“How ’bout I tell everyone here to ask you why you’re in a bad mood,” he said. “I bet that’ll make you feel better.”
Ah, sarcasm. But my nerves were already completely fried. I had spent the past two months of my life helping put together and promote the Fort Worth Weekly Music Awards, and here I was, sitting with some friends at the Pour House, waiting for — expecting — everything to fall apart. Something had to go wrong. You don’t book 30 local bands to perform on a Sunday afternoon in five downtown venues — 8.0, Bass Performance Hall’s McDavid Studio, Embargo, Flying Saucer Draught Emporium, and the PH — and have nothing go wrong. Especially when you’ve never done anything as big before. Especially when your event last year, with 24 local bands at four downtown venues, drew a coupla thousand people and set a pretty high standard.
I couldn’t pound ‘em fast enough — bam, bam, bam. (The six-ounce cups of complimentary beer at the PH, not the people.) For the record, my anxiety wasn’t all in my head. For the first time in years, the daily paper of record’s weekly entertainment guide — whose vile, new, scatologically suggestive name I won’t repeat here — didn’t list our event, easily the biggest local musical happening of the summer. (Apparently, the paper’s “local” music columnist was too busy chatting up Kelly Clarkson on the phone and rewriting press releases to bother. Pffshh.) Not to be outdone, the Dallas Observer also didn’t list or mention us. Seriously, is there anything worse than putting on your good shoes and throwing a party and nobody showing up ‘cause nobody knew you were throwing one? Bam.
I missed all of the 4 p.m. shows. By the time I took my first breath between beers, Poo Live Crew was ready to play its 5 p.m. PH gig. You remember that Lionel Richie ‘80s hit “All Night Long”? And that part with the Jamaican chant or whatever? Well, Poo does a ska-inflected version of the tune, and they did it on Sunday, giving me the chance to watch my very white friend John, a financial wiz, avid golfer, and wearer of madras shorts and polo shirts, sing along: “Tom bo li de say de moi ya / Yeah, jambo jumbo / Way to party, oh, we goin’ / Oh, jambali.” Wow. My wife and I decided to head in different directions and go to shows that we thought wouldn’t draw well. She went to see The Campaign at McDavid Studio, and I went to MC Router at Embargo. Our intent was to, y’know, fill in empty spaces. Make the places look bigger, fuller. Get people to get up and dance. Stuff like that. The Campaign show, she later told me, had some people there, and the scene at Embargo, as I was heartened to discover, wasn’t bad either. Dressed in black heels, black capri pants, and a black-and-white dress, the self-styled “first lady of nerdcore” rapped about Bill Gates, operating systems, and other geeky stuff over pre-recorded beats. She prowled the stage and spit rhymes hard and fast. She never missed a beat. The 30 people there ate it up, making me feel all warm and fuzzy inside — I reckoned that if not for the Weekly Music Awards, most of the people there would never have thought to go to an MC Router show. Ha! Who knew? I am quite the public servant! …
Then Router dropped the word “faggot,” and everybody puckered up as if they’d never heard a rap song in their lives. On paper, the context’s there: She basically says, “You called me something bad, but how’d you feel if I called you something bad? You’d feel bad too, right?” At the show, though, the context was lost in action, leaving nothing but one big, gruesome, buzz-killing “faggot” out there. Bam.
Thankfully, though, all was forgiven afterward, or forgotten or understood, and by the time the next band, Holy Moly, was ready to take the stage, the crowd had doubled in size. And by the time the next band, Calhoun, got up, the crowd had doubled again. The place was packed.
But I’m 36. I don’t do “packed’” anymore. I slammed my beer — bam — and scampered over to 8.0 to catch PPT. No dice. 8.0 was “packed” too, and it was at this point, not oddly enough, that things started going downhill — for me. Other than the dozen or so people who were crazy-dancing near the foot of the stage, all that I recall somewhat lucidly is doing a shot with my friend Brian and then going onstage, getting on the microphone, and admonishing everyone there for not buying a freakin’ c.d. I wrapped up my Morrisonian tirade, like, an hour later, clomped off the stage, and was immediately flattened by the weight of about 10 million — concerned? confused? scared? — eyeballs. I didn’t realize until I grabbed a handful of c.d.’s and started trying to sell them table to table — and acting all nice and not completely psycho — that everyone there, well, they already had one. Some folks had two. (“My jackassery is outta control,” I remember thinking. “Gotta calm down.” Bam.)
Somehow, perhaps magically, I managed to find my way to McDavid Studio and catch the Adonis Rose Quintet followed by Tame … Tame and Quiet. There I discovered the opposite of packed. A shame because the two bands may have represented the height of the day’s technical wizardry. At one high point, I counted about 30 bodies, but the space is so cavernous that even 100 bodies would have looked anemic. The room also gave me a haunted-cafeteria vibe, which kind of creeped me out. “Better make it two, barkeep,” I said. “I might have to teach a few uppity, hairnet-wearin’, spatula-wieldin’ ghosts a lesson.” Bam, bam.
The rest of the night was even hazier, if you can believe it. I don’t know what happened to Jed. Or John. Or the rest of my friends. I do, however, remember seeing a lot of people I haven’t seen in a long time and hoping, desperately hoping, that I said hi to them. I’m serious. I was gravely concerned about failing to extend glad tidings to everyone whose face looked even vaguely familiar — and I stress the word “vaguely” — such was the extent of my wastedness. I also remember getting the postmortem from some of the Weekly volunteers. Through the sale of our Music Awards compilation c.d.’s, I was told, we raised over $1,500 for our charity sponsor, SafeHaven of Tarrant County; there weren’t any fights, arrests, thefts, or other crimes we knew of; all of the bands showed up on time and played their little hipster hearts out; and all of our sponsors and the venues were pleased. I even heard that a Pour House bigwig said that our event was better than his best Super Bowl Sunday, which is pretty cool considering that the PH is primarily a sports bar and has been open since The Tower was a dollhouse.
The only problem, the volunteers said, was this one Weekly employee who was nervously downing beers, stumbling from venue to venue — and almost getting hit by five or six cars — and getting on every stage and yelling at concertgoers.
“Like I told you guys,” I said, pretending to share their indignation. “Something always goes wrong at these events.”