Saturday, October 19th, 2013 – A Farewell to The Hope Trust

It seems that so many bands these days (on the local level) don’t always give their band and fans a proper goodbye. Instead, many just fade into obscurity, becoming nothing more than a memory.

The Hope Trust wasn’t going to be one of those bands, though, and after eight years or so and two full-length records, they were offering one last performance to their fans, closing out their career with a hometown show at Dan’s Silver Leaf in Denton.

The lone opening act on this bill was the fellow Denton based group Danny Rush and the Designated Drivers, whom I’ve heard of for some time now, and was looking forward to seeing and hearing what they were like.

Their 37-minute long set was a mix of old and current material, and I believe even some newer songs, including the first couple they began with. It had my interest from the get go, being a good mix of folk and rock music, and it was clear from the start that singer and acoustic guitarist Daniel Rush Folmer penned some very good songs.

Upon finishing those two a friend of the bands who was in the crowd made the typical concert joke by requesting, “Freebird!”, which was met with a very unusual answer. “Well, get up here and sing it and we’ll play it…” Daniel responded, calling the guy out by name. Since they weren’t going to do “Freebird”, they did the next best thing, the lead track from their debut “Brown and Blue” album, “Brakeman”, a semi slower song that had a nice vibe. The folksy song was only accentuated by the pedal steel guitar that Burton Lee was playing, but that song didn’t go off without hitch.

Daniel broke a string during it, finishing out the song, before having no option but to replace it. As if that were a regular occurrence, his Designated Drivers took charge, drummer Justin Collins starting an instrumental piece with some light beats, with the rest of the group, guitarist Tony Ferraro, bassist Chris Garver and piano player Taylor Sims, as well as Burton, gradually joining in. It was some great riffing that kept them from losing all the momentum they had going, and eventually Daniel returned, but without his acoustic guitar.

He had instead been loaned an electric from The Hope Trust’s singer Kelly Upshaw, which seemed to make the rest of their show (or at least parts of it) a little more rocking than the first few songs had been. The slower love song “W/O U” was one that really stuck out to me this night, and I mentioned earlier how good a writer he was, take for instance one of the first lines, “…Baby cut me open I could use some love…”. They followed it with “Downers”, a fast paced tune from their most recent record “Malverde”, which had Tony adding some backing vocals to it, as he and Daniel sang some of the lines in time with each other.

“SHT YR FKN MTH MY DRLNG” was another fun song, and after another new one, “Mama Plz Cum Home”, Daniel took a moment to introduce the Designated Drivers to everyone. After naming everyone else, he mentioned who he was, which turned into a joke as he said, “And I’m Kelly Upshaw…”.

They then knocked out a few more (three to be exact) newer songs to close out their show.

I thought Danny Rush and the Designated Drivers got the night off to a great start. The bulk of the songs they played were pretty fast paced, and while there were some folk tinges to the music, it was also pretty Rock ‘n’ Roll.

The distinctive voice that Daniel has also helped set them apart, and he just has one of those voices that, for example, if you were to hear on the radio, you’d immediately know who it was.

Their upbeat music and fun live show managed to make me into a fan, and I’ll definitely be seeing them again… Sometime.

You can purchase both of the band’s LP’s on their BANDCAMP PAGE, and they are pretty cheap as far as digital downloads go, so go give some of their music a listen.

Considering most of The Hope Trusts’ gear was already set up (i.e. the drum kit, etc.), it didn’t take too long for them to get the instruments set up and sound checked, before having to wait a bit, for their 11:17 start time.

Being their final performance, the quintet decided to focus on both the records they released, kicking things off with a few songs from 2007’s debut, “The Incurable Want”.

“Ok, Alright” seemed like a rather appropriate song to open with, seeming to fit the group’s current situation quite well when you took some of the lyrics out of context. “…All that’s left is death…” crooned singer and rhythm guitarist Kelly Upshaw before the song’s first chorus, as they got their last hurrah underway. Guitarist Jeremy Buller dabbled on the keys for “Run It Through”, another gem from that old record, while Kelly announced the song that followed it as being “Whatever Suits You”.

Tex Bosley got it started with steady and hefty drumbeat, and that song highlighted two of the best characteristics this band had; a catchy music bed and lyrics that could cut to the bone. For instance, “…Now everything you’ve hated is the future that you’re making, without me… Time can heal our wounds, but leaves a scar and bruise to remind you…”. I felt it a good reminder of why I assume most people (or at least myself) liked the band in the first place, and now, as the crowd heard that one and all the others for, in all likelihood the final time, it reinforced the idea that you needed to soak it all in and savor it.

“Don’t Want to Fight” concluded the time they spent on that first record, and as they geared up to move on to “Light Can’t Escape”, Mike Upshaw laid his guitar down and walked over to the keyboard at stage right. Kelly killed the time with some banter, saying something that this show was a recital. “…I like calling concerts recitals…” he joked, before adding, “…They are better than rehearsals.”

They then tackled the lead track from the record that wound up being their swan song, “Won’t Take Much”, a personal favorite of mine, and I will truly miss. “…Is confession all we’ll ever know? Is forgiveness at the end of the road?…” are a couple of the questions raised on that deep, thought provoking number, and as it ended, Mike went back to his guitar, as the rest of the instruments (and probably the clip of a sample track they used) resonated, bridging them into their next song, “Climb Your Own Trees”.

Already at a few points this night Kelly had thanked everyone for coming out, and during the next break he did so again, noting how much it meant to him and the rest of the band that they all were there. “…This is for the lovers…” he said of the next song they had in store, slowing things down for the more tender, “Drive to the Ocean”. Possibly the best part of the song was the outro, switched up a bit from what you hear on the record, prominently featuring Jeremy on the keyboard, which intertwined well with some sweet notes Mike was playing, giving the song an even more gorgeous texture.

Mike again manned the keyboard for the next song, “Afterglow”, and upon finishing it a fan shouted out, “Ten more years!” “It’s not me you have to convince.” Kelly replied, before soon naming the title track from the album, “Light Can’t Escape”. It was one of the more rocking songs they wrote, while still having their signature indie rock sound at its core, and that rock nature was on display at times, as all the members, including bassist Andy Odom, seemed to get more into it, and Kelly could even be seen shredding on his guitar a bit.

“There are seriously twenty-eight more songs left.” he joked, but even if it had been true, no one had a problem with that, and actually were welcoming of it. More than a few of their songs have some religious undertones to them, and none more than “Sleepy Romans”, which came next in their set, though they aren’t so much undertones in that one. “Oh, Jesus Christ, is it a bad time to get right with you? I’ll be good, do the things I should until you come back through…” is one of the many lines that’s a testament to that.

With the first notes of “Lost In Transmission”, it seemed like the night was about to end, seeing as that had been the standard closer since they released “Light Can’t Escape” back in 2011, or at least every time I had seen them that was how they ended gigs. It’s a fitting final note, and that was especially true this night, during the lengthy instrumental outro, which capped things of well.

That brought their 48-minute long set to a close, and for a moment it seemed like they were done, but the fans who were there weren’t quite ready for that. Some light chanting began, then, at the urging of the sound guy, the people got louder, and the five guys retook their spots.

“We don’t really do encores, so let’s get over the bullshit and just do more songs.” Kelly remarked. Mike once again played the keys on their next song, a single which Kelly said had been “certified pewter”. Jeremy was the lone guitarist on “Throw Me Overboard”, proving he can be a good, energetic frontman when not playing an instrument, and afterwards, they arrived at the final song.

“…Shit dies and things end. It’s going to happen to you and me…” Kelly said rather bluntly, and while I didn’t think he sounded all that bitter by it, one of his band mates asked him if he was. He then took a time out, thanking each of them for being in this band with him, saying he had been playing in bands with Jeremy and Andy since his early days. He also thanked Tex for being there, as well as Mike and another brother who was a spectator this night, but Kelly pointed out had been in the band at various points. “Tried To” ended this 9-minute long encore (of sorts) section, and though I wouldn’t have thought it before hand, it just sounded like the right song for these guys to end on. The outro was the best part, allowing all of them one final push, tearing it up on their instruments, before the band’s heartbeat slowed, giving out as Kelly once again thanked everyone for being there to witness it.

I think the best part of their show was the fact that there was no somberness to it. That’s not to say it was a happy event by any means, though I didn’t feel it was sad, either, unlike other farewell shows I’ve been to. None of the members of the band made it feel that way, either, instead it was like it was just another show.

It served as a nice final page in the book these guys had been writing over the years, and I don’t think their story could have ended any better.

I might not have been a die hard fan who was at every single show they did, but I did love the band and the music they made, and it will be missed. However, on the bright side of things, Kelly is planning on starting a solo career, backed by a full band, and he’ll have a record out next year (probably Spring 2014).

In the meantime, you can still purchase both of The Hope Trust’s records on their BANDCAMP STORE, so, even if you missed out on ‘em, give their exceptionally well written music a listen. You’ll be glad you did.

Monday, May 13th, 2013 – Spooky Folk Bids Adieu… For Now

It was a bit of a somber night here in Denton at Dan’s Silverleaf this night.

The reason was because the Denton based Spooky Folk, who have made a name for themselves not just in the college town, but the whole North Texas music scene, was calling it quits. At least temporarily. The bands singer and rhythm guitarist Kaleo Kaualoku was getting ready to move to Denver with his fiancé, meaning it’d be basically impossible for the band to play regularly anymore, and this was a sendoff show for him, and even the band in a way.

Only one band was opening this show, and that privilege went to Tony Ferraro and the Satans of Soft Rock, who kicked off their set a little after nine.

Lead guitarist Ryan Thomas Becker jumped into the air, strumming his guitar as he did so, and as soon as he landed drummer Justin Collins and the rest of the band started “King Run-a-Thon”. It was an electric opener and seemed even more vibrant than the recorded version, or at the very least Tony Ferraros’ voice grabbed your attention more here in the live setting.

Their set had an excellent flow to it, as they smoothly transitioned from one song to the next, and as soon as they finished that first song Ryan proceeded to play some different notes, leading them into “Satanic Verses”. Out of all their material, it arguable has the best music bed, being very catchy with the bass lines that David Howard plays, the piano notes provided by Chris Gomez, as well as the guitars and drums intertwining incredibly well with one another. They work in some nice points of crescendo, too. As soon as they finished it, they whipped right into “Children In Fur Coats”, where Tonys’ distinctive voice shined as he sang the chorus, “You will always have a home here…”

They did two more songs afterwards, doing both in rapid succession, and finally they took an actually break where Tony again thanked everyone for coming out for this special night. “…Let’s do Children In Fur Coats.” He said, before his band mates pointed out to him they had already done it, causing Tony to laugh at himself. I guess that just goes to show how truly excited he was about this gig. Instead, they did the last remaining track from the “Friend of Man and Beast Alike” EP, “I Am The Engine”, which was a true highlight of their set.

They were really on a roll now, and didn’t let up as they cranked out “Assemble The Bitch Wolves”, which may be a slower song, but it’s still loaded with rock, and both Tony and Ryan skillfully plucked the strings of their axes, proving themselves to be masters of the craft, or at the very least experts. They stepped things back up with the rip-roaring “Diaspora”, then did one more non-album track before showing off a couple of surprises.

Tony invited Kaleo and Petra Kelly of Spooky Folk on stage with them, saying they could use their help singing along. He then extended the offer to the other three members of the group, which Jesse Perry took them up on, and Tony apologized, saying they were just “afterthoughts”. “That’s terrible, who would say something like that?!” Ryan said to him, just giving him a hard time. The song was “No, We Can’t Be Friends”, which was a true sing along, with many of the fans joining in with the collection of musicians on stage, all belting out the chorus, “No, we can’t be friends, we can’t be friends…” It made for an awesome moment, and typically, I believe that’s how they end their shows, but this was a special night after all, and they had one last trick up their sleeve. They covered a song by one of music’s greatest icons, John Lennon, putting a more rock spin on “Instant Karma”, with Tony, Ryan, Jesse, Petra and Kaleo all singing on the chorus.

It was an amazing rendition they did, and given the circumstances of this night, it was a perfect way to conclude their 45-minute long set.

This was only the second time I had seen Tony Ferraro and his Satans of Soft Rock, and I thought they were even better this time around. Everything was very on point and they were all in perfect synch with one another, being one collective unit that dominated.

Unfortunately, this was a bit of a sad night for these guys too, because David Howard is also moving to Denver, making this his final show with the band. Each band is different in how they handle a band member leaving, but I hope his departure doesn’t result in a big change in the bands dynamic, because they have something great going on.

You can download all of their music for FREE by going to their BANDCAMP PAGE, so do check that out, and to keep up-to-date with the future of the band and what shows they might have coming up, go give their FACEBOOK PAGE a like.

As it approached time for Spooky Folk to start, the intimate venue began to fill up quickly. It may have been a Monday night, but that hadn’t stopped their fans from all over the area coming out in droves to experience the last Spooky Folk show for some time.

They had promised a lengthy show for this night, saying they were even going to do some songs they hadn’t done in quite awhile, however, as they got going, their focus was on their newer material from their forthcoming album, segueing their first two songs into one another and doing one more after that. At this point singer and rhythm guitarist Kaleo Kaualoku took a moment to inform everyone that over at their merch table they could pre-order a copy of the new record, which would in turn help them pay for it. Violinist and backing singer Petra Kelly then chimed in with her own commentary by saying that everyone should “cry tears of sadness” over Kaleo moving and leaving them there. I think she was trying to make light of the situation, despite the fact that she looked like she could burst into tears at any moment.

The barrage of new stuff continued with another song, before they slowed things down, doing a short track from their debut album, “Diddle”. Live the song was overwhelmingly beautiful, especially the final lines as Kaleo and Petra harmonized, crooning, “Looking for love in all the wrong places seems to be common these days.” Their voices mixed magnificently, and that song was almost more of a prelude in a way, because shortly after they finished they started in on another newer one, “Kicking and Screaming”, which was greeted warmly by the crowd. It’s the band at their best with a constant ebb and flow, and Kaleo is constantly changing up his voice to match Chris Brown’s drumming, going from almost a whisper to full on shouting and then back down again all in mere seconds.

They finally touched some stuff from their self-titled debut record (or at least full songs from it) by doing the mostly serene “Modern World”, then picked things back up with a fan favorite, “Polaroid”. The crowd and the band livened up on that one, especially in the speedy final minutes of the song, which saw Jesse really start to throw down and race about the stage, while Scarlett Wright got a little faster in playing the bass in order to keep up with the beat, but still maintained that traditional calm swagger bassists have.

Upon finishing it the band asked everyone to raise a glass to Grady Don Sandlin, because the well known area musician who also produced and recorded Spooky Folk’s first record couldn’t be here this night because he was on his honeymoon. “…He’s busy having sex…” Jesse added, a blunt comment that got a laugh from just about everybody. Things then turned back to their music, and while Jesse was taking over on Scarletts’ bass, and she in turn was readying her melodica, Petra played a petty solo on her violin, which set them up for “Resurrect!”. It was one of the few songs that had nearly everybody singing along, shouting the chorus right back to the band,  “…Everything is wrong when you know that’s right, reach down, deep down somewhere inside, let me know that one day everything is gonna be just fine.” Since first hearing that’s always been a favorite Spooky Folk of mine, and I’d even say it’s one of the most interesting songs in general, due largely to the unique sound the melodica gives it.

They unloaded one more new song on their fans, before doing a golden oldie that, as Petra said, they hadn’t “played in years”. It was one of the longest songs from their album, “Stars”. “Now it’s time for us to rest our heads, watch the stars go up and go to bed…” crooned Kaleo when the song hit its lull, and at that part Jesse mimicked the words, as he placed his hands together to make a pillow and rested his head on them, pretending to sleep. As serious as they are about putting on a good show, they’re also all about having a good time, and that proved it.

Thus ended their 48-minute long set, or at least the first one, as they told everyone they were going to take a little break and then get back up there to rock some more.

Sure enough, a little over an hour after they started their first set, Petra and Kaleo again took the stage, performing a song as a duo, and I believe that song was “Darkest Shade Of Gray”. Chris, Scarlett and Jesse then returned to do the song that used to begin their shows, “My Niagara Heart”.

The pulse-pounding track made it obvious they had saved most of the best for last, even if it was followed by the rarely played gem “I Am A Ghost”, which may be slow and rather gloomy for most of it, but it has some very poignant lyrics. They followed it with “This Sleep”, which worked well and bridged from them back into a full blown rock mode.

Once they finished it, someone bought some shots for them and they were handed out to the band. “…Scarlett is a heavy drinker and you should all pray for her…” Said Jesse, right after Scarlett had said that she doesn’t drink.

At this point in the show, Kaleo had broken a string on his guitar, and he had to borrow one from one of the earlier musicians, namely Ryan Becker. Once he said something about it Petra noted how appropriate that was. See, it was appropriate because they next covered an RTB2 song, specifically “Bottle The Bees”. They put an interesting twist on it, part of which was probably due to them having three more instruments than RTB2 does, but it was a killer cover all the same. They kept things going with what I believe was another newer track of theirs, following it with another tune from their first record, “Rare Bird”, which I’m pretty certain was the song that before starting Petra told everyone it was okay if they cried during it. I don’t think anyone did, but if they had than this song about love and loss would have been the perfect song to shed a few tears to.

As the show began to wind down, Kaleo again informed everyone that this was not a goodbye or a final farewell, saying that once the record was done he would come back to Denton in order to do a CD release show, making it sound like it would be much like this night with multiple sets involved. He also made sure to let the fans know that the new record was nearing completion and is going to be released one of these days. With that they ripped into yet another new song, before doing their final three tracks.

The crowd was elated to hear “Disheveled”, which, in its relatively short existence has already become a hit, and rightfully so, because it’s just a step above their other stuff, being catchy and aggressive, and also features some wicked guitar notes from both Jesse and Kaleo.

All night, on stage right there had been a pedal steel guitar, which I wondered when they were going to put to use, and now Burton Lee, who is best known for playing the pedal steel in the Texas Outlaw Country group Eleven Hundred Springs, joined them on stage and took his seat behind the instrument. The first song he helped them with was a bit of a shock, as they covered Garth Brooks classic, “Friends in Low Places”. Mind you, their rendition wasn’t nearly as country as the original, in fact it was quite electrifying and they did a delightful version of it, with most of the band singing on each chorus.

Then it was time for their final song, which Burton stuck around for. Kaleo knew everyone here knew their final song, and he requested that all the fans join in, saying if they didn’t they’d break up right here and now, noting it wouldn’t be a pretty break up, either. Everyone gladly obliged, though I think they would have sung along to “Bible Belt” even it hadn’t been made into a requirement. “I was born on the bible belt, give me something sharp so I can kill myself, because I can’t go on living this way…” the crowd roared each time on the chorus. The five core members were obviously having the time of their lives performing that song, with Petra happily shaking the tambourine she had swapped out with her violin. In all this second set lasted 57-minutes, and those 57-minutes seemed to pass by too quickly.

The band didn’t just exit the stage, instead they all surrounded Kaleo, hugging him and surely telling him what a fun ride it has been. They then showed their appreciation to everyone by taking a bow and then posing for some group shots, and once they were done Petra quickly left the stage, noticeably wiping away a few tears that she had been holding back all night.

Even if the other members didn’t show it so easily, I imagine they felt the same, and you really can’t blame them, because after all this is the end of a near in a sense. No, they aren’t breaking up and yes, they will do more shows, but they’ll never again (or at least not for a long time) be playing multiple shows a month around the Denton/Dallas/Fort Worth area. Sadly, things will probably never be the same, for them or their fans.

Personally, I can’t say I’m too torn up about it, because as much as I love Spooky Folk, I never saw them on a very regular basis. Still, it was nice knowing I had the option to go see them.

As far as this show goes, it was the eighth time I had seen the band, and hands down it was the best. You could tell they put a lot of work into it with rehearsals and such to make sure it was as big a spectacle as possible. Not only that, but they poured their souls into it, even more so then usual, and left it all on the stage.

They might still be a band, but nonetheless, North Texas lost one of its best, most original, unique and even somewhat quirky bands this night.

According to the talk this night, they are hoping to release their new album sometime this summer, so maybe a few months down the road they’ll be back for another party to mark the release of it. In the meantime, you can listen to/buy their first record on their BANDCAMP PAGE.

What a night and what a show this was. I’m glad I was able to bear witness to it and the drive to Denton was more than worth it.

NOTE: All photos are courtesy of Geoffrey Ussery and all rights belong exclusively to him. Visit his BLOG to see all the great pictures he takes of the various bands he sees. For the full photo set of Tony Ferraro & the Satans of Soft Rock go HERE. For the full photo set of Spooky Folk go HERE.

Thursday, January 31st, 2013 – Part I: Centro-Matic

I don’t get up to Denton too often these days, but there’s at least one night a month when there’s a show up there I want to see. And for this was the night for this month.

There were actually a couple of shows I wanted to see here this night, but the one at Dan’s Silverleaf took priority in my opinion. Centro-matic was doing a rarer string of shows in Texas this weekend, and it began with a hometown gig at that fine venue, which was presented by Spune Productions.

The only opening act was Tony Ferraro & the Satans of Soft Rock, who also reside in Denton, and are a collective effort of several notable area musicians, led by, of course, Tony Ferraro.

Beginning their 38-minute long set was a song, “Children In Fur Coats”, from their first official EP, “Friend of Man and Beast Alike”. It definitely held true to the “soft rock” portion of the band’s name, at least for the most part. It was rock music, but nothing too intense, at least not until the end, when Justin Collins drumming picked up, becoming something you could really bang your head to. Afterwards, Tony stated what an honor it was to be on this bill. “…Up next are the people… The people who I can’t say enough nice things about without saying too many nice things…” he said, obviously filled with glee that he was opening for the iconic, Centro-matic. They did another couple, one of which I think was “I Am The Engine”, which was a very catchy number, and stands out as my favorite from their set. The song titles got a little more creative with their next one, “Assemble the Bitch Wolves”. It was a slower one, a bit somber is some ways, and featured an outstanding guitar riff/solo from lead guitarist, Ryan Becker. Mr. Becker is certainly one of the most prolific musicians in D/FW scene, and while the bands he fronts are some of the best around, it’s also something to see him as just a guitar player. Not having to do all the singing means he can focus all of his attention to playing the guitar. It’s something to marvel at, you quickly realize, as an instrumentalist, he is one of the best. Not just in the local scene here, either, but in general. They kept the final notes of the song going, while Tony, Ryan and Justin presumably discussed how to go into the next song, which Justin soon transitioned them into with some beats, while bassist, David Howard, laid down some heavy riffs, too. That segued them into “Diaspora”, an incredible song that made great use of the keyboard, which was manned by Chris Gomez. Four more songs came next in the setlist, none of which I knew, and on the first of those Tony and Ryan pulled off some gorgeous harmonies as they crooned. After that slew of songs, they were left with enough time to do one more. In case you don’t know, Tony plays bass in one of Ryan Becker’s bands, Last Joke, and the EP that band has released features one of Tony’s songs, “No, We Can’t Be Friends”. That was the one that brought this show to a close, and again found both Tony and Ryan doing some co-singing.

I expected I’d enjoy their show, but not to the extent that I did. Tony has several recordings available to download, many of which are more demo quality, and it’s hard to gauge how a band will sound based on that. That’s not to say I hadn’t enjoyed said recordings, though. They [the songs] sounded so much more impressive live and took the Satans from being a band I had never seen live, to one I’d like to see many times over.

The few glimpses I’ve caught of Tony’s voice, I’ve enjoyed it, and this night I was shown that he definitely has the chops to front a band. There’s a real folk quality to his singing voice, which sounds excellent on the slower songs, but he’s able to push it enough to where it also works on their more rock numbers.

They were very polished, and it was evident that they had put in a lot of work in rehearsing for this show, making them a worthy act to open for Centro-matic. As far as Satans’ shows go, I don’t think they play too terribly often. But to keep up to date with everything, just keep a check on their FACEBOOK PAGE. You can also check out all of their recordings on their BANDCAMP page, all of which are FREE to download (though you can pay for them if you want.)

It was only barely after ten, and already the members of Centro-matic were setting up their gear. It made me think that this may indeed be an earlier night, which would be great, because it would allow me to squeeze in one last band while here in Denton.

A little after 10:30, Will Johnson, Mark Hedman, Matt Pence and Scott Danbom stepped on stage. They hadn’t sold the place out like I thought they might, but there was a very healthy crowd there for a Thursday night, and everyone packed in tight around the stage, as they guys set to work…

“Flashes & Cables” opened up their set, as Will began softly singing the first few lines of it, “If we found the time, if we found the merriment. If we found the words, we’d scratch them in new cement…” They found their footing once they hit the chorus, when it swelled to a powerful rock number, due largely to the driving beats Matt was banging out. Upon finishing it, Will took a moment to thank Tony Ferraro. “…I salute your golden souls…” he said, speaking of the band. He genuinely seemed taken by their talent, and went on to say that they would take them to their next two gigs the following nights in Austin and Fort Worth, “…Somehow…”, Will added. After swooning over them for a few minutes, they continued on with the show. “…This next one is Fountains of Fire…” Will stated, as they tackled the song from 2001’s, “Distance and Clime” album. It seemed a bit too slow to me, at least too slow for so early on in the set. That’s not to say it wasn’t good, though, and plenty of people seemed to thoroughly enjoy it. The fans really didn’t get a chance to applaud that one, though, as Will played some notes on his guitar, winding it right into “Against the Line”. It was one of a few they did from their current record, “Candidate Waltz”, and it shows the unique knack Mr. Johnson has for penning songs, as there is no real chorus to it, yet it stands out as one of the strongest in both their catalog and live show. A brief break occurred afterwards, which lightened the mood as Will proceeded to talk about the “fun” they had been having in Denton earlier in the day. He mentioned that they had been hanging out, I believe on the east side of the square, where the “…Swords, gas masks and helmets…” were. The conversation lasted for a few minutes, and he mentioned how “exotic” the shop was. “…The trick is trying to figure out to write off swords, gas masks and helmets on your taxes…” he finished, before moving on, saying the next song was called “Iso-Residue”. That made for two of their most recent songs getting played back-to-back, and threw one more in there, segueing it into “All the Talkers”. I think they extended the break that happens about halfway through, to the point it made you think the song was over, before they started building it back up. That finished up the “Candidate Waltz” record, at least for the time being, but the band had another trick up their sleeve. Will casually mentioned that they had started working on a new record within the last month. He even dropped the title of it, which will be “Take Pride in Your Long Odds”, and they cranked out a tune that will appear on it. It sounded quite good, and now has me very intrigued about this forthcoming album. Sometime during the song, it hit a lull, during which Scott stood up from the keyboards he had been manning, walked over to center stage and got the bass from Mark, who in turn went and grabbed his guitar, giving them a fuller rock sound as they closed out that new track. (At least I assume that was all part of the same song.) Getting all that new stuff out of the way now meant it was time for the “hits”, or perhaps fan favorites is a better word to use, like “The Mighty Midshipman”, which Matt started them off on. Some more small talk was made once they finished it, and Will pointed out the unusual “…balance of people by the bar…” There was a cluster of them over in that direction, while the stage right section of the audience was pretty bare. “…There’s nothing wrong with that,” he said, “It’s just different…” He also set up the next song, another from the same album as their previous one, “Argonne Limit Co”. “…It’s about deep, dark holes… Lined with crystals…” he said. It was another softer one, but this far into the set, they had already established their rock dominance, so it was nice hearing them switch it up a bit. “Calling Thermatico” followed, which was a fitting one, as it brought things back up a little bit, but still had a similar flow as the one they had just done. Perhaps the best part of that song was near the end, when Will began clapping his hands rather rapidly, as he repeatedly crooned into the mic, “Oooooohh…”. They had something else in store from the nearly seven-year-old “Fort Recovery”, and it was my personal favorite Centro-matic song, “Patience For The Ride”. “…You can’t touch the forces of our hurricane, the forces of our hurricane hearts…” sang Will, changing up the first verse slightly from how it is on the recording, while Scott occasionally added some backing vocals to the mix. They raced through the barely over a minute-long, “The Connections Not so Civilized”, before getting to “Mandatory On the Attack”, which is off their earliest album. Its fast paced beats, and quick plucking of the strings on the guitars and bass, make it an insanely catchy tune. Well, that and the fact that Will manages to keep up with it all effortlessly, with the lyrics spewing from his mouth with ease. Upon finishing it, Scott relinquished his bass duties, giving it back to Mark, while he returned to the keys. That took them into “Huge In Every City”, where the keys were very prevalent, and one of the best things about the song. With the exception of the lengthy instrumental outro, where all four of them really let their musicianship take over, showing what pros they really are. At one point during all of that, Will even proceeded to jump up and down. Next, they cranked out “Rock And Roll Eyes”, which is one of their truest rock songs, and I’m glad it’s still a mainstay in their live sets, despite it being one of their oldest songs. Matt/patched the end of it right into the next song, which was the only other one I didn’t know this night. It sounded quite good, though. They took another break, while they welcomed an additional guitarist on stage, giving him time to set up. “Brent Best, everybody!” Will exclaimed, as the man walked on stage. He stuck around for their last few songs, which included the first single from “Candidate Waltz”, “Only In My Double Mind”. The beats at the beginning were very rhythmic, to the point of being hypnotic, and you knew right away you were about to hear something special. They really cut loose during the instrumental break in the middle of it, showing that Brent brought a lot to the table, and, if only for a few songs, helped elevate the bands performance to an even higher level than before (who knew that was possible.) It was Will who really rocked out, though, dropping to his knees as he just shred on his guitar for a bit. That could have been an excellent note to end on, but they had one last thing planned, and that was the shorter, “Fidgeting Wildly”, which capped off a 71-minute long set.

You would think an encore would be imminent, but after a minute or so passed, I started to wonder. After all, that had been quite a show, and anything they might have had left would be icing on the cake. Then, just when I was about to give up and leave, the four guys walked back on the stage, Will sans his guitar.

I had no clue what to expect, and Will prefaced it by saying it was going to be a love song. It was indeed, and a damn fine one at that. It was called “Love Has Found Me Somehow”, and was a sweet love song, without being too mushy, and Will even got almost everyone in the crowd to join him on a whistling part, which was a pretty cool moment, but not the best. First off, let me say that the beard Mr. Johnson was sporting makes him appear rather prophetic, like he could be some spiritual guru who could tell what the meaning of life is. Hell, the music he writes is so smart it kind of attests to that, and all of that served to make what happened next that much funnier in my opinion. Scott, Matt and Mark lightened the music, as Will announced he had invented a new dance. “…It might not be good,” he warned, “but it’s new…” He had dubbed it the “Belgian Waffle Maker”, saying it came from the free breakfast that the Hampton Inn offers, where you can make your own waffles. Catch is, it ends at ten in the morning. “…Now, ten’s a little too early. But okay, I’ll be there…” he said, and that joke received lots of laughs. He was very detailed with it all, saying when you get to the breakfast bar, there’s a line, “…of every single other person who waited until nine fifty-one to get up…”. Here’s where the dance came in, as he was talking about having to watch everyone make their waffle, and flip it over and over and over again. While he was talking about flipping them, he mimicked the motion with his hands, which he had pressed together, flipping from one side to the other. You really had to be there to fully get it, and it was damn near one of the funniest things I’ve seen at a show. But best of all, that wasn’t the only new dance he had created, and he said he had also done one with his daughter a few days before. I think he said something like, “I’m not sure if it traumatized her or not…”, before he began randomly placing his hands all over his body, then moved them elsewhere, and he picked up speed the longer he did it. By the time that ended, I was near tears from laughing so hard, so it was a good thing they resumed the song and closed it out. That wasn’t the end of the show, though. No, they had one final song for everybody, and closing out their 11-minute encore was “Tied to the Trailer”, during which they again enlisted some help from Brent Best.

I haven’t seen many concerts so far this year, but this was the best one yet. And I have a strong feeling it’ll be one of the best ones I see all year.

Very few bands make it to see their sixteenth year, and all the time they’ve spent together is obvious at their live show. Despite the fact that they all live in different cities now, and they don’t play too often, they are still tighter than most bands could ever hope to be, and while they are seasoned veterans, they can give even the youngest, most energetic bands a run for their money in terms of performance.

Centro-matic really is an institution when it comes to Texas music, and are hands down one of the best acts in the state. I just hate that I didn’t really come across them until late 2011.

They have a bounty of records you can buy, all of which can be purchased HERE. And while they don’t have any shows at the moment, they will no doubt be back out sometime later in the year. Hopefully they’ll get back to the Dallas area for another gig before they release the record they’re currently working on, too.

That may have been the end of this show, but my night in Denton wasn’t quite over with yet…