It has been far too long since my first true post (MySpace playlists notwithstanding). There have been a multitude of factors behind this, some of which are personal in nature. I must, however, say that there is another factor. In recent months, I have become increasingly frustrated by the state of affairs in the music community. There are far too few people give a damn about the music that comes from the metroplex area. More importantly, almost all of those who do care are musicians, club owner, record label owners, etc. In other words, the local music scene consists almost exclusively of those directly in it. There are very few genuine fans of the scene. By fans, I mean people who have no direct investment in the success of a band or musician. These are people who support who regularly attend shows for the simple love of the music. I’ve tried coming up with a list of true music fans. Not people who like one band or singer, but make a regular effort to support a variety of musicians. The sad truth is I can count those people on one hand.
This should not be a problem for a city the size of Dallas. Many cities smaller in size (Seattle and Portland come quickly to mind) do not face this. The most obvious example of this, however, is a mere three hours south from us. Austin has been called the live music capital of the world, and for good reason. There are a number of tremendously talented musicians from that area: David Ramirez, Jaimee Harris, Jarrod Dickenson, The Criminal Kind, and Scorpion Child are artists that I have discovered in the past several months, all of which are first rate artists. These musicians, however, have something that acts from this area lack. Austin musicians live in an environment that is supportive and nurturing, that encourages and rewards artistic creativity. Dallas, on the other hand, is a city that rewards musical followers and not leaders. This is a city where cover bands rake in money, while acts that perform original material struggle to find an audience. The pool of talent is at least equal to that of Austin, and in my opinion overall exceeds Austin. Yet Austin gains the title of live music capital of the world because it CARES about its musicians, and based on the way they’re treated, this city does not.
That leaves the ultimate question hanging over us: how do we change this? I’m not sure that there’s a simple answer to this question. In the next few days, I plan to discuss this issue at greater length. I may not have an answer for the larger problem, but I do have some ideas that may be steps toward a solution. Over the course of the next few weeks, I will share some of these ideas with you, and I look forward to receiving input from my readers.
I would, however, like to leave you with one thought courtesy Jimmy Menkena (lead singer of the band Menkena). During a recent conversation, we talked about the problems faced in Dallas by musicians, and one topic that came up was the idea of a scene versus a movement. Scenes come and go, almost in the blink of an eye. A movement, on the other hand, has an energy and passion behind it and leaves a lasting legacy. Will changing the phrase “Dallas music scene” to the “Dallas music movement” truly change the state of things? Changing names does not make a long term difference. What will matter is if the attitude towards local music changes. I’ve said it before, and I’m saying it again now: the problem is NOT a lack of quality bands. Within the past few years, I have discovered such first rate acts as Jonathan Tyler & Northern Lights, THe BAcksliders, Dove Hunter, Menkena, Hendrick, Iris Leu, Luna Matto, The O’s, The Monco Poncho, Nicholas Altobelli, Elkhart, and Damaged Good$, and I’m just getting started with the list. These are artists should be heard. Scratch that: these are artists that NEED to be heard and embraced. The music coming out of the metroplex right now possesses both the quality and the sense of urgency and vitality that it warrants the upgrade in title from “scene” to “movement”. The music also warrants the upgrade in attention from all area music fans.
If you feel like I do, then do me a few favors. Forward this article to your friends, both the serious and casual music fans. Comment on my blog. It doesn’t matter if you agree with me or not, so long as you can be respectful and thoughtful in your comments. My goal with Ghost of Blind Lemon has always been to encourage growth in the local music scene. I can only do so much on my own; I need your help.