Put your claws up

SMARTER THAN YOUR AVERAGE BEAR DANCE Mould, left, and Morel like to blowoff some energy with Blowoff — and being at a bear event only makes it better. (Photo courtesy Jeff Smith Photography)

Mixing dance tracks and rock, DJ team Blowoff serves the beats to the bears

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

When the beat drops Friday night at the Big D Bear Dance, expect the furry men attending this year’s Texas Bear Round Up XVI to pack the dance floor tightly (the only way, actually). That’s because the beefy bearish tag team of Bob Mould and Rich Morel debut their popular event Blowoff in Dallas, merging rock and electronica. Oddly enough, they didn’t start out as the go-to guys for ursine events — but they sure fit in.

“We fit the demographic,” Morel laughs. “But really, it just sort of happened.”

“We became this music event that the bears found,” explains Mould. “They liked us and it was a natural fit. There was no adjusting that we made from just DJing initially, but I do think it’s more of a dance night than music night. I play less indie rock than I would.”

The team had met in music circles before, but teamed up in Washington, D.C., back in 2003 for their first gig together. Their musical philosophies merged nicely, but Mould had ulterior motives for the union: The party was really just a way for Mould to meet people in his new hometown.

“I didn’t have any friends and I just had this idea that if we threw a party, I’d meet more people,” Mould chuckles. “I made flyers and just started passing them around.”

What? Mould needs friends? This is the same guy who helmed such bands as Husker Du and Sugar. But he was alone in a new city, and did something about it.

“I knew Rich was there and we got together to write music,” he says. “But now it’s taken on this life of its own. We worked really hard at it and have taken chances with music by mixing rock and low-fi with electronica and progressive house. I think that has been setting us apart.”

The team credits some of their success to their sound. Their newer trance and vocal mixes are less hyper. Sometimes the chill lo-fi indie rock stuff doesn’t go over well, but bears especially those like Mould and Morel are willing to dance to their beat.

“We’re a bit audience specific,” Mould says, ”because people our age like to dance to it, too.”

Mould hasn’t left his rock roots behind. He’s recently performed surprise shows with the Foo Fighters at the request of Dave Grohl and appeared with Death Cab for Cutie’s Ben Gibbard onstage. Before he became an iconic beardaddy DJ, Mould was already an icon for a new generation of alt-rockers.

“It’s very flattering when they ask for me,” he says. “It’s nice to know people like them are influenced by my stuff. But really, we’re all storytellers, we reinterpret them and the stories get passed on. It’s the legacy of music.”

Mould’s own story will be put to print this summer when his autobiography, See a Little Light: A Trail of Rage and Melody, rolls off the presses.

“It was quite a trip to relive everything, “ he says. “Readers will see an interesting life. It’ll touches on public and private stuff, but no animals were harmed in the making of this book — except me. “

Where Mould ends with rock, Morel would seem to start with dance, but that’s not the case. Morel was kind of a rocker as well and applied his remixes to less dance driven bands like The Killers and The Doors. What Morel did find as that the space where they play is dependent on the tone and with bigger rooms (such as Station 4), certain records are just going to work better.

“Our goal is to get them there on the dancefloor,” Morel says. “Different stuff works, but really, you just can’t make everyone happy. At a certain point, it’s fine.”

Morel thinks what sets them apart, besides the music, is their set up. The team play in hour chunks, tag-teaming every 60 minutes. This gives them time to socialize and get a drink — and the mix-and-mingle contributes to their success.

“We strive for a friendly club experience,” Morel says. “We don’t have a separation from the crowd while playing.”

They’ve done bear events around the country including New York, Provincetown and Chicago, so Mould’s feeling confident that they will tap into the right musical nerve for this crop of Dallas bears.

“I’m planning on doing what I do best,” Mould says. “I hear this is one of the more fun bear events so I can’t wait. I’ll be staying Saturday night so I’ll get to hang out.”

But Mould lives in San Francisco now and Morel resides in D.C. So how do they get ready?

“We show up!” Morel laughs.

This article appeared on the Dallas Voice print edition March 18, 2011.

—  John Wright

Dear Gaby

Local Telemundo host Gabriela Natale opens eyes by shining a spotlight to the gay Latino community

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer  lopez@dallasvoice.com

Gabriela Natale
MADE FOR TV | Natale sees the Latino community in a state of transformation, opening up to LGBT issues. She hopes ‘SuperLatina’ is contributing to that change.

Gabriela Natale (Gaby for short) has a voice beyond her 32 years. She talks spiritedly and quickly with youthful enthusiasm, but there’s wisdom in her tone. Natale talks like she knows something others don’t.

“I hope to create understanding bridges because we as human beings have so much more in common with each other,” she says.

Natale hosts SuperLatina, a Spanish-language talk show on Telemundo that airs Wednesday mornings. SuperLatina heralds a new type of voice in the Latino community; Natale cites Ellen as an influence, but Tyra Banks has been a specific inspiration for her.

“I’m inspired by Oprah and Ellen but I love how Tyra will touch on delicate topics in African-American culture that aren’t talked about out loud,” she says.” “We have those same problems in the Hispanic community.”

With her show, Natale has also burst open the door of LGBT topics within the Latino community — a decision that has led to discomfort among some. With a culture mostly steeped in Catholic tradition, Latinos can be uneasy talking about gay issues, and Natale says Spanish language television reflects that —there is relatively little coverage of LGBT topics. But when SuperLatina had a show on Latino gay youth, Natale met with a surprising response.

“When I heard about the suicide rate for gay teens, I wanted to talk about how they felt,” she says. “It’s hard to be a minority within a minority. I got messages on Facebook, people had seen the show on YouTube and I got so many thank yous. The audience was very positive about it. This was probably some people’s first exposure to the LGBT community.”

Natale doesn’t approach such topics with ulterior motives. SuperLatina isn’t about controversy — she’s committed to making the show a positive tool. Every episode, however, doesn’t have a heavy inspirational message: Some are heartwarming stories of giving youth an educational scholarship or granting someone’s wish to meet a star … and of course, what would a talk show be without makeovers?

But she does put in the effort to make her LGBT-related episodes mean something to both the audience and the community.

“I don’t want circus topics,” she says. “When I reached out to people for my same-sex parents episode, I took more time on that and wanted to establish trust with them. I don’t want anyone to be on my show in fear or as if they are in the hot seat. I don’t want them to be awkward.”

In that episode, she discussed parenting with both male and female couples as well as a specialist on how to approach the subject with children. She says that these families were happy to share this episode with their families, but she also knows that the mindset in the Latino community will be accepted slowly. However, she’s found that Latino families are more accepting than most might think.

“It comes from the heart but I think that people choose to know reality,” she says.

Originally from Argentina, where she graduated with a degree in journalism, Natale moved to Washington, D.C., in 2003 after working for free at a political marketing conference. Following a stint as a news anchor at Univision, she moved on to Telemundo to develop SuperLatina.
But North Texans audiences didn’t get to know Natale until last August, when production on her show moved to the Fort Worth office and it began to air locally.

The Emmy nominee didn’t have a particular go-to person for her interest in the gay community — no gay friend who suffered discrimination that sparked her activism. Instead, she felt obliged to reach out after seeing how Latinos are demographically classified.

“I think it’s a contradiction as a minority to turn your back on another minority,” she says. ”I consider myself a voice for my community and I want to be a stronger voice for positive change.”

Natale sees the shift of thinking in the new generations of Latinos — especially when it comes to the gay community. She references two events over the last year that were crucial to opening minds and embracing the community and both involved music superstars.

“First, there was Ricky Martin coming out, “ she says. “Then there was the Mexican singer Paquita la del Barrio statement in March “that she would prefer a child die on the streets rather than be adopted by a gay couple. “

GLAAD immediately called for an apology and la del Barrio has worked to repair her image by giving a concert at a gay club outside Mexico City. (Interestingly, she recanted not just because of GLAAD’s demand but because of outrage in the Mexican community at large.) Add to it Martin’s eloquent coming out letter on his website and the Latino community could be growing into a more accepting culture respecting gay issues.

“I think there is this shift of shame in the culture,” she says. “People are more proud to speak Spanish and embrace their heritage. But also, I humbly feel part of the transformation in the community is awareness, participation and even education. Right now is a special moment.”

SuperLatina airs on Telemundo on Wednesdays at 10:30 a.m.

TelemundoDallas.com/SuperLatina.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 6, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens