Saturday, March 29th, 2014 – The Third Annual Big Folkin’ Fest

Believe it or not, I honestly had not planned on doing a thing this night.

After scrapping plans to make another trip up to Denton, and nothing really catching my eye in Dallas, I figured I’d spend a Saturday night at home for a change. Then I had a friend offer me a free ticket to the Big Folkin’ Fest, and I couldn’t pass that up.

Not that I hadn’t wanted to go to the show (which took place at The Prophet Bar, on both sides, using all three indoor stages, with an outdoor one set up on the patio), but I just couldn’t justify paying twenty bucks for a ticket into it.

Got there a little later, about nine or so, and killed time until Kirby Brown’s set in The Prophet Bar at 9:30.

That’s when he was scheduled to start, at least, but, in something that should have been no real surprise, the times weren’t set in stone. By the time he and his band were supposed to start the act before him was just finishing, making it around 9:50 or so before they got all setup and ready to go.

I had only seen him once before, when he did solo set at a Patio Sessions probably back in the fall of 2012. Sometime after that he made the decision to move to New York to pursue his music career, and while he has gotten back to Dallas more than a few times since, I’ve never managed to make the shows.

From what I remembered, he was great solo, but the full band really helped flesh out his sound, as they powered through a 42-minute set that saw them playing several new(er) tracks. “Thank you for being here.” Kirby told the near capacity Prophet Bar. “You’re fucking welcome!” exclaimed a very excited fan, leaving Kirby a bit shocked, though he did manage to say, “That’s a big welcome.”

One of the cuts they did from 2011’s “Child of Calamity” was the exuberant “Coattails”, which raised everyone’s energy level a good deal. While Kirby is an Americana musician, there are some other layers added to his music. However, a few songs after that, they got to one that was pure Americana rock, and it sounded brilliant.

They followed it with another great number that had a rocking end, with the drums, guitars, bass and keys blaring on it. They then went to the opposite side of things, and the band left Kirby alone to do a song solo. It may have been much quieter than the past songs, but he still had the crowd transfixed with it.

His band then returned for a cover song, while they ended with what seemed to be a fan favorite.

It was a great set, and it left me a real fan of Kirby Brown. Like I said, I had seen him before, but that was long enough ago I couldn’t remember much about him.

He has a fantastic voice, and it’s unique at that. Personally, I can’t say I’ve heard of another singer who sounds quite like he does, and he’s gifted in the songwriting department, too.

Check out his music in iTUNES, and go see a show if you get a chance. I know I’m going to have to make more of a point to see him next time he gets back to Dallas.

Headed out to the patio stage after that, where The Hazardous Dukes were already playing.

It was hard to actually see them, given that the “stage” was just the ground, and the mass of people who had already surrounded the area made it hard to get up close.

I really liked what I heard, though. The group is comprised of Hank Van Hawkins, Billy Bones and Zachary Fox, among others, such as Conner Farrall.

They played what I consider to be more authentic sounding country, and everyone who did some singing had a nice twang to their voice.

“This is based on a true story about a buddy whose divorce kept falling apart, and he kept getting back together with his wife.” One of them said before one song, which had me repeating that in my head a few times, thinking, “Did he really say ‘his divorce kept falling apart?’”, simply because you never hear it phrased in that manner.

They knocked out a few more, throwing some jokes in here and there, and on one those songs Conner had a great guitar solo.

They seem to play fairly often, and for the month of April are doing a residency at Sundown at Granada every Sunday night. Those shows are free.

Back over in The Prophet Bar (the smaller room, that is), things were still running behind schedule, and it was right at eleven when The O’s kicked off their set, a half-hour after they were supposed to.

The duo of John Pedigo and Taylor Young mentioned they had played year one and two of Big Folking Fest and were glad to be back for another year, before opening with the lead track from their “Between the Two” album, “We’ll Go Walkin’”.

That little love song was a nice way to get started, and a majority of the people there in the Prophet Bar were singing along to it as they watched the band; wonder gleaming from their eyes. They then got to a few songs from last year’s “Thunderdog”, including “Outlaw”, which is more or less an anthem. “…We’ve all got the right to fix things that we don’t like, while we yell and cuss and scream and fight…” sang John, while Taylor picked away at his guitar, while also supplying the percussion via a kick drum.

That was all I caught of their set. I would have liked to have seen more, but there was another act supposed to start right about this time on the smaller stage of the large room of The Prophet Bar; and I had at least seeing The O’s more recently than this other group.

These guys really are one of the best bands in Dallas, especially as far as country music is concerned, and I like them more and more each time I see them. At the very least, give their music a listen in iTUNES, and if you like it, buy it. As for shows, you can see them at Love and War in Plano, TX on April 19th. On May 16th they’ll be at Love and War in Grapevine, and the night after will find them in Fort Worth at Shipping and Receiving. They also have dates in Midland and Burleson in June.

J. Charles & The Trainrobbers had been charged with closing the night out over in the bigger room, and it had been nearly a year since I last them. In that time they’ve added Keith Naylor on as lead guitarist. Perhaps some of you (any longtime readers) recall what a fan/fanatic I was of Trebuchet, right up until their end last year. It was December 2012 the last time I saw them, and that said, I was looking forward to finally seeing Keith back on a stage.

They were all ready and raring to go as 12:15 rolled around, and the headliner seemed to be finishing up on the main stage adjacent to them… At least until they began another song, leaving The Trainrobbers with a puzzled look of, “Huh, I guess we’ll wait.” on their faces.

“Hi, you beautiful folkin’ people!” exclaimed singer and guitarist J. Charles Saenz, once it finally became time for them to start. “Mercy Killing” was what they opened with, and as great is that song is on the “Upon Leaving” album, it sounds incredible live. Probably because J. Charles is so impassioned as he sings it. “…There’s a bullet here for me, there’s a bullet here for you. Only problem is we love each other too damn much, it’s true…” goes the chorus, which more than a few fans were singing along with.

They moved on to the consecutive track from their debut album, doing “Letter to a Thief”, which had a pretty good kick to it, and the harmonies that Keith, bassist Justin Young and keyboardist Daniel Creamer added at times, backing up J. Charles, was phenomenal.

“Cheers to two awesome days of music…” he said after they finished, making a little toast, before they pumped everyone up with “Something Wrong”, a song that saw drummer Steve Visneau wearing a big smile, which rarely left his face at all this night, and never did on this one. They rolled it right into “Three Shades of Black”, tapering off from the louder rock stylings of the previous number, but still keeping the mood upbeat.

“How’s the vibes? Medium vibes?” asked J. Charles after they finished, trying to gage where everyone was at. “We need more vibes.” he finished, after which Keith spoke up, and specifically to a friend. “Excuse me, sir, but I think you’re dancing with my girlfriend.” he said, giving the guy a hard time.

They knocked out one of their new songs after that, which was pretty up-tempo, but also had some slow moments mixed in. “The guitars are being feisty. Folkin’ guitars.” J. Charles said after, while Keith worked to get things back in tune. To kill time, he also mentioned that this next would be one on their upcoming album, noting it will be out in the fall at the latest, or, with some luck, maybe even late summer. He also mentioned this next song was making its live debut this night, and that it was a pretty personal one, because it was about his “dear, sweet aunt” who had passed away from cancer. He apologized for perhaps bringing the mood down, and finished with, “…But fuck cancer.”

It told a great tale of the relationship he and his aunt had, and it may well be the most sentimental song on this next record. They got back to their older stuff for a minute with “Ain’t So Blue”, before doing another killer song, which just happened to feature musician Wesley Geiger lending his voice to it.

“I need to put the finger on the pulse. Everyone still doing okay?” J. Charles asked the audience, who was still very attentive, before asking if there was “anyway a shot could find its way from the bar to my mouth?” The request was granted, and they started to wind down their 52-minute set with “Tennessee Roads (No Moon)”. They had some feedback issues during it, but not to the point to ruin the tune, and the final line, which J. Charles sung a cappella, sounded beautiful. He then wound them right into their final song, another one, which was more intense, along the lines of “Something Wrong”, maybe even more so than that one.

That was the perfect way to end this night.

J. Charles and The Trainrobbers have been great each of the small handful of times I’ve seen them, but I dare say they were exceptional this time.

They tightened things even more so than last May at the Homegrown Festival, and this current lineup clicks very well. They were tight, and the unity was obvious from start to finish.

I don’t know how I let so much time pass between seeing them, though I’m going to have to try to make sure that doesn’t happen again. The show was highly enjoyable, and they are one Dallas band you need to keep your eye on.

Their music should appeal to both rock and country fans, and check out “Upon Leaving” in iTUNES. For shows, go “like” their FACEBOOK PAGE and keep a check on where and when they might play next.

It was a fun time here at the Big Folkin’ Fest, and a much needed shout-out to my amigo Brendan Williams for hooking me up with the ticket.

Album Review: “Afternoon, and Early Evening” by Kevin Taylor Kendrick

imageThere’s a difference between being a singer/songwriter and a storyteller, and just because you’re the former, doesn’t necessarily make you the latter. It takes a special skill set to really convey a legitimate story to people through song, and while it’s hard to find (at least from my experience), Houston native Kevin Taylor Kendrick possess it.

That trait is prominently on display throughout his debut album, “Afternoon, and Early Evening”, and right from the very first track.

While 90% of the album is largely Kevin armed with his acoustic guitar, the lead track is much more fleshed out than that. The at times fanciful tale that is “Art of Ball and Chain” is complete with a harmonica, giving the song a bit of a southern sound when it’s played, to some rapid, simple percussion that truly is the songs backbone. Then you have the female vocals that can be heard on the chorus, which accentuate the song, without stealing any thunder away from Kevin. It’s easily the catchiest song “Afternoon, and Early Evening” has to offer, and will ensure the album hooks you from the start. And while the remainder of the tracks may be more stripped down, the most enticing thing about this song is the lyrics, revealing what a passionate story teller and incredible writer he is, and that’s the quality that binds all these songs together.

“Stolen by the Wind” is done in the true songwriter fashion, the lone instrument being the acoustic guitar, Kevin playing a series of chords that give the song a underlying melancholy vibe, which is behooving of the lyrics.  “…Oh it’s not that I’m jaded, I just can’t pretend to take part in your struggle or care who will win…” he sings during the first verse, later matching it with an equally blunt and honest line, “…It’s not that I’m bitter, it’s just to preserve what’s left of my memory and my weathered nerves…” The first song on the record may be a great example of his ability as a story teller, but it’s this song that showcases his talent as a songwriter, as he takes a personal story from his life and lays it out for all to hear.

“…Can’t you see, a storm’s a brewin’, behind my eyes…” Kevin croons at one point in “Ain’t Got Nothin’”, a song that traverses several themes, the most prominent of which is loneliness. It paints a sadder picture, while the subsequent track, “Whistles”, is more of a folksy sounding tune, with a chipper melody that will stick with you for awhile, taking you through another small portion of Kevins’ life, allowing you as the listener to feel like you know him just a little bit better.

“The Rider” again slows things down, Kevins’ voice piercing the largely placid guitar notes he’s playing. A at times distant, even slightly soupy effect is applied to his voice at times on the track, making it stand apart from the rest of the songs on the record, as it aids the mood the song is trying to (and successfully does) create.

“The Road” is somewhat of a reflective song, as Kevin looks back on life, while preparing for what the world is like, and in that, it’s one of the most relatable songs this record offers up. It’s very tranquil, allowing the lyrics to carry even more weight, and the words of wisdom keep coming at you, for example, you have the line, “…You lose life much faster when money’s your master…”.

“I thought life had just begun, I was finally on my own. Twenty-two I thought was young, I’d just left my mothers’ home…” he sings at the start of “On My Own”, building upon the nature of the previous song, though this one is more introspective. It’s also more ominous and dark sounding, dealing with the trials of life and the real world, such as the passing of time. “…I’m scared the next ten years will be gone before they’re here…” he confesses with one line, conjuring an image of death as sings of how fleeting time is.

If you’re feeling glum after that track, “The Brook”, a gentle and sweet love song, will relieve that feeling, reminding you that it’s the simple things in life that are the most important and memorable. The record than takes you to “The River”, an appropriate follow-up song, at least title wise. It, too, deals with love, though it partly focuses on more of the heartbreaking aspects of it. In the end, though, it’s not a sad song, but more of a triumphant one.

This nearly 44-minute long record comes to a close with the second to longest track that’s found on it, “Here’s to Hoping”, which is a departure from how it all began. The full band (i.e. drums, and even what sounds to be a pedal steel guitar at times) is utilized, but not to the same degree as the opening track. Instead, “Here’s to Hoping” is another more folk sounding song, whose beauty lies in its subtlety. From tender side of his voice that Kevin taps into, to the often delicate notes of the guitar, blending together beautifully, and offering a perfect end to this record. Especially with the guitar solo outro, which occupies the final forty seconds or so, giving closure to this story.

“Afternoon, and Early Evening” is an album you – the listener – can really get lost in. It’s compelling, and with the songs being so raw, it offers great insight to who Kendrick is as a person, since his personal life, struggles and/or thoughts are often laid out for you to hear.

Quality music like these is hard to come by these days, when so many acts are more concerned with copying the latest pop sound in hopes they’ll fit the mold of the artists who currently dominate the radio. However, substance goes much further than that, because substance allows fans to really connect with the music and have it resonate with them. And this collection of songs definitely resonates with you.

Kevin Taylor Kendrick is:
Kevin Taylor Kendrick, Nathan Quick and Chris Tallman

Purchase the album on: iTUNES

Visit Kevins’ websites: Facebook / Reverbnation
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Thursday, March 27th, 2014 – The Dirty River Boys Kick it Old School at Dan’s

Just last month, The Dirty River Boys played one of the largest venues in North Texas (specifically, in Fort Worth). This month, their North Texas stop found them in Denton, at the much more intimate setting that Dan’s Silver Leaf has to offer; and I was even more excited about this one.

It was a one-band bill, and for a Thursday night, they a good little crowd here at Dan’s. A crowd who was glued to them as soon as they took the stage at 9:30 on the dot.

“What’s going on, Dan’s Silver Leaf. We are the Dirty River Boys from El Paso, Texas…” singer and acoustic guitarist Marco Gutierrez informed everyone. He was the one who sang lead on their first song, and they chose to open with one of their fan favorites, “Carnival Lights”. They didn’t do the more acoustic/solo version like they had the past couple times I had seen them. Instead, Travis Stearns added some light beats on his cajon, while fellow acoustic guitarist and singer Nino Cooper played some soft riffs, with Colton James slapping the strings of his upright bass periodically. “…She’s sitting on the top Ferris wheel car thinking, ‘It ain’t such a long way down; failure’s such a long, cold fall.”  Sang Marco on the first verse of this woeful, though beautifully told story. Nino shone on this song, as he did a little guitar solo before the third verse; and with the use of his pedal board, his acoustic guitar sounded like it could give any electric one a run for its money.

They instantly fired up the title track from their second EP, “Train Station”, where they somewhat touched on the amazing harmonies they are capable of, before digging out a track from their first (and so far, only) full-length album, “Science of Flight”. The first time I experienced The Dirty Rivers was last September at the Dia de los Toadies music festival, and a song I was instantly smitten with was “Heart Like That”. It’s certainly a favorite of mine, though out of the three times I’ve seen them since, it was one that went un-played. Forth time’s a charm, I guess, because no sooner had they finished that previous song, then Nino started them on it. “She was lusting for some wondering; he was lost in a paper filled room…” he crooned, while the song built up. It was the choruses that were truly outstanding, though. “She’s just a girl with a rambling heartache; he’s grown a hard, lost man. Searching for stars in a sky filled with dark gray; what’s not to love about a heart like that?” He belted, packing an immense amount of passion into it, and to say he killed it on that one would not be an understatement.

They took a an actual break after that, though it was short-lived, as Marco quickly mentioned that they had been in the studio in December and January, getting their next record ready, saying they’d be doing one of those new ones now. Colton sang on it, though at the start Travis let out a bit of an excited scream, and even though it was off mic, it was very audible. It was also a tune that had all of them lending their voices to the chorus, making for some incredible four-part harmonies.

Once they finished it, Travis asked how many people in the audience had seen them before, and quite a few repeat offenders raised their hands. There were some newcomers, too, and that was the question he asked next. “…God bless you for coming out on a Thursday night…” he said graciously, before asking anyone who might know the next one to sing along with it. The song was “Dried Up”, which had Nino playing the harmonica, too, and before the final chorus, they tacked on some of Bob Dylans’ “Just Like a Woman”.  “Nobody feels any pain tonight, as I stand inside the rain…” sang Marco, going all the way through the first chorus of the classic. “Now, as loud as you can, help us out!” Travis roared right after, pumping up the crowd, many of whom did sing along to the final bit of their original.

As soon as it ended, Nino switched gears and began the tale that “Union Painter” tells, and after it Travis used his kick drum to both bridge them into the next song and amp things up. Colton switched out to an electric bass for this new song, a song that Marco sang, and later joked was about “taking psychedelics and feeling the world out.”

Now came the ever-exciting “Chinese fire drill” (their words), where Colton ends up on the banjo, Travis the mandolin and Marco the upright bass. Travis swaggered all over stage left during “Lookin’ for the Heart”, and his mannerisms while playing the mandolin are very entertaining, which is exactly what he’s going for. He also added some percussion to it here and there, sitting on his cajon and using one of his feet to kick the box.

Another song from their LP followed, though it was a cover, and they pointed that out, giving Townes Van Zandt a shout-out before their excellent rendition of “Lungs”. “Stand among the ones that live in lonely indecision…” sang Marco on the first verse, while Colton spun his bass around at that time, while it ended with Travis shouting, “Rest in peace, Townes Van Zandt.”

They immediately fired up another oldie, “My Son”, which had Nino doing an electrifying guitar solo before the final chorus. There next song was one of their drinking ones, and Travis worked the fans by asking if anyone was drinking whiskey, and when not many people responded, it was just alcohol in general. “…That’s what this song’s about.” He said, as they cranked out a rocking, but fun intro for “Draw”. An intro that ended with Travis throwing one of his drum sticks in the air, then catching it.

From a song about whiskey, they made a jump to a song about love. Marco pointed out this next one was their current radio single from their upcoming album, and he began the song, while Colton was swapping back out to his electric bass. Nino then laid down his catchy chords that help make “Desert Wind”. There’s just such an epic feel to that one, and the music bed is done in a way it accents the lyrics, making them even more impactful.

Afterwards, a call was made to all the fans who had seen them before and were familiar with their music to help them out on “Boomtown”. Nino led the band (and audience) while now playing the mandolin, and Travis  told everyone when to come in at, since the verses are done in rounds, with Colton and Marco doing the second and third, respectively. The second one of each line was when everyone was supposed to join in, and many did.

The mood got a little more somber with “Riverbed Wildflowers”, before the group did some ominous crooning into their microphones on what was a dark lead in to “Letter to Whoever”. Before they officially began the song, Travis again tossed a drum stick into the air, and when he caught it, he struck one of the drums with it to signify the start of the track. “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.” Marco quickly sang on the chorus of another gem that “Science of Flight” has to offer. Talk then turned to their hometown of El Paso, and how it has “falling on hard times”. That was what their next song was about, and they co-wrote this other new song with Ray Wylie Hubbard. It’s one of two new songs that are completely unforgettable (in my opinion), and it’s already one I look forward to hearing each time I see them.

They got back to the darker elements during another intro piece they concocted, and this time Nino and Marco quickly strummed the strings of their guitars, which sounded rather haunting, and the occasional notes from the harmonica Travis threw in only intensified it. Still, it was fitting for “Six Riders”.

After handling that one, Marco exited the stage. Travis followed, while Colton took a backseat as Nino started “So Long Elanie”. They came back around the second verse, kicking the song up a few notches. It was still very restrained in comparison to their next one (the other of their two new ones that is unforgettable). For that last one, Colton had both his basses at the ready, and now he laid his upright down and moved his electric from around behind him to his front. “This song’s about life on the road.” was the simple, though accurate explanation Nino gave of their next number, which is the most aggressive one they’ve written thus far.

“…From the bottom of our hearts, thanks for attending our show…” said Travis, as they got ready to wrap it up. He then made everyone come up to the front of the stage. “All of you in the back, we haven’t even gotten to see your faces tonight…” he said, adding they would not get started until everyone was right up there. He certainly knows how to pump up the crowd, and once the majority of the folks gathered around he asked, “Are you ready to raise some hell?!” The fans roared back at him, while Nino began their semi-jig that is “Raise Some Hell”, which always creates a boisterous mood, even on a Thursday night in Denton.

It was a fun end to an 82-minute long set, but no one wanted it to be over yet, and some people began asking for more while the band made their way off stage.

They made everyone a few moments, and when Marco made his way back on stage alone, it had me thinking he was going to do one of his solo songs (much like Nino had done shortly before.) However, when his band mates followed suit, with Nino now clutching an electric guitar, it became clear that wouldn’t be happening.

“Can I get a hell yeah?!” Travis asked, after he had made sure everyone had, had a good time this night. They then proceeded to close with their excellent rendition of The Rolling Stones “Honky Tonk Woman”, a song they’ve truly transformed into their own, and Travis owned his cajon during it.

This was a fine way to spend a Thursday night; and even though it had barely been a month since I last saw The Dirty River Boys, I had somewhat forgotten how sensational their shows are. However, I was quickly reminded.

They’re a superb live band, and they mesmerize who ever happens to be watching them on the given night, delivering a rock show steeped with some country elements. It’s one you won’t soon forget, either.

I also enjoyed the fact that they focused mainly on their older songs this night, verses the last time I saw them, when the new stuff was in full force. Nothing against it at all, but still being a new fan, it’s good to get to experience the older stuff (i.e. the songs I know), especially since the days for some of them are no doubt numbered.

Over the coming months, they have several shows lined up all around Texas, and will even be getting to Oklahoma and Louisiana. Check out their TOUR PAGE for full details. Their next stop in North Texas will be their return to the Granada Theater in Dallas on April 25th. They also have a show at Hank’s in McKinney on May 17th, and will be in Fort Worth on June 11th at the Capitol Bar.

Also, be sure to check out their music in iTUNES.

Monday, March 31st, 2014 – A Songwriters in the Round with Some Tennesseans

Last time Memphis native Myla Smith came through Dallas (which was only about four months prior to this), I ended up missing it. Luckily, I didn’t end up suddenly feeling under the weather this night, so I was able make the show at Opening Bell Coffee.

This was the fifth stop of a ten city tour she was doing with Chris Milam and Heather Batchelor, and this Dallas date happened to coincide with OBC’s weekly songwriters in the round series, which was bound to make the night a little more interesting.

I got there a bit after the scheduled 7:30 start time, walking in on the end of what I believe was Myla’s first song, which also ended the first cycle of the round.

“I want to write a song like that.” Heather told her after she had finished, commenting on the rather abrupt end it. “…Just start at the end.” Myla joked, as Heather got ready for her next song, informing the early birds that it was the same one she had done during soundcheck. “…But it has lyrics now.” she stated

She played one of the tracks off the three-day-old “Unraveled” EP, “Something to You”, which carried a catchy tune with it, and told a good story in the four minutes or so it took to play it. While she sang, both Chris and Myla gave her their full attention, and afterwards the ladies turned their attention to Chris, who said there were a lot of good things about being from Memphis. One example he gave was “the rich music history”, though he was quick to point out there were some downsides to it, too. He then shared a couple stories with the audience, one of which was about spending sixteen hours renovating a house, which led to the downside of “…hearing five hundred blues songs on the radio…” That helped act as a catalyst for him to write what he said was his first blues song, and if I heard the title correctly, it was “Tell Me Something”. There were some blues elements mixed in with the country and pop vibes; and it was one of my favorite songs he did this night.

Myla finished out the round with a song that she noted was one of the first ones she wrote for her latest album, “Hiding Places”. “There’s no cure for what I’ve got, call it the human condition.” she sang, while lightly plucking the stings of her guitar as she began “Human Condition”. That hushed intro didn’t last, though, and even with just an acoustic guitar she made the song into a mighty number, and belted out the chorus with a passion.

Attention then shifted back to Heather, who informed the crowd of a little over a dozen that she was going to get a little bluesy. “If that’s okay.” She added, prompting a small amount of cheers from the audience, with Chris chiming in, too. She took things down a few notches with “You’ve Got a Way”, a track that really highlighted her vocal range, from the more tender side, to nailing some deep, powerful notes, that left you thinking, “Wow!”

“Are there any kids hiding behind the pillar?” Chris asked when his turn rolled around, pointing to the big column in the center of the room. Some folks checked and informed him there was not. “It’s okay if there, but I’m gonna get a little PG-13 with this one.” he stated, before knocking out another newer song of his. When it got back to Myla, she proceeded to tell everyone a story behind her next track. “In two thousand and ten  I took on took big projects…” she said, before stopping. “I dropped my pick.” she remarked, causing Heather to joke, “Oh, no. The world is lost.”, while Myla reached down and picked it up.

She got back to her story by saying those two undertakings were a new album and getting married, a feat she did not recommend anyone do, saying both are hard enough in their own right. “I had three separate breakdowns.” she said, being able to laugh about it now. On that note, she added that she had to inform multiple family members that the song she was about to do was not about her now husband. “Take your stuff, take your sorries, I’ve heard enough. Wrap them up with a big red bow, give ‘em to the woman you used to know…” went the chorus of “Big Red Bow”, which had Myla tapping a little more into her folk side.

Upon finishing it, she mentioned their wedding day was also the day that album (2010’s “White/Gold”) was released, and they gave copies out to all those who attended said wedding. “Please tell me you wrapped the albums in a big red bow?” Heather asked her. They did not, though Myla did say that on the cover art for the album she was wearing her mothers’ wedding dress. Heather then said something about a “ringbearer”, before correcting it to “ringbear”, making a How I Met Your Mother reference. Fitting, since the shows series finale was airing that night.

She then busted out the infectious lead track from her new EP, “Chicago”, which was one the onlookers really seemed to enjoy. Before his next song, Chris told everyone how thankful he was that they were there watching them. Thus far, he said he had only been eating Fruit Roll-Ups, and Heather was quick to nod her head, affirming that he wasn’t lying. “…I’m running on your fuel…” he said to the crowd, being completely genuine with the remark.

He offered up another newer track, while Myla backed him up at different points throughout it. Those backing vocals sounded lovely, and when it was over, she said she’s really wanting her and Chris to start a duo called “Milam and Myla”. They even talked about combining their names, much like is done with celebrity couples these days, and calling themselves something like, “Mylam”.

All of that fun and at times off-the-wall banter served to make the show all the more entertaining.

She cranked out her next song, and when things got back to Heather, she mentioned this next one was one she co-wrote with a friend and fellow musician, Taylor Dukes. “…From Nashville, Texas.” she said, when talking about her friend. She realized her mistake as soon as she made it. “Wait… That’s not a place.” She said, and you could tell she was still trying to figure out exactly how that had slipped out. “…You all know Taylor, the Duke of Nashville?” said Chris, adding his commentary to it all.

The laughs (from both the crowd and the musicians) subsided, and Heather got back on track, saying when they sit down to work on a song, Taylor told her she felt like writing about “wild hearts”. So, fittingly, the track is called “Wild”. It’s great as is, and was only made better with the additional vocals Myla added to it, which was something Heather pointed out they had worked on during their time in the car, which was slightly surprising, because it sounded as if they had been doing it much longer than just practicing it that day.

“Are there any Springsteen fans here?” Chris asked, which got people really excited. “This isn’t one he wrote…” he informed everyone, though he did say it had some “Boss elements”, and after mentioning that there were religious layers to it (at least that’s what he said he tells his mother), he confided that it was really inspired by a high school reunion. The song he spoke of was one from the “Young Avenue” EP, called “Dark in the Garden”.

Like his other songs, it told an honest story; and after it, they got into a story from their trek on the road. Namely, how the rental car company gave them a Cadillac Escalade. It was at this point they pointed out the tip jar the staff of OBC had passed around a time or two already, and Chris said it, of course, took the most expensive gas. They also had trouble with the seat warmers, and hadn’t been able to turn them off so far. Sure, that would have been fine a few months ago, but not now.

Myla then set up her next song, which came from the “Drugs” EP. “It’s not what you’re thinking…” she clarified, saying the inspiration behind came from “baptized drugs”, which, as she pointed out for herself, was this: work and playing music. The song was the first one from that EP, “Slow Down”, which she noted she could probably stand to do at times. That’s not necessarily what the song’s about, though. Instead, it carries a message of chasing after what you want, and putting everything you have into it.

Heather got ready for her next track by saying that when she had time, she used to take naps. “I don’t anymore.” She stated. She then asked if anyone there was a fan of rainstorms, as in they found the sound soothing. A couple of people fit that category, and she was pretty fired up when she made her next remark. “I’m, like, ‘Yeah, bring it on!” she said, before finishing that, that was sort of what this next song was based on.

She performed the stellar, “Let it Rain”; and when things rolled back around to Chris, he asked if everyone would indulge him while he told a story. A few years back, he said he was called into a record executive’s office, who liked what he was doing and asked him to play a song. He did one, then another, saying he was feeling pretty good at that point, and his confidence only grew with the third song, which he was stopped in the middle of. The executive then offered his critique, which was that he was playing “New York country” and not “Nashville country”. Chris said he was given a homework assignment, and told to write a Nashville country song. “So, I searched my heart…” he said, making some funny remark, that was something like he wrote a song about New York girls who were from Tennessee. Honestly, I didn’t catch all of that, but regardless, the song that spawned was “Memphis Queen”, which is found on his debut album from 2005, and it was one of his strongest songs of the night.

Myla didn’t waste any time getting into her next song, which was the ever so catchy, “Bad Boys”. “All the bad boys are looking for a good time. I catch ‘em looking my way…” goes the start of the chorus, which, once it was over, led Chris to say he was sensing a theme between it and what he had done before. They then looked at Heather, who said she didn’t have a song to fit that pattern. However, she did have one that was about a “makeup, breakup and everything in between.

Once she finished, Chris reached down a harmonica and neck rack. “He’s getting the harmonica. He’s such an overachiever.” Heather stated, giving him a hard time. I believe the song was titled “All of Our Ghosts”, and was an amazing one. Myla kept with the newly established slower vibe, by doing a song she pointed out was rather special to her right now, because it was a finalist in the International Songwriting Competition. Heather then piped up. “That means it good.” she said, bragging on Myla. The song was “Sparks”. If you listen to it and pay attention to the lyrics, you’ll understand why it has made it so far in the competition, and the song deals with never letting the spark in a relationship burn out.

For Heather’s next song, she did the title track from her first EP, “Fine Line”. Chris followed it with another one of his, and for Myla’s turn, she did “Love in Black and White”. There’s a point in the song that sounds like the end, and the crowd raised their hands, but remained hesitant to applaud, clearly not certain if it was over yet or not. However, when Chris led the applause, everyone followed. The look on his was priceless after it subsided a bit and Myla continued on with the final verse. Meanwhile, Heather just shook her head and grinned.

It was about 9:15 at this point, so they had been on stage for nearly two hours already, and now they asked everyone if they wanted a couple more rounds. Everyone was game, and this next to last one they (minus Myla) had decided would be a cover round. “Are we really doing covers?” asked Myla, who was down for it, but just wanted to make sure they were indeed doing that.

Chris even joked that they were all three going to do “Freebird”. “…And we’ll all be here till next Tuesday.” he said, while Myla added she wanted to do the last solo by mimicking the sound with her mouth, and even demonstrated it.

Heather’s song was one by Maroon 5. “Really old” Maroon 5, which she noted was her favorite. It’s been years (and then some) since I’ve listened to the “Songs About Jane” album (which, I might add, is the only Maroon 5 album I own), so I didn’t catch the flubbed line she made on the second verse of “Sunday Morning”. However, she readily pointed it out when she finished, saying she was “ashamed” of it. Still, I think that little mistake could easily be overlooked, given how she killed it on the final chorus, and the vocal delivery was outstanding.

Chris treated everyone to an awesome rendition of The White Stripes “I’m Lonely (But I Ain’t That Lonely Yet)”, with just a hint of country flare added to it. Before her turn, Myla mentioned just a few days before someone had told her that there was “no good music written in the eighties.” She said was a bit taken aback by the comment, and responded to the person with, “Well, how about this song?” With that, she immediately started “In Your Eyes” by Peter Gabriel, which I definitely think qualifies as at least one good song that came out of that decade.

Since they were on the topic of covers, Heather mentioned she wanted to do a more acoustic rendition of “Love is a Battlefield”, saying she thought that would sound cool. “It’s been done on Idol.” Myla told her, crushing her hopes. “Well, if it’s been done on Idol then I can’t do it.” She remarked, before again thanking everyone for sticking around, because most of the people who still were here, at been there since the show began.

Her closer was “Fool Again”, and it was a great note to end on. Before his last number, Chris thanked Opening Bell Coffee for playing host to them, then started “Shine”. It sounded great to begin with, and was only made better by the assistance he got from his touring companions, as they all three harmonized on the choruses, their voices sounding absolutely incredible all combined like that.

It fell to Myla to end the night, and she concluded it all with the title track from her still fairly new record, “Hiding Places”, which was a nice conclusion to an unforgettable night.

All three are extraordinary singers and songwriters, and seeing them in this Songwriters in the Round setting made for a one-of-a-kind experience. I mean, hearing them play their songs would have been just fine, but having them tell stories pertaining to some of the tracks, along with the banter and teasing they periodically did was fun to hear. And no, it did not seem like this was a two plus hour show, and that old saying, “time flies when you’re having fun”, would be an appropriate one to us about this night.

Regarding Myla, she’s playing Memphis every week in the month of April, and just a few shows in other states are also planned for May. Her full calendar can be viewed HERE. Be sure to check out her albums in iTUNES, too.

Chris has a gig at Downtown Rooftop in Memphis on May 9th, and go HERE for any updates on his show calendar. He also told me it’ll probably (hopefully) be fall at the latest when he’ll get back to Dallas, so keep that in mind and be sure to check him out whenever he does get back this way. And, of course, check out his albums in iTUNES.

Heather has her records up on either iTUNES or BANDCAMP, and while she has nothing on the books at the moment, here’s her TOUR PAGE.

Oh, they’re all super nice people, too.

Great way to end the month of March, especially since I began it with a songwriters in the round show that featured four Texas musicians, and then ended it more or less the same way with some acts from the only other state whose name begins with a T. That might almost qualify as being poetic.

Wednesday, March 19th, 2014 – Ishi Livens Up a Wednesday Night

As one show let out and my duty of covering the show for On Tour Monthly was fulfilled, I headed across the street to Three Links to catch a show for myself… Or at least what was left of it.

The whole bill (which featured Black Taxi, We’rewolves and Okapi Sun) would have been great to see, but Ishi was the main band I had wanted to see in the first place, and they had yet to start.

It had been about ten months since I last Dallas’s favorite electronic band, and coincidentally, it happened to right here at Three Links, just one week after their massive CD release show when “Digital Wounds” was finally released into the world.

Point is I was looking forward to this.

“I’m gonna need more tracks ASAP.” Frontman JT Mudd told the sound guy as their show got underway. He was decked out in his full attention getting attire, which included his spacey/futuristic looking robe, a hat with little squares of glass like you would see on a disco ball covering it and a pair of glasses that illuminated neon light. He also sported some face paint. It may have been a Wednesday night, but they clearly weren’t pulling any punches.

“Happy hump day motherfuckers!” he shouted as the sample track for “Pastel Lights” grew louder, soon peaking as guitarist Rocky Ottley and drummer Jonathan Merla jumped in on the track. I guess that’s the upside of going so long without seeing a band: They completely switch up their setlist. I was a bit surprised they opened with this classic that is typically reserved as one of the final songs, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t like it.

It instantly had the area in front of the stage transformed into a dance floor, as some sang right along with JT, “…I will be waiting in the shapes of time; realigning the matter between your heart and mine…” It was indeed a fun way to kick off what would end up being a 71-minute set, and with that oldie out of the way, it was time for some new stuff, but not the new stuff I was expecting.

Apparently, they’ve been busy writing some new material since I last saw them, and played a handful of the tracks this night. The next one was the first of a few that had JT introducing a female singer (I missed her full name, though if I heard correctly her first was Betty) who joined them on stage and backed him up.

While a female vocalist used to be a permanent thing in Ishi, they’ve proven in the last year or so it’s not a necessity for them. However, there are times it is behooving of the music. That song was one of them, and the woman killed it each time she did step on stage.

“We got a brand new song for ya, Dallas.” remarked JT as she left, leading to another new song, one that had Rocky playing some very cool sounding lines on his guitar. The fans barely had to time to clap for them before the backing track for a personal favorite of mine kicked on, “Moon Watcher”. The fans were encouraged to clap along with Jonathan’s drumming at the start, and after getting through the first chorus, JT gave it up to Rocky, letting out a high-pitched, “Guitar!”.

They were on a roll know, going right from one song to the next, and “Emotional Hard Drive” kicked the dancing into overdrive, while Rocky jumped around at the start of it. “…You strut your stuff, looking so tough. I don’t buy it…” JT sang, kind of flexing one of his arms as he did so. That was segued right into another new track, which again featured the vocal talent of Betty, who even took over more of a lead role at times. In fact, while she was singing one line, JT went and grabbed a little towel and wiped the sweat from his eyes, before getting right back into show mode, jumping about and doing everything possible to ensure the audience was feeling it and having the time of their life.

“Thank you, Miss Betty.” he said as she went back to being a spectator of the show, while they moved right along with “Touch The Future”. “Let me see your vibrations; touch the sun. Anyone can make it happen, we’ve only just begun.” Goes the chorus, which seemed to strongly apply to them this night; and as they hit the instrumental break, JT walked over behind Rocky, holding his cape out and waving it behind him.

The songs kept coming, and now they cranked out the haunting title track, “Digital Wounds”, before JT asked everyone a very important question. “How many dandelions do we have out there tonight?” Everyone knew that meant “Shake Your Dandelion” was coming, and the sexually charged classic of theirs had been tweaked a bit, and now featured a blistering guitar solo after the second chorus. During one of the breaks, JT checked in on his people, asking, “How we doing out there?”, then after the song once again thanked everyone for “rocking out on a Wednesday night” with them.

Next, fans were treated to the first single off their latest album, “Disco Queen”, which was followed by another single, which signified the end was nearing. JT exchanged his current headgear for what I guess could still be considered a Native American headdress. It was more simple than the one I’ve seen him rock in the past, though it still had the strips of neon lighting adorning it; and in one hand, he held a shield, also covered with neon lightening, and he began dancing about at the start of “Mother Prism”.

That one has been a fan favorite since it first was worked into their shows, and the fans were downright giddy to hear it. “Aiyah, aiyay. Aiyah, aiyah, aiyay.” everyone chanted along on that nonsensical anthem of sorts, which serves to bond everyone together. Really, for that one song, it was like everybody in Three Links was a single entity. Some were still dancing to it, while many began jumping up and down, still chanting.

It was a lovely moment, and once it concluded, JT rested the shield against Jonathans’ kick drum. Another stellar guitar solo was thrown into “Slowly But Surely”, after which JT thanked everyone one last time for coming out, along with all the bands who played before them, before saying they had one last song for everyone.

I was surprised it was not an original they broke into, though it was a pleasant surprise to hear them pull out their cover of New Order’s “Bizarre Love Triangle”. It had been quite awhile since I had heard them do it, and as they hit the final chorus, JT got out in the crowd, dancing along with everyone and encouraging everybody to sing along, and even left one of the choruses up to the crowd.

That was a satisfactory ending for me, though it didn’t take long for people to start asking for one more, and they were more than happy to oblige.

“You have two options…” he told everyone given them the choice of “Mirror Ball Sky” or “ISHI”. I shouted for option two, but I was one of the few. Needless to say, it didn’t win out. “Let’s get dirty.” JT said, right before starting the lead track from their current album.

So it seemed like the track that used to be their routine opener would be how this show would end, but they still had a surprise for everyone. After a quick band meeting, they decided to do their other choice, and I was elated by that. “We’ll do one more, ‘cause we fucking love you…” said JT, adding with a bit of an accent, “Long time.” “ISHI” brought their 71-minute long set to an end, and I really like the way they handled the final chorus, doing it sort of in rounds, with JT shouting the first letter, “I”, then a second later Rocky shouted it out. The same thing happened for “S”, before they synced up for “H” and “I”.

Man, what a way to end a Wednesday night, a Wednesday night that had already included me seeing the great Chino Moreno perform.

Ishi owned it this night, and delivered a show that was exactly like what everyone in North Texas has come to expect from them. They’re fun, they’re lively, and the music they make is topnotch, while the new songs they played this night were at the very least on par with their other stuff, and one was a standout.

After going so long without seeing Ishi, I had forgotten how happy their shows make you, and I doubt I was the only one who left with a smile on their face.

Upcoming shows include a Totally 80’s night at the Granada Theater on April 26th, where they will performing a Depeshi and covering Depeche Mode songs. On May 4th they’ll be playing early at the Suburbia Music Fest in Plano, and they have a gig in Houston on May 31st as part of Free Press Summer Fest. And if you want to check out their music, head over to iTUNES.

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014 – HighAsAKite Leaves a Lasting Impression On Dallas

I rounded the corner from the parking lot behind the Granada Theater this night to the front of the venue, only to see a sizable line that stretched around the north side of the building.

Yes, the people were out in droves, even shortly after eight-o’clock, all in anticipation of seeing London Grammar.

Of course, there was an opening act that would come first, though everyone seemed in consensus that they should just get right to the main course. On the center screen that covered the stage the venue broadcasts a Twitter feed (you tag the Granada in a tweet and then it shows up), and based on the several people who were using it had already written the Oslo, Norway based HighAsAKite off. Actually, I don’t know if some people were even aware who the opening band was, but by the time they were done, that would be a name no one who was here this night will ever forget.

Their 32-minute set was comprised of songs from their upcoming “Silent Treatment” album, (due out April 8th), including opening with the lead track, “Lover, Where Do You Live?”. Guitarist Kristoffer Lo used a bow to play his axe on that first song, similar to, say, a violinist, in a way. There were some absolutely gorgeous three-part harmonies on that one, as Øystein Skar and Marte Eberson, both of whom played some synths, backed up frontwoman Ingrid Helene Håvik. “…Sent shivers down that spine of yours.” was one of the lines from that song, and a fitting one at that, because that was the exact feeling a majority of the audience was experiencing.

It was sheer beauty right from the start, and the synthesizers allowed them to add so many layers and so much depth to it.

Now that they had cast a spell over everyone, they picked things up, and Trond Bersus’ drumming grew more forceful as they moved on with “Leaving No Traces”, which saw the three-part harmonies becoming four, making it all the more compelling. As it ended, Kristoffer laid his guitar down and picked up his flugabone (which looks like a trumpet of sorts, for those unfamiliar with the instrument). He proceeded to play a piece that segued them into the subsequent track from the album, “Hiroshima”. They gave it even more flare live, and there was a moment that was nothing short of climatic, once all the instruments peaked and burst into a delightful, captivating wall of sound.

They bridged it right into the theatrical sounding “I, The Hand Grenade”. “Yeah, the real terrorist is me, my love.” goes one of the often repeated lines from the first verse, before “terrorist” gets changed to “parasite” for the second, and Ingrid delivered it all with flawless execution. “Since Last Wednesday”, the single the album has already produced, showed a bit of a lighter side to the band, and it contained some very subtle pop elements. Still, to even begin to say it was pop would be completely inaccurate.

“Thank you, we’re really excited to be opening for London Grammar.” Ingrid told the audience, in what was really the only time they addressed the crowd, since they had been so busy utilizing their time on stage to play all the songs they could. Even while she spoke, the applause continued, and people had already welcomed these Norwegians into their hearts.

Kristoffer brought the flugabone back out for their final song, “Science & Blood Tests”. He used it for a portion of the song, before putting his guitar back to use, again using the bow on it, as they concluded their set by leaving the now new fans with the same sense of wonder their first tune had created.

I don’t know if I’ve ever seen an opening act that was as impressive and mind-blowing as HighAsAKite was.

It was breathtakingly beautiful, and their level of talent is unfathomable. And while this was an exceptional show, I got the feeling they were only starting to scratch the surface at the end of this brief set.

Honestly, they have everything one needs to be a headliner here at a venue the size of the Granada, with the exception of the fanbase. Well, at least before this night they didn’t have the fanbase.

They were the perfect pairing for London Grammar, because HighAsAKite also has a sound unlike any band. Ever.

By all means, you need to keep an eye on this outfit from Norway, and I’m already anxiously awaiting their return to Dallas. I doubt I’m alone, either, because the Twitter feed again lit up, this time with posts from people who were utterly amazed by what they had just witnessed.

They have an EP available, while their LP will be released this coming Tuesday (April 2nd), and can be bought in iTUNES. As for shows, they’ll be doing a brief stint in the U.S. in May, with a few shows on the East Coast. Aside from that, everything will be international (well, for us American folks at least), and their full calendar can be seen HERE.

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014 – London Grammar Proves They’re More Than Just a Hype Machine

One of the most entertaining things at the Granada Theater is the Twitter board, which allows you to tag the venue on the social network and then see your tweet appear on the large screen that covers the stage. It can lead to some entertaining comments/conversations, and early on this night, talk already began about how over-hyped London Grammar was (granted, that was only coming from one person, though they were adamant about it.)

That’s okay, though. After all anything and everything, be it a band, person, company, etc. needs its doubters and disbelievers… That way they have people to prove wrong.

By the time their 10-o’clock start time rolled around, the venue appeared to be at capacity. Even the balcony area was open this night and teemed with life, while spots in front of the stage had been hard to come by even when the doors opened at eight. So, to say the people of Dallas and North

The stage was bathed in a beautiful hue of deep blue from the lights as guitarist Dan Rothman and keyboardist/multi-instrumentalist Dominic ‘Dot’ Major walked on stage, taking the spots on stage right and left, respectively. Only their silhouettes were visible from where I stood – further at the back - and they were made to feel very welcome with all the applause and cheers they got, as they began a lengthy instrumental lead in for their first song.

The fanfare again erupted after a few minutes when Hannah Reid stepped out from the backstage area. “Hey.” she sang a few different times, stretching the word out in all sorts of ways, immediately putting her mighty, semi-operatic voice to work. The audience instantly swooned over it, and its sheer beauty no doubt melted some hearts.

Everyone already knew what was coming, as they officially began “Hey Now”, a song that saw the instrumentalization kept rather low-key, leaving Hannahs’ voice as the most prominent thing to focus on. The song in general was riveting, as was everything else they did this night.

Dot turned his attention away from the keys for their next song, instead adding some percussion to the mix via the djembe for “Darling Are You Gonna Leave Me”. “Oh darling, are you gonna leave me? I’ll watch you if you can…” sang Hannah on the chorus, hitting higher notes with what looked to be completely ease, switching things up slightly from the potent, deeper register she often sings in.

There was a smaller drum kit set up on stage left, and now it got put to use (for the first of many times) as Dot took a seat behind it, leaving Hannah to man the keys. The subtle plucking Dan was doing on his guitar for “Interlude” complimented the keys nicely; but perhaps the best part was the chorus, which was co-sung by both Hannah and Dot, who created some ethereal sounding harmonies.

Only three songs in and this show was already a little slice of heaven.


“Thank you all for coming to see us.” Hannah said, in one of the few moments they addressed the crowd. They were more geared towards the performance, and they moved on with “Shyer”, which had Dot playing the keys for the first half, before moving over to the drums to give the song just a hint more kick.

I could be partially biased, given that “Wasting My Young Years” is my personal favorite song of London Grammar’s, but I found it to be one of the best moments of their show. Hannahs’ voice shone even more brightly on this one, as she got to use some more operatic tones, creating moments that, personally, were best enjoyed by closing your eyes and just soaking it all in. Yes, I did that, and this was the first of several songs that had me doing so.

Now Dot spoke with the fans, and he mentioned their next song, “Flickers”, was the first one they ever wrote as a band. That was a fun fact to learn, and made the song even more enjoyable knowing it is the oldest thing in their repertoire. Once all the lyrics had been sung, Hannah turned around and strode off stage, leaving Dan and Dot to close out the song. Dot left the djembe for the keys, doing a great little solo, accented by some nice riffs.

She returned once they were done, and now Dot took time to mention their time touring the U.S., and while they had been to America before, this was the first time they had ever been to Texas. They seemed to like it, too. They then performed another profoundly moving track, “Sights”. It wasn’t just moving to the audience, either.

Near the end of it, Hannah could be seen pointing off to stage right, and I was unsure if she was speaking to Dan in between singing, or if she was having some technical problem. Then it ended, and Dot apologized for her, as she wiped some tears from her face.

It was a raw, vulnerable moment, the likes of which you seldom see any band display; and I hope the people of Dallas were able to appreciate this is I did, because in another year or two, when they have even more touring experience under their belt, I doubt this will be happening.

She never faltered on singing, but once she had composed herself how “overwhelming” and “hard” it was to sing that with so many eyes focused on her. Again, that was such a beautiful moment, because you got to see that’s far more than just a song, and a deep personal connection goes along with it.


“I am the blank page before you. I am the fine idea you crave…” sang Hannah as they got the spectacular “Stay Awake” underway. Afterwards, they once again mentioned Texas, and not only how “amazing” the last week and a half had been, but also how much they liked all the southern hospitality they had encountered. Hey, it’s what we’re known for.

Their next song was setup as being the only cover on their album. It was originally done by Kavinsky and featured on the soundtrack for the 2011 film Drive, and that song is “Nightcall”. To be perfectly honest, I was unaware that song was even a cover, and the members of London Grammar tweaked it so much, it may as well be an original of theirs, without any traces of the electro house style of the original even being evident in theirs.

It was so majestic it was almost crippling, and it worked well to get everyone ready for “Strong”, which concluded their 48-minute long set.

No one was ready for the night to be over, though; and chatter instantly began, as people talked about what songs they hoped the band would come back and do, while others chanted for more.

“Will do one more.” said Hannah, once they did retake the stage. Some were hoping for the title track form their LP, though Dallas was instead given “Metal & Dust”. I was happy with that, especially when they got to the end, which once again found Dot on the drums, and got quite aggressive as he and Dan gave the track an epic end to one of the most marvelous concerts I’ve ever attended.

This show was a clear case of quality over quantity. I mean, with such a relatively quick rise to international fame and only one album of material to draw from, it’s not like they could have played an hour and a half long show or anything. Nor did they need to.

They had everyone transfixed with their more minimalist indie rock sounds, and proved that all the hype they have received they have not only earned, but are also worthy of.

I expected to like it, but wasn’t prepared to love it as much as I did, and over the coming years, if London Grammar can produce another couple of records with songs that are at least on par with “If You Wait”, then I could easily see them becoming one of the biggest bands of the current times.

The potential is there, from the excellent craftsmanship of the songs, to Hannahs’ voice, which is one of the most beautiful and amazing things my ears have ever had  the pleasure of hearing.

I don’t know about everyone else, but for me, this show was pretty much the equivalent of a religious experience/awakening, and I felt quite fulfilled as I walked out the doors of the Granada this night.

Along with the final dates of their U.S. tour, they also have shows all around the globe throughout the year. Check them out HERE; and should you have a chance to see them, you really should take it. Also, if “If You Wait” isn’t part of ITUNES library, definitely add it to your collection.

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014 – The Pizza Underground Loads Up on Extra Cheese in Dallas

When I arrived at Club Dada this night, there was a line outside, not a long one, but a line nonetheless.

A group of excited friends in front of me where asked for their tickets, replying with they were going to buy them at the door. “It’s sold out.” Answered the woman who was scanning pre-purchased tickets, leaving the group dumbfounded as they left the line, clearly wondering how they should now spend their Wednesday night.

That was the type of buzz The Pizza Underground had created; and thanks to Parade of Flesh, the group was stopping in Dallas on their way to Austin.

Let’s get it straight, though: this show wasn’t sold out because heaps of music fans were wanting to see a potential next big thing in music. Rather, it was because of curiosity, and the fact that everyone was intrigued to see the Velvet Underground type cover band, who instead has made the songs all about pizza, and just so happens to feature Macaulay Culkin as one of the band members.

I missed the majority of the Brooklyn based singer/songwriter Toby Goodshank, who opened up the show on the outdoor patio stage. He finished one song and then mentioned to the crowd that along with an album he had for sale, there was also an “extremely graphic pornographic comic book” he had written at the merch table, which certainly seemed like an odd mix of items to be selling.

It’s hard to gauge any musician/band just by hearing two songs, but he sounded good. It was an odd mix of rock and folk he played, and I wish I had caught more just so I could have gotten a better feel for his music.

He has some records over in iTUNES if you would like to give his stuff a listen.

Things took a different turn after his set, when the only true band on the bill, Moving Units, took the stage.

The trio, which consists of singer and guitarist Blake Miller, bassist, Mike Delgado and a drummer, brought with them a type of indie dance/rock music, and the Los Angeles outfit plowed through their 40-minute set.

Despite having released a new album just last year, they focused on just about everything from their career, and I believe it was “Birds of Prey”, and older song, that they opened with. It reeled the crowd in, in no time, what with its catchy sounds, and it was made even more fun when Mike tossed an inflatable beach ball (which was made to look like an oversized basketball) into the crowd, which was batted around throughout their set.

They seldom did seamless segues, but kept it all pretty tight, giving the audience just a few seconds to applaud before going into their next song, and after tackling another one, they knocked out the striking, “The Kids From Orange County”. Live, these songs (especially the ones in the first half of their set) were more rock sounding than they come across on the albums, which I really liked. It was just heavier in some ways, and the guitar, bass and drums were far more prominent than the sample tracks they were using.

Following that one was another track from “Hexes for Exes”, “Wrong Again”. “You don’t know what you want, you don’t know what you need…” sang Blake, while playing some mesmerizing chords there at the start. Afterwards, he laid guitar down, showing he was a commanding frontman as he sang “Kate Moss in ‘97”, which is a bit of a seductive track from last year’s “Neurotic Exotic”. It was fairly repetitive, and the chorus consisted of repeating the songs title many times over, yet it never got tiresome. At least not to me.

They were more into the true dance portion of the show by now, which was equally as fun, and one of the best tracks they unleashed this night was “The World is Ours”. “Pink Thoughts” kept mood alive, but surprisingly, no one ever really danced along to it or any of their other songs, despite seeming to enjoy them. They powered through a few more, including the moving “Paper Hearts”, which wound up being their closer.

They abruptly stopped after that, removing their guitar and bass, before Blake waved goodbye to everyone and thanked everyone for coming out.

There’s no arguing that Moving Units was the best act on the bill this night. The music was topnotch, and Blakes’ voice is most excellent.

They held my attention for every second (well, when I wasn’t having to look to see where the beach ball(s) so I wouldn’t get hit by one, that is). The performance was fun to watch, too, and pretty professional seeming at that.

They have a few records you can buy/listen to in iTUNES. They also have a few shows lined up around California, so if you live in the area, check out the dates HERE.


By this time, the patio – which can hold about 150 people – was pretty much packed out, yet more people kept finding spaces to fill in, as everyone eagerly awaited The Pizza Underground.

I must say, it was weird seeing the stage completely vacant of any amps, a drum kit or any other instrument, but then again, The Pizza Underground is far from your typical band, so some weirdness should have been expected.

The audience cheered when Austin Kilham, Phoebe Kreutz, Matt Colbourn, Deenah Vollmer and Macaulay Culkin filed on stage, in that order as they took their places. They were all clad in black, partly looking like hipsters and partly like they were trying to impersonate some bands of the 60’s to 70’s era.

Deenah Vollmer was clutching a Serious Pizza box (one that would hold a full pizza, which was enormous), and she held it above her head before opening it. A smaller box (one that could hold one or maybe two slices) fell out and she picked it up, as that was the drum for the evening.

“So, do you kids like pizza?” Culkin asked, getting a loud response from the fans. He then asked if everyone liked songs about pizza, before saying, “Too bad.” He was, of course, joking, and said as much, before they got to their songs.

I’m pretty certain they played every song from their demo during their time on stage, beginning with “Papa John Says”, and dished out a few more, which were done so close together, it felt like some of the songs were all one, instead of separate tracks. Adding to that feeling was the fact that the songs are relatively short, and with the only true instrument being the guitar Matt was playing, it was easy to think that they were different verses, rather than different songs.

I believe some of the other songs were “I’m Beginning to Eat the Slice” and “Cheese Days”, and during their first break of the night, Deenah asked the crowd if they had “…Heard the one about the pizza?” “It’s really cheesy.” Was the punch line, which got some rolling laughter from the crowd.

They followed along the same lines of parody with their next song, before one of them said they were about to get “a little existential”. The song pertaining to that was all about closing the pizza box to keep the heat in, so that way it’ll still be warm when you want a slice later.

The silly jokes continued during the next break, when Deenah said the next song was “about abstinence”. “We’re in God’s country.” she added. It got laughs from people, and I found it pretty funny, though that wasn’t quite what the song was about. Instead, it dealt with the morning after you eat pizza, “when you still have more pizza.” Phoebe said, and talked about it congealing.

They switched things up for their next song, but not before one of them pointed out they had drawn a cat face on the pizza box back stage, and Deenah dubbed it “Pussy Jewel”.

Austin then took a spot behind a little keyboard, while everyone except for Culkin lined up along the fence at the back of the stage. He then welcomed a young woman to the stage (who I’d assume was is his girlfriend) and they did a duet together. She had a pretty good voice I thought; and I say that about them being in a relationship because when the song was over, they got almost too carried away kissing, to the point shouting “Get a room!” would have been an appropriate response.

They had, had their fun and everything this night, but now they made clear that The Pizza Underground wasn’t all about fun and games, and they were going to get serious now. That meant giving a history lesson about Jeno Paulucci – who invented pizza rolls – who started his career by making canned Chinese food. Yes, it was as entertaining as it sounds.

They had something else planned for the crowd now, and Deenah pointed out that since everyone was loving these songs about pizza, then surely the crowd would like to hear “…Nirvana songs sung in the past tense.”

Kurt Cobained came out on stage then (a guy dressed in a wig and armed with an acoustic guitar) to play some songs from Nevermound (the past tense of Nevermind.) Was it ridiculously stupid? Yes. But again, it had almost everyone (myself included) hysterical. In fact, I laughed harder at this little section of the show than I did all night,

“…Here we are then, entertained us. I felt stupid and contagied…” the guy sang, switching up the lyrics of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and numerous other tracks from “Nevermind” as he performed a medley of the record.

After a  few minutes of that, the band returned. “What’s with this little table in the pizzas?” Culkin asked, before asking if anyone wanted the little white piece of plastic that is utterly useless once removed from the pizza box it came in. That made it all the more funny to watch as people fought over it, before one person swiped it from his hand, as if he held a winning lottery ticket worth millions.

They ended with “Take a Bite of the Wild Slice”, but that wasn’t enough for everyone, and the chanting for an encore began as they filed off stage.

A guy who looked like a manager (perhaps he really was their manager, or he just dressed to fit the part) walked on stage. “You know when you have room for a little more, but it’s a big piece, so you cut it down the middle?” he asked, saying some other stuff as he made all sorts of gestures with his hands, as if he were cutting imaginary slices into smaller portions. “Yeah.” he said before walking off, giving the stage back up to The Pizza Underground.

Their final song was about “when pizza hurts you”, and dealt with eating a “sizzling slice”, because you just can’t resist the temptation of delicious looking pizza.

That was it, and all of that happened in about 30-minutes, or barely over. In which case if it was, shouldn’t they have stuck with the pizza delivery guarantee and given the show to everyone for free?

I kid.

There were two different levels to this performance, and I’ll start with the most evident one: the comedy side.

It was pretty much exactly what I expected from listening to their music and watching some Youtube videos, and hopefully you didn’t expect anything other than cheesy jokes and odd takes on The Velvet Undergrounds’ music.

In that regard, I was entertained throughout. Never mind the fact that the five of them looked (i.e. all dressed almost the same) as if they could be the leaders of some weird cult that would worship pizza and eventually end in a mass suicide pact by them and their followers overdosing on large quantities of pizza and clogged arteries from copious amounts of cheese.

On the other end of the spectrum you have the actual musically talent, and there’s no way this is or will ever be anything more than a novelty act. In fact, if Culkin weren’t in the band, I have to wonder if they’d have ever gotten any further than just playing house parties to drunk friends, rather than playing small sold-out venues to drunk people.

I have heard worse voices, but none of them is actually capable of singing well, and the guitar was simply plucked most of the time. So, in that aspect, there’s really no talent present.

I came, I saw and I enjoyed. Like they say, no pizza is bad pizza; however, I don’t think I’ll be going back for seconds from The Pizza Underground.

Still, it was a fun night, and it was good getting to see a small slice of pop culture history.

Album Review: “Full Moon” by SPCCMP

imageIt’s hard to believe, but it’s already been a little over a year and a half since the debut EP from SPCCMP (pronounced Space Camp) dropped, and ever since its release, the trip-rock outfit has been hard at work on their follow-up EP, making sure they wrote the best material they possibly could.

The result is the “Surrender to the Night” EP, and even though demo versions of the tracks have existed and been used in music videos made around a year ago, the professional recording quality the tracks now have makes them feel fresh and new.

Tomahawk Jonez (whose real name is Jeremy Rodriguez) has been an excellent hip-hop artist here in the Dallas music scene for some time now, and his skills are on full display on the albums first track, “Dancing with the Devil”. It’s a fun blend of electronic and pop flares that you can groove to, with Tomahawk spitting out the positive words of the track about chasing your dreams and standing tall even when things get tough, never losing sight of what you want.

The album takes a more serious turn with the next songs, including the title track “Surrender to the Night”, which focuses more on the turmoil the world is currently in. “Bombs are bursting in the air, bullets flying everywhere. Children watching children die; missiles lighting up the sky…” Paco Estrada (the groups other vocalist and acoustic guitarist) croons at the start, a nice gravely effect thrown over his voice on those first few lines, which seem to give it more weight. The two completely different styles of singing mesh and even complement one another on what is easily the most moving song this EP offers, and it really does have the ability to change minds (and even the world) if you take its message to heart.

“If This is Goodbye” is my personal favorite track, and it takes more of a rock approach, with some forceful drumming rounded out by some nice bass riffs, while the guitars create a mesmerizing music bed. Paco and Tomahawk again trade off on this song, handling the chorus and verses, respectively. As a person who gravitates most towards lyrics, I must confess I absolutely love the chorus, which is teeming with emotion, in the way that only Paco Estrada can muster. “How we ever gonna save the world, if we’re too afraid to try and change it?  …How you ever gonna say my name, without the memory of you throwing it all away? How you gonna fall asleep at night…” he sings, more matter-of-factly rather than somberly. It’s powerful, and in a completely different manner than the previous track, this time dealing with not being too quick to give up on a love.

When the music video was first released for “The Lover”, it got some flak, with some people saying they were tired of the suicidal sounding songs (one track from their first EP could be viewed in that sense, depending on how you perceive it.) With a line like, “…And the barrel’s to his head, like the trigger to his finger…”, it’s easy to see why people would view it that way (Paco even slightly busts a rhyme on that chorus, almost giving Tomahawk a run for his money), but it’s depth goes beyond that. It’s more about overcoming any demons you’re facing and fully realizing your self-worth, and that you’re perfect as who you are. Yes, they broach the subject in a darker manner, but the overall message shines through said darkness.

Speaking of that, that’s the big difference between their first EP and this one: it’s darker. There were a couple of tracks sort of like that on their first EP, but not to the extent as those found on “Surrender to the Night”, and that’s a good thing.

It depicts growth, and shows that the band isn’t afraid to tackle real life issues, all while putting an uplifting spin on them.

They’re incredibly original, too. Trip-hop may not be new, but they put such an interesting spin on it all, incorporating several different genres, all of which somehow fit with one another. Then you have the fact that Paco does some singing, and in an interview I did with Tomahawk sometime back, he noted that aside from being able to work with a musician he greatly respected, that also gave SPCCMP the chance to use live vocals on what might otherwise be just sample tracks.

It makes all the difference, because Paco is a master at making music emotional, and despite the difference in his and Jeremy’s styles of singing, they work amazingly well together.

You often hear bands that have a great sound, but it’s rare these days for any act to be original; however, SPCCMP really is. It’s fresh and exciting music that was written with the intent to change lives. That fact is evident on the “Surrender to the Night” EP, an EP that has the potential to let SPCCMP break out of the local music scene here and make the world their stage.

SPCCMP is:
Tomahawk Jonez – vocals
Paco Estrada – vocals & acoustic guitar
Mike Dove – electric guitar
A.J. “Irish” Blackleaf – drums
Joel Bailey - bass
Emsy Robinson - guitar

Purchase the album on: iTUNES

Visit SPCCMP’s websites: Official Website / Facebook / Reverbnation / Twitter / Youtube

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Saturday, March 1st, 2014 – Songwriters in the Round

The Liquid Lounge was hosting an all acoustic lineup, which seems to be something that seldom happens there, despite the very intimate setting it has.

Paco Estrada had put together the whole show, which was built around a Songwriters in the Round performance he had put together. Ryan Holley, Jeff Crowder (from Deep Ella), Nava (from The Last Place You Look) and Paco were all part of the round, and they had done a show in Austin and Houston leading up to this Saturday night.

The Songwriters in the Round portion of the night was sandwiched in between to great bands who were doing rare acoustic shows to match the vibe for the night, the first of whom was Distant Lights.

Believe it or not, I was actually being somewhat of a social butterfly and was out on the patio area and lost track of time, so unfortunately I missed this amazing Austin band.

I’m more than a little disappointed by that, because I was very interested to see what they were like acoustically, since they are usually a powerhouse of a rock band. Alas, it didn’t happen this night, but maybe I’ll have another chance. They are working on a acoustic EP which should be out soon, so maybe some more acoustic shows will follow in the wake of its release.

Speaking of shows, they have one in Covington, LA at the Columbia St. Rock ‘N’ Blues on March 21st, and they’ll also make a two-night stand in Tyler on April 4th and 5th. The first of those dates will be at Click’s, while the other is at Cork Food and Drink.

Be sure to give their music a listen, too. They have a couple of albums up in iTUNES, and you can even snag their newest one for free HERE.

When I did make it in to the Liquid Lounge, those four singers/songwriters were getting ready for the show, lining up some stools on the stage. Ryan Holley took fair stage right, with Jeff Crowder and Nava after him, while Paco was on far stage left.

It quickly became clear that this was going to be an interesting night, when Jeff whispered into his microphone. “This is something I have trouble saying, and I usually can’t unless it’s completely dark, but, I love you.” he said while gazing out at the fans who had come to support.

“Do you want to start this one off?” Paco asked Ryan, who acted like a heavy burden had just been placed on him. Yeah, you could already tell they were going to be cutting up as much as they were going to be playing music.

I have to say, this was the first time I’ve ever seen Ryan Holley act as a frontman. He used to be a guitarist and backing vocalist in a Austin band called Eyes Burn Electric, and there was a time or two he filled in as one of Paco’s band members in recent years, but he has always been a guitarist the times I’ve seen him. That said, he has an even more incredible voice than I knew, and he knocked it out of the park with the first song he did.

“That was okay.” Paco remarked, pretending to be not all that impressed. He then addressed the crowd, “Is everybody awake? Do you need to stretch?” he asked, joking with his friends. “…Paco secretly hates us and likes to talk shit to is.” said Nava, joking that, that was the actual reason Paco put this whole little tour together with them.

Jeff then took his turn. I remember hearing of Deep Ella years ago (shortly after I joined Myspace), but I never saw the Houston based band, who is still kicking to this day. So, I really didn’t know to expect from him at all. His first song was great, though. It almost sounded like it could have been a cover, but I’m not sure if it was or not. He had a really good voice though, and being that he was the only musician I was completely unfamiliar with on this lineup, he made it known why he deserved to be  part of it and why Paco asked him to join them on this run.

Making it better was the fact that the other three musicians were assisting the one who was singing by either adding some other guitar lines to the mix or some backing vocals, which made for some good touches to each song.

Now it was Nava’s turn, and I was most interested to see (or rather hear) how he sounded. The band he fronts is a loud rock band, and a solid one at that; who has done some touring with more than a few big name acts. Yet here Nava sit, with an acoustic guitar in his hands, verses being the aggressive frontman he typically is. Even more surprising was the song he did, which was slow and soft, and gave his deep, booming bass voice and interesting sound (seriously, this guy has one of THE most unique voices I’ve ever heard).

Paco commented on the tender sound the song had, asking Nava where his angry sound went, as well as a few other questions. Nava replied to one of those with, “It made my head sweaty.” (he’s bald).

Now, it was Paco’s turn. He opted to do “the old standby” first, which prompted a series of jokes about how he was going to “blow his load” in the first few minutes. All four musicians bantered back and forth about this, while Ryan made a joke. “Paco gives good blow jobs.” That’s it, that’s my joke he said.

“Did I gain some respect? Did I lose some respect from that?” Paco asked. “I think this one would go down in the negative category.” Ryan told him, making a thumbs down gesture as he said it. Ryan then added something to the effect that if any of Paco’s exes were here they could attest just how quickly he does “blow his load”.

Paco then started his song. “I kept a photograph, of you and me together…” he sang, the first line of “Whiskey Kisses”. That’s one of my favorites he has written in recent years, and it’s such a beautiful song, and that beauty was only accentuated with the help of these fellow singers. “Your sweet whiskey kisses, that’s what I’ve been missing; when you lose you inhibitions.” They all sang at one point.

That completed the first round, and there were still two more to go.

Ryan was openly discussing what song he should do next, saying he could do some of his songs from the 90’s, but no one would know them. He then said there were some other songs he couldn’t do because some of the lines were “about Paco”.

He chose his song and did it, during which Jeff added some very light percussion by tapping a cymbal of the drum kit that was sit up behind him. He even leaned over and played Nava, striking his head, before going back to the cymbal.

“…It can get weird back there.” Paco said to everyone, speaking to the people who were all clustered together around the door. “You can come closer.” he urged, and some people did get a little closer to the stage.

Jeff than knocked out another song, after which they decided to all do some shots. “Crowd participation: everyone go buy us shots!” he shouted, while Ryan got up and ran over to the bar. Jeff then told anyone who was maybe wanting something to just go over to the bar and say “Ryan Holley” to get a free drink. “That’s the one good thing with being Ryan Holley.” Ryan quipped, “Several people know what I look like, including Whit.” he said, speaking about the owner/bartender of The Curtain Club.

Nava then was trying to decide what he should do next. “Hello, is it me you’re looking for?” he sang, but made it no further than that.

“Everybody has a best friend, and if you don’t you should leave, because you’re weird.” He said to everyone, using that to start setting up his next number. He talked about industry people, who can be great friends and are there for you, “but their own life is shit” said Nava. That was more or less what this one was about, and he noted his friend finally got things figured out.

It was a good song, and was more along the lines of the slower stuff that The Last Place You Look does.

Paco took a friendly little jab at the city of Houston, before doing one of his newer songs. “Ain’t nobody ever gonna come an call me, baby. Not like you do…” goes the chorus of the song that is exactly the type of love song you’ve come to expect from this talented musician.

Afterwards, talk then turned back to Houston, when they all joked about how “incredible” it was and the “tons” of people who made it out. “The sound wasn’t bad at all.” Nava said, shaking his head no when he said it. He then took a little shot at Dallas, while Jeff playful tried to get him to stop, reminding him where they were. “I wasn’t going to trash the cities.” Paco said to Nava, who responded with, “It’s not trashing when it’s fact.”

“Facts according to Nava.” laughed Paco. Ryan then pondered what to do for his final song, eventually deciding he would cover one of Paco’s songs this time. “…He’s about to go full-frontal Paco.” Paco joked.

The song he chose to cover was a personal favorite of mine from “The Definite and Indefinite…” album. “The sun exposes way too much, so the shutters spend their days all shut. It would be easier to raise the dead, then to get yourself out of that bed. There’s cracks in everything you see; like a puzzle with a missing piece…” sang Ryan as he got “Ghosts” underway. The rest of the singers joined in on part of the chorus, especially Paco, as they all sang, “…You don’t have to be alone. I will lie down with you in the middle of the road. I will take these arms and hold you close, and we’ll wait until the headlights come to turn us into ghosts.”

It was fantastic hearing that song, and Ryan killed it. And while the lyrics may sound a bit morbid at times, it’s actually more of a song about making a person realize that there is someone who cares about them, regardless of whatever deep, dark place they may be in, in their personal life.

Jeff and then Nava played their final songs, and the 70-minute or so set was going to end with the hometown hero.

Before the show started, I wound up making a request (I can’t say I’ve ever done to any band before). “Can you play Surface?” I asked Paco. “Can you play Surface?” he said in a whiny voice, similar to that of a small child (he was kidding with me, obviously). “That’s all you people care about. You don’t care about the new music I write, it’s just, “Oh, can you play those SouthFM songs?”

“Will that be all, your highness?” he asked as I walked away. “Yeah, that’ll do.” I said.

Now, with this being the final song of the night, I was curious if he would do it or not (I think the last time I heard that song live was probably when Paco Estrada & One Love did their reunion show in December 2011.)

He played a lengthy piece on his guitar, and then it happened; he switched over to those gorgeous and intoxicating notes that are basic chord structure for “Surface”. “We’ve established this is where we stand. We said after this we’ll just be friends. But my heart don’t really my head. No, my heart don’t really know my head…”

That song, that song is one of the best things that has ever been written. Period. The first time I ever set foot inside the Curtain Club was to see a SouthFM show, nearly eight years ago. I was just getting into the local music scene at the time, and didn’t even the “Swallowing the Pill” album that, that song is on. However, all these years later, that’s the one song I fully remember from that night. For whatever reason it connected with me then, and the only thing that has changed since is my love for it has grown.

“And these are not the words that I would like to be saying to you… And I hope that in the morning you will feel the same way that I do…” sang those longtime fans who had come out to see Paco this night, no doubt reliving old memories while he and his fellow musicians played the song.

That made my night, and for me, there couldn’t have possible been a better way to end the show.

“I win.” stated Paco after it was all said and done, because he got what was by far the biggest round of applause for that closer. The other guys then mentioned they’d be selling some merch if anyone wanted anything, because, as Nava pointed out, there was no way Paco would split the door money with them.

Wow. This was great. Even better than what I had expected.

I was also glad to hear Paco say at the end that this was something he wants to start doing more often: getting musicians from all over Texas and doing these songwriters in the round so people all around the state can see what kind of talent is out there.

For Paco, check out his BANDCAMP PAGE for his solo music. And since I mentioned SouthFM in this one, if for some reason you don’t already have their stuff, you can get their entire discography for free at BANDCAMP. (They’ll always be a Dallas icon, and even if they’re no more, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t check them out.)

The Last Place You Look is a band you need to know if you don’t already, and Nava rocks out with them. Their music can be found in iTUNES.

Like I said, I’ve never actually listened to Deep Ella, but I’m going to have to check out their MUSIC.

As for Ryan Holley, I can’t find a page for him, nor do I believe he has any solo records or anything out, but if you ever see this Austin musician is playing near you, go see him. You won’t regret it.

That was probably the best part of the night, but it wasn’t over quite yet, and there was still something special in store for everyone at the Liquid Lounge.

SpaceCamp (abbreviated as SPCCMP) was doing their first show in over two months, and it was also the first ever full band acoustic performance they had done.

Paco Estrada was pulling double-duty, since he is one of the members of the band, and while he always plays an acoustic guitar with this outfit, it was a bit strange seeing Mike Dove also wielding an acoustic. Irish had a partially drum kit sit up, and most surprising was the microphone he had in front of him, while, of course, Jeremy Rodriguez was at center stage. He was sitting on a stool though, and I wondered just how long that would last.

They began with one of the songs from their forthcoming EP, and “The Lover” sounded pretty different done acoustically. It was one of their songs that perfectly integrates Paco’s singing with Jeremy’s hip-hop style of delivery, and this toned down version gave the words more weight. “…And the barrel’s to his head like the trigger to his finger and the memories of the only girl he’d ever love are all that linger.” Paco sang on the chorus, with Jeremy often mixing his lyrics in close to it. Based on that line, you might think it’s a depressing song, but it’s not meant to be. Instead, it’s about rising above whatever adversity your faced with, no matter how difficult the situation may seem.

Jeremy took a moment to thank Distant Lights and all the songwriters for being on this bill; mentioning that he had been with them on this little tour and what a privilege it had been to be in the crowd all three nights watching them. He also noted that, that was the live debut of “The Lover”, which was a bit of a big deal, seeing as they made a lyric video for it about a year ago. Apparently, they were just waiting for their second EP to be finished and close to a release date. Speaking of that, Jeremy also mentioned a little later in the show that they were going to give everyone a “preview” of what that EP is going to sound like.

Before they got to any more new material though, they pulled out “The Dancer” from their first EP. “…Place your hands on me;
cover up this catastrophe. That kind of action has me asking ‘why must they land on me?” Jeremy spit out, showing off what skills he has as hip-hop singer by delivering how those lines at a rapid pace. Then you had the chorus, “…You will touch me deep inside. You’re my tiny dancer, tiny dancer.” Paco sang, which sounded like it was meant to performed in this low-key setting.

While he sang the first chorus, Jeremy stood up and moved his stool over beside the drum kit. See, I knew that wasn’t going to last long. “Do I look lazy?” Paco asked him once they finished the song, pretending as if he suddenly felt self-conscious now that he was the only one in a stool. Jeremy assured him that there was a one stool limit on the stage, and that he [Paco} was good now that he [Jeremy] wasn’t exceeding it. Next came my personal favorite track from their upcoming EP, “If This is Goodbye”. It was nothing short of brilliant in this acoustic format. Like all their songs, the words should be taken to heart. From one of the lines Jeremy sings, “…Are we given in to giving up before we give enough?”, to the powerful chorus that Paco handles. “How we gonna save the world, if we’re too afraid to try an change it? …How you ever gonna say my name, without the memory of throwing it all away? How you gonna fall asleep at night, if this is goodbye?”

Man, that one’s a heavy hitter. Afterwards, Jeremy mentioned that this was the fourth straight night Paco had done a show, a feat he brushed off. “It’s all in the wrist. You’ve just got to follow through.” said Paco, acting like it was no different than a game of basketball.

They had dealt with love and relatable situations thus far, but next they pulled out one of the most inspirational tracks they have, “Reach for the Sun”. It talks about chasing your dreams and feeling like you’re never going to get anywhere after you’ve poured years of your life into pursuing your dreams, but in the end, you can’t ever give up on it. “…Dreams come true for those
that never lose faith or hold back…” says Jeremy at one point.

That’s one reason why I love SpaceCamp; because their music is so positive over all, and everything just carries a message.

During the next break, Jeremy pointed out the mic that Irish had, saying there had only been one show that Irish sang at, and that was because Paco was unable to make it. “…I’m glad we’ve got a mic in front of him tonight…” Jeremy said. Indeed, it was a great things, because already Irish had been adding some amazing backing vocals to parts of different songs; and as they moved on, Jeremy mentioned the next one was his favorite of their upcoming EP.

I hate to sound like a broken record, but again, “Surrender to the Night” was a track that fit perfectly in this environment. Without all the electronic effects that are on the recording, you were really able to focus on content, which focuses heavily on state the world is in, in regards to the widespread violence.

“Gorgeous!” exclaimed Jeremy. “This guy, right here.” he said, pointing to Paco, who had knocked that one clean out of the park. “I put my pants on one leg at a time, just like everyone else.” Paco responded, very humbly. Attention then turned to their next song, which Jeremy said he never would have written if it weren’t for Ryan Holley, though they were unable to find him before they started it.

They didn’t waste any more time, and Mike began another track from “The Daydreamers Guide to: Wasting Time”, “White Horses”. They added several extra touches to it, from both Paco and Jeremy repeating, “What you chase, what you chase, what you chasing?”, to Paco singing the words “Just breathe.” A few times, before Jeremy ceded things over to Mike. “Take it away, Mikey.” he said, as Mike did a little solo.

They had some fun after that, and Mike wound up looking like he was shushing Paco. “…I have an ego problem.” Paco quipped, before asking Gene (the sound guy) to turn down everyone else in his monitor. “…I just want to hear me.” he told him, prompting a laugh from everyone who was there.

The best moment of “Dancing with the Devil” came at the final chorus, where Paco flat out killed it. I always mention how he is my favorite singer (and songwriter), and the way he belted out that last part proved why he is. It was all in the emotion and energy he put into it and it was superb.

They had one song left at this point, and Jeremy mentioned it was another they had never played live before. It wasn’t a new song, though. It came from their first EP (which was released in the summer of 2012), and Irish interrupted him and said he never got a copy of that one. “Go buy one.” Jeremy told him, adding he’d cut him a two for one deal.

“Can we be serious for a minute?! We’re trying to play a song!” Paco asked them. The song never became obvious until Mike finally joined in, and it was one that every Texas music fan knows. “And she runs, through her days; with a smile on her face…” Paco eventually sang, as they finally broke out their cover of The Toadies “Tyler”. They put such a unique and interesting spin on the track, and the verse that Jeremy wrote and adds fits so fluidly with what the song’s about. “…I’ll creep inside, can’t be denied; we’ll be together finally. She pulls the covers tighter; I press against the door. The heart of my desire never wanting nothing more.” goes the tail end of what he wrote, before Paco takes back the reins. When he wasn’t singing on that one, Jeremy was also adding a little extra percussion, lightly tapping one of the cymbals while he sit on the stool he had moved earlier.

I was content with that being their final song, though I was surprised their staple was going to be absent this time around. I assumed it was just because it would sound so different from how it should they decided not to, though.

“That was supposed to be it, but I want to play one more!” Jeremy said as he retook the main mic, a smile stretched across his face. He threw the blame at Paco, saying he was the one who didn’t want to do this song, and told everyone they needed to convince him to play it.

It didn’t take much convincing, and Jeremy went to dedicate this one to his dad, who happened to be in attendance. He was nowhere to be found, though. He had made a trip to the bathroom, and he was in no rush. “I saw him walk in there with a newspaper.” Paco laughed. They eventually started singing happy birthday to him, even though he was still preoccupied.

On that note, I’ve long thought Paco can make anything sound like the most amazing song ever, and he proved that as fact (at least in my eyes) by doing an astounding version of Happy Birthday. So simple, yet there was so much depth to it. I know that sounds crazy to say, but if you’ve ever seen Paco, then you know what I’m talking about.

“If it weren’t for that man, Jeremy wouldn’t be here. And then I would be here, either.” Paco stated, right about the time Jeremy’s dad finally rounded the corner and was greeted with cheers from everyone.

I didn’t think they could (or would) go a show without playing “Before you Die”, and out of all their songs, it’s the lyrics to this one that you most need to pay attention to. The title says it all, and one of the messages is about not having any regrets when your time is up. “what will flash before your eyes before you die? … The person that you loved forever but you never told them? The one you lie to everyday and hope they’ll never notice? Will it be the last one that you kissed upon the lips? Or the last opportunity you missed doing this?” says Jeremy, before takes over for the hauntingly beautiful chorus. My weakness is cover songs (since I predominately listen to local groups), but Paco added a line from a cover on this one, and I believe it was “Blue and Yellow” by The Used, which worked well with their original.

That ended their 51-minute long set, and it was a grand one.

I knew it would be good, though I had been curious how an acoustic show from SpaceCamp would go. In fairness, I should go ahead and mention that the band classifies themselves as trip-rock (a very fitting category), and they sounded even better than I thought they were going to.

Irish was much less aggressive, but the force was still there in his drumming, and even without the electronic/sample tracks thrown in, Mike and Paco were able to use their acoustics to emulate the core sound of every song, so you knew exactly what it was.

This was also the first time in a long time that I had seen SpaceCamp, and even though they had toned things down, they still had a great stage presence. Perhaps even stronger than it has been the past times I’ve seen them.

They are definitely different from just about every other band out there, and all the talent that is in this band alone is crazy. I mean, Paco has been in the scene since the very early 2000’s, and both Jeremy and Mike have been active players for quite some time, too.

If you haven’t heard them yet, check out their music on either iTUNES or BANDCAMP. They have their first EP plus a couple songs released as singles from their upcoming one (due out on 3/31). That weekend they’ll also be doing a big CD release party for it. Three Links will be the host venue, and they’ve got the prime Saturday night slot on April 5th. If you only catch one show that night, that will be the one you want to be at.

There may have been bigger shows going on in Dallas this night, but I promise you, the most talented individuals were all on stage here at the Liquid Lounge.

Saturday, February 22nd, 2014 – Hayes Carll’s Pub Crawl Tour Finishes its North Texas Run

I must admit, I was partially expecting Hayes Carll’s show at The Kessler Theater this night to be a full band performance.

Sure, I knew these series of shows he was doing around Texas were acoustic duo shows, but in the announcement regarding them, there was also mention that there would be some full band gigs sprinkled in certain places. Then take into account that this was his fifth and final straight night in D/FW. This was also his second sold out Dallas show of the week (the first had been Wednesday at the Double Wide), and he had also played Denton, plus made a two-night stand in Fort Worth (and if those shows weren’t totally sold out, I’d bet they were close to it.)

There aren’t many musicians who can play the same area that much so close together and still bring people out; which was why I thought this might be a full band show, because after four nights in the metroplex, I figured he’d be doing something bigger to still get the fans out.

He wasn’t.

Upon walking into the showroom after the lone opening act started it was obvious there would be no band. The stage was barren of all the amps and instruments that are typically set up, and that had me very intrigued.

After all, how good a musician really is all comes down to what they are capable of in a stripped down environment.

Sure, Hayes Carll may mine an Americana genre of music, but he has plenty of loud rock songs that hold the crowd’s attention with ease. Would he still be able to do that basically all on his lonesome? I honestly didn’t know, though I would soon find out just how good of a singer/songwriter an all-around musician he really was (or wasn’t).

The opening artist was Scott Nolan, who was on his first song when I walked in, and at first, I could have cared less for him.

That opening tune didn’t do much for me, though the night would get better; and this guy was a storyteller through and through.

I believe it was after that first song that he mentioned he had made a long drive from his hometown of Winnipeg, Manitoba. He mentioned he drove about two hours, while his girlfriend drove sixteen or so. He joked about that and several other things, including saying he had cleaned up his appearance a bit, getting a haircut and trimming his beard (which was still fairly long) after hibernating for the winter, saying he figured he should look a little more decent to try to get by customs.

As soon as he stopped the on-sided conversation, he began his next song, which was “Shake it Loose”. The bluesy number still wasn’t my favorite of his, but it certainly had my attention, especially when he softened his guitar playing and almost dryly gasp into the mic, “Shake it loose. Come on baby, shake it loose…”

He told as many if not more songs than he did play songs; which I enjoyed. It’s always nice getting some back-story to songs, and even if you don’t know them, it allows them to connect with you more. For example, a lengthy story he shared about his late tour manager, who he said had been the tour manager for a few other bands before he and Scott crossed paths. Those few other bands (at least the ones mentioned) were The Guess Who and BTO.

“…Then he ended up with me, and you see how that turned out…” said Scott, who playfully joked that he has often thought he was the man who (unintentionally) killed Ernie Blackburn. He went on to tell everyone that Ernie owned a backline company, clarifying for those who might not know that, that was company for “lazy musicians” who wanted to rent gear instead of haul their own around. The motto he had for the company was “You Rock, We Roll”.

Since he left this world, Scott said he had played this song every time he did a show, and always did it for his dear friend. I think you can figure out what it was called.

“’Cause you rock, we roll. That’s what you told me, brother. We can do it together, you can’t have one without the other…” he sang on that incredible song, which was the one that won me over. Considering it was just him, his guitar and harmonica, it was loud and it was rocking; and knowing that story behind it made it pretty deep.

Another story he told was about Folsom Prison, where he was invited to a singer/songwriter workshop a few years back. He mentioned his cousin spent most of the last twenty years of his life in that prison, and he was the first person/inmate to mix all of the cultures of the inmates into one room, finding a common ground in music.

Scott noted what a really amazing thing it was, seeing Bloods, Crips, members of the Mexican Mafia, white supremacists and others co-existing together and getting along while they played music. It goes to show what true power music does have, and even now you could tell Scott was humbled and amazed by his experience there.

That may have been the neatest story he shared, but the best one came when he said he came home one day to his girlfriend and one of her friends drinking red wine. They had been doing that for awhile, and shortly after switched to something else (tequila maybe? I don’t remember for sure.) “So I did what any sensible man would do.” he said, “I joined in.”

His girlfriend’s friend brought up the game of Twister, which he pointed out was apparently responsible for a lot of the divorcees in the 70’s, “Including my own parents.” he said, making it hard to tell if he was being serious or perhaps joking.

To make a Twister board he got several albums and placed them on the floor, while a corkscrew acted as the spinner. I don’t remember what the albums were, though he said he put a lot of thought into it, naming some of them and even where he placed them.

One was an album by Bobby Bare, and Scott mentioned he had made friends with Bobby Bare Jr., whom he told this story to. “…And eventually I got a note from Bobby Bare (Sr.) that just said, ‘You’re welcome, kid.”

Aptly, the song was titled “Twister”, and it was as hilarious as you would expect. “For my Christian neighbors, I pull the curtains tight. If this is wrong, I don’t want to be right…” he crooned on the short track.

I might not have been sure at first, but Scott Nolan was a great singer/songwriter, and his 36-minutes on stage seemed to pass by too quickly.

If you get a chance, go see one of his shows. He’s highly entertaining, and in more aspects than just being a talented musician. At the very least, check out his music in iTUNES (also HERE). You’ll be glad you did, especially if you’re a fan of the singer/songwriter genre.

With his set being done, all that was left now was to wait for Hayes Carll to take the stage, which happened about half an hour later.

It was 9:06 when the lights dimmed and Scott Nolan returned to the stage; this time to backup his friend Hayes Carll. All the fanfare went to Hayes Carll, of course. A lot of it may have been because the room at The Kessler is more intimate, but the noise level earsplitting. I mean, I had been to a show a couple nights before this at a venue and a crowd that was much larger than this, and that specific band didn’t even get near the reaction Mr. Carll did this night.

Like I said, part of that surely has to do with the size of the room, but on the other hand, he is just that loved.

It was anyone’s guess as to what would come first, either a song or a story. It wound up being the former, as he picked up his acoustic guitar and lightly plucked the strings, eventually starting the chords for “Beaumont”, which was greeted with almost as much applause as Hayes had gotten.

“The night was feelin’ lucky, so I asked you to dance, and the way you looked up at me made me think I had a chance. When I put my arms around you, I knew you weren’t given in. I hope it will be different if I pass this way again.” he sang on the second verse of this tale of semi-heartache, while the fans acted as his backing vocalists, singing every word along with him. It was never overpowering of what he was doing, but more just added a nice echo effect to it all.

“Welcome to The Kessler…” he said once that classic had concluded. His talk quickly turned to Scott Nolan, who sit on the seat he had earlier, with a guitar in hand and keyboard at his side. “I’m sure Scott already told y’all about the long drive he made…” Hayes said, before the conversation took another turn, this time to Winnipeg. “…The last time I was there, it was forty-two degrees below…” said Hayes, which made me shiver just hearing about temperatures that cold.

“When you have to go, you have to question the safety of it…” he added, putting his own unique perspective on things, reminding everyone that even in when it gets cold in Texas, that’s never a real concern. “I mean, there are lots of guys walking around as eunuchs up there, and you’re like, ‘Well, what happened?’ and they say, ‘Well, I had to take piss and it took longer than expected.”

A few minutes was all it took for the comedy portion of the show to get into full swing, and there was still plenty of it to come.

“So, this is night ten of my Pub Crawl Tour…” said Hayes, joking in his dry sense of humor that he was just “getting lazy” since he was doing these as acoustic duo gigs. “Basically, I just pick one town and then play five shows there.” he quipped, pointing out he had done five shows down in Austin, before bringing it up here to North Texas.

He then mentioned his Double Wide gig, specifically speaking about the venue when he said it was “similar” to The Kessler. That other venue is great, and it’s the best of the best as far as dive bars go, and I was curious how he was going to draw a comparison between it and the elegant listening room that is The Kessler. He paused for a second after saying it was “similar”, then carried on, “In almost no way at all.”

He had already been talking longer than he had played music thus far (not that anyone minded it), but he was due for another song now, and busted out another from 2008’s “Trouble In Mind”, “Wild as a Turkey”.

Afterwards, came a block of new songs. In fact, the only new songs he did were all strung together here, and Hayes made clear that the first of these new ones “wasn’t for everyone”. “Actually, I don’t know if it’s for anyone.” He added, saying he could handle any criticisms people might have.

“I used to want to get with you.” he sang at the start; taking a strategic pause to let the crowd react. Nearly everyone was cheering over the subject matter, and then he continued with the next line, “But now I want to get with your daugh-ter.” he crooned, again pausing afterwards. Some people still hollered back at him, liking the lyrics even more now that he had said that, while others quietly laughed and shook their heads. “Yeah, that’s usually where I lose people…” he remarked, his dry sense of humor again coming in handy.

It was classic Hayes, having moments like that where you couldn’t help but laugh, and others that were flat-out honest. I’m sure I’m paraphrasing this, but part of the chorus was something like, “Maybe you should just stop asking questions to things you don’t want to know.”

The next new song was about his ten-year-old son. “He’s a magician. Not a musician, a magician…” Hayes pointed out, making sure everyone heard him correctly, saying it’s kind of hard as a parent when your child tells you they want to be a magician. “He’s also into cake decorating.” he said, as if to say it only got worse.

He talked about when his son first started trying all the tricks that he would quickly call him out on it and tell him he could see what he was doing. “He has tiny hands.” he suddenly said, sending the audience into a roaring fit of laughter, which only intensified when he thought about it for a second and admitted, “…I was a dick about it.”

There’s a silver lining to the story, though, and it’s that his son stuck it out, never paying attention to any discouraging words, and has gotten pretty good at it. So good in fact, that he got asked to join the Austin Association of Magicians (or something like that). The audience applauded that feat. “Oh, you’ve heard of them?” Hayes answered surprisingly. “They’re an ancient, mystic society that meets every other Monday at the International House of Pancakes.”

The song is called “Magic Kid”, and not only is a lovely song that a father wrote for his son, but it’s also an uplifting song for anyone, with a core message of just being yourself, finding something you like and enjoy and sticking with it, regardless of what anyone says or thinks.

With those two out of the way, Hayes mentioned that these new songs were going in the “reverse order of life”. The first one being about when your older, while “Magic Kid” was about a young kid. Now, the focus was going to shift to something a little more serious, and Hayes set up the next one as being a song about “losing your significant other to someone else”.

“I don’t know all the words, but we’ll get as far as we can.” he mentioned right before starting the track that sounded like it be another classic Hayes Carll song. It was, but not in the way everyone had first thought.

The first line of the second verse was something like, “Things have changed since he moved in…”, and he continued singing, “…He poots, you think it’s cute. I poot, you leave the room…”

Are you getting this yet? Yes, Hayes Carll has again proved his songwriting genius by crafting a track about losing one’s wife to the child y’all had together. “My baby took my baby away…” went a line from the chorus.

I was in near tears on that one from laughing so hard and I think more than a few people were in the same boat, because bursts of laughter could be heard all throughout the song, while he sang it with a straight face. I’m being dead serious when I say that song was genius (it’s on the same level as that old hit “She Left Me for Jesus”), and if it doesn’t make the cut on his next album I’ll be very upset, because it’s one of the greatest things that has ever been written, and not just by him.

“I’m realizing three of these songs won’t be popular with ladies.” he confessed after that one. “I have songs for ladies…” he continued, but noted those were more for the guys, or any woman who might have a sense of humor for situations like that. (That’s possible for two of those songs, though I don’t imagine many, if any woman would find a song about wanting to basically “upgrade” from her to her daughter funny. Maybe I’m wrong, though.)

So, now that those three stage of live had been covered there was only one left: conception.

Hayes mentioned that subject matter of this next song was something that has never happened to him “I’ve played this song one hundred and seventy-four times…” he said, making a point as to how rare an event this is.

I already knew what song this had to be, and I was excited, because the only other time I had heard him do it was the first show of his I ever say, almost two years ago at the Homegrown Music Festival in Dallas. He then mentioned the name of the song which was “One Bed, Two Girls, Three Bottles of Wine”.

Apparently, he didn’t want Scott Nolan being the only guy who did a song about having a threesome.

“…I’ll be your boy, your toy to torture, touch and teach me. So, Sandra tied me up as Sally laid me down…” he sang, before getting to the brilliant chorus, “…While I’m kissing hers, the others loving mine. If the devil is watching, he thinks I’m doing fine…” It only got better on the second verse “…Whoo-wee, someone’s chewing on my knee… Oh flip, they’re playing with my…” he stepped back from the mic at that last part, leaving it up to the audience to infer what the next word would have been.

Things slowed down on the instrumental break, as Hayes stated he kept hoping that “life will imitate art”. He then elaborated on that. “I write songs about beer. People bring me beer. I write songs about drugs. People will sometimes slip me drugs. I write a song about a three-way. Nothing.” he said, acting perplexed by it all.

As funny as the song is though, the best part is the realistic approach it takes, with the hero of the story more or less cracking under the pressure.  “…For five minutes I was king of all I see, and then the end came sooner than expected…” Hayes sang, going on to mention he wished he had paid more attention to adult movies during his teen years, so he’d know how to handle such a “unique and surprisingly complicated situation”, and which point he’s left to watch as the girls continued without him.

Man, that was great. I have to say, I liked the way the show started, but I was still on the fence as to how it might play out, but those new tracks squashed the doubt I had.

After those few fun(ny) songs, it was time to bring the mood back down, and “Chances Are” was the perfect song to do that. “…Every heart has got a story, mine just has a few more scars. But they could heal if you would hold me and tell me what my chances are.” sang Hayes on the somber tune, a tune that bleeds heartache with every word and every note, which is precisely what makes it so good.

It was time for another story now, as Hayes mentioned that it was Scott Nolan who wrote this next song, a staple of his. “…I try to give credit where credit is due whenever I can…”  Hayes said, as he went on to relay a story Scott had told him about some of his more recent shows where he opened up with this song that he wrote, and later had people from the crowd come up to him and ask, “Why did you open with a Hayes Carll song?”

“And you shouldn’t. You should never open with a Hayes Carll song.” joked Hayes. The conversation than took a different turn, when he went into a little tale about being up in Canada with a friend (I don’t remember who he said he was with) and his friend got invited to the “Canadian equivalent of the White House”. Hayes tagged along with him, and mentioned there were all these intimidating armed guards outside the place, when he happened to realize he had forgotten his passport.

“…So I grabbed one of my CD’s and was like, ‘This has my picture on it. This is me…” he said, as he attempted to get them to let him in. He said they stared at for just a second, then looked at him, said “Okay. Go on.” and motioned him in.

“Canadians.” Hayes simply said, sounding amazed by their kind and trusting nature.

By that time, I had almost forgotten they had even talked about a song that Scott had written. Apparently, I owe Mr. Scott Nolan a big thank you, because he wrote what is my favorite Hayes Carll song.

Hayes played some notes on his harmonica and plucked at his guitar, before singing, “Arkansas; my head hurts. I’d love to stick around and maybe make it worse. I’ve got a girl out in Henrietta, and her love is like tornado weather…” Hays sang on the slowed down version of “Bad Liver and a Broken Heart”. “Indian summer: Oklahoma sunset. If there’s a nicer place I haven’t been there yet…” sang Scott, who handled the second verse of his song. The added a nice dynamic to it, especially since Scott has such a standout and unique sound to his voice. The fans then took it upon to help out on the last verse, lightly singing along with Hayes who had taken back over. “…Doesn’t anybody care about truth anymore? I guess maybe that’s what songs are for. You’re the wind, and I’m on fire. In this line of work no one retires. Come in clean, leave torn apart. A bad liver and a broken heart…” everyone sang.

Little did the fans know, they weren’t done singing along just yet. “Drunken Poet’s Dream” is another fan favorite, and the crowd got a little riled up upon hearing. Hayes even added a few extra lines to the start of the second verse, one of which was “…She tastes like pills and cheap cologne…”

That’s one song he co-wrote with his friend and Texas music legend Ray Wylie Hubbard, whom he spoke of now, mention what a huge admirer he is of Mr. Hubbard and followed him around quite a bit in his younger days before befriending him.

For their first co-write together Hayes said he got to Ray’s place and asked him what he had been writing about lately. “Farm animals.” Hubbard answered. Hayes noted that, that was an “unexplored” style of songwriting for him. “…I usually write about drugs and alcoholism…” he said, rattling off several other topics that his music has covered, none of which had been farm animals.

“And Ray Wylie Hubbard was just killing it with farm animal songs. Let’s see, he’s got songs about goats, cows, pigs…” he said, listing off a whole menagerie of creatures. He even mentioned Ray’s song “Snake Farm” and sang a line or two from it.

“…Now, you can call me a sellout… but I’m paying my bills…” said Hayes, talking about all the companies that used that song.

Well, none of that actually happened (the being rich part at least). With that, he and Scott started the final track from his “Little Rock” album, “Chickens”, which was the only song he did from that record this night. Scott stole show during it, tearing into an incredible guitar solo that left everyone’s mouth agape, while they cheered his prowess as a guitarist.

Afterwards, Hayes went even further back than that 2005 album. He mentioned that this next song was one of the first he ever wrote, and it was the first one of his songs that someone ever covered.

The band he said that covered it was a duo with a female singer, while the guy played a flute; making them sound like they were an interesting act to say the least. Also, to stick with “artistic integrity”, the woman sang the song from a “lesbian perspective”.

He then started the tune and the fans cheered with glee. “I have another song that starts like this.” Hayes quickly stated. That’s a line I’ve heard the last three times I’ve seen him, and he always plays the song that everyone new and was expecting. Tonight, it was a different story.

He did the title track from his debut album, “Flowers and Liquor”. It has held up well against his other, newer music, and one line, “…I’m getting excited, I hope I’m invited. I want to spend the night with you.” is still pure Hayes, even twelve years after that debut album dropped.

He rolled the end of that one right into the title track from his current LP, “KMAG YOYO”. It’s a song you would think would sound good acoustic, but surprisingly, it did. Actually, it was great in this format. Lyrically it’s closer to being a rap (really) and given the fact that he was setting his own pace on it this time, Hayes seemed to do it just a hair quicker than it’s performed at the full band shows.

He made a switch to an electric guitar for the next couple of songs; playing some notes as the fans wondered what was coming next. He played a brief lead in to the song, before finally getting to the all too recognizable notes of “I Got a Gig”, a song that chronicles his adventures of starting out as a musician and all the dive bars you have to play while paying your dues.

Upon finishing it, Hayes pointed out it had been something like five years since he and Scott had played together like they were at the moment, and he congratulated him for being so great “on the fly”. Now that impressed me, because I figured there had been some type of rehearsal done. Nope, he was just winging it, and you never would have guessed it.

“…Drinking beers is about the only thing I can do anymore without practice…” Hayes said, again using his deadpan delivery of humor. But to make sure Scott didn’t feel signaled out by that, Hayes told everyone he was going to put himself in similar shows and do a song he seldom plays.

“Don’t Let Me Fall” was the song he did, which is a solid little track from “Trouble In Mind”, and I enjoyed getting to hear it live.

After switching back to his acoustic guitar, Hayes announced he was going to do a song by his friend. Everyone already knew what was coming, but Hayes confirmed it by saying it was a song about why it’s a good idea for traveling musicians to carry a Bible on their dashboard. Aptly, the song is called “Bible On the Dash”, and it tells a very entertaining story about how you can get out any trouble you might run into (i.e. police officers, border stops, etc.) by simply having a copy of the good book with you.

How good the night get any better than that? Well, there was still the greatest duet ever written to do, though I skeptical how this might turn out.

Hayes said at some of these shows he had done both the male and female parts, but opted to start bringing fans on stage to sing with him to give it more of a vibe. When he did this is Dallas for his Holiday Hangover Tour, it was a disaster (see HERE), hence why I was skeptical as to how this might go.

He then went into a story about one of the Fort Worth shows he had played a night or two before, where there were “five thousand people” out in the crowd. He asked for a volunteer, and one woman was almost “falling over the barricade” as he put it, trying to be picked.

“…Will you put your lips to the microphone and sing clearly?” was one of the questions he asked her, and she said yes to all of them.

“…Minutes are going by. I mean I have a cigarette and a beer in my hand just waiting. Five thousand people there, all waiting for her to get up on stage. So, she gets up there… and her name’s like, Sally or something like that. So I’m, ‘Sally, are you ready?” “Ready for what?” she responded. “To sing!” Hayes said he told her. “We just talked about when you were right out there!” “Oh, I’m not gonna sing or nothing.” she answered.

Granted, some of that was probably slightly embellished, but it made for one helluva story. So, when Hayes did chose a woman to join him, he made sure to tell her that if this didn’t go well he’d have to ask that she ;eave the show without a refund. “No pressure or anything.” he added.

It seemed like it was going to be a disaster when she got on stage and was in a slight state of disbelief when she realized she didn’t even get the lyrics “like at karaoke”. “This song’s about the great political divide in America.” Hayes said, still starting “Another Like You” regardless of what direction this might go.

He, of course, nailed his part, while the moment of truth came when it got to the first female part of the song, and the woman (whose name I sadly don’t remember) looked pretty sheepish up there. “You were falling like the Alamo. Drinking fast and talking slow…” she sang; instantly sending the sold out crowd into a deafening roar as they let her know how much they liked it.

I’m assuming she is by no means a professional singer, and given that, she had an astounding voice. I mean, wow! She sang it all very well too, and I  think there were maybe just a few words at one point she forgot, but sung something else that still fit before getting back on track.

They even had a good chemistry going on the back and forth part as Hayes and her looked at one another. “Well, you’re probably a democrat.” she sang, as he remarked while they kept alternating, “Well, what the hell is wrong with that?” “Nothing if you’re Taliban.” “Well, I bet you slept with half the south.” “Oh, don’t you ever shut your mouth?”

This was redemption for that other Dallas show I mentioned, and she sang the song flawlessly.

Soon after she left the stage, Hayes started another song that was nearly unrecognizable as an acoustic song, and that was the closer for his 88-minute long set, “Stomp And Holler”. It still had a nice kick to it, though, and was still a fitting final song. “…From all I’ve seen, you only get one shot at what you’re gonna do in this life…” he sang, before getting to the line that was on the shirt I happened to be wearing, “I’m like James Brown only white and taller…”, which is followed  with, “And all I wanna do is stomp and holler.”

The fans were taking the song title to heart, stomping and hollering right along with him, before some of those who were seated gave him a standing ovation as he and Scott left the stage.

That couldn’t be it, though; surely not. Okay, there were some songs that he probably wouldn’t do this night because they wouldn’t best fit the acoustic vibe, but I could think of at least one more he had to play.

He wasn’t gone anytime when he returned to the stage. “I say this every night. I would do this every night if people showed up or not, but it’s a helluva lot more fun when people do.” He told his fans, being truly humbled that this many people had come out to see him this night.

He was alone for this one, and soon began the 7-minute long encore portion with a song I was expecting, “Grateful For Christmas”.

Sure, he had sung plenty of gloomy songs this night about unrequited love or having your heart broken by one circumstance or another, but the most poignant song of the night was this one.

It still has that certain Hayes Carll charm, like in the line, “Lord, what I’d give for one good looking cousin.” but it’s far from being a happy song. Instead, it goes through all the stages of Christmas you have in your life. When you’re a kid, the holiday is (usually) a big family affair, probably traveling somewhere (in this case Waco) where your grandparents live, surrounded by aunts, uncles and cousins galore. Then you lose a grandparent, and the get together gets a little smaller; more with your immediate family.

“Hey mom, how you doing? Yeah, I miss him too…” he sang on the final verse, which deals with the loss of a parent, along with having to share the holiday between your family and your spouses.

It really brought a little tear to your eye, and while I don’t listen to it often on the record, it is a song that cuts right to the bone. It’s a good thing, though, because it’s a song that reaffirms a way of thinking I’ve had for many years now: savor the small things in life and enjoy every second you spend with anyone you care for. Be it family, friends or whatever, because they won’t always be there, and just because something has been one way for most of your life (like Christmas), doesn’t mean it always will be. Point is, there is a lesson in this song, and it’s one that should be taken to heart.

So, after killing the happy mood with that one, it was time to end on a positive note.

Scott rejoined him for this last number, which again had fans ecstatic when they heard the opening chords. Remember that song earlier where I said Hayes mentioned he has two songs that start the same way. Well, “Girl Downtown” is the one that everybody knows and loves (and the one he typically plays). It created another sing-along moment, and the fun, happy song about love was a wonderful way to wrap-up the night.

Yeah, I had my doubts about how god this show might be, but Hayes Carll proved just what an excellent musician he is this night.

“Beaumont” ensnared the fans from the get go, and by the time he got to those brand new songs I was enthralled, while he finished strong with the last several tracks of the main set.

If I had to pick, I’d still say the full band shows are better overall, but the band isn’t necessary to him putting on a memorable show.

His witty banter is one part that ensures that, while the songs still sounded fantastic, even if they lacked the punch they usually have.

Basically, Hayes Carll is a true entertainer, because he can hold your attention and keep you invested in what he’s doing no matter what the setting is.

I’ll finish by saying this: this was the fourth straight night I had been out at concerts for the week. I had seen some great local rock bands, a killer national touring electronic/pop band from Detroit, and one of the best rising stars in the Texas music scene. However, this show, this acoustic show by one of the most prolific (and underrated on a national scale) singer/songwriters who’s currently in the game was the best show out of those four.

If you haven’t heard of Hayes Carll, you’re really missing out, and you remedy that by going over to iTUNES right this instant and checking out his music. (Don’t use, “Oh, but he’s an Americana musician and I don’t like Americana.” as an excuse, because his music is as much rock as anything.)

By now, the Pub Crawl Tour is over, but he still has some shows coming up here and there. His full schedule can be viewed HERE.

It was a phenomenal night here at The Kessler, and in just six days it would all be repeated (well, with different bands, at least.)

Friday, February 21st, 2014 – The Dirty River Boys Do Billy Bob’s Texas

Lately, if I have made the trip across the D/FW metroplex to Fort Worth, the destination has been Billy Bob’s Texas.

It was more of the same this night, when the venue that is known for being the “world’s largest honky-tonk” was hosting one of the best bands in the state, The Dirty River Boys.

There was an opening band this night, and that was Crooks from Austin.

Admittedly, I didn’t keep up with their set as far as what songs they did, but I’ll hit the highlights of what I do remember.

They were playing the smaller Honky-tonk stage, and had already started by the time I got there.

They finished the song they were doing, at which point singer and acoustic guitarist Josh Mazour regaled the audience with a story about how it’s not a good idea to decide to pick up a stray cat and pet it. Evidently, that was something he had tried recently and learned the hard way why it’s not wise.

They had a truly authentic country sound, from the twang in his voice, to the upright bass Joey McGill played, and even had an accordion and trumpet thrown into the mix, which were played by Anthony Ortiz Jr. and Doug Day, respectively.

They did at least one cover during their time on stage (I don’t recall what famous country singer they covered, since country music is not my forte), but it was good. Their original stuff was even better, and you could tell the audience was liking by all the people that swarmed the dance floor and danced with their special someone’s.

Even the slower “Pull Up Your Boots” got some movement going, while a song that stood out to me was “My First Gun”. Granted, that was probably because of the story that accompanied it, which was Josh informing everyone that he wrote it about five years or so ago, when he was dreaming about killing his boss at the time. “…I never did anything to him or his woman, but I thought about it… A lot.” he said before they started the track.

Some of their final songs where just the core group of Josh, Joey, lead guitarist Ryan Goebel and drummer Rob Bacak, before Anthony and Doug rejoined them for their final few songs.

They were quite good. I can’t say I liked them to the point that I’d feel like I have to see them the next time they come through the North Texas area, though I am contemplating buying their record. So yeah, overall, I did enjoy Crooks.

They have plenty of shows coming up across Texas, including a return trip to Billy Bob’s on May 8th, plus a gig at Hat Tricks in Lewisville on March 28th. For their full tour schedule, go HERE. Also, you can find their LP on either iTUNES or BANDCAMP.

They were a good little warm-up act, but the real show was going to come when The Dirty River Boys took the main stage.

There was a thirty-minute break in between bands, which gave most of the people plenty of time to be shown to their seats at the sea of tables that cover the floor in front of the main stage.


By the time 10:30 rolled around and one of the staff members at Billy Bob’s came out to introduce the band, there were a surprising amount of people there. I saw surprising given the fact that The Dirty River Boys are still by all accounts a local band. They may do shows all over the country, but they’re widely known yet. However, the healthy fan base they do have is also a dedicated one, which was proved this night.

At 10:32 bassist Colton James, drummer Travis Stearns and the two singers and acoustic guitarists Marco Gutierrez and Nino Cooper stepped on stage.

“How we doing Billy Bob’s Texas?!” Marco asked, while Travis went ahead and gave the crowd some percussion by slapping his hands against the cajon he sat on.

Having seen them just barely a month before; I was expecting the same setlist, since most bands don’t switch things up that often. Then again, The Dirty River Boys aren’t most bands, and when Nino grabbed the mandolin, it became obvious that this wouldn’t be the exact same show I had seen last month, and that had me excited.

They wound up starting with “Boomtown”, and Nino jumped about at the start while he strummed the mandolin. The fans responded well to it, and it was an excellent opener, not only being one of their tracks that really gets people pumped up, but also one that shows how much talent resides in this band, as they handled some of the words in rounds, with Marco and Colton singing and harmonizing along with Nino. There was even a cool moment after the second chorus where Colton spun his upright bass around, while the feathers and raccoon pelt that hang from it twirled right along with it.

Once it was done, Marco led them right into the title track from their second EP, “Train Station”, which is another song with breathtaking harmonies. “…I fear I’m losing her again. My head’s on the horizon, my heart’s wherever the hell she sleeps!” Marco belted as the track sprang to life. It’s a song that blend beauty and heartache with some Rock ‘n’ Roll moments, and there was even a part where Colton played his bass with a bow, similar to how a violinist does.

Those were two of the older songs they did this night, and while more would come, their primary focus was on the material from their forthcoming album. They had worked in a few more new tracks than they were doing the last time I saw them, and Travis counted them in on the first new one of the night, which was sung by Colton.

“Billy Bob’s, what’s going on?!” Marco asked, seeming gleeful to even be there. The fans did their part at making some noise, while he went on to say they’d be playing a lot of new songs this night. “…This one’s an old one.” he finished, as they tackled the lead track from “Science of Flight”, “Dried Up”. Apart from doing lead vocals, Marco also played the harmonica when it was called for, but that wasn’t the only add-on this song got.

They’ve been known to throw in portions of cover songs into their music, and while I’ve heard them do one of Bob Dylan’s songs before, it hasn’t been on this specific song before. “…Everybody knows that baby’s got new clothes…” he sang during the lull that came before the final chorus, then moved along to the chorus of that Dylan hit “Just Like a Woman”. “She takes just like a woman. She makes love just like a woman. And she aches just like a woman.” Marco crooned, softening his voice as each sentence ended, before getting louder when he sang, “But she breaks just like a little girl.” The crowd was roaring at that point, as they got back to their original and finished it up, before moving directly into their next number.

“This song’s about a union painter that Nino met several years ago.” Marco informed everyone, while Travis played some soft, though sad notes on his harmonica. “…I’m surrounded by others, but I’m always alone. When the paint and time comes, I jump back on the train. Spend all my green dollars just to poison my veins…” Nino sang rather somberly on “Union Painter”, which sounded like it was even a little more low-key than the album version. That’s to say it just sounded like it was more acoustic. Nino also made a little change to one of the lines, catering to where they were this night as he sang, “…I’m still searching for freedom beneath Fort Worth skies…”

Afterwards, it was time for them to bust out another new one. They might be an Americana band, with dashes of country, but above all, The Dirty River Boys are a rock band. This song was a fine example of that, and it packed a punch; while also being one of the songs that Colton used an electric bass on. Speaking of that, his playing on it was pretty slick, particularly on the chorus, as he quickly moved his hand up and down the fretboard.

“…This is what we call a Chinese fire drill.” Marco stated before leaving his post and sitting on the cajon. Travis took up the mandolin, while Colton grabbed a banjo, as Nino began to play some soaring notes. “…The louder you get, the crazier this bad boy gets!” shouted Travis as they had some fun before their next song. Marco just added a bit of drums to the start, before taking over on the upright bass for the short sing-along that is “Lookin’ for the Heart”. “But I’m just growing old with a whole deep in my soul. Won’t you give me back that heart you took from me?” sang Nino on the track that is far more upbeat than you would guess just based on the subject matter.

They reverted to their normal positions when it was done; and Marco started setting up their next song, saying on their last album they had covered a Townes Van Zandt song. “…We don’t do it too much these days…” he said, noting they had decided to this night, though. The song they covered is “Lungs”, and it’s a favorite of mine from “The Science of Flight”. They give it a real dark, ominous quality, which in turn puts a good spin on it; and while they might not play it much anymore, I’m glad they did this night.

Another new one was due now; but first Marco mentioned how lucky they were to come across Colton James and add that fine talent to the band. He [Colton] again assumed the role of lead vocalist on this one (which was one I don’t think I had heard before), though it sounded pretty good. “Take it away, Nino!” he said at one point later on in the track, as Nino ripped into a guitar solo. I have to say, acoustic guitars were not meant to sound like that. At least I’ve never heard another band make them sound the way Nino and Marco do. The guitar solo he did was amazing, and it was more electric sounding than most electric guitars are.

The audience went to clap, but had no time to, because as the final notes rang out, Nino started singing “My Son”. “I don’t know where you’re going my son. Taught you to walk, but you learned how to run.” he sang before all of his band mates joined in, again forming some incredible harmonies. “How you gonna find your way back home? The roads you knew they’re paved and gone.” Sang Nino on the first chorus, changing it slightly before sticking with the chorus from the album version the second time around, “How you gonna find your way back home? The maps you drew they’re burned and gone.”

“…The only way that you can be found is through your footsteps in the cold, dead ground.” the four guys sang, before Nino went into another brief guitar solo, which only made the song even better.

They gave a quick shout-out to their friends in Crooks for getting the party started, before firing up an instrumental piece. It was soulful and bluesy sounding, and I highly enjoyed it. I assumed it was the intro for another one of their new tracks; and they amped it up, sounding like they were about to break into whatever it was, before pulling back on it. Then the chords for “Draw” came into being; and since that was a song that was absent from their last show I caught, I was ecstatic.


It was a bit of an alternate version, and was more toned down than what their fans have to come to know from the album. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t still a great song, though. “If you’re alive, make some noise!” roared Travis during one of the breaks, as he made sure everyone was still feeling very much a part of the show/experience.

They were still far from being done, and while Colton again swapped over to his electric bass, Nino mentioned that the next song they would be doing was one that The Ranch (95.9FM) in Fort Worth had been playing, and thanked them for it.

There’s a reason why “Desert Wind” is their newest single, and one they’ve already released for public consumption (i.e. on iTUNES), and it’s made known every time they play it. “Lately, I’ve been thinking, and I just can’t seem to get you off my mind… Lovely lady, where you are. I hear your voice and I feel your scars…” he sang on the sweet and powerful track. The drumbeats are mixed in perfectly, giving the song as much kick as possible; and he got so into his drumming on this one that – for the second time this night – he knocked his hat off.

“If you know it, sing it.” Marco told the fans as he moved things right along to their next number.

“Carnival Lights” got one of loudest reactions from the fans, as well it should. It was another song they put an alternate spin on, doing a slow version of it. Actually it was pretty much just Marco until after the first chorus. “…With her poison inside medicine bottle, filled with nothing but her own shortcomings. She leans her head back; she puts ‘em down and they taste alright…” he softly sang, before Travis interrupted the pause. “Y’all still with us?!” he asked. Of course, everyone was. Marco then continued, “Please, just try to stay conscious tonight.”

Now the full band came in, just in time for the even more emotional second verse of this spectacular tune. “Billy Bob’s, this is your time to shine.” Marco told everyone before the final chorus, making the song into a genuine sing-along. It was cool moment to say the least, but they weren’t done yet.

That Dylan cover has been tacked onto this song in the past, but with it having already been done, I was wondering what, if anything, they might add to “Carnival Lights”. They did have something planned, and Colton took his cowboy hat off and hung it on the scroll of his bass for it.

“…Now I’m so happy, no sorrow in sight. Praise the Lord, I saw the light.” Marco added, which was just one of several lines they did from Han Williams’ “I Saw the Light”.

They went right into another new song; again one that was sung by Colton, before Marco took over on the next one. In between those, they chatted with their fans, though.

“Are y’all having a good time so far?” Marco asked, before saying he couldn’t stress enough what an “honor” it was to be on this stage (this was their first ever headlining show at Billy Bob’s). Then, upon finishing that song he did, he shifted the focus to their new album, which they recorded during this past December and January. “…We can’t wait to get this new music out to you all…” he said.

They only had a couple of old songs left this night, and rather surprisingly, the balled-esque “Riverbed Wildflowers” got one of the loudest reactions from fans. I mean, it should because it’s a fantastic song, even if it deals with the heartache of having feelings for someone who doesn’t feel the same. “…Well, these riverbed wildflowers are dying now; and I’m through waiting around on you…” Nino sang towards the end, before they added a little extra something to the song, repeating part of the chorus an extra time or two at the end, adding some truly lovely harmonies to it.

“This song’s about life on the road.” Marco stated, after he had again thanked everyone for making it out to the show, during which time Colton switched back to his electric bass. This song is easily the best one from their new batch of music, and even just in general. It does depict the life of touring musicians (“…Well, we work all night just to drive all day…”) and it’s more rock sounding than most of the true rock music that you hear.

They made something special with that song, and the same can be said about their next one, which Nino dedicated to the man they co-wrote it with, Ray Wylie Hubbard. “…It’s about the violence south of border.” he said, as they began to sing about how their hometown of El Paso, as well as those towns over in Mexico, have changed.

“You cross that dirty river and you never come back.” Marco sang at the end, then Colton and finally Travis, before Nino took back the reins. His band mates harmonized with him on the last line, “If you cross that dirty river then you’ll never come back.”

After one of their earlier songs (“Draw”), Marco mentioned it was just one of a few songs they had about whiskey. Well, now they got to another, which was yet another new track. “…There’s nothing like a whiskey drunk on a Friday…” he sang on the cheery tune, which will surely become a sing-along once they get their new album released.

The end was in sight now, and while Nino went over to stage left and grabbed the mandolin, Travis spoke to the crowd.

“After four and a half to five years of being a band, our van finally hit two hundred and fifty-thousand miles!” he exclaimed (a moment that was documented with the footage being posted on the bands Facebook page).

He then asked how many people had seen them before. Most everyone in attendance had, though there were still plenty of first timers. “Y’all know how we like to do it!” yelled Travis, speaking to those who were familiar with them. “…So, are y’all ready to raise some hell?!” he bellowed.

Moments after that, he got everyone to stand up. I have to say, the seats were detrimental to the energy out in the crowd. Not that everyone wasn’t enjoying the show, but you just can’t really get into the music (or at least I can’t) when you’re sitting.

With that said: once everyone rose out of their seats and began clapping, singing and stomping their feet along to “Raise Some Hell”, the mood changed immensely. In that moment every fan was one, as they were completely immersed in the song and were having the time of their lives.

That was how their 88-minute long set ended, but the celebration wasn’t done yet.

They never left the stage. Instead, Travis mentioned that they’ll celebrate fans birthdays every time they can, but there are only, at most, four chances a year that they can do shows and celebrate the birthday of one of their own. Tonight was one of those nights.

Nino Cooper was genuinely surprised when a birthday cake was brought out and handed to him, and everyone in Billy Bob’s helped in singing “Happy Birthday” to him.

“Are y’all ready to rock out another one or what?!” Travis asked after a few minutes went by.

“Crooks, we need ya.” Marco said, calling on their friends, who soon joined them on stage. Then Nino appeared, having traded his cake in for an electric guitar.

It was very appropriate for their final song, which was a cover of The Rolling Stones “Honky Tonk Woman”. I stand by what I said about their rendition of the song the last time I saw them; they do it better than The Stones; at least in comparison to the recorded version.


Think what you will of that statement, but it’s the truth, and once the song came to an end, Travis stood up from the cajon, tossed one of his drumsticks in the air, caught it and then struck right through the skin of one of his drums. Because if you’re going to end a show, you might as well end it in style, right?

This may have been their first ever headlining show at Billy Bob’s, but I don’t think it will be their last.

Okay, the place wasn’t sold out like some of the other acts that come through are capable of doing; but there were a lot of people out, and they were loving every second of the show.

Then again, how could you not? There are so many layers to The Dirty River Boys, from the harmonies, to the emotion-filled lyrics, to the awesome rock numbers, of which there are plenty.

I absolutely love this band. I may be a new fan, but they won me over from the start, and each time I see one of their shows (this was the fourth one I’ve caught), that love I feel grows.

They are, without question, one of the best bands that resides in Texas, and it’s not going to be long before the world takes notice.

They have plenty of tour dates scheduled up through July, and they can all be found HERE. That includes show in Texas, Oklahoma and even Louisiana. As far as North Texas shows go, they’ll be up in Denton on March 27th at Dan’s Silver Leaf.  They’ll be at the Iron Horse Pub in Wichita Falls on March 29th, and then April 25th will find them at the Granada Theater in Dallas. They’ll also be back in Fort Worth on July 24th.

Go see ‘em if you can, and if you can’t, check out their music in iTUNES.

It was a great night of music here in Fort Worth; and while the drive there and back were both long, The Dirty River Boys were more than worth it.

Album Review: “Fractures” by The Clouds Are Ghosts

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The Austin, Texas based The Clouds Are Ghosts may have started as just a little side gig, but it didn’t take long for the two founding members to realize they were on to something as they began writing and recording some of their song ideas.

Joseph Salazar ended up leaving the band, but Jason Morris stuck with it, bringing five other musicians into the fold; officially giving birth to The Clouds Are Ghosts.

Their debut album came in late 2009, with an EP following a couple of years later, and now, the band has released their anxiously awaited third album, “Fractures”.

Not only is it their newest record, but it’s also their most professional and solid collection of songs to date; and it begins with the atmospheric rocker, “Fifty Four”. The piano and drums at the start create a mix of beauty and force that is astounding, blending the best of both worlds. Jason Morris’s remarkable voice than
reaches out of the speakers and grabs you; growing more urgent as the pace of the music increases, ensnaring you and making sure you’re in this listening experience for the long haul.

The best quality “Defense” has is its ebb and flow. You can feel the song building to something, yet it tapers off each time you think it’s about to make its move. That highlights the more subtle elements of the track, like the smooth guitar lines, which complement one another, before it jumps into action during the final minute. It’s edgy in a way, and it’s a track not to be overlooked (or unappreciated.)

After reeling you in with those first two songs, the members of The Clouds Are Ghosts are ready to show off their softer side, and do so with “Leaman”. In comparison to those first tracks, it mines a little more of the ambient genre that the band classifies itself as. More though, it’s a serene track that’s designed to make you think. “…Now we fight, we kill, we don’t seem to know how to rise above. We think we do, so we blind the eyes of the young…” Jason croons, demonstrating a whole other side and range of his voice, often hitting some gorgeous falsetto notes.

After that little detour, the band brings things back up with eerie and dark sounding “Marionettes”. It doesn’t even take twenty seconds for them to make and establish the mood; while the semi-hushed vocals fit well with it. At least until it roars to life. That’s when it truly grabs your attention: when the guitars soar into action, and a solo is worked in nicely and at just the right moment to add some extra emphasis.

Things get al little more tender and heartfelt with “Angelface”, which, at almost six minutes, is the longest track from the album, before they get into one of the most attention getting songs.

“…There is no time for hesitation, for everyday we’re growing old.” goes a line from “Blue”, which is a song that focuses on how short life really is, and the need to live and experience it to the fullest. It’s a song that washes over you and resonates in your soul, particularly the line, “They say the road before you is long. They say that life is too short. So run…”

The dreamy, pop landscapes are back in “Singularity”, which is a rather soothing track, at least until its abrupt, vicious swell, when it transitions into one of the most intense offerings from “Fractures”, before waning as it leads into “Lavender House”. Just because the bass isn’t as noticeable or the drums aren’t as heavy doesn’t mean that latter one isn’t an impactful song, though.

Perhaps the most intricate track on the album is “Running Dream”. The guitars, bass, drums and yes, even the piano, all get their moment to shine and work in fine harmony with one another. It’s all carefully woven and acts as a nice setup for the tenth and final track on the album, “Decimeters”.

Of course, there can always be different meanings to the songs than the one each listener may interpret, but it strikes me as being a track about the impending end of a relationship. It’s not gloomy or done as a desperate plea, though. It’s actually a beautiful song filled with acceptance and a “light at the end of the tunnel” perspective.

To sum up “Fractures” in just one word: perfection.

The production quality on this thing is superb and deserves a major commendation in its own right. I mean, this thing is on par with what many of the most famous and wealthiest musicians crank out in terms of how polished and well mixed it is.

Aside from that, “Fractures” just has a very fluid feel to it; while the songs all mesh with one another, in the sense like this is more of a concept album rather than an assorted collection of songs they wrote.

While the six-piece outfit may identify as a mix of
ambient, electronic and pop styles of music, they are really so much more than that. It’s all in the way they fuse those different genres together, taking the best parts of each one and creating something that is entirely their own.

When you hear pop, you probably think of the generic and increasingly mind numbing stuff you hear on the radio, but that’s not the part that The Clouds Are Ghosts brings in. It still manages to be catchy, yet creative. It’s more or less the same for the other genres, too. There is a definite electronic vibe, but there music isn’t drenched in the sound, and they balance the ambient side of things in there just right.

With all the bands that are out there, I can’t say I’m shocked that I’ve never heard of The Clouds Are Ghosts before, though I am surprised they managed to avoid my radar for so long.

In listening to this album, it’s readily apparent that they are one of the shining stars in the Austin music scene, and “Fractures” should be the album that starts really taking them places.

The Clouds Are Ghosts are:
Erin Fillingame - piano
Jason Morris - vocals
Steven Paul – guitar and synths
Michael Parker - guitar
Earl Bowers - drums
Jon Klekman- bass

Download the album for free on: BANDCAMP / Purchase in iTUNES

Visit The Clouds Are Ghosts websites: Official Website / Facebook / Twitter / Youtube

Current Shows: The band will be performing at SXSW this year. Dates include 3/11 @ Guero’s 5PM / 3/11 @ Soho Lounge 8PM / 3/13 Symphony Square 5PM. Visit their TOUR PAGE for full details.

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Photo credit: Ashley Treat

Saturday, February 15th, 2014 – The Virgin Wolves Strike Back

Three Links was my second destination for the night, where a truly killer bill had been assembled.

I hated that I had missed my friends in Vinyl (who are spectacular), and Mothership was just starting their final song when I arrived (it had been awhile time since I had seen them, but they sounded better than ever). A band called Crypt Trip also got the night started, but all three of them were nothing more than appetizers.

Not that the place wasn’t already packed for Mothership (and assumingly the other bands); but the most exciting thing about this show was that The Virgin Wolves were coming out of their hibernation. They hadn’t played a show since last summer; and they had been greatly missed.

Of course, it took a bit for them to get set up, though the sound check was swift. “It’s been eight months since we’ve been on stage!” declared rhythm guitarist Carson Coldiron. The guitar and bass chords swelled as he spoke, pumping up the crowd, leaving everyone wondering what their opening number would be.

I’m not gonna lie, I was hoping for “Slick Shoes”, and for a few moments it seemed like that classic from the “Bad Blood” EP might be what they burst into, but it was not.

Instead, they broke into “Black Sheep”, which was equally as good. It may have been eight months since they shared a stage together, but it didn’t even take a second to reignite their energy and chemistry on stage, as Carson, lead guitarist Chase Ryan and bassist Kristin Leigh began throwing down. “I bet you look good, I bet you look good, I bet you look good in the morning light…” sang Jaimeson Toon; Chase backing her up on most of the verses, giving the song a nice one-two punch.

I’ll go ahead and say this: if they had accumulated any dust over those eight months, they made sure they shook it all off during their rehearsals.

Drummer Steve Phillips quickly led them into another gritty rock number, “Crawl”, as they started making their way down the tracklist of their “Pretty Evil Thing” LP. “…Gave you just one hour to show me how bad you can be. I gave myself three cigarettes and whistled just like a bird.” Jaimeson sang in a more sultry voice on the second verse; grabbing her hair and pulling it down over her face as she did so.

As usually, they had little transition pieces worked up between most of their songs this night, stretching it out here as Carson took a moment to thank all the bands who had opened for them. He also pointed out that this Jaimesons’ place of employment. Chase then semi-slowly plucked the strings of his guitar, bringing them to my personal favorite track, “End Of The Line”. It’s arguably their catchiest song, and shows off a little different side of The Virgin Wolves, while still retaining that raw rock vibe that makes them standout. There were some issues with the microphone towards the end, which led to Jaimeson and Chase sharing his mic, while Kristin used hers as they all sang, “I can’t sleep, I can’t breathe, I can’t find the door…”.

Steve kept on delivering the beats until they were ready for one of their slightly blues infused numbers, “What You Want To Hear”. Some banter with the crowd took place afterwards, while Chase also took time to thank everyone for coming out this night. Surprisingly, the show wasn’t sold out, though there were a lot of people there, and they were all transfixed on the band.

They kept running thorough “Pretty Evil Thing”, though they did skip track five and moved on to “Lies” when they got back to business. That (at times) showed off the bands softer side, which is something that doesn’t even really exist, and they kicked things back up with their next song.

However, they first took a moment to wish one of their fans a happy birthday. “…She’s good looking. I’m just saying. Get ya some.” Jaimeson said of the birthday girl. It was after that, that they did the darker sounding “Crooked Smile”. It’s another one of their best songs, and tonight it was a highlight of their show, as Chase and Kristin stood facing one another near the end of the song, tearing it up on their guitar and bass, respectively. Then, as it drew to a close, Jaimeson approached Chase, as the two grinded against each other.


“The amount of people in here makes me happy.” Jaimeson stated after that one. They marched on with “Oh, Sugar”, before again skipping over a track on the album, because, well, you’ve got to save the best for last.

“I like it when you don’t leave.” Jaimeson said, before encouraging everyone who might want to, to buy their merch. “…We have stuff you can wear. Stuff you can listen to. Stuff you can smell in your house.” she said, then added, “That’s right, I said smell…”

Vagabonds” was the final, somewhat slow song they did, and from it, they jumped right into “Bad”, which was an electrifying way to end what felt like an all too short 36-minute set.

“Surely that’s not it?” I thought. Though the band did a legit job at making it appear that they were done. Then the cries for an encore started, and eventually Chase and Carson retook the stage, saying they thought they might could do one more.

“Carson, how’s my hair look?” Chase asked. “Shitty.” Carson replied. They had a friend join them on stage for this next song, and that was Chris Breland. He sings in the band Black Habits – whom I’ve seen once before – and evidently has something else going on, because Carson mentioned he was in a band. “…I don’t know if I can say what band or not, yet…” he said, seeming to catch himself before he let it slip.

Their little encore segment started with a cover of Danzig’s “Mother”, and stylistically speaking, it fits The Virgin Wolves perfectly.

Jaimeson and Chris were a force to be reckoned with as they shared the vocal responsibilities. They killed it on the song, and as it came to an end, some guy suddenly began to crowd surf, and soon took a fall that looked like it could have been way worse for him than what it wound up being.

That wasn’t it, though. Remember, I said they skipped over one of their songs so they could save the best for last, and, without question, their best is “Virtue And Vice”.

A small mosh pit even broke out during the song (something I haven’t personally seen at one of their shows before), while both Chase and Kristin shouted the line on the second verse that they’ve revamped for live shows, “I rode all night through the motherfucking rain!” “And I wound up standing at his grave.” Jaimeson chimed in.

Towards the end, Carson even grabbed a beer can from one of the fans up front, sliding it across the neck of his guitar a bit before handing it back.

That, was the perfect way to end this show, and that song allows all five of them to unleash any energy they have left, ensuring everything gets left on the stage.

I had missed seeing The Virgin Wolves more than I knew I had, and I’m glad I at least caught them a few times close together leading up to their little hiatus.

Hopefully it won’t be another eight months before they grace a stage somewhere in the metroplex, ‘cause they’re just too damn good.

They play rock music the way it was meant to be played, and they’re live show is a must-see, especially if you haven’t seen them before.

Pick up “Pretty Evil Thing” in iTUNES (it’ll be $9.99 well spent), and throw ‘em a like on FACEBOOK so you’ll know when they have another gig.

Well, I managed to catch not one, but two fantastic shows this Saturday night. I’d call that a win.

Saturday, February 15th, 2014 – White Lies Make Their Dallas Debut

I must confess, until just a few weeks prior to their show at the Granada Theater, I had never heard of White Lies.

That’s probably a good thing, because that meant that I haven’t spent the past few years anxiously awaiting the British band to tour through Dallas. Instead, I became a fan rather last minute and only had to wait a couple weeks.

That’s not to say I wasn’t excited, though. In fact, I was probably every bit as excited as any die-hard, longtime fan of the six-year old rock outfit.

The only opening act on this was the Brooklyn, NY singer/songwriter Frankie Rose.

I’ll preface this by saying I had trouble figuring out what songs she did, and by trouble I mean even after spending time listening to her music I couldn’t pinpoint the specific songs, which is a personal fail in my book.

But I digress. She and her band (which consisted of a drummer, lead guitarist and bassist) delivered a great 31-minute set.

I didn’t know what to expect, but I wound up liking her music far more than I thought I would.

The first song had a nice build to it, before the drummer suddenly broke into the song, which had me quickly trying to figure out where he was. See, the kit was on far stage left – out of my line of sight – and until that first beat I had overlooked it. They carried on with several more songs, and periodically Frankie would chat with the crowd in the already packed Granada Theater.

“…This is a Saturday night. Is it a late night town?” she asked, following it with another question, “Are you going to go out after the show?” You could tell she was just looked at as the opening act, because the response was almost nonexistent, and I know full well the party was continuing for more than a few people after this show (and I was one of them).

They ran through a few more songs, including a “romantico one” as Frankie put it. In my opinion, it wound up being one of their best songs of the night. The rhythm section was in full effect on it, and even though I was standing near the back of the venue, I could still feel the floor shaking beneath me; and really, that’s always a fantastic feeling.

With only one song left, Frankie mentioned that they were heading to Houston the next night, unknowingly committing one of the biggest faux pas you can make in Dallas.

To say I hate or even dislike Houston would be inaccurate, but most Dallasites do and they were vocal about it this night. She appeared baffled by the reaction, and just moved on and concluded their set.

Their time on stage flew by, and I mean that as a compliment, because that’s how much I enjoyed it.

The music was great, with some nice electronic and synthesizer touches thrown in, but more to the point to accentuate the guitars, bass and drums rather than overpower them. Frankie has quite a set of pipes on her too, fitting both the more rock sounding songs as well as the dreamier landscapes they had going on others.


If you’d like to check out her music, she has two records available that you can find in iTUNES.

As ten o’clock neared, the patrons began filling back in from their trips to the bar, or to go outside and smoke or whatever else, as they settled in for White Lies.

Five minutes before they hit the stage I got offered to go up to the balcony (which is typically reserved for staff of either the venue or the bands crew) and of course took it.

I mention that simply because it transformed this entire concert experience.

The sound up there was superb, far exceeding that down at the lower levels. As expected, a roar of fanfare filled the venue when the three core members; singer and guitarist Harry McVeigh; bassist Charles Cave; and drummer Jack Brown took the stage, along with Tommy Bowen and Rob Lee, who add the keys/synthesizers and an extra guitar to the mix.

They quickly launched into the title track from their 2009 debut album, “To Lose My Life”, and the sound—at least up in the balcony—was ten times better than even their albums sound.

It was pure ecstasy from the start, as Harry sang the lovely chorus in his strong, unique tone of voice, “Let’s grow old together and die at the same time…” That was a stellar song to open with, and for part of it I was glued to Charles, who was an exceptional bass player from right out of the gate, and was crushing it as he quickly plucked the strings of his bass.

With that old classic out of the way, they turned their attention to the barely six-month-old album “Big TV”, getting the first single off it, “There Goes Our Love Again”, out of the way early. It seemed to be just as much of a crowd pleaser as their first song had, and afterwards Harry addressed the crowd.

“Dallas, how’s it going?” he asked; the clamorous applause and cheers continuing once he spoke. He noted that this was the first time they had been to this “beautiful city”, and that they had enjoyed walking around and seeing part of it earlier in the day.

Overall, that was one of the few times they talked with the crowd which I liked. Even though it was kept at the bare minimum, it was still more than enough to form a connection with the fans, though the main focus was on the music. It suited them. Another I liked was that despite having a new album to promote, they also drew heavily from their past two albums; resulting in a great mix of old favorites and new classics.

As good as those two songs were, it was their next one where things really exploded. They pushed themselves to new heights on “A Place to Hide”, which was completely irresistible, and even though I was seated I felt a pretty strong urge to get up and start moving around. It was just intoxicating. But then again, that could be said of much of White Lies’ music.

They were continuously switching between albums, never doing two consecutive tracks off one album, and now got back to the new material with “Mother Tongue”. Whether they had been wanting (or waiting) to or not, the crowd got a chance to participate on this one. After the second chorus, the band got a clap along going. It was merely the first of a few this night, and I have to say it was pretty cool to see a sea of people throw their hands up in the air, clapping in unison. Especially since I had such a unique perspective of it.

“This is one of our favorite tracks from our second album…” Harry told everyone in advance of their next number. “It’s called Streetlights.” he finished, as they finally got around to doing a track from “Ritual”. I can’t say that it’s also a favorite of mine from that record, though it is a good tune, and there was something entrancing about the steady drumbeats and keys of the verses.


“This is a beautiful venue. The kind you dream of playing…” Harry remarked after that song. Strong words from a band who has headlined the historic Wembley Arena in London. He piled on the very genuine praise about the Granada (it’s more than deserving of it), before Jack eventually led them into their next song, another oldie, “Farewell to the Fairground”. Harry worked the crowd over during the slow part after the second chorus; just motioning at everyone, encouraging them to make some noise. He had complete control over everyone as he did so.

“I wish no harm to come of you; split bottles in shopping aisles…” he sang after the applause subsided, as they went right into another one of their love songs, “Be Your Man”. It was their next song, another from their first album, that really got the spectators excited, though.

From the first note on the keyboard the crowd was screaming with glee, having already deduced the song was “E.S.T”. Most were giddy when it too turned into a clap along; and personally, I thought it really was one of their highlight songs of the night, as there was a type of magic aura in the air while they played it.

However, “The Power and the Glory”—which is one I’m partial to—outmatched it. “…I was empty handed leaving as I was when I came…” crooned Harry while the audience clapped along to the steady drumming. Live it was everything I hoped it would be, and was extremely infectious; and during it, they continued to expand upon their stride, which they had hit long ago.

With their show in its final stretch, it was time to bust out a couple more singles, the first of which was “Getting Even”. “This is the first single we ever released…” Harry informed everyone, setting up the next song. “We hope you like it.” he added. To say everyone simply liked “Unfinished Business” would be an understatement, and that leads me to one point I’ll go ahead and make.

It’s really remarkable that these guys were able to make their first album as high caliber as it is. From start to finish it’s a completely solid album, the likes of which every band hopes to release one day, though most will never even come close. Then, they managed to (at the very least) maintain that same level of skill and craftsmanship over the course of their next two albums, again coming up with products that are superior to most out on the market.

It just comes down to that solid consistency, and it’s a shame more bands don’t have that.

But I digress.

They were still far from done with the “Big TV” album, but now did one more gem from it, “Goldmine”, before changing gears a bit.

Rob and Tommy exited the stage, leaving just the founding members of White Lies, as Harry ditched his guitar for their next song. Instead, he used a little synthesizer, while Jack got up from his kit, manning a keyboard as well as a xylophone (yeah, you read that right). Charles was the only one who didn’t switch instruments, and Harry took just a moment to talk about the song, which happened to be a cover.

It was a very different take on Prince’s “I Would Die 4 U”, being a pretty stripped down rendition from how Prince did it. That was good though, because they made the song completely their own with a very unique spin put on it. Harry got to show a gorgeous falsetto tone on it, and lyrically, it was a perfect fit with the bands original stuff. “You’re just a sinner I am told. Be your fire when you’re cold, make you happy when you’re sad, make you good when you are bad…” he sang; making it sound like this song had been written just for them.

They returned to their standard lineup, doing what’s really the only song of theirs I’m indifferent to, “First Time Caller”. I will admit though, that live it got me a little more engaged than the recording does. Afterwards, came the final song of their set, “Death”, which had another clap along moment, and ended an astounding 69-minute set.

No one (well, almost no one) moved after the band retreated to the green room, though, as they anxiously awaited the encore.

The cheering was perhaps even more loud when the five guys returned to the stage than it had been when they first started.

They talked with the crowd for a moment, mainly expressing their gratitude, before finally getting to the title track from their 2013 release, “Big TV”. Again, the crowd was encouraged to clap along on it; and as they hit the brief instrumental bridge, Harry strode to center stage, throwing his arms up in the air, silently egging the audience on, and they again erupted with cheering and applause.

“…We have one more…” Harry stated, again thanking everyone who was there for coming out to see them. The urgent sounding and electrifying “Bigger Than Us”. “Thank you so much!” Harry shouted in the final seconds of the song, which concluded their 10-minute encore.


The applause started while the final notes were still being played, and only grew stronger once the five guys stood next to one another at the forefront of the stage; bowing to everyone for the love they had been shown, as well as basking in it. I’ve got to say, seeing the kind of reception they got was a cool moment.

As it stands, I’ve seen several hundred concerts at this point, and this White Lies show is one of the most spectacular I’ve witnessed.

I’ll be the first to admit the seats had a lot to do with that, because the whole atmosphere changed up in that balcony. But that wasn’t the only reason.

I feel like I already used a lot of my praise earlier when talking about their albums, but they also put on a splendid show.

From stage presence to musicianship, Harry McVeigh, Jack Brown and Charles Cave were to full package. Not only that, but they have a very distinctive sound, with mixes of 80’s era British acts thrown in to their more modern rock style, which results in a sound that is completely theirs.

It was easy to see why they’ve opened for bands like Coldplay and Snow Patrol, because the talent is definitely there. I’d even go as far as saying that there’s no reason why White Lies couldn’t be as popular as Muse is here in the U.S.

Okay, White Lies doesn’t use any theatrics at all; while that’s a key element to Muse’s shows. In the other aspects though, it’s a dead heat; and if the American audience latches on to these guys, there really is no reason why they couldn’t be playing arena’s over here in a few years time.

They have plenty of dates booked around the world, including several more in North America. Check out their full schedule HERE; and also be sure to add their music to your iTUNES library.

This was a fantastic way to spend the night. Many thanks again to the Granada and certain people who work there for all the hospitality. It made a great night truly unforgettable.

However, the night was still young. It wasn’t even 11:30 when they finished, and with several other shows going on this night that I would have liked to have seen (counting this one there were seven total), I could at least make one other…