The Music Enthusiast

Jul 28

Thursday, July 24th, 2014 – The Toadies’ Rubberneck Tour Descends Upon Denton

Denton — and more specifically The Rockin’ Rodeo — was the place to be this night.

After a little break, The Toadies were getting ready to head out on their third (and presumably final) leg of the 20th Anniversary Rubberneck Tour. They were kicking it off in the college town, not too far from the UNT campus, and just like every time they’ve played the Rockin’ Rodeo (which is every other year), this show was sold-out.

The venue is located in a shopping centre, and even at nine-o’clock — an hour after doors opened — there were a few dozen people waiting in line, a line that stretched out into the parking lot. Granted, they were people who didn’t have tickets and were hoping some might become available later on.

The line for will call was considerably shorter, but still time consuming as far as waiting went. As owner Lloyd Banks pointed out shortly before The Toadies took the stage, Denton is still not wet, so they’re still stuck with outdated prohibition laws that make checking ID’s more of an ordeal than they should be. Hopefully that will change after the November election this year.

The Rockin’ Rodeo was already a happen’ place, and there was a short twenty minute or so wait before Ume took the stage.

“Hey, Denton! We’re Ume.” singer and guitarist Lauren Larson said in a cheery voice, greeting everyone once they took the stage. With that, Aaron Perez counted them into “The Conductor”, and they began wowing the onlookers, most of whom seemed unfamiliar with the Austin-based trio. Lauren’s talent as a guitarist came out quickly, and during the instrumental break the song has, she raised her axe above her head while continuing to play, an action that people raved over.

That classic was followed by one of many new songs from the Monuments album, and at times on “Too Big World”, they offered a glimpse of their shoegaze side. Lauren was getting more into the zone, kneeling during the instrumental break, shredding as she hunched over her guitar. Bassist Eric Larson and Aaron were having no trouble holding their own either, and exploded at the end, while Lauren whipped her head around, her hair swirling in the air. Two songs was all it took to completely win everyone over, and it was clear a lot of people had a new favorite band. They barely stopped for applause, though, and Eric wound them directly into one of my favorites from the Phantoms album, “Burst”. Each track was warming them up more and more; and as that one ended, Eric attacked his bass, relentlessly slapping it and executing complete control.

Applause again rang out in the venue, and Lauren looked up, waved at everyone and then flashed a smile before starting the closing track off their newest record: “Reason”. It was often gritty and brutal, with Lauren screaming out some of the occasionally gauzy lyrics. No sooner had it ended, then Aaron delivered a quick count on the drums, and they tore into “Embrace”. “…Embrace what’s been denied…” Lauren snarled on the chorus of that pulse-pounding track, before again showing her prowess as a guitarist at the tail end of it.

“Thank y’all so much!” she exclaimed afterwards, as they readied “Huricane II”. The buildup the song has is something else, and mixed in with the often haunting guitar chords, it has no trouble reeling you in. Lauren continued to slay on her axe, again dropping to her knees as the music consumed her; and a seemingly fitting track to follow that with was “Oh Fate”, which Aaron started with a steady, heavy drum roll, while his band mates prepared for it. The further the three progressed with it, the more intense they all got, leading to a brutal ending, which turned into a seamless segue into “Until The End”. Lauren made her way over to stage left towards the end, and she and Eric faced one another for a few moments as they rocked out on their respective instruments.

They showed no sign of stopping, and while I was expecting them to do an abbreviated set, they ended up doing their usual headline length show. They cranked out another tune, and the best part came at the end, when Lauren more or less collapsed in a lifeless heap, timing it perfectly to the songs end, and then sprang up suddenly when the applause arose.

“Chase It Down” came next, and as it reached its peak, Lauren pumped her fist in the air, intensifying the excitement the spectators were feeling. Upon finishing it, she gave The Toadies their well deserved “massive thanks” for bringing them back out on the road with them, before announcing they had just two more to go. The first was “Baby Xie-Xie”, which dates back to their 2005 album Urgent Sea. Lauren was kicking the air and banging her head to the drums during the brief instrumental pieces between the verses, showing off some pretty fancy moves. They then wound it flawlessly into their latest single, “Black Stone”, and that pure, raw rock song ended their 47-minute long set.

I had seen Ume just the month before in Dallas — where they headlined — and it was awesome seeing them do the same thing this night. I’m not even referring to the set (though it was almost identical), but more they got ample time to show who they are.

Who they are is one of the most astounding bands in the Lone Star State, and quite easily well beyond those borders. Their sound is pretty original, mixing shoegaze and alt/rock, and perhaps even some indie thrown in at times. And even though I had just seen them fairly recently, I actually found them even more captivating this night.

Their live show is where it’s really at. They dominate every stage they take, and you can see their passion for it come through as they’re performing.

They’ll be touring with The Toadies through August 2nd, with remaining shows being in New Mexico, Colorado, Missouri, Nebraska and Arkansas. Check out their TOUR PAGE for full details. Do check out their music in iTUNES, too.

The night had gotten off to a later start than originally intended, and with Ume playing the better part of an hour, there was clearly no way The Toadies were going to make the scheduled 10:30 start time. That was pretty much irrelevant, though; and before long, there was no empty space left, as people crammed into every crevice they could find, all hoping for the best view possible.

I was becoming more cautious, ‘cause the last two times they have played here, the crowd has been extremely rowdy. No one was really safe from the moshing, and venue staff have even had to stand in the crowd to ensure things don’t get too out of hand. Considering how riled up people were getting, chanting “TOADIES!” over and over, I was expecting more or less the same this time around.

I know this expression gets used a lot, and I’ve said it many times, too, but when Mark Reznicek, Doni Blair, Vaden Todd Lewis and Clark Vogeler took the stage, the fans reaction truly was deafening. I’ve seen my fair share of Toadies shows, and I think this was the strongest, noisiest fanfare I’ve heard them get from a crowd.

You would have thought people had been waiting their whole lives just for this one night… Well, at least twenty years.

The sounds of “Mexican Hairless” quelled the audience slightly, though they were no less vibrant, jumping around and screaming during that instrumental track that sadly, with the exception of this tour, is seldom heard. Fans got a moment to cheer them on after that number, before Clark knocked out the opening lines of “Mister Love”. You want to know just how much the crowd was enjoying this? Some started their own clap along during the track, and it spread like wildfire. Vaden appeared a little taken aback by it, as more and more hands shot into the air and kept up with Marks’ drumming. He [Vaden] was often seen extending his arms towards the crowd during that one, pointing at the fans and at times looking as if he were conducting an orchestra; and at one point, he just went with it, striking his palms together in time with everyone else.

In just two songs, one thing was already clear: this was a well rested Toadies. Their Dallas show back in May came in the latter part of the second leg of the tour, and while I would by no means say they were worn that night, they just didn’t have the extra sparkle they did this night, either. All of them seemed legitimately excited to see a crowd of this size and to be playing their songs for everyone.

They had to stop, even if it was just for a few seconds, to allow some applause, and then, as if they didn’t know it was coming, everyone screamed with delight when Vaden strummed his guitar and sang, “Bended knee; nine-years-old…”, the opening line of “Backslider”. That was when things really started going crazy. A majority of the people were jumping about, and getting your feet stepped on just came with the territory, while nearly everyone screamed along at the top of their lungs, “…And I prayed, ‘Sweet Jesus, don’t let me become a backslider!”

A brief intermission came so the band could tune, and then the night reached a fever pitch with “Possum Kingdom”. Of course, it’s these old Rubberneck songs fans always react to the best in the first place, given that it is such an iconic album, but this night, for whatever reason, fans were even more taken by them. It’s really a good thing the sound was turned up as loud as it was, otherwise it would have been almost impossible to hear the band over everyone’s voices. They bridged the song that made them famous perfectly into the subsequent track, and “Quitter” sparked a new fire inside everyone. The precision and ease that Mark was demonstrating in hammering away on his kit was nothing short of impressive, and that was visible many times throughout the night as well.

The Toadies were well into what is arguably the best stretch of the album, and “Away” proved that. It got everyone’s blood flowing, better prepping them for what was soon to come, and, of course, fans were all too eager to sing along at one point, when Vaden stepped away from the mic and motioned for everyone to pick up the slack. No sooner had it ended, and then “I Come From The Water” began. I’ve said in the past that the massive chanting/sing-along of the chorus is one concert experience everyone needs to have at least once, and this night reaffirmed that sentiment. It’s just so cool to be in a room of hundreds of people, and suddenly you’re all working as a collective, screaming at the top of your lungs, “I COME FROM THE WATER!” over and over. Some of the crowd got pretty feisty during it, too. I was surprised it had taken this long for something to happen. People were much more mellow this night, more just focusing on enjoying the music, though now (and somewhat appropriately), a mosh pit broke out, and that soon turned into a small fist fight before venue security showed up and put a stop to it.

Already, they were more than halfway done with Rubberneck, and a break followed for a guitar change. That was apparently too much downtime for some fans, who instantly began chanting, “TOADIES!” repeatedly, like they were still waiting for them to come out and start. Yeah, this gathering of fans was a die-hard bunch.

The gorgeous sounds of “Tyler” then filled the room, and I doubt I was the only person who felt a blissful state set in. It’s such a beautiful song (despite the actual story told by the lyrics), and making it all the better was the extra emotion Vaden packed into the words. It was prevalent at the start, but man, at the end, he was a cut above his usual self. “…I can’t believe I’m really here and she’s lying in that bed. I can almost feel her touch and her anxious breath…” he roared, excitement seeping out of his voice. That was the best I’ve heard “Tyler” sound in awhile, if not ever. Let’s not forget the instrumental bridge, where the rhythm section of Doni and Mark was truly dynamic, and fans again decided that was the perfect moment to begin a clap along.

They make a point of not really talking to the crowd while performing Rubberneck in its entirety, but Clark couldn’t keep it in anymore. “…We haven’t seen you in a long time…” he said, referring to Denton in general, and went as far as to say everyone had been “amazing”. That was probably another reason they were extra exceptional, because aside from being fresh on the road, they also had a ton of energy to feed off of.

“Happyface” was next, and a cool moment came when Vaden muttered the, “Here we go again.” part, casting his hand in the air and flicking his wrist as he sang it. Mark then led the charge into “Velvet”, and they raced through that hate filed song, which again had Vaden getting more emotionally invested in it than normal, and he was seething at times. One last guitar change was in order, and soon Vaden was holding a twelve-string acoustic, making “I Burn” sound as authentic as it possibly can. He was using his hands a lot this night, and did once again when they hit the line, “Sift the ashes for reminders; stony things remain…”, which was when he also switched over to his bullet mic for a bit.

He flicked his pick out to the audience, and dozens of hands went up hoping to catch it, before he handed his acoustic off to one of their stagehands.

“That concludes the record portion of the set…” he said, beginning some chitchat with the audience. It had taken 38-minutes to play everything from Rubberneck, and they still had some left to go.

He mentioned he doesn’t like to talk during that part of the show much, because, “There’s no talking on the record.”, and also stated how good it was to be back in Denton. I think the feeling was mutual.

“…Thank you so goddamned much for sticking with us…” Vaden finished. More than twenty-years as a band is a long time, even if you weren’t together for seven of those. Still, no one ever forgot The Toadies during their breakup, and they even picked up some new fans along the way.

With that little speech made, they ripped into one of many fan favorites from their albums that are less than twenty-years-old.

“Push the Hand” got some movement going, and the crowd roared when they started it. It’s one of their rawest numbers in my opinion, especially in the live environment. The Hell Below/Stars Above album received more attention than anything else (sans Rubberneck), though they only did three tracks from it. In fact, the delightful and devilish “Little Sin” came directly after, and the way they stretch out the silence on each chorus (before singing the songs title) is always a nice little touch.

“How we feeling? You guys good?” Vaden asked afterwards, checking in on everybody. The title track of their third LP was the only one from it, and while everyone wasn’t as into everything else as they had been the Rubberneck stuff, “No Deliverance” was one that was well loved. People were singing along; and during the tracks lull, while crooning, “…She said, ‘You have forsaken all you believe. Crossed earth and oceans to be with me…”, Vaden began another clap along.

Upon finishing it, he mentioned something about a cover song they were wanting to do, but was vague on details. The heart was mentioned, as was a disco ball, and it being “all about touching your heart”, but that was about it. “You’ll all know what’s supposed to happen.” Vaden said, sounding confident people would get it. As I suspected, it was Blondie’s “Heart of Glass”, a song they’ve reworked entirely, making it into a rock number. Vaden even took his glasses off for it (something that rarely happens from my Toadies show experiences). They’ve  made it into a truly solid rock song, and one that’s pretty heartfelt, too.

“Yeah, Blondie.” Vaden remarked as the audience showed their appreciation. “Thank you for coming to the rock show.” he added, asking how many folks here had seen them before. Most had, but surprisingly, a good number of hands shot up when he asked about any “first timers”. I guess everybody has to start somewhere.

Sadly, their set had already come to an end, and Vaden mentioned this final song was a good one to shake your ass to, at least if you had brought it. “Sometimes, I wish I had the heart of a snake. With no compassion comes no mistakes…” he belted at the start of oh, so lively “Rattler’s Revival”, which concluded their 58-minute long set, and also, was the sole song from 2012’s Play.Rock.Music. album.

Their set had gone by way too quick, and did seem on the short side, but there was no doubt that they would be back. Sure enough, a couple minutes passed (minutes filled with people screaming the band’s name), and they returned.

Vaden mentioned they had reissued Rubberneck this year (re-mixed and re-mastered), talking about how this was one song he liked and they recorded back in ’94, and they put it on as a bonus track on this re-release. It was “Stop It” by Pylon, and it had a fun vibe to it. Vaden was wagging his finger back and forth on the chorus, and even pointing out at the crowd at times, as well as starting one last clap along for the night.

I must say, I was glad to hear “Sweetness” made the cut, not just because it’s a favorite of mine, but because that primal song is absolutely superb. “…Keep going out to live rock shows…” Vaden encouraged, while Mark continued pounding out the beats, clearly setting up “Hell In High Water”. That speech seemed to ensure this was the closing number, but they make it one of the best of their shows. Doni and Vaden stood next to one another during the lengthy instrumental part, talking to one another momentarily, and just rocking out and having a good time, even smiling. Clark knocked out a few loud notes on his guitar, seeming like he was going to stop at three, before Vaden convinced him to do one more, and the crowd made some noise for that. “I am hell in high water, and I never sleep. So watch your daughters, and stay out of the deep…” Vaden then sang, as they got back on track and ended their 12-minute long encore.

Vaden had a huge smile on his face. He was loving this, and appeared game for more. However, Clark had already sat his guitar down, and Mark was out from behind the drum kit. Doni stood at the ready, waiting to see what his band mates would do. Everyone was hoping they might do another one or two, and they were vocal about it, but the band decided to call it, graciously thanking everyone as they exited the building.

I still feel this was on the short side for a Toadies show, though I don’t consider that a strike against them. After all, how many times to get to hear all eleven tracks from Rubberneck played front to back? In my experience, twice, and I doubt it will happen again. Or if it does, it won’t be anytime soon.

There’s just something about The Toadies. Part of it probably has to do with their staying power, something many bands struggle with. Part of it is probably the fact they are still churning out great music all these years later, and I would dare say their latest release is every bit as phenomenal as Rubberneck is. You can’t dismiss how they still have a stage show as intense as bands half their age, coupled with the experience that comes with being a group of veteran rockers, giving them the best of both worlds.

So, regardless of if it’s a 70-minute set or one that pushes or exceeds 90, no one’s going to leave disappointed. I know I didn’t, nor did anyone else when they walked out the doors this night.

This leg of the Rubberneck tour will come to an end on August 17th, stopping in New Mexico; Colorado; Missouri; Nebraska; North Carolina; South Carolina; Louisiana; and Mississippi. Let’s not forget the 7th annual Dia De Los Toadies music festival taking place at Panther Island Pavilion in Fort Worth on September 12th and 13th. Full info can be found HERE. Get their albums in iTUNES, with the exception of the re-mastered Rubberneck, which can be found at Kirtland Records online store.

Shows You Know You Wanna See: July 28 - August 3

Monday, July 28th
-Fort Worth

ALL AGES
Music @ 9:30
FREE
_____
Tuesday, July 29th
-Dallas (Deep Ellum)

ALL AGES
Doors @ 7:30
$12

-Dallas (Lower Greenville Avenue)


-Denton

ALL AGES
Doors @ 9
21+ $5 / 21- $7
_____
Wednesday, July 30th
-Dallas (Deep Ellum)

AGES 18+
Doors @ 8 / Music @ 9
$5
_____
Thursday, July 31st
-Fort Worth

$7

ALL AGES
Gates open @ 4:30 / Music @ 6:30
FREE
_____
Friday, August 1st
-Dallas

Music @ 9
FREE

-Dallas (Deep Ellum)

AGES 21+
Doors @ 10
$10+

Music @ 10
FREE

-Dallas (Lower Greenville Avenue)

ALL AGES
Doors @ 8
$24

Music @ 11
FREE

-Fort Worth

$14 seats / $10 GA

Doors @ 8:30 / Music @ 9:30

-McKinney

Music @ 10
21+ $12 / 21- $17
_____
Saturday, August 2nd
-Arlington


-Dallas (Deep Ellum)

AGES 21+
Doors @ 10
$7+

-Dallas (Downtown)

AGES 18+

AGES 21+
Doors @ 3:30 / Music @ 4:30
$16.33 & up

-Dallas (Lower Greenville Avenue)


-Denton

ALL AGES
Doors @ 10
21+ $5 / 21- $7

-Fort Worth

Music @ 8:30

-McKinney

Music @ 10
$10
_____
Sunday, August 3rd
-Dallas (Deep Ellum)


-Fort Worth

Doors @ 8
$7
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Jul 25

Saturday, July 19th, 2014 – Curtain Palooza v3.0 Brings Life Back to Deep Ellum

In just eight short months, the “Curtain Palooza” shows have become an institution at The Curtain Club.

Each one has been largely spearheaded by Dayvoh of the band Alterflesh, beginning last November, while the second installment took place in early March. The first one was a blast, though I missed the second, as I was covering a festival for On Tour Monthly that day. But this third go-around of the extravaganza was one I could not miss, and it looked to be the best one yet.

Why? Well, for starters both Alterflesh and Daylight Industries were getting plaques up on The Wall of Fame, right alongside some of the best bands that have called the North Texas music scene home. The requirements for that are you need to pull fifty plus people out to a few consecutive shows, which isn’t easy, given that Deep Ellum is far from its glory days, when hundreds and even thousands of people ventured to the venues in the area.

To really put that in perspective, I’ve been seeing Daylight Industries for at least going on three years. They play Curtain often, but are just now reaching every bands dream of getting a plaque on the wall. As for Alterflesh, they just started playing the venue early last year, and swiftly achieved that goal.

Apart from an all-star local lineup, Cold was also set to close out the night, doing a special acoustic set.

I got there early enough, but ran into Paco Estrada and Jeremy Rodriguez of SpaceCamp out on the patio (SpaceCamp was playing later on in the Liquid Lounge), and ended up out there for at least a good half hour, before making my way into the Curtain for the remainder of New Voodoo.
image(Photo credit: Roxanne Fuentes | Fountain Photo Ops)

This show started early, at 7:30 to be precise, which is a lot earlier than people usually want to be there by. However, I was amazed at how packed the place already was. I’d guess at least a hundred people were already there watching the band, and I had seen where six hundred tickets had been sold. This was going to be a big night.

New Voodoo is a cover band, but from what little I saw, they own these covers. I walked in as they were doing “Slither” by Velvet Revolver, and before their next song, frontman Dylan St. John counted them in. “One, two, seven, nine.” he said beforehand, which struck me as being pretty funny. The best moment came at the tail end of the show, though, when he suddenly jumped into the air and did a back flip. Not enough singers do that.

Guitarists Andrew Lewthwaite and Dorian Duerinckx, bassist Abe Gonzales and drummer Dave Hale were all great, making it fun an enjoyable to watch. In short, New Voodoo is more than just some glorified cover band.
image(Photo credit: Roxanne Fuentes | Fountain Photo Ops)

They have a show at Wit’s End in Dallas on July 26th, and will be back there on August 30th. You can also see them on August 23rd at Dan’s Silver Leaf in Denton and September 5th at Andy’s, also in Denton.

Following them was the Arlington-based Solice, and it had been quite awhile since I had last seen the female fronted hard rock group.
image(Photo credit: Roxanne Fuentes | Fountain Photo Ops)

Guitarist Juan Brittos, bassist Rob Pummill and drummer Ryan Matthews began their 43-minute long set with a little instrumental intro, letting the now massive audience know just what they were in for, before Xtina Lee walked on stage. “Dallas, Texas! How’s everyone doing tonight?!” she asked as she took her spot at center stage, noting that this first song was “Sweet Escape”.

Xtina, Juan and Rob did a lot of jumping throughout it, syncing up with one another, and the two guys let loose some wicked screams at times that added to the intensity. “Are y’all having a good time tonight?!” Xtina asked as she finished singing the second chorus, and was met with a ton of cheers and applause. “We’re so excited to be here!” she exclaimed once they finished the song, taking time to mention that on August 1st they’d be releasing a new EP online. “Let me see your hands!” she shouted as her band mates started one of their newer songs, “Heart of Stone”. A sea of hands went up, clapping to the beats Ryan was supplying. I’d say this was the best song I’ve heard Solice do. Musically and lyrically it was even a cut above the material from their previous two EP’s, and the crowd was loving every second of it, while Juan was totally in the zone, shredding on his axe with complete ease.
image(Photo credit: Roxanne Fuentes | Fountain Photo Ops)

“Thank you so fucking much!” Xtina said once the song was over, with a smile on her face. She then looked at one friend/fan, saying this next song was by request, after they didn’t play it at their last show. The song was another off their Live EP, “Trapt”, which allowed them to show off their softer side at times, especially in Xtinas’ voice, and she hit some beautiful notes. Upon finishing it, she asked how many people had seen the music video they did for “Do You See it Now?”, which was coming next. They keys she added periodically throughout add a nice balance to the track, a track that was a full on assault from the rhythm section; and Juan squeezed in an excellent solo as well.

Afterwards, Xtina again mentioned how “awesome” this was, and commented on the great energy, but asked everyone to move a little closer so they could see everyone better. “…We’re all friends in the local music scene.” With that, they got to their latest single, “Save Me”, which again featured some of the keys at times; and Rob joined Juan on stage right for a time, as they each let loose their throaty, metal screams into the mic. One of the best parts came towards the end, and as Xtina belted out a line, Rob and Juan dropped to their knees for a few moments, before springing back up.
image(Photo credit: Roxanne Fuentes | Fountain Photo Ops)

“…How many veteran Solice fans are in the house?” she asked, while making her way back to the keyboard. Judging by the noise, there were quite a few, and they were glad to hear her say they were bringing back an older song they hadn’t done in awhile. Specifically, that was “The Mask”, a favorite of mine, and from the looks of it, many others, too.

Their time on stage was almost over, and Xtina made sure to let everyone know in about a month they, too, would be getting a plaque up on this wall. They did another (I assume newer) song, which even by their standards was very aggressive; and I really liked the pace it had, with the music bed and vocals working off and complimenting one another.
image(Photo credit: Roxanne Fuentes | Fountain Photo Ops)

They ended with what Xtina mentioned was a very personal song to them; and Rob ditched his bass for a guitar. It was titled “Solice”, and you felt the emotion as they performed it. “…A smile left with no goodbye, and now I’m barely hanging on…” went one of the lines, while they gradually built it up from the more acoustic vibe it had begun with.
image(Photo credit: Roxanne Fuentes | Fountain Photo Ops)

This was the best show I’ve seen Solice do. Since I’ve been aware of them I’ve always thought they were a great band, put they’ve pushed themselves above and beyond the level they used to be at.

They were even more solid as a band in general, with deepened chemistry with one another; and the exerted a hold over everyone that you couldn’t break free from, nor did you want to.

Some of that probably did have something to do with the awesome crowd, too, ‘cause it’s always better when there are a bunch of people at a show, and the band can work of their energy and vice versa.

Regardless, Solice proved just way they, too, will soon have a plaque on this storied wall.

That plaque presentation show will be on Sunday, August 31st. They’ll also be playing Houston on August 1st at Acadia and August 2nd at Lola’s Saloon in Fort Worth. They have a show at The Dirty Rooster in Allen on September 20th, too. Don’t forget their new EP comes out on August 1st, and in the meantime you can also get their last one in iTUNES.

It was nearly ten-o’clock when Daylight Industries got ready to hit the stage, and The Curtain Club was more packed than I have seen it in years. Specifically, the last time was January 13th of 2012, when The FEDS did that reunion show hundreds of fans from all over the Mid-West had waited three years for. You expect that kind of turnout for a Dallas legend, though. But even on a night as important as getting a plaque, I’ve seen some bands pull the typical few dozen people and that’s it.

By the time this night was said and done more than five hundred people had walked through the doors of the Curtain.

Dayvoh introduced the “gypsy rock band from Dallas”, who was all smiles and holding their plaque up for all to see, and then he left them to it.
image(Photo credit: Roxanne Fuentes | Fountain Photo Ops)

“Tonight’s about having fun and playing music!” exclaimed lead guitarist Brandon Tyner. They were already setting up their opening number, and some slightly fuzzy notes filled the air, while Barry Townsend slapped the neck of his bass, which was resting against his amp for the time being. “Well, he said it all, so we’re just going to play some music.” frontman Keith Allen remarked, I believe referring to what both Dayvoh and Brandon had said.

Barry slung his bass over him, and they were off, coming out of the gates strong with a newer song, and one they went absolutely ballistic on. Of course, that could describe the bands entire show in general, but there was something special to this one. Stephen Smith was beating the drums so hard I’m surprised none of the skins broke; and at one point Barry wound up on the drum riser, and soon jumped off it.

They moved on to another newer one, and the last couple times I heard “White Russians”, it was the closer. It fit real well here at the start, though; and the two-and-a-half minute long track appeared to get the band more excited. Steve stood from his kit at one point, appearing to shout at everyone, before forcefully striking the cymbals as he went to sit back down. Keith used one of the brief instrumental breaks to raise his beer to the sky, and nearly everyone in the venue did the same with theirs. A party atmosphere had been established, and everyone was just having a good time; and the crowd roared at Brandon once that song was done, when he asked what was up.
image(Photo credit: Roxanne Fuentes | Fountain Photo Ops)

“We are Daylight Industries, and you must be the best crowd ever.” Keith said in a jovial voice, making the formal introduction. They started cracking away at the Faith Healer EP with “Aphasia”, which has perhaps the coolest guitar licks out of any of their songs (thus far), and the parts Ruvayne Weber added to it made it all the more impressive. Keith chatted with the audience for a minute, while Steve began prepping for their next number, keeping a nice steady and heavy patchwork of beats going before eventually exploding into the beast of a song that is “Wandering”. Their show reached new heights as the five of them thrashed about, but the best part came when the music suddenly fell nearly silent. The crowd didn’t make much noise, and Keith looked out at them. “Aw, that’s sad.” he said before they came back in.

Brandon walked over to center stage, glanced down at the set list, and then fired up the opening riff to “Western Sky”, as he swaggered back to stage right. It was a little change of pace for them, as it has a slight reggae sound in the music bed, and isn’t quite as intense as their other stuff, yet it still sounds like Daylight Industries.
image(Photo credit: Roxanne Fuentes | Fountain Photo Ops)

“That’s it. That was our last song. Fuck off now; go home. Thank you for your money, now go home.” Keith joked. No one budged. They knew better. The band probably was getting tired by now, and Brandon had sweat dripping off of him, but they showed no sign of that affecting them. They never do anyway, but it was different this night. They were still gung-ho about it all, and I don’t think they wanted the night to end. Luckily for them there was still plenty of time left in their 44-minute long set.

Their assault continued with “Junkie Logic”, and as they hit the second chorus, Ruvayne raised his guitar over his head and continued to pick away at it. Keith was getting quite into the track, too, and dropped to his knees at the end and shouted out the final lines. A chant of “One more!” then arose from the audience, as people gave the guys a hard time. “Shut up and drink.” Keith responded, chuckling, and added this next one was a new song off the record they are currently tracking. It was typical Daylight Industries, but the growth in the music was noticeable. The spectators were loving it, and one chick even ended up crowd surfing. I’ve seen more than a hundred and twenty shows here at the Curtain, but I’ve never seen anyone crowd surf here. So let that serve as a testament to just how outstanding this night was.
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“Yeah, yeah, look at y’all, levitating and shit.” said Keith, who then apologized for cursing (there’s a first time for everything). “…I have a low vocabulary…” was his reasoning for doing it, and he searched for a more sophisticated word to say that. “What’s the word I’m looking for…” he said aloud, pondering it. “Fuck.” he said, leaving it at that. A guy was now seen crowd surfing during “Faith Healer”, and nearly got dropped, but fortunately for him the people holding him up recovered. They even got a clap along going at one point; and upon finishing it, Keith held the mic in front of Barry, asking if he wanted to say anything. He said something simple, like a word of thanks, and fans yelled at the top of their lungs back at him. “That’s what I want, every time I say something, you cheer!” he replied, beaming with delight.

They launched into “Sit In”, which was even more solid than usual, and followed it with the single from their next EP. Brandon mentioned it was titled “Weight of the World”. “That’s called a metaphor. That’s a literary device.” Keith added, making some people laugh with that comment that seemed to come right out of left field. The song had a nice build-up at one point, and Brandon worked everyone up during it, causing another surge in the energy level.
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“I would stage dive, but this is two hundred and twenty pounds of American muscle.” Keith cracked before their final song. They closed with an oldie but goodie: “Something’s Wrong”. It’s been awhile since they’ve done anything from the Future of an Illusion EP, but that was always my favorite track off it, and it was good to hear it brought back, even if it may have been just for this night. “And I’ve known it all along, it’s the feeling something’s wrong.” goes the chorus, and the first time around, the audience slowly took over on it. That prompted the band to pull back and let everyone sing that part to them; and while he might not have wanted to crowd surf, Keith was all too happy to join the mosh pit that had started closer towards the end. Barry furthered the crowd participation by starting a clap along, and before you knew it, they were done.

This is one band that doesn’t disappoint, and their live show is superior to most as far as energy goes, but this night, this night they went above and beyond what is standard for them.
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As I mentioned with Solice, part of that undoubtedly had to do with the crowd. I mean, when you have people singing your song back at you, how could you not feel a euphoric rush? The same can be said of knowing your band will be immortalized on the Wall of Fame, a feat Barry has said has been a life goal since he was seventeen. It took fifteen years for it to happen, but it happened.

Daylight Industries was an unstoppable force this night, and it was hard to think that the night would or could get any better with the two remaining acts, but that’s exactly what happened.

You can find their EP’s in iTUNES, and you can even download a ton of live cuts as well as the full Faith Healer EP fro FREE on REVERBNATION. If you want to see them live, your next chance will be August 2nd at Lola’s Saloon. They’ll be in Allen at The Dirty Rooster on August 16th; and back in Fort Worth on August 5th at The Rail as part of the Cowtown Charity Music Fest.

As usual, folks had left the room, going out to the patio to smoke and/or socialize, but once they heard the drums, bass and guitars of Alterflesh’s sound check, the hundreds of people hurried back in.
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Dayvoh (AKA The Shaman) greeted everyone with, “Welcome to Curtain Palooza version three point o…”. The stage was decked out with their usual gear, from paintings that featured Buddha and other spiritual things; while Andrew Lewthwaite stood on a box at stage left, his guitar at the ready. Fellow guitarist Ben Schelin and bassist Paul Kubajak were also peering out at the patrons, anxiously waiting for the introduction to be made so they could get to work.

It didn’t take long, and they opened with “Megahub”. This was their first Dallas show since working with producer Alex Gerst (who recorded their debut EP, which they also happened to be releasing this night.) His guidance had led to an even tighter sound for the band, and while that song didn’t make the cut on the EP, you could still hear a slight evolution in it now from how it used to be. Dayvoh was already going full throttle, interacting with the crowd and jumping around, as the lights shimmered off the golden silk shirt he was wearing.
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“Again, welcome to Curtain Palooza!” shouted Dayvoh once the song ended. He then belted out a line a cappella, before drummer Kevin Mills and the rest of the band tore into a newer song they had cooked up. It fit the Alterflesh mold well, especially in the chorus, with one of the lines being, “…Each of us will burn until we return to the light…” Paul and Ben were jumping about in their spots, and Paul was still able to add his backing vocals when needed; and at one point, Dayvoh knelt on that box on stage left, pointing at the audience. The song ended with him repeating the same line over and over, essentially creating his own echo effect, which was quite cool.

The sheer size of the crowd was remarkable, and it led Dayvoh to comment on how “alive” Deep Ellum was this night. “It’s looking like the old days…” he stated, before shouting out all the other bands who were out supporting, saying there were at least a dozen bands represented who weren’t even playing this night. They simply came out to support their friends. The bass was thunderous at the start of “So Much More”, another song that had been retooled, and this new, polished version was superb.
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He again mentioned how alive the scene was, before noting this next one was a social rant called “Watch Rome Burn”. The song didn’t just get touched up, it got rewritten. The guitar tones were slicker and the pace at which the vocals were delivered was completely different. Then they hit the chorus, “Never will you bear the full weight…”, which was not how it used to go. It was like a brand new song, which brought new life to it. That’s always been one of my favorite Alterflesh songs, and I think anyone would be skeptical if a band reworked a song they like, but this was a change that was easy to embrace, and they really did make the song better. There was also a cool part as they hit the final chorus, when Dayvoh leapt into the air at the instant Kevin came back in on the drums.

“…It’s no secret in life that things aren’t always what they seem to be… But life is music and music is life, and that’s the truth.” remarked Dayvoh during their next break. Words to live by in my opinion. Kevin then led the charge into “The Charade”, the lead track from the Into the Sun EP, which was making it’s live debut this night. You could see the extra rush of excitement it gave them clearly on Ben’s face, who smiled for most of the track; and at a pause, they extended the break, as Dayvoh worked the crowd up, getting everyone to scream and cheer for them. Afterwards he thanked all the behind the scenes players at the Curtain, like sound man Chad Lovell, while Kevin started them off on their next number. Xtina Lee from Solice walked on stage, helping them out on “Start Over”, which has become a duet. Their voices sound incredible together, and even though it’s only one song, they got a good deal of chemistry going on with one another.
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She left, and Ben opened up the title track of the EP, “Into the Sun”, while Kevin stood up as he lightly hit some of the cymbals. They even spiced the song up a bit with a killer guitar solo that Andrew played, showing just how talented a guitarist he is. “How about that Curtain Club?! Are you alive out there?!” roared Dayvoh after the song, before releasing the new version of “New Horizon” on everyone’s ears. Like some of the other songs, there weren’t many huge changes, though it had been better fleshed out (further proof of why Gerst is one of the best producers in the area, and as Dayvoh pointed out this night, he’s also Grammy nominated.)

“How about that curtain?!” shouted Dayvoh, as he stared out at all the adoring fans. They then took a moment to bring Scooter Ward from Cold up on stage, and he asked everyone to give it up for all the local bands that had played. He said all this had brought him back to a day when local music mattered, and he reminisced about a band from out of Atlanta he used to share the stage with back in the mid-nineties. “…They’re now called Sevendust, and they used to play to twenty people. Shit changes.” Scooter said, proving that you never know who might be the next rising star. He then presented Alterflesh with their plaque, and they proudly held it up for all to see.
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Their 41-minute long set was almost over, but they still had one more left, and they had planned something special for everyone. Alterflesh isn’t really known for doing covers, but they’ve done it a time or two before. However, they have never played Bob Dylans’ “All Along the Watchtower” before. They owned it, and with their unique style, they had no trouble leaving their mark on it. Andrew’s guitar was dominant throughout the song, and the additional verses thrown in were fitting of Alterflesh’s style.

It’s really impressive how far these guys have come in a relatively short time. I don’t even mean that just about the plaque, but in general. A year-and-a-half ago, Alterflesh hadn’t even played the Curtain Club once, and were still a little known band. All of a sudden, they started establishing a rapidly growing fan base and pulling more and more people out with each show they did.
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Apply the growth they underwent while at Empire Sound Studio, and you’re left with a force to be reckoned with. They’re probably one of the most hyped bands currently in the North Texas music scene, and not only are people talking about them, they’re actually coming out to shows to see them. As phenomenal as they were this night, it’s easy to see why.

They don’t have the EP on iTUNES yet, but for now you can listen to and purchase a few of the tracks on REVERBNATION. You’re next chance to see them will be on September 13th in Dallas, and then they have an October 11th gig at Hailey’s in Denton.

Cold had the job of closing out the night, doing a special acoustic set. For those wondering how this came about, apparently Dayvoh and Scooter are old friends, and they were the icing on the cake to this spectacular night.

The Cold Army was out in full force, and the trio of Scooter Ward, Zac Gilbert and Drew Molleur were met with rabid screams when the curtain opened and revealed them. “Give it up for all the local bands…” Scooter shouted. He and his band mates were all seated on stools, and he mentioned that everything this night would be different variations of the songs just about everyone here knew.
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Fans were excited when Scooter said the first song was “Remedy”, and it was completely different from the version these people were familiar with. Zac alternated between the keyboard and an acoustic guitar this night, using the keys on this one. The same can be said of many of their songs this night, but you really got to hear their true beauty this night. “I don’t love how you love, but please don’t leave me here alone…” Scooter crooned as they began, giving even more weight to the lyrics.

Another cool thing with this setting was they made it into a sort of storytellers show, and he said when they were working on the A Different Kind of Pain album, they traveled through Atlanta and had a layover at the airport. It was there Scooter said he met and talked with some soldiers, “…And they inspired me with their stories…” he said. So much so, he wrote a song for them. That was the poignant “When Angels Fly Away”, which had Drew adding some awesome backing vocals at times, while both he and Zac strummed their acoustic guitars.

“Is everybody doing alright? Are you okay?” Scooter asked, checking in with everyone. People were hanging in there just fine, and he admitted he had been pretty nervous about “only having two people” next to him, but it was working out so far. “Can we kill the lights?” he then asked. “We’re like gremlins, we don’t like lights.” he said more to the staff, as the lights, which hadn’t been too bright to begin with, left them in almost complete darkness. He mentioned this next song was one he wrote for his mom, and “No One” made a fairly smooth transition over to an acoustic song. The Cold Army was really liking it, and I overheard someone saw this was even their favorite Cold song, so when they hit one of the latter choruses, and Scooter simply said, “Sing it.”, fans were glad to help out.
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Zac went back to the keys, as they prepared for one of the last tracks of the Year of the Spider album, and Scooter noted this was only the second time they had played “Black Sunday” live, which I think made the crowd feel pretty lucky. Throughout all of those, you could feel a sadness, and they had created a somber tone, one the trio wasn’t ready to leave just yet. “Since we’re going with the painful ones…” Scooter said, pausing for a second before finishing, “This one hurts.” He left it at that, and his band mates began “Cure My Tragedy”. “…Won’t you cure my tragedy? Don’t take her smile away from me; she’s broken and I’m far away.” he forcefully sang, asking for the audience to help him out at one point. “That was for my sister.” he remarked afterwards, adding that the hard songs had now been gotten out of the way, and as he did so, he wiped his eyes. Like he said before, that was a painful one, and you could tell it.

The stories continued, when Scooter talked about getting to meet one his idols: Layne Staley. He said the Alice in Chains frontman wore different attire to hide how sickly he looked, covering his face and head with glasses and a hat, but Scooter talked about how amazing that was for him, to at least get a chance to speak to Staley while he was still alive. With that, they did a still fairly intense version of “The Day Seattle Died”, which he later clarified was for Kurt [Cobain] and Layne.

The crowd cheered when he asked, “Do you know this song? It’s been awhile.” He wasn’t speaking to them, though. “I was talking to band…” he told everyone. They knew it no problem, although it was a whole different take on “Wicked World” that they offered up. On the flip side, “A Different Kind of Pain” was built for the acoustic setting, and sounded excellent just being the guitar and piano. It was one of the most beautiful moments of the night, while “Suffocate” created one of the most frenzied. “Come on!” Scooter shouted as they hit the first chorus. He couldn’t resist getting more into this one, and left the stool he had been stationed on, kneeling down closer to the crowds level and holding the mic out to different fans on the chorus. Even then, everyone was singing, though, creating a magical moment.
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Scooter shared another story with fans, saying this next song was one most of the audience would know, and it was one, one of his band mates had heard him sing on their tour bus on numerous occasions, and told him he needed to record it. It was never laid down until they did the 13 Way to Bleed Onstage record, though, and the song he was speaking of was that discs closing number: “Bleed”. The harmonies he and Drew got going during it were fantastic, and the fans made it into another sing-along opportunity. That’s saying something, because on a lot of records, the usual slow, acoustic song that gets placed at the end is dismissed by fans. Not in this case, though.

The mood got a little happier when it was mentioned that Drew had gotten engaged the previous weekend, and then Scooter again everyone for supporting local music. “This is one of our first hit songs that got us noticed…” he informed everyone. It took a moment, but once people heard the unmistakable chords of “Just Got Wicked”, they let out some excited cheers. They then did something they hadn’t done before, and Scooter pointed out that this was a song Zac was wanting to do. It was “Feel it in Your Heart”, which sounded incredible, and making it all the more impressive was when Scooter told everyone they had never done that with the piano before. “…He just winged that shit!” he said, pointing at Zac, leading the crowd to give it up for him.

“I don’t want to stop!” Drew said. He meant it, too, and you could tell he was really enjoying this. Their 58-minute long set was almost up, though, and they left everyone with “Stupid Girl”, which again had Scooter getting up from his stool to better interact with everybody.

To be honest, I’ve never really listened to much Cold. I just never heard much of their music and missed out on them I guess. But man, after seeing this acoustic performance, I’m going to have to fix that.

Even from stools, doing stripped down versions of their songs, they were on par with every other band on this bill, and they brought with them that sense of professionalism that comes with being a major touring band.

Really, I was amazed; plus, it was cool to see Cold do an acoustic show, ‘cause how many people get to experience that?

This whole night was amazing, and Dayvoh deserves one more shout-out for helping orchestrate it all.

This was one of the most fun overall concert experiences I’ve ever had, and that is all because of the atmosphere of it all. Everyone was having a good time and just enjoyed all the bands. On that note, people stuck around for every band, rather than showing up for the one act they want to see and then leaving. Even if it was just for a night, the local music scene was a legitimate community again, and it was thriving.

This is what Deep Ellum needs more of. More solid shows where everyone is headline quality; more promotion on everyone’s part (bands, venues and fans. Remember, it’s a collective effort.); and more people showing up early and staying late for the whole thing.

I could make that list longer, but I think those are the three strongest points, aside from just needing more people to come out in general and support up and coming talent.

I’ll I’ve known is a near lifeless Deep Ellum, the one that was plagued by crime (and even murder), which left most afraid to even venture to the area of Dallas. When I first started coming to the now long defunct Club Clearview and Curtain Club in early 2006, you had your pick of parking spaces, and you didn’t have to worry about any lot filling up.

There’s no denying it has been on an upswing the last couple of years, though. There are bigger crowds, and depending on what’s going on, parking can be pretty scarce even in the eight-o’clock hour. Point is, I hope this night was a sign of things to come. Especially for the beloved Curtain Club.

Jul 23

Friday, July 18th, 2014 – Waking Alice Releases The Dark

Waking Alice had put months of preparation into this night. They were finally releasing their newest EP — The Dark; and aside from that, this would also mark their first headlining show at The Curtain Club.

This was one of the increasingly common five-band bills the venue has started hosting, and Timeless City was charged with kicking it off.

I got there in time to see the last three to four songs they did — which included a cover of Panic! At the Discos’ “I Write Sins, Not Tragedies.” I wasn’t too keen on them, and frontman John Hale had very pitchy voice that never perfectly nailed the notes.
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They’re a young band, though (in terms of band members age and just being newer to the scene in general). So maybe with some practice…

Actually, this was a night of primarily newer bands, and next you had Wolves Reign, who has been around about a year now.
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Lead guitarist Moises Moura introduced themselves to the crowd once the curtain opened on them, before frontman Eric Lara took over. “We are Wolves Reign. We exist and we are no longer a figment of your imagination… So far as you know.” It was one of the more comical intros I’ve seen, and while the crowd wasn’t that large, it did get a laugh from most of the people who were there.

With that, they started into the first song of their 32-minute long set, a song that had some neat key parts courtesy of Jonathan Hill, and the notes Moises was playing sounded pretty slick. Upon finishing it, they changed things up a bit. Matt Garcia had been on the drums, which he now left for the lead microphone. Eric grabbed a guitar and dabbled on the keys, while Jonathan took over as the percussionist. It was the first of a couple games of musical chairs that they played this night.
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“…This was inspired by blood and honey, our favorite beer.” Matt stated, adding the track was titled “Revolver”. I thought it was their best song of the night, and had a raw rock vibe to it. It got your blood flowing a little; and as it ended, Matt pumped his fist into the air while singing. They kept that format for “Another Life”, which, like many of their songs, just had an epic feel to it. Not that they were necessarily long, but it was more in the way they’d suddenly change the songs up, which kept you, the listener, on your toes.

Matt returned to the drums afterwards and Jonathan the keys, while Eric kept the guitar around him and resumed his spot at center stage. “It’s about that time of the show where Matt takes his shirt off.” Eric joked, saying he was also so precise with it. “It’s always eighteen-minutes and twenty-seconds in.” He then fiddled with his guitar, before mentioning, “This next song’s in E flat.” Moises and bassist Izzy Saenz did a good deal of interacting with one another on that one, while Moises was also often shaking his hips, really getting into the song.
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Matt and Jonathan exchanged spots for the final time this night, and once he had the mic back in hand, Matt informed everyone this next one was called “A World with No Risk”. Moises leaned back on Izzys’ shoulder at one point, tearing it up on his axe, while Matt and Eric (who was doing some back-up singing) also stood back to back for a moment on what was another strong song of theirs. They had time for one more, and threw one more surprise the crowd’s way when Matt mentioned it was going to be an instrumental piece, and left his band mates to it. It was more tranquil from the rest of their show, but still some rocking moments, and for a band as interesting as they were, it seemed a fitting way to end.

I really liked the dynamics Wolves Reign had going on. The multiple singers and capable drummers allows them to stand out from the rest of the pack, and they rotated often enough that they always had you on your toes, but you also had enough time to get used to the lineup they had going on at the moment.
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Both Matt and Eric were pitchy at times this night, but it was nothing more than just bumps in the road, ‘cause when they were hitting the notes, they were on fire.

There’s a lot of potential to Wolves Reign, and it should be interesting to see how they progress.

The Broken Stools were another interesting band, and the first thing that your eye focused on when the curtain opened was the pole with a mannequin head on it. A white shirt had been placed on it, and “Cofas” had been written across it in sharpie, while a Guitar Hero guitar hung around him.
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Then the loud, nearly metal sounds hit you. “We’re The Broken Stools!” singer and guitarist Chaz Mangan shouted at the top of his lungs. He and drummer Aaron Fisher then abruptly calmed things down, and Chaz softly spoke, “But we’re not that heavy.” “The thing is!” he again yelled as the instruments once again roared to life, before softening once more. “We like to act like it.”

He then asked everyone to cut bassist Alex Cofas some slack, saying he had just had his wisdom teeth pulled out.

They opened with one of only two songs they’ve recorded so far, “Stereotypical”. For a duo, they sounded amazing. Aaron was getting some killer tones out of kit (specifically the toms), and the guitar even some rhythmic textures to it, helping balance it all out.

“If you like us without a bass player, then go check out our demo!” Chaz told everyone after the song, saying they had copies to take right over at the merch area. They followed it with “If You Can’t Trust the Lion, Get out of its Den”, which is possibly one of the best song titles I’ve ever heard.

The band name was then addressed, and according to Chaz, there was actually no interesting story behind it. “This guy said it joking around one day, and it stuck, and he hates me for it.” he stated. Oh, he was referring to Cofas as being the one who was joking around.
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By this time, they had everyone who was there enjoying their show, if for no other reason than just how fun it was. So, when Chaz shouted, “I need a clap!” at one point during their next song, the spectators were more than happy to help them out. As is mandatory for any band, they did one track for the ladies, while the one that followed Chaz noted he would like to say he forgot the name of it. “But the truth is, we just never named it.” he solemnly confessed. He was a really good guitarist, as was shown when he dropped to his knees during that song and shredded on the axe.

The duo kept their set short, clocking in at only 24-minutes, and they concluded with the first song they ever wrote, “A Fresh Start”.

There are quite a few great duos in the North Texas music scene, and given a little time, The Broken Stools will surely be in the ranks.

You think it’s going to be stupid at first. You see a faux bass player, and then hear them joking about not being a heavy band but liking to act like it, and you think, “This is going to be ridiculous.” But there’s a difference between being silly and just stupid.

The silliness is an act, and they played it up very well. It was fresh. I mean, how many bands have you seen do that? Out of nearly 700 shows I’ve seen, I can honestly say this was a first.

They never went overboard with it, though. They kept it humorous, but when it was time for a song, they hammered away at it with a passion, as real musicians should.

The Broken Stools will be one band to keep an eye on. You can snag their two-song sampler for FREE on BANDCAMP; and keep an eye on their FACEBOOK PAGE for future shows.

The longer running bands had been saved for last, and according to their Facebook page, Code 19 has a couple years under their belt. They had a lot of supporters, too. Seventy plus people at least.
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“Welcome to The Curtain Club!” frontman Joey Dietrich said after their first number, before starting their next track. “It’s time to wake up!” he yelled, pushing off the monitor and jumping back right as he finished the sentence. The song was “Awakening”, which was a little more politically geared (“…Freedom isn’t free…”). Ray Deauman then wound them into their next song with some notes from his guitar, as they continued with their dirty rock/metal sound.

The tune that came next had more of a rap feel to it, really just in the lyrics, which is just something I’m not a fan of, so needless to say that was one I didn’t get too into. They soon got back to their regular stuff, though, but first added in some humor, when Joey and Ray sang a bit of Elton Johns’ “I Hope You Don’t Mind”. “I hope you don’t mind that I put down in words how wonderful life is…” they sang, before Ray shouted, “Now that you’re fucking gone!” That was exactly what “Me2U” was about, and a lot of their fans seemed to love that message.

They continued with the music, and also took time to pump everyone up, egging people on to scream for them and such. Their show reached a fever pitch as they got to the conclusion, and had saved their fan favorite for last. “What?! What?! What?!” Ray got everyone to shout along (I’m assuming that was the title as well). He, bassist Matt Heinecke and drummer Phillip Bell then tore into that last song of their 39-minute long set.
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If you like no-frills rock, then chances are you’ll like Code 19. Their performance was pretty action packed, too, with non-stop movement going on. Nearly everyone there seemed to find it hard to resist, at least.

You can catch them at Lola’s Saloon in Fort Worth on August 2nd.

It was later, but it was finally time for Waking Alice, who hit the stage shortly after midnight.
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It was just the three instrumentalists on stage when the curtain revealed them, and drummer Jonn Levey, guitarist Brandon Brewer and bassist Brayton Bourque began things with an instrumental piece, “The Dark”, jamming for a bit before Rus Chaney walked on stage from the stairwell, microphone in hand.

They had decided to get started with a cover, and one I had not heard them do in a little while. However, the couple of times they did do The Smashing Pumpkins’ “Geek U.S.A.”, they killed it. This night was no exception. It’s one song that plays to all of their strengths, and it was good hearing it back in rotation.
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“What’s up, Curtain Club?!” Rus asked, gazing out at the audience. “Let’s do this shit!” he said, some excitement heard in his voice as Brandon ripped right into one of their most aggressive tracks, “Treason”. Brandon always adds some backing vocals to the chorus, but for whatever reason, they sounded even better this night. A little stronger perhaps, and better heard, fitting nicely with Rus’ voice.

“Thanks for coming out and hanging with us.” Rus said to all their friends and other supporters who had made it out. This may have been the release show for The Dark, but they were getting the stuff from the two-year-old Retribution EP out of the way first, and “Scars” was next. “…The silence says it all.” Rus sang in a hushed manner on the second chorus, placing his finger to his lips as he did so. It didn’t get too quite, though, ‘cause that was right when Brandon came in with a blistering guitar solo.
image(Photo credit: Roxanne Fuentes | Fountain Photo Ops)

“I don’t know if you guys have heard or not, but we’re releasing a new album! To buy! If you don’t, we’ll be killed.” Brandon announced to everyone as they hit their first break of the night. “You’re the one threatening to kill the band.” Rus responded, prompting another laugh from the audience.

Now they finally got to music from The Dark, and first up was “Bi-Polar Heart”. As they do with some of their songs, they made it a little more up-tempo at times, making it all the easier to get into; and as they hit the second verse, Brayton kicked the air, timing it right to one of the beats Jon dished out. They followed it with what was self-described as “kinda a love song” that Rus wrote for his wife. He mentioned it was titled “Paper, Rock, Shotgun”. “…‘Cause all love songs should be named something like that.” he stated, looking at the crowd like, “Am I right?” Why not, especially if they sound as good as this one does. “…To my knees I fell…” he crooned on the second verse, and doing just that as he sang the line. Rus got really into that song, casting his hand into the air as he continued singing the more emotional track. As they hit the break towards the end, Brayton waved his bass around as if it were a gun, and then silence enveloped the club, but only briefly. Their fans began cheering for them, while they looked on at everyone, no doubt savoring the moment, before firing the tune back up.
image(Photo credit: Roxanne Fuentes | Fountain Photo Ops)

“Biggest Lie”, a staple from The Shaping EP (released during the band’s previous incarnation), offered a break from their newest material, and Brandon did his standard guitar solo during it, just riffing and doing what came to him there on the spot. It was an amazing solo at that, and the last few times I have seen them he has been outdoing himself with those. It’s also good ‘cause you really get to glimpse the technical side he has to his style. “Have you met Jon?” Rus asked, as the drums overpowered the guitar. He enjoyed his moment, and then Rus introduced Brayton, who pointed the neck of his bass out towards the crowd and just stood there. “That’s the best bass solo he’s ever played.” remarked Rus, before coming back in for the final chorus.

“They’ve got some tuning to do, and I’ve got some shout-outs to give…” he said, thanking The Jerry Jonestown Massacure Podcast, Whiskeyboy Radio and myself for supporting the release show in one way or another (in my case, the review of the album I had done). With that out of the way, they were now ready to move on to what Rus noted was one of his personal favorite songs off The Dark, “November Burns”.
image(Photo credit: Roxanne Fuentes | Fountain Photo Ops)

He and Brandon joked around before starting it, cussing at one another. “Fuck you, Brandon. I give up.” Rus said, shaking his head as he went to take a seat on the drum riser, flipping Brandon off once he did sit. He didn’t stay in that position long, though, quickly jumping up when it was time for him to start singing. It was one of their best songs of the night, and the fans were loving it, some of whom were already singing along to the track.

No one liked hearing they only had one song left, but then again, they had already done just about everything they could. “Hostage” was all that remained, and it was the perfect way to close out this 41-minute long, hard-hitting set. Despite being almost done, Rus still appeared as if he were just really getting warmed up, and was in the zone on that one, clutching his fist when he sang the first chorus, “Fighting for myself to break free from your grasp…”, and then kicking the air at the second (appropriate, considering the line “…I’m gonna kick some ass.”).

People were hoping that more would come, but that was the end. Still, what a show!
image(Photo credit: Roxanne Fuentes | Fountain Photo Ops)

I’d say this was the best I’ve ever seen Waking Alice. They were tighter and even more solid than usual, and seemed to have found and tapped into some new reserves that made their performance more explosive and dynamic. Above all that, they were having fun. That was all too evident, and the crowd responded to it.

People were rocking out to the songs. Some danced to them, and everybody was just having a good time, which is what a concert’s all about. Well, at least it should be.

It was a great end to a great night. A night that was monumental in Waking Alice history.

Pick up The Dark EP in iTUNES, and you can download the three tracks from Retribution on REVERBNATION for FREE. As for shows, the next few will be taking place in Fort Worth. August 22nd at Tomcats West (it’s a killer lineup that night); September 20th at The Grotto and September 27th at Shipping and Receiving.

My first night at the Curtain was a good one. Round two would be starting soon enough…

Brian Pounds Rolls a Strike with New Release

imageTexan singer-songwriter Brian Pounds is set to make his national debut with his new EP, Strikes and Gutters, which hits the streets on Sept. 2, 2014.

The five-song album is a roots-rock, Americana gem, featuring lyrics that are mature beyond Pounds’ 25 years and warm vocals that are reminiscent of James Taylor’s early 1970s output. “Jesus, Don’t Let Me Die (On My Feet),” which was written in a rundown motel room during a two-week gig in Nevada, is a stark, realistic look at the music industry’s less glamorous aspects, and the playful, sexy “Keep My Hands to Myself” proves that Pounds can write lighthearted material as well. Opening track “Somewhere Maybe Carolina,” which he co-wrote with fellow “The Voice” Season 5 competitor Austin Jenckes, is already a hit: the video of the song has currently accumulated more than 14,000 views on YouTube.

Pounds recently worked with director Steven Bush, known for his “Confessionals” series of music videos, to create a new video for “Somewhere Maybe Carolina.” Shot on location in Austin, the video features Pounds playing an intimate, solo acoustic version of his song.

Pounds and his band will be celebrating the release of Strikes and Gutters with shows across Texas this fall.

Special album release shows include:
Sept. 4: The Rustic, Dallas
Sept. 18: Strange Brew, Austin
Sept. 20: Dosey Doe, The Woodlands
Oct. 4: The Phoenix Saloon, New Braunfels, Texas

The Nightowls Ready to Groove with New Music, Blues on the Green and ACL Music Fest Performances

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When it comes to getting their groove on, funk-loving Austinites know there ain’t no party like a Nightowls party. And with several high-profile appearances and an upcoming EP, Good As Gold B-Sides (Sept. 9, 2014), this 10-piece dance band is ready to revive the spirits of James Brown, Otis Redding and other soul brothers for some hot fun in the summertime (and beyond).

The Nightowls will perform at 8 p.m. Wednesday, July 23, at Zilker Park as part of KGSR-FM’s Blues on the Green series; the free show, also featuring Robert Ellis, is billed as a preview for this fall’s Austin City Limits Festival. The band will make its ACL Festival debut on Saturday, Oct. 11, the second weekend.
On Sept. 12, the Nightowls will celebrate the release of Good As Gold B-Sides with a show at Stubb’s indoors. Produced by Jake Langley, the four-track EP follows up their 2013 Good As Gold album. It includes “Nobody Ever Wants to Leave,” lead singer/songwriter Ryan Harkrider’s winning entry in the Austin Convention & Visitors Bureau’s Austin theme song contest, which earned it designation as “the official theme song of Austin, Texas.” Another Nightowls track, “You Don’t Have to Worry (I’ll Be There),” is featured on ACVB’s just-released compilation, Austin Music Vol. 13.
In August, Harkrider and the band also plan to record new music at Muscle Shoals’ historic FAME Recording Studios, where they will play with members of FAME’s legendary rhythm section and film the experience for a documentary.
Described in Texas Music magazine as “an addictive blend of pop, R&B, funk and Motown,” the Nightowls have been infecting fans with their groovalicious blend of horns, harmonies and dance-happy beats since 2011. And the party’s just gettin’ started.
Follow the Nightowls at:
wearethenightowls.com
facebook.com/TheNightowls
twitter.com/The_Nightowls

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(Photo Credit: Nicola Gell)

Jul 21

The Sour Notes Gear Up for Mid-West Run; Date at UMS Festival

image(Photo credit: Ankur Khanna)

Austin psych/pop band The Sour Notes are Jared Boulanger (vocals, guitar), Amarah Ulghani (bass), Jessica Kim (piano) & Erin Howell (drums). They are known for their DIY aesthetic, self-releasing over five albums, three 7-inch records, a cassette and have toured nationally 8 times with appearances at CMJ, NXNE, Free Press Summerfest & SXSW. The Sour Notes have shared the stage with such diverse bands as The Dandy Warhols, Of Montreal, Future Islands, We Are Scientists, Marnie Stern, Daniel Johnston and are releasing their new album ‘Do What May’ on September 6, 2014.

Tour dates:
July 22: Dallas, TX @ So & So’s
July 23: Tulsa, OK @ Soundpony
July 24: Lawrence, KS @ Jazzhaus
July 26: Denver, CO @ Irish Rover (UMS Festival)
July 27: Amarillo, TX @ The 806
August 2: Austin, TX @ Mohawk
September 6: Austin, TX @ Cheer Up Charlies (Album Release Show)

 

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014 – Jessie Frye Warms Up the Crowd for Kitten

Tactics Productions had a great show going on at Club Dada this night. It offered a good way to get an early jump on the weekend, without being out too late; and more than a few people had opted to get a live music fix this hump day.

The only local opener on the bill was Dentons’ own Jessie Frye and her band; and I got the feeling the fates were against me seeing their set.

A traffic back-up while leaving the suburbs and another near the Good-Latimer exit on Highway 75 added ten minutes or so onto the trip, and the construction that’s going on, on Elm Street doesn’t make it too easy to maneuver through Deep Ellum, either.

All of that put me there several minutes after the scheduled eight-o’clock start time, but luckily, as most concerts do, they weren’t adhering to a strict schedule.

The four-piece took the stage at 8:16, and after they all shared a glance with one another, guitarist Jordan Martin started them off on “Like a Light”. “…Let the magic in your heart set you apart…” Jessie crooned on the chorus; and immediately after the first one, she asked how everyone was doing, getting a good reaction from the thirty-to-forty or so people who were already there. They didn’t have much room on stage, because the second bands’ gear was all setup behind them, though it was still ample space to allow Jessie to jump around, something she did more and more of the deeper they got into the track.

Chad Fords’ final drum beats resonated in the room, while the bass died down and Andrew O’Hearn stood there for a moment as Jordan made a seamless segue into another song from the “Fireworks Child” EP: “Fortune Teller”. It’s slightly steamier than that opener, and that was reflected in the way Jessie conducted herself on stage, and also in the way she somewhat shouted the word “twist” on the line, “…Wish I might find a lover to twist and turn to the heat of summer…”.

“Thank you so much for being here!” Jessie exclaimed afterwards, saying what an honor it was to be sharing the stage with Kitten — whom she happens to be a fan of. They had some slight technical difficulties now, revolving around the track they needed to use. It took a minute or two, but then it kicked on, and they got to some stuff from the Obsidian album. Keeping up with the sultry mood from the previous song, Jessie was often seen shaking her hips to the beat of “White Heat”. I still really like those older songs from the EP(s) she has released, but you can tell the difference from them and this newer batch of music. They just sound better in all regards, from more complex sounds (the guitar tones sound excellent on this number), to the lyrics, and even Jessies’ voice has grown exponentially over the few years in between records.

There wasn’t much down time between it and “Never Been To Paris”, and Andrew and Chad sounded fantastic on it, creating an impeccably tight rhythm section. “..We just released a video for this one…” Jesse mentioned, as Chad counted them into “Shape of a Boy”. I’d say it was their best song of the night, and the slick, roaring guitar solo Jordan knocked out caused all eyes to focus solely on him.

“Thank you.” Jessie said in hushed, slightly raspy tone once the song ended. “Prepared” was another oldie but goodie that found its way into the set, and Jessie personified the role of frontwoman even better on it than she had at any other time this night. There was a certain fierceness that came over her, and it resulted in an overpowering demeanor that was all too fun and engaging to watch.

“Dear Boy is up next.” she mentioned, shouting out the second band, adding that, that was one of the best band names she had ever heard of. With that, they ended with the uplifting “Brave The Night”. The rhythm section was again blasting on that one, and I could feel the bass shaking not just my feet, but also my chest cavity. Not a bad way to end.

I did catch their set at Edgefest in Frisco a few months back, but this was the first lengthy set I’ve seen from them in the better part of two years.

It was great hearing a few of the newer songs live (some for the first time), with a nice mix of older material. The rhythm section has also changed since I last saw them (excluding that April show), which has made the band even better. Like I said, both Chad and Andrew were tight, and all of them had good chemistry together.

Basically, they’re a more outstanding band then they’ve even been; and this night they had a perfect mixture of having fun but also being quite professional.

For the last few years, Jessie has been hailed as one of the best vocalists in North Texas. Probably not all of the early birds at this show knew that, but I doubt any who did catch their performance would argue that praise she’s received as a songstress.

They’ll be at the House of Blues in Dallas on August 2nd (the main room) and the 8th (the Cambridge Room, as part of Exit 380’s album release show). Catch one, or both. Be sure to check out their albums in iTUNES, too.

Jul 19

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014 – Dear Boy Wins Over the Crowd in Dallas

Tactics Productions had a great show going on at Club Dada this night. It offered a good way to get an early jump on the weekend, without being out too late; and more than a few people had opted to get a live music fix this hump day.

Kitten wasn’t the only Los Angeles-based band on the bill this night, and just a couple days prior to this, Dear Boy had joined them on the remainder of their tour.

“…You got a little bluer before, where’s that shit?” asked singer and rhythm guitarist Ben Grey, speaking to the sound guy, who then adjusted the lights just right. The quartet seemed to love the shade of blue that was now cast over them and the ever-growing audience, and with that, they ripped into the lead track from their debut self-titled EP: “Come Along”.

It immediately became clear they were a very pop oriented group, with some British flare thrown in; and they captured a lot of people’s attention with the intro to that song, which saw Ben aggressively strumming his axe. “Would you like me if I was young? Would you hold me if I was wrong? Would you love me if I was gone? Then come along!” he belted on final chorus.

That song established a very lively mood the band kept up for the rest of their 34-minute long set. During the subsequent track from the EP, “Green Eyes”, Nils Bue jumped on ledge that has been added around the front of the stage — giving a place for the monitors to set — and brandished his bass for all to see. Both Ben and lead guitarist Austin Hayman produced some cool tones and catchy riffs on that slightly sweeter song. Drummer Keith Cooper provided a strong backbone, as well; and if only more people had been familiar with Dear Boy, then I think the chorus of “When there’s no place else to go, I will meet you down below. And when there’s no one left to find, we won’t need this place to hide.” could have easily been a sing-along part.

Upon finishing it, Ben mentioned this was the first time they had every played Dallas. “…Thanks for letting us in your home.” he said in a sincere voice, while a smile crept across his face. He then thanked Kitten for having them on part of this tour with them. “It’s very rare that you get to play with a band you actually listen to.” he said, noting it was an great experience. He went on to say they were going to do the newest song they had, and it was with it that they really hit their stride.

There came a point where both Austin and Ben leaned against each one another’s back, fiercely shredding on their guitars; and they wound it directly into another song, which had a vibrant, fun vibe to it.

The spectators were clearly enjoying Dear Boy; and their next song was one the most well crafted they did as far as the music bed was concerned. Ben started it, and it was performed solo at first, before Austin laced in his guitar at the second verse. A minute or so later it exploded into action with the bass and drums (Nils rocked out next to the kit, creating a pulse pounding rhythm section), and during a break from singing, Ben dropped to his knees, succumbing to the music.

“…We want to meet as many of you as possible!” Ben pointed out once they finished that song, also mentioning they’d be selling their record over at their merch table afterwards. They did another song from it now, called “Oh So Quiet”, which was a little more indie from some of their other stuff. That was nice, though, ‘cause it showed diversity. The song that followed was pretty heavy; and now Nils and Ben did a little more interacting with one another, standing back to back for a few moments.

“…It’s been a pleasure…” Ben said, as their show had sadly already come to an end. They closed with what would be safe to assume is the most high-strung song in their arsenal: “Funeral Waves”. Some elements of the song were completely dance inducing, while others made it a great song to bang your head to. Regardless of your preference, everyone was captivated by it, and the band was giving it their all. They were all outstanding musicians, and their chops highlighted best on this one. Ben even orchestrated a clap along moment at one point, ensuring it was a fun one to end with.

Man, these guys were all too impressive.

You could tell they were having fun up on the stage, but you could also see their work ethic, and it was clear this wasn’t just some band to them. It was a way of life.

They had more chemistry with one another than a lot of bands do, and they music they made was really extraordinary if you ask me. It was infectious and very radio friendly, but maintained originality. The songs also have a lot of lyrical depth, which is always one quality that gets my attention.

They seemed to make a lot of new fans this night, and as I headed out the door after Kitten had finished, I ended up making a pit stop by their merch table and picked up a copy of their EP, along with having a brief conversation with Ben, who was an incredibly nice guy.

I know one thing: I can’t wait for Dear Boy to get back to Dallas. Let’s hope that happens sooner rather than later.

The have a few shows left with Kitten through the end of this month, and then will be doing a show at The Troubadour in West Hollywood on August 12th. You can find their full tour schedule HERE; and check out their EP in iTUNES while you’re at it. They will also be dropping a new single on the same day as that Troubadour show.

Jul 18

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014 – Kitten Shows Their Claws in Dallas

Tactics Productions had a great show going on at Club Dada this night. It offered a good way to get an early jump on the weekend, without being out too late; and more than a few people had opted to get a live music fix this hump day.

There’s no questioning that Kitten was the band nearly everyone was there to see. Fans had staked out spots in front of the stage early on this night. A handful of them even wore some headbands with cat ears on them. One guy even sported a hat with fuzzy cat ears on the sides, and the platform shoes he was wearing let him tower over everyone else in attendance.

By the time their 10:24 start time neared, there were at least a hundred people waiting anxiously for the band. In fact, they were so ecstatic some cheers even started minutes before they took the stage, prompting everyone to glance over at the door to the green room. No one had left it… Yet.

When it did come time to start, the four instrumentalists filed on stage, and vocalist Chloe Chaidez wasn’t far behind. The first portion of “Why I Wait” was almost inaudible, as she whispered just as it’s done on the recording. That changed once they hit the chorus, though, and the song packed quite a punch. Chaidez sauntered around for the first bit, before jumping onto the extended part of the stage — a ledge of sorts where the monitors sit. It was there where she spent much of her time this night, being able to better interact with the audience, and for now she was frequently banging her head and tossing her hair around.

Everyone applauded them, but the noise was drowned out by the start of “Japanese Eyes”. If Chaidez needed anytime at all to warm-up, all she required was that first song, and she was on fire now. They hit the first chorus and she turned her back to everyone, shaking her backside at the spectators, and got even more into the track when she grabbed a tambourine, using it and thrashing about as it came to an end. The quintet was quickly building up the intensity, and had already established a no holds barred, take no prisoners attitude, which was pushed to new heights with “Sensible”. The heavy electronic sounds and mighty percussion incited some dancing from nearly everyone, and at one point Chaidez leapt atop that ledge and began leading the crowd in a clap along, something they were all too eager to do.

They took their first break of the night after that. “We’re in Dallas, Texas!” Chaidez exclaimed, playing to the crowd just a bit, before mentioning she didn’t any more than ten people would have been here. She was way off on that assumption. “…Thank you.” she said quite humbly.

Both times the phrase “Just let me breathe” was repeated multiple times over on “Cut it Out”, she would bend down on more of the fans level, holding the mic out to them, allowing them to sing. When she wasn’t doing that, she was dancing wildly around the stage; and perhaps the best moment came near the end, when she again grabbed the tambourine and then raced over to the drum kit, jumping about the kick drum and leaned over the drummer.

“What a crowd you are! Damn!” she remarked afterwards, seeming truly surprised by how invested everyone was in this performance. With that, she asked if everyone was ready to dance, and right as the crowd answered, the track for “Like a Stranger” came on. If no one else was ready to, she was, and did a lot of dancing on that number. Everyone could see her pretty well on that ledge, and towards the end, she dropped the microphone and proceeded to flap and pump her arms in the air, leaving those watching in a state of awe. She was an ball of energy during that song, even more so than most of the others.

The party atmosphere continued as they wound it into the dreamy “G#”. Chaidez waved her arms from side to side at the start, and the fans picked up on the motion, and before you knew it the place had turned into a sea of arms swaying from side to side. The rhythm section sounded unbelievable on that song; and she pulled another good stunt towards the end, as she climbed atop some gear or something in the corner of the stage (my view was slightly obstructed), standing on it as she belted out, “…We’ll see you all again!”, which caused dozens of phones to go up and start snapping pictures.

The transition to a rendition of Berlins’ “Take My Breath Away” was seamless, and Kitten has just the right sound to pull that song off. Chaidez left at one point, right as the guitarist launched into a blistering solo that wowed everyone. She wasn’t gone long, though. Just long enough to let them have their moment.

“That was our new hit single. What did you think?” she joked once they finished it. They then got back to their original stuff with “I’ll Be Your Girl”, and shortly after starting it, Chaidez pulled a cat ears headband off of one fans head and put it on herself. She then made a fans night by pulling her on stage with her, something the fan almost seemed reluctant to do at first, because she was in shock it was actually happening. “I’ll be your protection, I’ll be yours for life…” the two sang, and the fan was working it hard enough she was almost giving Chaidez a run for her money. It was really hard to tell who enjoyed that more, because each of the young women were smiling from ear to ear as the song ended. Chaidez went so far as to say she thought she was her favorite girl she has ever gotten to help on that song, and even commented about how into the performance the girl had gotten.

All of a sudden, Chaidez was alone on stage, and she mentioned this next song was a sad one. She grabbed an acoustic guitar, and informed everyone this next one was titled “Apples and Cigarettes”. Stripped down like this, where there was nothing else for her voice to compete against, it was utterly astounding. Breathtaking even. She had everyone transfixed as she delivered that emotion filled song, and once it was done, she appeared to wipe some tears from her eyes, proving it was one she connects with on a very personal level.

Her band mates were back on stage now, and they were all ready for the next one. “This song you can dance to!” she said with a smile, as she resumed the active forntwoman role on “Sex Drive”, during which came another clap along moment.

Some of the best songs in the live format came from the Sunday School EP, and one of those was “Chinatown”. It provided one of the most raw moments of the entire night. They were all completely immersed in it; and there came a time when Chaidez grabbed the hand of the guy mentioned earlier who was wearing some platform shoes. He kissed her hand, and then she leaned out towards him and gave him a peck on the lips.

“This is overwhelmingly amazing for all of us!” she remarked once they finished, truly being blown away by all the love they were being shown. They began to wind down with “Cathedral”, after which she introduced her “boys”. Nick was on the guitar, Cameron behind the drums, Omar on the bass and Josh on the keys. They each got some noise made for them; and then they fired up the most wild song of the night: “Kitten with a Whip”. It whipped everyone (no pun intended) — band members and fans alike — into a frenzy, and despite Chaidez shaking her body almost constantly all night, this was the only song that seemed overtly sexual in some slight manner. They put every last ounce of energy they had into that one, and Chaidez even rolled across the stage at one point, before motioning to that guy in the platform shoes. She had him bend down so she could get on his shoulders, and it was from that perch she danced a bit (as much as she could), while everyone looked on in amazement.

After 66-minutes, and especially with an end like that, I don’t think anyone really expected an encore. I know I sure I didn’t. But that doesn’t mean no one hoped for one.

A couple minutes went by, but Chloe Chaidez reclaimed the stage, all by herself.

Apparently, some people haven’t gotten the memo that shouting “Freebird!” as an encore isn’t all that funny anymore, but she acted like she didn’t hear the request. Maybe she really didn’t.

The most beautiful moment of the night came in the form of “Kill the Light”, which was done acoustically. It was the way she enunciated the words and the emotion she poured into them. It was overpowering. I would have even been content with that as a closer, but they still had a little gas left in the tank. It appeared “Doubt” would be the final number, and once the last line had been sung, Chaidez once again thanked everyone, and then made her way through the crowd and back to the green room. The band gave the track a long instrumental finish, and one by one, they all disappeared, until only the drummer was left. Some hefty beats concluded it, but as he walked off the stage, the guitarist got back on.

He began to strum the axe, and all of a sudden, Chaidez appeared one last time, creating some more fanfare. The now duo played a cover of “Don’t Dream it’s Over” by Crowded House, and it was another song that really highlighted the gorgeous tone of her voice.

That put the show at nearly 90-minutes, and that really was it.

I was blown away. Honestly, I knew nothing about Kitten before this night. I just came to the show to see a show (plus I was a fan of the local opening act), but wow!

Kitten was dynamite from start to finish, and very unrelenting.

The entire band was excellent, but there can’t be any arguing that all eyes were focused almost exclusively on Chloe Chaidez. She has a persona that commands your attention, and left everything on stage; and despite using her assets at times, the main thing she relied on was her natural talent, which seemed limitless this night.

Everything was topnotch, and the showmanship was so very impressive. I’ve got to say, they earned a lot of respect in my book, because in terms of performance, this is what a band should be.

They have a few shows left on their current tour, and exact dates can be found HERE. Pick up their record in iTUNES, too.

Jul 17

Album Review: “The Dark” by Waking Alice

imageWaking Alice has been around the North Texas music scene longer than most, though it wasn’t until mid-2012 when the current incarnation came to be.

With Rus Chaney as the new lead vocalist and Jonn Levey taking the role of the drummer, they got back into the performing circuit; and three singles came shortly after, allowing them to display the new lineup.

It’s hard to believe that’s already been nearly two years ago, and in those two years, the four-piece outfit has deepened their chemistry, which has resulted in even better material, which is showcased on their first legitimate EP (as this lineup).

The Dark starts with the two most recently written songs in the bands catalog, beginning with what is perhaps the best cut on the EP: “November Burns”. As the title of the EP suggests, these are darker songs, and topic wise, they are a bit different from their first three singles. This is a song about being betrayed by those close to you, offering a vivid account of it. “Waking now from this nightmare of mine; the sutures all but gone…” Rus sings in his unmistakable, slightly gruff tone of voice; and you can feel the raw emotion of it all. Of course, it wouldn’t be a Waking Alice tune without some sort of guitar solo, which Brandon Brewer adds at one point, before eventually easing back into the haunting chord progression of the verses that sticks with you. I’m also fond of the little false ending. A part where live you just might begin to clap, assuming the song is over, before the instrumentalists rip back into it.

“Bi-Polar Heart” is the longest track on the album — nearly five-and-a-half minutes — and the most epic, too. It’s more progressive than anything they’ve done in the past, taking a sudden turn into a very tranquil section that lasts for just a bit. That’s something Waking Alice doesn’t do often (show their soft side). It makes for an interesting change of pace for them, though, and it still retains all the elements that make Waking Alice who they are.

“The Dark” marks the midway point of the EP, which is something a little different for Waking Alice. It’s an instrumental song, which is something I don’t believe they’ve ever done before. They may have lengthy instrumental sections at times, but this is completely different. It’s a high-energy number that keeps the momentum from the first half of the record going, even expanding upon it. One of the best things about it is how each instrument as its own moment. Brayton Bourques’ bass is pretty dominant at the start, then sneaks in later on to accent the drums — which gets a couple of solos. It’s also a little surprising that the guitar is left waiting in the wings for the first half, though it works to the songs advantage, ‘cause when Brandon Brewer does strike with it, it hits fast and hard. At just under two-and-a-half minutes, it’s a perfect length for an instrumental track, letting them better highlight their prowess and instrumentalists, but not dragging on to the point it seems tedious.

“Paper Rock Shotgun” is one song Waking Alice fans have been hearing for quite awhile now, and it has finally been recorded. It’s the antithesis of the first half of the EP. Instead of dealing with backstabbing or the souring of a relationship, it focuses on the blossoming of a new one, one without all the deceit. It brings a hopeful aspect to everything, one that proves that even if you feel down and out, something good can always come along. The instrumental breakdown is also pretty slick, and it’s another track where they fool the listener into thinking it’s over before it roars back to life.

Despite having been recorded at a completely different time, “Hostage” fits perfectly with this collection of songs. For fans, if you look at it as the final piece of the puzzle of this EP, it honestly makes you look at the song in a new light. The nearly year-old track is about rising above whatever’s holding you down and no longer being a victim. “…Now I’m on my feet, I’m gonna kick some ass.” Rus belts on the chorus of what is the heaviest of the five songs.

Not many albums come full circle. That shouldn’t necessarily be a prerequisite for any, but it can be a nice touch. The Dark is one that does.

It starts out one way — with a fairly bleak perspective — and ends by realizing that with the bad, there must also be good; and also you need to take control of the situations around you.

These tracks offer a great look at what Waking Alice has grown into in these last two years, and just what a solid group they are. I’d say it’s the best thing the band has done in all their years together, and it leads you to wonder: If they’ve grown this much as musicians and writers in just two years, then what will the next batch of songs sound like?

Only time will tell, but for now, let’s just savor The Dark.

Waking Alice is:
Rus Chaney - Lead vocals
Brandon Brewer – Guitar and backing vocals
Jonn Levey - Drums
Brayton Bourque - Bass

Purchase the album on:
iTUNES

Visit Waking Alice’s websites:
Official Website / Facebook / Reverbnation / Twitter

Current Shows:
 Friday, August 22nd at Tomcats West in Fort Worth / Saturday, September 20th at The Grotto in Fort Worth / Saturday, September 27th at Shipping & Receiving in Fort Worth

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Album Review: “You Can Take Your Sorry Ass Back To West Texas!” by Madisons

imageThe Austin-based Madisons formed in mid-2011, and quickly set to work building a name for themselves. I was introduced to the band in May of 2012, when they played the Homegrown Music and Arts Festival in Dallas. Shortly after came their debut record; and they’ve managed to stick to a schedule that even some bands with major label backings have trouble doing: releasing an LP every two years.

Changes occurred in these last two years, though, and only two members from the original lineup still remain. Change can be a good thing, though, and in this case, it has seemed to create a revitalized Madisons. One that has honed their sound and better perfected it during the time between records, and the difference is noticeable right from the start…

The seven-piece folk rock/ Americana outfit wastes no time in getting down to business, placing what is perhaps the best track on the record — “The Misadventures of Shea Grant” — right at the start. It’s as high-strung as they get on this nearly 40-minute long experience, and it’s absolutely pulse-pounding from start to finish. The drums establish a furious pace, and the vast array of instruments, from the guitars to the violin, upright bass and the rest keep up with ease. You’ll surely be singing right along with the chorus of this infectious number, “…I would settle for a smile in the pouring rain, but your smiles won’t pay the rent. It’s a retelling of my summer of discontent…”, in no time, and the rest of it will follow soon after.

Their folk stylings shine more brightly on “A Long, Slow Death in San Marcos, Texas”, where the trumpet is heard much better. The song covers a lot of ground, but is perhaps best summed up by the opening line, “I’m not responsible for the way you say you feel. That’s what therapists teach assholes so they don’t have to feel like assholes…” It’s filled with lyrical gems, from “…You can’t love me for what I am, but you hate me for what you’re not…” to “…There’s a leak in the ceiling and the floor’s begun to rot…” (which violinist Jocelyn White shouts alongside Dominic Solis’ lead vocals, giving it a nice effect.) The line is more or less a metaphor for the gradual desolation of a relationship, and it works beautifully.

The album has quickly been heading on a downward slope in terms of intensity, and with the gentle guitar chords and soothing violin that prevail for nearly the first half of “In My Pocket Forever”, you may be thinking Madisons has already done as much rock as they’re going to. That’s where you’d be wrong. It slowly surges to life; the electric guitar bringing renewed energy when it suddenly arises during an instrumental break. It acts as a prelude of sorts to the explosive end the track has, proving this is a band who has some tricks up their sleeves. As for the song itself, lyrically, it depicts what is easily the most unsettling story on the record, based on real events involving a fourteen-year-old girl who got pregnant by a man twice her age, and he eventually set her on fire. It may not be a story you want to hear, but at the same time, how many bands these days get that real with their music?

There’s a surprisingly fun vibe at times to “Carolina”, which is perhaps the most emotional song on this disc, dealing with letting go of a person you still feel for, all because it’s the best thing to do. The record then goes into “Losing Pictures”, which gives the opening track a run for its money. Presumably, it’s where the album title stems from, with one of the lines in it being, “So drag your sorry ass back to Los Angeles, but don’t forget what you burned. Live inside my friends if you have to, and dig your knees in the dirt…”There’s a definite good riddance feel to this song, verses the emptiness conveyed in the previous one, and being grouped together like this, you get a perspective on two very different relationships. The opening line itself, “Mary never knew she was a terrible person, but that’s what she come to learn. Some folks can’t handle what they’ve been handed, but some folks get what they deserve.” is quite powerful, too. The ebb and flow of the music bed is spectacular as well, waning on the verses to give the words more weight, while the build up to the choruses let you know you’re in for it.

They get back to a semi-gentler tone with “You’ll Never Know”, which carries with it a message of telling people whatever you may need to while you have the chance and don’t keep it held in. The band then throws you for a loop, when you suddenly hear Jocelyns’ voice on “Sucker Punch”. She stands as the lone vocalist on that downcast track, and the heartbroken feeling even bleeds through in her delicate voice. “…How am I surrounded by the ones I love, but I still feel so goddamned alone?” she pines at one point.

Madisons then try something a little different for them. “The Hill” is another personal song penned by Dominic, one about feeling forever trapped in a small town you don’t think you’ll ever get out of. It doesn’t quite fit the folk genre, though, and while it’s sort of rock (especially in the stellar guitar solo), it can’t be categorized fully in that, either. Indie may be the best genre to use to describe it, and the heavily used xylophone adds a nice touch to it all. You know how I said they’re a band with some tricks up their sleeves? Yeah, this is a prime example.

They fully embrace their country side with “Meet Me By the Riverside”. The banjo is in full effect on the joyful, folksy number that makes use of the numerous voices they have at their disposal. It’s just damn catchy, and you’ll no doubt find yourself stomping your foot along to the beat.

“The Fiscal Year” then rounds out this ten-track record, and it’s also the shortest on it. Like so many of the others, it’s about a relationship, and Dominic ponders at the start that, that’s all he seems to do (writing songs about the relationship). With all the turbulent moments portrayed on this album, it ends on a happy note. “The Fiscal Year” is a love song, plain and simple, and the line, “…‘Cause I want to spend my life making art for you…” couldn’t be described as anything else but sweet. There are some other good lines thrown in (“…Don’t go to work if you hate what you do…”); and style wise, they again stray a little from what they’ve set as their standard. There’s a saxophone solo thrown in, and while it’s brief, it gives the song a pretty bluesy vibe.

In just ten songs, Madisons capture a wide spectrum of different emotions on You Can Take Your Sorry Ass Back To West Texas! Best of all, you can tell they’re all sentimental. They all come from some deep part within Dominic Solis.

Their first album, Desgraciados, was great in my opinion. It set the stage for them, making sure you knew they were all about telling stories AND making quality music, and not sacrificing one just to have the other. They’ve taken themselves to a new level with this new release, though.

Their sound is more polished and fierce; and the stories told take you even deeper than those of the first album. It’s an all-around superb record that should rival even the biggest Americana releases of 2014.

No, it’s not necessarily something you’re going to listen to if you’re in a depressed mood and in need of a pick-me-up, but if you value legitimate substance, then You Can Take Your Sorry Ass Back To West Texas! will be a record you’ll be listening to repeatedly for a long time to come.
 
Madisons is:
Dominic Solis - Vocals, acoustic guitar
Jocelyn White - Vocals, violin
Cameron Cummings - Vocals, electric guitar
Oscar Gomez - Trumpet
Thomas Damron - Upright bass
Nick Kukowski - Vocals, banjo
Mike Rothschild - Drums

Purchase the album on:
iTUNES / Amazon mp3

Visit Madisons’ websites:
Official Website / Facebook / Twitter

Current Shows:
September 13th at Dorcol Distilling Co. in San Antonio, TX

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Jul 16

Saturday, July 12th, 2014 – The Dirty River Boys Debut at Gas Monkey

Gas Monkey Bar and Grill has been in business for about a year now (give or take a little). The restaurant/concert venue took over the old Firewater location (it’s amazing that place has been out of business for about five years now. Crazy how time flies.)

For those not in the know, the Gas Monkey is owned by Richard Rawlings, star of Fast N’ Loud on the Discovery Network; and from the looks of it this night, having that name attached has made for booming business.

I was there for the concert (which was taking place on the outdoor stage), and arrived fairly late. It was about 9:40, yet plenty of people were pulling up in the parking lot and going into the restaurant section, presumably to get some grub and probably a drink. Some even had younger kids in tow. Yeah, the place was bustling.

The patio was no different. It seemed smaller than I remembered. Then again, it was only in Firewater’s last year of business that they strayed from their usual 21+ shows, meaning I could actually get in, and most of the shows I caught there were on the indoor stage.

Speaking of age, even being in my mid-twenties I felt like the youngest person there. A different feeling from the clubs of Deep Ellum I spend nearly every weekend at. By no means am I saying people were old, but instead of primarily twenty-somethings, the demographic at GMB&G was largely thirty-somethings. However, people from all walks of life were out there. Some were a few decades older than that; some people wore cowboy hats, fitting the country mood of the night; others were dressed more casually with shorts and flip-flops.

The patio was a melting pot; and there were also plenty of people taking selfies as they watched the band, or getting a group shot of them and their friends together.

Thieving Birds were on the stage, and while I only caught their last three or four songs of their set, they were quite impressive. I’ll have to try to catch them again sometime, and see what a full show is like.

Despite all the good shows Gas Monkey has had — from local to national ones — it seems like there has always been something else that appealed to me more whenever I might have come out this way. It took The Dirty River Boys playing here to finally get me to the Gas Monkey; and with a couple months having passed since I last saw the group, I was in need of a fix.

It was 10:31 when the quartet from Austin (by way of El Paso) stepped on stage. Singer and guitarist Nino Cooper held his mandolin up in the air, and bassist Colton James, fellow singer and guitarist Marco Gutierrez and drummer Travis Stearns filed on stage right behind him.

They had changed their set around a bit since I had last seen them, and they opened with a partial cover.

“Come along, little children come along. While the moon is shining bright…” they all crooned, showing off some rarer four-part harmonies on Buster Browns’ “Raise a Ruckus”. That seemed extra appropriate, considering it was a full moon this night. It also seemed like a sure setup for a particular original song, one that is usually reserved as the closer. Sure enough, they used that as an intro for the oh so rowdy, “Raise Some Hell”. Some people were singing along and others stomped their feet, while others danced about to the song that sounds very much like an Irish jig. It was strange hearing it right at the start, but at the time same time, lyrically (“…We’re gonna raise some hell tonight.”), it worked perfectly. It would seem it’s one of those songs that can fit either at the end or the beginning of shows.

Some fanfare erupted, but they were busy, and moved on to their next number, the first of many newer ones they did, and it was one that had Colton singing the lead. “How many of you have seen The Dirty River Boys before?!” Travis asked in his booming voice. Plenty of hands went up in the air and cheers were heard, letting him know that this wasn’t their first rodeo. Meanwhile, his band mates had kept the pace up, using a brief instrumental piece to bridge them into the next song, and Nino suddenly began to sing, “She was lusting for some wandering; he was lost in a paper filled room. She packed a suitcase; he sold his old place. They travelled on down a one-way road…” “Heart Like That” is one of their best if you ask me, especially live; and as they got to the final line, Nino put some extra emphasis on it. “What’s not to love about a Heart! Like! That!” he belted in a twangy tone, and the audience quickly burst into applause. “Thank you.” he responded, before counting them into one of the songs he and Marco shared the lead vocal duties on, “My Son”. “The only you could be found is through your footsteps in the cold, dead ground.” the two sang in harmony, before Nino tore off on a guitar solo, and despite being on his acoustic, it was a solo that could put many electric guitars to shame. They even showed off their four-part harmonies again at the end of the track.

Marco then reached for his neck rack and harmonica, playing a few notes to begin “Dried Up”, the lead track off their debut full-length record Science of Flight. “Come on, Dallas!” he yelled as they hit the first chorus and the song really took off. He addressed everyone once it was done, giving a proper hello to the hundred plus people who were there. “We’ve been playing a lot of old ones, so how about a new one? What do you think about that?” he asked. The crowd seemed game, especially once they began the track that is a full on assault on the ears. “That’s a little song about life on the road.” Nino stated once they had finished it. It was another that has usually come later in the set when I’ve seen them, but given its sheer intensity (it is easily their most rock sounding song) it fit even better towards the start.

No sooner had they finished then Travis stood up from his cajon and small drum kit, while Colton laid his upright bass down. “…This is what we like to call a Chinese fire drill.” Marco noted, before going back to the bass. Colton ended up on the banjo and Travis had the mandolin. He paced around the stage with it as they knocked out the short “Lookin’ for the Heart”, which got some movement going out in the crowd, as some people danced along to it.

“Make some noise for Thieving Birds! Keeping rock alive!” Marco yelled once they all got back to their normal positions. He then let everyone know they had another new song coming their way, adding it would be on their new album coming out sometime soon. “It’s called Thought I’d Let You Know.” he finished. The Dirty River Boys are as much a rock band as they are a country one, but that song especially had some more authentic country sounds to it. Similar to the stuff from their first two EP’s, and it was excellent.

Another new one followed, this time in the form of their newest single: “Desert Wind”. You could feel the excitement spike once people heard Nino start on the first chords. I dare say it’s a brilliant song, and one where you feel every single thread of emotion that’s woven into it. It ended with Travis adding some additional percussion, serving up some hard-hitting beats that made it all the more striking of a song. They were on a roll now, and kept on going with an instrumental piece, one that was clearly a lead in to “Draw”. It was pretty powerful, and Colton was slapping the strings of his bass with both hands, while Travis’s act of tossing a drumstick into the air and then catching it by sideswiping it with his right hand amazed much of the crowd. With that, the actual song began, and it was another one people were loving.

“Thank y’all so much!” Marco said in his thick Southern twang once the fanfare died down. He then mentioned this next song was one that Bob Dylan and The Band used to do “back in the day”. They often add a partial Dylan cover onto one of their original songs, but hearing them do a full song of his was something new to me. The song was “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere”, but they put a completely different spin on it from the original. It boasted some more harmonies from all of them; and Nino threw in a guitar solo for good measure. They definitely spruced it up to better fit their style; and after that spirited version of the song, they got the mood a little darker.

“Oooo.” They all crooned into their mics over some haunting melodies. It lasted at least half a minute, and after Travis beat on his cajon — working his way down the box he sat upon — Marco asked if everyone was still with them. He had to repeat it, because the response wasn’t that great the first time around, but yeah, the fans were still as much invested in this as the band was. “All of the darkness down at the bottom don’t look too dark from here. Keep your eyes on the brick wall, your foot on the throttle; get ready to feel no fear!” belted Marco on the chorus of “Letter to Whoever”. There came a point where the reins were handed over to Travis, who delivered a riveting drum solo on the kit, before shifting his focus back to the cajon. He perhaps hit it a little too hard, because after the song, he pulled the cover off, throwing to the side of the stage, and got a fresh one, one that could withstand several more blows.

In the meantime, Marco chatted with everyone, saying despite all coming from different musical influences, they could all always agree on some good ol’ punk rock. “And punk rock just lost a person…” he said somberly. He was speaking of the recent passing of Tommy Ramone, and dedicated this next one to him. They paid their respects by covering “Blitzkrieg Bop”, and doing a great rendition of it at that. “Rest in peace, Tommy.” Marco remarked after the song came to its abrupt end, and he gazed upwards at the sky.

It seemed like he had been doing a long stretch of singing, but he got a slight rest on “Riverbed Wildflowers”, at least for the first half of it. Perhaps the best part of the song came at the bridge, when Nino and Marco alternated on the vocals, and when Nino sang his lines, he was backed up by Colton and Travis. Fans didn’t even get a real chance to voice how much they loved that softer number, and Marco launched right into the following song on the set list, while Travis brought out his harmonica. It was the outlaw-esque “Six Riders”, which Marco later mentioned was off Science of Flight, saying their merch guy, Dugan, would hook anyone who wanted a copy up with a “phat deal”.

Their attention then turned to some more newer stuff, and Colton again took the lead vocals. “…Let me taste the blood from your mouth…” he sang with a slight drawl; and at one point, a man appeared on stage, interacting with them, doing air bass, guitar, etc. “Hey! There’s my Uncle Bubba!” Colton shouted. The band and the spectators appeared to enjoy the antics of Uncle Bubba, who was clearly having a ball himself.

“…It’s a full moon y’all are supposed to get crazy or something. That’s what they say…” Marco spoke during their next break, before they knocked out another song of theirs that has something to do with whiskey. Nino even swapped out to his shiny electric guitar for it.

They were nearing the end at this point, and Travis now asked the opposite of what he had earlier in the night, and that was how many people were seeing their first Dirty River Boys show. There were a few newcomers there, but not many. He mentioned what a wonderful venue the Gas Monkey was, and they were happy to be making their debut there. He then went back six years, when this band first began. “…From the beginning… this has been an amazing experience. God bless you…” he told everyone, before leading them in “prepping” their vocal chords. He made some sounds and had the crowd follow along, before they really put their voices to the test, helping sing the second round of the harmonies that happen on each verse of “Boomtown”. Nino was back on the mandolin for it, breaking a string later on, but he still powered through. Luckily they didn’t need it anymore this night.

“Have you had a good time so far?!” Travis roared. He added he hoped everyone had, had a good fourth the previous weekend and asked if anyone went to Willy’s picnic. No one here at Gas Monkey had made it. “The dude’s eighty-two! Go see him play!” Travis said, seeming a little stunned.

They slowed things down with the lovely, albeit poignant “So Long Elanie”; and then spoke of growing up in El Paso, crossing the river and going into Mexico for the day (or night). “…We started going to some of those bars at thirteen…” Nino reminisced. You can’t do that safely anymore, though, and they co-wrote a song with Ray Wylie Hubbard about all the violence on the border. It’s called “Down by the River”, and if I’m remembering correctly, one of the lines is “…The undertaker said if you cross that river you’ll never come back.” It seemed like that would be the end of the main set, especially given the powerhouse finish they gave it, which had Travis going ballistic on the drums. Then they suddenly broke into “She”. Nino again brought his electric axe out, as they concluded their 88-minute long set with that oldie from the “Train Station” EP. It’s arguably one of their best.

Chants of an encore started before they even stepped off stage, but everyone knew they were going to come back. They had to. After all, one of the staple songs had been surprisingly absent during the main portion.

After a couple minutes, Nino and Marco then retook the stage, just as a duo. Nino had a lengthy harmonica solo at first, before they did a more gentle sounding “Carnival Lights”. Well, at least for the first half. The rhythm section returned after the second chorus, and things then sprang to life. “Alright, Dallas, you think you know the words to this part?” Marco asked at the tail end of it, before the crowd sang along with him. They tacked on a bit of Hank Williams’ “I Saw the Light” at the end, and Colton hung his cowboy hat on the headstock of the bass as they crooned on the more spiritual track.

Their 12-minute encore then came to a close with what has become a staple for them: their take on The Rolling Stones “Honky Tonk Woman”. Marco changed the lyrics slightly. “I laid a divorcee down in Dallas, Texas.” he sang on the second verse, and as the song peaked, Travis stood up for a drum solo, and then Marco followed it with a solo on his harmonica.

With that, they thanked everyone for coming out, and bid Dallas a farewell… For now.

For now, The Dirty River Boys are still just a regional band, though one that is quickly making a name for themselves. However, they’re every bit as professional as the biggest name acts are, and they deliver a show of that caliber, too.

They create a nice mix of rock and Texas country (the good kind of country), and they execute everything superbly. If you haven’t seen them yet, I promise you, you’re missing out.

As for their shows in North Texas, they’ll be in Fort Worth on June 24th at Panther Island Pavilion (that’s a free one); Hank’s in McKinney on August 1st; and Billy Bob’s in Fort Worth on October 10th. I wouldn’t be surprised if another show or two in the area creep in there over the next month or so. You can catch them all over the Lone Star State, though, and they’ll even be doing some hefty touring across the Mid-West in the coming months. Just check out their TOUR DATES for all the info. Check out their records in iTUNES, too, and be on the lookout for their new one, which will hopefully drop soon.

As for the Gas Monkey, I thought it was a great place. For four years, I periodically found myself wishing the old Firewater would get reopened one way or another, because it was a shame to think such amazing stages were being wasted.

They’re not now. They haven’t been for about a year, and it doesn’t look like the popularity of Gas Monkey Bar & Grill is going to die down anytime soon. As I said, the place was packed inside and out. I assume the food’s good. I’ll have to try it sometime. But I can say it’s a great spot to catch a show. Even on this warmer night, there was a nice breeze, so it was never hot; and the sound, the sound seemed better than what I remembered it being. Earplugs are a must for me, and even with them in, the music was still blaring, and I found myself constantly adjusting them to make sure they weren’t sliding out. I liked that.

I’m going to have to try to get out here a little more often. Like I said, they constantly have great shows going on, some of which are free. You can’t beat that. Actually, I think I’ll be back before the month ends.

Jul 15

Mothership and The House Harkonnen Team Up for Southern Shred Tour

image(Mothership)

Two of North Texas’ finest hard rock bands will be teaming up for a ten-date summer tour across the South.

It only took Mothership a few years to go from start-up band to one known to some people around the world. Since achieving a revered status in the Dallas/Denton/Fort Worth music scene, the band has branched out, doing a handful of U.S. tours (one with Gypsyhawk) and they have shared the stage with Prong, Red Fang and many others. Earlier this year they also went on a European tour, which was funded by a successful Indiegogo Campaign.

Their music is heavy, drawing from 70’s era of hard rock; a little fuzzy, and often very guitar driven. Basically, it’s how rock was intended to be.

They self-released their debut album in 2012, before signing with Ripple Music in 2013, who then re-released their self-titled album; and the new stuff they’ve been working on is light-years better than even their older material (that’s saying something).

image(The House Harkonnen - Photo credit James Villa Photography)

With a dozen years as a band under their belt, The House Harkonnen is no stranger to the road, either, often venturing out on Southern tours.

Their latest record, Volume 7 (released on Do For It Records), could be argued as the best of their career, and it features perhaps the strongest lineup in the bands history.

They, too, have earned a spot as a heavyweight in the North Texas music scene, headlining and packing out just about every show they do. That’s because they don’t just play music, they launch an assault on your auditory senses.

HK is the perfect blend of raw music with such refined musicianship, that you’ll be left asking yourself, “What the hell did I just see?” The answer to that question is “Greatness.”

Their tour will kick off in Dallas in just a couple of weeks (yeah, it’s on a Wednesday night. Don’t let that keep you in.) and take them through six different states, before ending in Fort Worth. The full list of dates can be found below.

Southern Shred Tour Dates:
Wednesday, July 30th - Three Links - Dallas, TX
Thursday, July 31st - The Tavern - Hattiesburg, MS
Friday, August 1st - The Handlebar - Pensacola, FL
Saturday, Aug 2nd - 529 Club - Atlanta, GA
Monday, Aug 4th - The Nick - Birmingham, AL
Tuesday, Aug 5th - Rudyard’s - Houston, TX
Wednesday, Aug 6th - Silver Dollar - Texarkana, TX
Thursday, Aug 7th - Downtown Lounge - Tulsa, OK
Friday, Aug 8th - The Blue Note - Oklahoma City, OK
Saturday, Aug 9th - The Grotto - Fort Worth, TX
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Jul 14

Friday, July 11th, 2014 – Ishi Gears Up for a West Coast Run; Leaves Dallas with One Big, Sweaty Dance Party

This was a big night for Ishi. It was their last North Texas show for about a month, and just weeks later they would be heading out to tour the West Coast.

What better place to have their sendoff show than Trees: a venue they have packed to near or complete capacity on several occasions in the past, and it seemed certain to happen again this night.

As usual when they play Trees, the lineup was made up of acts from all over the place in terms of style, beginning with opener Jenny Robinson and Bearcub.

“Thanks to all ten of you for coming out to see us!” Jenny exclaimed after the curtain had opened. Sadly, that wasn’t much of an exaggeration, and there were only a dozen or more people scattered about the venue. She informed everyone they were a producer and rapper duo — using Timbaland and Missy Elliot as an example — and introduced the handful of spectators to her male counterpart, Bearcub, who had a sort of bear suit draped over him. Perhaps robe is the better word to use, as it hung down below his waist, while a friendly looking bear head covered his own.

“This is our ode to Missy Elliot.” Jenny added, as they started a song that I would guess was titled “Supa Dupa Fly”. I surely wasn’t the only one who had reservations when she first said they were a rap and producer act. Granted, I’m not too familiar with many rappers in the first place, but off the top of my head, I can’t think of any white female ones (though I’m sure they’re out there). She quickly proved she has the skill set for it, though, and her rapping ability was off the charts. It was shocking at first, actually, ‘cause I don’t think anyone expected her to be spitting the words out at the speed she was; and Bearcub joined her, as they traded off here and there.

They may not have commanded a large audience, but they won over those who were watching with that first song, and their 28-minute long set continued as they went into another track. “I need some water.” Jenny stated afterwards, while Bearcub mentioned they’d take a quick intermission, and he readied the next track. It only lasted a few seconds, and once they were ready, he shouted, “For the next four-minutes, I’m gonna lose my goddamn mind!” He had shed his bear outfit by this point (I imagine it had gotten pretty warm with it on), and he did get really into the track; and handled much of the main vocals.

Jenny flashed her middle finger in the air for much of the following song, and as it ended, she asked everyone else to do the same. A few people then waved their middle fingers at her. The laughs then came when Bearcub said this next one was titled “Killing All These Hos” and as soon as he mentioned the title, he added, “Before you say anything else, we do not condone the killing of prostitutes. But if you’re a ho, watch out!” Jenny noted that they don’t discriminate, either, and it applied to both male and female hos. It wasn’t all that complex, but was quite catchy; and as Jenny said the last line, she tilted her head back and held the microphone above her mouth.

“Turnt up!” she shouted after another track, before Bearcub said this next song was dedicated to his ex-girlfriend. “Fuck you.” he said very matter-of-factly. In comparison to the others, it was a slower number, and Jenny showed off her singing skills a little, and she had a nice voice. Another cool part came at the end, when she wrapped the mic cord around her neck, then held the microphone up in the air, as if it were a noose.

Their set was almost over, and they had saved the best for last. Both of them flat-out killed it with their rapping, and at one point, Bearcub, who had once again donned his bear outfit, walked to the edge of the stage and just stepped off. The stage is probably a little more than four feet off the floor, but that didn’t faze him, and he began interacting with the crowd. He then climbed back on stage right about the time Jenny laid down on it, and began making some seductive moans.

“I’m Jenny Robinson, this is Bearcub. Together we are Jenny Robinson and Bearcub, and we love you!” she exclaimed with a smile on her face, making sure everyone who had been paying attention knew who they were before they left.

I’ll give anything a chance, but generally, I’m not a fan of rap music. This duo was awesome, though. They had the stage presence, the tracks were really good, and both of them were excellent rappers.

I really enjoyed it, and I wouldn’t be opposed to seeing them again.

Another duo was up next, but one who mined a completely different vein than that of the first act.

They were called Night Drive, and they had a very British indie pop / synth pop style about them. Maybe even a little new wave, too. That became very evident with their first song, which I believe was “Drones”, the lead track from the “Position I” EP. All their music was incredibly catchy; and Rodney Connell was handling the vocals, while Brandon Duhon played a guitar for much of the first half of their set, but was constantly mixing in some keys or electronic drums, and he had a whole little station set up beside him.

“Dallas, how are you doing?” Rodney asked during the song. They had a few more eyes on them than what the opener had received, and after that question was posed, those watching let out some cheers and applause. Already they had won over the hearts of some Dallasites, and they kept working their magic, doing some songs from their five-song “Position I” EP, and others that were not. A couple tunes later, Rodneys’ mic came unplugged, something he fixed just in time for the next line, and he and Brandon harmonized some on it.

“Alright guys, come a little closer.’ Rodney asked as they segued things right into their next track. The new fans were happy to oblige; and as it started, Rodney joined everyone. A box had been placed directly in front of the stage, and he stood on that, still allowing everyone to see him, before eventually mingling more with the crowd, singing with people or trying to get them to dance a little. He rejoined Brandon for the last bit, and then came the semi-dark “Nocturnal” (no pun intended). It was downright irresistible; and they bridged it right into “After Dark”, which again saw Rodney getting out amongst the people.

“For fun, we’re going to do a Radiohead cover…” he said afterwards, mentioning they would actually be releasing it the following Tuesday. He then dedicated the song to everyone who was at the back of the venue, hanging out by the bar. “Come up to the fucking front!” he shouted. The song was “Where I End and You Begin”, and he wasn’t lying when he said they did it differently. The electronic sounds that filled their original music were also showcased on this track, ensuring they left their mark on it.

They had gathered a slightly larger crowd with that, and people raved after it was finished. They then unloaded another original on everyone’s ears, and before their final song, Rodney mentioned that they came from both Austin and Houston. “This song’s called Sea of Light.” he informed everyone. Two small globes set on either side of the stage and had been used periodically this night, emitting light as they spun around; and they were certainly appropriate for that last song of their 34-minute long set. Then, at the very end, each of them grabbed a couple of confetti sticks, launching said confetti onto the crowd right as they hit the final chorus, “Colors collide in the sea of light…”

Night Drive was a surprise to many who showed up early, ‘cause I don’t think anyone was expecting a band with British flare. It was an awesome surprise, though. After all, I think that’s one genre many music lovers enjoy — certainly those who were here this night did.

For the time they had it, they owned the stage, and had a very professional feel about them. You knew just by the way they conducted themselves on stage that they had done this a lot, and put a lot of time and effort into making sure they were entertaining.

And they were. Actually, they were my second favorite act of the night.

They have some Austin and Houston shows planned all the way through September, and you can find out all the details on those on their TOUR PAGE. You can also buy their EP (they also have some remixes of songs available) on either iTUNES or BANDCAMP.

The main support act for the show was the Dallas-based Dark Rooms; a band I’ve heard a lot about in the last year or so, but had never seen. So, I was looking forward to finally seeing what they were like.

“Hey everybody, how’s it going?” singer and multi-instrumentalist Daniel Hart asked as soon as the curtain had revealed them. “We’re Dark Rooms.” he then added. He was wielding a violin for much of the first half of their 36-minute long set, and they gradually edged into their first song, which grew more climatic the further into it they got.

Daniel sang in a high falsetto tone a majority of the time, and it was absolutely breathtaking. Right from that first number they had everyone entranced, and more and more people felt compelled to come closer to the front and marvel at the group. However, much of my focus (especially on that one) went to drummer Bobby Lotfipour. He used to drum with Trebuchet (a band I saw more than a couple dozen times when they were still together); and it had been a little more than a year and a half since I last saw him in action behind a kit. I had forgotten what an impressive drummer he was, and he was killing in the latter part of that number, laying down the beats with ferocity, yet total ease.

Things got more lively when they wound that into “Give Up, Give In”. Rachel Ballard was playing a variety of instruments as well, from the keys to adding some additional percussion, while the violin soared higher than Casey Trelas’ guitar did on that beast of a song that had Rachel also mixing in some backing vocals.

They were living up to all the hype that surrounds them, and that violin sounded downright gorgeous on the following track. The instruments led them seamlessly from the end of that one into another, and the start was signified when Bobby began hammering away on the kick drum. Perhaps the best moment came when Casey and Rachel harmonized with Daniel, their combined voices having an ethereal quality.

That did it for the violin, and now Daniel placed it in a stand and grabbed his guitar, using it for the remainder of their 36-minute long set. One track they did had almost a jazzy, lounge feel at the start, and towards the end, Daniel, Rachel and Bobby all had the biggest smiles on their faces, obviously being happy by the fact that they were doing what they love.

They had been focused entirely on playing as much music as they could, but after another song, they stopped, and Daniel gave the standard speech for all bands, thanking Ishi for having them on the bill, and saying they did have some merch for sale at the back. Rachel was prepping the xylophone — making sure the mic was close enough to it. It was only used for a few moments of “Keep it Inside”, but gave a nice tone to it all. There were some electronic elements to that one, too, and live, it was utterly amazing and beautiful. I’ve listened to the recorded version since, and it sounds great, but it does not to the song justice.

Dark Rooms is certainly an interesting band. They’re a little rock, a little indie, a little pop, and thanks to the violin, there are even hints of classical found scattered about the songs (albeit in trace amounts).

They were dynamite this night, and caught the interest of many people who were somehow unfamiliar with them yet.

From Daniels’ unique voice, to the tight musicianship they all possess (Bobby really is an astounding drummer, and I’d swear he had only gotten better since I last saw him), it’s clear why they have built a good name for themselves in the area, and even beyond. However, the best thing was that they were simply having fun playing these songs for everyone. People picked up on that, and from the listeners perspective, it made them all the more enjoyable.

You can see them this week at Dan’s Silver Leaf in Denton on July 18th. They’ll also be making a trip to Raleigh, North Carolina on September 4th to play the Hopscotch Music Festival. As for their debut album, you can get it in either iTUNES or BANDCAMP.

I had started to wonder if Dallas really was going to come out and help send Ishi off on their West Coast tour, because all night long the crowd — in terms of numbers — had been lackluster. But towards the end of Dark Rooms’ set, people started making their way in. Hundreds of them, to the point that leaving the spot I had in front of the stage didn’t seem like a wise idea.

Of course, Dallas would let the electronic band down, and from front to back they had packed Trees out. Much of the audience even had their faces painted, something some fans do at nearly every show, but this night they were offering it free at the merch table. Nothing fancy, mainly just some lines on each side of a person’s face, maybe some dots, etc. Yeah, the Ishi nation is a diehard one.

“What’s up, Dallas?!” vocalist JT Mudd asked once the curtain opened. He was sporting one of his more eye-catching outfits, the one with long white cloth/robe that stretches down and covers most of his legs, while a separate piece covers his shoulders and much of his chest. It’s very futuristic and space looking; and, of course, he also had on the stunner shades that glowed in neon colors, along with a hat. “Let’s get this party started.” he said, a sentence people had been waiting all night to hear.

They kicked off their massive set with some classics, the first of which was “Our Time”. JT was grabbing his outfit and waving the cloth around in the air at first, before entering frontman mode as he proceeded to sing the first line, “Don’t let go of who you are…” They were joined by their latest female vocalist, Bettie, who lent her voice to various parts of the song before leaving, as they rolled it right into the next track on the “Through the Trees” record: “Come Closer”.

It had been a little over a year (their CD release show in May of 2013) since I last heard them perform it, and I was one of many people ecstatic about it this night. Jonathan Merla was laying down some nice beats throughout it, though he went unseen this night. A bar that formed a semi-circle stretched from one side of the stage to the other, and hanging from it were some balls (one on each side) that were flashing various colors, while several circles of different sizes filled the center, acting as a screen for the video they projected on it for much of the night. That was what prevented Jonathan from being seen.

Bettie returned, while JT called for the tracks to be boosted in the monitors, just as the one for “Mirror Ball Sky” fired up. “Mirror ball in the sky, heal us tonight.” JT sang, lunging forward as they hit the first chorus, casting his right arm out in front of him, as if to get everyone involved and having fun. Making it all the better was the small disco ball that hung from the ceiling of the stage, and the lights danced off it. They then bridged it right into the first of a handful of new songs, and it was another that heavily featured Bettie.

“…We’re about to hit the road and spread the word…” JT remarked during their first actual break, speaking of the West Coast tour they’d be leaving on in just a couple of weeks. Their timeout didn’t last long, though, and fans rejoiced as soon as they realized “Pastel Lights” was coming. It officially became a dance party with that lively, feel good number, especially towards the end. It was impossible not to notice the air cannons scattered about the stage. Two on either side of it and two more on both sides of the drum riser, and at the songs peak, confetti was shot into the air. It wasn’t large amounts, but still plenty to cover the crowd.

It was clear this was going to be one for the books.

JT then welcomed Becky Middleton to the stage. As far as I know, the last time she performed with them was at the Digital Wounds CD release show, and while she had been a mainstay with Ishi for awhile, she left to dedicate more time to her own music. It was good to see her back with them, even it was just for a night, and JT informed everyone in attendance they would be the first to hear this next song, called “Midnight Lightening”. It was a fantastic song. One of the best I’ve heard them do as far as their new songs are concerned; and Rocky threw in a sweet guitar solo, one that sounded pretty soulful. It neared the end, and JT started conversing with Becky (off mic). She was standing in front of one of the air cannons, and it scared her when it suddenly went off, causing her hair to whip around wildly, something she laughed off.

Suddenly, the track for “Moon Watcher” started, sending the people into a frenzy. It didn’t take long for that one to become a fan favorite, and peoples love for it has only grown within the last year. How could you not like it, though? It’s a beautiful love song, and apart from clapping along with JT and Becky, the crowd was also singing with him, “All the lives that I once knew never made sense till I found you…” “Let me hear you!” JT yelled in his softer voice at the final chorus, part of which was left entirely up to the audience. He took a bow at the end, placing the palms of his hands against one another to express his gratitude, before going back and grabbing a towel.

He hastily wiped the sweat from his face, then threw it out as their next song got underway, causing half a dozen or so hands to go up, hoping to get lucky enough to catch it. More confetti then spewed out of the cannons at the start, as this other new number was performed by the three core members of Ishi. Becky rejoined them for the dance inducing “Emotional Hard Drive”, and their latest single got folks quite rowdy, as many began jumping around. It was great, though, because their music is all about cutting loose. Between her and Rocky, they were adding some knockout backing vocals to it, too, which made it all the more extraordinary.

Bettie then returned to the stage, tackling the female vocals on “Touch The Future”, as well as another new one, which has the often repeated line, “Everybody wants to be a star…”. Confetti continued pouring down on people at different intervals throughout those two, and then the female vocalists once again swapped out. Becky still wasn’t safe from the blast of air, but it didn’t seem to catch her off guard as much now, and she continued shaking her tambourine to the beat of “Digital Wounds”.

They turned it into another clap along at times, and upon finishing it, JT left the stage, retreating to the green room. That put Becky in charge, and they dusted off what used to be a show staple: a cover of The Bangles “Walk Like an Egyptian”. She didn’t miss a beat, and now that she was the lead singer, her fiery stage persona really came out. The best part came at the final line, which she belted out with a passion.

JT then returned, having used that time for a costume change, and now was wearing a black shirt with a sort of floral pattern on it. They knocked out their final classic of the night, and when “Shake Your Dandelion” came to an end, he sang that last line, “Step into my world and I’ll satisfy you.”, and then pointed out at the spectators, who I think were feeling extremely satisfied at this point.

“How we doing, Dallas?!” he then asked, taking time out to chat for a moment, before they hit the final stretch of their 82-minute long set. Becky again walked on stage, showing off some dance moves on “Disco Queen”. “…Butter me up with your lovin’” sang JT, and as he did so, he took his left hand and ran it up his leg, eventually stopping when he reached his backside. “Rocky Ottley!” he shouted before again taking leave. That was Rocky’s cue to go all out, and ran to stage right and dropped to his knees as he started his guitar solo, before eventually falling to his back, shredding on his axe while he laid there.

Applause rang out, applause that quickly turned to cheers once “Mother Prism” began. JT walked back on stage. He now had his Native American headdress on, and as he approached the mic, he threw the vibrant red robe around him. He waited until the first break in the track to go back and get his shield, which, like the headdress, was illuminated in several different neon colors, which were constantly flashing on and off. He waved it around for a few moments, even using it to cover his face, before continuing, “It’s hard to rise above it all when everything is a pitfall…” As usual, the highlight came with the chant of “Aiyah, aiyay…”, which everyone was bursting at the seams to sing along with. It was as if he were a tribal leader, and the hundreds of fans who had gathered here were praising him. Jumping around also seemed mandatory for that one, and that pure delight everyone was experiencing quickly turned to sadness when JT said they had just one more.

“Let’s get funky.” he said; Bettie now standing to his right. The air cannons finished blowing their load during the lead in for “Slowly But Surely”, and JT suddenly had an idea. He raced over to one of them, propping his leg up on one of the monitors, appearing to be trying to achieve a Marilyn Monroe moment, but the air stopped right as he got up there. Bettie fully showed off her powerhouse voice when she sang one line; and as it got into the final minute or so, JT jumped off the stage. The crowd cleared room for him, letting him go where he pleased. He didn’t go far, though, and was just content standing amongst everyone, interacting with the fans as they all sang together.

Everyone had hopes that there would be more, but this is a band who very plainly says they don’t do encores. Extra songs, yes. However they don’t leave just to have a chant of their name started and then come back out. “…Can you handle one more?” JT asked, acknowledging that his band had left him. Rocky and Jonathan then returned.

“…We can’t tell you how much this means to us.” he remarked, before asking everyone to tell their West Coast friends that they were coming. Becky was back out there with them for their rendition of New Orders’ “Bizarre Love Triangle”. Singing along was highly encouraged, and it was easily one of the best moments of their set.

That fun jam would have been a fine way to end it, but the band showed no sign of moving. “Rocky wants to do one more.” JT said, before going back to the drums to help Jonathan find the track. They closed with one of the best songs from Digital Wounds, though one that has been worked out in favor over their newer material in recent months. Everyone was glad to hear “ISHI”, though, and considering this was their last hometown show before a tour, I couldn’t think of anything more appropriate to end with. Especially since one of the lines is, “We’re rolling on our dreams. I. S. H. I. is what mean…”. Quite a fitting way to close it out, and that pushed their set to just a little more than a hour and a half long.

Ishi always gives it their all. It be hard for them to be where they are now if they didn’t. But this night, they went above and beyond peoples normal expectations, which guaranteed this was a show that no one would soon forget.

Electronic music is something else I’m not always a fan off, but the music Ishi makes is undeniably wonderful. It demands you get into it and just have fun, and lyrically, the songs are either uplifting, or, as I said about the music, fun.

Add the always theatrical stage show to that mix, and you’re given a band who you can see countless times and still not be able to get enough. At least that’s how I am, and I know I’m not alone in that feeling.

Before going west, Ishi has shows in Houston and Austin. The former on July 18th at the Museum of Natural Science, and the latter will be at Empire Control Room on the 19th. Then, on July 24th, they’ll be in San Diego, California. They have a total of four shows around the state, and will also be hitting Washington state, Idaho, Colorado and Oklahoma, before doing a homecoming show at Lola’s Saloon in Fort Worth on August 15th. If you live in any of those areas, you can find more details on the shows HERE. Grab a copy of each of their LP’s, too. You can find them in iTUNES.

This was one helluva party this night, one that everyone enjoyed to the fullest extent possible. I imagine a lot of them will be doing it all over again in Fort Worth next month, too.