TME Reviews: Swindle Boys Own the Night in Deep Ellum


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


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

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


The End of Year Top Three Album Picks by Jordan Buford

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 13th, 2013 - We’rewolves

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Album Review: “Faith Healer” by Daylight Industries

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Purchase the album on: iTUNES

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


Thursday, November 14th, 2013 – Twenty One Pilots

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 6th, 2013 - Sacco

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 18th, 2013 – The Limousines

It’s not too often I end up at the same venue two nights in a row, yet this night, I found myself back at Prophet Bar, for yet another round of touring acts.

The Limousines were responsible for getting me out on this Monday night, having seen them just barely over two years ago when they were on tour with The Sounds. They blew my mind then, and since that night, I had eagerly been awaiting their return to Dallas.

They were on tour with a couple of bands, and the one opening this show was Dresses, who were from Portland, Oregon.

I didn’t see much of them, as they had already started by the time I got there, though I enjoyed what I heard.

Every band on this bill was very different than the others, and Dresses was no exception, mining more of an indie/pop/rock sound, with the main members being frontwoman
Timothy Heller and lead guitarist Jared Ryan Maldonado, who even played a ukulele for a few songs. While she was the lead vocalist, he also sang on some songs, and the two even harmonized at times, their voices blending to create some beautiful textures.

It was all well crafted, with more subtle tones at times that served to accentuate the vocals and even the lyrics to the songs.

I just wish I had gotten to see more of them and get a better idea of what they’re like, though I did enjoy what I saw.

They do have a record available, “Sun Shy”, which is actually their debut album. Give it a listen, and it may well make you a fan.

Sandwiched in between the opener and the headliner was San Francisco’s own The Limousines, who wound up having quite the following out this night, some of their fans rushing to the front of the stage as soon as Dresses left to ensure they had a good spot, all the while beaming with glee about seeing this electronic act.

They brought with them a pretty professional looking setup, from a couple of scrims (one on each side of the stage) that had multi-colored lights shining from behind them throughout the show. They also had a cool looking “case” that stood in front of the unused drum kit and had the band’s name on it, with the letters looking like all sorts of old runes. The letters on that were also illuminated, switching through the color spectrum.

Aside from aesthetics, they had also grown a member since I first saw them, now being a trio with the addition of a multi-instrumentalist who often played bass this night, but also dabbled on the keys/synthesizers and electronic drums.

Oh yeah, they also had a smoke machine, which frontman
Eric Victorino triggered before walking backstage. In such a small venue, the fog got pretty dense as it billowed out, helping create a mood before multi-instrumentalist Giovanni Giusti, Eric and the bass player made their way on stage.

Their long awaited second LP, “Hush”, was released earlier this year after a successfully funded Kickstarter campaign, and they got their show going with the lead track and first single from it, “Love is a Dog from Hell”. It didn’t take long for the crowd to get into the song that laments love lost, moving about and even doing a little bit of dancing to the track. They were only just getting started as they immediately fired up “Undercover”, the bass during that song being so heavy at times you could feel the floor vibrating, which is always a sure sign of a great show.

It didn’t take long after the music subsided and the applause dies down for one female fan to shout at Eric, “Have my babies!” “I don’t have time for babies. I’m too busy.” he said, politely turning down her request, but it wasn’t the last time she would make it this night.

“Haunted” was the first of a few songs that saw Giovanni and the other guy heavily using their electronic drums, while Eric moved his mic stand out of the way on that one, giving him a little more freedom as he paced around more, and got pretty passionate at times. “I’m haunted, I’m haunted by you…” he belted out on the chorus, dropping to his knees at one point, packing that and many other lines from the song to the brim with emotion. That simply made it all the more enjoyable for the audience, and after finishing it, he had a question for everyone. “Does Dallas, Texas know how to dance?!” They proved they did on the incredibly catchy “Fool’s Gold”, which somehow managed to sound even better live, and was certainly more fun. Eric made an array of little movements with his hands during the first verse, conducting them to the music, while at one point during the song he instructed everyone to put their hands up. The fans listened, moving their fists up and down to the beat.

“Little Space” was definitely the most electronic sounding song they did this night, after which Giovanni and the other guy let up on the electronic drums, as he went back to his bass for the lively “Gimme Control”. “I’m sorry I declined your baby offer earlier…” Eric again told the girl from earlier, who was very into the show. “I’m just too busy. I am.” he said, looking at the bass player, who in turn was looking at Eric like that was just an excuse. The trio moved on with “The Last Dance”, which featured some real percussion as Giovanni periodically beat on a floor tom that set beside him, against the wall of stage left.

“…Tell me, how am I supposed to know, should I hold you, should I let you go? Let me know, I’ll let you go…” Eric sweetly sang on another gem and instant classic from the “Hush” album, “Bedbugs”, ending it as he crooned, “…I could lie and tell you we could still be friends…”

Everyone was saddened to hear Eric announce they had just one song left, but after a quick chat with Giovanni, they decided to do two. One of those songs was “Stranger”, and as they finished it, one girl let out a loud shriek of excitement. “I guess I am having your babies.” Eric said after pinpointing it was the same girl as before “She’s a shrieker.” he stated while laughing. As it stood, they had played the majority of “Hush”, and now, to end their 41-minute long set, they performed the title track. That song is something else in the live environment, and Eric was in top form while performing it, in complete control of the stage as well as the audience’s attention while he thrashed about on stage, then, in true rock star fashion, left the stage right after his final line.

Even after two years I still remember that first of theirs I saw pretty vividly, and the one this night at the Prophet Bar is another one that’ll live on in my mind for quite some time. And since they didn’t do anything from the “Get Sharp” album, it almost was like seeing them again for the first time this night.

Their showman for sure, and the three of them owned the stage this night as The Limousines. However, as amazing as Eric’s voice is (and it does sound even more remarkable live), and as mind blowing of a live show as they put on, one of the most surprising things to me is that is heavily as they rely on electronics and even backing tracks, none of it sounds synthetic. It’s all very real and has a clean, organic sound to it all.

Check out their records in iTUNES, and they do have one more show booked for the year in San Jose, CA at the Blacnk Club on December 20th.

They alone were worth coming out on this Monday night and the $15 price tag, but there was one more band after them, and they hailed from Nashville, TN.

I had listened to a little bit of Mona’s music just a few days before the show, and honestly, didn’t really get into it. There are plenty of bands, though, that end up being better live, and I figured I’d stick around for a few songs and give them a chance.

They played a decent amount of material from their self-titled record, beginning with “
Listen to Your Love”. Whatever reason I had of not liking their music beforehand was quickly dispelled with that explosive number, which had pulled pretty much the entire crowd (of around 80+ people, not band for a Monday night) as close as they could get to the stage, watching in awe.

Well, I now knew I’d be sticking around until they finished.

The quartet killed some time as they dealt with the drummer, Vince Gard’s monitor, which wound up not being turned on. “…That means he played that song like a badass!” said singer and rhythm guitarist Nick Brown, before they moved on to another single from their debut album, “Teenager”. Audience participation was a must on it, and they got nearly everyone clapping to the beat at the start of it, while Nick asked the fans to sing along at the end, which most everyone seemed happy to do, though it wasn’t loud enough. “Vince’s girlfriend is louder than that!” Nick told everyone in order to get some more out of them, and that helped lead to the start of some Texas jokes, since his girlfriend was from Texas, and her sisters were actually part of the audience.

After having some fun and laughs with everybody, they got back into show mode, doing a song from the recently released “Torches & Pitchforks”, “Wasted”, which I did find to be a bit repetitive at times. You could already tell that humor, especially in regards to banter, was a big part of Mona’s show, and at this point it appeared they were about to do a cover. “I heard there was a secret chord…” Nick crooned while softly plucking the strings of his guitar, getting an excited reaction from a few fans. A rendition of “Hallelujah” was not coming though, as he stopped right there. “Are you fucking kidding me?” he said, about the idea of them even covering that song, before they promptly tore into “Darlin’”, lead guitarist Jordan Young, bassist Zach Lindsey, Vince and Nick all rapidly rocked out on their instruments.

Upon finishing it, the Texas jokes continued, and while none were negative, they were pretty hit and miss with this group of Texans. “…I know, Texas jokes aren’t funny. Lighten up. It’s a Monday…” Nick said, acting as if he was irritated, but in a joking way. And since that wasn’t working, he put the target on himself. “…That guy with the mic makes less and less sense the more he drinks…”, which got the biggest rise from the crowd yet.

They kept going with a couple of other songs, the latter of which wound up being one of my favorites of theirs. It was very sharp and filled with venom, essentially being the epitome of a rock song. It was interesting when they finished it, though, Nick saying to everyone, “…Sometimes you play songs that aren’t even songs…” “Was that even a song before we started it?” Zach asked, giving the impression that perhaps it came about spur of the moment. Nick then moved the conversation in to what concerts have evolved into these days. “…You hear what you know, and then leave…” He then added, “I don’t believe in that.”, before continuing with, “I know music played by humans for humans is a novel idea…” The thing is, all of that would almost be funny if there wasn’t so much truth to it.

Is what wound up being funny, though, was that after this speech about people only sticking around to hear the “popular” songs, they did “Goons (Baby, I Need it All)”, which Zach pointed out after they finished was the one song that everyone here knew (well, I didn’t know it, though.) It was ironic that things would work out that way, but certainly not hypocritical.

The talk of music continued, and now Nick also incorporated some real life experiences in order to show how different everybody is. “I’ve met people that have dicks who like other people with dicks. I’ve met people with dicks that like people with vagina’s…” He then threw in a meeting with someone from here in the Deep Ellum area of Dallas. “…Earlier I met a guy who’s been homeless for six months and said he’s an atheist…” (while on the topic of religion, at one point during the show Nick informed everyone that he was the son of a pastor, I believe it was, laughing when he said no one probably would have thought that.) The purpose of all that was to show that while we’re all different as far as background and beliefs go, we’re still all pretty much the same. “…Music is bigger than all of us. Fuck religion… fuck state….” he said, adding a bunch of other institutions to that list, before closing with, “I believe in music.”

I think that was the most Rock ‘n’ Roll speech I’ve ever heard, being very impactful, and they of course had to prove that, going almost right in to “Shooting the Moon”, which Nick put his guitar down for. He joined the audience on that one, as the crowd parted, letting him go where he wanted, which was almost back to the bar, before he eventually returned towards the front of the stage. They toned things down just a bit with “Like You Do”, and only did more so once Nick got his guitar back, knocking out “Pavement”.

I believe they followed it with another track from 2012’s “Mona”, “I Seen”. Regardless of if that’s right or wrong, Jordan, Zach, Vince and Nick tore it up on their respective instruments, and even though their 70-minute long set was almost over, they still had a lot of energy left to put into it.

One more song came next, after which they again thanked everyone for coming out on this Monday night. “…No one ever wants to do anything on Monday’s.” said Nick, before they brought the night to a close with “Lean Into the Fall”.

What they did was put on a real, entertaining performance, the likes of which are hard to find.

Making it all the better was the fact that I was not prepared for it in the least, and that’s always a great feeling when you see a band and they completely blow you away.

Anyway, in watching the members of Mona on stage, all the potential they have is readily evident, which makes me glad I saw them here at the Prophet Bar, because there’s no doubt they’re destined for bigger and better things (and bigger stages). They just have all the key components, from the live show, to writing meaningful music that has that certain radio friendly quality to it, and everything else a band needs to succeed.

They may be done playing for now, but keep an eye on their tour schedule, ‘cause they’ll no doubt be busy in 2014. And in the meantime, check out their music on iTUNES.

Very fun night, and it was nice getting to some bands from beyond the North Texas music scene. Too bad every Monday night can’t be this much fun. Oh, and this also wound up being the 600th concert I’ve seen. Not bad if I do say so myself.

Sunday, November 17th, 2013 – Free Dominguez

The Prophet Bar was hosting a very unique show this night. Free Dominguez, best known as the frontwoman of Kidneythieves, was performing this night, and this final show of an only two-show tour of Texas was more of an intimate party than just your typical concert.

This Dallas date was billed as a “private event”, with buying tickets in advance being the only way to get in, as no tickets were sold at the door, giving it an exclusive feel, to an extent.

On top of that, Free had organized the lineup, with her cousin Jordi Baizan and fellow Los Angeles based singer Sierra Swan opening for her. (Dallas locals At Night were also scheduled to perform, though their van broke down on the way back from their Houston show).

However, since this was such an early show (starting about 6PM), both openers had finished by the time I was able to get there, though I heard good things about both.

Still, everyone was most excited for Free Dominguez, who had been over at the merch table meeting people and signing stuff for most of the evening (from what I heard), only leaving shortly before her and her bands 8:40 start time in order to get ready for the show.

Much of their 67-minute long set was comprised of material from “Volcano and the Sea”, an album that at one point during the night Free said she had been wanting to make for ten years, sounding elated that it had finally happened.

They kicked things off exactly how the record does, with the beautifully serene yet roaring rock number, “Calling”. She informed the decent size crowd on the title after they finished it, chatting with everyone briefly. “This is going to be our last song.” Free joked before they launched into “Beautiful”, which was just one of many songs this night that guitarist Static was able to shred on.

Drummer Beak Wing counted them in on the mesmerizing “Line in the Sand”, which was the last song they did in order as is heard on the record, and afterwards Free  again spoke with the crowd, creating a real rapport with everybody. One thing she did was point out a couple who had drove all the way from St. Louis to see this show, a feat that earned them a round of applause. “…It’s stuff like that that keeps me doing what I’m doing…” remarked Free, being genuinely humbled by that, as well as all the fans in general who had come out to show their support.

“Make me a simple life before I die…” Free crooned as they started “Simple Life”, which somewhat deals with materialism, and wound up being a highlight of their show. At least I thought so. Upon finishing it, she pointed out one of the lines from it, for those who might not have caught it, and that was, “…Things that are forever are forever changing…” She commented on how that’s more or less a mantra for her, and it is probably one of the most true lyrics from a song. Talk then led to the next song, which Free noted was the first song she and Static wrote that wound up leading to “Volcano and the Sea”. “…He was screwing around on Skype…” she said, saying she liked what he was doing on his guitar and asked him to continue.

They then slowed things down with the dark and gorgeous “Corridors”, with Free hitting some utterly beautiful notes with her voice. “That’s always a fun one to do. It’s always different.” she stated, referring to Static as “the feral one”, adding that he always keeps them on their toes while performing it. And while they had toned things down with that song, they were about to scale back even more as Beak Wing and bassist Matt McJunkins left the stage. Free told everyone that for this next segment, she let Static pick the songs they were going to play, ones she hadn’t prepared for and was going to be as surprised as the audience. “…I might even forget the lyrics, like I did last night in Houston.” she said laughing.

This portion of the show saw them doing some stripped down covers of Kidneythieves songs, and the first one was the lead track from “Zerospace”, “Before I’m Dead”. They may have sounded a little different, but it was these songs that everyone seemed to love, and much of the audience was even singing along to them, especially “Jude (Be Somebody)”, which everyone seemed ecstatic to hear, and it did even catch Free off guard. “I don’t know what it is.” she said after Static’s first riff on the guitar, reiterating that after the second, before realizing. And no, she didn’t flub the words to either of those tracks.

As the rhythm section returned, Free took a few moments to discuss another project she and Static are working on, which will be a hip-hop collaboration. She expressed her love of the genre, even saying they recently got word from the label that they will be able to get who they want to collaborate with for what I believe she said would be an EP that would most likely be released in the first half of next year. She sounded very excited about it, and it will no doubt be an interesting record to hear once it’s finished.

As they got back to her solo material, they did some revamped renditions of a couple songs from “(.Unearth.)”, the addition of Matt and Beak Wing really helping flesh out the songs from how they are on the album, helping transform “
Darkest Rivers” into a beast of a song, and one they could all really throw down on. “…Enjoy it…” said Free, urging everyone to get the most out of it, adding, “…’Cause I don’t know when we’ll be back…” Following it was “Questions + Lies”, which helped wind the evening down, but they still had a couple songs left to do.

But before playing any more, Free pointed out that a special guest was in attendance, and that was someone who had backed their Kickstarter campaign, picking the reward option of having her write a song about him. In order to get to know him she said they had talked online many times, and she also had him keep a dream journal for a while, which he then gave to her. She was excited about the song, saying how good it was sounding and that she has had to fight the urge to share even a snippet with him, because she wants him to be surprised when he hears the full song, which she said would be titled “Mr. Goodnight”.

They got back to it with “Hearts Like Parachutes”, which made them appear as if they were still getting warmed up, with the whole band really loosing up, especially Matt, who thrashed about to the beat. Then, before their final song, Free pointed out someone else who was in attendance. It was a young girl who was at her first ever concert, and Free said she was glad the child had been in the bathroom earlier when she said the “f-word”. “…I’m sensitive about that stuff…” she clarified, shortly before encouraging everyone to support their favorite band by buying their music, then bashing a streaming service with, “Fuck Spotify!”. It was “Wolf” that brought their show to a close, though even after a little more than an hour, no one was ready for it to come to an end, letting it be known when it was said that would be the last song. “Do you not want me to enjoy this shot?” Free said jokingly, having gotten one early on in the night, but only drank a portion of so it didn’t “fuck up” her voice as she put it. A respectable ting to do I might add, since so many musicians these days don’t seem to think twice about how it might affect their singing.

As the band retreated back stage, the DJ they had at the event began to spin some more music as everyone started to mingle a bit, thinking it was over. It wasn’t.

Static and Free returned to the state after a minute or so, performing over the track the DJ had going, giving everyone one little bonus track.

It was truly an incredible show, and making it all the better was the intimate feel it had. The Prophet Bar is a smaller venue, and all four members were fairly cozy on stage, having just enough room to do a little moving around. That didn’t keep them from putting on one helluva show, though.

There’s no question that Static is a phenomenal guitarist, stealing the spotlight at times as you watch in wonder at his mastery of the instrument. Beak Wing and Matt are also experts at their craft, while Free Dominguez is amazing in all aspects. Often this night she could be seem conducting her body very fluidly to the music, moving her hands and arms about in perfect time to what her band was playing. On top of that, she has a stellar voice, which was no doubt the main tool that left everyone in awe this night.

Honestly, the first time I ever heard any Kidneythieves songs was the covers they did this night, it has prompted me to listen to their records. And while it may be a departure from the group that made her famous, Free’s solo music is every bit as great, albeit in a different way, but in the end, it’s all riveting music that will pull you in and make the trip an experience.

If you haven’t yet heard her solo stuff, check it out in either iTUNES or Bandcamp.

I’m glad I wound up going to this show, as it was well worth it, and I definitely won’t miss out on the next one… Whenever that may be.

Saturday, November 16th, 2013 – Waking Alice

Having six bands on a bill means getting the show started early and having most of the bands do shorter sets. So, by the time I arrived to the Curtain Club this night, I had already missed Item 9 and A Life in Arms Reach, while Down to Friend was getting ready to take the stage for their CD release show.

Personally, I wasn’t much of a fan. They were heavier than what I like, with a hefty amount of screaming. But even I managed to find their high-strung show somewhat entertaining, and their fans clearly loved it, moshing pretty much the entire time they were on stage.

And if their genre sounds more like your style of music, you can find the EP they released, “So Awesome, It’s Stupid” in iTUNES.

The music style changed with the next set of bands, with Waking Alice ushering in the rock portion of the night.

They may have had an abbreviated 30-minute long set, but it was still long enough it allowed them to hit the highlights, and they packed it full of rock., an getting them off to an excellent start was “Treason”. As usual, the song was sped up from what you hear on the “Retribution” EP, drummer Jonn Levey providing a quicker beat for the song, resulting in it having much more of an urgency to it. It seemed like they might slow things down with the following song, which frontman Rus Chaney noted was a brand new one they had written a couple of weeks before. “It’s a love song.” he added, prompting a jokingly disappointed “awwwe” from their fans and friends. “Shut up.” he quipped, saying it was more of an atypical love song, and, if I heard the name right, was titled “Paper. Rock. Shotgun.”

It certainly wasn’t your normal love song, and music wise it even had some slightly dark undertones at times, though the lyrics were definitely that of a love song, and not in the generic way that so many songs like that are written in. And if there was still any doubt that perhaps it was not a rock song, than Brandon Brewer’s guitar solo quelled it, being slick, polished and all around awesome. It also further whets the appetites of their fans, giving everyone a little more insight into what Waking Alice has been working on, and already has me intrigued as to what will be coming down the pipeline next.

“Scars” had a super tight rhythm section this night, particularly at the beginning and before the choruses, when bassist Brayton Bourque swiftly plucked the strings of his bass in perfect synch to Jon’s drumming, which was pretty fast in itself. Very cool, and just shows how the band is still tightening up their live show.

They were already halfway done with their set, and continued on with their latest single, which Rus mentioned at the time may even still be up for free download on their Reverbnation page, joking that every now and then they can be nice and give stuff away. He was referring to “Hostage”, the heavy and intense track that has quickly become a fan favorite. “Fighting for myself to break free from your grasp. Now I’m on my feet, I’m gonna kick some ass.” Rus sang on that beast of a song, before they moved on to some classic Waking Alice. “…You might know it.” remarked Rus before they launched into “Biggest Lie”, which is always an interesting one to hear, due to the ever changing guitar solo Brandon does during it. The one this night was one of the best riffs I’ve heard him go on, having a very raw rock sound, and Jonn also got the spotlight for a few moments, as he knocked out a drum solo.

They then closed with a cover. “…It’s probably Jonn’s favorite.” Rus commented. Jonn then smiled as he led them into The Smashing Pumpkins’ “Geek U.S.A.”. They put a good spin on it, and I found myself liking it even more this time around than the (only) other time they did it. You could tell they’ve put some more work into it since their September show, and hopefully it’ll be a cover that sticks around for a little longer.

Their set did seem to pass by a little quick, and I think everyone of their fans would have liked to have heard another one or two tracks, but there’s always next time for that. Actually, this shorter set seemed to make them hustle a little more, invigorating them and making them even more dynamic than usual.

They have one last show for the year lined up on the last day of the year (December 31st) at Tomcats West in Fort Worth, for those who really do want to rock in the new year. And of course check out their music (new and old) in iTUNES.

InnrCor was next up, another band who was celebrating the release of a new record, as well a brand new lineup for the group.

I stuck around for a bit, but just never really got in to it, and since I had been feeling under the weather since early on in the week, still didn’t feel great and I knew I didn’t like the headliners, Mad Mexicans, I went ahead and called it an early night.

It may have been a relatively short show for me, but that should say something about Waking Alice, too, ‘cause they alone were well worth the trip to the Curtain.

Saturday, November 9th, 2013 – KXT’s Birthday Bash

Area station KXT (91.7 FM) was celebrating their fourth anniversary this night, doing so by having organized a concert at the Granada Theater. And what a concert is was…

Johnny Marr (formerly of The Smiths) was headlining, but they had gotten a lone local band on this bill, and the Fort Worth/Dallas based Oil Boom had the pleasure of opening up this show.

The trio hit the stage at eight on the dot, drummer Dugan Connors counted them into their first song. Singer and guitarist Ryan Taylor then ripped into his guitar, starting one of their latest singles, “45 Revolutions Per Minute”, and if there was anyone in the room who was skeptical about the opener, that song quickly dispelled those thoughts. It’s a rocking good time, having everything desirable in a song, and they were only just getting started, as Dugan wound them into their next song with some steadier beats, while Ryan lightly plucked away at his axe.

“Happy birthday, KXT!” Ryan quickly shouted after finishing that track, as they tore into another unrecorded number, which boasted a sensationally tight rhythm section, bassist Steve Steward and Dugan ruling the tune. Well, except for the nice little solo Ryan got.

They were making sure they had time to play everything they could in their 31-minute set, but occasionally at time to insert some dialogue, such as at this point, when Steve held up his hand, making the “devil horns” gesture. “So, Johnny Marr is cool. Right?” Getting a roaring reaction of agreeance from those who had shown up early, then he added, “I’m not sure if the devil sign is right.” He didn’t have much time to reflect on it, though, as they bolted into another fun number, following it with another track.

“…I need that Rock ‘n’ Roll, I need that Rock ‘n’ Roll…” Ryan repeatedly sang throughout their next number, after he had made a quick guitar change, with the song being probably one of the most appropriate ones of the night. “You may have heard this next one on KXT.” Ryan informed any potential listeners of the station. “It’s “Don’t Worry, be Happy” by Bobby McFerrin he cracked. “I was going to say it was The Chain by Fleetwood Mac.” Steve chimed in. It wound up being neither, and instead was what is arguably the best track off the 2012 “Gold Yeller” EP, “The Great American Shakedown”. It’s filled with some soulful rock guitar chords, and the chorus will instantly have you singing along to it.

Sadly, that brought them to their final song of the night, which wound up being their longest, too, and worked as a fitting song to end with. “…I’m slowing down…” sang Ryan at points of this bluesy and slightly soulful number, as he Dugan and Steve, eventually trailed off on their playing, giving the impression that they were done. They weren’t quite done yet, though, coming back in strong, and finishing it out.

 While their time on stage was short, they packed it full of energy, and their fun songs that sound a little like classic rock, while also incorporating some blues and soul into it all.

It may not be cutting edge, but it is pretty original music, and making it all the better is how polished their musicianship and stage show is, all of which resulted in me loving them even more this time around than I did the first time I saw them.

From Ryans’ distinct voice, to the humor he and Steven throw in from time to time, and even the faster paced, infectious songs they have, which are in part thanks to the quick beats Dugan busts out, there’s surely something about Oil Boom that will appeal to you. And out of all the local bands that could have opened this show up, these guys really deserved the spot, and I can’t imagine anyone having gotten the night off to a better start.

They have another Dallas show set for November 30th at The Prophet Bar, and check out their records in iTUNES.

Following them was singer/songwriter Meredith Sheldon, who was accompanied by another electric guitarist on stage.

“…I’m very happy to be back here for only the second time in my life.” she said after taking the stage, with “here” being the great state of Texas. She also noted she was from Massachusetts, and when she finished speaking of course one guy felt the need to comment, shouting at her, “Your hot!!”, a remark she kind of laughed at before dismissing it.

That was about all the talking she did, as they launched into a 35-minute set of continuous music, as they went from one song right into the next. They were a big departure from the acts they were sandwiched in between, being more minimal in some ways, yet they still retained a very rock element in their performance, and each could really shred on their guitars when they needed to.

They were still somewhat quieter, though, and her singing was fairly soft at times, giving what I thought was a very interesting dynamic to her songs.

In the end, I was a bit indifferent to it all. Some of the songs I really liked, others I just didn’t feel. For two people, though, they manage to put on a fairly entertaining live show.

With them off stage, the crowd couldn’t wait to see Johnny Marr, anxiously waiting for the 9:50 start time to roll around…
(I reviewed Johnny Marr’s set for On Tour Monthly. It can be found HERE.)

Friday, November 8th, 2013 – A Celebration of The Circle

There are plenty of badges of honor for local North Texas bands to wear. From playing some of the more recognized venues (i.e. House of Blues), to some of the iconic Deep Ellum haunts who have hosted a plethora of well known bands over the decades, but easily the biggest honor is to get a plaque up on the Wall of Fame at the Curtain Club.

Drowning Pool did it early in their career, as did Bowling for Soup, and many other national acts who hail from the area, as well as a slew of local bands, past and present, who are highly regarded here. And now, this night, it was time for The Circle to join those ranks, having completed the requirements of having to get X amount of fans out to each consecutive show at the venue.

Opening up the night was one band that accomplished the task of getting a plaque, years ago, and that was Pistol Whippin’ Ike, who was debuting their brand new lineup this night.

Jeff Hathcock hammered down on his drum kit, launching them into “Liar”, the rest of the band quickly following suit as they ripped into their instruments. It was a little strange hearing it at the beginning of their set instead of the end, like I’m used to, but it offered one hell of a way to get the show going. It certainly got their fans pumped up, as well as attracted the attention of other onlookers, though it was the outro they added to it that wound up being my favorite part of the song. It was a killer, short instrumental piece, dominated by soaring sounds of Barry Lorberbaums’ and Jason Rutledges’ guitars, and was a nice touch to the track.

That soon gave way to another instrumental segment, setting up “Last Cigarette”. Oddly enough, Barry Townsend, who is the new bands new bass player, was pretty restrained during their first song, seeming like he was perhaps a bit nervous. If he was, he shook it off during that number, getting into the form you’re used to if you’ve seen him with his other band, jumping around and thrashing about on stage, bare footed no less. “…So The Circle is here…” said frontman Mario Cadena, after welcoming everyone to the show. He went on to say, “I’ve known them for twelve years. I was only fifteen back then.”, joking about that last part, before announcing their next song, a favorite of mine, “Pull the Trigger”. “Listen.” he commanded before the first couple of choruses, a signature move of his, and by the next time the chorus came around he asked everyone to sing along with him. The song wasn’t without a little hiccup, though, when at one point, one way or another, Townsend’s bass had gotten unplugged, a problem he quickly fixed.

“Are you having a good time?!” Mario asked as they went immediately into “Life As We Know”, the only classic PWI song of the night, with a message that is timeless. Things slowed down just slightly with “What Have I Become?”, ending with Jeff using one of his hands to point towards the sky as the song gradually trailed off. Afterwards, Mario took time to officially introduce “Number Two”, since Townsend is the second one with that name Barry in the band. “…This is his first show. Actually his first practice…” Mario joked, noting he wasn’t doing too bad. The laughs continued, too, Mario pointing out he was “Mexican”, stating, “…Everyone needs a Mexican friend…” and that he was probably the one for some of the fans.

That led them to another track from the “Dying the Dream: Part 1” album, “I Used to Dream”, and was followed by a song that will most likely be on the follow-up to that album, “Truth”, which made its live debut this night. There’s no doubt it’s a true Pistol Whippin’ Ike song, fitting their heavier rock mold perfectly, and out of all the new songs I’ve heard them do in the last few years, “Truth” is easily one of the best.

Mario made one last speech, again congratulating The Circle for the honor they would soon have bestowed upon them, as well telling the fans how they felt about them. “…Without you, we are nothing.” said Mario, pointing at everyone, as they ended their 41-minute long set with the heaviest song they’ve got, “You Should Run”, which had not only Mario letting out a throaty scream at the end, but also Jason doing some screaming in between the main lyrics.

I honestly think this was one of the best Pistol Whippin’ Ike shows I’ve seen. Is what’s most impressive, is they haven’t even done an all electric show in a little while, yet they got up there and owned the stage. Townsend fit in well with the rock outfit, finding his groove early on and seeming completely comfortable with this new band of his, and only helped push them more, doing a fair amount of interacting with Lorberbaum and Jason. Jeff even seemed to have a different aura about him, killing it on the drums, while Mario commanded the crowd even better than usual.

Probably a lot of that tightness can be attributed to their long career, and they recently celebrated the bands twelfth birthday. They may have had a several year hiatus in between when they broke up, but nevertheless, the chemistry they build in all those years is still there, and so very noticeable on stage, and it looks like Townsend is going to fit in with it perfectly.

You can catch the band again soon, on November 21st when they play the Boiler Room in Dallas, and check out their page in iTUNES, where you can buy their official studio records along with some live cuts.

The night was just starting to get going now, and the onslaught of rock continued when Honey took the stage.

They wasted no time, ripping right into the first song of their 40-minute set, “Whiplash”, as even more people made their way into the already pretty full venue to hear Honey’s raw rock sounds. It was quickly followed by another, during which drummer Vinnie E. Parma started to show off some of his moves, tossing a drum stick into the air at one point, which he failed to catch. You could tell he was a bit upset by it, but he’d redeem himself soon enough.

“I guess I can talk to you all now, it’s been a couple of songs…” said singer and rhythm guitarist Kes O’Hara, her thick Australian accent being readily apparent when she spoke, though was completely unnoticeable when she sang. She mentioned how hot it was on stage, before pulling her hat off. “It’s too hot for a hat, but now I have hat hair.” she said, putting it back on as they readied themselves for the next song. Here was where Vinnie made up for the little fumble from the previous song, at one point throwing a drum stick at just the right angle so that it bounced off one of the cymbals, back towards him before he caught it. It was quite entertaining to watch, and something he repeated a few times at various points throughout the rest of their set. And completing the rhythm section you had Holly Wood, who knocked out a sweet bass solo on that track.

They took another pause in-between songs, as Kes pointed out the exact web address to go to to find their Facebook page. “…If you just search Honey, you’ll get four million results…” she warned everyone, before eventually adding that the next song was more or less her theme song. “…Wasted on the weekend, living day to day…” she belted out in her gruffer voice on the chorus of “Wasted”, a song that was complete with a blistering guitar solo from Krishen Anthony.

Afterwards, they slowed things down ever so slightly as Kes swapped out to an acoustic guitar, then reminisced about her first trip to Texas, saying it only lasted for three weeks, and once she returned to Australia all she did was think about the US. “…So I saved for six months to move back…” she said, noting that, that was what this next song was about. Upon finishing it, they brought things back up, with a cover no less, putting their spin on Thin Lizzy’s “Bad Reputation”, doing it justice as well as leaving a mark on it. Another original, the pretty catchy “Free Ride” followed, after which Kes again thought back on Texas. “I thought Texas would be all propane and Hank Hill’s…” she said, a stereotype that pretty much the whole world has about the state. “…But then I got here and y’all were normal.” she finished, before they went into “Red Carpet”, the end of which Vinnie patched into their final song.

Before this, the only Honey show I had seen was their live debut, which was here at the Curtain back in June, and as solid as they were then, they’ve definitely tightened up since. Along with the stellar musicianship they each possess, you can also see how cohesive they are, each a vital component of the larger working unit.

It’s easy to see why Honey has taken the Dallas music scene by storm, quickly winning over hordes of fans. At one point this night, Kes mentioned The Circle and the plaque they were getting, gazing at the wall while pointing out that she’d like to have a plaque up there on day. It seems almost a sure bet that, that will happen, and that day may well be sooner rather than later.

They’ll be back at the Curtain Club on December 6th, and afterwards, you can catch them December 8th at Three Links and December 19th at Trees, both of which are in Dallas.

While they were the main band of the night, The Circle had opted for the spot before the “headline” slot, since the eleven o’clock hour time has now become the most coveted one to have. Actually, it was after 11:30 when they finally hit the stage, and there was not a soul in there who was expecting what was seen when the curtain opened…

Frontman Don Mills, guitarists Craig Nelson and Alan Sauls and bassist Kenneth Henrichs were all sporting tuxes and bow ties, while drummer Marc Berry had on a vest, as well as fedora. They were looking their best for this special night, and the audience was only allowed a second or two to actually take all that in before the sample intro for their first song, “The Other Side”, signified the start of what would be a legendary night.

“What the hell is up, Curtain Club?!” Don roared, while Craig and the rest of the group instantly moved along to the next song, “406”. “How are you doing?” he then asked, continuing chatting for a minute or so, eventually dedicating this show to every single person who was here this night. And for the record, they had the Curtain as full as I’ve seen it in a long time. They only made things more intense with “406”, and it was pretty entertaining to see four guys moving about the stage, jumping on their boxes that bore the band’s name and logo, and just flat out rocking out in tuxedos. I can honestly say I’ve never seen that before, and I doubt I will again.

Don made another dedication after that song, this time to all the other plaqued bands, whose ranks they were clearly thrilled to be joining. He even had an anecdote to share, saying that the first time he walked into the Curtain Club was in 1997, “…And I saw Chad…” he said, pointing to Chad Lovell, the current sound guy at the venue. Don went on, adding that he saw the plaque for Course of Empire, the iconic Dallas band that Chad was a part of, saying he thought to himself, “I want to be like Chad.” The stories, at least for the time being, ended there, as Don counted them in to one of three newer songs they did this night, “Save Me”. It was a great song, which I found to be ever so slightly different from most of their other tunes, in a good way, and whilst performing it, Don made a point to introduce all of his band mates.

That new one was segued into a fan favorite, “My Trip to the Desert Sucked”, which served to amp the energy level up even more, and by the time it ended, Marc stood from stool, as he wildly banged on his drum kit. They got another breather when Don introduced a friend, Don Brooks, whom he turned the mic over to. The other Don mentioned how loyal Mills has been to the music scene during his tenure, saying how proud he was of all of them for reaching this milestone accomplishment. Once he returned to the audience, they picked back up with “Beggars Can’t be Choosers”, which proved to be a little too action packed for Don, who had to walk into the stairway once the song was done to adjust his pants. “Play some porn music.” he said to the rest of the group, who instead fired up their next number. “That’s not porn music.” he said upon returning, getting back into show mode for “You Wanted This”, a pretty catchy hard rock song.

But out of all of their new tracks they played this night, it was “Monster” that took the cake in my opinion, segueing almost seamlessly into it from the previous one. It had a super slick and polished sound, and at the end Kenneth let loose some wicked bass riffs by running his finger across one of the strings, all the way up the neck of the guitar. The song wasn’t without its faults, though, due entirely to some technical difficulties that suddenly arose, when the main microphone cut out, making it impossible to hear Don for about an entire verse, if not even a little longer.

“When they measure you for a tux, let it go one size down.” remarked Don, before they cranked out what’s easily their most emotionally filled song, “Failure”. Another track from their debut “Who I Am” EP came next, “I Am”. All five of them where in perfect synch with one another after the second chorus, during a short instrumental breakdown, as Craig, Alan, Kenneth and Don all started banging their heads in time with the beats Marc was churning out.

Only one song was left at that point, and Don put it best by saying it was “…The song that brought us all here.” It was the first single they recorded, and the one that every single one of their fans loves, “Sleep On it”, which ended their 42-minute long set, and nearly finished Don’s voice off, which had started fading just during those last couple of songs.

It wasn’t over quite yet, though, because they still had to get their plaque, and it wasn’t presented in just the typical, standard way.

Darth Vader’s theme song from the Star Wars film began to play, as the Storm Troopers and a few other characters from the movies made their way on stage. If you’ve been in Deep Ellum before, you’ve no doubt seen them walking around some time or another, and after being presented with their plaque, Don said he had also wanted to do something that had not been done before, and that was have an already plaqued band present them with theirs. That was the cue for one of the Storm Troopers, who was a member of the band Rivethead, to remove his helmet and say a few words. It was Robert Miguel who first brought their plaque on stage, though, handing it to the members of The Circle, leading to a lengthy photo session, where they held it for several minutes, allowing everyone to snap a picture or two with their phones. They weren’t quite done yet after all that, though…

Back in July when they did their CD release show here, The Circle pulled out a classic from one of the best metal bands to come out of Dallas, and they were doing it again, now, covering Drowning Pool’s, “Tear Away”. It feature an all-star collection of musicians, too, with JC of the Tyler based outfit The Truman Syndrome joining them onstage, and doing most of the lead singing. Don also asked Ryan Ray of Adakain to join them, while Xtina and a few other members of Solice, and even Jules from Enamored and Paris Pipkin of Last Day Living got on stage, giving a real sense of community and family to the song.

At one point during their show, Don noted that with this show, they had wanted to set the standard for all other plaque shows to come, and while I have my doubts that, that standard will actually be met by other bands, they did achieve their goal.

A plaque on that wall is something every Dallas and even North Texas musician dreams of, and it’s something only a select few will actually obtain. That said, many of the other bands whose plaque shows I have seen, the importance of the event has seemed a bit lost on them, giving off more of a, “Hey, that’s cool” vibe. Whereas The Circle fully recognized it as the privilege it is, going all out, not just in their attire, but in their performance, making it the best show of theirs that I’ve seen.

In the end, it was a fitting final show of the year for them, closing out what has been a busy year for them, and saw them hit two huge milestones (release of their debut EP and this plaque), leaving you to wonder what 2014 will hold for them. Only time will tell, but here’s to hoping it’s an even better year than this one was.

First up, I want to say one last “congratulations” to The Circle, and if you don’t yet have their “Who I Am” EP, check it out in iTUNES.

To some, the party may have been over with that, as the masses cleared out, most of whom probably had no idea what they would be missing out on by skipping Alterflesh.

The band hit the stage late, nearly one in the morning, seeming unaffected by the late slot, still doing a whopping 54-minute long set.

Frontman Dayvoh, who was acting as the rhythm guitarist for these first few songs, greeted everyone with his normal statement, making you expect something different right from the get go. “…How strange we are even here.” he remarked to his “brothers and sisters”, after mentioning the vastness of the universe, as that led them into “Megahub”. The song was only enhanced by Dayvoh’s unique look, one he didn’t (entirely) have the last time I saw them. He was without a shirt this night, his torso up to his bald head covered in small blue hexagons, giving him an otherworldly look, pulling off with ease what he’s going for, and that is evoking the image of a shaman. “We’re gonna bring you another story…” Dayvoh announced as soon as they finished that song, bassist Paul Kubajak laying down the heavy and sweet bass licks that begin “So Much More”. “…Maybe you had too much too fast…” Dayvoh sang at one point in the song, which is just one example of the depth Alterflesh’s songs have, even being thought provoking at times.

“…The force is with us…” Dayvoh stated as a few of the Storm Troopers walked on the stage, dancing around while drummer Kevin Mills, lead guitarist Ben Schelin and the rest threw down on “Toxic”. Dayvoh took a break from his guitar after that, as they were joined by a guest, Don Mills. Even after his band’s set, he still had enough energy for one more, and he and Dayvoh co-sang a track titled “Believe In”, making it a highlight song of their set. Afterwards, the two singers had some fun, coming across as the perfect comedic duo, cracking a few jokes at times. The biggest laugh came after Don again said they had wanted to set the standard for all future plaque shows, while Dayvoh reached into the drawer of the desk that was on stage (they decorate the stage with al sorts of things, from statues of Buddha to paintings, etc.) He pulled out a wad of one dollar bills, making it rain as he tossed them out at the fans, who frantically picked up all they could.

Don then exited the stage, while Dayvoh set up their next song. “…This is a social rant.” he said, adding, “Keep up with the lyrics.” speaking of “Watch Rome Burn”. It’s a personal favorite of mine, and if you can keep up with the words that he so quickly spits out, you may take something away from it. For example on the bridge when Dayvoh sings, “…Just because they will say it is wrong does not mean you should leave it alone…” Is what’s really remarkable, is how the song still applies to the current culture, given its age, as after the song Dayvoh noted he had first performed that at another Deep Ellum club back in ’96, as a spoken word artist.

He put his axe to use one more time for “Embers”, sitting it back down once the song was over. “For an alternative band, this is as close as we get to country.” For the record, “Imaginary Chains” is far from country, but it’s slow enough at the start that the notes Ben plays maybe, possible could sound similar to something country. Either way, it got a nice laugh from the crowd.

“Here’s something everyone can relate to.” Dayvoh remarked, before they started “Start Over”, which had a pleasant little surprise. Evidently, they weren’t done with their guest singers, and shortly into the song a female voice could be heard, as Xtina of Solice, who already had a microphone in hand, made her way from the audience up to the stage, adding a beautiful layer to the song. Upon finishing it, they stepped tings back up with one of their newer songs, and one that is quickly becoming my favorite Alterflesh track. There’s just something about “Into the Sun”. It’s heavier than the rest of their material, and lyrically speaking, it comes across as being their most transcendental song in my opinion.

They had taken their show nearly as late as they could, the night nearing the clubs 2 A.M. closing time when they started the final song of their 54-minute long set, “New Horizon”. While Kevin and Ben gradually built up the song, Dayvoh outstretched his arms, then slowly moved them towards his chest, placing his palms against one another, appearing to pray.

That song capped off their show well, and the same thing could be said about Alterflesh as far as closing out this night, the messages their music carries with it offering the audience a certain existential feeling.

Along with all that, they put on just as serious a rock show as any of the bands that played before them, filling it with energy, and leaving it all on the stage.

Their next show is scheduled to be on December 6th at the Boiler Room in Dallas, and it’ll be well worth seeing.

In the end, this was quite the night. Probably one of the best shows I’ve ever seen here at the Curtain, and that’s saying something. From the lineup, to the performances, everything was outstanding. That said, Don and Dayvoh deserve one last kudos for putting together, having been working on this night since July. In the end, their time and effort was more than noticeable.