No matter what web site raves over the next Mastodon album, metal rock will always be maligned. I guess that’s probably to be expected and even more likely part of the genre’s cursed DNA. It still sucks, though, when a bar gets pegged as a metal club.
I know, like being a metal club’s a bad thing. It’s not. To me, anyway. Unfortunately, plenty of folks think that when a club marquee perpetually advertises groups with the words “death,” “chaos,” or “grinder” in their names, the place is automatically beneath contempt. I bring this up because I went to a show on Thursday at Tomcats West, and when I called a friend to come hang, he said, “Isn’t that a metal club?”
I could go into what a discussion of What does that even mean?, but the night’s bill, mixing indie rock, punk, and world beat (!!!), was proof enough that Tomcats is more than some dump where you go to hear a BC Rich detuned to B.
Admittedly, Tomcats is down the street from The Rail, a joint that is decidedly a metal club. And true, few of the other bars on that stretch of Alta Mere rate highly with local scenesters (though I think those places have been unfairly judged). But Tomcats is cool.
What might throw some people off is that it’s a carpet bar but painted to look like a rock club –– all matte black except where it’s a very angry red. And there are other strange points: The solid piece of slotted oak hanging over the bar to hold stemmed glasses, for instance, seems both out of place and permanently empty, but maybe that’s the point. Martini-bar classy, Tomcats ain’t.
But here are the important points: The room sounds good. The managers book cool bands, though, yes, most are of the metal variety. And if more folks quit worrying about the metal rep and come to hear progressive music in a room with great sound, then word will get around and maybe the place will pack ’em in up to its 200-person capacity. It could turn out to be a kind of Moon West –– if the Moon had a baby with A Great Notion (an awesome Westside dive that’s been around forever but evidently climaxed in the late 1970s/early ’80s).
Daniel Katsük and headliners Skeleton Coast were two-thirds of the bill that night — I think it may have been put together at the last minute — and they didn’t come anywhere near to filling the place up. But the 20 or so folks who showed up did get the choice spots –– and for listening pleasure, those spots would be the ones in the middle of the seating area. Katsük said that even the sound guy thought the acoustics were excellent –– and that guy had worked at Dallas’ infamous Curtain Club during its heyday.
Said soundman started miking Skeleton Coast’s gear, so I got another drink. I think the specials were $3 domestic bottles and $3 wells. (With $12 in my pocket to start, I had wisely opened a tab.) Swiveling on my barstool, I checked out the angry-red half of the room, housing three pool tables, and thought, “Meh.”
But looks aren’t everything. Skeleton Coast’s spacey pop drifted around the room, broken up only intermittently by the crack of billiard balls. I hope Tomcats West keeps booking shows like this, because the place deserves its own reputation. –– Steve Steward
3137 Alta Mere Dr, FW. 817-550-9966.
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