Club Dada was hosting a pretty big show this night. A little over a month before this, the Alt/Country band, Somebody’s Darling had released their sophomore record, “Jank City Shakedown”, and after spending several weeks touring the country, the band was finally back in Dallas, for a homecoming/CD release show.
The doors at Dada opened at nine, and when my dad and I arrived shortly after, there was already a line out the door, and the venue was fairly crowded. People kept coming in, and by nine-thirty, when the first band was scheduled to go on, the place was already more packed than I’ve seen it get in an entire night at some other shows I’ve caught here, making it look like this was going to be a sell-out.
Goodnight Ned has the extreme pleasure of being one of the opening bands on this bill, and I was glad they were. I had heard a lot about them this year, and been a fan for probably six months or so, but had yet to see them live.
They were a large band, having six members, including a fiddle player, Andrew Juhasz, and a keyboardist, Jonas Martin. One thing that surprised me about them was how prominently the keys figured in to the music. I’ve seen lots of bands who use that instrument, but normally, at least from my experiences, it’s someone banging away on the keys to no avail, as it is overpowered by all the other instruments. That wasn’t the case here. In fact, there were several moments, especially in their first few songs, where Jonas had some integral parts, and even when he didn’t, you could still hear the keys crystal clear. The first three songs I didn’t know, and one of those they said was a new song. Afterwards, though, they got into some material I was somewhat familiar with, like their song about Dallas, which is aptly titled, “Dallas”. Both of the guitarists in the band, Chase McMillan and Conner Farrall, also both act as vocalists, and had traded off on some of the songs thus far, but they joined forces on this one, co-singing it. They both bring something different to the table, with Conner having what I guess I will call a more traditional voice, with a rich sound. Chase’s is equally as good, though it’s often a little gruffer, one could say a little rougher around the edges, but that gives a lot of character, and as good as they are on their own, when combined, their voices sound incredible. Another song I wasn’t sure of followed, and then the faster paced, “Make Me Some Money”, which is a pretty catchy tune to boot. The lead track from their “Smoke From the Sails”, “Bonnie and Clyde”, came next, I believe they said it was a song about the infamous duo and “…If they hadn’t gotten shot.” The band then pulled out another song, and I think this one they noted had never been played live until now. It was also somewhere around this point in the show that drummer, Michael Munoz, said if anyone was cold (as it was freezing outside, or at least felt like it) they could go buy a Goodnight Ned shirt. “…They aren’t long sleeve, but if you buy about ten of them they’ll keep you warm.” he said, laughing a bit. They had been playing for awhile, longer than I thought they would, but at this point they said they had only had two songs left, and both could be found on their latest CD. The first of those two was “Papa Jack’s Bag”, while concluding their 45 minute set was “Fruit On the Tree”.
I enjoyed their live show just as much as I hoped as I would, and then some. Their music is along the lines of Americana and Folk, though you’ll catch some hints of Rock periodically, too. The fact that they have two singers makes them pretty versatile, and aside from switching out, and even co-singing, they also use some harmonies, with both Michael and Jonas being capable backing vocalists. There was even one song where there of them sang a line in a round, which sounded fantastic. And then you have their live show, which is pretty entertaining. The stage seemed a little cramped with six people on stage, but they didn’t let that hinder them, as they all put on a topnotch performance, including bassist, Ryan McLaughlin.
You can find their music in ITUNES, where they have an LP, EP, and a single (which is “Make Me Some Money” and is part of a compilation CD). They also have a couple of shows lined up for November, both of which will be in Dallas. The first will be on the 10th at the White Rock Lake Festival, while on the 24th you can catch them at the Granada Theater opening for Turnpike Troubadours.
Usually, it’s the changing of gear that takes so long, as one band gets their stuff off stage so the next one can set their stuff up. But tonight, they had almost completely taken care of that issue. Every band used the same basic drum kit, and actually, Somebody’s Darling’s gear was already on stage. So Goodnight Ned basically just had to get their guitars out of there, and then they could sound check.
Somebody’s Darling didn’t start right at the scheduled 10:30 set time, but they weren’t far behind it. And once they were all ready, singer and guitarist, Amber Farris, announced that for this show, there would be no old songs, only new ones. “…’Cause that’s how we roll.” She finished, then started strumming away on her guitar. Lead guitarist, David Ponder, soon joined her, and they were off on a 60-minute set, which began with “Weight of the Fear”. I find it to be one of the best songs from “Jank City Shakedown”, and it has a vibe that is infectious, making it a good one to set the tone with. “Yeah. We’re getting there!” Amber said, as drummer, Nate Wedan, ripped right into the next song with a short drum solo. I think that song was “Back to the Bottle”, but what they did afterwards, I was unsure of. As Amber said from the get go, it was only new songs this night, and that next song may have been a newer one of the bands, but it is also not on the record. But regardless, it sounded quite good. Upon finishing it, Amber traded her electric guitar out for an acoustic, as the band brought things down a few notches, with the beautiful, “Maybe”. It may have been a slower song from what they had done so far, but the rest of the band was still very present, and along with the guitar and drums, you could also hear Mike Talley’s work on the keys, and Wade Cofer’s bass. Despite that, it still shows a more tender side of the band, on a few different levels, such as the lyrics, where Amber passionately belts out the chorus, “…Maybe, we can be friends again. We could fall in love again. Maybe…”. “My Own Medicine” came next, and that was where the band really slowed things down. However, once the final notes had been played, they got back to business with all electric instruments. The crowd, which was packed in so tightly there was hardly any room to move around, had been pretty lively through all of the show so far, but the band further enlivened them with “Pretty Faces”, and then another which is not on the album, but was pretty killer, and I found it to be a standout of their set. Once she was finished with her guitar part, Amber again swapped out for an acoustic ax, to do the last slow song from the new album, the delicate sounding, “Pretty Leaves”. That’s the next to last track from the album, and next they did the song that proceeds it, “The Middle”. It’s haunting in a way, as part of the chorus is, “…I guess we all got to die…”, which makes it next to impossible to not think about the end. Though it’s worth pointing out that it is quickly followed by, “…I just hope to see you one more time…”. They kept on rolling with “Keep Shakin’”, and then welcomed a special guest to the stage. They stated that Jonathan Tyler (of Jonathan Tyler & the Northern Lights) added his touch to some of the songs on their new record, and they wanted him to help them out for the next song. It took Jonathan a few minutes, but he finally got up to the stage, pulled out a harmonica and then grabbed a mic. The song he aided them on was the lead track, and I believe a single from “Jank City Shakedown”, “Cold Hands”, which was the one song I had been wanting to hear since they started. I should have known they’d save it for close to last. Also, Mr. Tyler killed it on the harmonica, which was heard much more easily and clearly in the live setting then on the record, and had a very bluesy/soulful sound. They were almost done for the night, but upon finishing that song, Amber thanked everyone for coming out and supporting them, not only this night, but all the nights over the past several years. “…If y’all keep coming to shows, we’ll keep rocking…” she promised everyone. They had done almost everything from their new album, except for one song, “Wedding Clothes”, which concluded their set, and towards the end of the number, Amber hopped off the stage and into the crowd. From where I stood, I couldn’t even see her, but soon she reemerged and joined her band mates, as they finished out the song.
Truthfully, I’m more of a newer fan of the bands. It’s my dad who thoroughly enjoys them, and I know he really liked the show this night. However, it doesn’t matter if you’re an old fan or not, it’s not like it’s a requirement to enjoy a performance, and enjoy it I did.
Somebody’s Darling is really one of the best bands you’ve probably never heard of, and I guarantee you, Amber Farris is one of the best vocalists you’ve most likely not yet heard. But she of course isn’t the only member of the band…
David was phenomenal this night, cutting loose on his guitar and letting loose some stellar riffs on many of the songs, that brought a whole new level of depth to the tunes. Nate’s drumming flawless, while Wade rounded out the rhythm section, having the calm, laid-back demeanor that so many bassists have. And on the songs he added some backing vocals to… Wow. Then you have Mike, who is a new addition to the band from the last time I had seen them, and frankly, I was unsure about the keys at first. But like I said about the first band, the keyboard could be heard very clearly, and brought a nice dynamic to the sound.
Speaking of sound, the band has gotten away from their real Country/Americana sound that could be heard on the first record, and while it’s still there, they’ve also grown into more of a Rock band, with dashes of Blues and Soul. It’s a noticeable transition in sound, but not a bad move for the band, because it doesn’t come across as them trying to reinvent themselves. Rather, it’s growth, and I’ve said before about many other artists, being able to listen to a bands albums, and hear the differences and changes from their earlier stuff to their current stuff, is exactly what separates a good band from a great band.
First off, you can find both of the bands records in iTunes. Their first album was self-titled, and again, this new one is called “Jank City Shakedown”. As far as the bands shows go, it would be best to go to their TOUR PAGE, so you can keep up to date, but as of right now their future shows include: October 26th and 27th at the Parrot Bar inside the Choctaw Casino in Durant, Oklahoma. On November 2nd they will again be at the Choctaw Casino, only this time at the one in Grant, Oklahoma. November 8th will find them down in Austin at the White Horse Bar, while the next night they will be at Reno’s Argenta Café in Little Rock, Arkansas, before coming back to Dallas on November 10th for a gig at the City Tavern. On November 17th they will be in Princeton, TX at Backyard Brickworks. The Kessler Theater in Dallas will host the band on November 30th, and they also have one more show lined up for now which is on December 7th at Hopkins Icehouse in Texarkana, Arkansas.
Now, Somebody’s Darling may have been the headliner, but there was still one band after them. However, taking an earlier time slot like that is starting to become the best thing, because the later it gets, the more people you see leaving, unless they are specifically there to see the band going on later.
Such was the case now, and with Somebody’s Darling being done, people began to vacate the club, and in a matter of ten to fifteen minutes the crowd had thinned out to a few dozen or so people still concerned about the music. There may have been more people than that, though, however they were out on the patio, smoking and socializing.
Still, Bravo, Max! had to perform, and once Somebody’s Darling had gotten all their gear of stage, sans most of the drum kit, they quickly set their stuff up, and then went to work. They opened their set with one of their newer songs, which I know I’ve heard a few times at this point, and it grows on me with each listen. When it was over, singer and guitarist, Johnny Beauford, stated it was the title track from their next record. “…Which will come out sometime… Before you die.” He added. I guess that means there’s no hurry on getting it out, but on the bright side, at least there will be another Bravo, Max album at some point in the future. They did another song that will no doubt make that album, and is their current single, “Pills”. There are some lengthy instrumental portions on that song, which I’m not always keen on, but this is one song where that helps make it. The piano part, which is played by Garrett Padgett, is peaceful and calming, while the rest of the instruments create a pretty catchy melody, and will have you bobbing your head along to it. At this point, Johnny pointed out the merch table, telling everyone who might not yet have gotten the new Somebody’s Darling record, to do so before they left, saying something to the effect of, “…I’m gonna be the best damn salesman there is tonight…”. At another point later in the show he even again asked everyone to go support the bands, saying there were two great records available over there. “There are more than two. There’s at least three or four, or more…” responded his cousin and bass player, Ben Gastright. For their next tune, Garrett left the keys and picked up his guitar, while Ben announced the song title, which was a B-side from their first record, “Horn In Hell”. You don’t typically think of B-sides as being all that strong, but this song is quite the contrary, and live I found it to be even a bit more enjoyable than the recording. Garrett got back to the keys for the next song, while drummer, Jonathan Jackson, got a steady beat going, beginning the slower, “Take Your Fill”. When the song concluded, someone brought a drink up to Johnny and handed it to him, then the guy said something. “…This guy gives me this drink, but then tells me we need to do a specific song…” he said laughing, and also thanked the dude. He then asked him an important question, “Is there ecstasy in this?” It was a cover song the gentleman wanted to hear, and since they didn’t know it, they did the next best thing… Sort of. Johnny started plucking away at his guitar strings, doing a little bit of the instrumental piece, “Before The Party”, with Jonathan, Ben and Garrett gradually joining in to get the real song, which was “Dog’s Light”, underway. There’s something about that song, that every time I hear it, be it live or listening to the recording, that always gets me. I mean, it’s hard not to soak in the song and marvel at its beauty. And then you have that last line, “…It’s too late to say goodbye. It’s too late to ask for more!”, which Johnny belts out with a passion, making it devastatingly powerful. The pace sped up with the song, “Kiss”, and afterwards, Ben made a bold statement, that the audience members “…hate plaid”. That comment came after both Johnny and Garrett had gotten drinks handed to them, while he and Jonathan were being neglected, and coincidently they both were both wearing plaid shirts. He was joking of course, but that comment apparently got someone thinking, because shortly after, he too had someone by him a drink. Garrett got back on the extra guitar for one of their most rocking songs, “Hotel Denalian”, which is a little more up tempo at live shows, almost like they’re are racing to finish it, then followed that with what I believe was “Losing Her”, another B-side track. Now, I really like all of the bands material, but of course have a personal favorite, and that one I had only heard live once, right here on Dada’s stage back in January. But the handful of others shows I’ve seen since, it has been absent, so I was quite ecstatic when Johnny set it up, saying, “This song is about desserts.” He then led the band into “German Chocolate Cake”. It was with that song that I felt the momentum began to shift. There’s absolutely no question this night belonged to the band before them, but even though they were making no real play to, Bravo, Max! seemed to be inching into a position to be the band of the night. They kept right on rocking with another song, which again required two guitars, and then did a cover of a song by Father John Misty. Now, I had never heard of him before, but Johnny told everyone he was pretty big, adding, “…He’s on Youtube.”He had a stand in front of him, and thumbed through it to find the sheet music for the song, which was “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings”. That should have served as a sign right there that there could be problems, but that never even crossed my mind. Then, maybe halfway through the song, Johnny messed up, both on the lyrics and his guitar part. His band mates almost stopped, too, though he urged them to keep on, while he tried to get back into it, which he eventually did. It didn’t go off without a hitch, but it was funny, and even the band thought so. Right after, Ben and Johnny traded spots, with him taking over bass duties for a song. “What?! We didn’t mess up that song! We played it perfectly!” said Ben, in a joking manner, though serious seeming manner, after he had gotten in front of the mic. He went on to say, “…I’m not much of a singer, but I’m going to sing this song…” He might not be much of a singer, but he sounded pretty good on this song, whatever it was. They then returned to their normal setup to do what was supposed to be their final song of the night, “Empire State”, which is really one of their best ones. It’s simple, yet deep, and there’s something about the line, “…You told me once, as we stood on the street, that man were just born to die…”, that should get your attention.
As I said, that was supposed to be it for the band, but their fans that were out this night were more than mere fans. Fanatics. That would be a good word to describe them, and they repeatedly yelled for more, until the band finally gave it to them. It was another cover, this time from the band Delta Spirit. I do like Delta Spirit’s stuff, but honestly, I found Bravo, Max’s! rendition of “Bushwick Blues” to have a little more character, and be more enjoyable. Now that really was it, or so the band thought, but again, the crowd wanted more. They talked amongst themselves for a moment, then decided on a song, which was one of their originals, “Hey Jane”. Upon finishing it, Johnny fell down, rolling onto his back, looking like he was exhausted, and I’m sure the band was tired of what had been a pretty lengthy set, but the audience still asked for more.
I doubted it would happen, and got ready to leave, only to again look at the stage when I heard a harmonica. Evidently they had decided to do one last song, which made for an impressive 78-minute long set, and at the end Johnny stated they had “literally” played everything they knew how to.
I said they got put into a position to do this, and out of the handful of people who stuck around, I don’t think anyone could disagree with this statement; Bravo, Max! stole the rug right out from under Somebody’s Darling. It’s not like the meant to, but especially with those four song encores, they just managed to upstage them.
That also made this, hands down, the best Bravo, Max! show I’ve seen to date. Not just because of the extended setlist, but they were flawless this night… Well, almost. I’ll excuse that cover song. And they were in even better form than usual.
If you haven’t heard or seen the band, you are really missing out, and they have a couple shows in the coming months. On November 10th they’ll be in Austin at the Frontier Bar. The on November 17th they’ll be up in Denver, CO at the Lion’s Lair. And for right now, their next Dallas show will be on January 5th at Sundown at Granada, and that one will be free. Oh, and be sure to check out their album, “Dog’s Light”.
This was an impeccable night of music, and it’s not often you see a show where every band leaves you in awe, but that was what happened this night. Again, if you don’t know any of those bands, check them out, especially in the live setting. They will not disappoint you.