Ricky Mitchell, a Dallas artist/busker plays guitar on the Main Street side of the plaza next to a State of Texas historical marker describing the lynching of three black men accused of arson in 1860.
Opened in 1994 Pegasus Plaza is the centerpiece of the Main Street Historic Restoration Project. It was paid for by the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture, a 1982 bond election money, and a half-million-dollar gift from actress Greer Garson.
A limestone fountain anchors the design and is connected to a natural spring 1,600 feet below ground. A stone dedicated to Melpomene, the singer of elegies and tragedies is next to a grove of Willows, the symbol of death. A 4,000-pound quartz crystal and a grove of Bald Cypresses, a symbol of healing fill the plaza.
I am going, to be honest. I am not the world’s biggest fan of metal music. Having said that, I can add, first for a guy my age I’ve seen way more than my share of metal bands, and two, I am a fan of Nita Strauss. On a cold November night, I get the word; ”Drag your ass down to Amplified and get a video of Nita Strauss. Who? Great. I’m going to freeze to death to see a woman guitarist.
Well, I Iooked into it a bit further and found out some very interesting facts. Nita Strauss has been playing guitar in the Los Angeles area since high school. She first came to serious attention with the all-girl group “The Iron Maidens” a tribute band to the original English group. In 2014 she replaced ( Australian) Orianthi as Alice Cooper’s touring lead guitarist. In short order her unyielding shredding guitar style was widely recognized, she became the first female to represent Ibanez guitars. She has been referred to by a number of publications as the top female guitarist in America. She writes and records her own music, playing both guitar and bass on most. She continues to tour with Alice Cooper and in 2018 launched her solo career to rave reviews. She has put out a number of albums, the latest of which is Controlled Chaos. She appeared as the headliner at Dallas’ Amplified Live. She was preceded on stage by “Black Satellite” members who joined her on the stage late in the performance. “Hurricane Nita” hits the stage with her group ( 2nd guitar, bass, drums, and a keyboardist ) They are almost completely instrumental, but each is a master. Together they put on a high-energy, animated, and generally the best metal band and music show I’ve seen or heard. No monkey business. A commanding stage presence and a generally great show. I shot some pretty good video, and of course, you should watch it, but it merely gives a glimpse of her live performances. If you consider yourself a headbanger or a real metal fan your experiences are incomplete until you see Nita Strauss.
Audic Empire is a five-member group based in Austin, Texas. They have been together for almost ten years. They identify mostly with reggae but certainly have added their own touches to the original material, most of which is written by Ronnie Bowen and James Tobias. They have produced three albums, all of which are available on most internet platforms. These guys hit the stage like a strong wind. Fast and tight, their music held the audience like a magnet. The reggae beat was punctuated with blues licks we have come to expect from the better Texas guitarists. Audic Empire is a talented group that works well together. Their music is appealing and their stage presence is attention-grabbing.
Kyle Smith was the second act to perform on November 21. The Kyle Smith group is currently a trio composed of bass, drums, and (Kyle Smith ) on guitar and vocals. Smith is from Ventura, California, and is currently engaged in a multicity tour. His music draws on rock and reggae which he calls “Cali-reggae”. Other writers refer to this as “California-style” reggae. I’m not sure there are definable, regional differences or if this is just a promotional idea.
Smith’s music was tight, as are most trios. It was also fast-paced and generally struck me as more rock than reggae. The musicianship was good, and I think they are a good bar/dance band but I did not get a sense of a clear musical direction. Their stage presence was not so prominent as the previous band ( Drifting Roots ). Smith has previously recorded an album “Lost Cause”, available on internet platforms.
Drifting Roots is a four-piece band that hails from the Daytona Beach area of Florida and has been touring for the last several weeks. They were /are one of the first acts to appear on the newly remodeled Amplified Dallas in-door stage. Playing all original music there was a nice hint of rock in their reggae. The instruments were well balanced with the vocals and the overall effect was that the group was better than the sum of the individual players. These guys play well together. The players were Matt ( guitar and lead vocalist ), Tim ( lead guitar ), Joey ( bass), and Chris ( drums ).
They played with force and presence. They interacted well with the audience and projected their individual and group personalities. It’s hard to define, but these guys strike me as having star potential.
Amigo the Devil is an icon of “murderfolk”, a subset of “folkpunk” music. His real name is Danny Kiranos and currently calls Austin home. He is a one-man, one guitar, one amp show. His songs are his own and many are written to intentionally involve the audience. He is quick-witted and, at times, funny enough to claim the title of a comedian. His songs range from tales of bloody knives to the pina colada song ,” Escape”by Rupert Holmes. I recommend him to anyone who appreciates a pretty good singer/songwriter with a rather dark sense of the absurd.
AMPLIFIED LIVE, Dallas
1026 Technology blvd
Dallas, Texas 75220
In 2014, Richard Rawlings, professional hot rod mechanic and reality star branched out into the entertainment business by opening “The Gas Monkey Bar and Grill “in northwest Dallas. The club was large had good grill-type food and booked touring bands three to four nights per week. It started slowly but built a rather large, loyal crowd. There is no doubt the club was successful, but for reasons known only to a few, in 2020 Rawlings decided to get out of the club business and took the name with him. Under new management, the club was renamed “Amplified Live”. Though largely the same, a few improvements have been made, including a first-floor in-door stage and an extension of the original bar. The outside stage required little modification and is likely the best live popular music venue in Dallas. The stage is large and there is room for about five to seven hundred outdoor quests, not including a second floor semicircular balcony with tables and chairs ( although most guests stand ). The sound and light systems are state of the art. The service ( food and drink ) is first-rate . Photography and videography is permitted. Security is ample, but not overly conspicuous. Talent booking is thoughtful and with a good grasp of what is popular and ( more importantly ) what is not popular. There is usually a cover charge between ten and twenty-five dollars, but parking is free. I liked the Gas Monkey, and its change to Amplified Live has only made improvements. I’ve been to a lot of clubs and music venues. We in Dallas are lucky. There are a lot of nice places with good entertainment. That being said, Amplified Live is my choice for number one.
The Tejon Street Corner Thieves hail from Colorado Springs and tour in a yellow school bus ( roomy, but I’ll bet it’s a bear to maintain ). The group has been in existence since about 2012 and until recently would have nothing to do with record labels/companies. They have released Four albums and plan on the fifth ( “Thick as Thieves” for later this year ). The Thieves call their music “trashgrass” and is composed of guitar, upright and electric bass, banjo, and percussionist ( wash board / thimbles and assorted junk ). The members are Connor O’Neal, Shawn D’Amario, Spencer Mode, and Jeremy Knowles. Their performance is fast-paced, well-rehearsed and perfectly timed. The music is original and delightful. In terms of pure entertainment value, I would rank these guys with the likes of Brave Combo.
Colleman Finchman was reportedly unaware that he was a fourth-generation Williams ( as in Hank Williams ) until his teenage years, hence adopting the name IV ( as the son of Hank Williams III ). In his formative years, he played with various punk and alternative groups. He finished college in English literature but found teaching unsatisfying and he began to look around for players. Initially performing punk music it wasn’t long before his country linage began to emerge, ultimately resulting in the strange Band. IV fronted his band at Ampified Live .
IV’s music is a unique mixture of country and rock reminiscent of John Prine, the Melvins, and Jesus Lizard and might be described as “country punk”. The music will appeal to hardcore rocker and country fans alike. The group was made up of Coleman Williams ( guitar and lead vocal ), David Talley ( lead guitar), and Jason Dietz ( bass ). Laura Beth Jewell ( violin ) was not present for this event and was replaced by a banjo player whose identity escaped me. The band’s first record, “Son of Sin” was released in April 2021. See him when you can. He is really a rising star.
Booking information: Mikemonterulo@tkco.com
We’ve been to DaDa several times this year and will likely go several more times as it seems to be one of the “must play” venues in Texas for touring artists. Though DaDa is also a full-service bar, it occasionally has all-ages nights and marks under the drinking age with ink on a hand. This practice seems to satisfy the police and allows DaDa to have acts that appeal to under-aged fans. The club has a large dance floor in front of the stage but does not allow mosh pits or stage diving. In fact, any sort of serious misbehavior is rare at DaDa.
Club DaDa 2720 Elm Street Dallas, Texas 75226
Fraxiom is a 21-year-old, Chicago-based up-and-coming star in the world of hyperpop. ( Hyper-pop is a mixture of maximalist, electronic, squelching synths, voice alteration, and rap. So far, it is a small genre prompted principally on streaming internet services ). Fraxiom is a gender-fluid person who has partnered with Gupi, aka Spencer Hawk ( son of skateboard legend Tony Hawk ). As a duo, they are called FoodHouse. The Fraxiom performance lasted about an hour and feature Frax as the sole performer along with a synthesizer and various prerecorded tracks. They bounded, jumped, sat, and skipped back and forth on the stage while intermittently singing and rapping. Most of the time they ( perhaps intentionally ) seemed oblivious to the audience. The audience, mostly teenagers to early ’20s, seemed to enjoy the show and bounced in cadence when a definable beat was present.
Contact: Instagram: @fraaaaaax Music: Spotify, SoundCloud.
Alice Longyo Gao
Alice came on after Fraxiom and performed for about 90 minutes. Alice grew up and studied music in China until age 17, before immigrating to New York where she has worked as a DJ and performer. In various interviews, she has discussed bringing an Asian influence to hyperpop. She is decidedly feminine but vocally supportive of the LBGQ community. Now at age 27, she lives in Los Angeles. She too performed singularly, accompanied by various electronic devices. Her songs are lingering and at times catchy. She clearly recognizes the importance of audience interaction, at one point leaving the stage to mingle while singing and rapping.
Contact: http://alicelongyogao.com @alicealice916