In the hurly-burly of the holiday season, the news might have just slipped past all but the most attentive North Texas music fans. On Dec. 20, 2019, the Fort Worth-based quartet known as Black Tie Dynasty played its first show in more than six years at Dallas’ Double Wide — a sold-out affair, it should be noted.
For local music fans of a certain vintage, the name alone is enough to conjure vivid memories of the late aughts. It was a period when Cory Watson, Blake McWhorter, Brian McCorquodale and Eddie Thomas cast a long shadow over the area, thanks to propulsive, sleek synth-pop records like 2006’s Movements or 2008’s Down Like Anyone.
To hear Watson tell it, this reunion — which will continue in March, with a hometown gig at Shipping & Receiving on the revitalized Near Southside — was born out of relationships remaining as strong in 2020 as when the band first formed 16 years ago.
“It’s going to be huge,” Watson said of the March performance, when we spoke by phone. “The interest and the curiosity and all that is definitely there, but I think the bigger story is just the bond and the friendships and the undeniable chemistry that we have and we’re doing something that — it’s kind of reignited the true love of what we do.”
But while Watson and his fellow musicians are glad to once again be rehearsing and performing, something awful underpins this otherwise beautiful moment. As Watson relayed to me, having sought permission to share the news, their drummer, Thomas, is battling stage 4 cancer, having undergone surgery and chemotherapy for glioblastoma last year. He’ll participate in a clinical trial at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston later this year.
It was during the hellish period of Thomas’ initial diagnosis and treatment that Watson, McWhorter and McCorquodale decided to help Thomas find something positive to focus upon. So the trio picked a date, assembled a bill made up of Black Tie Dynasty and several acts featuring BTD members, including These Machines Are Winning, The Crash That Took Me and Go Imperial, and set about reacquainting themselves with their back catalogs.
“We’ll get the opportunity to play together and support him and get something to look forward to.” — Cory Watson, on Eddie Thomas
“It shook us up, and caught us off guard, obviously,” Watson says now. “Mentally, we needed to get [Eddie] motivated. … At the time, he wasn’t really physically able to go play an entire set, so what we decided to do was we’ll have all of these bands play, like, three songs apiece and he’ll get some rest between sets.
“We’ll get the opportunity to play together and support him and get something to look forward to.”
Having booked the below-the-radar reunion date six months out, Black Tie Dynasty rehearsals proved to be something of a tonic for Thomas, according to Watson: “As we went through that [rehearsal] process, he started getting stronger physically and started to gain some weight back.”
Out of something awful, something beautiful emerged. Watson says Black Tie Dynasty, which drifted apart in 2009, just two months after self-releasing its sophomore full-length album, is working on new music. However, the future in 2020 looks much different from a decade prior.
Now, instead of harnessing its ambitions into touring with Spoon or Guided by Voices or landing on the Billboard charts, Black Tie Dynasty is simply happy to have held onto the alchemy that first turned so many heads.
“The crux of everything is really the bond and the friendship that we share in the music,” Watson says. “If any one of us was not engaged in this process, then we wouldn’t do it.”