Highlights from the 2013 DOMA Showcase
The 2013 Dallas Observer Music Showcase came and went this weekend in eight hours of North Texas' most interesting music. The unique thrill of this thing is walking from a delicate show by a singer-songwriter to the thrash of a punk band to the beats of an electronic act, on and on, and seeing the members of those bands inspire each other. Tomorrow night we'll hand out trophies, but the real reward of this whole DOMA enterprise was to be in those crowds this weekend. And we were! There was too much to describe here, but what follows are a few of the highlights observed by our writers and photographers.
Mike Brooks Eat Avery's Bones Mike Brooks Dallas Uber Alles
My evening started and ended with Dallas Uber Alles. Walking down Elm Street as the sun set, I saw the four members of the Dead Kennedys tribute act holding up signs about voting for the band in the DOMAs. I had to smile because I figured this was an homage to when original Dead Kennedys frontman Jello Biafra ran for mayor in the 80s. Later, as I started to leave Deep Ellum for the night, I ran into DUA frontman Jacob Sereno and asked if the signs were indeed an homage. He confirmed they were, and I figured it was very smart of the band. These guys don't just play the part on stage; they play it off the stage, too. And when they do play, you can enjoy the music and performance and not worry about which original Dead Kennedys members are currently suing each other. Eric Grubbs
Nicholas Altobelli turned in a very engaging set on Reno's patio. With only his pedal steel player and keyboardist, Altobelli played a number of new songs that may or may not end up on his next record. The soft country folk sounds were perfect as the evening chill set in. EG
Ed Steele Brutal Juice
Brutal Juice was the early evening's gem, half an hour or so of punishing melody. Front man Craig Welch is a wide-eyed nerve ending of a presence, staring at the Reno's crowd through the strobe lights on stage, his neck muscles straining against his skin. Kiernan Maletsky
Throughout their DOMA set, Yell at Eels exhibited a freeness of form like a tableau straight from Jackson Pollock's studio: Dennis Gonzalez' trumpet supplied the wiry tendrils, Stefan's drum solos were violent splatters, and Aaron's superb bass was like earthen globs of velvet streaked upon the air. The visual plotting of YAE's sound seems like a natural reaction, as their spirit of music making imparts a very organic, muscled sense of poetry. Apart from the stellar unpredictability of their musicianship, my deepest memory of these guys has to be the cool aura of father Dennis Gonzalez. I'm not talking about just any coolness either, I mean the type of blasé confidence reserved for only the rarest of presences, think Miles Davis on the cover of "'Round About Midnight" cool. Jonathan Patrick
While I wanted to loosely plan my Showcase schedule around band names with marine themes (Yells at Eels, Violent Squid, Sealion, and Catamaran) I ended up playing Deep Ellum venue pinball all night, bouncing around with no real set lineups in mind. And what I did see, was no less a perfect snapshot of Dallas' best local music in the last year.
On stepping into the Prophet Bar, I immediately disregarded the 20 ounces of Mocha Java that now sat uncomfortably in my bladder. My beeline for the bathroom was halted by an unbelievable drum solo by Stefan Gonzalez of Yells at Eels. The entire room pulsated with every percussive punch. Aaron Ortega
Mike Brooks Violent Squid
Violent Squid was fascinating, as always, Saturday at the Prophet Bar. All three Yells at Eels Gonzalez men were on stage with ringleader Ty Stamp and I think a half dozen other players. How Stefan and Aaron as the rhythm section managed to underpin this psychedelic chaos with something of a structure, I have no idea, and Dennis looked like he was having the time of the life adding free-floating squiggles of trumpet above the fray. They've got to be the coolest family band in town, if not the world. Jesse Hughey
If you've seen Danny Church Band live before, you may already be familiar with their Radiohead cover. The stripped down, R&B version of High and Dry was the eye of the storm during this year's DOMA showcase. The lush and languid rendition was made by Church's gorgeous vocals and the audience enjoyed a small break from the frenetic energy buzzing outside of Trees' doors. Vanessa Quilantan
Mike Brooks Vulgar Fashion
I knew Vulgar Fashion would be a treat.They test the abilities of the sound man as well as photographers. Vocalist Julie McKendrick was caught in a crossfire of camera flashes as soon as she stepped onto the floor, towing a microphone chord behind her as she danced in an almost intimidating manner between two fans, the blood from her fake head wound glimmering in the venue lights. AO
Ed Steele MAYTA
We all love the hustle and bustle of the showcase night, I am sure I won't be the only contributor who mentions the delight of walking into a room while Yells At Eels is playing on your way to see MAYTA, only to cross back into a DJ Sober set on your way back through the entrance. And while all these bands playing at the same night can take on a stressful "Can I be in two places at once?" feeling, the best moments are when something like that particular intersection happens entirely by accident.
Saturday night was my first night to see MAYTA, nominated for Best Latin Act this year. For me the DOMA showcase night always rights a few of my live music wrongs. MAYTA was a band I kept meaning to see, kept not seeing, kept saying I'd make it to the next gig and was my sole requirement on Saturday. Now I wish I had gone sooner. Their particular flavor is hard to describe but easy to consume. The beginning of the set sounded like a grittier version of a Latin Jamiroquai but managed to transition into stranger and more psychedelic places with ease. Bryan Gonzalez is an especially charismatic figure behind the mic, keys, theremin and probably other instruments strewn about the stage. The Brother Rimach lead with an effective stage presence, but that some A&R person hasn't exploited Renato Rimach's obvious lead singer appeal is .... well, I am sure it's just pending.
When a band is too many things it can be distracting, I am sure it's not encouraging to read that MAYTA plays in areas of Latin Funk, Jazz, Psychedelic Rock and still manages to add a Cumbia without being a bit messy. I am sure you don't believe me, but you should. Quit making excuses, go see the band. Deb Doing Dallas