Sunday, August 10th, 2014 - No Weapon Formed Delivers a Precise Rock Show at The Curtain Club

The Saving Abel show wasn’t originally supposed to be held at The Curtain Club, but that was where it wound up. I was okay with that, given my immense love for the venue; and actually, it made me all the more excited to see the stacked bill of local talent that had been assembled to open the show.

No Weapon Formed took the stage with quite a few eyes on them. Many were fans — some sporting their NWF shirts; and frontman Brandon Thomas stepped on stage shortly after his band mates got their opening number going. Lead guitarist Josh Presley started showing off his skills from the get go, knocking out a killer solo at one point in the track, before they dove right into the next. Drummer Dylan Burt quickly grabbed his kick drum and pulled it closer (I think it had moved slightly during that song), and then joined them.

“Thank you.” Brandon told the crowd once they had finished the track. They didn’t allow much downtime, and now rhythm guitarist Nolan Bradvica opened up their next tune, which ended with an instrumental outro between he, Josh, Dylan and bassist Soleh, while Brandon exited the stage to allow the crowd to fully focus on them. “We love Curtain Club. This is like our second home.” Brandon remarked before they unleashed another couple of songs. Brandon seemed even more charismatic than usual on the latter of those two; and both he and Josh harmonized at one point on the track, which sounded awesome. Perhaps the best point came at the end, when Brandon grabbed the mic stand and pulled it off side to his left, though he was still screaming loud enough it had no trouble picking up the sound.

It was here they found out their set was nearly over, prompting a decision to have to be made on what to close with. They choose what Brandon called their “best one”. It was, indeed, one of the highlights from their 27-minute long set, and during it, he again thanked the Curtain Club for having them out. “We fucking love you!” he told the crowd, shortly before they brought it to a rip-roaring end.

Having to axe one song may have been slightly disappointing for the band, but that didn’t dampen what was a killer show.

They have a great sound that’s not solely hard rock, but certainly isn’t just your standard rock music, either; and the wails Brandon is capable of evokes almost an 80’s rock sound.

It’s good stuff; and you should go see them if you get the chance.

They’ll be at The Rail in Fort Worth on September 5th; then on the 20th of that month you can find them at The Boiler Room in Dallas.

Sunday, August 10th, 2014 - Story of a Ghost Makes Their Mark on Dallas

The Saving Abel show wasn’t originally supposed to be held at The Curtain Club, but that was where it wound up. I was okay with that, given my immense love for the venue; and actually, it made me all the more excited to see the stacked bill of local talent that had been assembled to open the show.

For the past few shows, Story of a Ghost had been playing main support to Saving Abel; and this was their final show of their run with them.

The quartet hailed from Joplin, Missouri; and when the curtain opened on them, Logan Graves was putting a beat down on the drums. Bassist Rikki Ramirez emerged from stage right shortly after; and guitarist Aaron Hearse wasn’t far behind. The roaring instrumental intro earned them lots of attention, though the venue wasn’t nearly as crowded as it had been for the local act before them.

“How the hell you doing Dallas, Texas?!” frontman Davin Casey asked once they were done. “…Let’s make it a helluva night!” he shouted after mentioning this was their final date with Saving Abel. Rikki proceeded to clap his hands together, eventually getting much of the couple dozen people watching them to do the same; and there came a point in the track when Aaron rushed off the stage and stood with the crowd as he rocked out.

“This kinda shit does not happen in Joplin!” stated Davin, who was riding high on the crowds’ energy. Number wise, the audience may not have been strong, though people were very engaged with the outfit. “…This is a Texas exclusive!” he remarked, before glancing at all the plaques of bands that adorn the Wall of Fame. Some of them went on to achieve national fame, others will always be Dallas legends, but the one constant as they all cut their teeth here at the Curtain. He said something to the effect that this place was here because of all those bands, and then they launched into another song. Davin screamed some on that track, and when he was doing it, he executed excellent control over his voice. Really, it was impressive to hear; and when it hit a lull, he moved over to the keyboard that sit in the stairwell on and off the stage.

“I don’t know if you know this, but it’s fucking hot in Texas,” he remarked afterwards. The audience cheered, affirming they were all too familiar with this. “Are there any rock fans here?” he then asked, using that to setup a cover of “Wasteland” by 10 Years, which concluded with Aaron again getting out in the crowd.

There were some fans out there who were familiar with Story of a Ghost before this night, and now, Davin pointed them out, saying he thought they’d know this one. “…I don’t expect you to sing it with me, though,” he told them, clearly wanting to be proved wrong. So, a few people were happy to do that, and did help them out on “March”, which was backed up with a strong stage performance. With that, they were already onto the final number of their 28-minute long set; and during it, Aaron jumped into the air, doing a nice 360° spin while he was up there.

Their hard rock style was very melodic, and at times sounded a little commercialized, but not in a negative way. In fact, it gives it a broader appeal to your general audience, which of course can’t hurt any band.

They were very tight and had some great chemistry with one another, which really showed through during their performance. Would I go see them again? Yes, yes I would.

Annalise Emerick Premieres on The Boot

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In just 4 short weeks, the debut full-length album of Nashville singer-songwriter Annalise Emerick will hit shelves across the country, but in the meantime, The Boot is giving fans an exclusive sneak peek of the shimmering Americana record before you can hear it anywhere else. Yesterday, the country music news site exclusively premiered “The Sun and The Moon,” the lead single from Emerick’s new record, Field Notes.

"The Boot is always excited to premiere new music from up-and-coming artists, and Annalise Emerick’s ‘The Sun and the Moon’ is no exception," TheBoot.comeditor, Angela Miller, confessed. “We hope our listeners enjoy the song as much as our staff does, and we look forward to seeing where Annalise goes from here!”

Dropping on September 16th, Emerick’s new, 11-song album will showcase a unique blend of Americana overtones highlighted by Emerick’s indelible pop songwriting sensibilities and unique penchant for spinning stories. The autobiographical nature of the record is palpable, giving it a feeling of intimacy that makes Emerick’s songs uniquely personal yet still universally recognizable, and inField Notes, it seems that there’s something for everyone. Sparkling, mellow tracks like “The Sun and The Moon” still feature her trademark acoustic-pop vibes, while songs like “Simple Life” and “A Good One” surprise with a newfound and completely unapologetic twang. Emerick’s cover of the Shake-Russell-pennedWaylon Jennings tune “Deep in the West” solidifies the fact that the Nashville songstress isn’t afraid to let her home flag fly. In either element, the quiet power in her vocals makes it easy to see how she situates herself among fans of Brandi CarlilePatty Griffin, and Natalie Maines alike.

The unbridled nature of Field Notes marks a more mature turn in tone for Emerick. In 2011, she released her first musical project, Starry-Eyed, to heavy critical acclaim after it debuted at #9 on the iTunes Singer/Songwriter chart. The seven-song EP featured adult contemporary pop tracks sprinkled with twinkling production value that Performer Magazine hailed as “undeniably good.” Skope Magazine praised the record’s “mellow and moving” tunes, while The Deli New England celebrated Emerick for “crafting melodies as pretty as her name.” The album went on to also catch the attention of American Songwriter Magazinewho premiered her first single and music video, “This Love Won’t Break Your Heart.”

The Sun and The Moon" is now available to purchase via iTunesSpotify, andAmazon MP3.

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014 – Gemini Syndrome Goes Full Throttle at Cain’s Ballroom

Just in seeing the Gemini Syndrome banner being put up on stage was enough to send their die-hard group of fans into fits of excitement.
image(Photo credit: Ronnie Jackson Photography)

The Los Angeles-based hard rock outfit was doing main support for Sevendust on this current tour; and even on a Tuesday night at Cain’s Ballroom in Tulsa, Oklahoma, they had a strong showing of fans out.

Causing even more excitement was vocalist Aaron Nordstrom, who wandered out in the crowd several minute before they hit the stage, even posing for a picture with one very young fan. It was cool to see.

The lineup was a little different this night, as it was one of the dates Rich Juzwick was missing to attend to personal matters, meaning Gemini Syndrome would be performing as a four-piece.

The audiences’ anticipation mounted when the house lights dimmed, and many roared at the top of their lungs. Nordstrom bowed to the spectators after he stepped out on stage. “Tulsa! Tulsa!” he yelled, getting substantially louder with the second one, before screaming in more of a heavy metal voice, “OKLAHOMA!”

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(Photo credit: Ronnie Jackson Photography)

With that, their intro faded out, and they jumped in to the super heavy, “Resurrection”. Guitarist Mike Salerno and Nordstroms’ vocal interaction on the first couple of verses is really something to see live, with Salerno screaming one word in a throaty voice, before Nordstrom repeats it in a slightly less intense tone. Drummer Brian Medinas’ actions easily earned him people’s attention as well, from tossing one of his drum sticks into the air and then standing to catch it, to bowing to Salerno during his stellar guitar solo. Upon finishing the song, Medina again rose up from his seat, beaming at the crowd.

“How we feeling tonight? Is everybody ready for this?!” Nordstrom asked, checking in on everyone. Not only was the crowd ready for this, they seemed to have been waiting for it for weeks. “Here we go,” he finished, as they began “Falling Apart”. Bassist AP and Medina delivered a monstrous rhythm section on the track, particularly at the start; and plenty of fans were singing right along to the chorus, “…You push me to the side every single time, and I can’t help you from falling apart again.”

Just two songs in and these guys were already on fire. There was also a great dynamic at work, where the band had plenty of energy to feed off of from the crowd, and in turn, the more action packed show they were delivering just helped the audience get more lost in it all.
image(Photo credit: Ronnie Jackson Photography)

“We are Gemini Syndrome. Thank you for being here,” Nordstrom then told everyone, before hitting a more serious note. “…I’m guessing every single person here is like myself, and have something you don’t like about yourself…” he remarked. “…But that shit is what makes you different…” he preached, before bellowing, “YOU ARE NOT ALONE!” Salerno then knocked out the opening lines of “Basement” — as they continued working their way backwards on the Lux album. “Let me see your hands!” Nordstrom requested before the first chorus, resulting in a slew of hands shooting up into the air. Medina continued showing off his skills as a drummer and pure love for it by flipping one of the sticks around, and later twirling it between his fingers.

“Y’all are beautiful,” Nordstrom informed the crowd, while another sample started to play. Medina was on his feet, lightly tapping some of the cymbals. “We still having a good time?” Nordstrom then asked, before saying that the first word ever in existence was “love”. “And from the bottom of our hearts, we love you,” he said sincerely. The track led to the epic intro for “Mourning Star”, which saw this hard rock band showing off the slightly softer side they are capable of, and they pull it off exceedingly well.

The segue into their next song was seamless; and now, another guitar was brought out on stage. “Y’all don’t mind, do you, if I play a little guitar tonight?” asked Nordstrom. There were no objections to it. Then again, why would there have been? “Pay for This”  was dedicated to liars and thieves; and while it was slightly strange seeing Nordstrom abandon his role of frontman (even if it was just for one song), he still managed to pack a ton of energy into the performance, even breaking away from the microphone stand when he could. AP was also completely in the zone on that track, and he hunched over his bass for the first verse or so, just dominating it.
image(Photo credit: Ronnie Jackson Photography)

Like the previous transition, a sample track led them into what was coming next; and as Nordstrom handed his guitar off, he thanked the crowd for “indulging” him on that.

“Tulsa!” he suddenly shouted, raising his voice when he repeated the city’s name. “Make some fucking noise!” he then stated, making it sound more like a command, and one fans were happy to meet. “…Let me see everyone’s hands in the sky, like you’re reaching for heaven,” he then told everybody, after saying they’d need some help with this next one. The onlookers proceeded to clap along as “Stardust” got going. “…It’s no mistake; …you are perfect in my mind…” the audience sang along, loud enough you could kind of hear them at times, something the frontman highly encouraged. Medina had continued to be a driving force this night; and as they hit the songs’ lull, he again stood up and flipped a stick into the air, still smiling, as if he was having the time of his life.

“THANK YOU!” Nordstrom hollered as soon as it was over. Already, this incredible set had reached its end, and they had packed so much into it, I was surprised they had only been on stage about thirty-minutes at this point. “We’re going to end this very similar to the way we started.” Nordstrom announced. His voice dropped to a sudden whisper. “Tulsa,” he quietly said, as if he were about to share a secret with everyone. It progressively got louder, though, and the rise in it was rapid. “Get the fuck up!” he instructed as they wrapped it up with “Pleasure and Pain”. It induced a lot of head banging among everyone; and the band made sure to pull out all the stops during it. Salerno and AP jammed next to one another during the second verse, and Nordstrom stamped his foot and banged his head to the most brutal parts of it; while Medina couldn’t resist doing one more toss of his drum stick, and I think this one was the highest yet.
image(Photo credit: Ronnie Jackson Photography)

“From the bottom of our hearts, we fucking love you,” Nordstrom stressed at the end, his gratitude being purely genuine. “Sevendust is about to destroy you…” he finished, as their 35-minute long set came to an end. That wasn’t the last time he was on stage this night, though. He also joined Sevendust to co-sing their encore of “Splinter”.

Coincidently, the only other time I have seen Gemini Syndrome also happened to be in Oklahoma (at Rocklahoma), and while they were great then, this slightly longer set made all the difference.

Even being down a member these guys still laid waste to the stage at the historic Cain’s Ballroom with ease. Their showmanship was superb, and you can tell each one of them thoroughly enjoys being on a stage and performing for whoever is watching. They functioned at a level that is well above many of their counterparts, and this show made it all too easy to see why Gemini Syndrome is a band on the rise. They even gave Sevendust a serious run for their money, which is no small feat.

The final show of this run with Sevendust is August 23rd in Sioux City, Iowa at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. Gemini Syndrome also has some dates through the rest of the month, scattered about Colorado; New Mexico and Nevada. Full info on when and where can be found HERE. Also, if you don’t have Lux, do your ears a favor and go pick it up in iTUNES.

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image(Photo credit: Ronnie Jackson Photography)

Here’s one of the pieces I’ve written for On Tour Monthly recently.

Here’s one of the pieces I’ve written for On Tour Monthly recently.

Here’s one of the pieces I’ve written for On Tour Monthly recently.

New Neosoul Artist, Alma has Ambitious Medium and Message on Her Upcoming Album, Tactics

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(Photo credit: Luminous Love Photography)

While the rest of Chicago was rocking out at Lollapalooza for the weekend, Alma, Chicago-based pop/soul vocalist, managed to record every track of her upcoming album TacticsTactics, Alma’s first full-length project, will be released October 17

“Recording an entire album in one weekend was ambitious! The whole project came together in a few months’ time and I credit the organization, consistency & initiative of Chris Thigpen, my bassist & creative producer,” shared Alma.

Alma, a newcomer to the Midwest music scene, would consider the title of communicator as vital as singer or songwriter to her art. Her new project, Tactics, is a calculated attempt to provoke thought about the human condition, supported by her neosoul sensibilities.

“I write and perform to inspire conversation about the things that matter,” says Alma. “Performing is fun, but my passion is the message, not the medium.”

Alma is quickly becoming a pro at both the medium and the message. Characterizing her medium, it’s hard to confine her to one genre. Neosoul comes closest, but her music has elements of jazz, pop, R&B and gospel. She performs regularly in Chicago and other venues around the Midwest, including Wisconsin music festivals Brat Fest and Lifest in the summer of 2014. In 2013, she toured the East Coast with Philly-based artist Kwesi K.

Drawing from her personal faith journey, the tracks on Tacticsexplore human nature with themes like jealousy in “Blind Side,” gluttony in “Honey,” as well as hope in “New Nation.”

Tactics’ sound showcases Alma’s skill in songwriting with eight original tracks that encompass a style reminiscent of Joss Stone or Jill Scott. Alma says, “In late 2012 neosoul stole my heart—and since then I’ve been sorting out how I want that to affect my own songwriting.”

In 2012, she released a demo Pass it On, with a more stripped down singer/songwriter sound than the upcoming Tactics. Her 2014 single, “For A Poet” gives a stronger foreshadowing as to what to expect from her new album. Alma graduated with a BA in Vocal Performance from Columbia College in Chicago in 2013.

Alma will relocate to LA this fall.

Learn more:
hearalma.com
Facebook: facebook.com/hearalma  
Twitter: @hearalma
Listen here:  hearalma.bandcamp.com

Sunday, August 10th, 2014 - The Suicide Hook Takes No Prisoners at The Curtain Club

The Saving Abel show wasn’t originally supposed to be held at The Curtain Club, but that was where it wound up. I was okay with that, given my immense love for the venue; and actually, it made me all the more excited to see the stacked bill of local talent that had been assembled to open the show.

The second band up this night was The Suicide Hook. I hadn’t seen them before, though had heard of them, mainly due to Jasen Moreno’s rise to prominence a couple years ago, when he became the new singer for Dallas legend: Drowning Pool. He may not have as much time for his local project now, at least not when Drowning Pool is on the road, but they’re still kicking. Actually to say they’re merely “kicking” would be an understatement.

It was hot outside. Miserable even, and it wasn’t any cooler inside the venue. So, it was a little surprising when the curtain opened and you saw Jasen, who was wearing a hoodie, with the hood pulled up over his head. It may not have been comfortable, but it did help with the look; as they exploded into the first song of their 28-minute long set: “Headlines”. It was more than enough to bring a sizable number of people up to the front of the stage, as they watched on, completely captivated by the hard rock, borderline metal band.

Drummer Joey Johnson wound them right into “Eyedropper”, which explored more of their metal side. However, Jasen could switch from screaming to singing in a split-second on the brutal number, which ended with all of them violently banging their heads. “Well, how the hell are you?!” he asked once they finished it. “Thanks for hanging out. We are The Suicide Hook,” he said, making the formal introduction. They tore through another track that brought out everyone’s inner rock beast; after which Jasen urged everyone to come a bit closer. “If you want to bring it in and get closer to the stage, it’s alright with us,” he said, before removing the hoodie.

“Are y’all ready for some more rock n roll?!” he then growled. “Let’s do this! Come on!” he shouted as they started into another tune, one that featured a wicked guitar solo courtesy of Adam Nanez. “Here’s to us, here’s to you,” Jasen said when toasting with some shots that appeared on stage during that last song. “I’m sorry, I didn’t wait,” bassist Joseph Rosales halfheartedly apologized.

Once the shots had been downed, they unloaded a couple more songs, bridging them into one another; and in between that, Jasen again thanked the crowd, specifically saying he couldn’t “say thank you enough” for the support. “It’s been fun. We’re The Suicide Hook. Don’t forget the name,” he stated before their closing song. After a performance like this, I think it’d be pretty hard to.

The show was ferocious, and even with limited room on the stage due to all the backlined equipment, they still found plenty of space to move around; and even outperformed many of the other acts on the bill this night.

There can be little doubt that all the time Jasen has spent on the road in the last couple years has helped hone his skills as a frontman, which makes The Suicide Hook a cut above the rest among many of their counterparts here in the scene. I was quite honestly blown away by it all. Their sheer musicianship and the way they commanded the stage was something to behold, and they just flat-out killed it this night.

They’ll be playing again on September 13th at Trees in Dallas, if you’re free.

Danko Jones Releases Long Awaited Live Album – ”Live At Gröna Lund”

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DANKO JONES is happy to announce the release of their first official live album exclusively through Spotify!
Listen to the album here: spoti.fi/1kw9wZb

With close to 20 years of touring experience and a reputation as one of the best live bands in the world it would have been wrong not to at least try and capture the energy of the DANKO JONES live show on tape with the recording taken from their only show in Europe this year – at the legendary Gröna Lund amusement park in Stockholm, Sweden on May 16th. Their relation to Sweden has always been a special one and has resulted in countless shows, two gold singles and top ten album chart positions, so for this show to be the pick for a live album seems only natural.

The album contains 20 tracks of classic songs from their live reportoire and ends with ”Bring On The Mountain” – a song everyone who has ever attended a DANKO JONES concert will be familiar with – that is now being made available as a recording for the very first time.

The band is currently finishing up a new studio album and will do a string of festival dates in Canada this fall along with an exclusive US show at Motörhead’s Motörboat along with MegadethAnthrax and of course the hosts themselves!

More on DANKO JONES:
http://www.dankojones.com/
https://www.facebook.com/dankojones
https://twitter.com/dankojones
http://instagram.com/danko_jones

Friday, August 15th, 2014 – The Band of Heathens Throwdown at Hank’s

This weekend (well, part of it) involved me spending time up in the suburbs. You may not find a cluster of music venues all within a block or so of each other like you can in Dallas or Fort Worth for instance, but the ones that do exist get topnotch talent to come through.

Hank’s in McKinney was my destination this Friday night; and after four months since their last North Texas gig, The Band of Heathens were returning to the area.

Their wound up being an opener, which I was unaware of until walking into the venue portion of the bar and grill.

Elise Davis was on the stage, and with the exception of her acoustic guitar, she was all alone.

I only caught her last two songs, and before the final one, she showed off a great sense of humor. She shared an anecdote about when she first moved to her current city of Nashville, and she took on a waitressing job, saying how “original” that was. “…‘Cause no one had ever done that before…” she said, referring to being an aspiring singer/songwriter and having to work at a restaurant. The best part was how deadpan serious she was.

She went on to say this final song was a very accurate account of her first night in Nashville, when she got to talking to a guy who invited her back to a party. The song was called “Make the Kill”, and it did sound like an autobiographical account of her trying to get over the end one relationship by having some fun in her new town.

I really enjoyed those two songs, and wish I had seen more.

She’s a legitimate country musician (i.e. not the Nashville style pop infused stuff that currently infects so much of the genre) that had a Southern twang to her voice and her songs actually told stories.

Elise has a few records available in iTUNES. She also has a few shows planned for the rest of this month, which can be found HERE.

The Band of Heathens already had their gear on stage. Everything was set, and after about twenty minutes or so of downtime, the quintet walked out of the green room, took the stage and were greeted by some loud fanfare.

This is a band that constantly changes their set up, and even back-to-back shows would offer a completely different experience. However, their opener for this night wound up being the same song as they used the last time I saw them, back at the end of February: “Talking Out Loud”. The soulful song is such a great opener, though, and the line, “…Hold on, if it get uptight.

We’ve got to make everybody feel alright,” could more or less be considered their mission statement. Gordy Quist aided Ed Jurdi with some backing vocals on the chorus, and when he wasn’t singing, he worked to adjust his mic stand, finally getting it just right. He [Gordy] broke into a roaring guitar solo; and as the song neared the end, Ed added some additional line that fit the night. “…Say it’s Friday night. The time is right to set you free…” he crooned in a rich, smooth tone.

The sizable audience applauded the band, but not for long, as Gordy used his guitar to segue them right into “Jackson Station”, which was the first of a few tracks they did off their self-titled record. Trevor Nealon was tucked away on stage right, his two pianos taking up all of that corner; and all eyes focused on him when he delivered an excellent piano solo after the second chorus. They’re a band who’s known for spicing up their songs for the live setting, and they concluded that co-sung number with a roaring instrumental jam.

“I never meant to cause you any sorrow, I never meant to cause you any pain…”, crooned Ed. It wasn’t a cover of Prince’s “Purple Rain”, though the first verse of that iconic song served as a fitting setup for their original. “…By all indications, we were just fine.
At least that’s how I had it made up in my mind…” goes one of the lines from “Caroline Williams” — one of the cuts off last year’s Sunday Morning Record — and out of the handful of times I’ve heard this one, this was the best rendition of it that I’ve heard. There were an array of very subtle differences over it and the studio version, with the most obvious being the way Ed sang some of the words. It’s amazing what a slightly different tone can do.

Gordy reached back for his neck rack and harmonica, while Ed, drummer Richard Millsap, bassist Scott Davis and Trevor began “Rehab Facility”. It was definitely the most rocking track they had done up to this point, and not just due to the faster pace, but also the piano solo and then the sweet licks Ed produced during a guitar solo. Richard then led them directly into their next number, which Ed mentioned was “about the power of music.” “And the power of the soul. And the power of music in your soul,” he said, sounding not unlike a preacher delivering a sermon. A sermon about the power that music is capable of. “You’ve got to feel it! You’ve got to want it!” he shouted at the end, right around the point he and his band mates eased their instruments over the drums, making it known the song was “Records in Bed”. “Sunday morning service, records in your bed. Well, they’re good for your soul and the feed your head,” goes part of the chorus, which certainly speaks to the power of music. “Round and round and round so slow…” both Gordy and Scott sang on another part of the chorus, and the mixture of three different voices working off one another was breathtaking. During a guitar solo, Ed began to taper off, eventually leading to silence that made the crowd think they were finished, and they began to clap for them. The band revved it back up, though, doing several more rounds of the chorus; and the end was nothing short of incendiary.

The applause rang out, and one patron cheered on “that keyboard guy”. Gordy ran with it. “…Yeah, what’s his fucking name…” he asked, before introducing Trevor Nealon to everyone. By the way, Trevor was completely oblivious to the fact anyone had even called him “that keyboard guy”. The group proceeded to do another instrumental jam, starting out rather quiet, though it progressively grew louder. They used that to get everyone ready for “L. A. County Blues”, and when they suddenly broke into the lead track off One Foot in the Ether, the crowd got excited. Practically everyone was singing along to what is one of their staple songs.

“Thank you for being here…” Gordy told everyone, before saying that they wanted to recognize someone who had driven three hours to be here at Hank’s and see The Band of Heathens on his birthday. Gordy also noted the man was a veteran, and the noise level spiked with that news. With that acknowledgement taken care of, they moved on with the slightly softer, semi-soothing “One More Trip”. No sooner had they finished it, and then Ed struck a chord, playing it a few times over before leaning into the mic. “Well, I should have known better this time…” he belted on the opening line of “Should Have Known”, a song I had not heard them do in more than a year (or the last two times I’ve seen them). Trevor was on his feet for much of the song, methodically hammering away on the keys; and Ed slightly changed one of the early lines in the track, adding in “done” on, “…Other days, we done rolled in the gold…” Their prowess as musicians again shone after the second chorus, when they inserted an instrumental break; and the fans put their hands up and began to clap along after seeing Ed do it. It sounded more uptempo than the studio version, too; and Ed and Gordy also tossed in a killer duel guitar solo. Then, at the tail end, they finished unexpectedly as Ed sang, “Just that I.” The audience wasn’t expecting that, leading to a cool moment where you could hear those who were singing along finish the line, “Should have known better this time.”

One of the highlights came when eased them into what came next, and it was quickly apparent it was “Hurricane”. Several people even hurried in from the patio, where they had either been chatting with friends or smoking; and the limited space in front of the stage quickly filled up. It’s a fan favorite that is usually requested, but by pulling it out mid-show like this, no one had a chance to get scared that maybe they wouldn’t be playing it this night. Considering that’s a cover of a Leon Everette song, it seemed fitting that another cover would follow, and Gordy kept the reins as they performed Bob Dylans’ “The Man in Me”.

He and Ed now traded their electric guitars in for some acoustics, but that didn’t mean they were completely going to slow things down. “Nine Steps Down” has a certain kick to it, though some of the solos were slower, which allowed them to be performed in an intricate manner. “…It’s gonna string everybody in a hang man’s noose,” Ed sang towards the end, doing so a cappella, before his band mates jumped back into the track.

“It’s good to be back in Texas,” remarked Gordy afterwards. “It’s good to be playing shows in Texas,” he added, noting he didn’t care how hot it was. They changed gears and did one song I haven’t heard them do before, and that was “Ain’t No More Cane”. Not only did it feature some five part harmonies, but Scott, Trevor and Richard all sang lead on it, each one doing a few lines before handing it off to the next, while Ed and Gordy were the main ones responsible for the chorus. Ed even busted out a harmonica at one point, and as soon as he had finished with it, he tossed it behind him. Talk about compelling.

Ed then swapped back out to an electric, as they got ready for another track that boasts some multi-part harmonies: “Shotgun”. The lead track off their latest release is one of my favorites, and live, well, it really is one of the best songs they have at their disposal. As some of his band mates tuned, Ed gave a birthday shout-out to a woman named Jill, and then he and Gordy had a momentary conversation off mic. “He was asking if I said the name properly. He thought I said Jim,” Ed said, chuckling a bit.

The acoustic guitars were now back on the racks, and they broke out one of the other instant classics from Sunday Morning Record: “Miss My Life”. It’s impossible not to get into that infectious song; and while it’s on the other side of the spectrum musically, pretty much the same can be said of “Shake the Foundation”. That one had a slick, dark intro that had a thick rhythm section going, and, of course, it came complete with some instrumental breaks and solos. Near the end, Ed even chimed in with Gordy, as the two sang a line a cappella.

They wound up ending their 103-minute long set with the lead track from their debut studio album, and “Don’t Call On Me” was a vibrant closer.  The song was stretched out much longer than just the five-minutes or so it lasts on the recording, though at one point, they took a moment to thank the crowd, giving the impression maybe they were almost done. “…We couldn’t do this without you,” they told the crowded venue. All of a sudden, they recycled the chorus from “Records in Bed”. “Round and round and round so slow… The deepest grooves you’ll ever know…” They did it a multitude of times before going back to “Don’t Call On Me”, and all five of them seemed to be having a blast during that high-energy finish.

It appeared to be over. The lights came on, and the sound guy asked everyone to give it up one more time for The Band of Heathens. He then asked if anyone wanted some more Band of Heathens.

“I’ve got one more question for you. Do want more Band of Heathens?!” The crowd did, though they weren’t doing a great job of showing it. Most of the band had gone to the green room, while Ed had stepped out the door at the back of the stage that opens up to the parking lot. He now poked his head through said door and waved dismissively at everyone, as if to playfully say, “That’s not good enough.” They didn’t make the people wait much longer, though.

“Thanks for being here. Thanks for participating. Thanks for the requests, even if we didn’t get to all of them, we try our best,” Ed told the patrons. Richard had already begun laying down the beat for their final song, and he stretched it out for some time before the rest of the band jumped in on “Medicine Man”. When he wasn’t playing his guitar, Gordy often gripped the microphone, taking on a more forceful persona as he walked about the stage. The lone song from their encore spanned 10-minutes, and, as it usually is, it was an incredibly way to end the night.

The set list was superb. I enjoyed hearing those few songs I hadn’t in awhile, as well as some I never had, and the few consistent staples they do have could never get old.

To kind of echo what they said this night, it was good to see the Austin-based band back in Texas, as the shows in their home state have been pretty infrequent lately; and after almost six months in-between shows for me, this did the trick. It was everything you wanted from The Band of Heathens; and the rock/Americana outfit put on a show that enriched the souls of everyone who was at Hank’s this night.

As of right now, their next North Texas show will be on October 18th at the Granada Theater in Dallas. A West Coast tour is planned for September, and they have other dates booked after that. Check out their full schedule HERE. Also, if you don’t have their albums, then head over to iTUNES.

What a way to spend a Friday night.

Sarah Jaffe’s “Don’t Disconnect” out Aug 19th

imageThe time has finally come, Sarah Jaffe’s new album Don’t Disconnect will be available in stores everywhere this Tuesday, August 19. This highly anticipated third studio album was produced by Midlake’s McKenzie Smith, and showcases Jaffe’s tremendous range. To Jaffe, this album is both a mission statement and a call to arms – it is an album about getting to know yourself in a hyper connected world that makes it nearly impossible to do just that.

Jaffe describes Don’t Disconnect as being about coming to terms with you who she is: “We’re constantly comparing ourselves, whether we know it or not, because there’s always something out there to compare to. So [Don’t Disconnect] is a self-diagnosis, but it’s light hearted.”  

Don’t Disconnect will be available on CD and 180 gram colored vinyl and can be found at your local record store, or you can order it here.

In celebration of the release of 
Don’t Disconnect, Sarah Jaffe will be hosting a record release show onAugust 23 at Dallas’ historic Majestic Theatre. The show will feature a performance by Jaffe along with special guest, Josh T. Pearson. Doors open at 7pm and the show will begin at 7:45pm so don’t be late! Tickets start at just $22 and can be purchased through PreKindle.

Tour Dates:
08/19 - Austin - In Store Performance at Waterloo
08/23 - Dallas - Majestic Theatre
09/05 - Chicago - Lincoln Hall *
09/09 - Buffalo - Iron Works *
09/10 - Portland - Port City Music Hall *
09/11 - Allston - Great Scott *
09/12 - Hamden - The Space *
09/13 - New York - Mercury Lounge *
09/14 - Philadelphia - The Barbary *
09/16 - Pittsburgh - Cattivo *
09/17 - Washington - DC9 *
09/18 - Richmond - Strange Matter *
09/19 - Raleigh - Kings *
09/20 - Charlotte - The Milestone *
09/21 - Nashville - The End *
09/23 - Cincinnati - The Taft *
09/24 - Cleveland - Beachland Tavern *
09/25 - Ferndale - The Magic Bag *
09/26 - St Louis - The Duck Room *
09/27 - Iowa City - Blue Moose *
10/17 - Austin - Stubb’s w/ Old 97s

* w/ Astronautalis

Sunday, August 10th, 2014 - A Sunday Night Rock Show with The Circle

The Saving Abel show wasn’t originally supposed to be held at The Curtain Club, but that was where it wound up. I was okay with that, given my immense love for the venue; and actually, it made me all the more excited to see the stacked bill of local talent that had been assembled to open the show.

Talent like The Circle: who was fourth out of the six bands on the bill (and the final local DFW band of the night).

“It’s a Sunday night at the Curtain Club!” roared frontman Don Mills, while his band mates began their 27-minute long set by launching into “Break This”. The song had been debuted when they played here at the end of June, and it sounded even better this night than what I remembered. “Five, six, now your voice is making me sick… Nine, ten, now you’re never seeing me again…” went one of the lines, copying off the old kids rhyme.

“This place is fucking full on a Sunday night!” exclaimed Don once they finished. Indeed, it was; and The Circle had more eyes on them then any band this night. That includes the headliner, who he then gave a shout-out to, asking if anyone had heard of Saving Abel. Drummer Marc Berry, bassist Kenneth Henrichs and guitarists Craig Nelson and Alan Sauls were already beginning “Save Me”, which seemed to build on the energy and excitement they had established with that opener. At one point, all the instruments pretty much cut out for a second, and it was then that Kenneth pointed and looked out at the crowd, making a very metal face as he gritted his teeth together.

It was hard not to notice that strapped to Alans’ chest was a GoPro camera, because with the cramped conditions on stage (since Saving Abels’ gear was all backlined), Alan had been spending plenty of time on their boxes that have their logo painted on them, so the camera had been pointing out towards everyone. “…I want to see some of the stupidest shit I’ve ever seen…” Don told everyone, mentioning they planned to make a little video out of all the footage they got. “Who cares about work tomorrow morning?!” he then asked, making a toast to the audience. It’s worth noting said toast was made with a bottle of water on Don’s part.

The intro for the “The Other Side” had already begun, and now they started touching on the stuff from their Who I Am EP. They came out swinging, but it was with that song — one they’ve been playing for much longer — that they hit their stride. Some fans sang along; and in the back half on the track, Don proceeded to slap one of the cymbals on Marcs’ kit.

“We’re three songs in, so you know what that means…” he said as soon as they had finished. He asked everyone to get their drinks up, toasting all the local musicians. “Local music is by far the best music that’s never been heard,” he declared. Sad, but true. “I want to have your babies!” someone in the crowd shouted, causing a look of surprise to come across Dons’ face, as he said to Craig that, that was a first.

“Failure” followed it up; and as they hit the second chorus, Craig raised his axe into the air for a moment, while aggressively plucking the strings. Their abbreviated set contained one more newer tune, and that was “What Do You Say?” Craig got goofy on it, and when Alan approached him, he started to make all sorts of faces for the GoPro, looking right into it, and even dropping to his knee as he continued to stare at it. They had a solid flow going by this point, as they weaved each song into the next, and the transition to “I Am” was seamless.

Marc stood up behind his kit at the start, beaming at everyone for a moment; and after that heavy rock number, they were ready to close it out with “Sleep On it”. Don motioned and called to Kenneths’ nephew, Tyler, to join them on stage. He handed off the reins to Tyler on each chorus; and at the last one, he [Tyler] sang in a deep, throaty manner. It was fitting for the song. “Get ‘em up one last time!” Don bellowed as the song neared the end. It looked like a sea of drinks for a moment; and then they finished, with enough time left they probably could have done one more. If they hadn’t already done their routine closer that is.

It was a very solid performance, and I swear these guys just get better each time I see them. The crowd helped out a lot, because not only was the room packed for them, but they also had plenty of people as close as they could possible get, which helped create an excellent atmosphere.

Even with little space to work with, they still found plenty of room to move around, still delivering the type of show you’ve come to expect from them, and I think it earned them a few new fans this night. Also, I know I’ve said this the last few shows of theirs I’ve caught, but I’ll say it again: I love how fluid they’re making their shows. Diving headfirst from one song to the next really adds a sense of professionalism.

They’ll be back here at the Curtain on September 20th, but before that, they have a gig at Andy’s in Denton on August 28th. They’ll also be up in Greenville on October 11th at The Hanger. Lastly, if you don’t have Who I Am, go get a copy in iTUNES.

The Nightowls will be Bringing some Soul to The Rustic on Saturday

image(Photo credit: Nicola Gell)

If you’re a fan of soul music, then The Rustic will be the only place to consider going to this Saturday.

The Austin-based The Nightowls evoke that classic soul sound, the likes of which you don’t hear too often anymore. They’re fairly new to the scene, with only about three-years as a band under their belt, but have already released a debut album (Good as Gold), which earned them many accolades. A follow-up EP — consisting of some B-sides — is already planned for release in just a few months.

They’ll have a lot of time on stage at The Rustic, so expect plenty of originals, and I would guess some covers, too.

(As taken from their bio)
“It’s 1,390 miles from Austin, Texas to Detroit, but when Austin band the Nightowls rev their musical engines, that distance disappears with the speed of sound…”

Show info:
Saturday, August 16th at The Rustic in Dallas.
Music from 9:30 to 11:30.
Free.
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Sunday, August 10th, 2014 - Dialogue May be Rehearsed, but Saving Abels’ Show is Full of Heart

The Saving Abel show wasn’t originally supposed to be held at The Curtain Club, but that was where it wound up. I was okay with that, given my immense love for the venue; and actually, it made me all the more excited to see the stacked bill of local talent that had been assembled to open the show.

Of course, Saving Abel was who a lot of people were there to see, and they were ecstatic when the band finally hit the stage at 11:10.

“We! Are! Saving Abel!” Scotty Austin roared as they began the title track from the “Bringing Down the Giant” record. The four of them who were at the forefront of the stage all thrashed about in synch at the heaviest parts; and it didn’t take long before Austin pulled his shirt off and cast it aside.

“I’m gonna handle this a little differently…” he said to the crowd, saying he had played to more people than this in his living room. “This is like your own private Saving Abel show!” he told fans, mentioning he was holding them all accountable this night. “Now, how about a little Love Like Suicide?” he said while he stared out at the audience and tilted his head around. With that, guitarists Jason Null and Scott Bartlett, bassist Eric Taylor and drummer Steven Pulley opened up what is the newest single they have released. It kept the lively, hard-hitting pace up, and while new, their fans seemed to be loving it as much as they did the classics that were coming up.

“You guys are a lot of fun! For real!” Austin said with a smile on his face. He added they wanted to meet everyone after they got off stage and wouldn’t be going anywhere except their merch table. “…That shouldn’t take long. What, there’s like, fifty of us?” he joked. There were probably at least eighty people still hanging around, probably a little more.

They then worked their way back to their debut, self-titled album with “New Tattoo”. The high-octane number really got the crowd going, and when he wasn’t singing, Austin was speaking to the crowd. “This is a small room. I can see the whites of your eyes!” he spoke, with the point of that being he needed to see everyone getting into this. “I want to hear some hell raising!!” he shouted at another point. Taylor and Pulley gave the song a strong finish, as Taylor was facing him while dominating his bass; and as they wound it into the next song, a fan climbed on stage. The band didn’t seem to care much, though eventually one of the staff members at the venue led the guy off stage, but only after he had grabbed a pair of drumsticks and started lightly tapping on one of the drums. The song they had gone into was “Contagious”, and it was followed with a nice transition into “Stupid Girl (Only in Hollywood)”, which had most everyone singing along.

“We came here for one reason: to have a mother fucking party with you!” shouted Austin, as he proceeded to banter more with the crowd. There were younger kids in attendance, and he noted that if any parents were offended by that, then they just needed to remember they brought their kids to a rock show. Speaking of young kids, it was at this point a little girl who was just a few years old put her horns up. “…That’s the cutest shit I’ve seen.” Austin remarked, adding that if you didn’t think that was adorable, then there was something wrong with you; and he also joked that it was ruining his mojo.

He talked a lot of how small the crowd was this night, and now declared everyone here to be a member of Saving Abel. “You don’t get off that easy. That comes with stipulations!” he stressed, while shaking his finger at everyone. The stipulation was everyone had to sing, and for anyone who didn’t know the words, well, they were told to just make shit up. “That’s what I do every night!” Austin laughed. “…Because rock ‘n’ roll ain’t about being perfect. It’s about having fun.” Tis true. Now, not everyone did know the lyrics for what came next, but a vast majority of the crowd did, and at times they overpowered the band on “The Sex is Good”.

Afterwards, Austin gave it up for all the talented local acts that opened up the show, stating they were music fans first and musicians second. He outright said there are a lot of “shitty” bands out there and that Dallas was lucky to have so many talented ones; then, speaking to the musicians, told them not to let that (the “shitty” ones) jade them. He switched topics to how much touring they have done this year, and with shows in forty-seven states just since January 1st, they have been busy. That has led them to miss their home state of Mississippi. “…So we’re bringing Mississippi with us!” Austin shouted before “Hell of a Ride”. Bartlett showed off his chops as a guitarist on the killer solo, earning him some praise from the crowd.

“I’m not ready to leave Mississippi just yet!” said Austin, more speaking to Null. Null treated it as if Austin was his drill sergeant. “No, sir! I am not, sir!” he quickly spoke while standing at attention. He and Bartlett then stood side by side with one another and shredded as they opened up “You Make Me Sick”. “For real, we’re having a great ass time. This feels like a private party. Usually we have a barricade here…” Austin told the crowd upon finishing the track. They then took several minutes to allow him to introduce the entire band, and each member got their moment when they were named. Taylors’ bass was said to be the thing that made the ladies “shake their ass”; and when he stopped at the request of Austin, then so, too, did the fans stop moving. Austin himself admitted he can be long-winded, and told a story, with the moral being “you can do whatever you want to,” encouraging worlds for everyone there. “…All these songs came out of this guy’s head!” Austin said, pointing at Null. “He’s crazy as shit!” he added; and during Nulls’ piece on the guitar, he managed to break a string.

He played “Mississippi Moonshine” like that, with one of the strings dangling in the air. Before moving on, their manager joined them on stage, and he had bought drink tickets for everyone, causing the crowd to swarm the stage to try to get one before immediately going to redeem it. Once they had been passed out, their manager mentioned Saving Abel was working on a new record, calling it “their best stuff yet”, and now they did a song from it.

It was the following song that was the most emotional one. Austin mentioned he had a brother who had just finished a tour in Iraq, “…It’s the people in suits tell us who to fight. They tell us where to fight. They tell us when to fight, but it’s never them fighting. It’s our brothers and sisters,” he said solemnly. “18 Days” seemed to hit home for a lot of people, and there were a few who shed some tears, including Austin, who wiped his eyes once they had finished it. He stressed that the message was serious, but he did try to cheer people up after that poignant moment. “I tried to join the military. They told me I was “mentally unstable”, whatever that means,” he quipped.

With their 92-minute long set winding down, they had some fun, and Null and Austin switched places. “In my mind I’m a badass guitar player,” said Austin as he placed the strap around him. Null took on the lead vocals, but first, they brought nearly every audience member up on the stage with them. You couldn’t see Pulley from all the people, who sang and danced along to their rendition of AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell”.

They were about ready to end it, but first, Austin shared his thoughts on musicians who took things too seriously, pointing out that’s not how Saving Abel does it. “…Life is shitty, and rock n roll mother fucking rules!” he declared, prompting the loudest response all night. That led them to “Drowning (Face Down)”; and after expressing that they truly would be nothing if it weren’t for their fans (as well as mentioning what a great venue Curtain Club was, and we needed to ensure it sticks around), they wrapped it up with “Addicted”.

Usually, that’s where the curtain closes and the band (whoever it may be) goes on their way. Not these guys. The urged everyone to buy every other bands merch. Not theirs, but those who opened. Their tour partners in Story of a Ghost, and while the locals weren’t mentioned by name, they were included in that, too, because if people didn’t, then “music will die” which would subsequently mean that “rock will die”. “Have a good ass time. We! Are! Saving Abel!” Austin again belted, bringing things to a close.

To me, much of the dialogue, at least that around this being like a “private show” or there being “stipulations” and such seemed overly rehearsed/scripted. Now, I know that’s something any touring band does. After all, if you’re playing a different city nearly almost every night, you can’t be expected to come up with new banter. On the other hand, you can make it sound spontaneous. It’s all in the tone of which you say it. Basically, parts of that just felt like they were going through the motions.

I want to stress, their love for the crowd, the support of the other musicians and anything along those lines was definitely legitimate and came from the heart. As for their show, in terms of performance, it was unrelenting; and I think they delivered everything everyone wanted to hear during their time on stage and did it in a memorable fashion.

They really do care about their fans, and that’s cool to see.

They have plenty of dates scheduled through this fall, and they can all be found HERE. Don’t forget they have a few albums in iTUNES, too, with another one apparently in the works.