Saturday, August 30th, 2014 – An Anniversary Party Fit for a King (Camel, That is)
In just a year’s time, King Camel Productions has established itself as a key player in the North Texas music scene. Perhaps the best quality founder Jeffrey Brown brings to booking his shows is his love for the more obscure bands, bands that you may have never heard of before, but after seeing them, you’ll most likely be a fan.
That’s happened to me on more than one occasion when I’ve attended some King Camel shows, where I’ve walked into the venue with no prior knowledge on some of the acts, but have left a new fan. I was hoping that would repeat this day at Club Dada, for the first annual King Camelversary.
Sixteen bands had been tapped to play the daylong event, and with the exception of a handful of acts, I was unfamiliar with most of them.
The shindig began at 4:30 in the afternoon, a little earlier than I was able to make it, since I had spent much of the early afternoon in Fort Worth at The Kimbell Art Museum. That meant I missed Howler Jr., who started off the event on the outdoor stage, along with Tidals, who got the party going indoors.
It was about 5:45 when I walked inside the venue; greeted the friendly promoter; and then headed out to the patio, to see what I could of International Bitterness Unit.
I caught the last few songs from the band that plays pure rock; and they exceeded their 30-minute time slot by a bit, choosing to do one more quick number. Singer and rhythm guitarist Britt Tucker moved his guitar behind for it and often gripped the mic as he belted out the lyrics. Marco Elizondo was a force to be reckoned with back on the drums; and at one point, bassist Andrew Magilow leaned against Britts’ back, making for a very rock ‘n’ roll moment.
What I saw was great, and the band seemed even better and more cohesive than the first time I saw them a few months back (which just so happened to be at the Local Education concert series King Camel does from time to time.)
On September 20th, IBU will be playing at Tradewinds Social Club in Dallas.
For me, that was a good way to get this King Camelversary going; but now it was time to experience the other side of the festival.
“It’s like stepping from one world into another, isn’t it?” Jeff remarked to me when I happened to walk up beside him.
Indeed, it was.
Botany was on stage, and this was the first of many bands this day whom I had never seen, let alone heard of.
Spencer Stephenson is responsible for the sounds, and a series of synthesizers and keyboards were laid out in front of him. In terms of style, it was not at all what I like. However, there was some sort of enchanting quality it had. You really couldn’t help but get into it, as Spencer darted from keyboard to keyboard, creating what sounded like one massive song, as there was no real stopping point until right at the end.
He even tried some singing on a couple latter songs, though he used about as much reverb as possible, and it was so gauzy and distant sounding the actual words were pretty much indiscernible.
Botany may not be my typical style but even if I had wanted to, I don’t think I could have pulled myself away. There was just something the music. It entranced you; and I wouldn’t mind seeing a second show.
There was another big shift in the genres when folks stepped back onto the patio and the dreadful heat that came with standing in the sun (at least there was some shade to find refuge in).
Matthew & The Arrogant Sea were ready to doll out their jazzy style of roots rock for everyone, and they were doing so without a drummer. Actually, there were so many band members on stage it took me a couple minutes to even realize there was no drum kit set up behind everyone.
Their first tune had a heavy jazz presence, which seemed most prevalent in the trumpet Sammy Strittmatter played, as well as Brent Buemi and his oboe, though even the electric and acoustic guitar contributed. They rolled it into another track, and upon finishing it, singer and acoustic guitarist Matthew Gray let everyone know they were “fucking thrilled” to be there at the Camelversary.
They had some lengthy tracks planned for everyone, and given the tight schedule, they didn’t waste much time on banter. Another cool jam — even tranquil in some ways — came next, and it was during it that Rahim Quazi was sidelined. His keyboard was having some technical difficulties, so he decided to handle some percussion instead, and began clapping along to the music his band mates were making. The problem never was officially resolved, so for the bulk of their set, Rahim wound up being an unexpected member of the rhythm section.
“Let’s get a hand for Bob,” Matthew asked during the next break, referring to the man that is often affectionately called “Keyboard Bob”, who had showed up. Though he didn’t have his keyboard with him this day. “Do y’all know any Beatles?” Bob asked later on, while the band just laughed it off.
As they wound down, Matthew declared they had some “fucking cocktail rock” left for everybody. I can’t say I’ve ever heard of that genre before, but the Arrogant Sea pulled it off. Electric guitarist Tony Whitlock and bassist Blake Vickrey added some true rock layers to it, though it was kept more relaxed; and the harmonies much of the band contributed at times sounded phenomenal. They actually had time for one more after that (most of their songs spanned several minutes); and then thanked those who were there for watching.
They may have had some setbacks, what with the keys, and even not having a drummer was different for them, but they pulled it all off. Rahim deserves some props for just going with the flow, and he never appeared displaced by not having a keyboard to play. The songs sounded great, too, and even without a full rhythm section, they still had a robust quality to them; and Matthews’ voice was pleasing to all the ears that were listening.
They were another band I had first seen at a previous King Camel show a few months back, and like the earlier mentioned band, I enjoyed M&TAS even more the second time around.
Keep an eye on their Facebook page for news on future shows. They also have an older release available in iTUNES, with some new music (hopefully) due out by year’s end.
Back on the inside stage was the husband and wife duo of Ian and Mila Hamilton, who make up Mannequins with Kill Appeal.
The name was every bit as intriguing as their music wound up being.
They did all of four songs in a set that was only about 15-minutes, and regularly alternated on who did the singing, with Mila starting them off.
The music was rooted in electronic elements, all of which were controlled by Ian, who had a laptop and some other gear in front of him, though each also wielded a guitar.
Fitting with the electronic vibe, the lyrics were hard to hear, but that didn’t hamper the music. They quickly built up to an explosive finish to their third song, which saw Ian shredding on his axe; and even after mixing it flawlessly into their final song, his playing just got progressively faster.
It’s not that I’m not open to electronic music, I’m just very selective to what I listen to. The fact that Mannequins with Kill Appeal married some rock music to their synthesized sounds made me like it all the more, and I was actually a little sad their set didn’t last any longer than it did, ‘cause I had just started really enjoying it.
There was yet another duo ready to rock now on the outdoor stage, and the was the slightly psychedelic, Mercury Rocket.
They tore things up on that stage; and when he wasn’t doing any singing, singer and guitarist Ben Fleming broke away from the mic stand and walked around. That may not have been a good idea at first, because as they concluded their first song, and he stepped away, the mic stand began to fall. Luckily, one spectator was quick to react and saved it.
Despite just being a two-piece, it was instantly clear Mercury Rocket had a fleshed out sound, and that first tune was even quite rich sounding. They rolled it right into the next song; and after another one, Ben killed some time by chitchatting with the onlookers.
“…We keep fucking up,” he remarked, adding, “It’s not your fault,” just so none of the crowd felt responsible for their issues. They got things in order and then ended their 23-minute long set with a song that featured some heavy use of an electronic drum pad that Graham Brotherton split his time between, though he still using his kit. There was also a nice delay effect in the guitar, creating an excellent sound.
Mercury Rocket is one band I’ve heard about, but hadn’t seen until this night. They were even better than I expected; and they packed a lot of energy into those handful of songs they did.
They’re a killer band in general, and an excellent duo; and that’s something the D/FW music scene can never have too much of.
You can find a collection of singles they’ve recorded on their BANDCAMP site, each for the low price of $1.
There were a few minutes of downtime, and then it was time for Bashe on the indoor stage.
“…That’s bash with an ‘e’ at the end…” singer and guitarist Joe Cepeda Overman informed everyone before they began. “And these are our songs,” he pointed out, before they embarked on their 31-minute long set. His twelve-string guitar helps add a more distinct tone to their shoegaze brand of rock; and as their first song reached its end, he walked back over by his amp to create some feedback.
That served as a bridge into the next one, which had a grand sound to it, with the drums from Zac Travis and TC Olivers’ bass all working in excellent harmony with one another. Another track got started with some ominous bass riffs, and upon finishing it, Joe circled back to where they began.
“We’re Bashe, and that was our music,” he remarked, before wishing a happy anniversary to King Camel. They had one more, though. “I’ll let you serenade me with this one,” shouted Jeff Brown, who wasn’t far off, because on this final track, Joe tapped into his falsetto voice at times.
Bashe helped continue the greatness of this day, giving the crowd (which was rapidly growing by this point) a solid performance with a near non-stop pace.
I first saw Bashe on this stage a few months before this (you guessed it, it was a King Camel show), and at the risk of sounding like a broken record, they, too, were a band who I thought was even better the second time around.
Their music is pretty fresh, in my opinion. For me, it’s just a perfect blend of indie rock and electronic, but unlike some of the bands who played before them, the vocals are still strong and easy to understand. It’s like they picked out the strongest attributes of each genre, and then got creative.
You can find two variations of their debut EP, Open Up, on BANDCAMP (one features the songs performed at a slower pace). Check it out; it’s a good piece to have in your collection.
Back on the patio, Fogg was already beginning their performance, and it was something to behold.
The trio was more hard rock, but merged a few different genres into their sound, including a little psychedelic and even some slight metal. They were equal parts instrumental, too, producing some killer, dirty rock sounds, with constant shredding from guitarist Chase Jowell (who also provided the vocals), and even bassist Brandon Hoffman. Drummer Ethan Lyons was also a machine, and just slayed on the kit.
“Is it too loud?” Chase asked at one point, responding to a couple of people who kept screaming for it to be louder (and faster). He quickly answered his on question with, “It’s probably not loud enough.”
Fogg could have had it cranked all the way up to eleven, and I don’t know if that would have been loud enough for people. They put on a spectacle of a show, and are skilled musicians who were even semi-technical with their styles. That made the instrumental segments all the better, because you could just watch them on their weapon of choice.
They were a surprise for me, as I was not expecting such a powerhouse show. It wound up being one of the best of the entire day.
They have some demos and fully produced songs you can get for free or just a few bucks over at BANDCAMP.
Hex Cult was about the only band on this bill I wasn’t able to get into.
I’m just not a fan of the screaming each member of the band does. Still, the two guys put on a ferocious show, and even if you don’t care for the music, that can be enough to keep you interested.
It peaked right at the end, when their singer jumped into the crowd, threw a bottle of water into the air, and then began acting wild as he thrashed around, rolled on the ground and even started a small mosh-pit with some of the fans who were willing to partake in it.
They, too, had kept their set short, and didn’t even start until about 9:15, and then did their thing in just fifteen-minutes.
War Party was another act I wasn’t expecting to like. I’m pretty confident I had seen them a couple years or so ago, and just didn’t care for them then. I think they’ve changed a little in that time, though.
I don’t recall a trombone being used, yet that was one instrument Chris Waldon added to many of the songs they squeezed into their 23-minutes on stage.
From a wicked bass solo on their first number (which Tyler Moore was responsible for), to a song that drummer Peter Marsh did most of the singing on, they kept you on your toes. Some of their pop/punk numbers were co-sung between lead singer and rhythm guitarist Cameron Smith and other band mates, and others saw Chris laying down the trombone to focus on the keyboard.
The constant was that the songs were always catchy and full of life, and they were getting some members of the crowd overly excited.
“Faster! Louder!” a couple of people shouted, prompting Cameron to say before a brand new song that he didn’t know how fast and loud it was. “But I don’t give a fuck,” he stated, dedicating the new tune to the one and only King Camel. Their closing number saw Cameron running the neck of his guitar along one of the cymbals, which made for a nice effect.
My thoughts on War Party from a few years ago and War Party now are completely different. They’ve found a style that really suits them, and they made it pretty hard not to love them this night. The show was energetic and fun, as I said, the music was pretty infectious, and with the different voices at their disposal, they managed to change things up often enough that you were constantly interested.
I’ve dismissed them over the years since my first encounter, but I won’t be doing that anymore.
They have several albums and singles to pick up over on BANDCAMP.
Back inside, Nite was having some trouble. Eventually, after nearly ten minutes of their set had been lost, they decided to play as a duo, as there were some technical difficulties with the drums.
“Hello, everybody. We are Nite, from Dallas,” one of the Mendes brothers announced, as they began to use the remaining 21-minutes they had.
The lead track from their debut album, “Are You Afraid?”, got things going; and I think pretty much everyone in the room felt a sudden primal urge to dance. Not that everyone did, but the music was so catchy that you had to move about in some regard, even if it was just swaying. Their electronic pop mixture was reminiscent of that of the 80’s new wave.
Kyle sat his bass down, while Myles ditched his guitar so they could just focus on their synthesizers (the “stands” for them were a couple of ironing boards, which I thought was pretty inventive). “The Waking” showed off their full electronic side, but they went back to the instruments as they wound things right into “City On Fire”. Even with the instruments, there was a real dreamy sound to the song, though there was also a good moment when the brothers stood next to each other as they jammed for a bit.
“This goes out to all of you, especially King Camel himself,” one of them said, before sending everyone into a frenzy with the unmistakable beginning to Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)”. They pulled of a great rendition of the beloved song; and with each of them doing some singing this night, they were able to do some killer co-singing at times on that one, as well as covering all the backing vocals.
That was definitely a highlight of their set; and now, they found themselves apologizing for their technical issues earlier, and how it cut into things. It was sad, especially knowing that they could have fit another song or two in, but stuff like that happens, and what are you going to do?
“We Were Strong” was another good one, and “On the Edge of Darkness” wrapped things up for them; and it was on that song that Myles found a point he could really get into it, and violently thrashed about.
Nite provided yet another highlight of my day at the King Camelversary. They offered another pleasant surprise; and compared to the other electronic bands, it was a good change of pace to see one who focused on a totally different area of the genre.
It would have been interesting to see them as a three-piece, but even as a makeshift duo they commanded the crowd, entertaining their old fans and making some new ones fall in love with them.
You can find their I Am Not Afraid record in iTUNES, as well as BANDCAMP. If you’d like to see them live, well, they’ll be back here at Dada on September 13th.
I then headed back outside, to see and hear Dead Mockingbirds, who had gotten off to a slightly early start and were just finishing what I believe was their opener.
“How you doing, Dallas?” asked singer and guitarist Kenneth Pritchard afterwards. As they had been doing all night, a couple of people shouted, almost demanding they play faster and louder. “We’re trying to,” Kenneth answered. “We’ve been here all day, fucking with those doors,” he said, pointing at the set of doors that led to and from the venue, and it took a while to get used to them, constantly confusing people on whether they should push or pull, and they often stuck, making it even trickier.
They kept barreling through their set, doing a track that had a great guitar solo worked in (it was the first of handful this night); and on that, the bass Trinidad Diaz was wielding really helped in accenting the other instruments. “We have merchandise for sale,” Kenneth remarked after another song, though he soon confessed, “I don’t remember where it is, though.”
Kenneth continued wailing on his axe, while Matthew Crain hammered away on the drums; and the smile he wore for pretty much the entire show let you know that he was in his happy place. “Are we getting fast enough yet?” Kenneth asked after a few more songs, one of which was an instrumental piece.
They were certainly getting there; and now, they had a brand new song for everyone. Kenneth began what was largely an instrumental jam, before Trinidad and Matt layered their instruments over a song that was titled “Jeffrey Brown”. It was pretty catchy, too. Kenneth pointed out the title upon finishing it, getting a laugh from nearly everyone, especially the promoter. I don’t know how seriously anyone took that, but after chatting with them later on this night, they did tell me that really is the title.
“You guys are just so good looking!” Kenneth exclaimed before their up-tempo version of “Munich”, which really got everyone going. The music tapered off, and then, with a speedy drum roll, Matt launched them into their final song.
Before this, it had been several months since the last time I had seen Dead Mockingbirds. Too long, in fact.
There were a few new songs this night, mixed with some of the others that, while they may not have been recorded, have still become fan favorites.
A Dead Mockingbird show is a fun one. There’s a lot of energy and great musicianship involved, all of which makes for a great concert experience. At least it did this night.
You can snag their singles in iTUNES, and they are currently working on a full record. Maybe it’ll be ready by the second King Camelversary. Also, you can find some more songs of theirs for free download on REVERBNATION.
That was the end of things outdoors, and now people headed back in for Cutter.
I had seen this two-piece electronic outfit before, and surprisingly, it was not at a KC show.
They set a nice atmosphere, supplying their own lights. So, while the house lights were completely out, the stage was illuminated by some high-powered clear light bulbs that shown on each member.
The duty of singing was often rotated, and drummer Jared Coffey handled it on their first song, using both his drum kit (which consists of only a few pieces) and the electronic drums, while Alex Velte hunched over some of the keys and synthesizers, banging his head along to the music.
They had a smoke machine at the ready, too, and before one song, a large cloud covered the stage, before slowly spilling out towards the audience. The band really is about the mood as much as the music and that smoke goes a long way for it.
“This is the most badass song I’ve ever listened to!” Jeff Brown shouted before one of the bands tracks; and during it, Alex grabbed the smoke machine and held it up, allowing it to billow out in every direction. They only slowed down when Alex had to go get his laptop — which he had left in the green room — and once he returned, he picked up a bass to give the rhythm of the next song more of a kick.
They were on a roll now, going right into their next song, and then jumping into the final number of their 28-minute long set.
Cutter knows a great concert isn’t just about the performance, but the overall aesthetic, and while it may be nothing fancy, the little elements they bring in make a huge difference.
They have a couple EP’s you can get over on BANDCAMP; and if you ever have a chance to go see them, take it. You won’t be disappointed.
For the first time all day, people actually had to wait on the music. Luckily, my wait was shortened since I stepped out on the patio and chatted with the guys from Dead Mockingbirds, right up until Sweet Spirit started.
The Austin-based band was just finishing their first song when I walked back in; and soon after, Sabrina Ellis thanked everyone for being there. Aside from the lead vocals, she also acted as the third guitarist for most of their set,; and they cranked out a couple more songs, which were primarily rock, though some even had little hints of soul thrown in.
“We’re here because we’re friends of Jeffrey’s!” Sabrina stated at one point, noting that he got them into some trouble last time they played one of his shows. “…I peed my own puke off the sidewalk,” she said, speaking of their last Dallas visit. The promoter was once again standing near me, enjoying the band, and when I asked if that was a true story, he neither confirmed nor denied it.
Andrew Cashen and Joshua Merry were then left as the only guitarists for a bit, which worked out for the best. Sabrina was better suited for the frontwoman role, as was seen on the next song, and after adding several lines to the track about how they were here for their friend Jeffrey, she grabbed her stretchy pants and hiked them, making a camel toe, before turning around and shaking her ass in Jeff’s face. If there was still any doubt that this was not a party, that solidified that it was.
Several more songs followed, and even with the tight conditions having six members on stage created, they still found enough room to move about. Bassist Jon Fichter walked back by Danny Lions’ drum kit on one song, propping his leg up on the bass drum; and while it was often masked by the roaring guitars and such, the keyboard Jake Knight was playing added a nice underlying element.
After finding out their time was almost up, the six of them had to figure out what final songs to do, and there were some split opinions. They compromised, though, first doing “Rebel, Rebel”, which had nearly all the band singing different parts of the song, often handling some of the lines in rounds. The song Sabrina was adamant they play was “Take Me to a Party”, which was one awesome track, and seemed appropriate to end with.
Sweet Spirit provided another memorable set here at the King Camelversary. The performance was untamed and very primal, just like any rock show should be. They kept it all quite fun, too (until this night, I had never seen a band member parade around on stage showing off a camel toe).
It was all highly entertaining. Even the music was a little more original sounding, and different from most of the stuff that’s out there.
I’m already looking forward to seeing them again, whenever they might come back this way.
After that final rock band, the night ended on an electronic note, thanks to Blackstone Rangers.
They eased everyone who was still there (which was a decent crowd) into their show with some softer songs, that more heavily relied on the synth and keys Ruth Smith was playing, along with singing the gauzy vocals. However, the deeper they got into their second number, the more they started showing off their rock side, with guitarist Derek Kutzer and drummer Daniel Bornhorst growing louder and more fierce with their playing.
That seemed to be when people really started getting into it; and they followed it with another song that started off pretty light, though experienced a sudden sharp rise in the music. “Now comes the good part of our set,” Ruth remarked shortly after, and on the song that followed, Derek wound up breaking a string. Luckily, it didn’t happen until late, and he was able to replace it during the next break.
Ruth killed time by making clear how unsatisfied she was with the mic stand. Indeed, the fact that the microphone was secured by a clip seemed odd, and just in watching them this night you could tell it had already created some setbacks. She made that known, saying she didn’t know who thought that would be a good idea, and when she did remove the mic to move around a bit, it complicated things when she had to work to put the mic back. “It fucking sucks,” she said at one point, also calling it a “joke”.
No, she was not at all fond of it.
They had a friend, Ben, join them on a song, who rounded out the outfit with a bass; and then threw in a couple more songs, one of which Derek just shredded on.
Blackstone Rangers was yet another band on this bill who doesn’t fit the mold of what I typically like, but actually, I enjoyed them even more this night than I had the first time around (and I liked them then.)
They pull off the electronic rock style quite well, even adding some shoegaze elements into it. The crowd really liked it this night, and it just felt like a good note to end on.
Their next show is going to be at Hailey’s in Denton on September 19th.They also have a tour of the Mid-West and West Coast starting in late October through mid November. Those dates can be found HERE. You can also find their EP’s on BANDCAMP.
This was one helluva day. Kudos to King Camel for putting together such a sweet spectacle of a lineup. From start to finish, there was never a dull moment, and all day long, this did feel like a party.
Not just a party for his success in the past year, but also a party for anyone and everyone who has had any part in that, which includes the fans who have supported him by coming out to all the shows. In turn, he booked this show for the fans as much as he did himself, with the end goal being that everyone would just enjoy themselves and have a good time. Mission accomplished.