For The North Texas Music Scene, 2014 Was All About Reliving The Past. Perhaps Too Much So.
One of the first big music stories of 2014 came back in early January. That's when Outkast announced it would end its seven-year hiatus and headline Coachella in April — not to mention some 40 other festival dates throughout the summer.
For a while there, it was all anybody could talk about.
Twenty years after the duo released its debut, 1994's Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, Outkast remains as big a deal as ever, it would seem. And, even if Andre 3000 has since said that he never wanted to do the tour in the first place and that he wasn't really into the performances because he felt like a sellout, fans didn't seem to mind much.
In fact, for music fans in 2014, reliving the past was just part of the game. This phenomenon wasn't necessarily exclusive to the music world, either. Hell, the word “nostalgia” ranked No. 2 on Merriam-Webster's list of the words of the year — a list it bases on spikes in interest.
Surely, some of that can be contributed by the fact that 2014 marked the 50th anniversary of The Beatles' first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, the 20th anniversary of Kurt Cobain's passing and the 10th anniversary of Dimebag Darrell's murder.
Similarly, the idea of band reunions, anniversary album reissues and the like was the most enduring local trend of the year. Considering that one of the first shows we saw this year was Tiffany performing in a mall food court, we probably should have seen this coming.
It wasn't just nostalgia tours coming our way this year, either. Dozens of North Texas acts tried their hands at rekindling some of their past magic, too.
And, for some of them, the reunion became an all-out revitalization. For bands such as Ten Hands — which played its first show in years at The Kessler in January — the allure of a resurgence proved an intoxicating one. Following its first return, that jazz-infused Denton outfit continued performing sporadically throughout the year. Now, the band's confirmed that it will be playing a New Year's Eve gig at Dan's Silverleaf, with one-time Ten Hands member Mike Dillon sitting in on percussion.
Similarly, bands like The Theater Fire and Baboon — both of which played a couple reunion shows in the first quarter of the year — even hinted at new material. More recently, Pleasant Grove — another act that marked its return with a January Kessler gig — did a little more than just hinting, even going so far as to release a teaser for an LP it'll release next spring.
Several other reunion gigs, though, were indeed more of a one-time thing. In January, members of The Party reunited to spin records at its first Dallas party since 2009 before returning to dormancy with two-thirds of its members now living in New York and Puerto Rico. And, though we called him crazy at the time, a Dallasite managed to reunite Vanilla Ice with the Ninja Turtles for what was reportedly a pretty epic performance. It was the first time the two entities had appeared onstage together since 1991's Secret of the Ooze hit theaters.
Not to be forgotten: Long-defunct acts such as Parables, The Slack, Valve, Macavity and Shibboleth played one-offs at venues like Three Links and Twilite Lounge. This weekend, that list will only continue to grow as Twilite co-owner Danny Balis will assemble the surviving members of his old band, Sorta, for a one-off gig at his bar. In Sorta's case, the band has only played the occasional one-off here and there since the late Carter Albrecht's death in 2007, with its most recent showing coming at — you guessed it! — The Kessler in 2011.
Really, though, the most celebrated one-off of the year came from Edie Brickell & the New Bohemians, who headlined October's North Oak Cliff Music Festival. Like so many other reunions we've already mentioned, the folks at The Kessler were heavily involved with that show as well. It's probably not at all surprising, then, that the Oak Cliff venue is also where the original lineup of Brave Combo decided to get back together to celebrate its 35th anniversary.
Then, of course, there are bands like Red Animal War and Hagfish, which are always good for one show a year, and always right around the holidays, too: The former lived up to tradition with a show last weekend at Double Wide; the latter will do so with its annual Christmas Day show, which will this year go down at Three Links. Of course, if these reunite every year, it's probably not fair to cite them as examples of the current trend.
Maybe, though, it's just a sign that nostalgia's always been a big player in the Dallas music scene. Hell, maybe that's why this town is so obsessed with cover acts, too.
In any case, we're probably burying the lede here: A bigger story than the dozens of reunions that took place this year was that of bands mining their own pasts, playing old albums at their shows in their entirety or releasing reissues.
Cashing in biggest on this phenomena, of course, was the Toadies — a band we mentioned some 80-plus times on our site this year. For the Toadies, the band's 2014 was pretty much dedicated to reliving its 1994 glory by reissuing that year's seminal Rubberneck LP and performing that sucker from front to back during most of its shows this year — perhaps most notably at its annual Dia de los Toadies festival in Fort Worth. A mini-documentary on the making of that album and a new local beer named in its honor were big players as well.
Playing main support at Dia, of course, was the Old 97's, which similarly reissued its own 1994 debut LP last month. Instead of playing Hitchhike to Rhome front-to-back at all of its shows this year, though, the 97's had the restraint to do it just once, just this past weekend at The Majestic Theatre. Of course, in the case of the Old 97's, the band had distractions: It was mainly focused on hyping its stellar new album from this year.
Also getting the reissue treatment this year was an expanded, 20-year anniversary edition of Pantera's Far Beyond Driven, a vinyl-only run of Centro-matic's 1996 Redo the Stacks debut and a box set of Bedhead's entire catalog that maybe even earned the far underappreciated outfit more attention of late than it ever received in the '90s, when it was still together.
But perhaps nobody put all the backwards-gazing trends together with as much proficiency as Rigor Mortis did. This summer, the legendary thrash metal outfit wrapped work on its first album of new material since 1991. Going back even further, October's Slaves to the Grave was also the first album the band recorded with its original lineup since 1988 — and the final studio album that late guitarist Mike Scaccia recorded before his passing in 2012. Since then, the band's surviving members have taken to performing under the name Wizards of Gore, so as to honor Scaccia's legacy.
So, yeah, it's pretty clear North Texas was mired with a pretty healthy obsession towards its own musical past this year. Less clear, though, is why.
Is it really just because 2014 is a nice round number for so many music-related anniversaries? Might it have something to do with the fact that Deep Ellum's currently experiencing its biggest boom in over a decade? Or maybe all this was encouraged by the fact that there's just so many damn places for all these bands to play now?
No matter the reason, the allure of nostalgia proved quite powerful this year. For the past 12 months, its grip was a nigh-impossible one from which to escape. It's like author John Gloag once wrote: “Nostalgia is a powerful drug to which intelligent and sensitive people resort when they are bored or frightened by the times they are living in; and comforting doses are increased as their dislike of the present is reinforced by dread of the future.”
Pretty much. It's a powerful drug, indeed.
That said, perhaps it's time we all started to move on. Because it's not like this year has been devoid of notable new contributions to call its own.
Plus, we've got anniversaries and reunions to plan for 20 years from now that depend on it.
Hey, some things never change.