Introducing Jeff Gage, the New Dallas Observer Music Editor

Categories: Columns

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It's a long way from here to Minneapolis. About 14 hours, in fact. I know because I made the trip myself last weekend, having packed everything I own into a U-Haul and hopping on Interstate 35, which I followed virtually from one end of the country to the other. When I left, the Land of 10,000 Lakes was just emerging from one of its most frigid winters in recent memory. Now I find myself in Dallas, taking up the reigns as music editor for the Observer, just in time for what will likely be a summer much hotter than what I'm prepared for. Timing is everything.

And yet, the timing couldn't be better. I spent the past five years in Minnesota (having grown up in southern Wisconsin), most of which I spent working at the Minneapolis alt-weekly, City Pages. I'm thrilled to be joining the Observer, not only because it's such a fine staff of people, but because I get to join in a line of editors who have done so much to shape the musical landscape in North Texas over the past 30-plus years. Already, it feels like home.

There's not a lot to see between Minneapolis-St. Paul and Dallas-Fort Worth. The cities along the way -- Des Moines, Kansas City, Wichita, Oklahoma City -- are each two to three hours apart from one another, as though spaced deliberately to create some semblance of regularity. Along the way, it's open, empty spaces: the pungent fields of Iowa; the blackened plains of Kansas, charred by the springtime burn; the redbud trees of Oklahoma.

My truck had only an AM/FM radio, so there was a lot of time devoted to silence (and conversation with my mother, who graciously came along for the 1,000-mile trip). After a while, it all began to make some sort of sense, as though you could drive forever and find only minor changes in the scenery. Most of the country is that way, after all -- farm fields and small towns. Even without music, a rhythm takes shape, and it's only rarely broken by civilization.

On paper, Minnesota and Texas don't have much in common. One was the lone state to vote for Walter Mondale and, just last year, legalized gay marriage. The other gave us George W. Bush and is governed by Rick Perry. But in the shape of MSP and DFW, there are sneaky similarities. Both have thriving arts scenes. Both have experienced booms in locally brewed beers since the turn of the decade. And both tend to get a little overlooked, thanks to not being on a coast or, well, being Austin.

The same goes for their respective music scenes: Like Dallas, Minneapolis prides itself on its hip-hop contributions, and has a rich history with punk bands. (Not so much with the metal though, admittedly.) Where they perhaps differ is in their senses of history: Texas may be a state steeped in blues and country, but as a growing music scene, it feels young. There are no Prince or Replacements to loom overhead, reminding everyone of the glory days gone by. Dallas is still the Wild West. It's a story yet to be told.

As a critic, such a scenario is music to my ears. While I was at City Pages, I made a point to seek out artists who flew under the radar -- the beatboxer who's a social worker by day, or the rock band hellbent on a gypsy lifestyle. Regardless of the specifics, it was all about finding interesting people with unique stories, who also happened to play great music and used it to express their views of the world. Seeking out those people is what any good critic should do, no matter the city.

Seeking them out in Dallas will be a fresh challenge, and one I relish. There's a lot I'll have to learn still -- from musicians, from fellow writers and, of course, from readers -- but there are also innumerable stories to be told. I have no idea where this journey will lead me next, but I can't wait to find out -- and to put it down in writing.


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24 comments
mpkenned
mpkenned

"Taking up the reins" not "Taking up the reigns". Its a reference to riding horses, not kings. 

ChangingF8
ChangingF8

Dallas has had Pantera, one of the biggest metal bands of all time. How's that for not being the Wild Wild West. They are not the only band but one of the biggest.

caseymack
caseymack

Good Luck Jeff and welcome.  FYI - the past 3 or 4 or so music editors haven't lasted very long and their coverage was much the same as the other.  None of them ever stepped foot in or talked about the town of cow ( that's Fort Worth ) or partook or talked about the hugely popular Texas-Red Dirt music scene ( that's Alt-Country / Non-Nashville Indie Country / Singer/Songwriter/Folks ) that permeates the D/FW Metroplex. A majority of the biggest shows and most popular local bands in the area are the TX-Red Dirt variety yet yall cover none of it.  At all.  Kelly does a great job keeping abreast, talk to him about it all.

Hopefully you can learn a thing or two and diversify the coverage beyond Deep Ellum and Greenville Ave and spread it across the metroplex.  Great music is everywhere just not in a 5 mile radius of the Observer's HQ. 


Best from Fort Worth



bvckvs
bvckvs topcommenter

In the past, article ideas have come from the writers who just went to a bar to party, and then wrote a few lines about whatever band was hired to perform.

I'd love it if you'd focus more on what the college music programs are cranking out, then what the rehabs are producing.  It won't make you popular with the hangover-crowd at the Dallas Observer, but it'll attract a better crowd of readers.

pedigorama
pedigorama

Welcome and what's up dude? You will have fun here, but your liver will hate you for it, and you might forget a lot of stuff.

JustSaying
JustSaying

One of my biggest regrets in life involves my one visit to Minneapolis. There was actually a titty bar there back then named Buns and Roses and my lazy ass didn't go and buy a shirt.

bubba
bubba

So much for hiring local talent. Thanks Observer.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

Welcome sir,  Do you like steak,  what about eggs, what about milk.  Have you ever seen a guy with a fake head.


Also, follow @tweetgrubes

baby arm

no funeral

jeff.prince
jeff.prince

Welcome to Texas, Mr. Gage. I dig the Warren Beatty circa-"Shampoo" haircut, and looking forward to reading your take on the local music circus.


Regarding your statement about there being no Prince or the Replacements around these parts looming overhead, keep in mind we've had our share of luminaries from these parts: Stevie Ray Vaughan and brother Jimmy, Pantera, Kelly Clarkson, The Toadies, T-Bone Burnett, T-Bone Walker, Townes Van Zandt, Pat Green, Ornette Coleman, and Erykah Badu.



barryguitar
barryguitar

" I get to join in a line of editors who have done so much to shape the musical landscape in North Texas over the past 30-plus years"

Dallas Observer tell you that? The people of the North Texas scene shape the landscape. The Dallas scene is fragmented and the coolest part of it is seldom even covered by the Observer. There is a whole lot more going on than "whats at the Kessler tonight" If you step outside of what your predecessors have done and accurately report about it, we will love you. If you fall for the bs that you have some influence, you will only be disappointed. I hope to see you do well here.

hayley.dyer
hayley.dyer

Welcome to Dallas!  We're glad you're here!

LandoftheFree
LandoftheFree

Just suck off the dude from the old 97s in every other article, you'll do quite well here

bvckvs
bvckvs topcommenter

@ChangingF8

Kinda makes one wonder what you mean by "biggest".  I mean, yeah they were fat as pigs - but they were only popular for a few short years, only had appeal to a niche group, had no successful songs, and the surviving members who haven't been gunned down are so whacked out on speed and heroin, they can barely function.

ChrisYu
ChrisYu

@caseymack to be fair, there've been posts about Charlie Robison, Zane and Kylie, Eleven Hundred Springs has won awards here, and those people do play within a five mile radius of DO central. But yes, I'd rather see more and don't really care to read about what's going on out at Coachella or advice from Andrew WK.

superphly
superphly

@ChangingF8 I'll address your concerns 1 by 1.

1. A few short years - 1990 - 1996 (or 1981 - 2003 technically). Roughly the same length as the Beatles. What does length of career have to do with anything? SRV, Janis, Led Zeppelin all had pretty short careers as bands but would still stand the test.

2. Appeal to a niche group - we aren't talking about pop dude. What genre of music (that is based on talented musicians) caters to a wide audience? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

3. No successful songs - what kind of metric? There's a few songs of theirs that pretty much any rock fan will know. Maybe they didn't get much radio play on Top40 stations, but then again listen to what they play.

4. Gunned down, wacked out on speed/heroin - What does that have to do with anything? Are we voting for these dudes to lead our churches, educate our young? Look at all the drugs that were used during the late 60's and 70's. If you want to start judging music by what drugs the performers were on, then you're in for some really crappy music.

Pantera is one of the biggest bands to come out of Dallas, period. You can make claim for several others with good reason, but to simply discredit Pantera because "well, they were too loud and cussed a lot" is kinda backwards thinking.

caseymack
caseymack

@ChrisYu Kelly Dearmore does a great job talking about some of the highlights of the local tx-reddirt stuff ie: Pat Green, Eli Young, etc and Matt Hillyer and 1100 Springs and the O's are of course Dallas royalty.  But he is just one writer with less than 30 articles a year.  Dont see much ever written by anyone else or from the editor of the music section much less.  


Every now and again in advance of a show at the Granada or HoB, the Observer does a little puff promotion piece to satisfy the promoter, but considering the wide popularity of it in the greater Dallas area, it is still highly under-talked about.  Indie Rock and Indie Rap get 90% of the coverage, whereas indie country shows gets the less than 10%. 


Just hoping Jeff gets to appreciate TX-Red Dirt "Music" for what it is, ie: music, and help spread the word about the newer artists who bust their ass in town, instead of relegating them to a corner or label them "not cool enough musically" to mention on a consistent basis.  


The newer or rising TX-Red Dirt artists really dont have a friend in alt-weekly print media here locally, kinda sad being the #1 Country Music market in the world, but I guess that is just the way it is.... but truly doesnt have to stay that way... 

JustSaying
JustSaying

@bvckvs You should probably stick to commenting on things that you know at least a little something about. Firstly, Pantera is not death metal. If you can't listen to a Suffocation record and a Pantera record and tell the difference, then you shouldn't even be reading a music board much less commenting on one. As far as "metrics" go, I would refer to Pantera as "big" based on the fact that they had a record debut at #1 back when people still bought records and that was the one that pushed them into headlining sheds and arenas worldwide. They played Starplex when they came to Dallas, not Trees or the Granada.


Just because you don't know any of their songs off the top of your head doesn't mean that other people don't. Hell, there are plenty of old folks around DFW that know  "Walk" considering that it is played multiple times at nearly every Rangers home game. "Rock music can make you feel"? Of course you never saw them live so you never got to see how their music made 1000s of people feel firsthand. Maybe next time you are in a gym you could ask a few people if they have any Pantera on their music devices. You might be surprised how many people do on chest or legs day.

ChangingF8
ChangingF8

@bvckvs @superphly @ChangingF8  You are only further proving your own ignorance, and thus your lack of any knowledge to back your stance, further when your refer to them as "death metal". So your attack upon a band who debuted an album at #1 on the Billboard 200 and had such a major influence on bands that followed after is pretty much null and void. And he is right, maybe you should talk to...well...just about any successful artist in rock history about drug use and how it made them somehow less a musician. Hollow, empty, and baseless is your attack and it is fairly apparent to all who see it.

bvckvs
bvckvs topcommenter

@superphly @ChangingF8

That's a very defensive response, but it doesn't answer the question - by what metric are they "big"?  To that, I'd add - what makes you think they're a "rock" band?

Death metal is not rock.  Rock is musical; rock is poetic; rock can make you think or make you feel.  Death metal is none of that.


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