Saturday, September 7th, 2013 – “…Ruins Turn to Bones…”

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.

Thursday, January 31st, 2013 – Part II: A Little Bit of NoMo

Once I left that other show, I was unsure if I would be able to catch Nothing More over at Hailey’s or not, and finally got a text back from Matt “WhiskeyBoy” who said the band had not started yet.

I had missed a few great bands that were opening for them, like Admiral Grey, but at least I could work Nothing More into my Denton excursion.

Nothing More was setting up when I got there, and shortly after 12:30, they were ready to go…

Guitarist, Mark Vollelunga , bassist, Daniel Oliver, and drummer, Paul O’Brien, took to the stage first, and started rocking out, while their sample intro track played over them. “…But if we are to be prepared for it, we must first shed our fear of it!” the track went, which I believe is a quote from one of the Matrix films. That was when Jonny Hawkins rushed onto the stage, and started fiercely beating on his few piece drum kit that set at center stage. That led them headfirst into the lead track from “The Few Not Fleeting”, “Gone”. It took Jonny a minute to really find his voice, but by the time they hit the chorus, he was in the swing of things, running about the stage and jumping up on the monitors and his drum set, while the fans sang every word right along with him. The instrumental, “Under The Eyes of Selene”, followed immediately after, during which Mark downright shreds on the notes, giving way to “Sixty Second Affair”. It shows how cohesive the band is and how well they work together, with Dan and Mark singing portions of the song, “I feel, I feel.”, with Jonny handling the lines in between. “Denton, it’s been too long…” said Johnny, once the song was over, a statement that their fans seemed to agree with. After mentioning how glad they were to be back this way, they tackled a few songs that will appear on their new album (whenever that comes out), like “First Punch”.  I think it’s a sign that you’ve seen a band a lot when you know the lyrics to a song that can only be heard at shows at the moment, but I was far from being the only one singing along to it. In fact, more than a few fans were helping out on the chorus, “I’ll throw the first punch, ‘cause I’ve kept my mouth shut for far too long…” Pretty much the same thing can be said of the following song, and after it was when things got real exciting. While Paul and Mark laid down some music, Jonny went and grabbed a stand that fits into the wrought iron case that his drums are secured in. Dan then placed his bass on the stand and swung it over so it faced the crowd. Dan stood on one side, holding down some of the strings, while Jonny played the bass with a pair of drumsticks. Eventually Mark got over by them, beginning a chant of, “HEY!”, until the little stunt was over. Even though I’ve seen these guys do that many times over now, that still remains one of the most original and downright coolest things I’ve ever seen a band do. After another new song, they got back to some stuff from their current album, with the slightly slower, “It Seems…”.  They still throw in a part of The Beatles classic, “Eleanor Rigby”, blending it right in after the second chorus, with Jonny singing, “Look at all the lonely people, where do they all come from?” It’s an appropriate cover to work in, since a line from their song is, “…He said he wants to die. He wonders how anyone survives being overlooked and trite…” Thus far, it had been the same setlist the band has been using for awhile (not that, that’s a bad thing), but next came something I had never heard them do before. It was a cover song, I believe by the band, Thrice. And if that is correct, than it was the song, “Firebreather”. It was a standout rendition of it, better than the original in my humble opinion, and lyrically it really fit with some of Nothing More’s other material. Afterwards, Jonny asked for some help on another new song they had to do. “…It’s called Ballast…” he said, which was greeted with a roar from the fans. It’s certainly the best new song they’ve done (at least out of the small handful that have been played), and easily the most intense. It’s just one of those songs that you know is special, and one a band could spend their entire carrier trying to write, and still never come up with it. I got a pleasant surprise with the next song, which was my favorite of the bands, “Bullets And Blue Eyes”, though it’s not always a staple at shows. That said, to say I was ecstatic when Mark launched them into the song would be an understatement, and I relished every single second of that killer tune. Once it was done, Dan had a few words for the crowd, and it made me a little sad when he mentioned that this might be the final time he says this in Denton. He went into his “I Have a Dream Speech”, which begins with that line, and he proceeds to run through several funny things, which correspond to the next song, “Fat Kid”. He ends it with, “…I had a dream, where beef was always what’s for dinner!”, tearing into the song at that point. At this point in the show, they made mention of a big tour they had been wanting to be a part of for awhile, and, according to Jonny, all they had to secure a spot on it was have Mark “…perform a sexual favor…” None of them could keep from laughing once that had been said. They mentioned the tour will begin on the East Coast, and that Dallas will be one of the stops on it. With that, they were ready to bring their 55-minute long set to a close, and did that with what else, but “Salem”. It’s during that song that they do another nifty trick. Both Dan and Mark picked up a drum (a tom to be specific), with Dan eventually ending up with each of them, one on either shoulder. He stood a little closer to the full drum kit, while both Jonny and Mark started making rounds, one playing a few beats on the smaller drum set, while the other knocked out a few on the ones Dan was holding. Moments later, he ditched them, leaving the drums laying on the stage, as they all returned to their normal positions, and with the audiences help, wrapped up the song.

Usually, that’s it, because the band doesn’t make a real habit out of doing encores. Evidently, several people thought it was over with that, and retreated to the bar area, while some holdouts stayed gathered around the stage, chanting for one more.

It became undeniable, and soon they returned. “Okay, okay. We’ll do one more.” Said Mark. The last one left in the chamber was “Love?”, and it was the perfect way to conclude the night.

I mentioned they followed the same basic setlist as the past several times I’ve seen them, and while most times that can get repetitive to me, Nothing More is one of the rare exceptions to that. I guess it simply has to do with how much I enjoy their music, and even if there isn’t a whole lot of anticipation for over what they might play, I still love hearing and singing along to these songs just as much as I did the first time I heard them. You couple that with their live show, which is filled with an overabundance of energy and a ton of stage presence, and you have something that can be enjoyed many times over.

The tour they have hopped on is with the band, Adrenaline Mob, and will run from March through early April. Go HERE to see all the tour dates. It will lead them through several parts of the country, and if ends up coming to a town near you, you need to go. If for no other reason than just to see Nothing More. Also, check out their album, “The Few Not Fleeting”, and, sometime in the future, they will be releasing their long awaited follow-up album to it.

This had been quite the night in Denton, and I got to see not one, but two amazing rock shows. And really, how can you beat that?

Nothing More

Friday, June 22nd, 2012 – The Sunset Wasteland Tour

After a years long absence from the city of Denton, Noting More was coming back through for the second straight month, this time stopping at Hailey’s. They also brought with them some friends from Los Angeles who they had been on a little tour with, the band, Bravo Delta.

Red Light Kills kicked the show off at nearly 10 o’ clock, and from what I heard, they sounded good, though I didn’t catch any of their set. Instead, I was hanging and talking with Matt “WhiskeyBoy” and Torch. And that was probably the simplest review I’ve written in a LONG time.

The rock show really got underway when Admiral Grey took the stage, beginning their 38 minute long set with a song that I believe is called, “The Ride”. As the song started, Krishen Loughridge began rocking out on his guitar, moving all about the little area he had on stage right. At one point during the song, bassist, Geneva Arena, seemingly slid across the stage, joining him, as the two briefly stood (somewhat) back to back, each tearing it up on their respective instruments. They followed it with one of their tightest rock songs, “Pulling Strings”, and then a song that singer and rhythm guitarist, Aaron Pose, said was what he felt was the beginning of this new “baby” of his, “Don’t Know Me at All”. As he said the last time I saw them, the song is more or less about wanting to prove to friends that they are wrong about you, and has the great line, “…So keep your money and your phony friends, and I’ll be myself into the bitter end. We’re only human, we all make mistakes…”. At this point, a girl shouted out to one of the band members, “Take your shirt off!”. Aaron looked back at drummer, Justin Labosco, telling him if he wanted to he could. “…We’re three songs in…” he said, adding that the apparent rule is you can’t take your shirt off anytime during the first three songs, only after. Justin set the beat for the next song, as they slowed things down a bit with “My World”, and afterwards Aaron said they had a cover song, and asked if anyone here listened to the Top 40. Someone yelled, “FREEBIRD!”, to which Aaron responded, “That was Top forty about forty years ago, man.” He noted that if anyone listened to it, or watched the Grammy’s, they had probably heard this song a lot. “This is called Set Fire to the Rain, by Adele.” he announced. It started off slow, with Krishen plucking at the guitars strings with his fingers, but it doesn’t take long for the song to really get going. To me this is one of the last songs I would’ve thought a band like this would cover, but they do an incredible job on it, and this night, I honestly thought it was the best song of their set. In setting up the next song, Aaron mentioned their show last week at Trees in Dallas, where they had, had some live video shot of this newer song, which he added had turned out pretty good. He then asked if there was anyone there who just didn’t “give a fuck”, saying their next song was called “I Don’t Care”, and that was exactly what it was about. “Just a Man” came next, which I would consider to be the bands anthem song, and then they ended things with “Dirty Red”.

It was an incredible set they put on, and just from the last few shows I’ve seen, I’d say Admiral Grey is quickly becoming one of my favorite bands here in the region. I say region since they are from Texas and Oklahoma. To use their little tagline from their Facebook page, “Real, Loud, Rock…” That’s as good a description as any, and that’s exactly what the band is.

They should be releasing their debut EP in the coming months, but until then they’ll be laying low, gearing up for that. So, head over to their REVERBNATION PAGE, get a free download of their song “Dead to Me”, and check back to see when they will have more tour dates.

Bravo Delta was up next, and sadly didn’t have nearly the audience that they deserved. And to everyone who didn’t stick around to see what they were like, it was your loss. They opened with a song from their “Sunset Wasteland” EP, “Loose Cannon”. Singer and rhythm guitarist, Brandon Davis, jumped around the stage during the intro for the song, approaching the mic when it was time for him to sing. For whatever reason, I really like the chorus of this song, “Said I got your disease, I think I need some release. They should have never let you out into the world.”, which Brandon adds almost a light growl to as he sings it, before screaming it on the final time. When it was over, he stated who they were to the handful of people who had gathered around the stage. “This next song is called The Product” he finished, as they got it going. I really like part of the chorus from this song, too, “…This I know, I am a product of the lack of your design…”. They slowed things down a little with “Already Gone”, and then got into some songs not from their EP, as drummer, Scott Decker wound that one right into one called “We Stand, We Fall”. They quickly continued on by cranking out “Who Knew” and “Either One”, as their time was limited, and they finished that song, they found out they had about ten minutes left, with three more songs planned. Their only option was to power through them, next doing a song titled, “Moonchild”, which Andy Ingraham finished with a great guitar outro/solo. He did more or less the same at the end of the next song, “Sleepwalker”, too, though I think this was the song where he began to shred on the fret board, doing an incredible solo and giving it some really out there sounds. Their time was almost up, but they had just enough left to wrap things up with one more song from their debut EP, “Not Enough”, which made their set clock in at 35 minutes.

While I had listened to their stuff and liked it, I still wondered how their live show would be, and it was just as good as their tunes, as they killed it. Brandon seemed to me to be the most energetic performer of the bunch, just in the fact that he did the most moving around, and when all he was focusing on was his guitar, you could tell he was a pretty good guitarist. Andy could really shred, and as for bassist, Ryan Flores, he was a little more calm, mainly more leaning against the monitors, but still had enough presence as he slapped away at his bass that he was entertaining to watch.

You can go HERE to get a free download of their song, “Not Enough”, and purchase their EP, “Sunset Wasteland”, on either iTunes or BANDCAMP.

Nothing More
got their gear setup pretty quick, did a little sound check, and then made their fans wait a little more… But not too long, as it went unnoticed by me that  Paul O’Brien and Mark Vollelunga, the drummer and guitarist, respectively, had taken the stage, only realizing it once they started playing an instrumental piece. Bassist, Daniel Oliver, soon joined them, and finally vocalist and additional percussionist, Jonny Hawkins, who banged away at his three-piece drum kit. As the beats resonated out and fell silent, they began the first song of their 44 minute long set, “Gone”. The crowd wasn’t nearly as large as their Denton show the past month, but the energy from the crowd was just as high, if not more so, as almost everyone cut loose and sang along to the song. They followed it up with the instrumental song, “Under The Eyes of Selene”, which is essentially the intro of “Sixty Second Affair”. Towards the end of the song, most of the band was singing, with Jonny of course doing the main part of the song, while Dan shouted, “I feel, I feel.”, as Mark added some different backing vocals to it, which gave it a neat, layered sound. And as it ended, Jonny picked up his pair of drum sticks and proceeded to pound away on his kit. They then went into a string of new songs, with “First Punch” being the first of them, and after another one, Jonny went over a grabbed a metal rod that fits into a slot of the metal case that surrounds his drum kit, as Dan removed his bass and placed it on the hooked rod. As he stood to the (stage) right of it and held down some strings, Jonny played it with the drum sticks, and as it neared the end, Mark came and joined them, holding down some of the strings along the neck. They soon got back into the songs with another new tune, which, out of the handful of times I’ve heard it, is becoming one of my favorites of their new stuff, with the chorus going, “…If I were God just for a day, I would be guilty of letting the whole world slip away…”. Somewhere around this point, Jonny thanked everyone for continuing to come out to shows. “…I know this record has been out for awhile…” he noted, speaking of the over three year old, “The Few Not Fleeting”. They did another song off that album, “It Seems…”, and after the second chorus, started the newest addition of the song, the chorus of “Eleanor Rigby” by The Beatles. “This is another new song…” Jonny said afterwards, “…It’s called Ballast.”, he finished, as the sample track intro began. Mark started shredding on his guitar at the precise moment the track faded out, as Paul exploded on the drums and Dan thrashed his bass around, while Jonny sang, “When did we become these sinking stones? When did we build this broken home? Holding each other like ransom notes. Dropping our hearts to grip our brothers throats…” When it was finished, Jonny asked the crowd what they wanted to hear next, and while a few different titles were thrown out, he acknowledged one in particular. “I think I heard Fat Kid.” he said, as they geared up for the song. “Speech or no speech?” Dan asked him, before saying this next song was for anyone who was a “…Chubby kid… Or chubby people…” now. He then started his speech his speech set up for the song, about how “…Four score and seven meals ago…” he was chunkier, and as he said the final line of it, “…I had a dream, where beef is always what’s for dinner!”, Jonny began singing, “Once upon a time, I survived by eating my way through life. Bruised from head to toe to ego, this abuse is getting old …” This was another song that had a heavier percussion outro, as Jonny again rocked out on his kit, and then it was time for the final song of their set, “Salem”. It amazes me the way fans have taken to the song, because shortly after the release of their current record, I don’t recall anyone (at least here in the North Texas area) being as obsessed with it as they are now. Now, everyone sings along to it, and the fans even handle an entire part of the chorus, “…Burn the witch! HA HA HA!”, while at the very end, Jonny yells out, “BURN!”, then holds the mic out to the crowd to do the same, and continues doing so for several seconds.

When they were done, a few people started chanting for an encore, though it didn’t look like they had any plans of coming back, and that group of fans didn’t carry on for long. Nevertheless, it was a great set.

Their show schedule is as follows: July 7th at Warehouse Live in Houston, TX. July 14th at Click’s Billiards in Baton Rouge, LA. July 27th at Luna Live in Lake Charles, LA. July 28th at The Riverside Warehouse in Shreveport, LA. August 4th at Sam’s Burger Joint in San Antonio, TX. August 18th at the Side Pocket Lounge in Kilgore, TX. And August 23rd at Stubbs BBQ in Austin, TX. So, go check them out if they’ll be near you, and also find their record, “The Few Not Fleeting” in iTunes.

Friday, October 21, 2011 – Ishi

A little over a week ago I spoke of what a mind blowing show Ishi did at the Granada Theater, which resulted in me getting aboard the Ishi train. The only bad thing, I didn’t think I’d make to their other upcoming shows. Until the day before this when I saw Ryan T. Becker & the Last Joke and bought their CD, making it somewhat pointless to go to the CD release show happening this night. And that worked out quite well, because now I was able to see another Ishi gig.

I got to Hailey’s in Denton late, and had already missed the first band, arriving just in time for Roy Robertson to begin his set. I saw him here sometime earlier in the year, which was like an acoustic duo show, but now, he has a full band. Roy on the guitar, a guy he introduced as Pablo on the bass, and Ramon on the drums. And that has really helped to fill out the sound from what I remember it being. This is one of those times I’d like to say more, but really all I’ve got is he’s a really good singer/songwriter and they did a great little set.

The Burning Hotels took the stage next. I saw them at Trees sometime last year, as well as the Palladium Ballroom when they opened for the Toadies, and didn’t much care for them at either show, but they’ve grown into an even more talked about band since, so I was interested in seeing them. I enjoyed their music more this time, and the show was pretty good, but here’s the thing, I saw no stand-out qualities making them deserving of all the press they’ve received. The music is good, so are the vocals and harmonies, as well as the overall show. But of all those were good at best. Personally, I think their lead guitarist has a better voice than their lead singer, and while he sang more of the lead role on a few songs, but not enough for me. And for the most part the show was completely void of any presence or energy. There were brief moments when their singer wasn’t singing he did rock out on his guitar more, but those moments were few and far between. I’ll segue that into my next thought, that being there are musicians you see who play their instruments well, and there are those who dazzle you with the fancy steps they add to plucking at the strings or pounding on the drums. The Burning Hotels fall into the former category. They play well, but they were just up there playing. As I said, I enjoyed the music, but this band isn’t worthy of all the high praise they have gotten.

Ishi, who was fresh off a Dallas Observer music award win for best electronic band, closed out the night. Before starting, lead vocalist, John Mudd, announced who they were, as well as this. “…If y’all are still here, that means y’all have dance left in you…” he said, then saying something to the effect that they would take care of that. And by the end of this 54 minute set, that would prove true. They opened with “Our Time”, as Becky Middleton opened the song, softly singing, “Don’t let go. Don’t let go.” John was busy jumping around center stage, doing some dance moves, and briefly, running in slow motion, before he started in on the opening lines, “Don’t let go of who you are. You came too far to be the one left standing on a falling star…” It’s a sensational opening number, both for live shows and the “Through the Trees” record, and as they sing the chorus, “…This is our time…”, you can’t help but feel it’s more than just a lyric. “This is one from our upcoming record.” John said as he fiddled with the computer to start the tracks for the next song, “’Nother Prison”. I still say this is the best song I’ve heard them do. The sound is so cool, and while it didn’t become a huge sing-along like at the Granada, I still saw some people mouthing along to the parts when John, Becky, and guitarist, Rocky Ottley, all sang, “A-ye-a a-ye-a i-yay.” (I’m butchering that phonetically, all the more reason you should see a show and hear it for yourself.) Upon finishing it, Rocky asked John how long it had been. “Since we met?” John asked to clarify the question. “About six years.” he answered, before soon starting the next tune, “Make It”. Towards the end of it, John sang “I will break through this illusion” a couple times, before changing “I” to “We”, and soon, changed it again. “You can break through this illusion.” he said, which came across as if he was telling that to every individual. As the song concluded, the tracks continued, and so did J.J Mudd’s drum beats. They did a couple of covers, both of which featured Becky in more of a lead vocalist role. At one point during the first one, John laid down in front of the drum riser, and proceeded to hump the ground for a few moments, before rolling over on his back and belting out the next line of the song. The following song was “Walk Like an Egyptian”, which Becky does a fantastic job at, and at the end John sings that line, “Walk like an Egyptian.” In such a high, shrill voice, it sounds more feminine than Becky’s’. As John walked back over to the laptop, he noticed his phone ringing. “Rachel Star is calling me.” he said, and after a brief debate, decided to answer it. “Do y’all kow who Rachel Star is?” Rocky asked the crowd, who did not. “Y’all don’t spend enough time at y’alls computers than, cause she is a star.” he told everyone. You could hear John’s end of the conversation, as he told her he was doing a show in Denton and put her on speakerphone to say hi to everyone. They did another new song afterwards, followed by their first released single from their next album, “Disco Queen”. It was another song John did some humping during, this time laying down on the speakers in front of the stage where everyone had a view of it, whether they wanted it or not. They did some more of their hit songs, with “Pastel Lights” and “Shake Your Dandelion”, before asking everyone if they wanted one more. “…We don’t believe in encores, so if you want it now you’ll get it…” John told everyone. During the past few songs the once vacant space in front of the stage had undergone a transformation. A couple of guys began dancing, and soon more joined in. And now, almost everyone there was jumping around or dancing to the groove they had going for their final song, during which John again came out into the audience, singing and dancing with the people.

I don’t think there could be any denying, Ishi puts on one of, if not the most fun show of any band in town. From the start of it Rocky, Becky, and John were jumping about the stage. As I sort of mentioned, John joined the audience many times throughout the night, as did Rocky at one point, who at one moment was on the stage, and the next shredding on his guitar in the midst of the people. Don’t make the same mistake I did people, which was seeing them in early 2010, not caring for their music and completely writing them off, before discovering what a fantastic band they had become a year later. And now, I think they could be a new musical addiction for me. They’ll be headlining at Club Dada this Friday, October 28th, and I’m tempted to see them again over Paco Estrada, who’s playing elsewhere that same night.

May 7, 2011 - The Long Awaited Trebuchet and The Phuss Split EP

The brothers in rock, Trebuchet and The Phuss, have been working seemingly forever on their split EP. While in actuality its just been a few months, since around the first part of the year. And tonight, their hard work and efforts were coming to fruition as the EP, which features three songs from each band, was being released at Hailey’s and the show put on by Mulberry Street Bookings. And coincidently this was going down 2 years and one month to the day since I first saw / heard of Trebuchet, so for me it was like celebrating an anniversary of sorts.

Opening the show was The Nicholsons. I didn’t see most of their set as I was playing a couple games of pool, but from what I heard I didn’t think I was missing out on much. But I did catch the last maybe 10 to 15 minutes of their set. And in watching them I realized all three guys, guitarist, Marty, bassist, Ray, and drummer, Terry, took turns on singing the songs. On some just one would sing, while others one or two of them would. The thing was neither of them could sing too well. In fact on one of the songs they did Ray’s voice sounded like an incoherent whining rather than singing. I didn’t find any of it too enjoyable. Now the music beds for the songs were really great, and I did like the few totally instrumental songs they cranked out. Which is saying a lot since I’m not a fan of instrumental tunes, and usually get bored with any that last over a minute or two. Needless to say, I was glad when their set came to an end.

Its been a little over a month since I first saw, and became addicted too, The Virgin Wolves, and I was pretty psyched they were playing next. It didn’t seem to take any time for the set change between bands, and when they were all ready they wasted no time in starting the show with “Slick Shoes”. They followed it with “Crawl”, but only after promoting the video they’ve done for the song, as bassist, Kristin, urged everyone to go check it out on Youtube. And you should, cause it’s pretty cool. They rocked out “Black Sheep” before they said they were going to “…Slow it down…” with the next song, “Vagabonds”. That’s not a total lie, the song does begin very slow, especially compared to their other material, but it doesn’t last too long. Next up was the song “Bad”, which they said they had just wrapped a video shoot for. “You might recognize this next song.” Kristin said, “Cause we didn’t do it.” As lead guitarist, Chase, belted out the first line of the song, “This is a mans world…” to get their cover of “It’s a Mans, Mans, Mans World” going. And as he sang the first verse, front women, Jaime, paced about the stage, before she picked the main mic up off the floor to tackle the second verse. They were starting to run short on time at this point, and after a brief discussion of what songs to do, they decided they had time for two shorter ones. The first of which was “Do You” and then drummer, Steve, counted them in to the final song, “Virtue and Vice”. And while their entire performance is great, that last tune is definitely the one they cut loose on the most. All in all it was a 30 minute set they did, and a fantastic one at that. Granted, this was just the fourth time I’ve seen them, but it was the best show I’ve seen them do yet. They’re just a great example of what a rock show SHOULD be about. You can catch ‘em on May 28 at The Dead Horse in San Angelo. May 29 for the School of Rock Rockstravaganza Festival taking place at several clubs in Deep Ellum. And then they’ll be at The Door in Dallas on June 18.

Now that the opening acts were out of the way it was time for the first band that this show was celebrating, The Phuss. They kicked things off with one song and when it was done transitioned it right into one from the EP, “So Hard to Swallow”. And rounded that one right into the next song. Then they did a couple others which I recall hearing at previous Phuss shows I’ve seen. And somewhere in between those past few songs singer/guitarist, Joshua Fleming, proudly promoted their new EP. Saying something like “… All you mother fuckers who’ve seen us before and been like, “Do y’all have any CDs?” and I’m like “Shit, I wish we had stuff too!” well, now we do!” And later even said he hadn’t slept at all the previous night. “I woke up at two this morning thinking about this show, and I was so excited I couldn’t go back to sleep.” Next up they cranked out the remaining two songs from the EP, “Something to Die For” and “One for Now, Three for Later”, before Joshua and bassist, Forrest Barton, turned, facing each other and began to shout out the name of the next song, “STUPID GIRL”. As it ended the final chords resonated out and turned to mangled noise to try to create some suspense before Trey Alfaro started laying down a steady beat on his drums to begin their timeless classic, “Preacher, Preacher”. And afterwards they did one more song to wrap up their 38 minute set. The first time I saw them back in December ‘09 I wasn’t a fan, but with each show I’ve seen they’ve made me like them more and more. And especially after getting the EP tonight and having some songs to listen to. I just wish it had more then three tracks (from both bands), but a full-length follow-up will be out in due time. You can, and by all means should, check out The Phuss on Friday, May 20 at the Curtain Club in Dallas. And if they aren’t enough reason to see the show they’ll be playing with The Orange and The Commotion. They’ll also be sharing the stage with The Virgin Wolves at The Dead Horse in San Angelo on May 28. And they’ll be back rocking Hailey’s on Friday, June 3.

And last up was Trebuchet. It had been a little over three months since the last show of theirs I saw, mainly cause they have scaled back the live shows from what they used to do, like when I would see them two times a month. But I’ve seen them enough to have an excellent idea of how the shows typically start. But I should’ve known better, because like I’ve said before, part of why I love these guys shows so much is that they are always different from each other. They completed the sound check and then launched into a 70 minute set, beginning with the instrumental prelude to “Ego Trip”. So of course the song, “Ego Trip”, followed, complete with the songs lengthy instrumental ending. And the more or less segued the end of that song right into the next one, “Intelligent Design”. As it finished, a sample track came in, sounding fairly soft and beautiful. It served as a perfect lead in to the next song, one of their newer ones, as vocalist/guitarist, Justin Hawkins, started picking away at a few of the guitar strings to start it. When it ended Justin glanced at his wrist to see what was next, (if you’ve missed my prior writings about these guys they refer to their songs as numbers and write the set list for the show on their fore-arms.) then took his guitar off and leaned it up against the amp. While another sample track played, bringing them into another, newer, song. They finally took a breather after that one, as Justin asked everyone to give it up for all the other bands that rocked before them, naming each one individually. Then asking what everyone thought of the stand-up in between sets (they showed comedians like Richard Pryor live comedy shows on the screens hanging behind the stage.) But the question never got to be answered as drummer, Bobby Lotfipour, started what is still my favorite Trebuchet song, “Black Beard”. And when all the lyrics had been sung Justin moved over to the side of the stage, leaving guitarists, Dustin Fleming and Keith Naylor, bassist, John Yett, and Bobby to rock out the final instrumental portion of the song. And before that song had really even ended, Dustin was shredding away at the next one, their usual show opener and the first song of theirs on the EP, “Cowboy Rick”. I’ve always loved this song, but after becoming obsessed with the TV show, The Walking Dead, (no, I haven’t read the graphic novels that the show is based on) of which the song is based on the character, Rick Grimes, it has made me like it even more. Next they tackled the remaining songs from the EP, “No Qualms” and “Lady Fish”, the latter of which they were joined by The Phuss’s, Joshua Fleming, who backed Justin up on one of the chorus’s. “So this EP is like a catapult.” Justin said after the song was over. “A trebuchet if you will.” (That joke didn’t get nearly as many laughs as it deserved.) As he started to explain that both bands are in the process of recording some new, full-length, records, and that the next song would be on their upcoming album. They did another new tune, followed by an instrumental song, and I believe two final new songs to end their set. The truth is those last few songs flowed so seamlessly that I couldn’t tell if it was two different songs or one really long one.

As I said, it had been awhile since I’d seen Trebuchet. And I had forgotten how awesome and fantastic their live shows are! Their new stuff is taking a totally different direction from their double-disc debut, “The Bear and the Moon”. They sound a little more Alternative Rock, as well as being pretty artsy and more creative. I recognized a few of them, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t unsure at first about some of the others. I really like them though. And hell, any band can find a sound they like and stick with it, but only the best of the best let the sound develop and grow with the bands experience. Who knows, they might alienate some fans with this new sound, but I certainly won’t be one of them. They have a couple shows coming up over the next month, the first being the School of Rock Rockstravaganza Festival in Deep Ellum on May 29. Then they’ll be back in Dallas on June 3 to play Club Dada. Check ‘em out!!

And in regards to the EP, it isn’t available digitally, but you can listen to the songs on Do For It Records website. Check out The Phuss’s stuff HERE. Trebuchet’s songs can be found HERE. And if you like it enough, the EP only costs $5 (plus $5 for shipping) and can be ordered HERE. It can also be picked up at Mad World Records and Recycled Books, both are located in Denton,TX.

May 1, 2011 - “…I Killed Myself to Get to You, So Come and Get It…”

Another rare Sunday night show me to rock out at. And even rarer was it was going down in Denton, where Mulberry Street Booking had assembled quite the line-up at Hailey’s.

The heavy rain at forced me to go slower, making the 50 to 60 minute trip up to Denton even longer than usual. So by the time I got there, got into the club, the first band Land Mammals was playing. And no sooner had I put my earplugs in my ears then they were done. From the maybe 10 seconds that I heard they sounded pretty good though.

The second full band set their gear up and when they were done left the stage, as solo act, Without a Face, took the stage. He did a very short sound check before going into his first song, “The Band Broke Up”. I’m not a real fan of his, but I was a little more receptive to his music tonight than I have been the past two times I’ve seen him. His material is just hit or mss with me, a hit being like his second song, “Druggie Love”, a song about pretending to do drugs to impress a girl so she’ll go out with you. To a miss such as “The Baylor Squirrels”, about the squirrels rising up against the humans at Baylor University. He definitely goes for humor in his songs, but I guess it’s not always something I find humorous. He squeezed quite a few songs into his little set, including one for “…All the Back to the Future fans.” entitled “Flux Capacitor”, and another about being in love with an older women, called “31”. The latter being the only Without a Face song I can say I truly like. And eventually he ended his set with “Ambien”. He still hasn’t turned me into a fan of his music, but I didn’t totally hate it this time around either.

The four-piece, Retro Run, was next. I really ended up liking these guys. Their music was very catchy and upbeat. I’d assume most of what they did were originals, but at one point their drummer and guitarist switched places (and instruments) to do a song. And when it was over their singer said something about what they had just done being a Vampire Weekend cover. I’m not at all familiar with Vampire Weekend’s music, but they did a great cover of whatever song it was. The only complaint I’d have was that they were pretty steadfast on stage and barely moved at all. But hey, there music’s good enough it can help cover for that. They’ll be back here at Hailey’s on Wednesday, June 15.

Tommy and the High Pilots, who’d been touring for about the past month or more, were next, playing their final show of the tour. After everything had been set up and checked singer/guitarist, Tommy Cantillon, greeted Denton and announced who they were, before he started picking away at his acoustic guitar, starting “Round N’ Round”. This is one band that I can say I love every song they’ve done, but that one’s definitely one of my favorites. “So we just put out a new EP…” Tom said, referring to the “Sawhorse Sessions”. “…And this is the first song off it.” which led them to “On The Line” and was then followed by the title track from their last EP, “American Riviera”. They did a couple more from their debut album, “Bluesy Floozie” and “Sun Burns Out”, before doing one more from “Sawhorse…”, called “Lorraine”. And before starting it Tom said something like “This is about a girl named Lorraine… She’s not real though,” At this point they were told they had 12 minutes left so they hurried through “I’ve Been Thinking” and saved the best two, in my opinion, for last with “Where To Start" and finally "The Limit" to conclude their 35 minute set. These guys are just flat out awesome and put on one of the most fun shows I’ve seen. When some of the songs permitted guitarist/keyboardist/backing vocalist, Michael Cantillon, as well as bassist, Steven Libby, would clap their hands to the beat Matt Palermo was supplying on the drums, trying to get the crowd to join in with them. You can tell they are just having a ball being on stage performing and I’m sure I’m not the only one who has equally as much fun listening and singing along to their upbeat, infectious tunes. Their "Sawhorse Sessions" EP is pretty good, they take a stripped down approach to the songs giving it a more acoustic vibe. Very good stuff. The High Pilots will probably be touring again sooner or later, but you can also catch Matt and Tom rocking the drums and bass, respectively, for Ludo this Summer, when Ludo embarks on their latest tour.

I’ve heard a lot of talk about the band Sundress, who was the headliner, but I’ve never seen a show or even checked out their music. Dream Pop I guess would be the music category they’d fall into, and while I only stuck around for three songs they failed to really do anything for me. Their music was so-so, but really I just didn’t care for their singers voice, which was pretty soft and hard to hear.

Feburary 18, 2011 - Novaak

The first act, Roy Robertson, got the night started here at Hailey’s around 10:20. And after his first song he introduced himself. “I’m obviously Roy Robertson.” he said. (I’m not sure why he said obviously, unless he assumed everyone there knew who he was before hand.) He continued, “And not so obviously, this is Kyle…” as he pointed to the guy next to him, who had that point was playing an electric guitar. They did a few songs together, switching out the instruments, and by the end they’d each played either the acoustic or electric axe or the bass at some point. Then Roy announced it was the end of the electric set by saying “This is your last chance to get a picture of Kyle if you want one, cause this is the end of the electric portion.” “And if y’all think that was sensitive, just wait till y’all here these next songs.” he said, as he got his acoustic guitar ready. Then sang the first few words of the next song “What do you do when…”, and then it was interrupted by some horrible feedback. “…When the guitar feeds back.” he sang, making it sound like it was the next line of the song. They struggled for the next couple tunes to get the problem ironed out, and eventually did, but it made the acoustic portion suffer a bit. Still, overall it was a good set. I preferred the more electric songs they began the night with, but even the acoustic part didn’t seem too laid back. And from the looks of his calendar he’s going to be fairly busy doing shows in Denton for the next few weeks. Saturday, February 26th at Rubber Gloves, Saturday, March 5th at J&J’s, and Thursday, March 10th for part of the 35 Conferette festival (Club TBA).

Next up, Menkena. Out of the now three times I’ve sen them, I’ve tried so hard to like them. And I do like their music, but I can’t get passed how softly sung the lyrics are. It’s to the point that if you didn’t see singer/guitarist, Jimmy Menkena, moving his mouth, you wouldn’t even know he was singing a word. And without (audible) vocals, it’s just hard for me to really get into music.

Novaak was rounding out the night, and after more or less falling in love with this band last month, I was very excited to see another show. They got their set going right at 12:40 with “Whatever Town”, and followed it up by going right into “Deepest Need” and then “Mr. Memory”. They took a very brief break, just long enough for front women, Jessi James, to let the meager crowd know the name of the next song, which was “Marnie”. Then continued with my favorite song of theirs (at least for the time being) “With a Stretch”, “Just Be”, and “Bound to Forget”. Jessi thanked everyone for the applause and then said they had “…A few left.” Which led them to “You Pressed the Crash Button" and they finished up their set with "1hr." By that time it had only been a mere 35 minutes since they had started, which does seem like a short set for the headlining band, until you realize they’d ran through almost their entire album. It was indeed an awesome show, and I absolutely love their music. It’s the perfect blend of the Pop / Indie sound with just a hint of Electronic thrown in (on some songs). And their self-described Dream Pop as well. And I take the “Dream” part to mean it’s what Pop music dreams it should be, but so seldomly achieves. Granted, it’s not like it’s anything really groundbreaking, but it is different. Especially from the Rock ‘n’ Roll groups I typically stick with seeing. And you can tell all five members are enjoying being on a stage performing, but it really shows through on guitarist/backing vocalist, Blake Panter, and Jessi. Blake seems to have a pretty happy demeanor on stage and I got the vibe that he really appreciated being up there performing for the people. Which is saying quite a bit when considering there were only maybe a little over a dozen people truly watching them. And as for Jessi, I believe she wore a smile for just about the entire show, even whilst singing. And when you have band members displaying those on-stage personas, how can you not fall in love with music and performance?

Now in regards to their upcoming shows, March is shaping up to be a pretty good month for ‘em. First off they be playing the 35 Conferette festival in Denton on the 11th (Club TBA). On the 18th they’ll be doing an unofficial SXSW show in Austin (Details TBA). And then on the 25th they’ll bring their show back to Dallas, when they open up for a couple of great Austin bands at The Prophet Bar. And I’m pretty psyched about that last show!

The Best of 2010

So the year’s pretty much done with, meaning it’s time for my “Best Of” list. Let’s kick it off with the albums of 2010, shall we?

1.) Artist: Secret of Boris

Album: Your Ghost

Label: Self-released

Must listen song: Desert Blood

2.) Artist: The Toadies

Album: Feeler

Label: Kirtland Records

Must listen song: Suck Magic

Well, I’m glad I didn’t have to wait 13 years for this album like the old-school Toadies fans did. This is without question the best record they’ve churned out since “Rubberneck”, probably since these songs were written three short years after that first major-label release. On the downside most of the 9 songs are shorter, with the album clocking in just barely over 30 minutes. And I would’ve liked to have heard re-done versions of some of the other songs from that time. i.e.”Send You to Heaven” and “Little Fish”. Maybe a “Feeler 2” could be released one day?

3.) Artist: Doug Burr

Album: O Ye Devastator

Label: Velvet Blue Music / Spune

Must listen song: High Blood and Long Evening Dresses

4.) Artist: In Memory of Man

Album: The Reckoning (EP)

Label: Self released

Must listen song: Paper Planes

5.) Artist: Ivoryline

Album: Vessles

Label: Tooth & Nail Records

Must listen song: Walking Dead

Ivoyline has been flirting with the Christian Rock genre since I first heard of them in ‘05. But aside from a reference here and there (“…We should scream thank you with every waking breath…”), they still stuck more on the rock side of things. This album changes all that. They’ve finally crossed that line, with just about every song relating in some way to Christianity. But the beauty of it is it isn’t preachy, and you can only interpret the lyrics to mean that if that’s what you want them to mean. And regardless of any of what I just said, this album is still full of great rock songs.

6.) Artist: Smile Smile

Album: Truth On Tape

Label: Kirtland Records

Must listen song: Cancer

7.) Artist: Descender

Album: Army Of Elephants (EP)

Label: Self-released

Must listen song: Gunpowder Drums

8.) Artist: Tommy & the High Pilots

Album: American Riveria (EP)

Label: Redbird Records

Must listen song: The Limit

9.) Artist: The Bright Light Social Hour

Album: The Bright Light Social Hour

Label: Self-released

Must listen song: Shanty

10.) Artist: Jimmy Gnecco

Album: The Heart

Label: Bright Antenna

Must listen song: Rest Your Soul

As far as shows go, I ended up seeing 86 this year. A new personal best for me. And while narrowing it down to a “Top 10” was a bit difficult, here they are…

1.) SouthFM @ the Curtain Club in Deep Ellum on Saturday June 12, 2010

2.) Toadies @ the Palladium Ballroom in Dallas on Saturday August 7, 2010

3.) Forty Percent (Reunion Show) w/ Meridian @ the Curtain Club in Deep Ellum on Saturday December 11, 2010

4.) SouthFM w/ Mothers Anthem & Meridian @ Tree’s in Deep Ellum on Saturday November 27, 2010

5.) In Memory of Man @ Tree’s in Deep Ellum on Saturday June 5, 2010

6.) Air Review w/ Radiant @ Tree’s in Deep Ellum on Friday April 9, 2010

7.) The Bright Light Social Hour @ Renfield’s in Dallas on Wednesday November 24, 2010

8.) Descender w/ Dead Twins @ Lochrann’s Irish Pub in Frisco on Thursday August 19, 2010

9.) Exit 380 w/ The Orange @ Hailey’s in Denton on Saturday September 18, 2010

10.) Nothing More @ The Boiler Room in Denton on Saturday April 10, 2010

And finally, while I’m not going to make this a “real” category, I’d like to name my personal best discovery of 2010. And that is… Wellhouse Co.! Who, in conjunction with Spune Productions, takes over Lochrann’s Irish Pub in Frisco every Thursday night (& occasionally Friday’s and/or Saturday’s). Really the only place that regularly has bands in this part of the suburbs is The Door Plano. But their target audience is more the teenage crowd, plus the bands are no names to me. But what Wellhouse and Spune are doing is actually trying to create a music scene in the ‘burbs. They’ve had Descender, Dead Twins, RTB2, Telegraph Canyon, and countless other heavy hitters of the DFW music scene play there. And more than a few times have I walked out of there, clutching a CD or two I picked up from an artist I’d never even heard of a few hours before. And for a local music fan like myself this works on a few different levels. 1.) I’ve seen a few of my favorite local acts play there, all for free. 2.) Even if I haven’t heard of any of the bands that are playing that night, I’ve usually ended up liking them to some extent. And 3.) Even if I don’t really like any of the bands, seeing them for free is still a great way to kill a Thursday night. So check out Wellhouse’s upcoming calendar, and on some Thursday night make a trip to Downtown Frisco. You just might discover your new favorite band! (Seriously, check out there shows planned for January. Some killer bands have been lined up, & I plan on being there every Thursday night that month!)

December 8, 2010 - “…In the Rays of the Sun I’ve Created My Own Little Paradise…”

Hailey’s was hosting a good little night of music with an even split of local and touring acts.

The first band, Babar, was playing when I arrived, but apparently I hadn’t missed out on much. They ended up being an all instrumental band, and personally, I like some vocals with my music. And then on one song their guitarist stepped up to the mic and started singing. And boy, I wish he hadn’t. He had no voice whatsoever, and it was a bit painful to listen to. Thankfully it didn’t last more than a minute or so, and a few songs later they were done.

The solo acoustic artist, who uses the moniker Without A Face, was next. I’d seen him a little over a year ago when he was on tour with Ludo, and didn’t like him at all. And tonight didn’t improve my views on his music. His songs are just totally crazy, plus his voice sounds horrible. And while I’m all for crazy songs, there’s a difference between crazy and asinine. For example his song “Baylor Squirrels”, in which he obviously talks about the squirrels at Baylor University, and talks about how they look evil. And the song goes through this whole little thing where the squirrels are trying to take over. This guys music just does nothing for me, other than hurt my eardrums.

All the way from Santa Barbara, California was Tommy and the High Pilots, who were really the only band I came to see. After seeing them a few months ago with Ludo, I became an instant fan. And since then had been eagerly awaiting this show. I was just hoping they’d get more than a 25 minute set this show, though I didn’t think it likely. Once everything was set-up they wasted no time at starting, as they opened with the title track from their latest release, “American Riviera”. “How we feeling Denton?” singer/guitarist, Tom Cantillon, asked the crowd after their first song. “Are y’all happy? Cause that’s what this next song is called.” as they went into “Happy”. And talk about happy, that’s exactly what this band was during their entire show. I’ve seen a few bands where it’s blatantly obvious they’re having the times of their lives on stage, but these guys were smiling pretty much the whole time. And that’s something I’ve never seen a band do before. They did several more songs, mainly from their debut album, with a short descriptive sentence before most of the tunes. “This one is called Use Your Head.” Tom said, “Because a lot of people don’t.” Or, “This is about a girl who thought it’d be funny to rip my heart out.” which lead into “Bluesy Floozie”. They did a few more, “Sun Burns Out” and “Round N’ Round”, and maybe a couple others, before switching things up. “Y’all want to hear my brother sing a song?” Tom asked everyone, as he pointed to his brother Mike, who plays the guitar and keys. The song was a cover of a band by the name, The Snake, The Cross, The Crown, who they said were good friends of theirs before that band disbanded. The song sounded pretty good, and while Mike’s voice isn’t quite as good as Tom’s, it’s pretty close. And while doing cover songs, they decided to debut a Christmas song they’d just learned half an hour prior to the show. Not sure what it was, but I found out afterwards they’d heard it earlier in the day, decided to learn it, and then test it out to get it ready for their homecoming show later this month. It sounded great, way to great for them to have learned it 30 minutes before, but I do believe them. Their drummer, Matt Palermo’s, main band is Ludo, and Tom also plays bass for them, so for the next couple songs they invited fellow Ludo member, Tim Convy, to help ‘em out. “This next one isn’t a love song. You’ve been warned.” Tom let everyone know, while Tim made his way on stage, to play some little instrument with keys. Which lead them to my personal favorite High Pilots song, “Where to Start” and followed it with “Motorbike”. I think one more was thrown in about here, then they ended their 50 to 60 minute long set with “The Limit”. They thanked everyone, and while most had probably never heard of them before this show, they now seemed to be huge fans. Then Tom made sure to let everyone know they’d “…Be back in a few months.” SWEETNESS!!! These guys really are incredible and mix several different genres into their music. Some are just rock, some seem to have a hint of blues thrown in, and others have more of an acoustic vibe to them at times. Point being, they are very unique and a band you should catch now while they’re on their rise to fame.

The Denton band, Foe Destroyer, was capping off the night. The band is made up of two members of the once mighty Oso Closo, who broke up back in March. I’d heard great things about FD, and while I wasn’t a fan of Oso, I figured this band would be different, since the two guys were just instrumentalists in that last band. And they certainly were different. Just a drummer/singer and a guitarist/keyboardist. And much like my thoughts on Oso Closo, this band is overrated. I stuck around for three, maybe four, songs but never felt invested in any of the music.

This might not have been a very impressive night of music for me, but Tommy and the High Pilots made up for it and then some. And it was a good way to mark my final trip to Denton for 2010.

October 31, 2010 - A Spooktacular Halloween

Well here’s something that doesn’t happen but once in a blue moon. Two shows in one day. Sorta…

Show I: Circa Survive
It was announced semi last minute that Circa Survive would be playing Good Records in Dallas, then later that night rocking the House of Blues. This worked out great for me, since I’d thought about going to the HofB show, till I found out about another show (see Show II below).

The show was acoustic, which came as no huge surprise to me, and they hit the small stage inside Good Records around 2:15. The song they opened with did surprise me though, the first single from the newest release, “Get Out”. The song doesn’t sound like one that would translate well acoustically, but it did, and frontman, Anthony Green, really toned down the aggressiveness in his voice for this version. After finishing it he said something like “I felt like someone just came in to look at the records while we were doing that song. And was like, what’s a band doing up there.” Though I think he threw the F word in there somewhere, cause after realizing the couple who’d walked in a little boy, the drummer said something to Anthony about it. “Did I use the F word in front of your son?” he asked them, “I’m sorry, I won’t say fuck in front of him again. Except for that time.” He then went on a whole little joke saying the kid looked wasted and he’d call CPS so his parents couldn’t give him any more booze. After joking with the kid and his parents, he dedicated the next song, “I Felt Free”, to the little boy. This song is incredible, and it almost sounds more appropriate acoustic. “…I fell apart in your arms for the last time. And I felt free to do what I want, because of the things you told me. Because of the things you told me, I felt free…”, isn’t that just an incredible chorus? So far they’d done two of the three singles from the “Blue Sky Noise” record, and no it was time for the last one, “Imaginary Enemy”, which got a nice little crowd sing-a-long going, at least for each chorus. And then they left the stage, which shocked me. The time for this said 2:30 until 3:30, which made me think it would be a fairly lengthy little set. At least longer than three songs. And after that they went over to sign autographs. I ended up liking them more than I ever thought I would’ve, and had it not been a couple moths since I’d seen Trebuchet, I would’ve gone home, gotten a ticket to the CS show, and gone to the House of Blues tonight instead. Oh, why couldn’t it have been a typical Sunday night when almost no rock shows happen. But next time these guys make it through, there’s no chance I’ll pass up seeing them.

Show II: Trebuchet
The club, Hailey’s, up in Denton was hosting a Halloween show, that was well worth going to, if for no other reason than to see Trebuchet.

The first band up went by the name Power Violence, and they are definitely in the running for the worst band I’ve ever seen. They wear very hardrock with their singer doing the deep throaty scream so many of those bands do. Making it worse was their little show going on within their concert. They had a few things set up making it [the stage] look like a lab, with a scientist experimenting on a body, which eventually “woke up” and was a zombie. By the end of it some other zombies had joined in and they “killed” the scientist and proceeded to “rip out” her intestines. I’ve never been a huge fan of gore, and that just kinda disgusted me. Much like the band itself.

The night did at least get better though when The Phuss got up on stage. I didn’t really like these guys the first few times I saw them, but they’ve really grown on me since, and they definitely know how to deliver a show. Probably their best song is “Preacher Preacher” and after paying attention the last time I saw them I noticed that in the instrumental beginning of the song their drummer is more or less juggling his drum sticks. He beats on the drum with one, throws that one up in the air, catches the one that was in the air but is falling back towards him, then repeats, many times over. It’s pretty neat to watch, and I can’t imagine how much concentration it must take. They did a couple more songs before coming to an abrupt end. As the crowd was waiting for more their singer said, “That’s it. We’re done. We’re trying to stay on time and give Trebuchet the time they deserve.”.

Trebuchet was next, and three of their members wore costumes on stage. Justin (Charlie Chaplin), Dustin (Clyde of Bonnie & Clyde), and Keith, who to me looked like an 80’s rock star, but maybe he was someone else. The best of them was Justin, who not only looked like Charlie Chaplin, but had all of his moves down too, which made it pretty funny seeing him walking around on stage while twirling his cain. Since it was Halloween there really was no better song choice to open with then their one about zombies. I’ve heard this song a lot over the past year+, but I’ve never heard it sound so good! Normally Dustin just starts shredding away at it, but before hand he played a few of the chords and then pressed on his guitar, distorting the sound slightly. Then after a few moments of that he cut loose into the song. They followed that up with another new one, and one I don’t recall hearing before. Or maybe since I’m seeing them once every 3 to 4 weeks anymore I’m starting to forget how some of the newer tunes go. It sounded almost as if that song was cut off right in the middle when they changed gears and Bobby started pounding out the beats to “Black Beard”. They slowed things down a bit next with “An Ominous Ode to the Hills Part 1”, which featured a violinist (I believe Petra Kelly of the band Spooky Folk). And it made the song sound even better. They took a moments break and I was just waiting for them to start “Hills Part 2”, cause well, whenever I’ve seen them do one they always follow it up with 2. But not tonight. So it did shock me a bit when they started “Ego Trip” next. They then finished out the night with “The Powers of Speech”, another new song, and finally, “Intelligent Design”. They put on a fantastic show, as they always do. And I was a little sad to find out this was most likely their last show for a couple more months. But I guess I can wait that long, and it’ll just make me like them more when I see them next.

There was one more band after them, The Wee Beasties, but what I’d listened to I didn’t think they sounded much better than the first act, so I decided to call it a night.

September 18, 2010 - Exit 380

I usually make one trip up to Denton a month, and tonight it was time for that monthly trip. This time to the club, Hailey’s, which was playing host to a really great line-up of music.

It started with a band called Elkheart. The first several songs they played I didn’t much care for, as they were using an acoustic guitar and it was the most prevalent instrument. And it really sounded more like slow paced country songs. But towards the end things picked up. Their music still had a bit of a country sound to it, but I liked it much more now. And their last several songs were really pretty good and at least enjoyable.

The Orange was up second. Or at least the new incarnation of The Orange. They broke up, give or take, a year and a half ago. No word at first that they’d even disbanded. Only later did frontman, Scott Tucker, make the announcement. It was sad, first off because they were a realy talented and incredible band. And secondly, because I’d really just became a fan and had only caught a couple shows. And then, at the end of July of this year, they made their return to the Dallas music scene. And I was very eager to see them once again and see what they were like. Scott is the only original member left in the band, but really that’s all that matters. I’m not saying other band members arn’t integral, but in my opinion the singer is who defines a band, cause only that person has that voice. Their around thirty minute set was comprised mainly of new songs, like the opener, “Blow Up”. At the strat of the next song, they, specifically Scott, made the only slip-up I saw them make. He played guitar for a few sseconds at the start of the song before taking his guitar off. He was doing that in such a hurry, he hit the mic with his guitar, making a little feedback sound. But he quickly recovered, putting his guitar down and grabbing the mic and he started running and jumping about the stage. And all that reminded me what a good and active frontman he is. They did a few more songs, including a really good instrumental piece, beforwe they finally got to the only song I really knew. “Nip/Tuck”. A really fast paced, catchy, rock song that you just can’t resist getting into. And then they only had time for one more, finishing with a song entitled “Cityscape”. They put on a great show and they were everything I remembered them being. I was a bit dissappointed that one particular song wasn’t played, but I learned from Scott afterwards that it would be worked into live shows soon. I know I’ve said Dallas has been lacking some truly great bands in the past few years, but with the return of the Orange, it’s one more step in the right direction.

Third up was Traffico, who had more of an Americana/Folk Rock sound going. I guess my musical preferences are expanding, cause I’m starting to like that sound more and more. They sounded great, even when they slowed things down for one song, it still seemed to flow and fit with the rest of their set. And their singer had a really good voice, and I liked that at the end of almost every song he would softly croon “Traffico.”. I guess he was wanting to make sure everyone knew who they were, and after seeing them I think everyone should.

Exit 380 was headlining, and it had been a LONG time since I’d seen them. Almost a year and a half to be exact. And it was very evident there had been some changes. The most noticeable were a keyboard set up by the center mic which frontman, Dustin Blocker, played and lead guitarist, Aaron Borden, was playing a steel guitar in soundcheck. It’d also been so long I’d forgotten they’d added a second guitarist, Jeremy Hutch, who is the brother of their bassist, The Hutch. And while I’m doing their names I’ll go ahead and throw drummer, Bobby Shoes, name in there. And when everything was all set they opened with “Daddy Was a Freight Train”. It’s from their upcoming “Cities Townies” record (a five song EP is currently available), with the townies stuff being more geared towards country music, which was exactly what this song, and the next, “Moonshiner Run”, were. I haven’t been very overwhelmed with the recordings, but live they come across very well. And it’s totally the opposite of how I was used to seeing them, with Aaron sitting in a chair, playing a steel guitar, and just all around much more relaxed. That didn’t last to long though as Aaron moved the chair out of the way and changed out for an electric guitar and began a very familiar song that I’d not heard in way too long. “Quid Pro Quo”. “Get on your knees if you want to leave. Corporate prostitution’s easy if you scream. The poor and the hungry are the one’s who are free…”, Blocker sang out, a line that I’ve always been fond of. They kept the rock flow going with a song mining in the same vein as “QPQ”, and one from the cities side of things, “Street Trash View”. I’ve listened to the recording several times, but it in no way compares to the live version, which really gets the rock juices flowing. They slowed things down again, just a bit, as Blocker busted out his harmonica, and started my favorite E380 song, “2 Lie”. I was not expecting to hear this one as I only had once before when the “Last Monday” album was still new, and I figured by now it had disappeared from the live shows. But I’m glad to see it hasn’t. The surprises kept coming as they did a couple from the “Life & Death…” record, the mostly instrumental “Sinfull Bliss” which segues perfectly into “Sweet Remorse”. Those couple of songs are slower paced, and they brought it down another couple notches with another townies song, “Run for the Gold”. “We like to do the townies stuff alot.” Blocker said before hand, “Cause it’s different from what we usually do and we’ve really enjoyed changing things up.” The next several came also came off the “Life & Death..” record, which Blocker also set up. “A couple years ago we released a concept album that got mixed reviews. It was like people either really loved it or hated it. We don’t care cause we love it, and this is the first song off it.” It was “The House and the Tree”. And upon finishing it, they brought it right into “Funeral”. “The Wrangler” came next, and then my favorite song from that record, and another I didn’t plan on hearing, “Whistle In the Wind”. With the very, I’d say beautiful, or at least very true, line “…Time is heartless, time is cold…”. “How ‘bout we do a little Caught In a Lie?” Blocker asked his bandmates, setting up the next song. The next song they did was a request for a girl who was having a birthday, and I could hardly believe what I was hearing as they started it. Jeremy had traded out his electric guitar for an acoustic, that he only played for a few seconds before unplugging it and going back to the electric. And then the song started to really take shape. It was “Dammit”, a softer and even a little depressing song, that was done in the early 2000’s, and captures a completely different sound of E380, and is just proof that they’re ever changeing. And then they finished their hour and five minute set with “Crazy Now”. It was an amazing set of songs they’d just churned out, but the fans (whom their were only about ten of left in the entire club.) wanted more, and each person shouted out at different times “DEATH MARCH!”. Aaron seemed gung-ho for it, but when he turned to Blocker to get an answer Blocker shook his head no. It still was an incredible show and I really like the duality of the cities and townies songs, cause it’s not to often you can hear one band play two totally different styles of music. It’d been so long since I’d seen them I’d forgotten how good they were, but after tonight they made a huge comeback in my book. And I won’t let another year and a half go by before seeing them again.