includes an Appearance by Pat Green

A good time was had by all, I believe, at last night’s Best of Big D party at the Rustic. DJ Sober and Sam Lao were great. The drinks flowed freely. Much food went into many mouths. And so on and so forth. But I will tell you this: before the front moved through, it was a little steamy. The meteorological conditions occasioned my favorite moment of the night:

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Here Is Why I Will Not Attend the ‘Best of Big D’ Jackopierce Concert

After a year-long hiatus, this year we are once again hosting a “Best of Big D” party. It’ll be at the Rustic July 23. You can buy tickets here. For $50, you get adult beverages and food from some of the best restaurants in town. DJ Sober will feed your ears. For another $15, though, you get to stick around for a Jackopierce concert, which starts at 9:30. Me, I will be gone by then. “Why is that?” you ask? Because I have been boycotting Jackopierce since June 1996. Here is a column I wrote for the dearly departed Met on that month:

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DBU Student Sings ‘Let It Go’ as 21 Different Disney Characters, Internet Craters

Brian Hull, who grew up in Mansfield and is now a senior music major at Dallas Baptist University, set the Internet afire this weekend with his rendition of the hit song “Let It Go” from Frozen. He’d heard about a contest where the best cover of the young-girl anthem won a $100 Disney Store gift card, and thought to himself, hey, I’d like a hundred bucks. So he sang the song as different Disney characters. As of last night, the video had nearly 5 million views and climbing. I have sources in Mansfield — never you mind who — and they put me in contact with Hull for a quick Q&A. 

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