Saturday, March 29th, 2014 – The Third Annual Big Folkin’ Fest

Believe it or not, I honestly had not planned on doing a thing this night.

After scrapping plans to make another trip up to Denton, and nothing really catching my eye in Dallas, I figured I’d spend a Saturday night at home for a change. Then I had a friend offer me a free ticket to the Big Folkin’ Fest, and I couldn’t pass that up.

Not that I hadn’t wanted to go to the show (which took place at The Prophet Bar, on both sides, using all three indoor stages, with an outdoor one set up on the patio), but I just couldn’t justify paying twenty bucks for a ticket into it.

Got there a little later, about nine or so, and killed time until Kirby Brown’s set in The Prophet Bar at 9:30.

That’s when he was scheduled to start, at least, but, in something that should have been no real surprise, the times weren’t set in stone. By the time he and his band were supposed to start the act before him was just finishing, making it around 9:50 or so before they got all setup and ready to go.

I had only seen him once before, when he did solo set at a Patio Sessions probably back in the fall of 2012. Sometime after that he made the decision to move to New York to pursue his music career, and while he has gotten back to Dallas more than a few times since, I’ve never managed to make the shows.

From what I remembered, he was great solo, but the full band really helped flesh out his sound, as they powered through a 42-minute set that saw them playing several new(er) tracks. “Thank you for being here.” Kirby told the near capacity Prophet Bar. “You’re fucking welcome!” exclaimed a very excited fan, leaving Kirby a bit shocked, though he did manage to say, “That’s a big welcome.”

One of the cuts they did from 2011’s “Child of Calamity” was the exuberant “Coattails”, which raised everyone’s energy level a good deal. While Kirby is an Americana musician, there are some other layers added to his music. However, a few songs after that, they got to one that was pure Americana rock, and it sounded brilliant.

They followed it with another great number that had a rocking end, with the drums, guitars, bass and keys blaring on it. They then went to the opposite side of things, and the band left Kirby alone to do a song solo. It may have been much quieter than the past songs, but he still had the crowd transfixed with it.

His band then returned for a cover song, while they ended with what seemed to be a fan favorite.

It was a great set, and it left me a real fan of Kirby Brown. Like I said, I had seen him before, but that was long enough ago I couldn’t remember much about him.

He has a fantastic voice, and it’s unique at that. Personally, I can’t say I’ve heard of another singer who sounds quite like he does, and he’s gifted in the songwriting department, too.

Check out his music in iTUNES, and go see a show if you get a chance. I know I’m going to have to make more of a point to see him next time he gets back to Dallas.

Headed out to the patio stage after that, where The Hazardous Dukes were already playing.

It was hard to actually see them, given that the “stage” was just the ground, and the mass of people who had already surrounded the area made it hard to get up close.

I really liked what I heard, though. The group is comprised of Hank Van Hawkins, Billy Bones and Zachary Fox, among others, such as Conner Farrall.

They played what I consider to be more authentic sounding country, and everyone who did some singing had a nice twang to their voice.

“This is based on a true story about a buddy whose divorce kept falling apart, and he kept getting back together with his wife.” One of them said before one song, which had me repeating that in my head a few times, thinking, “Did he really say ‘his divorce kept falling apart?’”, simply because you never hear it phrased in that manner.

They knocked out a few more, throwing some jokes in here and there, and on one those songs Conner had a great guitar solo.

They seem to play fairly often, and for the month of April are doing a residency at Sundown at Granada every Sunday night. Those shows are free.

Back over in The Prophet Bar (the smaller room, that is), things were still running behind schedule, and it was right at eleven when The O’s kicked off their set, a half-hour after they were supposed to.

The duo of John Pedigo and Taylor Young mentioned they had played year one and two of Big Folking Fest and were glad to be back for another year, before opening with the lead track from their “Between the Two” album, “We’ll Go Walkin’”.

That little love song was a nice way to get started, and a majority of the people there in the Prophet Bar were singing along to it as they watched the band; wonder gleaming from their eyes. They then got to a few songs from last year’s “Thunderdog”, including “Outlaw”, which is more or less an anthem. “…We’ve all got the right to fix things that we don’t like, while we yell and cuss and scream and fight…” sang John, while Taylor picked away at his guitar, while also supplying the percussion via a kick drum.

That was all I caught of their set. I would have liked to have seen more, but there was another act supposed to start right about this time on the smaller stage of the large room of The Prophet Bar; and I had at least seeing The O’s more recently than this other group.

These guys really are one of the best bands in Dallas, especially as far as country music is concerned, and I like them more and more each time I see them. At the very least, give their music a listen in iTUNES, and if you like it, buy it. As for shows, you can see them at Love and War in Plano, TX on April 19th. On May 16th they’ll be at Love and War in Grapevine, and the night after will find them in Fort Worth at Shipping and Receiving. They also have dates in Midland and Burleson in June.

J. Charles & The Trainrobbers had been charged with closing the night out over in the bigger room, and it had been nearly a year since I last them. In that time they’ve added Keith Naylor on as lead guitarist. Perhaps some of you (any longtime readers) recall what a fan/fanatic I was of Trebuchet, right up until their end last year. It was December 2012 the last time I saw them, and that said, I was looking forward to finally seeing Keith back on a stage.

They were all ready and raring to go as 12:15 rolled around, and the headliner seemed to be finishing up on the main stage adjacent to them… At least until they began another song, leaving The Trainrobbers with a puzzled look of, “Huh, I guess we’ll wait.” on their faces.

“Hi, you beautiful folkin’ people!” exclaimed singer and guitarist J. Charles Saenz, once it finally became time for them to start. “Mercy Killing” was what they opened with, and as great is that song is on the “Upon Leaving” album, it sounds incredible live. Probably because J. Charles is so impassioned as he sings it. “…There’s a bullet here for me, there’s a bullet here for you. Only problem is we love each other too damn much, it’s true…” goes the chorus, which more than a few fans were singing along with.

They moved on to the consecutive track from their debut album, doing “Letter to a Thief”, which had a pretty good kick to it, and the harmonies that Keith, bassist Justin Young and keyboardist Daniel Creamer added at times, backing up J. Charles, was phenomenal.

“Cheers to two awesome days of music…” he said after they finished, making a little toast, before they pumped everyone up with “Something Wrong”, a song that saw drummer Steve Visneau wearing a big smile, which rarely left his face at all this night, and never did on this one. They rolled it right into “Three Shades of Black”, tapering off from the louder rock stylings of the previous number, but still keeping the mood upbeat.

“How’s the vibes? Medium vibes?” asked J. Charles after they finished, trying to gage where everyone was at. “We need more vibes.” he finished, after which Keith spoke up, and specifically to a friend. “Excuse me, sir, but I think you’re dancing with my girlfriend.” he said, giving the guy a hard time.

They knocked out one of their new songs after that, which was pretty up-tempo, but also had some slow moments mixed in. “The guitars are being feisty. Folkin’ guitars.” J. Charles said after, while Keith worked to get things back in tune. To kill time, he also mentioned that this next would be one on their upcoming album, noting it will be out in the fall at the latest, or, with some luck, maybe even late summer. He also mentioned this next song was making its live debut this night, and that it was a pretty personal one, because it was about his “dear, sweet aunt” who had passed away from cancer. He apologized for perhaps bringing the mood down, and finished with, “…But fuck cancer.”

It told a great tale of the relationship he and his aunt had, and it may well be the most sentimental song on this next record. They got back to their older stuff for a minute with “Ain’t So Blue”, before doing another killer song, which just happened to feature musician Wesley Geiger lending his voice to it.

“I need to put the finger on the pulse. Everyone still doing okay?” J. Charles asked the audience, who was still very attentive, before asking if there was “anyway a shot could find its way from the bar to my mouth?” The request was granted, and they started to wind down their 52-minute set with “Tennessee Roads (No Moon)”. They had some feedback issues during it, but not to the point to ruin the tune, and the final line, which J. Charles sung a cappella, sounded beautiful. He then wound them right into their final song, another one, which was more intense, along the lines of “Something Wrong”, maybe even more so than that one.

That was the perfect way to end this night.

J. Charles and The Trainrobbers have been great each of the small handful of times I’ve seen them, but I dare say they were exceptional this time.

They tightened things even more so than last May at the Homegrown Festival, and this current lineup clicks very well. They were tight, and the unity was obvious from start to finish.

I don’t know how I let so much time pass between seeing them, though I’m going to have to try to make sure that doesn’t happen again. The show was highly enjoyable, and they are one Dallas band you need to keep your eye on.

Their music should appeal to both rock and country fans, and check out “Upon Leaving” in iTUNES. For shows, go “like” their FACEBOOK PAGE and keep a check on where and when they might play next.

It was a fun time here at the Big Folkin’ Fest, and a much needed shout-out to my amigo Brendan Williams for hooking me up with the ticket.

Friday, March 28th, 2014 – The Birth of Blood Saints

For the second consecutive Friday, the Double Wide wound up being my destination for the night.

I wasn’t even aware of the show that was going on there this night, until early on in the week when Blood Saints posted their debut show would be happening then.

The band has been in the works for awhile, though it was only last November when they created a Facebook page, and in late January came a recording to let everyone know what this trio of Gabe Cardinale, Casey Hess and Clay Stinnett would sound like.

Given that there were only two bands on the bill, Blood Saints didn’t get started until 10:49, but by the time they stepped on stage, they had the venue pretty full. By pretty full, I mean nearly packed out, and there were far more eyes on them then what the headliner wound up having.

Clay banged away on his drum kit, producing some heavy, pulse pounding beats, while Casey and Gabe each held a chord on their guitar and bass, respectively, and let it ring out, creating a slightly feedbacky tone. That built some suspense, despite the drums already being in full force, and soon, they unleashed a beast of an instrumental song.
image(Photo credit: Chad Beck of R Chadwick Beck Photography/guitarist of In Memory of Man)

The crowd was definitely feeling it, and they felt it even more so when Clay wound them right into that single they posted a couple months back, “Wipe The Diamonds From Your Eyes”. “Let me wipe the diamonds from your eyes. Ain’t that how it should be?” Gabe sang, with Casey backing him up, singing in unison with him, and their voices sounded outstanding mixed together like that.

The barrage continued as they went directly into another song, this one being co-sung; the two frontmen splitting vocal duties on it, while Casey helped end with a sweet guitar solo. “Thanks for coming out…” Gabe told the crowd during the transition to their next number. “…This is a new band for us.” He noted, after mentioning they were trying out some new songs.
image(Photo credit: Chad Beck of R Chadwick Beck Photography/guitarist of In Memory of Man)

The next one was a favorite of mine this night; and as they hit the first chorus, Casey spun around about 90° or so, forcefully strumming his axe in time with a mighty beat Clay dished out. “…You know the devils gonna take control…” was an often repeated line of their next song, which again had Gabe and Casey trading off on the singing. I’m hesitant to say this, because while Blood Saints did have some heavier tones to their songs, they were still a rock band. But that song, that was borderline heavy metal in my opinion, with some thick beats that had Clay getting so into it, he knocked over his floor tom about halfway through the song. It stayed there on the ground, too, until he picked it up for their final number.
image(Photo credit: Chad Beck of R Chadwick Beck Photography/guitarist of In Memory of Man)

They then finished their 35-minute set with a song in a similar vein. Okay, it wasn’t nearly that hard, but it was still heavy, at least it got that way after a bit of a tranquil start. And as they concluded it, Clay knocked just about every piece of his entire kit over.

Yeah, it was a helluva way to go out.

I thought it was a great first show.

I enjoyed seeing Gabe back on a stage and singing (it has been a few years since his last project, Dead Twins, disbanded), and as much as I love Descender, it was cool getting to see and hear Casey do something different. Clay’s the only member I’m unfamiliar with, though he is a ferocious drummer.

The writing styles of both the singers were prevalent in all the songs; and while I was expecting to hear each of them handle the signing, I wasn’t prepared to hear the unison singing like they did so much this night, and that was perhaps the quality that stood out to me the most. I mean, you seldom hear that, especially in rock music, but when you’re capable of it and it works, why not do it?

I’m certainly interested to see how the band progresses, especially as they get more shows under their belt and tighten up the chemistry, and to hear some more of the songs they have waiting in the wings to release.

Listen to their song over on SOUNDCLOUD and keep an eye on their FACEBOOK PAGE for info on future shows.

Headlining was a long running (established in ’97) group of veterans know as The American Fuse.

The four-piece outfit mixed straight up rock sounds with some punk aggression thrown in, and those who were in the showroom were instantly captivated by the first song of their 49-minute set, which was sung by guitarist Nate Fowler. Bassist Kinley Wolfe took over singing on “Something New”, which was one of a few songs they did from the “One Fell Swoop” album.

They alternated who did the singing for every song; and upon finishing that one, Kinley raised a toast to those who were there, before tearing through another song. JT Dayton (who was getting a little break from running sound at the venue) played a wicked little solo near the end of that one, as he rushed to the front of the small stage and raised his guitar into the air, before darting back. Really, it was more just some sweet licks, but it still sounded great, and looked awesome.
image(Photo credit: Chad Beck of R Chadwick Beck Photography/guitarist of In Memory of Man)

Everyone was definitely feeling it by now, and completely engulfed in the music, as they carried on with a track that may have well been titled “Blame the Whisky”, since that was a line that was often repeated during it. “Blame the grapefruit vodka…” joked drummer Clint Phillips after the song concluded, as they took a moment before their next song.

“That’s Clint’s postcard to everyone of ya everyday of the year…” Nate told the crowd once they finished, and continued bantering with everyone for a minute. “This reminds me of the time played the Dallas public library.” JT suddenly remarked, shortly before they dove into another intense number. That led to a new song, and Kinley stressed that no one had ever heard it before now. “Not even me.” joked Nate, who did the singing on it.image(Photo credit: Chad Beck of R Chadwick Beck Photography/guitarist of In Memory of Man)

They kept things moving right along with another new song, which was downright explosive, and was the latest one JT had written. “Lighters up!” Kinley requested, saying their “balled” was next. Their ballad may have been “Don’t Chingale My Chevrolet” (if not, it came around this time in the show). Either way, it was not the slow song that most bands usually refer to as their “couples skate” song. Quite the opposite, especially with the heavy bass lines he played at the start of it.
image(Photo credit: Chad Beck of R Chadwick Beck Photography/guitarist of In Memory of Man)

“Jeff wants to play another of his songs. He’s tired of our shit.” Said Kinley, giving JT a hard time, before doing another track he wrote, which, fittingly, saw JT doing another stellar guitar solo.

Their set was winding down now, and their next to last song got dedicated to Scott Beggs, who was in attendance, before they rolled it right into their final number, which led to an abrupt end. I say that because there was no “final song” warning. Instead, they laid the guitars down almost as soon as they finished, signaling that they were done.

Not that anyone was disappointed by that, though, ‘cause they had put on one incredible show.

The energy was off the walls, and the crowd fed of that, which in turn fueled The American Fuse even more.

The music is more along the lines of what would now probably be considered classic rock/hard rock, but there’s nothing wrong with that, especially when it has character. And let’s be honest, you can’t really say that about most of the stuff that’s on the radio these days.
image(Photo credit: Chad Beck of R Chadwick Beck Photography/guitarist of In Memory of Man)

Somehow, I had never seen The American Fuse before now, though I’m going to have to try to frequent more shows now.

You can find their album in iTUNES, and their FACEBOOK PAGE would be the best bet to find out about any upcoming shows.

It was a great night of rock at the Double Wide, and since there were only two bands, it was over kinda early. I’m not gonna lie, I liked that.

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

Just last month, The Dirty River Boys played one of the largest venues in North Texas (specifically, in Fort Worth). This month, their North Texas stop found them in Denton, at the much more intimate setting that Dan’s Silver Leaf has to offer; and I was even more excited about this one.

It was a one-band bill, and for a Thursday night, they a good little crowd here at Dan’s. A crowd who was glued to them as soon as they took the stage at 9:30 on the dot.

“What’s going on, Dan’s Silver Leaf. We are the Dirty River Boys from El Paso, Texas…” singer and acoustic guitarist Marco Gutierrez informed everyone. He was the one who sang lead on their first song, and they chose to open with one of their fan favorites, “Carnival Lights”. They didn’t do the more acoustic/solo version like they had the past couple times I had seen them. Instead, Travis Stearns added some light beats on his cajon, while fellow acoustic guitarist and singer Nino Cooper played some soft riffs, with Colton James slapping the strings of his upright bass periodically. “…She’s sitting on the top Ferris wheel car thinking, ‘It ain’t such a long way down; failure’s such a long, cold fall.”  Sang Marco on the first verse of this woeful, though beautifully told story. Nino shone on this song, as he did a little guitar solo before the third verse; and with the use of his pedal board, his acoustic guitar sounded like it could give any electric one a run for its money.

They instantly fired up the title track from their second EP, “Train Station”, where they somewhat touched on the amazing harmonies they are capable of, before digging out a track from their first (and so far, only) full-length album, “Science of Flight”. The first time I experienced The Dirty Rivers was last September at the Dia de los Toadies music festival, and a song I was instantly smitten with was “Heart Like That”. It’s certainly a favorite of mine, though out of the three times I’ve seen them since, it was one that went un-played. Forth time’s a charm, I guess, because no sooner had they finished that previous song, then Nino started them on it. “She was lusting for some wondering; he was lost in a paper filled room…” he crooned, while the song built up. It was the choruses that were truly outstanding, though. “She’s just a girl with a rambling heartache; he’s grown a hard, lost man. Searching for stars in a sky filled with dark gray; what’s not to love about a heart like that?” He belted, packing an immense amount of passion into it, and to say he killed it on that one would not be an understatement.

They took a an actual break after that, though it was short-lived, as Marco quickly mentioned that they had been in the studio in December and January, getting their next record ready, saying they’d be doing one of those new ones now. Colton sang on it, though at the start Travis let out a bit of an excited scream, and even though it was off mic, it was very audible. It was also a tune that had all of them lending their voices to the chorus, making for some incredible four-part harmonies.

Once they finished it, Travis asked how many people in the audience had seen them before, and quite a few repeat offenders raised their hands. There were some newcomers, too, and that was the question he asked next. “…God bless you for coming out on a Thursday night…” he said graciously, before asking anyone who might know the next one to sing along with it. The song was “Dried Up”, which had Nino playing the harmonica, too, and before the final chorus, they tacked on some of Bob Dylans’ “Just Like a Woman”.  “Nobody feels any pain tonight, as I stand inside the rain…” sang Marco, going all the way through the first chorus of the classic. “Now, as loud as you can, help us out!” Travis roared right after, pumping up the crowd, many of whom did sing along to the final bit of their original.

As soon as it ended, Nino switched gears and began the tale that “Union Painter” tells, and after it Travis used his kick drum to both bridge them into the next song and amp things up. Colton switched out to an electric bass for this new song, a song that Marco sang, and later joked was about “taking psychedelics and feeling the world out.”

Now came the ever-exciting “Chinese fire drill” (their words), where Colton ends up on the banjo, Travis the mandolin and Marco the upright bass. Travis swaggered all over stage left during “Lookin’ for the Heart”, and his mannerisms while playing the mandolin are very entertaining, which is exactly what he’s going for. He also added some percussion to it here and there, sitting on his cajon and using one of his feet to kick the box.

Another song from their LP followed, though it was a cover, and they pointed that out, giving Townes Van Zandt a shout-out before their excellent rendition of “Lungs”. “Stand among the ones that live in lonely indecision…” sang Marco on the first verse, while Colton spun his bass around at that time, while it ended with Travis shouting, “Rest in peace, Townes Van Zandt.”

They immediately fired up another oldie, “My Son”, which had Nino doing an electrifying guitar solo before the final chorus. There next song was one of their drinking ones, and Travis worked the fans by asking if anyone was drinking whiskey, and when not many people responded, it was just alcohol in general. “…That’s what this song’s about.” He said, as they cranked out a rocking, but fun intro for “Draw”. An intro that ended with Travis throwing one of his drum sticks in the air, then catching it.

From a song about whiskey, they made a jump to a song about love. Marco pointed out this next one was their current radio single from their upcoming album, and he began the song, while Colton was swapping back out to his electric bass. Nino then laid down his catchy chords that help make “Desert Wind”. There’s just such an epic feel to that one, and the music bed is done in a way it accents the lyrics, making them even more impactful.

Afterwards, a call was made to all the fans who had seen them before and were familiar with their music to help them out on “Boomtown”. Nino led the band (and audience) while now playing the mandolin, and Travis  told everyone when to come in at, since the verses are done in rounds, with Colton and Marco doing the second and third, respectively. The second one of each line was when everyone was supposed to join in, and many did.

The mood got a little more somber with “Riverbed Wildflowers”, before the group did some ominous crooning into their microphones on what was a dark lead in to “Letter to Whoever”. Before they officially began the song, Travis again tossed a drum stick into the air, and when he caught it, he struck one of the drums with it to signify the start of the track. “All of the darkness down at the bottom don’t look too dark from here. Keep your eyes on the brick wall, your foot on the throttle; get ready to feel no fear.” Marco quickly sang on the chorus of another gem that “Science of Flight” has to offer. Talk then turned to their hometown of El Paso, and how it has “falling on hard times”. That was what their next song was about, and they co-wrote this other new song with Ray Wylie Hubbard. It’s one of two new songs that are completely unforgettable (in my opinion), and it’s already one I look forward to hearing each time I see them.

They got back to the darker elements during another intro piece they concocted, and this time Nino and Marco quickly strummed the strings of their guitars, which sounded rather haunting, and the occasional notes from the harmonica Travis threw in only intensified it. Still, it was fitting for “Six Riders”.

After handling that one, Marco exited the stage. Travis followed, while Colton took a backseat as Nino started “So Long Elanie”. They came back around the second verse, kicking the song up a few notches. It was still very restrained in comparison to their next one (the other of their two new ones that is unforgettable). For that last one, Colton had both his basses at the ready, and now he laid his upright down and moved his electric from around behind him to his front. “This song’s about life on the road.” was the simple, though accurate explanation Nino gave of their next number, which is the most aggressive one they’ve written thus far.

“…From the bottom of our hearts, thanks for attending our show…” said Travis, as they got ready to wrap it up. He then made everyone come up to the front of the stage. “All of you in the back, we haven’t even gotten to see your faces tonight…” he said, adding they would not get started until everyone was right up there. He certainly knows how to pump up the crowd, and once the majority of the folks gathered around he asked, “Are you ready to raise some hell?!” The fans roared back at him, while Nino began their semi-jig that is “Raise Some Hell”, which always creates a boisterous mood, even on a Thursday night in Denton.

It was a fun end to an 82-minute long set, but no one wanted it to be over yet, and some people began asking for more while the band made their way off stage.

They made everyone a few moments, and when Marco made his way back on stage alone, it had me thinking he was going to do one of his solo songs (much like Nino had done shortly before.) However, when his band mates followed suit, with Nino now clutching an electric guitar, it became clear that wouldn’t be happening.

“Can I get a hell yeah?!” Travis asked, after he had made sure everyone had, had a good time this night. They then proceeded to close with their excellent rendition of The Rolling Stones “Honky Tonk Woman”, a song they’ve truly transformed into their own, and Travis owned his cajon during it.

This was a fine way to spend a Thursday night; and even though it had barely been a month since I last saw The Dirty River Boys, I had somewhat forgotten how sensational their shows are. However, I was quickly reminded.

They’re a superb live band, and they mesmerize who ever happens to be watching them on the given night, delivering a rock show steeped with some country elements. It’s one you won’t soon forget, either.

I also enjoyed the fact that they focused mainly on their older songs this night, verses the last time I saw them, when the new stuff was in full force. Nothing against it at all, but still being a new fan, it’s good to get to experience the older stuff (i.e. the songs I know), especially since the days for some of them are no doubt numbered.

Over the coming months, they have several shows lined up all around Texas, and will even be getting to Oklahoma and Louisiana. Check out their TOUR PAGE for full details. Their next stop in North Texas will be their return to the Granada Theater in Dallas on April 25th. They also have a show at Hank’s in McKinney on May 17th, and will be in Fort Worth on June 11th at the Capitol Bar.

Also, be sure to check out their music in iTUNES.

Saturday, March 22nd, 2014 – A Reunification Elation

To finish out my week of concert going, I made a return trip to Three Links (where I had ended my previous Wednesday night).

The venue was hosting a bit of nostalgia this night, with three bands set to do reunion shows, though it turned into two before the show began.

Pop Unknown had a medical emergency come up that meant they could not do this show. I hate that, that happened, and I would have liked to have seen them, but I’m glad they were the one band who I was not familiar with. So, while other people may have been disappointed, my feelings were at least spared.

That meant things got pushed back a bit, and it was a little after ten when Macavity finally took the stage.

Before I go any further, let me backtrack a bit. Buzz-Oven was crucial to getting me into the local music scene in general, getting my first taste back in 2005. The company was all about making the youth aware of the local North Texas music scene, and their website housed downloads of all the past compilations they had released, where each band featured contributed two songs.

That was how I first heard of Macavity and Valve, both of whom had disbanded by that time. I enjoyed their stuff, though, but admittedly was more taken by Valve’s songs. In fact, I had even seen their two previous reunion shows. So, just because I never experienced either act back in their prime, doesn’t mean I was any less ecstatic about seeing them now.

Before a single string even got plucked, Beau Wagener (who started the night off on the bass), mentioned that Macavity hadn’t played a show since ’08. “…Don’t beat the shit out of us, and we promise not to do the same to you.” he joked, then added, “Here’s some stuff we wrote when we were really young.” “…Here’s some bullshit.” added guitarist Marshall Read.

Their focus this night was the twelve-year-old “Falling Hard In The Key Of E” album, and they began their set with the lead track from it, “Another Try At Something New”. It might have been six years since they had last done a show, but they didn’t seem to have any trouble getting back in the swing of things. They were in tight form as they got going, especially on the choruses when the song took off,  and even though the stage was fairly tight with five of them on it (plus all the backlined gear), they still found space to move about.

Beau and Marshall swapped out guitar and bass duty, and Beau once again mentioned who they were. “We were Macavity; many years ago.” he stated, as they slowed things down (momentarily) with “Floating………”. However, when it did roar into action, so, too, did guitarists Seth Bohlman and Ryan Shaw, along with drummer Brian Rodriguez and the rest of the band.

Three Links was packed, and out of the two bands on the bill, Macavity had the most eyes on them, and they were bringing it so far, but not just with the rock. The comedy was in full force, too, and Seth took time to set up their next track. He noted it was about “high school lovers”, and he reminisced about those young days, when there was “nothing better than hand over shirt touching tit”. He went on to say that this next one was about everything he wished he had, “had the balls” to do when he was eighteen. “…It is slightly misogynistic…” he pointed out, apologizing to all the women in attendance in advance. “…I didn’t realize that until I was thirty-two. Fuck me, right?” he finished as they got ready for “It’s Okay To Say Goodbye”.

From here on out it was all jokes in-between songs, and after a serious conversation about Marshall having had a baby not even twenty-four hours prior to this show, Seth then mentioned that this was the natural progression of their shows, saying he recalled talking about 401k’s back in ’08, and now that talk had been replaced with kids. Beau then referenced their last reunion show, saying they were doing even less songs now. “…Now wait until 2021, when we only do one song and you sit around and fuck off.” he cracked.

With that, they got right back into rock mode with “Rockets In The Stack”. “The pressure’s building up; I can’t for the day when you crawl back to me…” Beau sang on the chorus; after which he and Marshall again switched out the guitar and bass, and he laughed when he said he was betting a lot of people had forgotten about the old “switcharoo” they did. “What have you been up to the last decade?” he then asked everyone. “For me, it’s been Ben and Jerry’s…” He also spoke for Marshall, saying he had been busy getting grey in his beard, and even growing a beard in general.

“But we’re brothers, so all this left me…” said Beau, waving his finger around his head and hair (which is lacking), “…And went to him.” “Was that crotchal?” asked Seth, saying he had missed what specific area Beau was talking about on himself.

With only two songs left from that EP, they had saved the longest ones for last, and after “Trapped By Design”, Seth mentioned that, “That’s how you make a six song EP forty minutes.” “We still have the long one.” Beau reminded him, shortly before “Goodnight, Sweet Dreams”. That wasn’t all they had to give, though. After another switcheroo, Beau told everyone that maybe one day they would come back, and play “the good songs” which can be found on their other album, and I assume it was one of those tracks they chose to end their 41-minute long set with.

Man, I wish I had been able to see Macavity back when they were a band. They were great this night, and found their stride very early on. Of course, one of the other downsides to having not seen them, as I don’t have any point of reference as to how they should be, though they were on point. Probably to the point they were in their heyday.

It was fun, and now I won’t look at Beau anymore as just being the guy who plays bass in The West Windows and People On Vacation.

You can buy the EP they played this night on iTUNES (it was released on Idol Records); and who knows, maybe one day, they’ll play those songs once more for their fans.

Now was the part of the night I was excited for, and that was seeing Valve.

The four-piece of bassist Tony Gattone, drummer Lance Lujan, singer and guitarist Casey Di Iorio and guitarist and synth player Josh (sorry, I missed his last name) took the stage donned in matching attire, which was black shirts and red ties.

Josh used the keyboard/synthesizer to make a cool, almost spacey sound, which quelled the fanfare. Well, at least it did until they began “Cornerstreet”. That was, of course, the first of many classics they did this night that had a majority of the people in the room singing right along with them; and upon finishing it, Casey rolled them right into “Forevermore”.

“Thank you all for coming out. How are you this fine Saturday?” he asked everyone, before thanking Macavity for opening up the show. “I remember making a record with Macavity.” he recalled. “They weren’t even old enough to drink; but they turned out as fine lads.” he joked, then added the members from that group had certainly beaten Valve members in “the kid count”.

“I waited by the station for your words… Words that I know won’t be said. Words that I need to hear in my head…” sang Casey at the start of “Waited By the Station”; the crowd echoing it right along with him. Tony began jumping around rather erratically once he, Josh and Lance joined in on the song, a song that was one of their strongest of the night.

It was at this point that Casey mentioned he was recovering from a 103° fever the night before. Someone from the audience jokingly called him out on that, saying he had those all the times. “Yeah, but all yours are from too much alcohol. I have those, too, but those are easy to get over.” Casey remarked, then later formally introduced Tony. “…He’s better known as ‘The Look.” he added as they got ready for “Take Flight”. It was one of a few songs they did this night that never made it out of the demo phase during their original run, but this night was on the new album they had for sale. An album that featured re-mastered versions of many of their songs, plus some of these others tracks that had never seen the light of day before (at least on an album). And in hearing it, you had to ask yourself how this missed making the cut on any of their records. It was every bit as strong as their other songs, and the chorus, “Take flight; I want to touch down somewhere new tonight… I want to land somewhere where I’m forgiven.” had a hopeful vibe to it, and one of redemption.

They segued it into “Lincoln Shore”, and after it, Tony filled some time while everyone else got ready for the next one. “…Support local music…” he encouraged everyone to do. “‘Cause it’s hard around these parts lately…” Hopefully, everyone will heed those words, too.

My favorite tune of theirs was next, and “Overrated” really pumped the audience up. Casey changed up a line on the second chorus slightly. “…I’ll get you right out. Fuck, I’ll get you right out.” he belted, adding “fuck” to it; while Tony raised both of his arms at the first “And then it’s alright…”, egging on the fans to make some noise.

“California girls.” That was all Casey had to say before their next song, and he shook his head while doing so. “…You’re the boredom I see everyday…” is the perfect line from “Drained” to sum up what it’s about, and you could clearly tell everyone here was ecstatic to hear it again. “Let’s give a big hidey-ho to Lance on drums.” shouted Casey once the song was over, adding that Lance was one of the original members of Valve. He also took a second to thank Three Links for hosting this sweet show, before they continued cranking out the songs, now doing “Farther From Sight”.

A toast was then made, to everyone who had any part of making this show happen. “We won’t do this again.” stated Casey. “Yeah, you will.” replied someone from the crowd. “No, we really won’t. We’re already sick of each other…” he retorted. Yeah, you could tell they were sick of each other, what with all the smiling they were doing, and just how absolutely happy they seemed to be back on a stage playing these songs.

Suddenly, they burst into “Part of the Catch Phrase”, which is not only one of their catchiest tracks, but live, it’s one of their most fun. Casey took over on the bass during the instrumental portion, while Tony prepared for the coming dance off. “Which one of you wants a piece?!” he asked, as one guy started to make his way on stage. “This guy’s going to fuck me right.” Tony said, while the guy climbed on stage. He got to go first, and had fun sowing off his dance skills. “That was good…” Tony told him, but this was his court, and he let it be known. The second round was more or less the same, and once Casey got back on his guitar and returned to center stage, he even said he thought Tony won that one.

For their next song, they welcomed the original bass player of Valve, Ian, up on stage to sing some backing vocals. “I didn’t get the black shirt and red tie memo.” he told Casey as soon as he got in front of the microphone. “I hope it’s orange.” Casey told him, before passing any and all blame off on Tony, saying he was the one in charge of picking the outfits. They had some fun with Weezer’s “Surf Wax America”, which ended with Casey tossing his guitar in the air, though the strap could only go so far before it pulled it back against his body.

“This song is for everybody that busted your ass all week…” Tony abruptly shouted, causing even his band mates to start laughing. “I think that means you can jump around on this one.” Casey then told the crowd in advance of “So Wired”. Upon finishing it, he asked everyone to give a hand for the owner of Bishop Manor Rehearsal, Duncan Black (whom I had seen rock out on the drums for Descender just the night before.) Casey went on by saying he [Duncan] used to play in a band called Glass Pack (if I heard correctly). “That was is heyday, really.” he finished, while the people applauded. “If you knew who Glass Pack was, you wouldn’t be clapping.” He then told everyone, before they slowed things down a just a hair with “Waiting in the Five Below”.

“Sounds like California girls, again.” Casey remarked before their next song, saying they were “always shouting” because they get so much sun. Conversation then took a turn to beer, specifically IPA beer. “…You know the Toadies just made their own beer…” he said, saying he had talked to Todd about it shortly after, who likened IPA to being the “merlot of beer”. “…It’s for babies…” Casey said, noting Todd had phrased it differently, but he wasn’t “comfortable going there” in front of this crowd. Yeah, that got some laughs, and then they got back to business with “Upper West Coast”. It was sort of a fitting song considering what was said after it, when Casey again thanked those who put the show together and Three Links, including owner Scott Beggs. “…Who’s playing hooky in California like a lazy son of a bitch.” he said lovingly.

Some time was then spent on singing happy birthday to a couple friends and fans who recently had/were celebrating. Tony then cracked that if they had been at the Oscars, they would have been played off stage long ago.

That led them to their final song, which Casey stressed really was their last one. “…We had a encore planned, but we got a little too excited and already burned through it.” he informed everyone. He then gave the lead in to the song, which was, “As our friend Chris Burney says, ‘I like trains.’ This song’s called 10:52.” That was a good little nod to their friends in Bowling for Soup, while the song was an excellent choice to end their 69-minute long set with.

They were phenomenal this night. This was definitely the best reunion show I’ve seen them do, and all the chemistry they have with one another was evident right from the start. And even now that they’re not a band, they’re still better than many acts that are out there.

But as great as the show was, both in terms of performance and music, perhaps the best part came at the very end, when Casey again thanked everyone for making it out. “We’ll see you next time.” he said, leaving everyone with just a glimmer of hope that this may happen again in a few years.

Thursday, March 20th, 2014 – Abacu5 Shows Off Their New Lineup to Dallas

And so it continued…

My third straight night out in Dallas found me at The Boiler Room, where a couple bands I was familiar with were playing. One I had seen before, though it had been a long time, the other was one I had been wanting to catch since they came into being in the latter portion of last year.

Singer/songwriter Natalie Gore (who was joined by an acoustic guitarist) opened the show, and was already part of the way through her set by the time I got there. “This is my ode to Taylor Swift…” she said of her next song, noting it was “self-explanatory”. Indeed, the song “Dear Jon” was self-explanatory, telling a tale of heartbreak and letting go.

The whole show (at least what I was there for) had a sort of storyteller vibe like that to it, which I enjoyed. Like her next song, a cover of The Band Perry’s “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely”, when she mentioned she lived in Nashville for some time, and never really liked country music until she was immersed in it then. She also joked that she knew this might not be the right crowd for a country song, but no one really cared, and the rendition was quite good.

Then you had “Something More”, which acknowledged was her pride and joy for many years, as it was the first song she ever wrote on a guitar. That came after a story where she said she begged her brother to teach her how to play guitar, but he never would, so she took up classes once she started college. She joked about how good she thought she was once she had learned three chords (which was when she wrote this song), before making things a little more complex as she learned more.

That was followed by “Falling”, before she ended with a song that “everybody would know”, which wound up being Katy Perry’s, “Roar”, and it was highly enjoyable.

Given that every other act on the bill were rock bands, she was the odd man out (or rather, odd woman, I guess), and she did mine a slightly poppy sound, though she still fit with it all.

I enjoyed listening to it, and she has a great voice. I guess maybe that’s why she sings the national anthem at the FC Dallas games (the soccer team).

Check out her music. She has a few singles available in iTUNES, and keep an eye on her TOUR DATES page for future shows.

Now it was time for the rock portion of the show, and getting that going was Pseudo Future.

It was only last June when Vinyl Pilot played their final show, and from the ashes of that band, a couple of the members (Jeff Lowe and Patrick Hunter) formed this new group, teaming up with drummer Justyn Gomez.

They may not have been together long, but they’ve already played several shows, and quickly got a debut EP released, with another on the way.

Their 29-minute long set this night was a mix of those recorded songs and the ones that are yet to come and it was of the latter that they opened with. It was actually one of my favorite songs they did this night, and it showed everyone just what kind of alt rock sounds they were in for.

As it ended, Patrick knelt down and fiddled with his pedal board; creating some great sounds that served as a wicked segue into “Loss Of Light”. Jeff than took the reins, striking his guitar to start the song, a song that highlighted just how tight a group they are. After the second verse, Patrick raised his bass in the air, doing so in perfect time with one of Justyns’ beats. Yeah, it was pretty solid.

“Hey guys, we’re Pseudo Future. How are you tonight?” Patrick asked the small cluster people who had ventured out on this Thursday night (those who didn’t don’t know what they missed out on). “I’ve lost all control; trying not to show…” crooned Jeff on one of his rare light moments, shortly before the rhythm section took over and dominated on “Drawing Board”.

Some mangled feedback and drumbeats led them into their next track, which Jeff dedicated to his “beautiful wife”. He sang the first line or two of “Love Of My Life” into the bullet mic that was attached to his stand, before switching to the other microphone for this sweet song. I was slightly surprised to hear it, since it struck me as probably being a deep cut that wouldn’t be played live, but when you don’t have many songs in the first place, you gotta do all you can. Don’t misinterpret that as me saying I don’t like the song, either. They did change it up to be better suited for the live environment, though; and the end was downright explosive. The trio roared into action on it, and Patrick even backed up Jeff on the chorus, their two voices sounding fantastic together.

“How’s everyone’s Thursday night going?” Patrick asked, again bantering with the onlookers for a moment, before mentioning the next one was another new one, and one they had just recorded. Justyn used his electronic drum pad at times on this one, like at the start and end, where it had a cool sound that resembled metal striking metal. It added a great quality to what was their most intense song of the night.

They had some fun after that, as Jeff picked up a couple of drumsticks and assisted Justyn in playing his kit. While he did that, Patrick was again using his pedal board to create all sorts of distorted sounds, then eventually joined them by banging on the drums. That was entertaining to watch, and once it ended, Justyn showed off his chops as a drummer, knocking out an insanely good solo that soon bridged them into another hefty number.

Their time on stage had passed too quickly, and they were already at their final song, which Jeff set up as being “about your friends” and “being fed up with them”. He elaborated a bit more by saying it was about when they should be there for you, but they’re not. “’Cause they’ve gone to a place, a place they don’t belong.” he said, using the chorus of “All My Friends” to explain it. That was what they closed with, and during the slow part after the second chorus, Justyn stood up from his kit, before they ripped back into it, and gave the tune a very memorable end, that found Jeff and Patrick plucking some strings in time with the beats, while Justyn ended it with some incredibly rapid drumming.

I don’t know what I was expecting, but it wasn’t a show of this caliber; and by simple surprise, I was blown away.

The energy they put into it was off the charts. If you saw their previous band, it was at least on par with that, perhaps even better.

They had ample room to move about and they took advantage of it, but Patrick and Jeff still almost ran into one another at times, just because they got so carried away.

I’m definitely going to have to start trying to make their shows more often, ‘cause this was great. In fact, I was wondering if any of the other bands could top it.

That debut EP they have out, you can get it for FREE on their BANDCAMP PAGE. As for shows, they’ll be at Lola’s Saloon in Fort Worth on April 26th, and they have a show at the Curtain Club in Dallas on May 24th.

A band from Plano by the name of Afterzoo was up next, and they share a similar story to that of the band before them. The group was formed after other bands collapsed, and they haven’t even been together a full year, during which time they’ve already released a full-length album. Granted, I didn’t know any of that prior to seeing them.

Their first two songs were bridged together, and that time was all it took for the spectators to realize how incredible bassist Terence Shipp was. He was owning it on the bass; swinging it back and forth, almost as if he were going to send it flying around behind him and back, though he never put that much force into it. It ensured all eyes were on him, though.

“That last band was kickass…” said singer and rhythm guitarist Dave Aslan Kendrick, who asked everyone to give Pseudo Future another round of applause. “…This is one we haven’t played in awhile.” he remarked before they ripped into the catchy and finely written “Hazard Lights”, which brought just a hint of Southern Rock into their alt rock style.

Terence continued bringing his A game, and again took the spotlight on “Odd Numbers”, after which Dave mentioned the next song was one they had done a video for. “If you want to see Terence and his dreads.” he added. The song he was speaking of was “Away We Go”, and it was a highlight of their set, simply because they got so into it. Lead guitarist Chris Hendrik was shouting along to the chorus – despite not having a mic – and you could tell it was one they were really feeling.

“I know most of these are new for everyone, but this next one’s new for us as well.” said Dave before they broke out a newer jam, and Tommy West let loose some thunderous drumbeats on that one; while the end of it had them all crooning, “Wooo”.

They knocked out another great tune, before Dave took a moment to officially introduce his band mates to everyone, then grabbed  a drumstick and used it to hit one of the cymbals as they began “Happiness Ensued”, which ended their 31-minute long set.

It was mostly an instrumental piece and an epic one that, where you got to see the musicianship all four of them posses really shine.

They impressed the hell out of me, and by the time they were done, they had left it all on the stage.

You wouldn’t know they’re still such a new band by watching them, and since I didn’t know that at the time, I found myself wondering, “How have I not heard of these guys before?”, figuring they had been together at least a couple of years.

Really, the live show was something to experience. Hell, at one point, Terence shoved Dave out of the way, because they were about to collide with one another. Yeah, it was just a bit intense.

On another note, no, they aren’t reinventing the wheel with their sounds, but they make it so enjoyable, it doesn’t matter. The passion’s there, and that’s what matters.

Check out the “Shoplifter” album in iTUNES, and if you want to see them, their next show is on April 19th at Sons of Hermann Hall in Dallas.

Closing out the night was Abacu5 (pronounced abacus). I don’t even remember the last time I saw them, though I’m guessing it had been well over a year ago.

The band took some time off, and the few times they did play I was unable to make it; and during all that time, they’ve undergone some changes.

Jonathan Sprang stepped down from the lead vocalist role, though is still with the band, being a guitarist and backing vocalist now. They also welcomed Cory Martin into the fold as the frontman, and this was only his second show with the group.

Their 49-minute long set was filled with a bunch of newer songs (or at least some that have yet to be recorded), like their opening track, which saw Jonathan and bassist Adam Manning interacting a bit as they jammed together, while lead guitarist Samuel Holder broke off into a solo at one point. It would be the first of many this night.

Jonathan then rolled them right into one of the tracks off the “Sandwich Squad” EP, “What I Said”. It was a little weird not hearing him singing it, but the word “weird” isn’t to be confused as meaning not good. On the contrary, Cory was crushing it; moving around what space he had and stepping onto the drum riser, all the while focusing on the crowd to make sure they were engaged. They had also improved on that one a bit, and Samuel added a truly wicked solo into the mix.

“Thank you all for coming out. We’re going to play some serious Rock ‘n’ Roll…” Cory informed everyone. There’s no denying they had the biggest fan base of the night, so the thank you was well deserved; and shortly after they dove into the next tune. “…I can’t believe what you’re going through; life is crashing down on you…” Cory sang on the chorus, being a little restrained as he showed off a lighter side of his voice, but still packing some intensity into it. It had an excellent sound, and was one of the standouts from their set.

Eric Petrinowitsch began the next number by banging about on his drum kit, before his band mates suddenly opened up their single, “Say What You Want”. This was when you got a good glimpse of what this new version of Abacu5 is capable of, and Cory and Jonathan co-sang the track. They shared the lead responsibilities, even harmonizing at times — which sounded great, I might add. “You’re words hurt like spikes to the eyes…” the two sang on the chorus; making this already great song a force to be reckoned with.

They tore right into what Cory noted was the newest song they had, and while it got into the more alt/rock sound that all their songs have, I thought the first verse was a bit dark, a quality that I enjoyed. They explored some more new territory with the next song, which had Adam adding his voice to the mix at times, making some wonderful three-part harmonies.

A sample track bridged them into their next one, and the sound of rain falling was a rather cool lead in to the aggressive “Dark Night”, which was one of the other songs that Samuel got to shred on. He and Adam then launched the group into “Pretty Lady”, which almost seemed to have undergone some tweaks. I thought it just had a more vibrant sound now.

“We got you feeling pretty sexy…” Cory said as the song concluded, prompting one friend/fan to shout, “I always feel sexy!” “…You like the Foo Fighters?” he asked, setting up a cover of “Dear Rosemary”. It fit perfectly with their style, and I thought they nailed it with the song. I also point out I thought it was cool that they did a Foo Fighters song that was not a single. You seldom see bands go with the atypical when it comes to covers, and while there’s nothing wrong with bands covering “Everlong” or one of the other hits (still using Foo Fighters as an example, though this applies to any artist), it was refreshing to hear a band try their hand at a “deeper cut”.

With that, their time on stage was pretty much over, though they did have one last song from that four-track EP to do, and wrapped it all up with “Blow You Away”. Jonathan and Cory alternated signing lines each time they got to the chorus; while Cory stood atop the drum riser and belted out the final line as the song wound down.

Man, this new lineup has elevated these guys to the next level.

That’s not to say they weren’t good before, though it helps now that they have a singer who can solely be a frontman. Jonathan still has his presence too, though; and the harmonies they displayed at multiple points this night were awesome.

They’ve really pushed themselves to a whole new level since I last saw them, and I am speaking the all the members collectively.

As for Cory, in terms of vocals, he fits right at home with Abacu5, and for their chemistry with one another to already be as good as it was this night, I can’t wait to see what they’re like once they get all the wrinkles ironed out so to speak.

Their next show is scheduled for April 12th at The Adelaide in Terrell, TX, and head over to their REVERBNATION PAGE to listen to and download their EP for free.

Not a bad way to spend a Thursday night, and it turned out even much better than I had expected it to be.

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

Last time Memphis native Myla Smith came through Dallas (which was only about four months prior to this), I ended up missing it. Luckily, I didn’t end up suddenly feeling under the weather this night, so I was able make the show at Opening Bell Coffee.

This was the fifth stop of a ten city tour she was doing with Chris Milam and Heather Batchelor, and this Dallas date happened to coincide with OBC’s weekly songwriters in the round series, which was bound to make the night a little more interesting.

I got there a bit after the scheduled 7:30 start time, walking in on the end of what I believe was Myla’s first song, which also ended the first cycle of the round.

“I want to write a song like that.” Heather told her after she had finished, commenting on the rather abrupt end it. “…Just start at the end.” Myla joked, as Heather got ready for her next song, informing the early birds that it was the same one she had done during soundcheck. “…But it has lyrics now.” she stated

She played one of the tracks off the three-day-old “Unraveled” EP, “Something to You”, which carried a catchy tune with it, and told a good story in the four minutes or so it took to play it. While she sang, both Chris and Myla gave her their full attention, and afterwards the ladies turned their attention to Chris, who said there were a lot of good things about being from Memphis. One example he gave was “the rich music history”, though he was quick to point out there were some downsides to it, too. He then shared a couple stories with the audience, one of which was about spending sixteen hours renovating a house, which led to the downside of “…hearing five hundred blues songs on the radio…” That helped act as a catalyst for him to write what he said was his first blues song, and if I heard the title correctly, it was “Tell Me Something”. There were some blues elements mixed in with the country and pop vibes; and it was one of my favorite songs he did this night.

Myla finished out the round with a song that she noted was one of the first ones she wrote for her latest album, “Hiding Places”. “There’s no cure for what I’ve got, call it the human condition.” she sang, while lightly plucking the stings of her guitar as she began “Human Condition”. That hushed intro didn’t last, though, and even with just an acoustic guitar she made the song into a mighty number, and belted out the chorus with a passion.

Attention then shifted back to Heather, who informed the crowd of a little over a dozen that she was going to get a little bluesy. “If that’s okay.” She added, prompting a small amount of cheers from the audience, with Chris chiming in, too. She took things down a few notches with “You’ve Got a Way”, a track that really highlighted her vocal range, from the more tender side, to nailing some deep, powerful notes, that left you thinking, “Wow!”

“Are there any kids hiding behind the pillar?” Chris asked when his turn rolled around, pointing to the big column in the center of the room. Some folks checked and informed him there was not. “It’s okay if there, but I’m gonna get a little PG-13 with this one.” he stated, before knocking out another newer song of his. When it got back to Myla, she proceeded to tell everyone a story behind her next track. “In two thousand and ten  I took on took big projects…” she said, before stopping. “I dropped my pick.” she remarked, causing Heather to joke, “Oh, no. The world is lost.”, while Myla reached down and picked it up.

She got back to her story by saying those two undertakings were a new album and getting married, a feat she did not recommend anyone do, saying both are hard enough in their own right. “I had three separate breakdowns.” she said, being able to laugh about it now. On that note, she added that she had to inform multiple family members that the song she was about to do was not about her now husband. “Take your stuff, take your sorries, I’ve heard enough. Wrap them up with a big red bow, give ‘em to the woman you used to know…” went the chorus of “Big Red Bow”, which had Myla tapping a little more into her folk side.

Upon finishing it, she mentioned their wedding day was also the day that album (2010’s “White/Gold”) was released, and they gave copies out to all those who attended said wedding. “Please tell me you wrapped the albums in a big red bow?” Heather asked her. They did not, though Myla did say that on the cover art for the album she was wearing her mothers’ wedding dress. Heather then said something about a “ringbearer”, before correcting it to “ringbear”, making a How I Met Your Mother reference. Fitting, since the shows series finale was airing that night.

She then busted out the infectious lead track from her new EP, “Chicago”, which was one the onlookers really seemed to enjoy. Before his next song, Chris told everyone how thankful he was that they were there watching them. Thus far, he said he had only been eating Fruit Roll-Ups, and Heather was quick to nod her head, affirming that he wasn’t lying. “…I’m running on your fuel…” he said to the crowd, being completely genuine with the remark.

He offered up another newer track, while Myla backed him up at different points throughout it. Those backing vocals sounded lovely, and when it was over, she said she’s really wanting her and Chris to start a duo called “Milam and Myla”. They even talked about combining their names, much like is done with celebrity couples these days, and calling themselves something like, “Mylam”.

All of that fun and at times off-the-wall banter served to make the show all the more entertaining.

She cranked out her next song, and when things got back to Heather, she mentioned this next one was one she co-wrote with a friend and fellow musician, Taylor Dukes. “…From Nashville, Texas.” she said, when talking about her friend. She realized her mistake as soon as she made it. “Wait… That’s not a place.” She said, and you could tell she was still trying to figure out exactly how that had slipped out. “…You all know Taylor, the Duke of Nashville?” said Chris, adding his commentary to it all.

The laughs (from both the crowd and the musicians) subsided, and Heather got back on track, saying when they sit down to work on a song, Taylor told her she felt like writing about “wild hearts”. So, fittingly, the track is called “Wild”. It’s great as is, and was only made better with the additional vocals Myla added to it, which was something Heather pointed out they had worked on during their time in the car, which was slightly surprising, because it sounded as if they had been doing it much longer than just practicing it that day.

“Are there any Springsteen fans here?” Chris asked, which got people really excited. “This isn’t one he wrote…” he informed everyone, though he did say it had some “Boss elements”, and after mentioning that there were religious layers to it (at least that’s what he said he tells his mother), he confided that it was really inspired by a high school reunion. The song he spoke of was one from the “Young Avenue” EP, called “Dark in the Garden”.

Like his other songs, it told an honest story; and after it, they got into a story from their trek on the road. Namely, how the rental car company gave them a Cadillac Escalade. It was at this point they pointed out the tip jar the staff of OBC had passed around a time or two already, and Chris said it, of course, took the most expensive gas. They also had trouble with the seat warmers, and hadn’t been able to turn them off so far. Sure, that would have been fine a few months ago, but not now.

Myla then set up her next song, which came from the “Drugs” EP. “It’s not what you’re thinking…” she clarified, saying the inspiration behind came from “baptized drugs”, which, as she pointed out for herself, was this: work and playing music. The song was the first one from that EP, “Slow Down”, which she noted she could probably stand to do at times. That’s not necessarily what the song’s about, though. Instead, it carries a message of chasing after what you want, and putting everything you have into it.

Heather got ready for her next track by saying that when she had time, she used to take naps. “I don’t anymore.” She stated. She then asked if anyone there was a fan of rainstorms, as in they found the sound soothing. A couple of people fit that category, and she was pretty fired up when she made her next remark. “I’m, like, ‘Yeah, bring it on!” she said, before finishing that, that was sort of what this next song was based on.

She performed the stellar, “Let it Rain”; and when things rolled back around to Chris, he asked if everyone would indulge him while he told a story. A few years back, he said he was called into a record executive’s office, who liked what he was doing and asked him to play a song. He did one, then another, saying he was feeling pretty good at that point, and his confidence only grew with the third song, which he was stopped in the middle of. The executive then offered his critique, which was that he was playing “New York country” and not “Nashville country”. Chris said he was given a homework assignment, and told to write a Nashville country song. “So, I searched my heart…” he said, making some funny remark, that was something like he wrote a song about New York girls who were from Tennessee. Honestly, I didn’t catch all of that, but regardless, the song that spawned was “Memphis Queen”, which is found on his debut album from 2005, and it was one of his strongest songs of the night.

Myla didn’t waste any time getting into her next song, which was the ever so catchy, “Bad Boys”. “All the bad boys are looking for a good time. I catch ‘em looking my way…” goes the start of the chorus, which, once it was over, led Chris to say he was sensing a theme between it and what he had done before. They then looked at Heather, who said she didn’t have a song to fit that pattern. However, she did have one that was about a “makeup, breakup and everything in between.

Once she finished, Chris reached down a harmonica and neck rack. “He’s getting the harmonica. He’s such an overachiever.” Heather stated, giving him a hard time. I believe the song was titled “All of Our Ghosts”, and was an amazing one. Myla kept with the newly established slower vibe, by doing a song she pointed out was rather special to her right now, because it was a finalist in the International Songwriting Competition. Heather then piped up. “That means it good.” she said, bragging on Myla. The song was “Sparks”. If you listen to it and pay attention to the lyrics, you’ll understand why it has made it so far in the competition, and the song deals with never letting the spark in a relationship burn out.

For Heather’s next song, she did the title track from her first EP, “Fine Line”. Chris followed it with another one of his, and for Myla’s turn, she did “Love in Black and White”. There’s a point in the song that sounds like the end, and the crowd raised their hands, but remained hesitant to applaud, clearly not certain if it was over yet or not. However, when Chris led the applause, everyone followed. The look on his was priceless after it subsided a bit and Myla continued on with the final verse. Meanwhile, Heather just shook her head and grinned.

It was about 9:15 at this point, so they had been on stage for nearly two hours already, and now they asked everyone if they wanted a couple more rounds. Everyone was game, and this next to last one they (minus Myla) had decided would be a cover round. “Are we really doing covers?” asked Myla, who was down for it, but just wanted to make sure they were indeed doing that.

Chris even joked that they were all three going to do “Freebird”. “…And we’ll all be here till next Tuesday.” he said, while Myla added she wanted to do the last solo by mimicking the sound with her mouth, and even demonstrated it.

Heather’s song was one by Maroon 5. “Really old” Maroon 5, which she noted was her favorite. It’s been years (and then some) since I’ve listened to the “Songs About Jane” album (which, I might add, is the only Maroon 5 album I own), so I didn’t catch the flubbed line she made on the second verse of “Sunday Morning”. However, she readily pointed it out when she finished, saying she was “ashamed” of it. Still, I think that little mistake could easily be overlooked, given how she killed it on the final chorus, and the vocal delivery was outstanding.

Chris treated everyone to an awesome rendition of The White Stripes “I’m Lonely (But I Ain’t That Lonely Yet)”, with just a hint of country flare added to it. Before her turn, Myla mentioned just a few days before someone had told her that there was “no good music written in the eighties.” She said was a bit taken aback by the comment, and responded to the person with, “Well, how about this song?” With that, she immediately started “In Your Eyes” by Peter Gabriel, which I definitely think qualifies as at least one good song that came out of that decade.

Since they were on the topic of covers, Heather mentioned she wanted to do a more acoustic rendition of “Love is a Battlefield”, saying she thought that would sound cool. “It’s been done on Idol.” Myla told her, crushing her hopes. “Well, if it’s been done on Idol then I can’t do it.” She remarked, before again thanking everyone for sticking around, because most of the people who still were here, at been there since the show began.

Her closer was “Fool Again”, and it was a great note to end on. Before his last number, Chris thanked Opening Bell Coffee for playing host to them, then started “Shine”. It sounded great to begin with, and was only made better by the assistance he got from his touring companions, as they all three harmonized on the choruses, their voices sounding absolutely incredible all combined like that.

It fell to Myla to end the night, and she concluded it all with the title track from her still fairly new record, “Hiding Places”, which was a nice conclusion to an unforgettable night.

All three are extraordinary singers and songwriters, and seeing them in this Songwriters in the Round setting made for a one-of-a-kind experience. I mean, hearing them play their songs would have been just fine, but having them tell stories pertaining to some of the tracks, along with the banter and teasing they periodically did was fun to hear. And no, it did not seem like this was a two plus hour show, and that old saying, “time flies when you’re having fun”, would be an appropriate one to us about this night.

Regarding Myla, she’s playing Memphis every week in the month of April, and just a few shows in other states are also planned for May. Her full calendar can be viewed HERE. Be sure to check out her albums in iTUNES, too.

Chris has a gig at Downtown Rooftop in Memphis on May 9th, and go HERE for any updates on his show calendar. He also told me it’ll probably (hopefully) be fall at the latest when he’ll get back to Dallas, so keep that in mind and be sure to check him out whenever he does get back this way. And, of course, check out his albums in iTUNES.

Heather has her records up on either iTUNES or BANDCAMP, and while she has nothing on the books at the moment, here’s her TOUR PAGE.

Oh, they’re all super nice people, too.

Great way to end the month of March, especially since I began it with a songwriters in the round show that featured four Texas musicians, and then ended it more or less the same way with some acts from the only other state whose name begins with a T. That might almost qualify as being poetic.

Wednesday, March 19th, 2014 – Ishi Livens Up a Wednesday Night

As one show let out and my duty of covering the show for On Tour Monthly was fulfilled, I headed across the street to Three Links to catch a show for myself… Or at least what was left of it.

The whole bill (which featured Black Taxi, We’rewolves and Okapi Sun) would have been great to see, but Ishi was the main band I had wanted to see in the first place, and they had yet to start.

It had been about ten months since I last Dallas’s favorite electronic band, and coincidentally, it happened to right here at Three Links, just one week after their massive CD release show when “Digital Wounds” was finally released into the world.

Point is I was looking forward to this.

“I’m gonna need more tracks ASAP.” Frontman JT Mudd told the sound guy as their show got underway. He was decked out in his full attention getting attire, which included his spacey/futuristic looking robe, a hat with little squares of glass like you would see on a disco ball covering it and a pair of glasses that illuminated neon light. He also sported some face paint. It may have been a Wednesday night, but they clearly weren’t pulling any punches.

“Happy hump day motherfuckers!” he shouted as the sample track for “Pastel Lights” grew louder, soon peaking as guitarist Rocky Ottley and drummer Jonathan Merla jumped in on the track. I guess that’s the upside of going so long without seeing a band: They completely switch up their setlist. I was a bit surprised they opened with this classic that is typically reserved as one of the final songs, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t like it.

It instantly had the area in front of the stage transformed into a dance floor, as some sang right along with JT, “…I will be waiting in the shapes of time; realigning the matter between your heart and mine…” It was indeed a fun way to kick off what would end up being a 71-minute set, and with that oldie out of the way, it was time for some new stuff, but not the new stuff I was expecting.

Apparently, they’ve been busy writing some new material since I last saw them, and played a handful of the tracks this night. The next one was the first of a few that had JT introducing a female singer (I missed her full name, though if I heard correctly her first was Betty) who joined them on stage and backed him up.

While a female vocalist used to be a permanent thing in Ishi, they’ve proven in the last year or so it’s not a necessity for them. However, there are times it is behooving of the music. That song was one of them, and the woman killed it each time she did step on stage.

“We got a brand new song for ya, Dallas.” remarked JT as she left, leading to another new song, one that had Rocky playing some very cool sounding lines on his guitar. The fans barely had to time to clap for them before the backing track for a personal favorite of mine kicked on, “Moon Watcher”. The fans were encouraged to clap along with Jonathan’s drumming at the start, and after getting through the first chorus, JT gave it up to Rocky, letting out a high-pitched, “Guitar!”.

They were on a roll know, going right from one song to the next, and “Emotional Hard Drive” kicked the dancing into overdrive, while Rocky jumped around at the start of it. “…You strut your stuff, looking so tough. I don’t buy it…” JT sang, kind of flexing one of his arms as he did so. That was segued right into another new track, which again featured the vocal talent of Betty, who even took over more of a lead role at times. In fact, while she was singing one line, JT went and grabbed a little towel and wiped the sweat from his eyes, before getting right back into show mode, jumping about and doing everything possible to ensure the audience was feeling it and having the time of their life.

“Thank you, Miss Betty.” he said as she went back to being a spectator of the show, while they moved right along with “Touch The Future”. “Let me see your vibrations; touch the sun. Anyone can make it happen, we’ve only just begun.” Goes the chorus, which seemed to strongly apply to them this night; and as they hit the instrumental break, JT walked over behind Rocky, holding his cape out and waving it behind him.

The songs kept coming, and now they cranked out the haunting title track, “Digital Wounds”, before JT asked everyone a very important question. “How many dandelions do we have out there tonight?” Everyone knew that meant “Shake Your Dandelion” was coming, and the sexually charged classic of theirs had been tweaked a bit, and now featured a blistering guitar solo after the second chorus. During one of the breaks, JT checked in on his people, asking, “How we doing out there?”, then after the song once again thanked everyone for “rocking out on a Wednesday night” with them.

Next, fans were treated to the first single off their latest album, “Disco Queen”, which was followed by another single, which signified the end was nearing. JT exchanged his current headgear for what I guess could still be considered a Native American headdress. It was more simple than the one I’ve seen him rock in the past, though it still had the strips of neon lighting adorning it; and in one hand, he held a shield, also covered with neon lightening, and he began dancing about at the start of “Mother Prism”.

That one has been a fan favorite since it first was worked into their shows, and the fans were downright giddy to hear it. “Aiyah, aiyay. Aiyah, aiyah, aiyay.” everyone chanted along on that nonsensical anthem of sorts, which serves to bond everyone together. Really, for that one song, it was like everybody in Three Links was a single entity. Some were still dancing to it, while many began jumping up and down, still chanting.

It was a lovely moment, and once it concluded, JT rested the shield against Jonathans’ kick drum. Another stellar guitar solo was thrown into “Slowly But Surely”, after which JT thanked everyone one last time for coming out, along with all the bands who played before them, before saying they had one last song for everyone.

I was surprised it was not an original they broke into, though it was a pleasant surprise to hear them pull out their cover of New Order’s “Bizarre Love Triangle”. It had been quite awhile since I had heard them do it, and as they hit the final chorus, JT got out in the crowd, dancing along with everyone and encouraging everybody to sing along, and even left one of the choruses up to the crowd.

That was a satisfactory ending for me, though it didn’t take long for people to start asking for one more, and they were more than happy to oblige.

“You have two options…” he told everyone given them the choice of “Mirror Ball Sky” or “ISHI”. I shouted for option two, but I was one of the few. Needless to say, it didn’t win out. “Let’s get dirty.” JT said, right before starting the lead track from their current album.

So it seemed like the track that used to be their routine opener would be how this show would end, but they still had a surprise for everyone. After a quick band meeting, they decided to do their other choice, and I was elated by that. “We’ll do one more, ‘cause we fucking love you…” said JT, adding with a bit of an accent, “Long time.” “ISHI” brought their 71-minute long set to an end, and I really like the way they handled the final chorus, doing it sort of in rounds, with JT shouting the first letter, “I”, then a second later Rocky shouted it out. The same thing happened for “S”, before they synced up for “H” and “I”.

Man, what a way to end a Wednesday night, a Wednesday night that had already included me seeing the great Chino Moreno perform.

Ishi owned it this night, and delivered a show that was exactly like what everyone in North Texas has come to expect from them. They’re fun, they’re lively, and the music they make is topnotch, while the new songs they played this night were at the very least on par with their other stuff, and one was a standout.

After going so long without seeing Ishi, I had forgotten how happy their shows make you, and I doubt I was the only one who left with a smile on their face.

Upcoming shows include a Totally 80’s night at the Granada Theater on April 26th, where they will performing a Depeshi and covering Depeche Mode songs. On May 4th they’ll be playing early at the Suburbia Music Fest in Plano, and they have a gig in Houston on May 31st as part of Free Press Summer Fest. And if you want to check out their music, head over to iTUNES.

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

I rounded the corner from the parking lot behind the Granada Theater this night to the front of the venue, only to see a sizable line that stretched around the north side of the building.

Yes, the people were out in droves, even shortly after eight-o’clock, all in anticipation of seeing London Grammar.

Of course, there was an opening act that would come first, though everyone seemed in consensus that they should just get right to the main course. On the center screen that covered the stage the venue broadcasts a Twitter feed (you tag the Granada in a tweet and then it shows up), and based on the several people who were using it had already written the Oslo, Norway based HighAsAKite off. Actually, I don’t know if some people were even aware who the opening band was, but by the time they were done, that would be a name no one who was here this night will ever forget.

Their 32-minute set was comprised of songs from their upcoming “Silent Treatment” album, (due out April 8th), including opening with the lead track, “Lover, Where Do You Live?”. Guitarist Kristoffer Lo used a bow to play his axe on that first song, similar to, say, a violinist, in a way. There were some absolutely gorgeous three-part harmonies on that one, as Øystein Skar and Marte Eberson, both of whom played some synths, backed up frontwoman Ingrid Helene Håvik. “…Sent shivers down that spine of yours.” was one of the lines from that song, and a fitting one at that, because that was the exact feeling a majority of the audience was experiencing.

It was sheer beauty right from the start, and the synthesizers allowed them to add so many layers and so much depth to it.

Now that they had cast a spell over everyone, they picked things up, and Trond Bersus’ drumming grew more forceful as they moved on with “Leaving No Traces”, which saw the three-part harmonies becoming four, making it all the more compelling. As it ended, Kristoffer laid his guitar down and picked up his flugabone (which looks like a trumpet of sorts, for those unfamiliar with the instrument). He proceeded to play a piece that segued them into the subsequent track from the album, “Hiroshima”. They gave it even more flare live, and there was a moment that was nothing short of climatic, once all the instruments peaked and burst into a delightful, captivating wall of sound.

They bridged it right into the theatrical sounding “I, The Hand Grenade”. “Yeah, the real terrorist is me, my love.” goes one of the often repeated lines from the first verse, before “terrorist” gets changed to “parasite” for the second, and Ingrid delivered it all with flawless execution. “Since Last Wednesday”, the single the album has already produced, showed a bit of a lighter side to the band, and it contained some very subtle pop elements. Still, to even begin to say it was pop would be completely inaccurate.

“Thank you, we’re really excited to be opening for London Grammar.” Ingrid told the audience, in what was really the only time they addressed the crowd, since they had been so busy utilizing their time on stage to play all the songs they could. Even while she spoke, the applause continued, and people had already welcomed these Norwegians into their hearts.

Kristoffer brought the flugabone back out for their final song, “Science & Blood Tests”. He used it for a portion of the song, before putting his guitar back to use, again using the bow on it, as they concluded their set by leaving the now new fans with the same sense of wonder their first tune had created.

I don’t know if I’ve ever seen an opening act that was as impressive and mind-blowing as HighAsAKite was.

It was breathtakingly beautiful, and their level of talent is unfathomable. And while this was an exceptional show, I got the feeling they were only starting to scratch the surface at the end of this brief set.

Honestly, they have everything one needs to be a headliner here at a venue the size of the Granada, with the exception of the fanbase. Well, at least before this night they didn’t have the fanbase.

They were the perfect pairing for London Grammar, because HighAsAKite also has a sound unlike any band. Ever.

By all means, you need to keep an eye on this outfit from Norway, and I’m already anxiously awaiting their return to Dallas. I doubt I’m alone, either, because the Twitter feed again lit up, this time with posts from people who were utterly amazed by what they had just witnessed.

They have an EP available, while their LP will be released this coming Tuesday (April 2nd), and can be bought in iTUNES. As for shows, they’ll be doing a brief stint in the U.S. in May, with a few shows on the East Coast. Aside from that, everything will be international (well, for us American folks at least), and their full calendar can be seen HERE.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014 – The Pizza Underground Loads Up on Extra Cheese in Dallas

When I arrived at Club Dada this night, there was a line outside, not a long one, but a line nonetheless.

A group of excited friends in front of me where asked for their tickets, replying with they were going to buy them at the door. “It’s sold out.” Answered the woman who was scanning pre-purchased tickets, leaving the group dumbfounded as they left the line, clearly wondering how they should now spend their Wednesday night.

That was the type of buzz The Pizza Underground had created; and thanks to Parade of Flesh, the group was stopping in Dallas on their way to Austin.

Let’s get it straight, though: this show wasn’t sold out because heaps of music fans were wanting to see a potential next big thing in music. Rather, it was because of curiosity, and the fact that everyone was intrigued to see the Velvet Underground type cover band, who instead has made the songs all about pizza, and just so happens to feature Macaulay Culkin as one of the band members.

I missed the majority of the Brooklyn based singer/songwriter Toby Goodshank, who opened up the show on the outdoor patio stage. He finished one song and then mentioned to the crowd that along with an album he had for sale, there was also an “extremely graphic pornographic comic book” he had written at the merch table, which certainly seemed like an odd mix of items to be selling.

It’s hard to gauge any musician/band just by hearing two songs, but he sounded good. It was an odd mix of rock and folk he played, and I wish I had caught more just so I could have gotten a better feel for his music.

He has some records over in iTUNES if you would like to give his stuff a listen.

Things took a different turn after his set, when the only true band on the bill, Moving Units, took the stage.

The trio, which consists of singer and guitarist Blake Miller, bassist, Mike Delgado and a drummer, brought with them a type of indie dance/rock music, and the Los Angeles outfit plowed through their 40-minute set.

Despite having released a new album just last year, they focused on just about everything from their career, and I believe it was “Birds of Prey”, and older song, that they opened with. It reeled the crowd in, in no time, what with its catchy sounds, and it was made even more fun when Mike tossed an inflatable beach ball (which was made to look like an oversized basketball) into the crowd, which was batted around throughout their set.

They seldom did seamless segues, but kept it all pretty tight, giving the audience just a few seconds to applaud before going into their next song, and after tackling another one, they knocked out the striking, “The Kids From Orange County”. Live, these songs (especially the ones in the first half of their set) were more rock sounding than they come across on the albums, which I really liked. It was just heavier in some ways, and the guitar, bass and drums were far more prominent than the sample tracks they were using.

Following that one was another track from “Hexes for Exes”, “Wrong Again”. “You don’t know what you want, you don’t know what you need…” sang Blake, while playing some mesmerizing chords there at the start. Afterwards, he laid guitar down, showing he was a commanding frontman as he sang “Kate Moss in ‘97”, which is a bit of a seductive track from last year’s “Neurotic Exotic”. It was fairly repetitive, and the chorus consisted of repeating the songs title many times over, yet it never got tiresome. At least not to me.

They were more into the true dance portion of the show by now, which was equally as fun, and one of the best tracks they unleashed this night was “The World is Ours”. “Pink Thoughts” kept mood alive, but surprisingly, no one ever really danced along to it or any of their other songs, despite seeming to enjoy them. They powered through a few more, including the moving “Paper Hearts”, which wound up being their closer.

They abruptly stopped after that, removing their guitar and bass, before Blake waved goodbye to everyone and thanked everyone for coming out.

There’s no arguing that Moving Units was the best act on the bill this night. The music was topnotch, and Blakes’ voice is most excellent.

They held my attention for every second (well, when I wasn’t having to look to see where the beach ball(s) so I wouldn’t get hit by one, that is). The performance was fun to watch, too, and pretty professional seeming at that.

They have a few records you can buy/listen to in iTUNES. They also have a few shows lined up around California, so if you live in the area, check out the dates HERE.

By this time, the patio – which can hold about 150 people – was pretty much packed out, yet more people kept finding spaces to fill in, as everyone eagerly awaited The Pizza Underground.

I must say, it was weird seeing the stage completely vacant of any amps, a drum kit or any other instrument, but then again, The Pizza Underground is far from your typical band, so some weirdness should have been expected.

The audience cheered when Austin Kilham, Phoebe Kreutz, Matt Colbourn, Deenah Vollmer and Macaulay Culkin filed on stage, in that order as they took their places. They were all clad in black, partly looking like hipsters and partly like they were trying to impersonate some bands of the 60’s to 70’s era.

Deenah Vollmer was clutching a Serious Pizza box (one that would hold a full pizza, which was enormous), and she held it above her head before opening it. A smaller box (one that could hold one or maybe two slices) fell out and she picked it up, as that was the drum for the evening.

“So, do you kids like pizza?” Culkin asked, getting a loud response from the fans. He then asked if everyone liked songs about pizza, before saying, “Too bad.” He was, of course, joking, and said as much, before they got to their songs.

I’m pretty certain they played every song from their demo during their time on stage, beginning with “Papa John Says”, and dished out a few more, which were done so close together, it felt like some of the songs were all one, instead of separate tracks. Adding to that feeling was the fact that the songs are relatively short, and with the only true instrument being the guitar Matt was playing, it was easy to think that they were different verses, rather than different songs.

I believe some of the other songs were “I’m Beginning to Eat the Slice” and “Cheese Days”, and during their first break of the night, Deenah asked the crowd if they had “…Heard the one about the pizza?” “It’s really cheesy.” Was the punch line, which got some rolling laughter from the crowd.

They followed along the same lines of parody with their next song, before one of them said they were about to get “a little existential”. The song pertaining to that was all about closing the pizza box to keep the heat in, so that way it’ll still be warm when you want a slice later.

The silly jokes continued during the next break, when Deenah said the next song was “about abstinence”. “We’re in God’s country.” she added. It got laughs from people, and I found it pretty funny, though that wasn’t quite what the song was about. Instead, it dealt with the morning after you eat pizza, “when you still have more pizza.” Phoebe said, and talked about it congealing.

They switched things up for their next song, but not before one of them pointed out they had drawn a cat face on the pizza box back stage, and Deenah dubbed it “Pussy Jewel”.

Austin then took a spot behind a little keyboard, while everyone except for Culkin lined up along the fence at the back of the stage. He then welcomed a young woman to the stage (who I’d assume was is his girlfriend) and they did a duet together. She had a pretty good voice I thought; and I say that about them being in a relationship because when the song was over, they got almost too carried away kissing, to the point shouting “Get a room!” would have been an appropriate response.

They had, had their fun and everything this night, but now they made clear that The Pizza Underground wasn’t all about fun and games, and they were going to get serious now. That meant giving a history lesson about Jeno Paulucci – who invented pizza rolls – who started his career by making canned Chinese food. Yes, it was as entertaining as it sounds.

They had something else planned for the crowd now, and Deenah pointed out that since everyone was loving these songs about pizza, then surely the crowd would like to hear “…Nirvana songs sung in the past tense.”

Kurt Cobained came out on stage then (a guy dressed in a wig and armed with an acoustic guitar) to play some songs from Nevermound (the past tense of Nevermind.) Was it ridiculously stupid? Yes. But again, it had almost everyone (myself included) hysterical. In fact, I laughed harder at this little section of the show than I did all night,

“…Here we are then, entertained us. I felt stupid and contagied…” the guy sang, switching up the lyrics of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and numerous other tracks from “Nevermind” as he performed a medley of the record.

After a  few minutes of that, the band returned. “What’s with this little table in the pizzas?” Culkin asked, before asking if anyone wanted the little white piece of plastic that is utterly useless once removed from the pizza box it came in. That made it all the more funny to watch as people fought over it, before one person swiped it from his hand, as if he held a winning lottery ticket worth millions.

They ended with “Take a Bite of the Wild Slice”, but that wasn’t enough for everyone, and the chanting for an encore began as they filed off stage.

A guy who looked like a manager (perhaps he really was their manager, or he just dressed to fit the part) walked on stage. “You know when you have room for a little more, but it’s a big piece, so you cut it down the middle?” he asked, saying some other stuff as he made all sorts of gestures with his hands, as if he were cutting imaginary slices into smaller portions. “Yeah.” he said before walking off, giving the stage back up to The Pizza Underground.

Their final song was about “when pizza hurts you”, and dealt with eating a “sizzling slice”, because you just can’t resist the temptation of delicious looking pizza.

That was it, and all of that happened in about 30-minutes, or barely over. In which case if it was, shouldn’t they have stuck with the pizza delivery guarantee and given the show to everyone for free?

I kid.

There were two different levels to this performance, and I’ll start with the most evident one: the comedy side.

It was pretty much exactly what I expected from listening to their music and watching some Youtube videos, and hopefully you didn’t expect anything other than cheesy jokes and odd takes on The Velvet Undergrounds’ music.

In that regard, I was entertained throughout. Never mind the fact that the five of them looked (i.e. all dressed almost the same) as if they could be the leaders of some weird cult that would worship pizza and eventually end in a mass suicide pact by them and their followers overdosing on large quantities of pizza and clogged arteries from copious amounts of cheese.

On the other end of the spectrum you have the actual musically talent, and there’s no way this is or will ever be anything more than a novelty act. In fact, if Culkin weren’t in the band, I have to wonder if they’d have ever gotten any further than just playing house parties to drunk friends, rather than playing small sold-out venues to drunk people.

I have heard worse voices, but none of them is actually capable of singing well, and the guitar was simply plucked most of the time. So, in that aspect, there’s really no talent present.

I came, I saw and I enjoyed. Like they say, no pizza is bad pizza; however, I don’t think I’ll be going back for seconds from The Pizza Underground.

Still, it was a fun night, and it was good getting to see a small slice of pop culture history.

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014 – King Camel’s SW ForePlayFest

After doing my duty with On Tour Monthly (the other publication I work for) and catching the Experience Hendrix show in Grand Prairie, it was time to head to Dallas for the other show I planned on catching this night.

King Camel had put together quite the lineup of bands touring through on their way to SXSW, with six bands in all gracing the stage of the Double Wide, which is far more than the usual three-band bills the venue typically hosts.

It was already after 11:30 when I got there, and sadly, I had missed out on damn near every touring act (including the ones I was most eager to see), bit arrived in time to see the Fort Worth outfit The Longshots, right as they kicked off their 27-minute long set.

They crammed a lot of music into that short time, and early on (the first or second song) they played “Too High for West 7th”. The crowd of a dozen or so supporters got no time to recover as the band dove right into their next song, which ended with most of the quintet jumping around at the end of it.

They had quickly showed what a high-energy band they were, and things only got more intense during their next track, where guitarists Alex Zobel and Parker Donaldson stole the show. Closer towards the end, Alex (purposefully) backed off the stage and fell into the crowd, shredding amongst the fans, while Parker walked up to Brady Hamiltons’ drum kit and jumped onto the bass drum, where he stayed for a couple of seconds.

They kicked out a couple more tracks, including one from their “Kicker” EP, “Rhode Island Red”. “I used to have a heart to invest, and then she stuck her hand in my chest…” sang lead singer Joey Gorman, who was also the bands third guitarist. Most of his band mates aided him on some of the vocals for that fast paced, driven song, which made for a cool sound, especially since they all can sing (and each one did some of that this night).

“All these songs are dedicated to my next beer.” Alex joked during one of their breaks, before they did a few more songs to finish out their show.

I was impressed at how energetic The Longshots were, and this is after they’ve been touring for the last few weeks. So, if the road has taken any type of toll on them, they sure didn’t let it show this night.

There was one moment early on when Joey was left with some time to kill and while bantering with the crowd he seemed like he was almost uncomfortable with it. Perhaps it was just because he had been put on the spot, though, because he filled some time later on in the show with ease.

That’s the closest thing to a complaint I could find this night of this gritty, garage rock style band, who left it all on the stage.

They are still on tour, and are currently out in California. So, if you’re in the area, check out their FACEBOOK PAGE and see where they’re playing. As for their music, you can snag some free downloads on their BANDCAMP site, and get their newly released LP over in iTUNES.

Closing out ForePlayFest was the Nashville based Pujol, who sadly, did not have near the crowd they deserved (that comes with playing a Tuesday night show though, I guess.)

“Sup. How y’all doing?” asked the bands namesake Daniel Pujol, who was the singer and rhythm guitarist for the group. He said it very coolly, as if he were trying to impress everyone who was there. There was humor in it, though; and before getting their show on the road, he mentioned they had played a show with The Longshots in Fort Worth the night before, saying it was 3:30 in the AM when they finished.

I believe it was “DIY2K” that began their show, but regardless of what it was, it had everybody there moving around to the refined rock sounds and the raw voice Daniel had.

With a new album, “Kludge”, due out in May, there were plenty of new songs to be heard this night, one of which was “Manufactured Crisis Control. It didn’t matter that nobody knew it, because you could tell most of the people who were here weren’t really familiar with the Pujol in the first place, so it was all new to them; they were rocking out to it all the same, though.

“Alright, alright, alright.” Daniel said before their next song, sounding like he was trying to do his best McConaughey impression, which aside from the mannerisms, wasn’t much like him. He had already informed everyone the next song was from their second record and was titled “Mayday”. The song had a pretty driven rhythm section; and just when you thought Pujol was going to be a band that was all about the music, Daniel revealed their (or rather his) funny side.

Pretty much every song from here on out got explanations, beginning with “Postgrad”, which he said was about moving to New York and not knowing where you want to work. He said something else, which I didn’t catch, and I feel it would have made the next part funnier, when he said something like, “And how that’s the exact opposite of what you see on Facebook.”

Things took a bit of a darker turn when he noted their next track was about “bleeding out and dying all the time”, speaking of “Reverse Vampire”. “…I want to release the heat that’s building in my chest and blast it like a laser beam…” Daniel sang in his unique voice that has a gravely sound to it, and at times sounded a bit sludgy.

The explanations kept flying, and “Psychic Pain” was said to be about when you have a “bunch of crazy feelings, but you don’t got no words for it.” said Daniel, adding a “Yeah.” or something like that afterwards, expecting everyone to know what he meant. I think they did, too.

As good as these setups were, the best had to go to their new single. Daniel hesitated for but a second, then said it was about “the limitations of physical language.” At least if I’m remembering correctly that’s what he said. He readily admitted he didn’t know what he was talking about, though. “I’m still working the spiel out for this one.” he confessed. The tune was “Pitch Black”, and personally, I found that new one to be one of their best songs of the night, and it has me looking forward to their new release.

Struggling with something to say in regards to the next song, a (new?) fan shouted, “It’s about whatever you want it to be.” Daniel ran with that, then came up with his own thing. “It’s about stuffing things.” he stated. It didn’t take them long to do “Tiny Gods (Singularity)” (which is less than two-minutes long), though it was a great song in terms of the live performance, and the lead guitarist slayed during that one.

“No Words” received a setup you would expect with a song by that name, and Daniel plainly said that, like most of their songs, it was about “problems with language and communication”. The drummer let loose some powerful beats at the end of that one, proving what a great drummer she was, and soon after they did a track from their “2010” EP, “Point of View”.

At this point, their 30-minute set was coming to a close, and Daniel said they had just a couple left. As soon as he said that the guitarist held up four fingers, and then the bassist added, “It’s a loosely defined couple. They’re romantically linked.” he quipped.

It wound up only being a true couple, and the first was about “narcissists breaking up with themselves”, and then they ended with what I believe was “Black Rabbit”, which ended a show that was chocked full of rock.

The other band impressed me, as did Pujol, who was the best in my opinion. Their sound was a little more interesting, and I’d even say fresh, at least in some ways.

Musicianship was great, too. You could tell they have some touring under their belt, because they all clicked so cohesively and rolled with it all; never having to ask what was next. In fact, they really didn’t communicate with each other at all while they were on stage, which gave it all a professional feel; and despite the crowd lacking numbers, they gave it their all and owned the stage this night.

They have plenty of albums you can check out in iTUNES, with the new one coming on May 20th. Keep an eye on their FACEBOOK PAGE, because as that release date draws closer, they’ll surely head out on a tour in support of it.

I hate I missed so much of SW ForePlayFest, but King Camel had lined up some amazing bands from start to finish, and at least I got in on a bit of that sweet action.

Friday, March 7th, 2014 – A Stellar Night of Local Rock at Trees

Most days now, Trees plays host to a slew of bigger name national touring acts who happen to be passing through Dallas. However, this night, it was all about the locals.

Nothing More was the main attraction, and after two months of downtime (and eight months since their last Dallas show), the San Antonio based outfit was making their return, while a lot of great area talent had been tapped to open.

In Memory of Man was charged with getting the show going, and hit the stage right at nine.

Guitarists Chad Beck and Johnny McConlogue, bassist Marcus Gonzales, drummer Javier Garza and keyboardist Matt Langley jammed on their instruments briefly, before Alex Lilly strode on stage as they wound things in to “Wanted”. The force behind that song is something else, and it beckoned those who had gathered around the stage towards the front for the impressive show that was just getting started.

Alex used Johnnys’ mic for one of the final lines of the track, just because, before Javier knocked out some drum beats to lead them into another action packed tune, “Headshot”. “We are In Memory of Man.” Alex informed the decent sized crowd, before continuing to try to hustle through what ended up being a 36-minute long set.

Those classics from their first EP were peppered in, but now they got back to their newly released full-length with “Something in the Taste”. “…And I wish I could go…” sang Alex, almost whispering at times, before the song roared back to life. “HOME!” he bellowed, throwing a fist in the air, before convulsing towards the end, during which he tripped over the drum kit, losing his balance for just a second, though he never fell.

With the headliners drums already occupying the drum riser, they had to set their kit up on the stage, which didn’t give them much room, but they made it work with ease.

“It’s good to be back at Trees.” remarked Alex, while his band mates started the subsequent track from their self-titled record, “New Eyes”. The song has a nice ebb and flow to it, exploring the bands softer side on the verses, and surging to life on the choruses.

Following it was a somewhat similar song from their first EP. “This song’s about a dream that changed my fucking life.” raid Alex, right before pouring some of his Miller Lite on his head. Chad and Johnny were creating some subtle guitar notes, before Javier began banging about on his kit, starting the amazing “Paper Planes”. “Where will we go when…” sang Alex on the chorus midway through the tune, being accompanied by Marcus, their two voices mixing brilliantly while the band dropped out for this fleeting a capella moment. They kicked it back in quick, though; and as it came to an end, Chad raised his guitar in the air, holding it as high as he could while still being able to strum it.

The flow of those last two songs were pretty good, going from a semi-slow song to one that begins that way, and now that they were back into full on rock mode, they kept the pace up with the darker track, “The Spider”. Alex got pretty into the aggressive drum beats at the end, banging his head to them, while Chad and Johnny knocked out the final chords, before making the seamless switch into “My Sweet”. “I found this down the rabbit hole…” Alex sang on the second chorus, his pristine voice completely taking the spotlight for a moment, as the instruments fell silent, but only for that one line.

Javier then got a little drum solo at the tail end, during which time Alex wrapped the microphone cord around his neck a few times in preparation of their final song. Matt’s skills on the keys were highlighted on “Picture Box”, especially at the start of what is probably the most epic song currently at the bands disposal, and it makes for one helluva way to end a show.

It’s too bad every concert can’t get off to this good a start, and it goes to show how much other talent was on this bill, when a band like In Memory of Man (who can and does headline) was giving the opening slot.

They owned it, though, being both precise and calculated, while giving themselves up completely to the Rock ‘n’ Roll spirits who coursed through their veins.

Next up on their calendar is a couple of album release shows. Sure, their new record has been available for a bit, but these shows will be for the release of a limited run of vinyl copies. One is March 22nd at Lola’s Saloon in Fort Worth, while their Dallas dates is slated for April 5th at Double Wide. They’ll also be back in Fort Worth on April 26th, this time at The Grotto.

If you want to sample In Memory of Man’s music, check out their REVEBRNATION PAGE and download their first EP for free. If you like, go buy their new album in iTUNES, or for you vinyl collectors, pick up a copy at one of the shows mentioned above.

Werewolf Therewolf was the second band up, and I ended up missing them completely, due to being out on the patio chatting with different people. In fact, I even missed the first little bit of The Raven Charter’s set, ‘cause time simply got away from me.

I think it safe to assume they began with the instrumental “Survival Kit”, as is their typical fashion, and has been for some time, now. When I walked in they were deep into a new song that hasn’t been played too much live. I wish I had caught more of it, but maybe next time. I enjoyed what I heard, though, and it served as more proof that the new stuff they’ll soon be laying down is their best yet.

They never took much time in between songs, and soon started the title track from their current EP, “Kidnapping”. I really enjoy the way they’ve been doing the past few times I’ve seen them, with lead vocalist Garrett Bond backing up singer and guitarist Daniel Baskind for the first line or two of each verse, before giving it all up to Daniel. The chorus of “Be quiet and don’t move, and we promise not to harm you…” belongs all to Garrett, though.

They followed it up with another semi-new one, the sample track for “No Direction” starting first, before Daniel and fellow guitarist Brandon Bond, along with drummer, Brian Christie, bassist Anthony Sosa and keyboardist Erik Stolpe laid their instruments over it. Brandon and Daniel (especially Brandon) rocked out on the instrumental break halfway through the song, slamming their guitars in a downward motion and quite aggressively, all in synch with Brians’ drumming.

Next came another new one, and I’m pretty certain I’m repeating myself when I say this is my new favorite song from The Raven Charter. “This won’t last forever; we’re on borrowed time. If this is our last night ever, I’m gonna make you mine.” Garrett shouts on the chorus; the music bed and his faster paced singing giving it a cool urgent vibe. Anthony killed it during that one, proving that as far as bassists go, he’s one of the top ones, and afterwards Garrett joked a bit with the massive crowd. “That song’s called Borrowed Time…” he said, adding, “…’Cause we only say that like eight fucking times.” He was enjoying basking in all the love they were already getting, and waited just a second for his band mates to get ready for the next song. “Oh, shit!” he suddenly exclaimed, before hurrying to get an acoustic guitar.

The sinful “Freela Deela” was one of their songs that had some co-singing going on, with some exceptional two to three-part harmonies even thrown in at times, and afterward, Garrett thanked Trees for having them out. “Bullshit, you like it more than that!” he retorted after not getting a loud enough reaction.

Those last two songs have at least been released as singles, but now they got back to some of the brand new material, doing one of their slick sounding songs that sees Erik playing a slow, lovely part on the keyboard midway through, giving the impression the song is over, before it kicks back in hard. Garrett even busted out his harmonica for a short stint on the track, and during a break, Erik picked up an acoustic guitar in preparation of the next song.

“Let me find this on the pad…” Garrett said while searching through his vocal effects pad. He noted this next song was one they hadn’t done in awhile, and that could mean only one thing, and I was excited by it. It had been some time since I last heard “Unfolding”, and Garrett wasn’t quite ready when they started it, missing singing the first word, but that was it. “I’m on my way to my destiny…” he crooned, while Erik stepped up to the forefront of the stage, plucking the strings of the acoustic.

There set had passed by too quickly (or maybe I’m just used to seeing them play a little longer), because now, they were on their final song, which was none other than “Denton, TX”. Anthony viciously stomped his feet on the stage during the brief break before Garrett belted out, “
Now I’ve gone and done it, so point the finger at me…”, as Erik lifted his keyboard of the stand and held it up in the air for all to see.

In some ways, this was the best show I’ve seen them do recently (and by that I mean out of the two other TRC shows I’ve seen this year). Part of that was probably because this was fairly high profile show. Not only were they playing Trees, they were also opening for their good friends in Nothing More, and you could tell they stepped it up from the A game that usually bring in the first place.

The show this night just had a more polished feel to it then even those others in question, and by the time they were done, they had the crowd eating out of the palm of their hand.

They’re just more of a unique rock band, from the blend of harmonies found on some songs, to just the interesting twist on rock music, and their new record is going to turn some heads. I’m not saying it’ll be on a national scale (though that would be great), but I sense it will.

With recording starting next month, they’ll be laying low on the shows for awhile, and March 29th at Rubber Gloves in Denton will be their next show (they also have a June 6th date booked there). As of right now, they also only have one show in the month of April and one in the month of May, and both will be at Tomcats West in Fort Worth (April 18th and May 4th). They also have a Dallas gig slated for June 28th at The Boiler Room.

Head over to their REVERBNATION PAGE to download their two newest singles for free, and if you like that, then check out their two EP’s in iTUNES. They should whet your appetite for their debut full-length that will be dropping later this year.

Now it was time for the band everyone was waiting for, Nothing More (and if you want my review of their show, it was an exclusive for On Tour Monthly, and can be found HERE.)

Saturday, March 1st, 2014 – Songwriters in the Round

The Liquid Lounge was hosting an all acoustic lineup, which seems to be something that seldom happens there, despite the very intimate setting it has.

Paco Estrada had put together the whole show, which was built around a Songwriters in the Round performance he had put together. Ryan Holley, Jeff Crowder (from Deep Ella), Nava (from The Last Place You Look) and Paco were all part of the round, and they had done a show in Austin and Houston leading up to this Saturday night.

The Songwriters in the Round portion of the night was sandwiched in between to great bands who were doing rare acoustic shows to match the vibe for the night, the first of whom was Distant Lights.

Believe it or not, I was actually being somewhat of a social butterfly and was out on the patio area and lost track of time, so unfortunately I missed this amazing Austin band.

I’m more than a little disappointed by that, because I was very interested to see what they were like acoustically, since they are usually a powerhouse of a rock band. Alas, it didn’t happen this night, but maybe I’ll have another chance. They are working on a acoustic EP which should be out soon, so maybe some more acoustic shows will follow in the wake of its release.

Speaking of shows, they have one in Covington, LA at the Columbia St. Rock ‘N’ Blues on March 21st, and they’ll also make a two-night stand in Tyler on April 4th and 5th. The first of those dates will be at Click’s, while the other is at Cork Food and Drink.

Be sure to give their music a listen, too. They have a couple of albums up in iTUNES, and you can even snag their newest one for free HERE.

When I did make it in to the Liquid Lounge, those four singers/songwriters were getting ready for the show, lining up some stools on the stage. Ryan Holley took fair stage right, with Jeff Crowder and Nava after him, while Paco was on far stage left.

It quickly became clear that this was going to be an interesting night, when Jeff whispered into his microphone. “This is something I have trouble saying, and I usually can’t unless it’s completely dark, but, I love you.” he said while gazing out at the fans who had come to support.

“Do you want to start this one off?” Paco asked Ryan, who acted like a heavy burden had just been placed on him. Yeah, you could already tell they were going to be cutting up as much as they were going to be playing music.

I have to say, this was the first time I’ve ever seen Ryan Holley act as a frontman. He used to be a guitarist and backing vocalist in a Austin band called Eyes Burn Electric, and there was a time or two he filled in as one of Paco’s band members in recent years, but he has always been a guitarist the times I’ve seen him. That said, he has an even more incredible voice than I knew, and he knocked it out of the park with the first song he did.

“That was okay.” Paco remarked, pretending to be not all that impressed. He then addressed the crowd, “Is everybody awake? Do you need to stretch?” he asked, joking with his friends. “…Paco secretly hates us and likes to talk shit to is.” said Nava, joking that, that was the actual reason Paco put this whole little tour together with them.

Jeff then took his turn. I remember hearing of Deep Ella years ago (shortly after I joined Myspace), but I never saw the Houston based band, who is still kicking to this day. So, I really didn’t know to expect from him at all. His first song was great, though. It almost sounded like it could have been a cover, but I’m not sure if it was or not. He had a really good voice though, and being that he was the only musician I was completely unfamiliar with on this lineup, he made it known why he deserved to be  part of it and why Paco asked him to join them on this run.

Making it better was the fact that the other three musicians were assisting the one who was singing by either adding some other guitar lines to the mix or some backing vocals, which made for some good touches to each song.

Now it was Nava’s turn, and I was most interested to see (or rather hear) how he sounded. The band he fronts is a loud rock band, and a solid one at that; who has done some touring with more than a few big name acts. Yet here Nava sit, with an acoustic guitar in his hands, verses being the aggressive frontman he typically is. Even more surprising was the song he did, which was slow and soft, and gave his deep, booming bass voice and interesting sound (seriously, this guy has one of THE most unique voices I’ve ever heard).

Paco commented on the tender sound the song had, asking Nava where his angry sound went, as well as a few other questions. Nava replied to one of those with, “It made my head sweaty.” (he’s bald).

Now, it was Paco’s turn. He opted to do “the old standby” first, which prompted a series of jokes about how he was going to “blow his load” in the first few minutes. All four musicians bantered back and forth about this, while Ryan made a joke. “Paco gives good blow jobs.” That’s it, that’s my joke he said.

“Did I gain some respect? Did I lose some respect from that?” Paco asked. “I think this one would go down in the negative category.” Ryan told him, making a thumbs down gesture as he said it. Ryan then added something to the effect that if any of Paco’s exes were here they could attest just how quickly he does “blow his load”.

Paco then started his song. “I kept a photograph, of you and me together…” he sang, the first line of “Whiskey Kisses”. That’s one of my favorites he has written in recent years, and it’s such a beautiful song, and that beauty was only accentuated with the help of these fellow singers. “Your sweet whiskey kisses, that’s what I’ve been missing; when you lose you inhibitions.” They all sang at one point.

That completed the first round, and there were still two more to go.

Ryan was openly discussing what song he should do next, saying he could do some of his songs from the 90’s, but no one would know them. He then said there were some other songs he couldn’t do because some of the lines were “about Paco”.

He chose his song and did it, during which Jeff added some very light percussion by tapping a cymbal of the drum kit that was sit up behind him. He even leaned over and played Nava, striking his head, before going back to the cymbal.

“…It can get weird back there.” Paco said to everyone, speaking to the people who were all clustered together around the door. “You can come closer.” he urged, and some people did get a little closer to the stage.

Jeff than knocked out another song, after which they decided to all do some shots. “Crowd participation: everyone go buy us shots!” he shouted, while Ryan got up and ran over to the bar. Jeff then told anyone who was maybe wanting something to just go over to the bar and say “Ryan Holley” to get a free drink. “That’s the one good thing with being Ryan Holley.” Ryan quipped, “Several people know what I look like, including Whit.” he said, speaking about the owner/bartender of The Curtain Club.

Nava then was trying to decide what he should do next. “Hello, is it me you’re looking for?” he sang, but made it no further than that.

“Everybody has a best friend, and if you don’t you should leave, because you’re weird.” He said to everyone, using that to start setting up his next number. He talked about industry people, who can be great friends and are there for you, “but their own life is shit” said Nava. That was more or less what this one was about, and he noted his friend finally got things figured out.

It was a good song, and was more along the lines of the slower stuff that The Last Place You Look does.

Paco took a friendly little jab at the city of Houston, before doing one of his newer songs. “Ain’t nobody ever gonna come an call me, baby. Not like you do…” goes the chorus of the song that is exactly the type of love song you’ve come to expect from this talented musician.

Afterwards, talk then turned back to Houston, when they all joked about how “incredible” it was and the “tons” of people who made it out. “The sound wasn’t bad at all.” Nava said, shaking his head no when he said it. He then took a little shot at Dallas, while Jeff playful tried to get him to stop, reminding him where they were. “I wasn’t going to trash the cities.” Paco said to Nava, who responded with, “It’s not trashing when it’s fact.”

“Facts according to Nava.” laughed Paco. Ryan then pondered what to do for his final song, eventually deciding he would cover one of Paco’s songs this time. “…He’s about to go full-frontal Paco.” Paco joked.

The song he chose to cover was a personal favorite of mine from “The Definite and Indefinite…” album. “The sun exposes way too much, so the shutters spend their days all shut. It would be easier to raise the dead, then to get yourself out of that bed. There’s cracks in everything you see; like a puzzle with a missing piece…” sang Ryan as he got “Ghosts” underway. The rest of the singers joined in on part of the chorus, especially Paco, as they all sang, “…You don’t have to be alone. I will lie down with you in the middle of the road. I will take these arms and hold you close, and we’ll wait until the headlights come to turn us into ghosts.”

It was fantastic hearing that song, and Ryan killed it. And while the lyrics may sound a bit morbid at times, it’s actually more of a song about making a person realize that there is someone who cares about them, regardless of whatever deep, dark place they may be in, in their personal life.

Jeff and then Nava played their final songs, and the 70-minute or so set was going to end with the hometown hero.

Before the show started, I wound up making a request (I can’t say I’ve ever done to any band before). “Can you play Surface?” I asked Paco. “Can you play Surface?” he said in a whiny voice, similar to that of a small child (he was kidding with me, obviously). “That’s all you people care about. You don’t care about the new music I write, it’s just, “Oh, can you play those SouthFM songs?”

“Will that be all, your highness?” he asked as I walked away. “Yeah, that’ll do.” I said.

Now, with this being the final song of the night, I was curious if he would do it or not (I think the last time I heard that song live was probably when Paco Estrada & One Love did their reunion show in December 2011.)

He played a lengthy piece on his guitar, and then it happened; he switched over to those gorgeous and intoxicating notes that are basic chord structure for “Surface”. “We’ve established this is where we stand. We said after this we’ll just be friends. But my heart don’t really my head. No, my heart don’t really know my head…”

That song, that song is one of the best things that has ever been written. Period. The first time I ever set foot inside the Curtain Club was to see a SouthFM show, nearly eight years ago. I was just getting into the local music scene at the time, and didn’t even the “Swallowing the Pill” album that, that song is on. However, all these years later, that’s the one song I fully remember from that night. For whatever reason it connected with me then, and the only thing that has changed since is my love for it has grown.

“And these are not the words that I would like to be saying to you… And I hope that in the morning you will feel the same way that I do…” sang those longtime fans who had come out to see Paco this night, no doubt reliving old memories while he and his fellow musicians played the song.

That made my night, and for me, there couldn’t have possible been a better way to end the show.

“I win.” stated Paco after it was all said and done, because he got what was by far the biggest round of applause for that closer. The other guys then mentioned they’d be selling some merch if anyone wanted anything, because, as Nava pointed out, there was no way Paco would split the door money with them.

Wow. This was great. Even better than what I had expected.

I was also glad to hear Paco say at the end that this was something he wants to start doing more often: getting musicians from all over Texas and doing these songwriters in the round so people all around the state can see what kind of talent is out there.

For Paco, check out his BANDCAMP PAGE for his solo music. And since I mentioned SouthFM in this one, if for some reason you don’t already have their stuff, you can get their entire discography for free at BANDCAMP. (They’ll always be a Dallas icon, and even if they’re no more, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t check them out.)

The Last Place You Look is a band you need to know if you don’t already, and Nava rocks out with them. Their music can be found in iTUNES.

Like I said, I’ve never actually listened to Deep Ella, but I’m going to have to check out their MUSIC.

As for Ryan Holley, I can’t find a page for him, nor do I believe he has any solo records or anything out, but if you ever see this Austin musician is playing near you, go see him. You won’t regret it.

That was probably the best part of the night, but it wasn’t over quite yet, and there was still something special in store for everyone at the Liquid Lounge.

SpaceCamp (abbreviated as SPCCMP) was doing their first show in over two months, and it was also the first ever full band acoustic performance they had done.

Paco Estrada was pulling double-duty, since he is one of the members of the band, and while he always plays an acoustic guitar with this outfit, it was a bit strange seeing Mike Dove also wielding an acoustic. Irish had a partially drum kit sit up, and most surprising was the microphone he had in front of him, while, of course, Jeremy Rodriguez was at center stage. He was sitting on a stool though, and I wondered just how long that would last.

They began with one of the songs from their forthcoming EP, and “The Lover” sounded pretty different done acoustically. It was one of their songs that perfectly integrates Paco’s singing with Jeremy’s hip-hop style of delivery, and this toned down version gave the words more weight. “…And the barrel’s to his head like the trigger to his finger and the memories of the only girl he’d ever love are all that linger.” Paco sang on the chorus, with Jeremy often mixing his lyrics in close to it. Based on that line, you might think it’s a depressing song, but it’s not meant to be. Instead, it’s about rising above whatever adversity your faced with, no matter how difficult the situation may seem.

Jeremy took a moment to thank Distant Lights and all the songwriters for being on this bill; mentioning that he had been with them on this little tour and what a privilege it had been to be in the crowd all three nights watching them. He also noted that, that was the live debut of “The Lover”, which was a bit of a big deal, seeing as they made a lyric video for it about a year ago. Apparently, they were just waiting for their second EP to be finished and close to a release date. Speaking of that, Jeremy also mentioned a little later in the show that they were going to give everyone a “preview” of what that EP is going to sound like.

Before they got to any more new material though, they pulled out “The Dancer” from their first EP. “…Place your hands on me;
cover up this catastrophe. That kind of action has me asking ‘why must they land on me?” Jeremy spit out, showing off what skills he has as hip-hop singer by delivering how those lines at a rapid pace. Then you had the chorus, “…You will touch me deep inside. You’re my tiny dancer, tiny dancer.” Paco sang, which sounded like it was meant to performed in this low-key setting.

While he sang the first chorus, Jeremy stood up and moved his stool over beside the drum kit. See, I knew that wasn’t going to last long. “Do I look lazy?” Paco asked him once they finished the song, pretending as if he suddenly felt self-conscious now that he was the only one in a stool. Jeremy assured him that there was a one stool limit on the stage, and that he [Paco} was good now that he [Jeremy] wasn’t exceeding it. Next came my personal favorite track from their upcoming EP, “If This is Goodbye”. It was nothing short of brilliant in this acoustic format. Like all their songs, the words should be taken to heart. From one of the lines Jeremy sings, “…Are we given in to giving up before we give enough?”, to the powerful chorus that Paco handles. “How we gonna save the world, if we’re too afraid to try an change it? …How you ever gonna say my name, without the memory of throwing it all away? How you gonna fall asleep at night, if this is goodbye?”

Man, that one’s a heavy hitter. Afterwards, Jeremy mentioned that this was the fourth straight night Paco had done a show, a feat he brushed off. “It’s all in the wrist. You’ve just got to follow through.” said Paco, acting like it was no different than a game of basketball.

They had dealt with love and relatable situations thus far, but next they pulled out one of the most inspirational tracks they have, “Reach for the Sun”. It talks about chasing your dreams and feeling like you’re never going to get anywhere after you’ve poured years of your life into pursuing your dreams, but in the end, you can’t ever give up on it. “…Dreams come true for those
that never lose faith or hold back…” says Jeremy at one point.

That’s one reason why I love SpaceCamp; because their music is so positive over all, and everything just carries a message.

During the next break, Jeremy pointed out the mic that Irish had, saying there had only been one show that Irish sang at, and that was because Paco was unable to make it. “…I’m glad we’ve got a mic in front of him tonight…” Jeremy said. Indeed, it was a great things, because already Irish had been adding some amazing backing vocals to parts of different songs; and as they moved on, Jeremy mentioned the next one was his favorite of their upcoming EP.

I hate to sound like a broken record, but again, “Surrender to the Night” was a track that fit perfectly in this environment. Without all the electronic effects that are on the recording, you were really able to focus on content, which focuses heavily on state the world is in, in regards to the widespread violence.

“Gorgeous!” exclaimed Jeremy. “This guy, right here.” he said, pointing to Paco, who had knocked that one clean out of the park. “I put my pants on one leg at a time, just like everyone else.” Paco responded, very humbly. Attention then turned to their next song, which Jeremy said he never would have written if it weren’t for Ryan Holley, though they were unable to find him before they started it.

They didn’t waste any more time, and Mike began another track from “The Daydreamers Guide to: Wasting Time”, “White Horses”. They added several extra touches to it, from both Paco and Jeremy repeating, “What you chase, what you chase, what you chasing?”, to Paco singing the words “Just breathe.” A few times, before Jeremy ceded things over to Mike. “Take it away, Mikey.” he said, as Mike did a little solo.

They had some fun after that, and Mike wound up looking like he was shushing Paco. “…I have an ego problem.” Paco quipped, before asking Gene (the sound guy) to turn down everyone else in his monitor. “…I just want to hear me.” he told him, prompting a laugh from everyone who was there.

The best moment of “Dancing with the Devil” came at the final chorus, where Paco flat out killed it. I always mention how he is my favorite singer (and songwriter), and the way he belted out that last part proved why he is. It was all in the emotion and energy he put into it and it was superb.

They had one song left at this point, and Jeremy mentioned it was another they had never played live before. It wasn’t a new song, though. It came from their first EP (which was released in the summer of 2012), and Irish interrupted him and said he never got a copy of that one. “Go buy one.” Jeremy told him, adding he’d cut him a two for one deal.

“Can we be serious for a minute?! We’re trying to play a song!” Paco asked them. The song never became obvious until Mike finally joined in, and it was one that every Texas music fan knows. “And she runs, through her days; with a smile on her face…” Paco eventually sang, as they finally broke out their cover of The Toadies “Tyler”. They put such a unique and interesting spin on the track, and the verse that Jeremy wrote and adds fits so fluidly with what the song’s about. “…I’ll creep inside, can’t be denied; we’ll be together finally. She pulls the covers tighter; I press against the door. The heart of my desire never wanting nothing more.” goes the tail end of what he wrote, before Paco takes back the reins. When he wasn’t singing on that one, Jeremy was also adding a little extra percussion, lightly tapping one of the cymbals while he sit on the stool he had moved earlier.

I was content with that being their final song, though I was surprised their staple was going to be absent this time around. I assumed it was just because it would sound so different from how it should they decided not to, though.

“That was supposed to be it, but I want to play one more!” Jeremy said as he retook the main mic, a smile stretched across his face. He threw the blame at Paco, saying he was the one who didn’t want to do this song, and told everyone they needed to convince him to play it.

It didn’t take much convincing, and Jeremy went to dedicate this one to his dad, who happened to be in attendance. He was nowhere to be found, though. He had made a trip to the bathroom, and he was in no rush. “I saw him walk in there with a newspaper.” Paco laughed. They eventually started singing happy birthday to him, even though he was still preoccupied.

On that note, I’ve long thought Paco can make anything sound like the most amazing song ever, and he proved that as fact (at least in my eyes) by doing an astounding version of Happy Birthday. So simple, yet there was so much depth to it. I know that sounds crazy to say, but if you’ve ever seen Paco, then you know what I’m talking about.

“If it weren’t for that man, Jeremy wouldn’t be here. And then I would be here, either.” Paco stated, right about the time Jeremy’s dad finally rounded the corner and was greeted with cheers from everyone.

I didn’t think they could (or would) go a show without playing “Before you Die”, and out of all their songs, it’s the lyrics to this one that you most need to pay attention to. The title says it all, and one of the messages is about not having any regrets when your time is up. “what will flash before your eyes before you die? … The person that you loved forever but you never told them? The one you lie to everyday and hope they’ll never notice? Will it be the last one that you kissed upon the lips? Or the last opportunity you missed doing this?” says Jeremy, before takes over for the hauntingly beautiful chorus. My weakness is cover songs (since I predominately listen to local groups), but Paco added a line from a cover on this one, and I believe it was “Blue and Yellow” by The Used, which worked well with their original.

That ended their 51-minute long set, and it was a grand one.

I knew it would be good, though I had been curious how an acoustic show from SpaceCamp would go. In fairness, I should go ahead and mention that the band classifies themselves as trip-rock (a very fitting category), and they sounded even better than I thought they were going to.

Irish was much less aggressive, but the force was still there in his drumming, and even without the electronic/sample tracks thrown in, Mike and Paco were able to use their acoustics to emulate the core sound of every song, so you knew exactly what it was.

This was also the first time in a long time that I had seen SpaceCamp, and even though they had toned things down, they still had a great stage presence. Perhaps even stronger than it has been the past times I’ve seen them.

They are definitely different from just about every other band out there, and all the talent that is in this band alone is crazy. I mean, Paco has been in the scene since the very early 2000’s, and both Jeremy and Mike have been active players for quite some time, too.

If you haven’t heard them yet, check out their music on either iTUNES or BANDCAMP. They have their first EP plus a couple songs released as singles from their upcoming one (due out on 3/31). That weekend they’ll also be doing a big CD release party for it. Three Links will be the host venue, and they’ve got the prime Saturday night slot on April 5th. If you only catch one show that night, that will be the one you want to be at.

There may have been bigger shows going on in Dallas this night, but I promise you, the most talented individuals were all on stage here at the Liquid Lounge.

Friday, February 28th, 2014 – The Band of Heathens Blow Minds at The Kessler

Two straight weekends at The Kessler Theater seeing two of Texas’s finest Americana acts. I could think of worse things.

The Band of Heathens were returning to Dallas this night, just two months after their last Dallas show, and as good as that one was, I couldn’t pass up seeing how this one was going to be.

Not only that, but hometown favorites Somebody’s Darling were opening this show.

They didn’t start right at the eight o’clock time that was listed (luckily for me, since traffic on 75 prevented me from getting there as early as I had planned to be), and instead took the stage around 8:09.

“We’re Somebody’s Darling and we’re happy to be here!” exclaimed singer and rhythm guitarist Amber Farris, who went on to say they’d be doing a couple of new songs this night. “…But not too many…” she pointed out.

Their new songs were the bookends of their 51-minute set, and while I missed the title of the opening number, it was a good one. It was also one I don’t recall having heard before (not that, that means anything), though I really enjoyed it, and it was a cross between some of their more sentimental tracks and their rock songs.

“This is gonna be the last time we do these old songs for awhile.” Amber informed everyone, looking at bassist Wade Cofer as she said it, who was in turn staring at her like, “What!?” She urged everyone to “enjoy” hearing them again, and said to both Wade and the crowd that after this show she thought they’d start working in the stuff from their newly recorded album as regulars.

They gave me a whole new outlook to the show, as I figured I should probably savor all of these songs in case they get cut. Like “Back to the Bottle”, which drummer Nate Wedan had already started while Amber spoke to everyone.

“How you doing Kessler?” she asked after the great song, which is completely amazing when you hear it live. The fans (old and new) cheered them on, while Amber announced that their next song was called “Weight of the Fear”; a personal favorite of mine. “I hear them rebels coming. They’re screaming loud and clear…” Amber sang later in the song, the instruments dying out as she did so, while some members of the audience began clapping along during quite moment. It was also around that point in the song that guitarist David Ponder took off on a solo, and a great one at that.

I must admit, if that is one that gets axed in the future, I’ll be more than a little sad. But all the same, that’s life.

They kept the current hits coming with “Pretty Faces”, which featured another guitar solo (this one built-in. i.e. exactly how it sounds on the album), before dying out at the end, allowing the keys, played by Mike Talley, to rise back to prominence for the final seconds.

“It makes me nervous with the tables.” Amber remarked as soon as the song was over, referring to all the tables that were scattered right by the stage. “You can see all my flaws.” she joked, while they took a minute to get ready for their next song. The silence gave people time to think on what they could say, and someone (I’m sure a friend) playfully shouted, “Fuck you, Wade!”

“We’re a Rock ‘n’ Roll band. We get that every now and then…” Amber quipped, before asking everyone to give it up for “Wade with the new fade”, speaking of the haircut/style he was sporting.

Some of their fans let out little bursts of excitement as they started their next song, taking things down just a bit with the lovely “Keep Shakin’”. “…I could die right here in your arms…” crooned Amber; while the song alternated between the soft and relaxing guitar notes and the driving rhythm section on the chorus, before ending it on an intense note, and Davids’ hand was a blur as he shredded on his guitar. Just because they ended things the way they did didn’t mean they were about to step it right back up into rock mode, though.

Instead, Amber placed her guitar in the rack and just acted as a frontwoman for this next one (which is something that practically never happens). Without question, “My Own Medicine” is one of their most beautiful songs, even if depicts a breakup, which is just what makes it so heartfelt. “…I find myself on my hands and my knees. This is something that you’ll never see…” sang Amber; her impeccable voice taking center stage now that it didn’t have to compete with the loud instruments, and she demonstrated excellent control over it, at times almost whispering, before raising her voice along with the music.

That one amazed the crowd, and they gave the band the loudest round of applause yet, while they moved right on to their next song, while Amber went and got her guitar. “Here we go!” she shouted, before making her way over to David on stage right and knelt next to him as they shredded away on their guitars. They decided to go back a bit further, and pulled out “Cold Hearted Lover” from their debut and self-titled release. It may not get played much now (and apparently will probably only become more infrequent now), but it’s still a sweet song, and one could argue the most rocking on in their catalog.

“How you doing Kessler Theater, dammit!” Amber asked during the instrumental jam portion of the song, quickly adding that she was trying not to curse this night, and then she had done just that. I don’t think anyone cared too much, though. “We’re gonna try a cover…” she told the audience after that one. “You can dance if you want to.”

If there had only been enough room to dance then I’m sure people would have started moving around to their rendition of Faces “Stay With Me”. But just because that couldn’t be done didn’t mean they couldn’t sing along to it. Granted, I don’t see Somebody’s Darling too often, but it had been a little while since I last heard them do this one (August), and I was glad to discover it’s one that’s still in play, even if it may not happen often.

Several people yelled with excitement when that one came to an end, which was something Amber loved and encouraged. “…This is the one time you can get to yell. You can’t yell at your job. You can’t yell in the street…” she said, just wanting everyone to get it out.

They then moved on to the two singles that “Jank City Shakedown” produced, and Amber noted that KXT (91.7 FM) had been giving the next one some airplay for quite some time. The tune was “Cold Hands”, which became a clap along at one point, and they followed it immediately with the subsequent song from the album, “Wedding Clothes”. “This is another song from Jank City Shakedown that we’re really proud of.” Amber stated beforehand.

Typically, that’s the show, and giving that they were the opening band and had already been on stage for so long, I figured that would hold true here. Instead, they had that one other new song they had promised at the start of the set. It was “Generator”, a track I remembered from the show I saw them do the previous month, though I didn’t remember it being so good. It’s a powerful number, and by the time it was done, it (in conjunction with everything else they had done this night) earned them a standing ovation from those who were seated. It was more than deserved.

I’m pretty certain I said almost this exact same thing the last time I saw them and I know I touched on it at the start here, but man, it’s so easy to see just why Somebody’s Darling is so well loved and have become one of the best bands in the Dallas music scene.

It’s the energy they put into their shows and the quality and depth that goes into the songwriting, as well as the emotion that comes out of said songs when they’re performed live.

The musicianship is just a hair above the rest, too, and that’s describing it mildly.

If this was the last time most of these songs will be heard for awhile, then I’ll miss them, but having heard so much of the new material at their Dallas show the month before, I feel confident in saying that this new album will top “Jank City Shakedown”. At the start of the show Amber mentioned they had finished it (recording, I’m sure), which should mean that it’s not too far away. It’ll probably be several more months, of course, but a new record will be making its way to fans soon enough.

They don’t have any dates listed at the moment, but keep an eye on their TOUR PAGE, as some will surely be popping up sooner or later. Also, check out their two current albums over in iTUNES.

That was a fantastic appetizer, and that’s one of the few times Somebody’s Darling will even be referred to as that, but The Band of Heathens we’re up next, and if they didn’t have the place completely sold out, then it sure was close.

Everyone grew excited when the band left the green room for the stage and began doing the sound check, but they’d have to wait a few minutes longer, as the five guys retreated back stage once things were set.

It was 9:32 when keyboardist Trevor Nealon, drummer Richard Millsap, singers and guitarists Ed Jurdi and Gordy Quist and the groups bassist stepped on stage; the lights dimming as they took their spots. Everyone knew they were in for a show, but they had no clue just what an extraordinary show it would wind up being.

Ed and Trevor began the first song of the night, no doubt surprising a few fans when they realized it was “Talking Out Loud”. With a whole batch of new songs to chose from, it was that track (which could be considered a deep-cut) from “One Foot In the Ether” that began things, and it couldn’t have worked better.

It created a bit of a cheery atmosphere as Ed sang the song. “Hold on, if your soul is strong. Hold on, it won’t last so long. Hold on, if it get uptight. It’s time we make everybody feel alright.” he sang on the chorus, while Gordy leaned in to his mic, adding some backing vocals on each “hold on”, before stepping back as he picked away at his guitar.

They’re known for embellishing their songs and adding some instrumental jams to many of their tracks, but on that one, Ed added some extra lines. “…Coming back to Dallas; living in a palace for a king…” he belted out in his rich, soulful tone of voice, which, of course, garnered a strong reaction from this North Texas crowd.

It was Gordy’s turn next, and during the brief moments the audience had to applaud, he grabbed a neck rack with a harmonica and put it to use on “Rehab Facility”. “…‘Cause I need it like a heart line. She’s my nicotine craving everything I crave.” goes a line from the chorus of that song about being enamored with someone, during which Ed now added some backing vocals. A highlight of the song came during the stellar guitar solo Ed knocked out; the slide he was using giving a nice texture and cool sound to it.

As it came to an end, Ed and Gordy faced one another. They weren’t really standing next to each other, more just looking at the other from their spots on stage, while they bent down; their plucking of the strings becoming increasingly quick. That resulted in a seamless and incredible segue into “L. A. County Blues”, and even though it didn’t sound like the song at first, it was still unmistakable. “Well, they got me on accessory: thirty days in jail. One headlight in a Louisville night without a chance at bail…” Ed sang, often hitting different notes than what is heard on the album, which made the performance of it this night completely unique, along with adding an immense amount of extra character to it. Aside from that, you also had some lengthy jam breaks thrown in before the third verse and at the very end. It was also at the end that Trevor added some fantastic backing vocals on the chorus, “…It’s one foot in the ether with the L.A. County blues.”

“How you doing?” Ed asked everyone, which was one of the only times they spoke to the audience. Not you can blame them, though. They’re one of those bands who works better when they just focus on the music, and after all, they couldn’t banter much because they had a massive set to get through.

After hitting some of the classics, it was time to get to the new classics, and “Records in Bed” started a string of tracks from “Sunday Morning Record”. In some ways, live, I have to say I think that may be the best song off their new album. “Round and round and round so slow.” Gordy would sing on the bridge, before Ed (who sang the bulk of the track) would add the next line. The harmonies on that soothing song are great; and much like a line from the song goes, it’s a track that is good for the soul.

They added some good touches to it, especially at the end, when the tranquility was suddenly shattered and they gave it a rock outro. That sharp rise didn’t last too long, though, and things soon fell back down when Richard played some steady, albeit soft beats to lead them into “One More Trip”. Gordy was back doing the vocals now, though Ed often joined him as they co-sang several lines throughout. This was the first time I’d heard it live, and honestly, it’s a good song on the record, but not one I always listen to. It was dynamic this night, though. Maybe not in the way you might think of dynamic being, but it was.

Now that they had shown of their softer side, it was time to step things back up, and there was a moment of silence while the fans anxiously waited for what would come next. Ed then played some notes, revealing it to be what is perhaps the most fun song from that new album, “Miss My Life”.

“I miss my life, I miss the way it was…” Ed roared on the chorus, before getting to the final verse, “Don’t tell me to forget her,
because man, you never met her. And they don’t make ‘em no more like that…” Trevors’ skill as a pianist are on full display on that one, and actually, the piano is the most prominent instrument of the track. Well, at least it was until the bass, drums and guitars became a little more forceful during the jam they threw in before the final chorus.

Their sweet, soulful sounds continued as they busted out “Second Line” from their debut album, before trying their hand at a cover. The last time I saw them, they covered a Bob Dylan song, but they were going to do something a little different. More like very different, actually.

“On the day when I was born, daddy sit down and cried. I had the mark just as plain as day; couldn’t be denied.” Ed sang, his voice booming as they started a rendition of the Grateful Deads’ “Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo”. They put more of a rock and Americana twist to it (which is to be expected), and honestly, they put their mark on it. It fit their style (lyrically and musically) quite well, and the audience seemed to really enjoy it. It wouldn’t be the only Grateful Dead song they did this night, either.

However, for now, they were getting back to their material, and both Gordy and Ed switched out to an acoustic guitar. The fans cheered when Ed sang the chorus of “Texas” first time; specifically after the line “…Austin’s been a friend of mine. Texas, we’ve had a time.” That final track from their latest release was one I overlooked until hearing them do it at their last Dallas show, and since, it has become a favorite. A good bit of emotion is poured into it, and, like many of their other tracks, it takes on a whole new life in the live environment. They followed it with “Since I’ve Been Home”, which was almost exclusively acoustic, which added to the somber tone it has. “…You know we almost had it good, but we break like bad habits never could…” goes one of the lines, and you could feel the stinging pain behind it as Gordy sang.

They threw in another cover now, because why not. This time the song was “Blue” by Jayhawks, which Gordy pointed out afterwards in case anyone didn’t know. “Thanks a lot…” Gordy said after the cheers and such subsided, while Ed placed his guitar on the rack and walked over to the keys.

He took a seat behind one, while Trevor moved over to focus completely on the other (there were more than a few times this night that he was using his hands to play two of the keyboards at once.) Requests started flying at the band, which they paid no attention to and just carried on with their thing.

Ed got situated, striking some of the keys to get warmed up, before they started the song. There was a loud roar of gleeful screams once everyone realized it was “Gris Gris Satchel”. Clearly, the song that finds both of the main singers sharing vocal duties and harmonizing is a fan favorite, and it was a highlight of the show this night.

More requests were launched at the band while Ed played an impromptu piano solo, before they suddenly broke into a staple from their debut record, “Jackson Station”. It, too, saw Ed and Gordy each singing and co-singing, while some of their band mates also added some light backing vocals here and there.

“Give a big hand for Somebody’s Darling for opening the show.” said Gordy, instructing everyone to do so more than anything, as well he should have, because Somebody’s Darling had earned that love. As he did that, Ed was getting up and going back to the guitars to get one out.

He and Gordy again held a gaze as they played a little intro with the same chord structure that makes “Shotgun” so irresistible. At times, their bass player, Trevor and Ed were all adding some extra vocals, which made for some gorgeous four-part harmonies. “You came crashing through the window, and it gave away so fast. All I hear now is the wind blow; riding shotgun through the past.” they all sang on the chorus, creating a moment that was best taken in by closing your eyes and just absorbing it all.

Gordy swapped back to an electric after that, as they got ready to pull out another older one, “Philadelphia”. It may be a song that’s been around for awhile (it’s from the “Live at Antone’s” album), but it still holds its own against even their more recent material. Speaking of recent material, they had at least one more from their new album up their sleeve, and played it now.

I think it was Ed who began “Shake the Foundation”, and with the help of his band mates (and some effects) they made the intro of the track super heavy, to the point it felt like it was shaking the foundation. Some fans cheered, knowing right away what song it was, before Gordy started on the lyrics for the song about a lovers deceit.

I know I said this the last time I saw them, but this song is an entirely new entity than what it was when I saw them at Homegrown Fest last May, or again the following month. The incredible jam session they broke into after the second chorus was just one of the things that makes it a standout, while the other was the brilliant end, which saw Gordy shredding away on his guitar, tearing it up.

That could have acted as the last song. I mean, it packed the punch a closer should, but would have also left the fans wanting more. Instead, they had one more planned, and it was another from their catalog that is capable of both those qualities.

Ed held a chord and plucked the strings of his guitar, essentially counting them into the song. I was excited about this one, and recall saying, “Oh, yeah!” as I quickly realized it was “I Ain’t Running”. “…I’ll be here with you for right or wrong. Cause I ain’t running, I ain’t afraid… of your heart.” sang Ed on this masterpiece of a rock song. They built a lot onto it this night, from a piano solo that Trevor knocked out before the last chorus, to Ed singing the chorus a multitude of times towards the end, before the quintet ended it in spectacular fashion with another great jam.

Everyone at the tables or in the rows of seats behind them stood up and clapped wildly, while the musicians began to leave their posts, waving at everyone and thanking them for coming out. The applause continued well after they had disappeared from sight, and then it became a way to get them back out.

All of that had been a whopping 101-minute long set. Almost two hours they played, but surely they had more left in the tank. At least everyone hoped they did.

No one sit back down until they retook the stage, again thanking everyone for their kindness.

This encore portion would add 34 more minutes onto their set, and at times, it seemed like they had barely even scratched the surface with that main set.

On song that several people had been requesting throughout the night was the bands cover of “Hurricane”, and now they got it. Trevor got another solo after the second verse, while the most gripping moment came when Ed and Gordy sang the first part of one of the choruses a capella. Even when you know it’s coming, it’s still a breathtaking moment, and if for some strange reason you still have doubt as to what fantastic singers they are, that’s a moment that will prove it. The guitar solo Gordy ripped into at the end certainly didn’t hurt the track, either.

The very fun “I’ve Got a Feeling” came next, after which Gordy again thanked everyone for coming out. “…You know, in Austin everyone rips on Dallas, but I don’t know what they’re talking about…” he remarked, saying just what a great crowd this had been. Of course, everyone cheered at that.

Ed handled the next song as well, which was another track off their latest LP, “The Same Picture”. It would be the last one they touched from that record (there were only three left anyway), and I was slightly surprised by the pickings from it this night. Not in a bad way mind you, but that song for example was just one I didn’t expect to hear. The same could be said for a few others, and now, I’ve heard just about the whole thing live (with the exception of one song).

Three songs into their encore seemed to be a sure sign that they were almost done, yet everyone knew there was at least one (or hopefully two) songs they had left to do. They did one, and Richard led them into “Medicine Man”, which they gave a lengthy intro to, and just rocked out. Trevor even stood up from his stool for a minute or so. “Across the land, I’m spoken of. Wise as a snake, tame as a dove. Just like a wolf in sheep’s clothes…” sang Gordy, his smooth voice commanding the attention of everyone who was still in the room. After the second chorus, Trevor took off on a solo, which eventually faded into a guitar solo courtesy of Ed.

That certainly gave the song a little extra something (as if it even needs it), but the best moment came when they all joined in and raised the intensity level to new heights. Epic is the only word I can think of to describe not only how it sounded, but also how it looked on stage, as the five musicians were completely in the zone. You could tell they were absorbed in it all; and that was the single greatest moment of the night. There was still a couple verses left no less, and by the time it was over they had won themselves a standing ovation.

Part of that may have been because some people thought the show was over, and I was one of them. That was impossible to top, but that didn’t mean there weren’t some other songs that people wanted to hear. One of those that had been requested all throughout the night was “Look at Miss Ohio”. I was one of the people who was wanting to hear that one, too, but it wasn’t in the cards this night.

 Instead, they tackled another Grateful Dead song. They gave “Brokedown Palace” a little extra kick, and both Ed and Gordy did some leads on it. If memory serves me correctly, it was this song that Trevor even sang a verse on, impressing the hell out of the audience and getting some wild applause after the first couple of sentences.

The song suited The Band of Heathens perfectly. It allowed them to take all the harmonies they do to another level; leaving the fans dazzled, even after they had graciously thanked everyone for coming out and disappeared backstage.

THIS was a performance. A performance the likes of which most bands these days will never give their fans.

Okay, maybe some people were a little saddened they didn’t hear one or two of their favorites, but I can’t imagine anyone could have been disappointed by this two hour and fifteen long set. If you were, you need to reevaluate just how big a fan of The Band of Heathens you are.

It still hasn’t been  a full year since the first time I saw them, but one thing that has quickly become a thing I love about them is how just about their entire discography (four studio albums and four live records) are fair game. Sure, some songs are less likely to be played then others, but there’s still a chance, and along with the covers they throw in, you really never know what you’re going to get.

That’s refreshing in a time where, at least in my experience, you generally know what songs a band is going to do. There were even a couple new songs I expected to hear that were apparently traded in for the others they did, but I loved that, because it kept you as an audience member on your toes.

I think I’ve already covered most of the things that make The Band of Heathens so enjoyable to watch and listen to, so I won’t repeat myself anymore about the harmonies and stuff. However, I will say this: it was great seeing how much fun these guys were having on stage. It was all the time, but there were several moments throughout the show where either Gordy, Ed, Richard, Trevor or the bassist (my apologies, despite searching online I can’t find his name) were flashing huge smiles. And seeing that they were having so much fun doing their thing only made the crowd have more fun in watching and listening to them.

They have several more shows planned in different parts of the U.S. throughout March and into very early April. They’ll also be back in North Texas on April 2nd, playing Dan’s Silver Leaf in Denton. Yeah, that happens to fall on a Wednesday night, but they’ll make it more than worth your while. They also have a European tour planned beginning in late April, and they’ll be playing, Denmark, Sweden, Germany, Netherlands and Switzerland. Just refer to their TOUR PAGE for dates on all the U.S. and European dates.

Of course, also check out their music in iTUNES, and you can find tons of live cuts (full shows) over at their STORE.

Man, this wound up being a show I don’t think I’ll ever forget, or if I do, it won’t be happening anytime soon. By far one of the best overall performances I’ve ever seen from any band, and The Kessler was the perfect place to enjoy these soulful rock and Americana sounds.

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014 – Local H Destroys it at Three Links

There was one reason and one reason only why I was at the show that Tactics Productions was presenting at Three Links this night, and that was Descender.

They were the lone local Dallas band on this bill, and with them being my favorite currently active band, I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to see them. That’s not to say I had doubts about the other two acts on the bill, including headliner Local H; they were simply just bands I was unfamiliar with.

Descender was up first, taking the stage promptly at nine.

“Hey, we’re Maleveller.” said singer and rhythm guitarist Casey Hess. Some people may not have gotten the joke, though he was messing with Brian Smith, who is the singer in Maleveller; and also happens to be a bartender here at Three Links.

He kept on, saying, “We’re
from The Colony. This is only our second to third ever non-church gig…” Like I said, I don’t think everyone there (and for this early on a Tuesday night there was already a good sized crowd) got the joke, but I was chuckling at it.

“We make the gold do more than spin. We make it float and disappear again.” sang Casey on the chorus of their opener, “Spinning On The Surface”. I’ve seen them so much that I honestly can’t remember if I’ve heard them open with that song before or not, though it worked well at the start of the set. It’s one of the few overtly happy sounding songs they have, and that mood radiated from the stage out to the audience.

Lead guitarist Jeff Gruber held the notes he was playing; transitioning them into their next song, while Casey cleared things up. “We’re Descender from East Dallas. Not Maleveller.” Zack Busby then slapped his bass, the notes ringing out before they exploded into their shortest and quickest tune, “Silver Lightning”. Them to balance it out, came one of their longest, “The Language”.

“…We’re on the floor. We’re on your skin. We’re on the wall; oblivion.” Casey sang at one point, and when he got to that last word, Jeff began quickly tapping one of his pedals, giving a sweet effect to it all, while Casey’s guitar shortly after seemed to who the crowd; regardless of if they had seen Descender before or not.

They followed it up with “I Will Help You Find The Darkness”, before doing the title track from their newest EP, the moody “Slow And Gold”. It’s definitely one of their coolest sounding tracks, especially at the end, when Jeff uses his slide to tap the strings of his guitar, resulting in a pretty cool sound.

With that, they had played all five tracks from “Slow and Gold”, but still had some time to fill in their 33-minute long set, and I was wondering what classics they’d be pulling out.

Turns out, it was two that they last did in November (this was only their second show since then). They appeared to have a little discussion at first regarding what was next.

I was ecstatic to hear “Hats Off To Your Reflection” was one of those songs. That song has (mostly) been a staple since shortly after they started in 2009, and even now it’s still Descender at their best, especially with the heavy and thick drumbeats Duncan Black knocks out.

Casey stated that they only had one song left now, and thanked the venue for having them on this bill. “We like Three Links. A lot-ish.” he said, before they fired up the title track from their debut album, “Army Of Elephants”.

Jeff, who periodically does backing vocals, did some on one of the lines that is also the song title, giving a nice sound to it. The best part of it though hands down has to be the instrumental breakdown portion. As usual, Casey winged it on his solo and just played what he felt like. However, Jeff also went into a lighter solo at that same moment. It made for a dueling guitar solo for a moment, which was incredible.

I think I say this every time, but I love this band.

They’re a rock band plain and simple, and being veterans of the local music who spent their early days in some of the most storied Dallas area bands of recent times, they definitely know what they’re doing.

So far, they’ve played a show a month this year, and with a gig at the Double Wide on March 20th, it looks like that trend will continue (at least for now).

Catch that show if you can, or at the very least, head over to iTUNES (HERE and HERE) to check out their three EP’s.

It was uncharted territory for me after that, though with the next band having a name like We Were Wolves, I figured they had to be good.

The turnaround was quick, and the Houston quartet got started shortly before ten o’clock.

It took no time at all for the to prove they were a force to be reckoned with, as they played some primal and energetic rock songs. Those are two adjectives that also fit with the performance they put on.

Bassist Jake Hooker did most of the singing on their first song, before one of the guitarists and the other vocalist Drew Haught took over; again rotating on the next song, which they went seamlessly into. In fact, it was almost hard to tell if they were doing some separate tracks or one massive song.

“…This next one’s on our seven inch.” Jake told the crowd, pointing back to their merch table where it could be purchased. “It’s called Hell in Spades.” said Drew, as he drummer Zach Elizondo, guitarist Vinc Prihoda and Jake ripped into the short number. They bled it perfectly into their next track, which I believe was “Crash and Burn”, a borderline metal sounding song that only amped up the intensity of their performance.

By that time it was pretty clear they were good with the segues, and they proved they had mastered the art by diving right into another song, this one from the “Lost at Sea” EP, “Lovetits”. There were some sweet tones to the guitars, especially at the start, just pulling you in, as Drew sang/shouted an often repeated line, “Oh my god, she gets it from her momma!”

They took a break at this point before getting ready for their final stretch of material. They took a moment to thank Local H for having them on this show, before Drew got into more of the bands goings on. “…So, we just got back from playing the torch lighting ceremony in Sochi.” he said, adding, “…Everything was so nice there. I don’t know what people were complaining about.”

It was good little dose of comedy, but they soon got back to their area of expertise: finely tuned rock music. “…I’m a fish, I’m a shark. I’m anything you can’t see in the dark…” Drew sang on the more low-key, yet still heavy “Heavy Shrimp”, before getting to the chorus,  “…But I know what I want. I want you.”

That was a favorite of mine from their set, and it started them on an epic run of songs, with Jake handling the next one, which I think was “Strange Mud”. Two more came in rapid succession, leaving no time to recover or really even applaud the band. When they did stop, they told the audience in the now nearly sold out venue to feel free to come say “hey” once they got over to the merch table.

“…We’ll let you buy us beer.” Jake said, jokingly making it sound like it would be a privilege for any new fans they may have just made. “I mean, we might buy you one, too…” he said, noting it was a “two-way street”, but that they’d really like to have some bought for them. “This song’s about growing up in a shitty town…” Drew then said, referring to another track from the newly released “Wolf House” album, “Lost at Sea”.

They then cranked out one last song, bringing their 37-minute long set. “Local H is next!” Jake shouted excitedly. “How many times do you get to say that?” he asked, more thinking aloud than anything. In their case, it was the first of three times, since they were opening all of Local H’s Texas shows.

I’m kind of glad I didn’t take time to listen to them beforehand, because it was nice being completely surprised—and blown away—by this incredible band.

The music they play is a good mix of modern rock/hard rock and the more classic rock sound, with some dashes of metal thrown in. Then you have their live show, which is clearly where the band is in their element. The fact that they got so into the music they were playing made you, the listener, want to, and they packed their performance full with as much rock as they possible good.

Give a listen to (or buy) their music in either BANDCAMP or iTUNES; if you like it, threw ‘em a like on FACEBOOK so you’ll know when they have more shows coming up.

Part of me was thinking there was no way the night could get better, ‘cause We Were Wolves brought their A game. Also, I had no idea what to expect from Local H. Like I mentioned at the start of this, I hadn’t even heard of them until this night, and I was about the only person here who hadn’t.

Three Links was packed by the time the duo of Scott Lucas and Ryan Harding got their gear set up and did the sound check, while the fans screamed at them with excitement over the pending show.

They, of course, had to drag it out, too, disappearing after finally getting things in working order, allowing the anticipation to build.

The fans cheered them on minutes later when Scott and Ryan returned to the stage; the lights fading to a mix of dark red and deep blue. They’d remain that way for the duration of their 93-minute set.

The duo tore right into one of the songs from the “Whatever Happened to P.J. Soles?” album, “Buffalo Trace”. I’ll admit, I wasn’t digging the vocal effects Scott used for the first part of the song. It made it to trippy sounding for me, and I was more worried that, that was going to be how their entire set was. Luckily, it wasn’t, and in a small dose like that I was more than capable of handling it. I did like it overall, and it became readily clear during the final minute just what kind of show this was going to be, when Scott and Ryan rocked out, giving in completely to the music to they were playing; while the fans ate up the sweet guitar solo.

I wouldn’t say they perfectly segued every song into the next this night. More, as soon as one was done they just went right into what they had planned next. In this case, it was “Deep Cut”. The song may be about sixteen years old now, but parts of it are timeless, like the line from the chorus, “What do you do when opinions are everywhere? What do you do when it’s nothing you want to hear?”, a thought that will always apply to anyone who hears the song.

They left no time for applause, as Scott led them right into the catchy “Eddie Vedder”, before winding it into what was one of my favorite songs of theirs. “I want you DEAD!” shouted Scott at different times throughout the song, which had a stellar vibe; and while I had this thought many times this night, it really surprised me that they were able to create such a heavy, thick sound on that one with just a guitar and some drums.

Thus far, they had they had a nice mix of songs spanning different times of their career, and now they turned their attention to 2012’s “Hallelujah! I’m a Bum” by doing “Blue Line”. In listening to their music afterwards, you can really hear the progression over their career. I’m not trying to slight their classic stuff by any means, I simply mean that even after a two-decade plus long career, Local H is still cranking out great music that has an even more mature sound and style of songwriting, leading one to think that some of their best stuff may not have happened yet. Still, it was, of course, their older stuff that had the fans most engaged this night, and the at times punk-rock sounding “Chicago Fanphair ‘93” had a lot of people moving around and banging their heads to the music.

Some of the most emotionally raw material of their set came from the glorious “12 Angry Months” record, and now they slowed things down briefly with the lead track from it, “January: The One with “Kid”. “Don’t take this for granted. You’ll leave here empty handed. So hateful, so shameless; won’t let you leave here blameless.” Scott sang towards the end. The anger and hatred in his voice was palpable as they performed that track that tells the story of the beginning of the end of a relationship.

“Hands On the Bible” was another gripping song, while the next one, “California Songs”, got everyone more thrilled then they had been thus far this night. It was another one that still has a lot of meaning, even ten years after the album was released, since it attacks all the songs that talk about how wonderful California is. “Yeah, we know you love L.A., but there’s nothing left to say…” roared Scott on the song that’s humorous, while still hitting the nail on the head. I mean, it has all been done before, people singing about The Golden State and how heavenly it is, yet it’s still being done. “And fuck New York, too!” the audience shouted along with Scott at the very end of the song, after which they finally took a break.

“We’re Local H.” Scott announced (as if no one there already knew that), before asking how everyone was doing. “…I’m glad to be in TX.” he then said, continuing the banter. “It beats the shit out of Chicago.” yelled one guy in the audience. “Yeah, it does…” Scott replied, before saying he wanted to thank Texas for Matthew McConaughey. That same fan then spoke up again, saying something about how much he liked Mr. McConaughey, and that he (the patron) was from Longview, which was Matthew McConaughey spent a portion of his life. It was more detailed then just that, though.

“Oh, yeah? Really?” Scott remarked, feigning interest, and once the guy finished he asked the rest of the audience, “Did anyone give a shit about what he just said?” He treaded a fine line of being an asshole, without actually being one; and you could hear just a faint hint of jest in his voice.

The guy wasn’t offended at all, and said something to the effect of, “Hey, it’s your show, Scott. Do what you want.” “Well, thank you!” Scott replied in the most sarcastic voice you’ve ever heard. He let it be known he was partly just giving the guy a hard time, though. “You’re a very gregarious gentleman…” he told the guy, before moving on with the show, formally introducing the newest member, Ryan Harding. “…Man, watch him go on this next one…” Scott stated, informing everyone the next song was “June: Taxi Cabs”.

It began another series of songs, which was followed by “Another February”, and then one of the other handful of songs I wasn’t able to figure out. “Bryn-Mawr Stomp” came next, which was the first of a few more tracks that got the crowd a bit rowdy. “All-Right (Oh, Yeah)” had some light movement going (nothing more than people getting into the music; no moshing or anything), while their next song was a bit of a sing-along. “One more thing before we go; I’ve stepped over everyone I know. Everyone I know, everyone I know.” echoed the fans on “Fritz’s Corner”.

That led to another pause in the show, and Scott acted like he was about to take his shirt off, which excited a few of the lady fans in the audience. “I’m not doing that.” he said, shaking his head as stepped back up to the mic. Instead, he took a moment to thank both We Were Wolves and Descender (calling them out by name) for opening the show. “…It’s a pleasure to play with great bands.” He said, noting what a rarity it is to have two high caliber bands like that on the same bill.

Something was then said (by a fan) about buying them a drink, specifically: red wine. “I’m a fan of red wine.” said Scott, before pointing out that white wine was “for assholes”. “Does anyone here drink white wine?” he then asked the audience. Someone spoke up and said they did, to which Scott replied, “See, you’re an asshole.”

The joked kept coming when someone requested “Every Rose Has its Thorns”. He attempted to play it, but couldn’t get the chords right, and even then it was done in a mocking manner. “…Isn’t it enough to be touring? I mean, do you have to also be a cowboy on a steel horse you ride?” he then asked. “I’m know I’m going out on a limb by saying this, but that song sucks.” No one seemed to care much about the diss he had just giving Bon Jovi. “…It’s a controversial stance in the music industry to hate Bon Jovi.” Scott remarked, and he could have cared less that he had just made it.

Requests flew at them, but they opted to do a fun song, and covered the “Spider-Man Theme”, before getting more serious with another song I didn’t know, though I loved it.

There was an interesting moment during “What Would You Have Me Do?”. I couldn’t see it all clearly since I was right in the middle of the room, but Scott requested one of the fans over by the side of the stage to give him his phone. He was either taking pictures or video of the band, and gladly handed it to Scott, who I’m pretty certain dropped it right in his pants. They kept on with the song, not missing a beat, and after awhile it looked like Scott used his other foot to pull his shoe off. He then began shaking his leg, and I’m assuming the phone eventually fell out from his pants leg. “Don’t act like you’re not impressed.” he said to guy, before going right back to singing the song.

It was an interesting moment, and I can honestly say I’ve never seen something like that before.

Scott created some deafening feedback at the end of that one, and before moving onto the next song, he stepped up to the forefront of center stage and looked at the speakers that hung from the ceiling. You could see the gears in his head turning, as he contemplated maybe jumping on and hanging from it, but eventually decided against that idea.

Instead, he shredded away on his axe next to his amp, then spewed some water from his mouth as they fired up “High-Fiving MF”. The audience chanted right along with them every time “You high-fiving motherfucker.” was said, which was quite a bit on the song that’s actually pretty simplistic when it comes to lyrics, yet manages to never get repetitive.

That left one song left, as the mighty duo went right into “Heavy Metal Bakesale”. Near the end, Scott removed the microphone from the stand and roamed around the stage briefly, before holstering the mic and laying his guitar down. The feedback was a bit nerve-racking, but would to grow to be truly god-awful by the end.

Not that anyone really cared, though. Everyone in Three Links was having a moment, which started when Scott again walked to the forefront of the stage and surveyed everyone who was there. It was obvious what was coming, and the crowd was just waiting for Scott to fall into their arms. Eventually, he did, and wound up crowd surfing all the way to the front doors. At a certain point, he actually ran out of people to get passed back to, so the group that did have him just carried him, his arms extended in front of him as if he were a superhero flying through the air; and to just about everyone here this night, he was. Yeah, “everyone” includes me.

I guess I’m probably showing my age by saying I had never heard of Local H before this night (though I have been around a little longer than the band has), but I’m glad I happened to stumble across them this night.

I definitely plan on adding their entire discography to my music collection; and as good as their music is, it’s the live show where they excel.

It should be criminal for a duo to be this great and put on such an explosive and dynamic performance. Sure, there are some great duos out there, even just here in the local D/FW music scene, but Scott and Ryan packed more energy into their set than even a lot of five-piece bands do.

Just the musicianship they displayed was off the charts, and you could tell Scott has honing his skills as a guitarist for awhile, to the point he’s become a master. And going back to the whole duo situation, I think that was what allowed them to be so tight, because they didn’t have to worry about anyone else. Instead, it was all about feeding off one another, as well as the audience, and just delivering a Rock ‘n’ Roll show.

Their current tour has come to an end now, though I can guarantee I’ll be at their next Dallas show, whenever that may be. And for those like myself who don’t have any Local H music (yet) go into iTUNES and check out their records.

Much love to Tactics Productions for putting on such a killer concert on a Tuesday night, and I’m glad Descender ended up on this bill, because if they hadn’t, I would have missed out on this entirely. Worst of all, I never even would have known what I had missed out on.