Featured Music: Wednesday, March 01, 2006
Time Passages

The Love Song of J. Alfred HearSay


I grow old, I grow old. I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

Do I feel, y’know, elderly? Not necessarily, but every time I go to a show, it’s like every person in the club should be wearing flippin’ diapers — we’re talking fleshy, baby-faced, soft-limbed young’uns, people who, unlike me, get drunk out of sheer joy instead of boredom, necessity, and habit.

As I’ve been told, my horror at the obnoxiousness of their youth is matched by their repulsion at my decrepitude. The truth is: I’m not that old, and they’re not that young. Yet perception is powerful — almost as powerful as reality itself.

A couple of Saturdays ago, after a long-ass happy hour-into-evening of steady boozing, I found myself at a local watering hole at last call trying to talk a young twentysomething rock star friend of mine into accompanying me to an Eastside speakeasy. Even though I told him I had to go for the sake of “research” (which was partly true), I actually just wanted to keep the par-tay going — the speakeasy is BYOB, and a couple of live-music-filled bashes there have reportedly lasted until sunrise.

Generally, in trying to persuade a drinking pal to help me extend my buzz, I have an admittedly meager arsenal of rhetorical tactics: bribery (“Damn it, I’ll buy the beer!”), shame (“C’mon, Dorothy. We’re gonna get fucked up — or do you have to go home and knit Mr. Boots another sweater?”), and philosophy. My most trusty tool of profundity is an old adage I’ve been invoking in various states of semi-consciousness for the past 15 years, since my days as an undergrad: “You can always re-take the class,” I say with severe gravity to my vacillating friend. “But you can never” — dramatic pause — “re-live the party.”

Like Colt 45: Works every time, mutha-huncher!

Also going in my favor was the fact that my rock star buddy is a bartender — bartenders are genetically predisposed to stay up late and sleep in until after 1 p.m. the following day. “Even if we get home around five-ish,” I told my pal, “you can sleep in tomorrow ’til whenever — you’re a friggin bartender.”

The speakeasy is like one big, great, glorious garage, with a low ceiling, two teensy-weensy restrooms, some folding conference tables, a few swanky chairs and couches, and a small bar. There’s a decent-sized stage, backdropped by a large, groovy painting of the sun. The booze you bring can be stored in a small refrigerator behind the bar, a tiny partition manned by the two older, large dudes who run the place and function as the bouncers and drink-hander-outers.

On the night of my and my buddy’s visit, the crowd was about 100-strong and pretty diverse, a nice mix of denizens from both the TCU/West Berry Street-area and West Seventh Street: The TCU peeps apparently got the word from the guys in Oliver Future, the Austin-cum-L.A. major label rock band that had played The Moon earlier in the night. I guess the West Seventh Street-ers had been tipped off by the anonymous scenester who’s organized a majority of the speakeasy’s shows and who loafs at the Wreck.

Things got going at the after-hours joint around 2:30-ish, and, dude, either I was really hammered or the music was jaw-droppingly amazing. The nearly totally improv performance was more than just the best jam I’ve ever seen in town. It may prove to be the best jam I’ve ever seen — period.

As I’ve indicated (repeatedly), I’d had a little too much to drink and, unfortunately, was thus completely unable to take notes. But I do remember some of the musos who played their asses off and would like to warm-heartedly salute them (the guys, not their asses). On the bongos, Confusatron guitarist and Black Dog Tavern barkeep John Stevens simply rocked — he not only played loudly and authoritatively, but he constantly moved behind and in front of the beat, back and forth, like a bumblebee circling a fat bud. As usual, Jordan Richardson, Oliver Future drummer and frontman of local indie-poppers Horses, was a runaway locomotive of fills and spurs. And I gotta give props to my man Christopher Blay, the local visual artist and Star-Telegram photography department staffer who took the stage during a funky breakdown and busted a rap that didn’t make much sense but met its implied goal of lifting everyone’s spirits even higher.

Other than a few of us — me, Christopher, Fred’s Texas Café honcho Terry Chandler, Wreck Room/Fred’s bartender and long-time local muso “Uncle” Lee Allen, the two dudes behind the bar, visual artist and Sleeplab bongo player Sierra Jesse Hernandez — most of the crowd was youngsters. We’re talking post-prom-party-at-the-Holiday-Inn youngsters (but undoubtedly of-age).

Standing there, Miller Lite bottle in hand, closing in on having crushed an entire case of beer over the course of a single 10-hour period, I thought about high school and my rich friends who lived out in the ’burbs and threw rocking house parties that sometimes lasted for days. Chilling at the speakeasy, looking at and listening to people 10 or 15 years younger than me, I got lost in reverie: I reckoned that as long as the world is full of young folks — young folks who’ve yet to be beaten into soul-sucking apathy by bills, lawsuits, snot-nosed offspring, 9-to-5 jobs, and life in general — there are always going to be kick-ass, late-night, impromptu bacchanals.

Whoever said you can’t re-live the party, frankly, is full of shit.

Is Jack’s a Lil’ Off?

OK, it’s official — I’m a bit worried about Jack’s Off the Wall.

For the near-Cultural District joint’s grand opening last month, two of Fort Worth’s hottest, serious indie-rock bands — Black Tie Dynasty and The Burning Hotels — were scheduled to perform. Though the show was canceled (the place wasn’t quite ready to open), the pain of the cancellation didn’t last long. The following weekend, Jack’s managed to corral two other equally cool bands, inventive cover artists Velvet Love Box and alt-indie gloomadeers Chatterton. While I didn’t make the Chatterton show, I dropped by the night before and caught VLB: Decent sound, reasonably priced drinks, excellent service, gorgeous post-apocalyptic décor, and plenty of young hipsters.

Since then, however, Jack’s has been somewhat, eh, hit or miss.

No offense to Phil Pritchett, Jordan Mycoskie, and Kurt South, three decent though soporific Nashville-style crooners who regularly play the Stockyards and have begun gigging at Jack’s with great frequency, but, dude: When your club is a stone’s throw from possibly the coolest independently owned entertainment area not only in North Texas but maybe the whole state, you gotta do better than radio country. Why hasn’t Black Tie been invited back? Or the Hotels? Or Chatterton? (Chatterton frontman Kevin Aldridge is playing Saturday but solo acoustic.)

While we’re at it, what about Goodwin, Tiebreaker, Pablo and the Hemphill 7, Cityview, Sally Majestic, Coma Rally, The Snowdonnas, The February Chorus, JustCause, Briley, the cut*off, Alan, and about a zillion other rocking Fort Worth/Tarrant County-based groups? They’re almost as inoffensive and family-friendly as Pritchett, Mycoskie, and South — and probably as affordable — but not as, um, mature.

I understand that Jack’s may be trying to do something different from what can already be heard nearby at the Wreck Room and, a little farther down the road, The Aardvark and the Ridglea Theater — I’m not saying that Jack’s should schedule the same type of stuff. All I wish is that the place would take a stab in the opposite direction of safe and family-friendly. Get some zydeco bands in there. Or some original jazz fusion. Or some experimental rock ’n’ roll. Or, if you want country, go for something other than Nashville-influenced stuff. There’s a bunch of unique old-timey, non-traditional-soft-rock and Outlaw-country-influenced singer-songwriters and bands in our backyard: Collin Herring, Jason Eady, The Theater Fire, Cadillac Fraf, The Electric Mountain Rotten Apple Gang, Bosque Brown, Calhoun, A-Hummin’ Acoustical Acupuncture, Walker Wood, Stephen Pointer, April Geesbreght, John Price, Sara Donaldson, and dozens more I know I’m forgetting.

As I said earlier, Pritchett, Mycoskie, and South are accomplished players and are also likely hard-working, upstanding citizens — I used to see Pritchett all the time at The Moon when he held an early, informal weekly Tuesday evening gig. I can say with all honesty that I even dig some of his work. I just don’t think that he and his boys are right for a club that has all the makings of a really worthwhile destination for live and adventurous original-music lovers across the city — and possibly across the state.

DOMA’s: Out of Sync?

Our bigger, beefier doppelganger to the east, The Dallas Observer, is in the process of counting readers’ votes to determine which North Texas-local bands make the ballot for the alt-paper’s annual music awards this year. For the sake of my favorite Fort Worth/Tarrant County-based acts, I just wish the DOMA’s would have come out about three weeks from now, at a time when some of the potentially best music ever to emanate from this part of the state will be released. Look at what’s en route: Movements by Black Tie Dynasty, a new full-length from Goodwin, one from The Color of May, Collin Herring, Calhoun (which I’ve already declared will be one of my all-time local faves), The Theater Fire, and a few more I can’t talk about now. Don’t get me wrong: The past 12 months have seen a ton of superlative local discs arrive, including: Green River Ordinance’s The Beauty of Letting Go, Stephen Pointer’s Sixes and Sevens, Nuwamba’s Above the Water, Jhon Kahsen’s Love’s Bitter Rage, Top Secret’s Shhh ... , the Underground Railroad’s The Origin of Consciousness, Jason Eady’s From Underneath the Old, and about a dozen more. I’m just saying that, when you look at the massive amount of major-label-quality music that’s popping up from Fort Worth/Tarrant County these days, you can’t help but believe a movement’s afoot. The good news is that if the Observer doesn’t acknowledge us this time around, you know we’ll be ready to toot our own horns — we’re good like that. To vote, visit www.dallasobserver.com/musicawards/nom2006/.

Contact HearSay at hearsay@fwweekly.com.

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