Single Review: “Soon” by Swindle Boys

image“Soon” — the latest single from Fort Worths’ Swindle Boys — expands on the newer direction the band is going musically. It further fleshes out the arena rock/pop sounds that first appeared on the Motion EP; and they offered fans a better glimpse just last month, when they released the first of many singles to come (a new one dropping at the start of each month).

They also self-describe themselves as having a little new wave vibe, and while the keys are still heavily used, this doesn’t sound as new wave to me as “Comeback” did. “Soon” is more a straightforward number that is a 50/50 blend of rock and pop. Much like the previous single, it comes across as a behemoth of an anthem, and one that will resonate louder within you each time to listen to it.

It’s a song about moving forward and not letting events of the past — be it tragedy, your own mistakes, etc. — define you.

“…But if the past has proven anything at all, we’ll go on.” Joey Swindle sings at the end of the first two verses. Other lines are about hammering home the fact that it — which can be relative to however the listener wants to interpret it — is just a moment, and it will pass.

It’s calming in a way, and can provide a sense of peace in listening to it, what with the smooth vocals and angelic, yet intense guitar chords. The track boasts a driven rhythm section as well.

They may only be in their second month of releasing singles, but with each one, you’re getting a clearer picture of what Swindle Boys want to do with their music, and so far, I’m really digging the grand, lush sound they’re going after. One which can appeal to indie rock fans and pop music fans alike, and they marry the two genres together in a fantastic way.

Swindle Boys is:
Joey Swindle
Matthew Swindle
Josh Brown
Chance Cochran

Purchase the album on:
iTunes / Bandcamp

Visit Swindle Boys’ websites:
Official Website / Facebook / Twitter / Youtube
imagePhoto credit: Shanna Leigh Tims

Saturday, July 26th, 2014 – An All-Star Local Lineup at Gas Monkey

Just two weeks after my first trip (finally!) to the Gas Monkey Bar & Grill, I found myself back there.

Since opening nearly one year ago, the venue has frequently hosted free shows with local bands, and it was high time I actually saw one. A stellar five-band bill had been assembled this night, which meant it would get off to an early start. Right at eight-o’clock, actually, and the sun was still shining down on what was possibly the most brutal day yet of this Texas summer.
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Loss Leaders had been charged with kicking off the show, and this gig came just two weeks after their CD release show, where they welcomed their debut, self-titled album into the world.

The trio kicked things off with “Long in the Tooth”, as singer and guitarist Lynyrd Stogner ripped into the sweet opening riffs, before drummer Jordan O’Leary (who was just filling in, after the departure of original drummer Paul Pace) and bassist Millard Hasbrook broke into the song just seconds later. “Hate to say that we all deserve to burn!” Lynyrd belted on the chorus, while he used any and all breaks to stroll around the stage and focus entirely on his axe. I may have been a fan for a while, but this was my first time actually seeing them, and I was already impressed with how tight they were and the nice chemistry they had going on.
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“Greetings, we are Loss Leaders.” Lynyrd informed the audience, adding, “How about that weather? It’s nice.” It wasn’t too bad now, as the sun slowly disappeared over the horizon, however, it did have some side effects. He was having to tune his guitar between nearly every song, and I’m guessing that heat had something to do with it.

He got it in working order, and then came “Brazen Bull”. It was heavy, and dominated by the pulsating bass lines, and accented nicely by Jordanon the kit. That’s one of a few songs they have that takes just a little more than two minutes to play, and they followed it with the albums closing number: “Brick”. It was another rip-roaring one, and Lynyrd owned the solo he had on it, again walking about the stage as he showed his prowess as a guitarist; and as the track ended, there was a thick reverb effect added while he sang the final words. It sounded awesome.
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“Alright…” Lynyrd remarked, again having to prep his guitar for “Serpent” — a song about being used and deceived by someone. It has a great structure to it, with the instruments being very calculated on the verses, while the choruses and bridge is just raw rock. It was one of their best live tunes.

“Got anything to say, Millard?” Lynyrd asked his band mate, not even allowing him time to respond before continuing, “No? Okay.” The followed it with the subsequent track from the record: “The Boxer”. It, too, packed a serious punch, all condensed into a little more than two-minutes and Lynyrds’ deep, forceful voice sounded monstrous on the chorus, “This is where we go to kneel and pray…”. They continued jumping around the album, and now served up “Sugar Pill”, which is the lead track. They were well into the zone by this point, operating like a well-oiled machine, and while they didn’t have as many eyes on them as they deserved, they were getting a good reaction from those who were watching.
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“This songs about forgetting shit.” Lynyrd stated, quickly correcting himself. “Stuff!” he shouted. See, there were young ears in attendance. Very young ears, and you could tell he felt bad he had said it. The three-piece rock outfit then showed their softer side with the low-key, even tranquil instrumental piece known as “Retrogradus”. That lull didn’t last long, though, as they wound it into the next track from the record, “Amnesia”. It was perfect to bang your head to.

Lynyrd check on their time, and ten minutes seemed like plenty of it to do what they needed to. He also pointed out their merch table, which was being manned by a band mate from his previous (and now defunct) band, Calling All War. “Price is negotiable when it comes to him.” said Lynyrd, referring to Matt Culpepper, who was holding up their CDs. “This song’s called Smut Hammer. It’s on the album.” he added.
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With that, they had played nearly everything they had. One song remained, however. “We work on tips. So do your bartenders… And stuff.” Lynyrd told the couple dozen or so people out there. “This song’s called Heavy Leg.” he then informed the onlookers. He went to start it, and then seemed to have forgotten how it went. “This song’s called brain fart.” he joked, showing off some quick wit. He had it then, and led them in the closing song of their 37-minute long set. This was another one that had some good effects added on the vocals, and they sounded very soupy and semi-distant at times. The highlight came at the instrumental break, when Lynyrd turned around towards Jordan, and proceeded to shred.

With that, they had played all ten tracks off the Loss Leaders LP, and it had gotten timed perfectly with how much time they had been allotted.

I hate that it has taken me so long to see these guys, but on the plus side, they’ve had plenty of time to find who they are as a band and hone just about every quality about them.
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They were so on point, working well off one another at times, while Millard, Lynyrd and Jordan also stood great on their own, each one commanding your attention at different points on each song. Along those lines, they’re also almost equal parts general rock band and instrumental band. It’s an awesome mix, especially when you’re at a show, because it allows you to admire their talents as musicians in all regards of the word.

I also have to say, I’m really impressed by Lynyrds’ voice, too. I first saw him when he did a short stint with Space Cadet, and then some Calling All War shows, and in both bands, he was just the guitarist who maybe did some backing vocals at times. But wow, the guy can sing. He has a very unique tone to his voice, and I’m just amazed he kept it under wraps for so long.

The bands going to be taking some time off as they try to find a new drummer (if you are one, hit ‘em up), but hopefully they won’t be out of commission too long. As for their album, you can listen to a few songs and purchase the whole thing on their BANDCAMP page.

Loss Leaders may have had the early slot, but in some ways it was the coolest, because you gradually got to see the sun set, which made for some great natural light on them. But by the time nine rolled around, it was dark, and Honey got the full effects of the highly professional stage lighting.
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It had been a while since I last saw the female fronted Dallas rock band, and they’ve gone through some changes since whenever that was. Singer and guitarist Kes O’Hara and bassist Holly Wood are the two original members left, while Rob Harris has stepped in as the lead guitarist, and the drummer was new, too.

That was about all that had changed, though. Well, aside from the fact that I think they had gotten even better. “Wasted on the weekend, living day to day!” shouted Kes in her gravelly voice on the chorus of “Wasted”. The audience had grown some over what the first band had, and everyone appeared to be loving their raw, gritty rock sounds that perfectly embody the 80’s era of rock music.
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They were impeccable tight this night, as was proved when their drummer tied that song into their second, and right as he delivered one of the beats, Kes jumped into the air in perfect time to it. It was a flawless segue, and now Rob really got to show off his chops, and did a sweet solo that lasted just long enough without going overboard.

“How’s it going?! We’re Honey. We’re gonna play some rock ‘n’ roll music…” Kes told the audience afterward, making the formal introductions in her thick Australian accent, which you’d never guess she had just in hearing her sing. She also mentioned how good it was to be back at Gas Monkey, even saying this was their favorite Dallas venue, and with the smile she had on her face when she said it, you could tell she meant it.
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They unloaded another unbridled song on everyone’s ears, and upon finishing it, Kes again grinned at the audience. “Thank you!” she stated as the applause and cheers rang out. They then got ready for one of their shortest, though most intense tracks: “Free Ride”. It’s an onslaught of sweet guitar licks and deafening drums, and it was obvious their drummer was completely in his element on that fast paced tune. Kes and Holly Wood turned towards one another during the instrumental break, each working off the other while they rocked out, and there was a certain sense of grace to Holly Wood’s slick style of playing.

The ever growing crowd was pretty boisterous after that, and grew even more excited when Kes mentioned this next was originally done by Free, and that Blackfoot had also done a version. “…This is the Honey version, I guess.” she said, almost thinking aloud. The song was “Wishing Well”, though they dirtied it up some to better fit their style. It was a great rendition of it, and it was nice to hear them do a cover that was new to me; and as they brought it to a close, Rob, Holly Wood and Kes all crowded around the drum kit, leading to a well executed end.
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“Come outside all you inside folks!” Kes shouted, trying to get the people in the restaurant portion of the venue out there. I think the request went unnoticed by them, though. So instead, they started on their next song, beginning with some heavy beats on the kick drum. “Give it up for Miss Holly Wood on the bass. Laying it down!” said Kes, as her band mate proceeded to lace some riffs over the kick drum, before the rest of them tore into the aggressive “Whiplash”. No sooner had it ended and then Kes rolled them into another cover, “Scarred for Life”. It felt like a very appropriate one for them to do, especially as Kes belted out the chorus, “…I fought my way through the trouble and strife. I was scarred. My reputation it cuts like a knife…”

Once it was over, she mentioned it was an “old Rose Tattoo” song, asking if anyone was familiar with them. “…They’re a badass Australian band…” she told the audience, which made them extra special to her. Their 37-minute long set was almost over, but they still had time for a couple more. The first found Holly Wood making her way back to the drum kit at one point; where she interacted a little more with the drummer, while Rob and Kes stood next to one another as they shredded on their guitars. Before their closing number, Kes mentioned it was about her brother, and it was a powerhouse song to end on.
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It’s hard to believe it’s just been a little over a year ago since Honey did their debut full-band show. It already seems like they’ve been a part of the scene longer than that, thanks partly to their heavy show schedule; and the lineup changes they’ve undergone haven’t kept them out of action for too long.

Even with newer members in the fold, I was amazed at how much chemistry the four of them already had, seeming like they’d logged hundreds of shows as this incarnation. I guess that just speaks as to what exceptional musicians they all are; and they owned the stage this night, captivating all who happened to make their way to the outside patio.
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You can listen to some of their music on their REVERBNATION page. As for shows, they’ll be at Wits End in Dallas on August 3rd; Trees on the 21st opening for LA Guns; September 5th at Tomcats West in Fort Worth; and September 20th at O’Riley’s in Dallas.
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Now came the part of the night I was most excited about. I had missed LA Wedding’s debut full-band show the month prior because I had a cousins wedding to go to, but I wasn’t about to miss their second gig.
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I find it hard to believe that it has already been a little over four years since Siren City played what wound up being their final show, and sometime after that, vocalist Randy Stephens moved to Florida for a while. So, sans a guest spot he did in co-singing a number with The FEDS during that bands reunion show in January 2012 and supplying some backing vocals for Little Sisters of the Poor at a show this past January, it had been years since I had really seen him perform.

As I said, I was excited about this.

For those who do not know, the rest of LA Wedding is made up of much of the same players from the band Ursa (minus the singer); and it was shortly after ten when they hit the stage.
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Their 35-minute set got going with what is arguably their catchiest song, and I would have to say my personal favorite, “Responsible”. It’s partly a love song, and there were already plenty of people singing along with Randy on the chorus, “There’s not enough heartache to make me die young… There aren’t enough bad dreams to make me turn and run…” As catchy and even rocking as it was, there was some soothing aspect to it as well, perhaps partly found in the slightly higher register that Randy sings in, which has a smooth tone to it. In regards to the crowd, it was amazing how massive it had suddenly gotten. The spacious patio which had been all too easy to walk around was now barely maneuverable as people packed in as tightly as they could around the stage.

“What’s up Gas Monkey?” Randy asked. He had one foot propped up on one of the monitors (his stage mannerisms haven’t changed a bit. That’s a good thing.) and he banged his head to the first beat that Ross Rubio knocked out. “If you know it, sing it.” he told their adoring fans as they got “Closure” — which was the first single they released off the Degree of Discomfort EP — underway. Dave Perez and Jovan Santos’ guitars were far more vibrant on that track that ebbs and flows nicely; and the second to last time Randy sang, “I just need some closure…”, he belted it out in a louder, fiercer tone than he had thus far, and then slowly pulled the microphone away from his mouth, making his own little effect.
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“We arranged for everyone to get in…” he quipped, before muttering, “Jokes and jokes and jokes.” while his band mates got ready for the next song. That next one was “Going Under”, which just reeled the onlookers in more with the great backing vocals Ross and Dave added in at times, and bassist Pat Llull helped in solidifying a hefty rhythm section throughout the track. There was plenty more singing along from those already familiar with the EP, too, and many fans could be seen mouthing the words to the chorus, “…Cause death would have much more to offer than going on without you.”

Randy had been quite energetic so far, moving all about the stage; but now, he went over to where he had sit the mic stand, back by one of the amps. It gave the impression they were about to slow things down, and sure enough they did with a cover of “Madness” by Muse. They’re still a rock band, but not quite in the same vein as their past projects, and some of their songs do fit the style of this Muse tune, making it a good one for them to cover. They didn’t keep it toned down for long, though, and about halfway through Randy pulled the mic out and sit the stand back where it was out of the way.
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“We wrote that in the van on the way over here.” he joked afterwards, prompting some loud laughter from those watching them. He proceeded to thank everyone for coming out in the first place, and soon talk shifted to the next song, one he said was not on the disc they had for sale. However, an acoustic version was teased as possibly being released in the near future. It was titled “Believe It”, and it was easily one of the best things they did this night. “…You can tell the world that I’m not coming back for it. Not this time. ‘Cause all that’s mine is mine, ‘cause I dared to believe it.” he shouted on the chorus, backing up the lyrics with loads of passion in his voice. That track alone already has me looking forward to a follow-up album.

The crowd loved it, and the band had another special one to do next. “…This is the first one we wrote collectively…” Randy stated, saying it was a “love song” but also a “love, hate song”. “You guys are weird.” he then joked with the audience. “In fact, let’s get weird together.” he said, beaming at everyone. This one was called “Such Things”, and it was another strong one; and at one point in the latter half of it, Randy slowly dropped to his knees while he was singing a line. “Such things. You shouldn’t say them.” he spoke once the track was over, reusing part of the chorus.
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Dave then took over on his mic. “How we doing?!” he asked, and after getting a meager reaction, he told the crowd they could do better and repeated the question. They were louder this time around. They showed off a little softer side (at least at times) with “Bad Boy”, and immediately upon finishing it, Jovan began quickly strumming his guitar, progressively getting faster. Soon, Ross came in strong on the bass drum, and Randy thanked everyone for coming out. “This is The Hard Way.” he informed everyone, as they started to wind down with the most aggressive track in their repertoire. It was the peak of their performance, and all five of them were in the zone on that one, especially Randy, who spent much of the track with his left hand behind his back (remember what I said earlier about his mannerisms still being the same? Yeah.)

With that, they had just one last song to do from the EP, and they had saved the final track, “I Know You Love Me”, for the closer, and the love song made for an uplifting note to end on.
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A lot of time has been put into LA Wedding, beginning as an acoustic duo, before recording their EP and eventually solidifying themselves as a full-band. That time and effort was quite evident this night.

It can’t hurt, either, that everyone in the band is a well loved veteran of the DFW music scene, and also that Pat, Ross, Jovan and Dave have plenty of experience together in the first place, so the dynamics are already there.

Randy meshes with them (or they mesh with him) perfectly, and already, with just two shows now under their belt, they seem to have become a beloved staple in the Dallas music scene. It may be too early to officially say that, though it seems within the realm of possibility.

Regardless, I know there are a lot of people just glad that Randy is back where he belongs and making music that they can enjoy going and hearing live. It has been a long time coming, but it was worth the wait.

You can snag the Degree of Discomfort EP on Bandcamp. At the very least, go give it a listen.
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The rest of the night was more or less uncharted territory for me.

The Kül had the main support slot, and while they are a Dallas-based band, they were one I had never heard of before. Now I have to ask myself, “How have they flown under my radar for so long?”

Their 45-minute long set was a mix of old and new songs, and “Everyday” kicked it off. The band is an interesting marrying of genres, with frontman Johnny Lenix having a definite soul quality to his voice, even coming across as a gospel vocalist at times as he sang over the thunderous bass lines Ashley Jeans was knocking out. He was raring to go, and already racing about the stage and jumping around, exuding an aura that just commanded your attention; while Dane Manshack and Jonan Rigsbee mixed in some soaring guitar solos at times.
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“Y’all feeling alright?!” Johnny asked once the song came to an end. They already had people raving. He thanked Gas Monkey for having them and the other bands they were sharing the stage with. “Now it’s time to party.” he finished. They moved on to a newer jam — one that will presumably be on the new album they later said would be out in a month or so — and Dane was shredding so hard on it, he broke a string. It was early on in the track, too, though he powered through it; and luckily, he had another guitar at the ready, making a swift change during the next break.

“We’re just getting warmed up…” Johnny announced. It’s a statement bands make all the time, albeit a bold one. But in The Kül’s case, it really did seem like they had just been scratching the surface thus far. They jumped into another high-energy number, and after finishing one line, Johnny let go of the mic stand, getting more into the groove of the music and the beat Jeff Mount was laying down. It was then the microphone fell out of the stand and hit the floor. It was unexpected, though it worked out rather well, making for a cool moment when he picked up the mic and the stand began to fall, something he let happen.
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Afterwards, he mentioned the title of the next number, “Take What You Want”. “The police ain’t here, but we’re not gonna steal anything. Just take some things back.” he informed everyone, before proceeding to pump his fits in the air. “Put your fist up like this!” he instructed, as dozens and dozens of hands shot up in the air. It was shorter, though filled with raw emotion and talent as they raced through it. “You feeling good tonight, on this hot Dallas, Texas summer evening?” asked Johnny when it was over. Dane then chimed in, asking if there were any Band of Gypsies fans out there, and of course, there were some. “We had the honor of working with Buddy Miles on this next song…” he told the audience, which they took as an impressive accomplishment.

“My mind is caught in a daze, in this electric haze…” went the first line of “Kronic Kastle”, which did sound like some Jimi Hendrix himself could have written. It was very bluesy at times, and after a couple minutes, they stopped, making those unfamiliar with them think perhaps the song was already over. “You guys feeling alright?” Johnny asked, before they jumped back into the song, kicking it into overdrive. They weren’t going to relent, either, and once it ended, Ashley kept right on with some bass chords, before Jeff eventually laid some beats over it. “Y’all still with us Gas Monkey?!” roared Dan as they got the steamy track, “Desire”, going; a song that ended with Johnny shaking a tambourine around.
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“Y’all alright, alright, alright?!” asked Johnny afterwards, continuing on and saying this next song was called “Flashing Lights”. “I don’t know why we named it Flashing Lights…” he remarked. There may be no real rhyme or reason behind the title, but it works, and the song was often more fiery than anything they had done this night. I think it was the keys that really set it off. A keyboard sat close to the drum kit on stage right, and Johnny used it more on this one than he had any other time this night.

“We appreciate all y’all coming out and supporting all these kick ass local bands.” he told the onlookers. Some pounding bass lines then set them off on another song, which was pretty relaxed on the verses, but sprang to life each time they hit the chorus. It ended with Johnny falling to his knees and screaming into a mic, a cool reverb effect added to his voice. They were well into their stride by now, but they pushed themselves even further, diving right into the next song, and then immediately tackling another, as Johnny led everyone in a rapid clap along.
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It was during that latter number he asked his band mates to bring it down. “No, that’s too loud. Bring it all the way down.” he told them. “Y’all feeling good?! Y’all feeling good?!” he asked the spectators, who responded with cheers. As I said, they were firing on a whole new level now, and that one ended with Johnny throwing his arm into the air in synch to some of the drum beats; and then he dedicated their final song to all the ladies. “Cheeky Girl” was one you could dance to if you wanted, and it was also their most intense song, featuring a dueling guitar solo from Jonan and Dane, which was absolutely killer. Johnny finished his part, and then left Jeff, Ashley, Dane and Jonan to finish the tune.

These guys and girl came as a total shock to me. Not that I wasn’t expecting them to be good, but I wasn’t prepared for the overwhelming stage show they delivered.
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They were a force to be reckoned with, and started out being all in, and then somehow just got progressively better the further along they went. The world needs more bands with energy like this. They weren’t the only example of that this night, though they are proof that going out to a concert can and should be an experience that has the crowd wide-eyed and curious as to what the band is going to do next.

As I mentioned, their sound was great, too. A little soul revival, a lot of rock ‘n’ roll and a little blues made for something that was original and always kept your interest.

Again, I ask, “How have I gone this long without knowing about The Kül?” I don’t really know how that happened, but I’m really glad I stumbled across them.

As of now, their next show will be October 5th at Trees; and their new album will be dropping sometime in August.
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The Heroine was closing out the show. I had heard of them, and even seen them before. It was anywhere from four to six years ago probably, up at a club in Denton, and either they’ve changed since then, or my memory of them all those years ago isn’t all that good.
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See, I remember them is a hard rock band who did a fair amount of screaming, more along the lines of what modern metal bands do.

The six-piece (they were rounded out by a keyboardist) took the stage right around midnight, and vocalist Lynnwood Presley King grabbed the slack of the mic cord. He pulled it, causing the stand to swing back and forth, much like it was a dancing partner, and he treated it as such throughout their set, showing equal amounts of love and aggression while he sang.

They opened with a track from the Songs from the Southland EP, and if they had been a heavy rock band all those years ago, it was quickly clear they were now a Southern rock outfit. That bled through on “Outlaw” — which was an ideal opener with roaring guitar solos, while the chorus of, “I’m an outlaw on the run. Say I’m trouble, I’m a loaded gun. A wanted man…”, seemed an appropriate self-description.
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The crowd had thinned out some, but there were still plenty who had stuck around, and none of them really had a chance to applaud, as drummer Johnny Lightning rolled them into “Balled of Lenny King”, and the blistering pace only intensified. Just in the way they handled themselves you could tell this was a touring band. It was the type of cohesiveness that could only come with logging hundreds of shows. King did scream some of the lines; while Jorge “The Kid” Luevano and Dibby Disaster assaulted their guitars; and the drums were the backbone of this fast-paced tune that had everyone looking on in awe.

They focused a lot on their newly released Playing for Keeps album, and as they took a brief pause, King mentioned this next one was his personal favorite. He dedicated it to “every honest man and woman” who gets up early each day and went to an honest job to make an honest living for them and their families. He then got a clap along going while his band mates started “Hardworking Man”. The raw and at times brutal song featured what was perhaps the greatest moment of their set, when King poured a partial bottle of water on his head, his lengthy hair and massive beard soaking it all up. He then shook his head, sending all the tiny water particles flying all over the place, no doubt getting on some of his band mates; and no sooner had he done that, then he picked up the mic stand, holding it parallel to the floor, and then leapt into the air. Classic rock star move.
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Upon finishing it, he confessed his excitement for being here, saying once he found out the Gas Monkey existed, he was hoping that “Richard R.” might just happen to be there this night, see their old, beat up van and decide to fix it up for them. (GMB&G is owned by Richard Rawlings of the Discovery channels’ show Fast N’ Loud.) That wasn’t in the cards for them this night, but maybe if they happen to make a return trip.

They got back to rockin’ with “Texas Star”, and at one of the later choruses, King held the mic out to the audience, letting them sing the easy to pick up part of, “Alright! Hell yeah!” However, the best moment came when he threw the whole mic stand several feet into the air, then caught it like it was the easiest thing in the world. At this point, he mentioned they had been dropped from three major record labels all in the past five years, taking a slight shot at Universal, who was apparently the most recent on that list. It’s a shame, really. It’s not because The Heroine doesn’t have talent. Actually, I’d bet they have more than a lot of bands on the labels, but they don’t have the name recognition to bring in the big bucks, which is really what matters these days.
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That led them to “Make a Move”, a song that The Kid suddenly left the stage during, freeing up some space for King, Disaster and bassist Gulie Vargulish, and they took advantage of it, moving around even more than they had been. Soon, The Kid came rushing back to the stage, though, jumping back up on his side at stage right, and running right over to the drum riser as he shredded away.

“This is a song we wrote about our van.” King told the crowd, saying that any other band members who might be in attendance just might know what he was talking about. It was called “Night Rocker”, and it was yet another pulse-pounding jam they churned out, and one that seemed to perfectly embody the band lifestyle/spirit. “Thank you guys so much. We really appreciate y’all being here…” King said afterward, speaking from the heart. He then made another call for some water on the stage; while I believe it was The Kid who joked he needed a shot or something instead. “…My liver can’t handle water…” he laughed.
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“She’s Fine” was another stellar track, and one that focused on being infatuated by a woman as soon as you saw her. Nothing new, but the way they did… Well, I think it was one of the best songs of their show. They stopped during it, giving the impression that was over, as King took on a sudden soul singer demeanor. “…I’m gonna tell you something!” he said, starting into a speech that I know I’m paraphrasing, but was close to, “She may not want you in bed next to her, and you may think she’s mad ‘cause you didn’t do the dishes or something. Well, I’m gonna tell ya…” he preached, getting to the point (which I admittedly had trouble understanding all of.)

“You know it’s hardcore when it’s after twelve-thirty and you’re still here!” he declared after that number. They then started what I guess could be called a reprise of “Night Rocker”. “I’m driving eighty-five in a ninety-four…” King repeatedly crooned, while the keyboardist played some gentle notes. It went on like that for a few moments, before Lightning, Vargulish and the rest suddenly tore into the song, transforming it into another lively number.
image(Photo credit: Roxanne Fuentes | Fountain Photo Ops)

King then took on that soul singer persona again, and now spoke about when you lay down in bed next to woman you love, and you say, “Baby I paid the bills… Who do you love?” The song was a little more blues inspired one titled “Who Do You Love?”, and they were in their element on it. King had done that periodically with the mic cord, but it was at its best now, as he grabbed it and in a slick manner slung the stand all over the stage, pulling it close when he needed to sing. At one point, he was doing that and stopped to start a clap along, though the stand was off balance and began to topple over. Instead of rushing to save it, he let happen, then eventually walked over to where the stand fell and used his foot to kick it back up, all in one fluid motion. The audience loved it when he sent the stand flying into the air; and the song ended with him on his knees and his arms raised, as if he were praying to the rock gods and channeling the energy they were sending his way.

Their 48-minute long set was nearly over, and now, it took a slightly more religious turn, as King spoke of having dreams of greatness and feeling that “God has a calling on your life”. “And no matter where you go, you can’t get away. And any time you got a great destiny; any time you got a calling, someone may be out there trying to discourage you. I call that power the Silver Tongue Lady!” he shouted, gradually getting louder the further he got into his sermon. “But you need to put your God up and don’t let her get you!” he finished, while his band mates began “Silver Tongue Lady”. The gospel message was picked back up towards the end of the song, when he cried out, “Hallelujah!”. “We are The Heroine from San Antonio…” King finished, mentioning they had the spirit of God with them and to “praise Jesus”, before he walked off stage. The stage was then set for Vargulish, Disaster, The Kid and Lightning to close out the set with a truly epic instrumental outro, one that saw Disaster raising his axe behind his head.
image(Photo credit: Roxanne Fuentes | Fountain Photo Ops)

What a show this was.

The Heroine provided a performance that was full of non-stop action; and while some people did head out while they were still playing, the majority found themselves fixated on a band they probably hadn’t heard of before, but knew they needed to get acquainted with now.

Regardless of what style the band may have been when I first saw them, I do know they’ve changed and grown a lot as a band over the years. This was the type of show, in terms of performance, that you wouldn’t think twice about shelling out twenty to twenty-five bucks for; and this is a band that could easily play thousand plus capacity venues, if only their music got out to more ears.

There can be little doubt that, that will happen one day, it’s just a matter of time. They may have had some bad luck with record labels over the past few years, but some day someone will realize them for the gem they are. It’s just a shame that pure talent is often cast aside in favor of what sells. You just have to keep the faith though, and The Heroine doesn’t seem like a band who will ever stop doing what they love.

You can find their albums in iTUNES; and they have a little tour they are on now, which will include a couple dates at Sturgis. They’ll also be in Fort Worth at The Grotto on August 10th, and they’ll be hitting several other states in between. Full info can be found HERE.

What a night this was and it served as further proof as to what an exceptional music scene North Texas and even Texas in general has. After all, how often is it you see a five-band bill and all five bands are amazing? Well, if you’re really in tune to the music scene here, that can be almost a weekly occurrence.
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Album Review: Mesocyclone by Nicholas Altobelli

imageNicholas Altobelli is a singer/songwriter through and through, perfectly embodying the genre.

One reason I say that is because just last year, in the earlier part of 2013, he released Without a Home to much critical acclaim, garnering praise from the smallest to the biggest media outlets in North Texas, and even from areas elsewhere. It was a different record for him, as he enlisted the help from several friends and fellow musicians, making it into a full-band effort, and in doing so left behind the solo, almost Americana/folk sound for some more poppy tracks.

Shortly after releasing it, though, he was already talking about a follow-up, even starting on songs for it. However, the year plus it has taken to create and release said follow-up wasn’t an easy one for Altobelli. His marriage came to an end during that time, and he also found himself going back to college to pursue a degree in history.

The result of that heartache is the 6-song Mesocyclone EP. The Gigawatts (his backing band) are again utilized, though they return to what Altobelli does best: folk/Americana songs. Poignant ones at that, and even though he’s known for writing more somber songs, this collection takes it to a new level.

The title of the EP isn’t the only weather reference on this album. Take for example the title of the lead track, “Thunderstorms”. While a full-band may be used, the most prominent elements of the music are still Nicholas’ voice and acoustic guitar, though the heavy use of the drums adds a nice kick to the song, while the pedal steel guitar creates some gorgeous moments, though you can hear that even those notes have a tinge of sadness to them. Various metaphors of wind and rain are weaved in as Altobelli croons about the beginning stages of a relationships demise, trying to put a positive spin on it. “…I just want you to know, thunderstorms don’t last.”

Each song tells the next line in the story, and for “Black or Blue”, that seems to be a line about how important communication is. “If I only understood, I could have been your king. If I only understood, you would have kept this ring…” Altobelli woefully sings. This is a contender for the saddest song on the album, and it’s one filled with what ifs, forever wondering if things had been different how they might have worked out. The saddest thing is, it’s hoping they still will [work out], as the chorus, “And I know that tomorrow you will see what’s been missing you…” suggests.

“I called your bluff and I called it hard. Now I’m left with a clotted scar…” goes the second verse of “Pretty Little Daffodil”, a track that finds Altobelli going back to his roots as a solo musician, armed with only an acoustic guitar. That format is behooving of the mood the song has, which is partly about how hard it is to say goodbye to someone you’ve come to know so much about and spent so much time with.  There’s also a soft and subtle sound of rain mixed into the track, helping intensify the mood.

“Memories” is a little more about acceptance of the situation, albeit reluctant acceptance. Altobelli is one of the best lyricists in the North Texas music scene and that talent is showcased exceedingly well on this track, especially on the final verse, “…Just like the love cherished, this too will perish. The memories we had are all that we’ll ever have…” The track exudes heartache, which shines through on every word. “Memories” also sees the return of The Gigawatts, and the piano is heavily featured, and it and the acoustic often complement one another. Quite well, I might add.

In making this EP, Altobelli also looked to the past, resurrecting a song from the Dog Years EP, “Summer Rain”. The fact that this version is so much more fleshed out with the drums, pedal steel, etc. makes it all the more impressive over the original version. It may have been written years prior, yet it fits the story arc of this record surprisingly well. It sounds desolate, and even with a band, that feeling is conveyed in the music. You’ll feel broken just by simply listening to it.

The delicate sound of rain falling is again heard behind the acoustic and Altobellis’ voice on “Odd Numbers”. It’s a fitting closing number, and despite being hurt, the core message is love is always worth it. “…I wouldn’t trade it in to ease the pain that I felt.” he softly sings as the first verse ends. It’s really a simple song in certain aspects, often repeating the chorus. But as I’ve said before about other bands: there’s beauty in simplicity. “…Yes, the darkness came, but the light sure gave a try…”. That’s such  a powerful line, and my take away from it is regardless how something ends, you should just be glad it happened in the first place. Be grateful you got to experience it for some amount of time, even if you’re left not understanding everything.

It’s sad that the most ardent music has to be born out of the most anguishing of circumstances. Yet in some cruel twist of fate, there’s also beauty in that.

I’m sure there are countless numbers of examples of that in music, and I can think of a few myself, where one album a band produces ends up being superior to anything else they have or perhaps even will do, because it’s so raw. Such is the case with Nicholas Altobelli and Mesocyclone.

The life changing events that he went through led to the best music he has done to date. Yes, it’s even better than Without a Home.

It’s so personal, and he has no trouble laying it all out there for the listener; and I imagine this was somewhat of a cathartic experience for him, too.

As I said, Nicholas Altobelli isn’t known for being the cheeriest songwriter there is, but Mesocyclone takes the sadness and despair often found in his music to a whole new level, completely immersing you in the breakup. It’s so rare you get a front row seat like that.

Don’t let that somber tone keep you from listening, though. This may not be an uplifting record, but it’s one you have to listen to. Savor how fluid these six songs are. How they gradually progress the tale. A tale that takes a mere 22-minutes to tell; and once it’s over, just be grateful you were given this glimpse into the life of Altobelli.

Key players in making the record were:
Nicholas Altobelli: acoustic guitars
Heather Kitzman: pedal steel
Trey Carmichael: drums
Daniel Markham: bass
Tony Whitlock: electric guitar
Rahim Quazi: piano
Salim Nourallah: electric guitar, backing vocals


Purchase the album on:
iTUNES (you can pre-order it now. Official release date is August 5th.) / Amazon / CD / Bandcamp

Visit Nicholas Altobellis’ websites:
Official Website / Facebook / Twitter / Youtube

Current Shows:
Saturday, August 2nd at House of Blues in Dallas / Friday, August 8th at All Good Café in Dallas
image(Photo credit: Sally Durrum)

Kentucky Knife Fight is Set to Headline a Dallas Gig (Finally!)

image(Photo credit: Corey Woodruff Photography)

It has already been a little more than six months since Kentucky Knife Fight last made a trip from Saint Louis down to Dallas. That tour at the time was marred by the recent loss of their van, which had been stolen and then crashed, essentially making it scrap and placing the band in financial straits, as they suddenly had to worry about acquiring a new vehicle.

It was an unexpected setback, but it didn’t come close to stopping them, and they stayed busy in their home state of Missouri and even frequently doing shows in Illinois over these last several months (including a 3-day stint opening for Old 97’s back in June).

It’s high time they did another tour, though, and the month of August will be spent on the road, with a return Dallas trip planned for this Friday, August 1st.

The band will return to their favorite Dallas venue — Double Wide — and after playing the city periodically for more than three-and-a-half-years, they will at long last be doing their first headline show in the city.

It has been a long time coming, and even the last few trips have seen them packing out the intimate venue better than many well-regarded local bands can. Then again, since they only do a handful of shows here a year, you can’t afford to miss them.

13th Floor Music is responsible for putting this whole night together, and they pulled out all the stops for this one, adding J. Charles & The Trainrobbers and Foxtrot Uniform to the bill. Each band is headline quality, and often do so across the DFW metroplex. That should pretty much ensure this show is a sell-out, so come out early, grab a good spot while you can, and get ready for a night you won’t soon forget.

Show info:
Friday, August 1st at Double Wide
AGES 21+ ONLY
Music @ 9
$10+
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Friday, July 18th, 2014 – Waking Alice Releases The Dark

Waking Alice had put months of preparation into this night. They were finally releasing their newest EP — The Dark; and aside from that, this would also mark their first headlining show at The Curtain Club.

This was one of the increasingly common five-band bills the venue has started hosting, and Timeless City was charged with kicking it off.

I got there in time to see the last three to four songs they did — which included a cover of Panic! At the Discos’ “I Write Sins, Not Tragedies.” I wasn’t too keen on them, and frontman John Hale had very pitchy voice that never perfectly nailed the notes.
image(Photo credit: Roxanne Fuentes | Fountain Photo Ops)

They’re a young band, though (in terms of band members age and just being newer to the scene in general). So maybe with some practice…

Actually, this was a night of primarily newer bands, and next you had Wolves Reign, who has been around about a year now.
image(Photo credit: Roxanne Fuentes | Fountain Photo Ops)

Lead guitarist Moises Moura introduced themselves to the crowd once the curtain opened on them, before frontman Eric Lara took over. “We are Wolves Reign. We exist and we are no longer a figment of your imagination… So far as you know.” It was one of the more comical intros I’ve seen, and while the crowd wasn’t that large, it did get a laugh from most of the people who were there.

With that, they started into the first song of their 32-minute long set, a song that had some neat key parts courtesy of Jonathan Hill, and the notes Moises was playing sounded pretty slick. Upon finishing it, they changed things up a bit. Matt Garcia had been on the drums, which he now left for the lead microphone. Eric grabbed a guitar and dabbled on the keys, while Jonathan took over as the percussionist. It was the first of a couple games of musical chairs that they played this night.
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“…This was inspired by blood and honey, our favorite beer.” Matt stated, adding the track was titled “Revolver”. I thought it was their best song of the night, and had a raw rock vibe to it. It got your blood flowing a little; and as it ended, Matt pumped his fist into the air while singing. They kept that format for “Another Life”, which, like many of their songs, just had an epic feel to it. Not that they were necessarily long, but it was more in the way they’d suddenly change the songs up, which kept you, the listener, on your toes.

Matt returned to the drums afterwards and Jonathan the keys, while Eric kept the guitar around him and resumed his spot at center stage. “It’s about that time of the show where Matt takes his shirt off.” Eric joked, saying he was also so precise with it. “It’s always eighteen-minutes and twenty-seconds in.” He then fiddled with his guitar, before mentioning, “This next song’s in E flat.” Moises and bassist Izzy Saenz did a good deal of interacting with one another on that one, while Moises was also often shaking his hips, really getting into the song.
image(Photo credit: Roxanne Fuentes | Fountain Photo Ops)

Matt and Jonathan exchanged spots for the final time this night, and once he had the mic back in hand, Matt informed everyone this next one was called “A World with No Risk”. Moises leaned back on Izzys’ shoulder at one point, tearing it up on his axe, while Matt and Eric (who was doing some back-up singing) also stood back to back for a moment on what was another strong song of theirs. They had time for one more, and threw one more surprise the crowd’s way when Matt mentioned it was going to be an instrumental piece, and left his band mates to it. It was more tranquil from the rest of their show, but still some rocking moments, and for a band as interesting as they were, it seemed a fitting way to end.

I really liked the dynamics Wolves Reign had going on. The multiple singers and capable drummers allows them to stand out from the rest of the pack, and they rotated often enough that they always had you on your toes, but you also had enough time to get used to the lineup they had going on at the moment.
image(Photo credit: Roxanne Fuentes | Fountain Photo Ops)

Both Matt and Eric were pitchy at times this night, but it was nothing more than just bumps in the road, ‘cause when they were hitting the notes, they were on fire.

There’s a lot of potential to Wolves Reign, and it should be interesting to see how they progress.

The Broken Stools were another interesting band, and the first thing that your eye focused on when the curtain opened was the pole with a mannequin head on it. A white shirt had been placed on it, and “Cofas” had been written across it in sharpie, while a Guitar Hero guitar hung around him.
image(Photo credit: Roxanne Fuentes | Fountain Photo Ops)

Then the loud, nearly metal sounds hit you. “We’re The Broken Stools!” singer and guitarist Chaz Mangan shouted at the top of his lungs. He and drummer Aaron Fisher then abruptly calmed things down, and Chaz softly spoke, “But we’re not that heavy.” “The thing is!” he again yelled as the instruments once again roared to life, before softening once more. “We like to act like it.”

He then asked everyone to cut bassist Alex Cofas some slack, saying he had just had his wisdom teeth pulled out.

They opened with one of only two songs they’ve recorded so far, “Stereotypical”. For a duo, they sounded amazing. Aaron was getting some killer tones out of kit (specifically the toms), and the guitar even some rhythmic textures to it, helping balance it all out.

“If you like us without a bass player, then go check out our demo!” Chaz told everyone after the song, saying they had copies to take right over at the merch area. They followed it with “If You Can’t Trust the Lion, Get out of its Den”, which is possibly one of the best song titles I’ve ever heard.

The band name was then addressed, and according to Chaz, there was actually no interesting story behind it. “This guy said it joking around one day, and it stuck, and he hates me for it.” he stated. Oh, he was referring to Cofas as being the one who was joking around.
image(Photo credit: Roxanne Fuentes | Fountain Photo Ops)

By this time, they had everyone who was there enjoying their show, if for no other reason than just how fun it was. So, when Chaz shouted, “I need a clap!” at one point during their next song, the spectators were more than happy to help them out. As is mandatory for any band, they did one track for the ladies, while the one that followed Chaz noted he would like to say he forgot the name of it. “But the truth is, we just never named it.” he solemnly confessed. He was a really good guitarist, as was shown when he dropped to his knees during that song and shredded on the axe.

The duo kept their set short, clocking in at only 24-minutes, and they concluded with the first song they ever wrote, “A Fresh Start”.

There are quite a few great duos in the North Texas music scene, and given a little time, The Broken Stools will surely be in the ranks.

You think it’s going to be stupid at first. You see a faux bass player, and then hear them joking about not being a heavy band but liking to act like it, and you think, “This is going to be ridiculous.” But there’s a difference between being silly and just stupid.

The silliness is an act, and they played it up very well. It was fresh. I mean, how many bands have you seen do that? Out of nearly 700 shows I’ve seen, I can honestly say this was a first.

They never went overboard with it, though. They kept it humorous, but when it was time for a song, they hammered away at it with a passion, as real musicians should.

The Broken Stools will be one band to keep an eye on. You can snag their two-song sampler for FREE on BANDCAMP; and keep an eye on their FACEBOOK PAGE for future shows.

The longer running bands had been saved for last, and according to their Facebook page, Code 19 has a couple years under their belt. They had a lot of supporters, too. Seventy plus people at least.
image(Photo credit: Roxanne Fuentes | Fountain Photo Ops)

“Welcome to The Curtain Club!” frontman Joey Dietrich said after their first number, before starting their next track. “It’s time to wake up!” he yelled, pushing off the monitor and jumping back right as he finished the sentence. The song was “Awakening”, which was a little more politically geared (“…Freedom isn’t free…”). Ray Deauman then wound them into their next song with some notes from his guitar, as they continued with their dirty rock/metal sound.

The tune that came next had more of a rap feel to it, really just in the lyrics, which is just something I’m not a fan of, so needless to say that was one I didn’t get too into. They soon got back to their regular stuff, though, but first added in some humor, when Joey and Ray sang a bit of Elton Johns’ “I Hope You Don’t Mind”. “I hope you don’t mind that I put down in words how wonderful life is…” they sang, before Ray shouted, “Now that you’re fucking gone!” That was exactly what “Me2U” was about, and a lot of their fans seemed to love that message.

They continued with the music, and also took time to pump everyone up, egging people on to scream for them and such. Their show reached a fever pitch as they got to the conclusion, and had saved their fan favorite for last. “What?! What?! What?!” Ray got everyone to shout along (I’m assuming that was the title as well). He, bassist Matt Heinecke and drummer Phillip Bell then tore into that last song of their 39-minute long set.
image(Photo credit: Roxanne Fuentes | Fountain Photo Ops)

If you like no-frills rock, then chances are you’ll like Code 19. Their performance was pretty action packed, too, with non-stop movement going on. Nearly everyone there seemed to find it hard to resist, at least.

You can catch them at Lola’s Saloon in Fort Worth on August 2nd.

It was later, but it was finally time for Waking Alice, who hit the stage shortly after midnight.
image(Photo credit: Roxanne Fuentes | Fountain Photo Ops)

It was just the three instrumentalists on stage when the curtain revealed them, and drummer Jonn Levey, guitarist Brandon Brewer and bassist Brayton Bourque began things with an instrumental piece, “The Dark”, jamming for a bit before Rus Chaney walked on stage from the stairwell, microphone in hand.

They had decided to get started with a cover, and one I had not heard them do in a little while. However, the couple of times they did do The Smashing Pumpkins’ “Geek U.S.A.”, they killed it. This night was no exception. It’s one song that plays to all of their strengths, and it was good hearing it back in rotation.
image(Photo credit: Roxanne Fuentes | Fountain Photo Ops)

“What’s up, Curtain Club?!” Rus asked, gazing out at the audience. “Let’s do this shit!” he said, some excitement heard in his voice as Brandon ripped right into one of their most aggressive tracks, “Treason”. Brandon always adds some backing vocals to the chorus, but for whatever reason, they sounded even better this night. A little stronger perhaps, and better heard, fitting nicely with Rus’ voice.

“Thanks for coming out and hanging with us.” Rus said to all their friends and other supporters who had made it out. This may have been the release show for The Dark, but they were getting the stuff from the two-year-old Retribution EP out of the way first, and “Scars” was next. “…The silence says it all.” Rus sang in a hushed manner on the second chorus, placing his finger to his lips as he did so. It didn’t get too quite, though, ‘cause that was right when Brandon came in with a blistering guitar solo.
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“I don’t know if you guys have heard or not, but we’re releasing a new album! To buy! If you don’t, we’ll be killed.” Brandon announced to everyone as they hit their first break of the night. “You’re the one threatening to kill the band.” Rus responded, prompting another laugh from the audience.

Now they finally got to music from The Dark, and first up was “Bi-Polar Heart”. As they do with some of their songs, they made it a little more up-tempo at times, making it all the easier to get into; and as they hit the second verse, Brayton kicked the air, timing it right to one of the beats Jon dished out. They followed it with what was self-described as “kinda a love song” that Rus wrote for his wife. He mentioned it was titled “Paper, Rock, Shotgun”. “…‘Cause all love songs should be named something like that.” he stated, looking at the crowd like, “Am I right?” Why not, especially if they sound as good as this one does. “…To my knees I fell…” he crooned on the second verse, and doing just that as he sang the line. Rus got really into that song, casting his hand into the air as he continued singing the more emotional track. As they hit the break towards the end, Brayton waved his bass around as if it were a gun, and then silence enveloped the club, but only briefly. Their fans began cheering for them, while they looked on at everyone, no doubt savoring the moment, before firing the tune back up.
image(Photo credit: Roxanne Fuentes | Fountain Photo Ops)

“Biggest Lie”, a staple from The Shaping EP (released during the band’s previous incarnation), offered a break from their newest material, and Brandon did his standard guitar solo during it, just riffing and doing what came to him there on the spot. It was an amazing solo at that, and the last few times I have seen them he has been outdoing himself with those. It’s also good ‘cause you really get to glimpse the technical side he has to his style. “Have you met Jon?” Rus asked, as the drums overpowered the guitar. He enjoyed his moment, and then Rus introduced Brayton, who pointed the neck of his bass out towards the crowd and just stood there. “That’s the best bass solo he’s ever played.” remarked Rus, before coming back in for the final chorus.

“They’ve got some tuning to do, and I’ve got some shout-outs to give…” he said, thanking The Jerry Jonestown Massacure Podcast, Whiskeyboy Radio and myself for supporting the release show in one way or another (in my case, the review of the album I had done). With that out of the way, they were now ready to move on to what Rus noted was one of his personal favorite songs off The Dark, “November Burns”.
image(Photo credit: Roxanne Fuentes | Fountain Photo Ops)

He and Brandon joked around before starting it, cussing at one another. “Fuck you, Brandon. I give up.” Rus said, shaking his head as he went to take a seat on the drum riser, flipping Brandon off once he did sit. He didn’t stay in that position long, though, quickly jumping up when it was time for him to start singing. It was one of their best songs of the night, and the fans were loving it, some of whom were already singing along to the track.

No one liked hearing they only had one song left, but then again, they had already done just about everything they could. “Hostage” was all that remained, and it was the perfect way to close out this 41-minute long, hard-hitting set. Despite being almost done, Rus still appeared as if he were just really getting warmed up, and was in the zone on that one, clutching his fist when he sang the first chorus, “Fighting for myself to break free from your grasp…”, and then kicking the air at the second (appropriate, considering the line “…I’m gonna kick some ass.”).

People were hoping that more would come, but that was the end. Still, what a show!
image(Photo credit: Roxanne Fuentes | Fountain Photo Ops)

I’d say this was the best I’ve ever seen Waking Alice. They were tighter and even more solid than usual, and seemed to have found and tapped into some new reserves that made their performance more explosive and dynamic. Above all that, they were having fun. That was all too evident, and the crowd responded to it.

People were rocking out to the songs. Some danced to them, and everybody was just having a good time, which is what a concert’s all about. Well, at least it should be.

It was a great end to a great night. A night that was monumental in Waking Alice history.

Pick up The Dark EP in iTUNES, and you can download the three tracks from Retribution on REVERBNATION for FREE. As for shows, the next few will be taking place in Fort Worth. August 22nd at Tomcats West (it’s a killer lineup that night); September 20th at The Grotto and September 27th at Shipping and Receiving.

My first night at the Curtain was a good one. Round two would be starting soon enough…

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
image

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.