Life got ya down? Well, what’s new. As in previous years, the Music Awards Festival is a good time to get good and sweaty. This year’s shindig is 4-10pm in eight venues on the Near Southside, with Pinkish Black, Matt Tedder, FOGG, Andy Pickett, Sur Duda, Mean Motor Scooter, Danni & Kris, Cut Throat Finches, and dozens more, 40 in all, all from the great 817. Cover charge? There is none. #MAF18 is free. See you there.
So being completely out of touch is not as liberating as you might think.
Up until a few years ago, I had spent most of my working life in and around the local music scene, “local,” of course, translating as “Fort Worth/Arlington.” Dallas and Denton already have their own respective media outlets. (Plus, our paper doesn’t circulate outside of Tarrant County, and we are a print-first publication.) I had moved on to assume the editorship of this shoestring empire, and in between editing more copy than I ever had before in my life and overseeing long-gestating investigative stories, I didn’t have any time to explore new local tunes. I barely had time to grab a drink after work. And I mean “a” drink. I’m also the married father of a 6-year-old who just graduated from kindergarten and is taking taekwondo, playing youth basketball, and doing homework every day (even on weekends — yes, we are those parents). Among other things. The best I can do for my local music-loving self is maybe catch a weekend afternoon shindig at some brewery or scare up Friday on the Green.
I was hamstrung long before all that, though. In the late-aughts, I earned my first and only (and hopefully last) DUI. I was crawling out of Lola’s Saloon one Tuesday night after my Weekly colleagues and I had put the paper to bed. I believe this was when Chris Johnson had traipsed in right before last call, strapped on his acoustic, stood on the bar, and started playing to us stragglers as if we were a packed Madison Square Garden. Hate to sound like a cheerleader or homer, but there was no way I was going to miss that. Maybe those two “extra” beers are what put me over the limit. My black ’97 Nissan Frontier wasn’t even 50 feet from the bar when red and blue started flashing behind me and a siren squawked. Apparently, I had turned without signaling, which, for the record, is total bullsh, because I always signal my turns, even when my car is the only one on the road. One night in the smelly, disgusting clink later, and I had vowed that no matter how cool a certain performer or band is, I would never spend another night locked up just because of music. And I haven’t.
And I seriously doubt I ever will. For one thing, I can’t risk hurting my family. For another, most shows start so late. There’s no reason for sensible human beings who work normal business hours to stay up after 11 p.m. on school nights. *raps paddle softly against palm* I know that bars want to maximize the revenue potential of their regular hours, but unless their customers are only college students or service-industry types, who don’t need to be at class or work the next morning until, like, 10:30, bars that continue perpetuating late start times are alienating at least half of the live show-going public. Anyway, I like going to bed at 9 o’clock on weekdays. Who do you think’s going to feed the kid — and lotion and dress him and brush his teeth — the next morning at 6? Not my wife. Thanks to the dreaded patriarchy, she has to wake up at the same time as my son and me to do her hair and makeup to be at work by 7:30. It’s me who’s going to be doing all this stuff, that’s who, and “me” needs his beauty sleep.
I really wish Periscope would have taken off. I would have totally dug watching shows happening at Lola’s or the Boiled Owl — or Shipping & Receiving or Black House — on my phone from my comfy-af couch. I guess nothing can replace the live experience, and as I’ve argued before, I don’t think anything ever will. That’s why we have bars and clubs. That’s why they exist: to deposit musical greatness right into our laps. As much as I hate to admit this, only because I’m jealous of his seemingly endless array of designer jeans at discount prices, I owe what little current-local-music knowledge I possess to Eric Griffey. Our associate editor who assigns and edits our music section also does a bunch of other stuff, including booking our annual Music Awards Festival and firing off office-wide emails telling everyone to please STFU. His music section is a pleasure to edit every week. It was because of him (and another old friend, Daniel Childress) that I got turned on to the crush-your-lap greatness of BULLS. Holy balls. Part punk, part prog, all tight and loud, they’re the real deal. The medium by which I became exposed to their awesomeness wasn’t Bandcamp. And it wasn’t a CD. It was our festival. For a family dude like me, escaping for a couple of hours once a year is worth it when your escape is the festival, a.k.a. Local Music Christmas.
Now in its 17th year, the fest appears to be as strong as it’s ever been. Almost 20 years ago, five bands on one stage (the Ridglea Theater’s) was all we could muster. This was when I first started as associate editor and when our Music Awards ballot had more bands from Dallas and Denton on it than from Fort Worth/Arlington. “That’s all there is here,” the outgoing associate editor told me, but I didn’t believe her. I couldn’t. I had just come from editing the music section at the Houston Press. Our annual Music Awards Festival served up more than 100 bands, all from H-town. Though we Weeklyteers probably wouldn’t, because it would be a tremendous logistical beatdown, I bet we could pack 100 bands from the great 817 into a single-day festival and not lose much in the way of credibility or quality. What do you say, Griffey?
What’s crazy is that a few dudes from the early days will perform at this year’s festival. There’s Jon Teague, the drummer for Pinkish Black who was in The Great Tyrant back in the day. And Kevin Aldridge, the first bona fide singer-songwriter I met upon assuming the associate editorship in ’02 –– he waltzed into the office one day, handed me a CD-R of his band, Brasco, and said he’d like to grab a beer with me sometime. Two-hundred Bud Lights and a handful of Brasco/Chatterton/Appraisers articles later, and Kevin Aldridge is still in that golden state of about-to-peak. Amazing. There’s also The Me-Thinks. When frontman Ray Liberio told me they were from Haltom City, I had to apologize. “Yeah, sorry,” I scoffed. “I think you guys are outside our coverage area.” What a doofus. (But “Haltom City” sounded so far-flung. And fancy.)
In a few years, I bet I’m going to look back at all this kid-/Trump-related stress that I’m going through now and think, “You should have lightened up, Guido.” And that’s why every year, no matter what’s going on in my little world or in the world beyond my window –– kids being separated from their parents at the border, melting polar ice caps, an eternity until the next Game of Thrones episode –– I go out of my way to experience Local Music Christmas. I may not feel as if I deserve it. (Thanks, Catholicism.) I may not feel as if I’m young or at least youthful enough to appreciate it –– I may simply want to remain in my little ball of comfort music for the rest of my life. I also know that I want to avoid the kind of drama that goes with being involved in any artistic scene, present company included. Future Me, however, has a different tack. He knows what’s good for Current Guido, and what’s good for Current Guido is Local Music Christmas. See you there.