I was on the fence about this one. When I got corporate approval to attend a week-long conference in Dallas, I was pretty excited for the possibility of seeing some bands that don't ever tour anywhere near me. Dallas is big, right? They must get all kinds of shows. Then I got on Pollstar, and discovered that I was seemingly there for Canadian Week. It was like they knew I was coming. I have nothing against Great Lake Swimmers, but they play Regina fairly regularly. And I DO have something against Theory Of A Deadman. That basically left the Dandy Warhols and Kristin Chenoweth, and while I liked GCB as much as the next guy (which probably isn't a whole lot), I decided to opt for the band I vaguely knew.
Much like Kasabian, this was a case of me knowing a whole two of a band's songs before the show. I also thought that going to the show might make Mika jealous, but it turns out that she only knew two songs too. The same two: Bohemian Like You and We Used To Be Friends. I got both songs from Feely back in the day, which means that it was way too long ago and I am a sad old man. Good songs, though.
I bought the ticket in advance and figured I'd go to the show if I felt like it and if a better option didn't come along. The first few days in Dallas felt a bit isolating; much like in Regina (but on a much bigger scale, of course), downtown seemed to empty out at 5:00 p.m. The first night, I was lucky to find a Subway that stayed open until 7:30. I had resigned myself to evenings of pricey flaky hotel Wi-Fi, but after Wednesday's presentations, I went exploring and saw some really pretty architecture (and had a kickass burger). Mood renewed, I decided to take in the show.
I knew the House of Blues was within walking distance, but not knowing the neighborhood, I opted for a $10 cab ride. I can live with that.
The restaurant part of the House of Blues was booked for a private function, so I didn't get to see it. Instead, they sent us in through the back - which I suspect is normal if you're going to shows there. I was really impressed by the venue; really good acoustics and sight lines. It was just generally an attractive place - and very cool (in the temperature sense, I mean). I'm not sure why, in the middle of a Canadian winter, I go to a show and I'm sweating in minutes, but Dallas can keep a club so cool that you almost wish you'd brought a sweater.
My experience with Dallas indicates that the Texans have mastered the fine art of air conditioning. In fact, I'd suggest that the hotel was a little overzealous; I saw one conference attendee on Twitter threaten to make herself a hobo blanket out of conference evaluation forms.
Other things Texans like: Dr. Pepper, spicy chips, lime-flavoured chips, spicy lime-flavoured chips, and referencing God at every opportunity. I have been blessed so many times, you have no idea. I had thought GCB was supposed to be satire but mayhaps it was a documentary? At any rate, after the first day, I switched my clock radio to a Top 40 station. I'd rather wake up to the racket that the kids listen to today than news stories about "abortion-inducing drugs" and "so-called gay marriage." USA USA USA
Anyway. Enough filler and editorializing. Our opening band was called 1776, or at least I assume they weren't Seventeen Seventy-Six. I am not going to pay airplane Wi-Fi fees in order to do research and resolve this issue. I had been prepared to say "generic rock band with 80s metal haircuts," but damned if they weren't kinda catchy. I sense some potential in these ones. They closed with a cover of Aerosmith's Train Kept A-Rollin', which left me with a big smile on my face. That song was in one of the early Guitar Heroes and it had a reputation among my friends for coming up "randomly" about every third song. Not only did that amuse, but this was easily 1776's best song of the evening. I would have liked to see a bit of that energy in their originals.
As far as I knew, The Dandy Warhols had a few hits some years ago and then kinda disappeared. That's what happens when you rely on Feely for your new music - he eventually finds better things to do with his time and you just assume that nobody is making new songs anymore. But here they were, with a bunch of CDs I'd never heard (including a brand new one) and a club packed with fans. And there had evidently been more hits that I didn't know about, since we got the requisite moments where they'd play a few notes and everyone would go bonkers and I'd be all "...yeah! Notes!"
Halfway through their first song, a girl pulled me aside and asked if they'd played (Song I've Never Heard Of). I told her that this was their first song, and I have never seen such delight. She disappeared into the crowd soon after; I hope they played whatever it was.
I do know they played We Used To Be Friends right near the opening, and Bohemian Like You right before the end. In between, there was a nice mix of tunes that I could try to describe, but really, why bother? Some songs were fast and energetic and some were slow; see also: pretty much every show ever.
I couldn't understand the words for many of the songs, but that may have been by design. There were times when the lead singer would belt things out and other times he seemed big into mumbling.
He was also left by himself for two songs when everyone else went to take a pee break. Amusingly, they later said "can we just count these last two songs as the encore to save us the effort of leaving and coming back?" This is exactly what they did, and it is a practice I highly endorse. It feels so much less phony on everyone's part.
The band seemed to have a good time in general. Apart from the usual talk about what a great crowd we were and what a great place this was, there was something going on at the front of the stage. I don't know what someone in the crowd was doing or wearing or whatever, but the band ordered the house lights raised so they could take a picture of it. They seemed greatly amused. And not "greatly abused" like AutoCorrect tried to have you believe.
I had a good time too! But I think the guy who had the best time was the middle-aged man standing directly in front of me. (By "middle-aged," I mean the guy was probably my age but I've held on to my hair a little better. God, I'm old.) This dude was clearly a diehard fan. He clapped (off beat) and sang (off key) and danced (if you want to call it that) and at one point said "time to drop some acid!" in a way that left me thinking that he's not entirely sure what acid is. I think he might believe that one drops acid by adding a base in order to neutralize it. But whatever; this dude seemingly had the time of his life (his wife, maybe less so) and enthusiasm like that can't help but spread.
Following the show, a nice House of Blues employee kindly directed me to a cab. And I did need direction, since I had absolutely no idea where he was pointing to. Silly tourist. In Texas, cabs park... along the side of the road just like they do everywhere else. I blame fatigue and cultural ignorance. Everything's bigger in Texas, including my confusion.
What a great album! These guys take U2, Radiohead, Coldplay and a bit of the Cure and make it their own thing. And they do it really well! It's a small group (a drummer, a keyboard player and the singer) who manage to sound really big.