The skinny on what to watch, listen, and study for music aficionados in Dallas
For fans of the Dallas music scene, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone more dialed-in than the writers at Central Track. Every month, its editor and founder Pete Freedman shares his picks for the city’s can’t-miss live shows and music-related events to attend. Up this month…
About five years back or so, all of Dallas’ major music tastemakers—critics, booking agents, the few local DJs that pay attention to the area scene—all formed a consensus around an upstart indie rock outfit comprised of Southern Methodist University-affiliated musicians known as Catamaran. Quick as those types usually are to dismiss Park Cities products (for no other reason than because how dare they), the appeal of Catamaran’s breezy, five-song Weekend EP was undeniable; it was approachable and high-minded at once, coming off like a Dallas version of New Jersey’s critically acclaimed Real Estate.
Life apparently intervened, though (as so often happens with area bands, and especially university-related ones), and Catamaran quietly fizzled out into That Good Night. So it was a pleasant surprise, then, when one of Catamaran’s bassists Chris Escarfullery announced earlier this year that, not only was he still around, but he’d formed a new Dallas band called Ruff Wizard that, in many ways, was picking off right where his last band left off. Better yet, it seems he’s doing so with that other outfit’s full blessing. At this Double Wide show, which is serving as Ruff Wizard’s own debut EP release, Escarfullery’s old Catamaran crew is reuniting, throwing its weight behind his new effort, with area current indie rock scene torchbearers Kyoto Lo-Fi and Mr. Breakfast joining in on the fun. Back during indie rock’s late ‘00s/earlier ‘10s peak, a show like this would’ve taken place in a much-larger venue; now, it’ll take place in a smaller space, with its attendees somehow seeming even more cool. Tickets: $10
SUNDAY, JUNE 16
Son of Stan, Acid Carousel, Sealion and more at Three Links
Looking not just to squint at the North Texas music scene, but to fully immerse yourself in it? This Sunday-afternoon-into-evening Deep Ellum offering fits that billing and then some. On the surface, it might sound a little too insider-y, actually. Billed on social media as “Jorts & Steve’s Bday BBQ,” this weekend-closing party indeed finds Son of Stan front man Jordan “Jorts” Richardson and bassist Steve Steward jointly acknowledging their latest trips around the sun by inviting their closest friends to come throw down with them; but any ol’ average attendee will surely leave feeling fulfilled, as these two’s pals just so happen to play in some of the tightest, most compelling acts in the region. Before their own ‘80s yacht rock- and ‘90s college rock-indebted act caps things off, this show will feature sets from the rabble-rousing area psych revivalists Acid Carousel, revered regional singalong punk favorites Sealion, Fort Worth rafter-rattlers Whep and Dallas’ bar-rockin’ Captain Tornado—plus various “special guest” on-stage appearances by as-yet-unannounced movers and shakers from Richardson and Stewards’ considerable spheres of influence.
Per promotional promises, one presumes the Three Links patio will feature some sort of grilling action as well. Every previous word in this blurb notwithstanding, the proceedings won’t just feature local rock scene hooliganism, either: A portion of the door will be donated to the Texas Equal Access Fund, which helps low-income area women cover the costs of Alabama-shunned healthcare that they otherwise might not be able to afford. Tickets: $10
More often than you might expect, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra deviates from performing the anticipated classical music fare, casting aside the Tchaikovsky and Mozart compositions that its gray-haired season ticket-holders champion in favor of greater public-pleasing celebrations of music from the Star Trek and Harry Potter franchises, among other well-scored popular culture touchstones. Still, even those offerings don’t really find the best musicians that Dallas can buy venturing too far outside of their wheelhouses; film and TV pieces like those are generally penned with symphonies of this size and scope in mind. If you really wanna see these world-class players flashing their abilities to the fullest, the trick is to scoop tickets for the rare occasions where the DSO teams up with pop musicians.
Following in the footsteps of recent-past collaborations with power pop icon Elvis Costello and the Lake Highlands-sprung indie rock provocateur St. Vincent,comes this highly anticipated performance with Erykah Badu, the neo-soul pioneer who arguably stands as this city’s greatest musical treasure. No stranger to performing with ace players herself (Badu’s own backing band is filled with world-renowned Dallas musicians who’ve also toured with the likes for Janet Jackson, Snoop Dogg and Justin Timberlake), it should prove quite the thrill to see the so-called Queen of White Rock Lake—who has a tendency to go off-script in live settings and force her team to keep up with her improvisations — finding a middle-ground with an entity that, by nature, is expected to be well-rehearsed. Here’s hoping it won’t be the last time this opportunity arises. That this hasn’t happened before now is, quite frankly, a shocker. Tickets: $60 to $160
SATURDAY, JUNE 22
This World Won’t Break at Texas Theatre
No, this one isn’t a live performance, but it’ll almost certainly provide more insight into the day-to-day life of a struggling Dallas musician than any regular ol’ concert would. Some five years in the making, Dallas filmmaker Josh David Jordan’s This World Won’t Break is a modern-day musical (a la 2009’s Crazy Heart or last year’s A Star Is Born) that tells the tale of Wes Milligan, a singer-songwriter who’s flirted with modest success but is at wit’s—and perhaps his entire career’s—end because booking the one-off gig around town here or there ain’t paying the bills or fulfilling his dreams. Under-heralded Dallas troubadour Greg Schroeder stars in the lead role, playing a character whose fictional aspirations and frustrations aren’t too far off from his real ones. Beautifully shot and featuring songs penned by Schroeder himself, the film won the audience award at the Dallas International Film Festival earlier this year.
Though it’s currently being screened all around the country as a willing and welcome participant in the independent film fest circuit, this is only the film’s second area screening. As a result, expect a big turnout for this showing, and a crowd filled with plugged-in local music scene types, a great number of which either show up in supporting or cameo roles in the perhaps-too-real-for-comfort depiction of life as a working musician in today’s climate. Tickets: $10
Since its launch in 2017, Dallas’ recurring Hip-Hop Book Club offering has rather organically grown into one of the more compelling and noteworthy cultural events in the city. A monthly gathering in which hip-hop fans discuss in-depth a well-in-advance announced seminal rap release just as a traditional book club would dissect a treasured piece of literature, this offering stands as proof that despite the genre’s constant struggle to be taken seriously in mainstream America, rap is indeed one of our great societal art forms —and deserves to be treated as such. Simply by acknowledging and embracing this obvious fact, the four area friends who conceived and host this concept have earned props from not just from local tastemakers, but also from the New York-based writers who fill the pages of legendary hip-hop magazine The Source.
Acclaim has also taken the show outside of city limits, with organizers being invited to bring their breakdowns of milestone rap releases to audiences in Houston and even to school-sanctioned sessions hosted at The University of North Texas in Denton. This month, as the third season in the ongoing series kicks off with a deep dive of Jay-Z’s historic 2001 release The Blueprint, the event’s upward trajectory continues: After years of hosting its talks in whichever record and streetwear store will take them, the House of Blues has recognized Hip-Hop Book Club’s appeal and cosigned its efforts by agreeing to house its assemblies. It’s like they say: Game recognizes game. Tickets: Free with RSVP.