Of course, Valentine’s Day is supposed to be spent with the ones you love, and for me that meant spending it with live music at the venue I love more than any other, The Curtain Club.
Ultimate Local Music had put together a stellar rock show there this night, including bringing a band from Charlotte, North Carolina through. Four great local acts had been added on in support, though, and starting the night was Awake in Theory.
It had been quite awhile since I last saw the alt/rock group; last June to be exact. That meant it had been long enough that I had forgotten some of their song titles. So, after their intro – which is the “Mad as Hell” speech from the 1976 film Network – I was left racking my brain as to what their opener was.
The catchy, occasional riffs guitarist Terry Kimmel cranked out by stepping on one of his pedals before letting it back up were all too familiar, but for the life of me, I couldn’t remember the song. It was only towards the end when I heard frontman Eric Hawkens sing, “…You’re playing the victim…”, with the name of the song being “Playing the Victim”.
The whole band didn’t waste any time getting down to business, especially bassist John Skenesky, who was all over the stage; tearing it up. “How the hell you doing?!” Eric asked all the early birds who had made it there for their 8:46 start time. As he did so, Raymond Chambers brought them right into their next song, which was “Dangerous”. “…You’re like a devil with an angels touch. I want to love you but you’re dangerous.” belted Eric on the chorus. After the second one, he signaled out guitarist Brad McCain, who launched into an incredible guitar solo; sounding even better life than it does on the recording.
They continued to barrel through their 31-minute set as Raymond again led them into their next song. Brad aided him, lacing some soft guitar notes around the beats while Eric set up their next track. “This one goes out to anyone who had to do what I had to do in the last year, and that’s take someone you love to rehab and say ‘No more! No more!” he told the audience, shaking his finger back and forth as he said that last part. He was speaking of “Let Go”, which is just one of more than a few heavy-hitting songs they have with very real life themes worked in. The end had been tweaked from what I remembered (or perhaps had just forgotten).
Raymond counted them in on one of the many cymbals of his massive drum kit; but it wasn’t a bridge to their next number. Instead, they cranked out an instrumental outro, which saw John getting on the drum riser before leaping off it as the song drew to a close.
“Anyone who has ever played in Deep Ellum knows it’s a band of brothers and sisters…” Eric said. He thanked Deaf Angel for being one of the bands they were playing with, along with the handful of other band members and people who were there who had just come out to see them. It was nice to hear him say that, too, because it really is a community down here. It may not be the biggest or strongest community it has ever been. but there is a lot of loyalty and dedication among those who are part of it.
“…Do y’all want to hear a new one?” Eric asked before they moved on to a song called “Monday's Dawn”. It struck me as being a little heavier than their other songs at times. I mean that solely as an observation; and actually, I really enjoyed it, because it was a slightly different sound for the guys. A sound they pulled off well.
“We wrote that for Terry’s best friend, who five years ago died in his arms.” Eric said as soon as the song was over, making the mood a bit heavy. His band mates were already easing into their next song, while Eric noted that if anyone had seen them even once before that they had to know that his brother is a Ranger in the Army. “…He fights our battles so we can do stupid shit like this…” he told everyone; setting them up for “Hero You Hate”.
“…I can be your sinner. I can be your saint…” Eric sang, using one of his hands to draw a halo around his head. He then continued, “I’ll be anything you want, because I’m the hero that you hate.” That was the only song of the night he actually used his mic stand for the majority of it. He ditched it near the end, though.
“The setlist says to work the crowd.” he said after that fan-favorite; then asked everyone quite sincerely, “So, how are you doing?”
Eric killed some time while Terry and Brad tuned their guitars, and once they were ready he dedicated the next song to “everyone celebrating with significant other”. He skipped over the explanation of “Innocence”, only seeing that it was a very personal song to them. It’s a personal favorite of mine, and since they recorded it, it has grown on me with each listen. It really is a special song.
Their time on stage was almost up, and Eric bantered with the crowd one last time before their final song. He mentioned he had just finished a 60-hour workweek. “…I’m exhausted but I’m here. ‘Cause if you’re gonna do it, you do it big, right?” he said.
That’s just one of the many reasons why I love these guys; because that’s their mentality. Eric mentioned this final song has gotten some airplay on 97.1 The Eagle over the last several months, saying it be “cool” if anyone wanted to call in and request it. They then fired up their first single, “Daddy’s Little Girl”. John and Terry stood back-to-back for a bit at the start of the second verse, before digging back in as the song exploded on the chorus, the two of them along with Brad and Eric covering every spot on the stage.
I know it been awhile since I had caught an Awake in Theory show, and perhaps I had just forgotten how fantastic they are live, but they really seemed better this night than any other time I had seen them.
Last time, John was still a pretty new addition to the band, but even then meshed well with the group and more than held his own on stage with them. Tonight, at times, he was the one to watch on stage.
That’s not to undercut the other guys, though. Brad, Terry and Eric didn’t slow down for a second, and were doing everything they could they keep the onlookers glued to them. They accomplished that with ease, and they’re one of those bands who works to build an honest rapport with the crowd for the night. Not only that, but they clearly have so much fun on stage, it makes it easier to get into their music and performance.
Point is, if you have a chance to see them, do it.
They have to shows at Tomcats West in Fort Worth in March. One will be on March 8th, the other the 22nd. Pick up their 3 song EP at either of those shows, or you can preview their music on REVERBNATION.
Second up was one of two bands who I hadn’t seen before. Since the other band was a touring act, that’s understandable. But Generation Wasted is a hometown Dallas band. A band who just a few weeks prior played the Curtain’s 16th year anniversary weekend; where they received a plaque that now proudly hangs on the Wall of Fame.
I had heard of them before, but just never seen them. I was interested to see what they were like, though.
“Happy Valentine’s Day.” Frontman Larry Bates stated as soon as the curtain opened on them.
They then quickly tore into “Eyes”, which began their 41-minute set. It was a powerful opener, and it called me to the pit area to have a better view of what was going to transpire.
“I didn’t think you were going to make it tonight.” Larry said once the song was over, talking to his significant other. He then walked over to the stairway that leads on stage; returning with a heart shaped box he handed to his lady.
They continued with a food little tune called “Curtain Call”; after which bassist Mark Efros walked over and slapped lead guitarist Wes Mayes on the ass. “Good job!” he could be heard shouting, before laughter from the crowd and the band filled the room.
“…This next one’s called Tailspin.” Larry informed everyone. That song was where I thought they really found their groove. They weren’t as mobile as the band before them, but they still commanded the attention of their fans with their music, and that tune was truly one of their best.
After some shots, Larry again wished a happy Valentine’s Day to everyone. “…This is a cover we like do…” he then said. Their fans rejoiced in cheers, while I was left with a feeling of curiosity as to what it would be. “It’s called Mad World.” Larry added.
They put their own spin on the Tears for Fears classic, turning it into a heavier rock song. It was an excellent rendition of it, and it’s always nice to see a band who doesn’t merely cover a song, but they put the effort into making it all their own.
They followed it by doing a new one. So new in fact, that upon finishing it Larry joked that it was simply titled “new one” for now. “I don’t know if that will change or not.” he added.
“Illiterate Love” was another great song of their set. It was one of their fairly heavier songs, with some slight screams thrown in here and there.
They marched on with a couple more songs, one of which was titled “Control; Alt; Delete”. During it, guitarist Ernest Fruge, who had been adding some awesome backing vocals throughout the show, left the stage. He worked his way out amongst the people, walking up to some fans who were standing there, as well as other patrons who were seated at the tables, giving them a good look as he picked away at his axe.
It was also on that song that they all really cut loose, fully giving into the music and rocked out.
Larry now took a moment to shout out the other bands on the bill, before they got to the finally two demos that they currently have recorded.
You can’t argue that they had saved the best for last, as “On My Own” was a spectacular number. One that’s sure to appeal to any rock fan. Then you had “Circles”, which found the quintet truly firing on all cylinders. Ernest again added some backing vocals to this one, repeatedly shouting, “Hate!” on the chorus. Larry worked up a vicious scream of sorts, joining him on the final one of each chorus for a forceful touch.
They put on a really good show. One that just kept getting better the more time they spent on stage, and they have some truly awesome sounding songs.
I became a Generation Wasted fan this night. And it was also nice seeing a Dallas band whom I hadn’t before. Yeah, there are plenty of bands I’m still unfamiliar with who are out there, but I often tend to stick with the tried and true.
Check out their music over on REVERBNATION, and if you like it go see a show. They too will be at Tomcats West in Fort Worth on March 8th. They’ll be down in Austin for SXSW on March 12th, playing the Heart of Texas Rockfest. You can also see them back in Dallas on March 18th at Wit’s End.
Up next, you had As Above / So Below.
I had only seen them once, catching a portion of their debut show back in May.
Since then they’ve released their debut EP, “Year One”, as well as added an extra member to the band, CJ Pierce of Drowning Pool fame, who also happens to the be the brother of frontman Jacob Pierce.
“Come on!” Jacob roared as the curtain revealed them, while drummer Joey Payow, bassist Johnny Reeves, and CJ as well as fellow guitarist Max Snakes fired up their first song, “Last Crusade”. That heavy rock song, which, like most of their other music is on the verge of being metal, got their show off to a great start, easily capturing the interest of everyone who was there.
Jacob quickly encouraged everyone to support the bar and go buy a drink, then added, “Let’s go!” as Joey rolled them into their next track.
They had the adrenaline of everyone there pumping at this point, and it continued with “Painted in Red”. Afterwards, Jacob mentioned it was Valentine’s Day. “…We’re all getting fucked up and having good time!” said Jacob, before informing everyone that the next song was “Built to Fail”.
“We’re gonna slow it down for the lovers.” Jacob said, speaking about the next tune they had in store. I believe it was called “Calling”, and while it was a favorite of mine from their set, it was by no means slow. Perhaps it was just a little more so than their other material, but not by much. They followed it with another song I highly enjoyed, “Erase You”, after which came a new one.
“This is the first time we’ve ever done this live.” Jacob told everyone, noting the song was called “Ritual Birth”.
Even by As Above / So Below’s standards this was a heavy and loud song. It was good though, and saw CJ adding a good deal of backing vocals. Jacob also put the flood lights to good use, which were hooked up to a switch on a box they had on stage. He often stepped on it in synch with the drums too, which added an extra emphasis to it.
“We pulled it off. That was cool.” Jacob remarked once it was over, before they started into the final song of their 32-minute long set.
These longtime musicians were great at their first show, but in the almost nine months since, they’ve further improved.
The show was chocked-full of energy and they put on a great show. Even with their large scrims standing on either side of the stage they still had plenty of room to move around. Then you had CJ, who helps elevate their live show to a completely new level.
They’ll be at the Walter Gerrels Performing Arts Center in Carlsbad, New Mexico on March 8th and March 9th will find them at Jake’s Backroom in Lubbock, Texas. They’ll be opening for Saving Abel on both of those shows.
Though technically it was the main support slot, the Charlotte, North Carolina based Another Lost Year had the prime time slot.
Like most people in attendance, they were new to me, though the band has been around for a little while. Nearly three years, actually, during which time they’ve opened for acts like Sick Puppies, Sevendust and many others.
They got right into it with “Better Days”, which is the lead and title track from their most recent release.
It was quickly evident they weren’t your typical band; and while I had been hanging out at the back of the venue, it didn’t take me long to decide to get closer to the stage.
“Dallas, Texas! How the fuck you doing?!” shouted singer Clinton Cunanan, while his band mates wound them into their next number, “All That We Are”. Their first song add some softer tones to it, and while it sounded good, it was far from the caliber of rock song as this one was. They really came to life on this one, with some driving percussion thanks to Lee Norris and killer guitar riffs from Dave Whitaker and Adam Hall, which included a wickedly good solo.
“So, a lot of cool things have came from Dallas.” Clinton said, as they took a break to connect with the fans. “Like Emmitt Smith.” he added. “I don’t know if any of you got that joke.” he said once no one laughed. Talk then changed to wrestling, when he asked if anyone was a fan of the WWE. “This next song can be heard on Monday Night RAW.” he told everyone. The song was “Broken”, and they were in full swing rock mode with it. It had those who were familiar with them singing along, while those who were just enjoying what they were hearing where banging their heads around to the music.
The banter then continued when Clinton asked everyone to turn to their left and right and introduce yourself to the people next to you. “It’s kinda like church.” he joked, before going on to thank all the bands who were playing alongside them. He was honest, saying he didn’t remember any of their names, though he also mentioned that he had never seen such a “fantastic bill”. “…There’s a lot of fucking talent here…” he told the audience, saying everyone needed to be proud of the fact that they lived in a town with such an amazing music scene.
They mellowed things out a little more with “Last Goodbye”, and now that everyone had gotten a good taste of what they were, Clinton asked a couple of questions. One was “Has anyone heard of Another Lost Year before tonight?” A few hands shot up. The other was for those who were hearing of them for the first time this night, and it was, “If we came back, would you come back to see us?” They didn’t have the biggest crowd, but those who were watching them seemed to all say they would catch another show if they made it to the Dallas area. “We’ll hold you to that.” he stated, as they went directly in to “Writing On the Wall”.
Upon finishing it, Clinton mentioned they were about to do some “new shit”. “…But for most of you, this is all probably new shit.” he joked. He went on to talk about their previous record label. “We had a mutual breakup…” he said, shaking his head no while saying it. “No, that’s not even remotely close…”
In short, their ex-label told them they would never do anything else without them, and the label had evidently lost faith in Another Lost Year. He gave the stats, which I don’t remember, but this next song they had – which was released independently – has gotten some good radio airplay for several consecutive weeks.
That latest single was “End of You and I”, and it was followed by a song they had recorded for possible use during the current Olympic games called “We Are the Chosen”. For one reason or another, it didn’t end up being used, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t an awesome song.
It was actually different from anything else they did this night. There were some great harmonies thrown in throughout the song, but the best moment came at the end, when Adam, Jason and Clinton all sang the final few lines pretty much a cappella, which sounded surprisingly gorgeous. Not at all what you’d expect from an alt/rock band, but they pulled it off perfectly.
With that, they got into the songs that “pay the bills” as Clinton said. Though he first pimped out their merch table, saying they’d sell anything, including band members. He then told a story about the first single they ever released. “…I wrote it in shower…” Clinton told the fans, saying he got out and told one of his band mates what he had come up with, who replied with, “That’s horrible.”
If it was horrible then, they certainly made some good tweaks to it, ‘cause “War On the Inside” was one of their best songs yet.
They had one more left, but first Clinton quickly thanked everyone for coming out and supporting live and local music. “It’s not the Justin Bieber’s. It’s not the Miley Cyrus’s…” he said, referring to musicians who aren’t really doing much for music overall. “…Rock ‘n’ Roll lives and fucking breathes on these stages. In these venues…” he said, coming across as truly grateful that those who were there were doing what they could to support this art.
For the final song of their 41-minute set, they returned to the “Better Days” LP, doing the final track on it, “Forget About Us”. Simply put, they destroyed it on that one. Jason was jumping back and forth at the start while slaying it on his bass, and Adam and Dave were also getting very into it, operating along with Lees’ drumming. Speaking of Lee, while I didn’t often have an unobstructed view of him, I could see him pretty well on that song, as he twirled the drum sticks around in his hands; at one point quickly flipping them around before laying into his kit, doing that several times in a row.
If Another Lost Year came back to Dallas, would I go see them? Yeah, in a heartbeat.
For those who like the more radio-friendly style of rock music these guys are perfect, and they just have that quality to their sound that gives it a good appeal.
Then you have the live show, which is, without question, where they excel. They may have only been a band for about three years, but you can tell they cut their teeth long ago, and the show they put on this night – in terms of energy and overall performance - was on par with many of the national touring bands they’ve shared the stage with.
You can find their full tour schedule HERE. Also, be sure to check out their music in iTUNES.
Closing out the night was the Fort Worth quartet, Deaf Angel.
Despite the late start (it closer to 1AM when they took the stage), they still had droves of fans out, who quickly packed the place upon hearing Scott Van Slyke lay into his drum kit.
“Dallas fucking Texas! How the fuck you doing?!” shouted frontwoman Tina Downs as the curtain began to open on them. “I’ve been waiting all fucking night to get up here.” “This song’s called ‘Take Over.” she then added, as their 38-minute long set got underway.
It had only been a few months since the last time I had seen them, but I had already kind of forgotten how great they are live. Tinas’ voice is superb, and the screams Scott and guitarist Duston Daulton added throughout the track (plus just about every other song they did) added a nice edge to it.
“How you doing?!” Tina asked during the few second break before “Directions”. “…It’s my life, so step aside…” she belted out on the chorus, while bassist Matt Harper and Duston raced around the stage.
Once it was over, she mentioned how amazing this show was; and from start to finish it really had been an exceptional night. “Can y’all hear me?” Scott suddenly asked, speaking into his mic. “I don’t think they can.” said Tina after the crowd barely reacted. They did that another time or two, working over the audience, before saying their next song was “Crazy”.
That song title is also a fairly fitting description of the track, which is crazy good. As it neared the end, Matt jumped up on the drum riser, standing behind Scott - whose drum kit was sit up with the side facing the crowd – as they rocked out on the final moments of it.
“This. Is. The. Judge.” Scott said, striking one of the cymbals with each word, as they went right into the beast of a song. They then switched gears a bit, doing one of their songs that’s slightly more melodic, “Let You Go”. The heavier core metal sound of their music is still there in the drums, guitar and bass, just toned down some, which in turn highlights Tinas’ voice even more.
“…Who all’s drinking?” Tina asked when that song had come to an end. Oddly enough, not much noise was made, and only a few hands with drinks in them went up in the air. “Y’all need to drink more. This is what we do in Dallas, go to shows and get drunk.” she said.
While that was going on, one fan started to scream a request, and he only got more vocal about it when Scott announced it was a song they hadn’t done in a little while. They tried to play it off that it wasn’t “Mirrors of Malice”, but in the end, the guy called it. Duston added several more of his deathly screams on that one, before taking a backseat on their next song.
As they neared the first chorus of “Run to Me”, Jacob Pierce from As Above / So Below ran up on stage, taking over the microphone on stage right as he sang along with Tina, “…Don’t be afraid to walk away. Run to me!” He lent his vocal abilities to the song here and there, though it was primarily there on the chorus. Still, even when he wasn’t singing he was rocking out along to the music and pumping up the crowd, asking them to give it up for Deaf Angel.
“Who likes riding bikes? Who likes flying kites?” Scott asked jokingly before what wound up being their final song. Everything they had done was from the “Brutally / Beautiful” album, though their final song was the newest one they’ve written and recorded, “Through the Glass”.
Even though it’s new, it’s Deaf Angel at their best. The drums set up a great pace for the song, and Matt and Duston kept up with it, running about the stage. Well, Duston was when he could break away from the mic. It’s pulsating and hard hitting, and it made for a powerful finish to their 38-minute long set.
I may not see them too often, but Deaf Angel is really a superb band.
From the live show to the music and everything else, it’s clear there’s a lot of talent there. It’s harnessed, but still has that raw Rock ’n’ Roll quality to it.
Like I said, I don’t see them too often, but I really need to change that.
Check out their REVERBNATION page where you can download the entire “Brutally / Beautiful” album for FREE. As for shows, they’ll be back here at the Curtain Club on April 19th. On March 10th they have a hometown gig at Tomcats West in Fort Worth. Then, on March 19th they’ll be back in Dallas at The Boiler Room. Catch ‘em if you can.
To reiterate what Another Lost Year said; this really was a fantastic bill. Kudos to Ultimate Local Music for orchestrating such a great lineup of local talent, as well as bringing a killer touring band through town.
Of course, Valentine’s Day is supposed to be spent with the ones you love, and for me that meant spending it with live music at the venue I love more than any other, The Curtain Club.