Saturday, August 9th, 2014 – The Collective Crushes it at Their CD Release Show

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.

Saturday, August 9th, 2014 – Krash Rover Returns to the Curtain Club for a Birthday Bash

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.

One act I was there for was Krash Rover. These days (with guitarist Ashton Quincey being away at college), you can count the number of shows they do each year on one hand; and it had been probably a year or a little longer since I had last seen them. Basically, I was long overdue for a fix.

They began the opener of their 54-minute long set long before the curtain opened, and once it did reveal them, the quartet exploded into “Russian Roulette (Part II)”. Their group of fans was small at first, but they all swarmed the stage, many singing right along with singer and rhythm guitarist Kris Newman on the chorus of, “It’s so hard to hold on, but I can’t do this on my own. I need you within me; bring life into my empty soul…” Given their extended time away from the stage, it didn’t take them anytime to find their legs for it; and Kris owned his solo.

“How you guys doing tonight?” he asked once they finished, thanking everyone for coming out. It was a few days early, but this show was his birthday show, and he joked that since he would be twenty-three, then according to Blink-182, no would like him. They continued with “In My Mind”, which ended with Ashton striking a good pose as he stood with one foot on the drum riser and the other on his amp, while he showed off his skills. There was just enough of a break for applause before Kris started them off on “Feel Good On The Inside”. Even though it’s one of their newest songs, it has been around for a few years already, and I’ve heard it a good number of times now, but there was something about it this night that made it sound better than ever. Zach Fuentes proved himself a force to be reckoned with as he laid into the drums; and the blistering notes from the guitars ensure this is a song that will appeal to every rock fan.

“Alright, aright.” said Kris upon finishing. “Who has a drink in their hand?!” he shouted, asking for everyone to put it up. The audience than began cheering, but it wasn’t for the reason Kris thought. He finally turned around to see his mother who had walked up behind him with a bottle of Jack Daniels in hand and sparklers tied to the top, one of which was a “2”, the other a “3”. The sparklers soon burned out, and after a few festive minutes, they got back to it, doing what I believe was a cover of ZZ Tops’ “Just Got Paid”. It went along the lines of Krash Rover’s music, making it a fitting choice; and during it, they stopped, seeming to be done. Kris thanked the Curtain and the other bands on the bill, mentioning The Collective was doing their CD release show, and he thought it was for their first CD. “Don’t quote me on that.” Kris stressed, adding he had looked them up and they “seemed cool”. Then, they jumped back into the song, getting some fan participation as he led everyone in singing along, “More, more we want more!”

The crowd was enjoying it, though they didn’t seem as vocal as they usually are. Perhaps it was because everyone’s used to seeing Krash Rover go on an hour or two later than this. That said, Kris mentioned that he knew it was an early show, but he still thought people would have had plenty of time to get some alcohol in their systems. To counteract that, they decided to do a slower song, “to make you all jittery and stuff.” as Kris put it. “Release Me” may begin slow, but it doesn’t end that way; and with some mangled chords, they bled it right into their old hit: “She Gets Around”. They tried something new (at least from the last time I saw them), with Kris and Ashton both singing on some of the lines, such as “I think she’d rather see her pimp.”, and combined like that, even though it was just in short bursts, their harmonies sounded incredible. Each of them even stood back-to-back during a duel guitar solo; and then Zach hopped up from his stool to pump everyone up, before they closed it out.

They had another cover planned, one Kris noted was something everyone seemed to like. Indeed, they have turned “Simple Man” by Lynyrd Skynyrd into a staple of theirs; and Kris sat his guitar down for it, taking on the frontman role. It’s a role he fits quite well; and during the guitar solo, he gripped the cord and spun the mic around. “You having a good time yet?!” he roared afterwards, being met with an equally loud response. With that, he set them off on “SAS”, egging the crowd on at the beginning to make some noise for them, while he and Ashton again blended their voices, and the result was awesome.

“I think I’m just now starting to wake up!” exclaimed Kris once they were done. That was no exaggeration, and their next song was the best thing they had done so far. They hit their stride with it; and for most of the track Ashton and bassist Miguel Fair swapped sides on stage, before racing back to where they had began.

Kris again leaned out to the crowd, putting his ear forward, but few were paying attention. Ashton was already onto the next song, but Kris stopped him. “It’s my fucking birthday. Make some goddamn noise!!” he yelled. The fans were happy to; and he confessed he didn’t want to be a “dick” and handle it that way, though it did prove effective. They got back to it, and while Miguel had been very forceful this entire night, he reached a new level now, jumping around the stage at the start of the tune and slapping his bass. As I said earlier, they found their stride with that previous song, and as they neared the end, they just become more of a beast.

It looked like that may have been their final song, because before they could go any further the guys were told they had gone over their time. The fans’ cries for one more made it clear no one would tolerate an early ending, and thankfully the venue let them go ahead. “Do we got any Texans in the house?!” asked Kris. No sooner had he uttered that sentence and then Zach started in on the drums for “I’m From Texas”; while everyone showed off their state pride by chanting “Texas!” There were a few different sing along moments, along with a drum solo that Zach owned and Kris dropped to his knees during it as he picked away at his axe.

“Thanks for coming out and celebrating with us.” Kris told the crowd right at the tail end.

After missing the last few shows, I had forgotten how much I missed Krash Rover. This show reminded me, though.

Kris’s voice sounds better than it ever has, and they still have all the chemistry they need for a dynamic live show, even if said shows are kept few and far between. And I tell ya, watching the band they were for these last three songs was not the same band that first took the stage. Part of that was probably because the spectators got more into it, too, giving the band more energy to feed off of. Still, they transcended right before everyone’s eyes.

Pick up their album in iTUNES if you don’t have it; and keep an eye on their FACEBOOK for future show updates.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, May 15th, 2014 – Sam Morrow Makes Magic at Opening Bell Coffee

Every now and then, you get an email informing you of a band or musician that is new to your ears. That was how I discovered Sam Morrow, and I must give a shout-out to the good people at 1888 Media for making me aware of him.

The folk singer/songwriter grew up in Texas, before eventually relocating to California, but with a new album just released; he had to come back to his home state for a string of shows.

The Dallas date was taking place at Opening Bell Coffee, which provides the perfect intimate setting to see a singer/songwriter. I was a little late to the show. It started at eight, and it was probably ten minutes after when I got there, walking in just as Sam finished what I’m guessing was probably the second song of the night.
imageAs I grabbed a seat in the crowded little room, he introduced everyone to Matt Bradford, who gave the songs a more fleshed out sound via a pedal steel guitar and a lap steel (which he alternated between).

I at least made it in time to hear one of my favorites from the “Ephemeral” album, “Old Soul”. There’s no way you can even equate the recorded version of it (or any of the songs) to how they sounded live. As soon as his rich and at times booming voice made its appearance, you were transfixed (the people who were there for the show were, at least.) That doleful song was one of the best this night, and while he’s still a relatively young musician, he’s already very in tune with everything, like the times he raised the level of his voice, gradually stepping back from the microphone the louder he got.

“This next song’s called Gone.” Sam told the crowd, as they did another melancholy track, on which the pedal steel added a great tone to it. “What’s up, everyone?” he asked, getting a mixed response from the spectators, some of whom where there to see him, and others were so involved in their conversations I don’t think they even knew a musician was on the stage. The duo did one of the more upbeat tracks from the album, just don’t confuse that with happy. “…That whiskey and that heroin helped me grow my new skin…” sang Sam near the start of “14”, which is just one of the songs that offers some insight into his past life, which is one of the best connections a musician can make with their fans.

The cover portion of the set followed, and first up was a song that surprised me a little, as Sam put his spin on “Bright Lights” by Gary Clark Jr. Indeed, it was his own spin, and while it lacked the bluesy sound of the original, it seemed to have even more energy in it, which is saying something, considering he had no full band. However, his acoustic guitar and the lap steel that Matt had now switched out to were more than enough for an excellent rendition, especially when Sam played a brief solo, followed by Matt soloing on his lap steel.

“We got a lively crowd… Don’t get too crazy.” Sam joked after that song. At least he saw the humor in it and could joke about the situation. That first cover may have been one some people knew and others might not have, but now they moved on to one that everyone should know, Springsteens’ “Dancing in the Dark”. The Boss is one of those musicians that while countless bands may cover his music, few, if any, could ever do anything to improve on it. I’m not saying Sam improved on it, either, though he has crafted a version that does it justice, and the little nuances make it his. Nuances like stretching out the word “shoulders” on the line “I’ll shake this world off my shoulders.”, then pausing after it, to the changing of a line from the final chorus to, “You can’t start a fire, sitting around trying to mend a broken heart.”

“I just released a record, uh… Two weeks ago.” Sam informed the crowd after that number, though he did have to think a moment on how long that record had been out. He pointed to where he had his merch setup, telling people they could buy it there. “We just started accepting credit cards… We’re fancy.” he cracked, before giving everyone another highlight moment of the night, this time in the form of “Run”. After all those originals they had done, it was hard to believe the mood could get anymore woeful, though it was about to.

“This one is extra sad. I mean, they’re all sad, but this one’s even more sad.” he told everyone, speaking of the subsequent track from his album, “December”. There is more of a somber tone on that one than any other, and it was conveyed well this night. “Give a hand for Matt, who keeps switching back and forth.” Sam asked of everyone afterwards. He had been going between the lap and pedal steel quite a bit over those last few songs, then Sam quipped that he tries to make him switch as often as he possibly can. That earned him a laugh from the audience and a grin from his band mate.

Even though I walked in slightly late, I still got to see 44-minutes of the show; and now, with that time almost up, they did what I’m guessing was another cover, but maybe not. Either way, it was one I didn’t recognize, but sounded quite good. I did know the closer, however, which was “Sure Thing”, and while it continued the gloomy mood, it managed to end the set on a sort of positive note.

I genuinely love the singer/songwriter genre, and from my experience, it’s rare that you find one who really takes your breath away with their talent, but that was just what Sam Morrow did this night. At least that was the feeling I got, and I’m sure a few others, too.

I was told that live, Sam was even better than how the album sounded, and that doesn’t begin to cover it. His voice was utterly astounding, and the integrity his music has (especially lyrically) further made this into a true experience.

He’s definitely better live, and that way, you can also chat with him and see what an easy to talk to and down-to-earth guy he is.

If you ever get the chance, go see a Sam Morrow concert. It would be a good investment of your time (and money).

He has no shows booked at this moment, but whenever some pop up, you’ll be able to find them HERE. Be sure to pick up a copy of “Ephemeral”, too.

What a great way to spend a Thursday evening, and I’m already looking forward to Sam’s next Dallas show, whenever that may be.

Saturday, April 5th, 2014 – Astronautalis Astonishes at Day Two of the Deep Ellum Arts Fest

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…

Thursday, March 27th, 2014 – The Dirty River Boys Kick it Old School at Dan’s

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.

Monday, March 31st, 2014 – A Songwriters in the Round with Some Tennesseans

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.

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014 – HighAsAKite Leaves a Lasting Impression On Dallas

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.

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014 – London Grammar Proves They’re More Than Just a Hype Machine

One of the most entertaining things at the Granada Theater is the Twitter board, which allows you to tag the venue on the social network and then see your tweet appear on the large screen that covers the stage. It can lead to some entertaining comments/conversations, and early on this night, talk already began about how over-hyped London Grammar was (granted, that was only coming from one person, though they were adamant about it.)

That’s okay, though. After all anything and everything, be it a band, person, company, etc. needs its doubters and disbelievers… That way they have people to prove wrong.

By the time their 10-o’clock start time rolled around, the venue appeared to be at capacity. Even the balcony area was open this night and teemed with life, while spots in front of the stage had been hard to come by even when the doors opened at eight. So, to say the people of Dallas and North

The stage was bathed in a beautiful hue of deep blue from the lights as guitarist Dan Rothman and keyboardist/multi-instrumentalist Dominic ‘Dot’ Major walked on stage, taking the spots on stage right and left, respectively. Only their silhouettes were visible from where I stood – further at the back - and they were made to feel very welcome with all the applause and cheers they got, as they began a lengthy instrumental lead in for their first song.

The fanfare again erupted after a few minutes when Hannah Reid stepped out from the backstage area. “Hey.” she sang a few different times, stretching the word out in all sorts of ways, immediately putting her mighty, semi-operatic voice to work. The audience instantly swooned over it, and its sheer beauty no doubt melted some hearts.

Everyone already knew what was coming, as they officially began “Hey Now”, a song that saw the instrumentalization kept rather low-key, leaving Hannahs’ voice as the most prominent thing to focus on. The song in general was riveting, as was everything else they did this night.

Dot turned his attention away from the keys for their next song, instead adding some percussion to the mix via the djembe for “Darling Are You Gonna Leave Me”. “Oh darling, are you gonna leave me? I’ll watch you if you can…” sang Hannah on the chorus, hitting higher notes with what looked to be completely ease, switching things up slightly from the potent, deeper register she often sings in.

There was a smaller drum kit set up on stage left, and now it got put to use (for the first of many times) as Dot took a seat behind it, leaving Hannah to man the keys. The subtle plucking Dan was doing on his guitar for “Interlude” complimented the keys nicely; but perhaps the best part was the chorus, which was co-sung by both Hannah and Dot, who created some ethereal sounding harmonies.

Only three songs in and this show was already a little slice of heaven.


“Thank you all for coming to see us.” Hannah said, in one of the few moments they addressed the crowd. They were more geared towards the performance, and they moved on with “Shyer”, which had Dot playing the keys for the first half, before moving over to the drums to give the song just a hint more kick.

I could be partially biased, given that “Wasting My Young Years” is my personal favorite song of London Grammar’s, but I found it to be one of the best moments of their show. Hannahs’ voice shone even more brightly on this one, as she got to use some more operatic tones, creating moments that, personally, were best enjoyed by closing your eyes and just soaking it all in. Yes, I did that, and this was the first of several songs that had me doing so.

Now Dot spoke with the fans, and he mentioned their next song, “Flickers”, was the first one they ever wrote as a band. That was a fun fact to learn, and made the song even more enjoyable knowing it is the oldest thing in their repertoire. Once all the lyrics had been sung, Hannah turned around and strode off stage, leaving Dan and Dot to close out the song. Dot left the djembe for the keys, doing a great little solo, accented by some nice riffs.

She returned once they were done, and now Dot took time to mention their time touring the U.S., and while they had been to America before, this was the first time they had ever been to Texas. They seemed to like it, too. They then performed another profoundly moving track, “Sights”. It wasn’t just moving to the audience, either.

Near the end of it, Hannah could be seen pointing off to stage right, and I was unsure if she was speaking to Dan in between singing, or if she was having some technical problem. Then it ended, and Dot apologized for her, as she wiped some tears from her face.

It was a raw, vulnerable moment, the likes of which you seldom see any band display; and I hope the people of Dallas were able to appreciate this is I did, because in another year or two, when they have even more touring experience under their belt, I doubt this will be happening.

She never faltered on singing, but once she had composed herself how “overwhelming” and “hard” it was to sing that with so many eyes focused on her. Again, that was such a beautiful moment, because you got to see that’s far more than just a song, and a deep personal connection goes along with it.


“I am the blank page before you. I am the fine idea you crave…” sang Hannah as they got the spectacular “Stay Awake” underway. Afterwards, they once again mentioned Texas, and not only how “amazing” the last week and a half had been, but also how much they liked all the southern hospitality they had encountered. Hey, it’s what we’re known for.

Their next song was setup as being the only cover on their album. It was originally done by Kavinsky and featured on the soundtrack for the 2011 film Drive, and that song is “Nightcall”. To be perfectly honest, I was unaware that song was even a cover, and the members of London Grammar tweaked it so much, it may as well be an original of theirs, without any traces of the electro house style of the original even being evident in theirs.

It was so majestic it was almost crippling, and it worked well to get everyone ready for “Strong”, which concluded their 48-minute long set.

No one was ready for the night to be over, though; and chatter instantly began, as people talked about what songs they hoped the band would come back and do, while others chanted for more.

“Will do one more.” said Hannah, once they did retake the stage. Some were hoping for the title track form their LP, though Dallas was instead given “Metal & Dust”. I was happy with that, especially when they got to the end, which once again found Dot on the drums, and got quite aggressive as he and Dan gave the track an epic end to one of the most marvelous concerts I’ve ever attended.

This show was a clear case of quality over quantity. I mean, with such a relatively quick rise to international fame and only one album of material to draw from, it’s not like they could have played an hour and a half long show or anything. Nor did they need to.

They had everyone transfixed with their more minimalist indie rock sounds, and proved that all the hype they have received they have not only earned, but are also worthy of.

I expected to like it, but wasn’t prepared to love it as much as I did, and over the coming years, if London Grammar can produce another couple of records with songs that are at least on par with “If You Wait”, then I could easily see them becoming one of the biggest bands of the current times.

The potential is there, from the excellent craftsmanship of the songs, to Hannahs’ voice, which is one of the most beautiful and amazing things my ears have ever had  the pleasure of hearing.

I don’t know about everyone else, but for me, this show was pretty much the equivalent of a religious experience/awakening, and I felt quite fulfilled as I walked out the doors of the Granada this night.

Along with the final dates of their U.S. tour, they also have shows all around the globe throughout the year. Check them out HERE; and should you have a chance to see them, you really should take it. Also, if “If You Wait” isn’t part of ITUNES library, definitely add it to your collection.

Friday, February 21st, 2014 – The Dirty River Boys Do Billy Bob’s Texas

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.

Saturday, February 15th, 2014 – The Virgin Wolves Strike Back

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.

Saturday, February 15th, 2014 – White Lies Make Their Dallas Debut

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…

Saturday, January 11th, 2014 – The Dirty River Boys Deliver a Spectacle at Hank’s

“If you’re lucky nuff to be at Hank’s, you’re lucky nuff.”

That was what a sign above the stage at Hank’s Texas Grill in McKinney had written on it, and I have to say, after going to the venue, that’s a fitting statement.

It’s not just a concert venue, it’s also a restaurant and bar, and a nice one at that. It’s far more spacious than I would have guessed, stretching back quite a ways. At the back is where the stage is located, and it’s comparable to many venues in Dallas, Denton or Fort Worth. It’s cozy looking on stage, but not too bad; the stage is elevated enough to allow everyone a good view of the band playing; and the room’s small enough to be conducive to an intimate feeling between the fans and the band.

It should be noted this is a country venue, and they bring a variety of acts, even big-ticket ones, up here to the suburbs (just the night before Texas legend Ray Wylie Hubbard graced the stage).

This night, Hank’s was hosting The Dirty River Boys, who had spent the last week up in Steamboat Springs, Colorado for the Steamboat MusicFest, and before returning home to Austin, these El Paso natives were going to treat their North Texas fans to a show.

At ten on the dot the Nino Cooper, Colton James, Travis Stearns and Marco Gutierrez emerged from backstage, and were greeted with a bunch of fanfare. They may not be a hugely successful band yet, by they definitely have a following, and their fans were out in full force this night.

“How’s it going Hank’s?” Marco asked the crowd while he and his band mates settled into their spots. A few songs in they mentioned it had been about three years since the last time they were here, and noted they were happy to be back.

They cut right to the chase, however, starting their epic show with the lead and title track from their 2011 EP, “Train Station”. Nino added some subtle backing vocals to Marco’s singing, as the two softly plucked the strings of their respective acoustic guitars. It had a little more kick to it than even what comes across on the record, with the highlight moment being when Marco belted out the line, “…My heart’s a broken record, the needle’s singing out here name.”

The crowd loved it, and made it known with some deafening cheers and applause, while they marched on with their next song, which found Nino taking over the lead singing responsibilities, amidst the amazing four-part harmonies they all contributed to. He changed part of the chorus of “My Son”, from “How you gonna find your way back home? The maps you drew and burned and gone…” to, “…The roads you knew are paved and gone…” It was a nice artistic change, and on another note, Travis absolutely owned his cajon during this track. For those unfamiliar with the instrument, it’s a boxlike percussion instrument, and for him it also serves as his stool. He went to town on it, slapping it wildly and forcefully, and it was really something else to watch.

They moved to some more recent material, doing the outlaw country sounding song, “Lungs”. Now that they had done a few that their fans were familiar with, it was time to give everyone a taste of what their forthcoming record will be like. They did plenty of other new songs during this show, and this was one of a few that found Colton doing the singing. He’s got a great voice, and the fact that neither he, Nino or Marco sound anything alike adds an incredible mix of diversity to their music, though there’s still that common thread that binds everything together.

“That was a new song. This one’s an old one.” Marco informed the audience. Most of their songs didn’t have a seamless transition, though for the most part, they smoothly rolled from one song into the next, as was the case here. Marco pulled out his harmonica for “Dried Up”, a beautiful song with some nice hints of rock thrown in, and it’s a song that really shows off what a precise band they are. For instance, there are times when Marco lays into his harmonica in perfect time with one of Travis’s drum beats. Just shows the kind of accuracy you can get when you play shows at a near constant pace.

They even added a fun little touch to it, ending with Marco tacking on a portion of Bob Dylan’s “Just Like a Woman”. “…She makes love just like a woman. She aches just like a woman.” He sang, flashing a grin at the crowd before he sang the final line, “But she breaks just like a little girl.”

It’s little touches like that, that can make a great song absolutely unforgettable, as was the case this night. They followed it with another new song they’ve cooked up, and afterwards did an old fan favorite with a new twist. They kept “Carnival Lights” pretty slow and entirely acoustic through the first chorus, with only Marco playing it. “…So she stays lonely, 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. Please, just try to stay conscious tonight.” sang Marco on the chorus of this emotionally heavy song, and then asked everyone a question. “Y’all still with us, Hank’s?” The crowd hollered at him to signify they were, and that was when they kicked the song into high gear with the full band. That soft start wasn’t the only change they made to the song this night either, and at the end they all four harmonized on the line, “Please, just try to stay conscious tonight.”

They got into more of a rock mode with their next song, another new one, which required Colton to swap from his upright bass to a standard electric one, before going switching back for their next one. “Y’all feel like singing with us?!” Travis shouted at everyone, standing up from his drum kit and waving his hands in the air to pump everyone up. He led them in what to sing while Nino walked over to stage left and took the mandolin out of its stand on top of one of the amps. The song that required some audience participation was “Boomtown”, and the fans were eager to join in. “Y’all take the second round.” Marco instructed early on, as Nino did the main singing, with Colton and Marco coming in at different intervals, harmonizing with him. The fans were more than willing to help out, especially on the chorus, “Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey! There’s a boomtown on the rise.” They kept it pretty fun, too, with Colton spinning his bass around at one point, the feathers and raccoon pelt that adorn it twirling right along with it.

No sooner had the song finished, then Marco set things up for the next one. “This is what we call a Chinese fire drill.” he stated, as the lot of them switched instruments. Nino went back to his acoustic guitar, while Travis took the mandolin from him. Colton brought out a banjo, which left Marco with the upright bass. They did a brief jam, just making some noise before stopping and counting themselves in on one of their most fun tracks, “Lookin’ for the Heart”. It really was one of the most fun songs of their show this night, and not just because you could tell they were having so much fun doing it.

There was one moment when Travis, who was pacing around a bit, turned and ran into one of the support columns on the stage. What followed looked like something out of a cartoon, and was very humorous, as he looked bewildered at the column. He proceeded to flip it his middle finger, than pretended to kick it, looking like he was about to get a bar fight with the thing.

Upon finishing it, they all returned to their normal roles. “…This is a country song about punk rock…” Marco told everyone. It was another tune from their new batch of music, and it really is about punk rock, and even has some tinges of the genre mixed in with their alternative/country/rock sound. The mood was brought down a bit as Nino started playing some notes on his harmonica, getting “Union Painter”, which is another one of their songs that tells a real story, underway.

They weren’t done with the storyteller songs, either. “This song’s about life on the road.” Nino told everyone. I was expecting one of the songs off their “Science of Flight” record, which has a title that fits that description. That wasn’t it, though. Instead, it was another new one, and Colton had to bring his electric bass back out for it.

I don’t say this often about music, so there should be quite a bit of merit in the following statement; the song was absolutely mind blowing. Seriously, not only during it, but also for the duration of their set I was thinking to myself, “Holy. Shit.” It was a roaring rock number, and was not only the most intense thing The Dirty River Boys have done, it was one of the most intense songs I’ve ever heard. It was beast of a song, and these guys really made something special with this song that had Nino singing about all the experiences of a touring band, from loading in and out of clubs and all sorts of other stuff. And fitting with the pace of the song, there was a point in the song where Travis threw his drum stick in the air, as high as he could, and caught it perfectly.

“You can bet your sweet ass that’s going on next album.” said Marco, while Travis set up the beat for their next tune, another new one that Colton was able to show off his chops on. The electric bass was back out for that one, as well as the next one, which was their most recent single.

Travis pointed this, saying that some of the people in attendance may have heard it on one of the local radio stations, and if no one had, they could call and request it. Marco started in with the chord progression of the track, leading in to it, before his guitar fell silent. Attention then turned towards Nino, who was looking up with his eyes closed, presumably counting himself in for “Desert Wind”. He and his band mates all came in at the same moment, launching into the gorgeous and moving powerhouse of a song.

“We haven’t done this one in a little while.” Marco remarked when things quieted down, seeming like he was talking to himself more than the audience. The song he was referring to was “Six Riders”, which had a few people gleefully singing along to it, and even if they hadn’t done it in awhile, you sure couldn’t tell it.

Once it was over, Travis interrupted the show, going ahead and apologizing to his band mates, acknowledging that he knew what he was about to do was highly unprofessional. Apparently, he had forgotten to bring a pack of cigarettes on stage with him, and now asked if anyone had one they would be willing to spare. “I can’t breathe. I need a cigarette.” he told everyone, before one fan dug a cigarette out and tossed it to him.

“Riverbed Wildflowers” came next in the set, and for a slower song, it packs quite a punch, and it may well even strike an emotional chord in you. They livened things back up with another new song, which Nino dedicated to everyone who was drinking whiskey this night. That was what the song was about, and started with all four of them harmonizing on the first line or so, before exploding into a rowdy rock song. It got the people moving, as did the next song, which was one they co-wrote with Ray Wylie Hubbard. They explained it was written about the violence in their hometown of El Paso, as well as the border city of Juarez. If anything can give that amazing rock song from earlier in the night a run for its money, it’s this one. It boasts a vigorous music bed, and Travis did some vicious drumming on it, rocking out to the point that the trucker hat he had been wearing finally went sailing off at one point as he thrust his head back.

The next number was done almost primarily by Nino, and that was the pretty and delicate, “So Long, Elanie”. People seemed to like (I, for one, did), but after finishing it he promised they were going to bring things back up, then looked at the other three guys to make sure they were ready. They created a haunting intro for “Letter to Whoever”, with some spooky music and eerie crooning into the mics, before busting into the short, quick paced song. “Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Travis Stearns!” Marco shouted before he got a short drum solo during the instrumental break.

A few songs back they had pointed out they only had a couple left, and now, the night was about to come to an end.

“How many of y’all have seen us before?!” Travis asked, again rising up from his kit to get a good view of everyone. Quite a few hands shot up in the air, while others shouted they had. “So, y’all know how we like to do it then!” Travis roared, continuing to rile everyone up, while Nino retrieved the mandolin. They were ending their 93-minute set with “Raise Some Hell”, which musically resembles a Irish jig, and is arguably their most fun song. It certainly got the audience in a boisterous mood, many of whom seemed to take one of the lines from the song as a command, and stomped their feet against the ground. It also became a fun sing-along for nearly everyone, as the fans shouted right along with the band, “…Boys, we’re gonna raise some hell tonight!”

If that was their mission this night, it was one they accomplished, and they left everyone in a frenzied state as they retreated to the backstage area.

No one thought it was over yet, though, and a small group of people began chanting for “one more song”.

At most a minute passed before Marco peaked his head out from the door, then walked back onto the stage.

“It’s been a long week in Colorado.” he remarked as he got back behind the mic. He began the 11-minute encore portion all on his lonesome, having a little moment where all eyes were fixated on him.

“…I let you down, well, I fell through, but by and by I’ll get through to you. Just let me in again when it feels right…” he crooned on the oh so lovely and poignant song, “Another Night”, which is about a “stupid, drunken night” and seeking forgiveness. Nino joined him fairly early on in the song, adding another guitar part to it, and shortly after that first chorus was when Colton and Travis rejoined them, kicking things up a few notches. There’s also what I think is a pretty profound line towards the end, and that is, “…Lips, they’re only lips if they have no meaning.”

That was the last original song they did for the night, and Travis wound them into their final number. I’d guess it was something they worked up for their time in Colorado, and it was a pretty awesome way to close things out with.

They covered a classic from The Rolling Stones, and that was “Honky Tonk Woman”.

I know this will be considered sacrilege by many, but their version was superior to the Stones. They sped it up more from the original version, which made it harder hitting, and even mixed some very light country sounds into what was otherwise a sensational rock song. I guess the point is they made it their own, and once they finished it, Travis stood up from his drum kit and jabbed one of the sticks into one of the drums (I believe it was the snare, though I couldn’t see too well), signifying that they were indeed done.

Wow.

I do an annual Best Of list on this blog, running down my favorite albums and concerts from the past year. When putting that list together late last month, out of the 120+ concerts I saw last year, I ranked one of The Dirty River Boys shows I saw second. This night, I was reminded why they placed so high on my list.

They’re aren’t many bands like this out there, at least not that I’m aware of. I’m not just talking about all their obvious qualities, either.

Yes, the fact that they have four very capable singers, each with their own unique tone is fantastic, and it’s only made better by how they’re incorporating more of that into their new music. Not only that, but they’re just skilled musicians in general, being right at home on any of the instruments they spend time on. As for their live show, I’d say it’s one of the best I’ve ever seen from almost any band, being extremely energetic and fun. It’s not even any of that, that makes them so astounding, though.

Is what makes them so astounding is the sheer fun they so clearly have while on stage, which in turn translates to the audience, allowing you as a spectator to enjoy what you’re seeing even more. It’s the raw emotion that’s found in their music and the passion they put into singing and performing the songs that make their shows such an experience.

You just don’t often find bands that put that kind of feeling into their music, and that’s what sets these guys apart from most bands.

This quartet recently went into the studio and laid down the songs for their next record, which will be coming out sometime this year. In the meantime, they have an LP and two EP’s, as well as a single of “Desert Wind” all available in iTUNES.

As for shows, their next one will be on January 31st at Cheatham Street in San Marcos. They also have a show in Helotes at the Floore’s Country Store on February 8th and a gig at The Office Sports Bar in Lubbock on the 28th. And on February 21st, they’ll be back in North Texas, with a Fort Worth gig where they’ll headline Billy Bob’s Texas. And for those like me, who live about an hour away from Fort Worth, I promise, their show would be well worth the drive. And after that, it looks like their next North Texas show won’t be until April 25th, when they play the Granada Theater.

Thus ended a wonderful night in the suburbs. I doubt Hank’s will be a venue I frequent, mainly since I’m not a very avid listener of country music, but I look forward to hopefully seeing another show there sometime. And one of the best things about this concert was that it was over relatively early, and the drive home was a little shorter than it is coming back from Dallas.

Suburbia Music Festival Announces Lineup – The Bands You May Not Know Will be the Ones Who Make This A Must See Festival

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The Suburbia Music Festival has been in the works for the better part of a year, creating both skepticism and excitement amongst music lovers in North Texas.

The festival aims to, over time, build its self up to rival all the other big festivals in the country. The possibility of this being as big as Austin’s SXSW, Lollapalooza, or any other festival remains to be seen, but it’s important to remember; everything has humble beginnings.

Some people just don’t believe that the Dallas, Texas suburb of Plano ever could or will be a destination for music lovers from across the country, or even the world. I have to admit, I myself am on the fence about it, but I’m pulling for the festival, and that it may one day become an institution here in North Texas.

Today, everyone got their first look at bands that will be performing at the Oak Point Park on May 3rd and 4th, and in the true festival spirit it’s an eclectic mix. Headliners include David Guetta, Alabama Shakes and J. Cole, who will no doubt be the names people gravitate to when seeing the full lineup. Slightly Stoopid, Tegan & Sara, NeedtoBreathe, Third Eye Blind and Blue October will probably also get music lovers salivating.

If this festival is to be a success, it will be those bands and the other heavy draws that make it so, but I promise you, they won’t be the bands that you’ll be raving about when it’s all said and done.

Here’s my list of the bands that you can’t afford to miss out on:

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(Photo credit: Real Bear Media)
Twenty One Pilots
The Columbus, Ohio duo of
Tyler Joseph (vocals and multi-instrumentalist) and Josh Dun (drums) are one of the most original, dynamic, and oddest bands I’ve heard. They blend together a few different genres, including rap, pop and rock, and while you might think that wouldn’t work together, it results in the most incredible music. Tyler can hold his own with any rapper out there and he’s superior to most (for the record, I’m not even a fan of rap, but what he does is awe inspiring), and then in an instant he can change gears, nailing some gorgeous falsetto notes. The substance of the songs can’t be overlooked either, and they are extremely heartfelt and honest, often detailing some painful moments from his life.

I had the pleasure of seeing Twenty One Pilots in the tail end of 2013, and their performance was one of the best live shows I’ve ever seen.
(Listen to “House of Gold” and “Semi-Automatic”.)

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(Photo Credit: Daniel Zetterstorm of CanPhoto)
Reignwolf
They’ve played Lollapalooza; They’ve played SXSW; And they have plenty of other festival dates coming up this year, as well as being the opening act for some of the Canadian dates Black Sabbath has in April. You probably haven’t heard of Reignwolf yet, but they’re a band whose quickly on the rise.

They mine a more classic vein of gritty rock, with bluesy, soulful guitar licks, and singer and guitarist Jordan Cook has a voice to match that. Another band I saw in late 2013, they performed their first Dallas (and North Texas show) after one od their dates at Austin City Limits, wowing everyone who was in attendance. Their shows are explosive and steeped in the purest essence of Rock ‘n’ Roll. This band will be big and you will be seeing them arenas one day, so catch them in a smaller setting while you have the chance.
(Listen to “Are You Satisfied?”)

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Hayes Carll
Hayes Carll may be one of the most underrated Americana musicians on the national scale. This Texas treasure has broken into the national scene (his last two albums were released on the UMG or Universal Music Group record label), but since he doesn’t play the commercialized pop/country crossover, he doesn’t get the attention that so many Nashville artists do.

He’s a true poet when it comes to songwriting, though, penning songs that range from being humorous (“I Got a Gig”), to very emotional songs that convey a lot sadness (“Beaumont” or “Chances Are”). He’s a staple in Texas music, and if you appreciate true country music, he’s a must listen and a must see.
(Listen to “Drunken Poet’s Dream”.)

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(Photo Credit: A+E Photography)
The Unlikely Candidates
This local Fort Worth Indie Rock outfit recently inked a deal with Atlantic Records, which in turn allowed them to finally get a new album out to fans. They just the right mix of pop and rock, adding a bit of a British flare to it, while they’re live shows are just straight up fun and enjoyable to witness.
(Listen to “Follow My Feet”.)

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(John Mudd of Ishi)
Ishi
The Dallas based electronic trio has become a powerhouse around these parts, selling out nearly every show they play, and have even secured a following up in Denver and New York City.

Their long awaited sophomore album, “Digital Wounds”, was one of my favorite releases from last year, and saw them further embracing the electronic style, verses their self-described “folktronic” they previously classified themselves as.

They’re solid and professional on stage, while keeping it light, too (vocalist John Mudd has been known to drop to the stage and proceed to hump it). They probably won’t get much time at Suburbia, but they’ll be a band well worth seeing.
(Listen to “Mother Prism”.)


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The O’s
Another Dallas local, The O’s have cemented their place as a hometown favorite (and they even do European tours fairly regularly). They’re an impressive country duo, incorporating some of the truest country instruments into their sound, from a banjo to the pedal steel guitar and both
John Pedigo and Taylor Young have excellent voices. They write some catch songs to boot.
(Listen to “Outlaw”.)

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(Photo Credit: Will von Bolton)
Larry G(ee)
Another hometown hero on the rise, Larry G(ee) and his often large backing band, consisting of a few female backing vocalists and some brass instruments, never disappoint. They create a wonderful mix of funk and soul, while Larry G(ee) himself is a riveting frontman armed with some primo dance moves.
(Listen to “Camera Phone”.)

There you have it. Stay for the headliners, but go to the Suburbia Music Festival to see those bands I just outlined. You’ll be glad you did.

Show info:
Tickets go on sale on January 25th and can be purchased HERE. Prices TBA
It will take place at Oak Point Park in Plano, TX on Saturday May 3rd and Sunday May 4th.
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Sunday, November 17th, 2013 – Free Dominguez

The Prophet Bar was hosting a very unique show this night. Free Dominguez, best known as the frontwoman of Kidneythieves, was performing this night, and this final show of an only two-show tour of Texas was more of an intimate party than just your typical concert.

This Dallas date was billed as a “private event”, with buying tickets in advance being the only way to get in, as no tickets were sold at the door, giving it an exclusive feel, to an extent.

On top of that, Free had organized the lineup, with her cousin Jordi Baizan and fellow Los Angeles based singer Sierra Swan opening for her. (Dallas locals At Night were also scheduled to perform, though their van broke down on the way back from their Houston show).

However, since this was such an early show (starting about 6PM), both openers had finished by the time I was able to get there, though I heard good things about both.

Still, everyone was most excited for Free Dominguez, who had been over at the merch table meeting people and signing stuff for most of the evening (from what I heard), only leaving shortly before her and her bands 8:40 start time in order to get ready for the show.

Much of their 67-minute long set was comprised of material from “Volcano and the Sea”, an album that at one point during the night Free said she had been wanting to make for ten years, sounding elated that it had finally happened.

They kicked things off exactly how the record does, with the beautifully serene yet roaring rock number, “Calling”. She informed the decent size crowd on the title after they finished it, chatting with everyone briefly. “This is going to be our last song.” Free joked before they launched into “Beautiful”, which was just one of many songs this night that guitarist Static was able to shred on.

Drummer Beak Wing counted them in on the mesmerizing “Line in the Sand”, which was the last song they did in order as is heard on the record, and afterwards Free  again spoke with the crowd, creating a real rapport with everybody. One thing she did was point out a couple who had drove all the way from St. Louis to see this show, a feat that earned them a round of applause. “…It’s stuff like that that keeps me doing what I’m doing…” remarked Free, being genuinely humbled by that, as well as all the fans in general who had come out to show their support.

“Make me a simple life before I die…” Free crooned as they started “Simple Life”, which somewhat deals with materialism, and wound up being a highlight of their show. At least I thought so. Upon finishing it, she pointed out one of the lines from it, for those who might not have caught it, and that was, “…Things that are forever are forever changing…” She commented on how that’s more or less a mantra for her, and it is probably one of the most true lyrics from a song. Talk then led to the next song, which Free noted was the first song she and Static wrote that wound up leading to “Volcano and the Sea”. “…He was screwing around on Skype…” she said, saying she liked what he was doing on his guitar and asked him to continue.

They then slowed things down with the dark and gorgeous “Corridors”, with Free hitting some utterly beautiful notes with her voice. “That’s always a fun one to do. It’s always different.” she stated, referring to Static as “the feral one”, adding that he always keeps them on their toes while performing it. And while they had toned things down with that song, they were about to scale back even more as Beak Wing and bassist Matt McJunkins left the stage. Free told everyone that for this next segment, she let Static pick the songs they were going to play, ones she hadn’t prepared for and was going to be as surprised as the audience. “…I might even forget the lyrics, like I did last night in Houston.” she said laughing.

This portion of the show saw them doing some stripped down covers of Kidneythieves songs, and the first one was the lead track from “Zerospace”, “Before I’m Dead”. They may have sounded a little different, but it was these songs that everyone seemed to love, and much of the audience was even singing along to them, especially “Jude (Be Somebody)”, which everyone seemed ecstatic to hear, and it did even catch Free off guard. “I don’t know what it is.” she said after Static’s first riff on the guitar, reiterating that after the second, before realizing. And no, she didn’t flub the words to either of those tracks.

As the rhythm section returned, Free took a few moments to discuss another project she and Static are working on, which will be a hip-hop collaboration. She expressed her love of the genre, even saying they recently got word from the label that they will be able to get who they want to collaborate with for what I believe she said would be an EP that would most likely be released in the first half of next year. She sounded very excited about it, and it will no doubt be an interesting record to hear once it’s finished.

As they got back to her solo material, they did some revamped renditions of a couple songs from “(.Unearth.)”, the addition of Matt and Beak Wing really helping flesh out the songs from how they are on the album, helping transform “
Darkest Rivers” into a beast of a song, and one they could all really throw down on. “…Enjoy it…” said Free, urging everyone to get the most out of it, adding, “…’Cause I don’t know when we’ll be back…” Following it was “Questions + Lies”, which helped wind the evening down, but they still had a couple songs left to do.

But before playing any more, Free pointed out that a special guest was in attendance, and that was someone who had backed their Kickstarter campaign, picking the reward option of having her write a song about him. In order to get to know him she said they had talked online many times, and she also had him keep a dream journal for a while, which he then gave to her. She was excited about the song, saying how good it was sounding and that she has had to fight the urge to share even a snippet with him, because she wants him to be surprised when he hears the full song, which she said would be titled “Mr. Goodnight”.

They got back to it with “Hearts Like Parachutes”, which made them appear as if they were still getting warmed up, with the whole band really loosing up, especially Matt, who thrashed about to the beat. Then, before their final song, Free pointed out someone else who was in attendance. It was a young girl who was at her first ever concert, and Free said she was glad the child had been in the bathroom earlier when she said the “f-word”. “…I’m sensitive about that stuff…” she clarified, shortly before encouraging everyone to support their favorite band by buying their music, then bashing a streaming service with, “Fuck Spotify!”. It was “Wolf” that brought their show to a close, though even after a little more than an hour, no one was ready for it to come to an end, letting it be known when it was said that would be the last song. “Do you not want me to enjoy this shot?” Free said jokingly, having gotten one early on in the night, but only drank a portion of so it didn’t “fuck up” her voice as she put it. A respectable ting to do I might add, since so many musicians these days don’t seem to think twice about how it might affect their singing.

As the band retreated back stage, the DJ they had at the event began to spin some more music as everyone started to mingle a bit, thinking it was over. It wasn’t.

Static and Free returned to the state after a minute or so, performing over the track the DJ had going, giving everyone one little bonus track.

It was truly an incredible show, and making it all the better was the intimate feel it had. The Prophet Bar is a smaller venue, and all four members were fairly cozy on stage, having just enough room to do a little moving around. That didn’t keep them from putting on one helluva show, though.

There’s no question that Static is a phenomenal guitarist, stealing the spotlight at times as you watch in wonder at his mastery of the instrument. Beak Wing and Matt are also experts at their craft, while Free Dominguez is amazing in all aspects. Often this night she could be seem conducting her body very fluidly to the music, moving her hands and arms about in perfect time to what her band was playing. On top of that, she has a stellar voice, which was no doubt the main tool that left everyone in awe this night.

Honestly, the first time I ever heard any Kidneythieves songs was the covers they did this night, it has prompted me to listen to their records. And while it may be a departure from the group that made her famous, Free’s solo music is every bit as great, albeit in a different way, but in the end, it’s all riveting music that will pull you in and make the trip an experience.

If you haven’t yet heard her solo stuff, check it out in either iTUNES or Bandcamp.

I’m glad I wound up going to this show, as it was well worth it, and I definitely won’t miss out on the next one… Whenever that may be.