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

COVER STORY: Let the music play

Local musician SuZanne Kimbrell carves her own path while proving to Dallas that gay people can rock just as hard as anyone else

RICH LOPEZ | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

One Wednesday night in November, an idea came to fruition — one based on the hope that Dallas’ gay music scene can change.

SuZanne Kimbrell believes that the LGBT community in Dallas hasn’t embraced its own out musical artists enough.

The thing is — she may be right.

Kimbrell’s bi-monthly music event, Twist Dallas, has been getting praises by some in the gay community for offering an alternative to the Cedar Springs Strip for a night out. But for Kimbrell, it’s also a different way to approach gay Pride.

“I think that’s what Pride is a lot about — not only just being gay, but the diversity of what that means,” she said.

By day, Kimbrell works at a coffee shop part-time and teaches music. By night, she’s on the hustle as most struggling musicians are.

But she hustles for two things: her own musical career, which is making some strides, and Twist Dallas, which features a roster of LGBT and gay friendly local musicians.

The inaugural Twist happened that crisp November night in East Dallas when Kimbrell filled the Lakewood Bar and Grill with an ambitious lineup of seven musicians and bands, along with a visual artist for good measure.

And the place was packed.

“We have a great pool of gay and lesbian musicians in Dallas [who are] not being heard,” Kimbrell said. “It’s not the gayborhood’s fault, but I think it’s the lack of communication.”

KEEPING UP | SuZanne Kimbrell keeps track of what’s hot, musically, at the listening station inside Good Records on Lower Greenville. (Tammye Nash/Dallas Voice)

Getting started

That first night, in the middle of the week, the show began at an early 7:30 p.m. but lasted well past 1 a.m. At the midpoint, the bar was packed, mostly with women, but Kimbrell’s vision had been realized.

She built it, and the gays came out.

Seven months later, Kimbrell is staging her fourth show and all is going according to plan.

“Getting anybody to any show can be hard, but the word is getting out,” she said. “We’ve had more people come each show, and I think that each show has been subsequently more successful than the last.”

But there has been frustration along the way.

With Twist Dallas, Kimbrell’s intention was to create a platform for local LGBT musicians to perform and be showcased. She didn’t see that much anywhere else.
Kimbrell had a regular stint at Jack’s Backyard and performed at an open mic at Sue Ellen’s, but found it difficult to break into her own gay district where established locals consistently performed. So she did something about it.

“It’s been hard to play on Cedar Springs. Dallas has shown a platform for queer musicians, but it’s only one window to look through on this big ship of music,” Kimbrell said with building intensity. “On this ship, we have a 100 different windows to look through. All we want is for people to come look here and see the amazing talent.”

In the three shows under her belt, Kimbrell has featured local gay musicians that play folk, rock, R&B and hip-hop. She added local poet Audacious to her second bill, adding the element of spoken word.

Kimbrell isn’t hung up on the type of performance. She just wants to put it out there.

Infidelix, aka Bryan Rodecker, a hip-hop artist from Denton, finished off the first Twist event with some major upswing, even as the crowd dwindled into the late weeknight.

“Playing that night was amazing,” he said. “The coolest part was that it wasn’t at a gay bar. Usually we get segregated just to playing our clubs, but this brings us out to [non-gay] venues and that’s wonderful.

“The different styles brought many of us together,” Rodecker continued. “In that one night, I made lifelong artist friends. I can’t wait to play another one.”

Finding her voice

In the fall of 2007, Kimbrell returned from a stay in South America while part of the Peace Corps. She was there for two years, mostly in Paraguay — and while there, she discovered her voice as a musician.

Kimbrell had always tinkered around with music, but nights in Paraguay over a two-year period passed slowly. Fortunately, she had packed her guitar.

Kimbrell essentially taught herself to play guitar and after an accidental duet with a guy and his guitar from the Corps, she discovered she didn’t have such a bad voice.

“He was singing ‘Fast Car’ by Tracy Chapman and he sang for shit,” she laughed. “So I jumped in and after, he told me I should start looking into doing that more. Later on, as I got better, I got to play in Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay, of course.”

Kimbrell had somehow made the unique career move of becoming an international musician before becoming a local one.

With a newfound confidence, she jumped into the music scene when she returned to Dallas. She booked solid shows, bringing her brand of rock and blues to the scene, and she went at her shows unabashedly.

“I had the guts to get onstage and I just didn’t care,” she said. “I had developed a lot since coming back and my voice, literally and as lesbian, is stronger. I don’t have anything to hide.”

Keeping up momentum

With her fourth show looming, Kimbrell also has to keep up on her own career and it’s not an enviable position to be in. She was just approved by Kickstarter.com to get help with funding her goals for a full-length album (the site is a fundraising tool where people and companies can sponsor and donate funds to artistic projects).

Her goal is to raise enough funds to pay for studio costs, marketing and publishing in time to start recording in August this year. Although she’s excited about this part of her “business” plan, she knows she’s got a hard job ahead of her.

“The music industry is a bitch,” Kimbrell said. “You have to be tenacious and always on the bit, the phone, networking everyday; you need to be hustling. If you miss it, you’re done.”

This doesn’t sway her. While she may not have time to be overly excited about this latest development, it’s not lost on her.

“It’s so nice Kickstarter has given me a chance and I can see the $6,500 goal and the deadline and the people supporting me,” she said.

But there are other things are on her mind, too, like getting this edition of Twist Dallas finalized.

Since the first show, tweaks had to be made in order for it to push forward. For instance, the event has moved to a Thursday, which may bring more people in to the show.

Another tweak was actually the result of her getting flak by both gay and straight fans.

“I used to want it to be totally gay, but a big change is adding straight people to the lineup,” Kimbrell said. “People told me to bring in all of the community and they were right.

“I wanted a platform solely for gays, but I realized that first, there are not as many out musicians and that we need to be inclusive. We’ll never evolve if we are exclusive.”

The struggle showed on her face as she went through the behind-the-scenes details, but her spirit still had the spark. For her, Twist Dallas is worth it.

Besides, it’s her baby.

“People say that it’s fun and are glad it’s here and that it’s needed,” Kimbrell said. “They say they love Oak Lawn but that it’s nice getting out of there to see other musicians, artists, or hear poetry by people they might not have heard of.”

Looking to the future

Kimbrell expressed an inner conflict though. When asked if she would ever bring Twist to Oak Lawn, she wasn’t sure.

She said she has wrestled with the idea. While a stage at Pride is her ideal situation for Twist, the conflict comes from a sort of apathy or complacency Dallas’ gay community seems to have regarding live, original music.

Why is that?

“I think there’s a comfort there and that makes it hard to get into some of the venues,” she said. “The community and the powers that be get comfortable. I don’t think they’re trusting but the community is educated. Why not educate them some more with different options?

“We need to keep looking to the future while remembering the past, but unless that changes, we’re gonna be stuck,” she said.

Ultimately, Kimbrell said she would like a Twist show in Oak Lawn, being that it is the heart of the gay population. She’d also like to see it bounce around venues, much like the way Chick Happy Hour and Guerrilla Gay Bar do, taking the gays out of the box.

“The reason its called Twist is to shake things up,” Kimbrell said. “We wanna be seen, but also mix more with other parts and people of Dallas. And yes, I’d love Twist in Oak Lawn if people want it. I think Sue’s or the Rose Room would be great spots for it.”

Kimbrell is all about versatility. She learned quickly that Twist doesn’t need to be rigid — it couldn’t survive that way.

She just wants to get music out there and get exposure for what Dallas — and even beyond — has to offer in work by queer musicians, wherever that happens.

“I think it’s important to not always go to the same part of town. Wouldn’t you like to go to Lakewood or Deep Ellum or anywhere else and know you can go into the club because we made a presence there and they’re used to gay people there?

“We’re here, we’re queer get used to us. Isn’t that the slogan? Now hear our music and look at our art.”

———————————————-

Do the Twist

Chasing the Muse

As mentioned in the main article, SuZanne Kimbrell made major tweaks to this latest edition of Twist Dallas. First and foremost, the event moves to Thursday nights, and while this show continues at Lakewood Bar & Grill, she expects that the July show will be in a different venue.

Also, the lineup here is tighter with four performers on the bill (Kimbrell included), but she’s pulled together another eclectic group of performers.

Natalie Velasquez hails from Denton. She plays guitar with a three-piece band backing her that plays improvisational jazz with some rock thrown in.

She’s also a TWU student studying music.

According to Kimbrell, Denton is a hotbed for LGBT musicians. Past performers Infidelix and Immigrant Punk are from there as well.

Finding inspiration in Tori Amos, Bjork and Radiohead, David Siuba from Santa Fe brings his piano skills to town, offering up a queer perspective to his alternative pop.
Robinson Hall will likely finish the show on a high note. Led by queer vocalist Jackie Hall, the band is a blend of sultry soul and slick guitar rock.

In their videos on Facebook, they bring in the funk — expect the same on Thursday.

Visual artist Sylwester Zabielski will have his photography and film work on display.

Kimbrell does most of Twist out of her pocket, but is always on the lookout for help. For anyone wanting to be a part of the Twist team as a volunteer, she’s welcoming people with a variety of skills to help with upcoming shows.

Kimbrell admits the hardest part is the Web and marketing. She wants to develop a street team of people to hit the nightspots and spread the word.

Her girlfriend Sarah Cox has handled most of the Web work, but with a heavy school schedule, Kimbrell is searching for people who are dedicated and reliable that could help take on Twist’s website and social networking.

For more information or to express an interest, contact Kimbrell via Twist Dallas on Facebook.

The May show for Twist Dallas will be at Lakewood Bar and Grill, 6340 Gaston Ave., on May 19 at 8 p.m. Admission is $10. For more information go online to TwistDallas.com.

———————————————-

Advice for the loud at heart

CROWD CONTROL | The audience at Twist gives proper attention to the music.

As Twist Dallas evolves, one common aspect SuZanne Kimbrell has noticed is courtesy — or sometimes the lack of it.

It’s often that the lineup will include some softer music or a simple setup.

Kimbrell herself plays just with a guitar. But when someone’s phone rings or the conversations get too loud, she goes nuts.

“I just hate seeing my friends putting their heart and soul into their performance and someone is yelling into their cell phone or at the person next to them.”

Kimbrell has simple advice for those people. Or anyone. It’s not about shushing people so much as it is about common courtesy.

“I know they are in a bar, but it’s just rude. If you are within 15 feet of a singer but want to have a loud conversation, go away!” she advised.

She wants it clear that she doesn’t mind people talking, but distracting others by “taking away from the experience for people who give a shit about music” bugs her to no end.

In the March show, the crowd was so bad, she said, that one of the artists vowed never to return.

“There are ways to have conversations and watch people play,” Kimbrell said. “People just need to know that the musicians and the audiences feel that frustration.”

So, in short, shut up?

“Well, not to be mean, but yeah,” she laughed.

—  John Wright

Station 4 DJ named as opener for Kylie Minogue’s North Texas show at Verizon Theatre

Caven’s Rick Espaillat sent word out this week that Station 4 DJ Erik Thoresen was named as the opening DJ act for the Kylie Minogue show this May when it comes to Verizon. That’s quite a big deal for a local DJ, but how did it happen exactly? Thoresen emailed me the deets on how he landed the sweet gig. Plus, it probably didn’t hurt he had some heavy players in his corner.

“I was recommended by several people about three weeks ago. StraightOut Media & Marketing, The Karpel Group, AEG Live, and my boss at Caven Enterprises all emailed me showing interest in having me open the show. I replied with all my information, and I got the call Wednesday at lunch telling me I got the gig,” he said.

Even though the Station 4 dance floor can get pretty packed, Thoresen, nicknamed “Hefty Lefty,” says that’s nothing compared to what he’ll be spinning for at the show.

“I’m blown away! It will be the largest crowd I’ve spun for, so I’m a little nervous,” he says.

Minogue is pretty huge in both the dance and gay music scenes, so not only is Thoresen about to get a bigger stage, he’s doing it with someone crucial to what he does.

“Kylie has been a icon of club music since I’ve been clubbing, so its a real honor to be chosen for this event. Its gonna be a blast, can’t wait to see all my friends there.”

—  Rich Lopez

SXSW is 10 times gayer than you thought

Maybe you avoided SXSW this year because paying $1,250 for an all-access badge and waiting in line to see obscure musicians doesn’t sound like your idea of “a gay ol’ time.” But you are so wrong, gurl. There’s tons of queer fun happening at SXSW every year, most of it inexpensive and easy to get into. In fact, we found 10 of the queerest (and semi-secret) festival delights — with tons of links to some of this year’s hottest acts — so that if you decide to go next year, you won’t feel like the only gay in the village. Check out our top 10 after the jump.

—  admin

Music. Score!

THE BOI AND THE COWBOY | Generations collide when Cazwell, right, and Cowboy Jeff Olson of the Village People bring their very gay music to the Cotton Bowl on Thursday, Feb. 3.

Musicians including Cazwell and Jeff Olson of the Village People head to Texas for a big gay Super Bowl party — although neither is all that excited about the game

All’s well that Cazwell

Who knew it just takes a popsicle to rise to stardom? Just ask Katy Perry. Or Cazwell, whose colorful music video for “Ice Cream Truck” became the gay anthem of last summer. With hot dancers and sexualized frozen confections, it has an infectious beat and a sense of joy that combined to make it a huge hit for the artist.

Just don’t expect the Ice Cream Truck Boys to join Cazwell when he’s in town next week for XLV Party, a three-day event inside a 60,000-square-foot climate-controlled tent on the field of the Cotton Bowl. The festivities kick off with a super-gay night of entertainment on Thursday. And even with the likes of Lady Bunny, DJ Inferno and the iconic Village People sharing stage time, Cazwell plans to bring it.

Describing himself as what would result if Biggie Smalls ate Donna Summer, Cazwell has combined the energy of dance music with the soul of hip-hop for a fun, modern sound that is all about getting people to have fun and dance.

“I’m going to turn it out. It’s going to be a high-energy show,” he says. “I’m going to do a combination of my dance songs but I also just want to kick back and wrestle with some beats and some rhymes. I think people will get to know me a little better as an artist.”

XLV Party will mark Cazwell’s second appearance in Dallas in less than a year and he’s anxious to come back.

“I was in Dallas last summer. It was really, really good. I was very surprised by the turnout. I wasn’t expecting so many fans,” he says. “We did a meet-and-greet that lasted three hours.”

His fan base has grown exponentially since “Ice Cream Truck,” but he still remembers the days when even Lady Gaga couldn’t get a reaction from a New York crowd.

“We did a song together at a club called Family. She’d always been kind of eccentric, but really down-to-earth. We had this stage that was like the size of a door, but she took it seriously. She crammed two dancers up there and then I got up there and she said, ‘I’m going to throw you to the ground and ride you like I’m fucking you and the audience is going to go crazy,’” he recalls. The gimmick landed with a thud.

“Somewhere there’s footage of it, but I can’t find it. The funny thing about it is that we really didn’t get the reaction we thought we were going to get. Nobody knew who she was so they just kind of looked at us with their arms folded. Like great, here’s another club kid with a song. Six months later, everybody knew who Lady Gaga was.”

Cazwell has garnered a loyal following on the New York club scene and has broken out with hit songs like, “I Seen Beyonce at Burger King” and “All Over Your Face,” but “Ice Cream Truck” is really where things clicked with a larger audience. And it almost didn’t happen.

“I didn’t want to write a new song; I was feeling really lazy. But a friend was pressuring me,” he says. “I wrote it for this movie called Spork, which won a bunch of awards for the Tribeca Film Festival and is going nationwide in May. My friend said he wanted a beat that sounded like an ice cream truck. We did the whole thing in like 45 minutes. It was just really, really easy.”

He wasn’t going to do anything with it until his manager suggested he make a quick video “to the song to get my face out there. It made me think of summertime and the hot Latin guys in my neighborhood. We all know a bunch of guys, dancers from the club scene so we invited them all over. No one was paid. We’re all friends and they just wanted to be a part of it.”

The video become a sensation across Facebook and video sites like YouTube, and with it came legions of new fans. But that’s OK … for now.

“I think that right now I’m in a good time in my life because I think the people that come up to me are genuine fans. I think when you get more famous, people want to meet you just because you’re famous. That could get tedious. I’m sure people go up to Lady Gaga just because she’s Lady Gaga, not because they respect her music,” Cazwell says.

“I feel right now that people are being genuine with me. I hope they’re people I’ve had a positive effect on because when people tell me that, it really makes me feel really good.”

And as for his excitement over the Super Bowl? Well, not so much. Cazwell admits he’s not a football fan — or a fan of any sport for that matter.

“I’m not passionate about sports at all. I don’t get it. I see sports on the news and wonder how that’s a news story. It’s just a game!” he says.

That’s all right. We see him as more a concessions guy anyway … like, the ice cream truck.

— Steven Lindsey

Cowboy up

Despite the cheeky allure of the Village People, the concept band is nothing to laugh at. After 34 years, the quintessential disco band still gets audiences to do the “Y.M.C.A.” dance. A  Rolling Stone cover, a Walk of Fame star and million-selling albums are nothing to sniff at.

Jeff Olson jumped onboard after the peak of the Village People’s popularity in the late 1970s, but he’s still enjoying the ride three decades later.

“Our first and foremost obligation is to just entertain,” he says. “We are obligated to do it and I’d say we do it very well.”

As a VP veteran, Olson sounds less like a music star and more like an elder slacker. He has a relaxed, cool inflection as he talks up his favorite classic rock bands and will say “man” after most everything. He’s the kind of guy you could kill a few hours with, as long as a beer and maybe something to smoke are handy.

The People don’t talk much about the sexuality of its members, but it’s hard to ignore the impact the group had on the gay community in the ’70s.

After the band floundered in the ’80s when Olson joined to replace original VP Cowboy Randy Jones, the gay audience stuck around.

“I don’t think we’ve had any change with the gay fans. They have always been very loyal and we’re still very grateful about that,” he says. “We’ve done lots to increase our other fans but really, nobody gives a shoot. Who cares anymore about gay or straight thing? We’re on this earth for very short time.”

At 60, Olson feels great and is obviously in shape to do the dance moves, but if it were up to him, he’d stay home. Still, the fans drive him to keep entertaining.

“I hate being on the road,” he admits. “When you live out of a suitcase, so much sucks like trying to get through TSA these days. I love being home, but we really love what we do.”

Where each Village Person represented a distinctive male archetype of gay fantasy, Olson is coy about the popularity of his cowboy image — though as any weekend at the Round-Up Saloon would prove, cowboys are a sexy commodity in Dallas. Olson won’t say if his cowboy is more popular with the boys than the others, but he lets out what sounds like a proud chuckle.

“Honestly I do not know and I don’t care,” he says.” The audiences react differently to all of us. We’re introduced individually so the reaction changes all the time. It’s always all good.”

The irony of Olson coming with the Village People for the very gay night of the Super Bowl party is that sports and crowds aren’t his thing.

“Nah, I don’t follow football,” he says. “And you wanna know a secret? I’m paranoid about crowds. I don’t do well with them and I need space. I don’t like signing autographs because folks don’t do the things they should do as a human being. But one on one I’m good with.”

Despite getting a few things off his chest, Olson mostly wants to remind that the Village People don’t necessarily stand for anything … but they will make you dance.

— Rich Lopez

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Jan. 28, 2011.

—  John Wright

Adam Lambert accused of battery in Miami

Following in the footsteps of another troubled gay music star, glam pop star Adam Lambert has been accused of battery in Miami. The Associated Press reported that a photographer was taking pictures when Lambert started running toward him in an aggressive manner. Photographer Victor Eras is claiming he was wrestled down by Lambert.

A bad week for gay pop singers. George Michael was sentenced earlier this week on charges of drug possession and driving under the influence. To make matters worse, fellow inmates are taunting him by singing his hits songs with altered words.

Lambert tweeted that it was an embarrassing but harmless moment:

“@AdamLambert Battery? Nope. I attempted to grab a camera, no punches were thrown and no one was on the ground…. It was literally harmless. If embarrassment is a crime- thats all I’m guilty of.”

Pop stars.

—  Rich Lopez

Chatting up Hunter Valentine’s Kiyomi McCloskey

Hunter Valentine
McCloskey, center.

Thursday night at the Cavern on Lower Greenville, a triple threat of queer rock is happening. The Cliks, Hunter Valentine and Killola bring their tour to Dallas, but as a slight preview, Hunter Valentine‘s frontwoman Kiyomi McCloskey took some time to give us her quips on a seemingly burgeoning wave of queer music, how the tour is going and insights to the life of a rock star.

On booking this tour with The Cliks:  “I’ve known (frontman) Lucas for a long time since I was a teenager. We’re both from Toronto and  I just remember trying to throw a queer music night and I booked his band four or five years ago. That first time we made a friendly connection.”

On a growing number of out bands and musicians:  “It’s an awesome thing. Queer music is growing and popping up in mainstream all the time. I feel really lucky to be on tour with solid musicians who are out.”

On Canada’s growth spurt of gay music:  “Must be something in the water.” (Which is what Sara from Tegan & Sara said.)

On being on the tour:  “This chapter is good for the band. We’re touring a lot, at least 200 dates a year. That is fulfilling that goal to play to as many people as possible.

On girl power:  “A big part of our job to encourage girls to pick up guitars and play.”

Diverse audience?  “We have a younger core audience, but the great thing about a Hunter Valentine show is the wide range of people. You have anything from 45 straight males to 13 queer girls at a show. As long as everyone is into the music.”

Queer perspectives in songwriting?  “I just write what I feel. I don’t know if that’s from a constant queer perspective. I try to write about what deeply affects me.”

Coming to Dallas:  “LGBT audiences can [be] straight up honest rock shows. We have lots of emotions and wear our hearts on our sleeves.”

Hunter Valentine performs tonight at The Cavern, 1914 Greenville Ave. 9 p.m. $8.

—  Rich Lopez