Saturday, January 25th, 2014 – Little Sisters of the Poor Deliver a Rock ‘n’ Roll Experience

The weekend before this, The Curtain Club had celebrated its sixteenth year anniversary with a couple of fantastic shows, and even though technically the celebration had ended, the streak of awesome shows was bleeding over into this weekend.

A slew of excellent rock bands were taking the stage this night, beginning with a newish band; Blacktie Renegade.

I happened to see what was maybe their last show here, several months before and really enjoyed them, and was looking forward to seeing them again.

Even though I got there early, shortly after 8:30, the heavier rock band was already on stage, and I wound up having mixed feelings about what I saw.

There were some songs, not all, where vocalist Mickeys’ voice was pretty pitchy, like he was having trouble hitting many of the notes. I wouldn’t say it was unpleasant, but it wasn’t all that good, either. Yet on other songs, he was on point and nailed it.

“We’re gonna slow things down a bit.” Mickey told everyone before “Take Off To Nowhere”. It lacked the heavy edge much of their other music has, but it was still a fairly loud song, with plenty of great drumming from Ricky.

They debuted a brand new song afterwards, before doing another, which was followed by an impromptu instrumental riff. Guitarists Brandon and Eric, bassist Daniel and Ricky just started playing, and by all indications it seemed like the start of their next song. It was a solid little piece, but when they suddenly stopped, you knew it was something unplanned.

That was when Mickey said something along the lines of that being something they had just done on the spot.

“This next song is gangster.” stated Mickey after they had done a proper song, which opened up with some awesome riffs courtesy of Brandon. That left them with a couple more songs in the chamber, which they quickly knocked out, thanking everyone who was there watching as well as The Curtain Club for putting together this show.

I already mentioned my only complaint, but even that wasn’t a constant thing, and in other aspects, I think they’re a really solid group.

You can tell each of the guys has been doing this awhile, and brings a good deal of energy to the stage, often thrashing around. The music has a nice hard rock vibe to it to, to the point you’d even expect the vocals to be screams, which is why Mickey’s voice is such a nice counterpoint to it all.

I certainly wouldn’t mind seeing them again, and if you want to check out some of their music you can download their demos over on their REVERBNATION PAGE.

Second up this night was a band I had not seen in far too long, and that was In Memory of Man.

They’d been working on a new album for a little while now, and had only recently started selling some advanced copies of it. So, not only was this show sure to be filled with new music, but it was also going to mark the live debut of Matt Langley (formerly of Fair to Midland) as the bands new keyboardist.

They hit the stage with the force of a ten ton wrecking ball, opening their 35-minute set with the lead track from their new self-titled release, “Wanted”. It was quickly clear that this night they didn’t need any time to warm up; instead, they had already found their stride, as frontman Alex Lilly moved in synch with all the instruments, pulling back during the instrumental breaks, before again asserting himself as he belted out the lines. “Wanted! Wanted! Wanted! Bring your love to me!…” he and bassist Marcus Gonzales shouted during the chorus of that sensational rock number.

They had dozens and dozens of pairs of eyes looking on in awe, as Javier Garza used one of his cymbals to quickly count them right into their next song, “Headshot”. That was one of a few tracks they did from “The Reckoning” EP, mixing in the best of the old with the new this night, as they raced through that fast paced number, and hurried on to the next one.

Again, it was Javier who fired up another fiery track, “Something In the Taste”, which had its moments that allowed Alex to soften his voice, hitting some higher notes as he showed off the type of range he’s capable of. That was built upon during “New Eyes”, which they segued right into, and could easily be called their couples skate song. It also nicely showed off Matts’ ability as a keyboard player, and while my view of him was often obstructed, he was killing it back there, set up beside the drum kit. I also liked the way his two keyboards were set up, both slanted upward (or downward I guess, depending on how you look at it), with the backs of the keyboards angled towards the ground, which in turn resulted in a unique style of him playing them.

As the song ended, Johnny McConlogue placed a slide on one of his fingers, holding a long note on his guitar that resembled some feedback. Lead guitarist Chad Beck soon chimed in with his own subtle notes, stretching it out for a while, leaving the crowd wondering what was coming next. That question was answered with the first strike Javier made on his drums, revealing it to be their classic; “Paper Planes”. That song is still one of my favorites. And no, I don’t mean just one of my favorites form this band.

It’s a beautiful song, and at one point Alex reached out towards his girlfriend, holding her hand as he sang one of the lines, and the chorus of “…If only you and I could have that night again, to start again…” is just one of those that impacts you. On that note, the song packs a punch too, taking plenty of time to set itself up and establish that emotional connection, before they let loose as it peaked.

Their following song was the only one I didn’t know, but it had a brief part where Marcus churned out a bass solo. However, the best part came at the end, when they made one of the most seamless transitions I’ve heard a band do. Johnny suddenly switched gears, playing one note form that song, then the next instant doing the first note of “My Sweet”. His band mates the followed suit, making a truly perfect segue. AS it drew to a close, Alex faced stage right, throwing his left hand up in the air, then dropped it in exact time with Javier’s final drum beat.

“We are In Memory of Man, giving it all so you don’t have to.” Alex joked, which, aside from thanking people for watching, was the first real conversation he had struck up with the audience (I don’t mean that as a negative thing, seeing as they were so focused and driven to play everything they had planned.) He also took a moment to formally introduce Matt Langley, saying how privileged they were to have him in the band. “This should sound like liquid sex.” he stated, as they began their final song, which is also the final track from their new record, “Picture Box”, which capped things off well.

This show was almost as good as their CD release gig for “The Reckoning” about three and a half years before this, which, out of the few times I’ve seen these guys, is the best show I think I’ve seen them do.

All six of them were so in tune with one another this night it was ridiculous, and the performance they gave everyone was one that won’t soon be forgotten (if ever).

They each possess some superb skills as musicians, they can hold a crowds attention seemingly effortlessly, and Alex is one of the best singers I’ve come across, and the dude has an unmistakable voice.

I could say the band that followed them was the best band of the night, ‘cause personally, I’m biased. But being completely objective, out of the bands I saw here, this night belonged to In Memory of Man.

The new batch of songs they have is incredible, and while it took them a while to get a full-length put together, it’s nice to finally have.

You can find the new album in iTUNES, and head over to REVERBNATION to download all 5-tracks from their first EP. Then, if you’d like to see them live, head out to The Grotto in Fort Worth on February 28th and catch them then.

The main act of the night was Little Sisters of the Poor, who, with a 10:30 start time, had the prime spot.

The curtain opened on this local supergroup, which consists of Jason Jones and JP Dunn on guitar, Joe Becker on bass, drummer Gabe Muzquiz and frontman Dunagin Gaines, though they did bust right into a song.

Instead, the audience got a moment to find what they thought would be the best spot to witness this rock show, as the members gazed out at the crowd. Just a few seconds later though, and Jason and Gabe had ripped into “Spires”, getting their 41-minute long set underway.

Lovely guitar licks and solos abound in that good ol’ rock song, which does a good job of getting the blood flowing, and, like the last band, Little Sisters of the Poor planned to barrel through their set. As soon as it ended, Jason lit into the first notes of “Love, Money and Death”, a song that had been tweaked since the last time I had seen them, four short months before.

Jason added some backing vocals on the first line of each part of the chorus. For example, “…Put in a jar”, dropping out as Dunagin continued, “and save change like everyone else.” It was a nice touch to the track, and I was glad to see them working that element in to the show, especially since Jason has a great voice, something I don’t think many people knew until near the end of his final project (The FEDS). The onslaught continued with Gabe winding them into the next one, “You Animals”. That was one of two songs they did this night that they have yet to lay down in a studio, but hopefully that will change soon, as it’s a great tune.

While some of his band mates tuned their instruments, Dunagin noted that most of what they were doing this night could be purchased in iTUNES, as they’ve steadily been releasing some singles since around the time of their live debut last April. “They’ll be on our new album which will be out soon.” he informed everyone, letting it slip that their debut EP would be named after that song “Love, Money and Death”. He also shouted out In Memory of Man for, who “kicked ass”. “Yeah they did. They were good. A little too good if you ask me.” Jason chimed in, further proving what a good idea it was to give him a mic.

As they finished tuning, Gabe went ahead with “Headaches”, a song that’s set apart from their other rockers, being a little more low-key, which allows them to tap into a different side of the band, while still keeping the performance pretty energized. As it ended, Jason slammed down on his whammy bar, creating a bridge into another newer song.

This one really impressed me, and was quite intense, almost as much as their first and last songs of the night. I have to confess, being planted on the far left side of the stage, I found myself gravitating more to Jason, Gabe and Dunagin, though I looked over at Joe and JP during that one, and they were letting it all out. Here’s to hoping that whenever these guys go back into the studio, that’s another one that makes the cut.

The night got even more fun afterwards, when Dunagin welcomed the first of two special guests to the stage; Randy Stephens. The guy will always be best known for the now defunct Siren City, though his new project, LA Wedding, is starting to take flight.

He took his position to the right of the drum kit, where an additional microphone stood on the drum riser. “…I’ve seen you coming up around here, why did you leave?” Dunagin sang near the start of “Ruins”, which is one of their best songs. The music bed is, dare I say, brilliant, starting out slow and tranquil, becoming something else entirely on the chorus. It almost doesn’t even go together, yet it does. Speaking of the chorus, the chorus belonged to Randy. “I’m gonna get you. I’m gonna take you on. I’m gonna corner you and make you feel so small… Structures turn to ruins…” he belted out in that golden voice of his. He overpowered Dunagin, who, in all fairness, did hold back some, before screaming out the final line of the chorus, “Ruins turn to bones!”

That wasn’t even the best part, though. The best part came at the bridge, when the two were singing completely different parts, and though their voices are so different, they blended so well.

That. That was the highlight of Little Sisters of the Poor’s show, and even if it was for one song, it was great to hear Randys’ voice again. (Actually, the last time was when he did some guest vocals on a FEDS song at their reunion show, and that had already been a little over two years ago.)

Next up on the guest performance roster was Sean Dailey, from The Better Death and 90’s grunge rock cover band, Seattle. “…We’re just gonna keep rotating singers.” Dunagin said, joking that anyone who wanted in on the last song needed to put their name in a hat and they draw a winner. Jason then cracked that these two guys had won a contest on The Eagle (97.1FM), with Dunagin adding that they had to call in at four that morning to partake in the contest.

“We just released this one.” said Dunagin, referring to their seventh single; “Truckstop Heaven”. It’s another song of theirs that can full you with the slower start it gets off to, before growing into a roaring rock number, and it was only made more that way Sean’s help.

Like Randy, he joined in on the choruses, singing along with Dunagin, “And I’ve come here to save you my brother, want to find out if you’re still alive…”, while the last chorus Dunagin gave completely to Sean. “…And the battle is lost and you feel the bomb fall out. Rise up with a knife and bleed the chief.” he roared, creating another astounding moment from this show.

Seriously, those two guest vocalists were an incredible touch to this song. Dunagin’s already one of the best frontmen around, and is best known for the powerhouse group Moving Atlas (who will hopefully grace some stages a little more often this year), but Randy and Sean each gave their respective songs a whole new element. For starters, I didn’t know I could like “Ruins” any more than I already did, and Sean turned “Truckstop Heaven” into even more of a beast.

They had one last song to give for their 41-minute long set, and before Sean even started to make his exit, Jason was shredding on his guitar, as they closed with “Cooker”. I was glad to hear this one back at the end of the setlist, because this explosive, guitar-heavy number is a perfect closer, giving everyone one last rush of adrenaline, before leaving you craving more from the band.

Probably the best thing about a supergroup, especially with this caliber of musicians, is the fact that they all already know how to handle themselves on stage.

From their first show, these guys delivered a stellar rock show, and even though they haven’t played too many shows, you can still see how much better they get each time, strengthening their chemistry.

If you haven’t seen or heard this group of veterans, I promise you’re missing out, and you should, at the very least, check out their singles in iTUNES. They’ll sort of be back at the Curtain Club, playing the Liquid Lounge side of the venue on March 22nd. You can catch them on February 12th at Rubber Gloves in Denton, and they’ll be back there on March 19th. In between those shows they also have one at Trees in Dallas on March 14th.

There were a couple of bands left, though I had been tossing around the idea of going and catching another act at another venue -which I wound up doing- but only after sticking around for a few songs from The Commotion.

It had been some time since their last show, and it turned out they had revised their setlist since their last gig, ditching their traditional opener for a favorite of everyone’s; “Crim”. As an opener, it worked quite well, which was something I had never thought would be true.

Guitarists Josh Sanders and Justin Middleton and bassist Justin Hold let loose with a fury on that wonderful chorus that had nearly everyone singing along with singer and guitarist Micah Creel, “Your contagious smile spreads like wildfire, infecting everyone within sight.”

It had everyone enthralled, and out of all the bands, they commanded the largest crowd of the night, and afterwards they quickly moved on to song number two, their rendition of Hums’ “Stars”.

By that time I had already heard the one song I really wanted to hear, and had decided I would go catch that other show I spoke of.

Would The Commotion have been worth sticking around for? Absolutely, but I’ve seen them enough that I felt I could pull myself away from them. There also happened to be one more band on the bill, and that was Where Shadows Meet.

I sampled some of their music on Reverbnation, and it just wasn’t my style. All the same, this was one badass rock show that had been organized at the longest continuously operating venue in Deep Ellum, and if you weren’t here for it, you missed out