Ilona Scheel Rocks Around the Loft in Fair Park
Welcome to Local Music 'Mericans, where we get to know the people behind the scenes in Dallas/Fort Worth music.
Ever look up at apartments above some of our local bars and wonder who the hell lives there? Meet Ilona Scheel, who resides just above Expo Park's Amsterdam Bar. No, she's not a crazy cat lady, nor does she sell crack to high school kids or brandish a broom at the patrons and screech about all the noise. She's actually quite involved with Amsterdam Bar's goings on.
We've witnessed her above-bar flat firsthand, as Scheel occasionally entertains up there as well. What makes her place even cooler is that the back exit overlooks the bar's fabulous outdoor patio and stage. And Scheel? Well, she's a trip....
So, you always look up at those apartments and wonder who lives there.Tell us about her.
I have always loved music and unique architecture and being surrounded by friends. I first discovered Expo Park on the way to a Cure concert at Starplex. I believe it was '89. I was familiar with Deep Ellum but Expo Park, an annex of Deep Ellum, seemed a way cooler place to live, so here I am.
Expo Park is such a specific little neighborhood, too.
Smaller, but that perfect sustainable blend of quirky shops, restaurants, galleries and proximity to the awesomeness that is Fair Park. It's just off the beaten path and, most importantly -- except for the concerts, Bowl games and State Fair -- it is untouched by suburban tourists. Call it self-fulfilling prophecy. I knew this was the neighborhood for me.
The list of things you do for Amsterdam Bar must be extensive.
I just help them book talent and entertain. [Amsterdam's] Nate Fowler is a very, very good friend. A huge majority of our friends are musicians, artists, models, writers and photographers. Now that I have a small child, I've scaled back on booking bands to just early summer through early fall, and even those are one-off shows. Bands that are mostly unheard of but very talented. Outdoor shows are, of course, at the mercy of Mother Nature. Right now we have Jazz Night every Monday. That always brings in a huge crowd. Shelley Carroll and his band are amazing. Other than that, I'm pretty much devoting my energies to being a new mom.
Has it hindered the fabulous entertaining you do upstairs sometimes?
I'm just your normal, typical housewife. Not! From the outside, it may seem unconventional, but our lives are just like most other families. Having a toddler has definitely changed our lives for the better. We still entertain, just not on the large scale that we used to. Now we hire a babysitter and meet our friends downstairs.
Are there a lot of correlations between having a kiddo and being in the local arts culture? The Muppets, perhaps?
As a matter of fact, Sesame Street was a huge influence on the decor of the bar, inside and out! Old city architecture and colorful characters. The little one loves it here. Rob Villareal of Rob's Chop Shop gave him his first haircut, and we bought his first baby t-shirt at Hollywood Five and Dime.
I know you were a big Spector 45 fan. What other local greatness are you embracing?
I'm really into a new band called The Vliets. The leader singer, Ty Bohrnstedt is a great vocalist. The sound is definitely shoegaze and the songwriting is solid. I love Menkena! The put on an amazing live show. I wish Pleasant Grove would get back together. I loved them. Robert Gomez is brilliant. I hope he keeps doing his thing as long as he can.
Scott Beggs always books great shows. I always pay attention to what he's doing. The Granada is also great at booking touring national bands and giving lesser-known local bands a shot.
Any pet peeves about our local music scene?
"Friend Rock": The same five bands getting booked just because they are friends with the booking agents and owners. New bands deserve a listen. Most live music venues depend on established, built-in fan bases. There isn't much flexibility in taking a risk on an unknown band. It's unfortunate. It leads to stagnation and complacency.
How come music was never something you tried?
I have only wanted to be in one band, and that is Glass Candy. As a matter of fact, my friend Farah Nemat actually played with them.