Tuesday, March 11th, 2014 – King Camel’s SW ForePlayFest

After doing my duty with On Tour Monthly (the other publication I work for) and catching the Experience Hendrix show in Grand Prairie, it was time to head to Dallas for the other show I planned on catching this night.

King Camel had put together quite the lineup of bands touring through on their way to SXSW, with six bands in all gracing the stage of the Double Wide, which is far more than the usual three-band bills the venue typically hosts.

It was already after 11:30 when I got there, and sadly, I had missed out on damn near every touring act (including the ones I was most eager to see), bit arrived in time to see the Fort Worth outfit The Longshots, right as they kicked off their 27-minute long set.

They crammed a lot of music into that short time, and early on (the first or second song) they played “Too High for West 7th”. The crowd of a dozen or so supporters got no time to recover as the band dove right into their next song, which ended with most of the quintet jumping around at the end of it.

They had quickly showed what a high-energy band they were, and things only got more intense during their next track, where guitarists Alex Zobel and Parker Donaldson stole the show. Closer towards the end, Alex (purposefully) backed off the stage and fell into the crowd, shredding amongst the fans, while Parker walked up to Brady Hamiltons’ drum kit and jumped onto the bass drum, where he stayed for a couple of seconds.

They kicked out a couple more tracks, including one from their “Kicker” EP, “Rhode Island Red”. “I used to have a heart to invest, and then she stuck her hand in my chest…” sang lead singer Joey Gorman, who was also the bands third guitarist. Most of his band mates aided him on some of the vocals for that fast paced, driven song, which made for a cool sound, especially since they all can sing (and each one did some of that this night).

“All these songs are dedicated to my next beer.” Alex joked during one of their breaks, before they did a few more songs to finish out their show.

I was impressed at how energetic The Longshots were, and this is after they’ve been touring for the last few weeks. So, if the road has taken any type of toll on them, they sure didn’t let it show this night.

There was one moment early on when Joey was left with some time to kill and while bantering with the crowd he seemed like he was almost uncomfortable with it. Perhaps it was just because he had been put on the spot, though, because he filled some time later on in the show with ease.

That’s the closest thing to a complaint I could find this night of this gritty, garage rock style band, who left it all on the stage.

They are still on tour, and are currently out in California. So, if you’re in the area, check out their FACEBOOK PAGE and see where they’re playing. As for their music, you can snag some free downloads on their BANDCAMP site, and get their newly released LP over in iTUNES.

Closing out ForePlayFest was the Nashville based Pujol, who sadly, did not have near the crowd they deserved (that comes with playing a Tuesday night show though, I guess.)

“Sup. How y’all doing?” asked the bands namesake Daniel Pujol, who was the singer and rhythm guitarist for the group. He said it very coolly, as if he were trying to impress everyone who was there. There was humor in it, though; and before getting their show on the road, he mentioned they had played a show with The Longshots in Fort Worth the night before, saying it was 3:30 in the AM when they finished.

I believe it was “DIY2K” that began their show, but regardless of what it was, it had everybody there moving around to the refined rock sounds and the raw voice Daniel had.

With a new album, “Kludge”, due out in May, there were plenty of new songs to be heard this night, one of which was “Manufactured Crisis Control. It didn’t matter that nobody knew it, because you could tell most of the people who were here weren’t really familiar with the Pujol in the first place, so it was all new to them; they were rocking out to it all the same, though.

“Alright, alright, alright.” Daniel said before their next song, sounding like he was trying to do his best McConaughey impression, which aside from the mannerisms, wasn’t much like him. He had already informed everyone the next song was from their second record and was titled “Mayday”. The song had a pretty driven rhythm section; and just when you thought Pujol was going to be a band that was all about the music, Daniel revealed their (or rather his) funny side.

Pretty much every song from here on out got explanations, beginning with “Postgrad”, which he said was about moving to New York and not knowing where you want to work. He said something else, which I didn’t catch, and I feel it would have made the next part funnier, when he said something like, “And how that’s the exact opposite of what you see on Facebook.”

Things took a bit of a darker turn when he noted their next track was about “bleeding out and dying all the time”, speaking of “Reverse Vampire”. “…I want to release the heat that’s building in my chest and blast it like a laser beam…” Daniel sang in his unique voice that has a gravely sound to it, and at times sounded a bit sludgy.

The explanations kept flying, and “Psychic Pain” was said to be about when you have a “bunch of crazy feelings, but you don’t got no words for it.” said Daniel, adding a “Yeah.” or something like that afterwards, expecting everyone to know what he meant. I think they did, too.

As good as these setups were, the best had to go to their new single. Daniel hesitated for but a second, then said it was about “the limitations of physical language.” At least if I’m remembering correctly that’s what he said. He readily admitted he didn’t know what he was talking about, though. “I’m still working the spiel out for this one.” he confessed. The tune was “Pitch Black”, and personally, I found that new one to be one of their best songs of the night, and it has me looking forward to their new release.

Struggling with something to say in regards to the next song, a (new?) fan shouted, “It’s about whatever you want it to be.” Daniel ran with that, then came up with his own thing. “It’s about stuffing things.” he stated. It didn’t take them long to do “Tiny Gods (Singularity)” (which is less than two-minutes long), though it was a great song in terms of the live performance, and the lead guitarist slayed during that one.

“No Words” received a setup you would expect with a song by that name, and Daniel plainly said that, like most of their songs, it was about “problems with language and communication”. The drummer let loose some powerful beats at the end of that one, proving what a great drummer she was, and soon after they did a track from their “2010” EP, “Point of View”.

At this point, their 30-minute set was coming to a close, and Daniel said they had just a couple left. As soon as he said that the guitarist held up four fingers, and then the bassist added, “It’s a loosely defined couple. They’re romantically linked.” he quipped.

It wound up only being a true couple, and the first was about “narcissists breaking up with themselves”, and then they ended with what I believe was “Black Rabbit”, which ended a show that was chocked full of rock.

The other band impressed me, as did Pujol, who was the best in my opinion. Their sound was a little more interesting, and I’d even say fresh, at least in some ways.

Musicianship was great, too. You could tell they have some touring under their belt, because they all clicked so cohesively and rolled with it all; never having to ask what was next. In fact, they really didn’t communicate with each other at all while they were on stage, which gave it all a professional feel; and despite the crowd lacking numbers, they gave it their all and owned the stage this night.

They have plenty of albums you can check out in iTUNES, with the new one coming on May 20th. Keep an eye on their FACEBOOK PAGE, because as that release date draws closer, they’ll surely head out on a tour in support of it.

I hate I missed so much of SW ForePlayFest, but King Camel had lined up some amazing bands from start to finish, and at least I got in on a bit of that sweet action.


Trees (Dallas, TX)
- Words by Jordan Buford // Photos by James Villa -


At only nine-o’clock Trees was already packed with a sold-out crowd who were on anxiously awaiting Crosses. They still had some time to wait, though, as Birds of Tokyo was serving as the main support band.


Album Review: “Full Moon” by SPCCMP

imageIt’s hard to believe, but it’s already been a little over a year and a half since the debut EP from SPCCMP (pronounced Space Camp) dropped, and ever since its release, the trip-rock outfit has been hard at work on their follow-up EP, making sure they wrote the best material they possibly could.

The result is the “Surrender to the Night” EP, and even though demo versions of the tracks have existed and been used in music videos made around a year ago, the professional recording quality the tracks now have makes them feel fresh and new.

Tomahawk Jonez (whose real name is Jeremy Rodriguez) has been an excellent hip-hop artist here in the Dallas music scene for some time now, and his skills are on full display on the albums first track, “Dancing with the Devil”. It’s a fun blend of electronic and pop flares that you can groove to, with Tomahawk spitting out the positive words of the track about chasing your dreams and standing tall even when things get tough, never losing sight of what you want.

The album takes a more serious turn with the next songs, including the title track “Surrender to the Night”, which focuses more on the turmoil the world is currently in. “Bombs are bursting in the air, bullets flying everywhere. Children watching children die; missiles lighting up the sky…” Paco Estrada (the groups other vocalist and acoustic guitarist) croons at the start, a nice gravely effect thrown over his voice on those first few lines, which seem to give it more weight. The two completely different styles of singing mesh and even complement one another on what is easily the most moving song this EP offers, and it really does have the ability to change minds (and even the world) if you take its message to heart.

“If This is Goodbye” is my personal favorite track, and it takes more of a rock approach, with some forceful drumming rounded out by some nice bass riffs, while the guitars create a mesmerizing music bed. Paco and Tomahawk again trade off on this song, handling the chorus and verses, respectively. As a person who gravitates most towards lyrics, I must confess I absolutely love the chorus, which is teeming with emotion, in the way that only Paco Estrada can muster. “How we ever gonna save the world, if we’re too afraid to try and change it?  …How you ever gonna say my name, without the memory of you throwing it all away? How you gonna fall asleep at night…” he sings, more matter-of-factly rather than somberly. It’s powerful, and in a completely different manner than the previous track, this time dealing with not being too quick to give up on a love.

When the music video was first released for “The Lover”, it got some flak, with some people saying they were tired of the suicidal sounding songs (one track from their first EP could be viewed in that sense, depending on how you perceive it.) With a line like, “…And the barrel’s to his head, like the trigger to his finger…”, it’s easy to see why people would view it that way (Paco even slightly busts a rhyme on that chorus, almost giving Tomahawk a run for his money), but it’s depth goes beyond that. It’s more about overcoming any demons you’re facing and fully realizing your self-worth, and that you’re perfect as who you are. Yes, they broach the subject in a darker manner, but the overall message shines through said darkness.

Speaking of that, that’s the big difference between their first EP and this one: it’s darker. There were a couple of tracks sort of like that on their first EP, but not to the extent as those found on “Surrender to the Night”, and that’s a good thing.

It depicts growth, and shows that the band isn’t afraid to tackle real life issues, all while putting an uplifting spin on them.

They’re incredibly original, too. Trip-hop may not be new, but they put such an interesting spin on it all, incorporating several different genres, all of which somehow fit with one another. Then you have the fact that Paco does some singing, and in an interview I did with Tomahawk sometime back, he noted that aside from being able to work with a musician he greatly respected, that also gave SPCCMP the chance to use live vocals on what might otherwise be just sample tracks.

It makes all the difference, because Paco is a master at making music emotional, and despite the difference in his and Jeremy’s styles of singing, they work amazingly well together.

You often hear bands that have a great sound, but it’s rare these days for any act to be original; however, SPCCMP really is. It’s fresh and exciting music that was written with the intent to change lives. That fact is evident on the “Surrender to the Night” EP, an EP that has the potential to let SPCCMP break out of the local music scene here and make the world their stage.

Tomahawk Jonez – vocals
Paco Estrada – vocals & acoustic guitar
Mike Dove – electric guitar
A.J. “Irish” Blackleaf – drums
Joel Bailey - bass
Emsy Robinson - guitar

Purchase the album on: iTUNES

Visit SPCCMP’s websites: Official Website / Facebook / Reverbnation / Twitter / Youtube




Trees (Dallas, TX)
-Words by Jordan Buford // Photos by James Villa -

Crosses  (Trees - Dallas, TX) 3/19/14©2014 James Villa, All Rights Reserved

I have never seen Deftones. To be perfectly honest (and please, don’t hate me for this), their music is just too heavy for my tastes. So, obviously, I have never seen the great Chino Moreno perform; but when the…

Friday, March 7th, 2014 – A Stellar Night of Local Rock at Trees

Most days now, Trees plays host to a slew of bigger name national touring acts who happen to be passing through Dallas. However, this night, it was all about the locals.

Nothing More was the main attraction, and after two months of downtime (and eight months since their last Dallas show), the San Antonio based outfit was making their return, while a lot of great area talent had been tapped to open.

In Memory of Man was charged with getting the show going, and hit the stage right at nine.

Guitarists Chad Beck and Johnny McConlogue, bassist Marcus Gonzales, drummer Javier Garza and keyboardist Matt Langley jammed on their instruments briefly, before Alex Lilly strode on stage as they wound things in to “Wanted”. The force behind that song is something else, and it beckoned those who had gathered around the stage towards the front for the impressive show that was just getting started.

Alex used Johnnys’ mic for one of the final lines of the track, just because, before Javier knocked out some drum beats to lead them into another action packed tune, “Headshot”. “We are In Memory of Man.” Alex informed the decent sized crowd, before continuing to try to hustle through what ended up being a 36-minute long set.

Those classics from their first EP were peppered in, but now they got back to their newly released full-length with “Something in the Taste”. “…And I wish I could go…” sang Alex, almost whispering at times, before the song roared back to life. “HOME!” he bellowed, throwing a fist in the air, before convulsing towards the end, during which he tripped over the drum kit, losing his balance for just a second, though he never fell.

With the headliners drums already occupying the drum riser, they had to set their kit up on the stage, which didn’t give them much room, but they made it work with ease.

“It’s good to be back at Trees.” remarked Alex, while his band mates started the subsequent track from their self-titled record, “New Eyes”. The song has a nice ebb and flow to it, exploring the bands softer side on the verses, and surging to life on the choruses.

Following it was a somewhat similar song from their first EP. “This song’s about a dream that changed my fucking life.” raid Alex, right before pouring some of his Miller Lite on his head. Chad and Johnny were creating some subtle guitar notes, before Javier began banging about on his kit, starting the amazing “Paper Planes”. “Where will we go when…” sang Alex on the chorus midway through the tune, being accompanied by Marcus, their two voices mixing brilliantly while the band dropped out for this fleeting a capella moment. They kicked it back in quick, though; and as it came to an end, Chad raised his guitar in the air, holding it as high as he could while still being able to strum it.

The flow of those last two songs were pretty good, going from a semi-slow song to one that begins that way, and now that they were back into full on rock mode, they kept the pace up with the darker track, “The Spider”. Alex got pretty into the aggressive drum beats at the end, banging his head to them, while Chad and Johnny knocked out the final chords, before making the seamless switch into “My Sweet”. “I found this down the rabbit hole…” Alex sang on the second chorus, his pristine voice completely taking the spotlight for a moment, as the instruments fell silent, but only for that one line.

Javier then got a little drum solo at the tail end, during which time Alex wrapped the microphone cord around his neck a few times in preparation of their final song. Matt’s skills on the keys were highlighted on “Picture Box”, especially at the start of what is probably the most epic song currently at the bands disposal, and it makes for one helluva way to end a show.

It’s too bad every concert can’t get off to this good a start, and it goes to show how much other talent was on this bill, when a band like In Memory of Man (who can and does headline) was giving the opening slot.

They owned it, though, being both precise and calculated, while giving themselves up completely to the Rock ‘n’ Roll spirits who coursed through their veins.

Next up on their calendar is a couple of album release shows. Sure, their new record has been available for a bit, but these shows will be for the release of a limited run of vinyl copies. One is March 22nd at Lola’s Saloon in Fort Worth, while their Dallas dates is slated for April 5th at Double Wide. They’ll also be back in Fort Worth on April 26th, this time at The Grotto.

If you want to sample In Memory of Man’s music, check out their REVEBRNATION PAGE and download their first EP for free. If you like, go buy their new album in iTUNES, or for you vinyl collectors, pick up a copy at one of the shows mentioned above.

Werewolf Therewolf was the second band up, and I ended up missing them completely, due to being out on the patio chatting with different people. In fact, I even missed the first little bit of The Raven Charter’s set, ‘cause time simply got away from me.

I think it safe to assume they began with the instrumental “Survival Kit”, as is their typical fashion, and has been for some time, now. When I walked in they were deep into a new song that hasn’t been played too much live. I wish I had caught more of it, but maybe next time. I enjoyed what I heard, though, and it served as more proof that the new stuff they’ll soon be laying down is their best yet.

They never took much time in between songs, and soon started the title track from their current EP, “Kidnapping”. I really enjoy the way they’ve been doing the past few times I’ve seen them, with lead vocalist Garrett Bond backing up singer and guitarist Daniel Baskind for the first line or two of each verse, before giving it all up to Daniel. The chorus of “Be quiet and don’t move, and we promise not to harm you…” belongs all to Garrett, though.

They followed it up with another semi-new one, the sample track for “No Direction” starting first, before Daniel and fellow guitarist Brandon Bond, along with drummer, Brian Christie, bassist Anthony Sosa and keyboardist Erik Stolpe laid their instruments over it. Brandon and Daniel (especially Brandon) rocked out on the instrumental break halfway through the song, slamming their guitars in a downward motion and quite aggressively, all in synch with Brians’ drumming.

Next came another new one, and I’m pretty certain I’m repeating myself when I say this is my new favorite song from The Raven Charter. “This won’t last forever; we’re on borrowed time. If this is our last night ever, I’m gonna make you mine.” Garrett shouts on the chorus; the music bed and his faster paced singing giving it a cool urgent vibe. Anthony killed it during that one, proving that as far as bassists go, he’s one of the top ones, and afterwards Garrett joked a bit with the massive crowd. “That song’s called Borrowed Time…” he said, adding, “…’Cause we only say that like eight fucking times.” He was enjoying basking in all the love they were already getting, and waited just a second for his band mates to get ready for the next song. “Oh, shit!” he suddenly exclaimed, before hurrying to get an acoustic guitar.

The sinful “Freela Deela” was one of their songs that had some co-singing going on, with some exceptional two to three-part harmonies even thrown in at times, and afterward, Garrett thanked Trees for having them out. “Bullshit, you like it more than that!” he retorted after not getting a loud enough reaction.

Those last two songs have at least been released as singles, but now they got back to some of the brand new material, doing one of their slick sounding songs that sees Erik playing a slow, lovely part on the keyboard midway through, giving the impression the song is over, before it kicks back in hard. Garrett even busted out his harmonica for a short stint on the track, and during a break, Erik picked up an acoustic guitar in preparation of the next song.

“Let me find this on the pad…” Garrett said while searching through his vocal effects pad. He noted this next song was one they hadn’t done in awhile, and that could mean only one thing, and I was excited by it. It had been some time since I last heard “Unfolding”, and Garrett wasn’t quite ready when they started it, missing singing the first word, but that was it. “I’m on my way to my destiny…” he crooned, while Erik stepped up to the forefront of the stage, plucking the strings of the acoustic.

There set had passed by too quickly (or maybe I’m just used to seeing them play a little longer), because now, they were on their final song, which was none other than “Denton, TX”. Anthony viciously stomped his feet on the stage during the brief break before Garrett belted out, “
Now I’ve gone and done it, so point the finger at me…”, as Erik lifted his keyboard of the stand and held it up in the air for all to see.

In some ways, this was the best show I’ve seen them do recently (and by that I mean out of the two other TRC shows I’ve seen this year). Part of that was probably because this was fairly high profile show. Not only were they playing Trees, they were also opening for their good friends in Nothing More, and you could tell they stepped it up from the A game that usually bring in the first place.

The show this night just had a more polished feel to it then even those others in question, and by the time they were done, they had the crowd eating out of the palm of their hand.

They’re just more of a unique rock band, from the blend of harmonies found on some songs, to just the interesting twist on rock music, and their new record is going to turn some heads. I’m not saying it’ll be on a national scale (though that would be great), but I sense it will.

With recording starting next month, they’ll be laying low on the shows for awhile, and March 29th at Rubber Gloves in Denton will be their next show (they also have a June 6th date booked there). As of right now, they also only have one show in the month of April and one in the month of May, and both will be at Tomcats West in Fort Worth (April 18th and May 4th). They also have a Dallas gig slated for June 28th at The Boiler Room.

Head over to their REVERBNATION PAGE to download their two newest singles for free, and if you like that, then check out their two EP’s in iTUNES. They should whet your appetite for their debut full-length that will be dropping later this year.

Now it was time for the band everyone was waiting for, Nothing More (and if you want my review of their show, it was an exclusive for On Tour Monthly, and can be found HERE.)

Saturday, March 1st, 2014 – Songwriters in the Round

The Liquid Lounge was hosting an all acoustic lineup, which seems to be something that seldom happens there, despite the very intimate setting it has.

Paco Estrada had put together the whole show, which was built around a Songwriters in the Round performance he had put together. Ryan Holley, Jeff Crowder (from Deep Ella), Nava (from The Last Place You Look) and Paco were all part of the round, and they had done a show in Austin and Houston leading up to this Saturday night.

The Songwriters in the Round portion of the night was sandwiched in between to great bands who were doing rare acoustic shows to match the vibe for the night, the first of whom was Distant Lights.

Believe it or not, I was actually being somewhat of a social butterfly and was out on the patio area and lost track of time, so unfortunately I missed this amazing Austin band.

I’m more than a little disappointed by that, because I was very interested to see what they were like acoustically, since they are usually a powerhouse of a rock band. Alas, it didn’t happen this night, but maybe I’ll have another chance. They are working on a acoustic EP which should be out soon, so maybe some more acoustic shows will follow in the wake of its release.

Speaking of shows, they have one in Covington, LA at the Columbia St. Rock ‘N’ Blues on March 21st, and they’ll also make a two-night stand in Tyler on April 4th and 5th. The first of those dates will be at Click’s, while the other is at Cork Food and Drink.

Be sure to give their music a listen, too. They have a couple of albums up in iTUNES, and you can even snag their newest one for free HERE.

When I did make it in to the Liquid Lounge, those four singers/songwriters were getting ready for the show, lining up some stools on the stage. Ryan Holley took fair stage right, with Jeff Crowder and Nava after him, while Paco was on far stage left.

It quickly became clear that this was going to be an interesting night, when Jeff whispered into his microphone. “This is something I have trouble saying, and I usually can’t unless it’s completely dark, but, I love you.” he said while gazing out at the fans who had come to support.

“Do you want to start this one off?” Paco asked Ryan, who acted like a heavy burden had just been placed on him. Yeah, you could already tell they were going to be cutting up as much as they were going to be playing music.

I have to say, this was the first time I’ve ever seen Ryan Holley act as a frontman. He used to be a guitarist and backing vocalist in a Austin band called Eyes Burn Electric, and there was a time or two he filled in as one of Paco’s band members in recent years, but he has always been a guitarist the times I’ve seen him. That said, he has an even more incredible voice than I knew, and he knocked it out of the park with the first song he did.

“That was okay.” Paco remarked, pretending to be not all that impressed. He then addressed the crowd, “Is everybody awake? Do you need to stretch?” he asked, joking with his friends. “…Paco secretly hates us and likes to talk shit to is.” said Nava, joking that, that was the actual reason Paco put this whole little tour together with them.

Jeff then took his turn. I remember hearing of Deep Ella years ago (shortly after I joined Myspace), but I never saw the Houston based band, who is still kicking to this day. So, I really didn’t know to expect from him at all. His first song was great, though. It almost sounded like it could have been a cover, but I’m not sure if it was or not. He had a really good voice though, and being that he was the only musician I was completely unfamiliar with on this lineup, he made it known why he deserved to be  part of it and why Paco asked him to join them on this run.

Making it better was the fact that the other three musicians were assisting the one who was singing by either adding some other guitar lines to the mix or some backing vocals, which made for some good touches to each song.

Now it was Nava’s turn, and I was most interested to see (or rather hear) how he sounded. The band he fronts is a loud rock band, and a solid one at that; who has done some touring with more than a few big name acts. Yet here Nava sit, with an acoustic guitar in his hands, verses being the aggressive frontman he typically is. Even more surprising was the song he did, which was slow and soft, and gave his deep, booming bass voice and interesting sound (seriously, this guy has one of THE most unique voices I’ve ever heard).

Paco commented on the tender sound the song had, asking Nava where his angry sound went, as well as a few other questions. Nava replied to one of those with, “It made my head sweaty.” (he’s bald).

Now, it was Paco’s turn. He opted to do “the old standby” first, which prompted a series of jokes about how he was going to “blow his load” in the first few minutes. All four musicians bantered back and forth about this, while Ryan made a joke. “Paco gives good blow jobs.” That’s it, that’s my joke he said.

“Did I gain some respect? Did I lose some respect from that?” Paco asked. “I think this one would go down in the negative category.” Ryan told him, making a thumbs down gesture as he said it. Ryan then added something to the effect that if any of Paco’s exes were here they could attest just how quickly he does “blow his load”.

Paco then started his song. “I kept a photograph, of you and me together…” he sang, the first line of “Whiskey Kisses”. That’s one of my favorites he has written in recent years, and it’s such a beautiful song, and that beauty was only accentuated with the help of these fellow singers. “Your sweet whiskey kisses, that’s what I’ve been missing; when you lose you inhibitions.” They all sang at one point.

That completed the first round, and there were still two more to go.

Ryan was openly discussing what song he should do next, saying he could do some of his songs from the 90’s, but no one would know them. He then said there were some other songs he couldn’t do because some of the lines were “about Paco”.

He chose his song and did it, during which Jeff added some very light percussion by tapping a cymbal of the drum kit that was sit up behind him. He even leaned over and played Nava, striking his head, before going back to the cymbal.

“…It can get weird back there.” Paco said to everyone, speaking to the people who were all clustered together around the door. “You can come closer.” he urged, and some people did get a little closer to the stage.

Jeff than knocked out another song, after which they decided to all do some shots. “Crowd participation: everyone go buy us shots!” he shouted, while Ryan got up and ran over to the bar. Jeff then told anyone who was maybe wanting something to just go over to the bar and say “Ryan Holley” to get a free drink. “That’s the one good thing with being Ryan Holley.” Ryan quipped, “Several people know what I look like, including Whit.” he said, speaking about the owner/bartender of The Curtain Club.

Nava then was trying to decide what he should do next. “Hello, is it me you’re looking for?” he sang, but made it no further than that.

“Everybody has a best friend, and if you don’t you should leave, because you’re weird.” He said to everyone, using that to start setting up his next number. He talked about industry people, who can be great friends and are there for you, “but their own life is shit” said Nava. That was more or less what this one was about, and he noted his friend finally got things figured out.

It was a good song, and was more along the lines of the slower stuff that The Last Place You Look does.

Paco took a friendly little jab at the city of Houston, before doing one of his newer songs. “Ain’t nobody ever gonna come an call me, baby. Not like you do…” goes the chorus of the song that is exactly the type of love song you’ve come to expect from this talented musician.

Afterwards, talk then turned back to Houston, when they all joked about how “incredible” it was and the “tons” of people who made it out. “The sound wasn’t bad at all.” Nava said, shaking his head no when he said it. He then took a little shot at Dallas, while Jeff playful tried to get him to stop, reminding him where they were. “I wasn’t going to trash the cities.” Paco said to Nava, who responded with, “It’s not trashing when it’s fact.”

“Facts according to Nava.” laughed Paco. Ryan then pondered what to do for his final song, eventually deciding he would cover one of Paco’s songs this time. “…He’s about to go full-frontal Paco.” Paco joked.

The song he chose to cover was a personal favorite of mine from “The Definite and Indefinite…” album. “The sun exposes way too much, so the shutters spend their days all shut. It would be easier to raise the dead, then to get yourself out of that bed. There’s cracks in everything you see; like a puzzle with a missing piece…” sang Ryan as he got “Ghosts” underway. The rest of the singers joined in on part of the chorus, especially Paco, as they all sang, “…You don’t have to be alone. I will lie down with you in the middle of the road. I will take these arms and hold you close, and we’ll wait until the headlights come to turn us into ghosts.”

It was fantastic hearing that song, and Ryan killed it. And while the lyrics may sound a bit morbid at times, it’s actually more of a song about making a person realize that there is someone who cares about them, regardless of whatever deep, dark place they may be in, in their personal life.

Jeff and then Nava played their final songs, and the 70-minute or so set was going to end with the hometown hero.

Before the show started, I wound up making a request (I can’t say I’ve ever done to any band before). “Can you play Surface?” I asked Paco. “Can you play Surface?” he said in a whiny voice, similar to that of a small child (he was kidding with me, obviously). “That’s all you people care about. You don’t care about the new music I write, it’s just, “Oh, can you play those SouthFM songs?”

“Will that be all, your highness?” he asked as I walked away. “Yeah, that’ll do.” I said.

Now, with this being the final song of the night, I was curious if he would do it or not (I think the last time I heard that song live was probably when Paco Estrada & One Love did their reunion show in December 2011.)

He played a lengthy piece on his guitar, and then it happened; he switched over to those gorgeous and intoxicating notes that are basic chord structure for “Surface”. “We’ve established this is where we stand. We said after this we’ll just be friends. But my heart don’t really my head. No, my heart don’t really know my head…”

That song, that song is one of the best things that has ever been written. Period. The first time I ever set foot inside the Curtain Club was to see a SouthFM show, nearly eight years ago. I was just getting into the local music scene at the time, and didn’t even the “Swallowing the Pill” album that, that song is on. However, all these years later, that’s the one song I fully remember from that night. For whatever reason it connected with me then, and the only thing that has changed since is my love for it has grown.

“And these are not the words that I would like to be saying to you… And I hope that in the morning you will feel the same way that I do…” sang those longtime fans who had come out to see Paco this night, no doubt reliving old memories while he and his fellow musicians played the song.

That made my night, and for me, there couldn’t have possible been a better way to end the show.

“I win.” stated Paco after it was all said and done, because he got what was by far the biggest round of applause for that closer. The other guys then mentioned they’d be selling some merch if anyone wanted anything, because, as Nava pointed out, there was no way Paco would split the door money with them.

Wow. This was great. Even better than what I had expected.

I was also glad to hear Paco say at the end that this was something he wants to start doing more often: getting musicians from all over Texas and doing these songwriters in the round so people all around the state can see what kind of talent is out there.

For Paco, check out his BANDCAMP PAGE for his solo music. And since I mentioned SouthFM in this one, if for some reason you don’t already have their stuff, you can get their entire discography for free at BANDCAMP. (They’ll always be a Dallas icon, and even if they’re no more, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t check them out.)

The Last Place You Look is a band you need to know if you don’t already, and Nava rocks out with them. Their music can be found in iTUNES.

Like I said, I’ve never actually listened to Deep Ella, but I’m going to have to check out their MUSIC.

As for Ryan Holley, I can’t find a page for him, nor do I believe he has any solo records or anything out, but if you ever see this Austin musician is playing near you, go see him. You won’t regret it.

That was probably the best part of the night, but it wasn’t over quite yet, and there was still something special in store for everyone at the Liquid Lounge.

SpaceCamp (abbreviated as SPCCMP) was doing their first show in over two months, and it was also the first ever full band acoustic performance they had done.

Paco Estrada was pulling double-duty, since he is one of the members of the band, and while he always plays an acoustic guitar with this outfit, it was a bit strange seeing Mike Dove also wielding an acoustic. Irish had a partially drum kit sit up, and most surprising was the microphone he had in front of him, while, of course, Jeremy Rodriguez was at center stage. He was sitting on a stool though, and I wondered just how long that would last.

They began with one of the songs from their forthcoming EP, and “The Lover” sounded pretty different done acoustically. It was one of their songs that perfectly integrates Paco’s singing with Jeremy’s hip-hop style of delivery, and this toned down version gave the words more weight. “…And the barrel’s to his head like the trigger to his finger and the memories of the only girl he’d ever love are all that linger.” Paco sang on the chorus, with Jeremy often mixing his lyrics in close to it. Based on that line, you might think it’s a depressing song, but it’s not meant to be. Instead, it’s about rising above whatever adversity your faced with, no matter how difficult the situation may seem.

Jeremy took a moment to thank Distant Lights and all the songwriters for being on this bill; mentioning that he had been with them on this little tour and what a privilege it had been to be in the crowd all three nights watching them. He also noted that, that was the live debut of “The Lover”, which was a bit of a big deal, seeing as they made a lyric video for it about a year ago. Apparently, they were just waiting for their second EP to be finished and close to a release date. Speaking of that, Jeremy also mentioned a little later in the show that they were going to give everyone a “preview” of what that EP is going to sound like.

Before they got to any more new material though, they pulled out “The Dancer” from their first EP. “…Place your hands on me;
cover up this catastrophe. That kind of action has me asking ‘why must they land on me?” Jeremy spit out, showing off what skills he has as hip-hop singer by delivering how those lines at a rapid pace. Then you had the chorus, “…You will touch me deep inside. You’re my tiny dancer, tiny dancer.” Paco sang, which sounded like it was meant to performed in this low-key setting.

While he sang the first chorus, Jeremy stood up and moved his stool over beside the drum kit. See, I knew that wasn’t going to last long. “Do I look lazy?” Paco asked him once they finished the song, pretending as if he suddenly felt self-conscious now that he was the only one in a stool. Jeremy assured him that there was a one stool limit on the stage, and that he [Paco} was good now that he [Jeremy] wasn’t exceeding it. Next came my personal favorite track from their upcoming EP, “If This is Goodbye”. It was nothing short of brilliant in this acoustic format. Like all their songs, the words should be taken to heart. From one of the lines Jeremy sings, “…Are we given in to giving up before we give enough?”, to the powerful chorus that Paco handles. “How we gonna save the world, if we’re too afraid to try an change it? …How you ever gonna say my name, without the memory of throwing it all away? How you gonna fall asleep at night, if this is goodbye?”

Man, that one’s a heavy hitter. Afterwards, Jeremy mentioned that this was the fourth straight night Paco had done a show, a feat he brushed off. “It’s all in the wrist. You’ve just got to follow through.” said Paco, acting like it was no different than a game of basketball.

They had dealt with love and relatable situations thus far, but next they pulled out one of the most inspirational tracks they have, “Reach for the Sun”. It talks about chasing your dreams and feeling like you’re never going to get anywhere after you’ve poured years of your life into pursuing your dreams, but in the end, you can’t ever give up on it. “…Dreams come true for those
that never lose faith or hold back…” says Jeremy at one point.

That’s one reason why I love SpaceCamp; because their music is so positive over all, and everything just carries a message.

During the next break, Jeremy pointed out the mic that Irish had, saying there had only been one show that Irish sang at, and that was because Paco was unable to make it. “…I’m glad we’ve got a mic in front of him tonight…” Jeremy said. Indeed, it was a great things, because already Irish had been adding some amazing backing vocals to parts of different songs; and as they moved on, Jeremy mentioned the next one was his favorite of their upcoming EP.

I hate to sound like a broken record, but again, “Surrender to the Night” was a track that fit perfectly in this environment. Without all the electronic effects that are on the recording, you were really able to focus on content, which focuses heavily on state the world is in, in regards to the widespread violence.

“Gorgeous!” exclaimed Jeremy. “This guy, right here.” he said, pointing to Paco, who had knocked that one clean out of the park. “I put my pants on one leg at a time, just like everyone else.” Paco responded, very humbly. Attention then turned to their next song, which Jeremy said he never would have written if it weren’t for Ryan Holley, though they were unable to find him before they started it.

They didn’t waste any more time, and Mike began another track from “The Daydreamers Guide to: Wasting Time”, “White Horses”. They added several extra touches to it, from both Paco and Jeremy repeating, “What you chase, what you chase, what you chasing?”, to Paco singing the words “Just breathe.” A few times, before Jeremy ceded things over to Mike. “Take it away, Mikey.” he said, as Mike did a little solo.

They had some fun after that, and Mike wound up looking like he was shushing Paco. “…I have an ego problem.” Paco quipped, before asking Gene (the sound guy) to turn down everyone else in his monitor. “…I just want to hear me.” he told him, prompting a laugh from everyone who was there.

The best moment of “Dancing with the Devil” came at the final chorus, where Paco flat out killed it. I always mention how he is my favorite singer (and songwriter), and the way he belted out that last part proved why he is. It was all in the emotion and energy he put into it and it was superb.

They had one song left at this point, and Jeremy mentioned it was another they had never played live before. It wasn’t a new song, though. It came from their first EP (which was released in the summer of 2012), and Irish interrupted him and said he never got a copy of that one. “Go buy one.” Jeremy told him, adding he’d cut him a two for one deal.

“Can we be serious for a minute?! We’re trying to play a song!” Paco asked them. The song never became obvious until Mike finally joined in, and it was one that every Texas music fan knows. “And she runs, through her days; with a smile on her face…” Paco eventually sang, as they finally broke out their cover of The Toadies “Tyler”. They put such a unique and interesting spin on the track, and the verse that Jeremy wrote and adds fits so fluidly with what the song’s about. “…I’ll creep inside, can’t be denied; we’ll be together finally. She pulls the covers tighter; I press against the door. The heart of my desire never wanting nothing more.” goes the tail end of what he wrote, before Paco takes back the reins. When he wasn’t singing on that one, Jeremy was also adding a little extra percussion, lightly tapping one of the cymbals while he sit on the stool he had moved earlier.

I was content with that being their final song, though I was surprised their staple was going to be absent this time around. I assumed it was just because it would sound so different from how it should they decided not to, though.

“That was supposed to be it, but I want to play one more!” Jeremy said as he retook the main mic, a smile stretched across his face. He threw the blame at Paco, saying he was the one who didn’t want to do this song, and told everyone they needed to convince him to play it.

It didn’t take much convincing, and Jeremy went to dedicate this one to his dad, who happened to be in attendance. He was nowhere to be found, though. He had made a trip to the bathroom, and he was in no rush. “I saw him walk in there with a newspaper.” Paco laughed. They eventually started singing happy birthday to him, even though he was still preoccupied.

On that note, I’ve long thought Paco can make anything sound like the most amazing song ever, and he proved that as fact (at least in my eyes) by doing an astounding version of Happy Birthday. So simple, yet there was so much depth to it. I know that sounds crazy to say, but if you’ve ever seen Paco, then you know what I’m talking about.

“If it weren’t for that man, Jeremy wouldn’t be here. And then I would be here, either.” Paco stated, right about the time Jeremy’s dad finally rounded the corner and was greeted with cheers from everyone.

I didn’t think they could (or would) go a show without playing “Before you Die”, and out of all their songs, it’s the lyrics to this one that you most need to pay attention to. The title says it all, and one of the messages is about not having any regrets when your time is up. “what will flash before your eyes before you die? … 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?” says Jeremy, before takes over for the hauntingly beautiful chorus. My weakness is cover songs (since I predominately listen to local groups), but Paco added a line from a cover on this one, and I believe it was “Blue and Yellow” by The Used, which worked well with their original.

That ended their 51-minute long set, and it was a grand one.

I knew it would be good, though I had been curious how an acoustic show from SpaceCamp would go. In fairness, I should go ahead and mention that the band classifies themselves as trip-rock (a very fitting category), and they sounded even better than I thought they were going to.

Irish was much less aggressive, but the force was still there in his drumming, and even without the electronic/sample tracks thrown in, Mike and Paco were able to use their acoustics to emulate the core sound of every song, so you knew exactly what it was.

This was also the first time in a long time that I had seen SpaceCamp, and even though they had toned things down, they still had a great stage presence. Perhaps even stronger than it has been the past times I’ve seen them.

They are definitely different from just about every other band out there, and all the talent that is in this band alone is crazy. I mean, Paco has been in the scene since the very early 2000’s, and both Jeremy and Mike have been active players for quite some time, too.

If you haven’t heard them yet, check out their music on either iTUNES or BANDCAMP. They have their first EP plus a couple songs released as singles from their upcoming one (due out on 3/31). That weekend they’ll also be doing a big CD release party for it. Three Links will be the host venue, and they’ve got the prime Saturday night slot on April 5th. If you only catch one show that night, that will be the one you want to be at.

There may have been bigger shows going on in Dallas this night, but I promise you, the most talented individuals were all on stage here at the Liquid Lounge.


Verizon Theater (Grand Prairie, TX)
- Words by Jordan Buford // Photos by James Villa -

Experience Hendrix (Verizon Theater - Grand Prairie, TX) 3/11/14 ©2014 James Villa, All Rights Reserved www.ontourmonthly.com

There’s one thing every music lover can agree on, and is that Jimi Hendrix was a guitar god, and most likely the best that ever has or ever will live.

It would have been great if he were still…

Friday, February 28th, 2014 – The Band of Heathens Blow Minds at The Kessler

Two straight weekends at The Kessler Theater seeing two of Texas’s finest Americana acts. I could think of worse things.

The Band of Heathens were returning to Dallas this night, just two months after their last Dallas show, and as good as that one was, I couldn’t pass up seeing how this one was going to be.

Not only that, but hometown favorites Somebody’s Darling were opening this show.

They didn’t start right at the eight o’clock time that was listed (luckily for me, since traffic on 75 prevented me from getting there as early as I had planned to be), and instead took the stage around 8:09.

“We’re Somebody’s Darling and we’re happy to be here!” exclaimed singer and rhythm guitarist Amber Farris, who went on to say they’d be doing a couple of new songs this night. “…But not too many…” she pointed out.

Their new songs were the bookends of their 51-minute set, and while I missed the title of the opening number, it was a good one. It was also one I don’t recall having heard before (not that, that means anything), though I really enjoyed it, and it was a cross between some of their more sentimental tracks and their rock songs.

“This is gonna be the last time we do these old songs for awhile.” Amber informed everyone, looking at bassist Wade Cofer as she said it, who was in turn staring at her like, “What!?” She urged everyone to “enjoy” hearing them again, and said to both Wade and the crowd that after this show she thought they’d start working in the stuff from their newly recorded album as regulars.

They gave me a whole new outlook to the show, as I figured I should probably savor all of these songs in case they get cut. Like “Back to the Bottle”, which drummer Nate Wedan had already started while Amber spoke to everyone.

“How you doing Kessler?” she asked after the great song, which is completely amazing when you hear it live. The fans (old and new) cheered them on, while Amber announced that their next song was called “Weight of the Fear”; a personal favorite of mine. “I hear them rebels coming. They’re screaming loud and clear…” Amber sang later in the song, the instruments dying out as she did so, while some members of the audience began clapping along during quite moment. It was also around that point in the song that guitarist David Ponder took off on a solo, and a great one at that.

I must admit, if that is one that gets axed in the future, I’ll be more than a little sad. But all the same, that’s life.

They kept the current hits coming with “Pretty Faces”, which featured another guitar solo (this one built-in. i.e. exactly how it sounds on the album), before dying out at the end, allowing the keys, played by Mike Talley, to rise back to prominence for the final seconds.

“It makes me nervous with the tables.” Amber remarked as soon as the song was over, referring to all the tables that were scattered right by the stage. “You can see all my flaws.” she joked, while they took a minute to get ready for their next song. The silence gave people time to think on what they could say, and someone (I’m sure a friend) playfully shouted, “Fuck you, Wade!”

“We’re a Rock ‘n’ Roll band. We get that every now and then…” Amber quipped, before asking everyone to give it up for “Wade with the new fade”, speaking of the haircut/style he was sporting.

Some of their fans let out little bursts of excitement as they started their next song, taking things down just a bit with the lovely “Keep Shakin’”. “…I could die right here in your arms…” crooned Amber; while the song alternated between the soft and relaxing guitar notes and the driving rhythm section on the chorus, before ending it on an intense note, and Davids’ hand was a blur as he shredded on his guitar. Just because they ended things the way they did didn’t mean they were about to step it right back up into rock mode, though.

Instead, Amber placed her guitar in the rack and just acted as a frontwoman for this next one (which is something that practically never happens). Without question, “My Own Medicine” is one of their most beautiful songs, even if depicts a breakup, which is just what makes it so heartfelt. “…I find myself on my hands and my knees. This is something that you’ll never see…” sang Amber; her impeccable voice taking center stage now that it didn’t have to compete with the loud instruments, and she demonstrated excellent control over it, at times almost whispering, before raising her voice along with the music.

That one amazed the crowd, and they gave the band the loudest round of applause yet, while they moved right on to their next song, while Amber went and got her guitar. “Here we go!” she shouted, before making her way over to David on stage right and knelt next to him as they shredded away on their guitars. They decided to go back a bit further, and pulled out “Cold Hearted Lover” from their debut and self-titled release. It may not get played much now (and apparently will probably only become more infrequent now), but it’s still a sweet song, and one could argue the most rocking on in their catalog.

“How you doing Kessler Theater, dammit!” Amber asked during the instrumental jam portion of the song, quickly adding that she was trying not to curse this night, and then she had done just that. I don’t think anyone cared too much, though. “We’re gonna try a cover…” she told the audience after that one. “You can dance if you want to.”

If there had only been enough room to dance then I’m sure people would have started moving around to their rendition of Faces “Stay With Me”. But just because that couldn’t be done didn’t mean they couldn’t sing along to it. Granted, I don’t see Somebody’s Darling too often, but it had been a little while since I last heard them do this one (August), and I was glad to discover it’s one that’s still in play, even if it may not happen often.

Several people yelled with excitement when that one came to an end, which was something Amber loved and encouraged. “…This is the one time you can get to yell. You can’t yell at your job. You can’t yell in the street…” she said, just wanting everyone to get it out.

They then moved on to the two singles that “Jank City Shakedown” produced, and Amber noted that KXT (91.7 FM) had been giving the next one some airplay for quite some time. The tune was “Cold Hands”, which became a clap along at one point, and they followed it immediately with the subsequent song from the album, “Wedding Clothes”. “This is another song from Jank City Shakedown that we’re really proud of.” Amber stated beforehand.

Typically, that’s the show, and giving that they were the opening band and had already been on stage for so long, I figured that would hold true here. Instead, they had that one other new song they had promised at the start of the set. It was “Generator”, a track I remembered from the show I saw them do the previous month, though I didn’t remember it being so good. It’s a powerful number, and by the time it was done, it (in conjunction with everything else they had done this night) earned them a standing ovation from those who were seated. It was more than deserved.

I’m pretty certain I said almost this exact same thing the last time I saw them and I know I touched on it at the start here, but man, it’s so easy to see just why Somebody’s Darling is so well loved and have become one of the best bands in the Dallas music scene.

It’s the energy they put into their shows and the quality and depth that goes into the songwriting, as well as the emotion that comes out of said songs when they’re performed live.

The musicianship is just a hair above the rest, too, and that’s describing it mildly.

If this was the last time most of these songs will be heard for awhile, then I’ll miss them, but having heard so much of the new material at their Dallas show the month before, I feel confident in saying that this new album will top “Jank City Shakedown”. At the start of the show Amber mentioned they had finished it (recording, I’m sure), which should mean that it’s not too far away. It’ll probably be several more months, of course, but a new record will be making its way to fans soon enough.

They don’t have any dates listed at the moment, but keep an eye on their TOUR PAGE, as some will surely be popping up sooner or later. Also, check out their two current albums over in iTUNES.

That was a fantastic appetizer, and that’s one of the few times Somebody’s Darling will even be referred to as that, but The Band of Heathens we’re up next, and if they didn’t have the place completely sold out, then it sure was close.

Everyone grew excited when the band left the green room for the stage and began doing the sound check, but they’d have to wait a few minutes longer, as the five guys retreated back stage once things were set.

It was 9:32 when keyboardist Trevor Nealon, drummer Richard Millsap, singers and guitarists Ed Jurdi and Gordy Quist and the groups bassist stepped on stage; the lights dimming as they took their spots. Everyone knew they were in for a show, but they had no clue just what an extraordinary show it would wind up being.

Ed and Trevor began the first song of the night, no doubt surprising a few fans when they realized it was “Talking Out Loud”. With a whole batch of new songs to chose from, it was that track (which could be considered a deep-cut) from “One Foot In the Ether” that began things, and it couldn’t have worked better.

It created a bit of a cheery atmosphere as Ed sang the song. “Hold on, if your soul is strong. Hold on, it won’t last so long. Hold on, if it get uptight. It’s time we make everybody feel alright.” he sang on the chorus, while Gordy leaned in to his mic, adding some backing vocals on each “hold on”, before stepping back as he picked away at his guitar.

They’re known for embellishing their songs and adding some instrumental jams to many of their tracks, but on that one, Ed added some extra lines. “…Coming back to Dallas; living in a palace for a king…” he belted out in his rich, soulful tone of voice, which, of course, garnered a strong reaction from this North Texas crowd.

It was Gordy’s turn next, and during the brief moments the audience had to applaud, he grabbed a neck rack with a harmonica and put it to use on “Rehab Facility”. “…‘Cause I need it like a heart line. She’s my nicotine craving everything I crave.” goes a line from the chorus of that song about being enamored with someone, during which Ed now added some backing vocals. A highlight of the song came during the stellar guitar solo Ed knocked out; the slide he was using giving a nice texture and cool sound to it.

As it came to an end, Ed and Gordy faced one another. They weren’t really standing next to each other, more just looking at the other from their spots on stage, while they bent down; their plucking of the strings becoming increasingly quick. That resulted in a seamless and incredible segue into “L. A. County Blues”, and even though it didn’t sound like the song at first, it was still unmistakable. “Well, they got me on accessory: thirty days in jail. One headlight in a Louisville night without a chance at bail…” Ed sang, often hitting different notes than what is heard on the album, which made the performance of it this night completely unique, along with adding an immense amount of extra character to it. Aside from that, you also had some lengthy jam breaks thrown in before the third verse and at the very end. It was also at the end that Trevor added some fantastic backing vocals on the chorus, “…It’s one foot in the ether with the L.A. County blues.”

“How you doing?” Ed asked everyone, which was one of the only times they spoke to the audience. Not you can blame them, though. They’re one of those bands who works better when they just focus on the music, and after all, they couldn’t banter much because they had a massive set to get through.

After hitting some of the classics, it was time to get to the new classics, and “Records in Bed” started a string of tracks from “Sunday Morning Record”. In some ways, live, I have to say I think that may be the best song off their new album. “Round and round and round so slow.” Gordy would sing on the bridge, before Ed (who sang the bulk of the track) would add the next line. The harmonies on that soothing song are great; and much like a line from the song goes, it’s a track that is good for the soul.

They added some good touches to it, especially at the end, when the tranquility was suddenly shattered and they gave it a rock outro. That sharp rise didn’t last too long, though, and things soon fell back down when Richard played some steady, albeit soft beats to lead them into “One More Trip”. Gordy was back doing the vocals now, though Ed often joined him as they co-sang several lines throughout. This was the first time I’d heard it live, and honestly, it’s a good song on the record, but not one I always listen to. It was dynamic this night, though. Maybe not in the way you might think of dynamic being, but it was.

Now that they had shown of their softer side, it was time to step things back up, and there was a moment of silence while the fans anxiously waited for what would come next. Ed then played some notes, revealing it to be what is perhaps the most fun song from that new album, “Miss My Life”.

“I miss my life, I miss the way it was…” Ed roared on the chorus, before getting to the final verse, “Don’t tell me to forget her,
because man, you never met her. And they don’t make ‘em no more like that…” Trevors’ skill as a pianist are on full display on that one, and actually, the piano is the most prominent instrument of the track. Well, at least it was until the bass, drums and guitars became a little more forceful during the jam they threw in before the final chorus.

Their sweet, soulful sounds continued as they busted out “Second Line” from their debut album, before trying their hand at a cover. The last time I saw them, they covered a Bob Dylan song, but they were going to do something a little different. More like very different, actually.

“On the day when I was born, daddy sit down and cried. I had the mark just as plain as day; couldn’t be denied.” Ed sang, his voice booming as they started a rendition of the Grateful Deads’ “Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo”. They put more of a rock and Americana twist to it (which is to be expected), and honestly, they put their mark on it. It fit their style (lyrically and musically) quite well, and the audience seemed to really enjoy it. It wouldn’t be the only Grateful Dead song they did this night, either.

However, for now, they were getting back to their material, and both Gordy and Ed switched out to an acoustic guitar. The fans cheered when Ed sang the chorus of “Texas” first time; specifically after the line “…Austin’s been a friend of mine. Texas, we’ve had a time.” That final track from their latest release was one I overlooked until hearing them do it at their last Dallas show, and since, it has become a favorite. A good bit of emotion is poured into it, and, like many of their other tracks, it takes on a whole new life in the live environment. They followed it with “Since I’ve Been Home”, which was almost exclusively acoustic, which added to the somber tone it has. “…You know we almost had it good, but we break like bad habits never could…” goes one of the lines, and you could feel the stinging pain behind it as Gordy sang.

They threw in another cover now, because why not. This time the song was “Blue” by Jayhawks, which Gordy pointed out afterwards in case anyone didn’t know. “Thanks a lot…” Gordy said after the cheers and such subsided, while Ed placed his guitar on the rack and walked over to the keys.

He took a seat behind one, while Trevor moved over to focus completely on the other (there were more than a few times this night that he was using his hands to play two of the keyboards at once.) Requests started flying at the band, which they paid no attention to and just carried on with their thing.

Ed got situated, striking some of the keys to get warmed up, before they started the song. There was a loud roar of gleeful screams once everyone realized it was “Gris Gris Satchel”. Clearly, the song that finds both of the main singers sharing vocal duties and harmonizing is a fan favorite, and it was a highlight of the show this night.

More requests were launched at the band while Ed played an impromptu piano solo, before they suddenly broke into a staple from their debut record, “Jackson Station”. It, too, saw Ed and Gordy each singing and co-singing, while some of their band mates also added some light backing vocals here and there.

“Give a big hand for Somebody’s Darling for opening the show.” said Gordy, instructing everyone to do so more than anything, as well he should have, because Somebody’s Darling had earned that love. As he did that, Ed was getting up and going back to the guitars to get one out.

He and Gordy again held a gaze as they played a little intro with the same chord structure that makes “Shotgun” so irresistible. At times, their bass player, Trevor and Ed were all adding some extra vocals, which made for some gorgeous four-part harmonies. “You came crashing through the window, and it gave away so fast. All I hear now is the wind blow; riding shotgun through the past.” they all sang on the chorus, creating a moment that was best taken in by closing your eyes and just absorbing it all.

Gordy swapped back to an electric after that, as they got ready to pull out another older one, “Philadelphia”. It may be a song that’s been around for awhile (it’s from the “Live at Antone’s” album), but it still holds its own against even their more recent material. Speaking of recent material, they had at least one more from their new album up their sleeve, and played it now.

I think it was Ed who began “Shake the Foundation”, and with the help of his band mates (and some effects) they made the intro of the track super heavy, to the point it felt like it was shaking the foundation. Some fans cheered, knowing right away what song it was, before Gordy started on the lyrics for the song about a lovers deceit.

I know I said this the last time I saw them, but this song is an entirely new entity than what it was when I saw them at Homegrown Fest last May, or again the following month. The incredible jam session they broke into after the second chorus was just one of the things that makes it a standout, while the other was the brilliant end, which saw Gordy shredding away on his guitar, tearing it up.

That could have acted as the last song. I mean, it packed the punch a closer should, but would have also left the fans wanting more. Instead, they had one more planned, and it was another from their catalog that is capable of both those qualities.

Ed held a chord and plucked the strings of his guitar, essentially counting them into the song. I was excited about this one, and recall saying, “Oh, yeah!” as I quickly realized it was “I Ain’t Running”. “…I’ll be here with you for right or wrong. Cause I ain’t running, I ain’t afraid… of your heart.” sang Ed on this masterpiece of a rock song. They built a lot onto it this night, from a piano solo that Trevor knocked out before the last chorus, to Ed singing the chorus a multitude of times towards the end, before the quintet ended it in spectacular fashion with another great jam.

Everyone at the tables or in the rows of seats behind them stood up and clapped wildly, while the musicians began to leave their posts, waving at everyone and thanking them for coming out. The applause continued well after they had disappeared from sight, and then it became a way to get them back out.

All of that had been a whopping 101-minute long set. Almost two hours they played, but surely they had more left in the tank. At least everyone hoped they did.

No one sit back down until they retook the stage, again thanking everyone for their kindness.

This encore portion would add 34 more minutes onto their set, and at times, it seemed like they had barely even scratched the surface with that main set.

On song that several people had been requesting throughout the night was the bands cover of “Hurricane”, and now they got it. Trevor got another solo after the second verse, while the most gripping moment came when Ed and Gordy sang the first part of one of the choruses a capella. Even when you know it’s coming, it’s still a breathtaking moment, and if for some strange reason you still have doubt as to what fantastic singers they are, that’s a moment that will prove it. The guitar solo Gordy ripped into at the end certainly didn’t hurt the track, either.

The very fun “I’ve Got a Feeling” came next, after which Gordy again thanked everyone for coming out. “…You know, in Austin everyone rips on Dallas, but I don’t know what they’re talking about…” he remarked, saying just what a great crowd this had been. Of course, everyone cheered at that.

Ed handled the next song as well, which was another track off their latest LP, “The Same Picture”. It would be the last one they touched from that record (there were only three left anyway), and I was slightly surprised by the pickings from it this night. Not in a bad way mind you, but that song for example was just one I didn’t expect to hear. The same could be said for a few others, and now, I’ve heard just about the whole thing live (with the exception of one song).

Three songs into their encore seemed to be a sure sign that they were almost done, yet everyone knew there was at least one (or hopefully two) songs they had left to do. They did one, and Richard led them into “Medicine Man”, which they gave a lengthy intro to, and just rocked out. Trevor even stood up from his stool for a minute or so. “Across the land, I’m spoken of. Wise as a snake, tame as a dove. Just like a wolf in sheep’s clothes…” sang Gordy, his smooth voice commanding the attention of everyone who was still in the room. After the second chorus, Trevor took off on a solo, which eventually faded into a guitar solo courtesy of Ed.

That certainly gave the song a little extra something (as if it even needs it), but the best moment came when they all joined in and raised the intensity level to new heights. Epic is the only word I can think of to describe not only how it sounded, but also how it looked on stage, as the five musicians were completely in the zone. You could tell they were absorbed in it all; and that was the single greatest moment of the night. There was still a couple verses left no less, and by the time it was over they had won themselves a standing ovation.

Part of that may have been because some people thought the show was over, and I was one of them. That was impossible to top, but that didn’t mean there weren’t some other songs that people wanted to hear. One of those that had been requested all throughout the night was “Look at Miss Ohio”. I was one of the people who was wanting to hear that one, too, but it wasn’t in the cards this night.

 Instead, they tackled another Grateful Dead song. They gave “Brokedown Palace” a little extra kick, and both Ed and Gordy did some leads on it. If memory serves me correctly, it was this song that Trevor even sang a verse on, impressing the hell out of the audience and getting some wild applause after the first couple of sentences.

The song suited The Band of Heathens perfectly. It allowed them to take all the harmonies they do to another level; leaving the fans dazzled, even after they had graciously thanked everyone for coming out and disappeared backstage.

THIS was a performance. A performance the likes of which most bands these days will never give their fans.

Okay, maybe some people were a little saddened they didn’t hear one or two of their favorites, but I can’t imagine anyone could have been disappointed by this two hour and fifteen long set. If you were, you need to reevaluate just how big a fan of The Band of Heathens you are.

It still hasn’t been  a full year since the first time I saw them, but one thing that has quickly become a thing I love about them is how just about their entire discography (four studio albums and four live records) are fair game. Sure, some songs are less likely to be played then others, but there’s still a chance, and along with the covers they throw in, you really never know what you’re going to get.

That’s refreshing in a time where, at least in my experience, you generally know what songs a band is going to do. There were even a couple new songs I expected to hear that were apparently traded in for the others they did, but I loved that, because it kept you as an audience member on your toes.

I think I’ve already covered most of the things that make The Band of Heathens so enjoyable to watch and listen to, so I won’t repeat myself anymore about the harmonies and stuff. However, I will say this: it was great seeing how much fun these guys were having on stage. It was all the time, but there were several moments throughout the show where either Gordy, Ed, Richard, Trevor or the bassist (my apologies, despite searching online I can’t find his name) were flashing huge smiles. And seeing that they were having so much fun doing their thing only made the crowd have more fun in watching and listening to them.

They have several more shows planned in different parts of the U.S. throughout March and into very early April. They’ll also be back in North Texas on April 2nd, playing Dan’s Silver Leaf in Denton. Yeah, that happens to fall on a Wednesday night, but they’ll make it more than worth your while. They also have a European tour planned beginning in late April, and they’ll be playing, Denmark, Sweden, Germany, Netherlands and Switzerland. Just refer to their TOUR PAGE for dates on all the U.S. and European dates.

Of course, also check out their music in iTUNES, and you can find tons of live cuts (full shows) over at their STORE.

Man, this wound up being a show I don’t think I’ll ever forget, or if I do, it won’t be happening anytime soon. By far one of the best overall performances I’ve ever seen from any band, and The Kessler was the perfect place to enjoy these soulful rock and Americana sounds.

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014 – Local H Destroys it at Three Links

There was one reason and one reason only why I was at the show that Tactics Productions was presenting at Three Links this night, and that was Descender.

They were the lone local Dallas band on this bill, and with them being my favorite currently active band, I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to see them. That’s not to say I had doubts about the other two acts on the bill, including headliner Local H; they were simply just bands I was unfamiliar with.

Descender was up first, taking the stage promptly at nine.

“Hey, we’re Maleveller.” said singer and rhythm guitarist Casey Hess. Some people may not have gotten the joke, though he was messing with Brian Smith, who is the singer in Maleveller; and also happens to be a bartender here at Three Links.

He kept on, saying, “We’re
from The Colony. This is only our second to third ever non-church gig…” Like I said, I don’t think everyone there (and for this early on a Tuesday night there was already a good sized crowd) got the joke, but I was chuckling at it.

“We make the gold do more than spin. We make it float and disappear again.” sang Casey on the chorus of their opener, “Spinning On The Surface”. I’ve seen them so much that I honestly can’t remember if I’ve heard them open with that song before or not, though it worked well at the start of the set. It’s one of the few overtly happy sounding songs they have, and that mood radiated from the stage out to the audience.

Lead guitarist Jeff Gruber held the notes he was playing; transitioning them into their next song, while Casey cleared things up. “We’re Descender from East Dallas. Not Maleveller.” Zack Busby then slapped his bass, the notes ringing out before they exploded into their shortest and quickest tune, “Silver Lightning”. Them to balance it out, came one of their longest, “The Language”.

“…We’re on the floor. We’re on your skin. We’re on the wall; oblivion.” Casey sang at one point, and when he got to that last word, Jeff began quickly tapping one of his pedals, giving a sweet effect to it all, while Casey’s guitar shortly after seemed to who the crowd; regardless of if they had seen Descender before or not.

They followed it up with “I Will Help You Find The Darkness”, before doing the title track from their newest EP, the moody “Slow And Gold”. It’s definitely one of their coolest sounding tracks, especially at the end, when Jeff uses his slide to tap the strings of his guitar, resulting in a pretty cool sound.

With that, they had played all five tracks from “Slow and Gold”, but still had some time to fill in their 33-minute long set, and I was wondering what classics they’d be pulling out.

Turns out, it was two that they last did in November (this was only their second show since then). They appeared to have a little discussion at first regarding what was next.

I was ecstatic to hear “Hats Off To Your Reflection” was one of those songs. That song has (mostly) been a staple since shortly after they started in 2009, and even now it’s still Descender at their best, especially with the heavy and thick drumbeats Duncan Black knocks out.

Casey stated that they only had one song left now, and thanked the venue for having them on this bill. “We like Three Links. A lot-ish.” he said, before they fired up the title track from their debut album, “Army Of Elephants”.

Jeff, who periodically does backing vocals, did some on one of the lines that is also the song title, giving a nice sound to it. The best part of it though hands down has to be the instrumental breakdown portion. As usual, Casey winged it on his solo and just played what he felt like. However, Jeff also went into a lighter solo at that same moment. It made for a dueling guitar solo for a moment, which was incredible.

I think I say this every time, but I love this band.

They’re a rock band plain and simple, and being veterans of the local music who spent their early days in some of the most storied Dallas area bands of recent times, they definitely know what they’re doing.

So far, they’ve played a show a month this year, and with a gig at the Double Wide on March 20th, it looks like that trend will continue (at least for now).

Catch that show if you can, or at the very least, head over to iTUNES (HERE and HERE) to check out their three EP’s.

It was uncharted territory for me after that, though with the next band having a name like We Were Wolves, I figured they had to be good.

The turnaround was quick, and the Houston quartet got started shortly before ten o’clock.

It took no time at all for the to prove they were a force to be reckoned with, as they played some primal and energetic rock songs. Those are two adjectives that also fit with the performance they put on.

Bassist Jake Hooker did most of the singing on their first song, before one of the guitarists and the other vocalist Drew Haught took over; again rotating on the next song, which they went seamlessly into. In fact, it was almost hard to tell if they were doing some separate tracks or one massive song.

“…This next one’s on our seven inch.” Jake told the crowd, pointing back to their merch table where it could be purchased. “It’s called Hell in Spades.” said Drew, as he drummer Zach Elizondo, guitarist Vinc Prihoda and Jake ripped into the short number. They bled it perfectly into their next track, which I believe was “Crash and Burn”, a borderline metal sounding song that only amped up the intensity of their performance.

By that time it was pretty clear they were good with the segues, and they proved they had mastered the art by diving right into another song, this one from the “Lost at Sea” EP, “Lovetits”. There were some sweet tones to the guitars, especially at the start, just pulling you in, as Drew sang/shouted an often repeated line, “Oh my god, she gets it from her momma!”

They took a break at this point before getting ready for their final stretch of material. They took a moment to thank Local H for having them on this show, before Drew got into more of the bands goings on. “…So, we just got back from playing the torch lighting ceremony in Sochi.” he said, adding, “…Everything was so nice there. I don’t know what people were complaining about.”

It was good little dose of comedy, but they soon got back to their area of expertise: finely tuned rock music. “…I’m a fish, I’m a shark. I’m anything you can’t see in the dark…” Drew sang on the more low-key, yet still heavy “Heavy Shrimp”, before getting to the chorus,  “…But I know what I want. I want you.”

That was a favorite of mine from their set, and it started them on an epic run of songs, with Jake handling the next one, which I think was “Strange Mud”. Two more came in rapid succession, leaving no time to recover or really even applaud the band. When they did stop, they told the audience in the now nearly sold out venue to feel free to come say “hey” once they got over to the merch table.

“…We’ll let you buy us beer.” Jake said, jokingly making it sound like it would be a privilege for any new fans they may have just made. “I mean, we might buy you one, too…” he said, noting it was a “two-way street”, but that they’d really like to have some bought for them. “This song’s about growing up in a shitty town…” Drew then said, referring to another track from the newly released “Wolf House” album, “Lost at Sea”.

They then cranked out one last song, bringing their 37-minute long set. “Local H is next!” Jake shouted excitedly. “How many times do you get to say that?” he asked, more thinking aloud than anything. In their case, it was the first of three times, since they were opening all of Local H’s Texas shows.

I’m kind of glad I didn’t take time to listen to them beforehand, because it was nice being completely surprised—and blown away—by this incredible band.

The music they play is a good mix of modern rock/hard rock and the more classic rock sound, with some dashes of metal thrown in. Then you have their live show, which is clearly where the band is in their element. The fact that they got so into the music they were playing made you, the listener, want to, and they packed their performance full with as much rock as they possible good.

Give a listen to (or buy) their music in either BANDCAMP or iTUNES; if you like it, threw ‘em a like on FACEBOOK so you’ll know when they have more shows coming up.

Part of me was thinking there was no way the night could get better, ‘cause We Were Wolves brought their A game. Also, I had no idea what to expect from Local H. Like I mentioned at the start of this, I hadn’t even heard of them until this night, and I was about the only person here who hadn’t.

Three Links was packed by the time the duo of Scott Lucas and Ryan Harding got their gear set up and did the sound check, while the fans screamed at them with excitement over the pending show.

They, of course, had to drag it out, too, disappearing after finally getting things in working order, allowing the anticipation to build.

The fans cheered them on minutes later when Scott and Ryan returned to the stage; the lights fading to a mix of dark red and deep blue. They’d remain that way for the duration of their 93-minute set.

The duo tore right into one of the songs from the “Whatever Happened to P.J. Soles?” album, “Buffalo Trace”. I’ll admit, I wasn’t digging the vocal effects Scott used for the first part of the song. It made it to trippy sounding for me, and I was more worried that, that was going to be how their entire set was. Luckily, it wasn’t, and in a small dose like that I was more than capable of handling it. I did like it overall, and it became readily clear during the final minute just what kind of show this was going to be, when Scott and Ryan rocked out, giving in completely to the music to they were playing; while the fans ate up the sweet guitar solo.

I wouldn’t say they perfectly segued every song into the next this night. More, as soon as one was done they just went right into what they had planned next. In this case, it was “Deep Cut”. The song may be about sixteen years old now, but parts of it are timeless, like the line from the chorus, “What do you do when opinions are everywhere? What do you do when it’s nothing you want to hear?”, a thought that will always apply to anyone who hears the song.

They left no time for applause, as Scott led them right into the catchy “Eddie Vedder”, before winding it into what was one of my favorite songs of theirs. “I want you DEAD!” shouted Scott at different times throughout the song, which had a stellar vibe; and while I had this thought many times this night, it really surprised me that they were able to create such a heavy, thick sound on that one with just a guitar and some drums.

Thus far, they had they had a nice mix of songs spanning different times of their career, and now they turned their attention to 2012’s “Hallelujah! I’m a Bum” by doing “Blue Line”. In listening to their music afterwards, you can really hear the progression over their career. I’m not trying to slight their classic stuff by any means, I simply mean that even after a two-decade plus long career, Local H is still cranking out great music that has an even more mature sound and style of songwriting, leading one to think that some of their best stuff may not have happened yet. Still, it was, of course, their older stuff that had the fans most engaged this night, and the at times punk-rock sounding “Chicago Fanphair ‘93” had a lot of people moving around and banging their heads to the music.

Some of the most emotionally raw material of their set came from the glorious “12 Angry Months” record, and now they slowed things down briefly with the lead track from it, “January: The One with “Kid”. “Don’t take this for granted. You’ll leave here empty handed. So hateful, so shameless; won’t let you leave here blameless.” Scott sang towards the end. The anger and hatred in his voice was palpable as they performed that track that tells the story of the beginning of the end of a relationship.

“Hands On the Bible” was another gripping song, while the next one, “California Songs”, got everyone more thrilled then they had been thus far this night. It was another one that still has a lot of meaning, even ten years after the album was released, since it attacks all the songs that talk about how wonderful California is. “Yeah, we know you love L.A., but there’s nothing left to say…” roared Scott on the song that’s humorous, while still hitting the nail on the head. I mean, it has all been done before, people singing about The Golden State and how heavenly it is, yet it’s still being done. “And fuck New York, too!” the audience shouted along with Scott at the very end of the song, after which they finally took a break.

“We’re Local H.” Scott announced (as if no one there already knew that), before asking how everyone was doing. “…I’m glad to be in TX.” he then said, continuing the banter. “It beats the shit out of Chicago.” yelled one guy in the audience. “Yeah, it does…” Scott replied, before saying he wanted to thank Texas for Matthew McConaughey. That same fan then spoke up again, saying something about how much he liked Mr. McConaughey, and that he (the patron) was from Longview, which was Matthew McConaughey spent a portion of his life. It was more detailed then just that, though.

“Oh, yeah? Really?” Scott remarked, feigning interest, and once the guy finished he asked the rest of the audience, “Did anyone give a shit about what he just said?” He treaded a fine line of being an asshole, without actually being one; and you could hear just a faint hint of jest in his voice.

The guy wasn’t offended at all, and said something to the effect of, “Hey, it’s your show, Scott. Do what you want.” “Well, thank you!” Scott replied in the most sarcastic voice you’ve ever heard. He let it be known he was partly just giving the guy a hard time, though. “You’re a very gregarious gentleman…” he told the guy, before moving on with the show, formally introducing the newest member, Ryan Harding. “…Man, watch him go on this next one…” Scott stated, informing everyone the next song was “June: Taxi Cabs”.

It began another series of songs, which was followed by “Another February”, and then one of the other handful of songs I wasn’t able to figure out. “Bryn-Mawr Stomp” came next, which was the first of a few more tracks that got the crowd a bit rowdy. “All-Right (Oh, Yeah)” had some light movement going (nothing more than people getting into the music; no moshing or anything), while their next song was a bit of a sing-along. “One more thing before we go; I’ve stepped over everyone I know. Everyone I know, everyone I know.” echoed the fans on “Fritz’s Corner”.

That led to another pause in the show, and Scott acted like he was about to take his shirt off, which excited a few of the lady fans in the audience. “I’m not doing that.” he said, shaking his head as stepped back up to the mic. Instead, he took a moment to thank both We Were Wolves and Descender (calling them out by name) for opening the show. “…It’s a pleasure to play with great bands.” He said, noting what a rarity it is to have two high caliber bands like that on the same bill.

Something was then said (by a fan) about buying them a drink, specifically: red wine. “I’m a fan of red wine.” said Scott, before pointing out that white wine was “for assholes”. “Does anyone here drink white wine?” he then asked the audience. Someone spoke up and said they did, to which Scott replied, “See, you’re an asshole.”

The joked kept coming when someone requested “Every Rose Has its Thorns”. He attempted to play it, but couldn’t get the chords right, and even then it was done in a mocking manner. “…Isn’t it enough to be touring? I mean, do you have to also be a cowboy on a steel horse you ride?” he then asked. “I’m know I’m going out on a limb by saying this, but that song sucks.” No one seemed to care much about the diss he had just giving Bon Jovi. “…It’s a controversial stance in the music industry to hate Bon Jovi.” Scott remarked, and he could have cared less that he had just made it.

Requests flew at them, but they opted to do a fun song, and covered the “Spider-Man Theme”, before getting more serious with another song I didn’t know, though I loved it.

There was an interesting moment during “What Would You Have Me Do?”. I couldn’t see it all clearly since I was right in the middle of the room, but Scott requested one of the fans over by the side of the stage to give him his phone. He was either taking pictures or video of the band, and gladly handed it to Scott, who I’m pretty certain dropped it right in his pants. They kept on with the song, not missing a beat, and after awhile it looked like Scott used his other foot to pull his shoe off. He then began shaking his leg, and I’m assuming the phone eventually fell out from his pants leg. “Don’t act like you’re not impressed.” he said to guy, before going right back to singing the song.

It was an interesting moment, and I can honestly say I’ve never seen something like that before.

Scott created some deafening feedback at the end of that one, and before moving onto the next song, he stepped up to the forefront of center stage and looked at the speakers that hung from the ceiling. You could see the gears in his head turning, as he contemplated maybe jumping on and hanging from it, but eventually decided against that idea.

Instead, he shredded away on his axe next to his amp, then spewed some water from his mouth as they fired up “High-Fiving MF”. The audience chanted right along with them every time “You high-fiving motherfucker.” was said, which was quite a bit on the song that’s actually pretty simplistic when it comes to lyrics, yet manages to never get repetitive.

That left one song left, as the mighty duo went right into “Heavy Metal Bakesale”. Near the end, Scott removed the microphone from the stand and roamed around the stage briefly, before holstering the mic and laying his guitar down. The feedback was a bit nerve-racking, but would to grow to be truly god-awful by the end.

Not that anyone really cared, though. Everyone in Three Links was having a moment, which started when Scott again walked to the forefront of the stage and surveyed everyone who was there. It was obvious what was coming, and the crowd was just waiting for Scott to fall into their arms. Eventually, he did, and wound up crowd surfing all the way to the front doors. At a certain point, he actually ran out of people to get passed back to, so the group that did have him just carried him, his arms extended in front of him as if he were a superhero flying through the air; and to just about everyone here this night, he was. Yeah, “everyone” includes me.

I guess I’m probably showing my age by saying I had never heard of Local H before this night (though I have been around a little longer than the band has), but I’m glad I happened to stumble across them this night.

I definitely plan on adding their entire discography to my music collection; and as good as their music is, it’s the live show where they excel.

It should be criminal for a duo to be this great and put on such an explosive and dynamic performance. Sure, there are some great duos out there, even just here in the local D/FW music scene, but Scott and Ryan packed more energy into their set than even a lot of five-piece bands do.

Just the musicianship they displayed was off the charts, and you could tell Scott has honing his skills as a guitarist for awhile, to the point he’s become a master. And going back to the whole duo situation, I think that was what allowed them to be so tight, because they didn’t have to worry about anyone else. Instead, it was all about feeding off one another, as well as the audience, and just delivering a Rock ‘n’ Roll show.

Their current tour has come to an end now, though I can guarantee I’ll be at their next Dallas show, whenever that may be. And for those like myself who don’t have any Local H music (yet) go into iTUNES and check out their records.

Much love to Tactics Productions for putting on such a killer concert on a Tuesday night, and I’m glad Descender ended up on this bill, because if they hadn’t, I would have missed out on this entirely. Worst of all, I never even would have known what I had missed out on.


Trees (Dallas, TX)
- Words by Jordan Buford // Photos by James Villa -


These last eight to nine months have been huge for Nothing More.

The San Antonio four-piece released their long-awaited new album last summer and did a series of shows all over Texas and in the surrounding states…


Untapped Festival 2014
Panther Island Pavilion (Fort Worth, Texas)
- Words by Jordan Buford // Photos by Ronnie Jackson -

The Felice Brothers
It didn’t take long for Untapped Fest to establish its dominance, beginning (and soon expanding) in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex, with Houston jumping on as…

Saturday, February 22nd, 2014 – Hayes Carll’s Pub Crawl Tour Finishes its North Texas Run

I must admit, I was partially expecting Hayes Carll’s show at The Kessler Theater this night to be a full band performance.

Sure, I knew these series of shows he was doing around Texas were acoustic duo shows, but in the announcement regarding them, there was also mention that there would be some full band gigs sprinkled in certain places. Then take into account that this was his fifth and final straight night in D/FW. This was also his second sold out Dallas show of the week (the first had been Wednesday at the Double Wide), and he had also played Denton, plus made a two-night stand in Fort Worth (and if those shows weren’t totally sold out, I’d bet they were close to it.)

There aren’t many musicians who can play the same area that much so close together and still bring people out; which was why I thought this might be a full band show, because after four nights in the metroplex, I figured he’d be doing something bigger to still get the fans out.

He wasn’t.

Upon walking into the showroom after the lone opening act started it was obvious there would be no band. The stage was barren of all the amps and instruments that are typically set up, and that had me very intrigued.

After all, how good a musician really is all comes down to what they are capable of in a stripped down environment.

Sure, Hayes Carll may mine an Americana genre of music, but he has plenty of loud rock songs that hold the crowd’s attention with ease. Would he still be able to do that basically all on his lonesome? I honestly didn’t know, though I would soon find out just how good of a singer/songwriter an all-around musician he really was (or wasn’t).

The opening artist was Scott Nolan, who was on his first song when I walked in, and at first, I could have cared less for him.

That opening tune didn’t do much for me, though the night would get better; and this guy was a storyteller through and through.

I believe it was after that first song that he mentioned he had made a long drive from his hometown of Winnipeg, Manitoba. He mentioned he drove about two hours, while his girlfriend drove sixteen or so. He joked about that and several other things, including saying he had cleaned up his appearance a bit, getting a haircut and trimming his beard (which was still fairly long) after hibernating for the winter, saying he figured he should look a little more decent to try to get by customs.

As soon as he stopped the on-sided conversation, he began his next song, which was “Shake it Loose”. The bluesy number still wasn’t my favorite of his, but it certainly had my attention, especially when he softened his guitar playing and almost dryly gasp into the mic, “Shake it loose. Come on baby, shake it loose…”

He told as many if not more songs than he did play songs; which I enjoyed. It’s always nice getting some back-story to songs, and even if you don’t know them, it allows them to connect with you more. For example, a lengthy story he shared about his late tour manager, who he said had been the tour manager for a few other bands before he and Scott crossed paths. Those few other bands (at least the ones mentioned) were The Guess Who and BTO.

“…Then he ended up with me, and you see how that turned out…” said Scott, who playfully joked that he has often thought he was the man who (unintentionally) killed Ernie Blackburn. He went on to tell everyone that Ernie owned a backline company, clarifying for those who might not know that, that was company for “lazy musicians” who wanted to rent gear instead of haul their own around. The motto he had for the company was “You Rock, We Roll”.

Since he left this world, Scott said he had played this song every time he did a show, and always did it for his dear friend. I think you can figure out what it was called.

“’Cause you rock, we roll. That’s what you told me, brother. We can do it together, you can’t have one without the other…” he sang on that incredible song, which was the one that won me over. Considering it was just him, his guitar and harmonica, it was loud and it was rocking; and knowing that story behind it made it pretty deep.

Another story he told was about Folsom Prison, where he was invited to a singer/songwriter workshop a few years back. He mentioned his cousin spent most of the last twenty years of his life in that prison, and he was the first person/inmate to mix all of the cultures of the inmates into one room, finding a common ground in music.

Scott noted what a really amazing thing it was, seeing Bloods, Crips, members of the Mexican Mafia, white supremacists and others co-existing together and getting along while they played music. It goes to show what true power music does have, and even now you could tell Scott was humbled and amazed by his experience there.

That may have been the neatest story he shared, but the best one came when he said he came home one day to his girlfriend and one of her friends drinking red wine. They had been doing that for awhile, and shortly after switched to something else (tequila maybe? I don’t remember for sure.) “So I did what any sensible man would do.” he said, “I joined in.”

His girlfriend’s friend brought up the game of Twister, which he pointed out was apparently responsible for a lot of the divorcees in the 70’s, “Including my own parents.” he said, making it hard to tell if he was being serious or perhaps joking.

To make a Twister board he got several albums and placed them on the floor, while a corkscrew acted as the spinner. I don’t remember what the albums were, though he said he put a lot of thought into it, naming some of them and even where he placed them.

One was an album by Bobby Bare, and Scott mentioned he had made friends with Bobby Bare Jr., whom he told this story to. “…And eventually I got a note from Bobby Bare (Sr.) that just said, ‘You’re welcome, kid.”

Aptly, the song was titled “Twister”, and it was as hilarious as you would expect. “For my Christian neighbors, I pull the curtains tight. If this is wrong, I don’t want to be right…” he crooned on the short track.

I might not have been sure at first, but Scott Nolan was a great singer/songwriter, and his 36-minutes on stage seemed to pass by too quickly.

If you get a chance, go see one of his shows. He’s highly entertaining, and in more aspects than just being a talented musician. At the very least, check out his music in iTUNES (also HERE). You’ll be glad you did, especially if you’re a fan of the singer/songwriter genre.

With his set being done, all that was left now was to wait for Hayes Carll to take the stage, which happened about half an hour later.

It was 9:06 when the lights dimmed and Scott Nolan returned to the stage; this time to backup his friend Hayes Carll. All the fanfare went to Hayes Carll, of course. A lot of it may have been because the room at The Kessler is more intimate, but the noise level earsplitting. I mean, I had been to a show a couple nights before this at a venue and a crowd that was much larger than this, and that specific band didn’t even get near the reaction Mr. Carll did this night.

Like I said, part of that surely has to do with the size of the room, but on the other hand, he is just that loved.

It was anyone’s guess as to what would come first, either a song or a story. It wound up being the former, as he picked up his acoustic guitar and lightly plucked the strings, eventually starting the chords for “Beaumont”, which was greeted with almost as much applause as Hayes had gotten.

“The night was feelin’ lucky, so I asked you to dance, and the way you looked up at me made me think I had a chance. When I put my arms around you, I knew you weren’t given in. I hope it will be different if I pass this way again.” he sang on the second verse of this tale of semi-heartache, while the fans acted as his backing vocalists, singing every word along with him. It was never overpowering of what he was doing, but more just added a nice echo effect to it all.

“Welcome to The Kessler…” he said once that classic had concluded. His talk quickly turned to Scott Nolan, who sit on the seat he had earlier, with a guitar in hand and keyboard at his side. “I’m sure Scott already told y’all about the long drive he made…” Hayes said, before the conversation took another turn, this time to Winnipeg. “…The last time I was there, it was forty-two degrees below…” said Hayes, which made me shiver just hearing about temperatures that cold.

“When you have to go, you have to question the safety of it…” he added, putting his own unique perspective on things, reminding everyone that even in when it gets cold in Texas, that’s never a real concern. “I mean, there are lots of guys walking around as eunuchs up there, and you’re like, ‘Well, what happened?’ and they say, ‘Well, I had to take piss and it took longer than expected.”

A few minutes was all it took for the comedy portion of the show to get into full swing, and there was still plenty of it to come.

“So, this is night ten of my Pub Crawl Tour…” said Hayes, joking in his dry sense of humor that he was just “getting lazy” since he was doing these as acoustic duo gigs. “Basically, I just pick one town and then play five shows there.” he quipped, pointing out he had done five shows down in Austin, before bringing it up here to North Texas.

He then mentioned his Double Wide gig, specifically speaking about the venue when he said it was “similar” to The Kessler. That other venue is great, and it’s the best of the best as far as dive bars go, and I was curious how he was going to draw a comparison between it and the elegant listening room that is The Kessler. He paused for a second after saying it was “similar”, then carried on, “In almost no way at all.”

He had already been talking longer than he had played music thus far (not that anyone minded it), but he was due for another song now, and busted out another from 2008’s “Trouble In Mind”, “Wild as a Turkey”.

Afterwards, came a block of new songs. In fact, the only new songs he did were all strung together here, and Hayes made clear that the first of these new ones “wasn’t for everyone”. “Actually, I don’t know if it’s for anyone.” He added, saying he could handle any criticisms people might have.

“I used to want to get with you.” he sang at the start; taking a strategic pause to let the crowd react. Nearly everyone was cheering over the subject matter, and then he continued with the next line, “But now I want to get with your daugh-ter.” he crooned, again pausing afterwards. Some people still hollered back at him, liking the lyrics even more now that he had said that, while others quietly laughed and shook their heads. “Yeah, that’s usually where I lose people…” he remarked, his dry sense of humor again coming in handy.

It was classic Hayes, having moments like that where you couldn’t help but laugh, and others that were flat-out honest. I’m sure I’m paraphrasing this, but part of the chorus was something like, “Maybe you should just stop asking questions to things you don’t want to know.”

The next new song was about his ten-year-old son. “He’s a magician. Not a musician, a magician…” Hayes pointed out, making sure everyone heard him correctly, saying it’s kind of hard as a parent when your child tells you they want to be a magician. “He’s also into cake decorating.” he said, as if to say it only got worse.

He talked about when his son first started trying all the tricks that he would quickly call him out on it and tell him he could see what he was doing. “He has tiny hands.” he suddenly said, sending the audience into a roaring fit of laughter, which only intensified when he thought about it for a second and admitted, “…I was a dick about it.”

There’s a silver lining to the story, though, and it’s that his son stuck it out, never paying attention to any discouraging words, and has gotten pretty good at it. So good in fact, that he got asked to join the Austin Association of Magicians (or something like that). The audience applauded that feat. “Oh, you’ve heard of them?” Hayes answered surprisingly. “They’re an ancient, mystic society that meets every other Monday at the International House of Pancakes.”

The song is called “Magic Kid”, and not only is a lovely song that a father wrote for his son, but it’s also an uplifting song for anyone, with a core message of just being yourself, finding something you like and enjoy and sticking with it, regardless of what anyone says or thinks.

With those two out of the way, Hayes mentioned that these new songs were going in the “reverse order of life”. The first one being about when your older, while “Magic Kid” was about a young kid. Now, the focus was going to shift to something a little more serious, and Hayes set up the next one as being a song about “losing your significant other to someone else”.

“I don’t know all the words, but we’ll get as far as we can.” he mentioned right before starting the track that sounded like it be another classic Hayes Carll song. It was, but not in the way everyone had first thought.

The first line of the second verse was something like, “Things have changed since he moved in…”, and he continued singing, “…He poots, you think it’s cute. I poot, you leave the room…”

Are you getting this yet? Yes, Hayes Carll has again proved his songwriting genius by crafting a track about losing one’s wife to the child y’all had together. “My baby took my baby away…” went a line from the chorus.

I was in near tears on that one from laughing so hard and I think more than a few people were in the same boat, because bursts of laughter could be heard all throughout the song, while he sang it with a straight face. I’m being dead serious when I say that song was genius (it’s on the same level as that old hit “She Left Me for Jesus”), and if it doesn’t make the cut on his next album I’ll be very upset, because it’s one of the greatest things that has ever been written, and not just by him.

“I’m realizing three of these songs won’t be popular with ladies.” he confessed after that one. “I have songs for ladies…” he continued, but noted those were more for the guys, or any woman who might have a sense of humor for situations like that. (That’s possible for two of those songs, though I don’t imagine many, if any woman would find a song about wanting to basically “upgrade” from her to her daughter funny. Maybe I’m wrong, though.)

So, now that those three stage of live had been covered there was only one left: conception.

Hayes mentioned that subject matter of this next song was something that has never happened to him “I’ve played this song one hundred and seventy-four times…” he said, making a point as to how rare an event this is.

I already knew what song this had to be, and I was excited, because the only other time I had heard him do it was the first show of his I ever say, almost two years ago at the Homegrown Music Festival in Dallas. He then mentioned the name of the song which was “One Bed, Two Girls, Three Bottles of Wine”.

Apparently, he didn’t want Scott Nolan being the only guy who did a song about having a threesome.

“…I’ll be your boy, your toy to torture, touch and teach me. So, Sandra tied me up as Sally laid me down…” he sang, before getting to the brilliant chorus, “…While I’m kissing hers, the others loving mine. If the devil is watching, he thinks I’m doing fine…” It only got better on the second verse “…Whoo-wee, someone’s chewing on my knee… Oh flip, they’re playing with my…” he stepped back from the mic at that last part, leaving it up to the audience to infer what the next word would have been.

Things slowed down on the instrumental break, as Hayes stated he kept hoping that “life will imitate art”. He then elaborated on that. “I write songs about beer. People bring me beer. I write songs about drugs. People will sometimes slip me drugs. I write a song about a three-way. Nothing.” he said, acting perplexed by it all.

As funny as the song is though, the best part is the realistic approach it takes, with the hero of the story more or less cracking under the pressure.  “…For five minutes I was king of all I see, and then the end came sooner than expected…” Hayes sang, going on to mention he wished he had paid more attention to adult movies during his teen years, so he’d know how to handle such a “unique and surprisingly complicated situation”, and which point he’s left to watch as the girls continued without him.

Man, that was great. I have to say, I liked the way the show started, but I was still on the fence as to how it might play out, but those new tracks squashed the doubt I had.

After those few fun(ny) songs, it was time to bring the mood back down, and “Chances Are” was the perfect song to do that. “…Every heart has got a story, mine just has a few more scars. But they could heal if you would hold me and tell me what my chances are.” sang Hayes on the somber tune, a tune that bleeds heartache with every word and every note, which is precisely what makes it so good.

It was time for another story now, as Hayes mentioned that it was Scott Nolan who wrote this next song, a staple of his. “…I try to give credit where credit is due whenever I can…”  Hayes said, as he went on to relay a story Scott had told him about some of his more recent shows where he opened up with this song that he wrote, and later had people from the crowd come up to him and ask, “Why did you open with a Hayes Carll song?”

“And you shouldn’t. You should never open with a Hayes Carll song.” joked Hayes. The conversation than took a different turn, when he went into a little tale about being up in Canada with a friend (I don’t remember who he said he was with) and his friend got invited to the “Canadian equivalent of the White House”. Hayes tagged along with him, and mentioned there were all these intimidating armed guards outside the place, when he happened to realize he had forgotten his passport.

“…So I grabbed one of my CD’s and was like, ‘This has my picture on it. This is me…” he said, as he attempted to get them to let him in. He said they stared at for just a second, then looked at him, said “Okay. Go on.” and motioned him in.

“Canadians.” Hayes simply said, sounding amazed by their kind and trusting nature.

By that time, I had almost forgotten they had even talked about a song that Scott had written. Apparently, I owe Mr. Scott Nolan a big thank you, because he wrote what is my favorite Hayes Carll song.

Hayes played some notes on his harmonica and plucked at his guitar, before singing, “Arkansas; my head hurts. I’d love to stick around and maybe make it worse. I’ve got a girl out in Henrietta, and her love is like tornado weather…” Hays sang on the slowed down version of “Bad Liver and a Broken Heart”. “Indian summer: Oklahoma sunset. If there’s a nicer place I haven’t been there yet…” sang Scott, who handled the second verse of his song. The added a nice dynamic to it, especially since Scott has such a standout and unique sound to his voice. The fans then took it upon to help out on the last verse, lightly singing along with Hayes who had taken back over. “…Doesn’t anybody care about truth anymore? I guess maybe that’s what songs are for. You’re the wind, and I’m on fire. In this line of work no one retires. Come in clean, leave torn apart. A bad liver and a broken heart…” everyone sang.

Little did the fans know, they weren’t done singing along just yet. “Drunken Poet’s Dream” is another fan favorite, and the crowd got a little riled up upon hearing. Hayes even added a few extra lines to the start of the second verse, one of which was “…She tastes like pills and cheap cologne…”

That’s one song he co-wrote with his friend and Texas music legend Ray Wylie Hubbard, whom he spoke of now, mention what a huge admirer he is of Mr. Hubbard and followed him around quite a bit in his younger days before befriending him.

For their first co-write together Hayes said he got to Ray’s place and asked him what he had been writing about lately. “Farm animals.” Hubbard answered. Hayes noted that, that was an “unexplored” style of songwriting for him. “…I usually write about drugs and alcoholism…” he said, rattling off several other topics that his music has covered, none of which had been farm animals.

“And Ray Wylie Hubbard was just killing it with farm animal songs. Let’s see, he’s got songs about goats, cows, pigs…” he said, listing off a whole menagerie of creatures. He even mentioned Ray’s song “Snake Farm” and sang a line or two from it.

“…Now, you can call me a sellout… but I’m paying my bills…” said Hayes, talking about all the companies that used that song.

Well, none of that actually happened (the being rich part at least). With that, he and Scott started the final track from his “Little Rock” album, “Chickens”, which was the only song he did from that record this night. Scott stole show during it, tearing into an incredible guitar solo that left everyone’s mouth agape, while they cheered his prowess as a guitarist.

Afterwards, Hayes went even further back than that 2005 album. He mentioned that this next song was one of the first he ever wrote, and it was the first one of his songs that someone ever covered.

The band he said that covered it was a duo with a female singer, while the guy played a flute; making them sound like they were an interesting act to say the least. Also, to stick with “artistic integrity”, the woman sang the song from a “lesbian perspective”.

He then started the tune and the fans cheered with glee. “I have another song that starts like this.” Hayes quickly stated. That’s a line I’ve heard the last three times I’ve seen him, and he always plays the song that everyone new and was expecting. Tonight, it was a different story.

He did the title track from his debut album, “Flowers and Liquor”. It has held up well against his other, newer music, and one line, “…I’m getting excited, I hope I’m invited. I want to spend the night with you.” is still pure Hayes, even twelve years after that debut album dropped.

He rolled the end of that one right into the title track from his current LP, “KMAG YOYO”. It’s a song you would think would sound good acoustic, but surprisingly, it did. Actually, it was great in this format. Lyrically it’s closer to being a rap (really) and given the fact that he was setting his own pace on it this time, Hayes seemed to do it just a hair quicker than it’s performed at the full band shows.

He made a switch to an electric guitar for the next couple of songs; playing some notes as the fans wondered what was coming next. He played a brief lead in to the song, before finally getting to the all too recognizable notes of “I Got a Gig”, a song that chronicles his adventures of starting out as a musician and all the dive bars you have to play while paying your dues.

Upon finishing it, Hayes pointed out it had been something like five years since he and Scott had played together like they were at the moment, and he congratulated him for being so great “on the fly”. Now that impressed me, because I figured there had been some type of rehearsal done. Nope, he was just winging it, and you never would have guessed it.

“…Drinking beers is about the only thing I can do anymore without practice…” Hayes said, again using his deadpan delivery of humor. But to make sure Scott didn’t feel signaled out by that, Hayes told everyone he was going to put himself in similar shows and do a song he seldom plays.

“Don’t Let Me Fall” was the song he did, which is a solid little track from “Trouble In Mind”, and I enjoyed getting to hear it live.

After switching back to his acoustic guitar, Hayes announced he was going to do a song by his friend. Everyone already knew what was coming, but Hayes confirmed it by saying it was a song about why it’s a good idea for traveling musicians to carry a Bible on their dashboard. Aptly, the song is called “Bible On the Dash”, and it tells a very entertaining story about how you can get out any trouble you might run into (i.e. police officers, border stops, etc.) by simply having a copy of the good book with you.

How good the night get any better than that? Well, there was still the greatest duet ever written to do, though I skeptical how this might turn out.

Hayes said at some of these shows he had done both the male and female parts, but opted to start bringing fans on stage to sing with him to give it more of a vibe. When he did this is Dallas for his Holiday Hangover Tour, it was a disaster (see HERE), hence why I was skeptical as to how this might go.

He then went into a story about one of the Fort Worth shows he had played a night or two before, where there were “five thousand people” out in the crowd. He asked for a volunteer, and one woman was almost “falling over the barricade” as he put it, trying to be picked.

“…Will you put your lips to the microphone and sing clearly?” was one of the questions he asked her, and she said yes to all of them.

“…Minutes are going by. I mean I have a cigarette and a beer in my hand just waiting. Five thousand people there, all waiting for her to get up on stage. So, she gets up there… and her name’s like, Sally or something like that. So I’m, ‘Sally, are you ready?” “Ready for what?” she responded. “To sing!” Hayes said he told her. “We just talked about when you were right out there!” “Oh, I’m not gonna sing or nothing.” she answered.

Granted, some of that was probably slightly embellished, but it made for one helluva story. So, when Hayes did chose a woman to join him, he made sure to tell her that if this didn’t go well he’d have to ask that she ;eave the show without a refund. “No pressure or anything.” he added.

It seemed like it was going to be a disaster when she got on stage and was in a slight state of disbelief when she realized she didn’t even get the lyrics “like at karaoke”. “This song’s about the great political divide in America.” Hayes said, still starting “Another Like You” regardless of what direction this might go.

He, of course, nailed his part, while the moment of truth came when it got to the first female part of the song, and the woman (whose name I sadly don’t remember) looked pretty sheepish up there. “You were falling like the Alamo. Drinking fast and talking slow…” she sang; instantly sending the sold out crowd into a deafening roar as they let her know how much they liked it.

I’m assuming she is by no means a professional singer, and given that, she had an astounding voice. I mean, wow! She sang it all very well too, and I  think there were maybe just a few words at one point she forgot, but sung something else that still fit before getting back on track.

They even had a good chemistry going on the back and forth part as Hayes and her looked at one another. “Well, you’re probably a democrat.” she sang, as he remarked while they kept alternating, “Well, what the hell is wrong with that?” “Nothing if you’re Taliban.” “Well, I bet you slept with half the south.” “Oh, don’t you ever shut your mouth?”

This was redemption for that other Dallas show I mentioned, and she sang the song flawlessly.

Soon after she left the stage, Hayes started another song that was nearly unrecognizable as an acoustic song, and that was the closer for his 88-minute long set, “Stomp And Holler”. It still had a nice kick to it, though, and was still a fitting final song. “…From all I’ve seen, you only get one shot at what you’re gonna do in this life…” he sang, before getting to the line that was on the shirt I happened to be wearing, “I’m like James Brown only white and taller…”, which is followed  with, “And all I wanna do is stomp and holler.”

The fans were taking the song title to heart, stomping and hollering right along with him, before some of those who were seated gave him a standing ovation as he and Scott left the stage.

That couldn’t be it, though; surely not. Okay, there were some songs that he probably wouldn’t do this night because they wouldn’t best fit the acoustic vibe, but I could think of at least one more he had to play.

He wasn’t gone anytime when he returned to the stage. “I say this every night. I would do this every night if people showed up or not, but it’s a helluva lot more fun when people do.” He told his fans, being truly humbled that this many people had come out to see him this night.

He was alone for this one, and soon began the 7-minute long encore portion with a song I was expecting, “Grateful For Christmas”.

Sure, he had sung plenty of gloomy songs this night about unrequited love or having your heart broken by one circumstance or another, but the most poignant song of the night was this one.

It still has that certain Hayes Carll charm, like in the line, “Lord, what I’d give for one good looking cousin.” but it’s far from being a happy song. Instead, it goes through all the stages of Christmas you have in your life. When you’re a kid, the holiday is (usually) a big family affair, probably traveling somewhere (in this case Waco) where your grandparents live, surrounded by aunts, uncles and cousins galore. Then you lose a grandparent, and the get together gets a little smaller; more with your immediate family.

“Hey mom, how you doing? Yeah, I miss him too…” he sang on the final verse, which deals with the loss of a parent, along with having to share the holiday between your family and your spouses.

It really brought a little tear to your eye, and while I don’t listen to it often on the record, it is a song that cuts right to the bone. It’s a good thing, though, because it’s a song that reaffirms a way of thinking I’ve had for many years now: savor the small things in life and enjoy every second you spend with anyone you care for. Be it family, friends or whatever, because they won’t always be there, and just because something has been one way for most of your life (like Christmas), doesn’t mean it always will be. Point is, there is a lesson in this song, and it’s one that should be taken to heart.

So, after killing the happy mood with that one, it was time to end on a positive note.

Scott rejoined him for this last number, which again had fans ecstatic when they heard the opening chords. Remember that song earlier where I said Hayes mentioned he has two songs that start the same way. Well, “Girl Downtown” is the one that everybody knows and loves (and the one he typically plays). It created another sing-along moment, and the fun, happy song about love was a wonderful way to wrap-up the night.

Yeah, I had my doubts about how god this show might be, but Hayes Carll proved just what an excellent musician he is this night.

“Beaumont” ensnared the fans from the get go, and by the time he got to those brand new songs I was enthralled, while he finished strong with the last several tracks of the main set.

If I had to pick, I’d still say the full band shows are better overall, but the band isn’t necessary to him putting on a memorable show.

His witty banter is one part that ensures that, while the songs still sounded fantastic, even if they lacked the punch they usually have.

Basically, Hayes Carll is a true entertainer, because he can hold your attention and keep you invested in what he’s doing no matter what the setting is.

I’ll finish by saying this: this was the fourth straight night I had been out at concerts for the week. I had seen some great local rock bands, a killer national touring electronic/pop band from Detroit, and one of the best rising stars in the Texas music scene. However, this show, this acoustic show by one of the most prolific (and underrated on a national scale) singer/songwriters who’s currently in the game was the best show out of those four.

If you haven’t heard of Hayes Carll, you’re really missing out, and you remedy that by going over to iTUNES right this instant and checking out his music. (Don’t use, “Oh, but he’s an Americana musician and I don’t like Americana.” as an excuse, because his music is as much rock as anything.)

By now, the Pub Crawl Tour is over, but he still has some shows coming up here and there. His full schedule can be viewed HERE.

It was a phenomenal night here at The Kessler, and in just six days it would all be repeated (well, with different bands, at least.)

Friday, February 21st, 2014 – The Dirty River Boys Do Billy Bob’s Texas

Lately, if I have made the trip across the D/FW metroplex to Fort Worth, the destination has been Billy Bob’s Texas.

It was more of the same this night, when the venue that is known for being the “world’s largest honky-tonk” was hosting one of the best bands in the state, The Dirty River Boys.

There was an opening band this night, and that was Crooks from Austin.

Admittedly, I didn’t keep up with their set as far as what songs they did, but I’ll hit the highlights of what I do remember.

They were playing the smaller Honky-tonk stage, and had already started by the time I got there.

They finished the song they were doing, at which point singer and acoustic guitarist Josh Mazour regaled the audience with a story about how it’s not a good idea to decide to pick up a stray cat and pet it. Evidently, that was something he had tried recently and learned the hard way why it’s not wise.

They had a truly authentic country sound, from the twang in his voice, to the upright bass Joey McGill played, and even had an accordion and trumpet thrown into the mix, which were played by Anthony Ortiz Jr. and Doug Day, respectively.

They did at least one cover during their time on stage (I don’t recall what famous country singer they covered, since country music is not my forte), but it was good. Their original stuff was even better, and you could tell the audience was liking by all the people that swarmed the dance floor and danced with their special someone’s.

Even the slower “Pull Up Your Boots” got some movement going, while a song that stood out to me was “My First Gun”. Granted, that was probably because of the story that accompanied it, which was Josh informing everyone that he wrote it about five years or so ago, when he was dreaming about killing his boss at the time. “…I never did anything to him or his woman, but I thought about it… A lot.” he said before they started the track.

Some of their final songs where just the core group of Josh, Joey, lead guitarist Ryan Goebel and drummer Rob Bacak, before Anthony and Doug rejoined them for their final few songs.

They were quite good. I can’t say I liked them to the point that I’d feel like I have to see them the next time they come through the North Texas area, though I am contemplating buying their record. So yeah, overall, I did enjoy Crooks.

They have plenty of shows coming up across Texas, including a return trip to Billy Bob’s on May 8th, plus a gig at Hat Tricks in Lewisville on March 28th. For their full tour schedule, go HERE. Also, you can find their LP on either iTUNES or BANDCAMP.

They were a good little warm-up act, but the real show was going to come when The Dirty River Boys took the main stage.

There was a thirty-minute break in between bands, which gave most of the people plenty of time to be shown to their seats at the sea of tables that cover the floor in front of the main stage.

By the time 10:30 rolled around and one of the staff members at Billy Bob’s came out to introduce the band, there were a surprising amount of people there. I saw surprising given the fact that The Dirty River Boys are still by all accounts a local band. They may do shows all over the country, but they’re widely known yet. However, the healthy fan base they do have is also a dedicated one, which was proved this night.

At 10:32 bassist Colton James, drummer Travis Stearns and the two singers and acoustic guitarists Marco Gutierrez and Nino Cooper stepped on stage.

“How we doing Billy Bob’s Texas?!” Marco asked, while Travis went ahead and gave the crowd some percussion by slapping his hands against the cajon he sat on.

Having seen them just barely a month before; I was expecting the same setlist, since most bands don’t switch things up that often. Then again, The Dirty River Boys aren’t most bands, and when Nino grabbed the mandolin, it became obvious that this wouldn’t be the exact same show I had seen last month, and that had me excited.

They wound up starting with “Boomtown”, and Nino jumped about at the start while he strummed the mandolin. The fans responded well to it, and it was an excellent opener, not only being one of their tracks that really gets people pumped up, but also one that shows how much talent resides in this band, as they handled some of the words in rounds, with Marco and Colton singing and harmonizing along with Nino. There was even a cool moment after the second chorus where Colton spun his upright bass around, while the feathers and raccoon pelt that hang from it twirled right along with it.

Once it was done, Marco led them right into the title track from their second EP, “Train Station”, which is another song with breathtaking harmonies. “…I fear I’m losing her again. My head’s on the horizon, my heart’s wherever the hell she sleeps!” Marco belted as the track sprang to life. It’s a song that blend beauty and heartache with some Rock ‘n’ Roll moments, and there was even a part where Colton played his bass with a bow, similar to how a violinist does.

Those were two of the older songs they did this night, and while more would come, their primary focus was on the material from their forthcoming album. They had worked in a few more new tracks than they were doing the last time I saw them, and Travis counted them in on the first new one of the night, which was sung by Colton.

“Billy Bob’s, what’s going on?!” Marco asked, seeming gleeful to even be there. The fans did their part at making some noise, while he went on to say they’d be playing a lot of new songs this night. “…This one’s an old one.” he finished, as they tackled the lead track from “Science of Flight”, “Dried Up”. Apart from doing lead vocals, Marco also played the harmonica when it was called for, but that wasn’t the only add-on this song got.

They’ve been known to throw in portions of cover songs into their music, and while I’ve heard them do one of Bob Dylan’s songs before, it hasn’t been on this specific song before. “…Everybody knows that baby’s got new clothes…” he sang during the lull that came before the final chorus, then moved along to the chorus of that Dylan hit “Just Like a Woman”. “She takes just like a woman. She makes love just like a woman. And she aches just like a woman.” Marco crooned, softening his voice as each sentence ended, before getting louder when he sang, “But she breaks just like a little girl.” The crowd was roaring at that point, as they got back to their original and finished it up, before moving directly into their next number.

“This song’s about a union painter that Nino met several years ago.” Marco informed everyone, while Travis played some soft, though sad notes on his harmonica. “…I’m surrounded by others, but I’m always alone. When the paint and time comes, I jump back on the train. Spend all my green dollars just to poison my veins…” Nino sang rather somberly on “Union Painter”, which sounded like it was even a little more low-key than the album version. That’s to say it just sounded like it was more acoustic. Nino also made a little change to one of the lines, catering to where they were this night as he sang, “…I’m still searching for freedom beneath Fort Worth skies…”

Afterwards, it was time for them to bust out another new one. They might be an Americana band, with dashes of country, but above all, The Dirty River Boys are a rock band. This song was a fine example of that, and it packed a punch; while also being one of the songs that Colton used an electric bass on. Speaking of that, his playing on it was pretty slick, particularly on the chorus, as he quickly moved his hand up and down the fretboard.

“…This is what we call a Chinese fire drill.” Marco stated before leaving his post and sitting on the cajon. Travis took up the mandolin, while Colton grabbed a banjo, as Nino began to play some soaring notes. “…The louder you get, the crazier this bad boy gets!” shouted Travis as they had some fun before their next song. Marco just added a bit of drums to the start, before taking over on the upright bass for the short sing-along that is “Lookin’ for the Heart”. “But I’m just growing old with a whole deep in my soul. Won’t you give me back that heart you took from me?” sang Nino on the track that is far more upbeat than you would guess just based on the subject matter.

They reverted to their normal positions when it was done; and Marco started setting up their next song, saying on their last album they had covered a Townes Van Zandt song. “…We don’t do it too much these days…” he said, noting they had decided to this night, though. The song they covered is “Lungs”, and it’s a favorite of mine from “The Science of Flight”. They give it a real dark, ominous quality, which in turn puts a good spin on it; and while they might not play it much anymore, I’m glad they did this night.

Another new one was due now; but first Marco mentioned how lucky they were to come across Colton James and add that fine talent to the band. He [Colton] again assumed the role of lead vocalist on this one (which was one I don’t think I had heard before), though it sounded pretty good. “Take it away, Nino!” he said at one point later on in the track, as Nino ripped into a guitar solo. I have to say, acoustic guitars were not meant to sound like that. At least I’ve never heard another band make them sound the way Nino and Marco do. The guitar solo he did was amazing, and it was more electric sounding than most electric guitars are.

The audience went to clap, but had no time to, because as the final notes rang out, Nino started singing “My Son”. “I don’t know where you’re going my son. Taught you to walk, but you learned how to run.” he sang before all of his band mates joined in, again forming some incredible harmonies. “How you gonna find your way back home? The roads you knew they’re paved and gone.” Sang Nino on the first chorus, changing it slightly before sticking with the chorus from the album version the second time around, “How you gonna find your way back home? The maps you drew they’re burned and gone.”

“…The only way that you can be found is through your footsteps in the cold, dead ground.” the four guys sang, before Nino went into another brief guitar solo, which only made the song even better.

They gave a quick shout-out to their friends in Crooks for getting the party started, before firing up an instrumental piece. It was soulful and bluesy sounding, and I highly enjoyed it. I assumed it was the intro for another one of their new tracks; and they amped it up, sounding like they were about to break into whatever it was, before pulling back on it. Then the chords for “Draw” came into being; and since that was a song that was absent from their last show I caught, I was ecstatic.

It was a bit of an alternate version, and was more toned down than what their fans have to come to know from the album. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t still a great song, though. “If you’re alive, make some noise!” roared Travis during one of the breaks, as he made sure everyone was still feeling very much a part of the show/experience.

They were still far from being done, and while Colton again swapped over to his electric bass, Nino mentioned that the next song they would be doing was one that The Ranch (95.9FM) in Fort Worth had been playing, and thanked them for it.

There’s a reason why “Desert Wind” is their newest single, and one they’ve already released for public consumption (i.e. on iTUNES), and it’s made known every time they play it. “Lately, I’ve been thinking, and I just can’t seem to get you off my mind… Lovely lady, where you are. I hear your voice and I feel your scars…” he sang on the sweet and powerful track. The drumbeats are mixed in perfectly, giving the song as much kick as possible; and he got so into his drumming on this one that – for the second time this night – he knocked his hat off.

“If you know it, sing it.” Marco told the fans as he moved things right along to their next number.

“Carnival Lights” got one of loudest reactions from the fans, as well it should. It was another song they put an alternate spin on, doing a slow version of it. Actually it was pretty much just Marco until after the first chorus. “…With her poison inside medicine bottle, filled with nothing but her own shortcomings. She leans her head back; she puts ‘em down and they taste alright…” he softly sang, before Travis interrupted the pause. “Y’all still with us?!” he asked. Of course, everyone was. Marco then continued, “Please, just try to stay conscious tonight.”

Now the full band came in, just in time for the even more emotional second verse of this spectacular tune. “Billy Bob’s, this is your time to shine.” Marco told everyone before the final chorus, making the song into a genuine sing-along. It was cool moment to say the least, but they weren’t done yet.

That Dylan cover has been tacked onto this song in the past, but with it having already been done, I was wondering what, if anything, they might add to “Carnival Lights”. They did have something planned, and Colton took his cowboy hat off and hung it on the scroll of his bass for it.

“…Now I’m so happy, no sorrow in sight. Praise the Lord, I saw the light.” Marco added, which was just one of several lines they did from Han Williams’ “I Saw the Light”.

They went right into another new song; again one that was sung by Colton, before Marco took over on the next one. In between those, they chatted with their fans, though.

“Are y’all having a good time so far?” Marco asked, before saying he couldn’t stress enough what an “honor” it was to be on this stage (this was their first ever headlining show at Billy Bob’s). Then, upon finishing that song he did, he shifted the focus to their new album, which they recorded during this past December and January. “…We can’t wait to get this new music out to you all…” he said.

They only had a couple of old songs left this night, and rather surprisingly, the balled-esque “Riverbed Wildflowers” got one of the loudest reactions from fans. I mean, it should because it’s a fantastic song, even if it deals with the heartache of having feelings for someone who doesn’t feel the same. “…Well, these riverbed wildflowers are dying now; and I’m through waiting around on you…” Nino sang towards the end, before they added a little extra something to the song, repeating part of the chorus an extra time or two at the end, adding some truly lovely harmonies to it.

“This song’s about life on the road.” Marco stated, after he had again thanked everyone for making it out to the show, during which time Colton switched back to his electric bass. This song is easily the best one from their new batch of music, and even just in general. It does depict the life of touring musicians (“…Well, we work all night just to drive all day…”) and it’s more rock sounding than most of the true rock music that you hear.

They made something special with that song, and the same can be said about their next one, which Nino dedicated to the man they co-wrote it with, Ray Wylie Hubbard. “…It’s about the violence south of border.” he said, as they began to sing about how their hometown of El Paso, as well as those towns over in Mexico, have changed.

“You cross that dirty river and you never come back.” Marco sang at the end, then Colton and finally Travis, before Nino took back the reins. His band mates harmonized with him on the last line, “If you cross that dirty river then you’ll never come back.”

After one of their earlier songs (“Draw”), Marco mentioned it was just one of a few songs they had about whiskey. Well, now they got to another, which was yet another new track. “…There’s nothing like a whiskey drunk on a Friday…” he sang on the cheery tune, which will surely become a sing-along once they get their new album released.

The end was in sight now, and while Nino went over to stage left and grabbed the mandolin, Travis spoke to the crowd.

“After four and a half to five years of being a band, our van finally hit two hundred and fifty-thousand miles!” he exclaimed (a moment that was documented with the footage being posted on the bands Facebook page).

He then asked how many people had seen them before. Most everyone in attendance had, though there were still plenty of first timers. “Y’all know how we like to do it!” yelled Travis, speaking to those who were familiar with them. “…So, are y’all ready to raise some hell?!” he bellowed.

Moments after that, he got everyone to stand up. I have to say, the seats were detrimental to the energy out in the crowd. Not that everyone wasn’t enjoying the show, but you just can’t really get into the music (or at least I can’t) when you’re sitting.

With that said: once everyone rose out of their seats and began clapping, singing and stomping their feet along to “Raise Some Hell”, the mood changed immensely. In that moment every fan was one, as they were completely immersed in the song and were having the time of their lives.

That was how their 88-minute long set ended, but the celebration wasn’t done yet.

They never left the stage. Instead, Travis mentioned that they’ll celebrate fans birthdays every time they can, but there are only, at most, four chances a year that they can do shows and celebrate the birthday of one of their own. Tonight was one of those nights.

Nino Cooper was genuinely surprised when a birthday cake was brought out and handed to him, and everyone in Billy Bob’s helped in singing “Happy Birthday” to him.

“Are y’all ready to rock out another one or what?!” Travis asked after a few minutes went by.

“Crooks, we need ya.” Marco said, calling on their friends, who soon joined them on stage. Then Nino appeared, having traded his cake in for an electric guitar.

It was very appropriate for their final song, which was a cover of The Rolling Stones “Honky Tonk Woman”. I stand by what I said about their rendition of the song the last time I saw them; they do it better than The Stones; at least in comparison to the recorded version.

Think what you will of that statement, but it’s the truth, and once the song came to an end, Travis stood up from the cajon, tossed one of his drumsticks in the air, caught it and then struck right through the skin of one of his drums. Because if you’re going to end a show, you might as well end it in style, right?

This may have been their first ever headlining show at Billy Bob’s, but I don’t think it will be their last.

Okay, the place wasn’t sold out like some of the other acts that come through are capable of doing; but there were a lot of people out, and they were loving every second of the show.

Then again, how could you not? There are so many layers to The Dirty River Boys, from the harmonies, to the emotion-filled lyrics, to the awesome rock numbers, of which there are plenty.

I absolutely love this band. I may be a new fan, but they won me over from the start, and each time I see one of their shows (this was the fourth one I’ve caught), that love I feel grows.

They are, without question, one of the best bands that resides in Texas, and it’s not going to be long before the world takes notice.

They have plenty of tour dates scheduled up through July, and they can all be found HERE. That includes show in Texas, Oklahoma and even Louisiana. As far as North Texas shows go, they’ll be up in Denton on March 27th at Dan’s Silver Leaf.  They’ll be at the Iron Horse Pub in Wichita Falls on March 29th, and then April 25th will find them at the Granada Theater in Dallas. They’ll also be back in Fort Worth on July 24th.

Go see ‘em if you can, and if you can’t, check out their music in iTUNES.

It was a great night of music here in Fort Worth; and while the drive there and back were both long, The Dirty River Boys were more than worth it.

Album Review: “Fractures” by The Clouds Are Ghosts


The Austin, Texas based The Clouds Are Ghosts may have started as just a little side gig, but it didn’t take long for the two founding members to realize they were on to something as they began writing and recording some of their song ideas.

Joseph Salazar ended up leaving the band, but Jason Morris stuck with it, bringing five other musicians into the fold; officially giving birth to The Clouds Are Ghosts.

Their debut album came in late 2009, with an EP following a couple of years later, and now, the band has released their anxiously awaited third album, “Fractures”.

Not only is it their newest record, but it’s also their most professional and solid collection of songs to date; and it begins with the atmospheric rocker, “Fifty Four”. The piano and drums at the start create a mix of beauty and force that is astounding, blending the best of both worlds. Jason Morris’s remarkable voice than
reaches out of the speakers and grabs you; growing more urgent as the pace of the music increases, ensnaring you and making sure you’re in this listening experience for the long haul.

The best quality “Defense” has is its ebb and flow. You can feel the song building to something, yet it tapers off each time you think it’s about to make its move. That highlights the more subtle elements of the track, like the smooth guitar lines, which complement one another, before it jumps into action during the final minute. It’s edgy in a way, and it’s a track not to be overlooked (or unappreciated.)

After reeling you in with those first two songs, the members of The Clouds Are Ghosts are ready to show off their softer side, and do so with “Leaman”. In comparison to those first tracks, it mines a little more of the ambient genre that the band classifies itself as. More though, it’s a serene track that’s designed to make you think. “…Now we fight, we kill, we don’t seem to know how to rise above. We think we do, so we blind the eyes of the young…” Jason croons, demonstrating a whole other side and range of his voice, often hitting some gorgeous falsetto notes.

After that little detour, the band brings things back up with eerie and dark sounding “Marionettes”. It doesn’t even take twenty seconds for them to make and establish the mood; while the semi-hushed vocals fit well with it. At least until it roars to life. That’s when it truly grabs your attention: when the guitars soar into action, and a solo is worked in nicely and at just the right moment to add some extra emphasis.

Things get al little more tender and heartfelt with “Angelface”, which, at almost six minutes, is the longest track from the album, before they get into one of the most attention getting songs.

“…There is no time for hesitation, for everyday we’re growing old.” goes a line from “Blue”, which is a song that focuses on how short life really is, and the need to live and experience it to the fullest. It’s a song that washes over you and resonates in your soul, particularly the line, “They say the road before you is long. They say that life is too short. So run…”

The dreamy, pop landscapes are back in “Singularity”, which is a rather soothing track, at least until its abrupt, vicious swell, when it transitions into one of the most intense offerings from “Fractures”, before waning as it leads into “Lavender House”. Just because the bass isn’t as noticeable or the drums aren’t as heavy doesn’t mean that latter one isn’t an impactful song, though.

Perhaps the most intricate track on the album is “Running Dream”. The guitars, bass, drums and yes, even the piano, all get their moment to shine and work in fine harmony with one another. It’s all carefully woven and acts as a nice setup for the tenth and final track on the album, “Decimeters”.

Of course, there can always be different meanings to the songs than the one each listener may interpret, but it strikes me as being a track about the impending end of a relationship. It’s not gloomy or done as a desperate plea, though. It’s actually a beautiful song filled with acceptance and a “light at the end of the tunnel” perspective.

To sum up “Fractures” in just one word: perfection.

The production quality on this thing is superb and deserves a major commendation in its own right. I mean, this thing is on par with what many of the most famous and wealthiest musicians crank out in terms of how polished and well mixed it is.

Aside from that, “Fractures” just has a very fluid feel to it; while the songs all mesh with one another, in the sense like this is more of a concept album rather than an assorted collection of songs they wrote.

While the six-piece outfit may identify as a mix of
ambient, electronic and pop styles of music, they are really so much more than that. It’s all in the way they fuse those different genres together, taking the best parts of each one and creating something that is entirely their own.

When you hear pop, you probably think of the generic and increasingly mind numbing stuff you hear on the radio, but that’s not the part that The Clouds Are Ghosts brings in. It still manages to be catchy, yet creative. It’s more or less the same for the other genres, too. There is a definite electronic vibe, but there music isn’t drenched in the sound, and they balance the ambient side of things in there just right.

With all the bands that are out there, I can’t say I’m shocked that I’ve never heard of The Clouds Are Ghosts before, though I am surprised they managed to avoid my radar for so long.

In listening to this album, it’s readily apparent that they are one of the shining stars in the Austin music scene, and “Fractures” should be the album that starts really taking them places.

The Clouds Are Ghosts are:
Erin Fillingame - piano
Jason Morris - vocals
Steven Paul – guitar and synths
Michael Parker - guitar
Earl Bowers - drums
Jon Klekman- bass

Download the album for free on: BANDCAMP / Purchase in iTUNES

Visit The Clouds Are Ghosts websites: Official Website / Facebook / Twitter / Youtube

Current Shows: The band will be performing at SXSW this year. Dates include 3/11 @ Guero’s 5PM / 3/11 @ Soho Lounge 8PM / 3/13 Symphony Square 5PM. Visit their TOUR PAGE for full details.

Photo credit: Ashley Treat

Wednesday, February 19, 2014 – King Camel’s Local Education #4

The only Local Education show of King Camel’s that I caught was the first one, which was just a little over a month ago.

The concert series has been successful, though. Well, that or the guy just cares so much about trying to expose people to good local music he’s going to keep putting the shows on regardless. I guess it’s probably some of both (more so the latter one).

Anyway, the fourth installment of the series was happening this night, taking place at Three Links. It was quite the lineup that had been put together too, and in its own right, it was every bit as solid as the first Local Education was.

A fairly new band from Dallas by the name of International Bitterness Unit got the show going this night; starting their 33-minute long set at 9:06.

They were a rock band through and through, and began with a gritty number that embodied the Rock ‘n’ Roll spirit. “…I don’t give a fuck, obviously.” sang singer and guitarist Britt Tucker on that first song, which was my personal favorite of theirs this night.

They brought the noise level down just a little on their next song. For the most part it was slower, but still had some hard hitting moments, while some the guitar riffs Britt and fellow guitarist Chris Ehrmann played made it pretty catchy. Afterwards, Britt started them into their next track with some sweet guitar licks; and they again showed off a different style with it. There was a little more kick to this one. That’s to say it was pretty intense, and Britt did some screaming on it. I liked it, though, and in just three songs the band had quickly displayed how versatile they were.

“That goes out to anybody who sits in a fucking cubicle.” Britt said when that song was done, then remarked, “It’s not fun.” He went on to inform everyone of who they were, before going into a cover song.

I missed who he said at done it, but he took a backseat on it as bassist Andrew Magilow stepped up to the center mic he had periodically been doing. He was the one who wound up singing lead on it; proving he was more than just a a bass player, ‘cause he had a solid voice.

That wouldn’t be the only song Andrew would sing this night, though it was the only one for now, as they knocked out a couple more songs. One was a semi-heavy number, while the other highlighted the awesome drumming chops of Brandon Byrd. There short bursts on that where he was able to let loose, often crisscrossing his arms as he violently banged around on his kit.Great skill set, for sure.

Again, Britt mentioned that they were “IBU”, then noted that they were “hateful motherfuckers”. Andrew blamed it on the beer for making them that way, but Britt added, “…You don’t live this long unscathed.” With that said, I guess I should point out that he is a seasoned veteran when it comes to music.

A song by the name of “Blood for Lube” was played next, and following it was a cool instrumental song. “This is something you could smoke some weed to.” Britt said, while Andrew joked that it was “about math”. It was an excellent jam they did, and you could tell that all four of them were completely in their element while performing it. Closer towards the end of it, Andrews’ bass strap did come undone, though he didn’t let it bother him. In fact, it made is playing look even ore badass as he held the bass up by its neck.

“…It’s a good stoner jam; or drinking.” Britt stated when they were done. They moved on to another song that had Andrew doing the lead singing; before Britt once again told everyone who they were, keeping it shortened to “IBU”. They then ended with a song that was similar to how they had started, as well as how much of their other stuff had been. It was a rock song, pure and simple. One of the lines in it was also something like “…It gives you an itch…”, and as he sang that, Britt took one hand and lightly scratched his crotch, before placing it back on his guitar.

They were one of two bands on this bill that I hadn’t seen live before, not to mention I had never even heard of International Bitterness Unit until this night. That said, I don’t think this show could have gotten off to a better start than what they gave it.

Considering they don’t have much experience under their belt as this outfit, they were surprising tight on stage and had some good chemistry.

As for their music, as I said, it’s Rock ‘n’ Roll to the core. It’s easy to listen and get into and may even have you banging your head along to it. So basically, it’s all-around good stuff.

If that sounds like something you’re into, go see one of their shows sometime. They’ll be at the Crown and Harp in Dallas on March 8th.

Up next was the Fort Worth block of bands.

The Royal Savages were one of the acts. I had heard of them fairly recently (I think on Facebook), and was looking forward to seeing what they were like live.

The one common factor between both them and the other band from Cowtown was that each had a male and female vocalist in the band. In the case of The Royal Savages that was frontman/guitarist Addison White and vocalist Lauren Moore.

“What’s up Three Links?” she asked, going to say that they were “Gonna play some songs…” for everybody.

For most of their songs, she and Addison sang in unison, which I don’t imagine is the easiest thing to do, but they kept up with one another perfectly this night.

Their first song was a sweet rocker with some nice and soft pop elements thrown in, resulting in a sound that had you (or at least me) swaying back and forth to it. It swelled to a great rock song at the end, and lead guitarist Josiah Hunter got really into it, shredding something fierce on his axe once the track exploded into action.

“We’ve got some more coming up.” Lauren told everyone, announcing their next song as “Racing Tears”. In listening to the two EP’s they have to download; that’s become my favorite song of theirs, and it was even better live, being just the right mix of the indie, pop and rock genres.

“Thanks for coming out and supporting some local music…” Addison said to everyone before they launched into their next tune. It was a real fun sounding number, and towards the end had a moment where it bordered on being a rap song, as Addison spit out the words quite rapidly.

“That made me sweaty.” Lauren remarked when the song was over, right before they moved right along to what I thought was their best track of the night. I can’t say exactly what made me enjoy it so much, aside from the fact that it just sounded incredible.

A much deserved shout-out to International Bitterness Unit came during the next break, after which the quintet knocked out another catchy, pop-infused tune.
“This next song’s called Bobblehead.” Lauren stated, as they continued moving right along with their lengthy 42-minute set.

The one that followed was another standout from their set. The notes Josiah played gave the song a nice texture, and then there was a brilliant moment towards the end when Addison and Lauren were singing almost a cappella, with the exception of the very light plucking of the guitars. It sounded like that would be the end of, but then they built it back up; drummer Ben Coker and the rest hitting it strong, as the song came a powerful close.

Bassist James Hughes got them going on the next one, segueing them into it from the previous one, and had a wicked little bass solo before his band mates joined in.

It was after it that Lauren pointed out that they were “retarded” and had forgot to bring their CD’s and other merch to sell. She did note their music could be gotten on Bandcamp, though. She then mentioned that their next song was one they had just recorded.

It was a truly gorgeous song with the most delightful harmonies at the start of it, before escalating to a hefty rock number, which eventually just faded out. Nice structure all the way around and that led them to their final of the night, which I assume was another semi-new one.

They were fantastic. In fact, the impartial critic side of me would say they were perhaps the best band of the night.

Having two singers that did full-time singing was a lot, but it never seemed like an overload, and in the end, it certainly worked to the bands advantage.

You just don’t hear that, which makes it easy for The Royal Savages to be set apart from the pack. Then you have the often-infectious music beds their songs possess, which only makes them more of a powerhouse group.

I’m glad I finally got to see them, and out of all the good things the Fort Worth music scene has going for it at the moment, I’d have to say The Royal Savages are probably one of the best.

They have a couple of EP’s you can snag for free over at BANDCAMP, so check that out. Also, keep tabs on their FACEBOOK PAGE for info about future shows.

Continuing the Fort Worth sound was one of the bands on this bill whom I had seen before, Animal Spirit. It had been awhile, though. In fact, I hadn’t seen them since they released their debut album last summer.

Music from their self-titled release was still in full-swing this night, and they began their 43-minute long set with the lead track, “Wolves”.

It set a very haunting mood for their show, even though it was limited to just that song. “..The house began to flood.
It’s not a bad thing because it washed away his blood. So, I grabbed a can of gas and poured it on his ass…” sang singer and guitarist Andrew Stroheker, as Sam Wuehermann added her voice to the mix, backing him up softly.

At the tail end, it makes the jump into a full-blown rock song, and Andrew, bassist Joe Prankster and drummer Parker Anderson brought them right into the subsequent track from the album, “Hey, Girl”. That duet proved to be a heavy-hitter; being absolutely irresistible to those who were paying attention to the band, and was just killer from start to finish.

“Thanks Three Links. We like you.” Sam said, as they continued working through their album in order, now doing the somewhat thought provoking “Telescopes”, which deals with death and ass, “…what death with will bring?” As it ended, Andrew started to bridge them into their next song, before his band mates joined with him; creating a fairly long instrumental piece to take them into “House On A Hill”.

They were done playing the songs in order now; and at almost six and a half minutes on the album, that track’s the longest. It’s also their best (well, at least in my opinion). It’s easy to get wrapped up in it, especially the instrumental portion in the latter half, where Joe and Parker really let loose. Then you have the sudden change at the end, as it transitions from a rock number to sultry tune, as Sam sings, “The sun is hot; that’s nothing new. I’d Rather Spend My Nights with you…”.

That interesting end made for a good setup for their next one, “Sam’s Song”; which one could say is experimental. Joe played a tambourine on it, while Andrew traded his guitar in for a bass drum, which he hung around his neck via a strap. Sam then picked up the empty wine bottle that had been sitting at the front of the stage, removing the drum stick from it, which she used to strike the bottle.

It’s fascinating to say the least, and out of the times that I have seen them, it’s always been a favorite of mine, simply because it is so original; and tonight, it sounded the best I’ve ever heard it.

They got back to their standard instruments after that, while talking about a new batch of songs that they had just gone and tracked demos of the past weekend. “…I really like ‘em, and I’m the last one to like anything.” Joe told the crowd. “That’s true…” responded Sam, as they briefly discussed how he can be somewhat of a critic, I guess you could say. “I’m just picky.” Joe said in closing, coming across more like he’s just his own worst critic and wants to ensure everything is as good as it can possible be.

They played one of those new songs now, and it was a great one. It was pretty fast paced, and also rather long, though never to the point that it seemed tedious. It was yet another song they cut loose on, especially Joe, who could be seen slapping his bass at the end.

“I hope you’re having as much fun as I am.” Sam remarked when the song came to an end. She also dedicated this final song to one of their fans who was out. “…She requested this, like, literally two seconds ago.” said Sam, in advance of “Move To The Air”, which found her and Andrew doing a good bit of co-singing.

Maybe part of it was because I was finally a little familiar with their music; but this was definitely the best Animal Spirit show I’ve seen (in fairness it was probably only the fourth or fifth show).

Like I said, that might have been part of it, but they’ve also tightened up a lot on stage since I last saw them. The result is a stellar band that successfully brings the rock while keeping a nice ratio of being polished, yet raw.

You can download their album for free (if you desire) over on BANDCAMP, so take advantage of that. Also, check them out on FACEBOOK to stay up-to-date with their future shows.

This little Fort Worth block of the show was highly enjoyable. It was also interesting in the sense that while there aren’t that many miles separating Dallas and Forth Worth, the difference in style of (some) of the bands is drastic. I mean that is a good thing, because it shows that the D/FW (and Denton) area is filled with diversity.

Sure, there are plenty of your standard rock and even metal bands that call Fort Worth home, too; but you just don’t hear bands like Animal Spirit and The Royal Savages coming out of Dallas too often. It just goes to show that while the area is a collective, each city still has its own identity.

That said, the final band of the night was from Dallas; and I was looking forward to the good ol’ rock sounds Dead Mockingbirds would be cranking out.

They had a beefy looking setlist planned for the night, beginning with a song called “Smile” (I’ll go ahead and admit that I stole a setlist after the show, hence why I know most of these titles.)

“…We’re just drunk enough.” stated singer and guitarist Kenneth Pritchard, who then added, “We hope you are all drinking heavily…” He then faced the drum kit of Matthew Crain, jumping up and down, while bassist Trinidad Diaz filled the room with some excellent bass riffs, as he got “Systematic” underway. At the end of it, he and Kenneth stood next to each other, facing one another while shredding on their bass and guitar. It was after it came to an end that Kenneth went off into an interesting little tangent.

“Do you have a boat? Can we live on your boat?” he asked. It was impossible not to laugh at it, while also wondering, “Where did that come from?” He wasn’t done, though. “Kenneth, this is the voice of god, Kenneth. Shut the fuck up and play another song.” he then said.

He listened to the voice, but after quickly playing a note or two, he stopped. “Kenneth, this is the voice of god. Learn to tune your guitar.” He again heeded the advice, hastily tuning his guitar. The beginning of “White” sounded much better now that it was in tune, and it was one of, if not the best song they did this night (or maybe I just feel that way because I like the song so much.) “I see it in your eyes, you’re something special. Others, they see it too, they treat you like a star.” he sang on the second verse of that blistering rock song.

“We wrote that out in the parking lot.” he remarked upon finishing the song. He seemed dead serious, too, and even pointed across the street to the parking lot. That was the first song off their 7-inch record they released last year, and it only made sense to follow it with the other track, “Omega”. In some ways, it’s even better than that previous one. It’s just an impeccable rock song and you get to see just what a tight band they are while they perform it. It’s even complete with a marvelous guitar solo. Then again, that last part can be said of more than a few of their songs.

During the break that followed, Kenneth took a moment to thank Jeff Brown (AKA King Camel) for putting the show together, as well as Animal Spirit, The Royal Savages and International Bitterness Unit for opening up. He said all that at a lightning fast pace, and afterwards exclaimed, “I got through it!”, before adding, “Let’s all get fucking drunk.”

With that, the trio tore into another song, this one being “She Helps Me”. Like the last song, it too had a guitar solo, and for this one Kenneth dropped to his knees and proceeded to rock out. “We wrote that after losing all our money at a shitty casino in Santa Fe.” He said to everyone after the song was over. “We take donations.” he then said, though no one seemed that eager to fork over their cash that easily.

“Pele” came next, and as Trinidad and Kenneth tuned their instruments afterwards, Matt filled the silence with some percussion. He laid into the snare drum, as well as some cymbals, doing not only a drum solo, but also creating a lead in to “Alone”.

“Can y’all work for us tomorrow? Can one of y’all get my shift?” Kenneth asked after “Alone was finished. “Sure. Where do you work?” one patron asked, going along with it. “I don’t know.” Kenneth replied, as he turned his attention to the next song. It again fell to Matt to start it, and he gradually built up the noise level, before they ripped into the tune.

They deviated from the setlist slightly at this point, doing whatever song that was but axing one of the others. Instead, they cranked out the up-tempo version of “Munich”, which opened with Kenneth swinging his arm in a circular motion and swiping at the strings of his guitar.

With a drum roll (on the snare), they exploded into their final song of the night, “Flight Plan”. Matt was killing it there at the end; his drumming resolute, and he was completely absorbed in it.

That would have been a fine way to end the show, and Kenneth seemed ready for it to be over, as he walked over to his amp and laid his guitar down. Trinidad had other plans, though, and they included the one encore they had potentially planned.

He kept on from that last song, laying down the bass lines for the next one, as Kenneth walked back towards the mic with his guitar in hand. “Fuck you.” he said rather solemnly while looking at Trinidad, who could have cared less. So, they went on with the encore, quickly knocking out “So You Want to Be” and bringing their 35-minute set to an end.

Timewise, it may have been somewhat short, but they put on a jam-packed performance, and they filled those 35-minutes with more rock than some bands do in twice that amount of time.

Aside from that, they just put on a fun and enjoyable show, while still having songs that you can really get into and bang your head about to.

Hell, they were even better this night than they had been two short weeks ago when I last saw them; and this night made e want to start catching them a lot more frequently, or at least try to.

They have a few shows coming up this month, including March 8th at The Crown and Harp in Dallas. After that they have a gig at SXSW in Austin on March 15th at Quantum Lounge, and then they’ll be playing another King Camel show on March 17th at The Doublewide. March 29th will find them at The Grotto in Fort Worth. They also have another Crown and Harp show set for April 10th, which will serve as their tour kickoff.

In regards to their music, you can get four free downloads over on their REVERBNATION, and if you want to hear “Omega”, go buy it in iTUNES.

Okay, I’ve only seen two out of the now six Local Education shows that King Camel has put on, but out of those two, I’d have to say this one was the best. The talent was solid from start to finish (not that it wasn’t on the first one), and I liked being introduced to a couple of acts that were new to me, as well as seeing some ones I knew I liked.

So, kudos to King Camel for doing his part (and then some) at trying to make people aware of the great music scene North Texas has going on and trying to get people out to shows. If you’d be interested in any future events he has planned, go HERE.