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

Youth in revolt

College kid-slash-performance artist John Michael Colgin hopes to make a splash — one awkward moment at a time

Profile

ABOUT FACES | John Michael Colgin goes from snobby private school gay-baiter to out-and-proud McDonald’s worker in his one-man show ‘Would You Like Guys With That?’ (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

For John Michael Colgin, homophobia is an easy term. Too easy. When people start using it as a label, Colgin sees it as losing its weight.

“It gets people off topic so easily,” he asserts. “That’s where the struggles begin.”

Colgin, just 22, is a ball of pent-up energy. He squirms in his chair trying to find that right comfort level and yet his enthusiasm when talking about his one-man show Would You Like Guys With That? keeps him on the edge of his seat. He punctuates his sentences with lively gestures and a multitude of facial expressions. He’s eccentric in personality, but passionate.

“The show is sometimes about transformation,” he says. “As a gay man, when you don’t have role models, the only thing you associate with ‘gay’ is what you’re shown. So from beginning to end in the show, the sexual identity thing is going on.”

In his piece, Colgin’s main character (himself, really) is a snobby kid, the product of private-schooling and a sense of entitlement; he becomes even more judgmental when he attends college in Stillwater, Okla. But then he goes to work at McDonald’s as a kind of social experiment, he begins to see the world anew: Just because he hates small-talk with his co-workers, he discovers that listening to different music doesn’t mean you’re not a human being.

“I did my research on people who seemed so different than me,” Colgin says. “After the first time I performed it, I learned that I could really reach people with my voice. Every thing is so authentically true in my head as in the show.”

He created the show while attending Oklahoma State, but had to convince the group there called SODA (Sexual Orientation Diversity Association) that he had a viable piece. In a shrewd move, he previewed what he said was a 70-minute show with a 10-minute micro-version. They were impressed, and he got a $500 grant.

Only he hadn’t actually created the remaining hour’s worth of material.  That’s when he got to writing.

Even now, he says, he doesn’t work from a fixed script, instead coming up with an outline and rehearsing it until the rhythm becomes second nature.

When he came home to Dallas, he had to start the process all over again.

“Going to theaters and spaces here, I was forced to convince people again that my work had value to it,” he says. “It was frustrating but part of my mission statement is to go to non-theater groups. My show doesn’t need perfection in lighting or stuff, it’s just about bringing the work to people who won’t get to see it.”

He performed Guys at Nouveau 47’s Theatre Appresh in November, a sort of guerrilla performance night. It got him some notice. One local critic called it “focused, fresh and engaging … with gritty humor, pathos and an honest, dark conviction fit to delight Lenny Bruce.” Someone from the Cathedral of Hope attended after reading Dallas Voice’s Instant Tea blog and liked it enough that Colgin was invited to perform there later this spring.

They were probably responding to the same charisma that makes Colgin a challenging interview. He bounces around so much — physically and narratively — that when he talks about coming out, it’s not always clear he’s talking about himself or his show … or whether there’s a difference. Maybe it doesn’t matter; for Colgin, performing is his reality.

“There is stuff that makes me ashamed and uncomfortable, but it’s worth telling onstage,” he says. “I learned the people who piss you off are usually the people who remind you about yourself. The self-realization is onstage.”

He even turns his breaks from the interview to do an impromptu segment from his play, he goes for it full-force. In a cramped office, as his character recounts the pleasure of sneaking a peek at his teacher’s breast (he hadn’t realized he was gay yet), Colgin simulates an orgasm.

“I’m freakin’ naked up there,” he exclaims. “I never felt more clear than right now.”

Still, Colgin’s performance isn’t just about coming out, but more a confession (he admits to being particularly hurtful to gay kids to mask his own feelings) and apology.

It’s about putting his young, confused life on display.

“You want other [gay] kids to see you can be happy,” he says. “I was ugly in the closet. I knew I was unbearable to some people. When I came out at 21, my writing started and now I can see the me I wanna be.”

Would You Like Guys with That? Davidson Auditorium — JSOM 1.118, 800 W. Campbell Road on the UTD Campus, Richardson. Jan 30. 5:30pm. Free. UTDallas.edu/womenscenter

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 27, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

Teen-age dream

Imperial Teen sheds its skin (again) to reveal fresh genius on ‘Feel the Sound’

Imperial-Teen-Marina-Chavez2

IMPERIAL EFFORT | With two gay male members, Imperial Teen gets away with a lot of sassy lyrics without ghetto-izing itself as ‘queercore’ rock or Pride pop.

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

Spring comes early this year — at least it feels that way with Feel the Sound, the new CD from Imperial Teen. The disc dwells in a happy pop universe that is wonderfully tough to escape from. By the 11th track, Imperial Teen succeeds in conjuring up an aural place of magic that doesn’t skimp on deep lyrics.

Sound plays with the refreshing splash of a debut album, though it’s the band’s fifth. Optimism mixes with confidence and fun beats so brightly, it made me want to take the CD to everyone I knew to ask if they had heard of “this new band” … although the San Francisco quartet has been around for 15 years. But with each album, they seem to strip away a layer that brings up a newness that demands attention.

Imperial Teen’s 2007 album The Hair, The TV, The Baby and The Band had more hints of rocker attitude with a stronger emphasis on heavy guitars and acoustic ones amid a mod-pop landscape. Here, they haven’t lost their instrumentation, but the music shines without reliance on one over the other. They do love a stabbing beat, but the melodies rise up like a quilted blanket surrounding each member (all of whom sing vocals).

The opener “Runaway” plays like Mates of State with a rapid beat and falsetto-like harmonies. Nostalgia rings from the sound as if it might play over a Time/Life informercial for some ‘70s AM radio collection, but production is solid and it keeps a modern feel.

With two gay members (Roddy Bottum and Will Schwartz), there is a strong queer sensibility to the album without becoming distractingly Pride-crazy. Maybe it’s an unfair generalization, but really, who but a gay guy would write lyrics like Pumped up pecs and sticky skin / Floors unswept and walls are thin in the ridiculously enjoyable third track “Last to Know.”

Where the songs may sound simple and upbeat, the lyrics never falter in their hooks and every single track is a delightful listen. But the hand that feeds the bark / Affidavit after dark may not make sense in “Over His Head,” but they are interesting enough to keep you listening — that’s half the battle in any pop album.

For a band with strong alt-rock roots (Faith No More, The Dicks), Sound is a beautiful surprise. Their delivery goes from gentle in “All the Same” to sexy in “Out From Inside” surrounded by rich, up-tempo textures.

Imperial Teen somehow manages never to annoy, either. Usually, an album where song after song bleeds into each other seamlessly, the repetition can drown you. Here, the band tempers the breathing of its creation. Tracks ebb and flow with rapid-fire backdrops and easygoing grooves with variations on the same beat. They didn’t strive for the “album ballad” or “the dance song CD.” Rather, Feel the Sound succeeds magnificently as a strong idea that never veers from its intentions.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 27, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

Size does matter

Dallas graphic designer John March turned his eye toward apparel with Big Ol’ Boy, his clothing line for bearish gents

Big-Ole-Boy

THE ORIGNAL BIG OL’ BOY March, left, was tired of having no fashionable choices in large-sized clothes; his line of tees and caps have given bigger men a reason to shop. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

When John March wants something done right, he does it himself — or rather, if he wants it to fit right, he makes it himself.

March was frustrated that comfortable clothing options for him and his bear friends were limited and hardly any fun stylewise. Most men would just, ummm, grin and bear it, but not March: With a few ideas and determination, he set out to create a line that offered quality clothes with some winks along the way.

“Bears, muscled guys and bigger men tend to be an underserved market when it comes to clothing,” March says. “Part of my marketing theory was to start with bears because I think of myself as a member of the community and I think I have an idea of what they like.”

A graphic designer by trade, March didn’t see much out there that was all that appealing from a design standpoint. At big and tall shops, apparel for larger men was either of poor quality, way overpriced or both. In essence, bigger men were sort of held hostage by not having anyone willing to make stylish clothes that fit.

That was the genesis of Big Ol’ Boy.

With some humor and a stockpile of sketches, last spring March started his online store of shirts and caps that cater to big guys. Ever since, he’s been making an impression in the community and beyond.

“We’ve had lots of women calling orders in for their own big boys,” March says. “There are companies out there that cater to bears, but it’s just sort of generic. I think we’ve seen that people embrace the idea of a brand and by creating an overall brand geared toward bears and big men, then they might appreciate the fact someone is thinking about them.”

Currently, March’s line is composed of short- and long-sleeved tees with whimsical designs.

Sport graphics and slogans such as “Big Ol’ Jock” with a jockstrap image or “Big Ol’ Biker Boy” that takes a spin off the Harley-Davidson logo have proved popular with his gay following. But his biggest seller is a Tabasco-like label with “Hot Stuff Spicy & Saucy” sprawled across it. You’d almost think he’d get sued for copyright infringement.

“Fortunately, I know enough about trademark and copyright laws to do this,” he says. “But I did check with my lawyer. The difference is that I’m using this as parody and not on a competing product. But I wanted to use images that are rooted deep in our sensibilities like the logo or constellations for the Ursa Major shirt.”

Of course, March targeted what he knew, and teamed up with the guys of BearDance and the Dallas Bears for this year’s Texas Bear Round Up. It was obvious but also a stroke of genius.

“The feedback has been great,” he beams. “We did sell some at the TBRU vendor market and we did well with the BearDance events. I plan to work with them in the future.”

March recently added to the Big Ol’ Boy with a new line of polos — his first addition to the brand. With more than 300 design concepts in his catalog, he expects to introduce a new graphic tee on a consistent basis.

“With the polos, guys can wear them to work,” he says. “We have other ideas for items beyond that even. With each new item, we want to grow to a point to offer a wide range of items, build a community of loyal customers and listen to what they want.”

Although he wouldn’t consider himself a fashion designer, he does include himself as a client, which helps in creating his looks. With a group of friends as his sounding board, he would say that Big Ol’ Boy very much reflects his sensibility — even if he is more a preppy than a T-shirt guy.

This being his first business venture, March had to learn fast. Whether it was translating graphic art onto fabric or learning the benefits of ringspun cotton, he’s found his groove.

“I would like people to discover this sort of organically,” he says. “Maybe they’ll see the shirt on somebody or run across it online. Sure I may not be much of a T-shirt person, but now I get to make my own and I’ve never seen one I didn’t like!”

To see the collection, visit BigOlBoy.com.

…………………………..

LOVE THIS T

TShirt2
Making activism fashionable, Revenge Is has created the “All Love Is Equal” tee (also a tank). Made of eco-friendly materials, the line means to spread the gay-friendly message that all people should have the right to marry … and look hot while saying it. Five percent of net sales benefit Marriage Equality USA.
RevengeIs.com.

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

—  Kevin Thomas

A Del in concert!

(And he won’t cancel!) Shores returns to his native Texas bruised but busy

Del-Shores-32

NATIVE SHORES | Winters provided the backdrop for Del Shores’ comedy, but his Hollywood connections include directing Oscar hopeful Octavia Spencer in her next film role. (Photo courtesy Alan Mercer)

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

Already, 2012 looks to be a busy year for Del Shores. That wasn’t among his New Year’s resolutions, but it has ended up being a blessing for him right now. Having something to do distracts him from those empty moments. After separating less than two months ago from his partner of almost 10 years, singer/actor Jason Dottley, spending quiet times alone was the last thing Shores wanted.

“With something this tragic, I have to stay busy,” he says. “This is a huge tragedy in my life. The depression comes in so I’m taking care of myself by writing or preparing other works. Just keeping occupied is so important. I couldn’t survive otherwise.”

As irony would have it, 2012 could end up being Shores’ biggest year yet. The Winters, Texas, native kicks it off in the Rose Room with a standup performance Jan. 27. For this show, he specifically returned to Dallas to film his performance for an upcoming DVD release. And for good reason: He feels the love here.

“I’d rather just go to Dallas,” he says. “I have the hugest fan base there and I should go back to the city that loves me the most to film the show. I love it so much.”

Just a year ago, Shores started a new phase of his career by adding “standup comedian” to his resume with a performance of his new act, Sordid Confessions, at the Rose Room. In fact, he’s less a comic than whip-smart storyteller, but he acknowledges that audiences who saw him last year should expect new stuff this time.

Does that mean he’s adding some of his recent personal drama to the bit? Not just yet.

“I haven’t yet put anything about it in my show,” he admits. “I can’t pretend that the elephant isn’t in the room, but I don’t plan to disrespect what we had … not yet at least!”

The closest he plans to get right now is reciting some letters of support he received after he announced his divorce publicly last November.

They were genuinely heartfelt, but hilarious enough to add to the show.

Shores is also writing the screen adaptation of his play Yellow, and is completing a new play about four women called This Side of Crazy. He’s also collaborating with his Sordid Lives star (and long-standing best friend) Leslie Jordan on the mockumentary The Happy Hullisters, about a gospel family hanging onto their last shred of fame. The plan is to begin shooting it in Dallas starting in June; Tony Award-winner Levi Kreiss and comedian Caroline Rhea (who MC’d this year’s Dallas Black Tie Dinner) attached to the project.

“I’m getting my acting company back together for this. And I’ll be in the Hullisters!” Shores beams. “I am embracing the actor in me. I’m still in negotiations to do one more Sordid Lives film that would be a sequel to the movie, but a prequel to the series. And I’m hoping to open [the play] Yellow in Dallas as well. Maybe I’ll be busy for the next two years!”

Shores is also in post-production of his play-turned-movie The Trials and Tribulations of a Trailer Trash Housewife starring newly-minted Golden Globe winner and likely Oscar nominee Octavia Spencer. Spencer is reprising her role she originated onstage for the play as LaSonia (pronounced “lasagna”) Robinson. Shores admits that if she wins an Oscar it could help his movie, but he was already suitably moved by her Globes win.

“This couldn’t have happened to a better person,” he says. “When she won, my daughter and I were sobbing like Mexican women at a funeral.”
When Shores posted a note on his Facebook page last November (it began, “It saddens me to inform you that Jason Dottley and I are divorcing”), the obvious question among his friends was, “What happened?” But even Shores doesn’t quite seem sure. Soon after his announcement, Shores received notes of support, but also some not so friendly. That added to the shock of his marriage ending. (Dottley was contacted for this piece but declined to comment.)

“We were this couple held up to the light as an example of gay marriage in a working relationship,” he says. “I had no idea this was coming.

My marriage ended, just like straight people. I had to start a process of healing.”

But were there no signs, no inkling of what was to happen? Shores searches for the words, but stammers as he decides whether to answer and what to say. And then finally:

“Let me put it this way,” he begins, “I’ve been working in the entertainment business for a really long time, I get a lot of actor-auditions. For some, I come up with reasons I don’t cast certain ones, but the bottom line is, ‘I don’t want you to play this role.’ And so no matter what was said or the reasons behind it, the bottom line was Jason said, ‘I don’t want to be married to you anymore.’ And there was no negotiation on any level.”

For a moment, he pauses. That inevitable lump jumps into his throat and one of Texas’ funniest funnymen all of a sudden isn’t laughing.

“There is never a great day,” he admits, choking up. “There are partial good days but good days … not yet. It happens.”

Creative types have the luxury of turning pain into their art and it’s easy to imagine Del Shores turning this pain into a comic masterpiece. He insists he’ll heal and move on. Eventually. Born gay into a Southern Baptist family in Texas, life hasn’t always been the easiest. And at the very least, he may take the advice of one fan, a straight woman, who wrote him.

“She told me there was one thing good about a breakup,” he says, “New dick!”
Badum-bum.

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

—  Kevin Thomas

ALBUM REVIEW: New releases from Nightwish, Anthony Green and Expensive Looks

Three vastly different releases run the gamut from symphonic metal to chillwave bliss

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

Imaginaerum
Nightwish
Roadrunner Records

Initially, I thought major yawn factor when I heard that Finnish band’s seventh album is a conceptual release based on an old composer at death’s door. To add to that, it’s an accompaniment (not a soundtrack) to a film of the same name comprised of similar themes. Heavy.

Gladly, I misjudged, because they churn out a sort of heavy metal opera that’s only Meat Loaf could dream of. The operatic quality is exploded with a heavy guitar assaults and rapid drum smashes. But in all that thrust, the songs are constructed tightly keeping its themes right on course. Singer Anette Olzon sometimes gets outta control with her Abba-esque vocalizing, but the album has a linear quality that kept me interested the entire way through.

Minus the reasoning behind the album, it’s simply a grand listen. Even without lyrics, Nightwish pulls off a coherent and conclusive song cycle that’s headbanging, quirky and epic.

Three stars

Watch “Storytime”

Beautiful Things
Anthony Green
WEA Creative & Design Group

Indie rocker and Circa Surive singer Anthony Green is back with his second full-length solo of garagey rock and 20something angst. The album opens fine with “If I Don’t Sing,” an OK rocker that isn’t groundbreaking. But second track “Do It Right” is a full-out mess of handclaps and acapella. His voice is too harsh for this kind of singing and really just hurts the ears. And the album’s lead single “Get Yours While You Can,” displays no real soul to it other than maybe for some good drumming. Otherwise, he could use a Sucrets.

At times, Green is just too whiney that you just wanna smack the shit out of him. But in other tracks, he grows up nicely as in “Get Yours While You Can.” Overall, he doesn’t deliver much new that Jack White hasn’t already given us with much more depth. Green has a long way to go.

Two stars.

Listen to “Get Yours While You Can”

Dark Matters
Expensive Looks
Group Tightener

For a kid who taught himself to DJ and the move into producing, Alec Feld’s debut album as Expensive Looks is a big time knock out. The electronic music he creates play as complex symphonies in as little as a 1:49. With much of the same sophistication Washed Out displayed in last year’s Within and Without, Feld does the same, but with some dancey undertones. Yet, it’s never obnoxious with overdone production and bass beats, nor does it come off as self-indulgent.

The album has its specific tone of dreamy disco but tracks tend to run together. I couldn’t tell you the difference between say tracks two and five, but as a whole, it’s a collective breath of relief that works a whole lot of magic just over half an hour.

Surprisingly Feld describes the album as “confusion and constant bipolar shifts all for the pursuit of happiness. I kill for euphoria and use it as a venue to get that polar-shifting depressive state across. This isn’t about me not being happy; it’s more about my frustration with the pursuit of happiness.”

And yet, in all its originality and focus, it’s pure bliss to listen to.

Four stars

Listen to “Moving Visions”
Expensive Looks – Moving Visions by Group Tightener

—  Rich Lopez

Phoning it in

‘Love addict’ Robert Diago uses his iPhone to explore his art

rmateo_installation

INSIDER ART | Artist Robert Diago lies in a bed which is part of the installation for his new show, which addresses his love addiction — something that has occasionally played out on his iPhone hookup apps, opposite.

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

Cell phone attachment is hardly uncommon among gay men.

Whether on the treadmill, during happy hour or in the middle of a date, that lifeline to the ether is always at hand, ready to be texted, dialed or simply held for reassurance.

But when one local artist takes a call, it’s not his date or his workout but his art that likely is being interrupted. For him, a smartphone is as important as a brush.

“It was never a conscious thing to make art from it,” says Robert Diago, “but it’s become something I’m using to create art while feeding some of the art I’m dealing with.”

In his new show Every Then… And Now at Ro2 gallery, Diago (who writes his name professionally as r. mateo diago) exhibits work that peers deeply into his inner conflicts and addictions thanks to his iPhone. Simply by taking pictures with his phone of other photographs, Diago discovered and honed certain degradations that resonated with his messages.

“There were these strange patterns what would occur and even with those old photos, this gave them a very modern, contemporary touch,” he says.

But there was also an underlying theme emerging. While examining his past and his love addictions with old photos, he was using the very tool that made his addiction harder to handle.

Using a hookup app as inspiration, he created a piece called “Findr Night Lights.” Diago freely talks about his codependence, which has manifested into a love addiction. While he may act out on that in some sexual fashion, he’s discovered it’s rooted in a lack of love and nurturing not met in childhood.

At least, that’s what his therapist told him.

“I had a very good therapist,” Diago chuckles. “As a love addict, I’m looking for that missing piece. I’ve learned that I need to treat the codependent in me, not the addict.”

In turn, his artwork has become therapeutic, and he’s been able to address childhood issues such as his father’s abandonment and an abusive grandmother. He even turned the ending of his last relationship into a four-piece narrative. Unlike his last show, Diago’s intention here is to leave more to the imagination and allow viewers not just to see him, but also themselves.

06_FindR_nightlights_12x10_300“I felt like I spoonfed a little too much with [my show] Junk Drawer,” he says. “I thought to give less this time and start on some middle ground. The purpose of this show is to examine the buzzing in my head when it ingrained into my subconscious. I want everyone to take away from this that if you truly examine your thoughts, you can change the direction of your life.”

The Jersey-born Diago followed his then-partner to Dallas 16 years ago from Fort Lauderdale. Back then, art was a part-time gig, but when he was laid off from his job as a graphic designer almost four years, his partner encouraged him to focus on his art.

Fast-forward to today, and the reality of being a full-time artist is arresting. Diago is still on the hunt for employment and his own money goes more into his art and booking shows than coming in as a result of it.

“I think it was a good decision, but it’s very tough,” he admits. I will just continue to do this, but with no income to speak of, I don’t know what’s next. I’ll definitely go where the money is but I do hope this show could be great for me.”

If there’s one thing his art has given back to him, it is a sense of forgiveness. He can accept he won’t have a relationship with his father but he can use him for art. And he’s also forgiven himself.

“I love my journey. I chose all these unfortunate things and learned from them to create my work,” he says. “I came up against a lot of old demons in this work and was able to let go of them. It was one of the hardest things to do.”

There may not be an app for that, but Diago’s the man to ask how self-discovery can be found in an iPhone.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 13, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

Mac daddy

BearDance guest DJ Sean Mac keeps the big boys moving

seanmacface_HCB

BEAR NECESSITIES | Atlanta-based DJ Sean Mac mixes movie scores with tribal beats for his Dallas debut at BearDance Friday.

The men at BearDance are building a solid reputation for bringing in marquee DJs for their events, as their inaugural 2012 dance proves. Atlanta DJ Sean Mac comes to Dallas with his mix of house music, classic disco and even movie scores.

For someone who got his first (unofficial) gig at a gentlemen’s club at the age of 15, Mac has come a long way — playing the Folsom Street Fair in San Francisco, New Year’s Eve in Sydney and even for Lady Gaga for Wonder World weekend at DisneyWorld. He now tells us what Dallas bears can look forward to as he helms the turntables and assures us that he won’t be distracted by his smartphone while spinning — maybe.

— Rich Lopez

The Loft
1135 S. Lamar St. Jan. 13. 9 p.m. $15.
BearDance.org.

Dallas Voice:  Have you played Dallas before?  Mac: No, but I’ve met a lot of wonderful guys from there on Facebook and BigMuscleBears.com and I attended Texas Bear Round Up in 2007, so I have a sneaking suspicion it’s going to be a fun time!

What are you looking forward to here?  I hear they grow ’em big in Texas!  Seriously, though, I’m looking forward to spinning a really good set. The year started off very well in Denver, where I followed Tony Moran with a set on New Year’s Eve. The guys had the energy turned up to 11 and, knowing the guys with BearDance, I’m sure this event will be awesome.

How did you hook up with BearDance?  Through Facebook. BearDance started with me seeing pictures of friends at one of their events and the conversation started.

Werq it! So what can Dallas bears expect from a Sean Mac set?  My goal is to become one with a dancefloor, so I keep the energy up with stuff that we all want to dance to. I’m also pretty animated. It’s kind of a joke, but I have to dance while I’m DJing. Laugh if you must — it works!

Oh we will laugh … but with you, not at you. What’s this about movie scores in your mix?  Vocal, tribal and disco house are my main genres, but my flavor is cinematic. I collected film scores when I was younger and that seeps into my sets literally and figuratively. My latest Podcast opens with a recent remix of “Pure Imagination” from Willy Wonka, for instance. That’s very much a nerd response, so please print “fun and slutty” instead.

You got it. All right, we have some songs we’ll want you to play…  That’s a tricky one. It’s like flying an airplane with a backseat driver. I take requests under consideration, but I have to worry about keeping everyone happy, not just the person making the request.

Fine. We’ll slip in a phat cash tip. What’s your magic track?  I have a few songs that work particularly well, but it depends on the event as to which one might get played.  There’s a sort of magic associated with the Almighty version of “Perfect Day,” and mine and Bryan Reyes’ remix of Leona Lewis & Avicii’s “Collide” is an audience favorite.

The real question is, do you check your Scruff while DJing?  I try to keep the phone off while DJing. But if you see a hot guy on the floor, there’s that inescapable urge to look him up and message him instantly, so you won’t forget.

You are so right about that.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 13, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

The Advocate gives a shout out to Little Rock but again snubs Dallas on Gayest Cities list

Little Rock, Ark.

The Advocate today posted its third annual list of the 15 “Gayest Cities In America,” which the national LGBT publication admits is totally subjective. The goal of the list seems to be giving props to some of the smaller, lesser-known gay-friendly cities, and the point-scoring criteria include things like number of softball teams that competed in the gay softball world series, transgender protections, and number of combined concerts by Gossip, the Cliks and the Veronicas since 2009.

I’d have to check with Rich Lopez on the concerts, but it looks like Dallas lost points for things like not having a gay bookstore, not having on out elected city official and not having a WNBA team.

Anyhow, according to the Advocate’s criteria, Salt Lake City is the Gayest City in America. And, having lived in Utah for three years, I can tell you from a good deal of firsthand experience that this designation is not entirely untrue.

The only Texas city to make this year’s list is Austin at No. 13, and Dallas, Houston and San Antonio didn’t even get honorable mentions. But the news is not all bad for our region, as I-30 neighbor Little Rock came in at No. 11. Little Rock? Yes, Little Rock. Here’s what the Advocate says:

The River Market District is the main gay area, and many businesses that don’t advertise as specifically LGBT are friendly and open. The compact city has Backstreet (1021 Jessie Rd.) and U.B.U. (TheAquarium.bizland.com) for the over-18 crowd, and those of legal drinking age can check out SixTen Center Street Bar, TraX, Miss Kitty’s/Saloon (all three at TraxNLR.com). But not all LGBT life happens in a bar: According to GayChurch.org, nine of the city’s churches advertise as LGBT-friendly. Amen!

—  John Wright

2011 Year in Review: Music

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THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING ERNEST | Chillwave specialist Ernest Greene of Washed Out turned ‘Within and Without’ into 2011’s best album — no matter what Adele thinks.

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

You could say 2011 was the year of the superstar. Already-superstars Gaga, Beyonce and Britney dropped new albums confirming their status, while Nicki Minaj and Katy Perry became ones following the continued successes of 2010 discs. Kanye and Jay-Z teamed up to watch the throne and beardos Fleet Foxes and Bon Iver followed up their debuts with dreamy, though sometimes confusing releases.

Ultimately, it was Adele who ruled, leaving all others in the dust with an exercise in modern torch songs and declarative hits — so much so, she and 2011 are now practically synonymous.

But not exclusively. A few others made an impression on smaller fronts — and big ones, too. Each of the following resonated either through a chill groove or a strong beat, and ultimately made 2011 easy on the ears.

1. Washed Out, Within and Without What Ernest Greene does with this chillwave release is somewhere between a dream and astral projection. Each track floats in your ears as wonderful bubbles of music that are airy and delicate, but their impression is far more lasting. This isn’t just an album, but a luxury bath for the ears and soul, which made for practically infinite repeat plays. Key tracks: “Amor Fati,” “Eyes Be Closed.”

2. Caveman, CoCo Beware — In just two years, these Brooklyn indie rockers debuted their album with confidence to spare. Giving alt-rock sensibilities to Simon and Garfunkel folkisms, Caveman fits in the Grizzly Bear–Band of Horses vein and yet they still create a sound that will grow into their own. Those drums are to die for as is singer Matthew Iwanusa smooth tenor. Caveman’s release is more like a gift. Key tracks: “Decide,” “December 28th.”

3. Death Cab for Cutie, Keys and Codes Remix EP — By nature, most remixes are agony resulting in a soulless version of the original. That didn’t happen here in DCFC’s redux on their already- impressive Codes and Keys from earlier in the year. At times, the EP is even better than the original, with charged up versions of seven songs. Yeasayer, The 2 Bears and Cut Copy are among the remixers who don’t take away from DCFC’s spirit, but spike it huge with major beats. Key tracks: “Underneath the Sycamore,” “Some Boys.”

4. Adele, 21 This is very likely the album of the year for the entire world — and deservedly so. Adele channeled all the emotion of being done wrong by her man into a solid display of music. At times, she gets a little too sappy, but the strength of 21 isn’t just in Adele’s soulful voice, it’s also in her heart that is both pained and strengthened here. Plus, 21 pretty much just says “fuck you” to the ex the way we all wish we could. Key tracks: “Rolling in the Deep,” “Don’t You Remember.”

5. Adam Tyler, Shattered Ice — In his debut, Tyler broke through pop/dance music apathy to create a refreshing album of solid tunes. He recalls glorious pop of two and three decades ago but updates it with sexy lyrics and dynamic hooks. Tyler wrote all 11 songs and more than half of those are ready for the radio. Hopefully, someone will take notice, because Ice is too spectacular to be overlooked. Key tracks: “Pull the Trigger,” “I Won’t Let You Go.”

6. Real Estate, Days — Less is more with this complete package by the indie folk rockers from New Jersey. They smoothed out from their 2009 debut and bring a minimalist, but hardly simple approach to Days that shows off the band’s talents modestly, but considerably effectively with lush cascades of music. Days is a facile listen that may sound like background music, but you won’t forget it. Key tracks: “It’s Real,” “Younger than Yesterday.”

7. Beyonce, 4 — The diva missed out on big radio hits with this album, but she channeled her inner ‘80s-and-‘90s adult contemporaries and created a helluva fascinating album. Sidestepping the obvious, B dabbled in sophistication over aggression and came up with retro vibes without losing her style. She totally didn’t give up her skills trying for a big hit with “Rule the World (Girls)” but missed. That’s forgivable considering the brilliance of the rest. Key tracks: “Rather Die Young,” “I Care.”

8. CSS, La Liberacion — These Brazilian party rockers matured beautifully in their third album. For having a reputation of delivering queer-centric dance rock, earlier releases were a tad unfocused. CSS kept the same amped-up energy, but their songwriting and musicianship has grown into smart and sublime. From irreverence to slightly political, CSS looks like they have finally found their place. Key tracks: “City Grrrl,” “I Love You.”

9. Me’Shell Ndegéocello, Weather — Ndegéocello continues to bring the cool, and does so with the ultra-slick Weather. Her neo-soul chops have not been lost over the course of her almost two-decade career. Instead, she adds a layer of maturity with each new album and this year practically cultivated it into hip, soulful perfection. And that bass playing is so sexy, it’s borderline (but gloriously) obscene. Key tracks: “Chance,” “Dirty World.”

10. Emmeline, Someone to Be Coming in under the wire, Dallas singer Emmeline recently dropped off her disc personally to the Dallas Voice asking for a listen. Good thing she did, as she lies somewhere between Sarah MacLachlan and Regina Spektor. With earnest keyboards and charming vocals, she churned out one of the more delightful packages of tunes with a sugary edge that sticks just right and is wonderfully addictive. Key tracks: “Someone to Be,” “Dallas.”

…………………………

2011’s top LGBT releases

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Queer music was in full bloom over the last 12 months, with a wide range of LGBT artists — from veterans to newbies — strongly delivering great music. Here are some of the highlights that stuck out for us.
R.E.M, Collapse Into Now. Soon after this March release, the band announced they were breaking up after 30 years — with the appropriate greatest hits release in November.
Deborah Vial, Stages and Stones. The former Dallas gal showed off her chops from Hawaii in her soulful new album.

K.D. Lang and the Siss Boom Bang, Sing it Loud. Lang crooned, but also rocked gently with her new band.
Ariel Aparicio, Aerials. OutMusic Award winner Aparicio hit a strong note with his alt-rock album from August, fusing it with Latin flair.

Garrin Benfield, The Wave Organ Song. This scruffy folk-country artist relaxed into his fifth disc with a languid and poetic song cycle.

Girl in a Coma, Exits and All the Rest (pictured). The San Antonio rock trio made waves in 2011, landing on several year-end lists.

Brandon Hilton, Nocturnal. Hilton worked the web to his advantage to get his album on people’s radar and it worked both ways.

The Sounds, Something to Die For. The relentless alt-pop from these Swedes was one of the best music addictions of the year. And bi singer Maja Ivarsson sold it perfectly.

— R.L.

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

—  Kevin Thomas