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.

Sunday, August 10th, 2014 - Dialogue May be Rehearsed, but Saving Abels’ Show is Full of Heart

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.

Of course, Saving Abel was who a lot of people were there to see, and they were ecstatic when the band finally hit the stage at 11:10.

“We! Are! Saving Abel!” Scotty Austin roared as they began the title track from the “Bringing Down the Giant” record. The four of them who were at the forefront of the stage all thrashed about in synch at the heaviest parts; and it didn’t take long before Austin pulled his shirt off and cast it aside.

“I’m gonna handle this a little differently…” he said to the crowd, saying he had played to more people than this in his living room. “This is like your own private Saving Abel show!” he told fans, mentioning he was holding them all accountable this night. “Now, how about a little Love Like Suicide?” he said while he stared out at the audience and tilted his head around. With that, guitarists Jason Null and Scott Bartlett, bassist Eric Taylor and drummer Steven Pulley opened up what is the newest single they have released. It kept the lively, hard-hitting pace up, and while new, their fans seemed to be loving it as much as they did the classics that were coming up.

“You guys are a lot of fun! For real!” Austin said with a smile on his face. He added they wanted to meet everyone after they got off stage and wouldn’t be going anywhere except their merch table. “…That shouldn’t take long. What, there’s like, fifty of us?” he joked. There were probably at least eighty people still hanging around, probably a little more.

They then worked their way back to their debut, self-titled album with “New Tattoo”. The high-octane number really got the crowd going, and when he wasn’t singing, Austin was speaking to the crowd. “This is a small room. I can see the whites of your eyes!” he spoke, with the point of that being he needed to see everyone getting into this. “I want to hear some hell raising!!” he shouted at another point. Taylor and Pulley gave the song a strong finish, as Taylor was facing him while dominating his bass; and as they wound it into the next song, a fan climbed on stage. The band didn’t seem to care much, though eventually one of the staff members at the venue led the guy off stage, but only after he had grabbed a pair of drumsticks and started lightly tapping on one of the drums. The song they had gone into was “Contagious”, and it was followed with a nice transition into “Stupid Girl (Only in Hollywood)”, which had most everyone singing along.

“We came here for one reason: to have a mother fucking party with you!” shouted Austin, as he proceeded to banter more with the crowd. There were younger kids in attendance, and he noted that if any parents were offended by that, then they just needed to remember they brought their kids to a rock show. Speaking of young kids, it was at this point a little girl who was just a few years old put her horns up. “…That’s the cutest shit I’ve seen.” Austin remarked, adding that if you didn’t think that was adorable, then there was something wrong with you; and he also joked that it was ruining his mojo.

He talked a lot of how small the crowd was this night, and now declared everyone here to be a member of Saving Abel. “You don’t get off that easy. That comes with stipulations!” he stressed, while shaking his finger at everyone. The stipulation was everyone had to sing, and for anyone who didn’t know the words, well, they were told to just make shit up. “That’s what I do every night!” Austin laughed. “…Because rock ‘n’ roll ain’t about being perfect. It’s about having fun.” Tis true. Now, not everyone did know the lyrics for what came next, but a vast majority of the crowd did, and at times they overpowered the band on “The Sex is Good”.

Afterwards, Austin gave it up for all the talented local acts that opened up the show, stating they were music fans first and musicians second. He outright said there are a lot of “shitty” bands out there and that Dallas was lucky to have so many talented ones; then, speaking to the musicians, told them not to let that (the “shitty” ones) jade them. He switched topics to how much touring they have done this year, and with shows in forty-seven states just since January 1st, they have been busy. That has led them to miss their home state of Mississippi. “…So we’re bringing Mississippi with us!” Austin shouted before “Hell of a Ride”. Bartlett showed off his chops as a guitarist on the killer solo, earning him some praise from the crowd.

“I’m not ready to leave Mississippi just yet!” said Austin, more speaking to Null. Null treated it as if Austin was his drill sergeant. “No, sir! I am not, sir!” he quickly spoke while standing at attention. He and Bartlett then stood side by side with one another and shredded as they opened up “You Make Me Sick”. “For real, we’re having a great ass time. This feels like a private party. Usually we have a barricade here…” Austin told the crowd upon finishing the track. They then took several minutes to allow him to introduce the entire band, and each member got their moment when they were named. Taylors’ bass was said to be the thing that made the ladies “shake their ass”; and when he stopped at the request of Austin, then so, too, did the fans stop moving. Austin himself admitted he can be long-winded, and told a story, with the moral being “you can do whatever you want to,” encouraging worlds for everyone there. “…All these songs came out of this guy’s head!” Austin said, pointing at Null. “He’s crazy as shit!” he added; and during Nulls’ piece on the guitar, he managed to break a string.

He played “Mississippi Moonshine” like that, with one of the strings dangling in the air. Before moving on, their manager joined them on stage, and he had bought drink tickets for everyone, causing the crowd to swarm the stage to try to get one before immediately going to redeem it. Once they had been passed out, their manager mentioned Saving Abel was working on a new record, calling it “their best stuff yet”, and now they did a song from it.

It was the following song that was the most emotional one. Austin mentioned he had a brother who had just finished a tour in Iraq, “…It’s the people in suits tell us who to fight. They tell us where to fight. They tell us when to fight, but it’s never them fighting. It’s our brothers and sisters,” he said solemnly. “18 Days” seemed to hit home for a lot of people, and there were a few who shed some tears, including Austin, who wiped his eyes once they had finished it. He stressed that the message was serious, but he did try to cheer people up after that poignant moment. “I tried to join the military. They told me I was “mentally unstable”, whatever that means,” he quipped.

With their 92-minute long set winding down, they had some fun, and Null and Austin switched places. “In my mind I’m a badass guitar player,” said Austin as he placed the strap around him. Null took on the lead vocals, but first, they brought nearly every audience member up on the stage with them. You couldn’t see Pulley from all the people, who sang and danced along to their rendition of AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell”.

They were about ready to end it, but first, Austin shared his thoughts on musicians who took things too seriously, pointing out that’s not how Saving Abel does it. “…Life is shitty, and rock n roll mother fucking rules!” he declared, prompting the loudest response all night. That led them to “Drowning (Face Down)”; and after expressing that they truly would be nothing if it weren’t for their fans (as well as mentioning what a great venue Curtain Club was, and we needed to ensure it sticks around), they wrapped it up with “Addicted”.

Usually, that’s where the curtain closes and the band (whoever it may be) goes on their way. Not these guys. The urged everyone to buy every other bands merch. Not theirs, but those who opened. Their tour partners in Story of a Ghost, and while the locals weren’t mentioned by name, they were included in that, too, because if people didn’t, then “music will die” which would subsequently mean that “rock will die”. “Have a good ass time. We! Are! Saving Abel!” Austin again belted, bringing things to a close.

To me, much of the dialogue, at least that around this being like a “private show” or there being “stipulations” and such seemed overly rehearsed/scripted. Now, I know that’s something any touring band does. After all, if you’re playing a different city nearly almost every night, you can’t be expected to come up with new banter. On the other hand, you can make it sound spontaneous. It’s all in the tone of which you say it. Basically, parts of that just felt like they were going through the motions.

I want to stress, their love for the crowd, the support of the other musicians and anything along those lines was definitely legitimate and came from the heart. As for their show, in terms of performance, it was unrelenting; and I think they delivered everything everyone wanted to hear during their time on stage and did it in a memorable fashion.

They really do care about their fans, and that’s cool to see.

They have plenty of dates scheduled through this fall, and they can all be found HERE. Don’t forget they have a few albums in iTUNES, too, with another one apparently in the works.

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

This was a monumental night for me. Why? Well, it marked the 700th concert I’ve seen. Not too bad. How fitting, too, that it would just so happen to take place at my favorite venue: The Curtain Club.

As usual, the night consisted of four bands, a couple of whom I had seen many times before, while the others were either little known and even unknown to me.

The third band of the night was The Collective, and it was a big night for them, as they were celebrating the release of their debut album.

I had heard the name before, but knew nothing about them; and as I usually do with bands I’m not familiar with, I watched from afar.

“Happy birthday, Chad! Happy birthday, Kris! Happy birthday, me!” said frontman Derek, getting all those well wishes to the sound guy; the singer of Krash Rover (who played before them); and himself out of the way early. After all, this night was also about the birth of Inherent — their debut album — and they cut right to the chase with “Blessed Ex”.

They had a strong fan base of at least a couple dozen people who were already getting rowdy and singing along to the chorus, “Swallow this down now, it must be contained… Remember the target and take back my aim. No need to ever remember your name.” Each time he sang it, Derek pulled one arm back and took a stance as if he were preparing to fire a bow. He asked everyone to give it up for Scott, who tore it up on a guitar solo; and as the track neared the end, Derek, who had been moving all over the place, jumped atop their light box, causing a bright light to illuminate his face as they closed it out.

Their fans, old and new, applauded the chops and showmanship they had demonstrated on that song, and then Grego launched them into “Aspasia” with some rapid-fire drumbeats. They were part of the way through that one when I decided I had to get a closer view. For bands I’m a fan of, I’ll be front and center; but it has been some time since a band actually compelled me to go up to the front of the stage.

Derek made sure everyone knew Chad Lovell, and when asking those who did to raise their hands, the sound guy himself put his hand in the air. Derek found that to be hilarious; and he also mentioned they had achieved a hat trick on the birthdays, before stating that this next song was “about destroying your own fucking self”. It was titled “I, Saboteur”, and once it was done, Derek informed everyone they were just going to play “straight through the new album”. He added this next one was one he wrote about his father when he passed away in the previous year. It created a somber moment, though it was short-lived, because this was a band who didn’t want to nor know how to slow things down. Scot and bassist Jake were going full throttle on “All Tucked In”; and at one point, Derek made his way off the stage and out into the crowd, where he continued to thrash his body around as he engaged with some of their friends/fans. There was also a cool moment when Grego stood up from his kit during a quick lull in the song.

“Prioritease” came next, and the energetic frontman continued to demonstrate his prowess as he flipped the microphone in a tight spin on the second chorus, catching it without even glancing at it. “You ready?! Bob your heads!” Derek instructed at one point, while he knelt down on the light box. Bobbing your head was again required on “Calloused”, which was different from anything else they had done, as it was partly rapped. They’re certainly a diverse band; and it was pretty impressive how Derek could go from spitting out the words to singing at the drop of a hat. “When you bring me your disdain you’ll soon discover there ain’t nothing here but pain…” went the chorus, which was sung in a smooth, though mighty tone.

Derek now had an idea. “Let’s fuck Chad up!” he said, before adding they should at least wait until their set was over. “This song’s called The Torch,” he then announced, as they did a song that was equal parts reserved and hard hitting. They amped things back up with “Inward”, which saw Derek starting to crouch of the light box, singing while surveying the audience. He even lightly slapped his face after finishing one line; and when the song seemed to end, Grego ran out from behind the drums, rushing to the front of the stage where he beginning high-fiving people. Then, when he sat back behind his kit, they picked the track up where they had left off. It was a fun moment, and very cool.

More stellar guitar solos came flying during “The Charlatan”; and then came a sing along, which was made up of three simple words that no one had trouble shouting along, “Just say the word!” Derek continued interacting with the fans, kneeling down at front of the stage, but then he took it to the next level when he again jumped off the stage, headed to the back by the bar, and then went out the doors to the patio. A small handful of fans then got a mosh pit going as things came to an end.

“Here’s to being twenty-seven forever!” declared Derek as they downed some shots that had appeared on stage, and then busted out a non-album track called “Repair”. He shared a joke with everyone once it was done, asking if anyone liked Wendy’s. Of course, people did, and the joke he had recently heard went, “You gonna like it when des nuts get dragged cross yo face.” “I was, like, did I just get Puked or something?!” he finished, speaking of his reaction when someone pulled that on him. They did one more, possibly “Manumitter”, since it was the only track they hadn’t done from the ten-song release. Their fans weren’t satisfied with just one more, though, and immediately began demanding one more.

I’ve seen a few shows where the crowd wants to hear an encore from a band, but due to time constraints, they are seldom done. Actually, while I’m sure I have seen a few bands (who weren’t the headliner) do an encore, none come to mind at the moment. “You want one more?!” Derek said to the crowd, before speaking to his band mates, “They want one more,” and as he moved the mic away from his mouth you could hear him ask Scott, “What are we doing?!” “You don’t even have one more song!” one fan shouted.

He then looked at Chad. “When you were doing this,” he said, holding his hands out as if he were measuring something, “I thought you meant something else. I didn’t know you were telling us we had a really long set,” he laughed. Luckily, they did have something left in their catalog, and “T Gondii” was honestly my favorite song of their set. “Slow this down before I come unbound; you’ve got to turn it around and put your…” Derek and Scott harmonized on the first line of each chorus, doing it completely a cappella. The instruments came back in then, while the repeated the line a couple of times, finishing it with, “Put your trust in me,” which Derek sang in a growly voice.

And so ended their 57-minute long set, which made for a show I don’t think anyone will be forgetting anytime soon.

Part of me hates that it took me so long to actually see and hear The Collective. Another part is glad it did, ‘cause I didn’t have to anxiously wait for them to get an album done and out. And I do know I’ll be seeing them many times to come.

They impressed the hell out of me this night, with their incredibly dynamic performance that captivated everyone, and the songs were often catchy, while still retaining the ballsy sound rock music is supposed to have.

Perhaps this was all the culmination of a surge of emotions over the release of their new album, but I don’t think so. These guys have nailed down what a performance should be like, and it’s pretty clear it’s what they’re meant to be doing.

They have a couple Dallas shows coming up next month, one on September 18th at The Boiler Room, and the other will be at O’Riley’s on the 20th.

Saturday, August 9th, 2014 – Dead Beat Poetry Dishes Out the Rock at Curtain Club

This was a monumental night for me. Why? Well, it marked the 700th concert I’ve seen. Not too bad. How fitting, too, that it would just so happen to take place at my favorite venue: The Curtain Club.

As usual, the night consisted of four bands, a couple of whom I had seen many times before, while the others were either little known and even unknown to me.

I was unsure how this night was going to turn out when I first arrived, because I was practically the only non-band member there. Granted, it was only 8:40 or so; and the show started around 9:30, instead of nine, which was when I had assumed things would get underway.

The duo of Lulio Guevara and Brandon Keebler, better known as Dead Beat Poetry, was starting off the night. Their 38-minute set consisted of some new songs, as well as material from both their records, like the opener, “Redbone”. They traversed a myriad of styles, and that one was a little blues inspired rock. “This next song’s entitled Golf Clap.” Lulio informed the handful of people who were there. On the plus side, everyone did seem to be paying attention.

Their best moment of the night came with “La Revolucion”, which spanned nearly seven-minutes and featured a fiery guitar solo; while Brandon kept up a pulse-pounding pace on the drums. It embodied the rebel spirit, too, and the cry of “I got a taste for revolution!” on the chorus was catchy, while one of the lines from the verses, “I look out my window, I don’t like what I see.” seemed all too appropriate for the times we’re living end.

“Obnoxious” was another good song; and after it, Lulio showed off a different side of his voice as they did an intense number that found him screaming more than anything. It was good. He then mentioned this was Chad Lovell’s birthday, and pointed out the man who was busy working the sound for them. “He’s thirty today.” said Lulio, which led one of the bartenders to reply with, “That’s an ugly thirty.”

With that out of the way, they embarked on their final song, one that boasted a drum solo from Brandon, and Lulio stepped over to the stairwell on the side of the stage, allowing all attention to go to him. There was also a lengthy instrumental break they threw in; and Lulio rocked out another, albeit brief, solo at the end.

If I’m remembering right, I think I did see a part of a Dead Beat Poetry show a few years back. However, I think I was feeling tired that night and left shortly after they started.

They gave a solid performance this night. Every song has rock roots, though you got to see how deep Lulio’s well of inspiration is, because they all drew on a vast array of other genres and musicians. In that respect, it was even impressive.

You should check them out, and go see them if you get a chance. Keep an eye on their FACEBOOK for word on future shows; and you can find their music on BANDCAMP.

Saturday, August 9th, 2014 – New Magnetic North Comes Out from Their Hibernation

This was a monumental night for me. Why? Well, it marked the 700th concert I’ve seen. Not too bad. How fitting, too, that it would just so happen to take place at my favorite venue: The Curtain Club.

As usual, the night consisted of four bands, a couple of whom I had seen many times before, while the others were either little known and even unknown to me.

The “deadliner” slot went to New Magnetic North, who took the stage a little after one in the morning. The show was last minute for them. In fact, I didn’t even know they were playing until just a few days before, which gave me more incentive to come out to the Curtain.

It had been too long since I had last seen them. In fact, Tim Ziegler was still the vocalist, and due to his busy schedule, he stepped down as their singer about a year-and-a-half ago or so. That left guitarist and founding member Jacob Aaron to step up and take on the lead vocals.

The band wasn’t complete this night, however. Bryan Ziegler was out of town, meaning they didn’t have their second guitarist and had to perform as a trio.

Before beginning, Jacob mentioned that this was Chad’s birthday (Chad Lovell, who runs the sound at Curtain). The dozen or so people who were still there made little noise, prompting Jacob to tell them that “was some pussy ass shit”. Everyone did better the next time around. With that, they opened with the old standby, “Eleven”. Despite being just a three-piece with Jacob, bassist Bobby McCrary and drummer James Guajardo, the song still sounded spot on. That’s not to say the second guitar wasn’t missed, but they did a fine job without it this night. Having never heard Jacob sing (apart from backing vocals), I was even surprised at how similar his voice sounded to that of Tims’. Even the tone sounded alike.

“Sorry about the delay in getting this kicked off…” Jacob told the crowd while he tuned his guitar. Someone in the crowd mentioned it was Old Greg’s fault. “Yeah, Old Greg was giving us some problems.” Jacob said laughing (that’s a cover band some of them play in, who originally was supposed to play this night instead of them.)

The progressive rock act dished out quite a few songs this night; and after the second one, Jacob mentioned they had “come up from the basement”, saying it had been a year or so since they had done anything on a stage. They have been hard at work on their debut album, though; and after thanking the ten to twenty people who had stuck around for being there, they did another song that will no doubt be on it: “Dedicated to: The Machines”. Jacob began it by creating a bit of feedback as he held his guitar up to his amp, and just crushed it later on with the sheer amount of energy he packed into the performance, while Bob stole the spotlight for a time with a semi-solo. That was perhaps one upside to having such a basic band: the bass prevailed over everything else.

“You’re our test crowd, in case you didn’t know by this point.” joked Jacob, showing he at least had a sense of humor about it all; and Chad had personally thanked them for jumping on this bill with such short notice. “Can we make this look like a show?!” Jacob then asked everyone, adding they were going to “fucking smash your face in,” with this next one. “Is what our hope is.” he then soon added, not wanting to be presumptuous. It was titled “The Watchers”, and like so much of their music, it was very technical and intricate. They got probably thirty seconds into it, and then suddenly stopped. Jacob approached the mic. “That’s the version where we don’t know how to play the fucking song, so imagine what it’ll sound like when we actually do.” Was it a fuck up? Yeah, of course. Still, I loved the way they played it off. They didn’t have any flubs the next time around, and the song was monstrous. I haven’t heard them do anything like this before.

For their next song, they welcomed Deric to the stage. For the first time, they were having some keys/midi added to some of the songs, and that was his job. “If anyone needs any legal representation on the way home, this is the mother fucker…” Jacob informed the people, pointing at Deric, before they unleashed another intense number that probably got some eardrums close to bleeding.

What came next took up a huge chuck of their time on stage, and Derics’ keys were most prominent at the start of the tune. It sounded like something you would hear in some movie set in space, say Alien. It was calm, yet there was something eerie about it. It went on for a while, before Jacob mentioned they were hoping to get Chad behind the drums for the following song, and wanted to give him plenty of time to prepare. The newest song in their “catalog of bull shit” lasted probably twelve to fifteen minutes easy. The first portion was brutal (once the full band came in), while the second was more tranquil, again highlighting the keys. It started to come to an end, or so it seemed, before they ripped back into it. Man, they’ve cooked up some impressive songs since I last saw them.

“…We get so tired of those two to three-minute long pop songs…” remarked Jacob, before Bob chimed in, saying their remedy for that was to just do fourteen minutes of one note. Now they got Chad Lovell up there, and the old Course of Empire drummer (for those who don’t know, they were around from the late 80’s through late 90’s. Well before my time in the local music scene) helped them in doing something Jacob pointed out they had not rehearsed, though they did all love the song. “…I know they’re a little old for some of you young fucks…” Jacob told the audience, speaking of Jane’s Addiction, whom they were covering. They tried their hand at “Mountain Song”, and it sounded perfect.

They weren’t done yet, though, and Chad enjoyed his time behind the kit a little longer, helping them in finishing out their 51-minute long set with one last original number that again required some keys. Finally, at the urging of the crowd, he did a drum solo once everyone had left the stage, and while just a handful of people still remained, he captivated everyone’s attention.

This probably wasn’t the best show New Magnetic North has done. In talking to them, I know they were a little apprehensive about doing this show without the other guitar. That’s understandable; and they did experience a bump or two along the way. Still, I thought they did great.

For any loyal readers, you know I’ve been a fan of Tim Ziegler for a while now (since ’06); and I was just curious as to how they would sound without him. That’s not to insinuate that he made the band, but changing singers can also be risky regardless of who you are.

They sounded even better than what I was expecting; and they didn’t lose any ground in the transition between drummers and lead singers. Actually, I think they gained some.

All I know is I’m looking forward to seeing another NMN show; and hopefully within the next year or so they’ll have an album done. It has been a long time coming, but after hearing the selection of songs this night, it will be well worth the year’s long wait.

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

This was a monumental night for me. Why? Well, it marked the 700th concert I’ve seen. Not too bad. How fitting, too, that it would just so happen to take place at my favorite venue: The Curtain Club.

As usual, the night consisted of four bands, a couple of whom I had seen many times before, while the others were either little known and even unknown to me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, August 2nd, 2014 – Local Brews, Local Grooves Becomes the Newest Festival on the Dallas Circuit

At four-thirty in the afternoon all three windows at the House of Blues box office had no less than fifty people in line. That was the first shock; the second was the throng of young teen girls who were lined up all along the wall that leads from the front of the venue to its entrance on the side, all of whom seemed giddy over whoever they were there to see.

There was a separate line, one for those going to the Local Brews, Local Grooves Festival that was taking over much of the venue this day. The couple in front of me asked a staff member about the young girls, who assured them they [the girls] would not be going to the beer festival. Besides, this was a rare time when the HoB was doing a 21+ only show.

The Music Hall, Crossroads (the restaurant) and The Foundation Room (which is usually VIP only) were each being used for this inaugural event that was highlighting several different local breweries. Dallas breweries were set up in the Music Hall; ones from Fort Worth in the restaurant; and The Foundation Room housed the suburbs.

This wasn’t just a beer festival, though, and upwards of a dozen local acts had been tapped to play the event, with different ones spread out across the three sections. That was why I was here; after all, I’m not much of a drinker. Plus, some bands offered free tickets to the event, so it was hard to turn down at that price.

Bethan had the first spot on the main stage, starting right around five-thirty. Compared to how I’m used to seeing this place during sold-out shows, it was nearly empty, and you could get all the way up to the guardrail that creates the photo pit if you wanted.

Some people ventured closer to the stage, while others hung back on the small tables that were scattered about, planning to enjoy it from afar, and still others just meandered about, going to get their fill of beer and food.

With their debut EP now two-years-old, Bethan focused more on newer material this night (at least the little portion I saw of them), and drummer Daniel Hall began the first song by reaching for his guitar and using it for a bit. His focus soon shifted back to the drums, as the rest of the band gradually joined in on the atmospheric indie sounds that are self-described as being Alternative Noir.

I liked it, however the second song was downright enchanting. Becki Howards’ violin sounded beautiful on the track, working well with the voice of frontwoman Jessi Hall, and each seemed to accent the other. “How about we raise a toast.” Jessi stated once they finished. One of the audience members then piped up, saying they should raise a toast to her friend, Amanda, who was apparently celebrating her birthday. So, Jessi made the toast partly for her, wishing her a happy birthday, and then told everyone the next song was called “I Have Nothing To Say”. It’s the final song off the Chapter 1 EP. It perfectly captures the more minimalist vibe they have, with the keys Kevin Howard was playing often being the most prominent instrument, while bassist Jesse Hopkins and Daniel made a forceful, though low-key rhythm section. “I’m the sand running through your fingertips…” Jessi sang at the end, holding her right arm up in the air and rubbing her fingers together, as if she did have a handful of sand she was slowly letting fall from her hand.

Daniel again used a guitar at the start of the next two songs, one of which was “Our Paris”, and the other began with just that guitar and Jessi singing over it, and it sounded gorgeous. “Is everyone having a good time at the beer fest?” she asked after they finished; and I used that break to duck out.

While I haven’t seen them much, I’ve liked Bethan since they began, but they just seemed different this night over how they were the last time. It’s like they’ve fully figured out who they are as a band, and it’s made them all the stronger. Really, they were even better than I remembered them being, and came across as a completely new band this afternoon.

You can find their EP in either iTUNES or BANDCAMP, and they’ll have a new release in the next few months.

If I could have, I would’ve stuck around for the whole set, but I had gotten a ticket from Nicholas Altobelli who was playing at six in the Foundation Room.

First, I had to find the Foundation Room, which required climbing to the balcony level of the Music Hall, where another door was that led there. That was the easy part, though. The hard part was navigating my way around in there. The food and beer tables had lines that wound so it appeared to be one massive line; and you could hear at least a dozen or more conversations all going on at once. I also heard something else, and that was the voice of Nicholas Altobelli, and apparently he and his musical companion Heather Kitzman had gotten off to a slightly earlier start. They were also kind enough to provide some background noise to all the chitchat that was going on.

They were a little ways into “Blackout” when I finally squeezed myself into a spot directly in front of the patch of floor they had. Heather added quite a bit of backing vocals on that one, while she gently played her pedal steel guitar. She turned to Nicholas when it was done. “Did you just fuck that up?!” she asked him in a shocked voice, and he confessed he had messed up some chords on the acoustic guitar. No one else knew, though, let alone actually cared he had flubbed it.

That was one song off 2013’s Without a Home, and they focused heavily on that LP, next doing “27 Stories”. “I don’t want to become something I’m running from…” sang Nicholas at the start of dreary, though personal and emotional song. “So, load in was interesting.” he remarked afterwards, while Heather nodded her head, silently confirming it was. “But it’s all good.” he added, putting a positive spin on it, while he placed a capo on his guitar. They moved on to the single from that record, and I had forgotten how catchy “The Lucky Ones” was. Even just in the two-piece setting like this, it was impossible not to sing along to it (if you knew it, that is), and I found myself mouthing the words to the chorus. “Thank you, fine folks in the front.” Nicholas told the crowd once they were done. Those up front were the only ones truly paying attention after all. He asked the woman working sound if he could get some more in the monitors (he later asked it to be turned up to eleven), and now sang, “Sounding in the monitor.” a few times as he performed a sound check. “This song goes out to us.” he said quite seriously. Heather left her pedal steel and stood up to sing the backing vocals on the chorus of “I Don’t Think Tonight is Going to be a Good Night”. She also provided some percussion by clapping her hands, and perhaps the best part of their set came when Nicholas told her to do a clapping solo, so she proceeded to it, moving her hands behind her back and all around the air, just having fun with it.

“She has no food in her system. She’s angry with the world right now.” said Nicholas, speaking of Heather, who was sitting back behind the pedal steel. You could tell it, too, what with the smile she was flashing. “…They gave me a pretzel…” she told him. With a new album only three days away from dropping, I was a little surprised they hadn’t done anything off it so far, but that was about to change. “This song’s about being mentally healthy…” Nicholas informed everyone, as they did “Memories” off the Mesocyclone EP.

It was during that song I felt the floor beneath me shaking something horrible, and thought to myself, “It’d be just my luck if the floor gave way right where I’m standing.” Well, apparently Nicholas was thinking the same thing, ‘cause afterwards he remarked that it sounded like the floor “was about to cave.” “Or a Wilco B-side.” he then quipped. They had done some slightly older stuff, and now they had a new song down, so it was time to look ahead to some songs he mentioned would be on an album out sometime next year. He told those who were paying attention that one was about his high school crush. “Whose name is not Sarah, but she had too many syllables in her name to fit the measure.”

Each was great and fit the mold Nicholas has cast for himself. It’s just a shame we fans will have to wait awhile before being able to listen to them whenever we want. He then welcomed a friend up to the “stage”, asking everyone to give it up for the “beautiful and talented Kim Nall.” She took over the secondary mic, while Nicholas mentioned this was one he had written “back in 1970 something, after a heavy night of drinking.” They did a rendition of Lionel Richies’ “Stuck On You”, and the difference between the original and the more folk style they gave it was as drastic as night and day. Don’t get me wrong, it was a stellar version, but sounded nothing like what Richie made famous. Kim just added some soft backing vocals at times, though it helped the tune immensely.

She then left, while Nicholas mentioned this next one was about Los Angeles. “Alright! L.A. Rain!” exclaimed one fan who was there. “It’s not a contest, but yeah, sure.” Nicholas joked with the guy; and he was almost ready to start it, before having to take a moment to tune for what he said was “another upbeat number”. Spoiler, it wasn’t. Though it was hilarious. The floor had continued to shake, and now he changed some of the lyrics at the end of the first verse. “I really hope I’m singing in key, ‘cause it’s like a Sonic Youth B-side downstairs.” It was brilliant, yet few people were paying enough attention to even get a laugh out of that.

“Here’s another uplifting song about feeling good.” stated Nicholas; while Heather left her pedal steel once more. They co-sang “Bluebonnet” — a track off 2011’s Radio Waves & Telephone Wire. “Where has my bluebonnet gone?” he pined at the start, proving it was not the “uplifting” song he jokingly made it out to be. “Heather Kitzman. The myth, the legend.” he announced as she took a seat, giving her a formal introduction.

“I’ve never played this one before.” Nicholas admitted, adding, “This seemed like a good place to do it.” It was, ‘cause all of these songs were probably new to most of the people in the first place, so there was at least no reason to worry if it didn’t go over well. It did seem well received by those who were paying attention, though, as was the next one, which was another new tune that Nicholas threw in just to fill time. He mentioned he had written it just a couple days before, and said he’d do it only if he could remember it. He did, and Heather continued to just watch her band mate and enjoyed the song in the same way the small audience was.

She didn’t stay silent much longer, though, and lent her talents on “Thunderstorms”, which was the final song of this 51-minute set.

It had been way too long since I had last seen Nicholas Altobelli. In fairness, he hasn’t been playing a ton of gigs of late anyway, but even when he has I wasn’t able to make it. So, it was great catching another show after so long.

They may have had problems hearing one another, but out in the crowd the levels were fine, even if they were almost outmatched by all the conversations. Still, I heard every note and every line quite clearly. The fact that humor was employed so much also made it quite entertaining. In fact, partly because of that, I’d say this was one of the best shows I’ve seen Nicholas do.

Whether it’s with his full-band or just he and Heather, he has no trouble entertaining. I’d even say Nicholas’ voice sounded stronger this night than I’ve ever heard it. He really is one of the best singer/songwriters in the area, and he’s apparently just getting better.

Mesocyclone is out now and it, as well as some of his past records, can be found on either iTUNES or BANDCAMP. Check out the official CD release show for Mesocyclone at All Good Café in Dallas on Friday, August 8th, too.

I then headed back to the Music Hall to wait out Jessie Frye and her bands 7:30 start time.

It was a totally different setting from where I had seen them just a few weeks before, at one of the venues in Deep Ellum where they had a backline on the stage (since it was a national show), giving Jessie and her band little room to move about. She made use of the ample space right from the start of their 34-minute long set this night, though, banging her head to some of heavier beats Chad Ford dished out on “Like a Light”. “How you doing?” she asked after the first chorus, getting a strong reaction from not just her section of fans, but also some of the other onlookers.

She was already proving herself to be a dynamo on stage, and actually, it reminded me of their set at Edgefest back in April, just in the energy and excitement they were putting into it; and now guitarist Jordan Martin rolled them into one of their most bewitching songs, “Fortune Teller”. “How are you enjoying your beer?” Jessie asked everyone once they were finished, getting a nice rise from the crowd. She mentioned how happy they were to be here before letting everyone know exactly who they were, and then she informed the crowd this next one was “White Heat” off the Obsidian album. They really started hitting their stride then; and Jessie was bouncing about at the start of the track, and at another point dropped to her knees when she belted out a line. The audience was getting more into it now, too, and there were a few couples who decided this was a good one to dance along to. You can’t often do that at the House of Blues, but there was plenty of floor space for it this night, and even from the audience perspective it was fun seeing. I should also point out Jessie didn’t hit the chorus “…Forget all of the roles you thought you should have played…” in as high a voice as what’s done on the recording. It was a relatively subtle difference, yet it made all the difference to the song. I actually liked it better with her keeping it all in the same tone, as it made it more fluid sounding.

“I love this song!” exclaimed one fan as Chad led them into the atmospheric pop number that is “Never Been to Paris”. They followed it with something special, but first, Jessie called out the “girl in sequined skirt” saying they were “kindred spirits”. “I saw you at the Tori Amos show…” Jessie told her, prompting the girl to nod that she had indeed been there. Getting back to the new song, it had been teased to Facebook fans and Instagram followers a few days before the show, and was titled “One in a Million”. With it, the Denton-based band started going a different direction from what they’ve done thus far. It was much closer to raw rock verses the sort of pop rock sounds Jessie and her band mates have established for themselves. It was a very vibrant track that had bassist Andrew O’Hearn laying down some more forceful riffs; and there came a point where Chad began to clap his hands along to the kick drum. He looked puzzled when no one joined him, and several people picked up on that, and then put their hands in the air to clap along. It may just be one song for now, but it will be interesting to see where the band goes from here, as they write more intense rock numbers along these lines.

They really got in the groove with that song, and this was easily the best stretch of the set, which continued with “Shape of a Boy”. Jessie was absolutely alluring in the way she handled herself while she sang the first verse, sauntering around the stage. “How you doing?” she asked one member of the audience whom she had seemed to be singing to, and it took him a couple seconds to muster a response. Jordans’ killer solo definitely got some attention; and before the final chorus, Jessie, who had again fallen to her knees while singing, banged her head in perfect synch to the drumbeat. It was quite epic.

They started winding down with another favorite from the Fireworks Child EP, “Prepared”. There were a few times that Jordan used the whammy bar on that one, adding a good tone to the track. They were about to start their final number, and then a fan/friend held up a sign. “Jessie, you rock. I’m gonna punch you tomorrow.” Jessie read aloud, and then laughed. “Oh, that’s my piano student…” she informed everyone, asking her if she had practiced her scales, and then told her why wait and just come punch her now. She threatened to do the same to her, too, then quickly stated she never hits anyone in the first place.

It was another fun moment; and then they got ready to end their show with “Brave The Night”. Right before hitting the first chorus, Chad flipped his drumstick in the air, giving it a very tight spin. He has some serious chops; and this uplifting song came to a powerful finish as Jessie dropped to her knees once more, crooning, “And everywhere we go, and all the things you say, I never felt so beautiful…”, getting more involved with each second, eventually raising her hand into the air. She looked like a bona fide rock star, with the swagger to back it up.

It’s amazing what having some space to roam about can do, and this was a completely different band from the one I saw just a few weeks back. The energy was still there at that club show, but it oozed out of all of them so much more freely this night. They were better able to express themselves, especially Jessie, who was able to be the potent and impressive frontwoman she’s oh, so capable of being.

It was an awesome set, too, and I think everyone was wishing it had lasted just a bit longer. As they finished, I found myself wondering, “How long before they’re headlining this stage?” The talent’s certainly there, and with the praise they’ve received from the likes of The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, it’s in the realm of possibility.

Their next show will be Friday, August 8th at the Cambridge Room of the House of Blues. They’ll be the main support for Exit 380, who’s doing their vinyl release show of their new album. Check out their music on either iTUNES or BANDCAMP, too.

There were some bands left in the Music Hall, while elsewhere things were winding down. Those left on the main stage were a tribute band to The Black Crowes and another cover act who tackled Dave Matthews. I’m sure they’re great at what they do, and I’ve seen a handful of cover bands, though I’ve never been a huge fan of that.

That said, I left shortly after Jessie Fryes’ set. The thought of getting home at nine sounded appealing; though it was quite strange, walking out to see the sun hadn’t set yet. Traffic going back north to the suburbs was also much heavier than it is at one or two something in the morning. I guess that early nights do have their drawbacks.

Friday, July 18th, 2014 – Waking Alice Releases The Dark

Waking Alice had put months of preparation into this night. They were finally releasing their newest EP — The Dark; and aside from that, this would also mark their first headlining show at The Curtain Club.

This was one of the increasingly common five-band bills the venue has started hosting, and Timeless City was charged with kicking it off.

I got there in time to see the last three to four songs they did — which included a cover of Panic! At the Discos’ “I Write Sins, Not Tragedies.” I wasn’t too keen on them, and frontman John Hale had very pitchy voice that never perfectly nailed the notes.
image(Photo credit: Roxanne Fuentes | Fountain Photo Ops)

They’re a young band, though (in terms of band members age and just being newer to the scene in general). So maybe with some practice…

Actually, this was a night of primarily newer bands, and next you had Wolves Reign, who has been around about a year now.
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Lead guitarist Moises Moura introduced themselves to the crowd once the curtain opened on them, before frontman Eric Lara took over. “We are Wolves Reign. We exist and we are no longer a figment of your imagination… So far as you know.” It was one of the more comical intros I’ve seen, and while the crowd wasn’t that large, it did get a laugh from most of the people who were there.

With that, they started into the first song of their 32-minute long set, a song that had some neat key parts courtesy of Jonathan Hill, and the notes Moises was playing sounded pretty slick. Upon finishing it, they changed things up a bit. Matt Garcia had been on the drums, which he now left for the lead microphone. Eric grabbed a guitar and dabbled on the keys, while Jonathan took over as the percussionist. It was the first of a couple games of musical chairs that they played this night.
image(Photo credit: Roxanne Fuentes | Fountain Photo Ops)

“…This was inspired by blood and honey, our favorite beer.” Matt stated, adding the track was titled “Revolver”. I thought it was their best song of the night, and had a raw rock vibe to it. It got your blood flowing a little; and as it ended, Matt pumped his fist into the air while singing. They kept that format for “Another Life”, which, like many of their songs, just had an epic feel to it. Not that they were necessarily long, but it was more in the way they’d suddenly change the songs up, which kept you, the listener, on your toes.

Matt returned to the drums afterwards and Jonathan the keys, while Eric kept the guitar around him and resumed his spot at center stage. “It’s about that time of the show where Matt takes his shirt off.” Eric joked, saying he was also so precise with it. “It’s always eighteen-minutes and twenty-seconds in.” He then fiddled with his guitar, before mentioning, “This next song’s in E flat.” Moises and bassist Izzy Saenz did a good deal of interacting with one another on that one, while Moises was also often shaking his hips, really getting into the song.
image(Photo credit: Roxanne Fuentes | Fountain Photo Ops)

Matt and Jonathan exchanged spots for the final time this night, and once he had the mic back in hand, Matt informed everyone this next one was called “A World with No Risk”. Moises leaned back on Izzys’ shoulder at one point, tearing it up on his axe, while Matt and Eric (who was doing some back-up singing) also stood back to back for a moment on what was another strong song of theirs. They had time for one more, and threw one more surprise the crowd’s way when Matt mentioned it was going to be an instrumental piece, and left his band mates to it. It was more tranquil from the rest of their show, but still some rocking moments, and for a band as interesting as they were, it seemed a fitting way to end.

I really liked the dynamics Wolves Reign had going on. The multiple singers and capable drummers allows them to stand out from the rest of the pack, and they rotated often enough that they always had you on your toes, but you also had enough time to get used to the lineup they had going on at the moment.
image(Photo credit: Roxanne Fuentes | Fountain Photo Ops)

Both Matt and Eric were pitchy at times this night, but it was nothing more than just bumps in the road, ‘cause when they were hitting the notes, they were on fire.

There’s a lot of potential to Wolves Reign, and it should be interesting to see how they progress.

The Broken Stools were another interesting band, and the first thing that your eye focused on when the curtain opened was the pole with a mannequin head on it. A white shirt had been placed on it, and “Cofas” had been written across it in sharpie, while a Guitar Hero guitar hung around him.
image(Photo credit: Roxanne Fuentes | Fountain Photo Ops)

Then the loud, nearly metal sounds hit you. “We’re The Broken Stools!” singer and guitarist Chaz Mangan shouted at the top of his lungs. He and drummer Aaron Fisher then abruptly calmed things down, and Chaz softly spoke, “But we’re not that heavy.” “The thing is!” he again yelled as the instruments once again roared to life, before softening once more. “We like to act like it.”

He then asked everyone to cut bassist Alex Cofas some slack, saying he had just had his wisdom teeth pulled out.

They opened with one of only two songs they’ve recorded so far, “Stereotypical”. For a duo, they sounded amazing. Aaron was getting some killer tones out of kit (specifically the toms), and the guitar even some rhythmic textures to it, helping balance it all out.

“If you like us without a bass player, then go check out our demo!” Chaz told everyone after the song, saying they had copies to take right over at the merch area. They followed it with “If You Can’t Trust the Lion, Get out of its Den”, which is possibly one of the best song titles I’ve ever heard.

The band name was then addressed, and according to Chaz, there was actually no interesting story behind it. “This guy said it joking around one day, and it stuck, and he hates me for it.” he stated. Oh, he was referring to Cofas as being the one who was joking around.
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By this time, they had everyone who was there enjoying their show, if for no other reason than just how fun it was. So, when Chaz shouted, “I need a clap!” at one point during their next song, the spectators were more than happy to help them out. As is mandatory for any band, they did one track for the ladies, while the one that followed Chaz noted he would like to say he forgot the name of it. “But the truth is, we just never named it.” he solemnly confessed. He was a really good guitarist, as was shown when he dropped to his knees during that song and shredded on the axe.

The duo kept their set short, clocking in at only 24-minutes, and they concluded with the first song they ever wrote, “A Fresh Start”.

There are quite a few great duos in the North Texas music scene, and given a little time, The Broken Stools will surely be in the ranks.

You think it’s going to be stupid at first. You see a faux bass player, and then hear them joking about not being a heavy band but liking to act like it, and you think, “This is going to be ridiculous.” But there’s a difference between being silly and just stupid.

The silliness is an act, and they played it up very well. It was fresh. I mean, how many bands have you seen do that? Out of nearly 700 shows I’ve seen, I can honestly say this was a first.

They never went overboard with it, though. They kept it humorous, but when it was time for a song, they hammered away at it with a passion, as real musicians should.

The Broken Stools will be one band to keep an eye on. You can snag their two-song sampler for FREE on BANDCAMP; and keep an eye on their FACEBOOK PAGE for future shows.

The longer running bands had been saved for last, and according to their Facebook page, Code 19 has a couple years under their belt. They had a lot of supporters, too. Seventy plus people at least.
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“Welcome to The Curtain Club!” frontman Joey Dietrich said after their first number, before starting their next track. “It’s time to wake up!” he yelled, pushing off the monitor and jumping back right as he finished the sentence. The song was “Awakening”, which was a little more politically geared (“…Freedom isn’t free…”). Ray Deauman then wound them into their next song with some notes from his guitar, as they continued with their dirty rock/metal sound.

The tune that came next had more of a rap feel to it, really just in the lyrics, which is just something I’m not a fan of, so needless to say that was one I didn’t get too into. They soon got back to their regular stuff, though, but first added in some humor, when Joey and Ray sang a bit of Elton Johns’ “I Hope You Don’t Mind”. “I hope you don’t mind that I put down in words how wonderful life is…” they sang, before Ray shouted, “Now that you’re fucking gone!” That was exactly what “Me2U” was about, and a lot of their fans seemed to love that message.

They continued with the music, and also took time to pump everyone up, egging people on to scream for them and such. Their show reached a fever pitch as they got to the conclusion, and had saved their fan favorite for last. “What?! What?! What?!” Ray got everyone to shout along (I’m assuming that was the title as well). He, bassist Matt Heinecke and drummer Phillip Bell then tore into that last song of their 39-minute long set.
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If you like no-frills rock, then chances are you’ll like Code 19. Their performance was pretty action packed, too, with non-stop movement going on. Nearly everyone there seemed to find it hard to resist, at least.

You can catch them at Lola’s Saloon in Fort Worth on August 2nd.

It was later, but it was finally time for Waking Alice, who hit the stage shortly after midnight.
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It was just the three instrumentalists on stage when the curtain revealed them, and drummer Jonn Levey, guitarist Brandon Brewer and bassist Brayton Bourque began things with an instrumental piece, “The Dark”, jamming for a bit before Rus Chaney walked on stage from the stairwell, microphone in hand.

They had decided to get started with a cover, and one I had not heard them do in a little while. However, the couple of times they did do The Smashing Pumpkins’ “Geek U.S.A.”, they killed it. This night was no exception. It’s one song that plays to all of their strengths, and it was good hearing it back in rotation.
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“What’s up, Curtain Club?!” Rus asked, gazing out at the audience. “Let’s do this shit!” he said, some excitement heard in his voice as Brandon ripped right into one of their most aggressive tracks, “Treason”. Brandon always adds some backing vocals to the chorus, but for whatever reason, they sounded even better this night. A little stronger perhaps, and better heard, fitting nicely with Rus’ voice.

“Thanks for coming out and hanging with us.” Rus said to all their friends and other supporters who had made it out. This may have been the release show for The Dark, but they were getting the stuff from the two-year-old Retribution EP out of the way first, and “Scars” was next. “…The silence says it all.” Rus sang in a hushed manner on the second chorus, placing his finger to his lips as he did so. It didn’t get too quite, though, ‘cause that was right when Brandon came in with a blistering guitar solo.
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“I don’t know if you guys have heard or not, but we’re releasing a new album! To buy! If you don’t, we’ll be killed.” Brandon announced to everyone as they hit their first break of the night. “You’re the one threatening to kill the band.” Rus responded, prompting another laugh from the audience.

Now they finally got to music from The Dark, and first up was “Bi-Polar Heart”. As they do with some of their songs, they made it a little more up-tempo at times, making it all the easier to get into; and as they hit the second verse, Brayton kicked the air, timing it right to one of the beats Jon dished out. They followed it with what was self-described as “kinda a love song” that Rus wrote for his wife. He mentioned it was titled “Paper, Rock, Shotgun”. “…‘Cause all love songs should be named something like that.” he stated, looking at the crowd like, “Am I right?” Why not, especially if they sound as good as this one does. “…To my knees I fell…” he crooned on the second verse, and doing just that as he sang the line. Rus got really into that song, casting his hand into the air as he continued singing the more emotional track. As they hit the break towards the end, Brayton waved his bass around as if it were a gun, and then silence enveloped the club, but only briefly. Their fans began cheering for them, while they looked on at everyone, no doubt savoring the moment, before firing the tune back up.
image(Photo credit: Roxanne Fuentes | Fountain Photo Ops)

“Biggest Lie”, a staple from The Shaping EP (released during the band’s previous incarnation), offered a break from their newest material, and Brandon did his standard guitar solo during it, just riffing and doing what came to him there on the spot. It was an amazing solo at that, and the last few times I have seen them he has been outdoing himself with those. It’s also good ‘cause you really get to glimpse the technical side he has to his style. “Have you met Jon?” Rus asked, as the drums overpowered the guitar. He enjoyed his moment, and then Rus introduced Brayton, who pointed the neck of his bass out towards the crowd and just stood there. “That’s the best bass solo he’s ever played.” remarked Rus, before coming back in for the final chorus.

“They’ve got some tuning to do, and I’ve got some shout-outs to give…” he said, thanking The Jerry Jonestown Massacure Podcast, Whiskeyboy Radio and myself for supporting the release show in one way or another (in my case, the review of the album I had done). With that out of the way, they were now ready to move on to what Rus noted was one of his personal favorite songs off The Dark, “November Burns”.
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He and Brandon joked around before starting it, cussing at one another. “Fuck you, Brandon. I give up.” Rus said, shaking his head as he went to take a seat on the drum riser, flipping Brandon off once he did sit. He didn’t stay in that position long, though, quickly jumping up when it was time for him to start singing. It was one of their best songs of the night, and the fans were loving it, some of whom were already singing along to the track.

No one liked hearing they only had one song left, but then again, they had already done just about everything they could. “Hostage” was all that remained, and it was the perfect way to close out this 41-minute long, hard-hitting set. Despite being almost done, Rus still appeared as if he were just really getting warmed up, and was in the zone on that one, clutching his fist when he sang the first chorus, “Fighting for myself to break free from your grasp…”, and then kicking the air at the second (appropriate, considering the line “…I’m gonna kick some ass.”).

People were hoping that more would come, but that was the end. Still, what a show!
image(Photo credit: Roxanne Fuentes | Fountain Photo Ops)

I’d say this was the best I’ve ever seen Waking Alice. They were tighter and even more solid than usual, and seemed to have found and tapped into some new reserves that made their performance more explosive and dynamic. Above all that, they were having fun. That was all too evident, and the crowd responded to it.

People were rocking out to the songs. Some danced to them, and everybody was just having a good time, which is what a concert’s all about. Well, at least it should be.

It was a great end to a great night. A night that was monumental in Waking Alice history.

Pick up The Dark EP in iTUNES, and you can download the three tracks from Retribution on REVERBNATION for FREE. As for shows, the next few will be taking place in Fort Worth. August 22nd at Tomcats West (it’s a killer lineup that night); September 20th at The Grotto and September 27th at Shipping and Receiving.

My first night at the Curtain was a good one. Round two would be starting soon enough…

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014 – Jessie Frye Warms Up the Crowd for Kitten

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

The only local opener on the bill was Dentons’ own Jessie Frye and her band; and I got the feeling the fates were against me seeing their set.

A traffic back-up while leaving the suburbs and another near the Good-Latimer exit on Highway 75 added ten minutes or so onto the trip, and the construction that’s going on, on Elm Street doesn’t make it too easy to maneuver through Deep Ellum, either.

All of that put me there several minutes after the scheduled eight-o’clock start time, but luckily, as most concerts do, they weren’t adhering to a strict schedule.

The four-piece took the stage at 8:16, and after they all shared a glance with one another, guitarist Jordan Martin started them off on “Like a Light”. “…Let the magic in your heart set you apart…” Jessie crooned on the chorus; and immediately after the first one, she asked how everyone was doing, getting a good reaction from the thirty-to-forty or so people who were already there. They didn’t have much room on stage, because the second bands’ gear was all setup behind them, though it was still ample space to allow Jessie to jump around, something she did more and more of the deeper they got into the track.

Chad Fords’ final drum beats resonated in the room, while the bass died down and Andrew O’Hearn stood there for a moment as Jordan made a seamless segue into another song from the “Fireworks Child” EP: “Fortune Teller”. It’s slightly steamier than that opener, and that was reflected in the way Jessie conducted herself on stage, and also in the way she somewhat shouted the word “twist” on the line, “…Wish I might find a lover to twist and turn to the heat of summer…”.

“Thank you so much for being here!” Jessie exclaimed afterwards, saying what an honor it was to be sharing the stage with Kitten — whom she happens to be a fan of. They had some slight technical difficulties now, revolving around the track they needed to use. It took a minute or two, but then it kicked on, and they got to some stuff from the Obsidian album. Keeping up with the sultry mood from the previous song, Jessie was often seen shaking her hips to the beat of “White Heat”. I still really like those older songs from the EP(s) she has released, but you can tell the difference from them and this newer batch of music. They just sound better in all regards, from more complex sounds (the guitar tones sound excellent on this number), to the lyrics, and even Jessies’ voice has grown exponentially over the few years in between records.

There wasn’t much down time between it and “Never Been To Paris”, and Andrew and Chad sounded fantastic on it, creating an impeccably tight rhythm section. “..We just released a video for this one…” Jesse mentioned, as Chad counted them into “Shape of a Boy”. I’d say it was their best song of the night, and the slick, roaring guitar solo Jordan knocked out caused all eyes to focus solely on him.

“Thank you.” Jessie said in hushed, slightly raspy tone once the song ended. “Prepared” was another oldie but goodie that found its way into the set, and Jessie personified the role of frontwoman even better on it than she had at any other time this night. There was a certain fierceness that came over her, and it resulted in an overpowering demeanor that was all too fun and engaging to watch.

“Dear Boy is up next.” she mentioned, shouting out the second band, adding that, that was one of the best band names she had ever heard of. With that, they ended with the uplifting “Brave The Night”. The rhythm section was again blasting on that one, and I could feel the bass shaking not just my feet, but also my chest cavity. Not a bad way to end.

I did catch their set at Edgefest in Frisco a few months back, but this was the first lengthy set I’ve seen from them in the better part of two years.

It was great hearing a few of the newer songs live (some for the first time), with a nice mix of older material. The rhythm section has also changed since I last saw them (excluding that April show), which has made the band even better. Like I said, both Chad and Andrew were tight, and all of them had good chemistry together.

Basically, they’re a more outstanding band then they’ve even been; and this night they had a perfect mixture of having fun but also being quite professional.

For the last few years, Jessie has been hailed as one of the best vocalists in North Texas. Probably not all of the early birds at this show knew that, but I doubt any who did catch their performance would argue that praise she’s received as a songstress.

They’ll be at the House of Blues in Dallas on August 2nd (the main room) and the 8th (the Cambridge Room, as part of Exit 380’s album release show). Catch one, or both. Be sure to check out their albums in iTUNES, too.

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014 – Dear Boy Wins Over the Crowd in Dallas

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

Kitten wasn’t the only Los Angeles-based band on the bill this night, and just a couple days prior to this, Dear Boy had joined them on the remainder of their tour.

“…You got a little bluer before, where’s that shit?” asked singer and rhythm guitarist Ben Grey, speaking to the sound guy, who then adjusted the lights just right. The quartet seemed to love the shade of blue that was now cast over them and the ever-growing audience, and with that, they ripped into the lead track from their debut self-titled EP: “Come Along”.

It immediately became clear they were a very pop oriented group, with some British flare thrown in; and they captured a lot of people’s attention with the intro to that song, which saw Ben aggressively strumming his axe. “Would you like me if I was young? Would you hold me if I was wrong? Would you love me if I was gone? Then come along!” he belted on final chorus.

That song established a very lively mood the band kept up for the rest of their 34-minute long set. During the subsequent track from the EP, “Green Eyes”, Nils Bue jumped on ledge that has been added around the front of the stage — giving a place for the monitors to set — and brandished his bass for all to see. Both Ben and lead guitarist Austin Hayman produced some cool tones and catchy riffs on that slightly sweeter song. Drummer Keith Cooper provided a strong backbone, as well; and if only more people had been familiar with Dear Boy, then I think the chorus of “When there’s no place else to go, I will meet you down below. And when there’s no one left to find, we won’t need this place to hide.” could have easily been a sing-along part.

Upon finishing it, Ben mentioned this was the first time they had every played Dallas. “…Thanks for letting us in your home.” he said in a sincere voice, while a smile crept across his face. He then thanked Kitten for having them on part of this tour with them. “It’s very rare that you get to play with a band you actually listen to.” he said, noting it was an great experience. He went on to say they were going to do the newest song they had, and it was with it that they really hit their stride.

There came a point where both Austin and Ben leaned against each one another’s back, fiercely shredding on their guitars; and they wound it directly into another song, which had a vibrant, fun vibe to it.

The spectators were clearly enjoying Dear Boy; and their next song was one the most well crafted they did as far as the music bed was concerned. Ben started it, and it was performed solo at first, before Austin laced in his guitar at the second verse. A minute or so later it exploded into action with the bass and drums (Nils rocked out next to the kit, creating a pulse pounding rhythm section), and during a break from singing, Ben dropped to his knees, succumbing to the music.

“…We want to meet as many of you as possible!” Ben pointed out once they finished that song, also mentioning they’d be selling their record over at their merch table afterwards. They did another song from it now, called “Oh So Quiet”, which was a little more indie from some of their other stuff. That was nice, though, ‘cause it showed diversity. The song that followed was pretty heavy; and now Nils and Ben did a little more interacting with one another, standing back to back for a few moments.

“…It’s been a pleasure…” Ben said, as their show had sadly already come to an end. They closed with what would be safe to assume is the most high-strung song in their arsenal: “Funeral Waves”. Some elements of the song were completely dance inducing, while others made it a great song to bang your head to. Regardless of your preference, everyone was captivated by it, and the band was giving it their all. They were all outstanding musicians, and their chops highlighted best on this one. Ben even orchestrated a clap along moment at one point, ensuring it was a fun one to end with.

Man, these guys were all too impressive.

You could tell they were having fun up on the stage, but you could also see their work ethic, and it was clear this wasn’t just some band to them. It was a way of life.

They had more chemistry with one another than a lot of bands do, and they music they made was really extraordinary if you ask me. It was infectious and very radio friendly, but maintained originality. The songs also have a lot of lyrical depth, which is always one quality that gets my attention.

They seemed to make a lot of new fans this night, and as I headed out the door after Kitten had finished, I ended up making a pit stop by their merch table and picked up a copy of their EP, along with having a brief conversation with Ben, who was an incredibly nice guy.

I know one thing: I can’t wait for Dear Boy to get back to Dallas. Let’s hope that happens sooner rather than later.

The have a few shows left with Kitten through the end of this month, and then will be doing a show at The Troubadour in West Hollywood on August 12th. You can find their full tour schedule HERE; and check out their EP in iTUNES while you’re at it. They will also be dropping a new single on the same day as that Troubadour show.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, July 12th, 2014 – The Dirty River Boys Debut at Gas Monkey

Gas Monkey Bar and Grill has been in business for about a year now (give or take a little). The restaurant/concert venue took over the old Firewater location (it’s amazing that place has been out of business for about five years now. Crazy how time flies.)

For those not in the know, the Gas Monkey is owned by Richard Rawlings, star of Fast N’ Loud on the Discovery Network; and from the looks of it this night, having that name attached has made for booming business.

I was there for the concert (which was taking place on the outdoor stage), and arrived fairly late. It was about 9:40, yet plenty of people were pulling up in the parking lot and going into the restaurant section, presumably to get some grub and probably a drink. Some even had younger kids in tow. Yeah, the place was bustling.

The patio was no different. It seemed smaller than I remembered. Then again, it was only in Firewater’s last year of business that they strayed from their usual 21+ shows, meaning I could actually get in, and most of the shows I caught there were on the indoor stage.

Speaking of age, even being in my mid-twenties I felt like the youngest person there. A different feeling from the clubs of Deep Ellum I spend nearly every weekend at. By no means am I saying people were old, but instead of primarily twenty-somethings, the demographic at GMB&G was largely thirty-somethings. However, people from all walks of life were out there. Some were a few decades older than that; some people wore cowboy hats, fitting the country mood of the night; others were dressed more casually with shorts and flip-flops.

The patio was a melting pot; and there were also plenty of people taking selfies as they watched the band, or getting a group shot of them and their friends together.

Thieving Birds were on the stage, and while I only caught their last three or four songs of their set, they were quite impressive. I’ll have to try to catch them again sometime, and see what a full show is like.

Despite all the good shows Gas Monkey has had — from local to national ones — it seems like there has always been something else that appealed to me more whenever I might have come out this way. It took The Dirty River Boys playing here to finally get me to the Gas Monkey; and with a couple months having passed since I last saw the group, I was in need of a fix.

It was 10:31 when the quartet from Austin (by way of El Paso) stepped on stage. Singer and guitarist Nino Cooper held his mandolin up in the air, and bassist Colton James, fellow singer and guitarist Marco Gutierrez and drummer Travis Stearns filed on stage right behind him.

They had changed their set around a bit since I had last seen them, and they opened with a partial cover.

“Come along, little children come along. While the moon is shining bright…” they all crooned, showing off some rarer four-part harmonies on Buster Browns’ “Raise a Ruckus”. That seemed extra appropriate, considering it was a full moon this night. It also seemed like a sure setup for a particular original song, one that is usually reserved as the closer. Sure enough, they used that as an intro for the oh so rowdy, “Raise Some Hell”. Some people were singing along and others stomped their feet, while others danced about to the song that sounds very much like an Irish jig. It was strange hearing it right at the start, but at the time same time, lyrically (“…We’re gonna raise some hell tonight.”), it worked perfectly. It would seem it’s one of those songs that can fit either at the end or the beginning of shows.

Some fanfare erupted, but they were busy, and moved on to their next number, the first of many newer ones they did, and it was one that had Colton singing the lead. “How many of you have seen The Dirty River Boys before?!” Travis asked in his booming voice. Plenty of hands went up in the air and cheers were heard, letting him know that this wasn’t their first rodeo. Meanwhile, his band mates had kept the pace up, using a brief instrumental piece to bridge them into the next song, and Nino suddenly began to sing, “She was lusting for some wandering; he was lost in a paper filled room. She packed a suitcase; he sold his old place. They travelled on down a one-way road…” “Heart Like That” is one of their best if you ask me, especially live; and as they got to the final line, Nino put some extra emphasis on it. “What’s not to love about a Heart! Like! That!” he belted in a twangy tone, and the audience quickly burst into applause. “Thank you.” he responded, before counting them into one of the songs he and Marco shared the lead vocal duties on, “My Son”. “The only you could be found is through your footsteps in the cold, dead ground.” the two sang in harmony, before Nino tore off on a guitar solo, and despite being on his acoustic, it was a solo that could put many electric guitars to shame. They even showed off their four-part harmonies again at the end of the track.

Marco then reached for his neck rack and harmonica, playing a few notes to begin “Dried Up”, the lead track off their debut full-length record Science of Flight. “Come on, Dallas!” he yelled as they hit the first chorus and the song really took off. He addressed everyone once it was done, giving a proper hello to the hundred plus people who were there. “We’ve been playing a lot of old ones, so how about a new one? What do you think about that?” he asked. The crowd seemed game, especially once they began the track that is a full on assault on the ears. “That’s a little song about life on the road.” Nino stated once they had finished it. It was another that has usually come later in the set when I’ve seen them, but given its sheer intensity (it is easily their most rock sounding song) it fit even better towards the start.

No sooner had they finished then Travis stood up from his cajon and small drum kit, while Colton laid his upright bass down. “…This is what we like to call a Chinese fire drill.” Marco noted, before going back to the bass. Colton ended up on the banjo and Travis had the mandolin. He paced around the stage with it as they knocked out the short “Lookin’ for the Heart”, which got some movement going out in the crowd, as some people danced along to it.

“Make some noise for Thieving Birds! Keeping rock alive!” Marco yelled once they all got back to their normal positions. He then let everyone know they had another new song coming their way, adding it would be on their new album coming out sometime soon. “It’s called Thought I’d Let You Know.” he finished. The Dirty River Boys are as much a rock band as they are a country one, but that song especially had some more authentic country sounds to it. Similar to the stuff from their first two EP’s, and it was excellent.

Another new one followed, this time in the form of their newest single: “Desert Wind”. You could feel the excitement spike once people heard Nino start on the first chords. I dare say it’s a brilliant song, and one where you feel every single thread of emotion that’s woven into it. It ended with Travis adding some additional percussion, serving up some hard-hitting beats that made it all the more striking of a song. They were on a roll now, and kept on going with an instrumental piece, one that was clearly a lead in to “Draw”. It was pretty powerful, and Colton was slapping the strings of his bass with both hands, while Travis’s act of tossing a drumstick into the air and then catching it by sideswiping it with his right hand amazed much of the crowd. With that, the actual song began, and it was another one people were loving.

“Thank y’all so much!” Marco said in his thick Southern twang once the fanfare died down. He then mentioned this next song was one that Bob Dylan and The Band used to do “back in the day”. They often add a partial Dylan cover onto one of their original songs, but hearing them do a full song of his was something new to me. The song was “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere”, but they put a completely different spin on it from the original. It boasted some more harmonies from all of them; and Nino threw in a guitar solo for good measure. They definitely spruced it up to better fit their style; and after that spirited version of the song, they got the mood a little darker.

“Oooo.” They all crooned into their mics over some haunting melodies. It lasted at least half a minute, and after Travis beat on his cajon — working his way down the box he sat upon — Marco asked if everyone was still with them. He had to repeat it, because the response wasn’t that great the first time around, but yeah, the fans were still as much invested in this as the band was. “All of the darkness down at the bottom don’t look too dark from here. Keep your eyes on the brick wall, your foot on the throttle; get ready to feel no fear!” belted Marco on the chorus of “Letter to Whoever”. There came a point where the reins were handed over to Travis, who delivered a riveting drum solo on the kit, before shifting his focus back to the cajon. He perhaps hit it a little too hard, because after the song, he pulled the cover off, throwing to the side of the stage, and got a fresh one, one that could withstand several more blows.

In the meantime, Marco chatted with everyone, saying despite all coming from different musical influences, they could all always agree on some good ol’ punk rock. “And punk rock just lost a person…” he said somberly. He was speaking of the recent passing of Tommy Ramone, and dedicated this next one to him. They paid their respects by covering “Blitzkrieg Bop”, and doing a great rendition of it at that. “Rest in peace, Tommy.” Marco remarked after the song came to its abrupt end, and he gazed upwards at the sky.

It seemed like he had been doing a long stretch of singing, but he got a slight rest on “Riverbed Wildflowers”, at least for the first half of it. Perhaps the best part of the song came at the bridge, when Nino and Marco alternated on the vocals, and when Nino sang his lines, he was backed up by Colton and Travis. Fans didn’t even get a real chance to voice how much they loved that softer number, and Marco launched right into the following song on the set list, while Travis brought out his harmonica. It was the outlaw-esque “Six Riders”, which Marco later mentioned was off Science of Flight, saying their merch guy, Dugan, would hook anyone who wanted a copy up with a “phat deal”.

Their attention then turned to some more newer stuff, and Colton again took the lead vocals. “…Let me taste the blood from your mouth…” he sang with a slight drawl; and at one point, a man appeared on stage, interacting with them, doing air bass, guitar, etc. “Hey! There’s my Uncle Bubba!” Colton shouted. The band and the spectators appeared to enjoy the antics of Uncle Bubba, who was clearly having a ball himself.

“…It’s a full moon y’all are supposed to get crazy or something. That’s what they say…” Marco spoke during their next break, before they knocked out another song of theirs that has something to do with whiskey. Nino even swapped out to his shiny electric guitar for it.

They were nearing the end at this point, and Travis now asked the opposite of what he had earlier in the night, and that was how many people were seeing their first Dirty River Boys show. There were a few newcomers there, but not many. He mentioned what a wonderful venue the Gas Monkey was, and they were happy to be making their debut there. He then went back six years, when this band first began. “…From the beginning… this has been an amazing experience. God bless you…” he told everyone, before leading them in “prepping” their vocal chords. He made some sounds and had the crowd follow along, before they really put their voices to the test, helping sing the second round of the harmonies that happen on each verse of “Boomtown”. Nino was back on the mandolin for it, breaking a string later on, but he still powered through. Luckily they didn’t need it anymore this night.

“Have you had a good time so far?!” Travis roared. He added he hoped everyone had, had a good fourth the previous weekend and asked if anyone went to Willy’s picnic. No one here at Gas Monkey had made it. “The dude’s eighty-two! Go see him play!” Travis said, seeming a little stunned.

They slowed things down with the lovely, albeit poignant “So Long Elanie”; and then spoke of growing up in El Paso, crossing the river and going into Mexico for the day (or night). “…We started going to some of those bars at thirteen…” Nino reminisced. You can’t do that safely anymore, though, and they co-wrote a song with Ray Wylie Hubbard about all the violence on the border. It’s called “Down by the River”, and if I’m remembering correctly, one of the lines is “…The undertaker said if you cross that river you’ll never come back.” It seemed like that would be the end of the main set, especially given the powerhouse finish they gave it, which had Travis going ballistic on the drums. Then they suddenly broke into “She”. Nino again brought his electric axe out, as they concluded their 88-minute long set with that oldie from the “Train Station” EP. It’s arguably one of their best.

Chants of an encore started before they even stepped off stage, but everyone knew they were going to come back. They had to. After all, one of the staple songs had been surprisingly absent during the main portion.

After a couple minutes, Nino and Marco then retook the stage, just as a duo. Nino had a lengthy harmonica solo at first, before they did a more gentle sounding “Carnival Lights”. Well, at least for the first half. The rhythm section returned after the second chorus, and things then sprang to life. “Alright, Dallas, you think you know the words to this part?” Marco asked at the tail end of it, before the crowd sang along with him. They tacked on a bit of Hank Williams’ “I Saw the Light” at the end, and Colton hung his cowboy hat on the headstock of the bass as they crooned on the more spiritual track.

Their 12-minute encore then came to a close with what has become a staple for them: their take on The Rolling Stones “Honky Tonk Woman”. Marco changed the lyrics slightly. “I laid a divorcee down in Dallas, Texas.” he sang on the second verse, and as the song peaked, Travis stood up for a drum solo, and then Marco followed it with a solo on his harmonica.

With that, they thanked everyone for coming out, and bid Dallas a farewell… For now.

For now, The Dirty River Boys are still just a regional band, though one that is quickly making a name for themselves. However, they’re every bit as professional as the biggest name acts are, and they deliver a show of that caliber, too.

They create a nice mix of rock and Texas country (the good kind of country), and they execute everything superbly. If you haven’t seen them yet, I promise you, you’re missing out.

As for their shows in North Texas, they’ll be in Fort Worth on June 24th at Panther Island Pavilion (that’s a free one); Hank’s in McKinney on August 1st; and Billy Bob’s in Fort Worth on October 10th. I wouldn’t be surprised if another show or two in the area creep in there over the next month or so. You can catch them all over the Lone Star State, though, and they’ll even be doing some hefty touring across the Mid-West in the coming months. Just check out their TOUR DATES for all the info. Check out their records in iTUNES, too, and be on the lookout for their new one, which will hopefully drop soon.

As for the Gas Monkey, I thought it was a great place. For four years, I periodically found myself wishing the old Firewater would get reopened one way or another, because it was a shame to think such amazing stages were being wasted.

They’re not now. They haven’t been for about a year, and it doesn’t look like the popularity of Gas Monkey Bar & Grill is going to die down anytime soon. As I said, the place was packed inside and out. I assume the food’s good. I’ll have to try it sometime. But I can say it’s a great spot to catch a show. Even on this warmer night, there was a nice breeze, so it was never hot; and the sound, the sound seemed better than what I remembered it being. Earplugs are a must for me, and even with them in, the music was still blaring, and I found myself constantly adjusting them to make sure they weren’t sliding out. I liked that.

I’m going to have to try to get out here a little more often. Like I said, they constantly have great shows going on, some of which are free. You can’t beat that. Actually, I think I’ll be back before the month ends.

Friday, July 11th, 2014 – Ishi Gears Up for a West Coast Run; Leaves Dallas with One Big, Sweaty Dance Party

This was a big night for Ishi. It was their last North Texas show for about a month, and just weeks later they would be heading out to tour the West Coast.

What better place to have their sendoff show than Trees: a venue they have packed to near or complete capacity on several occasions in the past, and it seemed certain to happen again this night.

As usual when they play Trees, the lineup was made up of acts from all over the place in terms of style, beginning with opener Jenny Robinson and Bearcub.

“Thanks to all ten of you for coming out to see us!” Jenny exclaimed after the curtain had opened. Sadly, that wasn’t much of an exaggeration, and there were only a dozen or more people scattered about the venue. She informed everyone they were a producer and rapper duo — using Timbaland and Missy Elliot as an example — and introduced the handful of spectators to her male counterpart, Bearcub, who had a sort of bear suit draped over him. Perhaps robe is the better word to use, as it hung down below his waist, while a friendly looking bear head covered his own.

“This is our ode to Missy Elliot.” Jenny added, as they started a song that I would guess was titled “Supa Dupa Fly”. I surely wasn’t the only one who had reservations when she first said they were a rap and producer act. Granted, I’m not too familiar with many rappers in the first place, but off the top of my head, I can’t think of any white female ones (though I’m sure they’re out there). She quickly proved she has the skill set for it, though, and her rapping ability was off the charts. It was shocking at first, actually, ‘cause I don’t think anyone expected her to be spitting the words out at the speed she was; and Bearcub joined her, as they traded off here and there.

They may not have commanded a large audience, but they won over those who were watching with that first song, and their 28-minute long set continued as they went into another track. “I need some water.” Jenny stated afterwards, while Bearcub mentioned they’d take a quick intermission, and he readied the next track. It only lasted a few seconds, and once they were ready, he shouted, “For the next four-minutes, I’m gonna lose my goddamn mind!” He had shed his bear outfit by this point (I imagine it had gotten pretty warm with it on), and he did get really into the track; and handled much of the main vocals.

Jenny flashed her middle finger in the air for much of the following song, and as it ended, she asked everyone else to do the same. A few people then waved their middle fingers at her. The laughs then came when Bearcub said this next one was titled “Killing All These Hos” and as soon as he mentioned the title, he added, “Before you say anything else, we do not condone the killing of prostitutes. But if you’re a ho, watch out!” Jenny noted that they don’t discriminate, either, and it applied to both male and female hos. It wasn’t all that complex, but was quite catchy; and as Jenny said the last line, she tilted her head back and held the microphone above her mouth.

“Turnt up!” she shouted after another track, before Bearcub said this next song was dedicated to his ex-girlfriend. “Fuck you.” he said very matter-of-factly. In comparison to the others, it was a slower number, and Jenny showed off her singing skills a little, and she had a nice voice. Another cool part came at the end, when she wrapped the mic cord around her neck, then held the microphone up in the air, as if it were a noose.

Their set was almost over, and they had saved the best for last. Both of them flat-out killed it with their rapping, and at one point, Bearcub, who had once again donned his bear outfit, walked to the edge of the stage and just stepped off. The stage is probably a little more than four feet off the floor, but that didn’t faze him, and he began interacting with the crowd. He then climbed back on stage right about the time Jenny laid down on it, and began making some seductive moans.

“I’m Jenny Robinson, this is Bearcub. Together we are Jenny Robinson and Bearcub, and we love you!” she exclaimed with a smile on her face, making sure everyone who had been paying attention knew who they were before they left.

I’ll give anything a chance, but generally, I’m not a fan of rap music. This duo was awesome, though. They had the stage presence, the tracks were really good, and both of them were excellent rappers.

I really enjoyed it, and I wouldn’t be opposed to seeing them again.

Another duo was up next, but one who mined a completely different vein than that of the first act.

They were called Night Drive, and they had a very British indie pop / synth pop style about them. Maybe even a little new wave, too. That became very evident with their first song, which I believe was “Drones”, the lead track from the “Position I” EP. All their music was incredibly catchy; and Rodney Connell was handling the vocals, while Brandon Duhon played a guitar for much of the first half of their set, but was constantly mixing in some keys or electronic drums, and he had a whole little station set up beside him.

“Dallas, how are you doing?” Rodney asked during the song. They had a few more eyes on them than what the opener had received, and after that question was posed, those watching let out some cheers and applause. Already they had won over the hearts of some Dallasites, and they kept working their magic, doing some songs from their five-song “Position I” EP, and others that were not. A couple tunes later, Rodneys’ mic came unplugged, something he fixed just in time for the next line, and he and Brandon harmonized some on it.

“Alright guys, come a little closer.’ Rodney asked as they segued things right into their next track. The new fans were happy to oblige; and as it started, Rodney joined everyone. A box had been placed directly in front of the stage, and he stood on that, still allowing everyone to see him, before eventually mingling more with the crowd, singing with people or trying to get them to dance a little. He rejoined Brandon for the last bit, and then came the semi-dark “Nocturnal” (no pun intended). It was downright irresistible; and they bridged it right into “After Dark”, which again saw Rodney getting out amongst the people.

“For fun, we’re going to do a Radiohead cover…” he said afterwards, mentioning they would actually be releasing it the following Tuesday. He then dedicated the song to everyone who was at the back of the venue, hanging out by the bar. “Come up to the fucking front!” he shouted. The song was “Where I End and You Begin”, and he wasn’t lying when he said they did it differently. The electronic sounds that filled their original music were also showcased on this track, ensuring they left their mark on it.

They had gathered a slightly larger crowd with that, and people raved after it was finished. They then unloaded another original on everyone’s ears, and before their final song, Rodney mentioned that they came from both Austin and Houston. “This song’s called Sea of Light.” he informed everyone. Two small globes set on either side of the stage and had been used periodically this night, emitting light as they spun around; and they were certainly appropriate for that last song of their 34-minute long set. Then, at the very end, each of them grabbed a couple of confetti sticks, launching said confetti onto the crowd right as they hit the final chorus, “Colors collide in the sea of light…”

Night Drive was a surprise to many who showed up early, ‘cause I don’t think anyone was expecting a band with British flare. It was an awesome surprise, though. After all, I think that’s one genre many music lovers enjoy — certainly those who were here this night did.

For the time they had it, they owned the stage, and had a very professional feel about them. You knew just by the way they conducted themselves on stage that they had done this a lot, and put a lot of time and effort into making sure they were entertaining.

And they were. Actually, they were my second favorite act of the night.

They have some Austin and Houston shows planned all the way through September, and you can find out all the details on those on their TOUR PAGE. You can also buy their EP (they also have some remixes of songs available) on either iTUNES or BANDCAMP.

The main support act for the show was the Dallas-based Dark Rooms; a band I’ve heard a lot about in the last year or so, but had never seen. So, I was looking forward to finally seeing what they were like.

“Hey everybody, how’s it going?” singer and multi-instrumentalist Daniel Hart asked as soon as the curtain had revealed them. “We’re Dark Rooms.” he then added. He was wielding a violin for much of the first half of their 36-minute long set, and they gradually edged into their first song, which grew more climatic the further into it they got.

Daniel sang in a high falsetto tone a majority of the time, and it was absolutely breathtaking. Right from that first number they had everyone entranced, and more and more people felt compelled to come closer to the front and marvel at the group. However, much of my focus (especially on that one) went to drummer Bobby Lotfipour. He used to drum with Trebuchet (a band I saw more than a couple dozen times when they were still together); and it had been a little more than a year and a half since I last saw him in action behind a kit. I had forgotten what an impressive drummer he was, and he was killing in the latter part of that number, laying down the beats with ferocity, yet total ease.

Things got more lively when they wound that into “Give Up, Give In”. Rachel Ballard was playing a variety of instruments as well, from the keys to adding some additional percussion, while the violin soared higher than Casey Trelas’ guitar did on that beast of a song that had Rachel also mixing in some backing vocals.

They were living up to all the hype that surrounds them, and that violin sounded downright gorgeous on the following track. The instruments led them seamlessly from the end of that one into another, and the start was signified when Bobby began hammering away on the kick drum. Perhaps the best moment came when Casey and Rachel harmonized with Daniel, their combined voices having an ethereal quality.

That did it for the violin, and now Daniel placed it in a stand and grabbed his guitar, using it for the remainder of their 36-minute long set. One track they did had almost a jazzy, lounge feel at the start, and towards the end, Daniel, Rachel and Bobby all had the biggest smiles on their faces, obviously being happy by the fact that they were doing what they love.

They had been focused entirely on playing as much music as they could, but after another song, they stopped, and Daniel gave the standard speech for all bands, thanking Ishi for having them on the bill, and saying they did have some merch for sale at the back. Rachel was prepping the xylophone — making sure the mic was close enough to it. It was only used for a few moments of “Keep it Inside”, but gave a nice tone to it all. There were some electronic elements to that one, too, and live, it was utterly amazing and beautiful. I’ve listened to the recorded version since, and it sounds great, but it does not to the song justice.

Dark Rooms is certainly an interesting band. They’re a little rock, a little indie, a little pop, and thanks to the violin, there are even hints of classical found scattered about the songs (albeit in trace amounts).

They were dynamite this night, and caught the interest of many people who were somehow unfamiliar with them yet.

From Daniels’ unique voice, to the tight musicianship they all possess (Bobby really is an astounding drummer, and I’d swear he had only gotten better since I last saw him), it’s clear why they have built a good name for themselves in the area, and even beyond. However, the best thing was that they were simply having fun playing these songs for everyone. People picked up on that, and from the listeners perspective, it made them all the more enjoyable.

You can see them this week at Dan’s Silver Leaf in Denton on July 18th. They’ll also be making a trip to Raleigh, North Carolina on September 4th to play the Hopscotch Music Festival. As for their debut album, you can get it in either iTUNES or BANDCAMP.

I had started to wonder if Dallas really was going to come out and help send Ishi off on their West Coast tour, because all night long the crowd — in terms of numbers — had been lackluster. But towards the end of Dark Rooms’ set, people started making their way in. Hundreds of them, to the point that leaving the spot I had in front of the stage didn’t seem like a wise idea.

Of course, Dallas would let the electronic band down, and from front to back they had packed Trees out. Much of the audience even had their faces painted, something some fans do at nearly every show, but this night they were offering it free at the merch table. Nothing fancy, mainly just some lines on each side of a person’s face, maybe some dots, etc. Yeah, the Ishi nation is a diehard one.

“What’s up, Dallas?!” vocalist JT Mudd asked once the curtain opened. He was sporting one of his more eye-catching outfits, the one with long white cloth/robe that stretches down and covers most of his legs, while a separate piece covers his shoulders and much of his chest. It’s very futuristic and space looking; and, of course, he also had on the stunner shades that glowed in neon colors, along with a hat. “Let’s get this party started.” he said, a sentence people had been waiting all night to hear.

They kicked off their massive set with some classics, the first of which was “Our Time”. JT was grabbing his outfit and waving the cloth around in the air at first, before entering frontman mode as he proceeded to sing the first line, “Don’t let go of who you are…” They were joined by their latest female vocalist, Bettie, who lent her voice to various parts of the song before leaving, as they rolled it right into the next track on the “Through the Trees” record: “Come Closer”.

It had been a little over a year (their CD release show in May of 2013) since I last heard them perform it, and I was one of many people ecstatic about it this night. Jonathan Merla was laying down some nice beats throughout it, though he went unseen this night. A bar that formed a semi-circle stretched from one side of the stage to the other, and hanging from it were some balls (one on each side) that were flashing various colors, while several circles of different sizes filled the center, acting as a screen for the video they projected on it for much of the night. That was what prevented Jonathan from being seen.

Bettie returned, while JT called for the tracks to be boosted in the monitors, just as the one for “Mirror Ball Sky” fired up. “Mirror ball in the sky, heal us tonight.” JT sang, lunging forward as they hit the first chorus, casting his right arm out in front of him, as if to get everyone involved and having fun. Making it all the better was the small disco ball that hung from the ceiling of the stage, and the lights danced off it. They then bridged it right into the first of a handful of new songs, and it was another that heavily featured Bettie.

“…We’re about to hit the road and spread the word…” JT remarked during their first actual break, speaking of the West Coast tour they’d be leaving on in just a couple of weeks. Their timeout didn’t last long, though, and fans rejoiced as soon as they realized “Pastel Lights” was coming. It officially became a dance party with that lively, feel good number, especially towards the end. It was impossible not to notice the air cannons scattered about the stage. Two on either side of it and two more on both sides of the drum riser, and at the songs peak, confetti was shot into the air. It wasn’t large amounts, but still plenty to cover the crowd.

It was clear this was going to be one for the books.

JT then welcomed Becky Middleton to the stage. As far as I know, the last time she performed with them was at the Digital Wounds CD release show, and while she had been a mainstay with Ishi for awhile, she left to dedicate more time to her own music. It was good to see her back with them, even it was just for a night, and JT informed everyone in attendance they would be the first to hear this next song, called “Midnight Lightening”. It was a fantastic song. One of the best I’ve heard them do as far as their new songs are concerned; and Rocky threw in a sweet guitar solo, one that sounded pretty soulful. It neared the end, and JT started conversing with Becky (off mic). She was standing in front of one of the air cannons, and it scared her when it suddenly went off, causing her hair to whip around wildly, something she laughed off.

Suddenly, the track for “Moon Watcher” started, sending the people into a frenzy. It didn’t take long for that one to become a fan favorite, and peoples love for it has only grown within the last year. How could you not like it, though? It’s a beautiful love song, and apart from clapping along with JT and Becky, the crowd was also singing with him, “All the lives that I once knew never made sense till I found you…” “Let me hear you!” JT yelled in his softer voice at the final chorus, part of which was left entirely up to the audience. He took a bow at the end, placing the palms of his hands against one another to express his gratitude, before going back and grabbing a towel.

He hastily wiped the sweat from his face, then threw it out as their next song got underway, causing half a dozen or so hands to go up, hoping to get lucky enough to catch it. More confetti then spewed out of the cannons at the start, as this other new number was performed by the three core members of Ishi. Becky rejoined them for the dance inducing “Emotional Hard Drive”, and their latest single got folks quite rowdy, as many began jumping around. It was great, though, because their music is all about cutting loose. Between her and Rocky, they were adding some knockout backing vocals to it, too, which made it all the more extraordinary.

Bettie then returned to the stage, tackling the female vocals on “Touch The Future”, as well as another new one, which has the often repeated line, “Everybody wants to be a star…”. Confetti continued pouring down on people at different intervals throughout those two, and then the female vocalists once again swapped out. Becky still wasn’t safe from the blast of air, but it didn’t seem to catch her off guard as much now, and she continued shaking her tambourine to the beat of “Digital Wounds”.

They turned it into another clap along at times, and upon finishing it, JT left the stage, retreating to the green room. That put Becky in charge, and they dusted off what used to be a show staple: a cover of The Bangles “Walk Like an Egyptian”. She didn’t miss a beat, and now that she was the lead singer, her fiery stage persona really came out. The best part came at the final line, which she belted out with a passion.

JT then returned, having used that time for a costume change, and now was wearing a black shirt with a sort of floral pattern on it. They knocked out their final classic of the night, and when “Shake Your Dandelion” came to an end, he sang that last line, “Step into my world and I’ll satisfy you.”, and then pointed out at the spectators, who I think were feeling extremely satisfied at this point.

“How we doing, Dallas?!” he then asked, taking time out to chat for a moment, before they hit the final stretch of their 82-minute long set. Becky again walked on stage, showing off some dance moves on “Disco Queen”. “…Butter me up with your lovin’” sang JT, and as he did so, he took his left hand and ran it up his leg, eventually stopping when he reached his backside. “Rocky Ottley!” he shouted before again taking leave. That was Rocky’s cue to go all out, and ran to stage right and dropped to his knees as he started his guitar solo, before eventually falling to his back, shredding on his axe while he laid there.

Applause rang out, applause that quickly turned to cheers once “Mother Prism” began. JT walked back on stage. He now had his Native American headdress on, and as he approached the mic, he threw the vibrant red robe around him. He waited until the first break in the track to go back and get his shield, which, like the headdress, was illuminated in several different neon colors, which were constantly flashing on and off. He waved it around for a few moments, even using it to cover his face, before continuing, “It’s hard to rise above it all when everything is a pitfall…” As usual, the highlight came with the chant of “Aiyah, aiyay…”, which everyone was bursting at the seams to sing along with. It was as if he were a tribal leader, and the hundreds of fans who had gathered here were praising him. Jumping around also seemed mandatory for that one, and that pure delight everyone was experiencing quickly turned to sadness when JT said they had just one more.

“Let’s get funky.” he said; Bettie now standing to his right. The air cannons finished blowing their load during the lead in for “Slowly But Surely”, and JT suddenly had an idea. He raced over to one of them, propping his leg up on one of the monitors, appearing to be trying to achieve a Marilyn Monroe moment, but the air stopped right as he got up there. Bettie fully showed off her powerhouse voice when she sang one line; and as it got into the final minute or so, JT jumped off the stage. The crowd cleared room for him, letting him go where he pleased. He didn’t go far, though, and was just content standing amongst everyone, interacting with the fans as they all sang together.

Everyone had hopes that there would be more, but this is a band who very plainly says they don’t do encores. Extra songs, yes. However they don’t leave just to have a chant of their name started and then come back out. “…Can you handle one more?” JT asked, acknowledging that his band had left him. Rocky and Jonathan then returned.

“…We can’t tell you how much this means to us.” he remarked, before asking everyone to tell their West Coast friends that they were coming. Becky was back out there with them for their rendition of New Orders’ “Bizarre Love Triangle”. Singing along was highly encouraged, and it was easily one of the best moments of their set.

That fun jam would have been a fine way to end it, but the band showed no sign of moving. “Rocky wants to do one more.” JT said, before going back to the drums to help Jonathan find the track. They closed with one of the best songs from Digital Wounds, though one that has been worked out in favor over their newer material in recent months. Everyone was glad to hear “ISHI”, though, and considering this was their last hometown show before a tour, I couldn’t think of anything more appropriate to end with. Especially since one of the lines is, “We’re rolling on our dreams. I. S. H. I. is what mean…”. Quite a fitting way to close it out, and that pushed their set to just a little more than a hour and a half long.

Ishi always gives it their all. It be hard for them to be where they are now if they didn’t. But this night, they went above and beyond peoples normal expectations, which guaranteed this was a show that no one would soon forget.

Electronic music is something else I’m not always a fan off, but the music Ishi makes is undeniably wonderful. It demands you get into it and just have fun, and lyrically, the songs are either uplifting, or, as I said about the music, fun.

Add the always theatrical stage show to that mix, and you’re given a band who you can see countless times and still not be able to get enough. At least that’s how I am, and I know I’m not alone in that feeling.

Before going west, Ishi has shows in Houston and Austin. The former on July 18th at the Museum of Natural Science, and the latter will be at Empire Control Room on the 19th. Then, on July 24th, they’ll be in San Diego, California. They have a total of four shows around the state, and will also be hitting Washington state, Idaho, Colorado and Oklahoma, before doing a homecoming show at Lola’s Saloon in Fort Worth on August 15th. If you live in any of those areas, you can find more details on the shows HERE. Grab a copy of each of their LP’s, too. You can find them in iTUNES.

This was one helluva party this night, one that everyone enjoyed to the fullest extent possible. I imagine a lot of them will be doing it all over again in Fort Worth next month, too.

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014 – Alexander Webb Packs Out Opening Bell Coffee; Annalisse Nutt Amazes

It had been eleven days since I had last been out to a concert. The last time I went more than a week without seeing a show was probably about six months ago.

Yeah, I was kinda jonesing for a fix; and Opening Bell Coffee seemed like a good place to go to get it this night.

I may not often go to the cozy coffee shop located on south Lamar Street in Dallas, but I make sure to keep an eye on the calendar; and all the acts playing this night sounded good, based on what I previewed online, at least.

It was probably around 7:50 when I walked in, making me pretty late given the seven-o’clock start time. So late, I actually got one of the last available chairs.

Opening Bell was packed! More so than I’ve ever seen it (granted, I’ve only been here on weeknights).

Alexander Webb was on the small stage that takes up a corner of the room, and the Dallas native had a bunch of friends and supporters out to catch him while he was town.

He was in the midst of his set, finishing one original when I walked in, and afterwards told the crowd he was going to do something that might be familiar to most ears. He finished tuning his guitar, then unleashed a spectacular rendition of The Beatles “Come Together”. His voice had a smooth, even soothing quality to it at times, though he belted that track out with a fury, earning him rave applause from the entire room once the song was finished.

“I used to… Well, I still am pretty opinionated…” Alexander stated, setting up his next song, before mentioning this was the second show of a Mid-West tour he and Annalissa Nutt were doing. He also informed the audience that this next song, “All I’ve Come to Know”, was the last one he completed before hitting the road just days earlier, so it was still very fresh. He used a harmonica at times throughout what will surely be a highlight track on his next record; and afterwards invited Annalissa Nutt on stage to help in singing the next number.

It was another cover, specifically “Bloodline” by Matt Morris. It was the best song of his set (at least what I caught of it); and he sang the first little portion on his own, before Annalisse began to add her voice to it, harmonizing with him, and the result was jaw-dropping. It’s a great song in the first place, but the way they did it, it was astounding.

She left, and Alexander chatted with the crowd as he got ready for his next song, saying he hoped everyone was ready for a song that sounded kinda hopeless, but then got really hopeful at the end. He was quite for a moment, as got the capo just right, before he gave a heartfelt thank you. “A lot of years have gone into this music, and being able to share it with you is very valuable to me.” he remarked before “Enough” — the final track from the “Up Ahead” EP. He was clearly a great singer, but now he got a chance to let his skills as a guitarist shine, using both hands to pluck the strings up on the guitars neck in a very intricate manner.

That spiritual song was rather lengthy (lasting a little over five minutes), yet it passed by quickly, and then he wrapped up his time on stage with another song from that EP, which I believe was the title track, “Up Ahead”.

I’m glad I got to see at least a portion of Alexander Webbs’ set, as he is a very talented singer/songwriter.

Apart from his voice, the emotion that was poured into his songs was also striking, and depending on the content, you could tell they were born out of a deep personal experience or something that he strongly believed in.

He has released four albums so far, and the way he talked this night, another one should be coming sooner rather than later. But for now, check out his past ones in iTUNES. Also, if you live anywhere in the Mid-West, check out his current show SCHEDULE. This tour will be lasting through early August, so he just might be coming to a town near you.

The Arkansas born Annalisse Nutt was next, and it didn’t take her long to fill the space Alexander had just vacated. “I’m gonna play some music for y’all!” she exclaimed with a smile on her face. Her 50-minute long set was a mix of old and newer material, as well as some covers, and I’m guessing it was one of those newer songs she opened with. “If these walls could talk, they’d speak in tongues…” she softly crooned on the first line.

She may have been lacking the strong fan base that Alexander had, but many of them had stuck around, and Annalisse quickly won them over with that tune. Following it was what I think was her first cover of the night. I don’t listen to much Rihanna, but what Annalisse sang at the beginning matched up with “Drunk On Love”, albeit a retooled version that was better suited for an acoustic setting. Regardless of what it was, though, it was with that track that she firmly established herself as a vocal powerhouse, one who had completely captivated everyone in the room.

“I played here a couple years ago.” she remarked, adding, “I love this spot.”, before informing everyone this next song was more of a spiritual one. She talked about how it was about there being about a place with God where nothing else matters, and also pointed out it was on her “7 Song Sampler” album she released a couple years back. It was titled “There’s a Place”, and on it she was able to show off an even wider vocal range, nailing some terrific higher notes at times, while a certain forcefulness and intensity was heard throughout.

“I played this at a friend’s wedding last year…” she told everyone of her next cover, saying the way she does it gets a little darker at the end. No one really knew what she was talking about, but I don’t imagine anyone would have guessed it was The Turtles’ “Happy Together”. Some semi-dark vibes were incorporated, but nothing too bad; and it was still a song about being with the one you love. A fitting follow-up to that self-described darker song was “Lavender-Magenta Praise”. She again spoke of her faith, saying that no matter how dark things got, be it physically or spiritually, “…the color always comes back…”. She then said that Alexander happened to send her a video of himself harmonizing to the song. “…And I loved it!” she finished, as she brought him back on stage to help her out. She gently plucked the strings of the guitar she was using, better allowing her voice and his to be the main focal points of the track.

The stage was then given back to her, and Annalisse did what was arguably the best song of her set. She mentioned that when she got back to Nashville, she was going to start working on a new record, and this one, “My Storm”, would be on it. The chord structure was often soft and haunting, and there were several occasions she hit some utterly gorgeous notes that sounded like they were in the soprano range. Everything about it was absolutely amazing.

“You’ll probably recognize this one, too.” She said after the applause and cheers subsided. She showed off her pop side by putting her spin on “Radioactive” by Imagine Dragons, managing to make it sound very catchy with just an acoustic guitar, and also in the way she sang it. It was engrossing. “Thank you kindly.” she said, seeming a little taken aback by the warm reactions she was getting. “…Is everybody having fun?” she asked, following that with, “Is everybody ready to get sad with this one?” There were no objections to it, and “I’m Sorry” was indeed a very poignant number.

Earlier in the night, she had pointed out that her parents were in attendance, and while she noted this next song was one she doesn’t do often, she wanted to this night, and dedicated it to her “mama”. There were some very powerful moments during it, when her voice surged, being very compelling.

“That about does it.” she said smiling once the song came to an end, leaving everyone a bit saddened by the abrupt end. “No, I got one more…” she then added, checking on time to make sure she was good. She moved over to the keyboard that was on stage, only using it for maybe the first half of this final song, before stopping. The last bit was sung a cappella, and it was absolutely beautiful, even moving.

Annalisse Nutt is an exceptional singer/songwriter, and this night she proved to be a pure, refined talent.

Her breathtaking voice was certainly her biggest charm, but she’s equally as good in the field of songwriting, and not a bad on the guitar or keys, either.

I’d highly suggest you check out her “7 Song Sampler” record on BANDCAMP, and if you have the opportunity, go see her live. She’ll be on this tour with Alexander Webb for the next few weeks; and she will not disappoint.

Rounding out the show was an actual band. A newer one at that; at least new to the performing side of the business.

The three members of Northern National got their stuff setup, ran through the sound check, and then lead singer and guitarist (he used an acoustic for the first part of the set) Michael Rossi introduced himself, and then band mates Michael Allen Wilson on the electric guitar and keyboardist Michael Kanne.

Rossi later mentioned they did a lot of love songs, something that was evident from the get go, what with lyrics centered around love, while the music was softer, more relaxing, fitting the tone of the tracks. He earned some cheers after that first number, when he mentioned he had been with the same girl for nine years, a reaction that made him grin. “I actually just got her pregnant, so we’re having a baby.” he told the audience, which had dwindled to a dozen or so people.

He went on to say their next song, the title track from their debut album due out this fall, was one he wrote about her. It was called “Young and in Love”, a sweet love song about being completed by the person you’re with. Kanne used his mic to chat with the onlookers during the next break, saying they had spent two years writing stuff for their album, and “You’re the One” was one he seemed quite fond of, saying it was more of a soulful tune.

It made great use of the group vocals they were capable of, and the instruments even mostly cut out at one moment to highlight that. A more acoustic based song came next, and Rossi joked that it was as close to country as Northern National got, saying it was about leaving the Lone Star State, and then wondering why you did that in the first place. They did manage to capture a slight country sound — in the Nashville vein of the genre — and it had a low-key vibe to it, something I liked.

Rossi got a break from playing on their next one, and while he sit his guitar down, Kanne continued the storyteller like atmosphere they were giving this show, saying that “I’ll be Okay (Crazy World)” was one of the last songs they wrote.

That was the last one I stuck around for, and after hearing they only had two left for the night, I decided to go ahead and duck out.

Not that I wasn’t enjoying it, although the music was a little more sappy for my tastes. I just wanted to go ahead and get home.

They’re really good at what they do, though, and for anyone who likes pop music, then Northern National is one you must check out. All three of ‘em are equipped with some very good voices, and they mix very well together.

Their album will be dropping on September 2nd, and they’ll no doubt be doing at least a few more shows between now and then. Actually, they’ll be back at Opening Bell on Friday, July 18th.

It was good to get back out and catch some live music, especially from some touring acts. As anyone would, I do tend to stick with seeing the same bands I know I like, so it was good to get acquainted with some of the other talent out there. Another plus? I was home shortly before eleven.