Friday, January 6, 2012 – The Bright Light Social Hour

This night saw the Austin quartet, The Bright Light Social Hour, beginning another tour, and kicking it off at Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studios in Denton. To open for the band a nice array of talent had been lined up, ranging from electronic to dance, and even a bit of both, and it began with hometown band, Vita Brevis.


The band was sound checking when I arrived. The electronic/rock/pop duo continuously sang the first line of what would be their opening song, “Tie me up, tie me up tightly…” to make sure everything was right. “This entire song is about BDSM.” joked vocalist and keyboard player, Thomas Paessler. At least I think he was joking. Soon after he formally introduced himself as well as guitarist, Jordan Martin, saying, “…And this is Vita Brevis.” They ran through the majority of their six song EP, doing the first song on it, “Siren Song”, first. The second tune from it, “Cartographer”, came next and this was where I noticed really the fault I could find. The vocals at the start of it are pretty soft spoken, which sounds good on the recordings, but in the live setting you couldn’t even hear what Thomas was saying/singing. They next did “Glittering Lights”, which had some small technical difficulties. It occurred during the first chorus. As Thomas was singing, the sample tracks seemed to fade out, and while he continued for a moment, he soon stopped as Jordan began staring intently at the computer screen. “That’s the problem with having a computer in the band…” Thomas said in a slight British accent. Jordan resolved the issue after a few seconds though, as they picked up at practically the same spot the trouble began. “Stay Tonight”, which was another song whose first few lines were soft spoken to the point of being almost inaudible, came next, and then the truly engrossing, “Everything is Beautiful”. Afterwards, they had time enough for one more song in their 26 minute long set, ending with I heard Thomas to say was “Parallel Nines”, though it’s quite possible he said “Lines”.


I only heard of the band earlier in the week when I was checking out the acts on this I was unfamiliar with, but I’ve definitely become a fan, and perhaps even more so after seeing this show. It doesn’t come across as much in the recordings, but live you can really hear Jordan’s slick guitar playing, which gives the tunes more of a rock feel as well. You can find that 6 song EP of theirs on Bandcamp and costs a mere three dollars, so you should highly consider picking it up.


Second up was an Austin band by the name of Fresh Millions. I didn’t even remotely like these guys, and it was due entirely to the vocals. I’ve said it before, I’m not too knowledgeable when it comes to music equipment, therefore I don’t know what the technical name for it is, but this trio used some tubes on their mics that made the vocals sound more like throat singing and made it very computerized sounding. Despite not being a huge fan of instrumental music, the one instrumental tune they did wasn’t too bad, but then the one song they did that was entirely free of vocal effects showed that they aren’t too talented in the singing department. One of the songs they did was titled “Helicopter”, which they said was about the film, Predator, as a sample clip from the movie started, and you could hear Schwarzenegger’s famous line from it, “Get to the chopper!” On one of their final songs they announced that it had a lot of sample tracks from Styx, adding that they’d “…Appreciate if you didn’t tell the band.” Still, their music did nothing for me, and fortunately their set seemed to pass relatively quickly.


The self-described “Folktronic” Dallas based band, Ishi, took the stage next. I got even more excited about this show after seeing they had been added to the line-up, and from the looks of it, I wasn’t alone. Several people staked out spots near the front of the stage while the group was setting up, giving them a prime view of everything that would transpire during their 39 minute long set. Frontman, John Mudd, went over to the computer, which was placed in a chair, and before starting the sample track, spoke briefly about it. “This is one of the gems you’ll be able to hear on our new album coming out this summer.” he announced. He stated the songs name, though I didn’t fully catch it. It was something “Funk”, perhaps “Future Funk”? Regardless, it was fantastic and a bit different from their previous material. The song was co-sung, with Becky Middleton starting it off while she kept the beat by shaking a tambourine. As she did so, John did his signature stage moves, slowly acting like he was going to strip out of his jacket, before pulling it back together. When he began singing, he tapped into his higher register, sounding not too unlike a nine year old girl. They seemed to trade off every few lines or so, and even let their voices mix together, sounding quite splendid. John went over and stopped the track, and then returned to the forefront of the stage minus his jacket, while his trademark cane hung from his arm. He then told the audience they would need some vocal assistance around the halfway point in the next song. “A-ye-a i-a. A-ye-a, a-ye-a i-a.” He instructed everyone to sing. They then began “‘Nother Prison”, and when they got to that point everyone that I could see aided them in singing, and quite a few people were dancing along, too. Then again, it is impossible not to move about when at an Ishi show, even if it’s as simple as swaying to the music. “Beautiful. That’s what magic is.” said John when the song was finished. That did it with the new material for the time being, as the sample track for “Come Closer” soon began, with drummer, J.J. Mudd, starting soon after. They segued that one flawlessly into their next tune, and during it John marched right off stage into the crowd where he danced around for a bit. Upon getting back on stage he laid down with his front side against the floor, then proceeded to thrust his pelvis against the floor a few times before standing up. Yet another classic, “Pastel Lights”, came next, before the group did their single from the forthcoming album, “Disco Queen”.  After one of the final choruses, John threw in guitarist, Rocky Ottley’s name, who then took the reins for a few moments as he delivered a blistering little guitar solo. “How are we on time?” John asked the sound guy when that one was over. “I don’t want to be rude to Bright Light…” he said. They got the okay for one more song, capping it off with a song that oozes sexuality, “Shake Your Dandelion”. Possible the best moment of that song was when Rocky did a stellar instrumental breakdown towards the end.


Aside from it seeming like a shorter set than what it was, it was great. However, I would’ve liked it more if “Our Time” had made the setlist. I’m sure most Ishi fans have heard it enough it’s no big deal, but being such a new convert to their music it’s still completely new to me. They have several shows coming up over the course of the next month, beginning with Fort Worth on Thursday, January 12th where they will play Lola’s. On January 13th they’ll be up at the Rev Room in Little Rock, Arkansas, while on Friday, January 20th they will be in Dallas to help LaGrange celebrate their 2nd year anniversary. February will see them at The Parish in Austin on the 15th, and on February 16th they will open for Boombox at Trees in Dallas. Also, the band is currently involved in a contest to play the Jansport’s official SXSW showcase in March, and I would encourage you to take a moment a go vote for them. You can vote once a day.

One more note about Ishi, they recently put out a little live EP titled “Under The Beflry 2011” and it is available for FREE download through Noisetrade.com.

It was finally time for The Bright Light Social Hour. They seemed to get their gear set up fairly quickly, and when it was all done, they retreated outdoors to the backstage area. Then, seconds after disappearing, guitarist, Curtis Roush, drummer, Joseph Mirasole, bassist, Jack O’Brien, and keyboard player, A.J. Vincent, stormed the stage to a mixture of applause and cheers. Curtis began lightly plucking the guitar strings, as a mix of both blues and southern rock gushed forth. Some softer bass notes and keys soon joined in, before A.J., Jack, and Curtis began singing the song, harmonizing with each other and being in perfect synch. I think the first line was “It ain’t about the good times. I just don’t want to miss you when you’re gone. When you’re gone…” It was beautiful, yet sorrowful at the same time, and it really sounded like something you would hear a chain gang singing in Cool Hand Luke or some other such film. Everyone was excited, and there seemed to be an electric feeling in the air, but as A.J. started the next song, “Shanty”, everyone got beside themselves, as most people started to jump up and down. Also, as A.J. was playing his keyboard, he ran quickly ran his hands from one end to the other with such force that his keyboard almost toppled over. It wouldn’t be the only that almost this night either. Jack took center stage as he did his bass solo, before they raced through the remaining instrumental portion of the song. That’s another thing about this group; they just have such a way of crafting epic instrumental pieces. I’ve said many times over, I dislike instrumental songs, unless they are VERY short, but when TBLSH does it, I love it. Once that was done, Jack asked everyone how they were. “…We’re The Bright Light Social Hour from Austin, Texas, and lets have some fun tonight!” he declared rather exuberantly. He may have been a little late to the draw though, as everyone was visibly having a blast, and it only grew more fun when everyone realized what song Jo had started. The song was “Bare Hands Bare Feet”, which if memory serves right was the song A.J. rocked a keytar on, and continued the story line from the song with “La Piedra De La Iguana”, which is predominantly instrumental. I had already noticed that with the past three songs they were running through their self-titled album as they appear on it, but the question was, “Would it continue?” I hoped so, because the next song on that album was one I longed to hear. A brief pause took place when they were through with the song, as Curtis and A.J. exchanged a glance, then turned to their respective mics. “I need your love…” the two crooned simultaneously, which began “Detroit”. Another spectacular song followed suit, which I want to say Curtis sang on for the first little bit, before the two other vocalists took turns at it. “Don’t want to be the man you want me to be, but maybe I do. Maybe I do…” he sang, and really at one point or another, they all sang it. It wasn’t even made clear if that tune was over when they dove right into an instrumental piece, and after a few minutes, Jack started the next song. “She liked my lovin’, all night long. She liked my lovin’ till the break of dawn. She liked my lovin’, so I rubbed it on. She liked my lovin’ so I rubbed my lovin’ on.” It’s point blank a song about fucking, which I typically hate simple because the vast majority of bands don’t know how to broach the subject in a new way, instead just revising them the way they were written thirty to forty years ago when they at least were fresh ideas. But this song of TBLSH does take a bit of an original approach, especially when compared to any mainstream act, and besides, how can not like a song with a line something like, “…I just can’t get this girl off my face…”. They next unleashed what Jack said was a “…New, new…” song on crowd, before doing another fan favorite. As soon as the music bed took shape and it became clear they were playing “Back And Forth”, people were visibly psyched. As it neared the end, Jack instigated a sing along. “We don’t give a damn, we don’t give a fuck. We don’t give a damn, we don’t give a fuck.” he said, repeating it many times before the audience joined in and helped him out. Their set seemed to be nearing its end as Jack thanked everyone for coming out on this, “…The first night of our first tour in 2012.”, however for their final song, they did their cover of The Who’s “Young Man Blues”, which finds Curtis singing lead and Jo doing a incredible drum solo towards the end. Upon finishing it, you could see the performer side of these guys melt away.  As soon as they laid down or left their instruments, the intensity that was displayed during the entire show was gone and they kindly smiled at their adoring fans, thanking them and waving to them, before leaving the stage.

I assumed it was over, as did other people who filed out of the room where the stage is, but after the cries of “Encore” went on for maybe all of thirty seconds, they guys came back. A simple explanation was offered regarding what would be their final song of their 60 minute set. “This song is about fucking!” Jack declared as they rocked out the instrumental song known as “Rhubarb Jam”.

The band really is something else, having crafted a unique sound that fuses the blues, soul, and rock together to make something that is unlike anything that has ever been done before. In the performance aspect, they just have “it”. As soon as they get on stage you’re just glued to them and mesmerized by their music. Oh, and about A.J., he plays his keyboards like a mad scientist about to create his crowning achievement, which makes it really something to watch.

If you would be interested in seeing the band live, they will be playing in the following states: Tennessee, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Washington DC, Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, South Carolina, Florida, and Louisiana. So, if you live in any of those states, visit the bands TOUR PAGE and see if they’re coming close to you. Hell, I drove an hour to see this show this night and it was more than worth it. They will also be playing The Door in Dallas on Saturday, February 4th, with their homecoming show in Austin being on February 10th at La Zona Rosa.

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NOTE: To hear music from these bands and many other independent artists from Texas, the U.S., and even the world, listen to me weekly “The Music Enthusiast Podcast”, which is part of the WhiskeyBoy Radio Network. If you are in a band and would like me to play your music on the show (assuming I don’t already have it), or perhaps you want an outlet to debut new material, email me at: TheRealMusicEnthusiast@GMAIL.COM

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