Friday, April 25th, 2014 – The Dirty River Boys Return to Granada Theater

These days, the Granada Theater might be known for booking larger national and international touring acts, but the great thing about the historic Dallas venue is that they give a variety of bands a chance. This Friday night happened to be one of those nights, as The Dirty River Boys returned to the Granada for what I’m pretty certain was their second headlining appearance there.

Getting the night started was
Tyler and The Tribe, who didn’t have nearly as large a crowd as they deserved, but you could tell they were just enjoying being on the stage performing for some people.

Their 38-minute set was a mix of songs from both of their full-length albums, beginning with the lead track from 2012’s “Rock On”, “Love Me, Hate Me”. The rocking country-infused number quickly captured everyone’s attention, and Heath Robinson got to show off what a great guitarist he is during a slick solo. The four-piece then transitioned seamlessly into the subsequent track from that album, slowing things down just a bit with “Can’t Remember it”. It still had some roaring parts, though, like towards the end when Heath and singer and guitarist Tyler Jones approached one another and cranked out some notes.

They stepped the pace back up, even kicking into overdrive as they blew through “Stupid Crazy”, a song that really appealed to me, and no doubt any other people in attendance who are rock fans first and foremost. They brought their honkytonk roots back for “Chokehold”, and as a sample drum track bridged them into their next song, Tyler mentioned this next one just might be heard on the radio before long. He also addressed the crowd a little more personally. “Our time here is short, but we’re glad to be here with you.” he said. By that point, drummer Jordan Owens had started laying down some beats, and he, along with bassist Colton Joe Smith and Heath all provided some backup vocals on “Can I See You Again?”

Once it was done, Tyler asked everyone if they’d be alright with Jordan doing some singing. What came next was something I would never have expected a country band to do, not even one that has hefty doses of rock. Jordan sang the first few lines of Blink 182’s “All the Small Things”, before Tyler took over. Yeah, not exactly what you would have thought they would do. Then again, I wouldn’t have guessed they could make it sound as spectacular as they did, and it was quite possibly the best song of their set.

Those who were there seemed pretty impressed by that killer cover, and they applauded over the drumming, as Jordan wound them into something that was a little more relaxed, “Heaven and Hell”. The three guys at the forefront of the stage stood in a line at the end of it, each strumming their instruments. They bled it into “Indigo Heart”, which eventually gave way to their final number, “Uncivil Honkytonk”. The band huddled around the drum kit towards the end of that one, before breaking loose, and Tyler and Heath helped end it with some dueling guitar solos. “We’ll see y’all around.” Tyler told the audience after the songs semi-sudden ending.

I don’t think this show could have had a better opening band, and Tyler and The Tribe rocked the place, holding their own against the two remaining acts.

To me, the countryside the band mines is more similar to the Nashville Country style that currently dominates the country charts. Only difference—and it’s a big one—is that while they may have that radio friendly sound, they pull it off without fitting the cookie cutter mold. In fact, they sound quite original, and the content of music is heavier than what’s coming out of Nashville right now.

They’re a great band (especially live), and you should check out their music on
iTUNES. If you like that, they keep a pretty busy schedule, playing all over Texas, and even elsewhere. Check out their TOUR PAGE, and if they’re coming to a town near you, it would be in your best interest to see them.

More and more people were their way in, and
Lincoln Durham had a pretty big and dedicated fanbase awaiting his arrival on stage.

I had heard of him before, sometime a little while back, though knew little about. For example, I had no idea he was a one-man band.

The screen covering the stage was raised to reveal him center stage, a kick drum and another drum or two sitting around him, and a rack of guitars, banjos, etc. beside him.

In one hand he held a suitcase, the other a drumstick, which he used to beat the suitcase, while his feet worked some of the other percussion instruments as he began “Ballad of a Prodigal Son”. The whole number was haunting up to a point, and despite the minimal sound it had, you couldn’t help but be drawn to it. Then he tossed both of those to the ground and picked up a guitar, using it to close out the track, which was when the show really began.

I believe he followed it with “Last Red Dawn”, after which he spoke to his fans, both old and new. “My name is The Dirty River Boys.” he informed the crowd, getting a laugh from just about everyone. Of course he wasn’t, and in case there was any confusion, he cleared it up, before issuing an apology to everyone. “…It’s only going downhill from here.” he joked, as he finished changing out to an acoustic guitar for “Stupid Man”.

He then swapped out to the banjo, and as soon as they saw it, many of the fans cheered. “Don’t get too excited, I can’t actually play it.” Lincoln told them, before dedicating the next song to “judgmental people”. Then it was back to the acoustic for “another delightful little song about puppy dog kisses and sunshine”. The sarcasm in Lincoln’s voice when he said that was through the roof, yet he said it convincingly. “Beautifully Sewn, Violently Torn” was certainly not about any of that. In fact, it was rather dark, a style he seems to be a master of, and it was perhaps one of his best songs of the night.

He gave everyone one more older song (which I believe was “Mama”), before getting to some newer material. The first of those was my favorite of the new bunch (mostly because I just liked the chorus, “And if the noose breaks…”), though the one that followed was also quite good.

He brought the electric guitar back out for what he noted was about the only love song he had. “And it’s still sung from the grave.” he added. He was referring to “Clementine”, and while it may not have been a chipper song, it was a sweeter one on some levels.

Another song would have been all percussion, consisting of the snare and kick drums, as well as a shaker, though Lincoln also played some notes on a harmonica at times. A few more songs followed, one of which was “Sinner”, then he again changed instruments, this time picking one that not everyone knew, so he explained it.

“This is a Diddley Bow guitar, more commonly known as a cigar box guitar.” Said Lincoln, who then simplified all that by saying it was basically “a broomstick that’s got a G string on it.” He made a lot of noise with that simple looking instrument on “Annie Departee”, a song where he worked in the names of all four members of The Dirty River Boys.

It was quite the end to a 57-minute long set. Then again, Lincoln Durham’s quite the artist.

He may well be the greatest one-man band to ever walk the earth. At least he’s the best I’ve seen, and he can make as much if not more noise than many full bands can.

It was a spectacle of a show, and I’m quite glad I didn’t know much about him, because it gave me more of a surprise. A pleasant one.

At the risk of sounding uncreative, Lincolns’ Facebook page has him described as “Southern-Gothic-Roots-Rock-Revival-Punk”. And all of those genres were represented this night—even all at once at times. He’s crafted a sound that’s completely his own, and his gruff, twangy voice is unmistakable. Go see him if you can. I know I’m going to have to start trying to catch more of the shows he does when he’s in the Dallas area.

For a full list of said shows, go
HERE. And to find his albums, head over to iTUNES.

The last time The Dirty River Boys played the Granada (which was in late November of the previous year), it was a rainy, cold night, and few people braved the weather to come to the show. Apparently, that might have been the only reason so few people were there then, because as their 10:20 start time approached, the Granada was pretty packed. And considering they’re still just a regional band, I’d say it was an excellent turnout, and everybody was eager for the show to get on the road.

Some slightly ominous intro music played, but only briefly before the quartet took the stage, and all eyes were surely focused on bassist Colton James, who had a sling on his left hand. “Give a hand to CJ, who’s playing with broken collarbone.” bellowed Travis Stearns from atop his cajon. The fans did just that.

Shortly after, Marco Gutierrez counted them into their opening number, and he and fellow singer and acoustic guitarist Nino Cooper spilt the work on the vocals of “My Son”, even letting their voices harmonize at times. That oldie had the majority of the people there singing along, and they weren’t going give themselves or anyone else a breather as they rolled it right into “Letter to Whoever”. Travis flat out killed it on the drums on that one, going above even what’s the norm for him, as he alternated between beating on the cajon with his hands and banging on the drum kit. Nino stood out on the song, too, and the solo he ripped into before the final chorus was completely captivating. I’ve said it before, but it’s really amazing what some effects via a pedal board can do to an acoustic guitar. Wow.

“Give it up for our boy Lincoln Durham.” Marco said, while still plucking at the strings of his guitar, taking them right into the next one, which happened to be the ever beautiful, “Train Station”. Thus far, fans had enthusiastically sang along to all of those songs, but as Travis fired up the next one, using that time to announce who they were and that they hailed from El Paso, the crowd realized they were starting one they didn’t know. So instead, they just watched the band, giving them their complete and undivided attention as Colton, who was sitting on a stole this night, sang it. Not unlike his band mates, he’s got a great voice, and while it looked strange seeing him seated and not using his primary instrument (the upright bass), that did nothing to affect how he—or the song—sounded.

The crowd eagerly applauded that new song, while Marco kept right on playing, eventually getting into the chord structure that makes “Heart Like That” so catchy. “…Find yourself; watch the stars align…” belted Nino closer to the end, a line that a lot of people could probably take to heart, in the sense of chasing your dreams or whatever.

They stuck on the “Science of Flight” album, and as they got ready for “Dried Up”, everyone was encouraged to sing along, particularly on the chorus. “Let me hear you! You can do better than that!” roared Travis in the middle of the first chorus, his words causing some to sing louder, while others decided they’d join in. Marco egged them on a bit during the second chorus; and as they approached the end, he tacked on the first little bit of Bob Dylans’ “Just Like a Woman”, which was something everyone sang along with. “Let’s hear your voices!” shouted Travis at the end, making one final push to get everybody involved.

Moments later, all eyes turned to Nino on stage right, as he started “Union Painter”, a song that all of his band mates backed him up on, and the song sounded even better than it typically does. It was definitely one of the highlights of their show this night.

Upon finishing it, Marco took a second to give Colton some accolades. “Cheers to CJ for rocking this out and not missing a note, man.” he said, before they tackled another new one, which he [Marco] sang lead on, and during a little instrumental break in it, Travis tossed one his drum sticks into the air, and he made catching it look like a piece of cake.

Now it was time for another sing along, and Travis asked who had seen them before, and then how many first timers were there, telling anyone who might not know the lyrics that they were easy to learn. “…To die, oh, to die beneath the Dallas sky.” Nino sang on “Boomtown”, changing the line just slightly to fit where they were, and some of the fans did join them in singing on that foot stomper.

They rolling along, and Travis mentioned that Townes Van Zandt would have been seventy now, if he had still been living. It was good lead in to their rendition of “Lungs”, and once it was done, they churned out another new one, which again was handled by Colton, and featured a cool, polished sounding lead in. As they finished it, Nino nodded to Marco, a gesture he understood completely. “We’re gonna try another new one on ya.” Marco announced, as they hammered out one I don’t believe I’ve heard them do before, and it was a really great tune.

It was this past December and January when they recorded their forthcoming album, and after finishing that song, Travis made an announcement that it would be released in two to three months, which got folks pretty excited. So excited, that it was easy to overlook that Nino had already began their current single (and no doubt the first single off this upcoming album), “Desert Wind”.

Before they went any further, Travis had an anecdote to share, and he said that before the show, when his band mates went to get something to eat, he and a friend went next door to Sundown at Granada and hung out. That was where he saw a bartender make a drink where they crushed cinnamon sugar on top, and that was something Travis just couldn’t believe. “…All you need is cold beer or a shot.” he declared, while the rest of the band played an intro to their next song, continuously increasing the pace as they went along. “Draw” was dedicated to whoever may have ordered that drink with cinnamon crushed on top of it, and given that the chorus is “Oh, how that whiskey feels alright. Diluted decisions through the night…”, it was an appropriate one.

Things slowed down a bit with “Riverbed Wildflowers”, a song about letting go of a love, and stayed a little more quite as just Marco played up through the first chorus of one song that every single Dirty River Boys fan absolutely loves, “Carnival Lights”. “Are y’all singing with us?!” asked Travis. The “Granada Theater Choir” as Marco called everyone later on was still with them, even at the tail end when they added on a cover of Hank Williams’ “I Saw the Light”.

Those snippets of covers weren’t all they were going to do this night, and after an awesome harmonica solo courtesy of Marco, Nino began belting out the words of “Red House” by Jimi Hendrix. Not a song you’d expect from an Americana/rock band, but they tapped into a deep and intense bluesy, soulful rock side, especially on an astounding guitar solo Nino did, that left one fan removing his cowboy hat and waving it Nino.

Between Lincoln Durham’s set and the what The Dirty River Boys had set about him during their show, it was clear both acts at a strong bond, so it was no surprise when Lincoln joined them on stage. The rubber hawk mask he had over his head was another story, though. The crowd laughed, and he quickly took it off and picked up a guitar to help them out on this next number, which Travis pointed out was about their hometown, and the violence that currently plagues it. “…We hope that violence stops, and one day we can go back and do all the crazy shit we used to.” he said, before they did one of their best new tracks, “Down by the River”, where he again threw a drum stick into the air, on two different occasions at that. Lincoln’s contributions to the song were great, too, the electric guitar giving it a little more kick, and on the chorus he would lean in with Marco and help on singing.

They had been on stage for quite awhile now, but still showed no signs of slowing down, and Marco took some time to thank the other bands as well as the Granada Theater, saying that it was one of their favorite rooms to play. Travis then showed off his skills on the harmonica as they readied “Six Riders”, and then things got really interesting.

“We’re gonna try something we literally have never tried before.” Marco told the audience, while Nino and Colton swapped instruments. Yeah, that did look different. Before carrying on, the band finally shared the story of how Colton had broken his collar bone, and while I had trouble hearing parts of it, Travis mentioned that Colton is an avid skateboarder, even saying he would gladly let Colton jump over him and do other stunts once he gets healed. So, along with skateboarding, a rotisserie chicken was also involved. “That boy loves his rotisserie chicken.” Marco said. It was entertaining, and one of those stories that sounds so crazy, there’s no way it could have been made up.

They did one final new one for the night, and as they finished it, Travis jumped over his kit to get to Travis, hugging him, before they got back to their original instruments. Giving that there was at least one song they couldn’t really do due to the injury, they made up for it be busting out “Road Song”, which was thoroughly enjoyed by all. Clapping was going on while Marco played a harmonica solo, and Travis did two drum solos, one on the kit and one on the cajon, while they all harmonized at the end of it, capping off their 102-minute long set. Then came the best part, which was when Travis pulled off the board on the front of the cajon that he had been slapping all night. It was weak anyway, and he broke it in two with no trouble at all, handing each of the pieces to some fans.

That looked like it might do away with any chance of an encore, but there was at least one song they had to come back and play. Luckily, they did even more than that.

Nino and Marco returned to the stage after a minute or so, doing a lengthy guitar portion, before the other half of the band joined them, fully fleshing out “She”. The only time I’ve heard that one live was the last time they played the Granada, and given that it’s another favorite of mine, I was ecstatic. “..She’s gonna light you like a match on fire just to watch you burn. She’ll spin you like her favorite record until you can’t take no more…” sang Marco on the chorus of that song that’s a little more rock sounding when compared to the rest of their older material.

TO end this 12-minute encore section (and the night in general), they did another beloved song “Raise Some Hell”, which is more than just an anthem about having raucous good time. Take for example the line, “Close your eyes child, this world will wash you up. Hold close what you believe…” There’s a lot of emotion put into it, too, and fans were shouting along to every word of the catchy song that had Nino using the mandolin.

By the time this show concluded, my mind was blown. Phenomenal show, possibly the Dirty River Boys I’ve seen yet, due largely to the longer set they did. I mean, it was almost two hours. Tell me, what bands, especially regional touring bands who aren’t known worldwide just yet, do shows like that?

They have enough material they could even play longer if they wished, and once this new album drops and they work even more new songs in, I wouldn’t put it out of the question from time to time.

Speaking of their new album, I was quite glad to finally hear a timetable on that, and that’s one more thing to be excited about this summer.

If you haven’t seen a Dirty River Boys show yet, I can promise you you’re depriving yourself, rather you know it or not. Hey, there’s a reason why I’ve seen them every month this year so far, and I’m really hoping I can continue that trend.

Their full tour schedule can be viewed HERE, and their DFW dates include a show at Hank’s in McKinney on May 17th, the Capitol Bar in Fort Worth on June 11th and then the Gas Monkey Bar & Grill on July 12th. They’ll be all over the place though, and just might be coming to a town near you. Be sure to check out their music in iTUNES, too.

It was a great night of music here at Granada. But then again, when is it not?

Saturday, May 10th, 2014 – Rubbernecking at the Fifth Annual Homegrown Music Fest (Part II)

The massive gathering of people now made their way back to the Chevy Music stage, where Crowley-native Jordan Richardson was ready to rock with his band, Son of Stan.

The current Los Angeles resident had traveled a ways to play this show, and he began by saying that this was the time of day when it turns from day to night, the “transition” period, as he put it. “Plus, it’s also, like, four-twenty… So y’all know what to do.” he told the crowd, before they opened with “You Never Liked The Way You Left Home”. Apart from Cliff who was on bass duty and the drummer, Jordan had also enlisted the help of a saxophonist, and this was one song he lent his talent to, giving it even more texture, which in turn made it sound superb. He repeated the line that is the songs title near the end, then in a break, shouted, “They’re asking questions in Grand Prairie!”, trying and succeeding at getting a rise out of the audience.
imageThe saxophone player left after that, and Jordan proceeded to chat about the weather. “This is the next to last day before it’ll be a thousand degrees forever.” he cracked, before saying aloud that he could cross weather talk off his list. “This song’s called Rochelle and Connie!” he declared, as they launched into another track from the “Divorce Pop” album. He dabbled on the synthesizer at times, though the best moment came when he stepped back by his amp and rocked out on his guitar, balancing on one leg and stretching the other out behind him.

“This next song’s about nutrition.” he told the people as they moved on to “Corsica”. It was rather fitting they play this song—which is partially about the old Chevy car—on the Chevy Stage. As if the song laced with infectious strands of pop weren’t enough, there were some laughs thrown in, too. “Look at the building over there!” shouted Jordan at one point, before hastily asking people to look back at him. It was all in good fun, and he again balanced on one leg, this time using his chin to play his little keyboard/synthesizer as he did so.

“You can catch Cliff showing off his skills later in the Chevy truck…” Jordan told the patrons in a serious tone. There was one parked on a small hill, and, as he put it, it was “showing off its prowess on a thirty degree angle.” Sticking with the Chevy theme, he said something conveying how great the company was. “I’m obligated to say that after they gave each of us a Corvair…” he said, adding that “Ralph Nader was pissed about it”. He was entertaining the crowd on just about every level, but now they got back to the music with “Noxeema”. “…We’re the obscene, we’re the ones who like to dream…” goes one of the lines from what is my personal favorite Son of Stan song.

“We’ve got a couple more hot jams for you.” Jordan told the crowd after that one, before confessing he had been so consumed with remembering the Chevy Stage, he didn’t even know what the other one was called. “I think it’s the Central Oil Stage.” Cliff answered. He traded in his bass for a guitar for this next one, and after some more banter, Jordan mentioned this was his “band of fairly large men.” That was followed by a strategic pause, before he leaned back into the microphone, “It’s that way on purpose.”

The saxophonist rejoined them for “Look of Leave”, and both he and Cliff got pretty intense at the end of it, really throwing down. That wasn’t the most impressive moment of the show, though. The most impressive moment came after, when another musician joined them on stage, taking the guitar from Jordan, while he ran over to the slightly smaller drum kit set up to the (stage) right of the main kit. Yeah, “Sadie”, which concluded their 37-minute long set, featured duel percussion, and he and the drummer kept in pretty good time with one another, often hitting the same drums and cymbals.

It was a very cool way to end it, and clearly Jordan is one of those musicians who has mastered multiple instruments, and goes all-out no matter what he happens to be playing.

I really enjoyed this set, especially since I only saw a portion of a Son of Stan show a couple months before this, and now I was somewhat familiar with the songs.

As I said, Jordan entertained the people on multiple levels, and as far as humor goes, I don’t think any band even came close to touching Son of Stan this day. They also rank pretty high on the list of being one of the best rock acts of the day.

He gets to Texas fairly often to do shows, though the next Son of Stan gig will be at the Silverlake Lounge in Los Angeles on June 10th. You can also listen to/buy the “Divorce Pop” album on either iTUNES or BANDCAMP.

Next up on the Shiner Stage was an indie band from Austin, The Black and White Years, who also incorporated a certain degree of new wave to their music.

They have four albums to their credit, and all of those were represented in their brief 32-minute set, beginning with “To Modern Science”, which washed over the crowd, infecting many with its dance vibes. It was fun music; and after reeling people in with that tune, guitarist Landon Thompson remarked what a “beautiful festival” we [the Dallasites] had going on. That brought them to the lead track/single from the “Patterns” album, “Up!”. The deep sounds of the kick drum Billy Potts was knocking out overshadowed everything else at the start, before the song hit its full stride, sounding reminiscent of something from the 80’s.

It’s not like they were trying to replicate that, though. Rather, this was the music they enjoyed making, and folks sure seemed to be enjoying it. That probably had something to do with how easy it was to groove along to, and it made it easier to forget the sun, which sit directly overhead now, was beating down relentlessly.

Bassist John Aldridge focused on the keys/synthesizers for their next song, but even then, those sounds had a heavy bass tone to them, and if you were close enough to the stage, you could feel the vibrations it was causing. Now they did a couple cuts from their latest release, which included “Little One”, before dishing out the upbeat “We’re Making Friends”, which brought some real positive vibes with it.

Landon introduced their next jam, mentioning that if anyone listened to one of the radio stations (I believe it was 102.1 The Edge), then they might have heard “Power to Change” on it. There came a point when he threw his hands into the air and began clapping along to the beat. “This is where you put your hands up and clap along!” he told the audience, many of whom followed suit.

You could tell all four of them were getting pretty hot up there, and Landon laughed slightly after that one while saying he had to wipe the sweat off. That went for the guitar strings, too, and he ran the towel across the fretboard, though they weren’t letting that slow them down in the least. Next came “Two Reservoirs”, which was surely the best song of their set, all thanks to the awesome whistling singer and rhythm guitarist Scott Butler did at the start and end of it. It was so chipper it just brightened your mood, which is a bit of a contrast to what the song’s about. “We met too soon, didn’t we? We were too young to be lovers…” he sang at the start. Landon really got into that song, too, tearing it up on his guitar and holding it in the air as he strummed it.

Already (and all too quickly), they had arrived at the end of their set, and to finish it, they performed the final track from their self-titled album, “Zeros and Ones”.

The Black and White Years provided what was one of the biggest surprises to me of the day, because while I had listened to them online and really enjoyed their music, their live show was even better. They happened to play at just the right time, too, because their music served to rejuvenate people’s spirits, giving them the extra push they needed to get through the rest of the day. Then again, maybe that was just me since I had already been out here several hours.

Either way you slice it, they were excellent, and I don’t think anyone would have had a problem if they had played longer.

If you’re in Austin (or want to make a trip down there), they have a show at the Scoot Inn on June 14th. You should really check out their music on iTUNES, too.

Now came a part in the day were I was a bit skeptical. North Texas favorites, Seryn (they’re from Denton) were set to play.

It had been a little over three years since the band released their highly praised about album, “This is Where We Are”. I had heard nothing but exceptional things about the band before that album came out. I went and bought it days after its release, and soon after, I saw my first Seryn show.

The arrangements of all of their songs are flawless and live, the multiple harmonies were astounding, but overall, I never cared for their live show. I saw them a couple of times and thought they lacked energy, and the beautiful music alone wasn’t enough to keep me going to live shows. For me, their music was better enjoyed in front of a pair of speakers or with some headphones on. Mind you that was three years ago, and a lot can change in three years.

This was a completely new Seryn that stood on the Chevy Music Stage. I mean that quite literally, ‘cause with the comings and goings of different members, there were a few new faces from the last time I had seen them. And of course, I mean that figuratively, too.

They began with a heavy hitting instrumental piece, and Trenton Wheeler, who does most of the singing, even used his teeth for a few moments to play his ukulele. Yeah, that was something I had never seen from them before. “Homegrown Fest, thanks so much for being here.” he said to the collection of fans, before they got things underway with their most current single, “Disappear”.

Wow. They weren’t lacking in the energy department now, and the triumphant sound the song had captivated everyone, and let’s not exclude the co-singing/harmonizing that Trenton and guitarist Jenny Moscoso did. “This is the best Homegrown yet.” Trenton declared once the song was over and the applause had died down. He then picked up the floor tom and moved it closer to him. The vibrant and lush colors of it have faded over the years, though it still resembles the album artwork of “This is Where We Are”, and now they did the song that cemented them as a must-see act in D/FW, and helped them gain traction to become a touring band, “We Will All Be Changed”.

Trenton used a maraca to strike the tom, putting a lot of force into it, though made it look as if it required little effort. That was really the only song most fans got to sing along with, and they made the best of that anthem, before the band moved along to a single they dropped in 2013, “Ivory Black”. It was in the vein of what the band has made their specialty: being both gorgeous and rocking, and on each section, Scarlett Dearing and her violin sounded fantastic.

Lead guitarist Nathan James Allen bridged them into their next song with some mangled sounding notes, and for the rest of their 35-minute set, fans were getting a taste of what their upcoming sophomore album will sound like. Based on these songs, it should even outdo their debut, and the next track they did had an epic sound to it, as all the instruments worked in perfect harmony with one another. Afterwards, Trenton mentioned the cloud cover, which at times offered people a little reprieve from the rays of the sun. “We paid the clouds, but they didn’t stick around.” he joked before one song, while the next one he offered an explanation for, which had to do with missing someone while out on the road. “…But the nice thing about being home is we’re with you guys…” he told the crowd, before doing another lovely song that Jenny did some singing on.

Towards the end of it, Trenton again beat on the tom, before finishing by tossing the maraca behind him, as it landed close to Jordan Rocheforts’ drum kit. Already they had come to the end of their set, and to end things, they treated people to a brand new song, titled “Paths”. “We hope you like it.” Trenton said beforehand.

It was impossible not to like, from the dominant rhythm section of bassist Aaron David Stoner and Jordan, to the guitars, violin and ukulele. It engrossed you from the start, though all of that really came out towards the end, and once the last line had been sung, Trenton rushed to the front of the stage, throwing his hands into the air to get a rise out of the people. They shouted and hollered and then some, and after the band said their goodbyes, there were cries for more, many requesting, “More older stuff!”

I walked away from the stage feeling blown away. As a group, Seryn has done a lot of growing over the years, and the one thing that kept me from seeing them anymore than I did years ago now happens to be something they have perfected.

I still can’t get over how energetic they were, all six of them; and that, combined with how tight and professional they were made them something else to watch. No doubt their heavy touring schedule has helped with that.

Stupendous. That’s the one word I would use to describe their set, and I won’t let it be another three years or so before I see them again.

Their tour schedule can be found HERE, and includes a few dates in the U.S. in June, before doing a string of festivals in Canada in July. iTUNES or BANDCAMP are the places to go to get there music, and hopefully before long they’ll have a new album out for everyone’s enjoyment.

Two years ago, Luis Dubuc, better known by his stage name, Mystery Skulls, played Homegrown. That (along with the after party) served as his farewell, and shortly after he moved to Los Angeles. Given the electronic, dance vibe his music has, that’s clearly a better city to be in (and last year he did ink a deal with Warner Bros. Records), but for all his hometown fans, that means limited opportunities to see him. I hadn’t seen him since that third installment of Homegrown, and I think he’s only made one or maybe two trips back to the area since then, which meant his fans and friends were out in droves for this.

He got his first track going by cranking it up louder and louder, before suddenly turning it down so much that silence fell upon the park. “Come closer, we’re gonna have a good fucking time.” he told everyone, before blasting the music back up. Much of what he did this day was new material, but no one cared rather they knew it or not. They were just glad to be hearing the music and danced along to the pulsating beat, before Luis finally picked up the mic and began singing.

“I’m so excited to be back in Dallas!” he shouted during that one. Each song wound directly into the next; to the point it was hard to distinguish a couple of them from one another. “Who’s having a good fucking time so far?!” he asked after the second number, before telling the audience, “When this shit comes in, I want to see you banging your fucking heads.”

That one did have a very metal sound to its start, and thrashing came easy, especially to those parked in front of the stage. “Let’s keep this shit going!” he roared before “Fantasy”, which is kind of about being infatuated with someone. “You’re my fucking fantasy.” he crooned, before the beat would kick back in. It was the next song that I really enjoyed, and the lyrics were something like “…I’m hell-bent…”.

That one possessed the crowd like no other had thus far, and he took that momentum and expanded upon it with the old/new song, “Ghost”. A demo version was made a couple years back, but now it’s been polished up, and currently, it’s the first single off the forthcoming Mystery Skulls album. All eyes were on him on what was made out to be the last song he had time for. He even pointed out that this was “easily” the best show he had ever played in Dallas, which made it all the harder to know it was over.

The music fell silent, and a few people began to walk away, before Luis smiled, and asked if anyone wanted to hear one more new song. If that was his first single, then this other one should be the second. That’s how good it sounded, and the crowd got in as much dancing (and even some grinding) as they could before the 33-minute long set concluded.

I certainly don’t have many Mystery Skulls shows to compare this to, but yeah, it was definitely the best one I had seen, I’m sure he was right on the mark when he called this his best Dallas gig, too.

Typically, I’m not into the DJ things like this. Just the weekend before I attended another area festival that was headlined by David Guetta, and while the guy’s great at what he does, I just never got into it.

The difference between he and so many others and Mystery Skulls is the fact that Luis Dubuc actually sings—on every song—and he has an incredible voice at that.

Inhibitions were lost during his set, and really, isn’t that what music is supposed to do?

No shows are on the books at this moment, though his calendar can be found HERE. You can also purchase “Ghost” in iTUNES along with a few remixes of the track), and hopefully a full album will drop soon.

Now we were into the headliner portion of the night, or at least acts of that caliber, because technically, Sarah Jaffe wasn’t a headliner on this year’s HG Fest. People were sure glad to see her on the bill, though.

A few new songs were slipped into her 50-minute long set, which I believe included the opener. Regardless, it was an excellent track, sounding pretty experimental from the stuff she has built her name on. It had a heavy electronic sound to it, again demonstrating that she’s one of those artists who likes to keep pushing her musical boundaries, much like how her early stuff was acoustic, before making the jump to a full band electric sound with “The Body Wins” album.

The next song fit more into the folk genre she’s known for, and upon finishing it, she thanked the now very sizable crowd for being there. “What fucking troopers…” she said, before being apologetic about what she had said with young ears listening. “Sorry, I get excited and I say things.” she said, before adding we were now only one day away from “summer doom”, referring to the hot Texas summers.

With that, she and band mates Scott Danbom (keys), Roberto Sanchez (drums) and Robert Gomez (who alternated between a bass and guitar, as did Sarah) got to some songs from her 2012 album, doing “Mannequin Woman”, then one of the fan favorites, “The Way Sound Leaves a Room”. That generated the loudest response from the audience thus far, but there was still many to go.

“I’m so proud to be from this city.” Sarah said during the next break, almost as if the thought popped into her mind and then she just blurted it out. They didn’t get far into “Glorified High” before Sarah stopped the band. “I messed that up…” she said, saying they needed to start again. The crowd was forgiving, and I can’t say that did anything to harm the flow of the show, however, that was a big mistake to make. I get it, stuff happens, and especially when it’s something technical (i.e. mic quits working or something), I’m always forgiving. Still, I don’t think there’s room for any band—not even small time nobodies—to make mistakes like that, and especially not when it comes to an act the caliber of Sarah Jaffe. You have to be above that, always.

Once the song got off on the right foot, it went off without a hitch, and when it was over, Sarah asked if anyone else had a sweaty back, or if it was just her. At this point, the weather was finally getting nice, just right, actually, unless of course you were on stage performing. Then it was probably still pretty warm. “Halfway Right” followed it, and as they got back into a semi-electronic mood with that one, they dug further into it with another new jam.

Considering Mother’s Day was just a few hours away at this point, it was fitting that Sarah would dedicate a song to her mom, especially since she was in attendance. She gave a little speech about how much she loved her mother, saying she had always supported her, and fans were ecstatic when she announced the song going out to her was “Clementine”. That old gem was followed by the title track from her latest record, and “The Body Wins” was the most charged song of the show. It gripped you, and for the remainder of the set, she and her band only tightened their hold.

Sarah was able to laugh now at the fact that when The Toadies “Rubberneck” album first came out, she wasn’t allowed to listen to it, and after sharing her little anecdote, she addressed her mom. “Happy Mother’s Day, mom, I’m opening for them!” she said, before doing her latest single, “Defense”. “What a great day.” she remarked after the tune, as they offered up one final song for everyone.

This marked the second time I’d seen Sarah Jaffe live, and she is a great talent with an exceptional voice.

I’d heard all the praise for years, but personally, just never could really get into her older stuff. I do enjoy “The Body Wins” record, though, but none of her albums manages to capture the essence that pours out of her during a live performance. That’s really when she’s in her element, and she excels.

You can find her records in iTUNES, and while she doesn’t have any shows booked at the moment, don’t rule out the possibility of some maybe popping up.

Now, things were really going to get good and headlining the Shiner Stage was Austins’ own …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead.

“We’ve been asked to play one of our old albums in its entirety.” singer and rhythm guitarist Conrad Keely said to the crowd as soon as he and his band mates took the stage. He was referring to the twelve-year-old “Source Tags & Codes”, and fans appeared delighted at the prospect of hearing it.

They were another act I had never witnessed before, and this was sure to be one of those shows that would stick with you, and I became even more confident of that when they launched into “It Was There That I Saw You”, where it became readily apparent just what a high-energy outfit this was. Jamie Millers’ rapid-fire drumming set the pace for everyone else, and Conrad was the only band member who was relatively still, and that was limited to the time he spent in front of the mic.

“How are you enjoying the day, today?” asked Conrad when the song ended, using that time to quickly tune his guitar. They really were playing the album in its entirety, and now rolled on to track two, “Another Morning Stoner”. Guitarist Jason Reece then addressed everyone before the next song, seeming pretty excited as he spoke hastily, eventually naming the next song, “Baudelaire”. He also handled the vocals on that powerful number, which was so easy to get caught up in, it felt as if it only lasted half the time it really takes.

They had slipped into their groove now, and Conrad rolled them into the brutally intense “Homage”. Autry Fulbright II had been delivering a spectacle of a performance over on stage right, and during that song, he kicked things up a few notches, throwing a back bend into his repertoire of moves. “That was a little diddy…” Jason said once the guitars, bass and drums fell silent, before leaning back toward the microphone to add, “About some friends.” It was than mentioned that this happened to be Autry’s birthday. “I can finally drink now. Just can’t drive.” he joked, before they got back to business with “How Near, How Far”.

Jamies’ prowess on the drums was something to behold, on that song in particular, and they bridged it into “Heart in the Hand of the Matter”, which eventually gave way to “Monsoon”, thanks to some riffs from the rhythm guitar; and in that moment of relative calm, Jamie and Jason traded spots. Jamie was a good guitarist, though I’m still having trouble deciding what instrument Jason was better at, and he delivered the beats with the stellar precision and some real ferocity.

“We just played to a sunset. That was beautiful…” stated Conrad, truly marveling at that fact, and saying that was one thing they had seldom done in their career. He followed that with a story about a band he saw at a festival down in Austin many years back who played to a sunrise, and then Jason, who was back on the guitar, setup their next track. “It’s the kind of song that goes out to desperate people who do desperate things… Like have desperate sex…” he said, noting the song probably carried a “PG-13” rating. Conrad had been tuning his axe, and now spoke up. “It’s actually not rated, but probably out of tune.” before Jason got the last word in, “So it’s rated R.”

Jason again sang the lead on the aggressive “Days of Being Wild”, and at one point, Autry ended up raising his bass up and placing it behind his head, leaving it there for several seconds as he continued to play it. Afterwards, Jamie and Jason again switched spots, and Conrad cracked that they had “managed to maintain our old sloppiness.” If this was sloppy, then there’s a lot of bands in the world who can stand to be a helluva lot sloppier. “Relative Ways” was another killer song, and Autry did another wicked back bend, this time as he faced his amp and leaned back towards the crowd.

Given the next song on the album was an instrumental one, they skipped it, and went to the eleventh and finally number, which was the title track. “For the sake of continuity, we’re going to play it very sloppy as well.” Autry said before they began “Source Tags & Codes”.

They were the first band of the day to play a full album, though they wouldn’t be the only one. However, they weren’t ready to call it a show just yet. “We’re going to finish with a couple older songs.” Conrad told the spectators, while Jason and Jamie again traded positions, before they knocked out “Mistakes and Regrets” from the “Madonna” album. Near the end, while Jason was delivering the final beats, Autry sit on the kick drum, and then laid back, still hammering away at the stings of his bass.

They reminisced about an old show at Trees they played with The Toadies, speaking highly of the band and what great guys they are, before commenting how good it was to be back in Dallas. After “Caterwaul”, the band talked amongst themselves for a moment, and then Conrad felt the need to explain what they were doing. “We’re catching up. We haven’t seen each other in years.” “I was asking Jason if he’d switch shifts with me at Kinko’s tomorrow.” Autry added, before they did another cut from ‘05’s “Worlds Apart” album, “Will You Smile Again for Me?”.

Jason threw his guitar down as it ended, saying it sucked, as he walked back to the drum kit. Then, before starting the next song, they thought they got cut off. They were being kind about it, though obviously seemed a little disappointed, before realizing that their roadie had stepped on a cord. So, using what little time they had left of their 71-minute set, they played “A Perfect Teenhood”, and at the end, Jamie used a drum stick to play his guitar, running it across the strings. In the closing moments, Conrad held the mic stand out towards the audience, before releasing it, letting it topple over into the photo pit, then stepped over to the drum kit and knelt down in front of the bass drum, shredding on his axe.

They were the best band to play homegrown this year, no question about it.

I’m basing that around the energy they packed into their performance, which could put many bands to shame, and from the time they stepped on stage until the final note had been played, they gave it nothing but their all.

They were incredible to watch, and I’ll be making a point to see …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead the next time they come to Dallas.

They’ve been touring doing this full album for a little while, and this was, I believe, the last stop of the tour, so it’ll probably be a little while before they hit the road again. Also, check out their collection of albums on iTUNES. I know I’ll be picking them up.

At long last, it was nearly 9:30, the time just about everyone had been waiting for.

This year marked the twentieth anniversary of the album that made Fort Worths’ The Toadies famous, and along with reissuing “Rubberneck”, they had embarked on a tour where they had been playing the album in its entirety. Sold-out shows were an almost constant for them on this run, from the East Coast to the West Coast and everywhere in between; and now that they were in their birthplace (sort of), their longtime supporters and newer fans had flocked to the Main Street Garden Park for what was bound to be another memorable performance at this year’s Homegrown.

After a glowing introduction, Vaden Todd Lewis, Clark Vogeler, Mark Reznicek and Doni Blair walked out on stage. It was silent as they grabbed their instruments and got in position, while fans just looked on, anxiously awaiting them starting the instrumental piece known as “Mexican Hairless”.

They ripped through the song, then instantly fired up “Mister Love”. “Are you gonna save me? Can you save me?” Vaden half sang and half shouted in a guttural tone there at the start. They had been on the road for quite awhile now, so it would be safe to assume that normal wear and tear—especially concerning Vadens’ voice—would have started to set in. Nope. Quite the opposite, actually, and out of the dozen plus Toadies shows I’ve seen, I have never heard his voice sound as spectacular as it did this night. He was hitting all sorts of notes and deep growls, though he took a break on that song when Clark had his guitar solo, aiding him, effectively turning it into a duel solo.

Fans sang along even more passionately on “Backslider”, and after a pause just long enough to change guitars, Vaden started “Possum Kingdom”, and the crowd truly went wild. It was weird hearing that song so early on, since it usually signifies the end of the show is near. Not this night, though, and now, for the first time ever in Dallas, fans got to sing along to the enigmatic song, knowing exactly what it was about (assuming they had seen the documentary that was released a few months back, that is.)

Some of the songs fans treasure most had already been played, but as Mark laid into his drum kit to get “Quitter” underway, it was clear they were still in the warm-up phase. “…Didn’t I make you feel just like a queen?” sang Vaden in an eerie tone, taking his hands off his guitar and using them to make an hourglass figure outline while he sang the line. The audience was finally brought in on “Away”, singing the bridge, or rather chanting in unison, “When I’m away. When I’m away…”.

I quite enjoyed them running through the record like this, because in your head you’re thinking, “Okay, this is when the next track starts.” and sure enough, right as that thought popped into my head, they fired up “I Come From The Water”. Some fans jumped around, and all contributed to the chorus. “Here we go, sing it!” Vaden shouted, as they got ready to close it out, before stepping back from the mic to listen to everyone shout, “I come from the water!” a few times. Another guitar change created just a few seconds of silence, before the sounds of “Tyler” flooded Downtown Dallas. It was possible the most joyous moment of their set, and, as it always does, provided one of the highlight moments. The crowd also reacted strongly to “Happy Face”, and even the metal-esque “Velvet”, which is the only Toadies song I’ve never been too fond of. Still, amongst the cluster of people that stood near me, I was the only one I saw singing along to it.

Already, this “Rubberneck” experience had come to an end, and Vaden was handed a twelve-string acoustic guitar, ensuring “I Burn” sounded authentic to that of the album version; and, for the first time ever in my experience, the line “We got stupid.” wasn’t left up to the audience to sing. No one really minded it, though, and once a couple of their roadies brought out some additional floor toms to play, the song really took off.

“…Thanks for sticking around this long…” Vaden said to everyone, after announcing that the “Rubberneck portion of the set” had been concluded. “It’s been twenty years.” he added, seeming to be in slight state of disbelief about how that time has already passed. By the way, the fact that they waited until now to even speak to the crowd made the listening experience more fun, because it really was like you were listening to the record live.

Vaden was making up for lost time, though, and was quite chatty this night. He even stated that back then he didn’t think he’d even live twenty more years, let alone still have the opportunity to play for all these old fans.  “…Believe it or not, we have some songs that are less than twenty years old. I know this is news to some people…” he joked. He then announced they’d be going back “in the vault”. It was pretty ironic that after that speech about having newer songs, they actually did one that predated “Rubberneck”. That’s not to say that was a bad thing, though, especially when the song was “Got a Heart”. I said something along these lines the last time I saw them, and I’ll say it again: that song, even now, is The Toadies at their best. It’s pure rock, and Doni, Vaden, Clark and Mark were completely in the zone while performing it.

Now they got into their newer material, first with “I Am a Man of Stone” from the album that marked their comeback back in 2008, “No Deliverance”. No sooner at that rhythm heavy number ended, then Vaden dug up “Little Sin”. “…Now we’re the same, we’re all regret…” he sang towards the end, hitting some beautiful falsetto notes on the word “regret”, showing off the other side of the spectrum of that gritty voice he had been using for much of the show.

The cynic side of me wondered how many people would even stick around after the classics from their platinum selling album had been played, since those are still the ones fans care about the most (last year at a Toadies show I heard a girl tell a friend, “We can leave now. That’s the only song I wanted to hear.” after they played “Possum Kingdom”, so I know that happens.) But two songs into the rest of the set, and nearly everyone looked steadfast, and proved it when Vaden asked if everyone was still in. “We’re still in.” he replied, before telling everyone to find the not safe for work version of the music video for their next song. “It’s much more entertaining.” he mentioned, before Doni got “Summer of the Strange” going.

It was one of only two of their newest songs they did this night, and after using his bullet mic to deliver more of a creepy vibe to “No Deliverance”, Vaden asked a very interesting question. “Did you ever want to hear The Toadies do a Blondie song?” Some people shouted that they did, leaving Vaden to ask, “Really?! You did?” before telling them they were in luck. The song they covered was “Heart of Glass”, and everything even remotely 70’s about it had been stripped from it. Instead, people heard a completely rebuilt version of the song. One without the dreamy pop vocals, and it was packed full of roaring riffs and some devastating percussion.

They truly did make the song their own, and I hope one day in the near future, some type of recording (even a live one) of that cover will be released.

There was only one song left to go, and Vaden had a request for everyone before they got to it. “Is what I would like to see, Dallas, is you shaking your assess. I’m pretty sure you brought one with you.” “Rattler’s Revival” is perfect for that behavior, and it was killer end to their 66-minute long set.

A encore was expected, though seemed uncertain, as they were off the stage for three to four minutes, and many people began to leave, hoping to beat the rush.

I was even about to give up, before signs of life could again be seen on stage, and once they got back up there, Vaden informed everyone they had been given two songs. That’s the only downside to playing downtown, there has to be a cut off time.

Vaden played a second or so of Joe Walsh’s “Life’s Been Good”, before stopping. “That doesn’t count.” he joked, before telling the raving crowd how awesome they were, and to just “shut the hell up.” Requests were being thrown at them left and right, and a guy near me was desperately pulling for “Push the Hand”.

Instead, they offered up another cover, one from the “Rubberneck” Sessions, that had gotten buried with time, since it didn’t make the record. Vaden mentioned that Pylon’s “Stop It” was one of his personal favorite songs, saying it was the perfect mix of “loud, soft, loud soft.” He made some nice hand gestures during that performance, almost like he were conducting an orchestra, and before the crowd could even applaud them, they broke into “Push the Hand”. Yeah, the guy who stood next to me was elated, and began jumping around.

The crowd had dwindled at this point, but those who remained were getting rowdy. Two songs, that was all they said they had, but then Vaden motioned to Mark to keep going, and once he got the message, he knocked out the opening beats of “Hell In High Water”. “If you keep coming to live shows, we’ll keep doing ‘em.” Vaden said during the song. It’s a rather simple premise, but that’s how it should work for any band. So long as there’s a demand, there needs to be a supply; and after making the song into a fun clap along for a time, they wrapped up their 11-minute encore, taking a bow to everyone and thanked them for coming out.

In some aspects, this was the best Toadies show I’ve seen. As I mentioned earlier, Vadens’ voice was in rare form, and it was almost like experiencing The Toadies for the first time ever.

Who knew that twenty years after one of the best albums of the 90’s was released the band would still be kicking. They’re doing more than that, though, they’re thriving, even if they haven’t been together for all of the last twenty years.

The Rubberneck Tour rolls on, with a few shows remaining in Florida. They also have some other shows scattered around Texas and one in Oklahoma. Exact dates on all of those can be found HERE. If you go to a show, be sure to pick up a copy of the re-mastered “Rubberneck” (or order it from their record labels store). Otherwise, check out all their other releases in iTUNES.

That was end of another successful Homegrown Music Fest, which was again possibly the best one yet. It was also the largest, and this year, they had blocked off one block of Main Street between Harwood and Saint Paul Streets, giving the food trucks plenty of room to set up.

Just judging on all the people that I saw here this day, I would also have to say this was the most attended HG Fest. At times later in the day, it was real tricky to even maneuver yourself around the field, having to avoid bumping into people or getting in the middle of and ruining someone’s picture they were posing for.

I don’t foresee a day when the festival will outgrow Main Street Garden Park, mainly because the setting is what makes it so appealing. It’s right in the center of downtown, with all sorts of lofts, businesses and parking garages around it, and then you have this little oasis, where you can sort of forget where you are. At worst it would just get to the point where it sells out the space and they have to put a cap on how many people they can let in.

That leads to another good question: Where do you go from here? After getting The Toadies to headline, who will come next? How can you improve on that? There are ways, I’m confident of that, but it will be interesting to see how next year’s lineup shapes up. Should only be another nine to ten months before we start finding out about a few of the acts, too.

(Miss Part I of Homegrown? Catch up on it HERE.)

Saturday, May 10th, 2014 – Rubbernecking at the Fifth Annual Homegrown Music Fest (Part I)

At this point, in the city of Dallas, May has become synonymous with the Homegrown Music Festival.

Now, only in its fifth year, it has already become the way many people choose to spend their Saturday, and more and more of them are getting there early, too.

The start time for the first band was 11:45 AM, and I was cutting it close; but as I walked through the Main Street Garden Park over to the Shiner Beer Stage, I was impressed by how many folks were already here. Most had camped out under the trees, laying claim to the shade early in the day. Then you had those brave dozens (at least at this early time in the day) who didn’t give a damn about the sun and the powerful heat it brought with it. Compared to how scorching it would get mid-afternoon, though, it wasn’t too bad at this time.

While talent had been pulled from all across The Lone Star State, the D/FW area was represented better than any other (as it should be), and Goodnight Ned had the opening slot this day.

Their 35-minute long set was impeccably tight and very well polished (even more so than usual), as they ran through a number of tracks from their forthcoming self-titled release, most of which had guitarist and one of the bands vocalists Chase McMillan doing the lead singing.

Conner Farrall bridged them from their second to third song of the morning with some licks on the guitar, as they began a song that had both he and Chase, as well as pianist Jonas Martin and bassist Matt Trimble harmonizing at times. I think Michael Munoz even threw his voice in there when he wasn’t too busy drumming.

They weren’t wasting a second that they were given, and now Jonas wound them right into their next track, and one where he handled the lead vocals. “I’m sorry that I love you…” he repeated on the chorus, while his band mates backed him up slightly. That song is known to include several expletives live (they do make it more entertaining), but since this was an all ages event and there were already plenty of little kids running about, they kept it clean. Either way, it’s still an excellent number.

Conner again segued them into their next track, this time with an incredibly slick, cool sounding riff, one which was repeated at the end of the song. “What a beautiful day…” Chase remarked, before they marched on with another cut Jonas took the lead on, though they all added some harmonies on the chorus, tapping into the deeper side of their voices.
imageTheir time on stage was getting close to being up, and they had saved their single “Wolves and Crows” for one of the final ones. It’s arguably their most solid song live in terms of performance, and they’re so in tune with one another, stepping back from the microphones, before leaning in to make the noises they do on the chorus, and doing it all in synch. Point is, they’ve put a lot of work into rehearsing that one and getting it as great can be, and it shows.

Jonas jumped up from his keyboard at the end and let loose a wicked howl, before they moved on to a song where Conner finally got to show off his full vocal chops. It’s one I’m quite fond of (even though I think it was only the second time I’ve heard it), and they had just enough time after for one more, before graciously thanking those who came out early and watched them.

I’ve only seen Goodnight Ned a handful of times, but this was the best show I’ve seen so far. Everything was so on point, even more so than normal, and thanks to their splendid vocal harmonies and strong stage presence, they wowed their old fans along with the new spectators who happened to be watching.

Their folk infused rock sounds were certainly a good way to get Homegrown going.

Their next show is going to be at Three Links in Dallas on May 22nd, and the price is so low it’s practically free. Their new album should be getting released soon, but in the meantime, you can check out their older music in iTUNES.

Over on the Chevy Music Stage, the Fort Worth-based Calhoun was all setup and ready to go.

I had seen the band a few years back, and frankly, didn’t care for them then. Still, people have raved about them, and they constantly are nominated for different area awards, so I was clearly in the minority on that way of thinking. However, most things get better with time, and Calhoun wound up being no exception.

As usual, Grant Jones (of Grant Jones & The Pistol Grip Lassos) was one of the emcees for the event, and he along with his comedic partner for the day introduced Calhoun, mentioning their latest album, “Paperweights”, and cracked that the band was working on their follow-up album, titled “Stapler”.

So, after they had finished their first song, singer and rhythm guitarist Tim Locke joked that they were going to do a track off the “predecessor to Stapler.” That meant it was from last year’s “Paperweights”, and “Song on Songs” was one of those indie pop tracks that burrows into the listeners ears as soon as they hear it. “You don’t owe me anything, yes you do…” sang Tim in a lovely voice on the chorus, which was easy enough to pick up on it could have been a partial sing along.

They kept churning out the songs and delivering a rocking performance, and later in their next number lead guitarist Jordan Roberts walked back towards Josh Hoover and his drum kit, facing him as he raised his guitar up in the air and strummed it. Shortly after he asked for a timeout, making the universal sign as he asked the rest of the band what was next. His setlist differed apparently, and lacked “Fatal Flaws”, which was my personal favorite of their show. Bassist Danny Balis was often adding some backing vocals n the songs, and that was one of them, resulting in a near angelic vocal blend. It was also one that Jordan perhaps rocked out too hard on. “I broke two strings on that one.” he stated after it was done, laughing as he picked up his other guitar.
imageThey showed off their softer side with the gorgeous “Trapped”, before digging back to their 8-year-old self-titled album, doing “Kick Drum Mind”. Those gathered around the stage (or really anywhere on the grounds) were encouraged to clap along at one point, when Tim threw his hands up in the air, coaxing everyone along.  “Look at you, you just rolled out of fucking bed and you’re clapping your hands together!” he remarked, beaming.

They returned to their current material with the single off their latest release, and Toby Pipes’ parts on the keyboard made “Reap/Sow” an infectious number. Afterwards, they offered up a couple more songs, ending their 42-minute long set.

I’ll say it, I wasn’t expecting much from Calhoun, and in listening to their older music (circa ’06), I’m still not a fan of that. Their 2011 and 2013 albums are finely crafted works of art, though, and the band has really grown into their own.

Their sound is an indie pop/rock style, which still seems to be in high demand, though there are subtle signs of folk or country also mixed in to some tracks. Tims’ voice stands at the forefront of every track, though, and the versatility of it as he jumps from some more standard rock singing to nailing the falsetto notes is remarkable. I dare say he was one of the best vocalists at this year’s Homegrown Fest.

You can find their music in iTUNES, and at the very least give it a listen.

All the way from Houston, Wild Moccasins were now ready for the steadily growing crowd; and while they released a new album on New West Records a few short months ago, it was “It’s Health and My Own” that they opened with, which comes from 2011’s “Skin Collision Past”. Guitarist Cody Swann did most of the singing on it, as frontowman Zahira Gutierrez backed him up, harmonizing at points along the way.
imageTheir style of indie pop had a certain underlying electronic vibe to it (Zahira was periodically seen playing a keyboard/ synthesizer), and the audience seemed pretty receptive to it, even doing a little bit of moving around as she took up more of the lead on their next couple of songs. “How’s everyone doing today? It’s hot, isn’t it?” she asked a few songs in. The crowd didn’t have much time to answer, as Cody, fellow guitarist Andrew Lee, bassist Nicholas Cody and drummer John Baldwin fired up “Emergency Broadcast”, which was another tune that was co-sung. The vocal trade off on that one made for a great dynamic, and the band really found their footing on it. Zahira sauntered and danced around the stage, and Andrew earned my full attention before the final chorus, when he began slapping the strings of his guitar, rather violently at that, and just killing it.

They took things down a few notches with “Full-Time Fetish”, which had a new wave vibe to it for much of the song, before picking up steam towards the end; and to keep the momentum going, John quickly counted them in to “Eye Makeup”. In the live setting, it was quite lively and energetic, and Zahira made the rounds on the stage, at times stepping up to the forefront and crooning into the mic. “Dallas, thanks for coming out!” she said near the end, before picking up a tambourine to give the song a little extra percussion.
The transition from it to “Sponge Won’t Soak” was as seamless as could be, and it provided a fine end to their 34-minute set. The whole band appeared more in the zone on it than any track, like it just created the perfect element for them, with its at times sultry sounds. There was even one point where Cody got into it enough he accidentally knocked over his mic stand, catching it just before it toppled over into the photo pit.

They were enjoyable to watch, and sure, the day was young, but with the dreamy, poppy landscapes they produced, they managed to create the most fun atmosphere Homegrown had seen yet.
imageThey’ll be out on the road in mid June, covering some of the East Coast and Mid-West, with a Dallas date at Three Links on July 11th. Their full schedule can be found HERE, and check out their sounds in iTUNES.

So far, so good, but now, the real rock portion—or at least the first serving of it—was upon the patrons; and I was quite excited to The Phuss yet again,

The emcees joked that this rock trio wrote the original score for Disney’s Frozen, before the company decided to go in a different direction.

That had even Josh Fleming, Trey Alfaro and Forrest Barton laughing, before they dove headfirst into one of several new tracks they played this day.
“We’re The Phuss, how the hell are you doing?!” Josh asked the crowd afterward, using a very cheery tone. “…Wake up a little… get out of the shade…” he urged everyone to do, before shifting focus back to his guitar as he began “Something to Die for”. It was one of only two songs they did from their self-titled record, and Trey stretched out the end a little by crashing down on his cymbals multiple times, while his band mates each plucked a string in time with it. “It’s five-o’clock somewhere.” remarked Josh as soon as the instruments fell silent, though that didn’t last long, as he proceeded to play the subsequent track off the album, “One for Now, Three for Later”.

It was then you got to see who the real Phuss fans in the crowd were. “…Just give me my chance to speak.” sang Josh, before walking back towards the drums for the silence that follows. It was in that silence that some people knew just what to do, shouting, “BITCH!”, and as they did so, a little smile crept onto Josh’s face, clearly glad at least some people who were there were familiar with them. He also did an awesome back bend of sorts during that one, more throwing his body back and leaning into it.

Now came the more formal introduction. “We’re a noisy rock band from Deep Ellum, or Fort Worth, or technically Denton. All depends on where we’re at…” he said to the spectators. He then set up their next song, mentioning their new record would be coming out fairly soon, and this one about “driving fast and doing stupid shit” would be on it. It was a good song, but even better was the next one, which Forrest counted them into, as they jumped from one song to the next. That was “Straight Line Impala”, which packs more of a punch than even your typical Phuss tracks do, and that’s saying something.

People were enjoying their set, though few were even close to the guardrail, and Josh was tired of that. “I’m in a small time band doing big city stuff…” he said, before asking everyone to take at least five steps forward. “If I’m going to make it, I need you to help me.” he finished, halfway joking, halfway serious. “This is called At the Bottom of it All.” he told everyone, and on the second verse, he started a clap along with the audience. “Don’t puss out on me when I go back to singing, okay?” he asked. Few, if any, did, and kept right on clapping after he resumed what will be another highlight on their forthcoming record.
imageUsually, the band is all about the music, and when banter does occur, the fans are treated more like friends. They were this day too, though Josh was much chattier, no doubt putting in the extra effort to win new people over. Like with the description of their next song, which, as he put it, was about “not being sure if you want a real job or not.” “And by ‘real job’, I mean the stuff I have to do every day… It makes me want to kill myself.” he said, grinning the whole time he was setting up “Hammer to the Nail”. That was one I don’t believe I had heard before, though I thoroughly enjoyed it, and it was one of the best songs they performed.

After all that, he had to tune, cracking that “rocking has its downsides”. He filled the time by telling everyone the whole point of them playing this show was to be loud and “maybe piss someone off in a loft.”, and that soon led them to “Preacher, Preacher”. “Dallas, Texas, you have got my soul.” he sang on the lull the song has, prompting a string of cheers from the crowd, who were loving this classic of the bands.

That was it. People wanted more, but those thirty excellent minutes were all they could do this day.

They owned it, it’s as simple as that, and each time The Phuss takes a stage, they prove why they are one of the best bands in North Texas. They just have that raw rock persona, and that goes a long way in making them stand out.

While you await their new record, check out their old one in iTUNES. Better yet, go see a show. They’ll be at Club Dada on June 6th, then Gas Monkey on the 8th. They also have a show at Three Links on July 19th. All of those are in Dallas.

No less than one rap act is customary at Homegrown, and unlike years past, I had actually seen the one this year.

My first encounter with Sam Lao had been a couple months prior at another festival in Fort Worth. Now, rap is one genre I just don’t generally care for anyway, and I think it was cold enough that day in Fort Worth that it made me like it even less. Luckily, it was nowhere near being freezing and rainy this day.

She noted that she’d be the “resident rapper for the evening”, but stated she also likes to sing from time to time. “So we’ll start with that.” she said. DJ Imperial D accompanied her, laying down the beat as she did a mix of raping and singing on “Nirvana”, the first track of her 34-minute long set. She may not sing often, but her singing voice is gorgeous, and completely engrossing.

Upon finishing it, she mentioned that song she has a music video for. “I almost got killed by a buffalo, or a bison. One of those large animals…” she joked, before mentioning she didn’t like her hair this day, and that the heat wasn’t doing anything good to it. A lot of fans disagreed, though, shouting compliments to her. She then moved on, pointing out that this next song was an homage to her spoken word days. “Don’t all rappers start as spoken word poets?” she asked allowed, adding that maybe it was just her, before doing “Run!”.

Already I was enjoying this, and the conversations she carried on in between some songs made things even more enjoyable. For example, at this point when she mentioned her Instagram account, saying what it was and that it was all spelled correctly. “…You know, the basic English we all passed in third grade.” she told the crowd, before asking if anyone hated Coldplay, adding she thought it was crazy, too, but that they seemed to be one of the new bands to hate. No one here did, though, and the chorus of their song “Paradise” was sampled on her track, “Paradise”.

She has more than just the six songs featured on her debut EP, and a few of those were heard, too. Like her next one, which once it was over she told everyone was about “those nights you probably shouldn’t be driving, ‘cause you feel a little buzzed…” I liked it okay, though the next couple of tracks were some of her best overall. First, you had “Feast”, which she acknowledged was about situations just like this day, getting to play a big local festival even though she has only been rapping for a little over a year at this point. She was very humble in saying she never thought she would be here this quick; and the following song dealt more with “vague people”, specifically when you start a relationship with a person, but they never really make their intentions clear as to what they want it to be. It was titled something like “Do You Want Me or Not?”, and the beat it going was quite seductive.
She readily admitted that “F H S” was her favorite song to perform, and soon after, talk turned to “smoking”, and while everyone knew what she was getting at, she watered it down for the kids, mentioning electronic cigarettes. The song she was setting up was “Haze”, which Sam clarified beforehand that even though it sounds like it’s about smoking a lot of weed, it’s more about the peer pressure surrounding it, and how now the culture is almost in disbelief when someone doesn’t.

That brought her and Imperial D to their final song, and the only remaining track off the “West Pantego” EP, “Pilgrims”.

As I said, rap is a genre I typically just don’t like. There are a few exceptions I’ve come across, but not many. That said, I may not be a true Sam Lao fan, in the sense that I won’t be buying her music or actively going to see shows, though I really respect what she does, and she has exceptional skills at it.

Really, it’s amazing that she’s just been doing this a little over a year, because you hear the music and see how she conducts herself on stage, and you’d think this has been something she’s spent years chasing after.

Whatever your musical preference is, I’d suggest at least giving her music a listen. You can purchase it in iTUNES or BANDCAMP, and her next show will be on May 24th at The Shack at the Panther Island Pavilion, as part of a music festival.

Now it was time for another Houston band, and even with ten members, The Suffers looked a little small compared to the massive ensemble that is The Polyphonic Spree, who headlined this stage the past year. Actually, a joke about that was made when the band was getting introduced; and as that happened and the emcees exited the stage, all the members of The Suffers screamed at the top of their longs.

It served to get them in the zone, and then they broke out their sweet soul sounds for Dallas. Kam Franklins’ strong voice immediately captivated the crowd, as she sang the first of several songs that dealt with love. “Dallas, do you want me to make you a sandwich?” she asked at one point, fluctuating between a powerful tone and some higher notes; and the customizing of that line to fit where they were had the crowd going wild.

Nick Zamora was behind the drum kit (which wasn’t the only percussion the band had going on), and he counted them in to their next song, after which Kam remarked what a beautiful day it was, and also made everyone aware of the fact that this was their first ever Dallas show. The audience was mesmerized at this point. Really, people were pressed against the guardrail shouting at the top of their lungs to express how much these soulful sounds were resonating with them.
imageThe horn section, which was comprised of  Michael Razo on the trombone, Jon Durbin on the trumpet and Cory Wilson, who was armed with a saxophone, was in full swing on “Gwan”, from some simple dance moves they did (actually nearly every member was dancing to some extent). Those three even got a clap along going at the start of the tune, and again later on, when Jose “Chapy” Luna delivered a sensational percussion solo.

People were all worked up now, so the seamless transition into “Slow it Down” appeased the new fans greatly. It was a pretty song, and the keys, which Pat Kelly was responsible for, sounded great on the track. The guitars and bass, played by Alex Zamora, Kevin Bernier and Adam Castaneda, respectively, become more hushed on the next one, and Kam apologized in advance for it being slower. “I’m sorry if that’s not what you came here for, but some people need that stuff, too.” No one minded “Giver”, or if they did, they didn’t make it known. It may not have been as lively in the obvious ways as their other tracks, but it was every bit as good. Maybe even more so, actually, and the sultrier voice Kam sang in on the track was absolutely stirring.

Aside from a few singles, they have no real album out in the world, though they are working on one, and Kam mentioned their next song would be on it. “Hey, Ishi!” she then exclaimed, waving to one of the members (no doubt JT Mudd) of Dallas’ favorite electronic band. I believe the track was called “Say It”, and after confirming that they had time left for one more, she announced they were going to close with a song that was “consistent to how the day has gone so far”. Aptly called “Good Day”, it was a riveting note to end their 37-minute long set on.

The Suffers provided the first wow moment of the day, and if you saw them, you had to be saying that to yourself. I know I did, several times at that.

They pull the soul sound off in an amazing way, but also throw in tinges of rock and other genres. It may not be too often and they may be subtle, but they’re there, and that makes for an even more unique sound the band has.
The day was nearly half over at this point, and thus far, there had been no band better than The Suffers.

They announced early on in their set that they would be back in the fall for Index Fest, and they had just gotten the news earlier that day. Their next show will be on June 7th at Saint Arnold Brewery in Houston, where they’ll open for Hayes Carll (who played Homegrown a couple years back). Also, be sure to head over to iTUNES to listen to their few singles.

Baptist Generals, who hail from Denton and consist of an all-star lineup, marked the halfway point of the day. I’d heard good things about them, but seeing them live would be a first.
imageThe six-piece outfit focused mainly on 2013’s “Jackleg Devotional to the Heart” album, kicking off their 33-minute long set with the fun sounding instrumental piece, “Machine En Prolepsis”. Paul Slavens and his keyboard were in great form on it, and were responsible for much of the upbeat vibe it had. They then rolled things into “Dog That Bit You”, which was filled with catchy riffs from guitarist Robert Gomez, as well as singer and rhythm axe slinger Peter Salisbury.

“Goddamn sun on plastic strings.” Peter remarked during their first break, as he was having trouble getting his guitar properly tuned. That persisted throughout the show; and while he complained about that, Ryan Williams set down his electric bass and grabbed an acoustic one. Peter told everyone they’d be doing another song off their new album, adding it had been out since May of last year. “Make no doubts about it, you will lose it. Everything you’ve ever had, you will lose it…” he crooned at the start of “Oblivion”, which isn’t quite as bleak a song as that makes it sound. Realistic, though.
Ryan was back on an electric bass for “Broken Glass”, but swapped back before their next song, and after something was said about not quite being in tune, Peter halfway joked that he didn’t think any of them were in tune this day, all thanks to the sun. It sounded great out in the crowd, though. Maybe it wasn’t perfect, though it was far from bad. All the same, they had to recover after every number, and Paul decided to fill the next break with an advertisement. “Tasty Taste, it’s the tasty new taste of new Tasty Taste…” he said, his voice making it obvious why he’s a radio show host on KXT. All he really did was repeat that phrase, or reorder the words around, and it had the concert goers cracking up.
imageGreat improvisation on his part, and he was so convincing with his ad spot, it had me thinking, “I need to go try this new Tasty Taste.” They moved on with a couple more songs. One was “Fly Candy Harvest”, which I thought was the catchiest tune in their arsenal this day, and it was followed by the older “Alcohol (Turn and Fall)”. “Thanks for getting sunburned with us.” Peter told the crowd, saying they were nothing more than just “joyful music makers”, using that as a segue to introduce most of the band. Robert (who was pulling double duty and would later play with Sara Jaffe) had apparently skipped his college graduation to be here, while Ryan was introduced as the “lowly hobbit in the band”. With that out of the way, they tackled their final song.

With their set over, it became conclusive that, somehow, Homegrown was getting better and better as the day went along, and each band was setting the bar pretty high in the first place.
imageBaptist Generals were awesome, and the fact that they are all veterans gave them a very professional feel, from their demeanor on stage and the way they handled themselves to the interaction with the crowd.

They play periodically, and their next show will be on May 31st at the Twilite Lounge in Dallas. Be sure to check out their records on iTUNES, too.

That did it for the first half of Homegrown, now it was time for the remaining seven acts, which would include The Toadies and …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead playing albums in their entirety.

(Want to read Part 2? If so, click HERE.)

Album Review: “Ephemeral” by Sam Morrow


The true troubadour musicians seem to be a gradually dying breed these days. If you look hard enough, you can find some truly exceptional ones, though, and one of those would have to be Sam Morrow.

The 23-year-old singer/songwriters debut album, “Ephemeral”, was recently released on Forty Below Records, and moments into starting the listening experience you find it hard to believe Morrow isn’t two or three times his age, due to the depth and honesty that’s conveyed in his songs.

“War” establishes an immediate somber mood, while a gentle playing of the violin accompanies the slower strumming of the guitar. Sam’s art as a storyteller instantly comes to light on this track and pulls you in, and if your interest hasn’t been piqued by about two-thirds of the way in, the sharp, sudden rise the song takes will hook you. “No, we’re not done.” belts Morrow, sounding almost a bit defiant.

The hushed vibe that’s found on that previous song carries over to the first bit of “Old Soul”, but it doesn’t last for long. His rich voice raises to the occasion on this track that’s a little more fleshed out, even rock sounding. “I’ve been told that you break when you’re old, but I’ve got an old soul, my dear.” he belts towards the end of this song about hanging on to a relationship.

Through those two tracks, you can hear the album building, and that pace continues with the harmonious “Sure Thing”. You may already have a preconceived notion about the content of Sams’ songs, and despite the upbeat (which is impossible not to get into), the tone of heartbreak is kept intact. It’s not just a simple re-wording of the past songs, though. In fact, lyrically, it’s almost like an original spin on the oldest subject matter in music.

The best part about “Run” has to be how it suddenly transitions form an acoustic song to one that has an orchestral tinge as the music jumps out of the speakers, assaulting you with an array of beautifully woven sounds.

The feeling of longing is found in nearly every second of “December”, which at times has the very nice addition of backing female vocals, though you have to have the volume up pretty loud to fully hear them. Then comes “Forever”, which evokes a real sense of calm. One that washes over you, and for this track, it’s really best to just close your eyes and give all of your attention to Sam Morrow’s storytelling, which is absolutely superb on this number, even a cut above the rest.

The album then gets turned on its head with “14”. Morrow has dabbled in rock elements before, but nothing to the point that things get taken to on this song. It’s a full-blown country/rock affair, complete with a pedal steel guitar, which lies in the shadows for parts of the song, but strikes at just the right moments to really impress. It’s set apart from every other song on the record; and just because it is more alt country and mentions whiskey and other drinks, doesn’t mean the song is cliché.

At not quite three minutes, “Midland” is the shortest tune on “Ephemeral”, though it’s another incredible song, and one that brings pretty and poignant together in just the right ways.

With the album coming to a close, “True North” is an appropriate way to start the end. It’s sort of about having that internal compass that will always lead you in the right direction, though not without some bumps along the way. The song quite possible stems from his battles with addiction, but the message it carries can be applied to anyone and everyone’s life.  “…One wrong turn and it defines who we are. But it’s the journey that writes the song…” Sam croons on the first verse of the song that is a testament to the fact while you might “screw up” in the eyes of the world, you haven’t necessarily gone off track, and you can always find your way.

“Gone” then closes out the album, and it ranks high on the list of Sam doing what he does best: writing songs that are wrought with emotion.

I’ll return to the word “honesty”. That’s what sticks out the most on this record comprised entirely of songs where Morrow lays his soul bear for the listener. That’s what he’s going for, and in his current bio, he talks about greats like Ray Charles and Johnny Cash, how that’s a common thread in their music. “…They all have these heavy truths woven in their writing that you don’t want to believe, but have to…” he says.

In that regard, he’s right up there with those musicians who names will never be lost to time. Perhaps one day he’ll be as legendary as they are, too.

“Ephemeral” is a good title for the album. It’s one that sticks with you, though that’s not a word that would be used to describe Sam Morrow. Quite the contrary, this is a starting point of what should one day be a legacy career.

Purchase the album on: iTUNES or Bandcamp

Visit Sam Morrows’ websites: Official Website / Facebook / Twitter / Youtube

Saturday, April 5th, 2014 – SpaceCamp’s Full Moon Rises

So, after spending eight and a half hours out at the Deep Ellum Arts Fest, what’s the best thing to do? Hint: calling it a night and going home to rest is not the answer. Especially not when SpaceCamp was finally ready to release their new album to their fans, and were doing their CD release show for “Full Moon” at Three Links.

By being at DEAF, I had missed the two opening acts, Criminal Birds, and, quite sadly, Paco Estrada, arriving just in time to hear the final bit of U2’s “One”, which is worked in at the end of his original, “Breaking Down”.

I will say, if you don’t know of Paco by now (first off, where have you been? He’s been one of the best North Texas musicians for over a decade now.) check out his music on his BANDCAMP PAGE.

The main support slot for this show went to The Orange, who had the place packed out.

“How the fuck are you doing, Three Links?” asked frontman Scott Tucker. “Bullshit!” he shouted, getting a louder rise out of the people this time. Along with bassist Jason Jessup, drummer Cody Waits and guitarist Kirk Livesay, Melissa Tucker also joined them for the first handful of song, shaking a tambourine.

New songs were in full effect this night, and their 42-minute long set began with a brand new one titled “Push”. It was different from most Orange tracks, and Scott showed off a bit of a different side of his voice on it, using a slightly harsher tone, which gave the track more of a punk sound in my opinion. Like I said, it was different, but it was cool hearing them do something a little out of the box, and it was quite a good tune.

Already, it was clear this stage was a bit small for the band, or mainly Scott, who is a high-energy singer. He had already ran into his sister a few times on that opening number, and after he announced that they were “…Here to rock your fucking ass!”, it seemed like things were bound to get more ferocious. Sure enough, they did with “I Want a Girl”, where Scott — who was holding the microphone as he moved about — kept knocking the mic stand down, narrowly missing hitting some members of the crowd at one point; while he shook his head wildly at the dynamic end of the catchy song.

A toast followed, after which he encouraged everyone to move closer to the stage. “…Don’t be so fucking coy.” He told everyone in trying to coax them closer to the stage. With that, they began the explosive “Blow Up” (no pun intended), and Scott continued being his energetic self, and even twirled the mic around for a few seconds, prompting Melissa to reel back, making sure she wouldn’t accidentally get hit. He released and tried to catch it, but was off just a bit, and it plummeted to the floor. Instead of picking it up, he raced over to Melissas’ mic, and the two sang into it briefly.

She left after that one, and Scott grabbed his guitar. “This song’s about God.” He stated in advance of the epic “Cityscape”. The instrumentalisation on that song is superb and has a great flow to it, to the point it’s almost impossible to not be captivated by it. Kirk then wound them into the next number with some high-pitched guitar notes, before Cody came in strong on the drums for “Valium”. The rhythm section seemed especially loud in general this night, and that came in pretty handy on that song, mainly when the guitars died down and Jason and Cody had a rhythm break, which sounded very solid.

The next break saw Scott taking a moment to wish his mother a happy birthday, saying how cool both of his parents were, for still coming to his gigs and for being real into art of every kind when he growing up. He then welcomed a friend up on stage to help out in singing part of the next one. “The world has gone to the dogs…” sang Scott at the start “James Bond”, while Melissa rejoined them on that one, adding some extra percussion and backing vocals into the mix.

They only two left now, and Scott informed anyone who was there and had been a longtime Orange fan and consistently came to gigs were about to get something brand new. “These are our two newest ones.” he said, while Chicago Dan made his way up on stage and took the stage left mic. He showed off his harmonica skills for these last two, the first of which was “Skin”. Compared to most Orange songs, it was slow and mined a completely different style. That’s not to say it wasn’t good, though, and the backing vocals Melissa sang sounded fantastic.

“This next song’s called The Drift.” announced Scott as they got to their final song, which on the setlist read “The Drift (Psych)”. It blended both the slower style of that last one with the more upbeat and quick paced tracks the band has been churning out for so many years now. It was a great mix of the two actually, and for those who are very familiar with The Orange, it gave off a vibe similar to the other song the band typically ends their shows with. In fact, before starting it, Scott even asked if they could dim the lights a bit.

They went full throttle as always, and I would even say this was one of the crazier Orange shows I’ve seen in a little while. Not that anything over the top happened, but it was just a genuinely awesome and fun show. And the new stuff. Yeah, I’m really liking the new stuff. It has me even more excited for the new album, which I’m told they have finally finished recording. It’s only a matter of time now.

Speaking of their new album, they’ll be out in Los Angeles filming a music video for a song in May, and while there, they’ll also be doing a show at the Silverlake Lounge on May 27th. If you’re in the area, go see them. And until that album gets released, be sure to check out their first EP in iTUNES.

Oddly enough, the crowd thinned out some by the time SpaceCamp took the stage, though they still commanded a crowd bigger than many locals do.

The intro was full of suspense as fans waited for them to make a move, while singer Jeremy Rodriguez (AKA Tomahawk Jonez) faced the drum kit.

Then he spun around, and proceeded to throw a rap at everyone. “…They say to take your dreams and hide them…” was one of the only lines I can even remember from it. It was more of an inspirational rap, though (much like some of their songs), and aside from just the lyrics, Tomahawk poured a heap of emotions into it. You could see the determination on his face and hear it in every last word; and all the while he was connecting with the crowd, but on a level that transcended just the typical musician and fan relationship.

That set the stage perfectly for this show, because it was marked what was quite easily the band’s biggest milestone yet, and you knew right away they would be leaving it all on the stage.

With that, they began the lead track from the “Full Moon” EP, “Dancing with the Devil”, which followed up that intro nicely. The fans and any other onlookers who were there seemed instantly taken by the song, and were clearly feeling it. Some even danced along a bit, while acoustic guitarist Paco Estrada handled the choruses, “When you’re dancing with the devil by the pale moon light; raptured by the rhythm of the dead of night…”

“Thanks so much for being here…” Tomahawk told everyone, a sentiment that came right from the heart. “Y’all feel me?!” he shouted as guitarist Mike Dove began the next song, with AJ “Irish” Blackleaf soon adding some percussion over it. The song was “If This is Goodbye”, which, in my opinion is the strongest song on this new EP. It shows off their full trip-rock style with an excellent blend of rock and synthesized music, and I just love the chorus, “How we ever 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?”, which Paco sings amazingly. “If this is.” Tomahawk repeated multiple times at the end as the instruments fizzled out, which was a nice touch to the track, and gave it even more emotional depth.

“This isn’t goodbye. We’re just getting.” stated Tomahawk, while Mike kicked off their next song. “That’s a cool riff. I’ve never heard you do that before.” Tomahawk remarked. It was ended a  slick riff Mike kept playing, which at first didn’t resemble any of their songs, but everyone quickly figured out it was “The Lover”. That song had only been played live once before, and that was their acoustic show a little over a month prior. Obviously, the acoustic rendition and this full-band performance with all the bells and whistles were completely different, and this night, it was a beast of a song. Truly phenomenal, and it was their best song of the night.

“That was pretty fucking cool for me…” Tomahawk said after it ended, mentioning that, that was the first time it had ever been done like that. They only had one song left from this new album, and brought the mood down some with “Surrender to the Night”.

“Now that we got all that out of the way, we can have some fun for real.” joked Tomahawk afterwards, a smile on his face. That made it sound like they had only started to scratch the surface, and in some ways they just barely had. “Are you ready to shake your assess a bit?!” he shouted. The audience seemed ready to, and “The Dancer” was the perfect song for that, and at the end of it, Paco added a portion of a cover song that you instantly think about when you hear that title: “Careless Whisper” by George Michael. I’ve said it before about numerous bands, and I’ll say it again: it’s little things like that, that can make an already good or even great song unforgettable.

“Are still with us?!” shouted Tomahawk, who admitted he was joking. “I can see you are.” he said, as they moved on with another song from “The Daydreamers Guide to: Wasting Time” EP, “White Horses”. When he wasn’t rapping, Tomahawk shock a tambourine on that song, while he Marveled at Paco singing or beamed at his friends and fans who had come out to celebrate this show with them.

Tomahawk was riding high on a wave of emotion after the powerful “Reach for the Sun”, and again expressed his gratitude to everyone for being here. “…That song was about chasing your dreams.” he stated.

A song or two before that he had joked that that they maybe only had one song left, and the sound guy must have heard that and took him seriously, because while the chatter with the fans continued, the house sound got turned up. “Are we done? We out of time?” he asked, getting the music turned back off.

Joel Bailey sit his bass down for the next song and focused solely on the keyboard for one of the bands rare covers. I’ve seen the live video a few times, but personally had never experienced their take of Jay-Z’s “Ain t No Love” live before. It’s another song that does an excellent job of showing off both vocal talents the band has, and, live, it was a very fun track.

A case of déjà vu struck, when the house sound again blared through the PA system, while they still had one left to offer the fans. At least everyone hoped they did, because their greatest song had yet to be played.

A shot was raised, and Tomahawk mentioned this — all of it — had been for the fans. He also said Paco didn’t want to play this last song, and he needed everyone to make some noise to persuade him to do it. “Let’s play ‘em our Garth Brooks cover.” Paco said, which is something I wouldn’t mind hearing them do just to see what kind of twist they could put on one of those songs (I won’t be holding my breath, though.)

“Before You Die” doesn’t just take the cake as being their best songs, but one of the most beautiful ones ever written in general. “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?”

Yeah, it’s heartfelt, and that was taken to new heights this night, when Tomahawk fell to his knees after repeating “What will flash before your eyes before you die?” after one of the later choruses. Then, to cap it all off, Paco threw in a bit of The Used’s “Blue and Yellow”. “Should’ve done something, but I’ve done it enough. By the way, your hands are shaking; rather waste some time with you.”

That was the end to a 51-minute set, and one that had fans begging for more. “We can’t play no more. There’s no more drum sticks.” Tomahawk told those excited fans, and just moments before he had grabbed the sticks Irish had used and tossed them to some people. Besides, with the exception of one song (a cover) they had played just about every song from their two EP’s.

The show was sensational, and they made it a spectacle — just as every bands CD release show should be. The performance was the best I’ve seen them give (granted, it was only my fourth SPCCMP show, since their shows are more seldom), and I doubt it would be a stretch to say this was the best one they’ve played to date.

They started it with a driving hunger to prove something to not just their fans, but also themselves, and by the time it was over, I think they had satisfied that.

Both EP’s can be found in iTUNES, and you should definitely check them out. As for shows, nothing’s on the calendar right now, but something will surely pop up before long, so keep an eye on their FACEBOOK PAGE.

What a day this was. After being out at the Deep Ellum Arts Festival almost all day (since two) and then catching this show, I spent nearly twelve hours down in Deep Ellum. But really, that’s a perfect way to spend a day.

Saturday, April 5th, 2014 – Astronautalis Astonishes at Day Two of the Deep Ellum Arts Fest

Once I trekked back to main stage at Main and Good Latimer, a crowd was already starting to gather around the stage, and I staked out a spot just in time.

It had only been twenty days since Astronautalis last played Dallas, but he (Andy Bothwell) had been brought back to his old town to help close out the DEAF this night and lot of people were going to take advantage of this free show.

It was the Spillover Music Festival he played the previous month, and I did a lot of bouncing around at that one; only catching a portion of Astronautalis’s set that day, so I was looking forward to getting the full experience now.

“How y’all doing? It’s good to be back…” Andy said to the sizable crowd after he and band mates Austin and Moe (if I heard their names correctly) took the stage. “It feels like I was just here, with the same exact weather. I always bring bad weather with me…” he joked. That banter with the crowd lasted briefly, as chose to immediately establish a rapport with his old hometown crowd, rather than rip right into the first song.

That came soon enough though, in the form of one of the new tracks he has cooked up. It followed more along the lines of his current material, rather than his past records, and even though this group of fans had only heard it once at most, you could tell they had already embraced, roaring back at the hip-hop artists/singer at one of the breaks where he shouted and asked the crowd, “Are you ready?!”

“That was a new song, this one’s an old one.” he quickly said, while the sample track from “Contrails” began to play. Fans cheered at that, and many of them rapped right along with him when the song got going, “I know, leaving’s your living, built in your bones. No one can ever escape all of their ghosts…” Personally, that’s what has appealed to me the most about Astronautalis’ music, the fact that it’s real and honest, verses the gangster style of rap and hip-hop most people first think of whenever they hear either genre mentioned. And judging on how everyone was reacting to it this night and singing along excitedly, it was making a connection, too.

“This is the
last show of our tour. So we’re just gonna mess around and do stuff we want to.” The fans liked the sound of that, and they liked it even more so when things rolled into “This Is Our Science”. Andy got everyone pumped up while he sang the first verse, ensuring everyone was having a fun time, while also pushing things to a fever pitch. Then he burst into the rap portion of the song, delivering the words at a machine-gun pace, to the point that even though I knew the lyrics, I could barely keep up with what he was saying. “Tell me this, put up your fingertips if you’re living your life exactly the way that you wished…” he sang later in the song, prompting some of the fans to lift their arms into the air; and at the end, everyone shouted out the final line, “Touch fire!”

“Jesus, Dallas, could y’all have more stuff going on?” he asked once the song was over. He was referring to the fact that the NCAA Final Four was going on this weekend, as well as a three-day concert series in conjunction with that, that featured The Killers, Tim McGraw, and, the night after this, Bruce Springsteen. There was also the Dallas Film Festival, and I think I’m still leaving out a few events.

His focus returned to the concert series, where The Killers were playing this night. “…My secret hope is that someone out here is thinking, ‘This isn’t The Killers?!’, then they get super drunk and later on think, ‘That’s an awesome version of Mr. Brightside!” he joked. He also mentioned he thought the opposite would be amusing too, and that if some fan watching The Killers was wasted and thinking to themselves, ‘Man, Astronautalis has really sold out.” This was proving to be much more than just a concert, and there was also a great comedy aspect to it.

“This next one’s super loud.” He warned before “Thomas Jefferson”, a song where he showed off his freestyle skills, replacing the verse that rapper Sims takes on the recording with what he was able to come up with on the fly. It was followed by another new song, after which Astronautalis informed everyone he was in the process of making a new album, and hoped to return to the studio this summer to finish it all up. He then reminisced and joked about his time in Dallas. “You know when you’re a punk indie kid and you hear your redneck friends and you think how stupid they are so you move to Seattle?” he said. He then continued by talking about how the new friends you make there give you a hard time over your accent, until you realize you’re a redneck just like the people you were trying to get away from. Someone in the crowd called him out on that, and he mentioned he didn’t mean that disrespectful at all, and quickly confessed that he, too, was a redneck. In fact, that (specifically The South) was what he said the central focus of his next album would be, but for now, he got back to the fan favorites with a remix version of another hit from the “This is Our Science” album.

“It’s now a dance song.” he stated before “Dimitri Mendeleev”, which seemed to be an anthem to some fans, who shouted along, “…We invent paths they cannot see, and they’re too scared walk….” They then slowed things down a little with “A Love Song for Gary Numan”, but that mellow mood didn’t last long. The live version had more of a kick to it than the album version, and as the drumming increased and grew more intense, Andy began striking his hand against his hip, until the track exploded into action.

“Let’s dance some more!” he said enthusiastically before “Midday Moon”. He jumped in the crowd at one point during it, and while everyone was respectful, people were still placing their hands all over him. “Thanks for dancing with me. I feel pregnant after that.” He cracked, before mentioning that when he recorded that song, he was afraid everyone was going to hate it. Clearly, they do not.

They kept things going with another new song, and this one had some not so subtle religious undertones to it, and was my personally favorite of the new tracks that were played this night. “I’m full of basketball hatred.” Andy said when it was over. He wasn’t really joking, either, since the team he was rooting for had been knocked out of the playoffs. “No one ever wants Kentucky to win!” he added, clearly harboring some degree of malice towards them.

He let it go and got back to Dallas, though, talking about Good Records and how things have changed down here, like the “weird robot” that now stands there (known officially as the Traveling Man). He then asked about Bank of America Plaza building, which was lit up blue this weekend, and looked very strange from the typical green. “Who knew it could turn blue?” he asked, before inquiring who that had been done for, guessing it was probably for The Boss, or perhaps The Killers. “For me, y’all did that for me?” he later joked, before moving on to the next track.

“You only need to know 1 word  for this next song, and that’s ‘Hey’… You won’t learn the lyrics, so don’t be pretentious and just dance…” he said in a humorous manner, before unloading another new song on the fans. It was another killer one, and at one point, while he had one leg propped up on the monitor, he then jumped onto it and quickly pushed off it.

The next part of the show was perhaps the best of the night, and people got giddy when he mentioned he would be doing a freestyle rap, which is apparently customary at Astronautalis shows. Kendrick Lamars’ “Don’t Kill My Vibe” was the backing track used, but before it, he took suggestions from the audience on what to rap about. Someone wanted to know who the drummers favorite Care Bear was (he answered “The Red Power Ranger.”), while sea turtles were another topic thrown out (“You said that so gangsta.” Andy laughed after the woman said it.) Another guy mentioned the newborn baby a friend of his had just had, whose name was Olivia. “What  street cred I had is gone…” Andy said with a smile, mentioning that this was probably going to be the happiest rap of all time. It got a little more hardcore when someone mentioned they had a friend who had just gotten out of jail, while another said Cthulhu, though the subject of pizza irked Astronautailis. “Have you ever listened to a Mac Miller record? That’s all the songs are about…” he cracked, going off on entertaining rant of sorts (actually, rant seems like to strong of a word to use).

So, after he cooled off, he pulled out a rap involving all of those suggested topics in one way or another. Wow. It wasn’t just entertaining because of the absurd stuff people had shouted out, but because he also incorporated it all together in a very solid rap, proving this isn’t just something he’s good at, but a natural talent he was born with and has perfected over the years. He also worked into how when he first started, it was rap battles similar to this, just right down the street. “…And no one gave no shits…” he said, and later worked a thank you to all his fans into it, pointing out how much it meant that people would actually learn his lyrics and put the effort into singing along at shows. It was a very cool piece, especially since it was all made up on the spot.

 The 59-minute long set ended with “Lift the Curse”, but even after nearly an hour, no one was ready for the show to be over.

It looked like it was, though, especially once the emcee of the stage walked back up and began to wrap up the night, though his words were drowned out by the calls for an encore. “Let them know.” He said. Soon, the band did return, and they struck hard.

“The River, The Woods” started off the 7-minute encore portion, reinvigorating everyone who was there. In fact, while it had only gotten colder and the winds were strong, I hadn’t even noticed the cold at all throughout this Astronautalis show. Some drum beats then wound them into the next song, “Trouble Hunters”, which became a fun clap-along and sing-along for everyone. “…We are the trouble tonight.” fans chanted throughout the song, and giving that the night was still so young (around 10:30), it was a fitting one to go out on.

Damn. What a show.

As I said in the review of that last show, in hindsight, I should have stuck around for all of Astronautalis’s show, and I’m glad I had a chance so soon to make up for that mistake (hey, it was a festival and I wanted to see as many bands as I could.)

The presence this guy has is overwhelming, and he can command a crowd of old fans and new comers with complete ease. And at the risk of repeating an earlier statement, when watching an Astronautalis show, you really can tell that this is Andy Bothwell’s calling in life, and both performing and rapping are something he excels at.

On that note, I’m generally not a fan of hip-hop or rap. I’m not going to say anything negative about the genres, as it has everything to do with personal preference. However, there’s something about his music that is just gripping. It speaks to you. Maybe not necessarily in a way that you can completely relate to the track, but it still does, and more than a few of the songs have an inspirational quality to them.

Point is, check him out if you aren’t yet familiar with the music. All of the albums can be found in iTUNES, and I’d suggest starting with “This is Our Science”. As for tour dates, his whole schedule can be found HERE. However, he’ll be all over Europe in May and into early June. And hopefully by year’s end, fans will have a new album to listen to.

It had been a helluva great day at the Deep Ellum Arts Festival, but like I said, the night was still young, and there was a CD release show going on that I could not miss out on…

Album Review: “Brighter Sun” by Manny the Martyr

imageThese days in music, it’s hard to come up with an original sound on any level. Luckily, I can’t think of any music fan who would require a band be cutting edge to even listen to them. Still, everyone hopes to come across an act like that. There are a few out there, and Manny the Martyr is one of them.

The band has only been around for a couple of years, but quickly built a strong, loyal fan base, which only grew with the release of their debut EP. Then, as 2013 drew to a close, the band released their debut full-length, “Brighter Sun”, which features some of their older songs re-recorded, plus plenty of the new material fans have come to love.

Now, is what makes the band so highly original sounding is the way they blend genres like reggae, funk and ska with rock, pop and even some punk, along with other elements. Those first few genres are in full effect on the albums lead track, “The Radio”, which is also one of the singles off it. The rhythm section is in the zone on it, from the tight intro, to the bass solo that comes later on, which makes you realize bass solos can be every bit as good as guitar solos. This can be said for many of the cuts on this album, but it will have you really feeling the music and bobbing your head along to it.

The second song, “Aydagee”, brings in more of a rock structure, while still keeping the reggae sound that sets them apart. Actually, much of the reggae texture on this one is found in the voice of singer Jake Cravens, who emulates and executes that singing style perfectly. And going back to the rock aspect of the song, the soaring guitar solo certainly doesn’t hurt it, and is kept short enough to add depth without being tedious.

“It’s Alright” keeps the funk/reggae style to a minimum, as the band delivers more of a straight shot of rock to fans. But even then, the catchy pacing you’re already used to is still kept intact. Then, you’re treated to one of the most amusing song titles ever: “Left Over Sexy”. It’s arguably the most fun song on the album, and even by simply listening to it you can tell the band had a blast recording it. And yes, the song’s just as bodacious as the title suggests.

“DDJ” is one of those songs that was redone from their first EP, and it keeps that lively, rocking vibe not only going, but thriving. “Boogyman” then marks the return to the distinct mix of ska/funk, etc. that the band has craved out, and the drums are timed perfectly with the vocals on a portion of the chorus, which greatly helps in accenting them. Then you have the wickedly good guitar solo, and while it’s more rock based, it still manages to work within the song.

After those previous tracks, “Too Soon” might come as a bit of a surprise to the listener. It’s a pleasant one, though. The members of Manny the Martyr channel some deep, inner rock beast on this track, that shatters the mold they’ve cast themselves in, and frankly, I always like when bands do that. It’s an edgy number chocked full of nothing but Rock ‘n’ Roll. Jake even pushes his voice to the extreme on one line, digging into a deep, guttural scream. Perhaps the most shocking part is how good he sounds doing it.

Even “30 Seconds” is slightly genre-bending when compared to the bands other music, and it focuses prominently on a heavier rock vibe, with perhaps some tinges of metal tossed in at times, while the guitar solo is simply dazzling. It exudes a very primal vibe (if you get my drift), all of which qualify it as being another standout track on the album. One of the top three I would say.

It’s back to basics with the title track, “Brighter Sun”, whose chorus will have you singing along in no time. “…These demons haunting you will come to show their faces at night… You’re world is burning and you cannot do a thing.” Jake sings, spitting out the words in his soulful, reggae sounding voice.

All of that more or less continues on the shortest song on the album, “2 Inch Hero”. Taking a cue from the title, it clocks in at barely over two minutes, and it’s all about being a creature of the night and enjoying the bar/club scene. It’s a party song, and it fits that vibe.

Closing the album is another older song of theirs that is a staple and loved by all. The funk sounds are perhaps displayed better on “Hit the Brink” than they are on any other track, heard in even the most subtle notes from the guitars and thundering riffs on the bass. It even offers some sage advice at times, like on the chorus, “…Find another to help you, don’t just live for yourself…”, while other lines are delivered in a harsh, growly tone. Personally, it’s my favorite track of the bands, and if you’re liking the band but still happen to be on the fence about them, this should be the song that clinches you as a fan.

“Brighter Sun” is a solid record all the way around, and while Manny the Martyr has a pretty original sound that they excel at, they prove their musical borders extend well beyond that, and that they’re pretty much capable of anything they decide to do.

So, if you’re looking for something fresh to jam to, this would be a record well worth checking out. And if you like it, man, their live shows will blow you away.

Manny the Martyr is:
Jake Cravens - Lead vocals
Brad Green - Guitar & backing vocals
Joel Simka - Drums
Mike Ubben - Lead guitar
Jayson Vaughn - Bass

Purchase the album on: iTUNES

Visit Manny the Martyr’s websites:
Facebook / Reverbnation / Twitter / Youtube

Current Shows:
Friday, June 27th @ Trees in Dallas w/ Reel Big Fish

Sunday, May 4th, 2014 – Suburbia Music Fest Sets Itself Up as North Texas’s Next Big Shining Star

A little over a year ago, when the city of Plano and Live Nation announced they had partnered to bring a music festival to the city, my interest was piqued.

While the Dallas/Fort Worth area hosts its fair share of music festivals, even those are mostly aimed at the local demographic. They’re not trying to make waves like the ones in Austin, or California, Illinois, or a slew of other states (and even countries), where people will travel from all around the country or even globe to attend them.

Yet that was the clear long-term goal for this new brainchild—which had yet to be named—that would take place in the suburb of Plano, north of Dallas.

As the months went by, the Suburbia Music Festival took shape, and while I struggled to even think of a spot in my hometown that could host a festival on this scale, organizers found the perfect spot. A spot I didn’t even know existed (which is kinda sad, given all twenty-five years of my life have been spent here.)

Oak Point Park and Nature Preserve was chosen as the destination. The city has an amphitheater built near the area, though it was the sprawling piece of land behind it (and past a little lake) that would serve as the grounds for this inaugural event. An area so large it easily accommodated all three stages, none of which could be seen from either of the others.

I was unable to make the first day of this two-day event, though I heard so many good things about it, it got me even more pumped for the Sunday date, which, for me, began shortly after noon.

Along with all the topnotch national talent that had been booked to perform, a few local area bands got the chance to play, and hometown (well, home area) favorites Ishi was one of them.

I arrived in time to hear the frontman of the electronic act, JT Mudd, singing the final bit of “Shake Your Dandelion” to the early birds. “Step into my world, and I’ll satisfy you.” he sweetly crooned on the steamy number from their debut album.

The new fans the band had made barely got to clap before the sample track for “Mother Prism” kicked on, while JT donned his feathered Native American headdress and picked up his colorful shield, waving it around as he began to sing, “Don’t be too hard on yourself, there’s enough love to go around.” This song is the anthem of the Ishi nation, and is perhaps one of the ultimate feel good songs, which made it all the more entertaining to see it performed to a group of people who didn’t know it.

The magical chant of “Aiyah, aiyay. Aiyah, aiyah, aiyay.” received no audience participation, and there was no jumping around. Well, at least not from the crowd. Guitarist Rocky  Ottley was doing plenty of bouncing about, while JT danced around the stage, feeling every drum beat Jonathan Merla was knocking out; and even though it was fairly hot already, he didn’t let that bother him.

He spelled out their name for everyone before their final number, and despite having a song titled after the band name, it was “Slowly but Surely” that they ended with. Members of the audience rushed the guardrail when JT left the stage and stood on it for part of the song, then looked on in a mix of shock and amusement when he retook the stage and got down on all fours, showing off some moves that looked like he needed someone underneath him.

They were certainly well liked, and after getting off the stage, countless new fans ran over to JT to talk to him and get pictures with him, like he were David Guetta himself.

Sure, Ishi is one of the most popular acts in North Texas, and sold-out shows are an almost constant for them, but even then, the band doesn’t get the celebrity treatment from the audience like they did this day. Which made this pretty cool.

They have a show in Houston coming up on May 31st, and a Dallas gig on June 12th. Full info on those can be found HERE, and do check out their music in iTUNES. Especially if you weren’t lucky enough to catch one of the copies of “Digital Wounds’ that JT threw into the crowd this day.

image(Photo taken by me with the Samsung Galaxy S5 phone)

The Meadow Stage was where they had played, and that was where I spent most of my day, and now I awaited the Brooklyn-based American Authors to take the stage.

The band hit the stage right at their 12:35 start time, and singer and multi-instrumentalist Zachary Barnett asked the ever important question, “Texas, how y’all doing?!”

It was early enough in the day that not much else was happening yet, so most of the people had stuck around, while others were compelled to come over after hearing the intro into their opening number, which saw Zac dishing out some beats on a floor tom that sit at the front of the stage. That then wound into “Think About it”, which had everyone moving in some regard, and a clap along was started both at the beginning of the song and during it, and the audience was more than happy to participate.

“Texas, how are we feeling today?!” Zac asked afterwards, getting another healthy response from the crowd, before announcing their next song was “all about family and holding on”. James Adam Shelley had swapped out his guitar for a mandolin for “Luck”. At times, the percussion on the song was lethal sounding, with Zac walking about the stage, occasionally striking the tom, which added even more of a chest-thumping kick to the beats Matt Sanchez was hammering out on that tale of forgiveness.

“Y’all ready to have some fun today?” asked Zac, as if the couple of finely mixed rock and pop songs they had already played weren’t fun enough already. “Let’s do it!” he said in response to the audience’s cheering, adding that it had “been a minute” since their last show in Texas, but it was as hot as he recalled it being. James was now on banjo duty for the lead track from their debut album, “Believer”. More clapping was required from the audience at the start; while the best part of the song had to be the percussion solo they gave it later on, and along with the extra tom, bassist Dave Rublin was beating a kick drum, which was placed in a stand that lifted it off the ground.

They continued playing a game of musical chairs with their instruments, and now Zac was clutching the mandolin, and he used this break to again thank the crowd, this time “for coming out to party with us”. The group vocals on “Heart of Stone” were spectacular, though it was James’s killer guitar solo that was thrown in that really turned heads.

They kept the songs coming, this time slowing things down slightly with “Home”, which Zac noted was about how sometimes the easiest things are also the hardest ones, and overall, it was a song family. “I’m just trying to get home.” crooned Zak at the end, before raising his voice again to shout, “Texas, thank y’all so much.” I’ll take a second to note that I really like the fact that he kept using the word “y’all”, which is correct when you’re in the South.

image(Photo credit: Ronnie Jackson Photography)

Now holding an acoustic guitar, Zac pumped everyone up, saying they could do better after a weaker answer to the question, “Texas, how are we doing?!” He then made the assumption that since they were in Texas, everyone must like country music at least somewhat, but it was dead silent when he asked everyone about that. “I guess we’re the only ones in Texas who like country music.” they joked, before saying they were going to do a cover of a song that Dave referred to as the “cilantro of country music”. He was speaking of Florida Georgia Lines’ “Cruise”, and after they finished it, I heard one person call it the best cover song they had ever heard. It was phenomenal, and they made it all their own by removing most of the country elements to better fit what they do. It definitely had an American Authors twist to it, and part of that twist included making it sound like quite the romantic tune. Very impressive.

They got back to their original material with “Trouble”, and upon finishing it, Zac and another musician who had been adding an extra guitar and keys to the mix left the stage. James segued them into their next song with a glossy sounding guitar solo, which lasted a minute or two, before the rest of the band returned. “Cause one day we’re gonna come back and laugh at it all. One day we’ll look at the past with love…” Zac sang on the catchy chorus of “Love”, and once it was done, he decided everyone watching them felt too far away.

“We can fix this!” he declared, rushing off stage and getting down to the pit area on the stage side of the guardrail. He stood there for the majority of “Ghost”, getting some of the crowd to chant along with him, and many clapped to the beat, before he returned to the stage to finish the song. Their last batch required the banjo, and “Hit It” was an electrifying track, and they even found room for the title track of their debut record, “Oh, What a Life”, which was one I hadn’t been expecting.

After all that, they still had time for one more, and it was one of those songs you’ve probably heard, even if you’re not familiar with American Authors. “This is our last song, let’s make it count!” shouted Zac moments before they fired up “Best Day of My Life” (which has been used in a few TV ads), and not only did the crowd keep clapping for most of the song, there was even some jumping going on at the end of their 53-minute long set. A set that was all about having fun, on both the bands end as well as the audiences.

I was surprised they got to play that long, and they may well have played longer, if it weren’t for the fact they had played every single song off “Oh, What a Life”, plus that cover. They fired off everything they had in the chamber, which always makes a concert experience even more fun, knowing you can say, “Yeah, I’ve heard that whole album live.”

Their sound is every bit as good live as you might think it would be from listening to the album, and they have such a great blend of the rock and pop genres, easily appealing to fans from each side of the fence. That extends to the vocals too, and Zac can hit some really good high notes when he needs to, and has a great resting voice.

Their music invigorated a lot of people this afternoon, which worked out well, because people still had energy to spare at this point.

American Authors is a great band to see live, and they have plenty of shows coming up, so you may have a chance to catch them. Their full calendar can be viewed HERE, and after a short tour overseas later this month, they’ll be hitting the road with OneRepublic. Also, be sure to check out their album in iTUNES.

The group dispersed after their set, no doubt going to get some refreshments or see what else was going on at the other stages, but if they had known what was about to go down, they probably would have stayed put. That was okay, though, because it allowed me an up close and personal view for Reignwolf.

The band recently wrapped up a tour opening for Black Sabbath, but they’re still not a household name. At least not yet. And while the majority of the people at Suburbia might not have heard of them before, this was something I had been waiting for since the past November, when the band did their first Dallas area show.

The trio, led by lead guitarist Jordan Cook, took the stage with even more confidence than I last remembered, ripping right into the first song of their 42-minute long set.

They’re a pure rock act who doesn’t muddle in the alternative/pop/etc. genres. Just Rock ‘n’ Roll, plain and simple, and that was proven on their first song, which right out of the gate had Jordan showing off his prowess as a guitarist, tearing it up on a wicked solo.

“How are y’all feeling today?! Doing alright?” he asked, before they started one of their other unrecorded tracks. Joseph Braley holds down the percussion in the band, though Jordan does some, too, via a smaller kick drum with the snarling and ferocious wolfs head logo the band uses on the drumhead. He stood atop said drum at the start of that next one, shredding on his axe and bending down to sing into the mic, before jumping off it and grabbing the microphone to take with him, still keeping it in his hand when he wasn’t singing, and it did nothing to hinder his plucking of the strings. David “Stitch” Rapaport was also doing a great job of throwing on that one, and towards the end he jumped atop the drum riser, interacting with Joseph as much as he could.

A small group of die-hard fans (including a good friend I was hanging out with this day) kept shouting for one song, and now Jordan announced their next one was coming “by special request”. It was one of handful of songs they have recorded and released, which was the at times bluesy and soulful sounding “In the Dark”. All of that can be attributed solely to Jordans’ voice and the way he stretches out some of syllables, simultaneously packing the word full of emotion. He was again all over the stage during that one, from standing atop one of the monitors where he made playing a guitar look like the single easiest thing to do in the world, to sitting at the edge of the stage where he asked everyone to sing with him, as he made some more subtle noises.

“You should be proud of yourselves. This is the first year I’m told.” he said to the audience, referring to the Suburbia Music Festival. While doing that, his guitar tech brought a mandolin out to him, and then Jordan stated this next one was titled “Mandolin Song”. That may not strike you as being a very rock sounding instrument, but the way he plays it, along with the heavier side that Joseph and Stitch create, it’s really an intense, even semi-haunting number.

image(Photo credit: Ronnie Jackson Photography)

“Yall still with us?!” Jordan roared, while his band mates left the stage. He orchestrated a clap along at the start of “Electric Love”, a song that still had a full band sound, thanks to his own little kick drum. He used the guitar solo portion of the song to roam about the stage, going all the way to the end of stage right, which jutted out a good little ways, before returning to the main part of the stage, eventually taking a seat behind the drum kit. He was playing his guitar and banging about the full kit (sometimes all at once), a feat that had everyone in awe. I think the only reason he even quit when he did was because he lost both drum sticks, so he had nothing else to do back there. It didn’t stop there, though. He picked up his kick drum and moved it to the edge of stage right, finishing the song up there, and he viciously slapped the strings of his guitar to end it.

The crowd was howling now, and when asked “Are you with us?! I said are you with us?!”, it was clear they were. Stitch and Joseph returned for “Palms To The Sky”, and Jordan fully fleshed out the rhythm section by using a bass on what was one of their best songs of the night, partly because the song starts out fairly intense, and it only builds the further they get into it.

“…I never did anything for you, you didn’t know…” sang Jordan in his gritty, bluesy tone on the one song I had anxiously been waiting for them to get to, “Are You Satisfied?”. Jordan dropped to his knees for an incendiary guitar solo, and at one point the music ceased, as he sang one of the choruses a cappella, which sounded amazing.

That set the stage for their final song, and Jordan hopped off the stage and approached the guardrail. “Who’s holding the mic today?” he asked, before handing it off to one new fan. While he did that, his band mates dissembled the drum kit, Joseph moving a few pieces of it up to the forefront of the stage. That was what he played, and for most of “Bicycle”, Stitch was on the now empty looking drum riser, playing what was left of the kit. “Are you with us?!” Jordan asked one more time during that song, which in some ways, was the most aggressive one of the night.

There’s just something about a Reignwolf show. The band is the living embodiment of the Rock ‘n’ Roll spirit, and credit to that can be placed almost squarely on the shoulders of Jordan Cook.

The man is a master of the guitar, and to say he’s a guitar god wouldn’t be farfetched at all. It’s as if he gets possessed by all the rock spirits (or demons, I guess, depending on how you want to look at it) while performing, which results in one of the purest, rawest rock experiences one could have.

If you haven’t heard of Reignwolf yet, I promise you, you will soon, so go ahead and get a jump on it and check out the few singles they have in iTUNES. They also have plenty of show dates lined up through the summer (including a little run of Europe), and more will surely be added in the next few months. So, to see if they’re coming to a town near you, go HERE.

The day was still pretty young, but there was no questioning that Reignwolf had been the best act so far, and even once Suburbia was all said and done, their performance was still in my top three for the day.

Next up on the Meadow stage was Smallpools. The Los Angeles-based quartet had been in the area just the weekend before, when they played another music festival that takes place in the suburbs of Dallas, and after seeing and liking them then, I had to jump at the chance to see them once more.

A lengthy intro that heavily featured lead singer Sean Scanlons’ keyboard eventually gave way into “Mason Jar”, as most of the band helped back him up with some extra vocals there at the start. Like just about all of their songs, that’s a highly infectious track, and the audience took it upon themselves to start clapping along to the pulsating drum beats Beau Kuther was serving up on the first verse. He then rolled the band right into their next song, which was another from their self-titled EP, “No Story Time”, and this time Sean led the audience in a clap along.

“We appreciate you being here for us.” he told everyone, before asking if anyone had heard of them before this. Several hands were raised into the air, while others screamed, and it was those people he was speaking to when he said, “…So you know we just powered through half of our music… We only have seven minutes left…” he joked. He went on to setup their next song, mentioning that they were from the Hollywood area and go to different parties out there. “…This is about the stupid parties we go to.” he finished, as they got to their first of many non-album songs, “Admission to Your Party”.

The afternoon heat at started to sink in, but it didn’t stop people from getting down to their music, and Sean looked out at everyone after that one had ended. “Look at you out there, living your lives…” he commented, noting that this next one was about living your life. “…We’re all just dying to, we’re all just dying to live.” he sang on the chorus of the super catchy “Dying to Live”, which I would have to say is my personal favorite Smallpools song. They kept the fun vibes going with “Over & Over”, which is all about having a good night, and upon finishing it, guitarist Mike Kamerman complimented Sean on his fade out skills.

image(Photo credit: Ronnie Jackson Photography)

“He’s been killing it on his fade out game lately.” Mike remarked, before Sean piped up and said he didn’t think that one just now was one of his best. They moved on with “American Love”, and afterwards Sean went back to when they first started and got some music out in the world, that they would search for their band name on Twitter just to see what people were saying about them. “We’d find a lot of ‘It’s wrong to keep killer whales in small pools’, obviously.” That was apparently where the inspiration for their next song title came from, and a group of fans near where I stood were ecstatic that they were going to play “Killer Whales”.

“We like playing these things.” Sean stated after that track. “We get to get a tan with you guys. Reunite with some old friends…” he said, speaking about American Authors and a couple other acts. “We didn’t write this next song, but sing along if you know it.” Sean then told the crowd, as they launched into a rendition of New Radicals’ “You Get What You Give”. It was changed up slightly to better fit them, but still retained a certain rock aspect in the guitar and bass, which was played by Joseph Intile.

“Did that song come out in Texas, or did it skip over you?” Mike jokingly asked, before saying it was 1998 when that one had been released, before admitting he really didn’t know (he did get it right, though). They still had one song left off their EP, but before getting to that, they asked to get a picture of the audience, and the two small dog statues that had been sitting on the stage were then handed to a couple members of the crowd, so they too could be in the picture. It may be slightly silly (the dogs), but it’s still a fun thing to do, and with that, they tackled the final song of their 39-minute long set, which was “Dreaming”, and it gave them a strong finish.

This was definitely the better show of the now two Smallpools gigs I’ve seen, simply because they had more time on this one.

They specialize in fun music that is very easy to get into, and their energy on stage rivals that of the music they’re churning out. They manage to form a rapport with the crowd, too, which is quite nice.

It was mentioned before one of those songs that it would be on their full-length, which is due out sometime, but until then, you can hold yourself over with their “Smallpools” EP. And if you like that, they’re about to be pretty busy as they tour with Neon Trees, and their full schedule can be viewed HERE.

I was getting pretty excited now, as it was almost time for Twenty One Pilots to take the Meadow stage. They were another band I had seen before, last November when they played in Dallas, and that was one of the top ten concerts I saw last year. I was expecting nothing less from them this day, and was looking forward to what they might do.

I was refilling my water bottle when I heard the bands intro song start up. The piano piece played for a little while, before the roars of the crowd could be heard, which surely meant that Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun had taken the stage. The piano part continued, but now it was Tyler playing it. “Let’s go!” he shouted as Josh laid into the drum kit, and “Guns for Hands” really took life. That lush, poppy rock sound eventually gave way to the more hip-hop style drum beats, and Tyler stood on top of the piano as he busted out the rap portion of the song, “We’ve turned our hands to guns, trade in our thumbs for ammunition…”. It was the first full glimpse I had caught of him, and while he had taken the stage without a shirt to keep cool, he was wearing that signature ski mask. Josh had one on, too, and his looked like the stereotypical green, bug-eyed alien.

As soon as it ended the sample track for “Migraine” kicked on, and Tyler got to dig a little deeper into his rapping ability. He’s an excellent rapper, though it was the performance during that one that really left people feeling awestruck. Right before hitting the first chorus, he leapt from the stage to the back of the piano, sticking the landing on the edge just fine, but quickly kicked off of it. “Am I the only one I know, waging my wars behind my face and above my throat? Shadows will scream that I’m alone…” he sang on, which you can tell is pretty powerful to him, and no doubt means something to some of the fans as well. Josh stood from his seat before the second chorus and crashed down on the different cymbals, while Tyler led the throng of fans in a clap along before the final chorus.

They may have only done two songs, but it was clear they weren’t holding anything back, and they didn’t plan on slacking up for even an instant. However, they did leave the stage as a dark, haunting track wound into the next song. When the duo returned, they were clad in their skeleton costumes, which is just black cloth with a basic representation of the skeletal system on it from head to toe. The song was the lead track from the “Vessel” album, “Ode to Sleep”.

It was another crazy one, that had Tyler unzipping the mask, giving the crowd their first glimpse of his face, but then he drew it back a bit as he went to the synthesizer and played it some more. He was running about when he could, though, and at one point suddenly rushed to the forefront of the stage, looking like he might even come right out in the audience. That would come later.

They lost those skeleton suits after that number, and then broke out an older song, “Anathema”, which comes from the “Regional at Best” record. Josh primarily used the drum pad for most of that song, a song that starts a little slower than most of their other tracks, but is every bit as good; and just in case anyone thought they were dragging now, they spiced things up when a smaller partial drum kit was brought to the front of the stage. Josh vacated his spot for that one, and Tyler climbed behind the one on the riser, as they powered through the ending that had everyone’s blood pumping.

They weren’t done with the changes just yet, and now, on the back of the piano, there sit a drum pad at one end and a smaller synthesizer on the other. People were on the edge of their seats wondering what was coming next, and there was a sudden gasp of disbelief when the Tyler began to sing over the buildup that they had given the track. “All around me are familiar faces, worn out places, worn out faces…” Nobody was expecting a cover of Tears for Fears’ “Mad World”, but it proved to be one of the best moments of the day (not just their set), even though they only did it through the first chorus. That was enough, and now, because they had only began to scratch the surface, they were ready to push this show into overdrive.

Tyler jumped into the pit area and got by the guardrail, then placed one foot in the crowd. After folks had a secure grip on him, he threw his other foot over, and after getting steady enough while kneeling, he stood up, totally supported by the audience. They then broke into “Holding On to You”, and he sang much of the first portion of the song like that, before finally getting down and returning to the stage. The fact that he is capable of not just such an impressive vocal range, but also such a vast range of styles is one of the best qualities Twenty One Pilots has, and he went from some gorgeous falsetto singing back to rapping. “…Is it time to move our feet to an introspective beat?” he repeated several times, and it was while he was doing that, that Josh wandered over to the piano, climbed up on it, and then did a back flip off of it, before returning to supplying the beats.

image(Photo credit: Ronnie Jackson Photography)

The next thing you knew, Tyler had a floral print robe on, and he shared a little anecdote, saying his mother had told him she didn’t like it when he wore all black on stage. Given that the next song was one he wrote for her—and dedicated it to her this day—saying he had to, even though she wasn’t there, it was one song that he told her he would “wear something more festive” on when he played. Still, the background on the robe was black, though.

He proceeded to pluck the strings of his mandolin, getting the touching “House of Gold” underway. “I will make you queen of everything you see. I’ll put you on the map, I’ll cure you of disease.” he crooned on the chorus of the song that progressively gets more intense. They bled it into something that was almost the complete opposite, and “Semi-Automatic” relies on some sample tracks, sample tracks that make it all too easy to groove to. “I’m never what I like. I’m double-sided… I kinda like it when I make you cry…” goes the chorus, and before the second one, Tyler let a big smile creep onto his face all of a sudden, letting it known that he was enjoying this as much as everyone else was.

“How are we doing so far? We’re giving you everything we have. We’re just pouring it out…” he stated to everyone, as they finally allowed themselves to stop. He also mentioned it wasn’t often that they got to play without their shirts, and after asking if everyone could sing along with them on the next song, he pointed out the VIP section. It was separated by some guardrails and located on the stage left side of the stage. “I’m sorry, but that’s the stupidest idea ever.” Tyler remarked. He then got back on track, saying he had a “magic word”, and once he sang “get up”, he wanted everyone to find someone and put them on their shoulders. “I don’t even care if it’s dude on dude.” he said, he just wanted the participation.

When he got to that line on “The Run and Go”, a dozen or so people were suddenly seen being hoisted up onto a friends shoulders, and the song ended in memorable fashion, as Tyler again stood on the piano, now shouting, “Tonight, I’ll need you to stay!” The audience wasn’t done being brought into the show yet, and now Tyler detailed his plans for their next track.

“I’m going to stand up on the piano, because I like doing it. Then I’m going to count you off, because it makes sense; and I want you to give whatever energy you have left…” he humbly requested. “This song’s a true story, it’s called Car Radio.” he finished, before donning his ski mask. When the song peaked, everyone was asked to jump around, and while that’s something I seldom do, you just had to. Everybody was caught up in the moment and wanted to make the most of it, and right now that meant jumping around while clapping along to the music. Besides, seeing the band give it their all, which included Tyler running all over the stage, jumping on the piano and running right off, you felt like you had to do everything you possibly could.

“How did we do for everybody? Okay?” he asked after they were done, being completely genuine. After asking if anyone wanted another song, the next question was if the crowd had one more in them. “Don’t let me down.” Tyler said to everyone as they began “Trees”. Fans again started jumping on this one; and after seeing what people still had to give, Tyler used one of the breaks to address everyone. “You wanted one more. Don’t waste one second of this.” he declared, before the song eventually ended with two platforms with small drum kits being handed out into the audience, and once those were secure, a couple more platforms were sent out there. The duo ended their 56-minute set out in the crowd, each banging on the drums, and Tyler poured water on the skin of his floor tom, which could be seen shooting into the air. After that epic end, they then got back on stage and took a bow to the audience who was going ballistic.

I may not have room to say this, given that there were a slew of bands I wasn’t able to see at the festival, but I firmly believe Twenty One Pilots was the best act of the day, and I know they were the best band I saw.

Everything about them and their music is original, and very people in this world are able to command a crowd as easily as Tyler is capable of doing. No one looked away for those 56-minutes they were on stage, and once they ended, dozens of people were shouting for more, hoping it would happen.

I said at the start of this their last Dallas show was one of my favorites of last year, and this set is guaranteed to make my Top 10 list this year.

For all North Texans who do want more, you’ll have to wait until October 16th, when their Quiet is Violent Tour stops at the House of Blues. That fall tour is a nationwide one, but they do have many other shows before then, all of which can be viewed HERE. And if you’ve never heard of them, give them a listen in iTUNES.

About thirty minutes after they finished, the next band was ready to go, and that Texas’ own Blue October.

It had been more than a year since I had last seen them, and given that this tour is one in support of their latest album, “Sway”, it was fitting that that word lit up on the screen on the back of the stage. For other bands, it had shown their names and logos and a series of other computer generated images, but for Blue October, it was that one simple word, made to look like each letter was lit up by several individual light bulbs.

A minutes long instrumental piece played before the band walked out on stage, and they were greeted with the type of fanfare a band of this stature deserves.

They segued that piece directly into the title track itself, “Sway”, a song that didn’t pack the punch of some of their others do in terms of intensity, but nearly everyone was feeling it, as Justin Furstenfeld used a more hushed voice on the track. “How you doing?” he asked after the song concluded, giving little time for anyone to respond, as his band mates wound things into the next song with some mangled sounding chords.

“Say It” packed the gut punch necessary to hook everyone. I’ve only seen the band a couple times, but I’ve always loved the F-bombs Justin adds in place of other words. For example, “…I don’t want to hear you say it. Now you’re fucking with my pride.” It was one of many songs he really got into this late afternoon, and he changed another line, pointing to different people as he sang, “…’Cause you lift me, you life me, you lift me up when I’m feeling down.”, a line that refers to the audience.

He sit his guitar down after that, putting more focus on the crowd, while guitarist C.B. Hudson, bassist Matt Noveskey and the rest of the group eased them into “Light You Up”. Justin waved his middle finger in the air on each chorus when exclaiming, “Fuck you!”, while his brother Jeremy Furstenfeld got more aggressive with his drumming. The end was the exact opposite, and all eyes were on Ryan Delahoussaye, who ended the track with a lovely violin outro. “How’s everybody doing out there?” asked Justin; who went on to tell everyone who they were. “We’re Blue October, from Texas.” he simply said, before the band dug up a gem from the “Foiled” album. “Congratulations” was not a song I had expected to hear, considering they had a shorter time slot than usual, though it is one I really enjoy, so it was a pleasant surprise.

“….Let’s see how well y’all can sing…” Justin said to everyone; the crowd getting instantly giddy upon hearing him sing the first line of “Into the Ocean”. “I want to swim away but don’t know how. Sometimes it feels just like I’m fallin’ in the ocean…” the fans sang on each chorus. Actually, all of them were left entirely up to the fans, while the bearded Justin paced around the stage, holding the microphone out towards everyone and smiled as part of his song was sung back to him. “One more time!” he shouted before the final chorus.

image(Photo credit: Ronnie Jackson Photography)

Now that a couple of oldies had been played, focus shifted back to their newest album, and “Fear” was perhaps their best song. You could just tell that Justin has a strong personal connection to that one, and for those familiar with the story that the songs from the “Any Man in America” record tell, this song is pretty much directly connected to those. “Today, I don’t have to fall apart. I don’t have to be afraid. I don’t have to let the damage consume me…” he sang, and you could see on his face how much those lyrics meant to him. Singing it was freeing to him, like a healing process, and it was helping him in getting over the pains of his past.

“We’re having a blast!” he yelled, while plugging his guitar back in for the low-key, yet breathtaking “Debris”. C.B. and Matt got some interaction going on that one, standing next to one another and rocking out at one point, before the song ended and they fired up another totally unexpected one. “X Amount of Words” is one song that I don’t dislike, though I’ve never been too crazy over it, either. Live, it’s a different story. “…I never knew you till you left me with the crying disease.” has always been a line that I’ve liked, and Justin killed it on the final verse of that song. It was the delivery of it, just so well calculated. Everyone got their time on that song though, all thanks to a long an instrumental outro. Jeremy and Matt had a rhythm solo, before C.B. captured attention by shredding on his axe, and as it ended, Justin dropped to the floor and messed around with all sorts of effects on his pedal board. Live, that was an unbelievably epic song.

Justin went back to having the sole duty of frontman for “Bleed Out”, which was another pretty emotionally tune; and its best part had to be the end, when he sang the chorus a cappella, “…I gave it all, but you can’t stop taking from me…”, which hit like a ton of bricks, in the best possible way.

“We’ve had a wonderful time. Thanks for having us.” Justin told everyone, before asking if anyone was ready for J. Cole (who was the next act on the stage). An acoustic guitar was now around him, and, of course, they had to end with “Hate Me”, which became another audience sing along. Most everyone was singing the song simply because they enjoyed it so much; and after ditching his acoustic axe, Justin made the rounds of the stage one last time to engage everyone, before allowing the crowd to end the song. “Hate me today, hate me tomorrow. Hate me for all the things I didn’t do for you.” the spectators chanted as their 55-minute long set came to an end.

Blue October has been together the better part of twenty years now, and while they all handled themselves in a professional way and the showmanship abounded, it was Justin who really personified everything. The way he interacted with the fans, his moves on stage and just the swagger he had were all something a musician could only get after spending nearly two decades on the road, perfecting the moves.

They say to become a master of anything you need to spend ten thousand hours doing it. Blue October has surely logged that time over the years, and if they haven’t, they’re extremely close to it, and it was very evident this day.

The Sway tour rolls on, and the remaining dates of it can be viewed HERE, while Blue Octobers’ music can be purchased in iTUNES.

I finally broke away from the Meadow Stage and headed for the Prairie Stage, where Texas’ best Americana act was slated to go on.

Already a few fans of Hayes Carll had gathered around the stage, some even sporting shirts, as they waited for his seven-o’clock start time.

The setup was different than I was expecting, and while most of the times Hayes plays with what is called The Gulf Coast Orchestra Band, that was not who was backing him this evening, which led to some retooled versions of some songs, as well as others that aren’t heard just all the time.

“Welcome to Suburbia Fest, thanks for sticking around.” Hayes told everyone, before bending down and picking up his neck rack and harmonica. They gave the first song of their 63-minute long set a good long intro, but right away it was clear that it was  “Drunken Poet’s Dream”. It was a little more acoustic based than normal, but that was alright; and on the final chorus, keyboardist Emily Gimble really showed off her pipes, and her voice mixed with Hayes’ sounded spectacular.

She led the charge into their next song, the piano notes setting up the alternate version of “Little Rock”. I never would have thought that song would sound the same with the roaring guitar riffs, yet it was every bit as good with the restraint that guitarist Travis (I didn’t catch the last names of all of the other musicians) showed, and Hayes’s acoustic guitar was almost more prominent at times. Lisa, who was one the drums, then wound things seamlessly into the next number, which happened to be another one off the “Little Rock” album.

“It’s been awhile. Hope I remember all the words.” stated Hayes, seeming to almost be talking to himself. “Down The Road Tonight” is almost rap-esque. For example, one of the lines is “…Beans and biscuits in my cupboard; listen to Ray Wylie Hubbard…” It’s very rhymey at the very least, but the speed at which Hayes delivers the lines is where it starts to sound a little rappy. All the offbeat lines he uses had people chuckling throughout, and then he tacked something onto the song that was created specifically for this show. “Last night I got a bottle of pills and Drano; here we are today in Plano.” went the additional line, which had everyone cracking up.

“I usually don’t get high on Drano, but last night was just one of those nights.” he joked after the song, before asking where they were the night before. “Mingus, Texas…” he recalled, saying the town had an “unfortunate name”. “I don’t know why I think it’s unfortunate. It just sounds too close to dingus…” he added, before saying that the next song was about a girl from Mingus.

Fans cheered at the familiar chords of “Girl Downtown”, one of many favorites, and many of those who were there could be heard singing along to this tale about two people starting to fall for each other. Afterwards, Hayes gave an official shout-out to Emily, saying she was from Crawford. The crowd cheered and applauded, and in typical Hayes fashion, he turned that around to make it a sort of joke. “That’s the biggest applause Crawford has gotten…” he remarked, before announcing the next song would be “Love Don’t Let Me Down”.

Since it’s a duet, and typically Hayes’ band lacks a female presence, it’s one that doesn’t get played too often, and I’ve only heard it once. It’s a pretty song, though, and when harmonizing on lines like “If it’s not asking too much, love, don’t let me down.”, their vocal combination sounded heavenly.

At this point, Travis had swapped his guitar out for a dobro, using it for a couple of songs, like “Wild as a Turkey”. “…I’ve seen my share of troubles at the wrong end of a gun. This whole world’s out to get me just because I have my fun…” sang Hayes on the upbeat, cherry tune, which happened to be followed by something a little more depressing. Depressing doesn’t mean bad, though, and actually, “Rivertown” is one of my favorites, and it mines a little more of the outlaw country side of storytelling.

Travis cranked out an awesome dobro solo during that one. Most fans clapped once the song was over, but one made a request. I didn’t hear what it was, though Hayes did. “I’m all about requests, as long as there ones I haven’t already played. We’re only five songs in.” he said, now laughing himself. “I do appreciate the enthusiasm.” he added, before he moved the show along by mentioning his last album had a song on it that was an acronym. “It stands for ‘Kiss my ass guys…” he informed everyone, and they immediately tore into “KMAG YOYO”. It was one song that made you forget everything else had been done at a more relaxed pace, though an atypical piano solo was added in. Surprisingly, it fit; and on a song that mentions poppies and being fed LSD (listen to the song, or at least look up the lyrics. It’ll all make sense), Hayes mentioned that the piano solo was the “twenty-three seconds dedicated to those who love mushrooms.”

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Wednesday, April 30th, 2014 – The Hold Steady Makes for a Massive Night in Dallas

Music lovers in and around Dallas were no doubt pumped about the prospect of seeing The Hold Steady and Deer Tick together at the Granada Theater this night, but fate had other plans.

A little more than 24-hours before the show, it was announced that area favorites
Oil Boom had been added onto the bill. Logic would suggest they would be opening for both bands, then came the word that due to an illness, Deer Tick had to cancel this show.

The first thing I thought when I heard the news was, “Yeah, Oil Boom is the PERFECT fit for this show.” They had nothing to prove to me, and I was expecting a show as equally as great as it was originally set to be, but just because they didn’t have anything to prove to me didn’t mean they didn’t to everyone else.

As in the past, their set featured a lot of their newer material—some of which I don’t think I had even heard before. Their opener was one such song, as singer and guitarist Ryan Taylor started them off with a catchy chord progression that was often repeated throughout the tune. He didn’t get all the focus, though, and the booming rhythm section of Steve Steward and Dugan Connors, bass and drums, respectively, seemed to turn a few heads.

Dugan then counted them into the lead track from the “Gold Yeller” EP, “Lily Liver”. They played half the material from that 2012 release this night, and that song in particular seemed to pack even more of a punch than usual. “Thank y’all so much!” exclaimed Ryan once they finished, speaking to the crowd that hadn’t fully accepted them just yet, though you could tell there was a sense of surprise in what the local Dallas music scene had to offer.

The guitar and then drums started them off on their most recent single, “45 Revolutions Per Minute”. That seemed to cinch it, and the audience, which was steadily growing, were all theirs as they rolled things right into their next number, after which Ryan again thanked the crowd.

Their next song found the band in their prime, doing what they specialize in: good ol’ American rock songs. It just had that vibe to it, and it solidified why they were such a great choice to fill the suddenly vacated opening spot. “So, are you excited for The Hold Steady?” Steve asked over the applause they were receiving. He had to ask again to get an answer from everyone, who obviously were. Then came the humorous stage banter the band members are known for having amongst themselves. “So, you’re the guy who asks ‘So are you’ tonight?” Ryan asked his band mate, who confirmed that was his job for the night.

The rock kept flowing with a few more newer songs, one of which had Ryan tearing it up with a slide on the neck of his guitar, while another sounded a little heavier than most Oil Boom songs (l liked that), before Ryan mentioned how the events of the day before transpired. “I was sitting at work, looking at cat GIF’s…” he said, when he suddenly got an email asking him if the band could open for The Hold Steady. “Uh, yeah, we’ll do that.” he said, though he also took a moment to shout-out Deer Tick and how sad it was that they couldn’t be there instead.

Soon, they got to a favorite of mine from their EP, “Waterloo”, and no sooner had it gotten underway, then a few ladies in the crowd could be heard screaming. Perhaps they were old Oil Boom fans who came out to support them on such a big night, but if not, then the band was winning over new fans in a big way.

“This is a helluva lot of fun for us.” remarked Ryan, before they broke out the sensationally catchy “The Great American Shakedown”. One of their next tracks found all three musicians singing at one point, which sounded great, and shortly after they brought their 55-minute long set to an end with their longest song of the night. They brought it down as Ryan repeated the line, “Slow going down.”, and just when you thought it was over, it came roaring back to life.

I’d say this was an incredible opening set—and it was—but it was almost like a headlining set, in terms of the length of it. That was something I highly enjoyed.

This show might have fallen in their lap last minute, but the way they played, it was like they had been preparing for it for months.

Same tightness and professionalism any Oil Boom fan has come to expect from the band and it might have been stepped up a bit for this one. And all of that helped in gaining them quite a few new fans this night.

They’ll be at Dosey Doe in Conroe, TX on May 3rd, then Caves in Arlington on the 10th. The 16th will find them at Stanley’s BBQ Pit in Tyler, then the 17th they’ll be one of the many bands playing at the Fort Worth Music Festival at Panther Island Pavilion, before they close that weekend out with a Dallas show at Brew Riot on the 18th. They’ll also be at the House of Blues on the 22nd and 23rd, at the Dallas and Houston locations, respectively. For dates beyond May, go
HERE, and check out their music in iTUNES.

There was still a good half hour to kill before The Hold Steady took the stage, and the patrons waited patiently, though every beat of the drums or brief note that got played during sound check called all attention towards the stage.

Promptly at their 10:30 start, the screen covering the stage was raised, and the sounds of the Velvet Underground’s “We’re Gonna Have a Real Good Time Together” filled the room.

It played for a short bit, before frontman Craig Finn, guitarists Tad Kubler and Steve Selvidge, bassist Galen Polivka and drummer walked out on stage.

“What’s up, Dallas? Thanks for coming out tonight.” Finn said to the crowd, as if he were having a relaxed and casual conversation with the near capacity crowd. “As the song says, we’re gonna have a real good time together. And, as a whole different song says, I hope this whole thing didn’t frighten you.” he told everyone with a grin spreading across his face on that last sentence, as they opened up their 82-minute set with the lead track from “Teeth Dreams”, “I Hope This Whole Thing Didn’t Frighten You”.

It was riveting from the start, and not just because that’s a full throttle rock song. Finn was constantly making all sorts of hand gestures, grabbing his head and stretching his arms out to his side, and when he wasn’t doing that, he was sprinting about the stage; while the title phrase of the chorus was left up to the fans to shout.

The applause was drowned out by Kubler, who wound them right into the first of several songs that had fans cheering with delight, “Constructive Summer”. “…Our Pslams are sing along songs.” Finn sang on the first verse, a line that perfectly described The Hold Steady in general, and held true this night, as fans roared during the chorus, “THIS SUMMER!” People even pumped their fists into the air on that one, a gesture Finn liked enough that he asked everyone to do it. “Get ‘em up!” he cried, and nearly everyone began pumping their fists along to the beats.

The transition into “Hot Soft Light” was seamless, and, like the bulk of their songs, there was a sort of rock anthem sound to it, and it had fans quite excited. Those who had gotten spots right up in front of the stage were jumping around, even during the end, when Finn somewhat crooned, “Hot. Soft. Light.” They didn’t slack up a bit with another new tune, “On with the Business”, which saw Selvidge and Kubler taking more of the center stage as they stood close to one another and cranked out some intense notes. They followed it with the subsequent track from “Teeth Dreams”, “Big Cig”, and while Polivka was great the entire show, he absolutely killed it on the bass during that song, earning my gaze more than any of the other members.

They immediately fired up “Sequestered in Memphis”, which was not only a sing along on the pre-chorus and chorus, but also became a clap along (by the audience’s choosing). Then you had one member of the crowd who began blowing bubbles after the first chorus, bubbles that drifted up towards the stage and the band. That happened on several different occasions throughout the night, and towards the end of the show Finn expressed how much he was loving the bubbles.

“Alright, guys.” said Finn, who was clearly having as much fun as the audience was. Actually, the same was true for all of the band. He had added a third guitar to the mix on that last song, and now he started them into “The Swish”, which was the only track they did off their debut album, and ensured that all six records were represented at this show. It, too, turned into a clap along, and then they began the first song of the night off 2010’s “Heaven is Whenever”, “Rock Problems”. Kubler and Selvidge again walked to the center of the stage for the dueling guitar solos, shredding on their axes, and stepped back just in time for Finn to get back to the mic for the next line.

After “Magazines”, Finn again addressed the audience, saying that they had a “road song” for everyone, and he went into a little tangent about them. He mentioned that too many road songs has been the downfall of more than a few bands over the years. “…Then again, they just make some bands bigger.” he reflected at the end, mentioning the song title, “Almost Everything”. It was the slowest thing they had done all night, but even though it lacked that irresistible intensity all their other songs have, the audience was still hanging on to every last word Finn sang. It was a very beautiful song, but after doing it, the five band members were ready to bring things back up, too. “This is not a road song.” Finn declared, before they burst into “Chips Ahoy”.

It was segued right into another cut off “Boys and Girls in America”, and again fans rejoiced, this time at the sounds of “Stuck Between Stations”. The audience barely had time to recover from those hits before they switched gears and went to “Separation Sunday”, as the onslaught continued. “She drove it like she stole it. She stole it fast and with a multitude of casualties…” rang out plenty of voices of fans singing along to “Multitude of Casualties”.

Already they had blown through what seemed like a ton of songs, and they still had plenty to offer everyone, and next came my personal favorite from their new album, “Spinners”. “…Heart break hurts, but you can dance it off…” goes one of the lines of what is a bit of an uplifting song, accented by some dynamic drumbeats from Drake. They threw in another new song in the form of “The Ambassador”, though folks really got excited when Polivka and Drake laid down a sweet rhythm sound to bridge them into their next number, while Finn said it was a love song involving “a girl, a boy and a horse.” “The Weekenders” was clearly beloved by all, and Finn used a line from that song to transition them into the next. “In the end, only the girls know the whole truth, and no one learns a lesson. That’s what this next one’s about.” He was referring to “Your Little Hoodrat Friend”, and during it, Drake, Kibler, Polivka and Selvidge took an extended instrumental break, while Finn thanked everyone for being here this night. “There’s a million ways you could have stayed home tonight…” he said, telling everyone who was there how much he appreciated that they came out to support live music. “That’s what Rock ‘n’ Roll is about: getting people in the same room together.”

Those heartfelt words made it sound like that was going to do it for the shoe, but no. “You probably know what I mean by this.” Finn said during the momentary silence that came after that song, leaving fans scratching their heads as to what he meant. Then he and most of the rest of the band all did some a cappella singing at the start of “Southtown Girls”. Yeah, everybody knew exactly what he meant.

They still weren’t ready to call it a night after that hit, moving directly in to the other book end from their new record, “Oaks”. Once his part was complete, Finn walked around the stage, holding his hands together and clutching them to his chest, shaking them and doing little bows to the crowd. You couldn’t hear him, but you could easily read his lips, “Thank you.” he mouthed, before walking off stage, but only after he had some trouble finding the doorway, which was covered by the curtain; everyone than fixated on the instrumentalists of the group, who wrapped it all up and waved their goodbyes.

Surely there was going to be a encore, though, and the fact that lights remained dim seemed to confirm that.

Sure enough, they did eventually make their way back on stage, and Finn joked his exit had been “the most Spinal Tap thing that ever happened.” then added, “I think.”

Their 15-minute encore portion began with the more acoustic based “Citrus”, which was quite the treat; and as it ended, Finn rushed to the front of the stage and proceeded to jump around. It was fitting behavior for “Massive Nights”, and the energy amongst everybody spiked on that one. The music trailed off, and Finn acted as if he had forgotten what came next. “And, uh… And, uh…” he repeated a few times, feigning a clueless look quite well. “Stay positive!” he suddenly exclaimed, looking excited that he finally “remembered” what he was going to say.

Every time “Whoa, ho, ho.” was sung on “Stay Positive”, the fans chimed in. They were encouraged to, and Finn even held the mic down to those at the front of the stage, pulling it back just in time before one fan grabbed it from his hands. That would have been a fitting one to end on, especially in terms of the lyrics, but luckily, that wasn’t it just yet.

“We’re The Hold Steady. Thank you, Dallas.” Finn said with gratitude after “Slapped Actress”, which was the final song of their final North American show on this current leg of their tour.

The energy that went along with this show was devastating, in the best possible way.

As a frontman, Craig Finn knows just how to work a crowd, and be it the different movements he did with his hands, to the racing around the stage while belting out the lyrics in his one-of-a-kind signature voice, he held the attention of everyone. And when you could break away, the solid musicianship that Kubler, Selvidge, Drake and Polivka were displaying was amazing.

Perhaps what was even better than all that though was the lyrics and depth that all of their songs have. You seldom hear music like this anymore, and rather it’s about partying, drug addiction or even religion, these songs tell a story, all the while proving that smart, solid rock songs can be written and still fit that catchy niche that so many bands almost have to fit in these days.

They’re considered one of the most acclaimed rock bands in North America, and if you saw the show this night, you know that can’t be disputed.

Their touring is far from done, and after a string of dates in the U.K. they’ll be back in American, making the rounds of some more cities. Check out their full calendar HERE, and their music can be purchased in iTUNES.

I’ve seen a lot of shows here at the Granada over the years, but as far as rock shows go, this show is one of the best I’ve seen here.

Saturday, April 5th, 2014 – The 20th Annual Deep Ellum Arts Festival

Attending the Deep Ellum Arts Fest has become a little tradition over the last few years, mainly just to go take in all the free music that occurs on the five stages set up along the four city blocks of the historic part of Dallas.

The last few years have been great, but this day, spirits were dampened by the cold weather and, at times, rain.

Parking was next to impossible to find at two in the afternoon when I got down there and happened to luck into a spot behind Trees. The rain was still secure up in the clouds at that time, and plenty of people left when it did hit, freeing up some more spaces for those who would arrive later.

Aside from seeing some bands I was already familiar with, the setting also made it good to check out some new (to me) bands, like Kites and Boomerangs, who were already getting started on their set when I made my way over to the stage at Main and Good Latimer.

They were a four-piece rock band with hints of indie thrown in; and they kept the show fresh by often changing things up. For example, guitarist Josh Garcia handled the lead vocals on the first full song I heard, “Living”, before William Appleton — who was the bands other guitarist — took back lead vocal duties, putting a slight R&B twist on “Past, Present, Future”.

For the most part, they went back on forth on the vocals with every song, doing “Mystery Pie” next, and then “To the Moon”, which had a built-in bass solo from Eoin Donovan, which was pretty slick sounding, and he was only getting warmed up with that.

At this point, Josh and drummer Donnie Simmons traded places. It was very interesting, and that wasn’t the end of the switching out, because at the end of the next song — which did have some weaker sounding vocals from William —  Eoin and Donnie swapped out the bass and guitar.

They bridged it right into what I think was “Underground”, after which Eoin dedicated their song to “the clouds”. “I hope it doesn’t rain.” he said, but quickly added, “Then again, I hope it does, because I do like the rain…” His band mates and some of the onlookers got a kick out of that, and that was a sort of fitting lead in to “Elevate”. Next came another older tune from their 2012 debut album :Curiosity”, titled “In Need”, which was pretty catchy.

Those who had played musical chairs assumed their original spots after that one was over, leading one of them to tell everyone to “get ready to dance again!” They then pointed out a guys shirt, saying that the Jonas Brothers were a big influence on them personally, especially when it came to this new record. “Leave Justin Bieber alone!” Eoin shouted, adding to the jokes. That wasn’t the most entertaining moment, however. The most entertaining moment came during the next number, when he got tripped up and fell on his back, and like a turtle who didn’t posses the strength to roll back over, he stayed on his back — not wanting to get out of the zone. He tore it up on the bass, and only when the song was over did he get back up, which was when his band mates made sure to poke fun at him a bit. “Did anyone else see that fall?” William asked the audience.

Things got a little PG-13 when Josh said he had a joke he had been working on, and told any parents in the vicinity to cover their kids ears. “What do you call a cheap circumcision?” he asked, before delivering the punch line, “A rip-off.” Luckily, they had a good tune to follow-up that lackluster joke, and “Vagrant Heart” seemed like that would be just about it from the band, who then discovered they had a little more time to kill.

“Stroke of Luck” was added to the set, and then they ended with “Gordo the Space Chimp”, which is based on one of the first monkeys NASA sent into orbit. The song was a bit silly, but they compensated for it with an explosive end, which say Eoin falling down (this time on purpose) and rocking out on his bass, before taking it off and tossing it about in the air, almost juggling it, then viciously slapping the strings.

It was a good show by a good band. Honestly, I can’t say I became a true fan of Kites and Boomerangs, simply because the music never really clicked with me. You know, there was never that moment of it making a profound connection or thinking, “Wow!” They know how to perform, though, and there could have been much worse ways to spend the better part of an hour (or longer).

Between iTUNES and BANDCAMP you can check out both of their albums. As for future shows, keep an eye out on their FACEBOOK PAGE.

Given that the next band I wanted to see was also on this stage, I walked around and browsed some of the art booths after their set, returning to the stage close to 3:40, when Loyal Sally was set to take the stage.

The man who was emceeing the stage gave the band quite the intro and really build them up. So, once the four of them got on stage, singer and electric guitarist Michael “Bubba” Lindblom had to make a little joke about. “After an intro like that, I’m sure you were expecting explosions and all sorts of cool stuff…” he said, hoping that no one felt disappointed. “We’re Loyal Sally, and this is what we decided to do with our lives.” he stated, as they began the first song of their 43-minute long set.

Like much of their material this afternoon, it was a newer (or at least thus far unrecorded). Still, it sounded great, and even led one guy to shout afterwards, “I love Loyal Sally!” “That’s not love, that’s lust.” Bubba told him afterwards, while they prepared for one of their older songs. “This song’s called Stereo, and I don’t really know what it’s about.” Acoustic guitarist Michael Morgan then started them into the track from the “Things From Thoughts” EP. Even now, amidst their newer stuff, that’s still one of their best songs, and I still like the line from the second verse, “I’ll never make it if I hear what they say. I’ll know I’m wrong if I do it the right way…”

“We’ve played in all kinds of rain: stinging rain, rain from the ground, sideways rain.” Bubba joked after that song, noting the rain that had been falling for a little while now was “nothing”. Everyone seemed to agree, because it hadn’t kept a large cluster of people from gathering around the stage right when they started.

With some rapid-fire drum beats, Stacy Blankenship then launched them into their next song, which was one that Michael informed everyone was an older one of theirs. “…We wrote it in the Dark Ages, when we were still learning about our bodies.” he quipped. “This next song is about what we found out…” he quickly added, as they pulled out another newer one.

Once it was over, Bubba asked everyone if they could get a circle pit going. “You remember the circle pit? From the nineties? It was like a regular mosh pit except in a circle?” he asked, receiving nothing but black stares like he was an idiot. He called everyone out on it, too. “Bull shit!” he said, lapsing that this was an all ages event and tiny ears were all over, and he hastily apologized for it.

They then got into what Michael said were their “country roots” they had recently started tapping into, doing a couple of songs I hadn’t heard before. One was titled “Beautiful Sunday”, and it along with the one that came after were definitely folk/country sounding. It was a big jump from the slight rock songs they do with some subtle folk elements thrown in, though they pulled it off well, and my curiosity over their next album, the long-awaited “Ellis”, might sound like.

During the latter of those two tracks, Bubba pointed out bassist Lucas Weiss, telling everyone to look at how “cute” he is. “…I could say all sorts of things about him…” Bubba continued, but kept his mouth shut this time, saying it was a family friendly show after all.

One of their best songs was a new one that was only a couple of weeks old at this point, which I believe they debuted at this show. The two Michael’s sang in unison on it, something that they’ve never done before, but hopefully will work in a little more often now.

Michael owned it on his acoustic guitar during their next one, another unrecorded track that has been around for awhile, and is a definite fan favorite. “We’re going to do some more new ones.” He told everyone when they finished. “But to most of you, all of these are new anyway, so I’m lying, we’ve had all these songs for awhile now.” he said and laughed, as they started a series of three songs, all of which were segued into one another.

For their final song, Bubba placed his guitar in a stand and wrapped the mic cord around his hand. With that, they were ready to get “Bye Bye” underway, which is still the most fitting closer they have, and even after a sufficiently long set like this, it still leaves the crowd wanting more.

It had been about a year since the last time I had seen Loyal Sally, and seeing this show had me wondering why making it to any of their shows since just didn’t work out for me.

They’re a great band with some fun and often infectious songs and their live show is certainly one that entertains.

Be sure to check out (and buy) their two EP’s in iTUNES, and “Ellis” should be dropping sometime within the year. You can even download some of their songs for free on REVERBNATION, and keep an eye on either that page or FACEBOOK for updates on future shows.

Next, I headed for another stage set up at the corner of Elm and Crowdus, which was set up in the parking lot of the old Club Clearview. Speaking of which, the doors to that long shuttered venue were open and people were doing something in there. I’m sure it’s way too optimistic to think it could be reopening soon — or even at all — but man, that would be cool, though.

Anyway, Pseudo Future was up on this stage, and just a few weeks after seeing the trio for the first time, I was getting another chance to take in one of their live shows.

Things had gotten thrown off, so they missed their five-o’clock start time. However, when they were ready to get to work, they wasted no time, and ripped right into one of their non-album tunes, which caught the attention of the onlookers in the area.

“Welcome to the  rainiest arts fest I’ve ever seen.” remarked singer and guitarist Jeff Lowe. Fortunately, the sun was finally starting to make an appearance, even if it would only last a couple of hours until it was time for it to set. All the same, it was out. “…We’re going to have a good time. Are you ready to have fun?!” he shouted. Only a handful of fans stood in front of the stage, but they were clearly eager to have some fun, and the dynamic “Loss Of Light”, complete with its intricate instrumental portion, was just what they were wanting to hear.

The slow start “Drawing Board” gets off to could be misleading, though it doesn’t give off that vibe for long; and when Justyn Gomez laid into his drum kit, bassist Patrick Hunter shouted into his mic, as if he were trying to pump everyone up to the level he was at. Sadly, it was during that one that he encountered some technical difficulties, which kept him out of commission for most of the song. As I’ve said in the past, I’m don’t hold stuff like that against the bands, since it’s out of their control, and in this case, Patrick was frantically trying to resolve the issue while his band mates soldiered on.

Some fuzzy feedback wound them into their next number, before the bass took charge as Jeff set up the song. He started by saying that every time they have done this song, the woman it’s about, his wife, has not been there. Well, this day, he finally got to perform “Love Of My Life” for her in a live setting. “She always wakes before me and gets me out of bed…” he crooned into his bullet microphone, before switching over to the other one on the stand. And I really like how they make the song a better fit for the live environment by adding the drums and bass in (it’s just acoustic on the EP), and turn it into a rock song that can rival their others.

Speaking of others, they did several others that they have yet to record (or at the very least release), including one that began with Justyn putting his electric drum pad to use, though out in the crowd, you really couldn’t hear it. “…The old familiar beat of your heart!” Jeff shouted throughout the tune; a line I just personally like. He then grabbed one of Justyns’ extra drum sticks and hopped up on the drum riser, where he proceeded to bang around on the kit, while Patrick hammered out some bass riffs. He eventually joined them, but dropped one of the sticks he picked up, and later retrieved it, just in case Justyn might have needed it.

That led them to another intense track, and Patrick rocked out hard enough during it that the cap he was wearing flew off his head and came to rest on the stage.

They had powered through their set, and even though it had been nearly half an hour, it didn’t seem. It had passed by too quick, but at least that’s a good sign you’re having fun. “All My Friends” concluded their set, and they were wanting to make sure everyone was having a good time right up until they left the stage. “Let’s dance one more time!” shouted Jeff before the final chorus. At the tail end of it, he laid his guitar on the drum riser, then proceeded to play it like that. Well, at least pluck some of the strings as it died down.

Yeah, there were a few hiccups at times early in the show, but they still brought their A game, and despite that, they never faltered. At least I didn’t think so.

That’s not to say this show was on par with the one I had seen a few weeks prior, but even on an off day they still didn’t leave anyone feeling disappointed in what they had seen, because what they had seen was a solid rock show.

They have a show coming up on May 24th at The Curtain Club Dallas. It’s a battle of the bands style show where the winner will get to play the forthcoming Pegasus Music Festival, with Brand New, Circa Survive and others. So, throw ‘em some much needed support and go see that show. And if you want to know what you’ll be in for, you can download their EP for free on their BANDCAMP PAGE.

Next stop was back to the stage at Main and Good Latimer, where The Fox and The Bird were getting ready to go on.

It had been right at a year since I last saw one of Dallas’ most highly regarded folk bands (I remember because it was at last year’s DEAF).

I only caught the first 35-minutes, which began with drummer Paul Grass striking the xylophone, as they got “Traveling Bones” underway. It was followed with another track from 2011’s “Floating Feather” album, “Old Mother”, which showed off the harmonies they are capable of, as violinist Petra Kelly and multi-instrumentalist Jacob Metcalf (who was playing a banjo at this time) harmonized with acoustic guitarist Dan Bowman.

After those few old tracks, it was time to get to their new album, which they finally finished and released to their fans part way through last year. “Valley” was one of those new songs they did, and afterwards they switched things up a bit. Paul took the banjo from Jacob, who grabbed an acoustic guitar, while Dan got an accordion. While they were getting ready, Petra mentioned that this was to be her final show with The Fox and The Bird, prompting some boos from the crowd. “You’re not supposed to boo, you’re supposed to be happy…” she told everyone; showing no sign of being upset about this. That did make everyone feel better about it, and like she said, they were here seeing the show and enjoying this fine day of music, so there was no reason to be sad.

Petra then handled the lead vocals on the excellent “Saints”, then slowed things down with the band sing-along “Hey, Sister”. Dan added some trumpet sounds to “Rough Darlin’”, while Jacob assumed lead vocal duties, and once it was done, they reverted back to their starting instruments.

While they were doing that, bassist Mimo Morreale (who was using an upright bass) began to sing the next track, which was entirely a cappella. Petra joined him for most of the incredibly short “When I Was Young”. “…This is the end, dying on my own without any friends. Not even an enemy to make my amends…” they sang on the little prelude to the first single from their new album, “Wreck of the Fallible”.

Once that full song had come to an end, Dan pointed out that Mimo had just rejoined the band, after spending the last two years in the Philippines. That earned him some loud applause, and Dan mentioned that while they were sad to be losing a talent like Petra, they were happy to be getting an old friend back into the fold.

“Ashes” was one of the best songs they did from the new album (at least out of the ones I heard this day), and the last song I stuck around for was their classic “Oldest Old”, which seemed like a good one to leave on.

You can’t say they’re not a great band. They may not be what I typically go for, and there’s probably a reason the last time I saw them was at last year’s Arts Fest, but still, they have some great, well-written songs in their arsenal. Aside from that, they pull of the harmonies incredibly well, and everyone in the group is more than capable of singing lead should they want to/are needed to.

It’ll be a little weird with Petra not being in the band anymore, but I’m sure they’ll find someone who manages to fill her shoes.

Check out both of their albums on iTUNES, and while they don’t have any shows booked at the moment, keep an eye on their TOUR PAGE for any updates.

Next stop was back to the smaller Deep Ellum stage at Elm and Crowdus, where The Crazy Ivans were playing.

They were another band I had seen at another DEAF; back two years ago. They seem to be one of those bands who just doesn’t play shows too often, and when they have, I had other plans. I couldn’t pass up this chance to see them, though; and they were already in the swing of things when I got over to the stage.

Their set was comprised mostly of newer songs (they’re currently doing an Indiegogo campaign) and I walked in during one of them, while the next one was great. I don’t think it’d be a stretch to say it’s some of their best stuff yet, and after it, frontwoman Kristen Lueken mentioned they were going to slow it down some. But after slowing it down, you need to bring the mood back up, and they did just that with what she noted was one of her favorite songs.

It came from the “Dive!” record, and as she said, it was a “highly danceable one”. She played a bit of keys on “My Favorite Song”, while her band mates rocked out and jumped around with their guitars and bass, They threw a couple more at the decent crowd, including another new one, which Kristen mentioned anyone hear could name, if they donated enough cash to their campaign that is. “Right now we’re calling it B Flat, because that’s the key it’s in.” she said of the song, which she later told everyone was one “about happiness”.

A couple more followed, one of which was titled “Sticky Sweet”, and they were cut short just a little. From the looks of it, they had at least one more in the chamber, but time didn’t allow it, so they thanked everyone for watching and began packing up their gear.

They put on an explosive show, and more than a few people that I overheard were quite impressed with them. I was too, and I remembered why I had liked them so much in the first place when I first came across them here a couple years back.

With a new album on the horizon, hopefully their show schedule will pick up some. In the meantime, they have some free downloads up on their REVERBNATION, and if you like that, pick up their albums in iTUNES.

My next destination was a larger singer/songwriters stage at Main and Malcolm X, but I still had time to kill before the act I wanted to see hit the stage there, and it’s a good thing I did.

More art booths along with a small stage for singers and songwriters was also set up in the parking lot adjacent to the Curtain Club, and as I passed by, the sounds coming from the area compelled me to go see what was going on.

I think that was a first for myself, given that I almost always stay at a club from start to finish and know where I’m going, instead of wondering around seeing what music from what clubs gets my attention enough to go check it out.

Musician Jordan Franz was on stage, and she was backed by drummer David J. Oliver, bassist Matthew Royal Webb and Reese Bailey, who, along with some additional percussion, also added a saxophone into the mix.

All that resulted in an utterly heavenly mix, and her voice sounded divine on top of it all.

I only caught the last three songs (“Worries” was easily the best that I heard and will be a highlight track from the record she mentioned it would eventually be on). I can’t say much else then I was enamored by it, and I was left wondering how I hadn’t heard of Jordan Franz until now.

You can listen to some songs of hers on her REVERBNATION page, and she does have a show coming up on May 9th at The Grotto in Fort Worth.

That was a very pleasant find here at the Deep Ellum Arts Festival, and now it onward to the other stage where Bad Mountain was getting set up to play.

I had only recently heard of the band, which is mainly singer/songwriter Jesse Anderson, who is of course backed by a cast of musicians for live shows.

Things were running a bit behind on this stage, but there were plenty of seats to grab, and after a busy, near nonstop day, it was nice to catch a little break.

When they get started, they did so with “Even On a Rainy Day”, the lead track from their debut, self-titled album. The thing with Bad Mountain is that if you had happened to be passing by and saw the band, you might wonder if you had stepped back in time, what with the dressier, more nostalgic looking attire and slicked back hairstyle Jesse was sporting. Once you heard that opening number, you really would have thought that, as their music has an old-timey country vibe to it. It was entrancing, what with the lively, yet simultaneously semi-relaxed music, which heavily featured Daniel Creamer and his piano.

“It sounds real nice up here. Hope it does out there, too.” Jesse said to the onlookers, before mentioning they had several more left “in the bank”. He proceeded to pluck the strings of his acoustic guitar, beginning “Tell Me Mama”. “What do you want from me? A little bit of company might just be all I can give…” he crooned on the chorus in his rich, soulful voice.

“Thanks for putting up with cold, bad weather.” He said to everyone, adding, “We’re gonna have some fun.” That meant doing “Rag Race”, which had a cheery aura to it, while still boasting a hefty rhythm section, which along with the drummer also included Matthew McDonald on an upright bass. “Is anybody else’s hands cold?” asked Jesse upon finishing the song, to little response from the audience. “Just us? Okay.” He replied, as he and his band mates began the low-key “Each Passing Minute”.

Thus far, every song had come from their EP, but they have more than just those six songs, and pulled one of them out at this point. Actually, it was one of my favorites from their set, and like their others tracks it told a story along with it.

“This is gonna be fun.” Jesse stated before “A Woman Like This”, which was quite rousing. It didn’t seem like they had been on stage anytime, but already it was time to call it a night, and, as Jesse said, he wanted to get off so the following act could have their allotted time. With that, they ended their 36-minute set with “Union Hill”, which had Jesse tapping into a higher falsetto register at times, and he pulled it off with ease.

They may be different, but they’re a great band, especially at what they do. And honestly, I don’t think there’s anything else like this in the DFW metroplex.

All the songs have legitimate substance to them and tell a story to get the listener engaged, and the distinctive, strong voice delivering them certainly doesn’t hurt, either.

I mentioned there’s an older country sound to the tracks, which may lead you to think that maybe Jesse Anderson was born in the wrong era of music. However, the better way to look at it is perhaps he’s trying to bring back a style of music you just don’t hear anymore, and adding a little personal flare to it in the process.

They have a few shows coming up in May, one of which will be on the 17th at the Richardson Wildflower Festival. The 22nd will find them at The Dram and the 25th they’ll be at The Boiler Room, both of which are in Dallas. As for their music, you can find it on either iTUNES or BANDCAMP.

It had been a great of topnotch local talent, but with the second day of the Arts Festival almost done, it was time for the headliner, and they had gotten an international touring act in to wrap things up…

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014 – Madison King is Moving Onward and Upward

If you asked anyone in the D/FW are to name a local Americana/country band, you’d probably get a long and varying list. However, if you asked them to name a female Americana artist, you’d probably only get one response: Madison King.

It’s not that there aren’t others out there, it’s just that she’s the most prominent; and now, after nearly three years since releasing her debut record, she was ready to release her sophomore album to the world, and was celebrating the release of “Onward and Upward” at one of Dallas’s most iconic venues, Trees.

The night got started early, and that, combined with the storms (some of which were severe) that were hitting around North Texas, didn’t help in getting Dead Flowers a big crowd, but those who were there in time were more than eager to see them.

Their 46-minute long set was largely new songs, including their opener, which has quickly become a favorite of mine from them, and it’s one of their hardest hitting tracks. They moved right along into “You’re Wrong” with a seamlessly segue from drummer Ed Chaney, and despite the more serious (and murderous) content of the song, they weren’t afraid to show off their silly side during it, and at one point singer and rhythm guitarist Corey Howe reached for lead guitarist Vince Tuley and proceeded to tickle him. It was hilarious to see, and had Vince been closer to his mic, I’m guessing the fans would have heard him laughing.

During breaks (and this applied to both the opening acts), it was a lovefest for Madison King, and Corey noted they were “more than happy” to be playing her record release show. He also urged everyone to go pick up her new album, or even a some of the underwear that was for sale (it looked like boxer shorts with the album title printed on them). He then set to work on getting his axe back in tune, apologizing to everyone for having “played a little too hard”. As if that were a thing.

They offered up another new one, “I’m leaving”, which saw Corey sort of conducting bassist Evan Winston Johnson and his other band mates, before they all cut out. “Were you ready?” he asked Ed, then Vince and finally Evan, all of whom shook their head yes. “I’m sorry, I wasn’t.” he replied, before they ripped back into the song as he belted out in his rougher tone, “’Cause I’m leaving…”

“Well done, guys.” Corey told everyone after another new one, which had Vince throwing some great backing vocals into the mix. He repeated the words of encouragements, partly just joking around, especially once he added, “How do you want your chicken? Well done?” Moments later, Vince said something, speaking incoherently in more of a stereotypical redneck voice. “Have you been watching Duck Dynasty again?” Corey asked him, before he sit his guitar down for another newer track.

Like I said, this set heavily revolved around new stuff, and Corey prefaced the next song as being one he thought he knew all the words to. “…I haven’t fucked up any words yet tonight. For those of you who know us, it wouldn’t be proper Dead Flowers show if didn’t do that at least once.” he added, before stating this next one was in the key of E. “Isn’t it?” he asked Evan, who confirmed that it was, leaving Corey a bit surprised he was right.

The song was fantastic from start to finish, with some killer guitar riffs, and even a solo thrown in. Yeah, they were definitely in full rock mode.

“It must be humid in here, ‘cause my hair’s getting bigger and my guitar’s out of tune.” remarked Corey, who again had to get tune his guitar before doing the title track from their first LP, “For You”. “…Momma, I’ll do my best to get back home to you…” he sang at one point, pointing at his mother — who was in attendance — as he did so.

“So, we recorded a new album recently…” he said, getting no further before the applause broke out. He talked a little more about that, using it as a lead in to the title track from their forthcoming sophomore album. “Like butcher needs a knife, like a poet needs a muse…” went the first line, which doubled as the chorus. Honestly, I wasn’t really feeling it at first, and it had a slow start, but once it got going, and the bass and drums came in, it turned into gripping song, and one I thoroughly enjoyed.

Corey quickly pointed at Vince once it was finished, giving him the go-ahead to rip into their cover of The Replacements’ “Can’t Hardly Wait”. About three-fourths of the way through that song, Vince walked to the edge of the stage and turned around, then jumped off the stage (which is pretty high) and joined the crowd, darting around and interacting with a few of the people.

“Help him back up, he doesn’t have any shoes…” Corey told everyone when the song was over, though Vince managed to rejoin his band mates with no trouble — even without shoes. They had just one song left to go now, and Corey asked that everyone give it up for Madison king, then pondered, “Can you give it up for someone who hasn’t played yet?”

In this case, yes.

As usual, they wrapped things up with “I Won’t Go”, which ended with Vince tossing his guitar to the ground and picking up his shoe which he used to strike the instrument.

Now, this was only the fifth Dead Flowers I’ve caught, so I haven’t seen that many. But still, this was unquestionably the best. The sound was superb, and while they always bring their A game and a party, they pushed it to a whole new level this night.

Evan, Ed, Vince and Corey where all on fire, and I really liked all the new stuff they did (some of which I heard for the first time this night.)

They have a show coming up at the Double Wide on May 3rd, and while you wait for their new record to drop (which is probably still several months away from happening), pick up “For You" in iTUNES.

The rather large ensemble known as Dovetail was up next, and they treated everyone to a nice selection of their current stuff, with some newer material and even a cover thrown in.

As the curtain was drawn apart, lead singer Philip Creamer began plucking the strings of his acoustic guitar, kicking off “Heavy”, which so fluidly involves Daniel Creamer and his keyboard, and is easily one of their strongest songs. “We are Dovetail, from right here in Dallas.” Philip announced once the song was over, before giving a shout-out to Madison King for having them on the bill.

They then rolled out one of their newer ones, which had some amazing harmonies, especially from Matthew McDonald, who was also serving as the electric guitarist for the night. It was in true Dovetail fashion, because there was a real ethereal quality to it.

“Give it up for Madison M-Fing King!” Daniel shouted upon finishing that track, getting a good rise from the continuously growing crowd. Philip then announced they were going to do a Rolling Stones cover, and as drummer Aaron Haynes started into the steady beat, Matthew assumed lead vocal duties for “Beast of Burden”. His voice has some Jagger-esque tones to it, making it not just an easy cover for them to pull off, but also one they excel at.

They took things down just a few notches with “See the Sun”, which had Daniel and Matthew adding some gorgeous harmonies behind Philips’ voice. Once they had finished it, Matthew and Philip swapped guitars for the soulful sounding “Hey, Hey Mama”, following it with a couple more new songs. The second one out of that batch is absolutely beautiful, and the acoustic guitar wasn’t even used on it.

Guitars were traded back as their 44-minute long set neared the end, and the ever-brilliant “Julie”, which, from my experience, is usually their closer, seemed to signify the end of their set. After all, it is arguably their strongest song. But no, they had one last song to give, and it was another good one.

Sadly (or at least lately), I haven’t seen Dovetail all that much, but man, they’re such a great band.

Style-wise, they were different from the other acts they were sandwiched in between, mining a more indie/classic rock sound, but they still fit well with the bands, and the type of music they do play is something they pull off extremely well. You could even say they’ve perfected it.

Not only that, but they just have a real polished and professional vibe. It all makes it easy to see why they’ve gotten such a following over the years and have made a good name for themselves — and are continuing to.

They have plenty of shows coming up, and the full list can be found HERE. Just a few are April 25th at The Dirty Rooster in Allen, May 3rd at the Pecan Street Festival in Austin, May 21st at the Barley House in Dallas and May 24th at the Pour House in Fort Worth. Also, their full-length album “Mount Karma” can be found in iTUNES.

Thus far, the crowd — in terms of numbers — had been okay, but more like your typical Thursday night crowd (at least for a local show).

However, as 10:30 drew closer, Trees really filled up, to the point that if you had just happened to wonder in, your first thought would have been, “What national act do they have at Trees tonight?”

Madison King had the place near capacity, and a roar of cheers arose when the curtain opened and she and her band immediately started their first song.

The first handful of songs happened in the order they are on the record, beginning with the super catchy “You and Me”, which had the crowd enraptured and eagerly awaiting more. Madison on the other hand was in a state of pleasant shock, clearly blown away by all the friends, fans and fellow musicians who had made it out for this. “Thank you all so much for being here…” she told everyone with a huge smile on her face, and also pointed out what everyone knew: that this was her CD release show. “…I’m going to be doing that a lot tonight.” she informed everyone, referring to this being her CD release show, before she took a moment to thank the opening acts.

“This next song is called Chances.” She said to everyone as they began what’s one of the best songs on this new album. “…Nobody wants to invest without knowing that it’s gonna pay off in time…” she crooned at the start, before drummer Chris Carmichael and the rest of the group livened up the song that really shows off her growth as a songwriter. “I don’t sing this next one live much, because it’s super hard to sing.” Madison said in a candid confession before the next track. She was referring to “Dallas Summer Nights”, and if this song about a blossoming love is a harder one for her to pull off, she certainly showed no sign of it this night. I’d go as far as to say it was one of the best songs of this set.

The band itself was nice collection of area musicians, from Dave Prez on the bass, to Chad Stockslager over on far stage right behind the keys and Michael Smith holding down electric guitar duties, but now Madison welcomed the first “super special guest” on stage, and that was Ryan Thomas Becker. He lent his guitar skills along with his voice to a couple of songs, including the emotion filled, “Lessons Learned in Love”.

“Cheers!” Madison shouted when the song was over; holding a drink in the air. “I know pretty much all of you are my friends….” she said, adding that made the night all the more amazing, and she called it the “funnest thing ever”. Afterwards, they jumped about on the album, and decided to pick the pace back up after that slower number. “The Best Damn Night” did the trick, and that party song got everyone feeling a little more rowdy.

“…He may or may not be back later…” Madison told everyone as Ryan Thomas Becker made his way up the stairs into the green room. She then whispered into the mic, “He’s totally going to be back later on.” Attention then shifted to Dave, whom she said she told to wear some black pants, “…And this is what I get.” she joked affectionately, pointing out the colorful plaid shorts he was sporting. He just shrugged, as if to say, “Yeah, this is as good as I can do.”

“The Ghost of the One Who Got Away” was another great one from the night, and upon finishing it, Madison stated next was going to be the title track from this new album. “…I declare it released…” she said and laughed, right before the absorbing “Onward & Upward”. “…So tonight I’m going to put on my six-inch heels…” sang Madison on the next song, “Rebound”, raising one of her legs in the air — showing off the heels she was sporting for the night. And yes, that song is exactly what you’d think it would be with a name like that, and it was another standout from the show.

Corey Howe of Dead Flowers was asked to join them on stage for the next number, and after he got up there, she shouted-out a  friend who had suggested she put deodorant on her face so she wouldn’t sweat during the show. “…I totally did…” Madison confessed, adding that it was not working for her. Everyone was cracking up, including her, up until she said this next one, a duet, was a “super sad song”. “Lover’s Duet” was indeed a serious song, but a gorgeous one, especially with Corey backing her up — being very restrained from what he had been earlier in the night.

More thanks were giving after that song, and Madison pointed out her grandmother in one of the little balcony areas, saying that if anyone wanted some ear plugs she had brought plenty of pairs, all of which were kept in a sandwich baggy. With “Fallen Angels”, they were almost done with the new album, and after and enthusiastic “Damn!” regarding all the love she was getting this night, Madison commented on that. “…So far everything has been off the new album. I’m told that’s in poor taste…” she said, adding that she hates it when people do that to her. That led them to the first of a few songs from her debut album, and the first was my personal favorite song of hers, “Nazarene”. The version they did of the song was excellent, and I have never heard the song sound so amazing. It was downtempo (even more so than normal) and this haunting really stuck with you and created a moment of wonder amongst the crowd.

“Onward and Upward” wasn’t even 24-hours old at this point, and Madison was already talking about the follow-up, asking if maybe she was jumping the gun by talking about it, but no one really thought so. “…I write a lot of duets…” she said, saying that’s a type of song she really enjoys performing as well, and she plans on doing an EP of nothing but duets. With that, she invited Danny Balis on stage for a song she said she had written about three months before called “I Feel Like Falling in Love”. “You know you’ve cleared out every bar in Deep Ellum?” Danny told once he got on stage and grabbed a guitar. “Including mine.”

It was a great song, and I think already got people excited about the next release. “Thanks for coming, I really appreciate it so fucking much!” she told everyone, and again thanked Dead Flowers and Dovetail for opening up the show, adding that Philip and another one or two musicians she was sharing the stage with she had known since she was twenty. Ryan Thomas Becker again joined them for the title track from the first album, “Darlin, Here’s To You”, during which he took the spotlight with a guitar solo.

“…I need people!” Madison shouted after the applause for that last song subsided, getting a bunch of musicians on stage with her, including Philip Creamer, Billy from The Hazardous Dukes and Corey, who was now wearing the Madison King underwear he had urged everyone to buy during his bands set earlier. Madison seemed taken aback by it at first, but enjoyed it all the same. I’m just glad the underwear was more like boxer shorts and not ladies thongs.

This collection of singers was needed for the first single from the new album, “Saved by a Son of a Gun”. The fast paced, fun vibe would have been a good way to go out, but Madison said she was just going to skip right to the encore, and for one last time mentioned how humbling it was to have so many people come out to support her.

The 69-minute long set came to an end with another older song, and no show of hers would be complete without “Whiskey In The Morning”, which became a sing-along of sorts, and she didn’t even have to ask for it.

This was hands down the best show I’ve seen Madison King do, and she and her band definitely pulled out all the stops for their CD release show, making sure it was a memorable one for all who attended.

She’s not just one of the best female singers and songwriters in the area, but just one of the best acts in general. Hell, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say she’s Dallas’ own Queen of Country. This show, coupled with the new album proves and cements that title for her, and should act as the needed boost to get her to the next level.

Pick it up (along with the first record) in iTUNES, and keep an eye on her FACEBOOK PAGE for more show dates.

Fantastic night at Trees, and 91.7 KXT was partly responsible for it. I also mention that because I happened to win a pair of tickets to the show from an online contest they did. So, thanks for that KXT.

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014 – Odonis Odonis Owns at Club Dada

King Camel has to be the king of weekday shows, and this night, the production company was presenting a sweet show at Club Dada, where the Toronto-based Odonis Odonis was stopping by on their tour in support of their newly released LP.

A very new band from Dallas was the first of three local acts tapped for opening support, and that was Tall. The name might be bland, but the music was not, and everyone who had gotten here early enough (which by this 8:59 start time was probably about a dozen people) seemed to really dig their first song.

“This is our first  at Club Dada…” singer and rhythm guitarist Eric Barron told everyone after that one, before taking a moment to thank King Camel (AKA Jeff Brown) for putting the show on and having them apart of it. “This song’s called The Change.” he informed everyone, before they dished out another grungy rock song with some semi-wild drum beats courtesy of Jon Jackson.

“We’re gonna slow things down a bit…” he told the crowd afterwards, as they got ready for “Like Everything You Do and Say to Us”, which was slightly slower, but still packed a good rock vibe with a solid rhythm section. Once it was done, Eric mentioned they were going to do another song from the EP they had just put out. “It’s good stuff.” lead guitarist Jordan McCullough chimed in. The next one was titled “1994”. “It’s for all the old folks back there.” Eric said, pointing at the string of fans and onlookers.

Jon and bassist Yaschua Duprey laid down some heavy sounds during the silence that came with a quick change to an acoustic guitar. The, towards the end of the riffing, Jordan joined them. “Is anyone tripping on Tuesday?” Eric asked, referring to the title the King had given the event on Facebook. Nobody seemed to be tripping, though, or at least didn’t want to admit it if they were. “Come see me after the show.” Erick joked, before starting “Buffalo”. Honestly, while Eric had a good voice, it was far from perfect, and he struggled to hit an maintain some of the notes on that song that had to be held. It wasn’t a turnoff, though.

They got back to their full rock mode with “Back and Forth”, which was arguably their best song of the night, partly because of the cool lead guitar solo, and partly because once said solo came to an end, the pace increased immensely. In turn, that was a great setup for “Piece of Me”, which had quite the punk flare to it, and upon finishing that final song of their 24-minute set, Eric gave one last word of thanks to King Camel. “You’re the best.” he said.

They were a great opener for this show, and good band in general. At times, they were just a little rough around the edges, but it wasn’t anything too bad. Especially not for a band that is so new (they formed this year and their Facebook page was created in early April.)

Their EP can be downloaded for free on their BANDCAMP PAGE, so check that out.

Next up was Bashe, who classifies themselves as an experimental math/dance rock band. That’s appropriate, though they put more emphasis on the rock than some other bands of that genre.

Their first song had myself and much of the rest of the audience completely focused on them. Part of that may have had to do with the twelve-string guitar singer Joe Cepeda Overman was playing. The sound this trio produced was amazing, and there were almost some glassy sounding textures to much of their music, and Joe, drummer Zac Travis and bassist TC Oliver wound their opening song seamlessly into the next one; really not even allowing the crowd a chance to applaud.

That made the sounds of approval all the louder when they did take a break, and Joe took this time to mention they were from Denton. “Yeah you are!” Jeff Brown shouted, getting a laugh from the band and patrons alike. “Oh yeah, we’re super from Denton.” joked Joe, who then mentioned they had some more songs to play. “…Which we should.” he added.

They offered up a couple more at the captivated crowd, before Joe pointed to their little merch set up, saying they’d like for everyone who was interested in a CD to leave with one in hand. “By the way, those prices are totally negotiable.” he added, before they knocked out one last song of their 31-minute set.

As far as the openers went, they were my favorite. The sound was just so polished and tight, and it was a great combination of dancey elements and rock music. Actually, I thought the music even had a real theatrical sound and feel to it, while the vocals were superb, getting your attention with ease.

They too have an album you can download for free on BANDCAMP, and it’s well worth a listen at the very least. They also have a couple of shows in May, one on the 2nd at Two Bronze Doors, the other at Three Links on the 17th. Both gigs are in Dallas.

Hex Cult had the main support slot, and to be totally honest, I wasn’t a fan of their mix of electronics and punk.

The screaming both members of the duo did was just too much for me, nor was I fan of the vocal effects, which often gave the sound a heavily computerized effect.

However, they did put on a good show. The guitarist was highly energetic, and made even the most routine of moves look advanced and stylish as he swiftly darted around the stage, slinging his guitar around. The synthesizer/keyboard player went all in, too, banging his head around to the music; though the best part keep at the start of one song when he left the keys and walked out into the audience, clutching a pillow.

“I just want to come out here with you guys.” he said, almost sheepishly, before he began screaming when the song got underway. As for the pillow, at times he put it on his head—which came in handy when he dropped to the floor—and other times just held. Oh, and one of the times he ended up on the floor, a fan grabbed him by the leg and drug him around.

I have to say, it was something to watch, and yet again Jeff Brown got a shout-out, because after the Hex Cults’ synthesizers got stolen, he evidently gave them money to replace them, and one of the band members noted they would not have been able to play this show if it weren’t for that gesture.

It was something to see, I’ll say that.

I don’t know when their show will be, but if this sounds like something you’d be into, or at least interested in seeing, check out their FACEBOOK PAGE for future updates.

Now, it was finally time for Odonis Odonis, and the trio got going at 11:34.

They may have just released a new album, but the 25-minute set they put on was comprised of songs from their entire career, and they opened with “Intelligence”, off the “Better” EP. The tame notes and lighter drum beats they used to lead into the song sounded fairly normal, but once they really got into it, it took them mere seconds to establish what a wall of sound they were, as guitarist Dean Tzenos sang the song, backed by bassist Denholm Whale.

Heads were banging to the beats, some of which were electronic based; as Jarod Gibson used a small drum setup (I believe it was only three pieces, maybe four, which I imagine would be great for touring. Still, that was only the calm before the storm, which started with the earth-shaking bass lines of “New Obsession”.

Following it was the subsequent track off “Hard Boiled Soft Boiled”, “Breathing Hard”. The periodic instrumental breaks allowed Dean time to break away from the microphone, and he did a little more interacting with Denholm, whilst shredding on his axe. There were some haunting vibes thrown into that song that had some shoegaze-esqu tones mixed in, and they continued on with a song that had a brutal, explosive end.

The gauzy rock sounds continued with “Are We Friends?”, which packed a punch, and was perhaps their most intense song up to this point… Then came the next one. I’m not 100% sure what it was (possibly “Order in the Court”, which I know was played at some point), though the track was dynamic and impressive, and left your ears ringing (even with earplugs in).

Jarod started on the next number, before being joined by Denholm, keeping it rather slow, before suddenly bursting into the song, which had Denholm doing much of the lead singing. That was one thing that made Odonis Odonis so great, they had two members who were easily capable of singing lead, so they sounded great together, and the additional backing vocals Jarod would add just made it that much more lethal.

That was almost it, and after a quick word of thanks to King Camel and everyone else who had been a part of the night, they cranked out their closing song, which Dean didn’t use a guitar for, and could often be seeing thrashing his head around as if he played in a hardcore metal band.

People immediately started asking for an encore, but the band was already turning off the lights they had clipped to the mic stands and such, which had created a great mood with the house lights turned completely off.

Odonis Odonis may not be a widely known band, but it’s easy to see why they have such a solid fan base. The energy they put into this show was through the roof, and everyone one, regardless of if they were here for them or had just stuck around after one of the opening acts, was caught up in it.

By the end of the night, they had everyone in Dada singing their praises, some of whom were already looking forward to the next Dallas show from Odonis Odonis, whenever that may be.

They have one last show on this current tour, and it will be tonight (April 25th) in Chicago. For anyone in the U.K. they’ll be over there in May, and their full tour schedule can be viewed HERE. As for their music, check out either iTUNES or BANDCAMP.

Kudos to King Camel for putting together another spectacular show, it was definitely a night to remember.

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