Friday, January 4th, 2013 – Meridian

After nearly two weeks since the last concert I saw, I was itching to go somewhere to hear some live music, and this night, Trees was the only place to be.

Though it had been out for a couple of months, Meridian was finally getting around to doing an official CD release show (there’s a long story behind that), and they were headlining this night of all local rock to celebrate the release of their debut record.

Oddly enough, this was a three band bill, but while this night was lacking in numerous acts, there was an overabundance of rock, and The Circle was first to deliver it.

They got right down to business, and opened with a pretty heavy number where frontman, Don Mills, did a fair bit of screaming while he sang. It was a beast of a song, and a solid opener, though the most impressive thing so early on was how tight they appeared to be. I had seen them once before, shortly after Don had joined the band when they played a show for RYA Entertainment (co-founded by WhiskeyBoy Radio and myself). It was a good show then, but you could tell were still finding their groove. Well, it was noticeable right of the bat this night that they have since found it, and have become quite the cohesive unit. After that song, Don made a little speech about the local music community, thanking everyone for coming out to support all the bands this night and that it wouldn’t be possible without them. Afterwards, they started another pretty intense song, “Beggars Can’t be Choosers”. Afterwards, Don had a question for the audience. “…Who was the last band played on the [radio station] The Eagle in twenty-twelve?!” They had some devoted fans out this night, who yelled in response, “The Circle!” “That’s right. And only one band gets to say that.” He added, as his band mates started into their next tune, which I think they said was a fairly new one. As they finished up what was a slightly slower song for them, they wound it into another rocker, “My Trip to the Desert Sucked”. Upon finishing it, Don referred to this as “church”, which effectively made the crowd their congregation, all of whom seemed anxious as to what would continue their “sermon”. Next up they did one which I believe Don later added they had not played since their show at the House of Blues, all the way back in June. “How many of you were there?” he roared, and was answered with some applause. Drummer, Marc Berry, led them into their next song, “I Am”, which quickly exploded Craig Nelson and Alan Sauls, the lead guitarist and rhythm guitarist, respectively, and bassist, Kenneth Henrichs, tore into it. After another song, which, if memory serves me correctly, was another one they hadn’t played live in awhile and had dusted off for this show, they started to wrap up their set with “Somewhere”. The song has some sweet guitar licks from Craig, and towards the end of the song he indulged everyone with a stellar solo, where he really shredded on his guitar. During the brief silence that followed after that song, one fan made a request, shouting out, “Sleep On It!” It’s the bands newest single, and so far the only one they’ve released featuring Don at the helm. It’s also arguable the best song in their arsenal, and like any professional, national level touring band, they had saved the best for last. It’s hands down an incredible song, and while it was acted as a nice conclusion to their set, it also left you wishing they could have done more than just a 36-minute long set.

You could tell the band has done a lot of growing during the last six months, which can no doubt be attributed to a great deal of practice at rehearsals, and subsequently honed their live performance with their consistent schedule of shows.

They were a fine tuned machine, and every bit as good as the two acts that would go on after them. In some aspects, even a little better, and because of that The Circle should be a band you familiarize yourself with, and do it pronto.

They have some songs you can download from their REVERBNATION PAGE, all of which are live cuts, and most of them feature Don as the singer. Then you have the single, “Sleep On It”, which you can purchase in iTunes. Now once you do that, you’ll probably be wanting to see a show, and they do have a big one coming up in February. On the 2nd they’ll be at the Curtain Club in Dallas, as one of the acts opening the reunion show for the band Advent. That’s going to be an impressive night of music so, don’t miss it.

After them was the only out of town band, and that was Austin’s own, Dawn Over Zero.

It’s well documented on here how much I love that band, though it had been about ten months since the last time I had seen them. Needless to say, I was pretty excited to hear what they had in store this night.

Their 39-minute long set began with the lead track from their “Unity & Division” album, “Caricatures”. It’s one of the most fiery tracks from the record, and was a good choice as an opener, as it immersed everyone into the straight up rock sounds their ears would be enjoying. Bassist, Jonathan Boyce, quickly gave a shout out to The Circle for opening, and before he could completely finish, singer and rhythm guitarist, Mike Mears, and lead guitarist, Steven Abbenante, fired up “Catapult”. I could be wrong, but I’m thinking that tune was absent the last time I saw them, but either way, it was good to hear it again, as it is one of their catchiest. Steven didn’t even take a break, switching the final note of that song into the first one of their next one, a classic from their self-titled EP, “Take You Under”. Nothing against their new stuff, because I do love it, but there’s something about those older ones that are downright amazing. Or maybe it’s simply the fact that I like the chorus, “Well you take another trip, crossing the lines and now it’s time to stray from all the steps that may take you under…”. Of course the bulk of their set did come from their new album, though, and they pushed on with “Kidney Stone”, which is much more enjoyable than the name might suggest. They did pause occasionally between some of the remaining songs, but only long enough to thank Trees for hosting the show, the people for coming out, or the other bands on the bill. And it was after that, that they began a favorite of mine, “Short On a Dime”, followed by one of their best songs. “This sounds like a workout video, doesn’t it?” Mike asked, doing something that resembled a jumping jack and looked like it belonged in a jazzercise video, all while Steven played his part of “Give and Take”. Those chords alone sound incredible, and the fact that he cranked it out for a few seconds before his band mates joined in only enhanced the tune. The show then took a turn and got a little humorous, as Mike stated that the day before he had been threatened on Facebook. Saying he had been told that if they didn’t do this song, than their trailer would be vandalized. It probably wasn’t a credible threat, since it came from a member of the previous band, but he joked that he didn’t want to take any chances. The song that had been requested was a cover of a Johnny Hates Jazz tune that can be found on their record, and that song is “Shattered Dreams”. Mike sang the first verse (or maybe a little more) almost a cappella, with only Steven adding some very soft guitar notes over his voice. It was a stellar extra touch, but soon, fill-in drummer , Kevin Abbenante, (their master drummer, Mack Linan, was ill with the flu) busted into it, and really got the song underway. “How much time to we have left?” Mike asked the sound guy when they finished. Ten minutes was the answer, giving them enough time for two more, one of which is my favorite DOZ song and one I had not heard in an incredible long time. With all their new(er) material, “The Confidence” has become a deeper cut, and one that, at least based on the last few times I’ve seen them, has been seldom heard. In fact, I was afraid it may have been cut from the live show all together, so I was ecstatic when they started it. And for the record, it sounded even better than I remembered. Only one song remained at this point, and I assumed it came down to one of their two lead singles. “…This is the single from our first record.” Announced Mike, as they oddly (though thankfully) decided to end with the epic, “Circulation”.

This was as solid a set as any band could hope to do, and while I was surprised that “Carry Me Home” (their most recent single) was missing from the setlist, I’m okay with that, because I enjoy everything they did do so much more. Plus, it was just an amazing selection of songs.

I’ve seen more than a few DOZ shows, and this was the best in my opinion. It exemplified what the band is all about, and that is a high-energy live show (with tons of racing and jumping around the stage) that engages the listener, regardless of if they’re already a fan or are having their first ever Dawn Over Zero experience.

They’re a great band, and one to check out. One way to do that is of course by purchasing their music in ITUNES, and you can also find a couple of free downloads on their REVERBNATION PAGE. You can also go out to a live show, and while they don’t have any scheduled at this moment, keep a check on their Facebook or Reverbnation pages.

It was a little after eleven o’clock at this point, and approaching time for Meridian to take the stage.

They originally had a CD release show booked here in late October, but due to Trees being double booked, their show got cut. And while they had not done an official CD release show any time since, their EP had been available at both shows and online. In some ways, maybe that did diminish the excitement level that usually surrounds CD release shows, but still, this was a CD release show, and those are always ones for the books.

They ripped right into it, opening with “Re-digress”. I’m still not used to the new version of it, and couple that with the fact that I hadn’t seen the band in months either, and I didn’t even remember what song it was at first. I only recognized it when frontman, Tim Ziegler, sang the final line, “…Fuck all your politics. Fuck all your stupid tricks. Fuck all the things you say, words only get in the way.” Killer opener, and while I do still miss the original version of the song (which used those last few lines as the chorus), this new incarnation is more polished and has some sweet notes courtesy of guitarists, Mark Sims and Shannon Nedved. Following it up was their first song of the night from the EP, and that was “All Hands”. It was the best I’ve heard the song sound, and somehow it was also the first time I really took notice of the chorus, “I heard you call for me, but I could not be there, and you are wanting something that I forgot so long ago. And I have found the next best silhouette to take the place of you…”, which Tim crooned quite well, considering he was ill with the flu. Chris Gentry stepped up as the song concluded, and kept riffing on his bass, doing a brief solo which segued it into their next song, which was a newer one. Upon finishing it, they took a break, during which Tim mentioned his sickness and pulled out a bottle Singers Saving Grace throat spray. “…Let’s see if this works…” he said, testing it out, and also making a few wisecracks about it. They got back to it with their most aggressive song, “Nights Like This”. I’m not sure if the throat spray helped Tim or not, but it couldn’t have hurt either, because he sounded basically as good on it now as he has every other time I’ve heard them play it. A couple more tunes followed, the latter of which was an incredible sounding new one, while preceding it was what strikes me as being a fan favorite, and the chorus goes something like, “…This is war. The city is going to burn tonight…” Before moving on, Tim took a moment to plug their album. “…Let me tell you something about it. It cost eight thousand dollars to make. So go buy a copy. I think they’re only, like, five bucks… So at the very least you’ll have a cool coaster…” I already had plans to buy the CD, but hearing that only reinforced why I needed to. After he finished his speech, the sample track began for their next song, “The fire starts and ends.” It repeated a few times, with Tim adding, “With you.” to it to officially begin “Starts & Ends”. I said once before that was unsure about their tweaked version of this one, since the lyrics were what really drew it to me. But after hearing the recording of the new incarnation, I can say I still love it just as much as the old one… Maybe even more so. His voice may not have been one hundred percent, and while Tim has always been capable of a goofball personality on stage, he really seemed to let it shine through now, almost to compensate for the other areas. For example, during that song, he began thrusting his hips and humping the air. It was a nice dose of comic relief so to speak, and it only got better with their next song. “Lazy Eye” is another newer addition to the live set, and is not only a remarkable song, but was also the best one of their set this night. It just sounded better than anything else during their set, and while belting out the lyrics, Tim made his way around the stage, first to stage left to hump Mark, then over Shannon, where he proceeded to grind against his band mate. It was wrong, but oh so funny. “We have a couple songs left…” Tim stated, leading them into their “slow” tune, “Train”, which is also rather beautiful. That then took them to the final song of their 41-minute long set, as Mark began the song, before drummer, Joe Maurer, busted them into “Hey Lover”.

Considering Tim’s illness with the flu, it was a good show. Though I’d be remiss if I said it was flawless. There were just a few times I heard his voice crack, or you could tell he wanted to step it up on a part, but just couldn’t take it to where he wanted to. I can’t really fault the guy, though, because how many singers would still perform if their instrument was compromised like that? I doubt many would.

In every other aspect, though, it was pretty solid.

You can find the bands EP on iTunes, and by all means, go buy it. You’ll be glad you did. They also have at least one show coming up, and it will take place on February 9th at Tomcats West in Fort Worth.

The only bad thing about this show was the lack of people. It was an amazing lineup, but there were maybe fifty or so people there throughout the entire night. I don’t mean to sound harsh, but pathetic is the best word I can think of to describe the turnout, and it should have been much better than this. Oh, well. It’s too late to do anything now, and at least those who did show up where true, diehard fans of the bands.

The Circle

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Dawn Over Zero

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Meridian

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