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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Case in point: The Picturebooks.

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

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

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

Saturday, September 6th – SpaceCamp shows Off a New(er) Sound at Liquid Lounge

The show at Liquid Lounge this night got off to a little earlier start then I expected.

It was a little before nine when I walked in the intimate room, and there were already three musicians on stage.

With just a couple more songs to go, I never caught the name of this instrumental band, who was good, though that’s just a style I’m seldom a fan of.

Following them up was a singer by the name of Charley Crockett. Now, if you’re like me, when you hear the name Crockett, you immediately think of Davy Crockett, and from what Charley said later this night, he is kin to the historical figure, and that is something he’s proud of.

To be the only person on that stage, he did an amazing job of filling it up. His music was incredibly soulful and very bluesy, and it all came from the heart, as he and his guitar produced one song after the other. “That’s a new one I’m working on,” he remarked at the end of one song, before bridging it right in to another.

“Down Trodden Man” was one of the cuts he did from his latest EP, and it was quite fitting of the wanderer role he had already cast himself in. “…I do believe if I had wings I’d still be lonesome,” he crooned on one line; and despite sounding like it would be a sad song, there were never even any slight undertones of it. Instead, he seemed almost cheerful; and at one point, when he cut out on his guitar, the onlookers decided to start clapping along, something Charley welcomed.

He threw out a few more songs, each one dripping with raw emotions, which was the quality everyone watching seemed to enjoy the most about his set.

Not only was he an exceptional singer and songwriter, he was also an extremely skilled guitarist. It was something to watch as he wailed on his axe, making music that spoke to people on a deeper level than many songs do.

Charley Crockett was the most surprising act to me this night, as I was not expecting to discover such a talented solo artist by coming to this show. I’m glad I did, though, and I’m looking forward to seeing him again.

He’ll be back in Dallas on October 8th at Adair’s Saloon, and he has plenty of other tour dates as well. They can be found HERE, and you can download a couple of free songs of his HERE.

Perhaps the most interesting band of the night was Skinny Cooks.

How often do you see a rap and spoken word band perform, using a cello and a xylophone. That’s exactly what Nigel Newton (who played the xylophone) and Brianne Sargent did, though. They were also joined by a drummer and bassist, who really fleshed out the sound, though it was those two core members who received everyone’s attention.

They only got 19-minutes, squeezing four songs into that time and rotating on who provided the vocals. As I said, at times it was more like spoken word, others it was rapped, but no matter what was going on, it was riveting.

Simple, yet complex; with the emotions being conveyed in the music.

I’d definitely be interested in seeing them again sometime.

Their music can found on BANDCAMP.

Paco Estrada was next up this night, and it had been far too long since I had seen the singer/songwriter with a full-band. Making this all the more special was the fact that Zuriel was joining him on the violin.

Zuriel was one of the first members Paco picked up when forming what eventually became Paco Estrada & One Love, a band that started about six years ago, and disbanded four years ago now (man, that makes me feel old.) In the aftermath, Zuriel has only played with Paco once, and that was just a few weeks before this show, making this a special treat for longtime fans.

The 50-minute set was an interesting one that covered a variety of albums (and bands), beginning with them going all the way back to Paco’s days in SouthFM. “Blue & Grey” was a song that iconic Dallas band never did much, as the slower pace didn’t fit with their noisy rock shows, though it worked this night, and caught longtime fans a little off guard as Paco started the first line, “Collected all these words to paint this picture for you and try to get you to see…” It was mostly Paco and his acoustic guitar for a while, with Zuriel, the drummer and bassist hanging back, before it really escalated towards the end. Zuriel was even wailing on his violin there at the end, reminding some people of some days long gone by.

From that song from nearly ten years ago, they jumped ahead to some of Pacos’ newer music, doing the sweet love song, which I believe is titled, “The Way That I Love You”. Following that new staple was another new one, and one that quite honestly sounded like a cover. I wasn’t alone in thinking that, either. It sounded phenomenal, though for some reason, it just didn’t feel like one of his, despite the fact that it was. The drummer was crushing it during that song, while the riffs burrowed their way into your head instantly. The lyrics stood out, too, with one line I remember being, “… Burn it to the ground, let the truth be found…”.

“Zuriel just made some shit up,” laughed Paco, who wasn’t really joking, as Zuriel is a master at improve. “This is the song about the girl behind the girl behind the girl,” Paco stated before “She”, a song off 2013’s How I Spent My Summer Vacation EP. “…I could never give you my heart; she left me black and mostly blue. You could give me all the love in the world, but baby, I’ll never give it back to you,” he belted on chorus of that emotional tune about being forever haunted by a past love.

“Harder!” one fan/friend shouted once that one was done, prompting Paco to ask, “Why is that always your go to word?” In retaliation, he said they were going to go softer, joking that, that was a shame for everyone, because they had a really “awesome” totally redone version of a Tool song planned, but instead would just skip over it. He bantered on, saying he and Zuriel were in counseling trying to work stuff out, before sitting up their next tune. “It’s a sad song. But they’ve all been sad,” he remarked, before pulling v2.0 of “Killing Me”, as was performed by One Love. Zuriel looked like this was all second nature to him, and at times, he plucked the strings of his violin, before using the bow later in the song.

“Just like we practiced, just like we practiced,” Paco laughed, who had just earlier stated he sends the tracks to the bassist, so he can listen to the songs he’ll be playing, and I’m fairly certain Zuriel was winging it all night long. The bassist then chimed in, saying he wanted to do “She Talks to Angels”, something Paco was easily persuaded to do. “I don’t know why that happened, but it did,” he stated after finishing the rendition of The Black Crowes song, which was followed by another original from The Anatomy of Letting Go, “Reckless Love”, which again found Zuriel in the zone, since it was from the One Love days.

They had one song left, but first, Paco thanked the openers, saying he happened to find Charley Crockett on the side of the road; and also mentioning the people who had come to this show wearing the band shirts (for the headliner, SpaceCamp), saying “There’s always that guy,” at shows. (For the record, I was one of the guys who had worn the band shirt.) To end things, they did the old standby, “Whiskey Kisses”, which once again saw Zuriel doing a bit of a solo towards the end.

Paco and his band did not disappoint. Then again, they never do.

It was a nice smorgasbord of his music, from his solo records, to his past bands, while also looking ahead to his future. I’m sure I got this point across by now, but it was also fun seeing Zuriel back on stage, going between playing his violin in a more traditional manner, to rocking out on it, to the point it can rival any electric instrument.

I say this every time, and I’ll say it again: Paco is the best singer/songwriter in the D/FW area, and that fact was proven yet again this night.

You can find all of his music on his BANDCAMP; and he should have a new release out by the end of the year.

Wrapping up the night was SpaceCamp; and they had changed things up since the last time I had seen them.

Paco Estrada got no downtime; however, unlike the past SC shows, he wasn’t using his acoustic guitar this time around. Instead, he just stood in front of the mic, using his voice. The other big difference was they now had a keyboardist, who was also responsible for running the live tracks, something they started doing more recently.

Rounding out the band was guitarist Mike Dove and bassist Emsy Robinson, along with frontman Jeremy Rodriguez (AKA Tomahawk Jonez), plus a drummer, whom I hadn’t seen with them before.

They opened with “The Dancer”, and right away, Jeremy  began rapping, “My fears, my pain fall upon your ears so they don’t feel the same…”, putting not only a ton of emotion into it, but also making it sound quite fierce. Paco took over on each chorus; and at the end, he was responsible for tacking on a part of a cover song, singing, “…So I’m never gonna dance again, the way I danced with you,” from “Carless Whisper”.

“We were in Lubbock last night,” Jeremy stated, saying the girls there liked to drink whiskey, and asked if that was true of the girls here. Paco followed that with a rhetorical question. “What college girl doesn’t?” “If This is Goodbye” sounded like a different song live as the sample track got it going; and Jeremy clapped along there at first, causing some fans to join along. He later pointed to Mike when the rest of the instruments cut out; making sure all attention was on the guitarist. When they got to the choruses, Jeremy hung his head, though still danced along; and Paco put an overwhelming amount of emotion into the second one. I’m not sure what caused him to make it even more charged than normal, but it made the already great song even better.

“Do y’all want to hear another song from that same album?” Jeremy asked, referring to the Full Moon EP. “That wasn’t too convincing,” he replied after a lackluster response from the crowd, who did better the second time around. Before they could move on, though, Mike had to change guitars, and then they were off onto “The Lover”. They had redone some parts of it, especially at the end, when both Paco and Jeremy each sang of their different parts in unison with one another, sounding absolutely amazing.

“Faster! Harder!” a patron shouted, leading Paco to inform him they were not Daft Punk. “That’s not a Kanye song?” Jeremy replied, believably feigning some surprise. “Reach for the Sun” came next, and while several of SpaceCamp’s songs are positive and uplifting, that one has to take the cake. As Paco began the final chorus, Jeremy beat his chest, then slowly raised his head until he was gazing towards the ceiling, seeming to look right past it and towards the stars.

“What the fuck is wrong with this stand, Gene? “Why are you trying to sabotage our set?!” Paco joked with the sound man; though the mic stand had been giving them some trouble. They slowed things down and got quite serious with “Surrender to the Night”; then picked the pace back up with “White Horses”, which Jeremy jokingly dedicated to all the women in line for the bathroom. There was no line, though he did say that right at the time one woman happened to walk out, which was hilarious. “What’s the worst that could happen?” Jeremy finished, creating his own echo effect when singing that final word, and it sounded awesome.

“You want to keep that mood going?” he asked afterwards, as the keyboardist started the track to “Dancing with the Devil”. It had barely got going when Jeremy had him kill it, something that perplexed his band mates. “Are you not ready to dance with devil?” Paco quipped, getting a laugh from the crowd. The track sounded fuller when it came back in, just like it should; and that number really exploded when they hit the last chorus, from the singing, to the instruments, everything was in high gear.

“These are all true stories by the way,” Paco informed everyone once they finished. With only two EP’s worth of music in their catalog, they had played nearly everything they had, except for one song. They ended their 50-minute long set with “Before you Die”, which sounded more relaxed this time around than I’ve heard it in the past. It was more behooving of the song, allowing it to become even more emotional than it already is. As usual, Paco added some of “Blue and Yellow” by The Used to the end. “…Rather waste my time with you…” he crooned, before getting to one line he put so much into and held for so long, his face visibly turned red.

Jeremy was excited when talking to me about them using the sample tracks now, especially after how it has gone over at their other recent shows. I was quite intrigued to hear it, but at the same time, I’m one of those people who’s typically not a fan of the use of tracks.

It doesn’t work for every band, often detracting from the sound in my opinion, but for SpaceCamp, it fits. The band has such a unique sound in the first place, describing themselves as trip-rock, and the use of the tracks really did help give all the songs the perfect feel. It really was like you were hearing the recordings live, though they had that raw quality that can only come with a live performance.

I dug it, and it sets the stage for a whole new SpaceCamp.

You can purchase both of the bands EP’s over in iTUNES.

This was a very diverse night of music here at Liquid Lounge, but one that was overflowing with talent, making it a solid night from start to finish

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At least this show was under happier circumstances.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At least this show was under happier circumstances.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

image(Photo credit: Ronnie Jackson Photography)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What a way to spend a Friday night.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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