As the demise of West Seventh Street approaches, West Berry Street appears to be picking up some of the slack.
Not in terms of grungy hipness: Arsonists and burglars haven’t been able to destroy Fred’s Texas Café – a Fort Worth institution of hipsterdom – and West Seventh svengali Brian Forella (Wreck Room, The Torch) recently bought 6th Street Live, right off West Seventh, and doesn’t plan on going anywhere anytime soon. No, West Berry’s contribution is primarily musical.
The area will forever be known as the birthplace of the Acoustic Mafia, a round-robin showcase and small social group that included some of Fort Worth’s most innovative singer-songwriters, led by Brandin Lea (Flickerstick, The February Chorus), John Price, and Tim Locke (Calhoun, Coma Rally). Until they went their own ways a couple of years ago, the mafiosi, assorted regular sitter-inners, and scenesters spent the first Sunday of every month at The Moon, when it was owned by The Aardvark’s Danny Weaver, and played, drank, and played some more.
After about a year, they closed up shop either because they ran out of steam or harbored desires to move on to bigger and better (though undoubtedly less fun) things. (Or to dry out.) Apparently, though, in their monthly performances-slash-drinkfests, the Acoustic Mafia left its mark on a handful of young musicians, who all seem to be carrying on in Lea’s, Locke’s, and Price’s image. (Not to say that those three musos have retired. They’ve just moved on, musically and, in the case of graduate-school student Price, professionally.) Like shoeshine boys who’ve become made men, local young musos influenced by the Mafia’s triumvirate of dons are now in some of the hardest-working and most mature bands around. Some of them, like The Burning Hotels, Modico, and ex-mafioso Joe Rose (The Action, Holy Moly), have already settled into their new, more serious positions of influence.
Others, like Stella Rose, The Red Herrings, and Jefferson Colby – who’ll be celebrating the release of their debut album, Inadaze, at The Aardvark on Friday – are still working in the trenches but aren’t sweating it. There’s a certain nobility in playing small, empty-ish clubs for spare change and chewing gum. Plus, before long, the latter three may be buzzing around Texas and parts beyond a la Flickerstick/Calhoun/John Price. Understand, however: Jefferson Colby and their peers aren’t Acoustic Mafia rip-offs. Straddling the line between arena rock, punk, and psychedelia, those three bands are severely heavy and pissed off where Lea et al. were melodic and pensive. Stella Rose and Jefferson Colby share Matt “Animal” Mabe, a decidedly musical drummer who can pound like Dave Grohl and flutter like Keith Moon.
Rounded out by guitarist-vocalist Danny Mabe and bassist Jeff Moore, Jefferson Colby goes all over the hard-music map: from tightly orchestrated time changes (arena rock), to instrumental breakdowns (psychedelia), to raw bashing (punk). It’s like grunge but not as clean, like blues-rock but not as sexy, and reminiscent of Lea’s, Locke’s, and Price’s tuneage in terms of talent, vision, and execution but not necessarily audience. You may leave Jefferson Colby’s show drunk but in no way uplifted.
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