Monday, November 11, 2013
Johnny Marr’s Granada show stirs fond memories of The Smiths’ 1986 Bronco Bowl stop
A local fan recalls an unforgettable gig at an iconic bygone Dallas venue.
GREENVILLE AVENUE Johnny Marr may have attained "guitar god" status nearly 30 years ago when his first band, The Smiths, debuted in 1983-84, but the tough-mugging, axe-wielding cult favorite has done the near-unthinkable.
After a storied career inspiring a legion of musical offspring -- Oasis' Noel Gallagher perhaps sums up Smith's fandom in this lengthy and quintessentially colorful (explicit) video -- and guest collaborations with numerous other bands such as The The and Modest Mouse, Marr released his first solo album, The Messenger, on February 25, 2013, at the sweet and tender age of 49. Fresh off his 50th birthday on October 31, Marr played to a largely bespectacled and otherwise rapt audience at the Granada Theater on November 9 in support of his debut effort.
These days, Marr weaves tracks that feel more appropriate for hotel trashing than gladioli thrashing, but with a setlist that included almost as many classics as new tracks, he clearly hasn't neglected his post-punk, rockabilly, and pop roots. Handling the stage with trademark Dionysian guitar acrobatics, Marr returned to Dallas with high energy and his distinctive Mancunian charm.
David Douglas, a fan from Marr's earliest days, recalled with excitement his first experience seeing the guitarist live during The Smith's 1986 The Queen is Dead tour. Douglas has long supported the Dallas music scene, both as owner of VVV Records in Oak Lawn from 1993-1996, and now as a DJ with a weekly gig at Cafe Izmir, across from the Granada on Greenville Avenue. He recalled The Smiths' only Dallas gig -- The Bronco Bowl on September 6, 1986, just 10 months before the band's 1987 breakup:
"[The Bronco Bowl] was the shrine of the best music venue in Dallas during the '80s/early '90s," Douglas said. "This ranks as one of the most special nights I can remember. Tickets were $14."
Formerly on Fort Worth Avenue in Oak Cliff, The Bronco Bowl -- part bowling alley, part music club -- was known for hosting bands on the rise, not quite big enough to draw stadium crowds, but too popular for more intimate clubs. It was demolished in 2004 and a Home Depot now sits on the site.
"The whole atmosphere was absolutely electric with anticipation and once The Smiths hit the stage, I still don't know if I've ever seen a band showered with that much adulation," Douglas said.
Marr's former bandmate Morrissey has returned -- and not returned -- to DFW many times during his 30-plus year solo career, most notably during a recorded appearance at the Starplex Ampitheatre (now Gexa Energy Pavilion) in 1991. Dallas took the sixth spot on Marr's maiden, 18-date U.S. solo tour.
"This was the only time The Smiths ever played in Dallas, and started Morrissey's love affair with Dallas," Douglas said. "I'll never forget it, and I'm one of the few lucky ones who saw The Smiths during the short window before their breakup."
Douglas considers himself a lifelong Marr fan, who has followed the musician's career for three decades. "He sounds pretty good vocally, I think he's gotten more confidence in his singing voice in recent years," Douglas said.
While Douglas was excited to see Marr return to Dallas, there was a conflicting gig on that day that he simply couldn't miss -- supporting the next generation at the Lone Star Classic, Texas' largest drumline competition, during which his son performed for Austin's McAllum High School. Like Marr, it seems that many of his fans have entered a new stage, honoring musical nostalgia by supporting rock's hopeful future.
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