Arlington certainly isn’t the city you first think of when you think about going to catch a local rock show. In fact, the last few concerts I caught at clubs in this town were memorable, but for all the wrong reasons (that’s a whole other story).
I expected better results this night though, as I headed for The Chuggin’ Monk.
It’s still a relatively new venue, and only six months they’ve gotten quite a bit of great talent to play their stage, and while I’ve wanted to see more than a few of those past shows that have taken place here, the lineup this night was finally one I couldn’t pass up.
Zativah Kid was the first band on deck, a band I had seen nearly a year before, though they didn’t have my full attention, as I chatted with a variety of people, from members of the other bands who were playing, to Mike of the band Betray the Dreamer, some of the crew from DFW Undercover and so on.
All the same, what I did really watch of their set was entertaining, and I would definitely say they’ve tightened up since I first saw them, being more solid live, and just putting on a good old fashioned rock show.
“…You know what this one is.” frontman Benjamin Bachman remarked as their set came to an end, as their handful of fans who were there shouted out a couple of different song titles. “Freebird!” one guy shouted. “You got it! It’s Freebird.” Benjamin replied, going along with the joke, which was a welcome change from how many bands seem to get pissed about it. Of course, that wasn’t the song, though.
“This is Fast and Easy.” stated Benjamin, as they closed with the high-octane track.
It looks like their next show will be April 18th at O’Riley’s in Dallas, and if you’d like to get a taste of what they sound like, you can sample one track over on REVERBNATION.
Following them was the Denton based, Idler, who had, had some downtime over the last couple of months, as they restructured the band.
Back in October, their female vocalist, Katie Frank, made a personal move out-of-state, though the position wasn’t vacant for long, as they quickly welcomed Mercedes Ann into the mix as the sixth member.
I hadn’t seen them since that happened, though, and not only was I excited about simply seeing another Idler show, but I was also interested to see what this new version was like.
“Has anyone ever watched Top Gun?” frontman Micah Frank asked the crowd, of course getting some cheers from people who had. “…This song is from it…” he informed everyone, noting it had been written by Kenny Loggins.
He proceeded to let loose a flawless high-pitched scream to get “Highway To The Danger Zone” underway. It came as a surprise to me that they opened with that song (out of the handful of times I’ve seen them, it’s typically their closer), but it worked well, and in more ways than one. It was a good way to pump everyone up, as they do a killer version of the song, and it also didn’t take long to hear what Mercedes was capable of, as she did the singing on the verses.
Their first original song of the night was one of a few new ones, new to the point I don’t believe I had ever heard it before. It was titled “Give it a Rest”, and it was an awesome song with some cool breaks thrown in, as the lead guitar, drums and bass fell silent, while rhythm guitarist Nick Laracuente kept knocking out some sweet riffs.
“What’s up Arlington?!” Micah asked everyone, before mentioning their next song was one off their debut EP, and was called “Go for Broke”. Not only is it an awesome duet, but I still like the fact that it shows off the broad range Micah is capable of; going from his perfect pitched/toned voice one moment, to screaming the next, to the point he sounds like he belongs in a hardcore metal band. Hell, it’s even a fairly brutal rock song in general, with some often intense drumming from Ritchie Rangel.
“How’s everybody feeling?” asked Micah after that song had concluded. He pointed out the next track was yet another from their EP, and EP he said he’d give to anyone who wanted a copy, if only they had, had any with them. The song he was referring to was “Lose Control”, and once they were done with it, Nick started cutting up.
He and Mercedes died laughing, as Micah, Ritchie, bassist Bo Hutchinson and lead guitarist Mykey O’Neil gave them a funny look, just wondering what they had missed out on. “Nick just said, ‘peace in yo crease.” Mercedes answered, causing the rest of the band as well as the crowd to start laughing. “…Now I feel weird, ‘cause we don’t have any songs about peace to do.” Micah stated, as they instead settled for the first song they ever wrote as a band. “I’m glad y’all are here to see and hear it.” he said to everyone.
That was a fact I didn’t know before, and seeing as “Kings and Queens” is my personal favorite Idler tune, it was an interesting one to learn.
The banter with the crowd continued, when Micah asked one woman how many drinks she had, had so far, then asked a guy the same question. Each answered five. “…So, with five plus five, how many would be left if y’all had a twelve pack?” was the question he posed, and it was answered by Mykey. “You get a gold star!” Mercedes told him, as they joked that they do like College football programs, giving each other a star to go on their helmets. “They say ‘We’re proud of you.” Mercedes said while continuing to laugh, before Micah chimed in. “Yeah, we need to keep everyone motivated.”
“We have some people here.” he said, before they went on to their next song, calling out the folks from DFW Undercover, as well as myself. That led them to “Vendetta”, a song Mercedes flat out killed it on as she began the track. It was just the way she sang, “Your smile, it follows your two faced words…” that sounded so fantastic, and sold me on the fact that these couldn’t have asked for a better replacement.
“I keep pulling this fucking mic down.” Micah remarked as he raised the stand a bit. He then took a moment to formally introduce his band mates, adding “Mister.” before each person… Including Mercedes. There was a seemingly long pause as Micah had to think on his feet as to how to safe himself, and lucky for him he had not named Ritchie yet. “…I’m not a mister.” Mercedes emphasized, after she had congratulated Micah on that nice save.
They were about to start their next song, before stopping, as Ritchie got the spotlight, doing a pretty badass drum solo, that lasted a good minute or so. They then launched into my favorite new track of theirs, “Underneath Me”. It was a highlight of their set, due largely to the great chemistry Micah and Mercedes had going on during it. He handled the first verse, and she the second, when she turned to him and belted, “I’m number one, your number two, you’re underneath me.” pointing at herself and then him as she sang. She even added a hint of sass to the last line, “…Don’t fucking talk to me.”
They kind of segued the end of it into their next song, “Pitchfork”, as Nick lightly plucked the strings of his guitar. “I fucking love this song.” said Micah, talking out loud rather than informing everyone of that. There’s no denying that it is a great song, and arguably their best.
“Do we have time for one more?” Micah asked, and after finding out they did, they wrapped things up with another song from their newer batch, “Cigarette”. Well, at least it seemed like they were done.
Sure, it was pre-planned, but all the same, everyone who was watching them was grateful they had enough time for one more song, and it was another cover. “Do y’all want to do some Justin Timberlake?” Micah asked. “No, no. Not that. How about some Megadeth?” he asked. Mykey then played a few notes on his guitar, as Micah sang just one line from on of their songs, which I believe was “Symphony of Destruction”. That still wasn’t what they were doing, though.
Instead, they tried their hand at “Almost Easy” by Avenged Sevenfold. They did a cool rendition of it, and Idler’s sound (on some songs) is heavy enough that this one was well within their realm, and Micah let out a near deafening scream on the final line, “Come back again, it’s almost easy.”, bringing their 40-minute set to an end.
For me, it’s too early to say whether or not this newest version of Idler is an improved one, though they are every bit as great as they always have been.
Even their performance seemed improved from the last time I had seen them, and even with the smaller confines of the stage, they managed to make it work and still moved around a good deal.
And going back to that chemistry Micah and Mercedes had going; it adds a completely new element to their live show. It may not have been prevalent in every song they did, but it was there, and it really helps elevate their performance.
In the end, there’s no doubt this is only the beginning of an exciting new chapter for Idler, and I’m looking forward to seeing how it all unfolds.
If you like free music, you can get their self-titled EP as well as their cover of “Highway to the Danger Zone” on REVERBNATION, at no cost to you. You can also see them live on February 22nd at Hailey’s in Denton, or on march 8th at The Boiler Room in Dallas.
After them, it was, at least for me, kinda of like déjà vu from two weeks before, since the final two bands had been on the same bill at a club in Dallas.
One of those bands was The Raven Charter, who, like the last band was a six-piece rock outfit. However, since one of those instruments was a keyboard, the stage wasn’t quite as roomy for them. Still, they made the best of it, and it never seemed to impede them.
They kicked off their 46-minute long set by partially doing one of their classics, “Survival Kit”. The instrumental piece lays the foundation of what great musicians they are, like guitarists Brandon Bond and Daniel Baskind for example, who add a slick style to even the more relaxed plucking of the strings, before cutting loose on the monstrous rock number, which also boasts some awesome key parts from Erik Stolpe.
A few minutes in, Garrett Bond stepped on stage, entering from stage left. When he got to center stage, he turned towards Brian Christie and his drum kit, slapping some of the cymbals with his hand. “Survival Kit” died out then, as Brian quickly counted them into “No Direction”, doing an almost seamless segue. “I look to the left, and I look to the right, to avoid the darkness, but I haven’t found the light…” Garrett and Daniel crooned, harmonizing shortly before finally hitting the tracks chorus. There was even a cool reverb effect added to the tail end of the song, as “No direction and no reason to persevere and reclaim you…” resonated after Garrett snag it.
“What up, Arlington?!” he asked once the song was over, also asking if anyone else was drinking. “…I’m already half drunk…” he stated, before they knocked out a newer number. I think I said this same thing when I saw them a couple weeks prior, but I’ll say it again; this is one of the best songs I think they’ve ever done.
It packs one helluva punch, and even at the beginning Brandon and bassist Anthony Sosa were clearly having fun, as they faced one another and thrashed about. The music itself is so fast paced and intense, there’s just a real sense of urgency to it that demands and commands your full attention. “This won’t last forever, we’re on borrowed time. If this is our last night ever, I’m gonna make you mine!” Garrett, Brandon and Daniel shout on the pulse-pounding chorus. Needless to say, I can’t wait until they get some new music recorded, specifically that track.
Speaking of a new Raven Charter album, that was a topic Garrett tackled during their next break. He stated that, after six months, they had finally settled on a studio. “…We’re a bunch of high-maintenance, dipshit motherfuckers…” he joked, adding that next month would be when they started tracking.
That led them to a couple more newer (newish) songs, the first of which was titled “Stream”. “Like water. Not like piss.” Garrett clarified after it was done. It was a good track too, and Anthony spent much of the song standing on the stage left corner of the drum riser, getting down to the music he and his band mates were cranking out.
“What’s next?” Garrett asked the rest of the band, then quickly hurried off stage to grab an acoustic guitar. They went directly into “Freela Deela”, which was one of the songs that Daniel took over as the lead vocalist, with Garrett often backing him up, as well as singing the second verse. I’m sure I’ve heard that song live before, though I don’t remember it, and as killer as the single they released of it is, it doesn’t do the live version justice.
Upon finishing it, a few fans/friends screamed loudly in approval. “I like screams…” Garrett remarked, before again thanking the Chuggin’ Monk for having them and all the other bands out. Soon, Brian started his fancy drum work that begins the lead and title track from their most recent release, 2011’s “Kidnapping”. I still like the little touch they’ve added to it, with Garrett singing along for just a sentence or two, before ceding things over to Daniel on the verses. This was also perhaps the best song of the night, because Anthony suddenly left the stage, mingling with the fans as he rocked out on his bass, while doing one of his signature moves; quickly high stepping. It didn’t take long before Garrett joined him out there, which was when Anthony started running circles around the singer.
It was a fun moment for everyone, and as they got ready for their next song, Garrett whispered in the microphone, “It’s about Mega Man.”
I don’t know if that’s true or not, however, “Thousand Worlds” is another classic from these guys, predating Garrett’s time in the band, and I’m glad it’s still sticking around. And the subtle use of the harmonica Garrett has started adding to the end of the song really adds to it.
After that, Anthony took a moment to shout out the media people who were there, from Charlie Vann of UTA Radio, to DFW Undercover, as well as thanking me for a “amazing review” about their last Dallas gig. On that note, there will never be a time where I won’t find something like to be incredibly humbling.
All of a sudden, Daniel and Garrett swapped spots, as they got ready for “Tailchaser”. Garrett hit some awesome falsetto notes on some of the backing vocals on that first verse, to the point it was impressive, ‘cause I didn’t know his range went that high. Still, it was Daniels’ show, as he sang in a smooth, even semi-soulful manner, “We’ve got all night to think ‘bout tomorrow. We’ll get lost in the passion, forget all our sorrows…” That’s just another one of the fantastic songs “The Kidnapping” EP has to offer, and as it neared the end, Brandon fell to his knees, shredding away on his axe.
“Go-go gadget Raven Charter.” said Garrett when the song had ended, which led to a story about how they were asked by Inspector Gadget to be a part of one of his devices, but told him they didn’t know how comfortable they’d be with six of them being inside him.
Man, not only were they on the mark with the music tonight, but the jokes were also topnotch.
They had one last new song to give everyone, a song that had a great lull during the middle of it. It actually sounded like the end, and had a certain lullaby quality to it. Then, just as you thought it was over, Erik, Brian, Brandon, Daniel and Anthony came back in strong, as it morphed into a forceful rock number.
“This song’s called Denton, TX.” Garrett informed everyone, as they launched into their final song of the night. “I’m free, let loose on the scene with a mind to disrupt and destroy all that I see…” he belted at the start. When you think about it, it’s really an interesting song, in the sense it doesn’t follow the traditional songwriting method, and has no real chorus. Instead, it just tells a story over several verses, and before the fifth one, Daniel went over to his amp, creating some feedback in advance of the song roaring back into action. They then finished it in style, and while it was somewhat hard to see, Erik was back there lifting his keyboard up with one hand, while using the other to continue playing.
What a show this was. In some ways, I even liked more than that Dallas one back on the 17th, because they had more time to not only play more music, but also be more themselves (i.e. the joking), as they weren’t quite as rushed.
If you’re looking for a phenomenal live band who knows how to handle themselves on stage and deliver a crowd pleasing performance, then you’re not going to find many better than The Raven Charter.
In fact, watching them this night, it was hard not to think of how far they’ve come.
It was sometime around ’09 or ’10 when I first saw them, and even then they set their shows apart from many other bands, and have since only tightened things up, putting them on a whole other level. Not only that, but even stylistically they’ve changed (are changing) their sound, but their music still retains the core elements that make them The Raven Charter in the first place.
Head over to REVERBNATION to download their two newest singles for free, and their two EP’s can be found in iTUNES. Also, be sure to keep your ears peeled for new music from them later on this year. As for shows, they’ll be at Leon’s Lounge in Oklahoma City on February 22nd, and then have a gig in Fort Worth on February 28th at The Grotto. Their next Dallas show will be March 7th at Trees, opening for Nothing More (DO NOT miss that one. Because if you haven’t seen Nothing More, then you don’t know what a real rock experience is.) You can also catch them in Denton at Rubber Gloves on March 29th.
(Photo credit: Mike Garcia of Betray the Dreamer)
Like I said, it’ll be hard to find a better live band than what those guys are, but following them, and closing out the night, was Daylight Industries, whose right up there in that same category.
Frontman Keith Allen stood out amongst the people once they were all set up (the stage here is maybe half a foot off the floor), and he bantered a minute before they even got going. “…We smoked a shit load…” he remarked, before they got one of their new songs underway.
Regardless of what they had done, it didn’t have much of an impact on their show (well, at least not in any negative way), and they destroyed the stage just during that first song. It helped with Keith being out there, too, giving bassist Barry Townsend and guitarists Brandon Tyner and Ruvayne Weber more room to dash about, and they’re one band who will utilize every inch of space they have.
Halfway through the song or so, Brandon joined Keith out there, his guitar cable knocking over Keiths’ beer, which he picked up as soon as he could, though a good bit had already spilled. He looked sadden by it, but kept on going nonetheless.
Stephen Smith used his drum sticks to quickly count them into the next song, which was one off the still fairly new “Faith Healer” EP, “Lesson Learned”. It’s one of the songs that really benefits from having Ruvayne on as a second guitarist, and he makes this already hard-hitting, catchy rock number even better.
“I see my friends. I see people in the back. I like you…” Brandon stated after the song, talking first of course about those watching them, and then all the other people who were grouped around the bar in the back. “I like you too, pool tables.” he finished, pointing over to the multiple pool tables on the other side of the room. “This song’s about Whitney Houston’s hospital ride…” Keith then informed everyone, leading to a little band debate on whether or not that was appropriate or not. “It’s not too soon, anymore.” Barry chimed in, as they kept the joking up, exchanging her name for Steve Irwin and I also believe Michael Jackson.
While that was going on, a couple of people evidently made their way to the door, and Brandon called them out on it, trying to get them to stay, but to no avail. “I was going to name my fifth child after you!” Keith yelled, almost trying to plead with them to stay. It was their loss, though, ‘cause they missed a stellar rock show.
During “Aphasia”, both Brandon and Keith made their way back on stage, though they didn’t stay there for the rest of the night. Before the second chorus of the song, there’s a pause of sorts, where Brandon is playing some sweet notes. It was during that time that Steve rose up from his kit, standing for just a second or two, before sitting back down, smacking the cymbals as he did so.
The joking with the audience continued during the next break, when Brandon said something along the lines of how much they loved everyone for sticking around. “Fuck you. We don’t love you. We don’t appreciate you.” Keith started saying, joking, of course. “No, that means we do love you.” Brandon started in, leaving Keith unsure of what to say or where to go from there. “Fuck it, I’m done.” he replied. Almost as if that had been planned, they took that as a cue to start the next song, which was “Junkie Logic”.
“What’s next?” Steve could be heard asking as soon as that song came to an end. “Oh, shit!” he replied after hearing what it was, a fitting response since I assume the song is a pretty taxing one on all of them. “This song’s about DUI’s.” Keith told everyone, before they kicked off “Wandering”. Brandon hopped back out in the crowd for that one, jumping all around, nearly hitting a few people, as he was so caught up in the music.
“Take your shirts off!” shouted some of their friends/girlfriends(?) after the song. “You don’t want that. We’re a bunch of fat guys with tiny penises and we have man boobs.” said Barry. Talk then went to the next song, which was about a recently passed law in Colorado they were about. “We’re talking about smoking weed.” Barry specified, as Brandon said something about partaking in it. “Anything said at the Chuggin’ Monk, stays at the Chuggin’ Monk.” he then shouted (well, unless of course I’m there and do a review of the show, that is. Ha.), like he didn’t want any of this getting out.
“We got the timing of song correct!” Keith shouted a few times, jumping around with glee, as Brandon started up the slightly Reggae sounding “Western Sky”. Yeah, it’s a bit of a departure from the rest of their music, but it’s quite a good song.
Upon finishing it, Keith thanked The Raven Charter for playing with them, shouting out their lesser known member, who he referred to as “Nips”. The Raven Charter had a partial mannequin with one of their shirts on it, and Anthony brought it over to Keith, who held it up and put his face where the crotch would have been, and well, you get the idea.
It was entertaining to see, for sure, and the laughs were still far from over. They, too, shouted out some people who were, before Keith looked at me. “How about Jordan The Music Enthusiast?” “Yeah, Jordan the Music Enthusiast!” Brandon exclaimed, before Keith again said the same thing, trailing off at the end into nonsensical gibberish, which was hilarious.
“Let’s hurry and finish so we can do more drugs.” he said to his band mates, before continuing to talk, pointing out they had CD’s and shirts for sale, which could easily be stolen since they were a bit preoccupied at the moment. “I stole a Coors sign.” he added, which he had lifted from the venue and placed behind their merch display, apologizing to the Chuggin’ Monk for the fact that it would probably be going home with them.
“Faith Healer” came next in the setlist, after which they called out a few guys who were playing pool, asking who was winning. “We haven’t started yet.” they replied, which prompted Keith to ask if they could place bets on them. Ruvayne went in at a whopping fifty cents, and while I was laughing at it, they didn’t seem to find it as funny. “Go on, get back to what you’re doing.” Brandon told them, before talk turned to the next track.
“This song’s about my bitch wife. I love her, but still…” Keith said, catching more than a few people off guard. Brandon stepped up to her defense, saying she was a sweet lady who makes some of the best pasta he had ever had, before Keith interrupted him. “If you buy our CD, it makes her dick bigger.”
It’s a good thing you can’t die from laughter, ‘cause I might have been close to it at this point. They then got back into rock mode with “Sit In”, which is possibly the best song off their EP. Steve again stood up at one point during the tune, while Barry hopped up on the drum riser and spent much of his time jumping back and forth while he slapped his bass.
They were almost done at this point, and for some inexplicable reason, Keith started speaking Spanish. Not much, but he said something. “…Whatever you call that green stuff that you smoke.” he finished, not knowing the Spanish word for pot.
“Chichi.” Ruvayne told him. “Wait, I thought that was boobs?” Keith responded, looking shocked, before disregarding it completely. “The point is; we’re trying to say we love tits and weed.” he finished. Brandon then called out some more people who were leaving, again saying they loved them. “No we don’t!” Keith yelled at them.
With all that, that went on, you would think they had probably been on stage nearly an hour, but they hadn’t. In fact, after wrapping their set up with the astounding “White Russians”, they had only been playing for 39-minutes.
It was a memorable 39-minutes, though.
First off, I want to go ahead and point out that, despite what I titled this, this show was far from a debacle (it just sounded good.)
Where they pretty drunk? Yeah. They even joked about that during the show, saying The Raven Charter had done a good job at trying to be the drunkest band of the night, but they had failed.
All the same, they still delivered a show a lot of bands couldn’t put on, on their best night.
They made this gig as energy packed as possible, even though there weren’t too many people watching them, they still gave those who were there their money’s worth… And then some.
They’re a fun band to see live, and not only do they want to entertain those watching, they’re also all about just having a good time doing what they enjoy doing, and they clearly do.
Go see them sometime, if you can. They’ll be at Reno’s in Dallas on February 22nd, and then the Curtain Club on March 8th. They also have a date scheduled at The Railhead in Lawton, Oklahoma on March 22nd. If you want to listen to their music, you can get their new album plus some live cuts for free on their REVERBNATION PAGE, and go to iTUNES to get their first EP, as well as a full live show recording.
(Photo credit: Mike Garcia of Betray the Dreamer)
When it was all said and done, this had been an awesome night here in Arlington.
The Chuggin’ Monk has something that will appeal to everyone, from the live music, to the pool tables and arcade games, and it’s a cool place.
No, the sound isn’t quite on par with the major venues of Dallas, Denton or Fort Worth, but I was pleasantly surprised at how good things sounded this night.
So, here’s to hoping they have a prosperous venture as this establishment, and keep getting the top grade talent in. Because if they do, I could see this becoming a destination for all of the areas local music lovers in no time.