My dad and I then made our way back to the Heart of Texas Rockfest, where the Pittsburgh, PA based band, Lovebettie, was getting ready to rock the stage.
They opened their 28-minute long set with “Red Roses”, the lead track from their most recent EP, which made it immediately clear that they weren’t like any other band. They classify themselves as Swagger Rock, which is pretty accurate, and guitarist, C.T. Fields, bassist, Dan Mulkeen, and drummer, Larry Shotter, all added a certain amount of attitude with their individual parts. It was all set off by Alexandra Naples’s voice, which had a deep and powerful soul sound to it. In fact, that song and most of their others even had an all-around soul vibe to them, but in a neo sense. A majority of their set was made up of newer songs of theirs, like “Alarm” and “Downpour”, which saw Alexandra put her keyboard to use. They busted out another song, before doing a cover, which I was not expecting. Not once had I thought that Lovebettie sounded like Madonna, yet here they were doing a cover of the iconic “Material Girl”, while Alexandra sauntered all over the stage. Her voice was nothing like that of Madonnas’, and it probably won’t shock anyone when I say I’ve never been a real fan of hers, so in my opinion, Lovebettie cranked out a much superior version of the song than the original. They started to wind things down with “Follow”, which was my personal favorite song of their set and was just a solid rock track, and afterwards Alexandra announced their final song was titled “Monsters”, as C.T. started in with a killer riff. The music bed for it flowed quite nicely, and it was a good song to end with.
Lovebettie was different than any other band I saw while here in Austin, and while I don’t know if I’d say they are cutting edge, they do have a sound entirely their own. Really, I haven’t ever heard a band even similar to them.
The live show was really good, with them putting on a good performance, but even stronger was the presence they had.
Definitely a band to see, and if you live in Pittsburgh, check out their CD release show on April 20th at Diesel. They’ll also be performing at the Launch Music Conference in Lancaster, PA on April 27th.
They have an EP and LP that you can find in ITUNES, and their new album should be available soon as well. Give them all a listen, because they’re definitely worth it.
Over on the other stage, a band from Jacksonville, Florida called The Pinz were ready to start.
The more Pop/Rock for-piece opened with “Teenage Stereotype”, which didn’t quite sound like it did on the recordings I had listened to. Singer and guitarist, Walter Jerk, had a much more whiney voice than what came through on their recorded music, more stereotypical of a band of this genre. I didn’t like it nearly as much as I thought I might, but it wasn’t terrible… yet. “Break My Heart” seemed filled with the usual teenage angst, and the following song was when things started to deteriorate in my opinion. While Walters’ voice was far from great, he had sounded good thus far, before falling flat in the midst of their next song and he never recovered. On top of that, upon finishing that song he said how lame everyone was for not being more into the music. I’m sorry, but I don’t like when a band insults the crowd like that. It doesn’t make them like the band more, and for me, it puts you in a place there’s no coming back from. Things continued getting worse over the next several songs, to the point one guy was even heckling the band, and Walter wasn’t going to take it. “…That’s a nice polo shirt you got on, dude. Why don’t you pop the collar up?” I have to admit, that was funny, and sadly the highlight of their set as they ended their 30-minute set with a butchered cover The Who’s “My Generation”.
By that time they had played at least ten minutes too long, and I really couldn’t find any good quality about the band. They didn’t even seem all that cohesive.
No, I didn’t think much about them, but if you want to listen to their music, they have to EP’s available on BANDCAMP.
Luckily, things got better with Afterburn, a band from Suffolk New York whose members are all part of the FDNY.
They began with their song “Here Now”, which ,made them out to be your typical Rock/Hard Rock band, but there’s nothing wrong with that if you do it well. Joe Martin did a sweet guitar solo during the song, and the rest of the band, drummer, Mike Gallino, bassist, John Lopez, and vocalist, Rich Appenzeller, were in good form, too, as they cranked out the song, soon moving on to “To the Grave”. Afterwards, Rich made a little speech about being out here and seeing great music, before more instructing everyone to “…go home and fuck…” at the end of the night. Seemed like an odd tangent in a way, but whatever works. I saw their next couple of songs, and while enjoying them, I’m not gonna lie, the lyrical content got repetitive, as they all were about a girl and fit the typical mold. I guess that would make it generic, but it was an all right generic.
The reason I only caught a portion of their set was because at eight there was a singer/songwriter from Nashville playing the upstairs portion of Amped, and her name was Dylan Taylor.
It was pretty empty in the modern looking venue, making her 42-minute long set feel almost like a private performance. The first song she did was “Kiss Ya Right Back”, which was more or less a typical love song, and while I hate to draw comparisons between acts, this song was almost Taylor Swiftesque. That was the only song she did that you could say that about, though, and the mood got a little darker in a way with “Dirty Detox”, which was the complete opposite of that more up-tempo song she started with, making things a little more real and raw. After finishing it, she shared an anecdote about some neighbors in her apartment in complex who “hotbox” their apartment as she put it with all the weed they smoke. “…If you want to do it that’s fine, but don’t advertise it…” she said. It didn’t get much of a reaction after she finished it all, so she moved on to a newer song, “Whiskey Jaded”. Those songs proved she wasn’t nearly as innocent as that first song made her out to be, and she continued down that path saying she wrote her next song when she was sick and had time to think about things. The song was about herpes, and aptly titled “STD”. Honestly, I had my doubts that you could make a quality song about something like that, yet “STD” managed to tell a story, covering everything from a guy contracting it, to passing it on and even the girl getting pregnant. Best of all, it was told with several humorous lines, like, “…You fucked the wrong dick and now it’s too late…” and “…But he’s gonna hate you every day, ‘cause that shit don’t discriminate…”, referring to the child. It’s definitely a classic, as was her next song, “Bitch Be Ready”, whose title alone is probably pretty self-explanatory, and afterwards she got a little more serious with “Whisky Man”, whose lyrics were far more poignant and made the atmosphere a little somber. “I Like That” was the next song Dylan played, which she set up as being a song about “…liking a boy who likes all the wrong things…”. “Cigarettes and nicotine, caught drinking. Yeah, he’s got tattoos all over his back…” she crooned on the first line. Once it was over, she said, “I wrote that at fifteen, and that’s when momma knew there was a problem.” She then added, “…She hasn’t even seen my newest tattoo yet…”, seeming just a little apprehensive about that. She did a couple more newer songs, one of which was called “Shooting Star”, while the other she said was about her family, saying that one side of her ancestors had a very rich history and were into the arts and such. “…But they’re all dead now…” she said, saying all she had left was the redneck side of her family, mentioning how closed-minded they are. It was another kinda funny song, and probably one most everyone can relate to, and that led her to the final song of her set, “Lie to Me”, which is also the last song on her self-titled record.
By listening to her music it’s obvious she’s a incredibly talented singer/songwriter who has a real knack for this. She’s got a great voice, and throughout all the songs had a certain cheerful and sweet quality to her voice, even while singing a song like “Bitch Be Ready”. But best of all, you could tell the difference between her older songs and the newer stuff, as there was a little more substance to them. And I still think a truly great musician/band is one who is continuously evolving, and makes it evident in their music.
You can get a free download of most of Dylan’s EP over on NOISETRADE, and to purchase the couple of tracks that aren’t on it, simply go to ITUNES.
Oh, and for the record, she is nothing like Taylor Swift. If anything she’s the anti-Swift, and I mean that in the best possible way, because the music industry needs more creative, edgy songs, rather than the same old generic BS.
I had tried (and successfully at that) to not see many Dallas area bands down here, but another that had to be on the list was SpaceCamp, who was going to play Darwin’s at nine.
It was about ten minutes till, so I figured I had plenty of time, but by the time I made it to Darwin’s and walked in, I realized they had already started.
They were some in the midst of “The Dancer”, which I believe was also the song that acoustic guitarist and co-singer, Paco Estrada, added a few lines of “Never Gonna Dance Again” to. Another track from their “The Daydreamers Guide to: Wasting Time” EP came next, and it was the one that is essentially the bands anthem, “Reach for the Sun”. “…Let the drive start taking over beyond the talent that you’re born with. Amateurs to great composers, captains approaching oceans, stay afloat and keep hope close. Unless you try, you’ll never know so go.” rapped vocalist, Jeremy Rodriguez, spitting out the lines with ease, before Paco took over on the chorus, “Go and reach for the sun, reach for the sun. It’s what you were born to do…” They didn’t have much room on stage, but Jeremy made the best of it, and bounced up and down while finishing up the second verse. After finishing it, Jeremy told everyone who they were, adding something to the effect of, “We came all the way from Dallas and had to drive 4 whole hours to get here.”, acting like it had been an arduous journey. You could tell he was joking about it, as they moved on to one of their newer songs, “Dancing With The Devil”, which is a little slower and has a nice, steady beat supplied by AJ Blackleaf, which was aided by bassist, Joel Bailey. It was the first time I’d heard that one live, and it was even better than what I was expecting. Guitarist, Mike Dove, started them in on another track, slowly plucking at the strings on his guitar at first, quickly coming together and making the almost triumphant notes that are the essence of “White Horses”. “So, you might know this next song…” said Jeremy after finishing up their previous tune. “…Has anyone heard of an artist called Jay-Z?” The people seemed excited by that, as the Alt/Hip-Hop band launched into a cover of “Ain’t No Love”. Now, I’m not a real of true Hip-Hop, like Jay-Z for instance, but I really enjoyed SpaceCamp’s version, which, like all their other songs, saw Paco singing parts of it, specifically the chorus, “Ain’t no love in the heart of the city…”. It seemed like I hadn’t been there but ten minutes (though I know it was longer), and now the band was getting ready to wrap up their set. Jeremy mentioned this final song he thought was the best song he’s ever written, noting it is his personal favorite, and also stating that it’s a beautiful song. Paco then asked if him if he might cry before it was all over. “I might.” Jeremy responded, to which Paco replied, mainly speaking to the crowd, “If he doesn’t cry during this song, I don’t think he’s even human.” The song they spoke of was “Before you Die”, a song that by all means should make you stop and think, and will most likely also paint vivid picture in your mind. The chorus, “I will be the last thing that you see before you die. I will be the last thing on your mind. I touched you once you burn me twice…”, is the most beautiful part of the song in my opinion, but Jeremy does an excellent job at rattling off several events, like, “…The person that you loved forever but you never told them. The one you lie to everyday and hope they’ll never notice. Will it be the last one that you kissed upon the lips? Or the last opportunity you missed doing this?…”, that could possibly be your final thoughts. No one was in tears at the end of it, but it surely had everyone deep in thought.
I’d only seen them once before this (since their live shows are somewhat of a rarity), and you could see the improvements.
They’ve tightened up since last July, and were more cohesive, especially the core group of Mike, Paco and Jeremy. It was also nice to see them with some room on stage, verses the other show I caught, where they literally had almost no room to move, and discover that they can put on a really good live show.
I thought it was a great set, and I absolutely love this band, simply because they are so different. Yes, they have some Rap/Hip-Hop influences, but it’s not purely that genre, and is a little different from anything else I’ve ever heard. Plus, in their own way, they’re kind of a super group, with each of them having been fixtures in the Dallas music scene for many years, or in Paco’s case, for at least the last decade.
You can find their EP on either ITUNES or BANDCAMP, and if you want to check out their three newer singles, watch the videos over on their YOUTUBE CHANNEL.
The festival was in its final hours at this point, and to I returned to the Heart of Texas Rockfest to close out the night.
This evening, the festival had a little section devoted entirely to the women of rock, featuring a handful of female fronted bands, and when I got there the Los Angeles based LA Velvet was about to start.
They kicked their 28-minute long set with “Set Me Free”, and as much as it was a rock song, it also had a pop vibe to I. Not like your standard Rock/Pop music though, it was different, and a sound all their own. They followed it with “Don’t Push It”, another track from their 2011 record, “The One I Love”, which continued the primal, sultry themes established by their opener, which just so happened to be a trait most of their music had. That was also accentuated by singer and guitarist, Laura V’s accent (I don’t recall what country she said she was from, though I want to say it was somewhere in South America. My apologies if I’m wrong.) After another number, Laura ditched her guitar for a couple songs. She sauntered around the stage during the almost dance type song, “You Make My Heart Stop Beating”, while guitarist and bassist, Staffan Osterlind and Nate Benz, respectively, thrashed around to Ryan Propoggio’s solid drumming, really getting into the song. Things got more fun with their next one, “I’m Addicted to Your Love”, which was more of a sing along on the chorus, as Laura belted out the phrase that is the song’s title, and there was also a killer solo from Staffan on this one, too. Afterwards, Laura picked her guitar back up and took a moment to formally introduce her band mates and herself to the audience. It was also at this time that Ryan tried to get them to deviate from their setlist, saying they were going to end by doing a song that they rarely play. “No we’re not…” Laura said, adding, “…We’ve saved the best for last…” That left me curious as to what song Ryan was wanting to play, but after hearing “Down and Dirty”, I don’t think they could have done anything that could have been better than it.
They’re an excellent band and put on a great live show that seemed to have most of the crowd very entertained.
Like I touched on, their sound was more unique than most bands, and is something more completely their own. It’s a little rock, a little pop and (especially on their recorded stuff) there’s even some techno elements. That makes it different and standout, which in turn makes sure the band leaves an impression.
I really enjoyed, even more than I thought I would, and I would suggest checking out their albums in ITUNES.
Another band from LA, Raushi, was ready to go on the other stage, and drummer, Johny Pistol, got them started on their first song, a catchy number titled “Don’t Call Me”, before the guitarists and bassist soon exploded into it. It was a high-energy song, and the band members matched the intensity of the song, covering every inch of the stage, and vocalist, Dani Raushi, did a lot of interacting with the crowd from the get go. As they started their next song, “Everything You Love to Hate”, I realized the guys of Triple SP where back stage just hanging out and went over and talked to them for a few minutes. I think I missed out on about two songs, and as I made my way back to the stage, I heard Dani saying, “…I’m not bi-curious, I’m bi-serious.” That was their segue into their next song, and I assume that made more sense when it wasn’t just heard out of context. You could tell she, guitarists, Jack Sin and Brett Bakman, bassist, Beau Ashley, and Johny were serious about what they were doing, though, and they managed to get more into over the course of their next couple of songs before finishing their 24-minute long set with the powerful rocker, “Over the Edge”.
Their live show was really great, and that’s definitely where it is with Raushi. That’s not to say their music isn’t good, but it’s your standard Rock/Pop stuff, which they happen to pull off rather well.
You can find their album “High Tides Collide” in ITUNES, and if anyone lives in Oakland, CA, catch them at The Stork on June 5th.
The next band up was Diemonds all the way from Toronto, and this hard and heavy quintet tore out of the gates with the somewhat suggestive, “Trick or Treat”. It was filled with blazing riffs and pulse pounding beats, which not only seemed to draw everyone in, but also established the bands fierce attitude. “Loud N’ Nasty” was just that, with some dirtied up chords, played by bassist, Tommy Cee, and guitarists, C.C. Diemond and Daniel Dekay, who cranked out the song with a passion, eventually segueing it into “Get the Fuck Outta Here”, which was really started by drummer, Aiden Tranquada. “…I gotta get the fuck out of here. Leave it all behind. Pack it up and get out of here…” sang vocalist, Priya Panda, on the chorus, pushing her voice to somewhat of a snarl, which fit the song well. They followed it with the quick, fast paced “Livin’ Tonight”, and then “Mystery”, which, like all their other songs, had a certain sense of urgency to it. Afterwards, Aiden performed a short drum solo, which led them into a song from their “In the Rough” EP, “Highway”, during which C.C. and Daniel had a dueling guitar solo, literally. The two acted as if they were getting into a fight right there on stage, which was really made believable when one spit on the other, then one played a few notes, while the other remarked with some more riffs, and that went back and forth for a moment, before they returned to the song and finished it up. Their 30-minute set was almost over now, but they had a special treat for everyone for their final song. The audience got ecstatic upon hearing the band shouting, “Oi, oi, oi…”, chanting right along with them as they started up a cover of the AC/DC classic, “T.N.T.”. I’m pretty certain I’ve never heard a female fronted band cover that song before, but Priya put just as much raw energy into as Bon Scott did… Maybe even a little more. Their version was spectacular, and leaving the crowd with a song they were familiar with seemed like a good move, because everybody seemed to be wanting more.
As I said, their songs had a sense of urgency to them, like they were on a mission. Presumably that mission was to put on a memorable show and win over some new fans, in which case they succeeded.
They were serious about it all, but not overly so, and you could tell they planned on and did leave it all out on the stage.
Killer band, and one you definitely should check out.
They have an LP and an EP available in ITUNES, and to see al their upcoming tour dates, go HERE.
Dead Lotus Society was up next, and I had an inkling that I wouldn’t much care for them, not just by the way they looked, but also by how the band name on their banner was written, which looked extremely metal.
Sure enough, they were metal, and very heavy metal at that. Vocalist, Hyatt Llorona, did way too much screaming for my tastes, but I had no clue what else was going on, so I stuck it out for awhile, waiting for midnight which was when the night owl bus service started.
I just simply don’t like that style of music, it’s just how I am, and while I’m not going to criticize them or anything, Hyatt did say one thing I disagreed with. A few songs into their set several people walked away from the stage, and after finishing one song, she pointed that out. “…It’s okay, some people just don’t like to be brought out of their comfort zones…” she said., like that was what it was. It’s not, though, it’s that people don’t want to listen to what they consider to be terrible music. I know, because I listened to them and the whole time kind of wished I had an ice pick to bust my eardrums with.
Point is, it has nothing to do with people wanting to stay in their comfort zones and everything with each individuals musical preferences.
Well, that was it, the end of the night and my few days at SXSW.
So, what are my thoughts of the music festival…
Well, I thought that if I had the extra cash one year I would get an official SXSW badge/wristband, but after this experience, I can say I would never waste money on that.
For starters, most of the bands that do play the official shows will most likely tour back through the area soon. Now, I didn’t even pay attention to what bands were playing the official showcases, but I’ll use the band Paramore as an example. Sure, it’d be cool to see them in a intimate club setting rather than an arena, but why when you can see them do the exact same show and then some probably within the next twelve months?
I saw lines outside some of the venues forming in the mid afternoon, three hours or more before the bands were supposed to start, and the people were just sitting on the sidewalk, in my opinion wasting time to see bands that they’ve essentially been told to like by mainstream radio.
And during those, say, three hours spent waiting in line, they could have seen at least six bands at the Heart of Texas Rockfest. Bands that were every bit as great as the major label band they were probably waiting to see.
I think I mentioned something like this in my review of my first day here in Austin, but I looked at this as a chance to see bands I’d never seen before. Some of them I had heard of awhile ago online, others I didn’t even know existed until browsing all the bands playing the free stuff, but I just wanted to see bands I hadn’t seen before and may well not see again. See, I’ve been a fan of local music long enough to know bands come and go, breaking up when they seem to be at the top of their game, and the sad truth is some of the bands I saw this year may not even be together a year from now.
But I digress. The actual SXSW is too commercialized, and I’ve heard plenty of other people say the same thing. It’s your Red Gorilla Music Festivals and your Heart of Texas Rockfest’s that are keeping the spirit of the original SXSW alive in showcasing local talent from across the world, and I feel those are the festivals you need to attend.
Yeah, that’s my little rant. I guess the main point I’m wanting to make is if you go to SXSW in future years, make a point to check out at least some of the bands playing those two free festivals I mentioned along with the official SXSW shows. Who knows, you might discover your next favorite band, and I know I stumbled across plenty of gems in just two and a half days.
Now, to anxiously await March 2014. I know I’ll definitely return to Austin to bombard my ears with all the musical greatness, and hopefully for the full week, too. Oh, and hopefully my voice won’t fail me then, ‘cause I imagine it would have been much more enjoyable if I had been able to talk.
My dad and I then made our way back to the Heart of Texas Rockfest, where the Pittsburgh, PA based band, Lovebettie, was getting ready to rock the stage.
Why not make the last of my two and a half days in Austin the longest day of all? That way I could cram in as much live music as possible before heading back to Dallas.
So, instead of heading downtown in the early afternoon like the previous days, my dad and I journeyed down there in the late morning, arriving at Whole Foods shortly after eleven.
Yes, that is the Whole Foods store that sells natural and organic foods, and on the rooftop of the store (which was a nice patio area that even had a small playground area for kids) Quantum Collective and Amazon MP3 were presenting a showcase dubbed the Southwest Invasion.
It was an odd setting for a concert, but hey, whatever works.
The bands had started even earlier than when my dad and I arrived, and stumbled across a gem of a band from Echo Park, California, named Rainbow Jackson. They were essentially done, only having a few songs left to do, but what I heard was sensational.
They are self-described as scuzzed-up power pop, and while that is accurate, they could just as easily be considered rock ‘n’ roll. There was also somewhat of a dreamy quality added to it by Sam Dagger and Chad Carlisle, the lead guitarist and singer and rhythm guitarist, respectively, giving a slight 60’s vibe to the music. And speaking of Chad, he has an amazing set of pipes. Just an all around incredible voice.
I wish I had been able to see more of the bands set, or even another show or two they undoubtedly played while here in Austin.
They have an EP and a single available on their BANDCAMP PAGE, and I should mention both are free to get, so go download them.
The Royalty was up next, and after hearing many good things about this El Paso, Texas based band, I was excited to finally get to see a show.
Their brief 19-minute long set focused entirely on their 2012 full-length, “Lovers”, and they began with “Other Boys”. That song (and their music in general) also had a dreamy quality to it, only in the indie rock vein, and came courtesy largely of keyboard player, Daniel Marin. Fitting perfectly with it was the sweet and even soulful voice of singer, Nicole Boudreau, as she sang about a love gone by. Things got pushed a little closer to the rock realm with “Say the Word”, and allowed guitarist, Jesus Apodaca, bassist, Mike Hernandez, and drummer, Joel Quintana, to get more into it and rock out, while Nicoles’ voice soared on the chorus, “Just say the word and I would never leave, I would never leave you…” “This next song is called I Want You.” Nicole said, which was about the extent of the talking she did, aside from announcing who they were, as they had to rush through their set. After that catchy, up-tempo number, they did “Please Lie”, which is a genius blend of multiple more nostalgic styles of music, with a bit of a modern twist. I would have loved if they could have played an additional twenty minutes, because I was really caught up in the music, but by now their time was almost up, and as Jesus and Mike swapped out instruments, Nicole set up their final song, which was their single, “Bartender”, which arguable was the best song of their set.
Even with a short set, the band still lived up to what praise I had heard, as well as my expectations just from listening to the music.
They are unlike anything else I’ve heard, and while it could be easy to say they’re simply a pop band upon first listen, they’re really much more complex. As it says on their bio on Facebook, some of their influences are the “…girl-groups of the Motown and Spector era…” which is evident, and predominantly is manifested in Nicoles’ unique voice. It’s not just the range she has that is remarkable, but the fact that she can have a soulful quality to her singing when needed, or can even fit into that Motown genre with ease.
They’re a very talented group, whose already got some good accomplishments under their belt, including having their music featured on numerous television shows, and with a show and sound like this, I imagine that momentum will only continue. So go see them now, while they’re still relatively unknown, and you can catch them in a more intimate setting.
They don’t have any tour dates on the books right now, but just keep an eye open, and check out both of their albums in either ITUNES or BANDCAMP.
After them was one of the bigger name acts playing this day party, and that was Casey Crescenzo and his group of touring musicians, collectively known as The Dear Hunter.
They got the same 19-minute long set, but as long as their songs are, they only got to play a handful of tracks, most coming from various EP’s in the Color Spectrum collection, like “Echo”, from the “Orange” EP. It worked well as an opening song, starting off slow, but quickly gaining speed, with the best moment being the instrumental break, where Casey and his five band mates, two other guitarists, a bassist and drummer, got to cut loose, and even with the tight conditions on stage, still managed to rock out. They wound it seamlessly into their next song with some mangled guitar notes that lasted for a bit, before their drummer started in, giving the song more body and revealing it to be the final track from the “Yellow” EP, “Misplaced Devotion”. It raised the already high mood exponentially, and that’s something a great band would do, start the listener off at one place, then bring them up more. Also, the harmonies on that song, as Casey and a few of the other musicians shouted, “Ooooohhhhh” repeatedly, were to die for. The oldest (and longest) song the rock/indie/progressive outfit did was “The Pimp and the Priest”, before concluding things with “Home”, which seemed like it was written to be a closing song, and provided a great ending to this brief little set where all the songs seemed to tell a small piece of a larger story.
I wouldn’t say I had actually seen a The Dear Hunter show before, but I had caught the last bit of his set last year when the band toured with Anthony Green, and since then I had been eager to see the band. I still am actually, at least a full set from them. Part of me know even regrets coming to Austin on Thursday, and wishes I had stayed in Dallas to see the headlining show that TDH did that night. But I digress…
Though short, they still put on a phenomenal performance. Caseys’ voice sounds every bit is amazing live as it does on the recordings, and that, along with his ability to pen songs that tell a story, are the two best things the band has going for them. And when you combine those with their lively performance, you get something that’s out of this world.
They recently released their latest album, “Migrant”, which they’ve been touring in support of. A few dates remain on the current tour, and can be found HERE. I hope more will be added sometime, too, and if they are, hopefully they’ll come back through Dallas. Speaking of the record, you can buy it HERE, along with their many other releases.
I had thoroughly enjoyed all those bands I’d seen here so far, but the one I was most excited to see was Erin Austin, who is probably better known by her stage moniker, OK Sweetheart.
The title track of her 2011 debut, “Home”, opened her and her bands set. It’s a infectious little tune, and during parts of it they had almost everyone clapping right along with the drumbeats, and that audience participation made things all the more fun. “Traitor” was another track from that album that made it into their abbreviated set, with Erin crooning out the lyrics, “…I keep on smiling at it all, ‘cause I’ve got something that they don’t, and wouldn’t you like to know what is…”, while banging away at the keys on her piano. They followed it with “You Let Me Down”, which is one of the best examples of the bands self-described “heartbreak pop” sound and is chock-full of emotion, then moved on to one of their many new songs, which I believe was titled “Looking”. It was really good, however I was more partial to the next and final song of their 17-minute long set, “Come Back to Me”. Erin left her piano for that one, and asked everyone to clap along to the beat for the duration of it, which she also did. It was a very solid song, and is just one more of her newer songs that has now become a favorite of mine.
There were many others I would have liked to have heard this day, too, if only they had, had the time for it. Still, it was a great set they did, and out of all the bands I saw here on top of Whole Foods, they were my personal favorite.
The touring musicians that playing alongside her were some of the best I’ve seen in OK Sweetheart, out of the few times I have seen them live. The guitarist, bassist and drummer all had good stage presence and were just great musicians. As for Erin, I’ve said this (or at least something similar to it) each time I’ve seen her and I still stick by it, she is one of the best vocalists out there, and not just in the female vocalist category, either. Her voice is heavenly, yet there’s a real force to it that will capture your attention from the first word, and keep you fascinated right up until the end of the last song.
You can find the “Home” album in ITUNES, plus a live recording of one of their newer songs “If You Let It”, which is a gorgeous, amazing song.
Afterwards, we headed towards Downtown Austin, where the majority of the action was.
The specific destination was a newer venue called Amped, which featured stages both upstairs and downstairs, and the Red Gorilla Music Festival had filled both stages with some great talent. It was here (and downstairs) that the Seattle, Washington based act, The Local Strangers, were playing.
When talking about another band I saw while down in Austin, I mentioned Noisetrade.com, and that website was also responsible for me coming across this band.
They were already playing by time we got there, but I did see the final 30-minutes of their show.
The duo of Aubrey Zoli and Matt Hart, both of whom sang and he played an acoustic guitar, were finishing up one song, then announced their next one was “Mr. Blackberry”, from their 2012 full-length, “Left for Better”. It was a short song, but was utterly astounding. Matt really utilized his guitar, using it to add a slight percussion effect to it, while Aubrey killed it with her strong, undeniable voice. “…This next song’s called Partner in Crime” Matt said, as they brought things down a little. With this more folksy song you stated to see all the layers the band has, though, as they alternated between who sang, and even harmonized at times giving the song a lovely layer, making it one of the most beautiful songs of their set. In setting up their next song, Aubrey mentioned that the day before they had played it in a church and it was little awkward. “…You’ll understand when you here it…” she said, as Matt began “Devil and a Stiff Drink”. I’m they sure they did feel a bit odd playing that song in a house of God, especially with the lyrics, some of which are, “…I don’t need no savior, don’t wanna be saved, don’t need no holy roller telling me just how I gotta behave. Just give me my Devil and a good stiff drink…” That doesn’t mean it’s not a fantastic song, though, and another good one was “Give Up the Ghost”, which transitioned the show into a slight somber mood. “Uptown” brought things back up, though, and even on this stripped down version the song still had a certain peaceful quality to it, which was only enhanced by the upbeat tone Matt had while singing. They came across as being very personable, talking to the meager crowd in between every song, and now they added a bit of a storyteller’s vibe to the show. Matt mentioned the next one was written by Aubrey, after she started watching the TV show Breaking Bad, catching up on all five seasons of the series in just a short span of time. As they said, “…It’s a lot to take in…” It was a really great song that will hopefully make it onto their next record someday, and it was also the last original one they did. In setting up their final song, they mentioned they have a full-band back in Seattle and that they do a cover of a Patty Griffin song, which is what they closed with. That song was “Forgiveness”, and they did a beautiful rendition of it.
I was truly surprised by this band, mainly because with only one instrument, and that being an acoustic instrument no less, they managed to be almost every bit as loud as a full blown electric group.
The best part however, was definitely the Americana/Folk brand of music they played and the vast range it had in every aspect, and how they could be doing a stunning song with some harmonies one moment, and then switch gears to something that really packed a punch. Switching it up like that ensured that they never got monotonous and always kept the attention of the crowd… Well, that and the stellar voices each Matt and Aubrey possessed.
You can find both of their records in either ITUNES or BANDCAMP, so give them a listen. They also have some shows coming up, so check out their TOUR DATES for a complete list.
The Heart of Texas Rockfest was the next destination, mainly because if I didn’t have anything listed at a specific time, why not go there and see who was playing. And the band setting up on stage was one I had seen Thursday after first getting down here, Love and a .38.
Singer, Ryan Hudson, started the Los Angeles based bands set with a joke, saying they were about to do a show of nothing but “Freebird”. Danny Excess then launched the band into “Shots at Sunset”, while Ryan thrashed about to the music before having to start singing. His voice was a little (or a lot) worse for wear compared to the other day, especially on the chorus, “Lights at midnight, halfway home…”, where he almost fell completely flat. I can’t fault him, after all, a song or two in he mentioned they had done “a million shows” in four days. “…At least it feels like it.” He added. Unfortunately, that’s a side effect of playing multiple shows in a day, and after seeing them the other night, I know what they’re capable of when they’re at one hundred percent. “”This next song is called Lovely Lies.” He said, as his band mates edged into the killer rock song. “…This next song is our most Texas song…” he announced after they finished the last song, then looked at the rest of the band to see if they agreed. “It’s not really about Texas…” he clarified, “…But it’s our most Texas song…” The song was “Just a Woman”, and Domo Domaracki helped get it going, with the almost bluesy notes he cranked out on his guitar. They followed it with their all out rock song “Rock ‘n Lola”, which really allowed bassist, Justin Emord, and Danny to let loose and roam about the stage and shredding on their instruments. With that, their short 21-minute set was almost up, but not before their cover of a rock classic. “…I know it’s night, but we’re gonna do this song anyway, just because it’s fun…’ Ryan stated, segueing them into “Sunglasses at Night”, which they do a great cover of, even with Ryan having an off day.
Honestly, no, they weren’t as good this time around as the other show of theirs I had caught, and I think I made the reason for that clear. But despite being his voice being shot, Ryan still acted like a professional frontman, and gave it his all singing, not trying to half-ass it or anything. And regardless, music wise, they still sounded excellent.
You can find the EP they have in ITUNES, along with enough singles to make another EP. And one of those singles is “Sunglasses at Night”.
As soon as they finished, it was on to Peckerheads, where Civil Twilight was getting ready to play a set.
Despite the band being a fairly big name act, I hadn’t even heard of them until seeing they were playing another free show down here, then decided to catch this one at Peckerheads instead.
The four-piece band, who originated from Cape Town, South Africa, was still setting up when we got there, and had amassed quite the crowd, all of whom seemed eager for the band to start.
They began their 25-minute long set with the explosive “Soldier”, and I liked how it eased you in. Kevin Dailey’s keyboard playing and the notes guitarist, Andrew McKellar, churned out, while soft, were more than enough to reel you in. It was the chorus where the song suddenly sprang to live, though, as singer and bassist, Steven McKellar, shouted, “…I don’t stop ‘til the end of the show I don’t stop ‘til my country says so I don’t know why I raise this hell I’m just a soldier, fighting for someone else…” The craftsmanship that went into the song was very noticeable live, and I loved the nice ebb and flow it had, which kept you fascinated throughout it. To say I was hooked would be an understatement. They slowed things down a little with another track from their self-titled album, Trouble”. It was on that one where the band, and in particular Steven’s voice, reminded me a lot of U2 and their frontman, Bono. It didn’t come across like they were trying to emulate that band, but regardless, that’s not a bad group to sound like. Steven set up their next song, saying that a fan had requested it, and went into a little speech about how when someone does request a song, a band should play it, because that’s such a huge compliment that someone does know the song and likes it so much. That was the gist of it, anyway, and earned Civil Twilight a lot of respect in my book. I’ve seen and heard stories of other bands who cuss at fans for requesting a song, so it’s nice to see a band that appreciates their fans enough that they’ll honor a request. The song was “Quiet In My Town”, which was the longest and most beautiful song of their set. “Today I heard that someone left this earth, that someone disappeared, left no mark here. Today I heard that someone just got up and left himself lying on the ground…” crooned Steven, who had switched out to a guitar for this song, or at least part of it. The somber mood it set conveyed the sadness perfectly, and was even beautiful in a sense, before transitioning into a full-scale rock song, when Steven got his bass back and Richard Wouters began pounding out the beats on the drums. The band wrote something else when they did that song, and it truly is a masterpiece. That brought them to the final song of their set, and saw Steven take over the keyboard duties, while Kevin got his bass in order to do “Letters From the Sky”. What really set this song off was Andrew playing his guitar with a bow, like how a violinist does, adding a pretty texture to the song, which also started out rather tranquil, but eventually became a force to be reckoned with.
That was it, and they started working to get their gear off stage, while some fans screamed, “But you have to play River!” The guys shrugged it off at first, but then looked at the sound guy, like they might do it if they had time. “I’m sorry, we’re out of time.” Steven informed the audience, and he seemed very genuine with that, seeming sorry that they couldn’t do this other song so many people wanted to hear.
I’m perfectly happy with what they did, though, and while more would have been nice, it was an amazing set they did nonetheless.
What I enjoyed most about them was how each song tells an actual story. There’s true depth and meaning to their music, which sadly doesn’t always seem to be a key factor in music these days.
They have a few festival shows happening this summer, one of which will be in Chattanooga, Tennessee in June, and the other will take place in July in Cincinnati, Ohio. Check out their TOUR DATES page for full info, and also head over to ITUNES and check out their two records.
As soon as they finished it was down the stairs and out the doors, making our way to The Dizzy Rooster where a Chicago based band, Hessler, was scheduled to be just starting.
They were indeed in full swing, and there were plenty of other people who wanted to see the band as well, making it hard to even push through the crowd to get back to where the stage was.
After finishing up the song they were on, they announced the next one was “Kamikazi”, which comes from their debut EP, “Bad Blood”. The slick guitar notes and rapid, loud drumbeats at the start made it an easy song to headbang to, but they really kicked it up several notches once Lariyah Daniels started singing. She, guitarists, Igz Kincaid and Frankie Sripada, and bassist, Erik Michael, ran all over the stage, not letting the tight, close conditions on stage restrict them in the least. That made it quickly apparent that the live show was where these guys excelled and that this was going to be an assault on all the senses. After powering through another song, they moved on to the darker, “Confessions”. There seemed to be a little more grit, piss and vinegar in Lariyah’s singing on this song than the others, especially on the last verse, “…Come to me, come to me, deadly sins. Raise your glass and let’s see who wins. I am my own God and I know it well, I forgive you father and I’ll see you in hell…” “This one’s called Taste the Lips.” Lariyah said, shortly after finishing the last song, as they kept things moving right along with another adrenaline pumping hard rock/metal song. Igz and Frankie had been adding some backing vocals periodically throughout those previous songs, but now Igz assumed more of the lead role on “Wicked World”. His voice was better than I was expecting, but the best part I thought was the way his voice intertwined with Lariyahs’ on this more co-sung track. “Rising Sign” was one of their most exhilarating songs of their set, and also featured one of the coolest and most memorable things I’ve ever seen a band do. Frankie and Igz took the center stage for some guitar solos, but they didn’t do it in the ordinary way. Each moved their guitar to their back, then each bent over, interlocking in a way. The way they did it, Frankie was facing the drum kit and Igz the crowd, and he played Frankie’s guitar like that, before they did a 180 so Frankie was facing the audience, doing a solo on Igzs’ guitar. Once they brought that song to an end, they did another from their EP, “Windy City Wild Child”, before concluding, I think, with “Last Alive” Or at least the crowd thought they were concluding the show. “Do y’all want to hear one more?!” Igz screamed, which was greeted with a good deal of fanfare, but the sound guy didn’t seem to approve. “Y’all need to make it quick.” He said. They did, and Igz screamed out the title of this last song, which was “Shark Attack”, and truly was the best way to end this memorable 36-minute long set.
I mentioned in my review of the previous night that one band put on the best overall show I saw down here in Austin, but Hessler by far put on the most vigorous performance. Like I said, they still managed to tear it up, despite the small stage, and there were even a few moments where Igz stood on a barrel that sit in front of the stage, rocking out a solo, and Lariyah did the same thing during another song.
Their stage presence and energy was out of this world and they were unrelenting with it. Definitely one of the best live acts I’ve ever seen.
The only thing with their set was I had a lot of trouble hearing the vocals, which were overpowered by all the instruments. I could understand bit and pieces, but I would have loved the show even more if they had really been audible.
Go, check out the band. You can find both of their albums and a single in ITUNES. Also, they will apparently be playing one day of Rocklahoma in Pryor, OK in late May. So if you plan on attending, check out Hessler. And for all their dates, go HERE.
Waterloo Records was the next stop, and getting there required walking several blocks west, arriving there about ten minutes after five.
Dawes was scheduled to start at five, and sure enough were already into their set. The parking lot outside of Waterloo was packed, though, and a spot with a good view of the stage was next to impossible to find, which resulted in not having a view of this Americana/Folk band.
“My Way Back Home” was the first song I heard them do, and was a good introduction to the band. I’d heard of them, but had never listened to their stuff before this, so I didn’t really know what they sounded like, but after hearing it, I loved it. They have the perfect Alt/Country/Americana/Folk sound, and Taylor Goldsmiths’ voice was built to sing it, as was demonstrated on their next song, “Someone Will”, from their newest album. They followed it with the final song from the “Nothing Is Wrong” album, “A Little Bit of Everything”, whose lyrics make you take pause and think about life, at least it did for me, and is one of the best story songs I’ve heard in a long time. “Fire Away” came next, and was unexpectedly the last song of their set, and upon finishing it Taylor apologized, simply saying they had evidently ran out of time. Thing was, he seemed as shocked as the fans were.
Especially after hearing them I was hoping for a little longer set than that, but what a taste this was. I’m definitely now a Dawes fan, and hopefully will be able to check out their show at Gexa Energy Pavilion in Dallas on June 1st, as part of the KXT Summer Cut concert, which will feature a ton of other awesome bands, both national and local Dallas bands. Dawes will also be on tour in support of their new album, so check out their TOUR DATES for list of where they’ll be. You can also of course find all of their records in ITUNES.
Now it was time to make the hike back to downtown to start winding down this day…
(Check out the remaining post about my SXSW experience, which will be posted on April 19th.)
After that, it was time to head to another venue, Easy Beat, where Sorted Noise had put together a day party, and capping it off was the Dallas based, Sleeperstar.
I hadn’t seen them in way too long, so why not catch a free show from them?
First off, the venue, Easy Beat, was billed as being a new joint, and indeed it was. So new in fact, it was just bare bones, no sheet rock on the walls or anything, just the wood.
That didn’t pose a problem for the band, though, who was quickly setting their gear up.
They’ve kept their opening number the same, which is fine by me, and after a mixture of light guitar, bass and keyboard notes and some softer beats on the drums, Chris Pearson went from singing this little “intro” of sorts to the first actual song of their set, “We Go Tonight (Say It Again)”. “Even if you’ve heard it enough say, say it again…” he sang, while the music started to quickly build. The high energy track makes for an ideal opening song, setting somewhat of a hopeful mood as well. Once it was finished, Chris asked how many people in attendance had heard of them before. Just guessing, there was easily one hundred people there, possible more, and quite a few hands shot up in the air. “Wow! That’s honestly a lot more than I was expecting…” he said surprised, and thanked everyone for coming out. He went on to quickly say that they had initially passed up some offers to play during SXSW, but once they got the call from Sorted Noise and heard what they were putting together they wanted to be a part of it. He sped through all that, since they had a limited amount of time on stage, then told everyone they were going to do their upcoming radio single, “Replay”. It has that catchy little hook that all radio singles need, specifically on the chorus, “…The never loved you, they always runaway. Did I ever know you? This is not a new way, this is just a replay…” The ebb and flow of the song is great, too, swelling on each chorus when the guitar and keys, played by Nick Box and Jake Lester, respectively, then subsiding slightly on the verses. Before starting it, Chris asked everyone to give them a show of hands afterwards if they approved of it or not, and tons of hands shot up in the air, giving them a thumbs up now when he asked what everyone thought of it. He then joked, saying something like, “…If it doesn’t do well on the radio it’ll be y’alls fault then…”. He then formerly introduced some of his band mates, including Graham, who was filling in on the bass, and evidently had only rehearsed with them once. You never would have guessed it from watching him play. They then did another new track, which I think was named “Who You Gonna Be?”, and will presumably be on their next release. It was a solid song, and once it was over, Chris talked about what most people there had probably been thinking. “Yes, I aware I look like I’m twelve…” he said. “…But if I stand next to Shaun and his beard, I look cool…” he said, walking back by drummer Shaun Menary, demonstrating it. “But if I stand next to Nick, then we look like we should be in high school…” he added, moving over next to him. It’s good he can laugh at that, and even better that he doesn’t mind a roomful of people laughing along with him. Hey then got back to it with another fan favorite from their “Just Another Ghost” album, “Disengage”. This is also the song where they will usually do something to further entertain the crowd, and this show proved to be no different. Shaun kept on with a beat from the kick drum, while the rest of the band pretty much dropped out. Chris explained that they started this “game” while on tour, and when Shaun kept on with the beats, it meant he [Chris] has to do a rap. He said that since they were in Texas, he was going to do a fitting one, and even reminisced about when he first heard it, recalling his art teacher whose class he was in. After borrowing a pair of sunglasses from a guy, he proceeded to spit out part of Vanilla Ice’s “Ice, Ice Baby”, before they eventually got back to and wrapped up their song. Chris put his piano to use on their next song, but it wasn’t the crowd pleaser I was half expecting. Instead, they performed the title track of their new EP, “Blue Eyes”. It might not have been the sing along song about Texas from their LP, but “Blue Eyes” was every bit as good, and even more beautiful. They only had one song to do after that, and Chris explained the reason to everyone. “We have about thirty minutes to navigate through Whole Foods…” he realized what he said then. “Well, that would be interesting, too…” he noted, before correcting himself and saying they had that much time to navigate the streets to Whole Foods for another show. So, to conclude their 34-minute set, they first covered a portion of “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”, which eased them into “Just So You Know”, which made sure they ended on the same note they began on, a rather positive, uplifting one.
First off, this was an odd Sleeperstar show for me, simply because the handful of shows I have seen them do they’ve had enough time to do 80 to 100-minute long sets, doing a large majority of the stuff in their entire catalog. So getting such an abbreviated version of that was just strange to me.
That was the only difference, though, and the quality of the show was as good or better than it always has been.
Chris not only has an excellent voice, but I like the way how he connects with the audience, and actually makes an effort to interact with everyone. The musicianship of Jake, Shaun and Nick accounts for a lot of the show, too, really rocking out at times. Especially Nick, who is an insanely good guitarist, but stays humble about, not doing anything flashy just to showoff.
The band doesn’t have any shows listed at the moment, but when they do get back out on the road, I’d highly suggest going and seeing them, ‘cause it’s just a fun, entertaining show they put on. And until they do start touring, keep yourself busy with their albums, which can be found HERE.
After getting a bite to eat, it was back to the Heart of Texas Rockfest where the California band, 8Stops7, was just finishing up their set, and the Kansas City band, We Are Voices were getting ready to take the other stage.
To be honest, I failed to take notes on their set for whatever reason, making it harder for me to elaborate on their set. From what I recall though, I can say that they’re a really awesome indie/rock band, and what I did see of their set I thoroughly enjoyed.
Check ‘em out, or at least the two records they have for sale in ITUNES.
About ten minutes till eight we left and headed for the Thirsty Nickel and some more Red Gorilla Music Festival goodness, where Vajra, who had come all the way from NYC, was getting ready to go on.
Oddly enough, I discovered the band last year through MusicSubmit.com, and was excited to be seeing them live.
The band’s music is an interesting mix of melodic, progressive rock, with a certain dark quality to it, as well as having some Eastern Indian themes, all of which were on full display during their opening song, “The Apple”. It’s an interesting blend of genre’s for sure, but it was completely enthralling, helping make eight plus minute long song not seem nearly as lengthy as what it is. After quickly dropping the band name, vocalist, Annamaria Pinna, and her band continued with the next song, “Almost One”, which has a mesmerizing music bed that’s slow, yet strong and very melodic, and was provided by bassist, Doug Wright, drummer, Luke Markham, and guitarist, Will Dahl. After finishing up that semi long track, Annamaria removed the cloak of sorts that she had on, revealing the more skimpy attire she had on underneath, as they proceeded on to “Blind”. I had enjoyed the unique sound that the previous songs had, and this one did include some of those same elements, but above all it was a real Rock song that pulled you in with its intensity and was one you could rock out to while Annamaria belted out the chorus, “…Don’t ask me why you’re blind to that truth. Don’t ask me why, just pocket the awful truth…” They kept up that pace with another single from the “Pleroma” album, “Erode The Will”, which just escalated things, leading to the culminating point of the show and the final song of their 30 minute set, “Inside The Flame”. They really had saved the best for last, and that song is a beast all its own, especially on the chorus, “…Wash, washing you away. You’ll see what I see, you’ll say what I want you to say. Pray for your existence, keep your distance, meet you inside that flame…”, which suddenly became rather eerie at one point when Annamaria started to whisper it.
I must say, as good as their music is on the album, it’s something totally different live. It comes across with more force, and is really something to behold.
The stage at the Thirsty Nickel isn’t the biggest, which kept the band members confined to their spots, but the music more than made up for it. It really is unlike anything I’ve heard before, even if it is in more subtle ways, it still sets it apart from most other bands. Also, Annamaria has a really good vocal range, most of the time singing in a more normal tone, but when required to, she could really dig deep and pull out a booming voice.
If you live in New York, go see one of their shows sometime. If not, well, you can get a free download of “Inside the Flame” on the bands REVERBNATION PAGE, and if you like that, go buy the full album, “Pleroma”, in ITUNES or BANDCAMP.
My dad and I headed right back around the corner after that to the Heart of Texas Rockfest, where We the Ghost was supposed to be starting, but they had gotten a little behind schedule, so instead of starting at 8:30, it was more like 8:40 when they got going. I hated it, ‘cause it meant I wouldn’t get to see but the first couple of songs, but at least I had seen the band exactly one week before when they played Dallas.
I really hated to miss this, though, because for the first time that I’ve ever seen them they had the complete band, which boasts a whooping seven members.
The opened with the standard, “Your Remedy”, which was given a multitude of new layers, simply by adding in violinist, Jocelyn Rowland , and the extra percussionist, Dain Samuelson, who plays a Djembe. I’ve said before that, that is my favorite song of the bands, and it sounded better than ever now. They wound it right into “She’s Gonna Fly Again”, where singer and acoustic guitarist, Beau Tyler, really gives the song a bit of a reggae vibe, just in the way he sings the lyrics.
That was all I was able to see, but part of me wanted to stick around for the rest of the set. I guess I’ll just have to hope that they can bring the full band to Dallas sometime soon, ‘cause I’d love to experience a full set with all the members of this stellar group.
They have two EP’s available in ITUNES, and if you like infectious music that will stick with you and leave an impression, you should check them out. They also have some dates booked in Oklahoma and Arkansas, as well as some festivals they’ll be playing in Las Vegas and New York, so visit their REVERBNATION PAGE for all the info.
It was a little before nine at this point, and I wanted to make sure we had plenty of time to get over to The Blind Pig, where Tommy and the High Pilots were another one of the many bands playing the Red Gorilla Music Festival.
The Santa Barbara, California based band was still setting up when we got there, and the upstairs patio was so packed you could barely even navigate through the people. Somehow, I managed to wind my way up to the front of the stage, though. After several minutes, they finally got everything sound checked, and they were ready to go.
The band is gearing up for the release of their new album, but luckily they still made room for a couple of staples from their previous albums, like one of my favorites, “Round N’ Round”, which kicked off their 37-minute long set. Tommy Cantillon started them off on the song with his acoustic guitar, and the chords he churned out are intoxicating to me, creating a moment of sheer bliss. “Round and round and everybody knows it. Let the people say what they want to, I don’t mind…” on each chorus, with some help from the audience, most of whom were singing right along with him. They followed it with one of their many new songs of the show, this one being called “Get Up”, before doing another from their 2009 debut, “Everynight”, which was the splendid, “Bluesy Floozie”. For the record, the beginning notes of that song are also glorious. It was another that the audience really enjoyed, singing right along with the chorus, “…I listen at your window, I listen at your wall. I listen to your footsteps. I listen to it all…”, while bassist, Steve Libby, and guitarist/keyboardist, Michael Cantillon, led everyone in clapping along to Matt Palermo’s drumbeats. Three songs in and it was already a blast, and would just continue to get better. They did another new one, “Innocent”, which before starting Tom joked was about OJ Simpson. Following it was one of the bands most stand out new tunes, “Devil to Pay”, which features some amazing harmonies from the Cantillon brothers. Tom had switched to a electric guitar by this point in the show, but now he put it down, and began setting up the next song by telling everyone a lesson he had learned several years ago while in Austin. “…There is no wrong dance move…” he told everybody, adding something like you just need to have the confidence to pull it off. He went on to say that they didn’t write this next song, all while he climbed up on some of the speakers on stage left. I had almost forgotten that the last time I saw them they were covering a Talking Heads song, and I was ecstatic that they still had it in the setlist. The song is “This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)”, and they do an incredible rendition of it, and give an uplifting quality to it. They did another newer one afterwards, “Out of My Head (And Into My Body)”, which got them to their final two songs. “Can you do one?” the sound guy asked, meaning they were running short on time. I was expecting their newest single (which was on the setlist), and after all, wouldn’t it make sense for any band promoting their upcoming album to do the lead single from it? Needless to say, I was a little shocked, but pleasantly surprised when they launched into “Where To Start” from their “American Riviera” EP. “I’m taking a bite, right out of Austin, Texas in my every way. Where everyone’s an asshole, but in the kindest way…” sang Tom on the second verse, changing up the words ever so slightly, using Texas’s capitol city instead of “The Big Apple”. As they approached the bridge, they welcomed a friend up on stage to sing it, as Allen Stone walked on stage. “Will I be depressed, when I am forty, getting horny, having no sex. Can’t catch a break I’m too damn dirty… I wish I was sixteen, I didn’t know where to start…” he sang, with Tom soon joining him, as they wrapped up the song.
I saw a lot of good bands and good show while down in Austin, but Tommy & the High Pilots take the cake as being the overall best.
Maybe it had something to do with the enormous crowd, emitting a lot of energy that the band could feed off of, but they were just on fire this night. Tom, Michael, Steve and Matt operated in perfect synch this night, being nothing short of a well-oiled machine, which also helped in making this the best High Pilots show I’ve ever seen.
They are an amazing group, and as hesitant as I am to say this, their new stuff may well be the best collection of music they’ve ever released, which is saying a lot, because their previous records are some masterpieces in their own right.
They have several more tour dates coming up all across the country, so go HERE and see if they’ll be coming to your area. As for their new record, it’ll drop in late May, so until then, check out their previous three records in ITUNES.
After their set, I managed to work my way off the rooftop, through the bar areas of the venue, eventually getting outside, where I headed back to the Heart of Texas Rockfest to finish out the night.
Liftoff, a band from Vancouver, Canada, was getting ready to take the stage here.
They had a pop/rock vibe to their music, with a radio friendly sound, and even reminded me of Green Day a little on their opening number, ‘cause singer, Carmon Leeson, just had a similar sound to his voice. They followed it with “Falling Apart”, another tune filled with catchy guitar riffs from Gord Gemmell and Michael Aaron Keith, and the drums were perfectly synched and spaced with everything (vocals, guitars, bass), giving the song an extra push. They continued with several other tracks presumably from their latest record, “Naked”, (I say presumably because I can’t find anywhere to purchase it so I would know for sure), like “Game On” and “Can’t Get My Mind Off of You”, as well as a couple of others. That put them at the final song of their 33-minute long set, “All Alone”, which was another single of theirs, and when taken out of context, the chorus, “…I’m all alone, so far away…”, fit the bands situation perfectly, making it a good closing number.
They were just a smidge more pop sounding that what I like, but I still enjoyed it, and the energetic live show they put on was really the main focal point of their set. Carmon was often jumping around and being a very good frontman, and bassist, Marc Boily, Gord and Michael were just as lively. Very good, and very fun to watch.
Shortly after they finished, I was invited to the backstage area by the good gents of Triple SP. It was a little hard to chat with them since I could barely muster a whisper, but was still very fun hanging with them for a bit.
While doing that, Treetop Sailors came and went, and Vallejo was just getting started by the time I walked back out in front of the stages.
Now, if you haven’t at least heard of Vallejo, then you must have been living under a rock, ‘cause the band has been around for over a decade now.
I had never seen them, but listened to their stuff a few years ago, and frankly, I didn’t much care for it. But now, as I was about to see a live show, I thought, “This will surely be better.”
Frankly, it wasn’t, at least not to me. I don’t really know what it was exactly, perhaps the vocals to some extent, and even the music on some level, but it just never clicked with me.
They commanded a huge crowd, and were arguable one of the biggest bands playing the festival, but I just never felt “it”. Like, the music nor the show ever grabbed me and pulled me in.
Oh well, at least I now know I just don’t care for the band. However, if you’d like to listen to their stuff, then head over to ITUNES.
After them was another band based down in Mexico. Chihuahua, Mexico to be precise, and this band also got an introduction from festival organizer, Adam Brewer.
He mentioned that they were huge down in Mexico and had even been around for over fifteen years, before giving the stage up to Seis Pistos.
They were a Latin Punk band, and didn’t play anything close to what appeals to me musically. Plus, as their singer said at one point, “…We are not so good on the English…”, which meant they performed all but one song in Spanish.
While I didn’t care for any of it from a personal standpoint, Seis Pistos was proof that music can transcend all barriers and speak to anyone, regardless of if they understand the lyrics or not. They had a large crowd of onlookers, all of whom were loving it, and you have to give some serious props to a band like this, who comes to the U.S. to play something like this, knowing full well that not everyone will speak Spanish to understand the songs, yet they still want to play them for everyone.
They might not have gained me as a fan, but they certainly gained my respect. So check them out if you wish. They have two LP’s for sale in ITUNES.
Following them on the other stage was another band who hailed from my neck of the woods… Sorta. It was Triple SP, who had traveled down here from Fort Worth.
Despite being from the same area as these guys, I’ve only seen them once, and even that wasn’t a true Triple SP, and lacked the bands true lineup, so this was going to be like seeing them for the first time ever.
“This song’s called Failure” said guitarist and singer, Derek Procter, as they started into the song from their debut album, “Transmissions”. With the roaring guitar lines and strong drumbeats supplied by Alexander Lanz, it was easy to get into it and succumb to the music… At least for me, and a few others. Maybe some of it had to do with the fact that they were a little more rock than the bands before them, but they just had a hard time getting a majority of the people actively engaged. They didn’t let that slow them down at all, though, and soon exploded into a track from the forthcoming “Disrupting the Harmony” record, “Alone”. “…Well you can be alone, or you can be led on…” Derek shouted on the chorus, shortly before guitarist, Bryan Motley, briefly stole the spotlight, tearing it up and shredding on a killer solo. “I Want it All” came next, which is another newer song and one of my favorites of the bands, with some great lyrics, “…But you can’t ignore what you’re waiting for. The end of all the pain that you feel, you’ll be the only thing that is real…”, and a dynamic rhythm section from bassist, Brian Scheid, and Alex. There was also another knock out guitar solo on that song, this time handled by Derek. I mentioned that about the crowd, and somewhere around this point in their set, Brian did what he could to excite everyone. “Give it up!” he bellowed, adding, “If not for us, than at least for Adam Brewer…” which at least got a loud response from everyone. Derek ditched his guitar for their next song, “Lost”, acting completely as a frontman, and a good one at that, as he danced about with the mic stand. That only lasted for that one song, and once he got the guitar back on, he announced that the next song they were doing was the first one they had ever written. It was the heavier, “Behind Your Back”, that he was setting up, and as it came to an end, they wound it seamlessly into the equally aggressive, “The Outsider”. By this time more people were getting drawn in by Triple SP, but they only had two songs left in their 27-minute long set. One of those two was “Symptom”, which is one of the most rocking songs in the bands arsenal, while Brian introduced their last song as, “…Being one you might now…” I didn’t recognize the cover, but whatever it was, they did do a good job on it.
Triple SP definitely brought the rock, and just as individual musicians they’re great at their craft. Both Bryan and Derek are stellar guitar players, Brian owned/killed it on the bass, and Alex was the right mix of methodical and aggressive in his drumming.
It was also good seeing a true Triple SP show. Bryan, who did what ended up being his first show with the band the first time I saw them, has definitely found his place in the group, and adds a whole other level to their live show. As for Derek, he does quite a bit of moving around every chance he gets, unlike most singers who also pull guitar duty, and has a good voice, too.
Pick up their debut album “Transmissions”, in ITUNES, and expect their new record out in just a few months (hopefully). As for shows, they have a couple coming up at their Fort Worth home, Tomcats West. One will be on Friday, April 19th, the other on May 3rd.
Thus, ended day two of my SXSW experience, and I really couldn’t think of a better way to end it than seeing a band like Triple SP.
Now it was time to go get some rest for the final (and longest) day of the trip.
(Check out the remaining posts about my SXSW experience, which will be posted on April 17th and 19th.)
Well, my first full day down in Austin got off to a rather unexpected start. As I mentioned at the end of my day one recap, I woke up this morning to discover I had completely lost my voice. Then, after getting downtown close to one, and making our way to The Jackalope, I realized the band I was wanting to see (The Tontons) had been cut from the show for one reason or another.
Instead, on the stage here was a soulful rock band from San Francisco, called The Soft White Sixties.
They were at the tail end of their set, and I think I only heard them do four songs or so, but it was an amazing few songs.
The quintet was pretty cramped on stage, but they still managed to put on a great show with quite a bit of energy. It was their sound that really got your ears attention, though, and there were traces of classic rock ‘n’ roll to it, mixed with some more modern vibes. The keys, which were occasionally played by guitarist, Aaron Eisenberg, added a lot of that older texture to the band’s sound, but there were also some riffs here and there that he and Joshua Cook did that had am old school sound. It was Octavio Generas’ voice that really set it all off, though, and there was a smooth quality to his singing.
I really enjoyed it (probably more than I would have The Tontons), and I only wish I had seen their set from start to finish.
They wound up being a very pleasant surprise to me, and in that short little time won me over as a fan.
They have a self-titled EP available on either ITUNES or BANDCAMP. Also, on their bandcamp page, you can get a couple of free downloads of newer singles they’ve released.
Once they finished, my dad and I then headed to the Heart of Texas Rockfest, where another band from San Francisco was performing.
The act was Dangermaker, and I didn’t catch but the last couple songs they did, either.
They were more along the lines of modern rock, and great modern rock at that. At least that’s my thoughts on them after listening to their records online, since I didn’t see enough of their live show to get a good idea about what they’re like.
I’d suggest giving their stuff a listen, though, so head on over to BANDCAMP and listen to/buy their albums.
Next stop of the day was the Shiner Saloon. It was located in a loft type space above another bar/restaurant, and you had to climb a pretty steep staircase to get up to it.
Evidently, a lot of people were like me and wanting to see the Austin based, Wild Child, because the Saloon was packed. Actually, it was so crowded that the band might as well have been invisible, because aside from a few second glimpse of a member or two here and there, I was unable to see anything for their entire set. No matter, I could at least hear the music.
The indie folk outfit (which performs with up to seven members, though I’m unsure how many were present for this show) began their 35-minute set with the title track from their upcoming sophomore album, “The Runaround”. In fact, the bulk of their set was newer songs, and that goes for their second tune. They haven’t changed much about the overall dynamic from the sounds of those two tracks, which is good, because the blending of Alexander Beggins and Kelsey Wilsons’ voices are what earned them so much praise in the first place. Well, that and the mix of baritone ukulele that he plays with her violin, along with the other instruments. They weren’t all about the new songs, though, and had a few old favorites mixed in, like the first song from 2011’s “Pillow Talk” record, “The Escape”. Those first two songs highlighted one of those two singers as the main one, but with this song they sang the majority of it in unison, giving it a beautiful texture. The crowd seemed to love that one, and cheered at the sound of the opening ukulele notes, and they only got more into with their next song, which was then followed by another older track. “I’ll Figure You Out” is one of my personal favorites of the bands, and I’m glad it’s one they still do. I love the contrast the song has, with the verses having a serene beauty to them and are handled by Kelsey, while Alexander is the prominent voice on each chorus, with the music shifting to a more ominous sound. They ran through a couple more new songs, both of which were excellent, before concluding things with the final track from their first album, “Tale of You & Me”. The song really does tell a tale, and since it’s one of their most up-tempo songs, it makes for a fantastic way to end a show.
I do wish I had been able to see more of them while they performed those songs, because I could have enjoyed the show even more. There’s not much you can do about that, though, and just the music alone was more than enough to enjoy.
I had only seen them once before this, about a year ago when they played in Dallas, and I loved them. This show reminded me just how incredibly talented they are, and their live show even seemed a little tighter from what I recalled.
The vocal harmonies, which even extend to some of the other musicians who also add backing vocals, are a true thing of beauty. Each song tells a story, and the music, while it may not be completely unique, I know is different from a vast majority of what’s out there.
Point is, check out Wild Child now while you can, because they don’t come across as a band who will be on the local level for too long.
You can find their first record in ITUNES, and the second album will be out sometime this year. Also, they have a show on April 26th at the Corbin J. Robertson Center at Southwestern University in Georgetown, TX as part of the Clusterfest.
After they finished, it was time to head back to the place I spent the majority of the time at while down here, the Heart of Texas Rockfest.
Mystery Schools, who was yet another band hailing from California, was getting ready to hit one of the stages there.
They were a pop rock band through and through, and their opening number, “Break Free”, was a catchy tune. The beginning caught my attention, as frontman, Tyler Gurwicz, began singing all the various words for hello in multiple languages, eventually getting to, “…So many ways to say hello, only one to say goodbye. This is forever, knowledge is key. Time is illusion, you will see…” It then kicked into high on the chorus, and oddly enough, it was Mike Cosgrove’s drumming that really stood out to me here, with a rapid yet steady series of beats, that had a little bit of thickness to them. After another song, they did another from their self-titled debut EP, “Don’t Look Back”. It proved that they have the method of writing a hook down pretty well, and also that Tyler can pen some damn fine songs in the lyric department. Collectively, they created a happy mood, and it was not to feel a little more cheerful after listening to it, and it easily could have had people dancing along, too. The song was a little more than that, though, having a dominating bass line at times, courtesy of Tim Peugh, and guitarists, Michael Anaya and Marc Martell, cranked out some emphatic notes. All that ensured it was my favorite song of their brief 22-minute long set. Afterwards, they did a couple of non album tracks, one of which Tyler stated was called “Time Bomb”, and sadly, soon after, it was time to end this performance. They had saved the best for last, however, and ended with the rip-roaring more rock song, “Wrong”. “…Be wrong tonight. In the morning we’ll decide what’s right…” sang on the chorus, in his striking voice.
It was a great way to end the show, offering a solid end to things, but also had myself, and probably others, wanting to hear more from them. And isn’t that what you want as a band, to have the people craving to hear more?
They may be a pop/rock outfit, but they are a far cry from the bands you hear on the radio that classify themselves as that. They don’t have that generic sound that’s been done a million times over, and while I wouldn’t say they’re really cutting edge, either, they do have more character to their music than most pop/rock bands.
A lot of that can be attributed to Tyler and the piercing voice he has. It’s incredible, and if you listen to any of their recorded music, then that’s exactly what you’re in for if you attend a live show. That’s not to undercut the music, though, and the two work together perfectly to strengthen one another.
First off, head over to their BANDCAMP PAGE and pickup their EP. It’s only five bucks. And if you ever have the opportunity to see them live, take it. I know I’m looking forward to seeing them again, and whenever that happens, hopefully they’ll get to play a little longer than just 22-minutes.
I had seen quite a few bands from out West so far this day, but it was time to head South with the next few bands. South of the U.S. border to be exact, with a band from Mexico City, named B-ners.
As if the band name wasn’t enough, they got started with a song called “Wetback”. Both the song title and the band name show they have a sense of humor (at least that was how I interpreted it), but they were serious about the music, in terms of the hard rock/metal sounds they created, as well as the message each song carried. For example, the chorus of that song went, “We´re not illegal we just know how to rock , we´re just some beaners with tequila in our blood. Don’t try to push me you just ran out of luck. You´re such a pussy and we don´t give a fuck.” Maybe that’s not the best example from it, but it definitely touches on some social issues. As good as the overall song was, I thought the instrumental breakdown near the end of it was the best part, when the four-piece group succumbed to the music and rocked out. After that song, singer and bassist, Daver Retto, announced, “…We are B-ners from Mexico City, Mexico!…”, he shouted excitedly, before moving on to their next song, “Fear”. Despite the title, I thought it had somewhat of a triumphant vibe to it, but they soon got back to the metal side of things with “Monster”. The guitar chords on the intro were slick and intense, kind of setting the mood for the song. The hefty drumbeats made it easy for them to cut loose, with Daver strengthening the rhythm section, while Mario Carrillo and Dan Sandoval shredded on their guitars and thrashed around on the stage. The band recently released their debut record, “Back to Mexico”, and to wind down their set they did the title track from it, which was ruled by the loud guitars, and if anyone still wasn’t feeling their set, that should have drug them right into it. They had one song left in their 20-minute set, and after briefly chatting with the crowd briefly, Daver told everyone it was called “Trouble Dog”. It was another pure hard rock/metal song, with Chunky pounding away at the drums, eventually bringing things to an ferocious end.
There were many bands I saw while down here that truly stood out to me, and B-Ners was one of them.
I’m not always into metal music, but these guys do it right, with the heavy, pulse pounding riffs and beats, while Daver actually sings instead of screaming (like so many metal bands do). He had a really good voice at that, and I enjoyed how his Mexican accent seeped through while he sang, ‘cause it made it completely different from anything I’ve ever heard/seen live. And Mario, Dan and Chunky put on quite the live show, constantly moving around and letting their musicianship show, bringing 110% to the table.
You can find a free download of one of their songs HERE, and if you dig it, go buy their “Back to Mexico” record in ITUNES. You won’t regret it.
Up next, and from Caracas, Venezuela, was Sifting, who was introduced by the main man in charge of the Heart of Texas Rockfest, Adam Brewer.
Personally, I didn’t really care for these guys a whole lot. They were much harder than what I like, with their singer screaming quite a bit.
I just couldn’t get into it. However, if that is how you like your music, check out their music HERE.
There was one last band I wanted to see here at the Heart of Texas Rockfest before hitting up a few other venues, and that was the Atlanta, Georgia based rock band, The Swear.
“This song’s about sex and drugs.” Said singer and rhythm guitarist, Elizabeth Elkins, as the crowd gathered around the stage. They then fired up “Sex and the Drugs”, which was a quick song, but was loaded pure rock grit, and really, would you expect less from a song about two of main parts of the Rock ‘n’ Roll motto? As it came to an end, guitarist, Cooper Carter, segued them into their next song, with a little help from Alex Grieco on drums, soon launching into “Gold and Hymns and Hell”. I believe it was around this point that Elizabeth mentioned you could get some of their music for free by going to their website, including those two songs as well as the next one, which she set up by saying, “…This song is about pornography.” The word was even in the title, which was “Pornography On Avenue A”, and it ended up being my favorite song of their 21-minute long set. The music bed had a great flow to it, while the lyrics were rather catchy and mixed well with the music, each complimenting the other. They followed it with another song from their upcoming record, and as good as that previous song was, it had some slower moments, but with “Ghost Signs”, they kicked things up a few notches. It was very raw and aggressive, qualities that all other music had, but were greatly intensified on this one, particularly with Elizabeths’ voice. That led them to the final song of their, but not before Elizabeth said one last thing to the audience. I think one thing she mentioned was that they would be selling some merch afterwards, then followed it with, “…I’ll also be giving blowjobs after show. They’re five hundred dollars and I hope some of you guys take me up on that…” I imagine she was kidding, but she sure seemed serious about it, then stated that this last song was “…about fucking the wrong person…”.
I thought they were awesome, and I like the approach to their music of just playing simple rock music with a real attitude. That ensured it was pure rock bliss.
The live show was really good, with Cooper, Alex and bassist, Kevin Williams, tearing it up on stage, and Elizabeth did what she could when she wasn’t stuck behind the microphone. She had a killer voice, too, and after listening to their recorded stuff, I don’t think it does it justice. She packs a lot of attitude into the songs, and it’s just not all captured on their records. So go see a show if you can, because it’ll be even better than their recordings (which I do want to note is saying a lot).
To get their music, go to NOISETRADE.COM to find a collection of singles that together make their “Gold and Hymns and Hell” EP. You can also find another EP as well as a full-length album in ITUNES.
It was time for a change of pace after that, and we made our way to the Chuggin’ Monkey, which was yet another venue that the Red Gorilla Music Festival was doing shows at.
Lovers and Madmen was the band, and they had come from Arizona. I think Albuquerque to be specific.
All I know was that I liked the few songs I listened to online, and they ended up being much different than what I assumed, and were not your so called “typical band”. Husband and wife duo, Marsh Shamburger and Rachel Marie, helmed the band, with him playing a guitar, while she occasionally used a violin, while both did some singing. Then you had the other husband and wife in the band, with her using a violin all the time, while he played a trombone.
The band’s newest record is due out soon, but they did do some material from their previous album over the course of their 47-minute long set, like the opener, “Open”. The trombone was more subtle, as was the guitar, which was only accentuated by the violin. All together it was a thing of true beauty, and set a wonderful tone for the rest of their set. Once they finished it, Marsh announced who they were and showed he had a sense of humor about him, saying, “…We haven’t decided who’s the lovers and who’s the madmen yet. We’re working on it, though…” It was a little funny, but the best banter was yet to come. In fact, the same can be said about the music, too. They next did one titled “Light Your Way”, and then another newer one, “Get Yourself Off”. That latter one was one of the best of their set, and will hopefully be on their new album. During the break that followed was when marsh mentioned that he was married to Rachel, and that the other two were also a couple, and thanked his wife for putting up with him. Rachel laughed, while he continued, “…Especially on the days we have a show to do…” If memory serves me correctly, he also introduced everyone by name, and while mentioning who he was, he revealed he goes by another name. “…Backwards my name is Hsram, I answer to it, too…” he said, which cracked me up. They did a couple more of their newer tracks, the first of which was “Chains”, and sandwiched in between them was the older, “A Place To Rest My Head”. As their set began to wind down, Marsh informed everyone of where they could be found on the internet. “…Where on this new thing called Facebook…” he said, adding it was part of a thing known as a social network. He went on to say something like, “…On this Facebook thing you can post pictures of your kids, multiple times a day, to the point all your friends will block you. That’s also another feature, blocking people…” It was another good comedic bit, and they soon returned to the music with a tune called “Dead Listen”, which was another that was sung by Rachel. They did a couple more after it, before ending their set with “A Bit Strange”.
There’s phenomenal talent here, and their unique sound, while probably not everyone’s cup of tea, is absolutely gorgeous.
Upon first seeing the trombone I wondered how it would work with this band, but they kept it just soft enough that it worked, rather than overpowering the guitar or violins, or even the singing for that matter. And speaking of singing, both Marsh and Rachel have astounding voices. I mean, wow.
They do have an EP, “Side A” available in BANDCAMP, as well as a EP of demos, so check those out. Also, you should be able to get their new album before long, at least assuming Marsh’s constant talk about the new album dropping in April holds true…
(Check out the remaining posts about my SXSW experience, which will be posted on April 15th, 17th and 19th.)
SXSW. It’s the largest music festival of its kind in the world, and takes place in the Texas capitol of Austin, just a few hour drive south from the Dallas area, but despite the relative closeness, I had never once attended the festival.
Now of course for the official SXSW shows you need a badge/wristband, which are way out of my price range. Then you have all the other shows, the free shows and day parties sponsored by various entertainment groups. So, rather spur of the moment, I decided to go down to this year’s SX and attend those shows, the ones that wouldn’t empty my wallet. Also at the last minute, my dad decided to join me.
I was pretty meticulous in putting together a schedule for the three days I would, checking out every free event I could find out about. For example, I listened to pretty much every single act that was playing the free festivals like the Heart of Texas Rockfest and Red Gorilla Music Festival (which are separate from the official SXSW organization). I then noted which ones I liked, what time and where they were playing. By the time I was done with all that I had a pretty comprehensive list. At some times I may have had five (or more) acts I was interested in seeing, that way I had options in case a venue ended up being full. At other times I may have only had one act written down. Point is, I made sure I had something planned for nearly every single second of the day, so there would be no wondering around trying to figure out where to go next.
Some may think you can’t really schedule a massive event like this, and should rather go with the flow and see who you can see. I can tell you though, you can plan everything out to a tee and make it work.
We got to Austin sometime in the two o’clock hour, and oddly enough, the traffic on the interstate was great. After resting for just a bit, we then hopped on a bus, and then eventually another bus to get downtown. It was on…
The famous Waterloo Records was the first stop, where they had set up a decent sized stage in the parking lot, blocking off the rest of the lot for the audience. Upon arriving, the band Gold Fields was finishing their set, and they sounded pretty good.
However it was the next band I was looking most forward to seeing, and that was the London based, The Joy Formidable.
I’m a newer fan of the bands, and had never seen them live before, so I was a little excited to see what they were like live.
Their scheduled set time was four, but it ended up being just a few minutes after when everything was ready for them to go.
I assume since their new record is titled “Wolf’s Law”, that was why they had the intro they did, which was a chilling howl of a wolf. Soon, Matt Thomas walked on stage, waving to the crowd before taking a seat behind the drums. Rhydian Dafydd followed, doing almost the same thing, then taking stage right where his bass was, and last, but certainly not least was singer and guitarist, Rhiannon “Ritzy” Bryan. Their short 37-minute long set consisted mainly of their new material, like their opener, “Cholla”. The “joy” part of the band’s name held true during that one, ‘cause musically it just emitted a real happy vibe. It wasn’t just that, though, all three of them looked like they were having the time of their life, and when I see a band enjoying performing that much, that always makes me enjoy their set even more. “…Are you all going to have a sweaty time with us?” Ritzy asked, after telling everyone who they were. She then repeated the question to get more of a rise from the audience, who seemed ready for whatever, and eager to hear more. And more came, in the form of the semi poppy rock song, “This Ladder Is Ours”. Those two tracks from the new album had been sensational, and I really think that is the best album in they’ve done in their short career, but of course they had to do at least a couple older tracks for fans, like “Cradle”. They tackled another new track, “Maw Maw Song”, which had me captivated just with the intro and the perfect, heavy blend of the drums and bass. Not only that, but also the way they so precisely synched the lyrics with the drumbeats on the bridges makes it pack even more of a punch. With their shorter set time, they had to rush through things rather quickly, but that didn’t stop them completely from chatting with the crowd, building a rapport with them, and now, when it was time to wrap things up, Ritzy had her longest conversation of the set. “…We played here on the first album, so it’s really cool to be back here now for the second album out…” she said. She also pointed out that they would soon be hitting the road in support of “Wolf’s Law”, and would be back in Texas in a little over a month. “…I really hope we’ll see some of you then…” she said in her rather prim and proper sounding British accent, an accent you could barely even pick up on when she was singing. They then began their final song, which everyone quickly identified as “Whirring”, and cheered with excitement. Hands down the most engrossing part came at the lengthy instrumental bridge/outro, when the trio was really able to cut loose. Everyone had seen Rhydian slaying on the bass and Matt doing a killer job on the drums, but now it became evident what a stellar guitarist Ritzy really is. Without having to split her focus between singing and playing, she really got to shredding. It was entrancing, and honestly, she is one of the best guitarists I’ve had the pleasure of seeing live. And when things finally started winding down, she walked over to the drum kit and hit one of the cymbals with the headstock of her guitar. Yeah, it was quite the finish.
I figured they’d be good and everything, but they greatly surpassed merely being “good”.
As great as their recorded music sounds, it’s the live shows where it’s all at. Everything just springs to life and becomes so much more engaging. Ritzys’ voice has a very heavenly sound to it, fitting well with the music they produce, and even this abbreviated set took everyone on a sonic adventure of gorgeous sounds, with just the right rock flare added to it.
Needless to say, I loved, and this was a great introduction to the bands live shows. Not only that, it was one hell of a way to kick off my first ever SXSW experience.
As mentioned, the band will be embarking on headlining tour beginning on March 21st. They’ll be stopping in the following states: California, Oregon, Washington, Utah, Colorado, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, New York, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Washington DC, Maryland, Oklahoma, Texas, Tennessee, Georgia, Florida, North Carolina and Virginia. They also have dates in Canada in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal. That will keep them bust through the early part of May, but they already have dates booked after that, some more in the U.S. and others overseas. So, for the full list of dates and cities, go HERE. And if you haven’t yet listened to the band, do check out their albums in ITUNES. You’ll be glad you did.
Once they finished, it was time to head east on sixth street (about a mile west to be exact), right into the heart of all the action.
The Blind Pig was the nest stop, and while I had hoped to catch The Material’s set, The Joy Formidable ended right when The Material was starting. No matter, I’d see them later on in the night.
The venue was pretty cool and spacious, having two bars downstairs, and by the front bar they also had a little area where acoustic acts could perform. In fact, they had somebody playing every time I walked into the place. The you had the upstairs, which was an equally as large deck, which thankfully was covered with numerous canopies.
It was here where a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania band by the name June Divided was about to continue the onslaught of music that the Red Gorilla Music Festival had orchestrated.
The bands short little set was made up entirely of tracks from their debut full-length record, “Backbone”, and they brought everyone right into their fast paced, adrenaline-pumping brand of rock with “Secrets”. They were loud and intense, and with that one song they made the statement that they were there to entertain and put on a legit rock show. They took a moment and singer and rhythm guitarist, Melissa Menago, asked everyone to move up closer to the stage. “…We don’t bite, I promise…” she said, before stating that the next song was a single from their newest album. It was titled “Drive”, and was another in your face number, soaring to life at the choruses. My favorite song of theirs ended up being the next one, “Yellow House”, which was driven by some pretty powerful beats from Keith Gill. “…I swore you were good. I swore you were better now that you were somewhere else…” Melissa belted out after the brief slow spot the song hit, while Chris Kissel and Lenny Sasso, guitarist and bassist, respectively, began thrashing around again. The high-octane performance showed no signs of slowing down as they did the title track from their album, “Backbone”, which was the most infectious song they did. Seriously, the chorus, “…Oh, got a backbone in me now. It keeps my head on tightly wound so I don’t lose it. Oh, got a backbone in me now, it makes me say these things out loud…” was stuck in my head for the duration of my time in Austin, and even for awhile after returning home, and I loved it. Now, they had several bands scheduled here this afternoon, and they were all set to start forty minutes apart, meaning each act didn’t get too much time on stage, and now, June Divided had time for one last tune in their 21-minute long set. It’s the only one I’m not certain of, but I think their closer was “Skin and Bones”. Near the end of it, Melissa removed her guitar and picked up a set of drumsticks, she then walked over to the drum kit and helped Keith out with the beats, which made things just a little more wild and crazy.
I listened to them and they sounded pretty good, otherwise I wouldn’t have even been there in the first place, but damn, they put on a show.
It was a nonstop assault of rock, which is just the way I like, and in the performance aspect, they were every bit as good as the band I had seen before them. Melissa has a knockout voice and is pretty good at the guitar, too, while Chris, Lenny and Keith certainly pull their own weight, putting on a lively performance. Together as a unit they were explosive and a force to be reckoned with, making them one of the more memorable bands I saw during these two and a half days.
I highly recommend checking out their records. Along with that full-length, “Backbone”, they have and EP, “The Other Side of You”. Both are solid, but definitely listen to some songs from the LP.
After that (and getting a bite to eat), it was time to head to the corner of 7th and Neches, where the two main stages of the Heart of Texas Rockfest were set up, taking over a parking lot for a few days. I wondered how the set up would look, and it was simple, they had two large stages setting right next to each other.
Despite the name, the event hosted bands from all over the world, not just Texas. However, an Austin based musician, Justin Black and Big Heart (that was the name of his backing band) was getting ready to rock one of the stages.
They were a classic rock outfit, and they prided themselves on that. “…Rock ‘n’ roll is a lost art form these days…” he said at one point during their set. Sadly, he’s right. There are still plenty of great rock bands out there, but its fallen out popularity these days, or at least been pushed out of the spotlight by what is currently called “mainstream radio”. He has a few albums under his belt, dating back to a decade ago, but the bulk of what he did, or at least what I caught was newer material that will no doubt be on a upcoming record. They opened with a track titled “Good Times”, and continued with “Carry On” and “Wrecking Ball”, before doing one from his 2006 record, “New Revolution”. Before starting he mentioned he wrote and released the album when he lived out west (if I remember correctly he said he resided in Washington state at the time), but in the next few years relocated to Austin and put Big Heart together. The song was the lead track from the album, “Hallelujah”. Like everything before it, it had a real soulful sound, even kind of bluesy in a way.
That was all I caught, because there was another act elsewhere I wanted to make sure I didn’t miss, but that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy Mr. Black and his band.
His voice was where the soulful quality came in, and he has one of the most distinctive voices I’ve ever heard. It had a lot of character to it, too, and combined with that classic 60’s to early 70’s rock sound they specialized in, it sounded perfect.
I’d be interested in seeing another show, or rather experiencing a full set from them sometime. You can find most of his albums in ITUNES, and if you head over to his REVERBNATION PAGE, you can even get a couple of free song downloads.
The next stop was The Dizzy Rooster, which seemed like a real hole in the wall bar in the best possible way. It was narrow, but it stretched back a good ways, and it was all the way at the back where the stage was located. It was here that Zodlounge (a production company based out of Nashville) was presenting a show, with the help of the Red Gorilla Music Festival.
Two singer/songwriters, both of whom are also based out of Nashville, were splitting up the set time, and coincidentally, I had discovered both of them sometime last year while browsing through Noisetrade.com.
First up was April Kry, who I was most excited about seeing. She wasn’t alone, though, having a full band behind here, complete with backing vocalist, Kree Woods (who would do a set of her own after while), while April played an acoustic guitar on some of the songs.
The majority of her 19-minute long set was songs from her 2012 EP, “Love Speaks”, which thrilled me, since I personally found that to be one of the best EPs released last year.
“Character” kicked off the show, and sounded almost exactly like listening to the recording of the song, except this was even better. Obviously, in a live environment, not every singer sounds exactly like they do on CD, but April was spot on, hitting all the big notes that are found on each chorus with ease. After taking a moment to introduce herself to little crowd gathered around, she stated that the next song was a newer one she’d written, and it was called “Weak”. It was a really good tune, and lyrically it was on par with everything else she played this night. Up next was the standout song of this short little set, “Symphony of Misery”. It’s about love lost, but I like that it’s not done in the truly stereotypical way, like the millions of other songs out there. “I would rather lose my heart than see it smashed to pieces. I would rather pull the plug than lay here barely breathing. So love me or leave me a symphony of misery…” she passionately wailed on each chorus. “That’s a tough one to sing…” she said after finishing it. I’d believe it, because she did seem a little winded afterwards and you could tell she was having to dig deep to nail it all, but she pulled it off, and the end result was something that should have put everyone in a state of complete awe. She and her band brought things down ever so slightly with “Defenseless”, before wrapping up this all too short set with “Blindfolded Soul”, which was another song that really let her magnificent voice shine.
It succeeded at not only being a good closer, but also one that had you instantly craving more from this young singer/songwriter.
April possess an insane amount of talent, most noticeable of which is probably her remarkable voice. That’s what would probably captivate you at first, but once you start paying attention to the lyrics, you’ll notice she does quite the job at penning songs. I guess one could say she’s the complete package.
Phenomenal show, and I really enjoyed seeing an artist that before I had wondered if I’d ever even have an opportunity to see.
She has two records available, both of which can of course be found in ITUNES. So do yourself a favor, go ahead and go listen to/buy them and familiarize yourself with her music, because I’d be willing to bet much bigger things lie ahead for Ms. Kry.
Everyone got to rest for a minute or two, and then it was back to work, as April swapped spots with Kree Woods. “I’m a little taller…” she said while adjusting the mic stand. She did tower over April, who was a great deal shorter.
“This song is called Green.” she announced to everyone, as they started the song from her “Chance Happening” EP. Despite both singers mining more of the pop genre, it was quickly evident they had very different styles of doing it, due largely to the slightly more delicate sounding voice Kree had. It was still an attention getter, though. That was one of only two older songs that she did, with the main focus being on material from her upcoming album, “Talking Underwater”. One of those songs was the softer, “Just Go”, and the slightly more minimalist approach to it made sure the vocals were at the forefront. That was what really drew me into her set, because by leaving her voice exposed to some extent, she was able to show what she’s really capable of. After another song, they did another track from her new album, this one being called “Hip Hip”. It ended up being a very poppy song and the chorus had a pretty good hook and was very upbeat, subsequently giving off some happy vibes. As soon as it ended, then the drummer fired up the next and final song of their 18-minute set, “Fake (Shake It Up)”, which ensured they finished on a high note.
It was a good little show and I ended up enjoying Kree’s set more than I thought I would.
She’s got a really good voice, and while she is a pop singer, her songs have a little more substance than what you may think of when you think pop music.
You can find all three of records in ITUNES, including her brand new album and debut full-length, “Talking Underwater”.
Both she and April were great, and while the two play different variations of the same genre, their music meshed well together, and having them share a set proved to be a awesome thing.
Now, I love singer/songwriters, there’s plenty of proof of that, but I’m a rock fan first and foremost, so now it was time to head back to the Heart of Texas Rockfest for another dose of rock.
The Dallas based Midnight Empire was on deck at one of the stages, and having only seen them live once, I was glad to at least catch the final part of their set. Jacob Henderson was wailing on the chorus of “Under the Table” when we got over there. “…Underneath the table discreet, underneath the table we sneak. Into your house, into your room, underneath the table we sneak…” he shouted in that signature voice of his, which could give any classic rock singer from the 70’s a run for their money, while Art Struck soon busted into his short guitar solo. Their debut album was only released last year, but they’ve already gotten some new songs written, and they did one of them next, which bassist, Rick Reynolds, really got into and was thrashing around. They cranked out their short little fan favorite, “Can’t Get Enough”, which seemed like it would conclude their set, but they had one last song to play. At least they hoped to play it. They had a little technical issue, and I believe it was the amp head of the guitar amp that suddenly stopped working. One of the stage hands rushed on stage, removed it, then brought out a new one, all seemingly within the blink of an eye. They were then ready to play their slow song for everybody, and there’s no arguing that “Two Against One” is a real beauty of a track.
They really are one of the best things going on in Dallas right now, and they have a couple hometown gigs currently booked. On May 16th they’ll be at Trees opening for Kings X. Then, come July (the 18th to be exact) they’ll be doing a huge show in Oshikosh, Wisconsin, as part of the Rock USA Festival, opening for a plethora of national level acts.
Once they finished, the band on stage number one, Love and a .38, was waiting to go, just having to do a quick sound check. That was why I liked this Heart of Texas Rockfest so much, because you never had to go more than a minute or two without hearing some live music.
Drummer, Danny Excess, launched them into the first song of their 27-minute long set, which also happened to be the lead track from their self-titled EP, “Shots at Sunset”. Great introduction to what the rest of their set would be like, because it, much like their other songs, was a straight up rock track in more of the classic rock way, filled with sweet guitar riffs courtesy of Domo Domaracki, while bassist, Justin Emord, thrashed around in perfect sync with the rhythm. Upon finishing it, vocalist, Ryan Hudson, dropped the band’s name to the crowd, mentioning that they were from L.A., saying something along the lines of this was where the real party was at, not in their hometown. “…Fuck L.A.…” he said, though you could tell he didn’t really mean it. They then got started on their next song, which I think might have been “Lovely Lies”. During the next break, Ryan again started talking about partying, now saying something to the effect that Austin throws the best parties, and that they had driven thirty hours just to get here and partake in it all. Afterwards they cranked out another newer song of theirs, “Just a Woman”, which gave the show a little change of pace, because it has almost more of a bluesy rock sound to it. After that killer track, they busted out another that I was unsure of, and after it came to an end, Ryan walked over and picked up a pair of sunglasses. Let it be known I’m completely against that look, at least when it’s dark outside (like it was now) or inside a club, luckily, he had a valid reason for it. The crowd gathered around the stage seemed pretty excited when Domo started their next song, which ended up being a cover of Corey Harts’, “Sunglasses at Night”. Not only did they do a great rendition of it, but they also made it fun to a certain extent, and at least in my opinion was the best song of their set. Speaking of their set, their time was almost up at this point, and they did one last tune wrap things up.
I loved their set and the sounds they created. I thought they had a bit of a 80’s rock sound to ‘em (even the band members themselves looked like they could have fit in during that era), but not in a copycat way. More like they were paying homage to that decade with little things here and there, but overall gave it more of a modern sound. It was just good ol’ pure rock ‘n’ roll, none of the alt/rock, indie/rock, etc. sub-genres.
They put on a mean live show, and every single member puts on a performance worthy of your attention. Ryan is the idealistic frontman, not only having a killer voice, but also able to command the crowd with ease. And I don’t know what else to say about Justin, Domo and Danny other than they owned it on their respective instruments and each put on a show in their own right.
They have one five song EP available, plus five additional songs in the form of singles, and you can (and should) buy them in ITUNES. Here’s to hoping they come back to Texas during next year’s SXSW… Better yet, maybe they’ll come back before then and make a stop in the Dallas area.
Now, I want to take a minute to say that I tried my best to piece together their set, but (and this goes for almost every band I saw while in Austin) it’s hard when you don’t even know a bands music beforehand. Hell, for every act I just wrote down a line from the song and then had to try to determine which song it was based on that. So really, please excuse it, because I like to be, and usually am, much more thorough than this.
Back on the other stage, Dawn Over Zero, who was one of the many hometown heroes gracing the stage, was anxiously waiting. Yeah, I think SXSW is about experiencing bands you would never normally see, but at the same time, you need to make room for some of your local favorites, especially when their like DOZ and are using this as a platform to give away a brand new song that won’t be available until much later in the year. It was done on wristbands that were also USB drives, and they were only giving away one hundred of them, and somehow I was charged with handing them out.
The lead track from “Unity & Division”, “Caricatures”, opened their set, and the intro alone is killer enough, giving each of the guitars, drums and bass a brief moment to shine, before all coming together and kicking the song into high gear. It’s a really good song on the record, but live there’s just such force behind it that it takes it to a whole other level, and it myself and many others up front and rocking out to it. They had some perfect transitions for these first few songs, and kept going with that music bed for a minute, before eventually bringing it around to “Catapult”. Singer and rhythm guitarist, Mike Mears, jumped around stage for a bit during the lead in, before moving back to the mic to start singing, “Another thought for the mind to murder. You’ve got me feeling so far from further…”. Those two songs are a wicked combination, as they only build on the momentum, and they showed no signs of relenting as they wound things into an actual instrumental piece. They were jamming pretty hard, but rather abruptly the music subsided, while Steven Abbenante tore off on the first few notes of “Take You Under”, which was the only song from their self-titled EP that they did this night. I doubt many people had complaints about that, though, ‘cause plenty of fans were passionately singing along with it, “…Well now it’s time to stray from all the steps that may take you under. Grab a piece of mind, it’s okay to cry to get back where you started once again…” After finishing it, Mike mentioned those wristbands everyone was so eager to obtain. He pointed me out to everyone, and while I was handing them to the swarm of people that suddenly surrounded me, I heard him say, “…This is our friend, Jordan. He’s The Music Enthusiast. Go check out his podcast…” That’s the second time I’ve ever had a band give me a on stage shout out, and it really is incredible humbling. It was also during that moment that my love for DOZ grew exponentially. After explaining what was on the USB wristbands, Steven fired up another song from their current album, and it was one of my favorites, “Give and Take”. There’s a certain catchiness to the intro with just Mike singing over the guitar chords, but it really got good when Kevin Abbenante roared in on the drums, with bassist, Jonathan Boyce, solidifying the strong rhythm section of the track. At this point Mike asked if they had time to do two more and they got the okay for it. One of those last two surprised me a little, as they opted to do their cover of Johnny Hate’s Jazz’s, “Shattered Dreams”. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy the song and they put their own spin on it, I guess I was just expecting another original, though. That brought them to the final song of their 26-minute set, and they planned to end it in style. “Listen carefully…” said Mike, who brought up the wristbands that had been handed out. He went on to say they were going to end with that new song that was on them. It’s called “Schizzo”, and as far as I know, this was its live debut. Last time they played up in Dallas Mike told me how excited he was about the new stuff they were writing, which really had me intrigued, and after hearing this little taste, it is pretty good. You can tell (at least with this song) that their building off the sound they had on their most recent record. It’s similar to those songs, but you can hear the growth and tell that their pushing themselves to the next level.
That was nice way to end the show, seeing as this new album won’t be out until later in the year, and I wonder if that track will actually stay in the live set, or (and this seems more likely to me) if was just a one off thing until the albums closer to being complete.
Anyway, this was one of the best DOZ shows I’ve seen. Like I said, they were very tight, especially at the beginning with those calculated segues, which were seamless.
They put on a show you can really marvel and be in awe at, and if you haven’t seen them or heard their stuff yet, then you’re really missing out. They do have another Austin gig on April 28th at the Dirty Dog, and check out their albums in ITUNES.
Once they finished up, we then left, heading back to The Blind Pig for some more of the Red Gorilla Music Festival.
A band from Kansas City, Missouri, The Beautiful Bodies, was performing there, and only had a few more songs to do by the time we reached the rooftop.
It was packed here, and I couldn’t even see the stage, but only three of the members were on it, and singer, Alicia Solombrino, was out amongst the audience, singing and dancing. That made it next to impossible to see her, too, but I did catch a glimpse every now and then. Out of the three songs that I caught, the next to last was “Invincible”, which proved to be a rather infectious pop song that had plenty of people dancing along. They probably would have been signing, too, if they had known the song. It was the chorus that really got your attention, suddenly turning into an anthem of sorts, as Alicia shouted, “I don’t give a damn about running with the in crowd, I don’t give a fuck about being this out loud. Say it now, say it now, we are invincible. I don’t give a shit about what you’re thinking, I don’t give a thought about what you’re drinking…”
It’s hard to gauge a band in just three songs, but what I heard I really enjoyed. I thought they had more of a pop flare than anything I had seen so far this day, but there’s nothing wrong with that. They still made an impression on me, and it looked like they put on quite the live show, and I wish I had been able to see them again while down here. Oh well, maybe some other time I’ll get to see what a full show is like.
The next stop of the night was the Thirsty Nickel, which was another venue that was hosting the Red Gorilla Music Festival, and The Material was about to rock the place.
The Los Angeles based band was a little less than a month away from the release of their new album, “Everything I Want to Say”, and their 33-minute long set focused heavily on the music from it. The band has a knack at writing hopeful, uplifting songs that could be viewed as anthems for them just as easily as for the listener (as seen with the title track from their previous record), and from this new record it would appear that song is “Born to Make a Sound”, which opened their set. “…Take control, you know it’s all in your hands. Break the mold, you know that this is your chance. I won’t give up, even when I’m falling down …” belted out singer, Colleen D’Agostino on the chorus, which was largely driven by some beats from drummer, Kevin Pintado. It succeed at doing something not every band’s opening song does, both making a statement and setting the tone for the rest of the show, proving that they were there to, well, make a sound. They immediately wound it into the track that follows it on the album, “Tonight I’m Letting Go”, which started off a little slower than the first song, but definitely came to life on the chorus with some roaring guitar notes from Jon Moreaux and Roi Elam, continuing the fast paced rock action their first song established. They took a brief break where Colleen introduced the band to the pretty large crowd, then stated that their next song was another new one called “Skin and Bones”. It didn’t let up at all, and even though they were packed pretty tightly on the stage, bassist, Jordan Meckley, Jon and Roi all thrashed around in perfect synch on this rhythm heavy song. At this rate, I was wondering if they’d be doing any songs from their older records, and now they did take a break from their new material, pulling out a couple tracks from the “What We Are” album, one of which was “Let You Down”. “So, this next is a favorite from our last record…” Colleen said after finishing that song. “At least that’s what the fans tell us.” She added, then announced it was “A World Outside”. I am one of those fans who considers it a favorite, and despite having not listened to it in well over a year, I still remembered a majority of the lyrics. There’s just a happy, feel good vibe to that tune, and after hearing it, the remaining songs of their set were simply icing on the cake. They returned to the new stuff with “Gasoline”, which ended up being one of the most dynamic songs of their set, and “Running Away” wasn’t half bad, either. That brought them to the final song of their set, and, as most bands do, they had saved their single, “Life Vest”, for last, which was quite possibly the most well crafted song of their show.
If anyone has had any doubt about The Material being a rock band, instead thinking of them as a Pop/Rock outfit, well, just listen to this new batch of music and they’ll prove otherwise.
This is definitely the best, most solid music I’ve heard them play, and that was reflected in their live show, which was tighter than what I remembered. And even though they lacked room to move around, they still were able to command the audience with ease, showing you can put on a high-energy performance even if you are stationed in a small general area.
As much as the entire band has grown since I last saw them, though, it was definitely Colleen who has changed the most. She managed to find an inner beast inside her inner beast, enhancing her voice exponentially, giving this new music a certain intensity and ferocity unseen in any of their past efforts.
It was one hell of a show, and one I won’t forget anytime soon.
First off, go into ITUNES and pick up a copy of “Everything I Want to Say”. You’ll be glad you did. While there you can also check out their previous LP and two older EP’s. They also have a few shows coming up in California, one of which will be on April 12th at The Soda Bar in San Diego. The following night they’ll be rocking The Wire in Upland, CA, and on April 21st, they’ll be doing an official CD release show at The House of Blues in West Hollywood. You can get free tickets to that last show, so visit their FACEBOOK PAGE for into on that.
It was back to the Heart of Texas Rockfest now, to close out the night.
Hitting the stage at around 10:30 was the Houston based, The Last Place You Look.
Unfortunately, these guys practically never get up to the Dallas area, which is why I’ve only seen them once… Four years or so ago. Basically, I was excited for this, because even though they don’t often play out of their immediate area, the band has still carved out quite the name for themselves.
They were pulling out all the stops, too, and had multiple light panels that they had brought with them scattered around the stage.
If memory serves me right, the four instrumentalists, guitarists, Derek Young and Richard Sherwood, bassist, Kevin Pool, and drummer, Mikey Garcia, tore into their first song, before Nava made his way to the forefront of the stage, belting out the first line of “Lie to the Silence”. He’s got a very rich bass voice, unlike anything you’ve heard before, and as soon as he opened his mouth everyone’s eyes were glued on the stage. They followed it “I’ve Got a Question for You… Why Are You Still Here?”, a track from their ’06 EP, “The lies We Tell Ourselves”. It seemed like another crowd pleaser, and the band kept up their intense live show with Richard, Derek and Kevin moving all about the stage, occasionally jumping up on the monitors, and just dominating their guitars and bass. It’s been four years since this rock band released a new album, but they have written plenty of new material, and now they did three newer tunes. They haven’t changed much in terms of sound, which is good, ‘cause they’re definitely headed in the right direction, but you could tell the stuff sounded slicker. More like the additional years of experience as a band have tightened them up even further, allowing them to churn out even better polished tracks. In between those songs, Nava made sure to say a few things to the crowd, just the standard stuff mainly, but he also stated that they don’t get to Austin too often. “…We always play here at least once a year, though, during this time…” he said. When it came time to end their 26-minute set, they did so with another song from their full-length, and that was “Don’t Make it so Easy”. It was a strong note to end the show on, and it also provided a little message of hope, with the chorus, “…We’ll all change the world someday, just don’t forget what we’re fighting for…”.
Man… I had forgotten how amazing these guys were, or at least how great they were and how amazing they’ve become.
The light panels they used added a great element to the show, and while I’m not usually a fan of stuff like that (I prefer it if a band just focuses on the performance aspect), the lights ended up enhancing the overall experience.
Like I said, Nava has one of the most unique voices in the music industry… Ever. Their music is filled with hooks, but also something you can rock out to, while there’s actually substance to the lyrics. As for the other musicians, Mikey pounded out the beats with a fury, and Kevin, Derek and Richard operated in perfect synch with them, proving they are a well oiled machine.
So, with all that, I guess I just can’t figure why these guys don’t “tour” more often than they do. By that I mean, why don’t they play Austin more often than maybe once a year? Why don’t they get up to the Dallas area at least a couple times a year? Or why don’t they tackle any other big cities in the state for that matter? Hell, they toured with 10 Years (I think that happened in 2012), so that alone should speak volumes about the band.
I can understand that they may not be viable markets, but the only way to make them viable is to play there periodically and win people over as fans. And with this show, The Last Place You Look should be able to win people over with ease.
Point is, they need to get out there more, because they could dominant every region of this state once word got out about them.
You can find both their LP and EP in ITUNES, and with any luck a new release will join those two sooner rather than later.
The last band I really cared about seeing this night was The Vettes from New Orleans, Louisiana, and they were ready to go over on the other stage.
They are self classified as New Wave/Synth/Indie/Alternative/Rock/Dance, which is a pretty accurate description, making them completely different from the last few bands that had played these stages.
I first heard of them years ago, when they would play some shows with one of my favorite bands from that time-frame (Mothers Anthem). The Vettes never really got to Dallas, though, so I hadn’t ever seen them before.
Placed around the stage were some small TVs, all of which were turned on but just showed that snowy static.
The quintet kicked things off with the lead track from their “Plasticville” album, “Dirty Word”. The pop song was pretty heavy on the synthesizer, which was played by Chad Vette (as were the keys), and had that hooky chorus that any pop track needs. “You make love a dirty word, a dirty word. You’re never gonna get it…” sang frontwoman, Rachel Vette, as she strolled around the stage. I heard some people comparing her to Lady Gaga at the beginning, as far as attire went, and it was indeed more eye catching than any other band member I had seen during this day. She wore what resembled a robe of sorts, with a hoodie on it, which covered her head for the first part of the show. While announcing who they were, Rachel dropped the name of their next song, which I believe was “Summer”. The followed it with a partial cover song, and that was Martin Solveig’s, “Hello”. The song seemed tailor-made for The Vettes, but after one of the lines, “…I just came to say hello.”, they stopped, and Todd Vette started them in on one of their originals, which I think was “Murder at the Disco”. Regardless of what it was, it was just another infectious song that got everyone even more swept up in the show. Afterwards, they did one of the singles from the record, “Walk Like Models”, which had a strong, steady beat supplied by Brian Vette. Rachel even did walk like a model during the song, at least sort of. It was more exaggerated, as she really kicked her legs up while prancing around the stage. Next up, they did a new song for everyone, titled “We All Hang Out”. “…It’s pretty much what we do as a band…” said Rachel while setting it up. It was somewhat of a slower song, requiring Todd to switch out to an acoustic guitar. It was far from quiet, though, and was a fun little song. Chad swapped back to his electric guitar upon finishing it, and they proceeded to start wrapping things up “Needles and Pins”. That then led them to the final song of their 31-minute long set, which was the fan favorite, “Give Em What They Want”. “Hey you, can I get your attention? I could be in rehab, ‘cause it’s just so cool…” sang Rachel, an opening in line that will no doubt get your attention. The music bed is also a real attention getter, though, and is one of the most well rounded out of all of their songs, at times having a strong rhythm part of Brian and bassist, Mitch Vette, with the keys/synth taking charge at other moments. It was fun way to end a fun show, as well as a very fun first day partaking in all the musical festivities.
I have to say, after a few years of wanting to see The Vettes and all the good things I had heard about them, they did live up to the expectations.
Rachel adds a certain sultriness to the show just in the way she handles herself, but the killer voice she has, as well as the engaging performance she puts on just by herself, makes sure she won’t be typecast as just something to look at.
The rest of this outfit pulls their own, too, making for a entrancing live show, and one I’d really like to see again.
And while they are somewhat of a pop band, don’t think that they write bland, pointless, or even stupid pop music like what most of the mainstream radio pop bands do. The Vettes have substance to their music, and combined with the live experience, it makes them a band to keep an eye on.
Along with their full-length record, you can also find a newer single from the band in ITUNES, so give their stuff a listen.
Well, that was that.
It was a good first day (or technically I guess half day) at SX. Well, except for the cough I had, had since the weekend before finally caught up with. Luckily I never ended up sick, but by late this evening my voice was almost completely gone, and by the next morning, it would have disappeared all together.
(Check out the remaining posts about my SXSW experience, which will be posted on April 11th, 15th, 17th and 19th.)
How often do I see an arena sized rock band? Not often at all, yet this night I found myself back at the American Airlines Center in Dallas for the second time in less than a year. The British rockers Muse were stopping by on their tour for the “2nd Law” album, and after hearing nothing but great things about their live show, I was looking forward to seeing it for myself… And seeing if they really did live up to all the hype.
Opening up for them was the Los Angeles based rock outfit known as Dead Sara, another band I’d heard some pretty positive things about.
Shortly before 7:30 the lights went out, as the four band members walked on stage and assumed their positions. From the nosebleed section they looked no bigger than ants, and it was hard to tell everything that was going on, but the cheap seats were the most affordable thing for me.
Anyway, they surprised me by opening their 34-minute long set with the final track on their self-titled record, “Sorry for it All”. “This song is not for you, it’s for everything I wish to be…” sang frontwoman, Emily Armstrong, her voice ringing out and enveloping the three level, 21,000+ capacity venue. Even when drummer, Sean Friday, guitarist, Siouxsie Medley, and bassist, Chris Null, brought the song roaring to life, the main focal point was still Emilys’ voice, which cut right to the bone. That slower song surprised me a little, but it ended up just being a warm-up, and the gritty rock ‘n’ roll was about to start, as Emily walked over and grabbed a guitar, segueing things almost directly into “Test On My Patience”. There was a dramatic shift from the gorgeousness of the first song, giving way to some pure, unadulterated rock sounds, and there was little downtime between that and the next song, as Chris cranked out a little bass solo, during which Sean joined him a little. They wound that right into the newest single from their 2012 record, “Lemon Scent”. Things really got serious here, with Emily snarling on the pre-chorus, “You’re not cut out for this, you’ve got that lemon scent. Fuck your instincts, everything you do is for somebody else…” Even as far removed from the stage as I was, I could still feel the intensity and aggressiveness of that track, and it was matched in their performance, particularly when Emily fell to her knees, then laid down on her back while she shredded out her guitar solo. It’s hard to get more rock ‘n’ roll than that. They, or rather Emily, briefly talked to the audience here and there, and during this little break she mentioned that they were glad to be back in Dallas, and that the least time they were here they performed at the storied venue known as Trees. “…That was one of the best shows we’ve ever done as a band…” she said, making me regret even more that I didn’t force myself to go to that show. The lull of the show came in the form of “Face to Face”, but they raised it back up with a newer song they churned out, “Blue Was the Feeling for You”. It was a pretty solid one, and was a mixture of both of the bands sides, having its softer, almost bluesy sound at times, while at other points Siouxsie, Sean and Chris were going full-throttle, and in the meantime Emilys’ voice was occasionally fluctuating between some pretty high register notes, to a gnarly scream. They had, had my undivided attention for awhile now, and were reeling me further in with each song, when all of a sudden, they were on their last one for the night. Of course their closer was their lead single, “Weatherman”. Towards the end of it, Emily, who had ditched her guitar a song or two before, climbed up on one of the cabinets (bass or guitar, I couldn’t tell) and stood there for a few moments before leaping off it, ending the show in stupendous fashion.
To say my mind was blown would be an understatement, and I really wasn’t expecting that from the opening act.
I think everyone could agree a strong, energetic live show is something every band needs to really make an impression, and Dead Sara put on one of the most dynamic live shows I’ve seen. And I can only imagine what the experience was like for those standing down in the pit area, getting to see every little detail of it.
And it wasn’t just that, it was the presence they created. They worked the crowd, and if everyone in the AAC wasn’t enthralled by the performance, they certainly should have been.
Then you have the set of pipes that Emily possesses. She’s capable of an amazing range, hitting some high notes that sound near operatic at times, yet can scream well enough she could put the singers of even the best punk acts to shame. Because of that, I think it’s fair to say she has one of the best voices in the current mainstream music industry.
I’ll definitely be seeing them again, and hopefully before they really hit the big time, they do some more shows at more intimate venues like Trees, because I’d love to see them in a setting like that, where I can better enjoy the show. I could easily see them headlining arenas, though. The potential is more than there, they just need to grow their fan base some more.
Check out their albums in ITUNES, and whenever they do hit the road again, you’ll be able to find the dates on their OFFICIAL WEBSITE.
After that, I really did wonder how Muse would stack up against that, and I was about to find out…
The apparently sold out venue (I couldn’t see an empty seat in the house, while there were probably close to a thousand people down on the floor standing) erupted in cheers and applause when the lights dimmed, but it was still going to be several more minutes before the real show got underway.
Instead of the band coming right out and getting down to business, a pyramid of screens descended from their stage, completely covering the drum riser from where I sat. There were at least several dozen screens, all of which then projected a small portion of the post apocalypticesque video for the “The 2nd Law: Isolated System”, while the song played over the PA system.
Usually stuff like that fails to impress me, because I personally find it to be a distraction from the actual performance, but I can’t of any other way to put it than saying this was pretty damn cool.
Nearly five minutes later, while the song faded out, singer and guitarist, Matthew Bellamy, bassist, Chris Wolstenholme, and drummer, Dominic Howard, took the stage to much fanfare, and ripped right into the lead track from “The 2nd Law”, “Supremacy”. I had wondered about Matthews’ voice and if any “studio magic” was used on it, and I quickly found out it really was all him. He’s got a real rich voice, and can change things up at the drop of a hat, going from singing “…The time, it has come to destroy…” in his more normal register, before suddenly wailing the next line, “Your supremacy…”. They did a lot of cuts from their 2012 record, but of course they had to include some of their older hits, too, like the 2006 track, “Supermassive Black Hole”. Their stage was utilized again during that song, and when singing the song title, those same words quickly scrolled from right to left across the panels on the back of the stage. They kept their set primarily about the music, doing very little taking aside from the basics, like thanking everyone for coming out, and soon after that last song, Dominic launched them into the more dancy, “Panic Station”. Yeah, it was a big change of pace from what they had done thus far, and even from the remainder of their set, but I liked that. It shows that Muse isn’t pigeonholing themselves solely into the alt/rock genre Besides, they pull of that song and vibe incredibly well. They got back into rock mode with a song from the album that first made me a fan, 2009’s “The Resistance”. In fact, they did what is essentially the title track, “Resistance”, and everyone shouted with excitement when one of their touring members began the notes on the keyboard. It was a highlight of their set, and stood out as a mixture of beauty and in your face rock, with the former coming in on the verses (both musically and lyrically), and the latter on each chorus. “Hysteria” was one of a few songs they did from the “Absolution” record, but they tacked on a little something special at the end of it. Matthew walked out onto a smaller part of the stage where the fans (and security guards) were gathered. A stage hand then ran out to where he was and placed a cowboy hat on his head, as he proceeded to play “The Star Spangled Banner” on his axe. It sounded awesome, and the fans ate it up. “Knights of Cydonia” was next on the setlist, and gave the trio a chance to just rock out for a few minutes, giving the lengthy intro to the song. It was then you got to see what stellar musicianship Chris, Dominic and Matthew all have, and watching them attack their respective instruments like that made for one of the best moments of the show. There had been so much going on, it could have been easy to miss the piano that seemed to magically appear on stage, and now it was time to put it to use. Dominic busted into what ended up being a killer drum solo, and near the end of it Chris added some light bass notes to the mix, and as they were doing that, Matthew seated himself behind the piano. They wound all that right into another track from “The 2nd Law”, “Explorers”. That more ballad type of song brought things way down, but not enough to kill the atmosphere they had already created, and wasn’t a bad song choice by any means. They knew not to keep things at that level for very long though and picked things back up with “Follow Me”, during which Matthew acted solely as a frontman, not using the either the guitar or piano. Not having to be stationed in front of a mic made all the difference, allowing him to roam about the stage, walking towards the front to engage the fans there, and even on either side of it, where it jutted out towards some of the fans in their seats. Also later on in the show when he again just had to worry about holding the microphone, he made his way all around the stage, climbing up on the back ledge at one side, then walking down the stairs on the other. There was even one point where he left the stage completely and, under heavy guard, walked through small sections of the audience. Matthew used the piano again for their next song, as they treated everyone to a very rare song. “…I think this might be the first time we’ve ever even played this in Dallas…” said Matthew, after announcing it was the first song on their first ever record. I doubt anyone who came to this show was expecting to hear “Sunburn”, yet here they were doing this old gem. Oddly enough, despite being over ten years old, that song is still on par with the material they’ve written for their last couple of records. Point is, how many bands first release starts out at that high-grade quality and stays consistent for over a decade? I don’t think there are many. They exploded back into rock mode with “Liquid State”, before doing another one from “The 2nd Law”, the simple yet catchy, “Madness”. It seemed that by now the set was probably on its last leg, and they affirmed that with a fan favorite. They didn’t go right into, though, rather they played a few seconds of “House of the Rising Sun” as an intro, before Chris was suddenly left alone doing a bass solo, and everyone roared with excitement as they realized it was “Time is Running Out”. “Sing it for me, Dallas!” shouted Matthew, wanting to get some crowd participation, and right on cue, everyone picked up where he left off. “…Bury it, I won’t let you bury it. I won’t let you smother it. I won’t let you murder it…” the crowd said in perfect unison, before Matthew took back over on the chorus. In my personal opinion, that was the best song of the night, due to its sheer grit, however everyone also seemed to really enjoy “Undisclosed Desires”. Their pyramid of screens (which had been used throughout their set) again descended. Appearing on it this time was a roulette wheel of sorts, with a few different song titles appearing in the spaces that would traditionally be numbers. The ball spun around for what seemed like forever, before eventually settling in a spot that read “Stockholm Syndrome”, and no sooner did it land then the group tore into the track. I know I said that about “Time Is Running Out”, but man, this was a real knockout song, too. “The 2nd Law: Unsustainable” might not have required much singing, but it was heavy on the effects, specifically smoke, which suddenly spewed upwards from multiple points on the front floor of the stage, all synched perfect to the music at the very beginning. As it wound down, the pyramid was let down one final time, engulfing the drum riser, though Dominic’s silhouette was occasionally shown on the screens. They eased into the song, but soon enough it became evident that it was “Uprising”, which wrapped up their 89-minute long set. Matthews’ voice rang out on the chorus, “They will not force us, and they will stop degrading us, and they will not control us. We will be victorious, so come on.”, making it into a real anthem, and a message I bet everyone could get behind. They extended the outro of it, really cutting loose, jamming and rocking out, which gave it the grand finale everyone had surely been expecting.
Afterwards, many people began to leave, while others shouted for one more. Four minutes passed, and I began to wonder if an encore would even happen, and right then, the lights again went out as the guys of Muse retook the stage.
After again thanking everyone for coming out, they kicked off the 9-minute long encore with “Starlight”. As politically charged as many of their songs are, that song gave the show a more happy, upbeat vibe, which I didn’t even know was needed until they churned it out. They weren’t quite finished yet, though, and had one last offering from “The 2nd Law”, “Survival”, and much like the main set, it served as an epic way to close things out.
“Thank you, Dallas. We’ll see you all again, whenever we come back.” Matthew said while surveying the crowd, before joining his band mates in heading backstage, while all the fans hurried out themselves.
I had heard that Muse put on one of the best live arena shows of this current age, and after witnessing it first hand, I’d have to agree.
It wasn’t just the music and their performance, it was the visuals and lights. 99% of the time, I hate when bands use that stuff. I find it subtracts from the show and that most bands that use projections hide behind them. Instead, I prefer bands like Dead Sara, who put it all out there and make the show entirely about their performance.
The lights and visuals that Muse used just enhanced the overall experience, though. And it really was an experience. The lights were dazzling, shining back and forth, intertwining with one another, and at other times the lights waved up and down over the crowd. It made for an incredible hour and thirty-eight minutes, and the show was something that will stick with me for a very long time.
If you’ve never seen Muse live, you must go check them out next time they come through your area. I know I’ll be seeing them whenever they get back to Dallas. Hell, I might even try to check out the shows in the immediate surrounding markets.
If you don’t own their music, purchase it in ITUNES. You can also find all their tour dates on their OFFICIAL WEBSITE. They have shows booked through September all over the world (including a few remaining dates in the U.S.)
Now, here’s the one thing I dislike about arena shows; You (the fan) lack the intimacy with the artist. Yeah, I know if I had dropped enough money I could have been standing down on the floor, getting a good view of everything, but money is an object. Out of the over five hundred local concerts I’ve attended over the last seven years, I’ve realized that’s what I like most about them. You can get up close and personal with the bands. It’s not even about the band being your “little secret” to me. I don’t care how many people are fans of a band or even out at the show, it’s purely about seeing a band on a decent sized stage and getting up close and personal with them. That’s part of why I don’t see arena rock shows all that often, and why I’ll probably never make a real habit of it. Only on rare occasions, like when Muse stops by.
Austin may be the host city for SXSW, but how many cities host pre SXSW concerts? Not many. In fact, while a band might do a “SXSW Tour”, it’s only the three major music cities in North Texas that get to host a real pre show, just the day before the bands head down to the state capitol.
Well, this night The Prophet Bar in Dallas was hosting such a show, with several touring acts stopping through, while a couple local acts were on the bill to round it out.
Up first was a band from New York, Northern Faces, who sadly, I did not see. I just couldn’t get out there early enough (I think the show began a little after seven).
I heard great things however, and after listening to some stuff from their debut EP, “Southern Places”, they do sound pretty amazing. Really wish I had seen them, but hopefully they’ll get back through Dallas sometime before next year’s SXSW.
When I did arrive the second band, the McKinney based Lantic, was almost all set to play.
They didn’t do much for me. Their singer’s voice was pretty bland in my opinion, which was actually my chief complaint. On the positive side, though, the bands bassist, was nothing short of outstanding. He was the entire show and put on a spectacular performance, slapping the bass like a madman. He was far more energetic than his other band mates, and had my full attention for the duration of their set.
Following them was another touring act, this one from Lawrence, Kansas. They went by the unique name of Cowboy Indian Bear, and with a more offbeat name like that, I was curious about what my ears were about to hear.
With the opening number of their 36-minute set, they established themselves as being a tight quartet, often getting some ethereal harmonies going, which occasionally included keyboardist, Katlyn Conroy, bassist, Martinez Hillard, and drummer, Beau Bruns, joining singer and guitarist, CJ Calhoun, to create some beautiful music. After that song, they mentioned how glad they were to be back in Dallas and how much they like the city. A brief dialogue started between them and the crowd, and something was said prompting Martinez to ask what county they were in, and he planned to give it a shout out. “Dallas.” Someone said. “Seriously? This is Dallas county, named after the city? That’s cool…” he said, giving props to the county. That then led them to their next song and single from their upcoming “Live Old, Die Young” record, “Does Anybody See You Out?”. It’s a gorgeous little song, with a bit of a haunting quality to it, specifically on the bridge, “…I’ll grind you up and spit you out…”, which gets repeated for a good minute or so. By the end of that, I was fully captivated by the band, and they moved on to their next one, which CJ said was titled “Jennifer”. It has a very strong drum bed, something I don’t always pay much attention do, but it builds at steady rate, and truly is the backbone of the song. They followed it with another song, which I think might have come from their first album, “Each Other All the Time”, and afterwards prepared for their next song. They chatted with the crowd a lot during the downtime between songs, and now Katlyn said they hadn’t planned to talk this much, and rather focus on playing as many songs as possible. It worked out well, though, and made them come across as being pretty personable. They tackled a few more songs from their new album, like “Seventeen”, portions of which were sung by both CJ and Katlyn, whose voices mixed together marvelously. I believe it was “Let It Down” that they did next, before switching things up for their last song, which was more percussion based, and had CJ adding some extra beats on a tom.
Cowboy Indian Bear left me thoroughly impressed. They have a solid indie/rock sound, and the multiple harmonies add an entrancing layer to their music. I know that is becoming a big thing in music now, but they don’t sound like they’re doing simply to conform or “fit in”, rather like that’s the direction their evolution has taken them. And speaking of evolution, there is a huge difference between their first record and this new one. They sound much slicker and more polished now, and at one point in the show Katlyn mentioned that they’ve spent the last three years crafting “Live Old, Die Young”. It’s believable, too, ‘cause you can tell a lot of time and effort was put into writing those song.
And in regards to the harmonies, every member has a great voice and is more than capable of singing lead on their own, so combined they made the band a force to be reckoned with.
Their calendar is pretty empty at the moment, but they do have a gig lined up in Brooklyn, New York on May 2nd at Cameo Gallery. And be sure to check out their records in ITUNES. “Live Old, Die Young” won’t officially drop until April I believe, however they were selling advanced copies on this tour. It’s worth the money, trust me.
Baskery followed them, and the trio of sisters had flown here all the way from Stockholm, Sweden.
Their set up was pretty minimal compared to the other acts, with Greta Bondesson sitting at center stage, surrounded by a few basic pieces of a drum kit, like a small bass drum, a tom, and I believe a snare, while a tambourine was rigged to pedal she could step on to play it. Sunniva Bondesson stood over on stage left, guitar in hand, and Stella Bondesson used an instrument you don’t see a whole lot of, and upright bass. I’m pretty certain they opened with a song from their “New Friends” album, “Shame and Dance”. They finished it, and the applause from the crowd quickly started. Everyone seemed pretty taken by their style of folk rock, as well they should have. And I know that if I hadn’t already been in front of the stage, I would have felt compelled to move up there after that tune. They talked with the audience for a second afterwards, and I think it was Sunniva who asked, “…Where is you all?…” One of her sisters then had a little fun with the comment, correcting her, “It’s where are you people.” They deserve props though, ‘cause for English not to be their first language, they spoke it very well, and there was no real language barrier anyone, the audience or the band, had to get through. Even their accents, while noticeable, weren’t all that thick, and disappeared completely when they sang. Sunniva then switched out her acoustic guitar for an electric, as they got ready to do a newer song from their forthcoming album, “The Shadow”. They did another song from it, which they said was about a plane crash, and while on the subject of planes, they asked everyone if they were afraid a plane crashing into one of the buildings, which they had been talking about, marveling at how tall some of them were. “…It’s a miracle that they don’t…” Sunniva said, before they moved onto “The Big Flow”. For a trio that lacked the “traditional” full band set up, these girls had already delivered an intense show, and they stepped things up even more with another track off the “New Friends” album, “Throw a Bone”. The three voices intertwined beautifully with one another, often dancing around each other, with one singing the lead, and the other two adding the backing vocals, which were every bit as strong as the lead. Upon finishing it, they mentioned that they were on their way to SXSW, also pointing out that this was the first show they had ever done in Dallas, and they were glad they could play on a more obscure night and still have an audience to play to. They offered up another catchy new one with “The No No”, which they said was a little bit of “Swedish soul”, and sadly, that brought them to the final song they had in their 36-minute long set, but not before talking with the crowd a little more. They shouted the other bands, naming Exit 380. “…I think that’s the name of our hotel.” Sunniva said, cracking a joke that no one really seemed to get. She noticed this and pointed out that no one was getting their Swedish sense of humor. “…I’m saying we’re staying with the guys tonight…” she said. They also revealed they have that stereotypical idea of Texas, by saying that when they think of Dallas, they think cowboy hats. You can’t blame ‘em, even people in other parts of the U.S. think Texas is nothing but farmland where everyone rides horses around, but that couldn’t be more further from the truth. “…It’s good to see Dallas has its funky areas, too…” Greta said. They then set up their final song, which they said was about their hometown and called “Out-of-Towner”. Now I wouldn’t have minded hearing a lot more music from their “Fall Among Thieves” record, but out of all the songs on it, I’m glad that was the one they chose to play. They started it with an amazing soulful intro, which was a mix of harmonies and Sunniva passionately belting out a line from the song, all of which was done a cappella. They then fired up the guitar, banjo and bass and ripped into the song, bringing their set to a fiery finish.
What a show. I had listened to their music after seeing they were on this bill and instantly became a fan, and live they were everything I thought they would be and then some.
These sisters are a well oiled machine, and I’d bet that family bond helps make them a little tighter than most bands. Each one has a superb voice, yet they all sound similar enough to one another that it’s not some drastic change when they switch up who’s doing the singing. And despite the instruments being scaled back in comparison to other bands, I guarantee you that these ladies makes just as much noise as a five-piece rock outfit does.
Check out their older album, “Fall Among Thieves”, and be on the lookout for their new record sometime this year. After hearing a few of the cuts from it, I’m rather excited to hear the full thing. You can also find a list of all their upcoming shows on their OFFICIAL WEBSITE, and if you live in Europe, they may be coming to a town near you this May through August.
Closing out the night was the bigger name hometown act, Fort Worth’s, Exit 380. Sure, I had just seen the band a few weeks before this, but I don’t see them nearly as much as I would like, so I was looking forward to seeing them again. Plus, they had dusted off some of their more rock tunes at that other show, and this one was going to showcase the bands current country sound.
As usual, their set began with the lead track from the “Townies” record, “Run For The Gold”, whose lyrics conjure images of a time long gone. Before their next tune, vocalist, Dustin Blocker, mentioned how much he enjoyed playing with touring bands. “…It’s like I was saying earlier, these bands wouldn’t be driving all the way from New York, or even flying overseas, if they weren’t good…” he said. I had never really thought of it in that sense until he made that comment to me earlier when we were talking, but that’s a very valid point. And come to think of it, I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen a bad touring act. Aaron Borden then started them into their next song, “Daddy Was A Freight Train”, by picking away at his lap steel guitar. Thus far it was just like the previous show I had seen, not that I’m complaining about that. I noticed the difference with the third song though, and I believe it was before that one that Blocker pointed out to everyone that they were going to be playing folk songs that told some little stories. He then busted out one of his harmonicas, playing it briefly, before he sang the opening line of “Little Trip” at the same instance that Jody McCauley came in on the drums. It was all done very precisely, making them out to be a very tight band, which they in fact are. Jeremy Hutchison switched out to an acoustic guitar for the next song, “Soul Burning Train”, and at the chorus, when it really takes off, it undeniable becomes one of the best songs in their arsenal. In the break between it and the next tune, Blocker talked about this odd Sunday night gig. “…Sunday night, who knew it was so much different from Saturday night…” he said. They moved on, and Jeremy busted out his mandolin for a few songs. The first was my absolute favorite newer song of theirs, “Missy Gardner”. “The old train depot was vacant of people. Their cars must have drove them away. But Sue is still standing with feet firmly planted, until my return she will stay…” Blocker softly sang on the more tranquil song. The lyrics are the best part of it, and while a lot of their songs do tell stories, I think it tells the best, or at least it’s the one I’m most drawn to. A track of theirs that was featured on a Hand Drawn Records compilation CD came next, but not after a little, shall we say, “mishap”. Aaron began his part on the electric guitar, but Blocker quickly pulled the plug on it all together, pointing out that he thought the guitar was in the wrong key. “…You can’t argue this…” he said, pointing at his harmonica, and even playing it again to make sure the guitar didn’t match up with. They tried it again after Aaron made some quick adjustments, and this time they were good to go on “A Song About Us”. “This next song is called Where Do We Go From Here?” Said Blocker, segueing them into another slower song, which still has a tight rhythm section supplied by Jon Hutchison on bass and Jody. While Jeremy swapped back to his electric guitar, Blocker brought up the fact that this was a school night, and made a remark that, that was something he hadn’t had to worry about in quite some time. He and Aaron then had a conversation, mostly off mic, but you could hear Blocker recalling his college days, then sounding like he was in disbelief that, that had already been about ten years ago. That banter gave the show a slight comedic element, even if that wasn’t the intention, and at least made me laugh a bit. At this point, it sounded like they switched the remaining two songs of their 40-minute set around, opting to do another one I was hoping for right then, and that was “Cajun Rock (A Violent Man)”. Live, it’s one of the more intense things they currently do, but it pales in comparison to an older gem of theirs that concluded their set. They went all electric for “Quid Pro Quo”, and even though the crowd had thinned out at this point, you could still feel the energy jump tenfold as they tore into the song, and it was an incredible note to end on.
As much as I liked the last show of theirs I saw, I missed hearing some of these folksy tunes, but I didn’t realize exactly how much until I heard them live this night. Sure, I like their rock stuff from years ago and would love to hear some of those back in the setlist one day, but all the songs on “Townies” make it one of the best albums Exit 380 has released over their nearly 14 year career. And even with the somewhat slower music, they still manage to keep their live shows rocking, and they should easily hold your interest.
So go ahead and check out their music for yourself in either ITUNES or BANDCAMP. The next few shows they have include a trip to Austin on April 27th, where they’ll perform at Maggie Mae’s. Then on May 11th they’ll be doing a hometown gig at The Wild Rooster in Fort Worth.
This was an incredible night of music, and those two touring acts I caught alone made it worth it, while Exit 380 was just the icing on the cake. In fact, this show was so great I chose to go to it over staying at home and watching The Walking Dead… That’s saying something.
Oh, and in just a few short days after this, I, too, would travel down to Austin to see what all the fuss about SXSW is about.
Gorilla Productions had put together an epic lineup of bands at the Curtain Club. I mean, a ten band bill does count as epic, right?
The main attraction however was The Bedlam Brothers, who were celebrating the release of their first record, “Saddle Up”.
The doors opened at six this night (early by any standards), but I didn’t arrive until about seven, which meant I missed The Neckties.
I’ve been a fan of the band for about a year now, but have yet to see a show, and I guess it just wasn’t in the cards this night. Check ‘em out, though. They have an album, “Chop and Change”, available, and it’s pretty good.
So, when I did get there a guy named Ty Dillon and his band were playing.
As I walked in the country sound caught me a little off guard, since I’m so used to seeing rock shows here. After one of his songs, Ty acknowledged this and joked about it. “…This looks like the venue that would have a pit, so I’m just gonna say it. “OPEN UP THE PIT!” he screamed, which was quite funny, since he was wearing a cowboy hat and he and his band appeared pretty straight laced.
What I saw of their set was a mix of covers (which I didn’t know) and a few originals, including one titled, “The Hat Song”. He mentioned it came from a very personal experience, when a girl he had been dating quickly got in a relationship with one of his good friends. So, and this is the abridged version, he said happened to be at another friends house where the first mentioned friend had left his hat. So Ty asked whose it was, and upon finding out who it belonged to, took it.
His original stuff was great, and really well rounded for a younger musician, and like I said, I didn’t know the covers, but they still did very good renditions of them. There were just a few times he tried to hit some higher notes and had trouble pulling it off, but that was the only issue I heard, and nothing that can’t be fixed in time. That aside, he’s a promising musician that should have a good future ahead of him.
He mentioned that his debut record would be dropping in a few weeks, so check out iTunes for that. He also has the single, “If You Only Knew” for sale there, too.
Next up was a band by the name Uneasy Pilgrim.
They didn’t start out well in my opinion, and the guy who sang their first couple of songs and the final one didn’t have much of a voice on him. Things improved slightly when, I believe it was their drummer, took over lead vocal and rhythm guitar duties, forcing the other guy back on the guys, while the keyboard player moved over to the drums. Yeah, it was an odd change, but it worked. They cranked out two more in this format, and this guys voice was much more enjoyable, and even the music sounded a bit better, but it still didn’t draw me in, and my attention waned when they reverted to the other lineup for their fifth and final song.
They weren’t truly bad (believe me, I’ve seen truly bad), but in the end, they were easily forgettable.
Luckily, that prove to be the only rough patch of the show, and Kirk Baxley and his backing band, the Old No. 7’s, got things back on track.
It had been far too long since I last saw Mr. Baxley. In fact, I don’t even recall when I last saw one of his shows, and I was excited to see, or rather hear, what he had been up to.
They kicked off their 21-minute long set with a song from Kirk’s newest EP, and that song was “Drive”. It was a pretty catchy tune, and while lyrically it had a country vibe to it, “…Pretty girl by my side, she’s just along for the ride. It’s just another Friday night with nothing to do but drive…”, the music had a little rock flare to it. It was great combination, and made for an excellent song. They went right into song, which was more of a love tune, and afterwards, Kirk formally introduced his band. “…Can I get seven hand claps for the Old Number Seven’s!?” he asked the crowd. No one seemed to enthusiastic about it at first, but he quickly motivated people to get into it, saying something like, “Come on, Dallas! We didn’t come all this way for that!” Its instances like that where you see his personality from his rock band days come through, which is a major help in getting the crowd engaged. They were able to squeeze the ballad, “Constantly”, into this short set, and then did performed the title track of Kirk’s newest EP, “Cold as a Stone”. They really brought things down with those two songs, but they were about to make up for it with the final song they had time to play. I had almost completely forgotten about “Rock ‘n’ Roll In My Veins”, but it just took a few seconds of the song for me to recall it. Most of their music may be considered alt-country, but not that song. It’s a rock tune through and through, and in Kirk expresses his love for both genres. “…I got rock ‘n’ roll in my veins, but I love Waylon Jennings just the same…” he belts out at one part, with a fierceness to his voice. During a little instrument break, where his lead guitarist, bassist and drummer cut loose, Kirk picked up a tambourine and played it for a few moments, before suddenly tossing it to an unsuspecting audience member. “Here you go!” he said, as he went back to his guitar, while the tambourine crashed to the floor, since the person hadn’t been expecting it.
That was it, and it had just really started getting good, too.
I guess since I haven’t seen him as a country musician much, I still find it a little weird. I guess I’m just so used to him running around the stage, interacting with the fans and being a charismatic frontman. Well, he’s still pretty charismatic now, just in a slightly different way.
He’s still one of the best singer’s around, though, and regardless of what genre he’s doing, he still sounds fantastic. And I do like the more country stuff. In fact, he seemed more at home performing it now then whenever I last saw him.
Just check out his “Cold as a Stone” EP and find out for yourself. And if you like it, go catch a show. He’s got a few coming up, beginning with March 23rd at Zapatos in College Station. On the 29th they’ll be down at All Bottoms Up in Harker Heights. April 6th will find them back in Dallas, performing at the Deep Ellum Arts Festival, which takes place on Main Street in Dallas. They’ll also be in Kennedale at Red’s Roadhouse on April 12th.
The onslaught of country music continued with the next band, but in a very different way from any of the bands before, and even the ones that would follow.
With their first song The Calamity Janes showed everyone just what they were in for, with the impressive harmonies of the three Texas sisters, Courtney Childs-Mock, Arwyn Benson and Alyssa Yancey. Each of them had amazing voices, and mixed together, especially on their up tempo opening number, it was impossible not to get reeled in. A lot of what they did during their 25-minute set was covers, such as their next tune. “…We stole this song, and we sing the shit out of it…” one of them said, before starting a cover of The Pistol Annies, “Hell On Heels”. They did indeed “sing the hell out of it”, and I liked that it showcased each of their individual voices, yet also included more of the harmonies, which was certainly their specialty. After that song, they mentioned that they hailed from Waxahachie. “…There used to be a lot of barns there. Now there’s a lot of people.” Said one of them, adding, “We don’t like it.” I think their next song was called “Life’s Wildcards”, and they followed it with a couple other songs. They were sounding pretty good, but so was their backing band, which was comprised of Doug Pitt on the pedal steel guitar, Tanner Laine on guitar, James Kinard on bass, and drummer, Donald Wall. They then did yet another cover, and it was one of the Dixie Chicks songs, “Long Time Gone”, which was a highlight of their set. They had time for one more after that, and closed with an original, which, as they put it, was about their “crazy middle sister”. “I represent that statement!” Alyssa proudly said. With her red hair and prominently displayed tattoos, she did stand out more from the other two, and that was more or less what the song was about, that she was living life the way she wanted to and having fun.
Sound wise, they didn’t even remotely fit with any of the other bands on the bill, but that didn’t keep them from putting on one of the best performances of the night.
Their incredibly tight harmonies are gripping, and is definitely the backbone of their music. They’ve also written some really catchy stuff, and even the covers they put their own twist on.
I guess the point is, this is a band you need to see, and regardless of what your thoughts on country music are, I feel certain that anyone who listens to The Calamity Janes will become a fan.
So, head over to their REVERBNATION PAGE and check out some of their stuff. Also, they have a gig on April 13th in Rowlett at the Dickey’s BBQ Car Show. They’ll also be playing the Texas Tea Music Festival in Denton on May 24th.
Loyal Sally was the next band up, and I was looking forward to finally seeing them live.
They’ve played the Curtain many times before, and in fact have a plaque on their “Wall of Fame”, but I never seemed to be able to make it to one of their shows before, be it here or another venue.
As the curtain opened on them, Michael Morgan began their first song, playing a catchy series of chords on his acoustic guitar. “So, this song starts with Michael playing this crazy music for a minute.” Said singer and electric guitarist, Michael Lindblom. “Then the lyrics start right when I start singing…” he added. It was pretty hard not to laugh at that. The song proved to be every bit as good as the intro had been. “…Let’s get familiar…” Michael M. told the audience when they finished that song, urging them all to move closer. He continued, “…Michael’s going to stage dive after this song.” Michael L. went with the bit for a second, but then quickly dismissed the notion. Probably for the best, too, ‘cause the crowd was pretty sparse up front. They may have two EP’s in their discography, but they did another song that isn’t on either, but as phenomenal as it was, hopefully it’ll make the cut on their next record. They followed it with a song from their first release of 2012, “Things From Thoughts”, and it was my personal favorite of theirs, “Stereo”. It was another that started with some sweet acoustic sounds, but was kicked up a notch when drummer, Stacy Blankenship, and their bassist added some rhythm to it. “I’ll never make it if I hear what they say. I’ll know I’m wrong if I do it the right way…” sang Michael L. on the second verse, which is just one instance of great lyrics that populate their songs. Afterwards, they asked the audience the one question I’m sure every band asks, “How many of y’all are drinking tonight?” Several people cheered or raised their hand, but then Michael M. asked a question I hadn’t heard posed before. “How many of y’all have condoms?” The crowd was relatively silent about that one. Michael’s response was something like, “We have more beers than condoms. I like the direction this is headed, America.” Yeah, they definitely have a sense of humor about them, and it comes out well on stage, but they didn’t let that sidetrack them from the music, and another pretty captivating tune, “The Movies”. They busted out a new song after it, before closing their 25-minute long set with the final track from the “Pleased to Meet You!” EP, “Bye Bye”. Michael L. even ditched his guitar on that one, and the free reign it gave him transformed him into quite the frontman. That also served as a fitting song to end with, and really gave a sense of finality to the show, while also leaving you wanting more.
One thing I learned from the bands show; I need to start frequenting more Loyal Sally gigs. Like I said, I’d heard of them before, and even had gotten each EP, but I didn’t anticipate them being as fantastic live as what they were. Really, these guys are a force to be reckoned with. I now see why they recently won a semi-final round of the Hard Rock Rising competition, and I’m sure they were more than deserving of it.
The acoustic guitar gives their music a bit of a folk sound, but often it packed in just as much rock as the electric instruments did, while all of those of course added the rock style to it. All that makes for an interesting, more unusual blend of music, which you really need to hear.
Both of their records can be purchased in ITUNES, and catch them at the second annual Big Folkin’ Festival on March 30th at The Door. Also check them out on April 11th at the Hard Rock Cafe in Dallas, for the final round of the Hard Rock Rising competition.
Things got more into the rock swing with the next act, which was The Unlikely Candidates.
Just about two months before, I saw them for the first time right here, and was eager to see them again.
The five-piece pop/rock outfit got off to a great start with their first song, and like the band before them, they have an acoustic guitarist, Cole, which a bit of a different vibe to this radio friendly music. They barreled through their 25-minute set with a couple more songs, before vocalist, Kyle, asked if there were any fans of The Strokes in attendance. The band’s sound is similar to that of The Strokes, making them a good band to cover and they did a spot on job of “Someday”. In fact, and I think I said this last time too, but I think it was even a hair better than The Strokes original. There was only time enough for two more songs at this point, but they had saved two of their catchiest for last. By that, I mean The Unlikely Candidates are no strangers to the “hook”, which is something these final two definitely had. They wrapped things up with their current single, which is “Follow My Feet”. “There’s a fork in the road in front of me, at the crossroads of identity. The devil is standing to the left, he says, “Either way they both lead to death”…” Kyle sang, before drummer, Kevin, lead guitarist, Josiah, and bassist, Brenton, tore into the song. Even if you don’t know it, it’ll still have you singing along, even if it’s just on the simple line form the chorus, “…Yeah, so follow, follow, follow my feet…”.
Their set, albeit short, was a standout of the night. Kyle’s voice is incredible, while their music is very easy to get into, and is not only something you could easily sing along to, but also something you might find yourself dancing to. And the acoustic guitar adds an excellent layer to their pop/rock sound. Definitely a band you need to experience if you haven’t already, and after one show, they’ll likely have you coming back for more.
You can find their single, “Follow My Feet”, in iTunes, and hopefully more singles, or even an EP or LP, will follow soon enough. And be sure to check out their FACEBOOK PAGE to be kept in the loop of future shows.
Next up was the main event of the night, and while not the headliner, this show was all about The Bedlam Brothers and the release of their latest EP.
Their 44-minute long set began with some intro music playing, before their new drummer, Juan, stepped on stage and got behind his drum kit, which was set up sideways. It looked a little weird, but I like that, because it makes it easier to see what the drummer at work. He proceeded to lay down some beats, before Craig McLaughlin walked on stage and completed the rhythm section when he added some bass into the mix. After a moment, vocalist and guitarist, Nick Santa Maria, got on stage, completing the trio, and then they were off. They tore through their opening number, which at the end they whipped into the lead track from their “Saddle Up” EP, “Run Run Run”. It’s even more intense live than it comes across on the CD, seeming a little faster paced, while the sweat guitar solo and riffs sound their best in the live environment. Plus you got that catchy little chorus, “Run, run, run as fast as you can. Gotta leave this town, I’m a wanted man…”. Once they finished it, Nick thanked everyone for coming out to the show. “…We may be from Austin now, but Dallas is home…” he said. After all, both he and Craig are from the area, which makes it all the more impressive that later in the show, Nick said this was both the most fun show he had played in Dallas, and also the best crowd. The thing about that was you could tell he was being sincere, and not just saying it to make the audience feel important. They next busted out “Not Enough”, an older song of Nick’s, which is really at its best with the southern rock grit that The Bedlam Brothers give it. “I’m gonna need your help on this next song…” said Nick when they finished. He coached the crowd through their part a few times, as he belted out, “Maaaaarrry Roooose!” a few times a cappella, getting the fans to then shout out, “Mary was a tortured soul!” With a quick beat, Juan then started them on the first single from their album, “Mary Rose”, which is by far one of the strongest songs in their in their catalog. They brought things down just a little “240 Miles”, and afterwards took a brief break as Craig introduced the band. “Back here beating off like no one’s business is John, or Juan. He goes by both.” He said, formally introducing the new drummer to everyone. After saying something about Nick, Nick then introduced him. “Over here we’ve got the master basser…” he said, keeping with the dirty little innuendos. With that out of the way they kicked things back into high gear with “First Time”, which gave the crowd a dose of heavy southern rock, and was something you could really bang your head to. I think it was after that song that Nick thanked everyone for coming out, mentioning that is was the best Dallas crowd he had ever played to, and also pointed out an interesting tidbit of information. “…I looked at our Reverbnation and Facebook pages and it was this time one year ago when we signed up on them…” he said, making this the bands one year anniversary show. That’s a hell of a way to celebrate it to, doing a CD release show in your true hometown. They kept things going with another single, “We Ride Tonight”, and then the song that follows it on the record, “Save Me”. That strong finish served to start winding down their set, but they had enough time for one more song, and it was their routine closer. Craig, who before one song had said it was one of the first he and Nick started playing when they in the early stages of The Bedlam Brothers, stated that this next one really was their first song they started jamming with. He went on to say it was about living their dream of just making music, and that maybe one day they could do that full-time. Nick chimed in, “It’d probably be nine PM to five AM, though…”, which, in that line of work, is more than accurate. They then ripped into “My 9 to 5”, which is a rock song through and through, and will forever be an excellent way to conclude a performance.
These guys continue to get better with every show, and this was definitely their best Dallas show to date. The larger than normal crowd could probably be part of the reason the show was so great, since every band feeds of a crowds energy, and top that with the excitement of a CD release show, which are always some of the best of a bands career, and you got a very memorable show.
Their new drummer, who had only been with the band for a few weeks, looked like he had been with them for years and fit with them perfectly. Craig’s a really good bassist, and makes use of the large stage, moving all around, while Nick slays on the guitar when that’s his only focus and he’s taking a break from singing.
Fantastic band, and their CD is a great reflection of what they are like. So, why not go see a show and pick up a copy of it, either on ITUNES or at a live show. They have gigs coming up on March 30th at The Door in Dallas as part of the second annual Big Folkin’ Festival, and on April 14th they’ll be at The Dogwood in Austin.
After a show like that, anyone would be hard pressed to rival or top it, but if any band could, We The Ghost was one that stood a chance at it.
For this show, they had five out of their seven members in tow, which in the end, resulted in what was probably one of their most solid Dallas shows.
The Tulsa based band began their set with a song from their “My Mixtape Summer” EP, “Your Remedy”. They have several fantastic songs, but that one is of their best (or at least a personal favorite of mine), with the catchy chorus that singer and acoustic guitarist, Beau Tyler, spits out in more of a reggae style, “I can be your cure, it’s the only that I, I ever know for sure. If you will only trust in me, then I can be the medicine you need. Oh, baby, I, I can be your cure…” That’s actually what makes so many of their songs so unique, that they do have a certain reggae flair to them, and stand apart from anything else currently out there. They followed it with another song from their first EP, one of the singles, “She’s Gonna Fly Again”. Towards the end of it, Beau pointed out that since Paco [Estrada] was a no show, they were going to do something else instead. “…I’m going to show you what an amazing guitarist he is…” Beau said, pointing at bassist, Ben Mosier, who is probably best known as the guitarist of the long defunct Denton band, Upside. Ben and guitarist, Matt McHan, then switched spots (and instruments), for a little something special. While short, it was phenomenal, as Ben shredded on the guitar. It’s been so long since I last saw him play the guitar, I forgot the crazy amount of talent he possessed. He’s one of those players that makes it look completely effortless, without being over the top, and as good as he is on the bass, there’s no question where his talent truly lies. That didn’t last too long before they returned to their original instruments and wrapped up the song, before revealing they had something else special in store for the next one. “Does anybody remember a band called Utica?” Beau asked the crowd. It was one of his older projects, which included Stan Roden on vocal duties, and Beau now invited on stage. “…This is one of Stan’s favorite songs of ours…” he added, as Stan proceeded to sing the first few lines of “Wash These Sins Away”, which was the chorus. He handled that part throughout the tune, while Beau sang the verses. I never saw Utica, but I had listened to their stuff. Stan had a killer voice from what I heard, and it sounded every bit as good now hearing it live. The two voices mingled well together as they ceded control back and forth to one another, and made the song sound its absolute best. They brought the level down a little with “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang”, before pulling out a rather unexpected cover. “This isn’t new, but it’s new for us.” Said Beau, repeating it afterwards, trying to get a better reaction out of the crowd. Paula Abdul isn’t an artist you’d expect these guys to cover, yet here they were, doing a more rock rendition of her song “Straight Up”. The keys, which were manned by Kris Stone, had been prevalent throughout the night, but they really brought this song to life, while lyrically, Beau transformed it to almost more of a rap. It was really an interesting take on the song, and I liked it. After a newer song, Beau shouted out The Bedlam Brothers and asked everyone to go pick up their new CD. “…I think many of you realize what it takes to make a record.” He said, noting that a lot of work goes into getting music “…on that stuff that makes it play…” He said something along those lines at least, before they soon started their current single off the “White Noise” EP, “Let Me Know”. They weren’t done yet, though, and they finished their 39-minute set with a song Beau wrote during the days of his last band. “…This is called Right Where You Want.” He announced, as they ended with a real rock number. Drummer, Jimmy Adams, had been great all night but it with that song where he really got to cut loose and go all out, giving a dynamic end to a extraordinary set.
Out of the small handful of We the Ghost shows I’ve seen, this was certainly the best. I don’t believe they’ve ever had this many members at a Dallas gig before (at least not the few I’ve caught), and the full drum kit and keys made all the difference in rounding out their sound. And about their sound, like I touched on earlier, it’s something that’s entirely their own. I’ve never heard any music like this before, and in a world where everyone says everything in music has been done and that sound wise it’s impossible to do something original now, We The Ghost is proof that’s not entirely true.
They’re creative and original, yet many of their songs also have that radio quality to them. Check it out for yourself, you can find both of their EP’s in ITUNES. So give ‘em a listen, and buy it if you dig it.
They also have quite a few shows lined up over the next several months, with one being on April 5th at Guthrie Green in Tulsa, OK. The night after they’ll be at Rooster’s in Fort Smith, Arkansas. They’re calendar has a few dates going all the way through September right now, so check out their REVERBNATION PAGE for a list of all of them.
There was one band left this night, but after being out for so long, I was beat. Plus, I had more than gotten my dose of music for the night.
On one hand, a bill with this many acts can be nice, because you do get to see a vast array of talent. But on the other hand, the sets are so short that you just really start getting into the music when they the act has to wrap it up. At least that was true for most of the bands early on in the night.
Still, kudos go out to everyone who had a hand in putting this together, because the majority of the bands were incredible, and it made for a killer night of music.
It was back to my favorite Deep Ellum haunt, The Curtain Club, this night, where, just like the previous night, a killer lineup of bands had been assembled.
Olivine was one of those bands, and I missed the first bit of their set, because I was out on the patio talking with Paco Estrada, who would later play.
I had never seen the band before, though I had seen their singer, Jake Mai, when he opened for People On Vacation last year, shortly before forming Olivine. I enjoyed the music then, but it was obviously not completely rounded, since it lacked a full band.
That expansion, and the use of electric instruments made all the difference this night. What I did see of it was an explosive performance of pop/rock music. Bassist, Jorge Garcia, and lead guitarist, Casey Hollyfield, put on a dynamic live show, and Jake certainly did his fair share when he didn’t have to be stationed behind the mic. They played several songs off their debut record, “Drift”, and even at one point brought things down, when Casey, Jorge, and drummer, Joe Bortscheller, left Jake alone to do an acoustic song. For their final song, they did the title track itself, “Drift”, which is easily the best song in their arsenal.
Their music is extremely radio friendly, and mines that vein of pop/rock. Usually, that’s a style of music I try to stay away from, simply because it sounds so generic now. Every now and then, though you see a band that can pull it off well, and Olivine is one of those bands. Sure, it may not be groundbreaking, but it sounds good, and that’s what really matters.
Check out the “Drift” record in iTunes. And while they have no shows booked at the moment, keep tabs on their OFFICIAL WEBSITE to find out when they do.
After them was Erik Chandler, who’s probably best known as the bassist of Bowling for Soup, and this night was doing his first show with his backing band. It consisted of Doug McGrath (formerly of SouthFM) on bass and Taylor Young (of Dallas’s hottest country duo, The O’s) on drums, while Erik played the guitar. Now, practically his entire 34-minute set was originals from his upcoming record, meaning I can’t elaborate with song titles like I typically do. After their first song, Erik made mention of the record, talking about how good it is and acknowledged that he has been working on it for awhile. “…And trust me, y’all are all very thankful for it…”, referring to the album, which was self-described as being one of the best records ever. After another original they did a cover of Elvis Costellos’ “(What’s so Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding”. “…If I wrote this song, I wouldn’t be here right now…” said Erik before starting it. It was a great rendition of the song, and they kept it pretty spot on, with the exception that it sounded like it was more up tempo. Afterwards, Erik thanked Olivine for opening the show, and People on Vacation for putting it all together. “…You don’t get this much rock anymore…” he said, a statement I didn’t find entirely accurate, especially after the show here the night before, which boasted three bands who routinely headline the Curtain. Point is, rock is still very much alive in Dallas. Anyway, they did another song that was about Eriks’ first car, and upon finishing it, he mentioned how good it was to be back at the Curtain. “…This was the place of cutting teeth…” he said, speaking of the early days of Bowling for Soup (whose plaque still proudly adorns the “Wall of Fame” in the venue). He continued, “…It’s like a family reunion, ‘cause almost all the same people still work here…” They did a couple more originals, before doing another cover, which I was unfamiliar with. “…This is another one I didn’t write, but I sure wish I did…” Erik said. Periodically throughout the show fans had been buying them drinks, and at this point, someone handed Erik a shot, which he couldn’t identify. He hesitantly drank it, and while I don’t remember what it is, he said he usually didn’t get along with it. It was too late to do anything about it, though. Before their final song, Erik set it up by saying it was one everyone could all relate to. “…We all have that one cunt that really fucked you up…” he said. It was called “Tonight’s the Night”, and it really was the best song of their set.
I was sure it would be good, but still, the most I’ve ever heard Erik sing is adding the occasional backing vocals on various BFS songs, which makes it hard to truly gauge anyone’s voice. However, Erik’s got a good set of pipes on him, and sounded quite great this night.
The music’s really good, too, and for anyone who is a fan of BFS, you’re guaranteed to like his stuff.
Check out his FACEBOOK PAGE to stay up to date with his goings on, and expect his debut album to drop sometime this year.
Next up was the headlining band, People On Vacation, which is of course the side project of fellow BFS member, Jaret Reddick, and co-founded by another Dallas musician, Ryan Hamilton.
This was a big show for the band, because not only were they celebrating the release of their latest album on CD (it has been available digitally since late last year), it was also Jaret’s birthday show. Jaret pointed this out before they even began the show, and mentioned he probably wouldn’t make it through the night sober. Joining them for this full band performance was Linus Dotson, AKA Linus of Hollywood, on keys, and Jaret pointed him out to the crowd. “…My boo flew in for this show…” he said, and continued by saying that since it was his birthday week, if Linus peed on anything this night it would be completely legal. Yeah, all that happened before they even played a song, which was proof enough that this was going to be an unforgettable night.
They began with “Prettiest Girl In The World”, which surprised me a little, because the last times I had seen them it was more of the closer, or at least fell later in the set. The upbeat, happy tune the song carries made it work well as an opener, though, and immersed the audience into their music. Like his band mate that played before him, Jaret mentioned how good it was to be back at the Curtain Club. “…We just played here…” he said, adding it had only been three days or something, referring to their show here which had barely been a month ago. They then did another song from their newest record, “We Are The Lucky Ones”. “Why can’t we just skip to the good parts. Read through the last page before start. I’ll raise one hand to the heavens, I’ll use the other to cross my heart and hope to die…” Ryan and Jaret both sang, with drummer, Todd Harwell, adding the well planned beats, that dance in between each line. The crazy banter continued after that song, and while shouting out all the other acts on the bill, Jaret officially named Eriks’ band, calling them “Erik Chandler & The Prima Donna Motherfuckers”. They joked about for a few minutes, having the audience laughing right along with them, before eventually busting out another fan favorite, “Back To Being Friends”. Upon finishing it, Ryan was put in charge of entertaining the crowd, while Jaret put on some chapstick. Before he had a chance to say anything, though, Linus chimed in, saying he’s told Jaret before that he thinks he’s addicted to that stuff, and needs to quit using it. “…It’s funny, because while he’s telling me that, he’s over there smoking a cigarette…” he said, speaking of past cases. They briefly debated if someone even could be addicted to chapstick, before discussing how they were going to start their next song. “…You start it.” Jaret told Ryan, who proceeded to strum his acoustic guitar. I had never heard them start this song this way before, but those chords on their own sounded phenomenal. Soon, Linus started in on the keys, which confirmed it was “Alone with You”. That one’s still my favorite POV song, mainly because of that one line, “…Begging for a pardon like a subject of a warden, like I burped up something and swallowed it again…”. I still think that’s pure genius. When it ended, Jaret pointed out that Ryan was the “Where’s Waldo of St. Patrick’s Day”, as he did have on a striped shirt, with green instead of red. Soon, conversation switched to Ryan’s parents, with Jaret saying he didn’t know much about Ryan’s dad, except, “…He helps with the Holiday Salsa. And he likes to weld…”. This led Ryan to tell everyone the best advice he ever received from his father. “Son, if you’re going to be dumb, then you need to be tough.” According to him, that was the best advice he got, and Jaret countered it with his. “My dad didn’t want to have the sex talk with me, so he just told me, “Son, keep it in your pants unless you’re going to the bathroom.” “True story.” He added. When they got back into song mode, they did another happy song from their first EP, “She was the Only One”. During that song, and the past few, a women had been going around taking pictures of the band with her iPad, and at this point, Jaret pointed it out, saying something like, “…Steve Jobs would be rolling over in his grave if he knew the iPad was being used to take pictures in the pit at a rock show…”. Linus then proved his wittiness, ‘His iGrave.” Brilliant (and quite possible true). Ryan was persuaded to play a song he wrote for Linus during one of their UK tours, aptly called, “Linus of Hollywood”. All though short, it was pretty humorous, and not bad at all for something that, at one time, was probably quickly made up. Another song of Ryan’s (a legitimate one) followed, and it was the song about searching for love, “Lonely Fish”. “So many fish in the proverbial sea, I wonder ‘round the world just hoping that you’ll bump into me…” he sang, the first line of this spot on tune. I’m still glad it made its transition into a POV song, because it was one of the best in Ryan’s catalog, and the full band sound just makes it that much better. The talk then turned to Christmas, when they mentioned that with the release of “The Summer and The Fall” on CD, it was like Christmas. “Play a Christmas song!” shouted one of the audience members. “You really want us to play a Christmas song?!” Jaret asked, and they all looked at each other like they were contemplating the idea. However, the closest they got was Linus playing the tune of one on the keyboard. They then brought things down ever so slightly with “Rainy Day”, and soon after followed it up with the perfect song, and one of their best, “Because Of The Sun”. I liked the little metaphor that made, simply saying that the sun will shine after any storm, and things will get better. “It’s Not Love” came next, and Ryan started the song. Almost immediately, Jaret peaked over his shoulder, looking at where the capo was placed, before putting his on the same fret. Ryan didn’t seem to notice, or if he did he ignored, but everyone else got a kick out of it. “…We just topped Coldplay with that one…” Jaret said when they finished, noting that nobody even had to drop all the cash that they would have to see a Coldplay concert. “…I wrote this next song in the shower…” Said Jaret, which prompted a look from Ryan and bassist, Beau Wagener, of, “Do I want to ask?” “No, not like that!” he quickly replied, which didn’t stop Ryan from asking him if he heard “…Hundreds of screaming children coming from the drain…” It wasn’t as bad as it first sounded, with Jaret saying he thought of it while in the shower, then penned it once he got out. The song was the rhymey, “I Get You”, which is a quick and nice little love song. Jaret began talking about his birthday, stating that the best gift he got was having a service come out for a whole year to pick up his dogs poop. They were then informed they had enough time for one more song, and Beau, Todd and Linus left the stage, leaving the two to close out their 60-minute long set with a more acoustic style song. It was a cover of Ratt’s “Round and Round”, which further proves the bands love for classic 80’s metal songs, which is typically what they cover. It was a very different take on it, yet it sounded amazing. It was the harmonies that really made the song, plus the slower pace gave it more of a somber feeling.
It was a pretty good song to end with, and it was another fantastic People On Vacation show.
With their hectic schedules, they haven’t played live much lately, and I’m pretty certain the last time I saw them was last May. So long I had almost forgotten how entertaining they are.
The mix of infectious pop/rock songs, with hilarious humor make them one of the only bands that encompasses every aspect of entertainment, and they’re bound to reel you in with at least one of those.
Check out the two records they now have available, both of which can be found in ITUNES, and keep a check on their FACEBOOK PAGE for future show dates. ‘Cause hopefully, if neither of them get too busy with their primary bands, they’ll be doing another People On Vacation show sooner rather than later.
They may have been the headlining band, but there was one more act after them, and it was the insanely talented, Paco Estrada.
Joining him was his backing band, which is yet unnamed, but is comprised of Scotty Isaacs on the piano, Joel Bailey on bass, AJ Blackleaf supplying the beats on a partial drum kit, and the newest addition, Nathan Parnell on an electric guitar.
They opened their 42-minute set with one of Paco’s newest songs, “American Girls”, which has a little bit of a folk sound to it, but also is a bit of a classic rock song. As that song came to an end, Paco kept strumming his acoustic guitar, transitioning them right into their next song, which sounded all too familiar. Personally, I think Pacos’ most current release, 2011’s “The Definite and Indefinite…”, is overall the best collection of songs he’s done to date, but over the last year or so, most of those songs have found their way out of the live set, including the gem, “Whiskey Kisses”. Well, tonight they had decided to dust it off, and I think it was largely due to Nathan on the electric guitar. Once they hit the chorus, Nathan’s guitar work really livened up the song, while AJ tore in on the drums. It suddenly became a full-blown rock song, which is something Paco hasn’t done in a very long time. “…Your sweet whiskey kisses, that’s what I’ve been missing. When you lose your inhibitions…” he belted out on the chorus, in his rich, soulful voice. They did another new one, “The Way I Love You”, and afterwards, Paco acknowledged a friend and fellow vocalist who was out enjoying the show. “Tim, when was the last time I got to sing for you?” he asked, speaking to Tim Ziegler. It almost made it sound like the next song was dedicated to him, which I doubt was the case, since it was the ultimate love song, “When We Were Made”. Seriously, you’ll be hard pressed to find a love song as powerful as that one is. After another new song, the enthralling, “She”, they did yet another song I hadn’t heard in a few years. It wasn’t an original, though. “We got any Deftones fans in here?” asked Paco, which got a rise from the audience. He mentioned something about knifes, then said, “… I’m Mexican, so I got a knife in my boot at all times…” As you might have guessed by now, they were covering “Knife Party”, which was often a staple back in the days of Paco & One Love. This was a little more rock version, though, but still the best part was just the way Paco sings the chorus, “…Go get your knife, go get your knife and lay down. Go get your knife, go get your knife, now kiss me.”, with the force he puts behind it making it nothing short of phenomenal. It had only been a few weeks since I had last seen Paco, but since seeing that show in Fort Worth, I had anxiously been awaiting this one, to hear the song they did next, or rather the cover they tack onto it. “This song’s about my dad.” Said Paco, as they started “Breaking Down”. The part about his father comes on the second verse, “…My father had a heart attack at fifty-eight. I never thought that man was built to break. He told us that if he went under, he didn’t want them to resuscitate…”After a couple more trips through the chorus, Paco looked at his band mates during a brief instrumental break, before jumping into the cover. “Did I disappoint you, or leave a bad taste in your mouth? You act like you never had love, and you want me to go without…” he sang. I’ll say it again, out of all the covers he’s added at the end of this song over the years, U2’s “One” is truly the best. He has a knack for conveying real emotion while he sings, and that’s at its best here, especially on the line, “…We’re one, but we’re not the same. Will we hurt each other, then we do it again…”, which is sung with a fiery passion, and personally, I think it trumps U2’s original version of it. At this point, they only had a couple more left, and Paco mentioned that they were “…All love songs, so they’re all slower tempo…” That held very true to their next song, and another classic I hadn’t heard in awhile, “I Will Never Let You Go”. Now they only had one left, and it was the routine closer, “Haunting Me”. “…I’ll pack my bags. I’ll put my heart in a box of letters from you I have. I’ll disappear and paint it black, and when the memory of my face begins to fade, I’m coming back…” Paco croons on the second verse, giving the song somewhat of an eerie vibe. This is another one where he usually adds a cover song on the end of it, and it is the Whitney Houston classic, “I Wanna Dance with Somebody”, which is a positive note to end on.
The difference between this show and the one I had seen before it was like night and day. Like I said, that electric guitar brought them to a whole new level, and while they still had the songs that were very piano based, the drums and guitar surged to life on others.
It brought everything to life, quite honestly, this is the best band I’ve seen Paco surround himself with since One Love disbanded in late 2010. So, hopefully this will be the band that sticks with him for awhile. I guess only time will tell on that.
However, while this band may not have any recordings, Paco’s catalog is extensive, and several of his older records can be purchased via BANDCAMP.
Their music was a great way to conclude the show this night. It’s just a shame that so few people stuck around, because, as I’ve said many times before, Paco is the most talented singer/songwriter in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Oh, and the incense they have burning during their shows makes it even more of an experience.
It was another killer night of music at the best venue in Deep Ellum, and if you weren’t there, you missed out.
Deep Friday’s were an institution in Deep Ellum back in the day. At least from what I hear.
The premise was you pay one flat cover of five bucks and then you have access to several of the venues in the area. It was a true collaborative effort, which is exactly what the scene (and any scene in general) needs.
But when the area hit hard times in the late 2000’s and the droves of people stopped going down there, Deep Friday’s was no longer economical, and was on its way out about the same time I was really getting immersed in the local music community.
Luckily, traffic down there is on the rise, so this night, five venues, The Curtain Club/Liquid Lounge, The Boiler Room, Wit’s End and Reno’s Chop Shop participated in an experiment to try to bring back Deep Friday’s.
My night began at The Boiler Room, where I arrived around 8:20.
Originally, Lindby was scheduled to be the opening band, but I for whatever reason they evidently fell off the bill, and taking their place was another Fort Worth based band, Animal Spirit.
When I walked in the quartet was probably halfway through their set, and were doing something different, having all four of them play percussion on one song, with guitarist, Andrew Stroheker, and bassist, Joe Prankster, playing some smaller drums, and frontwoman, Sam Wuehermann, did the same. They went back to the normal setup afterwards, doing a few more songs in a very interesting style of indie rock, and personally I thought they were at their best when Sam and Andrew were co-singing, like on “The Planets a Lie”.
What little I saw I enjoyed, and they piqued my interest enough I’d like to see them again and experience a full set from them.
If you go to their REVERBNATION PAGE you can listen to a couple of their songs, as well as keep track of their upcoming shows.
After them was a band I had seen for the first time exactly one month before, and I was looking forward to seeing them again.
The band I speak of is The Bright, who won me over last month at The House of Blues. They quickly started setting their gear up, and this six-piece pop/rock outfit needed every single inch of the stage, and still looked a little cramped up there.
They opened their set with the lead track from the “Objects of my Affection” album, “Save the Night”. It really showed off their more poppy side with the heavy use of the keys, courtesy of Eric Jenkins, but is also offered a good dose of rock at times, and vocalist, Julie Lange, writhed around in perfect synch with some of the heavier drumbeats Robert Yahne cranked out. The seductive “Serpent” came next, and one of only two cuts they did from their 2008 debut record. In between the first few songs they tried to work out all the little kinks, like getting the levels in everyone’s monitors adjusted properly, while Julie made some small talk with the audience. When they were ready to roll again, they did “How I Feel”, then another upbeat pop number, “Over and Over”. Once they finished it, Julie mentioned they had a music video for it, which could be found on their Youtube channel, and she rattled off the link, which ended with the number “1”. One of the bands guitarists, Kell Curtis, was off mic, but you could hear a small part of the joke he made, saying something like the number in the link should have been “sixty nine”. Julie then announced the title of the next song, which was “Deep Fall”. “…It’s based on a true story of a painting.” She said right before Kell and fellow guitarist, Taylor Tatsch, started the tune. It was a highlight of their set, as it does an excellent job of showcasing Julies’ voice and the impressive range she is capable of. “10 Hearts” came next, and upon finishing it, Julie talked about they had so much fun dusting off an older song at their previous show, that they thought they’d do it one more time. It was supposed to be one of their final three songs, but then they found out they had enough time for only two. Julie was optimistic, though, saying something like, “…We’re gonna haul through these…”. I was glad they still decided to do “Cut Me Loose”, which made an impression on me last month, and again tonight it ended up being my favorite song of their set. It’s a superb song, and I really think/hope it makes a comeback to the current set. Afterwards, she admitted they probably only had time for one more song. “…On one hand there’s Charmed.” she said, which is their current single. Then added, “…On the other, there’s Kashmir.” It went up to vote, and not much noise was made for their original, making it a clear cut decision what they would play. Taylor, Kell, Robert and bassist, Miguel Fair, then tore into the Led Zeppelin classic. As odd a choice as it sounds, they actually do an incredible version of that song, and it was really the only way to conclude their 41-minute long set.
The Bring really something else, and they probably should have gone on later than what they did. After all, the showroom, while small, was still packed while they were performing. And not only did they have the fans out, but they commanded them well.
I’ll say it again, Julies’ voice is the most captivating aspect of their show. It’s remarkable, and the recordings on their records don’t quite do it justice. So basically I’m saying you need to experience it live. The instrumentalists are just as much an integral part of the show, though, with Miguel being a great bassist, and rocked out on the bass. Both Kell and Taylor are killer guitarists and add a lot of professionalism to the show.
Together, the six make a well-oiled machine, and are probably one of the most talented bands here in Dallas.
Check out both of their records in ITUNES, and keep an eye on their Facebook Page to see whenever they have another show coming up.
I could have spent the whole night here at The Boiler Room. I don’t know who the next band was, but The Raven Charter and In Memory of Man were going on later, both of whom are fantastic.
There were other bands I wanted to see more, though, so I made my way across the street to see what was going on at Wit’s End.
I thought Daylight Industries might be getting ready to go on, but they weren’t. So instead of watching them rock out, I chatted with them instead.
Before I Am Warbird started, I exited there, making my way over to main street, where The Curtain Club lies.
The place was PACKED. The patio was teeming with life, and once I finally got it in it was almost hard to even move around.
I was hoping I hadn’t missed Night Gallery, and sure enough, I was one of the guys getting their gear on stage, meaning it was just a matter of time before their first Dallas show of the year ensued.
The guys were waiting, and as the curtain opened on them, they launched into their first song. It would seem that the new year has brought with it a new setlist for the band, and they began with “Crazy Brave”. It was a fun way to open the show, but I also really liked the tone it set. “The cage is gone and now you run. I can’t control what I’ve become. You think you’re brave but now you see the crazy beast that you’ve set free…” Patrick “Otter” Gonzales roared on the chorus, as guitarists, Jeremy Root and Jan Mage, quickly slashed away at their axes. With the song, it was like they were sending the message that this was going to be a no holds barred show, and warning the audience to get ready for it. Duckie then wound them immediately into their next song, with Jan soon letting loose on the intro of their lead single, “My Friend Pretend”. Those two tracks proved to be a lethal combination, and by the time they had finished their second song, I was really feeling it. Sure, I’m a diehard fan who loves the music in the first place, but it was different than that. They had made an exceptionally strong push right out of the gate, and almost instantly had every last person by the balls. Otter then thanked everyone for coming out, and everything like that, before saying they were going to bring it down a little with their next song. It was “Without Regret”, and I still don’t know how slow the song really is, though it has some softer parts. Like the short guitar solo, which finds Otter “shushing” the crowd at the exact moment most of the instruments fall silent. Duckie again segued them from one song to the next, and Jeremy proceeded to strum away at his guitar, leading them into “The Tide”. And, like the title somewhat suggests, there’s a great ebb and flow to it. Otter made some more small talk with the fans, pointing out their merch booth, noting they had CDs for sale that had all these songs on them. They also sell anything else imaginable, like, “…midgets… dental dams…” and all sorts of other items. At least that’s what Otter says, and it always makes me laugh. They got back to it with one of their most rocking numbers, “Separation Anxiety”, and I swear I love that song more and more each time I hear it. Some more swift drumbeats then brought them right into “Mr. Ripper”. That was a sign their set was nearing the end, which I thought surely couldn’t be right. They also had a technical difficulty during that one. Otters’ mic suddenly cut out, turning a portion of the song into an instrumental track, as he kept singing into the mic, and doing everything he could to try to get it working again. Nothing worked, so eventually he grabbed the stage left mic, signaling to the sound guy to turn it up. It didn’t look as cool as his standard microphone, which resembles one Elvis used, but it worked just as well. That found them at their last song of the night, which came all too soon. In typical fashion, Duckie counted them into “The Signal”, in English for the first series of drum beats, then Spanish for the next, with Jan, Jeremy, and bassist, Mikey Auringer, letting loose some notes in perfect synch. The intro for the song is long, but worth the wait, as it’s the bands most aggressive song, and, as usual, served as a great closer. In fact, I felt some similarities between it and their first song, which I thought made each one a great “book end” so to speak.
Believe it or not, all that rock transpired in a mere 29-minutes, and in that short time they were able to pack in just as much rock as they do when they have nearly twice that much time.
Yeah, I hated that their set was cut short and there were a few fan favorites that they didn’t have time for, but still it was a stellar show. In fact, this was one of the best Night Gallery shows I’ve seen, second only to their CD release show last June.
They were all on top of their game this night, which I think further helped them make the most of their time on stage. Also, this was the first time I had seen the band with Jan as their guitarist, and only the second show he had done with the band.
He’s a skilled guitarist, which was obvious just by watching his playing, and there were a few songs he took some of the lines and started riffing, which made the songs sound even better than they already do.
If you haven’t seen a Night Gallery show yet, you’re really missing out. They put on one of the most fun live shows of any band here in the area, and you can’t argue the fact that they rock out with the best of them.
Pick up the bands album, “Loud As the Sun” in iTunes. Those songs have been staples for years now in their shows, but before long, you can expect them to unleash some brand spankin’ new music on their fans. The mere thought of that already has me excited. Also, they have one show on the books at the moment, and it’ll be over in Shreveport, LA at the Riverside Warehouse.
It’s hard to beat Night Gallery, but Early Pearl was poised to be every bit as good, if not even better.
It had been four long years since I last saw Early Pearl, with the group quietly going their separate ways in late 2009. No grand farewell show or anything, they just slipped away.
Then, last December, there was a reunion show (which I regrettable missed), and that show has led to the band getting back together.
So, to say I was excited about this would be a serious understatement.
As the curtain opened on them guitarists, Chris Jackson and Ryan Maynard, and bassist, Chris Ivey, cranked out some random notes, while Bobby Primm supplied the beats, and as that was going on, vocalist, Bishop Booker, slowly walked over to center stage. You could feel the excitement in the air.
Turns out, that even after four years, some things don’t change, like their opening song for instance. The random chords were suddenly whipped into “Get Out”, and Bishop belted out the first line of it, “You think you got me where you want me, my man. But I see right through all the shit that you spread…”. It was an electric opener, and certainly got my adrenaline pumping as I wondered what else they would they pull out. They had a couple more planned from their “This Is” record, one of which was “State of Affairs”, and during it, Jackson tore off on a blistering guitar solo, that lasted just long enough to add a great texture to the song, but not seem over the top. It wound down, but Jackson patched things right into their next song which was “Breakdown”, and honestly, I was a little surprised to hear it. By their standards, it’s a slower song, and saw Bishop doing some serious crooning, while Chris, Maynard and Jackson toned their playing down, before coming alive on each chorus. Jackson stole the show during it, though, and his passionate solo was the true essence of the song. During the break in between songs, Bishop mentioned how good it was to “be back home”. “…This was where it all started for Early Pearl…” he said, surveying the crowd, which included some on lookers in the upstairs area. Before their demise, they were working on a new record and had plenty of songs written, which had also found their way into the live set. Now, it was time for some of those tunes. There was only one I remember from back then, and that was “This Time Around”, which Bobby promptly started. It was as badass as I remembered it being, and is a rock song through and through. Unlike most rock songs, though, there’s a short line where Bishop pushes his voice into a fairly high falsetto range, and nails it. I believe it was “Hindsight” that they did afterwards. Regardless of what it was, it was a beast of a song, and Maynard and Jackson owned their parts, with the guitar notes being a beast in their own right. Before moving on with their next song, Bishop mentioned how this show was somewhat of an “accident” (originally, they were booked at another Dallas venue, before getting bumped in favor of a national touring band). “…That’s okay, I like accidents…” said Bishop, who again stated the bands love for the Curtain and how glad they were to be there. The catchy and semi melodic “Sooner Or Later” followed, and when they finished it up Bishop re-hydrated himself a little. “Hey Bishop, what’s with that water shit?!” a fan/friend yelled at him, as earlier he had said something to the effect that they’d drink whatever shots/drinks anyone wanted to buy them. “What’s with this water shit? It’s called it’s fucking hot as hell up here…” he retorted. Soon they burst into “Letting Go”, and around halfway through it he grabbed one of the water bottles he had, and threw much of the water onto the crowd, eventually tossing the bottle itself into the crowd. It only got better though, and after Bishop stood back to back with Chris, while he rocked out on his bass, he walked towards the front of the stage. “If I fall on y’all, will y’all catch me?” he asked, then turned around, back facing the audience, and fell onto the crowd of people. They caught him fine, but he didn’t get back on stage quite as gracefully. “Fuck it, I’ll sing the next song like this if I have to…” he said, right when as got back on stage. They launched into “Say It” right after that, which is their heaviest song, and also the one that’s probably most in your face. It finds Bishop screaming at times on the chorus, which he addressed once they finished it. “…I bet y’all didn’t know a black man could scream like that, did ya? Usually it’s only when I’m running from the cops, but that’s a different story…” he said, making a joke which I don’t think got all the laughs it deserved. They were down to just one last new song, and it was so new, no one outside the band had heard it until this night. “…I don’t even have a tile for it…” said Bishop, right before they started it. It was another hit, and it’s also one of the first songs that Maynard has got to put his touch on, since, as Bishop put it, “…He’s the new kid on the block…”. You wouldn’t know it by watching him, though, and was incredibly cohesive with his band mates for this to only be his second live show with them. It was time to start winding things down at this point, and the rock outfit had saved their best for last. I was starting to wonder if my favorite song of theirs would be played or not, and then Jackson began “Turn”. From the first time I listened to it on Myspace (yes, Myspace), I loved it, and it was the lyrics that really drew me in. Like this line from the chorus, “…Does it beseech you to know my face?” That made my night, but they had one song left in their 44-minute long set, and it would be the icing on the cake. It had been so long, I forgot they did a short prelude to “This Is”, helping set up what is the perfect closer, and even if the lyrics are meant in a different context in the song, the line, “…This is goodbye…” offers a good deal of finality to the performance. As it came to an end, Bishop stood at the helm of the stage and saluted everyone, before turning the salute into the rock sign, as he again thanked everyone for coming out.
They did encounter a few problems at the end, when the mic wouldn’t stay in properly, but Bishop worked through it, holding the mic so the cord was pressed in there tight. Aside from that, this was as solid and flawless a show as you could ever expect to see.
I never saw Early Pearl much back in the day, due mainly to age restrictions at some of the venues they played. Despite that, though, they were always one of my most favorite local bands, second only to The FEDS. And now I remember why.
Just like that other now long defunct band, Early Pearl packs an arena sized rock show into an intimate club setting. Seriously, you’ll be hard pressed to find a band that can outperform them, and is what’s truly remarkable is the fact that with only one show back in nearly four years, they’ve still retained “it”. And if they did get rusty in that time off, they did a damn fine job of polishing it up.
Even bringing a new member, Maynard, into the fold hasn’t affected them… At least not in any negative ways. It’s been over half a year since the last time I saw him shredding on the guitar, so it great seeing him back on a stage, and he really seems like a perfect fit for these guys.
Chris, Jackson and Bobby are the ideal musicians, both in skill and presence/showmanship on stage, while Bishop has the rare ability to command everyone’s attention without ever having to ask for it.
THIS is what a band is, or at least should be, and even though there’s a ton of talent here in the D/FW music scene, I’m glad a veteran band has decided to get back in the mix, because you just don’t see many bands of this caliber.
Now, for anyone who is unfamiliar with Early Pearl, but you want to listen to their stuff, you’re in luck. Their debut album, “This Is”, can be downloaded for FREE at their SOUNCLOUD PAGE. Not only that, but you’ll also find some live cuts of several of their new songs. Also, they’ll be doing another rock show on April 13th at The Boiler Room. Don’t miss it.
The House Harkonnen was the final band up at the Curtain, but I’ve never been a big fan of the bands more hardcore sound. I did consider sticking around to give them another chance, but I had gotten sick a couple days before this, and had expended what energy I had much earlier in the night, so I just decided to call it a night and go get some rest for my return trip to the Curtain the following night.
As for Deep Friday, from the fan perspective, I’d say it was total success. I loved seeing so many people down there (particularly at the Curtain). It gives you hope for the scene/community, and it’ll be nice to have Deep Friday’s back as a regular thing. Already for next month’s there’s talk about involving more of the venues (so long as no national touring bands are playing there), which could only make it better. Plus, next month’s (April 5th) will coincide with the Deep Ellum Arts Festival, which will have the streets packed even in the daylight hours. Yeah, the future is once again looking bright for Deep Ellum.
CD release shows are elaborate events, and probably 99% of them take place in a club with the band of the hour taking the stage in the wee hours of the next morning. I think it’s safe to assume most don’t take place in the mid-afternoon at a record store. But really, if you’re a band, what better place to celebrate the release of your newest effort?
That was what Nicholas Altobelli was doing with his newest album, “Without a Home”, which is the first to feature his backing band, The Gigawatts, and Good Records, probably the best little record shop in Dallas, was hosting the event.
The show started early. One PM to be exact, which was a little too early for me to be there since I was out late the night before.
So, by the time I got there, the second act, Becky Middleton, was part of the way through her set.
I’m familiar with her since she is the female backing singer in the electronic band, Ishi, and had listened to some of her stuff from her solo career, but had never seen a show. I should also note that she wasn’t alone for this show, having a backing band of a guitarist, bassist, drummer and keyboard player.
I caught the last 20 to 25-minutes of their set probably, and I was blown away. All of the material came from Becky’s upcoming record, which was produced by Beau Bedford, who was actually a guest guitarist on one of the songs this day.
As expected, the music is far different from the other band she’s a part of, and this has a real soulful sound to it, with a little bit of roots rock. The music wasn’t the best part, though, it was Beckys’ stellar voice. That was where the real soul lied, and all the notes she hit with that powerhouse voice of hers often had me in awe. I’m sure the same goes for everyone else who was there.
She has a few records you can find on iTUNES, and I would suggest checking them out. However, it’s this new album of hers that you’ll really need to listen to, and I would guess it will drop sometime later this year.
A little after three twenty, Nicholas Altobelli and his band were ready to go, and they got off to a slower start.
Nicholas took the stage with his acoustic guitar, and backing him were guitarist, Robbie Saunders, and pedal steel guitarist, Heather Kitzman. “…We’ll get into the death metal in a minute…”, Nicholas joked, saying they were going to start with some acoustic songs. I don’t know what the opener of the 53-minute long set was, either an older song I’m just unfamiliar with, or perhaps one of the new ones this songwriter has already written for his next album. Either it sounded pretty good, and he was backed by Robbie, who played some lighter guitar notes. Once it was finished, he went over to the back wall to get out of the picture, because the next song was just Nicholas and Heather, or the “… Dr. Psychology surgeon of steel…”, which was what Nicholas referred to her as. “I’m holding your hand. I’m doing the best that I can…” Nicholas softly sang, which is the opening line of “Never Enough”, which the duo pulled off quite well. Afterwards, the remaining Gigawatts joined, including special guest, Becky Middleton, who was the keyboard player for this show. The first full-band song got dedicated to one of the biggest name stars currently in the music industry, and that was Taylor Swift. “…Every time I see her dance I’m just like, “What are you doing? Just go away.” Nicholas said, which is a sentiment I bet a lot of people can get behind. The song was “I Don’t Think Tonight is Going to be a Good Night”, and just like on the CD, Becky often added some background vocals to it. Her voice gave the song a powerful surge on the choruses and other parts, making sure the band had everyone’s undivided attention, if for some reason they didn’t have it beforehand. It was followed by “This City”, a song about how Dallas has never “…felt like home…” to the California native. The lyrics to it are honest and simple, poignant, a trait that can be found in most of Mr. Altobelli’s songs, and personally, that’s what I like most about them. They continued on with the song that follows it on the record, and their drummer started them off on “27 Stories”. They needed some help with their next song, and Nicholas asked if anyone wanted to play the tambourine, and one fan was quick to offer. He then joined them on stage for what I think is one of the best cuts from the record, “Glitter”. It’s a love song, plain and simple, and a most excellent one at that. The final track on the album, “I Just Want to Feel Real”, required Robbie to switch to a mandolin, which I think is a large part of what makes the song so upbeat, and I thought it filled the little record store with some happy vibes. Robbie went back to the electric guitar upon finishing the song, but it surprised me a bit to see Nicholas removing his acoustic. Granted, I’ve only seen a couple of his shows, but that was new to me. I mentioned he was originally from California, and now they did the song about his home state, “L.A. Rain”. Since the keys are the dominant, driving instrument, it was a real change of pace from everything else in their set. The chorus, “…L.A. rain brings nothing but poison and pain…”, was still catchy enough though it could have had everyone singing along. Heather began them on their next song, “Over My Head”, making some cool sounds on the pedal steel, which I think is the best part of the whole song. There was also a killer moment during the song when Becky and Robbie had some coinciding solos, which sounded magnificent. “This next song’s my favorite on the album.” Said Nicholas, and his excitement about playing it came across. He and Heather then had an off mic conversation, with her asking why they didn’t play it more often. His answer was simple, “It’s too long.” Here’s to hoping they start getting some longer set times, because “Blackout” is another gem from “Without a Home”. And besides, a line from that one bears the title of the album, and that alone should make it a staple at live shows. In all, ten songs are on that record, nine of which had been played, leaving just one more, and they had saved the best one for last. “The Lucky Ones” has been pushed as the lead single from the new record for quite some time, now. Probably the better part of a year, so it made perfect sense to close with it. Out of all the songs, it best embraces the folk sound like what Nicholas began doing with his solo stuff, but the full band allows that sound to be broadened, making sure it sounds its best, and out of their entire show, it was the most solid sounding song of all.
CD release shows are often some of the best a band does, and I know I’m not the only one who thinks this was probably the best show he and the Gigawatts will do all year. Maybe even in their career.
The full band really makes all the difference, and while I enjoyed the duo of just him and Heather the first time I saw them, the songs sound so much richer now. It’s really the rhythm section of bassist, Paul Wheatley, and their drummer (my apologizes, I don’t remember his name) that helps flesh everything out.
I thought they were great this day. The third show I’ve seen was definitely the best, and I know all be seeing more.
I will mention though, that even in my short time of being a fan, based on different things I’ve seen, it seems like he is an artist you either like or you don’t. There doesn’t seem to be any middle ground.
Obviously, I enjoy the music. He has a good voice, and there’s no denying that he knows how to pen a song. So if you really enjoy songs that tell a story and whose lyrics have actually substance, then give a few of his songs a listen.
You can find “Without a Home” in iTunes, along with one of his solo albums, “Radio Waves and Telephone Wire”, both of which are about ten bucks. They also have a few shows coming up, beginning with one on Saturday, April 6th in Deep Ellum as part of the Deep Ellum Arts Festival. That one’s free to attend and they go on at 2:20 in the afternoon. On May 1st they’ll be at the Kessler Theater in Dallas opening for James McCartney. Then at the end of that month, on the 31st, they’ll be at All Good Café in Dallas.
It was a great way to spend the afternoon, especially because I ran into some good people to chant with. Good times, indeed.
Six band bills are seldom seen at any venues, at least in these parts, yet for the second time this week The Curtain Club was hosting such a colossal show.
My only thing with having that many bands on a bill is it seems like too much and can almost be a sensory overload. I didn’t experience that, or the sense of the show dragging on this night though, because I barely saw the first two bands up.
Sunglasses and Sugar was the very first band and they hit the stage about 8:20. The first thing that caught my eye was the bass drum, which was emblazoned with the iconic Texas Longhorn, though it was colored a bright pink. That brought back a show I saw a couple of years ago when I happened to see a band by the name Sloan Automatic, who used that as their logo, but now the drum bore the name of Rob DeStefano’s current project, “Sunglasses and Sugar”. I guess that was a bit of a tangent, but enjoy that random piece of information. Anyway, I only heard their first song, which I personally thought was pretty good. Singer and rhythm guitarist, Darlington, had a good voice for the mix of indie/pop rock ‘n’ roll they did and their show seemed like it would be enjoyable.
Point is, you might like ‘em if you get the chance to see and or hear them, but talking over some business was far more important than seeing their full set.
“What kind of business ?” is probably what you’re wondering. Well, I’ll shamelessly plug it.
I’m fortunate enough to be a part of new music zine called On Tour Monthly. It’s a collaborative effort that will utilize several talented people, including companies like Hand Drawn Records, and is being spearheaded by photographer, James Villa. Check it out (i.e. like the FB page, visit the official site, etc.) and we should be launching it come April.
And just to clarify, On Tour Monthly won’t take away from what I’m doing as The Music Enthusiast, so the content on here won’t slow down at all.
Anyway, by the time we finished, the second band, Jonathan Jeter & The Revelators, were on deck, and almost done with their set.
I wasn’t expecting to see Brandon Callies pulling double duty, but he was one of the members of the trio, while Johnny Sillers rounded out the rhythm section.
I saw probably the last three songs they did, one of which was “Barfly”. To be honest, I wasn’t too keen on Jonathan Jeters’ voice at first. It was much deeper than what I expected, and there was somewhat of a gruff quality to it, which was what left me on the fence for a little while. I started warming up to it a little more with the second song I heard, and by the time they did their closer, “Voodoo Woman”, I had gotten into it.
There’s a real Americana sound to their music, a genre that is pulled off well with the unique sounding pipes Mr. Jeter has on him. And for the record, yes, his voice really grew on me during those few songs. I enjoyed it, and would certainly be up for seeing another show, or rather a full show, sometime down the road.
He also has an EP available, titled, “Late to My Own Funeral”.
So, I mentioned Brandon Callies was pulling double duty. Of course his stint as the bassist of the previous band was his first time on stage this night, and he didn’t get much downtime, as his outfit, The Brandon Callies Band, was next up.
Half of their 36-minute long set was new material of theirs, such as their opener. “This next song’s from the first EP.” Brandon said after finishing their first song, “It’s called Midnight Drive.” He finished, and began strumming his guitar, playing the first notes of it. It’s somewhat of a chill song, but don’t confuse that with slow, because the whole band really let loose on the chorus, with Chris Evans really picking up his drumming, turning it into a powerful number. Upon finishing it, Brandon mentioned that keyboard player, Jason Myers, was celebrating his birthday, and if anyone wanted to, they could buy him some drinks. That then led them to another new tune, which, if I heard correctly, was titled “Same Sunset”. Brandon started singing the first line, and was accompanied by bassist, Omarr Escoffie, and Jason, the three of whom harmonized beautifully. It’s really breathtaking and you can easily get lost it. At least until they really break into the song with all their instruments. It’s also cool too, because the Curtain Club is best known as a rock and hard rock venue, so to see a band that is so drastically different musically play this place, it just tears down the walls so to speak, and makes you realize any band of any genre can fit in here. They switched things up again with their next song, with Brandon saying it was one Chris sang lead on. That had to mean it was “The Gunner (Prelude)”. And sure enough, it was. The four musicians at the front of the stage, including lead guitarist, Charles Cohen, proceeded to rapidly clap their hands together, while Chris sang, “She’s got diamonds for her eyes and daggers for her hands…”. It was a little hard to hear him at first, but the mic levels were quickly adjusted to make him more audible. As the short song progressed, each musician went back to their instrument, with Charles being the first to stop clapping, and towards the end Brandon started to play some notes from his axe. He then wound them into the band into their next song, which was another new one. At one point during it, Charles shredded on his guitar, and he was either a little too intense with it or one of his strings was too worn, because one snapped. Eventually he grabbed the other guitar that was on stage, sitting in a stand behind Brandon. It’s a good thing they had that one. In setting up their next tune, Brandon made mention of the video they had done for it, since it is a single from “The Gunner” record. “…It’s called Who Are We to Say?” he said, which excited me, since it is my favorite song of theirs. A lot of their material have lyrics that you should pay attention to, but this song stands out as carrying the best message. It’s hopeful and uplifting, from the first line, “Just think of the day where kind words could take a gun from your hand…”, to the chorus, “We are watching now, for you to change the world we know. But who are we to say that we’re not leaving room to grow?…” Surely that one left the audience in a happier place than they were in before, but now it was back to some more rock music, as Chris transitioned them into an instrumental break. Everyone had their moment to shine during this short piece, especially Jason, who played some amazing, fiery notes on his keyboard before things suddenly gave way to “The Gunner”. They may be more of an alternative country band with hints of Americana, but the title track is primarily a rock song, and an intense one at that. It was a good thing they saved it for the end, because there was no topping that, at least not this night, while the final new tune they had brought the show to a fitting end.
I was even more impressed by these guys now than the first time I saw them. Part of that probably was due to the superior sound here at the Curtain over the other venue, but the show also seemed better, too.
I think they were more solid now, and I’ll bet they’ll only continue to get better… If that’s possible.
I know some people may be thinking, “I don’t like alternative country.” Well, give these guys a listen. I promise it’s better than what you might be thinking. Besides, Brandon spent many years with a rock band before this, and you can tell that previous experience is carried over to this band, at least to some extent.
You can purchase their full-length record, “The Gunner”, in ITUNES. They also have plenty of dates on the books, including; March 15th at Sugar Circus in Austin. The 16th will find them doing an afternoon show at The Blue Armadillo Winery in Greenville, TX, while that night they’ll be in Bossier City, LA at The Crow’s Nest. They have another SXSW gig in Austin on the 17th at Darwin’s. Then on the 30th they’ll be at Lucy’s Retired Surfer’s Bar, also in Austin. They also have some dates for April, so check those out, too.
I had been looking forward to their show, but out of all the bands on this bill I was most excited about the one I haven’t seen too much lately, and that was Exit 380.
I can’t remember for sure, but I believe the first time I ever saw the band was here, back many moons ago. Actually, they hadn’t even playing their old stomping ground in about five years. And to make things even more special, their old drummer, Bobby “Shoes” Tucker was joining them for a one-off show. Yeah, this was gonna be good.
They got off to a slower start, with lead guitarist, Aaron Borden, playing a lap steel guitar, while Jeremy Hutchison used an acoustic. The song was “Run For The Gold”, and was one of only a handful of tunes they did from their most recent album, Townies”. It was much slower than anything else that had been played this night, but I liked the fact that the Exit 380 guys gradually eased everyone into their set, and got closer to full on rock mode with their next song, when Jeremy switched to an electric guitar. “…We call this one Daddy Was A Freight Train” said vocalist, Dustin Blocker, with his band mates promptly starting the song. By the end of it Bobby’s drumming got a little more aggressive, and Dustin, who was standing back by the drum riser shaking his tambourine, occasionally helped him out, hitting one of the cymbals with his tambourine, giving an extra jolt to the percussion. As it wound down, Aaron stood up, then exchanged his lap steel for an electric, and this is when the night really got good. They had promised older songs they hadn’t done in awhile, which had me wondering how far back they were going to go. It wasn’t five to seven years (though hearing material from that era would have been fantastic. Maybe one day). Instead, it was just a couple, but they dusted off some gems that have been neglected recently. One of those was “Street Trash View”, which Aaron tore right into. With it, they jumped right into full-blown rock ‘n’ roll, reminiscent of the older E380 sound, and personally, this was when I thought they were at their best. You could tell it was easier for bassist, Jon Hutchison, to get into, given the stronger rhythm section, making him just another dominant force in their live show. They followed it with another track from their 2010 EP, “Cities/Townies”, or, as Dustin put it, their “…aught ten…” record, “Caught In A Lie”. Honestly, I missed it when it happened, but upon finishing it, Aaron pointed out that Dustin had botched some of the lyrics. “Did I?” he asked, with a grin on his face. “…Oh, well these next lyrics are yours, so I’m definitely going to mess them up.” He told Aaron. While Aaron got his lap steel guitar ready, Dustin began the next song by softly playing his keyboard. “I awoke from a dream, to escape this soul burning train. A driver or a rider? Either way, it’s the coldest in the rain…” It’s an eerily beautiful prelude to the single off their most current record, “Soul Burning Train”, which, despite being a change of pace from their previous few songs, still held its own against them. Afterwards, Dustin mentioned Bob, and that they thought they’d invite him to rehearsals to see if he wanted to do this show with them. Blocker finished with, “…And he got there, and he was better than we were.” They then gave everyone one last dose of Alt/Country music with “Moonshiners Run”, before proving they had saved the best for last in their 35-minute set. Only two songs from the bands concept album, “The Life and Death of Mr. and Mrs. Alexander Stone”, made an appearance, the first of which was “The Wrangler”. Then it was time for their final song, “Quid Pro Quo”. Five years or so ago I saw them here at the Curtain, that song was in its infancy stage, having been freshly written and only been played live a handful of times. Now, even after the bands reinvention of sorts, it’s still a staple. It was cool, because it took me back in time for a moment, reminding me of when I first heard the song, and that is just one of the many reasons that made that the highlight song of their set. It also left me craving more, and wishing they had more time.
It was an excellent set from these veteran rockers, and it was neat seeing Bobby “Shoes” back behind the drums, even if it was just a onetime appearance. I’d also fully believe Dustin’s comment about Bobby being better than they were. To have not played with them in well over a year, he made it seem like he had never left. His playing was very methodical and precise, like he’d been doing it forever.
That’s not to discount the other guys, though. Dustin still has one of the most unique voices I’ve heard, with a deeper register, and at times, it sounds somewhat operatic. Jeremy brings a lot of energy to the stage, which helps balance things out when Aaron is using his lap steel guitar, but when he’s not, like their final song for instance and the solo he has during it, it’s clear he’s in charge. While Jon has that certain swagger most bass players have, and rocks out the bass notes with a casual confidence.
They’re one of Dallas’s best, at least in my opinion, and their fourteen year carrier should be a testament to that. Give their music a listen if you haven’t already, and between BANDCAMP or ITUNES you can find the majority of their releases. And if you can, go see a show. They’ll be playing the Prophet Bar in Dallas this Sunday, March 10th. On the 15th they have a gig at The Doublewide, also in Dallas. The 23rd will find them up in Denton at Andy’s Bar. Then, on the 29th, they’ll be doing an acoustic show at the Liquid Lounge in Dallas. They also have a show in Austin booked for April 27th.
So, the night started off with a little rock, before taking a little detour through some country sounds, and now it was going back to the rock vibe. Not modern rock, though. No, it was more the classic rock sounds of the ‘60’s and ‘70’s, courtesy of The Roomsounds.
The band has a dedicated following, and amassed a sizable crowd shortly before they started, all of which added to the excitement of seeing them,
The four-piece jumped right into their 38-minute long set with “Chasin’ a Fox”, which was one of many favorites they did from their debut album this night. The first note had several of the people moving, turning the floor of the Curtain Club into more of a dance space, which is something that doesn’t happen here too often. Afterwards, singer and rhythm guitarist, Ryan Michael, welcomed everyone to the show, and along with the band name, he also threw out the title of their next song, which was “Young and Reckless”. After that little anthem about being carefree, lead guitarist, Sam Janik, started them on one of their newer songs, which I can only assume is titled “Lay My Head Down”, since the phrase was repeated multiple times on each chorus. Around the halfway point of the song, the band took off on an instrumental break, some sweet guitar riffs and thick bass lines from Red Coker, but it was drummer, Dan Malone , who really shone, repeatedly hitting the hi-hat, almost turning the breakdown into a drum solo. “Honest Man” was another cut from their “We’re #1” record, and was another fiery number that had the crowd moving while Ryan crooned out the chorus, “Keep me honest, keep me true, never walk away when I’m talking to you. Look me in the eye, tell me I’m wrong. The cards are in your hands. I just want to die an honest man.” Afterwards, Dan embarked on a drum solo, and to me it seemed like it was geared to fill the silence. “…We’re feeling pretty good, so we’re gonna do another new song. If that’s okay?” Ryan asked the fans, who I think could have cared less what the band did, so long as they were still cranking out music. I believe it was called “Don’t Give Up On Me”, and following it up was the slightly slower, “Don’t Come Home”, which has a bit of the blues mixed in with soulful chords, which really drive the song. “This next song has been getting some airplay on 91.7…” said Ryan, as he set up their next song. (By the way, that is the local Dallas station, KXT.) It was their lead single, “Couldn’t Break My Spirit”, and the best part came at the end when they all cut loose and proceeded to shred. Red tore it up on the bass, with Sam and Ryan killing it on their guitars, while Dan furiously pounded out the beats, before they all brought it to an explosive finish. Some more drum work kept the show flowing while Ryan again briefly talked with the audience, and after doing another newer song of theirs, they found out they had enough time for one more song and had to cut things short. That meant they had to axe a few tunes everyone was wanting to hear, but they went with the one everyone would be happy with. That was “Ripper”, and with it came a full-blown assault of classic rock ‘n’ roll.
Even though they didn’t get to do everything they had planned, it was still a remarkable show, and out of the small handful of times I’ve seen the band, this one was definitely the best.
Very solid performance, and I liked the addition of the drums in between some of the songs, because it really kept the flow of the show going.
If you haven’t heard of them yet, then by all means go listen to and possible buy their debut record, “We’re #1”. If you like old school rock then you’ll love The Roomsounds, because their sound is similar enough to some bands to be paying homage to them, but they add their own flare to it all, making it stand out as being all their own.
Their next show is going to be on March 30th at The Prophet Bar as part of the second annual Deep Ellum Big Folkin’ Festival. After that they have a gig at Gexa Energy Pavilion in Dallas as part of KXT’s Summer Cut Festival. They’ll be opening for acts like The Avett Brothers, Grace Potter & The Nocturnals and many others.
The final act of the night was The Orange, who would take things more to the modern style of rock, and add a psychedelic vibe to it.
The instrumentalists, drummer, Cody Waits, guitarist, Kirk Livesay, bassist, Jason Jessup, and tambourine player, Tyler Spears, started their first. It sounded rather familiar, but the music bed sounded a little different, and it was only when vocalist, Scott Tucker, got on stage and started singing that I knew for sure it was “Teleprompters”. It had been way too long since I last heard that classic, which is also my favorite Orange song, and it sounded fantastic this night and was a brilliant opener. Now, when Scott took the stage, he appeared to be in rare form. That is to say, he seemed to be pretty inebriated. That was confirmed countless times throughout their set, like after that song when he went on a tangent, that was actually pretty spot on. “…We all work meaningless jobs we hate…” he said, “…But rock ‘n’ roll will free you…” he added. That lasted a minute or two as he spoke about shitty jobs that we’re all forced to work, but this was the weekend and it was time to cut loose and have a good time with The Orange. “This song’s called Such a Drag” Jason said, as they moved on. Scott chimed in then, adding his take on the title, “…Such a Mother Fucking Drag.” I’ll go ahead and say, and probably repeat by the end, but as faded as Scott was, the performance didn’t suffer in the least, and that tune sounded as good as it always does. Chicago Dan joined them for their next song, adding some sweet harmonica licks to the single from the bands forthcoming album, “Mr. Moneymaker”. Right in the middle of it, Scott broke a string on his guitar, but it seemed to go unnoticed, because upon finishing it, they moved on to “Valium”, sans Chicago Dan. “I Want a Girl” is another killer song the band has concocted, which is sure to go down as classic, but it wasn’t until they finished that song that the night got really interesting. At that point Scott had abandoned his guitar and didn’t use one for most of their remaining time on stage. According to their setlist, they were supposed to do “Doomsday…” now, but Scott had already announced to the crowd that they were doing “Blow Up”. One of the guys pointed out that wasn’t what was planned, to which Scott replied, “Fuck that! We’re in the mood to do Blow Up right now!” Yes, they were going off track, and really, what truly memorable rock show ever played out according to how the band had originally intended it to? Chicago Dan strode back on stage and they also enlisted the help of guitar virtuoso, Buddy Neighbors. The guy really is amazing, and he alone held my interest for most of the song as I watched his hands dance up and down the neck of the guitar, giving the song somewhat of a soulful sound. Scott again became the center of attention, though, and early on in the song he jumped off the stage and into the crowd for a moment. That wasn’t the best part, though. The best moment came at the end when he leapt onto Codys’ drum kit, causing a couple of the cymbals to topple over. He then laid there for a few seconds before getting up, and after chatting with the audience momentarily, they were ready to move on. Dan stuck around, adding his harmonica to the start of “Doomsday for Mr. Denton”, which gives it a western sound, before soon erupting into a real rocker with hints of psychedelic. Afterwards, they again strayed from the setlist, when Scott asked Cody if he was down do go ahead and do “Dead Nation”. Cody was. They totally switched things up, with Scott taking over drum duty, while Cody moved up to stage right and grabbed an acoustic guitar, while Buddy again joined them to add an extra layer to the music. Cody also sang lead on the song, which was a real change of pace from what they had been doing, but the whole song sounded beautiful. They followed it with another slower song, which only featured Cody (still playing the acoustic), Buddy, Dan and Scott. “This song’s called Holy Ghost.” Scott said, prompting Cody to ask if he had changed the name of the song, as it was called “Oh Lord”. “You know me, I’m always changing song names.” Scott replied while laughing. “Where’s that weird drum I play?” Scott then asked, looking around for it. “Aww, fuck it. I don’t feel like playing tonight anyway.” He said, and right then their stage hand brought it to him. They were then ready to play “Peace of Mind”, which was another more acoustic based song, and was one of my favorites of their set. Upon finishing it, Jason and Kirk rejoined them on stage, and for their final two songs, it was just the four core members of the group. Oh, and Scott was back serving as the rhythm guitarist for these last couple of songs. Their most epic songs had been saved for last, one of which was the largely instrumental, “Cityscape”. They bled it perfectly into the final song of their 74-minute long set, so well in fact, I wasn’t even sure when they began “Thirty Minutes to Midnight”. It was only when Scott started asking everyone to close their eyes and really listen to the music that I knew they had moved on to it. Both the transition and the song were flawless, and, like it usually is, it was an phenomenal note to end the show on.
There is no doubt about it that this WAS the most entertaining Orange show I’ve ever seen and it was also by far the best. Scott defied the odds and somehow managed to stay on the ball (and his feet) and delivered a performance like everyone has come to expect from him, only intensified. He really does deserve props for that, ‘cause a couple examples come to mind of other bands I’ve seen where a member has over indulged before the show, resulting in a sloppy, careless performance.
I also liked how Jason, Kirk, Cody and Tyler all rolled with it, laughing and shaking their heads when Scott jumped onto the drums, and just acted like they had done a thousand other shows like this.
It was an all around epic show, and if you missed it, then you missed what will probably go down as one of the most legendary Orange shows ever.
Right now the band is still working on their newest release, which is slated for release sometime this spring to possible summer. Based on the live versions of the songs, it’ll probably be one of the best releases of 2013.
The next chance to see them will be on March 26th at Trees in Dallas, when they will open for Soul Asylum. Also check out their first EP, “A Sonic Collection of Short Stories From La La Land”, on iTunes.
By the time they finished it was two in the morning and the Curtain was getting ready to close. It was a killer night for sure, I enjoyed the smorgasbord of music.
Torch Entertainment was presenting a show at the Curtain Club in Dallas this night, and I almost didn’t go to it. The reason being it was billed as a metal show, and any casual reader should know by now I’m not a real metal fan.
There are a few metal acts I enjoy, such as Dallas area based, Light the Fire, who was actually the catalyst for me wanting to go to this show, after they were added on semi last minute. I then gave a quick listen to the headlining band, Affiance, who proved to be a different type of metal than what I had expected. There was legitimate singing on their songs, unlike the throaty screaming that plagues the metal industry these days. I was thoroughly impressed after listening to their recorded stuff, and knew I had to be at the show to witness what they were like in the live environment.
First up this night was the Denton based metal act, Wake the Dreamless. With their first song, they proved to be better than I expected. They were a definite metal band, but vocalist, Joe Bustnaji, did equal amounts of singing in both a “clean” and “dirty” style, which kept my interest. They, or rather guitarist, Alex Reuda, had some slight technical difficulties after that song, but fixed it soon enough. “This next song’s called Polarized.” Said Joe, as Alex and fellow guitarist, Cameron Grantham, bassist, Josh Manalo, drummer, Neil Geisel, and keyboard player, David Kang, started the lengthy intro of the song. It was borderline epic, spanning over six minutes, and had a nice flow to it. The issues with Alex’s guitar still persisted at this point, causing the band to put things on hold while he fixed it. At one point he turned his amp back on, thinking the problem had been taking care of, only to have the venue filled with a barrage of ear piercing sounds before he quickly turned it off. Joe managed to use that as banter, though. “That’s our new wave of death metal. It’s just noise…” he said. Once that was fully resolved, they got their next song going, which was heavier than the previous two, and that only progressed with the next and final song of their 23-minute long set.
They were offered a chance to do one more, as they had some time leftover, but apparently those four songs were all they had planned for on this night, and had nothing else ready to pull out.
They were good. You could tell they were a newish band (according to their Facebook page they formed almost two years ago), and they never seemed like a truly cohesive unit, rather five guys who were all doing their own thing. The skill is there, though, they just need to bring it all together. I also found it an interesting choice that they had a keyboard player, since it doesn’t necessarily fit with the genre of music they play, and while I did find the guitars, bass and drums often overpowered the keys, when you could hear them, they added a nice layer to the music.
You can get a free download of their single, “Polarized”, by going HERE, and in the near future they will be releasing their newest EP.
After them was Light the Fire, who can often be seen headlining the Curtain Club, or at least acting as the main support band, but not this night.
I was, shall I say, intrigued to see them this night. Very recently, their original singer, Jamie Glasgow, decide to leave the band, who rather quickly found a replacement. This was only going to be their second show with the new frontman, though, and I was curious to see what Light the Fire version 2.0 was like.
Their set started in the routine, yet original way, as a rap song began to blare. When the curtain finally opened on them, guitarists, Ryan Dickinson and Felix Lopez, were both sporting some sunglasses, bobbing their heads to the music. Bassist, Andrew Penland, was doing the same, just sans the glasses. Once that sample track began to fade out, Blake Hein led them into the first song with some heavy drum beats, while Jeff Gunter raced onto the stage. “How are we doing Dallas!?…” he asked, leaving little time for a response as he began screaming the opening line of “Don’t Fail Me Now”. The “moment of truth” came rather swiftly, and I realized I had nothing to fear, as he kept the singing pretty true to form to what it had been. “This next song can be found on our EP.” He said hastily, while Felix and Ryan let loose the triumphant notes of the title track from their EP, “Note To Self”. There weren’t a ton of people there this early on, but the ones who were and were up front watching helped them out here, chanting, “HEY!”, right along with Andrew and Jeff on the songs bridge. They powered through this 24-minute long set, and Blake wasted no time, counting them right into their next tune. “This is a brand new song, Dallas.” Jeff said, “It’s called Thunder Cunt.” I still believe this is the heaviest song the band has played to date, and while I liked it the first time I heard it, I thought it sounded even better now. Though I’m not sure if it’s due to them simply having played it live a little more or if it was because of Jeff. When they were about halfway through it, they took a musical break, which Jeff used to introduce his band mates. “Do you know what, Dallas?” he asked after naming everyone, “I never felt so good in my life!” he screamed, resuming the song. It was directly followed by “Under My Skin”, which worked incredible well, since it’s another brutal number, in all the right ways. “Thoughts” came next, and Jeff successfully got some of the fans to jump up and down and just have a good time at the start of it. That brought them to their final song of the night, which was another new one from their upcoming EP, and as they tore into it, Ryan and Felix each hopped onto a box on their respective side of the stage, churning out the notes on another pretty killer song.
It may have been a (slightly) abridged set, but they still managed to pack it full of rock. In fact, I think there was a higher than normal quantity of it this night, even by Light the Fire standards.
They were just on fire this night (no pun intended). Andrew and Blake created the perfect rhythm section this night, especially during “Not to Self”, where Andrew was pounding out the bass lines and reacting in perfect synch with every thundering beat. It was true musicianship through and through, and not just from them but the whole outfit.
That leads us to Jeff. It would be accurate to say I hate when any band gets a new singer, simply because it changes any bands overall sound so much. Sometimes that’s for the better, but there have also been a few acts that have lost me as a fan due to replacements like that.
Luckily, Jeff doesn’t alter the band’s sound that much, though. He definitely has his own voice, which lacks the higher tone that was normal for Jamie, but I look at that as a good thing. It allows Jeff to make the songs his own in a way, while some of his stage mannerisms are similar enough to their former frontman’s that it’s not going to be a drastic change from the live show the fans were used to seeing.
Very solid, especially considering Jeff had only been with the band for three weeks at this point, and had only performed once with them in the live setting.
It’s too early to say if Light the Fire will be even better now than they were before, but they are every bit as great as they’ve always been, and with a new EP/DVD set to be released in June, I’d say the future looks pretty bright for them.
If you haven’t already, check out their debut EP, “Note to Self”, and if you can, go to one of their upcoming shows. They’ll be rocking Click’s Live in Tyler on March 9th, then the Abbey Underground in Denton on the 10th. March 23rd will find them at Hartline’s in Greenville, and they again be rocking the town on April 20th, this time at The Hanger. They even have some dates booked in May, so to see the full listing, visit their REVERBNATION PAGE, where you can also get a free download of their title track.
The third act of the night also happened to be the first of two female fronted bands on this bill, and that was Solice.
This just so happened to be the bands one year anniversary of performing, having done their first live show almost a year to the day of this one, which also took place at the Curtain.
I don’t remember exactly how I came across them, but I had been wanting to see one of their shows for at least the last six months, and was excited that I was finally getting the opportunity.
Once the curtain opened, frontwomen, Xtina, made her way on stage and dropped the band’s name for anyone who didn’t know, along with asking how everyone was doing. She finished with, “…”This is a brand new song. It’s called Not Giving Up.” Rob was the one who started the song, with some very thick bass notes. It was a great and slightly more unique way to open it up, but the song didn’t spring to life until guitarist, Juan, and drummer, Ryan, joined the mix, and that was when you knew it was on. After their second song, Xtina had, had enough of the large empty spaces in front of the stage, and she asked everyone to come and join them, and some of the people who were standing further off did just that. They cranked out a couple more songs before Juan started them on one from their first EP, “Break Free”. It was very fast paced and driven, which subsequently made it engaging to the audience and was easy to rock out to. And as if it weren’t heavy enough with thunderous rhythm section of drummer, Ryan, and Rob, the backing vocals (or rather screams) that Juan threw in really set it off as a hard rock song. “We’ve got a couple more for you.” Said Xtin, announcing their next tune was called “Trapt”. It got off to a slower start. So slow that actually she and Juan took a seat on the drum riser, while Rob sit back on his amp. The tranquil sounds didn’t last long, though, as the song soon roared to life, and the three of them jumped back into action. That brought them to the final song of their 32-minute long set, which was another staple of theirs, “The Mask”. Xtina had used her keyboard that was setup at center stage briefly earlier in the night, but it really got put to use know as she used it through part of the first verse, giving the song a beautiful texture. “The outer world puts on a face. Halloween is every day. How you acts not how you feel, no one knows the you that’s real…”She sang, with it making the transition to a full-blown rock song at that point.
It was a pretty high energy show they put on, and they were every bit as good as I had hoped they’d be. They play a nice blend of hard rock tinged with metal, with the metal sound definitely coming from Juan’s guitar work, and even slightly via Rob and his bass. That’s balanced out by Xtina, who has a powerhouse of a voice, and while she sounds great on their recordings, they in no way capture how incredible she sounds in the live setting.
If you haven’t seen them already, they are definitely an act to check out, and one I hope to see a little more often now.
They have several shows coming up, beginning with March 13th, when they will be performing on the Back Porch stage at Six Flags in Arlington. On March 15th they’ll be at Tomcats West over in Fort Worth, while on the 30th they’ll be down in Houston at Walters. They also have a gig lined up for April 13th at Treff’s in Waco. Lastly, if you head over to their REVERBNATION PAGE, you can get a free download of “Break Free”, as well as purchase the other three songs that comprise their EP.
Cull the Heard was next, who was yet another act I had never heard of prior to this, and didn’t know what to expect from them.
“Take Me” kicked off their 28-minute set, with vocalist, Davon Says, singing the first few lines in, of all styles, acappella. “You can’t take my life from me. I’m too strong for it, you see?…” he sang, demonstrating he had quite the voice on him, with his pitch being perfect as he hit each note. The metal part of their music soon began, though, with some fast paced guitar notes from Eric Dando and deafening beats Jim Stephenson was pounding out. That was when Davon began shouting out the lyrics in a more throaty voice, and while I usually dislike vocal styles like that, this turned out to be an exception. Actually, it still sounded good, and the anger it evoked fit with what the song was about. And it only helped that they already had me fully captivated with their energetic performance. After it, they did one titled “Lead Me Home”, and before the following song, Davon offered a brief explanation of what it was about. “…It’s about chasing your dreams…”, adding you just need to do what you enjoy. It was aptly called, “I Want More”, and got off to a softer start, before it swelled to a point it could give any metal song a run for its money. They followed it with “Pieces”, which Davon said was about “…Putting the pieces of your life back together. ‘Cause no one else is going to do it for you…”, and upon finishing it they did “Dim”. Davon used a cordless mic, and right as the song started he leapt off stage into the crowd, before making his way through everyone and eventually walking out the door, presumably out onto the patio. I can honestly say that out of the nearly one hundred shows I’ve seen here at the Curtain, I’ve never seen anyone do that before. That left Eric, Jim and their bassist alone on the stage, but they were more than capable of putting on a show that held your attention until Davon rejoined stormed back in and rejoined them. “Part of It” was another aggressive number and one you could really head bang to, and that left them with only one more song, during which Eric shredded on his guitar for a killer solo.
I liked these guys a whole lot more than I thought I would. Scratch that, I think love is a more fitting word over “like”, and out of the local openers, they ended up being my second favorite.
The stage show was excellent, with Davon exerting most of the energy, at least in terms of being the most active, constantly roaming about and really engaging the crowd. He’s about as solid a frontman as you could find and a real beast, while Jim, Eric and the groups bassist all appeared to be masters of their craft as well.
Impeccable. That’s a good word to sum up their show this night, and I will definitely be attending more in the future.
They’ll be playing at Tomcats West in Fort Worth on March 22nd and May 5th, the latter of those dates being another Torch Entertainment show. They’ll also return to Dallas in between those gigs, again rocking the Curtain Club on April 12th.
The last of the local openers was the Fort Worth based, Deaf Angel.
It had been some time since the last time I had seen them (about eight months), during which time they’ve made some changes. One of those changes is the acquisition (or re- acquisition) of Duston Daulton, who is now the rhythm guitarist. They’ve also written a lot of new music for their upcoming LP, which made up the bulk of their 26-minute long set this night.
Their opener was one of those new tunes they unleashed on the audience, and I don’t think there’s any arguing that it’s one of the best things the band has done thus far. Lead guitarist, Lee Daniels, and Dustin cranked out some great riffs on it, even having nice lull that gave the impression it was over, before the group exploded back into it. Vocalist, Tina Downs, added some keys to the next song at the start of their next song, “Goodbye”, which was one of only two songs they did from their “We Will Rise” EP. That didn’t last long though, as she soon left the keyboard, which was set up by the drum kit, getting back to the forefront of the stage to rock out. It’s a very rhythm heavy song, with some killer drum work from Scott Van Slyke, which made it easy for bassist, Kelly Robinson, to thrash around. I also want to say I like the way Scott sits up his kit, which is to the side rather than facing the audience, allowing everyone to better see the skills he posses. “Judge” was another new song they did, and afterwards, Tina asked everyone a question. “Does anybody know who we are?!” The audience cheered, prompting her to ask, “Who are we?!” The fans shouted back at her, “DEAF ANGEL!”, which went on a few times. It’s also worth noting that out of all the opening bands, more eyes were on them than anybody else. That led them to their other song off their most current EP, “Rise Up”, which was just one of many this night that had Scott adding some backing vocals, which really metaled up their sound. Following it was “Face”, and after learning they had enough time for one more, Tina said, “…Let’s get crazy…”, stating that “Crazy” was the song title, and was a good one to conclude their show with.
I’ve only seen them a handful of times, but this was the best Deaf Angel show I’ve caught. I thought that they brought it even more than they usually do. Part of that was probably from Dustin, who I think helped broaden their sound and kick it up a notch, both in terms of the sound and their live show. He wasn’t all of it, though. Kelly put on a show by himself and it was evident he was feeling it for every single second they were on stage. I’ve said this many times in the past, but I find it hard to always pay attention to the drummers of any band when there are three to four other band members constantly moving around, making it hard to see them, but Scott was impressive enough I made a point to give him my full attention. While Tinas’ voice, which is powerful and attention grabbing, was just as big of a focal point.
Later in the year they’ll be releasing their new full-length record, “Brutally Beautiful”, but in the meantime, check out the singles they have available on ITUNES.
They served as an excellent final warm-up, but now it was finally time to see what Affiance was all about…
They launched right into their 47-minute set, which began with “You Will be Replaced”. The commanded a small crowd, at least at first, but most everyone who surrounded the stage were fans through and through, singing along to every word, like the songs chorus, “We’re fighting as hard as we can to not be forgotten. We’re running as fast as we can. To the front lines we live on forever.” It didn’t even take that full song to have me completely engrossed with the band, more like the first minute of it, and it was already obvious this was going to be quite the spectacle. Material from their newest album was the main focus point this night, though they did a couple from their 2010 debut, “No Secret Revealed”, such as their second song, which singer, Dennis Tvrdik, quickly mentioned was called “Nostra Culpa”. Thus far they had been pretty music oriented, but during the little break they started letting their personalities come out, subsequently building a bit of a rapport with the ever growing audience. Dennis said he eaten too much food at one of their gas station stops, which was now causing him to belch. He apologized to everyone, though I never heard any of it being picked up by the mic, then stated their next song was “Righteous Kill”. About halfway through the song, drummer, Patrick Galante, showed off just what kind of skill he has, tossing his drum sticks in the air one at a time, always knocking out some beats with the one that was currently in his hand, making it look incredible effortless. Also, when he wasn’t singing on that one, Dennis was often surveying the crowd and bore a very determined look with a fiery passion in his eyes. It made it crystal clear that he, along with the rest of the band, took this seriously and were going to leave it all on the stage. A sample track played before their next song, as guitarists, Brett Wondrak and Dominic Dickinson, as well as bassist, Cameron Keeter, geared up to start their next song, the lead track from “The Campaign” album, “Kings of Deceit”. “Are you awake, Dallas?!” asked Dennis once the song was finished, which caused everyone to roar back at him, showing they were still very much alive. While that was going on, Deaf Angel’s, Tina Downs made her way on stage, as the band started “Bohemian”. She added some backing vocals on parts of the chorus, and I believe it was the start of the second verse where she briefly took over the lead. That earned Deaf Angel a shout out, and Dennis mentioned how much they liked the band, and that they had shared the stage with them a few times in the past. Topic of conversation then turned to the bands home state of Ohio (they hail from Cleveland). One of the fans shouted something about how great Ohio was, but Dennis quickly responded with, “…Now parts of Ohio suck…”, saying that there were a few not so great parts of it. Things then circled back to an earlier topic, as Dennis said he was still feeling “gassy”, to the point he thought he might puke. A fan asked if maybe it instead stemmed from having too much to drink, and surprisingly, he answered by saying he doesn’t drink before shows. “…That’ll fuck you up…” he said, meaning it ruin your voice when you need it most. He went on to say he had only thrown up once before during a show and it was because he had too big a meal, and luckily tonight did not make for a second time. They then moved on, firing up “The Cynic”, and while Dominic, Brett, Cameron and Patrick raced through the intro, Dennis outstretched one arm, acting as if he were holding a shotgun, then “firing” it in synch with one of the drumbeats, right before he started singing. “We the Machines” followed that, but first Dennis asked everyone to headbang to what was about to ensue, saying he wanted to see some “…deep headbanging, all in unison…” Nearly everyone obliged. The banter continued afterwards, when Dennis said, “…As you may know, people from Cleveland are kind of Dallas Mavericks fans, because y’all kicked Lebron James’s ass a couple of years ago…” I believe he even referred to the NBA star as a “piece of shit”. “Peace of Mind” was the next song they did, and it was the only song of their set that didn’t go over smoothly. A song or two before, Dominic had switched to another guitar, and while shredding away on this tune one of the strings broke. His band mates noticed it, but didn’t pay it much attention, acting like professionals as they powered through it, still giving it their all. “I’m sorry, guys. My string broke.” Dominic said when the song concluded, seeming pretty sincere with his apology. They stated they only had a couple left at this point, and Dennis asked for everyone who was a warrior to move up front, causing everybody to pack in tightly. With his choice of words, I expected a different song, but instead they performed the title track from their 2012 record, “The Campaign”. I’d say it was good way to start winding things down, but I don’t know how much winding down was actually done, because everyone still appeared heavily invested in the show. They had saved the best for last, and to ease them into their final song, the track “Mad as Hell” began to play. For those who don’t know, it’s a speech by the character, Howard Beale, taken from the ’76 film, Network. “I don’t have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. It’s a depression. Everybody’s out of work or scared of losing their job…” it started, during which time Cameron put his bass down, resting it against the drum riser. He neared the edge of the stage, pacing back and forth from one side to the other, inciting the crowd by trying to get them to make some noise, and could often be seen lip-synching to the speech. “…”I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!” By that time, Cameron had his bass back on, as Dennis yelled the opening line of “Call to the Warrior”, “Get up off the ground!”.
I half expected an encore, but no, that really was it. Not that I was disappointed by any means, it’s just that they were so damn good I would have loved to have heard more.
Now Affiance is a true metal band whose music I can really get behind. Like I said earlier, it’s the constant screaming that really turns me off of most metal music, but that’s kept to a minimum in Affiance’s music. When Dennis does scream, it more just adds a nice effect to the music, while is actual singing voice is nothing short of phenomenal and gripping. He sounds every bit as good live as he does on their albums, probably even better. Both Brett and Dominic came off as being masters of the axe, shredding almost nonstop, while Cameron could command the audience every bit as good as Dennis did, and Patrick was a true machine on the drums.
It was really an off the wall show they put on, and in terms of energy and showmanship, there’s no reason they couldn’t or shouldn’t be headlining much bigger venues in Dallas and elsewhere. Of course they might not have the necessary fan base for that yet, but they’ll get there. After all, this was (surprisingly) their first ever headlining tour, and for a Thursday night, I’d say their Dallas stop turned out to be a monumental success. And whenever they come back through, I know I’ll make a point to attend the show, and you would be wise to do the same.
At this point, their tour is almost over, with the remaining dates being March 6th at Live 59 in Plainfield, Illinois and the 7th at The Machine Shop in Flint, Michigan. That’s not all their shows, though. They have a few in later March in the states of New York and New Jersey. They’ll also be on the road for a lot of April, hitting cities in Virgina, New York, Ohio, Kentucky and Missouri. For full details on when and where they’ll be, go HERE. Also, check out both of their full-length records, plus their cover of “The Final Countdown”, in ITUNES.
Congrats to Torch for putting on such a successful show. It was definitely one for the books, and I feel there’s a pretty good chance this will be one of the best shows I see all year.
All photos were taking by Danny Motta of Danny Mota Photography. All rights belong exclusively to him. Visit his OFFICIAL WEBSITE and to see all of the pictures from this show, go HERE.
Wake the Dreamless
Light the Fire
Cull the Heard
If you read my previous blog entry, then you might recall I said that, that show was a bit eclectic. While it was, it has nothing on the show that went down at Tomcats West this night.
Yeah, I made a VERY rare trip over to Fort Worth. Nothing against the city, but living north of Dallas means that logistically it’s just not convenient to get to. An exception was made for this show, though, which featured two of my favorite area acts.
The first act of the night was an acoustic duo by the name, Myrick. I believe that was the last name of the singer of the group, who played an acoustic guitar and was accompanied by another acoustic guitarist (or maybe it was a bassist. Honestly, I didn’t pay much attention.)
With incredible subpar vocals, I quickly lost interest. Their set at least seemed to go by quickly, but by far the worst part of it was the end when he did a parody of Green Day’s “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)”. Obviously, it was set to the same tune, though he called his parody, “Don’t Cum In My Eye”. Evidently I’m still juvenile enough to find a bit of humor in that (and by “bit”, I mean a VERY minuscule amount), but no amount of humor could save it. It only lasted about a minute, before he abruptly stopped and said, “That’s it…”, then walked off stage. Oh, wait, I think I get why he only needed a minute to do the song now…
Meridian was the first actual band of the night, though they, or specifically vocalist, Tim Ziegler, looked a little different. He was without his long hair and beard, and was almost unrecognizable at first glance, looking more like he did when I first met him nearly seven years ago, when he fronted the band Darby.
“Re-digress” kicked off their 38-minute long set. Somehow, I didn’t notice right away when it happened, and then all of sudden I realized guitarists, Mark Sims and Shannon Nedved, drummer, Joe Maurer, and Tim were the only guys on stage. They handled it well, and didn’t act like they were down a band mate, finishing the song strong, and then Tim asked what was up with Chris Gentry. Apparently, he had broken the main string on his bass, which was what left him incapacitated for most of that song, and even a few minutes after. That meant Tim had to make some small talk, and he first mentioned they had played here a several months before and that they’d like to get back a little more often. That was about all the topics he had prepared. “…Chris, hurry up. This is getting uncomfortable for me…” he said, succeeding at being funny and sounding nervous. Chris finally rejoined them, having borrowed a bass from one of the other bands. They were then able to move on, and began one of their most rocking numbers, “All Hands”. They followed it with one of their newest songs, and afterwards took a momentary pause where Tim killed some time. “Listen, I don’t want anyone here tagging me in any shit…” he said. He proceeded to say that he was technically at work, and had taking time off to perform this show, meaning he couldn’t be drinking, and he didn’t want any photos to make it look otherwise. So, once that was cleared up, they tore into “Nights Like This”, which was pretty flawless, except toward the end, when Chris again had to leave with some bass issues. “…We lost our bassist again…” Tim said when the song was over. Mark said something, to which Tim responded, “Oh yeah, we don’t need him for the first part of this next song.” The current four piece then started “Starts and Ends”. “You told them all just what they can do. You got the shortest part of the straw you drew… I draw the curtain back and you take a bow. Did I catch you off guard or get it right somehow?…” sang Tim on the first verse. This was the first time I’ve seen them since getting their new EP, meaning this was the first time I really knew that song since they rewrote it over a year ago. I had missed singing along to that one more than I had realized, and it still stands out as my favorite Meridian song. Chris once again got back on stage pretty early on in that one, and stuck around for another newer song, “Lazy Eye”, which has a more dominant rhythm section. Tim couldn’t go without poking fun of the situation, and told Chris he might be getting a pink slip the next day, then said they might be in the market for a new bass player. Chris didn’t have a verbal retort to that, though he did act like he was about knee Tim right in the crotch. “Train” brought things down a few notches and perfectly showcases the bands softer side, as it is a beauty of a tune, but is still something you can easily rock out to. Tim announced they had one last song, a Mark played the first notes of “Hey Lover”, before Joe busted in on the drums, really getting it underway.
It was far from a perfect show, but Chris deserves some major props for doing the best he could in an unlikely situation. When he was on stage, he gave it his all as usual. It was just an unfortunate circumstance, and really, how many times have you seen a bass player break a string? I’ve seen nearly five hundred concerts over the years, and I can only recall one band who suffered from a broken bass string while performing.
Plus, Shannon and Mark put on a thoroughly entertaining show by themselves, so they were able to draw attention away from everything, and Tim is still one of the best singers and performers I’ve had the pleasure of seeing. Point is, in the end it worked out alright.
Give their debut, self-titled EP a listen, and if you like it, then buy it in ITUNES. And while they don’t have anything scheduled right now, keep an eye on their REVERBNATION PAGE, because they’ll most likely be doing a show sometime within the next couple of months.
A band by the name of Silhouette was next up, and they brought the people, which I took as a positive sign. I mean, if a band can pull fifty plus people, they have to be good, right? The answer is yes… But not to everybody.
I don’t know what the whole deal was, but this was billed as their “comeback show”, and from hearing them talk, it seemed like the band had been almost completely reformed since they last played. I don’t know what they were like before, but now, they were a very hardcore metal act. My interest was lost immediately, especially because their first song was lyrically rapped, in the vein of Linkin Park. If that’s what works for them, okay, but I felt it seemed like they were stuck in a time warp. I mean, that’s been done, many times over at that. Luckily, all their music didn’t sound like that, but with all the screaming, I couldn’t even pretend to like them.
Their set dragged on, and I was relieved when they finally finished.
I mentioned this was an odd billing of bands, and here is where it got really interesting. There are a couple of genres that could pull off playing after a hardcore metal band, like a hardrock outfit, or maybe even a rock group, but Paco Estrada and his band are neither of those. In fact, they’re the polar opposite.
Paco’s backing band looked mostly the same as the last time I had seen him, with Scotty Isaacs manning the keyboard/piano, and there was still a drummer, Irish, whose drum kit was fairly small, consisting mainly of a few toms and a snare. But then you had Joel Bailey, who has been added as the bassist. Along with Pacos’ acoustic guitar, it makes for some lovely music, but a type that quickly pushed all the metal heads out the door.
A lot of Paco’s newer stuff is making it into his sets these days, like the opener, “American Girls”. Over the last decade or so, Paco has written some real gems in all the various bands he’s played with, but that one is by far one of the best. There’s a certain amount of nostalgia the song conveys, while it bears more of a folk sound. I believe they followed it with another new song, though Paco has been known to play some covers too, so it could go either way. Next, I know for sure they did a cover song, doing a more minimalist rendition of The Cars, “Who’s Gonna Drive You Home Tonight?”. They do a mean cover of it, and put a pretty unique spin on a classic song. They ran through a couple more, with the first of those two really sticking out to me. I don’t think it was a cover, though it sounded like it could pass as one. I mean that as a compliment, because if it wasn’t, then it sounded authentic enough that it could have been written by one of the greats. As usual, some of Paco’s fan favorites had been saved for last, and he began to pluck away at the strings on his guitar, leading into “Breaking Down”. “You grab your shovel and your digging axe, ‘cause you have to be the first in line to bury the past. You put a smile on and try to believe it, but I know how much it hurts you to leave it…” he crooned. This is also one he’s known for adding portions of cover songs to, one of the best of which I’ve always thought was a Peter Gabriel song he used to tack on, but tonight, I think I found a new favorite. After one of the later choruses from his original, Paco belted out the chorus of U2’s “One”, “…You say, one love, one life when it’s one need in the night. One love, we get to share it, leaves you baby if you don’t care for it…” There’s always a deep passion in Pacos’ voice when he sings, but it seemed magnified on this song. It bleed out onto his voice, especially on the line, “…You say love is a temple, love a higher law. Love is a temple, love the higher law. You ask me to enter, but then you make me crawl. And I can’t be holding’ on to what you got, when all you got is hurt…” as well as the chorus that followed. I was awestruck. That was one of the most amazing cover songs I have ever heard, and I know this may sound like sacrilege, but while I have never seen U2 live, I can’t imagine Bono could make his own song connect with and touch the audience the way Paco did this night. It didn’t seem like they had been up there anytime, but already they had arrived at the final song of their 38-minute long set, “Haunting Me”, which featured pieces of another cover song, “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” by Whitney Houston.
Paco’s music has gone through a lot of changes over the years, from playing with rock bands, to spending some time as a solo artist, but hopefully this latest band of his will stick around for a little while. Together they make what is probably the most unique sounding band Paco has had since One Love, and it’s different than most any other type of music out there. It’s gorgeous, and will most likely take your breath away.
Paco has a ton of records from his past, most of which can be bought via BANDCAMP. As for shows, I know he has one coming up on Saturday, March 2nd, where he will play at his old Dallas stomping grounds, The Curtain Club.
After a strange musical combination like that, going from a metal band to a very chill mostly acoustic act, it only made sense to wrap up the night with one final rock band, which was Awake in Theory.
Terry Kimmel began the band show with some hypnotic chords on his guitar, while he walked around the stage. After a minute, Eric Hawkens, who was out of sight, started singing, and eventually made his way on stage from stage left. Soon after was when their first song, “Barely Breathing”, really took off, as drummer, Raymond Chambers, bassist Adam Garcia, and the rhythm guitarist, Brad McCain, joined in. The song is fantastic and one of my favorites of theirs. It also works as a great opener, easing you into it with its slower start, and before you know it, they’ve hooked you. They proceeded to reel everyone in with songs like “Let Go” and “Playing the Victim”, but unfortunately, “everyone” wasn’t as many people as they deserved to have watching them. Like I said, the metal heads had left during the previous act, and now it looked like the only people who were still there were ones who were already Awake in Theory fans. Eric pointed out that, that wasn’t a problem with them, though. “…We’re just happy to play music…” he said, “…Especially when we get to play after Paco Estrada…” he added. They got back to the show with “Dangerous”, a song that saw Brad tear off into a killer guitar solo. Raymond pounded out a brief drum solo before their next song, “Innocence for the Innocent”, followed by their anthem of sorts for anyone serving in the military, “Hero You Hate”. Before starting it, Eric asked everyone to thank anyone they knew who was in the service, and then he mentioned something else. “…For anyone whose seen an Awake in Theory show recently, you know my brother was deployed.” He said. “Well, he’s home now…” You could tell he was excited and relieved by that, and for good reason. That tune is another highlight of their shows in my opinion, and once it was done, they cut loose a bit. Eric mentioned that they come from all over the area, like Frisco. “…He’s from Bowie…” he said, pointing at one of his band mates, quickly following it with something to the effect of, “I’m sorry, it’s not nice to say anyone’s from Bowie.” That got a laugh from all of their fans who had stuck around. Topic of conversation then switched to Raymond, who drives down to all of their shows from Lawton, Oklahoma, and Eric jokingly said he was the one they needed to work on and get to move here. I believe it was this next and final song that they said they would be recording soon, with work on an actually record to follow shortly after. It was “Daddy’s Little Girl”, which will serve as their lead single, and it capped off their 36-minute long set.
It was a great set, and personally, I thought they were better this night than a couple weeks before when I saw them in Dallas. They didn’t let the lack of a crowd affect them, instead putting on a show like they were playing in front of forty to fifty people, like any professional band should.
They were fun and lively, with everybody carrying their own weight. Adam really brought it this night, and owned it on the bass, while Terry and Brad also often stepped up to the forefront of the stage, taking over the spotlight and shredding on their guitars. It was just very well balanced, and also, they know how to work the audience and get everyone excited.
Their next show is going to be at Trees on Sunday, March 24th, where they will open for Adrenaline Mob and Nothing More. It will probably be at least one of the biggest shows they’ve done to date, and I’ll be willing to bet they’ll be even more intense than usually at that one.
They offered a great way to end the night, and despite me not really caring for a couple of the acts on the bill, this show was still well worth the drive to Fort Worth.
There was a bit of an eclectic night of music happening at Trees this night, and it had been orchestrated by Spune Productions. There was one touring act, one local heavyweight, and one Austin band who is slowly carving out their place, not only in Dallas, but even the country.
For obvious reasons, the touring band was up first, which was Glossary, who hailed from Murfreesboro, Tennessee .
The quintet focused mainly on the music, and kicked off their set with “Keep it Coming”, a song from their latest record, “Long Live All of Us”. Sound wise, I didn’t know what to expect, but that song proved to be an upbeat rock offering, with a lot of folk inspiration, and even a hint of alternative country. It was excellent, and successfully captivated me, as singer and guitarist, Joey Kneiser, rolled them right into their next song. I tried my best to piece together their setlist from this night, but I couldn’t get it perfect, hence why I didn’t know the tune. After that one, I believe they quickly introduced themselves to the crowd, which was fairly sparse, and then drummer, Eric Giles, started them into “Heart Full of Wanna”, with some heavy percussion work. Adding to the percussion was Kelly Kneiser, who played a tambourine, and often added some backing vocals, echoing Joey on the chorus, “How many people will be hanging around when they come and take the money away?…” They moved right along to their next song, which I want to say was the one where they switched things up a little, with lead guitarist, Todd Beene, temporarily picking up the lead vocal duties. He did a helluva job, and in his own right is a great singer, plus he gave it a different tone than what Joey did, and I thought it was neat getting a different, albeit brief, taste of the band’s music. They swapped back for their next song, but first, Joey set it up, saying it was a new one titled, “Saint Christopher”. He hastily explained the good work the saint had done in his life, then said that was what this song was about, “…just doing good…” I found it to be one of the best songs of their set, and I like the positive message it carried, too. They brought things down ever so slightly with their next few songs, as Todd finally put the pedal steel guitar that had just been sitting there to use. They did a few songs using it, but the only one I know for sure was the catchy, “Bend With The Breeze”. I found those to be some of the best songs of their set, due solely to the use of the pedal steel guitar, as I’m getting more and more fond of the sound it creates, and here, it made the songs. Todd returned to his original position after that, but before moving on, they mentioned they had been on tour since the previous week. “…We were in Alaska last week…” said Joey, which sparked a short conversation about how they glad they were to be in a place that was a warmer. They then jumped into their next tune, which I think was “A Shoulder To Cry On”. Bingham Barnes seemed to really be getting into that one, and was really slapping his bass. They wound the tail end of it right into their final song, with Joey quickly thanking everyone for watching them. Thing was, that ended up not being their last song. Afterwards, they found out they had enough time left for one more, and after talking it out, they decided to close their 44-minute long set with “Save Your Money for the Weekend”.
These guys & girl were nothing short of phenomenal, and their set was teeming with talent. I know their Dallas fan base isn’t all that large at the moment, and if it weren’t for that, there would be no reason they couldn’t headline a show in Dallas. Every single other element was there, from well written music, to great lyrics, a lively stage show and everything a band needs.
I went from having never heard of them to loving them, and honestly, after 44-minutes, I was still enjoying it so much I wanted them to play a little longer.
They have multiple records available, which you can purchase in either ITUNES or BANDCAMP. I also think they tour fairly often, so there’s a good chance you’ll be able to see them sometime in the future. But for now, their current schedule is: March 8 at Popular Lounge in Memphis, Tennessee, March 9th at the Ole Tavern in Jackson, Mississippi, and March 11th at Dan’s Silverleaf in Denton, Texas.
On a normal night, I would say a performance like that would be hard to top. But this was no normal night, nor is Quiet Company a normal band…
I wasn’t sure what to expect from this show, since they do plan to release three records this year, and a few weeks prior to this asked their fans on Facebook what three songs should continue to be staples at the shows. That made me apprehensive, because I didn’t know what to expect now. Had they already worked in most of the new material? Would they still play all my favorites? Not that I don’t want to hear their new material, but let’s be honest, when attending a concert, everyone likes to hear the stuff they know and love. Luckily, I found out right off the bat that I didn’t have much to fear…
The first thing I noticed when the curtain opened was that singer and guitarist, Taylor Muse, was holding a drumstick in his right hand. The group briefly surveyed the crowd, before Taylor started playing some notes, using the drumstick to hit the strings. Jeff Weathers joined with some light tapping on his drums as they opened up “Everything Louder Than Everything Else”. It’s one I view as a staple, and frankly, I can’t imagine them not playing it, simply because it translates so well in the live environment. It just an epic feel to it, telling an actually story, and Cody Ackors trombone playing gives parts of it a real triumphant feeling. That was the perfect way to embark on their 47-minute long set, and with some gritty guitar feedback and a loud crash on the drums, they wound it into “You, Me, and the Boatman”. “…And may our legends live to tell how we burnt down heaven and conquered hell…” Taylor sang on the first verse, as the tune quickly picked up momentum. Okay, so with those two it was seeming like this was a standard Quiet Company gig, but afterwards, they did something that was new for me, and I believe even Dallas in general. Erik Wolfe, of Telegraph Canyon, made his way on stage with a giant bass drum in tow. I was clueless to what they were about to do, at least until Taylor began softly playing his guitar. “Oh little baby, you are fragile and weak. So I will hold you ‘til you fall asleep. I look inside you and I see myself…” he sang, the first line of “Are You a Mirrior? (…Or a Window?)”. Upon finishing that line, Erik started pounding away on his bass drum, while Cody proceeded to play a tom, making it extra heavy on the percussion, in a good way. Since they released “We Are All Where We Belong” in late 2011, I’ve been fond of that song, though never thought I’d get to experience live. It was a rare treat for sure, and one I thoroughly enjoyed. They hadn’t really stopped so far, and they still showed no signs of letting up, and right as Erik went to exit the stage, the sample track for their next song kicked in. Guitarist, Thomas Blank, moved over to one of their keyboards, while Taylor tried to get the crowd more into it, asking everyone to dance. And if anyone was going to this night, then by far the best song to dance along with was “It’s Better to Spend Money Like There’s No Tomorrow, Than Spend Tonight Like There’s No Money”. “Take what you need, but you better need all you take…” he sang, while moving his hands about and tugging at the suit that he, and every other member sport. It was during the instrumental breakdown, and after Thomas’s solo on the melodica, that they toned things down. Taylor then went on a seemingly random, yet hilarious tangent. He mentioned that the last girlfriend he had before meeting his future wife, and how he and that ex-girlfriend saw a commercial one day with a guy dancing in it. He said something like, “…I could tell she was attracted to this man, in a physical way…” I believe he said he felt a little jealous, and that he couldn’t dance like that, “…Not because I didn’t know how, but because I didn’t have the confidence…” He continued the story by saying when he first met the women who would became his wife, he danced for her, with overwhelming confidence. “…So come on guys, let’s all be the alpha males that we know we are and dance for these ladies. And dance with confidence!…” All that transpired in barely over a minute, and while some of the audience members started to dance, they got back to the song, finishing it out, “…We all end up in the cemetery.” That wasn’t the only song they did from their 2009 album, “Everyone You Love Will Be Happy Soon”, and next did “On Modern Men”. The most powerful part of it comes at the bridge, when Cody, Thomas, and bassist, Matt Parmenter, all join Talyor and harmonize as they sing, “Pave the way, we are modern men, and we have fought to exist. We have crawled from the water to the dry land, and our hands are the dirtiest.” over and over. It’s really something to behold, and will leave you in sheer awe. By this point, the crowd had grown, and I was shocked at the number of people who were not only watching the band, but also obviously getting into the music. So, it was no lie when Taylor said he thought this was the best Dallas crowd they had ever had. He also mentioned that about four months before they had all finally quit their day jobs in order to focus 100% of their time and efforts on the band, which evidently is going well so far. That then led him to introduce the next song, which was a cover, and asked for anyone who knew it to sing along. “…But if you don’t, it’s not our song, so…” he laughed. I’m not always big on covers, usually preferring all original material instead, but with Neutral Milk Hotel’s “Holland 1945”, they’ve found a good one, and it fits the Quite Company mold well. Upon finishing it, they finally got to one of their new songs… Sorta. Back in 2006 the band released an album called “Shine Honesty”, which they decided to re-record for a re-release this year. “…We have several good reasons for doing it, none of which I’ll take the time to go into now. But trust me, they’re all good reasons…” Taylor said, speaking on why they wanted to revamp the album. He also noted that they had recorded two additional songs from that era that did not make it one the original album, but were great songs. “…That’s why it was so important that they made it on the first time…” he joked, finally saying they were going to do one of those bonus tracks. All of the guys shifted over to stage left for it, with Cody taking Thomas’ guitar, while he played keys for the song. I was impressed by it, and to be an older song, it definitely held its weight against their current material, which is arguable the best stuff they’ve done to date. As it wrapped up, Thomas got his guitar back, while Cody walked over to the keyboard on stage right, lacing some notes in with their slightly ominous sample track, that segued them into their next song. Since first hearing it, “The Easy Confidence” has been my favorite song of theirs, and I can’t help but get ecstatic each time they start into it. It’s the emotion that’s packed into it that really makes the song stand out, like the defiance that can be heard on the line, “…I’ve got an itch to scratch, I’ve got a stone to throw, and I want to sink my teeth into your hollow bones…” Typically, that’s the sign that their set is coming to an end, and such was the case this night, though it didn’t end on the note I had assumed it would. Cody got the bass drum that had been used earlier in their set, while his band mates started “Preaching to the Choir Invisible: Part I”. He only used it at the beginning, though, and got his trombone by the end of the first verse. Personally, I was hoping for part two of this song, which I’m a little more partial to, but both carry the same overall message, which is, “…We are all where we belong…” Near the end of it, Taylor set his guitar aside, and then unwrapped the mic cord from the stand. He then hopped off the stage, rushing out into the throng of fans, pointing the microphone towards them, while they shouted along with the group, “Oooohhhh.” He then climbed back onto the stage. “Thank you! We are Quiet Company…” he shouted, while the curtain was being closed on him/them.
Thus ended the best Quiet Company show I’ve seen yet.
The band was on fire this night, and part of that I think should be attributed to the large crowd they were commanding this night. Really, people were packed in here, making it hard to move in certain spots of the venue, and you could tell they were feeding off all the energy that was being emitted, which in turn made them push themselves even more than they typically do.
Matt, Cody, Thomas, Jeff and Taylor were in perfect synch with each other, and everything was so precise.
At least in my opinion, this show proved to me that Quiet Company is the best band that currently resides in Texas, and if you think that is too much praise, then go see one of their shows and find out for yourself.
You can purchase all their current records in either ITUNES or BANDCAMP. Also, mark your calendars for April 9th, when “A Dead Man On My Back: Shine Honesty Revisited” will be released.
With the announcement of the albums re-release also comes an extensive list of tour dates, which are: March 7th at Common Grounds in Waco, TX. The 9th at Stubbs, the 10th at Whole Foods and Blackheart, the 11th at Waterloo Records, the 12th at Bar96, the 13th at Hipstamatic Haus, and the 14th at the Four Seasons, with all of those being in Austin for SXSW. The 18th in Tulsa, OK at The Vanguard. The 19th at Plush in St. Louis, MO. The 21st in Chicago, IL at Beat Kitchen. The 23rd they’ll be performing at Rancho Relaxo for the Canadian Music Fest in Toronto. The 24th will find them at the Knitting Factory in Brooklyn, NY. The 25th at The Fire in Philadelphia, PA. The 27th in Charleston, SC at Tin Roof. The 28th at 12th and Porter in Nashville, TN. The 29th in Memphis, TN at Poplar Lounge. April 3rd at House of Rock in Corpus Christi, TX. April 5th they’ll be in Fort Worth at the Live Oak Music Hall. Another Texas date will follow on the 14th in Conroe at Dosey Doe. On the 16th they’ll be in Cleveland, MS at Hey Joe’s. The 17th at Downtown Tavern in Jackson, TN. The 20th in Chattanooga, TN at Honest Pint. The 21st at Radio Room in Greenville, SC. The 23rd in Charleston, SC at Charleston Pour House. The 24th at Jinx in Savanah, GA. The 25th at the Drunken Unicorn in Atlanta, GA. The 26th in Macon, GA at Hummingbird. The 27th at The Loft in Columbus, GA. Then May 2nd at Grand Stafford Theater in Bryan, TX. And they’ll be performing at the Homegrown Music Fest in Dallas on May 11th.
They were undisputedly the most rock band here this night, which made the next band seem like an odd choice, since it was the indie/folk/rock band, Telegraph Canyon.
I had seen the band before, nearly three years ago, and I failed to see what all the fuss was about. The band has received a ton of praise over the years, but I never understood why. Honestly, I didn’t expect that I would this night, either. Still, I was going to give them a chance again, and see if they could change my opinion of them.
“Old Dark Hymns”, a song from their 2007 album “All the Good News” kicked off their 51-minute long set. Overall I liked it, though there was a few seconds here and there where singer and multi-instrumentalist, Chris Johnsons’ voice faltered slightly. It was just some of the notes he had trouble hitting, which left me still on the fence about them. With their second song, which I presume was one of many newer ones that filled their set, they tightened up more, and not only did I not hear anymore missed notes, but I also found myself starting to enjoy their stuff. Afterwards, Chris told everyone a story from their recent tour, saying they ended up in the desert eating mushrooms. He went on, saying he suddenly found himself in an odd situation, where he had started removing his clothes, and was almost totally nude, before realizing what he was doing. It got a laugh from everybody, and then they moved on with “Safe On the Outside”. It was that song that made me decide to stick it out for their set, partially because it was so good, and also because it showed what a perfect functioning unit the band is. The violin, the guitars, the bass, the keys and drums all fit together so fluidly, plus the harmonies they achieved were gorgeous. Another slightly funny moment followed that song, as Chris pointed out that he had an untied shoe, but was going to press on. “…I’ll reevaluate the situation if it gets worse…” he said. I don’t think it bothered him at all though, as they ran through a couple more newer songs, before doing “Quiet Assurance” and “Shake Your Fist”. The latter was one of the highlights of their set, and it was also that song that Andrew Skates (at least I think it was Andrew) played “The Tiger”. From what I could see of it, it was essentially a child’s xylophone that looked like a tiger, and while that may be a pretty simple instrument, it was the backbone of the song. Bassist, Chuck Brown, guitarist/multi-instrumentalist, Erik Wolfe, drummer, Austin Green and Andrew left the stage after that one. All that remained was Chris, who had picked up an acoustic guitar, and violinist, Tamara Cauble. The two slowed things down greatly with a very soft song, during which she occasionally plucked the strings of her violin. It sounded good, but I felt it disrupted the flow they had created, and even though they were winding down the show, I thought it brought things down too much and should have come a couple songs later than it did. Chris invited the rest of the band back to the stage after that, and they had been waiting in the stairwell, listening to the end of the song and waiting to rejoin them. They did a couple more, including the very folk sounding, “Reels and Wires”, which also slowed down the pace, but I found it more acceptable here. While Chris fiddled with his guitar, he made some small talk by saying, “So, Tamara has a story that she’s been dying to tell you all…” The look on her face was priceless, and one of terror, until Chris acknowledged he was joking. He then thanked everyone for coming out, before they began what they said was their final song of the night.
The curtain remained open, though, which meant more than likely they’d be back. And wouldn’t you know it, after several seconds they returned to the stage for one encore. It was one of their newer songs, and they had truly saved the best for last, and the song was nothing short of extraordinary.
I can’t say they won me over, but at the same time, I can’t say they won’t, either. After all, their new songs sound much better than their previous music, they just need to get it released, which is something a lot of people have been waiting for, for a very long time.
Regardless of that, though, they are a very solid band. I’m not in love with them like so many people are, but there’s lots of talent here. Chris has a perfect voice for the type of music they play, and they create some pretty good folk tunes.
You can buy both of their records in ITUNES, and at the very least check out some of their songs. As for tour dates, they don’t have any listed at the moment, but just keep a check on their FACEBOOK PAGE, and they’ll probably have something soon enough.
I found the $13 cover charge a bit pricey at first ($10 is the usual going rate), but in the end, it was more than worth it. Hell, Quiet Company alone was worth it. Kudos to Spune for putting together a great night of music, it rocked.
All photos are courtesy of Geoffrey Ussery and all rights belong exclusively to him. Please visit his BLOG to see more of his photos from this show and others.