PHOTOS: Inaugural North Texas Taco Festival draws huge crowds

Velvet Taco's one buck meal.

Saturday was the inaugural North Texas Taco Festival, and if turnout is any indication of interest, it won’t be the last. Well before it ended at 5 p.m., lines were long (note next year: More tacos!) and attendees well-fed for what is probably the cheapest attack on the wallet of any food festival in memory. (Tacos averages less than $2 each — you could eat a dozen and barely break a $20. Trust me.)

Lots of purveyors were there, including Velvet Taco (not my favorite taqueria, but they were serving for a buck — very little I won’t eat for a buck), Chili Pepper Grill in Fort Worth (the only place serving tripe, as well as my favorite single taco of the day, the suadero), El Tizoncito (four for $5, all excellent) as well as lamb, beef fajita, free Topo Chico mineral water … and gorgeous weather.

In addition to the booths, a panel of taco experts (including Komali chef Anastasia Quinones) talked about the essential street food before judging the best gourmet taco prepared by chefs (including The Grape’s Brian Luscher and Five Sixty’s Patton Robertson) who don’t typically serve tacos on their menu. (The winner was Driftwood’s Omar Flores, with a taco topped by a housemade chicharron.)

Check out scenes from the festival below.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

This week’s takeaways: Life+Style

IMG_6695The Turtle Creek Chorale tips its hat to Broadway this weekend with its Kander & Ebb concert, a show featuring two dozen of the songwriting teams’ most memorable hits. It’s at the City Performance Hall through Sunday. Right next door, you can check out Val Kilmer in his one-man show, Citizen Twain, playing at the Wyly. And across the street, the Dallas Opera’s season winds up with alternating performances of Turandot and The Aspern Papers at the Winspear.

On Saturday, you can get the energy to go get all your other chores done by popping by Deep Ellum for the inaugural North Texas Taco Festival, sponsored by our good friend Jose Ralat-Maldonado of the Taco Trail blog. That evening, hop over to the Hilton Anatole for the annual Bloomin’ Ball fundraiser for AIN.

On Saturday and Sunday, there are plenty of activities (in Fair Park and in Oak Cliff) leading up to Earth Day, which is officially on Monday. Then later in the week, two film festival get going: The USA Film Festival kicks off Wednesday, and runs through the following Sunday. And over in Fort Worth, QCinema returns with its spring series with the one-night-only screening of Lesbian Shorts: The Best of the Fest.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

YACHT tonight at Club Dada

Sail away, sail away

Head on down to Deep Ellum for the ultra queer friendly and eclectically spiritual, YACHT. Their Shangri-La Tour stops in Dallas bringing a night of experimental pop and all around coolness.

They have a thing with triangles and usually spell their name Y4CHT or Y∆CHT. Why the caps? Oh, it just stands for Young Americans Challenging High Technology. Cool, huh? Be there.

DEETS: With Onuinu and Zhora. Club Dada, 2720 Elm St. 8 p.m. $12–$14.

—  Rich Lopez

Concert Notice: Xiu Xiu supports Swans in Sept.

The last time Xiu Xiu was down this way, the Crown and Harp on Lower Greenville was still known as The Cavern. Now the eclectic indie popsters return to Dallas this fall. They support Swans at Trees on Sept. 16. The show is put on by Tactics Productions.

The band tours in support of its latest release Always which was released earlier this year. A strange blend of pop and avant-garde, the sound is distinctly Xiu Xiu led by the equally multifarious and queer frontman Jamie Stewart, pictured.

Tickets for Swans/Xiu Xiu go on sale June 1 here.

I never seem to understand their videos and they lean toward a quirky type of gruesome, but I can never stop watching. The same goes for their latest video “Honeysuckle” which you can watch after the jump.

—  Rich Lopez

Lula B’s throws anniversary party tonight

Lula B’s, a staple in the Readers Voice Awards for its antiques and vintage items, has been at its second locale in Deep Ellum for two years now and they wanna celebrate it. Tonight from 5:30 to 9:30, you can enjoy free food, wine and beer, plus live music from Michael Donner and the Southern Renaissance. Some of the dealers will also be offering discounts, and of course you can always just browse all the kitschy collectibles.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Lord Byron offers free music downloads

When I was doing this profile on Byron Laszlo, AKA Lord Byron, he and I chatted about options for getting more people into the Panoptikon experience. Panop is Laszlo’s weekly dance party in the old Club One spot. Every Friday night he and his team of DJs bring on the eclectic tunes that offer a nightlife alternative to your usual dance club hits.

“Some people may look at us and call us Gothic, and while I’ll play that sometimes, the music is universal from Robyn to German electronica to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs,” he told me for the article.

And now he’s opening that up to you. Every year he does a compilation CD and has been offering downloadable versions of those for free. From

New to PANOPTIKON? Happen to read about us in the Dallas Voice? Connect with us now. Send an email to & we’ll send you links to PANOPTIKON’s mixed CD’s to download. Join us every Friday for the best alternative dance experience.

Enjoy the Music.
- Byron

Then hit up the weekly event tonight. Every first Friday, Laszlo himself takes over the turntable so you will be getting the truest Panop experience.

—  Rich Lopez

Dance in the dark

Lord Byron’s Panoptikon dance parties provide a high-energy alternative for Deep Ellum clubgoers


POETRY IN MOTION | Byron Laszlo, aka Lord Byron, has nurtured an eclectic style at his Friday parties, which have been going on for nearly six years in the old Club One space. (Photo courtesy Michelle McLaughlin)

Panoptikon sounds like a dark, mysterious empire borne out of Star Wars or 19th century Utilitarians. Conjuring an industrial, aggressive image, there’s nothing to say it isn’t — save for Byron Laszlo. His weekly dance night in the old Club One space has thrived with the support of a devoted fan base. But the atmosphere is far from that darkness he so masterfully plays off.

“The objective of Panoptikon has been the same,” Laszlo says. “People come to have an awesome time. We welcome all crowds and anybody who wants to feel comfortable in their own skin.”

But it has been a hell of a road. Laszlo — who goes by the handle Lord Byron, the Romantic poet his mother named him after — has overcome a wild youth, a battle with alcohol and living in the closet all to pursue his passion for the nightclub scene.

Laszlo grew up with the classic rock and disco of the ‘70s but started hitting Deep Ellum clubs as an underage teen in the New Wave ‘80s. That fascination grew into infatuation with the hip, older crowd and underground venues like Video Bar and Aqua Lounge. He was hooked.

“I never really had that DJ talent — I just wanted to play music,” he admits. “It was about 1991 where I wanted to be on that side of the business and so I made this mixtape of music and I was hired at Aqua Lounge. “

Laszlo went on to become a staple in the scene, but in 2000, he pulled away from it all. He had to.

“I was drinking heavily and I wasn’t handling those consequences very well,” he says. “It was very fortunate I never went to prison.”

After five DWIs, he realized his problem and immediately quit alcohol altogether — even mouthwash. Laszlo asserts that while he may not crave a drink anymore, he hasn’t been perfect. And his healthier path didn’t come without worry.

“I missed being involved with clubs and I wanted to get back into it, but I didn’t know if I could do it sober,” he says.

Six years ago, Laszlo boldly walked into Club One to pitch his idea to the Martinez family, the new owners. While Deep Ellum was undergoing a surge in hip-hop music, he had to convince them to host a weekly party featuring everything but that. Such a decision at that time could only be poison for a nightclub.

“Hip-hop was hot, but I wanted something that would get more people to want to go out,” venue manager Shelley Martinez says. “I felt Byron was the perfect fit and his music helps people get to a place of happiness. That’s why I continue to stay beside him.”

Panoptikon will celebrate six years next month, overcoming any stigma from the hip-hop environment, the lingering gay aura of the old Club One and the general fear of Deep Ellum. He has reconfigured the Friday night event, adding bands and burlesque to the usual mix. His changing recipe keeps a devoted crowd and offers something for new fans as he reaches out to SMU students, the Cedar Springs regulars and anyone else willing to party for the mere fun of it.

“Shelley stuck with me the whole time. I’ve fought like hell for this and succeeded,” he says. “Some people may look at us and call us Gothic, and while I’ll play that sometimes, the music is universal from Robyn to German electronica to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.”

Laszlo started out Panoptikon on a more musically aggressive note. Over the recent past, that music has taken on a happier vibe. Coincidentally, Laszlo came out about two years ago. His partner Jiri noticed the evolution.

“Every year I make an anniversary CD and he told me he could hear this progression,” he says. “Taking a step back to look at it, it made sense.”

Laszlo lived a sheltered life abetted by depression. Fearing judgment, he even remained closeted during the first year of their relationship. He gives his partner the credit to face facts.

“I have a very wonderful partner and he was so encouraging,” he says. “I fought it very hard and wore a lot of masks. Then we just decided to let everyone know.  I was already the black sheep of the family; I might as well be the gay black sheep. And it’s been the best thing.”

He has expanded his party empire to the monthly throwback Disco Versus Retro, a night of ’70s and ’80s music that brings him full circle to the music he grew up with. He hadn’t realized April’s event was the night’s three-year anniversary.

Where Panoptikon veers in all directions with an eclectic mix of people and sounds, D v. R celebrates trash disco and the irreverent ’80s with attire that includes afro wigs, shiny clothing and even roller skates — and not even in an ironic fashion.

“It is such a blast and our way to reach out to patrons who might not come to Panoptikon,” he beams. “Plus, the club has this big wooden floor and it’s so great for skates!”

As for getting the Cedar Springs crowd to stop in to one of his nights, Laszlo is quick to offer a spiel. It’s nothing rehearsed because Laszlo has a way of speaking that every word comes out heartfelt.

“We’ve always had an LGBT crowd and I know our location is probably the biggest wall for the Cedar Springs crowd but I would like them to just venture out one night our way and have just as much fun if not more. Just once. And I think they’d come back — even with friends.”
Visit for Laszlo’s  calendar of events.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 20, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

Concert Notice: Jay Brannan returns to play Sons of Hermann Hall this August

I had a hint of this already, but the official word is out that gay singer-songwriter Jay Brannan will make his return to Dallas this summer. Upon release of his latest album Rob Me Blind this week, the folkster will hit the road in July, making his way to town August 13. He’ll play at the Sons of Hermann Hall (yes!) in Deep Ellum and is another notch in Tactics Productions’ increasingly impressive roster of concert bookings with some LGBT-friendly approach on the side. Props to those guys.

The last time we saw Brannan here was at The Loft in late 2010.

Brannan posted this video on release day yesterday and even gave a live performance of the song “The State of Music.” Check it after the jump.

—  Rich Lopez

GIVEAWAY: Tix to Of Montreal tonight at Trees

The guys over at Tactics Productions have offered Dallas Voice readers the chance to win tickets to tonight’s Of Montreal show at Trees in Deep Ellum. Did you miss them at the Granada? Chose Kylie over them at South Side Music Hall? Well, you get another chance to catch the alterna-popsters in major action tonight.

We have four pairs of tickets to tonight’s show, but how well do you know your Of Montreal? Well, if I were traveling to Norway, what two towns would the band recommend I visit? Hint: both answers are on one album. Email me here with your responses and full name and four winner with the right answers will be selected to see the band tonight.

And while you’re at it, give Tactics a like on Facebook. They’ve been quite generous to the community and DV readers.

Good luck!


—  Rich Lopez

The Music Issue: A new gigness

Out singer Jackie Hall is the best Dallas diva you don’t know about … yet


QUEER HOMECOMING | In recent years, Jackie Hall has performed in venues from biker bars to blues clubs, but the lesbian singer is now turning her attention back toward her fellows in the gay community. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer

To label your band an “experience” is gutsy, but if it’s true, why not? When the frontlady for The Jackie Hall Experience belts out a tune, people shut up and listen. Always.

So why are you just now hearing about her?

“The career is slower than I like, but I just see it as part of paying my dues,” Hall sighs. “I welcome it all in God’s time, but I know change is gonna come.”

Making it in the music biz comes with frustration, and Hall has had her share. But breaking onto the Sue Ellen’s stage has reinvigorated her two-fold: She’s got a gig that pays and she’s getting her name back out in the LGBT community, even though the response “Jackie Who?” remains a hurdle.

“I left the community because I couldn’t get paid or pay my musicians,” she says. “I had to branch out in different areas. If I could perform for free, I would, but my boys won’t.”

Hall reminisces about sweet gigs at Illusions and Joe’s. With a 13-piece band (yes, really), she prided herself on big shows and an audience that embraced what she was throwing down. But as clubs closed or moved on, Hall was left to figure out a new plan. So she ventured away.

“I was able to book myself at the old Hollywood Casino in Shreveport and I sang at Tucker’s Blues in Deep Ellum,” she says. “I even performed at a biker bar in Fort Worth. I’m still figuring it all out. I’m working on expanding my gigness.”

An old friend has helped her on just that.  Some years back, Hall would sing karaoke at the Circle Spur in Irving, where she met a shy singer named Anton Shaw. The two became friends and nurtured each other’s talents.

“Back then, we were the shit,” Hall laughs, “singing En Vogue songs in the ‘hottest place in Irving.’ But we really were there for each other and we both wanted to be stars. We lost connection for about 10 years, but she’s the reason I’m in the scene now.”

After taking in a performance of Shaw at Alexandre’s, the two reconnected; a run-in at an audition then led to Sue Ellen’s. Shaw books talent for the club’s live-music Vixin Lounge. Last November, Hall made her debut to a healthy crowd on Thanksgiving weekend.

“She hadn’t seen me perform live since back in the karaoke days,” Hall says. “That means she booked me on faith.”

Along with her band bookings, Hall has released original music teaming up with local musician Taylor Hall. In a strange way, his indie grunge and her soulful lungs were a match made in heaven. Coming together through former Edge DJ Alan Ayo, the two created Robinson Hall, a dirty blues outfit that released three singles online last year.

In addition to original works, Hall isn’t short on delivering her strong renditions of classic rock and soul covers.  She kinda loves it.

“I discovered my purpose in life early on and it’s music. It is the only thing that brings the world closer, brings out emotions, memories. Music has landed me homeless before, but it’s important, man,” she says. “So every time I walk onstage I expect to kill ‘em. When I sing I want people to take that ride with me. I want them to hold hands during love songs, bang their heads during the rockers and cry at the sad songs. That’s why I named it an experience.”

And it is. When Hall takes on any song, she embodies it. Her body is fully engaged on a classic like Dylan’s “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” and she turns delicate while singing Etta James, or her big hero, Gladys Knight. As she reflects on the highs and lows and the songs she embraces, Hall has an epiphany.

“Sitting here, this has been a revelation for me. I need to be more out in my own community,” she says. ”The gay community has a lot to offer and I have a gift that I’d like to share. I wish I knew more showtunes, though. The gays love those.”

Good for her. Half the battle is knowing your audience already.

The Jackie Hall Experience performs every second Saturday at Sue Ellen’s.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 3, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas