Friday, June 22nd, 2013 – Nothing More

Trees was the place to be this night, as the venue played host to a night of local bands, some from the Dallas area, and others were more regional, hailing from other parts of Texas.

One of those regional bands was The Last Place You Look, a band that primarily sticks to their hometown of Houston, making this Dallas show a rare one for the group.

They had brought some lights with them, as four panels set scattered across the pitch black stage, while the four instrumentalists produced some notes and beats to lead them into their first song. Then, vocalist Nava strode on stage as they exploded into a track from their “See the Light Inside You” record, “Don’t Make it so Easy”. Being relatively early, there wasn’t much of a crowd, but those who were there seemed instantly captivated by the raw rock sound and Navas’ booming bass voice, which is one of the most unique ones out there. “…We’ll all change the world someday, just don’t forget what we’re fighting for…” he belted out on the chorus of that killer track. As soon as it came to an end, guitarists, Derek Young and Richard Sherwood, drummer, Mikey Garcia and bassist Kevin Pool wound them into another dynamic track from their most recent album, “Just Let it Go”.

“It’s been about three years since the last time we played Dallas.” Said Nava, adding, “We’ve written some new stuff in three years.” With that, they did a couple of newer tracks, both of which were every bit as aggressive and fast-paced as their older songs, though there might have been a little more of an edge to the new stuff. The audience barely had time to applaud the band of that second new song when they launched into “Lie to the Silence”, and afterwards slowed things down a bit with “Band to Save Me”. It’s hard evidence that they are capable of more than just roaring guitar riffs and heavy bass lines and drum beats, as it has more of a slow acoustic vibe, before cresting to a point that can rival their other stuff.

During one last conversation with the crowd, Nava mentioned they shouldn’t wait another three years to come back to Dallas, a sentiment everyone seemed to agree with, and then noted they had two songs left. “Come on, Dallas!” shouted Mikey as they tore off on another song, which was arguably one of the best of their set, then ended their 35-minute long set with “I’ve Got a Question for You… Why Are You Still Here?”, which is one of their most brutal songs, and brought things to a fantastic finish.

I understand why The Last Place You Look was relegated to the first slot, since they aren’t that well known in these parts, but they deserved to go on much later than what they did. Every aspect of their performance was very well calculated, and there’s no way you could watch them and just think they are your run-of-the-mill band.

Nava was electric, storming about the stage, making the most out of the little room he had, and did everything from jumping up on the drum riser to standing on the monitors, towering over the crowd. Richard, Derek and Kevin were a little more confined with their movements, but their musicianship managed to balance it out, as they shredded on their instruments, often in pretty tight synchronize with the drums, which Kevin was playing like no one’s business.

Honestly, they’re show is every bit as good as many national touring bands, and hopefully they’ll bring that lively performance back to Dallas sometime soon. At least sooner than three years from now.

Now that their tour with Nothing More is done, the calendar for The Last Place You Look is empty, but keep an eye on it, ‘cause they’ll surely be doing something soon. In the meantime, they have an LP and an EP you can and should check out in iTUNES.

Following them up was Dallas’s own Ursa, who I hadn’t seen in about a year, and they had been laying low as of late.

“Let’s do this.” You heard singer Michael Keeney say, before the lights dimmed and the curtain was drawn open.

“This Is Your Captain Speaking” began their brief 32-minute long set, and it served as a good warm-up song for the band, while being one that actively engaged their fans. The quintet had some new songs peppered in throughout their set, and did one here, and it helped them hit their stride as they found their performer personas. They had just seemed a bit rigid during that opening number, but now guitarists Jovan Santos and Dave Perez sprang more into action, commanding the audience better, while Michael started to more prowl about the stage as he does in a way that is completely unique to his character.

They solidified their footing on one of their fan favorites, “Aim to Please”, where Michaels’ voice soared on the chorus, “…I will break your fall to absorb your pain…” Considering their long absence from a stage, they had gotten back in the swing of things pretty quickly, and their next two new songs, which were segued together, were the best of their show. The first of the two was very percussion driven, and the credit for that goes to the talented drummer Ross Rubio, and bassist Pat Llull helped round out that rhythm sound. The next tune featured some catchy guitar riffs, and was just all around a killer song.

Their set wound down just like their self-titled debut album does, with the next to last track from it, “Buffalo”, which is equal parts instrumental music and vocal parts, and at around six minutes (give or take) in length, it’s easily their most epic song. It was followed by the subsequent and final song on the record, “Apogee”, which brought their set to a mighty finish.

It was a pretty great, though it seemed to pass by all too quickly. Not that, that’s necessarily a bad thing, it just means it was so enjoyable it didn’t seem as long as it really was.

They really took charge of things and owned it, and honestly, this was probably the second best show I’ve seen the band put on. Aside from that, they just have some well crafted music that is sure to get your attention, and Michael has a more distinctive voice than most singers do.

You can download their first album for free by going to their REVERBNATION PAGE, and while there you can also have a listen to one of the new tracks from their forthcoming record.

Moving Atlas was supposed to have the main support slot this night, but a family emergency with one of the band members meant they had to cancel. Picking up the slack for them, though, was Little Sisters of the Poor, which does happen to feature one-fifth of Moving Atlas, and this was only the bands third electric show.

The super group ripped into their 45-minute long set with one of the two singles they had released thus far, “Spires”. The driving drumbeats Gabe Muzquiz was playing at the start definitely called everyone’s attention to the band, and things only got better as the guitars and bass lines were laid over it. It thrust everyone right into the music, giving everyone a pretty good idea of what the band was about, and they continued their barrage of music as Jason Jones wound them right into their next song, which I believe was “Love, Money and Death”, with some sweet licks. From it they transitioned directly (and smoothly) into their next song before taking a break after finishing it.

“We are called Little Sisters of the Poor.” Said front man Dunagin Gaines, who soon announced the bands next song, “Ruins”. I recalled it being one of my favorites from their first gig, though it got off to a slower start than I remembered. It soon exploded into one of their best songs of the night, though, with Dunagin aggressively shouting part of the chorus, “…Structures turn to ruins. Ruins turn to bones…” Afterwards, they changed the mood up with a song that got off to a bit of a slow, eerie start, which was rather behooving of the song and set an excellent mood. Eventually, it rose to life, though, and at one point during it Dunagin even hopped up on the drum riser than leapt off it.

“This is what we call dead air.” He said in the silence that followed that previous song, which occurred because his band mates were tuning their instruments. They ran through a couple more songs, one of which was a much lighter song than most of their other stuff, though had a nice vibe to it. “I know most of these songs are new to you, but this one’s new to us.” Dunagin stated before they tackled “Truck Stop Heaven”. I dug the song at their acoustic set the previous Friday, but it sounded much better now, being fleshed out with the electric sounds from Jason and Jackson Dunn’s guitars, and bassist Joe Becker was able to get more into it now that he wasn’t having to hold back.

That led them to their final song, which was another one they laid down on their first trip to the studio and have since released. That song was “Cooker”, and it’s quite possibly the best song in the bands arsenal. It’s raw and volatile, just like any good rock song should be, and it was one last opportunity for Jackson, Joe, Jason, Gabe and Dunagin to cut loose and give it their all. Actually, on that note, Jason could be seen letting loose a few moves on his guitar that any FEDS fan would remember from that band’s song, “Housefire”.

It was one hell of a way to end one hell of a set, and before the curtain closed, Dunagin made sure to thank Moving Atlas for letting them fill the slot on this bill.

They might not have much more live show experience together as a group, but it was evident they seemed a little more cohesive then they were at their first show. But on the flip-side, with each of them being longtime veterans of the scene, it doesn’t matter much that this is still a new band for them, because they’re all completely comfortable on stage and now just how to act as performers.

They may be a very young band, but I already think they are worthy of being one of the best rock groups currently in the D/FW metroplex, and if you haven’t seen one of their shows yet, go check them out and you’ll surely end up agreeing with that.

Their next gig will be at the Curtain Club in Dallas on July 26th, and if you go into iTUNES you can find a few of their singles, and they should be releasing a few more in the coming months.

Bringing the night to a close was San Antonio’s own Nothing More, who was headlining Trees for the first time ever.

This was a big show for the band, because after touring on their last record for about four years now, they were finally getting around to releasing a new album. An album they’ve spent the last few years working on and they had been touring the region heavily since releasing it just a few weeks prior to this. In fact, Dallas was the seventh stop on the tour that encompassed various parts of Texas and the neighboring states.

At 12:08 the lights dimmed and the rather large crowd roared with excitement as the band eased into their massive set…

An instrumental prelude started off their set, and Daniel Oliver was seen strumming the strings of his bass rather than plucking them, which made a very fluid sound. Some guitar riffs and slight drumbeats were eventually added in, courtesy of Mark Vollelunga and Paul O’Brien, respectively. Mark even raised his guitar to his mouth, plucking a few strings with his teeth, resulting in a killer, ear piercing sound, but it wasn’t until the backing track kicked on that the song was revealed. It was the lead track from their new self-titled record and one of the small handful of new tracks that has been in their live set for a while, now, and that was “Ballast”.

“When did we become these sinking stones? When did we build this broken home?…” roared singer Jonny Hawkins at the start of this newer and immediate fan favorite, which had a majority of the crowd already singing along and pumping their fists in the air as things got off to a ferocious start. They followed it right up with one of many songs that made their Dallas debut this night, and one I had been anxiously waiting to hear live for a very long time, “Christ Copyright”. Jonny belted out the chorus, “They’re selling heaven tonight. Sign on the dotted line. They got your Christ on copyright.”, as did the throng of passionate fans who were obviously already very deeply invested in the bands set.

Sure, this night was all about the new album, but some older stuff was still sprinkled throughout the show, and bridging that song to the next was an instrumental from the old “Save You/Save Me” record, “Under The Eyes of Selene”, which is dominated by Mark as he shredded on his axe. It soon gave way to the song it is a prelude to, “Sixty Second Affair”, a song that I’m glad still has a place in the bands setlist. The song is just one of a plethora of examples of how tight a unit Nothing More really is, with Dan and Mark adding some backing vocals on the chorus, “I feel, I feel.” With Jonny chiming in right after, “I’m going out of my mind.” Granted, many bands utilize backing vocals in a similar way, but it’s just different with these guys and it seems more precise than most. It was the ending, though, that took the cake, as Jonny put his drum kit to use, adding some additional percussion to the rapid beats Paul was already producing. He tore it up on his smaller three-piece kit, alternating which drum stick he was playing with and the one not in use at the moment got flipped in the air before he struck it against one of the drums.

Not long ago you could expect to hear most of “The Few Not Fleeting” record at a NoMo show, but this night only a handful of songs from it were touched. They managed to hit the highlights, though, and from that previous song wound it right into the in-your-face and emotionally charged song, “Gone”. Afterwards, they did another somewhat emotional song, though in a far different way from that previous song about Jonnys’ mother’s battle with cancer. Instead, the next song took a look at today’s society, and at the start of “Mr. MTV” Mark again used his teeth as a pick for his guitar. “…Just one bite to understand, even Eve couldn’t live without the iPlan”. That was one of the lines of that song I found the most intriguing, then, towards the end, Jonny revealed he’s still unearthing different qualities to his voice, screaming/bellowing in a very low register, reminiscent of some metal bands, on the line, “Do this, buy that. Get my drugs and sex. More drugs, want sex, need sex.”

It was then time for another oldie, and one I longed to hear, though had kept my expectations low. But as soon as Mark fired up “Bullets And Blue Eyes”, I reached a state of euphoria (or rather got more euphoric than I had already been). Even after hearing all their new stuff that one still remains my favorite nothing More song. “…You never hold me when you’re sober. To hell with our love. You drink the blood…” sang Jonny on the song’s bridge, before holding the microphone out towards the audience, allowing them to finish the line, “And I’ll drink the wine.” Sensational. Absolutely sensational.

Most times I would say that song was the pinnacle of their set, but not this night, and they weren’t anywhere close to letting up, either, as they new song that they’ve been performing for well over a year now, “First Punch”. “I’ll throw the first punch, because I’ve kept my mouth shut for far too long…” goes the chorus, setting a great mood about being fed up with a situation and taking matters into your own hands. As the song trailed off, Jonny walked over to stage right and grabbed the stand that fits into the wrought iron framework that his drums fit into, going back to his kit and placing it in its slot. Then, with the stand facing the crowd, Dan removed his bass and placed it on it. Their stunt with the bass is part of what captivates a person who witness their live shows, but a majority of their North Texas fans most likely missed the bands last stop through town, when they were on tour with Adrenaline Mob, having no clue they were about to see a whole new spin put on an old trick.

Dan ran his fingers along the strings, up and down the neck, and Mark soon joined him, standing on the opposite side of the bass and tapping some string, all the while Jonny worked Dans’ pedal board while Paul rocked out on the drums. After that had gone on a few minutes, Dan spun the rod that held the bass, causing it to do a 360 plus a 180, then was set into place upside down, with the neck pointing down at the crowd. Throughout the course of this the fans were chanting along, “HEY, HEY, HEY…” over and over, and at this point Jonny joined in, grabbing some drum sticks and jumping on top of his bass drum, using the sticks to play the bass as Mark and Dan held down the strings. Periodically, they would even quickly spin the bass over. It’s truly one of the most original things I’ve ever seen any band do, and that alone is worth going to a Nothing More show. Seriously, everyone should experience that moment firsthand at least once, and to get an idea of what I’m talking about watch THIS video.

Once they got back to their positions, Dan thanked the crowd, going as far as saying as this “ is the best night of our lives.” That’s saying a lot, and even if that might have been an overstatement, this was no doubt the best night they had ever had in Dallas.

They got back to album tracks with the extremely catchy “If I Were”, and like every other song of theirs, it’s a powerhouse tune.  “Here’s To The Heartache” was another killer number and was also quite uplifting, with the basic message being that everything happens for a reason. So far, things had been pretty standard, but they ended up having one major surprise up their sleeve, and they unveiled it now.

“…If you’ve seen us a lot, you know we never play this song…” said Jonny, a sentence that can be uttered by any band in existence in any variation and it’s guaranteed to instantly pique the interest of every fan in attendance. He added it had probably been three years since they last played it, and out of the many years I’ve been supporting these guys, the only time I ever heard this song performed live was up in Denton at the now renamed Boiler Room, probably around three to four years ago.

“You’re the ghost in my mind, thorn in my side. Sober in my dreams, you’re dead in real life…” Jonny crooned as they played the short prelude known as “Dirge”, which set up the seldom heard “Fell in Love with a Ghost”. “It’s the seasons for reasons to justify treason, you’re leaving and letting me die alone. The spirits you wear show the sins that you bear, with every drink you’re letting me go…” he sang, spitting the words out at a lightning pace. It was awesome getting to hear that song, which I look at as being one of the best tracks form their ’09 release, again, and it was one of the many highlight songs of their show.

Bridging that song to the next was a soft bass solo, as most of the stage lights dimmed, while Dan was bathed in bright white light. That served as an unexpected segue into the extremely heavy and thick, “The Matthew Effect”. It was on this song that they, specifically Jonny, made the only mistake of the show, or at least the only one I caught. He flubbed a portion of the first verse, tripping over the words and losing his place and had a brief look of disbelief, like he couldn’t believe he had done that. That makes sense, since that’s another song they’ve been doing for a while now, and every time I’ve seen them it has been flawless. It wasn’t a total disaster, though, as Mark stepped up to sing a few words before Jonny got back on track, and it was smooth sailing from then on.

During the next break in between songs, the guys made sure to dedicate this show to singer/songwriter Paco Estrada, a man whom they often said is one of the reasons they are a band, as he helped them in their formative years. Now they also thanked him for all the work he put in with helping them on this new album, and he helped co-write several of the songs they did this night. Once that was out of the way, the band welcomed Nava of The Last Place You Look on stage, saying he lent his voice on the next track, and he was going to do the same thing for the live version.

The two dynamic front men somewhat co-sang “Sex & Lies”, a song about being cheated on, and is filled with wonderful lines like, “…I wanna to hear it from the whore, the horse’s mouth…”, and, “…Now that you’ve slept with the town, I’ll burn this damn place to the ground…”. As they reached the end, the rest of The Last Place You Look ran up on stage, and just about every single one of the musicians harmonized on the final part, “Ooooh, oooh…”, which was really set off by Nava’s deep voice. Upon finishing it they joked that when they first wrote that song they never thought they’d get Nava to add some vocals on it, let alone be able to tour with the band and have them sing it that way live. “…We did imagine that when we did that song live we’d be joined by a bunch of drunken pirates, though…” Mark added laughing.

I knew they had been playing for a while, simply because of all the songs they had squeezed in, though the time had flown by, and now they had just one more left. In typical Nothing More fashion, they concluded their 66-minute long set with “Salem”, complete with one of the variations of their drum solo that they do. After the second chorus, both Dan and Mark grabbed the tom that sat on their respective sides of the stage, meeting at center stage, allowing Jonny to not only play his kit, but also bang on those two additional pieces, as the two flipped the toms around, constantly moving them to different spots in the air. Then, in closing, they got some more fan participation, as the audience shouted “BURN!” each time the mic was held out to them.

That had been one hell of a show, but there was one fan favorite that had gone un-played, and the fact that the curtain remained open gave hope that they might do it yet.

Only a few seconds passed before they returned to the stage for what they made clear would be their final song. “I used to be a slave to the cookie.” Said Dan, offering that short sentence in place of the lengthy speech that used to set up the following song, which was “Fat Kid”, and with it they rounded out the night perfectly.

Best Nothing More show ever? Possibly, at least out of the dozen plus that I’ve seen.

The time and effort they put into learning all these new songs for the live show bled through during their performance, and you could tell they had rehearsed everything to a tee, and the final payoff was these songs seeming like they had been played live hundreds of times. It was all so tight, so precise, but never to the point of coming across as mechanical.

Their show is something to behold and marvel at, and with all the energy they pack into each individual song, let alone the entire show, they can easily upstage most big name national touring bands, and that’s a standard expectation of their shows, and one they never fail to meet. In fact, and perhaps it was just for these CD release shows, but all the same, they pushed themselves to a new level this night, which is an impressive feat.

As for this new album, as much as I hated waiting for years to get it, it was worth the long wait. In all there are seventeen tracks on it (some of which are preludes and such), and minus those preludes there are thirteen amazing songs, none of which you’ll skip over.

Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy, and for the time being it’s only available from their STORE or at live shows. You can also purchase their older stuff on iTUNES. As for shows, they’ve wrapped up their CD release tour and are taking a little break, and for now their only upcoming dates are August 1st at Liberty Hall in Lawrence, Kansas and September 14th at the Aftershock Festival in Sacramento, California.

This was an amazing night, and one of the best shows I’ve seen in some time, or even ever for that matter, and I bet it’ll be a little while before this one gets topped.

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