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.
It 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.
Another 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.