Saturday, August 30th, 2014 – An Anniversary Party Fit for a King (Camel, That is)

In just a year’s time, King Camel Productions has established itself as a key player in the North Texas music scene. Perhaps the best quality founder Jeffrey Brown brings to booking his shows is his love for the more obscure bands, bands that you may have never heard of before, but after seeing them, you’ll most likely be a fan.

That’s happened to me on more than one occasion when I’ve attended some King Camel shows, where I’ve walked into the venue with no prior knowledge on some of the acts, but have left a new fan. I was hoping that would repeat this day at Club Dada, for the first annual King Camelversary.

Sixteen bands had been tapped to play the daylong event, and with the exception of a handful of acts, I was unfamiliar with most of them.

The shindig began at 4:30 in the afternoon, a little earlier than I was able to make it, since I had spent much of the early afternoon in Fort Worth at The Kimbell Art Museum. That meant I missed Howler Jr., who started off the event on the outdoor stage, along with Tidals, who got the party going indoors.

It was about 5:45 when I walked inside the venue; greeted the friendly promoter; and then headed out to the patio, to see what I could of International Bitterness Unit.

I caught the last few songs from the band that plays pure rock; and they exceeded their 30-minute time slot by a bit, choosing to do one more quick number. Singer and rhythm guitarist Britt Tucker moved his guitar behind for it and often gripped the mic as he belted out the lyrics. Marco Elizondo was a force to be reckoned with back on the drums; and at one point, bassist Andrew Magilow leaned against Britts’ back, making for a very rock ‘n’ roll moment.

What I saw was great, and the band seemed even better and more cohesive than the first time I saw them a few months back (which just so happened to be at the Local Education concert series King Camel does from time to time.)

On September 20th, IBU will be playing at Tradewinds Social Club in Dallas.

For me, that was a good way to get this King Camelversary going; but now it was time to experience the other side of the festival.

“It’s like stepping from one world into another, isn’t it?” Jeff remarked to me when I happened to walk up beside him.

Indeed, it was.

Botany was on stage, and this was the first of many bands this day whom I had never seen, let alone heard of.

Spencer Stephenson is responsible for the sounds, and a series of synthesizers and keyboards were laid out in front of him. In terms of style, it was not at all what I like. However, there was some sort of enchanting quality it had. You really couldn’t help but get into it, as Spencer darted from keyboard to keyboard, creating what sounded like one massive song, as there was no real stopping point until right at the end.

He even tried some singing on a couple latter songs, though he used about as much reverb as possible, and it was so gauzy and distant sounding the actual words were pretty much indiscernible.

Botany may not be my typical style but even if I had wanted to, I don’t think I could have pulled myself away. There was just something the music. It entranced you; and I wouldn’t mind seeing a second show.

There was another big shift in the genres when folks stepped back onto the patio and the dreadful heat that came with standing in the sun (at least there was some shade to find refuge in).

Matthew & The Arrogant Sea were ready to doll out their jazzy style of roots rock for everyone, and they were doing so without a drummer. Actually, there were so many band members on stage it took me a couple minutes to even realize there was no drum kit set up behind everyone.

Their first tune had a heavy jazz presence, which seemed most prevalent in the trumpet Sammy Strittmatter played, as well as Brent Buemi and his oboe, though even the electric and acoustic guitar contributed. They rolled it into another track, and upon finishing it, singer and acoustic guitarist Matthew Gray let everyone know they were “fucking thrilled” to be there at the Camelversary.

They had some lengthy tracks planned for everyone, and given the tight schedule, they didn’t waste much time on banter. Another cool jam — even tranquil in some ways — came next, and it was during it that Rahim Quazi was sidelined. His keyboard was having some technical difficulties, so he decided to handle some percussion instead, and began clapping along to the music his band mates were making. The problem never was officially resolved, so for the bulk of their set, Rahim wound up being an unexpected member of the rhythm section.

“Let’s get a hand for Bob,” Matthew asked during the next break, referring to the man that is often affectionately called “Keyboard Bob”, who had showed up. Though he didn’t have his keyboard with him this day. “Do y’all know any Beatles?” Bob asked later on, while the band just laughed it off.

As they wound down, Matthew declared they had some “fucking cocktail rock” left for everybody. I can’t say I’ve ever heard of that genre before, but the Arrogant Sea pulled it off. Electric guitarist Tony Whitlock and bassist Blake Vickrey added some true rock layers to it, though it was kept more relaxed; and the harmonies much of the band contributed at times sounded phenomenal. They actually had time for one more after that (most of their songs spanned several minutes); and then thanked those who were there for watching.

They may have had some setbacks, what with the keys, and even not having a drummer was different for them, but they pulled it all off. Rahim deserves some props for just going with the flow, and he never appeared displaced by not having a keyboard to play. The songs sounded great, too, and even without a full rhythm section, they still had a robust quality to them; and Matthews’ voice was pleasing to all the ears that were listening.

They were another band I had first seen at a previous King Camel show a few months back, and like the earlier mentioned band, I enjoyed M&TAS even more the second time around.

Keep an eye on their Facebook page for news on future shows. They also have an older release available in iTUNES, with some new music (hopefully) due out by year’s end.

Back on the inside stage was the husband and wife duo of Ian and Mila Hamilton, who make up Mannequins with Kill Appeal.

The name was every bit as intriguing as their music wound up being.

They did all of four songs in a set that was only about 15-minutes, and regularly alternated on who did the singing, with Mila starting them off.

The music was rooted in electronic elements, all of which were controlled by Ian, who had a laptop and some other gear in front of him, though each also wielded a guitar.

Fitting with the electronic vibe, the lyrics were hard to hear, but that didn’t hamper the music. They quickly built up to an explosive finish to their third song, which saw Ian shredding on his axe; and even after mixing it flawlessly into their final song, his playing just got progressively faster.

It’s not that I’m not open to electronic music, I’m just very selective to what I listen to. The fact that Mannequins with Kill Appeal married some rock music to their synthesized sounds made me like it all the more, and I was actually a little sad their set didn’t last any longer than it did, ‘cause I had just started really enjoying it.

There was yet another duo ready to rock now on the outdoor stage, and the was the slightly psychedelic, Mercury Rocket.

They tore things up on that stage; and when he wasn’t doing any singing, singer and guitarist Ben Fleming broke away from the mic stand and walked around. That may not have been a good idea at first, because as they concluded their first song, and he stepped away, the mic stand began to fall. Luckily, one spectator was quick to react and saved it.

Despite just being a two-piece, it was instantly clear Mercury Rocket had a fleshed out sound, and that first tune was even quite rich sounding. They rolled it right into the next song; and after another one, Ben killed some time by chitchatting with the onlookers.

“…We keep fucking up,” he remarked, adding, “It’s not your fault,” just so none of the crowd felt responsible for their issues. They got things in order and then ended their 23-minute long set with a song that featured some heavy use of an electronic drum pad that Graham Brotherton split his time between, though he still using his kit. There was also a nice delay effect in the guitar, creating an excellent sound.

Mercury Rocket is one band I’ve heard about, but hadn’t seen until this night. They were even better than I expected; and they packed a lot of energy into those handful of songs they did.

They’re a killer band in general, and an excellent duo; and that’s something the D/FW music scene can never have too much of.

You can find a collection of singles they’ve recorded on their BANDCAMP site, each for the low price of $1.

There were a few minutes of downtime, and then it was time for Bashe on the indoor stage.

“…That’s bash with an ‘e’ at the end…” singer and guitarist Joe Cepeda Overman informed everyone before they began. “And these are our songs,” he pointed out, before they embarked on their 31-minute long set. His twelve-string guitar helps add a more distinct tone to their shoegaze brand of rock; and as their first song reached its end, he walked back over by his amp to create some feedback.

That served as a bridge into the next one, which had a grand sound to it, with the drums from Zac Travis and TC Olivers’ bass all working in excellent harmony with one another. Another track got started with some ominous bass riffs, and upon finishing it, Joe circled back to where they began.

“We’re Bashe, and that was our music,” he remarked, before wishing a happy anniversary to King Camel. They had one more, though. “I’ll let you serenade me with this one,” shouted Jeff Brown, who wasn’t far off, because on this final track, Joe tapped into his falsetto voice at times.

Bashe helped continue the greatness of this day, giving the crowd (which was rapidly growing by this point) a solid performance with a near non-stop pace.

I first saw Bashe on this stage a few months before this (you guessed it, it was a King Camel show), and at the risk of sounding like a broken record, they, too, were a band who I thought was even better the second time around.

Their music is pretty fresh, in my opinion. For me, it’s just a perfect blend of indie rock and electronic, but unlike some of the bands who played before them, the vocals are still strong and easy to understand. It’s like they picked out the strongest attributes of each genre, and then got creative.

You can find two variations of their debut EP, Open Up, on BANDCAMP (one features the songs performed at a slower pace). Check it out; it’s a good piece to have in your collection.

Back on the patio, Fogg was already beginning their performance, and it was something to behold.

The trio was more hard rock, but merged a few different genres into their sound, including a little psychedelic and even some slight metal. They were equal parts instrumental, too, producing some killer, dirty rock sounds, with constant shredding from guitarist Chase Jowell (who also provided the vocals), and even bassist Brandon Hoffman. Drummer Ethan Lyons was also a machine, and just slayed on the kit.

“Is it too loud?” Chase asked at one point, responding to a couple of people who kept screaming for it to be louder (and faster). He quickly answered his on question with, “It’s probably not loud enough.”

Fogg could have had it cranked all the way up to eleven, and I don’t know if that would have been loud enough for people. They put on a spectacle of a show, and are skilled musicians who were even semi-technical with their styles. That made the instrumental segments all the better, because you could just watch them on their weapon of choice.

They were a surprise for me, as I was not expecting such a powerhouse show. It wound up being one of the best of the entire day.

They have some demos and fully produced songs you can get for free or just a few bucks over at BANDCAMP.

Hex Cult was about the only band on this bill I wasn’t able to get into.

I’m just not a fan of the screaming each member of the band does. Still, the two guys put on a ferocious show, and even if you don’t care for the music, that can be enough to keep you interested.

It peaked right at the end, when their singer jumped into the crowd, threw a bottle of water into the air, and then began acting wild as he thrashed around, rolled on the ground and even started a small mosh-pit with some of the fans who were willing to partake in it.

They, too, had kept their set short, and didn’t even start until about 9:15, and then did their thing in just fifteen-minutes.

War Party was another act I wasn’t expecting to like. I’m pretty confident I had seen them a couple years or so ago, and just didn’t care for them then. I think they’ve changed a little in that time, though.

I don’t recall a trombone being used, yet that was one instrument Chris Waldon added to many of the songs they squeezed into their 23-minutes on stage.

From a wicked bass solo on their first number (which Tyler Moore was responsible for), to a song that drummer Peter Marsh did most of the singing on, they kept you on your toes. Some of their pop/punk numbers were co-sung between lead singer and rhythm guitarist Cameron Smith and other band mates, and others saw Chris laying down the trombone to focus on the keyboard.

The constant was that the songs were always catchy and full of life, and they were getting some members of the crowd overly excited.

“Faster! Louder!” a couple of people shouted, prompting Cameron to say before a brand new song that he didn’t know how fast and loud it was. “But I don’t give a fuck,” he stated, dedicating the new tune to the one and only King Camel. Their closing number saw Cameron running the neck of his guitar along one of the cymbals, which made for a nice effect.

My thoughts on War Party from a few years ago and War Party now are completely different. They’ve found a style that really suits them, and they made it pretty hard not to love them this night. The show was energetic and fun, as I said, the music was pretty infectious, and with the different voices at their disposal, they managed to change things up often enough that you were constantly interested.

I’ve dismissed them over the years since my first encounter, but I won’t be doing that anymore.

They have several albums and singles to pick up over on BANDCAMP.

Back inside, Nite was having some trouble. Eventually, after nearly ten minutes of their set had been lost, they decided to play as a duo, as there were some technical difficulties with the drums.

“Hello, everybody. We are Nite, from Dallas,” one of the Mendes brothers announced, as they began to use the remaining 21-minutes they had.

The lead track from their debut album, “Are You Afraid?”, got things going; and I think pretty much everyone in the room felt a sudden primal urge to dance. Not that everyone did, but the music was so catchy that you had to move about in some regard, even if it was just swaying. Their electronic pop mixture was reminiscent of that of the 80’s new wave.

Kyle sat his bass down, while Myles ditched his guitar so they could just focus on their synthesizers (the “stands” for them were a couple of ironing boards, which I thought was pretty inventive). “The Waking” showed off their full electronic side, but they went back to the instruments as they wound things right into “City On Fire”. Even with the instruments, there was a real dreamy sound to the song, though there was also a good moment when the brothers stood next to each other as they jammed for a bit.

“This goes out to all of you, especially King Camel himself,” one of them said, before sending everyone into a frenzy with the unmistakable beginning to Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)”. They pulled of a great rendition of the beloved song; and with each of them doing some singing this night, they were able to do some killer co-singing at times on that one, as well as covering all the backing vocals.

That was definitely a highlight of their set; and now, they found themselves apologizing for their technical issues earlier, and how it cut into things. It was sad, especially knowing that they could have fit another song or two in, but stuff like that happens, and what are you going to do?

“We Were Strong” was another good one, and “On the Edge of Darkness” wrapped things up for them; and it was on that song that Myles found a point he could really get into it, and violently thrashed about.

Nite provided yet another highlight of my day at the King Camelversary. They offered another pleasant surprise; and compared to the other electronic bands, it was a good change of pace to see one who focused on a totally different area of the genre.

It would have been interesting to see them as a three-piece, but even as a makeshift duo they commanded the crowd, entertaining their old fans and making some new ones fall in love with them.

You can find their I Am Not Afraid record in iTUNES, as well as BANDCAMP. If you’d like to see them live, well, they’ll be back here at Dada on September 13th.

I then headed back outside, to see and hear Dead Mockingbirds, who had gotten off to a slightly early start and were just finishing what I believe was their opener.

“How you doing, Dallas?” asked singer and guitarist Kenneth Pritchard afterwards. As they had been doing all night, a couple of people shouted, almost demanding they play faster and louder. “We’re trying to,” Kenneth answered. “We’ve been here all day, fucking with those doors,” he said, pointing at the set of doors that led to and from the venue, and it took a while to get used to them, constantly confusing people on whether they should push or pull, and they often stuck, making it even trickier.

They kept barreling through their set, doing a track that had a great guitar solo worked in (it was the first of handful this night); and on that, the bass Trinidad Diaz was wielding really helped in accenting the other instruments. “We have merchandise for sale,” Kenneth remarked after another song, though he soon confessed, “I don’t remember where it is, though.”

Kenneth continued wailing on his axe, while Matthew Crain hammered away on the drums; and the smile he wore for pretty much the entire show let you know that he was in his happy place. “Are we getting fast enough yet?” Kenneth asked after a few more songs, one of which was an instrumental piece.

They were certainly getting there; and now, they had a brand new song for everyone. Kenneth began what was largely an instrumental jam, before Trinidad and Matt layered their instruments over a song that was titled “Jeffrey Brown”. It was pretty catchy, too. Kenneth pointed out the title upon finishing it, getting a laugh from nearly everyone, especially the promoter. I don’t know how seriously anyone took that, but after chatting with them later on this night, they did tell me that really is the title.

“You guys are just so good looking!” Kenneth exclaimed before their up-tempo version of “Munich”, which really got everyone going. The music tapered off, and then, with a speedy drum roll, Matt launched them into their final song.

Before this, it had been several months since the last time I had seen Dead Mockingbirds. Too long, in fact.

There were a few new songs this night, mixed with some of the others that, while they may not have been recorded, have still become fan favorites.

A Dead Mockingbird show is a fun one. There’s a lot of energy and great musicianship involved, all of which makes for a great concert experience. At least it did this night.

You can snag their singles in iTUNES, and they are currently working on a full record. Maybe it’ll be ready by the second King Camelversary. Also, you can find some more songs of theirs for free download on REVERBNATION.

That was the end of things outdoors, and now people headed back in for Cutter.

I had seen this two-piece electronic outfit before, and surprisingly, it was not at a KC show.

They set a nice atmosphere, supplying their own lights. So, while the house lights were completely out, the stage was illuminated by some high-powered clear light bulbs that shown on each member.

The duty of singing was often rotated, and drummer Jared Coffey handled it on their first song, using both his drum kit (which consists of only a few pieces) and the electronic drums, while Alex Velte hunched over some of the keys and synthesizers, banging his head along to the music.

They had a smoke machine at the ready, too, and before one song, a large cloud covered the stage, before slowly spilling out towards the audience. The band really is about the mood as much as the music and that smoke goes a long way for it.

“This is the most badass song I’ve ever listened to!” Jeff Brown shouted before one of the bands tracks; and during it, Alex grabbed the smoke machine and held it up, allowing it to billow out in every direction. They only slowed down when Alex had to go get his laptop — which he had left in the green room — and once he returned, he picked up a bass to give the rhythm of the next song more of a kick.

They were on a roll now, going right into their next song, and then jumping into the final number of their 28-minute long set.

Cutter knows a great concert isn’t just about the performance, but the overall aesthetic, and while it may be nothing fancy, the little elements they bring in make a huge difference.

They have a couple EP’s you can get over on BANDCAMP; and if you ever have a chance to go see them, take it. You won’t be disappointed.

For the first time all day, people actually had to wait on the music. Luckily, my wait was shortened since I stepped out on the patio and chatted with the guys from Dead Mockingbirds, right up until Sweet Spirit started.

The Austin-based band was just finishing their first song when I walked back in; and soon after, Sabrina Ellis thanked everyone for being there. Aside from the lead vocals, she also acted as the third guitarist for most of their set,; and they cranked out a couple more songs, which were primarily rock, though some even had little hints of soul thrown in.

“We’re here because we’re friends of Jeffrey’s!” Sabrina stated at one point, noting that he got them into some trouble last time they played one of his shows. “…I peed my own puke off the sidewalk,” she said, speaking of their last Dallas visit. The promoter was once again standing near me, enjoying the band, and when I asked if that was a true story, he neither confirmed nor denied it.

Andrew Cashen and Joshua Merry were then left as the only guitarists for a bit, which worked out for the best. Sabrina was better suited for the frontwoman role, as was seen on the next song, and after adding several lines to the track about how they were here for their friend Jeffrey, she grabbed her stretchy pants and hiked them, making a camel toe, before turning around and shaking her ass in Jeff’s face. If there was still any doubt that this was not a party, that solidified that it was.

Several more songs followed, and even with the tight conditions having six members on stage created, they still found enough room to move about. Bassist Jon Fichter walked back by Danny Lions’ drum kit on one song, propping his leg up on the bass drum; and while it was often masked by the roaring guitars and such, the keyboard Jake Knight was playing added a nice underlying element.

After finding out their time was almost up, the six of them had to figure out what final songs to do, and there were some split opinions. They compromised, though, first doing “Rebel, Rebel”, which had nearly all the band singing different parts of the song, often handling some of the lines in rounds. The song Sabrina was adamant they play was “Take Me to a Party”, which was one awesome track, and seemed appropriate to end with.

Sweet Spirit provided another memorable set here at the King Camelversary. The performance was untamed and very primal, just like any rock show should be. They kept it all quite fun, too (until this night, I had never seen a band member parade around on stage showing off a camel toe).

It was all highly entertaining. Even the music was a little more original sounding, and different from most of the stuff that’s out there.

I’m already looking forward to seeing them again, whenever they might come back this way.

After that final rock band, the night ended on an electronic note, thanks to Blackstone Rangers.

They eased everyone who was still there (which was a decent crowd) into their show with some softer songs, that more heavily relied on the synth and keys Ruth Smith was playing, along with singing the gauzy vocals. However, the deeper they got into their second number, the more they started showing off their rock side, with guitarist Derek Kutzer and drummer Daniel Bornhorst growing louder and more fierce with their playing.

That seemed to be when people really started getting into it; and they followed it with another song that started off pretty light, though experienced a sudden sharp rise in the music. “Now comes the good part of our set,” Ruth remarked shortly after, and on the song that followed, Derek wound up breaking a string. Luckily, it didn’t happen until late, and he was able to replace it during the next break.

Ruth killed time by making clear how unsatisfied she was with the mic stand. Indeed, the fact that the microphone was secured by a clip seemed odd, and just in watching them this night you could tell it had already created some setbacks. She made that known, saying she didn’t know who thought that would be a good idea, and when she did remove the mic to move around a bit, it complicated things when she had to work to put the mic back. “It fucking sucks,” she said at one point, also calling it a “joke”.

No, she was not at all fond of it.

They had a friend, Ben, join them on a song, who rounded out the outfit with a bass; and then threw in a couple more songs, one of which Derek just shredded on.

Blackstone Rangers was yet another band on this bill who doesn’t fit the mold of what I typically like, but actually, I enjoyed them even more this night than I had the first time around (and I liked them then.)

They pull off the electronic rock style quite well, even adding some shoegaze elements into it. The crowd really liked it this night, and it just felt like a good note to end on.

Their next show is going to be at Hailey’s in Denton on September 19th.They also have a tour of the Mid-West and West Coast starting in late October through mid November. Those dates can be found HERE. You can also find their EP’s on BANDCAMP.

This was one helluva day. Kudos to King Camel for putting together such a sweet spectacle of a lineup. From start to finish, there was never a dull moment, and all day long, this did feel like a party.

Not just a party for his success in the past year, but also a party for anyone and everyone who has had any part in that, which includes the fans who have supported him by coming out to all the shows. In turn, he booked this show for the fans as much as he did himself, with the end goal being that everyone would just enjoy themselves and have a good time. Mission accomplished.

Sunday, September 7th – The Picturebooks Powerhouse Performance in Dallas Proves Rock is Alive and Well

Despite being a free show at Gas Monkey Bar & Grill, there wasn’t much of a crowd on this Sunday. That can’t be totally unexpected, given the bill consisted of a couple local acts and a touring band that I doubt anyone was familiar with beforehand.

Still, a little more than fifty people or were scattered around the massive patio that houses the outdoor stage; and those who did show up were rewarded with a show that they will not soon forget.

Headlining this night was a duo who originated from Gütersloh, Germany known as The Picturebooks, and this marked the first show of their U.S. tour.

No one really knew what to expect from this group. Even what style they would be was most likely a mystery to all, which made it all the more shocking when they began their set right at 10:15.

There was a lengthy instrumental intro, and right away the onlookers were shown just how heavy The Picturebooks were going to be. The sound the two produced was massive; and Fynn Claus Grabke banged his head and slammed his guitar down to several of the beats Philipp Mirtschink was hammering out.

They immediately transfixed people with that, and after warming up not only the crowd, but also themselves, they were ready to get down to business. “PCH Diamond” showed off the groups’ bluesy rock side, and really highlighted Grabkes’ voice and the great tones he is capable of. Mirtschink got plenty of attention too, though. The drummer held a stick in one hand, using that on the floor tom, while he struck another drum with the palm of his hand for a bit, before grabbing a shaker with sleigh bells on it, creating a cool effect.

They were on the attack, and the word “break” often seemed to be one they were unfamiliar with, as they tackled one song right after the other. They did what was almost like a prelude, with Grabke continuing to belt out the words, before stopping as he went and hastily changed guitars. “Woman what are you doing? Woman, who are you fooling?” he sang after getting back in front of the mic, the first lines from “Woman”, which quickly escalated from its hushed beginnings. It was drenched in raw emotions; and they reeled in the crowd further with it, providing plenty of moments to bang your head to. There was even a point where Grabke needed to adjust one of his pedals, but not wanting to skip a line, he quickly removed the mic and unwound it from the stand so he could hold it as he fiddled with his gear.

The applause that followed was almost as massive as their music had been, and they weren’t about to slack up. “1000 Years Of Doing Nothing” was every bit as catchy as it was powerful; and when hitting a brief lull, both Mirtschink and Grabke let their instruments fall silent and began clapping along. The crowd quickly picked up on that, and decided to help them out. However, the part that got everyone wide-eyed was when Grabke raised his axe in the air — holding it horizontally — before suddenly pulling it towards his face and assaulting the strings with his teeth.

Mirtschink fired up their next number; and sweat dripped from his hair as he laid into his kit, producing some forceful beats. Grabke used a slide for the next couple of songs, one of which I’m fairly certain was a rendition of The Ramones’ “The KKK Took My Baby Away”. Regardless what it was, there was a point where Grabke used his fingers to pluck the strings of the guitar instead of the pick, which just looked cool; and he knelt down to mess with his pedal board at another point, creating a loud buzzing effect.

All night long Mirtschinks’ floor tom had seemed to be trying to escape from him, and before going any further, he moved it back over as close as he could towards him, then started on the rapid, steady beat that persists for much of “E.L.I.Z.A.B.E.T.H.”. It was somewhat haunting in a way, as Grabke nearly whispered into his microphone, but once it roared to life, the kick drum was shaking the wooden boards of the deck.

“Thank you all so much,” Grabke told the spectators afterwards, kind of apologizing for the technical difficulties they had been having, and he laughed it off, joking that since this was their first show of the tour, something had to go wrong. However, the difficulties they were faced with went almost unnoticed by the audience, who was just caught up in this stellar performance.

“This song’s called Fever,” he stated before yet another song off their forthcoming album. Mirtschink laid his right arm over the tom to secure it, which worked, at least until he had to use that hand to drum as well. It was clear by this point that The Picturebooks were a rock band, the likes of which you just don’t see too often anymore. They had been offering up pure, unadulterated rock, which made the next sentence Grabke uttered quite surprising. “This is a cover version of the one and only Madonna,” he stated.

I don’t know if everyone even took him seriously at first, or just thought that was a joke. It wasn’t.

I doubt “Lucky Star” has ever sounded the way these two guys made it sound this night. The percussion was deafening; the vocals were gritty; and to cap it all off, it was an explosion of hard rock. Grabke got super into it, moving all over the stage and whipping his hair out of the way whenever it covered his face. They managed to turn that old pop number into something entirely different, and I actually thought it was one of their best songs of the night.

Mirtschink led them right into their next number, as they brought things back down with the gentle and often sweet, “All Of My Life”. “The Rabbit And The Wolf!” Grabke shouted before they kicked things back up several notches with the song by that name. Mirtschink again used his hand to strike one of the drums for a time on that high-energy number; and as it ended, he finally used the decent sized bell that was set up to his right, which created a good chiming effect.

“This is going to be our last song of the night…” Grabke then informed everyone, which truly seemed to astonish the crowd, and certainly disappointed them. They may not have had many, if any, fans when they rolled in to town this day, but they had made a lot in their short time on stage. He went on to say this was the first single off Imaginary Horse, which is due out exactly one month from this gig.

They ended their 41-minute long set in the same vein it had begun: with a fiery track that evokes some aspects of the blues. It was titled “Your Kisses Burn Like Fire”. They might have been almost done, but Mirtschink wasn’t out of the woods just yet; and after the periodic technical difficulties this night, the microphone he had was hit and subsequently fell out of its stand. No harm, no foul, though.

The crowd was hoping for something more from these guys, and they made it well known.

Just before giving up hope, the duo returned to the stage, and Grabke let everyone know it was a B-side they had for everyone. “It’s called ‘Hail These Words’,” he said. Then it hit him. “Actually, it’s not a B-side, it’s on the album,” he laughed as he looked at his band mate. It was a good one to end with, providing a sharp rise and fall at a few points during it.

The band left the stage revered by all who had come out to Gas Monkey this night; and people swarmed the merch table when they eventually made their way over there.

A lot of people say rock is dead. That’s far from being true. In mainstream music, yeah, perhaps it is. On radio stations you don’t hear many true rock bands these days, bands the likes of which dominated the charts in the 70’s, 80’s and even 90’s. But just because you don’t hear any good rock bands on that medium doesn’t mean they aren’t out there.

Case in point: The Picturebooks.

These guys had such a robust sound to be just a guitar and a drum kit (I should note, Mirtschink didn’t have a single cymbal on his kit, either), and the music they made was some of the thickest, heaviest sounding rock ‘n’ roll I have heard in a long time. Their live show was every bit as impressive, too. You were often left in awe of the musicianship they displayed; and given how much extra room was left on stage, they did an incredible job of filling every single inch of it.

I’d go as far as saying this was one of the most entertaining and overall amazing live shows I’ve seen from a band, and it would be well worth going out of your way just to experience a show firsthand.

The Picturebooks trek across America will last through the end of the month, hitting Missouri; Michigan; Illinois; Indiana; Minnesota; Nebraska; Kansas; Colorado; Idaho; and California. After that, they’ll return to Europe for a nearly two month tour. Specific dates for everything can be found HERE. You can also pre-order Imaginary Horse in iTUNES, and get a couple of tracks instantly if you do so.

Saturday, August 23rd, 2014 – The Suffers Bring Some Soul to Dallas

The main focus (genre wise) at Trees this night was Americana and roots rock, but Somebody’s Darling had put together a diverse lineup for their CD release show.

The Houston-based soul band The Suffers made just their second trip ever to the city, preparing to follow up a standout performance from the Homegrown Music Festival just three months prior.

The nine members fit comfortably on the spacious stage, and all of them got warmed up by yelling at the top of their lungs. It’s a battle cry of sorts, allowing them to all get in tune with one another. Trees was already pretty crowded at this point, too, and plenty of people there joined along with the shouting.

Everyone appeared to be caught up in the spell they cast with their first number; the soulful sound being perfect to dance to, while others just slightly swayed as the band did their thing. Cory Wilsons’ saxophone solo delighted the listeners; and the band rolled that song right into the fun, catchy, and even steamy, “Make Some Room”.

Vocalist Pat Kelly was really getting into the groove now, making little motions with her hands from time to time to help in expressing the lyrics. “Come on, let me cook for you, baby… I love you like I’ve know you forever…” she belted in her powerhouse voice on the chorus. At other times, when the trumpet, guitars, bass or anything else was getting it’s moment, she just danced along, completely embracing the music.

“Thank you, we’re The Suffers,” she informed everyone afterwards, as the audience roared with approval. She also mentioned this was their first evening show in Dallas. As of right now, they only have a few singles to buy, but she also pointed out they were getting ready to release a full-length, saying she was thought January would probably be when it comes out. With that, they tackled one of their singles from 2013, “Slow it Down”. The keys (which were manned by Steve Wells this night); the brass section of Cory and Jon Durbin on the trumpet; and additional percussionist Jose “Chapy” Luna (who rocked what looked like a couple of djembe drums, as well as a floor tom) were each prominently featured on that song that did everything but slow down the mood.

By this time, they had a full-fledged party going on. It was really neat, actually, to see a band who has such little experience playing Dallas, but has already become so well received.

They kept the feel good vibes up with another song, this one featuring a trombone solo at one point; and then Kam addressed something. She pointed out that those who had seen their set at Homegrown might remember that Pat Kelly wasn’t behind the drums then, but the keys. Turns out, their usual drummer, Nick Zamora and his wife had just welcomed a child into the world. So, fairly last minute, they had Pat fill in on the kit, and recruited Steve of the band Featherface to do keys for them.

They moved on with another infectious dance number, one that had Kam removing the microphone from the stand, as she strolled around the stage; and while bassist Adam Castaneda and guitarist Kevin Bernier were hidden behind the brass section, you could see them bobbing about from time to time.

Jose got the audience to participate in a clap along at the start of “Gwan”, as they built up to the beginning; and later on, guitarist Alex Zamora got another clap along going, while Jose slapped away at the djembes. “Thank you again. Just thank you. This has been great,” Kam said once it was over, overwhelmed by all the love that was being showered upon them.

They slowed the mood down a bit with “Giver”, before doing one final song to cap off their 39-minute long set.

It was next to impossible to not get completely lost in this show. It radiated positive, feel good vibes, and simply listening to the music made you happy. You can’t forget about the solid performance, either. I imagine a lot of effort has to go into making a nine-piece band so cohesive, but it pays off, ‘cause they killed it this night. That includes Steve, who had to use sheet music to know what to play, but still fit well with the band.

They offered a fun change of pace for the night, and everyone took to it.

The Suffers will be back in Dallas on September 27th for Index Festival. They’ll be playing plenty of other festivals, too. From Houston No Limits Cityfest on September 6th, to Untapped Fest on the 20th and Lone Star Festival in early November. All of those are in Houston, and they also have a show in late October at CMJ in New York. You can also grab the few songs they do have over in iTUNES.

Saturday, August 23rd, 2014 – Wesley Geiger Tells Some Tales at Trees

The show at Trees this night was all in celebration for the new record Somebody’s Darling was releasing, and they had orchestrated a great bill that involved some friends of theirs. Friends like Wesley Geiger, who had been charged with opening the show.

Seeing a solo artist on the stage at Trees is a semi-rare sight; but even by himself, Wesley easily reeled in the crowd, which grew gradually as he mesmerized people with his opening number. He addressed the audience after that, mentioning what an “honor” it was to be sharing the stage with Somebody’s Darling. He also noted that he did not have an album out yet, but would be releasing one come November. “…I’m going to be playing some songs off it…” he said before doing a song I believe he said was titled “Shine On”. “…Sometimes it looks dark, but it just needs a spark…” went one of the lines.

It was already clear the common thread between his songs was they all focused on telling stories, all of which were rich in detail and emotion. “How y’all doing tonight?” Wesley asked once he had finished that tune. He informed everyone that he had lived in California for a while, and had actually just moved back to Texas recently. “I don’t know why I ever left,” he remarked, drawing a lot of cheers from the crowd with that one. He added he had spent a lot of time in the desert during his travels, which was where most of these songs came from. He proceeded to pluck away at his acoustic guitar, an anguished look spreading across his face on the little intro he gave “As the Crow Flies”. He was quite expressive during all of these songs.

He kept the sort of storytellers vibe up by noting this next song was one of the first he ever wrote, back when he was still in high school. If I heard correctly, it was titled “Tired Town”; and once it had been completed, he again told the onlookers he didn’t have any merch, but encouraged everyone to go get the new Somebody’s Darling album. His forthcoming debut record will be titled El Dorado, and now he did the title track from it. “…It’s a mythological city…” he said, which everyone surely knows. “It’s also a real city in Arkansas,” he finished, which was something probably not everyone was wise to.

I thought “El Dorado” was the best track he did this night. It told a story of searching and longing, about people who just wanted to find something to help make them complete. Already, his set was nearly over, and he finished with a song he said was real special to him. “It’s done me a lot of good spiritually. Emotionally, mentally, physically,” he said, chuckling a bit as he said those last two words, which appeared to be added more for fun. You could tell it was another song he really connected with, and it was a good end to his 35-minute long set.

Wesley Geiger was a perfect opener for this bill, and the Americana singer/songwriter spun a series of songs that intrigued you. You got the sense he has already lived a long life, and he’s put his experiences to pen and paper in a perfect manner.

Again, his debut, El Dorado, is apparently due out in just a few months, and judging by the taste everyone got this night, that will be an album well worth having.

Saturday, August 16th, 2014 – Larry’s Live and Local Showcase: August 2014

I’ve seen some concerts in the suburbs before. Plano, Frisco, but never Allen. However, Allen was where I wound up this night.

There were some good shows down in my normal haunts of Deep Ellum, but nothing truly screaming my name. So instead of making a thirty minute drive, I decided to make a ten minute one and go check out The Dirty Rooster.

Larry Bates, who fronts the band Generation Wasted, works at the restaurant/bar, and once a month, he orchestrates his own local showcase, getting bands who would normally be seen in Dallas, Denton or Fort Worth to instead play in Allen.

Not only was it convenient to get to for me, the price of admission was also free.

The first room you walk into is the one with the stage, and there were several rows of tables filling it. It’s certainly not the club atmosphere where you often have little option but to stand. Instead, it encourages you to set and relax while you enjoy the entertainment (along with a drink and even some grub). A little different for me, though I found it kind of nice.

A solo artist was on stage (I didn’t catch her name and only saw the last couple of songs), and once she got off stage, they guys of Daylight Industries began lugging their gear up there.

The stage was nice. Much better than what I’ve seen at some other restaurant/bar places I’ve been to, looking like it was built with that intention, rather than something that was hastily thrown together as an afterthought.

I had seen the Southern Gypsy rockers just a month before, on what was the biggest night of their career (they received a plaque on the Wall of Fame at The Curtain Club); and the setlist was very similar to that night.

The five-piece opened with one of their newer songs, which I believe was “Gravity”; and they didn’t let the different setting impact their show in the least. Actually, no band this night did. Lead guitarist Brandon Tyner was slinging his guitar around while brutalizing the strings on it. They didn’t allow for any downtime, and continued the onslaught by immediately going into “White Russians”.

They didn’t have as much room to move about, though everyone was making use of what they had. Keith Allen walked about — mic in hand — as he shouted out the lyrics; and there were two points when Stephen Smith rose up from his seat behind the drum kit, before striking the cymbals with a devastating force.

They took a break now, and while I had trouble hearing the full conversation, Keith said something about he had four kids, in response to something one of the onlookers had said to him. “…That’s not a plea for help. That’s the fucking truth,” he remarked. He then did the “obligatory glass raise” (as he called it), making a toast to all who were there; while Steve pointed out that his parents were there.

“Aphasia” brought the pace down a bit, with its more melodic, though technical riffs of each verse. Bassist Barry Townsend let loose on the chorus, however, jumping back and forth on his little slice of the stage. Rhythm guitarist Ruvayne Weber was more or less doing the same on stage right, and perhaps it was because I was seated looking directly at that part of the stage, but he had my attention more than anyone else this night. He killed it from start to finish, and honestly, I thought he was even better this night than any other show I’ve seen them do since welcoming him to the band.

Steve dove straight into “Wandering”; the in-your-face drum beats soon giving way to what is the most furious, and subsequently one of the best songs they do live. They even had a little fun with it, extending the break before the final chorus, causing all of them to look anxiously at Keith, just waiting for him to belt out the next line, their cue to come back in. No sooner had it ended, and then Brandon launched into the opening riffs of “Western Sky”, their slightly reggae sounding number.

“…We’re Allen’s premier Johnny Cash tribute band,” Keith joked once that song was over. The laughs continued when he asked if everybody had a drink. “This is a little game we play called ‘Drink’,” he said shortly before “Junkie Logic”, which saw Ruvayne showcasing his skills on the guitar as he simultaneously ran one hand up the neck of it and another down it at one point.

“Are we boring y’all?” Keith asked, checking in on everyone afterwards. There was no real response, prompting him to look at it as the glass being half-full. “I didn’t hear a no,” he laughed, before they got to another newer song that will most likely be on their upcoming full-length record. Upon finishing it, he said it was called, “Fifteen Beers”. It was followed with the title track from their current EP, “Faith Healer”, which came complete with a clap along moment the band instigated towards the end.

“…Are we doing all three?” Keith asked his band mates, trying to figure out how the remainder of their set was going to play out. “We’ll be here a minute,” he quipped, as they continued discussing things.

They axed one song from the list, and then did what Keith said was called, “Never give a drunk man a microphone.” It was actually “Sit In”, and Barry really came to life on that high-energy number, thrashing around and hopping about, while Steve again stood up from his kit at the tail end.

“…I’m trying not to curse…” Keith remarked in the pause before their final song. He had done pretty well this night, not using too many expletives, though, most likely with intended irony, he dropped a few crude words then. With that, Ruvayne started them off on “Weight of the World”, another new song and the closer to their 41-minute long set. It was one Steve was clearly enjoying, as he was often mouthing along to the words.

“Thank you, you’ve been a great crowd,” Keith told everyone as feedback from the guitars filled the room, lasting for upwards of a couple of minutes.

This was a stark contrast from their last show, and not just due to the different setting. They didn’t have nearly as much riding on this one, which allowed for them to be a little more carefree. They’re a band who always has fun in the first place, but they were able to go with the flow more this night, like when one of Brandons’ pieces of gear quit on him, (I honestly didn’t even realize it until he said something to me after the show. It didn’t really change the sound out in the crowd.)

This night was all about having a good time, but even when having fun, Daylight Industries still provides a quality performance that not just every band is capable of.

You can buy their music in iTUNES, and also get several free downloads on their REVERBNATION. As for shows, they have a gig at The Rail in Fort Worth on September 5th, then one at The Boiler Room in Dallas on October 18th.

After them, was Red Angel Theory, a band who I had not seen in far too long. A year or more to be exact.

“How you guys doing?” frontwoman Monica Koohi asked as they took the stage to begin delivering what was the longest set of the night (an impressive 53-minutes.)

They had some newer songs in the mix, some of which I had heard before, and others I hadn’t, like their opener. Early on in it, the microphone came unplugged, and I think it took everyone (including Monica) just a second or two to realize what had happened, before she quickly fixed it. She often prowled around the stage this night, resting her foot on one of the monitors at times as she surveyed the crowd, and at one point during this song, she even crouched down as she sang, getting more on eye level with everyone. It came to a roaring close with some aggressive beats from Nick Sarabia, while guitarist Brandon Deaton stamped his foot along to it.

“This song’s called Shattered,” Monica announced, while a sample track bridged the gap from the first song into it. It was one track that Nick added some backing vocals on; and Brandon violently thrashed about on the second chorus, to the point his head came fairly close to the floor. Nick then segued them into their next number. “This is called Quarantine,” Monica informed everyone, then shouted, “Let’s go!”

They were definitely in charge of the crowd by that point; and after racing through that number, Monica checked to make sure everybody was still with them, while a spacy sounding track softly played in the background. The already hard rock band tapped into an even heavier side with “Scream”, which saw not only Nick, but also Monica doing some vicious, throaty screams at times. When Monica was belting it out, she leaned back and held the mic above her head, making for an awesome pose.

They rolled it right into the next song, but only after a music bed that quickly transformed into a guitar solo. Monica dropped to her knees during that time, getting caught up in the music for a moment before saying, “…If you’re still breathing, that’s a reason to stay alive.” As the music picked back up, Phil Sahs added his bass to the mix of the song that, for any old fans, was once known as “The Darkness”, but has now been completely rewritten (lyrically), and tweaked just a bit. It sounded great.

“Did you like that?” Monica asked as they hit a break, during which time a patron asked who they were. She told him, and he responded with “Y’all are awesome.” “He said we’re awesome, what do you think?” she asked, checking on the rest of the room, who seemed to echo that sentiment. She touched on the fact that without fans, they wouldn’t be anything, and then they had some fun.

I have never seen Red Angel Theory do a cover song before, but within the last year, they’ve apparently started trying their hand at it.

They spiced up the Simple Minds’ classic, “Don’t You (Forget About Me”), giving it more of an edge, yet it still retained its catchy, poppy style. “Do you remember that one?” Monica asked once it was finished. Brandon then leaned in and said something to her. “He said he heard it in movies when they were in the theater,” she said, of what Brandon had told her. “I only saw it on VHS,” she added. They then switched gears from that 80’s pop classic and did “Voodoo Child”, where Brandon really got to showcase his chops with one solo after another. Simply put, he slayed.

“Can I get more water? I’m making a mess up here,” Monica requested after that one, laughing a bit. The glass she had up there had been knocked over during that last tune. What came next was another new song (to me, at least), and it was the rawest thing I’ve heard the band do. It caught me off guard, because it was much more intense than anything I was expecting from them, and that was a nice feeling. More monstrous screams were prominently featured during it; and then they started winding down.

“Are you still with us?” Monica asked before “Suffocate”, a song that had Phil getting quite into it. “Inception” is still my personal favorite Red Angel Theory tune, and the rest of the onlookers seemed to react pretty strongly to it as well. On the first chorus, Monica stood in front of the microphone and waved her hands about in the air. Before going any further, she wished a happy birthday to Nick, and then they wrapped things up with “When the Dust Settles”, which brought things to a powerful finish.

The one good thing about going so long without seeing a band as you can instantly see their growth, and Red Angel Theory has undergone a lot in the last year.

They were even tighter and more cohesive than before. Brandon has gotten even more lively, as has Phil; and even in an environment like this, that’s a little different from your normal concert experience, Monica was constantly a riveting figure whom you couldn’t take your eyes off of.

You could tell all four of them have been pouring a lot of time into the new songs and even the band itself, and they’ve reached a whole other level because of it.

You can find the Rise for Something EP in iTUNES. Hopefully later in the year they’ll have another record to add to their discography, too. Their next show will be September 6th at The Rail in Fort Worth; and on the 13th they’ll be at Trees in Dallas. They also have a gig in Greenville at The Hanger on October 11th.

Wes Ford and The Foundry had the final slot this night. I’ve been hearing great things about the trio for about a year or so now, but had yet to see them play; and based on all the rabid fans they had brought out this night, it looked like it was going to be a great show.

Before getting to the Southern hard rock music, they began with some humor, as bassist Scott Arndt mentioned they could be found on Facebook, Reverbnation and such. You can find Wesley on Porn Hub…” he cracked, speaking of singer and guitarist Wes Ford. He named a few other adult oriented sites. “What’s the new one?” he asked Wes, who didn’t have an answer for him. They then started to lay down some heavy and thick tracks that immediately had you thinking, “These guys are awesome!” In just a couple of songs, they were definitely living up to the hype I had heard.

After a few songs, Scott said he was going to introduce everyone, and in an original twist, he proceeded to name off members of the crowd. “Oh, you meant the band!” he suddenly realized, as he pointed out drummer Jeff Michnal and Wes. “…My name’s None ya businesses. I got warrants out and shit,” Scott then quipped. He wasn’t through with the comedy yet. He now asked if everyone was tipping their bartenders. “…It’s not just a city in China,” was the unexpected punch line; and then he added someone had confused him earlier when they told him the city was in South Korea.

They got back to it with “Dying Bed”; and right at the start, Jeff flipped a drumstick into the air. It went way off to the side, where he didn’t stand a chance at catching it. Still, it was cool in a slightly funny way. The lengthy song was as much of an instrumental jam as it was sung, making for a nice balance. “Swamp Chomp” came after, and while it was a similar structure, it was a little more bluesy sounding.

“Do you like love songs?” asked Scott before their next track, one that Wes pointed out afterwards was written about his ex-wife (it wasn’t a good thing). They then finished their 47-minute long set with what was a bit of a sing along at times, though the raw rock vibe was still there; and at one line, when saying, “Fuck”, Wes waved his middle finger in the air.

They had an overwhelming presence about them; and I know there were several people there who hadn’t seen the band before and found themselves unable to pull away while they were on stage.

The music may not be cutting edge, but they bring a refreshing element to it, and every song brought something different to the table.

Their next show will be in Dallas at The Curtain Club on September 6th.

The Dirty Rooster is really a great place to see live music, and all three of these bands helped make my first experience there an excellent one.

The lighting and sound are both high quality (not necessarily equivalent to venues that are specifically suited for this, but also far superior to many of their counterparts.) It provides a good atmosphere, very welcoming; and it caters to all types. From people who may want to grab a drink, to those looking to relax with a game of pool or darts, and, of course, the music lovers.

Larry presents this showcase on the third Saturday of every month, so September 20th will be the next installment. If there’s ever a band playing you like, or maybe you don’t have anything to do, go check it out. It really exceeded my expectations. It’d be nice if this could also become a little more frequent than once a month, too. Who knows, it could even make Allen a hotspot to go hear some local music.

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014 – Sidewise Serves Up a Heavy Dose of Rock at Cain’s Ballroom

For the first time in a little more than five years I went to see a concert in the city of Tulsa, Oklahoma. The only other time I’ve made the drive up there from Dallas was when Dallas (and Mid-West) legends The FEDS performed their farewell show in early ‘09.

At least this show was under happier circumstances.

I was pulling double duty, reviewing Sevendusts’ set for On Tour Monthly and Gemini Syndromes’ for this site. A couple other bands were joining them at Cain’s Ballroom this night, though. The Kansas City, Kansas-based Sidewise was one of them.

The quintet mixed metal and hard rock together, which was readily apparent from their opener, “Farewell to Virtue”. There was a lot of force behind it, making it easy to head bang to; and one of the guitarists, Matt Wilkinson, viciously screamed on some of the backing vocals. On the flipside, frontman Nico gave the music a semi-melodic component, singing in a hevy, yet smoother tone much of the night.

“…We’re from Kansas City…” he informed everyone afterwards, before announcing their next song was titled “Reconnect”. It was catchy in some regards, with potential to even be a good sing along to audiences that are familiar with it, something they didn’t have this night. “Make some noise, Tulsa!” roared Nico towards the end of it. It was around then that Sean Thibodeaux wound up breaking one of his guitar strings, and he quickly retreated to go grab a new axe. “We have a new album out…” Nico mentioned while killing time, adding that everything they were doing this night was off the Made of Matches record.

“The Fool I Am” was another song that had Jason Dean pounding out some hefty beats on the drum kit, and Josh Graves rounded out the good rhythm section with some good bass lines, while Sean and Matt ran about the stage. “Give it up for our brothers in Moks of Mellonwah who opened,” requested Nico, before they did what I thought was one of their best tracks of the night, “Prism”. “…Here I stand before you with my heart engulfed in flames…” went one of the lines on the first verse, before getting to the chorus of, “Why can’t you see this light that I’m shining through you? It never burned so bright, but I still can’t get through to reach the other side…” Lyrically it was an awesome song, and the music bed packed a serious punch, again mining more of the metal variety.

“Make some noise for yourself, Tulsa,” Nico told the crowd once they were done, really liking how much people seemed to be enjoying it. He let everyone know they might recognize the next one. Singing along was also encouraged, but before they could get it going, they lost the kick drum. “We can’t have a show without kick,” Nico halfway joked with the sound guy while he tried to resolve the issue. It delayed them just a few moments, and then they got to the song going. “Do you know it yet?” Nico asked shortly into the intro. It was “Head Like a Hole” by Nine Inch Nails, which struck me as funny in a way, considering I had seen NIN just two days prior to this. They did a good cover of it. They gave it more of a harder edge to fit their style; and Nico packed a lot of energy into it, really getting into the song. The audience liked it, too, and several were singing along.

“That was great,” he told everyone of their participation. The people weren’t done yet, though. “Let’s see some hands!” shouted Nico, as his band mates got “The Final Awakening” underway. Some horns went up in the air, while others started clapping along with the beat of what is the final track on their latest release. “If you guys feel like I do, I want to hear you scream!” declared Nico before an instrumental break, succeeding in getting a rise from people.

The band showed off more of their metal side with “Our Last Words”, which was a drastic change of pace from their other material in my opinion. I’m not even saying that was a bad thing, but the extreme screams that Nico and Matt did at times definitely woke you up and got your attention. The four of them on the forefront of the stage all thrashed about in unison with one another at times; and there was even a point when Sean jumped into the air and spun around.

“Cain’s Ballroom, we have one more…” Nico said, a little sadness seeping into his voice over the fact their time was almost up. “…Let’s see you guys moving out there,” he finished. With the last couple of songs, they had been getting progressively heavier, and “Breath to Breathe” took the cake as being the most intense thing they did this night. Nico offered one more word of thanks as he finished the vocals, then left the stage for Matt, Sean, Josh and Jason to do an instrumental outro as their 30-minute long set ended.

They worked great on this bill, being very similar in style to the headliner and main support act they were setting the stage for; and based on the interactions they had going on at times with the crowd, I think a lot of people enjoyed them, too.

Their stage presence was pretty strong, and the energy they put into it all ensured they had your attention. Nico was a compelling frontman; and your eyes gravitated towards all five of them, as they each excelled at different points on everything they did this night.

Especially if you like heavier rock music, then Sidewise is a band you at least need to listen to. If they ever get down to Dallas, I’d be game to see them again, too.

Along with their newest album, they have a few others available in iTUNES.

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014 – Monks of Mellonwah Warm Up the Crowd at Cain’s Ballroom

For the first time in a little more than five years I went to see a concert in the city of Tulsa, Oklahoma. The only other time I’ve made the drive up there from Dallas was when Dallas (and Mid-West) legends The FEDS performed their farewell show in early ‘09.

At least this show was under happier circumstances.

I was pulling double duty, reviewing Sevendusts’ set for On Tour Monthly and Gemini Syndromes’ for this site. A couple other bands were joining them at Cain’s Ballroom this night, though. Like the opener, Monks of Mellonwah.

The band from Sydney, Australia has been touring the states for a bit, and wound up landing a spot on a few of these final dates Sevendust had planned.

Style wise, they were different, fitting more of an alt rock, even indie sound. The early birds who got here didn’t seem to mind they weren’t hard rock, though; and those who had made it out for their 6:30 start time gathered around the stage as lead guitarist Joe de la Hoyde, bassist John de la Hoyde and drummer Josh Baissari began a lengthy, serene intro. It was “Ghost Stories Intro”, the first track off the Turn the People record; and soon, vocalist and rhythm guitarist Vikram Kaushik stepped on stage, as they rolled it into “Ghost Stories”. The peaceful pace of that intro didn’t last much longer, though; and later on, Joe tore things up with a guitar solo that led to a sensational finish.

They rolled it right into “Afraid To Die”, and John was thrashing about while laying down his bass riffs, which dominated much of the tune. “It’s a pleasure to be here in Tulsa…” Vikram remarked afterwards, and he also acknowledged what an historic venue Cain’s was, as well as dropping the word, “crikey” while he was speaking. (I couldn’t help but think of The Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin when he said it.)

Vikram showed off the falsetto voice he is capable of at times on the catchy “Tear Your Hate Apart”; and upon finishing it, he pointed out they had a few “second timers”  there. He took a moment to work on a rapport with everyone, first thanking those fans for coming back, saying he did remember them and he was glad they made it back out. He then talked about their time in the U.S. “We came here a few months ago and thought we’d only be here a few weeks. Then we wound up on tour after tour…” he noted.

It was already easy to see why one thing had led to another for these Aussies, because their songs were both catchy and deep (in a lyrical sense). “…Come chat with us…” Vikram then urged everyone to do after their set. “…You can make fun of our accents, or we can try our Yankee accents on you,” he joked. Shortly afterwards, they initiated a clap along with the onlookers, and the beats Josh was laying down at the start of “Pulse” was perfect to clap along to. However, not many people joined along at first, prompting Vikram to playfully ask, “Are you too cool to clap or what?”

“It’s time for our ballad,” he told the crowd before their next song, adding they could “feel free to cry”. I don’t believe any tears were shed, though it was a lovely song. Joe and Vikram even got face to face with one another and jammed at one point, really slowing things down before Josh started working on a massive build up.

They had saved the best for last, and for the final song of their 25-minute long set, they went back to the Stars Are Out EP, performing “Swamp Groove”. It was quite bluesy at first, and while it retained those elements throughout, it spiked and became a powerhouse number filled with soaring guitar solos and mighty drumbeats that saw Josh become a madman behind the kit.

I didn’t know what to expect from the openers, since I had never heard of the first two before, but man, Monks of Mellonwah were a nice one to stumble across.

In terms of genre, they may have been a stark contrast from Sevendust and Gemini Syndrome, but honestly, the semi-indie style rock is often what I prefer.

As I kind of touched on earlier, they make it a little fresh. Maybe not groundbreaking, but while their music did have a certain radio friendly vibe, there was, again — as I previously mentioned — depth to the songs. They’re a solid group, too, and were extremely tight this night; no doubt a side effect from all the time they’ve been spending on the road.

Those who did show up early really seemed to enjoy these guys, and I know I’ll be seeing Monks of Mellonwah in the future. So, here’s to hoping a Dallas show will happen sometime down the road.

If you want to stay up on their goings on, check out their FACEBOOK PAGE. As for their albums, you can find those in iTUNES.

Saturday, August 23rd, 2014 – Somebody’s Darling Rolls a Homecoming and Album Release Show into One Grand Event

This night wasn’t all that different from October 6th, 2012.

Well, it was considerably warmer than that October night nearly two years ago; but the other circumstances were quite similar.

Back in late 2012, Somebody’s Darling finished up a tour in their hometown, a show that also served as the album release party for their sophomore record, Jack City Shakedown.

The venue was different this night, and Trees can accommodate far more people than the club they did their last CD release at. The space was needed, too. This was also their first show back since completing a tour, which included some dates in Wisconsin and Illinois earlier in the month, while this Dallas show was their fourth straight, after doing a run through Houston, San Antonio and Austin.

Trees was pretty packed even during the main support act; and when 10:30 rolled around, people were already claiming their spots in front of the stage. By the time the curtain opened at 10:50, you were pretty much stuck where you were at, as folks stood shoulder to shoulder with one another.

The band had promised to play everything off the new album Adult Roommates, and they began tackling the release with the sixth cut off it, “Vowels Flow”. “Where’s your honey? Where’s your soul?” singer and rhythm guitarist Amber Farris crooned at the start, adding a lot of soul into the roots/rock number. Their performance exploded before the final chorus, when the quintet went all-out on the instrumental section, and Amber hunched over her guitar, tearing it up, as she first walked over to lead guitarist David Ponder, and then went to bassist Wade Cofer on stage left, before returning to the main mic.

“Alright!” she shouted in her twangy voice, as if to say they were just getting warmed up. With that, they went into the newly released single and lead track, “Bad Bad”, with Nate Wedan laying down a beat that was perfect to bob your head to. These songs may be new, but they have been worked into the live shows for months. Even back in January and February (the last two times I saw them) they were doing large amounts of new material. So, their fans are familiar with them, and that was what was cool about tonight. People already love these songs, and “Bad Bad” was one that received some mighty cheers as they started it.

The night wasn’t entirely about the new stuff, though.

“Where you at, Dallas?! Where you at?!” Amber asked, getting a loud response from everyone. “Let me tell you something,” she added. Nate had already started on the drum bed for the next song, and Amber then jumped right into the lyrics. “Well, I believe God made a lover for me…” she sang on “Back to the Bottle”. They played half of the songs from that previous release, and this one raised the excitement level considerably, especially during the instrumental jam, where the keys Mike Talley was playing where highlighted. David and Amber stood back to front with each other as they cranked out some notes, and shortly after, she and Wade were face to face with one another, rocking out. Her face was seldom seen during that time, as it was shrouded by her long, curly locks.

“Thanks, goddammit!” exclaimed Amber after brushing the hair from her face. “How you doing, Trees?!” she then asked, getting another rise from everyone. “That feels good. I love you guys!” she remarked with a warm smile on her face. As she spoke, a large cloud of smoke billowed out from the stage towards the audience; and then they went for one of their heartbreakers. Upon hearing it back in January, “Come to Realize” was an instant favorite of mine; and I do believe they made some tweaks while recording it. It sounded more fleshed out than I recalled, though it’s still wrought with emotion. “So I think about the morning, the way the coffee fell, and I came to realize I was by myself. And I wanted to know, was it me? Was it you?” goes the second verse of the song that epitomizes heartache. Wade lent his voice to the track, helping with some backing vocals on the chorus, and together, he and Amber sounded quite impressive.

“We’re selfish, and we like to throw parties for ourselves,” Amber joked afterwards, saying that was why they had The Suffers open up for them (that soul band from Houston had a party going in their own right.) “Let’s do it!” Amber finished, informing everyone this next song was titled “Set It Up”. David served up a superb solo during it; and upon finishing it, Amber mentioned that everyone in the band had done some writing on this new album, something that hasn’t happened in the past.

Mike was responsible for writing the next one. “It goes like this,” stated Amber. Mike and Wade crooned along with her on the profound chorus of “End of the Line”, “This is the oldest we have been; this is the youngest we will ever be.” There were many haunting elements about it as they slowed the pace down; and upon reaching the final chorus, the crowd burst into another round of cheers.

“Where you at, Dallas?!” Amber again asked, before informing everyone they had got home at five in the morning after their show in Austin. “This is why we do this,” she said, beaming at all the North Texas residents who had come out to support this night. David showed off his skills with another slickly done solo during “Same Record”; and once it was over, Amber asked for everyone to give it up for Wesley [Geiger], who had opened the show. “Once again, we’re selfish. We like to throw parties,” she joked.

“Alright, now here we go,” she said, as they brought out another oldie in the form of “Weight of the Fear”. The one thing with older tracks a band has been playing for a few years is that they have done it so many times, it’s just second nature. That was highlighted with that staple from Jank City. The clap along that came at the lull made everyone a part of the song; and David was killing it, often capturing everyone’s full attention.

“Cheers, Dallas!” Amber shouted, making a toast to all their friends and fans. “…We’ve been a band for a long time, and we’re excited to still be doing it,” she said, speaking of having a chance to put out yet another record. That said, they kept going with album number two, by doing “Keep Shakin’”. The amount of cheers and whistling that followed the end of that song was unreal. Everyone here was a die-hard Somebody’s Darling fan, and they were making it well known.

“Can I introduce the band?” asked Amber, who then took a few minutes to introduce “Red Pants on guitar” (AKA David Ponder), as well as Nate “Grizzly Bear”. “I stole the best bass player in town, and I don’t feel bad about it,” she remarked before naming Wade. Once that was taken care of, Amber swapped out her electric guitar for an acoustic. She said a few of them had a hand in writing this next one, as did Jonathan Tyler (of Jonathan Tyler & The Northern Lights.) It was the next to last song off the album, “Smoke Blows”, and despite the acoustic, it wasn’t that slow of a song.

The five-piece even dug all the way back to their first album, and the lone track they did from it was “Cold Hearted Lover”. Even now, it’s still a beloved tune, and peoples reaction to it this night proved that. Afterwards, something surprising happened. Wade, who is usually silent sans the backing vocals, spoke. “You guys know how to bounce?” he asked. “Come on, we need everybody to bounce,” he said, trying to get some movement going before one of the singles off Jank City Shakedown, “Cold Hands”. There wasn’t much jumping about, though Amber did try to get another clap along going. It started off slow, with few participants, though. “I see you in the back. We’re not starting till you’re all doing it,” she told the audience, prompting some more people to get involved. “I need this!” she shouted enthusiastically.

No sooner had they finished, and then David started them onto to the next one. Amber just laughed and shook her head. “We weren’t gonna do it, but let’s do it. Screw it,” she said. In the last year plus, they’ve made Faces’ “Stay with Me” into a staple of their longer sets, and I don’t think anyone would have viewed the night complete if they hadn’t done it. It became a massive sing-along, not just with the crowds aiding them, but also some of the many musicians who had come out to support their friends this night. Most of Goodnight Ned got up on stage and helped on the choruses, as did Corey Howe, from Dead Flowers.

“We’re happy that Trees let us party here tonight,” said Amber, thanking the venue one last time before they wrapped their 68-minute long set up with the final track, “Keep This Up”. More clapping was required as they gave their set a fun sendoff, as was singing. Even if people didn’t know the lyrics, the refrain of, “How can I keep this up?” was easy to pick up on.

If there hadn’t been a couple of songs missing, you would have thought they were done. But everyone knew better, and after a couple minutes of shouting, Amber ran back down the stairs from the green room and out on the stage.

“We got to get the boys out!” she said, looking that way. David returned, as did Nate, who simply sit behind the kit and watched his band mates during “Two Lords”. Amber had her hands free, and David grabbed the acoustic. “…It’s super meaningful to us. We wrote it about a buddy of ours,” she said before the song, which deals with two fellow musicians who took their own lives. “…I wish I could have told them I’d hate they way they leave,” went one of the lines of what was a chilling song, and one only those familiar with the D/FW music scene will truly understand and appreciate.

The full band was intact now, and they had saved their biggest two for last. “Wedding Clothes” was one; and as Nate rolled them into the last song, he proceeded to clap along to the beat he was delivering on the kick drum. Much of the crowd joined along. “Generator” was the final song they had to do off Adult Roommates, and it has been a routine closer for many months now. “Thank you again Dallas for coming out…” Amber said during the instrumental break, pointing out that the album wouldn’t be available digitally until September 16th, so everyone here was getting the “exclusive”.

That powerhouse number concluded not only their 14-minute long encore, but also one epic night.

This was what an album release show should be. A club packed with fans who are anxious not only about getting their hands on the latest release from a band they love, but also seeing them pull out all the stops to make this something more than just your average show.

The last few times I had seen Somebody’s Darling they were clicking on a level that affirmed they were one of the areas’ best. That was still holding true this night. The showmanship, the musicianship and even the way it was all executed was no different from that of a bigger ticket act you’d pay good money to see here at Trees.

That’s why Somebody’s Darling has built such a solid reputation not only here in Dallas/Fort Worth, but even in the Mid-West — where they often tour. That’s why they can pack out pretty much ever show they do: because they deliver an experience each time they take the stage.

It’s only been five years since they released album number one, and each follow-up they’ve put out in the last few years has proven to be a cut above their previous material. With Adult Roommates, they’ve crafted something that has more depth and feeling and in a more mature manner than their previous stuff; and in a couple of years, I think it’s safe to assume we’ll be talking about another album, where they have outdone themselves yet again.

“Bad Bad” is available as a single, with the full album dropping on September 16th. In the meantime, if you don’t have their first two records, you can get them in iTUNES (as well as pre-order Adult Roommates.) Their next show will be on September 13th at Panther Island Pavilion in Fort Worth (as part of The Toadies Dia de los Toadies music festival). They also have a short tour planned in October, with shows in Atlanta, GA; Charlotte, NC; and Raleigh, NC, on October 17th, 18th, and 19th, respectively. Specifics can be found HERE.

Friday, August 8th, 2014 – Andrew Tinker Gets the Party Going at House of Blues

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Opening up the party Exit 380 was throwing for themselves in celebration of their first ever vinyl record was Andrew Tinker.

It was fitting that the Denton-based musician be on the bill, given he recorded Exit 380s’ Photomaps record at Big Acre Sound. He wasn’t alone, though, and had a couple band mates to make this a full-band show.

Part of me was skeptical in a way, because after seeing him solo a few months prior, it was absolutely chilling, while another part of me was excited to see what kind of difference a full-band made.

The trio of Andrew Tinker, bassist Jacob Smith and drummer Lupe Barrera (who was so new, he had only done a couple of rehearsals with them) got their show going with a catchy, upbeat number. “…Lord knows it’s been quite, but the music never dies…” went one of the lines from the chorus. As it neared the end, Andrews’ playing on his guitar got less intense, while Lupe also greatly softened his drumming, as the three of them bridged themselves perfectly into their next track.
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One of the most striking parts of the entire night came at the end of it, when Andrew belted out some of the line a cappella. It was jaw dropping. He formally introduced his band mates before they tackled “I Can’t Do it Alone”, which was one of several songs they did from the Upon the Ecliptic album. The song about realizing you do need others to help you along your journey is a beautiful one; and the bass and drums made it all the more inspiring.

“…Must have been in love, must have been out of my mind… To think that you would stay through another season or two…” crooned Andrew, with nothing but his voice filling the Cambridge Room of the House of Blues. He went a little further into “Must Have Been in Love”, before he placed his hands back on his guitar and his band mates joined along, creating a sort of cinematic effect. A light drum roll then segued them into “So Does a Season End”, which found each instrument getting its moment. Andrew started the break by busting out a harmonica and doing a solo, which snowballed into a drum solo, and then Jacob letting loose some thick bass lines, as they gradually brought it back up and exploded into the final part of the song.

The soulful and poppy sounds continued with “I’ll Come Around”; and they kept the great flow they had going alive as Andrew quickly strummed on his axe, relenting some when they began “Always Loved”. Another lengthy instrumental break was thrown in, and it turned into a drum solo, with Jacob quickly getting in on the action. Eventually, they backed off it, creating the impression the song was almost done, but that was when Andrew struck with a guitar solo.
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They offered up one last song — another peaceful number — and that concluded their 43-minute long set.

Like I said, I was a little hesitant as to how the full-band would sound, ‘cause Andrew Tinker is the epitome of what a singer/songwriter should be in its rawest form, but man, the additional band members made the music so much more powerful in every regard.

The tight trio gave the songs more of a punch; and with it being fleshed out, the lyrics even seemed to carry more weight. Making it all the more impressive was knowing that Lupe had only practiced with them a couple of times, because they all looked like they had more chemistry with each other than that.

If you got out here early enough this night, you witnessed something special; and it proved to me that Andrew Tinker excels in all musical environments, be it with a band or alone.

He has a couple of records available in iTUNES, which you should definitely check out if you don’t have them.
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image(Photo credit: Ronnie Jackson Photography)

Sunday, August 10th, 2014 - No Weapon Formed Delivers a Precise Rock Show at The Curtain Club

The Saving Abel show wasn’t originally supposed to be held at The Curtain Club, but that was where it wound up. I was okay with that, given my immense love for the venue; and actually, it made me all the more excited to see the stacked bill of local talent that had been assembled to open the show.

No Weapon Formed took the stage with quite a few eyes on them. Many were fans — some sporting their NWF shirts; and frontman Brandon Thomas stepped on stage shortly after his band mates got their opening number going. Lead guitarist Josh Presley started showing off his skills from the get go, knocking out a killer solo at one point in the track, before they dove right into the next. Drummer Dylan Burt quickly grabbed his kick drum and pulled it closer (I think it had moved slightly during that song), and then joined them.

“Thank you.” Brandon told the crowd once they had finished the track. They didn’t allow much downtime, and now rhythm guitarist Nolan Bradvica opened up their next tune, which ended with an instrumental outro between he, Josh, Dylan and bassist Soleh, while Brandon exited the stage to allow the crowd to fully focus on them. “We love Curtain Club. This is like our second home.” Brandon remarked before they unleashed another couple of songs. Brandon seemed even more charismatic than usual on the latter of those two; and both he and Josh harmonized at one point on the track, which sounded awesome. Perhaps the best point came at the end, when Brandon grabbed the mic stand and pulled it off side to his left, though he was still screaming loud enough it had no trouble picking up the sound.

It was here they found out their set was nearly over, prompting a decision to have to be made on what to close with. They choose what Brandon called their “best one”. It was, indeed, one of the highlights from their 27-minute long set, and during it, he again thanked the Curtain Club for having them out. “We fucking love you!” he told the crowd, shortly before they brought it to a rip-roaring end.

Having to axe one song may have been slightly disappointing for the band, but that didn’t dampen what was a killer show.

They have a great sound that’s not solely hard rock, but certainly isn’t just your standard rock music, either; and the wails Brandon is capable of evokes almost an 80’s rock sound.

It’s good stuff; and you should go see them if you get the chance.

They’ll be at The Rail in Fort Worth on September 5th; then on the 20th of that month you can find them at The Boiler Room in Dallas.

Sunday, August 10th, 2014 - Story of a Ghost Makes Their Mark on Dallas

The Saving Abel show wasn’t originally supposed to be held at The Curtain Club, but that was where it wound up. I was okay with that, given my immense love for the venue; and actually, it made me all the more excited to see the stacked bill of local talent that had been assembled to open the show.

For the past few shows, Story of a Ghost had been playing main support to Saving Abel; and this was their final show of their run with them.

The quartet hailed from Joplin, Missouri; and when the curtain opened on them, Logan Graves was putting a beat down on the drums. Bassist Rikki Ramirez emerged from stage right shortly after; and guitarist Aaron Hearse wasn’t far behind. The roaring instrumental intro earned them lots of attention, though the venue wasn’t nearly as crowded as it had been for the local act before them.

“How the hell you doing Dallas, Texas?!” frontman Davin Casey asked once they were done. “…Let’s make it a helluva night!” he shouted after mentioning this was their final date with Saving Abel. Rikki proceeded to clap his hands together, eventually getting much of the couple dozen people watching them to do the same; and there came a point in the track when Aaron rushed off the stage and stood with the crowd as he rocked out.

“This kinda shit does not happen in Joplin!” stated Davin, who was riding high on the crowds’ energy. Number wise, the audience may not have been strong, though people were very engaged with the outfit. “…This is a Texas exclusive!” he remarked, before glancing at all the plaques of bands that adorn the Wall of Fame. Some of them went on to achieve national fame, others will always be Dallas legends, but the one constant as they all cut their teeth here at the Curtain. He said something to the effect that this place was here because of all those bands, and then they launched into another song. Davin screamed some on that track, and when he was doing it, he executed excellent control over his voice. Really, it was impressive to hear; and when it hit a lull, he moved over to the keyboard that sit in the stairwell on and off the stage.

“I don’t know if you know this, but it’s fucking hot in Texas,” he remarked afterwards. The audience cheered, affirming they were all too familiar with this. “Are there any rock fans here?” he then asked, using that to setup a cover of “Wasteland” by 10 Years, which concluded with Aaron again getting out in the crowd.

There were some fans out there who were familiar with Story of a Ghost before this night, and now, Davin pointed them out, saying he thought they’d know this one. “…I don’t expect you to sing it with me, though,” he told them, clearly wanting to be proved wrong. So, a few people were happy to do that, and did help them out on “March”, which was backed up with a strong stage performance. With that, they were already onto the final number of their 28-minute long set; and during it, Aaron jumped into the air, doing a nice 360° spin while he was up there.

Their hard rock style was very melodic, and at times sounded a little commercialized, but not in a negative way. In fact, it gives it a broader appeal to your general audience, which of course can’t hurt any band.

They were very tight and had some great chemistry with one another, which really showed through during their performance. Would I go see them again? Yes, yes I would.

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014 – Gemini Syndrome Goes Full Throttle at Cain’s Ballroom

Just in seeing the Gemini Syndrome banner being put up on stage was enough to send their die-hard group of fans into fits of excitement.
image(Photo credit: Ronnie Jackson Photography)

The Los Angeles-based hard rock outfit was doing main support for Sevendust on this current tour; and even on a Tuesday night at Cain’s Ballroom in Tulsa, Oklahoma, they had a strong showing of fans out.

Causing even more excitement was vocalist Aaron Nordstrom, who wandered out in the crowd several minute before they hit the stage, even posing for a picture with one very young fan. It was cool to see.

The lineup was a little different this night, as it was one of the dates Rich Juzwick was missing to attend to personal matters, meaning Gemini Syndrome would be performing as a four-piece.

The audiences’ anticipation mounted when the house lights dimmed, and many roared at the top of their lungs. Nordstrom bowed to the spectators after he stepped out on stage. “Tulsa! Tulsa!” he yelled, getting substantially louder with the second one, before screaming in more of a heavy metal voice, “OKLAHOMA!”

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(Photo credit: Ronnie Jackson Photography)

With that, their intro faded out, and they jumped in to the super heavy, “Resurrection”. Guitarist Mike Salerno and Nordstroms’ vocal interaction on the first couple of verses is really something to see live, with Salerno screaming one word in a throaty voice, before Nordstrom repeats it in a slightly less intense tone. Drummer Brian Medinas’ actions easily earned him people’s attention as well, from tossing one of his drum sticks into the air and then standing to catch it, to bowing to Salerno during his stellar guitar solo. Upon finishing the song, Medina again rose up from his seat, beaming at the crowd.

“How we feeling tonight? Is everybody ready for this?!” Nordstrom asked, checking in on everyone. Not only was the crowd ready for this, they seemed to have been waiting for it for weeks. “Here we go,” he finished, as they began “Falling Apart”. Bassist AP and Medina delivered a monstrous rhythm section on the track, particularly at the start; and plenty of fans were singing right along to the chorus, “…You push me to the side every single time, and I can’t help you from falling apart again.”

Just two songs in and these guys were already on fire. There was also a great dynamic at work, where the band had plenty of energy to feed off of from the crowd, and in turn, the more action packed show they were delivering just helped the audience get more lost in it all.
image(Photo credit: Ronnie Jackson Photography)

“We are Gemini Syndrome. Thank you for being here,” Nordstrom then told everyone, before hitting a more serious note. “…I’m guessing every single person here is like myself, and have something you don’t like about yourself…” he remarked. “…But that shit is what makes you different…” he preached, before bellowing, “YOU ARE NOT ALONE!” Salerno then knocked out the opening lines of “Basement” — as they continued working their way backwards on the Lux album. “Let me see your hands!” Nordstrom requested before the first chorus, resulting in a slew of hands shooting up into the air. Medina continued showing off his skills as a drummer and pure love for it by flipping one of the sticks around, and later twirling it between his fingers.

“Y’all are beautiful,” Nordstrom informed the crowd, while another sample started to play. Medina was on his feet, lightly tapping some of the cymbals. “We still having a good time?” Nordstrom then asked, before saying that the first word ever in existence was “love”. “And from the bottom of our hearts, we love you,” he said sincerely. The track led to the epic intro for “Mourning Star”, which saw this hard rock band showing off the slightly softer side they are capable of, and they pull it off exceedingly well.

The segue into their next song was seamless; and now, another guitar was brought out on stage. “Y’all don’t mind, do you, if I play a little guitar tonight?” asked Nordstrom. There were no objections to it. Then again, why would there have been? “Pay for This”  was dedicated to liars and thieves; and while it was slightly strange seeing Nordstrom abandon his role of frontman (even if it was just for one song), he still managed to pack a ton of energy into the performance, even breaking away from the microphone stand when he could. AP was also completely in the zone on that track, and he hunched over his bass for the first verse or so, just dominating it.
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Like the previous transition, a sample track led them into what was coming next; and as Nordstrom handed his guitar off, he thanked the crowd for “indulging” him on that.

“Tulsa!” he suddenly shouted, raising his voice when he repeated the city’s name. “Make some fucking noise!” he then stated, making it sound more like a command, and one fans were happy to meet. “…Let me see everyone’s hands in the sky, like you’re reaching for heaven,” he then told everybody, after saying they’d need some help with this next one. The onlookers proceeded to clap along as “Stardust” got going. “…It’s no mistake; …you are perfect in my mind…” the audience sang along, loud enough you could kind of hear them at times, something the frontman highly encouraged. Medina had continued to be a driving force this night; and as they hit the songs’ lull, he again stood up and flipped a stick into the air, still smiling, as if he was having the time of his life.

“THANK YOU!” Nordstrom hollered as soon as it was over. Already, this incredible set had reached its end, and they had packed so much into it, I was surprised they had only been on stage about thirty-minutes at this point. “We’re going to end this very similar to the way we started.” Nordstrom announced. His voice dropped to a sudden whisper. “Tulsa,” he quietly said, as if he were about to share a secret with everyone. It progressively got louder, though, and the rise in it was rapid. “Get the fuck up!” he instructed as they wrapped it up with “Pleasure and Pain”. It induced a lot of head banging among everyone; and the band made sure to pull out all the stops during it. Salerno and AP jammed next to one another during the second verse, and Nordstrom stamped his foot and banged his head to the most brutal parts of it; while Medina couldn’t resist doing one more toss of his drum stick, and I think this one was the highest yet.
image(Photo credit: Ronnie Jackson Photography)

“From the bottom of our hearts, we fucking love you,” Nordstrom stressed at the end, his gratitude being purely genuine. “Sevendust is about to destroy you…” he finished, as their 35-minute long set came to an end. That wasn’t the last time he was on stage this night, though. He also joined Sevendust to co-sing their encore of “Splinter”.

Coincidently, the only other time I have seen Gemini Syndrome also happened to be in Oklahoma (at Rocklahoma), and while they were great then, this slightly longer set made all the difference.

Even being down a member these guys still laid waste to the stage at the historic Cain’s Ballroom with ease. Their showmanship was superb, and you can tell each one of them thoroughly enjoys being on a stage and performing for whoever is watching. They functioned at a level that is well above many of their counterparts, and this show made it all too easy to see why Gemini Syndrome is a band on the rise. They even gave Sevendust a serious run for their money, which is no small feat.

The final show of this run with Sevendust is August 23rd in Sioux City, Iowa at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. Gemini Syndrome also has some dates through the rest of the month, scattered about Colorado; New Mexico and Nevada. Full info on when and where can be found HERE. Also, if you don’t have Lux, do your ears a favor and go pick it up in iTUNES.

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image(Photo credit: Ronnie Jackson Photography)

Sunday, August 10th, 2014 - The Suicide Hook Takes No Prisoners at The Curtain Club

The Saving Abel show wasn’t originally supposed to be held at The Curtain Club, but that was where it wound up. I was okay with that, given my immense love for the venue; and actually, it made me all the more excited to see the stacked bill of local talent that had been assembled to open the show.

The second band up this night was The Suicide Hook. I hadn’t seen them before, though had heard of them, mainly due to Jasen Moreno’s rise to prominence a couple years ago, when he became the new singer for Dallas legend: Drowning Pool. He may not have as much time for his local project now, at least not when Drowning Pool is on the road, but they’re still kicking. Actually to say they’re merely “kicking” would be an understatement.

It was hot outside. Miserable even, and it wasn’t any cooler inside the venue. So, it was a little surprising when the curtain opened and you saw Jasen, who was wearing a hoodie, with the hood pulled up over his head. It may not have been comfortable, but it did help with the look; as they exploded into the first song of their 28-minute long set: “Headlines”. It was more than enough to bring a sizable number of people up to the front of the stage, as they watched on, completely captivated by the hard rock, borderline metal band.

Drummer Joey Johnson wound them right into “Eyedropper”, which explored more of their metal side. However, Jasen could switch from screaming to singing in a split-second on the brutal number, which ended with all of them violently banging their heads. “Well, how the hell are you?!” he asked once they finished it. “Thanks for hanging out. We are The Suicide Hook,” he said, making the formal introduction. They tore through another track that brought out everyone’s inner rock beast; after which Jasen urged everyone to come a bit closer. “If you want to bring it in and get closer to the stage, it’s alright with us,” he said, before removing the hoodie.

“Are y’all ready for some more rock n roll?!” he then growled. “Let’s do this! Come on!” he shouted as they started into another tune, one that featured a wicked guitar solo courtesy of Adam Nanez. “Here’s to us, here’s to you,” Jasen said when toasting with some shots that appeared on stage during that last song. “I’m sorry, I didn’t wait,” bassist Joseph Rosales halfheartedly apologized.

Once the shots had been downed, they unloaded a couple more songs, bridging them into one another; and in between that, Jasen again thanked the crowd, specifically saying he couldn’t “say thank you enough” for the support. “It’s been fun. We’re The Suicide Hook. Don’t forget the name,” he stated before their closing song. After a performance like this, I think it’d be pretty hard to.

The show was ferocious, and even with limited room on the stage due to all the backlined equipment, they still found plenty of space to move around; and even outperformed many of the other acts on the bill this night.

There can be little doubt that all the time Jasen has spent on the road in the last couple years has helped hone his skills as a frontman, which makes The Suicide Hook a cut above the rest among many of their counterparts here in the scene. I was quite honestly blown away by it all. Their sheer musicianship and the way they commanded the stage was something to behold, and they just flat-out killed it this night.

They’ll be playing again on September 13th at Trees in Dallas, if you’re free.

Friday, August 15th, 2014 – The Band of Heathens Throwdown at Hank’s

This weekend (well, part of it) involved me spending time up in the suburbs. You may not find a cluster of music venues all within a block or so of each other like you can in Dallas or Fort Worth for instance, but the ones that do exist get topnotch talent to come through.

Hank’s in McKinney was my destination this Friday night; and after four months since their last North Texas gig, The Band of Heathens were returning to the area.

Their wound up being an opener, which I was unaware of until walking into the venue portion of the bar and grill.

Elise Davis was on the stage, and with the exception of her acoustic guitar, she was all alone.

I only caught her last two songs, and before the final one, she showed off a great sense of humor. She shared an anecdote about when she first moved to her current city of Nashville, and she took on a waitressing job, saying how “original” that was. “…‘Cause no one had ever done that before…” she said, referring to being an aspiring singer/songwriter and having to work at a restaurant. The best part was how deadpan serious she was.

She went on to say this final song was a very accurate account of her first night in Nashville, when she got to talking to a guy who invited her back to a party. The song was called “Make the Kill”, and it did sound like an autobiographical account of her trying to get over the end one relationship by having some fun in her new town.

I really enjoyed those two songs, and wish I had seen more.

She’s a legitimate country musician (i.e. not the Nashville style pop infused stuff that currently infects so much of the genre) that had a Southern twang to her voice and her songs actually told stories.

Elise has a few records available in iTUNES. She also has a few shows planned for the rest of this month, which can be found HERE.

The Band of Heathens already had their gear on stage. Everything was set, and after about twenty minutes or so of downtime, the quintet walked out of the green room, took the stage and were greeted by some loud fanfare.

This is a band that constantly changes their set up, and even back-to-back shows would offer a completely different experience. However, their opener for this night wound up being the same song as they used the last time I saw them, back at the end of February: “Talking Out Loud”. The soulful song is such a great opener, though, and the line, “…Hold on, if it get uptight.

We’ve got to make everybody feel alright,” could more or less be considered their mission statement. Gordy Quist aided Ed Jurdi with some backing vocals on the chorus, and when he wasn’t singing, he worked to adjust his mic stand, finally getting it just right. He [Gordy] broke into a roaring guitar solo; and as the song neared the end, Ed added some additional line that fit the night. “…Say it’s Friday night. The time is right to set you free…” he crooned in a rich, smooth tone.

The sizable audience applauded the band, but not for long, as Gordy used his guitar to segue them right into “Jackson Station”, which was the first of a few tracks they did off their self-titled record. Trevor Nealon was tucked away on stage right, his two pianos taking up all of that corner; and all eyes focused on him when he delivered an excellent piano solo after the second chorus. They’re a band who’s known for spicing up their songs for the live setting, and they concluded that co-sung number with a roaring instrumental jam.

“I never meant to cause you any sorrow, I never meant to cause you any pain…”, crooned Ed. It wasn’t a cover of Prince’s “Purple Rain”, though the first verse of that iconic song served as a fitting setup for their original. “…By all indications, we were just fine.
At least that’s how I had it made up in my mind…” goes one of the lines from “Caroline Williams” — one of the cuts off last year’s Sunday Morning Record — and out of the handful of times I’ve heard this one, this was the best rendition of it that I’ve heard. There were an array of very subtle differences over it and the studio version, with the most obvious being the way Ed sang some of the words. It’s amazing what a slightly different tone can do.

Gordy reached back for his neck rack and harmonica, while Ed, drummer Richard Millsap, bassist Scott Davis and Trevor began “Rehab Facility”. It was definitely the most rocking track they had done up to this point, and not just due to the faster pace, but also the piano solo and then the sweet licks Ed produced during a guitar solo. Richard then led them directly into their next number, which Ed mentioned was “about the power of music.” “And the power of the soul. And the power of music in your soul,” he said, sounding not unlike a preacher delivering a sermon. A sermon about the power that music is capable of. “You’ve got to feel it! You’ve got to want it!” he shouted at the end, right around the point he and his band mates eased their instruments over the drums, making it known the song was “Records in Bed”. “Sunday morning service, records in your bed. Well, they’re good for your soul and the feed your head,” goes part of the chorus, which certainly speaks to the power of music. “Round and round and round so slow…” both Gordy and Scott sang on another part of the chorus, and the mixture of three different voices working off one another was breathtaking. During a guitar solo, Ed began to taper off, eventually leading to silence that made the crowd think they were finished, and they began to clap for them. The band revved it back up, though, doing several more rounds of the chorus; and the end was nothing short of incendiary.

The applause rang out, and one patron cheered on “that keyboard guy”. Gordy ran with it. “…Yeah, what’s his fucking name…” he asked, before introducing Trevor Nealon to everyone. By the way, Trevor was completely oblivious to the fact anyone had even called him “that keyboard guy”. The group proceeded to do another instrumental jam, starting out rather quiet, though it progressively grew louder. They used that to get everyone ready for “L. A. County Blues”, and when they suddenly broke into the lead track off One Foot in the Ether, the crowd got excited. Practically everyone was singing along to what is one of their staple songs.

“Thank you for being here…” Gordy told everyone, before saying that they wanted to recognize someone who had driven three hours to be here at Hank’s and see The Band of Heathens on his birthday. Gordy also noted the man was a veteran, and the noise level spiked with that news. With that acknowledgement taken care of, they moved on with the slightly softer, semi-soothing “One More Trip”. No sooner had they finished it, and then Ed struck a chord, playing it a few times over before leaning into the mic. “Well, I should have known better this time…” he belted on the opening line of “Should Have Known”, a song I had not heard them do in more than a year (or the last two times I’ve seen them). Trevor was on his feet for much of the song, methodically hammering away on the keys; and Ed slightly changed one of the early lines in the track, adding in “done” on, “…Other days, we done rolled in the gold…” Their prowess as musicians again shone after the second chorus, when they inserted an instrumental break; and the fans put their hands up and began to clap along after seeing Ed do it. It sounded more uptempo than the studio version, too; and Ed and Gordy also tossed in a killer duel guitar solo. Then, at the tail end, they finished unexpectedly as Ed sang, “Just that I.” The audience wasn’t expecting that, leading to a cool moment where you could hear those who were singing along finish the line, “Should have known better this time.”

One of the highlights came when eased them into what came next, and it was quickly apparent it was “Hurricane”. Several people even hurried in from the patio, where they had either been chatting with friends or smoking; and the limited space in front of the stage quickly filled up. It’s a fan favorite that is usually requested, but by pulling it out mid-show like this, no one had a chance to get scared that maybe they wouldn’t be playing it this night. Considering that’s a cover of a Leon Everette song, it seemed fitting that another cover would follow, and Gordy kept the reins as they performed Bob Dylans’ “The Man in Me”.

He and Ed now traded their electric guitars in for some acoustics, but that didn’t mean they were completely going to slow things down. “Nine Steps Down” has a certain kick to it, though some of the solos were slower, which allowed them to be performed in an intricate manner. “…It’s gonna string everybody in a hang man’s noose,” Ed sang towards the end, doing so a cappella, before his band mates jumped back into the track.

“It’s good to be back in Texas,” remarked Gordy afterwards. “It’s good to be playing shows in Texas,” he added, noting he didn’t care how hot it was. They changed gears and did one song I haven’t heard them do before, and that was “Ain’t No More Cane”. Not only did it feature some five part harmonies, but Scott, Trevor and Richard all sang lead on it, each one doing a few lines before handing it off to the next, while Ed and Gordy were the main ones responsible for the chorus. Ed even busted out a harmonica at one point, and as soon as he had finished with it, he tossed it behind him. Talk about compelling.

Ed then swapped back out to an electric, as they got ready for another track that boasts some multi-part harmonies: “Shotgun”. The lead track off their latest release is one of my favorites, and live, well, it really is one of the best songs they have at their disposal. As some of his band mates tuned, Ed gave a birthday shout-out to a woman named Jill, and then he and Gordy had a momentary conversation off mic. “He was asking if I said the name properly. He thought I said Jim,” Ed said, chuckling a bit.

The acoustic guitars were now back on the racks, and they broke out one of the other instant classics from Sunday Morning Record: “Miss My Life”. It’s impossible not to get into that infectious song; and while it’s on the other side of the spectrum musically, pretty much the same can be said of “Shake the Foundation”. That one had a slick, dark intro that had a thick rhythm section going, and, of course, it came complete with some instrumental breaks and solos. Near the end, Ed even chimed in with Gordy, as the two sang a line a cappella.

They wound up ending their 103-minute long set with the lead track from their debut studio album, and “Don’t Call On Me” was a vibrant closer.  The song was stretched out much longer than just the five-minutes or so it lasts on the recording, though at one point, they took a moment to thank the crowd, giving the impression maybe they were almost done. “…We couldn’t do this without you,” they told the crowded venue. All of a sudden, they recycled the chorus from “Records in Bed”. “Round and round and round so slow… The deepest grooves you’ll ever know…” They did it a multitude of times before going back to “Don’t Call On Me”, and all five of them seemed to be having a blast during that high-energy finish.

It appeared to be over. The lights came on, and the sound guy asked everyone to give it up one more time for The Band of Heathens. He then asked if anyone wanted some more Band of Heathens.

“I’ve got one more question for you. Do want more Band of Heathens?!” The crowd did, though they weren’t doing a great job of showing it. Most of the band had gone to the green room, while Ed had stepped out the door at the back of the stage that opens up to the parking lot. He now poked his head through said door and waved dismissively at everyone, as if to playfully say, “That’s not good enough.” They didn’t make the people wait much longer, though.

“Thanks for being here. Thanks for participating. Thanks for the requests, even if we didn’t get to all of them, we try our best,” Ed told the patrons. Richard had already begun laying down the beat for their final song, and he stretched it out for some time before the rest of the band jumped in on “Medicine Man”. When he wasn’t playing his guitar, Gordy often gripped the microphone, taking on a more forceful persona as he walked about the stage. The lone song from their encore spanned 10-minutes, and, as it usually is, it was an incredibly way to end the night.

The set list was superb. I enjoyed hearing those few songs I hadn’t in awhile, as well as some I never had, and the few consistent staples they do have could never get old.

To kind of echo what they said this night, it was good to see the Austin-based band back in Texas, as the shows in their home state have been pretty infrequent lately; and after almost six months in-between shows for me, this did the trick. It was everything you wanted from The Band of Heathens; and the rock/Americana outfit put on a show that enriched the souls of everyone who was at Hank’s this night.

As of right now, their next North Texas show will be on October 18th at the Granada Theater in Dallas. A West Coast tour is planned for September, and they have other dates booked after that. Check out their full schedule HERE. Also, if you don’t have their albums, then head over to iTUNES.

What a way to spend a Friday night.

Sunday, August 10th, 2014 - A Sunday Night Rock Show with The Circle

The Saving Abel show wasn’t originally supposed to be held at The Curtain Club, but that was where it wound up. I was okay with that, given my immense love for the venue; and actually, it made me all the more excited to see the stacked bill of local talent that had been assembled to open the show.

Talent like The Circle: who was fourth out of the six bands on the bill (and the final local DFW band of the night).

“It’s a Sunday night at the Curtain Club!” roared frontman Don Mills, while his band mates began their 27-minute long set by launching into “Break This”. The song had been debuted when they played here at the end of June, and it sounded even better this night than what I remembered. “Five, six, now your voice is making me sick… Nine, ten, now you’re never seeing me again…” went one of the lines, copying off the old kids rhyme.

“This place is fucking full on a Sunday night!” exclaimed Don once they finished. Indeed, it was; and The Circle had more eyes on them then any band this night. That includes the headliner, who he then gave a shout-out to, asking if anyone had heard of Saving Abel. Drummer Marc Berry, bassist Kenneth Henrichs and guitarists Craig Nelson and Alan Sauls were already beginning “Save Me”, which seemed to build on the energy and excitement they had established with that opener. At one point, all the instruments pretty much cut out for a second, and it was then that Kenneth pointed and looked out at the crowd, making a very metal face as he gritted his teeth together.

It was hard not to notice that strapped to Alans’ chest was a GoPro camera, because with the cramped conditions on stage (since Saving Abels’ gear was all backlined), Alan had been spending plenty of time on their boxes that have their logo painted on them, so the camera had been pointing out towards everyone. “…I want to see some of the stupidest shit I’ve ever seen…” Don told everyone, mentioning they planned to make a little video out of all the footage they got. “Who cares about work tomorrow morning?!” he then asked, making a toast to the audience. It’s worth noting said toast was made with a bottle of water on Don’s part.

The intro for the “The Other Side” had already begun, and now they started touching on the stuff from their Who I Am EP. They came out swinging, but it was with that song — one they’ve been playing for much longer — that they hit their stride. Some fans sang along; and in the back half on the track, Don proceeded to slap one of the cymbals on Marcs’ kit.

“We’re three songs in, so you know what that means…” he said as soon as they had finished. He asked everyone to get their drinks up, toasting all the local musicians. “Local music is by far the best music that’s never been heard,” he declared. Sad, but true. “I want to have your babies!” someone in the crowd shouted, causing a look of surprise to come across Dons’ face, as he said to Craig that, that was a first.

“Failure” followed it up; and as they hit the second chorus, Craig raised his axe into the air for a moment, while aggressively plucking the strings. Their abbreviated set contained one more newer tune, and that was “What Do You Say?” Craig got goofy on it, and when Alan approached him, he started to make all sorts of faces for the GoPro, looking right into it, and even dropping to his knee as he continued to stare at it. They had a solid flow going by this point, as they weaved each song into the next, and the transition to “I Am” was seamless.

Marc stood up behind his kit at the start, beaming at everyone for a moment; and after that heavy rock number, they were ready to close it out with “Sleep On it”. Don motioned and called to Kenneths’ nephew, Tyler, to join them on stage. He handed off the reins to Tyler on each chorus; and at the last one, he [Tyler] sang in a deep, throaty manner. It was fitting for the song. “Get ‘em up one last time!” Don bellowed as the song neared the end. It looked like a sea of drinks for a moment; and then they finished, with enough time left they probably could have done one more. If they hadn’t already done their routine closer that is.

It was a very solid performance, and I swear these guys just get better each time I see them. The crowd helped out a lot, because not only was the room packed for them, but they also had plenty of people as close as they could possible get, which helped create an excellent atmosphere.

Even with little space to work with, they still found plenty of room to move around, still delivering the type of show you’ve come to expect from them, and I think it earned them a few new fans this night. Also, I know I’ve said this the last few shows of theirs I’ve caught, but I’ll say it again: I love how fluid they’re making their shows. Diving headfirst from one song to the next really adds a sense of professionalism.

They’ll be back here at the Curtain on September 20th, but before that, they have a gig at Andy’s in Denton on August 28th. They’ll also be up in Greenville on October 11th at The Hanger. Lastly, if you don’t have Who I Am, go get a copy in iTUNES.