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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In this case, yes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Album Review: “Dangers” by Things of Earth

imageThings of Earth is a quartet hailing from Dallas; an instrumental quartet.

Generally (and any avid readers of my blog my well already know this), I’m not a fan of instrumental stuff. I’m open to anything, but that is one genre of music that usually fails to capture my interest. However, there have been an act or two in recent years that have slowly started turning the tides on that thinking of mine, and Things of Earth has what it takes to completely reverse those thoughts I’ve had for years now.

The five track EP, which fills right at half an hour of time, goes right from zero to sixty with opener “Shadows of Furniture and Ghosts”, which immediately shows how serious of a rock band this is. The drumming is absolutely incredible, and the sharp guitar tones and blistering notes help in making the songs transitions seamless as it ebbs and flows, and also boasts a beefy rhythm section at one point.

The intricate music beds continue with “Separate Digits”, which at times will have you banging your head along to the music, while at others it’s best to close your eyes and just really absorb what you’re listening to. The structure at the end serves for a nice lead in to “Dangers of Pretending to be a Warlock” (which would have to be my personal favorite song), and while it may start off semi-relaxed, it doesn’t stay that way. You’re suddenly bombarded with a furious assault on the drums in the latter portion of it, creating a nice euphoric rush not only in the music, but the listener, too.

Some sample audio can be heard (minimally) on other tracks, though they are perhaps best used on “Starboard List”, which—among other things—incorporates a biblical verse, specifically from Revelations (“And in those days, men shall seek death, and shall not find it…”). That line acts as the entrance to the heavier, even darker portion of the song, which flows into the eight minute long odyssey “Dead Body Water”. It’s as epic as a track of that length should be, and what was rather surprising to me was how fast those eight minutes can pass.

This really is a phenomenal album, and it had enticed me in just the first few moments, which, admittedly, was something I was not anticipating.

I know other people out there have to share my same sentiments when it comes to instrumental music, and the question, “Wouldn’t these songs be better with lyrics?” can at times be a fair one to ask, but not in the case of Things of Earth or their second EP “Dangers”. Why? Well, because words would be degrading to this masterful music these four guys have created.

Things of Earth is:
Benjamin Smith - guitar
Samuel Lomax - guitar
Brandon Butters - drums
Matthew Gillispie - bass

Purchase the album on: Bandcamp / iTUNES

Visit Things of Earths’ websites: Facebook / Twitter

Current Shows:
Friday, April 25th @ The Foundry presented by Parade of Flesh

image(Photo credit: Nick Sayers Photography)

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014 – King Camel Knows How To Throw a Motherfuckin’ Party

Local Education was getting back in session this night, and King Camel had put together an eclectic lineup for his first installment of the series in a little over a month.

As usual, Three Links was the host venue for it, and Denton’s own Matthew & The Arrogant Sea had been charged with opening the show.

Matthew Gray, who sang and played an acoustic guitar, introduced his band mates to everyone before they started, which included Fred Harvey on the saxophone. Their style was a mix of folk/indie/pop/rock — which is as interesting as it sounds — and their first song was a bit on the slower side. It was a great song, though.

“It’s gonna get hot in here.” Matthew stated, and they did indeed step things up a bit with their next tune. Things grew even more lively with “Black Dresses”, during which drummer Alexander Hughes was able to get a little more into it all, and gave it a little more force.

“Now it’s gonna get a little fucking weird and country up in here.” Matthew remarked after another song. It sounded like a joke, but it wasn’t. “A cowboy walks into a bar…” was the first line of tune, that had them tapping into a slightly country style, all the way down to some authentic sounding licks from electric guitarist Tony Whitlock. “Now it’s gonna get nasty.” remarked Matthew, before things got just a bit gritty.

Afterwards, he thanked everyone for coming out, even though the crowd was a bit sparse early on. “It’s been a long day…” he said to everyone, prompting one of his band mates to say they might as well make it a long night, a sentiment that he agreed with. “…We need your energy…” he said to the onlookers. He set up the next song by saying it was one he had, had the “honor and privilege” of being able to play all over the United States and even Canada, to crowds of only five people, and ones of hundreds.

It was a great one, though the show stealing moment when to Fred, who had a super smooth saxophone solo during it. It lasted awhile to, and the deeper he got into it, the harder it was to resist the soulful sounds.

He and bassist Blake Vickrey led them into their next number, which was followed by one to end their 45-minute long set. As they ended, Blake tossed his bass into the air a few different times. Never too high, just to ensure it didn’t get away from him, but still enough to be cool.

Despite the decade plus long career Matthew & The Arrogant Sea has had, I don’t recall having ever seen them in the eight years I’ve been immersed in the local music scene. I’ve heard of them, sure. I may have even listened to some of their music online before, but had never seen them until now.

They were really good. Their style is pretty unique and original, and while it’s not something I’d always be interested in, they do it well. Hell, they’ve perfected it. It is a odd mix of all those genres mentioned earlier, but it works; and Matthews’ voice was able to fit with all of it, and often even offered some relaxing qualities with it.

You can find their music on either iTUNES or BANDCAMP. As for shows, they’ll be at Good Record in Dallas on April 23rd. They also have some June dates, one on the 13th at Magnolia Motor Lounge in Fort Worth, the other in Dallas at The Foundry on the 21st.

Next up was the all-female band The Chloes. They’d been on my radar for a little bit now (maybe a couple of years, give or take), though I had never been able to catch a show; and they were the band I was most looking forward to on this bill.

Their 34-minute set featured some newer songs they’ve cooked up, which used a heavier electronic sound than some of their past stuff, and that wasn’t a bad thing.

Lysandra Chapman operated the keys, which were the primary (and really only) instruments used for the first bit of their opening song. Leila Wright bobbed her head along to the music — completely feeling the music — while singer and guitarist April Zenwel began singing. She even added some hand gestures to it when she wasn’t picking on her axe, doing everything from waving her arms around to pointing at the audience.

The pace (and noise level) picked up considerably not too far into that first one, and they wound it into their next song, keeping the energy level up with a heavily electronic/
synthesized sound that made the songs damn near irresistible. That was taken to a new level on their next song, which saw Leila sitting at the edge of stage left, striking her drum pad that was set up in a chair on what was a great sounding song.

“Run Run Run” was one song they did from their debut album “Vanish”, and while it showcased a softer die of The Chloes (which they pulled off surprisingly well), it still had a thick rhythm section, with bassist Brandie Dawson laying down some nice riffs.

Upon finishing it, April took a moment to thank Jeff Brown (AKA King Camel) for putting on the show and having them as a part of it, along with the other acts they were playing alongside and the good bit of people who had made it out on this weeknight.

April, who had been wearing a pair of sunglasses since they took the stage, cast them aside during their next number, which was followed by the poppy and infectious “Heart”, which had Leila flashing a huge smile from the time they started it right up to the end.

After another track, April walked over and donned a pair of goggles. “Are you ready to go swimming?” she asked everyone, setting up their final song, which was one of several this night that had Lysandra and Brandie backing her up with some harmonies.

They put on a highly enjoyable and solid show. Sure, they were all about having a good time themselves and also making sure the audience was enjoying what was going on, but they all also have some serious musical chops. Brandie an Leila made for a lethal rhythm combination, and the vocal effects April used on her voice (which made it more electronic sounding) fit the music and added to the vibe.

It was fun, and they brought the party atmosphere, which was good, because the next band started with the vibe and took it to new heights.

But getting back to The Chloes, they have a show at the Norman Music Festival in Norman, OK on April 26th. May 6th will find them at the City Tavern in Dallas, and they have another Dallas show on June 21st at The Foundry. They’ll be up in Yukon, OK on May 16th at Schwarzstock, and Fort Worth at The Grotto on June 14th. Also, hit up either BANDCAMP (for potentially free) or iTUNES for their music.

Closing out the night was Party Static, and based on what I had listened to beforehand, they sounded interesting to say the least.

The duel vocals of Laura Harrell and Kjersten Funk grab your attention; however, their little EP has a rougher, garage quality to it, so it made it hard to gauge what they might be like. Even if I had been able to, though, I don’t think I would have been prepared for what they were like live.

Their tight set began with the lead track from the “This Isn’t Music” EP, “Big Mouth Piranha”. Some dancing quickly ensued (from both the onlookers and the band), and the two vocalists were almost instantly proven to be a good thing, from the unison singing Kjersten and Laura did, to switching it up, where one provided the backing vocals.

Their songs are mostly short and to the point (that first one’s around two minutes) and they followed it up with the subsequent track from their album, “Rock ‘n’ Roll Lover”. It showed off the groups rock side even better, and Brett Strawn was tearing it up on his guitar, and often held the crowd’s attention.

They moved on with “I Want”, which really utilized the two singers and had each of them singing different parts, before they did a song, as Laura put it, “…about the deconstruction of the family unit…”. She was referring to “Make the Money”, and the line, “Make the money and let me live in your house.” should give you a nice idea of what it’s about.

By this point, they had everyone eating out of their hand, and with each song, the fans, both old and new, kept getting more into it, like one of the non-album tracks they did, where they often repeated the line, “Oh, shit.” “Who hasn’t felt that way?” Laura remarked once the song came to an end.

They followed it with a couple more songs, which Alex bridged together with some stellar bass riffs, before doing “Party Girl”, which featured some more slick playing from Brett, and was rounded out with some heavy, almost dark drum beats courtesy of Billy.

Next came what Laura said was a “new” song, before Kjersten mentioned it was an old one of theirs that had been “resurrected”. Either way, it was one of their best songs of the night, and concluded with an awesome guitar solo, which suddenly ceased, and the ladies ended by saying, “Whatever.”

They had just one song left from their EP, and now busted out “Sex in the Neighborhood”. The end was epic, and all of them were in great synch with one another, while Brett climbed atop his amp and segued them into their final song.

This was a blast! And while that could easily describe the entire night, I’m talking about Party Statics’ set right now.

They may not quite qualify as being “cutting edge”, but they are highly original, and completely unlike just about any other band here in D/FW. Hell, even beyond.

It’s rock music dressed in some sexy layers that just about anyone should find appealing. There’s no denying that their live show is where it’s all at, though, and that will definitely be how they make a name for themselves.

They have a show coming up on May 1st at the Double Wide, and you can find their debut EP in iTUNES.

I’ve only got a few of these Local Education shows, and even King Camel shows in general, and while I’ve seen some with bands I have more biased favoritism towards, I can’t say I’ve ever been to one where I had as much fun as I did this night. If you’d like to experience such fun, have a look at the shows he has COMING UP and go see one.

Saturday, March 29th, 2014 – The Third Annual Big Folkin’ Fest

Believe it or not, I honestly had not planned on doing a thing this night.

After scrapping plans to make another trip up to Denton, and nothing really catching my eye in Dallas, I figured I’d spend a Saturday night at home for a change. Then I had a friend offer me a free ticket to the Big Folkin’ Fest, and I couldn’t pass that up.

Not that I hadn’t wanted to go to the show (which took place at The Prophet Bar, on both sides, using all three indoor stages, with an outdoor one set up on the patio), but I just couldn’t justify paying twenty bucks for a ticket into it.

Got there a little later, about nine or so, and killed time until Kirby Brown’s set in The Prophet Bar at 9:30.

That’s when he was scheduled to start, at least, but, in something that should have been no real surprise, the times weren’t set in stone. By the time he and his band were supposed to start the act before him was just finishing, making it around 9:50 or so before they got all setup and ready to go.

I had only seen him once before, when he did solo set at a Patio Sessions probably back in the fall of 2012. Sometime after that he made the decision to move to New York to pursue his music career, and while he has gotten back to Dallas more than a few times since, I’ve never managed to make the shows.

From what I remembered, he was great solo, but the full band really helped flesh out his sound, as they powered through a 42-minute set that saw them playing several new(er) tracks. “Thank you for being here.” Kirby told the near capacity Prophet Bar. “You’re fucking welcome!” exclaimed a very excited fan, leaving Kirby a bit shocked, though he did manage to say, “That’s a big welcome.”

One of the cuts they did from 2011’s “Child of Calamity” was the exuberant “Coattails”, which raised everyone’s energy level a good deal. While Kirby is an Americana musician, there are some other layers added to his music. However, a few songs after that, they got to one that was pure Americana rock, and it sounded brilliant.

They followed it with another great number that had a rocking end, with the drums, guitars, bass and keys blaring on it. They then went to the opposite side of things, and the band left Kirby alone to do a song solo. It may have been much quieter than the past songs, but he still had the crowd transfixed with it.

His band then returned for a cover song, while they ended with what seemed to be a fan favorite.

It was a great set, and it left me a real fan of Kirby Brown. Like I said, I had seen him before, but that was long enough ago I couldn’t remember much about him.

He has a fantastic voice, and it’s unique at that. Personally, I can’t say I’ve heard of another singer who sounds quite like he does, and he’s gifted in the songwriting department, too.

Check out his music in iTUNES, and go see a show if you get a chance. I know I’m going to have to make more of a point to see him next time he gets back to Dallas.

Headed out to the patio stage after that, where The Hazardous Dukes were already playing.

It was hard to actually see them, given that the “stage” was just the ground, and the mass of people who had already surrounded the area made it hard to get up close.

I really liked what I heard, though. The group is comprised of Hank Van Hawkins, Billy Bones and Zachary Fox, among others, such as Conner Farrall.

They played what I consider to be more authentic sounding country, and everyone who did some singing had a nice twang to their voice.

“This is based on a true story about a buddy whose divorce kept falling apart, and he kept getting back together with his wife.” One of them said before one song, which had me repeating that in my head a few times, thinking, “Did he really say ‘his divorce kept falling apart?’”, simply because you never hear it phrased in that manner.

They knocked out a few more, throwing some jokes in here and there, and on one those songs Conner had a great guitar solo.

They seem to play fairly often, and for the month of April are doing a residency at Sundown at Granada every Sunday night. Those shows are free.

Back over in The Prophet Bar (the smaller room, that is), things were still running behind schedule, and it was right at eleven when The O’s kicked off their set, a half-hour after they were supposed to.

The duo of John Pedigo and Taylor Young mentioned they had played year one and two of Big Folking Fest and were glad to be back for another year, before opening with the lead track from their “Between the Two” album, “We’ll Go Walkin’”.

That little love song was a nice way to get started, and a majority of the people there in the Prophet Bar were singing along to it as they watched the band; wonder gleaming from their eyes. They then got to a few songs from last year’s “Thunderdog”, including “Outlaw”, which is more or less an anthem. “…We’ve all got the right to fix things that we don’t like, while we yell and cuss and scream and fight…” sang John, while Taylor picked away at his guitar, while also supplying the percussion via a kick drum.

That was all I caught of their set. I would have liked to have seen more, but there was another act supposed to start right about this time on the smaller stage of the large room of The Prophet Bar; and I had at least seeing The O’s more recently than this other group.

These guys really are one of the best bands in Dallas, especially as far as country music is concerned, and I like them more and more each time I see them. At the very least, give their music a listen in iTUNES, and if you like it, buy it. As for shows, you can see them at Love and War in Plano, TX on April 19th. On May 16th they’ll be at Love and War in Grapevine, and the night after will find them in Fort Worth at Shipping and Receiving. They also have dates in Midland and Burleson in June.

J. Charles & The Trainrobbers had been charged with closing the night out over in the bigger room, and it had been nearly a year since I last them. In that time they’ve added Keith Naylor on as lead guitarist. Perhaps some of you (any longtime readers) recall what a fan/fanatic I was of Trebuchet, right up until their end last year. It was December 2012 the last time I saw them, and that said, I was looking forward to finally seeing Keith back on a stage.

They were all ready and raring to go as 12:15 rolled around, and the headliner seemed to be finishing up on the main stage adjacent to them… At least until they began another song, leaving The Trainrobbers with a puzzled look of, “Huh, I guess we’ll wait.” on their faces.

“Hi, you beautiful folkin’ people!” exclaimed singer and guitarist J. Charles Saenz, once it finally became time for them to start. “Mercy Killing” was what they opened with, and as great is that song is on the “Upon Leaving” album, it sounds incredible live. Probably because J. Charles is so impassioned as he sings it. “…There’s a bullet here for me, there’s a bullet here for you. Only problem is we love each other too damn much, it’s true…” goes the chorus, which more than a few fans were singing along with.

They moved on to the consecutive track from their debut album, doing “Letter to a Thief”, which had a pretty good kick to it, and the harmonies that Keith, bassist Justin Young and keyboardist Daniel Creamer added at times, backing up J. Charles, was phenomenal.

“Cheers to two awesome days of music…” he said after they finished, making a little toast, before they pumped everyone up with “Something Wrong”, a song that saw drummer Steve Visneau wearing a big smile, which rarely left his face at all this night, and never did on this one. They rolled it right into “Three Shades of Black”, tapering off from the louder rock stylings of the previous number, but still keeping the mood upbeat.

“How’s the vibes? Medium vibes?” asked J. Charles after they finished, trying to gage where everyone was at. “We need more vibes.” he finished, after which Keith spoke up, and specifically to a friend. “Excuse me, sir, but I think you’re dancing with my girlfriend.” he said, giving the guy a hard time.

They knocked out one of their new songs after that, which was pretty up-tempo, but also had some slow moments mixed in. “The guitars are being feisty. Folkin’ guitars.” J. Charles said after, while Keith worked to get things back in tune. To kill time, he also mentioned that this next would be one on their upcoming album, noting it will be out in the fall at the latest, or, with some luck, maybe even late summer. He also mentioned this next song was making its live debut this night, and that it was a pretty personal one, because it was about his “dear, sweet aunt” who had passed away from cancer. He apologized for perhaps bringing the mood down, and finished with, “…But fuck cancer.”

It told a great tale of the relationship he and his aunt had, and it may well be the most sentimental song on this next record. They got back to their older stuff for a minute with “Ain’t So Blue”, before doing another killer song, which just happened to feature musician Wesley Geiger lending his voice to it.

“I need to put the finger on the pulse. Everyone still doing okay?” J. Charles asked the audience, who was still very attentive, before asking if there was “anyway a shot could find its way from the bar to my mouth?” The request was granted, and they started to wind down their 52-minute set with “Tennessee Roads (No Moon)”. They had some feedback issues during it, but not to the point to ruin the tune, and the final line, which J. Charles sung a cappella, sounded beautiful. He then wound them right into their final song, another one, which was more intense, along the lines of “Something Wrong”, maybe even more so than that one.

That was the perfect way to end this night.

J. Charles and The Trainrobbers have been great each of the small handful of times I’ve seen them, but I dare say they were exceptional this time.

They tightened things even more so than last May at the Homegrown Festival, and this current lineup clicks very well. They were tight, and the unity was obvious from start to finish.

I don’t know how I let so much time pass between seeing them, though I’m going to have to try to make sure that doesn’t happen again. The show was highly enjoyable, and they are one Dallas band you need to keep your eye on.

Their music should appeal to both rock and country fans, and check out “Upon Leaving” in iTUNES. For shows, go “like” their FACEBOOK PAGE and keep a check on where and when they might play next.

It was a fun time here at the Big Folkin’ Fest, and a much needed shout-out to my amigo Brendan Williams for hooking me up with the ticket.

Friday, April 18th, 2014 – The Sounds Strom Dallas’ Granada Theater

Nearly two and a half years ago, Swedish New Wave rockers The Sounds stopped by the Granada Theater on their tour for their at the time current album.

I went to that show, saw them, and have been awaiting their return to Dallas since. As fate would have it, their return to Dallas would also mark their return to the Granada.

They had done a very small handful of shows in North America late last year around the time their fifth studio album, “Weekend”, dropped, though it certainly couldn’t have been considered a real tour. The official North American was saved until now, and after having been on the road for exactly one month, they were getting ready to finish this North American leg with a string of shows around Texas.

Dallas was the first stop in the Lone Star State, and they had brought some excellent openers to get everyone warmed up.

The New York-based duo of Josh Ocean and Eric “Doc” Mendelsohn known as Ghost Beach (their live show was rounded out with a drummer) took the stage at 7:58 and delivered their self-described tropical, grit, pop sounds to the ears of those who had made it early.

The word “tropical” was definitely fitting of their first song, “Moon Over Japan”, which, like all their songs, was very electronic sounding, and a thick reverb effect had been added to Joshs’ mic, so the words really resonated. The early birds were relatively few, but they seemed to catch the attention of most, with nearly everyone at the very least swaying back and forth, while some couples danced/grinded with one another.

When he wasn’t messing with his synthesizer, Josh, too, was dancing along, as well as raising his hands into the air, trying to coax the audience to get more into it. “Come on, Dallas! Raise your hands!” he shouted during the slower instrumental break, prompting some people to do just that.

“…It’s Friday, come on!” he roared before they tackled their next number, after which he mentioned this marked their first ever show in Dallas. “…We’re glad to be here. Are you having a good time?” he asked the spectators, before saying, “Fuck it, it’s Friday.” They did another song from their newly released debut full-length record “Blonde”, which become a clap along song; and upon finishing it, they wound it right into “On My Side”. Some awesome harmonies were featured on that one, as Eric chipped in with some vocals at times, creating an awesome blend.

“Dallas, you doing alright?!” Josh asked, checking on everyone. They were. He mentioned that they “love coming to Texas” and how great everyone here was. “But you probably already knew that.” he added, before saying their next song got pretty deep. Indeed, “Without You” was, and dealt with the pangs of love and heartbreak; but just because it had a more serious message to it didn’t mean it couldn’t be a fun one. “Come on, you can do better than that!” bellowed Josh before the breakdown, who then screamed wildly into the microphone.

Their 29-minute long set was almost over at this point, and he wanted to make sure everyone was going to get the most out of it, and now asked everyone to hold their hands in the air. “…This song’s about feeling good.” He said, as he led the crowd in a clap along at the start. It was bridged into their final song, with Josh thanking everyone for coming out to the show early and telling them to stick around for the next band, and of course, The Sounds.

They got the show going and kicked it off in a great way.

They were far more electronic based than the other acts, but still shared a common thread to fit well. They were really good performers, too, particularly Josh, and rather he was acting as a frontman and pumping up the audience while he himself got into the music, or playing his synthesizer, he was doing it full throttle and clearly was giving it 110%.

They have a handful of shows in the United Kingdom in early May, and a few festivals planned back in U.S. after that, so check out their TOUR PAGE for full info. Also, their final show with The Sounds will be tonight, April 21st, at Fitzgerald’s in Houston. Check out “Blonde” in iTUNES, too. It’s a fun record to listen to, but not nearly as fun as this show was.

The night entered more of the pop/rock phase when Blondfire took the stage, right on the dot of their 8:45 start time.

Guitarist Steve Stout stood on stage left and Nathan Beale was holding down the bass on the opposite side, while Kevin Rice sit behind his drum kit. For the first few moments, it was just those three musicians, who began jamming on their instruments; before frontwoman Erica Driscoll stepped into view from stage left.

“How’s it going, Dallas?” she asked. They had started “We Are One”, which took off once Kevin struck some of his cymbals, and much of the crowd appeared to instantly be enthralled by the forceful, catchy music. Erica sauntered around the stage, in a rather sultry manner at that. The end of the song was met with loud applause, before Kevin counted them into their next song. After all, they too only had 29-minutes rock the crowd.

Erica danced about during the intro of “Dear in Your Headlights”, which was arguably their best song of the night (or at least a personal favorite of mine). “I don’t want to be like that, I don’t want to be like you. I would rather be a monster just howling at the moon…” she sang on the chorus of that incredibly infectious track, which could have easily become a sing-along, even for those who weren’t familiar with it before this. In the final minute, a little lull came. “…So, baby won’t you let me go…” she sang, while kneeling down at the front of the stage and grabbing the hands of some friends/fans, before thrusting her finger towards the sky for the final word, “GO!”

Erica thanked the audience, then picked up a guitar, which she would use for the remainder of their set. “Waves” came next, and, fitting with the title, it pulled the audience deeper into the music, and I think it’d be accurate to say it had at least some people hanging on not just every word, but every chord. There was a slight technical issue on that one, though, and at the end some earsplitting feedback suddenly filled the room. The band powered through, but shared a glance first at one another, and then the sound guy.

“Thank you, guys. There’s some crazy feedback going on.” said Erica once the song was over. Whatever had caused that, it never happened again, and now she led the audience on a clap along at the beginning of “Walking with Giants”. The show stealing moment came right at the end, when Steve and Nathan harmonized along with Erica, “They say the bigger they come the harder they fall, but we’re just gonna keep going on, on.” The vocal blend was heavenly and gorgeous, and in the moment after, it was hard not to be in awe.

“It’s good to see some old faces and new ones singing the lyrics back to us.” Erica said, beaming with delight. She then announced the next song was the title track from their brand new record. “It’s called Young Heart.” she stated. It showed of a more delicate side to her voice, which often had her singing in a little higher register, which she pulled off flawlessly. The end of that one immediately gave way to “Kites”, which had them getting back into more of a rock mood, and at the start, Steven dropped to his knees and shredded on his axe.

With their set almost over, Erica mentioned what a pleasure it had been seeing both The Sounds and Ghost Beach play almost every night of the last month, and that she was a little sad they only had two more shows together after this. With that, they got into their final song, and they had saved their biggest hit for last. Even if you’ve never heard of Blondfire before, you have surely heard a portion of their song “Where the Kids Are” (it was featured in a Honda Civic ad a couple years ago.)

People seemed to rejoice at the start of it, and performance-wise, it was their best song, and Nathan, Kevin and Steve especially all cut loose and rocked out on a majority of it; while during the brief break Erica stepped to the edge of the stage and instigated another clap along.

It was a very vibrant and fun show they put on, and the now substantial crowd loved every minute of it.

Their music gave nothing but good vibes, and it was impossible not to feel happy while they were on stage. They also did something that most popish sounding bands don’t do, and that was satisfy anyone’s hunger for some rock.

It was the better part of both worlds, and given that it was rounded out by a lovely voice made it all the better.

Blondfire has been around for several years already, but now with this new album out (which was released on Warner Bros. Records), and surely plenty of touring to follow in support of it, I could really see them becoming a shining star in music.

If you’re in Houston, check them out at Fitzgerald’s tonight (April 21st) for their last show with The Sounds, and they’ll be back on the road in June. A full list of their shows can be viewed HERE. Also, check out “Young Heart" in iTUNES.

While some gear was taken of stage, and other brought on and sound checked, the crowd was treated to a DJ performance (I believe it was Josh Ocean and Eric Mendelsohn doing it). They got some roaring applause when they finished, though stuff like that just isn’t my thing.

The Granada was pushing capacity at this time, and everyone was eagerly awaiting The Sounds, whose intro music kicked on at 9:54.

It was still a few minute longer before any band member made an appearance, and first out off the green room was Fredrik Blond, who seated himself behind his drum kit and laid into it, doing a solo for the time being. His band mates soon joined him, with Felix Rodriguez quickly plucking the strings of his guitar, while the rest got ready. Then Maja Ivarsson stepped into view, and the massive applause that the other band members had been treated to again fired up for the frontwoman.

Giving that this was a tour in support of their new album, they opened with one of the tracks from it, “Emperor”, though the show in general hit nearly all the highlights from career. It shows off their new wave style of music even better than most of their songs do, and with the bouncy vibe it emits, to the way that Maja conducted her movements so fluidly with the music as she danced along, it made for a very entrancing opener. Oh, and let’s not forget the certain level of sass that was added when she placed her free hand on her hip as she sang the final chorus.

When there was dialogue with the crowd, it was heartfelt and often abundant, but they seldom bothered making small comments in between songs to try to amp up the fans. Their music did that job just fine, and no sooner had they finished that one, then they launched right into “Song with a Mission”, which kicked things up several notches. Maja twirled the microphone around after the first chorus, giving it plenty of slack, so it made some large rotations. With a swift yank, she pulled it back towards her, catching it with ease, and her stage persona—which is a hard to find perfect balance of confidence and cockiness—got pushed to new heights, as they barreled through the tune.

“It feels so good to be back. I have to ask you guys, are you fucking ready?!” she roared. Considering the way most fans (no matter who the band is) react to new material, I was surprised at all the screams and shouts of “Yeah!” they got upon starting “Shake, Shake, Shake”, the lead track from “Weekend”. It’s classic Sounds, and evidently, their fans have already embraced it, and everyone was more than willing to clap along with Maja as they built up to the first chorus. The end response to that song was near deafening, and just as the fans approval had subsided, it again spiked when the audience realized they were starting the title track of their 2011 album, “Something to Die for”. “…You may think you know me but it’s all just the face. Trying to ignore when people screaming my name.” Maja sang on the first verse, before shouting at their fans, “What’s my fucking name, Dallas?!” Bassist Johan Bengtsson and guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Jesper Anderberg hit their stride during that one and roamed about the stage, putting on a show that was almost as compelling as the one their frontwoman was doing. Speaking of her, this was the first song of the night where she showed off some of her martial arts moves, holding a stance before doing a crane kick at the air.

They rolled right into another new track, “Too Young to Die”, which everyone seemed to thoroughly enjoy. However, the one that followed was one that had everyone excited. Maja lit a cigarette at the start of “24 Hours”, taking drags on it whenever she had a break in singing, while Jesper shifted his focus to a tambourine, which he threw to one of their stage hands at each chorus so he could play the keys, then got it back. Towards the end, Maja laid down at the edge of the stage and interacted with some of the fans who were front and center. “We love you, Texas!” she declared, before she spat into the air and caught it in her hand. She then raised her hand to her face and licked it off. That was a move that was repeated a few times throughout their show.

Next came “The Best of Me”, another song from “Something to Die for”, and one I was quite glad is still in the setlist. It’s a bit slower than most of their stuff, but it also draws from a deeper well of emotions, emotions that were conveyed perfectly this night as Maja crooned on the chorus, “…We gotta slow down, baby. ‘Cause we’re still young but we are getting older, our hearts are still warm but they are getting colder, and this life is getting the best of me…”

With all the clapping along that was going on this night, it was hard to lose track of who was starting it. I do know it was the fans who decided to do it on that song, though; while Jesper ended the song with a pretty piano solo, before the audience let loose a swarm of rave applause. They didn’t have much time to let the band know how much they were loving this, though, and they livened things back up with “Dorchester Hotel”, which again a clap along moment, and also saw Maja spitting into the air and catching it once more. “Dallas! You’ve been pretty fucking good, but you’ve got to do better!” she said near the end, as they kicked the song into overdrive.

Afterwards, the mood got more heartfelt when Maja mentioned this was a love song, and asked everyone who was here with someone they loved to take a moment and let them know what they meant to them, saying that, that just needs to be done from time to time. “If I could, I’d kiss every person here right now.” The song that was setting up was “Wish You Were Here”, which not only enforces the message she said, but also one of savoring the little things from a relationship, because not everything lasts forever.

They continued with that slow vibe, and now Jesper was handed an acoustic guitar. “We’ve been to Dallas before. We’ve been to this venue before…” acknowledged Maja, who pointed out they have been touring the United States for eleven years now, and started this band sixteen years ago. “We wouldn’t be doing this if didn’t truly love it.” she stated, while the crowd applauded that feat, since it’s one that not just every band makes. Talk then shifted to the new album, which she said they were “very proud of”, and now did the title track from it, “Weekend”.

Despite the more chill vibe, Felix still had time moments he could aggressively pluck the strings of his guitar, giving it some heavier textures; and as it came to an end, Maja again kicked the air, but this time spun in a circle after doing it. The acoustic guitar was quickly ditched, while Fredrik and Felix rolled them into “4 Songs & a Fight”, which had plenty of fans jumping about. Maja had again lit a cigarette before this song, and at one point, while she sit atop the guitar amp, she flicked it out of her hands, and from where I was, I was unable to tell if it landed right at the edge of the stage, or if perhaps it hit someone ion the crowd.

They had been great so far, but they were really pulling out all the stops in this last half of the show. “COME ON!” roared Maja over the applause, before they began “No One Sleeps When I’m Awake”. She held the mic down in front of a few different fans on the second chorus, allowing a couple of them to sing the line that is the songs title. “But I’d do it again, do it again if I could.” the audience chanted when the microphone was pointed out at them at the tail end of the track. “I fucking would, Dallas. I. Fucking Would.” said Maja after it was over, a fiery tone in her voice, like they still had a lot to prove.

“I think we’re done warming up. Do you feel warmed up?” she asked the people during a break on “Painted By Numbers”. Said break was extended, giving her ample time to conduct a sing along. “…I just want to hear my ladies.” she said, leading them in singing “Na na na…”. The “gentlemen” came next, after which both sexes sang along, shortly before they concluded the song.

“Come on, Dallas, Texas! I want to hear you motherfuckers scream!” she bellowed, while the slew of hits continued with “Living In America”. Jesper was and had been on full keyboard duty for a little while now, and those key sounds were prominently displayed on that one, which was the clear audience favorite of the night.

Thrown in with those older hits was one last new number, and that was “Outlaw”. It’s possibly the most intense song the band has written, and Felix added some nice backing vocals on the chorus of it it, while Maja assumed a fighter stance at the end of it, looking as if she were in a boxing ring and was challenging an imaginary opponent across from her.

“Are we having a good time?” she asked before their final song “Ego”, during which she used the jacket/shawl she had on over her shirt to cover herself up, like she were performing a striptease act, holding it open, before wrapping it back around her body. Once her part was done, she left the stage, while Felix and Jesper left their instruments behind and stood behind the two electronic drum pads set up at the back of the stage.

It was an all rhythm outro, and after a bit, Johan took his leave, while the remaining three members ended their 73-minute long set.

Everyone knew an encore was coming, but they made the fans wait for it (after such an intense show, I’d guess they needed some time to catch their breath.)

It was about seven minutes before they returned to the stage, and they still had some hits left to give. One was the sexy dance song “Tony The Beat”, and at the end of it, Maja again twirled the mic around, kicking the air as soon as she caught it.

“We’re gonna go back in time…” she said before their next one, saying it was a Swedish love song that came “from bottom of our hearts.” By going back in time, she meant going back to another song from their debut album, which was released twelve years ago, and the song they broke out was “Rock ‘n’ Roll”. When she sang the line “…I bet you would like to undress me.”, she did more than just sing it, and acted as if she were speaking to the crowd, as if it were something everyone in attendance had a desire to do, and she lifted her shirt up just a bit, revealing her midriff.

“Rock ‘n’ Roll, baby.” she remarked afterwards, before taking this time to thank the opening bands for coming on this tour, and asking everyone to give it up for them one more time. “Also, give it up for Dallas.” Maja told the spectators, saying they would be nothing without everyone who was here this night, and did a little bit of showboating by kissing one of her biceps.

She posed one last question to everyone. “Are you feeling happy?” she asked, which was answered with a resounding mix of cheers and applause. They had one last song to fill this 20-minute encore section, and it was another from that debut record, “Hope You’re Happy Now”. Johan, Jesper, Felix and Fredrik were exceptionally tight before the final chorus on that one, and Jesper left the keys at the end and stood in front of the drums, using a couple of sticks he had picked up to play the other cymbals Fredrik wasn’t getting.

It provided a memorable end to a fantastic show.

After a month on the road, you’d think fatigue would start setting in, and if it had, these Swedish rockers showed no sign of it. They hit with the force of a hurricane right from the get go, and with each passing song, the winds were whipped into a more destructive strength that by the end left everyone amazed.

From what I remember about that November 2011 show, they were great, but this night blew that one out of the water. I’d go so far as to say they are an exceptional band live.

Their robust stage show combined with the gripping personality Maja has is more than enough to keep your eyes glued to the stage, and after you throw in the catchy ‘70’s/‘80’s era of New Wave infused rock music they play, you’ve got something that is arresting. That said, it’s easy to see why everyone was doing some extent of moving around during their show.

The setlist was well chosen, too, and while I’m sure there were other songs people would have liked to have heard (yes, myself included), they hit all the sweet spots from their career, and that was all anyone really wanted.

Their last show in Texas for a little while will be at Fitzgerald’s in Houston tonight (April 21st). They also have some other dates lined up here and there over the next few months, and they can be found HERE. And if you don’t have their music, check it out in iTUNES.

This was a phenomenal night of music at the Granada, and hopefully, it won’t be another couple of years or so before The Sounds get back to Dallas.

Friday, March 28th, 2014 – The Birth of Blood Saints

For the second consecutive Friday, the Double Wide wound up being my destination for the night.

I wasn’t even aware of the show that was going on there this night, until early on in the week when Blood Saints posted their debut show would be happening then.

The band has been in the works for awhile, though it was only last November when they created a Facebook page, and in late January came a recording to let everyone know what this trio of Gabe Cardinale, Casey Hess and Clay Stinnett would sound like.

Given that there were only two bands on the bill, Blood Saints didn’t get started until 10:49, but by the time they stepped on stage, they had the venue pretty full. By pretty full, I mean nearly packed out, and there were far more eyes on them then what the headliner wound up having.

Clay banged away on his drum kit, producing some heavy, pulse pounding beats, while Casey and Gabe each held a chord on their guitar and bass, respectively, and let it ring out, creating a slightly feedbacky tone. That built some suspense, despite the drums already being in full force, and soon, they unleashed a beast of an instrumental song.
image(Photo credit: Chad Beck of R Chadwick Beck Photography/guitarist of In Memory of Man)

The crowd was definitely feeling it, and they felt it even more so when Clay wound them right into that single they posted a couple months back, “Wipe The Diamonds From Your Eyes”. “Let me wipe the diamonds from your eyes. Ain’t that how it should be?” Gabe sang, with Casey backing him up, singing in unison with him, and their voices sounded outstanding mixed together like that.

The barrage continued as they went directly into another song, this one being co-sung; the two frontmen splitting vocal duties on it, while Casey helped end with a sweet guitar solo. “Thanks for coming out…” Gabe told the crowd during the transition to their next number. “…This is a new band for us.” He noted, after mentioning they were trying out some new songs.
image(Photo credit: Chad Beck of R Chadwick Beck Photography/guitarist of In Memory of Man)

The next one was a favorite of mine this night; and as they hit the first chorus, Casey spun around about 90° or so, forcefully strumming his axe in time with a mighty beat Clay dished out. “…You know the devils gonna take control…” was an often repeated line of their next song, which again had Gabe and Casey trading off on the singing. I’m hesitant to say this, because while Blood Saints did have some heavier tones to their songs, they were still a rock band. But that song, that was borderline heavy metal in my opinion, with some thick beats that had Clay getting so into it, he knocked over his floor tom about halfway through the song. It stayed there on the ground, too, until he picked it up for their final number.
image(Photo credit: Chad Beck of R Chadwick Beck Photography/guitarist of In Memory of Man)

They then finished their 35-minute set with a song in a similar vein. Okay, it wasn’t nearly that hard, but it was still heavy, at least it got that way after a bit of a tranquil start. And as they concluded it, Clay knocked just about every piece of his entire kit over.

Yeah, it was a helluva way to go out.

I thought it was a great first show.

I enjoyed seeing Gabe back on a stage and singing (it has been a few years since his last project, Dead Twins, disbanded), and as much as I love Descender, it was cool getting to see and hear Casey do something different. Clay’s the only member I’m unfamiliar with, though he is a ferocious drummer.

The writing styles of both the singers were prevalent in all the songs; and while I was expecting to hear each of them handle the signing, I wasn’t prepared to hear the unison singing like they did so much this night, and that was perhaps the quality that stood out to me the most. I mean, you seldom hear that, especially in rock music, but when you’re capable of it and it works, why not do it?

I’m certainly interested to see how the band progresses, especially as they get more shows under their belt and tighten up the chemistry, and to hear some more of the songs they have waiting in the wings to release.

Listen to their song over on SOUNDCLOUD and keep an eye on their FACEBOOK PAGE for info on future shows.

Headlining was a long running (established in ’97) group of veterans know as The American Fuse.

The four-piece outfit mixed straight up rock sounds with some punk aggression thrown in, and those who were in the showroom were instantly captivated by the first song of their 49-minute set, which was sung by guitarist Nate Fowler. Bassist Kinley Wolfe took over singing on “Something New”, which was one of a few songs they did from the “One Fell Swoop” album.

They alternated who did the singing for every song; and upon finishing that one, Kinley raised a toast to those who were there, before tearing through another song. JT Dayton (who was getting a little break from running sound at the venue) played a wicked little solo near the end of that one, as he rushed to the front of the small stage and raised his guitar into the air, before darting back. Really, it was more just some sweet licks, but it still sounded great, and looked awesome.
image(Photo credit: Chad Beck of R Chadwick Beck Photography/guitarist of In Memory of Man)

Everyone was definitely feeling it by now, and completely engulfed in the music, as they carried on with a track that may have well been titled “Blame the Whisky”, since that was a line that was often repeated during it. “Blame the grapefruit vodka…” joked drummer Clint Phillips after the song concluded, as they took a moment before their next song.

“That’s Clint’s postcard to everyone of ya everyday of the year…” Nate told the crowd once they finished, and continued bantering with everyone for a minute. “This reminds me of the time played the Dallas public library.” JT suddenly remarked, shortly before they dove into another intense number. That led to a new song, and Kinley stressed that no one had ever heard it before now. “Not even me.” joked Nate, who did the singing on it.image(Photo credit: Chad Beck of R Chadwick Beck Photography/guitarist of In Memory of Man)

They kept things moving right along with another new song, which was downright explosive, and was the latest one JT had written. “Lighters up!” Kinley requested, saying their “balled” was next. Their ballad may have been “Don’t Chingale My Chevrolet” (if not, it came around this time in the show). Either way, it was not the slow song that most bands usually refer to as their “couples skate” song. Quite the opposite, especially with the heavy bass lines he played at the start of it.
image(Photo credit: Chad Beck of R Chadwick Beck Photography/guitarist of In Memory of Man)

“Jeff wants to play another of his songs. He’s tired of our shit.” Said Kinley, giving JT a hard time, before doing another track he wrote, which, fittingly, saw JT doing another stellar guitar solo.

Their set was winding down now, and their next to last song got dedicated to Scott Beggs, who was in attendance, before they rolled it right into their final number, which led to an abrupt end. I say that because there was no “final song” warning. Instead, they laid the guitars down almost as soon as they finished, signaling that they were done.

Not that anyone was disappointed by that, though, ‘cause they had put on one incredible show.

The energy was off the walls, and the crowd fed of that, which in turn fueled The American Fuse even more.

The music is more along the lines of what would now probably be considered classic rock/hard rock, but there’s nothing wrong with that, especially when it has character. And let’s be honest, you can’t really say that about most of the stuff that’s on the radio these days.
image(Photo credit: Chad Beck of R Chadwick Beck Photography/guitarist of In Memory of Man)

Somehow, I had never seen The American Fuse before now, though I’m going to have to try to frequent more shows now.

You can find their album in iTUNES, and their FACEBOOK PAGE would be the best bet to find out about any upcoming shows.

It was a great night of rock at the Double Wide, and since there were only two bands, it was over kinda early. I’m not gonna lie, I liked that.

Album Review: “Afternoon, and Early Evening” by Kevin Taylor Kendrick

imageThere’s a difference between being a singer/songwriter and a storyteller, and just because you’re the former, doesn’t necessarily make you the latter. It takes a special skill set to really convey a legitimate story to people through song, and while it’s hard to find (at least from my experience), Houston native Kevin Taylor Kendrick possess it.

That trait is prominently on display throughout his debut album, “Afternoon, and Early Evening”, and right from the very first track.

While 90% of the album is largely Kevin armed with his acoustic guitar, the lead track is much more fleshed out than that. The at times fanciful tale that is “Art of Ball and Chain” is complete with a harmonica, giving the song a bit of a southern sound when it’s played, to some rapid, simple percussion that truly is the songs backbone. Then you have the female vocals that can be heard on the chorus, which accentuate the song, without stealing any thunder away from Kevin. It’s easily the catchiest song “Afternoon, and Early Evening” has to offer, and will ensure the album hooks you from the start. And while the remainder of the tracks may be more stripped down, the most enticing thing about this song is the lyrics, revealing what a passionate story teller and incredible writer he is, and that’s the quality that binds all these songs together.

“Stolen by the Wind” is done in the true songwriter fashion, the lone instrument being the acoustic guitar, Kevin playing a series of chords that give the song a underlying melancholy vibe, which is behooving of the lyrics.  “…Oh it’s not that I’m jaded, I just can’t pretend to take part in your struggle or care who will win…” he sings during the first verse, later matching it with an equally blunt and honest line, “…It’s not that I’m bitter, it’s just to preserve what’s left of my memory and my weathered nerves…” The first song on the record may be a great example of his ability as a story teller, but it’s this song that showcases his talent as a songwriter, as he takes a personal story from his life and lays it out for all to hear.

“…Can’t you see, a storm’s a brewin’, behind my eyes…” Kevin croons at one point in “Ain’t Got Nothin’”, a song that traverses several themes, the most prominent of which is loneliness. It paints a sadder picture, while the subsequent track, “Whistles”, is more of a folksy sounding tune, with a chipper melody that will stick with you for awhile, taking you through another small portion of Kevins’ life, allowing you as the listener to feel like you know him just a little bit better.

“The Rider” again slows things down, Kevins’ voice piercing the largely placid guitar notes he’s playing. A at times distant, even slightly soupy effect is applied to his voice at times on the track, making it stand apart from the rest of the songs on the record, as it aids the mood the song is trying to (and successfully does) create.

“The Road” is somewhat of a reflective song, as Kevin looks back on life, while preparing for what the world is like, and in that, it’s one of the most relatable songs this record offers up. It’s very tranquil, allowing the lyrics to carry even more weight, and the words of wisdom keep coming at you, for example, you have the line, “…You lose life much faster when money’s your master…”.

“I thought life had just begun, I was finally on my own. Twenty-two I thought was young, I’d just left my mothers’ home…” he sings at the start of “On My Own”, building upon the nature of the previous song, though this one is more introspective. It’s also more ominous and dark sounding, dealing with the trials of life and the real world, such as the passing of time. “…I’m scared the next ten years will be gone before they’re here…” he confesses with one line, conjuring an image of death as sings of how fleeting time is.

If you’re feeling glum after that track, “The Brook”, a gentle and sweet love song, will relieve that feeling, reminding you that it’s the simple things in life that are the most important and memorable. The record than takes you to “The River”, an appropriate follow-up song, at least title wise. It, too, deals with love, though it partly focuses on more of the heartbreaking aspects of it. In the end, though, it’s not a sad song, but more of a triumphant one.

This nearly 44-minute long record comes to a close with the second to longest track that’s found on it, “Here’s to Hoping”, which is a departure from how it all began. The full band (i.e. drums, and even what sounds to be a pedal steel guitar at times) is utilized, but not to the same degree as the opening track. Instead, “Here’s to Hoping” is another more folk sounding song, whose beauty lies in its subtlety. From tender side of his voice that Kevin taps into, to the often delicate notes of the guitar, blending together beautifully, and offering a perfect end to this record. Especially with the guitar solo outro, which occupies the final forty seconds or so, giving closure to this story.

“Afternoon, and Early Evening” is an album you – the listener – can really get lost in. It’s compelling, and with the songs being so raw, it offers great insight to who Kendrick is as a person, since his personal life, struggles and/or thoughts are often laid out for you to hear.

Quality music like these is hard to come by these days, when so many acts are more concerned with copying the latest pop sound in hopes they’ll fit the mold of the artists who currently dominate the radio. However, substance goes much further than that, because substance allows fans to really connect with the music and have it resonate with them. And this collection of songs definitely resonates with you.

Kevin Taylor Kendrick is:
Kevin Taylor Kendrick, Nathan Quick and Chris Tallman

Purchase the album on: iTUNES

Visit Kevins’ websites: Facebook / Reverbnation

Thursday, March 27th, 2014 – The Dirty River Boys Kick it Old School at Dan’s

Just last month, The Dirty River Boys played one of the largest venues in North Texas (specifically, in Fort Worth). This month, their North Texas stop found them in Denton, at the much more intimate setting that Dan’s Silver Leaf has to offer; and I was even more excited about this one.

It was a one-band bill, and for a Thursday night, they a good little crowd here at Dan’s. A crowd who was glued to them as soon as they took the stage at 9:30 on the dot.

“What’s going on, Dan’s Silver Leaf. We are the Dirty River Boys from El Paso, Texas…” singer and acoustic guitarist Marco Gutierrez informed everyone. He was the one who sang lead on their first song, and they chose to open with one of their fan favorites, “Carnival Lights”. They didn’t do the more acoustic/solo version like they had the past couple times I had seen them. Instead, Travis Stearns added some light beats on his cajon, while fellow acoustic guitarist and singer Nino Cooper played some soft riffs, with Colton James slapping the strings of his upright bass periodically. “…She’s sitting on the top Ferris wheel car thinking, ‘It ain’t such a long way down; failure’s such a long, cold fall.”  Sang Marco on the first verse of this woeful, though beautifully told story. Nino shone on this song, as he did a little guitar solo before the third verse; and with the use of his pedal board, his acoustic guitar sounded like it could give any electric one a run for its money.

They instantly fired up the title track from their second EP, “Train Station”, where they somewhat touched on the amazing harmonies they are capable of, before digging out a track from their first (and so far, only) full-length album, “Science of Flight”. The first time I experienced The Dirty Rivers was last September at the Dia de los Toadies music festival, and a song I was instantly smitten with was “Heart Like That”. It’s certainly a favorite of mine, though out of the three times I’ve seen them since, it was one that went un-played. Forth time’s a charm, I guess, because no sooner had they finished that previous song, then Nino started them on it. “She was lusting for some wondering; he was lost in a paper filled room…” he crooned, while the song built up. It was the choruses that were truly outstanding, though. “She’s just a girl with a rambling heartache; he’s grown a hard, lost man. Searching for stars in a sky filled with dark gray; what’s not to love about a heart like that?” He belted, packing an immense amount of passion into it, and to say he killed it on that one would not be an understatement.

They took a an actual break after that, though it was short-lived, as Marco quickly mentioned that they had been in the studio in December and January, getting their next record ready, saying they’d be doing one of those new ones now. Colton sang on it, though at the start Travis let out a bit of an excited scream, and even though it was off mic, it was very audible. It was also a tune that had all of them lending their voices to the chorus, making for some incredible four-part harmonies.

Once they finished it, Travis asked how many people in the audience had seen them before, and quite a few repeat offenders raised their hands. There were some newcomers, too, and that was the question he asked next. “…God bless you for coming out on a Thursday night…” he said graciously, before asking anyone who might know the next one to sing along with it. The song was “Dried Up”, which had Nino playing the harmonica, too, and before the final chorus, they tacked on some of Bob Dylans’ “Just Like a Woman”.  “Nobody feels any pain tonight, as I stand inside the rain…” sang Marco, going all the way through the first chorus of the classic. “Now, as loud as you can, help us out!” Travis roared right after, pumping up the crowd, many of whom did sing along to the final bit of their original.

As soon as it ended, Nino switched gears and began the tale that “Union Painter” tells, and after it Travis used his kick drum to both bridge them into the next song and amp things up. Colton switched out to an electric bass for this new song, a song that Marco sang, and later joked was about “taking psychedelics and feeling the world out.”

Now came the ever-exciting “Chinese fire drill” (their words), where Colton ends up on the banjo, Travis the mandolin and Marco the upright bass. Travis swaggered all over stage left during “Lookin’ for the Heart”, and his mannerisms while playing the mandolin are very entertaining, which is exactly what he’s going for. He also added some percussion to it here and there, sitting on his cajon and using one of his feet to kick the box.

Another song from their LP followed, though it was a cover, and they pointed that out, giving Townes Van Zandt a shout-out before their excellent rendition of “Lungs”. “Stand among the ones that live in lonely indecision…” sang Marco on the first verse, while Colton spun his bass around at that time, while it ended with Travis shouting, “Rest in peace, Townes Van Zandt.”

They immediately fired up another oldie, “My Son”, which had Nino doing an electrifying guitar solo before the final chorus. There next song was one of their drinking ones, and Travis worked the fans by asking if anyone was drinking whiskey, and when not many people responded, it was just alcohol in general. “…That’s what this song’s about.” He said, as they cranked out a rocking, but fun intro for “Draw”. An intro that ended with Travis throwing one of his drum sticks in the air, then catching it.

From a song about whiskey, they made a jump to a song about love. Marco pointed out this next one was their current radio single from their upcoming album, and he began the song, while Colton was swapping back out to his electric bass. Nino then laid down his catchy chords that help make “Desert Wind”. There’s just such an epic feel to that one, and the music bed is done in a way it accents the lyrics, making them even more impactful.

Afterwards, a call was made to all the fans who had seen them before and were familiar with their music to help them out on “Boomtown”. Nino led the band (and audience) while now playing the mandolin, and Travis  told everyone when to come in at, since the verses are done in rounds, with Colton and Marco doing the second and third, respectively. The second one of each line was when everyone was supposed to join in, and many did.

The mood got a little more somber with “Riverbed Wildflowers”, before the group did some ominous crooning into their microphones on what was a dark lead in to “Letter to Whoever”. Before they officially began the song, Travis again tossed a drum stick into the air, and when he caught it, he struck one of the drums with it to signify the start of the track. “All of the darkness down at the bottom don’t look too dark from here. Keep your eyes on the brick wall, your foot on the throttle; get ready to feel no fear.” Marco quickly sang on the chorus of another gem that “Science of Flight” has to offer. Talk then turned to their hometown of El Paso, and how it has “falling on hard times”. That was what their next song was about, and they co-wrote this other new song with Ray Wylie Hubbard. It’s one of two new songs that are completely unforgettable (in my opinion), and it’s already one I look forward to hearing each time I see them.

They got back to the darker elements during another intro piece they concocted, and this time Nino and Marco quickly strummed the strings of their guitars, which sounded rather haunting, and the occasional notes from the harmonica Travis threw in only intensified it. Still, it was fitting for “Six Riders”.

After handling that one, Marco exited the stage. Travis followed, while Colton took a backseat as Nino started “So Long Elanie”. They came back around the second verse, kicking the song up a few notches. It was still very restrained in comparison to their next one (the other of their two new ones that is unforgettable). For that last one, Colton had both his basses at the ready, and now he laid his upright down and moved his electric from around behind him to his front. “This song’s about life on the road.” was the simple, though accurate explanation Nino gave of their next number, which is the most aggressive one they’ve written thus far.

“…From the bottom of our hearts, thanks for attending our show…” said Travis, as they got ready to wrap it up. He then made everyone come up to the front of the stage. “All of you in the back, we haven’t even gotten to see your faces tonight…” he said, adding they would not get started until everyone was right up there. He certainly knows how to pump up the crowd, and once the majority of the folks gathered around he asked, “Are you ready to raise some hell?!” The fans roared back at him, while Nino began their semi-jig that is “Raise Some Hell”, which always creates a boisterous mood, even on a Thursday night in Denton.

It was a fun end to an 82-minute long set, but no one wanted it to be over yet, and some people began asking for more while the band made their way off stage.

They made everyone a few moments, and when Marco made his way back on stage alone, it had me thinking he was going to do one of his solo songs (much like Nino had done shortly before.) However, when his band mates followed suit, with Nino now clutching an electric guitar, it became clear that wouldn’t be happening.

“Can I get a hell yeah?!” Travis asked, after he had made sure everyone had, had a good time this night. They then proceeded to close with their excellent rendition of The Rolling Stones “Honky Tonk Woman”, a song they’ve truly transformed into their own, and Travis owned his cajon during it.

This was a fine way to spend a Thursday night; and even though it had barely been a month since I last saw The Dirty River Boys, I had somewhat forgotten how sensational their shows are. However, I was quickly reminded.

They’re a superb live band, and they mesmerize who ever happens to be watching them on the given night, delivering a rock show steeped with some country elements. It’s one you won’t soon forget, either.

I also enjoyed the fact that they focused mainly on their older songs this night, verses the last time I saw them, when the new stuff was in full force. Nothing against it at all, but still being a new fan, it’s good to get to experience the older stuff (i.e. the songs I know), especially since the days for some of them are no doubt numbered.

Over the coming months, they have several shows lined up all around Texas, and will even be getting to Oklahoma and Louisiana. Check out their TOUR PAGE for full details. Their next stop in North Texas will be their return to the Granada Theater in Dallas on April 25th. They also have a show at Hank’s in McKinney on May 17th, and will be in Fort Worth on June 11th at the Capitol Bar.

Also, be sure to check out their music in iTUNES.

Saturday, March 22nd, 2014 – A Reunification Elation

To finish out my week of concert going, I made a return trip to Three Links (where I had ended my previous Wednesday night).

The venue was hosting a bit of nostalgia this night, with three bands set to do reunion shows, though it turned into two before the show began.

Pop Unknown had a medical emergency come up that meant they could not do this show. I hate that, that happened, and I would have liked to have seen them, but I’m glad they were the one band who I was not familiar with. So, while other people may have been disappointed, my feelings were at least spared.

That meant things got pushed back a bit, and it was a little after ten when Macavity finally took the stage.

Before I go any further, let me backtrack a bit. Buzz-Oven was crucial to getting me into the local music scene in general, getting my first taste back in 2005. The company was all about making the youth aware of the local North Texas music scene, and their website housed downloads of all the past compilations they had released, where each band featured contributed two songs.

That was how I first heard of Macavity and Valve, both of whom had disbanded by that time. I enjoyed their stuff, though, but admittedly was more taken by Valve’s songs. In fact, I had even seen their two previous reunion shows. So, just because I never experienced either act back in their prime, doesn’t mean I was any less ecstatic about seeing them now.

Before a single string even got plucked, Beau Wagener (who started the night off on the bass), mentioned that Macavity hadn’t played a show since ’08. “…Don’t beat the shit out of us, and we promise not to do the same to you.” he joked, then added, “Here’s some stuff we wrote when we were really young.” “…Here’s some bullshit.” added guitarist Marshall Read.

Their focus this night was the twelve-year-old “Falling Hard In The Key Of E” album, and they began their set with the lead track from it, “Another Try At Something New”. It might have been six years since they had last done a show, but they didn’t seem to have any trouble getting back in the swing of things. They were in tight form as they got going, especially on the choruses when the song took off,  and even though the stage was fairly tight with five of them on it (plus all the backlined gear), they still found space to move about.

Beau and Marshall swapped out guitar and bass duty, and Beau once again mentioned who they were. “We were Macavity; many years ago.” he stated, as they slowed things down (momentarily) with “Floating………”. However, when it did roar into action, so, too, did guitarists Seth Bohlman and Ryan Shaw, along with drummer Brian Rodriguez and the rest of the band.

Three Links was packed, and out of the two bands on the bill, Macavity had the most eyes on them, and they were bringing it so far, but not just with the rock. The comedy was in full force, too, and Seth took time to set up their next track. He noted it was about “high school lovers”, and he reminisced about those young days, when there was “nothing better than hand over shirt touching tit”. He went on to say that this next one was about everything he wished he had, “had the balls” to do when he was eighteen. “…It is slightly misogynistic…” he pointed out, apologizing to all the women in attendance in advance. “…I didn’t realize that until I was thirty-two. Fuck me, right?” he finished as they got ready for “It’s Okay To Say Goodbye”.

From here on out it was all jokes in-between songs, and after a serious conversation about Marshall having had a baby not even twenty-four hours prior to this show, Seth then mentioned that this was the natural progression of their shows, saying he recalled talking about 401k’s back in ’08, and now that talk had been replaced with kids. Beau then referenced their last reunion show, saying they were doing even less songs now. “…Now wait until 2021, when we only do one song and you sit around and fuck off.” he cracked.

With that, they got right back into rock mode with “Rockets In The Stack”. “The pressure’s building up; I can’t for the day when you crawl back to me…” Beau sang on the chorus; after which he and Marshall again switched out the guitar and bass, and he laughed when he said he was betting a lot of people had forgotten about the old “switcharoo” they did. “What have you been up to the last decade?” he then asked everyone. “For me, it’s been Ben and Jerry’s…” He also spoke for Marshall, saying he had been busy getting grey in his beard, and even growing a beard in general.

“But we’re brothers, so all this left me…” said Beau, waving his finger around his head and hair (which is lacking), “…And went to him.” “Was that crotchal?” asked Seth, saying he had missed what specific area Beau was talking about on himself.

With only two songs left from that EP, they had saved the longest ones for last, and after “Trapped By Design”, Seth mentioned that, “That’s how you make a six song EP forty minutes.” “We still have the long one.” Beau reminded him, shortly before “Goodnight, Sweet Dreams”. That wasn’t all they had to give, though. After another switcheroo, Beau told everyone that maybe one day they would come back, and play “the good songs” which can be found on their other album, and I assume it was one of those tracks they chose to end their 41-minute long set with.

Man, I wish I had been able to see Macavity back when they were a band. They were great this night, and found their stride very early on. Of course, one of the other downsides to having not seen them, as I don’t have any point of reference as to how they should be, though they were on point. Probably to the point they were in their heyday.

It was fun, and now I won’t look at Beau anymore as just being the guy who plays bass in The West Windows and People On Vacation.

You can buy the EP they played this night on iTUNES (it was released on Idol Records); and who knows, maybe one day, they’ll play those songs once more for their fans.

Now was the part of the night I was excited for, and that was seeing Valve.

The four-piece of bassist Tony Gattone, drummer Lance Lujan, singer and guitarist Casey Di Iorio and guitarist and synth player Josh (sorry, I missed his last name) took the stage donned in matching attire, which was black shirts and red ties.

Josh used the keyboard/synthesizer to make a cool, almost spacey sound, which quelled the fanfare. Well, at least it did until they began “Cornerstreet”. That was, of course, the first of many classics they did this night that had a majority of the people in the room singing right along with them; and upon finishing it, Casey rolled them right into “Forevermore”.

“Thank you all for coming out. How are you this fine Saturday?” he asked everyone, before thanking Macavity for opening up the show. “I remember making a record with Macavity.” he recalled. “They weren’t even old enough to drink; but they turned out as fine lads.” he joked, then added the members from that group had certainly beaten Valve members in “the kid count”.

“I waited by the station for your words… Words that I know won’t be said. Words that I need to hear in my head…” sang Casey at the start of “Waited By the Station”; the crowd echoing it right along with him. Tony began jumping around rather erratically once he, Josh and Lance joined in on the song, a song that was one of their strongest of the night.

It was at this point that Casey mentioned he was recovering from a 103° fever the night before. Someone from the audience jokingly called him out on that, saying he had those all the times. “Yeah, but all yours are from too much alcohol. I have those, too, but those are easy to get over.” Casey remarked, then later formally introduced Tony. “…He’s better known as ‘The Look.” he added as they got ready for “Take Flight”. It was one of a few songs they did this night that never made it out of the demo phase during their original run, but this night was on the new album they had for sale. An album that featured re-mastered versions of many of their songs, plus some of these others tracks that had never seen the light of day before (at least on an album). And in hearing it, you had to ask yourself how this missed making the cut on any of their records. It was every bit as strong as their other songs, and the chorus, “Take flight; I want to touch down somewhere new tonight… I want to land somewhere where I’m forgiven.” had a hopeful vibe to it, and one of redemption.

They segued it into “Lincoln Shore”, and after it, Tony filled some time while everyone else got ready for the next one. “…Support local music…” he encouraged everyone to do. “‘Cause it’s hard around these parts lately…” Hopefully, everyone will heed those words, too.

My favorite tune of theirs was next, and “Overrated” really pumped the audience up. Casey changed up a line on the second chorus slightly. “…I’ll get you right out. Fuck, I’ll get you right out.” he belted, adding “fuck” to it; while Tony raised both of his arms at the first “And then it’s alright…”, egging on the fans to make some noise.

“California girls.” That was all Casey had to say before their next song, and he shook his head while doing so. “…You’re the boredom I see everyday…” is the perfect line from “Drained” to sum up what it’s about, and you could clearly tell everyone here was ecstatic to hear it again. “Let’s give a big hidey-ho to Lance on drums.” shouted Casey once the song was over, adding that Lance was one of the original members of Valve. He also took a second to thank Three Links for hosting this sweet show, before they continued cranking out the songs, now doing “Farther From Sight”.

A toast was then made, to everyone who had any part of making this show happen. “We won’t do this again.” stated Casey. “Yeah, you will.” replied someone from the crowd. “No, we really won’t. We’re already sick of each other…” he retorted. Yeah, you could tell they were sick of each other, what with all the smiling they were doing, and just how absolutely happy they seemed to be back on a stage playing these songs.

Suddenly, they burst into “Part of the Catch Phrase”, which is not only one of their catchiest tracks, but live, it’s one of their most fun. Casey took over on the bass during the instrumental portion, while Tony prepared for the coming dance off. “Which one of you wants a piece?!” he asked, as one guy started to make his way on stage. “This guy’s going to fuck me right.” Tony said, while the guy climbed on stage. He got to go first, and had fun sowing off his dance skills. “That was good…” Tony told him, but this was his court, and he let it be known. The second round was more or less the same, and once Casey got back on his guitar and returned to center stage, he even said he thought Tony won that one.

For their next song, they welcomed the original bass player of Valve, Ian, up on stage to sing some backing vocals. “I didn’t get the black shirt and red tie memo.” he told Casey as soon as he got in front of the microphone. “I hope it’s orange.” Casey told him, before passing any and all blame off on Tony, saying he was the one in charge of picking the outfits. They had some fun with Weezer’s “Surf Wax America”, which ended with Casey tossing his guitar in the air, though the strap could only go so far before it pulled it back against his body.

“This song is for everybody that busted your ass all week…” Tony abruptly shouted, causing even his band mates to start laughing. “I think that means you can jump around on this one.” Casey then told the crowd in advance of “So Wired”. Upon finishing it, he asked everyone to give a hand for the owner of Bishop Manor Rehearsal, Duncan Black (whom I had seen rock out on the drums for Descender just the night before.) Casey went on by saying he [Duncan] used to play in a band called Glass Pack (if I heard correctly). “That was is heyday, really.” he finished, while the people applauded. “If you knew who Glass Pack was, you wouldn’t be clapping.” He then told everyone, before they slowed things down a just a hair with “Waiting in the Five Below”.

“Sounds like California girls, again.” Casey remarked before their next song, saying they were “always shouting” because they get so much sun. Conversation then took a turn to beer, specifically IPA beer. “…You know the Toadies just made their own beer…” he said, saying he had talked to Todd about it shortly after, who likened IPA to being the “merlot of beer”. “…It’s for babies…” Casey said, noting Todd had phrased it differently, but he wasn’t “comfortable going there” in front of this crowd. Yeah, that got some laughs, and then they got back to business with “Upper West Coast”. It was sort of a fitting song considering what was said after it, when Casey again thanked those who put the show together and Three Links, including owner Scott Beggs. “…Who’s playing hooky in California like a lazy son of a bitch.” he said lovingly.

Some time was then spent on singing happy birthday to a couple friends and fans who recently had/were celebrating. Tony then cracked that if they had been at the Oscars, they would have been played off stage long ago.

That led them to their final song, which Casey stressed really was their last one. “…We had a encore planned, but we got a little too excited and already burned through it.” he informed everyone. He then gave the lead in to the song, which was, “As our friend Chris Burney says, ‘I like trains.’ This song’s called 10:52.” That was a good little nod to their friends in Bowling for Soup, while the song was an excellent choice to end their 69-minute long set with.

They were phenomenal this night. This was definitely the best reunion show I’ve seen them do, and all the chemistry they have with one another was evident right from the start. And even now that they’re not a band, they’re still better than many acts that are out there.

But as great as the show was, both in terms of performance and music, perhaps the best part came at the very end, when Casey again thanked everyone for making it out. “We’ll see you next time.” he said, leaving everyone with just a glimmer of hope that this may happen again in a few years.

Friday, March 21st, 2014 – The Double Wide Gets Rocked to its Core

Descender. Double Wide. Need I say more?

If I could be considered a groupie of any band, it would be Descender (since I seldom miss a show), and with them playing the Double Wide in Dallas this night (their first headlining show since last June), there was no way I could miss it. Better yet, the whole bill looked to be a great one.

Vinyl was first up with the rock, and after about six months or so, I was looking forward to seeing them again.

Their 39-minute long set was a mix of older and new stuff. They began with something all their fans would now, as the gentle sounds of “Trucker” filled the room, while singer and rhythm guitarist Justin Hawkins crooned out the lyrics. It was a good way to ease everyone into their show, and it probably caught those who were unfamiliar with them off guard once drummer Steve Phillips laid a heavy beat down, as the song exploded. They had brought some simple, yet bright white lights along with them and had four or five scattered about the stage. They all flashed on at that heavy part, and would be used heavily throughout their show.

A brief pause followed, giving the crowd enough time to voice how much they were already enjoying it, before they ripped into one of their newer tracks; the lights again flashing on as it got underway. “We are Vinyl, from Denton…” Justin announced after it was over, thanking everyone for coming out on “this lovely Friday night”. “I think it’s spring… Maybe.” he added, poking fun at the ever-changing weather.

They followed it up with another song I was unfamiliar with, which saw Dustin Fleming doing a little guitar solo on this kinda catchy number. That solo paled in comparison to the next one, though; and a few minutes after he had wound them right into the next tune, he showed off his slick skills and delivered a devastatingly good solo.

“Thanks for coming out. We love this place…” Justin mentioned during their next break, saying something about this being “playtime”. Someone from the audience then made some remark, which I believe was, “There are many different types of playtime.”

Indeed, there are, but this was Rock ‘n’ Roll playtime, and now the band brought out one of their best songs, “Electric Sheep”, which boasts a very tight rhythm section as Steve and bassist Hunter Johnston work well off one another. The same could be said for their next song, which was quite heavy, and almost even overpowering at times. Yeah, that was a good thing. The most surprising thing was when they started to bring it down, giving the impression that they were winding it down, before hitting the onlookers with a surprise left punch when it roared back into action.

They kept that livened pace up with “No Halo”, before ending with another song that will be on their upcoming album, “Kapital”.

That nearly six minute long track capped things off nicely, and the periodic instrumental jam parts (which is prominent in just about all of their songs) lets you see the band in the element they most excel at: just rocking out.

I’ve seen Vinyl a few times by know, at least enough I should know better, but in the time since I last caught them, I had completely forgotten how incredible their live shows are. They’re tight and polished, yet have an almost unrestrained and very raw sound and energy in terms of their performance.

Point is, they brought it, and set the bar high no less.

If you haven’t heard of Vinyl yet, I promise you, you are missing out. Keep up with them on FACEBOOK for news of upcoming shows, and sample of their music over on REVERBNATION. If you like it, like I said, they’ll have an album out sometime this year.

Next up was Aeges, who was still hanging around Texas after doing some shows at SXSW the previous week. Actually, this was their final show in the Lone Star State before they headed back to their homes in Los Angeles.

After seeing the opening band, and knowing what the headliner was capable of, I didn’t expect them to significantly raise the previously mentioned bar or anything. I was wrong.

They tore out of the gates with some gritty, furious guitar driven songs, throwing the first two right at the spectators, as lead guitarist Cory Clark segued one into the other.

“I want to listen to you on my way to work!” one guy shouted, clearly already smitten with these brutal jams. “I want to listen to us on your way to work.” replied Kemble Walters, who held down the duty of lead vocals and rhythm guitar. This was when he mentioned this was their final show of an already “short tour”, and graciously thanked everyone who was there for being there. “…I’m glad you’re here, ‘cause you probably don’t know us…” he said, adding it meant a lot that people would stick around for a band they knew nothing about.

They rocked out another one, which saw Cory playing some sweet licks as he quickly shredded on his axe. In the break that followed, Kemble mentioned they were “debating going soft or heavy”. So, while they tried to settle that, a new convert to the ways of Aeges decided to buy them some drinks. They seemed a little shocked once they downed the shots and got what Kemble said was a strong peppermint flavor, though they were no less appreciative of the drinks. It was then Kemble made the decision to go heavy, sighting his reason as being he needed to clear his throat after that. “Heavy” meant pushing his guttural voice to the max, and often screaming on “Doesn’t Feel The Same”, a song that had drummer Mike Land matching the intensity with some precise and fiercely delivered beats on his kit, backed up by some pulsating bass lines courtesy of Tony Baumeister.

Cory demonstrated that he, too, could sing, and tackled lead on their next track. It was after that when Kemble again spoke about Texas, saying he used to live here “back in the day”, when he was in a hardcore band. He broke a string as they cranked out their next number, but with no backup, there was nothing he could do. He actually barely even paid it any attention; tuning his guitar once that song had been completed in order to get ready for their current single, “Parasite”. “I pulled your thorns and your splinters after you laid in my garden. I only hurt you to remind you, you need me!” he sang/shouted on the chorus of that astounding song.

Those who had stuck around in the venue portion of the Double Wide had been engulfed by Aeges for some time now, and it was saddening to hear that they only had one song left, and that capped their show off at 35-minutes.

It was thirty-five amazing minutes, and taking personal bias out of the equation, Aeges was the best band that graced the stage this night. And that’s saying something.

In listening to their recorded stuff since, I think it does a good job of capturing the aggressiveness of their show, but it still doesn’t begin to do their shows justice.

You could tell they were a touring act and that their time on the road had helped them all get in perfect synch with one another. The musicianship was well above most, and even after having done a few shows, they still had plenty of energy to give to Dallas, which they did, and they made it look easy.

Honestly, Aeges blew my mind, and I hope whenever they do get back to Texas, they do a few shows here in the metroplex, and I’ll probably be at all of them. (In fairness, they did do a Denton show a couple nights prior to this, though I had commitments that required me to be elsewhere.)

Take your pick of either iTUNES or BANDCAMP to buy their music. Either way, give it a listen, and here’s their TOUR PAGE, though no shows are currently booked.

It was a little after 12:20 when Descender got all set up, soundchecked and was ready to go; and they had a nice little set planned for everyone.

“I hear it in the footfalls, curves that slither lonely grace…” Casey Hess sang after he and his band mates had thrown down on the instrumental intro for “Armor”, which was the lone song they did from the “Dark Water” EP this night. I was glad that was the one they chose to do, though, and opening with it immersed everyone in the rock that was to come.

The main focus this night – as it has been for some time now – was the songs from their new record, but they also decided to get nostalgic this night, and next dug out what was at one time a show staple from the “Army of Elephants” EP. I don’t know for sure when the last time I heard “Gunpowder Drums” live was, but it had been at least a year, and probably even longer than that. Actually, the last few times I have seen I’ve thought how cool it would be to hear this one again, and it was pleasant surprise.

After that song that is dominated by the rhythm section of Zack Busby and Duncan Black, on bass and drums, respectively, Casey mentioned who they were and that they were from East Dallas. I didn’t hear what someone from the audience said in response to that, but Casey remarked that he didn’t want to go there this time of night. “…It smells of grills, opinions and smug.” said Casey, who then sniffed the air, and turned towards Zack, before glancing to his other side at lead guitarist Jeff Gruber. “Is that smug? Yeah, that’s smug.” he joked.

One heavy rhythm song was followed by another, and they began tackling the “Slow and Gold” EP with “The Language”. From the lyrics (“…I long for the language, the language taught by your tongue…”) to the music bed, it’s one of the best songs Descender has produced, and Caseys’ guitar solo in the midst of it is just fantastic.

Shortly after he fired up “I Will Help You Find The Darkness”, and after the little break near the end, they came back in with a fury. Jeff was killing it on his guitar, while Duncan was striking his kit with the usual force that makes you question how the drum skins even stay intact. Things got a little more upbeat with “Spinning On The Surface”, before they unleashed the monstrous song that is “Silver Lightning”.

“Slow And Gold” was a highlight this night, sounding even better than usual, and with that, at least according to their setlist, they were almost done. However, the cries that had been going on for a few songs now still persisted. “Army of Elephants!” shouted a cluster of fans, hoping to hear the title track from their first release, which was surprisingly absent from the setlist. “That’s a Sting cover, isn’t it?” Casey asked, feigning a perplexed look. The four musicians shared a quick look with one another and decided to pull out the six plus minute long track, which served to get everyone ready for what was to come. That song had some great moments, though. Like when Casey knelt down by his amp, running the neck of his guitar on it to get a distorted feedback sound, before eventually doing a backbend, and, after raising up from it, he moved his guitar around behind his head, keeping it there for several seconds, all the while never missing a note.

“I’m sorry, I brought you guys down to our level. I shouldn’t have done that.” he joked afterwards, before saying this next song was when they were going through their “pop radio phase”. That’s sorta true, if you look at from the days gone by, before rock songs were so poppy and had to be around three and a half minutes in length. It was June of the previous year when I last heard them play “Little Power”, a song that consumes twelve whole minutes in the live setting. It’s sheer greatness, and you get so caught up in it all, it doesn’t feel like that much time has passed.

Speaking of time, that clocked their set in at 57-minutes.

It was great getting to hear some oldies from ‘em again, as well as see them finally do another headline show and actually have time to bring songs like that back out.

If you enjoy good ol’ thick sounding Rock ‘n’ Roll, then check out Descender. I don’t know when their next show will be, though you can check their albums HERE and HERE in iTUNES.

This was most solid lineups I’ve seen in awhile, and from start to finish this night rocked.

Thursday, March 20th, 2014 – Abacu5 Shows Off Their New Lineup to Dallas

And so it continued…

My third straight night out in Dallas found me at The Boiler Room, where a couple bands I was familiar with were playing. One I had seen before, though it had been a long time, the other was one I had been wanting to catch since they came into being in the latter portion of last year.

Singer/songwriter Natalie Gore (who was joined by an acoustic guitarist) opened the show, and was already part of the way through her set by the time I got there. “This is my ode to Taylor Swift…” she said of her next song, noting it was “self-explanatory”. Indeed, the song “Dear Jon” was self-explanatory, telling a tale of heartbreak and letting go.

The whole show (at least what I was there for) had a sort of storyteller vibe like that to it, which I enjoyed. Like her next song, a cover of The Band Perry’s “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely”, when she mentioned she lived in Nashville for some time, and never really liked country music until she was immersed in it then. She also joked that she knew this might not be the right crowd for a country song, but no one really cared, and the rendition was quite good.

Then you had “Something More”, which acknowledged was her pride and joy for many years, as it was the first song she ever wrote on a guitar. That came after a story where she said she begged her brother to teach her how to play guitar, but he never would, so she took up classes once she started college. She joked about how good she thought she was once she had learned three chords (which was when she wrote this song), before making things a little more complex as she learned more.

That was followed by “Falling”, before she ended with a song that “everybody would know”, which wound up being Katy Perry’s, “Roar”, and it was highly enjoyable.

Given that every other act on the bill were rock bands, she was the odd man out (or rather, odd woman, I guess), and she did mine a slightly poppy sound, though she still fit with it all.

I enjoyed listening to it, and she has a great voice. I guess maybe that’s why she sings the national anthem at the FC Dallas games (the soccer team).

Check out her music. She has a few singles available in iTUNES, and keep an eye on her TOUR DATES page for future shows.

Now it was time for the rock portion of the show, and getting that going was Pseudo Future.

It was only last June when Vinyl Pilot played their final show, and from the ashes of that band, a couple of the members (Jeff Lowe and Patrick Hunter) formed this new group, teaming up with drummer Justyn Gomez.

They may not have been together long, but they’ve already played several shows, and quickly got a debut EP released, with another on the way.

Their 29-minute long set this night was a mix of those recorded songs and the ones that are yet to come and it was of the latter that they opened with. It was actually one of my favorite songs they did this night, and it showed everyone just what kind of alt rock sounds they were in for.

As it ended, Patrick knelt down and fiddled with his pedal board; creating some great sounds that served as a wicked segue into “Loss Of Light”. Jeff than took the reins, striking his guitar to start the song, a song that highlighted just how tight a group they are. After the second verse, Patrick raised his bass in the air, doing so in perfect time with one of Justyns’ beats. Yeah, it was pretty solid.

“Hey guys, we’re Pseudo Future. How are you tonight?” Patrick asked the small cluster people who had ventured out on this Thursday night (those who didn’t don’t know what they missed out on). “I’ve lost all control; trying not to show…” crooned Jeff on one of his rare light moments, shortly before the rhythm section took over and dominated on “Drawing Board”.

Some mangled feedback and drumbeats led them into their next track, which Jeff dedicated to his “beautiful wife”. He sang the first line or two of “Love Of My Life” into the bullet mic that was attached to his stand, before switching to the other microphone for this sweet song. I was slightly surprised to hear it, since it struck me as probably being a deep cut that wouldn’t be played live, but when you don’t have many songs in the first place, you gotta do all you can. Don’t misinterpret that as me saying I don’t like the song, either. They did change it up to be better suited for the live environment, though; and the end was downright explosive. The trio roared into action on it, and Patrick even backed up Jeff on the chorus, their two voices sounding fantastic together.

“How’s everyone’s Thursday night going?” Patrick asked, again bantering with the onlookers for a moment, before mentioning the next one was another new one, and one they had just recorded. Justyn used his electronic drum pad at times on this one, like at the start and end, where it had a cool sound that resembled metal striking metal. It added a great quality to what was their most intense song of the night.

They had some fun after that, as Jeff picked up a couple of drumsticks and assisted Justyn in playing his kit. While he did that, Patrick was again using his pedal board to create all sorts of distorted sounds, then eventually joined them by banging on the drums. That was entertaining to watch, and once it ended, Justyn showed off his chops as a drummer, knocking out an insanely good solo that soon bridged them into another hefty number.

Their time on stage had passed too quickly, and they were already at their final song, which Jeff set up as being “about your friends” and “being fed up with them”. He elaborated a bit more by saying it was about when they should be there for you, but they’re not. “’Cause they’ve gone to a place, a place they don’t belong.” he said, using the chorus of “All My Friends” to explain it. That was what they closed with, and during the slow part after the second chorus, Justyn stood up from his kit, before they ripped back into it, and gave the tune a very memorable end, that found Jeff and Patrick plucking some strings in time with the beats, while Justyn ended it with some incredibly rapid drumming.

I don’t know what I was expecting, but it wasn’t a show of this caliber; and by simple surprise, I was blown away.

The energy they put into it was off the charts. If you saw their previous band, it was at least on par with that, perhaps even better.

They had ample room to move about and they took advantage of it, but Patrick and Jeff still almost ran into one another at times, just because they got so carried away.

I’m definitely going to have to start trying to make their shows more often, ‘cause this was great. In fact, I was wondering if any of the other bands could top it.

That debut EP they have out, you can get it for FREE on their BANDCAMP PAGE. As for shows, they’ll be at Lola’s Saloon in Fort Worth on April 26th, and they have a show at the Curtain Club in Dallas on May 24th.

A band from Plano by the name of Afterzoo was up next, and they share a similar story to that of the band before them. The group was formed after other bands collapsed, and they haven’t even been together a full year, during which time they’ve already released a full-length album. Granted, I didn’t know any of that prior to seeing them.

Their first two songs were bridged together, and that time was all it took for the spectators to realize how incredible bassist Terence Shipp was. He was owning it on the bass; swinging it back and forth, almost as if he were going to send it flying around behind him and back, though he never put that much force into it. It ensured all eyes were on him, though.

“That last band was kickass…” said singer and rhythm guitarist Dave Aslan Kendrick, who asked everyone to give Pseudo Future another round of applause. “…This is one we haven’t played in awhile.” he remarked before they ripped into the catchy and finely written “Hazard Lights”, which brought just a hint of Southern Rock into their alt rock style.

Terence continued bringing his A game, and again took the spotlight on “Odd Numbers”, after which Dave mentioned the next song was one they had done a video for. “If you want to see Terence and his dreads.” he added. The song he was speaking of was “Away We Go”, and it was a highlight of their set, simply because they got so into it. Lead guitarist Chris Hendrik was shouting along to the chorus – despite not having a mic – and you could tell it was one they were really feeling.

“I know most of these are new for everyone, but this next one’s new for us as well.” said Dave before they broke out a newer jam, and Tommy West let loose some thunderous drumbeats on that one; while the end of it had them all crooning, “Wooo”.

They knocked out another great tune, before Dave took a moment to officially introduce his band mates to everyone, then grabbed  a drumstick and used it to hit one of the cymbals as they began “Happiness Ensued”, which ended their 31-minute long set.

It was mostly an instrumental piece and an epic one that, where you got to see the musicianship all four of them posses really shine.

They impressed the hell out of me, and by the time they were done, they had left it all on the stage.

You wouldn’t know they’re still such a new band by watching them, and since I didn’t know that at the time, I found myself wondering, “How have I not heard of these guys before?”, figuring they had been together at least a couple of years.

Really, the live show was something to experience. Hell, at one point, Terence shoved Dave out of the way, because they were about to collide with one another. Yeah, it was just a bit intense.

On another note, no, they aren’t reinventing the wheel with their sounds, but they make it so enjoyable, it doesn’t matter. The passion’s there, and that’s what matters.

Check out the “Shoplifter” album in iTUNES, and if you want to see them, their next show is on April 19th at Sons of Hermann Hall in Dallas.

Closing out the night was Abacu5 (pronounced abacus). I don’t even remember the last time I saw them, though I’m guessing it had been well over a year ago.

The band took some time off, and the few times they did play I was unable to make it; and during all that time, they’ve undergone some changes.

Jonathan Sprang stepped down from the lead vocalist role, though is still with the band, being a guitarist and backing vocalist now. They also welcomed Cory Martin into the fold as the frontman, and this was only his second show with the group.

Their 49-minute long set was filled with a bunch of newer songs (or at least some that have yet to be recorded), like their opening track, which saw Jonathan and bassist Adam Manning interacting a bit as they jammed together, while lead guitarist Samuel Holder broke off into a solo at one point. It would be the first of many this night.

Jonathan then rolled them right into one of the tracks off the “Sandwich Squad” EP, “What I Said”. It was a little weird not hearing him singing it, but the word “weird” isn’t to be confused as meaning not good. On the contrary, Cory was crushing it; moving around what space he had and stepping onto the drum riser, all the while focusing on the crowd to make sure they were engaged. They had also improved on that one a bit, and Samuel added a truly wicked solo into the mix.

“Thank you all for coming out. We’re going to play some serious Rock ‘n’ Roll…” Cory informed everyone. There’s no denying they had the biggest fan base of the night, so the thank you was well deserved; and shortly after they dove into the next tune. “…I can’t believe what you’re going through; life is crashing down on you…” Cory sang on the chorus, being a little restrained as he showed off a lighter side of his voice, but still packing some intensity into it. It had an excellent sound, and was one of the standouts from their set.

Eric Petrinowitsch began the next number by banging about on his drum kit, before his band mates suddenly opened up their single, “Say What You Want”. This was when you got a good glimpse of what this new version of Abacu5 is capable of, and Cory and Jonathan co-sang the track. They shared the lead responsibilities, even harmonizing at times — which sounded great, I might add. “You’re words hurt like spikes to the eyes…” the two sang on the chorus; making this already great song a force to be reckoned with.

They tore right into what Cory noted was the newest song they had, and while it got into the more alt/rock sound that all their songs have, I thought the first verse was a bit dark, a quality that I enjoyed. They explored some more new territory with the next song, which had Adam adding his voice to the mix at times, making some wonderful three-part harmonies.

A sample track bridged them into their next one, and the sound of rain falling was a rather cool lead in to the aggressive “Dark Night”, which was one of the other songs that Samuel got to shred on. He and Adam then launched the group into “Pretty Lady”, which almost seemed to have undergone some tweaks. I thought it just had a more vibrant sound now.

“We got you feeling pretty sexy…” Cory said as the song concluded, prompting one friend/fan to shout, “I always feel sexy!” “…You like the Foo Fighters?” he asked, setting up a cover of “Dear Rosemary”. It fit perfectly with their style, and I thought they nailed it with the song. I also point out I thought it was cool that they did a Foo Fighters song that was not a single. You seldom see bands go with the atypical when it comes to covers, and while there’s nothing wrong with bands covering “Everlong” or one of the other hits (still using Foo Fighters as an example, though this applies to any artist), it was refreshing to hear a band try their hand at a “deeper cut”.

With that, their time on stage was pretty much over, though they did have one last song from that four-track EP to do, and wrapped it all up with “Blow You Away”. Jonathan and Cory alternated signing lines each time they got to the chorus; while Cory stood atop the drum riser and belted out the final line as the song wound down.

Man, this new lineup has elevated these guys to the next level.

That’s not to say they weren’t good before, though it helps now that they have a singer who can solely be a frontman. Jonathan still has his presence too, though; and the harmonies they displayed at multiple points this night were awesome.

They’ve really pushed themselves to a whole new level since I last saw them, and I am speaking the all the members collectively.

As for Cory, in terms of vocals, he fits right at home with Abacu5, and for their chemistry with one another to already be as good as it was this night, I can’t wait to see what they’re like once they get all the wrinkles ironed out so to speak.

Their next show is scheduled for April 12th at The Adelaide in Terrell, TX, and head over to their REVERBNATION PAGE to listen to and download their EP for free.

Not a bad way to spend a Thursday night, and it turned out even much better than I had expected it to be.

If you asked me, “Jordan, what were you doing on April thirteenth, two thousand and eight?” without hesitation or thought I’d be able to answer you with, “I was at the AAC in Dallas watching Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band for the first time ever.”

That was almost exactly six years ago, and while they had put out two records during that time, those tours never found them returning to Big D. But with their newest, and third release since then, “High Hopes”, Dallas was making the list of stops. They even did one better than that, by making this their tour kickoff…


Monday, March 31st, 2014 – A Songwriters in the Round with Some Tennesseans

Last time Memphis native Myla Smith came through Dallas (which was only about four months prior to this), I ended up missing it. Luckily, I didn’t end up suddenly feeling under the weather this night, so I was able make the show at Opening Bell Coffee.

This was the fifth stop of a ten city tour she was doing with Chris Milam and Heather Batchelor, and this Dallas date happened to coincide with OBC’s weekly songwriters in the round series, which was bound to make the night a little more interesting.

I got there a bit after the scheduled 7:30 start time, walking in on the end of what I believe was Myla’s first song, which also ended the first cycle of the round.

“I want to write a song like that.” Heather told her after she had finished, commenting on the rather abrupt end it. “…Just start at the end.” Myla joked, as Heather got ready for her next song, informing the early birds that it was the same one she had done during soundcheck. “…But it has lyrics now.” she stated

She played one of the tracks off the three-day-old “Unraveled” EP, “Something to You”, which carried a catchy tune with it, and told a good story in the four minutes or so it took to play it. While she sang, both Chris and Myla gave her their full attention, and afterwards the ladies turned their attention to Chris, who said there were a lot of good things about being from Memphis. One example he gave was “the rich music history”, though he was quick to point out there were some downsides to it, too. He then shared a couple stories with the audience, one of which was about spending sixteen hours renovating a house, which led to the downside of “…hearing five hundred blues songs on the radio…” That helped act as a catalyst for him to write what he said was his first blues song, and if I heard the title correctly, it was “Tell Me Something”. There were some blues elements mixed in with the country and pop vibes; and it was one of my favorite songs he did this night.

Myla finished out the round with a song that she noted was one of the first ones she wrote for her latest album, “Hiding Places”. “There’s no cure for what I’ve got, call it the human condition.” she sang, while lightly plucking the stings of her guitar as she began “Human Condition”. That hushed intro didn’t last, though, and even with just an acoustic guitar she made the song into a mighty number, and belted out the chorus with a passion.

Attention then shifted back to Heather, who informed the crowd of a little over a dozen that she was going to get a little bluesy. “If that’s okay.” She added, prompting a small amount of cheers from the audience, with Chris chiming in, too. She took things down a few notches with “You’ve Got a Way”, a track that really highlighted her vocal range, from the more tender side, to nailing some deep, powerful notes, that left you thinking, “Wow!”

“Are there any kids hiding behind the pillar?” Chris asked when his turn rolled around, pointing to the big column in the center of the room. Some folks checked and informed him there was not. “It’s okay if there, but I’m gonna get a little PG-13 with this one.” he stated, before knocking out another newer song of his. When it got back to Myla, she proceeded to tell everyone a story behind her next track. “In two thousand and ten  I took on took big projects…” she said, before stopping. “I dropped my pick.” she remarked, causing Heather to joke, “Oh, no. The world is lost.”, while Myla reached down and picked it up.

She got back to her story by saying those two undertakings were a new album and getting married, a feat she did not recommend anyone do, saying both are hard enough in their own right. “I had three separate breakdowns.” she said, being able to laugh about it now. On that note, she added that she had to inform multiple family members that the song she was about to do was not about her now husband. “Take your stuff, take your sorries, I’ve heard enough. Wrap them up with a big red bow, give ‘em to the woman you used to know…” went the chorus of “Big Red Bow”, which had Myla tapping a little more into her folk side.

Upon finishing it, she mentioned their wedding day was also the day that album (2010’s “White/Gold”) was released, and they gave copies out to all those who attended said wedding. “Please tell me you wrapped the albums in a big red bow?” Heather asked her. They did not, though Myla did say that on the cover art for the album she was wearing her mothers’ wedding dress. Heather then said something about a “ringbearer”, before correcting it to “ringbear”, making a How I Met Your Mother reference. Fitting, since the shows series finale was airing that night.

She then busted out the infectious lead track from her new EP, “Chicago”, which was one the onlookers really seemed to enjoy. Before his next song, Chris told everyone how thankful he was that they were there watching them. Thus far, he said he had only been eating Fruit Roll-Ups, and Heather was quick to nod her head, affirming that he wasn’t lying. “…I’m running on your fuel…” he said to the crowd, being completely genuine with the remark.

He offered up another newer track, while Myla backed him up at different points throughout it. Those backing vocals sounded lovely, and when it was over, she said she’s really wanting her and Chris to start a duo called “Milam and Myla”. They even talked about combining their names, much like is done with celebrity couples these days, and calling themselves something like, “Mylam”.

All of that fun and at times off-the-wall banter served to make the show all the more entertaining.

She cranked out her next song, and when things got back to Heather, she mentioned this next one was one she co-wrote with a friend and fellow musician, Taylor Dukes. “…From Nashville, Texas.” she said, when talking about her friend. She realized her mistake as soon as she made it. “Wait… That’s not a place.” She said, and you could tell she was still trying to figure out exactly how that had slipped out. “…You all know Taylor, the Duke of Nashville?” said Chris, adding his commentary to it all.

The laughs (from both the crowd and the musicians) subsided, and Heather got back on track, saying when they sit down to work on a song, Taylor told her she felt like writing about “wild hearts”. So, fittingly, the track is called “Wild”. It’s great as is, and was only made better with the additional vocals Myla added to it, which was something Heather pointed out they had worked on during their time in the car, which was slightly surprising, because it sounded as if they had been doing it much longer than just practicing it that day.

“Are there any Springsteen fans here?” Chris asked, which got people really excited. “This isn’t one he wrote…” he informed everyone, though he did say it had some “Boss elements”, and after mentioning that there were religious layers to it (at least that’s what he said he tells his mother), he confided that it was really inspired by a high school reunion. The song he spoke of was one from the “Young Avenue” EP, called “Dark in the Garden”.

Like his other songs, it told an honest story; and after it, they got into a story from their trek on the road. Namely, how the rental car company gave them a Cadillac Escalade. It was at this point they pointed out the tip jar the staff of OBC had passed around a time or two already, and Chris said it, of course, took the most expensive gas. They also had trouble with the seat warmers, and hadn’t been able to turn them off so far. Sure, that would have been fine a few months ago, but not now.

Myla then set up her next song, which came from the “Drugs” EP. “It’s not what you’re thinking…” she clarified, saying the inspiration behind came from “baptized drugs”, which, as she pointed out for herself, was this: work and playing music. The song was the first one from that EP, “Slow Down”, which she noted she could probably stand to do at times. That’s not necessarily what the song’s about, though. Instead, it carries a message of chasing after what you want, and putting everything you have into it.

Heather got ready for her next track by saying that when she had time, she used to take naps. “I don’t anymore.” She stated. She then asked if anyone there was a fan of rainstorms, as in they found the sound soothing. A couple of people fit that category, and she was pretty fired up when she made her next remark. “I’m, like, ‘Yeah, bring it on!” she said, before finishing that, that was sort of what this next song was based on.

She performed the stellar, “Let it Rain”; and when things rolled back around to Chris, he asked if everyone would indulge him while he told a story. A few years back, he said he was called into a record executive’s office, who liked what he was doing and asked him to play a song. He did one, then another, saying he was feeling pretty good at that point, and his confidence only grew with the third song, which he was stopped in the middle of. The executive then offered his critique, which was that he was playing “New York country” and not “Nashville country”. Chris said he was given a homework assignment, and told to write a Nashville country song. “So, I searched my heart…” he said, making some funny remark, that was something like he wrote a song about New York girls who were from Tennessee. Honestly, I didn’t catch all of that, but regardless, the song that spawned was “Memphis Queen”, which is found on his debut album from 2005, and it was one of his strongest songs of the night.

Myla didn’t waste any time getting into her next song, which was the ever so catchy, “Bad Boys”. “All the bad boys are looking for a good time. I catch ‘em looking my way…” goes the start of the chorus, which, once it was over, led Chris to say he was sensing a theme between it and what he had done before. They then looked at Heather, who said she didn’t have a song to fit that pattern. However, she did have one that was about a “makeup, breakup and everything in between.

Once she finished, Chris reached down a harmonica and neck rack. “He’s getting the harmonica. He’s such an overachiever.” Heather stated, giving him a hard time. I believe the song was titled “All of Our Ghosts”, and was an amazing one. Myla kept with the newly established slower vibe, by doing a song she pointed out was rather special to her right now, because it was a finalist in the International Songwriting Competition. Heather then piped up. “That means it good.” she said, bragging on Myla. The song was “Sparks”. If you listen to it and pay attention to the lyrics, you’ll understand why it has made it so far in the competition, and the song deals with never letting the spark in a relationship burn out.

For Heather’s next song, she did the title track from her first EP, “Fine Line”. Chris followed it with another one of his, and for Myla’s turn, she did “Love in Black and White”. There’s a point in the song that sounds like the end, and the crowd raised their hands, but remained hesitant to applaud, clearly not certain if it was over yet or not. However, when Chris led the applause, everyone followed. The look on his was priceless after it subsided a bit and Myla continued on with the final verse. Meanwhile, Heather just shook her head and grinned.

It was about 9:15 at this point, so they had been on stage for nearly two hours already, and now they asked everyone if they wanted a couple more rounds. Everyone was game, and this next to last one they (minus Myla) had decided would be a cover round. “Are we really doing covers?” asked Myla, who was down for it, but just wanted to make sure they were indeed doing that.

Chris even joked that they were all three going to do “Freebird”. “…And we’ll all be here till next Tuesday.” he said, while Myla added she wanted to do the last solo by mimicking the sound with her mouth, and even demonstrated it.

Heather’s song was one by Maroon 5. “Really old” Maroon 5, which she noted was her favorite. It’s been years (and then some) since I’ve listened to the “Songs About Jane” album (which, I might add, is the only Maroon 5 album I own), so I didn’t catch the flubbed line she made on the second verse of “Sunday Morning”. However, she readily pointed it out when she finished, saying she was “ashamed” of it. Still, I think that little mistake could easily be overlooked, given how she killed it on the final chorus, and the vocal delivery was outstanding.

Chris treated everyone to an awesome rendition of The White Stripes “I’m Lonely (But I Ain’t That Lonely Yet)”, with just a hint of country flare added to it. Before her turn, Myla mentioned just a few days before someone had told her that there was “no good music written in the eighties.” She said was a bit taken aback by the comment, and responded to the person with, “Well, how about this song?” With that, she immediately started “In Your Eyes” by Peter Gabriel, which I definitely think qualifies as at least one good song that came out of that decade.

Since they were on the topic of covers, Heather mentioned she wanted to do a more acoustic rendition of “Love is a Battlefield”, saying she thought that would sound cool. “It’s been done on Idol.” Myla told her, crushing her hopes. “Well, if it’s been done on Idol then I can’t do it.” She remarked, before again thanking everyone for sticking around, because most of the people who still were here, at been there since the show began.

Her closer was “Fool Again”, and it was a great note to end on. Before his last number, Chris thanked Opening Bell Coffee for playing host to them, then started “Shine”. It sounded great to begin with, and was only made better by the assistance he got from his touring companions, as they all three harmonized on the choruses, their voices sounding absolutely incredible all combined like that.

It fell to Myla to end the night, and she concluded it all with the title track from her still fairly new record, “Hiding Places”, which was a nice conclusion to an unforgettable night.

All three are extraordinary singers and songwriters, and seeing them in this Songwriters in the Round setting made for a one-of-a-kind experience. I mean, hearing them play their songs would have been just fine, but having them tell stories pertaining to some of the tracks, along with the banter and teasing they periodically did was fun to hear. And no, it did not seem like this was a two plus hour show, and that old saying, “time flies when you’re having fun”, would be an appropriate one to us about this night.

Regarding Myla, she’s playing Memphis every week in the month of April, and just a few shows in other states are also planned for May. Her full calendar can be viewed HERE. Be sure to check out her albums in iTUNES, too.

Chris has a gig at Downtown Rooftop in Memphis on May 9th, and go HERE for any updates on his show calendar. He also told me it’ll probably (hopefully) be fall at the latest when he’ll get back to Dallas, so keep that in mind and be sure to check him out whenever he does get back this way. And, of course, check out his albums in iTUNES.

Heather has her records up on either iTUNES or BANDCAMP, and while she has nothing on the books at the moment, here’s her TOUR PAGE.

Oh, they’re all super nice people, too.

Great way to end the month of March, especially since I began it with a songwriters in the round show that featured four Texas musicians, and then ended it more or less the same way with some acts from the only other state whose name begins with a T. That might almost qualify as being poetic.