Trees, one of the most iconic venues in Dallas, was hosting one of their all local showcases this night, and while the show had been thrown together rather last minute, it was a stellar bill that had been put together, with bands from Dallas, Denton and Fort Worth representing.
Up first was a fairly newer Dallas act by the name of Jet Set Rifle Club, and with a name like that, you’re intrigued from the get-go, even if you don’t know what to expect.
They are self described as hard rock and post-hardcore, and while they had elements of both of those genres, they didn’t fully fall into either. During their set (which was a little less than 30-minutes), they traversed through those genres and others. Frankly, I wasn’t too keen on them at first, mainly because vocalist Jeff Nemecs’ voice sounded pretty gruff, though the further they got in their set, the better it sounded and the more I warmed up to it. There were other parts I didn’t like, such as when he more screamed on a few of their later songs, but that’s more a personal preference of mine.
As performers go he was pretty good, keeping their small gathering of fans entertained, while guitarist Chris Koliba, bassist Daniel Villalobos and drummer Barron Gomez laid down some great music and were also entertaining to watch.
Overall, I’d say I dug it, though still felt a little mixed about it (mainly in regards to the heavier numbers), which is why I’m interested to hear their EP Jeff mentioned they were working on. That way I (and everyone else) can get a better taste of who Jet Set Rifle Club is and what they are striving for.
Awake in Theory was up next, and I was looking incredibly forward to seeing them, simply because it had been just a little over four months since the last gig of theirs I caught.
Once the curtain had opened enough, then they were off, storming out of the gates like they were on a mission as they ripped into the first song of their 34-minute long set, “Playing the Victim”. This was only the second time I’ve seen them where they’ve gotten things started with that one, and I liked it even more this time around. It’s a forceful beast, showing off the heavier side these guys are capable of. “…This next song’s for anyone who has done what I’ve done.” said front man Eric Hawkens, setting up their next track. “And that’s take someone to rehab.” he finished. That song is called “Let Go”, and it does carry a deeper message with it, and doubles as a fierce rock song with a strong backbone, thanks to drummer Raymond Chambers, who was destroying back on his kit.
The following song got a setup, too, and Eric said it went out to “…any girl that’s been in this room.” He then repeated it, seeming to wonder aloud if he used that in the right context. “Fuck it. It goes out to any girl that is in this room…” he clarified, saying that at some point every guy in there had, had their heart broken by a girl like the ones in the audience. “This song’s called Dangerous.” he stated after putting that different outlook on the song. Rhythm guitarist Brad McCain got a few moments in the spotlight during that one, doing a sweet solo. Speaking of the guitars, they got bumped up a few notches after that song, at the request of the fans and the band. When speaking to the sound guy, Lee, Eric said something to the effect of, “Make the guitars ballsier.” And ballsier they were made.
Before anyone got to hear the amped up guitars, though, Eric made what was definitely the most heartfelt speech of the night, talking about his brother, who is in the service. The song was essentially dedicated to him, and after praising his brother (and deservingly so), Eric noted that his brother hated when he did this, making a big deal out him. For those who know the band, the song was of course “Hero You Hate”, and things even got somewhat political (depending on who you are), when he brought up the Westboro Baptist Church whilst talking about the sacrifices anyone in any branch of the service makes. “…That may be you’re right to free speech… But that’s not how you treat the people who are giving everything to protect you…” he said (or something like that), referring how they will picket soldiers funerals and such. It’s another heavy-hitter, and this night I found myself liking the song more than I ever have.
Still, my favorite of theirs is “Barely Breathing”, and right from the mesmerizing, even somewhat dreamy notes Terry Kimmel plays at the start, it’ll have you hooked. That led them to their final two songs of the night, and first up was their new single they had only recently laid down in the studio, “Innocence”. There’s reason to why it’ll be their next single, in the midst of that marvelous song, during a break from the lyrics, Eric talked essentially about how everyone needs to stand up for what’s right. For example, if you see someone in trouble, help them out. I’m sure this is something else I’m paraphrasing, but he finished with, “…If you take care of others, they’ll take care of you.” As the song came to an end, Terry, Brad and bassist John Skenesky formed a staggered line, with one standing right at the forefront of the stage, another a little behind him, and the other was up on the drum riser, which aesthetically speaking was a cool way to wind it down. Then to close out their set, came their current single, “Daddy’s Little Girl”.
Awake in Theory has never been so tight and impressive, at least not that I’ve seen. Terry and Brad were killing it throughout their show. Raymond did a bang-up job on the drums (pun intended) and is a monster when it comes to drumming, while Eric was the model front man. He covered every inch of the stage (often standing on their boxes, towering over the fans) and was energetic throughout, while singing in his strong, distinctive voice.
As for John, this was the first time I’d seen them since he picked up bass duties, and he slayed. For the most part he seemed to stick on far stage right, which was the opposite side I stood on, so I couldn’t see him the best, though my eyes were constantly being drawn to him, simply to see what he was doing. He’s a perfect fit for the group, elevating their live show to a whole new level. He thrashed about often, keeping up with the pace of the music, and more than proved himself as a worthy addition to the group.
For now I know they’ll be playing Wit’s End in Dallas on September 7th, though it’s possible they might have another show or two in between now and then, so keep tabs on their website. In the meantime, check out their first single, and hopefully before long they’ll have a couple more tracks for their fans to listen to.
Sure, it was still early, but those guys were now the band to beat, and trying their hand at that was the main support band, Waking Alice.
They, too, started off insanely strong, with singer Rus Chaney jumping from the drum riser and rushing towards the front of the stage as they started their opening song, which is also one of the most killer songs currently in their set. Overall the attendance was pretty weak this night, but Waking Alice certainly had the most fans, which worked towards their advantage, simply knowing so many people were there enjoying the show, and they kept the momentum going with “Treason”. Drummer Jon Levey and guitarist Brandon Brewer wound them perfectly into that awesome number. Rus even added a more primal sound to the song, more screaming the final line of the chorus, “…Lying is all you ever do.”, each and every time, instead of just on the final chorus. While subtle, it added a nice effect to the song, kicking it up a notch or two, making it better than it already is.
They followed it with another tune from the “Retribution” EP, “Scars”, before doing a cover they had first attempted at their last gig. I don’t recall exactly how he worked it in, but Rus said something, then added, “…I’m not an addict. You see what I did there?” he then asked everybody, and those who got it were ecstatic. Brandon then wanted to clarify what the song was about. “…The concept of song is to make sure if you have drugs, you share them with others…” He was referring to the K’s Choice song “Not an Addict”, which they promptly started. It may have had a few slight hiccups (or rather, coughs), none of which I took much notice of, and they didn’t really have a negative impact on the song. Still, they joked about afterwards, and Rus said he just couldn’t stop coughing, which was what made him miss almost an entire verse. “…This guy had heart surgery not even a month ago.” said Brandon, in an attempt of sorts to relieve some of the blame from Rus (assuming there was any in the first place, which I doubt there was), and Rus noted it had been right at a month.
They chatted about that for a minute, then tackled one of their classics, “Biggest Lie”. That song’s known for the crazy guitar solo Brandon embarks on, showing off the astounding chops he has, his hands mostly a blur as he shreds on his axe. Rus, Jon and bassist Brayton Light mostly took a backseat during that, and after finishing out the song, Rus mentioned how I always say the solo is different (it was this night, too.) “…It is. We don’t even know how it’s going to go until he does…” Rus said, before throwing out some merch to everybody, from shirts, to trucker hats and even some wristbands. It was also at this point, while talking about the attire, that Brandon said he had thought about wearing a snuggy for this show, but opted against it. I think I speak for everyone of their fans when I say, “I would love to see that one day.”
Their love song “Fates Design” came next, and afterwards Rus worked to get a picture of the fans, though it never quite turned out, and eventually Jon went ahead and launched them into “Chasing Memories”, which sped things back up, and then they ended their 42-minute long set with their newest song, the raw, “That One”. “…You can tell we’re good at song titles.” joked Rus before they tore into it.
I thought this was one of the best Waking Alice shows I’ve seen, and considering they originally didn’t plan on playing again for a few months and didn’t have much time to rehearse for this show, they were in perfect form. Brayton and Jon formed an exceptional rhythm section this night, with Brayton often wielding his bass as if it were a weapon, while Jon supplied his beats in his style that is both careful and precise as well as wild and forceful.
They’ll be back in Dallas at Wit’s End on September 25th, opening for a national touring act, no less. Also, for those who haven’t, check out their music in iTUNES.
The honor of headlining spot went Idler this night, and the Denton quintet kicked off their 34-minute long set with “Vendetta”, a song that nicely blends the voices of brother and sister Micah (who is also the rhythm guitarist) and Katie Frank, with her doing more backup vocals. That mighty song seemed to get everyone’s attention, both old and new fans alike, and they continued on with “Go for Broke”, which boasts a cohesive patchwork of beats from the bands newest addition, Ritchie Rangel, who is a really good drummer with a good bit of flare.
They switched gears a bit with “Lose Control”, where Katie picked up the duties of lead singer, though Micah was still doing his fair share of singing, and afterwards the really slowed things down. Everyone sans lead guitarist Mykey O’Neil, Micah and Katie left the stage for a more stripped down version of the song “Let Me In”. It showed off the more delicate side Micah is capable of, while highlighting Katies’ beautiful tone. That more serene moment was just that, though, a moment, and once they finished it bassist Nick Laracuente and the rest of the band returned for the lead track from their debut EP, the ever aggressive “Pitchfork”. Mykey even walked off the stage and got out in the crowd for a portion of this one, taking advantage of his wireless guitar and tearing it up around some of the fans who were still there.
They unleashed a couple newer songs of theirs after that, the first of the two being one I’m quite partial to, while the second one, “Underneath Me”, was every bit as good in a different way, and it was also another track that featured Katie singing lead. As it came to an end, Ritchie accidentally knocked one of his cymbals down, and while one of his band mates set it back up for him, Micah informed the crowd they might know the next song, which was also their last. “…It’s called Highway To The Danger Zone”. They do one badass cover of that Kenny Loggins classic, and it was a fun one to end the show with.
As far as their show went, sound-wise, they were just as good as the other two experiences I’ve had at their shows. The duel vocals gives them a lot of appeal, simply because it’s so different from most other acts, and while it’s rock music, it has a certain degree of freshness to it, too. But in terms of the performance, they missed the mark a little bit, and they were off their game compared to the other shows of theirs I had seen.
Everybody has off nights from time to time, it happens, though some aspects seemed to be lacking, like a collective cohesiveness.
Still, they’re one awesome band, and you should check out their EP in iTUNES, and can also snag a FREE download of “Highway to the Danger Zone” on their REVERBNATION PAGE. As for shows, they’re keeping fairly busy this summer, with a show in Fort Worth at Tomcats West on August 2nd, then a Dallas gig at O’Riley’s on August 3rd. They’ll be back in Dallas at the Hard Rock Café on August 9th, and then a hometown gig in Denton at Hailey’s on the 10th. Then, on September 1st, they’ll rock The Door in Dallas.
This was an awesome night at Trees, though it would have been nice to see more people out supporting. You could tell the people here were the most loyal fans of each act, probably partly because the show was announced rather last minute and others couldn’t make it. Still, this is Trees, and for a band to have their full legion of fans out at a show like this could lead to them opening for national acts here in the future. Just a word to the wise, next time a local group you like plays here (this can go for other venues, too, though Trees routinely brings big name groups through Dallas), be at the show at all possible. It could lead to big opportunities for your friends in the band.
Trees, one of the most iconic venues in Dallas, was hosting one of their all local showcases this night, and while the show had been thrown together rather last minute, it was a stellar bill that had been put together, with bands from Dallas, Denton and Fort Worth representing.
If you read my previous blog entry, then you might recall I said that, that show was a bit eclectic. While it was, it has nothing on the show that went down at Tomcats West this night.
Yeah, I made a VERY rare trip over to Fort Worth. Nothing against the city, but living north of Dallas means that logistically it’s just not convenient to get to. An exception was made for this show, though, which featured two of my favorite area acts.
The first act of the night was an acoustic duo by the name, Myrick. I believe that was the last name of the singer of the group, who played an acoustic guitar and was accompanied by another acoustic guitarist (or maybe it was a bassist. Honestly, I didn’t pay much attention.)
With incredible subpar vocals, I quickly lost interest. Their set at least seemed to go by quickly, but by far the worst part of it was the end when he did a parody of Green Day’s “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)”. Obviously, it was set to the same tune, though he called his parody, “Don’t Cum In My Eye”. Evidently I’m still juvenile enough to find a bit of humor in that (and by “bit”, I mean a VERY minuscule amount), but no amount of humor could save it. It only lasted about a minute, before he abruptly stopped and said, “That’s it…”, then walked off stage. Oh, wait, I think I get why he only needed a minute to do the song now…
Meridian was the first actual band of the night, though they, or specifically vocalist, Tim Ziegler, looked a little different. He was without his long hair and beard, and was almost unrecognizable at first glance, looking more like he did when I first met him nearly seven years ago, when he fronted the band Darby.
“Re-digress” kicked off their 38-minute long set. Somehow, I didn’t notice right away when it happened, and then all of sudden I realized guitarists, Mark Sims and Shannon Nedved, drummer, Joe Maurer, and Tim were the only guys on stage. They handled it well, and didn’t act like they were down a band mate, finishing the song strong, and then Tim asked what was up with Chris Gentry. Apparently, he had broken the main string on his bass, which was what left him incapacitated for most of that song, and even a few minutes after. That meant Tim had to make some small talk, and he first mentioned they had played here a several months before and that they’d like to get back a little more often. That was about all the topics he had prepared. “…Chris, hurry up. This is getting uncomfortable for me…” he said, succeeding at being funny and sounding nervous. Chris finally rejoined them, having borrowed a bass from one of the other bands. They were then able to move on, and began one of their most rocking numbers, “All Hands”. They followed it with one of their newest songs, and afterwards took a momentary pause where Tim killed some time. “Listen, I don’t want anyone here tagging me in any shit…” he said. He proceeded to say that he was technically at work, and had taking time off to perform this show, meaning he couldn’t be drinking, and he didn’t want any photos to make it look otherwise. So, once that was cleared up, they tore into “Nights Like This”, which was pretty flawless, except toward the end, when Chris again had to leave with some bass issues. “…We lost our bassist again…” Tim said when the song was over. Mark said something, to which Tim responded, “Oh yeah, we don’t need him for the first part of this next song.” The current four piece then started “Starts and Ends”. “You told them all just what they can do. You got the shortest part of the straw you drew… I draw the curtain back and you take a bow. Did I catch you off guard or get it right somehow?…” sang Tim on the first verse. This was the first time I’ve seen them since getting their new EP, meaning this was the first time I really knew that song since they rewrote it over a year ago. I had missed singing along to that one more than I had realized, and it still stands out as my favorite Meridian song. Chris once again got back on stage pretty early on in that one, and stuck around for another newer song, “Lazy Eye”, which has a more dominant rhythm section. Tim couldn’t go without poking fun of the situation, and told Chris he might be getting a pink slip the next day, then said they might be in the market for a new bass player. Chris didn’t have a verbal retort to that, though he did act like he was about knee Tim right in the crotch. “Train” brought things down a few notches and perfectly showcases the bands softer side, as it is a beauty of a tune, but is still something you can easily rock out to. Tim announced they had one last song, a Mark played the first notes of “Hey Lover”, before Joe busted in on the drums, really getting it underway.
It was far from a perfect show, but Chris deserves some major props for doing the best he could in an unlikely situation. When he was on stage, he gave it his all as usual. It was just an unfortunate circumstance, and really, how many times have you seen a bass player break a string? I’ve seen nearly five hundred concerts over the years, and I can only recall one band who suffered from a broken bass string while performing.
Plus, Shannon and Mark put on a thoroughly entertaining show by themselves, so they were able to draw attention away from everything, and Tim is still one of the best singers and performers I’ve had the pleasure of seeing. Point is, in the end it worked out alright.
Give their debut, self-titled EP a listen, and if you like it, then buy it in ITUNES. And while they don’t have anything scheduled right now, keep an eye on their REVERBNATION PAGE, because they’ll most likely be doing a show sometime within the next couple of months.
A band by the name of Silhouette was next up, and they brought the people, which I took as a positive sign. I mean, if a band can pull fifty plus people, they have to be good, right? The answer is yes… But not to everybody.
I don’t know what the whole deal was, but this was billed as their “comeback show”, and from hearing them talk, it seemed like the band had been almost completely reformed since they last played. I don’t know what they were like before, but now, they were a very hardcore metal act. My interest was lost immediately, especially because their first song was lyrically rapped, in the vein of Linkin Park. If that’s what works for them, okay, but I felt it seemed like they were stuck in a time warp. I mean, that’s been done, many times over at that. Luckily, all their music didn’t sound like that, but with all the screaming, I couldn’t even pretend to like them.
Their set dragged on, and I was relieved when they finally finished.
I mentioned this was an odd billing of bands, and here is where it got really interesting. There are a couple of genres that could pull off playing after a hardcore metal band, like a hardrock outfit, or maybe even a rock group, but Paco Estrada and his band are neither of those. In fact, they’re the polar opposite.
Paco’s backing band looked mostly the same as the last time I had seen him, with Scotty Isaacs manning the keyboard/piano, and there was still a drummer, Irish, whose drum kit was fairly small, consisting mainly of a few toms and a snare. But then you had Joel Bailey, who has been added as the bassist. Along with Pacos’ acoustic guitar, it makes for some lovely music, but a type that quickly pushed all the metal heads out the door.
A lot of Paco’s newer stuff is making it into his sets these days, like the opener, “American Girls”. Over the last decade or so, Paco has written some real gems in all the various bands he’s played with, but that one is by far one of the best. There’s a certain amount of nostalgia the song conveys, while it bears more of a folk sound. I believe they followed it with another new song, though Paco has been known to play some covers too, so it could go either way. Next, I know for sure they did a cover song, doing a more minimalist rendition of The Cars, “Who’s Gonna Drive You Home Tonight?”. They do a mean cover of it, and put a pretty unique spin on a classic song. They ran through a couple more, with the first of those two really sticking out to me. I don’t think it was a cover, though it sounded like it could pass as one. I mean that as a compliment, because if it wasn’t, then it sounded authentic enough that it could have been written by one of the greats. As usual, some of Paco’s fan favorites had been saved for last, and he began to pluck away at the strings on his guitar, leading into “Breaking Down”. “You grab your shovel and your digging axe, ‘cause you have to be the first in line to bury the past. You put a smile on and try to believe it, but I know how much it hurts you to leave it…” he crooned. This is also one he’s known for adding portions of cover songs to, one of the best of which I’ve always thought was a Peter Gabriel song he used to tack on, but tonight, I think I found a new favorite. After one of the later choruses from his original, Paco belted out the chorus of U2’s “One”, “…You say, one love, one life when it’s one need in the night. One love, we get to share it, leaves you baby if you don’t care for it…” There’s always a deep passion in Pacos’ voice when he sings, but it seemed magnified on this song. It bleed out onto his voice, especially on the line, “…You say love is a temple, love a higher law. Love is a temple, love the higher law. You ask me to enter, but then you make me crawl. And I can’t be holding’ on to what you got, when all you got is hurt…” as well as the chorus that followed. I was awestruck. That was one of the most amazing cover songs I have ever heard, and I know this may sound like sacrilege, but while I have never seen U2 live, I can’t imagine Bono could make his own song connect with and touch the audience the way Paco did this night. It didn’t seem like they had been up there anytime, but already they had arrived at the final song of their 38-minute long set, “Haunting Me”, which featured pieces of another cover song, “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” by Whitney Houston.
Paco’s music has gone through a lot of changes over the years, from playing with rock bands, to spending some time as a solo artist, but hopefully this latest band of his will stick around for a little while. Together they make what is probably the most unique sounding band Paco has had since One Love, and it’s different than most any other type of music out there. It’s gorgeous, and will most likely take your breath away.
Paco has a ton of records from his past, most of which can be bought via BANDCAMP. As for shows, I know he has one coming up on Saturday, March 2nd, where he will play at his old Dallas stomping grounds, The Curtain Club.
After a strange musical combination like that, going from a metal band to a very chill mostly acoustic act, it only made sense to wrap up the night with one final rock band, which was Awake in Theory.
Terry Kimmel began the band show with some hypnotic chords on his guitar, while he walked around the stage. After a minute, Eric Hawkens, who was out of sight, started singing, and eventually made his way on stage from stage left. Soon after was when their first song, “Barely Breathing”, really took off, as drummer, Raymond Chambers, bassist Adam Garcia, and the rhythm guitarist, Brad McCain, joined in. The song is fantastic and one of my favorites of theirs. It also works as a great opener, easing you into it with its slower start, and before you know it, they’ve hooked you. They proceeded to reel everyone in with songs like “Let Go” and “Playing the Victim”, but unfortunately, “everyone” wasn’t as many people as they deserved to have watching them. Like I said, the metal heads had left during the previous act, and now it looked like the only people who were still there were ones who were already Awake in Theory fans. Eric pointed out that, that wasn’t a problem with them, though. “…We’re just happy to play music…” he said, “…Especially when we get to play after Paco Estrada…” he added. They got back to the show with “Dangerous”, a song that saw Brad tear off into a killer guitar solo. Raymond pounded out a brief drum solo before their next song, “Innocence for the Innocent”, followed by their anthem of sorts for anyone serving in the military, “Hero You Hate”. Before starting it, Eric asked everyone to thank anyone they knew who was in the service, and then he mentioned something else. “…For anyone whose seen an Awake in Theory show recently, you know my brother was deployed.” He said. “Well, he’s home now…” You could tell he was excited and relieved by that, and for good reason. That tune is another highlight of their shows in my opinion, and once it was done, they cut loose a bit. Eric mentioned that they come from all over the area, like Frisco. “…He’s from Bowie…” he said, pointing at one of his band mates, quickly following it with something to the effect of, “I’m sorry, it’s not nice to say anyone’s from Bowie.” That got a laugh from all of their fans who had stuck around. Topic of conversation then switched to Raymond, who drives down to all of their shows from Lawton, Oklahoma, and Eric jokingly said he was the one they needed to work on and get to move here. I believe it was this next and final song that they said they would be recording soon, with work on an actually record to follow shortly after. It was “Daddy’s Little Girl”, which will serve as their lead single, and it capped off their 36-minute long set.
It was a great set, and personally, I thought they were better this night than a couple weeks before when I saw them in Dallas. They didn’t let the lack of a crowd affect them, instead putting on a show like they were playing in front of forty to fifty people, like any professional band should.
They were fun and lively, with everybody carrying their own weight. Adam really brought it this night, and owned it on the bass, while Terry and Brad also often stepped up to the forefront of the stage, taking over the spotlight and shredding on their guitars. It was just very well balanced, and also, they know how to work the audience and get everyone excited.
Their next show is going to be at Trees on Sunday, March 24th, where they will open for Adrenaline Mob and Nothing More. It will probably be at least one of the biggest shows they’ve done to date, and I’ll be willing to bet they’ll be even more intense than usually at that one.
They offered a great way to end the night, and despite me not really caring for a couple of the acts on the bill, this show was still well worth the drive to Fort Worth.