Category Archives: Dallas

Self-Sacrifice For The Greater Good. Yours.

For inexplicable reasons, my friends Monsieur Shinn and his wife turned into American Idol fans last season. The rabid kind. The glued to the little screen ones who won’t go out three nights a week for fear of missing something idolly earth-shattering. I believe they may even have voted once or twice, not that they would ever cop to that. Sigh.

Last week, the Shinns informed me the AI try-outs would take place on the 26th in Arlington at the new Dallas Cowboys Stadium. My interest was purely photographic, of course, as I have been known to kill wee animals when I attempt to sing anything. I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to capture the madness. For you. My faithful readers whom I’ve neglected lately because of a cute French man. Who could blame me?

I thought about planting a small tent in the stadium parking lot the night before, hanging out, being down with the peeps, roasting s’mores on a makeshift fire, and bursting into spontaneous Thriller choreographies with the kids. However I do not own a small tent (nor a big one.) My idea of camping generally involves a chalet and room service. And, let’s be honest, all these pretenders to the throne are artists, bohemians if you will, and probably not proper company. So scratch that.

I woke up early instead. A few unexpected events foiled my initial plan to arrive at the Stadium well before 7 am and photograph the mad crowd: a half hour struggle with the snooze button, the absence of Starbucks coffee dripping down my veins, and the fact that Arlington had decided, since the last time I was there, to add 1) a new street with a stupid name right where I was supposed to veer off the highway, and 2) a new stadium. In close to 20 years in Texas, I have yet to set foot in a stadium. My ignorance showed. I ended up at the Ballpark, the baseball stadium, instead of the football stadium. After realizing the error of my ways, locating the right stadium, and taking 15 minutes to find an illegal spot to park, I realized with great dismay the 10,000 hopefuls had already vanished in the confines of the new shiny building.

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All that was left for me to photograph was the lazy ones, those with not enough drive to get at the audition on time like the other 10,000.

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Some looked just too cool to care about the time.

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Some looked like bad reincarnations of the Village People

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Some brought home-made paraphernalia

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Others, their good-luck tattoos, some of which looked… original and frightening at the same time:

AI_007Kinda looks like me when my brother shoots my portrait!

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Even scarier than the above-referenced tattoo, Heather Elmer, 27, who has already auditioned SEVEN times (some folks do not know when to call it quits), and was going to sing… Yeah, that’s right. Over the friggin’ Rainbow. Incidentally, she made it to the next round. How creepy is that?

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And oh surprise, reporting for the TV Guide Network, Alexis Grace who finished 11th last season. She is minuscule.

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Here she is, interviewing Jason Castro’s brother, Michael. For all of you non-Idol initiated, Jason was a semi-finalist on Season 7, and Michael got eliminated at Hollywood’s final round of Season 8. Was Michael going to audition again? I have no idea! I did not ask. I’m a crappy reporter. I’ll have to ask the Shinns next Season.

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While all of this exciting stuff was going on, Pat was chilling. Numerous were the peeps who did not know they could have registered to enter the stadium as supporters. Pat was waiting for her granddaughter. 7:30 am. A forecast of 100 degrees for the day. The auditions concluded at 6 pm. I hope she found a way to stay cool.

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This girl got the cooling part down pat, sending herself to oblivion.

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Some, like this lady, had brought their own sitting apparatus. 10 hours of wait. I would have brought a damn sofa. And fluffy pillows.

Not auditioning but making a lot of noise anyway, a bunch of youths with ‘tudes:

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The kids and not so kids were part of a new step ensemble, managed by a savvy business chick (mommawonder, I suppose) who immediately made them pose with the banner displaying her contact number. I need an agent like that.

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The band was led by a tough cookie, a small girl who, I’m sure, could kick my butt in one minute tops.

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I hung out a bit, being all hip and stuff

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The boy with the light colored shirt up front is Dominic who speaks French. Salut Dominic!!!!

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DJ Wild Hair (on the right) was in da house (see how I’m down with it?)

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And there were also very menacing looking men (who were actually the sweetest kids ever and who posed for me forever – we were having a swell time!) But a hot time too! Too hot for comfort. Time for me to head home but not before snooping a bit and taking a photograph of the $1.15 billion Stadium.

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This is what a $1.15 billion stadium looks like. Some call it “Six Flags over Jerry” (that’s Jerry Jones, the footballers owner. Even I know that!) The City of Arlington participated to the tune of $325 million. Personally in my own opinion, I think that I would have insisted for the Cowboys to be re-baptized Arlington Cowboys had I been the City of Arlington. To thank them for the $325 million, the new Stadium will only charge the honorable citizens of Arlington and others $40… for parking at major events. That’s $40 for a parking spot. Let’s say you decided to attend the U2 concert on Oct. 12. The ticket in the nosebleed section would cost you $30.00. Parking: $40.00. In other words, it would be more expensive for you to park your car than to attend the concert. Mmhmm…

I continued snooping around and guess who suddenly appeared in my line of vision?

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That’s right! The Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, all decked out with their sparkly pompoms, their wholesome cleavage, and their almost non-existing shorts!

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They were being filmed saying something very intellectual like “Texas is hotter!”

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A dude snooping next to me screamed at them: “I thought you’d be taller!” I turned to him and told him “I’m sure they thought you’d be slimmer!” That silenced him. Don’t you be rude to my sistas! Anyway, this did not excite me much but I thought that, after depriving my readers from Miami models, I owed them the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders. It was time to hit the road and find the closest Starbucks. I felt I deserved a extra humongous  latte. After all, the snooze button could have totally won…

The Night I joined the Peace Core

It was a dark school night of March when Dorin the Cougar showed me the full extent of her groupiness (in the spiritual sense, not Pamela De Barres way – which would make this post much juicier but even cougars have morals nowadays. sigh.) I had had hints of her fierce rock ‘n roll  attitude in the past but had never really had the pleasure to witness it first hand.

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For her birthday week-end, Dorin had driven more than 200 miles to Oklahoma City on Friday to catch a concert of Roger Clyne and the Peacemaker (RCPM for the initiated – and I will consider you initiated for the rest of this story), then had come back to Dallas on Saturday to attend The Old 97’s gig, and on Sunday night, she picked me up and drove another 40 miles to go see… RCPM play AGAIN! Thank goodness for the environment it’s not her birthday very often!

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After duly plugging my ears and breathing a set of second hand smoke from The Drams (good but hellbent on destroying lung tissue), I saw Dorin head to the bar and order tequila shots in anticipation of the main event – the shots, not for her… but for front man Roger Clyne.  Along the edge of the stage, tiny glasses began to appear from all directions. A tradition. A bit like buying beer for the sushi chef in a mark of appreciation. But beforehand. The atmosphere was quite friendly. People seemed to recognize each other from previous shows, and were exchanging hellos and knowing smiles. Dude, love was in the air.

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Then… there was Tim. Young blond Tim with the huge sombrero. Tim who was celebrating his birthday. Tim who knew no one  at the beginning of the show and was everybody’s best friend at the end (but I doubt he remembers any of this very clearly.)

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Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers were born out of the ashes of the Refreshments (think “Banditos” or the King of the Hill’s theme song.) The band split in 98 not through lack of talent, but unsupported by new management at Mercury records, and plagued by various personal problems of band members (think rock ‘n roll: drugs and nervous breakdowns.)

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When offers from other record companies did not pile up in the mail, freshly unRefreshed Roger Clyne, a ranger’s son who majored in anthropology and psychology at Arizona State, and P.H. Naffah, the quiet drummer with the pre-med degree, packed backpacks and guitars and set out to the desert near Tucson in search of a new direction. The soul searching venture was to last the biblical 40 days… but it got hot and they ended up in a bar after 17 days (which Roger deemed plenty.) They took the resulting songs to Phoenix bars for happy hours, and fairly rapidly received an enthusiastic response from the audience. The band with the name of a Colt bringing out peace was created.

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Three other musicians joined the Peacemakers through natural circumstances, almost by accident.  Gin Blossoms’ clean-cut Scotty Johnson on guitar, consummate rebel guitarist “Dirty” Steve Larson from the defunct Dead Hot Workshop, and a walking music encyclopedia, bassist Danny White who brought his country sensibility to the Peacemakers. The odd quintet boarded a van (dubbed rolling germ tube by P.H.) and hit the road with Jamie Lee, the road manager.

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The Peacemakers never benefited from the support of a major label. As an independent band, they had to gain their audience the hard way: “Get in the van and pour your heart out for two hours everysingleshow” Clyne commented in the documentary “Long ride Home.” Fans began to follow the band from town to town. This first vague of traveling adulators called themselves the Texas Troublemakers. They are the reason why, to this day, the musicians select a different set list for every show and make sure to pack enough clothes never to have to wear the same outfit two days on the row. They’d, like, totally get called on it.
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Not just anyone could join the troublemakers. Oh no siree! You first had to be initiated to belong (which basically meant you hung out with these folks for a few days, and if they liked you, you were in.) They used to wear nametags at RCPM concerts. They even gave Roger his own: “Hello, my name is Roger” that he stuck on his guitar, and a “Roger for President” bumper sticker that he put on the back of the instrument. There always was a genuine connection between the band and its fans.
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The current second vague of rabid fans constitutes the Peace Core. The prevailing attitude is largely that the band makes music for them and the fans give back in their own way. Their faithful following always propels the band instantly to the top ten internet sale chart when they release a new CD… Quite the accomplishment for an independent band.
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It’s not rare to see a Peace Core member come to a concert bearing gifts. The boys like their sweets! I have it under good authority that P.H. likes anything butterscotch and I surmise Roger likes Tequila – 100% Blue Agave – more than anything else in the “things that you ingest” world. Home-cooked meals are a hit for guys who spend most of the year on the road: Dorin even has a friend who brings spaghetti at their concerts!
After studying the band for the sake of this story, I suggest gifts of fireworks (you would not believe the excitation provoked by the sight of Evil Warlock or Monkey Car exploding devices!)
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Talking about fireworks, twice a year, the Peacemakers stage a big concert (4 hour set – 50 songs) in Puerto Penasco in Mexico, a three-day Circus Mexicus Extravaganza where the musicians mix in casually with the audience at functions such as the Mananathon, formerly known as “hangover brunch” on Sunday. Over the years, the almost intimate gathering which started in 2000 has become a huge deal where thousands descend for a week-end of music, tequila, and the sea (oh, of course, the boys detonate a shitload of fireworks too!)  Some old fans long for the days where only a few hundreds of them made the trip down to the Sea of Cortez and the accent was a little less on the partying aspect. But for now, let’s just hope that the swine flu scare does not affect attendance too much this year – the next Extravaganza is scheduled to take place from June 5th through June 7th, 2009.
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The Peace Core most definitely possesses a sense of ownership. It’s their band. The attachment appears almost cultish in nature. The current line-up includes only two members of the original band: Roger and P.H., and every time the band sheds one of its own, you’d think it’s the frigging end of the world! The new musician has big shoes to fill. Pressure… The same sinking feeling happens when, with the band’s increasing success, the old fans have to fight their way to the front of the stage. It did not use to be that way. They are “losing” their band to strangers… and young’uns too! How dare they?!
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brcpm_0941Guitarist Jim Dalton who replaced “Dirty” Steve Larson, the newest addition
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rcpm_070Nick Scropos on bass
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rcpm_074P.H. Naffah on drums
I’m no rock critic. I count strings before being able to tell the difference between the bass player and the guitarist. In other words, I’m the least qualified individual to speak in knowing terms about music. All I know is when these guys hit the stage, they deliver with crazy energy and conviction. The Clyne dude has the charisma of two Obamas and he is funny too. It’s bandido rock at its best!
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Audience response? The attendants freakishly know all the lyrics and sing along like it’s gospel except what’s lauded here is the love of tequila amidst other southwestern themes. In 2007, Clyne even produced his own 1,000 bottles of Tequila, Mexican Moonshine.
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tequila_001Clyne meditating amongst the pinas destined to be chopped, roasted, shredded and fermented into tequila
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What is also cool about this band is that their independence gives them the opportunity to explore uncharted territories and relate the experience to their fans. In January 08, the band rented a small seaside house in Mexico, and produced 8 songs in 8 days, “from creative impetus to final mix.” J. boots, the official videographer (self-taught guitarist at 27, former roomate of American Pie’s Steve Stiffler, and compelled occasional trumpet player) filmed the experience which was then shared every day on the RCPM site. The end result was the CD “Turbo Ocho.”
This year, breaking grounds once again, they are unveiling their new musical endeavor “Glow in the Dark”, one song at the time, on their website… Website which is currently kaput but no one is perfect and they sent out a nice note to all their fans to acknowledge the problem.
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brcpm_0641J Boots (a hottie in his own right)

In the end, I understand better now why my buddy Dorin shows so much interest in this band. I’m converted (in a non-practicing sort of way.) More than anything, these are lovable good guys that play intelligent organic rock (I mean organic in the sense that they don’t rely on any fancy shmancy clicktracks or samplings – it’s just the four dudes with vocals, guitars, bass and drums… and J Boots being thrown on stage with a trumpet occasionally.) They do it the hard way, trying to ride a very fine line between art and being able to pay their bills, and it’s in my nature to root for the underdogs (especially quality mutts.)

After the show, they hang out a bit, talking to the fans and letting them take pictures.

rcpm2_014Dorin and P.H.

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scan0003Roger and Dorin in 1996! They haven’t changed a bit! Hee! Hee!

After the photo op, it was time to go home, but then our good friend Tim showed up, walking what seemed to be a winding sidewalk, and crushing his sombrero on the wall for balance while his poor loyal pal tried to put some sense into him: “Tim, man, you’ll be plastered all over the net tomorrow!” Well it took a little longer than that… but to prove your friend right, here it is:

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Just time to take another one of Tim with fans who were lining up to have their picture taken with the infamous birthday boy…

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For the people who regularily read my blog, you’re probably wondering about my subject matter this time. Not exactly my usual stuff. I just had so much fun at their concert I felt it would be a good thing to spread the love. Their next gig in Dallas is on May 9th, 2009, at House of Blues… but a word of caution to the newbies out there, I have first dibs on front row. I would not want the love to come back and bite me in the bottom either.

I have pillaged many many sources to write this sprawling piece of more or less random facts: the brain of Dorin and her Troublemaker friends, the Canadian documentary “Long Ride Home”, The article “Tequila-Fueled Tunes” from High Country News, the interview of Roger Clyne by Keith Howardson from Americana Music Times, fan posts, and other articles I failed to bookmark because I’m imperfect.  Alas.

See y’all at House of Blues!

Dallas, the New Paris

Dallas, Texas. They say everything here is bigger but I’m not convinced. I keep on checking for my growth spurt, but I remain diminutive.

Living here is ok… as long as you make extensive use of the international airport, but my dog Virus will draw his final breath before I pack another suitcase. I owe him for 15 years of devoted service and all the dead presents, so I stay put. But I ITCH!!!

The other day a sudden awareness struck me. I realized that, to many, Dallas would be considered different and exotic. Obviously not if you live around these parts, but what about if you lived in Rome or London? I bet you English folks still think Southfork Ranch lies right smack in the middle of town (which it totally does not! Ha!)

Dallas is my new Paris. Minus the croissants and the old buildings and art that no one bothered to replace over there because, you know, they are a bunch of socialists after all…

Bye bye Art!

Driving south on 35, after crossing the Trinity River, you arrive in a neighborhood called Oak Cliff. It knows no official bounds; anything south of the river is pretty much considered Oak Cliff. Many celebrities either lived there or attended its schools: Sergeant Garcia from Zorro certainly did, and so did Batgirl.

Then, there were some for whom Oak Cliff did not bring a lot of luck. It is said that Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow met there in 1930 and we all know what happened to them. Then, there is also Dennis Rodman. When he attended South Oak Cliff High School, he failed to make the football team. Freshman year, he quit basketball in the midst of the season for not having been given enough playing time. Truth be told, he was only 5 ft 6 at the time. We all know the rest of the story. He left Oak Cliff to attend college, grew to be 6 ft 7, dyed his hair funky crazy and dated Madonna. Sometimes a change of venue is all it takes.

Nowadays Oak Cliff has bits of parts for the well-off, and plenty of parts for the not so well-off and the not so white. Most places, it’s not so safe either. I decide to walk along the route of the former steam railroad on Jefferson Boulevard.

First impression? A lot of Spanish!

Second impression? If it’s not your first language, buy a dictionary. You just know that this little fellow will misspell the word “cigar” for the remainder of his life. In all fairness, 80 cents for a supreme cigar seems like a bargain to me.

This Tejano sells Cds on the street. His friend approaches me as I am walking along the Boulevard and asks me what I am doing. I never thought I looked anything like a threat, but indigenes plain don’t like outsiders in this part of town… that is until we start talking on the sidewalk and he tells me all about his former gang activities and the murders he witnessed. Pause. “But, er, we’re friends now, right?” He reassures me and tells me he is going to watch over me. Five minutes in the hood and I’ve got myself a spankin’ new guardian angel! Or a guardian evil…

I continue my walk and cross paths with this couple of lovebirds who maintain their very own red shopping cart.

This is Brenda. Brenda scares me. As I look through the window of the laundromat, she briskly opens the door and, with a bit of what could be easily described as a disapproving tone, questions my presence on the premise. She is smaller than I am but she could take me. With a finger. I stutter something about Sergeant Garcia and Dennis Rodman and my blog and Paris and she appears overwhelmed by a sense of great pity. Silly little blond is going to have a hard time going through life with that pea-size brain! She requests a photograph. We’re buds.

Ah kids! The little girl sits on the table, patiently waiting, and her smile is beaming. After taking Brenda’s portrait, I really need a more reassuring subject. I could definitely take her.

I catch this family in front of the bus depot. The boy in the yellow tee-shirt hams it up. The boy in the orange shirt just wants to die of embarrassment. A camera generally has this effect on teenagers, especially when the whole family is involved.

This is the Supermercado. In front, another seller of CDs. I try to convince him to have his portrait taken but when he learns I have already photographed the competition, he shuts down like a clam. His CD selection is not as good anyway.

At this point, I’m starting to feel as if I had traveled to Mexico. The colors, the people, the language: there is absolutely nothing Anglo about this place besides the street names. Add a beach and I’m moving there.

A muy cool Tejano plays pool. The rules are different. Instead of starting the game with all the balls in a triangle, he aligns them on both sides of the table.

At first, this young Tejano appears very reluctant and even a little stern. He “warmed up” eventually although you really can’t tell by looking at this photograph. I want boots like that too.

The cohort of Stern Tejano, all wife-beatered and pumaed. Tejano sell-out!

Diana. In the arms of her mami. Hating me. For delaying her supper. I look like that too when I’m hungry.

At the bus depot, this Mexican man provides drinks and food to the waiting passengers. He is incredibly sweet.

In front of the bus depot, two men in intense conversation. We mean serious business.

As I make my way back, this little thing catches my eyes. She is mesmerized by me. I steal her image. I generally always ask the parents, but I just could not resist the moment.

Waiting for a call? Waiting to make one? Does anyone still use public phones?

The hair salon. All this pinkness! You feel transported back to another era. If I managed a pink salon, I would ban bright yellow products.

I enter a check cashing joint and see this security guard. To obtain the permission to photograph him, I would have gone through extraordinary lengths, jumped through hoops, and sold my grand-mother. There is something incredibly touching about him beyond his droopy eyes and high-waisted pants: the man just exudes goodness and sense of duty.

You should always pay for your ticket. Ask Lee Harvey Oswald! If the dude had paid for his ticket at the Texas Theater, he might still be sipping cocktails on a beach somewhere in the Pacific. Sometimes small savings do not pay off in the end.

I walk on the now seemingly deserted boulevard. A big black dude in a big black car moves slowly along the sidewalk. He lowers the window on the passenger’s side and asks me to join him for a ride. He is holding some kind of baton that he rubs in upward and downward motions as he insists heavily. I kinda like my life and I really feel like I ought to go home right about that time. I see him park his car a little further down the street. Time to get the hell out of here!

Bye bye Oak Cliff!