Friday, August 15th, 2014 – The Band of Heathens Throwdown at Hank’s

This weekend (well, part of it) involved me spending time up in the suburbs. You may not find a cluster of music venues all within a block or so of each other like you can in Dallas or Fort Worth for instance, but the ones that do exist get topnotch talent to come through.

Hank’s in McKinney was my destination this Friday night; and after four months since their last North Texas gig, The Band of Heathens were returning to the area.

Their wound up being an opener, which I was unaware of until walking into the venue portion of the bar and grill.

Elise Davis was on the stage, and with the exception of her acoustic guitar, she was all alone.

I only caught her last two songs, and before the final one, she showed off a great sense of humor. She shared an anecdote about when she first moved to her current city of Nashville, and she took on a waitressing job, saying how “original” that was. “…‘Cause no one had ever done that before…” she said, referring to being an aspiring singer/songwriter and having to work at a restaurant. The best part was how deadpan serious she was.

She went on to say this final song was a very accurate account of her first night in Nashville, when she got to talking to a guy who invited her back to a party. The song was called “Make the Kill”, and it did sound like an autobiographical account of her trying to get over the end one relationship by having some fun in her new town.

I really enjoyed those two songs, and wish I had seen more.

She’s a legitimate country musician (i.e. not the Nashville style pop infused stuff that currently infects so much of the genre) that had a Southern twang to her voice and her songs actually told stories.

Elise has a few records available in iTUNES. She also has a few shows planned for the rest of this month, which can be found HERE.

The Band of Heathens already had their gear on stage. Everything was set, and after about twenty minutes or so of downtime, the quintet walked out of the green room, took the stage and were greeted by some loud fanfare.

This is a band that constantly changes their set up, and even back-to-back shows would offer a completely different experience. However, their opener for this night wound up being the same song as they used the last time I saw them, back at the end of February: “Talking Out Loud”. The soulful song is such a great opener, though, and the line, “…Hold on, if it get uptight.

We’ve got to make everybody feel alright,” could more or less be considered their mission statement. Gordy Quist aided Ed Jurdi with some backing vocals on the chorus, and when he wasn’t singing, he worked to adjust his mic stand, finally getting it just right. He [Gordy] broke into a roaring guitar solo; and as the song neared the end, Ed added some additional line that fit the night. “…Say it’s Friday night. The time is right to set you free…” he crooned in a rich, smooth tone.

The sizable audience applauded the band, but not for long, as Gordy used his guitar to segue them right into “Jackson Station”, which was the first of a few tracks they did off their self-titled record. Trevor Nealon was tucked away on stage right, his two pianos taking up all of that corner; and all eyes focused on him when he delivered an excellent piano solo after the second chorus. They’re a band who’s known for spicing up their songs for the live setting, and they concluded that co-sung number with a roaring instrumental jam.

“I never meant to cause you any sorrow, I never meant to cause you any pain…”, crooned Ed. It wasn’t a cover of Prince’s “Purple Rain”, though the first verse of that iconic song served as a fitting setup for their original. “…By all indications, we were just fine.
At least that’s how I had it made up in my mind…” goes one of the lines from “Caroline Williams” — one of the cuts off last year’s Sunday Morning Record — and out of the handful of times I’ve heard this one, this was the best rendition of it that I’ve heard. There were an array of very subtle differences over it and the studio version, with the most obvious being the way Ed sang some of the words. It’s amazing what a slightly different tone can do.

Gordy reached back for his neck rack and harmonica, while Ed, drummer Richard Millsap, bassist Scott Davis and Trevor began “Rehab Facility”. It was definitely the most rocking track they had done up to this point, and not just due to the faster pace, but also the piano solo and then the sweet licks Ed produced during a guitar solo. Richard then led them directly into their next number, which Ed mentioned was “about the power of music.” “And the power of the soul. And the power of music in your soul,” he said, sounding not unlike a preacher delivering a sermon. A sermon about the power that music is capable of. “You’ve got to feel it! You’ve got to want it!” he shouted at the end, right around the point he and his band mates eased their instruments over the drums, making it known the song was “Records in Bed”. “Sunday morning service, records in your bed. Well, they’re good for your soul and the feed your head,” goes part of the chorus, which certainly speaks to the power of music. “Round and round and round so slow…” both Gordy and Scott sang on another part of the chorus, and the mixture of three different voices working off one another was breathtaking. During a guitar solo, Ed began to taper off, eventually leading to silence that made the crowd think they were finished, and they began to clap for them. The band revved it back up, though, doing several more rounds of the chorus; and the end was nothing short of incendiary.

The applause rang out, and one patron cheered on “that keyboard guy”. Gordy ran with it. “…Yeah, what’s his fucking name…” he asked, before introducing Trevor Nealon to everyone. By the way, Trevor was completely oblivious to the fact anyone had even called him “that keyboard guy”. The group proceeded to do another instrumental jam, starting out rather quiet, though it progressively grew louder. They used that to get everyone ready for “L. A. County Blues”, and when they suddenly broke into the lead track off One Foot in the Ether, the crowd got excited. Practically everyone was singing along to what is one of their staple songs.

“Thank you for being here…” Gordy told everyone, before saying that they wanted to recognize someone who had driven three hours to be here at Hank’s and see The Band of Heathens on his birthday. Gordy also noted the man was a veteran, and the noise level spiked with that news. With that acknowledgement taken care of, they moved on with the slightly softer, semi-soothing “One More Trip”. No sooner had they finished it, and then Ed struck a chord, playing it a few times over before leaning into the mic. “Well, I should have known better this time…” he belted on the opening line of “Should Have Known”, a song I had not heard them do in more than a year (or the last two times I’ve seen them). Trevor was on his feet for much of the song, methodically hammering away on the keys; and Ed slightly changed one of the early lines in the track, adding in “done” on, “…Other days, we done rolled in the gold…” Their prowess as musicians again shone after the second chorus, when they inserted an instrumental break; and the fans put their hands up and began to clap along after seeing Ed do it. It sounded more uptempo than the studio version, too; and Ed and Gordy also tossed in a killer duel guitar solo. Then, at the tail end, they finished unexpectedly as Ed sang, “Just that I.” The audience wasn’t expecting that, leading to a cool moment where you could hear those who were singing along finish the line, “Should have known better this time.”

One of the highlights came when eased them into what came next, and it was quickly apparent it was “Hurricane”. Several people even hurried in from the patio, where they had either been chatting with friends or smoking; and the limited space in front of the stage quickly filled up. It’s a fan favorite that is usually requested, but by pulling it out mid-show like this, no one had a chance to get scared that maybe they wouldn’t be playing it this night. Considering that’s a cover of a Leon Everette song, it seemed fitting that another cover would follow, and Gordy kept the reins as they performed Bob Dylans’ “The Man in Me”.

He and Ed now traded their electric guitars in for some acoustics, but that didn’t mean they were completely going to slow things down. “Nine Steps Down” has a certain kick to it, though some of the solos were slower, which allowed them to be performed in an intricate manner. “…It’s gonna string everybody in a hang man’s noose,” Ed sang towards the end, doing so a cappella, before his band mates jumped back into the track.

“It’s good to be back in Texas,” remarked Gordy afterwards. “It’s good to be playing shows in Texas,” he added, noting he didn’t care how hot it was. They changed gears and did one song I haven’t heard them do before, and that was “Ain’t No More Cane”. Not only did it feature some five part harmonies, but Scott, Trevor and Richard all sang lead on it, each one doing a few lines before handing it off to the next, while Ed and Gordy were the main ones responsible for the chorus. Ed even busted out a harmonica at one point, and as soon as he had finished with it, he tossed it behind him. Talk about compelling.

Ed then swapped back out to an electric, as they got ready for another track that boasts some multi-part harmonies: “Shotgun”. The lead track off their latest release is one of my favorites, and live, well, it really is one of the best songs they have at their disposal. As some of his band mates tuned, Ed gave a birthday shout-out to a woman named Jill, and then he and Gordy had a momentary conversation off mic. “He was asking if I said the name properly. He thought I said Jim,” Ed said, chuckling a bit.

The acoustic guitars were now back on the racks, and they broke out one of the other instant classics from Sunday Morning Record: “Miss My Life”. It’s impossible not to get into that infectious song; and while it’s on the other side of the spectrum musically, pretty much the same can be said of “Shake the Foundation”. That one had a slick, dark intro that had a thick rhythm section going, and, of course, it came complete with some instrumental breaks and solos. Near the end, Ed even chimed in with Gordy, as the two sang a line a cappella.

They wound up ending their 103-minute long set with the lead track from their debut studio album, and “Don’t Call On Me” was a vibrant closer.  The song was stretched out much longer than just the five-minutes or so it lasts on the recording, though at one point, they took a moment to thank the crowd, giving the impression maybe they were almost done. “…We couldn’t do this without you,” they told the crowded venue. All of a sudden, they recycled the chorus from “Records in Bed”. “Round and round and round so slow… The deepest grooves you’ll ever know…” They did it a multitude of times before going back to “Don’t Call On Me”, and all five of them seemed to be having a blast during that high-energy finish.

It appeared to be over. The lights came on, and the sound guy asked everyone to give it up one more time for The Band of Heathens. He then asked if anyone wanted some more Band of Heathens.

“I’ve got one more question for you. Do want more Band of Heathens?!” The crowd did, though they weren’t doing a great job of showing it. Most of the band had gone to the green room, while Ed had stepped out the door at the back of the stage that opens up to the parking lot. He now poked his head through said door and waved dismissively at everyone, as if to playfully say, “That’s not good enough.” They didn’t make the people wait much longer, though.

“Thanks for being here. Thanks for participating. Thanks for the requests, even if we didn’t get to all of them, we try our best,” Ed told the patrons. Richard had already begun laying down the beat for their final song, and he stretched it out for some time before the rest of the band jumped in on “Medicine Man”. When he wasn’t playing his guitar, Gordy often gripped the microphone, taking on a more forceful persona as he walked about the stage. The lone song from their encore spanned 10-minutes, and, as it usually is, it was an incredibly way to end the night.

The set list was superb. I enjoyed hearing those few songs I hadn’t in awhile, as well as some I never had, and the few consistent staples they do have could never get old.

To kind of echo what they said this night, it was good to see the Austin-based band back in Texas, as the shows in their home state have been pretty infrequent lately; and after almost six months in-between shows for me, this did the trick. It was everything you wanted from The Band of Heathens; and the rock/Americana outfit put on a show that enriched the souls of everyone who was at Hank’s this night.

As of right now, their next North Texas show will be on October 18th at the Granada Theater in Dallas. A West Coast tour is planned for September, and they have other dates booked after that. Check out their full schedule HERE. Also, if you don’t have their albums, then head over to iTUNES.

What a way to spend a Friday night.

Sunday, August 10th, 2014 - A Sunday Night Rock Show with The Circle

The Saving Abel show wasn’t originally supposed to be held at The Curtain Club, but that was where it wound up. I was okay with that, given my immense love for the venue; and actually, it made me all the more excited to see the stacked bill of local talent that had been assembled to open the show.

Talent like The Circle: who was fourth out of the six bands on the bill (and the final local DFW band of the night).

“It’s a Sunday night at the Curtain Club!” roared frontman Don Mills, while his band mates began their 27-minute long set by launching into “Break This”. The song had been debuted when they played here at the end of June, and it sounded even better this night than what I remembered. “Five, six, now your voice is making me sick… Nine, ten, now you’re never seeing me again…” went one of the lines, copying off the old kids rhyme.

“This place is fucking full on a Sunday night!” exclaimed Don once they finished. Indeed, it was; and The Circle had more eyes on them then any band this night. That includes the headliner, who he then gave a shout-out to, asking if anyone had heard of Saving Abel. Drummer Marc Berry, bassist Kenneth Henrichs and guitarists Craig Nelson and Alan Sauls were already beginning “Save Me”, which seemed to build on the energy and excitement they had established with that opener. At one point, all the instruments pretty much cut out for a second, and it was then that Kenneth pointed and looked out at the crowd, making a very metal face as he gritted his teeth together.

It was hard not to notice that strapped to Alans’ chest was a GoPro camera, because with the cramped conditions on stage (since Saving Abels’ gear was all backlined), Alan had been spending plenty of time on their boxes that have their logo painted on them, so the camera had been pointing out towards everyone. “…I want to see some of the stupidest shit I’ve ever seen…” Don told everyone, mentioning they planned to make a little video out of all the footage they got. “Who cares about work tomorrow morning?!” he then asked, making a toast to the audience. It’s worth noting said toast was made with a bottle of water on Don’s part.

The intro for the “The Other Side” had already begun, and now they started touching on the stuff from their Who I Am EP. They came out swinging, but it was with that song — one they’ve been playing for much longer — that they hit their stride. Some fans sang along; and in the back half on the track, Don proceeded to slap one of the cymbals on Marcs’ kit.

“We’re three songs in, so you know what that means…” he said as soon as they had finished. He asked everyone to get their drinks up, toasting all the local musicians. “Local music is by far the best music that’s never been heard,” he declared. Sad, but true. “I want to have your babies!” someone in the crowd shouted, causing a look of surprise to come across Dons’ face, as he said to Craig that, that was a first.

“Failure” followed it up; and as they hit the second chorus, Craig raised his axe into the air for a moment, while aggressively plucking the strings. Their abbreviated set contained one more newer tune, and that was “What Do You Say?” Craig got goofy on it, and when Alan approached him, he started to make all sorts of faces for the GoPro, looking right into it, and even dropping to his knee as he continued to stare at it. They had a solid flow going by this point, as they weaved each song into the next, and the transition to “I Am” was seamless.

Marc stood up behind his kit at the start, beaming at everyone for a moment; and after that heavy rock number, they were ready to close it out with “Sleep On it”. Don motioned and called to Kenneths’ nephew, Tyler, to join them on stage. He handed off the reins to Tyler on each chorus; and at the last one, he [Tyler] sang in a deep, throaty manner. It was fitting for the song. “Get ‘em up one last time!” Don bellowed as the song neared the end. It looked like a sea of drinks for a moment; and then they finished, with enough time left they probably could have done one more. If they hadn’t already done their routine closer that is.

It was a very solid performance, and I swear these guys just get better each time I see them. The crowd helped out a lot, because not only was the room packed for them, but they also had plenty of people as close as they could possible get, which helped create an excellent atmosphere.

Even with little space to work with, they still found plenty of room to move around, still delivering the type of show you’ve come to expect from them, and I think it earned them a few new fans this night. Also, I know I’ve said this the last few shows of theirs I’ve caught, but I’ll say it again: I love how fluid they’re making their shows. Diving headfirst from one song to the next really adds a sense of professionalism.

They’ll be back here at the Curtain on September 20th, but before that, they have a gig at Andy’s in Denton on August 28th. They’ll also be up in Greenville on October 11th at The Hanger. Lastly, if you don’t have Who I Am, go get a copy in iTUNES.

Sunday, August 10th, 2014 - Dialogue May be Rehearsed, but Saving Abels’ Show is Full of Heart

The Saving Abel show wasn’t originally supposed to be held at The Curtain Club, but that was where it wound up. I was okay with that, given my immense love for the venue; and actually, it made me all the more excited to see the stacked bill of local talent that had been assembled to open the show.

Of course, Saving Abel was who a lot of people were there to see, and they were ecstatic when the band finally hit the stage at 11:10.

“We! Are! Saving Abel!” Scotty Austin roared as they began the title track from the “Bringing Down the Giant” record. The four of them who were at the forefront of the stage all thrashed about in synch at the heaviest parts; and it didn’t take long before Austin pulled his shirt off and cast it aside.

“I’m gonna handle this a little differently…” he said to the crowd, saying he had played to more people than this in his living room. “This is like your own private Saving Abel show!” he told fans, mentioning he was holding them all accountable this night. “Now, how about a little Love Like Suicide?” he said while he stared out at the audience and tilted his head around. With that, guitarists Jason Null and Scott Bartlett, bassist Eric Taylor and drummer Steven Pulley opened up what is the newest single they have released. It kept the lively, hard-hitting pace up, and while new, their fans seemed to be loving it as much as they did the classics that were coming up.

“You guys are a lot of fun! For real!” Austin said with a smile on his face. He added they wanted to meet everyone after they got off stage and wouldn’t be going anywhere except their merch table. “…That shouldn’t take long. What, there’s like, fifty of us?” he joked. There were probably at least eighty people still hanging around, probably a little more.

They then worked their way back to their debut, self-titled album with “New Tattoo”. The high-octane number really got the crowd going, and when he wasn’t singing, Austin was speaking to the crowd. “This is a small room. I can see the whites of your eyes!” he spoke, with the point of that being he needed to see everyone getting into this. “I want to hear some hell raising!!” he shouted at another point. Taylor and Pulley gave the song a strong finish, as Taylor was facing him while dominating his bass; and as they wound it into the next song, a fan climbed on stage. The band didn’t seem to care much, though eventually one of the staff members at the venue led the guy off stage, but only after he had grabbed a pair of drumsticks and started lightly tapping on one of the drums. The song they had gone into was “Contagious”, and it was followed with a nice transition into “Stupid Girl (Only in Hollywood)”, which had most everyone singing along.

“We came here for one reason: to have a mother fucking party with you!” shouted Austin, as he proceeded to banter more with the crowd. There were younger kids in attendance, and he noted that if any parents were offended by that, then they just needed to remember they brought their kids to a rock show. Speaking of young kids, it was at this point a little girl who was just a few years old put her horns up. “…That’s the cutest shit I’ve seen.” Austin remarked, adding that if you didn’t think that was adorable, then there was something wrong with you; and he also joked that it was ruining his mojo.

He talked a lot of how small the crowd was this night, and now declared everyone here to be a member of Saving Abel. “You don’t get off that easy. That comes with stipulations!” he stressed, while shaking his finger at everyone. The stipulation was everyone had to sing, and for anyone who didn’t know the words, well, they were told to just make shit up. “That’s what I do every night!” Austin laughed. “…Because rock ‘n’ roll ain’t about being perfect. It’s about having fun.” Tis true. Now, not everyone did know the lyrics for what came next, but a vast majority of the crowd did, and at times they overpowered the band on “The Sex is Good”.

Afterwards, Austin gave it up for all the talented local acts that opened up the show, stating they were music fans first and musicians second. He outright said there are a lot of “shitty” bands out there and that Dallas was lucky to have so many talented ones; then, speaking to the musicians, told them not to let that (the “shitty” ones) jade them. He switched topics to how much touring they have done this year, and with shows in forty-seven states just since January 1st, they have been busy. That has led them to miss their home state of Mississippi. “…So we’re bringing Mississippi with us!” Austin shouted before “Hell of a Ride”. Bartlett showed off his chops as a guitarist on the killer solo, earning him some praise from the crowd.

“I’m not ready to leave Mississippi just yet!” said Austin, more speaking to Null. Null treated it as if Austin was his drill sergeant. “No, sir! I am not, sir!” he quickly spoke while standing at attention. He and Bartlett then stood side by side with one another and shredded as they opened up “You Make Me Sick”. “For real, we’re having a great ass time. This feels like a private party. Usually we have a barricade here…” Austin told the crowd upon finishing the track. They then took several minutes to allow him to introduce the entire band, and each member got their moment when they were named. Taylors’ bass was said to be the thing that made the ladies “shake their ass”; and when he stopped at the request of Austin, then so, too, did the fans stop moving. Austin himself admitted he can be long-winded, and told a story, with the moral being “you can do whatever you want to,” encouraging worlds for everyone there. “…All these songs came out of this guy’s head!” Austin said, pointing at Null. “He’s crazy as shit!” he added; and during Nulls’ piece on the guitar, he managed to break a string.

He played “Mississippi Moonshine” like that, with one of the strings dangling in the air. Before moving on, their manager joined them on stage, and he had bought drink tickets for everyone, causing the crowd to swarm the stage to try to get one before immediately going to redeem it. Once they had been passed out, their manager mentioned Saving Abel was working on a new record, calling it “their best stuff yet”, and now they did a song from it.

It was the following song that was the most emotional one. Austin mentioned he had a brother who had just finished a tour in Iraq, “…It’s the people in suits tell us who to fight. They tell us where to fight. They tell us when to fight, but it’s never them fighting. It’s our brothers and sisters,” he said solemnly. “18 Days” seemed to hit home for a lot of people, and there were a few who shed some tears, including Austin, who wiped his eyes once they had finished it. He stressed that the message was serious, but he did try to cheer people up after that poignant moment. “I tried to join the military. They told me I was “mentally unstable”, whatever that means,” he quipped.

With their 92-minute long set winding down, they had some fun, and Null and Austin switched places. “In my mind I’m a badass guitar player,” said Austin as he placed the strap around him. Null took on the lead vocals, but first, they brought nearly every audience member up on the stage with them. You couldn’t see Pulley from all the people, who sang and danced along to their rendition of AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell”.

They were about ready to end it, but first, Austin shared his thoughts on musicians who took things too seriously, pointing out that’s not how Saving Abel does it. “…Life is shitty, and rock n roll mother fucking rules!” he declared, prompting the loudest response all night. That led them to “Drowning (Face Down)”; and after expressing that they truly would be nothing if it weren’t for their fans (as well as mentioning what a great venue Curtain Club was, and we needed to ensure it sticks around), they wrapped it up with “Addicted”.

Usually, that’s where the curtain closes and the band (whoever it may be) goes on their way. Not these guys. The urged everyone to buy every other bands merch. Not theirs, but those who opened. Their tour partners in Story of a Ghost, and while the locals weren’t mentioned by name, they were included in that, too, because if people didn’t, then “music will die” which would subsequently mean that “rock will die”. “Have a good ass time. We! Are! Saving Abel!” Austin again belted, bringing things to a close.

To me, much of the dialogue, at least that around this being like a “private show” or there being “stipulations” and such seemed overly rehearsed/scripted. Now, I know that’s something any touring band does. After all, if you’re playing a different city nearly almost every night, you can’t be expected to come up with new banter. On the other hand, you can make it sound spontaneous. It’s all in the tone of which you say it. Basically, parts of that just felt like they were going through the motions.

I want to stress, their love for the crowd, the support of the other musicians and anything along those lines was definitely legitimate and came from the heart. As for their show, in terms of performance, it was unrelenting; and I think they delivered everything everyone wanted to hear during their time on stage and did it in a memorable fashion.

They really do care about their fans, and that’s cool to see.

They have plenty of dates scheduled through this fall, and they can all be found HERE. Don’t forget they have a few albums in iTUNES, too, with another one apparently in the works.

Saturday, August 9th, 2014 – The Collective Crushes it at Their CD Release Show

This was a monumental night for me. Why? Well, it marked the 700th concert I’ve seen. Not too bad. How fitting, too, that it would just so happen to take place at my favorite venue: The Curtain Club.

As usual, the night consisted of four bands, a couple of whom I had seen many times before, while the others were either little known and even unknown to me.

The third band of the night was The Collective, and it was a big night for them, as they were celebrating the release of their debut album.

I had heard the name before, but knew nothing about them; and as I usually do with bands I’m not familiar with, I watched from afar.

“Happy birthday, Chad! Happy birthday, Kris! Happy birthday, me!” said frontman Derek, getting all those well wishes to the sound guy; the singer of Krash Rover (who played before them); and himself out of the way early. After all, this night was also about the birth of Inherent — their debut album — and they cut right to the chase with “Blessed Ex”.

They had a strong fan base of at least a couple dozen people who were already getting rowdy and singing along to the chorus, “Swallow this down now, it must be contained… Remember the target and take back my aim. No need to ever remember your name.” Each time he sang it, Derek pulled one arm back and took a stance as if he were preparing to fire a bow. He asked everyone to give it up for Scott, who tore it up on a guitar solo; and as the track neared the end, Derek, who had been moving all over the place, jumped atop their light box, causing a bright light to illuminate his face as they closed it out.

Their fans, old and new, applauded the chops and showmanship they had demonstrated on that song, and then Grego launched them into “Aspasia” with some rapid-fire drumbeats. They were part of the way through that one when I decided I had to get a closer view. For bands I’m a fan of, I’ll be front and center; but it has been some time since a band actually compelled me to go up to the front of the stage.

Derek made sure everyone knew Chad Lovell, and when asking those who did to raise their hands, the sound guy himself put his hand in the air. Derek found that to be hilarious; and he also mentioned they had achieved a hat trick on the birthdays, before stating that this next song was “about destroying your own fucking self”. It was titled “I, Saboteur”, and once it was done, Derek informed everyone they were just going to play “straight through the new album”. He added this next one was one he wrote about his father when he passed away in the previous year. It created a somber moment, though it was short-lived, because this was a band who didn’t want to nor know how to slow things down. Scot and bassist Jake were going full throttle on “All Tucked In”; and at one point, Derek made his way off the stage and out into the crowd, where he continued to thrash his body around as he engaged with some of their friends/fans. There was also a cool moment when Grego stood up from his kit during a quick lull in the song.

“Prioritease” came next, and the energetic frontman continued to demonstrate his prowess as he flipped the microphone in a tight spin on the second chorus, catching it without even glancing at it. “You ready?! Bob your heads!” Derek instructed at one point, while he knelt down on the light box. Bobbing your head was again required on “Calloused”, which was different from anything else they had done, as it was partly rapped. They’re certainly a diverse band; and it was pretty impressive how Derek could go from spitting out the words to singing at the drop of a hat. “When you bring me your disdain you’ll soon discover there ain’t nothing here but pain…” went the chorus, which was sung in a smooth, though mighty tone.

Derek now had an idea. “Let’s fuck Chad up!” he said, before adding they should at least wait until their set was over. “This song’s called The Torch,” he then announced, as they did a song that was equal parts reserved and hard hitting. They amped things back up with “Inward”, which saw Derek starting to crouch of the light box, singing while surveying the audience. He even lightly slapped his face after finishing one line; and when the song seemed to end, Grego ran out from behind the drums, rushing to the front of the stage where he beginning high-fiving people. Then, when he sat back behind his kit, they picked the track up where they had left off. It was a fun moment, and very cool.

More stellar guitar solos came flying during “The Charlatan”; and then came a sing along, which was made up of three simple words that no one had trouble shouting along, “Just say the word!” Derek continued interacting with the fans, kneeling down at front of the stage, but then he took it to the next level when he again jumped off the stage, headed to the back by the bar, and then went out the doors to the patio. A small handful of fans then got a mosh pit going as things came to an end.

“Here’s to being twenty-seven forever!” declared Derek as they downed some shots that had appeared on stage, and then busted out a non-album track called “Repair”. He shared a joke with everyone once it was done, asking if anyone liked Wendy’s. Of course, people did, and the joke he had recently heard went, “You gonna like it when des nuts get dragged cross yo face.” “I was, like, did I just get Puked or something?!” he finished, speaking of his reaction when someone pulled that on him. They did one more, possibly “Manumitter”, since it was the only track they hadn’t done from the ten-song release. Their fans weren’t satisfied with just one more, though, and immediately began demanding one more.

I’ve seen a few shows where the crowd wants to hear an encore from a band, but due to time constraints, they are seldom done. Actually, while I’m sure I have seen a few bands (who weren’t the headliner) do an encore, none come to mind at the moment. “You want one more?!” Derek said to the crowd, before speaking to his band mates, “They want one more,” and as he moved the mic away from his mouth you could hear him ask Scott, “What are we doing?!” “You don’t even have one more song!” one fan shouted.

He then looked at Chad. “When you were doing this,” he said, holding his hands out as if he were measuring something, “I thought you meant something else. I didn’t know you were telling us we had a really long set,” he laughed. Luckily, they did have something left in their catalog, and “T Gondii” was honestly my favorite song of their set. “Slow this down before I come unbound; you’ve got to turn it around and put your…” Derek and Scott harmonized on the first line of each chorus, doing it completely a cappella. The instruments came back in then, while the repeated the line a couple of times, finishing it with, “Put your trust in me,” which Derek sang in a growly voice.

And so ended their 57-minute long set, which made for a show I don’t think anyone will be forgetting anytime soon.

Part of me hates that it took me so long to actually see and hear The Collective. Another part is glad it did, ‘cause I didn’t have to anxiously wait for them to get an album done and out. And I do know I’ll be seeing them many times to come.

They impressed the hell out of me this night, with their incredibly dynamic performance that captivated everyone, and the songs were often catchy, while still retaining the ballsy sound rock music is supposed to have.

Perhaps this was all the culmination of a surge of emotions over the release of their new album, but I don’t think so. These guys have nailed down what a performance should be like, and it’s pretty clear it’s what they’re meant to be doing.

They have a couple Dallas shows coming up next month, one on September 18th at The Boiler Room, and the other will be at O’Riley’s on the 20th.

Saturday, August 9th, 2014 – Dead Beat Poetry Dishes Out the Rock at Curtain Club

This was a monumental night for me. Why? Well, it marked the 700th concert I’ve seen. Not too bad. How fitting, too, that it would just so happen to take place at my favorite venue: The Curtain Club.

As usual, the night consisted of four bands, a couple of whom I had seen many times before, while the others were either little known and even unknown to me.

I was unsure how this night was going to turn out when I first arrived, because I was practically the only non-band member there. Granted, it was only 8:40 or so; and the show started around 9:30, instead of nine, which was when I had assumed things would get underway.

The duo of Lulio Guevara and Brandon Keebler, better known as Dead Beat Poetry, was starting off the night. Their 38-minute set consisted of some new songs, as well as material from both their records, like the opener, “Redbone”. They traversed a myriad of styles, and that one was a little blues inspired rock. “This next song’s entitled Golf Clap.” Lulio informed the handful of people who were there. On the plus side, everyone did seem to be paying attention.

Their best moment of the night came with “La Revolucion”, which spanned nearly seven-minutes and featured a fiery guitar solo; while Brandon kept up a pulse-pounding pace on the drums. It embodied the rebel spirit, too, and the cry of “I got a taste for revolution!” on the chorus was catchy, while one of the lines from the verses, “I look out my window, I don’t like what I see.” seemed all too appropriate for the times we’re living end.

“Obnoxious” was another good song; and after it, Lulio showed off a different side of his voice as they did an intense number that found him screaming more than anything. It was good. He then mentioned this was Chad Lovell’s birthday, and pointed out the man who was busy working the sound for them. “He’s thirty today.” said Lulio, which led one of the bartenders to reply with, “That’s an ugly thirty.”

With that out of the way, they embarked on their final song, one that boasted a drum solo from Brandon, and Lulio stepped over to the stairwell on the side of the stage, allowing all attention to go to him. There was also a lengthy instrumental break they threw in; and Lulio rocked out another, albeit brief, solo at the end.

If I’m remembering right, I think I did see a part of a Dead Beat Poetry show a few years back. However, I think I was feeling tired that night and left shortly after they started.

They gave a solid performance this night. Every song has rock roots, though you got to see how deep Lulio’s well of inspiration is, because they all drew on a vast array of other genres and musicians. In that respect, it was even impressive.

You should check them out, and go see them if you get a chance. Keep an eye on their FACEBOOK for word on future shows; and you can find their music on BANDCAMP.

Ishi will End West Coast Run with a Pair of North Texas Shows

After an eleven-date run that has lasted about three weeks, Ishi is finally coming home.

The electronic outfit played a string of shows around California, before making their way to Washington State, Oregon as well as making other stops along the way. The tour won’t end, however, until they give their hometown fans one last party, before undoubtedly taking a little time off to recoup from their adventures.

Their tour sendoff show a month ago was something else. Easily the best Ishi show I’ve seen, and one that saw the return of an old favorite or two (even if it was just a one-off thing), plus the debut of some new material.

They have two gigs planned for North Texas fans. The first will take place on Friday, August 15th at Lola’s Saloon in Fort Worth, while the other will be a rarer intimate Dallas show, as they grace the smaller stage of The Prophet Bar on August 16th.

They’ll surely be a little spent from their time on the road, and these will be the third and fourth night of consecutive shows for them, but don’t expect any tiredness to show on J.T. Mudd or his band mates. This is a band that goes all out. Always. Just come ready to dance and party.

Show info:
Friday, August 15th at Lola’s Saloon
All ages
Doors at 9
$13

Saturday, August 16th at The Prophet Bar
All ages
Doors at 8
$12
image

image





Saturday, August 9th, 2014 – New Magnetic North Comes Out from Their Hibernation

This was a monumental night for me. Why? Well, it marked the 700th concert I’ve seen. Not too bad. How fitting, too, that it would just so happen to take place at my favorite venue: The Curtain Club.

As usual, the night consisted of four bands, a couple of whom I had seen many times before, while the others were either little known and even unknown to me.

The “deadliner” slot went to New Magnetic North, who took the stage a little after one in the morning. The show was last minute for them. In fact, I didn’t even know they were playing until just a few days before, which gave me more incentive to come out to the Curtain.

It had been too long since I had last seen them. In fact, Tim Ziegler was still the vocalist, and due to his busy schedule, he stepped down as their singer about a year-and-a-half ago or so. That left guitarist and founding member Jacob Aaron to step up and take on the lead vocals.

The band wasn’t complete this night, however. Bryan Ziegler was out of town, meaning they didn’t have their second guitarist and had to perform as a trio.

Before beginning, Jacob mentioned that this was Chad’s birthday (Chad Lovell, who runs the sound at Curtain). The dozen or so people who were still there made little noise, prompting Jacob to tell them that “was some pussy ass shit”. Everyone did better the next time around. With that, they opened with the old standby, “Eleven”. Despite being just a three-piece with Jacob, bassist Bobby McCrary and drummer James Guajardo, the song still sounded spot on. That’s not to say the second guitar wasn’t missed, but they did a fine job without it this night. Having never heard Jacob sing (apart from backing vocals), I was even surprised at how similar his voice sounded to that of Tims’. Even the tone sounded alike.

“Sorry about the delay in getting this kicked off…” Jacob told the crowd while he tuned his guitar. Someone in the crowd mentioned it was Old Greg’s fault. “Yeah, Old Greg was giving us some problems.” Jacob said laughing (that’s a cover band some of them play in, who originally was supposed to play this night instead of them.)

The progressive rock act dished out quite a few songs this night; and after the second one, Jacob mentioned they had “come up from the basement”, saying it had been a year or so since they had done anything on a stage. They have been hard at work on their debut album, though; and after thanking the ten to twenty people who had stuck around for being there, they did another song that will no doubt be on it: “Dedicated to: The Machines”. Jacob began it by creating a bit of feedback as he held his guitar up to his amp, and just crushed it later on with the sheer amount of energy he packed into the performance, while Bob stole the spotlight for a time with a semi-solo. That was perhaps one upside to having such a basic band: the bass prevailed over everything else.

“You’re our test crowd, in case you didn’t know by this point.” joked Jacob, showing he at least had a sense of humor about it all; and Chad had personally thanked them for jumping on this bill with such short notice. “Can we make this look like a show?!” Jacob then asked everyone, adding they were going to “fucking smash your face in,” with this next one. “Is what our hope is.” he then soon added, not wanting to be presumptuous. It was titled “The Watchers”, and like so much of their music, it was very technical and intricate. They got probably thirty seconds into it, and then suddenly stopped. Jacob approached the mic. “That’s the version where we don’t know how to play the fucking song, so imagine what it’ll sound like when we actually do.” Was it a fuck up? Yeah, of course. Still, I loved the way they played it off. They didn’t have any flubs the next time around, and the song was monstrous. I haven’t heard them do anything like this before.

For their next song, they welcomed Deric to the stage. For the first time, they were having some keys/midi added to some of the songs, and that was his job. “If anyone needs any legal representation on the way home, this is the mother fucker…” Jacob informed the people, pointing at Deric, before they unleashed another intense number that probably got some eardrums close to bleeding.

What came next took up a huge chuck of their time on stage, and Derics’ keys were most prominent at the start of the tune. It sounded like something you would hear in some movie set in space, say Alien. It was calm, yet there was something eerie about it. It went on for a while, before Jacob mentioned they were hoping to get Chad behind the drums for the following song, and wanted to give him plenty of time to prepare. The newest song in their “catalog of bull shit” lasted probably twelve to fifteen minutes easy. The first portion was brutal (once the full band came in), while the second was more tranquil, again highlighting the keys. It started to come to an end, or so it seemed, before they ripped back into it. Man, they’ve cooked up some impressive songs since I last saw them.

“…We get so tired of those two to three-minute long pop songs…” remarked Jacob, before Bob chimed in, saying their remedy for that was to just do fourteen minutes of one note. Now they got Chad Lovell up there, and the old Course of Empire drummer (for those who don’t know, they were around from the late 80’s through late 90’s. Well before my time in the local music scene) helped them in doing something Jacob pointed out they had not rehearsed, though they did all love the song. “…I know they’re a little old for some of you young fucks…” Jacob told the audience, speaking of Jane’s Addiction, whom they were covering. They tried their hand at “Mountain Song”, and it sounded perfect.

They weren’t done yet, though, and Chad enjoyed his time behind the kit a little longer, helping them in finishing out their 51-minute long set with one last original number that again required some keys. Finally, at the urging of the crowd, he did a drum solo once everyone had left the stage, and while just a handful of people still remained, he captivated everyone’s attention.

This probably wasn’t the best show New Magnetic North has done. In talking to them, I know they were a little apprehensive about doing this show without the other guitar. That’s understandable; and they did experience a bump or two along the way. Still, I thought they did great.

For any loyal readers, you know I’ve been a fan of Tim Ziegler for a while now (since ’06); and I was just curious as to how they would sound without him. That’s not to insinuate that he made the band, but changing singers can also be risky regardless of who you are.

They sounded even better than what I was expecting; and they didn’t lose any ground in the transition between drummers and lead singers. Actually, I think they gained some.

All I know is I’m looking forward to seeing another NMN show; and hopefully within the next year or so they’ll have an album done. It has been a long time coming, but after hearing the selection of songs this night, it will be well worth the year’s long wait.

The Dear Hunters’ Tour Will Wrap Up in Texas this Weekend

imageThe Dear Hunter is quite easily one of the best rock acts around.

The band is so versatile, blending and transitioning between indie and progressive rock without difficulty. Casey Crescenzos’ voice is striking and capable of pulling of the wide variety of genres, from raw screams of anger on the heavier rock stuff, to tranquil ballads that heavily incorporate the use of the piano.

In an age where it’s best to write about a three-minute long pop song that tells and wraps up a story all in that time, it’s also nice to see an artist who focuses so heavily on conceptual songs, from his first three releases, Act I:…, Act II:… and Act III:… (which only completes half of the story, with three more to come sometime in the future), to the massive undertaking of The Color Spectrum EP’s. That collection not only explored a massive story arc (nine EP’s with four tracks on each), but also played out according to the color they represented (i.e. Black was angry and very intense, while Blue is more tranquil, etc.)

Let’s not forget 2013’s Migrant, which is a first in the fact that each song stands alone, though it’s arguably the best work Crescenzo and his band mates have done to date.

They’ve been on the road for a little over a month now; and this weekend will see their tour with RX Bandits coming to an end as they make their way across the Lone Star State. Their Saturday, August 16th show at Gas Monkey in Dallas will be a can’t miss event.

Show info:
Saturday, August 16th at Gas Monkey Bar & Grill in Dallas.
RX Bandits will headline, with The Dear Hunter on before them. From Indian Lakes will open.
Ages 16+
Doors open at 7 / Music begins at 8
$19. Advanced tickets can be purchased HERE for $16
image

image

Saturday, August 9th, 2014 – Krash Rover Returns to the Curtain Club for a Birthday Bash

This was a monumental night for me. Why? Well, it marked the 700th concert I’ve seen. Not too bad. How fitting, too, that it would just so happen to take place at my favorite venue: The Curtain Club.

As usual, the night consisted of four bands, a couple of whom I had seen many times before, while the others were either little known and even unknown to me.

One act I was there for was Krash Rover. These days (with guitarist Ashton Quincey being away at college), you can count the number of shows they do each year on one hand; and it had been probably a year or a little longer since I had last seen them. Basically, I was long overdue for a fix.

They began the opener of their 54-minute long set long before the curtain opened, and once it did reveal them, the quartet exploded into “Russian Roulette (Part II)”. Their group of fans was small at first, but they all swarmed the stage, many singing right along with singer and rhythm guitarist Kris Newman on the chorus of, “It’s so hard to hold on, but I can’t do this on my own. I need you within me; bring life into my empty soul…” Given their extended time away from the stage, it didn’t take them anytime to find their legs for it; and Kris owned his solo.

“How you guys doing tonight?” he asked once they finished, thanking everyone for coming out. It was a few days early, but this show was his birthday show, and he joked that since he would be twenty-three, then according to Blink-182, no would like him. They continued with “In My Mind”, which ended with Ashton striking a good pose as he stood with one foot on the drum riser and the other on his amp, while he showed off his skills. There was just enough of a break for applause before Kris started them off on “Feel Good On The Inside”. Even though it’s one of their newest songs, it has been around for a few years already, and I’ve heard it a good number of times now, but there was something about it this night that made it sound better than ever. Zach Fuentes proved himself a force to be reckoned with as he laid into the drums; and the blistering notes from the guitars ensure this is a song that will appeal to every rock fan.

“Alright, aright.” said Kris upon finishing. “Who has a drink in their hand?!” he shouted, asking for everyone to put it up. The audience than began cheering, but it wasn’t for the reason Kris thought. He finally turned around to see his mother who had walked up behind him with a bottle of Jack Daniels in hand and sparklers tied to the top, one of which was a “2”, the other a “3”. The sparklers soon burned out, and after a few festive minutes, they got back to it, doing what I believe was a cover of ZZ Tops’ “Just Got Paid”. It went along the lines of Krash Rover’s music, making it a fitting choice; and during it, they stopped, seeming to be done. Kris thanked the Curtain and the other bands on the bill, mentioning The Collective was doing their CD release show, and he thought it was for their first CD. “Don’t quote me on that.” Kris stressed, adding he had looked them up and they “seemed cool”. Then, they jumped back into the song, getting some fan participation as he led everyone in singing along, “More, more we want more!”

The crowd was enjoying it, though they didn’t seem as vocal as they usually are. Perhaps it was because everyone’s used to seeing Krash Rover go on an hour or two later than this. That said, Kris mentioned that he knew it was an early show, but he still thought people would have had plenty of time to get some alcohol in their systems. To counteract that, they decided to do a slower song, “to make you all jittery and stuff.” as Kris put it. “Release Me” may begin slow, but it doesn’t end that way; and with some mangled chords, they bled it right into their old hit: “She Gets Around”. They tried something new (at least from the last time I saw them), with Kris and Ashton both singing on some of the lines, such as “I think she’d rather see her pimp.”, and combined like that, even though it was just in short bursts, their harmonies sounded incredible. Each of them even stood back-to-back during a duel guitar solo; and then Zach hopped up from his stool to pump everyone up, before they closed it out.

They had another cover planned, one Kris noted was something everyone seemed to like. Indeed, they have turned “Simple Man” by Lynyrd Skynyrd into a staple of theirs; and Kris sat his guitar down for it, taking on the frontman role. It’s a role he fits quite well; and during the guitar solo, he gripped the cord and spun the mic around. “You having a good time yet?!” he roared afterwards, being met with an equally loud response. With that, he set them off on “SAS”, egging the crowd on at the beginning to make some noise for them, while he and Ashton again blended their voices, and the result was awesome.

“I think I’m just now starting to wake up!” exclaimed Kris once they were done. That was no exaggeration, and their next song was the best thing they had done so far. They hit their stride with it; and for most of the track Ashton and bassist Miguel Fair swapped sides on stage, before racing back to where they had began.

Kris again leaned out to the crowd, putting his ear forward, but few were paying attention. Ashton was already onto the next song, but Kris stopped him. “It’s my fucking birthday. Make some goddamn noise!!” he yelled. The fans were happy to; and he confessed he didn’t want to be a “dick” and handle it that way, though it did prove effective. They got back to it, and while Miguel had been very forceful this entire night, he reached a new level now, jumping around the stage at the start of the tune and slapping his bass. As I said earlier, they found their stride with that previous song, and as they neared the end, they just become more of a beast.

It looked like that may have been their final song, because before they could go any further the guys were told they had gone over their time. The fans’ cries for one more made it clear no one would tolerate an early ending, and thankfully the venue let them go ahead. “Do we got any Texans in the house?!” asked Kris. No sooner had he uttered that sentence and then Zach started in on the drums for “I’m From Texas”; while everyone showed off their state pride by chanting “Texas!” There were a few different sing along moments, along with a drum solo that Zach owned and Kris dropped to his knees during it as he picked away at his axe.

“Thanks for coming out and celebrating with us.” Kris told the crowd right at the tail end.

After missing the last few shows, I had forgotten how much I missed Krash Rover. This show reminded me, though.

Kris’s voice sounds better than it ever has, and they still have all the chemistry they need for a dynamic live show, even if said shows are kept few and far between. And I tell ya, watching the band they were for these last three songs was not the same band that first took the stage. Part of that was probably because the spectators got more into it, too, giving the band more energy to feed off of. Still, they transcended right before everyone’s eyes.

Pick up their album in iTUNES if you don’t have it; and keep an eye on their FACEBOOK for future show updates.

Album Review: Mesocyclone by Nicholas Altobelli

imageNicholas Altobelli is a singer/songwriter through and through, perfectly embodying the genre.

One reason I say that is because just last year, in the earlier part of 2013, he released Without a Home to much critical acclaim, garnering praise from the smallest to the biggest media outlets in North Texas, and even from areas elsewhere. It was a different record for him, as he enlisted the help from several friends and fellow musicians, making it into a full-band effort, and in doing so left behind the solo, almost Americana/folk sound for some more poppy tracks.

Shortly after releasing it, though, he was already talking about a follow-up, even starting on songs for it. However, the year plus it has taken to create and release said follow-up wasn’t an easy one for Altobelli. His marriage came to an end during that time, and he also found himself going back to college to pursue a degree in history.

The result of that heartache is the 6-song Mesocyclone EP. The Gigawatts (his backing band) are again utilized, though they return to what Altobelli does best: folk/Americana songs. Poignant ones at that, and even though he’s known for writing more somber songs, this collection takes it to a new level.

The title of the EP isn’t the only weather reference on this album. Take for example the title of the lead track, “Thunderstorms”. While a full-band may be used, the most prominent elements of the music are still Nicholas’ voice and acoustic guitar, though the heavy use of the drums adds a nice kick to the song, while the pedal steel guitar creates some gorgeous moments, though you can hear that even those notes have a tinge of sadness to them. Various metaphors of wind and rain are weaved in as Altobelli croons about the beginning stages of a relationships demise, trying to put a positive spin on it. “…I just want you to know, thunderstorms don’t last.”

Each song tells the next line in the story, and for “Black or Blue”, that seems to be a line about how important communication is. “If I only understood, I could have been your king. If I only understood, you would have kept this ring…” Altobelli woefully sings. This is a contender for the saddest song on the album, and it’s one filled with what ifs, forever wondering if things had been different how they might have worked out. The saddest thing is, it’s hoping they still will [work out], as the chorus, “And I know that tomorrow you will see what’s been missing you…” suggests.

“I called your bluff and I called it hard. Now I’m left with a clotted scar…” goes the second verse of “Pretty Little Daffodil”, a track that finds Altobelli going back to his roots as a solo musician, armed with only an acoustic guitar. That format is behooving of the mood the song has, which is partly about how hard it is to say goodbye to someone you’ve come to know so much about and spent so much time with.  There’s also a soft and subtle sound of rain mixed into the track, helping intensify the mood.

“Memories” is a little more about acceptance of the situation, albeit reluctant acceptance. Altobelli is one of the best lyricists in the North Texas music scene and that talent is showcased exceedingly well on this track, especially on the final verse, “…Just like the love cherished, this too will perish. The memories we had are all that we’ll ever have…” The track exudes heartache, which shines through on every word. “Memories” also sees the return of The Gigawatts, and the piano is heavily featured, and it and the acoustic often complement one another. Quite well, I might add.

In making this EP, Altobelli also looked to the past, resurrecting a song from the Dog Years EP, “Summer Rain”. The fact that this version is so much more fleshed out with the drums, pedal steel, etc. makes it all the more impressive over the original version. It may have been written years prior, yet it fits the story arc of this record surprisingly well. It sounds desolate, and even with a band, that feeling is conveyed in the music. You’ll feel broken just by simply listening to it.

The delicate sound of rain falling is again heard behind the acoustic and Altobellis’ voice on “Odd Numbers”. It’s a fitting closing number, and despite being hurt, the core message is love is always worth it. “…I wouldn’t trade it in to ease the pain that I felt.” he softly sings as the first verse ends. It’s really a simple song in certain aspects, often repeating the chorus. But as I’ve said before about other bands: there’s beauty in simplicity. “…Yes, the darkness came, but the light sure gave a try…”. That’s such  a powerful line, and my take away from it is regardless how something ends, you should just be glad it happened in the first place. Be grateful you got to experience it for some amount of time, even if you’re left not understanding everything.

It’s sad that the most ardent music has to be born out of the most anguishing of circumstances. Yet in some cruel twist of fate, there’s also beauty in that.

I’m sure there are countless numbers of examples of that in music, and I can think of a few myself, where one album a band produces ends up being superior to anything else they have or perhaps even will do, because it’s so raw. Such is the case with Nicholas Altobelli and Mesocyclone.

The life changing events that he went through led to the best music he has done to date. Yes, it’s even better than Without a Home.

It’s so personal, and he has no trouble laying it all out there for the listener; and I imagine this was somewhat of a cathartic experience for him, too.

As I said, Nicholas Altobelli isn’t known for being the cheeriest songwriter there is, but Mesocyclone takes the sadness and despair often found in his music to a whole new level, completely immersing you in the breakup. It’s so rare you get a front row seat like that.

Don’t let that somber tone keep you from listening, though. This may not be an uplifting record, but it’s one you have to listen to. Savor how fluid these six songs are. How they gradually progress the tale. A tale that takes a mere 22-minutes to tell; and once it’s over, just be grateful you were given this glimpse into the life of Altobelli.

Key players in making the record were:
Nicholas Altobelli: acoustic guitars
Heather Kitzman: pedal steel
Trey Carmichael: drums
Daniel Markham: bass
Tony Whitlock: electric guitar
Rahim Quazi: piano
Salim Nourallah: electric guitar, backing vocals


Purchase the album on:
iTUNES (you can pre-order it now. Official release date is August 5th.) / Amazon / CD / Bandcamp

Visit Nicholas Altobellis’ websites:
Official Website / Facebook / Twitter / Youtube
image(Photo credit: Sally Durrum)

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014 – Jessie Frye Warms Up the Crowd for Kitten

Tactics Productions had a great show going on at Club Dada this night. It offered a good way to get an early jump on the weekend, without being out too late; and more than a few people had opted to get a live music fix this hump day.

The only local opener on the bill was Dentons’ own Jessie Frye and her band; and I got the feeling the fates were against me seeing their set.

A traffic back-up while leaving the suburbs and another near the Good-Latimer exit on Highway 75 added ten minutes or so onto the trip, and the construction that’s going on, on Elm Street doesn’t make it too easy to maneuver through Deep Ellum, either.

All of that put me there several minutes after the scheduled eight-o’clock start time, but luckily, as most concerts do, they weren’t adhering to a strict schedule.

The four-piece took the stage at 8:16, and after they all shared a glance with one another, guitarist Jordan Martin started them off on “Like a Light”. “…Let the magic in your heart set you apart…” Jessie crooned on the chorus; and immediately after the first one, she asked how everyone was doing, getting a good reaction from the thirty-to-forty or so people who were already there. They didn’t have much room on stage, because the second bands’ gear was all setup behind them, though it was still ample space to allow Jessie to jump around, something she did more and more of the deeper they got into the track.

Chad Fords’ final drum beats resonated in the room, while the bass died down and Andrew O’Hearn stood there for a moment as Jordan made a seamless segue into another song from the “Fireworks Child” EP: “Fortune Teller”. It’s slightly steamier than that opener, and that was reflected in the way Jessie conducted herself on stage, and also in the way she somewhat shouted the word “twist” on the line, “…Wish I might find a lover to twist and turn to the heat of summer…”.

“Thank you so much for being here!” Jessie exclaimed afterwards, saying what an honor it was to be sharing the stage with Kitten — whom she happens to be a fan of. They had some slight technical difficulties now, revolving around the track they needed to use. It took a minute or two, but then it kicked on, and they got to some stuff from the Obsidian album. Keeping up with the sultry mood from the previous song, Jessie was often seen shaking her hips to the beat of “White Heat”. I still really like those older songs from the EP(s) she has released, but you can tell the difference from them and this newer batch of music. They just sound better in all regards, from more complex sounds (the guitar tones sound excellent on this number), to the lyrics, and even Jessies’ voice has grown exponentially over the few years in between records.

There wasn’t much down time between it and “Never Been To Paris”, and Andrew and Chad sounded fantastic on it, creating an impeccably tight rhythm section. “..We just released a video for this one…” Jesse mentioned, as Chad counted them into “Shape of a Boy”. I’d say it was their best song of the night, and the slick, roaring guitar solo Jordan knocked out caused all eyes to focus solely on him.

“Thank you.” Jessie said in hushed, slightly raspy tone once the song ended. “Prepared” was another oldie but goodie that found its way into the set, and Jessie personified the role of frontwoman even better on it than she had at any other time this night. There was a certain fierceness that came over her, and it resulted in an overpowering demeanor that was all too fun and engaging to watch.

“Dear Boy is up next.” she mentioned, shouting out the second band, adding that, that was one of the best band names she had ever heard of. With that, they ended with the uplifting “Brave The Night”. The rhythm section was again blasting on that one, and I could feel the bass shaking not just my feet, but also my chest cavity. Not a bad way to end.

I did catch their set at Edgefest in Frisco a few months back, but this was the first lengthy set I’ve seen from them in the better part of two years.

It was great hearing a few of the newer songs live (some for the first time), with a nice mix of older material. The rhythm section has also changed since I last saw them (excluding that April show), which has made the band even better. Like I said, both Chad and Andrew were tight, and all of them had good chemistry together.

Basically, they’re a more outstanding band then they’ve even been; and this night they had a perfect mixture of having fun but also being quite professional.

For the last few years, Jessie has been hailed as one of the best vocalists in North Texas. Probably not all of the early birds at this show knew that, but I doubt any who did catch their performance would argue that praise she’s received as a songstress.

They’ll be at the House of Blues in Dallas on August 2nd (the main room) and the 8th (the Cambridge Room, as part of Exit 380’s album release show). Catch one, or both. Be sure to check out their albums in iTUNES, too.

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014 – Dear Boy Wins Over the Crowd in Dallas

Tactics Productions had a great show going on at Club Dada this night. It offered a good way to get an early jump on the weekend, without being out too late; and more than a few people had opted to get a live music fix this hump day.

Kitten wasn’t the only Los Angeles-based band on the bill this night, and just a couple days prior to this, Dear Boy had joined them on the remainder of their tour.

“…You got a little bluer before, where’s that shit?” asked singer and rhythm guitarist Ben Grey, speaking to the sound guy, who then adjusted the lights just right. The quartet seemed to love the shade of blue that was now cast over them and the ever-growing audience, and with that, they ripped into the lead track from their debut self-titled EP: “Come Along”.

It immediately became clear they were a very pop oriented group, with some British flare thrown in; and they captured a lot of people’s attention with the intro to that song, which saw Ben aggressively strumming his axe. “Would you like me if I was young? Would you hold me if I was wrong? Would you love me if I was gone? Then come along!” he belted on final chorus.

That song established a very lively mood the band kept up for the rest of their 34-minute long set. During the subsequent track from the EP, “Green Eyes”, Nils Bue jumped on ledge that has been added around the front of the stage — giving a place for the monitors to set — and brandished his bass for all to see. Both Ben and lead guitarist Austin Hayman produced some cool tones and catchy riffs on that slightly sweeter song. Drummer Keith Cooper provided a strong backbone, as well; and if only more people had been familiar with Dear Boy, then I think the chorus of “When there’s no place else to go, I will meet you down below. And when there’s no one left to find, we won’t need this place to hide.” could have easily been a sing-along part.

Upon finishing it, Ben mentioned this was the first time they had every played Dallas. “…Thanks for letting us in your home.” he said in a sincere voice, while a smile crept across his face. He then thanked Kitten for having them on part of this tour with them. “It’s very rare that you get to play with a band you actually listen to.” he said, noting it was an great experience. He went on to say they were going to do the newest song they had, and it was with it that they really hit their stride.

There came a point where both Austin and Ben leaned against each one another’s back, fiercely shredding on their guitars; and they wound it directly into another song, which had a vibrant, fun vibe to it.

The spectators were clearly enjoying Dear Boy; and their next song was one the most well crafted they did as far as the music bed was concerned. Ben started it, and it was performed solo at first, before Austin laced in his guitar at the second verse. A minute or so later it exploded into action with the bass and drums (Nils rocked out next to the kit, creating a pulse pounding rhythm section), and during a break from singing, Ben dropped to his knees, succumbing to the music.

“…We want to meet as many of you as possible!” Ben pointed out once they finished that song, also mentioning they’d be selling their record over at their merch table afterwards. They did another song from it now, called “Oh So Quiet”, which was a little more indie from some of their other stuff. That was nice, though, ‘cause it showed diversity. The song that followed was pretty heavy; and now Nils and Ben did a little more interacting with one another, standing back to back for a few moments.

“…It’s been a pleasure…” Ben said, as their show had sadly already come to an end. They closed with what would be safe to assume is the most high-strung song in their arsenal: “Funeral Waves”. Some elements of the song were completely dance inducing, while others made it a great song to bang your head to. Regardless of your preference, everyone was captivated by it, and the band was giving it their all. They were all outstanding musicians, and their chops highlighted best on this one. Ben even orchestrated a clap along moment at one point, ensuring it was a fun one to end with.

Man, these guys were all too impressive.

You could tell they were having fun up on the stage, but you could also see their work ethic, and it was clear this wasn’t just some band to them. It was a way of life.

They had more chemistry with one another than a lot of bands do, and they music they made was really extraordinary if you ask me. It was infectious and very radio friendly, but maintained originality. The songs also have a lot of lyrical depth, which is always one quality that gets my attention.

They seemed to make a lot of new fans this night, and as I headed out the door after Kitten had finished, I ended up making a pit stop by their merch table and picked up a copy of their EP, along with having a brief conversation with Ben, who was an incredibly nice guy.

I know one thing: I can’t wait for Dear Boy to get back to Dallas. Let’s hope that happens sooner rather than later.

The have a few shows left with Kitten through the end of this month, and then will be doing a show at The Troubadour in West Hollywood on August 12th. You can find their full tour schedule HERE; and check out their EP in iTUNES while you’re at it. They will also be dropping a new single on the same day as that Troubadour show.

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014 – Kitten Shows Their Claws in Dallas

Tactics Productions had a great show going on at Club Dada this night. It offered a good way to get an early jump on the weekend, without being out too late; and more than a few people had opted to get a live music fix this hump day.

There’s no questioning that Kitten was the band nearly everyone was there to see. Fans had staked out spots in front of the stage early on this night. A handful of them even wore some headbands with cat ears on them. One guy even sported a hat with fuzzy cat ears on the sides, and the platform shoes he was wearing let him tower over everyone else in attendance.

By the time their 10:24 start time neared, there were at least a hundred people waiting anxiously for the band. In fact, they were so ecstatic some cheers even started minutes before they took the stage, prompting everyone to glance over at the door to the green room. No one had left it… Yet.

When it did come time to start, the four instrumentalists filed on stage, and vocalist Chloe Chaidez wasn’t far behind. The first portion of “Why I Wait” was almost inaudible, as she whispered just as it’s done on the recording. That changed once they hit the chorus, though, and the song packed quite a punch. Chaidez sauntered around for the first bit, before jumping onto the extended part of the stage — a ledge of sorts where the monitors sit. It was there where she spent much of her time this night, being able to better interact with the audience, and for now she was frequently banging her head and tossing her hair around.

Everyone applauded them, but the noise was drowned out by the start of “Japanese Eyes”. If Chaidez needed anytime at all to warm-up, all she required was that first song, and she was on fire now. They hit the first chorus and she turned her back to everyone, shaking her backside at the spectators, and got even more into the track when she grabbed a tambourine, using it and thrashing about as it came to an end. The quintet was quickly building up the intensity, and had already established a no holds barred, take no prisoners attitude, which was pushed to new heights with “Sensible”. The heavy electronic sounds and mighty percussion incited some dancing from nearly everyone, and at one point Chaidez leapt atop that ledge and began leading the crowd in a clap along, something they were all too eager to do.

They took their first break of the night after that. “We’re in Dallas, Texas!” Chaidez exclaimed, playing to the crowd just a bit, before mentioning she didn’t any more than ten people would have been here. She was way off on that assumption. “…Thank you.” she said quite humbly.

Both times the phrase “Just let me breathe” was repeated multiple times over on “Cut it Out”, she would bend down on more of the fans level, holding the mic out to them, allowing them to sing. When she wasn’t doing that, she was dancing wildly around the stage; and perhaps the best moment came near the end, when she again grabbed the tambourine and then raced over to the drum kit, jumping about the kick drum and leaned over the drummer.

“What a crowd you are! Damn!” she remarked afterwards, seeming truly surprised by how invested everyone was in this performance. With that, she asked if everyone was ready to dance, and right as the crowd answered, the track for “Like a Stranger” came on. If no one else was ready to, she was, and did a lot of dancing on that number. Everyone could see her pretty well on that ledge, and towards the end, she dropped the microphone and proceeded to flap and pump her arms in the air, leaving those watching in a state of awe. She was an ball of energy during that song, even more so than most of the others.

The party atmosphere continued as they wound it into the dreamy “G#”. Chaidez waved her arms from side to side at the start, and the fans picked up on the motion, and before you knew it the place had turned into a sea of arms swaying from side to side. The rhythm section sounded unbelievable on that song; and she pulled another good stunt towards the end, as she climbed atop some gear or something in the corner of the stage (my view was slightly obstructed), standing on it as she belted out, “…We’ll see you all again!”, which caused dozens of phones to go up and start snapping pictures.

The transition to a rendition of Berlins’ “Take My Breath Away” was seamless, and Kitten has just the right sound to pull that song off. Chaidez left at one point, right as the guitarist launched into a blistering solo that wowed everyone. She wasn’t gone long, though. Just long enough to let them have their moment.

“That was our new hit single. What did you think?” she joked once they finished it. They then got back to their original stuff with “I’ll Be Your Girl”, and shortly after starting it, Chaidez pulled a cat ears headband off of one fans head and put it on herself. She then made a fans night by pulling her on stage with her, something the fan almost seemed reluctant to do at first, because she was in shock it was actually happening. “I’ll be your protection, I’ll be yours for life…” the two sang, and the fan was working it hard enough she was almost giving Chaidez a run for her money. It was really hard to tell who enjoyed that more, because each of the young women were smiling from ear to ear as the song ended. Chaidez went so far as to say she thought she was her favorite girl she has ever gotten to help on that song, and even commented about how into the performance the girl had gotten.

All of a sudden, Chaidez was alone on stage, and she mentioned this next song was a sad one. She grabbed an acoustic guitar, and informed everyone this next one was titled “Apples and Cigarettes”. Stripped down like this, where there was nothing else for her voice to compete against, it was utterly astounding. Breathtaking even. She had everyone transfixed as she delivered that emotion filled song, and once it was done, she appeared to wipe some tears from her eyes, proving it was one she connects with on a very personal level.

Her band mates were back on stage now, and they were all ready for the next one. “This song you can dance to!” she said with a smile, as she resumed the active forntwoman role on “Sex Drive”, during which came another clap along moment.

Some of the best songs in the live format came from the Sunday School EP, and one of those was “Chinatown”. It provided one of the most raw moments of the entire night. They were all completely immersed in it; and there came a time when Chaidez grabbed the hand of the guy mentioned earlier who was wearing some platform shoes. He kissed her hand, and then she leaned out towards him and gave him a peck on the lips.

“This is overwhelmingly amazing for all of us!” she remarked once they finished, truly being blown away by all the love they were being shown. They began to wind down with “Cathedral”, after which she introduced her “boys”. Nick was on the guitar, Cameron behind the drums, Omar on the bass and Josh on the keys. They each got some noise made for them; and then they fired up the most wild song of the night: “Kitten with a Whip”. It whipped everyone (no pun intended) — band members and fans alike — into a frenzy, and despite Chaidez shaking her body almost constantly all night, this was the only song that seemed overtly sexual in some slight manner. They put every last ounce of energy they had into that one, and Chaidez even rolled across the stage at one point, before motioning to that guy in the platform shoes. She had him bend down so she could get on his shoulders, and it was from that perch she danced a bit (as much as she could), while everyone looked on in amazement.

After 66-minutes, and especially with an end like that, I don’t think anyone really expected an encore. I know I sure I didn’t. But that doesn’t mean no one hoped for one.

A couple minutes went by, but Chloe Chaidez reclaimed the stage, all by herself.

Apparently, some people haven’t gotten the memo that shouting “Freebird!” as an encore isn’t all that funny anymore, but she acted like she didn’t hear the request. Maybe she really didn’t.

The most beautiful moment of the night came in the form of “Kill the Light”, which was done acoustically. It was the way she enunciated the words and the emotion she poured into them. It was overpowering. I would have even been content with that as a closer, but they still had a little gas left in the tank. It appeared “Doubt” would be the final number, and once the last line had been sung, Chaidez once again thanked everyone, and then made her way through the crowd and back to the green room. The band gave the track a long instrumental finish, and one by one, they all disappeared, until only the drummer was left. Some hefty beats concluded it, but as he walked off the stage, the guitarist got back on.

He began to strum the axe, and all of a sudden, Chaidez appeared one last time, creating some more fanfare. The now duo played a cover of “Don’t Dream it’s Over” by Crowded House, and it was another song that really highlighted the gorgeous tone of her voice.

That put the show at nearly 90-minutes, and that really was it.

I was blown away. Honestly, I knew nothing about Kitten before this night. I just came to the show to see a show (plus I was a fan of the local opening act), but wow!

Kitten was dynamite from start to finish, and very unrelenting.

The entire band was excellent, but there can’t be any arguing that all eyes were focused almost exclusively on Chloe Chaidez. She has a persona that commands your attention, and left everything on stage; and despite using her assets at times, the main thing she relied on was her natural talent, which seemed limitless this night.

Everything was topnotch, and the showmanship was so very impressive. I’ve got to say, they earned a lot of respect in my book, because in terms of performance, this is what a band should be.

They have a few shows left on their current tour, and exact dates can be found HERE. Pick up their record in iTUNES, too.

Album Review: “The Dark” by Waking Alice

imageWaking Alice has been around the North Texas music scene longer than most, though it wasn’t until mid-2012 when the current incarnation came to be.

With Rus Chaney as the new lead vocalist and Jonn Levey taking the role of the drummer, they got back into the performing circuit; and three singles came shortly after, allowing them to display the new lineup.

It’s hard to believe that’s already been nearly two years ago, and in those two years, the four-piece outfit has deepened their chemistry, which has resulted in even better material, which is showcased on their first legitimate EP (as this lineup).

The Dark starts with the two most recently written songs in the bands catalog, beginning with what is perhaps the best cut on the EP: “November Burns”. As the title of the EP suggests, these are darker songs, and topic wise, they are a bit different from their first three singles. This is a song about being betrayed by those close to you, offering a vivid account of it. “Waking now from this nightmare of mine; the sutures all but gone…” Rus sings in his unmistakable, slightly gruff tone of voice; and you can feel the raw emotion of it all. Of course, it wouldn’t be a Waking Alice tune without some sort of guitar solo, which Brandon Brewer adds at one point, before eventually easing back into the haunting chord progression of the verses that sticks with you. I’m also fond of the little false ending. A part where live you just might begin to clap, assuming the song is over, before the instrumentalists rip back into it.

“Bi-Polar Heart” is the longest track on the album — nearly five-and-a-half minutes — and the most epic, too. It’s more progressive than anything they’ve done in the past, taking a sudden turn into a very tranquil section that lasts for just a bit. That’s something Waking Alice doesn’t do often (show their soft side). It makes for an interesting change of pace for them, though, and it still retains all the elements that make Waking Alice who they are.

“The Dark” marks the midway point of the EP, which is something a little different for Waking Alice. It’s an instrumental song, which is something I don’t believe they’ve ever done before. They may have lengthy instrumental sections at times, but this is completely different. It’s a high-energy number that keeps the momentum from the first half of the record going, even expanding upon it. One of the best things about it is how each instrument as its own moment. Brayton Bourques’ bass is pretty dominant at the start, then sneaks in later on to accent the drums — which gets a couple of solos. It’s also a little surprising that the guitar is left waiting in the wings for the first half, though it works to the songs advantage, ‘cause when Brandon Brewer does strike with it, it hits fast and hard. At just under two-and-a-half minutes, it’s a perfect length for an instrumental track, letting them better highlight their prowess and instrumentalists, but not dragging on to the point it seems tedious.

“Paper Rock Shotgun” is one song Waking Alice fans have been hearing for quite awhile now, and it has finally been recorded. It’s the antithesis of the first half of the EP. Instead of dealing with backstabbing or the souring of a relationship, it focuses on the blossoming of a new one, one without all the deceit. It brings a hopeful aspect to everything, one that proves that even if you feel down and out, something good can always come along. The instrumental breakdown is also pretty slick, and it’s another track where they fool the listener into thinking it’s over before it roars back to life.

Despite having been recorded at a completely different time, “Hostage” fits perfectly with this collection of songs. For fans, if you look at it as the final piece of the puzzle of this EP, it honestly makes you look at the song in a new light. The nearly year-old track is about rising above whatever’s holding you down and no longer being a victim. “…Now I’m on my feet, I’m gonna kick some ass.” Rus belts on the chorus of what is the heaviest of the five songs.

Not many albums come full circle. That shouldn’t necessarily be a prerequisite for any, but it can be a nice touch. The Dark is one that does.

It starts out one way — with a fairly bleak perspective — and ends by realizing that with the bad, there must also be good; and also you need to take control of the situations around you.

These tracks offer a great look at what Waking Alice has grown into in these last two years, and just what a solid group they are. I’d say it’s the best thing the band has done in all their years together, and it leads you to wonder: If they’ve grown this much as musicians and writers in just two years, then what will the next batch of songs sound like?

Only time will tell, but for now, let’s just savor The Dark.

Waking Alice is:
Rus Chaney - Lead vocals
Brandon Brewer – Guitar and backing vocals
Jonn Levey - Drums
Brayton Bourque - Bass

Purchase the album on:
iTUNES

Visit Waking Alice’s websites:
Official Website / Facebook / Reverbnation / Twitter

Current Shows:
 Friday, August 22nd at Tomcats West in Fort Worth / Saturday, September 20th at The Grotto in Fort Worth / Saturday, September 27th at Shipping & Receiving in Fort Worth

image

Saturday, July 12th, 2014 – The Dirty River Boys Debut at Gas Monkey

Gas Monkey Bar and Grill has been in business for about a year now (give or take a little). The restaurant/concert venue took over the old Firewater location (it’s amazing that place has been out of business for about five years now. Crazy how time flies.)

For those not in the know, the Gas Monkey is owned by Richard Rawlings, star of Fast N’ Loud on the Discovery Network; and from the looks of it this night, having that name attached has made for booming business.

I was there for the concert (which was taking place on the outdoor stage), and arrived fairly late. It was about 9:40, yet plenty of people were pulling up in the parking lot and going into the restaurant section, presumably to get some grub and probably a drink. Some even had younger kids in tow. Yeah, the place was bustling.

The patio was no different. It seemed smaller than I remembered. Then again, it was only in Firewater’s last year of business that they strayed from their usual 21+ shows, meaning I could actually get in, and most of the shows I caught there were on the indoor stage.

Speaking of age, even being in my mid-twenties I felt like the youngest person there. A different feeling from the clubs of Deep Ellum I spend nearly every weekend at. By no means am I saying people were old, but instead of primarily twenty-somethings, the demographic at GMB&G was largely thirty-somethings. However, people from all walks of life were out there. Some were a few decades older than that; some people wore cowboy hats, fitting the country mood of the night; others were dressed more casually with shorts and flip-flops.

The patio was a melting pot; and there were also plenty of people taking selfies as they watched the band, or getting a group shot of them and their friends together.

Thieving Birds were on the stage, and while I only caught their last three or four songs of their set, they were quite impressive. I’ll have to try to catch them again sometime, and see what a full show is like.

Despite all the good shows Gas Monkey has had — from local to national ones — it seems like there has always been something else that appealed to me more whenever I might have come out this way. It took The Dirty River Boys playing here to finally get me to the Gas Monkey; and with a couple months having passed since I last saw the group, I was in need of a fix.

It was 10:31 when the quartet from Austin (by way of El Paso) stepped on stage. Singer and guitarist Nino Cooper held his mandolin up in the air, and bassist Colton James, fellow singer and guitarist Marco Gutierrez and drummer Travis Stearns filed on stage right behind him.

They had changed their set around a bit since I had last seen them, and they opened with a partial cover.

“Come along, little children come along. While the moon is shining bright…” they all crooned, showing off some rarer four-part harmonies on Buster Browns’ “Raise a Ruckus”. That seemed extra appropriate, considering it was a full moon this night. It also seemed like a sure setup for a particular original song, one that is usually reserved as the closer. Sure enough, they used that as an intro for the oh so rowdy, “Raise Some Hell”. Some people were singing along and others stomped their feet, while others danced about to the song that sounds very much like an Irish jig. It was strange hearing it right at the start, but at the time same time, lyrically (“…We’re gonna raise some hell tonight.”), it worked perfectly. It would seem it’s one of those songs that can fit either at the end or the beginning of shows.

Some fanfare erupted, but they were busy, and moved on to their next number, the first of many newer ones they did, and it was one that had Colton singing the lead. “How many of you have seen The Dirty River Boys before?!” Travis asked in his booming voice. Plenty of hands went up in the air and cheers were heard, letting him know that this wasn’t their first rodeo. Meanwhile, his band mates had kept the pace up, using a brief instrumental piece to bridge them into the next song, and Nino suddenly began to sing, “She was lusting for some wandering; he was lost in a paper filled room. She packed a suitcase; he sold his old place. They travelled on down a one-way road…” “Heart Like That” is one of their best if you ask me, especially live; and as they got to the final line, Nino put some extra emphasis on it. “What’s not to love about a Heart! Like! That!” he belted in a twangy tone, and the audience quickly burst into applause. “Thank you.” he responded, before counting them into one of the songs he and Marco shared the lead vocal duties on, “My Son”. “The only you could be found is through your footsteps in the cold, dead ground.” the two sang in harmony, before Nino tore off on a guitar solo, and despite being on his acoustic, it was a solo that could put many electric guitars to shame. They even showed off their four-part harmonies again at the end of the track.

Marco then reached for his neck rack and harmonica, playing a few notes to begin “Dried Up”, the lead track off their debut full-length record Science of Flight. “Come on, Dallas!” he yelled as they hit the first chorus and the song really took off. He addressed everyone once it was done, giving a proper hello to the hundred plus people who were there. “We’ve been playing a lot of old ones, so how about a new one? What do you think about that?” he asked. The crowd seemed game, especially once they began the track that is a full on assault on the ears. “That’s a little song about life on the road.” Nino stated once they had finished it. It was another that has usually come later in the set when I’ve seen them, but given its sheer intensity (it is easily their most rock sounding song) it fit even better towards the start.

No sooner had they finished then Travis stood up from his cajon and small drum kit, while Colton laid his upright bass down. “…This is what we like to call a Chinese fire drill.” Marco noted, before going back to the bass. Colton ended up on the banjo and Travis had the mandolin. He paced around the stage with it as they knocked out the short “Lookin’ for the Heart”, which got some movement going out in the crowd, as some people danced along to it.

“Make some noise for Thieving Birds! Keeping rock alive!” Marco yelled once they all got back to their normal positions. He then let everyone know they had another new song coming their way, adding it would be on their new album coming out sometime soon. “It’s called Thought I’d Let You Know.” he finished. The Dirty River Boys are as much a rock band as they are a country one, but that song especially had some more authentic country sounds to it. Similar to the stuff from their first two EP’s, and it was excellent.

Another new one followed, this time in the form of their newest single: “Desert Wind”. You could feel the excitement spike once people heard Nino start on the first chords. I dare say it’s a brilliant song, and one where you feel every single thread of emotion that’s woven into it. It ended with Travis adding some additional percussion, serving up some hard-hitting beats that made it all the more striking of a song. They were on a roll now, and kept on going with an instrumental piece, one that was clearly a lead in to “Draw”. It was pretty powerful, and Colton was slapping the strings of his bass with both hands, while Travis’s act of tossing a drumstick into the air and then catching it by sideswiping it with his right hand amazed much of the crowd. With that, the actual song began, and it was another one people were loving.

“Thank y’all so much!” Marco said in his thick Southern twang once the fanfare died down. He then mentioned this next song was one that Bob Dylan and The Band used to do “back in the day”. They often add a partial Dylan cover onto one of their original songs, but hearing them do a full song of his was something new to me. The song was “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere”, but they put a completely different spin on it from the original. It boasted some more harmonies from all of them; and Nino threw in a guitar solo for good measure. They definitely spruced it up to better fit their style; and after that spirited version of the song, they got the mood a little darker.

“Oooo.” They all crooned into their mics over some haunting melodies. It lasted at least half a minute, and after Travis beat on his cajon — working his way down the box he sat upon — Marco asked if everyone was still with them. He had to repeat it, because the response wasn’t that great the first time around, but yeah, the fans were still as much invested in this as the band was. “All of the darkness down at the bottom don’t look too dark from here. Keep your eyes on the brick wall, your foot on the throttle; get ready to feel no fear!” belted Marco on the chorus of “Letter to Whoever”. There came a point where the reins were handed over to Travis, who delivered a riveting drum solo on the kit, before shifting his focus back to the cajon. He perhaps hit it a little too hard, because after the song, he pulled the cover off, throwing to the side of the stage, and got a fresh one, one that could withstand several more blows.

In the meantime, Marco chatted with everyone, saying despite all coming from different musical influences, they could all always agree on some good ol’ punk rock. “And punk rock just lost a person…” he said somberly. He was speaking of the recent passing of Tommy Ramone, and dedicated this next one to him. They paid their respects by covering “Blitzkrieg Bop”, and doing a great rendition of it at that. “Rest in peace, Tommy.” Marco remarked after the song came to its abrupt end, and he gazed upwards at the sky.

It seemed like he had been doing a long stretch of singing, but he got a slight rest on “Riverbed Wildflowers”, at least for the first half of it. Perhaps the best part of the song came at the bridge, when Nino and Marco alternated on the vocals, and when Nino sang his lines, he was backed up by Colton and Travis. Fans didn’t even get a real chance to voice how much they loved that softer number, and Marco launched right into the following song on the set list, while Travis brought out his harmonica. It was the outlaw-esque “Six Riders”, which Marco later mentioned was off Science of Flight, saying their merch guy, Dugan, would hook anyone who wanted a copy up with a “phat deal”.

Their attention then turned to some more newer stuff, and Colton again took the lead vocals. “…Let me taste the blood from your mouth…” he sang with a slight drawl; and at one point, a man appeared on stage, interacting with them, doing air bass, guitar, etc. “Hey! There’s my Uncle Bubba!” Colton shouted. The band and the spectators appeared to enjoy the antics of Uncle Bubba, who was clearly having a ball himself.

“…It’s a full moon y’all are supposed to get crazy or something. That’s what they say…” Marco spoke during their next break, before they knocked out another song of theirs that has something to do with whiskey. Nino even swapped out to his shiny electric guitar for it.

They were nearing the end at this point, and Travis now asked the opposite of what he had earlier in the night, and that was how many people were seeing their first Dirty River Boys show. There were a few newcomers there, but not many. He mentioned what a wonderful venue the Gas Monkey was, and they were happy to be making their debut there. He then went back six years, when this band first began. “…From the beginning… this has been an amazing experience. God bless you…” he told everyone, before leading them in “prepping” their vocal chords. He made some sounds and had the crowd follow along, before they really put their voices to the test, helping sing the second round of the harmonies that happen on each verse of “Boomtown”. Nino was back on the mandolin for it, breaking a string later on, but he still powered through. Luckily they didn’t need it anymore this night.

“Have you had a good time so far?!” Travis roared. He added he hoped everyone had, had a good fourth the previous weekend and asked if anyone went to Willy’s picnic. No one here at Gas Monkey had made it. “The dude’s eighty-two! Go see him play!” Travis said, seeming a little stunned.

They slowed things down with the lovely, albeit poignant “So Long Elanie”; and then spoke of growing up in El Paso, crossing the river and going into Mexico for the day (or night). “…We started going to some of those bars at thirteen…” Nino reminisced. You can’t do that safely anymore, though, and they co-wrote a song with Ray Wylie Hubbard about all the violence on the border. It’s called “Down by the River”, and if I’m remembering correctly, one of the lines is “…The undertaker said if you cross that river you’ll never come back.” It seemed like that would be the end of the main set, especially given the powerhouse finish they gave it, which had Travis going ballistic on the drums. Then they suddenly broke into “She”. Nino again brought his electric axe out, as they concluded their 88-minute long set with that oldie from the “Train Station” EP. It’s arguably one of their best.

Chants of an encore started before they even stepped off stage, but everyone knew they were going to come back. They had to. After all, one of the staple songs had been surprisingly absent during the main portion.

After a couple minutes, Nino and Marco then retook the stage, just as a duo. Nino had a lengthy harmonica solo at first, before they did a more gentle sounding “Carnival Lights”. Well, at least for the first half. The rhythm section returned after the second chorus, and things then sprang to life. “Alright, Dallas, you think you know the words to this part?” Marco asked at the tail end of it, before the crowd sang along with him. They tacked on a bit of Hank Williams’ “I Saw the Light” at the end, and Colton hung his cowboy hat on the headstock of the bass as they crooned on the more spiritual track.

Their 12-minute encore then came to a close with what has become a staple for them: their take on The Rolling Stones “Honky Tonk Woman”. Marco changed the lyrics slightly. “I laid a divorcee down in Dallas, Texas.” he sang on the second verse, and as the song peaked, Travis stood up for a drum solo, and then Marco followed it with a solo on his harmonica.

With that, they thanked everyone for coming out, and bid Dallas a farewell… For now.

For now, The Dirty River Boys are still just a regional band, though one that is quickly making a name for themselves. However, they’re every bit as professional as the biggest name acts are, and they deliver a show of that caliber, too.

They create a nice mix of rock and Texas country (the good kind of country), and they execute everything superbly. If you haven’t seen them yet, I promise you, you’re missing out.

As for their shows in North Texas, they’ll be in Fort Worth on June 24th at Panther Island Pavilion (that’s a free one); Hank’s in McKinney on August 1st; and Billy Bob’s in Fort Worth on October 10th. I wouldn’t be surprised if another show or two in the area creep in there over the next month or so. You can catch them all over the Lone Star State, though, and they’ll even be doing some hefty touring across the Mid-West in the coming months. Just check out their TOUR DATES for all the info. Check out their records in iTUNES, too, and be on the lookout for their new one, which will hopefully drop soon.

As for the Gas Monkey, I thought it was a great place. For four years, I periodically found myself wishing the old Firewater would get reopened one way or another, because it was a shame to think such amazing stages were being wasted.

They’re not now. They haven’t been for about a year, and it doesn’t look like the popularity of Gas Monkey Bar & Grill is going to die down anytime soon. As I said, the place was packed inside and out. I assume the food’s good. I’ll have to try it sometime. But I can say it’s a great spot to catch a show. Even on this warmer night, there was a nice breeze, so it was never hot; and the sound, the sound seemed better than what I remembered it being. Earplugs are a must for me, and even with them in, the music was still blaring, and I found myself constantly adjusting them to make sure they weren’t sliding out. I liked that.

I’m going to have to try to get out here a little more often. Like I said, they constantly have great shows going on, some of which are free. You can’t beat that. Actually, I think I’ll be back before the month ends.