We asked a few people who know a thing or two (or 12) about music in the 817, and here are their responses.
Local Artist of the Year
Ken Shimamoto, guitarist (Stoogeaphilia, PFFFFT!), Fort Worth Weekly contributor, and voice of The Stash Dauber (http://stashdauber.blogspot.com/): The Great Tyrant. Not only did they release an arresting debut effort (the Candy Canes 7-inch) and record an even better follow-up (the as-yet-unreleased full-length There Is A Man In the House), but frontman and ex-American Idol contestant Daron Beck, drummer Jon Teague, and bassist Tommy Atkins have pushed their live presentation to a pinnacle of punishing power and sonic surprise – you’ll never hear the same set twice. Beck’s theatricality is offset by the ex-Yeti rhythm section’s brutal churn. Teague and Atkins sound as if they’ve been playing together half their lives, which, in fact, they have. The band’s also got more material in the works.
Eric Griffey, Weekly staff writer, member of local hip-hop group Rivercrest Yacht Club: Calhoun. Whoever is in second place is in distant second. Their last album, Falter.Waiver.Cultivate, is virtuosic and has to lead to bigger and better things in ’09.
Caroline Collier, Weekly contributor, local musician: The Burning Hotels, who live on the edge of their lightning-quick indie songs. A busy ’09, which includes releasing a new album, will keep the trendy foursome as the band to catch.
Daniel Childress, local fan: Record Hop. Put together a new album with famed producer Steve Albini (Pixies, Nirvana, Guided By Voices) that’s absolutely sick as fuck.
Preston D. Jones, Fort Worth Star-Telegram music critic: (tie) Calhoun, The Theater Fire.
HearSay, Weekly local music columnist: (tie) Calhoun, The Burning Hotels.
Destined for Greatness
Shimamoto: (tie) Bastardos De Sancho, Forest Ward. An out-of-control art project of sorts, the two lucha-masked Bastardos combine elements of L.A.-via-Texas psychos Restaurant and the whole Immortal Lee County Killers-White Stripes-Black Keys dirty-blues-sans-bass-player movement. Drummer Hose-B’s percussion rig is kloodged together from various found objects, and frontguy Hose-Aaaaaaayy!’s fuzzed-out slide conjures that biker-on-acid growl. But these Bastardos rawk a lot harder and are loads funnier than any of the aforementioned simulacra.
Ward, who with Nathan Brown and the late Doug Ferguson formed the experimental trio Ohm, makes his living building percussion instruments for Tarrant County College. Opening a Stoogeaphilia/Yells At Eels show at The Fairmount a couple of weeks ago, he played a solid wood drum kit that he had designed and built himself. He also played various percussion implements, a baritone sax, a bowed African stringed instrument called a kora, a ’50s vintage Hewlett-Packard tone generator, and other stuff through a sequencer to create a long, hypnotic ambient piece that held both punk rawkers and freeblow fans spellbound (although one barfly called it “the longest soundcheck I’ve ever heard”).
HearSay: Jesse Frye, who has a soulful voice, can craft Triple-A gems, and is photogenic. She – or her music – should be on some CW TV show, and I mean that in the best ways possible.
Griffey: Whiskey Folk Ramblers, who may never be a top-40 band, but that won’t stop the Depression era gypsies from carving out their own little place in the pantheon of great Texas bands.
Collier: Automorrow, whose Diver EP can’t be any grittier or more dynamic. The indie-dub trio will celebrate the release of its forthcoming debut CD on Fri., Jan. 23, at Ridglea Theater (6025 Camp Bowie Blvd., 817-738-9500), with Third Man on the Match, 1000 Miles From Home, and Sam McKneil.
Childress: Fight Bite. They’re already hot on national blogs and are getting spins on indie and satellite radio.
Jones: Josh Weathers Band.
Destined for Oblivion
Griffey: Darth Vato. According to bass player and Weekly scribe Steve Steward, the band is calling it quits after seven years – and after having just dropped a ton of money on their latest disc. It’s easy to take a band like DV for granted. All they’ve ever done is soil your party pants with brilliant indie-rock-ska. They will be sorely missed.
Jeff Prince, Weekly staff writer, singer-songwriter: James Michael Taylor, because he’s too damned good for the masses, who are pretty much idjuts when it comes to musical taste.
Collier: Cobralush, the trio formerly known as Pretty Baby. Dave Karnes and Daniel Harville are two of the most talented guys around, which begs the question: Why do screech-toned power pop? Fronted by former Rockstar: Supernova semi-finalist Zayra or not, Karnes and Harville have no excuse.
Childress: Pete Freedman’s tenure as Dallas Observer music editor.
Jones: Cover bands.
Coolest New Trend
Griffey: A revitalized Stockyards. Lola’s Saloon owner Brian Forella has opened two new clubs there, and it appears as though several other non-Forella-affiliated restaurants and bars are on the way. If only there was somewhere to park …
Collier: Fort Worth bands once again making inroads into the big time. The Burning Hotels will be featured in an upcoming major motion picture tentatively entitled Bandslam, and Green River Ordinance is making its Capitol Records debut later this year.
Jones: Shows at the Chat Room Pub and The Fairmount.
Childress: Bands at the Chat Room.
Shimamoto: Staying home.
Prince: Big aviator sunglasses on women.
Worst New Trend
Griffey: Everyone thinking that he or she can rap. “The internets” are littered with home-recorded crap-rap, boring beats, and generic lyrics. OK, Timmy from Flower Mound. I’m sure all of those bitches in your Escalade really are drunk on the Dom and hungry for your John.
Jones: Aside from Lola’s, there are hardly any venues along/near West 7th Street, and none are rumored to be opening there any time soon.
Collier: Some DJs snip pieces of pop history and pile them into 30-second blips of dance mania. This should annoy anyone who is actually listening.
Shimamoto: Having to stay home.
Prince: The short-lived return of the mullet.
Childress: Acoustic sets (not really that new).
HearSay: Beards – and not the preserve-the-impression-of-heterosexuality kind.
Most Underrated Artist
Shimamoto: Stumptone. Chris Plavidal’s experimental outfit is a local underground supergroup of sorts. Comprising musicians from Mazinga Phaser, Mandarin, and Sub Oslo, the band has been together for a dozen years but delivered its magnum opus this year. Gravity Suddenly Released is a combo platter of indie pastoralism and incandescent psychedelia (dig the great Roky Erickson cover). They also played stunning live shows, from the October blowout at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth to more sparsely attended outings at Lola’s. By year’s end, they were developing new material.
HearSay: Titanmoon. “Underrated”? And misunderstood, too. Unlike just about every other band in the 817, co-frontmen Tyler Casey and Nathan Schneidewent aren’t afraid to think big. Purveying their brand of internationally flavored and trés cosmopolitan indie-disco-rock in smoky rock bars is OK, but it’s not what Titanmoon is all about. You’ve got to play fancy Ghostbar-ish dance clubs, too. Evidently, “cosmopolitan” is a dirty word around here. But, hell. Someone’s got to be the next U2. Titanmoon asks, “Why can’t it be us?”
Childress: Tame … Tame and Quiet. Hopefully, the trio will finish recording new material this year. These guys could be the best overall band in North Texas, and if there’s any justice in the world, they would already be on Touch and Go Records (TV On The Radio, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Blonde Redhead).
Collier: Merkin. The River Oaks trio gigs at small clubs and even the occasional Home Depot (no kidding), leaving us to wonder what the band would sound like coming through a state-of-the-art – heck, just a functional! – sound system.
Griffey: Telegraph Canyon. The country/folk octet is rumored to be picking up its giant organ and relocating to San Francisco. Enjoy frontman Chris Johnson and company while they’re still local.
Prince: Fort Worth’s best and most prolific singer-songwriter, James Michael Taylor.
Jones: Black Tie Dynasty.
Most Overrated Artist
HearSay: (tie) Bosque Brown, The Theater Fire. Believe me, I’m all about lo-fi music played on traditional acoustic instruments. But after a half-dozen songs of either BB or TTF, a certain implacable ennui sets in that’s specific only to meandering balladry and waltz after waltz after …
Childress: The Toadies. At least Todd Lewis has scrapped the Burden Bros.-era guyliner.
Griffey: Anyone who has ever played the open-mic night at the Blue Grotto on a Tuesday night. Just stop.
Collier: Black Tie Dynasty can push ’80s niche-rock only so far.
Prince: Collin Herring.
Jones: I plead the Fifth.
Most Underrated Trend
Griffey: Clubs/bars that serve food. I think the Aardvark started it, and apparently the Longhorn is following suit, putting together a menu as we speak. Now we’ll be only half as drunk when we leave, and the bar will make an extra couple-a bucks off us. Everybody wins.
Childress: The tendency for some of the smaller venues in Fort Worth to get some of the most punk and oddball shows that happen in all of North Texas.
Collier: Quality jazz in quality places became available in way more places than ever before, which is way more than most comparably sized cities can say.
Jones: The club boom on Magnolia Avenue.
Prince: Race Street redevelopment on the city’s near East Side.
Most Overrated Trend
Griffey: Reunions of bands that no one other than the band members and maybe their parents have ever heard of. Seems that every week brings the news of yet another “reunion” show by a band that put out a demo tape in 1993.
Collier: Musicians aren’t doing anyone a favor by overextending themselves. Sure, it’s cool to walk around town and brag about the five bands you’re rocking in, but having too many irons in the fire does nothing but burn up the bands.
Jones: Acoustic singer/songwriters playing cover songs during meals at restaurants.
Childress: The band being drunker than the audience.
Best Thing to Happen to Local Music in the past 12 months
Shimamoto: Lots of new venues booking shows. Gig-wise, Boris at Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studios. A perfect storm: my favorite band on earth in a room the size of your back pocket on the day before my birthday. The Japanese trio’s music is an unironic synthesis of doom metal, punk, and psychedelia, hitting all of the same pleasure centers as Sleep, Black Flag, and Meddle-era Pink Floyd. Boris’ new album, Smile, might be the best thing the band’s ever done. Guest guitarist Michio Kurihara (White Heaven, Stars, Ghost, Damon and Naomi) proved to be a master of pedal-driven sturm und drang, and leader-drummer Atsuo is a master of outrageously hammy showmanship.
Griffey: The Toadies. I’m not suggesting they came back and redeemed people of their sins, but maybe a few folks who’ve lost touch with the local music scene will reconnect.
Collier: No Deliverance by The Toadies was one of the best albums – here there, wherever – in 2008. And that it was written and performed here in Cowtown was additional cause for celebration.
Prince: Lola’s expanding to the Stockyards and bringing some modern music to this bastion of country-and-western. And since the new Lola’s is owned by a white guy and the music is steeped in rock ‘n’ roll rather than hip-hop, it might have a chance of surviving without coming under attack by the old guard with strong pull at City Hall and the TABC.
Childress: North Texas music blog We Shot JR’s continuing to be the smartest and most entertaining voice in local music.
Jones: Brian Forella and booking agent Lance Yocom of Spune Productions establishing a presence in the Stockyards.
HearSay: Fort Worth native singer-songwriter Shea Seger’s getting back into writing, recording, and performing after a lonnng hiatus. In the albums department, bluesman James “Gut-tar” Hinkle’s Some Day, Goodwin’s Goodwin 2, Collin Herring’s Past Life Crashing. In the band department, Daniel Katük’s return to town from Colorado, Rivercrest Yacht Club, Whiskey Folk Ramblers, Telegraph Canyon.
Worst Thing to Happen to Local Music in the past 12 months
Griffey: Marcus Lawyer’s moving to Austin. First, it was Collin Herring who decamped to the Live Music Capital of the World ®, and now we must bid adieu to Lawyer, the founder of one of the most unique music experiments around, Top Secret … Shhh, a project in which band members from all over North Texas contribute performances for Lawyer to cut and paste into identifiable wholes.
Collier: Acoustic madman Cadillac Fraf is still in a coma after his scooter accident.
Jones: The economy’s tanking.
Childress: Cadillac Fraf’s scooter accident.
Shimamoto: No money to go to shows.
Long-Range Prediction for 817 Scene
Griffey: Forella’s move to the Stockyards will inspire others. The Stockyards will give the Fort something it’s never had: a Deep Ellum (pre-sucky era)-meets-Austin’s 6th Street-type area. As a response to the newly opened Longhorn Saloon, the Ridglea will come to its senses and start booking bigger touring acts again, regaining its status as one of the city’s pre-eminent clubs.
Jones: People will wake up and realize they don’t have to drive to Dallas or Denton to see a wide variety of creative, original music.
Childress: Hopefully, the sniping between cities will stop (i.e., “Fort Worth sucks,” “Fuck Dallas”). If there is truly a scene to be had, territorial pissing has to stop.
Collier: Music en Español will become increasingly mainstream. Fort Worth will develop its own banda-influenced, bilingual style of hard rock. Move over, Mars Volta.
Prince: The 817 will become the new Austin, with the best local music scene in Texas, based on cost of living, quality of life, number of venues, and pool of creative talent.
Shimamoto: An environment where local musos and audiences don’t sell themselves short for not being Dallas or Austin.
Short-Range Prediction for 817 Scene
Griffey: All of the new developments in downtown and near-downtown will create the need for more DJ/dance acts. The DJs that are already established will be raking in wads of cash – and respect – once The W Hotel, with presumably a club on the premises a la Ghostbar in Dallas, moves in next year.
Childress: More of a question: Will local music migrate to the Stockyards? Also, venues like 1919 Hemphill and Exploding House will keep the DIY scene alive and provide a place for underage kids to party.
Collier: Rock will take over the Stockyards. Local bands will gravitate toward the new Lola’s downstairs and the Longhorn. Folks all over town will trade black t-shirts for pearl snaps, and they will be better off for it.
Jones: The Longhorn will thrive, bringing a lot of shows to Fort Worth that previously bypassed us. Oh, and someone at a major label will finally realize what a catch Calhoun is.
Prince: Artists will continue viewing Fort Worth as a sleepy big town that lives in the shadow of Austin, Dallas, and Houston.
Shimamoto: More house shows, and the Alan album that frontman Chris Hardee has been slaving over seemingly forever will appear and amaze everyone.