Believe it or not, I honestly had not planned on doing a thing this night.
After scrapping plans to make another trip up to Denton, and nothing really catching my eye in Dallas, I figured I’d spend a Saturday night at home for a change. Then I had a friend offer me a free ticket to the Big Folkin’ Fest, and I couldn’t pass that up.
Not that I hadn’t wanted to go to the show (which took place at The Prophet Bar, on both sides, using all three indoor stages, with an outdoor one set up on the patio), but I just couldn’t justify paying twenty bucks for a ticket into it.
Got there a little later, about nine or so, and killed time until Kirby Brown’s set in The Prophet Bar at 9:30.
That’s when he was scheduled to start, at least, but, in something that should have been no real surprise, the times weren’t set in stone. By the time he and his band were supposed to start the act before him was just finishing, making it around 9:50 or so before they got all setup and ready to go.
I had only seen him once before, when he did solo set at a Patio Sessions probably back in the fall of 2012. Sometime after that he made the decision to move to New York to pursue his music career, and while he has gotten back to Dallas more than a few times since, I’ve never managed to make the shows.
From what I remembered, he was great solo, but the full band really helped flesh out his sound, as they powered through a 42-minute set that saw them playing several new(er) tracks. “Thank you for being here.” Kirby told the near capacity Prophet Bar. “You’re fucking welcome!” exclaimed a very excited fan, leaving Kirby a bit shocked, though he did manage to say, “That’s a big welcome.”
One of the cuts they did from 2011’s “Child of Calamity” was the exuberant “Coattails”, which raised everyone’s energy level a good deal. While Kirby is an Americana musician, there are some other layers added to his music. However, a few songs after that, they got to one that was pure Americana rock, and it sounded brilliant.
They followed it with another great number that had a rocking end, with the drums, guitars, bass and keys blaring on it. They then went to the opposite side of things, and the band left Kirby alone to do a song solo. It may have been much quieter than the past songs, but he still had the crowd transfixed with it.
His band then returned for a cover song, while they ended with what seemed to be a fan favorite.
It was a great set, and it left me a real fan of Kirby Brown. Like I said, I had seen him before, but that was long enough ago I couldn’t remember much about him.
He has a fantastic voice, and it’s unique at that. Personally, I can’t say I’ve heard of another singer who sounds quite like he does, and he’s gifted in the songwriting department, too.
Check out his music in iTUNES, and go see a show if you get a chance. I know I’m going to have to make more of a point to see him next time he gets back to Dallas.
Headed out to the patio stage after that, where The Hazardous Dukes were already playing.
It was hard to actually see them, given that the “stage” was just the ground, and the mass of people who had already surrounded the area made it hard to get up close.
I really liked what I heard, though. The group is comprised of Hank Van Hawkins, Billy Bones and Zachary Fox, among others, such as Conner Farrall.
They played what I consider to be more authentic sounding country, and everyone who did some singing had a nice twang to their voice.
“This is based on a true story about a buddy whose divorce kept falling apart, and he kept getting back together with his wife.” One of them said before one song, which had me repeating that in my head a few times, thinking, “Did he really say ‘his divorce kept falling apart?’”, simply because you never hear it phrased in that manner.
They knocked out a few more, throwing some jokes in here and there, and on one those songs Conner had a great guitar solo.
They seem to play fairly often, and for the month of April are doing a residency at Sundown at Granada every Sunday night. Those shows are free.
Back over in The Prophet Bar (the smaller room, that is), things were still running behind schedule, and it was right at eleven when The O’s kicked off their set, a half-hour after they were supposed to.
The duo of John Pedigo and Taylor Young mentioned they had played year one and two of Big Folking Fest and were glad to be back for another year, before opening with the lead track from their “Between the Two” album, “We’ll Go Walkin’”.
That little love song was a nice way to get started, and a majority of the people there in the Prophet Bar were singing along to it as they watched the band; wonder gleaming from their eyes. They then got to a few songs from last year’s “Thunderdog”, including “Outlaw”, which is more or less an anthem. “…We’ve all got the right to fix things that we don’t like, while we yell and cuss and scream and fight…” sang John, while Taylor picked away at his guitar, while also supplying the percussion via a kick drum.
That was all I caught of their set. I would have liked to have seen more, but there was another act supposed to start right about this time on the smaller stage of the large room of The Prophet Bar; and I had at least seeing The O’s more recently than this other group.
These guys really are one of the best bands in Dallas, especially as far as country music is concerned, and I like them more and more each time I see them. At the very least, give their music a listen in iTUNES, and if you like it, buy it. As for shows, you can see them at Love and War in Plano, TX on April 19th. On May 16th they’ll be at Love and War in Grapevine, and the night after will find them in Fort Worth at Shipping and Receiving. They also have dates in Midland and Burleson in June.
J. Charles & The Trainrobbers had been charged with closing the night out over in the bigger room, and it had been nearly a year since I last them. In that time they’ve added Keith Naylor on as lead guitarist. Perhaps some of you (any longtime readers) recall what a fan/fanatic I was of Trebuchet, right up until their end last year. It was December 2012 the last time I saw them, and that said, I was looking forward to finally seeing Keith back on a stage.
They were all ready and raring to go as 12:15 rolled around, and the headliner seemed to be finishing up on the main stage adjacent to them… At least until they began another song, leaving The Trainrobbers with a puzzled look of, “Huh, I guess we’ll wait.” on their faces.
“Hi, you beautiful folkin’ people!” exclaimed singer and guitarist J. Charles Saenz, once it finally became time for them to start. “Mercy Killing” was what they opened with, and as great is that song is on the “Upon Leaving” album, it sounds incredible live. Probably because J. Charles is so impassioned as he sings it. “…There’s a bullet here for me, there’s a bullet here for you. Only problem is we love each other too damn much, it’s true…” goes the chorus, which more than a few fans were singing along with.
They moved on to the consecutive track from their debut album, doing “Letter to a Thief”, which had a pretty good kick to it, and the harmonies that Keith, bassist Justin Young and keyboardist Daniel Creamer added at times, backing up J. Charles, was phenomenal.
“Cheers to two awesome days of music…” he said after they finished, making a little toast, before they pumped everyone up with “Something Wrong”, a song that saw drummer Steve Visneau wearing a big smile, which rarely left his face at all this night, and never did on this one. They rolled it right into “Three Shades of Black”, tapering off from the louder rock stylings of the previous number, but still keeping the mood upbeat.
“How’s the vibes? Medium vibes?” asked J. Charles after they finished, trying to gage where everyone was at. “We need more vibes.” he finished, after which Keith spoke up, and specifically to a friend. “Excuse me, sir, but I think you’re dancing with my girlfriend.” he said, giving the guy a hard time.
They knocked out one of their new songs after that, which was pretty up-tempo, but also had some slow moments mixed in. “The guitars are being feisty. Folkin’ guitars.” J. Charles said after, while Keith worked to get things back in tune. To kill time, he also mentioned that this next would be one on their upcoming album, noting it will be out in the fall at the latest, or, with some luck, maybe even late summer. He also mentioned this next song was making its live debut this night, and that it was a pretty personal one, because it was about his “dear, sweet aunt” who had passed away from cancer. He apologized for perhaps bringing the mood down, and finished with, “…But fuck cancer.”
It told a great tale of the relationship he and his aunt had, and it may well be the most sentimental song on this next record. They got back to their older stuff for a minute with “Ain’t So Blue”, before doing another killer song, which just happened to feature musician Wesley Geiger lending his voice to it.
“I need to put the finger on the pulse. Everyone still doing okay?” J. Charles asked the audience, who was still very attentive, before asking if there was “anyway a shot could find its way from the bar to my mouth?” The request was granted, and they started to wind down their 52-minute set with “Tennessee Roads (No Moon)”. They had some feedback issues during it, but not to the point to ruin the tune, and the final line, which J. Charles sung a cappella, sounded beautiful. He then wound them right into their final song, another one, which was more intense, along the lines of “Something Wrong”, maybe even more so than that one.
That was the perfect way to end this night.
J. Charles and The Trainrobbers have been great each of the small handful of times I’ve seen them, but I dare say they were exceptional this time.
They tightened things even more so than last May at the Homegrown Festival, and this current lineup clicks very well. They were tight, and the unity was obvious from start to finish.
I don’t know how I let so much time pass between seeing them, though I’m going to have to try to make sure that doesn’t happen again. The show was highly enjoyable, and they are one Dallas band you need to keep your eye on.
Their music should appeal to both rock and country fans, and check out “Upon Leaving” in iTUNES. For shows, go “like” their FACEBOOK PAGE and keep a check on where and when they might play next.
It was a fun time here at the Big Folkin’ Fest, and a much needed shout-out to my amigo Brendan Williams for hooking me up with the ticket.