The Saving Abel show wasn’t originally supposed to be held at The Curtain Club, but that was where it wound up. I was okay with that, given my immense love for the venue; and actually, it made me all the more excited to see the stacked bill of local talent that had been assembled to open the show.
For the past few shows, Story of a Ghost had been playing main support to Saving Abel; and this was their final show of their run with them.
The quartet hailed from Joplin, Missouri; and when the curtain opened on them, Logan Graves was putting a beat down on the drums. Bassist Rikki Ramirez emerged from stage right shortly after; and guitarist Aaron Hearse wasn’t far behind. The roaring instrumental intro earned them lots of attention, though the venue wasn’t nearly as crowded as it had been for the local act before them.
“How the hell you doing Dallas, Texas?!” frontman Davin Casey asked once they were done. “…Let’s make it a helluva night!” he shouted after mentioning this was their final date with Saving Abel. Rikki proceeded to clap his hands together, eventually getting much of the couple dozen people watching them to do the same; and there came a point in the track when Aaron rushed off the stage and stood with the crowd as he rocked out.
“This kinda shit does not happen in Joplin!” stated Davin, who was riding high on the crowds’ energy. Number wise, the audience may not have been strong, though people were very engaged with the outfit. “…This is a Texas exclusive!” he remarked, before glancing at all the plaques of bands that adorn the Wall of Fame. Some of them went on to achieve national fame, others will always be Dallas legends, but the one constant as they all cut their teeth here at the Curtain. He said something to the effect that this place was here because of all those bands, and then they launched into another song. Davin screamed some on that track, and when he was doing it, he executed excellent control over his voice. Really, it was impressive to hear; and when it hit a lull, he moved over to the keyboard that sit in the stairwell on and off the stage.
“I don’t know if you know this, but it’s fucking hot in Texas,” he remarked afterwards. The audience cheered, affirming they were all too familiar with this. “Are there any rock fans here?” he then asked, using that to setup a cover of “Wasteland” by 10 Years, which concluded with Aaron again getting out in the crowd.
There were some fans out there who were familiar with Story of a Ghost before this night, and now, Davin pointed them out, saying he thought they’d know this one. “…I don’t expect you to sing it with me, though,” he told them, clearly wanting to be proved wrong. So, a few people were happy to do that, and did help them out on “March”, which was backed up with a strong stage performance. With that, they were already onto the final number of their 28-minute long set; and during it, Aaron jumped into the air, doing a nice 360° spin while he was up there.
Their hard rock style was very melodic, and at times sounded a little commercialized, but not in a negative way. In fact, it gives it a broader appeal to your general audience, which of course can’t hurt any band.
They were very tight and had some great chemistry with one another, which really showed through during their performance. Would I go see them again? Yes, yes I would.
The Saving Abel show wasn’t originally supposed to be held at The Curtain Club, but that was where it wound up. I was okay with that, given my immense love for the venue; and actually, it made me all the more excited to see the stacked bill of local talent that had been assembled to open the show.
The Saving Abel show wasn’t originally supposed to be held at The Curtain Club, but that was where it wound up. I was okay with that, given my immense love for the venue; and actually, it made me all the more excited to see the stacked bill of local talent that had been assembled to open the show.
Talent like The Circle: who was fourth out of the six bands on the bill (and the final local DFW band of the night).
“It’s a Sunday night at the Curtain Club!” roared frontman Don Mills, while his band mates began their 27-minute long set by launching into “Break This”. The song had been debuted when they played here at the end of June, and it sounded even better this night than what I remembered. “Five, six, now your voice is making me sick… Nine, ten, now you’re never seeing me again…” went one of the lines, copying off the old kids rhyme.
“This place is fucking full on a Sunday night!” exclaimed Don once they finished. Indeed, it was; and The Circle had more eyes on them then any band this night. That includes the headliner, who he then gave a shout-out to, asking if anyone had heard of Saving Abel. Drummer Marc Berry, bassist Kenneth Henrichs and guitarists Craig Nelson and Alan Sauls were already beginning “Save Me”, which seemed to build on the energy and excitement they had established with that opener. At one point, all the instruments pretty much cut out for a second, and it was then that Kenneth pointed and looked out at the crowd, making a very metal face as he gritted his teeth together.
It was hard not to notice that strapped to Alans’ chest was a GoPro camera, because with the cramped conditions on stage (since Saving Abels’ gear was all backlined), Alan had been spending plenty of time on their boxes that have their logo painted on them, so the camera had been pointing out towards everyone. “…I want to see some of the stupidest shit I’ve ever seen…” Don told everyone, mentioning they planned to make a little video out of all the footage they got. “Who cares about work tomorrow morning?!” he then asked, making a toast to the audience. It’s worth noting said toast was made with a bottle of water on Don’s part.
The intro for the “The Other Side” had already begun, and now they started touching on the stuff from their Who I Am EP. They came out swinging, but it was with that song — one they’ve been playing for much longer — that they hit their stride. Some fans sang along; and in the back half on the track, Don proceeded to slap one of the cymbals on Marcs’ kit.
“We’re three songs in, so you know what that means…” he said as soon as they had finished. He asked everyone to get their drinks up, toasting all the local musicians. “Local music is by far the best music that’s never been heard,” he declared. Sad, but true. “I want to have your babies!” someone in the crowd shouted, causing a look of surprise to come across Dons’ face, as he said to Craig that, that was a first.
“Failure” followed it up; and as they hit the second chorus, Craig raised his axe into the air for a moment, while aggressively plucking the strings. Their abbreviated set contained one more newer tune, and that was “What Do You Say?” Craig got goofy on it, and when Alan approached him, he started to make all sorts of faces for the GoPro, looking right into it, and even dropping to his knee as he continued to stare at it. They had a solid flow going by this point, as they weaved each song into the next, and the transition to “I Am” was seamless.
Marc stood up behind his kit at the start, beaming at everyone for a moment; and after that heavy rock number, they were ready to close it out with “Sleep On it”. Don motioned and called to Kenneths’ nephew, Tyler, to join them on stage. He handed off the reins to Tyler on each chorus; and at the last one, he [Tyler] sang in a deep, throaty manner. It was fitting for the song. “Get ‘em up one last time!” Don bellowed as the song neared the end. It looked like a sea of drinks for a moment; and then they finished, with enough time left they probably could have done one more. If they hadn’t already done their routine closer that is.
It was a very solid performance, and I swear these guys just get better each time I see them. The crowd helped out a lot, because not only was the room packed for them, but they also had plenty of people as close as they could possible get, which helped create an excellent atmosphere.
Even with little space to work with, they still found plenty of room to move around, still delivering the type of show you’ve come to expect from them, and I think it earned them a few new fans this night. Also, I know I’ve said this the last few shows of theirs I’ve caught, but I’ll say it again: I love how fluid they’re making their shows. Diving headfirst from one song to the next really adds a sense of professionalism.
They’ll be back here at the Curtain on September 20th, but before that, they have a gig at Andy’s in Denton on August 28th. They’ll also be up in Greenville on October 11th at The Hanger. Lastly, if you don’t have Who I Am, go get a copy in iTUNES.
This was a monumental night for me. Why? Well, it marked the 700th concert I’ve seen. Not too bad. How fitting, too, that it would just so happen to take place at my favorite venue: The Curtain Club.
As usual, the night consisted of four bands, a couple of whom I had seen many times before, while the others were either little known and even unknown to me.
The third band of the night was The Collective, and it was a big night for them, as they were celebrating the release of their debut album.
I had heard the name before, but knew nothing about them; and as I usually do with bands I’m not familiar with, I watched from afar.
“Happy birthday, Chad! Happy birthday, Kris! Happy birthday, me!” said frontman Derek, getting all those well wishes to the sound guy; the singer of Krash Rover (who played before them); and himself out of the way early. After all, this night was also about the birth of Inherent — their debut album — and they cut right to the chase with “Blessed Ex”.
They had a strong fan base of at least a couple dozen people who were already getting rowdy and singing along to the chorus, “Swallow this down now, it must be contained… Remember the target and take back my aim. No need to ever remember your name.” Each time he sang it, Derek pulled one arm back and took a stance as if he were preparing to fire a bow. He asked everyone to give it up for Scott, who tore it up on a guitar solo; and as the track neared the end, Derek, who had been moving all over the place, jumped atop their light box, causing a bright light to illuminate his face as they closed it out.
Their fans, old and new, applauded the chops and showmanship they had demonstrated on that song, and then Grego launched them into “Aspasia” with some rapid-fire drumbeats. They were part of the way through that one when I decided I had to get a closer view. For bands I’m a fan of, I’ll be front and center; but it has been some time since a band actually compelled me to go up to the front of the stage.
Derek made sure everyone knew Chad Lovell, and when asking those who did to raise their hands, the sound guy himself put his hand in the air. Derek found that to be hilarious; and he also mentioned they had achieved a hat trick on the birthdays, before stating that this next song was “about destroying your own fucking self”. It was titled “I, Saboteur”, and once it was done, Derek informed everyone they were just going to play “straight through the new album”. He added this next one was one he wrote about his father when he passed away in the previous year. It created a somber moment, though it was short-lived, because this was a band who didn’t want to nor know how to slow things down. Scot and bassist Jake were going full throttle on “All Tucked In”; and at one point, Derek made his way off the stage and out into the crowd, where he continued to thrash his body around as he engaged with some of their friends/fans. There was also a cool moment when Grego stood up from his kit during a quick lull in the song.
“Prioritease” came next, and the energetic frontman continued to demonstrate his prowess as he flipped the microphone in a tight spin on the second chorus, catching it without even glancing at it. “You ready?! Bob your heads!” Derek instructed at one point, while he knelt down on the light box. Bobbing your head was again required on “Calloused”, which was different from anything else they had done, as it was partly rapped. They’re certainly a diverse band; and it was pretty impressive how Derek could go from spitting out the words to singing at the drop of a hat. “When you bring me your disdain you’ll soon discover there ain’t nothing here but pain…” went the chorus, which was sung in a smooth, though mighty tone.
Derek now had an idea. “Let’s fuck Chad up!” he said, before adding they should at least wait until their set was over. “This song’s called The Torch,” he then announced, as they did a song that was equal parts reserved and hard hitting. They amped things back up with “Inward”, which saw Derek starting to crouch of the light box, singing while surveying the audience. He even lightly slapped his face after finishing one line; and when the song seemed to end, Grego ran out from behind the drums, rushing to the front of the stage where he beginning high-fiving people. Then, when he sat back behind his kit, they picked the track up where they had left off. It was a fun moment, and very cool.
More stellar guitar solos came flying during “The Charlatan”; and then came a sing along, which was made up of three simple words that no one had trouble shouting along, “Just say the word!” Derek continued interacting with the fans, kneeling down at front of the stage, but then he took it to the next level when he again jumped off the stage, headed to the back by the bar, and then went out the doors to the patio. A small handful of fans then got a mosh pit going as things came to an end.
“Here’s to being twenty-seven forever!” declared Derek as they downed some shots that had appeared on stage, and then busted out a non-album track called “Repair”. He shared a joke with everyone once it was done, asking if anyone liked Wendy’s. Of course, people did, and the joke he had recently heard went, “You gonna like it when des nuts get dragged cross yo face.” “I was, like, did I just get Puked or something?!” he finished, speaking of his reaction when someone pulled that on him. They did one more, possibly “Manumitter”, since it was the only track they hadn’t done from the ten-song release. Their fans weren’t satisfied with just one more, though, and immediately began demanding one more.
I’ve seen a few shows where the crowd wants to hear an encore from a band, but due to time constraints, they are seldom done. Actually, while I’m sure I have seen a few bands (who weren’t the headliner) do an encore, none come to mind at the moment. “You want one more?!” Derek said to the crowd, before speaking to his band mates, “They want one more,” and as he moved the mic away from his mouth you could hear him ask Scott, “What are we doing?!” “You don’t even have one more song!” one fan shouted.
He then looked at Chad. “When you were doing this,” he said, holding his hands out as if he were measuring something, “I thought you meant something else. I didn’t know you were telling us we had a really long set,” he laughed. Luckily, they did have something left in their catalog, and “T Gondii” was honestly my favorite song of their set. “Slow this down before I come unbound; you’ve got to turn it around and put your…” Derek and Scott harmonized on the first line of each chorus, doing it completely a cappella. The instruments came back in then, while the repeated the line a couple of times, finishing it with, “Put your trust in me,” which Derek sang in a growly voice.
And so ended their 57-minute long set, which made for a show I don’t think anyone will be forgetting anytime soon.
Part of me hates that it took me so long to actually see and hear The Collective. Another part is glad it did, ‘cause I didn’t have to anxiously wait for them to get an album done and out. And I do know I’ll be seeing them many times to come.
They impressed the hell out of me this night, with their incredibly dynamic performance that captivated everyone, and the songs were often catchy, while still retaining the ballsy sound rock music is supposed to have.
Perhaps this was all the culmination of a surge of emotions over the release of their new album, but I don’t think so. These guys have nailed down what a performance should be like, and it’s pretty clear it’s what they’re meant to be doing.
They have a couple Dallas shows coming up next month, one on September 18th at The Boiler Room, and the other will be at O’Riley’s on the 20th.
The Dallas-based radio station 102.1 The Edge had put together a nice little concert at the House of Blues this night. It was one of their “Low Dough” shows, with tickets being a mere five dollars, and the cheap price coupled with the standout talent ensured a sellout. Sure enough, about a week prior to the event, all the tickets were gone.
Perhaps the act people were most excited for was the indie pop/rock outfit Semi Precious Weapons. The smaller Cambridge Room at the House of Blues was filled to capacity by the time they took the stage, with everyone squeezed in tightly next to one another. Once radio personality, Jessie, took the stage, the crowd went wild, and after a glowing introduction, she left the stage, while frontman Justin Tranter took her place, leading to even more cheers.
The quartet’s 46-minute long set was comprised entirely of songs from the recently released “Aviation”, beginning with “Never Going Home”. Tranter was moving his hands about in the air while he sang the first verse, eventually stretching his arms out to his sides, before slowly moving them in front of him. “‘Cause we’re never going home tonight…” he started on the chorus, waving his index fingers from side to side as he did so. It made the song all the more fun and captivating, and as it neared the end, he offered a “Hello” to Dallas. “I said, “Hello, Dallas!’” he repeated after not quite getting a loud enough reaction. “We are Semi Precious Weapons.”
Bassist Cole Whittle had been killing it on the song, tearing it up on his bass, and now he, drummer Dan Crean and guitarist Stevy Pyne wound them into the subsequent track on the record: “Scream to the Sky”. “We’re in Dallas!” Tranter exclaimed after singing the opening line, “I don’t know what city we’re in tonight…” The energy level spiked with that one, peaking once a clap along was started; and then came a point where Tranter yelled at the audience, “SCREAM!”, as he held the mic stand out to everyone, before pulling it back and dragging it around on stage, jumping and kicking at the air as he did so.
Two songs in, and they already had the crowd eating out of the palm of their hand.
“Hello!” Tranter said, hitting a very high falsetto note, before asking in his normal voice, “How the fuck are you, Texas?!” The fans roared back at him, especially when he mentioned this was their favorite place to perform in the whole world. “…It’s true, I’ve said it in interviews…” he said, before giving the show a dose of comic relief by saying he needed to put in a drink order to whoever would be buying. “We need three whiskeys, and some chardonnay for the lady.” he said, referring to himself, before fluffing his hair. That got a well-deserved laugh from the spectators. It also wound up making a good segue into “Drink”, another song that Whittle stole the spotlight on for a time, taking his bass off before the final chorus and waving it around in the air as he continued to pluck the strings. It was a sight to see. Crean then segued them into the next number. “This is That’s My Friends!” Tranter shouted, as it got underway. The jacket Tranter had been wearing was slowly removed throughout that number. It hung on to one shoulder for a while before he finishing pulling it off, then turned around and did what appeared to be a bit of twerking, an action that had nearly everyone applauding his dancing skills. “Sing, bitches!” he then commanded as the chorus came back around.
The room filled with the sounds of clapping and cheers, and folks were all too eager to keep it going as Tranter egged them on, seeking more. “People always ask, ‘Why is Texas your favorite place to perform?’ and I just say, ‘Come to a fucking show!’” he declared, getting another deafening reaction from everyone. Jessie then brought them the drinks they had asked for, something Tranter mentioned was rather appropriate, as their next song was “Free Booze”. Crean got pretty wild with his drumming on that one, growing very intense; while Pyne ended up unleashing an astounding solo on everyone’s ears, and in that moment, the crowd realized what a stupendous guitarist he was.
“Let’s be honest with each other, Dallas. Are we having a good time?” Tranter asked, getting a lackluster reaction the first time around. He himself was laughing when he told everyone to forget that and that it never happened, before posing the question again. “You can make out with person next to you for the entire time of this next one.” he said, following that with, “I’m giving you permission not to look at me. I know, that’s shocking.” he cracked. No one did that during “Cherries On Ice”, though there was plenty of dancing and swaying to the electronic type song. “Where you’re lips at?” Tranter sang near the start, using what I believe were his index and middle finger to resemble a pair of lips. Then, the last time he repeated that, he placed them right on his crotch. That drew a slightly shocked reaction from the crowd, though everyone was laughing.
No one enjoyed hearing that they only had a few songs left, and after making it known, Tranter quipped he thought we were supposed to be slow, as in at a relaxed pace, and have big hair. “I have big hair fantasies that are not being fulfilled.” he told the fans, mentioning the next song was one of his favorites. Before they got any further, though, something caught his eye. He asked for a woman to join them on stage, and he marveled at the shirt she had made, which had the band’s name spelled out in little jewels (bedazzled). She was thanked for her dedication, and then they got to the lyrically superb, “Look to the Stars”. Just as the rest of their set had been, it was brimming with nonstop action, and ended with Pyne rushing to center stage, where he cranked out another guitar solo. “Stevy fucking Pyne!” Tranter declared once it ended.
The Edge was then thanked for having them as a part of this show, as well as Jessie, who Tranter said placed the next song at the number one spot on her countdown earlier that afternoon. It was the albums lead track, “Aviation High”. The crowd seemed to be enjoying it more than they had even the other songs (that’s saying something), but while it ended, it wasn’t over yet. “We’re alive, alive…” Tranter sang, this time a cappella, before the entire room picked it up and sang to the band. It made for an awesome moment, and one that should stick with everyone who was there.
“…I love Dallas.” stated Tranter before their closing number, “Hands Up”. Even after all this, that one proved to be the most energetic, and not just because fans threw their hands in the air when the lyrics said so. “Will you jump with us?!” Tranter asked in the latter half of the song, and immediately, everyone began bouncing around. They stopped as the music changed, before being asked one last time at the end, obliging once more.
Pyne, Whittle and Crean all left, but Tranter stayed on stage for a moment, expressing their gratitude for everyone. “…I fucking love you… I can’t believe so many of you still care about us after all these years…” he said. Every word he spoke came from the heart and was quite humble, which in turn was respectable.
Semi Precious Weapons exceeded all expectations I had for them, and I think that can be said of everyone who was at the show this night, even those longtime fans.
It was, indeed, a performance they put on, from start to finish, and they never slacked up along the way. They left it all on stage, and gave the audience a piece of themselves in the process, which is something not every band does these days.
They have a show at The Vanguard in Tulsa, OK on Friday, June 27th, as well as some dates throughout July, all of which can be found HERE. Be sure to check out their records in iTUNES, too.
It had been a little over two years since the British trio Band of Skulls played Dallas’ Granada Theater, and more than a year and a half since they were last in Dallas in general.
That said, it was easy to see why the line wrapped around the full side of the Granada, even before the doors opened at eight. People were pumped, and many of those who were first through the doors hurried to the show room and claimed a spot as close as they could to the stage. The closest two rows didn’t last long.
It was still a long wait for the opening band, and I overheard several people being less than enthused about them, most referring to them as “whoever this opening band is”. They were ready for the main course. I, however, was quite excited, ‘cause I had happened to see the New York-based Sacco when they were touring with another band the past November, and I had been hoping for another Dallas show from them for awhile now.
Their self-titled album had officially been out a few weeks now (they did have copies with them last fall, though), and their 32-minute set focused primarily on those songs, beginning with the semi-gauzy sounding “Where It Ends, Where It Begins”. “I don’t care where I go tonight, and I don’t care if we find the light…” sang Andy Breihan, who used a guitar for their first batch of songs. Drummer Chris kept a nice steady beat going, but there came a point where they pushed the song up more than the album cut. When it peaked like that, Andy walked towards the center stage, doing a bit of solo.
“This next song’s called Carnival Ghost.” he told the ever-growing audience, who appeared to be taken by that first song. The lead track from their album also happens to be one of their best, and the catchiness of it cemented those who were already enjoying their music as fans.
They changed things up after that one, with Andy holstering his guitar and John Fredericks his bass and swapping instruments. “It’s a pleasure to be back in Dallas.” John said, before mentioning they had, had an In-N-Out burger earlier that day. They churned out a song I didn’t recognize, and I assume it was a new one. It had a great sound, not unlike that of their other tracks, and now that he was on guitar duty, John got more primal, thrashing around stage left at times and just rocking out on the axe.
Chris rolled them right into their next number, with Andy laying some bass riffs on top of it, and they carried on with “Kerosene”. There was something about the line, “Mercy is a trigger that I ain’t pulled yet…”, that really got your attention this night. It was just the way John sang it, packing a lot of underlying emotion into it.
“Thank you.” John told the crowd before the fuzzy guitar sounds continued with “Driving”, after which they got back to the instruments they had started the night on. “How you guys all doing? Ready for Band of Skulls?” Andy asked while plugging his guitar back in. That question got a huge rise from the patrons, and then they proceeded to play one of their final songs for then night.
All night I had been waiting for “Think You’re Pretty”, and it made sense that they’d save the best for one of their final tracks. Everything about is so catchy. The beat, the riffs, and then you have the lyrics, which tell a good story about having feelings for someone that aren’t reciprocated. “My final effort, it was flat; Cinderella was an alley cat…” goes the second verse.
Already, they had gotten to their final song, and on the chorus of “Sunny Afternoon”, everyone sang, even Chris, who added some light, but still audible backing vocals to it. It was a bit relaxed for the most part, but they went out similarly to how they had begun, and when the song hit its climax, the three of them killed it.
I can say that the second time around, Sacco was even better.
As musicians, they’re all very technical with their styles, which make them even more intriguing to watch. Both John and Andy have an incredible set of pipes, and the vocal trade off adds a nice dynamic to their shows. As for the songs, I like how they range from the more reserved, to pretty intense. They cover both sides of the spectrum, allowing the listener to at times truly listen and take it all in, and other moments where you can get into the track and rock out.
Their tour with Band of Skulls has ended, but they do have a handful of dates left, all of which can be found HERE. Check out their album in iTUNES, too.
They seemed to make a lot of fans during their time on stage, and quite a few people talked with their friends about what they thought of Sacco afterwards.
Talk then turned to anticipation, as there wasn’t even a half hour to go until Band of Skulls hit the stage.
Excitement spiked when the lights dimmed and the intro music the band used started. People held on to said excitement for a minute, before releasing it all in the form of massive cheers and applause as Matthew Hayward took his spot behind the drums. Emma Richardson followed closely behind, taking stage left, and last, but certainly not least, was Russell Marsden.
The band took in the applause. Then, as the intro music began to fade out, Russell began to fade their first song in, gently plucking the strings of his guitar, progressively getting more aggressive. Once the drums joined the song, it was obvious it was the lead track from “Himalayan”, “Asleep at the Wheel”. What a fitting one to start with, and the line “Cause where we are going is anyone’s guess.” applied to the audience this night. No one knew for sure what was going to happen, but the ride was going to be a fun one.
When it came time for Russells’ guitar solo, he strode up to center stage and hammered away at his axe, resulting in a charged solo that enthralled everyone, and from that moment on, few eyes ever even left him. Staggered behind the drum kit were three powerful lights mounted on stands. They had been shining often on that song, even blinding the fans at times, but now, during the brief break before their next number, they went dark, and only the house lights illuminated the group. “Himalayan” than roared to life, and Russell and Emma did some unison singing on that track, making a harmonious mix, and when they sang the songs title, it was dripping with a soupy, reverb effect. Oh, and those lights that were part of their setup, they were timed perfectly with the drums, and on the louder beats, they flashed on, before going out and repeating.
Spectators roared when that one came to an end, and despite those being new tracks, it was clear they were two fans had grown to love in just a short time. “We are Band of Skulls from South Hampton, England.” Russell announced when the song ended. “It’s great to be back here.” he added, then remarked, “Let’s see what you got.”
Those loud shouts that had been heard after the title track where easily matched when everyone realized they were starting “You’re Not Pretty, But You Got it Going On”. It was another one Russell burst into a solo on, running over to stage left and bending down for a second as he wailed on his guitar, before returning to his side of the stage and motioning for the crowd to make some noise during the songs lull. The cheers were massive, and a smile crept onto his face, before getting back into rock mode as they closed the song out. “That was some good dancing.” he told the adoring crowd. “Now, let’s see if you’re singing is as good as your dancing.” said Russell.
They gave the next song a long instrumental lead in, but the basic chords were the same, and sure enough, it wound up being “I Know What I Am”. That whipped the fans into a frenzy, and they sang along with glee. The song belonged to Matthew, however, whose brief drum break after the first chorus got your attention, and throughout the entire song he just showed off his fancy (and awesome) skills on the kit. Afterwards, the “Himalayan” album was officially brought up, and Russell stated they were going to play some more of those songs now.
One of those was “I Guess I Know You Fairly Well”, and the guitar solo during it was nothing short of incendiary. If they weren’t warmed up before this point, than there’s no question that they were now; and after making it sound like a string of new songs were in progress, they threw a little curve ball. The instrumental intro they cranked out had everyone on the edge of their seat. I imagine those up in the balcony probably literally were. Then, they transitioned that piece into “Patterns”, which was another one the crowd was elated to hear. It had been changed up a bit for the live version, with a drum solo coming after the second chorus, and the instrumental segment of the song seemed altered a bit, all for the greater good. The reverb effect could again be heard as Russell repeated “To follow.” several times during that break, before he and Emma ended up facing one another, jamming next to each other as they built the song back up and delivered a crushing finish.
They wound up jumping back and forth between the new and older songs for much of the rest of their set, and “Brothers and Sisters” was a surprising highlight of the night. Like all of the new songs, it seemed like they had been performing the track for years longer than they have, and Russell took his hands off his guitar just long enough on the chorus to point across the crowd as he sang, “We’re all brothers and sisters in the end.” The fans were charged with singing the next to last line, then Russell crooned out the final one in a soulful, even bluesy tone, which sounded truly remarkable.
Upon finishing it, he thanked the North Texas fans for coming out and supporting them. Not just this night, but every time they had come through the city, and he got a strong reaction when he said they had a song that was “just for you guys”. Luckily for everyone’s ears, the closing track from their debut album still had a place in the setlist. “Cold Fame” created one of the most beautiful concert experiences I’ve ever had the first time I saw Band of Skulls, and the same could be said of this night. It’s fantastic on the record, but live, live it’s phenomenal. I’d even say otherworldly. “Still I fall from grace with this microphone. How’d you find yourself if you never roam?” he sang in a rich, smooth voice, the lyrics cutting right down to the bone. Some of it even became a sing-along.
They pull those toned down songs off extremely well, though their specialty is, of course, the hard-hitting rock numbers, and all eyes soon shifted back to Emma, who sang “Toreador”, and the silky vocals at the start were semi-hypnotic. Matthew then bridged them into their next song with a wild, yet precise drum solo. It kept fans captivated, and then came the opening notes of “Bruises”, which was one of the other gems they did off “Sweet Sour” this night. Then they got back to that slower pace, in a very unexpected way.
I overheard at least one person saying they hoped they didn’t play “Nightmares”, which was one that apparently didn’t do much for them. I do enjoy the song, but the alternate version they did this night was magnificent. It was almost entirely solo, with just Russell singing and strumming his guitar. The lyrics carried more weight this way, and it made for a very moving experience. Fans clapped and cheered as the song ended, and then Russell made his way to center stage, plucking the strings, creating the opening notes of “Blood”. That bluesy rock number was another fan favorite, and by this point, the band was showing their mastery of the segue, and after slaying it on the guitar solo at the end, Matthew took over and moved them on to “Hoochie Coochie”. Another series of drumbeats later wound them into “I Feel Like Ten Men, Nine Dead and One Dying”, which has to take the cake as one of the best titled songs ever. The haunting sound it has also makes it stand out more, with the co-singing done at just the right moments. The way the music alternates between the chorus and verse is alluring, too, starting soft, then getting loud and repeating.
The guitar solo on that one was perhaps the best of the night, and Russell wailed louder on it than any other time. They finally stopped, but only for a moment, and the crowd took that time to voice how much they were loving this. Russell then dedicated the next one to everyone at the back, and once more, people went wild when he said, “It’s called The Devil Takes Care of His Own.” The crowd was made more a part of the show on that one, shouting out the part of the chorus that is the songs title each time they got to it.
More or less, that track embodies the Rock ‘n’ Roll essence, which seeped out of it this night. “We hope we can come see you guys again real soon.” Russell told everyone, creating a sadness in the air, as their 79-minute set was nearly over. “Hollywood Bowl” was a good one to end with, though, the cherry beat leaving everyone in a positive mood.
They retreated backstage, and a few dozen people in the near capacity venue headed for the doors, I guess trying to beat the rest of the traffic out of the parking lot. They apparently didn’t mind missing the encore that everyone else was banking on happening.
It took a minute or two of chanting for more, and then the trio reemerged, garnering perhaps even louder fanfare than they had first gotten.
Russell began to play his axe high up on the neck, further proving what a compelling musician he is. No one even cared they weren’t going right into another song, they were happy basking in the awesomeness of the six-string. Then it happened, he made the jump into the title track of their 2012 record, “Sweet Sour”. Overjoyed was what the fans were, and either some head banging or singing along was seen from everybody.
“This has been one of the greatest nights of this whole thing.” remarked Russell, a compliment this Dallas crowd took to heart. The bluesy riffs he was playing then gave way into “Light of the Morning”, which provided another fun moment for fans. Instrumental parts were stretched out, and before the tracks end, Russell disappeared over on stage right. Matthew then banged around on his kit, and instinctively, the crowd started clapping along to it. It was slow and steady at first, though the pace increased at a quick speed, but folks kept up with it all the way.
I think that stands out as being the most fun moment of this concert, and people probably would have been satisfied if it had ended there. That made the seamless transition into “Death by Diamonds and Pearls” the icing on the cake, and after delivering one last guitar solo to the crowds’ ears, Russell mouthed, “Thank you.” a few times before concluding their 14-minute long encore. Drum sticks were thrown to audience members, as were guitar picks, and after a wave to express their gratitude, they disappeared from sight.
This was such an amazing show.
One of the best factors of their music—both recorded and live—is the duel vocals, but, as hard as I tried this night, I could rarely pull my eyes off of Russell. He’s a polarizing figure who possesses an amazing aura when on stage. With all the talk about guitar solos, it might sound as if they were overdone, but if you actually see (or have seen) Band of Skulls live, you’ll know that’s not the case. Whenever they’re done, they fit, and best off all they’re not done in a showy manner. I’ve seen that before in some guitarists who want to be flashy, and I don’t like that, mainly because it comes across as bragging and arrogant. There’s a graciousness into the way Russell does it, though. He’s more just doing what he does, and there’s a lot of respect to be found in that.
They still have several shows left in North America, before continuing their tour across the globe. Their full schedule can be found HERE, and I highly urge you to catch them if you can. Also, if you don’t have their music, all three records are well worth purchasing in iTUNES.
The Granada really hosts some of the best bigger name acts that come through Dallas, and when this year’s done, I have a feeling that this show will rank high on my Top 10 list of concerts for the year.
Once I trekked back to main stage at Main and Good Latimer, a crowd was already starting to gather around the stage, and I staked out a spot just in time.
It had only been twenty days since Astronautalis last played Dallas, but he (Andy Bothwell) had been brought back to his old town to help close out the DEAF this night and lot of people were going to take advantage of this free show.
It was the Spillover Music Festival he played the previous month, and I did a lot of bouncing around at that one; only catching a portion of Astronautalis’s set that day, so I was looking forward to getting the full experience now.
“How y’all doing? It’s good to be back…” Andy said to the sizable crowd after he and band mates Austin and Moe (if I heard their names correctly) took the stage. “It feels like I was just here, with the same exact weather. I always bring bad weather with me…” he joked. That banter with the crowd lasted briefly, as chose to immediately establish a rapport with his old hometown crowd, rather than rip right into the first song.
That came soon enough though, in the form of one of the new tracks he has cooked up. It followed more along the lines of his current material, rather than his past records, and even though this group of fans had only heard it once at most, you could tell they had already embraced, roaring back at the hip-hop artists/singer at one of the breaks where he shouted and asked the crowd, “Are you ready?!”
“That was a new song, this one’s an old one.” he quickly said, while the sample track from “Contrails” began to play. Fans cheered at that, and many of them rapped right along with him when the song got going, “I know, leaving’s your living, built in your bones. No one can ever escape all of their ghosts…” Personally, that’s what has appealed to me the most about Astronautalis’ music, the fact that it’s real and honest, verses the gangster style of rap and hip-hop most people first think of whenever they hear either genre mentioned. And judging on how everyone was reacting to it this night and singing along excitedly, it was making a connection, too.
“This is the last show of our tour. So we’re just gonna mess around and do stuff we want to.” The fans liked the sound of that, and they liked it even more so when things rolled into “This Is Our Science”. Andy got everyone pumped up while he sang the first verse, ensuring everyone was having a fun time, while also pushing things to a fever pitch. Then he burst into the rap portion of the song, delivering the words at a machine-gun pace, to the point that even though I knew the lyrics, I could barely keep up with what he was saying. “Tell me this, put up your fingertips if you’re living your life exactly the way that you wished…” he sang later in the song, prompting some of the fans to lift their arms into the air; and at the end, everyone shouted out the final line, “Touch fire!”
“Jesus, Dallas, could y’all have more stuff going on?” he asked once the song was over. He was referring to the fact that the NCAA Final Four was going on this weekend, as well as a three-day concert series in conjunction with that, that featured The Killers, Tim McGraw, and, the night after this, Bruce Springsteen. There was also the Dallas Film Festival, and I think I’m still leaving out a few events.
His focus returned to the concert series, where The Killers were playing this night. “…My secret hope is that someone out here is thinking, ‘This isn’t The Killers?!’, then they get super drunk and later on think, ‘That’s an awesome version of Mr. Brightside!” he joked. He also mentioned he thought the opposite would be amusing too, and that if some fan watching The Killers was wasted and thinking to themselves, ‘Man, Astronautalis has really sold out.” This was proving to be much more than just a concert, and there was also a great comedy aspect to it.
“This next one’s super loud.” He warned before “Thomas Jefferson”, a song where he showed off his freestyle skills, replacing the verse that rapper Sims takes on the recording with what he was able to come up with on the fly. It was followed by another new song, after which Astronautalis informed everyone he was in the process of making a new album, and hoped to return to the studio this summer to finish it all up. He then reminisced and joked about his time in Dallas. “You know when you’re a punk indie kid and you hear your redneck friends and you think how stupid they are so you move to Seattle?” he said. He then continued by talking about how the new friends you make there give you a hard time over your accent, until you realize you’re a redneck just like the people you were trying to get away from. Someone in the crowd called him out on that, and he mentioned he didn’t mean that disrespectful at all, and quickly confessed that he, too, was a redneck. In fact, that (specifically The South) was what he said the central focus of his next album would be, but for now, he got back to the fan favorites with a remix version of another hit from the “This is Our Science” album.
“It’s now a dance song.” he stated before “Dimitri Mendeleev”, which seemed to be an anthem to some fans, who shouted along, “…We invent paths they cannot see, and they’re too scared walk….” They then slowed things down a little with “A Love Song for Gary Numan”, but that mellow mood didn’t last long. The live version had more of a kick to it than the album version, and as the drumming increased and grew more intense, Andy began striking his hand against his hip, until the track exploded into action.
“Let’s dance some more!” he said enthusiastically before “Midday Moon”. He jumped in the crowd at one point during it, and while everyone was respectful, people were still placing their hands all over him. “Thanks for dancing with me. I feel pregnant after that.” He cracked, before mentioning that when he recorded that song, he was afraid everyone was going to hate it. Clearly, they do not.
They kept things going with another new song, and this one had some not so subtle religious undertones to it, and was my personally favorite of the new tracks that were played this night. “I’m full of basketball hatred.” Andy said when it was over. He wasn’t really joking, either, since the team he was rooting for had been knocked out of the playoffs. “No one ever wants Kentucky to win!” he added, clearly harboring some degree of malice towards them.
He let it go and got back to Dallas, though, talking about Good Records and how things have changed down here, like the “weird robot” that now stands there (known officially as the Traveling Man). He then asked about Bank of America Plaza building, which was lit up blue this weekend, and looked very strange from the typical green. “Who knew it could turn blue?” he asked, before inquiring who that had been done for, guessing it was probably for The Boss, or perhaps The Killers. “For me, y’all did that for me?” he later joked, before moving on to the next track.
“You only need to know 1 word for this next song, and that’s ‘Hey’… You won’t learn the lyrics, so don’t be pretentious and just dance…” he said in a humorous manner, before unloading another new song on the fans. It was another killer one, and at one point, while he had one leg propped up on the monitor, he then jumped onto it and quickly pushed off it.
The next part of the show was perhaps the best of the night, and people got giddy when he mentioned he would be doing a freestyle rap, which is apparently customary at Astronautalis shows. Kendrick Lamars’ “Don’t Kill My Vibe” was the backing track used, but before it, he took suggestions from the audience on what to rap about. Someone wanted to know who the drummers favorite Care Bear was (he answered “The Red Power Ranger.”), while sea turtles were another topic thrown out (“You said that so gangsta.” Andy laughed after the woman said it.) Another guy mentioned the newborn baby a friend of his had just had, whose name was Olivia. “What street cred I had is gone…” Andy said with a smile, mentioning that this was probably going to be the happiest rap of all time. It got a little more hardcore when someone mentioned they had a friend who had just gotten out of jail, while another said Cthulhu, though the subject of pizza irked Astronautailis. “Have you ever listened to a Mac Miller record? That’s all the songs are about…” he cracked, going off on entertaining rant of sorts (actually, rant seems like to strong of a word to use).
So, after he cooled off, he pulled out a rap involving all of those suggested topics in one way or another. Wow. It wasn’t just entertaining because of the absurd stuff people had shouted out, but because he also incorporated it all together in a very solid rap, proving this isn’t just something he’s good at, but a natural talent he was born with and has perfected over the years. He also worked into how when he first started, it was rap battles similar to this, just right down the street. “…And no one gave no shits…” he said, and later worked a thank you to all his fans into it, pointing out how much it meant that people would actually learn his lyrics and put the effort into singing along at shows. It was a very cool piece, especially since it was all made up on the spot.
The 59-minute long set ended with “Lift the Curse”, but even after nearly an hour, no one was ready for the show to be over.
It looked like it was, though, especially once the emcee of the stage walked back up and began to wrap up the night, though his words were drowned out by the calls for an encore. “Let them know.” He said. Soon, the band did return, and they struck hard.
“The River, The Woods” started off the 7-minute encore portion, reinvigorating everyone who was there. In fact, while it had only gotten colder and the winds were strong, I hadn’t even noticed the cold at all throughout this Astronautalis show. Some drum beats then wound them into the next song, “Trouble Hunters”, which became a fun clap-along and sing-along for everyone. “…We are the trouble tonight.” fans chanted throughout the song, and giving that the night was still so young (around 10:30), it was a fitting one to go out on.
Damn. What a show.
As I said in the review of that last show, in hindsight, I should have stuck around for all of Astronautalis’s show, and I’m glad I had a chance so soon to make up for that mistake (hey, it was a festival and I wanted to see as many bands as I could.)
The presence this guy has is overwhelming, and he can command a crowd of old fans and new comers with complete ease. And at the risk of repeating an earlier statement, when watching an Astronautalis show, you really can tell that this is Andy Bothwell’s calling in life, and both performing and rapping are something he excels at.
On that note, I’m generally not a fan of hip-hop or rap. I’m not going to say anything negative about the genres, as it has everything to do with personal preference. However, there’s something about his music that is just gripping. It speaks to you. Maybe not necessarily in a way that you can completely relate to the track, but it still does, and more than a few of the songs have an inspirational quality to them.
Point is, check him out if you aren’t yet familiar with the music. All of the albums can be found in iTUNES, and I’d suggest starting with “This is Our Science”. As for tour dates, his whole schedule can be found HERE. However, he’ll be all over Europe in May and into early June. And hopefully by year’s end, fans will have a new album to listen to.
It had been a helluva great day at the Deep Ellum Arts Festival, but like I said, the night was still young, and there was a CD release show going on that I could not miss out on…
These days in music, it’s hard to come up with an original sound on any level. Luckily, I can’t think of any music fan who would require a band be cutting edge to even listen to them. Still, everyone hopes to come across an act like that. There are a few out there, and Manny the Martyr is one of them.
The band has only been around for a couple of years, but quickly built a strong, loyal fan base, which only grew with the release of their debut EP. Then, as 2013 drew to a close, the band released their debut full-length, “Brighter Sun”, which features some of their older songs re-recorded, plus plenty of the new material fans have come to love.
Now, is what makes the band so highly original sounding is the way they blend genres like reggae, funk and ska with rock, pop and even some punk, along with other elements. Those first few genres are in full effect on the albums lead track, “The Radio”, which is also one of the singles off it. The rhythm section is in the zone on it, from the tight intro, to the bass solo that comes later on, which makes you realize bass solos can be every bit as good as guitar solos. This can be said for many of the cuts on this album, but it will have you really feeling the music and bobbing your head along to it.
The second song, “Aydagee”, brings in more of a rock structure, while still keeping the reggae sound that sets them apart. Actually, much of the reggae texture on this one is found in the voice of singer Jake Cravens, who emulates and executes that singing style perfectly. And going back to the rock aspect of the song, the soaring guitar solo certainly doesn’t hurt it, and is kept short enough to add depth without being tedious.
“It’s Alright” keeps the funk/reggae style to a minimum, as the band delivers more of a straight shot of rock to fans. But even then, the catchy pacing you’re already used to is still kept intact. Then, you’re treated to one of the most amusing song titles ever: “Left Over Sexy”. It’s arguably the most fun song on the album, and even by simply listening to it you can tell the band had a blast recording it. And yes, the song’s just as bodacious as the title suggests.
“DDJ” is one of those songs that was redone from their first EP, and it keeps that lively, rocking vibe not only going, but thriving. “Boogyman” then marks the return to the distinct mix of ska/funk, etc. that the band has craved out, and the drums are timed perfectly with the vocals on a portion of the chorus, which greatly helps in accenting them. Then you have the wickedly good guitar solo, and while it’s more rock based, it still manages to work within the song.
After those previous tracks, “Too Soon” might come as a bit of a surprise to the listener. It’s a pleasant one, though. The members of Manny the Martyr channel some deep, inner rock beast on this track, that shatters the mold they’ve cast themselves in, and frankly, I always like when bands do that. It’s an edgy number chocked full of nothing but Rock ‘n’ Roll. Jake even pushes his voice to the extreme on one line, digging into a deep, guttural scream. Perhaps the most shocking part is how good he sounds doing it.
Even “30 Seconds” is slightly genre-bending when compared to the bands other music, and it focuses prominently on a heavier rock vibe, with perhaps some tinges of metal tossed in at times, while the guitar solo is simply dazzling. It exudes a very primal vibe (if you get my drift), all of which qualify it as being another standout track on the album. One of the top three I would say.
It’s back to basics with the title track, “Brighter Sun”, whose chorus will have you singing along in no time. “…These demons haunting you will come to show their faces at night… You’re world is burning and you cannot do a thing.” Jake sings, spitting out the words in his soulful, reggae sounding voice.
All of that more or less continues on the shortest song on the album, “2 Inch Hero”. Taking a cue from the title, it clocks in at barely over two minutes, and it’s all about being a creature of the night and enjoying the bar/club scene. It’s a party song, and it fits that vibe.
Closing the album is another older song of theirs that is a staple and loved by all. The funk sounds are perhaps displayed better on “Hit the Brink” than they are on any other track, heard in even the most subtle notes from the guitars and thundering riffs on the bass. It even offers some sage advice at times, like on the chorus, “…Find another to help you, don’t just live for yourself…”, while other lines are delivered in a harsh, growly tone. Personally, it’s my favorite track of the bands, and if you’re liking the band but still happen to be on the fence about them, this should be the song that clinches you as a fan.
“Brighter Sun” is a solid record all the way around, and while Manny the Martyr has a pretty original sound that they excel at, they prove their musical borders extend well beyond that, and that they’re pretty much capable of anything they decide to do.
So, if you’re looking for something fresh to jam to, this would be a record well worth checking out. And if you like it, man, their live shows will blow you away.
Manny the Martyr is:
Jake Cravens - Lead vocals
Brad Green - Guitar & backing vocals
Joel Simka - Drums
Mike Ubben - Lead guitar
Jayson Vaughn - Bass
Purchase the album on: iTUNES
Visit Manny the Martyr’s websites:
Facebook / Reverbnation / Twitter / Youtube
Friday, June 27th @ Trees in Dallas w/ Reel Big Fish
Believe it or not, I honestly had not planned on doing a thing this night.
After scrapping plans to make another trip up to Denton, and nothing really catching my eye in Dallas, I figured I’d spend a Saturday night at home for a change. Then I had a friend offer me a free ticket to the Big Folkin’ Fest, and I couldn’t pass that up.
Not that I hadn’t wanted to go to the show (which took place at The Prophet Bar, on both sides, using all three indoor stages, with an outdoor one set up on the patio), but I just couldn’t justify paying twenty bucks for a ticket into it.
Got there a little later, about nine or so, and killed time until Kirby Brown’s set in The Prophet Bar at 9:30.
That’s when he was scheduled to start, at least, but, in something that should have been no real surprise, the times weren’t set in stone. By the time he and his band were supposed to start the act before him was just finishing, making it around 9:50 or so before they got all setup and ready to go.
I had only seen him once before, when he did solo set at a Patio Sessions probably back in the fall of 2012. Sometime after that he made the decision to move to New York to pursue his music career, and while he has gotten back to Dallas more than a few times since, I’ve never managed to make the shows.
From what I remembered, he was great solo, but the full band really helped flesh out his sound, as they powered through a 42-minute set that saw them playing several new(er) tracks. “Thank you for being here.” Kirby told the near capacity Prophet Bar. “You’re fucking welcome!” exclaimed a very excited fan, leaving Kirby a bit shocked, though he did manage to say, “That’s a big welcome.”
One of the cuts they did from 2011’s “Child of Calamity” was the exuberant “Coattails”, which raised everyone’s energy level a good deal. While Kirby is an Americana musician, there are some other layers added to his music. However, a few songs after that, they got to one that was pure Americana rock, and it sounded brilliant.
They followed it with another great number that had a rocking end, with the drums, guitars, bass and keys blaring on it. They then went to the opposite side of things, and the band left Kirby alone to do a song solo. It may have been much quieter than the past songs, but he still had the crowd transfixed with it.
His band then returned for a cover song, while they ended with what seemed to be a fan favorite.
It was a great set, and it left me a real fan of Kirby Brown. Like I said, I had seen him before, but that was long enough ago I couldn’t remember much about him.
He has a fantastic voice, and it’s unique at that. Personally, I can’t say I’ve heard of another singer who sounds quite like he does, and he’s gifted in the songwriting department, too.
Check out his music in iTUNES, and go see a show if you get a chance. I know I’m going to have to make more of a point to see him next time he gets back to Dallas.
Headed out to the patio stage after that, where The Hazardous Dukes were already playing.
It was hard to actually see them, given that the “stage” was just the ground, and the mass of people who had already surrounded the area made it hard to get up close.
I really liked what I heard, though. The group is comprised of Hank Van Hawkins, Billy Bones and Zachary Fox, among others, such as Conner Farrall.
They played what I consider to be more authentic sounding country, and everyone who did some singing had a nice twang to their voice.
“This is based on a true story about a buddy whose divorce kept falling apart, and he kept getting back together with his wife.” One of them said before one song, which had me repeating that in my head a few times, thinking, “Did he really say ‘his divorce kept falling apart?’”, simply because you never hear it phrased in that manner.
They knocked out a few more, throwing some jokes in here and there, and on one those songs Conner had a great guitar solo.
They seem to play fairly often, and for the month of April are doing a residency at Sundown at Granada every Sunday night. Those shows are free.
Back over in The Prophet Bar (the smaller room, that is), things were still running behind schedule, and it was right at eleven when The O’s kicked off their set, a half-hour after they were supposed to.
The duo of John Pedigo and Taylor Young mentioned they had played year one and two of Big Folking Fest and were glad to be back for another year, before opening with the lead track from their “Between the Two” album, “We’ll Go Walkin’”.
That little love song was a nice way to get started, and a majority of the people there in the Prophet Bar were singing along to it as they watched the band; wonder gleaming from their eyes. They then got to a few songs from last year’s “Thunderdog”, including “Outlaw”, which is more or less an anthem. “…We’ve all got the right to fix things that we don’t like, while we yell and cuss and scream and fight…” sang John, while Taylor picked away at his guitar, while also supplying the percussion via a kick drum.
That was all I caught of their set. I would have liked to have seen more, but there was another act supposed to start right about this time on the smaller stage of the large room of The Prophet Bar; and I had at least seeing The O’s more recently than this other group.
These guys really are one of the best bands in Dallas, especially as far as country music is concerned, and I like them more and more each time I see them. At the very least, give their music a listen in iTUNES, and if you like it, buy it. As for shows, you can see them at Love and War in Plano, TX on April 19th. On May 16th they’ll be at Love and War in Grapevine, and the night after will find them in Fort Worth at Shipping and Receiving. They also have dates in Midland and Burleson in June.
J. Charles & The Trainrobbers had been charged with closing the night out over in the bigger room, and it had been nearly a year since I last them. In that time they’ve added Keith Naylor on as lead guitarist. Perhaps some of you (any longtime readers) recall what a fan/fanatic I was of Trebuchet, right up until their end last year. It was December 2012 the last time I saw them, and that said, I was looking forward to finally seeing Keith back on a stage.
They were all ready and raring to go as 12:15 rolled around, and the headliner seemed to be finishing up on the main stage adjacent to them… At least until they began another song, leaving The Trainrobbers with a puzzled look of, “Huh, I guess we’ll wait.” on their faces.
“Hi, you beautiful folkin’ people!” exclaimed singer and guitarist J. Charles Saenz, once it finally became time for them to start. “Mercy Killing” was what they opened with, and as great is that song is on the “Upon Leaving” album, it sounds incredible live. Probably because J. Charles is so impassioned as he sings it. “…There’s a bullet here for me, there’s a bullet here for you. Only problem is we love each other too damn much, it’s true…” goes the chorus, which more than a few fans were singing along with.
They moved on to the consecutive track from their debut album, doing “Letter to a Thief”, which had a pretty good kick to it, and the harmonies that Keith, bassist Justin Young and keyboardist Daniel Creamer added at times, backing up J. Charles, was phenomenal.
“Cheers to two awesome days of music…” he said after they finished, making a little toast, before they pumped everyone up with “Something Wrong”, a song that saw drummer Steve Visneau wearing a big smile, which rarely left his face at all this night, and never did on this one. They rolled it right into “Three Shades of Black”, tapering off from the louder rock stylings of the previous number, but still keeping the mood upbeat.
“How’s the vibes? Medium vibes?” asked J. Charles after they finished, trying to gage where everyone was at. “We need more vibes.” he finished, after which Keith spoke up, and specifically to a friend. “Excuse me, sir, but I think you’re dancing with my girlfriend.” he said, giving the guy a hard time.
They knocked out one of their new songs after that, which was pretty up-tempo, but also had some slow moments mixed in. “The guitars are being feisty. Folkin’ guitars.” J. Charles said after, while Keith worked to get things back in tune. To kill time, he also mentioned that this next would be one on their upcoming album, noting it will be out in the fall at the latest, or, with some luck, maybe even late summer. He also mentioned this next song was making its live debut this night, and that it was a pretty personal one, because it was about his “dear, sweet aunt” who had passed away from cancer. He apologized for perhaps bringing the mood down, and finished with, “…But fuck cancer.”
It told a great tale of the relationship he and his aunt had, and it may well be the most sentimental song on this next record. They got back to their older stuff for a minute with “Ain’t So Blue”, before doing another killer song, which just happened to feature musician Wesley Geiger lending his voice to it.
“I need to put the finger on the pulse. Everyone still doing okay?” J. Charles asked the audience, who was still very attentive, before asking if there was “anyway a shot could find its way from the bar to my mouth?” The request was granted, and they started to wind down their 52-minute set with “Tennessee Roads (No Moon)”. They had some feedback issues during it, but not to the point to ruin the tune, and the final line, which J. Charles sung a cappella, sounded beautiful. He then wound them right into their final song, another one, which was more intense, along the lines of “Something Wrong”, maybe even more so than that one.
That was the perfect way to end this night.
J. Charles and The Trainrobbers have been great each of the small handful of times I’ve seen them, but I dare say they were exceptional this time.
They tightened things even more so than last May at the Homegrown Festival, and this current lineup clicks very well. They were tight, and the unity was obvious from start to finish.
I don’t know how I let so much time pass between seeing them, though I’m going to have to try to make sure that doesn’t happen again. The show was highly enjoyable, and they are one Dallas band you need to keep your eye on.
Their music should appeal to both rock and country fans, and check out “Upon Leaving” in iTUNES. For shows, go “like” their FACEBOOK PAGE and keep a check on where and when they might play next.
It was a fun time here at the Big Folkin’ Fest, and a much needed shout-out to my amigo Brendan Williams for hooking me up with the ticket.
Just last month, The Dirty River Boys played one of the largest venues in North Texas (specifically, in Fort Worth). This month, their North Texas stop found them in Denton, at the much more intimate setting that Dan’s Silver Leaf has to offer; and I was even more excited about this one.
It was a one-band bill, and for a Thursday night, they a good little crowd here at Dan’s. A crowd who was glued to them as soon as they took the stage at 9:30 on the dot.
“What’s going on, Dan’s Silver Leaf. We are the Dirty River Boys from El Paso, Texas…” singer and acoustic guitarist Marco Gutierrez informed everyone. He was the one who sang lead on their first song, and they chose to open with one of their fan favorites, “Carnival Lights”. They didn’t do the more acoustic/solo version like they had the past couple times I had seen them. Instead, Travis Stearns added some light beats on his cajon, while fellow acoustic guitarist and singer Nino Cooper played some soft riffs, with Colton James slapping the strings of his upright bass periodically. “…She’s sitting on the top Ferris wheel car thinking, ‘It ain’t such a long way down; failure’s such a long, cold fall.” Sang Marco on the first verse of this woeful, though beautifully told story. Nino shone on this song, as he did a little guitar solo before the third verse; and with the use of his pedal board, his acoustic guitar sounded like it could give any electric one a run for its money.
They instantly fired up the title track from their second EP, “Train Station”, where they somewhat touched on the amazing harmonies they are capable of, before digging out a track from their first (and so far, only) full-length album, “Science of Flight”. The first time I experienced The Dirty Rivers was last September at the Dia de los Toadies music festival, and a song I was instantly smitten with was “Heart Like That”. It’s certainly a favorite of mine, though out of the three times I’ve seen them since, it was one that went un-played. Forth time’s a charm, I guess, because no sooner had they finished that previous song, then Nino started them on it. “She was lusting for some wondering; he was lost in a paper filled room…” he crooned, while the song built up. It was the choruses that were truly outstanding, though. “She’s just a girl with a rambling heartache; he’s grown a hard, lost man. Searching for stars in a sky filled with dark gray; what’s not to love about a heart like that?” He belted, packing an immense amount of passion into it, and to say he killed it on that one would not be an understatement.
They took a an actual break after that, though it was short-lived, as Marco quickly mentioned that they had been in the studio in December and January, getting their next record ready, saying they’d be doing one of those new ones now. Colton sang on it, though at the start Travis let out a bit of an excited scream, and even though it was off mic, it was very audible. It was also a tune that had all of them lending their voices to the chorus, making for some incredible four-part harmonies.
Once they finished it, Travis asked how many people in the audience had seen them before, and quite a few repeat offenders raised their hands. There were some newcomers, too, and that was the question he asked next. “…God bless you for coming out on a Thursday night…” he said graciously, before asking anyone who might know the next one to sing along with it. The song was “Dried Up”, which had Nino playing the harmonica, too, and before the final chorus, they tacked on some of Bob Dylans’ “Just Like a Woman”. “Nobody feels any pain tonight, as I stand inside the rain…” sang Marco, going all the way through the first chorus of the classic. “Now, as loud as you can, help us out!” Travis roared right after, pumping up the crowd, many of whom did sing along to the final bit of their original.
As soon as it ended, Nino switched gears and began the tale that “Union Painter” tells, and after it Travis used his kick drum to both bridge them into the next song and amp things up. Colton switched out to an electric bass for this new song, a song that Marco sang, and later joked was about “taking psychedelics and feeling the world out.”
Now came the ever-exciting “Chinese fire drill” (their words), where Colton ends up on the banjo, Travis the mandolin and Marco the upright bass. Travis swaggered all over stage left during “Lookin’ for the Heart”, and his mannerisms while playing the mandolin are very entertaining, which is exactly what he’s going for. He also added some percussion to it here and there, sitting on his cajon and using one of his feet to kick the box.
Another song from their LP followed, though it was a cover, and they pointed that out, giving Townes Van Zandt a shout-out before their excellent rendition of “Lungs”. “Stand among the ones that live in lonely indecision…” sang Marco on the first verse, while Colton spun his bass around at that time, while it ended with Travis shouting, “Rest in peace, Townes Van Zandt.”
They immediately fired up another oldie, “My Son”, which had Nino doing an electrifying guitar solo before the final chorus. There next song was one of their drinking ones, and Travis worked the fans by asking if anyone was drinking whiskey, and when not many people responded, it was just alcohol in general. “…That’s what this song’s about.” He said, as they cranked out a rocking, but fun intro for “Draw”. An intro that ended with Travis throwing one of his drum sticks in the air, then catching it.
From a song about whiskey, they made a jump to a song about love. Marco pointed out this next one was their current radio single from their upcoming album, and he began the song, while Colton was swapping back out to his electric bass. Nino then laid down his catchy chords that help make “Desert Wind”. There’s just such an epic feel to that one, and the music bed is done in a way it accents the lyrics, making them even more impactful.
Afterwards, a call was made to all the fans who had seen them before and were familiar with their music to help them out on “Boomtown”. Nino led the band (and audience) while now playing the mandolin, and Travis told everyone when to come in at, since the verses are done in rounds, with Colton and Marco doing the second and third, respectively. The second one of each line was when everyone was supposed to join in, and many did.
The mood got a little more somber with “Riverbed Wildflowers”, before the group did some ominous crooning into their microphones on what was a dark lead in to “Letter to Whoever”. Before they officially began the song, Travis again tossed a drum stick into the air, and when he caught it, he struck one of the drums with it to signify the start of the track. “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.” Marco quickly sang on the chorus of another gem that “Science of Flight” has to offer. Talk then turned to their hometown of El Paso, and how it has “falling on hard times”. That was what their next song was about, and they co-wrote this other new song with Ray Wylie Hubbard. It’s one of two new songs that are completely unforgettable (in my opinion), and it’s already one I look forward to hearing each time I see them.
They got back to the darker elements during another intro piece they concocted, and this time Nino and Marco quickly strummed the strings of their guitars, which sounded rather haunting, and the occasional notes from the harmonica Travis threw in only intensified it. Still, it was fitting for “Six Riders”.
After handling that one, Marco exited the stage. Travis followed, while Colton took a backseat as Nino started “So Long Elanie”. They came back around the second verse, kicking the song up a few notches. It was still very restrained in comparison to their next one (the other of their two new ones that is unforgettable). For that last one, Colton had both his basses at the ready, and now he laid his upright down and moved his electric from around behind him to his front. “This song’s about life on the road.” was the simple, though accurate explanation Nino gave of their next number, which is the most aggressive one they’ve written thus far.
“…From the bottom of our hearts, thanks for attending our show…” said Travis, as they got ready to wrap it up. He then made everyone come up to the front of the stage. “All of you in the back, we haven’t even gotten to see your faces tonight…” he said, adding they would not get started until everyone was right up there. He certainly knows how to pump up the crowd, and once the majority of the folks gathered around he asked, “Are you ready to raise some hell?!” The fans roared back at him, while Nino began their semi-jig that is “Raise Some Hell”, which always creates a boisterous mood, even on a Thursday night in Denton.
It was a fun end to an 82-minute long set, but no one wanted it to be over yet, and some people began asking for more while the band made their way off stage.
They made everyone a few moments, and when Marco made his way back on stage alone, it had me thinking he was going to do one of his solo songs (much like Nino had done shortly before.) However, when his band mates followed suit, with Nino now clutching an electric guitar, it became clear that wouldn’t be happening.
“Can I get a hell yeah?!” Travis asked, after he had made sure everyone had, had a good time this night. They then proceeded to close with their excellent rendition of The Rolling Stones “Honky Tonk Woman”, a song they’ve truly transformed into their own, and Travis owned his cajon during it.
This was a fine way to spend a Thursday night; and even though it had barely been a month since I last saw The Dirty River Boys, I had somewhat forgotten how sensational their shows are. However, I was quickly reminded.
They’re a superb live band, and they mesmerize who ever happens to be watching them on the given night, delivering a rock show steeped with some country elements. It’s one you won’t soon forget, either.
I also enjoyed the fact that they focused mainly on their older songs this night, verses the last time I saw them, when the new stuff was in full force. Nothing against it at all, but still being a new fan, it’s good to get to experience the older stuff (i.e. the songs I know), especially since the days for some of them are no doubt numbered.
Over the coming months, they have several shows lined up all around Texas, and will even be getting to Oklahoma and Louisiana. Check out their TOUR PAGE for full details. Their next stop in North Texas will be their return to the Granada Theater in Dallas on April 25th. They also have a show at Hank’s in McKinney on May 17th, and will be in Fort Worth on June 11th at the Capitol Bar.
Also, be sure to check out their music in iTUNES.
Last time Memphis native Myla Smith came through Dallas (which was only about four months prior to this), I ended up missing it. Luckily, I didn’t end up suddenly feeling under the weather this night, so I was able make the show at Opening Bell Coffee.
This was the fifth stop of a ten city tour she was doing with Chris Milam and Heather Batchelor, and this Dallas date happened to coincide with OBC’s weekly songwriters in the round series, which was bound to make the night a little more interesting.
I got there a bit after the scheduled 7:30 start time, walking in on the end of what I believe was Myla’s first song, which also ended the first cycle of the round.
“I want to write a song like that.” Heather told her after she had finished, commenting on the rather abrupt end it. “…Just start at the end.” Myla joked, as Heather got ready for her next song, informing the early birds that it was the same one she had done during soundcheck. “…But it has lyrics now.” she stated
She played one of the tracks off the three-day-old “Unraveled” EP, “Something to You”, which carried a catchy tune with it, and told a good story in the four minutes or so it took to play it. While she sang, both Chris and Myla gave her their full attention, and afterwards the ladies turned their attention to Chris, who said there were a lot of good things about being from Memphis. One example he gave was “the rich music history”, though he was quick to point out there were some downsides to it, too. He then shared a couple stories with the audience, one of which was about spending sixteen hours renovating a house, which led to the downside of “…hearing five hundred blues songs on the radio…” That helped act as a catalyst for him to write what he said was his first blues song, and if I heard the title correctly, it was “Tell Me Something”. There were some blues elements mixed in with the country and pop vibes; and it was one of my favorite songs he did this night.
Myla finished out the round with a song that she noted was one of the first ones she wrote for her latest album, “Hiding Places”. “There’s no cure for what I’ve got, call it the human condition.” she sang, while lightly plucking the stings of her guitar as she began “Human Condition”. That hushed intro didn’t last, though, and even with just an acoustic guitar she made the song into a mighty number, and belted out the chorus with a passion.
Attention then shifted back to Heather, who informed the crowd of a little over a dozen that she was going to get a little bluesy. “If that’s okay.” She added, prompting a small amount of cheers from the audience, with Chris chiming in, too. She took things down a few notches with “You’ve Got a Way”, a track that really highlighted her vocal range, from the more tender side, to nailing some deep, powerful notes, that left you thinking, “Wow!”
“Are there any kids hiding behind the pillar?” Chris asked when his turn rolled around, pointing to the big column in the center of the room. Some folks checked and informed him there was not. “It’s okay if there, but I’m gonna get a little PG-13 with this one.” he stated, before knocking out another newer song of his. When it got back to Myla, she proceeded to tell everyone a story behind her next track. “In two thousand and ten I took on took big projects…” she said, before stopping. “I dropped my pick.” she remarked, causing Heather to joke, “Oh, no. The world is lost.”, while Myla reached down and picked it up.
She got back to her story by saying those two undertakings were a new album and getting married, a feat she did not recommend anyone do, saying both are hard enough in their own right. “I had three separate breakdowns.” she said, being able to laugh about it now. On that note, she added that she had to inform multiple family members that the song she was about to do was not about her now husband. “Take your stuff, take your sorries, I’ve heard enough. Wrap them up with a big red bow, give ‘em to the woman you used to know…” went the chorus of “Big Red Bow”, which had Myla tapping a little more into her folk side.
Upon finishing it, she mentioned their wedding day was also the day that album (2010’s “White/Gold”) was released, and they gave copies out to all those who attended said wedding. “Please tell me you wrapped the albums in a big red bow?” Heather asked her. They did not, though Myla did say that on the cover art for the album she was wearing her mothers’ wedding dress. Heather then said something about a “ringbearer”, before correcting it to “ringbear”, making a How I Met Your Mother reference. Fitting, since the shows series finale was airing that night.
She then busted out the infectious lead track from her new EP, “Chicago”, which was one the onlookers really seemed to enjoy. Before his next song, Chris told everyone how thankful he was that they were there watching them. Thus far, he said he had only been eating Fruit Roll-Ups, and Heather was quick to nod her head, affirming that he wasn’t lying. “…I’m running on your fuel…” he said to the crowd, being completely genuine with the remark.
He offered up another newer track, while Myla backed him up at different points throughout it. Those backing vocals sounded lovely, and when it was over, she said she’s really wanting her and Chris to start a duo called “Milam and Myla”. They even talked about combining their names, much like is done with celebrity couples these days, and calling themselves something like, “Mylam”.
All of that fun and at times off-the-wall banter served to make the show all the more entertaining.
She cranked out her next song, and when things got back to Heather, she mentioned this next one was one she co-wrote with a friend and fellow musician, Taylor Dukes. “…From Nashville, Texas.” she said, when talking about her friend. She realized her mistake as soon as she made it. “Wait… That’s not a place.” She said, and you could tell she was still trying to figure out exactly how that had slipped out. “…You all know Taylor, the Duke of Nashville?” said Chris, adding his commentary to it all.
The laughs (from both the crowd and the musicians) subsided, and Heather got back on track, saying when they sit down to work on a song, Taylor told her she felt like writing about “wild hearts”. So, fittingly, the track is called “Wild”. It’s great as is, and was only made better with the additional vocals Myla added to it, which was something Heather pointed out they had worked on during their time in the car, which was slightly surprising, because it sounded as if they had been doing it much longer than just practicing it that day.
“Are there any Springsteen fans here?” Chris asked, which got people really excited. “This isn’t one he wrote…” he informed everyone, though he did say it had some “Boss elements”, and after mentioning that there were religious layers to it (at least that’s what he said he tells his mother), he confided that it was really inspired by a high school reunion. The song he spoke of was one from the “Young Avenue” EP, called “Dark in the Garden”.
Like his other songs, it told an honest story; and after it, they got into a story from their trek on the road. Namely, how the rental car company gave them a Cadillac Escalade. It was at this point they pointed out the tip jar the staff of OBC had passed around a time or two already, and Chris said it, of course, took the most expensive gas. They also had trouble with the seat warmers, and hadn’t been able to turn them off so far. Sure, that would have been fine a few months ago, but not now.
Myla then set up her next song, which came from the “Drugs” EP. “It’s not what you’re thinking…” she clarified, saying the inspiration behind came from “baptized drugs”, which, as she pointed out for herself, was this: work and playing music. The song was the first one from that EP, “Slow Down”, which she noted she could probably stand to do at times. That’s not necessarily what the song’s about, though. Instead, it carries a message of chasing after what you want, and putting everything you have into it.
Heather got ready for her next track by saying that when she had time, she used to take naps. “I don’t anymore.” She stated. She then asked if anyone there was a fan of rainstorms, as in they found the sound soothing. A couple of people fit that category, and she was pretty fired up when she made her next remark. “I’m, like, ‘Yeah, bring it on!” she said, before finishing that, that was sort of what this next song was based on.
She performed the stellar, “Let it Rain”; and when things rolled back around to Chris, he asked if everyone would indulge him while he told a story. A few years back, he said he was called into a record executive’s office, who liked what he was doing and asked him to play a song. He did one, then another, saying he was feeling pretty good at that point, and his confidence only grew with the third song, which he was stopped in the middle of. The executive then offered his critique, which was that he was playing “New York country” and not “Nashville country”. Chris said he was given a homework assignment, and told to write a Nashville country song. “So, I searched my heart…” he said, making some funny remark, that was something like he wrote a song about New York girls who were from Tennessee. Honestly, I didn’t catch all of that, but regardless, the song that spawned was “Memphis Queen”, which is found on his debut album from 2005, and it was one of his strongest songs of the night.
Myla didn’t waste any time getting into her next song, which was the ever so catchy, “Bad Boys”. “All the bad boys are looking for a good time. I catch ‘em looking my way…” goes the start of the chorus, which, once it was over, led Chris to say he was sensing a theme between it and what he had done before. They then looked at Heather, who said she didn’t have a song to fit that pattern. However, she did have one that was about a “makeup, breakup and everything in between.
Once she finished, Chris reached down a harmonica and neck rack. “He’s getting the harmonica. He’s such an overachiever.” Heather stated, giving him a hard time. I believe the song was titled “All of Our Ghosts”, and was an amazing one. Myla kept with the newly established slower vibe, by doing a song she pointed out was rather special to her right now, because it was a finalist in the International Songwriting Competition. Heather then piped up. “That means it good.” she said, bragging on Myla. The song was “Sparks”. If you listen to it and pay attention to the lyrics, you’ll understand why it has made it so far in the competition, and the song deals with never letting the spark in a relationship burn out.
For Heather’s next song, she did the title track from her first EP, “Fine Line”. Chris followed it with another one of his, and for Myla’s turn, she did “Love in Black and White”. There’s a point in the song that sounds like the end, and the crowd raised their hands, but remained hesitant to applaud, clearly not certain if it was over yet or not. However, when Chris led the applause, everyone followed. The look on his was priceless after it subsided a bit and Myla continued on with the final verse. Meanwhile, Heather just shook her head and grinned.
It was about 9:15 at this point, so they had been on stage for nearly two hours already, and now they asked everyone if they wanted a couple more rounds. Everyone was game, and this next to last one they (minus Myla) had decided would be a cover round. “Are we really doing covers?” asked Myla, who was down for it, but just wanted to make sure they were indeed doing that.
Chris even joked that they were all three going to do “Freebird”. “…And we’ll all be here till next Tuesday.” he said, while Myla added she wanted to do the last solo by mimicking the sound with her mouth, and even demonstrated it.
Heather’s song was one by Maroon 5. “Really old” Maroon 5, which she noted was her favorite. It’s been years (and then some) since I’ve listened to the “Songs About Jane” album (which, I might add, is the only Maroon 5 album I own), so I didn’t catch the flubbed line she made on the second verse of “Sunday Morning”. However, she readily pointed it out when she finished, saying she was “ashamed” of it. Still, I think that little mistake could easily be overlooked, given how she killed it on the final chorus, and the vocal delivery was outstanding.
Chris treated everyone to an awesome rendition of The White Stripes “I’m Lonely (But I Ain’t That Lonely Yet)”, with just a hint of country flare added to it. Before her turn, Myla mentioned just a few days before someone had told her that there was “no good music written in the eighties.” She said was a bit taken aback by the comment, and responded to the person with, “Well, how about this song?” With that, she immediately started “In Your Eyes” by Peter Gabriel, which I definitely think qualifies as at least one good song that came out of that decade.
Since they were on the topic of covers, Heather mentioned she wanted to do a more acoustic rendition of “Love is a Battlefield”, saying she thought that would sound cool. “It’s been done on Idol.” Myla told her, crushing her hopes. “Well, if it’s been done on Idol then I can’t do it.” She remarked, before again thanking everyone for sticking around, because most of the people who still were here, at been there since the show began.
Her closer was “Fool Again”, and it was a great note to end on. Before his last number, Chris thanked Opening Bell Coffee for playing host to them, then started “Shine”. It sounded great to begin with, and was only made better by the assistance he got from his touring companions, as they all three harmonized on the choruses, their voices sounding absolutely incredible all combined like that.
It fell to Myla to end the night, and she concluded it all with the title track from her still fairly new record, “Hiding Places”, which was a nice conclusion to an unforgettable night.
All three are extraordinary singers and songwriters, and seeing them in this Songwriters in the Round setting made for a one-of-a-kind experience. I mean, hearing them play their songs would have been just fine, but having them tell stories pertaining to some of the tracks, along with the banter and teasing they periodically did was fun to hear. And no, it did not seem like this was a two plus hour show, and that old saying, “time flies when you’re having fun”, would be an appropriate one to us about this night.
Regarding Myla, she’s playing Memphis every week in the month of April, and just a few shows in other states are also planned for May. Her full calendar can be viewed HERE. Be sure to check out her albums in iTUNES, too.
Chris has a gig at Downtown Rooftop in Memphis on May 9th, and go HERE for any updates on his show calendar. He also told me it’ll probably (hopefully) be fall at the latest when he’ll get back to Dallas, so keep that in mind and be sure to check him out whenever he does get back this way. And, of course, check out his albums in iTUNES.
Heather has her records up on either iTUNES or BANDCAMP, and while she has nothing on the books at the moment, here’s her TOUR PAGE.
Oh, they’re all super nice people, too.
Great way to end the month of March, especially since I began it with a songwriters in the round show that featured four Texas musicians, and then ended it more or less the same way with some acts from the only other state whose name begins with a T. That might almost qualify as being poetic.
As one show let out and my duty of covering the show for On Tour Monthly was fulfilled, I headed across the street to Three Links to catch a show for myself… Or at least what was left of it.
The whole bill (which featured Black Taxi, We’rewolves and Okapi Sun) would have been great to see, but Ishi was the main band I had wanted to see in the first place, and they had yet to start.
It had been about ten months since I last Dallas’s favorite electronic band, and coincidentally, it happened to right here at Three Links, just one week after their massive CD release show when “Digital Wounds” was finally released into the world.
Point is I was looking forward to this.
“I’m gonna need more tracks ASAP.” Frontman JT Mudd told the sound guy as their show got underway. He was decked out in his full attention getting attire, which included his spacey/futuristic looking robe, a hat with little squares of glass like you would see on a disco ball covering it and a pair of glasses that illuminated neon light. He also sported some face paint. It may have been a Wednesday night, but they clearly weren’t pulling any punches.
“Happy hump day motherfuckers!” he shouted as the sample track for “Pastel Lights” grew louder, soon peaking as guitarist Rocky Ottley and drummer Jonathan Merla jumped in on the track. I guess that’s the upside of going so long without seeing a band: They completely switch up their setlist. I was a bit surprised they opened with this classic that is typically reserved as one of the final songs, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t like it.
It instantly had the area in front of the stage transformed into a dance floor, as some sang right along with JT, “…I will be waiting in the shapes of time; realigning the matter between your heart and mine…” It was indeed a fun way to kick off what would end up being a 71-minute set, and with that oldie out of the way, it was time for some new stuff, but not the new stuff I was expecting.
Apparently, they’ve been busy writing some new material since I last saw them, and played a handful of the tracks this night. The next one was the first of a few that had JT introducing a female singer (I missed her full name, though if I heard correctly her first was Betty) who joined them on stage and backed him up.
While a female vocalist used to be a permanent thing in Ishi, they’ve proven in the last year or so it’s not a necessity for them. However, there are times it is behooving of the music. That song was one of them, and the woman killed it each time she did step on stage.
“We got a brand new song for ya, Dallas.” remarked JT as she left, leading to another new song, one that had Rocky playing some very cool sounding lines on his guitar. The fans barely had to time to clap for them before the backing track for a personal favorite of mine kicked on, “Moon Watcher”. The fans were encouraged to clap along with Jonathan’s drumming at the start, and after getting through the first chorus, JT gave it up to Rocky, letting out a high-pitched, “Guitar!”.
They were on a roll know, going right from one song to the next, and “Emotional Hard Drive” kicked the dancing into overdrive, while Rocky jumped around at the start of it. “…You strut your stuff, looking so tough. I don’t buy it…” JT sang, kind of flexing one of his arms as he did so. That was segued right into another new track, which again featured the vocal talent of Betty, who even took over more of a lead role at times. In fact, while she was singing one line, JT went and grabbed a little towel and wiped the sweat from his eyes, before getting right back into show mode, jumping about and doing everything possible to ensure the audience was feeling it and having the time of their life.
“Thank you, Miss Betty.” he said as she went back to being a spectator of the show, while they moved right along with “Touch The Future”. “Let me see your vibrations; touch the sun. Anyone can make it happen, we’ve only just begun.” Goes the chorus, which seemed to strongly apply to them this night; and as they hit the instrumental break, JT walked over behind Rocky, holding his cape out and waving it behind him.
The songs kept coming, and now they cranked out the haunting title track, “Digital Wounds”, before JT asked everyone a very important question. “How many dandelions do we have out there tonight?” Everyone knew that meant “Shake Your Dandelion” was coming, and the sexually charged classic of theirs had been tweaked a bit, and now featured a blistering guitar solo after the second chorus. During one of the breaks, JT checked in on his people, asking, “How we doing out there?”, then after the song once again thanked everyone for “rocking out on a Wednesday night” with them.
Next, fans were treated to the first single off their latest album, “Disco Queen”, which was followed by another single, which signified the end was nearing. JT exchanged his current headgear for what I guess could still be considered a Native American headdress. It was more simple than the one I’ve seen him rock in the past, though it still had the strips of neon lighting adorning it; and in one hand, he held a shield, also covered with neon lightening, and he began dancing about at the start of “Mother Prism”.
That one has been a fan favorite since it first was worked into their shows, and the fans were downright giddy to hear it. “Aiyah, aiyay. Aiyah, aiyah, aiyay.” everyone chanted along on that nonsensical anthem of sorts, which serves to bond everyone together. Really, for that one song, it was like everybody in Three Links was a single entity. Some were still dancing to it, while many began jumping up and down, still chanting.
It was a lovely moment, and once it concluded, JT rested the shield against Jonathans’ kick drum. Another stellar guitar solo was thrown into “Slowly But Surely”, after which JT thanked everyone one last time for coming out, along with all the bands who played before them, before saying they had one last song for everyone.
I was surprised it was not an original they broke into, though it was a pleasant surprise to hear them pull out their cover of New Order’s “Bizarre Love Triangle”. It had been quite awhile since I had heard them do it, and as they hit the final chorus, JT got out in the crowd, dancing along with everyone and encouraging everybody to sing along, and even left one of the choruses up to the crowd.
That was a satisfactory ending for me, though it didn’t take long for people to start asking for one more, and they were more than happy to oblige.
“You have two options…” he told everyone given them the choice of “Mirror Ball Sky” or “ISHI”. I shouted for option two, but I was one of the few. Needless to say, it didn’t win out. “Let’s get dirty.” JT said, right before starting the lead track from their current album.
So it seemed like the track that used to be their routine opener would be how this show would end, but they still had a surprise for everyone. After a quick band meeting, they decided to do their other choice, and I was elated by that. “We’ll do one more, ‘cause we fucking love you…” said JT, adding with a bit of an accent, “Long time.” “ISHI” brought their 71-minute long set to an end, and I really like the way they handled the final chorus, doing it sort of in rounds, with JT shouting the first letter, “I”, then a second later Rocky shouted it out. The same thing happened for “S”, before they synced up for “H” and “I”.
Man, what a way to end a Wednesday night, a Wednesday night that had already included me seeing the great Chino Moreno perform.
Ishi owned it this night, and delivered a show that was exactly like what everyone in North Texas has come to expect from them. They’re fun, they’re lively, and the music they make is topnotch, while the new songs they played this night were at the very least on par with their other stuff, and one was a standout.
After going so long without seeing Ishi, I had forgotten how happy their shows make you, and I doubt I was the only one who left with a smile on their face.
Upcoming shows include a Totally 80’s night at the Granada Theater on April 26th, where they will performing a Depeshi and covering Depeche Mode songs. On May 4th they’ll be playing early at the Suburbia Music Fest in Plano, and they have a gig in Houston on May 31st as part of Free Press Summer Fest. And if you want to check out their music, head over to iTUNES.
I rounded the corner from the parking lot behind the Granada Theater this night to the front of the venue, only to see a sizable line that stretched around the north side of the building.
Yes, the people were out in droves, even shortly after eight-o’clock, all in anticipation of seeing London Grammar.
Of course, there was an opening act that would come first, though everyone seemed in consensus that they should just get right to the main course. On the center screen that covered the stage the venue broadcasts a Twitter feed (you tag the Granada in a tweet and then it shows up), and based on the several people who were using it had already written the Oslo, Norway based HighAsAKite off. Actually, I don’t know if some people were even aware who the opening band was, but by the time they were done, that would be a name no one who was here this night will ever forget.
Their 32-minute set was comprised of songs from their upcoming “Silent Treatment” album, (due out April 8th), including opening with the lead track, “Lover, Where Do You Live?”. Guitarist Kristoffer Lo used a bow to play his axe on that first song, similar to, say, a violinist, in a way. There were some absolutely gorgeous three-part harmonies on that one, as Øystein Skar and Marte Eberson, both of whom played some synths, backed up frontwoman Ingrid Helene Håvik. “…Sent shivers down that spine of yours.” was one of the lines from that song, and a fitting one at that, because that was the exact feeling a majority of the audience was experiencing.
It was sheer beauty right from the start, and the synthesizers allowed them to add so many layers and so much depth to it.
Now that they had cast a spell over everyone, they picked things up, and Trond Bersus’ drumming grew more forceful as they moved on with “Leaving No Traces”, which saw the three-part harmonies becoming four, making it all the more compelling. As it ended, Kristoffer laid his guitar down and picked up his flugabone (which looks like a trumpet of sorts, for those unfamiliar with the instrument). He proceeded to play a piece that segued them into the subsequent track from the album, “Hiroshima”. They gave it even more flare live, and there was a moment that was nothing short of climatic, once all the instruments peaked and burst into a delightful, captivating wall of sound.
They bridged it right into the theatrical sounding “I, The Hand Grenade”. “Yeah, the real terrorist is me, my love.” goes one of the often repeated lines from the first verse, before “terrorist” gets changed to “parasite” for the second, and Ingrid delivered it all with flawless execution. “Since Last Wednesday”, the single the album has already produced, showed a bit of a lighter side to the band, and it contained some very subtle pop elements. Still, to even begin to say it was pop would be completely inaccurate.
“Thank you, we’re really excited to be opening for London Grammar.” Ingrid told the audience, in what was really the only time they addressed the crowd, since they had been so busy utilizing their time on stage to play all the songs they could. Even while she spoke, the applause continued, and people had already welcomed these Norwegians into their hearts.
Kristoffer brought the flugabone back out for their final song, “Science & Blood Tests”. He used it for a portion of the song, before putting his guitar back to use, again using the bow on it, as they concluded their set by leaving the now new fans with the same sense of wonder their first tune had created.
I don’t know if I’ve ever seen an opening act that was as impressive and mind-blowing as HighAsAKite was.
It was breathtakingly beautiful, and their level of talent is unfathomable. And while this was an exceptional show, I got the feeling they were only starting to scratch the surface at the end of this brief set.
Honestly, they have everything one needs to be a headliner here at a venue the size of the Granada, with the exception of the fanbase. Well, at least before this night they didn’t have the fanbase.
They were the perfect pairing for London Grammar, because HighAsAKite also has a sound unlike any band. Ever.
By all means, you need to keep an eye on this outfit from Norway, and I’m already anxiously awaiting their return to Dallas. I doubt I’m alone, either, because the Twitter feed again lit up, this time with posts from people who were utterly amazed by what they had just witnessed.
They have an EP available, while their LP will be released this coming Tuesday (April 2nd), and can be bought in iTUNES. As for shows, they’ll be doing a brief stint in the U.S. in May, with a few shows on the East Coast. Aside from that, everything will be international (well, for us American folks at least), and their full calendar can be seen HERE.
Lately, if I have made the trip across the D/FW metroplex to Fort Worth, the destination has been Billy Bob’s Texas.
It was more of the same this night, when the venue that is known for being the “world’s largest honky-tonk” was hosting one of the best bands in the state, The Dirty River Boys.
There was an opening band this night, and that was Crooks from Austin.
Admittedly, I didn’t keep up with their set as far as what songs they did, but I’ll hit the highlights of what I do remember.
They were playing the smaller Honky-tonk stage, and had already started by the time I got there.
They finished the song they were doing, at which point singer and acoustic guitarist Josh Mazour regaled the audience with a story about how it’s not a good idea to decide to pick up a stray cat and pet it. Evidently, that was something he had tried recently and learned the hard way why it’s not wise.
They had a truly authentic country sound, from the twang in his voice, to the upright bass Joey McGill played, and even had an accordion and trumpet thrown into the mix, which were played by Anthony Ortiz Jr. and Doug Day, respectively.
They did at least one cover during their time on stage (I don’t recall what famous country singer they covered, since country music is not my forte), but it was good. Their original stuff was even better, and you could tell the audience was liking by all the people that swarmed the dance floor and danced with their special someone’s.
Even the slower “Pull Up Your Boots” got some movement going, while a song that stood out to me was “My First Gun”. Granted, that was probably because of the story that accompanied it, which was Josh informing everyone that he wrote it about five years or so ago, when he was dreaming about killing his boss at the time. “…I never did anything to him or his woman, but I thought about it… A lot.” he said before they started the track.
Some of their final songs where just the core group of Josh, Joey, lead guitarist Ryan Goebel and drummer Rob Bacak, before Anthony and Doug rejoined them for their final few songs.
They were quite good. I can’t say I liked them to the point that I’d feel like I have to see them the next time they come through the North Texas area, though I am contemplating buying their record. So yeah, overall, I did enjoy Crooks.
They have plenty of shows coming up across Texas, including a return trip to Billy Bob’s on May 8th, plus a gig at Hat Tricks in Lewisville on March 28th. For their full tour schedule, go HERE. Also, you can find their LP on either iTUNES or BANDCAMP.
They were a good little warm-up act, but the real show was going to come when The Dirty River Boys took the main stage.
There was a thirty-minute break in between bands, which gave most of the people plenty of time to be shown to their seats at the sea of tables that cover the floor in front of the main stage.
By the time 10:30 rolled around and one of the staff members at Billy Bob’s came out to introduce the band, there were a surprising amount of people there. I saw surprising given the fact that The Dirty River Boys are still by all accounts a local band. They may do shows all over the country, but they’re widely known yet. However, the healthy fan base they do have is also a dedicated one, which was proved this night.
At 10:32 bassist Colton James, drummer Travis Stearns and the two singers and acoustic guitarists Marco Gutierrez and Nino Cooper stepped on stage.
“How we doing Billy Bob’s Texas?!” Marco asked, while Travis went ahead and gave the crowd some percussion by slapping his hands against the cajon he sat on.
Having seen them just barely a month before; I was expecting the same setlist, since most bands don’t switch things up that often. Then again, The Dirty River Boys aren’t most bands, and when Nino grabbed the mandolin, it became obvious that this wouldn’t be the exact same show I had seen last month, and that had me excited.
They wound up starting with “Boomtown”, and Nino jumped about at the start while he strummed the mandolin. The fans responded well to it, and it was an excellent opener, not only being one of their tracks that really gets people pumped up, but also one that shows how much talent resides in this band, as they handled some of the words in rounds, with Marco and Colton singing and harmonizing along with Nino. There was even a cool moment after the second chorus where Colton spun his upright bass around, while the feathers and raccoon pelt that hang from it twirled right along with it.
Once it was done, Marco led them right into the title track from their second EP, “Train Station”, which is another song with breathtaking harmonies. “…I fear I’m losing her again. My head’s on the horizon, my heart’s wherever the hell she sleeps!” Marco belted as the track sprang to life. It’s a song that blend beauty and heartache with some Rock ‘n’ Roll moments, and there was even a part where Colton played his bass with a bow, similar to how a violinist does.
Those were two of the older songs they did this night, and while more would come, their primary focus was on the material from their forthcoming album. They had worked in a few more new tracks than they were doing the last time I saw them, and Travis counted them in on the first new one of the night, which was sung by Colton.
“Billy Bob’s, what’s going on?!” Marco asked, seeming gleeful to even be there. The fans did their part at making some noise, while he went on to say they’d be playing a lot of new songs this night. “…This one’s an old one.” he finished, as they tackled the lead track from “Science of Flight”, “Dried Up”. Apart from doing lead vocals, Marco also played the harmonica when it was called for, but that wasn’t the only add-on this song got.
They’ve been known to throw in portions of cover songs into their music, and while I’ve heard them do one of Bob Dylan’s songs before, it hasn’t been on this specific song before. “…Everybody knows that baby’s got new clothes…” he sang during the lull that came before the final chorus, then moved along to the chorus of that Dylan hit “Just Like a Woman”. “She takes just like a woman. She makes love just like a woman. And she aches just like a woman.” Marco crooned, softening his voice as each sentence ended, before getting louder when he sang, “But she breaks just like a little girl.” The crowd was roaring at that point, as they got back to their original and finished it up, before moving directly into their next number.
“This song’s about a union painter that Nino met several years ago.” Marco informed everyone, while Travis played some soft, though sad notes on his harmonica. “…I’m surrounded by others, but I’m always alone. When the paint and time comes, I jump back on the train. Spend all my green dollars just to poison my veins…” Nino sang rather somberly on “Union Painter”, which sounded like it was even a little more low-key than the album version. That’s to say it just sounded like it was more acoustic. Nino also made a little change to one of the lines, catering to where they were this night as he sang, “…I’m still searching for freedom beneath Fort Worth skies…”
Afterwards, it was time for them to bust out another new one. They might be an Americana band, with dashes of country, but above all, The Dirty River Boys are a rock band. This song was a fine example of that, and it packed a punch; while also being one of the songs that Colton used an electric bass on. Speaking of that, his playing on it was pretty slick, particularly on the chorus, as he quickly moved his hand up and down the fretboard.
“…This is what we call a Chinese fire drill.” Marco stated before leaving his post and sitting on the cajon. Travis took up the mandolin, while Colton grabbed a banjo, as Nino began to play some soaring notes. “…The louder you get, the crazier this bad boy gets!” shouted Travis as they had some fun before their next song. Marco just added a bit of drums to the start, before taking over on the upright bass for the short sing-along that is “Lookin’ for the Heart”. “But I’m just growing old with a whole deep in my soul. Won’t you give me back that heart you took from me?” sang Nino on the track that is far more upbeat than you would guess just based on the subject matter.
They reverted to their normal positions when it was done; and Marco started setting up their next song, saying on their last album they had covered a Townes Van Zandt song. “…We don’t do it too much these days…” he said, noting they had decided to this night, though. The song they covered is “Lungs”, and it’s a favorite of mine from “The Science of Flight”. They give it a real dark, ominous quality, which in turn puts a good spin on it; and while they might not play it much anymore, I’m glad they did this night.
Another new one was due now; but first Marco mentioned how lucky they were to come across Colton James and add that fine talent to the band. He [Colton] again assumed the role of lead vocalist on this one (which was one I don’t think I had heard before), though it sounded pretty good. “Take it away, Nino!” he said at one point later on in the track, as Nino ripped into a guitar solo. I have to say, acoustic guitars were not meant to sound like that. At least I’ve never heard another band make them sound the way Nino and Marco do. The guitar solo he did was amazing, and it was more electric sounding than most electric guitars are.
The audience went to clap, but had no time to, because as the final notes rang out, Nino started singing “My Son”. “I don’t know where you’re going my son. Taught you to walk, but you learned how to run.” he sang before all of his band mates joined in, again forming some incredible harmonies. “How you gonna find your way back home? The roads you knew they’re paved and gone.” Sang Nino on the first chorus, changing it slightly before sticking with the chorus from the album version the second time around, “How you gonna find your way back home? The maps you drew they’re burned and gone.”
“…The only way that you can be found is through your footsteps in the cold, dead ground.” the four guys sang, before Nino went into another brief guitar solo, which only made the song even better.
They gave a quick shout-out to their friends in Crooks for getting the party started, before firing up an instrumental piece. It was soulful and bluesy sounding, and I highly enjoyed it. I assumed it was the intro for another one of their new tracks; and they amped it up, sounding like they were about to break into whatever it was, before pulling back on it. Then the chords for “Draw” came into being; and since that was a song that was absent from their last show I caught, I was ecstatic.
It was a bit of an alternate version, and was more toned down than what their fans have to come to know from the album. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t still a great song, though. “If you’re alive, make some noise!” roared Travis during one of the breaks, as he made sure everyone was still feeling very much a part of the show/experience.
They were still far from being done, and while Colton again swapped over to his electric bass, Nino mentioned that the next song they would be doing was one that The Ranch (95.9FM) in Fort Worth had been playing, and thanked them for it.
There’s a reason why “Desert Wind” is their newest single, and one they’ve already released for public consumption (i.e. on iTUNES), and it’s made known every time they play it. “Lately, I’ve been thinking, and I just can’t seem to get you off my mind… Lovely lady, where you are. I hear your voice and I feel your scars…” he sang on the sweet and powerful track. The drumbeats are mixed in perfectly, giving the song as much kick as possible; and he got so into his drumming on this one that – for the second time this night – he knocked his hat off.
“If you know it, sing it.” Marco told the fans as he moved things right along to their next number.
“Carnival Lights” got one of loudest reactions from the fans, as well it should. It was another song they put an alternate spin on, doing a slow version of it. Actually it was pretty much just Marco until after the first chorus. “…With her poison inside medicine bottle, filled with nothing but her own shortcomings. She leans her head back; she puts ‘em down and they taste alright…” he softly sang, before Travis interrupted the pause. “Y’all still with us?!” he asked. Of course, everyone was. Marco then continued, “Please, just try to stay conscious tonight.”
Now the full band came in, just in time for the even more emotional second verse of this spectacular tune. “Billy Bob’s, this is your time to shine.” Marco told everyone before the final chorus, making the song into a genuine sing-along. It was cool moment to say the least, but they weren’t done yet.
That Dylan cover has been tacked onto this song in the past, but with it having already been done, I was wondering what, if anything, they might add to “Carnival Lights”. They did have something planned, and Colton took his cowboy hat off and hung it on the scroll of his bass for it.
“…Now I’m so happy, no sorrow in sight. Praise the Lord, I saw the light.” Marco added, which was just one of several lines they did from Han Williams’ “I Saw the Light”.
They went right into another new song; again one that was sung by Colton, before Marco took over on the next one. In between those, they chatted with their fans, though.
“Are y’all having a good time so far?” Marco asked, before saying he couldn’t stress enough what an “honor” it was to be on this stage (this was their first ever headlining show at Billy Bob’s). Then, upon finishing that song he did, he shifted the focus to their new album, which they recorded during this past December and January. “…We can’t wait to get this new music out to you all…” he said.
They only had a couple of old songs left this night, and rather surprisingly, the balled-esque “Riverbed Wildflowers” got one of the loudest reactions from fans. I mean, it should because it’s a fantastic song, even if it deals with the heartache of having feelings for someone who doesn’t feel the same. “…Well, these riverbed wildflowers are dying now; and I’m through waiting around on you…” Nino sang towards the end, before they added a little extra something to the song, repeating part of the chorus an extra time or two at the end, adding some truly lovely harmonies to it.
“This song’s about life on the road.” Marco stated, after he had again thanked everyone for making it out to the show, during which time Colton switched back to his electric bass. This song is easily the best one from their new batch of music, and even just in general. It does depict the life of touring musicians (“…Well, we work all night just to drive all day…”) and it’s more rock sounding than most of the true rock music that you hear.
They made something special with that song, and the same can be said about their next one, which Nino dedicated to the man they co-wrote it with, Ray Wylie Hubbard. “…It’s about the violence south of border.” he said, as they began to sing about how their hometown of El Paso, as well as those towns over in Mexico, have changed.
“You cross that dirty river and you never come back.” Marco sang at the end, then Colton and finally Travis, before Nino took back the reins. His band mates harmonized with him on the last line, “If you cross that dirty river then you’ll never come back.”
After one of their earlier songs (“Draw”), Marco mentioned it was just one of a few songs they had about whiskey. Well, now they got to another, which was yet another new track. “…There’s nothing like a whiskey drunk on a Friday…” he sang on the cheery tune, which will surely become a sing-along once they get their new album released.
The end was in sight now, and while Nino went over to stage left and grabbed the mandolin, Travis spoke to the crowd.
“After four and a half to five years of being a band, our van finally hit two hundred and fifty-thousand miles!” he exclaimed (a moment that was documented with the footage being posted on the bands Facebook page).
He then asked how many people had seen them before. Most everyone in attendance had, though there were still plenty of first timers. “Y’all know how we like to do it!” yelled Travis, speaking to those who were familiar with them. “…So, are y’all ready to raise some hell?!” he bellowed.
Moments after that, he got everyone to stand up. I have to say, the seats were detrimental to the energy out in the crowd. Not that everyone wasn’t enjoying the show, but you just can’t really get into the music (or at least I can’t) when you’re sitting.
With that said: once everyone rose out of their seats and began clapping, singing and stomping their feet along to “Raise Some Hell”, the mood changed immensely. In that moment every fan was one, as they were completely immersed in the song and were having the time of their lives.
That was how their 88-minute long set ended, but the celebration wasn’t done yet.
They never left the stage. Instead, Travis mentioned that they’ll celebrate fans birthdays every time they can, but there are only, at most, four chances a year that they can do shows and celebrate the birthday of one of their own. Tonight was one of those nights.
Nino Cooper was genuinely surprised when a birthday cake was brought out and handed to him, and everyone in Billy Bob’s helped in singing “Happy Birthday” to him.
“Are y’all ready to rock out another one or what?!” Travis asked after a few minutes went by.
“Crooks, we need ya.” Marco said, calling on their friends, who soon joined them on stage. Then Nino appeared, having traded his cake in for an electric guitar.
It was very appropriate for their final song, which was a cover of The Rolling Stones “Honky Tonk Woman”. I stand by what I said about their rendition of the song the last time I saw them; they do it better than The Stones; at least in comparison to the recorded version.
Think what you will of that statement, but it’s the truth, and once the song came to an end, Travis stood up from the cajon, tossed one of his drumsticks in the air, caught it and then struck right through the skin of one of his drums. Because if you’re going to end a show, you might as well end it in style, right?
This may have been their first ever headlining show at Billy Bob’s, but I don’t think it will be their last.
Okay, the place wasn’t sold out like some of the other acts that come through are capable of doing; but there were a lot of people out, and they were loving every second of the show.
Then again, how could you not? There are so many layers to The Dirty River Boys, from the harmonies, to the emotion-filled lyrics, to the awesome rock numbers, of which there are plenty.
I absolutely love this band. I may be a new fan, but they won me over from the start, and each time I see one of their shows (this was the fourth one I’ve caught), that love I feel grows.
They are, without question, one of the best bands that resides in Texas, and it’s not going to be long before the world takes notice.
They have plenty of tour dates scheduled up through July, and they can all be found HERE. That includes show in Texas, Oklahoma and even Louisiana. As far as North Texas shows go, they’ll be up in Denton on March 27th at Dan’s Silver Leaf. They’ll be at the Iron Horse Pub in Wichita Falls on March 29th, and then April 25th will find them at the Granada Theater in Dallas. They’ll also be back in Fort Worth on July 24th.
Go see ‘em if you can, and if you can’t, check out their music in iTUNES.
It was a great night of music here in Fort Worth; and while the drive there and back were both long, The Dirty River Boys were more than worth it.
Three Links was my second destination for the night, where a truly killer bill had been assembled.
I hated that I had missed my friends in Vinyl (who are spectacular), and Mothership was just starting their final song when I arrived (it had been awhile time since I had seen them, but they sounded better than ever). A band called Crypt Trip also got the night started, but all three of them were nothing more than appetizers.
Not that the place wasn’t already packed for Mothership (and assumingly the other bands); but the most exciting thing about this show was that The Virgin Wolves were coming out of their hibernation. They hadn’t played a show since last summer; and they had been greatly missed.
Of course, it took a bit for them to get set up, though the sound check was swift. “It’s been eight months since we’ve been on stage!” declared rhythm guitarist Carson Coldiron. The guitar and bass chords swelled as he spoke, pumping up the crowd, leaving everyone wondering what their opening number would be.
I’m not gonna lie, I was hoping for “Slick Shoes”, and for a few moments it seemed like that classic from the “Bad Blood” EP might be what they burst into, but it was not.
Instead, they broke into “Black Sheep”, which was equally as good. It may have been eight months since they shared a stage together, but it didn’t even take a second to reignite their energy and chemistry on stage, as Carson, lead guitarist Chase Ryan and bassist Kristin Leigh began throwing down. “I bet you look good, I bet you look good, I bet you look good in the morning light…” sang Jaimeson Toon; Chase backing her up on most of the verses, giving the song a nice one-two punch.
I’ll go ahead and say this: if they had accumulated any dust over those eight months, they made sure they shook it all off during their rehearsals.
Drummer Steve Phillips quickly led them into another gritty rock number, “Crawl”, as they started making their way down the tracklist of their “Pretty Evil Thing” LP. “…Gave you just one hour to show me how bad you can be. I gave myself three cigarettes and whistled just like a bird.” Jaimeson sang in a more sultry voice on the second verse; grabbing her hair and pulling it down over her face as she did so.
As usually, they had little transition pieces worked up between most of their songs this night, stretching it out here as Carson took a moment to thank all the bands who had opened for them. He also pointed out that this Jaimesons’ place of employment. Chase then semi-slowly plucked the strings of his guitar, bringing them to my personal favorite track, “End Of The Line”. It’s arguably their catchiest song, and shows off a little different side of The Virgin Wolves, while still retaining that raw rock vibe that makes them standout. There were some issues with the microphone towards the end, which led to Jaimeson and Chase sharing his mic, while Kristin used hers as they all sang, “I can’t sleep, I can’t breathe, I can’t find the door…”.
Steve kept on delivering the beats until they were ready for one of their slightly blues infused numbers, “What You Want To Hear”. Some banter with the crowd took place afterwards, while Chase also took time to thank everyone for coming out this night. Surprisingly, the show wasn’t sold out, though there were a lot of people there, and they were all transfixed on the band.
They kept running thorough “Pretty Evil Thing”, though they did skip track five and moved on to “Lies” when they got back to business. That (at times) showed off the bands softer side, which is something that doesn’t even really exist, and they kicked things back up with their next song.
However, they first took a moment to wish one of their fans a happy birthday. “…She’s good looking. I’m just saying. Get ya some.” Jaimeson said of the birthday girl. It was after that, that they did the darker sounding “Crooked Smile”. It’s another one of their best songs, and tonight it was a highlight of their show, as Chase and Kristin stood facing one another near the end of the song, tearing it up on their guitar and bass, respectively. Then, as it drew to a close, Jaimeson approached Chase, as the two grinded against each other.
“The amount of people in here makes me happy.” Jaimeson stated after that one. They marched on with “Oh, Sugar”, before again skipping over a track on the album, because, well, you’ve got to save the best for last.
“I like it when you don’t leave.” Jaimeson said, before encouraging everyone who might want to, to buy their merch. “…We have stuff you can wear. Stuff you can listen to. Stuff you can smell in your house.” she said, then added, “That’s right, I said smell…”
“ Vagabonds” was the final, somewhat slow song they did, and from it, they jumped right into “Bad”, which was an electrifying way to end what felt like an all too short 36-minute set.
“Surely that’s not it?” I thought. Though the band did a legit job at making it appear that they were done. Then the cries for an encore started, and eventually Chase and Carson retook the stage, saying they thought they might could do one more.
“Carson, how’s my hair look?” Chase asked. “Shitty.” Carson replied. They had a friend join them on stage for this next song, and that was Chris Breland. He sings in the band Black Habits – whom I’ve seen once before – and evidently has something else going on, because Carson mentioned he was in a band. “…I don’t know if I can say what band or not, yet…” he said, seeming to catch himself before he let it slip.
Their little encore segment started with a cover of Danzig’s “Mother”, and stylistically speaking, it fits The Virgin Wolves perfectly.
Jaimeson and Chris were a force to be reckoned with as they shared the vocal responsibilities. They killed it on the song, and as it came to an end, some guy suddenly began to crowd surf, and soon took a fall that looked like it could have been way worse for him than what it wound up being.
That wasn’t it, though. Remember, I said they skipped over one of their songs so they could save the best for last, and, without question, their best is “Virtue And Vice”.
A small mosh pit even broke out during the song (something I haven’t personally seen at one of their shows before), while both Chase and Kristin shouted the line on the second verse that they’ve revamped for live shows, “I rode all night through the motherfucking rain!” “And I wound up standing at his grave.” Jaimeson chimed in.
Towards the end, Carson even grabbed a beer can from one of the fans up front, sliding it across the neck of his guitar a bit before handing it back.
That, was the perfect way to end this show, and that song allows all five of them to unleash any energy they have left, ensuring everything gets left on the stage.
I had missed seeing The Virgin Wolves more than I knew I had, and I’m glad I at least caught them a few times close together leading up to their little hiatus.
Hopefully it won’t be another eight months before they grace a stage somewhere in the metroplex, ‘cause they’re just too damn good.
They play rock music the way it was meant to be played, and they’re live show is a must-see, especially if you haven’t seen them before.
Pick up “Pretty Evil Thing” in iTUNES (it’ll be $9.99 well spent), and throw ‘em a like on FACEBOOK so you’ll know when they have another gig.
Well, I managed to catch not one, but two fantastic shows this Saturday night. I’d call that a win.
I must confess, until just a few weeks prior to their show at the Granada Theater, I had never heard of White Lies.
That’s probably a good thing, because that meant that I haven’t spent the past few years anxiously awaiting the British band to tour through Dallas. Instead, I became a fan rather last minute and only had to wait a couple weeks.
That’s not to say I wasn’t excited, though. In fact, I was probably every bit as excited as any die-hard, longtime fan of the six-year old rock outfit.
The only opening act on this was the Brooklyn, NY singer/songwriter Frankie Rose.
I’ll preface this by saying I had trouble figuring out what songs she did, and by trouble I mean even after spending time listening to her music I couldn’t pinpoint the specific songs, which is a personal fail in my book.
But I digress. She and her band (which consisted of a drummer, lead guitarist and bassist) delivered a great 31-minute set.
I didn’t know what to expect, but I wound up liking her music far more than I thought I would.
The first song had a nice build to it, before the drummer suddenly broke into the song, which had me quickly trying to figure out where he was. See, the kit was on far stage left – out of my line of sight – and until that first beat I had overlooked it. They carried on with several more songs, and periodically Frankie would chat with the crowd in the already packed Granada Theater.
“…This is a Saturday night. Is it a late night town?” she asked, following it with another question, “Are you going to go out after the show?” You could tell she was just looked at as the opening act, because the response was almost nonexistent, and I know full well the party was continuing for more than a few people after this show (and I was one of them).
They ran through a few more songs, including a “romantico one” as Frankie put it. In my opinion, it wound up being one of their best songs of the night. The rhythm section was in full effect on it, and even though I was standing near the back of the venue, I could still feel the floor shaking beneath me; and really, that’s always a fantastic feeling.
With only one song left, Frankie mentioned that they were heading to Houston the next night, unknowingly committing one of the biggest faux pas you can make in Dallas.
To say I hate or even dislike Houston would be inaccurate, but most Dallasites do and they were vocal about it this night. She appeared baffled by the reaction, and just moved on and concluded their set.
Their time on stage flew by, and I mean that as a compliment, because that’s how much I enjoyed it.
The music was great, with some nice electronic and synthesizer touches thrown in, but more to the point to accentuate the guitars, bass and drums rather than overpower them. Frankie has quite a set of pipes on her too, fitting both the more rock sounding songs as well as the dreamier landscapes they had going on others.
If you’d like to check out her music, she has two records available that you can find in iTUNES.
As ten o’clock neared, the patrons began filling back in from their trips to the bar, or to go outside and smoke or whatever else, as they settled in for White Lies.
Five minutes before they hit the stage I got offered to go up to the balcony (which is typically reserved for staff of either the venue or the bands crew) and of course took it.
I mention that simply because it transformed this entire concert experience.
The sound up there was superb, far exceeding that down at the lower levels. As expected, a roar of fanfare filled the venue when the three core members; singer and guitarist Harry McVeigh; bassist Charles Cave; and drummer Jack Brown took the stage, along with Tommy Bowen and Rob Lee, who add the keys/synthesizers and an extra guitar to the mix.
They quickly launched into the title track from their 2009 debut album, “To Lose My Life”, and the sound—at least up in the balcony—was ten times better than even their albums sound.
It was pure ecstasy from the start, as Harry sang the lovely chorus in his strong, unique tone of voice, “Let’s grow old together and die at the same time…” That was a stellar song to open with, and for part of it I was glued to Charles, who was an exceptional bass player from right out of the gate, and was crushing it as he quickly plucked the strings of his bass.
With that old classic out of the way, they turned their attention to the barely six-month-old album “Big TV”, getting the first single off it, “There Goes Our Love Again”, out of the way early. It seemed to be just as much of a crowd pleaser as their first song had, and afterwards Harry addressed the crowd.
“Dallas, how’s it going?” he asked; the clamorous applause and cheers continuing once he spoke. He noted that this was the first time they had been to this “beautiful city”, and that they had enjoyed walking around and seeing part of it earlier in the day.
Overall, that was one of the few times they talked with the crowd which I liked. Even though it was kept at the bare minimum, it was still more than enough to form a connection with the fans, though the main focus was on the music. It suited them. Another I liked was that despite having a new album to promote, they also drew heavily from their past two albums; resulting in a great mix of old favorites and new classics.
As good as those two songs were, it was their next one where things really exploded. They pushed themselves to new heights on “A Place to Hide”, which was completely irresistible, and even though I was seated I felt a pretty strong urge to get up and start moving around. It was just intoxicating. But then again, that could be said of much of White Lies’ music.
They were continuously switching between albums, never doing two consecutive tracks off one album, and now got back to the new material with “Mother Tongue”. Whether they had been wanting (or waiting) to or not, the crowd got a chance to participate on this one. After the second chorus, the band got a clap along going. It was merely the first of a few this night, and I have to say it was pretty cool to see a sea of people throw their hands up in the air, clapping in unison. Especially since I had such a unique perspective of it.
“This is one of our favorite tracks from our second album…” Harry told everyone in advance of their next number. “It’s called Streetlights.” he finished, as they finally got around to doing a track from “Ritual”. I can’t say that it’s also a favorite of mine from that record, though it is a good tune, and there was something entrancing about the steady drumbeats and keys of the verses.
“This is a beautiful venue. The kind you dream of playing…” Harry remarked after that song. Strong words from a band who has headlined the historic Wembley Arena in London. He piled on the very genuine praise about the Granada (it’s more than deserving of it), before Jack eventually led them into their next song, another oldie, “Farewell to the Fairground”. Harry worked the crowd over during the slow part after the second chorus; just motioning at everyone, encouraging them to make some noise. He had complete control over everyone as he did so.
“I wish no harm to come of you; split bottles in shopping aisles…” he sang after the applause subsided, as they went right into another one of their love songs, “Be Your Man”. It was their next song, another from their first album, that really got the spectators excited, though.
From the first note on the keyboard the crowd was screaming with glee, having already deduced the song was “E.S.T”. Most were giddy when it too turned into a clap along; and personally, I thought it really was one of their highlight songs of the night, as there was a type of magic aura in the air while they played it.
However, “The Power and the Glory”—which is one I’m partial to—outmatched it. “…I was empty handed leaving as I was when I came…” crooned Harry while the audience clapped along to the steady drumming. Live it was everything I hoped it would be, and was extremely infectious; and during it, they continued to expand upon their stride, which they had hit long ago.
With their show in its final stretch, it was time to bust out a couple more singles, the first of which was “Getting Even”. “This is the first single we ever released…” Harry informed everyone, setting up the next song. “We hope you like it.” he added. To say everyone simply liked “Unfinished Business” would be an understatement, and that leads me to one point I’ll go ahead and make.
It’s really remarkable that these guys were able to make their first album as high caliber as it is. From start to finish it’s a completely solid album, the likes of which every band hopes to release one day, though most will never even come close. Then, they managed to (at the very least) maintain that same level of skill and craftsmanship over the course of their next two albums, again coming up with products that are superior to most out on the market.
It just comes down to that solid consistency, and it’s a shame more bands don’t have that.
But I digress.
They were still far from done with the “Big TV” album, but now did one more gem from it, “Goldmine”, before changing gears a bit.
Rob and Tommy exited the stage, leaving just the founding members of White Lies, as Harry ditched his guitar for their next song. Instead, he used a little synthesizer, while Jack got up from his kit, manning a keyboard as well as a xylophone (yeah, you read that right). Charles was the only one who didn’t switch instruments, and Harry took just a moment to talk about the song, which happened to be a cover.
It was a very different take on Prince’s “I Would Die 4 U”, being a pretty stripped down rendition from how Prince did it. That was good though, because they made the song completely their own with a very unique spin put on it. Harry got to show a gorgeous falsetto tone on it, and lyrically, it was a perfect fit with the bands original stuff. “You’re just a sinner I am told. Be your fire when you’re cold, make you happy when you’re sad, make you good when you are bad…” he sang; making it sound like this song had been written just for them.
They returned to their standard lineup, doing what’s really the only song of theirs I’m indifferent to, “First Time Caller”. I will admit though, that live it got me a little more engaged than the recording does. Afterwards, came the final song of their set, “Death”, which had another clap along moment, and ended an astounding 69-minute set.
No one (well, almost no one) moved after the band retreated to the green room, though, as they anxiously awaited the encore.
The cheering was perhaps even more loud when the five guys returned to the stage than it had been when they first started.
They talked with the crowd for a moment, mainly expressing their gratitude, before finally getting to the title track from their 2013 release, “Big TV”. Again, the crowd was encouraged to clap along on it; and as they hit the brief instrumental bridge, Harry strode to center stage, throwing his arms up in the air, silently egging the audience on, and they again erupted with cheering and applause.
“…We have one more…” Harry stated, again thanking everyone who was there for coming out to see them. The urgent sounding and electrifying “Bigger Than Us”. “Thank you so much!” Harry shouted in the final seconds of the song, which concluded their 10-minute encore.
The applause started while the final notes were still being played, and only grew stronger once the five guys stood next to one another at the forefront of the stage; bowing to everyone for the love they had been shown, as well as basking in it. I’ve got to say, seeing the kind of reception they got was a cool moment.
As it stands, I’ve seen several hundred concerts at this point, and this White Lies show is one of the most spectacular I’ve witnessed.
I’ll be the first to admit the seats had a lot to do with that, because the whole atmosphere changed up in that balcony. But that wasn’t the only reason.
I feel like I already used a lot of my praise earlier when talking about their albums, but they also put on a splendid show.
From stage presence to musicianship, Harry McVeigh, Jack Brown and Charles Cave were to full package. Not only that, but they have a very distinctive sound, with mixes of 80’s era British acts thrown in to their more modern rock style, which results in a sound that is completely theirs.
It was easy to see why they’ve opened for bands like Coldplay and Snow Patrol, because the talent is definitely there. I’d even go as far as saying that there’s no reason why White Lies couldn’t be as popular as Muse is here in the U.S.
Okay, White Lies doesn’t use any theatrics at all; while that’s a key element to Muse’s shows. In the other aspects though, it’s a dead heat; and if the American audience latches on to these guys, there really is no reason why they couldn’t be playing arena’s over here in a few years time.
They have plenty of dates booked around the world, including several more in North America. Check out their full schedule HERE; and also be sure to add their music to your iTUNES library.
This was a fantastic way to spend the night. Many thanks again to the Granada and certain people who work there for all the hospitality. It made a great night truly unforgettable.
However, the night was still young. It wasn’t even 11:30 when they finished, and with several other shows going on this night that I would have liked to have seen (counting this one there were seven total), I could at least make one other…