The Music Issue: A new gigness

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

music-gigness

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
lopez@dallasvoice.com

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

2011 Year in Review: Concerts

Minaj-89

Nicki Minaj

The ladies ran the world this year — or at least the concert stage, whether dives or arenas.

1. Bruno Mars and Janelle Monae (Verizon Theatre). These two crashed the venue with the year’s most amazing live performances. Monae, in all her spastic glory, ran across the stage and into the audience, proving why she is the next Prince. And with her futuristic-themed album Archandroid, her band was loud and live minus any apparent electronic help. Mars did the same but recalled old-school showmanship, channeling Marvin Gaye, James Brown and Smokey Robinson as he and his own band filled the place with raucous horns, slamming percussion and Mars’ charisma.

2. Nicki Minaj (American Airlines, pictured). Britney sputtered before her concert hit its stride halfway through, but Minaj brought it from the get-go. With military precision, she and her troupe marched and danced while the audience roared, spanking the American Airlines Center as if she were the headliner, making everyone in the crowd her bitch. And all were on board. Her ovation with Spears was proof that Minaj’s star has arrived.

3. Jackie Hall (Lakewood Bar & Grill). A surprise at the May edition of Twist LGBT, stepped in with local band One Night Stand to end the night with a bang. Even as the crowd dwindled, Hall went full bore, working up those left into a frenzy with powerful covers. This lady sings the blues and rock and pop, but turns them out like no other.

4. Scissor Sisters (American Airlines Center). There is no way to steal a show from Lady Gaga, but the Sisters didn’t need to, giving a workout of a show. Ridiculously pumped Jake Shears burned a million calories with his high-energy antics (and that ass-reveal, a great bonus). Ana Matronic held her own as Shears’ equal with funk and sass. True fans were breathless.

5. Brandi Carlile (Granada Theatre). Without much fanfare, Carlile and her legions of fans in the mid-sized Granada were like one entity fused together. Her fans gave her space to sing softly, to go unplugged and to simply love her. She gave it right back with both grit and tenderness that were triggering all the ladies’ pheromones.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 30, 2011.

— R.L.               

—  Kevin Thomas