There are plenty of badges of honor for local North Texas bands to wear. From playing some of the more recognized venues (i.e. House of Blues), to some of the iconic Deep Ellum haunts who have hosted a plethora of well known bands over the decades, but easily the biggest honor is to get a plaque up on the Wall of Fame at the Curtain Club.
Drowning Pool did it early in their career, as did Bowling for Soup, and many other national acts who hail from the area, as well as a slew of local bands, past and present, who are highly regarded here. And now, this night, it was time for The Circle to join those ranks, having completed the requirements of having to get X amount of fans out to each consecutive show at the venue.
Opening up the night was one band that accomplished the task of getting a plaque, years ago, and that was Pistol Whippin’ Ike, who was debuting their brand new lineup this night.
Jeff Hathcock hammered down on his drum kit, launching them into “Liar”, the rest of the band quickly following suit as they ripped into their instruments. It was a little strange hearing it at the beginning of their set instead of the end, like I’m used to, but it offered one hell of a way to get the show going. It certainly got their fans pumped up, as well as attracted the attention of other onlookers, though it was the outro they added to it that wound up being my favorite part of the song. It was a killer, short instrumental piece, dominated by soaring sounds of Barry Lorberbaums’ and Jason Rutledges’ guitars, and was a nice touch to the track.
That soon gave way to another instrumental segment, setting up “Last Cigarette”. Oddly enough, Barry Townsend, who is the new bands new bass player, was pretty restrained during their first song, seeming like he was perhaps a bit nervous. If he was, he shook it off during that number, getting into the form you’re used to if you’ve seen him with his other band, jumping around and thrashing about on stage, bare footed no less. “…So The Circle is here…” said frontman Mario Cadena, after welcoming everyone to the show. He went on to say, “I’ve known them for twelve years. I was only fifteen back then.”, joking about that last part, before announcing their next song, a favorite of mine, “Pull the Trigger”. “Listen.” he commanded before the first couple of choruses, a signature move of his, and by the next time the chorus came around he asked everyone to sing along with him. The song wasn’t without a little hiccup, though, when at one point, one way or another, Townsend’s bass had gotten unplugged, a problem he quickly fixed.
“Are you having a good time?!” Mario asked as they went immediately into “Life As We Know”, the only classic PWI song of the night, with a message that is timeless. Things slowed down just slightly with “What Have I Become?”, ending with Jeff using one of his hands to point towards the sky as the song gradually trailed off. Afterwards, Mario took time to officially introduce “Number Two”, since Townsend is the second one with that name Barry in the band. “…This is his first show. Actually his first practice…” Mario joked, noting he wasn’t doing too bad. The laughs continued, too, Mario pointing out he was “Mexican”, stating, “…Everyone needs a Mexican friend…” and that he was probably the one for some of the fans.
That led them to another track from the “Dying the Dream: Part 1” album, “I Used to Dream”, and was followed by a song that will most likely be on the follow-up to that album, “Truth”, which made its live debut this night. There’s no doubt it’s a true Pistol Whippin’ Ike song, fitting their heavier rock mold perfectly, and out of all the new songs I’ve heard them do in the last few years, “Truth” is easily one of the best.
Mario made one last speech, again congratulating The Circle for the honor they would soon have bestowed upon them, as well telling the fans how they felt about them. “…Without you, we are nothing.” said Mario, pointing at everyone, as they ended their 41-minute long set with the heaviest song they’ve got, “You Should Run”, which had not only Mario letting out a throaty scream at the end, but also Jason doing some screaming in between the main lyrics.
I honestly think this was one of the best Pistol Whippin’ Ike shows I’ve seen. Is what’s most impressive, is they haven’t even done an all electric show in a little while, yet they got up there and owned the stage. Townsend fit in well with the rock outfit, finding his groove early on and seeming completely comfortable with this new band of his, and only helped push them more, doing a fair amount of interacting with Lorberbaum and Jason. Jeff even seemed to have a different aura about him, killing it on the drums, while Mario commanded the crowd even better than usual.
Probably a lot of that tightness can be attributed to their long career, and they recently celebrated the bands twelfth birthday. They may have had a several year hiatus in between when they broke up, but nevertheless, the chemistry they build in all those years is still there, and so very noticeable on stage, and it looks like Townsend is going to fit in with it perfectly.
You can catch the band again soon, on November 21st when they play the Boiler Room in Dallas, and check out their page in iTUNES, where you can buy their official studio records along with some live cuts.
The night was just starting to get going now, and the onslaught of rock continued when Honey took the stage.
They wasted no time, ripping right into the first song of their 40-minute set, “Whiplash”, as even more people made their way into the already pretty full venue to hear Honey’s raw rock sounds. It was quickly followed by another, during which drummer Vinnie E. Parma started to show off some of his moves, tossing a drum stick into the air at one point, which he failed to catch. You could tell he was a bit upset by it, but he’d redeem himself soon enough.
“I guess I can talk to you all now, it’s been a couple of songs…” said singer and rhythm guitarist Kes O’Hara, her thick Australian accent being readily apparent when she spoke, though was completely unnoticeable when she sang. She mentioned how hot it was on stage, before pulling her hat off. “It’s too hot for a hat, but now I have hat hair.” she said, putting it back on as they readied themselves for the next song. Here was where Vinnie made up for the little fumble from the previous song, at one point throwing a drum stick at just the right angle so that it bounced off one of the cymbals, back towards him before he caught it. It was quite entertaining to watch, and something he repeated a few times at various points throughout the rest of their set. And completing the rhythm section you had Holly Wood, who knocked out a sweet bass solo on that track.
They took another pause in-between songs, as Kes pointed out the exact web address to go to to find their Facebook page. “…If you just search Honey, you’ll get four million results…” she warned everyone, before eventually adding that the next song was more or less her theme song. “…Wasted on the weekend, living day to day…” she belted out in her gruffer voice on the chorus of “Wasted”, a song that was complete with a blistering guitar solo from Krishen Anthony.
Afterwards, they slowed things down ever so slightly as Kes swapped out to an acoustic guitar, then reminisced about her first trip to Texas, saying it only lasted for three weeks, and once she returned to Australia all she did was think about the US. “…So I saved for six months to move back…” she said, noting that, that was what this next song was about. Upon finishing it, they brought things back up, with a cover no less, putting their spin on Thin Lizzy’s “Bad Reputation”, doing it justice as well as leaving a mark on it. Another original, the pretty catchy “Free Ride” followed, after which Kes again thought back on Texas. “I thought Texas would be all propane and Hank Hill’s…” she said, a stereotype that pretty much the whole world has about the state. “…But then I got here and y’all were normal.” she finished, before they went into “Red Carpet”, the end of which Vinnie patched into their final song.
Before this, the only Honey show I had seen was their live debut, which was here at the Curtain back in June, and as solid as they were then, they’ve definitely tightened up since. Along with the stellar musicianship they each possess, you can also see how cohesive they are, each a vital component of the larger working unit.
It’s easy to see why Honey has taken the Dallas music scene by storm, quickly winning over hordes of fans. At one point this night, Kes mentioned The Circle and the plaque they were getting, gazing at the wall while pointing out that she’d like to have a plaque up there on day. It seems almost a sure bet that, that will happen, and that day may well be sooner rather than later.
They’ll be back at the Curtain Club on December 6th, and afterwards, you can catch them December 8th at Three Links and December 19th at Trees, both of which are in Dallas.
While they were the main band of the night, The Circle had opted for the spot before the “headline” slot, since the eleven o’clock hour time has now become the most coveted one to have. Actually, it was after 11:30 when they finally hit the stage, and there was not a soul in there who was expecting what was seen when the curtain opened…
Frontman Don Mills, guitarists Craig Nelson and Alan Sauls and bassist Kenneth Henrichs were all sporting tuxes and bow ties, while drummer Marc Berry had on a vest, as well as fedora. They were looking their best for this special night, and the audience was only allowed a second or two to actually take all that in before the sample intro for their first song, “The Other Side”, signified the start of what would be a legendary night.
“What the hell is up, Curtain Club?!” Don roared, while Craig and the rest of the group instantly moved along to the next song, “406”. “How are you doing?” he then asked, continuing chatting for a minute or so, eventually dedicating this show to every single person who was here this night. And for the record, they had the Curtain as full as I’ve seen it in a long time. They only made things more intense with “406”, and it was pretty entertaining to see four guys moving about the stage, jumping on their boxes that bore the band’s name and logo, and just flat out rocking out in tuxedos. I can honestly say I’ve never seen that before, and I doubt I will again.
Don made another dedication after that song, this time to all the other plaqued bands, whose ranks they were clearly thrilled to be joining. He even had an anecdote to share, saying that the first time he walked into the Curtain Club was in 1997, “…And I saw Chad…” he said, pointing to Chad Lovell, the current sound guy at the venue. Don went on, adding that he saw the plaque for Course of Empire, the iconic Dallas band that Chad was a part of, saying he thought to himself, “I want to be like Chad.” The stories, at least for the time being, ended there, as Don counted them in to one of three newer songs they did this night, “Save Me”. It was a great song, which I found to be ever so slightly different from most of their other tunes, in a good way, and whilst performing it, Don made a point to introduce all of his band mates.
That new one was segued into a fan favorite, “My Trip to the Desert Sucked”, which served to amp the energy level up even more, and by the time it ended, Marc stood from stool, as he wildly banged on his drum kit. They got another breather when Don introduced a friend, Don Brooks, whom he turned the mic over to. The other Don mentioned how loyal Mills has been to the music scene during his tenure, saying how proud he was of all of them for reaching this milestone accomplishment. Once he returned to the audience, they picked back up with “Beggars Can’t be Choosers”, which proved to be a little too action packed for Don, who had to walk into the stairway once the song was done to adjust his pants. “Play some porn music.” he said to the rest of the group, who instead fired up their next number. “That’s not porn music.” he said upon returning, getting back into show mode for “You Wanted This”, a pretty catchy hard rock song.
But out of all of their new tracks they played this night, it was “Monster” that took the cake in my opinion, segueing almost seamlessly into it from the previous one. It had a super slick and polished sound, and at the end Kenneth let loose some wicked bass riffs by running his finger across one of the strings, all the way up the neck of the guitar. The song wasn’t without its faults, though, due entirely to some technical difficulties that suddenly arose, when the main microphone cut out, making it impossible to hear Don for about an entire verse, if not even a little longer.
“When they measure you for a tux, let it go one size down.” remarked Don, before they cranked out what’s easily their most emotionally filled song, “Failure”. Another track from their debut “Who I Am” EP came next, “I Am”. All five of them where in perfect synch with one another after the second chorus, during a short instrumental breakdown, as Craig, Alan, Kenneth and Don all started banging their heads in time with the beats Marc was churning out.
Only one song was left at that point, and Don put it best by saying it was “…The song that brought us all here.” It was the first single they recorded, and the one that every single one of their fans loves, “Sleep On it”, which ended their 42-minute long set, and nearly finished Don’s voice off, which had started fading just during those last couple of songs.
It wasn’t over quite yet, though, because they still had to get their plaque, and it wasn’t presented in just the typical, standard way.
Darth Vader’s theme song from the Star Wars film began to play, as the Storm Troopers and a few other characters from the movies made their way on stage. If you’ve been in Deep Ellum before, you’ve no doubt seen them walking around some time or another, and after being presented with their plaque, Don said he had also wanted to do something that had not been done before, and that was have an already plaqued band present them with theirs. That was the cue for one of the Storm Troopers, who was a member of the band Rivethead, to remove his helmet and say a few words. It was Robert Miguel who first brought their plaque on stage, though, handing it to the members of The Circle, leading to a lengthy photo session, where they held it for several minutes, allowing everyone to snap a picture or two with their phones. They weren’t quite done yet after all that, though…
Back in July when they did their CD release show here, The Circle pulled out a classic from one of the best metal bands to come out of Dallas, and they were doing it again, now, covering Drowning Pool’s, “Tear Away”. It feature an all-star collection of musicians, too, with JC of the Tyler based outfit The Truman Syndrome joining them onstage, and doing most of the lead singing. Don also asked Ryan Ray of Adakain to join them, while Xtina and a few other members of Solice, and even Jules from Enamored and Paris Pipkin of Last Day Living got on stage, giving a real sense of community and family to the song.
At one point during their show, Don noted that with this show, they had wanted to set the standard for all other plaque shows to come, and while I have my doubts that, that standard will actually be met by other bands, they did achieve their goal.
A plaque on that wall is something every Dallas and even North Texas musician dreams of, and it’s something only a select few will actually obtain. That said, many of the other bands whose plaque shows I have seen, the importance of the event has seemed a bit lost on them, giving off more of a, “Hey, that’s cool” vibe. Whereas The Circle fully recognized it as the privilege it is, going all out, not just in their attire, but in their performance, making it the best show of theirs that I’ve seen.
In the end, it was a fitting final show of the year for them, closing out what has been a busy year for them, and saw them hit two huge milestones (release of their debut EP and this plaque), leaving you to wonder what 2014 will hold for them. Only time will tell, but here’s to hoping it’s an even better year than this one was.
First up, I want to say one last “congratulations” to The Circle, and if you don’t yet have their “Who I Am” EP, check it out in iTUNES.
To some, the party may have been over with that, as the masses cleared out, most of whom probably had no idea what they would be missing out on by skipping Alterflesh.
The band hit the stage late, nearly one in the morning, seeming unaffected by the late slot, still doing a whopping 54-minute long set.
Frontman Dayvoh, who was acting as the rhythm guitarist for these first few songs, greeted everyone with his normal statement, making you expect something different right from the get go. “…How strange we are even here.” he remarked to his “brothers and sisters”, after mentioning the vastness of the universe, as that led them into “Megahub”. The song was only enhanced by Dayvoh’s unique look, one he didn’t (entirely) have the last time I saw them. He was without a shirt this night, his torso up to his bald head covered in small blue hexagons, giving him an otherworldly look, pulling off with ease what he’s going for, and that is evoking the image of a shaman. “We’re gonna bring you another story…” Dayvoh announced as soon as they finished that song, bassist Paul Kubajak laying down the heavy and sweet bass licks that begin “So Much More”. “…Maybe you had too much too fast…” Dayvoh sang at one point in the song, which is just one example of the depth Alterflesh’s songs have, even being thought provoking at times.
“…The force is with us…” Dayvoh stated as a few of the Storm Troopers walked on the stage, dancing around while drummer Kevin Mills, lead guitarist Ben Schelin and the rest threw down on “Toxic”. Dayvoh took a break from his guitar after that, as they were joined by a guest, Don Mills. Even after his band’s set, he still had enough energy for one more, and he and Dayvoh co-sang a track titled “Believe In”, making it a highlight song of their set. Afterwards, the two singers had some fun, coming across as the perfect comedic duo, cracking a few jokes at times. The biggest laugh came after Don again said they had wanted to set the standard for all future plaque shows, while Dayvoh reached into the drawer of the desk that was on stage (they decorate the stage with al sorts of things, from statues of Buddha to paintings, etc.) He pulled out a wad of one dollar bills, making it rain as he tossed them out at the fans, who frantically picked up all they could.
Don then exited the stage, while Dayvoh set up their next song. “…This is a social rant.” he said, adding, “Keep up with the lyrics.” speaking of “Watch Rome Burn”. It’s a personal favorite of mine, and if you can keep up with the words that he so quickly spits out, you may take something away from it. For example on the bridge when Dayvoh sings, “…Just because they will say it is wrong does not mean you should leave it alone…” Is what’s really remarkable, is how the song still applies to the current culture, given its age, as after the song Dayvoh noted he had first performed that at another Deep Ellum club back in ’96, as a spoken word artist.
He put his axe to use one more time for “Embers”, sitting it back down once the song was over. “For an alternative band, this is as close as we get to country.” For the record, “Imaginary Chains” is far from country, but it’s slow enough at the start that the notes Ben plays maybe, possible could sound similar to something country. Either way, it got a nice laugh from the crowd.
“Here’s something everyone can relate to.” Dayvoh remarked, before they started “Start Over”, which had a pleasant little surprise. Evidently, they weren’t done with their guest singers, and shortly into the song a female voice could be heard, as Xtina of Solice, who already had a microphone in hand, made her way from the audience up to the stage, adding a beautiful layer to the song. Upon finishing it, they stepped tings back up with one of their newer songs, and one that is quickly becoming my favorite Alterflesh track. There’s just something about “Into the Sun”. It’s heavier than the rest of their material, and lyrically speaking, it comes across as being their most transcendental song in my opinion.
They had taken their show nearly as late as they could, the night nearing the clubs 2 A.M. closing time when they started the final song of their 54-minute long set, “New Horizon”. While Kevin and Ben gradually built up the song, Dayvoh outstretched his arms, then slowly moved them towards his chest, placing his palms against one another, appearing to pray.
That song capped off their show well, and the same thing could be said about Alterflesh as far as closing out this night, the messages their music carries with it offering the audience a certain existential feeling.
Along with all that, they put on just as serious a rock show as any of the bands that played before them, filling it with energy, and leaving it all on the stage.
Their next show is scheduled to be on December 6th at the Boiler Room in Dallas, and it’ll be well worth seeing.
In the end, this was quite the night. Probably one of the best shows I’ve ever seen here at the Curtain, and that’s saying something. From the lineup, to the performances, everything was outstanding. That said, Don and Dayvoh deserve one last kudos for putting together, having been working on this night since July. In the end, their time and effort was more than noticeable.