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.

The Best of 2013: A List of Bands & Albums You Need to Know

Since I only do this once a year, here’s a refresher as to how this goes; After keeping track of every album I bought that was released in 2013 (120+) and every concert I saw, this is where I - completely objectively - select what I think were the best of everything.

LP’s and EP’s are divided into two different categories, with a top ten in each one, after which I do the “Best of the Rest”, alphabetically listing all the other records (the primary reason I do this blog in the first place is to try to help get bands even the slightest bit of extra exposure, so I don’t want to leave anyone out simply because they didn’t make my “Top Ten”.)

After that, I’ll list my ten favorite concerts from the year, then end with a wrap up.

For the albums, if you click on the artist name, you’ll be taken to their website. Clicking the album title will take you to either iTUNES or Bandcamp to purchase the record. Something new I’m also doing this year is including a link to a Spotify playlist next to each category, so you can easily listen to most of the music (not ever band has their music on Spotify, after all.) As for my favorite concerts of the year, they’ll be linked back to the individual review I did of the show, in case you missed it the first time around or may want to read it again.

Sound good? Good. Here we go…

Top 10 LP’s of 2013 (Spotify Playlist)

1.) Artist: Kentucky Knife Fight

Album: Hush Hush

Must Listen Song: “Bad Blood”

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2.) Artist: Jillette Johnson

Album: Water in a Whale

Must Listen Song: “Pauvre Coeur”

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3.) Artist: Nothing More

Album: Nothing More

Must Listen Song: Every track. Seriously.

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4.) Artist: Tommy & the High Pilots

Album: Only Human

Must Listen Song: “Devil to Pay” & “Young and Hungry”

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5.) Artist: Dead Flowers

Album: For You

Must Listen Song: “No Tragedy”

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6.) Artist: Ishi

Album: Digital Wounds

Must Listen Song: “Emotional Hard Drive”

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7.) Artist: Distant Lights

Album: Not Thinking Not Dreaming (FREE DOWNLOAD!)

Must Listen Song: “What’s On Your Mind?”

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8.) Artist: Sick Puppies

Album: Connect

Must Listen Song: “Walking Away”

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9.) Artist: These Machines are Winning

Album: Defender 1

Must Listen Song: “Beat S”

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10.) Artist: The O’s

Album: Thunderdog

Must Listen Song: “Outlaw”
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The Best of the Rest (LP’s) (
Spotify Playlist)

Artist: Air Review

Album: Low Wishes

Must Listen Song: “Low Wishes”

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Artist: Animal Spirit

Album: Animal Spirit

Must Listen Song: “House On A Hill”

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Artist: Anthony Green

Album: Young Legs

Must Listen Song: “Breaker”

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Artist: Anydoll

Album: Electric Heart (Free download!)

Must Listen Song: “You Are Amazing”

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Artist: Ashley Falgout

Album: Long Over Due

Must Listen Song: “Days and Days”

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Artist: The Band of Heathens

Album: Sunday Morning Record

Must Listen Song: “Shotgun”

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Artist: Bawcomville

Album: Tranny

Must Listen Song: “Diminished Returns”

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Artist: Black Books

Album: Black Books

Must Listen Song: “Something to Remember”

-

Artist: Blameshift

Album: Secrets

Must Listen Song: “Revolution”

-

Artist: Blue October

Album: Sway

Must Listen Song: “Put It In”

-

Artist: Bordeen

Album: Bordeen

Must Listen Song: “Spotlight”

-

Artist: Bosnian Rainbows

Album: Bosnian Rainbows

Must Listen Song: “The Eye Fell In Love”

-

Artist: Bowling for Soup

Album: Lunch. Drunk. Love.

Must Listen Song: “Critically Disdained”

-

Artist: The Breakfast Machine

Album: Electric 2033

Must Listen Song: “Si, Explosions”

-

Artist: The Bronx

Album: The Bronx (IV)

Must Listen Song: “Last Revelation”

-

Artist: Christopher Owens

Album: Lysandre

Must Listen Song: “Here We Go”

-

Artist: The Civil Wars

Album: The Civil Wars

Must Listen Song: “The One That Got Away”

-

Artist: Courrier

Album: Cathedrals of Color

Must Listen Song: “The City at Night”

-

Artist: Courtney Jones

Album: All Things That Fall

Must Listen Song: “Back to Me”

-

Artist: Cowboy Indian Bear

Album: Live Old, Die Young

Must Listen Song: “Does Anybody See You Out?”

-

Artist: Cull the Heard

Album: Reap the Harvest

Must Listen Song: “I Want More”

-

Artist: Cults

Album: Static

Must Listen Song: “We’ve Got It”
-

Artist:
The Dangerous Summer

Album: Golden Record

Must Listen Song: “Catholic Girls”

-

Artist: Danny Rush & the Designated Drivers

Album: Malverde

Must Listen Song: “SHT YR FKN MTH MY DRLNG”

-

Artist: Dead Letter Circus

Album: The Catalyst Fire

Must Listen Song: “Say Your Prayers”

-

Artist: Deaf Angel

Album: Brutally / Beautiful (Free download!)

Must Listen Song: “Let You Go”

-

Artist: The Dear Hunter

Album: Migrant

Must Listen Song: “An Escape”

-

Artist: Dresses

Album: Sun Shy

Must Listen Song: “Friends Are Dead”

-

Artist: Eisley

Album: Currents

Must Listen Song: “Save My Soul”

-

Artist: Elle Macho

Album: Import

Must Listen Song: “Hey Dude”

-

Artist: Fialta

Album: Summer Winter

Must Listen Song: “Photographs”

-

Artist: Free Dominguez

Album: Volcano + The Sea

Must Listen Song: “Line in the Sand”

-

Artist: The Frisky Disco

Album: The Frisky Disco (Free download!)

Must Listen Song: “Bobo Cakes”

-

Artist: Haim

Album: Days Are Gone

Must Listen Song: “The Wire”

-

Artist: Hawthorne Heights

Album: Zero

Must Listen Song: “Darkside”

-

Artist: The Head and the Heart

Album: Let’s Be Still

Must Listen Song: “Shake”

-

Artist: Home By Hovercraft

Album: Are We Chameleons?

Must Listen Song: “Rocket”
-

Artist:
IO Echo

Album: Ministry of Love

Must Listen Song: “Ministry of Love”

-

Artist: The Joy Formidable

Album: Wolf’s Law

Must Listen Song: “This Ladder Is Ours”

-

Artist: Kaela Sinclair

Album: Sun & Mirror

Must Listen Song: “Original Sin”

-

Artist: Kate Nash

Album: Girl Talk

Must Listen Song: “Are You There, Sweetheart?”

-

Artist: Kree Woods

Album: Talking Underwater

Must Listen Song: “Hip, Hip”

-

Artist: Lily & Madeleine

Album: Lily & Madeleine

Must Listen Song: “Lost Upon the Sea”

-

Artist: The Limousines

Album: Hush

Must Listen Song: “Bedbugs”

-

Artist: The Lovely Bad Things

Album: The Late Great Whatever

Must Listen Song: “Fried Eyes”

-

Artist: Manny the Martyr

Album: Brighter Sun (Free download!)

Must Listen Song: “Hit the Brink”

-

Artist: The Material

Album: Everything I Want to Say

Must Listen Song: “Born to Make a Sound”

-

Artist: Mona

Album: Torches & Pitchforks

Must Listen Song: “Goons (Baby, I Need it All)”

-

Artist: Monahans

Album: Leveler

Must Listen Song: “Forward/Reverse”

-

Artist: Monahans

Album: Roam an Empty Space

Must Listen Song: “Beat of a Thousand Drums”

-

Artist: Myla Smith

Album: Hiding Places

Must Listen Song: “Lose Ya” or “Hiding Places”

-

Artist: Nicholas Altobelli

Album: Without a Home

Must Listen Song: “Blackout”
-

Artist:
Ours

Album: Ballet the Boxer 1

Must Listen Song: “Pretty Pain”

-

Artist: Overseas

Album: Overseas

Must Listen Song: “Old Love”

-

Artist: Panic Volcanic

Album: Freak Fuzz

Must Listen Song: “Set You Free”

-

Artist: Paramore

Album: Paramore

Must Listen Song: “Fast In My Car”

-

Artist: Piñata Protest

Album: El Valiente

Must Listen Song: “Life on the Border”

-

Artist: The Polyphonic Spree

Album: Yes, It’s True

Must Listen Song: “You Don’t Know Me”

-

Artist: The Postelles

Album: …And it Shook Me

Must Listen Song: “Oh My Luck”

-

Artist: The Quaker City Night Hawks

Album: Honcho

Must Listen Song: “Lavanderia”

-

Artist: Quiet Company

Album: A Dead Man On My Back: Shine Honesty Revisited

Must Listen Song: “…and You Said it Was Pretty Here”

-
Artist:
Ra Ra Riot

Album: Beta Love

Must Listen Song: “Dance with Me”

-

Artist: Reinventing Jude

Album: Sundial Soliloquy

Must Listen Song: “Wet Cement”

-

Artist: The Reynolds Number

Album: The Reynolds Number

Must Listen Song: “Follow You”

-

Artist: Rude King

Album: It’ll Probably be Alright

Must Listen Song: “The Answer’s Right In Front Of Me”

-

Artist: The Sammus Theory

Album: Entitled Anonymous

Must Listen Song: “Scarlet Letter Devil”

-

Artist: Sarah Hurst

Album: Fine to Wait

Must Listen Song: “Fascinate”

-

Artist: Sean Michel

Album: Electric Delta

Must Listen Song: “Mississippi Mud”

-

Artist: Shannon LaBrie

Album: Just Be Honest

Must Listen Song: “Gettin’ Tired”

-

Artist: The Sounds

Album: Weekend

Must Listen Song: “Outlaw”

-

Artist: Steven Graves

Album: Time Will Tell

Must Listen Song: “When Things Were Simple”

-

Artist: Tony Ferraro & The Satans of Soft Rock

Album: Friend of Man and Beast Alike

Must Listen Song: “Satanic Verses”

-

Artist: Triple SP

Album: Disrupting the Harmony

Must Listen Song: “Symptom”

-

Artist: Twenty One Pilots

Album: Vessel

Must Listen Song: “House of Gold” & “Semi-Automatic”

-

Artist: Un Chien

Album: Un Chien

Must Listen Song: "Gasoline Rainbow"

-

Artist: W.A. Fite

Album: Builds. with. Age

Must Listen Song: “Dramatics”

-

Artist: We’rewolves

Albums: We’rewolves

Must Listen Song: “Words of a Black Suit Politician”

-

Artist: Whiskey Folk

Album: The Lonesome Underground

Must Listen Song: “Lights On the Highway”

-

Artist: Wild Child

Album: The Runaround

Must Listen Song: “Crazy Bird”

-

Artist: The Will Callers

Album: What Else is Left?

Must Listen Song: “House of Falling Cards”

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Top 10 EP’s of 2013 (
Spotify Playlist)

1.) Artist: Light the Fire

Album: Light the Fire

Must Listen Song: “All Or Nothing”

-

2.) Artist: Drayter

Album: Drayter

Must Listen Song: “Scream”

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3.) Artist: Here Holy Spain

Album: Under the Undertow

Must Listen Song: “Golden Gun”

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4.) Artist: Daylight Industries

Album: Faith Healer

Must Listen Song: “Sit In”

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5.) Artist: Son of Swan

Album: Son of Swan

Must Listen Song: "Dog Days"

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6.) Artist: Charming Liars

Album: New Disorder

Must Listen Song: “I’m Losing You”

-

7.) Artist: Enamored

Album: Requiem

Must Listen Song: “Never Again”

-

8.) Artist: B-Ners

Album: Back to Mexico

Must Listen Song: “Trouble Dog”

-

9.) Artist: The Circle

Album: Who I Am

Must Listen Song: “The Other Side”

-

10.) Artist: Paco Estrada

Album: How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Must Listen Song: “She”
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The Best of the Rest (EP’s) (
Spotify Playlist)

Artist: Amanda Ply

Album: Nothing More Than Me

Must Listen Song: “Stay”

-

Artist: Anna Lombard

Album: Head Full of Bells

Must Listen Song: “Leave Town”

-

Artist: The Bedlam Brothers

Album: Saddle Up

Must Listen Song: “We Ride Tonight”

-

Artist: Best Coast

Album: Fade Away

Must Listen Song: “I Wanna Know”

-

Artist: Betray the Dreamer

Album: Betray the Dreamer

Must Listen Song: “Transmissions”

 -

Artist: Black Books

Album: Aquarena

Must Listen Song: “Favorite Place”

-

Artist: Black Taxi

Album: Chiaroscuro

Must Listen Song: “Gone”

-

Artist: Brandon Callies Band

Album: Life is Still Good

Must Listen Song: “This Love” (Pantera cover)

-

Artist: Bravo Delta

Album: Shutdown Sequence

Must Listen Song: “We Stand, We Fall”

-

Artist: Chasin Aces

Album: Lost & Found

Must Listen Song: “Everglow”

-

Artist: Criminal Birds

Album: Criminal Birds

Must Listen Song: “Chill Out”

-

Artist: Descender

Album: Slow and Gold

Must Listen Song: “The Language”

-

Artist: Emily Hearn

Album: Promises

Must Listen Song: “Found a Heart”

-
Artist:
The Hanna Barbarians

Album: Spaceway Sessions, Vol. 2

Must Listen Song: "Oh, Spirit"
-

Artist: Kirk Baxley

Album: Cold as a Stone

Must Listen Song: “Rock ‘n’ Roll in My Veins”

-

Artist: Kirk Baxley

Album: Southern Son

Must Listen Song: “Times are Changing”

-

Artist: Lovebettie

Album: Rise

Must Listen Song: “Alarm”

-

Artist: Mike Mains & the Branches

Album: Everything

Must Listen Song: “In the Night”

-

Artist: Motel Mirrors

Album: Motel Mirrors

Must Listen Song: “Meet Me On the Corner”

-

Artist: Noelle Bean

Album: Bean EP

Must Listen Song: “Lois Lane”

-

Artist: Northern Faces

Album: Southern Places

Must Listen Song: “Under My Skin”

-

Artist:  Pageantry

Album: Friends of the Year

Must Listen Song: “Dirt”

-

Artist: Phavian

Album: Meridian II

Must Listen Song: “Hexenring”

-

Artist: Red Angel Theory

Album: Rise for Something

Must Listen Song: “Inception”

-

Artist: Rodney Parker & The 50 Peso Reward

Album: The Apology: Part 2 (NOTE: Technically this is an LP, but since some of the tracks were on Part 1, I decided to classify it as an EP.)

Must Listen Song: “Things You Make Me Do”

-

Artist: Royal Savages

Album: Royal Savages (Free download!)

Must Listen Song: “Racing Tears”

-

Artist: Signs of Reason

Album: Wake Up

Must Listen Song: “Choke”

-

Artist: Sleeperstar

Album: Blue Eyes

Must Listen Song: “Replay”

-

Artist: Solice

Album: Live EP

Must Listen Song: “Paralyzed”

-

Artist: Susy Sun

Album: Wanderlust

Must Listen Song: “Down”

-

Artist: The Swear

Album: Gold and Hymns and Hell

Must Listen Song: “Gold and Hymns and Hell”

-

Artist: Swindle Boys

Album: Motion

Must Listen Song: “Secrets In Our Fists”

-

Artist: Technicolor Hearts

Album: Under The Big Blue Umbrella Sky

Must Listen Song: “Chorus of Friends”

-

Artist: Triphazard

Album: Rushing Roulette

Must Listen Song: “Ribcage”

-

Artist: The Unlikely Candidates

Album: Follow My Feet

Must Listen Song: “Just Breathe”

-

Artist: Vinyl Pilot

Album: A Beautiful Disaster

Must Listen Song: “A Beautiful Disaster”

-

Artist: We the Ghost

Album: Sinking Suspicion

Must Listen Song: “Take Somebody Home”

-

Artist: White Elephant

Album: Greatest Hits, Vol. 1

Must Listen Song: “Song For The Sick And Hopeless”
_
Top 10 Concerts of 2013:
1.)
Riverboat Gamblers on Tuesday, 8-20-2013 @ Rubber Gloves.
2.) The Dirty River Boys w/ Whiskey Folk & Matt the Cat Trio on Friday, 11-22-2013 @ Granada Theater.
3.) Nothing More w/ Little Sisters of the Poor, Ursa & The Last Place You Look on Friday, 6-21-2013 @ Trees.
4.) Ours on Saturday, 8-10-2013 @ The Prophet Bar.
5.) Twenty One Pilots on Thursday, 11-14-2013 @ House of Blues.
6.) Sick Puppies w/ Charming Liars on Tuesday, 9-17-2013 @ House of Blues.
7.) Band of Heathens w/ The Southern Renaissance & Jamie Wilson on Friday, 12-20-2013 @ Granada Theater.
8.) Centro-matic w/ Tony Ferraro & the Satans of Soft Rock on Thursday, 1-31-2013 @ Dan’s Silverleaf.
9.) Muse w/ Dead Sara on Wednesday, 3-13-2013 @ American Airlines Center.
10.) Ishi (Digital Wounds CD release show) on Friday, 5-3-2013 @ Granada Theater.
_
There’s no doubt that 2013 was the best year yet for this little ol’ blog, in terms of traffic an such. I’d also have to say it was the most fun year I’ve had doing this thus far.

Let’s see; In all, I saw (and reviewed) 127 concerts this year. Marking not only my 500th concert, but also my 600th within this past 365 days. I attended my 100th concert (and then some) at my favorite venue, The Curtain Club. I went to SXSW (something I’ll hopefully repeat in 2014) for the first time ever, which was truly something else. The copious amounts of free music going on during that must be what heaven is like. Seriously, 10+ hour  days spent seeing a ton of bands from all over the world was great.

Aside from that, 2013 saw the official launch of On Tour Monthly, an online webzine I’m fortunate enough to be a staff writer for and contribute reviews to from time to time. There’s a ton of potential with that, and the websites already generating some good buzz, and it’s just a privilege to be a small part of it.

I also met and formed a partnership with a newer organization in the Dallas music scene; DFW Undercover.

So, as my seventh year of doing this draws to a close, I have to say, I feel good about it all. I’ve managed to carve out a good little niche for myself, but above that, I’ve met some awesome people, be them band members or fellow fans like myself.

And while I don’t say this nearly often enough, thanks to anyone and everyone who has ever visited this site. Thanks to everyone who has ever read anything I wrote or shared a review I did, or anything else that has been supportive. I’ve said since I started doing this that even if I can reach just one person and turn them on to a band they weren’t familiar with before, I’ll be satisfied. I still stand by that sentiment.

After all, whatever your passion is in, you don’t do that with the sole goal of getting famous or anything. Sure, that would be a nice by-product, but that’s not what it’s all about. Whether you’re a photographer, a musician, an aspiring writer like myself, or whatever, it’s about the sheer love you have for what you enjoy doing, because it’s an extension of yourself. And in the end, that’s more than enough.

Anyway, I hope you’ll all continue to enjoy the in-depth concert reviews I’ll be posting in the year to come.

Happy 2014!

Friday, September 20th, 2013 – Paco Estrada

Trees had put together a rather last minute local rock show for this night, with it coming together only about two weeks before. I knew nothing about it, aside from that Paco Estrada was playing it, doing his first full band Dallas show in three months, and it had been even longer than that since I saw him last, so there was no way I could miss this one.

There were only two opening bands, and I never caught the name of the first, probably because they had so many friends/fans out they didn’t think to drop their name, assuming everyone already knew who they were.

They didn’t do a lot for me, and part of that was due to their singers’ voice. In fairness, he did note he had been sick, even saying himself, “…My voice sounds like a bag of dicks…”, but all the same, there was only one song they did where I thought he sounded good and it was enjoyable. Aside from that, their music seemed a bit generic, very of pop/rock, and in a tiresome way.

A trio took the stage next, known as Nine Left Dead who had made the trek from Oklahoma City.

They opened with an instrumental song, which made me curious if that was going to be all they were, but starting with their next song, one of the members began singing (I believe it was the bass player).

The further they got into their show the more I enjoyed it, and some of their songs I thought were pretty well crafted, having some excellent music beds that were even catchy at times.

The only bad thing was they never really got any momentum going, often taking lengthy pauses in between songs, and at one point near the end the singer apologized to everyone, citing they were currently in the studio working on some stuff and they didn’t have much planned.

They could definitely stand to polish and tighten things up, but they are on the right track.

Last minute like this, you can’t expect to get an all-star lineup, but at least they were able to get one all-star act, and Paco Estrada and his band were about to take the stage.

When it came time for Paco and his band to start, pianist Scotty Isaacs began, softly striking the keys as he created a heavenly intro to “American Girls”. That was just one of several songs they did from the upcoming “Bedtime Stories” record, and Paco led them in winding it into their next song with some licks on his acoustic guitar.

Afterwards was when Paco formally introduced himself to everyone, though most of the meager crowd was probably already familiar with him. After another one of their new jams, they launched into one of the true gems from Paco’s recent years, and one that is just starting to find a life in the live set, “The Girl with the Heart of Steel”. “…The love you gave that could never be returned. So you took the knife and you cut your hand. You swore by your blood they could never break your heart again…” Paco belted out before they reached the chorus, “And that’s when you became the girl who could never feel…”.

He has penned a number of excellent songs over the years, and that one is close to the top of my list for being one of his best, especially in terms of lyrics. The new stuff kept coming with another catchy song, after which Paco slightly joked about one of the cities he frequents. “…Austin’s a good place for music, Dallas is of course great… But there’s just something about Tyler…” he said, not meaning any disrespect to the town at all, rather just saying it had a different vibe to it.

Things got more lively when they busted out “She”, whose more rock sound allowed Joel Bailey and Ryan Thomas Holley to cut loose a little more on their bass and guitar, respectively. Still, no one seemed to take more advantage of that song than drummer AJ “Irish” Blackleaf. He went ballistic on his kit, having almost a robotic style of playing by keeping his arms fairly rigid, but he tore it up, all the while wearing a smile, quite obviously having the time of his life.

As they wound up most of the upcoming music, they started to tap some of Paco’s (more recent) back catalog, with the fan favorite “Whiskey Kisses”, which sounds so much better when fleshed out by the full band. It was followed by another song all about love, which Paco explained was about a fairytalesque love, where you’re more or less caught up in the moment. It was a beautiful track, with the line (which I think I got right), “…These are the moments that make the hard times worth it…” being one that really stuck out to me.

That flow kept going with “When We Were Made”, Ryan adding some excellent notes to the end of it, which, while somewhat subtle, were enough to take the song to a whole other level. “Breaking Down” then brought the night to a close, the song springing to life towards the end when Paco crooned parts of the chorus. I really don’t think I’ve ever heard that song sound so intense before, as they embarked on more of an instrumental portion. As it drug on, I started to wonder if they were going to tack a cover song onto the end of it, as is tradition, or if they had switched it up in their time off. Eventually, it was met with the one response I was hoping for, the music subsiding as Paco sang, “Did I disappoint you, or leave a bad taste in your mouth?” I still say the addition of U2’s “One” is the best cover they’ve mixed with that song yet, and it seemed to sound extra amazing this night.

Paco had stated that would be their final song of the night, so as soon as it was over, the house music started coming back up, while a handful of fans begged for an encore. Their request was met when Paco stepped back up to the mic and said they did have one more for everyone. That last song was “Haunting Me”, and it was a nice end to their 59-minute long set.

It was an excellent show, and after again hearing some of those new songs, it got me all the more excited for “Bedtime Stories”, which will no doubt be a great collection of songs.

Also, the full band serves Paco, well, and after years of having a rotating cast of musicians accompanying him, it’s good to finally see some starting to became mainstays, like Joel and Scotty. Hopefully Ryan will be able to make this permanent, too, because his voice and slick playing added some nice elements to things this night.

Next up, Paco will be doing a couple of Austin shows, one on September 26th at 219 West Rooftop on 6th Street. The following night he’ll also be playing Darwin’s Pub, with Ryan Holley helping him out on both shows. Also, check out his records, including the very new “How I Spent My Summer Vacation” EP on his BANDCAMP PAGE. (Also, check out this interview Paco did with DFW Undercover.)

Despite the low turnout (which was expected for a last minute show), it was good night, and Paco and his band were more than worth the cover price.


Saturday, May 4th, 2013 – Cinco de Mustache Cinco: In Memory of Clint Waycaster

I was familiar with the annual Cinco de Mustache event, which took place at various Dallas venues since 2009, even though I never attended any of the concerts that always took place close to Cinco de Mayo. However, I was not familiar with the man who orchestrated the event, Clint Waycaster.

Sadly, Clint passed away sometime last year, though his annual Cinco de Mustache party was continued, this year spearheaded by Roland Rangel, as a way to honor Mr. Waycaster.

The Curtain Club was the host venue for this, and several great bands had been tapped to play it, some of whom I knew, others I didn’t.

The first band up was called At Night, and despite arriving early (around 8:40), I had missed most of the bands set, hearing only a handful of their songs.

I loved what I heard, though, as this four-piece rock outfits music featured a lot of their keyboard player, giving it a more distinct sound than most bands.

This proved to be a rather eclectic night when the next band, Cord, got on stage, and one of the instruments they had set up was a pedal steel guitar. It’s not often you see one of those on that stage, a stage ruled predominantly by rock and hard rock bands.

Before beginning, the bands singer made a brief speech about Clint, reminiscing about how he used to play songs for his friend. He talked about how Clint was always honest with him, telling him if a song was either terrible or great, then added a third response. “…Sometimes, I’d play a song and he start crying, and I’d think, ‘That must be a great song.”

They then started what was an extraordinary set, and while their first song didn’t strike me as being too country sounding, they quickly eased into it with the next song in their 30+ minute long set. They weren’t just traditional country music, though. There was a real rock flare to their music, too, even on the few songs where the lead guitarist took a seat at his pedal steel guitar.

Their stuff was impressive, with great music and well-written lyrics, which helped their set pass rather quickly, leading to their final song which the bands singer said he had written as part of another band many years ago.

I wish I could be a little more detailed with their set, but I can’t seem to find much about the band. Nevertheless, if you ever see the name Cord on a venue’s website, make a point to try to see them.

The night got more rocking with the next band, Meridian, who hadn’t done a show in about two and a half months. Making things more special was the fact that this show marked the return of an old friend to the lineup, as Moe Martinez was returning to drum for the band.

Almost as a way to celebrate his return, they opened their 35-minute set with “Nights Like This”, a track that hasn’t kicked off one of their live shows in quite some time. If Mark Sims and Shannon Nedved’s roaring guitars didn’t get your attention, then Moe’s drumming should have, as he tore into his kit. He had an obvious renewed passion for it, and even though I couldn’t see much of him this night, you could tell his heart was fully in it and he was savoring every moment of being back on stage. All that resulted in the entire band clicking more than I’ve seen them click in a long time. Throughout each chorus, vocalist Tim Ziegler often made a ripping motion with his as he sang the line, “…On nights like this, people will be ripped apart…”

There was no pause or awkward silence between songs, as they quickly moved on to “All Hands”, which, coupled with the other song, made for a killer way to start things off, and together those songs packed quite a wallop. And just an interesting side note, that was another song where Tim slightly changed up the lyrics, instead of signing “…I’ve found the next best silhouette to take the place of you…” on the chorus, he switched the latter part to, “…She’s got the shape of you…”.

Things kept moving right along with one of their newer songs, and during an instrumental break while bassist Chris Gentry, Shannon, Mark and Moe were throwing down, Tim shouted out Moe, asking, “Does anyone recognize Moe Martinez?!” Afterwards, Mark started them in on another track from their self-titled debut EP, the poppy sounding “Starts & Ends”. That one is still my favorite Meridian tune, and the newer version of it (new from the original demo at least) grows on me more and more each time I hear it.

Another older gem of the bands came next, a song that they’ve been doing since their inception and whose chorus goes, “…This is war, the city is going to burn tonight…” Hopefully, it will make the cut for the next album (whenever that may happen) because it is one of their best, and I love how it’s even eerie in a way. “Lazy Eye” was their next song, and is another standout new one they’ve created, and after it, they slowed things down a bit, but first Tim shouted out to a fellow singer/songwriter who he said helped him out on writing the tune.

It was Paco Estrada, who was headlining this night, and Tim said while he was struggling writing lyrics for the song “Train”, he went to Paco for help, spending a few days with him to get it written. While he was praising the man who is one of the best singer/songwriters Dallas has, Tim realized Paco was nowhere to be seen. “…And I’m saying all this and he’s not even here, so fuck him.” He declared, in a joking manner, of course. “Train” is always is a sign that the bands set is almost over, but this softer song wasn’t the next to last tune like usual. Instead, they picked the pace right back up with a song I was afraid they weren’t going to play this show, “Redigress”.

Tim had been goofing off throughout the show, thrusting his pelvis around at one point earlier, but during this song, he turned his back to the crowd and preceded to shakes his ass. It offered a great deal of comic relief so to speak, especially on what’s more of a serious song that ended with Tim propping a leg up on the center monitor, surveying the crowd while singing the final line, “…Fuck all your politics. Fuck all your stupid tricks. Fuck all the things you say. Words only get in the way.” That then brought them to their final song, which, as any Meridian fan knows was of course, “Hey Lover”.

They almost got through their set without anything happening, but near the end of that song, and coincidentally right at the line, “…When everything is broken…”, Shannons’ guitar went out on him due to some technical issue. You could see it all on his face, as he suddenly realized his guitar wasn’t making any noise, and while tried to fix real quick, there was only about thirty seconds left of the song, so eventually he just gave up, laughing it off and watching his band mates as they thrashed about.

Really, that can’t be held against them, not just because it was a technical issue, but it was only for the final bit of their show.

Overall, this was the best Meridian show I’ve seen in a long time, like, probably over a year. I attribute a lot of that to the return of Moe, since he was one of the founding members of the band, and was the missing component that honestly, I never knew was missing into this night.

The drummer they had to fill his shoes was great, but in hindsight, he never truly meshed with the band. And after being gone from Meridian for around a year and a half to focus on family, you could tell Moe was not only glad to once again be following his passion, but also playing some great rock music with his friends.

It’ll be interesting to see what lies ahead of the band now that their original lineup is back intact, and with them firing on all cylinders like they were this night, there’s shows will be something you want to witness firsthand.

Currently, they don’t have any shows booked, but you can find their debut EP in ITUNES, and by all means, you should purchase it.

After them was another Dallas band who I had heard a lot of good things about recently, and that was Dead Flowers, who was fresh of the release of their debut album.

The band mixes several different genres together, including rock, with some country and blues undertones, all of which were on display in their first song, “No Tragedy”. I’d say it was more of a country song, but the rapid beats Ed Chaney was supplying, along with the with the heavy and fast paced guitar chords lead guitarist Vince Tuley and singer and rhythm guitarist Corey Howe were playing made it more of a rock song, and one that instantly pulled you in. The country flare, at least in my opinion, came through on the lyrics, with part of the chorus being, “…Oh, my darling, I hope you see, even though we’re fucked up, we’re meant to be…” Definitely a good an impressive opening number, and they continued on with the following song on their “For You” record, “You’re Wrong”, which has more of a loud, fiery blues vibe to it.

“Were any of you at our CD release show here a few weeks ago?” Corey asked as some of their fans cheered to say they were. “Not here…” he then said, correcting himself and mentioning the right venue. He also asked if anyone had bought their album then. “Well, this song isn’t on it.” He finished as he, bassist Evan Winston Johnson, Vince and Ed broke into this non-album track, which was one of the best of their set. Near the end of it a string on Coreys’ guitar broke, resulting in him having to change guitars after finishing the track.

While plugging the guitar in, he took a moment to say how bad the brand of strings were. “…But I bought ten of them, so…” he finished. That then led them to a wonderful that told a story, a story of murder, and was aptly called “Murder Shuffle in a (Minor)”. “…Lay your hands on a woman be the greatest sin…” wailed Corey on one of the lines closer to the end of this explosive song, which ended up being my favorite of their set.

They did a few more songs, two of which I’m not sure of the titles, but sandwiched in-between those two was the soulful, bluesy track, “I’m A Man”. They then closed their 38-minute long set with the lead track and longest song from their album, “I Won’t Go”, which was just another one of their many great songs, and left me wishing they could play a little longer, because I was desperately wanting to hear more. And after all, isn’t that how a band should leave the crowd?

I don’t know why I hadn’t checked out Dead Flowers before this, even if it was as simple as listening to their music online, but I’m regretting not now, because they were amazing and lived up to all the positive stuff I had heard about them.

Corey has an amazing voice, that can even sound a little rough around the edges at times, which makes their sound that much better, given all the genres they roll together. He and his band mates also deliver a killer show on top of that, and even though they aren’t your traditional rock band, their show was every bit as intense as the band before them.

They’re a band you must check out, at the very least by previewing their music on ITUNES, and if you’d be interested in seeing a show, they have a couple coming up in Dallas, one of which will be on May 31st at Club Dada, the other at Three Links on June 14th.

You don’t often see nights like this where every band from start to finish is about the same caliber of talent, but so far they all had been, and there was never a moment where things seemed to dip, nor would there be as Paco Estrada and his band got ready to close out the show.

They embarked on their set with “American Girls”, which has become the new standard opener, and out of the newer music Paco is playing these days, this one is hands down the best of them all. It has a more simple rock sound to it, in the classic rock sense, though much softer, since Pacos’ acoustic guitar is the most prevalent instrument, despite being surrounded by a full band. “…From the Jersey girls to the Southern belles…” he crooned at one point in the song, in his soulful and rich sounding voice. They continued with another new song, which I believe is titled “The Way I Love You”, and it’s Paco’s specialty, a beautiful love song with great lyrics, while Scotty Isaacs piano playing and the softer, yet thick bass lines Joel Bailey was cranking out perfectly accented the song.

The songs about love continued, as the band tackled one of Paco’s more recent hits, “When We Were Made”, from the “Definite and Indefinite…” record. It had all of his fans caught up in it, some of whom were even swaying side to side while he sang the chorus, “…That’s when we were made for each other.” Another classic of his followed, and before starting it Paco joked, saying something to the effect of it being a cautionary tale of why not to play with shovels. He was setting up “Breaking Down”, which begins with the line, “You grab your shovel and your digging axe, ‘cause you have to be the first in line to bury the past…” However, that is not the message of one of Paco’s more personal songs, where he later sings, “My father had a heart attack at fifty-eight, I never thought that man was built to break…” Still, I find the best part of this song to be the latest cover he has mashed it up with.

After one of the last choruses, the band, which was rounded out by drummer AJ Blackleaf and an electric guitarist, continued the music bed, and after a musical break, Paco began singing the classic song from U2, “One”. He started at the line, “Did I disappoint you, or leave a bad taste in your mouth?”, however it was when he got to, “…And I can’t be holdin’ on to what you got, when all you got is hurt.” where it really sprang to life. You could see the emotion and passion Paco was putting into his singing bleeding out onto his face, then, and it was glorious.

Even if it is but a partial cover, he and his band own it, making it entirely their own. That wasn’t the only cover of this show, though, as next they did a song I had never heard Paco play before, and that was Modern English’s “I Melt with You”. It was slower than the original (or even the various covers that I’ve heard of it), transforming the song from a rock track to more along the lines of easy listening, so to speak. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and he was able to pull it off in a way that made it seem like one of his own songs.

Afterwards, the band started talking amongst themselves, and during that a female fan ran and jumped on stage, whispering into Paco’s ear. She then approached the mic and asked everyone to give it up for Paco. “It’s like I have my own personal cheerleaders.” Said Paco once she had left the stage and he retook the mic.

He informed everyone he had promised that woman he would play a song she had requested, and his band mates filed off stage, meaning this next song was going to be a stripped down acoustic.

I wondered what it would, because in his decade plus long career, he’s written countless songs that are fan favorites. I was anxiously awaiting the start of the song, when he suddenly sang, “New York down to Mexico, Seattle to the Oklahoma. Your ghost will always haunt my soul. Los Angeles to Baltimore…” That’s the opening lines of “I Will Follow”, a song I had not heard in years. It was wonderful getting to hear it again, though Paco did something he seldom did during this song, and that was stumble through the lyrics, at least at one line.

In his defense, his singing abruptly gets quicker as he sings, “…No I’m not telling you lies, I’m not telling you this so that you’ll be surprised. I’m just telling you this to get shit off my chest, it’s the only way that I have learned to survive…” Early on in that he said the wrong line, skipping ahead in the song a bit, which threw him completely off, as he shook his head like, “I can’t believe I did that.”, then giving himself a second before picking back up where he was supposed to be.

The slipup didn’t affect the song much, and is easily forgivable in my opinion, besides, it was just so fantastic hearing that oldie again.

That put them at the tail end of their 45-minute long set, and after the band rejoined Paco, they performed the gorgeous, “I Will Never Let You Go”, which really highlight Scotty’s talent as a pianist. That then took them to their final song of the night, which Paco dedicated to a friend and legend of the North Texas music scene, Matt Slider, best known as the singer of The FEDS, a band that had a nice thirteen plus year run. He happened to be in attendance, and earlier in the show, while talking to Slider, he told me he hoped Paco would play a certain song, and it was the song that usually ends his sets, “Haunting Me”.  It’s another song that is done as a mash-up, and after finishing it out, Paco tacked on some lines from Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” to conclude the song.

This was a fine way to cap of an incredible night, and I’ll say it once again, Paco Estrada is one of the best singer/songwriter’s in the area, and this band he now has backing him is one of the best he’s had in some time.

If for some reason you haven’t heard of him yet, head over to his BANDCAMP PAGE to find, listen to and buy most of his releases. Also, keep a check on his FACEBOOK PAGE for upcoming show dates.

It was another incredible night at my favorite Deep Ellum haunt, especially since everything this night was done in memory of Clint Waycaster, and the money from the raffles and auctions they were doing went to benefit a charity. Fun was had by all, and even though I didn’t know Clint, I imagine he would like the fact that his event was being continued and that people were having fun at it, instead of being saddened by his early passing. So, here’s to hoping the Cinco de Mustache celebration continues next year with a sixth edition.

Lastly, I have a random piece of info. This show took place nearly seven years to the day that I first walked through the doors of the Curtain Club. Who was playing here the night of May back in 2006? Well, one band was SouthFM, and the other was Darby. The former was the rock band Paco used to front, while the latter act was led by Tim Ziegler. Point is, after all these years, I find it neat that those two singers are still sharing the stage with each other in their respective current projects.

Saturday, March 16th, 2013 – SXSW 2013: Day III Part II

My dad and I then made our way back to the Heart of Texas Rockfest, where the Pittsburgh, PA based band, Lovebettie, was getting ready to rock the stage.

They opened their 28-minute long set with “Red Roses”, the lead track from their most recent EP, which made it immediately clear that they weren’t like any other band. They classify themselves as Swagger Rock, which is pretty accurate, and guitarist, C.T. Fields, bassist, Dan Mulkeen, and drummer, Larry Shotter, all added a certain amount of attitude with their individual parts. It was all set off by Alexandra Naples’s voice, which had a deep and powerful soul sound to it. In fact, that song and most of their others even had an all-around soul vibe to them, but in a neo sense. A majority of their set was made up of newer songs of theirs, like “Alarm” and “Downpour”, which saw Alexandra put her keyboard to use. They busted out another song, before doing a cover, which I was not expecting. Not once had I thought that Lovebettie sounded like Madonna, yet here they were doing a cover of the iconic “Material Girl”, while Alexandra sauntered all over the stage. Her voice was nothing like that of Madonnas’, and it probably won’t shock anyone when I say I’ve never been a real fan of hers, so in my opinion, Lovebettie cranked out a much superior version of the song than the original. They started to wind things down with “Follow”, which was my personal favorite song of their set and was just a solid rock track, and afterwards Alexandra announced their final song was titled “Monsters”, as C.T. started in with a killer riff. The music bed for it flowed quite nicely, and it was a good song to end with.

Lovebettie was different than any other band I saw while here in Austin, and while I don’t know if I’d say they are cutting edge, they do have a sound entirely their own. Really, I haven’t ever heard a band even similar to them.

The live show was really good, with them putting on a good performance, but even stronger was the presence they had.

Definitely a band to see, and if you live in Pittsburgh, check out their CD release show on April 20th at Diesel. They’ll also be performing at the Launch Music Conference in Lancaster, PA on April 27th.

They have an EP and LP that you can find in ITUNES, and their new album should be available soon as well. Give them all a listen, because they’re definitely worth it.

Over on the other stage, a band from Jacksonville, Florida called The Pinz were ready to start.

The more Pop/Rock for-piece opened with “Teenage Stereotype”, which didn’t quite sound like it did on the recordings I had listened to. Singer and guitarist, Walter Jerk, had a much more whiney voice than what came through on their recorded music, more stereotypical of a band of this genre. I didn’t like it nearly as much as I thought I might, but it wasn’t terrible… yet. “Break My Heart” seemed filled with the usual teenage angst, and the following song was when things started to deteriorate in my opinion. While Walters’ voice was far from great, he had sounded good thus far, before falling flat in the midst of their next song and he never recovered. On top of that, upon finishing that song he said how lame everyone was for not being more into the music. I’m sorry, but I don’t like when a band insults the crowd like that. It doesn’t make them like the band more, and for me, it puts you in a place there’s no coming back from. Things continued getting worse over the next several songs, to the point one guy was even heckling the band, and Walter wasn’t going to take it. “…That’s a nice polo shirt you got on, dude. Why don’t you pop the collar up?” I have to admit, that was funny, and sadly the highlight of their set as they ended their 30-minute set with a butchered cover The Who’s “My Generation”.

By that time they had played at least ten minutes too long, and I really couldn’t find any good quality about the band. They didn’t even seem all that cohesive.

No, I didn’t think much about them, but if you want to listen to their music, they have to EP’s available on BANDCAMP.

Luckily, things got better with Afterburn, a band from Suffolk New York whose members are all part of the FDNY.

They began with their song “Here Now”, which ,made them out to be your typical Rock/Hard Rock band, but there’s nothing wrong with that if you do it well. Joe Martin did a sweet guitar solo during the song, and the rest of the band, drummer, Mike Gallino, bassist, John Lopez, and vocalist, Rich Appenzeller, were in good form, too, as they cranked out the song, soon moving on to “To the Grave”. Afterwards, Rich made a little speech about being out here and seeing great music, before more instructing everyone to “…go home and fuck…” at the end of the night. Seemed like an odd tangent in a way, but whatever works. I saw their next couple of songs, and while enjoying them, I’m not gonna lie, the lyrical content got repetitive, as they all were about a girl and fit the typical mold. I guess that would make it generic, but it was an all right generic.

The reason I only caught a portion of their set was because at eight there was a singer/songwriter from Nashville playing the upstairs portion of Amped, and her name was Dylan Taylor.

It was pretty empty in the modern looking venue, making her 42-minute long set feel almost like a private performance. The first song she did was “Kiss Ya Right Back”, which was more or less a typical love song, and while I hate to draw comparisons between acts, this song was almost Taylor Swiftesque. That was the only song she did that you could say that about, though, and the mood got a little darker in a way with “Dirty Detox”, which was the complete opposite of that more up-tempo song she started with, making things a little more real and raw. After finishing it, she shared an anecdote about some neighbors in her apartment in complex who “hotbox” their apartment as she put it with all the weed they smoke. “…If you want to do it that’s fine, but don’t advertise it…” she said. It didn’t get much of a reaction after she finished it all, so she moved on to a newer song, “Whiskey Jaded”. Those songs proved she wasn’t nearly as innocent as that first song made her out to be, and she continued down that path saying she wrote her next song when she was sick and had time to think about things. The song was about herpes, and aptly titled “STD”. Honestly, I had my doubts that you could make a quality song about something like that, yet “STD” managed to tell a story, covering everything from a guy contracting it, to passing it on and even the girl getting pregnant. Best of all, it was told with several humorous lines, like, “…You fucked the wrong dick and now it’s too late…” and “…But he’s gonna hate you every day, ‘cause that shit don’t discriminate…”, referring to the child. It’s definitely a classic, as was her next song, “Bitch Be Ready”, whose title alone is probably pretty self-explanatory, and afterwards she got a little more serious with “Whisky Man”, whose lyrics were far more poignant and made the atmosphere a little somber. “I Like That” was the next song Dylan played, which she set up as being a song about “…liking a boy who likes all the wrong things…”. “Cigarettes and nicotine, caught drinking. Yeah, he’s got tattoos all over his back…” she crooned on the first line. Once it was over, she said, “I wrote that at fifteen, and that’s when momma knew there was a problem.” She then added, “…She hasn’t even seen my newest tattoo yet…”, seeming just a little apprehensive about that. She did a couple more newer songs, one of which was called “Shooting Star”, while the other she said was about her family, saying that one side of her ancestors had a very rich history and were into the arts and such. “…But they’re all dead now…” she said, saying all she had left was the redneck side of her family, mentioning how closed-minded they are. It was another kinda funny song, and probably one most everyone can relate to, and that led her to the final song of her set, “Lie to Me”, which is also the last song on her self-titled record.

By listening to her music it’s obvious she’s a incredibly talented singer/songwriter who has a real knack for this. She’s got a great voice, and throughout all the songs had a certain cheerful and sweet quality to her voice, even while singing a song like “Bitch Be Ready”. But best of all, you could tell the difference between her older songs and the newer stuff, as there was a little more substance to them. And I still think a truly great musician/band is one who is continuously evolving, and makes it evident in their music.

You can get a free download of most of Dylan’s EP over on NOISETRADE, and to purchase the couple of tracks that aren’t on it, simply go to ITUNES.

Oh, and for the record, she is nothing like Taylor Swift. If anything she’s the anti-Swift, and I mean that in the best possible way, because the music industry needs more creative, edgy songs, rather than the same old generic BS.

I had tried (and successfully at that) to not see many Dallas area bands down here, but another that had to be on the list was SpaceCamp, who was going to play Darwin’s at nine.

It was about ten minutes till, so I figured I had plenty of time, but by the time I made it to Darwin’s and walked in, I realized they had already started.

They were some in the midst of “The Dancer”, which I believe was also the song that acoustic guitarist and co-singer, Paco Estrada, added a few lines of “Never Gonna Dance Again” to. Another track from their “The Daydreamers Guide to: Wasting Time” EP came next, and it was the one that is essentially the bands anthem, “Reach for the Sun”. “…Let the drive start taking over beyond the talent that you’re born with. Amateurs to great composers, captains approaching oceans, stay afloat and keep hope close. Unless you try, you’ll never know so go.” rapped vocalist, Jeremy Rodriguez, spitting out the lines with ease, before Paco took over on the chorus, “Go and reach for the sun, reach for the sun. It’s what you were born to do…” They didn’t have much room on stage, but Jeremy made the best of it, and bounced up and down while finishing up the second verse. After finishing it, Jeremy told everyone who they were, adding something to the effect of, “We came all the way from Dallas and had to drive 4 whole hours to get here.”, acting like it had been an arduous journey. You could tell he was joking about it, as they moved on to one of their newer songs, “Dancing With The Devil”, which is a little slower and has a nice, steady beat supplied by AJ Blackleaf, which was aided by bassist, Joel Bailey. It was the first time I’d heard that one live, and it was even better than what I was expecting. Guitarist, Mike Dove, started them in on another track, slowly plucking at the strings on his guitar at first, quickly coming together and making the almost triumphant notes that are the essence of “White Horses”. “So, you might know this next song…” said Jeremy after finishing up their previous tune. “…Has anyone heard of an artist called Jay-Z?” The people seemed excited by that, as the Alt/Hip-Hop band launched into a cover of “Ain’t No Love”. Now, I’m not a real of true Hip-Hop, like Jay-Z for instance, but I really enjoyed SpaceCamp’s version, which, like all their other songs, saw Paco singing parts of it, specifically the chorus, “Ain’t no love in the heart of the city…”. It seemed like I hadn’t been there but ten minutes (though I know it was longer), and now the band was getting ready to wrap up their set. Jeremy mentioned this final song he thought was the best song he’s ever written, noting it is his personal favorite, and also stating that it’s a beautiful song. Paco then asked if him if he might cry before it was all over. “I might.” Jeremy responded, to which Paco replied, mainly speaking to the  crowd, “If he doesn’t cry during this song, I don’t think he’s even human.” The song they spoke of was “Before you Die”, a song that by all means should make you stop and think, and will most likely also paint  vivid picture in your mind. The chorus, “I will be the last thing that you see before you die. I will be the last thing on your mind. I touched you once you burn me twice…”, is the most beautiful part of the song in my opinion, but Jeremy does an excellent job at rattling off several events, like, “…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?…”, that could possibly be your final thoughts. No one was in tears at the end of it, but it surely had everyone deep in thought.

I’d only seen them once before this (since their live shows are somewhat of a rarity), and you could see the improvements.

They’ve tightened up since last July, and were more cohesive, especially the core group of Mike, Paco and Jeremy. It was also nice to see them with some room on stage, verses the other show I caught, where they literally had almost no room to move, and discover that they can put on a really good live show.

I thought it was a great set, and I absolutely love this band, simply because they are so different. Yes, they have some Rap/Hip-Hop influences, but it’s not purely that genre, and is a little different from anything else I’ve ever heard. Plus, in their own way, they’re kind of a super group, with each of them having been fixtures in the Dallas music scene for many years, or in Paco’s case, for at least the last decade.

You can find their EP on either ITUNES or BANDCAMP, and if you want to check out their three newer singles, watch the videos over on their YOUTUBE CHANNEL.

The festival was in its final hours at this point, and to I returned to the Heart of Texas Rockfest to close out the night.

This evening, the festival had a little section devoted entirely to the women of rock, featuring a handful of female fronted bands, and when I got there the Los Angeles based LA Velvet was about to start.

They kicked their 28-minute long set with “Set Me Free”, and as much as it was a rock song, it also had a pop vibe to I. Not like your standard Rock/Pop music though, it was different, and a sound all their own. They followed it with “Don’t Push It”, another track from their 2011 record, “The One I Love”, which continued the primal, sultry themes established by their opener, which just so happened to be a trait most of their music had. That was also accentuated by singer and guitarist, Laura V’s accent (I don’t recall what country she said she was from, though I want to say it was somewhere in South America. My apologies if I’m wrong.) After another number, Laura ditched her guitar for a couple songs. She sauntered around the stage during the almost dance type song, “You Make My Heart Stop Beating”, while guitarist and bassist, Staffan Osterlind and Nate Benz, respectively, thrashed around to Ryan Propoggio’s solid drumming, really getting into the song. Things got more fun with their next one, “I’m Addicted to Your Love”, which was more of a sing along on the chorus, as Laura belted out the phrase that is the song’s title, and there was also a killer solo from Staffan on this one, too.  Afterwards, Laura picked her guitar back up and took a moment to formally introduce her band mates and herself to the audience. It was also at this time that Ryan tried to get them to deviate from their setlist, saying they were going to end by doing a song that they rarely play. “No we’re not…” Laura said, adding, “…We’ve saved the best for last…” That left me curious as to what song Ryan was wanting to play, but after hearing “Down and Dirty”, I don’t think they could have done anything that could have been better than it.

They’re an excellent band and put on a great live show that seemed to have most of the crowd very entertained.

Like I touched on, their sound was more unique than most bands, and is something more completely their own. It’s a little rock, a little pop and (especially on their recorded stuff) there’s even some techno elements. That makes it different and standout, which in turn makes sure the band leaves an impression.

I really enjoyed, even more than I thought I would, and I would suggest checking out their albums in ITUNES.

Another band from LA, Raushi, was ready to go on the other stage, and drummer, Johny Pistol, got them started on their first song, a catchy number titled “Don’t Call Me”, before the guitarists and bassist soon exploded into it. It was a high-energy song, and the band members matched the intensity of the song, covering every inch of the stage, and vocalist, Dani Raushi, did a lot of interacting with the crowd from the get go. As they started their next song, “Everything You Love to Hate”, I realized the guys of Triple SP where back stage just hanging out and went over and talked to them for a few minutes. I think I missed out on about two songs, and as I made my way back to the stage, I heard Dani saying, “…I’m not bi-curious, I’m bi-serious.” That was their segue into their next song, and I assume that made more sense when it wasn’t just heard out of context. You could tell she, guitarists, Jack Sin and Brett Bakman, bassist, Beau Ashley, and Johny were serious about what they were doing, though, and they managed to get more into over the course of their next couple of songs before finishing their 24-minute long set with the powerful rocker, “Over the Edge”.

Their live show was really great, and that’s definitely where it is with Raushi. That’s not to say their music isn’t good, but it’s your standard Rock/Pop stuff, which they happen to pull off rather well.

You can find their album “High Tides Collide” in ITUNES, and if anyone lives in Oakland, CA, catch them at The Stork on June 5th.

The next band up was Diemonds all the way from Toronto, and this hard and heavy quintet tore out of the gates with the somewhat suggestive, “Trick or Treat”. It was filled with blazing riffs and pulse pounding beats, which not only seemed to draw everyone in, but also established the bands fierce attitude. “Loud N’ Nasty” was just that, with some dirtied up chords, played by bassist, Tommy Cee, and guitarists, C.C. Diemond and Daniel Dekay, who cranked out the song with a passion, eventually segueing it into “Get the Fuck Outta Here”, which was really started by drummer, Aiden Tranquada. “…I gotta get the fuck out of here. Leave it all behind. Pack it up and get out of here…” sang vocalist, Priya Panda, on the chorus, pushing her voice to somewhat of a snarl, which fit the song well. They followed it with the quick, fast paced “Livin’ Tonight”, and then “Mystery”, which, like all their other songs, had a certain sense of urgency to it. Afterwards, Aiden performed a short drum solo, which led them into a song from their “In the Rough” EP, “Highway”, during which C.C. and Daniel had a dueling guitar solo, literally. The two acted as if they were getting into a fight right there on stage, which was really made believable when one spit on the other, then one played a few notes, while the other remarked with some more riffs, and that went back and forth for a moment, before they returned to the song and finished it up. Their 30-minute set was almost over now, but they had a special treat for everyone for their final song. The audience got ecstatic upon hearing the band shouting, “Oi, oi, oi…”, chanting right along with them as they started up a cover of the AC/DC classic, “T.N.T.”. I’m pretty certain I’ve never heard a female fronted band cover that song before, but Priya put just as much raw energy into as Bon Scott did… Maybe even a little more. Their version was spectacular, and leaving the crowd with a song they were familiar with seemed like a good move, because everybody seemed to be wanting more.

As I said, their songs had a sense of urgency to them, like they were on a mission. Presumably that mission was to put on a memorable show and win over some new fans, in which case they succeeded.

They were serious about it all, but not overly so, and you could tell they planned on and did leave it all out on the stage.

Killer band, and one you definitely should check out.

They have an LP and an EP available in ITUNES, and to see al their upcoming tour dates, go HERE.

Dead Lotus Society was up next, and I had an inkling that I wouldn’t much care for them, not just by the way they looked, but also by how the band name on their banner was written, which looked extremely metal.

Sure enough, they were metal, and very heavy metal at that. Vocalist, Hyatt Llorona, did way too much screaming for my tastes, but I had no clue what else was going on, so I stuck it out for awhile, waiting for midnight which was when the night owl bus service started.

I just simply don’t like that style of music, it’s just how I am, and while I’m not going to criticize them or anything, Hyatt did say one thing I disagreed with. A few songs into their set several people walked away from the stage, and after finishing one song, she pointed that out. “…It’s okay, some people just don’t like to be brought out of their comfort zones…” she said., like that was what it was. It’s not, though, it’s that people don’t want to listen to what they consider to be terrible music. I know, because I listened to them and the whole time kind of wished I had an ice pick to bust my eardrums with.

Point is, it has nothing to do with people wanting to stay in their comfort zones and everything with each individuals musical preferences.

Well, that was it, the end of the night and my few days at SXSW.

So, what are my thoughts of the music festival…

Well, I thought that if I had the extra cash one year I would get an official SXSW badge/wristband, but after this experience, I can say I would never waste money on that.

For starters, most of the bands that do play the official shows will most likely tour back through the area soon. Now, I didn’t even pay attention to what bands were playing the official showcases, but I’ll use the band Paramore as an example. Sure, it’d be cool to see them in a intimate club setting rather than an arena, but why when you can see them do the exact same show and then some probably within the next twelve months?

I saw lines outside some of the venues forming in the mid afternoon, three hours or more before the bands were supposed to start, and the people were just sitting on the sidewalk, in my opinion wasting time to see bands that they’ve essentially been told to like by mainstream radio.

And during those, say, three hours spent waiting in line, they could have seen at least six bands at the Heart of Texas Rockfest. Bands that were every bit as great as the major label band they were probably waiting to see.

I think I mentioned something like this in my review of my first day here in Austin, but I looked at this as a chance to see bands I’d never seen before. Some of them I had heard of awhile ago online, others I didn’t even know existed until browsing all the bands playing the free stuff, but I just wanted to see bands I hadn’t seen before and may well not see again. See, I’ve been a fan of local music long enough to know bands come and go, breaking up when they seem to be at the top of their game, and the sad truth is some of the bands I saw this year may not even be together a year from now.

But I digress. The actual SXSW is too commercialized, and I’ve heard plenty of other people say the same thing. It’s your Red Gorilla Music Festivals and your Heart of Texas Rockfest’s that are keeping the spirit of the original SXSW alive in showcasing local talent from across the world, and I feel those are the festivals you need to attend.

Yeah, that’s my little rant. I guess the main point I’m wanting to make is if you go to SXSW in future years, make a point to check out at least some of the bands playing those two free festivals I mentioned along with the official SXSW shows. Who knows, you might discover your next favorite band, and I know I stumbled across plenty of gems in just two and a half days.

Now, to anxiously await March 2014. I know I’ll definitely return to Austin to bombard my ears with all the musical greatness, and hopefully for the full week, too. Oh, and hopefully my voice won’t fail me then, ‘cause I imagine it would have been much more enjoyable if I had been able to talk.

Saturday, February 9th, 2013 – “…Rock ‘n’ Roll Gets the Demons Out…”

If you read my previous blog entry, then you might recall I said that, that show was a bit eclectic. While it was, it has nothing on the show that went down at Tomcats West this night.

Yeah, I made a VERY rare trip over to Fort Worth. Nothing against the city, but living north of Dallas means that logistically it’s just not convenient to get to. An exception was made for this show, though, which featured two of my favorite area acts.

The first act of the night was an acoustic duo by the name, Myrick. I believe that was the last name of the singer of the group, who played an acoustic guitar and was accompanied by another acoustic guitarist (or maybe it was a bassist. Honestly, I didn’t pay much attention.)

With incredible subpar vocals, I quickly lost interest. Their set at least seemed to go by quickly, but by far the worst part of it was the end when he did a parody of Green Day’s “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)”. Obviously, it was set to the same tune, though he called his parody, “Don’t Cum In My Eye”. Evidently I’m still juvenile enough to find a bit of humor in that (and by “bit”, I mean a VERY minuscule amount), but no amount of humor could save it. It only lasted about a minute, before he abruptly stopped and said, “That’s it…”, then walked off stage. Oh, wait, I think I get why he only needed a minute to do the song now…

Meridian was the first actual band of the night, though they, or specifically vocalist, Tim Ziegler, looked a little different. He was without his long hair and beard, and was almost unrecognizable at first glance, looking more like he did when I first met him nearly seven years ago, when he fronted the band Darby.

“Re-digress” kicked off their 38-minute long set. Somehow, I didn’t notice right away when it happened, and then all of sudden I realized guitarists, Mark Sims and Shannon Nedved, drummer, Joe Maurer, and Tim were the only guys on stage. They handled it well, and didn’t act like they were down a band mate, finishing the song strong, and then Tim asked what was up with Chris Gentry. Apparently, he had broken the main string on his bass, which was what left him incapacitated for most of that song, and even a few minutes after. That meant Tim had to make some small talk, and he first mentioned they had played here a several months before and that they’d like to get back a little more often. That was about all the topics he had prepared. “…Chris, hurry up. This is getting uncomfortable for me…” he said, succeeding at being funny and sounding nervous. Chris finally rejoined them, having borrowed a bass from one of the other bands. They were then able to move on, and began one of their most rocking numbers, “All Hands”. They followed it with one of their newest songs, and afterwards took a momentary pause where Tim killed some time. “Listen, I don’t want anyone here tagging me in any shit…” he said. He proceeded to say that he was technically at work, and had taking time off to perform this show, meaning he couldn’t be drinking, and he didn’t want any photos to make it look otherwise. So, once that was cleared up, they tore into “Nights Like This”, which was pretty flawless, except toward the end, when Chris again had to leave with some bass issues. “…We lost our bassist again…” Tim said when the song was over. Mark said something, to which Tim responded, “Oh yeah, we don’t need him for the first part of this next song.” The current four piece then started “Starts and Ends”. “You told them all just what they can do. You got the shortest part of the straw you drew… I draw the curtain back and you take a bow. Did I catch you off guard or get it right somehow?…” sang Tim on the first verse. This was the first time I’ve seen them since getting their new EP, meaning this was the first time I really knew that song since they rewrote it over a year ago. I had missed singing along to that one more than I had realized, and it still stands out as my favorite Meridian song. Chris once again got back on stage pretty early on in that one, and stuck around for another newer song, “Lazy Eye”, which has a more dominant rhythm section. Tim couldn’t go without poking fun of the situation, and told Chris he might be getting a pink slip the next day, then said they might be in the market for a new bass player. Chris didn’t have a verbal retort to that, though he did act like he was about knee Tim right in the crotch. “Train” brought things down a few notches and perfectly showcases the bands softer side, as it is a beauty of a tune, but is still something you can easily rock out to. Tim announced they had one last song, a Mark played the first notes of “Hey Lover”, before Joe busted in on the drums, really getting it underway.

It was far from a perfect show, but Chris deserves some major props for doing the best he could in an unlikely situation. When he was on stage, he gave it his all as usual. It was just an unfortunate circumstance, and really, how many times have you seen a bass player break a string? I’ve seen nearly five hundred concerts over the years, and I can only recall one band who suffered from a broken bass string while performing.

Plus, Shannon and Mark put on a thoroughly entertaining show by themselves, so they were able to draw attention away from everything, and Tim is still one of the best singers and performers I’ve had the pleasure of seeing. Point is, in the end it worked out alright.

Give their debut, self-titled EP a listen, and if you like it, then buy it in ITUNES. And while they don’t have anything scheduled right now, keep an eye on their REVERBNATION PAGE, because they’ll most likely be doing a show sometime within the next couple of months.

A band by the name of Silhouette was next up, and they brought the people, which I took as a positive sign. I mean, if a band can pull fifty plus people, they have to be good, right? The answer is yes… But not to everybody.

I don’t know what the whole deal was, but this was billed as their “comeback show”, and from hearing them talk, it seemed like the band had been almost completely reformed since they last played. I don’t know what they were like before, but now, they were a very hardcore metal act. My interest was lost immediately, especially because their first song was lyrically rapped, in the vein of Linkin Park. If that’s what works for them, okay, but I felt it seemed like they were stuck in a time warp. I mean, that’s been done, many times over at that. Luckily, all their music didn’t sound like that, but with all the screaming, I couldn’t even pretend to like them.

Their set dragged on, and I was relieved when they finally finished.

I mentioned this was an odd billing of bands, and here is where it got really interesting. There are a couple of genres that could pull off playing after a hardcore metal band, like a hardrock outfit, or maybe even a rock group, but Paco Estrada and his band are neither of those. In fact, they’re the polar opposite.

Paco’s backing band looked mostly the same as the last time I had seen him, with Scotty Isaacs manning the keyboard/piano, and there was still a drummer, Irish, whose drum kit was fairly small, consisting mainly of a few toms and a snare. But then you had Joel Bailey, who has been added as the bassist. Along with Pacos’ acoustic guitar, it makes for some lovely music, but a type that quickly pushed all the metal heads out the door.

A lot of Paco’s newer stuff is making it into his sets these days, like the opener, “American Girls”. Over the last decade or so, Paco has written some real gems in all the various bands he’s played with, but that one is by far one of the best. There’s a certain amount of nostalgia the song conveys, while it bears more of a folk sound.  I believe they followed it with another new song, though Paco has been known to play some covers too, so it could go either way. Next, I know for sure they did a cover song, doing a more minimalist rendition of The Cars, “Who’s Gonna Drive You Home Tonight?”. They do a mean cover of it, and put a pretty unique spin on a classic song. They ran through a couple more, with the first of those two really sticking out to me. I don’t think it was a cover, though it sounded like it could pass as one. I mean that as a compliment, because if it wasn’t, then it sounded authentic enough that it could have been written by one of the greats. As usual, some of Paco’s fan favorites had been saved for last, and he began to pluck away at the strings on his guitar, leading into “Breaking Down”. “You grab your shovel and your digging axe, ‘cause you have to be the first in line to bury the past. You put a smile on and try to believe it, but I know how much it hurts you to leave it…” he crooned. This is also one he’s known for adding portions of cover songs to, one of the best of which I’ve always thought was a Peter Gabriel song he used to tack on, but tonight, I think I found a new favorite. After one of the later choruses from his original, Paco belted out the chorus of U2’s “One”, “…You say, one love, one life when it’s one need in the night. One love, we get to share it, leaves you baby if you don’t care for it…” There’s always a deep passion in Pacos’ voice when he sings, but it seemed magnified on this song. It bleed out onto his voice, especially on the line, “…You say love is a temple, love a higher law. Love is a temple, love the higher law. You ask me to enter, but then you make me crawl. And I can’t be holding’ on to what you got, when all you got is hurt…” as well as the chorus that followed. I was awestruck. That was one of the most amazing cover songs I have ever heard, and I know this may sound like sacrilege, but while I have never seen U2 live, I can’t imagine Bono could make his own song connect with and touch the audience the way Paco did this night. It didn’t seem like they had been up there anytime, but already they had arrived at the final song of their 38-minute long set, “Haunting Me”, which featured pieces of another cover song, “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” by Whitney Houston.

Paco’s music has gone through a lot of changes over the years, from playing with rock bands, to spending some time as a solo artist, but hopefully this latest band of his will stick around for a little while. Together they make what is probably the most unique sounding band Paco has had since One Love, and it’s different than most any other type of music out there. It’s gorgeous, and will most likely take your breath away.

Paco has a ton of records from his past, most of which can be bought via BANDCAMP. As for shows, I know he has one coming up on Saturday, March 2nd, where he will play at his old Dallas stomping grounds, The Curtain Club.

After a strange musical combination like that, going from a metal band to a very chill mostly acoustic act, it only made sense to wrap up the night with one final rock band, which was Awake in Theory.

Terry Kimmel began the band show with some hypnotic chords on his guitar, while he walked around the stage. After a minute, Eric Hawkens, who was out of sight, started singing, and eventually made his way on stage from stage left. Soon after was when their first song, “Barely Breathing”, really took off, as drummer, Raymond Chambers, bassist Adam Garcia, and the rhythm guitarist, Brad McCain, joined in. The song is fantastic and one of my favorites of theirs. It also works as a great opener, easing you into it with its slower start, and before you know it, they’ve hooked you. They proceeded to reel everyone in with songs like “Let Go” and “Playing the Victim”, but unfortunately, “everyone” wasn’t as many people as they deserved to have watching them. Like I said, the metal heads had left during the previous act, and now it looked like the only people who were still there were ones who were already Awake in Theory fans. Eric pointed out that, that wasn’t a problem with them, though. “…We’re just happy to play music…” he said, “…Especially when we get to play after Paco Estrada…” he added. They got back to the show with “Dangerous”, a song that saw Brad tear off into a killer guitar solo. Raymond pounded out a brief drum solo before their next song, “Innocence for the Innocent”, followed by their anthem of sorts for anyone serving in the military, “Hero You Hate”. Before starting it, Eric asked everyone to thank anyone they knew who was in the service, and then he mentioned something else. “…For anyone whose seen an Awake in Theory show recently, you know my brother was deployed.” He said. “Well, he’s home now…” You could tell he was excited and relieved by that, and for good reason. That tune is another highlight of their shows in my opinion, and once it was done, they cut loose a bit. Eric mentioned that they come from all over the area, like Frisco. “…He’s from Bowie…” he said, pointing at one of his band mates, quickly following it with something to the effect of, “I’m sorry, it’s not nice to say anyone’s from Bowie.” That got a laugh from all of their fans who had stuck around. Topic of conversation then switched to Raymond, who drives down to all of their shows from Lawton, Oklahoma, and Eric jokingly said he was the one they needed to work on and get to move here. I believe it was this next and final song that they said they would be recording soon, with work on an actually record to follow shortly after. It was “Daddy’s Little Girl”, which will serve as their lead single, and it capped off their 36-minute long set.

It was a great set, and personally, I thought they were better this night than a couple weeks before when I saw them in Dallas. They didn’t let the lack of a crowd affect them, instead putting on a show like they were playing in front of forty to fifty people, like any professional band should.

They were fun and lively, with everybody carrying their own weight. Adam really brought it this night, and owned it on the bass, while Terry and Brad also often stepped up to the forefront of the stage, taking over the spotlight and shredding on their guitars. It was just very well balanced, and also, they know how to work the audience and get everyone excited.

Their next show is going to be at Trees on Sunday, March 24th, where they will open for Adrenaline Mob and Nothing More. It will probably be at least one of the biggest shows they’ve done to date, and I’ll be willing to bet they’ll be even more intense than usually at that one.

They offered a great way to end the night, and despite me not really caring for a couple of the acts on the bill, this show was still well worth the drive to Fort Worth.

Friday, October 26th, 2012 – Part I: Powered Down

Trees was hosting a special all local concert this night, but it was no mere local rock show. It had been dubbed “Powered Down”, and featured a slew of bands rocking the venue… Rocking it acoustic style that is.

An interesting and great array of bands had been tapped to play this show, which was being recorded live for an eventual live CD, and beginning the night was the Electronic based band, Zhora.

Unfortunately, I missed most of their set, because for some reason the traffic going to Dallas moved painfully slow (40 MPH or less, instead of 60+). I was bummed by this, because I had been wanting to see the band for months now and just hadn’t been able to make it to a show, and this night only got to hear their last three songs or so. Alas.

They were the only band who didn’t really to a true acoustic set, instead, it was toned down. The only music was provided by Taylor Cleveland, who makes all the electronic sounds with a computer, and also acted as a DJ of sorts. While Taylor Rea did the singing, and had a little pad attached to the mic stand, allowing her to alter her voice and add various affects to it. They did the catchy, “The Hold”, and I believe did another song in between it and “Sunset”, which I think was what closed their set. (Note: I haven’t familiarized myself with their music completely, hence why I say “think” and “believe”).

What I caught was really great, though. I guess I can’t draw comparisons to their full show since I haven’t seen one, but this sure seemed to show off Taylor’s voice more then I would imagine a full-band show does. And might I add she has quite an impressive voice.

Great set from what little I caught, and it made me more eager to see a full-band show. I don’t when that will be, but keep a check on their FACEBOOK PAGE to find out when they will have more shows. Also, you can find a four song EP on their BANDCAMP PAGE, which is available for FREE.

The bands sets were kept pretty short this night, but they were also able to get them on and off stage very quickly. So, after a twenty minute or so break, Admiral Grey was ready to do a 23-minute long set.

I was surprised to see the band as a trio, rather than just singer and rhythm guitarist, Aaron Pose, and lead guitarist, Krishen Anthony. The other member joining them was Justin Labosco, who added some beats on a cajon. Another thing that surprised me (and pleasantly so) was that they did some of their heavier songs, which frankly, I didn’t expect to hear. That included their opener, “Dead To Me”. It actually translated pretty well into an acoustic form, and in some ways, it even gave it an extra punch, as Aaron belted out the chorus, “There’s no more tears for me to cry, no more loving you tonight. I won’t regret you, just forget you. You’re dead to me…”. Justin tore it up on that song, maybe a little too hard, as shook his hand like it was hurting him. “Oh, did you hurt your little hand?” Aaron asked him, in a tone a parent might talk to a two or three-year old child, resulting in most of the crowd and Justin laughing. They then moved on as Aaron asked the crowd a question. “How many hard working men do we have out here tonight?”. That was the set up for “Just a Man”, which was one of the songs I expected to hear this night. Afterwards, Aaron took time to promote their upcoming CD release, and told everyone who hadn’t heard of them before that they could look up the band on Facebook to find out all the info on those upcoming shows. “…I have no life…” he stated, after informing everyone he was on there all the time, and jokingly warned that he might even become a stalker on your page. There are moments like that in their full-on rock show, but this one did a much more laidback vibe to it, and that played a part in making this show so enjoyable. They then did “My World”, a softer song that was definitely made to be performed acoustically, but not the same thing can be said for “Pulling Strings”. Don’t get me wrong, it still sounded fantastic, but as gritty as the song is, I really didn’t think they’d do it here, but am glad they did. Aaron gave the show a bit of a storytellers feel, stating that, that previous song was about the music business, and how people are always pulling strings, and it was either it or their final song that he said was originally going to be the title track of their forthcoming EP. He continued, saying they then settled on the title “Long Road”, because each of them have been down some long roads in their musical endeavors. And a song that kind of fits along those lines is the one they closed with, “Don’t Know Me at All”.

Their set passed by rather quickly, but you can’t do much in terms of making it longer when you have six other bands on the bill. They were able to hit the highlight songs, though, and I have been wanting to see one of Aaron’s solo shows for a little while now, so it was cool to finally catch one. Granted, this wasn’t solo, but it was acoustic, and that’s the main thing. And after seeing one, I’d like to see more.

By the time I get this posted, the band’s debut EP, “Long Road”, will have been unleashed upon the world, and their Texas tour to celebrate its release will have already happened. So, you might be able to find it online in say, iTunes. They also have another show coming up on November 17th in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma at the Chameleon Room. Oh, and you can find a FREE download of their single, “Dead to Me”, on their REVERBNATION PAGE.

After them was a band I had not seen in far too long, and even if it was an acoustic show, I was looking forward to finally seeing them again. And that was Exit 380, who was doing a full-band acoustic gig.

Before the curtain even opened you heard vocalist, Dustin Blocker, start playing his harmonica, and if you knew the band’s music, then that made it clear what song it was. It was the final track from their latest record, “Missy Gardner”, which is my personal favorite song from the album. It sounded more fitting being performed acoustic, and while I didn’t the song could get any better, this made it better. I believe Jeremy Hutchison played a mandolin on that song, while Jon Hutchison softly plucked the strings on his acoustic bass, and really, all of the instruments on that song seemed to play towards Dustin, and making his voice even more prominent. Perhaps the best part of that song on the record is the closing piece that comes after a minute or so of silence. I guess it is a reprise of sorts of their song, “Soul Burning Train”, but is just played on the keys with Dustin singing the chorus, and I was thrilled to hear them add that on the end here, as he softly crooned, “I woke from a dream and escaped this soul burning train. A driver or a rider? Either way, it’s a coatless day in the rain.” That served as a prelude to the full version of “Soul Burning Train”, which lead guitarist, Aaron Borden, started, while Jeremy switched out to an acoustic guitar. The pace did pick up with that song, and Jody McCauley was able to get a little more aggressive on the drums, or at least the partial kit he was using. After finishing it, Blocker formerly introduced the band to the crowd. “…We’ve been around for awhile, but tonight we’re playing our newer songs…” he announced, then told everyone what their next song was going to be. “I think it’s called Where Do We Go?” he said, then looked at Aaron. “Where do we Go From Here”, he then said, getting the title right that time. It was another tune that really fit the acoustic vibe, and I also think it was the one that Aaron played with a pedal steel guitar. It was followed by a short little song that was exclusive to a compilation record their record label released, “A Song About Us”, while capping off their 20-minute long set was “Run For The Gold”.

I see these guys so infrequently that I really forget how amazing they are. Even with this acoustic set and even with the abbreviated set time, it was still incredible. Blocker’s voice was nothing short of superb this night (and that can also apply to pretty much every other show they do). And while the Alt/Country sound is a big departure from the bands previous material, they still pull it off with ease, and it really came in handy in this scenario, since so much of the “Townies” record can translate perfectly into acoustic songs.

If you want to listen to or purchase their music, you have a couple of options. They have it for sale on either BANDCAMP or ITUNES, so check out whichever outlet you prefer. And everything aside from “Townies” is more Rock music, if that is more your style. Also, be sure to check out the first Hand Drawn Records Compilation, which features one of those songs from their set, and the label also just released a Volume Two Compilation. Both feature a plethora of artists and can be downloaded for free.

After they finished, I ducked out and headed to another venue one street over. Nothing against the other bands that were playing, but I wanted to see this other band more and if you want to know more about that show, I’ll have a review of it up soon.

I got back right when David Cote was finishing his set, which meant The Orange was up next, and they were the band I was most intrigued to see. If you don’t know The Orange, they aren’t really an acoustic band. They’re high-energy Rock with even a Psychedelic flare to it, so they were definitely going to be out of their element this night.

The Orange began with only three of their members on stage, singer and guitarist, Scott Tucker, guitarist, Kirk Livesay, and drummer, Cody Waits. However, Cody wasn’t doing anything with percussion, instead, he too had an acoustic guitar. They were also joined by the skilled harmonica player and their go-to guy of sorts, Chicago Dan. It sure looked like it was going to be different, and it was, as Scott announced their first song was called, “We’re All Going Down”, and Cody sang it. It was a bit weird to see Scott relegated to being a backing vocalist, but on the flipside, Cody has a really great voice. I was kind of surprised, since it’s easy to think of him as just being a drummer, since that is his typical instrument, but this made it clear his talent goes well beyond that. Their next tune I believe was titled, “Peace of Mind”. Cody again acted as the main singer on it, though it was more co-sung between him and Scott, with the two voices mixing perfectly. I think it was after that song Cody took over his normal role of adding some beats, while they welcomed a guest musician to the stage. His name was Buddy Neighbors, and according to Scott, he’s a legendary Blues guitarist. Scott also said something along the lines of he was the best musician he knew, then added, “…Right after Chicago Dan.” “This is an old Orange song…” he went on to say, telling everyone it was “Kiss, Kiss. Bang, Bang”. For the record, that is one of my all-time favorite Orange songs, like, top three, and it had been years since I last heard it. I never forget about, though, and hoped it would sometime find its way back into the set, as some of the songs off their EP had done after the band got back together. Anyway, the song was every bit as good as I remembered, even done acoustically, and like so many of the bands other songs, it is insanely catchy. At this point, Jason Wessup made his way down the stairs from the green room and to the stage, to add the sounds of his bass to the bands new single, “Mr. Moneymaker”. It was (obviously) toned down, and did lack the high-strung performance that usually accompanies it, but that didn’t mean it was any less good. Upon finishing it, Buddy left the band, while Kirk switched out his guitar for a cello, and Chicago Dan also helped turn the show on its head, by using a rain stick instead of his harmonica. Scott’s sister, Melissa Tucker, also joined them, and she brought a clarinet into the mix. Not that they didn’t have it before, but all of that made sure they had my undivided attention. I missed the name of this last song of their 27-minute long set, but it was truly gorgeous. It didn’t sound like your standard Orange song, but that’s okay, because every band needs to do the occasional song that breaks the mold they cast themselves into, and this one accomplished just that. It was just outstanding, and a most excellent way to cap things off.

I mentioned they were going to be out of their element this night, and while they were, they didn’t at all seem it. Instead, they appeared completely comfortable performing the songs in this setting, like it was something they had done dozens (or even hundreds) of times before. And to be totally honest, I did have some reservations about how this was going to go, but quickly realized I had no reason to have those thoughts. Actually, I’d like to see these acoustic shows become more of a semi regular thing, because in some ways, this was one of the best shows I’ve seen them do.

As of right now, their next show on the books is going to be a FREE one at Sundown at Granada in Dallas on Saturday, December 15th. They are also currently in the studio working on their debut full-length album, so why not go pick up a copy of their first EP, “A Sonic Collection of Stories from La La Land”. That way not only will you have something to whet your appetite for their full-length, you can also help get a little money in their pockets to help with the cost of making a record.

Closing out this show was Paco Estrada, but he wasn’t alone like I thought he may be. Scotty Isaacs (who is a great musician on his own) was playing keys for Paco this night, while Ladrell James made some beats on a partial drum kit. There was also a female backing vocalist that sit in a chair on stage right, though I didn’t recognize her, and I never heard them say who she was.

Paco started strumming his guitar, and with just the first few notes revealed the song to be just what I thought he’d open with, “The Damage That’s Done”. “Been living my life like a ghost in the rain, slowly losing my mind, slowly going insane. Wondering around in the middle of the road. Just another lost soul in another fishbowl…” It was then when the keys and drums came in, and brought that song to life in a way I had never heard it before. It’s a standout track from “The Definite and Indefinite…”, and a favorite of mine, but tonight it sounded as true to the recording as I’ve heard it. The backing vocalist sang with Paco throughout it, adding a beautiful layer to it, as she, too, had a sensational voice. It was followed by another track from that album, “When We Were Made”, which is perhaps the most beautiful love song ever written. “…When we didn’t have to use a stairway to heaven, and you never had to be alone. That’s when we were made…” goes one of the lines before the second chorus. A twenty to thirty second-long instrumental intro led them into the next song, which had me wondering what song it was until right at the end. “I keep my ghost from haunting you. I just let go, and walk away. And when you think that the clouds have cleared, I’m gonna call your name…” he sang, the opening line of “Haunting Me”. It is one of a few songs of his that he usually adds part of a cover to, and sure enough, after one of the last choruses, he broke into the chorus from Whitney Houston’s, “I Want to Dance with Somebody”. “…Oh, wanna dance with somebody. I wanna feel the heat with somebody. Yeah, wanna dance with somebody. With somebody who loves me…”. He’s done that cover for a little while now, and while it does strike me as being an odd fit for the song, I still works, as Paco’s rich, soulful voice is able to tie it into his own song. Once that one concluded, Paco told everyone they were “…going to do a new song…”, and even dedicated it to Scott Tucker of The Orange. That particular song was “American Girls”, which was first played about a month before when Paco did his first show fronting The Last Romantica. That was one of my favorite songs from that other show, and I was glad to hear it again, which made me think it will become more of a regular at shows. It’s an incredible song, that has a real feeling of Rock nostalgia to it, and for the few short minutes the song lasts, you feel yourself being transported to a simpler time. A couple more songs followed, which I suppose were also newer ones and after them Paco announced they were going to end on a sad note. And really, what better way to end a show. “Breaking Down” definitely has a sadness to it, for example the second verse, “My father had a heart attack at fifty-eighty… He told us that if he went under, he didn’t want them to resuscitate. My mom believes that I’ll become that man… She says she’s just awaiting the phone call when they tell her that her son is dead…”. Towards the end of it, he again integrated part of a cover song into his own tune, this one by K’s Choice. “Breathe it in and breathe it out, and pass it on, it’s almost out…” he sang, before belting out the chorus of that song, “…It’s not a habit, it’s cool, I feel alive. If you don’t have it you’re on the other side. I’m not an addict…” “Not an Addict” works perfectly with that one, and after singing a few portions of it, Paco returned to his song. “…Can you hear that sound? And if you listen to it now, it’s the sound of my heart breaking down…”, he crooned, as they brought the song and their 42-minute long set to an end.

That was an alright end with me, but there were evidently a lot of Paco fans out there, because they immediately started chanting for one more. It didn’t take long for them to decide to do one more, but Paco noted it would not be one of his. He then went on a brief speech, talking about how “…a lot of guys think they know everything…”, in terms of the fairer sex, when really, they don’t. He then asked for everyone, mainly the guys, to truly pay attention to the next song and it’s lyrics, saying it contained a lesson that everyone could learn from and would help them out. He made it out like this song could be the equivalent of revealing the meaning of life, and I don’t know what I was expecting, but it was not what they ended up doing. I couldn’t help but laugh at first when I realized it was a song that Cyndi Lauper made famous, “Girls Just Want to Have Fun”, but he also hit the nail on the head with everything he had said prior.

Overall, it was a good set from Paco, and that song was a much better note to end on. I also really dug the sound he and his “band” made this night, and in terms of Paco’s solo shows, I think this was one of the best I’ve seen.

Paco has a vast array of music available, most of which can be found on his BANDCAMP PAGE.

It was a great night all around, too, and every band did a spectacular set. Now, to wait for Trees to release the live recording of this show, which I guarantee it will be something you will want to hear.

Now, enjoy some crappy cell phone pictures I got…

Paco Estrada

The Orange

Exit 380

Admiral Grey

Zhora

Saturday, September 29, 2012 – Bedtime Stories: Paco Estrada & The Last Romantica

I think the rain kept a lot of people at home this night, but I sure as hell wasn’t going to let it keep me from the show that was going down at the Curtain Club.

Paco Estrada, a staple in the Dallas music scene, was doing a very special show this night, and the events leading up to this show began very tragically. In short, within the last year, the band, The Last Romantica, lost their singer, Chad Gandy. Earlier this year the band performed a special show in his memory, where they had a rotating cast of singers each sing one of the band’s songs, and one of those singers was Paco. Thus was born an idea where the band could back Paco, and they had spent the last several months gearing up for this night.

To make it even more memorable, they were having the show recorded for a future release.

I arrived about 8:40, and the first band, The Family Crude, was already on stage. According to their Facebook page, they have enough members to be a full band, however this show was being performed more acoustically, and as a trio, consisting of singer and guitarist, Tricia Chronister, singer and multi-instrumentalist, SheraLee Clark, and pedal steel guitarist, Heather Kitzman.

They were finishing one song when I got there, though I didn’t figure I had missed much. But sadly, after doing one more song, their set was over.

I guess they started earlier than 8:30, which does kind of suck, because what stuff of theirs I had listened to online I liked, and was interested to see what their show was like. Oh well, maybe next time. They do have an album, “Preface”, available, and if you would like to sample the tracks and purchase the record in digital form, go HERE.

Next up was the Tulsa, Oklahoma based band, We the Ghost. I had seen them once before, either late last year or earlier this year, and remembered really liking them, but I had evidently forgotten how great they really were.

They didn’t have all of the members at this show, which was downsized to the essential four members, singer and acoustic guitarist, Beau, guitarist, Matt, and then the percussion section, which was Jimmy, who played what appeared to be a cajon as well as one cymbal, and Dain, who beat on a Djembe. They opened their 32 minute set with what I suppose is one of their newer songs, and then did another newer one. By the second song I found myself making my way towards the front of the stage, so I could better enjoy their unique blend of music, which is a little Reggae, a little acoustic Rock, and hints of various other genres. They immediately began their next song, which sounded so different I didn’t even realize it at first… Well, that and the fact that I don’t listen to anything mainstream too often. It wasn’t until Beau started crooning out the chorus, “All the other kids with the pumped up kicks, you better run, better run, outrun my gun…” that I realized it was Foster the Peoples’ “Pumped Up Kicks”, and a much better, and even more infectious version if I do say so myself. “Okay, back to our stuff.” Beau told those who were paying attention to them, while he and Matt played some notes. “She used to be a pistol, she can’t pull the trigger…” he then sang, in a mix of Hip-Hop and Reggae styles, starting “She’s Gonna Fly Again”. They did another song that I was unfamiliar with, and I think it was the one where Matt actually sang lead on the first few lines, having a surprisingly strong voice that could certainly pull off lead parts. They did another song from their “My Mixtape Summer” EP, the sweeter, “Your Remedy”. When it was finished, Beau told everyone that the next song was the first single from their upcoming record, and was called “Let Me Know”. And with that, their time was almost up, but they did have one song left, and they had quite possible saved the best for last, closing with “Right Where You Want”.

What a show this was, and with each song I found myself getting even more caught up and engaged in their music. And by the way, We the Ghost is one of the most highly original bands I’ve ever come across. And as I said, they didn’t even have the full-band at this show, so know I’m very curious as to what the violinist/backing vocalist adds to the music. By the way, Beau told me afterwards he was nervous, because he had to sing all of her [the violinist’s] parts as well, which was a bit of a strain on his lungs, but I thought he sounded fine.

They’re a very cool band that should reel you in with the first note you hear, and making them even cooler is the fact that they have made their music available for FREE. Go visit their BANDCAMP PAGE to download their first EP, as well as that single from the new record. And their new album should be out in just a few months. They also have some shows in late October through November, the first of which will be October 26th at The Venue in Tulsa, Oklahoma. They’ll be in Fort Smith, Arkansas on November 9th at Roosters, and the next night will find them at Maxine’s in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Check ‘em out if you’re in any of those areas… You’ll be glad you did.

After them you had The Commotion, who opened with the standard, “Carry On”. “I need another perspective, ‘cause this one’s trying to cage my mind…”, sang vocalist and guitarist, Micah Creel , as his other four band mates launched into the song. The bands efficient, as they don’t allow for any downtime between songs, so as the instruments faded to silence, the sample track for the next song kicked in, setting up “Crim”, which has a chorus all of their fans seem to love, and passionately sing along with. “…Your contagious smile, spreads like wildfire…”. Next they played “Stars”, which was originally a HUM song, and then right into what I believe are a couple of their newer songs. Out of those two mentioned, I like the second one the best, which goes something like, “…So say goodbye to the fear of falling…”, and is quite catchy. So far, it had been your routine Commotion show, but with the remaining songs, they transformed into something else. Guitarists, Josh Sanders and Justin Middleton, bassist, Justin Hold, drummer, Ross Rubio, and Micah churned out a brief instrumental piece, which served as a prelude to “Dare”. The song sounded different to me, but I thought maybe it was because I hadn’t heard the song in a little while, because unless I’m spacing, I don’t think they’ve done it live the last few times I’ve seen them. I dismissed it, thinking it was a fluke or something, but then they dove into “LOL”. They had tightened it up here and there, and given some it a much slicker sound, and it wasn’t the only one that had been improved. “Just a Test” was without question the best song of their set, and I’ve never heard it sound as incredible as it did this night. It was all subtle tweaks, and I can’t exactly pinpoint what they did differently, but if knew their music and heard the songs this night, you’d notice it instantly. They had gotten a long set, and after that one it was time to wind things up, capping of their 40 minute set time with “Backseat Driver (Wash it Away)”.

At this show, I finally heard The Commotion transcend the plateau they’ve been stuck at for a little while. There’s no disrespect meant by that, because they were great before, but these extra little nuances made all the difference, and should now have them at the level they deserve to be at. And by that I mean they are more than capable of being a headline band. Seriously good stuff, and I’m interested to see where they’ll go from here, and if they will continue to tighten up the live show.

There were some killer bands playing both the Curtain and the adjacent Liquid Lounge this night, and since cover at either gets you access to both venues, I thought I’d go over there and see what was happening, hoping that Adakain would be starting soon.

But when I walked in, They were getting ready to start their last song. I was hoping it would work out where I could see their entire set, but after getting this little taste, I guess I have all the more reason to try to go to another show.

I’ve seen the band once before, well over a year ago, and earlier this year, they announced that Ryan Ray had become their new singer. I became a fan of his with his previous endeavor, Reckless Intent, so upon hearing that news I instantly became more of an Adakain fan. And from that one song I heard this night, they sound pretty killer… Even more so than before, that is. And Ryan added a nice bit of humor at the end, introducing his band mates, then saying, “…And my name’s Elvis. Goodnight.”
   
With that, I returned to the Curtain where Wolf at The Door was the final appetizer for the night, and I was curious to see them again. I’ve seen them a couple times before, and they never managed to draw me in, so I was wondering if the third time might be a charm, or a bust.

I really can’t criticize their music a whole lot, as far as saying it’s bad or anything, but… I don’t know. Some of it’s weird, to the point that is highly original, but it just fails to grab me/ignite something in me/strike a chord with me. As me and a musician friend who was at this show were saying, it’s more music that’s just there. And if playing this stuff is what makes these guys happy, go for it, but I just can’t get into it. On another note, their final song was one that I disliked, as it sounded pretty weird, with the only instrument on the first portion of the song being a xylophone. Also factor in that their guitarist was signing most of that song, and he doesn’t exactly have a good voice.

It was nearing time for Paco Estrada and The Last Romantica to take the stage, and I was interested to see how this was going to go. Earlier in the night, I said hi to Paco, and while we chatted for a second he told me he was still trying to memorize all the lyrics, and had tweaked some verses on various songs, only finishing them the day before. So one way or another, this was bound to be an interesting show.

No sooner had the curtain opened than the band started into the first song. I was prepared not to know anything of what they did this night, however the first song turned out to be practically the only exception. “It’s a cut so deep it could never heal…” Paco crooned, as he spit out the first verse of the song, though I didn’t recognize this full-band version of “The Girl Who Could Never Feel” until they got to the chorus, “…And that’s when you became the girl who could never feel. The girl with the heart of steel…”. I’m not going to say that song had never been played live before, but if it had I had never heard it before, and I know it had never been done like this, and man, what a way to get going. Now, for the first time in years, I watched as Paco sang tons of songs I didn’t know. Four new ones followed that first song, before they did one called “American Girls”. I thought that song had an older Rock vibe to it, say circa the 50’s or 60’s, and was one of the standouts of their set. They then really slowed things down as Paco pulled out his acoustic guitar for the song that gave this night its name, “Bedtime Stories”. The song was almost all him, while guitarists, Caleb Daniel and Nathan Parnell, drummer, Thomas Mallory, and bassist, Jacob Chandler, stayed mostly silent, though did had some light notes and beats here and there. The acoustic vibe bled into the next song, but about halfway through Paco took off his guitar as things surged back to life. One more new tune came next, and then they did what Paco described as “the song that started it all”. He went over the story I detailed earlier in this blog, noting that they were going to do a Last Romantica song, which was the one he had sang with the band a few months before. Again, I don’t know what song it was, but it sounded incredible. Already, their set was close to the end, but they had one more left, and it was another one I somewhat knew. Years ago (after SouthFM ended but before One Love officially begun) Paco put up a song on Myspace called “Blindfolded Behind the Wheel”, and that was the song that closed out their 57 minute set.

It was a phenomenal show, and in addition to the full-band, Paco had also enlisted the help of some female backing singers, who were Tricia Chronister and SheraLee Clark of The Family Crude, who sang some parts here and there throughout the entire set and added a great layer to it all.

There was just something about this show. Perhaps it was the fact that it was all new to me, but there was something about it that made me fall I love with Paco’s music all over again.

I still remember the first time that happened, back on May 6th, 2006, which ended up being the final year SouthFM was active, right here at the Curtain Club. The local music scene was something that was still very new to me, and I knew next to nothing about that band. But as they performed the song I would come to know as “Surface”, and Paco sang, “…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…”, I was drawn in. It put me in a state of awe and I instantly became a fan.
The point of all that is I felt that same feeling of awe at the show this night, as I looked on in wonder and found this show just as captivating and amazing. And that my friends is an incredible feeling to have.

At some point you will be able buy the live recording of this entire show, and I’m sure you will be able to find it at Paco’s BANDCAMP PAGE. But until it’s available, check out all of Paco’s other music. He also has another show (which will be solo) coming up on October 26th at Trees in Dallas, and to add more incentive to go, it will be free.

And hopefully, sometime in the future, they will do another Paco Estrada and the Last Romantica show, but this band was too good to not perform on some type of regular basis.

Friday, August 24th, 2012 – Nothing More

Dallas or Denton? I was on the fence as to where to go and what show to see, at least until Matt “WhiskeyBoy” (shameless plug, check out the WhiskeyBoy Radio Network) asked if I was going to go to the one up in Denton at Andy’s Bar. “If you’re going I’ll try to go.” he said, and I told him I’d definitely be there if he was able to get away from his family life for a bit, because it’s always great to hang out with that guy. There were a lot of other friendly faces there, too. “Otter” from Night Gallery, Jeremy from SpaceCamp, Cody of the late, great Truffula Tree, and a handful of others. So not only was this going to be a great night of rock music, but good company, too.

I arrived as The Commotion was finishing sound check and just about ready to play. “I need another perspective, ‘cause this one’s trying to cage my mind…”, sang vocalist and guitarist, Micah Creel, starting them into the routine opener, “Carry On”. Guitarists, Josh Sanders and Justin Middleton, bassist, Justin Hold, and drummer, Ross Rubio, soon joined, and once the song picked up its pace, they let loose. The stage was a bit cramped with all five of them, and it did seem to hinder them as far as movement goes, specifically Justin H., though they didn’t let that stop them from rocking out, thrashing around to the beats. A sample track began to play, segueing them right into “Crim”, which has the ever so great chorus, “Your contagious smile spreads like wildfire, infecting everyone within sight.” They followed it with a cover of a HUM song, “Stars”, and then went into a couple new songs, one after the other. Both sounded great, and they seemed to have even more of a pure rock sound than what their older stuff does. Speaking of older material, they got back to it with “Just a Test”, another song that shows what a great writer Micah is, with the line, “…Nothing in life will ever come easy. No, not if it has such powerful meaning…”. With that, they were already at the final song of their 30 minute set, and they ended with the catchy, “Backseat Driver (Wash it Away)”.

It was a very good set, and these guys never disappoint. But as was discussed on the WBR Podcast a couple nights later (check it out HERE), The Commotion has never (to my knowledge) headlined a show. They are more than capable, and have several songs they no longer do but could if they had the time. It comes across more like the band is a fun project for them, and if that’s all they want out of it, then that’s fine. They certainly have their fan base (which obviously includes myself) and out on a good show… But they could be so much more. You can next see them on September 29th at The Curtain Club in Dallas.

Next up was Paco Estrada, who has been laying fairly low these days. Used to you could expect at least one show a month from him, but the last time I remember seeing one of his shows was when he played here back in May, with very few D-FW area shows since then. It wasn’t just him, though, as he had a band of sorts with him. One guy playing a bass, one on the drums, while Paco of course played an acoustic guitar. They, too got a 30 minute set, and fit various songs from Paco’s career into it. Up first where a couple songs from Paco’s latest album, “The Definite and Indefinite…”. “Been living my life like a ghost in the rain, slowly losing my mind slowly going insane, wandering around in the middle of the road, just another lost soul in another fishbowl…” sang Paco, beginning “The Damage That’s Done”. His band mates joined in after that, giving the song a little more rock vibe. The song is prime example of the prolific writer that Paco is, as is what followed, the beautiful, “All I’ll Ever Be”. “…I’ve tried so hard at loving me, but loving you comes so naturally…” he croons on the chorus, right after, “…The hardest part of letting go is knowing when to walk away…”. The first two tracks from that album were a good way to get the show going, but for the next few songs they had some surprises up their sleeves. “Reckless Love” is probably best known from the days of Paco Estrada & One Love (circa 2008-2010), and when he sang the first line, “Do you remember when, the day our love began?…”, I was pleasantly surprised. I mentioned Paco hasn’t done any shows in awhile. Well, he is a part of SpaceCamp, who did a show the previous month. And at that show the band covered a song which made it into Paco’s show this night. It was “Drive” by The Cars, and it sounded pretty good, though not as good as what was next. I saw several One Loves shows during the bands existence, and out of all of those I had heard them to practically all of “The Anatomy of Letting Go” live, sans one song (unless I just flat out don’t remember it). There shouldn’t be much question that “Let Love In” had the strongest message of all the songs on that album, and I really couldn’t believe they were playing it now. It’s truly a gorgeous song, speaking of how powerful love can be, and how we should treat everyone with a little bit of it. Their set had gone by far too quickly, and almost seemed like it was over now, as Paco did his standard, “Thank you for your time and your patience.” But fortunately they had time for one last song, “Breaking Down”, and at the end of it they had part of a cover song tacked on.

It was an incredible set, I just wish it hadn’t passed in the blink of an eye, which was how it seemed to me. He’s good enough as a solo musician, but there’s no doubt that the bass and drums added an extra depth to the songs that can’t be achieved solo. And as I say practically every time I see one of his shows, you will be hard pressed to find a better sing/songwriter. Not just here in the Dallas area, but the world.

You can catch him at Tree’s in Dallas on September 7th, then on the 29th he will be doing a very special show at the Curtain Club in Dallas. That night he will be fronting the band, The Last Romantica, who tragically lost their singer far too soon. A memorial show was held a few months ago for him, with various singers singing a song or two, but Paco and the band decided to work on some songs, create enough for an album and do a onetime only show where they play the entire thing live. Their full set will be recorded that night of the 29th and in due time will become the album. Don’t miss out on that. And do visit his BANDCAMP PAGE to find most of the music he has released.

The American Tragedy, a band from Louisiana, was next. I had seen them some time ago at a show in Dallas, like, two years or so ago, and remembered them being good, but aside from that my memory was incredible vague. They got their 40ish minute set going with an older song, and this four-piece group sprung to life, giving the impression that this was going to be a pretty great show. They followed it up with a tune from their new EP, “Blood On the Stage”, a high-energy song that had me thinking maybe there would be some blood on the stage, ‘cause at the pace they were moving around, accidents could happen. It has a catchy bridge, where the instruments are scaled back a bit, as singer and rhythm guitarist, Adam, sings, “Forgive me Jesus, for I have sinned. I’m listening to Rock ‘N’ Roll records again. I like my Sabbath black and my lizzy thin…”. Upon finishing it, Adam told everyone they could go buy “The Flame” in iTunes, and that the next song, which was “Everyone Will Finish”, was off it as well. Drummer, Trey started them into it, while the guitars and bass soon roared to life. The song has a real sense of urgency to it, and packs quite a punch. They then got into some older stuff, and I might not have know it, but they powered through each song, showing that they were merely warming up, because they just got better and better. Ryan tore it up on the bass, while both Jackie and Adam shredded on their axes, all getting very into the performance. Towards the end of their set they brought things down a bit with the title track of their latest release, “The Flame”, which still has a nice rock sound to it.

Damn, these guys were much better than I remembered. They know how to write some killer songs that will have no problem engaging you, the listener, as they have quite the knack for penning hard hitting and catchy songs. And when combined with a stellar live show, it makes for a live show that will definitely stick with you.

The band has a few albums for sale, and you can find all of them HERE. Also, be sure to keep tabs on their FACEBOOK PAGE for show updates. Speaking of which, they really need to get to the Dallas area more often.

Closing out the night were guys from San Antonio who are collectively known as Nothing More. They got all their stuff set up, and a little after 12:30, they were ready to roll.

After some killer rock music to get everyone’s adrenaline flowing, they tore into the first song of the night, “Gone”. I’m enjoying that song again being used as the opener, and after vocalist, Jonny Hawkins, banged out some beats on his small drum set before lead guitarist, Mark Vollelunga, tore off into the instrumental, “Under The Eyes of Selene”, which soon bled into “Sixty Second Affair”. “It’s been awhile, Denton.” Jonny remarked, saying they were going to do a few new songs. It might have also been at this point that he said their brand new record is getting closer to being done, and thanked everyone for bearing with them in this long process, but also pointing out that it should be well worth the wait. And with these morsels that they did and have been playing for a while now, I have no doubt it will be well worth the wait. “First Punch” was one of those songs, and you know you have a killer song and dedicated fans, who were already singing along to the chorus, “…I’ll throw the first punch, ‘cause I kept my mouth shut for far too long…”. Another heavy new one followed, during which Jonny knocked the chorus, “…Until you realize, you’re not Jesus Christ…”, out of the park. Their show only got more exciting afterwards when Daniel Oliver removed his bass, making it pretty clear what was coming next. Jonny picked up the rod that fits into the metal case that surrounds his drum kit, with Dan placing his bass into the slot of said rod. While he stood on stage right of it, holding down the strings, Jonny played it by hitting various strings with a pair of drumsticks. It livened up further when Mark finished riffing on his guitar, then walked over to his band mates and held down some strings on the neck, while drummer, Paul O’Brien, kept the beats going on the drums. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, seeing that never gets old. They got back down to business with another new(er) tune, then slowed things down a bit with “It Seems…”, which I’m very glad has found its way into regular rotation, and the addition of the chorus from The Beatles song, “Eleanor Rigby”, after the second chorus in their song really sets it off, being the piece de resistance. “Where going to do something different.” Jonny said when it was over, and I think had a lot of people wondering if “different” was going to be good or not. “I had a way then, losing it all on my own. I had a heart then, but the queen has been overthrown…” he began, revealing the song to be a very unexpected rendition of the Ellie Goulding song, “ Lights”. If you didn’t already know the song to some degree, you certainly wouldn’t have this night. It was very much a rock song, and louder and heavier than the original is, which made it all their own. It was very good in a weird way, but then again, I recall some shows a few years back where they covered “I Kissed a Girl”, so I guess taking a pop song sung by a female artist and then tweaking it to fit their style of music is nothing new. Fans didn’t have to long to recover from that, as the sample track for “Ballast” soon fired up. It’s another heavy hitter, and you could tell just how in tune these guys are with one another. Jonny was overlooking the crowd before the second verse, but began singing it at the precise moment Paul started back in on the drums, and it’s that tightness and key precision that will keep you coming back to see this band. For anyone who might remember, the band used to cover a song by the local Dallas outfit, SouthFM (which was fronted by Paco Estrada), but it has been some time since I’ve heard them do “Vesica Piscis”. They switched things up again, though, not doing that song per say, but rather the prelude to it. Dan got on a keyboard, which had a deeper sound, more like an organ, and they did something to change the tone of Jonnys’ voice, while the guitar and drums were barely played. “I, I left you to sway. It’s a shame we had to go this far, it’s a shame we had to go at all…” Jonny sang, getting the short minute and a half long song underway. As it approached the end, the guitar notes grew louder, and as Dan laid off the keys, Mark and Paul tore into their original, “Bullets And Blue Eyes”. It was fantastic getting to hear that one again, seeing as it was absent the last couple of shows of theirs I saw, and the same can be said for “Love?”, which followed it. Jonny said a few things to the crowd, then said he was going to give the mic to Dan, who he thought had something to say. He really didn’t at that time, though hinted at the next song. He was messing with his bass, and when he was done, he started with his introduction to “Fat Kid”, “Four score and seven meals ago…”, which ends with something like, “… I had a dream where beef is always what’s for dinner.” They breezed through the shorter song and had everyone singing along loudly to it, and that brought them to the final song of their 62 minute long set and another fan favorite, “Salem”. Their antics continued at the tail end of the tune, for the all percussion solo, which requires Dan holding a tom on each shoulder, while Jonny and Mark made continuous little circles, one beating on the toms, the other Jonnys’ drum kit, and vice versa. They then got some audience participation, on the final chorus, having the crowd shout along to, “BURN THE WITCH! HAHAHA!”

I think this was the best performance I’ve seen them do since the last time they played Andy’s a few months back. It was a high-energy, rip-roaring performance, and the little surprises they had to switch it up only made it more enjoyable. These guys never disappoint, but they were certainly on the top of their game this night.

They have only a couple shows booked at the moment, one will be September 21st at the Scout Bar in Houston, TX. The other is set for October 12th at Fitzgerald’s in San Antonio. And don’t forget, you can check out their album, “The Few Not Fleeting”, while you await the release of their next record.

It was a fantastic night, and hanging out with great people only made it better.

Friday, May 4th, 2012 – Nothing More Returns to Denton

The WK Entertainment Group had put together a VERY impressive line-up of bands at Andy’s Bar in Denton this night. There was no doubt that it would be a memorable night, but making it even more epic was the fact that Matt Blake of WhiskeyBoy Radio and Katie Boyd from Sawed Off Productions were there. With all three of us, that meant RYA Entertainment was out supporting in full-force, and Matt had even picked up our RYA shirts earlier that day.

Indeed, greatness would transpire this night, and beginning it was Paco Estrada. He had a full band for this show, and joining him and his drummer was a couple of the guys from Nothing More, Mark Vollelunga and Daniel Oliver, on guitar and bass, respectively. It’s been some time since Paco last had a full band like this backing him, so it was bound to be interesting. The set was rather short, only consisting of five songs, as they opened with “Haunting Me”, and in typical Paco fashion he tacked on part of a cover tune to the tail end of the song. They followed it with another song best known from Paco’s last band, One Love, “This is Life”, and afterwards go into some of his newer material. The beautiful love song, “When We Were Made”, came next, and then they slowed things down with “Spark”, both from the “The Definite and Indefinite…” record. Paco removed his acoustic guitar for the final song of his 31 minute long set, “Breaking Down”, which also had a portion of a cover song added to the end of it.

It was a really good set, and Dan and Mark helped add a few layers that Paco’s music has been missing for a little while, and the fuller sound did make a difference. I wish he had gotten a little bit more time though, because you can’t really get the full greatness of his music in just five songs. Oh well, hopefully the next time I see one of his shows he’ll have more time.

Speaking of shows, his calendar as is follows: May 26th at The Prophet Bar in Dallas. June 1st at Jack’s Bar in San Antonio. June 2nd at Darwin’s Pub in Austin. June 16th at Sue Ellen’s in Dallas. Also, be sure to visit his BANDCAMP PAGE to listen to/purchase all of his music.

Not too long after Paco’s set we (Matt, Katie, “Otter”, of the band Night Gallery, and myself) ventured down to the basement area of Andy’s and chatted (and laughed) for a bit. If memory serves me correctly conversation turned to, “Wouldn’t it be funny…” if while you were being intimate with a girl (I’ll class that up a little over what was actually said) you tell her, “…Oh, I have herpes. But don’t worry, it went away not long after I got it, so you should be okay…”

Interesting conversations to say the least, and soon we went back upstairs to see the next band…

Admiral Grey
was already rocking out and had a nice crowd paying attention, but during this song we walked in on, I was having trouble hearing Aaron Pose’s singing. The song sounded great, and they were owning it, but I couldn’t understand anything he was saying. Luckily, I wasn’t the only one, and when they finished it a guy could be heard yelling, “MORE VOCALS!” The sound guy listened. Aaron mentioned this was a newer project of his and also plugged the next song as one that would be on their EP that will be out in the next few months. “…This one is called Love Suicide, or Pulling Strings.” he said. You could hear him perfectly now, and they killed it with that song, as well as the next one, “Don’t Know Me at All”. They followed it with a couple more songs, as Krishen Loughridge continued shredding on his guitar over on stage right and bassist, Geneva Arena, was really rocking out, too. Justin Labosco began a little drum solo, serving as a lead in to the next song, while Aaron asked, “How many hard working men to we have out here tonight?” He didn’t get the desired response, so he tried it again, with more people shouting out this time, as they launched into “Just a Man”. They were already at the end of their set now, doing what Aaron said was “…One we like to end with…”, called “Dirty Red”. “…It’s my take on the Little Red Riding Hood story…” I’m probably slightly paraphrasing this, but he said something like he thought she was a slut. I can’t say I’ve ever heard that take on the story, but the song was fantastic.

It’s been quite a few months since Admiral Grey did their first show here in the area and it was good to finally make it to another one. The stage at Andy’s is on the smaller side, so the amount of space they had to move around was restricted. But while their movements were a bit more limited, they more than made up for it with their presence, and they have tightened up even more than what they were when I first saw them. They’re really a great band, and I can’t wait to hear this EP they have in the works. Speaking of which, you can find a few of those songs on their REVERBNATION PAGE, and even get a free download of “Dead to Me”. Admiral Grey’s next show will be on June 16th at Trees in Dallas where they will be opening for Miser and Forty Percent, both of whom are doing reunion shows.

Next up was one of the main courses of the night, Moving Atlas. I was beyond excited for this, because the show they did about a month before this was the first time I’d seen them where I was a true fan, but I felt like I was dying from strep throat and didn’t get to fully enjoy it. And I must say, being right up front for these guys is much better than sitting on a barstool in the back of the club. They got everything set up and vocalist, Dunagin Gaines, told the sound guy they were ready to start, as the music began and then swelled into the title track of their latest EP, “Machina”. Again, being down in front of the stage made this the true experience a Moving Atlas show is, especially as Matt and I yelled the lyrics at each other, “…Behold, I send you out as sheep among the wolves…”. During that song, Dunagin also shows off his chops as a frontman, as on the chorus he sings “…Like a god…”, steps back from the mic, singing it again, in a sense adding his own backing vocals, before getting right back in front of the mic, “…you can challenge it all…”. They took a brief pause after that song before drummer, Ross Rubio, got the next one going, “Welcome Home”. Both of those are easily some of the best, hardest hitting songs Moving Atlas has done, the lyrics for both are brilliant, and kicking a show off with both them back-to-back makes for a killer dose of Rock ‘N’ Roll. They did one more song from the EP, “Crawl out in the Cold”, which grows one me each time I hear it, and then did an older song, I assume from “Et Al”. “That old stuff’s pretty good isn’t it?” Dunagin said of what was definitely one of their best songs of the night, and saw both guitarist, Ricky Dansby, and bassist, Geoff Lucke, really rocking out. Before their next song, Dunagin had a question. “How many feet are in a mile?” “WhiskeyBoy” had the answer, shouting out, “Fifty-two eighty!” “That’s right…” Dunagin said, as that led them to another intense rock number, “5280”. “Red Shelter” came next, and the music bed for this song does a wonderful job of capturing a end of the world vibe (“…The power to build a bomb just to eradicate what matters…”). They started to wind their 39 minute set down with their longest song, the epic, “Muse Accuser”, and then Dunagin asked if anyone wanted to “Parachute”. The crowd wanted to, and that was what capped off their show.

I mentioned that space was tight for the previous band, well, it was even less spacious with five guys on stage. In fact, guitarist, Ben Scott, was over on stage right, almost completely out of my line of sight. They still moved about as much as possible, though, with Dunagin and Geoff occasionally switching spots so you could better see his bass skills, and during the instrumental portion of their next to last song Dunagin sit down on the stage, allowing for a better view of everybody else.

I said it the last time I saw these guys and I’ll say it again, they are some of the most professional musicians around, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a band who puts on as tight of a show as Moving Atlas. Their next gig will be Saturday, June 2nd at Trees in Dallas, where they will headline, so you know it’ll be great. And check out all their records in iTunes, “Machina”, “Red Shelter”, “Elephant Gun” and “Et Al”.

In most cases, putting Moving Atlas on as a main support band would be a pretty crazy decision, if for no other reason than because most bands can’t top what they bring. But it just so happened one of those handful of bands was up next.

It’s been probably close to two years since the last time the San Antonio based band Nothing More had played Denton. They used to be regulars at another club here, and since they almost never played Dallas, making that hour long drive was the only way I got to see them. And then they quit playing North Texas all together… At least until early this year. So needless to say, this event had been a long time coming, and as they got ready to play, the crowd packed in as tightly as possible around the stage.

Drummer, Paul O’Brien, bassist, Daniel Oliver, and guitarist, Mark Vollelunga, got on stage first, and began with a rocking instrumental piece. All of a sudden, vocalist, Jonny Hawkins, hopped on stage and started pounding away on his drum set, consisting of a bass drum, tom and snare. The still fairly new iron “stand” (I use that for lack of a better word) that they’ve built to hold those drums looks so killer, and after a few seconds Jonny jumped up on part of it, towering over the audience. The music then subsided, and Jonny began the opening part of their first song, with the instruments coming back to life moments later. It had been a long time since I heard them open a show with “Gone”, and it seemed to be exactly what this crowd wanted to hear, as they tore through the emotionally charged song. I believe Jonny stated how good it was to be back in Denton when they finished that song, while the other guys went right on into the next song, as Mark broke out into his blistering guitar solo for the instrumental song, “Under The Eyes of Selene”, which of course was wound into “Sixty Second Affair”. They weren’t holding back at all, and went straight into their next song, a new one, that Jonny said was called “First Punch”. “Do y’all want to hear another new one?” asked Jonny afterwards. It was a definite yes to that, as they did my favorite new song of theirs… or at least my favorite out of what few songs I’ve heard. The song is fantastic, especially on the chorus, part of which I believe goes, “…I’ll keep sucking, sucking, sucking you dry until you realize you’re no J-J-J Jesus Christ.” To follow that up, Jonny grabbed an iron rod and placed it in a slot on his drum kit, swinging it around so it faced the crowd. Dan took his bass off and placed it on that hooked rod, holding down some of the strings while Jonny tapped the strings with a pair of drumsticks, and towards the end Mark got in on the action, holding down a few of the strings along the fret board. That is really one of the coolest, most unique things I’ve ever seen a band do, and with just a few rather simple modifications they managed to elevate it to a whole new level. As they got back to their spots on stage, you could faintly hear the sample track for the next song, growing louder and louder before exploding into “The Cleansing”. They had one final new one for this show, going into the harder, edgier, “Ballast”. For part of this song, Jonny pushes his voice to a whole new place from any other NoMo song, especially during the first verse, in particular on the lines “…When did we build this broken home…” and “…Dropping our hearts to grip our brother’s throat…”, where he digs into a deeper, somewhat throaty scream. The song gives you a true adrenalin rush, and will no doubt become one of the bands classics. Speaking of classics, an older fan favorite came next, “Love?”. That one had everyone singing along, but it wasn’t until the end when you could actually hear the fans singing the final chorus, “…I’ll sing it till the stars fall down, I’ll sing it till my lungs dry out. I could sing it all night long, but you never listened when I sang this song…”. Once that was over, Jonny passed things off to Dan, saying he had something to say. “…Four score and seven meals ago…” he started, going into his hilarious speech, serving as a segue into “Fat Kid”, a song that got people very excited. They then rocked out the “The Few Not Fleeting”, and then a song you wouldn’t expect to hear live, “It Seems…”. The song is one of my favorites and was a highlight for me during their acoustic show down in San Antonio last August, and while it becomes a powerful little number, it still lacks the punch their other material does, making this a rare treat in my opinion. Towards the end, before doing the chorus again, they changed it up as Jonny began singing part of The Beatles song, “Elanor Rigby”. “Look at all the lonely people, where do they all come from?…” he sang a few times before finishing out the song. They then announced that their time was almost up, wrapping things up with “Salem”. About halfway through Dan laid his bass down, grabbing a tom and raised it up to his left shoulder, while Mark brought him one for his right arm. Dan stood in front of the full drum kit as Jonny and Mark began making loops, with one getting a few beats in on the drums Dan held, while the other played the partial kit, repeating it a few times. That little stunt is something else that sets Nothing More apart from other bands, and even though you know they’re going to do it, it still never ceases to amaze. When that was done Dan put the toms down as they returned to their stations, finishing out the song and calling it a night.

An encore seemed inevitable, but as soon as they walked off the stage the chants for one more could be heard. I guess that means Denton had been deprived of Nothing More for far too long. Dan, Mark and Paul soon returned, with Jonny not far behind as they did “Waiting On Rain”, which seemed like it would probably conclude their set. “I think we have one more.” Said Jonny as he looked at his band mates, like he was making sure they were down for that. This was what I had been waiting all night for, seeing as they had moved my favorite song of theirs from the opening tune. They ripped into an instrumental piece, and before you knew it Mark was shredding away at the begging of “Bullets And Blue Eyes”, which put an end to an epic 65 minutes of rock.

This was easily one of the best performances I’ve ever seen any band do. It was just incredible, and aiding their performance was the energy and excitement of the crowd, which the band obviously fed off of. A mosh pit broke out on more than a few occasions, and even once so many people were jumping around and moving, I could feel the floor shaking, making me a bit afraid that it may cave on everybody.

I’m still just in awe of this, I mean, Nothing More was good nearly six years ago when I first saw them. Jonny taking over on vocals elevated them to a whole new level, and now, and now, they’ve pushed themselves so much further. And I feel very comfortable saying that there is no better currently active band in all of Texas than Nothing More, and if you want to disagree, then you obviously haven’t been to one of their shows.

It won’t be years before the next time NoMo gets to North Texas, as they actually have two shows here next month. The first is Saturday, June 2nd at Trees in Dallas (where they will be main support for Moving Atlas), while the other show is going to be Friday, June 22nd at Hailey’s in Denton with a band they are touring with, Bravo Delta. Aside from those dates, the rest of their schedule as is follows: May 16th at Blue Bonnett Palace in Selma, Texas. May 18th at ND Austin in Austin. May 19th at the Strawberry Festival in Houston/Pasadena. June 3rd at Sunken Gardens in San Antonio. June 15th at Brick by Brick in San Diego, California. June 16th at AMPLYFI in Los Angeles, California. June 20th at Tempe Tavern in Tempe, Arizona. June 23rd at Eclipse Cultural House in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Also, find “The Few Not Fleeting” in iTunes, and their forthcoming record should be out later this year.

This was just a real fun night, filled with both great music (one last shout out to WK Productions for putting this together) and hanging out with great friends/business partners, and it will definitely live in my mind for MANY years to come.

One last noteworthy thing about three of the bands that were on this bill, they all have a song available for download as part of a FREE music compilation. Paco, Moving Atlas and Nothing More are all featured on Escaping the Ordinary: Volume III, which you can download by going HERE.

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NOTE: Some amazingly talented individuals and myself have partnered up to create RYA Entertainment. We give you all the benefits of working with a major label (booking and promotional experience, industry connections, strength in numbers) without the hassles and cost associated with signing to a label. If your band would be interested in working with us in any of those aspects or performing at a future show of ours, contact me at: TheRealMusicEnthusiast@GMAIL.COM

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A note to whom it may interest: I’m wanting to get advertisers on my blog. If you are a band, music venue, or have any type of product or business whatsoever you want to promote, e-mail me at: TheRealMusicEnthusiast@gmail.com for full info. I will tell you now though, I get good traffic on my site and my prices will be VERY, VERY affordable to even the most broke bands/people. So please, allow me to help promote YOUR product constantly, and not just when I do a show review. Venues, I can list all your upcoming shows as I do for the Granada Theater. Bands, I can put up an image of your album cover and link that to iTunes, etc. Let me know if you would be interested in getting in on this exciting opportunity!

Saturday, February 11, 2012 – A Night of Acoustic Rock

It was back down to my Deep Ellum “home” if you will, for a second straight night. However, instead of going to the Curtain Club, the night would be spent at the more intimate, Liquid Lounge, where a phenomenal line-up of bands had been put together. Making it highly unusual, though, was that all the bands were doing acoustic sets… Despite some of them not being you idealistic acoustic bands. So it was bound to be an interesting night.

A touring band, Philmont, from Charlotte, North Carolina, opened the show. The band was on an acoustic tour, and only consisted of vocalist, Scott Taube, and guitarists, Josiah Prince and Justin Sams. Their 32 minute long set was a mix of originals and covers, with their opener, “I Can’t Stand to Fall”, falling into the former category. The song can be found on the bands “Rearranged and Unplugged” EP, and it featured Scott playing a xylophone occasionally throughout the song. Actually, the xylophone was used quite a bit during their set, and it added a nice sound to the songs. I’m pretty much clueless to the rest of their set, but I do know another original they did was “Closer”, plus a killer cover of “We Found Love”, and then ended the show with “The Last Song I Sing”.

They were great, and for an opening act set the bar pretty high. Also, the acoustic setting really showcased what a killer voice Scott has. As for their music, they have a very pop sound, which is more evident on the electric “The Transition” EP than this stripped down show, but what I like about it is that it doesn’t have the over-saturated sound the bogs down all mainstream music these days. These guys are indeed a legit pop/rock band, so give them a listen if you haven’t already.

Lastly, they have several shows coming up: February 24th at Gateway Church International in York, Pennsylvania. They will be at Crenshaw Baptist Church in Torrance, California on March 3rd. Sierra Pines Church in Oakhurst, California will host them on March 8th. ON March 9th you can catch them at the Grace Christian Fellowship in Antioch, California. On March 10th they will be in San Jose, California at Family Life Christian Center, and on March 16th they will be in Kokomo, Indiana at Chapel Hill Christian Church. It is worth noting that all of those shows are acoustic gigs. I also learned from Scott that they should be getting back to Texas in August, only as a full band, so here’s to hoping that happens.

The Dallas based musicians took the stage next, beginning with SaintKarla. Like most of the bands this night, the acoustic setting was a rare one for the groups, with this being I believe only the second acoustic show SaintKarla had ever done. It wasn’t a fully stripped down show, as bassist, Brad Bloomer, used an electric bass, but just didn’t play it as loud as usual, and their fill in drummer, Matt Loria (formerly of ReDefine), used a partial drum kit. But of course singer and guitarist, Jonathan Fink, and lead guitarist, John Perez, used some acoustic axes to further tone it down. The show began with Jono welcoming everyone to the “…Acoustica Romantica…”, saying it in a very dignified manner, almost like this was some exclusive, black-tie party. “…We’ll be playing some love songs for you all tonight. Which is hard for us, because we don’t have any love songs.” he stated. Surprisingly, their set was pretty similar to the electric shows, in regards to the material they performed, and the tunes translated over acoustically much better than I thought they would. “…This song is called The Bomb” Jon said, as he and John started the song, playing some notes that sounded like they belonged in a Western film starring Clint Eastwood. It is definitely a true rock song, but they had managed to pull it off and have it sound equally as great acoustic. The entire show, not just the music, had a laid back vibe to it, as Jono made a joke after the tune. “So, do you all remember that one time when John got arrested this week?” he asked the crowd, as John sat silently shaking his head. (I asked about that story, it was really no big deal whatsoever.) Some wisecracking about the event followed, before they got back to the show with a song from their “The Unexplained Pursuit of Happiness” album, “Self Created City”, with another joke coming after the song. Jono gave a lecture of sorts on love, and how sometimes a joke could be the way to a girls heart, and he shared one. “Knock, knock.” he said, as the audience replied, “Who’s there?” He then delivered the punch line, “Me, wondering why you’re not naked yet.” Then John cracked one. “Knock, knock.” Jono replied, “Who’s there?” “I got arrested.” said John. Then, that led them to a song Jono dedicated to his wife, “Reflection”. “Partly Cloudy With a Chance”, a song that truly fit the acoustic format, was played next, with the rest of the set being more just unplugged rock songs. Matt had been adding some light beats so far, but on the final songs, “You’re Soo Drama”, “Nothing but A Smile”, and “Sing”, he just went to town on the kit, which made those final three songs of their 35 minute set sound like the album version, just played with acoustic guitars… I mean that in a good way, of course.

It was another stellar set, and as I’ve said the past couple times these guys have played, it’s just good to see them on stage playing, especially doing a special show like this.

Jono mentioned during their set that he was eager to see how ReDefine had translated their songs over acoustically, and I had thought the same thing since learning they were doing this acoustic show. See, if you are not familiar with ReDefine, they are known for their intense live performances with their music falling into more of a hard rock category. Only one or two songs stood out to me as being capable of crossing over to this relaxed format, and I, too, wondered how this would sound…

It would soon become clear however that they would not be playing the same songs just with acoustic instruments, much like SaintKarla had done. No, the band had re-worked and re-structured practically every song in their set.

Their 42 minute set began with “Unheard And Dying”, which didn’t even sound like the same song. “For those of you who don’t know, we’re ReDefine.” said singer, Scott Headstream, when the song was over. “And for those of you who have seen us before, we’re still Redefine.” he added, before going on a little speech about how for the three years that he has been in the band they have done nothing but put their blood and sweat into the live performances, “…So this is really weird to be sitting still.” That wasn’t the only thing weird for Scott either, as he also played a guitar for this show, adding a third acoustic guitar to the mix. I believe drummer, Daniel Taylor, somewhat started the next song, though he wasn’t nearly as forceful as usual, and only used a three piece drum kit for this show. The shredding of the guitar was also absent on the song, as Scott soon sang the first line of the song, revealing it to be “The Silent Hum”. That was one I did not expect to be performed acoustically, but it sounded amazing. “Motorcade” came next, and was just another song whose music bed had been almost completely re-done, along with the vocals being sung at a totally different pace. Scott spoke a little more after that song, saying Jono “Hit the nail on the head” about their music not really translating into this format, “…And the band almost broke up four times.” he stated, then gave credit to guitarists, Chris Apaliski and Ryan Maynard, who he said came up with some great riffs. “So did you.” Chris told. “Yeah, me too.” Scott added. He continued, saying that with all that time put in to just their material, they hadn’t worked out any covers. “But we did manage to write a new song… This is called Pariah.” What followed might be one of the best things I’ve heard the band do. The song had a killer, catchy guitar riff, and stands out to me as being the best song of their set. It did seem rather short, though, and you could tell the idea hasn’t been fully fleshed out… yet. I also found it funny when I later learned from Maynard how the song came about, and was actually born out of messing up while rehearsing one of the other songs, as Maynard continued with the riff that would become the backbone of the song, with the rest of the band soon joining in. I guess that’s just one more example of some of the best things in life begin as an accident. Before their next song, Scott took time to mention that it was featured on a compilation “released by a local guy” and featured some underground music. “…I don’t know how underground you have to be to know bands like Dredge…” he said, as Chris mentioned the website, “Escaping The Ordinary dot net.” Musically, “Cut the Cord” did sound more reminiscent of the electric version than some of their other songs had, but still varied a good bit. Thus far, Scott had been singing pretty much every word, even what are backing vocals and typically handled by his band mates. Well, that changed during this one, as Chris took over and sang the bridge, “Take all these pieces that don’t seem to fit. Take all these people that don’t seem to care about it. Everything lives and everything dies. Everything moves right here before my eyes.”. All the while Scott still crooned into the mic, as their voices intertwined quite well together. My two favorite ReDefine songs came next, as they first rocked out “The Darkest Night” and then “Like a Vision, a Ghost”. I look at both of those as being some of the harder songs the band has, but they both turned out great with these new versions, and on “Like a Vision, a Ghost” I believe Scott changed up the lyrics slightly, too. At this point the show was pretty much over, and the fans cried out for “Rise”. “…We’ll do Rise.” Scott told everyone, “But not because y’all want us to, but because we want to.” In some ways this was like rock version, but in others it didn’t even closely resemble it, as it was so toned down, and Daniel and bassist, Mike Diquinzio, weren’t nearly as forceful on the rhythm section. There was also some crowd participation during this song, as the fans shouted out during the chorus, “RISE! Rise above this!”

And with that, this rare little set was over. I honestly enjoyed this more most ReDefine shows, only because it was so different from what they usually do and took them completely out of their comfort zone (though they still looked quite at home doing their songs like this.) It was just fantastic, and not to sound like a dick, but if you missed this, then it truly was your loss. Hopefully they will work these acoustic shows into more of a routine thing, though, because I would very much like to see this happen again… And sometime before a few years from now. Every year, or possible even every six months, is my thoughts. I guess we will see, though. The band will return to their full rock glory next month on March 24th at the Curtain Club, so mark your calendars.

Honestly, that had been quite a show right there, but there was still one act left, and it just so happened to be the man I have repeatedly referred to as the greatest singer/songwriter of all time. The one and only, Paco Estrada.

He wasn’t alone for this show, though, and had a drummer sitting in with him. The same drummer who back in October served as an improv drummer at one of Paco’s shows, and also filled in at the One Love Reunion show in December. The duo started their 66 minute set with a cover of Kings of Leon’s tune, “Sex on Fire”. I’ve never been able to get into Kings of Leon, but hearing Paco cover their stuff actually makes me like it. However, I still think the best song of theirs that he covers is “Use Somebody”. Afterwards, he got into his original stuff, as he began strumming his guitar leading up to the song, and then started singing “Haunting Me”. “I’ll keep my ghost from haunting you. I’ll just let go, and walk away. And when you think that the clouds have cleared, I’m gonna call your name…”. I want to say it was after that song, though it possible came later, but Paco talked about the death of Whitney Houston. He wasn’t really making fun of it, but yet it seemed like he was trying to take a few jabs at her. “So, I would’ve done a Whitney Houston cover, but I just didn’t have enough time to work one out. I mean, she only died at, like, three this afternoon.” He went on to say that, he always knew Bobby Brown would be the death of her. “…I still think he was probably there and just slipped out the backdoor before somebody discovered her.” He then went on with “This Is Life”, and, in typical Paco fashion, tacked on a cover song to the end of it. It was one I had never heard him do before, but I really enjoyed his partial cover of Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer”. “All of my songs are love songs.” he said before starting the next song. “But this one is my most favorite.” With that he played the opening chords of “When We Were Made”, and then began what may well be the most beautiful love song ever. “Before the first time two lovers ever danced in the rain, before true love ever knew pain, before our sun bursted into flame, before the flowers had been named. That’s when we were made… for each other…” Another favorite of mine came next, as they did “When the Lights Go Down”. Paco is definitely a wordsmith, and this song holds another line I really love. “Keep your eye on the prize and when the time is right just walk up and take it.” Next, he strayed from the set list a bit, saying the song wasn’t planned, but it just seemed appropriate to play it. The song was “Girls Just Want to Have Fun”. That’s pretty much what it is too, just a fun song for him to do, as it is more of a departure from his originals, or even what he typically covers. I mentioned the drummer is somewhat of an improv musician with Paco, and if you were paying attention, you could easily notice when Paco pulled out “I Will Follow”. He looked almost surprised when Paco started the song, but he kept up nicely, beginning softly with the beats at first, then upping it as the song gained more energy. This so a couple of the old classics performed, such as “Surface”, complete with the chorus from Maroon 5’s song, “She Will be Loved” at the end, and “The Game”, with a cover tune sandwiched in between the two. Also, on “The Game”, he added that line before the final chorus that makes a great song even better. “…And it’s only my heart, my heart, my heart. And you tore it apart, apart, apart. I’m letting you know, I’m letting you go, I’m letting you know…” They wrapped up the set with “Whiskey Kisses”, which was only the second song they did from Paco’s newest record, which is somewhat of a shame, because I view it as perhaps his best solo effort. After that however, the fans still wanted more, and vocalized. The two could be seen talking about it for a few moments, and then answered the demand with “Breaking Down”. For the first time though, they put another cover song at the end of it, instead of “In Your Eyes”, which is the norm. It still sounded good , though.

And that was how the night came to a close. This was possibly one of the best line-up of artists I’ve ever seen, and actually, I think this may have been the first ever all acoustic bill I’ve witnessed. It slayed though, as all of the bands rocked it… I guess maybe more figuratively in this case than usual.

As for Paco, I’m not aware of any upcoming shows to promote, but like he said during this performance, he plays the area at least once a month, so just keep your eyes peeled. And you should definitely check out his music on Bandcamp.

Lastly, I mentioned Escaping the Ordinary briefly when going over Redefine’s show. Well, not only are they on this compilation, but so are Paco and SaintKarla, along with about 50 other artists. The compilation is wonderful, and it can be yours for the low price of FREE. Just go HERE to snag a free download.

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NOTE: To hear music from these and many other independent artists from Texas, the U.S., and even the world, listen to me weekly “The Music Enthusiast Podcast”, which is part of the WhiskeyBoy Radio Network. If you are in a band and would like me to play your music on the show (assuming I don’t already have it), or perhaps you want an outlet to debut new material, email me at: TheRealMusicEnthusiast@GMAIL.COM

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A note to whom it may interest: I’m wanting to get advertisers on my blog. If you are a band, music venue, or have any type of product or business whatsoever you want to promote, e-mail me at: TheRealMusicEnthusiast@gmail.com for full info. I will tell you now though, I get good traffic on my site and my prices will be VERY, VERY affordable to even the most broke bands/people. So please, allow me to help promote YOUR product constantly, and not just when I do a show review. Venues, I can list all your upcoming shows as I do for the Granada Theater. Bands, I can put up an image of your album cover and link that to iTunes, etc. Let me know if you would be interested in getting in on this exciting opportunity!

Saturday, December 10, 2011 – Part I: Love Will Rise

On September 11th 2010, the current band of Paco Estrada, One Love, played their farewell show. I still recall one moment of that night when Paco said that it was the last show they’d ever do. “…Until next year when we do a reunion because we need the money.” he added. It got a laugh and was viewed by myself, and I’m sure everyone else, as Paco cracking a joke, but time would reveal that it really wasn’t.


Indeed, barely over a year since they disbanded, the group decided to do their reunion show, at the best venue in Deep Ellum, and one Paco considers home, the Curtain Club.


On my way down to Dallas I hit a standstill on highway 75, where evidently a wreck had occurred. It took me twenty plus minutes to travel maybe one and a half miles, and when I got up to where the accident had happened all that remained were the flares the police had put on the road. I mention of all of that only because it set me back enough that I missed the start of the Tyler based rock outfit, Truffula Tree. I was disappointed by this, since I had been waiting for them to return to Dallas since seeing them in July, but what are you going to do.

I got into the Curtain just as they finished the song they were doing, and followed it up with the opening track from their “Beautiful Delusional” EP, “Attached with a String”. Once they were finished, singer and guitarist, Seth Lord, introduced the next song, “Holy Alibis”, as they went into another one of their songs that maintains the perfect balance of mainstream, radio friendly alternative rock, while also sounding totally fresh and not like they are trying to conform to what most people say is “popular”. Steven Mitchell took began the next song for them with an incredibly bass riff, which somewhat reminded me of the theme song to the show Seinfeld. Also during this song, I guess lead guitarist, Cody Sowell, experienced some technical issues, because at one point I looked over and he was nowhere to be seen, but then soon emerged from the stairwell and plugged in the new guitar he had. Seth stated the next song was a newer one and had to do with a particular concept they were currently working on. “The concept is Virgin Earth.” he said, then added the song was called “Fish People”. I found this to be their best song of the night, and it really sounds totally different from their other material. For the most part it wasn’t as intense as the stuff from their EP, and the guitar melody that Cody played throughout the song was fairly haunting. From what I’ve heard they’re going to be taking more time off to work on a new record, and if this tune is any indication as to what’s to come, then I, for one, am very excited. Upon finishing that one, Seth set his guitar aside and took a seat behind the keyboard that sit at the front of center stage. He played a little piece alone, adding some vocals to it. “This song is called More Alive” he told the crowd when he finished, then started that song. Their time had already come to an end, and they closed out the show with “Bonfire”. For the most part, this is one of their slower songs, but it was also the one where drummer, Mike Hill, really let loose, as he exploded in the final minute or so after Seth sang, “…But your eyes they burn like a bonfire, and my heart explodes like a bonfire…”.

Really, these guys are nothing short of fantastic, and if you’re in or around Baton Rouge, Louisiana on December 23rd you should check them out at Click’s. You can also say goodbye to 2011 and ring in 2012 with them on new year’s eve at Click’s in Tyler, Texas. They will also return to Dallas on Saturday, January 7th to rock Trees. In regards to that Dallas show; HOORAY! I won’t have to wait five months to see them again.

It wasn’t long ago at all that Paco Estrada & One Love would headline here at the Curtain, but for their reunion show they had the second time slot. Thankfully, it afforded them enough time to do all the hits.

Zuriel began playing some notes on his violin while the curtain was still drawn. When it opened, Paco stood there, wearing his white jacket with the bands logo, a flame emblem with a heart at the center of it, just as he had done on this very stage a little over two years ago when they released their only album, “The Anatomy of Letting Go”. Zuriel continued with his piece, which served as an intro that he soon swirled into “Haunting Me”. They proceeded just like the record does, with “Breath” and “This Is Life”. Paco took a moment to announce who they were, though I think it was unnecessary since the front of the stage was packed, presumably all fans of the band. “This is our last song of the night.” he said as he turned his back to the audience. I knew it had to be a joke, but I still thought, “I didn’t pay ten bucks to just hear four songs.” The following song has been one of my favorite Paco songs for over five years now, and as the band started it, Paco returned to the mic to sing “Surface”. “We’ve established this is where we stand. We said after this we’ll just be friends, but my heart don’t really know my head. No, my heart don’t really know my head…” When it ended, Paco retreated to stage right, as the spotlight turned to the instrumentalists. Damn, I’d already completely forgotten about what was about to happen, but it quickly came back to me. Besides Paco, the band only included two of the original members, Zuriel being one, and bassist, Emsy Robinson being the other. Zuriel rocked out his amazing violin part, then it subsided for a moment and Emsy then added some rhythm to it. They continued it, and eventually the keyboard player and drummer entered in. By the time it was done, they wound it into “Breaking Down”, and Paco walked back to the mic, having ditched the jacket. “You grab your shovel and your digging ax…” he sang, but that was about as far as he got, as he tripped over the following words. Best my memory serves, this is only the third time I’ve ever seen this man make a mistake, and while he didn’t like that he had, he handled it well. Laughing it off, he eventually told everyone he was going to take a minute to himself and try it again. Zuriel soon spun it back around to the beginning of the song, and this time Paco pulled it off. Just like old times, they kept the song going as Paco added the first part of Peter Gabriel’s, “In Your Eyes”, to the end of it. They brought that one right into the start of “The Game”, while another classic, “Killing Me”, came next. At this point, Paco took time to introduce everyone. Emsy, the keyboard player, whose name I don’t recall, Zuriel, and their drummer. “Robi couldn’t make it, ‘cause he had to quit playing music and get a real job.” stated Paco, referring to original drummer, Robi Hamilton. Instead, they had the drummer of Paco’s current project playing with them, who did a great job, though it was slightly weird since he played a full drum kit, while Robi just rocked out the beats on a cajon. “Do You Believe?”would come next, and I thought would be their last song of the night, but I was forgetting one very important one. “This is where it gets fun.” Paco said, adding, “Just close your eyes.” The song was one of the greatest love songs ever written, “I Will Never Let You Go”, which concluded their 31 minute set.

It truly was an incredible set, and I’d already forgotten how much I really enjoyed seeing One Love. While this might not have been my favorite endeavor of Paco’s, only because I am more partial to rock music, this band did create some of the most beautiful and gorgeous sounds I’ve heard. Like they always said, it’s music to make love to. If you’re in San Angelo, you can see Paco do a solo show on December 16th at Fifi Dubois. Then he and his new band will headline the Liquid Lounge in Dallas on new year’s eve to celebrate the new year.

There was one last band to see here before I moved on to another club, and that was One Red Martian. They began their set a bit differently than the past couple of times I’d seen them, with what could best be described as a short reprise of “Spit My Brain”. It sounded more hardrock, especially compared to what ORM typically does, and singer and guitarist, Jimi Woodul, sang a some of the lines from the tune. I believe one of the lines was, “…I can do a neat trick, cough it up, spit it out…” It ended rather abruptly as they brought it into the first official song of the night, “Badasser Dragon”. Dan DeKalb, who plays the keys, added some backing vocals to the song, and the way both his and Jimis’ voice blended together was great. When it came to an end, drummer, Joe Woodul, started them into “Demon Droid”, which also has some heavier bass notes supplied by Ben Woodul. The single from their “Spit My Brain” record, the poppy and extremely catchy “Sly Dreamer”, followed, as did the full version of “Spit My Brain”. Afterwards, Dan played his little piano intro for “Wildo”, and when it was over it was time for what every ORM fan had been waiting for, a new song. It was somewhat along the lines of their current material, but you could hear the progression they’ve made, too. It seemed more free form, in a jam band sort of way, with Jimi doing some good guitar riffs/solos. I said before that I like the material on “Spit My Brain” much better than their previous EP, and you can really hear the growth when listening to the two. That said, if they write more songs that are on the same level as this new one, they might be on track to blow their current stuff out of the water. They had just a couple songs left, and after rocking out “Terror” they did one final song to close out their 34 minute set.


It was a really good show they put on. I think it was only the fourth time I’ve seen them, but each time I do I become more of a fan. They may be done for the year, but they’ll be hitting it hard next month. On January 7th they’ll be Wichita Falls at the Iron Horse Pub. On the 14th they’ll be back in Dallas at the Crown and Harp on lower Greenville, and then they’ll do some out of town shows. On the 19th they’ll hit Hotel Vegas in Austin, the 20th Limelight in San Antonio, and on the 21st they’ll be in Houston at Rudyard’s British Pub. If you live anywhere near those cities, go ahead make plans to be at the show.


Marquis of Vaudeville was headlining, and one day I will see them again as they are good, but their was a CD release going on elsewhere that I could not miss.

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NOTE: You can expect to hear music from all of these bands, as well as TONS more on the “The Music Enthusiast Podcast” starting up in just a few weeks as part of the WhiskeyBoy Radio Network.

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A note to whom it may interest: I’m wanting to get advertisers on my blog. If you are a band, music venue, or have any type of product or business whatsoever you want to promote, e-mail me at: TheRealMusicEnthusiast@gmail.com for full info. I will tell you now though, I get good traffic on my site and my prices will be VERY, VERY affordable to even the most broke bands/people. So please, allow me to help promote YOUR product constantly, and not just when I do a show review. Venues, I can list all your upcoming shows as I do for the Granada Theater. Bands, I can put up an image of your album cover and link that to iTunes, etc. Let me know if you would be interested in getting in on this exciting opportunity!

Friday, October 28, 2011 – The Awakening

I will say it again, no other club in Dallas hosts as good of rock shows as the Curtain Club does. And tonight, talent-wise, they had outdone themselves.


Beginning the night was the three-piece rock outfit, Gray, the New Black. I had heard of them before, and even listened to their songs online, but I didn’t like them enough to become a fan. So I was hoping the live deal would be better. And it was. They have a very unique, creative sound. At times their music was a bit indie rock, while others a mix of rock and pop. Even one song, I believe it was titled, “Enough is Not a Number Occurring in Nature”, began with a little country sound, as vocalist and guitarist, Mike Hamilton, played some country notes and even sang with a slight twang, before it turned into a real rock number. Very great stuff, indeed. The only thing I would suggest is maybe putting a little more swagger in their step, if you will, because I didn’t much feel any stage presence. Perhaps that was due to a lack of audience, I don’t know. But I do know they were a bit stationary for the show, making it appear as if they were just going through the motions. Regardless, I’ll see them again, and you should check them out.


The Sherman/Denison based band, Red Shift, was up next, doing their Dallas EP release show. I had seen the tail end of their set a few months back when they played here, and was looking forward to catching a full set. They have really great, slightly hardrock sound. Vocalist, Tommy Barker’s voice sounds a little rough around the edges at times, though I think that adds to the bands charm. And he can quickly go to a wicked, angry sounding scream. The rest of the band is just as good, putting on a very enjoyable stage show. The only problem came at the very end of the set when one of their guitarists had some technical difficulties, resulting in them axing their final song. My knowledge of  musical equipment is limited, and I couldn’t tell if it was a pedal or what, but the guitarist held it up. “To all you local musicians, I wouldn’t never by (insert brand name), because it just quit working on me.”, he said while laughing a little.


You can pick up their CD, “The Awakening”, on iTunes, and I wold recommend doing so.

Now this is where the night really got extraordinary, as Night Gallery took the stage. And I use the word “extraordinary” because they were the first of three bands who have headlined the Curtain several times, though tonight found them serving as an opener. Their set kicked off with an intro, as they done before by mixing lines from different movies together. As that was playing, a man stood on the steps in front of the stage, dressed in attire that made him look like he was with the FBI or something. The music began, and the curtain opened on quite a sight. Five politicians were standing on stage. Craig James was wearing a smiling Obama mask as he rocked out on his bass, while drummer, “Duckie”, was Reagan, and I believe guitarist, Jeremy Root, was supposed to be Al Gore. I couldn’t see their keyboard player, nor tell who the other guitarist, Johnny Hand, was supposed to be. It was an awesome sounding instrumental piece they were doing, and it continued for minute or two, before they were joined by their final member. A somewhat Pinocchio sized nose was seen coming up the stairs onto the stage as vocalist, “Otter”, who was Nixon, made his entrance. He was flashing the peace sign, like Nixon did, jumping around and rocking out. This was one of the funniest things I’ve seen in a long time, and as it wound down, they pulled their masks off and ditched the jackets they had on.  They had switched up the setlist a little bit, and opened with “My Friend Pretend”. Personally, I didn’t think anything could be a better opener than what they’ve used for the past few shows, but this one was a great way to kick off the show. They followed it with “Dirty Side”, then Otter took a moment to promote their upcoming full-length record, by saying the next song was on their EP and would also be on the new record. “It’s called She Runs.” he said as Duckie and Johnny began the song. “Are you ready to get a little crazy?” Otter asked the crowd, of which they seemed to have the largest audience of the night. “Are you ready to get a little brave?” he continued, as the band rounded the end of the last song into the start of “Crazy Brave”. They segued the end of it into the ever so beautifully written, “Lynne”, and then it was time for a couple more newer ones. Otter again mentioned the record, saying that this song, “The Signal”, would be on it. Duckie counted the band in, and as he slammed down on his kit, the rest struck their instruments, letting the note resonate as they repeated it. Their keyboard player kept striking poses with each beat, and stood like he was frozen until the next one, and by the end of it, he was doing a back bend before they launched into this killer tune. I was debating it since the start of the night, but after hearing this one again, I think it’s a little better suited to open shows. It just creates such a wonderful, rocking atmosphere. “The Tide” came next, and as they got their final tune of the night, Otter urged people to go to the back of the club if “…They got scared easily…” “I wrote this song about the worst serial killer of all time…” he continued, as they began “Mr Ripper”, which capped off their 34 minute set.

The show was great, and I really enjoyed the changed up setlist, as it gave it a fresh feeling. In regards to their keyboard player, I still find it hard to hear it in the live setting, and can’t tell a noticeable difference in the music. However, having him add some second backing vocals to the songs makes them more layered, and sounds pretty cool. They’ll be playing at Tomcats West in Fort Worth this Friday, November 4th, and then they’ll be in San Angelo on November 12th, at the Dead Horse. They also have a couple shows in Kilgore, the first being November 19th and the other December 3rd, both of which will go down at the Side Pocket Lounge.

The great musicianship continued with Paco Estrada. Though this was a different show from what he usually does. His current full band was gone for this show, and in their place was a couple of improve musicians, an electric guitarist and a drummer, while Paco played an acoustic guitar. The purpose of this was so Paco could resurrect some of his classics that his latest band doesn’t do, so the fans could hear their favorite songs again. They began by playing some light notes, and drew it out for a minute or two before Paco opened his mouth. “So save your breath for the rest of this relationship…” he sang, the first line of “Where Did You Go?”. They followed with a song from one of the solo CDs he released sometime after SouthFM had broken up, “Last Dance”. That’s one of my favorite songs he did from those solo records, but I don’t recall ever hearing it live, because I never saw too many shows at that point in his career. The amazing love song off of his “Definite and Indefinite…” album, “When We Were Made”, came next. And when it was done, Paco looked at the drummer, “Lights” he told him. I got excited, and this was hands down the highlight of the night for me, as they did another tune he performed after SouthFM’s demise, “When the Lights Go Down”. Not only is Paco an exceptional singer, he’s an amazing lyricist, and that song holds some of my favorite lyrics. From “…Keep your eye on the prize and when the time is right, just walk up and take it…” to “…And we live everyday today, and I didn’t come this far just to stop and walk away. So say you’ll stay, because this mess where in it gets deeper everyday…” Another classic and fan favorite came next, “Surface”, and then one predominately performed with his One Love band, “Reckless Love”. They did another newer song, “Whiskey Kisses”, the oldie, “Killing Me”, and wrapped their 44 minute set with what else, “I Will Never Let You Go”.

Honestly, this was one of the best Paco shows I’ve seen in awhile. It was great to hear such an array of songs, some of which I hadn’t heard in around 4 and a half years. And for improve musicians these guys did an astounding job, in particular the guitarist. He added a soulful vibe to some of the songs, like the first two, while adding a little pop element on others. It really was spectacular, and I’d like to see him do this more often so we fans can hear some older or rarely played songs. You can catch Paco here at the Curtain Club on December 10th when his last band, One Love, does a reunion show.

It had already been a long night, and was a little after 1 AM when Kirk Baxley started his 43 minute set. But this wasn’t just Kirk and his acoustic guitarist like Dallas has seen in the past, no. This show was the debut Dallas gig for his full-band, The Buckshot Jones Band. Yes, to fit his more country music sound, Kirk has resurrected the Buckshot Jones moniker, which he had for a brief while near the end of ’06 into early to mid ’07. They opened with the title track from their upcoming EP, “Stranded”. Personally, I don’t really consider this or most of the songs they did this night to be country music. Granted, it isn’t as rock sounding as some of Kirk’s previous bands, but it’s not the style of Willie Nelson or Johnny Cash either. Most of what they did this night was newer stuff, and after a couple of songs they did “God in Rock ‘n’ Roll” with the end of it rolled seamlessly into the next song. At this point the stage right guitarist laid his guitar down and took a seat in front of a pedal steel guitar, while Kirk swapped out his electric for an acoustic. This was where it began to sound a little more country. They did a tune, and afterwards Kirk said things where “…About to get real up in here, because I believe writing songs about real life experiences.” And if it wasn’t evident from that song, it certainly was in the next. “So, those of you who know me personally know I’ve been through a rough couple of years.” he said, adding that the next song was a product of a writing session he collaborated on to write songs for Keith Urban. “I’m really proud of this one.” he said as they began the beautiful and haunting, “Sweet Perfume”. Afterwards, the drummer, bassist, and guitarist left the stage, leaving Kirk and the pedal steel guitarist. Kirk announced the next one was a newer one, saying it came to him as he was leaving a “…Special young lady in my life’s house…” and that he wrote it “…In three minutes on my steering wheel.” It was called “The Seven Rules”, and it was one of my favorite songs they did. When it was done, the band returned, rocked out a couple more songs, and that concluded this fine night of music.

Kirk’s next show will be at O’ Brien’s Irish Pub in Temple, TX on Wednesday, November 23rd. And supposedly his EP is slated for release next month.

Saturday, September 17, 2011 - The Paco Estrada Band

It looked as if it was going to be another great show at Trees. At least I hoped, cause for once there was only one band on the bill that I was really familiar with.


The first band up was called Siren Sea. In comparison to the rest of the line-up, I thought they were the odd man out, though with the exception of Paco Estrada, they were probably the best sounding band that played. Their opening song sounded like a mix of soul and blues, and even added some real rock towards the end when guitarist, Niklas Schonbeck, went into a great solo. After the tune, frontwoman, Reema Hamdan, apologized for the odd order of the setlist. “We usually do these in a different order…” she said, saying that it did flow better, but they had to make some changes so the photographer and film crew could get what they needed, which in turn was what the band needed. Reema, who had been seated, stood up for the next song, a cover of The Beatles “Eleanor Rigby”, which sounded amazing. She said they were going to do another cover after it. “I’m sorry, we usually don’t do these back to back.” she said, and added that this was a “…night of firsts.” for them. Their bassist couldn’t resist, and went over to Reema’s mic, and used the classic, “That’s what she said.” They did several songs in their 39 minute set, that covered the music spectrum, some sounding like the first song I described, others being a little more rock based, but with an older rock sound and feel. “Would y’all be upset if we did a song we just did again?” asked Reema. The crowd was pretty small, and even the people who were there that weren’t fans didn’t seem to have any objection. The reason for it? She said they were going to be on Good Morning Texas next month, and they were going to film this specific song once more to make sure it was perfect so they could use it on the show. They are very different from the type of music I usually like, but by the end of their set I was a fan (actually, it didn’t even take that long.) I didn’t get their EP (Six Shades of Blue) however, cause I was still unsure how much I really liked their music, and after previewing it on iTunes, I’m now regretting not. Oh well, just more of a reason to see them again. They have a show coming up next month, October 21st, in Grapevine at Tap In.


Civil Sound took the stage next. The four-piece began their set with their singer playing the keys, which continued through most of the second song, “I Don’t Care”. Then, at the tail end of it he traded the keys for an acoustic guitar, to close out the song. “This next one is a Justin Timberlake song.” he said, as they did a great cover of “What Goes Around”. They did a couple more songs, then one from their last record, titled “Fade Away”, and closed the show with “Letting Go”, which their singer said would be on the bands new EP, due out next month. And that put an end to their 31 set. They sounded great, though I was a bit disappointed with the short set. I mean, they could have gotten another eight to ten minutes if they chose to, but I guess they had their little set planned out and didn’t want to do anymore. Oh, well. They have a couple shows coming up in Highland Village at Rock Fish on October 7th and 21st.


North of Autumn was the main support band, and if you read my blog I did after seeing them last month, than you know I thought absolutely nothing of the band. Maybe it’s because Trees has a superior sound system, or maybe the band was more on their game tonight. But whatever the reason was, I did like them a little more. I at least wasn’t thinking “This is some of the most horrendous shit that I have ever heard.” And their singer didn’t stand out as the only member with a glimmer of discernible talent, either, as the guitarists, bassist, and drummer all executed their parts quite well this night. Still, I’ll be fine not seeing them again, and I do stand by some of my remarks from that other blog that they seem to copy Maroon 5, but don’t sound quite as good.


Paco Estrada began his bands set, playing some notes on his guitar with his back facing the small crowd of people gathered around the stage. It went on for maybe a minute as he turned around, approached the mic, and sang the opening lines of “The Damage That’s Done “. “I’ve been living my life like a ghost in the rain. Slowly losing my mind, slowly going insane…” before the drummer, bassist, and guitarist tore into the song as Paco finished, “…Just another lost soul in another fish bowl.” They moved right along into the next song, as the drummer rolled them into their amazing cover of “Come Pick Me Up” by Ryan Adams. But the momentum they had was soon lost. Paco strummed his guitar to begin the next song, though it didn’t sound right, and he set about fixing it. Some of the girls in attendance took this time of silence to shout out “I LOVE YOU!” to which Paco replied, “I love you, too. This is my Ron Paul guitar and I’m not loving it at the moment, cause it is not wanting to stay in tune.” His guitar was decked out with stickers of the Republican candidate, both his face and name. The tuning process seemed to take forever, but in reality probably around three to five minutes, and near the end of it the guitarist went ahead and started the opening notes of “When We Were Made”. “There we go. That’s how it’s supposed to sound.” said Paco when he had fixed the issue, and apologized for the mishap, and joined in on the song. They followed it with “I Can Talk You Into Anything” and the most rock sounding, and my personal favorite, song that they currently do, “Whiskey Kisses”. It sounded as if it had reached the end, as the music trailed off, but then Paco came back to the mic, ever so lightly strumming on his guitar, and in a very soulful voice sang the chorus one last time. “Your sweet whiskey kisses, that’s what I’ve been missing. When you lose your inhibitions. Let’s make some bad decisions.” They did one final song from the “Definite and Indefinite…" album, "To Your Memory", then went into the hits. "Breaking Down" came first, and they of course added their partial cover of "In Your Eyes" to the end of the song. And I just want to say that I love the way Paco sings the line, "…I see the doorway to a thousand churches in your eyes…" It’s done in a very forceful manner, and, like most of his songs, there is such emotion on his face as he sings it. The guitarist and Paco had a brief conversation before starting the next song, as the bassist walked behind his amp and the drummer sat on the edge of the drum riser. Yes, it was a song done with only guitars, and a classic I was not expecting. The opening guitar line is very simple, yet quite mesmerizing, then Paco opened his mouth. "You can hear what I am saying. You put your words inside my mouth…" Yep, it was "Killing Me". I heard it once before with this band, back in October of last year, and I still believe that out of the now three incarnations of this song, this is the best. The pauses Paco takes in the middle of most of the lines really adds weight to the song whose heart is truly its lyrics. "…Your love, you see, it’s killing me. And I don’t want to waste more time telling you how I feel…" The whole band returned for the next song, and last of their 54 minute set, "Do You Believe?" which also featured a cover song added to it. Paco had been back by the drum riser, rocking out on his guitar, before going back to the mic, and while I don’t know what the other song was, he sang, "I had a dream, that I knew someone like you…"


I’ll say it yet again, this IS the most amazing singer/songwriter ever. And in the few months it had been since I last saw this new full band of his, I’d somewhat forgotten how incredible they were. I’m still not sure what you would consider their music, as it’s certainly not rock, nor would it fit any other classification that currently exists.