Cool Out (Bar Celine): As you may have heard, Cool Out has been at Bar Céline for over a month now, and I’ve been a couple of times myself to try to get a feel for the new environment. I’ve also talked to Tony Schwa, Adam Pickrell and Will Rhoten (DJ Sober) to get an idea of their new approach to the locally loved weekly. So for the next few weeks, I’m going to try to give each individual DJ’s take on the changed locale.
Though the overall tone and style of what takes place at Cool Out each week tends to be by its very description laid-back and mellow, there is still a spectrum of intensity within those somewhat defined parameters. Though there are some natural crossovers in genre-selection. If what Schwa is known for (Golden Age Disco and Funk) represents one perhaps more upbeat end of the scale, then Sober is at the other end, with the thickest, slowest and sleaziest 90’s R&B tracks that you rarely hear a DJ play out. Adam Pickrell is somewhere in the middle, a versatile and trained musician, with an affinity toward Brazillian music, Jazz, and the live House tunes that made his a commonly dropped name for nearly a decade now. Though he’s not a founding member of Cool Out, in some ways his taste and approach best represent the night’s theme.
What Pickrell is a founding member of: White Lotus Society, a group he started in 2002, as a way to fill a void for audiences that weren’t necessarily used to seeing a full band when they go out. The idea came after a trip to Miami’s infamous Winter Music Conference, which almost rivals SXSW impact-wise, yet is almost strictly for dance music, and draws an impressive number of (especially educated and affluent according to their press kit) attendees each year. Says Pickrell,”After going to the Winter Music Conference in Miami and hearing people DJ while live musicians were playing on top of their sets, we decided that if people were going to be DJing music, why not apply the same ideas to a live band and format it for a dance crowd?”
And so along with vocalist Corey Lacy and an assortment of other musicians including over-the-years, drummers and percussionists Aaron Milligan and Gino Iglehart, bassist Nate Robinson, flautist and saxophonist Aaron Irwinsky, and more, they did just that. I first started to hear Pickrell’s name shortly after this, as the mastermind behind a live dance band that became required listening according to Dallas Dance experts.
And though I’m certainly not of the crowd that thinks DJs owe it to anyone to prove themselves through live instrumentation, it would be intellectually dishonest to ignore the edge it gives against those dull-headed and stubborn musical conservatives among us who refuse to give anything a chance that doesn’t involve someone plucking, banging, hitting, or blowing something. And now it’s an edge given to one of Dallas’ most revered nights.
“This is the same idea I had when I approached Tony (Schwa) about the Cool Out Band. I wanted to use my background in playing and producing music to bring a live element to Cool Out. Tony loved the idea.”
So far I’ve only seen Pickrell play his keyboard parts over backing tracks, and that alone is extremely impressive. His emphasizing chord hits and spidery little lines down the keys illuminate the already quality backing material into areas that some of the source music only hints at in its unaccompanied form. It also helps that Pickrell brings a small arsenal with him. “I will be playing keyboards such as Rhodes, Hammond B3, and assorted synths,” he said.
Cool Out has now seen the live band out so far, and Pickrell seems settled on the lineup, which aside from the return of Irwinsky, is different from his past live band and includes Peter Champagne on bass and Ivan Torres on drums. Torres hails from Bahia, Brazil and as a result, Pickrell says he brings a certain understanding with him, in regard to disparate International musical styles. “Ivan is such a great player and it’s cool that he blends his knowledge of Brazilian music with American jazz and funk.” Seems like a perfect fit for Pickrell, who counts Brazillian music among his many influences, especially “Tropicália” acts such as Os Mutantes and Caetono Veloso, and composers such as Hermeto Pascoal, who Pickrell describes as “one of the world’s greatest musicians.”
Pickrell says there will be “special guests” as well. Not only that, it sounds like other bands entirely will get the chance on occasion. Though they will probably only have the live band “every four to six weeks,” Pickrell also seems open to outside help. “ It would be awesome to get some other bands out to play here and there. Dallas has so many amazing musicians and bands that it would be silly not to.” It’s safe to assume that there are many players that would jump at the chance to work a much different room than what they might be used to on their given circuit.
So perhaps it’s all of the Brazilian and Jazz influences that make Pickrell seem like the most breezy performer of the Cool Out trio, but he still returns to Schwa’s original vision for the weekly himself. “Of course I like to play disco and funk. Lately I have really been into lots of really deep 60’s and 70’s cinematic library funk and soul.” But he also adds, “This stuff is super deep and sometimes a bit mellower than the dance stuff that gets the crowd moving on Monday nights.”
Pickrell says he had been attending Cool Out Mondays for three years before he joined the lineup, and it sounds like that admiration as a fan and attendee hasn’t waned in the slightest, to the point where he would probably still be showing up anyway. When asked about how he and the others decide the order in which they’ll play, he couldn’t be more complimentary: ”
It is always different. We just kind of go with the flow and it seems to work well that way. Will and Tony are such amazing DJ’s, I am happy to just hang and listen.”
Times New Viking/Crystal Antlers/Hardin Sweaty and the Ready to Go (Club Dada): I am straight up daring one of you to recommend a Times New Viking song anywhere near as memorable as “(My Head).” I have seen them live in festival, club, and DIY settings on multiple occasions, and I have yet to hear them equal that moment. Yes, I know it’s probably their most well-known song and die-hard fans will surely come at me with verbal knives drawn, but some things are just hits for a reason, and many times, one might be all you get.
Beirut/Twin Sister (South Side Music Hall): Thanks to our wonderful Liz Johnstone, I don’t have to think of something new to say about Beirut’s American appropriation of Eastern European Folk Music. You mean I don’t have to do almost everything by myself anymore? Ah, how lovely to work with an actual staff. You cool guys can keep your underground blogs, I’ve got a dinner to go to. Later!
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Image: From Twin Sister’s “Color Your Life” release.