Wednesday, July 16th, 2014 – Jessie Frye Warms Up the Crowd for Kitten

Tactics Productions had a great show going on at Club Dada this night. It offered a good way to get an early jump on the weekend, without being out too late; and more than a few people had opted to get a live music fix this hump day.

The only local opener on the bill was Dentons’ own Jessie Frye and her band; and I got the feeling the fates were against me seeing their set.

A traffic back-up while leaving the suburbs and another near the Good-Latimer exit on Highway 75 added ten minutes or so onto the trip, and the construction that’s going on, on Elm Street doesn’t make it too easy to maneuver through Deep Ellum, either.

All of that put me there several minutes after the scheduled eight-o’clock start time, but luckily, as most concerts do, they weren’t adhering to a strict schedule.

The four-piece took the stage at 8:16, and after they all shared a glance with one another, guitarist Jordan Martin started them off on “Like a Light”. “…Let the magic in your heart set you apart…” Jessie crooned on the chorus; and immediately after the first one, she asked how everyone was doing, getting a good reaction from the thirty-to-forty or so people who were already there. They didn’t have much room on stage, because the second bands’ gear was all setup behind them, though it was still ample space to allow Jessie to jump around, something she did more and more of the deeper they got into the track.

Chad Fords’ final drum beats resonated in the room, while the bass died down and Andrew O’Hearn stood there for a moment as Jordan made a seamless segue into another song from the “Fireworks Child” EP: “Fortune Teller”. It’s slightly steamier than that opener, and that was reflected in the way Jessie conducted herself on stage, and also in the way she somewhat shouted the word “twist” on the line, “…Wish I might find a lover to twist and turn to the heat of summer…”.

“Thank you so much for being here!” Jessie exclaimed afterwards, saying what an honor it was to be sharing the stage with Kitten — whom she happens to be a fan of. They had some slight technical difficulties now, revolving around the track they needed to use. It took a minute or two, but then it kicked on, and they got to some stuff from the Obsidian album. Keeping up with the sultry mood from the previous song, Jessie was often seen shaking her hips to the beat of “White Heat”. I still really like those older songs from the EP(s) she has released, but you can tell the difference from them and this newer batch of music. They just sound better in all regards, from more complex sounds (the guitar tones sound excellent on this number), to the lyrics, and even Jessies’ voice has grown exponentially over the few years in between records.

There wasn’t much down time between it and “Never Been To Paris”, and Andrew and Chad sounded fantastic on it, creating an impeccably tight rhythm section. “..We just released a video for this one…” Jesse mentioned, as Chad counted them into “Shape of a Boy”. I’d say it was their best song of the night, and the slick, roaring guitar solo Jordan knocked out caused all eyes to focus solely on him.

“Thank you.” Jessie said in hushed, slightly raspy tone once the song ended. “Prepared” was another oldie but goodie that found its way into the set, and Jessie personified the role of frontwoman even better on it than she had at any other time this night. There was a certain fierceness that came over her, and it resulted in an overpowering demeanor that was all too fun and engaging to watch.

“Dear Boy is up next.” she mentioned, shouting out the second band, adding that, that was one of the best band names she had ever heard of. With that, they ended with the uplifting “Brave The Night”. The rhythm section was again blasting on that one, and I could feel the bass shaking not just my feet, but also my chest cavity. Not a bad way to end.

I did catch their set at Edgefest in Frisco a few months back, but this was the first lengthy set I’ve seen from them in the better part of two years.

It was great hearing a few of the newer songs live (some for the first time), with a nice mix of older material. The rhythm section has also changed since I last saw them (excluding that April show), which has made the band even better. Like I said, both Chad and Andrew were tight, and all of them had good chemistry together.

Basically, they’re a more outstanding band then they’ve even been; and this night they had a perfect mixture of having fun but also being quite professional.

For the last few years, Jessie has been hailed as one of the best vocalists in North Texas. Probably not all of the early birds at this show knew that, but I doubt any who did catch their performance would argue that praise she’s received as a songstress.

They’ll be at the House of Blues in Dallas on August 2nd (the main room) and the 8th (the Cambridge Room, as part of Exit 380’s album release show). Catch one, or both. Be sure to check out their albums in iTUNES, too.

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014 – Dear Boy Wins Over the Crowd in Dallas

Tactics Productions had a great show going on at Club Dada this night. It offered a good way to get an early jump on the weekend, without being out too late; and more than a few people had opted to get a live music fix this hump day.

Kitten wasn’t the only Los Angeles-based band on the bill this night, and just a couple days prior to this, Dear Boy had joined them on the remainder of their tour.

“…You got a little bluer before, where’s that shit?” asked singer and rhythm guitarist Ben Grey, speaking to the sound guy, who then adjusted the lights just right. The quartet seemed to love the shade of blue that was now cast over them and the ever-growing audience, and with that, they ripped into the lead track from their debut self-titled EP: “Come Along”.

It immediately became clear they were a very pop oriented group, with some British flare thrown in; and they captured a lot of people’s attention with the intro to that song, which saw Ben aggressively strumming his axe. “Would you like me if I was young? Would you hold me if I was wrong? Would you love me if I was gone? Then come along!” he belted on final chorus.

That song established a very lively mood the band kept up for the rest of their 34-minute long set. During the subsequent track from the EP, “Green Eyes”, Nils Bue jumped on ledge that has been added around the front of the stage — giving a place for the monitors to set — and brandished his bass for all to see. Both Ben and lead guitarist Austin Hayman produced some cool tones and catchy riffs on that slightly sweeter song. Drummer Keith Cooper provided a strong backbone, as well; and if only more people had been familiar with Dear Boy, then I think the chorus of “When there’s no place else to go, I will meet you down below. And when there’s no one left to find, we won’t need this place to hide.” could have easily been a sing-along part.

Upon finishing it, Ben mentioned this was the first time they had every played Dallas. “…Thanks for letting us in your home.” he said in a sincere voice, while a smile crept across his face. He then thanked Kitten for having them on part of this tour with them. “It’s very rare that you get to play with a band you actually listen to.” he said, noting it was an great experience. He went on to say they were going to do the newest song they had, and it was with it that they really hit their stride.

There came a point where both Austin and Ben leaned against each one another’s back, fiercely shredding on their guitars; and they wound it directly into another song, which had a vibrant, fun vibe to it.

The spectators were clearly enjoying Dear Boy; and their next song was one the most well crafted they did as far as the music bed was concerned. Ben started it, and it was performed solo at first, before Austin laced in his guitar at the second verse. A minute or so later it exploded into action with the bass and drums (Nils rocked out next to the kit, creating a pulse pounding rhythm section), and during a break from singing, Ben dropped to his knees, succumbing to the music.

“…We want to meet as many of you as possible!” Ben pointed out once they finished that song, also mentioning they’d be selling their record over at their merch table afterwards. They did another song from it now, called “Oh So Quiet”, which was a little more indie from some of their other stuff. That was nice, though, ‘cause it showed diversity. The song that followed was pretty heavy; and now Nils and Ben did a little more interacting with one another, standing back to back for a few moments.

“…It’s been a pleasure…” Ben said, as their show had sadly already come to an end. They closed with what would be safe to assume is the most high-strung song in their arsenal: “Funeral Waves”. Some elements of the song were completely dance inducing, while others made it a great song to bang your head to. Regardless of your preference, everyone was captivated by it, and the band was giving it their all. They were all outstanding musicians, and their chops highlighted best on this one. Ben even orchestrated a clap along moment at one point, ensuring it was a fun one to end with.

Man, these guys were all too impressive.

You could tell they were having fun up on the stage, but you could also see their work ethic, and it was clear this wasn’t just some band to them. It was a way of life.

They had more chemistry with one another than a lot of bands do, and they music they made was really extraordinary if you ask me. It was infectious and very radio friendly, but maintained originality. The songs also have a lot of lyrical depth, which is always one quality that gets my attention.

They seemed to make a lot of new fans this night, and as I headed out the door after Kitten had finished, I ended up making a pit stop by their merch table and picked up a copy of their EP, along with having a brief conversation with Ben, who was an incredibly nice guy.

I know one thing: I can’t wait for Dear Boy to get back to Dallas. Let’s hope that happens sooner rather than later.

The have a few shows left with Kitten through the end of this month, and then will be doing a show at The Troubadour in West Hollywood on August 12th. You can find their full tour schedule HERE; and check out their EP in iTUNES while you’re at it. They will also be dropping a new single on the same day as that Troubadour show.

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014 – Kitten Shows Their Claws in Dallas

Tactics Productions had a great show going on at Club Dada this night. It offered a good way to get an early jump on the weekend, without being out too late; and more than a few people had opted to get a live music fix this hump day.

There’s no questioning that Kitten was the band nearly everyone was there to see. Fans had staked out spots in front of the stage early on this night. A handful of them even wore some headbands with cat ears on them. One guy even sported a hat with fuzzy cat ears on the sides, and the platform shoes he was wearing let him tower over everyone else in attendance.

By the time their 10:24 start time neared, there were at least a hundred people waiting anxiously for the band. In fact, they were so ecstatic some cheers even started minutes before they took the stage, prompting everyone to glance over at the door to the green room. No one had left it… Yet.

When it did come time to start, the four instrumentalists filed on stage, and vocalist Chloe Chaidez wasn’t far behind. The first portion of “Why I Wait” was almost inaudible, as she whispered just as it’s done on the recording. That changed once they hit the chorus, though, and the song packed quite a punch. Chaidez sauntered around for the first bit, before jumping onto the extended part of the stage — a ledge of sorts where the monitors sit. It was there where she spent much of her time this night, being able to better interact with the audience, and for now she was frequently banging her head and tossing her hair around.

Everyone applauded them, but the noise was drowned out by the start of “Japanese Eyes”. If Chaidez needed anytime at all to warm-up, all she required was that first song, and she was on fire now. They hit the first chorus and she turned her back to everyone, shaking her backside at the spectators, and got even more into the track when she grabbed a tambourine, using it and thrashing about as it came to an end. The quintet was quickly building up the intensity, and had already established a no holds barred, take no prisoners attitude, which was pushed to new heights with “Sensible”. The heavy electronic sounds and mighty percussion incited some dancing from nearly everyone, and at one point Chaidez leapt atop that ledge and began leading the crowd in a clap along, something they were all too eager to do.

They took their first break of the night after that. “We’re in Dallas, Texas!” Chaidez exclaimed, playing to the crowd just a bit, before mentioning she didn’t any more than ten people would have been here. She was way off on that assumption. “…Thank you.” she said quite humbly.

Both times the phrase “Just let me breathe” was repeated multiple times over on “Cut it Out”, she would bend down on more of the fans level, holding the mic out to them, allowing them to sing. When she wasn’t doing that, she was dancing wildly around the stage; and perhaps the best moment came near the end, when she again grabbed the tambourine and then raced over to the drum kit, jumping about the kick drum and leaned over the drummer.

“What a crowd you are! Damn!” she remarked afterwards, seeming truly surprised by how invested everyone was in this performance. With that, she asked if everyone was ready to dance, and right as the crowd answered, the track for “Like a Stranger” came on. If no one else was ready to, she was, and did a lot of dancing on that number. Everyone could see her pretty well on that ledge, and towards the end, she dropped the microphone and proceeded to flap and pump her arms in the air, leaving those watching in a state of awe. She was an ball of energy during that song, even more so than most of the others.

The party atmosphere continued as they wound it into the dreamy “G#”. Chaidez waved her arms from side to side at the start, and the fans picked up on the motion, and before you knew it the place had turned into a sea of arms swaying from side to side. The rhythm section sounded unbelievable on that song; and she pulled another good stunt towards the end, as she climbed atop some gear or something in the corner of the stage (my view was slightly obstructed), standing on it as she belted out, “…We’ll see you all again!”, which caused dozens of phones to go up and start snapping pictures.

The transition to a rendition of Berlins’ “Take My Breath Away” was seamless, and Kitten has just the right sound to pull that song off. Chaidez left at one point, right as the guitarist launched into a blistering solo that wowed everyone. She wasn’t gone long, though. Just long enough to let them have their moment.

“That was our new hit single. What did you think?” she joked once they finished it. They then got back to their original stuff with “I’ll Be Your Girl”, and shortly after starting it, Chaidez pulled a cat ears headband off of one fans head and put it on herself. She then made a fans night by pulling her on stage with her, something the fan almost seemed reluctant to do at first, because she was in shock it was actually happening. “I’ll be your protection, I’ll be yours for life…” the two sang, and the fan was working it hard enough she was almost giving Chaidez a run for her money. It was really hard to tell who enjoyed that more, because each of the young women were smiling from ear to ear as the song ended. Chaidez went so far as to say she thought she was her favorite girl she has ever gotten to help on that song, and even commented about how into the performance the girl had gotten.

All of a sudden, Chaidez was alone on stage, and she mentioned this next song was a sad one. She grabbed an acoustic guitar, and informed everyone this next one was titled “Apples and Cigarettes”. Stripped down like this, where there was nothing else for her voice to compete against, it was utterly astounding. Breathtaking even. She had everyone transfixed as she delivered that emotion filled song, and once it was done, she appeared to wipe some tears from her eyes, proving it was one she connects with on a very personal level.

Her band mates were back on stage now, and they were all ready for the next one. “This song you can dance to!” she said with a smile, as she resumed the active forntwoman role on “Sex Drive”, during which came another clap along moment.

Some of the best songs in the live format came from the Sunday School EP, and one of those was “Chinatown”. It provided one of the most raw moments of the entire night. They were all completely immersed in it; and there came a time when Chaidez grabbed the hand of the guy mentioned earlier who was wearing some platform shoes. He kissed her hand, and then she leaned out towards him and gave him a peck on the lips.

“This is overwhelmingly amazing for all of us!” she remarked once they finished, truly being blown away by all the love they were being shown. They began to wind down with “Cathedral”, after which she introduced her “boys”. Nick was on the guitar, Cameron behind the drums, Omar on the bass and Josh on the keys. They each got some noise made for them; and then they fired up the most wild song of the night: “Kitten with a Whip”. It whipped everyone (no pun intended) — band members and fans alike — into a frenzy, and despite Chaidez shaking her body almost constantly all night, this was the only song that seemed overtly sexual in some slight manner. They put every last ounce of energy they had into that one, and Chaidez even rolled across the stage at one point, before motioning to that guy in the platform shoes. She had him bend down so she could get on his shoulders, and it was from that perch she danced a bit (as much as she could), while everyone looked on in amazement.

After 66-minutes, and especially with an end like that, I don’t think anyone really expected an encore. I know I sure I didn’t. But that doesn’t mean no one hoped for one.

A couple minutes went by, but Chloe Chaidez reclaimed the stage, all by herself.

Apparently, some people haven’t gotten the memo that shouting “Freebird!” as an encore isn’t all that funny anymore, but she acted like she didn’t hear the request. Maybe she really didn’t.

The most beautiful moment of the night came in the form of “Kill the Light”, which was done acoustically. It was the way she enunciated the words and the emotion she poured into them. It was overpowering. I would have even been content with that as a closer, but they still had a little gas left in the tank. It appeared “Doubt” would be the final number, and once the last line had been sung, Chaidez once again thanked everyone, and then made her way through the crowd and back to the green room. The band gave the track a long instrumental finish, and one by one, they all disappeared, until only the drummer was left. Some hefty beats concluded it, but as he walked off the stage, the guitarist got back on.

He began to strum the axe, and all of a sudden, Chaidez appeared one last time, creating some more fanfare. The now duo played a cover of “Don’t Dream it’s Over” by Crowded House, and it was another song that really highlighted the gorgeous tone of her voice.

That put the show at nearly 90-minutes, and that really was it.

I was blown away. Honestly, I knew nothing about Kitten before this night. I just came to the show to see a show (plus I was a fan of the local opening act), but wow!

Kitten was dynamite from start to finish, and very unrelenting.

The entire band was excellent, but there can’t be any arguing that all eyes were focused almost exclusively on Chloe Chaidez. She has a persona that commands your attention, and left everything on stage; and despite using her assets at times, the main thing she relied on was her natural talent, which seemed limitless this night.

Everything was topnotch, and the showmanship was so very impressive. I’ve got to say, they earned a lot of respect in my book, because in terms of performance, this is what a band should be.

They have a few shows left on their current tour, and exact dates can be found HERE. Pick up their record in iTUNES, too.

Friday, June 27th, 2014 – Long Sword Spectacular Let’s the Rock Flow at Wits End

This night seemed like a good one to go out and catch some bands I like, but don’t often see. Luckily, Wits End was hosting such a bill; and it kicked off around 9:30, when Long Sword Spectacular took the stage.

It had been a little more than a year since I had seen the trio, who was now armed with some new songs, and opened their 38-minute long set with one of them.
imageIt was a surprisingly soft start for the typically noisy rock band, as Doug Jones lightly struck one of the cymbals on his drum kit. Soon, singer and bassist Josh Harelik added the bass to the mix with some intermittent riffs, and eventually Daniel Reid did the same with his guitar. It was certainly creative; and then Daniel’s picking of the strings grew much faster, as the track really came to life. His skills on the axe were highlighted throughout the track, like at one point when the drums and bass cutout right as he started using the whammy bar, while they all killed it on the powerful end.

“We are Long Sword Spectacular! Welcome to the show!” Josh shouted in his devilish voice, as they rolled things right into their next number, “Manhunt”. It was one of only a handful they did off their debut album this night, but they hit the highlights from it, and that song is pure LSS, being a heavy rock song that’s also rather fun. Speaking of fun, you could tell that was what the group was having, and during the instrumental interlude that followed, Doug was seen smiling at is band mates. Daniel then ripped into a solo, while Josh thrashed around with his bass before returning to his mic on stage right. “One, two, three, four!” he yelled, as they whipped it into “Firewalk”. That aggressive track brought them to their first break of the night, and they quickly got ready for their most recent single: “Died in the USA”.

Their fans cheered when Josh announced it was next; and after the instrumental lead in, he began to sing, “What the hell is going on? Is this supposed to be our Babylon?” Perhaps the best part of the song came when they were all jamming, with guitar solos flying left and right, while the rhythm section was absolutely dynamic. They didn’t allow for much downtime after, and Josh proceeded to play some dark notes on his bass, which proved to be a lead-in to “Dead Soul (Down the Hatch)”. Parts of the song were changed to better fit where they were at for the night, like the first line, “I was playing Wits End, the coolest bar in Deep Ellum…” You could tell it was a fan favorite, but now, their focus shifted back to their newer material, and Josh again led the charge with some low and thick bass lines.

It was another interesting song, the pace changing enough to keep you fully captivated. It was pretty standard for LSS at times, and after a second or two pause in the middle of it, they tore back into the song, with Daniel attacking his guitar. While the end featured some more placid notes from the guitar, and while the bass was low and loud, it didn’t have the punch it had even just minutes earlier. It was just different for them in some respects, and it was nice seeing/hearing a different side of the band.

“Let’s go on a threat display!” Josh suddenly roared, before orchestrating a clap along, which their old and the new fans were more than happy to help out. “Threat Display” was their last oldie of the night, and when throwing in the title of the next song during a momentary pause, Josh created his own little echo effect, repeating the title as he stepped away from the mic. “You guys having a good time?!” he asked during the track, a question that was answered with some loud cheers. “Damn straight!” he responded.
imageAnother lengthy instrumental break was thrown in during the next number, during which Josh jumped on to the drum riser, standing next to Doug and his drums for a bit as he rocked out to the music. They bridged it into another jam, before announcing they had one more left. “How many minutes do we have left?” asked Josh, the sound guy answering with “Seven.” “You heard him, boys!” Josh screamed, as the trio fired up their final song “Kills Witch”. It was an incredible song, and one of the most intense things they’ve produced. It was definitely worthy of being the closer.

“We are Long Sword Spectacular! Good night!” Josh finished, as they bid the people a farewell.

I haven’t seen LSS much, and I always forget how amazing their live shows are. They pack copious amounts of energy into each performance, and it didn’t matter that there were only a few handfuls of people watching them this night. They played like they were performing for hundreds, and you could tell they were having a blast doing it.

I’ll say this, I felt bad for the other bands who were tasked with following LSS, because it would not be an easy feat.

Their show schedule is a little light right now, and their next gig currently planned is August 22nd at The Boiler Room in Dallas. Pick up their LP and latest single, too. They’re available in both iTUNES and BANDCAMP.

After them was Public Love Affair, a band I hadn’t seen in a couple years, and one who has changed in that time.

They’re a three-piece now, and singer Justin Russell has taken up bass duties (he used to be the second guitarist). He’s apparently not the only singer the group has now, either.

Guitarist Caleb Ditzenberger sang lead on their opening number, the first of many songs that were new to me this night. They had room for some oldies, though, like the title track from their debut record: “Get You Some”. That was when Justin took over, as they alternated for the first few songs. That latter tune still packed a punch, even without the additional guitar, and there was a certain swagger Justin had as he sang, stepping back from the mic when he could, as he rocked out on the bass.

They delivered another song, after which Justin asked those watching to give it up for their drummer, Aaron, who apparently was just filling in for the night. At the angle I stood at, I couldn’t see him much, but the glimpses I did catch, I never would have guessed he wasn’t their permanent drummer.
A lot of their music has a sort of bluesy rock quality to it, and a couple tracks later, they did one that was steeped in it. Caleb was again handling the singing, and while he brought some different qualities to the table as far as how his voice sounded, it still had a tone that could pull that genre off with ease.

I didn’t catch much more, as I happened to see Dayvoh of the band Alterflesh and struck up a conversation with him.

Still, I had seen more than enough of Public Love Affair to get an idea of what they’re like now. To be honest, I was on the fence about the two vocalists at first, but that quickly grew on me. It’s an easy way to keep the crowd engaged, as well as giving a fresh feel to everything. Caleb has a fantastic voice as well, and they’re certainly set apart from most of their competition in the fact that they have two lead vocalists.

It was very good seeing them again, and seeing what they’ve evolved into. You can get Public Love Affairs records in iTUNES and BANDCAMP, and with any luck, a new one will be out sooner or later so they can better showcase this new format.

Next up was another band I hadn’t seen in a little over a year, and when I happened to stumble across 26 Locks in the first part of 2013, they were just getting started.

Since then, they’ve quickly built a strong fanbase, and earlier this year they released their debut EP.
They had the most supporters out this night by far, all of whom gathered around the stage as they got their 39-minute long set underway with a song that was a little more low-key in comparison to some of the others. It was slightly jazzy with a definite lounge vibe to it, which made the perfect environment for vocalist Catrina Rincon to fully show off her impressive voice. She was quite in tune with the music, too, at times waving her hands about in the air, doing little fluid motions with them in time with some of the beats Jeff Fendley was producing.

“Thank you. We’re 26 Locks and we’re happy to be here.” she told the crowd once it was over, before the quartet moved on to their next jam. There was a little more rock flare to it; and towards the end, Catrina took the microphone out of the stand, allowing her to move around a little more. They bridged it right into one of the cuts from the “Velvet” EP: “Inside”. They were in full rock mode, now, and the catchy notes guitarist Jerry Bolden was playing confirmed that. It only got better as the song peaked with some deafening drumbeats, heavy bass and soaring guitar riffs, prompting some explosive cheers once it was over.

“How’s everybody doing?” Catrina asked once things subsided, before asking the questing again, this time getting a better response. “I’m just making sure everyone’s awake…” she said, before noting they were just going to “splash” right into the next one, as it was a softer number. It was, and at the start, Jerry took a seat on the floor of the stage, staying there until the pace picked up some. Bassist Brandon Kirkpatrick provided some backing vocals at times, slightly harmonizing with Catrina, which gave the song a knockout punch. It didn’t alter the song much (if at all), but a smaller cymbal on Jeff’s drum kit had worked its way loose, and in the midst of that one, it fell to the floor. He fixed the problem afterwards, while Catrina checked on how much time they had left. “An hour and a half!” one fan yelled, which I think summed up how everyone watching them felt, ‘cause no one wanted it to end.
They kept the lighter pace going with another track from the EP, “Remain Unknown”, which saw Catrina spinning around and dancing at times (fitting actions, since one of the lines is “I keep spinning around…”), while Brandon again added some killer backing vocals.

Catrina called their next two songs “juicy”, telling the audience to get ready for them, before taking a moment to thank everyone for being there and supporting them. “We wouldn’t be anywhere without you guys. I know it’s cliché, but it’s true.” she said, before they tackled the title track of their EP. Simply said, “Velvet” is epic. It’s around nine minutes, which is unheard of these days where people’s attention spans are lacking and even a four minute song is considered long. The thing is, it didn’t seem to last that long at all. That’s how enjoyable it was. Once it amped up, most of the people in the room were jumping up and down; and at its height, Jeff was downright wild on the drums, as he banged about on the kit. The way fans reacted afterwards, you would have thought they had just seen some arena rock band play their oldest hit, the one that had anxiously been awaited all night. It was something else. Not just the reaction the crowd had, but live, the song is a masterpiece.

“That’s super sweet. I like that.” Catrina said, referring to the rave applause they had received, before saying they had one more. It started with Jerry taking a seat on the drum riser, but it wound up becoming a highly intense song, and made for a good note to end on.

Oh, the difference a year can make.

When I first saw 26 Locks, they got my attention. I thought they were great then, but, as with anyone, there was room for improvement. Looking back and comparing that show to now, I’d say they were a diamond in the rough then. One who has polished up quite nicely.

They were nothing short of a well-oiled machine this night. The performance was incredibly tight, and the chemistry they had with one another made it all the better. Basically, I was blown away.
You can get their EP for free on their REVERBNATION page, and I’d suggest doing it. Keep an eye on FACEBOOK, too, for upcoming gigs. They do have one on August 16th at the Curtain Club in Dallas.

The job of closing down the night went to a slightly newer band from Denton called Church Loves Devil.

They were a rock band, plain and simple. A really good one at that. Jason Pyles held down guitar and singing duties for the first half of the show or so, before they did one track where bassist Mark Bledsoe sang part of the lead, before drummer Aaron Pyles took over.

They all had pretty good voices to boot. There was some humor thrown in, too (albeit unintentional), like at one point when Mark thanked those who had made it out and stuck around for them, though much of it was hard to understand in his thick Southern accent. People started laughing once Jason looked at him. “The hell’d you just say?!” he asked, somewhat joking with his band mate.

I ducked out before the last two songs, but I really enjoyed them. Like I said, they were a rock band. Harder rock at times, but aside from that, they didn’t get caught up in all the sub-categories that exit. The world can also use more bands like that.

This was a fun night. It was refreshing to see yet another show (my third straight) of catching some bands I don’t often see, and some that were new to me. It rekindles the fire so to speak.

On another note, the sound here at Wit’s End was great this night. I haven’t been here much. In fact, the last time I was, was last fall, and there were some issues here and there that night with the sound. Tonight, tonight it was on par with most of the other venues down here in Deep Ellum.

Tuesday, June 17th, 2014 – Ume Annihilates at the Index Fest Announcement Party

Who can say no to a free concert? Anyone? I certainly can’t, especially not when one of the bands playing is the Austin-based Ume.

The reason it was free was that Spune — the force behind Index Fest — wanted to make the announcement of the first round of bands for the fall festival into something more exciting than just checking a website one random morning. So, they organized this show at Trees to announce the first thirty bands live, tapping some great talent like A.Dd+, Booty Fade and Wrestlers (along with Ume), while Goose Island Beer Co. was on hand providing some free beer.

I was a little late to the party, getting there about nine, right as the rap outfit A.Dd+ was wrapping up, and after seeing how vacant the parking lot behind Trees was, I was surprised to see the venue packed. I’d guess around a couple hundred people easy.

Half of the first wave of bands were announced before Ume took the stage; and then, at 9:29, the curtain again opened, this time on one of the best trios around.

They’ve been making a name for themselves for several years now, and the newly released “Monuments” album has really garnered a lot of praise and attention. However, it wasn’t one of those newer songs that they opened with. Instead, they did the classic, “The Conductor”. Like many of their songs, there’s sort of grungy tone to singer and guitarist Lauren Larsons’ voice at times; and when she wasn’t singing, she was shredding on her axe (her skills are so awe-inspiring that she can make most guitarists look like amateurs), holding it above her face at one point as she viciously picked at it.

The “Monuments” LP was their primary focus this night, though, and after the packed house roared over that first song, they got to it, as drummer Aaron Perez counted them in to “Too Big World”. Lauren kept the non-stop action coming, using one of the instrumental breaks to sit on the stage, before she laid down, clutching her guitar and letting the rock ‘n’ roll spirits consume her, ‘cause even though she couldn’t see the strings, she was tearing it up. A grin came across Eric Larsons’ face when he realized the cord to his bass had gotten tangled on the guitars’ headstock, and he quickly undid it, while Lauren seemed none the wiser, standing back up and returning to the mic, before eventually spinning in a few circles at the tail end.

They followed it by going directly into the final track from the album, the gritty yet at times serene sounding, “Reason”, before taking a brief break. Eric then served up some bass riffs, and once Aaron laid some beats over it, there was no denying that it was “Burst”. Luckily, they haven’t forgotten about their 2011 album, “Phantoms”, and the more shoegaze/rock sounding track was one of their best this night. “Is this the way, is this the way it’s meant to be? Is this the way, it comes in waves and goes again?” Lauren crooned in a soupy sounding voice towards the end, while Eric waved his bass around in the air. Afterwards, they kicked things up several notches, doing the beast of a song that is “Embrace”, their claws sinking deeper into all those who were watching, making the throng of people love it all the more.

“We appreciate y’all being out here on a Tuesday night. This is awesome!” Lauren remarked after changing guitars, before doing another track, which I believe was “Hurricane II”. There was a point was Lauren slowly dropped to her knees at the edge of the stage, appearing to channel the spirit of Jimi Hendrix, not just because it looked like something he may have done, but also because she had now given herself up to the music. She then brandished her weapon of choice at the crowd, pushing it out towards them, an action that received plenty of cheers. As they prepared for their next song, Aaron opened it up with a drum roll followed by a solid, steady beat, repeating it for the duration of the intro to “Oh Fate”. That rip-roaring number then gave way to “Until The End”, as the three-piece showed off their softer side for a couple of minutes. Lauren faced Aaron and his drum kit as they all built the song up, and at the very end, on the final guitar licks, the way she attacked the guitar was something else to watch.

They dished out another one, which wound down with Lauren suddenly becoming a lifeless heap on the stage as the music died out. Then, when it when came back in, she sprung up and plucked the strings of her axe. The aggressive songs kept coming with “Chase It Down”, and during an instrumental portion, Lauren pumped her fist in the air to incite the crowd. It worked. “Thank y’all so much. This is really amazing.” she said, before informing everyone they had a couple left. No one liked that, but hey, all good things must come to an end.

They dug deep into their catalog, and another song that is still (fortunately) a staple in their shows is “Baby Xie-Xie”, which was quite possibly the most intense thing they did this night. It’s very raw, which behooves Ume, and after the first verse, Lauren raised a knee into the air before kicking, all done in perfect time to the drums. The crowd was enjoying it, too, some a little more than others. A mosh pit (if two people can even be defined as a mosh pit) broke out, and I was one of several people who unexpectedly got body slammed due to not even knowing it was going on.

With that, they were onto the final song of their 43-minute long set, and the lead single, “Black Stone”, had been saved for last. It doesn’t even last quite three minutes, yet there was as much energy packed into that time as there had been throughout their entire set, and they left the audience craving more.

Few bands embody the rock ‘n’ roll as essence as purely and as definitively Ume does. That was seen this night, along with any other time they play (or at least the handful of times I’ve seen it has been).

They’re superb, and great to watch. In fact, you’ll never even be looking away.

They’ll be back in North Texas on July 24th, opening for The Toadies at The Rockin’ Rodeo in Denton. Aside from a string of dates with The Toadies in late July, they also have a tour going on now with Circa Survive. Their full list of dates can be viewed HERE, and there’s a chance they’ll be coming to a town near you. Oh, let’s not forget their July 4th show at Hyde Park in London with Black Sabbath, Soundgarden, Motorhead and Fait No More. As for their music, you can purchase it in iTUNES.

I didn’t stick around after their set. I had seen the duo of DJ Sober and Picnictyme, better known as Booty Fade, before, and they’re just not my thing. Ume alone was worth it, though, especially since they don’t often play in the area, and for free no less… How could you not have been at this?

Saturday, June 14th, 2014 – Punk Rock Prevails at Day 4 of The Elm Street Tattoo & Music Festival

The fourth night of the Elm Street Tattoo and Music Festival was the second date of it I made; and like the first, Club Dada was my destination.

Some club hopping might have been done early on in the night, but I had already purchased a single-day ticket before I knew some of the other acts performing elsewhere. That worked out alright, though, because the lineup this night wound up being pure insanity.

The show was going down on the outside patio, and Stymie had the privilege of kicking it off. The quartet mentioned they were from around these parts, before one of their friends/fans quickly called them out, saying, “No you’re not, you’re from Denton!”

They raced through quite a few songs (eight total) during their 26-minute long set, and for the most part, they jumped from one right into the next. After a handful, their singer/rhythm guitarist mentioned they were going to do some newer songs. “…But these are probably all new to you, anyways.” he remarked  after thinking about it.
imageIndeed, they were. Those who had arrived early did seem to be enjoying them, though, and after knocking out a couple more songs, he mentioned it was their favorite point of the set. He asked the bassist if he wanted to tell everyone why, but he gave it back up to the singer. “It’s our last two songs.” was his answer for why it was their favorite part.

Their music had some punk rock elements to it. I don’t know if I’d classify everything they did in that genre, but they did have a few songs that were over in just a couple of minutes at most. The energy they put into the show was also fitting of a punk rock outfit, though they weren’t on the same level as the bands that would follow.

They were a very enjoyable act to watch and listen to, though.

The night got super interesting when Mugen Hoso took the stage. The band had been in Texas for a few days now, playing cities like Denton and Fort Worth, and I had heard a lot of buzz about this Japanese duo regarding how sensational their shows were. Let’s just say the Tokyo-based duo did not disappoint… And that’s putting it mildly.
imageDrummer Taro appeared to understand and speak English a little better than singer and guitarist Hiro did, and he helped him through the sound check (translating the questions the sound guy was asking). The two then stood at the forefront of the stage as the now sizable audience looked on, wondering just what they were about to see.

“We are from Japan.” Hiro said, his accent thick, but still understandable (at times). “Lock and load.” he then said, repeating it another time or two while Taro situated himself behind his drum kit. Their opening number did have a real punk vibe to it, and what could easily be understood was the often repeated line, “It’s only rock and roll…”. The music was great, but it was the stage where this band excelled. Taro was running all over the deck, jumping and soaring through the air, landing in another spot and then repeating. It was off-the-wall craziness at its best. They segued it directly into another number, showing off their serious chops as musicians as well as some humor in the latter portion, when Taro would let loose some beats before stopping. Hiro stopped at the instant he did, making some faces that you just had to laugh at, before they picked back up and repeated. They already had everyone enthralled, and this new collection of fans took those pauses to voice their love for their new favorite band.
imageThey were so coordinated; and the first break of their set they used to voice their love for the Lone Star State. “Come back, Texas. Come back, Dallas. Love, Dallas! Fun place! Happy…!” Hiro said, still getting his point across in his broken English; and, as people usually do when their hometown/area gets mentioned, that had the crowd roaring. Talk then turned to a previous tour they had done, and while in North Carolina, Hiro had gotten bit by a dog. He even took his shirt off, showing everyone the mark he still had on his chest, and mentioned that incident had resulted in a song. “North Carolina, bit by the dog.” Well, I think that’s what he said, but I really don’t know for certain. Parts were understandable, others I think were sung in Japanese; and then they eased things into a moment of silence. “I will bite, you!” Hiro said wide-eyed, as he pointed at a guy in the crowd. They then ripped back into the tune, and Hiro seemed to glide across the stage as he jumped on one foot over to one side, then back again, and then back and forth once more.

Everyone was in total awe at this point, making them all too eager to clap along once they got their next song going. Hiro showed little regard for his physical wellbeing this night, and this was one song where he would jump into the air before falling onto his back. Let me just point out that this is a wooden deck. Some of the pieces are broken and jagged, too. I’m not saying a concrete stage would be much easier on the body, but you’d have a better shot of not getting so scraped up. Still, he could have cared less, doing that a time or two before rolling over towards the drum kit. Then, at the end, he laid down, stuck his legs in the air, and with his axe laying beside him, shredded like no one’s business.

“Love is beautiful. Love is wonderful. Sometimes, love is crazy.” Hiro told the crowd afterwards, doing a good job of sounding like an insane person when he said that last sentence. “My name is Love Monster.” he then told the crowd. I can only assume that was the title of their next number, and both he and Taro placed a hand on the top of their head, extending their pinky and index fingers to look like horns. The spectators were brought into the show during this one, quickly picking up that they needed to sing along on a “La la la la…” part. They were loving it, the band was loving it. It was a beautiful moment.
imageThey then surprised people with a cover of The Who’s “Young Man Blues”. “…When a young man was a strong man,
all the people they’d step back.” Hiro sang, having some fun with that line, as he stepped further and further back from the mic, until he was almost at the fence that made the back of the stage. That got a huge rise from everyone, and even more exciting was when he got out in the crowd and interacted with everyone. He returned to the stage stage, and while it was only trace amounts, there was some blood dripping from his left elbow. He even had a little wound on the back of his head, no doubt made worse by the dive he took at the end, when he again hit the stage at full force.

Sadly, they were already onto the final song of their 34-minute long set, and they got a chant of the songs title going: “Ichiban”. I don’t imagine anyone knew what it meant, nor did they care to know. It was all irrelevant. “We are Ichiban!” Hiro began chanting later on in the tune. Everyone soon joined in, growing louder with each chant of the phrase, until it was all consuming.

No sooner had they finished then people began demanding more, something they didn’t have time for. “We come back next summer?!” Hiro said to everyone, asking if that was okay. It was, but I have a feeling the summer of 2015 can’t get here quick enough.
imageThis was one of the most spectacular shows I’ve seen a band do. Really, it’s been a little while since I was left wowed by a bands set and looked on in complete awe over what was taking place. Mugen Hoso left me experiencing all of that, and it was amazing.

I also loved the fact that despite the slight language barrier, it was never a real issue. The crowd was able to understand everything that really needed to be well enough, while the band was able to read the audience and know how much they were enjoying it. Just goes to show that music is the universal language, and it transcends all.

They do have some dates left in the U.S. (going through July), so check out their OFFICIAL WEBSITE to see if they’ll be coming to a town near you.

After that performance, I was wondering if even The Riverboat Gamblers could top it. I should have known better.

“We’re a band! We’d like to play some songs for you!” frontman Mike Wiebe told the now packed patio as soon as the sound check had been completed. “We’re gonna play this song for you! It’s called True Crime!” he then exclaimed. With that, the quintet who originated from Denton went from 0 to 120 in about a millisecond. 2006’s “To the Confusion of Our Enemies” was in full effect this night, and the intense pace coupled with the vocal assault of Mike singing and guitarists Fadi El-Assad and Ian MacDougall and bassist Rob Marchant doing the backing vocals quickly incited a mosh pit. I don’t even think they were halfway through the first verse when people began slamming against one another; and all the while Mike was jumping around, throwing the mic into the air before catching it just in time for the next line.
imageThat album may have been the primary focus, but many of their records were represented this night, and they bridged that right into one of a couple old songs this night: “Sunday Dress”. That truly punk rock track served to further rile up the crowd, and once Fadi and drummer Ian Walling ripped into “Save You”, well, that ensured they had everyone completely captivated. Mike again threw the mic high into the air after he finished the first verse, catching it without even really looking at it; while towards the end of the tune, the fans shouted along, “You’ve got the rhythm, but you’ve got no soul! C’mon!”.

They kept it coming, immediately firing up “The Gamblers Try Their Hand at International Diplomacy”. The brief number just made things more thrilling, and once it slowed down near the end, Mike began spinning his microphone, giving it a lot of slack as he held the cord. He progressively got faster and faster, and then BAM, they wound it right into the subsequent track from the record, “Walk Around Me”. It was hard to tell which songs fans enjoyed more, that one or “The Song We Used to Call Wasting Time”, which featured another segue where there wasn’t even a split-second between songs. I would say perhaps the latter, due to the extreme amounts of energy the packed into it. Mike was again making the rounds of the stage, and if not during this song, it was around this point that he grabbed the speakers that were on stage right, climbing on what was nothing more than a small ledge, standing on it and holding on to the top speaker. He then jumped atop one of the monitors by Fadi, using a member of the crowd (myself, actually) to get balanced on it while he continued to spit out the words, “…Being spurned is fine if it means that I can eat…” Then, right at the end, he did his usual standing and then falling off the edge of the stage, allowing the audience to catch him and push him back up.
imageWalling kept the beat going as they took their first break of the night so that Fadi, MacDougall and Rob could change keys. “I don’t even have to tell you what to do.” Mike said, referring to the clapping fans had instinctively started doing in time with the drums. He took just a moment to catch his breath, before saying that ten and a half years ago to the night, they were sitting in their rehearsal space, brainstorming of some new thing to do. They came up with it. He said it was the motion of striking one hand against the other, and they called it clapping. “We don’t get any royalties from it, but goddammit we should!” he roared. By that time, they were ready to carry on, and surprisingly, “Blue Ghosts” was the only song they did from “The Wolf You Feed” this night. (I say surprisingly since most bands always focus on their newer stuff more. Just goes to show they’d rather give the crowd the old music they know they want to hear.) I wouldn’t have minded some other tunes from that record to be honest, but that single is pure Gamblers, and a cool moment came before the last chorus, when Mike lept into the air, pulling his legs up behind him, before landing and grabbing the mic stand.

“…My faith in humanity is restored!” Mike shouted afterwards, talking about what a crazy world this was. “Kittens are attacking puppies to save little kids!” he then exclaimed, before saying he has five therapists, all of whom were telling him different shit. Yeah, they’re more than just a stellar band, they entertain with great banter, too.

I would have thought the mood had already reached its fevered pitch, but with the announcement that “Rattle Me Bones” was the next song, it was evident it had not. Mike led everyone in a clap along there at the start, and MacDougall and Fadi again added some excellent backing vocals, the trade-off between their parts and Mikes’ being incredibly precise. “DissDissDissKissKissKiss” came next, before they tackled another one from the “Backsides” record, “Mark My Words”. MacDougall appeared to be shredding extra hard on that one, while Mike added to the percussion with a tambourine. He tossed it in the air at the third chorus, trying to catch it, but just let it drop once he realized it was out of his reach.
image“That’s an old song…” he remarked afterwards, before beginning a speech about how it was okay to look back on the past, so long as you kept your eyes on the future, too. “It’s okay to nostalgiaerize the past.” Mike told everyone, adding, “That’s a word. Look it up. I went to Harvard Word School.” He said it so convincingly that I now consider my computer to be wrong since it is telling me that is not a correct word.

A surprising lull came next, and it may have been a cover, or perhaps a new song for the record Mike had mentioned earlier (a record they will soon be taking some time off to work on.) “…Love is just infatuation…” he crooned. It was an awesome song, and with only two left in their 36-minute long set, they had saved the best for last.

“We’re excited to be playing with The Vandals tonight!” Mike screamed. “We’re excited that Brutal Juice is playing right next door tonight!” he then yelled, giving a shout-out to the iconic local band. “We’re excited to be playing this song! It’s called Don’t Bury Me… I’m Still Not Dead Yet!” he finished. Mike did some real crowd surfing during that song that acts as an anthem for the outcasts. Everybody took it as that, too, passionately singing along to every last word; and once it was over, the mic stand fell apart. The piece that holds the microphone came out of the rest of the stand, which toppled over, as Mike gave it a perplexing look, before waving it around and holding it out to the side as if it were a flag.
imageWith that, it was time to wrap up their action-packed set, and that job fell to “The Art of Getting Fucked Over”. Mike was looking to do something big, and as they neared the second chorus, he climbed on top of the speakers on stage left, which didn’t look like an easy feat in the first place. His band mates brought things down, while he urged everyone to move a little closer to him. “I don’t want to die tonight.” he stated. “Who are you texting?” he then asked one of the members of the crowd. “Is it your mom? Are you saying, ‘Mom, I’m about to watch this guy die. It feels weird.’?” Once everyone was packed in tight, he threw a glance MacDougall’s way, who in turn looked at Rob, Walling and Fadi, and they began amping things back up. “G! A! M! B! L! E! R!” everyone shouted along with Mike, who after a few rounds of that, jumped in the air and spun over to his back. He didn’t die this night, and continued singing while the fans moved him back to the stage.

It was one helluva way to end the show, a show that was superior to everyone’s at Dada this night.

You’ll be hard-pressed to find a band who puts on as phenomenal a live show as The Riverboat Gamblers do. They blew my mind the first time I saw them going on two years ago, last summer when I caught them in Denton, and even this abbreviated set was perfection from start to finish.

Apart from the high-energy show that never relents, it’s also very noticeable how much time and effort they’ve put into this (then again, they have been around since the late 90’s.) They’re so cohesive and in synch with one another. It makes it even more of a spectacle to behold.

They’ve got nothing on the books right now, however, you should check out their albums in iTUNES.

Headlining the show at Club Dada was the legendary punk rock outfit, The Vandals, who, I must confess I had never really listened to until seeing them live this night.

Their intro music sounded like something that would have been played to announce a king was about to make his entrance, though, much like the band, there was a quirky twist to it. The patio was near capacity, and people were pushing against one another, trying to work their way up as close as possible to the stage, cheering the band they obviously idolized.

Derek Grant (of Alkaline Trio) was filling in on drums this night, starting them off on their first number, “It’s a Fact”. It didn’t take them long to start having fun, not just in playing the music, bit for example, when guitarist Warren Fitzgerald jumped onto one of the monitors, acting like he was having a hard time balancing on it, and flailing his arms around for a second. “There’s a guitar solo from the guitar Nazi!” frontman David Quackenbush remarked. They kept the blistering pace going by moving directly into “Café 405”. “It’s like we’ve never played that before!” David said with a smile on his face, while he, Warren and bassist Joe Escalante laughed about it. They then started to take requests. “…Be very specific and enunciate.” Warren told everyone, as the massive collection of people proceeded to shout song titles at them.

They decided to go with one of their own; one that also appeased fans and showed off their pure comedy roots: “Live Fast, Diarrhea”. Hearing the title alone was enough to make me laugh, and quite a few folks were singing along with them. “Count down this next song, Jojo.” David said to Joe, who wasn’t too keen on the nickname. “That sounds like a dancing bear’s name.” he said aloud before “4, 3, 2, 1, -1”.

Afterwards, David addressed the crowd. “How’s this festival been so far?” he asked, later asking if the Rev [The Reverend Horton Heat] was indeed playing across the street about this time. “…The Reverend Al Sharpton.” Joe replied, as they all agreed that didn’t sound as much fun as Horton Heat did. Their humor was often showcased, though they always kept it short, too, rather than having long, drawn-out conversations with the crowd or one another. They continued with the all too catchy “People That Are Going to Hell”, after which they again took requests. “That is one we will not do!” David told one fan in a very cherry tone. “It’s like it never happened.” Warren added. A brilliant idea then struck Warren, asking, “How about we do the next one on the set?” His band mates agreed, and that next song was “N.I.M.B.Y.”.

I guess I missed the part they messed up on, because once it was over David sarcastically joked about how good they were as a band. “We’re super tight…” he said, before spelling it the cool way, “Tite.” “Can I blow my baby load yet?!” he then asked Warren, referencing a joke he had made earlier. “Who’s the baby fucker?” he then asked, saying he had only recently heard that disturbing story about whatever band that was (I’m not going to take time to look up the story). “One Direction.” Warren joked, before they tore into “Pizza Tran”. Derek, Joe and Warren gave the track a breakdown, during which time a woman joined them on stage, and she was just dancing along to the music while they looked at her. “What day is today? Father’s Day. Or maybe Father Issues Day.” quipped David. They let her keep dancing, which was cool, before Warren eventually hugged her, serving as the sign to leave the stage.

David was afraid they were coming off as too much of a sappy band, and he promised that after one more love song, they would do nothing but “hate” filled music for the rest of their set. “The New You” was the love song in question, and I have to say, the soft intro where he crooned, “Now you say that you like me but you don’t like, like me…” was rather lovely. Then, as promised, they did leave the stuff about love behind, doing a song about a friend David said he had who was no longer around. He was speaking of “The Legend of Pat Brown”, another jam that really excited the fans.

“Is there a bathroom up here?” Warren asked once it was done, before disappearing behind his amp and acting as if he were about to relieve himself. “This one’s about another dead friend of mine.” David then stated, as they showed off their true punk form with “Take it Back”. “I should kill some more friends so I can write some more songs.” he wondered aloud afterwards, before admitting that was kind of a bad joke. Then came “Oi to the World!”, which was clearly another fan favorite, and it became a giant sing-along at times.

“I’ve got a spider bite…” David told everyone after, saying he thought it was getting bigger, and if he died, he wanted the crowd to let him know. The catchy “I’ve Got an Ape Drape” came next, and David even changed some of the lyrics to fit the night, singing something about seeing The Riverboat Gamblers. “And Now, We Dance” and “Anarchy Burger (Hold the Government)” were two more songs beloved by the crowd, and after those, David asked a very serious question. “What happened to all the Cowboys?! Did y’all kick them out of town?!” he asked everyone, saying they had been in Texas for a couple of days now and hadn’t even seen one.

That was a very fitting setup for “Urban Struggle”, which they made out to be their final song, thanking everyone when it was over and bidding them a good night. They never moved from the stage, though. “Is this an encore?!” David asked, before they all agreed that it had to be. They had another request, and David held the mic down to one woman so she could tell them what she wanted to hear. The fans roared once she said, “My Girlfriend’s Dead”. That was deemed a good choice, with David saying they had to do the one where “all the money came from”.

People thought that was it, but then David said Warren wanted to sing a song for everyone, handing the mic off to him, while he took over on guitar duty. “Hi, Deep Ellum!” said Warren, before asking what “Ellum” meant. Someone told him it meant Elm, and he jokingly replied with, “That’s stupid, why not just call it Elm?!” “He just called your city stupid!” David chimed in.

Warren then asked who had maybe come out this night to meet a “wonderful woman”, being answered by the shouts of some guys. He crushed their spirits by saying it wasn’t going to happen, because the few who actually had come to this show were probably taken. No one seemed too broken hearted, though, especially once they busted out their rendition of Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now”, a very fitting way to end their 54-minute long set.

I didn’t know what to expect from this over thirty-year-old punk band, though I enjoyed them much more than I thought I even would.

Even now, they still have it. Their performance was fun and enjoyable, and they commanded the crowd quite easily. Part of that may have been because in these eyes, The Vandals could do no wrong. Still, they did put on a great show that had people laughing as much as it did rocking out.

Personally, I don’t think I’ll be buying any albums, however, whenever they come back to Dallas, I’ll seriously consider going to the show.

On that note, you can find their records in iTUNES, and keep an eye on their FACEBOOK posts to see if they might be playing near you.

And thus ended my experience at the second annual Elm Street Tattoo and music Festival. Given that it ran five days total, I only heard a small percentage of the more than fifty bands that played, but the experience was great. Considering this festival happens during a month with a Friday the 13th, that means it could either be in February, March or perhaps November of 2015 when the third one takes place. Too early to know when, yet, though I’m already looking forward to it.

Thursday, June 12th, 2014 – Ishi Electrifies at the Deep Ellum Tattoo & Music Festival

The night prior to this, the 2nd annual Elm Street Tattoo and Music Festival had got underway, and now, with three of the four venues participating this night, it was more in the full swing of things.

Most of the attendees were no doubt clamoring to see the bigger name acts like Lucero or The Chop Tops who were playing Tress and Three Links, respectively. Club Dada also had one helluva party happening, though, and those who weren’t there from start to finish missed out on one unforgettable night.

Electronic acts were the focus of this bill, and it began with the duo Def Rain, fronted by Ashley Cromeens (of Record Hop fame).

She wasn’t alone on stage, and there was also a guy who operated the synthesizers, lights and such that they used. The room was practically empty, but that didn’t keep Ashley, who had the hood of her sweater drawn over her head, from getting out on the floor right in the first song. She danced about, doing her own little variation of The Robot, while the guy shone a light on her, creating a makeshift spotlight.

“We opened the World Cup earlier…” she told the few onlookers afterwards, joking, of course. She mentioned how hard that flight in from Brazil was, before delivering another experimental/electronic tune. By this time, the room was blanketed in a thick haze of smoke. It reminded me of the days you could smoke in the Dallas clubs, minus the smell of tobacco.

“Enemy” was one of the songs that stood out the most to me, with some gorgeous and catchy organ like sounds at the beginning. Ashley interacted with her cohort on that one. All the equipment was sit up on the stage floor, and he spent the duration of their 30-minute set hunched over it. So, she leaned into the side of his face, singing a line or two into his ear.

“Thank you very much, we are Def Leopard.” she told the growing number of people afterwards, then, after another track, she mentioned the all too cool strobe lights they had been using. “They’ll make you have three-headed babies…” she stated, adding she herself had a couple. “Love it When” had more of a minimalist sound to it. They had a couple more left after it, one of which again had Ashley showing off her dance moves as she got out amongst the people.

The group was different from what I’d typically listen to, though I highly enjoyed them. They’ve made some good tracks that really get your attention, and their live show was just fun. I also enjoyed all the lights they used. It was nothing extravagant, just simple things you can buy at just about any store, but the way they used it, it looked awesome.

I’d definitely see them again.

Keep an eye on their FACEBOOK PAGE for news on future shows, and you can find their debut album in either iTUNES or BANDCAMP.

Blackstone Rangers were next, doing a knockout 35-minute long set filled with their slightly shoegaze/dreampop sounds.

Their opener had a calm start, as singer and keyboardist/synth player Ruth Smith made different sounds in the microphone. It then took a powerful climatic twist, with Derek Kutzers’ guitar roaring to life, while Daniel Bornhorst exploded on the drums. The pace ebbed and flowed wonderfully as they ran through a series of songs, each giving way seamlessly into the next.

Admittedly, the gauzy sounding vocals made it hard (almost impossible) for me to later decipher the songs, though there was one several in that I really liked. Along with the beats they had playing via the track, Daniel started it with some very steady drumbeats, and Ruths’ voice sounded downright lovely on it.

A song later, Derek broke a string on his axe, adjusting some of the others during it to compensate, before they had to take a timeout to fix the issue. “Does anyone know any jokes?” Ruth asked after mentioning they did have some merch for sale. No one stepped up to the plate, so she went on to thank all the bands, venues and everyone else responsible for putting this on, as well as “anyone who has tattoos.” She confessed she didn’t have one, but always wanted to get one, before saying that Derek had a Blackstone Rangers tattoo. “He really doesn’t.” she then informed everyone, but she did offer to pay for anyone’s ink if they wanted to get a tattoo of their band name. There were no takers.

They were ready to go at that point, and busted out one last track for everyone.

Their music was a great listening experience, and it created some lush landscapes. Everything intertwined with everything else very well, and they could get you lost in some soupy, dreamy sounds, before suddenly turning the song into a whirlwind rock number. The smoke machine they used created a nice element, too (though it didn’t produce as much smoke as the previous act had).

After hearing a lot of good things about Blackstone Rangers, it was good to finally see them, and they lived up to the hype I heard.

Keep an eye on their FACEBOOK for future shows, and you can find an older album of theirs on iTUNES. Their newest one can be heard on BANDCAMP.

The main support slot went to Painted Palms, who were on tour, and it didn’t take any time for this San Francisco quartet to win over the sixty plus people who were now at Dada.

Their indie/pop songs were intoxicating, and the first number enthralled many, before one of the band members left the keyboard he had been using and picked up his bass. “How y’all doing?” their singer/guitarist asked after the second tune, before they started into another stretch of music, usually stopping just long enough to allow for applause.

Some of the tracks they did off the recently released “Forever” LP included the low-key “Sleepwalking”, which heavily featured the bands full-time keyboardist and synth player and focused more on their electronic side, as well as “Carousel”, which was catchy all the way around. From the rhythm section to the guitar licks, and even the hypnotic tone their singer sang in, it was a killer track.

It was during the following break that their singer mentioned they were on tour from California. “…It’s still early on, so we’re not tired yet.” he said, before they dug an older track out, “All of Us”. The new batch of fans seemed to really like that one, though the next one with the mighty, pulsating rhythm section was an undeniable powerhouse. That left them with just enough time in their 45-minute long set to do one more.

No one was ready for them to be finished, and cries for an encore were instantly heard. They couldn’t do that, but still, for a touring band to come through a city and be so well received, well, I’d say that’s a good welcome.

They were so fun, from the music to the performance, it just radiated a feel good vibe that infected everyone. In turn, that made them the perfect opener for the headliner.

They still have several dates left across the country, and their full schedule can be viewed HERE. As for albums, they have a couple of those, and you can find them in iTUNES.

Capping off this night of electronic music was Dallas’ on king of the genre: Ishi.

While sound checking, it looked like the most eccentric part of frontman JT Mudd’s attire this night was going to be his skin tight pants. But then they disappeared back to the green room, and upon returning to the stage at 12:15, he had on one of his signature hats, along with a cloak of sorts, as well as a pair of stunner shades lit up with neon colors. Yeah, this was what people have come to expect of Ishi.

They had some props on stage, giant balls that were constantly changing colors, often hitting some of the softer shades in the color spectrum.

“How we doing, Dallas?” JT asked, being quick to thank everyone for coming out on a Thursday night, labeling the people there their “true fans”. They then surprised everyone by opening with a song from their first record. One that isn’t played all the time anymore. It was the lead track from the “Through the Trees” album, “Our Time”. This instantly sent the crowd into a frenzy, and much of them sang right along with it, “Don’t let go of who you are. You came too far to be the one left standing on a falling star…”
imageLast time I saw them, a couple months prior to this; they were bringing a backing female vocalist back into the mix, having her sing on a couple tracks. Tonight, she was an even bigger part of the show, and it helped make songs like “Our Time” sound even better this night. “Come on!” JT, who now stood on the large shelf of sorts that stretches in front of the stage to fit the monitors, instructed before the final chorus. The dancing (from both him and the crowd) reached new heights then, and it only intensified.

With one lead track out of the way, it only made sense that they’d do the other, and after a moment of silence, the track for “Mirror Ball Sky” kicked on, sending the audience into another fit of excitement. Fans again helped out on every last word, singing it all, while JT moved around the stage, interacting some with his band mates, but focusing most on the crowd. They had been working their way from past to present, and now they looked ahead to the future, doing one of a handful of new songs this night. Jonathan Merlas’ drumming was extra forceful at the start of it; and the female vocals were heavily utilized on this one, as they whet fans appetites of what’s to come.

That pattern was repeated once more, as they reached back to album one. They pulled “Pastel Lights” out surprisingly early, causing the crowd to rejoice. It was a wise decision, though, because the classic resulted in this dance party truly hitting its stride. Upon reaching the first chorus, JT knelt down on the structure in front of the stage, getting more on eye level with everyone, and he was practically mobbed as fans reached for him or leaned into the microphone to sing along with him. It’s really quite something to see, because you realize, to these fans (myself included), there’s absolutely no difference between JT and some of the biggest musicians in the world. He’s a superstar of that stature, even if it is on a smaller scale.
imageThe segue between it and “Moon Watcher” was flawless, and during the break after the first chorus, guitarist Rocky Ottley stole the show with a rip-roaring guitar solo. “It’s still Rocky.” JT informed the crowd, as the guitarist was sporting a new haircut, without the shoulder length hair. Focus then shifted back to JT, who used that break from singing to demonstrate some more of his moves, and now he was seen thrusting his pelvis into the air. “Sing with me!” he asked of the crowd once they hit the last chorus. Fans did, shouting even louder than they already had been, “…Call out to the sea when you’re looking for me. I’ll be riding the waves of our sweet, sweet memories.” Clapping along also became a mandatory thing, and as the song ended, JT crossed his legs, doing a combination of a bow and a curtsy to express his gratitude.

“Here’s another new jam for you.” he stated, as they rolled right on to the next number. It was during that one that things got even more interesting, and while JT towered above the crowd, a woman walked on stage from the side, going behind him, lifting up the cloak and grabbing his butt. That drew a swift and surprised reaction from him as he turned around, and with the shades on, it was impossible to tell if he found that amusing or if it crossed a line. Either way, she quickly left the stage.

“We’ve got a new video for this one…” JT told the crowd, saying it would be dropping on the following Monday. He then grooved to the intro of “Emotional Hard Drive”. It’s a fitting song to make a video for, as it’s one of the best offerings on “Digital Wounds”, and it makes for the perfect dance number, as could be seen in the pure craziness (from the audience) that started happening during it. Still, the surface was barely being scratched. He tapped into his falsetto voice for “Touch The Future”, and after having been watching from the sidelines for a few songs, their female vocalist returned. “…Listen to the nightingale sing.” JT sang, pointing at her as she belted out some lines. The dance finish they gave the track was nothing short of epic, and then, after giving the fans just a moment to get their applause out, they started what was said to be a brand new song.
image“Everybody wants to be a star…” was one of the often repeated lines of the tune that people instantly embraced. It was Ishi through and through, boasting a stellar dance beat that featured large quantities of the female vocals, and she downright killed it with her astounding set of pipes. She left, and JT thanked her, as “Digital Wounds” began to play. The steady beat made for another good time to clap along, and it ended with JT stretching his arms out to his sides, seemingly basking in all the love they were being shown, love that only grew with their next song.
The sexy “Shake Your Dandelion” elevated the mood to new heights, and fans were all too eager to clap along at the start of it. The number of people this night might not have been as large as what Ishi can usually pull on a weekend, but I’d still guess there were upwards of one hundred or so, all of whom knew just how the chorus went. “Step into my world, and I’ll satisfy you…” they all sang when the first chorus was given up to them.  Rocky then tore into a blistering solo after the second, while JT requested to see everyone’s hands in the air after the third. “We fucking love you, Dallas!” he exclaimed as the song trailed off, and the next one faded in.

If anyone was still uncertain about if this was a party or not, then “Disco Queen” confirmed that it was. It, too, drips of sex, and the movement during it was constant. “Guitar!” JT said in a high-pitched voice, giving things up to Rocky, before he disappeared from the stage and back to the green room. That could mean only one thing, and sure enough, he and Jonathan finished out the song, and immediately following it was “Mother Prism”. Jonathan fired off some quick, heavy beats there at the start, sounding quite impressive, but the further they got into it; there was still no sign of JT. Then he appeared, having donned his royal looking red robe and a Native American headdress. He barely got back on stage in time to get the mic and sing the first line, before he picked up the shield that had been resting against the kick drum all night, waving it in the air.
imageAll inhibitions were lost during “Mother Prism”, which was complete with jumping and chanting of the tribal like sounds, “Aiyah, aiyay…” That ultimate feel good song culminated with JT leaving the stage and getting out amongst his people, who swarmed to him like moths to flame. Some reached for the mic, making their own sounds into it, while he just smiled as he and the throngs of supporters sang and danced. And just to tell you how crazy things did get, someone threw a shirt they had on in the air and it fell and hung from one of the cords that supplied the house lights power. Chances of going to a concert and experiencing a truly magical moment are pretty slim these days, but that song is one that always guarantees it.

With the two lead singles out of the way, you could guess that their show was winding down, and it seemed like “Slowly But Surely” might be it. They again enlisted the help of their female vocalist, who, apart from the backing vocals, also sang one of the verses. The song was made even more incredible with another wicked solo from the one and only Rocky, who even got a clap along started towards the end. The crowd was roaring, and when asked if they could handle one more, it was obvious they were more than game. “Good, ‘cause that’s all we got.” JT remarked, before adding they had some new shirts for sale and he’d be hanging out by the merch table as soon as this one was done.

“We fucking love you, Dallas.” he said again, a sentiment so strong it was worth repeating this night. They opted for a cover to close out their 70-minute long set, and that cover was New Orders’ “Bizarre Love Triangle”, a song they’ve made all their own. It was a fun note to end on, and enough people knew it to add it to the list of sing-along numbers this night.

There are few bands who make their shows into as fun experiences as what Ishi does, and they are consistent with it. If anything, they only get better from one show to the next.

It’s electronic music, but it’s fresh and doesn’t have the generic sounds of some other acts in the same genre. That’s to say they don’t get repetitive, and nothing they do sounds similar to any of their other music. That, along with the atmosphere they create is what keeps people coming back for more, and that’s why in the North Texas music scene, they’re about as big as one can get.

You can see them at The Chuggin’ Monk in Arlington on June 21st, and before heading out on a West Coast tour, they’ll be doing a sendoff show on July 11th at Trees in Dallas. Their homecoming from said tour will be at Lola’s Saloon in Fort Worth on August 15th. Their full tour schedule can be viewed HERE, and if you live in California, Washington, Idaho, Utah, Colorado or Oklahoma, you should probably give it a look. As for their music, pick it up in iTUNES.

The Elm Street Tattoo and Music Festival got off to a great start, and even on a Thursday night there were a ton of people around Deep Ellum checking out all that was going on. Things would only get crazier by the time the weekend was finished.

Friday, May 30th, 2014 – Light the Fire Returns, While Cull the Heard Takes Charge

The Boiler Room is best known for hosting hard rock and metal bands, and this night, they had quite the lineup scheduled.

Even though I got there around nine, the first band (Darkside of Daylight) had already come and gone, as this apparently ended up being a five-band bill. That made Driven Below the first band I saw, and they wound up being just too heavy for my personal tastes.

They opened their 27-minute long set with “Prelude to the Dark”, and while I may have found the music too metal, I did enjoy the stage show, and the banter was topnotch. “This is a Friday and it sounds more like a Wednesday!” vocalist Eric Daughtry shouted, trying to get the crowd more pumped up. He then joked that bassist Jim Taylor wrote this bass line for their next song, “Legions of the Damned”, while back in Tyler, “sipping on a daiquiri”.

Another funny moment came when Eric tired his hand at a Matthew McConaughey impression, using the old standby, “Alright, alright, alright.” “That’s always a crowd favorite.” he joked after the audience cheered him; before they eventually ended with “A God Among Insects”.

I may not have personally liked them, but I don’t have anything bad to say about them, either. It’s just not what I’m into.

They have a show at Click’s in Tyler on June 21st, and then they’ll be at The Rail Club in Fort Worth on June 28th. They also have dates at RBC in Dallas on July 18th and The Office in Euless on the 19th.

More or less the same can be said of the following band, A Threat to the Enemy, who did enough heavy screaming that I couldn’t even get into it in the slightest. Those who were there were loving it, though, and their music induced a lot of head banging.

Next up was one of the bands most of the people were there to see: Light the Fire.

It had been six months since the band had last taken a stage, and a lot had happened with the band since then. For starters, they went to Cleveland and laid down some tracks for their third album; and, as they got their banner hung at the back of the stage and their scrims set up on each side of it, something else became clear: Felix Lopez was now the lone guitarist in the band.

I had been told right before the show this night that their lineup would be a little different, and it was then that I realized what that meant. No one seemed too taken aback by it, though, and they certainly weren’t worried about how this show would play out.

“Come on, Dallas! Let me see you bounce your hands with me! Let’s have some fucking fun tonight!” shouted vocalist Jeff Gunter, who, like his band mates, was clearly ecstatic to be back on a stage. They warmed everyone up with the old favorites from their first EP, tearing right into “Don’t Fail Me Now”, as Jeff began screaming out the first verse of the track. “So don’t fail me now, this dream is mine. Our time is now, so watch me shine!” he roared on the chorus, as fans sang and jumped along to the music.

“It’s good to be back.” Jeff remarked afterwards, before asking if anyone was familiar with the title track from that debut EP, “Not to Self”. “I know more of you know it than that!” he said after getting a weak response. I’d be remiss if I didn’t say that “Note To Self” sounded a little different without two guitars. That was only really at the beginning, though, and once they got through the guitar intro, the rhythm section of bassist Andrew Penland and drummer Blake Hein helped flesh things out. “Hey!” Andrew shouted on the bridge, as Jeff held the mic out to different fans, letting them lend a helping hand with the backing vocals. “Suck it!” Jeff shouted as the track came back in, with a little more force than normal I might add.

“Boiler Room, how you doing?” Jeff asked once that song was done, while the sample track for their next one (and subsequent track on the EP) had already began to play. As is normal, he asked for everyone to do some jumping around at the start of “Thoughts”, and more than a few fans were happy to do that. That was what the crowd needed to really get riled up. People had been surprisingly calm thus far, but now some moshing broke out, though it was even tame compared to other LTF shows.

“Dallas, it feels so fucking good to be back!” Jeff again exclaimed, still riding high on the waves of excitement and adrenaline. “I’m out of shape. Like, bad.” Andrew added. I imagine that was true, given the band played very frequently before what could be called a brief hiatus, though their actions on stage didn’t reflect that of a band who was out of shape. “I feel fat.” joked Jeff, referencing their time in Cleveland, and saying with all the cheese they consumed, “you won’t shit for a month”. The chats were nice, though they made sure to never let them go on for too long, and soon got back to business, again getting the audience to participate in shouting “Hey!” at the very start of “Under My Skin”.

From the end of it, they went right into the lead track from their self-titled EP, “All Or Nothing”. Jeff continued the role of high-energy frontman, jumping all around the stage and getting up close and personal with those who were right up against the stage, before jumping backwards onto the drum riser towards the end. “Sorry for being MIA…” he said as they took another break, saying he and his wife had decided to, well… He somewhat thrust his pelvis in the air and made some sounds associated with sex, saying they had, had their first child sometime in these last six months. He mentioned that sacrifices are hard, mainly talking about the sacrifices you make when you have a little one to care about, but that could be applied to several situations, and because of that, it made for a perfect time for Andrew to interrupt. “Give it up for this guy for sticking around…” he said, noting that Jeff very easily could have left, and no one would have blamed him a bit.

It was surprisingly real talk, which soon gave way to them mentioning that those who knew them would know this next song had a special name at shows. “Put your thunder cunts up in the air!” Jeff instructed (Thunder C*** is what the song is known as), as fans placed their thumbs and index fingers together, making an opening. “Look how big Blakes’ thunder cunt is!” Jeff said pointing back to the drummer, who was using his sticks to make his. On the album, the song is known as “Forever Grateful”, a truly great, albeit heavy, love song, and Jeff used the lull of the tune to formally introduce the band. “Felix the Cat.” he said of the guitarist, while Blake’s nickname “Blake The Snake” was used, and Andrew was simply called “Andy”.

“Dallas, I have just one thing to say to you. I’ve never been so grateful!” he screamed as they suddenly kicked the song back into high gear. With their 37-minute long set nearly over, Jeff made clear he wanted to see some movement out in the crowd, as they looked to end things with the uplifting, “Stick To Your Guns”. “Believe in what you find inside yourself. We’re shooting for the stars and nothing less…” goes the chorus; and before the breakdown, there was a second or two long pause, where the whole venue was just silent, making the track sound even better.

As it turned out, they weren’t done just yet, though. Their trip to Cleveland “AKA Scary Place” (as they called it) was again mentioned, and they had several nicknames for the city. “…There’s a place called Ghetto Gas. That’s real.” Jeff informed everyone, before telling the listeners that they thought they’d play one of the new songs they recorded, saying it was for all the lovely ladies. Jeff used his fingers to make a hashtag sign, and, if I heard him correctly, the new number was titled “#IDoItforTheFuckingRatchets”. It was a super heavy song, rivaling that of some of LTFs’ most intense numbers thus far, and they got some help from some friends on it. JC (of Darkside of Daylight and formerly The Truman Syndrome) joined them on stage, and eventually, Tina Downs (of Deaf Angel) was coaxed on stage to do a little background singing.

It may have been one of their heaviest songs, but it was also one of the best, and as they got ready to get their gear off stage, Andrew took time to again thank everyone for not only coming out, but also for not forgetting about them and sticking with them. “I know it’s been a minute.” he said in closing.

If you hadn’t known that they hadn’t played in six months, you never would have guessed it. They might not have been in perfect form, but there also weren’t any signs of dust having collected in that time off.

They’re still tight and they’re still an excellent metal band, even now that they are down to one guitarist, and really, sans that one song I mentioned earlier, I didn’t even notice that much of a difference as far as their sound goes. They’ve adapted the songs quite well to fit the new format.

Their next gig will be June 22nd at Tomcats West in Fort Worth, and they’ll also be performing the Austin and Dallas dates of the Dirty South Festival. The Austin date is August 1st at The Dirty Dog, while Dallas is happening at Trees on the 2nd. They also have a August 23rd show at Curtain Club in Dallas; and if you don’t have their EP’s, you can pick them up in iTUNES.

Bringing the show to an end was one band I hadn’t seen quite some time. A little over a year to be exact, when I first happened across Cull the Heard.

Since then, the band has released their debut album, gone through a lineup change (or two), and have made a good dent in scene, doing frequent shows and capturing a good fan base.

“Is everybody having fun tonight?!” frontman Davon Says asked the crowd, before their enlivened 41-minute set started off with the lead track from the “Reap the Harvest” album, “That’s Right”. He even sang the songs title in his deep metal voice a few times after asking the audience how their night was going, being answered with their cheers.

The presence was there, and so was the energy, as Davon raced back and forth on the fixture that has been added in front of the stage to expand it. He spent more time there this night than he did on the actual stage, because that way he got a closer connection with the crowd. When he wasn’t darting around, he was jumping; and he even walked into the crowd and then out the door at one point, looking to reel in anyone who was standing outside. Then, when he came back in, he incited a friendly mosh pit.

It was non-stop insanity just on their first song, and they kept that pace up for the duration. “Is your life on hold?!” Davon asked, before guitarist Eric Dando launched them into the finely crafted “Life On Hold”. Davon kept going full throttle, placing one leg on a windowsill, standing firm on it and the extended stage, as he leaned over a few fans and sang at them. John Tapia took advantage of his wireless bass, and he mingled with the crowd on that one, giving spectators an up close and personal look. “Are you fucking ready?!” Davon asked as the songs lull came to an end, and they exploded back into the track.

They showed off their softer side at times during “I Want More”, and Davon grabbed the hands of many of fans/friends who had gathered around the stage, before again getting off the stage and disappearing into the bar section of the venue, and all the while you could still hear him singing. “How y’all doing tonight?” he asked sincerely after that song, before posing another question to everybody. “Are y’all in this?” It was a setup for “In This”, which saw Eric playing a wicked guitar solo, and drummer Mike Lambert and John made for a powerhouse rhythm section.

That led them to their “panty dropping song” as Davon referred to it as, saying that “Pieces” was for the ladies, and it was “about being a better person”. The track starts on a slower vibe, but eventually rivals that of their other numbers. “Are y’all fucking ready?!” Davon bellowed, before furiously head banging to the intense beat, so hard, in fact, that his hat flew off his head and landed in the floor. Upon jumping down to get it, he entered a mosh pit, and was more than happy to partake in it, all the while never missing a note.

“This next song requires some participation.” he said in advance of their next song. “Say ‘What!’” he instructed, adding that came after he sang “…I’m a part of it and it’s a part of me.” People happily helped out with that at the start of “Part of It”, when Davon sang a couple lines a cappella; and when the music came in, he proceeded to quickly sidestep back and forth on the area in front of the stage. “Y’all want some more?!” he then asked, holding the microphone out to people to better hear what they would say. The answer was a resounding “yes”, and “Can’t See” seemed to do just the trick for the fans, sparking a whole new dose of excitement. John again left the stage, this time wandering over to the bar, but the highlight came when Davon took a flying leap onto the audience.

They had done most of the songs off their album at this point, but still had a few left in the chamber, and before “D.I.M”, Davon clarified that it stood for “Deep Inside of Me”, a phrase often repeated during the track. “Kiddin Me” offered a great note to end on, and once it was over, Davon, who was again out amongst the people, gave several of the fans big, sweaty hugs, thanking them for coming out. It made it sound like it was over, but his band mates had other ideas…

Before they could even check on their time, Mike started them in on “Take Me”, a song that pushed them past their allotted time, but no one really cared. “You can’t take my life from me. I’m too strong for it, you see?” sang Davon on the chorus, channeling the more delicate side of his vocal range, before bursting into some screaming.

Their set was as explosive as they come, and they were a spectacle to watch on stage. Cull the Heard has definitely set themselves apart from much of the rest of the herd, and that extends to their music, too, which has several metal elements, but is also pretty original sounding.

If you haven’t seen them, you’re missing out, and I know I’m going to have to try to start catching their shows more often.

Keep a check on their FACEBOOK or REVERBNATION pages to be in the loop about future shows; and be sure to pick up “Reap the Harvest” in iTUNES.

I may not have loved every band I saw here this night, but the two I really did enjoy made this a spectacle night.

Saturday, April 5th, 2014 – Astronautalis Astonishes at Day Two of the Deep Ellum Arts Fest

Once I trekked back to main stage at Main and Good Latimer, a crowd was already starting to gather around the stage, and I staked out a spot just in time.

It had only been twenty days since Astronautalis last played Dallas, but he (Andy Bothwell) had been brought back to his old town to help close out the DEAF this night and lot of people were going to take advantage of this free show.

It was the Spillover Music Festival he played the previous month, and I did a lot of bouncing around at that one; only catching a portion of Astronautalis’s set that day, so I was looking forward to getting the full experience now.

“How y’all doing? It’s good to be back…” Andy said to the sizable crowd after he and band mates Austin and Moe (if I heard their names correctly) took the stage. “It feels like I was just here, with the same exact weather. I always bring bad weather with me…” he joked. That banter with the crowd lasted briefly, as chose to immediately establish a rapport with his old hometown crowd, rather than rip right into the first song.

That came soon enough though, in the form of one of the new tracks he has cooked up. It followed more along the lines of his current material, rather than his past records, and even though this group of fans had only heard it once at most, you could tell they had already embraced, roaring back at the hip-hop artists/singer at one of the breaks where he shouted and asked the crowd, “Are you ready?!”

“That was a new song, this one’s an old one.” he quickly said, while the sample track from “Contrails” began to play. Fans cheered at that, and many of them rapped right along with him when the song got going, “I know, leaving’s your living, built in your bones. No one can ever escape all of their ghosts…” Personally, that’s what has appealed to me the most about Astronautalis’ music, the fact that it’s real and honest, verses the gangster style of rap and hip-hop most people first think of whenever they hear either genre mentioned. And judging on how everyone was reacting to it this night and singing along excitedly, it was making a connection, too.

“This is the
last show of our tour. So we’re just gonna mess around and do stuff we want to.” The fans liked the sound of that, and they liked it even more so when things rolled into “This Is Our Science”. Andy got everyone pumped up while he sang the first verse, ensuring everyone was having a fun time, while also pushing things to a fever pitch. Then he burst into the rap portion of the song, delivering the words at a machine-gun pace, to the point that even though I knew the lyrics, I could barely keep up with what he was saying. “Tell me this, put up your fingertips if you’re living your life exactly the way that you wished…” he sang later in the song, prompting some of the fans to lift their arms into the air; and at the end, everyone shouted out the final line, “Touch fire!”

“Jesus, Dallas, could y’all have more stuff going on?” he asked once the song was over. He was referring to the fact that the NCAA Final Four was going on this weekend, as well as a three-day concert series in conjunction with that, that featured The Killers, Tim McGraw, and, the night after this, Bruce Springsteen. There was also the Dallas Film Festival, and I think I’m still leaving out a few events.

His focus returned to the concert series, where The Killers were playing this night. “…My secret hope is that someone out here is thinking, ‘This isn’t The Killers?!’, then they get super drunk and later on think, ‘That’s an awesome version of Mr. Brightside!” he joked. He also mentioned he thought the opposite would be amusing too, and that if some fan watching The Killers was wasted and thinking to themselves, ‘Man, Astronautalis has really sold out.” This was proving to be much more than just a concert, and there was also a great comedy aspect to it.

“This next one’s super loud.” He warned before “Thomas Jefferson”, a song where he showed off his freestyle skills, replacing the verse that rapper Sims takes on the recording with what he was able to come up with on the fly. It was followed by another new song, after which Astronautalis informed everyone he was in the process of making a new album, and hoped to return to the studio this summer to finish it all up. He then reminisced and joked about his time in Dallas. “You know when you’re a punk indie kid and you hear your redneck friends and you think how stupid they are so you move to Seattle?” he said. He then continued by talking about how the new friends you make there give you a hard time over your accent, until you realize you’re a redneck just like the people you were trying to get away from. Someone in the crowd called him out on that, and he mentioned he didn’t mean that disrespectful at all, and quickly confessed that he, too, was a redneck. In fact, that (specifically The South) was what he said the central focus of his next album would be, but for now, he got back to the fan favorites with a remix version of another hit from the “This is Our Science” album.

“It’s now a dance song.” he stated before “Dimitri Mendeleev”, which seemed to be an anthem to some fans, who shouted along, “…We invent paths they cannot see, and they’re too scared walk….” They then slowed things down a little with “A Love Song for Gary Numan”, but that mellow mood didn’t last long. The live version had more of a kick to it than the album version, and as the drumming increased and grew more intense, Andy began striking his hand against his hip, until the track exploded into action.

“Let’s dance some more!” he said enthusiastically before “Midday Moon”. He jumped in the crowd at one point during it, and while everyone was respectful, people were still placing their hands all over him. “Thanks for dancing with me. I feel pregnant after that.” He cracked, before mentioning that when he recorded that song, he was afraid everyone was going to hate it. Clearly, they do not.

They kept things going with another new song, and this one had some not so subtle religious undertones to it, and was my personally favorite of the new tracks that were played this night. “I’m full of basketball hatred.” Andy said when it was over. He wasn’t really joking, either, since the team he was rooting for had been knocked out of the playoffs. “No one ever wants Kentucky to win!” he added, clearly harboring some degree of malice towards them.

He let it go and got back to Dallas, though, talking about Good Records and how things have changed down here, like the “weird robot” that now stands there (known officially as the Traveling Man). He then asked about Bank of America Plaza building, which was lit up blue this weekend, and looked very strange from the typical green. “Who knew it could turn blue?” he asked, before inquiring who that had been done for, guessing it was probably for The Boss, or perhaps The Killers. “For me, y’all did that for me?” he later joked, before moving on to the next track.

“You only need to know 1 word  for this next song, and that’s ‘Hey’… You won’t learn the lyrics, so don’t be pretentious and just dance…” he said in a humorous manner, before unloading another new song on the fans. It was another killer one, and at one point, while he had one leg propped up on the monitor, he then jumped onto it and quickly pushed off it.

The next part of the show was perhaps the best of the night, and people got giddy when he mentioned he would be doing a freestyle rap, which is apparently customary at Astronautalis shows. Kendrick Lamars’ “Don’t Kill My Vibe” was the backing track used, but before it, he took suggestions from the audience on what to rap about. Someone wanted to know who the drummers favorite Care Bear was (he answered “The Red Power Ranger.”), while sea turtles were another topic thrown out (“You said that so gangsta.” Andy laughed after the woman said it.) Another guy mentioned the newborn baby a friend of his had just had, whose name was Olivia. “What  street cred I had is gone…” Andy said with a smile, mentioning that this was probably going to be the happiest rap of all time. It got a little more hardcore when someone mentioned they had a friend who had just gotten out of jail, while another said Cthulhu, though the subject of pizza irked Astronautailis. “Have you ever listened to a Mac Miller record? That’s all the songs are about…” he cracked, going off on entertaining rant of sorts (actually, rant seems like to strong of a word to use).

So, after he cooled off, he pulled out a rap involving all of those suggested topics in one way or another. Wow. It wasn’t just entertaining because of the absurd stuff people had shouted out, but because he also incorporated it all together in a very solid rap, proving this isn’t just something he’s good at, but a natural talent he was born with and has perfected over the years. He also worked into how when he first started, it was rap battles similar to this, just right down the street. “…And no one gave no shits…” he said, and later worked a thank you to all his fans into it, pointing out how much it meant that people would actually learn his lyrics and put the effort into singing along at shows. It was a very cool piece, especially since it was all made up on the spot.

 The 59-minute long set ended with “Lift the Curse”, but even after nearly an hour, no one was ready for the show to be over.

It looked like it was, though, especially once the emcee of the stage walked back up and began to wrap up the night, though his words were drowned out by the calls for an encore. “Let them know.” He said. Soon, the band did return, and they struck hard.

“The River, The Woods” started off the 7-minute encore portion, reinvigorating everyone who was there. In fact, while it had only gotten colder and the winds were strong, I hadn’t even noticed the cold at all throughout this Astronautalis show. Some drum beats then wound them into the next song, “Trouble Hunters”, which became a fun clap-along and sing-along for everyone. “…We are the trouble tonight.” fans chanted throughout the song, and giving that the night was still so young (around 10:30), it was a fitting one to go out on.

Damn. What a show.

As I said in the review of that last show, in hindsight, I should have stuck around for all of Astronautalis’s show, and I’m glad I had a chance so soon to make up for that mistake (hey, it was a festival and I wanted to see as many bands as I could.)

The presence this guy has is overwhelming, and he can command a crowd of old fans and new comers with complete ease. And at the risk of repeating an earlier statement, when watching an Astronautalis show, you really can tell that this is Andy Bothwell’s calling in life, and both performing and rapping are something he excels at.

On that note, I’m generally not a fan of hip-hop or rap. I’m not going to say anything negative about the genres, as it has everything to do with personal preference. However, there’s something about his music that is just gripping. It speaks to you. Maybe not necessarily in a way that you can completely relate to the track, but it still does, and more than a few of the songs have an inspirational quality to them.

Point is, check him out if you aren’t yet familiar with the music. All of the albums can be found in iTUNES, and I’d suggest starting with “This is Our Science”. As for tour dates, his whole schedule can be found HERE. However, he’ll be all over Europe in May and into early June. And hopefully by year’s end, fans will have a new album to listen to.

It had been a helluva great day at the Deep Ellum Arts Festival, but like I said, the night was still young, and there was a CD release show going on that I could not miss out on…

Saturday, April 5th, 2014 – The 20th Annual Deep Ellum Arts Festival

Attending the Deep Ellum Arts Fest has become a little tradition over the last few years, mainly just to go take in all the free music that occurs on the five stages set up along the four city blocks of the historic part of Dallas.

The last few years have been great, but this day, spirits were dampened by the cold weather and, at times, rain.

Parking was next to impossible to find at two in the afternoon when I got down there and happened to luck into a spot behind Trees. The rain was still secure up in the clouds at that time, and plenty of people left when it did hit, freeing up some more spaces for those who would arrive later.

Aside from seeing some bands I was already familiar with, the setting also made it good to check out some new (to me) bands, like Kites and Boomerangs, who were already getting started on their set when I made my way over to the stage at Main and Good Latimer.

They were a four-piece rock band with hints of indie thrown in; and they kept the show fresh by often changing things up. For example, guitarist Josh Garcia handled the lead vocals on the first full song I heard, “Living”, before William Appleton — who was the bands other guitarist — took back lead vocal duties, putting a slight R&B twist on “Past, Present, Future”.

For the most part, they went back on forth on the vocals with every song, doing “Mystery Pie” next, and then “To the Moon”, which had a built-in bass solo from Eoin Donovan, which was pretty slick sounding, and he was only getting warmed up with that.

At this point, Josh and drummer Donnie Simmons traded places. It was very interesting, and that wasn’t the end of the switching out, because at the end of the next song — which did have some weaker sounding vocals from William —  Eoin and Donnie swapped out the bass and guitar.

They bridged it right into what I think was “Underground”, after which Eoin dedicated their song to “the clouds”. “I hope it doesn’t rain.” he said, but quickly added, “Then again, I hope it does, because I do like the rain…” His band mates and some of the onlookers got a kick out of that, and that was a sort of fitting lead in to “Elevate”. Next came another older tune from their 2012 debut album :Curiosity”, titled “In Need”, which was pretty catchy.

Those who had played musical chairs assumed their original spots after that one was over, leading one of them to tell everyone to “get ready to dance again!” They then pointed out a guys shirt, saying that the Jonas Brothers were a big influence on them personally, especially when it came to this new record. “Leave Justin Bieber alone!” Eoin shouted, adding to the jokes. That wasn’t the most entertaining moment, however. The most entertaining moment came during the next number, when he got tripped up and fell on his back, and like a turtle who didn’t posses the strength to roll back over, he stayed on his back — not wanting to get out of the zone. He tore it up on the bass, and only when the song was over did he get back up, which was when his band mates made sure to poke fun at him a bit. “Did anyone else see that fall?” William asked the audience.

Things got a little PG-13 when Josh said he had a joke he had been working on, and told any parents in the vicinity to cover their kids ears. “What do you call a cheap circumcision?” he asked, before delivering the punch line, “A rip-off.” Luckily, they had a good tune to follow-up that lackluster joke, and “Vagrant Heart” seemed like that would be just about it from the band, who then discovered they had a little more time to kill.

“Stroke of Luck” was added to the set, and then they ended with “Gordo the Space Chimp”, which is based on one of the first monkeys NASA sent into orbit. The song was a bit silly, but they compensated for it with an explosive end, which say Eoin falling down (this time on purpose) and rocking out on his bass, before taking it off and tossing it about in the air, almost juggling it, then viciously slapping the strings.

It was a good show by a good band. Honestly, I can’t say I became a true fan of Kites and Boomerangs, simply because the music never really clicked with me. You know, there was never that moment of it making a profound connection or thinking, “Wow!” They know how to perform, though, and there could have been much worse ways to spend the better part of an hour (or longer).

Between iTUNES and BANDCAMP you can check out both of their albums. As for future shows, keep an eye out on their FACEBOOK PAGE.

Given that the next band I wanted to see was also on this stage, I walked around and browsed some of the art booths after their set, returning to the stage close to 3:40, when Loyal Sally was set to take the stage.

The man who was emceeing the stage gave the band quite the intro and really build them up. So, once the four of them got on stage, singer and electric guitarist Michael “Bubba” Lindblom had to make a little joke about. “After an intro like that, I’m sure you were expecting explosions and all sorts of cool stuff…” he said, hoping that no one felt disappointed. “We’re Loyal Sally, and this is what we decided to do with our lives.” he stated, as they began the first song of their 43-minute long set.

Like much of their material this afternoon, it was a newer (or at least thus far unrecorded). Still, it sounded great, and even led one guy to shout afterwards, “I love Loyal Sally!” “That’s not love, that’s lust.” Bubba told him afterwards, while they prepared for one of their older songs. “This song’s called Stereo, and I don’t really know what it’s about.” Acoustic guitarist Michael Morgan then started them into the track from the “Things From Thoughts” EP. Even now, amidst their newer stuff, that’s still one of their best songs, and I still like the line from the second verse, “I’ll never make it if I hear what they say. I’ll know I’m wrong if I do it the right way…”

“We’ve played in all kinds of rain: stinging rain, rain from the ground, sideways rain.” Bubba joked after that song, noting the rain that had been falling for a little while now was “nothing”. Everyone seemed to agree, because it hadn’t kept a large cluster of people from gathering around the stage right when they started.

With some rapid-fire drum beats, Stacy Blankenship then launched them into their next song, which was one that Michael informed everyone was an older one of theirs. “…We wrote it in the Dark Ages, when we were still learning about our bodies.” he quipped. “This next song is about what we found out…” he quickly added, as they pulled out another newer one.

Once it was over, Bubba asked everyone if they could get a circle pit going. “You remember the circle pit? From the nineties? It was like a regular mosh pit except in a circle?” he asked, receiving nothing but black stares like he was an idiot. He called everyone out on it, too. “Bull shit!” he said, lapsing that this was an all ages event and tiny ears were all over, and he hastily apologized for it.

They then got into what Michael said were their “country roots” they had recently started tapping into, doing a couple of songs I hadn’t heard before. One was titled “Beautiful Sunday”, and it along with the one that came after were definitely folk/country sounding. It was a big jump from the slight rock songs they do with some subtle folk elements thrown in, though they pulled it off well, and my curiosity over their next album, the long-awaited “Ellis”, might sound like.

During the latter of those two tracks, Bubba pointed out bassist Lucas Weiss, telling everyone to look at how “cute” he is. “…I could say all sorts of things about him…” Bubba continued, but kept his mouth shut this time, saying it was a family friendly show after all.

One of their best songs was a new one that was only a couple of weeks old at this point, which I believe they debuted at this show. The two Michael’s sang in unison on it, something that they’ve never done before, but hopefully will work in a little more often now.

Michael owned it on his acoustic guitar during their next one, another unrecorded track that has been around for awhile, and is a definite fan favorite. “We’re going to do some more new ones.” He told everyone when they finished. “But to most of you, all of these are new anyway, so I’m lying, we’ve had all these songs for awhile now.” he said and laughed, as they started a series of three songs, all of which were segued into one another.

For their final song, Bubba placed his guitar in a stand and wrapped the mic cord around his hand. With that, they were ready to get “Bye Bye” underway, which is still the most fitting closer they have, and even after a sufficiently long set like this, it still leaves the crowd wanting more.

It had been about a year since the last time I had seen Loyal Sally, and seeing this show had me wondering why making it to any of their shows since just didn’t work out for me.

They’re a great band with some fun and often infectious songs and their live show is certainly one that entertains.

Be sure to check out (and buy) their two EP’s in iTUNES, and “Ellis” should be dropping sometime within the year. You can even download some of their songs for free on REVERBNATION, and keep an eye on either that page or FACEBOOK for updates on future shows.

Next, I headed for another stage set up at the corner of Elm and Crowdus, which was set up in the parking lot of the old Club Clearview. Speaking of which, the doors to that long shuttered venue were open and people were doing something in there. I’m sure it’s way too optimistic to think it could be reopening soon — or even at all — but man, that would be cool, though.

Anyway, Pseudo Future was up on this stage, and just a few weeks after seeing the trio for the first time, I was getting another chance to take in one of their live shows.

Things had gotten thrown off, so they missed their five-o’clock start time. However, when they were ready to get to work, they wasted no time, and ripped right into one of their non-album tunes, which caught the attention of the onlookers in the area.

“Welcome to the  rainiest arts fest I’ve ever seen.” remarked singer and guitarist Jeff Lowe. Fortunately, the sun was finally starting to make an appearance, even if it would only last a couple of hours until it was time for it to set. All the same, it was out. “…We’re going to have a good time. Are you ready to have fun?!” he shouted. Only a handful of fans stood in front of the stage, but they were clearly eager to have some fun, and the dynamic “Loss Of Light”, complete with its intricate instrumental portion, was just what they were wanting to hear.

The slow start “Drawing Board” gets off to could be misleading, though it doesn’t give off that vibe for long; and when Justyn Gomez laid into his drum kit, bassist Patrick Hunter shouted into his mic, as if he were trying to pump everyone up to the level he was at. Sadly, it was during that one that he encountered some technical difficulties, which kept him out of commission for most of the song. As I’ve said in the past, I’m don’t hold stuff like that against the bands, since it’s out of their control, and in this case, Patrick was frantically trying to resolve the issue while his band mates soldiered on.

Some fuzzy feedback wound them into their next number, before the bass took charge as Jeff set up the song. He started by saying that every time they have done this song, the woman it’s about, his wife, has not been there. Well, this day, he finally got to perform “Love Of My Life” for her in a live setting. “She always wakes before me and gets me out of bed…” he crooned into his bullet microphone, before switching over to the other one on the stand. And I really like how they make the song a better fit for the live environment by adding the drums and bass in (it’s just acoustic on the EP), and turn it into a rock song that can rival their others.

Speaking of others, they did several others that they have yet to record (or at the very least release), including one that began with Justyn putting his electric drum pad to use, though out in the crowd, you really couldn’t hear it. “…The old familiar beat of your heart!” Jeff shouted throughout the tune; a line I just personally like. He then grabbed one of Justyns’ extra drum sticks and hopped up on the drum riser, where he proceeded to bang around on the kit, while Patrick hammered out some bass riffs. He eventually joined them, but dropped one of the sticks he picked up, and later retrieved it, just in case Justyn might have needed it.

That led them to another intense track, and Patrick rocked out hard enough during it that the cap he was wearing flew off his head and came to rest on the stage.

They had powered through their set, and even though it had been nearly half an hour, it didn’t seem. It had passed by too quick, but at least that’s a good sign you’re having fun. “All My Friends” concluded their set, and they were wanting to make sure everyone was having a good time right up until they left the stage. “Let’s dance one more time!” shouted Jeff before the final chorus. At the tail end of it, he laid his guitar on the drum riser, then proceeded to play it like that. Well, at least pluck some of the strings as it died down.

Yeah, there were a few hiccups at times early in the show, but they still brought their A game, and despite that, they never faltered. At least I didn’t think so.

That’s not to say this show was on par with the one I had seen a few weeks prior, but even on an off day they still didn’t leave anyone feeling disappointed in what they had seen, because what they had seen was a solid rock show.

They have a show coming up on May 24th at The Curtain Club Dallas. It’s a battle of the bands style show where the winner will get to play the forthcoming Pegasus Music Festival, with Brand New, Circa Survive and others. So, throw ‘em some much needed support and go see that show. And if you want to know what you’ll be in for, you can download their EP for free on their BANDCAMP PAGE.

Next stop was back to the stage at Main and Good Latimer, where The Fox and The Bird were getting ready to go on.

It had been right at a year since I last saw one of Dallas’ most highly regarded folk bands (I remember because it was at last year’s DEAF).

I only caught the first 35-minutes, which began with drummer Paul Grass striking the xylophone, as they got “Traveling Bones” underway. It was followed with another track from 2011’s “Floating Feather” album, “Old Mother”, which showed off the harmonies they are capable of, as violinist Petra Kelly and multi-instrumentalist Jacob Metcalf (who was playing a banjo at this time) harmonized with acoustic guitarist Dan Bowman.

After those few old tracks, it was time to get to their new album, which they finally finished and released to their fans part way through last year. “Valley” was one of those new songs they did, and afterwards they switched things up a bit. Paul took the banjo from Jacob, who grabbed an acoustic guitar, while Dan got an accordion. While they were getting ready, Petra mentioned that this was to be her final show with The Fox and The Bird, prompting some boos from the crowd. “You’re not supposed to boo, you’re supposed to be happy…” she told everyone; showing no sign of being upset about this. That did make everyone feel better about it, and like she said, they were here seeing the show and enjoying this fine day of music, so there was no reason to be sad.

Petra then handled the lead vocals on the excellent “Saints”, then slowed things down with the band sing-along “Hey, Sister”. Dan added some trumpet sounds to “Rough Darlin’”, while Jacob assumed lead vocal duties, and once it was done, they reverted back to their starting instruments.

While they were doing that, bassist Mimo Morreale (who was using an upright bass) began to sing the next track, which was entirely a cappella. Petra joined him for most of the incredibly short “When I Was Young”. “…This is the end, dying on my own without any friends. Not even an enemy to make my amends…” they sang on the little prelude to the first single from their new album, “Wreck of the Fallible”.

Once that full song had come to an end, Dan pointed out that Mimo had just rejoined the band, after spending the last two years in the Philippines. That earned him some loud applause, and Dan mentioned that while they were sad to be losing a talent like Petra, they were happy to be getting an old friend back into the fold.

“Ashes” was one of the best songs they did from the new album (at least out of the ones I heard this day), and the last song I stuck around for was their classic “Oldest Old”, which seemed like a good one to leave on.

You can’t say they’re not a great band. They may not be what I typically go for, and there’s probably a reason the last time I saw them was at last year’s Arts Fest, but still, they have some great, well-written songs in their arsenal. Aside from that, they pull of the harmonies incredibly well, and everyone in the group is more than capable of singing lead should they want to/are needed to.

It’ll be a little weird with Petra not being in the band anymore, but I’m sure they’ll find someone who manages to fill her shoes.

Check out both of their albums on iTUNES, and while they don’t have any shows booked at the moment, keep an eye on their TOUR PAGE for any updates.

Next stop was back to the smaller Deep Ellum stage at Elm and Crowdus, where The Crazy Ivans were playing.

They were another band I had seen at another DEAF; back two years ago. They seem to be one of those bands who just doesn’t play shows too often, and when they have, I had other plans. I couldn’t pass up this chance to see them, though; and they were already in the swing of things when I got over to the stage.

Their set was comprised mostly of newer songs (they’re currently doing an Indiegogo campaign) and I walked in during one of them, while the next one was great. I don’t think it’d be a stretch to say it’s some of their best stuff yet, and after it, frontwoman Kristen Lueken mentioned they were going to slow it down some. But after slowing it down, you need to bring the mood back up, and they did just that with what she noted was one of her favorite songs.

It came from the “Dive!” record, and as she said, it was a “highly danceable one”. She played a bit of keys on “My Favorite Song”, while her band mates rocked out and jumped around with their guitars and bass, They threw a couple more at the decent crowd, including another new one, which Kristen mentioned anyone hear could name, if they donated enough cash to their campaign that is. “Right now we’re calling it B Flat, because that’s the key it’s in.” she said of the song, which she later told everyone was one “about happiness”.

A couple more followed, one of which was titled “Sticky Sweet”, and they were cut short just a little. From the looks of it, they had at least one more in the chamber, but time didn’t allow it, so they thanked everyone for watching and began packing up their gear.

They put on an explosive show, and more than a few people that I overheard were quite impressed with them. I was too, and I remembered why I had liked them so much in the first place when I first came across them here a couple years back.

With a new album on the horizon, hopefully their show schedule will pick up some. In the meantime, they have some free downloads up on their REVERBNATION, and if you like that, pick up their albums in iTUNES.

My next destination was a larger singer/songwriters stage at Main and Malcolm X, but I still had time to kill before the act I wanted to see hit the stage there, and it’s a good thing I did.

More art booths along with a small stage for singers and songwriters was also set up in the parking lot adjacent to the Curtain Club, and as I passed by, the sounds coming from the area compelled me to go see what was going on.

I think that was a first for myself, given that I almost always stay at a club from start to finish and know where I’m going, instead of wondering around seeing what music from what clubs gets my attention enough to go check it out.

Musician Jordan Franz was on stage, and she was backed by drummer David J. Oliver, bassist Matthew Royal Webb and Reese Bailey, who, along with some additional percussion, also added a saxophone into the mix.

All that resulted in an utterly heavenly mix, and her voice sounded divine on top of it all.

I only caught the last three songs (“Worries” was easily the best that I heard and will be a highlight track from the record she mentioned it would eventually be on). I can’t say much else then I was enamored by it, and I was left wondering how I hadn’t heard of Jordan Franz until now.

You can listen to some songs of hers on her REVERBNATION page, and she does have a show coming up on May 9th at The Grotto in Fort Worth.

That was a very pleasant find here at the Deep Ellum Arts Festival, and now it onward to the other stage where Bad Mountain was getting set up to play.

I had only recently heard of the band, which is mainly singer/songwriter Jesse Anderson, who is of course backed by a cast of musicians for live shows.

Things were running a bit behind on this stage, but there were plenty of seats to grab, and after a busy, near nonstop day, it was nice to catch a little break.

When they get started, they did so with “Even On a Rainy Day”, the lead track from their debut, self-titled album. The thing with Bad Mountain is that if you had happened to be passing by and saw the band, you might wonder if you had stepped back in time, what with the dressier, more nostalgic looking attire and slicked back hairstyle Jesse was sporting. Once you heard that opening number, you really would have thought that, as their music has an old-timey country vibe to it. It was entrancing, what with the lively, yet simultaneously semi-relaxed music, which heavily featured Daniel Creamer and his piano.

“It sounds real nice up here. Hope it does out there, too.” Jesse said to the onlookers, before mentioning they had several more left “in the bank”. He proceeded to pluck the strings of his acoustic guitar, beginning “Tell Me Mama”. “What do you want from me? A little bit of company might just be all I can give…” he crooned on the chorus in his rich, soulful voice.

“Thanks for putting up with cold, bad weather.” He said to everyone, adding, “We’re gonna have some fun.” That meant doing “Rag Race”, which had a cheery aura to it, while still boasting a hefty rhythm section, which along with the drummer also included Matthew McDonald on an upright bass. “Is anybody else’s hands cold?” asked Jesse upon finishing the song, to little response from the audience. “Just us? Okay.” He replied, as he and his band mates began the low-key “Each Passing Minute”.

Thus far, every song had come from their EP, but they have more than just those six songs, and pulled one of them out at this point. Actually, it was one of my favorites from their set, and like their others tracks it told a story along with it.

“This is gonna be fun.” Jesse stated before “A Woman Like This”, which was quite rousing. It didn’t seem like they had been on stage anytime, but already it was time to call it a night, and, as Jesse said, he wanted to get off so the following act could have their allotted time. With that, they ended their 36-minute set with “Union Hill”, which had Jesse tapping into a higher falsetto register at times, and he pulled it off with ease.

They may be different, but they’re a great band, especially at what they do. And honestly, I don’t think there’s anything else like this in the DFW metroplex.

All the songs have legitimate substance to them and tell a story to get the listener engaged, and the distinctive, strong voice delivering them certainly doesn’t hurt, either.

I mentioned there’s an older country sound to the tracks, which may lead you to think that maybe Jesse Anderson was born in the wrong era of music. However, the better way to look at it is perhaps he’s trying to bring back a style of music you just don’t hear anymore, and adding a little personal flare to it in the process.

They have a few shows coming up in May, one of which will be on the 17th at the Richardson Wildflower Festival. The 22nd will find them at The Dram and the 25th they’ll be at The Boiler Room, both of which are in Dallas. As for their music, you can find it on either iTUNES or BANDCAMP.

It had been a great of topnotch local talent, but with the second day of the Arts Festival almost done, it was time for the headliner, and they had gotten an international touring act in to wrap things up…

Saturday, March 29th, 2014 – The Third Annual Big Folkin’ Fest

Believe it or not, I honestly had not planned on doing a thing this night.

After scrapping plans to make another trip up to Denton, and nothing really catching my eye in Dallas, I figured I’d spend a Saturday night at home for a change. Then I had a friend offer me a free ticket to the Big Folkin’ Fest, and I couldn’t pass that up.

Not that I hadn’t wanted to go to the show (which took place at The Prophet Bar, on both sides, using all three indoor stages, with an outdoor one set up on the patio), but I just couldn’t justify paying twenty bucks for a ticket into it.

Got there a little later, about nine or so, and killed time until Kirby Brown’s set in The Prophet Bar at 9:30.

That’s when he was scheduled to start, at least, but, in something that should have been no real surprise, the times weren’t set in stone. By the time he and his band were supposed to start the act before him was just finishing, making it around 9:50 or so before they got all setup and ready to go.

I had only seen him once before, when he did solo set at a Patio Sessions probably back in the fall of 2012. Sometime after that he made the decision to move to New York to pursue his music career, and while he has gotten back to Dallas more than a few times since, I’ve never managed to make the shows.

From what I remembered, he was great solo, but the full band really helped flesh out his sound, as they powered through a 42-minute set that saw them playing several new(er) tracks. “Thank you for being here.” Kirby told the near capacity Prophet Bar. “You’re fucking welcome!” exclaimed a very excited fan, leaving Kirby a bit shocked, though he did manage to say, “That’s a big welcome.”

One of the cuts they did from 2011’s “Child of Calamity” was the exuberant “Coattails”, which raised everyone’s energy level a good deal. While Kirby is an Americana musician, there are some other layers added to his music. However, a few songs after that, they got to one that was pure Americana rock, and it sounded brilliant.

They followed it with another great number that had a rocking end, with the drums, guitars, bass and keys blaring on it. They then went to the opposite side of things, and the band left Kirby alone to do a song solo. It may have been much quieter than the past songs, but he still had the crowd transfixed with it.

His band then returned for a cover song, while they ended with what seemed to be a fan favorite.

It was a great set, and it left me a real fan of Kirby Brown. Like I said, I had seen him before, but that was long enough ago I couldn’t remember much about him.

He has a fantastic voice, and it’s unique at that. Personally, I can’t say I’ve heard of another singer who sounds quite like he does, and he’s gifted in the songwriting department, too.

Check out his music in iTUNES, and go see a show if you get a chance. I know I’m going to have to make more of a point to see him next time he gets back to Dallas.

Headed out to the patio stage after that, where The Hazardous Dukes were already playing.

It was hard to actually see them, given that the “stage” was just the ground, and the mass of people who had already surrounded the area made it hard to get up close.

I really liked what I heard, though. The group is comprised of Hank Van Hawkins, Billy Bones and Zachary Fox, among others, such as Conner Farrall.

They played what I consider to be more authentic sounding country, and everyone who did some singing had a nice twang to their voice.

“This is based on a true story about a buddy whose divorce kept falling apart, and he kept getting back together with his wife.” One of them said before one song, which had me repeating that in my head a few times, thinking, “Did he really say ‘his divorce kept falling apart?’”, simply because you never hear it phrased in that manner.

They knocked out a few more, throwing some jokes in here and there, and on one those songs Conner had a great guitar solo.

They seem to play fairly often, and for the month of April are doing a residency at Sundown at Granada every Sunday night. Those shows are free.

Back over in The Prophet Bar (the smaller room, that is), things were still running behind schedule, and it was right at eleven when The O’s kicked off their set, a half-hour after they were supposed to.

The duo of John Pedigo and Taylor Young mentioned they had played year one and two of Big Folking Fest and were glad to be back for another year, before opening with the lead track from their “Between the Two” album, “We’ll Go Walkin’”.

That little love song was a nice way to get started, and a majority of the people there in the Prophet Bar were singing along to it as they watched the band; wonder gleaming from their eyes. They then got to a few songs from last year’s “Thunderdog”, including “Outlaw”, which is more or less an anthem. “…We’ve all got the right to fix things that we don’t like, while we yell and cuss and scream and fight…” sang John, while Taylor picked away at his guitar, while also supplying the percussion via a kick drum.

That was all I caught of their set. I would have liked to have seen more, but there was another act supposed to start right about this time on the smaller stage of the large room of The Prophet Bar; and I had at least seeing The O’s more recently than this other group.

These guys really are one of the best bands in Dallas, especially as far as country music is concerned, and I like them more and more each time I see them. At the very least, give their music a listen in iTUNES, and if you like it, buy it. As for shows, you can see them at Love and War in Plano, TX on April 19th. On May 16th they’ll be at Love and War in Grapevine, and the night after will find them in Fort Worth at Shipping and Receiving. They also have dates in Midland and Burleson in June.

J. Charles & The Trainrobbers had been charged with closing the night out over in the bigger room, and it had been nearly a year since I last them. In that time they’ve added Keith Naylor on as lead guitarist. Perhaps some of you (any longtime readers) recall what a fan/fanatic I was of Trebuchet, right up until their end last year. It was December 2012 the last time I saw them, and that said, I was looking forward to finally seeing Keith back on a stage.

They were all ready and raring to go as 12:15 rolled around, and the headliner seemed to be finishing up on the main stage adjacent to them… At least until they began another song, leaving The Trainrobbers with a puzzled look of, “Huh, I guess we’ll wait.” on their faces.

“Hi, you beautiful folkin’ people!” exclaimed singer and guitarist J. Charles Saenz, once it finally became time for them to start. “Mercy Killing” was what they opened with, and as great is that song is on the “Upon Leaving” album, it sounds incredible live. Probably because J. Charles is so impassioned as he sings it. “…There’s a bullet here for me, there’s a bullet here for you. Only problem is we love each other too damn much, it’s true…” goes the chorus, which more than a few fans were singing along with.

They moved on to the consecutive track from their debut album, doing “Letter to a Thief”, which had a pretty good kick to it, and the harmonies that Keith, bassist Justin Young and keyboardist Daniel Creamer added at times, backing up J. Charles, was phenomenal.

“Cheers to two awesome days of music…” he said after they finished, making a little toast, before they pumped everyone up with “Something Wrong”, a song that saw drummer Steve Visneau wearing a big smile, which rarely left his face at all this night, and never did on this one. They rolled it right into “Three Shades of Black”, tapering off from the louder rock stylings of the previous number, but still keeping the mood upbeat.

“How’s the vibes? Medium vibes?” asked J. Charles after they finished, trying to gage where everyone was at. “We need more vibes.” he finished, after which Keith spoke up, and specifically to a friend. “Excuse me, sir, but I think you’re dancing with my girlfriend.” he said, giving the guy a hard time.

They knocked out one of their new songs after that, which was pretty up-tempo, but also had some slow moments mixed in. “The guitars are being feisty. Folkin’ guitars.” J. Charles said after, while Keith worked to get things back in tune. To kill time, he also mentioned that this next would be one on their upcoming album, noting it will be out in the fall at the latest, or, with some luck, maybe even late summer. He also mentioned this next song was making its live debut this night, and that it was a pretty personal one, because it was about his “dear, sweet aunt” who had passed away from cancer. He apologized for perhaps bringing the mood down, and finished with, “…But fuck cancer.”

It told a great tale of the relationship he and his aunt had, and it may well be the most sentimental song on this next record. They got back to their older stuff for a minute with “Ain’t So Blue”, before doing another killer song, which just happened to feature musician Wesley Geiger lending his voice to it.

“I need to put the finger on the pulse. Everyone still doing okay?” J. Charles asked the audience, who was still very attentive, before asking if there was “anyway a shot could find its way from the bar to my mouth?” The request was granted, and they started to wind down their 52-minute set with “Tennessee Roads (No Moon)”. They had some feedback issues during it, but not to the point to ruin the tune, and the final line, which J. Charles sung a cappella, sounded beautiful. He then wound them right into their final song, another one, which was more intense, along the lines of “Something Wrong”, maybe even more so than that one.

That was the perfect way to end this night.

J. Charles and The Trainrobbers have been great each of the small handful of times I’ve seen them, but I dare say they were exceptional this time.

They tightened things even more so than last May at the Homegrown Festival, and this current lineup clicks very well. They were tight, and the unity was obvious from start to finish.

I don’t know how I let so much time pass between seeing them, though I’m going to have to try to make sure that doesn’t happen again. The show was highly enjoyable, and they are one Dallas band you need to keep your eye on.

Their music should appeal to both rock and country fans, and check out “Upon Leaving” in iTUNES. For shows, go “like” their FACEBOOK PAGE and keep a check on where and when they might play next.

It was a fun time here at the Big Folkin’ Fest, and a much needed shout-out to my amigo Brendan Williams for hooking me up with the ticket.

Friday, March 28th, 2014 – The Birth of Blood Saints

For the second consecutive Friday, the Double Wide wound up being my destination for the night.

I wasn’t even aware of the show that was going on there this night, until early on in the week when Blood Saints posted their debut show would be happening then.

The band has been in the works for awhile, though it was only last November when they created a Facebook page, and in late January came a recording to let everyone know what this trio of Gabe Cardinale, Casey Hess and Clay Stinnett would sound like.

Given that there were only two bands on the bill, Blood Saints didn’t get started until 10:49, but by the time they stepped on stage, they had the venue pretty full. By pretty full, I mean nearly packed out, and there were far more eyes on them then what the headliner wound up having.

Clay banged away on his drum kit, producing some heavy, pulse pounding beats, while Casey and Gabe each held a chord on their guitar and bass, respectively, and let it ring out, creating a slightly feedbacky tone. That built some suspense, despite the drums already being in full force, and soon, they unleashed a beast of an instrumental song.
image(Photo credit: Chad Beck of R Chadwick Beck Photography/guitarist of In Memory of Man)

The crowd was definitely feeling it, and they felt it even more so when Clay wound them right into that single they posted a couple months back, “Wipe The Diamonds From Your Eyes”. “Let me wipe the diamonds from your eyes. Ain’t that how it should be?” Gabe sang, with Casey backing him up, singing in unison with him, and their voices sounded outstanding mixed together like that.

The barrage continued as they went directly into another song, this one being co-sung; the two frontmen splitting vocal duties on it, while Casey helped end with a sweet guitar solo. “Thanks for coming out…” Gabe told the crowd during the transition to their next number. “…This is a new band for us.” He noted, after mentioning they were trying out some new songs.
image(Photo credit: Chad Beck of R Chadwick Beck Photography/guitarist of In Memory of Man)

The next one was a favorite of mine this night; and as they hit the first chorus, Casey spun around about 90° or so, forcefully strumming his axe in time with a mighty beat Clay dished out. “…You know the devils gonna take control…” was an often repeated line of their next song, which again had Gabe and Casey trading off on the singing. I’m hesitant to say this, because while Blood Saints did have some heavier tones to their songs, they were still a rock band. But that song, that was borderline heavy metal in my opinion, with some thick beats that had Clay getting so into it, he knocked over his floor tom about halfway through the song. It stayed there on the ground, too, until he picked it up for their final number.
image(Photo credit: Chad Beck of R Chadwick Beck Photography/guitarist of In Memory of Man)

They then finished their 35-minute set with a song in a similar vein. Okay, it wasn’t nearly that hard, but it was still heavy, at least it got that way after a bit of a tranquil start. And as they concluded it, Clay knocked just about every piece of his entire kit over.

Yeah, it was a helluva way to go out.

I thought it was a great first show.

I enjoyed seeing Gabe back on a stage and singing (it has been a few years since his last project, Dead Twins, disbanded), and as much as I love Descender, it was cool getting to see and hear Casey do something different. Clay’s the only member I’m unfamiliar with, though he is a ferocious drummer.

The writing styles of both the singers were prevalent in all the songs; and while I was expecting to hear each of them handle the signing, I wasn’t prepared to hear the unison singing like they did so much this night, and that was perhaps the quality that stood out to me the most. I mean, you seldom hear that, especially in rock music, but when you’re capable of it and it works, why not do it?

I’m certainly interested to see how the band progresses, especially as they get more shows under their belt and tighten up the chemistry, and to hear some more of the songs they have waiting in the wings to release.

Listen to their song over on SOUNDCLOUD and keep an eye on their FACEBOOK PAGE for info on future shows.

Headlining was a long running (established in ’97) group of veterans know as The American Fuse.

The four-piece outfit mixed straight up rock sounds with some punk aggression thrown in, and those who were in the showroom were instantly captivated by the first song of their 49-minute set, which was sung by guitarist Nate Fowler. Bassist Kinley Wolfe took over singing on “Something New”, which was one of a few songs they did from the “One Fell Swoop” album.

They alternated who did the singing for every song; and upon finishing that one, Kinley raised a toast to those who were there, before tearing through another song. JT Dayton (who was getting a little break from running sound at the venue) played a wicked little solo near the end of that one, as he rushed to the front of the small stage and raised his guitar into the air, before darting back. Really, it was more just some sweet licks, but it still sounded great, and looked awesome.
image(Photo credit: Chad Beck of R Chadwick Beck Photography/guitarist of In Memory of Man)

Everyone was definitely feeling it by now, and completely engulfed in the music, as they carried on with a track that may have well been titled “Blame the Whisky”, since that was a line that was often repeated during it. “Blame the grapefruit vodka…” joked drummer Clint Phillips after the song concluded, as they took a moment before their next song.

“That’s Clint’s postcard to everyone of ya everyday of the year…” Nate told the crowd once they finished, and continued bantering with everyone for a minute. “This reminds me of the time played the Dallas public library.” JT suddenly remarked, shortly before they dove into another intense number. That led to a new song, and Kinley stressed that no one had ever heard it before now. “Not even me.” joked Nate, who did the singing on it.image(Photo credit: Chad Beck of R Chadwick Beck Photography/guitarist of In Memory of Man)

They kept things moving right along with another new song, which was downright explosive, and was the latest one JT had written. “Lighters up!” Kinley requested, saying their “balled” was next. Their ballad may have been “Don’t Chingale My Chevrolet” (if not, it came around this time in the show). Either way, it was not the slow song that most bands usually refer to as their “couples skate” song. Quite the opposite, especially with the heavy bass lines he played at the start of it.
image(Photo credit: Chad Beck of R Chadwick Beck Photography/guitarist of In Memory of Man)

“Jeff wants to play another of his songs. He’s tired of our shit.” Said Kinley, giving JT a hard time, before doing another track he wrote, which, fittingly, saw JT doing another stellar guitar solo.

Their set was winding down now, and their next to last song got dedicated to Scott Beggs, who was in attendance, before they rolled it right into their final number, which led to an abrupt end. I say that because there was no “final song” warning. Instead, they laid the guitars down almost as soon as they finished, signaling that they were done.

Not that anyone was disappointed by that, though, ‘cause they had put on one incredible show.

The energy was off the walls, and the crowd fed of that, which in turn fueled The American Fuse even more.

The music is more along the lines of what would now probably be considered classic rock/hard rock, but there’s nothing wrong with that, especially when it has character. And let’s be honest, you can’t really say that about most of the stuff that’s on the radio these days.
image(Photo credit: Chad Beck of R Chadwick Beck Photography/guitarist of In Memory of Man)

Somehow, I had never seen The American Fuse before now, though I’m going to have to try to frequent more shows now.

You can find their album in iTUNES, and their FACEBOOK PAGE would be the best bet to find out about any upcoming shows.

It was a great night of rock at the Double Wide, and since there were only two bands, it was over kinda early. I’m not gonna lie, I liked that.

Wednesday, March 19th, 2014 – Ishi Livens Up a Wednesday Night

As one show let out and my duty of covering the show for On Tour Monthly was fulfilled, I headed across the street to Three Links to catch a show for myself… Or at least what was left of it.

The whole bill (which featured Black Taxi, We’rewolves and Okapi Sun) would have been great to see, but Ishi was the main band I had wanted to see in the first place, and they had yet to start.

It had been about ten months since I last Dallas’s favorite electronic band, and coincidentally, it happened to right here at Three Links, just one week after their massive CD release show when “Digital Wounds” was finally released into the world.

Point is I was looking forward to this.

“I’m gonna need more tracks ASAP.” Frontman JT Mudd told the sound guy as their show got underway. He was decked out in his full attention getting attire, which included his spacey/futuristic looking robe, a hat with little squares of glass like you would see on a disco ball covering it and a pair of glasses that illuminated neon light. He also sported some face paint. It may have been a Wednesday night, but they clearly weren’t pulling any punches.

“Happy hump day motherfuckers!” he shouted as the sample track for “Pastel Lights” grew louder, soon peaking as guitarist Rocky Ottley and drummer Jonathan Merla jumped in on the track. I guess that’s the upside of going so long without seeing a band: They completely switch up their setlist. I was a bit surprised they opened with this classic that is typically reserved as one of the final songs, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t like it.

It instantly had the area in front of the stage transformed into a dance floor, as some sang right along with JT, “…I will be waiting in the shapes of time; realigning the matter between your heart and mine…” It was indeed a fun way to kick off what would end up being a 71-minute set, and with that oldie out of the way, it was time for some new stuff, but not the new stuff I was expecting.

Apparently, they’ve been busy writing some new material since I last saw them, and played a handful of the tracks this night. The next one was the first of a few that had JT introducing a female singer (I missed her full name, though if I heard correctly her first was Betty) who joined them on stage and backed him up.

While a female vocalist used to be a permanent thing in Ishi, they’ve proven in the last year or so it’s not a necessity for them. However, there are times it is behooving of the music. That song was one of them, and the woman killed it each time she did step on stage.

“We got a brand new song for ya, Dallas.” remarked JT as she left, leading to another new song, one that had Rocky playing some very cool sounding lines on his guitar. The fans barely had to time to clap for them before the backing track for a personal favorite of mine kicked on, “Moon Watcher”. The fans were encouraged to clap along with Jonathan’s drumming at the start, and after getting through the first chorus, JT gave it up to Rocky, letting out a high-pitched, “Guitar!”.

They were on a roll know, going right from one song to the next, and “Emotional Hard Drive” kicked the dancing into overdrive, while Rocky jumped around at the start of it. “…You strut your stuff, looking so tough. I don’t buy it…” JT sang, kind of flexing one of his arms as he did so. That was segued right into another new track, which again featured the vocal talent of Betty, who even took over more of a lead role at times. In fact, while she was singing one line, JT went and grabbed a little towel and wiped the sweat from his eyes, before getting right back into show mode, jumping about and doing everything possible to ensure the audience was feeling it and having the time of their life.

“Thank you, Miss Betty.” he said as she went back to being a spectator of the show, while they moved right along with “Touch The Future”. “Let me see your vibrations; touch the sun. Anyone can make it happen, we’ve only just begun.” Goes the chorus, which seemed to strongly apply to them this night; and as they hit the instrumental break, JT walked over behind Rocky, holding his cape out and waving it behind him.

The songs kept coming, and now they cranked out the haunting title track, “Digital Wounds”, before JT asked everyone a very important question. “How many dandelions do we have out there tonight?” Everyone knew that meant “Shake Your Dandelion” was coming, and the sexually charged classic of theirs had been tweaked a bit, and now featured a blistering guitar solo after the second chorus. During one of the breaks, JT checked in on his people, asking, “How we doing out there?”, then after the song once again thanked everyone for “rocking out on a Wednesday night” with them.

Next, fans were treated to the first single off their latest album, “Disco Queen”, which was followed by another single, which signified the end was nearing. JT exchanged his current headgear for what I guess could still be considered a Native American headdress. It was more simple than the one I’ve seen him rock in the past, though it still had the strips of neon lighting adorning it; and in one hand, he held a shield, also covered with neon lightening, and he began dancing about at the start of “Mother Prism”.

That one has been a fan favorite since it first was worked into their shows, and the fans were downright giddy to hear it. “Aiyah, aiyay. Aiyah, aiyah, aiyay.” everyone chanted along on that nonsensical anthem of sorts, which serves to bond everyone together. Really, for that one song, it was like everybody in Three Links was a single entity. Some were still dancing to it, while many began jumping up and down, still chanting.

It was a lovely moment, and once it concluded, JT rested the shield against Jonathans’ kick drum. Another stellar guitar solo was thrown into “Slowly But Surely”, after which JT thanked everyone one last time for coming out, along with all the bands who played before them, before saying they had one last song for everyone.

I was surprised it was not an original they broke into, though it was a pleasant surprise to hear them pull out their cover of New Order’s “Bizarre Love Triangle”. It had been quite awhile since I had heard them do it, and as they hit the final chorus, JT got out in the crowd, dancing along with everyone and encouraging everybody to sing along, and even left one of the choruses up to the crowd.

That was a satisfactory ending for me, though it didn’t take long for people to start asking for one more, and they were more than happy to oblige.

“You have two options…” he told everyone given them the choice of “Mirror Ball Sky” or “ISHI”. I shouted for option two, but I was one of the few. Needless to say, it didn’t win out. “Let’s get dirty.” JT said, right before starting the lead track from their current album.

So it seemed like the track that used to be their routine opener would be how this show would end, but they still had a surprise for everyone. After a quick band meeting, they decided to do their other choice, and I was elated by that. “We’ll do one more, ‘cause we fucking love you…” said JT, adding with a bit of an accent, “Long time.” “ISHI” brought their 71-minute long set to an end, and I really like the way they handled the final chorus, doing it sort of in rounds, with JT shouting the first letter, “I”, then a second later Rocky shouted it out. The same thing happened for “S”, before they synced up for “H” and “I”.

Man, what a way to end a Wednesday night, a Wednesday night that had already included me seeing the great Chino Moreno perform.

Ishi owned it this night, and delivered a show that was exactly like what everyone in North Texas has come to expect from them. They’re fun, they’re lively, and the music they make is topnotch, while the new songs they played this night were at the very least on par with their other stuff, and one was a standout.

After going so long without seeing Ishi, I had forgotten how happy their shows make you, and I doubt I was the only one who left with a smile on their face.

Upcoming shows include a Totally 80’s night at the Granada Theater on April 26th, where they will performing a Depeshi and covering Depeche Mode songs. On May 4th they’ll be playing early at the Suburbia Music Fest in Plano, and they have a gig in Houston on May 31st as part of Free Press Summer Fest. And if you want to check out their music, head over to iTUNES.

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014 – The Pizza Underground Loads Up on Extra Cheese in Dallas

When I arrived at Club Dada this night, there was a line outside, not a long one, but a line nonetheless.

A group of excited friends in front of me where asked for their tickets, replying with they were going to buy them at the door. “It’s sold out.” Answered the woman who was scanning pre-purchased tickets, leaving the group dumbfounded as they left the line, clearly wondering how they should now spend their Wednesday night.

That was the type of buzz The Pizza Underground had created; and thanks to Parade of Flesh, the group was stopping in Dallas on their way to Austin.

Let’s get it straight, though: this show wasn’t sold out because heaps of music fans were wanting to see a potential next big thing in music. Rather, it was because of curiosity, and the fact that everyone was intrigued to see the Velvet Underground type cover band, who instead has made the songs all about pizza, and just so happens to feature Macaulay Culkin as one of the band members.

I missed the majority of the Brooklyn based singer/songwriter Toby Goodshank, who opened up the show on the outdoor patio stage. He finished one song and then mentioned to the crowd that along with an album he had for sale, there was also an “extremely graphic pornographic comic book” he had written at the merch table, which certainly seemed like an odd mix of items to be selling.

It’s hard to gauge any musician/band just by hearing two songs, but he sounded good. It was an odd mix of rock and folk he played, and I wish I had caught more just so I could have gotten a better feel for his music.

He has some records over in iTUNES if you would like to give his stuff a listen.

Things took a different turn after his set, when the only true band on the bill, Moving Units, took the stage.

The trio, which consists of singer and guitarist Blake Miller, bassist, Mike Delgado and a drummer, brought with them a type of indie dance/rock music, and the Los Angeles outfit plowed through their 40-minute set.

Despite having released a new album just last year, they focused on just about everything from their career, and I believe it was “Birds of Prey”, and older song, that they opened with. It reeled the crowd in, in no time, what with its catchy sounds, and it was made even more fun when Mike tossed an inflatable beach ball (which was made to look like an oversized basketball) into the crowd, which was batted around throughout their set.

They seldom did seamless segues, but kept it all pretty tight, giving the audience just a few seconds to applaud before going into their next song, and after tackling another one, they knocked out the striking, “The Kids From Orange County”. Live, these songs (especially the ones in the first half of their set) were more rock sounding than they come across on the albums, which I really liked. It was just heavier in some ways, and the guitar, bass and drums were far more prominent than the sample tracks they were using.

Following that one was another track from “Hexes for Exes”, “Wrong Again”. “You don’t know what you want, you don’t know what you need…” sang Blake, while playing some mesmerizing chords there at the start. Afterwards, he laid guitar down, showing he was a commanding frontman as he sang “Kate Moss in ‘97”, which is a bit of a seductive track from last year’s “Neurotic Exotic”. It was fairly repetitive, and the chorus consisted of repeating the songs title many times over, yet it never got tiresome. At least not to me.

They were more into the true dance portion of the show by now, which was equally as fun, and one of the best tracks they unleashed this night was “The World is Ours”. “Pink Thoughts” kept mood alive, but surprisingly, no one ever really danced along to it or any of their other songs, despite seeming to enjoy them. They powered through a few more, including the moving “Paper Hearts”, which wound up being their closer.

They abruptly stopped after that, removing their guitar and bass, before Blake waved goodbye to everyone and thanked everyone for coming out.

There’s no arguing that Moving Units was the best act on the bill this night. The music was topnotch, and Blakes’ voice is most excellent.

They held my attention for every second (well, when I wasn’t having to look to see where the beach ball(s) so I wouldn’t get hit by one, that is). The performance was fun to watch, too, and pretty professional seeming at that.

They have a few records you can buy/listen to in iTUNES. They also have a few shows lined up around California, so if you live in the area, check out the dates HERE.

By this time, the patio – which can hold about 150 people – was pretty much packed out, yet more people kept finding spaces to fill in, as everyone eagerly awaited The Pizza Underground.

I must say, it was weird seeing the stage completely vacant of any amps, a drum kit or any other instrument, but then again, The Pizza Underground is far from your typical band, so some weirdness should have been expected.

The audience cheered when Austin Kilham, Phoebe Kreutz, Matt Colbourn, Deenah Vollmer and Macaulay Culkin filed on stage, in that order as they took their places. They were all clad in black, partly looking like hipsters and partly like they were trying to impersonate some bands of the 60’s to 70’s era.

Deenah Vollmer was clutching a Serious Pizza box (one that would hold a full pizza, which was enormous), and she held it above her head before opening it. A smaller box (one that could hold one or maybe two slices) fell out and she picked it up, as that was the drum for the evening.

“So, do you kids like pizza?” Culkin asked, getting a loud response from the fans. He then asked if everyone liked songs about pizza, before saying, “Too bad.” He was, of course, joking, and said as much, before they got to their songs.

I’m pretty certain they played every song from their demo during their time on stage, beginning with “Papa John Says”, and dished out a few more, which were done so close together, it felt like some of the songs were all one, instead of separate tracks. Adding to that feeling was the fact that the songs are relatively short, and with the only true instrument being the guitar Matt was playing, it was easy to think that they were different verses, rather than different songs.

I believe some of the other songs were “I’m Beginning to Eat the Slice” and “Cheese Days”, and during their first break of the night, Deenah asked the crowd if they had “…Heard the one about the pizza?” “It’s really cheesy.” Was the punch line, which got some rolling laughter from the crowd.

They followed along the same lines of parody with their next song, before one of them said they were about to get “a little existential”. The song pertaining to that was all about closing the pizza box to keep the heat in, so that way it’ll still be warm when you want a slice later.

The silly jokes continued during the next break, when Deenah said the next song was “about abstinence”. “We’re in God’s country.” she added. It got laughs from people, and I found it pretty funny, though that wasn’t quite what the song was about. Instead, it dealt with the morning after you eat pizza, “when you still have more pizza.” Phoebe said, and talked about it congealing.

They switched things up for their next song, but not before one of them pointed out they had drawn a cat face on the pizza box back stage, and Deenah dubbed it “Pussy Jewel”.

Austin then took a spot behind a little keyboard, while everyone except for Culkin lined up along the fence at the back of the stage. He then welcomed a young woman to the stage (who I’d assume was is his girlfriend) and they did a duet together. She had a pretty good voice I thought; and I say that about them being in a relationship because when the song was over, they got almost too carried away kissing, to the point shouting “Get a room!” would have been an appropriate response.

They had, had their fun and everything this night, but now they made clear that The Pizza Underground wasn’t all about fun and games, and they were going to get serious now. That meant giving a history lesson about Jeno Paulucci – who invented pizza rolls – who started his career by making canned Chinese food. Yes, it was as entertaining as it sounds.

They had something else planned for the crowd now, and Deenah pointed out that since everyone was loving these songs about pizza, then surely the crowd would like to hear “…Nirvana songs sung in the past tense.”

Kurt Cobained came out on stage then (a guy dressed in a wig and armed with an acoustic guitar) to play some songs from Nevermound (the past tense of Nevermind.) Was it ridiculously stupid? Yes. But again, it had almost everyone (myself included) hysterical. In fact, I laughed harder at this little section of the show than I did all night,

“…Here we are then, entertained us. I felt stupid and contagied…” the guy sang, switching up the lyrics of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and numerous other tracks from “Nevermind” as he performed a medley of the record.

After a  few minutes of that, the band returned. “What’s with this little table in the pizzas?” Culkin asked, before asking if anyone wanted the little white piece of plastic that is utterly useless once removed from the pizza box it came in. That made it all the more funny to watch as people fought over it, before one person swiped it from his hand, as if he held a winning lottery ticket worth millions.

They ended with “Take a Bite of the Wild Slice”, but that wasn’t enough for everyone, and the chanting for an encore began as they filed off stage.

A guy who looked like a manager (perhaps he really was their manager, or he just dressed to fit the part) walked on stage. “You know when you have room for a little more, but it’s a big piece, so you cut it down the middle?” he asked, saying some other stuff as he made all sorts of gestures with his hands, as if he were cutting imaginary slices into smaller portions. “Yeah.” he said before walking off, giving the stage back up to The Pizza Underground.

Their final song was about “when pizza hurts you”, and dealt with eating a “sizzling slice”, because you just can’t resist the temptation of delicious looking pizza.

That was it, and all of that happened in about 30-minutes, or barely over. In which case if it was, shouldn’t they have stuck with the pizza delivery guarantee and given the show to everyone for free?

I kid.

There were two different levels to this performance, and I’ll start with the most evident one: the comedy side.

It was pretty much exactly what I expected from listening to their music and watching some Youtube videos, and hopefully you didn’t expect anything other than cheesy jokes and odd takes on The Velvet Undergrounds’ music.

In that regard, I was entertained throughout. Never mind the fact that the five of them looked (i.e. all dressed almost the same) as if they could be the leaders of some weird cult that would worship pizza and eventually end in a mass suicide pact by them and their followers overdosing on large quantities of pizza and clogged arteries from copious amounts of cheese.

On the other end of the spectrum you have the actual musically talent, and there’s no way this is or will ever be anything more than a novelty act. In fact, if Culkin weren’t in the band, I have to wonder if they’d have ever gotten any further than just playing house parties to drunk friends, rather than playing small sold-out venues to drunk people.

I have heard worse voices, but none of them is actually capable of singing well, and the guitar was simply plucked most of the time. So, in that aspect, there’s really no talent present.

I came, I saw and I enjoyed. Like they say, no pizza is bad pizza; however, I don’t think I’ll be going back for seconds from The Pizza Underground.

Still, it was a fun night, and it was good getting to see a small slice of pop culture history.

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014 – King Camel’s SW ForePlayFest

After doing my duty with On Tour Monthly (the other publication I work for) and catching the Experience Hendrix show in Grand Prairie, it was time to head to Dallas for the other show I planned on catching this night.

King Camel had put together quite the lineup of bands touring through on their way to SXSW, with six bands in all gracing the stage of the Double Wide, which is far more than the usual three-band bills the venue typically hosts.

It was already after 11:30 when I got there, and sadly, I had missed out on damn near every touring act (including the ones I was most eager to see), bit arrived in time to see the Fort Worth outfit The Longshots, right as they kicked off their 27-minute long set.

They crammed a lot of music into that short time, and early on (the first or second song) they played “Too High for West 7th”. The crowd of a dozen or so supporters got no time to recover as the band dove right into their next song, which ended with most of the quintet jumping around at the end of it.

They had quickly showed what a high-energy band they were, and things only got more intense during their next track, where guitarists Alex Zobel and Parker Donaldson stole the show. Closer towards the end, Alex (purposefully) backed off the stage and fell into the crowd, shredding amongst the fans, while Parker walked up to Brady Hamiltons’ drum kit and jumped onto the bass drum, where he stayed for a couple of seconds.

They kicked out a couple more tracks, including one from their “Kicker” EP, “Rhode Island Red”. “I used to have a heart to invest, and then she stuck her hand in my chest…” sang lead singer Joey Gorman, who was also the bands third guitarist. Most of his band mates aided him on some of the vocals for that fast paced, driven song, which made for a cool sound, especially since they all can sing (and each one did some of that this night).

“All these songs are dedicated to my next beer.” Alex joked during one of their breaks, before they did a few more songs to finish out their show.

I was impressed at how energetic The Longshots were, and this is after they’ve been touring for the last few weeks. So, if the road has taken any type of toll on them, they sure didn’t let it show this night.

There was one moment early on when Joey was left with some time to kill and while bantering with the crowd he seemed like he was almost uncomfortable with it. Perhaps it was just because he had been put on the spot, though, because he filled some time later on in the show with ease.

That’s the closest thing to a complaint I could find this night of this gritty, garage rock style band, who left it all on the stage.

They are still on tour, and are currently out in California. So, if you’re in the area, check out their FACEBOOK PAGE and see where they’re playing. As for their music, you can snag some free downloads on their BANDCAMP site, and get their newly released LP over in iTUNES.

Closing out ForePlayFest was the Nashville based Pujol, who sadly, did not have near the crowd they deserved (that comes with playing a Tuesday night show though, I guess.)

“Sup. How y’all doing?” asked the bands namesake Daniel Pujol, who was the singer and rhythm guitarist for the group. He said it very coolly, as if he were trying to impress everyone who was there. There was humor in it, though; and before getting their show on the road, he mentioned they had played a show with The Longshots in Fort Worth the night before, saying it was 3:30 in the AM when they finished.

I believe it was “DIY2K” that began their show, but regardless of what it was, it had everybody there moving around to the refined rock sounds and the raw voice Daniel had.

With a new album, “Kludge”, due out in May, there were plenty of new songs to be heard this night, one of which was “Manufactured Crisis Control. It didn’t matter that nobody knew it, because you could tell most of the people who were here weren’t really familiar with the Pujol in the first place, so it was all new to them; they were rocking out to it all the same, though.

“Alright, alright, alright.” Daniel said before their next song, sounding like he was trying to do his best McConaughey impression, which aside from the mannerisms, wasn’t much like him. He had already informed everyone the next song was from their second record and was titled “Mayday”. The song had a pretty driven rhythm section; and just when you thought Pujol was going to be a band that was all about the music, Daniel revealed their (or rather his) funny side.

Pretty much every song from here on out got explanations, beginning with “Postgrad”, which he said was about moving to New York and not knowing where you want to work. He said something else, which I didn’t catch, and I feel it would have made the next part funnier, when he said something like, “And how that’s the exact opposite of what you see on Facebook.”

Things took a bit of a darker turn when he noted their next track was about “bleeding out and dying all the time”, speaking of “Reverse Vampire”. “…I want to release the heat that’s building in my chest and blast it like a laser beam…” Daniel sang in his unique voice that has a gravely sound to it, and at times sounded a bit sludgy.

The explanations kept flying, and “Psychic Pain” was said to be about when you have a “bunch of crazy feelings, but you don’t got no words for it.” said Daniel, adding a “Yeah.” or something like that afterwards, expecting everyone to know what he meant. I think they did, too.

As good as these setups were, the best had to go to their new single. Daniel hesitated for but a second, then said it was about “the limitations of physical language.” At least if I’m remembering correctly that’s what he said. He readily admitted he didn’t know what he was talking about, though. “I’m still working the spiel out for this one.” he confessed. The tune was “Pitch Black”, and personally, I found that new one to be one of their best songs of the night, and it has me looking forward to their new release.

Struggling with something to say in regards to the next song, a (new?) fan shouted, “It’s about whatever you want it to be.” Daniel ran with that, then came up with his own thing. “It’s about stuffing things.” he stated. It didn’t take them long to do “Tiny Gods (Singularity)” (which is less than two-minutes long), though it was a great song in terms of the live performance, and the lead guitarist slayed during that one.

“No Words” received a setup you would expect with a song by that name, and Daniel plainly said that, like most of their songs, it was about “problems with language and communication”. The drummer let loose some powerful beats at the end of that one, proving what a great drummer she was, and soon after they did a track from their “2010” EP, “Point of View”.

At this point, their 30-minute set was coming to a close, and Daniel said they had just a couple left. As soon as he said that the guitarist held up four fingers, and then the bassist added, “It’s a loosely defined couple. They’re romantically linked.” he quipped.

It wound up only being a true couple, and the first was about “narcissists breaking up with themselves”, and then they ended with what I believe was “Black Rabbit”, which ended a show that was chocked full of rock.

The other band impressed me, as did Pujol, who was the best in my opinion. Their sound was a little more interesting, and I’d even say fresh, at least in some ways.

Musicianship was great, too. You could tell they have some touring under their belt, because they all clicked so cohesively and rolled with it all; never having to ask what was next. In fact, they really didn’t communicate with each other at all while they were on stage, which gave it all a professional feel; and despite the crowd lacking numbers, they gave it their all and owned the stage this night.

They have plenty of albums you can check out in iTUNES, with the new one coming on May 20th. Keep an eye on their FACEBOOK PAGE, because as that release date draws closer, they’ll surely head out on a tour in support of it.

I hate I missed so much of SW ForePlayFest, but King Camel had lined up some amazing bands from start to finish, and at least I got in on a bit of that sweet action.