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Hey, let it be known that we here at The Squawker are all about good causes. Throw in a few excellent musical acts and we’re really all about lending a helping hand.

What’s that, you say? One of the performers is a talented singer-songwriter that we were just wow’d by at SXSW last weekend? Come again? The benefit show is at what is possibly Dallas’ grandest, most historic halls of music?

OK, we’re in, then. Arm, consider yourself lightly twisted.

The Dallas-based Wandering Chicken Wire Show will be hosting the North Texas Music Makers Showcase, benefiting the SPCA, this Sunday at Sons of Hermann Hall. Music, puppies in need of some love and old-timey Dallas: that’s a great combo for a Sunday agenda, folks.

Yes, the line-up is solid to begin with, especially given that Greg Reichel will be throwing down. But, it’s a late addition to the schedule that really has us excited. Bonnie Whitmore, who you may remember from my SXSW Saturday notes, will also be playing on that fine day. In fact, that’ll be her second show at “Sons” within a 48 hour period (she’s playing with Adam Carroll and Scott Nolan there on Friday night).

While the name is funny, the Wandering Chicken Wire Show’s cause is nothing less than noble. Each month, the organization of musicians picks a worthy charity to support, thus ensuring that the love is indeed spread.

So, there. Add love to the already heady mix of great music, good causes and great venues. By going, it’ll almost be like you’re not actually making much effort, because it’ll be so much fun, but never fear, the fun will go to a great cause and will be appreciated by the animals of North Texas for some time to come.

One sunny, late fall day a few years ago, I had the pleasure of skipping the afternoon session of a trade show while in our state’s largest city. Knowing I needed to back in the Galleria area later that evening for a function or two related to the trade-show, I discarded a couple of ideas that would’ve had myself taking a serious day-trip, well out of the city limits. As it turned out, it was silly to even think of exiting the congested confines of what is an underrated artistic gem. Well, at least it’s underrated to many of us outside of the Gulf Coast.

Given the fact that Houston’s Museum District is as rife with time-killing goodness as it is, I highly doubt that it’s flying under the radar of any art or history-loving Houstonian. Growing up in the Ft. Worth area, as I did, it’s easy to think that everyone else in the state gazes enviously upon the historic and renowned Arts District (home to The Kimball Art Museum, among many others).

In one afternoon, I was treated to eclectic and edgy installations at the Contemporary Arts Museum, just after experiencing a more traditional, yet highly awe-inspiring visit to Houston’s Museum of Fine Arts. In fact, the Fine Arts collection is showcasing a highly-praised grouping of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist work from The National Gallery, at this very time. Clearly, I focused on the art which the neighborhood offered, but the history is as prevalent and important as the collections of the museums I managed to visit. Perhaps on another trip, I’ll make it to the Buffalo Soldiers National Museum, or possibly to Houston’s Holocaust Museum, which is different than the one in Dallas.

There’s also something for the kiddos, too. The Children’s Museum of Houston is a colorful blast of interactive fun for both parent and child. And there’s the Houston Museum of Natural Science - which, as is the case in Ft. Worth, has an IMAX Theater.

So, next time you’re sitting in a convention in Houston, and the rest of the day’s docket looks pretty dull, act like you have to take a call in the hallway and hop in your rental and point it to the museum district!

Every year on March 17th, people aim to celebrate their Irish-ness (whether real, or imagined). Cheap green beer, T-shirts with funny puns relating to drinking and general, Guinness-drenched revelry ensue.

Also each year, on the Saturday before the greenest of all holidays, Greenville Avenue in Dallas is transformed into a jubilant parade of drink, whoops, hollers and a complete lack of concern for the following morning’s dehydration-induced headache. But, before all the craziness, something perhaps even crazier occurs down Greeville Avenue - a 5k Run!

The annual St. Patty’s Dash Down Greenville Avenue at 8:30 am, you can register from the parking lot of Central Market at Lovers Ln and Greenville. This is one run where typical active attire doesn’t cut it, by the way. Not only should you rock as much green as you can, but one is in danger of feeling left out if one opts to run without a green afro-wig, massive leprechaun hat, or some other season-appropriate good-time accessory.

Of course, for all the hard work that a 5k really is, there is a reward. Tons of live music, drinks and fun await the runners at the end of the line. Later in the day, even, The Dallas Observer is hosting an insane concert featuring not only recent Squawker subjects True Widow and Here Holy Spain, but non other than Texas-rock heroes The Toadies.

The Dart rail makes it easy to get to that special strip of upper Greenville Ave, so there is really little room for excuses to those who are looking for reasons to not make it out this year.

For more information on the St. Patty’s Day Dash Down Greenville Ave 5k, go to www.dashdowngreenville.com. For information on the St. Patrick’s Day concert, starring The Toadies, go to the show’s offical site

On March 13th, Chefs for Farmers will bring in some of North Texas’ best chefs to personally operate a cafeteria line in order to raise awareness for a couple of worthy causes. Foodie heroes such as John Tesar (formerly of The Mansion), burger king-pins Jack Perkins (Maple & Motor), and Brian Luscher (The Grape) and recent award-winner Tim Byres (Smoke) will be slinging their creative and classic takes on cafeteria classics comprised from farm-fresh ingredients.

Guest judges, including television host Gary Cogill and restaurant luminary Gene Street will help guests decide which dishes are indeed the best as they pile on the culinary goodness atop their trays at the venerable Dallas eatery, the Highland Park Cafeteria. Dishes that will have participants salivating are Duck Meatballs, Wild Boar Sloppy Joes and even Tater Tots with Pork Belly, among many other tantalizing offerings.

If only the elementary school lunch planners of the world would get wind of this menu!

Of course, the dining is a fun cause, but the proceeds and notoriety that the event will generate will help causes that aim to help many others. The relatively new host organization, Chefs for Farmers, was formed in 2010 and exists to help create a greater awareness for North Texas-area farms and farmers. Sadly, such awareness is sorely needed, as so many farmers face uphill battles of many types on a daily basis.

The event’s primary beneficiary, The Family Place, will receive a portion of the proceeds which will go a long way in helping Dallas’ largest provider of family violence services continue to offer help and programs to thousands of victims of family violence each year.

More details are available at Chefs for Farmers website, as well as tickets to this worthy and tasty event. Go to www.chefsforfarmers.com to secure your place in line!

Goodness, the kolache-scented roads of the Texas hill country are just insanely ripe with musical talent, aren’t they?

Javi Garcia & The Cold Cold Ground are springing forth and aren’t much interested in happy tales that give listeners the warm fuzzies that a hearty kolache might. Truth be told, I’ll take Garcia’s record, Southern Horror, over roadside snacks, any day of the week.

From the band name, to the macabre, Dia de los Muertos-style album artwork (which was designed by Garcia, naturally), to the stories that are told from the opening notes of the album’s first track, “Comal Country River”, so much of the ambitious double album is a work of art and literature as it is a musical document that deserves greater attention. Yeah, that’s right – this is a double album. And, it’s produced by Garcia, himself, who also just happen to write all of the songs. The EP that is paired with the album to complete the dangerous duo is entitled Madly in Anger, and as with the title of the primary record, the title fits the blues-infused country rock of Garcia to a tee.

Ambition is great and admirable, especially in artists that are still making their way up the proverbial Texas music ladder, but without some real meat on the skeleton bones of simple ambition, all the listener is left with is, well, a shell of an album that never really gets anywhere. Fortunately, it’s glaringly obvious that Garcia’s ambition is backed by an ample amount of authority and substance; his hustle bolstered by some serious muscle.

The ghostly strain of Garcia’s vocals manage to recall the well-known rasp of fellow hill country-dweller Ray Wylie Hubbard, and it’s a perfect fit for his tales of murder, screwed-up family members and bloody dangerous women. Heck, sometimes those subjects are rolled into one devilishly satisfying yarn. As for influences and comparisons, it’s also hard not to notice the grime and grit of Mescolito-era Ryan Bingham, especially as the impact of the soulful “Lose Control” plays on. Of course, there’s enough here to distinguish Garcia apart from established greats and help his cause as he continues to dig his own gothic-country pathway into his dark ambitions.

Kelly Dearmore is a freelance writer, mean pot of chili maker and opinionated music lover. To read more about what Kelly is listening to, visit him here on The Squawker weekly.

Hopefully, it wasn’t lost on everyone that this week marked another Texas Independance Day. Of course, that also means that another legendary and pride-inducing, albeit somber, point in history is also welcoming another turn of the calendar.

The Battle of The Alamo took place between February 23rd and March 6th of 1836. The shocking losses suffered by the forces that had held its ground so bravely for that fortnight proved to be a galvanizing force, helping propel the rebel squad, led by Sam Houston, to a resounding and revolutionary victory over the Mexican forces of General Santa Anna just over a month later.

These days, the Alamo stands as not only a moving tourist attraction in the middle of a busy downtown collection of modernity, but as a symbol of Texan pride and resilience. It is with both of those attributes that the city of San Antonio asks people from all over the country to come, learn and remember what happened during what was perhaps our state’s most pivotal two weeks.

Concerts, lectures, exhibits and remembrances will be in great supply between March 3rd and March 6th. Go to www.visitsanantonio.com/alamo/events for more information.

We’ve spent a good bit of time away from Texas country recently in this column, so, we thought it was time to go back draw from the well that we seem to hate as much as we love (more love than hate, though). Now, as anyone who has read this column for any length of time knows, we’re not about discussing just any old so-called “red dirt” hot name that just recently decided to make a name for himself in Texas, hoping to be the next Randy Rogers.

Given that, it was great to hear a new song from Lubbock’s Brandon Adams. He and his band, the Sad Bastards have been at it for a while now, and have made a point to try and draw crowds from outlying states, as well as the typically trodden paths of the Texas college towns that seem to make anyone with a guitar and ballcap feel like Pat Green.

The band’s self-titled record was just released and while they’re not exactly redefining the very way anyone will listen to country music from our state, they dont have to. “Radiate” features some electric guitar, effortlessly weaving with a bit of fiddle that will warmly remind astute listeners of Millican-era Reckless Kelly. There’s an edge to the overall sound that will thankfully keep them from getting confused with the hair gel-kings of the Eli Young Band, but that shouldn’t keep them from becoming solid draws on the Texas country scene for the time being.

Kelly Dearmore is a freelance writer, mean pot of chili maker and opinionated music lover. To read more about what Kelly is listening to, visit him here on The Squawker weekly or daily on his personal music blog, The Gobblers Knob

Can this "unofficial release" from the Toadies make it into the Top Albums list for our state in 2010?

Don’t look now, everyone, but it’s really freaking close to becoming 2011. One way to know that the calendar will soon be turning is the slow cropping end-of-year lists that have been showing themselves in recent days and weeks.

Some become annoyed with such lists after reading a couple, but me on the other hand, I get downright ravenous. I’ll admit to getting a massive kick out of seeing what other bloggers, writers and publications – ones I trust and ones I don’t so much – have to say about the year in music as they see it and if it matches up with my views in any way, shape or form.

I’ll go ahead and admit it: The title to this post is a bit misleading. Sorry. I’m not actually going to divulge my final list of the best this state has produced musically in 2010. I’m sure you’re all waiting anxiously, however (or not!).

Honestly, I don’t have a problem disclosing a few records that I feel certain will make my list of this year’s best Texas records. I don’t see any need to be so secretive, so I wont. However, for those keeping score at home, please know that this is a random, thinking-out-loud kind of deal here, and nothing definitive. If anything, I hope that this post might direct a few of you to some bands or records that you might have missed earlier. Don’t worry, though. I’m entirely too narcissistic to let the year go by without presenting a more formal listing of what I feel are this years best records, so keep an eye out!

A few of the records that come to mind are ones that I’ve discussed in some form, here on The Squawker, even. The recently discussed Thrift Store Cowboys Light-Fighter album, along with the new Possessed By Paul James record and Austin’s American Graveyard are some rootsy acts that should find their way onto plenty of year end lists.

For records that don’t fit into the country realm; Sarah Jaffe’s much celebrated album, fellow North Texas folk artist Doug Burr’s gorgeous O Ye Devastator and the metal-riffic shredding of The Sword and their excellent album, Warp Riders, will also surely cause a cyber-stir come the end of the year.

Oh, by the way, a few Lone Star heavyweights also released albums that were beyond solid: Austin Kingpin Alejandro Escovedo, The Old 97′s and even The Toadies produced records that absolutely stood out.

So, the end of the year should be good for more than mistletoe-induced desperation and turkey-intensive nightmares, no?

Kelly Dearmore is a freelance writer, mean pot of chili maker and opinionated music lover. To read more about what Kelly is listening to, visit him here on The Squawker weekly or daily on his personal music blog, The Gobblers Knob

It has been called “Plano’s little strip mall gem” by Dallas Observer. The Dallas Morning News has reviewed it twice, giving it praise each time. My time at the Bavarian Grill in Plano was a German treat that left me satisfied albeit, a few pounds heavier.

Lots of Good Times are Had Here

There is a reason why the Bavarian Grill is ranked so highly by so many people throughout the internet and was voted The Best German Restaurant in America for 2009 by GermanDeli.com. It’s just that good. Bavarian Grill is easy to find yet, with the construction around the area, it’s hard to get to. Of course, when I found it, I had to do a double take to make sure I was in the right area. It’s located in a strip mall between a prosthetics office and Fitness 4 Life (ironic), but Bavarian Grill is its own island of German cuisine and culture.

I like saying the word “schnitzel” so I ordered the Jager Schnitzel. For those who wonder, no, they do not use Jagermeister. Instead, this breaded treat is made with a rich sauce and a copious amount mushrooms. I must say that the Bavarian Grill lives up to its claim of having the largest schnitzels in Texas. It took me what seemed like a happiness-filled forever to finish off the schnitzel. The Bavarian Grill has a huge menu and plenty of choices for everyone including vegetarian and gluten-free menu items.

Too much goodness for one plate

German beer is a large part of the culture and for anyone who might refer to themselves “beer connoisseurs,” the Bavarian Grill is a “must try.” Bavarian Grill offers over 60 different brands of German beer which made choosing my beer the hardest part of my visit. They also have three domestic American beers but ordering one of those would be like bringing a McDonalds cheeseburger to a restaurant known for its filet mignon. After minutes of deliberation, I eventually went with a dunkel “dark” beer named “Franziskaner Hefe Dunkel.” It had a bit of a spice taste and was not too heavy, which I enjoyed. They also have a gluten-free beer and three different kinds of alcohol-free beers.

Bavarian Grill has a “Stein Club” which one become a part of after drinking all Bavarian Grill has on its “Bier Card.” Members of the Stein Club receive a personalized ceramic stein, preferred seating on weekends, free use of the Bier Book Library among other perks. Of course, it will take me awhile to become a member of the Stein Club, but I suppose every man needs a goal.

Wine aficionados also have a club which is called the Wein Club. Bavarian Grill has a plethora of choices of German wines and once you have a glass of all of the choices on the “Wein Card,” you are awarded with your very own “Wein Glass.” Bavarian Grill also has a plethora of schnapps and liquors though there is no club for drinking all of the liquors.

Legends Are Made Here!

Bavarian Grill hosts happy hours, contests and parties. One particular event that the Bavarian Grill is hosting is the regional qualifying matches of “Masskrugstemmen.” This is an event in which you hold a liter Stein of Bier with one completely stretched out arm that is parallel to the floor. These matches are held at 9:00pm every Friday night fron July 9th until August 13th and at 8:00pm on every Wednesday night from July 14th until August 11th. Or if you and at least 4 friends make yourselves known to the manager on duty, an impromptu Masskrugstemmen match will be held.  If you happen to see me at Bavarian Grill, then I challenge you and your friends to Masskrugstemmen!

So, in closing, I highly recommend the Bavarian Grill for anyone who is looking to experience the best in German cuisine, bier and culture.  The atmosphere is light and an all-around fun place for family and friends to gather.

Bavarian Grill
221 West Parker Road
Plano, Texas
75023 * (972) 881-0705

The arrival of Jaguar’s exquisite XF-R supercharged sports sedan this week started me thinking of another time and another place where Great Britain and the rest of the world was facing down the technological wonders coming from Germany while standing toe to toe with oblivion. That time was the early stages of World War II when German aircraft, lead by Junker’s bombers, Messerschmitt fighters and Stüka dive bombers, traversed the narrow English Channel and began a direct assault on the British homeland.

The Brit’s were facing the most advanced technological bombardment in history and the first direct assault on the homeland since the days William the Conqueror in 1066. One of the only things standing in the way of defeat was the Royal Air Force and a handful of fighter planes like the Hurricane and the Spitfire.

In today’s automotive battlefield, the struggle for market superiority has been lead by an all out assault of technology and speed from the four main German companies: Mercedes Benz, BMW, Audi and Porsche. Each has a commanding beachhead in the luxury sport sedan market, the newest entry from Porsche is their first sortie into the sedan class ever.

Across the market the Jaguar competes directly with BMW’s M5, the Benz E 63 AMG, Audi’s S6 and Porsche’s Panameria, all of which represent the highest mark of desirability and near perfection in the market. All are fast, powerful, nimble and beautiful examples of what can be achieved when you have all your mojo tied up in one very great car.

The Jaguar XF-R is the equal of each and, in some ways, superior to them. Given the market, the 538 horse power, supercharged super sedan comes in at a relative “bargain” at $81,000, our test drive price. It is approximately $20K less than its most likely comparable competitors from BMW and M+B.

It really wasn’t that long ago that Jaguar was facing its own oblivion. Its own rich history began in the earliest days of the automotive timeline. Founded in 1922 as the Swallow Side Car Company, what we now know as Jaguar began as a motorcycle side-car manufacturer building light weight, aerodynamic bodies out of aluminum.

In the 1930’s, they expanded into automobiles first as a coach builder taking other peoples chassis and engines and wrapping them in some of the most beautiful and aerodynamic aluminum automotive bodies in history, but those pesky Germans altered the company early on as the Swallow Sport or “SS” name wound up changed to Jaguar, as the “SS” designation became a liability of truly epic proportions.

The specialty of working with aluminum and other then-exotic alloys was exploited in the war effort’s building components for the British Air Force including the Spitfire. Outnumbered by a very aggressive and organized foe, the Spitfire was by many accounts the closest thing to perfection to their pilots. Light and nimble and with massive effort, the limited numbers of Spitfires and pilots stood up against the Germans and have been referred to as “The Few” by Winston Churchill.

I have talked to old Spitfire fighters who say the airplane is one that you put on rather than got in to, with speed and agility they managed to take on superior numbers and defend queen and country.

In many ways Jaguar is now the “Few” as most of the once famous great manufacturers of Britain have succumbed to shoddy quality, labor unrest and just simply unsustainable business practices. By the 1970’s Jag had placed their survival in non-domestic sales, finding their beautiful but problematic cars well received in the USA and other areas as opulent expressions of wealth. It also found itself as a part of the most dysfunctional businesses in history: British Leyland.

In the early 1980’s Jaguar was liberated from the foundering of Leyland and rode a successful run in the USA with the introduction of the newest XJ series that became one of the icons of success and old school snobbery in the USA. At the same time, Jag dabbled back into the world of international racing where it had earned a reputation in the 1950’s with racing legends like American Phil Hill and Sir Sterling Moss establishing the name Jaguar in the public.

After Ford bought Jaguar in the early 90’s, they discovered a company that was in desperate need of a complete overhaul, and they invested tens of billions doing just that. Just last year Ford finally got out from under selling Jaguar and Land Rover to Indian automotive manufacturer TATA.

Two things of note here: the XF is the result of complete market commitment by Ford to build an “entry” and superior level car that the public would embrace as a True Jaguar. During Fords run at the helm, Jag introduced an exceptional failure of the X type (basically a retagged Volvo S40) and the S type (which shared running gear with Domestic Lincoln LS Series and the European Ford Mondao) to varying levels of success.

While still married to Ford, Jaguar opened new manufacturing facilities completely re-tooled how they built cars and, most importantly, changed electronic suppliers from fellow British basket case company Lucas Electric, to Boshe of Germany. New designs were penned, new supply chains established and imbued the company with a new expectation of excellence. At the same time the inefficient manufacturing systems were eliminated and hourly work force was chopped in half.

Just as the “Auto Bailouts” were hitting for General Motors and Chrysler, Ford managed to avoid having to ask for the governmental hand-out, partially by selling Land Rover and Jaguar to TATA and Aston Martin to the people behind the ProDrive Rally Race Team.

With this cash in hand, Ford let loose its hold on a British icon, and now all reports being very positive, TATA has continued with a commitment to Jaguar announcing just this week the sad little X-type is being replaced with a BMW 3 series competitor.

In this market the XF-R now stands alone as one of the only British nameplates left. Rolls Royce is now a part of BMW, Bentley is part of Volkswagen and MINI is another BMW asset.

The market these cars are in is truly the highbrow sector of the auto business where ‘Need and Want’ quotients are all about the W-A-N-T. Because of how high the bar is placed just to enter this segment, it truly is one of the greatest selections of perfection in automotive design history. All of these cars are excellent, fast, comfortable and beautiful in their own right.

The interior of the XF-R is stunning and wrapped in hand stitched, two toned leather with perforations that provide an air conditioned seating option that is a wonderful way to spoil yourself on a hot Texas day. The rest is carbon fiber and brushed aluminum that exhibits the level of fit and finish which is truly Teutonic rather than the lack luster Anglo expectation. In this car the wood inserts are hand stained and polished ebony, rather than the burled wood you may expect from Jag.

Performance wise the XF we looked at a few months ago was a great car but the “R” brings a supercharger to the equation and ups the horsepower and torque without really diminishing the fuel economy that much.

The overall fit and finish of both the interior and exterior are flawless, which is a word that does not easily come to mind from anyone who has history with Jaguar.

The Second World War and how, during the battle of Brittan, the resolute and besieged island stood alone against the Germans is a pivotal point in history. Sadly, many people today forget the sacrifice so many made over 60 years ago but thankfully there are places like the Cavanaugh Flight Museum where we found the Spitfire in the accompanying pictures to learn about this period.

Talking to Assistant Director and pilot Kevin Raulie can be like taking a page out of a history book and the selection of WW1, WW2, Korea and Vietnam era airplanes is second to none in the area. Inside the hanger with the Spitfire was an example of more than one of her old advisories from Germany when “the Few” stood alone.

The XF-R is the finest example of any point of output from Great Britain in the history of automotive production. It is fast, beautiful and exceptionally well sorted out. After suffering from a much deserved reputation for reliability issues and an equally well deserved reputation for building some of the most beautiful cars in history Jaguar may now stand alone but it is standing strong ready to take on the best the world has to throw its way.

I couldn’t help but make these comparisons after driving the Jag, standing alone against superior numbers of exceptional German vehicles it truly is the British auto industry’s finest hour.