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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Man, these guys were all too impressive.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Album Review: “The Dark” by Waking Alice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Purchase the album on:
iTUNES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, July 11th, 2014 – Ishi Gears Up for a West Coast Run; Leaves Dallas with One Big, Sweaty Dance Party

This was a big night for Ishi. It was their last North Texas show for about a month, and just weeks later they would be heading out to tour the West Coast.

What better place to have their sendoff show than Trees: a venue they have packed to near or complete capacity on several occasions in the past, and it seemed certain to happen again this night.

As usual when they play Trees, the lineup was made up of acts from all over the place in terms of style, beginning with opener Jenny Robinson and Bearcub.

“Thanks to all ten of you for coming out to see us!” Jenny exclaimed after the curtain had opened. Sadly, that wasn’t much of an exaggeration, and there were only a dozen or more people scattered about the venue. She informed everyone they were a producer and rapper duo — using Timbaland and Missy Elliot as an example — and introduced the handful of spectators to her male counterpart, Bearcub, who had a sort of bear suit draped over him. Perhaps robe is the better word to use, as it hung down below his waist, while a friendly looking bear head covered his own.

“This is our ode to Missy Elliot.” Jenny added, as they started a song that I would guess was titled “Supa Dupa Fly”. I surely wasn’t the only one who had reservations when she first said they were a rap and producer act. Granted, I’m not too familiar with many rappers in the first place, but off the top of my head, I can’t think of any white female ones (though I’m sure they’re out there). She quickly proved she has the skill set for it, though, and her rapping ability was off the charts. It was shocking at first, actually, ‘cause I don’t think anyone expected her to be spitting the words out at the speed she was; and Bearcub joined her, as they traded off here and there.

They may not have commanded a large audience, but they won over those who were watching with that first song, and their 28-minute long set continued as they went into another track. “I need some water.” Jenny stated afterwards, while Bearcub mentioned they’d take a quick intermission, and he readied the next track. It only lasted a few seconds, and once they were ready, he shouted, “For the next four-minutes, I’m gonna lose my goddamn mind!” He had shed his bear outfit by this point (I imagine it had gotten pretty warm with it on), and he did get really into the track; and handled much of the main vocals.

Jenny flashed her middle finger in the air for much of the following song, and as it ended, she asked everyone else to do the same. A few people then waved their middle fingers at her. The laughs then came when Bearcub said this next one was titled “Killing All These Hos” and as soon as he mentioned the title, he added, “Before you say anything else, we do not condone the killing of prostitutes. But if you’re a ho, watch out!” Jenny noted that they don’t discriminate, either, and it applied to both male and female hos. It wasn’t all that complex, but was quite catchy; and as Jenny said the last line, she tilted her head back and held the microphone above her mouth.

“Turnt up!” she shouted after another track, before Bearcub said this next song was dedicated to his ex-girlfriend. “Fuck you.” he said very matter-of-factly. In comparison to the others, it was a slower number, and Jenny showed off her singing skills a little, and she had a nice voice. Another cool part came at the end, when she wrapped the mic cord around her neck, then held the microphone up in the air, as if it were a noose.

Their set was almost over, and they had saved the best for last. Both of them flat-out killed it with their rapping, and at one point, Bearcub, who had once again donned his bear outfit, walked to the edge of the stage and just stepped off. The stage is probably a little more than four feet off the floor, but that didn’t faze him, and he began interacting with the crowd. He then climbed back on stage right about the time Jenny laid down on it, and began making some seductive moans.

“I’m Jenny Robinson, this is Bearcub. Together we are Jenny Robinson and Bearcub, and we love you!” she exclaimed with a smile on her face, making sure everyone who had been paying attention knew who they were before they left.

I’ll give anything a chance, but generally, I’m not a fan of rap music. This duo was awesome, though. They had the stage presence, the tracks were really good, and both of them were excellent rappers.

I really enjoyed it, and I wouldn’t be opposed to seeing them again.

Another duo was up next, but one who mined a completely different vein than that of the first act.

They were called Night Drive, and they had a very British indie pop / synth pop style about them. Maybe even a little new wave, too. That became very evident with their first song, which I believe was “Drones”, the lead track from the “Position I” EP. All their music was incredibly catchy; and Rodney Connell was handling the vocals, while Brandon Duhon played a guitar for much of the first half of their set, but was constantly mixing in some keys or electronic drums, and he had a whole little station set up beside him.

“Dallas, how are you doing?” Rodney asked during the song. They had a few more eyes on them than what the opener had received, and after that question was posed, those watching let out some cheers and applause. Already they had won over the hearts of some Dallasites, and they kept working their magic, doing some songs from their five-song “Position I” EP, and others that were not. A couple tunes later, Rodneys’ mic came unplugged, something he fixed just in time for the next line, and he and Brandon harmonized some on it.

“Alright guys, come a little closer.’ Rodney asked as they segued things right into their next track. The new fans were happy to oblige; and as it started, Rodney joined everyone. A box had been placed directly in front of the stage, and he stood on that, still allowing everyone to see him, before eventually mingling more with the crowd, singing with people or trying to get them to dance a little. He rejoined Brandon for the last bit, and then came the semi-dark “Nocturnal” (no pun intended). It was downright irresistible; and they bridged it right into “After Dark”, which again saw Rodney getting out amongst the people.

“For fun, we’re going to do a Radiohead cover…” he said afterwards, mentioning they would actually be releasing it the following Tuesday. He then dedicated the song to everyone who was at the back of the venue, hanging out by the bar. “Come up to the fucking front!” he shouted. The song was “Where I End and You Begin”, and he wasn’t lying when he said they did it differently. The electronic sounds that filled their original music were also showcased on this track, ensuring they left their mark on it.

They had gathered a slightly larger crowd with that, and people raved after it was finished. They then unloaded another original on everyone’s ears, and before their final song, Rodney mentioned that they came from both Austin and Houston. “This song’s called Sea of Light.” he informed everyone. Two small globes set on either side of the stage and had been used periodically this night, emitting light as they spun around; and they were certainly appropriate for that last song of their 34-minute long set. Then, at the very end, each of them grabbed a couple of confetti sticks, launching said confetti onto the crowd right as they hit the final chorus, “Colors collide in the sea of light…”

Night Drive was a surprise to many who showed up early, ‘cause I don’t think anyone was expecting a band with British flare. It was an awesome surprise, though. After all, I think that’s one genre many music lovers enjoy — certainly those who were here this night did.

For the time they had it, they owned the stage, and had a very professional feel about them. You knew just by the way they conducted themselves on stage that they had done this a lot, and put a lot of time and effort into making sure they were entertaining.

And they were. Actually, they were my second favorite act of the night.

They have some Austin and Houston shows planned all the way through September, and you can find out all the details on those on their TOUR PAGE. You can also buy their EP (they also have some remixes of songs available) on either iTUNES or BANDCAMP.

The main support act for the show was the Dallas-based Dark Rooms; a band I’ve heard a lot about in the last year or so, but had never seen. So, I was looking forward to finally seeing what they were like.

“Hey everybody, how’s it going?” singer and multi-instrumentalist Daniel Hart asked as soon as the curtain had revealed them. “We’re Dark Rooms.” he then added. He was wielding a violin for much of the first half of their 36-minute long set, and they gradually edged into their first song, which grew more climatic the further into it they got.

Daniel sang in a high falsetto tone a majority of the time, and it was absolutely breathtaking. Right from that first number they had everyone entranced, and more and more people felt compelled to come closer to the front and marvel at the group. However, much of my focus (especially on that one) went to drummer Bobby Lotfipour. He used to drum with Trebuchet (a band I saw more than a couple dozen times when they were still together); and it had been a little more than a year and a half since I last saw him in action behind a kit. I had forgotten what an impressive drummer he was, and he was killing in the latter part of that number, laying down the beats with ferocity, yet total ease.

Things got more lively when they wound that into “Give Up, Give In”. Rachel Ballard was playing a variety of instruments as well, from the keys to adding some additional percussion, while the violin soared higher than Casey Trelas’ guitar did on that beast of a song that had Rachel also mixing in some backing vocals.

They were living up to all the hype that surrounds them, and that violin sounded downright gorgeous on the following track. The instruments led them seamlessly from the end of that one into another, and the start was signified when Bobby began hammering away on the kick drum. Perhaps the best moment came when Casey and Rachel harmonized with Daniel, their combined voices having an ethereal quality.

That did it for the violin, and now Daniel placed it in a stand and grabbed his guitar, using it for the remainder of their 36-minute long set. One track they did had almost a jazzy, lounge feel at the start, and towards the end, Daniel, Rachel and Bobby all had the biggest smiles on their faces, obviously being happy by the fact that they were doing what they love.

They had been focused entirely on playing as much music as they could, but after another song, they stopped, and Daniel gave the standard speech for all bands, thanking Ishi for having them on the bill, and saying they did have some merch for sale at the back. Rachel was prepping the xylophone — making sure the mic was close enough to it. It was only used for a few moments of “Keep it Inside”, but gave a nice tone to it all. There were some electronic elements to that one, too, and live, it was utterly amazing and beautiful. I’ve listened to the recorded version since, and it sounds great, but it does not to the song justice.

Dark Rooms is certainly an interesting band. They’re a little rock, a little indie, a little pop, and thanks to the violin, there are even hints of classical found scattered about the songs (albeit in trace amounts).

They were dynamite this night, and caught the interest of many people who were somehow unfamiliar with them yet.

From Daniels’ unique voice, to the tight musicianship they all possess (Bobby really is an astounding drummer, and I’d swear he had only gotten better since I last saw him), it’s clear why they have built a good name for themselves in the area, and even beyond. However, the best thing was that they were simply having fun playing these songs for everyone. People picked up on that, and from the listeners perspective, it made them all the more enjoyable.

You can see them this week at Dan’s Silver Leaf in Denton on July 18th. They’ll also be making a trip to Raleigh, North Carolina on September 4th to play the Hopscotch Music Festival. As for their debut album, you can get it in either iTUNES or BANDCAMP.

I had started to wonder if Dallas really was going to come out and help send Ishi off on their West Coast tour, because all night long the crowd — in terms of numbers — had been lackluster. But towards the end of Dark Rooms’ set, people started making their way in. Hundreds of them, to the point that leaving the spot I had in front of the stage didn’t seem like a wise idea.

Of course, Dallas would let the electronic band down, and from front to back they had packed Trees out. Much of the audience even had their faces painted, something some fans do at nearly every show, but this night they were offering it free at the merch table. Nothing fancy, mainly just some lines on each side of a person’s face, maybe some dots, etc. Yeah, the Ishi nation is a diehard one.

“What’s up, Dallas?!” vocalist JT Mudd asked once the curtain opened. He was sporting one of his more eye-catching outfits, the one with long white cloth/robe that stretches down and covers most of his legs, while a separate piece covers his shoulders and much of his chest. It’s very futuristic and space looking; and, of course, he also had on the stunner shades that glowed in neon colors, along with a hat. “Let’s get this party started.” he said, a sentence people had been waiting all night to hear.

They kicked off their massive set with some classics, the first of which was “Our Time”. JT was grabbing his outfit and waving the cloth around in the air at first, before entering frontman mode as he proceeded to sing the first line, “Don’t let go of who you are…” They were joined by their latest female vocalist, Bettie, who lent her voice to various parts of the song before leaving, as they rolled it right into the next track on the “Through the Trees” record: “Come Closer”.

It had been a little over a year (their CD release show in May of 2013) since I last heard them perform it, and I was one of many people ecstatic about it this night. Jonathan Merla was laying down some nice beats throughout it, though he went unseen this night. A bar that formed a semi-circle stretched from one side of the stage to the other, and hanging from it were some balls (one on each side) that were flashing various colors, while several circles of different sizes filled the center, acting as a screen for the video they projected on it for much of the night. That was what prevented Jonathan from being seen.

Bettie returned, while JT called for the tracks to be boosted in the monitors, just as the one for “Mirror Ball Sky” fired up. “Mirror ball in the sky, heal us tonight.” JT sang, lunging forward as they hit the first chorus, casting his right arm out in front of him, as if to get everyone involved and having fun. Making it all the better was the small disco ball that hung from the ceiling of the stage, and the lights danced off it. They then bridged it right into the first of a handful of new songs, and it was another that heavily featured Bettie.

“…We’re about to hit the road and spread the word…” JT remarked during their first actual break, speaking of the West Coast tour they’d be leaving on in just a couple of weeks. Their timeout didn’t last long, though, and fans rejoiced as soon as they realized “Pastel Lights” was coming. It officially became a dance party with that lively, feel good number, especially towards the end. It was impossible not to notice the air cannons scattered about the stage. Two on either side of it and two more on both sides of the drum riser, and at the songs peak, confetti was shot into the air. It wasn’t large amounts, but still plenty to cover the crowd.

It was clear this was going to be one for the books.

JT then welcomed Becky Middleton to the stage. As far as I know, the last time she performed with them was at the Digital Wounds CD release show, and while she had been a mainstay with Ishi for awhile, she left to dedicate more time to her own music. It was good to see her back with them, even it was just for a night, and JT informed everyone in attendance they would be the first to hear this next song, called “Midnight Lightening”. It was a fantastic song. One of the best I’ve heard them do as far as their new songs are concerned; and Rocky threw in a sweet guitar solo, one that sounded pretty soulful. It neared the end, and JT started conversing with Becky (off mic). She was standing in front of one of the air cannons, and it scared her when it suddenly went off, causing her hair to whip around wildly, something she laughed off.

Suddenly, the track for “Moon Watcher” started, sending the people into a frenzy. It didn’t take long for that one to become a fan favorite, and peoples love for it has only grown within the last year. How could you not like it, though? It’s a beautiful love song, and apart from clapping along with JT and Becky, the crowd was also singing with him, “All the lives that I once knew never made sense till I found you…” “Let me hear you!” JT yelled in his softer voice at the final chorus, part of which was left entirely up to the audience. He took a bow at the end, placing the palms of his hands against one another to express his gratitude, before going back and grabbing a towel.

He hastily wiped the sweat from his face, then threw it out as their next song got underway, causing half a dozen or so hands to go up, hoping to get lucky enough to catch it. More confetti then spewed out of the cannons at the start, as this other new number was performed by the three core members of Ishi. Becky rejoined them for the dance inducing “Emotional Hard Drive”, and their latest single got folks quite rowdy, as many began jumping around. It was great, though, because their music is all about cutting loose. Between her and Rocky, they were adding some knockout backing vocals to it, too, which made it all the more extraordinary.

Bettie then returned to the stage, tackling the female vocals on “Touch The Future”, as well as another new one, which has the often repeated line, “Everybody wants to be a star…”. Confetti continued pouring down on people at different intervals throughout those two, and then the female vocalists once again swapped out. Becky still wasn’t safe from the blast of air, but it didn’t seem to catch her off guard as much now, and she continued shaking her tambourine to the beat of “Digital Wounds”.

They turned it into another clap along at times, and upon finishing it, JT left the stage, retreating to the green room. That put Becky in charge, and they dusted off what used to be a show staple: a cover of The Bangles “Walk Like an Egyptian”. She didn’t miss a beat, and now that she was the lead singer, her fiery stage persona really came out. The best part came at the final line, which she belted out with a passion.

JT then returned, having used that time for a costume change, and now was wearing a black shirt with a sort of floral pattern on it. They knocked out their final classic of the night, and when “Shake Your Dandelion” came to an end, he sang that last line, “Step into my world and I’ll satisfy you.”, and then pointed out at the spectators, who I think were feeling extremely satisfied at this point.

“How we doing, Dallas?!” he then asked, taking time out to chat for a moment, before they hit the final stretch of their 82-minute long set. Becky again walked on stage, showing off some dance moves on “Disco Queen”. “…Butter me up with your lovin’” sang JT, and as he did so, he took his left hand and ran it up his leg, eventually stopping when he reached his backside. “Rocky Ottley!” he shouted before again taking leave. That was Rocky’s cue to go all out, and ran to stage right and dropped to his knees as he started his guitar solo, before eventually falling to his back, shredding on his axe while he laid there.

Applause rang out, applause that quickly turned to cheers once “Mother Prism” began. JT walked back on stage. He now had his Native American headdress on, and as he approached the mic, he threw the vibrant red robe around him. He waited until the first break in the track to go back and get his shield, which, like the headdress, was illuminated in several different neon colors, which were constantly flashing on and off. He waved it around for a few moments, even using it to cover his face, before continuing, “It’s hard to rise above it all when everything is a pitfall…” As usual, the highlight came with the chant of “Aiyah, aiyay…”, which everyone was bursting at the seams to sing along with. It was as if he were a tribal leader, and the hundreds of fans who had gathered here were praising him. Jumping around also seemed mandatory for that one, and that pure delight everyone was experiencing quickly turned to sadness when JT said they had just one more.

“Let’s get funky.” he said; Bettie now standing to his right. The air cannons finished blowing their load during the lead in for “Slowly But Surely”, and JT suddenly had an idea. He raced over to one of them, propping his leg up on one of the monitors, appearing to be trying to achieve a Marilyn Monroe moment, but the air stopped right as he got up there. Bettie fully showed off her powerhouse voice when she sang one line; and as it got into the final minute or so, JT jumped off the stage. The crowd cleared room for him, letting him go where he pleased. He didn’t go far, though, and was just content standing amongst everyone, interacting with the fans as they all sang together.

Everyone had hopes that there would be more, but this is a band who very plainly says they don’t do encores. Extra songs, yes. However they don’t leave just to have a chant of their name started and then come back out. “…Can you handle one more?” JT asked, acknowledging that his band had left him. Rocky and Jonathan then returned.

“…We can’t tell you how much this means to us.” he remarked, before asking everyone to tell their West Coast friends that they were coming. Becky was back out there with them for their rendition of New Orders’ “Bizarre Love Triangle”. Singing along was highly encouraged, and it was easily one of the best moments of their set.

That fun jam would have been a fine way to end it, but the band showed no sign of moving. “Rocky wants to do one more.” JT said, before going back to the drums to help Jonathan find the track. They closed with one of the best songs from Digital Wounds, though one that has been worked out in favor over their newer material in recent months. Everyone was glad to hear “ISHI”, though, and considering this was their last hometown show before a tour, I couldn’t think of anything more appropriate to end with. Especially since one of the lines is, “We’re rolling on our dreams. I. S. H. I. is what mean…”. Quite a fitting way to close it out, and that pushed their set to just a little more than a hour and a half long.

Ishi always gives it their all. It be hard for them to be where they are now if they didn’t. But this night, they went above and beyond peoples normal expectations, which guaranteed this was a show that no one would soon forget.

Electronic music is something else I’m not always a fan off, but the music Ishi makes is undeniably wonderful. It demands you get into it and just have fun, and lyrically, the songs are either uplifting, or, as I said about the music, fun.

Add the always theatrical stage show to that mix, and you’re given a band who you can see countless times and still not be able to get enough. At least that’s how I am, and I know I’m not alone in that feeling.

Before going west, Ishi has shows in Houston and Austin. The former on July 18th at the Museum of Natural Science, and the latter will be at Empire Control Room on the 19th. Then, on July 24th, they’ll be in San Diego, California. They have a total of four shows around the state, and will also be hitting Washington state, Idaho, Colorado and Oklahoma, before doing a homecoming show at Lola’s Saloon in Fort Worth on August 15th. If you live in any of those areas, you can find more details on the shows HERE. Grab a copy of each of their LP’s, too. You can find them in iTUNES.

This was one helluva party this night, one that everyone enjoyed to the fullest extent possible. I imagine a lot of them will be doing it all over again in Fort Worth next month, too.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. Announce Fall North American Tour Dates

imageDetroit duo Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. have announced the routing for their upcoming fall North American tour, which kicks off on October 17th in Seattle and concludes with two hometown shows at Detroit’s Crofoot Ballroom on November 22nd and 23rd. Tickets are on sale now.

The band, which is Josh Epstein and Daniel Zott, are touring in support of their current album The Speed of Things, featuring the single Run,” which Paste named one of the “50 Best Songs of 2013.” The magazine also selected the band as one of “The 25 Best Live Acts of 2013.”

A new remix of “Run” by cosmic Brooklyn-based disco ensemble Midnight Magic, premieres today at AV Club. Listen HERE.


Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.’s upcoming tour dates are as follows:

07/12  Lansing, MI               Common Ground Music Festival
08/24  Monterey, CA            First City Festival
10/17  Seattle, WA              Tractor Tavern
10/18  Vancouver, BC           Biltmore Cabaret
10/19  Portland, OR              Doug Fir Lounge
10/23  Solana Beach, CA       Belly Up Tavern
10/24  Los Angeles, CA         The Regent Theatre
10/25  Flagstaff, AZ             Orpheum Theater
10/27  Salt Lake City, UT      Urban Lounge
10/28  Boulder, CO               Fox Theatre
11/07  Austin, TX                 Scoot Inn
11/08  Dallas, TX                 Trees
11/09  Houston, TX              Fitzgerald’s Upstairs
11/11  Atlanta, GA               Terminal West @ King Plow Arts Center
11/13  Brooklyn, NY              Music Hall of Williamsburg
11/14  Washington DC           9:30 Club
11/15  New York, NY             Bowery Ballroom
11/16 Cambridge, MA            The Sinclair
11/19  Columbus, OH            The A&R Music Bar
11/20  Cincinnati, OH            20th Century Theatre
11/21  Chicago, IL                Metro
11/22  Detroit, MI                The Crofoot Ballroom
11/23  Detroit, MI                The Crofoot Ballroom

Death From Above 1979 Announce New Album Details; World Tour Happening This Fall

imageGlobally revered and highly influential dance-punk duo Death From Above 1979 have revealed a plethora of details about their eagerly anticipated new album, including the title, cover art, and track-listing. The Physical World will be released by Last Gang Records / Warner Bros. Records on September 9th, 2014. The digital pre-order is now available on iTunes and the exclusive album bundles are available from the band hereThe first single, Trainwreck 1979 is now available for sale and streaming at all participating online retailers.

Produced by D. Sardy (Red Hot Chili Peppers, LCD Soundsystem, Wolfmother, Oasis), The Physical World comes a full ten years after the release of the band’s universally acclaimed debut album, You’re A Woman, I’m A Machine, which made Jesse F. Keeler(bass, synths, backing vocals) and Sebastien Grainger (vocals and drums), an underground /over ground sensation. DFA 1979 broke up in 2006 while the first album and subsequent remix album continued to sell inexplicably. They decided to reunite in 2011 and began to perform live picking up where they left off without missing a beat. Their rabid cult has only continued to amass just as inexplicably. Jesse and Sebastien sat down with the NME to talk about the new album release and reuniting. Earlier this spring, DFA 1979 released various clues, tidbits and sonic allusions surrounding a possible new album on deathfromabove1979.com. This will also be your exclusive portal into the wormhole world into all things DFA 1979 now and in the future.

In addition, Death From Above 1979 have announced they will hit the road this fall for an extensive European and U.S. headlining tour. Tickets are on sale now.

European tour dates:

10/7                  Koln, Germany               Luxor
10/8                  Paris, France                 Badaboum
10/9                  Brussels, Belgium          Botanique                              
10/11                Amsterdam, Holland       
Melkweg
10/12                Hamburg, Germany        Hafenklang
10/13                Berlin, Germany             Cassiopeia
10/15                Vienna, Austria              Flex
10/16                Munich, Germany         
Orangehouse
10/18                Zurich, Switzerland        Mascotte
10/20                London, UK                   Electric Ballroom
10/21                Manchester, UK            Gorilla
10/22                Glasgow, UK                 The Garage

North American
fall
 tour dates: For every pair of tickets purchased, you will receive one download of the album.

09/6-7              Toronto, ONT, CAN        
Riot Fest Toronto
11/01               New Orleans, LA            Voodoo Music + Arts Experience
11/03                Atlanta, GA                    Buckhead Theatre
11/04                Nashville, TN                 Marathon Music Works
11/06                Houston, TX                  Warehouse Live
11/07               Austin, TX                     Fun Fun Fun
11/08                Dallas, TX                     Granada Theater
11/10                Tempe, AZ                    Marquee Theatre
11/12                San Diego, CA               House of Blues
11/13                Santa Ana, CA               Observatory
11/15                Las Vegas, NV               Brooklyn Bowl
11/17                San Francisco, CA         The Independent
11/18                Portland, OR                  Crystal Ballroom
11/19                Seattle, WA                   Neumos
11/21               Salt Lake City, UT          In The Venue
11/22                Boulder, CO                   Fox Theatre
11/24                Minneapolis, MN            First Avenue
11/25                Chicago, IL                    Rivera Theatre
11/26                Detroit, MI                     Crofoot
11/28                New York, NY                Terminal 5
1129                 Philadelphia, PA             
Union Transfer
12/01                Washington, DC             9:30 Club
12/02                Boston, MA                   House of Blues

Single Review: “Man of Means” by The Screaming Thieves

imageMany people have probably been waiting a good long while for Brandon Callies to return to fronting a rock band. Black Tie Vendetta — the band that made him a staple of the North Texas music scene — hasn’t played regularly in years (though they say the band will never actually break up), and while his newest project, the Brandon Callies Band, has some rock elements, it’s equal parts country.

So, it was a pleasant surprise when people learned the other day that he has put yet another iron in the fire, and this one’s being called The Screaming Thieves (which just so happens to be made up of many of the members of the Brandon Callies Band).

They cite influences like Black Sabbath, Muddy Waters, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, and MC5; a rather eclectic mix of groups whose styles are heard in The Screaming Thieves first track: “Man of Means”.

It’s a semi-bluesy rock number that is brimming with raw, unbridled rock sounds. The guitar tones and solos have a very magnetizing affect, and are completely pure. That’s to say, it’s just simple, good ol’ rock ‘n’ roll. The drums provide a solid backbone for the track, and while the bass and keys are a little less prevalent, they do edge in here and there.

Aside from all that, you get further proof of Brandon Callies’ superb ability as a songwriter. Take for example the line, “…A burden breeds a stronger back to bear a heavy load…”. It’s not all that complex, yet is quite profound.

All of that is condensed into a little under three-minutes; and it sets up a band that is ready to take the Texas music scene by storm. The fact that they are already a part of the Hand Drawn Records family should give them a boost, too.

The Screaming Thieves is:
Brandon Callies – Lead vocals and guitar
Zach Arrington - Vocals and guitar
Omarr Escoffie’ - Vocals and bass
Jason Myers - Vocals and keys
Christina Comley - Drums

Listen to the song on:
Reverbnation

Visit The Screaming Thieves websites:
Facebook / Reverbnation
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Wednesday, July 9th, 2014 – Alexander Webb Packs Out Opening Bell Coffee; Annalisse Nutt Amazes

It had been eleven days since I had last been out to a concert. The last time I went more than a week without seeing a show was probably about six months ago.

Yeah, I was kinda jonesing for a fix; and Opening Bell Coffee seemed like a good place to go to get it this night.

I may not often go to the cozy coffee shop located on south Lamar Street in Dallas, but I make sure to keep an eye on the calendar; and all the acts playing this night sounded good, based on what I previewed online, at least.

It was probably around 7:50 when I walked in, making me pretty late given the seven-o’clock start time. So late, I actually got one of the last available chairs.

Opening Bell was packed! More so than I’ve ever seen it (granted, I’ve only been here on weeknights).

Alexander Webb was on the small stage that takes up a corner of the room, and the Dallas native had a bunch of friends and supporters out to catch him while he was town.

He was in the midst of his set, finishing one original when I walked in, and afterwards told the crowd he was going to do something that might be familiar to most ears. He finished tuning his guitar, then unleashed a spectacular rendition of The Beatles “Come Together”. His voice had a smooth, even soothing quality to it at times, though he belted that track out with a fury, earning him rave applause from the entire room once the song was finished.

“I used to… Well, I still am pretty opinionated…” Alexander stated, setting up his next song, before mentioning this was the second show of a Mid-West tour he and Annalissa Nutt were doing. He also informed the audience that this next song, “All I’ve Come to Know”, was the last one he completed before hitting the road just days earlier, so it was still very fresh. He used a harmonica at times throughout what will surely be a highlight track on his next record; and afterwards invited Annalissa Nutt on stage to help in singing the next number.

It was another cover, specifically “Bloodline” by Matt Morris. It was the best song of his set (at least what I caught of it); and he sang the first little portion on his own, before Annalisse began to add her voice to it, harmonizing with him, and the result was jaw-dropping. It’s a great song in the first place, but the way they did it, it was astounding.

She left, and Alexander chatted with the crowd as he got ready for his next song, saying he hoped everyone was ready for a song that sounded kinda hopeless, but then got really hopeful at the end. He was quite for a moment, as got the capo just right, before he gave a heartfelt thank you. “A lot of years have gone into this music, and being able to share it with you is very valuable to me.” he remarked before “Enough” — the final track from the “Up Ahead” EP. He was clearly a great singer, but now he got a chance to let his skills as a guitarist shine, using both hands to pluck the strings up on the guitars neck in a very intricate manner.

That spiritual song was rather lengthy (lasting a little over five minutes), yet it passed by quickly, and then he wrapped up his time on stage with another song from that EP, which I believe was the title track, “Up Ahead”.

I’m glad I got to see at least a portion of Alexander Webbs’ set, as he is a very talented singer/songwriter.

Apart from his voice, the emotion that was poured into his songs was also striking, and depending on the content, you could tell they were born out of a deep personal experience or something that he strongly believed in.

He has released four albums so far, and the way he talked this night, another one should be coming sooner rather than later. But for now, check out his past ones in iTUNES. Also, if you live anywhere in the Mid-West, check out his current show SCHEDULE. This tour will be lasting through early August, so he just might be coming to a town near you.

The Arkansas born Annalisse Nutt was next, and it didn’t take her long to fill the space Alexander had just vacated. “I’m gonna play some music for y’all!” she exclaimed with a smile on her face. Her 50-minute long set was a mix of old and newer material, as well as some covers, and I’m guessing it was one of those newer songs she opened with. “If these walls could talk, they’d speak in tongues…” she softly crooned on the first line.

She may have been lacking the strong fan base that Alexander had, but many of them had stuck around, and Annalisse quickly won them over with that tune. Following it was what I think was her first cover of the night. I don’t listen to much Rihanna, but what Annalisse sang at the beginning matched up with “Drunk On Love”, albeit a retooled version that was better suited for an acoustic setting. Regardless of what it was, though, it was with that track that she firmly established herself as a vocal powerhouse, one who had completely captivated everyone in the room.

“I played here a couple years ago.” she remarked, adding, “I love this spot.”, before informing everyone this next song was more of a spiritual one. She talked about how it was about there being about a place with God where nothing else matters, and also pointed out it was on her “7 Song Sampler” album she released a couple years back. It was titled “There’s a Place”, and on it she was able to show off an even wider vocal range, nailing some terrific higher notes at times, while a certain forcefulness and intensity was heard throughout.

“I played this at a friend’s wedding last year…” she told everyone of her next cover, saying the way she does it gets a little darker at the end. No one really knew what she was talking about, but I don’t imagine anyone would have guessed it was The Turtles’ “Happy Together”. Some semi-dark vibes were incorporated, but nothing too bad; and it was still a song about being with the one you love. A fitting follow-up to that self-described darker song was “Lavender-Magenta Praise”. She again spoke of her faith, saying that no matter how dark things got, be it physically or spiritually, “…the color always comes back…”. She then said that Alexander happened to send her a video of himself harmonizing to the song. “…And I loved it!” she finished, as she brought him back on stage to help her out. She gently plucked the strings of the guitar she was using, better allowing her voice and his to be the main focal points of the track.

The stage was then given back to her, and Annalisse did what was arguably the best song of her set. She mentioned that when she got back to Nashville, she was going to start working on a new record, and this one, “My Storm”, would be on it. The chord structure was often soft and haunting, and there were several occasions she hit some utterly gorgeous notes that sounded like they were in the soprano range. Everything about it was absolutely amazing.

“You’ll probably recognize this one, too.” She said after the applause and cheers subsided. She showed off her pop side by putting her spin on “Radioactive” by Imagine Dragons, managing to make it sound very catchy with just an acoustic guitar, and also in the way she sang it. It was engrossing. “Thank you kindly.” she said, seeming a little taken aback by the warm reactions she was getting. “…Is everybody having fun?” she asked, following that with, “Is everybody ready to get sad with this one?” There were no objections to it, and “I’m Sorry” was indeed a very poignant number.

Earlier in the night, she had pointed out that her parents were in attendance, and while she noted this next song was one she doesn’t do often, she wanted to this night, and dedicated it to her “mama”. There were some very powerful moments during it, when her voice surged, being very compelling.

“That about does it.” she said smiling once the song came to an end, leaving everyone a bit saddened by the abrupt end. “No, I got one more…” she then added, checking on time to make sure she was good. She moved over to the keyboard that was on stage, only using it for maybe the first half of this final song, before stopping. The last bit was sung a cappella, and it was absolutely beautiful, even moving.

Annalisse Nutt is an exceptional singer/songwriter, and this night she proved to be a pure, refined talent.

Her breathtaking voice was certainly her biggest charm, but she’s equally as good in the field of songwriting, and not a bad on the guitar or keys, either.

I’d highly suggest you check out her “7 Song Sampler” record on BANDCAMP, and if you have the opportunity, go see her live. She’ll be on this tour with Alexander Webb for the next few weeks; and she will not disappoint.

Rounding out the show was an actual band. A newer one at that; at least new to the performing side of the business.

The three members of Northern National got their stuff setup, ran through the sound check, and then lead singer and guitarist (he used an acoustic for the first part of the set) Michael Rossi introduced himself, and then band mates Michael Allen Wilson on the electric guitar and keyboardist Michael Kanne.

Rossi later mentioned they did a lot of love songs, something that was evident from the get go, what with lyrics centered around love, while the music was softer, more relaxing, fitting the tone of the tracks. He earned some cheers after that first number, when he mentioned he had been with the same girl for nine years, a reaction that made him grin. “I actually just got her pregnant, so we’re having a baby.” he told the audience, which had dwindled to a dozen or so people.

He went on to say their next song, the title track from their debut album due out this fall, was one he wrote about her. It was called “Young and in Love”, a sweet love song about being completed by the person you’re with. Kanne used his mic to chat with the onlookers during the next break, saying they had spent two years writing stuff for their album, and “You’re the One” was one he seemed quite fond of, saying it was more of a soulful tune.

It made great use of the group vocals they were capable of, and the instruments even mostly cut out at one moment to highlight that. A more acoustic based song came next, and Rossi joked that it was as close to country as Northern National got, saying it was about leaving the Lone Star State, and then wondering why you did that in the first place. They did manage to capture a slight country sound — in the Nashville vein of the genre — and it had a low-key vibe to it, something I liked.

Rossi got a break from playing on their next one, and while he sit his guitar down, Kanne continued the storyteller like atmosphere they were giving this show, saying that “I’ll be Okay (Crazy World)” was one of the last songs they wrote.

That was the last one I stuck around for, and after hearing they only had two left for the night, I decided to go ahead and duck out.

Not that I wasn’t enjoying it, although the music was a little more sappy for my tastes. I just wanted to go ahead and get home.

They’re really good at what they do, though, and for anyone who likes pop music, then Northern National is one you must check out. All three of ‘em are equipped with some very good voices, and they mix very well together.

Their album will be dropping on September 2nd, and they’ll no doubt be doing at least a few more shows between now and then. Actually, they’ll be back at Opening Bell on Friday, July 18th.

It was good to get back out and catch some live music, especially from some touring acts. As anyone would, I do tend to stick with seeing the same bands I know I like, so it was good to get acquainted with some of the other talent out there. Another plus? I was home shortly before eleven.

Album Review: “Loss Leaders” by Loss Leaders

imageLoss Leaders has only been around a couple of years, born from the ashes of Calling All War, after Lynyrd Stogner and Millard Hasbrook decided to continue making music together. As I said, it’s only been a couple of years, but it seems like the trio has been around a little longer than that (that’s a good thing).

A small handful of demos were released over time, whetting fans appetites for a real record, a record that took some time to make, because unlike most local bands, they jumped right into it with a full-length.

The record gets off to an unexpected start. It sounds like a line from a commercial, as a voice salivates over “…Cheese sauce, and oh, the gravy… And then the biscuits.” It catches you off guard the first time around; and then “Sugar Pill” instantly fires up as soon as it has been said. “I’d hate to have to break your pretty bones…” Lynyrd sings on the first line, using a hushed voice then and periodically throughout the track, making it sound all the more threatening. As for the song itself, it’s a monstrous track about the darker sides of a co-dependent relationship, teeming with emotion; and I don’t see how it could fail to capture anyone’s interest.

That intense number is followed by one of the shorter offerings on the self-titled record: “Brazen Bull”. The rhythm section comes out swinging on it, hitting hard, before the bass, drums and guitar find just the right mix to complement each other as best as possible. Some stellar guitar tones get laced in along the way, too, making it all the more enjoyable.

“Heavy Leg” is one of those demos they released probably a year or more ago. I really liked it, but man, this polished studio version is phenomenal. It’s an incredibly tight song, with strategically placed lulls — where the bass shines — before assaulting you with soaring guitar riffs. It’s one of the best cuts from the album, and no argument can be made otherwise.

That heavy pace then gives way to “Serpent” —a song about betrayal — where the members of Loss Leaders show off their softer side. “I used to run, before I crawled away…”Lynyrd croons on the chorus, toning down his voice from the previous tracks, showing the listener the impressive range he is capable of. It’s quite good, and the angelic backing vocals that are lightly tossed in on the choruses, harmonizing with the primary vocals, creates a lovely effect. Despite all that, though, it still retains a rocking mood.

The trio gets back to what they do best: intricately written rock numbers, with “The Boxer”, which lasts a little under two and a half minutes, but is more than enough time for it to get its point across.

“Long in the Tooth” has a finely crafted music bed, complete with screeching guitar chords and an instrumental break that lasts just long enough for the trio to really show off their chops on their weapons of choice. It’s followed by “Retrogradus”, a tranquil, rhythm heavy instrumental jam that really calms you. That relaxed feeling doesn’t last long, though, and “Amnesia” once again provides something you can bang your head to, while the guitar riffs are often so sweet, you just might find yourself practicing your air guitar skills.

I seldom make comparisons between bands (I know it may help people relate, but it’s just not something I like doing, because I believe every band as their own style). However, I have to say, “Smut Hammer” has many elements that remind me of one of Austins’ best metal bands: The Sword. There’s just has an epic feel to it, with some more technical pieces thrown in. They saved one of the best for last.

The job of closing out the album goes to “Brick”, and while many records seem to end on a softer note, Loss Leaders keeps the furious pace that has lasted for almost the entire length of the record going. It ensures this debut release is a rip-roaring experience from start to finish.

I have to say, I’m rather astounded at how exceptional “Loss Leaders” is.

The first record for any band usually is about finding who you are as a group. I mean, there are plenty of bands out there who, when you compare their later stuff with what they did right at the beginning, you can clearly tell they weren’t firing on all cylinders in their early days.

Loss Leaders may not be firing on all cylinders yet, either, but it damn sure sounds like they are.

They mesh well on all of these songs, and come across as already being a tight knit outfit who knows just what they want; and what they want seems to be to make quality, captivating rock music that the masses will listen to.

They’re headed down the right road, ‘cause this first release, well, most bands could only dream of releasing something this solid their first go-around.

Loss Leaders is:
Lynyrd Stogner – Vocals and guitar
Millard Hasbrook – Bass and vocals
Paul Pace - Drums

Purchase the album on:
Bandcamp

Visit Loss Leaders’ websites:
Official Website / Facebook / Reverbnation / Twitter

Current Shows:
Saturday, July 26th at Gas Monkey Bar & Grill in Dallas (FREE)

Single Review: “Straight Line Impala” by The Phuss

imageThe rhythm section isn’t always the most prevalent part of a song. Often, it lurks in shadows of the guitars and vocals, creeping out when it can. That’s not the case with “Straight Line Impala” — the first single from The Phuss’ new album, and debut on Magnetic Eye Records.

Trey Alfaros’ drumming is swift and heavy at the start, before the track suddenly explodes into one of the ballsiest songs the trio has churned out.

The bass (wielded by Forrest Barton) adds a pulsating effect throughout the three-minutes and eighteen-seconds the song lasts; a song that has singer and guitarist Joshua Flemings’ voice sounding even more devilish than before, and somewhat demented, too.

It’s a powerhouse number, mixing equal amounts of rock and punk (something the outfit has better perfected since their self-titled debut a couple years ago), and it’s filled with a barrage of wicked guitar licks and tones.

In listening to the gritty “Straight Line Impala”, you’re shown that the rock mantra of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll is very much alive; and if you’re not banging your head for every single second of it, then you’re not enjoying the track in the way you should be.

The Phuss is:
Joshua Fleming - Vocals and guitar
Trey Alfaro - Drums
Forrest Barton - Bass

Visit The Phuss’ websites:
Official Website / Facebook / Twitter

Single Review: “The Charade” by Alterflesh

imageAlterflesh has been around for a little while, but last year they started hitting the North Texas music scene hard, seeming to arise from out of nowhere; and making a name for themselves in a hurry.

They quickly became a staple at venues across Dallas and Fort Worth – playing those cities and elsewhere fairly often. It didn’t hurt that they had several singles recorded, too. A total of eight made their way onto the bands Reverbnation page, and while they were demos, the quality was still good, giving anyone who listened a solid idea of what Alterflesh was like.

Still, demos can only suffice for so long, and then you need something more professional. The band turned to producer Alex Gerst and his Empire Sound Studio (to say he’s one of the best in the region would not be an understatement); and before heading into the studio, they grew, adding Andrew Lewthwaite into the fold as another guitarist.

So, to better showcase this new era in Alterflesh history, they didn’t release a polished, professional recording of one of their older songs. Instead, they released a brand new tune.

The pulse-pounding drumbeats that start “The Charade” sound better than anything they’ve done yet, and they instantly let you know you need to buckle up for the ride. It blows everything they’ve released thus far out of the water, with roaring guitar riffs that can become quite catchy at times, while the bass compliments the drums insanely well.

The lyrical content is also up to par with what fans of the band have come to expect. “…Soak in the sponge of awareness…” Dayvoh sings in the later part of the song, a song that has a few different messages within it, one being that there is always more to know in this world, and you should constantly be expanding your horizons (and be aware of the goings on in the world around you).

Along those lines, Dayvohs’ voice sounds as great as I’ve ever heard it on this track. Our paths recently crossed while out at shows in Deep Ellum, and he was telling me had taken some voice lessons; voice lessons that have clearly made him an even stronger vocalist. He’s already set apart from the rest of the pack in the way that he is more of a spoken word artist, and he brings that style with him in his singing; and if you’ve ever seen the band live, then there’s no way you could question his prowess as a singer. You couple his unique style of vocal delivery with a voice that packs a more powerful punch and one he has greater control over, and the result is a force to be reckoned with.

Overall, “The Charade” showcases a completely new Alterflesh. One that is more confident than before. Perhaps even a little more self-aware, too; and striving to be the best they possibly can be.

Alterflesh is:
Paul Kubajak - Bass, backing vocals
Ben Schelin – Guitar
Kevin Mills – Percussion
Andrew Lewthwaite - Lead Guitar
Dayvoh - Vocals

Download the single for FREE on:
Reverbnation

Visit Alterflesh’s websites:
Facebook / Reverbnation / Twitter / Youtube

Current Shows:
September 13th at O’Riley’s in Dallas / October 11th at Hailey’s in Denton
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Album Review: “Seasons Change” by Dark Avenue

imageAfter being a band for more than ten years, it’s understandable that you could start feeling stifled creatively. So, when Dark Avenue was announced — a band that featured four-fifths of Pistol Whippin’ Ike — it was easy to see why they were starting a side project.

The hard rock sounds they have perfected were traded in for a more metal style, as they flexed their musical muscles. There was a lot of hype leading up to their debut, and after a one-off gig down at SXSW, they made their debut Dallas show an even more memorable event by also having it be their CD release show. Yeah, they came out swinging… Hard.

Right from the lead track, “Seasons Change”, the band proves why Dark Avenue is a fitting name for them. It is dark, even semi-haunting, atmospheric metal, and this song exemplifies that. The rhythm section bears down on you, the bass and drums complimenting one another very well, while the smooth, unmistakable voice of Mario Cadena offers some balance, providing some harmony to it all.

“In Memory of Me” sees the band demonstrating equal parts of metal and hard rock, complete with more pulse-pounding bass riffs and some heavy guitar licks. Then you get to what may be the best offering on the five-track EP, “Another Day”. Lyrically, it paints a vivid picture of the dissension a relationship (of any sort) can take. The opening verse, “Taste the life you’ll never have and for a second my deception looks a lot like your reflection: the life you built for me.”, says a lot about the tone the song has. It’s honesty in its most brutal form; and the guitar solo that’s thrown in is nothing short of epic.

“Sober may well be the hardest hitting song on the album. It’s quite reflective, too. Take, for example, the line, “…I have wasted so much time. The man I use to be has died. This addiction fuels my fire…” No doubt, some people will be able to connect with it on some level, and aside from perhaps being relatable, it’s real. And after all, isn’t that what music is supposed to be? It’s supposed to draw from some personal experience, which in turn makes the song into something far more emotional, as is the case here.

This all too short listening experience (the EP clocks in at not quite 20-minutes) goes out on an explosive note thanks to “Aftermath”. It’s another charged track that boasts some thunderous percussion, which actually tends to stand out more than the riffs. It’s a great one to end with, wrapping up the EP well, but it also leaves you eager to hear more from the Dark Avenue.

The thing with EP’s is (most of the time) it allows the band to put forth their best, most solid material. Such is the case with “Seasons Change”, as not one of these five tracks is lacking.

As someone who has been a fan of most of the band members for a while, too, it’s also nice to hear them trying out something new, and even Mario does some slightly different things with his voice on this collection of songs.

As stated in their bio, the goal of Dark Avenue is to set themselves apart from the rest of the herd. To standout. “Seasons Change” goes a long way in proving that is possible.

Dark Avenue is:
Barry Lorberbaum - Guitar
Barry Townsend - Bass
Jeff Hathcock - Drums
Jonathon Barnes - Guitar
Mario Cadena – Vocals

Purchase the album on:
iTUNES

Visit Dark Avenues’ websites:
Official Website / Facebook / Reverbnation / Twitter / Youtube

Current Shows:
August 22nd at Tomcats West in Fort Worth / September 6th at The Rail in Fort Worth / September 20th at Curtain Club in Dallas / October 10 at RBC in Dallas / October 11th at Hailey’s in Denton
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Saturday, June 28th, 2014 – Night Gallery’s Revival

This night was ladies night at The Curtain Club. Something that doesn’t often happen. In fact, I don’t remember them ever doing a ladies night in the eight plus years I’ve been going there. That’s not to say it hasn’t happened though (I mean, my memory’s not perfect.)

It was more than that, though. This was the night the yearlong hiatus Night Gallery had taken came to an end. They were just one of several great bands playing this night, though, and everyone was headline quality.

Around 8:30 isn’t usually late to get to a show, but it was this night, and when I walked in Agents of Solace was finishing up their first song.

It had been awhile since I last saw the band, after first stumbling across them here at the Curtain sometime about a couple years ago, probably.
imageThe group’s female vocalist, Macie — who did most of the lead singing this night — chatted with the crowd for a second before the alt/rock band tackled another song, one that was quite good at that. “Are there any Halestorm fans out there?!” Macie asked after it was over, getting a reaction from some of the people. “Familiar Taste of Poison” was the track they tried their hand at, and it sounded amazing. Everyone, old fans and those who were hearing of Agents of Solace for the first time, were in total awe of Macie’s voice. They put their own little twist on the song in some ways, and it was one of their best ones of the night. It wasn’t the only cover they did, either.

Macie mentioned they had a Youtube channel, and on it, they had a video for their next song. “It’s kinda freaky. Whatever freaky means to you.” she said, as they began “Voyeurs”. Jeff Williamson had been adding some backing vocals here and there throughout the first couple of songs, though his guitar had been his primary focus. However, he showed off his voice much more now, as they split the vocal responsibilities, even harmonizing at times. It was a beast of a song, too, with Jeff and Tom Williamsons’ guitars roaring to life, then eventually tapering back off, while Keith Watson delivered some vicious beats.

That won them some more rave applause, and once it subsided, Macie mentioned they were going to do an older song, one off their debut, self-titled record, per a fan request. It was switched up from the recording, and again showcased Macies’ voice more than Jeffs’, though he did chime in at times on “City of Man”. Chip Kohr seemed to get into it, too, and was rocking out on his bass quite hard.
imageUpon finishing it, Jeff unplugged his electric axe and swapped it out for an acoustic, as Macie informed everybody they were going to do a new song, one they had just learned the week before. “Actually, just last night.” she joked. It was called “Gravity”, and the outfit’s softer side was on display during it. Every act needs a song like that, and it added some diversity to the set. I’d say the track is a keeper, too.

Macie noted their last song was all about having fun, and some audience participation would be required. “So you better fucking participate!” she said, before threatening to slap those who didn’t. It didn’t sound like a threat to be too afraid of, though. I’ll admit, I knew that I knew this cover, though it took me forever to place it, which is kinda bad, since I’ve seen The Pretty Reckless twice in the last month. Agents of Solace put their own little spin on “Heaven Knows”, complete with a clap along at the start and other points throughout the track. They even got the audience to sing along with them on one of the later choruses, “Oh, Lord, heaven knows we belong way down below.”

Thus ended their time on stage, and I have to say, AOS was better this night than I remembered them being.
imageHonestly, I can’t remember if Macie was in the band when I first saw them, though I don’t believe she was. She adds a remarkable dynamic to the group, though. Apart from that, these seasoned musicians make some excellent music. I mean, “Voyeurs” has a pretty original sound to it; and they put on a highly enjoyable stage show as well.

As of now, it looks like their next show is going to be on September 27th at Andy’s in Denton. Regarding their music, you can grab a couple of free downloads on their REVERBNATION page, and pick up the full record in iTUNES.

After them you had The Circle, who had not played Dallas since back in January, when the Curtain Club was celebrating their sixteenth year in business.

At 9:33 their intro music started, and drummer Marc Berry, bassist Kenneth Henrichs and guitarists Craig Nelson and Alan Sauls quickly ripped into their first song. “We thought we’d start off with a new on! Is that alright?!” frontman Don Mills asked as he walked on stage. People seemed game for it.
imageThey came out swinging with that new number, “Break This”, which was one of the most impressive songs I’ve heard The Circle do. It was heavy, it was loud and it was in-your-face. The performance that accompanied it was rather savage as well, as the five of them went all out; and towards the end Don, who had been standing atop one of their boxes with The Circle name and logo on it, jumped off it, landing close to the drum riser. It gave everyone quite the rush, including them.

“So, I was saying to Jordan earlier, next time there’s a ladies night, we need to call it guys night out.” Don joked. Yeah, as he and I had said earlier in the night, it was kind of a sausage fest, especially early on. I blame another show that was happening elsewhere in Deep Ellum, featuring an acclaimed Dallas act. That was probably where most of the ladies where choosing to spend their night at. But I digress.

Don’s statement was made over the transition his band mates made into their next number, “Save Me”, which was one of a few songs they did this night that seemed to pack even more of a punch than it has in the past. Honestly, until they got to the chorus, I was thinking it was another new one they were debuting. Don used a break he got during the song to dedicate the show and the night in general to all the beautiful women who were in attendance.
imageThe last time I saw The Circle, their show had a nice flow to it, and that applied for much of this night as well, and now Craig segued them into “What Do You Say?”, showing off his skills later on while playing a killer solo. Don used his breaks to have some fun, saying that they don’t lip sync their songs. “…You don’t do that in Dallas, Texas!” he roared, which I believe was a jab at Puddle of Mudd and their debacle of a show a few months back where they were caught faking it. “I don’t care who you are, you sing your damn songs!” Don declared at the end, while his band mates rolled them right into “My Trip to the Desert Sucked”.

Kenneth was his usual highly energetic self during the track, screaming into his mic as he aided Don on parts of the chorus, while tearing it up on his bass, and even jumped atop the box on his side of the stage at times. At the final chorus, Dons’ mic stand fell apart on him. He grabbed the stand and carried it over to the staircase, then returned for the base, singing the whole time he was getting it out of the way.

“I got told this was my last show as the singer.” he said during the first break they took this night. “If you saw Agents of Solace, you know why.” Don added, mentioning how amazed he was by their set as he piled on the praise. As he spoke, the intro for “Failure” suddenly started to play, signifying they were ready to move on (and finally get to the debut EP they released about a year ago.) It was pretty action packed, and Kenneth spent the last bit of the track up on the drum riser, while Marc let loose the thunderous beats on his massive drum kit.
imageRight as it came to an end, Dayvoh, of the band Alterflesh, approached the stage, carrying several shots he had bought for his friends. “You know what I’m going to say…” Don said after they all had one in hand, as he made is typical, “Local music is the greatest music that never gets heard” speech. Truer words have never been spoken, and it’s a sentiment everyone always agrees with. He went on to say that, they had a song that they had retired some time back. Then it got rewritten, and then it made a comeback to the live show. The song in question was one that has become a favorite of mine over the last few times I’ve seen The Circle, and it’s called “Monster”. It sounded like a brand new song this night, though. It had an even harder edge than what I recall from the past few times, and Don did a hefty amount of screaming on the track, something that he doesn’t do often, but he can pull it off with ease when he needs to. It ended with Alan and Craig each stepping onto the boxes, spending some time on one before alternating, brandishing their axes in the air.

I think they were warmed up by now, and they drew a sudden startled look from the crowd when a piece of techno music began to play. “We’re gonna start going techno.” Don said rather matter-of-factly. Another toast was then made, again going to the woman. “…Deep Ellum have some of the most beautiful woman around.” he remarked, something else everyone there agreed with. Out of nowhere, the techno track broke into the sample intro for “The Other Side”. I must say, it was strange not hearing them open with that one, though the choice they made was a good one, and it worked well at the tail end of the show. Actually, I had been waiting all night for them to get to it.

With fifteen minutes left, they broke out “You Wanted This”, which, in comparison to some of their other stuff, I thought was a slightly chill track. Still rocking, though it wasn’t as hard and heavy as some other songs. It did feature another solo from Craig, though, a solo that was comprised of some incredibly cool notes. “Are you with us?!” Don bellowed as they moved right into the next track, “Tonight”. It was another new one, and one he said they had written about a week ago.

“There’s a huge list of who’s who here tonight.” Don mentioned as they geared up for their next song. From band members to other media outlets, there were a lot of people there, and too many to name.
imageTheir 41-minute long set began to wind down with the two remaining songs from their EP, like the powerful “I Am”. “…Every time I see your face you’re bringing me down. Turn your back on me, like you did that day…” goes the start of the chorus of the song that has a message of acceptance with it. They whipped it right into their single, “Sleep On it”, and as soon as it began, Don began joking with the guitarist of Solice, Juan, asking if he’d catch him when he jumped off the stage. It didn’t stay a joke for long, and soon a group of a dozen or more people formed, just waiting for Don to make his move. It came after he invited Kenneth’s nephew, Tyler, on stage, letting him sing part of the bridge. Don then got his mic back, walked to the edge of the stage, turned his back to everyone and fell backwards. He was caught, and the group carried him back just a few steps before walking back towards the stage, lifting him up and back on it to finish out the show.

This was an incredible Circle show. Maybe it was because I hadn’t seen them awhile, but still, this one of the best performances I think they’ve put on. They were as tight as I’ve ever seen them, and the near constant pacing of music ensured there was never a dull moment.

It was also nice hearing some new music from them. New music that with any luck will be recorded soon so we fans can have more than just four tracks to listen to.

Go grab the “Who I Am” EP in iTUNES. It’s cheap and it’s worth the price tag. They also have a show lined up at The Rail in Fort Worth on July 18th, and then a show at RBC in Dallas on August 10th, where they’ll be opening for Saving Able.

The turnaround time this night really surprised me. The bands were doing an amazing job of getting their gear off and on stage incredibly quickly, and as much as I love Curtain Club (as I’ve said countless times in the past, this is my favorite venue), quick turnarounds is something the place is known for.

So, around 10:30, the curtain began to open. Then close. Then open again. The members of Night Gallery were having some fun (hence, why the worker wasn’t sure if the curtain should be opened yet or not.) Frontman Patrick ”Otter” Gonzales was walking back and forth on the drum riser as if it were a tightrope, teetering on the edge. The audience (which numbered more than a hundred from the looks of it) was surprisingly quiet, and just stared at them. Then Otter threw his hands in the air, as if to say, “Come on, aren’t you more excited to see us than that?!”

Of course, people were, and now the noise level spiked.

The five guys shared a brief look at one another, making sure they were ready for this, and then, the new lead guitarist Brian Manly began the old, familiar sounds of “My Friend Pretend”. Three-fifths of the band may have been new, but the song sounded just like it always has. Well, maybe a little better, ‘cause as they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder.

Opening with the single from the “Loud as the Sun” record made it feel just like old times; and it didn’t take long for Otter to get back in his lead singer role, dragging his mic stand with him all around the stage. The mic stand that had a Cookie Monster plush toy taped to the bottom (along with tape over his mouth) and a small plush Incredible Hulk fixed more towards the top of the stand. Oh, how I had missed that one-of-a-kind mic stand.
imageThe crowd was given little time to applaud, as drummer Mikael Aguilar and the rest of the group launched into “Dirty Side”. “And I don’t want to speak to you, unless you want to speak the truth. I wipe the sand from eyes, and I see your dirty side.” Otter belted on the chorus, clearly feeling the rush of adrenaline that came with being back on a stage and performing these songs in front of people. “Those who know this song, feel free to sing along.” he remarked afterwards, as they went directly into the next track. “It’s called She Runs.” he mentioned. The only other old member, Jeremy Root, was also in the zone, quickly strumming his guitar on the chorus, getting caught up in the moment. As it neared the end, during the instrumental break before the final line, Otter spun and stamped around the stage, bringing the mic stand with him, as if it were a dancing partner.

Another fan favorite came next, and their fans rejoiced when “Crazy Brave” got underway. It was also the song that made me miss the old drummer, Randall “Duckie” Etherton, the most, because this was always one song that heavily featured him with backing vocals. “You feel the need to push the weak around; now you’re praying as your knees hit the ground. The time has come to break you of your ways, so lay down your arms and begin to beg.” Otter sang, while leaving the mic stand at the center of the stage and removing the mic from it. He dropped to the floor, gradually raising his voice each time he sang, “Beg”. That part still sounded good, though there was a definite forcefulness lacking without the additional vocals.

The way they had been going, I wasn’t sure if they were even going to stop, but now they did. “…We’ve burned through four songs and I haven’t even said anything to you yet…” Otter remarked, adding his usual sense of humor to the banter, saying that while it may have been ladies night, he would not be taking his shirt off. “…That’s too much sexiness…” he joked. However, they did have a couple songs for the ladies, the first of which was the ever so gorgeous, “Lynne”.

“I feel alive! I feel tickled down in my neither regions!” Otter exclaimed once the song was over. “Without Regret” came next, and I was more excited to hear that song than I thought I would be. Actually, it was probably my favorite of the night. “Shhhh.” Otter whispered into the mic during the soft instrumental break towards the end, and action I had forgotten he did every time. “This time there’s no safe bets, so let’s love without regret.” he crooned when the track came back to life.

“Feel free to sway.” he instructed, as Mikael led the charge into their next song. It wasn’t until Jeremy started his part that people knew it was “The Tide”. Something about the song made it sound even better this night than I think I’ve ever heard it. The rhythm section, which was completed by bassist Trey Williams, sounded great, but the biggest difference came after Otter repeatedly shouted, “Hey!” Brian then ripped into a guitar solo, something new that they’ve worked in during their time practicing. The solo itself sounded incredible, and it was a fantastic addition to the song. Another guitar solo spiced up “Separation Anxiety”, a tune that I wouldn’t have thought could possibly get any better, but they somehow found a way to improve it.

Given that it was ladies night, their song about Jack The Ripper, “Mr. Ripper”, seemed quite fitting, and it is another track that everyone of their fans love. Especially live. Despite the murderous content, it’s actually a very fun song. It was also the third straight that featured a new guitar piece, as Brian ran his finger along one of the strings, starting down on the body and going up the neck. Otter again danced about with his mic stand, succumbing to the music; and as it ended, Mikael stood from his seat to deliver the final drumbeats.
imageTheir 39-minute long set was nearly over, and Otter thanked everyone for coming out and for not forgetting about them. “The Signal” was one song that would have worked just as well as an opener as it did a closer. It’s a song that, on select occasions, has had more of a personal meaning to it. One of those was their CD release show a couple years back, and this was the second time I’ve seen them where that has applied. “…They tried to conform us, phase us out. Through shutting us down…” Otter sang on the first verse, before reaching the chorus, “They can’t stop the signal now…” The boxes belonging to The Circle had been left on stage, and at the bridge, Otter hopped on top of the one on stage right. “With one single voice, we resonate choice. Fight till the end, to overcome trend. Now coming in clear, no more static you hear. So take it from me, we’re not changing, you see?” That sums the band up perfectly, especially on a night like this.

I guess I’ll start by saying both Otter and Jeremy deserve some kudos for actually keeping this thing going. I can only imagine having to find three new band members is a daunting task, but they persevered, and it paid off.

This was one of the best Night Gallery shows I’ve seen. Were certain people missed? Yeah. Mikael’s a great drummer, though, and I thought he did a good job of filling the large shoes that were left. He was energetic and precise with his drumming; and I already mentioned how much I enjoyed the solos Brian had worked in, and when he needed to, he could shred. As for Trey, he was a solid bassist.

They meshed well with Otter and Jeremy, and even made it look like they actually had some live experience with one another under their belt.

Speaking of Jeremy, he really is a great guitarist, and he makes it all look pretty easy; and Otter, who for personal reasons has lost some weight in the last year, was more fiery than ever. Even he later said that made jumping and running around much easier to do, and he did more of it.

It was five years in this month of June since I first heard of Night Gallery, happening across them when I went to the Curtain Club to see a band who hasn’t been together for years now. They’ve been through their share of hard times in those five years. If memory serves correctly, Brian is the fourth guitarist they’ve had since I heard of them and Trey’s their third bassist. Night Gallery is no stranger to lineup changes.

But on the flip side, they’ve celebrated a lot of victories, many of them on this very stage. They got a plaque up on the Wall of Fame before they even had a CD out (June of 2010); they released their debut EP here in late 2010; they released their debut full-length here almost two years to the day of this show; and this night, this night they celebrated yet another rebirth.

As “The Signal” ended, Otter sang the final words as usual. “They! Can’t! Stop! Us!” he bellowed. The last notes filled the room and resonated; and then, in a defiant tone, he added, “But they sure as hell can try.”

Yeah, they’ve got a bit of a resilient spirit.

Night Gallery won’t play again until August 22nd at Tomcats West in Fort Worth, and from what I heard, some fall dates are already booked as well. But while we wait for more shows, be sure to pick up “Loud as the Sun” in iTUNES if you don’t have it.

Mad Mexicans were closing out the night, and personally, I’m just not a fan. I saw them a few years ago, I know what they’re like, and it’s just not a style of music I’m into.

So, I didn’t stick around too long after Night Gallery finished. Well, at least not inside. I was out on the patio mingling for a while, though.