Thursday, October 16th, 2014 – Misterwives is Mesmerizing in Dallas

I don’t know how well known the bands opening for/on tour with Twenty One Pilots were. Personally, I had never heard of them before this night, and I know I couldn’t have been alone. I surely wasn’t the only one who was expecting the openers to be completely eclipsed by the headliner, too, seeing as how jaw-dropping their performances are. Luckily, there are bands like Misterwives out there, who completely amaze you.

No sooner had the New York City-based band taken the stage at the House of Blues, then they launched into “Kings and Queens”, performing it as a six-piece, as it was one of the songs they enlisted help from their saxophonist. Almost from the get go they impressed the hell out of the spectators, as frontwoman Mandy Lee belted out one line, holding it for several seconds. It was honestly a jaw dropping moment that earned them rave applause and shouts of approval, her tremendous voice enrapturing everyone. They made things quite fun, too, even starting a clap along later in the track, and much of the audience helped them out without even having to be told to do so.

“Dallas, how y’all feeling tonight?!” Lee asked in a bubbly tone, following that up with, “Is everybody ready to have a good time us?!”, before they went on into “Twisted Tongue”. Their music was a mixture of soul and pop, with even some jazz undertones peppered in; and on each chorus of that dance inducing number Lee, bassist William Hehir and guitarist Marc Campbell rapidly clapped their hands, making for a very nice percussion effect. Campbell and Hehir started hitting their stride on that one, too, as they wound their way over to one another, smiling, before leaping into the air.

Lee was giggling by the time they finished it, clearly enjoying herself, as they moved on to a newer song, one that had three of them now snapping their fingers in unison. “Dallas, give it up for yourselves!” she said upon finishing that one, noting this was the “most amazing tour” they had been a part of; even recalling their previous time in Dallas, when they played the smaller room upstairs. “Now we’re here, with all you gracious people. Thank you,” she said, and it was evident the speech came from the heart.

They slowed things down just a hair with “Vagabond”, which really highlighted Jesse Blum, who was working the keyboard (along with playing a trumpet here and there). “How was your summer?” Lee asked afterwards, noting she wasn’t prepared for how hot it still was here (it had only been in the 80’s that day for the high, which is a cool high for North Texas this time of year), before going on to say they had an excellent summer, because they spent it in the studio working on their first LP. They did another track that will surely be on that forthcoming LP; and the saxophonist was back for it, and he helped in clapping along with some of the other members.

“Dallas, you guys are too much fun!” Lee said while laughing. She had used a tambourine heavily at the start of their set, and broke it out again for the title track of their EP, “Reflections”, a song that saw her covering nearly every square inch of the stage. Already their 30-minute set was almost done, and they closed with a song that called upon everyone in the crowd. “I can’t dance for the life of me,” Lee confessed, saying she needed everyone out in the crowd to boogie and show off their dance moves. They had done some pretty infectious songs thus far, but “Imagination Infatuation” took the cake. It was a blend of electronic and jazzy elements, while drummer Etienne Bowler provided a sturdy backbone for it all.

All of them had fun with it, like when Lee grabbed the mic stand Blum was using for his trumpet, moving it to the forefront of the stage, so he followed closely behind it. The jam session continued when she went back by Bowler and played one of the drums for a bit, before they brought things to a roaring finish.

I was smitten with Misterwives by the time they had finished their first song, and after fully working over the crowd, they had made some new lifelong fans.

They were very candid this night, and it’s always good to see bands like that, because when the members of the band are having a blast, it makes it even easier for the crowd to get caught up in it.

They were fun and funky, with a great sound that is smartly written pop. There was depth to all of the songs, both musically and lyrically, and further enhancing that was the amazing tones and register Lee was capable of pulling off. They held everyone’s interest for the entire time, too.

They became a new personal favorite band of mine this night, and I’m glad they enjoyed their time in Dallas as much as they did, because that should ensure they’ll be back. Hopefully that will be sooner rather than later.

They have a couple shows in Nevada coming up. One is October 24th at Cargo at Whitney Peak Hotel in Reno, with the other being in Las Vegas as part of the Life is Beautiful Festival on the 25th. For more info, go HERE. Be sure to check out their EP in iTUNES, too.

Thursday, October 16th, 2014 – Twenty One Pilots’ First Night in Dallas Transcends the Typical Concert Experience

Not just every band can pull off doing a two-night stand in one city. Originally, Twenty One Pilots wasn’t even going to, but then this Thursday night show sold out in a matter of weeks, resulting in the addition of a Friday night gig (which, too, sold out.)

The way it looked this night, you would have thought it was a Friday, though.

The streets were crawling with life as people made their way to the House of Blues; and once getting downstairs to the showroom, it looked like most people getting there at 7:30 were late to the party.

There was no way of weaseling your way up to the front. The crowd was already too large. Vinyl Theatre opened up the show, while the following act, Misterwives, left much of the crowd speechless, mainly because of frontwoman Mandy Lee’s powerhouse voice.

In patiently waiting for the band of the hour, fans were cheering everything, from the stage hands bringing the piano on stage to taking the sheet off that had been covering the drum kit. Everyone was clearly beside themselves over what they were about to see.

I first saw Twenty One Pilots eleven months ago, when they played here, and then in May of this year while out covering the Suburbia Music Festival. Their one of those bands you instantly like, not only because of their nonstop stage show, but also because they let their true colors show, making it feel like they’re no different from any of those watching them.

As darkness enveloped the room, a recorded voice (with a dignified British accent I might add) proceeded to speak to the crowd. “…Look around you. These are your people…” was one of the sentences. This was the “clique” (as they refer to their fans), and for the remainder of the night, it was as if everyone was connected with one another in some way.

Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun appeared in the shadows, receiving rave reaction as Joseph stood atop his piano, while Dun was elevated several feet in the air thanks to a massive drum riser. Both wore their signature ski masks as they kicked off their 74-minute long set with “Guns for Hands”, which had Joseph using the piano intermittently, racing around the stage when he wasn’t. At the breakdown, he was again standing on top of it, tossing the microphone from one hand to the other before he resumed singing. “…It’s obviously best for them to turn their guns to a fist,” he sang, raising his fist into the air before the lights abruptly dimmed.

“Is there anyone out there?!” the frontman shouted as they segued into one song that everyone seemed to have a personal connection with, “Migraine”. My previous encounters with them have seen a lot of people knowing the songs, but nothing to the magnitude it was this night, and Joseph made use of it, allowing the fans to sing several of the lines on that one, including, “Sometimes, to stay alive, you’ve got to kill your mind.”

“…For when you remove the tricky tricks, only skeleton bones remain,” the narrating voice said, alluding to what was now coming. The two members returned to the stage with their clothing that has skeleton bones imaginary on it.

“…Some see a pen, I see a harpoon!” Joseph belted on “Ode to Sleep”, adding some extra emphasis to the last word of the first verse. It was then he ripped his mask off, revealing his face for the first time this night. “LET’S GO!” he roared as he sprinted towards the piano, again jumping and moving all over the stage when he wasn’t tied down to an instrument.

Dun knocked out a brief drum solo before swiveling over to the electronic drum pad beside him for “Screen”, while Joseph broke out his ukulele. It was the complete opposite of that often aggressively rapped song before it, but that diversity is one thing that makes Twenty One Pilots such a standout band. “Take it away!” Joseph told the audience, as the room filled with the collective voice, “…We’re broken people.”

“All my people, thank you so much for coming!” he exclaimed, before starting a bit that involved “Nigel” (the voice that had been doing some narrating). It was pretty entertaining as they conversed, with Joseph asking how their songs were sounding. “Pretty good,” Nigel replied, adding it wasn’t the music he had grown up with. The two “chatted” between each song, but this led to and entertaining medley of covers, from DJ Khaled’s “All I Do is Win” (which Nigel said was his jam back in the day) to “Bugatti” by Ace Hood, and even some Beyonce with “Drunk in Love”, which was apparently the song Nigel and his wife danced to at their wedding. It was good fun, giving everyone a laugh, before they turned back to their originals.

“I wrote this for my mom,” stated Joseph, garnering some massive cheers from fans. “House of Gold” is purely infectious and so upbeat and happy, while telling a story of wanting to take care of your parent later in their life. The last chorus belonged all to fans, who knew it by heart. “I will make you queen of everything you see. I’ll put you on the map, I’ll cure you of disease,” everyone crooned. It was a magical moment.

Apart from their current material, they threw in a handful of stuff from their past records, and “Forest” was one of those. It boasts a vehement rap portion, and when they got to that part, Joseph jumped onto the drum riser, spitting out the words as he knelt down towards the bass drum. They then reached back to their self-titled record with “Fall Away”, a song that included Jesse Blum of Misterwives, who added a lot of trumpet to the mix, making a smooth, funky sounding rap jam. It was a nice touch.

“This is an old one called Addict With a Pen,” Joseph informed everyone, as they stayed on their 2009 release with a slower, but no less lyrically powerful song. “…This song has a verse that my brother sang…” Joseph remarked in advance of the next song, saying he was going to give it a try. “By the way, we’re going to give you everything we have… This is music. Use it,” he added from behind his piano, getting a roaring response. They went back to the Regional at Best album (which is no longer in print or available for purchase), doing “Kitchen Sink”, which concluded with a smaller drum kit on a platform being brought out. It wasn’t handed out into the crowd, though. Instead, it sit at the forefront of the stage, and Dun made his way over to it, giving everyone a clear look at his forceful skills; while Joseph took over on the primary kit.

Afterwards, the vocalist grabbed his microphone, holding it above his eyes as if to block out some of the light so he could see better. He peered at the audience while covering the length of the stage, before approaching the crowd, who held him up for the first part of “Holding On to You”. This band really is all about their fans. When he did get back on stage, he lobbed the mic into the air, catching it with little effort. “Listen up! Listen up! Come on!” he instructed, as the crowd again got to use their voices.

The sounds of “Semi-Automatic” really pumped up fans, who were later told to get low to the ground. There was some hesitation, but no questioning as everyone knelt down, springing up as Joseph sang, “I’m semi-automatic; my prayer’s schizophrenic…” The platform with a smaller drum kit was again carried out, and this time it was passed into the audience, and Dun made good use of it, brutalizing the kit for the short time he used it.

Once he got back on the stage, they went right into the next number, and Dun proceeded to strike the top of the piano with his drumsticks, creating an interesting sound for the time he did it. “This is a duet featuring you,” Joseph pointed out, mentioning their show here the following night, saying he wanted to have a little friendly competition from night to night, and he was hoping this crowd set the bar so high that those who came to night two couldn’t top it. The duet was “The Run and Go”; and towards the end, he asked that each member of the audience find a partner, saying when he said, “Get up”, that was the signal for one person to lift the other onto their shoulders. Again, it was a super fun moment for the crowd.

With a keytar now in hand, Joseph and Dun closed their set with “Fake You Out”, which was complete with jumping (from everyone, on and off the stage). They even tacked on a portion of Lana Del Rey’s “Summertime Sadness” to the tail end of their original, and then came another piece that they had written, as Joseph sang about how happy they were to play the town again. There was also something that was a little saddening to fans, though. “…This is the last time we’ll play this place, where Vessel ruled the day…” That means next time they come to Dallas, they’ll have new songs in their arsenal, and will most likely not be doing Vessel in its entirety.

No one believed they were done. After all, this was the Quite is Violent Tour, and they still hadn’t done the song where that lyric comes from.

They eventually returned, and their 13-minute encore started with none other than “Car Radio”. “Sometimes quiet is violent. I find it hard to hide it…” fans echoed along with Joseph on that single. The ultimate part came towards the end, when after leaving the stage, Joseph appeared in the balcony, singing the remainder of the track up there. Some hoped his way down would be jumping, and there would have been plenty of people to catch him if he had, though that might have been too risky.

Instead, Dun played an interlude on the keyboard while the frontman wound his way back to the stage. “Truce” took no time at all to play; and then Joseph asked the spectators if they had one more in them. It was clear they did.

The final one was “Trees”, and he made sure everyone was as wrapped up in it as possible. The excitement escalated immensely near the end, when two platforms, each with a bass drum, were handed out to the crowd. When they got on them and got their footing to stand up, a sudden shot of confetti filled the air. I’d say it was raining the stuff, but it looked more like a blizzard.

It was an electrifying end to a show that never relented or had any weak spots.

This night saw a completely different Twenty One Pilots than I had seen before. Both previous times Joseph was still baffled by the fact that people actually knew these “silly little songs” he had written. The love and dedication they were shown was almost overwhelming to the young man. That’s something he seems to have become accustomed to in not even a full six months’ time.

He has learned to wield that to their advantage, as was seen a multitude of times this night, with all the crowd participation he instigated. And while he did use that in their favor, he never took the crowds immense love for granted, and it was clear both he and Dun where doing this all for the fans.

The band is completely genre-bending, even pushing the boundaries of current music. I think that’s part of what makes them so relatable, because they don’t fit a mold, sending the message that you’re meant to be you, and not who anyone else thinks you should be. Lyrically, their songs are just as deep, touching on a variety of topics that are identifiable.

That said, is hard as I think it will be for them to top Vessel, I feel confident they can; and I’m already anticipating the new songs they’ll be showing off whenever they return to Dallas.

The Quiet is Violent Tour is nearly over with dates in Europe and the UK scheduled for November, as well as a one-off date in Mexico City. Specifics can be found HERE. And if you don’t have their music, head over to iTUNES to pick it up.

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014 – Wild Party Dishes Out Some Infectious Pop Sounds in Dallas

House of Blues was the destination this night, specifically the Cambridge Room, where Bear Hands was stopping by on their current tour.

Joining them on this Texas leg was San Antonios’ own Wild Party, who kicked the night off at 8:30 sharp.

They had some last minute tuning to do, prompting frontman Lincoln Kreifels to kill some time by asking the decent sized crowd how they were doing. When they were ready, Cary LaScala clacked his drumsticks together, counting them into “Nicely Done”. It was clear from the start that they were a pop driven band through and through, which lead to an infectious sound that burrowed its way into everyone’s heads.

“Lo-fi Children” had a little more of a rock edge, with some often rapid-fire beats from LaScala, while guitarist Lucas Hughes confidently strummed his axe. Upon finishing it was when Kreifels informed everyone they were from the great state of Texas. “This guy is basically from Dallas!” he said, pointing at bassist Ethan Kaufmann. “This song’s called ‘Connect the Dots’,” he added, as they continued cracking away at their Phantom Pop record, which was barely a week old.

“Alright! This one’s called ‘Chasin’ Honey’,” Kreifels mentioned before the next one, noting the reason he said “alright” was because this was his personal favorite song, and one of the newest ones they had written. It was certainly the most dynamic song of their set, and it really seemed to click with the crowd, too. “Would it let you down if we don’t grow up? Would it make you proud if we gave up?” went part of the chorus of the song that was partly about chasing your dreams.

Cary LaScala used a maraca at times to hit his kit on “New Light”, eventually throwing it to the side after the second verse; and then they knocked out another high-energy song in the form of “Take My Advice”.

“That’s a keeper!” one guy yelled. No one in the band heard that remark, and they kept barreling through their set with a few more songs, including one of their singles, the part rock, part pop tune “Outright”. They then concluded their 30-minute set with “When I Get Older”, getting a little participation from the audience as Hughes started a clap along right from the get go, and later on during an instrumental break, the crowd took it upon themselves to clap along to the beat.

I don’t think anyone here was familiar with Wild Party before this night, though they certainly won over some new fans.

I’m open to all types of music, and have a pretty diverse taste; however, personally, Wild Party was a little too poppy for me. That’s not to say they were bad, though.

There were plenty of moments where I, just like everyone, was completely caught up in the songs; and Kreifels has a voice that’s perfectly suited for their style, really helping the music beds to their songs pop.

They have a show in Lubbock, Texas at Jake’s Backroom on October 19th, followed by a string of California dates on the 23rd, 24th and 28th in Sacramento, Santa Ana and Los Angeles, respectively. Full info can be found HERE; and you purchase their record in iTUNES.

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014 – Bear Hands Bombards Dallas with Some Sweet Sounds

Earlier this year, Bear Hands was one of the many bands that played Edgefest up in the suburbs of Dallas. They may not have been the biggest name on that bill, but they were one of my personal favorites from the day; and now, with their fall headlining tour just starting to get underway, they were returning to North Texas, this time to do a proper Dallas show.

The smaller Cambridge Room in the House of Blues was hosting the event; and as the opening band, Wild Party, played to the crowd, it looked like it was going to be your normal Wednesday night turnout. Of course, it was still early at that time, too. Skip ahead to 9:30, shortly before Bear Hands took the stage, and it was pretty packed. More than a hundred people were in the room, chatting with their friends or checking their phones to kill time, before busting out in cheers when the quartet took the stage at 9:36.

“What’s up, kids?!” singer, rhythm guitarist and keyboardist Dylan Rau asked the crowd, before letting them know who they were, just in case some didn’t. “Thanks for being here with us!” he exclaimed.

Drummer TJ Orscher had already started to buildup to their first song, rapidly striking the rim of one of his drums, before they exploded into their first number. The percussion was made more pronounced by bassist Val Loper, who had a floor tom sitting in front of him, and he used it for the first portion of the tune; while guitarist Ted Feldman bounced around some.

The lead guitarist then launched right into “Bone Digger”; causing the applause they were receiving for that first song to become applause of excitement as they began one of the many catchy offerings from Distraction. Before the first chorus, Feldman had sat his guitar aside to play the electronic drum pad that was setup beside him, creating a slightly synthesized element to the smartly constructed track. The bombardment of songs continued as a mangled mix of the instruments segued them into the lead track from Songs From Utopia: Volume One, “Part I: What I’ve Learned”. The guitar tones were often rich and intoxicating on that one; and they kept showing off some of their different sides, this time with Loper primarily shaking both a maraca and a tambourine, even hitting one against the other.

The audience grew ecstatic as they moved on to “Bad Friend”, with many holding their phones up in the air to capture it, while nearly everyone sang along, “I am training up, making right; watching what we build slowly die…” Rau focused more on his keyboard during the verses, switching to his guitar when the song needed more of a punch and showed off some slick skills on the axe.

“This song’s all about long nails…” Feldman said as they took a momentary break. They ran with that, making some jokes, with Rau ultimately finishing the conversation with, “Nothing says femininity and crazy shut-in like long nails.” “What a Drag” was the lone song they did of 2010’s Burning Bush Supper Club, though based on fans reaction, they picked the best one; and Loper rotated between a maraca and his bass on the verses and choruses.

Loper got a clap along going with the fans as they got the pulse pounding “Peacekeeper” underway; and it was on that one that you really got to see what an exceptional drummer Orscher is. He was completely unrestrained as he forcefully hit the cymbals on the choruses, proving himself to be a beast. “Is everybody doing okay? Like, health-wise?” Feldman joked with the crowd afterwards. He never outright said it, though he was clearly getting at the recent cases of Ebola that have occurred in Dallas; and the way he phrased it got a little chuckle from people.

The subsequent track from their latest album, “Sleeping On the Floor”, followed; and as it ended, Rau fiddled with his keyboard, giving it a deep, low end sound. The keys even crackled a bit as it bridged them into the next cut off the record, “Party Hats”. It had even more bite to it than the recording does, and they delivered a rocking performance of the often entrancing song. Actually, I think their stage show was the most raw it had been all night during that one, and they kept the momentum going from there.

But first, Rau took a second to thank everyone for coming out, mentioning they had played this venue once before when they were touring with As Tall as Lions. “Was anyone here for that?” he asked, with only a couple of people raising their hands that they had been. “…I’m so glad it’s all new to everybody,” he stated, and you could tell he really was appreciative of the fact that their music was getting out there to new ears, who in turn went the extra mile by showing up at a show.

They kept cranking out the songs, doing “The Bug” and “Agora”, the latter of which invigorated the crowd, as people kinda danced along to it. It was also on that one that Rau started his progression towards a traditional frontman role, as he laid his guitar down and just used the keys. He bowed to the fans as if he were worshipping them, and then they began “Part II: Bullshit Savior Complex”, where Rau removed the microphone from the stand and roamed about the stage some. He ended it lying on the floor, and in the silence that followed, remarked, “…I don’t know what to say anymore. Here’s a moment of silence.”

He stayed down there for just a bit longer, before standing up; and several of the ladies cheered when he undid the bun he had his hair in. Loper and Orscher retreated to either side of the stage, while Feldman and Rau handled the first segment of “Moment of Silence”. The full band was later required, though Orscher worked his way to the electronic drum pad, while Loper manned the keys as the song reached its pinnacle; and Rau made his on echo effect as he repeated “out” from the tracks final line, “Only one way out.”

That felt like it could be a perfect closing moment, though there was still one song left, and everyone knew it. “Thanks for coming out!” Loper said to the spectators as they fired up “Giants”. “…I am loving you more…” goes the chorus, a line that is printed on one of the shirt designs they had for sale; and the way people were singing along to it this night, you could tell it had some personal meaning to a lot of them.

“Thank you so much! Have a great fucking night!” shouted Rau as their 48-minute long set came to an end and they left the stage.

Some people started clearing out, but most hung around hoping for more. “Encore! Encore!” the chants started, growing more demanding.

It brought the guys back out, and Rau said they’d do one more. “…We have the time, we have the energy,” he stated, before informing everyone this last one was a cover of a Violent Femmes song. They had cooked up a rendition of “Kiss Off”, and it was more fleshed out and exhilarating than the original. The frontman jumped around quite a lot while he sang, and there was one awesome moment where Loper suddenly leapt over the little guard rail and got out in the crowd, with those right there quickly spreading out to give him some room. There looked like there were almost some close calls where he would have inadvertently hit someone with his bass, but never did.

They really went all out on it, making it a vibrant, fun way to end the night.

Personally, I enjoyed getting to see them do a full set, verses the abbreviated one from that festival back in April; and they were very solid this night.

As a band, they have a strong chemistry with one another; and you could tell they were feeding off the audience’s energy, creating a nice rapport. The diversity in their music style makes for a good experience, too. They have plenty of more raw rock numbers, while some of those others are more indie rock, and are great to groove to. Then you have Rau’s voice, which has a distinct, unmistakable tone, further helping them stand out.

They still have a ton of dates on their schedule, including the West Coast and several states in between, as they make their way back to New York. That won’t be until mid November, though. Their full list of dates can be found HERE; and head over to iTUNES to pick up their music (Distraction is only $5.99 at the moment).

Friday, October 10th, 2014 – The Dirty River Boys Album Release Tour Leads Them to Billy Bob’s

This night had been a long time in the making.

At the tail end of 2013, The Dirty River Boys ventured into the studio to lay down their next album, with the session stretching into the first month or so of 2014.

Ever since, fans have anxiously been awaiting the arrival of what has come to be called The Dirty River Boys; and this night they were doing the second CD release show of their tour.

They may have originated from El Paso, and currently call Austin home, but the Americana/rock quartet has amassed a good following in North Texas, and a lot of fans came out to Billy Bob’s Texas this cool, rainy night, showing them this can be a home away from home for them.

“How we doing Billy Bob’s?!” Travis Stearns asked after seating himself atop his cajon, behind his drum kit. He repeated the question, getting a stronger rise out of the audience the second time around.

They then got down to business, opening their 92-minute long set the same way they had when I last saw them (back in July), with “Raise Some Hell”. It works even better here at the start over its old closer spot; and even though everyone who was intently watching them was seated at the tables, many were still stomping their feet and singing along to the chorus, “…Boys, we’re gonna raise some hell tonight!” While singing it, vocalist and acoustic guitarist Nino Cooper often had a fiery, determined look in his eyes, making you think that this wasn’t just any old Dirty River Boys shows, and that look never left him this night.

Fans started clapping, though it was overpowered by fellow guitarist and singer Marco Gutierrez, as he opened up “Road Song” with some licks from his acoustic. He added some slight harmonies here and there on the fast paced tune; while Stearns delivered a ferocious beat, striking the cajon with one hand while holding a stick in the other to beat on the full kit. Those first two songs had come from the now two-year-old Science of Flight album, but now, they started getting to some of their newer material. Stearns grabbed a shaker, using it at the start of “Thought I’d Let You Know”. Gutierrez now took over on the lead vocals on the sweeter love song. “So I thought I’d let you know that I’ll never let you go; and I’m holding on ‘till a heart can take no more,” he sang on the chorus, while his band mates threw in some awesome backing vocals.

Upon finishing it, Gutierrez laid his guitar down and had just gotten behind the drum riser when he realized he was jumping the gun. He chuckled as he looked at Cooper and put his guitar back around him. They pulled out another (semi) oldie in the form of “Heart Like That”; and once it was done, then it was time for Gutierrez to swap out to a banjo. They kept that constant pace of songs up by going right into “Sailed Away”. Colton James stood atop the drum riser; the raccoon pelt that has hung from his upright bass was now mounted and stretched across the front of it, while a skunk pelt has also been added since I last saw them. He had done some backing vocals here and there so far this night, but now got to take the reins on that infectious track, while the rest of the guys created some harmonies on the chorus.

The banjo was shelved for a bit, and Stearns rolled them into their next number, as they dished out a roaring extended intro to one of the cuts from their first EP, “Draw”. “Come on!” Gutierrez shouted shortly before he started the first line, which earned some applause and shouts from their adoring fans. The final words, “And I know I’ll never ever be satisfied,” were drawn out, with Stearns striking his cajon at the start of most of the words to better accent them, before they tore back into the song, giving it a strong finish.

“This is the second night of our CD release tour…” Gutierrez mentioned during their first break of the night. Cooper then chimed in that along with these new songs, they would still be doing the old ones fans loved, like the following one. “This one’s about a union painter we met in El Paso,” he stated, which was more than enough to get some people excited. “Union Painter” is a certainly a fan favorite, and I was quite glad to hear it again, especially after it had been absent from the setlist the last time I saw them.

That started them on another stretch of songs; and now the two guitarists stared at one another, making sure they were on the same page before starting their next jam. “This is also on the new album. It’s called Loser,” Gutierrez informed the spectators, as they busted out the slightly more rock sounding song. He broke out his harmonica for “Dried Up”, which became a sing along at times without them having to ask for it, right up to the end where they added a bit of Bob Dylans’ “Just Like a Woman”. “Nobody feels any pain, tonight as I stand inside the rain…” he sang, going through the first chorus of that Dylan song, before they brought it to a close.

There was little time to clap before Cooper started counting, “One. Two. Three. Four.” The four then harmonized as they began “My Son”, keeping it up on each chorus; while Cooper threw in a wicked guitar solo after the second chorus. I’ve said it before, but it’s really amazing what you can make an acoustic sound like with the help of some pedal boards, because just hearing it, you wouldn’t guess it was an acoustic axe making that sound. Stearns was showing off some slick moves on the drums, too, even using a tambourine to hit the cajon.

Another new song came next, and while I’ve heard a lot of them out of all the times I’ve seen them this year, “Scraping the Bottom” did not sound familiar. It instantly became my favorite off the new record, though. “Open my heart and you’ll find two spirits at war; both fighting a hopeless battle for a hopeful soul…” Gutierrez crooned at the start of this darker number about trying to reclaim what you’ve lost. “…Once it’s gone, it’s something earned, not just found.”

After mentioning that the official release for The Dirty River Boys wasn’t until the following Tuesday, they pointed out those here were in luck, and could get their hands on a copy this night. They then went on to the subsequent track off the record, one about “life on the road” as they put it. “Highway Love” is all about that, and despite the hardships of it (i.e. doing all the setting up and loading out before having to drive well into the night to get to your next location, etc.), it’s all worth it if you love it.

Afterwards, they switched things up, and before they even had a chance to say it, some fans started shouting, “Chinese fire drill!” That’s what the band calls it; and now James was on the banjo; Stearns on the mandolin; and Gutierrez on the bass. The four of them clustered around a condenser mic that had been brought on stage at set dead center. “This is version two,” Gutierrez laughed, while Stearns began clapping his hands, making it clear he wanted everybody else to do the same. Fans were happy to oblige as James again sang lead on the tune. Cooper then took the spot directly in front of the microphone, while his band mates leaned in close to all sing on “Lookin’ for the Heart”, making it the most fun version of that catchy song I’ve heard them do.

In a twist, James was left as the sole member on stage, taking a seat in a chair that had appeared, while he clutched an acoustic guitar. “This song’s about a good friend of mine,” he said in advance of the albums 13th and final track, “Falcon’s Song”. It was the most poignant thing that was played this night, making everyone just feel melancholy, while they looked on, completely immersed in the tale.

“How many of you have maybe seen The Dirty River Boys once or twice?!” Stearns asked once they all resumed their normal positions. Much of the crowd cheered, though there were some who answered when he asked if this was their first time, and they made it clear they’d be back for a second. James used a bow (similar to say, a cello) to play his bass at times on “Simplified”, while Gutierrez just used a shaker for the first bit, before moving on to a harmonica. He picked the banjo back up before the track sprang to life, though it went unused for the time being.

“Skate and Destroy” again found James singing lead, and once it was done, Gutierrez joked that they were “pioneering skate folk”. It may not be the next big genre, though they make it sound pretty good. “Are y’all ready to sing with us?” Stearns then asked the patrons, before they pulled out one of their originals that every fan is familiar with: “Carnival Lights”. They got some help on it, especially at the final chorus, before tacking on a portion of Hank Williams’ “I Saw the Light”, which prompted both James and Stearns to remove their hats on the gospel-like song.

“It’s not all fun…” Gutierrez remarked, saying that life on the road comes with good days and bad days. “…And then you come to Billy Bob’s and you see people singing your songs…” he added, alluding that this was definitely a good day for them.

“Desert Wind” continued their set, and it was followed by “Teenage Renegade”. They’re two pretty contrasting songs, though they flowed well into one another, the first playing more to peoples emotional side, and while the other can do that lyrically, it has a more lively sound, making it easy to get into. Cooper proceeded to play some chords as he segued them into another song, and the notes had a real Spanish flare to them at first. “Thanks for braving whatever crazy weather’s going on out there. We’re having fun in here, though,” Gutierrez said to fans, most of whom were probably unaware it had even rained until stepping out of the venue later.

“Six Riders” started to wind down their set; and before their closer, they shared a little bit of hometown pride with everybody, noting that wherever they go, they’re always proud to say they’re from El Paso. The “horrible drug violence” in Juarez was brought up, as they briefly talked about how much it has changed their hometown, and they wanted to write a song about it. “Down by the River” is the lead track from the album, and the hard-hitting rock song finds both of the primary vocalists trading off constantly. It’s so dynamic that it’s a perfect closer.

They disappeared backstage, while the fans immediately started hollering for an encore. “BOOMTOWN!” one man shouted. He soon got his wish.

“What do think? Should we play another song?” Gutierrez asked the audience once the reemerged. He went on to say they’d be happy if they were even playing in front of two people. “Back in El Paso, we used to play for tacos and enchiladas,” he joked, though sounded completely serious. “This is too much. It’s too much,” he laughed, before Stearns took over, asking if everyone was still alive. He requested everyone’s voices, leading the fans in warming up their voices for “Boomtown”. Even after an hour and a half, they still appeared to have energy to spare, with Cooper and Gutierrez doing a good deal of jumping during it, while James spun his bass around at one point.

They went right into the last song of the night, with Cooper quickly swapping out to an electric guitar. It wasn’t for the Rolling Stones cover they’ve often done, though. Many fans were elated to hear one of their oldest songs, “She”. It was censored, with Gutierrez taking out the F-bomb on each chorus, singing, “…She’s like her own messed up version of a fairytale. Everything’s backwards, she ain’t no princess…” Each of the members were formally introduced during that one, too, like, “Colton ‘The Crawfish’ James” and “The thunder from down under, ‘Travis Stearns’.” Once that was taken care of, they went into an instrumental break, before bringing their 12-minute long encore to a devastating end.

This was one of the best performances I’ve seen The Dirty River Boys do.

Sure, they’ve been doing some of these new songs since the start of the year, gradually working more in, but you could tell the fact that this record is now officially out in the world has really energized them.

They were clearly happy up there (even more so then usual) giving the listeners a good taste of the new record, while still throwing in many of the old favorites. It was a topnotch show in ever regard, from the professionalism they execute their performances with, to the energy they inject into it, making it incredibly fun to watch.

Now that this new record is out, expect them to be pushing it hard. They already have much of the rest of 2014 mapped out, including an East Coast and Mid-West tour. You can find all of their dates HERE; and if you live in the North Texas area, you’re next chance to see them will be at Stanley’s Famous BBQ Pit in Tyler on October 24th. After that, it’ll be December 6th, when they return to Hank’s in McKinney. Also, do pick up their music (two LP’s, two EP’s and “Desert Wind”, which is only available as a single) in iTUNES.

Thursday, October 9th, 2014 – Gas Monkey Live Gets Christened by Some Dallas Bands

A couple months ago, out of nowhere, it was announced that Gas Monkey was extending their brand, and planned to open a new venue just right down the street from their bar and grill location in Dallas.

Following, came the announcement of several bands that would be playing the 32,000 square foot Gas Monkey Live over the coming months, as the crew set to work revamping and customizing the space that used to be Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar.

The grand opening party featuring Social Distortion was planned for Saturday, October 11th, but then, rather last minute, it was announced there would be a soft opening party, one to let some people scope out the new spot ahead of time.

Three hometown bands were picked to play the event, which was limited to the first 500 people, and somewhat surprisingly, only a hundred or two came out. My theory is aside from being a weeknight, people just didn’t have much notice to plan on getting out there. But you don’t need a ton of people to have a good time.

The venue is something to behold. It’s massive and very open, and upon first walking in, you feel like you might could get lost in there. The giant bar in the center is in the shape of a guitar (it looks magnificent), and the venue continues funneling you back to the stage. There’s a real modern, even upscale look to it all, which is nice. It’s quite fancy ascetically speaking, without making you feel like your underdressed if you just have on, say, jeans and a t-shirt.

The first band to be able to test out the stage and sound system was Fantasma (coincidentally, bassist Daniel Castaneda runs lights here, as well as being the production manager), and I had not seen them in far too long. So long, in fact, that I was unaware Josh Sanders now held down the guitarist role.

The venue offered up a few more surprises as they began, and on the back of the stage is a massive wide screen video board, which began to show some visuals. It was a couple of planets in space, while the band’s name/logo also appeared on the screen. It looked awesome; and for any local bands who may happen to play here, that should eliminate people having to ask other concert goers, “Who is this?”

The quartet opened with one of the new songs they’ve cooked up, and right away you got a taste of what the sound system was capable of. The bass lines Dan was cranking out sounded ultra heavy, even dominating the track completely. It was nice to hear the bass be so prevalent.

“We’re happy to be the first to christen this stage,” vocalist Dale “DJ” Wilkerson remarked as they segued into their next song, “Colors Run Red”. It was the first of a handful they did off the Stories of Earth Women record. I still haven’t gotten used to hearing it at the start of the set verses the end yet, though it fits well early on, further energizing them. The electronic, space rock sounds continued with “Panda”; and afterwards, DJ asked the audience how they were liking it so far. He then grabbed a brightly colored bottle he had with a drink he had brought, prompting Dan to joke with him, “Did you bring a juice box to the show?”

Drummer Michael Kudlicki then launched them into their next song. The beats were pulse pounding, and shortly after when Dan layered his bass over it, it was absolutely thunderous. I’ve seen my fair share of shows where I’ve been able to feel the rhythm section vibrating my internal organs, but this had me a little worried it might change the rhythm of my heartbeat. Ha. DJ then hopped onto the drum riser, grabbing a pair of sticks and striking some of the cymbals for a few moments before jumping off and returning to the microphone. “BoA Constrictor” is one of the most brutal songs they’ve done, really making use of the screaming both DJ and Dan are capable of; and there were some cool moments in the instrumental portions before each verse where DJ grabbed the cord of the mic and twirled it in the air. Dan killed it on that song as well, showcasing some awesome moves, even acting as if he were going to nail DJ in the head with his bass at one point.

“Are you hearing it all? Like, all?” DJ asked, checking in with everyone real quick, before they broke out their rendition of Ellie Goulding’s, “Lights”. That’s where their electronic element comes in very handy, because they’re able to make the track sound similar to the original, while injecting a real rock flare into it, making it their own. “That’s an original that we wrote,” DJ said once it was done, sounding quite serious. “That’s a running joke that we have,” he added, as they continued with “The Chase Scene”.

Josh had been bringing it so far this night, and owned during that intense intro; while later on, DJ picked up the mic stand, using it like a sword to knight Dan, before acting as if he were going to chop his head off. A sample track bled them into the next song, but not everyone was on the same page. DJ asked Dan what the next one was, and it was titled “In an Out”, which apparently, was not what the track went with. “Communication is the key to teamwork. You’re all witness to that,” DJ quipped as they began the correct song, which had a very ominous start.

Some silence followed in between it and the next track, and Dan gave DJ a look. “What? You know I don’t know what to say in between songs, but you still give me a mic,” he only half joked before they did another new tune. The job of ending their 37-minute long set then fell to “Ra”. It makes for an awesome closer, simply because it’s so explosive, and it leaves you wanting more. DJ spent several seconds at the start trying to adjust the mic stand, before eventually just kicking it over. It’s not like he needed it anyway, because he moved around a lot; and Mike was a beast on the kit during that one, delivering the beats with forceful precision.

“I’m proud of myself. I didn’t mention Ebola once,” DJ stated after the final applause subsided, before they began the process of tearing down their gear.

Granted, I haven’t seen Fantasma much lately, but this was one of the most solid shows I’ve seen from them in a long time.

Josh brings a component that they’ve been missing for a little while, adding just as much of a vibrant performance to the shows as Dan, DJ and Mike do. That makes them a force to be reckoned with, even more so than they have been in the past, and they proved that this night.

They don’t have anything else on the books at the moment, and their schedule has gotten a little sparse lately, but just stay tuned. In the meantime, you can download nearly their whole album for free on REVERBNATION. If you like those songs, go buy the other two tracks in iTUNES.

Now that things had been broken in some, it was time for the second act of the night, LA Wedding.

After finally seeing them for the first time just a few months before at Gas Monkey Bar & Grill, I was looking forward to catching them again.

Their first single from their debut EP, “Closure”, kicked off their 39-minute long set, dancing back and forth from being a serene and quick paced rock number, as frontman Randy Stephens sang about needing closure to a relationship. “Yeah, I just need some closure. That’s all there is to pay for the ride home…” goes part of the chorus.

Guitarist Jovan Santos then bridged them right into their next song with some sweet, moody riffs. “Come close! Come on!” shouted fellow guitarist Dave Perez, trying to reel in more of the audience who was scattered about the room. Ross Rubio then laid into his drum kit, serving up some rapid-fire beats to begin their most ferocious number, “The Hard Way”. “What’s up?” asked Randy once they had finished it, commenting, “It’s loud in this mother fucker.” Yeah, it was. Even with earplugs.

My personal favorite, “Responsible”, followed. “Such a crazy mixed up world we’re breathing in. It’s everywhere, you can’t avoid the poisoning…” goes the start of the second verse of what is an overall hopeful song about persevering and not letting events from your past define you. “This is one of the coolest stages I’ve ever been on!” Randy exclaimed once they were done, playfully inviting everyone to join them up there and experience it.

They moved on to one of the non-album tracks, and during “Believe it”, Randy got fairly emotional. It meant something more to him this night, and shortly after the first chorus, he pulled his glasses off to wipe his eyes, but never lost his composure. It took just a few seconds after concluding the song for him to get back to his usual self; and then Ross used his electronic drum pad for a bit as they rolled into the next number. The bass lines Pat Llull was knocking out were pulsating, mixing perfectly with the beats as they did a little intro for their take on Muse’s “Madness”. They do a mean version of it, keeping it true to form, while adding their own little touches here and there.

“This is our first time here. Get it?” remarked Randy before they did another cut from their EP, “Bad Boy”. Upon finishing it, he informed everyone that to go along with this free show, they had some free merch to hand out. “This is a merging of two bands,” he stated, referring to Ursa (the band all the instrumentalists were a part of before LA Wedding), with the other band in question being LA Wedding. He tried to entice more people up to the stage with the prospect of throwing the CD’s out to people, but there were enough empty patches in the crowd that he chose not to, and just wait to hand them out later. “This is the first song we wrote together,” he started before “Such Things”, a song that began with him using the mic stand, slowly waving his arms up and down as he stood in front of it. The song boasts a killer music bed that’s quite aggressive; and later in it, Dave started jumping around, making his way back to his amp for just a bit.

“…Without them, I’d be up a creek,” said Randy, referring to his band mates, after again mentioning the merging of the bands. That was when some different names got thrown around, like when some couples combine their names, and “Ursa Wedding” or “Ursula” were the two brought up. “Like in The Little Mermaid,” the frontman cracked.

“Going Under” started winding down their time on stage, and that hard-hitting track was followed by the final song from the Degree of Discomfort EP, “I Know You Love Me”. Both Ross and Dave added a lot of backing vocals on what is their longest song, making for some nice harmonies at times, as they brought their set to a solid end.

In some ways, I thought they were even better this night than the first time I caught them. The band chemistry seemed to be even better this time around, and they were just clicking on an excellent level.

They got the use out of the sizable stage, too, commanding most of the people’s attention while they were up there.

To be such a new band, they already have a great set of songs lined up, and the couple that aren’t on the record sound even a slight cut above those that are, making the future look pretty bright for LA Wedding.

You can find their EP on BANDCAMP; and keep an eye on their schedule. They’ll surely have something else in the next month or two.

Rounding out this sneak preview show was Marquis of Vaudeville. I had seen them only once before (four years ago or so, I think), though I was looking forward to finally seeing them again.

“The Wild Lost” was the introduction to their 57-minute long set, serving as a welcoming to all those who had stuck around. “…A spectacle of splendor. Stupendous and sublime…” sang Toby Lawhon over the circus-like guitar chords Bryan Geddie was playing, as they brought the audience into their world of grandeur.

“Thank you, Gas Monkey Live,” Toby said afterwards, acknowledging he knew that most of those who were there had not heard of them before, but they were going to put on a good show for everybody. Their drummer then cracked his sticks together, counting them into “Utopian Playland”, which was followed by the at times haunting, “An Ordinary Day”. That latter song was the most pulse pounding thing they had done thus far, coming to a dynamic end that had bassist Geneva Arena moving all about stage left.

When Toby had an acoustic guitar brought out to him, it appeared like they were about to tone things down some, but that was not the case. The drumming on the next track was still very forceful; however, towards the end they ran into some technical issues, when the vocals became mute. It wasn’t the speakers or anything, though. Instead, it was simply that the microphone cable had come unplugged, though they didn’t discover that until the very end. “Come see me after the show and I’ll sing that last part for ya,” Toby told everyone afterwards. I don’t know if anyone took him up on that, though as a joke, the thought did cross my mind.

After “The Nightmare Machine”, Toby picked up the setlist and uncrumpled it, as it had gotten pretty beat up from him apparently stepping all over it. The next song was a shorter one, but it was a gut punch. Arguably, one of the best things they did this night. What came next was very good, too; while a line from their next track, “The show must go on,” made for another appropriate track that helped create an overall flow to their performance.

“Wow! That was fancy bro,” Toby commented, referring to a sweet lick Bryan threw in at the end of another song. The singer went on to mention all the merch they had for sale, from their debut record to bookmarks for those who were readers. “And if you’re not, you should probably pick up a book,” he said only half jokingly. “Bright Star Hope” showcased a slightly softer side of Tobys’ voice, and he’s capable of a great range, nailing those higher notes. They returned to their more theatrical sounding stuff with “The Bones of Knotwright Lane”, a song that one gentleman really enjoyed, and he screamed, “WOO!” when it was done. “I like your attitude,” Toby said to him, before reaching down and picking up the now tattered and torn set list.

One more song was all it took, and after it, the piece of paper was in pieces. “I think we’re down here now,” Toby said aloud, as he grabbed a little shred that had fallen to the floor and examined it. “What time is it?” he then asked, with one person replying, “Early!” “I like that. It’s early time…” laughed the vocalist, before a woman shouted she wanted another song like the previous one. “Alright, we’ll give you the barn burner,” he said, shortly before the brief track known as “Ere the Tempest” kicked on, leading them into “Corps of Night”. The powerhouse song brought their set to a fiery finish, with Toby often using both hands to grip the mic stand as he sang, packing just a little more determination into their final moments.

Marquis of Vaudeville proved to be the perfect band to close down this night. Often, they do various themed shows, and even though this wasn’t as big of an extravaganza/production as some of the other gigs, they still added a real theatrical element to it all.

Their entire set just flowed, like each song was telling a part of a story, and they wanted the audience to be along for every step of it. You don’t see that all that often, and that sets them apart from many of their peers.

I highly enjoyed them this night. Even more so than I remembered from that first time I had seen them, and I’m going to try hard to not let several more years pass before I make another show of theirs.

Check out their album on iTUNES. It’s 19 songs for $10. You can’t beat that deal.

This was a good night at Gas monkey Live (and from what I hear, the official grand opening was an absolute success), and it has me interested in the venues future.

Being so large, there are only a select number of bands that it can accommodate. I mean, if you had a band headline here whose pull was seven to eight hundred people, it would feel empty. It’s going to be competing for a whole different level of bands with a whole different set of venues, giving a more unique setting over many of them in the area.

I liked it. The sound and lights were awesome this night, and I’ll be looking forward to my next outing there.

Album Review: Snake in the Grass by Poppy Xander

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I’ve often said there is beauty in simplicity, and that statement can be applied to Snake in the Grass, the debut album from Dallas-based singer/songwriter Poppy Xander.

Almost all eleven tracks that comprise the record feature just her voice and a piano; and there’s something refreshing in the fact that there’s nothing over-the-top.

Don’t jump to conclusions and assume that it’s all ballads, or even remotely close to, say, Sarah McLachlan, though. It’s pretty much the antithesis of that; as the classically trained pianist uses her skills to create some intriguing music that focuses on depth.

From the opener, “The Ren and the Robin”, you’re immersed in a world of vivid storytelling and what some may consider a little offbeat songs (I mean that is a term of endearment). That one in particular is accompanied by a semi-serene, yet moody piece on the piano, making for an interesting offset between the often dark imagery the lyrics conjure.

Xander demonstrates her versatility right away, switching to a huskier voice on “Blackwater on the Rise”, which has a distinctive lounge vibe to it (along with some slight hints of jazz), and it succeeds at transporting you back to a bygone era. The following track, “Paisley”, is a standout from the record, as she taps into a more operatic side here and there. The song (which goes against traditional songwriting, as it does not include a chorus) is somewhat rooted it politics, for example, the third verse, “Take it from them, one percent; and hide it where they’ll never find. Line their country’s walls with dollars; bleed us dry and we’ll up rise.”

The next couple of songs take on a more minimalist sound with the piano being softer from the previous tracks, though it strikes when it can. “Lost Boy” sounds gorgeous, yet ominous; while Xander’s voice is utterly mesmerizing on “Paintman”.

Around the halfway mark, there are finally some love songs. Well, at least “No Way Out” is more centered around love (and the impending heartbreak that often comes with it); while the title track, the somewhat jazz inspired “Snake in the Grass”, is all about lusting after someone. Things switch gears yet again with “Time”. For starters, the piano is replaced with a guitar, and the haunting notes are behooving of what sounds like it could have been a spoken word poem when it was first conceived, before being set to a tune.

“I was Bonnie and you, you were Clyde. Take over the town in just one night. But you robbed of my love; shot up my hopes in a pool of blood,” goes a verse from “Darkness of Your Love”, drawing a very nice comparison between a past romance and those notorious bank robbers.

“Just Over the Rainbow” offers what could be a perfect finish to the album. It’s uplifting and brimming with hope; a stark contrast from how the album began. However, there’s still one song to go, and “Keep Calm and Carry On” again finds Xander focusing partly on politics as well as social issues. From being monitored by the government to people struggling to earn enough to make ends meet, while also going into debt to own things you might not necessarily need. It’s incredibly thought provoking, and easily the most relatable offering from Snake in the Grass.

I can honestly say this is the first album I’ve ever listened to that is just piano and vocals, and it made more of an impression on me than I thought it would.

Nothing about Snake in the Grass is typical of modern music. It’s rooted deeply in the classical vein, while the structuring of the songs often go against the grain. That’s what allows it to stick with you, because it is so different from… well, just about anything you  hear. Aside from that, Xander has a phenomenal voice, showing off a vast range; and no matter what the style is she has mastery over it.

The music may be an acquired taste; and admittedly, it took me a few runs through before the songs really started clicking with me more, but that just makes the album all the more interesting. It’s like there are different layers to each track, and the more you listen, the more you uncover.

Purchase the album on:
iTUNES / Bandcamp

Visit Poppy Xanders’ websites:
Facebook / Reverbnation / Twitter
image(Photo credit: Brian Hilson)

Album Review: Baker’s Dozen by Stephen Spencer & Richard Eerie

imageRichard Eerie has a DIY mentality. He bleeds it, actually.

He founded the label Sad Boy Donuts; and even has a studio, Federal Palsy Deathouse, inside his home. From there, he has recorded albums for his own band (The Earth and I Had a Falling Out, Said the Nuke), and some others. More recently, however, he and friend Stephen Spencer decided to co-produce and release an album under their individual names.

It wasn’t just any album, though. They set out on an ambitious project that they called Baker’s Dozen, which is an homage to the deceased rapper known as J Dilla and his final album, Donuts.

The forty-two track album (yeah, you read that right) will appeal to anyone who is a fan of the lo-fi genre. I, admittedly, am not, but the album grew on me rather quickly.

The bulk of the songs last somewhere in the one-minute range, with few lasting a little more than three; and it traverses a lot of ground. Some songs, like “Kanye West is Not Going to Give Me a Panic Attack”, boast more of a rap beat before fading to an instrumental outro, while the vocals on others are spit out at a faster pace.

“My Boss is a Jerk” and “The Heir is a Dick” go hand in hand, the first describing disdain for your job (“My boss is a jerk… But I need the money; I could never be a monk…”), while in the latter it’s revealed “the boss” described is actually the characters father. It’s a little funny, and there are a slew of other songs that can evoke some chuckles if not a laugh, such as “Transitional Fossil”, which is kept simple with the line, “Stay out of …My monkey business.” before the musicians start imitating chimp noises. In twenty-one seconds, “Hole in the Wall” repeats the joke, “Why did the baker stop making donuts? “He got tired of the whole thing.” a few different times, yet the repetition just seems to make it all the more funny. Another laugh worthy moment comes towards the end, on the very official infomercial sounding “Commercial Break From Steaks”.

For as many tracks that could be considered offbeat or obscure, there are an equal amount of songs that tackle more serious subjects, like “Stutterin’”. It’s catchy and revolves around love; “Knew the right words yesterday. Woke up this morning those words went away…”, and I have a feeling plenty of people can relate to that. On the other hand, “Wouldn’t Gillette Me No. 11 : Tyler Was Young” in part deals with how influential music can be (“…Since I was young, punk rock anarchy has had a hold on me…”) It may be a slowed down acoustic track, but even then a slight sense of rebellion can be heard seeping from it.

Baker’s Dozen may take more than an hour to listen to start to finish, though it doesn’t seem it. The songs are often short enough, with it changing pace so frequently throughout, that it really helps keep the listening experience fresh; and before you know it, you’re already halfway through.

Maybe you appreciate the lo-fi genre, or maybe you don’t. Either way, the record will most likely win you over. The fact that this was such a massive undertaking, yet one done by a tight-knit group of friends  or rather a community  adds to the character of the music; character that shines on every track.

Key players in making Baker’s Dozen were:
Stephen Spencer and Richard Eerie
Featuring Tyler Davis, Eric Aranda, Eric Barron, Emilio Barron, Chad Pierce, Charlie Frizzell, Derrick Rice, Taylor King, Keaton Collins, Sean Kennedy, Max Kuhl, Matthew Spann, Justin Spann, Corey Neal, Dylan Bare, Oshay Green, Colton Baker, Ryan Harrington, Richard’s nephews and songs by The Zebraboys, The Rabbits, and Earth and I Had a Falling Out Said the Nuke

Purchase the album on:
Bandcamp

Saturday, September 27th, 2014 – The Wind and The Wave Brave the Heat at Western Days

With it officially being fall it means it’s time for festival season to kick back into high gear.

Even the city of Lewisville gets in on the action with their annual Western Days Festival (sponsored in part by 99.5 The Wolf), taking place in the heart of historic downtown Lewisville.

All sorts of art and food vendors were set up along the multiple blocks they had blocked off; and there was plenty going on to entertain. Live music was one of the things that occupied some time; and, of course, that would be the thing that got me out here in the first place.

In all honesty, I was completely unaware of this festival until just a few days prior to it, when I happened to see a Facebook post from the Austin duo The Wind & The Wave, saying they’d be performing at it.

I had seen their first Dallas area gig about five months before (when they played the March Madness Music Festival that was happening in conjunction with the NCAA Championships), and I couldn’t pass up a second opportunity to see them, especially for free.

The weather was the exact opposite of how it had been back in April. Instead of light rain and chilly temperatures, the sun was out in force and there was not a cloud in sight. Actually, they may have preferred it the other way around, because this afternoon, the sun was beating right down on them.

It was 4:04 when Patricia Lynn picked up her acoustic guitar and Dwight Baker his electric; firing up a sample track with the drums and bass, as they opened with the incredibly infectious, “My Mama Said Be Careful Where You Lay Your Head”. They may have only had a couple dozen people watching them intently, but all of them seemed taken by the lead track from their From the Wreckage album, bobbing their heads to the music, while Lynn sang, “…Love taught me everything I know, everything I know. Sometimes you keep it near, sometimes you let go…”

“We are The Wind and The Wave from Austin, Texas,” she announced afterwards, thanking the city of Lewisville for, “having us at your intersection.” “It’s a lovely intersection,” added Baker, before moving on to the subsequent track off their debut record, “From the Wreckage Build a Home”, which was often haunting, but in a lovely way. “I want to rename this show Lewisville Skin Cancer 2014,” Baker cracked upon finishing it.

If you were fortunate enough to be in the shade, it wasn’t all that bad. Even the crowd at least at their backs to the sun’s rays, though the band had neither of those luxuries. “Sweat is rolling down into my eye balls and burning my eyes. That’s happening right now,” Lynn remarked. It may have been uncomfortable, but they weren’t going to let that stop them, as they carried on with a song about growing up and making your own way, as well as the importance of family, “Loyal Friend and Thoughtful Lover”. They then slowed things down some with “This House is a Hotel”, which at times showcased the higher register Lynn is capable of, and it sounded gorgeous. Baker had thrown in some harmonies here and there already this day, and did so again now, with the pair of them repeatedly crooning at the end, “It’s not at all good, but it ain’t that bad…”. “I’m not gonna lie, it’s pretty bad. It’s pretty hot,” Baker cracked afterwards.

They continued with “When That Fever Finally Takes a Hold On You”; and Baker riffed on his axe while Lynn took a moment to tune her guitar before the following song. His electric guitar was far more prominent on “The Heart it Beats; The Thunder Rolls”, which had some semi-dark undertones at times. It’s just a very moody track. Then, they switched things up.

A mandolin had been sitting in plain sight behind Lynn, and now she exchanged her guitar for it, while Baker swapped to an acoustic. They used them for a couple of songs, like the cherry, “It’s a Longer Road to California Than I Thought”, as well as another tune. “We are The Wind and The Wave, as you can tell from the thunderous turnout,” joked Baker in between the two songs, also mentioning their debut record had recently come out on RCA Records.

After switching back to their acoustic and electric guitars, Baker also noted their single had come out eight weeks or so before, and it was in the Billboard Top 40 charts. “But not in Dallas,” he said playfully. “With Your Two Hands” was the single he spoke of, and it was by far the catchiest thing they did (which is saying something); and I doubt I was the only one who felt compelled to tap my foot along to the beat.

“It’s pretty hot. I still haven’t figured out why y’all are all standing here,” Lynn said to the crowd after that song. Not many people wanted to endure the heat, though they did have their section of fans out, while others I think quickly became fans of theirs. “You could fry an egg on this guitar,” she finished, before Baker chimed in, this time saying that Skin Cancer Jamboree 2014 would be a great name for this. He got serious, though, thanking the sponsors and the city for having them as a part of this, before doing their final original song of the afternoon, “Raising Hands, Raising Hell, Raise ‘em High”.

In closing, Baker mentioned they had been asked to record some covers for the TV show Grey’s Anatomy. “Last year, or maybe it was this year. It’s all running together. Shit, I don’t know,” he confessed. A timeframe didn’t really matter. The most important thing was they had done some covers, and one was a classic from Simple Minds.

They had to wait for the mandolin to “recover from sun exhaustion” as Baker put it; and once Lynn had it properly tuned, they did their version of “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” to wrap up their 47-minute long set. They’ve made it their own, giving it more of a folk sound; and it was a fun one to end with.

It was a great performance; and for those who were fans, it was nice getting to hear nearly everything off their record.

What I like the most about The Wind and The Wave is all of their songs tell stories, and are often quite deep if you really pay attention to the lyrics. The clever banter is also a constant, and it makes them all the more entertaining. Let’s not forget about the phenomenal voice that resides in Patricia Lynn, which often leads you thinking, “Wow!”

Their Dallas fan base may not be strong in numbers yet, but it will be. Especially considering the national attention they have been getting for a while now.

They’ll actually be back in Dallas on October 10th at the House of Blues opening for Bernhoft, who they’ll be touring much of the country with from October through early November. A full list of their tour dates can be found HERE. Be sure to check out their record in iTUNES, too.

Saturday, September 27th, 2014 – Reckless Kelly Pumps Up the Crowd at Western Days

With it officially being fall it means it’s time for festival season to kick back into high gear.

Even the city of Lewisville gets in on the action with their annual Western Days Festival (sponsored in part by 99.5 The Wolf), taking place in the heart of historic downtown Lewisville.

All sorts of art and food vendors were set up along the multiple blocks they had blocked off; and there was plenty going on to entertain. Live music was one of the things that occupied some time; and, of course, that would be the thing that got me out here in the first place.

One act I was eager to see was Reckless Kelly.

The Austin-based country/rock band is no stranger to the D/FW area, though I’ve never managed to make it to a show when they’ve been up here. They routinely headline some of the biggest venues in the area, though it would seem it’s easier to get people out to an air-conditioned venue later at night than it is to a (free) show in the great outdoors at six in the evening.

Don’t get me wrong, as there were several dedicated fans ready for them. A few dozen sat in folding chairs, with dozens more standing; and as it got later and the heat from the sun subsided, the number of eyes on them grew substantially.

The quintet made their way on stage as they were being introduced by one of the radio personalities; ripping right into their opener as soon as he had said what he needed to.

Immediately you could feel the massive presence they had in tow as they commanded everyone’s attention; and then they got into what was pretty much a full headline set.

Covers always interest me, mainly because some bands stay as far away from them as possible, while others have no problem with it, and quite enjoy putting their own twists on some classics. Reckless Kelly apparently fits into that latter category, and they opened with a deep cut from Bruce Springsteens’ catalog, “My Love Will Not let You Down”. The mandolin Cody Braun wielded helped in giving the song more of a country vibe, though it definitely retained its rock core; and singer and rhythm guitarist Willy Braun even gave The Boss a run for his money, belting out the song in a gritty, raw tone of voice. “Come on, boys!” he roared as they hit an instrumental break — almost like he was taking a cue from Springsteen’s playbook — as David Abeyta took the spotlight on a killer lead guitar solo.

They knew their time with everyone was short, and never wasted much time this evening; and now, drummer Jay Nazz rolled them right into their next track. “How we doing y’all?!” Willy excitedly asked the crowd, many of whom screamed back at him. “This is an Alejandro Escovedo song for you!” he informed everyone. Nazz held a maraca in one hand and a drumstick in the other, and his drumming on “Castanets” was absolutely phenomenal. He was completely in the zone; and at the break, Willy walked up on the drum riser and stood beside him and jammed for a few moments. The singer then made his way back to the forefront of the stage, hopping atop a monitor. “Come on!” he mouthed as he threw his hand in the air, further pumping up the spectators; before he and Abeyta concluded the song by facing one another as they shredded on their axes.

No one cared in the least that those were covers, because they owned both of them, but now it was time for some original music, and it started with the title track to their 2011 album, “Good Luck & True Love”. Its catchy hooks dug in to everyone, making them enjoy the show all the more, while plenty sung right along with the band, “…Maybe it was just one night of good luck and true love…”. As the guitars and drums fell silent, Joe Miller proceeded to lay down some hefty riffs on the bass, and Willy made sure to point him out, asking everyone to say “hi” to him. The Braun Brothers then got to show off their full vocal capabilities as they co-sung “Lonely All the Time”. Their voices were rich and vibrant, and when layered over one another, well, it resulted in the best thing they had done thus far.

“Here’s one y’all might remember from the old days,” Willy told the crowd. It appeared as if he was about to move on to the song, but then added, “And by old days, I mean, oh, about thirty years ago.” Abeyta now had a twelve-string guitar in his hands, using it as they handled another rock classic, this one coming from Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers. Their rendition of “Listen to Her Heart” was stellar; and while they kept it pretty spot on, there were some slight tweaks here and there, giving it a bit of an Americana vibe.

The applause rang out while Willy played some riffs on his guitar, getting everyone excited before stopping. They teased everyone for just a bit, again acting as if they were starting the song before quitting. They kept it going the third time around, officially getting the more outlaw country tune “Crazy Eddie’s Last Hurrah” underway, and it was another one the audience thoroughly seemed to enjoy.

An acoustic guitar was brought out to Willy, who then told the onlookers they had a song about the road for them. He was referring to the lead track from the Bulletproof record, “Ragged as the Road”, a song that received some strong cheers as they started it. Upon finishing it, a fan shouted a request at them. “We’ll get to that one,” Willy told the person, politely joking with them by saying, “We know what we’re doing up here.” He mentioned this next one was the latest single from the record they released just one year ago. Willy and Cody again did some co-singing, this time on the melancholy “The Girl I Knew”. “…You come and steal my heart with your wild eyes shining, then you smile as you break it in two. What did you do with the girl I knew?” goes the poignant chorus, and the brothers delivered that emotion in their singing.

Before moving on, Abeyta switched to an acoustic guitar, while Willy grabbed his neck rack and harmonica. Miller and Nazz left the stage to those three for “Wicked, Twisted Road”. It may have been the slowest thing they did this evening, but it also the most powerful. You could tell the lyrics came right from the heart, and Willy appeared to be connecting with it on a deep personal level.

As they neared the end, Miller returned to the stage, grabbing his upright bass for the first time this night, and he began to tune. Nazz got back behind his kit shortly after; and when that song was over, Willy handed the reins over to Cody, who said they had “a little bluegrass” to play. “Wild Western Windblown Band” was the song, and it’s lively pace was the exact opposite from the previous few songs. It reinvigorated everyone, from the band to those watching; and Abeyta got to show off his skills some more on another nice solo.

The lead guitarist then swapped back to an electric guitar, while Willy got a little nostalgic, saying he and Cody were big fans of The Everly Brothers growing up. “We worked this up the other day,” he said in advance of “Bird Dog”. It created a fun atmosphere, and they kept some of those 50’s era vibes intact, while modernizing it some, too. Willy and Cody spent much of the song huddled around the main microphone, with Abeyta throwing in the “bird dog” part and such.

A few times this night Cody had busted out his fiddle, and he brought it out again here, using it for the intro to their next track, while Cody shook a tambourine. Miller started a clap along with the now couple hundred people who were now standing along the street (many of whom were a little further back from the stage, though still glued to the band). Already there was an unmistakable Irish jig sound going, and fans roared when Willy stated they were going to “take it on down to Ireland one time”, doing so with “Seven Nights in Eire”.

“We’ve been playing this song for a long, long time…” Willy mentioned, saying it was originally done by Richard Thompson. “It took a long time for us to learn it, but after doing it a couple thousand times, we feel confident it is the best song on the subject,” he finished. I’d say he’s right about “1952 Vincent Black Lightning” — another song that they have made completely their own — and it fit with the outlaw tones of some of their previous stuff.

Nazz bridged them into the following song; and with everyone back on electric instruments now, they were ready to finish strong, first serving up “Vancouver”. “Here’s a little Joe Ely for you right now,” said Willy. They had just enough spare time left to throw in their take on “My Eyes Got Lucky”, something all the Texas country music fans really went crazy over. Willy then led the charge into the final song of their 71-minute long set, “Nobody’s Girl”, which really seemed to personify these Red Dirt rockers spirit, leading to an awesome finish.

My first experience with Reckless Kelly was far better than I even thought it would be.  The showmanship they displayed was off the charts. Best of all, it never wavered; and by the time things were done, they had only grown into an even more powerful force.

It’s the type of performance that can only come after you’ve spent the better part of two decades together, logging a few thousand shows at least, and developing just the right chemistry amongst band mates.

This may have been my first Reckless Kelly show, but it certainly will not be the last.

They’ll be back in North Texas on November 7th at Billy Bob’s in Fort Worth, though they have plenty of other dates around the Mid-West before then. Their full tour schedule can be found HERE. Be sure to head over to iTUNES and check out their albums, too.

Saturday, September 13th, 2014 - The 7th Annual Dia de los Toadies: Day II – The Toadies Wrap Up Their Festival with One Last Run Through Rubberneck

The gates at Panther Island Pavilion were set to open at three this afternoon, and unsurprisingly, there weren’t many people there at that time.

Still, there were a little more than a dozen people already lined up; and once they finally did open the gates, it became clear everyone either already had a wristband from attending the first night of Dia de los Toadies or they had their tickets for the day already printed out.

It was a die-hard bunch right there.

Of course, the bands weren’t slated to start until 3:40, meaning there was a lot of time to kill. Time that was best spent either checking out the food trucks that were there, or just sitting at the tables around said trucks, resting up for the long day that lie ahead.

This was my fourth Dia (all have been consecutive), and the weather was nicer this day than any of those in years past. The clouds were keeping the sun at bay, to the point it looked like rain may not be out of the question. That also kept the temperature more than bearable. In fact, a jacket didn’t hurt, even in the early afternoon. This is Texas, though, so those conditions didn’t last forever.

The event got started over on the smaller stage, and since it was in Fort Worth, it was appropriate that a hometown band like Blank-Men would be the first to play.

They stood apart from everyone else this day in the fact that they relied heavily on electronics/synthesizers.

Vocalist and bassist Sam Swanson, guitarist and vocalist Alex Atchley, drummer Joey Kendall and synth player Emily Thompson opened with an instrumental piece, rocking out for a few minutes before Swanson counted to four, leading them into their next number.

“It’s all coming together now,” the bassist remarked after one of the songs off their Fact or Fiction? EP, “Radio Silence”. They were definitely in the groove now, as they kept pumping out one song after another, alternating between Swanson and Atchley handling the vocals, and even co-singing at times.

“This songs about,” Swanson said, pausing briefly to think, before giving a nod to a Fort Worth venue, “Spending all your money at The Boiled Owl.” They even joked about their merch at one point, saying they had “small circular things for sale” and that they wouldn’t mind if everyone bum rushed the table and just took whatever they wanted.

“Here’s one for all you hardcore kids,” Atchley said before one song. It was heavier from what they had done thus far, especially with the intro on the moog Thompson was responsible for.

Blank-men’s style of music was quite different from what I typically like, but by the time they finished, I was rather enjoying it. They play it very well, blending both the rock and electronic genres nicely.

You can find their EP on BANDCAMP; and see them live on November 4th at Three Links in Dallas.

People now headed over to the main stage, where another Fort Worth-based band — The Longshots — were about to get started.

They were the first of many bands this day whom I had seen previously, though they looked a little different. They were a four-piece now, something I had evidently missed, assuming the news was even shared on any of their social networks whenever it may have happened.

Nonetheless, I was looking forward to seeing them again.

The fact that they were down to two guitarists/singers now didn’t seem to inhibit them much, though they did focus on a different set of songs from what I recall from the other shows I had seen. “The Chase” got their 32-minute long set off to a good start, with some killer riffs, while the beats Brady Hamilton was dishing out were perfect to bang your head to, as Joey Gorman handled the singing.

Many of the bands this day used these stages to try out some new(er) material, and The Longshots were no exception. “…We appreciate being able to play on this stage with our friends…” Gorman said after singing another song. He then realized he didn’t want to exclude anyone, and extended that to include everyone who was playing on this field, saying, “we’re all homies.” Fellow singer and guitarist Alex Zobel now took the reins, as they did another cut from their self-titled debut they released earlier this year. “Back to the Rio Grande” showed off more of the bands garage rock sound; while the track that followed highlighted the harmonies both Gorman and Zobel are capable of, as the latter chimed in on each chorus.

One of the lines from that song was about “medicine”, leading Gorman to say afterwards that the song was about “the legal distribution of medical marijuana in America and their opposition towards it.” He said it so deadpan, you might have thought he was serious, though he was more being extremely sarcastic.

They debuted a brand new song to the people, a song that got off to a softer start, before getting more intense. Hamilton counted them into “Uppercut”, which boasted a sweet instrumental jam, complete with some nice riffs, with the drums and Kris Luthers’ bass also having their moments. The rhythm section then really got to shine on their final number, which had a heavy instrumental breakdown.

It was a really good set, though it was different from my past two Longshots experiences.

While they did have those raw rock numbers, they also had plenty of slower songs mixed in. Personally, I enjoyed those styles of songs, though it did make for an interesting mix. However, the biggest difference was how restrained they were.

These guys are usually jumping all around the stage, and while it would have been impossible this day, even jumping off it and mingling with the crowd while shredding. That same energy just wasn’t there this afternoon. I highly enjoyed hearing the music, but the show… Maybe it was just an off day for them.

If you want to check out The Longshots music (and you should), you can find it in iTUNES.

Scott Beggs (co-owner of the Dallas venue Three Links) was introducing all the bands this day, and before the next act on the smaller stage, he pointed out that all the bands had been handpicked by The Toadies, making this their own “personal playlist” of sorts.

The stage was then given up to Residual Kid, a trio who had made the short trip from Austin.

Their music was a mixture of grunge and punk, grunge in the fact that it had a dirtier sound to it, and punk in the way that some of their songs were just a couple minutes or so.

They managed to fit 10 songs into their 34-minute set, getting their first two done quickly, and bridging them together so seamlessly that it was fairly hard to tell they had started “Friend”. It was the lone track they did off their Faces EP, and was pretty catchy to boot.

“This one’s brand new,” stated singer and guitarist Deven Ivy before the group continued. “It’s not so chilly up here,” he mentioned afterwards, then tacked on, “with a jacket,” to that sentence. He, bassist Max Redman and drummer Ben Redman kept the blistering pace up with songs like “Names” and “Glue”, which were as short and to the point as the titles were. It was kind of nice, because they didn’t bother stretching the song(s) out, rather, just say what they wanted to and then finish it.

One song they did was about Sonic Youth, and during it, Ivy ran his axe along the top of his cabinet, creating some nice tones. Throughout the show he had mentioned who they were, and as their time on stage drew to a close, he joked, “We’re still Residual Kid.” Their final song had a heavy break down during it; and in its final moments, Max took his bass off and let it fall to the floor. He then flipped it over, with the strings now being visible, grabbed the mic stand he had occasionally used this day, propped his bass up at an angle, and then ran the whole stand up and down the neck. It’s was pretty rock ‘n’ roll.

I knew many of the bands on the festival this day, but Residual Kid was one that was new to me, and they proved to be a good surprise.

Of course, there are still bands that play some sort of punk or grunge rock out there, but it was good to see a younger band who knows the importance/significance of those styles and has incorporated it into their sound.

You can find their EP in iTUNES. As for shows, they have one coming up in Austin on September 23rd at The Palm Door.

It was later in the five-o’clock hour now, and the sun had not only made an appearance, but it was getting pretty warm at this point. That’s Texas for you. Still, at least it wasn’t unbearably hot.

The main stage now belonged to Somebody’s Darling, who just a few weeks before this had played a big CD release show for their new album, and those new songs were expected to be in full force this day.

In a switch up from how that CD release show went, though, they opted to get a couple of slightly older songs out of the way first.

Frontwoman and rhythm guitarist Amber Farris jumped around to the beats Nate Wedan was producing, as they built up to their first song. “Put your cold hands in my warm jacket. Keep ‘em there to we leave…” the singer than crooned, as they got “Cold Hands” underway. The roots rockers had their own little fan base out this evening, and they were happy to clap along once Farris began to do so. “Alright, here we go! Let’s do this!” she yelled as they amped the song back up; and lead guitarist David Ponder killed it with the closing guitar solo.

“We’re Somebody’s Darling and we’re happy to be here,” Farris stated over the mixed noise of the guitars, keys, bass and drums, which soon gave way to the other single spawned from Jank City Shakedown, “Wedding Clothes”. Both bassist Wade Cofer and pianist Mike Talley added their voices to the chorus of “Just waiting on my fever to break…”, which really strengthened it. Talley even stole the show for a moment when he quickly ran his fingers over the keyboard, starting at one end and going down to the other.

Before that second song, Farris also mentioned they were going to get warmed up. After that, I’d say they sufficiently were.

Now they got to their new stuff, tackling the lead track (and single) from Adult Roommates, “Bad, Bad”. “We’re excited to be on stage with The Toadies!” Farris remarked after they had finished that song. She encouraged everyone to get drunk for them, though added, “Stay sober enough.”

She cleaned up “Vowels Flow” for any and all young ears that may have been listening. “…While the girls at the mall rack the bills, while their daddy screws us all…” Farris belted on the first verse (you can use your imagination as to what word was changed and from what). It’s nearly impossible not to get into that feel good song; and after the second chorus, Farris tried to pull any stragglers in, yelling, “Alright, Fort Worth. Let’s go! Come on,”

The stirring “Come to Realize” brought the mood down slightly, though the song about the demise of a relationship and pondering what caused it was a highlight of their set (and I’m not just saying that because I’m incredibly partial to it). It really did result in an amazing moment. “Let’s do this!” Farris said aloud, before Wedan hammered out the beats for “Set it Up”, which was another one that had Ponder doing an excellent solo.

Off to the side of the stage, there were some booths set up, and one of them had a giant moustache in front of it. The funny thing was it was seesaw; and before going any further, Farris pointed it out, along with the people who were currently on it. “Everyone needs a good seesaw now and then,” she laughed, before they busted out the second single from their new record, “Generator”, which had a handful of people (just that I could see) singing along to it.

That was a sign that their 37-minute long set was nearly over, but they still had a little something left to give.

“We’re gonna slow it down now that you got all rowdied up,” said Farris, who now had an acoustic guitar in her hands. They jumped to the final two songs on the album; and “Smoke Blows” isn’t quite as slow as it was made out to be. Neither was “Keep This Up”, which again utilized the three-part harmonies between Cofer, Talley and Farris, and proved a good one to end with.

The energy from the crowd may have been vastly different from the near capacity show they played a few weeks back, but the bands energy was every bit as vibrant as ever.

That’s not to say the audience wasn’t into it, either, but the band wasn’t able to get all the sing alongs going like they can at their usual shows, where they’re the main act.

Since they didn’t have much time, they had to keep a fast pace, and pretty much launched one song after the other at the onlookers.

Basically, Somebody’s Darling was responsible for what was one of the best sets of the day.

They’ll be at Dosey Doe in The Woodlands on October 9th, and then have a couple of short tours planned later in the month, where they’ll hit Georgia, North Carolina, Illinois, Indiana and Tennessee. They’ll also be playing Charlie’s Backyard Bar in Marshall, TX on November 7th and Lee Harvey’s in Dallas on November 8th. Full info on all their shows can be found HERE. Don’t forget to check out their albums in iTUNES, either.

The massive field that is Panther Island was really starting to fill up now, as more and more people arrived, and several of them seemed excited to see The Quaker City Night Hawks.

“Good evening Fort Worth, Texas…” Sam Anderson sang in his rich tone, as the roots rock outfit got started. It wasn’t just a welcoming, but also the first line of their first song. The first of many new songs they did this evening, and it had been perfectly designed to be the opener, with the first few lines quite fitting of the day. Bassist Pat Adams and drummer Matt Mabe were responsible for a pretty heavy rhythm section on that song, as well; and you could already tell Mabe was thoroughly enjoying being up there, as he was giving it 110%.

“What’s up, Fort Worth?” Anderson asked, during a momentary pause before they fired up their next song. “That’s a new one,” he informed the onlookers when they had finished. “We’re glad to be here,” the singer and rhythm guitarist told everyone after another jam, before commenting on the weather. “Thank you… whoever is responsible for that,” he said, prompting one guy in the crowd to shout that he was the one behind the cooler, cloudy day. “That guy!” Anderson exclaimed and pointed, telling the crowd they should buy that man a beer.

Sans some backing vocals, David Matsler had been rather quite so far. However, he now took over on the singing duties, as they did “Fox in the Hen House”. It was the only old jam they did this night, and you could tell who was a fan of the band, because some people got quite excited when they began it. The best part was the harmonies. Everyone except keyboardist Andrew Skates sang on the chorus, “…‘Cause the fox is in the hen house now.” That number came to a mighty finish, due largely to the drums.

“We’re gonna play some new stuff for ya,” Anderson announced, before Matsler went back to singing. The percussion was so heavy on it that Mabe lost his beer because of it. “My whole beer just spilt cause of the vibrations,” he told his band mates in a very disappointed tone. He shook it off, and they got to another new song. One so new, it had never been played live before.

“Back in the winter of fifty-three, the mean ol’ devil had it out for me…” Anderson sang at the start of that dark, but engrossing track, which again had Adams, Matsler and Mabe providing some harmonies. A couple more followed, and once it was all said and done, Anderson thanked everyone who had paid attention.

“We are Quaker City Night Hawks, and we love you,” he told everyone.

Their 34-minute long set went by too fast, and if they had been able to play longer, I don’t think anyone would have had a problem with it.

This was my third time seeing these guys, and quite honestly, I think it was the best. Even topping the hour long or so set I saw them do last year, when I first caught them live.

Quaker City Night Hawks are as solid as they come, and it’s far too easy to see why they have not only became a favorite of many here in North Texas, but also established themselves as a heavyweight in the music scene.

They’re different from a lot of bands out there. Different doesn’t necessarily mean new, but they’ve found a style that they excel at and can pull off exceptionally well. They’re definitely one to keep an eye on, as they may be the next big thing to come out of the D/FW area. The potential is certainly there.

They have a gig in Roswell, New Mexico on September 19th, and then one in Amarillo, Texas at Hoots the following night. On October 24th, they’ll be marking their 5th anniversary as a band with a show in Fort Worth; and then on Halloween night you can catch them at Granada Theater in Dallas. As for albums, they have a few in iTUNES.

Next up on the schedule was something that was a real treat to the festival goers, and one band I was excited to see: Pleasant Grove.

It was only earlier this year when I first heard of them, when they performed a reunion show, which was anticipated by many. From what I later learned, the band was part of the old guard of the North Texas music scene, going back to the late 90’s, before breaking up in the mid-2000’s. Luckily for the scene, they haven’t stayed dead, and are now beginning a renaissance.

Just like many of the other bands on the bill, Pleasant Grove played a lot of newer songs they’ve cooked up.

Marcus Striplin and Bret Egner (both of whom were also the guitarists) traded off on singing during their set, with the former taking the first song, and the latter the second.

That second song also had Chris Mayes moving to the lap steel guitar that was attached to his pedal steel. Those instruments fit (and helped make) their sound, which was often melancholy, though never quite depressing.

“Thanks y’all. What’s up?” Striplin asked upon finishing those songs, before doing another that featured some duel singing from the vocalists. “The sunset’s beautiful,” Striplin then remarked. Indeed, it was. They had gotten a good time slot this day, and while a glare from one of the buildings way off in the distance had been reflecting back at them for part of the show, the sun had set enough now that it wasn’t too bad.

“Only a Mountain” was one of their classics they did this day, coming from The Art of Leaving LP, and to me, it was one of the most striking songs of their set.

Their 35-minute long set allowed them a few more, including another brand new song, titled “Pleasing You”. “…When you have the first laugh, then you can have the last dance, baby,” Striplin sang early on in it, with the rest of the song being just as creative and interesting.

He wished the crowd a “happy Dia!” after they finished, then sent everyone on their way.

These guys, which included bassist Tony Hormilosa and drummer Jeff Ryan, were another standout act of the day.

Of course, everything they did was new to me anyway, though the very little old stuff they did play still holds up nicely, and the new songs were every bit as good. Honestly, you have to wonder why these guys never “made it” and broke out on a national level back during original time together, especially considering that happened to several Dallas bands during that time. Perhaps they were just a little ahead of their time, especially with all the craze that currently surrounds genres that incorporate some folk elements to them.

However, the thing I liked most about Pleasant Grove wasn’t the music, but the lyrics. Every song was deep and highly emotional, two qualities you don’t always see together, though they make a potent mix.

If you want to stay in the loop about shows, keep an eye on their FACEBOOK PAGE. They also have a couple of albums you can purchase in iTUNES.

The job of closing out the second stage went to Ume, who became the first band ever to play Dia for a second time.

“Hey, Fort Worth! We’re Ume,” singer and guitarist Lauren Larson told the crowd in a warm, friendly tone once they stepped on stage. That was about the extent of talking she did this night, though, as they focused primarily on their music in the 36-minutes they had.

“The Conductor” started their set, and right from the start, Lauren began demonstrating what a superb guitarist she is, taking the axe at one point and raising it up and behind her, where just the guitars neck was behind her neck, while she continued to shred away on it.

They threw in a couple of older songs, but mostly, they focused on Monuments, which was released earlier this year; and now drummer Aaron Perez established the steady beat that begins “Too Big World”, while Eric Larson hung back more at first, before really getting into it on the chorus. She used the instrumental break to kneel down and shred on her axe; and once she stood back up, she did a little backbend, before twirling in circles right at the tail end.

They wound it straight into “Burst”, which saw the fiery guitarist pumping her fist in the air, almost as a call to action to the onlookers, before striking the body of her guitar. After some brief silence, the trio suddenly erupted into “Embrace”, which kicked things up several notches; and afterwards, they delved more into their shoe gazey style of rock with “Hurricane II”, which is often as mesmerizing as it is raw. She again sank to her knees at one point on that track, holding her guitar vertically as she viciously picked at the strings.

While Eric and Lauren tuned, Perez started up the drum roll that begins “Oh, Fate”, a song that gradually builds, before striking with a fury. They had pretty much every set of eyes glued to them by now, and “Until The End” and “Chase It Down” further ensured that no one could turn away.

After that, Lauren took a moment to thank The Toadies for having them out, saying they were one of the first bands who ever gave them a chance, so you got the feeling that they [Ume] have immense respect for them.

They were almost done, and now reached back to 2005’s Urgent Sea and pulled out “Baby Xie-Xie”. It’s a beast of a song, especially live, with Lauren kicking the air at times, as she coordinated all of her moves perfectly with the music. The song also contained what was the best moment of their set, and it came when she fell onto her back, letting her guitar slide onto the stage beside her, before rolling somewhat on top of it, never missing a note.

All that was left now was their single, “Black Stone”, which delivered one last quick punch to the ears of the onlookers.

I’ve seen Ume half a dozen times now, and this was the best show I’ve seen them do.

Since releasing Monuments, they’ve been pretty busy making the most of the traction they started going with that single that has come from it, and all their time on the road has led to an incredible tightness. Even Perez, who has only been with the band a few months, looks like he has been a part of the outfit since the start.

The energy they pack into their shows is crazy, while their stage presence this night captivated many. Next to all that, the thing I enjoyed the most was that the vocal levels were turned up higher than normal, making every word crystal clear.

Ume’s next show will be in Houston at Fitzgerald’s on October 24th. Be sure to check out all their albums in iTUNES, too.

The main support band was one that has been around almost as long as The Toadies have, and in Texas (especially D/FW), they’re every bit as much of a staple. I’m speaking, of course, of Old 97’s.

I’m probably one of the few people left who had never seen Old 97’s before, and I was looking forward to that finally changing.

The band was all smiles as they were introduced, and then quickly got to work, coming out swinging with the upbeat and catchy “If My Heart was a Car”, off their debut, Hitchhike to Rhome. It was immediately clear they had their own fans out this night, as many sang along with singer and acoustic guitarist Rhett Miller.

“Barrier Reef” came next, and they didn’t allow any downtime between the songs. Instead, they just kept pushing themselves, with Miller putting on quite a show, even though he was often stuck behind the microphone, while lead guitarist Ken Bethea — who wore a poncho for these first few songs — raced about the stage. I was also quite impressed with the slick moves Murry Hammond worked in to his bass playing.

Two songs in and I was already questioning myself in how and why I had never seen these guys before.

“How y’all doing tonight?” the friendly Miller asked, adding that it was a beautiful night, while some mangled guitar chords set up their next number. It was “Dance with Me”, and the semi-dark song had a real sense of urgency to it. Before hitting the second verse, Miller proceeded to jump around some. He clearly had a lot of energy pent up, and he still had plenty of time to work on getting it all out.

As they stopped, the vocalist made everyone aware that it had also been twenty years since they released their debut record, at a time when he was roommates with Clark Vogeler, who later went on to become The Toadies lead guitarist. “That was a lot of fucking years ago,” he said rather simply, before their attention shifted to the recently released album, Most Messed Up, doing the lead track, “Longer Than You’ve Been Alive”. The song that somewhat chronicles their adventures over the last couple decades seemed to come at just the right time in the show, helping set the stage for the rest of their set.

“Cheers!” Hammond yelled afterwards, though he raised a bottle of water to the sky, an action that caught a little flak from some of the patrons, who wondered where his beer was. He paid them no mind, though. “I was born here. Grew up in the sticks out that way,” he said, pointing towards the general direction. He let everyone know the only reason he every even got to Dallas was to see a Dead Kennedys show, and then thought to himself, “I’ll stay here and do this.” It worked out for him.

He now took over on the reins, singing the very country sounding “West Texas Teardrops”, which was followed by what Miller called a “straight up love song”. “It’s called Let’s Get Drunk and Get it On!” he announced. It may have been another new song, but it was one fans have apparently quickly taken to, as many threw their fists into the air at the chorus, shouting along, “Let’s drink whiskey and do it all night long! Let’s get drunk and get it on!

Drummer Philip Peeples got a shout-out from his band mates as he got the next song going, which happened to be “Four Leaf Clover”. The very Western sounding track saw both Bethea and Miller leaping into the air when they could, with Bethea eventually making his way over to stage left, where he and Hammond worked off one another as they picked away at their instruments. They then returned to their debut record, doing a slightly more intense version of “Stoned”.

“What a great night!” Miller said excitedly, later on mentioning how pumped up he was to see The Toadies, and that he made sure to bring his ear plugs just so he could stand right in front of the speakers for them. They weren’t quite done with their new record yet, and now did “This is the Ballad”, which was quite deep. “A State of Texas” appealed to everyone’s Texas pride (at least I know it did mine); and Miller flat-out killed it on his acoustic for that one.

“This is off the new one,” Hammond simply said, before singing another tune, this one being “The Ex of All You See”, which was one of the most infectious things they did this night (and that’s saying a lot). Miller chatted with the audience for a bit, again thanking them, before doing another oldie, “Big Brown Eyes”, which was instantly followed by “Nashville”, a song that had some laughing as he (with the help of Hammond at times) sang the opening line, “I married Caroline back in May of ’99. It was fucked up at the time, but I figured we’d keep trying…” It was far from a humorous song, though, and is instead a reflective number about trying to figure out why nothing ever works out.

Upon finishing “Rollerskate Skinny”, Miller climbed atop his amp, stretching his arms towards the sky. You could tell they were building to something. He then got some serious air when he jumped; while they ripped into the final song of their 54-minute long set, “Time Bomb”.

The song about infatuation brought their performance to a roaring finish, with Miller waving goodbye and exiting the stage once it was done, while the rest of Old 97’s threw some picks at the crowd, before doing the same.

Seriously, how have I been a fan and avid supporter of the D/FW music scene for nearly a decade, but never seen Old 97’s before? I don’t know how I screwed up so badly.

I thought their performance was extraordinary, to the point they almost, almost unintentionally stole some of the thunder away from The Toadies.

From start to finish, their set was explosive, as they tackled a variety of songs, some of which almost sounded like a cross between country and rock (and at times even punk), while others more fit the lines of your typical (and true) country songs.

They’ll be on the road from the end of September through mid-October, and their tour dates can be found HERE. You can sample all of their albums in iTUNES (and I know I will soon start adding them to my collection.)

The day had been long, but with nonstop music, it passed quick; and now, it was finally time for the band of the hour: The Toadies.

After being on the road in support of the 20th anniversary of Rubberneck for much of the last five to six months or so, this was going to be the final gig of the tour. For me, this show was also going to complete a trifecta. I had seen their Dallas stop of the tour back in May, and in July I made the jaunt up to Denton, when they kicked off another leg of the tour. And now, I was excited to hear Rubberneck front to back once more, and for perhaps the final time ever.

It was 9:53 when Doni Blair, Vaden Todd Lewis, Mark Reznicek and Clark Vogeler walked onto the stage, waving and smiling at the fans. Most had gathered around the stage for a good view of everything, while others watched from a distance, relaxing in lawn chairs or just sitting on the grass.

Lewis approached the edge of the stage, still grinning at the fans, before starting them off on “Mexican Hairless”. The instrumental jam sent fans jumping about and cheering, while others banged their heads along to the aggressive piece. Right as it ended, Vogeler launched them into “Mister Love”. “Are you gonna save me? Can you save me?” Lewis growled in a raw, gravelly tone throughout the track. His voice sounded even more striking (and at times even terrifying) than at either of the other shows I had seen this year, making it clear that this performance of the album was going to be a cut above the rest. On top of that, the singer was constantly making different gestures with his hands or waving his fingers around; and at the final, “Can you save me?”, he stretched his arms out to the side, almost like he was basking in the love from the fans.

While they were busy playing the music, several beach balls had been tossed out in the crowd, which may be stereotypical of festivals, but all the same was fun, as people kept batting them away whenever they got close.

The band wound it right into “Backslider”; and as excited as fans were to hear that rocking number, it paled in comparison to the reaction “Possum Kingdom” got, which was not just screams and yells, but also people turning towards their friends and high fiving them. It was pure ecstasy for everyone as they sang right along, “And I promise you, I will treat you well. My sweet angel, so help me, Jesus.”

The string of beloved songs just kept coming, with “Quitter” sounding even angrier than normal as Lewis spit out the lyrics; and the hefty rhythm section of Reznicek and Blair continued to show their teeth during “Away”, which ended with Vogeler rocking out by his amp, getting the guitar tones as good as they could possibly be.

As Lewis has said at the past shows, he doesn’t like to speak during this portion of the set, as he wants to keep this live experience of Rubberneck as authentic as possible. That also extends to the usual sing along parts in the songs, like “Away”, which instead was handled completely by the band. However, one song where they couldn’t get away with that was “I Come From the Water”. Everyone knew the drill and didn’t even have to be told what to do as they hit the chorus, and the throng of fans shouted at the top of their lungs. It creates a moment that’s quite bonding for Toadies fans.

The most interesting part of the night came during “Tyler”, which was memorable to say the least. Shortly after singing, “I stumble in the hallway,” The Toadies blew out the speakers. The look of confusion on the faces of the band members as well as the crowd was hilarious in hindsight, as everyone was left scratching their head and looking around for a second, like, “Wait. What just happened?” Even without the amps, you could still somewhat hear the bass, drums and guitars, and the band went on playing, though they looked unsure. That was when fans showed their mettle. It was like instinct, everyone knew what to do, as they began singing the final noises from the tune, “Yeah-eh-a. Oh-oh-oh…”. It was far more audible than any of the instruments, and it was concrete proof of not only people’s love of these songs, but also their love for this band.

“I think we broke it,” Lewis said after they got it fixed, which happened as soon as the song ended. For the record, having the speakers blow is how you know you’ve seen a killer concert; and they were still just getting warmed up.

They got back on track, racing through the final three songs, as Reznicek bridged them from “Happy Face” into “Velvet”, and they only stopped long enough for Lewis to get a twelve-string acoustic guitar, before concluding the Rubberneck set with “I Burn”. “Sift the ashes for reminders; stony things remain,” Lewis sang, using his bullet mic for a couple of lines, as he placed his left palm into the air, before clenching his fist.

38-minutes was how long it took this night to run through those eleven songs, and they were far from done.

“That was the Rubberneck set,” remarked Lewis, also mentioning how “fucking crazy” it was that it has been twenty years. He was equally amazed by the fact that Dia de los Toadies was now in its seventh year. “This is the most fun one I think we’ve had yet,” he said of the festival, before saying if everybody was down, they’d do some more songs.

“Push the Hand” got the remainder of their 64-minute long set going, and it seemed to reinvigorate the crowd, as well as the mosh-pit, which was small, but had been going on throughout the show. During the last brief instrumental break, Blair and Lewis walked towards one another, interacting a bit as they jammed. The subsequent track from Hell Below/Stars Above, “Little Sin”, came next, though they axed the extended outro they often give the song. Instead, they jumped right into “No Deliverance”, which I thought sounded even better than normal this night. For example, there was something about the line, “I saw black monsters twisted in love,” and the way Lewis sang it that was just quite gripping this night.

“Are we still having fun?” he asked afterwards, a question that was answered by a resounding amount of cheers. They took time out to thank all the bands who had played, including the Old 97’s, who Vogeler joked would surely be going somewhere.

Blair then switched to a different bass before starting them on “Summer of the Strange” — one of the only new songs they did this night. Not that anyone had a problem with that. “…This is our indulgent three and a half minutes, bear with us,” cracked Lewis before they busted out their rendition of Blondie’s “Heart of Glass”, a song that they quite possibly played for the final time this night.

“Oh, shit! I’ve got to start this one,” Lewis said, sounding a little apprehensive. He bought himself some time by telling everyone that several years ago he had written a song that he was now regretting writing. “It’s the most difficult song I’ve ever written,” he stated, leading everyone to wonder what it could be. I was racking my brain trying to figure it out, and I doubt I was alone.

I was not expecting “Hell Below/Stars Above” — a song I had only heard live once, nearly five years ago — but that was what they did. It made for a truly surprising moment, catching every single fan off guard; and the best part came at the end, where one of their techs added his voice to the mix. He could sing, and it helped make that gospel-like ending more like how it sounds on the recording. The thing I like most about that title track from their sophomore album is how it changes midway though, yet it still sounds like the same song. As Lewis said, it’s a difficult song, but it’s also a beautiful one, and it capped off this main set fantastically.

They were gone all of a couple minutes, before the noise from fans brought them back out. “Do y’all want some more songs?” Lewis asked, acting as though he was shocked. “We’ll play some more songs,” he added, before they broke into the primal, “Sweetness”, which was another track that had the singer making different motions with his hand at times as he sang.

They had another cover planned, and Lewis went back twenty years, mentioning that some of the songs from the original Rubberneck recording session had been cut. One of those was a cover of Pylon’s “Stop it”, and for that one, Lauren Larson of Ume joined them, tearing it up on her axe. The fans and the band were really digging that one. For starters, each time Lewis began clapping along, the fans did, too; and on the second chorus, Vogeler began jumping around.

“You guys tired?” Lewis then asked, a question that was met with a forceful, “NO!” The band then returned to their second album, performing the final track from it, “Doll Skin”. It had sounded great acoustic the night before, but there’s something about the electric version. It’s not exactly an all-out rock number, nor is that soft. Still, out of everything they had done, it’s not what you would think would be a perfect crowd surfing song, yet that was exactly what one man did, as he had his friends hoist him in the air.

“You’ve been fantastic. Thank you so much,” Lewis told the attendees, before extending that to cover their crew who put this on and everyone who had any part of it. “I’m from Fort Worth, I’m a big fan of Fort Worth, and this is all fucking Fort Worth right here,” he finished, before saying they would be leaving everyone with this. “This” was “Rattler’s Revival”. Fans again clapped along whenever they saw the frontman doing it; and really, what a fitting song to end their 19-minute long encore with. Not just because it’s a hard-hitting number, but because it’s one of the newest things in their catalog, and after spending most of 2014 on the road, focusing on their twenty-year-old debut, why not look ahead to the future, and hopefully, another twenty years, or even more.

I was thinking about it this day and Dia was the eighth festival I’ve seen/covered this year.

I’ve really come to enjoy the festival atmosphere; but as fun as all of those others have been, there’s one thing that’s different about Dia de los Toadies, and that’s what made me enjoy it not only more than those other festivals, but also more than ever: it’s because everybody there has an undying love for The Toadies.

It’s really cool to go to something like this and know that the common denominator is that everyone enjoys the same band. It breeds a real sense of camaraderie, and that is a special feeling.

So, kudos to The Toadies for giving their fans something like this to congregate at once a year. Here’s to hoping it continues for many more to come.

As for their set itself, it was solid as ever. This is a band that has a real staying power, even more than twenty years into it, and that was clear once more this night in Fort Worth.

They do have a few more shows this year. One will be in Houston at the Untapped Fest on September 20th. Another will be in Pharr, Texas at the Pharr Events Center on October 19th, with an Austin date at Emo’s on December 26th. Let’s not forget about Dia de los Toadies 8, which should be happening in September 2015. As for their albums, the remastered version of Rubberneck can be purchased at KIRTLAND RECORDS, while everything else can be found at iTUNES.

(Read my review of night 1 of this year’s Dia HERE.)

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014 – EDJ Electrifies the Crowd at Granada Theater

This night at the Granada Theater may have been all about Delta Spirit, though EDJ was charged with warming up all of the headliners’ Dallas fans, and there were a couple hundred there by the time nine-o’clock rolled around.

Eric D. Johnson stood alone on the sizable stage, sans the guitar he clutched and the keyboard that sit in front of him.

The rest of the instruments (such as drums) came in the form of sample tracks, which fired up as he began his first song, “Lose it All, All the Time”. As soon as he opened his mouth, his semi-nasally voice proved to be the most distinctive quality about him; while the song — which was the first of many he did from his recently released debut album — was overwhelmingly cheery.

“It’s good to be back in Dallas,” Johnson remarked, pointing out this was his first night of this tour with Delta Spirit, which meant the folks of North Texas were getting a very fresh performance from him, before the road had a chance to perhaps take a toll.

“Mostly Just Fantasies” had more of a minimalist sound to it, with the musician crooning at the start, “…There’s two kinds of people: those who are and those who aren’t…”. He then segued things directly into the next song, informing the crowd he used to be in a band called Fruit Bats, which drew a strong reaction from the onlookers. “This is something from that band,” he finished, before launching into “Dolly”. The all too catchy song left the audience singing his praises and applauding him, prompting a very sincere, “Thanks, guys!”, before keeping the chill mood going with “Odd Love”.

“For Joy” was perhaps the most impassioned song of Johnsons’ 41-minute long set, with the raw emotion radiating from his voice out to the audiences, who was cheering throughout the amazing track. The drums had been quiet for some time now, but the sample tracks with them kicked back up, taking him into another strong number.

“…You guys are cool!” he told the crowd before taking things back down some with “Child in the Wild”, a song which focused on how much more simple things were when you were young, and I think it had everyone there getting a little nostalgic. It was undeniable that what people loved the most about “For the Boy Who Moved Away” was the harmonica Johnson used at times, while he gently plucked the strings of his guitar with his fingers. The spectators were raving about that harmonica, which wasn’t even used much on that one, but he was about to give everyone a good taste of it.

“…This has more harmonica. I think you guys will like that…” he laughed before his final number, which didn’t require the guitar at all. “I save all my harmonica shit for the end,” he laughed, as he ended with “Minor Miracles”. The highlight came when he let out a powerful solo on that harmonica, and then walked over to stage right, where he continued singing the song, without a microphone. The track was light enough and the crowd was keeping silent, so you could still hear nearly every word he sang. The crowd looked on in awe, and it made for an awesome moment.

EDJ’s set was far better than I think anyone had anticipated.

Considering it was just Johnson, he commanded the crowd’s attention quite well, truly making it difficult to pull your eyes away from him. His voice was distinctive and uniquely his, fitting with his semi-quirky songs that were filled with emotion.

His music may have been vastly different from Delta Spirits’, but he set the stage perfectly for them.

EDJ will be on tour for most of September, with another series of dates in the latter part of October. A full list can be found HERE. You can also purchase his album in iTUNES.

Sunday, September 7th, 2014 – Starmother Serves Up Some Bluesy Rock at Gas Monkey

Despite being a free show at Gas Monkey Bar & Grill, there wasn’t much of a crowd on this Sunday. That can’t be totally unexpected, given the bill consisted of a couple local acts and a touring band that I doubt anyone was familiar with beforehand.

Still, a little more than fifty people or were scattered around the massive patio that houses the outdoor stage; and those who did show up were rewarded with a show that they will not soon forget.

Opening the show was Starmother (who, until recently, was known as The Neckties); and while I had been aware of the band for a couple years, I had never managed to catch a show before this.

A new moniker also means new music; and in their 33-minute long set, they played many of the songs off their forthcoming Electric Mistress EP, opening with the title track, “Electric Mistress”. The instrumental piece got things off to a roaring start, with bluesy tones from lead and rhythm guitarists Charley Wiles and Blake Cheek, respectively; while Troy Bruner added a lot of tenacity with some pulse-pounding drumbeats, and bassist Robert Burroughs helped intensify that mighty rhythm section.

“How we doing tonight?” Blake asked everyone, while Troy bridged them into their next song. “We’re happy to be here with y’all,” he added, after letting everyone know who they were, and then they ripped into “Flat Broke Blues”. The band’s style is a mix of rock and blues, and it was demonstrated very well on that song, which was often rather fiery, with some sweet licks thrown in.

They kept the new songs coming, doing one that ended with a wicked instrumental finish, really highlighting these guys musicianship. The action packed end from it then spilled over into “I Don’t Need”, which was blistering from start to finish; and shortly into it, Blake sit his guitar down, embracing more of a frontman role as he belted out the lines on this soulful rock number.

They kept the adrenaline-pumping pace up with “Way Down”, incorporating a lot of energy into the song that was just a little more than two-minutes. Robert and Troy then took the reins, beginning a very rhythm driven intro for “Just Another Man”. It was a change of pace from everything thus far, as they slowed things down and showed off the softer side they are capable of. “…I don’t want to be just another man…” Blake crooned on the chorus of the song that was teeming with emotion. They also worked a great jam session into the song, which spiked once Charley knocked out a solo, and then the other instruments proceeded to escalate.

“We have an album coming out…” Blake told the onlookers, saying it would be out sometime this year. With that, they jumped back to the Chop & Change record they released under the old band name back in 2012, doing “Southside”. The name may have changed, but the style of music they play hasn’t much (apart from a little tighter sound), so that classic still fit with everything else. They had just one left after that, going straight into another jam that showed off their more tender side.

I’m really hating that it took me so long to see these guys. Their performance this night was great, and they put a lot of energy into it.

Blake possesses a great voice, often putting a lot of heart into his singing, while the music has a slightly fresh sound to it. They pull off the bluesy rock genre very well too, easily earning a top spot amongst other similar acts here in the D/FW area.

They have a couple of shows planned for October, one at Lola’s in Fort Worth on the 3rd, the other at Sundown at Granada in Dallas on the 11th.

Sunday, September 7th, 2014 – Goodnight Ned is Spot-On at Gas Monkey

Despite being a free show at Gas Monkey Bar & Grill, there wasn’t much of a crowd on this Sunday. That can’t be totally unexpected, given the bill consisted of a couple local acts and a touring band that I doubt anyone was familiar with beforehand.

Still, a little more than fifty people or were scattered around the massive patio that houses the outdoor stage; and those who did show up were rewarded with a show that they will not soon forget.

The main support slot this night went to Goodnight Ned; who had released their debut album a little more than a month before this. And after regrettably missing that show, I was looking forward to finally seeing the Dallas-based rock/Americana band again, and now knowing most of the songs.

They focused heavily (though not exclusively) on Ned this night, opening with the vibrant “50,000 Years”, which seems to play to all their strong suits. The keys are often the driving force of the moody song; and about halfway through, Jonas Martin hopped up from his chair as he continued to bang away on the keyboard. The multi-part harmonies were also in full force, as Jonas, guitarist Conner Farrall, drummer Michael Munoz and bassist Matt Trimble chimed in with singer and guitarist Chase McMillan, creating an amazing texture.

“…One. Two. Three. Four,” Jonas counted, before starting them off on “Now I’m Gone”. He didn’t get far before stopping. “Wait, that’s not right,” he remarked, while his band mates and their large section of friends/fans chuckled. He got the notes right the second time around; and he also took over on the lead vocals, with some of the other guys lending their voices here and there on the soulful jam.

Upon finishing it, Connor made the official introduction, telling those watching that they were Goodnight Ned. “…AKA Starmother’s newest, biggest fans,” he added, giving props to the opener.  Their 41-minute long set then continued as they went back to the Smoke From the Sails album from a couple years ago, doing “Papa Jack’s Bag”. The highlight of it came at the extended instrumental outro they gave the track, which featured a lively piano solo.

After another song — which again had Jonas at the helm — the pianist informed everyone they had a cover planned, and it was by Father John Misty. “…He’ll be here in spirit in about five seconds,” he laughed, before they tried their hand at “This is Sally Hatchet”. It could seem like an odd song to cover, but a few months before this they did a show here at Gas Monkey doing a whole set of covers from Father John Misty. Chase was in charge of singing on it; and the bass lines Matt was knocking out sounded very robust, adding a little more kick to the tune.

“We’re happy to be here with you,” Conner mentioned afterwards, pointing out that the headliner, The Picturebooks, had come all the way from Germany. “Well, we came all the way from Lower Greenville,” Jonas added, before saying this next song was another off their album they had for sale. “No it’s not,” Chase told him, smiling at him. “Why do I keep saying stupid shit?!” Jonas asked aloud. At least he was able to laugh at himself.

Instead, they did one of the newer songs they have. Conner finally showed off his voice on it, which is smoother in comparison to Chase’s; while nearly the whole band partook in the chorus, “…Everyone knows you’re the scarlet letter.” They offered up one more, before Michael wound them right in to their closing number. “This is also a song about birds. But wolves, too, I guess,” Jonas informed everyone as they built up to “Wolves & Crows”. The aggressive song is arguably their best; and towards the end of it, Chase tore off from his mic, walking back towards the drums as they shredded on a quick instrumental portion.

I’ve got to say, it was nice finally being able to see these guys and be familiar with their songs. I also think this was perhaps the best Goodnight Ned show I’ve seen. It may not have been perfect, but the way they handled themselves was.

All five guys were working perfectly with one another, each delivering a precise performance that contributed to them being a well-oiled machine this night. You could tell they were in tune with one another every single second they were on that stage. That’s perhaps an unexpected side effect from all the harmonies that they utilize, because there’s even less room for error.

Even their movements were often done in time with each other, though it felt like they were just going with the flow rather than it being rehearsed.

With the recent release of Ned, Goodnight Ned has had a lot of buzz surrounding them, and if you saw the show this night, you know exactly why they are deserving of it. They really are a shining talent here in the scene.

They don’t have any shows listed on their calendar at the moment; though you should go check out their records in iTUNES.

Saturday, September 6th – SpaceCamp shows Off a New(er) Sound at Liquid Lounge

The show at Liquid Lounge this night got off to a little earlier start then I expected.

It was a little before nine when I walked in the intimate room, and there were already three musicians on stage.

With just a couple more songs to go, I never caught the name of this instrumental band, who was good, though that’s just a style I’m seldom a fan of.

Following them up was a singer by the name of Charley Crockett. Now, if you’re like me, when you hear the name Crockett, you immediately think of Davy Crockett, and from what Charley said later this night, he is kin to the historical figure, and that is something he’s proud of.

To be the only person on that stage, he did an amazing job of filling it up. His music was incredibly soulful and very bluesy, and it all came from the heart, as he and his guitar produced one song after the other. “That’s a new one I’m working on,” he remarked at the end of one song, before bridging it right in to another.

“Down Trodden Man” was one of the cuts he did from his latest EP, and it was quite fitting of the wanderer role he had already cast himself in. “…I do believe if I had wings I’d still be lonesome,” he crooned on one line; and despite sounding like it would be a sad song, there were never even any slight undertones of it. Instead, he seemed almost cheerful; and at one point, when he cut out on his guitar, the onlookers decided to start clapping along, something Charley welcomed.

He threw out a few more songs, each one dripping with raw emotions, which was the quality everyone watching seemed to enjoy the most about his set.

Not only was he an exceptional singer and songwriter, he was also an extremely skilled guitarist. It was something to watch as he wailed on his axe, making music that spoke to people on a deeper level than many songs do.

Charley Crockett was the most surprising act to me this night, as I was not expecting to discover such a talented solo artist by coming to this show. I’m glad I did, though, and I’m looking forward to seeing him again.

He’ll be back in Dallas on October 8th at Adair’s Saloon, and he has plenty of other tour dates as well. They can be found HERE, and you can download a couple of free songs of his HERE.

Perhaps the most interesting band of the night was Skinny Cooks.

How often do you see a rap and spoken word band perform, using a cello and a xylophone. That’s exactly what Nigel Newton (who played the xylophone) and Brianne Sargent did, though. They were also joined by a drummer and bassist, who really fleshed out the sound, though it was those two core members who received everyone’s attention.

They only got 19-minutes, squeezing four songs into that time and rotating on who provided the vocals. As I said, at times it was more like spoken word, others it was rapped, but no matter what was going on, it was riveting.

Simple, yet complex; with the emotions being conveyed in the music.

I’d definitely be interested in seeing them again sometime.

Their music can found on BANDCAMP.

Paco Estrada was next up this night, and it had been far too long since I had seen the singer/songwriter with a full-band. Making this all the more special was the fact that Zuriel was joining him on the violin.

Zuriel was one of the first members Paco picked up when forming what eventually became Paco Estrada & One Love, a band that started about six years ago, and disbanded four years ago now (man, that makes me feel old.) In the aftermath, Zuriel has only played with Paco once, and that was just a few weeks before this show, making this a special treat for longtime fans.

The 50-minute set was an interesting one that covered a variety of albums (and bands), beginning with them going all the way back to Paco’s days in SouthFM. “Blue & Grey” was a song that iconic Dallas band never did much, as the slower pace didn’t fit with their noisy rock shows, though it worked this night, and caught longtime fans a little off guard as Paco started the first line, “Collected all these words to paint this picture for you and try to get you to see…” It was mostly Paco and his acoustic guitar for a while, with Zuriel, the drummer and bassist hanging back, before it really escalated towards the end. Zuriel was even wailing on his violin there at the end, reminding some people of some days long gone by.

From that song from nearly ten years ago, they jumped ahead to some of Pacos’ newer music, doing the sweet love song, which I believe is titled, “The Way That I Love You”. Following that new staple was another new one, and one that quite honestly sounded like a cover. I wasn’t alone in thinking that, either. It sounded phenomenal, though for some reason, it just didn’t feel like one of his, despite the fact that it was. The drummer was crushing it during that song, while the riffs burrowed their way into your head instantly. The lyrics stood out, too, with one line I remember being, “… Burn it to the ground, let the truth be found…”.

“Zuriel just made some shit up,” laughed Paco, who wasn’t really joking, as Zuriel is a master at improve. “This is the song about the girl behind the girl behind the girl,” Paco stated before “She”, a song off 2013’s How I Spent My Summer Vacation EP. “…I could never give you my heart; she left me black and mostly blue. You could give me all the love in the world, but baby, I’ll never give it back to you,” he belted on chorus of that emotional tune about being forever haunted by a past love.

“Harder!” one fan/friend shouted once that one was done, prompting Paco to ask, “Why is that always your go to word?” In retaliation, he said they were going to go softer, joking that, that was a shame for everyone, because they had a really “awesome” totally redone version of a Tool song planned, but instead would just skip over it. He bantered on, saying he and Zuriel were in counseling trying to work stuff out, before sitting up their next tune. “It’s a sad song. But they’ve all been sad,” he remarked, before pulling v2.0 of “Killing Me”, as was performed by One Love. Zuriel looked like this was all second nature to him, and at times, he plucked the strings of his violin, before using the bow later in the song.

“Just like we practiced, just like we practiced,” Paco laughed, who had just earlier stated he sends the tracks to the bassist, so he can listen to the songs he’ll be playing, and I’m fairly certain Zuriel was winging it all night long. The bassist then chimed in, saying he wanted to do “She Talks to Angels”, something Paco was easily persuaded to do. “I don’t know why that happened, but it did,” he stated after finishing the rendition of The Black Crowes song, which was followed by another original from The Anatomy of Letting Go, “Reckless Love”, which again found Zuriel in the zone, since it was from the One Love days.

They had one song left, but first, Paco thanked the openers, saying he happened to find Charley Crockett on the side of the road; and also mentioning the people who had come to this show wearing the band shirts (for the headliner, SpaceCamp), saying “There’s always that guy,” at shows. (For the record, I was one of the guys who had worn the band shirt.) To end things, they did the old standby, “Whiskey Kisses”, which once again saw Zuriel doing a bit of a solo towards the end.

Paco and his band did not disappoint. Then again, they never do.

It was a nice smorgasbord of his music, from his solo records, to his past bands, while also looking ahead to his future. I’m sure I got this point across by now, but it was also fun seeing Zuriel back on stage, going between playing his violin in a more traditional manner, to rocking out on it, to the point it can rival any electric instrument.

I say this every time, and I’ll say it again: Paco is the best singer/songwriter in the D/FW area, and that fact was proven yet again this night.

You can find all of his music on his BANDCAMP; and he should have a new release out by the end of the year.

Wrapping up the night was SpaceCamp; and they had changed things up since the last time I had seen them.

Paco Estrada got no downtime; however, unlike the past SC shows, he wasn’t using his acoustic guitar this time around. Instead, he just stood in front of the mic, using his voice. The other big difference was they now had a keyboardist, who was also responsible for running the live tracks, something they started doing more recently.

Rounding out the band was guitarist Mike Dove and bassist Emsy Robinson, along with frontman Jeremy Rodriguez (AKA Tomahawk Jonez), plus a drummer, whom I hadn’t seen with them before.

They opened with “The Dancer”, and right away, Jeremy  began rapping, “My fears, my pain fall upon your ears so they don’t feel the same…”, putting not only a ton of emotion into it, but also making it sound quite fierce. Paco took over on each chorus; and at the end, he was responsible for tacking on a part of a cover song, singing, “…So I’m never gonna dance again, the way I danced with you,” from “Carless Whisper”.

“We were in Lubbock last night,” Jeremy stated, saying the girls there liked to drink whiskey, and asked if that was true of the girls here. Paco followed that with a rhetorical question. “What college girl doesn’t?” “If This is Goodbye” sounded like a different song live as the sample track got it going; and Jeremy clapped along there at first, causing some fans to join along. He later pointed to Mike when the rest of the instruments cut out; making sure all attention was on the guitarist. When they got to the choruses, Jeremy hung his head, though still danced along; and Paco put an overwhelming amount of emotion into the second one. I’m not sure what caused him to make it even more charged than normal, but it made the already great song even better.

“Do y’all want to hear another song from that same album?” Jeremy asked, referring to the Full Moon EP. “That wasn’t too convincing,” he replied after a lackluster response from the crowd, who did better the second time around. Before they could move on, though, Mike had to change guitars, and then they were off onto “The Lover”. They had redone some parts of it, especially at the end, when both Paco and Jeremy each sang of their different parts in unison with one another, sounding absolutely amazing.

“Faster! Harder!” a patron shouted, leading Paco to inform him they were not Daft Punk. “That’s not a Kanye song?” Jeremy replied, believably feigning some surprise. “Reach for the Sun” came next, and while several of SpaceCamp’s songs are positive and uplifting, that one has to take the cake. As Paco began the final chorus, Jeremy beat his chest, then slowly raised his head until he was gazing towards the ceiling, seeming to look right past it and towards the stars.

“What the fuck is wrong with this stand, Gene? “Why are you trying to sabotage our set?!” Paco joked with the sound man; though the mic stand had been giving them some trouble. They slowed things down and got quite serious with “Surrender to the Night”; then picked the pace back up with “White Horses”, which Jeremy jokingly dedicated to all the women in line for the bathroom. There was no line, though he did say that right at the time one woman happened to walk out, which was hilarious. “What’s the worst that could happen?” Jeremy finished, creating his own echo effect when singing that final word, and it sounded awesome.

“You want to keep that mood going?” he asked afterwards, as the keyboardist started the track to “Dancing with the Devil”. It had barely got going when Jeremy had him kill it, something that perplexed his band mates. “Are you not ready to dance with devil?” Paco quipped, getting a laugh from the crowd. The track sounded fuller when it came back in, just like it should; and that number really exploded when they hit the last chorus, from the singing, to the instruments, everything was in high gear.

“These are all true stories by the way,” Paco informed everyone once they finished. With only two EP’s worth of music in their catalog, they had played nearly everything they had, except for one song. They ended their 50-minute long set with “Before you Die”, which sounded more relaxed this time around than I’ve heard it in the past. It was more behooving of the song, allowing it to become even more emotional than it already is. As usual, Paco added some of “Blue and Yellow” by The Used to the end. “…Rather waste my time with you…” he crooned, before getting to one line he put so much into and held for so long, his face visibly turned red.

Jeremy was excited when talking to me about them using the sample tracks now, especially after how it has gone over at their other recent shows. I was quite intrigued to hear it, but at the same time, I’m one of those people who’s typically not a fan of the use of tracks.

It doesn’t work for every band, often detracting from the sound in my opinion, but for SpaceCamp, it fits. The band has such a unique sound in the first place, describing themselves as trip-rock, and the use of the tracks really did help give all the songs the perfect feel. It really was like you were hearing the recordings live, though they had that raw quality that can only come with a live performance.

I dug it, and it sets the stage for a whole new SpaceCamp.

You can purchase both of the bands EP’s over in iTUNES.

This was a very diverse night of music here at Liquid Lounge, but one that was overflowing with talent, making it a solid night from start to finish