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

image(Photo credit: Ronnie Jackson Photography)

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

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

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

The trio of Andrew Tinker, bassist Jacob Smith and drummer Lupe Barrera (who was so new, he had only done a couple of rehearsals with them) got their show going with a catchy, upbeat number. “…Lord knows it’s been quite, but the music never dies…” went one of the lines from the chorus. As it neared the end, Andrews’ playing on his guitar got less intense, while Lupe also greatly softened his drumming, as the three of them bridged themselves perfectly into their next track.
image(Photo credit: Ronnie Jackson Photography)

One of the most striking parts of the entire night came at the end of it, when Andrew belted out some of the line a cappella. It was jaw dropping. He formally introduced his band mates before they tackled “I Can’t Do it Alone”, which was one of several songs they did from the Upon the Ecliptic album. The song about realizing you do need others to help you along your journey is a beautiful one; and the bass and drums made it all the more inspiring.

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

The soulful and poppy sounds continued with “I’ll Come Around”; and they kept the great flow they had going alive as Andrew quickly strummed on his axe, relenting some when they began “Always Loved”. Another lengthy instrumental break was thrown in, and it turned into a drum solo, with Jacob quickly getting in on the action. Eventually, they backed off it, creating the impression the song was almost done, but that was when Andrew struck with a guitar solo.
image(Photo credit: Ronnie Jackson Photography)

They offered up one last song — another peaceful number — and that concluded their 43-minute long set.

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

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

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

He has a couple of records available in iTUNES, which you should definitely check out if you don’t have them.
image

imageimage

image(Photo credit: Ronnie Jackson Photography)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What a way to spend a Friday night.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.
image(Photo credit: Roxanne Fuentes | Fountain Photo Ops)

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.
image(Photo credit: Roxanne Fuentes | Fountain Photo Ops)

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.
image(Photo credit: Roxanne Fuentes | Fountain Photo Ops)

“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.
image(Photo credit: Roxanne Fuentes | Fountain Photo Ops)

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.
image(Photo credit: Roxanne Fuentes | Fountain Photo Ops)

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.
image(Photo credit: Roxanne Fuentes | Fountain Photo Ops)

“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.
image(Photo credit: Roxanne Fuentes | Fountain Photo Ops)

“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”.
image(Photo credit: Roxanne Fuentes | Fountain Photo Ops)

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.