Fort Worth’s music scene is as vibrant as ever, and all of the bands, bars, sound guys, and fans of the scene made 2016 a really incredible year for live music. There are a ton of shows I wish I could have seen – White Denim at the Chat Room Pub (I was camping!), Quaker City Night Hawks’ CD release shows at Lola’s Saloon (I was working!), and Burning Hotels helping the aforementioned Chat celebrate its 15th birthday (it was too packed when I got there!) – just to name a few. No matter how hard I try, I can’t be everywhere every night, so here is a list of what I thought were the best local shows I saw this year. – Jasun Lee
10.) Panic Volcanic, Doom Ghost, and Dead Vinyl at The Sunshine Bar – Let’s get this list started right out of the gate with some feels. At face value, this seems like a show that could have taken place multiple times at just about any venue throughout the year, but this show stuck out to me because it was the last time I got to see Doom Ghost drummer and all around badass Jordan Christensen ply his craft before his sudden and unfortunate passing this past November. All three bands sounded at home thanks to the improved sound in the ’Shine, and I will never forget the smile on Jordan’s face throughout DG’s set.
9.) Fort Worth Weekly Music Awards Festival at multiple venues – Sure, this may seem like insider trading, but spreading the annual showcase of Music Awards nominees over two days and utilizing the two most vibrant live music areas in the city (sorry, Stockyards) was a huge success. Day 1 had West Magnolia Avenue brimming with talent, the festival kicking off with Bulls, Squanto, Vodeo, and Animal Spirit (as well as more than a dozen others) and ending with an evening showcase at Shipping & Receiving, featuring a killer set by The Hendersons. Sunday, the festival moved back to the familiar stomping grounds around West 7th for a day full of music that featured such big-name acts as Oil Boom, Kevin Aldridge and The Appraisers, Duell, and Un Chien. For only $5, you can’t find more Fort Worth music anywhere else on the planet on the same day. Drink it in to see why we can’t stop raving about the mad talent in our backyard.
8.) Fort Worth Rock Assembly at Lola’s – The fifth incarnation of Fort Worth’s weekend-long bands-covering-other-bands shindig was the biggest yet, and all three days were filled with tributes to some of the all-time greats. It would be exhausting to list everything that moved my needle, but the acts that really stood out to me were Holy Moly as Primus, Caliche Burnout as Thin Lizzy, and Justin Pate and his crew covering INXS.
7.) Brutal Juice, Huffer, Mean Motor Scooter at the Chat – Another show that hits me in the personal spots. In celebration of my 40th birthday, Brutal Juice, who has been a sonic jackhammer to North Texas’ eardrums for two-and-a-half decades, played its first show on Magnolia since the ’90s and delivered more of the same. Crammed into the matchbox that is the Chat, the Dentonites followed two of Fort Worth’s best rock bands with a hefty dose of cuts from their new album, Welcome to the Panopticon, and plenty of older cuts to satisfy those of us who have followed the band for what seems like forever.
6.) Rhett Miller, Brent Best, Kevin Aldridge at Magnolia Motor Lounge – Three of the absolute best songwriters North Texas has ever known shared the stage for what ended up being a MFer of a night. Miller mixed tunes from his solo albums with tracks from The Old 97’s catalog, following too-short sets from Best and Aldridge. The night played out like a wrestling card, with Aldridge setting the stage with an early-card Steamboat/Macho Man-esque Intercontinental Championship bout, followed by Best heating up the room like The Freebirds facing the Von Erichs in a six-man tag match and Miller providing the kind of main event that would make Stone Cold and The Rock envious.
5.) Joe Savage CD Release at Lola’s – Savage’s Songs Worth Singing is one of my favorite local releases all year. The bill for the album release, featuring Joe and his band, Convoy and the Cattlemen, The Gypsy Playboys, and last-minute additions Luke McGlathery and Lindsey Martin ,was a rare gathering of some of the area’s most elite and under-appreciated country-Western and swing artists in town.
4.) Panther City Pep Rally at Lola’s – The other big cover band show of the year returned with its usual slate of ’90s alt-rock tributes, such as The Toadies, The Lemonheads, and Fountains of Wayne. But proving that Fort Worth isn’t stuck in a single decade, the show also featured massive sets from The Kombucha Mushroom People (as System of a Down) and NR/CD (as Tenacious D). No recollection of this show would be complete without a shout-out to Pep Rally organizer Marcial Martinez and his Babes in Boyland. Martinez and his band of hoodlums’ homage to girls who rock is always a highlight of this event.
3.) Leon Bridges at Shipping & Receiving – “The Kid” returned from his tireless touring schedule to perform at the venue where his Grammy-nominated album was recorded. Billed as a special screening of Danny Clinch’s film, This Is Home – which chronicled Bridges and his band’s return to Fort Worth following their first world tour – Bridges’ set also featured saxophonist Jeff Dazey and backing vocalist Brittni Jessie for a stripped-down evening that captivated the biggest crowd I have ever seen at Shipping & Receiving.
2.) Abbey Road at Lola’s – A real life local music super-group brought together by longtime collaborators Justin Pate and Big Mike Richardson took to the Lola’s stage to perform the classic Beatles album front to back. Sure, they had taken it to the stage a couple of times before, but on Thanksgiving night – with Lola’s packed to the rafters – the group put together what the average fan of Pate and Big Mike was calling their best performance yet. Word is that Pate, Richardson, and company are itching to do this show again, thanks to the enthusiastic response.
1.) Dreamy Life Records’ Group Therapy Volume 3 release show at Shipping & Receiving – Mother Nature tried her best to kill the party, but the show went on. Scattered showers delayed the start of the 19-band bill by 20 minutes, and the weather wreaked havoc on the sound system. But maybe having to overcome adversity is what made this show so damn good. Tame, Tame and Quiet, FOGG, Vicious Firs, Jake Paleschic, Vincent Neil Emerson, and The Fibs all put on sets that could be contenders for performance of the year. War Party frontman Cameron Smith’s touching tribute to the lives lost in the Orlando shooting that same morning was an incredible kick in the gut and a much-needed reminder that no one should be able to take away someone else’s innocent good time.
Top 5 Road Shows
Dallas may still get the huge touring shows like Beyonce and Kanye, but the 817 has become a destination for mid-level road shows. Here is my top 5 of 2016. – Steve Steward
5.) Kyle Kinane at Amphibian Stage Productions – Chicago-bred comedian Kyle Kinane released an album of new material (Loose in Chicago) in October, and it turned out he woodshedded a lot of those recorded bits at this show. Hearing new jokes before their debut feels kinda special when you listen to his official album, but Kyle Kinane is hilarious anyway. He’s like that uncle (your Mom’s youngest brother, probably), who, in the midst of telling a funny story, accidentally dumps a fully-loaded Fourth of July backyard barbecue plate on the relative who would hate that happening the most, and then he tells the story about dumping food on that cousin at every family gathering until the end of time. For about an hour, he rambled through rueful, self-deprecating epics ranging from gout (“my too-much bacon toes”), rock venues that look like they’re made out of old flyers, and how disappointing it would be to come back as a ghost forced to haunt a shitty, one-bedroom L.A. apartment. Ever thought about how you’d grill a steak over a volcano? Kyle Kinane did, and it made for a pretty hilarious tale.
4.) Seu Jorge at Texas Theatre – Yeah, yeah, the tickets to this were about $60, but you know what? The concert still sold out. Kick yourself for missing this one, because I sure did. The Brazilian singer-songwriter was made famous in the United States after his appearance in Wes Anderson’s Jacques Cousteau homage, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zizzou, as research vessel Belafonte crewmember Pele dos Santos, whose diegetic, gently melancholic bossa-inflected versions of David Bowie hits (sung in Portuguese and played on a classical guitar) scored emotionally pivotal scenes. To be honest, that soundtrack really gets to me, and many people discreetly wiped their eyes in the dark at the Texas Theatre. Jorge, dressed in a getup similar to his costume in the film, played his part of the movies’ score against projections of David Bowie’s face.
3.) Amplified Heat at The Grotto – I think Amplified Heat is one of the most criminally underappreciated rock bands in America. The Austin-based power trio has been working the club grind since the late ’90s, and they’re one of those bands – like Black Flag, Black Sabbath, or High on Fire – whose name perfectly reflects their sound. The band blasts molten garage rock and electrocuted blues out of a wall of vintage amps at the speed of lightning (or at least Ride the Lightning), and to my ears, I’d say Motörhead is probably as much an influence on them as the Stooges. Amplified Heat played a last-minute Monday night gig in May to a crowd of about a dozen people in a club where a little volume goes an exceedingly long way. Needless to say, they did not play with a little volume, and my ears were left blissfully scorched.
2.) Del the Funky Homosapien at Shipping & Receiving – The underground hip-hop legend/creative polymath/cartoon drummer headlined Summerthon II, the all-day, late-summer swim party held at Shipping & Receiving, and while the crowd might not have been as massive as expected – during his set this one promoter from Dallas kept explaining to me all the reasons “our people” might have chosen for staying home – it was well over 200 strong, and all of them were amped and ready to party. Del fucking delivered, running through his own material, freestyling, and closing with his verses from “Clint Eastwood,” Gorillaz’ 2002 hit that jumped him up to worldwide radar. Live performances are always unique in one way or another, but Del made a point to put on a show that was truly unforgettable.
1.) White Denim at the Chat Room – Unlike Amplified Heat, I wouldn’t say White Denim is criminally underappreciated – after all, they are the kind of band that plays America’s festival circuit and tours Europe. As such, they were booked to play KXT’s anniversary concert on Wednesday, November 3. I’m sure it was a great show, but the Kessler’s the kind of place where bands play concerts of the sort you might advertise as “An Evening with.” But the show they played the night before in the comparatively tiny and casual environs of Magnolia’s diviest bar made for a far-more intimate experience, as the Austin-based band hit all the high points off their latest album, Stiff, itself an in-your-face suite of high-flying, riff-crossed R&B, powered by the band’s jazz-flexing prog-pop alacrity. Seeing local musician and producer Jordan Richardson play drums with the band was an added bonus, as was watching local fans lose their mind over a band they might not otherwise travel outside the Southside to see. Here’s a tip to bigger bands routing through Dallas: Book a secret show at a small bar in Fort Worth the night before. I bet I know which one will be more fun for y’all.