Fifteen-years is a long time for any band to be together in general, but especially a local band. Actually, that’s somewhere around three to four average lifetimes in local band years. That’s how long Exit 380 has been kicking, though; and they have outlived many of their DFW counterparts, some of whom flirted with major label success and toured the country.
The band that was started by friends back in their college days at UNT in Denton may not have had those encounters with big breaks, but then again, that might be exactly why they have lasted as long as they have. They were never made empty promises that they would be the next big thing. If you ever were told that, and then it didn’t pan out, it’s easy to see why you would lose faith in the music industry, and perhaps even decide to hang it up and leave the band life behind.
That’s not to imply that Exit 380 is all fun and games for the members, either, but they do have a 50/50 balance of enjoying what they do and being professional at it.
It’s also rare you find a band who has kept pretty much the same lineup for the past eight years; and after a couple year absence, Bobby Tucker returned as the band’s drummer. Aside from that brief stint away, the band has been the same since the mid-2000’s, and that chemistry and camaraderie they’ve had plenty of time to establish has led to them getting better with each album, while they explored a diverse range of genres, from edgy rock to experimenting more with folk music.
But now, with their first release in more than two-and-a-half years, they’ve found themselves going back to their rock stylings, bringing renewed life to their earliest sound, along with continuing to experiment as musicians and try out some new genres.
The bands sixth LP, Photomaps, begins with “Laid Up In the Road”. Like many of their best songs, it doesn’t focus on a personal experience, but rather tells the story of a drunk who feels more at home on his own — in the middle of a road then being surrounded by people, be it family or friends. The nearly three-and-a-half minute track tells you enough about the fictitious character to get you interested, yet also complete his story. The music bed also really gets your attention, and lead and rhythm guitarists Aaron Borden and Jeremy Hutchison, respectively, have some soaring solos. It’s been many years since they wrote a true edgy rock song, and it’s instantly clear their time away from it gave them a clear perspective as to how they want it to sound.
Speaking of Borden, as any longtime E380 fan knows, he’s also pretty talented in the songwriting department (the now classic, “Closure”, is still one of the most beautiful songs they’ve produced in all their years together.) Well, “Love Somebody, Cold” is another song he penned, and he sticks with doing what he does best: writing songs that revolve around love. In this case, it’s about still deeply caring for someone, even though the spark is fading fast out of the other person. Surprisingly, it’s a very upbeat song, with some great piano pieces thrown in (courtesy of Andrew Tinker, who produced the record at Big Acre Sound), alongside a well defined rhythm section and some sweet guitar licks; while Blocker sings at the end, “…And you know I won’t be the one to roam.”
The coolest intro has to go to “Lonely Days”, and after Tucker establishes a solid beat, the guitars quickly fade in with some awesome, ballsy chords. It has been quite some time since Exit 380 last did a rock song of this magnitude. The band is on fire on the track, operating as collective in a way that I don’t think they ever have before. Each instrument plays off one another, and even the various notes Blocker hits help accent the other instruments, and in turn, they aid his voice. Overall, this song proves that this is a more robust Exit 380 than fans have ever seen before.
Originally, Photomaps was going to be a collection of songs that all found the band experimenting with a Spanish flare. Things changed once the actual writing process took place, as they more split their time between styles. However, while “Hearts In the Sand” is a rock song, it also has some Spanish sounding elements scattered throughout it. It’s found subtly in some of the notes and hinted at in the lyrics at times, though this is still primarily a rock tune, and they save that stuff for later. Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the synth solo towards the end. You would think it wouldn’t work well with the track, yet somehow, it does. Granted, I haven’t heard many (or any?) synth solos, either, but I would say this one is worthy of being the best.
“Take It Like a Man” concludes the rock section of the album, and it’s another one very reminiscent of old school E380. Say, circa 2006, back during the Last Monday era. It’s a hard-hitting number, and there’s a nice sense of urgency at the end, as the track comes to a slightly abrupt, but roaring finish.
For the second portion of the album (or Side B on the vinyl copies), Jeremy Hutchisons’ guitar is traded in for a mandolin, while Borden puts his lap steel guitar to use. “A Song About Us” isn’t new to most fans, as it appeared on the first Hand Drawn Records compilation album. Still, I find it nice the track actually found a home on a record, because with it becoming a staple at live shows, it’s deserving of that. It’s another one that Borden wrote, though there is not a trace of heartache to be found like in the earlier song. In fact, it’s quite upbeat, and Blockers’ skills on the harmonica help in setting it off.
Speaking of upbeat, there’s “The Love Sleeps”. It has to be one of the most infectious songs written (and I mean that in a much broader sense than just E380’s discography), or at least that I’ve ever heard; and it emits a feel good vibe for all two-minutes and thirty-nine seconds of it. It’s an ideal song to dance along to, especially with a partner; and it’s just refreshing to hear something so overwhelmingly happy. If you’re ever having a bad day, this would be the song to put on, and then just feel the smile as it slowly creeps across your face.
“La Rosa Carlina” is the final original offering on Photomaps, and it personifies that Spanish vibe they initially wanted to go with. The one-off appearance of a violin is almost hidden during it, but if you listen closely enough, you can hear it creeping in here and there. The harmonies the violinist adds at the end sounds incredible, too, creating a nice male and female vocal part. The song itself is a good story about the guitarist of a band who adoringly watches Carlina — a dancer — who moves graceful to the music they are playing. “…Each twirl brings a smile, each smile a wink…” goes part of the chorus of yet another song that shows just how much the band excels at crafting and telling unique stories.
Like most bands, Exit 380 started off pretty humbly, doing acoustic covers back in their earliest of days. While they may have started out that way, they quickly ditched that in favor of original material; and in the seven to eight years that I’ve been seeing them, I’ve never heard them do a cover song. At least not until recently, when they tried their hand at Townes Van Zandts’ “Pancho and Lefty”. It’s the first cover they’ve ever recorded, and it perfectly fits the style of Photomaps. Like so many other tracks from the record, it tells a story; and they lifted elements from both Van Zandts’ version as well as Willie Nelson and Merle Haggards’, reusing the intro of their rendition to make for a powerhouse ending. It’s more than a cover, though, they truly leave their mark on this beloved classic, and that’s not an easy thing to do no matter what song you’re covering.
This isn’t the longest Exit 380 record ever. In fact, at just about 34-minutes, it plays out almost like a beefier EP, and passes just as quickly, because you get so wrapped up in these songs and simply lose track of time.
But if I had a choice, I’d go with quality over quantity, and that was the decision they made with Photomaps.
No, it isn’t the longest album they’ve ever released, though it is leaps and bounds ahead of anything they’ve ever released (that’s really saying something, ‘cause I still hold The Life and Death of Mr. and Mrs. Alexander Stone in high regard and consider that concept album impeccable.)
For old fans, it’s great to hear them return to those alt/rock sounds they started with, and the growth they’ve undergone individually as musicians and as a band have helped reinforce that genre, and they take it to the next level. For newer fans, you still get some of that folk stuff, with a different twist put on it, as they continue to push their musical boundaries.
In fact, I think that’s another reason why they’ve had such longevity as a band: they’ve never gotten stagnant. I can see how it could be easy to concoct a “formula” so to speak for songwriting and then just stick with what you do best, but that’s not for Exit 380. There’s always room to improve; and really, how many bands can say that fifteen-years in they’re creating their most spectacular material to date? Well, I know at least one.
Exit 380 is:
Dustin Blocker - vocals, pianos
Aaron Borden - guitars
Jon “The Hutch” Hutchison - bass
Jeremy Hutchison - guitars
Bobby “Shoes” Tucker – drums
Purchase the album on:
iTUNES / Bandcamp
Visit Exit 380’s websites:
Official Website / Facebook / Twitter / Youtube
Photo credit: James Villa Photography
Fifteen-years is a long time for any band to be together in general, but especially a local band. Actually, that’s somewhere around three to four average lifetimes in local band years. That’s how long Exit 380 has been kicking, though; and they have outlived many of their DFW counterparts, some of whom flirted with major label success and toured the country.
Denton — and more specifically The Rockin’ Rodeo — was the place to be this night.
After a little break, The Toadies were getting ready to head out on their third (and presumably final) leg of the 20th Anniversary Rubberneck Tour. They were kicking it off in the college town, not too far from the UNT campus, and just like every time they’ve played the Rockin’ Rodeo (which is every other year), this show was sold-out.
The venue is located in a shopping centre, and even at nine-o’clock — an hour after doors opened — there were a few dozen people waiting in line, a line that stretched out into the parking lot. Granted, they were people who didn’t have tickets and were hoping some might become available later on.
The line for will call was considerably shorter, but still time consuming as far as waiting went. As owner Lloyd Banks pointed out shortly before The Toadies took the stage, Denton is still not wet, so they’re still stuck with outdated prohibition laws that make checking ID’s more of an ordeal than they should be. Hopefully that will change after the November election this year.
The Rockin’ Rodeo was already a happen’ place, and there was a short twenty minute or so wait before Ume took the stage.
“Hey, Denton! We’re Ume.” singer and guitarist Lauren Larson said in a cheery voice, greeting everyone once they took the stage. With that, Aaron Perez counted them into “The Conductor”, and they began wowing the onlookers, most of whom seemed unfamiliar with the Austin-based trio. Lauren’s talent as a guitarist came out quickly, and during the instrumental break the song has, she raised her axe above her head while continuing to play, an action that people raved over.
That classic was followed by one of many new songs from the Monuments album, and at times on “Too Big World”, they offered a glimpse of their shoegaze side. Lauren was getting more into the zone, kneeling during the instrumental break, shredding as she hunched over her guitar. Bassist Eric Larson and Aaron were having no trouble holding their own either, and exploded at the end, while Lauren whipped her head around, her hair swirling in the air. Two songs was all it took to completely win everyone over, and it was clear a lot of people had a new favorite band. They barely stopped for applause, though, and Eric wound them directly into one of my favorites from the Phantoms album, “Burst”. Each track was warming them up more and more; and as that one ended, Eric attacked his bass, relentlessly slapping it and executing complete control.
Applause again rang out in the venue, and Lauren looked up, waved at everyone and then flashed a smile before starting the closing track off their newest record: “Reason”. It was often gritty and brutal, with Lauren screaming out some of the occasionally gauzy lyrics. No sooner had it ended, then Aaron delivered a quick count on the drums, and they tore into “Embrace”. “…Embrace what’s been denied…” Lauren snarled on the chorus of that pulse-pounding track, before again showing her prowess as a guitarist at the tail end of it.
“Thank y’all so much!” she exclaimed afterwards, as they readied “Huricane II”. The buildup the song has is something else, and mixed in with the often haunting guitar chords, it has no trouble reeling you in. Lauren continued to slay on her axe, again dropping to her knees as the music consumed her; and a seemingly fitting track to follow that with was “Oh Fate”, which Aaron started with a steady, heavy drum roll, while his band mates prepared for it. The further the three progressed with it, the more intense they all got, leading to a brutal ending, which turned into a seamless segue into “Until The End”. Lauren made her way over to stage left towards the end, and she and Eric faced one another for a few moments as they rocked out on their respective instruments.
They showed no sign of stopping, and while I was expecting them to do an abbreviated set, they ended up doing their usual headline length show. They cranked out another tune, and the best part came at the end, when Lauren more or less collapsed in a lifeless heap, timing it perfectly to the songs end, and then sprang up suddenly when the applause arose.
“Chase It Down” came next, and as it reached its peak, Lauren pumped her fist in the air, intensifying the excitement the spectators were feeling. Upon finishing it, she gave The Toadies their well deserved “massive thanks” for bringing them back out on the road with them, before announcing they had just two more to go. The first was “Baby Xie-Xie”, which dates back to their 2005 album Urgent Sea. Lauren was kicking the air and banging her head to the drums during the brief instrumental pieces between the verses, showing off some pretty fancy moves. They then wound it flawlessly into their latest single, “Black Stone”, and that pure, raw rock song ended their 47-minute long set.
I had seen Ume just the month before in Dallas — where they headlined — and it was awesome seeing them do the same thing this night. I’m not even referring to the set (though it was almost identical), but more they got ample time to show who they are.
Who they are is one of the most astounding bands in the Lone Star State, and quite easily well beyond those borders. Their sound is pretty original, mixing shoegaze and alt/rock, and perhaps even some indie thrown in at times. And even though I had just seen them fairly recently, I actually found them even more captivating this night.
Their live show is where it’s really at. They dominate every stage they take, and you can see their passion for it come through as they’re performing.
They’ll be touring with The Toadies through August 2nd, with remaining shows being in New Mexico, Colorado, Missouri, Nebraska and Arkansas. Check out their TOUR PAGE for full details. Do check out their music in iTUNES, too.
The night had gotten off to a later start than originally intended, and with Ume playing the better part of an hour, there was clearly no way The Toadies were going to make the scheduled 10:30 start time. That was pretty much irrelevant, though; and before long, there was no empty space left, as people crammed into every crevice they could find, all hoping for the best view possible.
I was becoming more cautious, ‘cause the last two times they have played here, the crowd has been extremely rowdy. No one was really safe from the moshing, and venue staff have even had to stand in the crowd to ensure things don’t get too out of hand. Considering how riled up people were getting, chanting “TOADIES!” over and over, I was expecting more or less the same this time around.
I know this expression gets used a lot, and I’ve said it many times, too, but when Mark Reznicek, Doni Blair, Vaden Todd Lewis and Clark Vogeler took the stage, the fans reaction truly was deafening. I’ve seen my fair share of Toadies shows, and I think this was the strongest, noisiest fanfare I’ve heard them get from a crowd.
You would have thought people had been waiting their whole lives just for this one night… Well, at least twenty years.
The sounds of “Mexican Hairless” quelled the audience slightly, though they were no less vibrant, jumping around and screaming during that instrumental track that sadly, with the exception of this tour, is seldom heard. Fans got a moment to cheer them on after that number, before Clark knocked out the opening lines of “Mister Love”. You want to know just how much the crowd was enjoying this? Some started their own clap along during the track, and it spread like wildfire. Vaden appeared a little taken aback by it, as more and more hands shot into the air and kept up with Marks’ drumming. He [Vaden] was often seen extending his arms towards the crowd during that one, pointing at the fans and at times looking as if he were conducting an orchestra; and at one point, he just went with it, striking his palms together in time with everyone else.
In just two songs, one thing was already clear: this was a well rested Toadies. Their Dallas show back in May came in the latter part of the second leg of the tour, and while I would by no means say they were worn that night, they just didn’t have the extra sparkle they did this night, either. All of them seemed legitimately excited to see a crowd of this size and to be playing their songs for everyone.
They had to stop, even if it was just for a few seconds, to allow some applause, and then, as if they didn’t know it was coming, everyone screamed with delight when Vaden strummed his guitar and sang, “Bended knee; nine-years-old…”, the opening line of “Backslider”. That was when things really started going crazy. A majority of the people were jumping about, and getting your feet stepped on just came with the territory, while nearly everyone screamed along at the top of their lungs, “…And I prayed, ‘Sweet Jesus, don’t let me become a backslider!”
A brief intermission came so the band could tune, and then the night reached a fever pitch with “Possum Kingdom”. Of course, it’s these old Rubberneck songs fans always react to the best in the first place, given that it is such an iconic album, but this night, for whatever reason, fans were even more taken by them. It’s really a good thing the sound was turned up as loud as it was, otherwise it would have been almost impossible to hear the band over everyone’s voices. They bridged the song that made them famous perfectly into the subsequent track, and “Quitter” sparked a new fire inside everyone. The precision and ease that Mark was demonstrating in hammering away on his kit was nothing short of impressive, and that was visible many times throughout the night as well.
The Toadies were well into what is arguably the best stretch of the album, and “Away” proved that. It got everyone’s blood flowing, better prepping them for what was soon to come, and, of course, fans were all too eager to sing along at one point, when Vaden stepped away from the mic and motioned for everyone to pick up the slack. No sooner had it ended, and then “I Come From The Water” began. I’ve said in the past that the massive chanting/sing-along of the chorus is one concert experience everyone needs to have at least once, and this night reaffirmed that sentiment. It’s just so cool to be in a room of hundreds of people, and suddenly you’re all working as a collective, screaming at the top of your lungs, “I COME FROM THE WATER!” over and over. Some of the crowd got pretty feisty during it, too. I was surprised it had taken this long for something to happen. People were much more mellow this night, more just focusing on enjoying the music, though now (and somewhat appropriately), a mosh pit broke out, and that soon turned into a small fist fight before venue security showed up and put a stop to it.
Already, they were more than halfway done with Rubberneck, and a break followed for a guitar change. That was apparently too much downtime for some fans, who instantly began chanting, “TOADIES!” repeatedly, like they were still waiting for them to come out and start. Yeah, this gathering of fans was a die-hard bunch.
The gorgeous sounds of “Tyler” then filled the room, and I doubt I was the only person who felt a blissful state set in. It’s such a beautiful song (despite the actual story told by the lyrics), and making it all the better was the extra emotion Vaden packed into the words. It was prevalent at the start, but man, at the end, he was a cut above his usual self. “…I can’t believe I’m really here and she’s lying in that bed. I can almost feel her touch and her anxious breath…” he roared, excitement seeping out of his voice. That was the best I’ve heard “Tyler” sound in awhile, if not ever. Let’s not forget the instrumental bridge, where the rhythm section of Doni and Mark was truly dynamic, and fans again decided that was the perfect moment to begin a clap along.
They make a point of not really talking to the crowd while performing Rubberneck in its entirety, but Clark couldn’t keep it in anymore. “…We haven’t seen you in a long time…” he said, referring to Denton in general, and went as far as to say everyone had been “amazing”. That was probably another reason they were extra exceptional, because aside from being fresh on the road, they also had a ton of energy to feed off of.
“Happyface” was next, and a cool moment came when Vaden muttered the, “Here we go again.” part, casting his hand in the air and flicking his wrist as he sang it. Mark then led the charge into “Velvet”, and they raced through that hate filed song, which again had Vaden getting more emotionally invested in it than normal, and he was seething at times. One last guitar change was in order, and soon Vaden was holding a twelve-string acoustic, making “I Burn” sound as authentic as it possibly can. He was using his hands a lot this night, and did once again when they hit the line, “Sift the ashes for reminders; stony things remain…”, which was when he also switched over to his bullet mic for a bit.
He flicked his pick out to the audience, and dozens of hands went up hoping to catch it, before he handed his acoustic off to one of their stagehands.
“That concludes the record portion of the set…” he said, beginning some chitchat with the audience. It had taken 38-minutes to play everything from Rubberneck, and they still had some left to go.
He mentioned he doesn’t like to talk during that part of the show much, because, “There’s no talking on the record.”, and also stated how good it was to be back in Denton. I think the feeling was mutual.
“…Thank you so goddamned much for sticking with us…” Vaden finished. More than twenty-years as a band is a long time, even if you weren’t together for seven of those. Still, no one ever forgot The Toadies during their breakup, and they even picked up some new fans along the way.
With that little speech made, they ripped into one of many fan favorites from their albums that are less than twenty-years-old.
“Push the Hand” got some movement going, and the crowd roared when they started it. It’s one of their rawest numbers in my opinion, especially in the live environment. The Hell Below/Stars Above album received more attention than anything else (sans Rubberneck), though they only did three tracks from it. In fact, the delightful and devilish “Little Sin” came directly after, and the way they stretch out the silence on each chorus (before singing the songs title) is always a nice little touch.
“How we feeling? You guys good?” Vaden asked afterwards, checking in on everybody. The title track of their third LP was the only one from it, and while everyone wasn’t as into everything else as they had been the Rubberneck stuff, “No Deliverance” was one that was well loved. People were singing along; and during the tracks lull, while crooning, “…She said, ‘You have forsaken all you believe. Crossed earth and oceans to be with me…”, Vaden began another clap along.
Upon finishing it, he mentioned something about a cover song they were wanting to do, but was vague on details. The heart was mentioned, as was a disco ball, and it being “all about touching your heart”, but that was about it. “You’ll all know what’s supposed to happen.” Vaden said, sounding confident people would get it. As I suspected, it was Blondie’s “Heart of Glass”, a song they’ve reworked entirely, making it into a rock number. Vaden even took his glasses off for it (something that rarely happens from my Toadies show experiences). They’ve made it into a truly solid rock song, and one that’s pretty heartfelt, too.
“Yeah, Blondie.” Vaden remarked as the audience showed their appreciation. “Thank you for coming to the rock show.” he added, asking how many folks here had seen them before. Most had, but surprisingly, a good number of hands shot up when he asked about any “first timers”. I guess everybody has to start somewhere.
Sadly, their set had already come to an end, and Vaden mentioned this final song was a good one to shake your ass to, at least if you had brought it. “Sometimes, I wish I had the heart of a snake. With no compassion comes no mistakes…” he belted at the start of oh, so lively “Rattler’s Revival”, which concluded their 58-minute long set, and also, was the sole song from 2012’s Play.Rock.Music. album.
Their set had gone by way too quick, and did seem on the short side, but there was no doubt that they would be back. Sure enough, a couple minutes passed (minutes filled with people screaming the band’s name), and they returned.
Vaden mentioned they had reissued Rubberneck this year (re-mixed and re-mastered), talking about how this was one song he liked and they recorded back in ’94, and they put it on as a bonus track on this re-release. It was “Stop It” by Pylon, and it had a fun vibe to it. Vaden was wagging his finger back and forth on the chorus, and even pointing out at the crowd at times, as well as starting one last clap along for the night.
I must say, I was glad to hear “Sweetness” made the cut, not just because it’s a favorite of mine, but because that primal song is absolutely superb. “…Keep going out to live rock shows…” Vaden encouraged, while Mark continued pounding out the beats, clearly setting up “Hell In High Water”. That speech seemed to ensure this was the closing number, but they make it one of the best of their shows. Doni and Vaden stood next to one another during the lengthy instrumental part, talking to one another momentarily, and just rocking out and having a good time, even smiling. Clark knocked out a few loud notes on his guitar, seeming like he was going to stop at three, before Vaden convinced him to do one more, and the crowd made some noise for that. “I am hell in high water, and I never sleep. So watch your daughters, and stay out of the deep…” Vaden then sang, as they got back on track and ended their 12-minute long encore.
Vaden had a huge smile on his face. He was loving this, and appeared game for more. However, Clark had already sat his guitar down, and Mark was out from behind the drum kit. Doni stood at the ready, waiting to see what his band mates would do. Everyone was hoping they might do another one or two, and they were vocal about it, but the band decided to call it, graciously thanking everyone as they exited the building.
I still feel this was on the short side for a Toadies show, though I don’t consider that a strike against them. After all, how many times to get to hear all eleven tracks from Rubberneck played front to back? In my experience, twice, and I doubt it will happen again. Or if it does, it won’t be anytime soon.
There’s just something about The Toadies. Part of it probably has to do with their staying power, something many bands struggle with. Part of it is probably the fact they are still churning out great music all these years later, and I would dare say their latest release is every bit as phenomenal as Rubberneck is. You can’t dismiss how they still have a stage show as intense as bands half their age, coupled with the experience that comes with being a group of veteran rockers, giving them the best of both worlds.
So, regardless of if it’s a 70-minute set or one that pushes or exceeds 90, no one’s going to leave disappointed. I know I didn’t, nor did anyone else when they walked out the doors this night.
This leg of the Rubberneck tour will come to an end on August 17th, stopping in New Mexico; Colorado; Missouri; Nebraska; North Carolina; South Carolina; Louisiana; and Mississippi. Let’s not forget the 7th annual Dia De Los Toadies music festival taking place at Panther Island Pavilion in Fort Worth on September 12th and 13th. Full info can be found HERE. Get their albums in iTUNES, with the exception of the re-mastered Rubberneck, which can be found at Kirtland Records online store.
I really don’t get up to Denton much anymore, but the last few times I have, my destination has been Dan’s Silver Leaf. It’s quite possibly the best venue in the city, and this night they were hosting another topnotch bill of local talent.
I was a little late getting there, but luckily, shows rarely get started at the time listed, and at 9:15, the Austin duo The Please, Please Me was just finishing with their sound check.
Jessie Torrisi and Alissa McClure proved captivating right at the start of their 46-minute long set, using some sample tracks to provide the beats and some other sounds, fully fleshing out the guitar and cello that they played. “This next song’s for Sydney.” Jessie announced after their opening number, speaking to the frontwoman of Astro Cult, who had been front and center for their first tune. “They’re all for Sydney.” Alissa whispered into her mic. “It’s true, but she’s earned them.” Jessie responded, before serving up another indie pop song for everyone.
If anyone wanted a song dedicated to them, it was simple: you just had to scream as Sydney had. At least that was the stipulation Jessie gave, before doing a very vibrant track called “Can’t Stop the Music”. There were maybe a dozen or so people scattered about the venue (give or take a few), but The Please, Please Me was wanting to get them all involved in the show, specifically this song, which Jessi said anyone could sing along to if they wanted, and beforehand led them in the simple part. “Are y’all going to do this with us?!” she asked near the end, grabbing the mic and stepping closer to the edge of the stage. She even turned down the tracks a bit to better here the handful of folks who were singing along with them.
It was around this time she asked those who were giving them their full attention to take “three big steps” towards the stage, which the people gladly did. She then formally introduced Alissa on the cello. “Oh, wait, Alissa on the drums.” she said, as she had left her chair on stage left and made her way to the drum pad at center stage. The extra percussion only came at the start of “Hold My Heart”, before she returned to her cello (she was an excellent cellist by the way) for what was one of the best songs of their set. It was easy to get into, and just had a solid rock sound.
“Are you ready to get rowdy?” Jessie asked afterwards, getting a weak response. “That sounds like I’m ready to read poetry…” she chided, getting a louder response the second time around. “Does anyone like to dance?” she then asked, before saying this was the time to do so. She started out on the drum pad for just a smidge of “How Do You Like It?”, a song that later had her playing a floor tom that was set up on stage right, along with a rather large block of wood, which made the percussion all the more interesting.
“I know I’ve got a bad reputation…” went an often repeated line from their following song, before Jessie asked everyone if they wanted to hear a happy song or a sexy one. Few people answered, but sexy was the overwhelming selection. “Alissa is looking at the setlist like, ‘Which one do you think is a sexy one? What are we playing next?’” she joked, as her band mate did indeed look a little perplexed. They quickly got on the same page, though, and after that “sexy” jam, they had only one more.
Jessie invited anyone who might want to, to join them on stage and dance along, but when there were no takers, she said she might just come out in the audience instead. She then took a moment to say she came from New York and Philadelphia, saying Texas was still “like a foreign fucking country” to her, but that Austin and Denton were two cities she always felt at home in. A push for their merch was then made, and after mentioning that along with stickers and CDs they also had panties, Alissa noted they had instructions on them. “They say, ‘Please, Please Me.’” she joked. With that, they closed things out with “All Danced Out”, which boasted a serious groove, all while being a killer rock song, and it solidified them as a group who likes to have fun just as much as they like to rock out.
They were a band who you liked when they first started, but the deeper they got into their show, the more they grew on you. Their music was nearly irresistible, and thanks to the cello, it often had some beautiful elements. Jessie made it an energetic show, too, moving around when she could, and her voice is superb.
Their debut EP is well worth checking out and it can be purchased in iTUNES. Check out their FACEBOOK PAGE for future show updates, too.
Following them was Astro Veil, who was one band I had been wanting to see since hearing of them sometime last year, and things were finally working out where I could make a show.
The sound check itself was entertaining, and it included Sydney Wright singing “On Top of Spaghetti” in its entirety while they got her vocal levels situated.
When it came time to start, though, they did get a little more serious, and the decent sized crowd of friends and fans alike that they commanded were giving them 100% of their attention. Both Saxon Lewis’ bass lines and playing were awesome and very easily heard, especially on the instrumental outro of their first song that he, guitarist John Dear and drummer Rich Sanchez did.
“Hi, we’re Astro Veil. We’re gonna play some songs.” Sydney told the crowd, as they moved on to “The Escape”, another song where all eyes focused on Saxon for a moment, as he dropped to his knees and bent backwards, waving his bass in the air while plucking away at the strings. Fans were loving that one, and their cheers afterwards were earsplitting. “Thanks guys! We did our best.” said Sydney humbly and with a smile stretching across her face. Rich and Saxon had already began a segue into their next number, and Sydney continued her role of energetic frontwoman, dancing and moving about the stage. In fact, the only real time she was perfectly still this entire night was when she sat down during that track, before scooting a little closer to the forefront of the stage. Even that didn’t last long, though.
Four shots now sit on stage, looking rather lonely, so after talking with her band mates, they all decided now was a good time for a shot break. As soon as they had been downed, though, they got back to business. “On the floor always seems like a good place to cry.” sang Sydney at the start of “Kaleidoscope”, her voice sounding even more gorgeous and remarkable on that song than it had thus far, and the music bed for the track was quite pretty itself. “You might recognize the, uh… The one after this.” she told the crowd, getting ahead of herself a bit until she looked at the setlist. “This one is called Good as Gold.” she added, a song her band mates had already started. It had a slightly more electronic sound, and coupled with the firm, steady beat, it gave it a real groove.
Now they got to their cover they had planned, which was “Friday, I’m in Love” by The Cure. Their rendition was nothing short of phenomenal, and their next original tune, “Hero”, seemed to be a fan favorite (especially to the fan it was dedicated to). It created a fun atmosphere (even more so than most of their other songs), and there was even a moment where Sydney and Saxon harmonized with each other for a line, sounding spectacular.
“I keep changing my hair…” Sydney remarked once the song had concluded. All throughout the night, she had been changing her appearance, letting it down, then a song or two later tying it back up. “It keeps getting hot and cold.” she added, before doing their next to last song, “Pulse”, which had a rather soothing quality to it. Once they got to their final song, the audience was visibly (and audibly) upset. They didn’t want their set to end, but the cries for more couldn’t extend their time on stage. Sydney tried to console everyone with the fact that Criminal Birds would be coming up next to rock the place, which did ease the pain a little. “…Thanks for being here.” she finished as they started into their final song. There came a point where this track reached a lull, then, at the instant Rich and the rest of the band kicked it back up, Saxon leapt into the air, even doing a swift kick before he landed, making for quite the end to their 42-minute long set.
Their music was a little inventive on some levels, and I know the mix of rock/indie and/or electronic is nothing new, but the way Astro Veil does it, it does sound more original. Their stage show was incredibly fun to watch, and out of the four band members, at least one of them was always doing something that got your attention. Making that all the better was the chemistry they all had, especially Sydney with all of them. She was almost always interacting with them in some way or another, like during one song when she stood near John, then reached over and squeezed his chin, not unlike how you might do a baby. You could tell they were clicking on all levels; and let’s not forget the bubbly, fun demeanor Sydney endlessly oozed while performing.
You can download one of their songs for free on REVERBANTION, and purchase the rest if you want.
Another band I had been waiting quite some time to see was Criminal Birds, and finally the stars had aligned for me to experience their live show.
The quartets 29-minutes on stage were filled almost exclusively by new(er) songs, like the opener, which had lead guitarist Taylor Dondlinger harmonizing with singer/rhythm guitarist/keyboardist Reggie Hastings, the pairs voices sounding most excellent together. Even glued behind the mic stand, Reggie wound up being quite the frontman, making all sorts of gestures with his hands when he wasn’t strumming his axe, and he often bugged his eyes out, creating a semi-wild look.
Their crowd was larger than any other bands this night, and it was readily apparent why so many people had packed in, in front of the stage early: because the hometown indie/rock outfit was a knockout rock band. They moved on to what seemed like a little shorter song, which came to a rather abrupt end, throwing a nice curveball everyone’s way. Next came “Electric Love”, which found Reggie singing in a almost jazzy style of voice right at the start, and it sounded astounding. It then took off more when drummer Grahm Robinson and bassist Gunnar Ebeling got more into it; and Taylor had a very slick solo, hitting some sweet notes as he used a slide.
Reggie dabbled on the keys for their next number, which had a very rhythmic vibe, while the following song had what I thought was the overall catchiest music bed of anything they did this night. It left fans roaring, and at the end, Taylor mouthed, “Thank you.” to all who were watching. Before their next one (which I believe was “Speak Louder”), Reggie mentioned they would soon be working with some talented people to make a music video for the new jam. Gunner swayed from side to side for a portion of the track, before getting really into later on.
“Now we will play you old things.” Reggie informed the crowd, before clarifying that “old things” meant one old song. They wrapped the show up with the slightly more ambient sounding (at least at the start) “Chill Out”, which had quite a few people singing along. On the few breaks Reggie took, when he was just singing, he shot some aggressive looks at the crowd, clearly being caught up in it all, and making their show that much more entertaining.
It was shame it had to end there, but they had owned it while up on that stage.
Taylor’s a very skilled guitarist, demonstrating his prowess throughout the night, and live, Reggies’ voice sounds exactly like it does on their EP, and he has a tone that is completely unique to him. From where I stood, my view was a bit obstructed, and I really couldn’t see Grahm at all, and even Gunner was often out of sight for me, though the rhythm they gave the songs was definitely heard (and felt).
They were better than I even thought they would be, and hopefully I won’t spend another year or so trying to catch a second Criminal Birds show.
So far, they only have one EP available, and you can get it for free on BANDCAMP. As for shows, their next one listed is another Denton show on September 20th, but I wouldn’t be surprises if they do some more before that.
Biographies were headlining the show, and like the opener, they were one band I knew nothing about.
They were a large group, six members in all, an apart from the usual bass, drums and guitars (there were three of those), there was also a keyboardist/female vocalist, Katie Slusarski.
The three guitars never sounded like overkill, and their songs sounded amazing, with a lot of textures and depth to music, each one telling its own story. However, I was never able to get into Chance Maggards’ voice, who spoke the lyrics more than singing them. I stuck around for four songs, giving them a chance, but the music alone wasn’t enough to keep me listening.
If you want to check them out, though, you can get their album on their BANDCAMP PAGE.
‘Twas a great night, and it was refreshing to see some bands I hadn’t before.
Just last month, The Dirty River Boys played one of the largest venues in North Texas (specifically, in Fort Worth). This month, their North Texas stop found them in Denton, at the much more intimate setting that Dan’s Silver Leaf has to offer; and I was even more excited about this one.
It was a one-band bill, and for a Thursday night, they a good little crowd here at Dan’s. A crowd who was glued to them as soon as they took the stage at 9:30 on the dot.
“What’s going on, Dan’s Silver Leaf. We are the Dirty River Boys from El Paso, Texas…” singer and acoustic guitarist Marco Gutierrez informed everyone. He was the one who sang lead on their first song, and they chose to open with one of their fan favorites, “Carnival Lights”. They didn’t do the more acoustic/solo version like they had the past couple times I had seen them. Instead, Travis Stearns added some light beats on his cajon, while fellow acoustic guitarist and singer Nino Cooper played some soft riffs, with Colton James slapping the strings of his upright bass periodically. “…She’s sitting on the top Ferris wheel car thinking, ‘It ain’t such a long way down; failure’s such a long, cold fall.” Sang Marco on the first verse of this woeful, though beautifully told story. Nino shone on this song, as he did a little guitar solo before the third verse; and with the use of his pedal board, his acoustic guitar sounded like it could give any electric one a run for its money.
They instantly fired up the title track from their second EP, “Train Station”, where they somewhat touched on the amazing harmonies they are capable of, before digging out a track from their first (and so far, only) full-length album, “Science of Flight”. The first time I experienced The Dirty Rivers was last September at the Dia de los Toadies music festival, and a song I was instantly smitten with was “Heart Like That”. It’s certainly a favorite of mine, though out of the three times I’ve seen them since, it was one that went un-played. Forth time’s a charm, I guess, because no sooner had they finished that previous song, then Nino started them on it. “She was lusting for some wondering; he was lost in a paper filled room…” he crooned, while the song built up. It was the choruses that were truly outstanding, though. “She’s just a girl with a rambling heartache; he’s grown a hard, lost man. Searching for stars in a sky filled with dark gray; what’s not to love about a heart like that?” He belted, packing an immense amount of passion into it, and to say he killed it on that one would not be an understatement.
They took a an actual break after that, though it was short-lived, as Marco quickly mentioned that they had been in the studio in December and January, getting their next record ready, saying they’d be doing one of those new ones now. Colton sang on it, though at the start Travis let out a bit of an excited scream, and even though it was off mic, it was very audible. It was also a tune that had all of them lending their voices to the chorus, making for some incredible four-part harmonies.
Once they finished it, Travis asked how many people in the audience had seen them before, and quite a few repeat offenders raised their hands. There were some newcomers, too, and that was the question he asked next. “…God bless you for coming out on a Thursday night…” he said graciously, before asking anyone who might know the next one to sing along with it. The song was “Dried Up”, which had Nino playing the harmonica, too, and before the final chorus, they tacked on some of Bob Dylans’ “Just Like a Woman”. “Nobody feels any pain tonight, as I stand inside the rain…” sang Marco, going all the way through the first chorus of the classic. “Now, as loud as you can, help us out!” Travis roared right after, pumping up the crowd, many of whom did sing along to the final bit of their original.
As soon as it ended, Nino switched gears and began the tale that “Union Painter” tells, and after it Travis used his kick drum to both bridge them into the next song and amp things up. Colton switched out to an electric bass for this new song, a song that Marco sang, and later joked was about “taking psychedelics and feeling the world out.”
Now came the ever-exciting “Chinese fire drill” (their words), where Colton ends up on the banjo, Travis the mandolin and Marco the upright bass. Travis swaggered all over stage left during “Lookin’ for the Heart”, and his mannerisms while playing the mandolin are very entertaining, which is exactly what he’s going for. He also added some percussion to it here and there, sitting on his cajon and using one of his feet to kick the box.
Another song from their LP followed, though it was a cover, and they pointed that out, giving Townes Van Zandt a shout-out before their excellent rendition of “Lungs”. “Stand among the ones that live in lonely indecision…” sang Marco on the first verse, while Colton spun his bass around at that time, while it ended with Travis shouting, “Rest in peace, Townes Van Zandt.”
They immediately fired up another oldie, “My Son”, which had Nino doing an electrifying guitar solo before the final chorus. There next song was one of their drinking ones, and Travis worked the fans by asking if anyone was drinking whiskey, and when not many people responded, it was just alcohol in general. “…That’s what this song’s about.” He said, as they cranked out a rocking, but fun intro for “Draw”. An intro that ended with Travis throwing one of his drum sticks in the air, then catching it.
From a song about whiskey, they made a jump to a song about love. Marco pointed out this next one was their current radio single from their upcoming album, and he began the song, while Colton was swapping back out to his electric bass. Nino then laid down his catchy chords that help make “Desert Wind”. There’s just such an epic feel to that one, and the music bed is done in a way it accents the lyrics, making them even more impactful.
Afterwards, a call was made to all the fans who had seen them before and were familiar with their music to help them out on “Boomtown”. Nino led the band (and audience) while now playing the mandolin, and Travis told everyone when to come in at, since the verses are done in rounds, with Colton and Marco doing the second and third, respectively. The second one of each line was when everyone was supposed to join in, and many did.
The mood got a little more somber with “Riverbed Wildflowers”, before the group did some ominous crooning into their microphones on what was a dark lead in to “Letter to Whoever”. Before they officially began the song, Travis again tossed a drum stick into the air, and when he caught it, he struck one of the drums with it to signify the start of the track. “All of the darkness down at the bottom don’t look too dark from here. Keep your eyes on the brick wall, your foot on the throttle; get ready to feel no fear.” Marco quickly sang on the chorus of another gem that “Science of Flight” has to offer. Talk then turned to their hometown of El Paso, and how it has “falling on hard times”. That was what their next song was about, and they co-wrote this other new song with Ray Wylie Hubbard. It’s one of two new songs that are completely unforgettable (in my opinion), and it’s already one I look forward to hearing each time I see them.
They got back to the darker elements during another intro piece they concocted, and this time Nino and Marco quickly strummed the strings of their guitars, which sounded rather haunting, and the occasional notes from the harmonica Travis threw in only intensified it. Still, it was fitting for “Six Riders”.
After handling that one, Marco exited the stage. Travis followed, while Colton took a backseat as Nino started “So Long Elanie”. They came back around the second verse, kicking the song up a few notches. It was still very restrained in comparison to their next one (the other of their two new ones that is unforgettable). For that last one, Colton had both his basses at the ready, and now he laid his upright down and moved his electric from around behind him to his front. “This song’s about life on the road.” was the simple, though accurate explanation Nino gave of their next number, which is the most aggressive one they’ve written thus far.
“…From the bottom of our hearts, thanks for attending our show…” said Travis, as they got ready to wrap it up. He then made everyone come up to the front of the stage. “All of you in the back, we haven’t even gotten to see your faces tonight…” he said, adding they would not get started until everyone was right up there. He certainly knows how to pump up the crowd, and once the majority of the folks gathered around he asked, “Are you ready to raise some hell?!” The fans roared back at him, while Nino began their semi-jig that is “Raise Some Hell”, which always creates a boisterous mood, even on a Thursday night in Denton.
It was a fun end to an 82-minute long set, but no one wanted it to be over yet, and some people began asking for more while the band made their way off stage.
They made everyone a few moments, and when Marco made his way back on stage alone, it had me thinking he was going to do one of his solo songs (much like Nino had done shortly before.) However, when his band mates followed suit, with Nino now clutching an electric guitar, it became clear that wouldn’t be happening.
“Can I get a hell yeah?!” Travis asked, after he had made sure everyone had, had a good time this night. They then proceeded to close with their excellent rendition of The Rolling Stones “Honky Tonk Woman”, a song they’ve truly transformed into their own, and Travis owned his cajon during it.
This was a fine way to spend a Thursday night; and even though it had barely been a month since I last saw The Dirty River Boys, I had somewhat forgotten how sensational their shows are. However, I was quickly reminded.
They’re a superb live band, and they mesmerize who ever happens to be watching them on the given night, delivering a rock show steeped with some country elements. It’s one you won’t soon forget, either.
I also enjoyed the fact that they focused mainly on their older songs this night, verses the last time I saw them, when the new stuff was in full force. Nothing against it at all, but still being a new fan, it’s good to get to experience the older stuff (i.e. the songs I know), especially since the days for some of them are no doubt numbered.
Over the coming months, they have several shows lined up all around Texas, and will even be getting to Oklahoma and Louisiana. Check out their TOUR PAGE for full details. Their next stop in North Texas will be their return to the Granada Theater in Dallas on April 25th. They also have a show at Hank’s in McKinney on May 17th, and will be in Fort Worth on June 11th at the Capitol Bar.
Also, be sure to check out their music in iTUNES.
It’s hard to believe, but it had already been almost six months since Spooky Folk performed their Farewell for Now show, giving their hometown of Denton one last show to savor before singer Kaleo Kaualoku moved to Colorado. It was made clear they were just going on a hiatus, though, not breaking up, and would be doing shows whenever he could make it back.
Like this night for instance, where Dan’s Silver Leaf was again serving as the setting for their gig, and a well attended one at that.
The range in music styles was pretty eclectic this night, beginning with Peopleodeon, who did a short 18-minute long set.
The quintet was very electronic based, with the only live instrument being the drums. Though there are an electronic act or two that I do like, for the most, I’m not a fan of the genre. It wasn’t just that, though. Their singers voice was very soft, easily being overpowered by the music, nor did she have much of a stage presence, standing with her hands in her pockets as she sang into the microphone.
Needless to say, they didn’t win me over as a fan, and I’m glad they didn’t get too much time on stage.
It didn’t take long for them to clear off and Pageantry to set up their gear, getting the night going in more of a rock direction when they took the stage shortly before eleven.
Their final Denton show of 2013 was comprised mostly of newer or non-album tracks, such as their opener, which did a great job of setting up the dreamy rock landscapes their music takes you through. As the song came to an end, singer and guitarist Roy Robertson transitioned them into their next song with some hypnotic guitar notes. The title track of their debut EP, “Friends of the Year”, is an engrossing one, then, after quickly informing the audience of who they were, they got back to work with another tune.
Drummer Ramon Muzquiz segued it into the following song with some hefty drum beats, while a a loud mix of the drums, guitar and Pablo Burrulls’ bass wound them into the next song, “Disaster”. The very rhythmic track was a highlight of their set, as was the song that came afterwards. “I just want to crawl all over you…” Roy sang at the start as well as on the chorus, which is quite infectious.
Before that one, Roy had remarked that this would be their last Denton show of the year, noting they would be taking a little time off from performing, and now, as their 39-minute long set neared the end, they took another break as he pointed out their merch table set up in the corner. “…We have shirts for boobed and no boobed people.” he said. I’ve never heard men’s and women’s shirts described that way, and it was quite funny. He then announced the name of their final song for the night, which was “Caution”.
Their time on stage seemed to pass all too quickly, and I only wish they had, had a little more time so perhaps they could have done the other two tracks from their EP.
It was still a great show, though, and I think it’s safe to say Pageantry is one of the more original bands that resides in North Texas.
Roy is an excellent song writer and story teller, which is readily apparent, while the music has dashes of pop thrown in, giving it a bit of a glossy sound, but not enough to undermine the rock elements, which comes first.
Check out “Friend of the Year” on their Bandcamp page, and just keep an eye on their FACEBOOK PAGE for more updates on them. They did a little tour a few months back, and released that EP earlier in the year, so it seems safe to say that 2014 will be an even bigger year for Pageantry.
The crowd had enjoyed both of the opening acts, but it was Spooky Folk who everyone was most excited about. As I said, it was May when they last played in Texas, while they performed at a music festival in Denver back in July, and they were greeted with open arms, packing out about three fourths of Dan’s Silver Leaf, with some people even standing out on the back patio trying to glimpse in at the stage.
Songs from their debut self-titled record as well as the upcoming “Youth is a Notion” were in play this night, and they started with a series of newer songs, drummer Chris Brown knocking out some powerful beats to kick off their opener. I’m sure I had heard it before, though I didn’t remember it, but it really stood out to me this night, and I’m already betting it’ll be one of my favorite cuts from the new album.
“I Believe”, which boasts a riveting ebb and flow, having some sweeter spots along with sections you could rock out to, seemed to get them into the full swing of things, as well as garnering the full attention of everyone. While the final notes from Petra Kellys’ violin, along with the other instruments, trailed off, singer and rhythm guitarist Kaleo Kaualoku began plucking the strings of his guitar, leading them into “Notion”. “Youth is a notion that is crooked as crime. Death lies in waiting in these shadows of mine…” Kaleo sang at the start of the track, which is just another one of their songs that deals with real life themes.
“So what’s been going on these last few months?” Kaleo asked the collection of friends and fans, who were clearly glad to have him back, even if it was just for a few days, answering the question with cheers and applause. He continued chatting with everyone, eventually mentioning their new record. “…It’s finally done.” he said, adding it should be available in the next month or so. When he ran out of stuff to say for the moment, he asked Petra to take over for him. “Kaleo abandoned us for Denver!” she exclaimed, giving him a hard time about the move. “It’s only a twelve hour drive.” he said, to which she corrected, saying, “More like fourteen.” “It’s only an hour and forty-five minute plane ride.” he replied.
Aside from some tuning that was going on, guitarist Jesse Clay Perry had moved over to stage right, where he now clutched Scarlett Wrights’ bass, while she had picked up her melodica. You could feel how anxious everyone was getting about hearing one of the fan favorite songs, but instead of jumping right into it, they eased in with a serene violin intro, mixed with some soft guitar notes. It was a delightful intro to “Resurrect!”, almost as good as the song itself.
Everyone was on a high from that song, and after another new one, Scarlett pounded out some thick bass lines, a little unrecognizable at first, but eventually becoming clear it was leading them into “This Sleep”. “It’s good to be back in Denton for a few days.” Kaleo stated after finishing the song, as they geared up for another classic. The crowd was ecstatic when they heard them rip into “Polaroid”, most of whom sang along to every word, appreciating something that before was probably taken for granted a bit, back when Spooky Folk would (and could) do multiple shows a month.
“If you can hear me, clap once.” Petra told the audience during another break, having fun with them by adding, “I said once.” after dozens of people had clapped their hands together. During the lighthearted moment, Scarlett exited the stage, while Chris and Jesse got more out of side, as Kaleo and Petra did softer track from the new record, and one she was quick to point out was her favorite. That pretty song was followed by another new one, requiring the full band like just about every other song of theirs, and it was a pretty lengthy one at that. It was a truly fantastic number, completely captivating me. It was balanced out by the shortest song they could have done, and it was done with the full-band, verses as a duo like the last time they played Dan’s. The song was “Diddle”, and the bass, drums and extra guitar made it even more moving, while Jesse and Scarlett sang along with Kaleo and Petra at the end, “…Looking for love in all the wrong places seems to be common these days…”
It trailed off, giving way to the gradual rise of “Kicking and Screaming”, one of two newer songs that became a hit about as quickly as it was worked into their live show, and they prepared to end things with the other. Kaleo pointed out that the next song was the last one of the night, which had to have put a little doubt in everyone’s mind, especially when it was revealed to be “Disheveled”. Nothing against the song, which is quite possibly the strongest in their arsenal, allowing Jesse to shred on his axe, while Kaleo adopts a whole different demeanor as he belts out the chorus. It ended exceptionally, with the entire band chanting, “Oooh” over and over, which would have been a perfect way to cap the show off, except for the fact that it wasn’t the one song everybody was wanting to hear.
“We’re gonna cut all the bullshit…” Kaleo declared after the applause subsided, adding that everyone knew they were going to do one more song, and they didn’t drag things out by having the crowd beg for an encore that clearly would have been coming. Instead, they dove right into “Bible Belt”, which is typically a sing along, and it was a massive one this night, much of the crowd singing along to the chorus, “I was born on the bible belt. Give me something sharp so I can kill myself, ‘cause I can’t go on living this way…”, ending their 53-minute long set perfectly.
It wasn’t as epic a show as they had done back in May, when they did two full sets, playing their first record in its entirety, as well as much of the sophomore release plus some covers, but it was still a memorable one. They hit all of the highlight tracks from “Spooky Folk” and then some, and they were well placed around all the new material.
What was surprising was how in tune they still were with one another. I’m sure they did some rehearsing for this show, but you still have to consider the fact that they hadn’t been on stage with one another in about four months, yet you never would have guessed it. The chemistry and tightness was still there, and it was impressive.
It’ll probably be some time before Kaleo gets back here in order for Spooky Folk to do another show, but at least the fans will soon have a new record to help hold them over to whenever the next show may be.
And until that record is released (which would assumingly be December at this point), check out their first one on their BANDCAMP PAGE.
But as great as the bands were, and as fun as the show was, the best thing about this night was that there was no sadness about it, like the farewell for now show. The mood was more festive this night, from the fans and band members alike, who were just happy to be seeing the band again, while Jesse, Petra, Chris, Scarlett and Kaleo were glad to be playing those songs live once more
It seems that so many bands these days (on the local level) don’t always give their band and fans a proper goodbye. Instead, many just fade into obscurity, becoming nothing more than a memory.
The Hope Trust wasn’t going to be one of those bands, though, and after eight years or so and two full-length records, they were offering one last performance to their fans, closing out their career with a hometown show at Dan’s Silver Leaf in Denton.
The lone opening act on this bill was the fellow Denton based group Danny Rush and the Designated Drivers, whom I’ve heard of for some time now, and was looking forward to seeing and hearing what they were like.
Their 37-minute long set was a mix of old and current material, and I believe even some newer songs, including the first couple they began with. It had my interest from the get go, being a good mix of folk and rock music, and it was clear from the start that singer and acoustic guitarist Daniel Rush Folmer penned some very good songs.
Upon finishing those two a friend of the bands who was in the crowd made the typical concert joke by requesting, “Freebird!”, which was met with a very unusual answer. “Well, get up here and sing it and we’ll play it…” Daniel responded, calling the guy out by name. Since they weren’t going to do “Freebird”, they did the next best thing, the lead track from their debut “Brown and Blue” album, “Brakeman”, a semi slower song that had a nice vibe. The folksy song was only accentuated by the pedal steel guitar that Burton Lee was playing, but that song didn’t go off without hitch.
Daniel broke a string during it, finishing out the song, before having no option but to replace it. As if that were a regular occurrence, his Designated Drivers took charge, drummer Justin Collins starting an instrumental piece with some light beats, with the rest of the group, guitarist Tony Ferraro, bassist Chris Garver and piano player Taylor Sims, as well as Burton, gradually joining in. It was some great riffing that kept them from losing all the momentum they had going, and eventually Daniel returned, but without his acoustic guitar.
He had instead been loaned an electric from The Hope Trust’s singer Kelly Upshaw, which seemed to make the rest of their show (or at least parts of it) a little more rocking than the first few songs had been. The slower love song “W/O U” was one that really stuck out to me this night, and I mentioned earlier how good a writer he was, take for instance one of the first lines, “…Baby cut me open I could use some love…”. They followed it with “Downers”, a fast paced tune from their most recent record “Malverde”, which had Tony adding some backing vocals to it, as he and Daniel sang some of the lines in time with each other.
“SHT YR FKN MTH MY DRLNG” was another fun song, and after another new one, “Mama Plz Cum Home”, Daniel took a moment to introduce the Designated Drivers to everyone. After naming everyone else, he mentioned who he was, which turned into a joke as he said, “And I’m Kelly Upshaw…”.
They then knocked out a few more (three to be exact) newer songs to close out their show.
I thought Danny Rush and the Designated Drivers got the night off to a great start. The bulk of the songs they played were pretty fast paced, and while there were some folk tinges to the music, it was also pretty Rock ‘n’ Roll.
The distinctive voice that Daniel has also helped set them apart, and he just has one of those voices that, for example, if you were to hear on the radio, you’d immediately know who it was.
Their upbeat music and fun live show managed to make me into a fan, and I’ll definitely be seeing them again… Sometime.
You can purchase both of the band’s LP’s on their BANDCAMP PAGE, and they are pretty cheap as far as digital downloads go, so go give some of their music a listen.
Considering most of The Hope Trusts’ gear was already set up (i.e. the drum kit, etc.), it didn’t take too long for them to get the instruments set up and sound checked, before having to wait a bit, for their 11:17 start time.
Being their final performance, the quintet decided to focus on both the records they released, kicking things off with a few songs from 2007’s debut, “The Incurable Want”.
“Ok, Alright” seemed like a rather appropriate song to open with, seeming to fit the group’s current situation quite well when you took some of the lyrics out of context. “…All that’s left is death…” crooned singer and rhythm guitarist Kelly Upshaw before the song’s first chorus, as they got their last hurrah underway. Guitarist Jeremy Buller dabbled on the keys for “Run It Through”, another gem from that old record, while Kelly announced the song that followed it as being “Whatever Suits You”.
Tex Bosley got it started with steady and hefty drumbeat, and that song highlighted two of the best characteristics this band had; a catchy music bed and lyrics that could cut to the bone. For instance, “…Now everything you’ve hated is the future that you’re making, without me… Time can heal our wounds, but leaves a scar and bruise to remind you…”. I felt it a good reminder of why I assume most people (or at least myself) liked the band in the first place, and now, as the crowd heard that one and all the others for, in all likelihood the final time, it reinforced the idea that you needed to soak it all in and savor it.
“Don’t Want to Fight” concluded the time they spent on that first record, and as they geared up to move on to “Light Can’t Escape”, Mike Upshaw laid his guitar down and walked over to the keyboard at stage right. Kelly killed the time with some banter, saying something that this show was a recital. “…I like calling concerts recitals…” he joked, before adding, “…They are better than rehearsals.”
They then tackled the lead track from the record that wound up being their swan song, “Won’t Take Much”, a personal favorite of mine, and I will truly miss. “…Is confession all we’ll ever know? Is forgiveness at the end of the road?…” are a couple of the questions raised on that deep, thought provoking number, and as it ended, Mike went back to his guitar, as the rest of the instruments (and probably the clip of a sample track they used) resonated, bridging them into their next song, “Climb Your Own Trees”.
Already at a few points this night Kelly had thanked everyone for coming out, and during the next break he did so again, noting how much it meant to him and the rest of the band that they all were there. “…This is for the lovers…” he said of the next song they had in store, slowing things down for the more tender, “Drive to the Ocean”. Possibly the best part of the song was the outro, switched up a bit from what you hear on the record, prominently featuring Jeremy on the keyboard, which intertwined well with some sweet notes Mike was playing, giving the song an even more gorgeous texture.
Mike again manned the keyboard for the next song, “Afterglow”, and upon finishing it a fan shouted out, “Ten more years!” “It’s not me you have to convince.” Kelly replied, before soon naming the title track from the album, “Light Can’t Escape”. It was one of the more rocking songs they wrote, while still having their signature indie rock sound at its core, and that rock nature was on display at times, as all the members, including bassist Andy Odom, seemed to get more into it, and Kelly could even be seen shredding on his guitar a bit.
“There are seriously twenty-eight more songs left.” he joked, but even if it had been true, no one had a problem with that, and actually were welcoming of it. More than a few of their songs have some religious undertones to them, and none more than “Sleepy Romans”, which came next in their set, though they aren’t so much undertones in that one. “Oh, Jesus Christ, is it a bad time to get right with you? I’ll be good, do the things I should until you come back through…” is one of the many lines that’s a testament to that.
With the first notes of “Lost In Transmission”, it seemed like the night was about to end, seeing as that had been the standard closer since they released “Light Can’t Escape” back in 2011, or at least every time I had seen them that was how they ended gigs. It’s a fitting final note, and that was especially true this night, during the lengthy instrumental outro, which capped things of well.
That brought their 48-minute long set to a close, and for a moment it seemed like they were done, but the fans who were there weren’t quite ready for that. Some light chanting began, then, at the urging of the sound guy, the people got louder, and the five guys retook their spots.
“We don’t really do encores, so let’s get over the bullshit and just do more songs.” Kelly remarked. Mike once again played the keys on their next song, a single which Kelly said had been “certified pewter”. Jeremy was the lone guitarist on “Throw Me Overboard”, proving he can be a good, energetic frontman when not playing an instrument, and afterwards, they arrived at the final song.
“…Shit dies and things end. It’s going to happen to you and me…” Kelly said rather bluntly, and while I didn’t think he sounded all that bitter by it, one of his band mates asked him if he was. He then took a time out, thanking each of them for being in this band with him, saying he had been playing in bands with Jeremy and Andy since his early days. He also thanked Tex for being there, as well as Mike and another brother who was a spectator this night, but Kelly pointed out had been in the band at various points. “Tried To” ended this 9-minute long encore (of sorts) section, and though I wouldn’t have thought it before hand, it just sounded like the right song for these guys to end on. The outro was the best part, allowing all of them one final push, tearing it up on their instruments, before the band’s heartbeat slowed, giving out as Kelly once again thanked everyone for being there to witness it.
I think the best part of their show was the fact that there was no somberness to it. That’s not to say it was a happy event by any means, though I didn’t feel it was sad, either, unlike other farewell shows I’ve been to. None of the members of the band made it feel that way, either, instead it was like it was just another show.
It served as a nice final page in the book these guys had been writing over the years, and I don’t think their story could have ended any better.
I might not have been a die hard fan who was at every single show they did, but I did love the band and the music they made, and it will be missed. However, on the bright side of things, Kelly is planning on starting a solo career, backed by a full band, and he’ll have a record out next year (probably Spring 2014).
In the meantime, you can still purchase both of The Hope Trust’s records on their BANDCAMP STORE, so, even if you missed out on ‘em, give their exceptionally well written music a listen. You’ll be glad you did.
It had been just a little over a month since DFW Undercover put on their first showcase which featured some acoustic singer/songwriters, and this night, they were ready to turn it up a few notches.
They had put together a full-blown rock show at Hailey’s this night, which doubled as a birthday bash.
I got there a little late, just barely missing the first band, Vandfald, who quickly got their gear off stage as Manny the Martyr began the process of setting up.
Before they started, Bill Pierce of DFW Undercover got on stage to thank everyone for coming out and try (to no avail) to get the people over by the bar to come into the showroom. He also introduced his wife, saying, “…She just turned eighteen. Yes, I like ‘em young.” he joked (this was her “dirty thirty” birthday bash.) He bantered with the audience for a few moments longer, then ceded the stage over to the band.
The 42-minute long set was easily the longest of the night, encompassing old and new songs from their forthcoming album, one of those being the bouncy opener “Aydagee”. It literally had some of the band bouncing around, too, guitarist Mike Ubben and frontman Jake Cravens jumping as they spun around in circles at times, and it was that fun and energetic demeanor that got so much of the crowd ensnared in their live show.
Drummer Joel Simka segued the end of that song into their next one with a few smooth beats, and upon finishing it they did one that Jake said was a little more personal to him. Once they knocked that one out, they ran into a technical difficulty, or rather Brad Green did while trying to tune his guitar. It easily could have turned into a few minutes of possible awkward silence, but thanks to bassist Jayson Vaughn, that didn’t happen. He proceeded to riff on his bass, doing a sweet little solo, eventually being joined by Joel, and even Mike added a few notes, too.
Jake noted that was not planned, even joking(?) that, that was how they came up with the closing parts for all their other tracks. “Some of you may not know this…” he said, mentioning they had recently wrapped up recording their first ever full-length record, and now they were going to do the single from it. “It’s called Left Over Sexy.” Jake informed everyone, as they busted out another stellar song.
They followed it up with what was somewhat of a treat, being a song from their debut EP, “The Aqua Lung”, which Jake pointed out they hadn’t done in awhile. “DDJ” was the song, and like all their others it’s a very interesting and unique blend of rock, pop and reggae, and is possibly one of the best tracks that EP has to offer.
Once it was done, Jake picked up where Bill Pierce had left off, again trying to get the bar flies over into the show room area, and still had no luck at it. That didn’t affect anyone’s mood, though, and they only worked things into more of a frenzy with their next song, and afterwards did a “brand, brand new” one. “We wrote this five minutes before the show.” joked Jake, saying the song was called “DFW Undercover Rocks”. Everyone was anxiously waiting to hear it, when Jake added, “That’s it. That was the song.”
He was pretty good at the wisecracks, and after doing a killer new jam, “Sink or Swim”, he made another. “This song’s about smoking.” he said, setting up “Bougyman”. “And if for even a second you thought I meant cigarettes, than this song is not for you.” he finished. It’s one of the most reggae sounding songs they do, from the music bed to the style Jake sings it in, making it pretty authentic, and they even got the audience to sing along for part of it.
With six minutes left in their set, they went ahead and ended it, closing with the final song from their first EP, “Hit the Brink”.
Even though it was a very full performance, the crowd was left hungry for more, and clearly loved every single second the band had spent on stage.
That’s one of the charms they have, being able to reel most people in easily with their signature sound and explosive live show. It really is very captivating, and I think they were even better this time around then the first time when I saw them, Jake doing some different things with his voice on a couple of songs, screaming at times in a manner that could compete with some metal bands.
For those like me who missed the first act, Manny the Martyr offered a very fun start to the night, and made sure it be hard to top, too.
You can check out the band’s debut EP on their REVERBNATION PAGE, where you can download it (plus some live cuts) for free. As for their next record, you’ll have a chance to get it on December 7th when they celebrate their CD release show at the Curtain Club in Dallas.
The stage was vacant after they got their gear off, as the ears of all the attendees were about to get a break, and the next act was more visually stimulating.
It was a performance from the Whiskey Tongue Burlesque troupe, which featured Tippsy Cupps and the Pumpkin Patch Revue.
I’m not in the business of reviewing burlesque shows, but I will say all the performers (most of whom did two routines) were entertaining to watch, making it a little dark at times, though it was definitely fun overall.
It broke up the night well, and once the ladies finished their performance, it was time for the last band of the night.
Idler was closing out this show, doing their final show of the year, and they had a decent amount of fans who came out to see them one more time in 2013.
This show also saw the band getting back to basics, with frontman Micah Frank focusing solely on being a frontman, rather than acting as the rhythm guitarist as he has at their more recent shows.
However, Ritchie Rangel took the stage before any of his other band mates, blazing through a rip-roaring drum solo on his sizable drum kit, the remaining five members filing on stage as it trailed off.
They began with one of the newer tracks they’ve cooked up for their next record, “Underneath Me”, which was largely sung by frontwoman Katie Frank, her brother adding the occasional backing vocals in the mix while he banged his head around to the music. Mykey O’Neil also had a sweet guitar solo during that one.
“This next one’s called Vendetta.” Micah informed everyone, before they started the intense rocker with the awesome chorus, “Don’t cross me again. It all comes back in the end. I wrote it all down to come back and then rub your face in this.”, which he belts out with a certain amount of anger in his voice. It was soon followed by another song of their self-titled EP, “Go for Broke”, which was the song this night that really showcased what a finely tuned band Idler is. The siblings traded off on vocal duties incredible precision, backing each other up at times, while Katie handled parts of the chorus, all of it being very fluid.
Another song that they co-sang and features some nice vocal work is “Lose Control”, which came next, and once they finished it the band started chatting amongst themselves and the crowd. Somehow, (as a joke) everyone began booing guitarist Nick Laracuente, who was doing a excellent job on the guitar by the way, having previously been the bands bass player, while they have since added a new bassist to the lineup. But I digress. It was all a joke, especially since his band members were egging on the boos, and afterwards Micah tried to see how far he could take it, asking the crowd to chant, “Hey”, which didn’t pan out.
They continued barreling through their 32-minute set with a personal favorite of mine, “Kings and Queens”, before getting to their much loved cover song. Perhaps the best thing about it was how it started, Micah suddenly transitioning from talking to the crowd to hitting that falsetto note that starts the Kenny Loggins classic, “Highway To The Danger Zone”. His band mates soon joined in, and he and Katie again shared the singing responsibilities, which is exactly what makes their cover of that song so unique.
It’s a definite standout, and so, too, is their original, “Pitchfork”, and sticking with the idea of saving the best for last, they wrapped tings up with one more new one, “Cigarette”, which gives all their other material a real run for its money.
Out of the handful of times I’ve seen Idler, this was easily the best show I’ve caught yet. A main reason for that is because of how they have returned to their roots, and while the fact that they use a male and female vocalist is a big thing that sets them apart from other bands, an equally as big part was that Micah and Katie were a frontman and frontwoman, respectively. And their live show has been kicked up a few notches now that he’s no longer the guitarist.
This was a great show for Idler to end the year on, and I’ll bet that when they make their comeback in 2014, they’ll be better than ever.
So, until then, head over to iTUNES and pick up a copy of their EP, “Idler”, and you can also get that cover tune they do for FREE HERE.
It was a great night at Hailey’s, and compared to the last few times I’d been to the venue, the place was packed, which was good to see.
Kudos to DFW Undercover for putting together such an awesome and unique show this night, and while the bands did differ in style, they meshed well, and kept everyone watching entertained. Be sure to hit up their OFFICIAL WEBSITE & their YOUTUBE CHANNEL to watch the interviews they’ve done with some local artists, and I must say, I’m already curious and looking forward to what their next showcase is going to be like.
It had been quite awhile since the last time I had caught a show at Hailey’s in Denton. Probably about eight months or so (give or take, and evidently a lot can happen in that time.
For starters, it smelled very different when I walked in, lacking the scent of tobacco and hazy fog the cigarette smoke created. Evidently, back on August 1st, the venue adopted a no smoking policy, which gets no compliments from me, and was a nice surprise, since I was already prepared to leave there reeking of smoke. That wasn’t the only change the venue had made, though, with the other one being more aesthetic.
The stage had been encompassed by a nice looking red curtain on the sides and front, giving it a more professional feel, somewhat reminiscent of that of my favorite Dallas haunt. It’s a really nice touch, and while I had never thought of Hailey’s having a curtain around the stage, it definitely works.
The trio known as R.L. Jones had made the trip down here from Tulsa, OK to open up this show, and took the stage just a little after 9:30.
They tore into their 32-minute long set with what is one of their most explosive songs, “Relay”, and with it they ensnared the handful of people who were in the showroom portion of the venue. I believe it was the only track they did from their debut EP, with the rest being some newer stuff, like their next song for instance, which was quite killer. “…I just wrote that. Me. Just wrote it…” said singer and guitarist Matt Wright, which came across in a comical manner, getting a few laughs from some people.
He led them into the following song, softly plucking the strings of his guitar, progressively getting quicker and louder. It then roared into action when bassist Tom Pritner and drummer Brent Blackburn joined in, eventually winding it into the next song with a mangled mix of feedback.
“This is a new one.” Matt informed the crowd before another song, stating it was brand new. “So if we fuck it up, I don’t give a shit.” he added. It was a great track, though the one that came next I thought was a true beast of a song, being my favorite of the night. The laughs continued when they finished it, when Matt said, “If you like it, I wrote it. If not, Tom wrote it.”, before doing another couple songs to conclude their show.
Brent was a new addition to the group since the first and only other time I had seen them, and he meshed well with them, having a certain aggressive style of playing that fit well with Matt and Tom. It’s Matt that is the main focus of the show, though (at least for me, which may have something to do with all The FEDS shows I saw over the years.)
He’s a stellar guitarist, and he adds a lot of tones with many of these R.L. Jones songs, often fiddling with his pedal boards to create all sorts of textures and effects. It’s really something to marvel at.
You can pick up their five song EP in iTUNES, and keep an eye on their FACEBOOK PAGE for future show updates.
Second up was a Denton based band whom I’d heard of for awhile, but had never seen before, and that was Werewolf Therewolf.
Their 41-minute set was a mix of older and newer (or at least unrecorded) songs, with their opener being one of the latter. “This next one is going to be another song.” said front man Daniel Galvan, giving everyone a glimpse of his slightly awkward style sense of humor. It was track from their “Initium” EP, “Something Else”, and it was a really good track, getting me a little more into it all.
Carlo Decanini had a pretty sweet bass solo during their next number, and after another song they did “Prelude”. “If you like video games, then this is the song for you.” Carlo told the crowd. They segued it into their next song, knocking out three more after that, one of which was “Current Event”. “It’s not current anymore, but it’s too late to change the name…” Daniel joked.
In the end, I was a bit mixed about them. On one hand, it was a pretty good live show they put on, and they were all fantastic musicians. Brandon Bond is a exceptional guitarist, that’s fact, and Aaron Caruthers also had a very slick style of playing, often shredding, yet did so somewhat meticulously. Drummer Rydell Guajardo and Carlo completed a very solid rhythm section, and Daniel has one of the most interesting and unique voices I think I’ve ever heard.
However, while their music was good and forceful, it never completely drew me. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it, even, I just never truly felt it.
Maybe (and hopefully) things will be different if I see them again sometime, we’ll see.
You can find their EP on their BANDCAMP PAGE where you can pay what you want, meaning it is potentially free.
With two acts left, things were bound to continue to heat up, especially with Little Sisters of the Poor making their Denton debut.
Gabe Muzquiz started in with the thundering beat of the bass drum, which is the backbone for “Spires”. The first single they ever released certainly works well as an opener, showing what kind of unadulterated, adrenaline pumping rock this quintet is capable of cranking out.
That tune was wound perfectly into the next, as lead guitarist Jason Jones cranked out the opening riffs of another heavy hitter, “Love, Money and Death”. It’s a pretty infectious rock song, with JP Dunn playing some pretty catchy parts on his guitar. Things seemed like they’d slow down after that, but instead of pausing, Jason, JP, and even bassist Joe Becker created some roaring feedback to bridge them into their next track. “This song’s called You Animal.” stated vocalist Dunagin Gaines 9that is assuming I heard him correctly.)
It didn’t pack quite as much a punch as their first two songs, but was still a serious rocker. They branched out afterwards, though, with their song “Headaches”, which Gabe began by lightly tapping on various drums and cymbals on his kit. It just has a different flare to it than most of their other stuff, in a good way, showing they are capable of pulling off different styles in their music. When he wasn’t singing, Dunagin paced around the stage, slinging the microphone around as he spun it by the cord. Most of the times he’d then catch the mic in his other hand just in time to belt out the next line, except for one time. The cord got unplugged from the mic, and by the time he realized it, there wasn’t enough time to plug it back in. Luckily, Jason happened to be standing on the drum riser rocking out, so Dunagin slipped over to stage right, making-do with the boom mic.
It worked just fine, at least until they hit another break so he could get his microphone plugged back in. After some more feedback, they tore into “Cross That Line”. “If you like it and want to buy it, tough shit…” Dunagin said once they finished it, noting it wasn’t one they had recorded yet. Another one they have yet to lay down was one of their newest ones, “Truck Stop Heaven”, which is also pretty different compared to the rest of their material. It’s more low-key, almost acoustic sounding at times, while it soars at other points. That contrast is part of what makes it grow on me each time I hear it, and even though this was only the second time I’ve heard it all electric, I could tell they’ve tightened it up a bit.
As their 40-minute long set neared its end, they raised things back up, blowing the roof off the place with “Cooker”, which is surely tied with “Spires” for being the most intense song in the bands arsenal. The last time I saw them, that song capped off the show, so I assumed that was it for this night, too, but it turned out they had one more left. Dunagin filled the silence of his band mates tuning by informing everyone that their last song was “Ruins”, and it would be available to purchase before too long. It’s another song that operates on a few different levels, being, dare I say, somewhat pretty on the verses, before getting more dark and heavy on each chorus. “I’m gonna get you, I’m gonna take you on. I’m gonna corner you and make you feel so small…” Dunagin belts out on the chorus.
I love “Ruins”, it’s one of my favorite songs that Little Sisters of the Poor has done, but from my perspective, I didn’t feel it worked as well as a closer. It’s one helluva song, but it has a nice build to it before taking off, unlike the next to last song they did, which more or less grabs you by the throat right from the get go and is unrelenting. And for these guys, I think a track that’s completely dominating like that works better to close on, going out with a strong finish that is bound to also leave fans (and everyone in general) hungering for more.
That shuffling of songs is pretty insignificant in the end, though, and certainly doesn’t mean that Little Sisters of the Poor didn’t kill it.
All five of these musicians have spent many years in the local music scene, and they’ve combined to form a rock outfit of absolute pros that can easily hold your attention with their dynamic live show and amazing music.
Throw them a like on their FACEBOOK PAGE, and keep a check on it for future show updates. As for their music, you can find all five of their singles in iTUNES, each one well worth the .99¢ price tag.
Vinyl had the headlining spot for this night, and they even seemed to get the star treatment, so to speak. The curtain had been opened on the other bands in advance of them starting so the sound guy could see them as they ran through the sound check. That wasn’t the case with Vinyl, and it stayed tightly shut for the first few moments of their opening number.
Once the curtains were pulled apart, the sudden light that flooded out at the crowd was almost blinding. Instead of using the house lights, the band had brought their own lights, simple, plain white lights, with a few scattered about the stage, which created a very good ambiance.
For the first time with this project, Justin Hawkins was dabbling on the keys this night, using the keyboard for all of the first song, which was a very entrancing track that you couldn’t resist being drawn in by. It was absolutely incredible, and the lengthy song (which lasted somewhere around eight to nine minutes) left me a bit awestruck.
It was a brilliant opener, and as they flawlessly segued into their next song, Justin readied his guitar. They got into some serious rock with “Trucker”, during which drummer Steve Phillips was beating so heavily on his kit, he broke one of his drum sticks, quickly replacing it and not skipping a beat.
They wound it into another song, which I believe was one of the newer ones they were trying out this night, and it was nothing short of being a wall of sound. It just had a massive sound to it, different than most of Vinyl’s other stuff, and in the best possible way. They didn’t really stop with that style, either, and after a short pause, lead guitarist Dustin Fleming led the charge into another full-throttle assault of a song. I’ll say this, I REALLY hope those two songs make it onto their record.
Upon finishing it, things were scaled back slightly (and momentarily) with “Electric Sheep”, the beginning part of it possessing somewhat of a soothing quality while Justin croons out the words. They knocked out another tune, which bassist Hunter Johnston and Steve greatly complimented each other on, resulting in an insanely tight rhythm section.
Afterwards, they pulled out their cover song, which is a rendition of Chris Isaaks’ “Wicked Game”. It’s a much different version than that of Isaak’s, with the full band helping flesh it out and making it into more of a rock song, as they definitely put their own spin on it. They trudged on, Steve segueing them from that cover back into another original, one which again had Justin putting his keyboard to use.
And after one more, they brought things to a close with what I believe was “No Halo”. When it was all said and done, they had been on stage for 54-minutes, putting on an unbelievable show.
I thought they were great when I saw them a couple of months before, but the performance this night blew that one out of the water. I think that can be attributed to the fact that they more or less had free reign this night, being able to use their own lights to make for more of a mood, and not having to work on a shorter time constraint allowed them to do what they wanted song wise.
And speaking of songs, what I liked about most was how fluid so much of their set was, making each song seem like a small piece of a larger puzzle.
I believe their show schedule is starting to slow down as they get ready to record their debut album. In the meantime, listen to the songs they have recorded over on their SOUNDCLOUD PAGE.
Considering I don’t see that many shows in Denton these days, this made for the second straight week I’ve trekked up there for a show. I like that, and hopefully it’ll happen a little more often in the future.
This was a big night for the local music advocates that collectively make up DFW Undercover, who specialize in doing video interviews with bands, as well as live photography (via Piercing Photography). This night marked their first ever showcase, and it was a singer/songwriter showcase at that.
The Labb in Denton was the host venue, and while I had heard of it before, I had never actually been there.
It’s mainly a sports bar, and as far as sports bars go, it’d be one I’d frequent if I lived closer to Denton… And if I was an avid sports fan. It was a nice place inside, with several large TVs hanging above the bar, and of course some pool tables and dart boards were scattered around, as well as some tables. The patio was where the show was taking place, though, where a decent stage is built as a permanent fixture, with plenty of tables and chairs to accommodate onlookers.
Zach Smith was the first artist this night, but I got there a little later then I intended, which resulted in me missing most of his set.
I really enjoyed what I heard, though, especially the song I walked in on, which featured a backing female vocalist along with him and his percussionist. “This next song’s about alchemy… But it’s about other stuff, too.” said Zach before beginning “The Stone Refined”, which was followed by a track titled “Waiting for the Sun”, which ended with a very long but very good sounding instrumental outro. They then did one last song to conclude their set, which Zach pointed out to his little section of fans was, who had been cheering him on, was one they had never heard before.
Even with only catching a glimpse of his performance, I thought he sounded great, and he has an excellent voice.
Aside from this solo stuff, he also plays in a band called Cloth’d in the Sun, so check them out, too.
Up next was Dallas based singer/songwriter Ashley Falgout, who, like the other acts on this bill, I had never heard of previously, but was interested to hear.
She played a large array or original material during her 52-minute long set, and after finishing her first song, she confessed/joked that she does “…a lot of songs that are half-ass written…” That may be true, but to me, I certainly never would have guessed that, let alone thought it.
After playing another tune, she mentioned how warm it was (the downside of a patio in the Texas summer), then proceeded to set up a cover song. “Sometimes I learn other people’s songs…” she said, then added, “Or two chords out of it…”, noting that she doesn’t feel it has to be precise. That led to do an amazing rendition of Ani DeFrancos’ “Not a Pretty Girl”, a song that she really turned into her own.
She did a nice job of conversing with the crowd, even if it was a one-sided conversation most of the time, it made it seem like she was really able to connect with everyone, and now talked turned to Spotify. She said she only recently learned what it was, and her album, Long Over Due”, could be streamed on it. “…Or if you want to give me money…” she said, pointing out it was also on iTUNES.
She did another killer song about a past relationship, and followed it with a medley of one of her songs as well as a cover of what she said was her favorite song, but (not surprisingly) was one I didn’t recognize. Afterwards, she cranked out a few more numbers, before ending with what I think was “Just Another Lullaby”, and then that was only because the sound guy informed her she needed to wrap it up.
She wound up being my personal favorite act of the night, with her incredible and distinctive voice, which even sounded a bit sultry at times. She was also a very talented songwriter, with fantastic lyrics that often seemed pretty personal.
If you’re into the whole singer/songwriter genre, then Ashley Falgout is definitely one you need to listen to, and her record can be purchased HERE.
There was one last act up for the night, and it was more of a full acoustic band, led by Fred Rush. He’s probably best known as being the drummer for Ugly Mustard (who have been a fixture in the D/FW music scene since ’93), and as far as his new solo project went, this was only going to be their second show.
This acoustic trio, which also consisted of Jeff Michnal on the cajon and Johnny Pina on an acoustic bass, opened with “My Heart Screams”, which was a real knockout. “This is what I’ve been waiting for. I can’t believe I found it, finally…” Fred crooned at the start, shortly before the song kicked into high gear, given they were just using acoustic instruments, after all. Once they finished it, Fred took a moment to thank DFW Undercover for hosting this event, as well as the goal they have. “…I’ve been on a soapbox for twenty to thirty years…” said Fred, saying that the people behind DFW Undercover seemed to be on the exact same soapbox. That soapbox he was referring to was sharing the mentality that everyone in the scene needs to come together for the sake of making things better, rather than bands, venues and the ilk acting as if other bands and venues and such are their competition.
They then moved on to what was a pretty upbeat sounding song, “Insomnia”, with another tune sandwiched between it and “Marigold Lane”. They played several seconds of that latter one, before Fred suddenly brought things to a halt. “I started it in the wrong key.” he said, laughing, adding he thought about going with it, but then decided against it. It had sounded good before, but the key it was supposed to be played in served to make it an even more infectious song, and towards the end of it, Fred’s son, Trent, joined them on stage, adding a little extra percussion to the mix. He grabbed a guitar for the next song, though, and took a seat on a stool on stage right.
Fred stated that they were going to do a cover song, and they gave the crowd a little tropical taste by trying their hand at the Zac Brown Bands’ “Island Song”. Not quite what you’d expect from some guys who are typically in rock bands, but they pulled it off nicely, and despite the contrast between it and Fred’s original stuff, that cover meshed nicely with it all. They had another cover in store for everyone, and as Fred put it, it was in the “spirit of the singer/songwriter showcase”. “…I don’t know where he gets it from…” Fred cracked after informing everyone that his son played in a band, and now the father and son duo kind of co-sang on “Diary for Poets”, which Trent wrote for his group Welcome to Wednesday, though it was Trent who did a bulk of the singing on this one.
Trent, too, could certainly sing, and he and Fred created some awesome harmonies on that track. “…The band was called Fred, I think we’re going to rename it Trent.” Fred joked after they finished it. Apparently, Trent was supposed to leave after that, but he decided they should do an impromptu performance of “All Apologies” by Nirvana. Jeff, Johnny and Fred went with it, with Fred chiming in from time to time, and given the fact that this wasn’t planned, they nailed it. At least I thought they did.
Trent did exit the stage after that one, and they began wrapping up their 51-minute set with another original, before things got a little heartfelt with the last song. Fred dedicated it to his father, whom he said was like Superman to him growing up, and that currently he was experiencing some health issues. With that said, it was fitting that the song was called “Ordinary Superman”, and it brought their set to a wonderful end.
You wouldn’t have guessed this was just their second show, ‘cause Fred seemed perfectly at home behind the microphone with a acoustic guitar in his hands, just like Jeff looked comfortable playing the cajon, yet both have little live experience with any of that.
Fred has a pretty unique sounding voice, too, so it’s hard to believe he’s been keeping that in for song. Oh, and he writes some really good lyrics as well. And for the record, Fred Rush and his band made a lot of noise for an acoustic group.
I know what I said about the artist before them, but I liked Fred Rush and his band just as much, in a different way.
That’s what was so cool about this night. All of these singer/songwriters covered different areas of the spectrum, which was just another reason why I loved the showcase so much, because I don’t see that many singer/songwriters, let alone a small handful on one night, so it was nice that it was all so eclectic, with each act having different styles.
Kudos to DFW Undercover for orchestrating such a cool event, and expect more from them. In fact, they have another show at Hailey’s in Denton on October 11th.
All photos courtesy of Piercing Photography. All rights belong exclusively to them.
A Tuesday night is a bit of an odd night for a show. At least it is in most towns, but not Denton, where the venues in the college town regularly host bands on any given night of the week. And making this show a little more special was the fact that the old Denton residents, now Austinites, known as the Riverboat Gamblers were kicking off their summer tour.
I had heard of the Gamblers quite awhile back, but had never seen them live until nearly a year ago down in New Braunfels at the Dia de los Toadies music festival, and since then had anxiously been waiting for them to hit the D/FW area.
Rubber Gloves was hosting the show, providing a more intimate setting to see the band in, though it seemed near impossible to reach the venue, which is right next to some train tracks, and a train was just sitting there on the tracks. Not being a Denton local, I don’t know my way around well enough to have figured out a back roads approach, which meant I waited nearly an hour before the thing finally got off the tracks.
By that time the first band had just finished, and the next band quickly set their gear up. They weren’t the next act, though. Instead, Mike Wiebe of the Riverboat Gambler got up on stage and announced they were doing something they seldom do, and that was have a comedian do a set, and then welcomed his friend on stage.
His name was John Tole, and I’m not in the business of reviewing comedians, so I won’t him. However, I will say I found him to be funny as hell. Nothing seemed to be off limits in his short little set, and that included making fun of himself, from his weight to his appearance. The humor was largely, shall we say, “adult”, and although it at times made you cringe, it was impossible not to laugh.
Great comedian, and definitely one I’d like to see again sometime.
At 10:35, the next band took the stage, and that was Blacklist Royals, who were from Nashville, Tennessee, and were touring with the Riverboat Gamblers.
During their 38-minute long set, the quartet played an array of songs, new and old, first playing a couple newer ones back-to-back. They had a bit of a punk rock sound (and look), and sped through those first two songs, before their singer and rhythm guitarist addressed the crowd briefly. “Things They Say” was one of several songs they did from their debut album “Semper Liberi”, and then did a couple more new ones which were bled into one another, and one of those was the title track of their next album, “Die Young with Me”. With some feedback emitting from the bass and guitars, they swirled it into “Rock and Roll”, which certainly seemed to embody the Rock ‘n’ Roll spirit.
Things then took a more serious turn, even hitting a somber note,when the singer stated that he wrote the next song about a fried who had passed away in recent years. It was pretty heavy, but that realness it captured was what made it such a fantastic song, one of the best of their show in my opinion. They rolled it right into another one, and after finishing it joked about how the Riverboat Gamblers fan demographic was not women, though there were a few in attendance, and the singer said something along the lines of, “You look good.” “…This next one’s a brand new one. We’ve never even played it before.” He said, before the group launched into a song that I believe was called “She’s the One”. This may have been its live debut, but they seemed pretty polished while playing it, and if he hadn’t have said that in the first place, I would have figured they had played it several times over before. The drummer transitioned them into their next track, “White Line Fever”, before they switched things up a bit, with the lead guitarist and bass player leaving the stage. “…This song’s about my hometown in my home state… Which is a long way from here.” The singer announced, performing the song solo, before they kicked things back up with another song or two.
Before wrapping up their set, the singer mentioned the merch they had for sale at the back, joking about it not being all riches while out on the road, even teasing that the bass player had to take out a loan just to afford the shirt he had on. “…He ruined his credit, but at least he looks good.” he said, getting a laugh from everyone. “…Sing it if you know it!” he later shouted, before singing the first line of the very patriotic “American Hearts”, “There’s an American heart, reckless and wild…”
That song brought their time on stage to a roaring finish, and while the Blacklist Royals didn’t have nearly as many eyes on them as they deserved, they did seem to make fans out of everyone who was watching, myself included.
Like I said, their music had a real punk flare to it, in the sense that it was fast and rather aggressive. However, after listening to their first album, I get a real [Bruce] Springsteen-esque vibe from them. Not in the musical style so much, but just in the fact that the Blacklist Royals songs tell actual stories that can strike a chord with people, while embodying the American spirit.
In listening to their stuff, it’s easy to see why they have toured so extensively over the last few years, both nationally and internationally, and they no doubt keep winning over new fans wherever they play.
Head over to iTUNES and give their record a listen, or even buy it, and stay tuned for their next record. And if you get a chance to see them live, you should definitely take it. You can find all their tour dates right HERE.
Now, it was finally time for the Riverboat Gamblers. The large crowd had packed in the showroom early in anticipation of the band, and people got even closer to the stage when drummer Sam Keir and bassist Rob Marchant made their way on stage. They got things going with some heavy beats and riffs, a prelude to the chaotic blitz that was to come, and kept it going while the remaining members took the stage.
Front man Mike Wiebe, guitarists Fadi El-Assad and Ian MacDougall and Rob then proceeded to clap, getting most everyone involved before they tore into their first number, “Rattle Me Bones”. That fast paced tune had everyone moving around, a mosh pit erupting at the front of the stage, while those who didn’t want to partake moved back to where it was safe. The band instantly got into show mode, and Mike continuously walked to the edge of the stage, leaning forward and falling out at the crowd, causing the moshers to stop, catching him, sometimes before his feet even left the stage as they simply pushed him back up. It was quite cool, and something he did constantly throughout the show.
As the song neared the end, he ran over to stage right, grabbed part of the curtain and ripped it from the wall (in fairness it’s not attached all that well), while Sam transitioned them into their next song. The adrenaline kept flowing as they launched into the lead track from 2012’s “The Wolf You Feed” album, “Good Veins”. “…You knew what I was before you fell in love. I’ve got bad blood you’ve got good veins…” shouted Mike, while his band mates often added some backing around him, adding a good layer to it and the majority of theirs other songs this night.
“…We pound these guitars like jackhammers!” Mike exclaimed as they took a very short timeout to tune up before getting back to business with “Bite My Tongue”. Ian, Rob and Fadi continued thrashing about while shredding on their instruments, as Mike hurriedly paced about the stage, at one point jumping up and grabbing the main support beam on the ceiling (which was just a few feet above his head), and hung from it for a few seconds. At this point, Mike noted that he and Fadi grew up in Denton. “…A lot has changed since then. Like, apparently now trains can just park on the tracks for as long as they want…” he joked. He went on to say they had moved off nearly ten years ago, but were now going to do a song they wrote while they still lived in Denton. “…Ladies and gentlemen, ladies and gentlemen, I want to play for you all a song from a record called Something to Crow About. It’s called Save You!” he roared as they exploded into what ended up being a sing along.
They kept on drawing from that now ten year old record, segueing things directly into “Hey! Hey! Hey!”, and soon after taped one of their more recent releases, doing the quick song “DissDissDissKissKissKiss”. As it neared the end, Mike left the stage, winding his way through the audience, and best I could tell even left the showroom, working his way into the bar area. The instrumentalists kept right on going, bleeding the music bed perfectly into their current single, “Blue Ghosts”. Ian handled the backing vocals at the start of the song, before Mike seemed to suddenly re-materialize, making his way back on stage, not missing a line of the song. Upon finishing it, they churned on one last quick song, “Death by Stereo”, before gearing up for what would come next.
Mike decided to get up close and personal with everyone for the next song, dragging the mic stand out into the crowd, everyone in the general area dispersing, giving him enough room while still circling around him to watch. The audience sang along to “Comedians” while the band cranked it out. I was one of the lucky few who was as close as possible for this, and at one point my hat got lifted as Mike put it on himself (I’m sure that has to up its value to at least 25 to 30 bucks), but the best part came when he continued to search for more antics to pull. He walked over to one side of the room where a folding chair sat, and once he moved it the sound of glass shattering could be heard. He then put the chair around him, the seat resting on his back, while he held the top of it so the bar wouldn’t choke him. It made for a crazy good and memorable moment.
Ian, Fadi, Rob and Sam moved right along into “The Ol’ Smash and Grab”, and Mike rejoined them moments later. As I said, he had often stepped off the stage this night, allowing the fans to catch him, but he did a full-blown stage dive during that song. No advanced warning or anything, just leapt into the air without fear of falling, and sure enough, everyone’s arms shot up in the air, catching him without fail. Once that tune came to an end, Mike joked that he needed everyone’s approval, and he’d appreciate it if people “wooed” along with him, leading the swarm of fans in shouting “Woo!” a few times over. Soon after they tackled “Keep Me From Drinking”, though it was the following song that was a standout of the night. “This song is very fast!” said Mike before they burst into “The Song We Used to Call Wasting Time”. He wasn’t lying, and the lightning fast paced rhythm section incited another mosh pit, and almost on the same level of quickness was another track from “To The Confusion of Our Enemies”, “Rent is Due”.
That unrelenting approach of diving from one song to the next was working incredibly well for them. And even when they did stop, it usually wasn’t for long, like now, when Mike mentioned how great their newest record was. “…That’s not me being cocky, either. Jesus told me so.” he said, setting up the glorious “Heart Conditions”. Their set was nearing the end now, but before getting to their last batch of songs, Mike told everyone a story, beginning with them driving down University earlier in the day, making him recall his youth.
“…I don’t want to sound like that guy who says things were better in my day or things are better now…” he said at the start, mentioning how earlier in the day he had seen a kid on a skateboard crossing the highway. I should note I don’t remember the whole story verbatim, but he went on to say back in his day you had to watch out for “cowboys” and such. He went on to say he had a run in with one of these cowboys at the Arby’s (which he noted was something else now), when one walked up to him and asked him a unintelligible question. “…At first I thought he was asking if I wanted any sausages, and I didn’t know how to answer that question…” Mike said, then added he found out the guy was asking him, “Do you want to start any shit?!”, to which he said he replied “No.” and then went home. That story got quite a few laughs, while the next part got the applause, when he said several years ago, he had met some very good friends, and a few years later they began playing friends house parties. And now, they tour the country and the world together.
No sooner had he said that then they tore into “True Crime”, before unleashing the monster of a song that is “On Again, Off Again”. They kept drawing from their 2006 record, doing “Don’t Bury Me… I’m Still Not Dead Yet”, which is nothing short of an anthem (an excellent one at that) and again at the crowd going wild. It was a fitting way to end their set, though they weren’t quite done yet, and Mike summed up the whole encore process. “…We can go out back for a few minutes while y’all chant for us to come back…” he said, “…Or we can do one fucking amazing song right now, and then all meet up at the bar.” The fans chose the latter option, skipping all the BS and getting right to the point. “…This one’s called The Art of Getting Fucked Over!” declared Mike, before they started the final song of their 55-minute set. He got back out in the crowd again on this one, grabbing the chair from earlier (the same one he placed around him), standing on it this time around. “I want to see the slowest circle pit ever around me.” He commanded, the audience pushing in as they began to encircle him. Next he said he wanted to see everyone’s hands on the backs of the people in front of them, giving them a little massage. Everyone did just that, chanting along with him towards the end, “G-A-M-B-L-E-R.” The tame circle pit suddenly sprang to life when the song picked back up, the people scattering and slamming against one another as it became a full-fledged mosh pit, and was an epic way to end what had been an epic performance.
The most enthralling quality the Riverboat Gamblers have is their brash, “fuck it” attitude. I mean that in the best way possible, because while a lot of bands say it’s all about the music, very few actually take it to the extent that they do. From the first chord you could tell Fadi, Ian, Rob and Sam had completely succumbed to the music, letting it flow over them, and the same could be said of Mike, who was being completely spontaneous throughout the night.
That’s kind of what I mean by the “fuck it” attitude, thing. Aside from the songs themselves, nothing was rehearsed or pre-planned. They just got up there, cut loose and let the chips fall where they may, so to speak. In turn, that makes the show a truly unique experience for the spectators, because this night was different than any other night of their tour will be. Just like the gig the following night was no doubt different than any other stop of the tour will be.
They’re performers through and through, and you if you want to see an intense, high-strung show, you’ll be hard pressed to find one better than what the Riverboat Gamblers put on.
For info on all their show dates, go HERE. They will be playing in Denver, CO, Seattle, WA, Portland, OR, San Francisco, CA, Fullerton, CA, Los Angeles, CA, San Diego, CA, Tempe, AZ, El Paso, TX and Austin, TX, with the tour ending on September 7th. They also have a show in Dallas on September 12th at Three Links (it’s part of the Elm Street Music and Tattoo Festival), which means I know where I’ll be on 9/12. And don’t forget to pick up their records in iTUNES.
Great night filled with raw Rock ‘n’ Roll, and, thanks in part to the comedian, a good dose of humor, too.
In five years, the Denton based singer-songwriter Jessie Frye has released two EP’s, the most recent being very well received by fans and critics alike. However, in those five years one question has abounded; “When will you put out a full-length?”
Well, last week, everyone got the first glimpse of what her much anticipated debut full-length, titled “Obsidian”, will sound like, when the lead single “White Heat” was released.
It’s showcases a much different side to her music then ever heard before. Jessies’ piano is still an integral part to the song, but not in the more classical style of her past material, instead, this one’s more of an electronic track. The at times soupy sounds of the song are rounded out nicely by the thick drumbeats and subtle, low bass lines, while the guitar serves to enhance the dreamy quality the song creates.
It feels safe to say that this takes Jessie out of her comfort zone, but it’s nice to see an artist embrace something new and different, after all, that’s what sparks growth as a musician. There is one constant, though, and that’s Jessie’s enchanting, marvelous voice. It sounds even better than where the last record left off, and she’s able to create a plethora of textures with it, exerting complete control over it, at times singing in a more sultry tone, like on the line “White on white heat Perfect alchemy…”, and at other point it’s strong and forceful.
In listening to “White Heat”, you’ll understand exactly why Jessie Frye is a North Texas treasure, and while it may be several more months before the world can listen to the full “Obsidian” album, “White Heat” is the perfect song to whet peoples appetites while simultaneously making them even more excited for the record. It’s a gorgeous blend of indie and pop, and if this tune is any indicator, then “White Heat” is but only the kindling for a roaring fire.
The Jessie Frye band is:
Chad Ford- Drums
Jordan Martin- Guitar
Jessie Frye- Piano/Vocal
David Kellogg- Bass
Purchase the single “White Heat” as well as the previous two EP’s in Bandcamp.
Upcoming shows include:
September 13th at Pour Jons in Siloam Springs, AR / September 14th at Foam in St. Louis, MO / September 20th at Village Café in Bryan, TX / September 21st at Avant Garden in Houston, TX / September 28th at Flipnotics in Austin, TX / October 12th at The Poplar Lounge in Memphis, TN
It’s not often anyone gets to witness a birth of a band, and far more rare is the chance of anyone actually caring about, sans some close friends and family of the band members who go to the show more out of necessity. That wasn’t quite the case this night at Dan’s Silver Leaf, though, because it was no mere bar band making their live debut. This night was seeing the birth of a newer super group by the name Overseas, who was known to most fans of the Texas music scene as being a new side project from Will Johnson (the singer of Centro-matic).
While the collaboration began a few years ago, there was nothing tangible until this past June when they released their debut record, making the next step these rare clusters of live shows. Rare due to the fact that the four members are spread out across the country, hailing from Texas, New York and Washington state.
Joining them on their Texas jaunt was the Austin based Monahans, a band I had not seen in a few years, and I was glad to see they had been tapped as the opening act.
Their set was mainly comprised of songs from their 2013 releases, and they opened with “The Meadow”, singer and rhythm guitarist Greg Vanderpools’ smooth, vibrant voice cutting the serene intro, going hand in hand with the music. That quality alone seemed to entrance everyone, even calling in more people from the patio, interested in what was going on, and despite the technical difficulties Britton Beisenherz had with his guitar during the song, the applause was still roaring.
As he and the sound guy worked to fix things, Greg made some small talk with the audience, mentioning how “thrilled” they were to be playing with Overseas. Shortly after things were back in working order, though Britton laid his guitar down, instead focusing on his keyboard, starting them on the quick paced “Forward/Reverse”, which was a highlight of their set. Roberto Sanchez was killing on the drum kit, rapidly firing off the solid, strong beats, and making them even tighter was Joshua Zarbo’s bass lines, and later into it Britton did abandon his keyboards to throw his guitar back in the mix.
Some more banter followed that song, and it was good sarcastic wit at that, with Greg saying, “…August in Texas can only mean one thing; pack all your friends in a club, put on your favorite long sleeve shirt and see what happens.” On this 100+ degree day, it was hard not to laugh at that, and before getting into their next song, Joshua took over Brittons’ guitar, allowing him to focus exclusively on the keys. They then did a 180°, slowing things down drastically with the beautiful “The Loss of Feeling”, and while it was less energetic than the first few songs, it was no less captivating.
There was a bit of time to kill after that one, too, but Greg freely admitted he had ran out of things to say. Joshua picked up the slack, though. “I haven’t ran out of things to say…” he said, mentioning that he used to live in Denton, even saying they “…were some of the best years of my life…”, a statement everyone readily applauded. “…This song’s off our newest album…” Greg soon said, referring to the “Leveler” record. “It’s called Diamonds.” They completed that song, and then Roberto set them right off onto their next number, “Awakened”, which again found Britton predominantly playing the keys. Both songs meshed well together, giving the vibe that this one was an extension of the last, and the fact that “Awakened” was largely an instrumental song was nice too. It allowed the onlookers to really take notice of their musicianship, which was impeccable, and each member of the quartet has a very fluid style of playing, but can throw down, too.
The relaxing vibes continued with “Echoes”, but things soon escalated back to a serious rock vibe with “Beat of a Thousand Drums”, which had a rather epic sound to it, and it was followed by another awesome number. That led them to the final song of their 42-minute long set, and when speaking of it, Greg said it was one he found depressing for a very long time. They then eased into a rendition of The Smith’s song “Death of a Disco Dancer”. It was a spot on cover of it, and they also managed to make it their own, putting a little more of a rock twist on it, and it was a splendid way to end their show.
Before this night, I couldn’t have told you much of what I remembered about Monahans, aside from knowing I liked their music, but after seeing them again, man…
They killed it this night, and even came close to upstaging Overseas, without trying to, of course. Their music is a nice blend of rock and indie, focusing more on the former, though taking some of the dreamy qualities from the latter. It’s a constant intriguing bombardment of the senses, while the lyrics are near genius, and if you listen to their recorded stuff, expect their live show to sound just like that… Probably even a hair better
Speaking of their records, you can find them all in iTUNES, and keep tabs on their OFFICIAL WEBSITE for updates on any future shows they’ll have.
They were a great appetizer, but of course, everyone was most anxious for Overseas, and shortly after Monahans cleared their gear off stage than the crowd began to from at the front of the stage, as fans eagerly awaited the headliner. By the time their 11:15 start time rolled around, it was hard to even move, with a gap at the back just big enough for one person to traverse at a time. No one seemed to mind, though. They were more focused on seeing this debut show than caring that their personal space was being slightly invaded.
The tranquil melody of “Here (Wish You Were)” filled the room, and as soon as he opened his mouth to sing the first line, David Bazans’ voice took a strong hold on everyone. Having no prior knowledge of him meant I didn’t know what to expect, but instantly he sounded exactly as portrayed on the album (a quality so few bands achieve these days), his rich, rather booming voice proving entrancing as he crooned the words of this rather somber song. He was also the bassist in the group, and the other part of the rhythm section was comprised of Will Johnson on the drums, a microphone right next to his kit. It was a chilling moment when he joined in after the first couple verses, harmonizing perfectly with David, their voices mixing gorgeously. It was a moment of sheer bliss, and truly met the definition of beauty.
They stepped things up ever so slightly with the lead track from their self-titled album, “Ghost to Be”, one of the many songs that Will sang while softly pounding out the beats. That short track was followed by the subsequent song on the album, the mostly instrumental “Redback Strike”. It was really the first full-fledged rock song they did, with brothers and guitarist Matt and Bubba Kadane doing some sweet riffs, though it was hard to see them doing their work, as they had their backs to the crowd for almost the entire show. I’m guessing they were watching for cues and making sure they were in time with everything, but still, it wasn’t too conducive of the typical concert atmosphere. Upon finishing that track, Will welcomed everyone to their first ever concert, and they kicked things into high gear.
Will got to cut loose on “Old Love”, and while I knew he had been a drummer at various times in his decades long adventures with different bands, I’ve only seen him act as a guitarist. But man, he tore into his kit with a passion on this song and was unrelenting. He’s a beast, no doubt, and it was good getting to see another side to this fantastic musician, and a side that isn’t seen much anymore, no less. All the while, David was belting out his catchy song, which tells an actual story and is quite deep at that. “I’m thinking back to a sensual act I enjoyed with a girl in my teens…” it starts, before taking an insightful look at a relationship. They marched on with another track from David, “Hellp”, continuing to play a portion of the songs exactly as they appear on their record, but before the next song, they had to do a game of musical chairs.
David seated himself behind the kit, while Will filled what had thus far been empty air at center stage, acoustic guitar in hand, while I believe it was Bubba who picked up bass duties. Evidently, Will isn’t the only multi-talented individual in the group, and in this format they offered up the first of four new songs. Their first batch of songs might be a fairly old now, but the fact remains that the album itself is still brand new, but it’s nice to see that their creative juices are already flowing again, allowing them to make new music. It gives hope that this side project does have a future, and for the record, this song sounded incredible. The Kadane brothers traded spots after that track, The mellow mood continued with “Lights Are Gonna Fall”, after which David reclaimed his bass, and Matt took over the drums, and while that was going on, Will was plugging in his electric axe. “…We’ve had fun over the last forty-eight hours figuring out how to b a band…” he said, after again thanking everyone for coming out. Much of the crowd laughed, and while it was meant as a dose of humor, but he showed he was serious, too, adding, “Seriously, we’ve been up a lot…” They then gave everyone another taste of what album two may sound like, then tapped another song from “Overseas”, “The Sound of Giving Way”, before everyone returned to their starting posts.
At this point, David first made mention of their new record, saying they were indeed working on one and would be playing some songs from it. “…A few of which you’ve already heard…” he said. But before doing any more new songs, they did the more leisurely paced “Came with the Frame”, which saw David again retaking the role of lead vocalist, and it was matched well by the next song, which also had a softer vibe. Will counted them in on the next song, one last new one, and it was one of my favorites, not just out of the new batch, but the whole show in general.
“Down Below” was the final strong push of the night, allowing Bubba and Matt to amp things up on their guitars, and the song that’s one of the best on their record was also a highlight of the show. Shortly after knocking out the final beats, Will left his kit, again grabbing that acoustic guitar, and this time no one took his place. They concluded their 54-minute long with the hushed “All Your Own”, which Will sang in a slightly gruff murmur, his distinctive voice being on full display for the few lines he had to sing.
And just like that it was over. The band waved goodbye, again thanking everyone for coming out. Everyone seemed fully satisfied with what they had heard and seen, not only witnessing a small piece of history as Overseas got their first live gig under their belt, but also hearing their entire record performed live, and then some. That’s a feat that I doubt will be done much, especially once they do release another album, when some of the songs from their debut will be relegated to deep cuts.
At times, you could tell they were a new band. Like I mentioned earlier, Matt and Bubba rarely faced the crowd, and I don’t mean to imply that, that was a hindrance to their show, rather than it just made them seem a little less personable as a group. It wasn’t just that, though, as there were times you’d catch small, ultimately insignificant things that reminded you they were a new band, however, the experience and professionalism each one has counterbalanced all that.
In those two days spent rehearsing they were able to get a lot done, and that’s the part that deserves more focus. They were still surprisingly cohesive, and there was never a moment of, “How are we going to start this song?” or “What’s next?”, as they rolled through their set very smoothly and fluidly, with Will, David, Matt and Bubba coming across as if they had played these songs hundreds of times.
Then you have the interesting dynamics. Sure, it’s nothing new for a band to utilize two vocalists, but Will and David aren’t mere singers with jaw-dropping voices. They’re also extraordinary storytellers, a quality that bled out of every single song they performed this night.
They may not be a band that will play live shows all the time, but that just creates more reason to see them when they do perform a show near you, and based on this night, I’d say the career of Overseas is getting off to a nice start.
They do have shows in New York lined up for mid August, playing the Mercury Lounge in New York on the 19th, then the Knitting Factory in Brooklyn on the 20th. They’ll then have a break until October, with a small string of shows along the West Coast, begging with Neumo’s in Seattle, Washington on October 11th. They’ll be in Portland, Oregon at Doug Fir on the 12th, before traveling to California for shows in San Francisco and Los Angeles. The first will be hosted at Bottom of the Hill on the 14th, while the LA date will be on the 16th at Satellite. And don’t forget, you can also find their album in iTUNES.
It was a fun night in Denton, and it was also proof that smart rock music, music that can actually make you stop and think, is still alive.
I’ve said it before and will no doubt say it again, I don’t get up to Denton much these days. But when there’s not much going on a Saturday night and the only concert I really wanted to see was taking place in the town, why not make the drive to it. Besides that, the show was going down at Andy’s Bar, which may not necessarily be the best venue in Denton, but it will always be a special joint to me. Simply because for so long it was the only venue in Denton I went, and since most of the bands I like rarely play there, I’ll take any opportunity I can to see a show there.
Originally, there were four bands on the bill, but Southern Train Gypsy had to drop off last minute, meaning Red Angel Theory was the first act up this night. And on a side note, this was the first time in a long time (or possibly ever?) that I’ve seen a band on back-to-back nights.
They were a bit quicker in running through their songs this night, squeezing all eight into a mere 30-minutes. They got going with “Psycho”, a full throttle rock song that commands tour attention, and even though there were some sound issues to begin (it was the venues fault, not the bands), the song was still able to reel you in with its sweet guitar licks from Brandon Deaton and the at times vicious slapping of the bass Phil Sahs was doing. Drummer Nick Sarabia led them into their next couple of tracks, one of which was “It Often Lies”, while the other was “Shattered”. The latter of those is really growing on me more and more (especially after hearing it two nights in a row now), and the rewrites they have done to some of the lyrics help push it beyond what it already was. That and the primal scream front women Monica Koohi lets out before the final chorus will amaze you, and catch you off guard if you’re not expecting it.
One of their newest songs, “Quarantine”, followed and Phil, Brandon and Nick wound the songs together smoothly and flawlessly, and that transition is one of the coolest parts of their show, just because of how fluid it is. The song isn’t too bad, either, and while it’s only the third completely brand new song the band has added to their live set, it gives the fans just one more reason to love this new version of Red Angel Theory. Still, they keep many of their classics alive, such as “Inception”, which is still one of their coolest songs in my book, partly due to the violin intro (which is of course done as a sample track at live shows) sounds so good. Aside from that, it’s just a killer rock song, with Nick even adding some backing vocals on it, or rather backing screams.
As they geared up for their next song by tuning and swapping out to different guitars, another sample track played, subsiding right around the time they launched into the raw rock number, “Suffocate”, which was proceeded by “The Darkness”. During the silence in between those songs however, Monica informed everyone that “The Darkness” was more of an uplifting song, saying that there’s a lot of negative stuff that can bring you down if you let it, while the song is about overcoming and rising above it. The crowd wasn’t given much time to recover from it before they wound things into their final song of the night, the gritty “When the Dust Settles”, and towards the end of it Phil jumped into the air, in near perfect timing with the drums, making for a true Rock ‘n’ Roll moment.
Like all the bands that played this night, they experienced some technical difficulties, and probably more than their fair share, because for about the first half of their set I had a hard time hearing Monicas’ voice. It was a club issue, and I’m certainly not faulting the band for it, but still, it was there. That didn’t hinder them in any way, though, still delivering an amazing an insanely high energy performance. And if you haven’t experienced it firsthand yet, you really should.
I have to say, I enjoyed seeing them two nights in a row, and it just reaffirmed that they are becoming one of better (and even best) bands in the area. For only a few bucks you can buy their “Rise for Something” EP in iTUNES, so check that out, and keep an eye on their REVERBNATION PAGE for future show updates.
White Elephant was the next band up, and they were fresh off opening the BFD music festival from the day before, where acts like Slash and Megadeth performed. This was also the final date of their little “summer tour”, which had been going on for a little over a month and say the group playing all over the Dallas/Fort Worth area.
Guitarist Matt Miller got them going on their first song, “October 5th”, with the rest of the band soon joining in, while vocalist Pete Thomas softly sang the first few lines of the song, giving it a bit of a chilling feeling, before his voice roared to life. It had been so long since I last saw them, I had almost forgotten how much fun their live shows were, but it didn’t take long before I was reminded as they livened things up. They kept the heavy dose of rock coming with “Coriolanus”, which, like most of their songs boasts a tight rhythm section of bassist Josh Armstrong and drummer Ben Rhodes, and has the nice chorus (or pre-chorus) of, “…Holding the knife in your back… Hope that you’ve got a good hold. Holding the knife in your back… Twisting and turning it slow…”
They ran through a ton more songs during the 40-minutes they had the stage, and after their third track, their old drummer Will Jaeger, who was in the crowd, made a comment. “That was pretty good…” he said, joking with his old band mates, and Pete had a nice response to that. “…Good like your sister…” he quipped, proving that over the many years this veteran singer has spent performing, his voice isn’t the only craft he’s been honing. They then moved on with another song, wit Pete throwing in some more comedy, telling everyone to be nice to the bartenders and tip them. “…Don’t drink so much that you think they owe you a free beer, ‘cause they don’t…” he said, noting that if you wanted to give them a handjob, maybe they would give you a free beer.
Ben then ripped into the short but explosive “Another Rapture Missed”, while their next song had a dynamic instrumental outro that Josh, Matt and Ben cranked out. A couple more songs followed suit, one of them being “Girls That Fight are Beautiful”, and afterwards Ben pointed at the man whose spot in the band he filled, as they welcomed Will Jaeger on stage for an impromptu performance with them. “I think I remember most of this.” He said after taking a seat behind the kit, which left some uncertainty among the band as far as how well this was going to sound. It didn’t start off well, and believe it or not it was because Matt flubbed a bit of the song, something Will was quick to point out so he didn’t get blamed for it. They took it from the top and this time it went off without a hitch, and even though Will hadn’t touched a drum kit in months, you couldn’t tell it, as he still had his same old fierce, aggressive style of playing that made him one of my favorite drummers to watch. He could tell it, though, and admitted after the song that by the first chorus he was worn out.
Ben than retook his kit, and they kicked off their final song, “Kill the Headlights and Drive”.
It was one hell of a show, even though they held back a bit (Pete didn’t get out in the crowd and incite a mosh pit, probably because there weren’t enough people up front for that to work), but that was the only aspect where they were more reserved.
Seriously, these guys never cease to both amaze you and blow your mind, and I started questioning myself as to why I hadn’t seen them in so many months.
You’re gonna want to be at the Curtain Club in Dallas on August 16th, because that is when these guys will be releasing their debut album (a six song EP). Don’t miss it.
Capping off the night was yet another Dallas band, and that was Secret of Boris. Sure, I had seen them only a few weeks before, but before that it had been so long since that last time I caught them live, why not see them again.
Their 38-minute long set was a blend of old and new, with the opener “Retro” going in that first column, while “Tonight” is one of their newer tracks. “…It’s about tonight.” singer Cameron Taylor said after announcing the title. Indeed it is, albeit in more of a suggestive way, which is precisely what makes it so good. “Ryan Ragus!” Cameron said during the middle of the song, attempting to hand the spotlight over to the bass player, he wasn’t rocking out a wicked bass solo or anything, though, instead he was drinking his beer. It then turned into a comical moment when Cameron added, “Not doing shit.” The laughs continued after the song when Cameron drank some water and commented on it. “Water is awesome. Sometimes I forget what it tastes like.”
He then asked if anyone there liked eighties music, getting a fairly loud response from their little section of fans. “…That’s not a segue into anything, I was just wondering.” he said. It was a segue, though, and before you knew it drummer Ryan Scherschell and guitarist Ryan Byrd had begun the classic eighties song “Take On Me” by A-Ha. It’s not a song that you would think these guys would cover, but that’s a large part of why Secret of Boris is so enjoyable, because they don’t always do things you would expect, breaking the mold a bit from other rock bands of similar style.
At this point, they were in need of a sample track, and their device that was supposed to play them began messing up, prompting Ragus to do the only thing that made sense, beat it into working. “…It’s called percussion maintenance…” he told Cameron who started laughing at him, going on to say that if hitting any type of appliance doesn’t fix it, then you go buy a new one. His method did work, and as the track kicked on, Cameron announced the title, - “ This is What You Became”. That’s definitely one of their most infectious songs, and was a highlight of their set, while a personal highlight of mine was the following track, “The Watcher”. It was the first of a couple of songs that required Cameron to pick up his guitar, and as I’ve said before, I love the vibe the song creates with its lyrics, and “Something Else” tells just as captivating a story. It was during that latter song that Ragus grabbed the glasses Cameron started the show wearing, but had since laid down, and they looked like pairs John Lennon wore. He put them on and faced Cameron, all the while slapping out the bass lines, and when Cameron finally turned his head and caught a glimpse of his band mate he couldn’t help but laugh.
They were in the homestretch now, and busted out what’s arguably the most fun song of their set, their rendition of Salt-N-Pepa’s “Push it”, resulting in some of the bands fans turning the space into a dance floor. Following in a similar vein was their latest single “How Do You Feel?”, which is one you can definitely groove on if you wish, while the rocker known as “Virus” brought things to a close.
Collectively, Scherschell, Byrd, Ragus and Cameron are nothing short of a well-oiled machine, powering through the technical difficulties that arose and making the best of it, while still putting just as high energy a show as you would expect from them. Also, you’ll be hard pressed to find a band who writes music that’s as fun as what these guys do.
They have a couple more shows lined up, one of which will be in Fort Worth at Tomcats West on July 27th, the other happening up in Greenville, TX at The Hanger on August 3rd. They’ll also be in Vancouver, Washington on August 17th performing at the Couvapalooza. You can also find some free downloads of a few of their songs on REVERBNATION, and if you dig that, then buy “Your Ghost” in iTUNES.
It was a great night with great bands and great people. Sure, things might have been rough at times, but that comes with playing Andy’s and you have each band and every member of the bands for soldiering on, still putting on fantastic shows, and not making a big deal out of it. That’s real professionalism.
Criminal Birds has been around a relatively short amount of time, only a couple of years, but in that short time the quintet of younger musicians have managed to make somewhat of a name for themselves, even earning praise like they are “on par with any big ticket national act.” as said by Auditory Asylum’s Stephen Ellis.
They’ve obviously been able to make an impression on those who have managed to hear about them, but now, with the release of their debut album, a four track EP released in March 2013, they’re in more of a position to get their name out there, and probably turn a few heads in the process.
Right from the ringing guitar chords that begin “Chill Out” you know you’re in for a treat, as the music bed manages to successfully stitch together the genres the band classifies themselves as. There’s a nice texture to the guitars, which give off more of an ambient sound at first, and the notes are simple, yet complex at the same time. The soupy sound rapidly disappears as they hit the chorus, though, and they show they can rock with the best of them, from aggressive drumbeats to soaring guitar riffs, all of which is matched with Reggie Hastings’s singing, his voice suddenly springing to life. Speaking of his voice, I also quite like the way he enunciates certain words, like “breathe” and “breeze” during the first verse, putting a nice spin on them.
“Wait” starts off with a dynamic rhythm section and builds on the momentum created from the opening track, starting off as a fairly powerful rocker. However, you soon realize the track has a brilliant ebb and flow to it, as it switches gears from a percussion driven indie rock song on the verses to a softer love song vibe on each chorus. All of that combines to make it not only the longest song on the EP (at 5-minutes), but also the most beautiful.
The end of the previous track bleeds perfectly into “Slow Down”, and does exactly as the name suggests, while also evoking a melancholy feeling. “…Bring me to my knees, crippling my feet. Show me you’re lovely, then take it right from me…” Reggie croons near the start of the song, his voice almost completely void of any emotion, which serves to magnify the heartbroken mood the song conveys.
The nearly 18-minute long jaunt through the bands sonic soundscapes comes to a close with “End Daze”, which mines a sound similar to the first track, so it ends almost like it began. It’s another fantastic mix of full-blown Rock ‘n’ Roll with some ambient layers thrown in, and the lyrics, particularly on the bridge, demonstrate how rather profound their writing can be. The line; “It doesn’t matter how hard you try, you’re still a product of your own design. … It doesn’t matter how hard you cry, there’s no pity for those who lie, tangled up in your wicked insides, in your denial.”
In the end, their self-titled debut EP is a wonderfully woven tapestry of sounds that shows off various sides to the group, and it’s hard to fit them into just one category of music.
The music is much more mature than you might think younger musicians (in their early to mid 20’s) would be capable of. That just speaks to their great musicianship, and they come across as sounding like an incredible tight and well coordinated band and you can probably listen to the songs dozens of times over and still discover something new that will catch you interest.
Granted, Criminal Birds isn’t reinventing the wheel or anything (though that could happen in the future), but they are putting a very intriguing and interesting spin on it.
Criminal Birds is:
Reggie Hastings – Vocals / Guitar / Keys
Taylor Dondlinger – Lead guitarist
Gunnar Ebeling - Bass
Grahm Robinson - Drums
Purchase the album on:
BANDCAMP (the EP is FREE to download)
Visit Criminal Birds websites:
OFFICIAL WEBSITE / FACEBOOK / REVERBNATION
Photo credit: Zack Huggins
It was a bit of a somber night here in Denton at Dan’s Silverleaf this night.
The reason was because the Denton based Spooky Folk, who have made a name for themselves not just in the college town, but the whole North Texas music scene, was calling it quits. At least temporarily. The bands singer and rhythm guitarist Kaleo Kaualoku was getting ready to move to Denver with his fiancé, meaning it’d be basically impossible for the band to play regularly anymore, and this was a sendoff show for him, and even the band in a way.
Only one band was opening this show, and that privilege went to Tony Ferraro and the Satans of Soft Rock, who kicked off their set a little after nine.
Lead guitarist Ryan Thomas Becker jumped into the air, strumming his guitar as he did so, and as soon as he landed drummer Justin Collins and the rest of the band started “King Run-a-Thon”. It was an electric opener and seemed even more vibrant than the recorded version, or at the very least Tony Ferraros’ voice grabbed your attention more here in the live setting.
Their set had an excellent flow to it, as they smoothly transitioned from one song to the next, and as soon as they finished that first song Ryan proceeded to play some different notes, leading them into “Satanic Verses”. Out of all their material, it arguable has the best music bed, being very catchy with the bass lines that David Howard plays, the piano notes provided by Chris Gomez, as well as the guitars and drums intertwining incredibly well with one another. They work in some nice points of crescendo, too. As soon as they finished it, they whipped right into “Children In Fur Coats”, where Tonys’ distinctive voice shined as he sang the chorus, “You will always have a home here…”
They did two more songs afterwards, doing both in rapid succession, and finally they took an actually break where Tony again thanked everyone for coming out for this special night. “…Let’s do Children In Fur Coats.” He said, before his band mates pointed out to him they had already done it, causing Tony to laugh at himself. I guess that just goes to show how truly excited he was about this gig. Instead, they did the last remaining track from the “Friend of Man and Beast Alike” EP, “I Am The Engine”, which was a true highlight of their set.
They were really on a roll now, and didn’t let up as they cranked out “Assemble The Bitch Wolves”, which may be a slower song, but it’s still loaded with rock, and both Tony and Ryan skillfully plucked the strings of their axes, proving themselves to be masters of the craft, or at the very least experts. They stepped things back up with the rip-roaring “Diaspora”, then did one more non-album track before showing off a couple of surprises.
Tony invited Kaleo and Petra Kelly of Spooky Folk on stage with them, saying they could use their help singing along. He then extended the offer to the other three members of the group, which Jesse Perry took them up on, and Tony apologized, saying they were just “afterthoughts”. “That’s terrible, who would say something like that?!” Ryan said to him, just giving him a hard time. The song was “No, We Can’t Be Friends”, which was a true sing along, with many of the fans joining in with the collection of musicians on stage, all belting out the chorus, “No, we can’t be friends, we can’t be friends…” It made for an awesome moment, and typically, I believe that’s how they end their shows, but this was a special night after all, and they had one last trick up their sleeve. They covered a song by one of music’s greatest icons, John Lennon, putting a more rock spin on “Instant Karma”, with Tony, Ryan, Jesse, Petra and Kaleo all singing on the chorus.
It was an amazing rendition they did, and given the circumstances of this night, it was a perfect way to conclude their 45-minute long set.
This was only the second time I had seen Tony Ferraro and his Satans of Soft Rock, and I thought they were even better this time around. Everything was very on point and they were all in perfect synch with one another, being one collective unit that dominated.
Unfortunately, this was a bit of a sad night for these guys too, because David Howard is also moving to Denver, making this his final show with the band. Each band is different in how they handle a band member leaving, but I hope his departure doesn’t result in a big change in the bands dynamic, because they have something great going on.
You can download all of their music for FREE by going to their BANDCAMP PAGE, so do check that out, and to keep up-to-date with the future of the band and what shows they might have coming up, go give their FACEBOOK PAGE a like.
As it approached time for Spooky Folk to start, the intimate venue began to fill up quickly. It may have been a Monday night, but that hadn’t stopped their fans from all over the area coming out in droves to experience the last Spooky Folk show for some time.
They had promised a lengthy show for this night, saying they were even going to do some songs they hadn’t done in quite awhile, however, as they got going, their focus was on their newer material from their forthcoming album, segueing their first two songs into one another and doing one more after that. At this point singer and rhythm guitarist Kaleo Kaualoku took a moment to inform everyone that over at their merch table they could pre-order a copy of the new record, which would in turn help them pay for it. Violinist and backing singer Petra Kelly then chimed in with her own commentary by saying that everyone should “cry tears of sadness” over Kaleo moving and leaving them there. I think she was trying to make light of the situation, despite the fact that she looked like she could burst into tears at any moment.
The barrage of new stuff continued with another song, before they slowed things down, doing a short track from their debut album, “Diddle”. Live the song was overwhelmingly beautiful, especially the final lines as Kaleo and Petra harmonized, crooning, “Looking for love in all the wrong places seems to be common these days.” Their voices mixed magnificently, and that song was almost more of a prelude in a way, because shortly after they finished they started in on another newer one, “Kicking and Screaming”, which was greeted warmly by the crowd. It’s the band at their best with a constant ebb and flow, and Kaleo is constantly changing up his voice to match Chris Brown’s drumming, going from almost a whisper to full on shouting and then back down again all in mere seconds.
They finally touched some stuff from their self-titled debut record (or at least full songs from it) by doing the mostly serene “Modern World”, then picked things back up with a fan favorite, “Polaroid”. The crowd and the band livened up on that one, especially in the speedy final minutes of the song, which saw Jesse really start to throw down and race about the stage, while Scarlett Wright got a little faster in playing the bass in order to keep up with the beat, but still maintained that traditional calm swagger bassists have.
Upon finishing it the band asked everyone to raise a glass to Grady Don Sandlin, because the well known area musician who also produced and recorded Spooky Folk’s first record couldn’t be here this night because he was on his honeymoon. “…He’s busy having sex…” Jesse added, a blunt comment that got a laugh from just about everybody. Things then turned back to their music, and while Jesse was taking over on Scarletts’ bass, and she in turn was readying her melodica, Petra played a petty solo on her violin, which set them up for “Resurrect!”. It was one of the few songs that had nearly everybody singing along, shouting the chorus right back to the band, “…Everything is wrong when you know that’s right, reach down, deep down somewhere inside, let me know that one day everything is gonna be just fine.” Since first hearing that’s always been a favorite Spooky Folk of mine, and I’d even say it’s one of the most interesting songs in general, due largely to the unique sound the melodica gives it.
They unloaded one more new song on their fans, before doing a golden oldie that, as Petra said, they hadn’t “played in years”. It was one of the longest songs from their album, “Stars”. “Now it’s time for us to rest our heads, watch the stars go up and go to bed…” crooned Kaleo when the song hit its lull, and at that part Jesse mimicked the words, as he placed his hands together to make a pillow and rested his head on them, pretending to sleep. As serious as they are about putting on a good show, they’re also all about having a good time, and that proved it.
Thus ended their 48-minute long set, or at least the first one, as they told everyone they were going to take a little break and then get back up there to rock some more.
Sure enough, a little over an hour after they started their first set, Petra and Kaleo again took the stage, performing a song as a duo, and I believe that song was “Darkest Shade Of Gray”. Chris, Scarlett and Jesse then returned to do the song that used to begin their shows, “My Niagara Heart”.
The pulse-pounding track made it obvious they had saved most of the best for last, even if it was followed by the rarely played gem “I Am A Ghost”, which may be slow and rather gloomy for most of it, but it has some very poignant lyrics. They followed it with “This Sleep”, which worked well and bridged from them back into a full blown rock mode.
Once they finished it, someone bought some shots for them and they were handed out to the band. “…Scarlett is a heavy drinker and you should all pray for her…” Said Jesse, right after Scarlett had said that she doesn’t drink.
At this point in the show, Kaleo had broken a string on his guitar, and he had to borrow one from one of the earlier musicians, namely Ryan Becker. Once he said something about it Petra noted how appropriate that was. See, it was appropriate because they next covered an RTB2 song, specifically “Bottle The Bees”. They put an interesting twist on it, part of which was probably due to them having three more instruments than RTB2 does, but it was a killer cover all the same. They kept things going with what I believe was another newer track of theirs, following it with another tune from their first record, “Rare Bird”, which I’m pretty certain was the song that before starting Petra told everyone it was okay if they cried during it. I don’t think anyone did, but if they had than this song about love and loss would have been the perfect song to shed a few tears to.
As the show began to wind down, Kaleo again informed everyone that this was not a goodbye or a final farewell, saying that once the record was done he would come back to Denton in order to do a CD release show, making it sound like it would be much like this night with multiple sets involved. He also made sure to let the fans know that the new record was nearing completion and is going to be released one of these days. With that they ripped into yet another new song, before doing their final three tracks.
The crowd was elated to hear “Disheveled”, which, in its relatively short existence has already become a hit, and rightfully so, because it’s just a step above their other stuff, being catchy and aggressive, and also features some wicked guitar notes from both Jesse and Kaleo.
All night, on stage right there had been a pedal steel guitar, which I wondered when they were going to put to use, and now Burton Lee, who is best known for playing the pedal steel in the Texas Outlaw Country group Eleven Hundred Springs, joined them on stage and took his seat behind the instrument. The first song he helped them with was a bit of a shock, as they covered Garth Brooks classic, “Friends in Low Places”. Mind you, their rendition wasn’t nearly as country as the original, in fact it was quite electrifying and they did a delightful version of it, with most of the band singing on each chorus.
Then it was time for their final song, which Burton stuck around for. Kaleo knew everyone here knew their final song, and he requested that all the fans join in, saying if they didn’t they’d break up right here and now, noting it wouldn’t be a pretty break up, either. Everyone gladly obliged, though I think they would have sung along to “Bible Belt” even it hadn’t been made into a requirement. “I was born on the bible belt, give me something sharp so I can kill myself, because I can’t go on living this way…” the crowd roared each time on the chorus. The five core members were obviously having the time of their lives performing that song, with Petra happily shaking the tambourine she had swapped out with her violin. In all this second set lasted 57-minutes, and those 57-minutes seemed to pass by too quickly.
The band didn’t just exit the stage, instead they all surrounded Kaleo, hugging him and surely telling him what a fun ride it has been. They then showed their appreciation to everyone by taking a bow and then posing for some group shots, and once they were done Petra quickly left the stage, noticeably wiping away a few tears that she had been holding back all night.
Even if the other members didn’t show it so easily, I imagine they felt the same, and you really can’t blame them, because after all this is the end of a near in a sense. No, they aren’t breaking up and yes, they will do more shows, but they’ll never again (or at least not for a long time) be playing multiple shows a month around the Denton/Dallas/Fort Worth area. Sadly, things will probably never be the same, for them or their fans.
Personally, I can’t say I’m too torn up about it, because as much as I love Spooky Folk, I never saw them on a very regular basis. Still, it was nice knowing I had the option to go see them.
As far as this show goes, it was the eighth time I had seen the band, and hands down it was the best. You could tell they put a lot of work into it with rehearsals and such to make sure it was as big a spectacle as possible. Not only that, but they poured their souls into it, even more so then usual, and left it all on the stage.
They might still be a band, but nonetheless, North Texas lost one of its best, most original, unique and even somewhat quirky bands this night.
According to the talk this night, they are hoping to release their new album sometime this summer, so maybe a few months down the road they’ll be back for another party to mark the release of it. In the meantime, you can listen to/buy their first record on their BANDCAMP PAGE.
What a night and what a show this was. I’m glad I was able to bear witness to it and the drive to Denton was more than worth it.
NOTE: All photos are courtesy of Geoffrey Ussery and all rights belong exclusively to him. Visit his BLOG to see all the great pictures he takes of the various bands he sees. For the full photo set of Tony Ferraro & the Satans of Soft Rock go HERE. For the full photo set of Spooky Folk go HERE.