What club in Deep Ellum has been open for sixteen straight years?
The answer is The Curtain Club, and that makes it the longest continuously running venue in the Deep Ellum area.
This weekend the venue was making it official, doing a two night extravaganza with seven bands hitting the stage (that’s only counting the Curtain stage, not the Liquid Lounge stage) each night (Friday and Saturday), and just considering the bands I was familiar with, Friday’s lineup was not to be missed.
A couple of younger bands (both in terms of being new as well as the age of their members) were on deck first beginning with No Regrets, who was already playing when I got there a little before eight.
To clarify that about the age, these guys and girl were maybe about as old as the Curtain Club is, give or take a year or so.
Essentially, they were a cover band, and I didn’t take time to keep up with what they did, but I did enjoy what I saw of them.
In the sake of being honest, I was often on the fence about their frontwomans’ voice, which was often throaty sounding, and on some songs it just didn’t seem to fit, while on others, it really sounded great.
Some props also have to go to one of the guitarists, who broke one of his strings just a few songs into what was probably around a 30-minute set. He didn’t have a replacement, nor time to restring it, so he made do, readjusting one of his strings to compensate for the sound as best as he could and kept rocking.
Come on, how many musicians, be them a professional or just a teenager, would power through like that? I’ve seen just a little over six hundred concerts and I’ve never seen any musician play almost an entire show with a broken string like that, which should say something about this kid’s ability.
Not only were the sets from each band kept short this night, so was the time in between bands, as they hustled one bands gear off stage and the next ones on, giving about twenty minutes or so downtime between acts.
Vannah Red was up next. This trio was an original band, but I wasn’t feeling them much at first.
The music wasn’t necessarily bad, but I was none too keen on their singer/guitarists voice. I can’t even really pinpoint one thing wrong with it, except it just didn’t really appeal to me for the majority of their set.
I did start liking them a little more towards the back-end of their set, though, and there was one song they did that had a wickedly awesome bass solo.
Regardless of my thoughts on those first two bands, it was nice to see some kids down here playing music for a change, since so many of the bands in this scene have been kicking for awhile, or at the very least the members in them have been playing in different bands for years.
That said, now it was time for the pros to hit the stage, and first up was The Circle.
“Curtain Club, it’s been sixteen long years!” bellowed frontman Don Mills, who went on to point out what an achievement it is that the venue has never shuttered its doors. The curtain remained closed during that time, then finally began to open, revealing Don clutching the mic stand while standing on one of their boxes with the band’s name and logo on it, while bassist Kenneth Henrichs stood atop the one on stage right.
They then did something no one expected; they opened with “Sleep On it”. Allow me to put that in perspective. Before this one, I had seen The Circle eight times, and since they wrote it, this song has always been how they close their shows. “How are you doing?!” asked Don during his very brief break before they hit the first chorus. He held his beer up more towards the end of the song, toasting the Curtain, while Kenneth started in with some softer screams for the backing vocals. “I fall from my throne. I can’t stand alone.” It was a nice gradual build he gave it, before he and Don wound up alternating, each repeatedly screaming one of those lines.
I never would have pegged that one is being such a good opener, but damn, was it ever. It packs a little more of a punch than even most of their other songs, and here at the start of it all it set the tone extremely well, pumping everyone up and personally, it got me more excited than I’ve ever been at the start of a Circle show (for the record, that is saying something.)
“If you can’t read, we’re The Circle.” Don said, pointing out the boxes. “I know it’s cold outside, but if you start bouncing around you’ll warm up.” he added, while drummer Marc Berry, guitarists Craig Nelson and Alan Sauls and Kenneth were already well into the intro of “I Am”. They were on point with that first song, and that carried over into this one, like on the instrumental breakdown after the second chorus, where they all thrashed around to the drumbeats, in perfect synch with one another. Don even took some liberties on the chorus, yelling on it more and adding a little more roughness to it, “Why do you try to walk away? Why do you try to bring me down? Why can’t you just understand this is who I am? This is who I am.”, which in turn gave it even more emotion.
They pretty much went from one song to the next, with next to no downtime in between, and followed that one up with “Save Me”. “There’s some cool artwork up there.” Don pointed out on their first real pause of the night. He was pointing to their plaque they had gotten two months before, which now adorns the storied Wall of Fame at the club. “There’s gonna be another one of those going up tomorrow night.” he said, referring to Generation Wasted, who would be getting their plaque.
That led them to the remaining two tracks from their debut EP, the first of which was “Failure”, and is about the closest thing to a love song as this hard rock outfit gets. Like everything else they did this night, it just a little extra kick to it. Part of that was probably because of the urgency their set had, as they tried to rush through things, but even lyrically and musically, it still seemed to heavier hitting. “I can’t hear it.” The five of them could be said saying to one another, looking puzzled. They were referring to the sample track that sets up “The Other Side”, which was completely inaudible out in the audience, until right at the end of it, when they ripped into the song. “I can see the tear that’s in your eye. Years of bad decisions on your face. You blame everyone for your mistakes. Can you hear me screaming that I’m here for you?!” Don crooned at the start, before the song, which is my personal favorite from their EP, entered its full-blown rock mode.
Up next was the special treat for the night. After their Wednesday night rehearsal just a couple of days prior a post was made on Facebook saying they had written a new song and would be debuting this night. “…Be honest. Give us a thumbs up or down if you think we should keep playing this one or not.” Don told the crowd before they started it. It was called “What You Say”, and I enjoyed it. It had a bit of a different sound from most of their other songs, but it was still The Circle. “Should we keep it?” Don asked everyone upon finishing it, while Marc led the charge into the next song, their final one for the night, “My Trip to the Desert Sucked”.
I had loved the way they had gone from one song right to the next, giving the show a fantastic flow, but it turned out that made them so efficient, they actually had time left to kill. “The last time we played here we went thirty minutes over our time. But it was our plaque show, so who cares. Well, the band after us kind of did…” Don stated, while they worked out what the next song would be. Craig quickly fired up “406”, another one I’m quite partial to, and was glad they wound up having time to play it.
As a closer, it worked nicely, and the curtain began to draw shut on the band. But guess what… They still had five minutes left.
“Do y’all want to hear more?” Don asked, truly leaving it up to the audience, who made it known they did. They quickly figured out what they were going to do, and Don pointed at me. “Jordan Buford, this one’s for you, since you said you like it so much.”
The song’s called “Monster”, which I later found out, is an old/new one. Old in the sense it has been around since the band had their first singer, but was only recently dusted off; allowing Don to start putting his mark on it. It really is an awesome song, with some somewhat simple, yet killer lead guitar lines on the verses, which is the primary reason I like it so much. Aside from that though, it’s just a solid song, and one that will no doubt be a staple song soon enough.
With that, their set stood at 36-minutes, and they really were done now. Don even joked about that after they finished, noting they really were getting off the stage now.
I’ve seen these guys put on some great and even memorable shows, but the one this night was something else entirely.
I enjoyed the way they rushed through it, giving the show a nice flow. That also made them push themselves to a different level, having to be so precise and in time with one another, which in turn allowed you to see just how tight they are.
As I mentioned earlier, they were spot on this night. The musicianship from Craig, Alan, Marc and Kenneth was outstanding, and Don was screaming on some lines I haven’t heard him do that on before, while other screams were even more forceful than usual, and it gave their set a whole new dynamic.
I’d say they were impeccable this night, and I think it might be awhile before this Circle show gets topped.
They do have a show coming up at Click’s in Tyler on February 1st, if you’re in the area. Also, go grab their “Who I Am” EP in iTUNES. It’s cheap and well worth it.
The remaining bands were some I hadn’t seen in a little while, and the first of those was The Raven Charter.
The opening song was still the same as it has been for a few years, and the dark, ominous sounds of “Survival Kit” beckoned everyone to the stage.
The curtain finally opened on the groups five instrumentalists, guitarists Brandon Bond and Daniel Baskind, bassist Anthony Sosa, keyboard player Erik Stolpe and drummer Brian Christie, all of whom came to life once the song hit its stride about a minute in. It still works as a great intro song, letting their musical prowess be the only thing you as an audience member can focus on, and they take full advantage of it, with those who can jumping and thrashing about, often brandishing their instruments in the air.
They had changed the song up slightly, though, and after a few minutes frontman Garrett Bond walked on stage, greeting the crowd. He didn’t start singing that song, though. Instead, they cut the remainder of the song, and whipped things right into one of their newer tracks, “No Direction”. “I sit on top of a hollow world…” Garrett wailed at the start of it, before the song eventually hit its lull, where he and his brother harmonized on some of the lines. It’s actually an up and down song, being an action packed rock number most of the time, but then there are moments like that, or when Garret does some near a cappella singing, and it’s that back and forth sound that makes the track so clever.
“How are we doing tonight?” he asked the tons of people who now had the club packed out. They cheered in response, but it wasn’t loud enough. He didn’t give the standard “Y’all can do better than that.” retort though. Instead, he was a little more honest with everyone. “Bullshit. I want more.” he declared, getting a bigger rise out of the people this time.
For the most part, their 35-minute set consisted of older songs, but they did have a couple of new songs worked in. Much newer than “No Direction” is, and ones I had never heard. Their next song was one of those, and it was the highlight of their set if you ask me. It was an adrenaline pumping number that had a killer and truly spectacular music bed, and I thought they pushed things to the limits with it. They even stepped things up from the previous song, as Daniel added his voice to the mix at times for some three part harmonies, like on the line, “If this is the last night ever, than I’m gonna make you mine.”
I’ve seen stuff online where they’ve talked about these new songs, saying it’s a different style for them, but it’s still them. That’s very accurate, and that song was a perfect example of that, because it was a far cry from the songs on their self-titled EP, or even their most recent EP, but there’s no denying it was still The Raven Charter.
Speaking of their first EP, they next dished out the single from the 2009 release, “Thousand Worlds”. There’s a central message to all of the songs from that album, a line said in several of the songs, which is; “Anything is possible and everything will happen.” It’s all a bit of uplifting, and as that song drew to a close, there wound up being a new touch they had added to the end. I was a little stunned when Garrett reached for his mic stand, which his vocal effects pad was strapped to, and pulled out a harmonica, which he proceeded to play during the instrumental outro. More surprising was how great it actually sounded, adding a new layer/element to the track.
There was a short pause, during which Garrett started to set up their next song, stopping after he started tripping over his words. “Let me think about this for a minute, ‘cause I’m going to get it wrong.” he said while laughing, then informed everyone that the next song was the title track from their most recent EP. “Let’s fucking do this!” he shouted as Brian began “Kidnapping”. The verses were left mainly to Daniel, but they added some nice alteration to it. For example, Garrett would join him on some lines, like on the second verse, “I went back inside.” before dropping out as Daniel kept on, “To find his parents standing at the end of the hall. I knocked them cold with the butt of my .45…” It just gave a nice effect to it, and was something they weren’t doing the last time I saw them.
“We’re gonna chase some tail with this one.” Garrett told the crowd, before swapping spots with Daniel. He was of course setting up the ultra steamy “Tailchaser”, which often found Daniel gripping the mic stand, getting really into the song as he sang it. “…All the bittersweet things that I do to you…” he sang at one point, then continued repeating, “That I do to you.” in a falsetto tone. I mentioned that about him grabbing the mic stand, well, he evidently unknowingly loosened it, ‘cause he continued singing, it suddenly collapsed. They couldn’t help but laugh, and he quickly pulled it back up and tightened it to ensure that wouldn’t happen again.
At the end of it, Daniel made his way onto the drum riser, facing Brian, and slammed his guitar down in synch with each of the final beats he knocked out.
They were almost done, and next knocked out another new track, which found Erik laying down some incredible parts on the piano, and Anthony even had a short but sweet bass solo on it, before Garrett again brought out the harmonica. I have to say, so far I’m really liking how their new material is shaping up, but so much of their older stuff are still classics, like the song about their old hometown, “Denton, TX”. “If you know this next part than sing along.” Garrett encouraged as he shouted; “Now I’ve gone and done it. So point the finger at me, point your fucking finger at me…” They wrapped the song up in style, and shortly before that line, Erik lifted his keyboard of the stand, holding it at an angle as he continued to play it. Think something like a keytar, except it was is full size keyboard and there was of course no strap.
For one reason or another, The Raven Charter is one of those bands I don’t see just too often, but I’m perpetually blown away by them, and after seeing a show think to myself, “I need to see these guys more often.”
Those harmonies they employ on so many of their songs, and just their music in general is highly original, ensuring they’re not your typical rock band. The raw energy they pack into their show is also better than most, and yes, they’re all excellent musicians. Especially Anthony, who’s just an outstanding and vigorous bass player.
Over on their REVERBNATION PAGE you can snag a couple of free downloads of a couple of their newest songs (“No Direction” and “Freela Deela”), and check out their two EP’s in iTUNES. As for shows, they’ll be fairly busy over the next few months. January 31st will find them at the Chuggin’ Monk in Arlington. February 22nd they’ll be up in Oklahoma City at Leon’s Lounge, then they have some more Texas dates on the 28th and then March 1st and 29th. The first of those will be at The Grotto in Fort Worth, with a date in Dallas at the Boiler Room the next night. The last March date will take place at Rubber Gloves up in Denton.
That’s plenty of opportunities to see them, and if you do, you’ll be glad you did.
Up next was a band who had a relatively quiet 2013; Redefine.
They just didn’t do many shows last year, and the last time I had seen them was back in April, so the better part of a year.
That meant this show, their first of the new year, was long overdue, and I was eager to hear some of their old hits along with the music from their upcoming EP.
Like the two bands directly before them, Redefine got their show going before the curtain was ever opened, as Daniel “Dano” Taylor opened things up with a drum solo. The crowd was liking it, and their fans liked it even more when lead guitarist Chris Apaliski jumped in, revealing the song to be “Like a Vision, a Ghost”. “When everything just broke down, you yourself broke right down, too…” sang frontman Scott Headstream, using his megaphone with the Redefine logo plastered on the side, giving the song a nice effect. It’s only used sporadically, though, and he ditched it just a few lines later and grabbed the microphone, “But you never even listen, you never opened yourself that way. And all these things fell apart, dear. Lost on love, found decay…”
I was already enjoying this immensely, seeing as they opened with my favorite track from the “Blur On the Horizon” EP, and they were merely getting started. “Are y’all ready to do this?!” Scott asked the crowd from atop the drum riser, leaping off moments after their new single, “All That Ever Was”, got underway. It’s a little different than their other stuff, mainly because it’s not quite as heavy, but it’s still an exhilarating rock number, complete with a dynamite guitar solo from Chris, and bassist Mike DiQuinzio and Dano create a tight and intricate rhythm sound.
They took a breather before their next song, during which Scott shouted out their friends in The Raven Charter. “…The Raven Charter had our baby.” he remarked, stating it like it was a fact. He chatted up the crowd for a minute before they launched into their next song, a track from “The Power Of Persuasion” EP, and it so happened to be my favorite from that album; “The Darkest Night”. It’s a good ol’ heavy, fast paced rock song with some nice additional elements thrown in. For example, on the bridge, when Scott hit the notes in an even higher voice than I think I’ve ever heard him do, as he sang, “Breathe me in, hold me there in your skin…” “Let’s do this.” he said, as the instrumental jam portion of the bridge came to an end; the quintet kicking it into high gear for the last little bit.
Dano kept the beat from that song, patching it into their next number, while Scott took a moment to congratulate the Curtain Club on its sixteen years of success. “…The Curtain Club’s home base…” he said, not only speaking for Redefine, but countless other North Texas bands who have, be it in the past or currently, been regulars here.
Once his speech was done, Chris, Mike and rhythm guitarist Matt Jones jumped in over the drum beat, giving shape to “Arcana”. For quite awhile after they released “Blur…” in 2011, I was just indifferent to that song. It’s not that I disliked it, but I wasn’t crazy about it, either. However, in the last year or so it’s really grown on me, and it is one of their best live songs.
While performing that one, someone bought a shot for Scott and set it on the stage. “What’s this?” he asked holding it, looking at his friend who had bought it. “Semen?” Scott asked the guy, who had shouted what it was to him. “Oh, bull semen. It’s bull semen.” he said right before drinking some of it, making a face as he did so. “Yeah, that tastes like bull semen.” he said after downing it. He got more serious for just a moment, promoting their merch they had for sale, saying they could really use the money to keep Mike out of jail. “…He is a lawyer now…” Scott clarified. Mike seemed less than amused, though, which probably had something to do with the fact that he was sick and was doing good to even make it through their show.
After all those old hits, it was now time for some more new stuff, beginning with “Whole”. The last time I saw them, I mentioned this song was one of the best I’ve ever heard them do, and I found to be almost better than those other favorites of mine they had done earlier this night. Well, this night it found a permanent place in my heart, and is quite possibly the best song they’ve ever done. It’s intense, yet emotional, particularly more towards the end, when Scott sang in a pleading tone, “Before you get up and leave, consider this moment…” Then came the best part, when the guitars, bass and drum slowly died out, making you believe the song was over. Quite a few people even started clapping, before they ripped back into the song with a vengeance, harder and heavier than it even had been before for this final stretch.
In turn, that served as a great way to set the stage for the next song, “Battle Hymn”, which began with some quick and furious beats from Dano, taking the pace from the end of “Whole” and then building on it. “Bless you, children.” Scott told the raving fans, before the final song of their 33-minute set; “Fall Down, I Believe It”, another song that required the use of that megaphone on a line or two, and, as it usually is, was just a great way to close to the show, leaving everyone in a euphoric state.
In terms of stage show, no, this wasn’t the best Redefine gig. Mike certainly can’t be held accountable for being sick, and deserves props for even powering through and being there, but he certainly wasn’t his usually active and jovial self. They compensated for it pretty well, though. Chris is always entertaining to watch, keeping busy by rushing around the stage and shredding on his axe, and Scott’s a powerful frontman with a voice unlike any you’ve ever heard.
On a related note, Matt’s still fairly new to the band, and with their light show schedule in 2013, they didn’t have many opportunities to work on their live chemistry with one another last year. That said, I thought they were all clicking better this night, in terms of working with and feeding off one another, and they proved that even a Redefine show that’s lackluster by their standards, is still a helluva show, and superior to most other bands.
They have an extremely rare Austin show planned for February 28th at The Parish, so if you live down that way, go check ‘em out. Their next show in the D/FW metroplex is slated for March 29th at Rubber Gloves in Denton (playing alongside The Raven Charter). As of right now, you can still get a free download of “All That Ever Was” on their REVERBNATION PAGE, so check that out, especially if you haven’t heard of these guys. Then, if you like that, go buy their two EP’s in iTUNES.
Oh, and they recently signed with DoForItRecords, who will be releasing their new album sometime this year.
One of the last bands for the night was Daylight Industries, who had added an extra member to the group since I had last seen them.
Ruvayne Weber had joined as the second guitarist in the band, and not only that, but they had also released their second EP, “Faith Healer”, since I last caught one of their shows.
They were raring to go as soon as they got their gear setup, and the curtain opened on a band who was pretty much all smiles.
Bassist Barry Townsend beamed at the packed venue, then turned around and pressed his bass against the amp, creating some feedback. “…This is all we’re gonna do all night. Just fucking feedback…” laughed vocalist Keith Allen, who was enjoying it as much as everyone else was. When they did finally rip into their first track, it was a brutal powerhouse of a song. Everything about it was blistering, and it instantly had you glued to the stage, watching in awe as they darted about and jumped around on stage.
If there was any doubt about this night being a party, Daylight Industries squashed it, and after that song Keith held his beer up, then reached out to toast some of their fans. “Hey, he was trying to take my beer. Did you see that?” he said, pointing out one of his friends and then ribbed him about trying to steal his drink.
Next, they knocked out one of the shortest songs on the “Faith Healer” EP, “Lesson Learned”, intensifying their performance, as Barry bounced back and forth, while lead guitarist Brandon Tyner stood closer to the forefront of the stage, bouncing around while shredding on his guitar.
“How are y’all motherfuckers doing?!” shouted Brandon once the song was over. He was more vocal this night than I’ve heard him be, acting almost like a second frontman in terms of how he interacted with the crowd, which was something I quite liked. “That was good, but we’re gonna need some more.” He told everyone before they started “Aphasia”, a slightly more melodic sounding song. Brandon was having so much and getting so into it, at one point he knocked over the mic on his bass amp, something he and Barry shared a laugh over while he quickly set it back up.
A few songs later, Keith mentioned something about how they weren’t a band that was afraid to resort to humor, and that perfectly displayed during this break, when someone in the crowd made some remark to him. “I’ll pay for the abortion!” he exclaimed in response. “I already have four kids. I’m done with that shit.” Yeah, they’re definitely not afraid to resort to humor of any kind, and Keith had everyone cracking up with that. They brought things back up with “Junkie Logic”, which features some thunderous and tight drumming from the one and only, Stephen Smith. They kept going, full steam ahead, with the invigorating “Wandering”, which honestly, was their best song of the night.
They were just all in the zone while knocking out the furious number, while the fans eagerly banged their heads about to the music, and some very light moshing even got going.
“Hey! Y’all want to hear a Reggae song?!” Brandon asked enthusiastically. “…We were very happy to hear about what happened in Colorado.” Remarked Keith, referring to the legalization of selling marijuana, which was the lead in to “Western Sky”. In terms of sound, it’s very different from anything Daylight Industries has ever done, and does have certain Reggae elements to it, especially with the guitar tones. At its heart, it’s still a rock song, though.
“This is the title track from our new EP!” Brandon informed everyone right before Steve kicked off “Faith Healer”. Barry incited a clap along during the slow part in the tracks final minute, as Keith sang, “Carved it out of you, I felt the pieces in my hands”. With that one done, there was only one song that remained from their EP, and that was “Sit In”. “If I’m a saint, than I’m the patron saint of fools. The prison guards who run this town have made up all the rules…” roared Keith on each chorus. Then, as it drew to a close, Barry began jumping around wildly, all the while still slapping his bass.
Their 34-minute long set was almost over, but they had one more new song to offer to everyone. “…This one’s called White Russians.” It fit the short song structure of all their newer material, clocking in at about two and a half minutes, but aside from that, it was another song that showed off a slightly different style of rock for these guys. It was very heavier in the rhythm sense, more so than their other stuff, but all around, this hard-hitting number is an instant classic.
The only good thing from me not seeing Daylight Industries too much lately is that it makes it easy to see how much they’ve grown; and they’ve grown a lot since last Spring.
I’ll start with the most noticeable, the addition of Ruvayne Weber. Honestly, I didn’t pay much attention to him this night, as I was standing on the opposite side of the stage and just couldn’t see him that well, but that extra guitar elevates their sound to the next level.
I never would have thought they needed it, ‘cause for just the few years I’ve been a fan they’ve gotten by fine as a four-piece, but man, it really does make a difference.
Moving on, Keith, Brandon and Barry have even stepped up their respective performances (who knew that was possible?), and even though space seemed kind of tight on stage, they all found plenty of room to move about, rock out and just cut loose and have fun.
They all fed off one another and interacted well, and as for Steve, I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again; the guy’s one of the best drummers I’ve seen.
They are one of the best bands to see live, and if they’ve come this far in just about a year, I can’t wait to see what level they push themselves to next.
Over on their REVERBNATION PAGE you can download several free songs. Most are live cuts (including two of the new songs they did this night, from this show), but they also have the entire “Faith Healer” EP available. Of course, if you really like it, go pick it up in iTUNES, where you’ll also find their first EP as well as a live show from an old Curtain Club gig.
As for shows, they’ve got a full schedule coming up. February 8th they’ll be up in Denton at Rubber Gloves. The 15th will find them at Union Station in Denison. They have a couple more Dallas gigs after that; the first on February 22nd at Reno’s, and then they’ll return to the Curtain Club on March 8th. They also have a show booked at The Railhead in Lawton, OK on March 22nd.
There was one final band for the night, Green Mild Bell Peppers, who were a Red Hot Chili Peppers cover band. I didn’t stick around for them, mainly because it had already been a fairly long night, and the night after was going to be more or less the same.
Still, this was an incredibly night of music here on the first night of the Curtain Club’s 16th anniversary weekend. Hell, it was almost, ALMOST as good as the triple reunion show featuring The FEDS, Space Cadet and Upside a couple years back.