Friday, June 6th, 2014 – Secret of Boris Takes Trees

More often than not, when Trees hosts an all-local bill, it’s screaming my name. This night was no exception.

A couple great rock bands that I hadn’t seen in awhile were playing, along with some I had never seen before.

It was a five band night, and Silhouette, a hard rock/metal band from Fort Worth, got the night going sometime around nine-o’clock. I ended up not seeing their show, though, as I was out on the patio chatting with some people (maybe I’m not as much of an introvert as I consider myself to be?).

I hated not seeing at least a portion of their set, but maybe next time. They did recently release a lyric video for one of their brand new songs (from a forthcoming album), which you can watch HERE.

I did make it inside for the next act, though, as Awake in Theory was one band I could not miss.

Guitarists Terry Kimmel and Brad McCain, drummer Raymond Chambers and bassist John Skenesky ripped right in to their brief 26-minute long set with “Playing the Victim”, which caused a decent amount of people to gather in front of the stage. Eric Hawkens mic stand let him down this night, and early on during the song he went to move it back towards the drum riser, and as he did so, it fell apart slightly, with the mic falling to the floor. He and Terry shared a nervous grin over the mistake, which they quickly recouped from, and the song was still one of the strongest of their set (which is precisely what makes it work so well as an opener).

Already fed up with his mic stand, Eric grabbed it and walked over to the side of the stage, smashing it against the ground as the remaining pieces splintered into the air. “This song’s called Dangerous.” Eric told the crowd before jumping onto the drum riser. His band mates made a near seamless transition into it. Eric formally introduced Brad to everyone as he began his slick guitar solo; while the monstrous kit Raymond manned supplied a stout backbone to the track.

Another fluid segue led them to their next track, as Eric set it up by saying it went out to anyone who had ever had to do what he did within the last few years: take someone you love to rehab. “…And you say ‘No fucking more!’” he stated. “Let Go” sounded even better than usual, and while simple, the count in Eric gave in advance of the track taking a heavy turn made it sound all the better. “If you see someone down, you pick them up.” was the advice he gave towards the end of it. Afterwards, he took a poll, a poll some people seemed hesitant to answer. “Who here’s lost someone?” he asked. What could normally be a rather routine question no doubt hit a little closer to home to those truly immersed in the Deep Ellum community, given that just the day before a couple members of that community (including Brian Alguire) had left the world. It took a couple seconds, but a few people raised their hands, before Eric went on to say that was what the next one, “Mondays Dawn”, was about.

He apologized afterwards, noting the first rule in the lead singer’s handbook was to not make people feel sad. “…Pretend it was about clowns and shit.” he joked, before going on to say they seldom do dedications, but they were going to dedicate their next song to someone. His attention then turned towards me. “Jordan’s like, ‘He’s just saying that, they always do dedications.’” He proceeded to give this little blog the best on-stage shout-out it has ever received. It was what he said last that had me rolling, though. “Ladies, I’m just saying, look at those biceps. He’s ripped like Jesus.” (All the more motivation to work out: actually being able to fit that compliment.) One of my favorite songs of theirs, “Innocence”, followed that humbling moment, and it sounded in rare form this night, even for it.

They decided to call it after that, skipping ahead to their final song, “Daddy’s Little Girl”. But first, Eric disappeared behind some of the amps, emerging without his shirt. “I lost a bet.” he stated, before conversing with his wife, who was in the upstairs portion, letting her snap some pictures real quick. “I’ll stay this time, because you complained I moved around too much last time.” he said and laughed, taking a timeout for a few moments so at least one picture would turnout well. Raymond (again) showed off the full extent of his chops at the start of that number, before it eventually ended with Terry and Brad standing next to one another on stage left, shredding on their axes, before reaching over and adjusting the tuners on the others guitar. “Thank you.” Eric said very humbly at the tail end of the track, which further proves what a class act they are.

In some ways, this was one of the best shows I’ve seen Awake in Theory do. The reason falls squarely on the shoulders of the transitions they utilized so well for much of their set, which gave it all an excellent flow. That’s one attribute they’ll hopefully make into a standard.

Speaking of shows, they do have a headlining gig at Hailey’s in Denton on June 21st, which I imagine will be well worth going to.

Eaglesnake was up next, and they commanded a larger crowd than any act this night (it was probably upwards of one hundred people, give or take). They hit the stage with an explosive force, captivating nearly everyone’s attention with their music that blended elements of rock, metal, electronic (partly from the keys Drin played), and even rap — at times in the vocals of frontman Jay Heaven, and always due to DJ Lil E, who, among other things, was scratching some records.

I believe they opened with “Turn and Walk Away”, and along with his stellar playing, bassist Pierce VR was often seen viciously slapping the body of his bass. They rolled on with another song, after which they took a break. “How the fuck y’all doing, Trees?” Jay asked, being met with a roaring response. “Can I catch my breath real quick?” he then asked. The nonstop moving around he had been doing had drained him a bit, though it hadn’t taking a toll on him.

He didn’t need much downtime before they unleashed another song on the spectators ears, a song that got some audience participation going in the form of a clap along. Next came “High”, which was equal parts eerie (with the low-key music bed on the verses) and hardcore, with Jay letting loose some violent screams. Sauce bled the end of that track right into a drum solo, with DJ Lil E soon joining him as they jammed for a moment.

“Do you mind if I play the keytar?” Jay asked everyone before reaching for the instrument. He then made an impassioned speech about music in general. “I love motherfucking music… I love motherfucking Deep Ellum…” he shouted, adding, “They’re never gonna stop us!” Guitarist Kid showed off his skills during the next track, placing the axe on top of his head while picking at it, and Sauce twirled one of the drum sticks between his fingers. “Can y’all hear this keytar?” Jay asked the audience after another song, as his band mates were evidently having some trouble with it. He proceeded to knock out a keytar solo, something very few people can pull of these days, though he managed to.

They did one song, before asking how much time they had left, only to find out they had gone past it. Jay and the rest of the band weren’t ready to end it, though, saying they were going to do one more song, because it was their favorite. Their photographer insisted that wasn’t the best idea, though, and despite the fans resounding request for one more, they weren’t allowed it. Their show took on another element then, and while the curtain was being closed, Pierce VR returned to center stage, a wick of sorts placed on the headstock of his bass, and it (the wick) was on fire. Apparently, he is also fire breather, and it was an unforgettable way to end their 30-minutes on stage.

The energy they had was incredible, and the fans were able to feed off that, and in turn, the band got a boost from that. I’d even say there’s a certain degree of originality to their music, which combined with that performance, makes for a show that will draw in new ears with relative ease, and keep everyone coming back for more.

They have a few songs on their REVERBNATION page, which can be purchased there. As for shows, they have one at The Boiler Room in Dallas on June 21st, and then one at Curtain Club in Dallas on July 11th.

Next was No Weapon Formed, whose set began with guitarists Josh Presley and Nolan Bradvica, bassist Soleh and drummer Dylan Burt tearing into their first number. Soon, frontman Brandon Thomas descended the stairs from the greenroom, and while simple, that served to give more of a professional feel to things. They cranked out several songs during their 37-minutes on stage, and right in that first track Josh played a stellar guitar solo, his first of many this night. The harder rock sounds kept flowing, and after that one, Josh went to adjust his axe, before the strap came undone and it fell towards the floor. His band mates chuckled at that slightly, before moving on to their next one, which was just one of the tunes were Dylan demonstrated what an exceptional drummer he is, doing great work behind the kit.

“We’re thinking of changing our name to Murphy’s Law.” Brandon joked afterwards. The next song was one that really stuck out to me, and the notes Bradvica was playing oozed a very raw rock sound with sex laced all throughout it. Basically, just what a real rock song should be. “Fucking Dylan Burt on drums!” Brandon announced to the crowd before their next one (he had introduced most of his other “friends” prior to this). Josh had another wicked solo on the next one, before they pulled out one that was a really heavy hitter, and as it neared the end, Brandon left the stage to the instrumentalists for the rocking outro they gave it.

They may not have had as many fans as the last act did, but those who were there for them were clearly avid supporters, and more than a few were sporting No Weapon Formed shirts. They screamed at the start of “Enough”, a song that has quickly gained traction among fans (and even a local radio station). That could have been it, but after finding out they had time enough for one more, they used it; and Dylan slayed on it, appearing to use everything he had left in him to impress.

Considering the band’s still fairly new (they’ve only had this lineup since late last year), you wouldn’t have guessed it watching them on stage. They’ve found their grove rather quickly; and as great as the music was, it was Brandons’ voice that stuck out most to me. The way he wailed was reminiscent of that of the 70’s to 80’s era hard rock/metal singers, and it sounded phenomenal.

They only have a couple of songs recorded at the moment, and listening to those was more than enough to make me a fan. However, seeing a show was, of course, far better. I’ll have to do more of that.

They have a gig at Hailey’s in Denton on July 12th and then one at The Rail Club in Fort Worth on July 18th. You can also catch them at RBC in Dallas where they’ll be opening for Saving Able on August 10th.

Secret of Boris had the late slot, taking the stage around 12:45, as bassist Ryan Ragus stuck his hand out from behind the curtain, giving a thumbs up. The stage was so thick with smoke you could barely make any of the band members out, at least not until enough had drifted out towards the crowd. Ragus, along with guitarist Ryan Byrd and drummer Ryan Scherschell started things off with an instrumental intro, before frontman Cameron Taylor raced on stage, microphone in hand. Soon came the tranquil sounds that start off one of the bands heaviest tracks, “What Have You Done?”, with Ragus adding the low, booming “Hey!” throughout the choruses. Cameron beat his chest as the first chorus ended, before he continued to interact with the fans who had stuck around, pointing at them while singing, “…And they say you, ‘What have you done?’”

“Thanks for staying out late, goddammit!” he said, chatting with everyone for a moment before they moved on to “What You Became”, continuing to get the crowd engaged as he had everyone raise their arms in the air and move them to and fro during the lull. “It’s true, we like you better when you fail…”, some of fans sang along with him. He again thanked everyone for staying out late and continuing to stand, but after pointing out one guy who was there on crutches, Cameron stated no one else could have much to complain about. The bass was especially heavy at the start of “From Now On”, a song that Scherschell absolutely killed it on, fully displaying his prowess as a drummer. “Keep doing it!” a member of the crowd shouted afterwards. Cameron looked at him, “You keep doing what you’re doing, I’ll keep doing what I’m doing.” he said, making it sound like a promise.

The newest song they did was the single they put out going on two years ago, “How Do You Feel?”. It’s downright infectious with its dance style vibes, which did indeed have Cameron busting out some moves on each chorus. “Let me share a little secret…” Cameron started once that song was over. No, it wasn’t the secret behind their name. He mentioned that while we, the audience, were watching them, they were watching us. “…I see people on their phones…” he said, listing off a few different things he had witnessed, such as friends talking amongst themselves, etc. “…You should all be proud to be in this room.” he then told everyone. “’Cause we’re about to push it!” Few bands, let alone rock bands, can pull off Salt-n-Pepa’s hit song, but SOB is one of them. Byrd owned it on his axe, and there came a point where Cameron left the stage to join the crowd, mingling and just standing with fans while he sang. Perhaps the best part of it came during the break they took, Scherschell rising from his stool, before they tore right back into the track, showing just what a tight outfit they are.

They surprised everyone by pulling “Virus” out mid-show (it’s often the closer), and, as is the norm, it became a clap and sing-along. There weren’t too many people there, but the shouts of “Where do we go from here?” were quite powerful. They continued focusing on their opus, “Your Ghost”, the track for “Falldown” beginning, before Scherschell laid into one of his cymbals. “People ask me all the time, ‘Is it hard to quit drinking?’” Cameron said once that one was finished. “No, I do it every night.” he said, making a joke that either went over everyone’s head or they just didn’t care for it, because it received next to no laughs.

He went on to say there was a birthday being celebrated this night, and when he asked where the person was, he got someone different than who he was talking about. “What’s your name?” he asked the woman, who answered, “Gaye.” The conversation that ensued made for a funny moment, which was followed by one song I had already given up hope of hearing this night: “Desert Blood”. The intense song that deals with the violence in border towns like Juarez sounded even better this night that usual, and the coordination each of them showed on the bridge — being in perfect synch with one another — was exceptional.

Not wanting to keep people out any later, they ended with “Retro”; they didn’t get too far in to it, though. “…I’m telling you now, kill the track!” Cameron said, his band mates looking at him with a slight look of shock, curious as to what he had planned. Throughout the night, he had made comments about everyone getting closer to the stage, though few had. So, now he went out in the crowd himself, telling people they could close out their tabs after, or get another drink or whatever they wanted to do, but for now, they needed to pay attention. He physically rounded up everyone, directing them to the stage, leaving no stragglers behind. Scherschell, Byrd and Ragus eventually began jamming to fill the silence, until their singer eventually returned to the stage and they took “Retro” from the top. It was even better the second time around, and there came a point where Ragus jumped atop his amp and rocked out for a few moments.

That was the end of a sensational 43-minute long set, and one of the best shows I’ve seen Secret of Boris do in a little while (which is saying something).

Granted, I hadn’t seen them since last October, but each time I’ve seen them in the last year or so, they’ve made leaps and bounds in further improving by the next time I’d catch them. They’re one of Dallas’ best and more unique sounding bands, and if you haven’t seen or heard of them yet, you’re missing out.

They, too, will be playing RBC in Dallas on August 10th, and be sure to check out their album on iTUNES.

This may have been a later night at Trees, but no one cared. The bands were more than worth it.

Friday, February 14th, 2014 – Another Lost Year

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.

Friday, July 26th, 2013 – Local Rock Invades Trees

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.

Saturday, February 9th, 2013 – “…Rock ‘n’ Roll Gets the Demons Out…”

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.