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
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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…

CONTINUE READING

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.

Wednesday, March 19th, 2014 – Ishi Livens Up a Wednesday Night

As one show let out and my duty of covering the show for On Tour Monthly was fulfilled, I headed across the street to Three Links to catch a show for myself… Or at least what was left of it.

The whole bill (which featured Black Taxi, We’rewolves and Okapi Sun) would have been great to see, but Ishi was the main band I had wanted to see in the first place, and they had yet to start.

It had been about ten months since I last Dallas’s favorite electronic band, and coincidentally, it happened to right here at Three Links, just one week after their massive CD release show when “Digital Wounds” was finally released into the world.

Point is I was looking forward to this.

“I’m gonna need more tracks ASAP.” Frontman JT Mudd told the sound guy as their show got underway. He was decked out in his full attention getting attire, which included his spacey/futuristic looking robe, a hat with little squares of glass like you would see on a disco ball covering it and a pair of glasses that illuminated neon light. He also sported some face paint. It may have been a Wednesday night, but they clearly weren’t pulling any punches.

“Happy hump day motherfuckers!” he shouted as the sample track for “Pastel Lights” grew louder, soon peaking as guitarist Rocky Ottley and drummer Jonathan Merla jumped in on the track. I guess that’s the upside of going so long without seeing a band: They completely switch up their setlist. I was a bit surprised they opened with this classic that is typically reserved as one of the final songs, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t like it.

It instantly had the area in front of the stage transformed into a dance floor, as some sang right along with JT, “…I will be waiting in the shapes of time; realigning the matter between your heart and mine…” It was indeed a fun way to kick off what would end up being a 71-minute set, and with that oldie out of the way, it was time for some new stuff, but not the new stuff I was expecting.

Apparently, they’ve been busy writing some new material since I last saw them, and played a handful of the tracks this night. The next one was the first of a few that had JT introducing a female singer (I missed her full name, though if I heard correctly her first was Betty) who joined them on stage and backed him up.

While a female vocalist used to be a permanent thing in Ishi, they’ve proven in the last year or so it’s not a necessity for them. However, there are times it is behooving of the music. That song was one of them, and the woman killed it each time she did step on stage.

“We got a brand new song for ya, Dallas.” remarked JT as she left, leading to another new song, one that had Rocky playing some very cool sounding lines on his guitar. The fans barely had to time to clap for them before the backing track for a personal favorite of mine kicked on, “Moon Watcher”. The fans were encouraged to clap along with Jonathan’s drumming at the start, and after getting through the first chorus, JT gave it up to Rocky, letting out a high-pitched, “Guitar!”.

They were on a roll know, going right from one song to the next, and “Emotional Hard Drive” kicked the dancing into overdrive, while Rocky jumped around at the start of it. “…You strut your stuff, looking so tough. I don’t buy it…” JT sang, kind of flexing one of his arms as he did so. That was segued right into another new track, which again featured the vocal talent of Betty, who even took over more of a lead role at times. In fact, while she was singing one line, JT went and grabbed a little towel and wiped the sweat from his eyes, before getting right back into show mode, jumping about and doing everything possible to ensure the audience was feeling it and having the time of their life.

“Thank you, Miss Betty.” he said as she went back to being a spectator of the show, while they moved right along with “Touch The Future”. “Let me see your vibrations; touch the sun. Anyone can make it happen, we’ve only just begun.” Goes the chorus, which seemed to strongly apply to them this night; and as they hit the instrumental break, JT walked over behind Rocky, holding his cape out and waving it behind him.

The songs kept coming, and now they cranked out the haunting title track, “Digital Wounds”, before JT asked everyone a very important question. “How many dandelions do we have out there tonight?” Everyone knew that meant “Shake Your Dandelion” was coming, and the sexually charged classic of theirs had been tweaked a bit, and now featured a blistering guitar solo after the second chorus. During one of the breaks, JT checked in on his people, asking, “How we doing out there?”, then after the song once again thanked everyone for “rocking out on a Wednesday night” with them.

Next, fans were treated to the first single off their latest album, “Disco Queen”, which was followed by another single, which signified the end was nearing. JT exchanged his current headgear for what I guess could still be considered a Native American headdress. It was more simple than the one I’ve seen him rock in the past, though it still had the strips of neon lighting adorning it; and in one hand, he held a shield, also covered with neon lightening, and he began dancing about at the start of “Mother Prism”.

That one has been a fan favorite since it first was worked into their shows, and the fans were downright giddy to hear it. “Aiyah, aiyay. Aiyah, aiyah, aiyay.” everyone chanted along on that nonsensical anthem of sorts, which serves to bond everyone together. Really, for that one song, it was like everybody in Three Links was a single entity. Some were still dancing to it, while many began jumping up and down, still chanting.

It was a lovely moment, and once it concluded, JT rested the shield against Jonathans’ kick drum. Another stellar guitar solo was thrown into “Slowly But Surely”, after which JT thanked everyone one last time for coming out, along with all the bands who played before them, before saying they had one last song for everyone.

I was surprised it was not an original they broke into, though it was a pleasant surprise to hear them pull out their cover of New Order’s “Bizarre Love Triangle”. It had been quite awhile since I had heard them do it, and as they hit the final chorus, JT got out in the crowd, dancing along with everyone and encouraging everybody to sing along, and even left one of the choruses up to the crowd.

That was a satisfactory ending for me, though it didn’t take long for people to start asking for one more, and they were more than happy to oblige.

“You have two options…” he told everyone given them the choice of “Mirror Ball Sky” or “ISHI”. I shouted for option two, but I was one of the few. Needless to say, it didn’t win out. “Let’s get dirty.” JT said, right before starting the lead track from their current album.

So it seemed like the track that used to be their routine opener would be how this show would end, but they still had a surprise for everyone. After a quick band meeting, they decided to do their other choice, and I was elated by that. “We’ll do one more, ‘cause we fucking love you…” said JT, adding with a bit of an accent, “Long time.” “ISHI” brought their 71-minute long set to an end, and I really like the way they handled the final chorus, doing it sort of in rounds, with JT shouting the first letter, “I”, then a second later Rocky shouted it out. The same thing happened for “S”, before they synced up for “H” and “I”.

Man, what a way to end a Wednesday night, a Wednesday night that had already included me seeing the great Chino Moreno perform.

Ishi owned it this night, and delivered a show that was exactly like what everyone in North Texas has come to expect from them. They’re fun, they’re lively, and the music they make is topnotch, while the new songs they played this night were at the very least on par with their other stuff, and one was a standout.

After going so long without seeing Ishi, I had forgotten how happy their shows make you, and I doubt I was the only one who left with a smile on their face.

Upcoming shows include a Totally 80’s night at the Granada Theater on April 26th, where they will performing a Depeshi and covering Depeche Mode songs. On May 4th they’ll be playing early at the Suburbia Music Fest in Plano, and they have a gig in Houston on May 31st as part of Free Press Summer Fest. And if you want to check out their music, head over to iTUNES.

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014 – HighAsAKite Leaves a Lasting Impression On Dallas

I rounded the corner from the parking lot behind the Granada Theater this night to the front of the venue, only to see a sizable line that stretched around the north side of the building.

Yes, the people were out in droves, even shortly after eight-o’clock, all in anticipation of seeing London Grammar.

Of course, there was an opening act that would come first, though everyone seemed in consensus that they should just get right to the main course. On the center screen that covered the stage the venue broadcasts a Twitter feed (you tag the Granada in a tweet and then it shows up), and based on the several people who were using it had already written the Oslo, Norway based HighAsAKite off. Actually, I don’t know if some people were even aware who the opening band was, but by the time they were done, that would be a name no one who was here this night will ever forget.

Their 32-minute set was comprised of songs from their upcoming “Silent Treatment” album, (due out April 8th), including opening with the lead track, “Lover, Where Do You Live?”. Guitarist Kristoffer Lo used a bow to play his axe on that first song, similar to, say, a violinist, in a way. There were some absolutely gorgeous three-part harmonies on that one, as Øystein Skar and Marte Eberson, both of whom played some synths, backed up frontwoman Ingrid Helene Håvik. “…Sent shivers down that spine of yours.” was one of the lines from that song, and a fitting one at that, because that was the exact feeling a majority of the audience was experiencing.

It was sheer beauty right from the start, and the synthesizers allowed them to add so many layers and so much depth to it.

Now that they had cast a spell over everyone, they picked things up, and Trond Bersus’ drumming grew more forceful as they moved on with “Leaving No Traces”, which saw the three-part harmonies becoming four, making it all the more compelling. As it ended, Kristoffer laid his guitar down and picked up his flugabone (which looks like a trumpet of sorts, for those unfamiliar with the instrument). He proceeded to play a piece that segued them into the subsequent track from the album, “Hiroshima”. They gave it even more flare live, and there was a moment that was nothing short of climatic, once all the instruments peaked and burst into a delightful, captivating wall of sound.

They bridged it right into the theatrical sounding “I, The Hand Grenade”. “Yeah, the real terrorist is me, my love.” goes one of the often repeated lines from the first verse, before “terrorist” gets changed to “parasite” for the second, and Ingrid delivered it all with flawless execution. “Since Last Wednesday”, the single the album has already produced, showed a bit of a lighter side to the band, and it contained some very subtle pop elements. Still, to even begin to say it was pop would be completely inaccurate.

“Thank you, we’re really excited to be opening for London Grammar.” Ingrid told the audience, in what was really the only time they addressed the crowd, since they had been so busy utilizing their time on stage to play all the songs they could. Even while she spoke, the applause continued, and people had already welcomed these Norwegians into their hearts.

Kristoffer brought the flugabone back out for their final song, “Science & Blood Tests”. He used it for a portion of the song, before putting his guitar back to use, again using the bow on it, as they concluded their set by leaving the now new fans with the same sense of wonder their first tune had created.

I don’t know if I’ve ever seen an opening act that was as impressive and mind-blowing as HighAsAKite was.

It was breathtakingly beautiful, and their level of talent is unfathomable. And while this was an exceptional show, I got the feeling they were only starting to scratch the surface at the end of this brief set.

Honestly, they have everything one needs to be a headliner here at a venue the size of the Granada, with the exception of the fanbase. Well, at least before this night they didn’t have the fanbase.

They were the perfect pairing for London Grammar, because HighAsAKite also has a sound unlike any band. Ever.

By all means, you need to keep an eye on this outfit from Norway, and I’m already anxiously awaiting their return to Dallas. I doubt I’m alone, either, because the Twitter feed again lit up, this time with posts from people who were utterly amazed by what they had just witnessed.

They have an EP available, while their LP will be released this coming Tuesday (April 2nd), and can be bought in iTUNES. As for shows, they’ll be doing a brief stint in the U.S. in May, with a few shows on the East Coast. Aside from that, everything will be international (well, for us American folks at least), and their full calendar can be seen HERE.

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014 – London Grammar Proves They’re More Than Just a Hype Machine

One of the most entertaining things at the Granada Theater is the Twitter board, which allows you to tag the venue on the social network and then see your tweet appear on the large screen that covers the stage. It can lead to some entertaining comments/conversations, and early on this night, talk already began about how over-hyped London Grammar was (granted, that was only coming from one person, though they were adamant about it.)

That’s okay, though. After all anything and everything, be it a band, person, company, etc. needs its doubters and disbelievers… That way they have people to prove wrong.

By the time their 10-o’clock start time rolled around, the venue appeared to be at capacity. Even the balcony area was open this night and teemed with life, while spots in front of the stage had been hard to come by even when the doors opened at eight. So, to say the people of Dallas and North

The stage was bathed in a beautiful hue of deep blue from the lights as guitarist Dan Rothman and keyboardist/multi-instrumentalist Dominic ‘Dot’ Major walked on stage, taking the spots on stage right and left, respectively. Only their silhouettes were visible from where I stood – further at the back - and they were made to feel very welcome with all the applause and cheers they got, as they began a lengthy instrumental lead in for their first song.

The fanfare again erupted after a few minutes when Hannah Reid stepped out from the backstage area. “Hey.” she sang a few different times, stretching the word out in all sorts of ways, immediately putting her mighty, semi-operatic voice to work. The audience instantly swooned over it, and its sheer beauty no doubt melted some hearts.

Everyone already knew what was coming, as they officially began “Hey Now”, a song that saw the instrumentalization kept rather low-key, leaving Hannahs’ voice as the most prominent thing to focus on. The song in general was riveting, as was everything else they did this night.

Dot turned his attention away from the keys for their next song, instead adding some percussion to the mix via the djembe for “Darling Are You Gonna Leave Me”. “Oh darling, are you gonna leave me? I’ll watch you if you can…” sang Hannah on the chorus, hitting higher notes with what looked to be completely ease, switching things up slightly from the potent, deeper register she often sings in.

There was a smaller drum kit set up on stage left, and now it got put to use (for the first of many times) as Dot took a seat behind it, leaving Hannah to man the keys. The subtle plucking Dan was doing on his guitar for “Interlude” complimented the keys nicely; but perhaps the best part was the chorus, which was co-sung by both Hannah and Dot, who created some ethereal sounding harmonies.

Only three songs in and this show was already a little slice of heaven.


“Thank you all for coming to see us.” Hannah said, in one of the few moments they addressed the crowd. They were more geared towards the performance, and they moved on with “Shyer”, which had Dot playing the keys for the first half, before moving over to the drums to give the song just a hint more kick.

I could be partially biased, given that “Wasting My Young Years” is my personal favorite song of London Grammar’s, but I found it to be one of the best moments of their show. Hannahs’ voice shone even more brightly on this one, as she got to use some more operatic tones, creating moments that, personally, were best enjoyed by closing your eyes and just soaking it all in. Yes, I did that, and this was the first of several songs that had me doing so.

Now Dot spoke with the fans, and he mentioned their next song, “Flickers”, was the first one they ever wrote as a band. That was a fun fact to learn, and made the song even more enjoyable knowing it is the oldest thing in their repertoire. Once all the lyrics had been sung, Hannah turned around and strode off stage, leaving Dan and Dot to close out the song. Dot left the djembe for the keys, doing a great little solo, accented by some nice riffs.

She returned once they were done, and now Dot took time to mention their time touring the U.S., and while they had been to America before, this was the first time they had ever been to Texas. They seemed to like it, too. They then performed another profoundly moving track, “Sights”. It wasn’t just moving to the audience, either.

Near the end of it, Hannah could be seen pointing off to stage right, and I was unsure if she was speaking to Dan in between singing, or if she was having some technical problem. Then it ended, and Dot apologized for her, as she wiped some tears from her face.

It was a raw, vulnerable moment, the likes of which you seldom see any band display; and I hope the people of Dallas were able to appreciate this is I did, because in another year or two, when they have even more touring experience under their belt, I doubt this will be happening.

She never faltered on singing, but once she had composed herself how “overwhelming” and “hard” it was to sing that with so many eyes focused on her. Again, that was such a beautiful moment, because you got to see that’s far more than just a song, and a deep personal connection goes along with it.


“I am the blank page before you. I am the fine idea you crave…” sang Hannah as they got the spectacular “Stay Awake” underway. Afterwards, they once again mentioned Texas, and not only how “amazing” the last week and a half had been, but also how much they liked all the southern hospitality they had encountered. Hey, it’s what we’re known for.

Their next song was setup as being the only cover on their album. It was originally done by Kavinsky and featured on the soundtrack for the 2011 film Drive, and that song is “Nightcall”. To be perfectly honest, I was unaware that song was even a cover, and the members of London Grammar tweaked it so much, it may as well be an original of theirs, without any traces of the electro house style of the original even being evident in theirs.

It was so majestic it was almost crippling, and it worked well to get everyone ready for “Strong”, which concluded their 48-minute long set.

No one was ready for the night to be over, though; and chatter instantly began, as people talked about what songs they hoped the band would come back and do, while others chanted for more.

“Will do one more.” said Hannah, once they did retake the stage. Some were hoping for the title track form their LP, though Dallas was instead given “Metal & Dust”. I was happy with that, especially when they got to the end, which once again found Dot on the drums, and got quite aggressive as he and Dan gave the track an epic end to one of the most marvelous concerts I’ve ever attended.

This show was a clear case of quality over quantity. I mean, with such a relatively quick rise to international fame and only one album of material to draw from, it’s not like they could have played an hour and a half long show or anything. Nor did they need to.

They had everyone transfixed with their more minimalist indie rock sounds, and proved that all the hype they have received they have not only earned, but are also worthy of.

I expected to like it, but wasn’t prepared to love it as much as I did, and over the coming years, if London Grammar can produce another couple of records with songs that are at least on par with “If You Wait”, then I could easily see them becoming one of the biggest bands of the current times.

The potential is there, from the excellent craftsmanship of the songs, to Hannahs’ voice, which is one of the most beautiful and amazing things my ears have ever had  the pleasure of hearing.

I don’t know about everyone else, but for me, this show was pretty much the equivalent of a religious experience/awakening, and I felt quite fulfilled as I walked out the doors of the Granada this night.

Along with the final dates of their U.S. tour, they also have shows all around the globe throughout the year. Check them out HERE; and should you have a chance to see them, you really should take it. Also, if “If You Wait” isn’t part of ITUNES library, definitely add it to your collection.

Sunday, March 16th, 2014 – Spillover Music Festival 2014: Part II

Back on Dada’s patio, Astronautalis was gearing up for their show. I guess that would actually be his show, since the band is mainly Andy Bothwell, though he was, of course, accompanied by some other musicians this day.

Given that I don’t usually care for hip-hop, I was curious how I would like this in the first place, but was willing to give it a try.

“We’re gonna start three minutes early, ‘cause it’s fuck off cold…” said Andy once the majority of the crowd wandered outside. A smoke break pushed that back, though, to about what their start time was originally set for; a fact he joked about.

“Have any of you ever seen any sad penguin documentaries lately?” Andy then asked, pointing out that they stay warm by huddling together, and urged the crowd to do just that.

“…This is the fifth element of hip-hop.” he then stated as the show got underway. The first song captivated me, and I liked the often harsh edge Andys’ voice to it. It was a bit rough, but that made it stand out; not just this day, but in general in comparison to other hip-hop acts I’ve heard.

He darted about the stage during that opening number, and afterwards mentioned he’d be doing a mix of old and new songs this day. “This is an old one.” he mentioned before beginning what I believe was “Contrails”. “And I wrote this!” he bellowed at different parts throughout the track, a sense of pride clearly evident as he did so, as well there should have been.

“The more we yell and the more we dance, the warmer we’ll get!” he told the audience, before starting the song I enjoyed the most, “This is Our Science”. The track was entrancing, while the live instruments (drums and guitar) fleshed out the sound; and I quite enjoyed the bit of singing Andy did before doling out the rap portion. Both are an art form the way he does it.
image“Tell me this, put up your fingertips if you’re living your life exactly the way that you wished…” he said. Some of the people in the crowd threw their hands into the air with that line, while others (like myself), kept their hands in their pockets; not wanting to lose any warmth. And for the rest of us with our hands on our hips, our work is never done. We are Sisyphus…” he continued, finishing a verse that not only sounds good in the song when you’re listening to, but also allows for some great audience participation of sorts.

Andy was out of breath at this point, and took a timeout, during which he unzipped the jacket he was wearing, but only a little. “…It’s not hot enough, yet.” he quipped, then joked about the fancy plain white t-shirt he was wearing that had been revealed.

That was another aspect I quite liked to this show: not only was he a performer, he was also great about interacting with the crowd. The chatter came easily, and he often had the fans chuckling.

After recovering from that speedy track, he again mentioned they had a lot of new stuff worked in this day, as well as some old songs that had been remixed. “…This song’s a dance song now…” he remarked before “Dimitri Mendeleev”. One of those new songs he spoke of followed it. “…It’s not finished yet. Please don’t post anything on Youtube.” Andy said, sounding serious (though I’m sure he wasn’t), and that only prompted more people to hold their phones in the air and capture it.

If that song really isn’t done, than I can’t imagine how it’ll sound after any final tweaks. Sound-wise, it was the best thing I heard them do; it was also the last song I caught before venturing back to Three Links.

I was converted into an Astronautalis fan this day, and that was something I wasn’t counting on.

The guy’s as solid a performer as you could hope to find, and even though he complained about the cold this day, it never actually bothered or hindered him. He bounced back and forth between each side of the stage, making sure to work over every section of the crowd, while some of them danced along to music.

In hindsight, I shouldn’t have left, because I would have enjoyed the rest of Astronautalis’s show much more, but I wanted to squeeze in as many bands as possible. Besides, I had seen some of the show. I’m already anxious to get the full experience, though, and luckily for me that will happen soon.

He’s slated for another Dallas show on April 5th, this one being at the Deep Ellum Arts Festival, which is free. For a full list of tour dates, go HERE; and check out his music in iTUNES.

Upset was a little late getting started over at Three Links, because, as singer and rhythm guitarist Ali Koehler said one song in, they had only found out there was a backline an hour beforehand. In fact, they also shouted out the band before them who let them use some of their gear.

They ran through the short “Back to School” (it’s only about a minute and a half long) and then another track, before Ali mentioned she was getting self-conscious of her shirt riding up, as she pulled it down. As she said that, some asshat made a remark about her weight (I didn’t hear what he said), which got her a bit defensive, and understandably so. She then shared a little anecdote about that having happened one before. She said her boyfriend kept trying to get her attention about it, but to no avail, and he eventually left out of sheer embarrassment for her. “That guy would have been stoked.” she jokingly said, pointing out the heckler after she finished her story by saying her shirt was up over her bra by the time that gig was done.

Patty Schemel dished out some quick beats throughout “Game Over”, giving it a fast pace; after which Ali again addressed her heckler, somewhat apologizing to him. “I don’t want to be mean, but I want to have a backbone.” she stated, after mentioning that whatever she got she’d essentially dish back out.

“Queen Frosteen” was a very good song, and was one of several where Jennifer Prince got to show off her chops on the guitar. On another note, I was impressed to learn that the bass player for the group had only taken up the instrument one month before, just so she could play with Upset. Ali mentioned this fact before their next song, saying she plays in another Los Angeles band, and had picked up the bass just to play with Upset.

Their next song was “Let it Go”, and described as an ode to Jawbreaker, and after another track they bantered some more. Obviously, they had made the trip to Dallas from Austin, and Ali informed everyone they had a bet going that if any of them referred to the music festival as “South By”, then they had to do some push-ups. “I think you owe us, like, twenty push-ups.” she said to Jennifer, shortly before pulling out the title track of their debut LP, “She’s Gone”.

It was during that one that I made my way back to Dada, as the next band on the inside stage there was getting ready to go on.

I didn’t dislike Upset, but I wasn’t made into a true fan, either. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and attribute this to a rigorous schedule at SXSW; but Alis’ voice just wasn’t that strong. The musicianship was good and the live show was decent. Actually, that was another thing, they started off with some technical issues and had trouble getting all the mixes on stage right, and those seemed to persist throughout their show, which kept them from ever getting a firm footing.

Still, they’re worth checking out, especially if you like pop music. Check out “She’s Gone” in iTUNES.

Back over at Dada, Blouse was getting ready to start and the quartet opened their show with the lead/title track from their newest album,
“Imperium”. I was instantly smitten with the dreamy, yet intense indie rock sounds they produced, and frontwoman and guitarist Charlie Hilton had a voice that perfectly fit with that genre.

The luscious indie rocks sounds continued with a couple other tracks, one of which I believe was “Shadow”. They also did another from their self-titled debut, “Firestarter”, The last song I caught was “In a Glass”; and I must say, as sweet as these sounds were, it was hard to walk out on them.

Jacob Portrait and Patrick Adams help round the band out, and along with the drummer and the second guitar, they created some layered music that is appealing on at least a few different levels. I mean, the rhythm section makes it all pretty forceful, and in that regard, they are clearly a rock band. But then you have the indie elements, which intertwine beautifully, and Charlie is able to pull off singing both of those genres with ease.

That’s the one downside festivals, you have to pick and choose who you see, and the next band was one I didn’t want to miss out on.

Blouse does have a few more shows currently on tap, and they can be found HERE. Be sure to check out their stuff on iTUNES, too.

Now, it was back to Three Links to see the band with perhaps the most interesting name ever: Diarrhea Planet.

The venue was near capacity when I walked in, and I had to settle for the first empty spot I found, which wasn’t too far from the door. I knew Diarrhea Planet had carved out a following with all their past trips to Dallas, and it’s a loyal one at that.

The six-piece was a little late getting started (no doubt thrown off by the earlier bands), but no one minded. Instead, it added to the suspense that you could feel in the air. And when they did start, singer/guitarist Jordan Smith and his band mates left the stage in near ruins with their first track, just from rocking so hard.

Actually, they encountered some technical difficulties after that one, which prompted one of their guitarists (between Brent Toler, Evan Bird and Emmett Miller there are three others) to shout, “That’s it, thanks for coming out!” He was joking, of course; and once things got straightened out, they ripped into “Separations”.

Even with all six of them crammed on this smaller stage, they still had plenty of room to rock out to the music they were making, and the audience was right along with them, banging their heads along to it all, while some sang along. Speaking of singing along, there were moments, like during that song, where almost the entire band was singing, and it sounded brilliant.

Before another song, Jordan mentioned they had played Dada just a few months back, and talked about all the good times they had, had in Dallas in the past. He then mentioned the next song was one they had never played in Dallas before. The fans (or at least some of them) cheered at that, an interesting reaction, since most fans of any band prefer to hear the stuff they know.

“We’re going to play some more, but first, we need to figure out what those are.” One of them said after that song concluded, making it sound like they were making this setlist up on the fly. “We’re gonna bring it down…” Jordan stated, noting they’d bring it right back up very soon.

Surprisingly, this roaring rock band pulled off the hushed sound quite well. It even lasted a few minutes as they did a lengthy instrumental portion, before the song was brought to life with blazing guitars and a mighty rhythm section, made up of drummer Casey Weissbuch and Mike Boyle on bass.

The time was drawing near for another band to start at the other venue, but I had to stick around for one more song, a song that saw Jordan and Brent standing back-to-back as they shredded on their axes.

I may have only seen a portion of their set, but Diarrhea Planet was another highlight of my day at Spillover.

The Nashville based band puts on one helluva live show, and you could tell they were all about the music this night, as well as entertaining those who were watching them.

I can easily see why the fan base they do have is so rabid, and I’m now proud to be a part of the fold.

They don’t have any shows on the books right now, but keep an eye on their CALENDAR. In the meantime, they do have two LP’s available in iTUNES.

Honestly, it had never been truly cold outside thus far, but now that the sun had long since set, it was starting to feel kinda chilly.

“Please exhale all of your warm breath towards us.” said Dee Dee Penny, frontwoman of Dum Dum Girls; who was shivering a bit before they began their 37-minute long set. Thing is, she was only have joking about that, too.

Their set was a smorgasbord of songs from their entire career, and they began with “Bedroom Eyes”, which evenly mixed both the pop and rock genres. There was a short enough pause after it where the crowd was able to applaud, before drummer Sandy launched them into their next song, “I Got Nothing”.

They kept powering through their songs, and now got to the first of the night from the newly released “Too True” album, “In the Wake of You”. It was one of the catchiest things they had done thus far (which is saying something), while that album boasts what is quite possibly the best collection of songs Dum Dum Girls has produced so far. Still, they wanted to play the older stuff that everyone was more apt to know, and “He Gets Me High” finished this first sting of songs, all of which had been almost seamlessly bled into the next.

“It’s a strange thing to play when you can’t feel your fingers.” bassist Malia remarked after the song had ended, prompting Dee Dee to thank everyone for “braving the cold”. “If anyone knows the guitar parts, feel free to come up here.” she added, before they tackled another new tune, “Are You Okay?”

They hit their stride with that one, and Dee Dee had a certain swagger about her as she performed that song. She might have been complaining about the weather, but she wasn’t letting it be a factor; and even though she had to be in front of the mic the whole time, she still found time to slide from side to side as she sang. She kept that up during “I Will Be”, and said swagger began to spread to her band mates, guitarist Jules, Malia, and even Sandy who was back on the drums.

They were firing on all cylinders after that short song, and then cranked out another one, “It Only Takes One Night”. “It only takes one night…” sang Dee Dee at the end, her band mates lending their voices to the mix, creating some very cool harmonies.

“Rimbaud Eyes” and “Lost Boys and Girls Club” were two more songs they did off “Too True”, the latter of which was another highlight, simply because of its slick, polished sound. Dee Dee then sit her guitar down for the next song, which allowed her to work the stage a little more; though the best moment came at the end. Malia and Jules again backed up Dee Dee, this time making for some harmonies that were nothing short of beautiful. Really, it was a moment that really made your jaw drop.

They were just about done by now, but before their final song, Dee Dee mentioned they had played Spillover about four years ago, back when Dum Dum Girls was doing their first ever tour. “…It’s good to be back.” she stated, before they wrapped it up with a rendition of Pale Saints’ “Sight of You”, which they put their own little twist to.

That was a fun way to end the show, a show that had me partially forgetting how cool the temperature was.

Unlike some of the other bands I saw this day, I had at least heard of Dum Dum Girls before, however, I had never taken time to listen to their music until seeing they were playing Spillover. I regret that a bit now, but it’s too late to change it.

I think the thing I liked most about them is they are very much a pop band, but manage to pull off the sound without sounding like the generic carbon copied stuff that litters the radio airwaves, essentially proving you can be a pop band and still have your own identity.

The songs are well written, and the live show – which was clearly were they excel - was fun and energetic (all the jumping around they were doing should have kept them somewhat warm).

Out of the fourteen bands I saw here at Spillover, they’d rank in my top five, and I will (hopefully) be seeing Dum Dum Girls again, whenever they get back to Texas.

Their music can be found in iTUNES, and they have plenty of shows coming up all around the world. Check out all the dates HERE.

Dada was surprisingly empty inside; and I hurried to grab a spot as close as I could get to the stage (which was just a few people deep, so close) for one of the bands everyone seemed most excited about being on Spillover: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart.

The band had been added just a couple weeks prior to the show, and even though they’ve been together for about seven years now, this marked their first proper show in Dallas, a fact singer and guitarist Kip Berman pointed out at one point during their set.

He took the stage all on his lonesome at first, performing “Art Smock”, a song that will presumably be on their upcoming album due out in May. Some people didn’t even realize the show had started, thinking it was still music playing over the PA system, just since it was so low-key, and appeared surprised when they looked up and saw Kip on stage.

“…Should’ve guessed it was gonna fall to pieces in my hands again…” went one of the lines from that tale of heartache, which I thought was good way to open up the show. Perhaps that’s because I’m often drawn to slower songs like that, and playing it early like this was the only appropriate spot for it in the setlist.

When he finished it, the rest of the band emerged from the green room, and Kurt Feldman took his spot behind the drums, while the keyboard player/female vocalist got on stage left, and bassist Alex Naidus and guitarist Connor Hanwick took the stage right after.

They sprang to life with “Until The Sun Explodes”, a short, but captivating song that showed off the type of indie pop/indie rock sound the band has perfected. It was catchy, and every free moment he got, Kip was shredding on his guitar, while his band mates bobbed along to the quick pace of the track.

That continued as they churned out a song I absolutely loved, “Heart In Your Heartbreak”. “…She was the tear in a rainstorm. She was the promise that you would’ve sworn…” Kip sang in his higher register tone, while many of the fans sang right along with him on this song about losing a love.

Next came “Simple and Sure”, their newest single from the forthcoming “Days of Abandon” album, and upon finishing it, they took a break for Kip to address the audience.

“We’re proud to play Spillover…” he said, which was also about the time he mentioned this was their first gig in Dallas. “…I’m psyched! Let’s do some more!” he exclaimed after chatting briefly, leading them to a song from their self-titled album, “Come Saturday”. Kurt then wound them into “Young Adult Friction”, which was one of a few songs this night where the keyboardist (apologies, I was unable to find her name) added some great vocals alongside Kip’s.

“This song’s called Masokissed.” Kip informed everyone before they pulled out another track, following it with a couple more songs, which led them to their final number. It was only fitting that they end with the song that is the title track of their self-titled record, and “The Pains of Being Pure at Heart” capped off their 35-minute long set, and the often repeated line of “We will never die. No, no we will never die.” came across as a sort of anthem this night.

On the surface, you could say The Pains of Being Pure at Heart are an “emo” band and leave it at that, but there’s really so much more to it.

Sure, a majority of the songs deal with heartache and losing love, but there’s more depth to them than just that. They often have a core message of soldering on, even when it’s hard to do.

Kip and his band mates definitely know how to pen some amazing songs, and the upbeat music that accompanies them ensure that everyone gets in to them, including the band. Kip often thrashed about when he could, bending over and playing his guitar, while Connor and Alex jumped about, somehow managing to never get in one another’s way, despite the close confines they were in.

Second favorite band I saw this day was The Pains of Being Pure at Heart (I just love saying/writing that name), and I hope their second Dallas show will come sooner rather than later. After all, they will have a new album to support in the very bear future.

They have plenty of tour dates scheduled, including some overseas. For the full list, go HERE. Their current releases can be found in iTUNES, and on May 13th, “Days of Abandon” will become available.

Everyone now migrated outside, where Ty Segall and his band were set to headline the outdoor stage.

“…I haven’t been here in awhile…” Ty remarked before beginning his show, guessing it had been about two years or so since he last played Dallas.

Having listened to Segalls’ music, I wasn’t a huge fan of the lo-fi sound all of his songs have, and was skeptical about how this show would be. That skepticism vanished as soon as they started “Wave Goodbye”, which was the first of a series of songs they played consecutively, with another being “Death”, which saw Ty being hit with a drink one rowdy fan had thrown. It didn’t even phase him, though, and he kept right on playing his guitar to create the mangled sound that is heard at the beginning.

That’s the one good thing for people like me who aren’t big fans of lo-fi: Live, the bands rarely sound like their albums do. This was balls-to-the-wall intensity, and everyone who was watching the band was getting worked up, and moshing and crowd surfing had already started.

“YEAH! YEAH!” shouted Ty before their next song. To show how much attention I was actually paying, I didn’t even notice when the speaker on stage left got knocked down, though I did happen to see when two guys walked on stage and lifted it back up and into position. See, I’m not exaggerating about the audience being rowdy.

“We have Robocop on guitar.” joked Ty, right before “I Bought my Eyes”, which I thought was one of the best songs of their set. The first half with the lyrics was good, and it got great during the instrumental end, when they all cut loose. Another song followed, and it was after that, that his security decided to put a stop to all the moshing/crowd surfing, thinking it was getting to out of hand.

Ty called them off, though. “It’s okay…” he told them, before looking out at the crowd who had quickly stopped at the sight of men. “Keep on, it’s fine. Keep on.” he assured them, before they got down on another killer track.

“Do you want to hear a couple of new ones?” asked Ty. The audience was receptive to that, and enjoyed the batch of newer tracks the band performed, all of which fit the mold Ty has cast for himself.

What was possibly their most intense jam session of the night came during the song “Feel”, after which he got back to his more comedic side. “We are all going to go home… get the peanut butter… take it out… and put it on our dogs tongue.” He said, pausing briefly here and there, making it so you weren’t quite sure where he was going with that, all the while the other guitarist was playing the theme music from the classic sci-fi series The Twilight Zone. That got the crowd laughing, and by this point, everyone was so engulfed by the show, they could have cared less about the cold.

Several more songs followed, one of which was “Finger”, while another saw Ty repeatedly striking the top part of the fretboard, right near the headstock, creating a wickedly good sound. They had some more fun before another song, doing the “Addams Family Theme”, while “Tell Me What’s Inside Your Heart” capped off their 52-minute long set. It was an epic one, and tied for first place as being the best performance I witnessed here at Spillover.

To say he’s a guitar virtuoso would be pretty spot on, and he has a pretty good voice, too.

It was impossible not to get into their fast paced, heavy-hitting songs, and they delivered one helluva rock show. A rock show that passed by way too quickly, all because I was so wrapped up in it.

I can’t say I’ll be buying his music, but you can find it HERE, and a list of his upcoming shows is on his OFFICIAL WEBSITE.

There were two bands left, and the next one inside Dada was one I didn’t much care for in listening to them beforehand. It was also another forty minutes or so before the last band hit the stage at Three Links, and not wanting to wait that long, I decided to call it a day (or night, however you want to look at it.)

This was a truly spectacular day that Parade of Flesh had organized, and for those like me who missed SXSW, this at least offered a bit of the festival spirit. You can’t equate Spillover to that internationally renowned fest, but at its core, it’s exactly the same: It’s all about exposing people to new music along with bands they already know and love.

After attending SXSW for the first time ever last year, I was bummed I was unable to repeat it this year, but Spillover satisfied that craving, and I was able to see several bands that I would not have seen had I made it to Austin.

Point is, this was the start of what I plan on making a tradition, and I’m already looking forward to March 2015 and the next installment of Spillover.

Sunday, March 16th, 2014 – Spillover Music Festival 2014: Part I

Now in its eighth consecutive year, Parade of Flesh’s Spillover Music Festival is a staple that many North Texas music fans look forward to. However, it’s a tradition I have never partaken in, in the past.

With it occurring on the final Sunday of SXSW, the booking company is able to snag a bunch of talent as the bands as they get back out on the road. And since I missed SXSW this year, this was the best chance I’d have to at least get some taste of what it was like down in Austin — albeit on a MUCH smaller scale.

Spread across two clubs and three stages (both the outdoor and indoor stages at Club Dada, along with Three Links) the festival was able to be a daylong event, and kicking it off was Son of Stan.

I didn’t make the 2:30 start time, and finally arrived and wondered out onto the patio at Dada about 2:37, to hear the trio led by Jordan Richardson, wrapping up one of their songs. A song that immediately had me compelled to get closer to the stage.

The group, which was completed by drummer Brian Garcia and bassist Cliff Wright, segued nicely into their next number, with the help of some sample tracks they used. It was during that one that Jordan stood on one of his legs, while stretching the other out behind, and somehow managed to maintain his balance while strumming his guitar, and he held that for more than a few seconds.

They finished it, then used the time to tune while a track that was a sales pitch played, getting some chuckles from the dozens of people who were already there. “This shit’s about being dragged to the mall by your mom when you’re a kid and there’s nothing you can do about it.” said Jordan, who now brandished a twelve-string guitar. The song was “Corsica”, the lead track off Son of Stan’s debut album, “Divorce Pop”. Like the other songs I caught this day, it was a good blend of electronic styles and rock music, and that one was my favorite song of theirs (at least that I heard, anyway).
image“…Great job on the bass, Cliff…” Jordan said to his band mate, partly commending him and partly being funny. This was when he formally introduced Cliff and Brian to the onlookers, before they started their final song, noting almost exactly about how long it would be, say, four minutes and thirty-four seconds. Something like that, at least. “It’s cold as shit out here!” exclaimed Jordan during one of the instrumental breaks the song had.

They may have been cold, but they didn’t let it show or hinder them, and just what I saw had me wishing I had left just a little earlier so I could have gotten the full Son of Stan experience.

The rock sounds were the predominant ones, but it’s really an intriguing mix of music they have. I’d even say it’s cutting edge in some regards, just because it sounds different from the majority of stuff I’ve heard before. It’s even smart and clever, which is quite refreshing to hear in music.

Check out the album on either BANDCAMP or iTUNES, and if you like it, pick up a copy. As far as future shows go, just keep an eye on their FACEBOOK PAGE, ‘cause they’ll no doubt have one coming up sooner or later.

Dada was where I spent a majority of my time this day, especially for the first few hours, and now it was time to get into the warm confines of the venue, which was now filled with people, people who were apparently unwilling to brave the colder weather for the first band.

Another trio was taking this stage first, and that was the Brooklyn based Weekend, who had a 36-minute long set filled with their post-punk/shoegaze brand of music planned for everyone.

They had already started when I made my way in, as singer and bassist Shaun Durkan and guitarist Kevin Johnson created some swirling sounds of feedback that stretched a minute or more, before they finally broke into their first song.

I’ll go ahead and say this early on: I was not a huge fan of the reverb laden effects that surrounded Shaun’s voice. I get it, that’s what makes shoegaze music, but it made it next to impossible to understand what he was singing, which in turn made it next to impossible for me to later on decipher what songs they played.

They proved they were masters of the segue by bridging almost all of their songs into the next. They weren’t a relaxed shoegaze band by any means, though; and once Abe Pedroza began banging out some drum beats, everyone knew they were about to witness something great.

When they did transition from song to song, it was often with the soupy feedback, and that happened through their first four tracks. I think the final one they did before taking a break was “Age Class”, from their debut LP, “Sports”.

“Thanks a lot.” said Shaun, while he tuned his bass. That led them to another newer song from the “Jinx” record, “Mirror”, which was one of their best. As they progressed into the show, you could tell they were getting more into it, and those first couple of songs had merely been a warm-up. Towards the end of that one, Kevin raised his guitar up towards his head, before letting it drop back down and rocking out. He stole the show with that, but that paled in comparison to what he did during their final song.

As it wound down, the three members gave it an epic outro, which saw Kevin raising his guitar up to the ceiling, before clutching it in his arms as if it were a lover and he were cradling it. It was an amazing moment, because for a time, he and the guitar were one, as he slid the neck up and down his amp, before moving to the front of the stage and the monitors, using them to get a nice distorted effect. Abe even got a brief solo at the end, as the bass and guitar periodically dropped out while he kept beating on his kit, using the electronic drum pad from time to time to manufacture a cool series of sounds.

I already mentioned my one qualm with the band, so I won’t repeat myself. I’ll also point out it was more the critic side of me that disliked that reverb effect, because not being able to figure out more of what they played makes me feel like I gave them a lackluster review, which is something Weekend was not at all deserving of.

Personally, I did love the sound and the awesome textures they created, along with their polished performance, which was one of the best I saw this day.

Give ‘em a listen, and it really doesn’t matter if you like shoegaze or not, because that’s more of a sub-genre classification for them.

Of course iTUNES has their music, and for a list of their upcoming shows, go HERE.

Back out on the outdoor stage, Oberhofer was just getting started, and mixed what I’d assume are some newer songs in with their current material. Their pop type style was countered with some massive rock sounds, and you could tell from the start they’d be cutting loose and leaving it all on the stage. If you had doubts about that, then singer Brad Oberhofer – who was also one of the guitarists – dispelled them at the start of their second song, when he jumped onto the bass drum of Pete Sustarsics’ drum kit, then kicked off of it.

“How about the winter time.” Brad said sheepishly, even awkwardly after that song had concluded. It was an endearing odd quirk, though, and he knew exactly how to work the crowd to further win them over. “It’s cold and we’re all here together… You can jump around instead of standing there like a pin. A cold pin…” he said, leaving everyone laughing.

With that, they launched into “Earplugs”. “I’ve tried for years to tell you I’m in love…” Brad sang near the end, repeating that one line from the chorus many times, while guitarists Colin Caulfield and Ben Roth and bassist Dylan Treleven got even more into the song as they tore it up on their respective instruments.
image“Should we do that?” Brad asked after an off mic conversation with his band mates, before they ripped into their next song. A couple more tracks from the “Notalgia” EP came after, like “Together/Never”, but “You + Me (Still Together In the Future)” was my personal favorite. The keys and xylophone used at the start just set off this fun love song with the sweet line, “…I’m in love with the idea of you and me still together in the future…”. By no means was it your typical, sappy love song, though.

That was about as touching as they ever got, too, and before starting what Brad said would be their final song, he mentioned they had “just rolled into town”. “We just came.” he added, before reaching down to his groin and using his hand to fake an explosion (I hope I don’t need to elaborate anymore than that for you readers). That left everyone in fits of laughter, as they began their final song, that I don’t really think was their last one.

By that time, I had made my way inside and gotten in the ridiculously long line for the bathroom (that would be the only complaint of this entire day, neither venue has enough toilets to cater to crowds of this size. And you know it’s bad when the line for the men’s restroom looks as bad as the women’s normally does.)

But I digress…

Out of the now three bands I had seen thus far this day, Oberhofer was the best. The energy they exuded was spectacular; and even though they were a little tight on the stage with five guys and all the required instruments, they made it work without sacrificing anything in terms of performance.

They do what they do exceedingly well, and they are one band I’ll definitely be keeping my eye on as I anxiously await their return to Dallas.

They have an LP, EP and a single available in iTUNES, and I’m hoping this year will see the release of some more new material from Oberhofer. And of course, FACEBOOK would be the best way to keep tabs on them and see when they’ll be coming to a town near you.

They may have been the best band I had seen thus far, but the best band (or at least one of them) was up next inside.

Club Dada already looked sold-out as I made my way back inside, finding a tiny spot to squeeze into against the wall of the green room.

Clearly, everyone was excited to see the Elmhurst, Illinois natives who are collectively known as The Orwells.

The quintet had all eyes glued on them as soon as they took the stage, long before a single note had ever been played.

“I’m slipping in and you’re tripping out, but that’s what nighttime’s all about…” sang frontman Mario Cuomo as they opened their 37-minute long set with “Other Voices”. During one of the instrumental breaks later in the song, he had a very dazed about him, as if he wasn’t entirely sure where he was. Then again, with the hectic schedule they surely kept during SXSW, he may not have. He hit his mark when it was time for the next set of lyrics on this darker song that touches on suicide (“…Give me the gun, pass me the pen; tonight’s the night our lives will end…”), and as it wrapped up, Dominic Corso shredded away on his guitar.

Henry Brinner carried them into their next song with some drum beats, though it wound up not being a seamless segue, as he quit while they all got on the same page. That took but a second or two, and then they got right into “Righteous One”, which they brought directly into “Dirty Sheets”. The latter was as luscious as the title suggests, and boasted some sweet riffs from Dominic and fellow guitarist Matt O’Keefe, which were rounded out with some tight bass lines courtesy of Grant Brinner.
imageThey were on fire at this point, and almost every song from here on out was bridged in from the past one; and now they brought the mood down just a tad with “Halloween All Year”. The roaring percussion still gave the fans something to get into, though, and there was still a good dose of vigor on the live version, compared to how the recording comes across. Near the end, Mario stood on the platform that stretches across the front of the stage and gives the monitors a place to set, towering over the crowd as he leaned out over everyone, exciting them to a point then when he got back on the stage, a contained mosh pit broke out.

They rolled that into another newer track, which I believe was called “Gotta Get Down”, before tackling another track from the “Remember When” album, “In My Bed”. That was perhaps the strongest song of their set, solely because of the pissed off attitude Mario had in his voice as he sang the chorus, “What she said in my bed, said she wished that I was dead…”. It was powerful and angry, wrought with raw emotion, the type of which a band needs to truly set themselves apart from the rest of the pack.

They cranked out a few more songs, one of which Matt segued them into with some sweet licks, and eventually, they arrived at a song everyone had been wanting and waiting to hear. “Mallrats (La La La)” was a highlight of their 37-minute long set, and it was quite conducive to the carefree Rock ‘n’ Roll mood. Many people just let loose, dancing and jumping around to the fast paced song, a song that mainly had Mario screaming “La la la…” over and over into the mic, though it was still the most fun track they performed this day.

It was during the semi-political “Who Needs You” that Mario leapt into the crowd, after uttering the words, “Fuck that!” The fans caught him, while others rushed over to the area, partly in case any help was needed, while I think others (mainly the girls) were just hoping to have a chance to touch him.

Everyone was all riled up after that, and I think they would have been fine if The Orwells had played another thirty-minutes or more, but sadly, it was time to close it out. “It’s the first song off our new record!” Mario exclaimed, before shouting “Yay!” a few times, while flashing a mischievous look. It was a fun way to end a stellar set, and having released two EP’s last year, I think everyone was giddy about learning that more new music from The Orwells is on its way.

I can’t say they were unrivaled this day, because I did see one other act at Spillover that I enjoyed as much as I did The Orwells, though I will say they are unparalleled by most.

It was all about the energy these still young musicians had, taking charge as soon as they started their first song, and they only picked up steam the further they got into their show.

They were brash at times, even slightly unrefined, but that fits with the slight punk style they have to their sound; and you could tell they’ve been doing this for awhile, with all the touring showing just what well-oiled machine they are.

They’ve got the chops, and in watching Grant, Dominic, Henry, Matt and Mario, you can tell this is what they were born to do, and given that things are already happening for them, I think it safe to assume that music fans can expect a long, healthy career from The Orwells.

You must check out their music, and you can get a free download of the “Other Voices” EP by signing up on their Email list. If you like that, buy their other material in iTUNES. They have a few tour dates coming up, including some shows in the UK in June. For full details, go HERE.

Out on the patio, things were about to get interesting as things deviated from the rock sounds they had been thus far here at Dada.

Har Mar Superstar was getting ready to play outside, and from the looks of it, frontman Sean Tillmann (better known as Har Mar Superstar) was cold. He had a poncho draped over him, as he and his band mates (consisting of a bassist, guitarist, drummer and backing female vocalist) took the stage.

“What’s up, Dallas! You ready to fucking party or what?!” he shouted. “We’re gonna warm this up, just need you to move around…” he added before they began their first song.

Their sound was not at all what I typically go for, yet I found it hard to pull myself away, even if I had really been wanting to. Even at the end of that number, when he said a variety of things like, “Say, ‘Har Mar is so sexy… I want to have his babies…”

They went right on to another song, and he still hung onto that poncho, making sure he kept wrapped up while pacing around the stage, and once it was done he ditched it for a robe of sorts that had several gold patterns embroidered on it. He mentioned he had recently released a new album, “Bye Bye 17”. “It’s really fucking good. I’m gonna be selling that shit to you for, like, an hour after where done here.” he said, and even though he sounded serious, it didn’t come off as arrogant. Instead, people laughed at it for the (semi) joke it was meant to be.

“Playing in the daytime makes my songs seem so slow.” he remarked after another song. I don’t know about that, but I do get it, because since getting down here I had been thinking, “Seeing Deep Ellum in the daylight just seems wrong.” since I seldom get down there when the sun is still shining.

I believe it was “Prisoner” they did next, but regardless, during the song (whatever it may have been), came one of the best moments of the night, when all of the musicians (with the exception of the drummer, of course), jumped counterclockwise in unison with one another.
imageOne song everyone seem glad to hear was “Power Lunch”, while the best song setup of the went to the next one they had planned. “This song’s called Restless Leg. It’s about my dick.” Har Mar said, catching everyone off guard with that last line, and the only fitting response was to keel over with laughter.

Upon finishing it, he mentioned that this was the lineup he had been most excited for all week, saying it sure beat the “Pampers Hymen Rejuvenation Lounge” down at SXSW.

I stuck around for a couple more songs, then ducked out after “Almond Joy”, during which Har Mar made his was out into the crowd to interact with the fans, singing to them as he sang this funny, steamy song.

Part of me did want to stick around and see more, because they were good. It was as much comedy as it was good music, and really, it was just something you had to see firsthand to really get.

No, Har Mar isn’t your typical singer as far as appearance goes, but he does have the voice, and that all that matters (or at least should), and he has surrounded himself with some talented musicians. Like the female vocalist, who sang one song all on her own, and turned heads as she did so.

It was fun, and while I can’t say for sure if I’d ever see Har Mar Superstar again (in terms of actually dropping money for the show), I wouldn’t be opposed to it.

If you want to see a live show, then there’s a good chance you can, because he has plenty of dates coming up as he tours in support of his new album. Check out the full list of shows HERE. As for his music, simply head over to iTUNES.

Now, keeping with the festival spirit, I was finally ready to start bouncing around a bit, and headed to Three Links just right down the street, where Radkey would soon be taking the stage.

Brothers Dee, Solomon and Isaiah Radke walked on stage rather quietly; but that was about the only time this garage rock trio was calm, as they ripped into their first of many garage-rock style songs, “Out Here in My Head”. The crowd responded immediately to the aggressive music, banging their heads along to the quick beats Solomon was churning out.

“One, two, three, four!” shouted guitarist and lead singer Dee, leading them right up with another sweet track. It was after that one that Isaiah addressed the crowd (he was the voice of the band this evening. When they weren’t playing that is. Actually, he was even when they were at times.) “So, we just got done at South by Southwest.” he said, then pointed to his arm. “I have, like, nine hundred wristbands… They feel like power gauntlets.” he joked, before announcing their next track as their newest single, “Feed My Brain”.

During it, Isaiah fell to the floor of the stage and brutalized his bass; an act that perfectly summed up just what a raw rock band they were. “This next song’s about murdering shit.” was the description they gave of “Cat & Mouse”, which Dee began with a nice riff. They all got a chance to shine on that one, from a drum solo to a guitar solo, while the bass served as the glue that held it all together.

Afterwards, going along the lines of that song, Isaiah pointed out that this was their second to last show before they’d finally get to go home and see their cats. “…I think they miss their daddies.”

“She sent me a red letter; a personal vendetta…” Dee often sang in his unique, fairly deep sounding voice on “Red Letter”. It boasted another guitar solo, and he dropped to his knees for it; his hands racing along the neck of his guitar as he showed just what kind of skills he has.

After that, he had to take some time to tune, though; and Isaiah used that as fodder. “So, he’ll be tuning for the next nine-minutes.” he said, before covering a few different topics, including how much he liked Texas, and how they were from Missouri, pronouncing it like “misery”. “I like that movie. The Stephen King one.” he finished, cracking a pretty good joke that didn’t get the laughs it was deserving of.

By that time, Dee was ready to go, and they knocked out another one, that ended with the two brothers on the floor of the stage as they dominated their respective instruments. “Hey, Dee has something to say.” Isaiah said, pointing to his brother.

That was the slick lead in to their next song, with one of the lines Dee sang being, “I’ve got something to say.”, and once it was done, Solomon brought them right into the final song of their 27-minute long set, “Romance Dawn”. The very up-tempo track closed the show out with a bang, that’s for sure; and I don’t know about everyone else, but it had me wanting to hear more.

Radkey has that primal rock essence that Rock ‘n’ Roll is all about — both in their live show and sound — and that’s not always something you see/hear these days.

Having them on my list of bands to see at Spillover definitely panned out for me, because they were one of the more memorable acts I caught this day; and from start to finish they had me enthralled.

They have a couple of EP’s along with their new single you can and should check out in iTUNES. Also, check out their calendar of shows HERE. They’ll be all over the U.S. in May, and even have some dates in France and the Netherlands in June and July.

Club Dada was now the only place where something was happening, so I headed back over there, where I caught the last bit of the female-trio known as The Coathangers.

I didn’t much care for the Atlanta based band, who sung in almost completely incoherent screams. I personally didn’t find it even remotely good, though the stage show was energetic, and at one point one of the members even jumped in the crowd and surfed around for a moment, before she was returned to the stage.

Still, if you want to check out their music, head over to BANDCAMP

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014 – The Pizza Underground Loads Up on Extra Cheese in Dallas

When I arrived at Club Dada this night, there was a line outside, not a long one, but a line nonetheless.

A group of excited friends in front of me where asked for their tickets, replying with they were going to buy them at the door. “It’s sold out.” Answered the woman who was scanning pre-purchased tickets, leaving the group dumbfounded as they left the line, clearly wondering how they should now spend their Wednesday night.

That was the type of buzz The Pizza Underground had created; and thanks to Parade of Flesh, the group was stopping in Dallas on their way to Austin.

Let’s get it straight, though: this show wasn’t sold out because heaps of music fans were wanting to see a potential next big thing in music. Rather, it was because of curiosity, and the fact that everyone was intrigued to see the Velvet Underground type cover band, who instead has made the songs all about pizza, and just so happens to feature Macaulay Culkin as one of the band members.

I missed the majority of the Brooklyn based singer/songwriter Toby Goodshank, who opened up the show on the outdoor patio stage. He finished one song and then mentioned to the crowd that along with an album he had for sale, there was also an “extremely graphic pornographic comic book” he had written at the merch table, which certainly seemed like an odd mix of items to be selling.

It’s hard to gauge any musician/band just by hearing two songs, but he sounded good. It was an odd mix of rock and folk he played, and I wish I had caught more just so I could have gotten a better feel for his music.

He has some records over in iTUNES if you would like to give his stuff a listen.

Things took a different turn after his set, when the only true band on the bill, Moving Units, took the stage.

The trio, which consists of singer and guitarist Blake Miller, bassist, Mike Delgado and a drummer, brought with them a type of indie dance/rock music, and the Los Angeles outfit plowed through their 40-minute set.

Despite having released a new album just last year, they focused on just about everything from their career, and I believe it was “Birds of Prey”, and older song, that they opened with. It reeled the crowd in, in no time, what with its catchy sounds, and it was made even more fun when Mike tossed an inflatable beach ball (which was made to look like an oversized basketball) into the crowd, which was batted around throughout their set.

They seldom did seamless segues, but kept it all pretty tight, giving the audience just a few seconds to applaud before going into their next song, and after tackling another one, they knocked out the striking, “The Kids From Orange County”. Live, these songs (especially the ones in the first half of their set) were more rock sounding than they come across on the albums, which I really liked. It was just heavier in some ways, and the guitar, bass and drums were far more prominent than the sample tracks they were using.

Following that one was another track from “Hexes for Exes”, “Wrong Again”. “You don’t know what you want, you don’t know what you need…” sang Blake, while playing some mesmerizing chords there at the start. Afterwards, he laid guitar down, showing he was a commanding frontman as he sang “Kate Moss in ‘97”, which is a bit of a seductive track from last year’s “Neurotic Exotic”. It was fairly repetitive, and the chorus consisted of repeating the songs title many times over, yet it never got tiresome. At least not to me.

They were more into the true dance portion of the show by now, which was equally as fun, and one of the best tracks they unleashed this night was “The World is Ours”. “Pink Thoughts” kept mood alive, but surprisingly, no one ever really danced along to it or any of their other songs, despite seeming to enjoy them. They powered through a few more, including the moving “Paper Hearts”, which wound up being their closer.

They abruptly stopped after that, removing their guitar and bass, before Blake waved goodbye to everyone and thanked everyone for coming out.

There’s no arguing that Moving Units was the best act on the bill this night. The music was topnotch, and Blakes’ voice is most excellent.

They held my attention for every second (well, when I wasn’t having to look to see where the beach ball(s) so I wouldn’t get hit by one, that is). The performance was fun to watch, too, and pretty professional seeming at that.

They have a few records you can buy/listen to in iTUNES. They also have a few shows lined up around California, so if you live in the area, check out the dates HERE.


By this time, the patio – which can hold about 150 people – was pretty much packed out, yet more people kept finding spaces to fill in, as everyone eagerly awaited The Pizza Underground.

I must say, it was weird seeing the stage completely vacant of any amps, a drum kit or any other instrument, but then again, The Pizza Underground is far from your typical band, so some weirdness should have been expected.

The audience cheered when Austin Kilham, Phoebe Kreutz, Matt Colbourn, Deenah Vollmer and Macaulay Culkin filed on stage, in that order as they took their places. They were all clad in black, partly looking like hipsters and partly like they were trying to impersonate some bands of the 60’s to 70’s era.

Deenah Vollmer was clutching a Serious Pizza box (one that would hold a full pizza, which was enormous), and she held it above her head before opening it. A smaller box (one that could hold one or maybe two slices) fell out and she picked it up, as that was the drum for the evening.

“So, do you kids like pizza?” Culkin asked, getting a loud response from the fans. He then asked if everyone liked songs about pizza, before saying, “Too bad.” He was, of course, joking, and said as much, before they got to their songs.

I’m pretty certain they played every song from their demo during their time on stage, beginning with “Papa John Says”, and dished out a few more, which were done so close together, it felt like some of the songs were all one, instead of separate tracks. Adding to that feeling was the fact that the songs are relatively short, and with the only true instrument being the guitar Matt was playing, it was easy to think that they were different verses, rather than different songs.

I believe some of the other songs were “I’m Beginning to Eat the Slice” and “Cheese Days”, and during their first break of the night, Deenah asked the crowd if they had “…Heard the one about the pizza?” “It’s really cheesy.” Was the punch line, which got some rolling laughter from the crowd.

They followed along the same lines of parody with their next song, before one of them said they were about to get “a little existential”. The song pertaining to that was all about closing the pizza box to keep the heat in, so that way it’ll still be warm when you want a slice later.

The silly jokes continued during the next break, when Deenah said the next song was “about abstinence”. “We’re in God’s country.” she added. It got laughs from people, and I found it pretty funny, though that wasn’t quite what the song was about. Instead, it dealt with the morning after you eat pizza, “when you still have more pizza.” Phoebe said, and talked about it congealing.

They switched things up for their next song, but not before one of them pointed out they had drawn a cat face on the pizza box back stage, and Deenah dubbed it “Pussy Jewel”.

Austin then took a spot behind a little keyboard, while everyone except for Culkin lined up along the fence at the back of the stage. He then welcomed a young woman to the stage (who I’d assume was is his girlfriend) and they did a duet together. She had a pretty good voice I thought; and I say that about them being in a relationship because when the song was over, they got almost too carried away kissing, to the point shouting “Get a room!” would have been an appropriate response.

They had, had their fun and everything this night, but now they made clear that The Pizza Underground wasn’t all about fun and games, and they were going to get serious now. That meant giving a history lesson about Jeno Paulucci – who invented pizza rolls – who started his career by making canned Chinese food. Yes, it was as entertaining as it sounds.

They had something else planned for the crowd now, and Deenah pointed out that since everyone was loving these songs about pizza, then surely the crowd would like to hear “…Nirvana songs sung in the past tense.”

Kurt Cobained came out on stage then (a guy dressed in a wig and armed with an acoustic guitar) to play some songs from Nevermound (the past tense of Nevermind.) Was it ridiculously stupid? Yes. But again, it had almost everyone (myself included) hysterical. In fact, I laughed harder at this little section of the show than I did all night,

“…Here we are then, entertained us. I felt stupid and contagied…” the guy sang, switching up the lyrics of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and numerous other tracks from “Nevermind” as he performed a medley of the record.

After a  few minutes of that, the band returned. “What’s with this little table in the pizzas?” Culkin asked, before asking if anyone wanted the little white piece of plastic that is utterly useless once removed from the pizza box it came in. That made it all the more funny to watch as people fought over it, before one person swiped it from his hand, as if he held a winning lottery ticket worth millions.

They ended with “Take a Bite of the Wild Slice”, but that wasn’t enough for everyone, and the chanting for an encore began as they filed off stage.

A guy who looked like a manager (perhaps he really was their manager, or he just dressed to fit the part) walked on stage. “You know when you have room for a little more, but it’s a big piece, so you cut it down the middle?” he asked, saying some other stuff as he made all sorts of gestures with his hands, as if he were cutting imaginary slices into smaller portions. “Yeah.” he said before walking off, giving the stage back up to The Pizza Underground.

Their final song was about “when pizza hurts you”, and dealt with eating a “sizzling slice”, because you just can’t resist the temptation of delicious looking pizza.

That was it, and all of that happened in about 30-minutes, or barely over. In which case if it was, shouldn’t they have stuck with the pizza delivery guarantee and given the show to everyone for free?

I kid.

There were two different levels to this performance, and I’ll start with the most evident one: the comedy side.

It was pretty much exactly what I expected from listening to their music and watching some Youtube videos, and hopefully you didn’t expect anything other than cheesy jokes and odd takes on The Velvet Undergrounds’ music.

In that regard, I was entertained throughout. Never mind the fact that the five of them looked (i.e. all dressed almost the same) as if they could be the leaders of some weird cult that would worship pizza and eventually end in a mass suicide pact by them and their followers overdosing on large quantities of pizza and clogged arteries from copious amounts of cheese.

On the other end of the spectrum you have the actual musically talent, and there’s no way this is or will ever be anything more than a novelty act. In fact, if Culkin weren’t in the band, I have to wonder if they’d have ever gotten any further than just playing house parties to drunk friends, rather than playing small sold-out venues to drunk people.

I have heard worse voices, but none of them is actually capable of singing well, and the guitar was simply plucked most of the time. So, in that aspect, there’s really no talent present.

I came, I saw and I enjoyed. Like they say, no pizza is bad pizza; however, I don’t think I’ll be going back for seconds from The Pizza Underground.

Still, it was a fun night, and it was good getting to see a small slice of pop culture history.

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014 – King Camel’s SW ForePlayFest

After doing my duty with On Tour Monthly (the other publication I work for) and catching the Experience Hendrix show in Grand Prairie, it was time to head to Dallas for the other show I planned on catching this night.

King Camel had put together quite the lineup of bands touring through on their way to SXSW, with six bands in all gracing the stage of the Double Wide, which is far more than the usual three-band bills the venue typically hosts.

It was already after 11:30 when I got there, and sadly, I had missed out on damn near every touring act (including the ones I was most eager to see), bit arrived in time to see the Fort Worth outfit The Longshots, right as they kicked off their 27-minute long set.

They crammed a lot of music into that short time, and early on (the first or second song) they played “Too High for West 7th”. The crowd of a dozen or so supporters got no time to recover as the band dove right into their next song, which ended with most of the quintet jumping around at the end of it.

They had quickly showed what a high-energy band they were, and things only got more intense during their next track, where guitarists Alex Zobel and Parker Donaldson stole the show. Closer towards the end, Alex (purposefully) backed off the stage and fell into the crowd, shredding amongst the fans, while Parker walked up to Brady Hamiltons’ drum kit and jumped onto the bass drum, where he stayed for a couple of seconds.

They kicked out a couple more tracks, including one from their “Kicker” EP, “Rhode Island Red”. “I used to have a heart to invest, and then she stuck her hand in my chest…” sang lead singer Joey Gorman, who was also the bands third guitarist. Most of his band mates aided him on some of the vocals for that fast paced, driven song, which made for a cool sound, especially since they all can sing (and each one did some of that this night).

“All these songs are dedicated to my next beer.” Alex joked during one of their breaks, before they did a few more songs to finish out their show.

I was impressed at how energetic The Longshots were, and this is after they’ve been touring for the last few weeks. So, if the road has taken any type of toll on them, they sure didn’t let it show this night.

There was one moment early on when Joey was left with some time to kill and while bantering with the crowd he seemed like he was almost uncomfortable with it. Perhaps it was just because he had been put on the spot, though, because he filled some time later on in the show with ease.

That’s the closest thing to a complaint I could find this night of this gritty, garage rock style band, who left it all on the stage.

They are still on tour, and are currently out in California. So, if you’re in the area, check out their FACEBOOK PAGE and see where they’re playing. As for their music, you can snag some free downloads on their BANDCAMP site, and get their newly released LP over in iTUNES.

Closing out ForePlayFest was the Nashville based Pujol, who sadly, did not have near the crowd they deserved (that comes with playing a Tuesday night show though, I guess.)

“Sup. How y’all doing?” asked the bands namesake Daniel Pujol, who was the singer and rhythm guitarist for the group. He said it very coolly, as if he were trying to impress everyone who was there. There was humor in it, though; and before getting their show on the road, he mentioned they had played a show with The Longshots in Fort Worth the night before, saying it was 3:30 in the AM when they finished.

I believe it was “DIY2K” that began their show, but regardless of what it was, it had everybody there moving around to the refined rock sounds and the raw voice Daniel had.

With a new album, “Kludge”, due out in May, there were plenty of new songs to be heard this night, one of which was “Manufactured Crisis Control. It didn’t matter that nobody knew it, because you could tell most of the people who were here weren’t really familiar with the Pujol in the first place, so it was all new to them; they were rocking out to it all the same, though.

“Alright, alright, alright.” Daniel said before their next song, sounding like he was trying to do his best McConaughey impression, which aside from the mannerisms, wasn’t much like him. He had already informed everyone the next song was from their second record and was titled “Mayday”. The song had a pretty driven rhythm section; and just when you thought Pujol was going to be a band that was all about the music, Daniel revealed their (or rather his) funny side.

Pretty much every song from here on out got explanations, beginning with “Postgrad”, which he said was about moving to New York and not knowing where you want to work. He said something else, which I didn’t catch, and I feel it would have made the next part funnier, when he said something like, “And how that’s the exact opposite of what you see on Facebook.”

Things took a bit of a darker turn when he noted their next track was about “bleeding out and dying all the time”, speaking of “Reverse Vampire”. “…I want to release the heat that’s building in my chest and blast it like a laser beam…” Daniel sang in his unique voice that has a gravely sound to it, and at times sounded a bit sludgy.

The explanations kept flying, and “Psychic Pain” was said to be about when you have a “bunch of crazy feelings, but you don’t got no words for it.” said Daniel, adding a “Yeah.” or something like that afterwards, expecting everyone to know what he meant. I think they did, too.

As good as these setups were, the best had to go to their new single. Daniel hesitated for but a second, then said it was about “the limitations of physical language.” At least if I’m remembering correctly that’s what he said. He readily admitted he didn’t know what he was talking about, though. “I’m still working the spiel out for this one.” he confessed. The tune was “Pitch Black”, and personally, I found that new one to be one of their best songs of the night, and it has me looking forward to their new release.

Struggling with something to say in regards to the next song, a (new?) fan shouted, “It’s about whatever you want it to be.” Daniel ran with that, then came up with his own thing. “It’s about stuffing things.” he stated. It didn’t take them long to do “Tiny Gods (Singularity)” (which is less than two-minutes long), though it was a great song in terms of the live performance, and the lead guitarist slayed during that one.

“No Words” received a setup you would expect with a song by that name, and Daniel plainly said that, like most of their songs, it was about “problems with language and communication”. The drummer let loose some powerful beats at the end of that one, proving what a great drummer she was, and soon after they did a track from their “2010” EP, “Point of View”.

At this point, their 30-minute set was coming to a close, and Daniel said they had just a couple left. As soon as he said that the guitarist held up four fingers, and then the bassist added, “It’s a loosely defined couple. They’re romantically linked.” he quipped.

It wound up only being a true couple, and the first was about “narcissists breaking up with themselves”, and then they ended with what I believe was “Black Rabbit”, which ended a show that was chocked full of rock.

The other band impressed me, as did Pujol, who was the best in my opinion. Their sound was a little more interesting, and I’d even say fresh, at least in some ways.

Musicianship was great, too. You could tell they have some touring under their belt, because they all clicked so cohesively and rolled with it all; never having to ask what was next. In fact, they really didn’t communicate with each other at all while they were on stage, which gave it all a professional feel; and despite the crowd lacking numbers, they gave it their all and owned the stage this night.

They have plenty of albums you can check out in iTUNES, with the new one coming on May 20th. Keep an eye on their FACEBOOK PAGE, because as that release date draws closer, they’ll surely head out on a tour in support of it.

I hate I missed so much of SW ForePlayFest, but King Camel had lined up some amazing bands from start to finish, and at least I got in on a bit of that sweet action.

Album Review: “Full Moon” by SPCCMP

imageIt’s hard to believe, but it’s already been a little over a year and a half since the debut EP from SPCCMP (pronounced Space Camp) dropped, and ever since its release, the trip-rock outfit has been hard at work on their follow-up EP, making sure they wrote the best material they possibly could.

The result is the “Surrender to the Night” EP, and even though demo versions of the tracks have existed and been used in music videos made around a year ago, the professional recording quality the tracks now have makes them feel fresh and new.

Tomahawk Jonez (whose real name is Jeremy Rodriguez) has been an excellent hip-hop artist here in the Dallas music scene for some time now, and his skills are on full display on the albums first track, “Dancing with the Devil”. It’s a fun blend of electronic and pop flares that you can groove to, with Tomahawk spitting out the positive words of the track about chasing your dreams and standing tall even when things get tough, never losing sight of what you want.

The album takes a more serious turn with the next songs, including the title track “Surrender to the Night”, which focuses more on the turmoil the world is currently in. “Bombs are bursting in the air, bullets flying everywhere. Children watching children die; missiles lighting up the sky…” Paco Estrada (the groups other vocalist and acoustic guitarist) croons at the start, a nice gravely effect thrown over his voice on those first few lines, which seem to give it more weight. The two completely different styles of singing mesh and even complement one another on what is easily the most moving song this EP offers, and it really does have the ability to change minds (and even the world) if you take its message to heart.

“If This is Goodbye” is my personal favorite track, and it takes more of a rock approach, with some forceful drumming rounded out by some nice bass riffs, while the guitars create a mesmerizing music bed. Paco and Tomahawk again trade off on this song, handling the chorus and verses, respectively. As a person who gravitates most towards lyrics, I must confess I absolutely love the chorus, which is teeming with emotion, in the way that only Paco Estrada can muster. “How we ever gonna save the world, if we’re too afraid to try and change it?  …How you ever gonna say my name, without the memory of you throwing it all away? How you gonna fall asleep at night…” he sings, more matter-of-factly rather than somberly. It’s powerful, and in a completely different manner than the previous track, this time dealing with not being too quick to give up on a love.

When the music video was first released for “The Lover”, it got some flak, with some people saying they were tired of the suicidal sounding songs (one track from their first EP could be viewed in that sense, depending on how you perceive it.) With a line like, “…And the barrel’s to his head, like the trigger to his finger…”, it’s easy to see why people would view it that way (Paco even slightly busts a rhyme on that chorus, almost giving Tomahawk a run for his money), but it’s depth goes beyond that. It’s more about overcoming any demons you’re facing and fully realizing your self-worth, and that you’re perfect as who you are. Yes, they broach the subject in a darker manner, but the overall message shines through said darkness.

Speaking of that, that’s the big difference between their first EP and this one: it’s darker. There were a couple of tracks sort of like that on their first EP, but not to the extent as those found on “Surrender to the Night”, and that’s a good thing.

It depicts growth, and shows that the band isn’t afraid to tackle real life issues, all while putting an uplifting spin on them.

They’re incredibly original, too. Trip-hop may not be new, but they put such an interesting spin on it all, incorporating several different genres, all of which somehow fit with one another. Then you have the fact that Paco does some singing, and in an interview I did with Tomahawk sometime back, he noted that aside from being able to work with a musician he greatly respected, that also gave SPCCMP the chance to use live vocals on what might otherwise be just sample tracks.

It makes all the difference, because Paco is a master at making music emotional, and despite the difference in his and Jeremy’s styles of singing, they work amazingly well together.

You often hear bands that have a great sound, but it’s rare these days for any act to be original; however, SPCCMP really is. It’s fresh and exciting music that was written with the intent to change lives. That fact is evident on the “Surrender to the Night” EP, an EP that has the potential to let SPCCMP break out of the local music scene here and make the world their stage.

SPCCMP is:
Tomahawk Jonez – vocals
Paco Estrada – vocals & acoustic guitar
Mike Dove – electric guitar
A.J. “Irish” Blackleaf – drums
Joel Bailey - bass
Emsy Robinson - guitar

Purchase the album on: iTUNES

Visit SPCCMP’s websites: Official Website / Facebook / Reverbnation / Twitter / Youtube

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