The sun had set behind the giant buildings, but a bit of light was still filtering through – so I was able to get some better photos of them.
It was Thursday, time for another Patio Sessions concert around the reflecting pool in front of the Winspear Opera House.
This week was the Dallas String Quartet (facebook). The weather was cool and beautiful, rare for North Texas. I hopped the DART train and made it down there right on time – bought dinner from a food truck and settled in. I knew nothing about the Dallas String Quartet – they are an eclectic electric ensemble. Amplified strings, a bass, a guitar, and a drum kit. They play original arrangements of modern, popular hits and are very, very good at it.
It was a lot of fun.
Ever since I have been going to the Patio Sessions, I have been slightly aggravated by people that let their children run amok on the reflecting pool while the musicians are playing. The thin layer of moisture on the flat stone is irresistible to the little ones – so I can’t blame them. However, the shows are very mellow, and I wish the parents would control the kids while the band is on – they are very noisy and it’s very distracting.
I was worried about that tonight – a string quartet can be an especially quiet and introspective experience. It was no problem – there were only four kids or so running around and the Dallas String Quartet was well amplified. Plus, their upbeat, modern arrangements held their own against the kids, the rumblings of the food truck generators, and the tolling of the church bells.
And then, to show how wrong I can be… I noticed a crowd of teenagers rapidly gathering on the reflecting pool. It was a dance class from (I assume) the Dallas High School for the Performing Arts right next door. They were on their way somewhere and took the opportunity to dance for all of us.
In ones and twos… and then as an entire group they would run out and dance. They seemed to have a few set pieces memorized and would show off for each other – then dance for the fun of it. It was kinetic and athletic and flat out wonderful. The band said, “I don’t know who they are, but they are great. I’m sure you can do something with this next one,” and they belted out Michael Jackson’s Thriller.
I took a few photos (I’ll put some more up in a few days) but mostly I sat there and stared and laughed. It was a revelation and a surprise and a marvelous one at that. I’ll probably be able to figure out who the kids were, but I almost don’t want to know. Maybe it’s best they remain, to me, a beautiful mystery.
PS– Well, that didn’t take long. I found out who the dancers were. They were from the high school – there to rehearse for their work on the Aurora project on Friday, the 18th.
This is what they will be doing:
Ruddy Udder Dance by Claire Ashley
This performance uses a large-scale, painted inflatable sculpture as a prop worn by twelve dancers. A choreographed sequence unfolds. Ashley is interested in both the high-brow aesthetic pleasure found in the painterly abstraction and monumentality of the object itself, and the absurdly low-brow, playful, high-energy, ecstatic dancing experience and pop culture references that ensue as the object moves in space. Directed by Linda James and Kate Walker and performed by the Repertory Dance Company II from Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts.
Enjoyed Chris Johnson – of the very popular Fort Worth band, Telegraph Canyon – doing a solo set at the Patio Sessions in the Arts District of Downtown Dallas. One of my favorites, Madison King, opened, but I have plenty of pictures of her… here, here, and here.
You were wearing all black
Face that warned of going back
Turning pages oh you grew
Testifying nothing but the truth
Walking in your righteousness
Shake em’ like you shake your fist
I loved you for getting more
Left you when the night was warm
—-Telegraph Canyon, Shake Your Fist
The winter has shown us
All of the faults
That are hidden well beneath
Hurried shoulders and heavy feet
As sure as we stand
By the body you’ve left
The fastest of hands
And the shortest of breath
You don’t have to hide
Don’t ever have to hide
—-Telegraph Canyon, Welcome to the Night
when you’re lost and you try to find
someone with a heart beat be a friend of mine
into the woods I’ll stay with you
I found why I came but my plans fell through
—– Telegraph Canyon, Into the Woods
In my neverending quest for free stuff to do I came upon an article touting this year’s Patio Sessions at Sammons Park in front of the Opera House in the Dallas Arts District. That sounded like a plan, so I rearranged some scheduling, dragged myself out of bed a little earlier so I could leave work on time, and took the DART Red Line from work downtown.
I got there in plenty of time – they weren’t even set up when I arrived. The two musical guests for this, the first Patio Session of the year were Madison King and Calhoun.
It was really nice. With the evening sun starting to set, the light in the Arts District was thick and gorgeous. The musicians played in front of the reflecting pool between the Winspear and the Wyly – which is a particularly attractive spot. The skyscrapers of downtown all glowed in the evening light like warm mountain spires and far overhead the aluminum sunscreen reached out with a welcoming last bit of shade. The crowd was light and super mellow – most people brought blankets and spread out on the patches of bright green grass around the pool. The weather, unusual for North Texas, was perfect – the killer summer heat hasn’t arrived yet.
Madison King was up first and did an excellent acoustic set. Everything was so relaxed and chilled – it was just what I wanted – a perfect escape at the end of a day.
Between the bands I wandered over to the food trucks and bought something to eat. There were plenty of tables – my only difficulty was balancing my food on the way over. Most people found their way into the roped-off area with little tables where they were selling alcohol. Even though this was outside, the sound was good and you didn’t have to scrunch up close – though you could if you wanted to. The only downside was the periodic roar of a Southwest Jet overhead and, for some reason, a couple of times the bells of the nearby Catholic Church erupted into a cacophony of clanging – which usually is cool, but clashed with the music.
I wandered back for Calhoun’s set. They were using an instrument I had never seen before – it was like an accordion in a ornate wooden box set on a stand. He would move one wall of the box back and forth and you could see the air going through little cloth valves. The box said “NAGI” on it and it didn’t take much work to find out what the instrument is. It’s a portable harmonium. These seem to be mostly used by Indian musicians, but it fit right in with what Calhoun was playing tonight. It enabled the three piece ensemble to have a deeper, more complex sound.
In their Youtube video for their SXSW showcase they look like a pop band, but again, for this setting, they went for a mellower, chilled out acoustic sound. They were very good at it and I really liked their set.
It didn’t last long – at 7:30 or so they were done. That’s nice for a work night, and I was able to catch the train before the sun set.
The Patio Sessions continue into the summer, every Thursday at 5:30. The lineup looks impressively diverse – and thankfully full of local talent – The Simon & Garfunkel tribute band looks cool, and I’m always up for a string quartet. I don’t know if it is always as relaxing and laid back – but I imagine it is. It might get more crowded as the season goes on, but there is plenty of room.
I’ll have to remember to bring a blanket next time.