Monday, December 30th, 2013 – The Toadies Close Out 2013 Right

A little over a year prior to this, the Toadies graced the stage of a venue you wouldn’t expect them to; Billy Bob’s Texas.

Billy Bob’s is one of those venues that’s known all over, primarily because they hold the title of the “world’s largest honky tonk”. Of course that means country bands are the main acts that play there, but the Toadies brought out the people in October of 2012, so much so that Billy Bob’s decided to have them back.

And with 2013 coming to a close, there could be no better final concert to see for the year than this iconic Fort Worth group, as they ended their sixth year together since the band’s resurrection.

Eleven Hundred Springs was opening up the show for them, which was a bit of an odd mix, given that they are a Texas Country band. The people who were there early enough to catch them though, seemed pretty receptive to their music, which does have some tinges of rock thrown in.

And for those wondering how EHS got put on as the opener, some of the band members from them and the Toadies go back a few decades. Also, they were the band Mark Reznicek started drumming for after the Toadies broke up in 2001.

I didn’t get there until a little later, missing the first half or so of Eleven Hundred Springs set, walking in right as they were doing a favorite of mine, “Great American Trainwreck”. “I’m just another boxcar in the great American trainwreck. You can’t take your eyes off of the way I crash and burn…” singer and guitarist Matt Hillyer sang on the chorus of that short, but strong song, which everyone seemed to enjoy.

They kept things rolling with another tune, probably one of the many covers they throw into the mix, before doing a classic from the “Bandwagon” album, “Why You Been Gone So Long?”. You could tell the difference from the usual EHS show where their fans are out in full-force, since they typically get a sing-along going on the chorus, “…Wolf’s are scratching at my door, don’t you hear that lonesome wind blow? Tell me baby, why you been gone so long?” That didn’t happen this night, but it didn’t make the song any less great, either.

They busted out another cover afterwards, this one being the classic, “T for Texas”, which had an electrifying fiddle solo thanks to Jordan Hendrix, who can really rock out on that instrument when he wants to, and that wouldn’t be the only moment he got to shine this night. Another original came next, with the fun, “Seven Days”, before doing a partial cover of The Allmen Brothers’ “Midnight Rider”. Bassist Steve Berg, drummer Arjuna Contreras, Jordan and pedal steel guitarist Joe Butcher kept the music going while Matt addressed the audience.

“We’re really glad to be here tonight. Actually, we’re really glad to be anywhere these days. Every day’s a blessing, and don’t you ever forget it…” he said, speaking at lightning pace, rivaling an auctioneer. He went on, noting that this next song went out to “the freaks”, listing some of the different kinds, like the weekend warriors, saying something along the lines of how they go out and party for almost two days straight, but still manage to function. The core message was that really, everyone’s a freak in some way. “…It don’t matter if you’re man or woman, black or white, it don’t make no difference. We’re all the same…” Matt added. That’s the usual lead in for what may well be the most popular song they’ve written, “Long Haired, Tattooed, Hippie Freaks”, which reinforces the idea that you should never judge a book by its cover.

It had barely come to an end when Arjuna hastily beat on one of the cymbals, counting them in to what was a true fiddle solo, with the rest of the band adding some background music while Jordan worked his magic. That lasted a good couple of minutes, after which Matt pointed out they had only a couple songs left before getting out of the way for the Toadies.

The last couple of times I’ve seen them (earlier this year and the summer of 2012), they hadn’t played my favorite song of theirs. I’m not really complaining about that, because with all the material they have, that’s what allows them to keep their shows fresh, switching things up. But considering they typically play an hour and a half or so, and this show being considerably shorter, I sure wasn’t expecting “See You in The Next Life”. And then Matt started crooning the song. “You asked me if I wanted my jacket back, you know, it looks better on you. I said, ‘What about your favorite shirt?’, you said I could keep that, too. I said I’ll see you next time, but baby I don’t know when. I can’t help but feel like crying. It’ll never be the same again…”

Lyrically speaking, it’s an absolutely gorgeous song about a love that just didn’t work out, despite wanting it to. “…I could tear all of my hair out, trying to think of things to say. When all I really want to know is how the hell it’d end up this way?” Matt continued, shouting out that final mentioned line as they hit the chorus strong, amping it up from how it is on the recording.

I have to say, it was great hearing that one, and after taking that more serious turn, it was time for them to end on a lighter and fun note. “This song’s called Raise Hell, Drink Beer.” Matt informed everyone, saying he figured some of that would be going on later once the Toadies took the stage.

As it usually is, it was a fun one to end with, and even though I only got a portion of this already abbreviated set, they put on one helluva show.

They’ve been together long enough they mastered the live show, and know how to entertain the people watching them, whether you’re a real fan of their music or not.

They have songs that can make you laugh, they have songs that may make you cry, and they have some that can make you think. All of that makes it easy to see why they are one of the best original country bands in Texas, and they do tour all over the state, often at that.

The next shows they have lined up are for February at the Golden Light in Amarillo, the 8th at Bash Rip Rocks in Lubbock and the 21st at the Broken Spoke in Austin. March will see them playing at Love and War in Texas in Plano on the 2nd, then back to the Broken Spoke in Austin on the 21st. March 22nd will find them at Gruene Hall in New Braunfels, before they play the Grapevine location of Love and War on the 28th.They already have shows booked through next July, and will no doubt be adding more that in the coming months, and for their full schedule go HERE. You can also check out their vast collection of record in iTUNES, and “Bandwagon”, which is arguably their best record, is only $5.99. That’s a steal.

I thought the turnout may be light this night, considering it was a Monday, and also assuming that some people may be out of town. None of those were major factors, though, as droves of fans packed in tightly next to one another, and everyone was so excited even the roadies sound checking the instruments and placing the setlists on stage was applauded.

It paled in comparison to the deafening roar the fans let out once Vaden Todd Lewis, Doni Blair, Mark Reznicek and Clark Vogeler made their way on stage, though.

“How we feeling tonight?” Vaden asked the audience, while he and the rest of the band got situated. There was then an awkward silence as they readied their first song. As it turned out, the spirit of change from this year’s Dia de los Toadies festival was still in the air. Not quite to the extent that it had been back in September, but there were still some surprises and deeper cuts.

“I guess I left myself wide open. I guess I earned that weight…” Vaden suddenly started singing while strumming his guitar in short bursts, getting “Push the Hand” underway. It was an unexpected start to their 73-minute long set, but seeing as it’s usually the second song they do in their shows, it still seemed right at home here at the start. It was also a slightly rough start, though, with Vaden flubbing the second verse, starting it with the second half, “It’s been a long time, a long time coming back…” He rode it out, then repeated the lines at the correct time, though you could tell there was a bit of self-loathing for messing that up.

That wasn’t given much after thought, and if anyone in the audience was upset about it, Clark’s seamless transition into “Happy Face” more than made up for it. After all these years, it’s still those songs from “Rubberneck” that really get the crowd going, and in usual fashion the band played almost everything from their major label debut, including following it up with one of the biggest fan favorites.

They really employed use of the segue this night, a quality I quite liked, instantly launching into “I Come from the Water”, which prompted dozens of fans to start jumping about with glee. “Sing it!” Vaden said to everyone as they hit the chorus, stepping back from the microphone, while the audience proceeded to shout the words at the top of their lungs. During the second verse Vaden raised his left fist in the air while singing, making a few different gestures and movements with his hand, something he had done during the previous song and occasionally did throughout the night, and while subtle, it added some nice elements to the show.

They weren’t about to let up yet, and Vaden and Clark got some noisy feedback going, before Clark laid into his whammy bar. Eventually Mark, who, even for him, was in rare form this night, started viciously pounding away on his kit, as they went old school with a song off the “Pleather” EP; “Got a Heart”. It may be relatively rare to hear it live, but man, that song is the Toadies in their purest form, and this night was unquestionably one of the best songs they did. They weren’t ready to break just yet, though, and Mark quickly set up the thunderous beat that is the backbone of “Hell In High Water”. Clark knocked out his little guitar solos during the instrumental break near the end, doing a couple of strong notes, before Vaden held up one finger, signaling for one more, which was the loudest of the three.

It was already clear this was going to be a great show, but hearing that one so early on cinched it, and I, for one, was excited to see how the rest of the show was going to play out.

“Are we having fun yet?” Vaden asked their adoring fans, bantering with them a bit before they started “Animals”, the first of a handful of songs from last year’s “Play.Rock.Music.” album. “Tomorrow the sun will rise and I’ll see it with sober eyes. But all I really want tonight is you…” goes the first line of the song, whose music bed is accurately reflective of the raw, primal lyrics, which even has a slight degree of sophistication to it (that’s to say it’s a little different than your average songs about sex). The quartet bled the final notes from that tune into their next one, “Mister Love”, which got nearly everyone all riled up again. Vaden held his guitar straight in the air, still playing as he sang into the bullet mic, “…Love, love, love…” before laughing that callous laugh that makes the song.

The crowd clapped and clapped for them, and once it died down enough they moved on to the next track, which came as a pleasant surprise to me. “Little Sin” has been noticeably absent from the two Toadies show I saw earlier in the year. In fact, the last time I probably heard them do it was on this very stage in October of 2012, and now here they were, dusting it off. The live environment is where that song is at its best, with the little tweaks they add to it. Like the longer pauses Vaden takes on each chorus, letting silence fall before singing, “Little sin.”, as well as the “false” ending they give it, stopping, making it seem like they’re cutting it short, before breaking back into it and jamming the outro.

The bullet microphone got put to use again on “No Deliverance”, giving the song the eerie quality it has, and after that Vaden spoke to the fans, setting up their next song. “The Toadies don’t do a lot of love songs…” he stated, adding something about murder, which caused everyone’s mind to be on the same page, thinking they were going to play their biggest single. Instead, they had something different in mind. “…You know, if you want to cut them up in little pieces and keep them around your apartment.” Vaden finished, leaving fans scratching their heads as to what it might be. It wound up being a deep cut from “Hell Below / Stars Above”, “Jigsaw Girl”, and a large amount of people seemed glad to hear it. The only other possible mistake I caught this night came at the bridge of that song. “Laid on my bed, your beautifulness.” Vaden crooned, following it with “Jigsaw girl, my whole world.” It was that latter part he switched around, but it was impossible to tell if it was because he got ahead of himself, or if maybe it was intentional. Either way, it worked.

Having been awhile since the last “Rubberneck” song had been played, they rocked out “Backslider”, and afterwards had one final true surprise for everyone. Excluding their acoustic-ish show at 2012’s Dia de los Toadies, it had been a while since I had heard the lovely “Doll Skin”, which is just the right mix of prettiness and rock.

Once it ended, they chatted some more with the fans, as Vaden asked everyone if they had, had a good holiday. “…Or still having a good holiday.” he corrected himself. He soon announced the name of the next song they would be doing, “Summer of the Strange”. Doni laid down his sweet, dominating bass lines that kick off the song, then swapped to another bass once the song was finished. While that was going on, Vaden took a swig of his beer before starting one of the few other sexually charged songs they have, “Sweetness”. “Cut right down to the soul, to the center of you. I found me a home for the sinner in me…” is one of the many great lines that intoxicating song has to offer, and as it ended, Mark downright killed it on the drums.

“How many first timers do we have?” Vaden asked the throng of fans, causing a surprising amount of hands to go into the air and roars of, “Yeah!”, to be shouted, as people made it known this was their first live Toadies experience. “How many repeat offenders?” Vaden then asked, which of course the majority of the people were. “I like that ratio…” he remarked, before they broke into the song that put them on the map, “Possum Kingdom”. Personally, I think it’s funny in some ways that, that’s still the song everyone clamors for, given that some of their fan base were only a few years old, or had even barely been born when that song hit it big on the radio airwaves. On the other hand, it shows the true power a song can have, and how music really does transcend the generations.

Mark rolled them right into another song off their newest release, the lusty, dark and rhythm heavy “Sunshine”. The crowd was then put in another state of euphoria upon hearing the first notes of “Quitter”, which concluded the main portion of the show.

Demands for an encore started immediately, though the four musicians took their time in returning to the stage, no doubt taking a short breather before the final 19-minutes of their set. “…This one’s a bit of an ass shaker…” Vaden informed the crowd before they struck with “Rattler’s Revival”.

The remainder of the encore was all about “Rubberneck”, and for the first time ever, I heard “Away” done as an encore. I have to say, as much as I like it thrown somewhere into the main set, it worked quite well here, and the fans seemed even more excited about hearing it than usually. “Can you believe next year will be the twentieth anniversary of Rubberneck?” Vaden reflected when the song was over. He also let some interesting news slip; that they will be re-releasing the album, completely remixed and re-mastered. And it was that tidbit of info that caused every Toadies fan to salivate a bit.

The next song featured Arjuna Contreras of Eleven Hundred Springs helping them out with some additional percussion, and as the snare and floor tom were being brought on stage, Doni, Clark, Mark and Vaden had some fun, playing a few seconds of different cover songs, including “Crazy Train”. They made it seem like they might actually play one, and when it didn’t happen they actually got booed, something they all laughed at. No one could actually stay mad at them, though, and that all evaporated as they started “I Burn”. “This song’s about marijuana. Trust me… No, it really isn’t.” said Vaden before the song. It featured some more crowd participation, as the fans were charged with shouting, “We got stupid!”, at which point Arjuna had made his way on stage, and, acting like he had done it dozens of times, violently beat on his partial kit, in synch with Mark.

“We’re gonna leave y’all with this one.” Vaden told the fans, the job of ending the night falling, as it typically does, to “Tyler”, which leaves everyone with a sort of high.

I feel like I’ve said this a lot the last few times I’ve seen the Toadies, but out of the little over a dozen shows of theirs I’ve seen, this was one of the best ones.

Even having not done a show in a few months they were still in excellent show shape, with the kind of chemistry you can only have after spending years together and touring extensively.

It was fitting that they end the year in their hometown, something Clark brought up at one point during the night, when he noted how good it was to not only be in Fort Worth, but also at Billy Bob’s.

And for me personally, I really couldn’t have thought of a better final concert to see for the year.

They’ve already announced a ton of tour dates, beginning on March 19th, for their tour in support of the re-release of “Rubberneck”, and they promising to play the entire album at these shows. Their full schedule can be seen HERE, and more dates will be added in the coming weeks.

“Rubberneck” will officially be re-released on April 1st, and will include some bonus songs not found on the original version. And until then, if for some reason you don’t have any Toadies music, find it in iTUNES.

Album Review: “A Pig Eating Past Love” by Johnny Beauford


Johnny Beauford may well be one of the hardest working and most diverse musicians in the North Texas music scene.

He’s probably best known for fronting the Dallas rock band Bravo, Max!, and an abundance of material (and apparently time, too) also led to the start of Johnny Beauford & the Jack Kerowax.

But aside from being a capable rock musician, Beauford is also an accomplished solo singer/songwriter, whose solo music mines a more Americana/folksy vein. And now, a few years after his first solo album was released, he’s gotten around to recording and releasing his sophomore effort, “A Pig Eating Past Love”, which is rooted deep in the lo-fi, minimalist sound of his first release, and was recorded almost entirely all on his own.

Each song on “A Pig Eating Past Love” brings something different to the table, and for “Little Dance”, it’s the way it highlights Beaufords’ voice. His soft plucking of the guitar is barely audible for parts of the song, making it at times sound as if he is singing a cappella on this ethereal track. His voice shines on every single word, and he may well have you hanging on it, as he walks a fine line of being strong, yet restrained with his vocal delivery.

“S Is For Schizophrenia” is the catchiest offering on the album, boasting a more fleshed out sound from the previous song. Though a drum kit is the only new instrument added to the mix, it gives a much fuller sound than you’d expect to this fairly rocking number.

That pace is quickly changed with “Ann Marie”, where the only percussion effect comes from some of the chords Johnny plays on his acoustic axe. Songwritingwise, Beauford’s at is best with this track, which is teeming with emotions, and despite the sad, even at times downtrodden lyrics, there are also some glimmers of hope to be found in it.

The embodiment of the lo-fi sound is, without question, “Huck Finn’s Hideout”. The short, two and a half minute long track has that grainy quality to the vocals, giving it a simple sound, like perhaps it’s a home recording. There’s beauty in simplicity like that though, you just have to be able to appreciate it. The song has grown on me with each listen, and the heavy use of the harmonica is another nice touch that sets this song apart from the others on the record.

The pinnacle song on the album hands down has to be “Fire Fly”. With only his guitar, Johnny Beauford has created a ravishing and haunting music bed. It’s simple enough you’ll be singing along with it after a few listens, and there’s an odd duality in the fact that the song is also somewhat complex in some regards. It’s one that will stick with you, and it stands as unequivocal proof for any doubters that a full band sound is not a necessity when it comes to crafting a solid, excellent song.

The title track, “A Pig Eating Past Love”, is the longest track from the album, coming in a little shy of four minutes. Some may consider it to be a brilliant song, mainly because it kind of is. It surges forth at times, then recedes back, with that ebb and flow being the best characteristic of the song. Lyrically, it’s another emotionally charged number, even raw, and you can even hear a subtle dose of contempt in Beaufords’ voice at times, like on the line, “…Look me in these eyes when you curse me with those lips…”, before it comes to a nice tranquil conclusion.

That gives an appropriate lead in to the final song, “You’re Evaporating Anyway”, which ends things on a pretty note. It’s a soothing song to listen to, and ends this listening experience in a lovely way.

Honestly, this is a perfect album for a singer/songwriter – any singer/songwriter – to release.

It’s to the point and at only 21-minutes, it’s digestible for anyone who chooses to listen to it. Fans can listen to the whole thing with ease, while any new comers this release draws in won’t have to invest much of their time in seeing what “A Pig Eating Past Love” is about (though it will surely earn subsequent spins).

In all, it’s just a well-rounded album that showcases who Johnny Beauford is as a musician, and he did a great job selecting the songs that would make the cut, as they all show a slightly different side to him, revealing what he’s capable of.

As I said at the start, he may be one of the hardest working musicians in North Texas, and after hearing this sophomore album of his, it’s clear he is one of the best.

Purchase the album on:

Visit Johnny Beaufords’ websites:
Official website / Facebook

Watch the official music video for “A Pig Eating Past Love” HERE.
Photo credit:
Rhombi Survivor Photo Safaris

Saturday, December 28th, 2013 – Hayes Carll’s Holiday Hangover Extravaganza

Hayes Carll’s holiday shows are a tradition at this point, having been going on far longer than just the few years that I’ve been a fan of his music.

One way or another they’re made to be a little different from your typical show, either by having a theme, or, like this night wound up being, a vast collection of songs, some of which you seldom hear. And now, with Christmas done with and the New Year approaching, it was time for him to head out on the road again, with the third stop of this year’s Holiday Hangover Tour being the House of Blues in Dallas.

The first of the two opening acts was Mike and the Moonpies, who hailed from Austin. I had never heard them in any form before this, but I was quite familiar with the name, and was interested to see/hear what they were like.

The six-piece band took the stage at 8:31, fitting the country look with their cowboy hats and Western looking shirts, and they got straight to work.

“Damn Strait. Damn Jones. Damn all you smooth, country singing cowboys who knew what you were doing from the start…” sang singer and acoustic guitarist Mike Harmeier, the first line from “Damn Strait”, instantly earning them the full attention of everyone who had made it out this early. Not only did they look the part of (true) country musicians, but they also had the sound down, with that and every other song they did having that authentic country vibe, circa the era before it was turned into glorified pop music with people just singing about “country” things (i.e. pickup trucks, etc.)

“How y’all doing here House of Blues?!” Mike asked the onlookers, while drummer Kyle Ponder counted them into their next song, a very fitting one for this night. Zach Moultons’ pedal steel guitar was featured prominently at the start of the track, another one that mentioned some of the legends of country music, the chorus going, “We’ll all be with Hank, one of these days. Willie and Waylon and me and Hayes.” So, the song was appropriately titled “Me and Hayes”, and once or twice while singing that chorus Mike could be seen flashing a smile at his band mates, clearly happy to be here.

After a quick pause to talk with the crowd, Mike noted they didn’t have much time up here, so they were just going to rush through the songs they had planned, mentioning the title of their next song, “Puttin’ it Down”, another one from their latest full-length, 2012’s, “The Hard Way”. It was a personal favorite of mine from their set, and was the song that cemented me as a fan of Mike and the Moonpies, partly because Mike’s Southern twang was in rare form on that one. No sooner had it ended, then he began strumming his guitar, leading them into one of the newer songs they’ve written, saying afterwards they had thought they’d try it out on everyone this night.

They then launched right into “El Camino”, from their “The Real Country” album, and it was another highlight song of their set. It was different from their other stuff, being infused with some rock, which allowed lead guitarist Catlin Rutherford and bassist Preston Rhone to stretch their legs and cut loose, especially Catlin, who had a mean solo during the track. And even with that change of pace, they still made good use of the pedal steel and piano, which was manned by John Carbone.

The last few minutes of their 28-minute long set was comprised of one of their singles, “Sunday”, while they wrapped things up with the title tracks from their two LP’s. The first of those was “The Hard Way”, a nicely written song that tells the story of not being the settling down type, while the fast paced, “The Real Country”, concluded their time on stage.

They packed a lot into that short time on stage, which is where having those shorter songs comes in handy, and while they didn’t have nearly the audience they deserved, everyone really did seem taken by them, and they earned some great applause after each song.

I don’t want to sound like a broken record, but to me, what Mike and the Moonpies did is how country music these days should be done. Sure, they’ve put some modern elements into their material to make it current, and even slightly unique, but you can tell it’s still rooted in that classic country vein.

The music was catchy and something you could easily dance along to, and their performance was quite enjoyable, as they kept everyone’s eyes glued to them. I have to come back to Mikes’ voice, though, which is suited perfectly for this style of music, and he demonstrated excellent control over this night, and combined with what the rest of the band brought, it made for a smooth and flawless show.

Sample and purchase their music in iTUNES (also HERE), it’s well worth it, and if you want to see the band live, they have plenty of dates coming up over the next several months. For starters, Mike mentioned they’ll be back here at the House of Blues on February 8th opening for the Turnpike Troubadours. They also have shows at the Longhorn Saloon in Bandera, TX on January 10th, March 14th, March 29th and April 25th. They’ll be at Blaine’s Pub in San Angelo on January 17th, then on the 18th you can see them at Smitty’s in Denison. Then, to close out January, you can see them at Club Mist inside the Winstar World Casino in Thackerville, OK. They’ll be opening for Granger Smith at Billy Bob’s in Fort Worth on the 24th, then on the 25th they’ll be at Gruene Hall in New Braunfels. They have several other shows coming up, and for their full schedule, go HERE.

The only non-Texan on this bill was JD McPherson, who started out in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. Like the band before him, I had no clue what I was in for, and I would wind up intrigued by what went down.

As soon as they stepped on stage it was clear they were going to be a different band, utilizing a saxophone and some pianos along with the more standard instruments, like the guitar and drums, while Jimmy Sutton picked up his upright bass.

They got off to an interesting start too, as they all proceeded to clap, seemingly along to the song that was playing via the house sound as it slowly faded out. Alex Hall brought the rhythm up a little more as he started in with some light beats on his drum kit, before their first track revved up and took off. It was a beast of a song, and for those like me who were getting their first taste of JD McPherson and his group, it revealed what we were in for.

Their style was that of classic rock, and I do mean classic. It was almost a complete replication of 50’s era music, complete with the sizzling piano lines, which along with the saxophone, made up the backbone of their R&B infused sound. They weren’t merely trying to resurrect a bygone time in music history, though, adding some modern rock flares to the music to put their own spin on things.

The second song of their 59-minute long set was one of the singles from JD’s well received debut record, “North Side Gal”. The song was a fiery one, and it was one of several songs they did that had some of the couples in the audience dancing about. And it was indeed exactly the right kind of stuff to dance along to. Following it was “Your Love (All That I’m Missing)”, which lacked some of the intensity that those first two numbers had, but it was actually a favorite of mine. “Has anyone heard of The Bellfuries?” JD quickly asked everyone, with complete silence following the question. He plugged the Austin based band, saying they were great, and that was actually one of their covers he and his band put their mark on.

“You can’t win ‘em all.” he then stated, adding that’s what the next song was about, setting up “You’ve Got to Lose”, which I assume was one of their newer songs, that would most likely be on the new album he mentioned would be dropping in the middle of 2014.

Upon finishing it, the saxophone player set that instrument down, then went back to a guitar rack and picked up one of the extra axes. “Burn it up, burn it down. Let it burn across the town…” belted JD in his signature forceful voice, starting the criminally good, “Fire Bug”. These guys were on a roll, and showed no signs of easing up anytime soon, as the multi-instrumentalist who had started out the night on the sax, now moved over to the pianos, both of which were used for their next jam. I believe it was a cover, namely Bo Diddleys’ “Mona”, albeit with some extra touches from how it was originally recorded.

They knocked out a couple more songs after that, before Jimmy gracefully plucked away at the strings of his bass, creating a nice intro for “Country Boy”. It was more R&B than some of the other stuff they had done, even coming across as being a bit soulful at times, and even though the lyrics were fairly simple, often repeating “I ain’t nothing but a country boy.”, it somehow never seemed too repetitive.

To go with that country vibe they had (lyrically) established, they pulled out another cover, this one having been made famous by Neil Young, and that was “Farmer John”. Like the other cover songs they had done, this one wasn’t a simple cover. They added their own little twist to it, and that’s always the most enjoyable thing when any band covers a song; when they make it different one way or another, whether than just “playing” the song.

As far as I’m concerned, they did nothing better than “B.G.M.O.S.R.N.R.” this night. It was invigorating, and so much more lively than it even comes across on the recording, being truly incendiary. “…Don’t fool around, or bring it down. Just let me dance to the sweet little rock ‘n’ roll beat.” Went the chorus of the song they somewhat tried to turn into a sing-along. It didn’t really happen, but people were fine taking the sort of advice of the song and dancing to the tune.

They did another song after that, and while I’m not entirely sure what it was, I do know one of those few I was uncertain of was “Dimes for Nickels”. They pulled out a new track as their time on stage drew to a close, which was another song that required the use of an additional guitar. So, too, did their final song, “Wolf Teeth”, which brought things to a strong finish.

I seldom feel truly conflicted a band, but this was one that left me feeling that way. Why? Because, on a personal level, this kind of music just isn’t what I’m into. In fact, I’d usually be quick to write it off, and if I were to see an ordinary band that played this type of music, I know full well I’d quickly get bored, making their set seem like a grueling test of patience.

However, JD McPherson and company are far from being an ordinary band, and being completely objective, they were a force to be reckoned with.

I don’t mean to slight the other musicians of the band, but it was JD who was the main focus for the majority of their show, and was pretty energetic when he was able to break away from the microphone. And even when he was stationed behind it, he still had an authoritative sense about him. There were some fleeting, though impressive moments during a couple of songs where the whole band exploded with some mighty instrumental portions. And typically when those did happen, it was Jimmy Sutton, who ended up stealing the show.

Hell, he did even take the spotlight away from JD for a moment or two during other songs, too. He’s a sensational bass player, making that upright bass seem like it was a weapon, and he even had some great moves to go along with it.

And all of that, in combination with the vocal dynamo that JD McPherson is, made for an electrifying show.

They don’t have any more shows booked at the moment, but if you see they’re coming to a town near you, go see ‘em. I know I wouldn’t mind seeing another live show sometime. And give their music a listen. Maybe you’ll have an opinion like mine, or maybe you’ll love it. And trust me, if you love it, you won’t be able to buy “Signs and Signifiers” fast enough.

This show wasn’t sold-out, like I thought it would be, but there were still several hundred people there, packing tightly together as they eagerly awaited one of more underrated singer/songwriters in country/Americana music.

At 10:34 the house lights went out, instantly causing some of the fans to cheer, while the band made their way on stage. Of course the man of the hour brought up the rear, looking just a little tired as he approached the mic. That look was gone after a couple of songs, once the blood no doubt got flowing, but before ever playing a note, he welcomed the band to the stage. “Ladies and gentlemen, all the way from Austin, Texas, Hayes Carll and the Gulf Coast Orchestra band.” he said, the crowd wildly applauding them.

A brief silence followed, to the point you could have heard a pin drop as everyone wondered what the first song would be. Hayes lightly strummed his acoustic guitar, giving it away as being the title track from his most recent release, “KMAG YOYO”. (For those who may not know and are wondering, that acronym means “Kiss My Ass Guys, You’re On Your Own”.)

Being one of the only songs he does that is full-blown rock, and with more than a few blistering guitar solos courtesy of Scott Davis, it acted as a great way to perk everyone up and get their full attention, partly because I don’t imagine anyone expected to hear that song right off the bat like that. The album “KMAG YOYO” was in full effect this night, and by the time the show was over, nine of the twelve tracks from it would be played, but he’s got plenty of old fan favorites, too, and now they went into one of those.

The other guitarist, Travis (my apologizes, I didn’t catch the last names of any of the other members), exchanged his guitar for a mandolin, while Hayes picked up a neck rack with a harmonica in it. Mark laid down the beat for the next song, the rest of the band soon joining in, while they extended the intro a bit, giving Hayes a chance to really use that harmonica. The song was one of many that caused fans to rejoice, ‘cause “Drunken Poet’s Dream” is one of those superb songs. He tacked on something extra to the second verse, a pre-second verse if you will, crooning some new lines I hadn’t heard before, before getting into what you hear on the “Trouble in Mind” record. “…She says, ‘Honey, don’t worry about judgment day. All these people going to heaven they’re just in our way.”

His show had a very tight, cohesive feel to it this night, and if they didn’t go seamlessly into the next song, they only took a few second pause in between. And after this pause, came one of more than a few songs that were unexpected this night. Like the song that came before it, it was one Hayes had co-written with Ray Wylie Hubbard, though this one was the final song from 2005’s “Little Rock”, “Chickens”. It required Travis to use a dobro, while Hayes sang about what else, chickens, talking about going out and killing one. “…It ain’t meanness y’all, it’s just hungry’s what I am.” He even sounded sincere and almost apologetic while singing that, like he really was sorry that he had to kill this fictitious chicken, adding afterwards, “Yeah, chicken music. It’s all the rage.”

That often dry sense of humor is one of his most charming qualities, particularly in the live environment, and before moving on, some fans got his attention, prompting him to wish one of them a happy twenty-first birthday. “I’d tell you to enjoy yourself, but I don’t think that will be a problem.” he said while laughing. They then brought things down a little with “The Letter”, but not too much, as this was a more up-tempo version than what you hear on “KMAG…” That did make it more enjoyable for the live show, and worked well as Mark bled it into their next song, where they really kicked things back up with “Faulkner Street”.

“We’re gonna go ahead and pull out the banjo.” Hayes remarked. “We usually wait until we’ve built up more goodwill with the crowd, but we’ll see how it goes.” he added, his dry humor again coming into play, as he sounded like he genuinely thought some people may be upset that Scott was pulling out his banjo. While that was going on, Travis took a seat in front of the pedal steel guitar, which soon led to another deep cut, at least what I would consider as being a deep cut. There was a surprising amount of fanfare once everyone realized the first notes that were played were that of the slow, but beautiful “Bye, Bye Baby”. Evidently, I’m not one of the only people who really likes that song. Hays can pen some downright funny songs, and that’s what makes him so unique, but it’s the serious and pretty songs like this where you really get to marvel at and admire what an excellent writer he is. For example, take the line, “Now the drunks have turned to strangers, and the stars are out of tune, as I think about the one who might have saved me. I know you’re out there somewhere, between the highway and the moon…” It’s simple, yet deep, and the somberness that can be heard in his voice while he sings it adds a real emotional punch to the tune.

Those slow songs were spread out here and there, and now, they got back into rock mode with the subsequent track from “KMAG…”, “The Lovin’ Cup”, which called for two electric guitars. That fun catchy song was followed by one of my personal favorites of Hayes’s, and one I was ecstatic to get to hear again, “Rivertown”. Travis again used his dobro on this more poignant, outlaw country song. Like the batch of songs before it, they wound it into the next song on the record, which was also the title track, “Little Rock”. The sudden lively guitar chords seemed to catch everyone off guard, mainly because no one was expecting that one yet, but it was a pleasant surprise. The hits kept coming, and there was a near deafening roar from the audience when Hayes knocked out the first notes of the next song. He abruptly stopped. “I have two songs that start this way. I sure hope this is the one y’all are cheering for.” he said to everyone, before picking back up with it. “Girl Downtown” was precisely what everyone was wanting, and it was one of only two moments where just about the whole room joined in singing the lyrics right along with him. “There’s a girl downtown with freckles on her nose, pencils in her pockets and ketchup on her clothes. She’s a real nice girl, pretty as a plate…” sang the fans at the top of their lungs, making even hard to hear Hayes at times. It was a great moment in the end, though, because you don’t often see that level of devotion from fans.

The applause had barely died down when Hayes started the next song, signing just a word or two a cappella before his band chimed in. “Well I’m wild as a turkey, higher than a Christmas moon…” he crooned, starting “Wild as a Turkey”, another impossibly fun track. Once it was over Hayes reminisced, saying it had been about five years since he first got a chance to play the House of Blues, and it had been around ten years since he started playing Dallas in general. He then thought back to the early days of his musical endeavor, specifically Crystal Beach on the Bolivar Peninsula in Texas, and a venue called Bob’s Sports Bar and Grill. “…The name was misleading…” he stated, before cracking that he was the only person there who could play a guitar and sing at the same time, noting that made him a sort of “local celebrity”. “Things were looking good…” he said, as he proceeded to name a list of venues he played down there. One of those was Jeannie’s and shortly after he mentioned Jeannie’s Two. “…Which was a trailer parked one hundred yards behind Jeannie’s One.” he finished, before saying his next song was titled “I Got a Gig”, a track that depicts some of the rougher parts of starting out as a musician.

 They were already pretty deep into the show, and they still had a long ways to go, and next came another song that is loved immensely by all Hayes Carll fans. He sang the first verse of “Beaumont” alone, with only the fans singing back at him, “I saw you leaning on a memory, with your back turned to the crowd…”, during which time Scott readied his accordion. The band joined the mix at the first chorus, while the fans continued singing along to the song that’s somewhat about unrequited love.

The night got very interesting with the next song, which was greeted with excitement as soon as Hayes mentioned it was a duet from his last album. He named one singer who had rehearsed it for these shows, but said she wound up being unable to make it. So instead, he had been picking people out of the crowd to help him sing it, noting it started off great, but the night before had been rough. “So ask yourself; do u know the lyrics, and will you put your mouth on the microphone and sing into it?” That was what Hayes told all the prospects who had already began raising their hands and shouting. He picked a young lady who quickly joined him on stage, and after they talked momentarily, he returned to his mic and told everyone to welcome Tara to the stage. “This song’s about the great political divide in America, and how physical attraction and alcohol can overcome it.” he said.

That song is called “Another Like You”, and, as he should have, Hayes nailed his part. The problem came at the second verse, which belongs to the female part. I’d say it went off the rails fast, but they would be implying that it was even on the rails to begin with. The woman he choose didn’t know the words, making them up at first, before just mumbling along to the tune. “I’m sorry, I don’t know the words.” she admitted all too late, while Hayes just shook his head. The audience was laughing it up, as it was indeed a hysterical moment. It didn’t get any better when they got to the part of the song that’s (or should be) a back and forth between the two vocalists, and by the final verse Hayes just started singing everything to compensate for it all. The funny thing was how, when taken out of context, some of the lines took on a whole new meaning giving the circumstance, like, “…Lord, it’s been a helluva ride…”

He wasn’t upset or anything, and like the fans, just had to laugh. “I think that calls for a drink.” he said aloud as she left the stage.

The accordion and mandolin were broken back out for the short, cheery travel anthem, “Bottle In My Hand”, which also deals with some of the woes going on in the world at moment. That delightful song was followed by a sad tale, though, Scott going back to his guitar, while Travis used the pedal steel for “Chances Are”. “It seems I spent my whole life wishing on the same unlucky star. And as I watched you from across the bar room, I wonder what my chances are?” Hayes softly sang, even drawling at times, on what I feel may well be one of his most overlooked gems. They moved right on into “Hard Out Here”, stirring up the fans a bit, who boisterously shouted along, “…I used to have heart but the highway took it!”

They were almost done, and their next to last song was “I Don’t Wanna Grow Up”, after which they brought things back up to the rock mood they had started the night off on. “Stomp And Holler” makes you want to do exactly that, and from the first roaring note it had everyone excited. It’s also one of those songs that’s a nice balance of smart and honest songwriting (“From all I’ve seen you only get one shot with what you’re gonna do in this life.”) and plain hysterical, (“I’m like James Brown, only white and taller.”) and, as it usually is, was a great way to end an amazing 78-minute long set.

Some people left, probably hoping to beat the rush. They were also the ones who missed out, since no one was ready for the night to be over yet, and patiently waited for the encore they hoped would happen. Sure enough, Hayes returned to the stage after a minute or so.

“I say this every night; I would do this whether or not any one showed up. But it’s a lot more fun when people do.” he stated, seeming honestly grateful that all these people showed up to see him play. The first portion of the 16-minute encore was done solo, as Hayes began “Long Way Home”. It was another one that came as a surprise, but in some regards, it was one of the best songs of his show, especially when his band joined him, given a little more depth to it.

Of course, no show would be complete without the lead track from “Little Rock”, “Wish I Hadn’t Stayed So Long”, which is one of those songs that is very fitting at the end of the night. Then, came a surprise.

I’ve caught Hayes Carll two other times this year, and at both of those shows he has done an alternate version of “Bad Liver and a Broken Heart”, which has been more stripped down (if you listen to the song you’ll know how odd an acoustic version of it would sound). It was good like that, but it lacked the hefty gut punch that makes the song what it is. Well, that acoustic rendition had been abandoned this time around, and as soon as that last song ended, Scott fired up “Bad Liver and a Broken Heart”. And I have to say, I felt a little euphoric rush realizing it was indeed the rock version. “I’ll get old before I’m good at this…” Hayes confesses near the end of the song, before soon uttering one of the truest lines that’s heard in any song ever. “Doesn’t anybody care about truth anymore? Maybe that’s what songs are for.” It was also around this time they added a bit of a cover song into the mix, singing a few lines from “I Fought the Law”, which mixed well it.

On that note, they exited the stage, leaving myself, and I assume pretty much everyone else, feeling very fulfilled.

I’ve only seen Hayes four times now, but this was without question the best show I’ve witnessed, and a large part of that was due to the spectacular song selection.

He and the Gulf Coast Orchestra band played everything anyone could have hoped for and then some. Of course to cover all that meant that the man who usually tells lengthy little anecdotes had to restrain himself, but even doing that he was still able to cutup and build a rapport with his fans.

His one-of-a-kind voice, which is at its best at live shows, as it has a different quality to it than what you hear on the records, and his creative style of songwriting make him hands down one of the best artists not only in Texas, but also on the national level.

2014 looks like it will be a busy one for Hayes. In all likelihood, he’ll have a new album out sometime this year (note: this is tentative), and February will be an insanely busy month for the man, as he does some more intimate shows around Texas, and even Nashville.

The full tour schedule can be viewed HERE, but and includes four Austin shows, as well as gigs in Gruene, The Woodlands, Galveston, Beaumont  and Houston. He’ll play Dallas on February 19th and 22nd, the first of those dates being at The Doublewide, the other at The Kessler. Dan’s Silver Leaf in Denton will host him on the 18th, and he has a two-night stand planned in Fort Worth on the 20th and 21st. The first of those Ft. Worth dates is at McDavid Studios at the Bass Performance Hall, the other is at Lola’s Saloon.

The last time he did a run of these smaller venues I missed it, and that’s a mistake I won’t make twice. Also, give his music a listen over in iTUNES.

This show was a great one to start winding 2013 down with, and it left only one more concert to see before the New Year.

Friday, December 20th, 2013 – The Band of Heathens

With the year almost over with, Austin’s own Band of Heathens had one final string of shows to play around Texas, ending what had been a busy and successful year.

Back in August, they played a couple of shows in Detroit opening for Kid Rock and ZZ Top, then in September came the release of their fourth studio album, “Sunday Morning Record”, an album the band has been supporting with near constant touring of the U.S. since its release. They hadn’t made it to Dallas since the album dropped, though. And in fact, I’m pretty sure this was their first proper Dallas gig since playing the Homegrown Music Festival back in May, meaning their show at the Granada Theater this night was a bit overdue.

A couple of great acts were booked on the bill to open for them, and starting off the night was singer/songwriter Jamie Wilson, who is one fourth of the band, The Trishas.

“It’s a good thing they filled the stage with gear. That way I don’t feel so lonely up here.” she stated while clutching her electric guitar. That was one of a couple of jokes she made this night about being the only one on stage, and while you could tell it felt a little weird to her, she never seemed uneasy about it.

The crowd was sparse since it was still so early (eight o’clock), but the few dozen people who were there were instantly taken with her as she started her first song, offering some loud applause once she finished it, while she quickly segued it into her next number.

It was during this break that she pointed out she is part of The Trishas, and the next song she was going to do was one that belonged to that band. “…I wrote it about the time I was a middle-aged man who was unhappy in his marriage.” she said, joking that, that should be fairly obvious. The song she was referring to was “Strangers”, off the “High, Wide and Handsome” album, and it told a sad story about two people who simply drifted apart. It, like most of the other songs she did, teemed with emotion, which was what made her show so riveting, especially since that emotion came from her singing.

As good as the music was though; it was the rapport she so effortlessly created with the audience that really made her set so enjoyable. Like during this next break when she mentioned she had driven from New Braunfels and decided to take her time and do some Christmas shopping on the way to Dallas, stopping in the town of Hillsboro. “…Then I hit Dallas at four, and decided I’d do a PSA at the show…” she said laughing. “…Blinkers work… and they need to be acknowledged…” she told the crowd, adding that drivers could not use so many “hand gestures”. That anecdote gave way to another song, which was then followed by a couple of newer ones.

Jamie noted that the first of these two new songs she wrote with Jason Eady (another excellent musician), and the song was inspired by an old abandoned house she said she saw when walking one day, telling everyone that the house had clearly been vacant for years, yet there was a rocking chair sitting on the porch. Personally, it was one of my favorite songs she did this night, and was just a pretty song that told a nice story she and Eady had created, based on the picture she had taken of that house. “Here’s a brand new one. Like, since Monday.” she informed the crowd, letting everyone now she even had the lyrics written down in case she needed them.

Afterwards, it was story time again, as she told the audience that she wasn’t done Christmas shopping yet, and that all her three-year-old daughter wanted was a trampoline. “I’d hate to disappoint her.” she remarked to that, then added she had also bought nothing for her husband as of yet. “I think he deserves something nice.” she said right after she told everyone he had come down with the flu right when she left him to care for three kids while she came here to play this show.

That led her to a couple of songs from a solo EP she had released a few years back, called “Dirty Blonde Hair”. One song from the record was what I thought was her best tune of the night, and that was “Dusty Shoes”. “…I’m not the trusting kind. And I’m not the answer. And I’m not the one to fix your kind of cancer…” she crooned on the first part of each chorus.

She had used a harmonica earlier in the night, and went to play it again now at the start of this next song, quickly stopping. “This is why I need people.” she laughed while spinning around and going for another harmonica. When she returned to the microphone, she said something to the effect that it would help to have a harmonica that was in the right key. “Watch this.” she said before blowing into the instrument, which now matched the guitar chords of “Little Too Rough” much better. That then led her to the final song of her 39-minute long set, which she said she wrote while she was pregnant with her daughter, with the inspiration behind it being that both she and her husband knew there would come a day where they wouldn’t remember being a family of three. That was where this song, titled “Whisper On My Skin”, came in, giving them a a permanent reminder of what that time was like.

By the end, I had been converted to a fan of Jamie Wilson’s. Actually, it didn’t even take nearly that long, and right from the start her twangy and golden idealist country sounding voice had me hooked.

Jamie got the night off to a great start, and I’m going to have to check out some of The Trishas music now, too, and maybe even see them sometime when they’re in the area. Oh, and do check out Jamies’ solo record in ITUNES.

The first full band of the night was The Southern Renaissance, who hail from right here in Dallas.

I had seen them once before, a little over a year ago, and liked them. Though I’d love them by the time their show was over with this night.

Their 57-minute long set began with a song from their full-length album, “No Better Time”, and the folk/Americana sounding band had nearly everyone hooked right after the first chorus of “Promise Me”. “Oh baby, promise me that you’ll always stay with me. Never give me away…” sang singer and rhythm guitarist Michael Donner, whose voice is purely unique, almost sounding like he belongs in a whole different era of country music. Say, the 50’s or 60’s. He has no trouble holding his own against today’s musicians, though, and already people were succumbing to the infectious song, dancing along to it and asking other onlookers, “Who is this band?!”.

“On The Horizon” was one of a few songs that employed some nice backing harmonies from lead guitarist and piano player Levi Bradford, which was soon followed by a highlight of their set, “Living Free”. “You Really Got Me” showed off the more rock vein the band is capable of, starting with some striking beats from drummer Jon Aisner, giving it a thicker backbone and an all around different flow from most of their other tunes.

Once that song came to an end, Michael introduced a friend who joined them for a few songs. That friend was Kat Wilkes, who Michael noted plays with an Austin band called Sour Bridges, and she had her fiddle in tow. While she made her way on stage, Levi put his guitar up and took a seat behind the keyboard, which eventually led them to one of their most interesting songs, which is also a very fun one in the live environment. I mentioned earlier that Michaels’ voice sounds like it would be very fitting of a different era, and “Old Fashioned Way” truly channels that. The music bed is primarily the piano, while he croons about what it might have been like to have lived in a different, simpler time.

Things picked back up with their next couple of songs, especially “Been A Long Time”, after which Levi swapped back to his guitar for a one off song. “…This song’s called Anna Lee.” Michael told the crowd, as they did a little more upbeat version of the song from their “Abraham” EP.

Everything they had done thus far was some old classics/staples if their songs, but now, as their show was in its final leg, they got to a few songs of the EP they released earlier this year, “The Southern Renaissance”, first doing the more country sounding “Get Away”, which was Kat’s final song of the night. Once she left, and they got the audience to give her one last round of applause, they moved on to the somewhat bluesy, “The Wrong and the Right”, which also had some certain gospel elements to it, and while it was vastly different from the rest of their stuff, it sounded incredible.

Levi got his guitar back out for the remainder of their set, which included a fast paced rendition of John Denver’s “Blow Up Your TV”, a song they put their own spin on, and was hands down one of the most fun songs of the night. “Big City” was another good one, and boasted some nice bass lines from Blake Butler. They took things down a few notches with “Feelin’ So Bad”, before ending their show with the more peaceful sounds of “Tall Trees”.

The Southern Renaissance was both fun and invigorating, and those two qualities were ones everyone responded to.

They were even better than what I recalled them to be, having polished up their show even more in the last year plus.

They’re almost impossible not to like, having a catalog filled with catchy songs and strong lyrics to boot. And not only to they stand apart from the majority of the other bands here in the local music scene, but also from those on the broader, national level.

They don’t have any shows booked at the moment 9at least none that I can find), but keep an eye on their FACEBOOK PAGE. As for their music, you can get their two older albums for FREE on their BANDCAMP page, and their self-titled EP is all too cheap to pass up over in iTUNES.

Now it was just a waiting game, as the final push of fans trickled in to see what The Band of Heathens would be bringing this night. Luckily, the wait wasn’t too long.

At 10:23 the screen covering the stage was pulled up, revealing the five members of the group in their places. There was no big entrance, mainly because they didn’t need one. They let the small burst of fanfare die out before one of the co-singers and guitarists, Ed Jurdi, began to strum his guitar, instantly giving the song away as one of the new ones.

“Everybody’s talking ‘bout how they just can’t do without. They don’t know their ass from a hole in the ground…” Ed sang, the first line of “Miss My Life”, one of the many gems “Sunday Morning Record” has to offer. I wouldn’t have pegged it as being used as an opener, but it worked exceedingly well, acting as a nice one-two punch to quickly hook everyone. And even with the instrumental breakdown they threw in before the final chorus, lengthening the song a bit, it still seemed to pass by quickly.

“Thanks for coming out. It’s good to see ya…” Ed said to the hundreds of fans who had made it out, while Gordy Quist went and picked up a harmonica and a neck rack. Lead vocal duties fell to him for the next song, an longtime fan favorite of the groups, and one I had not had the pleasure of experiencing live until now, “Rehab Facility”. “So open up the floodgates. Let your love down like a needle in my vein…” sang Gordy on the chorus of this serious rock number, which was a truly unforgettable song this night. And speaking of it being a rock song, it was so much so that he broke one of the strings on the twelve string guitar he was using, exchanging it for a six string once the song concluded.

While Gordy was still getting his guitar plugged in, the rest of the band launched into the lead track/ first single from their “One Foot in the Ether” record, “L. A. County Blues”. Most bands may change up their songs for live shows over how they sound on recordings, but that’s one thing The Band of Heathens is known for. From the instrumental embellishments they’ll throw in some songs, to like what they did on this one, where Ed simply hit some different notes on many of the words he sang, making an already great track even better. One of the best extra touches came from Gordy, though, who at one point either loosened or tightened one of the strings on his ax a bit, creating a killer sound that reverberated for several seconds.

After giving the fans some of those older favorites, it was back to the new music, with “Girl with Indigo Eyes”. It’s a good song on the album, but live, it proved to be a whole different beast. For starters, much of the song combined some lovely harmonies as Ed echoed most of what Gordy was singing. Then you had the fact that is was more fleshed out thanks to drummer Richard Millsap, pianist Trevor Nealon and their bass player, all of whom brought new life to what’s mainly an acoustic song. They even flat out surprised myself – and probably everyone else – by suddenly taking it into an all out killer Rock ‘n’ Roll breakdown, where Ed flat-out shredded on his guitar. It left you feeling wide eyed and thinking to yourself, “Wow!”

They were mostly about the music this night, but now Gordy quickly took the mic to inform everyone that, that had been one of their new songs, and they were about to do another one. Their bass player then promptly laid down some rhythmic notes, and Richard soon accompanied him, setting up the smooth and soulful, “Records in Bed”. This one got at least a few extra minutes of life added to it thanks to a slow, softer instrumental piece, while Ed and Gordy heavily repeated the final line, “Round and round and round we go.”, adding an extra something special to the song.

“Philadelphia” came next, and afterwards they, or specifically Gordy, wound things seamlessly into one of only two songs they did from their self-titled record this night, “Jackson Station”. Upon finishing it, turned to another new one. It was the final song from “Sunday Morning Record”, and like most last songs on most albums, “Texas” is a more laid-back song, relying heavily on Trevor and his piano. It may have been toned down, but it was still a real pretty song, allowing Ed to show off a different side of his vocal prowess.

They were ready to liven things back up after that, and oddly enough, one of their strongest songs of the night required both Ed and Gordy to rock some acoustic guitars. “Nine Steps Down” is a country song through and through, and one you’ll love from the first note. In fact, even some of the people who were standing near me this night had obviously never seen or heard of The Band of Heathens before, and even though they were on the fence about them during other songs, this was one they quickly took to. But I digress. There are also some healthy doses of rock thrown in, say, during the long instrumental middle section they gave the song, giving it one helluva kick before coming back in for the final verse.

One of the most memorable songs from their show this night wasn’t even one of their originals, but they sure did a stellar rendition of Bob Dylan’s “When I Paint My Masterpiece”. They added a certain rock flare to the song, after which they switched things up for the next segment of their set, as Ed took a seat behind one of the pianos, and after stretching his legs for a moment, Trevor seated himself in front of the other. I don’t know how many people were ecstatic to hear “Gris Gris Satchel”, but I made at least one. There’s just something about that song, that is co-sung with some incredible harmonies thrown in, that I absolutely love. That something may well be that it’s a very serene, even heavenly song, and it’s quite calming to hear. I was also pleased to hear the one that followed it, as was most everyone else at the room, who had been screaming out several song titles at the band since they had begun, and one of those was “Hurricane”.

All it took was Ed’s piano intro for the fans to identify it, cheering with joy. It’s a song with multiple layers, with the first verse and chorus being slightly haunting due to the lack of instrumentalization, before growing into a forceful assault at the end, Gordy belting out the chorus, “I was born in the rain on Pontchartrain, underneath the Louisiana moon… The high black water, the devil’s daughter; she’s hard, she’s cold and she’s mean. Nobody ever taught her, it takes a lot of water to wash away New Orleans.”

It was hard to think that the night could get any better than that, but they still had to try, and it did get even more interesting when Ed stood up from the keys, but instead of grabbing a guitar, he picked up some maracas an a tambourine. They were used nicely for the first part of “You’re Gonna Miss Me”, a song I’m admittedly not a fan of, but live, I have to say it was rather enjoyable.  The breakdown they threw in the song was neat, too, starting off pretty low key, with a lot of the piano.

So far, they had offered up a smorgasbord of stuff at their fans, and now, as they hit their final stretch, it was time to play what, in my opinion, are the three best songs from the new album. One of those was “Caroline Williams”, which Ed added a sensational touch to by singing the final line, “Caroline Williams don’t live here anymore.” a cappella, giving it even more of an emotional touch. He then led them into the next track with some heavy and thick guitar riffs, a very appropriate intro for “Shake the Foundation”.

These handful of songs were the ones they’ve been trying out for awhile now, and I had heard “Shake the Foundation” the previous two times I had seen them, but it sounded nothing like this. The song that starts by discovering a lovers betrayal has been tweaked, and I dare say even overhauled, since I last heard it, managing to sound raw, yet refined.

Gordy and Ed stood facing one another, strumming the strings of their guitars as they fired up the next song, one female fan near the front screaming with glee upon realizing what it was. Not only is “Shotgun” an instant classic, it has been a staple for most of a year already, and is song that sticks out the most from my first encounter with the band. “Heard that you were talking about me. Heard you had a smile on your face while you cried, cried, cried…” sang Gordy, as the song got underway. Minutes later, when the song had ended, he thanked everyone for coming and hanging out with them this night, a sign that they had arrived to the final song of what wound up being a 108-minute long set.

That closing number was the single from the “Top Hat Crown & The Clapmaster’s Son” album, “Medicine Man”, which Richard started with some thunderous, steady drum beats. They jumped into the instrumental breakdown after the third chorus, and it was as charged as they had been all night. The energy they built from that even seemed to reinvigorate them, ‘cause when they came back in, Gordy was impassioned as he roared on the next verse, “…Might lose your house, might lose your home. But I’ll give you back more than you have known…”

Not only was that precisely how a show should be ended, but that was also how one should be done all together. But as they all waved a goodbye to their fans, you had to wonder if an encore was coming.

Indeed it was, and the crowd had only just begun to cheer for more when the five guys retook the stage, not even a full minute after they had exited.

“…We see a lot of dates when we look at our calendar…” Ed said to everyone, noting that they always circle Dallas when they see they’ll be coming to town. “’Cause we always look so forward to it.” he stated, and then proceeded to thank the fans for even making that possible in the first place by coming out to see them. The two songs they had planned for their encore took up 13-minutes, and the first of those was another one I hadn’t heard them do before, and that was “I’ve Got a Feeling”.

It was well received, and very hard not to like, but it was the final song that everyone was pretty much unanimous in wanting to hear. Periodically throughout the night, you could hear a few fans shouting for “Look At Miss Ohio”, and a group of them again asked for the song, hoping to hear it. Their wish was finally granted, and nearly everyone sang right along with Gordy on the first line, “Oh, me-oh-my-o. Won’t ya look at Miss Ohio. Running around with her rag top down…”

I think everyone would have been happy if they had played another five songs, or even more, but that was the one song that everyone, collectively, wanted to hear. And the audience was still in a state of ecstasy when Ed, Gordy, Trevor, Richard and the bassist bid one final farewell to their fans and walked back stage.

Their albums sound great, but it’s the live performances where The Band of Heathens truly excel. This night was proof of that, and they had even pushed things to a different level than what they were at even when I saw them back in May and then June.

I’m sure some of that credit goes to the heavy touring they’ve been doing, allowing them to tighten up all these new songs, and perfect things. It was hard to deny the professionalism as they glided from one song to the next, and the skill they all have as musicians is dazzling.

That’s actually the most engrossing part of their live shows, seeing any of the band members focusing completely on their instrument, and watching the magic happen. Well, that and also how not only are Ed and Gordy incredible lead singers, but everyone in the band has a good voice, and the four and even five-part harmonies that could be heard here and there were delightful.

After pushing the band so hard in these final months of 2013, it’s understandable that they’d take some time off, and it looks like 2014 will get off to a slow start. Ed and Gordy have some acoustic duo shows booked, the first one taking place on January 12th at The Nelson Odeon in Cazenovia, NY. Don Quixote’s in Felton, CA and Main Street Crossing in Tomball, TX will also host some acoustic shows, the former on January 29th, the latter February 19th. Some full band dates are: January 26th at The Funky Biscuit in Boca Raton, FL; February 28th at The Kessler in Dallas. As for their albums, check out their collection of stuff in iTUNES. And if that isn’t enough, they professionally recorded almost every show they play, and years worth of bootlegs can be purchased HERE on their official website.

This was one awesome night here at the Granada. So good in fact, that this was a clear-cut choice for being one of the ten best concerts I saw this past year.

The Best of 2013: A List of Bands & Albums You Need to Know

Since I only do this once a year, here’s a refresher as to how this goes; After keeping track of every album I bought that was released in 2013 (120+) and every concert I saw, this is where I - completely objectively - select what I think were the best of everything.

LP’s and EP’s are divided into two different categories, with a top ten in each one, after which I do the “Best of the Rest”, alphabetically listing all the other records (the primary reason I do this blog in the first place is to try to help get bands even the slightest bit of extra exposure, so I don’t want to leave anyone out simply because they didn’t make my “Top Ten”.)

After that, I’ll list my ten favorite concerts from the year, then end with a wrap up.

For the albums, if you click on the artist name, you’ll be taken to their website. Clicking the album title will take you to either iTUNES or Bandcamp to purchase the record. Something new I’m also doing this year is including a link to a Spotify playlist next to each category, so you can easily listen to most of the music (not ever band has their music on Spotify, after all.) As for my favorite concerts of the year, they’ll be linked back to the individual review I did of the show, in case you missed it the first time around or may want to read it again.

Sound good? Good. Here we go…

Top 10 LP’s of 2013 (Spotify Playlist)

1.) Artist: Kentucky Knife Fight

Album: Hush Hush

Must Listen Song: “Bad Blood”


2.) Artist: Jillette Johnson

Album: Water in a Whale

Must Listen Song: “Pauvre Coeur”


3.) Artist: Nothing More

Album: Nothing More

Must Listen Song: Every track. Seriously.


4.) Artist: Tommy & the High Pilots

Album: Only Human

Must Listen Song: “Devil to Pay” & “Young and Hungry”


5.) Artist: Dead Flowers

Album: For You

Must Listen Song: “No Tragedy”


6.) Artist: Ishi

Album: Digital Wounds

Must Listen Song: “Emotional Hard Drive”


7.) Artist: Distant Lights

Album: Not Thinking Not Dreaming (FREE DOWNLOAD!)

Must Listen Song: “What’s On Your Mind?”


8.) Artist: Sick Puppies

Album: Connect

Must Listen Song: “Walking Away”


9.) Artist: These Machines are Winning

Album: Defender 1

Must Listen Song: “Beat S”


10.) Artist: The O’s

Album: Thunderdog

Must Listen Song: “Outlaw”
The Best of the Rest (LP’s) (
Spotify Playlist)

Artist: Air Review

Album: Low Wishes

Must Listen Song: “Low Wishes”


Artist: Animal Spirit

Album: Animal Spirit

Must Listen Song: “House On A Hill”


Artist: Anthony Green

Album: Young Legs

Must Listen Song: “Breaker”


Artist: Anydoll

Album: Electric Heart (Free download!)

Must Listen Song: “You Are Amazing”


Artist: Ashley Falgout

Album: Long Over Due

Must Listen Song: “Days and Days”


Artist: The Band of Heathens

Album: Sunday Morning Record

Must Listen Song: “Shotgun”


Artist: Bawcomville

Album: Tranny

Must Listen Song: “Diminished Returns”


Artist: Black Books

Album: Black Books

Must Listen Song: “Something to Remember”


Artist: Blameshift

Album: Secrets

Must Listen Song: “Revolution”


Artist: Blue October

Album: Sway

Must Listen Song: “Put It In”


Artist: Bordeen

Album: Bordeen

Must Listen Song: “Spotlight”


Artist: Bosnian Rainbows

Album: Bosnian Rainbows

Must Listen Song: “The Eye Fell In Love”


Artist: Bowling for Soup

Album: Lunch. Drunk. Love.

Must Listen Song: “Critically Disdained”


Artist: The Breakfast Machine

Album: Electric 2033

Must Listen Song: “Si, Explosions”


Artist: The Bronx

Album: The Bronx (IV)

Must Listen Song: “Last Revelation”


Artist: Christopher Owens

Album: Lysandre

Must Listen Song: “Here We Go”


Artist: The Civil Wars

Album: The Civil Wars

Must Listen Song: “The One That Got Away”


Artist: Courrier

Album: Cathedrals of Color

Must Listen Song: “The City at Night”


Artist: Courtney Jones

Album: All Things That Fall

Must Listen Song: “Back to Me”


Artist: Cowboy Indian Bear

Album: Live Old, Die Young

Must Listen Song: “Does Anybody See You Out?”


Artist: Cull the Heard

Album: Reap the Harvest

Must Listen Song: “I Want More”


Artist: Cults

Album: Static

Must Listen Song: “We’ve Got It”

The Dangerous Summer

Album: Golden Record

Must Listen Song: “Catholic Girls”


Artist: Danny Rush & the Designated Drivers

Album: Malverde

Must Listen Song: “SHT YR FKN MTH MY DRLNG”


Artist: Dead Letter Circus

Album: The Catalyst Fire

Must Listen Song: “Say Your Prayers”


Artist: Deaf Angel

Album: Brutally / Beautiful (Free download!)

Must Listen Song: “Let You Go”


Artist: The Dear Hunter

Album: Migrant

Must Listen Song: “An Escape”


Artist: Dresses

Album: Sun Shy

Must Listen Song: “Friends Are Dead”


Artist: Eisley

Album: Currents

Must Listen Song: “Save My Soul”


Artist: Elle Macho

Album: Import

Must Listen Song: “Hey Dude”


Artist: Fialta

Album: Summer Winter

Must Listen Song: “Photographs”


Artist: Free Dominguez

Album: Volcano + The Sea

Must Listen Song: “Line in the Sand”


Artist: The Frisky Disco

Album: The Frisky Disco (Free download!)

Must Listen Song: “Bobo Cakes”


Artist: Haim

Album: Days Are Gone

Must Listen Song: “The Wire”


Artist: Hawthorne Heights

Album: Zero

Must Listen Song: “Darkside”


Artist: The Head and the Heart

Album: Let’s Be Still

Must Listen Song: “Shake”


Artist: Home By Hovercraft

Album: Are We Chameleons?

Must Listen Song: “Rocket”

IO Echo

Album: Ministry of Love

Must Listen Song: “Ministry of Love”


Artist: The Joy Formidable

Album: Wolf’s Law

Must Listen Song: “This Ladder Is Ours”


Artist: Kaela Sinclair

Album: Sun & Mirror

Must Listen Song: “Original Sin”


Artist: Kate Nash

Album: Girl Talk

Must Listen Song: “Are You There, Sweetheart?”


Artist: Kree Woods

Album: Talking Underwater

Must Listen Song: “Hip, Hip”


Artist: Lily & Madeleine

Album: Lily & Madeleine

Must Listen Song: “Lost Upon the Sea”


Artist: The Limousines

Album: Hush

Must Listen Song: “Bedbugs”


Artist: The Lovely Bad Things

Album: The Late Great Whatever

Must Listen Song: “Fried Eyes”


Artist: Manny the Martyr

Album: Brighter Sun (Free download!)

Must Listen Song: “Hit the Brink”


Artist: The Material

Album: Everything I Want to Say

Must Listen Song: “Born to Make a Sound”


Artist: Mona

Album: Torches & Pitchforks

Must Listen Song: “Goons (Baby, I Need it All)”


Artist: Monahans

Album: Leveler

Must Listen Song: “Forward/Reverse”


Artist: Monahans

Album: Roam an Empty Space

Must Listen Song: “Beat of a Thousand Drums”


Artist: Myla Smith

Album: Hiding Places

Must Listen Song: “Lose Ya” or “Hiding Places”


Artist: Nicholas Altobelli

Album: Without a Home

Must Listen Song: “Blackout”


Album: Ballet the Boxer 1

Must Listen Song: “Pretty Pain”


Artist: Overseas

Album: Overseas

Must Listen Song: “Old Love”


Artist: Panic Volcanic

Album: Freak Fuzz

Must Listen Song: “Set You Free”


Artist: Paramore

Album: Paramore

Must Listen Song: “Fast In My Car”


Artist: Piñata Protest

Album: El Valiente

Must Listen Song: “Life on the Border”


Artist: The Polyphonic Spree

Album: Yes, It’s True

Must Listen Song: “You Don’t Know Me”


Artist: The Postelles

Album: …And it Shook Me

Must Listen Song: “Oh My Luck”


Artist: The Quaker City Night Hawks

Album: Honcho

Must Listen Song: “Lavanderia”


Artist: Quiet Company

Album: A Dead Man On My Back: Shine Honesty Revisited

Must Listen Song: “…and You Said it Was Pretty Here”

Ra Ra Riot

Album: Beta Love

Must Listen Song: “Dance with Me”


Artist: Reinventing Jude

Album: Sundial Soliloquy

Must Listen Song: “Wet Cement”


Artist: The Reynolds Number

Album: The Reynolds Number

Must Listen Song: “Follow You”


Artist: Rude King

Album: It’ll Probably be Alright

Must Listen Song: “The Answer’s Right In Front Of Me”


Artist: The Sammus Theory

Album: Entitled Anonymous

Must Listen Song: “Scarlet Letter Devil”


Artist: Sarah Hurst

Album: Fine to Wait

Must Listen Song: “Fascinate”


Artist: Sean Michel

Album: Electric Delta

Must Listen Song: “Mississippi Mud”


Artist: Shannon LaBrie

Album: Just Be Honest

Must Listen Song: “Gettin’ Tired”


Artist: The Sounds

Album: Weekend

Must Listen Song: “Outlaw”


Artist: Steven Graves

Album: Time Will Tell

Must Listen Song: “When Things Were Simple”


Artist: Tony Ferraro & The Satans of Soft Rock

Album: Friend of Man and Beast Alike

Must Listen Song: “Satanic Verses”


Artist: Triple SP

Album: Disrupting the Harmony

Must Listen Song: “Symptom”


Artist: Twenty One Pilots

Album: Vessel

Must Listen Song: “House of Gold” & “Semi-Automatic”


Artist: Un Chien

Album: Un Chien

Must Listen Song: "Gasoline Rainbow"


Artist: W.A. Fite

Album: Builds. with. Age

Must Listen Song: “Dramatics”


Artist: We’rewolves

Albums: We’rewolves

Must Listen Song: “Words of a Black Suit Politician”


Artist: Whiskey Folk

Album: The Lonesome Underground

Must Listen Song: “Lights On the Highway”


Artist: Wild Child

Album: The Runaround

Must Listen Song: “Crazy Bird”


Artist: The Will Callers

Album: What Else is Left?

Must Listen Song: “House of Falling Cards”

Top 10 EP’s of 2013 (
Spotify Playlist)

1.) Artist: Light the Fire

Album: Light the Fire

Must Listen Song: “All Or Nothing”


2.) Artist: Drayter

Album: Drayter

Must Listen Song: “Scream”


3.) Artist: Here Holy Spain

Album: Under the Undertow

Must Listen Song: “Golden Gun”


4.) Artist: Daylight Industries

Album: Faith Healer

Must Listen Song: “Sit In”


5.) Artist: Son of Swan

Album: Son of Swan

Must Listen Song: "Dog Days"


6.) Artist: Charming Liars

Album: New Disorder

Must Listen Song: “I’m Losing You”


7.) Artist: Enamored

Album: Requiem

Must Listen Song: “Never Again”


8.) Artist: B-Ners

Album: Back to Mexico

Must Listen Song: “Trouble Dog”


9.) Artist: The Circle

Album: Who I Am

Must Listen Song: “The Other Side”


10.) Artist: Paco Estrada

Album: How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Must Listen Song: “She”
The Best of the Rest (EP’s) (
Spotify Playlist)

Artist: Amanda Ply

Album: Nothing More Than Me

Must Listen Song: “Stay”


Artist: Anna Lombard

Album: Head Full of Bells

Must Listen Song: “Leave Town”


Artist: The Bedlam Brothers

Album: Saddle Up

Must Listen Song: “We Ride Tonight”


Artist: Best Coast

Album: Fade Away

Must Listen Song: “I Wanna Know”


Artist: Betray the Dreamer

Album: Betray the Dreamer

Must Listen Song: “Transmissions”


Artist: Black Books

Album: Aquarena

Must Listen Song: “Favorite Place”


Artist: Black Taxi

Album: Chiaroscuro

Must Listen Song: “Gone”


Artist: Brandon Callies Band

Album: Life is Still Good

Must Listen Song: “This Love” (Pantera cover)


Artist: Bravo Delta

Album: Shutdown Sequence

Must Listen Song: “We Stand, We Fall”


Artist: Chasin Aces

Album: Lost & Found

Must Listen Song: “Everglow”


Artist: Criminal Birds

Album: Criminal Birds

Must Listen Song: “Chill Out”


Artist: Descender

Album: Slow and Gold

Must Listen Song: “The Language”


Artist: Emily Hearn

Album: Promises

Must Listen Song: “Found a Heart”

The Hanna Barbarians

Album: Spaceway Sessions, Vol. 2

Must Listen Song: "Oh, Spirit"

Artist: Kirk Baxley

Album: Cold as a Stone

Must Listen Song: “Rock ‘n’ Roll in My Veins”


Artist: Kirk Baxley

Album: Southern Son

Must Listen Song: “Times are Changing”


Artist: Lovebettie

Album: Rise

Must Listen Song: “Alarm”


Artist: Mike Mains & the Branches

Album: Everything

Must Listen Song: “In the Night”


Artist: Motel Mirrors

Album: Motel Mirrors

Must Listen Song: “Meet Me On the Corner”


Artist: Noelle Bean

Album: Bean EP

Must Listen Song: “Lois Lane”


Artist: Northern Faces

Album: Southern Places

Must Listen Song: “Under My Skin”


Artist:  Pageantry

Album: Friends of the Year

Must Listen Song: “Dirt”


Artist: Phavian

Album: Meridian II

Must Listen Song: “Hexenring”


Artist: Red Angel Theory

Album: Rise for Something

Must Listen Song: “Inception”


Artist: Rodney Parker & The 50 Peso Reward

Album: The Apology: Part 2 (NOTE: Technically this is an LP, but since some of the tracks were on Part 1, I decided to classify it as an EP.)

Must Listen Song: “Things You Make Me Do”


Artist: Royal Savages

Album: Royal Savages (Free download!)

Must Listen Song: “Racing Tears”


Artist: Signs of Reason

Album: Wake Up

Must Listen Song: “Choke”


Artist: Sleeperstar

Album: Blue Eyes

Must Listen Song: “Replay”


Artist: Solice

Album: Live EP

Must Listen Song: “Paralyzed”


Artist: Susy Sun

Album: Wanderlust

Must Listen Song: “Down”


Artist: The Swear

Album: Gold and Hymns and Hell

Must Listen Song: “Gold and Hymns and Hell”


Artist: Swindle Boys

Album: Motion

Must Listen Song: “Secrets In Our Fists”


Artist: Technicolor Hearts

Album: Under The Big Blue Umbrella Sky

Must Listen Song: “Chorus of Friends”


Artist: Triphazard

Album: Rushing Roulette

Must Listen Song: “Ribcage”


Artist: The Unlikely Candidates

Album: Follow My Feet

Must Listen Song: “Just Breathe”


Artist: Vinyl Pilot

Album: A Beautiful Disaster

Must Listen Song: “A Beautiful Disaster”


Artist: We the Ghost

Album: Sinking Suspicion

Must Listen Song: “Take Somebody Home”


Artist: White Elephant

Album: Greatest Hits, Vol. 1

Must Listen Song: “Song For The Sick And Hopeless”
Top 10 Concerts of 2013:
Riverboat Gamblers on Tuesday, 8-20-2013 @ Rubber Gloves.
2.) The Dirty River Boys w/ Whiskey Folk & Matt the Cat Trio on Friday, 11-22-2013 @ Granada Theater.
3.) Nothing More w/ Little Sisters of the Poor, Ursa & The Last Place You Look on Friday, 6-21-2013 @ Trees.
4.) Ours on Saturday, 8-10-2013 @ The Prophet Bar.
5.) Twenty One Pilots on Thursday, 11-14-2013 @ House of Blues.
6.) Sick Puppies w/ Charming Liars on Tuesday, 9-17-2013 @ House of Blues.
7.) Band of Heathens w/ The Southern Renaissance & Jamie Wilson on Friday, 12-20-2013 @ Granada Theater.
8.) Centro-matic w/ Tony Ferraro & the Satans of Soft Rock on Thursday, 1-31-2013 @ Dan’s Silverleaf.
9.) Muse w/ Dead Sara on Wednesday, 3-13-2013 @ American Airlines Center.
10.) Ishi (Digital Wounds CD release show) on Friday, 5-3-2013 @ Granada Theater.
There’s no doubt that 2013 was the best year yet for this little ol’ blog, in terms of traffic an such. I’d also have to say it was the most fun year I’ve had doing this thus far.

Let’s see; In all, I saw (and reviewed) 127 concerts this year. Marking not only my 500th concert, but also my 600th within this past 365 days. I attended my 100th concert (and then some) at my favorite venue, The Curtain Club. I went to SXSW (something I’ll hopefully repeat in 2014) for the first time ever, which was truly something else. The copious amounts of free music going on during that must be what heaven is like. Seriously, 10+ hour  days spent seeing a ton of bands from all over the world was great.

Aside from that, 2013 saw the official launch of On Tour Monthly, an online webzine I’m fortunate enough to be a staff writer for and contribute reviews to from time to time. There’s a ton of potential with that, and the websites already generating some good buzz, and it’s just a privilege to be a small part of it.

I also met and formed a partnership with a newer organization in the Dallas music scene; DFW Undercover.

So, as my seventh year of doing this draws to a close, I have to say, I feel good about it all. I’ve managed to carve out a good little niche for myself, but above that, I’ve met some awesome people, be them band members or fellow fans like myself.

And while I don’t say this nearly often enough, thanks to anyone and everyone who has ever visited this site. Thanks to everyone who has ever read anything I wrote or shared a review I did, or anything else that has been supportive. I’ve said since I started doing this that even if I can reach just one person and turn them on to a band they weren’t familiar with before, I’ll be satisfied. I still stand by that sentiment.

After all, whatever your passion is in, you don’t do that with the sole goal of getting famous or anything. Sure, that would be a nice by-product, but that’s not what it’s all about. Whether you’re a photographer, a musician, an aspiring writer like myself, or whatever, it’s about the sheer love you have for what you enjoy doing, because it’s an extension of yourself. And in the end, that’s more than enough.

Anyway, I hope you’ll all continue to enjoy the in-depth concert reviews I’ll be posting in the year to come.

Happy 2014!

TME Reviews: Swindle Boys Own the Night in Deep Ellum


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


There was no doubt that the show this night at Three Links belonged to the Swindle Boys, who, with the help of Hand Drawn Records, were releasing the much anticipated Motion EP.

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The End of Year Top Three Album Picks by Jordan Buford
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My three absolute favorite albums from 2013 & why. Check ‘em out.


The End of Year Top Three Album Picks by Jordan Buford

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My three absolute favorite albums from 2013 & why. Check ‘em out.

Saturday, December 14th, 2013 – Dead Flowers’ Holiday Extragavanza

I seldom make a two-night stand at a venue, but Three Links had some incredible things going on this weekend.

That said, I neglected to mention in my previous post how much I like what has been done with this space since they reopened it (for anyone not aware Three Links re-opened the space that used to be LaGrange, which shuttered its doors about a year ago now.)

Until this weekend, I hadn’t been here since July, and they’ve made some improvements since then. It may have been my imagination, but it seemed like the stage had been extended even a little more than what it had been when I was last here, and that was always one of the drawbacks to the former venue, ‘cause even four-piece bands were crammed on the stage. However now, there’s ample room for even quintets to move around. Aside from that, a variety of paintings and concert posters now adorn the walls, serving as some nice décor that gives a real inviting touch to the venue. It’s all aesthetically pleasing, and the sound even sounds a little better than before, too. Taking all that into consideration, I’d even go as far as saying that this is now my second favorite spot in Deep Ellum, right after a certain long running club located over on Main Street.

Getting to the show, a newish band by the name of Patriot, who hailed from Fort Worth, was kicking off the night, doing not only their first show here at Three Links, but also their first Dallas gig.

They played a lengthy set for the first band (close to close to 40-minutes), and had no trouble filling that time, typically knocking out the songs in rather quick succession. Most seemed like quite lengthy songs too, with some well thought out instrumental parts being placed in between the verses, though it never felt dull or boring to me. Instead, it highlighted the superb musicianship that lead guitarist Tyler Brown, bassist, Austin Kroll, drummer Pete Wierenga, and singer and guitarist Jake Paleschic were all capable of.

They classify themselves as being a mix of rock and country, which is appropriate and was on display this night, leading to some slower, more relaxed songs, but they could throw down when necessary, especially Austin, who really let loose at times and rocked out on his bass.

I wouldn’t say I was smitten with them, but I did enjoy it, particularly all the intricacies of the music, which really was something else.

I would like to see them again sometime, and it will be well worth keeping tabs on them and seeing where they take this.

You can download a couple of their singles for free on their BANDCAMP PAGE, so do check that out. As for shows, you can see them December 20th at The Grotto in Fort Worth, and they’ll also be playing The Where House in Fort Worth on New Year’s Eve. Then on January 17th they’ll be back in Dallas, this time at the City Tavern.

Second up was a band called Rise and Shine, who surprised me a bit by being a duo, consisting of Jordan Cain on drums and Brandon Pinckard playing a guitar, while both shared the vocal responsibilities.

Both are fairly well known musicians, backing one of Dallas’ hometown heroes, Jonathan Tyler (of course of Jonathan Tyler & The Northern Lights fame). They’ve no doubt honed and near perfected their musical chops in all the time spent with that band, a fact that was readily evident when the two set to work on their all too short 28-minute show.

They performed a mix of songs from their debut album, “This is Your Captain Speaking”, as well as some non-album cuts, though it was one from the former category that came near the start of their show, and that was “Riverbottom”. A mix of country, rock and blues all collided on it and just about every other song they churned out, and it was purely intoxicating. And it was only made better by the smooth, rich and slightly twangy voice Jordan (who did do a majority of the singing) had.

“…This next one’s called Dead On the Vine.” Brandon informed everyone a couple of songs later, as he did the singing on that, the final song from their 2013 release. Upon finishing it, he went to reach for his beer, halfway tripping as he stepped from the back towards the front of the stage, but managed to save himself form an embarrassing fall. They then went into “Leavin’ Oklahoma”, which Jordan stated was simply about “leaving Oklahoma”, and at times featured a nice dose of each of their voices, which blended well together.

After another number, they ran through the insanely soulful “Shine On Me”, which surely won over any remaining holdouts, and had much of the crowd moving around, before the ended with the blistering, “She’s So Mean”.

I have to say, I was blown away by them simply because I was not prepared for a duo this night, and certainly not one that boasted such a full and fleshed out sound.

If you’re were just listening to their music, you never would have guessed that Rise and Shine wasn’t a full band, and even with their live performance Jordan and Brandon packed in as much energy as many four and five piece bands are capable of.

In the end, Rise and Shine were a dynamic force to be reckoned with and wound up being my personal favorite act of the night. Here’s to hoping they have a long career in the North Texas area music scene.

Keep a check on their FACEBOOK PAGE for future shows from the band, and hit up iTUNES to preview/purchase “This is Your Captain Speaking”.

Serving as the main support band this night was the only band who had no real hint of country/Americana to their music, and that was The Hanna Barbarians.

It’s hard not to have heard about the Fort Worth based rock outfit, who have been around for a little way now, but they were yet another band on this bill I had never seen before, and frankly, I had never gotten around to checking out their music, either.

I wasn’t too sure about them when they started their first song, which was one I wasn’t a fan of. Mainly it was the pacing of the song that I disliked, and it had me hoping things would be different soon. Soon came with their next song, which they segued right into, and that was “Basement Shooter”. They had me with that dark track, which was a full blown assault of rock, and was one of many songs this night that saw frontman Blake Parish racing about the stage while screaming, almost as if he were a demented preacher, and the audience his congregation, who were hanging on his every word.

I don’t recall exactly what Blake started to say as they took a break, though he did trip up over his words, before finally getting something understandable out. “…Drinking will affect your ability to say sentences.” he remarked, before they soon tore into another song. During it, Blake got so into the song he unknowingly pulled the microphone cord, then looked puzzled when his next line was inaudible. He quickly realized and fixed the problem, though, and the rest of the song went off without a hitch.

Another song followed, and then came the heavy hitter, “13”, with some blazing guitar licks from Alex Zobel and Kris Luther, while Brady Hamilton and Joe Prankster, the drummer and bassist, respectively, also commanded attention. Joe did become the center of attention afterwards, and as the song ended, he climbed atop his bass amp, eventually leaping off it shortly into their next number, which was one of a series of three they did, hitting their stride during them, before their 39-minute set concluded.

I can’t pinpoint exactly which one it was, but I do know one of those songs I was unsure of was a track from “Spaceway Sessions, Vol. 2”, and that was “Oh, Spirit”, which is perhaps the best song in their arsenal, and was my personal favorite.

The Hanna Barbarians may have gotten off to what I thought was a rocky start, but they quickly won me over, and there’s little doubt that the band perfectly embodies the Rock ‘n’ Roll spirit.

They were a well-oiled machine throughout, and put on one helluva performance. And in that respect, they were definitely the best band of the night.

You can and by all means should check out their music (especially their most recent EP) over in iTUNES. Also, throw ‘em a “like” on Facebook to know when their next shows will be.

Dead Flowers was closing out the night, and having only seen them once, back in May, I was looking forward to finally seeing them again.

Their epic 76-minute long set, which I think only ended because Three Links had to get ready to close for the night, was filled with old and new originals, some covers, and even a Christmas song the band had recently released.

It was one of those new ones that they began with, as singer and rhythm guitarist Corey Howe quickly announced the name of it, before they started the slower song. Despite being so different from much of their other material, it sounded great, acting as a nice way to ease everyone into their show. Eventually, it did peak, though, turning into an excellent alt/country/rock number that was on par with anything off their “For You” record, and Vince Tuley could be seen viciously shredding on his guitar.

“Let’s have a party!” Corey shouted as they went right into another song. Things picked up even more with it, though the best moment of the song came shortly after a strategic pause that made you think it was over, and once some people started to applaud them, Corey did a little curtsy, before they ripped back into it.

They are serious about the music, but this night they were just as much about the laughs, and the show had a real relaxed mood to it. So, while tuning his guitar (something that had to be done often this night, thanks to the cold weather), Corey mentioned the Santa’s who had invaded Deep Ellum, and more specifically Three Links. Many had disappeared, presumably out to the patio, which led him to ask for “more Santa’s in the side wedges.” Afterwards, drummer Ed Chaney started them in on one of their tales of revenge, “You’re Wrong”, which is somewhat haunting at times, and in the best possible way. “…Yeah, you heard the shots and the bodies fall…” Corey sang on the final verse of the song, and as he did so, Vince hoisted his guitar up, holding it to mimic a gun he was shooting.

They switched things up briefly with the next number, which saw Corey lay his guitar down and do a pretty good job of being a full-time frontman. “Does everyone remember that song, ‘John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt’?” he asked once that song had come to an end, getting a mixed amount of “yes” and complete silence from the audience. “We’re gonna need your help singing it.” Corey informed everyone. It was help they didn’t really get, but all the same, it was humorous hearing him, Ed, Vince and bassist Evan Winston Johnson sing the short tune, which they suddenly rolled into “Murder Shuffle in a (Minor)”. And quite flawlessly at that.

That one’s about the only specific song I really remember from the first time I saw them, and it’s a personal favorite of mine, being a near perfect mix of rock and some outlaw country. “…Be hip and buy our CD.” Corey told everyone during the next break, while promoting the merch they had for sale. He corrected himself, though, that the “hip” thing to do would probably be to pirate the album. “…But please don’t do that.” he urged, before they knocked out another new one, titled “I’m Leaving”.

They were only around halfway finished at this point, making it a good time to pull out their Christmas song. “I don’t know all the words yet.” remarked Corey. They made the song, and much of the remainder of their set pretty festive, by inflating a snowman yard decoration, which was placed on far stage right, and stood probably about six foot tall once it was fully inflated. As for the song, it seems like not too many bands (at least on the local level) every try their hand at writing an original Christmas song, but with “A Lot Like Xmas”, Dead Flowers have crafted a good one, and one that’ll probably be a classic for those who do add it to their collection of music.

After another number, “Pieces of Me”, they did the title track from their debut album, “For You”, which became a clap along for a few short seconds, and nearly everyone enthusiastically joined in. A slew of other songs followed, most of which I believe were covers, though I didn’t recognize any. (As I’ve said in various posts before, I pretty much only listen to local artists.)

Things got crazy after one of the songs, and during the next one the snowman went crowd surfing, being pulled off the stage as he made his way around the crowd, being batted around to stay in the air before eventually winding back on stage. Of course all the air had left him at that point, though. The snowman wasn’t the only one who was going to join the crowd this night, and at the tail end of their next song, which Vince broke a string during, Corey suddenly laid his guitar down and rushed off the stage, just barely being caught by some of the fans. It was just another of several fun moments this show had, and after another track, Corey admitted, “We’re playing a bunch of stuff we shouldn’t play.”

He had already said shortly before that they had two songs left, which meant the next one would be it, but it wasn’t. Before their final song, he thanked Three Links and everyone involved with it, noting that they don’t do headlining shows all that often, and just wanted to have some fun this night. Then, as the sound guy reinforced the fact that they were running out of time, they launched into the lead track from their record, “I Won’t Go”, which truly did end their set. It was also during that final song that the snowman (which had been re-inflated) was thrown out to the crowd, again being tossed around almost like it was a balloon that everyone was trying to keep in the air.

A fun time was had by all this night, and yes, that includes the members of Dead Flowers, who were in just as much a state of glee as any of the fans were.

And their show didn’t seem nearly as long as it was, either. I happened to look at the time once while they were playing and was surprised they had already been on stage for an hour.

They really are an incredible band, even better than what I recalled them being, and the lengthy set this night allowed you see their full potential.

If you like your rock music with some underlying country qualities to it, then you have to check them out.

They have more than a few opportunities to do that, too, and on December 20th they’ll be playing a free show at the large side of the Prophet Bar in Dallas. You can catch them at Adair’s Saloon in Dallas on New Year ’s Eve, and then they’ll be back here at Three Links on January 18th. They also have a show at Trees in Dallas on January 4th opening for the Murder City Devils. However, the can’t miss show (in my opinion) will be on January 24th at the Doublewide, where they’re opening for Somebody’s Darling and Kentucky Knife Fight. As for their music, head over to iTUNES to purchase “For You”, or even BANDCAMP just to listen to the tracks.

Thus ended two great nights here at Three Links, and like I said at the start of this post, I really like what has been done with the venue. Has me even more excited about the other few shows I plan on seeing here within the next month.

Friday, December 13th, 2013 - We’rewolves

Hand Drawn Records had put together quite the show at Three Links in Deep Ellum this night, all in celebration of the release of the latest EP from Swindle Boys.

Two artists that are signed to the label were set to perform, as well as a third band, and rather last moment another act was added to the bill, in the form of singer/songwriter Zach Arrington.

The Austin based musician was there partly because he was serving as the bass player this night for the Brandon Callies Band, a fact he pointed out during his brief set. “Is that cool?” he asked the crowd, most of whom weren’t giving him the attention he deserved.

In all honesty, he didn’t have my complete and undivided attention either, as I was chatting with photographer and founder of On Tour Monthly (the other website I periodically do reviews for) James Villa. However, what I did hear of the music I really enjoyed.

He had a nice, smooth voice and his songwriting chops were quite good, making his little show a very enjoyable one.

His singing ability came in handy minutes later when the Brandon Callies Band took the stage, seeing as so many of their songs require multiple voice harmonies.

I believe this was the first Dallas show the band had done since the release of the “Life is Still Good” EP back in July, and they had changed up the band slightly since then, having added a cello player into the mix.

That new EP went overlooked this night, as they favored a different batch of their newer songs, most of which were more rocking, allowing them to better hold their own on this bill of rock acts.

A good example of that was their opening number, a powerful and hard hitting number that is bound to get your attention. It wasn’t all just new stuff, though, and a small handful of songs from “The Gunner” were worked into the show this night, including the lead track
“Whatever You Want”, which saw lead guitarist Charles Cohen cranking out an incendiary guitar solo. He riffed on it a bit more than what you hear on the record, giving it more soul and making the song an unforgettable one this night.

“Cheers and happy Friday!” exclaimed singer and rhythm guitarist Brandon Callies while holding a drink in the air as he chatted with the audience for a moment. Afterwards, they launched into what I consider to be one of their best songs, simply because the five-part harmonies of Brandon, Charles, bassist Zach Arrington, keyboard player Jason Myers and drummer Chris Evans are absolutely gorgeous, as they all croon several lines at the start, such as, “…It’s always darkest before the dawn…”.

Following it was another new one, and a very rhythmic one at that, after which Brandon noted they did have some CDs and t-shirts for sale. “…Like I said, we’re from Austin and we’d appreciate some gas money.” he said in his sales pitch, before the cello player put his bow to the strings and played a few notes. It made for a great intro into the next song, and when he suddenly stopped, Brandon picked up the slack with the opening notes of their single, “Who Are We to Say?”. It, too, had some more personal touches to it, in the form of another sweet solo from Charles.

They didn’t stop after it, instead, they went into an instrumental segue, that was particularly heavy with Jason’s keyboard, which had a nice tone to them. Their next track soon started to take shape, and I was pleasantly surprised when they ripped into the intense title track of their full-length album, “The Gunner”.

During the pause in between songs, Brandon asked his friend Jonathan Jeter, who was part of the audience, if he’d like to join in on a song. He didn’t need much convincing and quickly hopped up on stage, pulling a harmonica out of his pocket. It was a key part to what was one of the longest songs of their 44-minute long set, and was a fun one for both the onlookers and the band members themselves.

It was also the final song the full band partook in, and almost all of them left their stations once it was done, leaving only Brandon and the cello player on stage. “…This song’s about embracing the change that’s thrown your way…” Brandon remarked to everyone, adding that his change “…came in the form of beautiful blonde girl…” This more acoustic number was a ballad plain and simple, about how he met his girlfriend on “…a rainy day on Congress Street…” It was a sweet song, and fit well there right at the end of the night.

While they weren’t the headliner, they did put on the longest show of the night, and for a short while I assumed probably the best, too (it actually wound up being a tossup between all of the bands this night).

I would have thought it hard for the band to improve their sound much more, but that cello player certainly does the trick, adding a new layer and texture to the music, even if it was subtle at times.

Aside from that, they were impeccably tight, being very well coordinated, each working as an active component of a larger machine.

You can find their music over on their BANDCAMP PAGE, where you can buy physical copies of all three of their releases. They’ll also be back in the metreoplex on February 21st, this time over in Fort Worth at the Magnolia Motor Lounge.

(NOTE: Swindle Boys performed next and that review can be read on On Tour Monthly, where you’ll also find some awesome pictures taken by James Villa Photography.)

Capping off the night was another band from Fort Worth (Swindle Boys also hail from the town), and that was We’rewolves (pronounced werewolves).

I had heard of the quintet before, though had never checked out their music, which may well have been a good thing, because it allowed me to look on in wonder at what transpired.

A majority of their set was comprised of tracks from their self-titled album, though there were also some non-album songs, like their opener, which instantly captured the attention of those who were still there. The voice of frontman Riley Knight was one of the most gravitating qualities at first, as he had quite the distinctive tone to his voice, with a hint of a snarl at just the right moments when some of the words needed some extra emphasis.

“…This song’s about the people on the streets who look up and don’t know what the fuck’s going on around them.” Riley said in setting up the next song, which was “Stargazer”. It was a little more tame in relation to their other songs, with Rob Hine playing some serene notes on his guitar for most of the song, filling quite a bit of time in between each verse. They pulled off that pretty song exceedingly well, but took back to their full-blown rock mode with their next track.

In their next break between songs, Riley mentioned they could be looked up online, like Facebook, when one of the members of Swindle Boys joked with them, asking, “What’s Facebook?” saying that they [Swindle Boys] were from Arkansas. “I know, ‘What’s Facebook?’ We don’t have that in Crowley.” Riley remarked laughing before segueing them into their next tune, which, simply put, was about “going uptown” and titled, “Goin’ Uptown”. The rhythm section of drummer Austin Adams and their bassist, who was doing his first show with the band this night, was in full swing on that track, and upon finishing it, the jokes continued.

Riley pointed out they only had a few more songs left this night, but urged everyone to stick around and have some shots with them.”…I’m not driving the van tonight, am I?” he asked his ban mates, who confirmed he was not. “We’ll drive carefully…” he added, before it got mentioned that it’d be nice if Rob had a helicopter that they could use as transportation. “Can you still get a DWI in that?” one of the Swindle Boys asked them, causing Riley to think on his feet by saying it would be an “HWI”. “You know that from a friend, huh?” said another member of Swindle Boys, setting up a good crack from Riley. “Yeah, a friend of a friend of a friend whose cousin is from Arkansas.” He said, prompting some laughter from everyone, which was immediately followed by “Find My Way”.

The pinnacle moment of the song came towards the end, when things got more intense and Riley cut loose, halfway dancing and halfway thrashing about on stage, with a certain amount of swagger in his step. Their catchiest and arguably best song of the night was “Words of a Black Suit Politician”, during which Riley spent most of his time teetering on the edge of the stage, while peering out at the handful of people who were still there.

They might not have had the biggest crowd, but everyone who was there was loving it, and seemed truly saddened when they announced they only had one song left. I know I was at least, and could have listened to another half hour of their music easy.

It was Rob who started the final song, kneeling next to his amp to create some feedback that soon got “Runnin’ to Sanity” underway. During the height of it, Riley unexpectedly left the stage, charging right of the front as he joined the audience and wondered about, singing all the while as their 38-minute long set came to an end.

In some ways, I honestly think We’rewolves was the best band of the night, though my reason for saying that admittedly is the fact that I knew nothing about them, had never seen them before and had no idea what to expect from them.

Their show really was splendid, though, and highly enjoyable, keeping me enthralled from start to finish.

Be sure to check out their record in iTUNES, and keep tabs on their FACEBOOK PAGE for info on future shows.

They’re certainly not lacking in any field, with some pretty original sounding music and a live show that is guaranteed to entertain, all of which made for an experience I look forward to having again.

All in all this was quite the night at Three Links, and it was a nice change of pace catching some band I seldom see (or had never seen). It was something that would be repeated the following night, too, at the same venue no less.

Album Review: “Faith Healer” by Daylight Industries

Growth and evolution are (or at least should) be evident in any bands music, and from my experience, it’s typically there to some degree. After all, it’d get tiring and bland if a band basically just keeps recreating their past music, right?

That’s something the Dallas based Daylight Industries seems to recognize, and they’ve taken it to the next level.

Their first EP was a good representation of the bands early days, playing more progressive and even slightly industrial sounding rock tunes, which ranged from about four minutes in length to six and a half plus. But even by the time it’s saw its release (June of 2012) the band was already heading in a different direction, cutting down on how long their songs ran, as they made the jump into being more of rock band.

It’s a style that’s on full display on the recently released “Faith Healer”, a five track EP that will leave you wanting a follow up record immediately.

The vigorous “Faith Healer” begins the eighteen plus minute long jaunt through the EP, luring you in with ease and compelling you to listen to the rest of the record. It’s as raw a rock song as you have ever heard, with unbridled amounts of energy, particularly on the hellacious chorus, which they managed to make perfectly capture the energy that they put into it at live shows. Even the verses, which are slower (considering how the rest of the song is, at least) is still hard hitting, and boasts some mesmerizing guitar riffs.

The only (slight) remnant from Daylight Industries past can be heard in “Aphasia”, which at just a little over four and a half minutes is the longest track on the EP. The progressive/industrial rock style featured so prominently on their first EP can at times be heard on the well-crafted song structure of this tune. That’s actually the best part of this number, the way that the drums, bass and guitar all act to truly accentuate one another. Sure, that’s something all songs do, but it’s a little different with “Aphasia”, and instead of merely complimenting one another, it’s more as if one instrument extends the reach of the others, while vocalist Keith Allen alternates between a serene crooning of the lyrics and forcefully belting them out.

“If I’m a saint then I’m the patron saint of fools. The prison guards that run this town have made up all the rules… And I nearly lost my life, I swear I’d been confused. How I lived with what I told to be the truth.” Logan shouts on the chorus of the blistering “Sit In”. Personally, I do have other favorites I like more on this EP, but if you know nothing about Daylight Industries and you’re only going to listen to one of their songs, this would be the one I’d recommend. Lyrically it’s very real and even relatable, being one of those songs that may well make you stop and think (i.e. “…I can’t just grasp reality outside my television…”). The drum parts of the song also get your attention, often being flat-out wild and crazy, while still having structure and sounding very fluid.

The final two songs the EP has to offer are the shortest ones both clocking in at a little under three minutes, which may be part of the reason they have even more kick to them. “Lesson Learned” is hands down the heaviest song on the record, with a slight hard rock edge to it. It still sounds very much like Daylight Industries, though, and it adds a nice diversity to the album.

Then you have “Junkie Logic”, which is quick and to the point, and it packs a fierce punch. It captures the band in their element (as well as in their prime), going full throttle as they deliver a smack down of Rock ‘n’ Roll on the ears of the listeners. It’s so easy to get lost in this track, that it doesn’t even seem like two minutes and fifty-one seconds pass by, and then it’s suddenly over, and that’s a quality few songs possess.

While “Faith Healer” is a departure from Daylight Industries roots, it’s a necessary one that has revealed a whole new layer and depth to the band, who already didn’t have much trouble standing out.

Keith Allen has one of the most unique voices I’ve come across, and it’s one that’s instantly recognizable, but that’s not the only trait the band has that makes them so prominent. The textures of the guitar notes and the solid, dominating rhythm section that is found on each track are full of character, to the point there’s no mistaken them for any other band than Daylight Industries.

The point is, they’ve somehow managed to set themselves apart from the rest of the pack, and in time, I think it’s safe to assume they’ll do even more than that.

Daylight Industries is:
Barry Townsend - Bass
Brandon Tyner - Lead Guitar
Keith Allen - Vocals
Stephen Smith - Drums
Ruvayne Weber – Guitar

Purchase the album on: iTUNES

Visit Daylight Industries websites: Official Website / Facebook / Reverbnation / Twitter / Youtube


Thursday, November 14th, 2013 – Twenty One Pilots

When you think of musical duos, the first thing that probably comes to mind is artists who mine more of the singer/songwriter genre, and certainly not a rock band. Sure, there are rock duos, but how many do you really know of? Just a small handful most likely.

There’s so much more on the line when it comes to duos, like wondering if they’ll be able to entertain and command the stage in the same way a four or five-piece band would.

That thought was at the forefront of my mind this night, when the Columbus, Ohio based Twenty One Pilots rolled through town, performing at the House of Blues.

Fans of this highly original act had packed the House of Blues to near capacity, seeming rabid with excitement, cheering and hollering once the lights finally dimmed, leaving the stage shrouded in darkness.

Unseen was Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun’s entrance to the stage, the latter taking a seat behind his massive drum kit, which sit on a platform, elevating it enough to ensure everyone had a good view.

Both were wearing their signature ski masks, while Tyler rocked out on a keytar as they got this monumental show going with “Fake You Out”. “Let’s dance!” he shouted out after one of the earlier lines, “…And I’ll fake. All I wanna”, the audience doing just that. They continued to amp up the intensity, with one of the most memorable moments of the show coming at one point when Tyler jumped on top of and then off his piano.

Already they were demonstrating complete control and dominance over not just the crowd, but the stage as well, their presence and energy filling the sizable area, to the point you had to wonder that if they were just getting warmed up, what was yet to come?

They took things in the opposite direction with their next song, Tyler taking a seat at the piano for “Migraine”, showing of his stellar rapping ability on most of the track, though it was the chorus of that emotion-filled song that had everyone singing along with him. “Am I the only I know, waging my wars behind my face and above my throat? Shadows will scream that I’m alone…” the audience echoed along with him. “Tonight, there are only two places in the world.” Tyler said at one point during “Fall Away”. “Dallas, and everywhere else!” he roared, before going back to busting out the song’s lyrics.

Thus far, there had been just enough time in between songs for the crowd to applaud, and while they showed how much they had enjoyed that tune, Tyler pointed at Josh, using his index finger and thumb to make a gun. They both pretended to shoot one another in the head, the stage lights again going completely out, leaving the fans wondering what was going to happen next.

When they were seen again, the two had exchanged their ski masks for skeleton masks, also sporting some body suits that had rips on them. Tyler dabbled on both the piano and keys at various points on “Ode to Sleep”, but it was the beginning that was utterly breathtaking. I’m not a real fan of rap, but had been enjoying the moderate amounts of it so far, and then he let loose on the first verse of that song. The precision he put into it was something else, and the further he got into it, the more he raised his voice, and also sped up the pacing. Like I said, I’m not a fan of the rap genre, but as a rapper, Tyler earned my utmost respect with that song, and the more poppy elements of the song were quite fun and enjoyable, too, meshing surprisingly well with the par parts.

They continued with the songs off their most recent album, “Vessel”, slowing things down now as Tyler used a ukulele for the more tender, “Screen”. It earned another sing along moment, the fans crooning, “We’re broken… we’re broken people…”, though it paled in comparison to sing along in the next number. Josh left is drum kit to add some notes from the keyboard to the start of “House of Gold”, a song everybody seemed eager to hear. I believe it was the second chorus, that, when they reached it, Tyler quit singing, the audience picking up the slack, very audibly singing, “I will make you queen of everything you see, I’ll put you on the map. I’ll cure you of disease.” It was a beautiful moment on what is one of the most beautifully written songs I’ve ever heard, and making the live version even better was the addition of Van Morrisons’ “Brown Eyed Girl”, or at least a snippet of the lyrics which were thrown in.

It was immediately followed by another cover song… Well, sort of. The song was Andrea Bocellas’ “Time to Say Goodbye”, and while the backing track of that song played over Twenty One Pilots version, giving it an operatic feel, the song was totally different. The words were rapped, and the mash up of two polar opposite genres (opera and rap), somehow blended together gorgeously.

“…I could not wait to stop and say hi to you all…” Tyler said when they finally took a break. By this time he and Josh had ditched their skeleton attire and ski masks, looking like normal people now, as Tyler chatted with the audience at length, commenting on how they started things off a little more mysterious with the lighting and such, working their way up to this point in the show.

He also mentioned that they also had some old stuff planned for everybody, having already done a couple of their classics, and adding to it with a song off the “Regional at Best” record, “Forest”. He played the piano at times on it, while also acting as a frontman at times, pacing around the stage and engaging the crowd on that gem of a song. He kept up the same behavior on their next song, but first mentioned what a “weird concert” this was. “…It feels like you all trapped us here and want to kill us, but before you do you said, “Play some music.” Tyler joked, soon adding, “We’re going to give you everything we have.”, a statement that earned them some uproarious cheering.

The honest song writing that acts as a window into Tyler’s life continued with “Addict with a Pen”, which was followed by “Holding On to You”. As they started it, Tyler left the stage and hopped onto the guard rail, standing up on it as he struggled for a moment to get his balance, before spitting out the words. That was just one of a few sweet concert moments that took place during that song, with another being when the first opening act, Sirah, joined them on stage, singing a few lines of the song. The one that took the cake though would have to be when Josh suddenly left his drum kit, calmly walking over to the piano on stage left, and climbing up on it. He then walked to the edge, turned around, and did a back flip off it, before returning to his drum duties.

Another unforgettable moment came towards the end of the at times more electronic sounding “Semi-Automatic”, when some of the stage hands brought out a small platform that had a partial drum kit on it, just a bass drum and a snare, plus a cymbal. They carried it to the edge of the stage, shoving it into a part of the audience, as the people who were there grabbed and held it as they moved it further back to ensure enough people had a hold on it. Josh then left his kit for this one, walking out onto the platform and sitting down, as he proceeded to wildly bang about this extra kit for several moments, until the song came to an end.

It was nothing but a sea of phones for that, as everyone attempted to capture that moment in one format or another, as well it should have. Honestly, how many bands have you seen do a stunt like that? I doubt many, and personally, that was a first for me.

The audience was still all worked up over that, as Josh returned to his full kit, eventually laying down a steady bass drum beat as they knocked the more cheerful sounding “The Run and Go”. “Why do you do what you do?” Tyler said, taking a pause during that song, though he kept striking the keys of the piano. He said that was a question his mother asked him. “…To put it in context, it was the first time she had ever seen me perform.” He again got personal with the fans, spending a few minutes talking about that, and how is mother, who had brought some of her friends to that show where she first saw him perform, said they were worried about him and how he acted like he did on stage. Tyler then gave a passionate little speech, saying he responded by saying that was just how the music affected and impacted him, earning him a deafening applause from the crowd who agreed with him. “…This is also my mom’s favorite song.” he added as they went back into the song and finished it up

Afterwards, he continued bantering with everyone, while Josh briefly left the stage. “…When I wrote these songs in my basement, I didn’t know there were rules…” he remarked, elaborating that he wasn’t aware that they needed a certain type of structure, or you should or shouldn’t do certain things with the chorus and such. “…I was just writing these weird songs…” he said, adding he was glad so many other people liked hearing his “weird” songs.

He continued, talking about how moving and changing music is, and in his speaking, you got the idea of what a deep and wise individual Tyler is. Characteristics that are evident in his songwriting itself, but they run much deeper than just that.

They soon got back to business with “Car Radio”, Tyler sounding more like a poet as he spoke/rapped the lyrics, again leaping off the piano at one point in the song.

With that, their 84-minute long set was nearly over, but first he connected with the audience one last time. “…This show is something I won’t soon forget…”, seeming genuine about the remark. Talk then turned to Twitter, when he said he doesn’t use social media to thank each town they play in, saying he feels like that ruins, if you post about how much fun each city was. He was more concerned with the people who were here now. “…I don’t live anywhere near here…” he said, going on to say how special it was that everyone was out here with the sole purpose of wanting to see them live and hear their songs.

He soon started speaking to one particular fan, asking him what his name was. “…There’s a moment in this next song, where I take my shirt off. And then I’m going to look at you, and we’re going to have a moment…” Tyler joked, before saying he wanted this fan to take his shirt off along with him, ensuring that no one would laugh or anything, because people would see him doing it, and then take their own shirts off.

It didn’t quite work like that, and while some people did remove their shirts during “Guns for Hands”, more were singing along to it, their enthusiasm turning to amazement as the song neared the end. Two floor toms were brought out and placed near the center of the stage, both Josh and Tyler taking a spot in front of them. They both acted as percussionists, forcefully beating on them as they stood back to back, before doing a 180
°as they continued beating on them, ending their show in spectacular fashion, and leaving the fans feeling even more pumped up than they had all night.

No one wanted it to be over just yet, though, and after some shouting and clapping for one more, Tyler returned to the stage, playing the final track from “Vessel”, “Truce”. He segued it perfectly into “Trees”, where he was joined by Josh. The way they had ended the main set seemed hard to top, but they had devised a way to do just that, and again some stage hands rushed out towards the end of the song, this time with two smaller platforms they handed to the fans.

One was for Tyler and the other belonged to Josh, as they carried those toms from earlier out with them, concluding the night with a fiery drum solo that you just had to marvel at.
By the time it was all over, they had played their newest full-length in its entirety, plus a nice array of older stuff, and had put on one of the best live shows I’ve ever seen any band do.

I’ve caught a decent amount of shows here at the House of Blues, and there are some four and five-piece rock bands I’ve seen take this stage and fail to put the energy in to the show or have the presence it takes to fill this stage, two things that did not befall Twenty One Pilots.

They commanded the audience’s full attention without ever having to ask for it, relying completely on their explosive live show to capture and captivate them, and they did so with relative ease.

Personally, I find it easy, especially with larger bands, to overlook drummers, since they’re usually pushed towards the back of the stage. That’s far from the case with Josh Dun, who had a certain charisma about him, and was a fierce drummer. And Tyler is pretty much the ultimate frontman, having an amazing, and even beautiful singing voice, while doubling as a very skilled rapper, and as he roamed and ran about the stage, you really had no idea what he might do next.

It was that spontaneity that made their show so fun and engaging, allowing you to look on in wonder, and the diversity of their music didn’t hurt either, and the fact that no two songs of theirs even sound remotely the same kept things fresh throughout the night.

Tyler may be right that he writes weird songs, but they’re real, honest and relatable songs, something that’s hard to find in music these days. It didn’t hurt that he was so humble about everything, either, coming across as being truly privileged to be on this stage in front of so many people. But I digress. For me, it’s substance like that, that will always be the most important quality music can have, and if you’re lucky enough to see them live and get the joint experience of their music and their action packed live show, well, it’ll be a time you won’t soon forget.

Wednesday, November 6th, 2013 - Sacco

Serving as the main support band for Cults at Trees this night was the fellow New York based band, Sacco. The group seems relatively unknown at this point (based on the “likes” they have on Facebook, which numbers 160 at this time), but it quickly became clear they aren’t long to be an obscure act.

The curtain opened on this powerhouse of a trio at 9:14, drummer Chris slamming into his kit, resulting in a jarring beat that started them into the lead track from their forthcoming self-titled record, “Carnival Ghost”. Andy Breihan did the singing on this song, also being the guitarist, while John Fredericks rounded out the rhythm section of the alluring track, which earned them the undivided attention of all who were there.

“Come closer.” Andy encouraged when they were done, causing those who were near the stage to move up a little further, while others who were further back in the venue obliged and gathered around. They hurried along with their 27-minute long set by doing “Driving”, a low key tune that included some nice harmonies from Andy and John, ending with a very fuzzy sounding and very stellar guitar solo.

Once it was done, the two switched out instruments, John grabbing his guitar off a rack that set behind him, while Andy got his own bass. That wasn’t the only thing that changed with these next few songs, though, as John now took over lead vocal duties. “I think you’re pretty, you think you’re not… We don’t see it the same, we’ve been living on different pages…” he sang at the start of the immediately engrossing “Think You’re Pretty”. It successfully told a story, a love story, and a well crafted/written one at that, about two people who never things eye to eye. I found myself wondering if it could get any better after that song, only to be shown it could when, with a few swift beats, Chris segued them into “
Kerosene”. The short two and a half minute long song was every bit as riveting as the one before it, just in its own unique way, and that pace only continued with “Sixty Battles (Carmelina)”, which they smoothly transitioned into.

They returned to their starting instruments for the next to last song of their set, the surprisingly soulful “Sunny Afternoon”, before pulling off one more change. Andy had been dabbling on a keyboard throughout the show, but now he took Johns’ spot, along with his bass, leaving him to focus on the keys. Andy had picked up the singing again on the previous song, and kept it up on “Where It Ends, Where It Begins”, which just seemed very fitting to end with.

Their new found throng of Dallas fans was hoping it wasn’t over, though, still anxiously watching them, even after seeing John clear his pedal board off the stage, all the while the sample track for the song wound down. “We’re done.” Andy stated rather plainly, and only then did the onlookers turn around, several of them making a bee line to the merch table to get a copy of their record, which they had noted during the show would not be officially released until next year.

Their time on stage may have been brief, but Sacco managed to wow me, and win over several members of the audience.

There are some softer, even calming elements to their music, though it still maintains a nice true rock sound, especially when you experience them live. Their music may not be cutting edge, but there’s a lot of originality to it, and with John and Andy, both of whom have incredible voices, taking turns on who does the singing, it constantly keeps things sounding fresh. And for people who are like me, and tend to pay more attention to the lyrics, this is a band that should appeal to you instantly.

I’ll end by saying this. It’s been a long time since I saw a band I had absolutely no knowledge of, one whose music I had never listened to before and literally knew nothing about before having seen them, and felt instantly compelled to go buy their CD. However, that was my feeling a couple songs into their set, and I was ecstatic when they mentioned they did have a record for sale. And when “Sacco” officially releases sometime next year, it’d be in your best interest to at least listen to some of the songs, if not buy it, ‘cause believe me, these guys are going to be something.

(NOTE: Check out a couple of their songs HERE.)

(Note 2: My review of Cults set can be read over on On Tour Monthly.)

Saturday, November 30th, 2013 – “…At Least I’m Living Right…”

There was some good stuff happening all around the D/FW area this night, but in my opinion, there was no better place to be then the small room of the Prophet Bar.

Even the sudden loss of one of the bands on the bill couldn’t dampen the show, although I was rather looking forward to seeing the Austin based, The Couch, again (I first saw them down in New Braunfels a couple of years ago at the Dia de los Toadies festival), but evidently traffic had other plans for them.

That left this show with only two bands, but luckily both were up to the task of filling the time to give the crowd their money’s worth, and just shortly before ten o’clock, Goodnight Ned got started.

Their 51-minute long set allowed them to pepper in some old favorites, but it was their new material that dominated their show, like their riveting opener, which had both Chase McMillan and Conner Farrall, each of whom play guitars and act as the lead singer at times, singing, in perfect synch no less, giving the song a great texture.

Keyboardist Jonas Martin handled most of the singing on their second song, adding a few extra touches to it late in the song. “I’m sorry that I loved you.” he belted out, a line often repeated in the song, before continuing, “You crazy bitch.” Some more profanity was heard after the second time he sang the line, though he had saved the best for last, and right before they tore back into the track sang, “I’m sorry that I loved you, you god damn dirty fucking cunt.” “I knew we should have played that one later on…” Chase remarked when they finished, after some of their female fans feigned anger at the language. “I’m sorry, I had to get that out. I’ve been around little kids all week…” Jonas said, before Conner added he [Jonas] had been in Florida, only leaving earlier that day and making the twelve hour drive back to Dallas for their show. “…I’m even wearing my Disney shirt.” Jonas pointed out, before finishing with, “You know they own Star Wars now?”

The new stuff continued as Chase handled the lead on one song, often singing in more of a growl, giving the song an extra kick and even a little darker feel to it. Things were lightened a bit on their next track, and a personal favorite of mine as far as their new songs go, when Connor did most of the singing, at least on the first half of the song. They got quite a bit of applause as it sounded like they were done, before they came back in, both Connor and Chase chanting, “Fix me, I’m your broken man.”

“Storm” was one of the classics they pulled out, the song from their self-titled EP receiving some strong cheers from a handful of fans who were eager to hear it. “The room’s almost at capacity, so if we could get you all to move forward.”  Connor joked once the song was done, in an attempt to at least get the spread out crowd a little closer to the stage, before launching into another song.

Both Chase and Connor sang on the one that followed, which had a bit of a classic vibe to it, largely due to the notes Jonas was playing. They segued it right into their next number, which I believe was “Papa Jack’s Bag”, from the “Smoke From the Sails” EP. All five of them were harmonizing on it at one point, as bassist Ryan McLaughlin, who spent most of this night facing his amp, stepped up to Chase’s mic and shared it with him, and even drummer Michael Munoz chimed in, their voices creating a very heavenly moment.

There was just enough time for some applause before they moved directly into another track from that EP, “Fruit On the Tree”, which eventually gave way to one of their final songs. “We have a couple more for you.” Jonas told everyone, while they discussed the order of these final songs. It was a real rocking number, and one hell of a song, while their final one is equally as good. “Can you grunt with us?” Jonas asked the crowd, a noise both Connor and Chase make throughout the brilliant song that I believe I heard them say was titled “Wolves”.

It was a spectacular show, and with this being the second time I’ve seen them since they’ve worked so much new stuff into their set, I have to say, I really like the direction they’re headed.

It is slightly different sounding than what their first two EPs represent, being a little more rock sounding. The overall growth in songwriting is very noticeable, though, and they’re really utilizing all of their vocal options now, even more so than in the past, which is one trait that sets them apart from most other bands. And aside from all that, they put on a very enjoyable live show, too.

They’ll be wrapping up the year at Club Dada on December 31st, and their 2014 schedule is already starting to take shape. They’ll be doing a two-night stand at BarPM in Lubbock on January 24th and 25th, then February 22nd they’ll be at the House of Blues in Dallas, opening for Dr. Dog. Let’s also hope 2014 will see the release of a new album from Goodnight Ned as well. But in the meantime, check out their current music in iTUNES.

It didn’t take long at all for the headliner, Oil Boom, to get ready, and the show started a few minutes before a single note was even played.

While wrapping up their sound check, bassist Steve Steward got the laughs started by welcoming the “survivors of the 2014 Black Friday sales”, thanking them all for choosing to start “rebuilding the human race at this rock concert”. It was only moments later when singer and guitarist Ryan Taylor and drummer Dugan Connors fired up one of their newest singles, “45 Revolutions Per Minute”. “I’m afraid you’ll have to excuse me for whatever I do. I have a fault line growing inside me…” Ryan sang at the start of it, breaking away from the microphone every chance he got so he could better rock out with his band mates on the fiery song.

There wasn’t even a split second break in between as they wound it into one of the many new(er) tracks they did this night, with Dugan laying down a nice, steady beat on the verses, primarily using the snare and floor tom, and along with Steve solidified an incredibly tight rhythm section. They kept the ball rolling as Dugan furiously pounded out some drumbeats to wind them into their next number, another fast paced, catchy one, part of the chorus being, “I need that Rock ‘n’ Roll”.

They finally took a break after that one, but not for long, Ryan wailing on his guitar on this next song, doing his first of a handful of rocking solos this night. The final chords from it were held until they diminished to mere sound, at which point they brought in into the lead track from 2012’s “Gold Yeller” EP, “Lily Liver”.

“Let’s hear it for Riff Raff.” Ryan said, since the Houston based rapper was playing at the adjacent large room of The Prophet Bar. “Let’s hear it for seventy inch TVs.” Steve chimed in, before Ryan continued talking about Riff Raff. “I went to high school with Riff Raff.” he said jokingly, noting that “He was just called Robert Raff back then.” They’re skilled rockers and also pretty good comedians, and as it turned out, both those characteristics were on display to some extent during their next song, “The Fiftease”. It’s the other track from their 7’’ record, and one I was quite glad to hear, since the other two times I’ve seen Oil Boom they’ve had shorter sets that haven’t included the song. The song is humorous at times, for example the line, “I have a switchblade comb or two.”, though the message it carries with it is to be yourself and not worry what others think of you (“…If that’s how I act, then what’s it to you?”).

They got back to their new music, and did a slew of it, with one song featuring another wicked guitar solo, and this time around Ryan played it with a slide, which was no doubt the crucial part to it being so enthralling. They segued it into another song, and after it concluded Steve joked that it was called Toyotathon. “Lease a Rav4 for only…” he added, killing time while Ryan switched out guitars. Also, Toyota really should compensate them for that nice little plug.

While most of their songs range from being shorter to the normal three and a half minutes or so, they now did one of a few longer ones they have in their arsenal, and upon finishing it, Ryan swapped back to his Gibson. While he was doing so, Dugan started in on the drums, Steve taking his cue as he laid some bass lines over it as they busted out another tune. “This next song’s by Eddie Raven.“ Steve announced, I assume joking again, but then again, I’m not familiar with any of his music.

Following it was another song, and after finishing it, it led to another guitar change. Steve then apologized to everyone. “I’m sorry, Weird Al over here has to change accordions.” he said, getting a good laugh from not only the fans but also his other two band mates. Once Ryan got back up to the microphone, he pointed out this was the newest song they’ve written, and it will surely be one of their instant classics.

They pushed on, but their show was nearing the end, and before starting their last couple of songs, they did some shots, which some fans/friends had bought for them. “I’ll make an exception…” Ryan said before downing his, prompting one of their fans to scream, “I have never seen him drink anything in my life!”, leavening her clearly taken aback that he had actually drank something alcoholic.

Once the shots disappeared, they pulled out one of the strongest songs they have, “The Great American Shakedown”, before closing out their 66-minute long show with yet another new one. I think I said something similar about that final song when I saw them earlier in the month, but it works really well as a closer. There’s a nice little ebb and flow to it, before dying out, and just when you think it’s over, Steve, Dugan and Ryan kick into high gear for a deliciously good (and rocking) instrumental portion.

This made the third time I’ve seen these guys in just about two and a half months, and this show was definitely the best of those three.

Not just because they had so much more time and were able to squeeze in several “deep cuts”, but also because this was the closest I had been to them, getting a much better view this time around, allowing me a better view at what impeccable musicians they all are. Each of them showed mastery of their respective instrument, from the delicate plucking to intense strumming Ryan and Steve did on their guitar and bass, while Dugan was a machine back there on his kit, smiling at times, then others singing along to the song.

Actually, seeing that they were having so much fun being on stage and playing their music was possibly the best quality their show had, ‘cause it only made it that much more enjoyable for the onlookers.

If you haven’t seen/heard of Oil Boom yet, fix that immediately (after all, not just any band gets to open for Johnny Marr, a feat they managed at the start of January). You can find their music in iTUNES, and they do have a few final shows for 2013. One will be in Little Rock, Arkansas at the Rev Room on December 28th, while on December 31st they’ll be ringing in the new year back here at The Prophet Bar. Also, on January 18th they’ll be in Amarillo, TX at the Golden Light Cantina.

Aside from seeing two great bands, the next best thing about this night was that the show was over fairly early, with Oil Boom wrapping up shortly after midnight, which was a good change of pace from the one to two in the morning nights.

Saturday, November 23rd, 2013 - Light the FIre’s Year End Dallas Blowout

The Curtain Club was hosting some heavier rock acts this night, most of whom were more on the metal side of things, including Light the Fire, who was doing their final Dallas show of the year.

Like Bridges We Burn opened up the night, and sadly I didn’t get there in time to see them. Well, at least not much of them. I did catch their final song, though, which frontman Jeff Nemec invited “Jefe”, as he said, or Jeff Gunter of Light the Fire on stage with them to help co-sing on the song, which made for a very fun way to end their show.

Check out their music in iTUNES (an EP and a couple of singles), and they do have one more show left for the year, on December 13th at the Prophet Bar in Dallas.

Up next was Deaf Angel, and upon taking the stage, frontwoman Tina Downs urged everyone to get closer. “…It’s cold outside.” Not many people needed that as incentive, though, as most of those who were there packed tightly around the stage, ready for the rock show to start.

Their shorter 27-minute long set began with the beast of a song, “Take Over”, which had many of their fans singing along to every word, a trend that continued for the duration of their time on stage. “This song’s called Directions.” Tina informed the audience, getting a few cheers from some who clearly loved the heavy song that had guitarist Duston Daulton often some very metal screams to it, echoing Tina near the end with a very throaty, “…I will not break down…”

The heavy assault continued with “Crazy”, after which drummer Scott Van Slyke sent them right into their next track. They had a couple more songs left, and like the previous ones they were from their newest album, “Brutally / Beautiful”, with things getting just a little more heartfelt with “Let You Go”, wit Tina seeming to put even a little more emotion into her singing on that one.

Before their last song, she took a moment to formally introduce their brand new bassist, Matt Harper, who had been killing it thus far with them, being a perfect fit for the band and their live show. The fans seemed to enjoy what he brought to the performance, too, and after that little welcome, they finished their show with the powerful, “Run to Me”.

It was a fantastic performance, with the only downside being that was over far too quickly.

It was the best Deaf Angel show I’ve seen yet, though (which in fairness has only been a handful of shows), and they just seemed more solid and cohesive then they’ve even been in the past. Scott and Matt created a vigorous rhythm section, without question being the backbone of every song they did, and I like the fact that Scott sets his kit up to the side, allowing the audience a better look at him as he plays. Dustin easily held everyone’s attention as well, from the deep screams he often made during the songs, and when he wasn’t adding any vocals, he was often seen standing atop one of the boxes they had borrowed from Light the Fire, shredding on his axe. While Tina has an incredible voice and knows how to put on a performance, too.

They’ll be back in Dallas on January 25th at The Boiler Room, and if you like free music, you can download their entire catalog at no cost over on their REVERBNATION PAGE.

Following them was Light the Fire, who hadn’t played the Curtain since releasing their newest EP back in July, and what better venue to play your last Dallas show of the year in.

In typical Light the Fire fashion, they had some fun at the start of their show, the four instrumentalists bobbing their heads to a rap song that played before vocalist Jeff Gunter ran on stage, and they show got underway. “Now’s our time to step up to the plate…” he screamed after his band mates played the short intro into “Don’t Fail Me Now”, offering a great start to their set, as it almost effortlessly puts the crowd in a state of excitement. “Are you ready tonight?!” Jeff roared at the fans as lead guitarist Ryan Dickinson and drummer Blake Hein wound them into another track from their first record, and the title song, “Note To Self”.

Audience participation was a must on that one, Jeff asking everyone to get a hand up and wave it back and forth during the instrumental break, while bassist Andrew Penland repeatedly shouted, “Hey!”, into his mic. “How the fuck are you doing?!” Jeff asked once the song was finished, still working on pumping everyone up, especially when he didn’t get the desired result. “You can do better than that!” he shouted, prompting a louder response from the audience this time around, while the sample track intro for “Thoughts” soon started to play. Andrew, Ryan and rhythm guitarist Felix Lopez staggered themselves in a line during the first verse of that one, thrashing about not only in perfect synch with one another, but also the beats Blake was cranking out.

“…We’re from D town…” Jeff said during their next break, adding, “We are D town.” That then led to talk of their new shirts, which had the Texas flag on them, but instead of a lone star, it bore Light the Fire’s emblem, a flame. He then asked everyone who hailed from the state to make some noise. “Some of you must be from Oklahoma or something…” he cracked in order to get a better response. They then tackled one of their newer songs, “The Masquerade”, a great song about being something you’re not. The song has a “slow, pretty part” as Jeff put it, and when they hit it he requested everyone put up their lighters or cell phones, and of course the phones outnumbered the lighters as the people waved them around until the song picked back up. And as it did, before the song hit the final chorus, Andrew lifted his bass up a little, giving his strap some slack, before thrusting it down in perfect time with one of the drum beats.

“Let’s get some movement going!” said Jeff before they started one of their heaviest numbers, “Under My Skin”, their final old track before hitting a string of songs from their self-titled EP. Jeff mentioned that, because of everyone’s help, they were able to play the Dallas date of the Vans Warped Tour this summer (on the Ernie Ball Stage), joking about how sweaty it was, and saying they met a guy there who said he wanted to shoot a music video for them. “…And we were like, “Okay!” Jeff stated, saying the video they filmed was for their song “Forever Grateful”. “But we don’t call it that, do we?!” he asked saying the name it is known as live, “Thunder Cunt”. The fans were asked to throw up their own “thunder cunts”, by extending their index fingers and thumbs, touching each finger to its counterpart. “Holy shit, look at Blake’s…” Jeff pointed out, as he had thrown up his drumsticks in place of his index fingers. Despite the name they’ve given it for live shows, it’s a love song through and through, take for example a line from the bridge, “…I can’t help myself, I’m yours ‘til the end. You are my reason for breathing…”

During that new fan favorite (and a personal favorite of mine), Felix broke a string, which led to a little downtime, but they never lost any momentum, as the crowd patiently waited for more. “Does it still say “suck it” on it?” Jeff asked Felix, who had earlier in the night flipped his guitar over, revealing the back of the body had “Suck It” written on it. He flipped this one over too, and sure enough, it did.

“…Get your horns up!” shouted Jeff, who also got a little chant of “Hell yeah!” started before their next song, “All Or Nothing”, which featured Jeff Nemec of Like Bridges We Burn adding his vocal touches to the song, making it sound even better than it already is. Their 49-minute long set was coming to an end, and at this point, Jeff mentioned that his brother, who is in the military, had recently gotten to come home, something he was clearly ecstatic about, and while he had planned to come out to this show to see the band in action, weather prevented him from doing so. The heartfelt speech continued for a moment before he added, “…So, I want you to experience the love he and his army brothers have for one another by bashing into each other.” The mosh pits had been pretty tame this night as far as LTF shows go, with the most action breaking out during the inspiring tale that is told in “Stick To Your Guns”, which saw one of Blake’s drumsticks breaking during the second verse, before he hastily grabbed a replacement.

Their final song wasn’t one of theirs, at least not entirely, and Jeff dedicated it to all the single ladies in attendance, but when asking how many were single, only one woman made any noise. “…You’re probably going to be raped…” he replied, getting a laugh from nearly everyone in the club. They then launched into The Scorpions “No One Like You”, and while it isn’t an original, they put such a unique spin on the song, it is certainly their own, and one that is well received by their fans. The best touch to the song came rather unexpectedly at the end, when the final guitars and bass lines were dying down and the last drum beat resonated out, as Jeff sang one of the last lines a capella, adding a beautiful finish to it.

They put on a phenomenal show this night, and though I thought their CD release show would be a hard one to top, in some aspects they did this night. They’re such a well polished and cohesive band, which is what sets their live shows apart from other acts, and also the fact that they manage to inject so much fun into their shows, while still keeping the professional demeanor every band needs.

They really are a superb band, and hopefully 2014 will have even bigger things in store for the band.

They don’t have anything on the books right now, but they are one band who plays very consistently, and you probably won’t have to wait too long in to 2014 for them to rock a venue near you. But until that happens, be sure to check out both of their EP’s in iTUNES.

The main act for the night was Low Gear, a long running Dallas band whom I had heard of, but not yet seen.

They proved to be too hard and heavy for my tastes (which I know is slightly weird given the fact I love Light the Fire), but after sticking around for three to four songs I just wasn’t feeling it and went ahead and left.

There was also one act after them, Driven Below, and I had watched some videos of them online to learn that they too were far to metal to appeal to me.

All the same, it was a great lineup at the Curtain Club this night, even if some of the bands weren’t my style, and it was certainly worth getting out on this cold night to see one last Light the Fire show for the year.

Friday, November 22nd, 2013 – The Dirty River Boys

The Granada Theater was hosting a nice selection of local(ish) country talent on this cold, wet night, just one day after the venue celebrated its 9th birthday. Evidence of the party was still visible, with a “9” shaped balloon hanging on either side of the stage, and by night’s end, I don’t know if the venue could have asked for a better lineup of bands to kickoff the journey to the 10 year mark.

The Matt the Cat Trio was the first band up, and was already into their set a little bit by the time I arrived. The band is comprised of 3/5ths of local favorites Eleven Hundred Springs, and evidently the almost constant touring schedule that band keeps still left too much downtime for singer and guitarist Matt Hillyer, bassist Steve Berg and drummer Arjuna Contreras, seeing as they started this as a side-project.

For the most part, they are a cover band at the moment, putting their spin on several older classics in the 40-minutes that I saw, like Jimmy Lloyds’ “I Got a Rocket in My Pocket”. They made sure it retained that classic 50’s sound, though they did charge it up a bit, and Matts’ voice was pretty well suited for it, hitting the higher notes with ease. “…This a song by Ronnie Dawson.” Matt informed the crowd as they started into “Congratulations to Me”, soon following it with “Thirteen Women (and Only One Man in Town)” by Bill Haley. Again, the faster drum beats Arjuna was knocking out helped bring a little modern taste to the song, while Steve kept pace with him, quickly plucking and slapping his upright bass.

“Let’s keep it swinging!” exclaimed Matt as they went right into an instrumental piece. It was a classic, one I recognized (and I’m sure everyone else would, too), though its title escapes me at the moment. It went almost unnoticed at first that Arjuna’s drumming grew louder, and then all of a sudden all eyes were on him, as he did one of his epic drum solos, proving you don’t need to have a massive drum kit to create a massive sound and get people’s attention.

Once they finished, Matt again addressed the audience, stating they didn’t have much original material written for this band yet. “…We’re just having fun, and we hope you are, too.” he told the little over thirty people who had made it out this early. He didn’t say they had no original music to play, though, and now did a song from a 7’’ record they put out, with the track being titled “When I Try to Be Cool”. If you’ve listened to their main band, than that song is pretty much what you’ve come to expect from Matt as a writer, though the sound was more reminiscent of 50’s to 60’s era music, while he sang the more humorous song about trying to act cool to impress the ladies. “…’Cause I always end up looking a fool when I try to be cool.” he sang before the second verse, with the rest of the track being filled with equally as great lines.

They performed a couple more covers, one of which was James Browns’ “I’ll Go Crazy”, which Matt noted was their first time doing it live, before doing another original, “It’s Gonna Take Some Time”. As it ended, they kept things going with some feedback, Matt bending down by his amp and holding his guitar to it, winding them into their next and final song, another take on a well known instrumental song, which proved a good way to end the show.

The three bring the same level of musicianship and quality as they display in Eleven Hundred Springs, but the Matt the Cat Trio is far from being just a scaled down version of the band. Their style does differ greatly, and doesn’t have quite as much of a country/rock infused sound. Part of that may well be the fact that they did so many covers, but all the same, while there are still some country twangs to the songs, they’re closer to being like a rock band in the very early days of the genre.

Well worth checking out, and I’m curious to see (and hear) what lies ahead for them, as they start to write and work in more original music to their set.

You can purchase their two singles in iTUNES, and while they are done doing shows for this year, they’ll be starting off strong in 2014, with a bunch of dates already booked for January which can be found HERE.

Following them was one band I had not seen in some time. In fact, it had been long enough that the Whiskey Folk Ramblers had dropped the “Ramblers” from their name, now going by Whiskey Folk.

They had also released their newest record since the last time I saw them, “The Lonesome Underground”, though their show this night represented all three of the records they’ve released, and very nicely at that, as they opened with one of the newer ones, “Cross City Trade”. As soon as the screen that covers the stage began to retract, their drummer launched them into the quick, catchy song that gained the attention of much of the ever growing crowd.

“…We came here to make you dance…” singer and acoustic guitarist Tyler Rougeux told the audience, while they had already started in on the next song, which saw Cory Graves putting his trumpet down as he put his keyboard to use for the next few songs, which came from the bands 2008 debut record, “Midnight Drifter”. One of those was the short and sweet, “Goin’ Where I Don’t Know”, which could easily provoke some dancing from the listener, and they bled it seamlessly into “River Song”. “Sold my soul to the river one day, I went down there to pray…” Tyler sang at the start of the tune, which still manages to sound just as good as it always has, even without the banjo player, who departed some time back, and seemed to have an even stronger rhythm section. “This is a song about gun slinging.” Tyler said as they did “Graveyard Line”, during which bassist Jack Russell continued plucking the strings of his bass in a pretty fast manner, giving the song a nice backbone.

As Tyler put it, they had one more “dancing song coming right up”, and he added that it was one they wrote “way back in the day” and it was based on a cartoon. The song he was setting up was “Moanin’ Rag”. The little story telling continued as they did another new song, which Tyler said was about “catching rides home with strangers”, bringing them to the slightly dark sounding, “Mad Man’s Eyes”. That darker mood was kept up with “Into That Slide”, one of the many songs that falls into what has been described as being a sort of gypsy/horror rock sound, before Tyler rolled them into the next number, strumming his acoustic, before electric guitarist Mark Moncrieff and the rest of the band joined in on “Leavin’ Here”.

I must confess, I haven’t listened to their new record too much, and I failed to identify the next song the band did (as well as a few others this night), but after it came a fan favorite. “…It’s about an old woman who makes pies and gets colds… And had no PTO…” Tyler joked before starting the ever entertaining, “Pies of Old Kylene”. The focus of songs then shifted to “bad relationships”, which is the subject of “Drink the Bottle Dry”, and again had Cory using his keyboard.

I don’t know how much of a true storyteller aspect this show had, but all the same, I was thoroughly enjoying all the comments before most of the songs, and for their next one Tyler told everyone it was about the circus coming to town and “…making a homeless guy sing…” That led them to the lead track from “The Lonesome Underground”, “Oh, St. Jude”, and was quickly followed by a couple more songs presumably from the album.

Another instant classic that was featured on 2010’s “And There Are Devils…” came next, with the tale of the “Gambling Preacher and His Daughter”, before doing another track about “gun slinging”, Cory adding a little extra percussion to it by shaking a tambourine. After another song, they got ready to end their 59-minute long show with “Sweet Waters”, which in the past has served as the closer, before wrapping it all up with “Lights On the Highway”.

Perhaps the best thing about Whiskey Folk is how they keep managing to reinvent themselves to some extent, changing their style around just enough from album to album to be different from one another, while still retaining their core sound. With the array of songs they did this night, that was made clear, and while they didn’t all sound similar to one another, they managed to all mesh and work with one another, allowing you to hear their evolutionary process.

Aside from that, they are a very unique band, having crafted a sound unlike any other band, which isn’t too easy to do these days, and they put on an entertaining show to boot.

They have one last show lined up for the year, and it’ll be on December 31st at Club Dada in Dallas, and be sure to check out their music in iTUNES.

Headlining the venue this night was The Dirty River Boys, who were doing one last little run of shows for the year, sandwiching this Dallas show between gigs in El Paso and Austin, their hometown and the city where they now reside, respectively.

They hit the stage right at their scheduled start time of 10:20, having a brief intro track play before the screen was raised and the four guys made their way on stage.

“How you doing, Dallas?” asked Marco Gutierrez, one of the bands singers and acoustic guitarists, once he got in front of his mic on stage left. They promptly started what wound up being nothing short of an epic performance. It was Marco who handled the singing on their first song, “Train Station”, though fellow singer and acoustic guitarist Nino Cooper added some light background vocals at various points during the song. It gave it a beautiful underlying texture, and after that title track of one of their EP’s, Nino took the reins, as he and some his band mates harmonized for the first line of “My Son”, “I don’t know where  you’re going my son, taught you to walk but you learned how to run…”.

That song has an extra to kick to it live from what you hear on the record, and the way they segued seamlessly from their first song to it helped give their show even more of a punch. They weren’t about ready to let up, either, going right into their next song, but first, drummer Travis Stearns (who plays a cajon he sits on and has a more minimal drum kit setup) spoke to the crowd, which no numbered a few hundred people, welcoming them to the show and (successfully) trying to get them excited. Marco then went back to singing as they did “Carnival Lights”, the lead track from their first EP. That gorgeously sad song is filled with great lines, like, “I saw her on a Sunday, I never saw her again, they say she’s fading away…”, and as it neared the end, it turned into a sing along, with those who knew it crooning along with Marco at the end, “These old carnival lights won’t let her eyes sleep tonight…”.

Travis bridged them right into their next number, where bassist Colton James got his first chance of the night to show off his full vocal chops, singing one of their new tunes, almost snarling on part of the chorus, “…Let me taste the blood.” It was more intense than some of their stuff, and Travis matched that by rocking out on his kit, forcefully striking his snare drum, performance wise showing up even the heaviest of metal drummers (not just on that song, but for much of the night).

They carried on with “Dried Up”, the first of several songs that drew from the “Science of Flight” record, and upon finishing it, Marco announced it was time for a “Chinese fire drill”. Nino was the only one who stayed in the same position, while Travis grabbed a mandolin and Colton a banjo, leaving Marco to play the upright bass. “
Lookin’ for the Heart” was the song they did in that format, which has more of a bluegrass sound than most of their other songs, and upon finishing it, while the band returned to their original instruments, Nino moved them onto the next track, another new one, as he gently plucked the strings on his guitar. “…If you’ve heard us on the radio recently, this was probably the song you heard…” Marco told everyone once he got back in front of his microphone and began playing the same chords as Nino. “Desert Wind” was one song Colton used a typical electric bass on, and that amazing new single brought with a certain aura. An aura very few songs have, but one that in listening to it you know you’re hearing something special, and it boasts a great music bed, and some wonderful lyrics that do indeed tell a story.

They kept the new songs coming with another one, Nino switching out to an electric guitar for it, before swapping out to the mandolin for, as Marco put it, “…A country song about punk rock…” Travis again stood up from his kit, excitedly chatting with the audience for a minute to pump them up, before asking for some more help in singing it, with “it” being “Boomtown”, and it got quite a few people excited, with some of the fans at the front of the stage jumping around while singing along to every word.

They may have been in Dallas, but their hometown of El Paso got a shout (or two) this night, with Marco noting how proud they were to be from the city, asking if anyone had heard of another band from there, The Lusitania, which led them to trying their hand at one of that bands tracks. Nino was back on his acoustic now, and they did an excellent cover of “’Til My Heart Gives Out (Mountain Song)”, which was definitely a country song, especially since part of the chorus was,  “…How long ‘til my heart gives out and the drinks kick in?”.

“Are we having fun yet?!” Marco asked everyone, adding that they were going to be trying out some new stuff this night, but that wasn’t a lead in to another new track. Instead they did another from their LP, “Youngblood Blues”. That somewhat joyous song was followed with another new one, which required Colton to bring his electric bass back out, while he again sang lead on the song, though they all harmonized on part of the chorus, “…Now God knows that no one should be alone…” There was a certain degree of somberness to the song, balanced out with unrivaled beauty in the four-part harmonies that ensued at different times.

They slowed things down with the pretty, “Riverbed Wildflowers”, before offering another glimpse at what their new album will sound like. “Things are gonna get real weird…” Marco plainly stated before one song, which did sound like more of a departure from their previous stuff, but in the best possible way, simply because it did seem to be out of their comfort zone so to speak. Nino kept things going by setting up their next tune, another one that forced them to do some things different, and they again did their “Chinese fire drill”, knocking out another new number.

“Union Painter” was another song of theirs that told a legitimate story, and afterwards, while Nino thought they were going to take a break, his band mates surprised them by rolling things along. “I guess we’re gonna play some rock ‘n’ roll.” he remarked, joining them on Ryan Adams’ “Shakedown on 9th Street”, which they did a great rendition of, putting their own little mark on it. At one point during it, Travis took one of his drum sticks and hurled it high into the air, though he failed to catch it as it fell a little behind him, narrowly escaping his grasp. He didn’t seem to give it much thought, though, quickly grabbing another stick.

“Draw” got a very impressive intro, with the band getting progressively faster on their respective instruments, leading to Travis standing up from his cajon and he again tosses a stick into the air, catching it this time around, before they wound the instrumental segment into the actual song. They also added an extra touch to the end, Marco extending the final line as he held each word for a few seconds.

They were over an hour into things by now, and I was surprised they were still going, though at this point Colton and Travis left the stage, while Marco hid in the wings of stage left, leaving Nino to perform most of “So Long Elanie” solo. Marco did join in eventually, though, adding not only his guitar to the mix, but also some soft vocals. Once the full band was back on stage, they did one last new song for the night, and it was a special one. Not only did they write it with Ray Wylie Hubbard, it was also about their hometown, and Nino asked if anyone in the crowd was from El Paso. He reminisced about how at one time, you could travel into Mexico with no worries, saying as a teen he and countless others would walk across the bridge, get some beers, and come back before night. That’s something that can’t be done now with all the violence in the border towns, which was precisely what this track was about, and as it concluded, Travis again threw a stick up in the air, and yes, he caught it.

They still had some left to give, doing “Six Riders”, before all four of them wound up at the front of the stage, taking some shots that had been bought for them and bowing, thanking everyone for coming out. Travis noted that they had done one thousand plus shows in their four-year existence, and would be coming back strong in 2014 with their new record and a new sound. By that time, Nino had again armed himself with the mandolin, capping off their show with “Raise Some Hell”, which has a very authentic Irish sound to it, and (fittingly so) is a very rowdy number.

98-minutes. That’s how long they had been on stage, which is much longer than even some of the most well known bands play. It was nothing short of phenomenal, and I was amazed at how quickly the time had passed, ‘cause it really seemed like they had only just begun by the time it all ended.

An encore seemed improbable to me, after such a meaty show during which they had played just about everything they possible could have, but some of their fans weren’t ready for it to end, shouting for more.

At most they had been gone from the stage for a minute when Marco returned, getting his moment to do a song solo.

Their 14-minute long encore portion was kicked off with “Another Night”, and a little ways into it Nino returned to the stage, being followed by Colton and Travis shortly after as the song picked up steam. Once he had played his final notes, Nino went and swapped his acoustic guitar out for an electric, rocking out some sweet licks that had the fans cheering him as they bridged the tail end of that track into “She”. They tacked on something special to that already brilliant original song, though, and at one point, Nino took over on lead vocals, belting out part of the chorus of Jim Hendrixs’ “Voodoo Child”.

This wound up being quite the night, far surpassing the expectations I had, had for it. Really, what bands play for almost two hours? Especially ones that are still on more of the local to mid-level circuit of the game. That’s just about unheard of, and it was a nice surprise to be treated to a true, honest to god performance.

They commanded the audience’s attention with ease all throughout the night, the fun the four of them were clearly having on stage playing their music making it all the easier for the crowd to get into it all and have a good time. That helped contribute (hell, it practically made) the fun atmosphere for the night, which in my opinion, is one of the most important aspects a concert should have.

Of course, it doesn’t hurt either that all four of them are very capable singers with excellent voices, and skilled musicians.

They may be through doing shows for the year, but luckily there’s not much left of this year, so their 2014 resurgence isn’t that far off. But until then, you can of course find their music in iTUNES. Two EP’s, a full-length, and not too long ago “Desert Wind” became available as a single (seriously, you HAVE to listen to that one). Check ‘em out, buy their music, and get ready for their new record.

I’m not the biggest country music fan in general, but if you’re like me, then you just might think that the “mainstream country” music has devolved to the point it’s essentially glorified pop music that masquerades as so called country by talking about “pickup trucks” or other stereotypical things. It’s so much more than that, though, and all three of the bands on the bill this night know that. Sure, each one of them offered a different variation of the genre, but they’re still more country than what you’re likely to find on the radio.