Saturday, August 9th, 2014 – Krash Rover Returns to the Curtain Club for a Birthday Bash

This was a monumental night for me. Why? Well, it marked the 700th concert I’ve seen. Not too bad. How fitting, too, that it would just so happen to take place at my favorite venue: The Curtain Club.

As usual, the night consisted of four bands, a couple of whom I had seen many times before, while the others were either little known and even unknown to me.

One act I was there for was Krash Rover. These days (with guitarist Ashton Quincey being away at college), you can count the number of shows they do each year on one hand; and it had been probably a year or a little longer since I had last seen them. Basically, I was long overdue for a fix.

They began the opener of their 54-minute long set long before the curtain opened, and once it did reveal them, the quartet exploded into “Russian Roulette (Part II)”. Their group of fans was small at first, but they all swarmed the stage, many singing right along with singer and rhythm guitarist Kris Newman on the chorus of, “It’s so hard to hold on, but I can’t do this on my own. I need you within me; bring life into my empty soul…” Given their extended time away from the stage, it didn’t take them anytime to find their legs for it; and Kris owned his solo.

“How you guys doing tonight?” he asked once they finished, thanking everyone for coming out. It was a few days early, but this show was his birthday show, and he joked that since he would be twenty-three, then according to Blink-182, no would like him. They continued with “In My Mind”, which ended with Ashton striking a good pose as he stood with one foot on the drum riser and the other on his amp, while he showed off his skills. There was just enough of a break for applause before Kris started them off on “Feel Good On The Inside”. Even though it’s one of their newest songs, it has been around for a few years already, and I’ve heard it a good number of times now, but there was something about it this night that made it sound better than ever. Zach Fuentes proved himself a force to be reckoned with as he laid into the drums; and the blistering notes from the guitars ensure this is a song that will appeal to every rock fan.

“Alright, aright.” said Kris upon finishing. “Who has a drink in their hand?!” he shouted, asking for everyone to put it up. The audience than began cheering, but it wasn’t for the reason Kris thought. He finally turned around to see his mother who had walked up behind him with a bottle of Jack Daniels in hand and sparklers tied to the top, one of which was a “2”, the other a “3”. The sparklers soon burned out, and after a few festive minutes, they got back to it, doing what I believe was a cover of ZZ Tops’ “Just Got Paid”. It went along the lines of Krash Rover’s music, making it a fitting choice; and during it, they stopped, seeming to be done. Kris thanked the Curtain and the other bands on the bill, mentioning The Collective was doing their CD release show, and he thought it was for their first CD. “Don’t quote me on that.” Kris stressed, adding he had looked them up and they “seemed cool”. Then, they jumped back into the song, getting some fan participation as he led everyone in singing along, “More, more we want more!”

The crowd was enjoying it, though they didn’t seem as vocal as they usually are. Perhaps it was because everyone’s used to seeing Krash Rover go on an hour or two later than this. That said, Kris mentioned that he knew it was an early show, but he still thought people would have had plenty of time to get some alcohol in their systems. To counteract that, they decided to do a slower song, “to make you all jittery and stuff.” as Kris put it. “Release Me” may begin slow, but it doesn’t end that way; and with some mangled chords, they bled it right into their old hit: “She Gets Around”. They tried something new (at least from the last time I saw them), with Kris and Ashton both singing on some of the lines, such as “I think she’d rather see her pimp.”, and combined like that, even though it was just in short bursts, their harmonies sounded incredible. Each of them even stood back-to-back during a duel guitar solo; and then Zach hopped up from his stool to pump everyone up, before they closed it out.

They had another cover planned, one Kris noted was something everyone seemed to like. Indeed, they have turned “Simple Man” by Lynyrd Skynyrd into a staple of theirs; and Kris sat his guitar down for it, taking on the frontman role. It’s a role he fits quite well; and during the guitar solo, he gripped the cord and spun the mic around. “You having a good time yet?!” he roared afterwards, being met with an equally loud response. With that, he set them off on “SAS”, egging the crowd on at the beginning to make some noise for them, while he and Ashton again blended their voices, and the result was awesome.

“I think I’m just now starting to wake up!” exclaimed Kris once they were done. That was no exaggeration, and their next song was the best thing they had done so far. They hit their stride with it; and for most of the track Ashton and bassist Miguel Fair swapped sides on stage, before racing back to where they had began.

Kris again leaned out to the crowd, putting his ear forward, but few were paying attention. Ashton was already onto the next song, but Kris stopped him. “It’s my fucking birthday. Make some goddamn noise!!” he yelled. The fans were happy to; and he confessed he didn’t want to be a “dick” and handle it that way, though it did prove effective. They got back to it, and while Miguel had been very forceful this entire night, he reached a new level now, jumping around the stage at the start of the tune and slapping his bass. As I said earlier, they found their stride with that previous song, and as they neared the end, they just become more of a beast.

It looked like that may have been their final song, because before they could go any further the guys were told they had gone over their time. The fans’ cries for one more made it clear no one would tolerate an early ending, and thankfully the venue let them go ahead. “Do we got any Texans in the house?!” asked Kris. No sooner had he uttered that sentence and then Zach started in on the drums for “I’m From Texas”; while everyone showed off their state pride by chanting “Texas!” There were a few different sing along moments, along with a drum solo that Zach owned and Kris dropped to his knees during it as he picked away at his axe.

“Thanks for coming out and celebrating with us.” Kris told the crowd right at the tail end.

After missing the last few shows, I had forgotten how much I missed Krash Rover. This show reminded me, though.

Kris’s voice sounds better than it ever has, and they still have all the chemistry they need for a dynamic live show, even if said shows are kept few and far between. And I tell ya, watching the band they were for these last three songs was not the same band that first took the stage. Part of that was probably because the spectators got more into it, too, giving the band more energy to feed off of. Still, they transcended right before everyone’s eyes.

Pick up their album in iTUNES if you don’t have it; and keep an eye on their FACEBOOK for future show updates.

Saturday, August 2nd, 2014 – Local Brews, Local Grooves Becomes the Newest Festival on the Dallas Circuit

At four-thirty in the afternoon all three windows at the House of Blues box office had no less than fifty people in line. That was the first shock; the second was the throng of young teen girls who were lined up all along the wall that leads from the front of the venue to its entrance on the side, all of whom seemed giddy over whoever they were there to see.

There was a separate line, one for those going to the Local Brews, Local Grooves Festival that was taking over much of the venue this day. The couple in front of me asked a staff member about the young girls, who assured them they [the girls] would not be going to the beer festival. Besides, this was a rare time when the HoB was doing a 21+ only show.

The Music Hall, Crossroads (the restaurant) and The Foundation Room (which is usually VIP only) were each being used for this inaugural event that was highlighting several different local breweries. Dallas breweries were set up in the Music Hall; ones from Fort Worth in the restaurant; and The Foundation Room housed the suburbs.

This wasn’t just a beer festival, though, and upwards of a dozen local acts had been tapped to play the event, with different ones spread out across the three sections. That was why I was here; after all, I’m not much of a drinker. Plus, some bands offered free tickets to the event, so it was hard to turn down at that price.

Bethan had the first spot on the main stage, starting right around five-thirty. Compared to how I’m used to seeing this place during sold-out shows, it was nearly empty, and you could get all the way up to the guardrail that creates the photo pit if you wanted.

Some people ventured closer to the stage, while others hung back on the small tables that were scattered about, planning to enjoy it from afar, and still others just meandered about, going to get their fill of beer and food.

With their debut EP now two-years-old, Bethan focused more on newer material this night (at least the little portion I saw of them), and drummer Daniel Hall began the first song by reaching for his guitar and using it for a bit. His focus soon shifted back to the drums, as the rest of the band gradually joined in on the atmospheric indie sounds that are self-described as being Alternative Noir.

I liked it, however the second song was downright enchanting. Becki Howards’ violin sounded beautiful on the track, working well with the voice of frontwoman Jessi Hall, and each seemed to accent the other. “How about we raise a toast.” Jessi stated once they finished. One of the audience members then piped up, saying they should raise a toast to her friend, Amanda, who was apparently celebrating her birthday. So, Jessi made the toast partly for her, wishing her a happy birthday, and then told everyone the next song was called “I Have Nothing To Say”. It’s the final song off the Chapter 1 EP. It perfectly captures the more minimalist vibe they have, with the keys Kevin Howard was playing often being the most prominent instrument, while bassist Jesse Hopkins and Daniel made a forceful, though low-key rhythm section. “I’m the sand running through your fingertips…” Jessi sang at the end, holding her right arm up in the air and rubbing her fingers together, as if she did have a handful of sand she was slowly letting fall from her hand.

Daniel again used a guitar at the start of the next two songs, one of which was “Our Paris”, and the other began with just that guitar and Jessi singing over it, and it sounded gorgeous. “Is everyone having a good time at the beer fest?” she asked after they finished; and I used that break to duck out.

While I haven’t seen them much, I’ve liked Bethan since they began, but they just seemed different this night over how they were the last time. It’s like they’ve fully figured out who they are as a band, and it’s made them all the stronger. Really, they were even better than I remembered them being, and came across as a completely new band this afternoon.

You can find their EP in either iTUNES or BANDCAMP, and they’ll have a new release in the next few months.

If I could have, I would’ve stuck around for the whole set, but I had gotten a ticket from Nicholas Altobelli who was playing at six in the Foundation Room.

First, I had to find the Foundation Room, which required climbing to the balcony level of the Music Hall, where another door was that led there. That was the easy part, though. The hard part was navigating my way around in there. The food and beer tables had lines that wound so it appeared to be one massive line; and you could hear at least a dozen or more conversations all going on at once. I also heard something else, and that was the voice of Nicholas Altobelli, and apparently he and his musical companion Heather Kitzman had gotten off to a slightly earlier start. They were also kind enough to provide some background noise to all the chitchat that was going on.

They were a little ways into “Blackout” when I finally squeezed myself into a spot directly in front of the patch of floor they had. Heather added quite a bit of backing vocals on that one, while she gently played her pedal steel guitar. She turned to Nicholas when it was done. “Did you just fuck that up?!” she asked him in a shocked voice, and he confessed he had messed up some chords on the acoustic guitar. No one else knew, though, let alone actually cared he had flubbed it.

That was one song off 2013’s Without a Home, and they focused heavily on that LP, next doing “27 Stories”. “I don’t want to become something I’m running from…” sang Nicholas at the start of dreary, though personal and emotional song. “So, load in was interesting.” he remarked afterwards, while Heather nodded her head, silently confirming it was. “But it’s all good.” he added, putting a positive spin on it, while he placed a capo on his guitar. They moved on to the single from that record, and I had forgotten how catchy “The Lucky Ones” was. Even just in the two-piece setting like this, it was impossible not to sing along to it (if you knew it, that is), and I found myself mouthing the words to the chorus. “Thank you, fine folks in the front.” Nicholas told the crowd once they were done. Those up front were the only ones truly paying attention after all. He asked the woman working sound if he could get some more in the monitors (he later asked it to be turned up to eleven), and now sang, “Sounding in the monitor.” a few times as he performed a sound check. “This song goes out to us.” he said quite seriously. Heather left her pedal steel and stood up to sing the backing vocals on the chorus of “I Don’t Think Tonight is Going to be a Good Night”. She also provided some percussion by clapping her hands, and perhaps the best part of their set came when Nicholas told her to do a clapping solo, so she proceeded to it, moving her hands behind her back and all around the air, just having fun with it.

“She has no food in her system. She’s angry with the world right now.” said Nicholas, speaking of Heather, who was sitting back behind the pedal steel. You could tell it, too, what with the smile she was flashing. “…They gave me a pretzel…” she told him. With a new album only three days away from dropping, I was a little surprised they hadn’t done anything off it so far, but that was about to change. “This song’s about being mentally healthy…” Nicholas informed everyone, as they did “Memories” off the Mesocyclone EP.

It was during that song I felt the floor beneath me shaking something horrible, and thought to myself, “It’d be just my luck if the floor gave way right where I’m standing.” Well, apparently Nicholas was thinking the same thing, ‘cause afterwards he remarked that it sounded like the floor “was about to cave.” “Or a Wilco B-side.” he then quipped. They had done some slightly older stuff, and now they had a new song down, so it was time to look ahead to some songs he mentioned would be on an album out sometime next year. He told those who were paying attention that one was about his high school crush. “Whose name is not Sarah, but she had too many syllables in her name to fit the measure.”

Each was great and fit the mold Nicholas has cast for himself. It’s just a shame we fans will have to wait awhile before being able to listen to them whenever we want. He then welcomed a friend up to the “stage”, asking everyone to give it up for the “beautiful and talented Kim Nall.” She took over the secondary mic, while Nicholas mentioned this was one he had written “back in 1970 something, after a heavy night of drinking.” They did a rendition of Lionel Richies’ “Stuck On You”, and the difference between the original and the more folk style they gave it was as drastic as night and day. Don’t get me wrong, it was a stellar version, but sounded nothing like what Richie made famous. Kim just added some soft backing vocals at times, though it helped the tune immensely.

She then left, while Nicholas mentioned this next one was about Los Angeles. “Alright! L.A. Rain!” exclaimed one fan who was there. “It’s not a contest, but yeah, sure.” Nicholas joked with the guy; and he was almost ready to start it, before having to take a moment to tune for what he said was “another upbeat number”. Spoiler, it wasn’t. Though it was hilarious. The floor had continued to shake, and now he changed some of the lyrics at the end of the first verse. “I really hope I’m singing in key, ‘cause it’s like a Sonic Youth B-side downstairs.” It was brilliant, yet few people were paying enough attention to even get a laugh out of that.

“Here’s another uplifting song about feeling good.” stated Nicholas; while Heather left her pedal steel once more. They co-sang “Bluebonnet” — a track off 2011’s Radio Waves & Telephone Wire. “Where has my bluebonnet gone?” he pined at the start, proving it was not the “uplifting” song he jokingly made it out to be. “Heather Kitzman. The myth, the legend.” he announced as she took a seat, giving her a formal introduction.

“I’ve never played this one before.” Nicholas admitted, adding, “This seemed like a good place to do it.” It was, ‘cause all of these songs were probably new to most of the people in the first place, so there was at least no reason to worry if it didn’t go over well. It did seem well received by those who were paying attention, though, as was the next one, which was another new tune that Nicholas threw in just to fill time. He mentioned he had written it just a couple days before, and said he’d do it only if he could remember it. He did, and Heather continued to just watch her band mate and enjoyed the song in the same way the small audience was.

She didn’t stay silent much longer, though, and lent her talents on “Thunderstorms”, which was the final song of this 51-minute set.

It had been way too long since I had last seen Nicholas Altobelli. In fairness, he hasn’t been playing a ton of gigs of late anyway, but even when he has I wasn’t able to make it. So, it was great catching another show after so long.

They may have had problems hearing one another, but out in the crowd the levels were fine, even if they were almost outmatched by all the conversations. Still, I heard every note and every line quite clearly. The fact that humor was employed so much also made it quite entertaining. In fact, partly because of that, I’d say this was one of the best shows I’ve seen Nicholas do.

Whether it’s with his full-band or just he and Heather, he has no trouble entertaining. I’d even say Nicholas’ voice sounded stronger this night than I’ve ever heard it. He really is one of the best singer/songwriters in the area, and he’s apparently just getting better.

Mesocyclone is out now and it, as well as some of his past records, can be found on either iTUNES or BANDCAMP. Check out the official CD release show for Mesocyclone at All Good Café in Dallas on Friday, August 8th, too.

I then headed back to the Music Hall to wait out Jessie Frye and her bands 7:30 start time.

It was a totally different setting from where I had seen them just a few weeks before, at one of the venues in Deep Ellum where they had a backline on the stage (since it was a national show), giving Jessie and her band little room to move about. She made use of the ample space right from the start of their 34-minute long set this night, though, banging her head to some of heavier beats Chad Ford dished out on “Like a Light”. “How you doing?” she asked after the first chorus, getting a strong reaction from not just her section of fans, but also some of the other onlookers.

She was already proving herself to be a dynamo on stage, and actually, it reminded me of their set at Edgefest back in April, just in the energy and excitement they were putting into it; and now guitarist Jordan Martin rolled them into one of their most bewitching songs, “Fortune Teller”. “How are you enjoying your beer?” Jessie asked everyone once they were finished, getting a nice rise from the crowd. She mentioned how happy they were to be here before letting everyone know exactly who they were, and then she informed the crowd this next one was “White Heat” off the Obsidian album. They really started hitting their stride then; and Jessie was bouncing about at the start of the track, and at another point dropped to her knees when she belted out a line. The audience was getting more into it now, too, and there were a few couples who decided this was a good one to dance along to. You can’t often do that at the House of Blues, but there was plenty of floor space for it this night, and even from the audience perspective it was fun seeing. I should also point out Jessie didn’t hit the chorus “…Forget all of the roles you thought you should have played…” in as high a voice as what’s done on the recording. It was a relatively subtle difference, yet it made all the difference to the song. I actually liked it better with her keeping it all in the same tone, as it made it more fluid sounding.

“I love this song!” exclaimed one fan as Chad led them into the atmospheric pop number that is “Never Been to Paris”. They followed it with something special, but first, Jessie called out the “girl in sequined skirt” saying they were “kindred spirits”. “I saw you at the Tori Amos show…” Jessie told her, prompting the girl to nod that she had indeed been there. Getting back to the new song, it had been teased to Facebook fans and Instagram followers a few days before the show, and was titled “One in a Million”. With it, the Denton-based band started going a different direction from what they’ve done thus far. It was much closer to raw rock verses the sort of pop rock sounds Jessie and her band mates have established for themselves. It was a very vibrant track that had bassist Andrew O’Hearn laying down some more forceful riffs; and there came a point where Chad began to clap his hands along to the kick drum. He looked puzzled when no one joined him, and several people picked up on that, and then put their hands in the air to clap along. It may just be one song for now, but it will be interesting to see where the band goes from here, as they write more intense rock numbers along these lines.

They really got in the groove with that song, and this was easily the best stretch of the set, which continued with “Shape of a Boy”. Jessie was absolutely alluring in the way she handled herself while she sang the first verse, sauntering around the stage. “How you doing?” she asked one member of the audience whom she had seemed to be singing to, and it took him a couple seconds to muster a response. Jordans’ killer solo definitely got some attention; and before the final chorus, Jessie, who had again fallen to her knees while singing, banged her head in perfect synch to the drumbeat. It was quite epic.

They started winding down with another favorite from the Fireworks Child EP, “Prepared”. There were a few times that Jordan used the whammy bar on that one, adding a good tone to the track. They were about to start their final number, and then a fan/friend held up a sign. “Jessie, you rock. I’m gonna punch you tomorrow.” Jessie read aloud, and then laughed. “Oh, that’s my piano student…” she informed everyone, asking her if she had practiced her scales, and then told her why wait and just come punch her now. She threatened to do the same to her, too, then quickly stated she never hits anyone in the first place.

It was another fun moment; and then they got ready to end their show with “Brave The Night”. Right before hitting the first chorus, Chad flipped his drumstick in the air, giving it a very tight spin. He has some serious chops; and this uplifting song came to a powerful finish as Jessie dropped to her knees once more, crooning, “And everywhere we go, and all the things you say, I never felt so beautiful…”, getting more involved with each second, eventually raising her hand into the air. She looked like a bona fide rock star, with the swagger to back it up.

It’s amazing what having some space to roam about can do, and this was a completely different band from the one I saw just a few weeks back. The energy was still there at that club show, but it oozed out of all of them so much more freely this night. They were better able to express themselves, especially Jessie, who was able to be the potent and impressive frontwoman she’s oh, so capable of being.

It was an awesome set, too, and I think everyone was wishing it had lasted just a bit longer. As they finished, I found myself wondering, “How long before they’re headlining this stage?” The talent’s certainly there, and with the praise they’ve received from the likes of The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, it’s in the realm of possibility.

Their next show will be Friday, August 8th at the Cambridge Room of the House of Blues. They’ll be the main support for Exit 380, who’s doing their vinyl release show of their new album. Check out their music on either iTUNES or BANDCAMP, too.

There were some bands left in the Music Hall, while elsewhere things were winding down. Those left on the main stage were a tribute band to The Black Crowes and another cover act who tackled Dave Matthews. I’m sure they’re great at what they do, and I’ve seen a handful of cover bands, though I’ve never been a huge fan of that.

That said, I left shortly after Jessie Fryes’ set. The thought of getting home at nine sounded appealing; though it was quite strange, walking out to see the sun hadn’t set yet. Traffic going back north to the suburbs was also much heavier than it is at one or two something in the morning. I guess that early nights do have their drawbacks.

Album Review: Photomaps by Exit 380

imageFifteen-years is a long time for any band to be together in general, but especially a local band. Actually, that’s somewhere around three to four average lifetimes in local band years. That’s how long Exit 380 has been kicking, though; and they have outlived many of their DFW counterparts, some of whom flirted with major label success and toured the country.

The band that was started by friends back in their college days at UNT in Denton may not have had those encounters with big breaks, but then again, that might be exactly why they have lasted as long as they have. They were never made empty promises that they would be the next big thing. If you ever were told that, and then it didn’t pan out, it’s easy to see why you would lose faith in the music industry, and perhaps even decide to hang it up and leave the band life behind.

That’s not to imply that Exit 380 is all fun and games for the members, either, but they do have a 50/50 balance of enjoying what they do and being professional at it.

It’s also rare you find a band who has kept pretty much the same lineup for the past eight years; and after a couple year absence, Bobby Tucker returned as the band’s drummer. Aside from that brief stint away, the band has been the same since the mid-2000’s, and that chemistry and camaraderie they’ve had plenty of time to establish has led to them getting better with each album, while they explored a diverse range of genres, from edgy rock to experimenting more with folk music.

But now, with their first release in more than two-and-a-half years, they’ve found themselves going back to their rock stylings, bringing renewed life to their earliest sound, along with continuing to experiment as musicians and try out some new genres.

The bands sixth LP, Photomaps, begins with “Laid Up In the Road”. Like many of their best songs, it doesn’t focus on a personal experience, but rather tells the story of a drunk who feels more at home on his own — in the middle of a road  then being surrounded by people, be it family or friends. The nearly three-and-a-half minute track tells you enough about the fictitious character to get you interested, yet also complete his story. The music bed also really gets your attention, and lead and rhythm guitarists Aaron Borden and Jeremy Hutchison, respectively, have some soaring solos. It’s been many years since they wrote a true edgy rock song, and it’s instantly clear their time away from it gave them a clear perspective as to how they want it to sound.

Speaking of Borden, as any longtime E380 fan knows, he’s also pretty talented in the songwriting department (the now classic, “Closure”, is still one of the most beautiful songs they’ve produced in all their years together.) Well, “Love Somebody, Cold” is another song he penned, and he sticks with doing what he does best: writing songs that revolve around love. In this case, it’s about still deeply caring for someone, even though the spark is fading fast out of the other person. Surprisingly, it’s a very upbeat song, with some great piano pieces thrown in (courtesy of Andrew Tinker, who produced the record at Big Acre Sound), alongside a well defined rhythm section and some sweet guitar licks; while Blocker sings at the end, “…And you know I won’t be the one to roam.”

The coolest intro has to go to “Lonely Days”, and after Tucker establishes a solid beat, the guitars quickly fade in with some awesome, ballsy chords. It has been quite some time since Exit 380 last did a rock song of this magnitude. The band is on fire on the track, operating as collective in a way that I don’t think they ever have before. Each instrument plays off one another, and even the various notes Blocker hits help accent the other instruments, and in turn, they aid his voice. Overall, this song proves that this is a more robust Exit 380 than fans have ever seen before.

Originally, Photomaps was going to be a collection of songs that all found the band experimenting with a Spanish flare. Things changed once the actual writing process took place, as they more split their time between styles. However, while “Hearts In the Sand” is a rock song, it also has some Spanish sounding elements scattered throughout it. It’s found subtly in some of the notes and hinted at in the lyrics at times, though this is still primarily a rock tune, and they save that stuff for later. Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the synth solo towards the end. You would think it wouldn’t work well with the track, yet somehow, it does. Granted, I haven’t heard many (or any?) synth solos, either, but I would say this one is worthy of being the best.

“Take It Like a Man” concludes the rock section of the album, and it’s another one very reminiscent of old school E380. Say, circa 2006, back during the Last Monday era. It’s a hard-hitting number, and there’s a nice sense of urgency at the end, as the track comes to a slightly abrupt, but roaring finish.

For the second portion of the album (or Side B on the vinyl copies), Jeremy Hutchisons’ guitar is traded in for a mandolin, while Borden puts his lap steel guitar to use. “A Song About Us” isn’t new to most fans, as it appeared on the first Hand Drawn Records compilation album. Still, I find it nice the track actually found a home on a record, because with it becoming a staple at live shows, it’s deserving of that. It’s another one that Borden wrote, though there is not a trace of heartache to be found like in the earlier song. In fact, it’s quite upbeat, and Blockers’ skills on the harmonica help in setting it off.

Speaking of upbeat, there’s “The Love Sleeps”. It has to be one of the most infectious songs written (and I mean that in a much broader sense than just E380’s discography), or at least that I’ve ever heard; and it emits a feel good vibe for all two-minutes and thirty-nine seconds of it. It’s an ideal song to dance along to, especially with a partner; and it’s just refreshing to hear something so overwhelmingly happy. If you’re ever having a bad day, this would be the song to put on, and then just feel the smile as it slowly creeps across your face.

“La Rosa Carlina” is the final original offering on Photomaps, and it personifies that Spanish vibe they initially wanted to go with. The one-off appearance of a violin is almost hidden during it, but if you listen closely enough, you can hear it creeping in here and there. The harmonies the violinist adds at the end sounds incredible, too, creating a nice male and female vocal part. The song itself is a good story about the guitarist of a band who adoringly watches Carlina — a dancer — who moves graceful to the music they are playing. “…Each twirl brings a smile, each smile a wink…” goes part of the chorus of yet another song that shows just how much the band excels at crafting and telling unique stories.

Like most bands, Exit 380 started off pretty humbly, doing acoustic covers back in their earliest of days. While they may have started out that way, they quickly ditched that in favor of original material; and in the seven to eight years that I’ve been seeing them, I’ve never heard them do a cover song. At least not until recently, when they tried their hand at Townes Van Zandts’ “Pancho and Lefty”. It’s the first cover they’ve ever recorded, and it perfectly fits the style of Photomaps. Like so many other tracks from the record, it tells a story; and they lifted elements from both Van Zandts’ version as well as Willie Nelson and Merle Haggards’, reusing the intro of their rendition to make for a powerhouse ending. It’s more than a cover, though, they truly leave their mark on this beloved classic, and that’s not an easy thing to do no matter what song you’re covering.

This isn’t the longest Exit 380 record ever. In fact, at just about 34-minutes, it plays out almost like a beefier EP, and passes just as quickly, because you get so wrapped up in these songs and simply lose track of time.

But if I had a choice, I’d go with quality over quantity, and that was the decision they made with Photomaps.

No, it isn’t the longest album they’ve ever released, though it is leaps and bounds ahead of anything they’ve ever released (that’s really saying something, ‘cause I still hold The Life and Death of Mr. and Mrs. Alexander Stone in high regard and consider that concept album impeccable.)

For old fans, it’s great to hear them return to those alt/rock sounds they started with, and the growth they’ve undergone individually as musicians and as a band have helped reinforce that genre, and they take it to the next level. For newer fans, you still get some of that folk stuff, with a different twist put on it, as they continue to push their musical boundaries.

In fact, I think that’s another reason why they’ve had such longevity as a band: they’ve never gotten stagnant. I can see how it could be easy to concoct a “formula” so to speak for songwriting and then just stick with what you do best, but that’s not for Exit 380. There’s always room to improve; and really, how many bands can say that fifteen-years in they’re creating their most spectacular material to date? Well, I know at least one.

Exit 380 is:
Dustin Blocker - vocals, pianos
Aaron Borden - guitars
Jon “The Hutch” Hutchison - bass
Jeremy Hutchison - guitars
Bobby “Shoes” Tucker – drums

Purchase the album on:
iTUNES / Bandcamp

Visit Exit 380’s websites:
Official Website / Facebook / Twitter / Youtube
imagePhoto credit: James Villa Photography

Echosmith Confirms Fall Tour Dates with American Authors; Headline Run in November
imageAfter a whirlwind summer as one of the most anticipated and highly praised acts of Vans Warped Tour, alt-pop band Echosmith has now announced they will be joining American Authors on this fall’s Honda Civic Tour, a 3-week trek kicking off October 1 in Reno, NV. Following that run, the band will headline a handful of shows starting November 12 with stops in New York, Philadelphia, Chicago and more. Tickets for those shows go on sale this Friday, Aug. 8th at 10am. See below for a full list of dates.

The LA-based foursome is having a breakout 2014 with the success of their debut album Talking Dreams, featuring hit single "Cool Kids", continuing to propel them into the spotlight. The song is currently #1 in the iTunes Alternative Chart and rapidly climbing Top 40 and Hot AC Radio charts, while the video is approaching 4 million views on YouTube. MTV has taken notice and named Echosmith an “Artist to Watch” for the year, and the band also recently made their late night debut performing “Cool Kids” on Conan.

The Sierota siblings
Jamie (vocals/guitar), Sydney (vocals/keyboard), Noah (vocals/bass), and Graham (drums) - have developed a distinctive melody-minded, New Wave-influenced sound that has earned them rave reviews. Entertainment Weekly declared them “ready to break out” following their performance at SXSW, Seventeen has lauded lead singer Sydney’s “stunning voice,” and Perez Hilton recently featured the band as a must-listen. Nylon warns, “HAIM might be front and center in terms of the whole ‘family band’ category, but these sisters better watch out because there’s another crew of California siblings about to take over.”

10/01   Knitting Factory - Reno, NV*
10/02   House of Blues - San Diego, CA*
10/03   The Observatory - Santa Ana, CA*
10/04   Club Nokia - Los Angeles, CA*
10/05   The Catalyst - Santa Cruz, CA*
10/07   Wonder Ballroom - Portland, OR*
10/09   Showbox at the Market - Seattle, WA*
10/10   Knitting Factory - Spokane, WA*
10/11    Knitting Factory - Boise, ID*
10/13   The Depot - Salt Lake City, UT*
10/14   Ogden Theatre - Denver, CO*
10/17   Granada Theatre - Dallas, TX*
10/18   Warehouse Live - Houston, TX*
10/19   Mohawk - Austin, TX*
11/12    Jammin Java - Vienna, VA
11/13    The Barbary - Philadelphia, PA
11/14    The Studio at Webster Hall - New York, NY
11/15    Higher Ground - S. Burlington, VT
11/16    The Middle East Upstairs - Cambridge, MA
11/19    Schuba’s Tavern - Chicago, IL

* Honda Civic Tour w/ American Authors
The Wild Feathers Announce Fall 2014 Tour Dates

imageAmerican rock quintet The Wild Feathers have announced that they will hit the road for additional tour dates this fall in support of their self-titled, critically lauded debut album. The seemingly indefatigable Nashville quintet has continued to organically grow its audience at a rapid pace, with constant touring and barn-storming shows at clubs around the world and festivals across the country, including Bonnaroo, Firefly, and Summerfest this summer.

The Wild Feathers’
upcoming fall tour includes a show at New York City’s fabled Irving Plaza, marking their fourth headlining show in NYC - a city that has embraced the band from the very beginning. They will also perform at the Squamish Valley Music Festival and the Voodoo Music Experience, as well as headline their hometown’s Live on the Green Festival. Please see below for all tour dates. It’s no wonder that Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Gary Clark Jr., Sheryl Crow, Paul Simon and countless others have become fans of their hybrid take on rock, country, folk & classic soul informed by masterful song craft, souring vocal harmonies and infused with Stones/Faces- swagger: Support on all fall tour dates from The Apache Relay and Desert Noises.

"Classic rock DJs have been itching for this band for years. The Wild Feathers channel their Nashville roots with fast-stepping, unmistakably Southern country-rock suggesting a sprightly union of My Morning Jacket and Neil Young." - The New York Times

"They soar on the chemistry and cooperation between no fewer than tree expert songsmiths. Then they elaborate their compositions with the wafting harmonies of four of the five band members…Examples range from the Byrds and Buffalo Springfield to Traffic and Fleetwood Mac…Think the Jayhawkes kicked from behind by The Heartbreakers. American roots music with flat-out rock." - The NY Daily News

"Something that fans of heartland artists like the Avett Brothers and My Morning Jacket will appreciate while it recalls the magic of Tom Petty and Neil Young" - Rolling Stone

In addition, the video for the band’s new video for "Left My Woman premieres today on /

The Apache Relay and Desert Noises Support on all fall dates:
08/08    Squamish, BC               Squamish Valley Music Festival
08/13    Littleton, CO                  Denver Botanic Gardens w/ Sheryl Crow
08/14    Houston, TX                   House of Blues
08/15    Dallas, TX                      Gexa Energy Pavilion
08/16    Austin, TX                      Emo’s
08/27    Louisville, KY                 
WFPK Waterfront Wednesday
08/31    Hershey, PA                  Zac Brown Band’s Southern Ground Festival
09/03    Delmar, CA                    KPRI Party In The Paddock
09/05    Nashville, TN                  Live on the Green Festival
09/07    Atlanta, GA                    Parklife Festival
09/19    Hamburg, GER               
Reeperbahn Festival
09/20    St Peter Ording, GER     Beach Motel
10/02    Barcelona, Spain            Sala Bikini
10/03    Madrid, Spain                 Joy Eslavia
10/15    Kansas City, KS             The Riot Room
10/17    Denver, CO                    Gothic Theater
10/21    Salt Lake City, UT          Kilby Court
10/22    Boise, ID                        Knitting Factory
10/24    Seattle, WA                   Tractor Tavern
10/26    Portland, OR                  Doug Fir Lounge
10/28    San Francisco, CA         Great American Music Hall
10/29    Los Angeles, CA            El Rey
10/31 - Nov 2 New Orleans, LA    
Voodoo Music Experience
11/04    Indianapolis, IN               Deluxe at Old National Centre
11/06    Minneapolis, MN             Varsity Theater
11/07    Chicago, IL                     The Metro
11/08    Milwaukee, WI                The Rave
11/09    Cincinnati, OH                20th Century Theatre
11/11    Detroit, MI                      The Shelter
11/12    Toronto, ON                    Lee’s Palace
11/14    Portland, ME                  Port City Music Hall
11/15    Boston, MA                    Brighton Music Hall
11/16    Providence, RI                Fete Lounge
11/18    Philadelphia, PA             World Café Live
11/20    Washington, DC             9:30 Club
11/21    New York, NY                 Irving Plaza

Friday, August 1st, 2014 – Though Cut Short, Kentucky Knife Fight Still Tears Dallas a New One

This night had been a long time comin’. A little more than three-and-a-half-years since the St. Louis-based Kentucky Knife Fight made their Dallas debut, they were finally headlining a show in the city.

13th Floor Music can be thanked for that, as they helped set this whole amazing night; and it was taking place at everyone’s favorite hole-in-the-wall bar: Double Wide.

Foxtrot Uniform had the opening spot, and I was looking forward to finally seeing them again. I first happened across them a couple years ago, and since then they’ve really started making a name for themselves. Aside from that, they’ve also expanded from the original two-piece and made into a full-band effort.

With a new album due out in just about a month, they played several songs that will no doubt be on it during their 31-minute long set, like the opener, which had a heavier folk/Americana sound to it than some of their other tracks. Keyboardist Katie Robertson helped backup singer and rhythm guitarist Kenny Uptain at times, creating some nice harmonies; and once it came to an end, drummer Kelly Test bridged them right into the next song. Even by their standard, it was a pretty rocking tune, and it saw lead guitarist Morris Holdahl and bassist James Hughes become an even more dominant force.

The way they were going after it, you could tell they were wanting to fit in as much music as they could and get through it as quick as possible, and now, they turned their attention to one of the tracks of their debut full-length: Huj! Huj! Hajrah!.Kenny rolled them into “Edge of the World” — his ever-changing voice conforming to fit the more tranquil song — as he crooned in a smooth, lush tone.

They stopped after that, though it was just long enough to ready themselves for the next number. It started off rather slow, but by the time it ended it had grown into a lively Americana/rock song that talked about the future two people could have if they settled down together, and included the line “…We’ll have a big house and a boy named Sue…”. Nice way to work in a little ode of sorts to one of country music’s greats. The next song was one of my personal favorites form their set, and Katie helped Kenny in belting out the line leading up to the chorus, “You got the goddamn messiah blues.” The song just had an overall irresistible sound to it, being catchy in some regards, and was very bluesy sounding; and Morris, who used a slide on it, created some very cool textures on his axe. A couple also seemed to be thoroughly enjoying the song, and they took the ample room of empty space in front of the stage and turned it into their own personal dance floor.

They churned out a couple more, one of which had more of an authentic country style to it; while another song had some great parts where the instruments suddenly cut out for a moment, leaving Kenny and Katie to sing a cappella. It displayed the more beautiful side they are capable of, which made it a perfect setup for the closer, “Crackhead”. Kenny began the older song solo, his voice drenched with a reverb effect — an effect that makes the song as impressive as it is — as he sang, “…Forty-five-years-old, and still ain’t grown up. If you believe how the bible goes then your afterlife is fucked.” After being a noisy folk/rock band, this was a different note to end on, but I found it to be the most impressive song of the night.

There’s no denying that Foxtrot Uniform has come a long ways in a little more than a couple years. The duo slowly expanded until they found all the right players, and the fleshing out of the sound has helped them out immensely. As a two-piece I remember really liking them, and wanted to see them again, though it never worked out until now. But man, they’ve become something entirely new, now.

It’s also nice to see a band who focuses just as much on the lyrics as they do making something that has a good musical structure, and they excel at both. In all fairness, the same can apply to the other bands who played this night, too, but still, that’s a trait not just ever band has.

Point is, after this show, it was easy for me to see why Foxtrot Uniform has become such a major player in the North Texas music scene, and with the September 2nd release of Cisco fast approaching, they may well become even more of a heavyweight.

They have shows in Dallas on August 9th, 15th and 30th, at The Lot, Lee Harvey’s and The Foundry, respectively. Lola’s Saloon will host them on the 16th; and on the 28th and 29th they’ll be at the Golden Light Cantina in Amarillo and The Blue Light Live in Lubbock. Don’t forget to check out their 2012 release over on BANDCAMP.

J. Charles & The Trainrobbers had the stage next; and they had the largest crowd of the night, too, though it was just a few dozen people who ventured into the venue portion of the bar. Still, it was a healthy crowd, and one who was more than ready to see the band.

The most obvious thing when they took the stage was that Steve Visneau was not behind the drum kit. A new figure had that place; and they kicked things off with “Tennessee Roads (No Moon)” — the final full-length song off the Upon Leaving album. The song that was once reserved as the closer works surprisingly well at the start of their sets, and already the true fans were very much caught up in it as they sang along. The most striking part came towards the end, when the guitars of Keith Naylor and frontman J. Charles Saenz fell silent, along with Justin Youngs’ bass and the drums, and Saenz sang, “…Ain’t no moon to save us, no moon that I know to light up the white lines on these Tennessee roads…”. For whatever reason, it just sounded more forceful this night than the past times I’ve seen them, leaving you thinking to yourself, “Wow!”, before the band came back in and Justin added some backing vocals.

“Thank you, we’re just getting started.” Saenz told the crowd in response to their cheers and applause, as he fired up what’s arguably their most intense number: “Something Wrong”. They were, indeed, just getting started, and Justin got even more into that song, swinging his bass around in time to the heaviest drumbeats and stamping his foot along to it at times (something he did often this night). “Two, three, four.” Saenz spoke, counting them into the subsequent track of their debut album, “Three Shades of Black”, which may not have had as much of an edge, but this night it seemed just as mighty as the one that came before it.

“Cheers!” Saenz told the crowd as he raised his drink in the air. “Everybody, you all look beautiful.” he then told the crowd, before saying they were going to change things up and “do a happy one real quick.” The actual level of happiness in “Ain’t So Blue” could be debated, since it’s about cheating, but that doesn’t mean it’s not an excellent song. It’s one of my favorites, at least. Keith and Saenz took a break after to change out to different guitars, and a fan took the time to tell them he liked the lyric change they had made. “…It’s called avant-garde.” Saenz joked when he got back in front of the mic; the strap on the axe he was now brandishing being personalized with his name, J. Charles. One fan then half jokingly requested they play a Rush song, or something from Metallica. Saenz said if any of those were to ever happen, Metallica would be the most likely, and he expressed his distaste for Rush, saying there were two kinds of people in this world, “Those who like Rush, and those who don’t.” “Who doesn’t like Rush?!” the woman shouted, playfully chastising him; and Saenz even confessed he had turned down free tickets to see them in Toronto, and said he did the same a few weeks later when they came to Dallas. Some of the audience was shocked by this. To make up for, he dedicated the next song to Geddy Lee, “…Whose beer I stole in Toronto.” he finished, taking one last jab at the band.

It was a very entertaining few minutes; and when they got back to the show, they pulled out one of their newest songs (they said they’d start recording in September), and it was a fast paced, upbeat song that was impossible not to like. It was followed by another new one, and Saenz dedicated it to “Anyone who’s lost someone to fucking bullshit called cancer.” There was a lot of animosity in his voice, and understandable so, because if I remember correctly, the last time I saw them he said it was a song about his aunt. It’s easily the most emotion filled song they’ve ever produced, and it has several powerful lines like, “…Now all we have left are stories you told…” and if I heard it right, “…I grew up too fast, and you couldn’t grow old…”.

Though not as somber, “Mercy Killing” was a good one to follow that up with, and it was another that had some audience participation, as many mouthed along to the chorus, “There’s a bullet here for me, a bullet here for you. Only problem is we love each other too damn much, it’s true…” Their drummer then wound them into “Letter to a Thief”, quite seamlessly, I might add. That was the last of their old stuff for the night (I should add their set was almost cut short by a few songs, but the sound guy was informed by Saenz they had been told they had forty-five minutes so they weren’t going to stop at forty.)

“Give it up for Foxtrot Uniform.” Saenz said, calling them the “hardest working band in North Texas”, and he also encouraged everyone to stick around for Kentucky Knife Fight, saying something to the effect of if you hadn’t seen them, you were missing out. “This one’s called Catch Your Death.” he told the crowd, noting it would be on this new album. “It’s about fucking up a little too much.” Keith chimed in. It allowed them to finish on an incredibly strong note, and the song boasts a short instrumental part (which they all owned), and then the breakdown that followed shortly after was just downright cool.

That ended their 45-minute long set.

It perhaps wasn’t the best show they’ve ever done, what with still working in a new drummer and then even that attempt on the sets life seemed to create a weird vibe, even though everyone still enjoyed the final songs to the fullest. Despite all that, though, I thought it was a very solid show.

The drummer’s really great at the craft, and while the chemistry between them as a collective may have been lacking, that’s just one of those things that will take time. What chemistry was lacking between them as a whole, Saenz, Justin and Keith more than made up for, though, and they were clicking with one another on a more superior level this night than even the last time I saw them, and the performance was great.

Just goes to show that whatever shakeup the band may encounter (and they’ve already had it happen before), they’re not going to let it get them down or dampen their spirits.

If you don’t have it already, check out Upon Leaving in iTUNES. As for shows, they have one at The Foundry in Dallas on August 16th, and they’ll also be opening for Deer Tick at Gas Monkey Bar & Grill in Dallas on September 25th.

They quickly got their gear off, and Kentucky Knife Fight started getting their stuff ready. About a quarter after midnight, they were good to go.

When they played here back in January, their show was cut short, and they opted to close it with “Father”. Well, this night they had decided to open with that cut off last year’s Hush, Hush. It may not have been an old fan favorite or a ballsy rock song like ones they’ve used as openers in the past, though something about the song that gradually builds as it approaches each chorus before tapering back off just worked. Once it hit its stride, they had the dozen or so people who were still in there fully captivated. If nothing else, you have to love the chorus, and frontman Jason Holler snarled out the last bit of it in his nasally voice that makes him one of the most unique and best singers I’ve heard, “…Because the mistakes of the past are the ones that last.”

Nate Jones really shone on that track, too, throwing in some different notes on the second verse that just made the song pop. “Thank you.” Holler told the crowd, while he kept his hands wrapped around the mic, staying ready for what was coming next. Before he finished that word of thanks, James Baker was already working up a drum roll, which was only getting more intense with each passing millisecond. Then Curt Brewer and Nate slowly faded their guitars into the mix. “Bad Blood” was an instant favorite of mine from the first time I heard them do it, and they’ve only tightened it up now that they’ve been performing it for the better part of two years. Bassist Jason Koenig, Curt and Nate all harmonized with Holler as they repeated the songs title after a brief instrumental portion, and combined like that, their voices are utterly amazing. Koenig and the rest went back to rocking out, something they had no problem with, despite the confines of the small stage of this intimate venue; and Nate was again killing it with all the sweet licks.

“It’s good to be back in Dallas.” Holler stated once they were done, earning some more fanfare. The fans made some more noise once they broke into “Misshapen Love” — the subsequent track off Hush, Hush. There’s a part of the song that is sung using a bullet mic, and while that sit in front of the drum kit, Holler stuck with the standard microphone for the part. It was while he was singing that, that Curt, who had a huge smile on his face, started a clap along, before Koenig and Nate started one to a different time. It was just fun, even though nobody was confident enough to try to pick it up and join them. Speaking of fun, someone made this into a real party by bringing balloons, which were now being batted and kicked around, as people tried (though were often unsuccessful) to not let them hit the ground. Funny how simple things like that can make you feel and act like a kid again.

Thus far, their attention had been on their newest album, but they jumped all over the place this night, and now reached back to album number one, The Wolf Crept, The Children Slept, and pulled out “Wild Irish Rose”. It offered a lull for a time, as the band showed off their seldom seen soft side, but when it comes to life, it comes out swinging. “Wild Irish Rose! You are my mistress; you are my seductress. You were my dirty secret…” roared Holler at the songs peak, more than living up to the last name he so happens to have. From there, they moved on to We’re All Nameless Here, with my favorite track off the record: “Always A Bribe, Never A Bride”. On the album, the song doesn’t even take three-minutes to play out. This night it lasted at least four, if not longer. They again showed off their sensational four-part harmonies on the second chorus of, “She can tell I’m an only child. She knows why I can’t sleep at night…” Immediately after, they did something that was new to me: they broke into an extended instrumental section. It was great breakdown of the song, and then Nate sprang into action with a solo, while Holler turned his back to everyone, trying to get as out of sight as possible. At the end, they did the standard stretching out of the lines, Holler singing, “Every man.” before taking a pause. His band mates watched him, waiting for their cue. “Every woman.” he soon crooned, while the audience watched in perfect silence. They waited some more, before Curt (who was still grinning) finally proceeded to strum his guitar, prompting him to finish, “Ev-rey breath.” Some of the balloons had ended up on stage, and now there was a loud, sudden “Pop!” as Koenig intentionally stepped on one.

Curts’ banjo had been sitting off to the side so far, but it finally was put to use now. He opened up this next number, and his plucking of the strings soon revealed it to be “Paper Flowers Two”. A common thread among many songs off their latest album is that of crime, and that song exemplifies it. “All the debts that they owed would be paid back tenfold through the blood and the flesh of an unarmed man…” Holler sang at the start; and closer towards the end, Curt held his banjo up and waved it around during his solo. He kept it for “My Brave Daughter”, one of the new songs they’ve cooked up. They didn’t have a chance to do it last time they were here, and while I’ve heard a demo version of it, it does not do the live version justice. I was blown away by it; and something about the chorus of “My brave daughter, you ran off again, with some strangers more monster than man…” that just sounds so good, and oh, so vividly depicts this story.

“There’s a murder song to liven up the party.” Holler remarked, getting a chuckle from some of the onlookers. He chatted with everyone for a moment while Curt switched back to his guitar. It wouldn’t be a Kentucky Knife Fight show if they didn’t do “Herschel Walker”, and while the crowd was small, they were ecstatic to hear this classic, and made it known once it got underway. Curt and Holler even harmonized for just a couple lines of it.

Three songs were left on their set list, two of which were new, and one of those Dallas had never heard before. It’ll be a while longer before we get to, too. After asking the sound guy about their time, they found out they had just one left, and after talking it out, they decided to close with “Gunsmoke”. I would have loved to have heard the new stuff (especially “Dressed in Red”), but then again, they didn’t get to play “Gunsmoke” last time they were here, and I love that one, too. It’s raw, and even gives “Bad Blood” a run for its money, making it a good way to end this 40-minute set.

The turnout might not have been the best, but that didn’t keep Kentucky Knife Fight from delivering a fantastic show. They played their hearts out to those who were there, and they gave the liveliest and most spirited performance out of the three bands this night (and that’s saying something).

There’s a give and take I guess, ‘cause the last time they had a ton of energy to feed off of, which helped make the performance all the more enjoyable, though I would say they were even tighter as a group this time around.

I don’t know why the crowd was so small. I’ve seen KKF pack this place out on a Thursday night, and even the other bands could fill Double Wide with ease. Maybe the cover was just too rich for some peoples blood, and at $12 it was above even the typical going rate of $10 at most Deep Ellum venues, especially since you used to could get in here for a mere five or seven bucks. Then again, maybe people were just busy and couldn’t get out this night. Who knows.

What I do know is if you were there, you know that this was a night not worth missing, and that goes for anytime when KKF is coming through town.

The band will spend much of August on the road, and they’ll be back this weekend, playing Lola’s Saloon in Fort Worth on August 9th. They also have shows in Arkansas, Ohio, Missouri, Kansas, Illinois and Indiana. Full info on when and where can be found on their TOUR PAGE. Check out all three records in iTUNES, too.

I had been looking forward to this show for a little while, and it lived up to the level of hype I had given it. All three band are headline quality and each proved it this night. Really, how often does that happen?

Here’s the first ever feature piece I’ve written. I had too much fun on this; and it was cool exploring a different style of writing (different for me at least.) Click the link to read the full thing over at On Tour Monthly, but here’s the first bit to hopefully serve as a hook…

It was right at noon when I pulled up in front of a house somewhere in the city of Murphy, Texas. Upon stepping out of my car, I noticed a sign in the front yard. “Yard of the Month” it read. Now, I’m no expert on judging lawns, however the grass was lush and healthy looking, and it had been kept quite trim, looking deserving of the honor.

I knocked on the door, and from inside heard the unmistakable voice of Dustin Blocker — lead singer and founding member of the long-running North Texas band by the name of Exit 380.

“Jack, do you want to get the door for Jordan?” I heard him ask. Seconds later the door swung open, and a wide-eyed three-year-old was grinning up at me. I said hey to Blocker, and was introduced to his baby daughter and wife before congratulating them on the yard of the month honor, something he was quick to dismiss…

Single Review: “Soon” by Swindle Boys

image“Soon” — the latest single from Fort Worths’ Swindle Boys — expands on the newer direction the band is going musically. It further fleshes out the arena rock/pop sounds that first appeared on the Motion EP; and they offered fans a better glimpse just last month, when they released the first of many singles to come (a new one dropping at the start of each month).

They also self-describe themselves as having a little new wave vibe, and while the keys are still heavily used, this doesn’t sound as new wave to me as “Comeback” did. “Soon” is more a straightforward number that is a 50/50 blend of rock and pop. Much like the previous single, it comes across as a behemoth of an anthem, and one that will resonate louder within you each time to listen to it.

It’s a song about moving forward and not letting events of the past — be it tragedy, your own mistakes, etc. — define you.

“…But if the past has proven anything at all, we’ll go on.” Joey Swindle sings at the end of the first two verses. Other lines are about hammering home the fact that it — which can be relative to however the listener wants to interpret it — is just a moment, and it will pass.

It’s calming in a way, and can provide a sense of peace in listening to it, what with the smooth vocals and angelic, yet intense guitar chords. The track boasts a driven rhythm section as well.

They may only be in their second month of releasing singles, but with each one, you’re getting a clearer picture of what Swindle Boys want to do with their music, and so far, I’m really digging the grand, lush sound they’re going after. One which can appeal to indie rock fans and pop music fans alike, and they marry the two genres together in a fantastic way.

Swindle Boys is:
Joey Swindle
Matthew Swindle
Josh Brown
Chance Cochran

Purchase the album on:
iTunes / Bandcamp

Visit Swindle Boys’ websites:
Official Website / Facebook / Twitter / Youtube
imagePhoto credit: Shanna Leigh Tims

Saturday, July 26th, 2014 – An All-Star Local Lineup at Gas Monkey

Just two weeks after my first trip (finally!) to the Gas Monkey Bar & Grill, I found myself back there.

Since opening nearly one year ago, the venue has frequently hosted free shows with local bands, and it was high time I actually saw one. A stellar five-band bill had been assembled this night, which meant it would get off to an early start. Right at eight-o’clock, actually, and the sun was still shining down on what was possibly the most brutal day yet of this Texas summer.
image(Photo credit: Roxanne Fuentes | Fountain Photo Ops)

Loss Leaders had been charged with kicking off the show, and this gig came just two weeks after their CD release show, where they welcomed their debut, self-titled album into the world.

The trio kicked things off with “Long in the Tooth”, as singer and guitarist Lynyrd Stogner ripped into the sweet opening riffs, before drummer Jordan O’Leary (who was just filling in, after the departure of original drummer Paul Pace) and bassist Millard Hasbrook broke into the song just seconds later. “Hate to say that we all deserve to burn!” Lynyrd belted on the chorus, while he used any and all breaks to stroll around the stage and focus entirely on his axe. I may have been a fan for a while, but this was my first time actually seeing them, and I was already impressed with how tight they were and the nice chemistry they had going on.
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“Greetings, we are Loss Leaders.” Lynyrd informed the audience, adding, “How about that weather? It’s nice.” It wasn’t too bad now, as the sun slowly disappeared over the horizon, however, it did have some side effects. He was having to tune his guitar between nearly every song, and I’m guessing that heat had something to do with it.

He got it in working order, and then came “Brazen Bull”. It was heavy, and dominated by the pulsating bass lines, and accented nicely by Jordanon the kit. That’s one of a few songs they have that takes just a little more than two minutes to play, and they followed it with the albums closing number: “Brick”. It was another rip-roaring one, and Lynyrd owned the solo he had on it, again walking about the stage as he showed his prowess as a guitarist; and as the track ended, there was a thick reverb effect added while he sang the final words. It sounded awesome.
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“Alright…” Lynyrd remarked, again having to prep his guitar for “Serpent” — a song about being used and deceived by someone. It has a great structure to it, with the instruments being very calculated on the verses, while the choruses and bridge is just raw rock. It was one of their best live tunes.

“Got anything to say, Millard?” Lynyrd asked his band mate, not even allowing him time to respond before continuing, “No? Okay.” The followed it with the subsequent track from the record: “The Boxer”. It, too, packed a serious punch, all condensed into a little more than two-minutes and Lynyrds’ deep, forceful voice sounded monstrous on the chorus, “This is where we go to kneel and pray…”. They continued jumping around the album, and now served up “Sugar Pill”, which is the lead track. They were well into the zone by this point, operating like a well-oiled machine, and while they didn’t have as many eyes on them as they deserved, they were getting a good reaction from those who were watching.
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“This songs about forgetting shit.” Lynyrd stated, quickly correcting himself. “Stuff!” he shouted. See, there were young ears in attendance. Very young ears, and you could tell he felt bad he had said it. The three-piece rock outfit then showed their softer side with the low-key, even tranquil instrumental piece known as “Retrogradus”. That lull didn’t last long, though, as they wound it into the next track from the record, “Amnesia”. It was perfect to bang your head to.

Lynyrd check on their time, and ten minutes seemed like plenty of it to do what they needed to. He also pointed out their merch table, which was being manned by a band mate from his previous (and now defunct) band, Calling All War. “Price is negotiable when it comes to him.” said Lynyrd, referring to Matt Culpepper, who was holding up their CDs. “This song’s called Smut Hammer. It’s on the album.” he added.
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With that, they had played nearly everything they had. One song remained, however. “We work on tips. So do your bartenders… And stuff.” Lynyrd told the couple dozen or so people out there. “This song’s called Heavy Leg.” he then informed the onlookers. He went to start it, and then seemed to have forgotten how it went. “This song’s called brain fart.” he joked, showing off some quick wit. He had it then, and led them in the closing song of their 37-minute long set. This was another one that had some good effects added on the vocals, and they sounded very soupy and semi-distant at times. The highlight came at the instrumental break, when Lynyrd turned around towards Jordan, and proceeded to shred.

With that, they had played all ten tracks off the Loss Leaders LP, and it had gotten timed perfectly with how much time they had been allotted.

I hate that it has taken me so long to see these guys, but on the plus side, they’ve had plenty of time to find who they are as a band and hone just about every quality about them.
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They were so on point, working well off one another at times, while Millard, Lynyrd and Jordan also stood great on their own, each one commanding your attention at different points on each song. Along those lines, they’re also almost equal parts general rock band and instrumental band. It’s an awesome mix, especially when you’re at a show, because it allows you to admire their talents as musicians in all regards of the word.

I also have to say, I’m really impressed by Lynyrds’ voice, too. I first saw him when he did a short stint with Space Cadet, and then some Calling All War shows, and in both bands, he was just the guitarist who maybe did some backing vocals at times. But wow, the guy can sing. He has a very unique tone to his voice, and I’m just amazed he kept it under wraps for so long.

The bands going to be taking some time off as they try to find a new drummer (if you are one, hit ‘em up), but hopefully they won’t be out of commission too long. As for their album, you can listen to a few songs and purchase the whole thing on their BANDCAMP page.

Loss Leaders may have had the early slot, but in some ways it was the coolest, because you gradually got to see the sun set, which made for some great natural light on them. But by the time nine rolled around, it was dark, and Honey got the full effects of the highly professional stage lighting.
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It had been a while since I last saw the female fronted Dallas rock band, and they’ve gone through some changes since whenever that was. Singer and guitarist Kes O’Hara and bassist Holly Wood are the two original members left, while Rob Harris has stepped in as the lead guitarist, and the drummer was new, too.

That was about all that had changed, though. Well, aside from the fact that I think they had gotten even better. “Wasted on the weekend, living day to day!” shouted Kes in her gravelly voice on the chorus of “Wasted”. The audience had grown some over what the first band had, and everyone appeared to be loving their raw, gritty rock sounds that perfectly embody the 80’s era of rock music.
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They were impeccable tight this night, as was proved when their drummer tied that song into their second, and right as he delivered one of the beats, Kes jumped into the air in perfect time to it. It was a flawless segue, and now Rob really got to show off his chops, and did a sweet solo that lasted just long enough without going overboard.

“How’s it going?! We’re Honey. We’re gonna play some rock ‘n’ roll music…” Kes told the audience afterward, making the formal introductions in her thick Australian accent, which you’d never guess she had just in hearing her sing. She also mentioned how good it was to be back at Gas Monkey, even saying this was their favorite Dallas venue, and with the smile she had on her face when she said it, you could tell she meant it.
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They unloaded another unbridled song on everyone’s ears, and upon finishing it, Kes again grinned at the audience. “Thank you!” she stated as the applause and cheers rang out. They then got ready for one of their shortest, though most intense tracks: “Free Ride”. It’s an onslaught of sweet guitar licks and deafening drums, and it was obvious their drummer was completely in his element on that fast paced tune. Kes and Holly Wood turned towards one another during the instrumental break, each working off the other while they rocked out, and there was a certain sense of grace to Holly Wood’s slick style of playing.

The ever growing crowd was pretty boisterous after that, and grew even more excited when Kes mentioned this next was originally done by Free, and that Blackfoot had also done a version. “…This is the Honey version, I guess.” she said, almost thinking aloud. The song was “Wishing Well”, though they dirtied it up some to better fit their style. It was a great rendition of it, and it was nice to hear them do a cover that was new to me; and as they brought it to a close, Rob, Holly Wood and Kes all crowded around the drum kit, leading to a well executed end.
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“Come outside all you inside folks!” Kes shouted, trying to get the people in the restaurant portion of the venue out there. I think the request went unnoticed by them, though. So instead, they started on their next song, beginning with some heavy beats on the kick drum. “Give it up for Miss Holly Wood on the bass. Laying it down!” said Kes, as her band mate proceeded to lace some riffs over the kick drum, before the rest of them tore into the aggressive “Whiplash”. No sooner had it ended and then Kes rolled them into another cover, “Scarred for Life”. It felt like a very appropriate one for them to do, especially as Kes belted out the chorus, “…I fought my way through the trouble and strife. I was scarred. My reputation it cuts like a knife…”

Once it was over, she mentioned it was an “old Rose Tattoo” song, asking if anyone was familiar with them. “…They’re a badass Australian band…” she told the audience, which made them extra special to her. Their 37-minute long set was almost over, but they still had time for a couple more. The first found Holly Wood making her way back to the drum kit at one point; where she interacted a little more with the drummer, while Rob and Kes stood next to one another as they shredded on their guitars. Before their closing number, Kes mentioned it was about her brother, and it was a powerhouse song to end on.
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It’s hard to believe it’s just been a little over a year ago since Honey did their debut full-band show. It already seems like they’ve been a part of the scene longer than that, thanks partly to their heavy show schedule; and the lineup changes they’ve undergone haven’t kept them out of action for too long.

Even with newer members in the fold, I was amazed at how much chemistry the four of them already had, seeming like they’d logged hundreds of shows as this incarnation. I guess that just speaks as to what exceptional musicians they all are; and they owned the stage this night, captivating all who happened to make their way to the outside patio.
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You can listen to some of their music on their REVERBNATION page. As for shows, they’ll be at Wits End in Dallas on August 3rd; Trees on the 21st opening for LA Guns; September 5th at Tomcats West in Fort Worth; and September 20th at O’Riley’s in Dallas.
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Now came the part of the night I was most excited about. I had missed LA Wedding’s debut full-band show the month prior because I had a cousins wedding to go to, but I wasn’t about to miss their second gig.
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I find it hard to believe that it has already been a little over four years since Siren City played what wound up being their final show, and sometime after that, vocalist Randy Stephens moved to Florida for a while. So, sans a guest spot he did in co-singing a number with The FEDS during that bands reunion show in January 2012 and supplying some backing vocals for Little Sisters of the Poor at a show this past January, it had been years since I had really seen him perform.

As I said, I was excited about this.

For those who do not know, the rest of LA Wedding is made up of much of the same players from the band Ursa (minus the singer); and it was shortly after ten when they hit the stage.
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Their 35-minute set got going with what is arguably their catchiest song, and I would have to say my personal favorite, “Responsible”. It’s partly a love song, and there were already plenty of people singing along with Randy on the chorus, “There’s not enough heartache to make me die young… There aren’t enough bad dreams to make me turn and run…” As catchy and even rocking as it was, there was some soothing aspect to it as well, perhaps partly found in the slightly higher register that Randy sings in, which has a smooth tone to it. In regards to the crowd, it was amazing how massive it had suddenly gotten. The spacious patio which had been all too easy to walk around was now barely maneuverable as people packed in as tightly as they could around the stage.

“What’s up Gas Monkey?” Randy asked. He had one foot propped up on one of the monitors (his stage mannerisms haven’t changed a bit. That’s a good thing.) and he banged his head to the first beat that Ross Rubio knocked out. “If you know it, sing it.” he told their adoring fans as they got “Closure” — which was the first single they released off the Degree of Discomfort EP — underway. Dave Perez and Jovan Santos’ guitars were far more vibrant on that track that ebbs and flows nicely; and the second to last time Randy sang, “I just need some closure…”, he belted it out in a louder, fiercer tone than he had thus far, and then slowly pulled the microphone away from his mouth, making his own little effect.
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“We arranged for everyone to get in…” he quipped, before muttering, “Jokes and jokes and jokes.” while his band mates got ready for the next song. That next one was “Going Under”, which just reeled the onlookers in more with the great backing vocals Ross and Dave added in at times, and bassist Pat Llull helped in solidifying a hefty rhythm section throughout the track. There was plenty more singing along from those already familiar with the EP, too, and many fans could be seen mouthing the words to the chorus, “…Cause death would have much more to offer than going on without you.”

Randy had been quite energetic so far, moving all about the stage; but now, he went over to where he had sit the mic stand, back by one of the amps. It gave the impression they were about to slow things down, and sure enough they did with a cover of “Madness” by Muse. They’re still a rock band, but not quite in the same vein as their past projects, and some of their songs do fit the style of this Muse tune, making it a good one for them to cover. They didn’t keep it toned down for long, though, and about halfway through Randy pulled the mic out and sit the stand back where it was out of the way.
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“We wrote that in the van on the way over here.” he joked afterwards, prompting some loud laughter from those watching them. He proceeded to thank everyone for coming out in the first place, and soon talk shifted to the next song, one he said was not on the disc they had for sale. However, an acoustic version was teased as possibly being released in the near future. It was titled “Believe It”, and it was easily one of the best things they did this night. “…You can tell the world that I’m not coming back for it. Not this time. ‘Cause all that’s mine is mine, ‘cause I dared to believe it.” he shouted on the chorus, backing up the lyrics with loads of passion in his voice. That track alone already has me looking forward to a follow-up album.

The crowd loved it, and the band had another special one to do next. “…This is the first one we wrote collectively…” Randy stated, saying it was a “love song” but also a “love, hate song”. “You guys are weird.” he then joked with the audience. “In fact, let’s get weird together.” he said, beaming at everyone. This one was called “Such Things”, and it was another strong one; and at one point in the latter half of it, Randy slowly dropped to his knees while he was singing a line. “Such things. You shouldn’t say them.” he spoke once the track was over, reusing part of the chorus.

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Dave then took over on his mic. “How we doing?!” he asked, and after getting a meager reaction, he told the crowd they could do better and repeated the question. They were louder this time around. They showed off a little softer side (at least at times) with “Bad Boy”, and immediately upon finishing it, Jovan began quickly strumming his guitar, progressively getting faster. Soon, Ross came in strong on the bass drum, and Randy thanked everyone for coming out. “This is The Hard Way.” he informed everyone, as they started to wind down with the most aggressive track in their repertoire. It was the peak of their performance, and all five of them were in the zone on that one, especially Randy, who spent much of the track with his left hand behind his back (remember what I said earlier about his mannerisms still being the same? Yeah.)

With that, they had just one last song to do from the EP, and they had saved the final track, “I Know You Love Me”, for the closer, and the love song made for an uplifting note to end on.
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A lot of time has been put into LA Wedding, beginning as an acoustic duo, before recording their EP and eventually solidifying themselves as a full-band. That time and effort was quite evident this night.

It can’t hurt, either, that everyone in the band is a well loved veteran of the DFW music scene, and also that Pat, Ross, Jovan and Dave have plenty of experience together in the first place, so the dynamics are already there.

Randy meshes with them (or they mesh with him) perfectly, and already, with just two shows now under their belt, they seem to have become a beloved staple in the Dallas music scene. It may be too early to officially say that, though it seems within the realm of possibility.

Regardless, I know there are a lot of people just glad that Randy is back where he belongs and making music that they can enjoy going and hearing live. It has been a long time coming, but it was worth the wait.

You can snag the Degree of Discomfort EP on Bandcamp. At the very least, go give it a listen.
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The rest of the night was more or less uncharted territory for me.

The Kül had the main support slot, and while they are a Dallas-based band, they were one I had never heard of before. Now I have to ask myself, “How have they flown under my radar for so long?”

Their 45-minute long set was a mix of old and new songs, and “Everyday” kicked it off. The band is an interesting marrying of genres, with frontman Johnny Lenix having a definite soul quality to his voice, even coming across as a gospel vocalist at times as he sang over the thunderous bass lines Ashley Jeans was knocking out. He was raring to go, and already racing about the stage and jumping around, exuding an aura that just commanded your attention; while Dane Manshack and Jonan Rigsbee mixed in some soaring guitar solos at times.
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“Y’all feeling alright?!” Johnny asked once the song came to an end. They already had people raving. He thanked Gas Monkey for having them and the other bands they were sharing the stage with. “Now it’s time to party.” he finished. They moved on to a newer jam — one that will presumably be on the new album they later said would be out in a month or so — and Dane was shredding so hard on it, he broke a string. It was early on in the track, too, though he powered through it; and luckily, he had another guitar at the ready, making a swift change during the next break.

“We’re just getting warmed up…” Johnny announced. It’s a statement bands make all the time, albeit a bold one. But in The Kül’s case, it really did seem like they had just been scratching the surface thus far. They jumped into another high-energy number, and after finishing one line, Johnny let go of the mic stand, getting more into the groove of the music and the beat Jeff Mount was laying down. It was then the microphone fell out of the stand and hit the floor. It was unexpected, though it worked out rather well, making for a cool moment when he picked up the mic and the stand began to fall, something he let happen.
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Afterwards, he mentioned the title of the next number, “Take What You Want”. “The police ain’t here, but we’re not gonna steal anything. Just take some things back.” he informed everyone, before proceeding to pump his fits in the air. “Put your fist up like this!” he instructed, as dozens and dozens of hands shot up in the air. It was shorter, though filled with raw emotion and talent as they raced through it. “You feeling good tonight, on this hot Dallas, Texas summer evening?” asked Johnny when it was over. Dane then chimed in, asking if there were any Band of Gypsies fans out there, and of course, there were some. “We had the honor of working with Buddy Miles on this next song…” he told the audience, which they took as an impressive accomplishment.

“My mind is caught in a daze, in this electric haze…” went the first line of “Kronic Kastle”, which did sound like some Jimi Hendrix himself could have written. It was very bluesy at times, and after a couple minutes, they stopped, making those unfamiliar with them think perhaps the song was already over. “You guys feeling alright?” Johnny asked, before they jumped back into the song, kicking it into overdrive. They weren’t going to relent, either, and once it ended, Ashley kept right on with some bass chords, before Jeff eventually laid some beats over it. “Y’all still with us Gas Monkey?!” roared Dan as they got the steamy track, “Desire”, going; a song that ended with Johnny shaking a tambourine around.
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“Y’all alright, alright, alright?!” asked Johnny afterwards, continuing on and saying this next song was called “Flashing Lights”. “I don’t know why we named it Flashing Lights…” he remarked. There may be no real rhyme or reason behind the title, but it works, and the song was often more fiery than anything they had done this night. I think it was the keys that really set it off. A keyboard sat close to the drum kit on stage right, and Johnny used it more on this one than he had any other time this night.

“We appreciate all y’all coming out and supporting all these kick ass local bands.” he told the onlookers. Some pounding bass lines then set them off on another song, which was pretty relaxed on the verses, but sprang to life each time they hit the chorus. It ended with Johnny falling to his knees and screaming into a mic, a cool reverb effect added to his voice. They were well into their stride by now, but they pushed themselves even further, diving right into the next song, and then immediately tackling another, as Johnny led everyone in a rapid clap along.
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It was during that latter number he asked his band mates to bring it down. “No, that’s too loud. Bring it all the way down.” he told them. “Y’all feeling good?! Y’all feeling good?!” he asked the spectators, who responded with cheers. As I said, they were firing on a whole new level now, and that one ended with Johnny throwing his arm into the air in synch to some of the drum beats; and then he dedicated their final song to all the ladies. “Cheeky Girl” was one you could dance to if you wanted, and it was also their most intense song, featuring a dueling guitar solo from Jonan and Dane, which was absolutely killer. Johnny finished his part, and then left Jeff, Ashley, Dane and Jonan to finish the tune.

These guys and girl came as a total shock to me. Not that I wasn’t expecting them to be good, but I wasn’t prepared for the overwhelming stage show they delivered.
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They were a force to be reckoned with, and started out being all in, and then somehow just got progressively better the further along they went. The world needs more bands with energy like this. They weren’t the only example of that this night, though they are proof that going out to a concert can and should be an experience that has the crowd wide-eyed and curious as to what the band is going to do next.

As I mentioned, their sound was great, too. A little soul revival, a lot of rock ‘n’ roll and a little blues made for something that was original and always kept your interest.

Again, I ask, “How have I gone this long without knowing about The Kül?” I don’t really know how that happened, but I’m really glad I stumbled across them.

As of now, their next show will be October 5th at Trees; and their new album will be dropping sometime in August.
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The Heroine was closing out the show. I had heard of them, and even seen them before. It was anywhere from four to six years ago probably, up at a club in Denton, and either they’ve changed since then, or my memory of them all those years ago isn’t all that good.
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See, I remember them is a hard rock band who did a fair amount of screaming, more along the lines of what modern metal bands do.

The six-piece (they were rounded out by a keyboardist) took the stage right around midnight, and vocalist Lynnwood Presley King grabbed the slack of the mic cord. He pulled it, causing the stand to swing back and forth, much like it was a dancing partner, and he treated it as such throughout their set, showing equal amounts of love and aggression while he sang.

They opened with a track from the Songs from the Southland EP, and if they had been a heavy rock band all those years ago, it was quickly clear they were now a Southern rock outfit. That bled through on “Outlaw” — which was an ideal opener with roaring guitar solos, while the chorus of, “I’m an outlaw on the run. Say I’m trouble, I’m a loaded gun. A wanted man…”, seemed an appropriate self-description.
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The crowd had thinned out some, but there were still plenty who had stuck around, and none of them really had a chance to applaud, as drummer Johnny Lightning rolled them into “Balled of Lenny King”, and the blistering pace only intensified. Just in the way they handled themselves you could tell this was a touring band. It was the type of cohesiveness that could only come with logging hundreds of shows. King did scream some of the lines; while Jorge “The Kid” Luevano and Dibby Disaster assaulted their guitars; and the drums were the backbone of this fast-paced tune that had everyone looking on in awe.

They focused a lot on their newly released Playing for Keeps album, and as they took a brief pause, King mentioned this next one was his personal favorite. He dedicated it to “every honest man and woman” who gets up early each day and went to an honest job to make an honest living for them and their families. He then got a clap along going while his band mates started “Hardworking Man”. The raw and at times brutal song featured what was perhaps the greatest moment of their set, when King poured a partial bottle of water on his head, his lengthy hair and massive beard soaking it all up. He then shook his head, sending all the tiny water particles flying all over the place, no doubt getting on some of his band mates; and no sooner had he done that, then he picked up the mic stand, holding it parallel to the floor, and then leapt into the air. Classic rock star move.
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Upon finishing it, he confessed his excitement for being here, saying once he found out the Gas Monkey existed, he was hoping that “Richard R.” might just happen to be there this night, see their old, beat up van and decide to fix it up for them. (GMB&G is owned by Richard Rawlings of the Discovery channels’ show Fast N’ Loud.) That wasn’t in the cards for them this night, but maybe if they happen to make a return trip.

They got back to rockin’ with “Texas Star”, and at one of the later choruses, King held the mic out to the audience, letting them sing the easy to pick up part of, “Alright! Hell yeah!” However, the best moment came when he threw the whole mic stand several feet into the air, then caught it like it was the easiest thing in the world. At this point, he mentioned they had been dropped from three major record labels all in the past five years, taking a slight shot at Universal, who was apparently the most recent on that list. It’s a shame, really. It’s not because The Heroine doesn’t have talent. Actually, I’d bet they have more than a lot of bands on the labels, but they don’t have the name recognition to bring in the big bucks, which is really what matters these days.
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That led them to “Make a Move”, a song that The Kid suddenly left the stage during, freeing up some space for King, Disaster and bassist Gulie Vargulish, and they took advantage of it, moving around even more than they had been. Soon, The Kid came rushing back to the stage, though, jumping back up on his side at stage right, and running right over to the drum riser as he shredded away.

“This is a song we wrote about our van.” King told the crowd, saying that any other band members who might be in attendance just might know what he was talking about. It was called “Night Rocker”, and it was yet another pulse-pounding jam they churned out, and one that seemed to perfectly embody the band lifestyle/spirit. “Thank you guys so much. We really appreciate y’all being here…” King said afterward, speaking from the heart. He then made another call for some water on the stage; while I believe it was The Kid who joked he needed a shot or something instead. “…My liver can’t handle water…” he laughed.
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“She’s Fine” was another stellar track, and one that focused on being infatuated by a woman as soon as you saw her. Nothing new, but the way they did… Well, I think it was one of the best songs of their show. They stopped during it, giving the impression that was over, as King took on a sudden soul singer demeanor. “…I’m gonna tell you something!” he said, starting into a speech that I know I’m paraphrasing, but was close to, “She may not want you in bed next to her, and you may think she’s mad ‘cause you didn’t do the dishes or something. Well, I’m gonna tell ya…” he preached, getting to the point (which I admittedly had trouble understanding all of.)

“You know it’s hardcore when it’s after twelve-thirty and you’re still here!” he declared after that number. They then started what I guess could be called a reprise of “Night Rocker”. “I’m driving eighty-five in a ninety-four…” King repeatedly crooned, while the keyboardist played some gentle notes. It went on like that for a few moments, before Lightning, Vargulish and the rest suddenly tore into the song, transforming it into another lively number.
image(Photo credit: Roxanne Fuentes | Fountain Photo Ops)

King then took on that soul singer persona again, and now spoke about when you lay down in bed next to woman you love, and you say, “Baby I paid the bills… Who do you love?” The song was a little more blues inspired one titled “Who Do You Love?”, and they were in their element on it. King had done that periodically with the mic cord, but it was at its best now, as he grabbed it and in a slick manner slung the stand all over the stage, pulling it close when he needed to sing. At one point, he was doing that and stopped to start a clap along, though the stand was off balance and began to topple over. Instead of rushing to save it, he let happen, then eventually walked over to where the stand fell and used his foot to kick it back up, all in one fluid motion. The audience loved it when he sent the stand flying into the air; and the song ended with him on his knees and his arms raised, as if he were praying to the rock gods and channeling the energy they were sending his way.

Their 48-minute long set was nearly over, and now, it took a slightly more religious turn, as King spoke of having dreams of greatness and feeling that “God has a calling on your life”. “And no matter where you go, you can’t get away. And any time you got a great destiny; any time you got a calling, someone may be out there trying to discourage you. I call that power the Silver Tongue Lady!” he shouted, gradually getting louder the further he got into his sermon. “But you need to put your God up and don’t let her get you!” he finished, while his band mates began “Silver Tongue Lady”. The gospel message was picked back up towards the end of the song, when he cried out, “Hallelujah!”. “We are The Heroine from San Antonio…” King finished, mentioning they had the spirit of God with them and to “praise Jesus”, before he walked off stage. The stage was then set for Vargulish, Disaster, The Kid and Lightning to close out the set with a truly epic instrumental outro, one that saw Disaster raising his axe behind his head.
image(Photo credit: Roxanne Fuentes | Fountain Photo Ops)

What a show this was.

The Heroine provided a performance that was full of non-stop action; and while some people did head out while they were still playing, the majority found themselves fixated on a band they probably hadn’t heard of before, but knew they needed to get acquainted with now.

Regardless of what style the band may have been when I first saw them, I do know they’ve changed and grown a lot as a band over the years. This was the type of show, in terms of performance, that you wouldn’t think twice about shelling out twenty to twenty-five bucks for; and this is a band that could easily play thousand plus capacity venues, if only their music got out to more ears.

There can be little doubt that, that will happen one day, it’s just a matter of time. They may have had some bad luck with record labels over the past few years, but some day someone will realize them for the gem they are. It’s just a shame that pure talent is often cast aside in favor of what sells. You just have to keep the faith though, and The Heroine doesn’t seem like a band who will ever stop doing what they love.

You can find their albums in iTUNES; and they have a little tour they are on now, which will include a couple dates at Sturgis. They’ll also be in Fort Worth at The Grotto on August 10th, and they’ll be hitting several other states in between. Full info can be found HERE.

What a night this was and it served as further proof as to what an exceptional music scene North Texas and even Texas in general has. After all, how often is it you see a five-band bill and all five bands are amazing? Well, if you’re really in tune to the music scene here, that can be almost a weekly occurrence.
imageimageimageimageimageimage(Photo credit: Roxanne Fuentes | Fountain Photo Ops)

Indie Rockers Foxtrot Uniform Crack New Musical Code with Release of Cisco

imageFrom the minute they became a band in 2011, Foxtrot Uniform formed their own musical language, speaking through sinuous grooves, intriguing textures and nods to some unexpected historical references. On their Sept. 2, 2014, release, Cisco, the Dallas-Fort Worth band display their mastery of many dialects, fusing rootsy rock, funk and even psychedelic blues into 10 seductive originals.

Named for the location of the country house where it was recorded, Cisco follows the band’s lauded 2012 debut, Huj! Huj! Hajrah!, which ranked No. 3 on Fort Worth Weekly’s year-end top 10 list. Characterizing Cisco as bluesy, soulful, gritty and raw, the paper already has praised the album as “a sumptuous, moody, slow-burning experience.”

That experience includes soon-to-be-buzz tracks “Honey Bee,” “Grab My Gun” and “Never Get Out of California,” along with “Not Alone,” on which guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Kenny Uptain gives a loving nod to the Mickey & Sylvia hit, “Love is Strange.”

nd now Uptain, co-founding drummer/harmony vocalist Kelly Test and keyboardist/vocalist Katie Robertson, the band’s core trio, are ready to decode it all for fans with several special shows this fall to celebrate the new album.

Uptain and Test share a history dating back to their time together in the Mike Mancy Band. Test, no stranger to high-profile gigs, also has performed with Cooder Graw and Pat Green, and still plays percussion with the Polyphonic Spree, with whom he appeared on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” in 2013. He also engineered the album, and photographed the cover-art images of a burning chair — which met its demise in a father-son bonding moment years ago.

“Why put a La-Z-Boy in the dump when you can drink some whiskey with your father and burn stuff on a Friday night?” jokes Test, who says the photos remind him of his dad’s “rebellious, mischievous, witty spirit.” Test once refused a friend’s offer to buy them for use on an album cover because he was saving them for his own — never dreaming they’d wind up on an album recorded at, and named after, the very site of the chair’s sacrifice.

Talk about recycling. That’s the DIY way, and if there’s anything Foxtrot Uniform stands for, it’s getting it done — on their terms.

Current shows (please check for updates):
Aug. 28 – Golden Light Cantina, Amarillo, Texas
Aug. 29 – The Blue Light, Lubbock, Texas
Aug. 30 – Foundry Bar, Dallas
Sept. 27 – Bear Creek Park, Keller, Texas
Oct. 5 – Huey’s Midtown, Memphis, Tenn.
Oct. 7 – The Basement, Nashville
Oct. 8 – Terrapin Brewery, Athens, Ga.
Oct. 12 – Huey’s Cordova, Memphis, Tenn.
Nov. 7 – Stanley’s, Tyler, Texas

Follow the band at:

Album Review: Mesocyclone by Nicholas Altobelli

imageNicholas Altobelli is a singer/songwriter through and through, perfectly embodying the genre.

One reason I say that is because just last year, in the earlier part of 2013, he released Without a Home to much critical acclaim, garnering praise from the smallest to the biggest media outlets in North Texas, and even from areas elsewhere. It was a different record for him, as he enlisted the help from several friends and fellow musicians, making it into a full-band effort, and in doing so left behind the solo, almost Americana/folk sound for some more poppy tracks.

Shortly after releasing it, though, he was already talking about a follow-up, even starting on songs for it. However, the year plus it has taken to create and release said follow-up wasn’t an easy one for Altobelli. His marriage came to an end during that time, and he also found himself going back to college to pursue a degree in history.

The result of that heartache is the 6-song Mesocyclone EP. The Gigawatts (his backing band) are again utilized, though they return to what Altobelli does best: folk/Americana songs. Poignant ones at that, and even though he’s known for writing more somber songs, this collection takes it to a new level.

The title of the EP isn’t the only weather reference on this album. Take for example the title of the lead track, “Thunderstorms”. While a full-band may be used, the most prominent elements of the music are still Nicholas’ voice and acoustic guitar, though the heavy use of the drums adds a nice kick to the song, while the pedal steel guitar creates some gorgeous moments, though you can hear that even those notes have a tinge of sadness to them. Various metaphors of wind and rain are weaved in as Altobelli croons about the beginning stages of a relationships demise, trying to put a positive spin on it. “…I just want you to know, thunderstorms don’t last.”

Each song tells the next line in the story, and for “Black or Blue”, that seems to be a line about how important communication is. “If I only understood, I could have been your king. If I only understood, you would have kept this ring…” Altobelli woefully sings. This is a contender for the saddest song on the album, and it’s one filled with what ifs, forever wondering if things had been different how they might have worked out. The saddest thing is, it’s hoping they still will [work out], as the chorus, “And I know that tomorrow you will see what’s been missing you…” suggests.

“I called your bluff and I called it hard. Now I’m left with a clotted scar…” goes the second verse of “Pretty Little Daffodil”, a track that finds Altobelli going back to his roots as a solo musician, armed with only an acoustic guitar. That format is behooving of the mood the song has, which is partly about how hard it is to say goodbye to someone you’ve come to know so much about and spent so much time with.  There’s also a soft and subtle sound of rain mixed into the track, helping intensify the mood.

“Memories” is a little more about acceptance of the situation, albeit reluctant acceptance. Altobelli is one of the best lyricists in the North Texas music scene and that talent is showcased exceedingly well on this track, especially on the final verse, “…Just like the love cherished, this too will perish. The memories we had are all that we’ll ever have…” The track exudes heartache, which shines through on every word. “Memories” also sees the return of The Gigawatts, and the piano is heavily featured, and it and the acoustic often complement one another. Quite well, I might add.

In making this EP, Altobelli also looked to the past, resurrecting a song from the Dog Years EP, “Summer Rain”. The fact that this version is so much more fleshed out with the drums, pedal steel, etc. makes it all the more impressive over the original version. It may have been written years prior, yet it fits the story arc of this record surprisingly well. It sounds desolate, and even with a band, that feeling is conveyed in the music. You’ll feel broken just by simply listening to it.

The delicate sound of rain falling is again heard behind the acoustic and Altobellis’ voice on “Odd Numbers”. It’s a fitting closing number, and despite being hurt, the core message is love is always worth it. “…I wouldn’t trade it in to ease the pain that I felt.” he softly sings as the first verse ends. It’s really a simple song in certain aspects, often repeating the chorus. But as I’ve said before about other bands: there’s beauty in simplicity. “…Yes, the darkness came, but the light sure gave a try…”. That’s such  a powerful line, and my take away from it is regardless how something ends, you should just be glad it happened in the first place. Be grateful you got to experience it for some amount of time, even if you’re left not understanding everything.

It’s sad that the most ardent music has to be born out of the most anguishing of circumstances. Yet in some cruel twist of fate, there’s also beauty in that.

I’m sure there are countless numbers of examples of that in music, and I can think of a few myself, where one album a band produces ends up being superior to anything else they have or perhaps even will do, because it’s so raw. Such is the case with Nicholas Altobelli and Mesocyclone.

The life changing events that he went through led to the best music he has done to date. Yes, it’s even better than Without a Home.

It’s so personal, and he has no trouble laying it all out there for the listener; and I imagine this was somewhat of a cathartic experience for him, too.

As I said, Nicholas Altobelli isn’t known for being the cheeriest songwriter there is, but Mesocyclone takes the sadness and despair often found in his music to a whole new level, completely immersing you in the breakup. It’s so rare you get a front row seat like that.

Don’t let that somber tone keep you from listening, though. This may not be an uplifting record, but it’s one you have to listen to. Savor how fluid these six songs are. How they gradually progress the tale. A tale that takes a mere 22-minutes to tell; and once it’s over, just be grateful you were given this glimpse into the life of Altobelli.

Key players in making the record were:
Nicholas Altobelli: acoustic guitars
Heather Kitzman: pedal steel
Trey Carmichael: drums
Daniel Markham: bass
Tony Whitlock: electric guitar
Rahim Quazi: piano
Salim Nourallah: electric guitar, backing vocals

Purchase the album on:
iTUNES (you can pre-order it now. Official release date is August 5th.) / Amazon / CD / Bandcamp

Visit Nicholas Altobellis’ websites:
Official Website / Facebook / Twitter / Youtube
image(Photo credit: Sally Durrum)

Thursday, July 24th, 2014 – The Toadies’ Rubberneck Tour Descends Upon Denton

Denton — and more specifically The Rockin’ Rodeo — was the place to be this night.

After a little break, The Toadies were getting ready to head out on their third (and presumably final) leg of the 20th Anniversary Rubberneck Tour. They were kicking it off in the college town, not too far from the UNT campus, and just like every time they’ve played the Rockin’ Rodeo (which is every other year), this show was sold-out.

The venue is located in a shopping centre, and even at nine-o’clock — an hour after doors opened — there were a few dozen people waiting in line, a line that stretched out into the parking lot. Granted, they were people who didn’t have tickets and were hoping some might become available later on.

The line for will call was considerably shorter, but still time consuming as far as waiting went. As owner Lloyd Banks pointed out shortly before The Toadies took the stage, Denton is still not wet, so they’re still stuck with outdated prohibition laws that make checking ID’s more of an ordeal than they should be. Hopefully that will change after the November election this year.

The Rockin’ Rodeo was already a happen’ place, and there was a short twenty minute or so wait before Ume took the stage.

“Hey, Denton! We’re Ume.” singer and guitarist Lauren Larson said in a cheery voice, greeting everyone once they took the stage. With that, Aaron Perez counted them into “The Conductor”, and they began wowing the onlookers, most of whom seemed unfamiliar with the Austin-based trio. Lauren’s talent as a guitarist came out quickly, and during the instrumental break the song has, she raised her axe above her head while continuing to play, an action that people raved over.

That classic was followed by one of many new songs from the Monuments album, and at times on “Too Big World”, they offered a glimpse of their shoegaze side. Lauren was getting more into the zone, kneeling during the instrumental break, shredding as she hunched over her guitar. Bassist Eric Larson and Aaron were having no trouble holding their own either, and exploded at the end, while Lauren whipped her head around, her hair swirling in the air. Two songs was all it took to completely win everyone over, and it was clear a lot of people had a new favorite band. They barely stopped for applause, though, and Eric wound them directly into one of my favorites from the Phantoms album, “Burst”. Each track was warming them up more and more; and as that one ended, Eric attacked his bass, relentlessly slapping it and executing complete control.

Applause again rang out in the venue, and Lauren looked up, waved at everyone and then flashed a smile before starting the closing track off their newest record: “Reason”. It was often gritty and brutal, with Lauren screaming out some of the occasionally gauzy lyrics. No sooner had it ended, then Aaron delivered a quick count on the drums, and they tore into “Embrace”. “…Embrace what’s been denied…” Lauren snarled on the chorus of that pulse-pounding track, before again showing her prowess as a guitarist at the tail end of it.

“Thank y’all so much!” she exclaimed afterwards, as they readied “Huricane II”. The buildup the song has is something else, and mixed in with the often haunting guitar chords, it has no trouble reeling you in. Lauren continued to slay on her axe, again dropping to her knees as the music consumed her; and a seemingly fitting track to follow that with was “Oh Fate”, which Aaron started with a steady, heavy drum roll, while his band mates prepared for it. The further the three progressed with it, the more intense they all got, leading to a brutal ending, which turned into a seamless segue into “Until The End”. Lauren made her way over to stage left towards the end, and she and Eric faced one another for a few moments as they rocked out on their respective instruments.

They showed no sign of stopping, and while I was expecting them to do an abbreviated set, they ended up doing their usual headline length show. They cranked out another tune, and the best part came at the end, when Lauren more or less collapsed in a lifeless heap, timing it perfectly to the songs end, and then sprang up suddenly when the applause arose.

“Chase It Down” came next, and as it reached its peak, Lauren pumped her fist in the air, intensifying the excitement the spectators were feeling. Upon finishing it, she gave The Toadies their well deserved “massive thanks” for bringing them back out on the road with them, before announcing they had just two more to go. The first was “Baby Xie-Xie”, which dates back to their 2005 album Urgent Sea. Lauren was kicking the air and banging her head to the drums during the brief instrumental pieces between the verses, showing off some pretty fancy moves. They then wound it flawlessly into their latest single, “Black Stone”, and that pure, raw rock song ended their 47-minute long set.

I had seen Ume just the month before in Dallas — where they headlined — and it was awesome seeing them do the same thing this night. I’m not even referring to the set (though it was almost identical), but more they got ample time to show who they are.

Who they are is one of the most astounding bands in the Lone Star State, and quite easily well beyond those borders. Their sound is pretty original, mixing shoegaze and alt/rock, and perhaps even some indie thrown in at times. And even though I had just seen them fairly recently, I actually found them even more captivating this night.

Their live show is where it’s really at. They dominate every stage they take, and you can see their passion for it come through as they’re performing.

They’ll be touring with The Toadies through August 2nd, with remaining shows being in New Mexico, Colorado, Missouri, Nebraska and Arkansas. Check out their TOUR PAGE for full details. Do check out their music in iTUNES, too.

The night had gotten off to a later start than originally intended, and with Ume playing the better part of an hour, there was clearly no way The Toadies were going to make the scheduled 10:30 start time. That was pretty much irrelevant, though; and before long, there was no empty space left, as people crammed into every crevice they could find, all hoping for the best view possible.

I was becoming more cautious, ‘cause the last two times they have played here, the crowd has been extremely rowdy. No one was really safe from the moshing, and venue staff have even had to stand in the crowd to ensure things don’t get too out of hand. Considering how riled up people were getting, chanting “TOADIES!” over and over, I was expecting more or less the same this time around.

I know this expression gets used a lot, and I’ve said it many times, too, but when Mark Reznicek, Doni Blair, Vaden Todd Lewis and Clark Vogeler took the stage, the fans reaction truly was deafening. I’ve seen my fair share of Toadies shows, and I think this was the strongest, noisiest fanfare I’ve heard them get from a crowd.

You would have thought people had been waiting their whole lives just for this one night… Well, at least twenty years.

The sounds of “Mexican Hairless” quelled the audience slightly, though they were no less vibrant, jumping around and screaming during that instrumental track that sadly, with the exception of this tour, is seldom heard. Fans got a moment to cheer them on after that number, before Clark knocked out the opening lines of “Mister Love”. You want to know just how much the crowd was enjoying this? Some started their own clap along during the track, and it spread like wildfire. Vaden appeared a little taken aback by it, as more and more hands shot into the air and kept up with Marks’ drumming. He [Vaden] was often seen extending his arms towards the crowd during that one, pointing at the fans and at times looking as if he were conducting an orchestra; and at one point, he just went with it, striking his palms together in time with everyone else.

In just two songs, one thing was already clear: this was a well rested Toadies. Their Dallas show back in May came in the latter part of the second leg of the tour, and while I would by no means say they were worn that night, they just didn’t have the extra sparkle they did this night, either. All of them seemed legitimately excited to see a crowd of this size and to be playing their songs for everyone.

They had to stop, even if it was just for a few seconds, to allow some applause, and then, as if they didn’t know it was coming, everyone screamed with delight when Vaden strummed his guitar and sang, “Bended knee; nine-years-old…”, the opening line of “Backslider”. That was when things really started going crazy. A majority of the people were jumping about, and getting your feet stepped on just came with the territory, while nearly everyone screamed along at the top of their lungs, “…And I prayed, ‘Sweet Jesus, don’t let me become a backslider!”

A brief intermission came so the band could tune, and then the night reached a fever pitch with “Possum Kingdom”. Of course, it’s these old Rubberneck songs fans always react to the best in the first place, given that it is such an iconic album, but this night, for whatever reason, fans were even more taken by them. It’s really a good thing the sound was turned up as loud as it was, otherwise it would have been almost impossible to hear the band over everyone’s voices. They bridged the song that made them famous perfectly into the subsequent track, and “Quitter” sparked a new fire inside everyone. The precision and ease that Mark was demonstrating in hammering away on his kit was nothing short of impressive, and that was visible many times throughout the night as well.

The Toadies were well into what is arguably the best stretch of the album, and “Away” proved that. It got everyone’s blood flowing, better prepping them for what was soon to come, and, of course, fans were all too eager to sing along at one point, when Vaden stepped away from the mic and motioned for everyone to pick up the slack. No sooner had it ended, and then “I Come From The Water” began. I’ve said in the past that the massive chanting/sing-along of the chorus is one concert experience everyone needs to have at least once, and this night reaffirmed that sentiment. It’s just so cool to be in a room of hundreds of people, and suddenly you’re all working as a collective, screaming at the top of your lungs, “I COME FROM THE WATER!” over and over. Some of the crowd got pretty feisty during it, too. I was surprised it had taken this long for something to happen. People were much more mellow this night, more just focusing on enjoying the music, though now (and somewhat appropriately), a mosh pit broke out, and that soon turned into a small fist fight before venue security showed up and put a stop to it.

Already, they were more than halfway done with Rubberneck, and a break followed for a guitar change. That was apparently too much downtime for some fans, who instantly began chanting, “TOADIES!” repeatedly, like they were still waiting for them to come out and start. Yeah, this gathering of fans was a die-hard bunch.

The gorgeous sounds of “Tyler” then filled the room, and I doubt I was the only person who felt a blissful state set in. It’s such a beautiful song (despite the actual story told by the lyrics), and making it all the better was the extra emotion Vaden packed into the words. It was prevalent at the start, but man, at the end, he was a cut above his usual self. “…I can’t believe I’m really here and she’s lying in that bed. I can almost feel her touch and her anxious breath…” he roared, excitement seeping out of his voice. That was the best I’ve heard “Tyler” sound in awhile, if not ever. Let’s not forget the instrumental bridge, where the rhythm section of Doni and Mark was truly dynamic, and fans again decided that was the perfect moment to begin a clap along.

They make a point of not really talking to the crowd while performing Rubberneck in its entirety, but Clark couldn’t keep it in anymore. “…We haven’t seen you in a long time…” he said, referring to Denton in general, and went as far as to say everyone had been “amazing”. That was probably another reason they were extra exceptional, because aside from being fresh on the road, they also had a ton of energy to feed off of.

“Happyface” was next, and a cool moment came when Vaden muttered the, “Here we go again.” part, casting his hand in the air and flicking his wrist as he sang it. Mark then led the charge into “Velvet”, and they raced through that hate filed song, which again had Vaden getting more emotionally invested in it than normal, and he was seething at times. One last guitar change was in order, and soon Vaden was holding a twelve-string acoustic, making “I Burn” sound as authentic as it possibly can. He was using his hands a lot this night, and did once again when they hit the line, “Sift the ashes for reminders; stony things remain…”, which was when he also switched over to his bullet mic for a bit.

He flicked his pick out to the audience, and dozens of hands went up hoping to catch it, before he handed his acoustic off to one of their stagehands.

“That concludes the record portion of the set…” he said, beginning some chitchat with the audience. It had taken 38-minutes to play everything from Rubberneck, and they still had some left to go.

He mentioned he doesn’t like to talk during that part of the show much, because, “There’s no talking on the record.”, and also stated how good it was to be back in Denton. I think the feeling was mutual.

“…Thank you so goddamned much for sticking with us…” Vaden finished. More than twenty-years as a band is a long time, even if you weren’t together for seven of those. Still, no one ever forgot The Toadies during their breakup, and they even picked up some new fans along the way.

With that little speech made, they ripped into one of many fan favorites from their albums that are less than twenty-years-old.

“Push the Hand” got some movement going, and the crowd roared when they started it. It’s one of their rawest numbers in my opinion, especially in the live environment. The Hell Below/Stars Above album received more attention than anything else (sans Rubberneck), though they only did three tracks from it. In fact, the delightful and devilish “Little Sin” came directly after, and the way they stretch out the silence on each chorus (before singing the songs title) is always a nice little touch.

“How we feeling? You guys good?” Vaden asked afterwards, checking in on everybody. The title track of their third LP was the only one from it, and while everyone wasn’t as into everything else as they had been the Rubberneck stuff, “No Deliverance” was one that was well loved. People were singing along; and during the tracks lull, while crooning, “…She said, ‘You have forsaken all you believe. Crossed earth and oceans to be with me…”, Vaden began another clap along.

Upon finishing it, he mentioned something about a cover song they were wanting to do, but was vague on details. The heart was mentioned, as was a disco ball, and it being “all about touching your heart”, but that was about it. “You’ll all know what’s supposed to happen.” Vaden said, sounding confident people would get it. As I suspected, it was Blondie’s “Heart of Glass”, a song they’ve reworked entirely, making it into a rock number. Vaden even took his glasses off for it (something that rarely happens from my Toadies show experiences). They’ve  made it into a truly solid rock song, and one that’s pretty heartfelt, too.

“Yeah, Blondie.” Vaden remarked as the audience showed their appreciation. “Thank you for coming to the rock show.” he added, asking how many folks here had seen them before. Most had, but surprisingly, a good number of hands shot up when he asked about any “first timers”. I guess everybody has to start somewhere.

Sadly, their set had already come to an end, and Vaden mentioned this final song was a good one to shake your ass to, at least if you had brought it. “Sometimes, I wish I had the heart of a snake. With no compassion comes no mistakes…” he belted at the start of oh, so lively “Rattler’s Revival”, which concluded their 58-minute long set, and also, was the sole song from 2012’s Play.Rock.Music. album.

Their set had gone by way too quick, and did seem on the short side, but there was no doubt that they would be back. Sure enough, a couple minutes passed (minutes filled with people screaming the band’s name), and they returned.

Vaden mentioned they had reissued Rubberneck this year (re-mixed and re-mastered), talking about how this was one song he liked and they recorded back in ’94, and they put it on as a bonus track on this re-release. It was “Stop It” by Pylon, and it had a fun vibe to it. Vaden was wagging his finger back and forth on the chorus, and even pointing out at the crowd at times, as well as starting one last clap along for the night.

I must say, I was glad to hear “Sweetness” made the cut, not just because it’s a favorite of mine, but because that primal song is absolutely superb. “…Keep going out to live rock shows…” Vaden encouraged, while Mark continued pounding out the beats, clearly setting up “Hell In High Water”. That speech seemed to ensure this was the closing number, but they make it one of the best of their shows. Doni and Vaden stood next to one another during the lengthy instrumental part, talking to one another momentarily, and just rocking out and having a good time, even smiling. Clark knocked out a few loud notes on his guitar, seeming like he was going to stop at three, before Vaden convinced him to do one more, and the crowd made some noise for that. “I am hell in high water, and I never sleep. So watch your daughters, and stay out of the deep…” Vaden then sang, as they got back on track and ended their 12-minute long encore.

Vaden had a huge smile on his face. He was loving this, and appeared game for more. However, Clark had already sat his guitar down, and Mark was out from behind the drum kit. Doni stood at the ready, waiting to see what his band mates would do. Everyone was hoping they might do another one or two, and they were vocal about it, but the band decided to call it, graciously thanking everyone as they exited the building.

I still feel this was on the short side for a Toadies show, though I don’t consider that a strike against them. After all, how many times to get to hear all eleven tracks from Rubberneck played front to back? In my experience, twice, and I doubt it will happen again. Or if it does, it won’t be anytime soon.

There’s just something about The Toadies. Part of it probably has to do with their staying power, something many bands struggle with. Part of it is probably the fact they are still churning out great music all these years later, and I would dare say their latest release is every bit as phenomenal as Rubberneck is. You can’t dismiss how they still have a stage show as intense as bands half their age, coupled with the experience that comes with being a group of veteran rockers, giving them the best of both worlds.

So, regardless of if it’s a 70-minute set or one that pushes or exceeds 90, no one’s going to leave disappointed. I know I didn’t, nor did anyone else when they walked out the doors this night.

This leg of the Rubberneck tour will come to an end on August 17th, stopping in New Mexico; Colorado; Missouri; Nebraska; North Carolina; South Carolina; Louisiana; and Mississippi. Let’s not forget the 7th annual Dia De Los Toadies music festival taking place at Panther Island Pavilion in Fort Worth on September 12th and 13th. Full info can be found HERE. Get their albums in iTUNES, with the exception of the re-mastered Rubberneck, which can be found at Kirtland Records online store.

Saturday, July 19th, 2014 – Curtain Palooza v3.0 Brings Life Back to Deep Ellum

In just eight short months, the “Curtain Palooza” shows have become an institution at The Curtain Club.

Each one has been largely spearheaded by Dayvoh of the band Alterflesh, beginning last November, while the second installment took place in early March. The first one was a blast, though I missed the second, as I was covering a festival for On Tour Monthly that day. But this third go-around of the extravaganza was one I could not miss, and it looked to be the best one yet.

Why? Well, for starters both Alterflesh and Daylight Industries were getting plaques up on The Wall of Fame, right alongside some of the best bands that have called the North Texas music scene home. The requirements for that are you need to pull fifty plus people out to a few consecutive shows, which isn’t easy, given that Deep Ellum is far from its glory days, when hundreds and even thousands of people ventured to the venues in the area.

To really put that in perspective, I’ve been seeing Daylight Industries for at least going on three years. They play Curtain often, but are just now reaching every bands dream of getting a plaque on the wall. As for Alterflesh, they just started playing the venue early last year, and swiftly achieved that goal.

Apart from an all-star local lineup, Cold was also set to close out the night, doing a special acoustic set.

I got there early enough, but ran into Paco Estrada and Jeremy Rodriguez of SpaceCamp out on the patio (SpaceCamp was playing later on in the Liquid Lounge), and ended up out there for at least a good half hour, before making my way into the Curtain for the remainder of New Voodoo.
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This show started early, at 7:30 to be precise, which is a lot earlier than people usually want to be there by. However, I was amazed at how packed the place already was. I’d guess at least a hundred people were already there watching the band, and I had seen where six hundred tickets had been sold. This was going to be a big night.

New Voodoo is a cover band, but from what little I saw, they own these covers. I walked in as they were doing “Slither” by Velvet Revolver, and before their next song, frontman Dylan St. John counted them in. “One, two, seven, nine.” he said beforehand, which struck me as being pretty funny. The best moment came at the tail end of the show, though, when he suddenly jumped into the air and did a back flip. Not enough singers do that.

Guitarists Andrew Lewthwaite and Dorian Duerinckx, bassist Abe Gonzales and drummer Dave Hale were all great, making it fun an enjoyable to watch. In short, New Voodoo is more than just some glorified cover band.
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They have a show at Wit’s End in Dallas on July 26th, and will be back there on August 30th. You can also see them on August 23rd at Dan’s Silver Leaf in Denton and September 5th at Andy’s, also in Denton.

Following them was the Arlington-based Solice, and it had been quite awhile since I had last seen the female fronted hard rock group.
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Guitarist Juan Brittos, bassist Rob Pummill and drummer Ryan Matthews began their 43-minute long set with a little instrumental intro, letting the now massive audience know just what they were in for, before Xtina Lee walked on stage. “Dallas, Texas! How’s everyone doing tonight?!” she asked as she took her spot at center stage, noting that this first song was “Sweet Escape”.

Xtina, Juan and Rob did a lot of jumping throughout it, syncing up with one another, and the two guys let loose some wicked screams at times that added to the intensity. “Are y’all having a good time tonight?!” Xtina asked as she finished singing the second chorus, and was met with a ton of cheers and applause. “We’re so excited to be here!” she exclaimed once they finished the song, taking time to mention that on August 1st they’d be releasing a new EP online. “Let me see your hands!” she shouted as her band mates started one of their newer songs, “Heart of Stone”. A sea of hands went up, clapping to the beats Ryan was supplying. I’d say this was the best song I’ve heard Solice do. Musically and lyrically it was even a cut above the material from their previous two EP’s, and the crowd was loving every second of it, while Juan was totally in the zone, shredding on his axe with complete ease.
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“Thank you so fucking much!” Xtina said once the song was over, with a smile on her face. She then looked at one friend/fan, saying this next song was by request, after they didn’t play it at their last show. The song was another off their Live EP, “Trapt”, which allowed them to show off their softer side at times, especially in Xtinas’ voice, and she hit some beautiful notes. Upon finishing it, she asked how many people had seen the music video they did for “Do You See it Now?”, which was coming next. They keys she added periodically throughout add a nice balance to the track, a track that was a full on assault from the rhythm section; and Juan squeezed in an excellent solo as well.

Afterwards, Xtina again mentioned how “awesome” this was, and commented on the great energy, but asked everyone to move a little closer so they could see everyone better. “…We’re all friends in the local music scene.” With that, they got to their latest single, “Save Me”, which again featured some of the keys at times; and Rob joined Juan on stage right for a time, as they each let loose their throaty, metal screams into the mic. One of the best parts came towards the end, and as Xtina belted out a line, Rob and Juan dropped to their knees for a few moments, before springing back up.
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“…How many veteran Solice fans are in the house?” she asked, while making her way back to the keyboard. Judging by the noise, there were quite a few, and they were glad to hear her say they were bringing back an older song they hadn’t done in awhile. Specifically, that was “The Mask”, a favorite of mine, and from the looks of it, many others, too.

Their time on stage was almost over, and Xtina made sure to let everyone know in about a month they, too, would be getting a plaque up on this wall. They did another (I assume newer) song, which even by their standards was very aggressive; and I really liked the pace it had, with the music bed and vocals working off and complimenting one another.
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They ended with what Xtina mentioned was a very personal song to them; and Rob ditched his bass for a guitar. It was titled “Solice”, and you felt the emotion as they performed it. “…A smile left with no goodbye, and now I’m barely hanging on…” went one of the lines, while they gradually built it up from the more acoustic vibe it had begun with.
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This was the best show I’ve seen Solice do. Since I’ve been aware of them I’ve always thought they were a great band, put they’ve pushed themselves above and beyond the level they used to be at.

They were even more solid as a band in general, with deepened chemistry with one another; and the exerted a hold over everyone that you couldn’t break free from, nor did you want to.

Some of that probably did have something to do with the awesome crowd, too, ‘cause it’s always better when there are a bunch of people at a show, and the band can work of their energy and vice versa.

Regardless, Solice proved just way they, too, will soon have a plaque on this storied wall.

That plaque presentation show will be on Sunday, August 31st. They’ll also be playing Houston on August 1st at Acadia and August 2nd at Lola’s Saloon in Fort Worth. They have a show at The Dirty Rooster in Allen on September 20th, too. Don’t forget their new EP comes out on August 1st, and in the meantime you can also get their last one in iTUNES.

It was nearly ten-o’clock when Daylight Industries got ready to hit the stage, and The Curtain Club was more packed than I have seen it in years. Specifically, the last time was January 13th of 2012, when The FEDS did that reunion show hundreds of fans from all over the Mid-West had waited three years for. You expect that kind of turnout for a Dallas legend, though. But even on a night as important as getting a plaque, I’ve seen some bands pull the typical few dozen people and that’s it.

By the time this night was said and done more than five hundred people had walked through the doors of the Curtain.

Dayvoh introduced the “gypsy rock band from Dallas”, who was all smiles and holding their plaque up for all to see, and then he left them to it.
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“Tonight’s about having fun and playing music!” exclaimed lead guitarist Brandon Tyner. They were already setting up their opening number, and some slightly fuzzy notes filled the air, while Barry Townsend slapped the neck of his bass, which was resting against his amp for the time being. “Well, he said it all, so we’re just going to play some music.” frontman Keith Allen remarked, I believe referring to what both Dayvoh and Brandon had said.

Barry slung his bass over him, and they were off, coming out of the gates strong with a newer song, and one they went absolutely ballistic on. Of course, that could describe the bands entire show in general, but there was something special to this one. Stephen Smith was beating the drums so hard I’m surprised none of the skins broke; and at one point Barry wound up on the drum riser, and soon jumped off it.

They moved on to another newer one, and the last couple times I heard “White Russians”, it was the closer. It fit real well here at the start, though; and the two-and-a-half minute long track appeared to get the band more excited. Steve stood from his kit at one point, appearing to shout at everyone, before forcefully striking the cymbals as he went to sit back down. Keith used one of the brief instrumental breaks to raise his beer to the sky, and nearly everyone in the venue did the same with theirs. A party atmosphere had been established, and everyone was just having a good time; and the crowd roared at Brandon once that song was done, when he asked what was up.
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“We are Daylight Industries, and you must be the best crowd ever.” Keith said in a jovial voice, making the formal introduction. They started cracking away at the Faith Healer EP with “Aphasia”, which has perhaps the coolest guitar licks out of any of their songs (thus far), and the parts Ruvayne Weber added to it made it all the more impressive. Keith chatted with the audience for a minute, while Steve began prepping for their next number, keeping a nice steady and heavy patchwork of beats going before eventually exploding into the beast of a song that is “Wandering”. Their show reached new heights as the five of them thrashed about, but the best part came when the music suddenly fell nearly silent. The crowd didn’t make much noise, and Keith looked out at them. “Aw, that’s sad.” he said before they came back in.

Brandon walked over to center stage, glanced down at the set list, and then fired up the opening riff to “Western Sky”, as he swaggered back to stage right. It was a little change of pace for them, as it has a slight reggae sound in the music bed, and isn’t quite as intense as their other stuff, yet it still sounds like Daylight Industries.
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“That’s it. That was our last song. Fuck off now; go home. Thank you for your money, now go home.” Keith joked. No one budged. They knew better. The band probably was getting tired by now, and Brandon had sweat dripping off of him, but they showed no sign of that affecting them. They never do anyway, but it was different this night. They were still gung-ho about it all, and I don’t think they wanted the night to end. Luckily for them there was still plenty of time left in their 44-minute long set.

Their assault continued with “Junkie Logic”, and as they hit the second chorus, Ruvayne raised his guitar over his head and continued to pick away at it. Keith was getting quite into the track, too, and dropped to his knees at the end and shouted out the final lines. A chant of “One more!” then arose from the audience, as people gave the guys a hard time. “Shut up and drink.” Keith responded, chuckling, and added this next one was a new song off the record they are currently tracking. It was typical Daylight Industries, but the growth in the music was noticeable. The spectators were loving it, and one chick even ended up crowd surfing. I’ve seen more than a hundred and twenty shows here at the Curtain, but I’ve never seen anyone crowd surf here. So let that serve as a testament to just how outstanding this night was.
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“Yeah, yeah, look at y’all, levitating and shit.” said Keith, who then apologized for cursing (there’s a first time for everything). “…I have a low vocabulary…” was his reasoning for doing it, and he searched for a more sophisticated word to say that. “What’s the word I’m looking for…” he said aloud, pondering it. “Fuck.” he said, leaving it at that. A guy was now seen crowd surfing during “Faith Healer”, and nearly got dropped, but fortunately for him the people holding him up recovered. They even got a clap along going at one point; and upon finishing it, Keith held the mic in front of Barry, asking if he wanted to say anything. He said something simple, like a word of thanks, and fans yelled at the top of their lungs back at him. “That’s what I want, every time I say something, you cheer!” he replied, beaming with delight.

They launched into “Sit In”, which was even more solid than usual, and followed it with the single from their next EP. Brandon mentioned it was titled “Weight of the World”. “That’s called a metaphor. That’s a literary device.” Keith added, making some people laugh with that comment that seemed to come right out of left field. The song had a nice build-up at one point, and Brandon worked everyone up during it, causing another surge in the energy level.
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“I would stage dive, but this is two hundred and twenty pounds of American muscle.” Keith cracked before their final song. They closed with an oldie but goodie: “Something’s Wrong”. It’s been awhile since they’ve done anything from the Future of an Illusion EP, but that was always my favorite track off it, and it was good to hear it brought back, even if it may have been just for this night. “And I’ve known it all along, it’s the feeling something’s wrong.” goes the chorus, and the first time around, the audience slowly took over on it. That prompted the band to pull back and let everyone sing that part to them; and while he might not have wanted to crowd surf, Keith was all too happy to join the mosh pit that had started closer towards the end. Barry furthered the crowd participation by starting a clap along, and before you knew it, they were done.

This is one band that doesn’t disappoint, and their live show is superior to most as far as energy goes, but this night, this night they went above and beyond what is standard for them.
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As I mentioned with Solice, part of that undoubtedly had to do with the crowd. I mean, when you have people singing your song back at you, how could you not feel a euphoric rush? The same can be said of knowing your band will be immortalized on the Wall of Fame, a feat Barry has said has been a life goal since he was seventeen. It took fifteen years for it to happen, but it happened.

Daylight Industries was an unstoppable force this night, and it was hard to think that the night would or could get any better with the two remaining acts, but that’s exactly what happened.

You can find their EP’s in iTUNES, and you can even download a ton of live cuts as well as the full Faith Healer EP fro FREE on REVERBNATION. If you want to see them live, your next chance will be August 2nd at Lola’s Saloon. They’ll be in Allen at The Dirty Rooster on August 16th; and back in Fort Worth on August 5th at The Rail as part of the Cowtown Charity Music Fest.

As usual, folks had left the room, going out to the patio to smoke and/or socialize, but once they heard the drums, bass and guitars of Alterflesh’s sound check, the hundreds of people hurried back in.
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Dayvoh (AKA The Shaman) greeted everyone with, “Welcome to Curtain Palooza version three point o…”. The stage was decked out with their usual gear, from paintings that featured Buddha and other spiritual things; while Andrew Lewthwaite stood on a box at stage left, his guitar at the ready. Fellow guitarist Ben Schelin and bassist Paul Kubajak were also peering out at the patrons, anxiously waiting for the introduction to be made so they could get to work.

It didn’t take long, and they opened with “Megahub”. This was their first Dallas show since working with producer Alex Gerst (who recorded their debut EP, which they also happened to be releasing this night.) His guidance had led to an even tighter sound for the band, and while that song didn’t make the cut on the EP, you could still hear a slight evolution in it now from how it used to be. Dayvoh was already going full throttle, interacting with the crowd and jumping around, as the lights shimmered off the golden silk shirt he was wearing.
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“Again, welcome to Curtain Palooza!” shouted Dayvoh once the song ended. He then belted out a line a cappella, before drummer Kevin Mills and the rest of the band tore into a newer song they had cooked up. It fit the Alterflesh mold well, especially in the chorus, with one of the lines being, “…Each of us will burn until we return to the light…” Paul and Ben were jumping about in their spots, and Paul was still able to add his backing vocals when needed; and at one point, Dayvoh knelt on that box on stage left, pointing at the audience. The song ended with him repeating the same line over and over, essentially creating his own echo effect, which was quite cool.

The sheer size of the crowd was remarkable, and it led Dayvoh to comment on how “alive” Deep Ellum was this night. “It’s looking like the old days…” he stated, before shouting out all the other bands who were out supporting, saying there were at least a dozen bands represented who weren’t even playing this night. They simply came out to support their friends. The bass was thunderous at the start of “So Much More”, another song that had been retooled, and this new, polished version was superb.
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He again mentioned how alive the scene was, before noting this next one was a social rant called “Watch Rome Burn”. The song didn’t just get touched up, it got rewritten. The guitar tones were slicker and the pace at which the vocals were delivered was completely different. Then they hit the chorus, “Never will you bear the full weight…”, which was not how it used to go. It was like a brand new song, which brought new life to it. That’s always been one of my favorite Alterflesh songs, and I think anyone would be skeptical if a band reworked a song they like, but this was a change that was easy to embrace, and they really did make the song better. There was also a cool part as they hit the final chorus, when Dayvoh leapt into the air at the instant Kevin came back in on the drums.

“…It’s no secret in life that things aren’t always what they seem to be… But life is music and music is life, and that’s the truth.” remarked Dayvoh during their next break. Words to live by in my opinion. Kevin then led the charge into “The Charade”, the lead track from the Into the Sun EP, which was making it’s live debut this night. You could see the extra rush of excitement it gave them clearly on Ben’s face, who smiled for most of the track; and at a pause, they extended the break, as Dayvoh worked the crowd up, getting everyone to scream and cheer for them. Afterwards he thanked all the behind the scenes players at the Curtain, like sound man Chad Lovell, while Kevin started them off on their next number. Xtina Lee from Solice walked on stage, helping them out on “Start Over”, which has become a duet. Their voices sound incredible together, and even though it’s only one song, they got a good deal of chemistry going on with one another.
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She left, and Ben opened up the title track of the EP, “Into the Sun”, while Kevin stood up as he lightly hit some of the cymbals. They even spiced the song up a bit with a killer guitar solo that Andrew played, showing just how talented a guitarist he is. “How about that Curtain Club?! Are you alive out there?!” roared Dayvoh after the song, before releasing the new version of “New Horizon” on everyone’s ears. Like some of the other songs, there weren’t many huge changes, though it had been better fleshed out (further proof of why Gerst is one of the best producers in the area, and as Dayvoh pointed out this night, he’s also Grammy nominated.)

“How about that curtain?!” shouted Dayvoh, as he stared out at all the adoring fans. They then took a moment to bring Scooter Ward from Cold up on stage, and he asked everyone to give it up for all the local bands that had played. He said all this had brought him back to a day when local music mattered, and he reminisced about a band from out of Atlanta he used to share the stage with back in the mid-nineties. “…They’re now called Sevendust, and they used to play to twenty people. Shit changes.” Scooter said, proving that you never know who might be the next rising star. He then presented Alterflesh with their plaque, and they proudly held it up for all to see.
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Their 41-minute long set was almost over, but they still had one more left, and they had planned something special for everyone. Alterflesh isn’t really known for doing covers, but they’ve done it a time or two before. However, they have never played Bob Dylans’ “All Along the Watchtower” before. They owned it, and with their unique style, they had no trouble leaving their mark on it. Andrew’s guitar was dominant throughout the song, and the additional verses thrown in were fitting of Alterflesh’s style.

It’s really impressive how far these guys have come in a relatively short time. I don’t even mean that just about the plaque, but in general. A year-and-a-half ago, Alterflesh hadn’t even played the Curtain Club once, and were still a little known band. All of a sudden, they started establishing a rapidly growing fan base and pulling more and more people out with each show they did.
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Apply the growth they underwent while at Empire Sound Studio, and you’re left with a force to be reckoned with. They’re probably one of the most hyped bands currently in the North Texas music scene, and not only are people talking about them, they’re actually coming out to shows to see them. As phenomenal as they were this night, it’s easy to see why.

They don’t have the EP on iTUNES yet, but for now you can listen to and purchase a few of the tracks on REVERBNATION. You’re next chance to see them will be on September 13th in Dallas, and then they have an October 11th gig at Hailey’s in Denton.

Cold had the job of closing out the night, doing a special acoustic set. For those wondering how this came about, apparently Dayvoh and Scooter are old friends, and they were the icing on the cake to this spectacular night.

The Cold Army was out in full force, and the trio of Scooter Ward, Zac Gilbert and Drew Molleur were met with rabid screams when the curtain opened and revealed them. “Give it up for all the local bands…” Scooter shouted. He and his band mates were all seated on stools, and he mentioned that everything this night would be different variations of the songs just about everyone here knew.
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Fans were excited when Scooter said the first song was “Remedy”, and it was completely different from the version these people were familiar with. Zac alternated between the keyboard and an acoustic guitar this night, using the keys on this one. The same can be said of many of their songs this night, but you really got to hear their true beauty this night. “I don’t love how you love, but please don’t leave me here alone…” Scooter crooned as they began, giving even more weight to the lyrics.

Another cool thing with this setting was they made it into a sort of storytellers show, and he said when they were working on the A Different Kind of Pain album, they traveled through Atlanta and had a layover at the airport. It was there Scooter said he met and talked with some soldiers, “…And they inspired me with their stories…” he said. So much so, he wrote a song for them. That was the poignant “When Angels Fly Away”, which had Drew adding some awesome backing vocals at times, while both he and Zac strummed their acoustic guitars.

“Is everybody doing alright? Are you okay?” Scooter asked, checking in with everyone. People were hanging in there just fine, and he admitted he had been pretty nervous about “only having two people” next to him, but it was working out so far. “Can we kill the lights?” he then asked. “We’re like gremlins, we don’t like lights.” he said more to the staff, as the lights, which hadn’t been too bright to begin with, left them in almost complete darkness. He mentioned this next song was one he wrote for his mom, and “No One” made a fairly smooth transition over to an acoustic song. The Cold Army was really liking it, and I overheard someone saw this was even their favorite Cold song, so when they hit one of the latter choruses, and Scooter simply said, “Sing it.”, fans were glad to help out.
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Zac went back to the keys, as they prepared for one of the last tracks of the Year of the Spider album, and Scooter noted this was only the second time they had played “Black Sunday” live, which I think made the crowd feel pretty lucky. Throughout all of those, you could feel a sadness, and they had created a somber tone, one the trio wasn’t ready to leave just yet. “Since we’re going with the painful ones…” Scooter said, pausing for a second before finishing, “This one hurts.” He left it at that, and his band mates began “Cure My Tragedy”. “…Won’t you cure my tragedy? Don’t take her smile away from me; she’s broken and I’m far away.” he forcefully sang, asking for the audience to help him out at one point. “That was for my sister.” he remarked afterwards, adding that the hard songs had now been gotten out of the way, and as he did so, he wiped his eyes. Like he said before, that was a painful one, and you could tell it.

The stories continued, when Scooter talked about getting to meet one his idols: Layne Staley. He said the Alice in Chains frontman wore different attire to hide how sickly he looked, covering his face and head with glasses and a hat, but Scooter talked about how amazing that was for him, to at least get a chance to speak to Staley while he was still alive. With that, they did a still fairly intense version of “The Day Seattle Died”, which he later clarified was for Kurt [Cobain] and Layne.

The crowd cheered when he asked, “Do you know this song? It’s been awhile.” He wasn’t speaking to them, though. “I was talking to band…” he told everyone. They knew it no problem, although it was a whole different take on “Wicked World” that they offered up. On the flip side, “A Different Kind of Pain” was built for the acoustic setting, and sounded excellent just being the guitar and piano. It was one of the most beautiful moments of the night, while “Suffocate” created one of the most frenzied. “Come on!” Scooter shouted as they hit the first chorus. He couldn’t resist getting more into this one, and left the stool he had been stationed on, kneeling down closer to the crowds level and holding the mic out to different fans on the chorus. Even then, everyone was singing, though, creating a magical moment.
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Scooter shared another story with fans, saying this next song was one most of the audience would know, and it was one, one of his band mates had heard him sing on their tour bus on numerous occasions, and told him he needed to record it. It was never laid down until they did the 13 Way to Bleed Onstage record, though, and the song he was speaking of was that discs closing number: “Bleed”. The harmonies he and Drew got going during it were fantastic, and the fans made it into another sing-along opportunity. That’s saying something, because on a lot of records, the usual slow, acoustic song that gets placed at the end is dismissed by fans. Not in this case, though.

The mood got a little happier when it was mentioned that Drew had gotten engaged the previous weekend, and then Scooter again everyone for supporting local music. “This is one of our first hit songs that got us noticed…” he informed everyone. It took a moment, but once people heard the unmistakable chords of “Just Got Wicked”, they let out some excited cheers. They then did something they hadn’t done before, and Scooter pointed out that this was a song Zac was wanting to do. It was “Feel it in Your Heart”, which sounded incredible, and making it all the more impressive was when Scooter told everyone they had never done that with the piano before. “…He just winged that shit!” he said, pointing at Zac, leading the crowd to give it up for him.

“I don’t want to stop!” Drew said. He meant it, too, and you could tell he was really enjoying this. Their 58-minute long set was almost up, though, and they left everyone with “Stupid Girl”, which again had Scooter getting up from his stool to better interact with everybody.

To be honest, I’ve never really listened to much Cold. I just never heard much of their music and missed out on them I guess. But man, after seeing this acoustic performance, I’m going to have to fix that.

Even from stools, doing stripped down versions of their songs, they were on par with every other band on this bill, and they brought with them that sense of professionalism that comes with being a major touring band.

Really, I was amazed; plus, it was cool to see Cold do an acoustic show, ‘cause how many people get to experience that?

This whole night was amazing, and Dayvoh deserves one more shout-out for helping orchestrate it all.

This was one of the most fun overall concert experiences I’ve ever had, and that is all because of the atmosphere of it all. Everyone was having a good time and just enjoyed all the bands. On that note, people stuck around for every band, rather than showing up for the one act they want to see and then leaving. Even if it was just for a night, the local music scene was a legitimate community again, and it was thriving.

This is what Deep Ellum needs more of. More solid shows where everyone is headline quality; more promotion on everyone’s part (bands, venues and fans. Remember, it’s a collective effort.); and more people showing up early and staying late for the whole thing.

I could make that list longer, but I think those are the three strongest points, aside from just needing more people to come out in general and support up and coming talent.

I’ll I’ve known is a near lifeless Deep Ellum, the one that was plagued by crime (and even murder), which left most afraid to even venture to the area of Dallas. When I first started coming to the now long defunct Club Clearview and Curtain Club in early 2006, you had your pick of parking spaces, and you didn’t have to worry about any lot filling up.

There’s no denying it has been on an upswing the last couple of years, though. There are bigger crowds, and depending on what’s going on, parking can be pretty scarce even in the eight-o’clock hour. Point is, I hope this night was a sign of things to come. Especially for the beloved Curtain Club.

Friday, July 18th, 2014 – Waking Alice Releases The Dark

Waking Alice had put months of preparation into this night. They were finally releasing their newest EP — The Dark; and aside from that, this would also mark their first headlining show at The Curtain Club.

This was one of the increasingly common five-band bills the venue has started hosting, and Timeless City was charged with kicking it off.

I got there in time to see the last three to four songs they did — which included a cover of Panic! At the Discos’ “I Write Sins, Not Tragedies.” I wasn’t too keen on them, and frontman John Hale had very pitchy voice that never perfectly nailed the notes.
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They’re a young band, though (in terms of band members age and just being newer to the scene in general). So maybe with some practice…

Actually, this was a night of primarily newer bands, and next you had Wolves Reign, who has been around about a year now.
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Lead guitarist Moises Moura introduced themselves to the crowd once the curtain opened on them, before frontman Eric Lara took over. “We are Wolves Reign. We exist and we are no longer a figment of your imagination… So far as you know.” It was one of the more comical intros I’ve seen, and while the crowd wasn’t that large, it did get a laugh from most of the people who were there.

With that, they started into the first song of their 32-minute long set, a song that had some neat key parts courtesy of Jonathan Hill, and the notes Moises was playing sounded pretty slick. Upon finishing it, they changed things up a bit. Matt Garcia had been on the drums, which he now left for the lead microphone. Eric grabbed a guitar and dabbled on the keys, while Jonathan took over as the percussionist. It was the first of a couple games of musical chairs that they played this night.
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“…This was inspired by blood and honey, our favorite beer.” Matt stated, adding the track was titled “Revolver”. I thought it was their best song of the night, and had a raw rock vibe to it. It got your blood flowing a little; and as it ended, Matt pumped his fist into the air while singing. They kept that format for “Another Life”, which, like many of their songs, just had an epic feel to it. Not that they were necessarily long, but it was more in the way they’d suddenly change the songs up, which kept you, the listener, on your toes.

Matt returned to the drums afterwards and Jonathan the keys, while Eric kept the guitar around him and resumed his spot at center stage. “It’s about that time of the show where Matt takes his shirt off.” Eric joked, saying he was also so precise with it. “It’s always eighteen-minutes and twenty-seconds in.” He then fiddled with his guitar, before mentioning, “This next song’s in E flat.” Moises and bassist Izzy Saenz did a good deal of interacting with one another on that one, while Moises was also often shaking his hips, really getting into the song.
image(Photo credit: Roxanne Fuentes | Fountain Photo Ops)

Matt and Jonathan exchanged spots for the final time this night, and once he had the mic back in hand, Matt informed everyone this next one was called “A World with No Risk”. Moises leaned back on Izzys’ shoulder at one point, tearing it up on his axe, while Matt and Eric (who was doing some back-up singing) also stood back to back for a moment on what was another strong song of theirs. They had time for one more, and threw one more surprise the crowd’s way when Matt mentioned it was going to be an instrumental piece, and left his band mates to it. It was more tranquil from the rest of their show, but still some rocking moments, and for a band as interesting as they were, it seemed a fitting way to end.

I really liked the dynamics Wolves Reign had going on. The multiple singers and capable drummers allows them to stand out from the rest of the pack, and they rotated often enough that they always had you on your toes, but you also had enough time to get used to the lineup they had going on at the moment.
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Both Matt and Eric were pitchy at times this night, but it was nothing more than just bumps in the road, ‘cause when they were hitting the notes, they were on fire.

There’s a lot of potential to Wolves Reign, and it should be interesting to see how they progress.

The Broken Stools were another interesting band, and the first thing that your eye focused on when the curtain opened was the pole with a mannequin head on it. A white shirt had been placed on it, and “Cofas” had been written across it in sharpie, while a Guitar Hero guitar hung around him.
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Then the loud, nearly metal sounds hit you. “We’re The Broken Stools!” singer and guitarist Chaz Mangan shouted at the top of his lungs. He and drummer Aaron Fisher then abruptly calmed things down, and Chaz softly spoke, “But we’re not that heavy.” “The thing is!” he again yelled as the instruments once again roared to life, before softening once more. “We like to act like it.”

He then asked everyone to cut bassist Alex Cofas some slack, saying he had just had his wisdom teeth pulled out.

They opened with one of only two songs they’ve recorded so far, “Stereotypical”. For a duo, they sounded amazing. Aaron was getting some killer tones out of kit (specifically the toms), and the guitar even some rhythmic textures to it, helping balance it all out.

“If you like us without a bass player, then go check out our demo!” Chaz told everyone after the song, saying they had copies to take right over at the merch area. They followed it with “If You Can’t Trust the Lion, Get out of its Den”, which is possibly one of the best song titles I’ve ever heard.

The band name was then addressed, and according to Chaz, there was actually no interesting story behind it. “This guy said it joking around one day, and it stuck, and he hates me for it.” he stated. Oh, he was referring to Cofas as being the one who was joking around.
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By this time, they had everyone who was there enjoying their show, if for no other reason than just how fun it was. So, when Chaz shouted, “I need a clap!” at one point during their next song, the spectators were more than happy to help them out. As is mandatory for any band, they did one track for the ladies, while the one that followed Chaz noted he would like to say he forgot the name of it. “But the truth is, we just never named it.” he solemnly confessed. He was a really good guitarist, as was shown when he dropped to his knees during that song and shredded on the axe.

The duo kept their set short, clocking in at only 24-minutes, and they concluded with the first song they ever wrote, “A Fresh Start”.

There are quite a few great duos in the North Texas music scene, and given a little time, The Broken Stools will surely be in the ranks.

You think it’s going to be stupid at first. You see a faux bass player, and then hear them joking about not being a heavy band but liking to act like it, and you think, “This is going to be ridiculous.” But there’s a difference between being silly and just stupid.

The silliness is an act, and they played it up very well. It was fresh. I mean, how many bands have you seen do that? Out of nearly 700 shows I’ve seen, I can honestly say this was a first.

They never went overboard with it, though. They kept it humorous, but when it was time for a song, they hammered away at it with a passion, as real musicians should.

The Broken Stools will be one band to keep an eye on. You can snag their two-song sampler for FREE on BANDCAMP; and keep an eye on their FACEBOOK PAGE for future shows.

The longer running bands had been saved for last, and according to their Facebook page, Code 19 has a couple years under their belt. They had a lot of supporters, too. Seventy plus people at least.
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“Welcome to The Curtain Club!” frontman Joey Dietrich said after their first number, before starting their next track. “It’s time to wake up!” he yelled, pushing off the monitor and jumping back right as he finished the sentence. The song was “Awakening”, which was a little more politically geared (“…Freedom isn’t free…”). Ray Deauman then wound them into their next song with some notes from his guitar, as they continued with their dirty rock/metal sound.

The tune that came next had more of a rap feel to it, really just in the lyrics, which is just something I’m not a fan of, so needless to say that was one I didn’t get too into. They soon got back to their regular stuff, though, but first added in some humor, when Joey and Ray sang a bit of Elton Johns’ “I Hope You Don’t Mind”. “I hope you don’t mind that I put down in words how wonderful life is…” they sang, before Ray shouted, “Now that you’re fucking gone!” That was exactly what “Me2U” was about, and a lot of their fans seemed to love that message.

They continued with the music, and also took time to pump everyone up, egging people on to scream for them and such. Their show reached a fever pitch as they got to the conclusion, and had saved their fan favorite for last. “What?! What?! What?!” Ray got everyone to shout along (I’m assuming that was the title as well). He, bassist Matt Heinecke and drummer Phillip Bell then tore into that last song of their 39-minute long set.
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If you like no-frills rock, then chances are you’ll like Code 19. Their performance was pretty action packed, too, with non-stop movement going on. Nearly everyone there seemed to find it hard to resist, at least.

You can catch them at Lola’s Saloon in Fort Worth on August 2nd.

It was later, but it was finally time for Waking Alice, who hit the stage shortly after midnight.
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It was just the three instrumentalists on stage when the curtain revealed them, and drummer Jonn Levey, guitarist Brandon Brewer and bassist Brayton Bourque began things with an instrumental piece, “The Dark”, jamming for a bit before Rus Chaney walked on stage from the stairwell, microphone in hand.

They had decided to get started with a cover, and one I had not heard them do in a little while. However, the couple of times they did do The Smashing Pumpkins’ “Geek U.S.A.”, they killed it. This night was no exception. It’s one song that plays to all of their strengths, and it was good hearing it back in rotation.
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“What’s up, Curtain Club?!” Rus asked, gazing out at the audience. “Let’s do this shit!” he said, some excitement heard in his voice as Brandon ripped right into one of their most aggressive tracks, “Treason”. Brandon always adds some backing vocals to the chorus, but for whatever reason, they sounded even better this night. A little stronger perhaps, and better heard, fitting nicely with Rus’ voice.

“Thanks for coming out and hanging with us.” Rus said to all their friends and other supporters who had made it out. This may have been the release show for The Dark, but they were getting the stuff from the two-year-old Retribution EP out of the way first, and “Scars” was next. “…The silence says it all.” Rus sang in a hushed manner on the second chorus, placing his finger to his lips as he did so. It didn’t get too quite, though, ‘cause that was right when Brandon came in with a blistering guitar solo.
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“I don’t know if you guys have heard or not, but we’re releasing a new album! To buy! If you don’t, we’ll be killed.” Brandon announced to everyone as they hit their first break of the night. “You’re the one threatening to kill the band.” Rus responded, prompting another laugh from the audience.

Now they finally got to music from The Dark, and first up was “Bi-Polar Heart”. As they do with some of their songs, they made it a little more up-tempo at times, making it all the easier to get into; and as they hit the second verse, Brayton kicked the air, timing it right to one of the beats Jon dished out. They followed it with what was self-described as “kinda a love song” that Rus wrote for his wife. He mentioned it was titled “Paper, Rock, Shotgun”. “…‘Cause all love songs should be named something like that.” he stated, looking at the crowd like, “Am I right?” Why not, especially if they sound as good as this one does. “…To my knees I fell…” he crooned on the second verse, and doing just that as he sang the line. Rus got really into that song, casting his hand into the air as he continued singing the more emotional track. As they hit the break towards the end, Brayton waved his bass around as if it were a gun, and then silence enveloped the club, but only briefly. Their fans began cheering for them, while they looked on at everyone, no doubt savoring the moment, before firing the tune back up.
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“Biggest Lie”, a staple from The Shaping EP (released during the band’s previous incarnation), offered a break from their newest material, and Brandon did his standard guitar solo during it, just riffing and doing what came to him there on the spot. It was an amazing solo at that, and the last few times I have seen them he has been outdoing himself with those. It’s also good ‘cause you really get to glimpse the technical side he has to his style. “Have you met Jon?” Rus asked, as the drums overpowered the guitar. He enjoyed his moment, and then Rus introduced Brayton, who pointed the neck of his bass out towards the crowd and just stood there. “That’s the best bass solo he’s ever played.” remarked Rus, before coming back in for the final chorus.

“They’ve got some tuning to do, and I’ve got some shout-outs to give…” he said, thanking The Jerry Jonestown Massacure Podcast, Whiskeyboy Radio and myself for supporting the release show in one way or another (in my case, the review of the album I had done). With that out of the way, they were now ready to move on to what Rus noted was one of his personal favorite songs off The Dark, “November Burns”.
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He and Brandon joked around before starting it, cussing at one another. “Fuck you, Brandon. I give up.” Rus said, shaking his head as he went to take a seat on the drum riser, flipping Brandon off once he did sit. He didn’t stay in that position long, though, quickly jumping up when it was time for him to start singing. It was one of their best songs of the night, and the fans were loving it, some of whom were already singing along to the track.

No one liked hearing they only had one song left, but then again, they had already done just about everything they could. “Hostage” was all that remained, and it was the perfect way to close out this 41-minute long, hard-hitting set. Despite being almost done, Rus still appeared as if he were just really getting warmed up, and was in the zone on that one, clutching his fist when he sang the first chorus, “Fighting for myself to break free from your grasp…”, and then kicking the air at the second (appropriate, considering the line “…I’m gonna kick some ass.”).

People were hoping that more would come, but that was the end. Still, what a show!
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I’d say this was the best I’ve ever seen Waking Alice. They were tighter and even more solid than usual, and seemed to have found and tapped into some new reserves that made their performance more explosive and dynamic. Above all that, they were having fun. That was all too evident, and the crowd responded to it.

People were rocking out to the songs. Some danced to them, and everybody was just having a good time, which is what a concert’s all about. Well, at least it should be.

It was a great end to a great night. A night that was monumental in Waking Alice history.

Pick up The Dark EP in iTUNES, and you can download the three tracks from Retribution on REVERBNATION for FREE. As for shows, the next few will be taking place in Fort Worth. August 22nd at Tomcats West (it’s a killer lineup that night); September 20th at The Grotto and September 27th at Shipping and Receiving.

My first night at the Curtain was a good one. Round two would be starting soon enough…

Brian Pounds Rolls a Strike with New Release

imageTexan singer-songwriter Brian Pounds is set to make his national debut with his new EP, Strikes and Gutters, which hits the streets on Sept. 2, 2014.

The five-song album is a roots-rock, Americana gem, featuring lyrics that are mature beyond Pounds’ 25 years and warm vocals that are reminiscent of James Taylor’s early 1970s output. “Jesus, Don’t Let Me Die (On My Feet),” which was written in a rundown motel room during a two-week gig in Nevada, is a stark, realistic look at the music industry’s less glamorous aspects, and the playful, sexy “Keep My Hands to Myself” proves that Pounds can write lighthearted material as well. Opening track “Somewhere Maybe Carolina,” which he co-wrote with fellow “The Voice” Season 5 competitor Austin Jenckes, is already a hit: the video of the song has currently accumulated more than 14,000 views on YouTube.

Pounds recently worked with director Steven Bush, known for his “Confessionals” series of music videos, to create a new video for “Somewhere Maybe Carolina.” Shot on location in Austin, the video features Pounds playing an intimate, solo acoustic version of his song.

Pounds and his band will be celebrating the release of Strikes and Gutters with shows across Texas this fall.

Special album release shows include:
Sept. 4: The Rustic, Dallas
Sept. 18: Strange Brew, Austin
Sept. 20: Dosey Doe, The Woodlands
Oct. 4: The Phoenix Saloon, New Braunfels, Texas