A truly great weekend entails spending a night at the Curtain Club, at least in my opinion, and there were some talented bands playing there this night.
I wasn’t able to stay for the whole night, though, which is a rare event for me, and I didn’t even arrive until the first band was almost done with their set.
I did get there in plenty of time to see the instrumental trio Son of Swan, though.
The sirens of the songs sample track blared before drummer Billy Walker started them in on “SOS”, the opening song of their 30-minute long set. They got right down to business, with Neil Swanson so effortlessly shredding on his guitar, letting loose some shrill notes at times, while bassist Steve Wilson roamed all over the stage with a real swagger to his step. They followed it almost immediately with “Children Of The Night”, which is yet another raw rock song that encompasses some amazing guitar riffs and solos. At this point Neil approached the mic, informing everyone of who they were, before moving on with a couple more songs, one of which was a cover. Now, I’m not familiar enough with all their stuff to know it, but they did another original before tackling another cover. “…If you don’t know this one, well, maybe you should.” Neil said before they began it. I’m fairly certain they followed it with the intricately woven “30K Curse”, and before starting their final song, Neil made a very accurate statement. “…Remember, everybody that is somebody used to be nobody.” Very true, and great final words to speak for the night, before starting what I want to say was “Dog Days”.
Sure, song-wise this probably isn’t as accurate as I like to be, but that doesn’t change the fact that all those original songs plus the rest that comprise their seven song debut record are masterpieces.
Seriously, they are some of the best songs I think I’ve ever heard and when you see the live show that accompanies them, then you’ll love the band even more. Billy’s an incredible drummer, Steve has that casual persona that most bassists have, yet he’s constantly storming around the stage, and I don’t know how anyone couldn’t consider Neil to be one of the best guitarists they’ve ever seen.
He does steal the show with his guitar work, his hands racing all over the fretboard, yet he manages to maintain a more humble attitude in his playing. Whereas some guitarists give you the impression that they are wanting to go all-out and do some ridiculous guitar work that seems like it’s just to show off, Neil doesn’t at all come across that way.
It never seems like what he’s playing is meant to be showy, rather it’s just the natural progression of the song, and he doesn’t, say, hold the guitar in front of the crowd like “Look what I can.” Instead, what you see is simply a virtuoso at work.
I never imagined a day where an instrumental band could hold my interest, yet this was the third time I’ve seen them now and all three times my eyes have been glued to the stage. So if you think you won’t like them just because they are an instrumental act, just give them a chance. You’ll probably end up loving the music, and if you see a show, you’ll be blown away.
So far the only place to pick up their CD is at live shows, and next up on their calendar is May 24th at The Rail Club in Fort Worth, May 31st at O’Riley’s in Dallas and they will return to O’Riley’s on June 22nd.
Up after them was Greysmyth, and this was a pretty big show for the band, and even a bigger one for the singer.
See, this was the groups first show with Justin Ranton fronting the band, and it was also the first time he had performed on stage in over a year, and personally, I was beyond excited to be seeing that guy on stage again.
They opened their set with a song called “Avalon”, which got off to a slower start with some light notes from guitarists, Jerrod Nelson and Spuds Berryman, while Justin held back on his singing a bit. “Come on Dallas!” he roared after a bit, as drummer Brayton Lyons, bassist Kobe Garinger and the others really cut loose on the song, transitioning it into a full on assault of rock. They did several great songs this night, but that was one of my favorites. Before beginning their next song, Justin took a moment to speak to the crowd, mentioning that it had been “a long time” since he had been on a stage as he thanked everyone who was there for coming out. “…This next one’s called Feed the Need.” He said, as his band mates ripped into the song. “Feed the need, my intention is to be close to you…” sang Justin on the chorus of this powerhouse track, which was really driven by the rhythm section. They did one more hefty rock track, “Peripheral”, before slowing things down with “Rose”, which Spuds announced was for his wife. It oozed with feelings, but not in a true lovey dovey way, and it showed off another, more sensitive side to the rock outfit. “…He’s saying he can’t live without you…” Justin said to Spuds’s wife after they finished the song. They didn’t immediately bring things up, though, instead doing another lighter track, “A Way to Love”. Both of those softer songs were really good, but I really liked the latter of those two, and they both pushed the band out of their element a bit, in a good way. They returned to what they do best with a song called “Bloodlines”, before finishing their 34-minute long set with the killer, “Corpse Flower”, which was proof they had saved (one of) the best for last.
It was a great rock show, and I found myself wondering why I hadn’t heard of the band before Justin joined them, even if they hadn’t played too many live shows.
It was fantastic seeing Justin on stage again, and while he began the show seeming a little apprehensive, he quickly warmed up and got into the swing of things, moving about the stage, operating in synch with the music and just being a commanding frontman. And even though it had been so long since he sang on stage, he hadn’t lost any of his stage persona.
Regarding the songs, Spuds, Kobe, Brayton and Jerrod have created some great stuff and put on a good performance, getting better the further they progressed in their set.
The music is different from Justin’s past projects, and compared to those I think it’s more melodic (that’s not to say Greysmyth is a Melodic Rock band by any means), but his voice fits quite well with the music, and even kind of pushes his voice to new heights.
Point is, I loved their set, and I’m eager to see how Greysmyth is going to grow from here on out, like, what their songs will sound like with Justin being a part of the band now, and how much better their live shows will probably be once they get more practice under their belt and become even more cohesive.
Definitely keep an eye on these guys, or better yet go see them with your own eyes. They’ll be playing Wit’s End in Dallas on June 1st, then they’ll be back at the Curtain Club on July 26th.
Not long after they finished was when I left. Junk and Carmeci were probably great this night, but Greysmyth and Son of Swan were well worth the ten dollar cover, and I’m glad I was able to see both of them.
A truly great weekend entails spending a night at the Curtain Club, at least in my opinion, and there were some talented bands playing there this night.
Alex Allred is a singer/songwriter who has been entrenched in the North Texas music scene for a little over a decade now. He’s probably best known for fronting the hard rock outfit, The Aftermath Theory, a band that after five years, decided to go on an indefinite hiatus.
He’s working hard to change that, though, and in the late 2000’s he began writing some acoustic songs, readying himself for a solo career, and suddenly finding himself without band made this a good time to pursue this new musical outlet.
This new music was a vast departure from what he was used to, but it allowed him to test and push himself as a songwriter. A little over a year after his rock band had more or less called it quits, Alex was releasing his first album as a solo artist, and he had also welcomed two other musicians into the fold to back him up.
The album is titled “Born on 4/20”, which is his actual date of birth, and isn’t just a collection of random songs, but songs that chronicle his life.
The album begins with the title track itself, “Born On 4/20”, which is a promising, upbeat song that partly deals with Alex’s birth. It’s driven predominantly by the acoustic guitar, which eventually builds and hits a rather epic climax towards the end of the song. I feel the overall message of the song, though, is about chasing your dreams, regardless of what others may think, best summed up with the line, “…Count all your blessings and never attest to the world that dreams are only for the chosen…”, which Alex sings in his distinctive voice, which has nice, almost soothing quality to it.
The album doesn’t let up any, as it moves on to “Little Warrior”, a very melodic track where Alex continues to tell his life story to everyone, beginning with the (very) early days of his childhood. The drumming is often more simple on this one, often just a steady beat made by slapping one of the skins, but it mixes quite well with the guitar, creating a catchy music bed that will no doubt burrow its way into your head.
Things continue full-steam ahead with “Another One”, which mines a vein similar to the previous track, before offering a glimpse at his softer side of singing and writing with the longest song on the album, “Panic Attack!” which, despite the brief crescendo, is still more of a tranquil song.
“Phase”, which is the shortest offering on the record, comes next and finds Alex returning to his Rock ‘n’ Roll roots, albeit in more of an acoustic way. Sure, it may have a very stripped down sound, but it’s rather intense and could go up against some of the loudest rock songs and hold its own with ease, especially since it boasts a more noticeable rhythm section than previous song.
“I would do it if it takes me a lifetime. Good news, I’ve got nothing but time…” Alex croons at the start “#1 Scenario”, a song where he seems to reaffirm his love and dedication for his music career. It also finds him returning to a more traditional acoustic style of sound, different from the song that came before it, but that’s okay. His music doesn’t all have to be in-your-face to stick with you, in fact, this is one of the highlight tracks on “Born On 4/20”.
One of the cheeriest songs on the album is “Moments”, which emits a rather carefree attitude with its positive vibes, as Alex reminisces about growing up in his suburban neighborhood, before things take a more serious twist with “Biology, Not Chemistry”. “It scares me to say that we share the same DNA…” sings Alex, a line that perfectly summarizes how real and raw the track is.
There’s a slight reggae influence to “Just Breathe”, which is appropriate, given what the song is about. One of the lines from the chorus is, “…I could get used to this, faith, love and cannabis is happiness…”, obviously making marijuana what he is referencing to breathing. It’s not just a song about smoking pot, though, at least not in the sense where he’s simply stating that he does it. Rather, he kind of delves into what he gets from it, making a slightly more complex song than you might think it would be.
Aptly following it is “Young & Dumb”, where Alex bluntly recounts an indiscretion from his later teen years when a police officer caught him smoking a joint while driving down the highway. He’s very transparent about it all, matter-of-factly stating that it happened, though, essentially admitting that it was mistake of his youth, yet not showing any regret about the situation. Like he sings, “…Give it up for the young and dumb…” Oh, and the guitar chords are most excellent on this tune, too.
“Higher Learning”, a song that takes the listeners through Alex’s college years, is a real sing-along track, particularly on the chorus, “…Never said I didn’t do every little thing I wanted to…”, which I could see everyone shouting along with at one of his live shows. It’s just another fun song that “Born on 4/20” has to offer, and is a contender for best song on the record.
“Life & Times” concludes this nearly 40-minute long listening adventure, ending things on a chipper note, and this more love based song finds Alex meeting his (presumably) current girlfriend, and it comes across that he has an optimistic outlook on the future, as well he should.
“Born on 4/20” is a nice concept album of sorts, and it’s refreshing to see a musician write an entire collection of songs where he bares his soul, exposing who he is and informing everyone of what shaped him, rather than writing songs about ex-girlfriends and bad break-ups and such.
It’s also a record that will grow on you, trust me. I listened to every song at least five times each while working on this review, and with each listen, the music, from the beats to the chords, as well as Alexs’ one-of-a-kind voice, became more and more appealing to me.
These days, you don’t often see trios, and you probably wouldn’t think an acoustic one would be all that special, but Alex Allred and his band are one to get acquainted with, and “Born on 4/20” is the perfect introduction to their style.
The Alex Allred Band is:
Alex Allred - Vocals, Guitar
Kevin Broussard - Percussion, Vocals
Clinton Potter - Bass
Purchase the album on:
iTunes / Amazon mp3
Visit Alex Allred’s websites:
Offiical website / Facebook / Reverbnation / Twitter / Youtube
Saturday, June 29th at Liquid Lounge in Dallas, Texas
As usual, there was another great show going down at the Curtain Club in Dallas, featuring an array of bands, some of whom I had seen before and others I hadn’t, but was excited to.
The first band was called Drag the Waters, and by the time I got there they were nearing the end of their set, but what I saw was pretty good. They looked like they could be a Metal band, instead, they were a Heavy Rock group and they made some good music at that and put on a good live show.
I can’t find any info out about them, but I wouldn’t mind seeing them again if they happened to get on a bill with some other bands I’m a fan of.
The next band was the main one I wanted to see, and that was Alterflesh. Actually, they were the main reason I was even at this show in the first place.
I was introduced to the band after meeting their singer, Dayvoh, a couple months back and became a fan of the groups unique style, and I thrilled that I was finally going to see one of their live shows.
The first thing I noticed when the curtain was opened on them was a nightstand over by some of the amps. There were some books on it, as well as a lamp sitting atop it, all of which was rather aesthetically pleasing.
Dayvoh referred to everyone as his brothers and sisters as he welcomed everyone to the show, then said it was time to “…step through the portal…” It was a much more interesting intro than the typical things bands say, and it was very accurate, too, as “Megahub” did seem to open the doorway to another realm. See, the band doesn’t play simple songs, they play music that has a message , and that song deals with various philosophers throughout history, with Dayvoh spitting out the names of dozens of them. Actually, that’s another thing that makes the band so unique. See, Dayvoh is more of a spoken word artist and he brings that skill to the band, performing the songs more in that style rather than singing. “…A stumbling lost humanity. Most will go their entire lives without even understanding it…” he said on the songs bridge, which was just one of many lines in that song that can stimulate the mind.
Just one song in and I was loving it. The music was very engaging and the energy in the performance they were giving was something else. They kept things moving right along with “Toxic”, which makes a statement about the state of the Earth and how we as human beings are continuously destroying it. For those first couple of songs Dayvoh had been playing a guitar, but he set it down for the time being, grabbing the microphone saying, “…We’ve all had are fair share of self reflection…” then announced the next song as being “Imaginary Dreams”, which is one of the tracks they have yet to record. Dayvoh seemed to fit in best on this song and the others that didn’t require him using the guitar, as he could move about the stage, connecting more with the audience while he preached his message. He got his guitar back out for the next song, saying, “The mystics say we all slowly burn…” as he, bassist Paul Kubajak, lead guitarist Ben Schelin and drummer Kevin Mills tackled another “Embers”, another song that they have yet to lay down in a studio.
Upon finishing it, Dayvoh surveyed the large crowd gathered around the stage, giving shout outs to Born and Raised, Solice and The Circle, plus several other bands who had members out representing. That was one thing that was so cool about this show, other musicians were actually out at it supporting these guys. They had a few songs left now, none of which Dayvoh used the guitar on, and the next was his “social rant” known as “Watch Rome Burn”. It was my favorite song of their set and could easily be the most thought provoking song in their arsenal. Aside from that, it’s just one of their most rocking numbers, with Ben shredding on his axe at times, and Kevin really got into his drumming (that’s not to say he hadn’t before, it was just more noticeable now). “Start Over” slowed things down a little, before bringing their 34-minute long set to a close with “New Horizon”.
In my opinion, they were the band to beat this night. Their performance was much more vigorous than I was expecting, with Paul constantly jumping up and down, which was quite a sight to watch. While more contained, Ben was is great guitarist, and Kevin just killed it on the drums, and Dayvoh was a captivating frontman. Together, they were able to hold the crowd’s attention with ease.
As for the music, they are a Rock band, and even harder Rock at times, which makes what Dayvoh does even more interesting. Like I said, it’s not full on singing that he does, and if you’re not paying full attention you may say he’s rapping. Sure, it can sound like that at times, but it most certainly isn’t rap. Rather, it is spoken word. And because he “sings” in that style, it allows him to get away with some things.
See, his voice is rather monotone, something your traditional singer couldn’t get away with. But the way he fires the words off, you don’t care if his voice is monotone or not, because you’re more fixated on the words. And that is what really makes Alterflesh stand apart from most other bands; the lyrics. Overall they have a positive, uplifting message to them, often about changing things for the better.
Really, that makes their show a spiritual experience in a way, and one I can’t wait to witness again.
If you want to hear something new and completely out-of-the-box, then check out Alterflesh, either on their FACEBOOK PAGE or REVERBNATION. Their next show is slated for July 6th at Tomcats West in Fort Worth, and if you’re in the area, you should definitely check it out.
Following them was Last Day Living, whom I hadn’t seen in quite awhile, and I was curious to see how their set would go.
I admittedly haven’t been as big a fan of the band since they lost their lead singer (which happened a few years ago now), resulting in them staying a four-piece and guitarist Shawn Pipkin picking up the slack as the lead singer.
The thing is, his voice just isn’t built to really sing, and that was proven during their first song, a slower almost ballad of sorts, where his voice repeatedly cracked. No, their 31-minute long set didn’t get off to the best start, and personally, I was never able to get into it. Shawn ditched his guitar for the next song, which he kind of rapped a portion of, before picking it back up as he, bassist Irish, fellow guitarist Paris Pipkin and drummer Daniel Burpo rocked out “Twisted Smile”, which was the single great moment of their set. Shawn got a little political before another song, asking, “So who’s pissed off at the government for taking our guns and then education from our kids…” A lot of people screamed and cheered in agreeance, and after finishing it they ran through their final three songs. During that last one, Shawn broke one of the strings on his guitar, and as they finished the tune he decided to finish the job, pulling the five remaining strings until they snapped.
Last Day Living writes good music and they put on an enjoyable live show, but in my opinion, they need a fifth member, one that can really sing. That’s the only hindrance that I see.
No, I wasn’t in love with this set, but the vocals were why, and I did enjoy the other aspects of their performance. They just need that one missing component to round things out.
There was one more band to go before the headliner, and that was Idler.
I first saw the band here a couple months before and instantly became a fan, and I was hoping their set this night would be even better.
“Vendetta” opened up their set, a song that finds siblings Micah and Katie Frank co-singing on the verses, while he tore off on the chorus, shouting, “Don’t cross me again. It all comes back in the end…” That song set the tone for the rest of their show in a way, gave the impression that they weren’t going to be holding back at all, and they indeed did not. Upon finishing it, Micah told everyone who they were, as well as the title of that first song and mentioned the next one was “Go for Broke”, another track from their debut, self-titled EP. A cool little instrumental intro set the song up, with drummer Eric Gustafson, bassist Nick Laracuente and Micah, who was the rhythm guitarist, created a nice little piece before Mykey O’Neill started plucking the strings of his guitar, giving the song its full shape. Both of those songs got them off to an explosive start, and “Let Me In” didn’t let up much, as the electric version is much more in-your-face than the acoustic version you can find online is.
They followed it with a couple more newer songs, one of which was titled “Deceit” and saw Micah handing his guitar over to Katie. She predominately strummed rather slowly, and once they finished pointed out that was her first time ever playing a guitar on stage. She seemed proud of the fact, and rightfully so, ‘cause she did a good job. That freed Micah up to roam about the stage a little more, acting like your typical frontman, standing on their boxes that bear the band’s name while he livened up the crowd. At the end of that tune, he even screamed the last few lines in a throaty enough voice he could give even the most hardcore Metal bands a run for their money. They followed it with a song that Katie sang lead on, which I believe was called “Buried”, before doing a couple more tracks from their EP. One of those was “Lose Control”, while the other was my personal favorite song of theirs, “Kings and Queens”, during which Micah laid his guitar down, again gaining some freedom to move about and Katie did the same. They weren’t always the main focus, though, as Eric was pounding out some thick beats that were undeniable, and the short solo, or rather riffs, Mykey plays are stellar. Up next they did another newer song, and afterwards Micah informed everyone that their next song was “Pitchfork”. That’s arguable the best song on their EP, but they didn’t have a chance to do it as their set was cut short at 32-minutes.
See, after he said that the house music came back on, causing everyone band members and fans alike to look around in disbelief.
Personally, I think it was pretty crappy. I mean, I get that things were running behind schedule, but the guys and girl of Idler never even received a heads up warning them they only had, say, five minutes left or anything like that. At least not that I know of.
Something like that can’t affect their overall show, though, at least not in a detrimental way.
I thought they were better than the other time I had seen them. Micah didn’t use a guitar almost the entire show then like he did now, but that didn’t diminish his persona, and even though he was more glued in front of the mic he’s still a mighty frontman. He even has one of the best and more unique voices that I’ve heard, and Katie’s every bit as good, and their voices mix together to create some amazing textures in the songs.
The other guys, Eric and Nick, do a perfect job of rounding things out in the live show aspect, as does Mykey, but I mention him separately because I believe this was his first show with Idler. He’s a great guitarist and on stage he looked like he had been playing with them since their inception.
If you like straight up Rock music, then Idler’s a band to check out. You can find their album on ITUNES, and even get a couple of free downloads (including their cover of “Highway to the Danger Zone”) on their REVERBNATION PAGE. As for shows, their next one is going to be June 29th at Hailey’s up in Denton.
Closing out the night and doing their first live show of 2013 was the Fort Worth based band, Pulse.
Now, I’ve heard a lot about these guys for awhile, but had never seen a show. In fact, I’d never even listened to their music, so I was interested to see how they lived up to the hype that surrounded them. Sadly, I think they may have been overhyped to me…
Like I said, this was the band’s first show of the year, and they used to play/debut a lot of their newer material. Their opening song was one of those new ones. Vocalist Sean Yeaney sang something along the lines of, “…I wish I could just wish you away…” on the chorus, and that was a song I really liked. They then did a track from last year’s “Show Me the Way” record, “Blame”, following it with another new(er) song, and then another album track, “No More Next Time”. That latter one was a good one, especially with the chilling guitar notes at the beginning and end of it, but out of all their songs thus far I wasn’t truly feeling it. Guitarists James Brennaman and Justin Judy, drummer Jimmy Lay, bassist Kelly Robinson and Sean busted out some more new songs, and during the second one of this string of them Kelly encountered some technical issues, resulting in not being an active part of their next couple of songs.
They soldiered on without him, though, and after finishing one that I believe was called “From Here to Home”, things were fixed and Kelly rejoined the action, just in time for what seemed to be a fan favorite, “Think About It”. Their next song found Sean singing the words at a very rapid pace, and afterwards they let the crowd choose which version of a song they wanted to hear. One option was the usual way it’s done, the other was a 420 remix, which Sean noted they were never able to perfect, so it might not be the best. That didn’t stop the fans from choosing this remix, though, which had a bit of a Reggae sound to it. “They Have Arrived” was another good one, and had a killer thick intro with Kelly and Jimmy working in excellent synch with one another. Their show started to wind down with “Won’t Let Go”, and after one more new track they closed their 60-minute long set with “Run Away”.
It was nearly two in the morning when they finished, and I figured the show was over and left, However, when I walked out the door, I heard Sean asking the crowd if they were still with them. They most likely came back for an encore, but it was late and I had seen enough.
Like I said, I think the band was overhyped to me I think, because I was expecting something amazing, both in their music and performance. What I saw and heard, though, was honestly rather generic, and even struck me as a little lackluster.
I thought the best part of their stage show came during when song when Sean climbed atop the speakers, staying there for maybe a minute before leaping off back to the stage, but there was just never that one moment where Pulse got their hooks in me and wowed me.
I didn’t really like the fact that they used smoke machines, or cannons that propelled the smoke into the air, because really, bands on this level don’t need stuff like that. I’m kind of prude with stuff like that in the first place, be it with visuals playing behind a band or stuff like this, and I think it subtracts from any bands show. The main focus should be the music and any and every band needs to let their music do the talking, rather than using various things to try to “enhance” the experience. The only exception to this rule is Muse.
Now, it’s also worth noting that I’m basically the only person at this show that felt that way, because they had a ton of fans out, all of whom were shouting along to every song they knew, and listening in awe to the new stuff. I wish I could have been one of them, but they didn’t ignite any passion inside me like some of the other bands on this bill did. And just to be clear, I’m not saying they are bad or that their music is, it just did nothing for me.
Their next area show is scheduled for July 6th at Tomcats West in Fort Worth, but before that they’ll be rocking St. Louis, Missouri at FUBAR on May 18th. You can find their album, “Show Me the Way” in ITUNES and you can even get a free download of one song on their REVERBNATION PAGE.
Nonetheless, this was still an excellent night of music, and if you weren’t here, you missed out.
There were several great shows going on this night in Deep Ellum, but I settled for the most rock filled event of the night, which was taking place at The Boiler Room.
As far as I knew there were only three bands on the bill, but upon walking in I discovered there was a fourth, and it was the Wichita Falls based rock outfit, Twicebroken.
It had been quite awhile since I last saw them, so it was a very pleasant surprise.
A lot of their 37-minute long set was newer material, including their opening song which began a fury of Rock ‘n’ Roll. “This next song is called “Can’t Stop I Won’t Stop.” announced frontman Aaron Mullin, giving themselves just a few seconds of downtime before guitarists Bryan Crowe and Brandt Holmes fired up the intense number. Upon finishing it, Aaron mentioned that they had finished up a tour not long ago. “…It was awful…”, saying that their van had broken down while in Michigan I believe, leaving them stuck there for a few days. He obviously didn’t have good memories of it, and the way he talked it won’t be something they do again anytime soon. They did a couple more songs next, one of which was called “Crawling Out”, and then arrived at a single of sorts from their self-titled debut album, “Already Gone”. You really got to see how tight they are with one another during that one, with bassist Nick Knowles, Bryan, Brandt and Aaron all operating in perfect synch with the beats Billy Pennington was pounding out, thrashing around to them and such. Another song they did from that album was “Walkin’ Away”, which has a more Southern Rock flare to it, then slowed things down with a much more sentimental song. Aaron stated that he wrote it about a friend who died in a crash about a year ago and he wanted to write something in her memory. I think the song was titled “Walk with the Angels”, and there was a duality to it, being both very beautiful and quite sad. They started winding things down with “The Enemy In Me”, and wrapped up their set with what is arguably the best song in their repertoire, “Preacher Man”.
Their set was chocked full of rock and matched with one of the most intense live shows you can see. That was what drew me to them whenever it was I first saw one of their shows, and they’ve only honed their skills since then, making them a true force to be reckoned with.
Hell, on any normal night they would have stolen the show right out from under the other bands on the bill, but this wasn’t a normal night.
Definitely go check out Twicebroken’s album in ITUNES, and while they don’t have any shows lined up at this moment, you really should go see them if you have the chance.
Second up this night was Waking Alice, who had made the trek from Fort Worth to Dallas to do their first show of the year.
They got started with what I think is one of their newer songs, and one I’m quite fond of, then tackled a couple of songs from their newest EP, “Retribution”. One of those was “Treason”, which drummer Jon Levey and guitarist Brandon Brewer got underway with some thunderous beats and roaring notes. “…Come on one more time, play the game with me…” Rus belted out as they reached the songs chorus. It is the most rocking song on their EP in my opinion, and that showed during their performance of it, which was just a little more vicious than some of their other stuff. “This next song is called Scars.” Rus announced, before they started the slightly darker (in a musical sense) sounding song, which has some thick rhythm parts where Brayton Light tore it up on his bass. That’s all evened out, though, by Brandon’s killer solo that closes out the song, however, it was outshined by the instrumental break/jam during “Biggest Lie”. Brandon captured the spotlight during it, just riffing and going with it, but Brayton and Jon certainly added their two cents on it, while Rus took a backseat. They do that at every show, but the most interesting thing is it’s always a little different, so it never gets stale. After that powerful number, they scaled things back ever so slightly with “Fates Design”, which tells the story of Rus meeting his now wife, but not in a cliché way like most of those songs are done in. They got back to the high-energy rock stuff with “Wasting Time”, though I believe it was that song that, before starting it, Brandon cracked a joke. Now, I couldn’t understand what he said, which might have been the same problem other people had, resulting in essentially no laughter. “You better laugh at that, or we’re not gonna play this next song.” he said. Rus chimed in, “I think he’s serious.” He did seem it, but it wasn’t long before they started the song, following it with another classic from the bands catalog, “Chasing Memories”. I love the new stuff they’ve done with Rus, but some of their older material, like that one, are at least every bit of good, and it’s given all new life with the slightly different approach Rus takes to singing it. They had one song left in the chamber, and it was brand new one no less. “…It’s That One…” said Rus, saying it again and pointing out that, that really was the name of the song. I really liked it, and out of the handful of songs they churned out with Rus at the helm, this one now stands out as being one of my favorites and it was great way to end their 42-minute long set.
Which each show I’ve seen, they’ve continued to improve and tighten up, delivering a better show each time, and this night was hands down the best Waking Alice show I’ve seen yet.
It’s a nice lively stage show they put on, and coupled with their music, it should have no problem holding your attention.
Their next show is going to be on June 1st at Andy’s Bar in Denton, and it’ll be one you want to see. And be sure to head over to ITUNES and pick up their albums. Again, the newest is “Retribution”, but they have some older stuff available as well, featuring the bands previous vocalist.
The night wasn’t about to slow down, especially with Red Angel Theory being the next band up.
Their 32-minute long set was kicked off by one of the new songs they’ve cooked up, which is just one of the great things that has come out of Monica Koohi fronting the band. It was clear right from the start they, like all the other bands on this bill, were taking a no holds barred approach to their performance, and tore through that commanding opener. They weren’t about to lose the momentum they had built with that one either, as guitarist Brandon Deaton immediately fired up their next song, “Shattered”. Early on in the song drummer Nick Sarabia could be seen flipping his drumsticks up in the air then catching them, as well as adding some backing vocals during the chorus, adding some extra force to Monicas’ voice (not that she needs it) which is what makes that song stand out so in my opinion. They let loose another newer song on the audience, before taking a breather, as Monica announced who they were and such, also mentioning what they were going to do next. It was “It Often Lies”, another heavy song of theirs with Phil Sahs bass lines and Nick’s drumming working well together. “…Standing tall and proud, fighting till the day we die. Open up yourself, now it often lies…” Monica sang in her one of a kind voice, right before the songs second chorus. They followed it with what is arguable their best song, “Inception”, a true powerhouse of a song, that even comes across as an anthem of sorts. Monica got ahead of herself with the next song, saying it was one, before Nick corrected her. Instead, it was another newer one, called “Suffocate” I believe, and out of the three newer tracks they played this night, it was my personal favorite. Now they got to the song Monica was ready to do a few minutes before, but first she had to introduce it. Her speech involved stating that Red Angel Theory was “not about negativity”; rather they are about taking any negative thoughts and energy and turning them into something productive and creative, like music for example. The song was “The Darkness”, and despite the title, there are some positive, almost uplifting moments of the song. They went for a strong finish, as Nick started them right into their final song, “When the Dust Settles”, which happens to be the title track of their debut EP from last year. He provides some more backing vocals on that one, this time in the form of some ear piercing screams, which gives the song an extra layer of depth. It’s one hell of a song, and served as the perfect way to end their set.
I liked this Red Angel Theory show much more than the previous one I saw with this current lineup. Partly because now I knew what to expect and Monicas’ unique voice wasn’t as foreign to me as it had been before, and partly because they’ve got more shows under their belt now, and that experience showed.
They were awesome when I saw them a few months back at another Deep Ellum venue, but they were really clicking this night.
Monica was often racing around the stage, with a certain urgency to her step and her singing, which made it easy for your eyes to be glued on her. Brandon and Phil were a little less mobile, but they still have a presence about them. Besides, their musicianship speaks for itself, and you can admire it all, from the subtle nuances to the more intricate riffs each one cranks out. As for Nick, well, he’s a beast, plain and simple.
This was the best show I’ve seen them do yet, in either of the bands lineups, and it makes me excited for what they’ll be like down the road.
Go pick up their new EP, “Rise for Something”, in ITUNES. Then, if you want to hear those tracks live, go see them at The Worship Lounge in Colleyville, TX on May 17th. They’ll be up in Greenville on May 25th at the Texas Tattoos and Art Gallery, then on June 29th they have a Denton gig scheduled at Hailey’s. And on July 12th they’ll be back in Dallas rockin’ the Curtain Club.
This had been an amazing show so far with some killer bands playing, and now it culminated with Early Pearl taking the stage.
They ripped into their 50-minute long set with “Get Out”, and as soon as they started it you could practically feel everyone’s excitement as the adrenaline level in the club skyrocketed. As it came to an end, frontman Bishop Booker pumped one of his fists in the air, while he repeatedly shouted the final line, “Get out!”. They kept things moving right along as lead guitarist Chris Jackson wound them into another high-octane track, “State of Affairs”, before slowing things down just a bit with “Breakdown”. The coolest part of that song (and one of the most memorable moments of this show) came towards the end of it, when guitarists Chris and Ryan Maynard, plus bassist Chris Ivey all moved to stage right and formed small circle of sorts. Then, Maynard proceeded to hit the strings of Jacksons’ guitar, while Jackson did the same to Chris’s bass, who in turn played Maynards’ guitar. Like I said, it was cool to see, but above all it was a fun moment, and you could tell the three of them were having a good time doing it. “…This is Hindsight.” Said Bishop after he had talked with the crowd for a moment, which started them on a string of new songs, however, out of all of them, it was one of the best in my opinion. As serious as they were about rocking, there was also some entertaining banter between some songs, like here when it was said that Bishop had once gotten “…someone pregnant just by looking at them.” If I’m remembering correctly that all started because some of his sweat had dropped on a girl at the front of the stage, and he was joking that she couldn’t even talk after that happened.
They got back to the music with “Sooner Or Later”, and after someone bought them some shots, which they of course subsequently did, they tackled “Letting Go”. “Will I see you later, ‘cause I’m letting go? Will you open for me, or will you let me go?” sang Bishop on the chorus, amidst a barrage of drumbeats from Bobby Primm, and shortly after Jackson started his knockout guitar solo. Upon finishing it Bishop went to say something to the fans,but it came out wrong and rather nonsensical. “…I’m sorry.” He apologized, “I’ve been drinking and can’t speak English.” That got a laugh from everybody, and they then set up their next song, a very new song, and Chris asked everyone not to be too hard on them if it sounded horrible. It was only the second time they had done it in front of an audience, but I don’t think they had much to worry about. The song is called “Sure and Jaded Symphony” and it’s a killer song, being almost melodic at times, and others it’s just raw rock, which is exactly what you expect from Early Pearl. For the next song, Bishop announced he was going to do a little screaming, adding, “…I usually only scream if I’m with the right woman.” Chris chimed in at that point, “Or the right man.” “Man, I’m not even gonna talk to you after that…” said Bishop, while Chris just laughed. That led them to “Say It”, a song that is unlike any other of theirs, and even though they hadn’t been holding back in terms of their performance, they certainly didn’t pull any punches on that track.
As their set started coming to an end, Bishop made a brief speech. I don’t recall everything he said, but one thing was along the lines of there are a lot of bands out there who aren’t staying true to themselves. He went on to say that they supported what everyone of their fans was doing, since they support them. “…Early Pearl shows are about wearing funny hats…” he said as he kind of pulled a hat of a girls head. Overall, the takeaway message was to be yourself, which is a good message to send in my opinion. Now, they got back to some stuff from their album, both of which are fan favorites. “Dear lover, I need you to listen one more time. I’ve tried to deny you, but you just slowed my stride…” Sang Bishop, as they got “Turn” going, before bringing things to a close with “This Is”.
The fans were shouting for an encore, even though the two Chris’s were the only members left on stage at this point. “I’m sorry.” said Ivey, “In ten years we’ve only written ten songs.”
The fans, myself included, were eventually okay with that, but I’m not gonna lie, I was hoping they might bust out “Regret” for an encore. Maybe, next time.
As it was, it was still an excellent show, though.
To somewhat repeat what I said about the last Early Pearl show I saw, they put on real rock show. Sure, there are many bands that do that, but Early Pearl is a head above most others. Their music is still some of the best I’ve heard, and the live show is one of the best I’ve seen, and they won’t leave you disappointed.
In a month and a half now I’ve seen Early Pearl as much as I did in 2008 and 2009 combined, and will no doubt see them at least a few more times before the years over with. You should do the same, and while they have no shows scheduled at the moment, keep a check on their FACEBOOK PAGE for future show updates.
Also, head over to their SOUNDCLOUD PAGE to download their entire “This Is” album for free, as well as some live cuts of several of their new songs.
This was one hell of a rock show, and I’m glad I decided to spend my night at the Boiler Room.
It was time for round two of the Deep Ellum Arts Festival, and I was getting a much earlier start this day.
The first band I wanted to see went on at 2:20, at I got down to Dallas around that time, but the search for a parking spot took some time, and by the time I made it over to the main stage, Nicholas Altobelli and the Gigawatts were a little ways into their set.
Actually, they weren’t quite the Gigawatts, since they were missing a drummer and bassist, but we’ll get to that in a minute.
Not long after I got there, Nicholas announced to everyone they were going to do a more “sensitive song”. That sensitive song was one of the tracks from his latest “Without a Home” album, “27 Stories”. “I don’t want to become something I’m running from… Crash and burn in the ground without making a sound, is that so hard to believe, or is it just me?…” Nicholas sang on the opening lines, using a more somber tone of voice on it to reflect the mood of it. After finishing it he mentioned his backing band The Gigawatts (pronounced like jig-a-watts), which was pedal steel guitarist Heather Kitzman, acoustic guitarist Robbie Saunders, and on the keys was Rahim Quazi, who is an accomplished area musician in his own right. Nicholas mentioned they were missing a few members, asking if they should change their name to the “gigabytes” since there were less of them. “No,” you could hear Heather saying while laughing. They then did another track from the new album, “I Don’t Think Tonight is Going to be a Good Night”, which was a little more upbeat, despite still being more of an emotional song, and it’s that certain level of emotion that is essentially a constant in all of Nicholas’s music. Without going into detail, he said that they seem to be cursed at the Deep Ellum Arts Festival, saying they played here for three straight years and something always seemed to go wrong, and now they were sans a drummer and bassist. Still, that’s not terrible. They switched things up a bit as Heather left her pedal steel guitar and approached the stage right microphone. She has another band, The Blondelles, an all female Country band that does both covers and originals, and now one of her band mates from that group joined them on stage to perform a Blondelles tune. The song was quite good and the occasional harmonies they had going on were very delightful, leaving me with a strong desire to see a Blondelles show. They returned to their typical lineup and did a couple more tracks, one of which was a new one called “Dogwood”, which Nicholas said would be on his next record. Yes, not even two months after the release of his latest album and he’s already working on songs for his next album. You have to respect that. As for the song, it was very catchy and I loved the story it told. I’d even go as far as to say it’s one of the best things he’s written, which is saying a lot.
At this point, he asked the person working the sound how much time they had left. “…Please don’t say, like, forty minutes.” He said. Well, how much time do you think they had left? Yep, forty minutes. Judging Nicholas’s reaction, it was obvious they hadn’t prepared that meaty of a setlist, which meant most of what they did next was all impromptu.
Heather volunteered to do another song of the Blondelles, which killed some time, and afterwards Nicholas busted out an older song of his, one which he set up as being about a town in Michigan. The town he spoke of was Ann Arbor, which was the title of the song. I first saw Nicholas about a year ago and this song was my favorite from that set, but then he mentioned he was probably going to be retiring it to make room for his newer material. So, hearing it was a bit of a treat, for sure. He and Heather handled that song, but the other band members joined in for “I Just Want to Feel Real”, which was undeniable the most upbeat song of their set. It had already kind of been a song swap since Heather had done a few songs, and it definitely became one here, as Nicholas handed his acoustic guitar off to Rahim as the two traded places. He introduced himself to everyone, then did one of his originals and the title track of one of his albums, “Supernatural”. It was an infectious tune and instantly made me a fan of Rahim’s. I’ve heard some great things about him over the years, and now, I understand why. He got back behind the keys after that song, and they spread the love around some more, letting Robbie do a song, which had a Bluesy vibe to it. The best part about those other two songs was watching Heather, Robbie and Nicholas trying to play along with it and add backing vocals in parts, because, since they were unfamiliar with the songs, they were having to watch both Rahim and Robbie with an eagle eye while they were doing their song.
That seemed to have exhausted a lot of their options, and now Nicholas again asked how they were on time, hoping it was almost up. “Perfect.” He said after hearing they were down to three minutes, giving them just enough time to do the single from “Without a Home”, “The Lucky Ones”.
Considering about half of their set was made up on the spot, it was great show, and they pulled it all off without a hitch. Even without the rhythm section and doing acoustic versions of all the songs. I even think that out of the handful of shows I’ve seen of Mr. Altobelli’s, this one was the best yet.
See a show if you can. They’ll be playing at AllGood Café in Dallas on May 31st, along with The Blondelles. On June 28th they have a gig at Sundown at Granada in Dallas, and on July 11th they’ll be up in Denton at Dan’s Silverleaf. And if you’d like to listen to/buy Nicholas’s records, check out a couple of ‘em in ITUNES.
After their set, I went to find some shade, and wound up at the Deep Ellum stage were a band by the name of Chant was finishing up their set.
They were a mix of R&B and Soul, and what little I saw was absolutely amazing. The trio had a fantastic sound going for them, and by the looks of it, I wasn’t the only one they had reeled in. There was quite a crowd watching them, and once they were finished, the audience erupted in applause and cheers.
I killed some more time once they finished, ending up at the Singer/Songwriter stage around four where Clint Niosi was doing a show.
I first discovered him late last year at the Dallas Observer Music Awards showcase, but there was one big difference between that show and the one he was about to do, and that was that he now had a full backing band. In fact, this was the debut show of The Unaccountable, which was what Clints’ backing band has been named.
However, just because Clint now had a full band, comprised of Tommy Garcia on drums, Matt Hanson on the piano, bassist Aaron Bartz, and Claire Hecko playing the violin, didn’t mean he was going to stray too far from his sound.
Their 35-minute long set got off to a slow start as he slowly plucked the strings of his electric guitar setting up a song from his 2008 album “The Sound of Dead Horses Beaten Against Cold Shoulders”, “Coalmine Canary”. When it was time for the instrumentalists to join in, they were all pretty reserved with their playing, too. The bass lines were subtle, at times hardly even noticeable, while the drums were loud enough to be heard, but offered no competition between any of the other elements, and the keys and violin served to really accentuate Clints’ voice, which was undoubtedly the main focal point throughout the show. That all held pretty true for every song, and next they did the somewhat eerie “White Elephant”, off last year’s “For Pleasure and Spite” album. In listening to it, to realize not only how much power the music has in setting a songs mood, but also how much the lyrics and the tone they are said in affect it. “…There’s nothing new and it’s all been done. Nostalgic for the way it never was…” sang Clint on one of the later lines of “New Light”, a song that is one of the best example at what an incredible songwriter he really is. All of those songs thus far, and most of his in general, have a certain ominous quality to them. I like that about his music, but “My Mepistophilis” was a refreshing change of pace, since a little bit of the song is more upbeat musically. That served as a turning point in a way for the show, because the songs that followed it, “The Sum of Parts” and “Little Heart”, also have a somewhat happier or more tranquil vibe, despite that latter song being about a breakup. Sometime around this point (probably a few songs before) a guy walked up to the stage. “Hey, don’t be afraid to actually play that guitar!” he said to Clint, who shrugged it off as the guy walked away. It was funny, mainly because the guy couldn’t appreciate what the band was actually doing. They had a few songs left now, and had saved the best for last, and both “The Formless Black” and “Shark In Your Water” were highlights of the show, even though they sound completely different from one another. They had one song left after that, and ended it with another track from the latest record, “While I’ve Got You on the Line”.
It was a fantastic set, even if some people thought he needed to play the more loudly.
As a solo artist Clint is great, and when I first saw him he was accompanied by Claire on some of the songs, but The Unaccountable create a whole new layer on the live performance.
They make the songs really pop. Sure, it’s all very subtle, but, like I said in another recent review (though it was meant in a completely different way then), there’s beauty in subtlety. You don’t have to be a loud rock band doing flashy stuff on stage to get people’s attention. All you really need is to be able to write deep, powerful lyrics that can captivate the listener… Well, at least the listener who can appreciate it.
Clint is a truly remarkable songwriter, and hands down one of the best in the area. As for the band, he did a good job at assembling some talented individuals that really fit with his style.
Be on the lookout for the band, and as of right now their next show is May 18th as part of the Arts Google Festival in Fort Worth where they will be playing at Sinaca Studios. As for his two albums, they can be purchased in either ITUNES or BANDCAMP.
As soon as they finished, I hightailed it back to the main stage at Good Latimer, where the Indie/Folk band The Fox and the Bird was getting ready to play. I’ve heard a lot about them over the years, but had never made it to a show, so now was the time to see what all the fuss was about.
Their 47-minute long set was a mix of old and new material and they opened with one of those new songs. I was drawn in to it almost immediately, though, due largely to the three and even four part harmonies they often had going on, making it very entrancing. They followed it with “Traveling Bones”, a sweet little love song where backing singer and occasional lead singer Sarah Scotts’ voice intertwined gorgeously with singer and acoustic guitarist Dan Bowmans’. “…I’m in love with the view, but I’m more in love with you…” the two sang in synch with each other. They did a little over half of the songs from their debut album “Floating Feather” this night, and the next song they tackled from it was “Women In the Kitchen”. Additional acoustic guitarist Jacob Metcalf sang lead on that tune, which had more had more of a Folk/Country vibe, and Petra Kelly’s violin playing was superb on it. They did a newer song next, which just so happened to be about the fine city of Dallas, which made it very relatable for all those in attendance. By all those, I mean a lot, as there didn’t appear to be an empty seat anywhere, forcing a lot of people (myself included) to stand and watch their performance. Upon finishing it, Jacob mentioned that their new album, an EP titled “Darkest Hour”, should be out sometime in May. They then did a few songs from it, which required Dan to exchange his guitar for an accordion. Not only that, but he also used a trumpet from time to time over the course of the next few songs, one of which was sung Sarah, showcasing what a strong voice she has, while another was the final song from their first record, “Hey Sister”. It was slower in relation to most of their other stuff, which in turn made the drums, which were manned by Paul Grass, the dominant instrument. His drum kit was pretty small and far from traditional, as his bass drum was a suitcase. Very interesting, and as odd as it looked, it resulted in a sound much like that of an actual bass drum. They got back to their normal setup, with Dan on the guitar, in order to do “Oldest Old”, which was one of my favorites of their set, and “Old Mother” wasn’t too shabby, either. They did a couple more new tracks, then arrived at the title track from their current album, “Floating Feather”. This cheery song was the only I was truly familiar with (I admittedly haven’t listened to the album a whole lot). It was every bit as good live as the recorded version, and is arguable the best song they’ve written. They had one left after that, bidding everyone farewell when they finished it, saying “…We’ll see you next time.”
Now, I know the whole Indie/Folk genre is kind of played out at the moment, since it has suddenly become the hot commodity and there are now a bazillion bands like that who have become successes from the commercial aspect. Honestly, I’m as tired of it as probably everyone else is. And while you can’t say there’s no other band out there like The Fox and the Bird, you can say they are doing it all right.
It’s creative musically, and lyrically several of their songs tell some good little stories. Plus they are all very capable and great singers, whose different tones of voice make sure nothing ever gets to repetitive.
I really liked it and am glad I finally got to see one of their shows. Hopefully I can make it to another sometime in the near future.
Find their album “Floating Feather” in either ITUNES or BANDCAMP, and keep a check on their FACEBOOK PAGE for info about future shows.
So far there had been a lot of diversity between all the bands (and that’s just from the ones I chose to see) and it was about to get more eclectic when Reinventing Jude took the stage.
I’ve heard of the band for a few years now, but it wasn’t until the last six months or so when I actually listened to their stuff and became a fan.
The band, which is fronted by Jude Gonzalez, was functioning as a quintet this night, and along with all the typical instruments a band has, they also had a cello player.
Their first song proved the self-description of being a Ballroom Rock band to be an accurate one. That’s the similarity between their songs, they all have somewhat of a mellow vibe to them and are rather relaxing, while also stimulating. It’s quite interesting, and had me captivated from the start. I think they followed it with “1919”, which let Judes’ smoky voice flow while she played her guitar. There’s no doubt that she drew the most attention, but her band mates were putting on a good live show as well and put more energy into it than you might expect based on their style of music. Yun Kim was a powerful drummer who was really into it all, and lead guitarist Nathan Hanlon is an exceptional guitar player, though he was more restrained here than with the rock band I last saw him in. They did another song before getting to what I think was “Midnight 30”, which was at times a little more upbeat, and had some nice cello parts courtesy of Ashley Montez, while bassist Chris Townsend and Yun created a very strong rhythm section on that one. “The Talk” was one of their most dynamic songs of the night, and “The Weather” was pretty good, too. Jude announced their next song was “Secret”, a track from the 2011 album “Shoulder Season”, and another one that showed off Judes’ somewhat sultry voice as she crooned on the chorus, “…I’m gonna fall in love and I’m gonna keep it…”. Before beginning the next one, she announced it was named “Swimmer Song”, which was an amazing song, and they did one more after it to finish up what had been a stellar 47-minute long set.
It was a nice set and I can’t believe it took me so long to see a Reinventing Jude show.
They have an extraordinary sound, and Judes’ voice is one of the smoothest and most distinctive I’ve heard. The slower pace most of their songs have might not be for everyone, but if you don’t mind that and you like music that has real substance and meaning to it, than you need to give Reinventing Jude a listen.
You can buy their albums in ITUNES, and get some free downloads of some singles on either REVERBNATION or SOUNDCLOUD.
They usually keep pretty busy when it comes to live shows, and as of right now you can find them at Hailey’s in Denton on May 10th, and the following weekend, May 18th, they’ll be at The Freeman in Dallas.
There was one last act I really wanted to see this night, and that was the Alt/Country band from the small town of Belton, Texas, Kirk Baxley and the Old Number Sevens.
The four-piece’s opening track was really good, and they kept the show rolling with the smooth sounding “Drive”, which is one of the tracks from the “Cold as a Stone” EP. It does kind of call into question how Alt/Country the band is, though, and singer and rhythm guitarist Kirk Baxley brought that up at one point during their set, saying that some people will classify them as that. “…I like to think of us as being more Belton, Texas Country…” he said, and that genre has a dash or two of rock added to the mix. Those first two songs had been pretty loud and fast paced, but now they took things down for a few notches with the sensitive love song, “Constantly”. Kirk’s always been good at the ballads, and that tune is a fine example of that. They stepped things back up afterwards with what was the most rocking song of their set. The bands lead guitarist really got to cut loose on this one, shredding and cranking out some awesome lines, and the drummer was able to let his chops show as well. It was beast of a song, and hopefully it can make it onto their next record. Kirk did some chatting with the crowd in between songs, doing everything from pumping the crowd up, to talking about the next song they were going to do. He did the latter here, saying the one they were about to do was for his dad. It was nice song, and they followed it with a few other non-album tracks, one of which was an old gem from the first time he played back during the time of his first country project, “God in Rock ‘n’ Roll”. I love that song and the positive energy it has, and it was great getting to hear it again, ‘cause it’s been a couple years at least since I last heard it. Before their next song, Kirk asked if anyone hailed from a small town, saying that was exactly what this next song was about, and it was aptly titled “Small Town”. “…Being from a small, small town, it ain’t easy…” Kirk belted out on the chorus, telling it like it is in a way, but the overall message is being from a small town isn’t that bad, and it certainly can’t define who you are or what you can do in life. They again slowed things down, way down at that, this time with the title track of their EP “Cold as a Stone”. I believe it was at this point where Kirk asked if anyone had a problem with them slowing it down and making it even more depressing. It was hard to think that could happen, but it did, and I think that was also the song where the bands bass player switched from an electric bass to an upright bass. It added a good sound to the music, but he went back to the electric bass for their next song, “Bring My Brother Back”, and after another song, they broke out the fan favorite, “Rock ‘n’ Roll in My Veins”. “I’ve got rock ‘n’ roll in my veins, but I love country music just the same…” Kirk sang at the start of this intense rock song, a song where you saw a glimpse of his rock frontman personality jump out. I thought the show was over with that, since it is a fan favorite and seemed to please everybody who was watching them this night, but they had one more left to cap off their 65-minute long set.
It was an awesome show, and much better than the last time I saw them, where they were limited to a five song set. I really liked it because even though he’s been doing this for a few years now, I’ve never been able to see a full set from him and his band in order to get a real taste of what their sound is like, and now that I have, I love it.
The music is far from being true Country, so it’s not going to alienate his older fans (at least not most of them), but they’re certainly not the loud, heavy rock songs he used to write, either. Instead, what he does now is a nice blend of each.
After all these years, Kirk is still one of the best singer/songwriters here in the area. Sure, he might not live in Dallas per say, but this has always been his hometown of sorts, which he pointed out while playing, saying he’s often been at the Deep Ellum Arts Festival in past years, but had never performed it until now, and he was proud to be able to.
They’ll be pretty busy the last half of May, doing a two night stand at the House of Fifi Dubois in San Angelo on May 17th and 18th. On the 24th they’ll be at The Rattlesnake Inn in Florence, then on the 31st they have a gig at Darwin’s in Austin. Also, be sure to check out their EP in ITUNES.
There was one band left, and somehow I didn’t know The Roomsounds were playing this thing until a few hours before this point. I really considered staying to see them, but after being out since the early afternoon, I was beat and decided to call it a night.
All in all, I had a blast at the Deep Ellum Arts Festival, or rather watching the bands that played it. This was the second straight year I’ve attended two out of the three days of the festival, and I’m already looking forward to what bands will be playing it next year.
Being out at the arts festival meant I had missed the first two bands playing The Curtain Club this night, but on the bright side, I wasn’t going to have to wait long to see the two bands I was most excited to see.
First up was Opium Symphony, who, after releasing their debut full-length album last year did a couple of tours throughout the South, Mid-West and East Coast, but have been laying relatively low since late last year. That’s not to say they haven’t played, it’s just that their shows had been pretty sparse.
Since it had been awhile since their last hometown show, they had decided to make this show a little special by playing some songs from the “Blame It On the Radio” album that had never been done live, beginning with the title track itself. It replaced their typical opener, which also happens to include the word radio in its title, and as big a move as that was, even gutsy in some ways, it couldn’t have worked out better for them. “Blame It On the Radio” was every bit as loud and aggressive as the other song, garnering them a good little crowd from the start, and they commanded their attention pretty easily. They quickly followed it with “Fiction for Addiction”, with singer and rhythm guitarist Kellen Ross leading the charge into it with the opening notes, and once Derron Bell entered in on the instrumental intro, he showed off some of his skills, twirling a drumstick in one of his hands. After that song, which happens to be the one the band got their name from, “…Didn’t want to give you an opium symphony…”, Kellen took a moment to thank the other two bands who had played before them, calling some attention to the first band, Plowboy. I believe he said he was as god as those kids are when he was their age, seeming very impressed by their talent. Rightfully so, too, ‘cause I’ve seen them before and they are great. Next up was one of the staples from their album, “Jukebox Junkie”, which was greeted with some fanfare from the fans. I had forgotten how awesome that song is, particularly in the live setting, from the slick sounds of the intro which finds Kellen and lead guitarist Jarrett Kramer playing pretty much the same chords, to the eerie bridge where Kellen softly whispers “Sell your soul to the devil you’ll find…”, before surging back into the chorus. Like usual, they rocked out the instrumental outro, but they didn’t just stop like they normally do. Instead, they had another trick up their sleeve. On the album that instrumental piece at the end brings them smoothly into “Soul for Sale”, a song that had never been performed live, until this night. It was like you were listening to the two songs on the album, and during a momentary break from playing his guitar, Kellen took in a deep breath like he was preparing for this epic six plus minute long song. “Anyone today would gladly sell their soul for a dollar…” after that lengthy instrumental portion came to an end. Honestly, that’s not one of my favorites from their album (and that’s not to say I dislike the song, ‘cause that is far from being the case), but live it was another beast entirely and was one of the best songs of their set. Upon finishing it, bassist Drew Nolde had a question for everybody. “Has anyone ever had to choose between God or money?” he asked, which got little verbal response, instead getting an awkward look from people, like, “No, no I haven’t.” “Me neither,” he said, “but Kellen wrote a song about.” He was of course speaking about “God or Money”, the second and only other old song that made it into the setlist this time around, and after finishing that rhythm heavy tune, they wound it right into the explosive “Down the Rabbit Hole”. I think the only other time I had heard that one live was at their CD release show, so it had been a little while. It’s definitely one of the highlight tracks from their record and as well as the live show, it’s also very dynamic and everyone who was up by the stage was rocking out to it. Their 38-minute set was nearing the end, and now Kellen gave the fans a choice between two of their longest songs. One was “…Pennies…”, the other “Gospel”. Not many people voiced their opinion but the few who did made it clear that they wanted to hear “Gospel”. It’s the routine closer for these guys, and frankly I can’t imagine them not ending a show with it. Besides, how can you dislike a song that says, “…As long as god’s alive rock ‘n’ roll ain’t ever gonna die…”
It was a fitting end to what was probably the best Opium Symphony show I’ve seen to date, or at least in the top two. Part of that can probably be attributed to their tour. I talked with Kellen out on the patio earlier in the night, asking him how their tours went, and he was talking about how when you play so many days in a row like that, that it eventually becomes all “muscle memory”. I’ve seen other bands do that, and when they get into that touring shape they’re elevated to a whole new level. Now, it had been two months since their last show, so they of course weren’t in touring shape, but you could tell they had benefited from it.
They were better polished than what I remembered, which is saying a lot, and everything was just so tight.
If you haven’t seen them yet, you need to, and hopefully they’ll have some more shows coming up soon. Also be sure to head over to ITUNES and check out their album.
Following them was another band who hasn’t been playing much, at least not recently, and that was Redefine.
They started their 41-minute long set completely differently from any other Redefine show I’ve seen. See, it began with a rap song, specifically Nelly’s “Hot in Here” playing through the speakers, and when the curtain opened, bassist Mike DiQuinzio, drummer, Daniel “Dano” Taylor, and rhythm guitarist Matt Jones were on stage. Soon the remaining band members, lead guitarist Chris Apaliski and singer Scott Headstream, made their way on stage, somewhat dancing along with the song. Soon it cut out, though, and they were ready to get to work.
There are always two songs I hope to hear at their shows, and they opened with one of them, as Dano got right into show mode, tearing it up on his drum kit. The song was “Like a Vision, a Ghost”, which was a great track to open with. “…When you were off setting your fires, I spent my days trying to douse those flames…” sang Scott as the start of the second verse, which is one of several lines I love from that song. Dano wasn’t the only one in show mode, and Chris and Mike had been racing all over the stage during that song, while Scott focused on working and interacting the crowd. “Hey Dallas, take your medicine.” He said before starting their next song, and another one from the “Blur On the Horizon” EP, “Take Your Medicine”. They kicked things up a few notches with that fast-paced song, ensuring everyone was captivated by their show. “Let’s be honest, I’m drunk.” Scott said to everyone after finishing that previous song. I want to say he also threw in that if anyone wanted to buy them any shots they’d be okay with that. I believe that since December, they had only done one other show before this one, and during that little hiatus from being on stage, they had been working up some new material, and now they were going to give everyone a taste of what they had cooked up. I think this first new song was titled “All That Ever Was”, and it was pretty good. It wasn’t quite as aggressive as the song they had just done, or even some of their others, but I enjoyed it. Dano filled the silence in between their next song by doing a drum solo of sorts, while Scott did a little begging, placing the Redefine megaphone at the front of the stage, telling anyone who wanted to they could put some money in it to help them out in getting new shirts made. See, a little while back a lot of their merchandise was stolen, so all the shirts they did have are gone. Through all of that, Dano was still laying down some beats, and now Matt, Mike and Chris laid some riffs over it, doing a badass instrumental piece, setting up “Arcana”. They kept the music coming, next doing “The Silent Hum”, which Scott noted was the first song he wrote with the band, which was at least four years ago now, if not longer. They’ve written some great stuff in recent years, but that is still one of their best songs, and Chris gets to go all-out on it, simply shredding on his axe. “Cut the Cord” was their next song, and possible the most entertaining of their set, but not for the reasons you may think. Towards the end of it, Scott grabbed the mic stand, flipping it up in the air while he sang a line or two, and as he was swinging it back down, Chris happened to go over next to him, subsequently getting nailed in the head by the bass of the stand. You could tell it hurt, but he didn’t miss a note, and Scott looked at him apologetically and in disbelief that it had even happened. They laughed about it for a moment, then they were ready to unleash another new song on the fans. I was told as of right now they are calling it “Whole”, and it was the most intense song I’ve ever heard them do. For those familiar with Redefine, think “The Silent Hum”, then multiple that by ten or so and you should have an idea of what this new track was like. Seriously, I’ve found my new favorite Redefine song, and I think I like it even more than my favorites from their two EP’s. It didn’t seem like they had been playing anytime, but already it was time for them to wrap it up, and they did so with “Leave The Light On”. Towards the end of it Scott made his way down the sort of steps at the front of the stage, still singing, and during an instrumental break he got right out in the crowd, watching his band mates rock out for a minute, before climbing back on stage to finish it out.
This was the best Redefine show I’ve seen in a long time. Almost two years to be precise, when they played here at the Curtain to celebrate the release of what is their most recent EP.
They were on fire and worked together like a well-oiled machine. I will say that their newest member, Matt, isn’t quite as lively as the other guys are, but then again, this was only his third live show with them. And regardless of if he ever moves around as much as the others do or not, you can’t argue the fact that he’s a great guitarist, playing all of his notes very fluidly.
With Dano officially back behind the drums and Matt on rhythm guitar, I think Redefine has finally found another winning combination, and one that will hopefully last a good long while.
No shows are on the books for these guys at the moment, but they’ll be rocking a stage sooner or later. In the meantime, check out their two EP’s in ITUNES, and if we’re lucky, by year’s end maybe they’ll be adding another EP to their discography.
I think there might have been one last band up this night, but I went ahead and left after Redefine’s set. After all, I was planning on being back out at the art festival early the next day and needed to get some shut eye.
It’s spring, which means it’s festival season, this week it was time for the annual Deep Ellum Arts Festival.
Like the name suggests, it is an arts festival, with tons of artists from all over setting up shop along Main Street, which is partially blocked off.
Also, they have a variety of bands playing multiple stages, which is what gets my interest, especially since it’s free. So, since I was going to catch a show in Deep Ellum in the first place this night, why not get down to the area early and see some of the acts at the arts festival.
Midnight Empire had been playing for awhile by the time I arrived, and I made it over to the stage as they were wrapping up one of their newer songs. They had some old gems thrown in, too, though, like the fan favorite, “Can’t Get Enough”. It sounded as good as usual, and the sweet guitar solo Art Struck rocked out helped make the song, but they were oddly reserved while performing it. Actually, the same went for their entire set, or at least what I saw of it. I hate to say it, but it did affect the show, and as cohesive as drummer Matt Cook and bassist Rick Reynolds were on the next song, “Tidal Wave”, it just seemed weird with them being rather motionless, while singer Jacob Henderson casually walked around the stage. After finishing it, he said he didn’t think they had played that song in about a year or so, asking Art if that was right or not. They finally agreed it was, and that they had probably last played it at one of the clubs down here in the Deep Ellum area. The ballad “Two Against One” brought the level down for a moment, before bringing it back up with some more full on rock songs, four to be exact, which closed out their set. That seemed like the end, but after finding out they had a few more minutes left on the clock, Jacob informed everyone they were going to do one more, another new one that would be on their sophomore album.
I’ve only seen one full show of the bands, and caught another partial set before this one, so I know what Midnight Empire is capable of, and will gladly write this off as they were just having a bad night. Still, none of them really seemed like they were into it, and the passion from the musicians (or lack thereof) can make all the difference in how shows are perceived.
This was just an off night for them, and still think they are probably one of the most talented bands in the Dallas music scene at the moment. They have two big shows coming up, one will be at the House of Blues in Dallas on May 22nd opening for Ratt. The other is July 18th at the Rock USA Festival in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Check out their debut album “Everything and Nothing” in ITUNES, as well as get some free singles on their REVERBNATION page plus some live cuts of a couple newer tracks on their SOUNDCLOUD page.
I killed a little bit of time by walking around and looking at some of the art after they finished, getting back to the stage a little after eight to make sure I didn’t miss any of Sayonara.
This was going to be an interesting set from the band to say the least, since earlier in the day singer and guitarist Debbie Blythe had gotten ill, posting online that the show may have to be an instrumental one.
Luckily, by the time they started had 8:19, her voice had recovered thanks to a steroid shot she had gotten at the doctor, which she mentioned a few songs into their set. All that said, you never would have known anything was wrong as they rocked out their opener, “Rendezvous at the Slaughtered Lamb”. That first song of their 44-minute long set sounded exactly like the fans were expecting, with Debbie hitting all the notes just fine with her unique voice, while the often smooth bass lines Sean Blythe was cranking out gave the song a great texture. When that song ended, he mentioned he had been down in Houston and had “…hauled ass…” to get back up here in time to do the show. That brief banter ended, as they started into one of only a couple older songs that were in the setlist this night. It was the lead track from their first EP, “Mothership”. It’s still one of their best songs, and since I’d only seen the band once before, I forgot how good it was live, being a fairly loud rock song with some killer beats from drummer Jonny Williams, but contrasting that, Debbies’ voice is a little softer and lacks the aggression heard on other songs, which makes for an exceptional tune. They did another new song next, one that often found Debbie moving her guitar behind her, playing the keyboard instead, giving it a slightly different feel from their other songs. At this point, Debbie apologetically informed everyone she needed to give her voice a rest, turning the next song into an instrumental one. “…I hope y’all don’t mind too much…” she said to the fans, several of whom were clustered in front of the stage. They seemed okay with it, and personally, I liked it much more than I thought I would. As I’ve said many times before, I’m not a fan of instrumental music, but without the lyrics taking some of my attention, I was able, or rather forced, to pay attention to their musicianship, and each of them is amazing at what they do. Sean owned it on the bass (and not just during this song), really getting into the music and rocking out. Jonny made the drumming look rather effortless at times, offering some slick moves from time to time, and Debbie picked at her guitar with calculated precision, but could also shred quite well when she needed to. Another new song came next, followed by another instrumental, and I believe that one actually is meant to be an instrumental track. “I Need Japanese Steel” was one of the most impressive songs of their set, and they cooked up one hell of a song with that one. After finishing it, Debbie mentioned she had been put on antibiotics, which led to a conversation about how she found out a little while back that drinking anything alcoholic while taking meds doesn’t make them any less effective. Instead, she said it just makes the potential side effects, say tiredness for example, more potent. It made for an interesting conversation, but soon they did another newer song, and then one of my favorites of theirs, “Discourage Wolf”. They had one left in the chamber after that, and finished a great show with one more new one.
I think the band members were just as skeptical of how this show was going to go as some of the fans were, and giving the circumstances, I was impressed by them.
For an off night, Debbies’ voice sounded great and showed no sign of weakness. In fact, there was one song where she did some screaming, and her voice didn’t even crack. And I did touch on their performance earlier, but this was a real rock show they put on this night.
Keep up to date with them and see when they’ll be playing, and if you can, go to a show. You’ll be glad you did. Besides, both times that I’ve seen them know Debbie has been sick and had to hold back on her singing, so if their this incredible on an off night, no telling what they’re like at 100%.
There was one more band I wanted to see at the arts festival, but I killed some time by going into the Curtain Club, then going to the Deep Ellum stage to see Vinyl Pilot.
I got there a little late, and the band was finishing up one song, which they eventually wound into “Watch It Grow Old”, from their older “So far, By Far” EP. The stage was smaller, especially with all the gear and five guys on it, but they didn’t let that hinder them, especially not lead guitarist Kyle Burkett, who was moving all over stage left, tearing it up on his guitar. He wound them seamlessly into their next song, which is the following track from that EP, “Keyword Optimism”. “Lock your doors and close your windows. So far, by far this is the worst time that I have ever had…” sang singer and rhythm guitarist Jeff Lowe, whose voice perfectly fits the upbeat, in your face style of Alt/Rock with touches of Pop that the band plays. They stopped long to briefly chat with the crowd, and then announced their next song was a newer one, before launching into it. So far, it had been strictly about the music so far, but they, or rather the bands newest addition, bassist Patrick Hunter, had some fun with the crowd now. He mentioned how lovely everyone looked, saying that they all ranked probably a nine and a half. “…Alright, alright, I’ll say a ten…” he said all serious like, like he was rating an official contest or something. “Bet You Won’t” was the next song in the setlist, but it didn’t being like it normally does, instead they had worked up an awesome intro for it, which just had the quintet, including keyboardist Chase Eriksen and drummer David Tapp just jamming. They were going all out and it lasted a few moments, before subsiding, highlighting Jeff’s singing for a moment as the song officially got underway. They kept up the high-energy pace of the show with the arresting “No Way in Hell”, but soon shook things up with the title track of their latest EP, “A Beautiful Disaster”. Beautiful is exactly what it is, with the notes Chase plays on the keyboard being nothing short of heavenly, while the lights guitar and bass lines accentuate it quite well. It’s not all serene and relaxing, though, eventually growing into a beast of a rock song, and in my opinion, it doubles as being the most intense song in their arsenal. With that, their 33-minute long set (well, that was what I caught of it anyway) was almost up, and they ended with a new, non-album song called “The Great Unknown”. It’s the perfect title for a song to close with, and left things on a good note.
This was the best Vinyl Pilot show I’ve seen yet, even if they didn’t have as much room on stage as they did at the last venue I saw them at. The reason I liked this one so much more is because they seemed more cohesive here. They were all in synch with one another, and I loved how Kyle segued them from one song to the next early on in the set. It gave things a very fluid feel, and I wouldn’t complain if they did even more of that.
And going back to the cohesive thing, Patrick meshed much better with them than he did on February 1st when he played his first show with them. I don’t mean that just in the sense that they’ve gotten more accustomed to each other, either. He added some comical relief of sorts with his occasional dialogue, and got a good rapport going with the audience.
Their an all-around great band, and if you want to see a show for yourself, well they have a free one coming up on June 5th at the Rockin’ Rodeo in Denton. They’ll be opening for Bowling for Soup, which is all the more reason not to miss out on the show. You can also find both of their EP’s in ITUNES, which I’d suggest checking out.
Night one of the arts festival was pretty fun, and I got to see some great bands, but just because the festival was getting ready to close for the night didn’t mean the night was over, as I headed back to the Curtain Club for some more music.
Another weekend was about to start, and what better way to kick it off than by catching a show at my favorite Dallas venue, The Curtain Club.
Stand 2 Reason was the first band up this night, but due to some traffic jams, I didn’t get there until they were almost done.
What I heard of this mostly acoustic band was really good, though. They had the standard rhythm section, but the other three members of the group all played acoustic guitars, which actually added some great layers to the music, and the singer, Andy, has a great voice.
During just a few songs, they made me into a fan, and hopefully I’ll get to catch a full show sometime in the future.
Up next was the main band I was there to see this night, the Austin based, Distant Lights.
One of their newer songs, which I believe is titled “Science”, began their set, and got them off to quite a start. I was prepared for a show much like their one here in November, which was almost all-new material, but it was completely different this time around. In fact, their next song was a shocking surprise to me. I’ve never seen a Distant Lights show where they didn’t close with “Artifice”, yet now Gaelan Bellamy was cranking out the opening lines of it, shredding on his guitar, before Kevin Abbenante beat down on his drums, kicking it up even a few more notches. It is the most song in their arsenal, and the lengthy instrumental bridge is the highlight of it, giving bassist, Sam Marshall, Gaelan and Kevin a chance to take the spotlight and really rock out. It really just didn’t feel right at this point in the set, though. I think it’s a song that’s best reserved for the closer, or it would probably even make a mean opener. “We are Distant Lights, from just down the road in Austin, Texas…” announced frontman, Gabriel Fry, who also mentioned that most of what they were performing could be found on their albums, pointing to their merch booth. They slowed things down considerably with “Metamorphosis”, which has a nice flow that is truly complimentary of the song, starting off slow and heavy on the rhythm section, but as the lyrics get more exciting, “…and as the channel opens up I marvel at the power as it grows…”, so too does the music, amping up considerably. All that makes it a very well written song. They followed it with “Dystopia”, the lead track from their “Simulacrum” album and one I had not heard in far too long, and then moved on with one of their newer songs. That actually started them on a series of newer songs, and no sooner had they finished it than Kevin launched them into the aggressive, “Tightrope”. The mood fluctuated over the course of the next two songs, “Suffocating” and “Patterns On the Rise”, both of which have a real ebb and flow to them, being fairly relaxed at some points, before jumping into a full on rock song. That eventually led them to the final song of their 35-minute long set, “What’s On Your Mind”. It’s no “Artifice”, but it is the next best thing to go out on, and has Gabriel rather viciously belting out the chorus, while prowling around the stage.
It was a spectacular show they put on, and definitely the best of the night. They put such energy into their performance and have an undeniable stage presence. Even though the Curtain was fairly empty when they played, they still managed to captivate the attention of almost all of the onlookers, which doesn’t happen too often in my experience.
I almost want to say that Gabriel carries the band with the way he conducts himself on stage and the stellar voice he has (it is one of the best I’ve heard, and he sounds even better in the live setting than their recordings do), but that wouldn’t be true. Gaelan’s skills on the guitar are out of this world, and he’s certainly at his best on the occasions when he’s shredding. Lastly, Kevin and Sam make a dynamic rhythm section, with Sam’s slick method of grooving on the bass, while Kevin is more assertive with his drumming, making it well rounded.
They’re just a killer group, and after not playing the Dallas for a few years, I’m glad that they’re starting to venture up here again. Hopefully it can become a normal thing once every two to four months or so.
You can find their first album in ITUNES, and word is they have almost completed their next record. They also have shows coming up on April 26th at Click’s in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and April 27th at Rock ‘N’ Blues in Covington, Louisiana. They have a hometown gig in Austin on April 28th at the Dirty Dog Bar, opening for Powerman 5000, and on May 11th they’ll be down in San Antonio at Fitzgerald’s.
So, once Distant Lights finished I went over to the Liquid Lounge side of the venue where Aaron Pose was doing a set.
I figured the singer of Admiral Grey was probably almost done at this point, and sure enough he was, only having two songs left, both of which were newer ones he had written. One of those songs was titled “Another Day”, but the best of the two I heard was by far his closing song, “Home”. Before starting he talked about his recent decision to take a break from music, saying he needed to “recharge his batteries”. “…I don’t know how long that’s going to take. Could be three months, could be six months, it could be a year…” he said, saying it was just time to take a break and focus on family for a while. Evidently, part of what spurred that decision was when he wrote this song, “Home”. And he said when writing songs, he just let’s it flow, barely even paying attention to what he’s writing at the time. He added that after he finished this song and then read, he knew it was time to take a break. Emotionally it was a deep song, dealing with not always being there for the people who need you, and honestly, may be the best thing Aaron has ever written.
The music scene will feel kinda empty without Aaron being an active part of it, but I feel where he’s coming from and I doubt anyone can blame him for taking some time off. I’m just glad it’s not a permanent hiatus, though.
Aaron doesn’t have any solo music available, but do check out Admiral Grey’s “Long Road” EP.
As soon as he was finished, I headed back to the Curtain, where the next band, Breaking Midway, was just getting warmed up.
I wasn’t instantly drawn in by them, and honestly, they struck me as being bland at first. There was no gripping quality to singer and acoustic guitarist Kelley Hannahs’ voice, and the first full song that I heard, “Dreaming”, came across as being a little drab. “Volcano” was a little more vibrant, and had a nice backbone, courtesy of drummer, Jay Chagnon, and their upswing continued with “I Won’t Let You”. It was after that song that I decided the band was more of an acquired taste, and one I was liking a little more with each song. They did a couple more tunes, one of which was another from their 2012 debut record, “The Speed of Life”, titled “Wish”, which was one of the catchiest songs of their set. “Living Room” was another standout from their set, and after another track, they did one of their newer songs, “Home”. There’s a real sentimental quality to the song, and while it didn’t connect with me on a personal level or anything, I must say it was quite moving. They had certainly hit their stride at this point, and now did “Finally Free”, which had more of a rock sound to it than their previous stuff, and the same could be said about “Done”, which just had a little more vigor to it. They only had one more for the night, and after laying her guitar down on the stage, Kelley said they had “saved the best for last”, and she wasn’t joking, either. I don’t know what it was, but it definitely was the most in your face song of their set.
By the time it was all said and done I don’t know if I’d say I had become a fan of Breaking Midway’s, but I had enjoyed their show.
I guess my main thing with Kelleys’ voice was it didn’t immediately grab me, which is what I prefer, but if you listen to a few songs, you’ll discover an endearing quality to it, and one that should hold your interest. Her, the lead guitarist and Jay put on a good show, but the bass player, he was rather lifeless, and appeared to be going through the motions instead of actually being invested in it and enjoying being on stage, which in the end was the only thing I disliked about their show.
Check out their albums in ITUNES, which ranges from a full-length to some singles and even a live record recorded right here at the Curtain Club. They also have a gig coming up on May 11th at O’Riley’s in Dallas.
I stuck around for the headliner, Ol’ Jug of Whiskey, whom I’ve heard a lot about and was very eager to finally see what they were like.
Their show this night was a first for the band, who is typically an acoustic act, but tonight was doing their first ever electric set.
The first song of their set required their guitarist, Mike Drake, to use a mandolin, adding an interesting vibe to what was more a rock song. He switched to a guitar after that, but after a few more songs, I decided to go back to the lounge.
They are a great band with an awesome sound and singer, Bryce Frazier, has knockout voice, but I just never felt drawn in by it. Instead, I kept thinking, “I’d enjoy Exit 380 a lot more than this.”
It’s just a personal preference, and nothing against Ol’ Jug of Whiskey.
I’ve seen Exit 380 quite a bit over the last few months, but there was a big difference between those other shows and this one, and that was that this was an acoustic set. The band doesn’t do many of those, and I was informed by their singer, Dustin Blocker, that to form their setlist they ended up looking at all their songs in iTunes to refresh their minds on what songs were more acoustic based. Yes, that also means that little rehearsal time went into this show, a fact they pointed out a couple times while on stage.
Beginning their brief 29-minute set was their song that is featured on a Hand Drawn Records compilation CD, “A Song About Us”. The song was really set off by Jeremy Hutchison, who was acting as the drummer this night, playing what I think was a djembe (not sure, and I’m pretty much clueless outside the traditional drum kit). It was all very fluid as he beat it with his hands, giving the song some great rhythm. There was a very lax mood to this show, even more so than normal, and after that song guitarist, Aaron Borden, said something about needing more bass. “That was all you…” Blocker told him while laughing, presumably referring to some little mishap I didn’t catch. They continued with “Soul Burning Train”, which was one of only two new songs that fit with this set, and honestly, I think this stripped down version was even slightly better than normal, just seeming a little more behooving of it. Those are two great songs, but they’re pretty much standard at most E380 shows, and I was looking forward to the older stuff, like their next song, “Dammit”. That’s still my overall favorite song of theirs, and I’ve only heard that now decade plus old song performed once before, over two years ago. A lot of their songs, particularly their newer ones, tell some great stories, and while “Dammit” is different from their current stuff, I think it tells the best story. Besides, Dustin adds a little more bass to his voice on that song, which in turn gives it a lot of texture. Now they informed everyone that they “didn’t quite rehearse” for this show, then started into a bonus track from the Townies album, “Oil Machine”. The tambourine that Dustin played and the more delicate bass lines Jon Hutchison was playing created a great atmosphere and the harmonizing Dustin and Aaron were occasionally doing sounded wonderful. As it ended, Dustin got all crazy with his voice, hitting all sorts of notes. “…Harmonize that…” he told Aaron once they finished the song, and the two couldn’t help but laugh at one another. “Is it time for…” Aaron said, trailing of, but letting his guitar do the talking, starting a classic from the “Last Monday” album, “2 Lie”. “…You’ve been up all night, question me question life. You don’t think just desire, but don’t you fucking lie to me.” Dustin sang, that being the final line of this relatively tranquil song with a catchy vibe, which is what makes it another favorite of mine. They next did another song from that record, a hidden one, and another I’m pretty certain I had never heard live before. It was “A Much Needed Apology”, which is the most peaceful and calming song they’ve written, but they picked the mood back up a little, doing “In The Park”, which brought their set to an end.
It may have been a short show, but it was amazing and I’m glad I decided to see it. After all, how many times am I going to hear them do my two favorite songs in the same set? That’s probably not going to happen very much.
If for no other reason, it was also interesting just to see Jeremy act as the percussionist, since he’s typically a guitarist, and do such a killer job at it. In fact, I think they were a little too hard on themselves about having not rehearsed. Was it perfect? No. But it sure didn’t seem like they hadn’t rehearsed at all, either.
Then again, if you’ve been a band since 1999, you should be cohesive enough to pull something like this off with relative ease.
As of right now, it looks like their next show is going to be on June 2nd at the Capitol Bar in Fort Worth. Also, do check out all their albums. They have several available, and between ITUNES and BANDCAMP, you can get them all.
This wasn’t a bad night of music at all, and it was good getting to see some bands I hadn’t seen before, along with the ones I’m all too familiar with.
I seldom see the larger national touring bands that come through Trees, and honestly, I didn’t have much interest in the one that was playing this night, but the lineup of local talent was superb.
There were four opening acts on this bill, which meant the show was getting started early, and shortly after 7:15, Thrown took the stage.
I had seen the band before a few years back (2010, or maybe even 2009), and recently they seemed to have fallen off the map, making me think they had disbanded. That’s not the case, though. Rather, they had been regrouping, and tonight was their first back.
They had some new material under their belt, but this 28 minute long set consisted mainly of stuff from their debut record, “The Beautiful End”, like the lead track which was also the show opener, “Bleed Like Me”. It was a supercharged rock tune, and while Trees was pretty vacant at this point, the people who were there were gathered around the stage, obviously being drawn in by it. They followed it with another track from their old record, “Nothing Left”, which was another heavier rock number. “The One” came next, which was heavy on the rhythm, with bassist, TreVice Layne, and drummer, Brent Matthews, dominating the song, but also featured a blistering guitar solo from Brad McFarland, which helped balance out the song. The highlight of their set (at least in my opinion) was “Ignorance”, whose lyrics are even better than most of their other stuff. “…My eyes grow tired of seeing all the shadows that you cast…” shouted singer, Greg Vinson, on the chorus, his voice perfectly fitting the style of rock they play, and could easily compete with the best of them. They cranked out another song, and as their set neared the end, they pulled out their newest songs that they have released for their fans to listen to. One of those was “Back to Stay”, which shows they’ve kept with what works best for them, sounding similar to their other songs, but there’s a little bit of growth also noticeable in it. Their final was “Drunk On Hate”, which is arguable the most powerful out of those new ones, and brought things to a strong finish for them.
I really don’t remember much about them from the first time I saw them, other than really enjoying their music and their live show. The music was still great this night, even better than what I recalled, but the live show… Well, they did what they good, and it wasn’t really their fault. There was a full backline this night, and out of all the bands, Thrown had the least bit of room on stage, and Greg, Brad and TreVice were pretty limited on where they could move, and basically had to stay in the same place for their entire set.
You could tell they were wanting to do more in terms of their performance, too, but just couldn’t.
That aside, it was a really good show, and I’m glad to see that the band is back in action. They had a lot of promise when I first saw them and they still do, so if you have a chance, go see them live. Also, you can buy their first album in ITUNES.
The second act of the night was Awake In Theory, who hails from all over the D/FW metroplex, and honestly, I was surprised they were going on now, because I thought they deserved the third slot. Oh well, they’ll get there in due time.
The band through me for a loop by beginning with a song that is atypical when compared to the other shows of theirs I’ve seen, “Playing the Villain”. It worked better than I thought it would, throwing everyone right into their barrage of Alt/Rock sounds, and for a show like this, you do need to get people’s attention right off the bat. As it ended, guitarists, Brad McCain and Terry Kimmel, drummer, Raymond Chambers, and bassist, Adam Garcia , fired up their next song, while Eric Hawkens offered an explanation of sorts about it. “This song is for anyone who had to do what I had to do this past year, and that’s taking someone you love to rehab.” Said the bands frontman (or at least something along those lines), as they got underway with “Let Go”. It was with that song that deals with some of the hardships of life where their show really came to life. As with all the opening acts, they suffered from some cramped conditions on stage, but they utilized what little space they had, with Eric stepping back when he wasn’t singing, allowing the instrumentalists to get to the front of the stage and entertain the onlookers. After finishing it, Eric mentioned that this was their first time playing the Trees. “…But we’d play here every single night if it meant we could play in front of all of you…” he added, before stating the title of their next track, “Innocence for the Innocent”, a song where Raymond gets to really show off some of his drumming skills. Before their next song, Eric informed the crowd it was one they don’t play too often, which had me curious as to what it was. He couldn’t keep a straight face for long, though, soon admitting, “I’m just kidding, we play it all the time.” Terry then opened up “Barely Breathing” with some haunting and stellar guitar notes. This is the song they’ve opened with the two previous times I’ve seen them, and it’s still my favorite of the bands, plus I just love the line, “…I’m barely breathing, but I’m still healing from this war…”. Their next song was dedicated to everyone who serves in the military, and Eric asked everyone if they see a member of the service to go up and tell them how much they’re appreciated. That led them to “Hero You Hate”, and upon finishing it they had one last song in their 28-minute long set. It was their single, which they recently laid down in a studio, becoming the first song they’ve recorded together, and it’s called “Daddy’s Little Girl”.
It was an incredible show they put on this night, and while they’ve been very solid before, you could tell they stepped up their game for this show. They were wanting to make an impression, and they most certainly did.
They’re a badass rock band who puts on a strong performance, and if you haven’t heard of them already, take a few moments to get acquainted with them.
They have a few shows on the books, beginning with April 27th at ARNETIC in Fort Worth. You can catch them at Six Flags in Arlington on May 4th, and they’ll be in Dallas on May 10th at Wit’s End. They also have another gig at Tree’s scheduled for June 15th.
After their set, I wondered out onto the patio, running into Marc, who plays in the band, The Circle, whom I talked with for a little while.
By the time I went back in, the instrumental trio known as Son of Swan was into the last half of their set.
I’ve only seen the group once before, and even though I only caught a little of their set this night, they managed to blow my mind even more.
Band founder and guitarist, Neil Swanson, is a virtuoso on the guitar and plays it with sheer ease. I’m not even a fan of instrumental music in the least, but music this spectacular doesn’t need lyrics to entertain. And along with the out of this world skills that he, bassist, Steve Wilson, and drummer, Billy Walker, posses, they also can put on an exciting live performance.
I never thought I’d even remotely enjoy, let alone love an instrumental band, yet those are my feeling for Son of Swan.
This show also served as their CD release gig for their debut album, which you can purchase at any live show. That said, they have a few coming up, including April 26th at The Curtain Club in Dallas and May 24th at The Rail Club in Fort Worth.
Serving as the main support band for Adrenaline Mob (not only at this show, but pretty much every single date of this leg of the tour) was San Antonio’s own, Nothing More, and out of all the bands on this bill, I was most excited about seeing them.
When the curtain opened on them, it looked like it was going to be interesting given the bands setup, specifically singer Jonny Hawkins’ drum set, which took up a lot of the space at the front of the stage. They didn’t act like it was much of a hindrance, though, as Jonny ripped into it, while primary drummer, Paul O’Brien, was seemingly inches behind him, also delivering some hefty beats, which led into “Gone”. That song is always a great one to get started with, but they seemed to be putting more effort into it than usual (which I didn’t think was even possible). Perhaps it was because after being on the road for a while, they were glad to be back in their home state, where every show they did was essentially a hometown show. After all, they’ve been cutting their teeth in the clubs in this area for the better part of a decade, and had several fans singing right along with every word, which I’m sure just added full to the fire. They finished that tune much like it began, with some more epic, aggressive drumming, until Mark Vollelunga suddenly took the spotlight with his roaring guitar riffs of the brief instrumental number, “Under The Eyes of Selene”. Unfortunately, he was stuck on far stage right, out of the way from where I stood and it wasn’t easy to see him, but that was one point of their set where I made sure to give him my full attention. It quickly gave way to the song it’s a prelude to, “Sixty Second Affair”, and while it is the oldest song they currently do (it’s from their ’05 album “Save You/Save Me”), it’s also one of the most forceful of their set. “…Through all the tears, these wasted years, my phoenix fears in you rise again…” Jonny sang, spacing the words just far enough apart to add a real gravity to them. It, too, ended with some duel drumming, and after announcing to everyone who they were, they pulled out one of their new songs, which surprisingly enough was the only new one of their set. I believe the song is called “Friendly Fire”, and you know you’ve seen a band a lot when you can sing (mostly) along to a song solely from hearing it at their past shows. The audience seemed really into this one, and how could you not feel the adrenaline rush while Jonny shouted/sang the chorus, “I’ll keep breaking, breaking, breaking your pride… Until you realize you are no J-J-J-Jesus Christ…” (Note: Those lyrics could be wrong, but that is what I hear at least.) Thus far it had been a very abbreviated NoMO set, but there were two things that I knew would be staples, one which would come later, and the other was their little bass trick. After walking into Tree’s this night, I saw and talked with Mark for a bit, who casually said, “Oh, we worked up a new bass line.” “Cool.” I thought, thinking it would be pretty much the same old thing… It wasn’t. The rod that holds the bass was placed in the wrought iron case that surrounds Jonnys’ drums, Daniel Oliver put his bass in the holster and, with the bass facing the crowd, proceed to play some notes while standing beside it. It was cool, and while Dan was doing that, Jonny was manning the pedal board for the bass, adding some effects to it, while Paul kept some beats going throughout it. It started getting good when Mark stood on stage left of the bass, also plucking at some strings, but that was all still similar to what is done at every Nothing More show. As much of a spectacle as it is, I still was under the assumption I knew where it was going. A few minutes into it and they suddenly both jumped back, as Dan swung the rod holding the bass, sending it spinning around, before stopping with the bass now straight up in the air, but upside down. Jonny then joined them, standing on his bass drum, while Dan stood on a, I’ll call it a small step ladder to reach the bass, and while Mark and Dan held down the stings, Jonny played the bass by using some drumsticks. I should also note they kept the notes from it in perfect synch with the beats Paul was churning out at times, before spinning the bass in a complete 360 a few times, then finishing the piece. Not only was it the highlight of their set, but it was the highlight of the entire night. I also loved it because I had gotten used to the old piece they did, and while it still dazzled me, it felt fantastic getting to watch it through brand new eyes for the first time in a VERY long time. (Note: Check out that action for yourself in THIS video.) By the time they finished that, they were down to their last song, which was the fan favorite, “Salem”. They weren’t done blowing the crowds minds just yet, and near the end both Dan and Mark grabbed some toms, moving towards center stage, while Jonny spun around, playing those two drums as well as his kit. It was a little different from what they usually do, simply because they didn’t have room on stage to go all out, but it still awed. And is the song wound down, they even got the audience to shout the chorus, “Burn the witch!”, back at them repeatedly, concluding their 26-minute long set.
Being completely objective, Nothing More was hands down the best band on the bill. Every band this night had different degrees of passion, but with Mark, Jonny, Dan and Paul, their passion bleeds through every single second of their time on stage, putting it on display for all to see, which makes it very easy to see that this is what they love doing. Hell, it’s obvious it’s what they were born to do.
To me, that’s what always makes them so enjoyable, and I didn’t see any of the other acts leave it all on the stage like they did.
You can find their records in ITUNES, and they also have a few shows coming up, starting with April 24th at the Lizard Lounge in Wichita, Kansas. The 26th they’ll be at Click’s in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and the following night you can see them at Rock ‘n’ Blues in Covington, Louisiana. Oh, and be back at Trees on June 21st. Why? Because that’s the day they’ll be doing a Dallas CD release show for their new album.
You usually don’t think of an opening act topping the headliner, especially when the headlining band is comprised of veteran musicians, all of whom have been playing for at least two decades if not longer, but Nothing More did in my opinion, and I doubted that they could be topped.
Now it was time for Adrenaline Mob, who is of course a super group featuring Mike Portnoy, Russell Allen, Mike Orlando, and John Moyer. They had definitely brought the people out this Sunday night, and it was next to impossible to even move around in front of the stage.
Perhaps I’m being a little too finicky, but I felt too much time passed before the band finally took the stage, at which point what excitement I was feeling had turned into just wanting them to hurry up and just get it over with.
Let me explain. A stagehand issued a reminder that video recording was not allowed during the show. That was said after the sound check was pretty much complete, which I took as meaning the band was going to start in mere minutes. Instead, no less than fifteen minutes passed, and then the bands intro song started. It wasn’t just one song, though, and part of another followed it, before suddenly stopping as the curtain opened and the band members descended the stairs from the green room.
I was probably the only person there who felt this way, but at this point I was fed up with waiting and felt like they had stretched things out too long. I realize it might not have even been the bands felt, but regardless, that process should have been sped up a bit.
They played practically everything from their 2012 debut album, “Omerta”, kicking off their 70+-minute long set with “Psychosane”. It was great song and a good opener, and upon finishing it, Mike P. hopped up from his stool, standing on his massive drum kit and surveying the crowd. It was a cool moment to say the least. The fans were pulled further in with “Feelin’ Me”, where Mike O. and John raced around the stage, and while performing his guitar solo, Mike held it so the fans could see as his fingers danced up and down the fret board. “Down to the Floor” was my personal favorite song of theirs, but by the time it was over, I was starting to feel like it was the same old song and dance. The songs were sounding fairly similar to me, and they all had crazy guitar solos in them. I thought maybe they were free styling the live versions of the songs at first, which would have been fine, but after listening to their recorded music, I learned the songs are like that, which gives the impression that the solos are there for the purpose of being flashy and showing off. This was also the third song that after finishing, Mike P. again jumped atop his drum kit. I’ve never seen any drummer to that, and it really was cool the first time, but to repeatedly do it, especially so close together, it makes it lose appeal, and rather quickly at that. They did a couple more original songs, which were “Angel Sky” and “Indifferent”, and after the latter Russell turned things over to Mike Portnoy, who talked with the fans for a few minutes. One thing he did was call attention to his drum tech, who slowly stood up from behind the drum riser. “…Did anybody see my first ever show in Dallas twenty years ago?” he asked, informing everyone that this guy set up his kit then, and has stuck with him for all these years. It turned out it was the tech’s birthday, and at the request of Mike everyone sang happy birthday to him. Soon after, Mike got to talking about their newest EP, “Coverta”, saying that each night they had been playing different covers from it, and also mentioned that Tree’s was the first ever venue to get the Adrenaline Mob “hat trick”, or in other words is the only venue in a city to host them three times. When they got back to the music, Mike O. started them in on a very Metal rendition of the Heart classic, “Barracuda”. It was a good cover, but I felt they more just put their own spin on it, rather than taking it and making it completely their own. That was the only cover they did at this point, returning to their original stuff with “Believe Me” and the fast paced “Hit the Wall”. Once they finished it, some acoustic guitars were brought out for Russell and Mike, while John and Mike P. left their posts, retreating up the stairs. Before their next song, Russell told a detailed story about his son, and how one day he and his wife realized something seemed off about him, and after taking him to the doctor found out he had autism. That’s what their next song was about, and he said he wanted to write a song that was meaningful and dealt with something real, which was when “All On the Line” was born. It was a very moving song, and the acoustic beginning made sure the words carried the weight they deserved. That’s not to say it was lessened when Mike P. and John rejoined them, though, turning it into a full-blown rock song. After ditching the acoustic guitars, they got back to the specialty, loud Metal, by cranking out “Come Undone”, while the lead track from “Omerta”, “Undaunted”, ended the main set.
By this point, they had played about thirty minutes longer than I would have liked, and I had pretty much checked out at this point, but of course, an encore was coming…
Mike Orlando walked back out on stage first, but no one else followed. The stage belonged to him for a minute or two as he shredded on his axe, doing a guitar solo that everybody ate up. Soon, his band mates joined him on stage, for an encore that was all covers. Led Zeppelin’s “The Lemon Song” was first up, which was were Russell showed his vocal chords do have some range to them, singing in more of a soulful/bluesy voice, rather than the one tone yell he had used for the majority of their other songs. They had a special guest join them on their next song, and John left the stage, turning the bass duty over to Rex Brown, best known from being with Pantera. He helped them tear it up on Van Halen’s “Romeo Delight” and he’s got some serious chops, slapping the bass and rocking out the riffs with ease. John came back out on stage when it was finished, and after they all thanked Rex for helping them out, they closed their show with the song that I believe was the first one they ever covered as a band, “The Mob Rules” by Black Sabbath, which, given the band’s name, is an appropriate track for them to cover.
That was that, and I was glad it was finally over.
I said it earlier and I’ll say it again, I felt like a vast majority of their material (covers included) sounded pretty much the same. As seen on that cover song, Russell is capable of an extraordinary range, but they never really explored that, and instead he maintained pretty much the same deep tone on every single song, to the point it got rather monotonous. I also felt that both Mike’s were a little too flashy. There’s beauty in subtlety, and while Mr. Portnoy did get a little better about not always standing on his kit at the end of each song, he still did it too close together at times. Make people wait for it, instead of having fans (or at least me) thinking, “Oh, cool, he’s doing that again.”
Then you have Mr. Orlando, who did a guitar solo during every single song (covers included), and it didn’t sound like they were thrown in there, but rather that the entire song was built around the solos. Again, there’s beauty in subtlety, and if you do a solo of any type (bass, drums, guitar, etc.) during every single song, it quickly becomes overkill. Besides, personally, some of my favorite guitarists are the one who strum with precision and ease, only cutting loose and shredding periodically, instead of going all-out all the time.
I want to point out I’m not at all questioning their musicianship. I know many drummers who cite Mike Portnoy as one of their biggest influences, and after seeing him live, I can see why. About the same can be said about Mike Orlando, and despite what my thoughts were, there’s no way you cannot think he is one of the best guitarists of this era.
And even though my statements speak to the contrary and are my personal thoughts, being totally objective, I have to say they succeed at putting on an entertaining show.
Oh, and if anyone is wondering why I’ve neglected John Moyer, it’s because out of the whole bunch I thought he was the most well rounded. His talent was impressive, but never over the top, and he just had a good aura about him.
The band’s current tour may be over, but I believe they will be tackling the West Coast in the near future (keep an eye on their TOUR DATES page), and to purchase their music, head over to ITUNES.
Well, the local openers were by far the best in my opinion, and as much as I hated paying $20 to get into a show, Nothing More, Son of Swan, Awake in Theory and Thrown made it more than worth it.
Why not make the last of my two and a half days in Austin the longest day of all? That way I could cram in as much live music as possible before heading back to Dallas.
So, instead of heading downtown in the early afternoon like the previous days, my dad and I journeyed down there in the late morning, arriving at Whole Foods shortly after eleven.
Yes, that is the Whole Foods store that sells natural and organic foods, and on the rooftop of the store (which was a nice patio area that even had a small playground area for kids) Quantum Collective and Amazon MP3 were presenting a showcase dubbed the Southwest Invasion.
It was an odd setting for a concert, but hey, whatever works.
The bands had started even earlier than when my dad and I arrived, and stumbled across a gem of a band from Echo Park, California, named Rainbow Jackson. They were essentially done, only having a few songs left to do, but what I heard was sensational.
They are self-described as scuzzed-up power pop, and while that is accurate, they could just as easily be considered rock ‘n’ roll. There was also somewhat of a dreamy quality added to it by Sam Dagger and Chad Carlisle, the lead guitarist and singer and rhythm guitarist, respectively, giving a slight 60’s vibe to the music. And speaking of Chad, he has an amazing set of pipes. Just an all around incredible voice.
I wish I had been able to see more of the bands set, or even another show or two they undoubtedly played while here in Austin.
They have an EP and a single available on their BANDCAMP PAGE, and I should mention both are free to get, so go download them.
The Royalty was up next, and after hearing many good things about this El Paso, Texas based band, I was excited to finally get to see a show.
Their brief 19-minute long set focused entirely on their 2012 full-length, “Lovers”, and they began with “Other Boys”. That song (and their music in general) also had a dreamy quality to it, only in the indie rock vein, and came courtesy largely of keyboard player, Daniel Marin. Fitting perfectly with it was the sweet and even soulful voice of singer, Nicole Boudreau, as she sang about a love gone by. Things got pushed a little closer to the rock realm with “Say the Word”, and allowed guitarist, Jesus Apodaca, bassist, Mike Hernandez, and drummer, Joel Quintana, to get more into it and rock out, while Nicoles’ voice soared on the chorus, “Just say the word and I would never leave, I would never leave you…” “This next song is called I Want You.” Nicole said, which was about the extent of the talking she did, aside from announcing who they were, as they had to rush through their set. After that catchy, up-tempo number, they did “Please Lie”, which is a genius blend of multiple more nostalgic styles of music, with a bit of a modern twist. I would have loved if they could have played an additional twenty minutes, because I was really caught up in the music, but by now their time was almost up, and as Jesus and Mike swapped out instruments, Nicole set up their final song, which was their single, “Bartender”, which arguable was the best song of their set.
Even with a short set, the band still lived up to what praise I had heard, as well as my expectations just from listening to the music.
They are unlike anything else I’ve heard, and while it could be easy to say they’re simply a pop band upon first listen, they’re really much more complex. As it says on their bio on Facebook, some of their influences are the “…girl-groups of the Motown and Spector era…” which is evident, and predominantly is manifested in Nicoles’ unique voice. It’s not just the range she has that is remarkable, but the fact that she can have a soulful quality to her singing when needed, or can even fit into that Motown genre with ease.
They’re a very talented group, whose already got some good accomplishments under their belt, including having their music featured on numerous television shows, and with a show and sound like this, I imagine that momentum will only continue. So go see them now, while they’re still relatively unknown, and you can catch them in a more intimate setting.
They don’t have any tour dates on the books right now, but just keep an eye open, and check out both of their albums in either ITUNES or BANDCAMP.
After them was one of the bigger name acts playing this day party, and that was Casey Crescenzo and his group of touring musicians, collectively known as The Dear Hunter.
They got the same 19-minute long set, but as long as their songs are, they only got to play a handful of tracks, most coming from various EP’s in the Color Spectrum collection, like “Echo”, from the “Orange” EP. It worked well as an opening song, starting off slow, but quickly gaining speed, with the best moment being the instrumental break, where Casey and his five band mates, two other guitarists, a bassist and drummer, got to cut loose, and even with the tight conditions on stage, still managed to rock out. They wound it seamlessly into their next song with some mangled guitar notes that lasted for a bit, before their drummer started in, giving the song more body and revealing it to be the final track from the “Yellow” EP, “Misplaced Devotion”. It raised the already high mood exponentially, and that’s something a great band would do, start the listener off at one place, then bring them up more. Also, the harmonies on that song, as Casey and a few of the other musicians shouted, “Ooooohhhhh” repeatedly, were to die for. The oldest (and longest) song the rock/indie/progressive outfit did was “The Pimp and the Priest”, before concluding things with “Home”, which seemed like it was written to be a closing song, and provided a great ending to this brief little set where all the songs seemed to tell a small piece of a larger story.
I wouldn’t say I had actually seen a The Dear Hunter show before, but I had caught the last bit of his set last year when the band toured with Anthony Green, and since then I had been eager to see the band. I still am actually, at least a full set from them. Part of me know even regrets coming to Austin on Thursday, and wishes I had stayed in Dallas to see the headlining show that TDH did that night. But I digress…
Though short, they still put on a phenomenal performance. Caseys’ voice sounds every bit is amazing live as it does on the recordings, and that, along with his ability to pen songs that tell a story, are the two best things the band has going for them. And when you combine those with their lively performance, you get something that’s out of this world.
They recently released their latest album, “Migrant”, which they’ve been touring in support of. A few dates remain on the current tour, and can be found HERE. I hope more will be added sometime, too, and if they are, hopefully they’ll come back through Dallas. Speaking of the record, you can buy it HERE, along with their many other releases.
I had thoroughly enjoyed all those bands I’d seen here so far, but the one I was most excited to see was Erin Austin, who is probably better known by her stage moniker, OK Sweetheart.
The title track of her 2011 debut, “Home”, opened her and her bands set. It’s a infectious little tune, and during parts of it they had almost everyone clapping right along with the drumbeats, and that audience participation made things all the more fun. “Traitor” was another track from that album that made it into their abbreviated set, with Erin crooning out the lyrics, “…I keep on smiling at it all, ‘cause I’ve got something that they don’t, and wouldn’t you like to know what is…”, while banging away at the keys on her piano. They followed it with “You Let Me Down”, which is one of the best examples of the bands self-described “heartbreak pop” sound and is chock-full of emotion, then moved on to one of their many new songs, which I believe was titled “Looking”. It was really good, however I was more partial to the next and final song of their 17-minute long set, “Come Back to Me”. Erin left her piano for that one, and asked everyone to clap along to the beat for the duration of it, which she also did. It was a very solid song, and is just one more of her newer songs that has now become a favorite of mine.
There were many others I would have liked to have heard this day, too, if only they had, had the time for it. Still, it was a great set they did, and out of all the bands I saw here on top of Whole Foods, they were my personal favorite.
The touring musicians that playing alongside her were some of the best I’ve seen in OK Sweetheart, out of the few times I have seen them live. The guitarist, bassist and drummer all had good stage presence and were just great musicians. As for Erin, I’ve said this (or at least something similar to it) each time I’ve seen her and I still stick by it, she is one of the best vocalists out there, and not just in the female vocalist category, either. Her voice is heavenly, yet there’s a real force to it that will capture your attention from the first word, and keep you fascinated right up until the end of the last song.
You can find the “Home” album in ITUNES, plus a live recording of one of their newer songs “If You Let It”, which is a gorgeous, amazing song.
Afterwards, we headed towards Downtown Austin, where the majority of the action was.
The specific destination was a newer venue called Amped, which featured stages both upstairs and downstairs, and the Red Gorilla Music Festival had filled both stages with some great talent. It was here (and downstairs) that the Seattle, Washington based act, The Local Strangers, were playing.
When talking about another band I saw while down in Austin, I mentioned Noisetrade.com, and that website was also responsible for me coming across this band.
They were already playing by time we got there, but I did see the final 30-minutes of their show.
The duo of Aubrey Zoli and Matt Hart, both of whom sang and he played an acoustic guitar, were finishing up one song, then announced their next one was “Mr. Blackberry”, from their 2012 full-length, “Left for Better”. It was a short song, but was utterly astounding. Matt really utilized his guitar, using it to add a slight percussion effect to it, while Aubrey killed it with her strong, undeniable voice. “…This next song’s called Partner in Crime” Matt said, as they brought things down a little. With this more folksy song you stated to see all the layers the band has, though, as they alternated between who sang, and even harmonized at times giving the song a lovely layer, making it one of the most beautiful songs of their set. In setting up their next song, Aubrey mentioned that the day before they had played it in a church and it was little awkward. “…You’ll understand when you here it…” she said, as Matt began “Devil and a Stiff Drink”. I’m they sure they did feel a bit odd playing that song in a house of God, especially with the lyrics, some of which are, “…I don’t need no savior, don’t wanna be saved, don’t need no holy roller telling me just how I gotta behave. Just give me my Devil and a good stiff drink…” That doesn’t mean it’s not a fantastic song, though, and another good one was “Give Up the Ghost”, which transitioned the show into a slight somber mood. “Uptown” brought things back up, though, and even on this stripped down version the song still had a certain peaceful quality to it, which was only enhanced by the upbeat tone Matt had while singing. They came across as being very personable, talking to the meager crowd in between every song, and now they added a bit of a storyteller’s vibe to the show. Matt mentioned the next one was written by Aubrey, after she started watching the TV show Breaking Bad, catching up on all five seasons of the series in just a short span of time. As they said, “…It’s a lot to take in…” It was a really great song that will hopefully make it onto their next record someday, and it was also the last original one they did. In setting up their final song, they mentioned they have a full-band back in Seattle and that they do a cover of a Patty Griffin song, which is what they closed with. That song was “Forgiveness”, and they did a beautiful rendition of it.
I was truly surprised by this band, mainly because with only one instrument, and that being an acoustic instrument no less, they managed to be almost every bit as loud as a full blown electric group.
The best part however, was definitely the Americana/Folk brand of music they played and the vast range it had in every aspect, and how they could be doing a stunning song with some harmonies one moment, and then switch gears to something that really packed a punch. Switching it up like that ensured that they never got monotonous and always kept the attention of the crowd… Well, that and the stellar voices each Matt and Aubrey possessed.
You can find both of their records in either ITUNES or BANDCAMP, so give them a listen. They also have some shows coming up, so check out their TOUR DATES for a complete list.
The Heart of Texas Rockfest was the next destination, mainly because if I didn’t have anything listed at a specific time, why not go there and see who was playing. And the band setting up on stage was one I had seen Thursday after first getting down here, Love and a .38.
Singer, Ryan Hudson, started the Los Angeles based bands set with a joke, saying they were about to do a show of nothing but “Freebird”. Danny Excess then launched the band into “Shots at Sunset”, while Ryan thrashed about to the music before having to start singing. His voice was a little (or a lot) worse for wear compared to the other day, especially on the chorus, “Lights at midnight, halfway home…”, where he almost fell completely flat. I can’t fault him, after all, a song or two in he mentioned they had done “a million shows” in four days. “…At least it feels like it.” He added. Unfortunately, that’s a side effect of playing multiple shows in a day, and after seeing them the other night, I know what they’re capable of when they’re at one hundred percent. “”This next song is called Lovely Lies.” He said, as his band mates edged into the killer rock song. “…This next song is our most Texas song…” he announced after they finished the last song, then looked at the rest of the band to see if they agreed. “It’s not really about Texas…” he clarified, “…But it’s our most Texas song…” The song was “Just a Woman”, and Domo Domaracki helped get it going, with the almost bluesy notes he cranked out on his guitar. They followed it with their all out rock song “Rock ‘n Lola”, which really allowed bassist, Justin Emord, and Danny to let loose and roam about the stage and shredding on their instruments. With that, their short 21-minute set was almost up, but not before their cover of a rock classic. “…I know it’s night, but we’re gonna do this song anyway, just because it’s fun…’ Ryan stated, segueing them into “Sunglasses at Night”, which they do a great cover of, even with Ryan having an off day.
Honestly, no, they weren’t as good this time around as the other show of theirs I had caught, and I think I made the reason for that clear. But despite being his voice being shot, Ryan still acted like a professional frontman, and gave it his all singing, not trying to half-ass it or anything. And regardless, music wise, they still sounded excellent.
You can find the EP they have in ITUNES, along with enough singles to make another EP. And one of those singles is “Sunglasses at Night”.
As soon as they finished, it was on to Peckerheads, where Civil Twilight was getting ready to play a set.
Despite the band being a fairly big name act, I hadn’t even heard of them until seeing they were playing another free show down here, then decided to catch this one at Peckerheads instead.
The four-piece band, who originated from Cape Town, South Africa, was still setting up when we got there, and had amassed quite the crowd, all of whom seemed eager for the band to start.
They began their 25-minute long set with the explosive “Soldier”, and I liked how it eased you in. Kevin Dailey’s keyboard playing and the notes guitarist, Andrew McKellar, churned out, while soft, were more than enough to reel you in. It was the chorus where the song suddenly sprang to live, though, as singer and bassist, Steven McKellar, shouted, “…I don’t stop ‘til the end of the show I don’t stop ‘til my country says so I don’t know why I raise this hell I’m just a soldier, fighting for someone else…” The craftsmanship that went into the song was very noticeable live, and I loved the nice ebb and flow it had, which kept you fascinated throughout it. To say I was hooked would be an understatement. They slowed things down a little with another track from their self-titled album, Trouble”. It was on that one where the band, and in particular Steven’s voice, reminded me a lot of U2 and their frontman, Bono. It didn’t come across like they were trying to emulate that band, but regardless, that’s not a bad group to sound like. Steven set up their next song, saying that a fan had requested it, and went into a little speech about how when someone does request a song, a band should play it, because that’s such a huge compliment that someone does know the song and likes it so much. That was the gist of it, anyway, and earned Civil Twilight a lot of respect in my book. I’ve seen and heard stories of other bands who cuss at fans for requesting a song, so it’s nice to see a band that appreciates their fans enough that they’ll honor a request. The song was “Quiet In My Town”, which was the longest and most beautiful song of their set. “Today I heard that someone left this earth, that someone disappeared, left no mark here. Today I heard that someone just got up and left himself lying on the ground…” crooned Steven, who had switched out to a guitar for this song, or at least part of it. The somber mood it set conveyed the sadness perfectly, and was even beautiful in a sense, before transitioning into a full-scale rock song, when Steven got his bass back and Richard Wouters began pounding out the beats on the drums. The band wrote something else when they did that song, and it truly is a masterpiece. That brought them to the final song of their set, and saw Steven take over the keyboard duties, while Kevin got his bass in order to do “Letters From the Sky”. What really set this song off was Andrew playing his guitar with a bow, like how a violinist does, adding a pretty texture to the song, which also started out rather tranquil, but eventually became a force to be reckoned with.
That was it, and they started working to get their gear off stage, while some fans screamed, “But you have to play River!” The guys shrugged it off at first, but then looked at the sound guy, like they might do it if they had time. “I’m sorry, we’re out of time.” Steven informed the audience, and he seemed very genuine with that, seeming sorry that they couldn’t do this other song so many people wanted to hear.
I’m perfectly happy with what they did, though, and while more would have been nice, it was an amazing set they did nonetheless.
What I enjoyed most about them was how each song tells an actual story. There’s true depth and meaning to their music, which sadly doesn’t always seem to be a key factor in music these days.
They have a few festival shows happening this summer, one of which will be in Chattanooga, Tennessee in June, and the other will take place in July in Cincinnati, Ohio. Check out their TOUR DATES page for full info, and also head over to ITUNES and check out their two records.
As soon as they finished it was down the stairs and out the doors, making our way to The Dizzy Rooster where a Chicago based band, Hessler, was scheduled to be just starting.
They were indeed in full swing, and there were plenty of other people who wanted to see the band as well, making it hard to even push through the crowd to get back to where the stage was.
After finishing up the song they were on, they announced the next one was “Kamikazi”, which comes from their debut EP, “Bad Blood”. The slick guitar notes and rapid, loud drumbeats at the start made it an easy song to headbang to, but they really kicked it up several notches once Lariyah Daniels started singing. She, guitarists, Igz Kincaid and Frankie Sripada, and bassist, Erik Michael, ran all over the stage, not letting the tight, close conditions on stage restrict them in the least. That made it quickly apparent that the live show was where these guys excelled and that this was going to be an assault on all the senses. After powering through another song, they moved on to the darker, “Confessions”. There seemed to be a little more grit, piss and vinegar in Lariyah’s singing on this song than the others, especially on the last verse, “…Come to me, come to me, deadly sins. Raise your glass and let’s see who wins. I am my own God and I know it well, I forgive you father and I’ll see you in hell…” “This one’s called Taste the Lips.” Lariyah said, shortly after finishing the last song, as they kept things moving right along with another adrenaline pumping hard rock/metal song. Igz and Frankie had been adding some backing vocals periodically throughout those previous songs, but now Igz assumed more of the lead role on “Wicked World”. His voice was better than I was expecting, but the best part I thought was the way his voice intertwined with Lariyahs’ on this more co-sung track. “Rising Sign” was one of their most exhilarating songs of their set, and also featured one of the coolest and most memorable things I’ve ever seen a band do. Frankie and Igz took the center stage for some guitar solos, but they didn’t do it in the ordinary way. Each moved their guitar to their back, then each bent over, interlocking in a way. The way they did it, Frankie was facing the drum kit and Igz the crowd, and he played Frankie’s guitar like that, before they did a 180 so Frankie was facing the audience, doing a solo on Igzs’ guitar. Once they brought that song to an end, they did another from their EP, “Windy City Wild Child”, before concluding, I think, with “Last Alive” Or at least the crowd thought they were concluding the show. “Do y’all want to hear one more?!” Igz screamed, which was greeted with a good deal of fanfare, but the sound guy didn’t seem to approve. “Y’all need to make it quick.” He said. They did, and Igz screamed out the title of this last song, which was “Shark Attack”, and truly was the best way to end this memorable 36-minute long set.
I mentioned in my review of the previous night that one band put on the best overall show I saw down here in Austin, but Hessler by far put on the most vigorous performance. Like I said, they still managed to tear it up, despite the small stage, and there were even a few moments where Igz stood on a barrel that sit in front of the stage, rocking out a solo, and Lariyah did the same thing during another song.
Their stage presence and energy was out of this world and they were unrelenting with it. Definitely one of the best live acts I’ve ever seen.
The only thing with their set was I had a lot of trouble hearing the vocals, which were overpowered by all the instruments. I could understand bit and pieces, but I would have loved the show even more if they had really been audible.
Go, check out the band. You can find both of their albums and a single in ITUNES. Also, they will apparently be playing one day of Rocklahoma in Pryor, OK in late May. So if you plan on attending, check out Hessler. And for all their dates, go HERE.
Waterloo Records was the next stop, and getting there required walking several blocks west, arriving there about ten minutes after five.
Dawes was scheduled to start at five, and sure enough were already into their set. The parking lot outside of Waterloo was packed, though, and a spot with a good view of the stage was next to impossible to find, which resulted in not having a view of this Americana/Folk band.
“My Way Back Home” was the first song I heard them do, and was a good introduction to the band. I’d heard of them, but had never listened to their stuff before this, so I didn’t really know what they sounded like, but after hearing it, I loved it. They have the perfect Alt/Country/Americana/Folk sound, and Taylor Goldsmiths’ voice was built to sing it, as was demonstrated on their next song, “Someone Will”, from their newest album. They followed it with the final song from the “Nothing Is Wrong” album, “A Little Bit of Everything”, whose lyrics make you take pause and think about life, at least it did for me, and is one of the best story songs I’ve heard in a long time. “Fire Away” came next, and was unexpectedly the last song of their set, and upon finishing it Taylor apologized, simply saying they had evidently ran out of time. Thing was, he seemed as shocked as the fans were.
Especially after hearing them I was hoping for a little longer set than that, but what a taste this was. I’m definitely now a Dawes fan, and hopefully will be able to check out their show at Gexa Energy Pavilion in Dallas on June 1st, as part of the KXT Summer Cut concert, which will feature a ton of other awesome bands, both national and local Dallas bands. Dawes will also be on tour in support of their new album, so check out their TOUR DATES for list of where they’ll be. You can also of course find all of their records in ITUNES.
Now it was time to make the hike back to downtown to start winding down this day…
(Check out the remaining post about my SXSW experience, which will be posted on April 19th.)
Austin may be the host city for SXSW, but how many cities host pre SXSW concerts? Not many. In fact, while a band might do a “SXSW Tour”, it’s only the three major music cities in North Texas that get to host a real pre show, just the day before the bands head down to the state capitol.
Well, this night The Prophet Bar in Dallas was hosting such a show, with several touring acts stopping through, while a couple local acts were on the bill to round it out.
Up first was a band from New York, Northern Faces, who sadly, I did not see. I just couldn’t get out there early enough (I think the show began a little after seven).
I heard great things however, and after listening to some stuff from their debut EP, “Southern Places”, they do sound pretty amazing. Really wish I had seen them, but hopefully they’ll get back through Dallas sometime before next year’s SXSW.
When I did arrive the second band, the McKinney based Lantic, was almost all set to play.
They didn’t do much for me. Their singer’s voice was pretty bland in my opinion, which was actually my chief complaint. On the positive side, though, the bands bassist, was nothing short of outstanding. He was the entire show and put on a spectacular performance, slapping the bass like a madman. He was far more energetic than his other band mates, and had my full attention for the duration of their set.
Following them was another touring act, this one from Lawrence, Kansas. They went by the unique name of Cowboy Indian Bear, and with a more offbeat name like that, I was curious about what my ears were about to hear.
With the opening number of their 36-minute set, they established themselves as being a tight quartet, often getting some ethereal harmonies going, which occasionally included keyboardist, Katlyn Conroy, bassist, Martinez Hillard, and drummer, Beau Bruns, joining singer and guitarist, CJ Calhoun, to create some beautiful music. After that song, they mentioned how glad they were to be back in Dallas and how much they like the city. A brief dialogue started between them and the crowd, and something was said prompting Martinez to ask what county they were in, and he planned to give it a shout out. “Dallas.” Someone said. “Seriously? This is Dallas county, named after the city? That’s cool…” he said, giving props to the county. That then led them to their next song and single from their upcoming “Live Old, Die Young” record, “Does Anybody See You Out?”. It’s a gorgeous little song, with a bit of a haunting quality to it, specifically on the bridge, “…I’ll grind you up and spit you out…”, which gets repeated for a good minute or so. By the end of that, I was fully captivated by the band, and they moved on to their next one, which CJ said was titled “Jennifer”. It has a very strong drum bed, something I don’t always pay much attention do, but it builds at steady rate, and truly is the backbone of the song. They followed it with another song, which I think might have come from their first album, “Each Other All the Time”, and afterwards prepared for their next song. They chatted with the crowd a lot during the downtime between songs, and now Katlyn said they hadn’t planned to talk this much, and rather focus on playing as many songs as possible. It worked out well, though, and made them come across as being pretty personable. They tackled a few more songs from their new album, like “Seventeen”, portions of which were sung by both CJ and Katlyn, whose voices mixed together marvelously. I believe it was “Let It Down” that they did next, before switching things up for their last song, which was more percussion based, and had CJ adding some extra beats on a tom.
Cowboy Indian Bear left me thoroughly impressed. They have a solid indie/rock sound, and the multiple harmonies add an entrancing layer to their music. I know that is becoming a big thing in music now, but they don’t sound like they’re doing simply to conform or “fit in”, rather like that’s the direction their evolution has taken them. And speaking of evolution, there is a huge difference between their first record and this new one. They sound much slicker and more polished now, and at one point in the show Katlyn mentioned that they’ve spent the last three years crafting “Live Old, Die Young”. It’s believable, too, ‘cause you can tell a lot of time and effort was put into writing those song.
And in regards to the harmonies, every member has a great voice and is more than capable of singing lead on their own, so combined they made the band a force to be reckoned with.
Their calendar is pretty empty at the moment, but they do have a gig lined up in Brooklyn, New York on May 2nd at Cameo Gallery. And be sure to check out their records in ITUNES. “Live Old, Die Young” won’t officially drop until April I believe, however they were selling advanced copies on this tour. It’s worth the money, trust me.
Baskery followed them, and the trio of sisters had flown here all the way from Stockholm, Sweden.
Their set up was pretty minimal compared to the other acts, with Greta Bondesson sitting at center stage, surrounded by a few basic pieces of a drum kit, like a small bass drum, a tom, and I believe a snare, while a tambourine was rigged to pedal she could step on to play it. Sunniva Bondesson stood over on stage left, guitar in hand, and Stella Bondesson used an instrument you don’t see a whole lot of, and upright bass. I’m pretty certain they opened with a song from their “New Friends” album, “Shame and Dance”. They finished it, and the applause from the crowd quickly started. Everyone seemed pretty taken by their style of folk rock, as well they should have. And I know that if I hadn’t already been in front of the stage, I would have felt compelled to move up there after that tune. They talked with the audience for a second afterwards, and I think it was Sunniva who asked, “…Where is you all?…” One of her sisters then had a little fun with the comment, correcting her, “It’s where are you people.” They deserve props though, ‘cause for English not to be their first language, they spoke it very well, and there was no real language barrier anyone, the audience or the band, had to get through. Even their accents, while noticeable, weren’t all that thick, and disappeared completely when they sang. Sunniva then switched out her acoustic guitar for an electric, as they got ready to do a newer song from their forthcoming album, “The Shadow”. They did another song from it, which they said was about a plane crash, and while on the subject of planes, they asked everyone if they were afraid a plane crashing into one of the buildings, which they had been talking about, marveling at how tall some of them were. “…It’s a miracle that they don’t…” Sunniva said, before they moved onto “The Big Flow”. For a trio that lacked the “traditional” full band set up, these girls had already delivered an intense show, and they stepped things up even more with another track off the “New Friends” album, “Throw a Bone”. The three voices intertwined beautifully with one another, often dancing around each other, with one singing the lead, and the other two adding the backing vocals, which were every bit as strong as the lead. Upon finishing it, they mentioned that they were on their way to SXSW, also pointing out that this was the first show they had ever done in Dallas, and they were glad they could play on a more obscure night and still have an audience to play to. They offered up another catchy new one with “The No No”, which they said was a little bit of “Swedish soul”, and sadly, that brought them to the final song they had in their 36-minute long set, but not before talking with the crowd a little more. They shouted the other bands, naming Exit 380. “…I think that’s the name of our hotel.” Sunniva said, cracking a joke that no one really seemed to get. She noticed this and pointed out that no one was getting their Swedish sense of humor. “…I’m saying we’re staying with the guys tonight…” she said. They also revealed they have that stereotypical idea of Texas, by saying that when they think of Dallas, they think cowboy hats. You can’t blame ‘em, even people in other parts of the U.S. think Texas is nothing but farmland where everyone rides horses around, but that couldn’t be more further from the truth. “…It’s good to see Dallas has its funky areas, too…” Greta said. They then set up their final song, which they said was about their hometown and called “Out-of-Towner”. Now I wouldn’t have minded hearing a lot more music from their “Fall Among Thieves” record, but out of all the songs on it, I’m glad that was the one they chose to play. They started it with an amazing soulful intro, which was a mix of harmonies and Sunniva passionately belting out a line from the song, all of which was done a cappella. They then fired up the guitar, banjo and bass and ripped into the song, bringing their set to a fiery finish.
What a show. I had listened to their music after seeing they were on this bill and instantly became a fan, and live they were everything I thought they would be and then some.
These sisters are a well oiled machine, and I’d bet that family bond helps make them a little tighter than most bands. Each one has a superb voice, yet they all sound similar enough to one another that it’s not some drastic change when they switch up who’s doing the singing. And despite the instruments being scaled back in comparison to other bands, I guarantee you that these ladies makes just as much noise as a five-piece rock outfit does.
Check out their older album, “Fall Among Thieves”, and be on the lookout for their new record sometime this year. After hearing a few of the cuts from it, I’m rather excited to hear the full thing. You can also find a list of all their upcoming shows on their OFFICIAL WEBSITE, and if you live in Europe, they may be coming to a town near you this May through August.
Closing out the night was the bigger name hometown act, Fort Worth’s, Exit 380. Sure, I had just seen the band a few weeks before this, but I don’t see them nearly as much as I would like, so I was looking forward to seeing them again. Plus, they had dusted off some of their more rock tunes at that other show, and this one was going to showcase the bands current country sound.
As usual, their set began with the lead track from the “Townies” record, “Run For The Gold”, whose lyrics conjure images of a time long gone. Before their next tune, vocalist, Dustin Blocker, mentioned how much he enjoyed playing with touring bands. “…It’s like I was saying earlier, these bands wouldn’t be driving all the way from New York, or even flying overseas, if they weren’t good…” he said. I had never really thought of it in that sense until he made that comment to me earlier when we were talking, but that’s a very valid point. And come to think of it, I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen a bad touring act. Aaron Borden then started them into their next song, “Daddy Was A Freight Train”, by picking away at his lap steel guitar. Thus far it was just like the previous show I had seen, not that I’m complaining about that. I noticed the difference with the third song though, and I believe it was before that one that Blocker pointed out to everyone that they were going to be playing folk songs that told some little stories. He then busted out one of his harmonicas, playing it briefly, before he sang the opening line of “Little Trip” at the same instance that Jody McCauley came in on the drums. It was all done very precisely, making them out to be a very tight band, which they in fact are. Jeremy Hutchison switched out to an acoustic guitar for the next song, “Soul Burning Train”, and at the chorus, when it really takes off, it undeniable becomes one of the best songs in their arsenal. In the break between it and the next tune, Blocker talked about this odd Sunday night gig. “…Sunday night, who knew it was so much different from Saturday night…” he said. They moved on, and Jeremy busted out his mandolin for a few songs. The first was my absolute favorite newer song of theirs, “Missy Gardner”. “The old train depot was vacant of people. Their cars must have drove them away. But Sue is still standing with feet firmly planted, until my return she will stay…” Blocker softly sang on the more tranquil song. The lyrics are the best part of it, and while a lot of their songs do tell stories, I think it tells the best, or at least it’s the one I’m most drawn to. A track of theirs that was featured on a Hand Drawn Records compilation CD came next, but not after a little, shall we say, “mishap”. Aaron began his part on the electric guitar, but Blocker quickly pulled the plug on it all together, pointing out that he thought the guitar was in the wrong key. “…You can’t argue this…” he said, pointing at his harmonica, and even playing it again to make sure the guitar didn’t match up with. They tried it again after Aaron made some quick adjustments, and this time they were good to go on “A Song About Us”. “This next song is called Where Do We Go From Here?” Said Blocker, segueing them into another slower song, which still has a tight rhythm section supplied by Jon Hutchison on bass and Jody. While Jeremy swapped back to his electric guitar, Blocker brought up the fact that this was a school night, and made a remark that, that was something he hadn’t had to worry about in quite some time. He and Aaron then had a conversation, mostly off mic, but you could hear Blocker recalling his college days, then sounding like he was in disbelief that, that had already been about ten years ago. That banter gave the show a slight comedic element, even if that wasn’t the intention, and at least made me laugh a bit. At this point, it sounded like they switched the remaining two songs of their 40-minute set around, opting to do another one I was hoping for right then, and that was “Cajun Rock (A Violent Man)”. Live, it’s one of the more intense things they currently do, but it pales in comparison to an older gem of theirs that concluded their set. They went all electric for “Quid Pro Quo”, and even though the crowd had thinned out at this point, you could still feel the energy jump tenfold as they tore into the song, and it was an incredible note to end on.
As much as I liked the last show of theirs I saw, I missed hearing some of these folksy tunes, but I didn’t realize exactly how much until I heard them live this night. Sure, I like their rock stuff from years ago and would love to hear some of those back in the setlist one day, but all the songs on “Townies” make it one of the best albums Exit 380 has released over their nearly 14 year career. And even with the somewhat slower music, they still manage to keep their live shows rocking, and they should easily hold your interest.
So go ahead and check out their music for yourself in either ITUNES or BANDCAMP. The next few shows they have include a trip to Austin on April 27th, where they’ll perform at Maggie Mae’s. Then on May 11th they’ll be doing a hometown gig at The Wild Rooster in Fort Worth.
This was an incredible night of music, and those two touring acts I caught alone made it worth it, while Exit 380 was just the icing on the cake. In fact, this show was so great I chose to go to it over staying at home and watching The Walking Dead… That’s saying something.
Oh, and in just a few short days after this, I, too, would travel down to Austin to see what all the fuss about SXSW is about.
It was back to my favorite Deep Ellum haunt, The Curtain Club, this night, where, just like the previous night, a killer lineup of bands had been assembled.
Olivine was one of those bands, and I missed the first bit of their set, because I was out on the patio talking with Paco Estrada, who would later play.
I had never seen the band before, though I had seen their singer, Jake Mai, when he opened for People On Vacation last year, shortly before forming Olivine. I enjoyed the music then, but it was obviously not completely rounded, since it lacked a full band.
That expansion, and the use of electric instruments made all the difference this night. What I did see of it was an explosive performance of pop/rock music. Bassist, Jorge Garcia, and lead guitarist, Casey Hollyfield, put on a dynamic live show, and Jake certainly did his fair share when he didn’t have to be stationed behind the mic. They played several songs off their debut record, “Drift”, and even at one point brought things down, when Casey, Jorge, and drummer, Joe Bortscheller, left Jake alone to do an acoustic song. For their final song, they did the title track itself, “Drift”, which is easily the best song in their arsenal.
Their music is extremely radio friendly, and mines that vein of pop/rock. Usually, that’s a style of music I try to stay away from, simply because it sounds so generic now. Every now and then, though you see a band that can pull it off well, and Olivine is one of those bands. Sure, it may not be groundbreaking, but it sounds good, and that’s what really matters.
Check out the “Drift” record in iTunes. And while they have no shows booked at the moment, keep tabs on their OFFICIAL WEBSITE to find out when they do.
After them was Erik Chandler, who’s probably best known as the bassist of Bowling for Soup, and this night was doing his first show with his backing band. It consisted of Doug McGrath (formerly of SouthFM) on bass and Taylor Young (of Dallas’s hottest country duo, The O’s) on drums, while Erik played the guitar. Now, practically his entire 34-minute set was originals from his upcoming record, meaning I can’t elaborate with song titles like I typically do. After their first song, Erik made mention of the record, talking about how good it is and acknowledged that he has been working on it for awhile. “…And trust me, y’all are all very thankful for it…”, referring to the album, which was self-described as being one of the best records ever. After another original they did a cover of Elvis Costellos’ “(What’s so Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding”. “…If I wrote this song, I wouldn’t be here right now…” said Erik before starting it. It was a great rendition of the song, and they kept it pretty spot on, with the exception that it sounded like it was more up tempo. Afterwards, Erik thanked Olivine for opening the show, and People on Vacation for putting it all together. “…You don’t get this much rock anymore…” he said, a statement I didn’t find entirely accurate, especially after the show here the night before, which boasted three bands who routinely headline the Curtain. Point is, rock is still very much alive in Dallas. Anyway, they did another song that was about Eriks’ first car, and upon finishing it, he mentioned how good it was to be back at the Curtain. “…This was the place of cutting teeth…” he said, speaking of the early days of Bowling for Soup (whose plaque still proudly adorns the “Wall of Fame” in the venue). He continued, “…It’s like a family reunion, ‘cause almost all the same people still work here…” They did a couple more originals, before doing another cover, which I was unfamiliar with. “…This is another one I didn’t write, but I sure wish I did…” Erik said. Periodically throughout the show fans had been buying them drinks, and at this point, someone handed Erik a shot, which he couldn’t identify. He hesitantly drank it, and while I don’t remember what it is, he said he usually didn’t get along with it. It was too late to do anything about it, though. Before their final song, Erik set it up by saying it was one everyone could all relate to. “…We all have that one cunt that really fucked you up…” he said. It was called “Tonight’s the Night”, and it really was the best song of their set.
I was sure it would be good, but still, the most I’ve ever heard Erik sing is adding the occasional backing vocals on various BFS songs, which makes it hard to truly gauge anyone’s voice. However, Erik’s got a good set of pipes on him, and sounded quite great this night.
The music’s really good, too, and for anyone who is a fan of BFS, you’re guaranteed to like his stuff.
Check out his FACEBOOK PAGE to stay up to date with his goings on, and expect his debut album to drop sometime this year.
Next up was the headlining band, People On Vacation, which is of course the side project of fellow BFS member, Jaret Reddick, and co-founded by another Dallas musician, Ryan Hamilton.
This was a big show for the band, because not only were they celebrating the release of their latest album on CD (it has been available digitally since late last year), it was also Jaret’s birthday show. Jaret pointed this out before they even began the show, and mentioned he probably wouldn’t make it through the night sober. Joining them for this full band performance was Linus Dotson, AKA Linus of Hollywood, on keys, and Jaret pointed him out to the crowd. “…My boo flew in for this show…” he said, and continued by saying that since it was his birthday week, if Linus peed on anything this night it would be completely legal. Yeah, all that happened before they even played a song, which was proof enough that this was going to be an unforgettable night.
They began with “Prettiest Girl In The World”, which surprised me a little, because the last times I had seen them it was more of the closer, or at least fell later in the set. The upbeat, happy tune the song carries made it work well as an opener, though, and immersed the audience into their music. Like his band mate that played before him, Jaret mentioned how good it was to be back at the Curtain Club. “…We just played here…” he said, adding it had only been three days or something, referring to their show here which had barely been a month ago. They then did another song from their newest record, “We Are The Lucky Ones”. “Why can’t we just skip to the good parts. Read through the last page before start. I’ll raise one hand to the heavens, I’ll use the other to cross my heart and hope to die…” Ryan and Jaret both sang, with drummer, Todd Harwell, adding the well planned beats, that dance in between each line. The crazy banter continued after that song, and while shouting out all the other acts on the bill, Jaret officially named Eriks’ band, calling them “Erik Chandler & The Prima Donna Motherfuckers”. They joked about for a few minutes, having the audience laughing right along with them, before eventually busting out another fan favorite, “Back To Being Friends”. Upon finishing it, Ryan was put in charge of entertaining the crowd, while Jaret put on some chapstick. Before he had a chance to say anything, though, Linus chimed in, saying he’s told Jaret before that he thinks he’s addicted to that stuff, and needs to quit using it. “…It’s funny, because while he’s telling me that, he’s over there smoking a cigarette…” he said, speaking of past cases. They briefly debated if someone even could be addicted to chapstick, before discussing how they were going to start their next song. “…You start it.” Jaret told Ryan, who proceeded to strum his acoustic guitar. I had never heard them start this song this way before, but those chords on their own sounded phenomenal. Soon, Linus started in on the keys, which confirmed it was “Alone with You”. That one’s still my favorite POV song, mainly because of that one line, “…Begging for a pardon like a subject of a warden, like I burped up something and swallowed it again…”. I still think that’s pure genius. When it ended, Jaret pointed out that Ryan was the “Where’s Waldo of St. Patrick’s Day”, as he did have on a striped shirt, with green instead of red. Soon, conversation switched to Ryan’s parents, with Jaret saying he didn’t know much about Ryan’s dad, except, “…He helps with the Holiday Salsa. And he likes to weld…”. This led Ryan to tell everyone the best advice he ever received from his father. “Son, if you’re going to be dumb, then you need to be tough.” According to him, that was the best advice he got, and Jaret countered it with his. “My dad didn’t want to have the sex talk with me, so he just told me, “Son, keep it in your pants unless you’re going to the bathroom.” “True story.” He added. When they got back into song mode, they did another happy song from their first EP, “She was the Only One”. During that song, and the past few, a women had been going around taking pictures of the band with her iPad, and at this point, Jaret pointed it out, saying something like, “…Steve Jobs would be rolling over in his grave if he knew the iPad was being used to take pictures in the pit at a rock show…”. Linus then proved his wittiness, ‘His iGrave.” Brilliant (and quite possible true). Ryan was persuaded to play a song he wrote for Linus during one of their UK tours, aptly called, “Linus of Hollywood”. All though short, it was pretty humorous, and not bad at all for something that, at one time, was probably quickly made up. Another song of Ryan’s (a legitimate one) followed, and it was the song about searching for love, “Lonely Fish”. “So many fish in the proverbial sea, I wonder ‘round the world just hoping that you’ll bump into me…” he sang, the first line of this spot on tune. I’m still glad it made its transition into a POV song, because it was one of the best in Ryan’s catalog, and the full band sound just makes it that much better. The talk then turned to Christmas, when they mentioned that with the release of “The Summer and The Fall” on CD, it was like Christmas. “Play a Christmas song!” shouted one of the audience members. “You really want us to play a Christmas song?!” Jaret asked, and they all looked at each other like they were contemplating the idea. However, the closest they got was Linus playing the tune of one on the keyboard. They then brought things down ever so slightly with “Rainy Day”, and soon after followed it up with the perfect song, and one of their best, “Because Of The Sun”. I liked the little metaphor that made, simply saying that the sun will shine after any storm, and things will get better. “It’s Not Love” came next, and Ryan started the song. Almost immediately, Jaret peaked over his shoulder, looking at where the capo was placed, before putting his on the same fret. Ryan didn’t seem to notice, or if he did he ignored, but everyone else got a kick out of it. “…We just topped Coldplay with that one…” Jaret said when they finished, noting that nobody even had to drop all the cash that they would have to see a Coldplay concert. “…I wrote this next song in the shower…” Said Jaret, which prompted a look from Ryan and bassist, Beau Wagener, of, “Do I want to ask?” “No, not like that!” he quickly replied, which didn’t stop Ryan from asking him if he heard “…Hundreds of screaming children coming from the drain…” It wasn’t as bad as it first sounded, with Jaret saying he thought of it while in the shower, then penned it once he got out. The song was the rhymey, “I Get You”, which is a quick and nice little love song. Jaret began talking about his birthday, stating that the best gift he got was having a service come out for a whole year to pick up his dogs poop. They were then informed they had enough time for one more song, and Beau, Todd and Linus left the stage, leaving the two to close out their 60-minute long set with a more acoustic style song. It was a cover of Ratt’s “Round and Round”, which further proves the bands love for classic 80’s metal songs, which is typically what they cover. It was a very different take on it, yet it sounded amazing. It was the harmonies that really made the song, plus the slower pace gave it more of a somber feeling.
It was a pretty good song to end with, and it was another fantastic People On Vacation show.
With their hectic schedules, they haven’t played live much lately, and I’m pretty certain the last time I saw them was last May. So long I had almost forgotten how entertaining they are.
The mix of infectious pop/rock songs, with hilarious humor make them one of the only bands that encompasses every aspect of entertainment, and they’re bound to reel you in with at least one of those.
Check out the two records they now have available, both of which can be found in ITUNES, and keep a check on their FACEBOOK PAGE for future show dates. ‘Cause hopefully, if neither of them get too busy with their primary bands, they’ll be doing another People On Vacation show sooner rather than later.
They may have been the headlining band, but there was one more act after them, and it was the insanely talented, Paco Estrada.
Joining him was his backing band, which is yet unnamed, but is comprised of Scotty Isaacs on the piano, Joel Bailey on bass, AJ Blackleaf supplying the beats on a partial drum kit, and the newest addition, Nathan Parnell on an electric guitar.
They opened their 42-minute set with one of Paco’s newest songs, “American Girls”, which has a little bit of a folk sound to it, but also is a bit of a classic rock song. As that song came to an end, Paco kept strumming his acoustic guitar, transitioning them right into their next song, which sounded all too familiar. Personally, I think Pacos’ most current release, 2011’s “The Definite and Indefinite…”, is overall the best collection of songs he’s done to date, but over the last year or so, most of those songs have found their way out of the live set, including the gem, “Whiskey Kisses”. Well, tonight they had decided to dust it off, and I think it was largely due to Nathan on the electric guitar. Once they hit the chorus, Nathan’s guitar work really livened up the song, while AJ tore in on the drums. It suddenly became a full-blown rock song, which is something Paco hasn’t done in a very long time. “…Your sweet whiskey kisses, that’s what I’ve been missing. When you lose your inhibitions…” he belted out on the chorus, in his rich, soulful voice. They did another new one, “The Way I Love You”, and afterwards, Paco acknowledged a friend and fellow vocalist who was out enjoying the show. “Tim, when was the last time I got to sing for you?” he asked, speaking to Tim Ziegler. It almost made it sound like the next song was dedicated to him, which I doubt was the case, since it was the ultimate love song, “When We Were Made”. Seriously, you’ll be hard pressed to find a love song as powerful as that one is. After another new song, the enthralling, “She”, they did yet another song I hadn’t heard in a few years. It wasn’t an original, though. “We got any Deftones fans in here?” asked Paco, which got a rise from the audience. He mentioned something about knifes, then said, “… I’m Mexican, so I got a knife in my boot at all times…” As you might have guessed by now, they were covering “Knife Party”, which was often a staple back in the days of Paco & One Love. This was a little more rock version, though, but still the best part was just the way Paco sings the chorus, “…Go get your knife, go get your knife and lay down. Go get your knife, go get your knife, now kiss me.”, with the force he puts behind it making it nothing short of phenomenal. It had only been a few weeks since I had last seen Paco, but since seeing that show in Fort Worth, I had anxiously been awaiting this one, to hear the song they did next, or rather the cover they tack onto it. “This song’s about my dad.” Said Paco, as they started “Breaking Down”. The part about his father comes on the second verse, “…My father had a heart attack at fifty-eight. I never thought that man was built to break. He told us that if he went under, he didn’t want them to resuscitate…”After a couple more trips through the chorus, Paco looked at his band mates during a brief instrumental break, before jumping into the cover. “Did I disappoint you, or leave a bad taste in your mouth? You act like you never had love, and you want me to go without…” he sang. I’ll say it again, out of all the covers he’s added at the end of this song over the years, U2’s “One” is truly the best. He has a knack for conveying real emotion while he sings, and that’s at its best here, especially on the line, “…We’re one, but we’re not the same. Will we hurt each other, then we do it again…”, which is sung with a fiery passion, and personally, I think it trumps U2’s original version of it. At this point, they only had a couple more left, and Paco mentioned that they were “…All love songs, so they’re all slower tempo…” That held very true to their next song, and another classic I hadn’t heard in awhile, “I Will Never Let You Go”. Now they only had one left, and it was the routine closer, “Haunting Me”. “…I’ll pack my bags. I’ll put my heart in a box of letters from you I have. I’ll disappear and paint it black, and when the memory of my face begins to fade, I’m coming back…” Paco croons on the second verse, giving the song somewhat of an eerie vibe. This is another one where he usually adds a cover song on the end of it, and it is the Whitney Houston classic, “I Wanna Dance with Somebody”, which is a positive note to end on.
The difference between this show and the one I had seen before it was like night and day. Like I said, that electric guitar brought them to a whole new level, and while they still had the songs that were very piano based, the drums and guitar surged to life on others.
It brought everything to life, quite honestly, this is the best band I’ve seen Paco surround himself with since One Love disbanded in late 2010. So, hopefully this will be the band that sticks with him for awhile. I guess only time will tell on that.
However, while this band may not have any recordings, Paco’s catalog is extensive, and several of his older records can be purchased via BANDCAMP.
Their music was a great way to conclude the show this night. It’s just a shame that so few people stuck around, because, as I’ve said many times before, Paco is the most talented singer/songwriter in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Oh, and the incense they have burning during their shows makes it even more of an experience.
It was another killer night of music at the best venue in Deep Ellum, and if you weren’t there, you missed out.
Deep Friday’s were an institution in Deep Ellum back in the day. At least from what I hear.
The premise was you pay one flat cover of five bucks and then you have access to several of the venues in the area. It was a true collaborative effort, which is exactly what the scene (and any scene in general) needs.
But when the area hit hard times in the late 2000’s and the droves of people stopped going down there, Deep Friday’s was no longer economical, and was on its way out about the same time I was really getting immersed in the local music community.
Luckily, traffic down there is on the rise, so this night, five venues, The Curtain Club/Liquid Lounge, The Boiler Room, Wit’s End and Reno’s Chop Shop participated in an experiment to try to bring back Deep Friday’s.
My night began at The Boiler Room, where I arrived around 8:20.
Originally, Lindby was scheduled to be the opening band, but I for whatever reason they evidently fell off the bill, and taking their place was another Fort Worth based band, Animal Spirit.
When I walked in the quartet was probably halfway through their set, and were doing something different, having all four of them play percussion on one song, with guitarist, Andrew Stroheker, and bassist, Joe Prankster, playing some smaller drums, and frontwoman, Sam Wuehermann, did the same. They went back to the normal setup afterwards, doing a few more songs in a very interesting style of indie rock, and personally I thought they were at their best when Sam and Andrew were co-singing, like on “The Planets a Lie”.
What little I saw I enjoyed, and they piqued my interest enough I’d like to see them again and experience a full set from them.
If you go to their REVERBNATION PAGE you can listen to a couple of their songs, as well as keep track of their upcoming shows.
After them was a band I had seen for the first time exactly one month before, and I was looking forward to seeing them again.
The band I speak of is The Bright, who won me over last month at The House of Blues. They quickly started setting their gear up, and this six-piece pop/rock outfit needed every single inch of the stage, and still looked a little cramped up there.
They opened their set with the lead track from the “Objects of my Affection” album, “Save the Night”. It really showed off their more poppy side with the heavy use of the keys, courtesy of Eric Jenkins, but is also offered a good dose of rock at times, and vocalist, Julie Lange, writhed around in perfect synch with some of the heavier drumbeats Robert Yahne cranked out. The seductive “Serpent” came next, and one of only two cuts they did from their 2008 debut record. In between the first few songs they tried to work out all the little kinks, like getting the levels in everyone’s monitors adjusted properly, while Julie made some small talk with the audience. When they were ready to roll again, they did “How I Feel”, then another upbeat pop number, “Over and Over”. Once they finished it, Julie mentioned they had a music video for it, which could be found on their Youtube channel, and she rattled off the link, which ended with the number “1”. One of the bands guitarists, Kell Curtis, was off mic, but you could hear a small part of the joke he made, saying something like the number in the link should have been “sixty nine”. Julie then announced the title of the next song, which was “Deep Fall”. “…It’s based on a true story of a painting.” She said right before Kell and fellow guitarist, Taylor Tatsch, started the tune. It was a highlight of their set, as it does an excellent job of showcasing Julies’ voice and the impressive range she is capable of. “10 Hearts” came next, and upon finishing it, Julie talked about they had so much fun dusting off an older song at their previous show, that they thought they’d do it one more time. It was supposed to be one of their final three songs, but then they found out they had enough time for only two. Julie was optimistic, though, saying something like, “…We’re gonna haul through these…”. I was glad they still decided to do “Cut Me Loose”, which made an impression on me last month, and again tonight it ended up being my favorite song of their set. It’s a superb song, and I really think/hope it makes a comeback to the current set. Afterwards, she admitted they probably only had time for one more song. “…On one hand there’s Charmed.” she said, which is their current single. Then added, “…On the other, there’s Kashmir.” It went up to vote, and not much noise was made for their original, making it a clear cut decision what they would play. Taylor, Kell, Robert and bassist, Miguel Fair, then tore into the Led Zeppelin classic. As odd a choice as it sounds, they actually do an incredible version of that song, and it was really the only way to conclude their 41-minute long set.
The Bring really something else, and they probably should have gone on later than what they did. After all, the showroom, while small, was still packed while they were performing. And not only did they have the fans out, but they commanded them well.
I’ll say it again, Julies’ voice is the most captivating aspect of their show. It’s remarkable, and the recordings on their records don’t quite do it justice. So basically I’m saying you need to experience it live. The instrumentalists are just as much an integral part of the show, though, with Miguel being a great bassist, and rocked out on the bass. Both Kell and Taylor are killer guitarists and add a lot of professionalism to the show.
Together, the six make a well-oiled machine, and are probably one of the most talented bands here in Dallas.
Check out both of their records in ITUNES, and keep an eye on their Facebook Page to see whenever they have another show coming up.
I could have spent the whole night here at The Boiler Room. I don’t know who the next band was, but The Raven Charter and In Memory of Man were going on later, both of whom are fantastic.
There were other bands I wanted to see more, though, so I made my way across the street to see what was going on at Wit’s End.
I thought Daylight Industries might be getting ready to go on, but they weren’t. So instead of watching them rock out, I chatted with them instead.
Before I Am Warbird started, I exited there, making my way over to main street, where The Curtain Club lies.
The place was PACKED. The patio was teeming with life, and once I finally got it in it was almost hard to even move around.
I was hoping I hadn’t missed Night Gallery, and sure enough, I was one of the guys getting their gear on stage, meaning it was just a matter of time before their first Dallas show of the year ensued.
The guys were waiting, and as the curtain opened on them, they launched into their first song. It would seem that the new year has brought with it a new setlist for the band, and they began with “Crazy Brave”. It was a fun way to open the show, but I also really liked the tone it set. “The cage is gone and now you run. I can’t control what I’ve become. You think you’re brave but now you see the crazy beast that you’ve set free…” Patrick “Otter” Gonzales roared on the chorus, as guitarists, Jeremy Root and Jan Mage, quickly slashed away at their axes. With the song, it was like they were sending the message that this was going to be a no holds barred show, and warning the audience to get ready for it. Duckie then wound them immediately into their next song, with Jan soon letting loose on the intro of their lead single, “My Friend Pretend”. Those two tracks proved to be a lethal combination, and by the time they had finished their second song, I was really feeling it. Sure, I’m a diehard fan who loves the music in the first place, but it was different than that. They had made an exceptionally strong push right out of the gate, and almost instantly had every last person by the balls. Otter then thanked everyone for coming out, and everything like that, before saying they were going to bring it down a little with their next song. It was “Without Regret”, and I still don’t know how slow the song really is, though it has some softer parts. Like the short guitar solo, which finds Otter “shushing” the crowd at the exact moment most of the instruments fall silent. Duckie again segued them from one song to the next, and Jeremy proceeded to strum away at his guitar, leading them into “The Tide”. And, like the title somewhat suggests, there’s a great ebb and flow to it. Otter made some more small talk with the fans, pointing out their merch booth, noting they had CDs for sale that had all these songs on them. They also sell anything else imaginable, like, “…midgets… dental dams…” and all sorts of other items. At least that’s what Otter says, and it always makes me laugh. They got back to it with one of their most rocking numbers, “Separation Anxiety”, and I swear I love that song more and more each time I hear it. Some more swift drumbeats then brought them right into “Mr. Ripper”. That was a sign their set was nearing the end, which I thought surely couldn’t be right. They also had a technical difficulty during that one. Otters’ mic suddenly cut out, turning a portion of the song into an instrumental track, as he kept singing into the mic, and doing everything he could to try to get it working again. Nothing worked, so eventually he grabbed the stage left mic, signaling to the sound guy to turn it up. It didn’t look as cool as his standard microphone, which resembles one Elvis used, but it worked just as well. That found them at their last song of the night, which came all too soon. In typical fashion, Duckie counted them into “The Signal”, in English for the first series of drum beats, then Spanish for the next, with Jan, Jeremy, and bassist, Mikey Auringer, letting loose some notes in perfect synch. The intro for the song is long, but worth the wait, as it’s the bands most aggressive song, and, as usual, served as a great closer. In fact, I felt some similarities between it and their first song, which I thought made each one a great “book end” so to speak.
Believe it or not, all that rock transpired in a mere 29-minutes, and in that short time they were able to pack in just as much rock as they do when they have nearly twice that much time.
Yeah, I hated that their set was cut short and there were a few fan favorites that they didn’t have time for, but still it was a stellar show. In fact, this was one of the best Night Gallery shows I’ve seen, second only to their CD release show last June.
They were all on top of their game this night, which I think further helped them make the most of their time on stage. Also, this was the first time I had seen the band with Jan as their guitarist, and only the second show he had done with the band.
He’s a skilled guitarist, which was obvious just by watching his playing, and there were a few songs he took some of the lines and started riffing, which made the songs sound even better than they already do.
If you haven’t seen a Night Gallery show yet, you’re really missing out. They put on one of the most fun live shows of any band here in the area, and you can’t argue the fact that they rock out with the best of them.
Pick up the bands album, “Loud As the Sun” in iTunes. Those songs have been staples for years now in their shows, but before long, you can expect them to unleash some brand spankin’ new music on their fans. The mere thought of that already has me excited. Also, they have one show on the books at the moment, and it’ll be over in Shreveport, LA at the Riverside Warehouse.
It’s hard to beat Night Gallery, but Early Pearl was poised to be every bit as good, if not even better.
It had been four long years since I last saw Early Pearl, with the group quietly going their separate ways in late 2009. No grand farewell show or anything, they just slipped away.
Then, last December, there was a reunion show (which I regrettable missed), and that show has led to the band getting back together.
So, to say I was excited about this would be a serious understatement.
As the curtain opened on them guitarists, Chris Jackson and Ryan Maynard, and bassist, Chris Ivey, cranked out some random notes, while Bobby Primm supplied the beats, and as that was going on, vocalist, Bishop Booker, slowly walked over to center stage. You could feel the excitement in the air.
Turns out, that even after four years, some things don’t change, like their opening song for instance. The random chords were suddenly whipped into “Get Out”, and Bishop belted out the first line of it, “You think you got me where you want me, my man. But I see right through all the shit that you spread…”. It was an electric opener, and certainly got my adrenaline pumping as I wondered what else they would they pull out. They had a couple more planned from their “This Is” record, one of which was “State of Affairs”, and during it, Jackson tore off on a blistering guitar solo, that lasted just long enough to add a great texture to the song, but not seem over the top. It wound down, but Jackson patched things right into their next song which was “Breakdown”, and honestly, I was a little surprised to hear it. By their standards, it’s a slower song, and saw Bishop doing some serious crooning, while Chris, Maynard and Jackson toned their playing down, before coming alive on each chorus. Jackson stole the show during it, though, and his passionate solo was the true essence of the song. During the break in between songs, Bishop mentioned how good it was to “be back home”. “…This was where it all started for Early Pearl…” he said, surveying the crowd, which included some on lookers in the upstairs area. Before their demise, they were working on a new record and had plenty of songs written, which had also found their way into the live set. Now, it was time for some of those tunes. There was only one I remember from back then, and that was “This Time Around”, which Bobby promptly started. It was as badass as I remembered it being, and is a rock song through and through. Unlike most rock songs, though, there’s a short line where Bishop pushes his voice into a fairly high falsetto range, and nails it. I believe it was “Hindsight” that they did afterwards. Regardless of what it was, it was a beast of a song, and Maynard and Jackson owned their parts, with the guitar notes being a beast in their own right. Before moving on with their next song, Bishop mentioned how this show was somewhat of an “accident” (originally, they were booked at another Dallas venue, before getting bumped in favor of a national touring band). “…That’s okay, I like accidents…” said Bishop, who again stated the bands love for the Curtain and how glad they were to be there. The catchy and semi melodic “Sooner Or Later” followed, and when they finished it up Bishop re-hydrated himself a little. “Hey Bishop, what’s with that water shit?!” a fan/friend yelled at him, as earlier he had said something to the effect that they’d drink whatever shots/drinks anyone wanted to buy them. “What’s with this water shit? It’s called it’s fucking hot as hell up here…” he retorted. Soon they burst into “Letting Go”, and around halfway through it he grabbed one of the water bottles he had, and threw much of the water onto the crowd, eventually tossing the bottle itself into the crowd. It only got better though, and after Bishop stood back to back with Chris, while he rocked out on his bass, he walked towards the front of the stage. “If I fall on y’all, will y’all catch me?” he asked, then turned around, back facing the audience, and fell onto the crowd of people. They caught him fine, but he didn’t get back on stage quite as gracefully. “Fuck it, I’ll sing the next song like this if I have to…” he said, right when as got back on stage. They launched into “Say It” right after that, which is their heaviest song, and also the one that’s probably most in your face. It finds Bishop screaming at times on the chorus, which he addressed once they finished it. “…I bet y’all didn’t know a black man could scream like that, did ya? Usually it’s only when I’m running from the cops, but that’s a different story…” he said, making a joke which I don’t think got all the laughs it deserved. They were down to just one last new song, and it was so new, no one outside the band had heard it until this night. “…I don’t even have a tile for it…” said Bishop, right before they started it. It was another hit, and it’s also one of the first songs that Maynard has got to put his touch on, since, as Bishop put it, “…He’s the new kid on the block…”. You wouldn’t know it by watching him, though, and was incredibly cohesive with his band mates for this to only be his second live show with them. It was time to start winding things down at this point, and the rock outfit had saved their best for last. I was starting to wonder if my favorite song of theirs would be played or not, and then Jackson began “Turn”. From the first time I listened to it on Myspace (yes, Myspace), I loved it, and it was the lyrics that really drew me in. Like this line from the chorus, “…Does it beseech you to know my face?” That made my night, but they had one song left in their 44-minute long set, and it would be the icing on the cake. It had been so long, I forgot they did a short prelude to “This Is”, helping set up what is the perfect closer, and even if the lyrics are meant in a different context in the song, the line, “…This is goodbye…” offers a good deal of finality to the performance. As it came to an end, Bishop stood at the helm of the stage and saluted everyone, before turning the salute into the rock sign, as he again thanked everyone for coming out.
They did encounter a few problems at the end, when the mic wouldn’t stay in properly, but Bishop worked through it, holding the mic so the cord was pressed in there tight. Aside from that, this was as solid and flawless a show as you could ever expect to see.
I never saw Early Pearl much back in the day, due mainly to age restrictions at some of the venues they played. Despite that, though, they were always one of my most favorite local bands, second only to The FEDS. And now I remember why.
Just like that other now long defunct band, Early Pearl packs an arena sized rock show into an intimate club setting. Seriously, you’ll be hard pressed to find a band that can outperform them, and is what’s truly remarkable is the fact that with only one show back in nearly four years, they’ve still retained “it”. And if they did get rusty in that time off, they did a damn fine job of polishing it up.
Even bringing a new member, Maynard, into the fold hasn’t affected them… At least not in any negative ways. It’s been over half a year since the last time I saw him shredding on the guitar, so it great seeing him back on a stage, and he really seems like a perfect fit for these guys.
Chris, Jackson and Bobby are the ideal musicians, both in skill and presence/showmanship on stage, while Bishop has the rare ability to command everyone’s attention without ever having to ask for it.
THIS is what a band is, or at least should be, and even though there’s a ton of talent here in the D/FW music scene, I’m glad a veteran band has decided to get back in the mix, because you just don’t see many bands of this caliber.
Now, for anyone who is unfamiliar with Early Pearl, but you want to listen to their stuff, you’re in luck. Their debut album, “This Is”, can be downloaded for FREE at their SOUNCLOUD PAGE. Not only that, but you’ll also find some live cuts of several of their new songs. Also, they’ll be doing another rock show on April 13th at The Boiler Room. Don’t miss it.
The House Harkonnen was the final band up at the Curtain, but I’ve never been a big fan of the bands more hardcore sound. I did consider sticking around to give them another chance, but I had gotten sick a couple days before this, and had expended what energy I had much earlier in the night, so I just decided to call it a night and go get some rest for my return trip to the Curtain the following night.
As for Deep Friday, from the fan perspective, I’d say it was total success. I loved seeing so many people down there (particularly at the Curtain). It gives you hope for the scene/community, and it’ll be nice to have Deep Friday’s back as a regular thing. Already for next month’s there’s talk about involving more of the venues (so long as no national touring bands are playing there), which could only make it better. Plus, next month’s (April 5th) will coincide with the Deep Ellum Arts Festival, which will have the streets packed even in the daylight hours. Yeah, the future is once again looking bright for Deep Ellum.
If you read my previous blog entry, then you might recall I said that, that show was a bit eclectic. While it was, it has nothing on the show that went down at Tomcats West this night.
Yeah, I made a VERY rare trip over to Fort Worth. Nothing against the city, but living north of Dallas means that logistically it’s just not convenient to get to. An exception was made for this show, though, which featured two of my favorite area acts.
The first act of the night was an acoustic duo by the name, Myrick. I believe that was the last name of the singer of the group, who played an acoustic guitar and was accompanied by another acoustic guitarist (or maybe it was a bassist. Honestly, I didn’t pay much attention.)
With incredible subpar vocals, I quickly lost interest. Their set at least seemed to go by quickly, but by far the worst part of it was the end when he did a parody of Green Day’s “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)”. Obviously, it was set to the same tune, though he called his parody, “Don’t Cum In My Eye”. Evidently I’m still juvenile enough to find a bit of humor in that (and by “bit”, I mean a VERY minuscule amount), but no amount of humor could save it. It only lasted about a minute, before he abruptly stopped and said, “That’s it…”, then walked off stage. Oh, wait, I think I get why he only needed a minute to do the song now…
Meridian was the first actual band of the night, though they, or specifically vocalist, Tim Ziegler, looked a little different. He was without his long hair and beard, and was almost unrecognizable at first glance, looking more like he did when I first met him nearly seven years ago, when he fronted the band Darby.
“Re-digress” kicked off their 38-minute long set. Somehow, I didn’t notice right away when it happened, and then all of sudden I realized guitarists, Mark Sims and Shannon Nedved, drummer, Joe Maurer, and Tim were the only guys on stage. They handled it well, and didn’t act like they were down a band mate, finishing the song strong, and then Tim asked what was up with Chris Gentry. Apparently, he had broken the main string on his bass, which was what left him incapacitated for most of that song, and even a few minutes after. That meant Tim had to make some small talk, and he first mentioned they had played here a several months before and that they’d like to get back a little more often. That was about all the topics he had prepared. “…Chris, hurry up. This is getting uncomfortable for me…” he said, succeeding at being funny and sounding nervous. Chris finally rejoined them, having borrowed a bass from one of the other bands. They were then able to move on, and began one of their most rocking numbers, “All Hands”. They followed it with one of their newest songs, and afterwards took a momentary pause where Tim killed some time. “Listen, I don’t want anyone here tagging me in any shit…” he said. He proceeded to say that he was technically at work, and had taking time off to perform this show, meaning he couldn’t be drinking, and he didn’t want any photos to make it look otherwise. So, once that was cleared up, they tore into “Nights Like This”, which was pretty flawless, except toward the end, when Chris again had to leave with some bass issues. “…We lost our bassist again…” Tim said when the song was over. Mark said something, to which Tim responded, “Oh yeah, we don’t need him for the first part of this next song.” The current four piece then started “Starts and Ends”. “You told them all just what they can do. You got the shortest part of the straw you drew… I draw the curtain back and you take a bow. Did I catch you off guard or get it right somehow?…” sang Tim on the first verse. This was the first time I’ve seen them since getting their new EP, meaning this was the first time I really knew that song since they rewrote it over a year ago. I had missed singing along to that one more than I had realized, and it still stands out as my favorite Meridian song. Chris once again got back on stage pretty early on in that one, and stuck around for another newer song, “Lazy Eye”, which has a more dominant rhythm section. Tim couldn’t go without poking fun of the situation, and told Chris he might be getting a pink slip the next day, then said they might be in the market for a new bass player. Chris didn’t have a verbal retort to that, though he did act like he was about knee Tim right in the crotch. “Train” brought things down a few notches and perfectly showcases the bands softer side, as it is a beauty of a tune, but is still something you can easily rock out to. Tim announced they had one last song, a Mark played the first notes of “Hey Lover”, before Joe busted in on the drums, really getting it underway.
It was far from a perfect show, but Chris deserves some major props for doing the best he could in an unlikely situation. When he was on stage, he gave it his all as usual. It was just an unfortunate circumstance, and really, how many times have you seen a bass player break a string? I’ve seen nearly five hundred concerts over the years, and I can only recall one band who suffered from a broken bass string while performing.
Plus, Shannon and Mark put on a thoroughly entertaining show by themselves, so they were able to draw attention away from everything, and Tim is still one of the best singers and performers I’ve had the pleasure of seeing. Point is, in the end it worked out alright.
Give their debut, self-titled EP a listen, and if you like it, then buy it in ITUNES. And while they don’t have anything scheduled right now, keep an eye on their REVERBNATION PAGE, because they’ll most likely be doing a show sometime within the next couple of months.
A band by the name of Silhouette was next up, and they brought the people, which I took as a positive sign. I mean, if a band can pull fifty plus people, they have to be good, right? The answer is yes… But not to everybody.
I don’t know what the whole deal was, but this was billed as their “comeback show”, and from hearing them talk, it seemed like the band had been almost completely reformed since they last played. I don’t know what they were like before, but now, they were a very hardcore metal act. My interest was lost immediately, especially because their first song was lyrically rapped, in the vein of Linkin Park. If that’s what works for them, okay, but I felt it seemed like they were stuck in a time warp. I mean, that’s been done, many times over at that. Luckily, all their music didn’t sound like that, but with all the screaming, I couldn’t even pretend to like them.
Their set dragged on, and I was relieved when they finally finished.
I mentioned this was an odd billing of bands, and here is where it got really interesting. There are a couple of genres that could pull off playing after a hardcore metal band, like a hardrock outfit, or maybe even a rock group, but Paco Estrada and his band are neither of those. In fact, they’re the polar opposite.
Paco’s backing band looked mostly the same as the last time I had seen him, with Scotty Isaacs manning the keyboard/piano, and there was still a drummer, Irish, whose drum kit was fairly small, consisting mainly of a few toms and a snare. But then you had Joel Bailey, who has been added as the bassist. Along with Pacos’ acoustic guitar, it makes for some lovely music, but a type that quickly pushed all the metal heads out the door.
A lot of Paco’s newer stuff is making it into his sets these days, like the opener, “American Girls”. Over the last decade or so, Paco has written some real gems in all the various bands he’s played with, but that one is by far one of the best. There’s a certain amount of nostalgia the song conveys, while it bears more of a folk sound. I believe they followed it with another new song, though Paco has been known to play some covers too, so it could go either way. Next, I know for sure they did a cover song, doing a more minimalist rendition of The Cars, “Who’s Gonna Drive You Home Tonight?”. They do a mean cover of it, and put a pretty unique spin on a classic song. They ran through a couple more, with the first of those two really sticking out to me. I don’t think it was a cover, though it sounded like it could pass as one. I mean that as a compliment, because if it wasn’t, then it sounded authentic enough that it could have been written by one of the greats. As usual, some of Paco’s fan favorites had been saved for last, and he began to pluck away at the strings on his guitar, leading into “Breaking Down”. “You grab your shovel and your digging axe, ‘cause you have to be the first in line to bury the past. You put a smile on and try to believe it, but I know how much it hurts you to leave it…” he crooned. This is also one he’s known for adding portions of cover songs to, one of the best of which I’ve always thought was a Peter Gabriel song he used to tack on, but tonight, I think I found a new favorite. After one of the later choruses from his original, Paco belted out the chorus of U2’s “One”, “…You say, one love, one life when it’s one need in the night. One love, we get to share it, leaves you baby if you don’t care for it…” There’s always a deep passion in Pacos’ voice when he sings, but it seemed magnified on this song. It bleed out onto his voice, especially on the line, “…You say love is a temple, love a higher law. Love is a temple, love the higher law. You ask me to enter, but then you make me crawl. And I can’t be holding’ on to what you got, when all you got is hurt…” as well as the chorus that followed. I was awestruck. That was one of the most amazing cover songs I have ever heard, and I know this may sound like sacrilege, but while I have never seen U2 live, I can’t imagine Bono could make his own song connect with and touch the audience the way Paco did this night. It didn’t seem like they had been up there anytime, but already they had arrived at the final song of their 38-minute long set, “Haunting Me”, which featured pieces of another cover song, “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” by Whitney Houston.
Paco’s music has gone through a lot of changes over the years, from playing with rock bands, to spending some time as a solo artist, but hopefully this latest band of his will stick around for a little while. Together they make what is probably the most unique sounding band Paco has had since One Love, and it’s different than most any other type of music out there. It’s gorgeous, and will most likely take your breath away.
Paco has a ton of records from his past, most of which can be bought via BANDCAMP. As for shows, I know he has one coming up on Saturday, March 2nd, where he will play at his old Dallas stomping grounds, The Curtain Club.
After a strange musical combination like that, going from a metal band to a very chill mostly acoustic act, it only made sense to wrap up the night with one final rock band, which was Awake in Theory.
Terry Kimmel began the band show with some hypnotic chords on his guitar, while he walked around the stage. After a minute, Eric Hawkens, who was out of sight, started singing, and eventually made his way on stage from stage left. Soon after was when their first song, “Barely Breathing”, really took off, as drummer, Raymond Chambers, bassist Adam Garcia, and the rhythm guitarist, Brad McCain, joined in. The song is fantastic and one of my favorites of theirs. It also works as a great opener, easing you into it with its slower start, and before you know it, they’ve hooked you. They proceeded to reel everyone in with songs like “Let Go” and “Playing the Victim”, but unfortunately, “everyone” wasn’t as many people as they deserved to have watching them. Like I said, the metal heads had left during the previous act, and now it looked like the only people who were still there were ones who were already Awake in Theory fans. Eric pointed out that, that wasn’t a problem with them, though. “…We’re just happy to play music…” he said, “…Especially when we get to play after Paco Estrada…” he added. They got back to the show with “Dangerous”, a song that saw Brad tear off into a killer guitar solo. Raymond pounded out a brief drum solo before their next song, “Innocence for the Innocent”, followed by their anthem of sorts for anyone serving in the military, “Hero You Hate”. Before starting it, Eric asked everyone to thank anyone they knew who was in the service, and then he mentioned something else. “…For anyone whose seen an Awake in Theory show recently, you know my brother was deployed.” He said. “Well, he’s home now…” You could tell he was excited and relieved by that, and for good reason. That tune is another highlight of their shows in my opinion, and once it was done, they cut loose a bit. Eric mentioned that they come from all over the area, like Frisco. “…He’s from Bowie…” he said, pointing at one of his band mates, quickly following it with something to the effect of, “I’m sorry, it’s not nice to say anyone’s from Bowie.” That got a laugh from all of their fans who had stuck around. Topic of conversation then switched to Raymond, who drives down to all of their shows from Lawton, Oklahoma, and Eric jokingly said he was the one they needed to work on and get to move here. I believe it was this next and final song that they said they would be recording soon, with work on an actually record to follow shortly after. It was “Daddy’s Little Girl”, which will serve as their lead single, and it capped off their 36-minute long set.
It was a great set, and personally, I thought they were better this night than a couple weeks before when I saw them in Dallas. They didn’t let the lack of a crowd affect them, instead putting on a show like they were playing in front of forty to fifty people, like any professional band should.
They were fun and lively, with everybody carrying their own weight. Adam really brought it this night, and owned it on the bass, while Terry and Brad also often stepped up to the forefront of the stage, taking over the spotlight and shredding on their guitars. It was just very well balanced, and also, they know how to work the audience and get everyone excited.
Their next show is going to be at Trees on Sunday, March 24th, where they will open for Adrenaline Mob and Nothing More. It will probably be at least one of the biggest shows they’ve done to date, and I’ll be willing to bet they’ll be even more intense than usually at that one.
They offered a great way to end the night, and despite me not really caring for a couple of the acts on the bill, this show was still well worth the drive to Fort Worth.
This made for my third straight week going to the Curtain Club in Dallas, and it was no doubt going to be a great show this night.
To set it up, there once was a band by the name of Advent. I heard of them shortly after I was introduced to the local music scene. They were pretty big as far as local acts go, and while I did buy their album, I never made it out to a show before they called it quits.
Well, tonight Advent was returning to the stage and their Deep Ellum home for a one-time only reunion show. Making it even better was the fact that several great bands had been tapped to open for them, beginning with one I had not heard of before this,the Denton based, Idler.
They busted into the first song of their 30-minute long set, “Vendetta”, which immediately utilized the bands most unique feature; their two vocalists. Both Micah and Katie sang the majority of the song, often harmonizing with each other, adding a beautiful texture to what was an explosive rock song. They switched that dynamic up a bit with their next song, “Go for Broke”, which was more co-sung. Micah stood at the front of the stage while he sang the verses, then would switch spots with Katie, who had been hanging back by the drum riser, as she approached the crowd to sing the chorus, “Go for broke and see there’s nothing left to do…” The followed it with “Let Me In”, and then another newer song, which I believe was the one that Katie left the stage for. She could certainly hold her own up there, but I thought it cool that one song painted them in a more “typical” rock band spotlight, and guitarists, Jeff and Mykey, bassist, Nick, drummer, Eric and Micah really threw down during it. “Lose Control” was a real standout from their set, and was another duet of sorts, only it found Katie taking over lead vocal duties. “This next song’s called Pitchfork.” Micah said, leading them into the tune, before doing one last non-album track, titled “Cigarette”. They weren’t quite done, though, and had one surprise/trick up their sleeves. It’s no big surprise when bands do cover songs, however, there are some songs you never expect to hear a band cover. Idler was doing one of those songs, and it was the iconic Kenny Logins track, “Danger Zone”. Nick, Mykey, Jeff and Eric added a lot of grit to it, making it much heavier than the original version from the 80’s, catapulting it to more of a hard rock style. The dueling voices switched it up even further, and it was sung in the same format as their second song this night. It was quite a shocker at first hearing them do that, but there’s no doubt that they have made that song into their very own, placing a very distinctive mark on it, and it was a hell of a way to end the show.
To be the first band, and also one I had never really heard, I was thoroughly impressed by Idler. Their stage presence was on par with the other two current local acts that would follow them, and was quite fierce. Again, I love the two voices, which are really what separates Idler from most other bands, with Micah solidifying the fact that they are a harder rock outfit, while Katie gives it a more serene vibe. And even when one wasn’t adding any vocals to a song, they still rocked out to it, moving around and thrashing around slightly to the drumbeats, still being a part of it all, instead of simply standing there, waiting for their next line. I don’t want to exclude or count out the instrumentalists of the band, though, who were what made the show. Nick, Jeff and Mykey were constantly moving around the stage, shredding on their respective instruments, which really brought things to life.
They made me into a fan for sure, and I look forward to seeing them again. Speaking of which, they have a couple shows lined up at the moment. One will be on March 2nd at O’Sheas in Husrt, Texas, while the other is March 23rd at Andy’s in Denton. And if you go to those shows, you’ll be able to pick up a copy of their debut EP.
They proved to be an excellent start to the night, much better than what I was expecting, but things were about to get a lot better…
The Circle was the second band up, and personally, I was most excited about seeing them this night.
Their first song is becoming one of my favorite Circle jams, and it’s a good way to thrust the audience right into the onslaught of heavy, intense hard rock that is to come. And believe me, their shows get intense. After that opening number, frontman, Don Mills, expressed his excitement of being on this bill. “…Advent was one of my favorite bands…” he said, reminiscing about days gone by, in which he said he used to see them quite a bit, and was thrilled to finally get the opportunity to do a show with them. It had only been a month since I last them, but there were some big differences/improvements between then and now, namely the transitions from song to song. See, as Don wrapped up his thoughts, guitarists, Craig Nelson and Alan Sauls, as well as bassist, Kenneth Henrichs , played some light notes, leading into “Beggars Can’t be Choosers”. A newer song of theirs came next, which Don mentioned the title of, and if I heard him correctly it was “Wanted”. Once the group finished it, Don led a toast with the audience, toasting to local music. “…Local music is by far the greatest music that no one’s ever heard…” he said, which is all too true. The perfect segues continued, as they built up to “406”, which begins with some sweet guitar riffage. “Can I get an amen?!” bellowed Don, while that was going on. The crowd (at least some of them) obliged, shouting, “Amen!”. That’s one of their heaviest songs, with Don showing off a little more primal side of his voice, with some serious borderline screaming going on at times, but that’s also what makes a highlight of the show in my opinion. Marc Berry launched them into their next song, “I Am”, with some steady paced beats on the drums. They ran through another sweet new song, before getting to the oh so impressive, “Skeptical”, during which Kenneth added some backing vocals, which helped make the song. “What are you doing here? You look lost! You’re not from around here are you?!…” Don roared on the chorus of “My Trip to the Desert Sucked”, before they got to “Somewhere”, which ends with some killer notes courtesy of Craig. Their 39-minute long set was drawing to a close, but Don wasn’t going to let it end without giving a shout out to Keith Higgs, of WK Productions, who had put this entire show together. Topic of conversation then turned to their single, which dominated the charts on 97.1 The Eagle for six straight weeks, at which point it had to be retired from their voting competition. “…This is your song…” said Don, speaking to all the fans. That of course gave it away, as they tore into “Sleep On It”, the best song in their arsenal, and it’s worthy of being their first official single.
This was the best Circle show I’ve seen, and I’d be willing to bet the best one they’ve done to date. Those transitions may seem like a subtle difference, but they made a colossal difference in their show and the overall professionalism they radiated. Even though they never bled one song right into the next, it still helped and made them appear very on point… Not that they weren’t before this.
The performance they put on is something else, and Don emits an overwhelming stage presence that is bound to draw you in, regardless of if you like their genre of music or not. This may still be a newer lineup for the band, but they are quickly ironing out what few wrinkles they have left, and tightening up in every conceivable way. So, if you haven’t heard of the Circle yet or seen a show, go fix that, because they are one of the best bands currently in D/FW.
They’ll be doing a VERY rare acoustic show this Saturday, February 23rd, at the Liquid Lounge in Dallas. Also, on Thursday, March 14th, they’ll be performing at the Hard Rock Cafe in Dallas. It’s the semi-final round for the Hard Rock Rising Competition and they’ll need as many fans as possible to come out and support them. They only have that one song (their single) released at the moment, and you can purchase it in iTUNES. But, to ease your wait while they work on an EP, they have some live cuts available for FREE download on their REVERBNATION PAGE.
The Circle seemed hard to top, but if any band could do it, it would be the next one, Serosia.
The curtain opened to reveal frontman, Lucas D’Agata, standing at the center of the stage, head bowed and hands behind his back. It was oddly calm for the group, as guitarist, Joseph Kuban, and bassist, Derek Troxell, stood on either side of him, also making no movement. But that peacefulness wouldn’t last long…
Joseph lit into his guitar, with he and Derek alternating riffs, as they fired up “Silent Weapons for Quiet Wars”. Once Anthony D’Agata came in on the drums, Lucas broke the tranquil demeanor he had, going wild as he proceeded to thrash around the stage. Yeah, that was more like what everyone expects out of Serosia. The pushed on with their 38-minute long set, and rounded things right into their next, “The Room”, which was one of the most extreme of their set, with Lucas screaming a large portion of the lyrics. While I’m not usually keen on stuff like that, Lucas makes it sound good, plus it fits well with the music. After a quick pause to introduce themselves and thank everyone for coming out, Lucas stated that they were going to play some songs from their new album, “Variables”, beginning with “Friendly Fire”. Anthony quickly launched them into the beast of a track, and they didn’t get much chance to catch their breath upon finishing it. “Let’s keep this motherfucker going!” shouted Lucas. “I am concealed. I am in no way…” he sang, which prompted the fans to erupt with cheers, realizing it was one of everyone’s favorites, “Criminal”. They were far from being done with their newer stuff, and had saved one of their strongest songs, “Superposition”, for right now. It fit better in the middle of the set, instead of being the closer like at the previous show of theirs that I saw. Here it helped continue the epic flow they had created, further exciting the audience, some of whom had started a mosh pit, and towards the end Lucas got some crowd participation, having everyone shout out the line, “I feel a war!…” a few times. It has only been about five months since they released their latest EP, but Serosia is one of those bands that’s always working on new material. Proving that was a song that they unveiled this night, called “Reduced to Memory”, and I dare say it was one of the best tunes I’ve heard these guys do, which is saying a lot. The mood was lightened a bit with “The Architect”, and I say “lightened” in the sense that it is not as heavy as some of their other material, which made “Sway” a good follow up for it. At times it’s a balls to the wall rock song, but it’s filled with some softer moments, like when Lucas softly croons, “…You have the power to fly but you fail to try…”. That brought them to their final song of the night, which Lucas mentioned came from their “Perspective And Balance” EP, which, along with their other records, could be bought over at their merch table after the show. The song was “Ventriloquist”, which is similar enough to their opening song that it made the two seem like bookends, and made for a fitting end to what had been an astounding set.
I’ve seen Serosia a few times now, and personally, this was the best shows I’ve seen them do. As far as performances go, you’d be hard pressed to find a band in North Texas that can one up them, let alone even hold their own against them. Hell, you could probably broaden that view to include most national acts and it would still stand true.
They put it all out there, giving 110%, and that’s obvious if you see one of their shows. You can’t even say that one is a more fierce performer than the others, as Joseph, Derek, Anthony and Lucas all bring an equal amount of energy to the show, meaning all of them are entertaining to watch.
Between their store on REVERBNATION and of course ITUNES, you can purchase all the music the band has released. And while they don’t have any shows on the books at the moment, keep an eye on their Facebook Page, because they’ll no doubt have something coming up in the near future.
That made for a fine night of current local music, but know it was time to get a little nostalgic and watch Advent. And for me, experience a Advent show for both the first and last time.
Before they started their set, vocalist, Brandan Narrell, welcomed everyone to the show. “…We’re still five fat guys who like to rock…” he said, before they tore into the first song of their epic set. Their first song sounded pretty, though it was a non-album track, so I’m clueless to what it was. Actually, the same goes for the next couple of songs. It probably shouldn’t have, but it kind of surprised me that they didn’t get right into the material from their album. But now that I think about, there are only eight songs on their record, which would explain needing more songs to fill the time. Like I said, I had never seen them before, and if I had, I would have known to expect this. After another one, Brandan kind of summed up the bands career by saying they set out to make a dent. “…And this…” he said, referring to all the people who had gathered there to see them, “…Proves we broke the windshield…”. That led them to a slightly slower song, which I think was titled “Bringing Me Down”. To be a softer song in comparison to their other stuff, they pulled it off well, and it sounded outstanding. It became apparent early that their set was going to be filled with some crude banter, so if anyone was easily offended, you were at the wrong show. For example, after that song, Brandan said something like, “The girls of Texas have the biggest tits and the tight slits, and the guys have the biggest dicks…” With that, they did a song called “Gone Again”, which led them to a very unexpected cover song. This hard rock outfit had picked a Phil Collins classic, and proceeded to perform “In the Air Tonight”. Guitarists, Josh Sanders and Derek Sanders, and bassist, Vernon Greer, made it much more gritty than the original version, putting their own spin on it, but it still maintained the same vibe as the original. I was honestly surprised Brandan could pull off more of a falsetto tone, but he did, and rather well at that. They joked afterwards that they had written that song, getting a laugh out of everybody, and after talking a little more, Brandan worked their next song title into his speech. Now they were getting to the really good stuff, with the first track of their “The Lines of Healing” album, “Better Than OK”. I had been enjoying the show thus far, but it was with that song where I really felt it take off and when I got dragged into it. The drummer, “Sonic”, did a short solo before their next song, which got a unique intro. “…As you get older,” said Brandon, “You’ll find that if it’s a pussy or an asshole, it’s always caving in.” Josh and Vernon both gave him a look like, “What the hell?” He just shrugged, as “Sonic” got “Caving In” going. “Silenced” followed it, and then another song which I assume was an original, “What I See”. They had another cover song in the chamber, though, “Policy of Truth”, which was another that they left their mark on. “We wrote that one the first day we got together…” Brandan said when they finished, and couldn’t help but laugh while he said it. “…We just got in there and were like, “This will make a good song.”, speaking of the Depeche Mode tune. He continued by stating how proud he and everyone else in the band was to be from Dallas. He again thanked everyone for coming out and supporting the bands. He then let everyone know that because of this, people continuing to support the local bands, he knew that legends like “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott of Pantera, and Drowning Pool’s original vocalist, Dave Williams, would live forever, because they could never be forgotten. They got back to business with “Everything You Know”, which combined the best of both a ballad and a rock song, sounding like the former on the verses, before getting heavier on the choruses. With “Choices”, Vernon got add some backing vocals, or rather screams, which worked perfectly with Brandans’ smoother voice, giving the song a little dose of piss and vinegar. Upon finishing it, they were told their time was almost up, resulting in them ending their 64-minute long set with “Faceless”.
It’s a good song, but didn’t offer the right note to end on, and left me wondering if they really would come back, since it was already well after one in the morning.
Some people did clear out, but they missed out, as the curtain was soon drawn apart again, with Brandan saying they didn’t get back together for this show to short their fans. Once again he thanked everyone. “You all could have gone down the street to see Sum 41…” he said. Derek, Josh, Vernon and “Sonic” then broke into a few second clip of a Sum 41 tune, which was pretty humorous. Now they got to the song every single person there had been wanting to hear, and that was “Back Down”. That offered a more appropriate end to their show, but they weren’t done yet. They invited anyone they had every shared the stage with up on stage, and two notable people were there. One was J.R. Munoz of the band Overscene, the other was accomplished singer/songwriter, Christian Sly. “This isn’t enough people. I don’t care who you are, just get up here!” said Brandan, prompting many fans to storm the stage. “…C’mon, we need to get this tighter than a nuns pussy…” he said, which they eventually did. The stage was packed, so much so that each of the guys had just enough room to take a few steps. Closing out this 12-minute encore was what I guess was another cover song, and it sounded pretty good, especially with Christian and J.R. adding their talents to it.
That was a pretty cool end to their set, seeing this fairly iconic Dallas band surrounded by their fans as they left the stage for what was in all likelihood the last time ever.
I know I never saw them back in their heyday, but I think they were every bit as good this night as they were in their prime. The Sander’s brothers were great, especially Josh, who I’m familiar with from his current band, The Commotion. I think he cut loose more here, simply because Advent’s music is easier to rock out to. And for “five fat guys” as Brandan put it (which isn’t an accurate statement), who have been out of the game for awhile, they more than held their own against all the other bands on the bill.
This was really a great night, and I’m glad I finally, after almost seven years, got to see an Advent show. It was worth the wait.