Photographs by TJ Scott
Guest blogger Sarah Crisman is a Denton-based music writer.
When you are on top of the music industry, you can surround yourself with the best musicians on the planet. The same rule applies if you happen to live in Dallas.
Lady Gaga was an inescapable presence in North Texas this week. Thousands upon thousands donned Carnival-worthy costumes and piled faithfully into the American Airlines Center on Thursday and Friday to experience a most epic Monster Ball. While this massive show pulsated grotesquely beautiful energy, it was her band that connected with the Dallas music community at regular jam sessions nearly every night.
These sessions, hosted each week by various local legends like Bernard Wright and RC Williams, are a staple for the heavy cats touring through Dallas. Drop into Pussy Cat Lounge on any given Monday, or Prophet Bar on a Wednesday and you are liable to hear some of the world’s most demanded musicians shedding with our very own superstars.
This week was particularly impressive. The Dallas family decided to pull out all the stops to welcome Philly drummer George “Spanky” McCurdy, Diddy-protege Brockett Parsons and Lanar “Kern” Brantley, one of hip-hop’s most sought-after bassist. The Gaga-band members are connected enough with the Dallas crowd to know where the weekly sheds go down, and they were seen and heard playing with Nard on Monday and The Gritz crew on Wednesday. But we still couldn’t get enough, so Robert “Sput” Searight (Snarky Puppy, Justin Timberlake) threw a last minute jam session at Sankofa Cafe in Deep Ellum after Thursday’s AAC gig. The night became legend within an hour.
The intimate gathering of the tight-knit community was proof again of Dallas’ small-town/big city dichotomy. There was no shortage of cameras capturing the unforgettable midnight session. The room felt more like a family reunion than a red carpet affair – more Gospel revival than A-List after party. Musicians and friends crammed into the Deep Ellum attic to hear Lucky Peterson shred the way only a blues man knows how. Sput, usually found behind the drum kit, was on keys, clearing the drums for Cleon Edwards and Spanky. All eyes and ears were locked on the stage, every now and then the crowd would rally unanimous shouts of approval. As the night crept on, there was no distinction between stage and audience. All were willing participants, even if only half wielded instruments.
It was then that Brockett, Kern and Spanky took to their craft. We couldn’t have stopped Spanky from playing if we wanted to! Brockett, who’s head nearly scraped the ceiling as he approached the stage, filled the seasoned room with soul on keys anchored by Kern’s bassline dictating the pulse of the room. Spanky’s energy was dizzying, powerful enough to fill a thousand stadiums while he vibed with Snarky Puppy’s Nate Werth on percussion.
See, Dallas, the world of music is right at our fingertips. You just have to know where to look.