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Commentary: 'Local' music scene shouldn't be hemmed in by Cowtown city limits

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Posted 9:36am on Wednesday, May. 30, 2012

To paraphrase poet John Donne, no scene is an island.

A recent Fort Worth Weekly cover story about the city's "indie rock" landscape got me thinking about the publication's fixation on keeping Fort Worth apart from Dallas or Denton. I realize some of that stems from a practical business need, but at the same time, it's strange for anyone to loudly declare that Fort Worth will be content to never step outside its own creative sandbox, or that somehow, musicians and fans are being unfaithful to Fort Worth by venturing past Loop 820.

Keeping the focus so tightly on just one area is myopic, especially in 2012, when artists are freely swapping ideas and information online, regardless of where they live. Denying the free flow of creativity, simply because one lives in (gasp!) Dallas or Denton, is parochial.

And, indeed, the Weekly's narrow point of view has blowback potential, reinforcing the same weird inferiority complex among the creative class that drives the publication's relentlessly insular way of thinking. Should we really be telling our best musicians that they won't be as appreciated by tastemakers outside of our own humble burg?

To be clear, I'm not discouraging support of Fort Worth musicians at all. I have written volumes singing the praises of Josh Weathers, Dru B Shinin' and Telegraph Canyon, to name just a few. I'm also not saying you should skip Fort Worth venues in favor of those in Dallas or Denton. I just think anyone trying to carve out a career in music needs support and encouragement that reaches beyond the boundaries of the city where they live.

Anthony Mariani, who wrote the Weekly story, also bemoans that there aren't enough Fort Worth venues to satisfy demand with the "indie, progressive rock" scene peaking.

So does that mean that Cowtown-based bands and musicians like Pinkish Black, Burning Hotels or Louie Evol shouldn't strike out into "foreign" territory, playing shows in Dallas or elsewhere? (In fact, all three have either just played or will play Dallas in the near future.)

The majority of music fans I know don't bat an eye at driving somewhere else to catch a show, particularly if the lineup represents a great cross section of North Texas talent. Lola's Saloon, Magnolia Motor Lounge, the Grotto and many of Fort Worth's other music venues consistently book terrific lineups (with bands from across the Metroplex), but the notion that fans should simply content themselves with whatever's playing there is insane. Why limit your choices in live music?

Come to think of it, the phrase "local music" probably needs an update, too. Clinging tightly to the notion that "local" equals "817" is self-defeating. Music scenes thrive and expand precisely because new ideas or different approaches are introduced.

Examples of this cross-pollination abound: Fort Worth rockers Calhoun are signed to a label based in Dallas -- I'd argue that it has pushed the band to a new level of intensity. The Fort Worth-based Burning Hotels are collaborating with Dallas rappers A.Dd+ -- putting both acts in a fascinating new context. Aledo-based Analog Rebellion has struck a rich vein of inspiration at Dallas venue El Sibil.

All of North Texas is enjoying a musical renaissance, with bustling scenes in every city. Fort Worth, in particular, is thriving, and I feel fortunate to live here and cover the variety of homegrown sounds. I'm also glad to be able to plug into the Dallas and Denton scenes. The idea of isolating myself to one city -- as some sort of misdirected point of civic pride -- just seems narrow-minded and foolish.

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