Thomas Lauderdale, the gay bandleader of Pink Martini, expects dancing in the aisles at Bass Hall
Bass Hall, 525 Commerce St., Fort Worth
April 23â€“24 at 8 p.m. April 25 at 2 p.m.
Thomas Lauderdale knows his audiences vary depending on the venue. The last time he and his band Pink Martini came to North Texas, they played a raucous, clubby show at the House of Blues. That’s a far cry from the staid formality of the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra at Bass Hall.
Or is it?
"It’ll possibly be an older crowd, but probably a lot of crossover audience," Lauderdale says. "We don’t have a preference, but we’ll plan to turn Bass Hall into the House of Blues in a way."
Pink Martini is a music anomaly. The big band could easily be categorized as a jazzy lounge outfit, but they throw in classical and ’40s movie music. Add in world sounds and guest vocalists like Mexican music legend Chavela Vargas and a Pink Martini concert is an unusual — and unusually likely — event.
Despite a flair for international rhythms, Lauderdale says his group isn’t about world music, but its rep for embracing many musical styles is part of its development.
"The band started out of a gay rights cause in Oregon," the bandleader says. "Then we became the house band for progressive causes in Portland. But I kind of wanted to create a band I would want to go see."
Sixteen years and four albums later, Lauderdale finds himself in the biggest musical playground he’s ever imagined. He characterizes Pink Martini’s music as inclusive with a United Nations vibe; lucky for them, it caught on. Plus, the band’s sound owes much to Lauderdale being a "card-carrying gay" and devout movie lover.
"Being a gay guy, how couldn’t I like those Rita Hayworth films or Busby Berkeley musicals?" he asks. "I think that has a lot to do with our sound and especially to me, as a classical musician. But also, I grew up in a multicultural family and I have a gay father; all of that stuff helped form the band for me."
The collaboration with Chavela Vargas is a formula Lauderdale thrives on. Don’t expect to see Pink Martini teaming up with the likes of Britney Spears — Lauderdale prefers working with a more seasoned generation.
"I love working with older people," he says. "We’ve collaborated with Jane Powell, Henri Salvador, Lesley Gore. But all the people I want to work with are gone: Tammy Faye Bakker, Aurora Miranda [Carmen's younger sister], Rita Hayworth. We wouldn’t work with mainstream artists. I love that children respond to the band because it’s introducing them to a world diametrically opposed to pop music."
Lauderdale extends his old school ways even to the medium of Pink Martini’s music. The band can be downloaded easily from iTunes, but he’s digging the musical trend of artists releasing work on vinyl again. That is right up Martini’s alley.
"Our music sounds so much better on vinyl," he says. "We record in an old fashioned way, onto two-inch tape. When we record that way, the elements will sound better on vinyl. Plus, I love that crackle."
Lauderdale’s throwback to vinyl makes him correct on one thing he said earlier — the retro trend would cater to his crossover audiences. In turn, he’s expecting that all kinds will show up for the band’s show. His best-case scenario for the Bass Hall performance is an enthusiastic crowd of young and old — especially one that’s going to get out of their seats.
"The band is structured in such a way that it’s kind of an element of spectacle to have plain live instruments. But it’s hopefully entertaining as well," he says. "We’re pretty dance-y. We want conga lines from the audience in the aisles."
Dallas Lesbian Festival returns
Dallas doesn’t have many music festivals (we’re definitely no Austin), but thanks to Sue Ellen’s, the 2010 Dallas Lesbian Festival helps to fill that void while also being a niche event.
Featuring local performers like Ciao Bella and Heather Knox, pictured, while bringing in non-local Kristy Lee, the festival is an inspired one. If it’s done great, it should only get bigger.
Sue Ellen’s, 3014 Throckmorton Street. April 25 at 2 p.m. $15. Caven.com.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 23, 2010.