Friday, October 26th, 2012 – Part I: Powered Down

Trees was hosting a special all local concert this night, but it was no mere local rock show. It had been dubbed “Powered Down”, and featured a slew of bands rocking the venue… Rocking it acoustic style that is.

An interesting and great array of bands had been tapped to play this show, which was being recorded live for an eventual live CD, and beginning the night was the Electronic based band, Zhora.

Unfortunately, I missed most of their set, because for some reason the traffic going to Dallas moved painfully slow (40 MPH or less, instead of 60+). I was bummed by this, because I had been wanting to see the band for months now and just hadn’t been able to make it to a show, and this night only got to hear their last three songs or so. Alas.

They were the only band who didn’t really to a true acoustic set, instead, it was toned down. The only music was provided by Taylor Cleveland, who makes all the electronic sounds with a computer, and also acted as a DJ of sorts. While Taylor Rea did the singing, and had a little pad attached to the mic stand, allowing her to alter her voice and add various affects to it. They did the catchy, “The Hold”, and I believe did another song in between it and “Sunset”, which I think was what closed their set. (Note: I haven’t familiarized myself with their music completely, hence why I say “think” and “believe”).

What I caught was really great, though. I guess I can’t draw comparisons to their full show since I haven’t seen one, but this sure seemed to show off Taylor’s voice more then I would imagine a full-band show does. And might I add she has quite an impressive voice.

Great set from what little I caught, and it made me more eager to see a full-band show. I don’t when that will be, but keep a check on their FACEBOOK PAGE to find out when they will have more shows. Also, you can find a four song EP on their BANDCAMP PAGE, which is available for FREE.

The bands sets were kept pretty short this night, but they were also able to get them on and off stage very quickly. So, after a twenty minute or so break, Admiral Grey was ready to do a 23-minute long set.

I was surprised to see the band as a trio, rather than just singer and rhythm guitarist, Aaron Pose, and lead guitarist, Krishen Anthony. The other member joining them was Justin Labosco, who added some beats on a cajon. Another thing that surprised me (and pleasantly so) was that they did some of their heavier songs, which frankly, I didn’t expect to hear. That included their opener, “Dead To Me”. It actually translated pretty well into an acoustic form, and in some ways, it even gave it an extra punch, as Aaron belted out the chorus, “There’s no more tears for me to cry, no more loving you tonight. I won’t regret you, just forget you. You’re dead to me…”. Justin tore it up on that song, maybe a little too hard, as shook his hand like it was hurting him. “Oh, did you hurt your little hand?” Aaron asked him, in a tone a parent might talk to a two or three-year old child, resulting in most of the crowd and Justin laughing. They then moved on as Aaron asked the crowd a question. “How many hard working men do we have out here tonight?”. That was the set up for “Just a Man”, which was one of the songs I expected to hear this night. Afterwards, Aaron took time to promote their upcoming CD release, and told everyone who hadn’t heard of them before that they could look up the band on Facebook to find out all the info on those upcoming shows. “…I have no life…” he stated, after informing everyone he was on there all the time, and jokingly warned that he might even become a stalker on your page. There are moments like that in their full-on rock show, but this one did a much more laidback vibe to it, and that played a part in making this show so enjoyable. They then did “My World”, a softer song that was definitely made to be performed acoustically, but not the same thing can be said for “Pulling Strings”. Don’t get me wrong, it still sounded fantastic, but as gritty as the song is, I really didn’t think they’d do it here, but am glad they did. Aaron gave the show a bit of a storytellers feel, stating that, that previous song was about the music business, and how people are always pulling strings, and it was either it or their final song that he said was originally going to be the title track of their forthcoming EP. He continued, saying they then settled on the title “Long Road”, because each of them have been down some long roads in their musical endeavors. And a song that kind of fits along those lines is the one they closed with, “Don’t Know Me at All”.

Their set passed by rather quickly, but you can’t do much in terms of making it longer when you have six other bands on the bill. They were able to hit the highlight songs, though, and I have been wanting to see one of Aaron’s solo shows for a little while now, so it was cool to finally catch one. Granted, this wasn’t solo, but it was acoustic, and that’s the main thing. And after seeing one, I’d like to see more.

By the time I get this posted, the band’s debut EP, “Long Road”, will have been unleashed upon the world, and their Texas tour to celebrate its release will have already happened. So, you might be able to find it online in say, iTunes. They also have another show coming up on November 17th in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma at the Chameleon Room. Oh, and you can find a FREE download of their single, “Dead to Me”, on their REVERBNATION PAGE.

After them was a band I had not seen in far too long, and even if it was an acoustic show, I was looking forward to finally seeing them again. And that was Exit 380, who was doing a full-band acoustic gig.

Before the curtain even opened you heard vocalist, Dustin Blocker, start playing his harmonica, and if you knew the band’s music, then that made it clear what song it was. It was the final track from their latest record, “Missy Gardner”, which is my personal favorite song from the album. It sounded more fitting being performed acoustic, and while I didn’t the song could get any better, this made it better. I believe Jeremy Hutchison played a mandolin on that song, while Jon Hutchison softly plucked the strings on his acoustic bass, and really, all of the instruments on that song seemed to play towards Dustin, and making his voice even more prominent. Perhaps the best part of that song on the record is the closing piece that comes after a minute or so of silence. I guess it is a reprise of sorts of their song, “Soul Burning Train”, but is just played on the keys with Dustin singing the chorus, and I was thrilled to hear them add that on the end here, as he softly crooned, “I woke from a dream and escaped this soul burning train. A driver or a rider? Either way, it’s a coatless day in the rain.” That served as a prelude to the full version of “Soul Burning Train”, which lead guitarist, Aaron Borden, started, while Jeremy switched out to an acoustic guitar. The pace did pick up with that song, and Jody McCauley was able to get a little more aggressive on the drums, or at least the partial kit he was using. After finishing it, Blocker formerly introduced the band to the crowd. “…We’ve been around for awhile, but tonight we’re playing our newer songs…” he announced, then told everyone what their next song was going to be. “I think it’s called Where Do We Go?” he said, then looked at Aaron. “Where do we Go From Here”, he then said, getting the title right that time. It was another tune that really fit the acoustic vibe, and I also think it was the one that Aaron played with a pedal steel guitar. It was followed by a short little song that was exclusive to a compilation record their record label released, “A Song About Us”, while capping off their 20-minute long set was “Run For The Gold”.

I see these guys so infrequently that I really forget how amazing they are. Even with this acoustic set and even with the abbreviated set time, it was still incredible. Blocker’s voice was nothing short of superb this night (and that can also apply to pretty much every other show they do). And while the Alt/Country sound is a big departure from the bands previous material, they still pull it off with ease, and it really came in handy in this scenario, since so much of the “Townies” record can translate perfectly into acoustic songs.

If you want to listen to or purchase their music, you have a couple of options. They have it for sale on either BANDCAMP or ITUNES, so check out whichever outlet you prefer. And everything aside from “Townies” is more Rock music, if that is more your style. Also, be sure to check out the first Hand Drawn Records Compilation, which features one of those songs from their set, and the label also just released a Volume Two Compilation. Both feature a plethora of artists and can be downloaded for free.

After they finished, I ducked out and headed to another venue one street over. Nothing against the other bands that were playing, but I wanted to see this other band more and if you want to know more about that show, I’ll have a review of it up soon.

I got back right when David Cote was finishing his set, which meant The Orange was up next, and they were the band I was most intrigued to see. If you don’t know The Orange, they aren’t really an acoustic band. They’re high-energy Rock with even a Psychedelic flare to it, so they were definitely going to be out of their element this night.

The Orange began with only three of their members on stage, singer and guitarist, Scott Tucker, guitarist, Kirk Livesay, and drummer, Cody Waits. However, Cody wasn’t doing anything with percussion, instead, he too had an acoustic guitar. They were also joined by the skilled harmonica player and their go-to guy of sorts, Chicago Dan. It sure looked like it was going to be different, and it was, as Scott announced their first song was called, “We’re All Going Down”, and Cody sang it. It was a bit weird to see Scott relegated to being a backing vocalist, but on the flipside, Cody has a really great voice. I was kind of surprised, since it’s easy to think of him as just being a drummer, since that is his typical instrument, but this made it clear his talent goes well beyond that. Their next tune I believe was titled, “Peace of Mind”. Cody again acted as the main singer on it, though it was more co-sung between him and Scott, with the two voices mixing perfectly. I think it was after that song Cody took over his normal role of adding some beats, while they welcomed a guest musician to the stage. His name was Buddy Neighbors, and according to Scott, he’s a legendary Blues guitarist. Scott also said something along the lines of he was the best musician he knew, then added, “…Right after Chicago Dan.” “This is an old Orange song…” he went on to say, telling everyone it was “Kiss, Kiss. Bang, Bang”. For the record, that is one of my all-time favorite Orange songs, like, top three, and it had been years since I last heard it. I never forget about, though, and hoped it would sometime find its way back into the set, as some of the songs off their EP had done after the band got back together. Anyway, the song was every bit as good as I remembered, even done acoustically, and like so many of the bands other songs, it is insanely catchy. At this point, Jason Wessup made his way down the stairs from the green room and to the stage, to add the sounds of his bass to the bands new single, “Mr. Moneymaker”. It was (obviously) toned down, and did lack the high-strung performance that usually accompanies it, but that didn’t mean it was any less good. Upon finishing it, Buddy left the band, while Kirk switched out his guitar for a cello, and Chicago Dan also helped turn the show on its head, by using a rain stick instead of his harmonica. Scott’s sister, Melissa Tucker, also joined them, and she brought a clarinet into the mix. Not that they didn’t have it before, but all of that made sure they had my undivided attention. I missed the name of this last song of their 27-minute long set, but it was truly gorgeous. It didn’t sound like your standard Orange song, but that’s okay, because every band needs to do the occasional song that breaks the mold they cast themselves into, and this one accomplished just that. It was just outstanding, and a most excellent way to cap things off.

I mentioned they were going to be out of their element this night, and while they were, they didn’t at all seem it. Instead, they appeared completely comfortable performing the songs in this setting, like it was something they had done dozens (or even hundreds) of times before. And to be totally honest, I did have some reservations about how this was going to go, but quickly realized I had no reason to have those thoughts. Actually, I’d like to see these acoustic shows become more of a semi regular thing, because in some ways, this was one of the best shows I’ve seen them do.

As of right now, their next show on the books is going to be a FREE one at Sundown at Granada in Dallas on Saturday, December 15th. They are also currently in the studio working on their debut full-length album, so why not go pick up a copy of their first EP, “A Sonic Collection of Stories from La La Land”. That way not only will you have something to whet your appetite for their full-length, you can also help get a little money in their pockets to help with the cost of making a record.

Closing out this show was Paco Estrada, but he wasn’t alone like I thought he may be. Scotty Isaacs (who is a great musician on his own) was playing keys for Paco this night, while Ladrell James made some beats on a partial drum kit. There was also a female backing vocalist that sit in a chair on stage right, though I didn’t recognize her, and I never heard them say who she was.

Paco started strumming his guitar, and with just the first few notes revealed the song to be just what I thought he’d open with, “The Damage That’s Done”. “Been living my life like a ghost in the rain, slowly losing my mind, slowly going insane. Wondering around in the middle of the road. Just another lost soul in another fishbowl…” It was then when the keys and drums came in, and brought that song to life in a way I had never heard it before. It’s a standout track from “The Definite and Indefinite…”, and a favorite of mine, but tonight it sounded as true to the recording as I’ve heard it. The backing vocalist sang with Paco throughout it, adding a beautiful layer to it, as she, too, had a sensational voice. It was followed by another track from that album, “When We Were Made”, which is perhaps the most beautiful love song ever written. “…When we didn’t have to use a stairway to heaven, and you never had to be alone. That’s when we were made…” goes one of the lines before the second chorus. A twenty to thirty second-long instrumental intro led them into the next song, which had me wondering what song it was until right at the end. “I keep my ghost from haunting you. I just let go, and walk away. And when you think that the clouds have cleared, I’m gonna call your name…” he sang, the opening line of “Haunting Me”. It is one of a few songs of his that he usually adds part of a cover to, and sure enough, after one of the last choruses, he broke into the chorus from Whitney Houston’s, “I Want to Dance with Somebody”. “…Oh, wanna dance with somebody. I wanna feel the heat with somebody. Yeah, wanna dance with somebody. With somebody who loves me…”. He’s done that cover for a little while now, and while it does strike me as being an odd fit for the song, I still works, as Paco’s rich, soulful voice is able to tie it into his own song. Once that one concluded, Paco told everyone they were “…going to do a new song…”, and even dedicated it to Scott Tucker of The Orange. That particular song was “American Girls”, which was first played about a month before when Paco did his first show fronting The Last Romantica. That was one of my favorite songs from that other show, and I was glad to hear it again, which made me think it will become more of a regular at shows. It’s an incredible song, that has a real feeling of Rock nostalgia to it, and for the few short minutes the song lasts, you feel yourself being transported to a simpler time. A couple more songs followed, which I suppose were also newer ones and after them Paco announced they were going to end on a sad note. And really, what better way to end a show. “Breaking Down” definitely has a sadness to it, for example the second verse, “My father had a heart attack at fifty-eighty… He told us that if he went under, he didn’t want them to resuscitate. My mom believes that I’ll become that man… She says she’s just awaiting the phone call when they tell her that her son is dead…”. Towards the end of it, he again integrated part of a cover song into his own tune, this one by K’s Choice. “Breathe it in and breathe it out, and pass it on, it’s almost out…” he sang, before belting out the chorus of that song, “…It’s not a habit, it’s cool, I feel alive. If you don’t have it you’re on the other side. I’m not an addict…” “Not an Addict” works perfectly with that one, and after singing a few portions of it, Paco returned to his song. “…Can you hear that sound? And if you listen to it now, it’s the sound of my heart breaking down…”, he crooned, as they brought the song and their 42-minute long set to an end.

That was an alright end with me, but there were evidently a lot of Paco fans out there, because they immediately started chanting for one more. It didn’t take long for them to decide to do one more, but Paco noted it would not be one of his. He then went on a brief speech, talking about how “…a lot of guys think they know everything…”, in terms of the fairer sex, when really, they don’t. He then asked for everyone, mainly the guys, to truly pay attention to the next song and it’s lyrics, saying it contained a lesson that everyone could learn from and would help them out. He made it out like this song could be the equivalent of revealing the meaning of life, and I don’t know what I was expecting, but it was not what they ended up doing. I couldn’t help but laugh at first when I realized it was a song that Cyndi Lauper made famous, “Girls Just Want to Have Fun”, but he also hit the nail on the head with everything he had said prior.

Overall, it was a good set from Paco, and that song was a much better note to end on. I also really dug the sound he and his “band” made this night, and in terms of Paco’s solo shows, I think this was one of the best I’ve seen.

Paco has a vast array of music available, most of which can be found on his BANDCAMP PAGE.

It was a great night all around, too, and every band did a spectacular set. Now, to wait for Trees to release the live recording of this show, which I guarantee it will be something you will want to hear.

Now, enjoy some crappy cell phone pictures I got…

Paco Estrada

The Orange

Exit 380

Admiral Grey