Saturday, September 15, 2012
Dallas’ City Performance Hall opens with a bang
The celebratory evening brought together a mash of genres and an eclectic crowd.
Sarah Jaffe, Pleasant Grove, The Relatives, and Seryn at Dallas City Performance Hall (September 14)
DALLAS A grand opening performance requires stature, allure, and grace – high demands for any artist. The inaugural evening for the sparkling new $40 million City Performance Hall in Dallas’ Arts District was no different. Denton singer Sarah Jaffe accepted the invitation to headline the big event, which added an extra thrill for local music fans in attendance. Many of Dallas’ upper crust, who likely pulled from their own pockets to contribute to the buildings in the artsy area, were in attendance, making this Jaffe crowd unlike any other we’ve seen.
Past the event’s complimentary appetizers and open bar was the breathtaking auditorium with a massive stage and lofty ceiling space framed in wood. A group of Booker T. Washington students opened for Jaffe by performing some of her tracks a cappella. The young talents opened with “Clementine” and closed with “Talk” with pristine harmony and pitch that would make Jaffe proud. Not wasting any time, Jaffe and her band walked out immediately after to begin their highly anticipated set. The band was spread out across the sprawling stage, each facing a different direction, which added an exhibition component not usually seen at a concert.
With a shorter, slicked-down haircut and an outfit harkening back to the ‘50s complete with a bowling shirt and oxfords, Jaffe was poised and ready. “Sucker for Your Marketing” kicked off the set and paved the way for many other tracks from her newest record, The Body Wins. A looming black curtain covered with LED bulbs flooded the backdrop with bright images, shedding light on Jaffe’s moody tones. A pin drop could have shattered the stark silence in the auditorium – only Jaffe’s witty banter in between songs broke the silence at first until some of the younger fans began to yell compliments or cheer her on.
Her vulnerable, yet passionate approach to performing is what we’ve become addicted to in the past few years, and she didn’t hold anything back Friday night. Closed eyes and a shaking head gave Jaffe away in “Hooray For Love,” and she seemed as dedicated to the song as all the eyes on her. Pianist Scott Danbom scaled his stunning white piano with precision, adding color and movement to tracks like “Halfway Right,” “Fangs,” and her cool rendition of The Supremes' “You Keep Me Hanging On.” As if one idyllic cover wasn’t enough, Jaffe stepped out for the encore with a poignant version of “Head Over Heels” by Tears for Fears, using only her trembling chords and the keys. She closed the night the same way it began, with “Clementine” (her biggest single), along with the softly satisfied crowd.
An hour later, another local show christened the new space – 91.7 KXT’s Triple Play. This subsequent concert sent home much of the older crowd to usher in a more casual, laid-back audience. The Relatives, Pleasant Grove, and Seryn fleshed out the bill, which made for an unpredictable mix of gospel, Americana, and folk.
The funky, rambunctious group The Relatives brought the gospel to the Dallas crowd by laying down soulful harmonies and piercing high notes that could crack any champagne glass. The Dallas group has been around for more than 30 years (with a few member changes) and can boast about their stint with the Staple Singers. Reverend Gean West led the spirited group with his shrieking approach (much like James Brown) and charismatic movements. Shimmering, oversized, pearly white suits adorned the harmonizing singers and added a formality to the eccentric band that helped deliver an authentic church experience.
Their overpowering harmonies and booming chords bounced off the wooden walls for a rousing testimony that brought many people to their feet. Swaying and clapping converted this modern auditorium into a Southern congregation on a Sunday morning, without the drawn-out sermon. If anyone wasn’t a fan of good ‘ol Southern gospel before then, The Relatives made believers out of them.
Many dedicated Pleasant Grove fans made their way to the City Performance Hall for the local group’s “reunion” show after The Relatives: The Southern Rock group seemingly dropped off after a few shows in 2010. Co-vocalist Marcus Striplin resembled the National’s Matt Berninger in tone and delivery, making for an interesting spin on their Americana style. But the brilliant Joe Butcher (The King Bucks) countered that with his pedal steel guitar by adding the Southern twang fans have come to love. Seeing as this was an overdue, one-off performance, there were a few places where the vocal synchronization between Striplin and other vocalist Bret Egner became rocky.
Leave it to drummer Jeff Ryan (formally of Sarah Jaffe, and currently in Crushed Stars) to seal the deal with a raging closer alongside Striplin. Whether the guys were finely tuned or not, Pleasant Grove satisfied their dedicated fans' cravings for the gloomy and dark tunes the local artists have put their stamp on.
As the clock flew past midnight, Seryn fine-tuned their instruments, pushing the patient audience to doze off. Surprisingly, the crowd had not thinned out as much as expected, and the show was well worth the wait. The infamously rousing folk band from Denton pounded away at their guitars, ukulele, and drums loud enough to stir anyone out of a daze. Trenton Wheeler stomped through his fast-paced ukulele solos with the desperation of someone playing for the last time. We’ve said it time and again – these phenomenal musicians' music is goosebump-inducing.
Chelsea Bohrer, the dreadlock wearing violinist, sat down to the keys during a few new tracks that were finally unveiled after the long awaited stint since their freshman release. The more electric approach stepped away from their organic, a cappella harmonies without sacrificing their crashing choruses or emotional connection to their words. Newer lyrics were more morose, showing a deeper side to the spiritual band. Many of their fervent instrumentals brought the crowd to their feet with a roaring applause. Who said it was late, anyway?
Favorite tracks such as “So, Within” and “Beach Song” continued to reduce the use of the venue’s brand new seats, which carried through the closing track, “We Will All Be Changed,” But due to a city curfew, Seryn was forced to rush off the stage without an encore for their mesmerized fans.
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