Thursday, October 16th, 2014 – Twenty One Pilots’ First Night in Dallas Transcends the Typical Concert Experience

Not just every band can pull off doing a two-night stand in one city. Originally, Twenty One Pilots wasn’t even going to, but then this Thursday night show sold out in a matter of weeks, resulting in the addition of a Friday night gig (which, too, sold out.)

The way it looked this night, you would have thought it was a Friday, though.

The streets were crawling with life as people made their way to the House of Blues; and once getting downstairs to the showroom, it looked like most people getting there at 7:30 were late to the party.

There was no way of weaseling your way up to the front. The crowd was already too large. Vinyl Theatre opened up the show, while the following act, Misterwives, left much of the crowd speechless, mainly because of frontwoman Mandy Lee’s powerhouse voice.

In patiently waiting for the band of the hour, fans were cheering everything, from the stage hands bringing the piano on stage to taking the sheet off that had been covering the drum kit. Everyone was clearly beside themselves over what they were about to see.

I first saw Twenty One Pilots eleven months ago, when they played here, and then in May of this year while out covering the Suburbia Music Festival. Their one of those bands you instantly like, not only because of their nonstop stage show, but also because they let their true colors show, making it feel like they’re no different from any of those watching them.

As darkness enveloped the room, a recorded voice (with a dignified British accent I might add) proceeded to speak to the crowd. “…Look around you. These are your people…” was one of the sentences. This was the “clique” (as they refer to their fans), and for the remainder of the night, it was as if everyone was connected with one another in some way.

Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun appeared in the shadows, receiving rave reaction as Joseph stood atop his piano, while Dun was elevated several feet in the air thanks to a massive drum riser. Both wore their signature ski masks as they kicked off their 74-minute long set with “Guns for Hands”, which had Joseph using the piano intermittently, racing around the stage when he wasn’t. At the breakdown, he was again standing on top of it, tossing the microphone from one hand to the other before he resumed singing. “…It’s obviously best for them to turn their guns to a fist,” he sang, raising his fist into the air before the lights abruptly dimmed.

“Is there anyone out there?!” the frontman shouted as they segued into one song that everyone seemed to have a personal connection with, “Migraine”. My previous encounters with them have seen a lot of people knowing the songs, but nothing to the magnitude it was this night, and Joseph made use of it, allowing the fans to sing several of the lines on that one, including, “Sometimes, to stay alive, you’ve got to kill your mind.”

“…For when you remove the tricky tricks, only skeleton bones remain,” the narrating voice said, alluding to what was now coming. The two members returned to the stage with their clothing that has skeleton bones imaginary on it.

“…Some see a pen, I see a harpoon!” Joseph belted on “Ode to Sleep”, adding some extra emphasis to the last word of the first verse. It was then he ripped his mask off, revealing his face for the first time this night. “LET’S GO!” he roared as he sprinted towards the piano, again jumping and moving all over the stage when he wasn’t tied down to an instrument.

Dun knocked out a brief drum solo before swiveling over to the electronic drum pad beside him for “Screen”, while Joseph broke out his ukulele. It was the complete opposite of that often aggressively rapped song before it, but that diversity is one thing that makes Twenty One Pilots such a standout band. “Take it away!” Joseph told the audience, as the room filled with the collective voice, “…We’re broken people.”

“All my people, thank you so much for coming!” he exclaimed, before starting a bit that involved “Nigel” (the voice that had been doing some narrating). It was pretty entertaining as they conversed, with Joseph asking how their songs were sounding. “Pretty good,” Nigel replied, adding it wasn’t the music he had grown up with. The two “chatted” between each song, but this led to and entertaining medley of covers, from DJ Khaled’s “All I Do is Win” (which Nigel said was his jam back in the day) to “Bugatti” by Ace Hood, and even some Beyonce with “Drunk in Love”, which was apparently the song Nigel and his wife danced to at their wedding. It was good fun, giving everyone a laugh, before they turned back to their originals.

“I wrote this for my mom,” stated Joseph, garnering some massive cheers from fans. “House of Gold” is purely infectious and so upbeat and happy, while telling a story of wanting to take care of your parent later in their life. The last chorus belonged all to fans, who knew it by heart. “I will make you queen of everything you see. I’ll put you on the map, I’ll cure you of disease,” everyone crooned. It was a magical moment.

Apart from their current material, they threw in a handful of stuff from their past records, and “Forest” was one of those. It boasts a vehement rap portion, and when they got to that part, Joseph jumped onto the drum riser, spitting out the words as he knelt down towards the bass drum. They then reached back to their self-titled record with “Fall Away”, a song that included Jesse Blum of Misterwives, who added a lot of trumpet to the mix, making a smooth, funky sounding rap jam. It was a nice touch.

“This is an old one called Addict With a Pen,” Joseph informed everyone, as they stayed on their 2009 release with a slower, but no less lyrically powerful song. “…This song has a verse that my brother sang…” Joseph remarked in advance of the next song, saying he was going to give it a try. “By the way, we’re going to give you everything we have… This is music. Use it,” he added from behind his piano, getting a roaring response. They went back to the Regional at Best album (which is no longer in print or available for purchase), doing “Kitchen Sink”, which concluded with a smaller drum kit on a platform being brought out. It wasn’t handed out into the crowd, though. Instead, it sit at the forefront of the stage, and Dun made his way over to it, giving everyone a clear look at his forceful skills; while Joseph took over on the primary kit.

Afterwards, the vocalist grabbed his microphone, holding it above his eyes as if to block out some of the light so he could see better. He peered at the audience while covering the length of the stage, before approaching the crowd, who held him up for the first part of “Holding On to You”. This band really is all about their fans. When he did get back on stage, he lobbed the mic into the air, catching it with little effort. “Listen up! Listen up! Come on!” he instructed, as the crowd again got to use their voices.

The sounds of “Semi-Automatic” really pumped up fans, who were later told to get low to the ground. There was some hesitation, but no questioning as everyone knelt down, springing up as Joseph sang, “I’m semi-automatic; my prayer’s schizophrenic…” The platform with a smaller drum kit was again carried out, and this time it was passed into the audience, and Dun made good use of it, brutalizing the kit for the short time he used it.

Once he got back on the stage, they went right into the next number, and Dun proceeded to strike the top of the piano with his drumsticks, creating an interesting sound for the time he did it. “This is a duet featuring you,” Joseph pointed out, mentioning their show here the following night, saying he wanted to have a little friendly competition from night to night, and he was hoping this crowd set the bar so high that those who came to night two couldn’t top it. The duet was “The Run and Go”; and towards the end, he asked that each member of the audience find a partner, saying when he said, “Get up”, that was the signal for one person to lift the other onto their shoulders. Again, it was a super fun moment for the crowd.

With a keytar now in hand, Joseph and Dun closed their set with “Fake You Out”, which was complete with jumping (from everyone, on and off the stage). They even tacked on a portion of Lana Del Rey’s “Summertime Sadness” to the tail end of their original, and then came another piece that they had written, as Joseph sang about how happy they were to play the town again. There was also something that was a little saddening to fans, though. “…This is the last time we’ll play this place, where Vessel ruled the day…” That means next time they come to Dallas, they’ll have new songs in their arsenal, and will most likely not be doing Vessel in its entirety.

No one believed they were done. After all, this was the Quite is Violent Tour, and they still hadn’t done the song where that lyric comes from.

They eventually returned, and their 13-minute encore started with none other than “Car Radio”. “Sometimes quiet is violent. I find it hard to hide it…” fans echoed along with Joseph on that single. The ultimate part came towards the end, when after leaving the stage, Joseph appeared in the balcony, singing the remainder of the track up there. Some hoped his way down would be jumping, and there would have been plenty of people to catch him if he had, though that might have been too risky.

Instead, Dun played an interlude on the keyboard while the frontman wound his way back to the stage. “Truce” took no time at all to play; and then Joseph asked the spectators if they had one more in them. It was clear they did.

The final one was “Trees”, and he made sure everyone was as wrapped up in it as possible. The excitement escalated immensely near the end, when two platforms, each with a bass drum, were handed out to the crowd. When they got on them and got their footing to stand up, a sudden shot of confetti filled the air. I’d say it was raining the stuff, but it looked more like a blizzard.

It was an electrifying end to a show that never relented or had any weak spots.

This night saw a completely different Twenty One Pilots than I had seen before. Both previous times Joseph was still baffled by the fact that people actually knew these “silly little songs” he had written. The love and dedication they were shown was almost overwhelming to the young man. That’s something he seems to have become accustomed to in not even a full six months’ time.

He has learned to wield that to their advantage, as was seen a multitude of times this night, with all the crowd participation he instigated. And while he did use that in their favor, he never took the crowds immense love for granted, and it was clear both he and Dun where doing this all for the fans.

The band is completely genre-bending, even pushing the boundaries of current music. I think that’s part of what makes them so relatable, because they don’t fit a mold, sending the message that you’re meant to be you, and not who anyone else thinks you should be. Lyrically, their songs are just as deep, touching on a variety of topics that are identifiable.

That said, is hard as I think it will be for them to top Vessel, I feel confident they can; and I’m already anticipating the new songs they’ll be showing off whenever they return to Dallas.

The Quiet is Violent Tour is nearly over with dates in Europe and the UK scheduled for November, as well as a one-off date in Mexico City. Specifics can be found HERE. And if you don’t have their music, head over to iTUNES to pick it up.

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014 – Bear Hands Bombards Dallas with Some Sweet Sounds

Earlier this year, Bear Hands was one of the many bands that played Edgefest up in the suburbs of Dallas. They may not have been the biggest name on that bill, but they were one of my personal favorites from the day; and now, with their fall headlining tour just starting to get underway, they were returning to North Texas, this time to do a proper Dallas show.

The smaller Cambridge Room in the House of Blues was hosting the event; and as the opening band, Wild Party, played to the crowd, it looked like it was going to be your normal Wednesday night turnout. Of course, it was still early at that time, too. Skip ahead to 9:30, shortly before Bear Hands took the stage, and it was pretty packed. More than a hundred people were in the room, chatting with their friends or checking their phones to kill time, before busting out in cheers when the quartet took the stage at 9:36.

“What’s up, kids?!” singer, rhythm guitarist and keyboardist Dylan Rau asked the crowd, before letting them know who they were, just in case some didn’t. “Thanks for being here with us!” he exclaimed.

Drummer TJ Orscher had already started to buildup to their first song, rapidly striking the rim of one of his drums, before they exploded into their first number. The percussion was made more pronounced by bassist Val Loper, who had a floor tom sitting in front of him, and he used it for the first portion of the tune; while guitarist Ted Feldman bounced around some.

The lead guitarist then launched right into “Bone Digger”; causing the applause they were receiving for that first song to become applause of excitement as they began one of the many catchy offerings from Distraction. Before the first chorus, Feldman had sat his guitar aside to play the electronic drum pad that was setup beside him, creating a slightly synthesized element to the smartly constructed track. The bombardment of songs continued as a mangled mix of the instruments segued them into the lead track from Songs From Utopia: Volume One, “Part I: What I’ve Learned”. The guitar tones were often rich and intoxicating on that one; and they kept showing off some of their different sides, this time with Loper primarily shaking both a maraca and a tambourine, even hitting one against the other.

The audience grew ecstatic as they moved on to “Bad Friend”, with many holding their phones up in the air to capture it, while nearly everyone sang along, “I am training up, making right; watching what we build slowly die…” Rau focused more on his keyboard during the verses, switching to his guitar when the song needed more of a punch and showed off some slick skills on the axe.

“This song’s all about long nails…” Feldman said as they took a momentary break. They ran with that, making some jokes, with Rau ultimately finishing the conversation with, “Nothing says femininity and crazy shut-in like long nails.” “What a Drag” was the lone song they did of 2010’s Burning Bush Supper Club, though based on fans reaction, they picked the best one; and Loper rotated between a maraca and his bass on the verses and choruses.

Loper got a clap along going with the fans as they got the pulse pounding “Peacekeeper” underway; and it was on that one that you really got to see what an exceptional drummer Orscher is. He was completely unrestrained as he forcefully hit the cymbals on the choruses, proving himself to be a beast. “Is everybody doing okay? Like, health-wise?” Feldman joked with the crowd afterwards. He never outright said it, though he was clearly getting at the recent cases of Ebola that have occurred in Dallas; and the way he phrased it got a little chuckle from people.

The subsequent track from their latest album, “Sleeping On the Floor”, followed; and as it ended, Rau fiddled with his keyboard, giving it a deep, low end sound. The keys even crackled a bit as it bridged them into the next cut off the record, “Party Hats”. It had even more bite to it than the recording does, and they delivered a rocking performance of the often entrancing song. Actually, I think their stage show was the most raw it had been all night during that one, and they kept the momentum going from there.

But first, Rau took a second to thank everyone for coming out, mentioning they had played this venue once before when they were touring with As Tall as Lions. “Was anyone here for that?” he asked, with only a couple of people raising their hands that they had been. “…I’m so glad it’s all new to everybody,” he stated, and you could tell he really was appreciative of the fact that their music was getting out there to new ears, who in turn went the extra mile by showing up at a show.

They kept cranking out the songs, doing “The Bug” and “Agora”, the latter of which invigorated the crowd, as people kinda danced along to it. It was also on that one that Rau started his progression towards a traditional frontman role, as he laid his guitar down and just used the keys. He bowed to the fans as if he were worshipping them, and then they began “Part II: Bullshit Savior Complex”, where Rau removed the microphone from the stand and roamed about the stage some. He ended it lying on the floor, and in the silence that followed, remarked, “…I don’t know what to say anymore. Here’s a moment of silence.”

He stayed down there for just a bit longer, before standing up; and several of the ladies cheered when he undid the bun he had his hair in. Loper and Orscher retreated to either side of the stage, while Feldman and Rau handled the first segment of “Moment of Silence”. The full band was later required, though Orscher worked his way to the electronic drum pad, while Loper manned the keys as the song reached its pinnacle; and Rau made his on echo effect as he repeated “out” from the tracks final line, “Only one way out.”

That felt like it could be a perfect closing moment, though there was still one song left, and everyone knew it. “Thanks for coming out!” Loper said to the spectators as they fired up “Giants”. “…I am loving you more…” goes the chorus, a line that is printed on one of the shirt designs they had for sale; and the way people were singing along to it this night, you could tell it had some personal meaning to a lot of them.

“Thank you so much! Have a great fucking night!” shouted Rau as their 48-minute long set came to an end and they left the stage.

Some people started clearing out, but most hung around hoping for more. “Encore! Encore!” the chants started, growing more demanding.

It brought the guys back out, and Rau said they’d do one more. “…We have the time, we have the energy,” he stated, before informing everyone this last one was a cover of a Violent Femmes song. They had cooked up a rendition of “Kiss Off”, and it was more fleshed out and exhilarating than the original. The frontman jumped around quite a lot while he sang, and there was one awesome moment where Loper suddenly leapt over the little guard rail and got out in the crowd, with those right there quickly spreading out to give him some room. There looked like there were almost some close calls where he would have inadvertently hit someone with his bass, but never did.

They really went all out on it, making it a vibrant, fun way to end the night.

Personally, I enjoyed getting to see them do a full set, verses the abbreviated one from that festival back in April; and they were very solid this night.

As a band, they have a strong chemistry with one another; and you could tell they were feeding off the audience’s energy, creating a nice rapport. The diversity in their music style makes for a good experience, too. They have plenty of more raw rock numbers, while some of those others are more indie rock, and are great to groove to. Then you have Rau’s voice, which has a distinct, unmistakable tone, further helping them stand out.

They still have a ton of dates on their schedule, including the West Coast and several states in between, as they make their way back to New York. That won’t be until mid November, though. Their full list of dates can be found HERE; and head over to iTUNES to pick up their music (Distraction is only $5.99 at the moment).

Friday, October 10th, 2014 – The Dirty River Boys Album Release Tour Leads Them to Billy Bob’s

This night had been a long time in the making.

At the tail end of 2013, The Dirty River Boys ventured into the studio to lay down their next album, with the session stretching into the first month or so of 2014.

Ever since, fans have anxiously been awaiting the arrival of what has come to be called The Dirty River Boys; and this night they were doing the second CD release show of their tour.

They may have originated from El Paso, and currently call Austin home, but the Americana/rock quartet has amassed a good following in North Texas, and a lot of fans came out to Billy Bob’s Texas this cool, rainy night, showing them this can be a home away from home for them.

“How we doing Billy Bob’s?!” Travis Stearns asked after seating himself atop his cajon, behind his drum kit. He repeated the question, getting a stronger rise out of the audience the second time around.

They then got down to business, opening their 92-minute long set the same way they had when I last saw them (back in July), with “Raise Some Hell”. It works even better here at the start over its old closer spot; and even though everyone who was intently watching them was seated at the tables, many were still stomping their feet and singing along to the chorus, “…Boys, we’re gonna raise some hell tonight!” While singing it, vocalist and acoustic guitarist Nino Cooper often had a fiery, determined look in his eyes, making you think that this wasn’t just any old Dirty River Boys shows, and that look never left him this night.

Fans started clapping, though it was overpowered by fellow guitarist and singer Marco Gutierrez, as he opened up “Road Song” with some licks from his acoustic. He added some slight harmonies here and there on the fast paced tune; while Stearns delivered a ferocious beat, striking the cajon with one hand while holding a stick in the other to beat on the full kit. Those first two songs had come from the now two-year-old Science of Flight album, but now, they started getting to some of their newer material. Stearns grabbed a shaker, using it at the start of “Thought I’d Let You Know”. Gutierrez now took over on the lead vocals on the sweeter love song. “So I thought I’d let you know that I’ll never let you go; and I’m holding on ‘till a heart can take no more,” he sang on the chorus, while his band mates threw in some awesome backing vocals.

Upon finishing it, Gutierrez laid his guitar down and had just gotten behind the drum riser when he realized he was jumping the gun. He chuckled as he looked at Cooper and put his guitar back around him. They pulled out another (semi) oldie in the form of “Heart Like That”; and once it was done, then it was time for Gutierrez to swap out to a banjo. They kept that constant pace of songs up by going right into “Sailed Away”. Colton James stood atop the drum riser; the raccoon pelt that has hung from his upright bass was now mounted and stretched across the front of it, while a skunk pelt has also been added since I last saw them. He had done some backing vocals here and there so far this night, but now got to take the reins on that infectious track, while the rest of the guys created some harmonies on the chorus.

The banjo was shelved for a bit, and Stearns rolled them into their next number, as they dished out a roaring extended intro to one of the cuts from their first EP, “Draw”. “Come on!” Gutierrez shouted shortly before he started the first line, which earned some applause and shouts from their adoring fans. The final words, “And I know I’ll never ever be satisfied,” were drawn out, with Stearns striking his cajon at the start of most of the words to better accent them, before they tore back into the song, giving it a strong finish.

“This is the second night of our CD release tour…” Gutierrez mentioned during their first break of the night. Cooper then chimed in that along with these new songs, they would still be doing the old ones fans loved, like the following one. “This one’s about a union painter we met in El Paso,” he stated, which was more than enough to get some people excited. “Union Painter” is a certainly a fan favorite, and I was quite glad to hear it again, especially after it had been absent from the setlist the last time I saw them.

That started them on another stretch of songs; and now the two guitarists stared at one another, making sure they were on the same page before starting their next jam. “This is also on the new album. It’s called Loser,” Gutierrez informed the spectators, as they busted out the slightly more rock sounding song. He broke out his harmonica for “Dried Up”, which became a sing along at times without them having to ask for it, right up to the end where they added a bit of Bob Dylans’ “Just Like a Woman”. “Nobody feels any pain, tonight as I stand inside the rain…” he sang, going through the first chorus of that Dylan song, before they brought it to a close.

There was little time to clap before Cooper started counting, “One. Two. Three. Four.” The four then harmonized as they began “My Son”, keeping it up on each chorus; while Cooper threw in a wicked guitar solo after the second chorus. I’ve said it before, but it’s really amazing what you can make an acoustic sound like with the help of some pedal boards, because just hearing it, you wouldn’t guess it was an acoustic axe making that sound. Stearns was showing off some slick moves on the drums, too, even using a tambourine to hit the cajon.

Another new song came next, and while I’ve heard a lot of them out of all the times I’ve seen them this year, “Scraping the Bottom” did not sound familiar. It instantly became my favorite off the new record, though. “Open my heart and you’ll find two spirits at war; both fighting a hopeless battle for a hopeful soul…” Gutierrez crooned at the start of this darker number about trying to reclaim what you’ve lost. “…Once it’s gone, it’s something earned, not just found.”

After mentioning that the official release for The Dirty River Boys wasn’t until the following Tuesday, they pointed out those here were in luck, and could get their hands on a copy this night. They then went on to the subsequent track off the record, one about “life on the road” as they put it. “Highway Love” is all about that, and despite the hardships of it (i.e. doing all the setting up and loading out before having to drive well into the night to get to your next location, etc.), it’s all worth it if you love it.

Afterwards, they switched things up, and before they even had a chance to say it, some fans started shouting, “Chinese fire drill!” That’s what the band calls it; and now James was on the banjo; Stearns on the mandolin; and Gutierrez on the bass. The four of them clustered around a condenser mic that had been brought on stage at set dead center. “This is version two,” Gutierrez laughed, while Stearns began clapping his hands, making it clear he wanted everybody else to do the same. Fans were happy to oblige as James again sang lead on the tune. Cooper then took the spot directly in front of the microphone, while his band mates leaned in close to all sing on “Lookin’ for the Heart”, making it the most fun version of that catchy song I’ve heard them do.

In a twist, James was left as the sole member on stage, taking a seat in a chair that had appeared, while he clutched an acoustic guitar. “This song’s about a good friend of mine,” he said in advance of the albums 13th and final track, “Falcon’s Song”. It was the most poignant thing that was played this night, making everyone just feel melancholy, while they looked on, completely immersed in the tale.

“How many of you have maybe seen The Dirty River Boys once or twice?!” Stearns asked once they all resumed their normal positions. Much of the crowd cheered, though there were some who answered when he asked if this was their first time, and they made it clear they’d be back for a second. James used a bow (similar to say, a cello) to play his bass at times on “Simplified”, while Gutierrez just used a shaker for the first bit, before moving on to a harmonica. He picked the banjo back up before the track sprang to life, though it went unused for the time being.

“Skate and Destroy” again found James singing lead, and once it was done, Gutierrez joked that they were “pioneering skate folk”. It may not be the next big genre, though they make it sound pretty good. “Are y’all ready to sing with us?” Stearns then asked the patrons, before they pulled out one of their originals that every fan is familiar with: “Carnival Lights”. They got some help on it, especially at the final chorus, before tacking on a portion of Hank Williams’ “I Saw the Light”, which prompted both James and Stearns to remove their hats on the gospel-like song.

“It’s not all fun…” Gutierrez remarked, saying that life on the road comes with good days and bad days. “…And then you come to Billy Bob’s and you see people singing your songs…” he added, alluding that this was definitely a good day for them.

“Desert Wind” continued their set, and it was followed by “Teenage Renegade”. They’re two pretty contrasting songs, though they flowed well into one another, the first playing more to peoples emotional side, and while the other can do that lyrically, it has a more lively sound, making it easy to get into. Cooper proceeded to play some chords as he segued them into another song, and the notes had a real Spanish flare to them at first. “Thanks for braving whatever crazy weather’s going on out there. We’re having fun in here, though,” Gutierrez said to fans, most of whom were probably unaware it had even rained until stepping out of the venue later.

“Six Riders” started to wind down their set; and before their closer, they shared a little bit of hometown pride with everybody, noting that wherever they go, they’re always proud to say they’re from El Paso. The “horrible drug violence” in Juarez was brought up, as they briefly talked about how much it has changed their hometown, and they wanted to write a song about it. “Down by the River” is the lead track from the album, and the hard-hitting rock song finds both of the primary vocalists trading off constantly. It’s so dynamic that it’s a perfect closer.

They disappeared backstage, while the fans immediately started hollering for an encore. “BOOMTOWN!” one man shouted. He soon got his wish.

“What do think? Should we play another song?” Gutierrez asked the audience once the reemerged. He went on to say they’d be happy if they were even playing in front of two people. “Back in El Paso, we used to play for tacos and enchiladas,” he joked, though sounded completely serious. “This is too much. It’s too much,” he laughed, before Stearns took over, asking if everyone was still alive. He requested everyone’s voices, leading the fans in warming up their voices for “Boomtown”. Even after an hour and a half, they still appeared to have energy to spare, with Cooper and Gutierrez doing a good deal of jumping during it, while James spun his bass around at one point.

They went right into the last song of the night, with Cooper quickly swapping out to an electric guitar. It wasn’t for the Rolling Stones cover they’ve often done, though. Many fans were elated to hear one of their oldest songs, “She”. It was censored, with Gutierrez taking out the F-bomb on each chorus, singing, “…She’s like her own messed up version of a fairytale. Everything’s backwards, she ain’t no princess…” Each of the members were formally introduced during that one, too, like, “Colton ‘The Crawfish’ James” and “The thunder from down under, ‘Travis Stearns’.” Once that was taken care of, they went into an instrumental break, before bringing their 12-minute long encore to a devastating end.

This was one of the best performances I’ve seen The Dirty River Boys do.

Sure, they’ve been doing some of these new songs since the start of the year, gradually working more in, but you could tell the fact that this record is now officially out in the world has really energized them.

They were clearly happy up there (even more so then usual) giving the listeners a good taste of the new record, while still throwing in many of the old favorites. It was a topnotch show in ever regard, from the professionalism they execute their performances with, to the energy they inject into it, making it incredibly fun to watch.

Now that this new record is out, expect them to be pushing it hard. They already have much of the rest of 2014 mapped out, including an East Coast and Mid-West tour. You can find all of their dates HERE; and if you live in the North Texas area, you’re next chance to see them will be at Stanley’s Famous BBQ Pit in Tyler on October 24th. After that, it’ll be December 6th, when they return to Hank’s in McKinney. Also, do pick up their music (two LP’s, two EP’s and “Desert Wind”, which is only available as a single) in iTUNES.

Thursday, October 9th, 2014 – Gas Monkey Live Gets Christened by Some Dallas Bands

A couple months ago, out of nowhere, it was announced that Gas Monkey was extending their brand, and planned to open a new venue just right down the street from their bar and grill location in Dallas.

Following, came the announcement of several bands that would be playing the 32,000 square foot Gas Monkey Live over the coming months, as the crew set to work revamping and customizing the space that used to be Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar.

The grand opening party featuring Social Distortion was planned for Saturday, October 11th, but then, rather last minute, it was announced there would be a soft opening party, one to let some people scope out the new spot ahead of time.

Three hometown bands were picked to play the event, which was limited to the first 500 people, and somewhat surprisingly, only a hundred or two came out. My theory is aside from being a weeknight, people just didn’t have much notice to plan on getting out there. But you don’t need a ton of people to have a good time.

The venue is something to behold. It’s massive and very open, and upon first walking in, you feel like you might could get lost in there. The giant bar in the center is in the shape of a guitar (it looks magnificent), and the venue continues funneling you back to the stage. There’s a real modern, even upscale look to it all, which is nice. It’s quite fancy ascetically speaking, without making you feel like your underdressed if you just have on, say, jeans and a t-shirt.

The first band to be able to test out the stage and sound system was Fantasma (coincidentally, bassist Daniel Castaneda runs lights here, as well as being the production manager), and I had not seen them in far too long. So long, in fact, that I was unaware Josh Sanders now held down the guitarist role.

The venue offered up a few more surprises as they began, and on the back of the stage is a massive wide screen video board, which began to show some visuals. It was a couple of planets in space, while the band’s name/logo also appeared on the screen. It looked awesome; and for any local bands who may happen to play here, that should eliminate people having to ask other concert goers, “Who is this?”

The quartet opened with one of the new songs they’ve cooked up, and right away you got a taste of what the sound system was capable of. The bass lines Dan was cranking out sounded ultra heavy, even dominating the track completely. It was nice to hear the bass be so prevalent.

“We’re happy to be the first to christen this stage,” vocalist Dale “DJ” Wilkerson remarked as they segued into their next song, “Colors Run Red”. It was the first of a handful they did off the Stories of Earth Women record. I still haven’t gotten used to hearing it at the start of the set verses the end yet, though it fits well early on, further energizing them. The electronic, space rock sounds continued with “Panda”; and afterwards, DJ asked the audience how they were liking it so far. He then grabbed a brightly colored bottle he had with a drink he had brought, prompting Dan to joke with him, “Did you bring a juice box to the show?”

Drummer Michael Kudlicki then launched them into their next song. The beats were pulse pounding, and shortly after when Dan layered his bass over it, it was absolutely thunderous. I’ve seen my fair share of shows where I’ve been able to feel the rhythm section vibrating my internal organs, but this had me a little worried it might change the rhythm of my heartbeat. Ha. DJ then hopped onto the drum riser, grabbing a pair of sticks and striking some of the cymbals for a few moments before jumping off and returning to the microphone. “BoA Constrictor” is one of the most brutal songs they’ve done, really making use of the screaming both DJ and Dan are capable of; and there were some cool moments in the instrumental portions before each verse where DJ grabbed the cord of the mic and twirled it in the air. Dan killed it on that song as well, showcasing some awesome moves, even acting as if he were going to nail DJ in the head with his bass at one point.

“Are you hearing it all? Like, all?” DJ asked, checking in with everyone real quick, before they broke out their rendition of Ellie Goulding’s, “Lights”. That’s where their electronic element comes in very handy, because they’re able to make the track sound similar to the original, while injecting a real rock flare into it, making it their own. “That’s an original that we wrote,” DJ said once it was done, sounding quite serious. “That’s a running joke that we have,” he added, as they continued with “The Chase Scene”.

Josh had been bringing it so far this night, and owned during that intense intro; while later on, DJ picked up the mic stand, using it like a sword to knight Dan, before acting as if he were going to chop his head off. A sample track bled them into the next song, but not everyone was on the same page. DJ asked Dan what the next one was, and it was titled “In an Out”, which apparently, was not what the track went with. “Communication is the key to teamwork. You’re all witness to that,” DJ quipped as they began the correct song, which had a very ominous start.

Some silence followed in between it and the next track, and Dan gave DJ a look. “What? You know I don’t know what to say in between songs, but you still give me a mic,” he only half joked before they did another new tune. The job of ending their 37-minute long set then fell to “Ra”. It makes for an awesome closer, simply because it’s so explosive, and it leaves you wanting more. DJ spent several seconds at the start trying to adjust the mic stand, before eventually just kicking it over. It’s not like he needed it anyway, because he moved around a lot; and Mike was a beast on the kit during that one, delivering the beats with forceful precision.

“I’m proud of myself. I didn’t mention Ebola once,” DJ stated after the final applause subsided, before they began the process of tearing down their gear.

Granted, I haven’t seen Fantasma much lately, but this was one of the most solid shows I’ve seen from them in a long time.

Josh brings a component that they’ve been missing for a little while, adding just as much of a vibrant performance to the shows as Dan, DJ and Mike do. That makes them a force to be reckoned with, even more so than they have been in the past, and they proved that this night.

They don’t have anything else on the books at the moment, and their schedule has gotten a little sparse lately, but just stay tuned. In the meantime, you can download nearly their whole album for free on REVERBNATION. If you like those songs, go buy the other two tracks in iTUNES.

Now that things had been broken in some, it was time for the second act of the night, LA Wedding.

After finally seeing them for the first time just a few months before at Gas Monkey Bar & Grill, I was looking forward to catching them again.

Their first single from their debut EP, “Closure”, kicked off their 39-minute long set, dancing back and forth from being a serene and quick paced rock number, as frontman Randy Stephens sang about needing closure to a relationship. “Yeah, I just need some closure. That’s all there is to pay for the ride home…” goes part of the chorus.

Guitarist Jovan Santos then bridged them right into their next song with some sweet, moody riffs. “Come close! Come on!” shouted fellow guitarist Dave Perez, trying to reel in more of the audience who was scattered about the room. Ross Rubio then laid into his drum kit, serving up some rapid-fire beats to begin their most ferocious number, “The Hard Way”. “What’s up?” asked Randy once they had finished it, commenting, “It’s loud in this mother fucker.” Yeah, it was. Even with earplugs.

My personal favorite, “Responsible”, followed. “Such a crazy mixed up world we’re breathing in. It’s everywhere, you can’t avoid the poisoning…” goes the start of the second verse of what is an overall hopeful song about persevering and not letting events from your past define you. “This is one of the coolest stages I’ve ever been on!” Randy exclaimed once they were done, playfully inviting everyone to join them up there and experience it.

They moved on to one of the non-album tracks, and during “Believe it”, Randy got fairly emotional. It meant something more to him this night, and shortly after the first chorus, he pulled his glasses off to wipe his eyes, but never lost his composure. It took just a few seconds after concluding the song for him to get back to his usual self; and then Ross used his electronic drum pad for a bit as they rolled into the next number. The bass lines Pat Llull was knocking out were pulsating, mixing perfectly with the beats as they did a little intro for their take on Muse’s “Madness”. They do a mean version of it, keeping it true to form, while adding their own little touches here and there.

“This is our first time here. Get it?” remarked Randy before they did another cut from their EP, “Bad Boy”. Upon finishing it, he informed everyone that to go along with this free show, they had some free merch to hand out. “This is a merging of two bands,” he stated, referring to Ursa (the band all the instrumentalists were a part of before LA Wedding), with the other band in question being LA Wedding. He tried to entice more people up to the stage with the prospect of throwing the CD’s out to people, but there were enough empty patches in the crowd that he chose not to, and just wait to hand them out later. “This is the first song we wrote together,” he started before “Such Things”, a song that began with him using the mic stand, slowly waving his arms up and down as he stood in front of it. The song boasts a killer music bed that’s quite aggressive; and later in it, Dave started jumping around, making his way back to his amp for just a bit.

“…Without them, I’d be up a creek,” said Randy, referring to his band mates, after again mentioning the merging of the bands. That was when some different names got thrown around, like when some couples combine their names, and “Ursa Wedding” or “Ursula” were the two brought up. “Like in The Little Mermaid,” the frontman cracked.

“Going Under” started winding down their time on stage, and that hard-hitting track was followed by the final song from the Degree of Discomfort EP, “I Know You Love Me”. Both Ross and Dave added a lot of backing vocals on what is their longest song, making for some nice harmonies at times, as they brought their set to a solid end.

In some ways, I thought they were even better this night than the first time I caught them. The band chemistry seemed to be even better this time around, and they were just clicking on an excellent level.

They got the use out of the sizable stage, too, commanding most of the people’s attention while they were up there.

To be such a new band, they already have a great set of songs lined up, and the couple that aren’t on the record sound even a slight cut above those that are, making the future look pretty bright for LA Wedding.

You can find their EP on BANDCAMP; and keep an eye on their schedule. They’ll surely have something else in the next month or two.

Rounding out this sneak preview show was Marquis of Vaudeville. I had seen them only once before (four years ago or so, I think), though I was looking forward to finally seeing them again.

“The Wild Lost” was the introduction to their 57-minute long set, serving as a welcoming to all those who had stuck around. “…A spectacle of splendor. Stupendous and sublime…” sang Toby Lawhon over the circus-like guitar chords Bryan Geddie was playing, as they brought the audience into their world of grandeur.

“Thank you, Gas Monkey Live,” Toby said afterwards, acknowledging he knew that most of those who were there had not heard of them before, but they were going to put on a good show for everybody. Their drummer then cracked his sticks together, counting them into “Utopian Playland”, which was followed by the at times haunting, “An Ordinary Day”. That latter song was the most pulse pounding thing they had done thus far, coming to a dynamic end that had bassist Geneva Arena moving all about stage left.

When Toby had an acoustic guitar brought out to him, it appeared like they were about to tone things down some, but that was not the case. The drumming on the next track was still very forceful; however, towards the end they ran into some technical issues, when the vocals became mute. It wasn’t the speakers or anything, though. Instead, it was simply that the microphone cable had come unplugged, though they didn’t discover that until the very end. “Come see me after the show and I’ll sing that last part for ya,” Toby told everyone afterwards. I don’t know if anyone took him up on that, though as a joke, the thought did cross my mind.

After “The Nightmare Machine”, Toby picked up the setlist and uncrumpled it, as it had gotten pretty beat up from him apparently stepping all over it. The next song was a shorter one, but it was a gut punch. Arguably, one of the best things they did this night. What came next was very good, too; while a line from their next track, “The show must go on,” made for another appropriate track that helped create an overall flow to their performance.

“Wow! That was fancy bro,” Toby commented, referring to a sweet lick Bryan threw in at the end of another song. The singer went on to mention all the merch they had for sale, from their debut record to bookmarks for those who were readers. “And if you’re not, you should probably pick up a book,” he said only half jokingly. “Bright Star Hope” showcased a slightly softer side of Tobys’ voice, and he’s capable of a great range, nailing those higher notes. They returned to their more theatrical sounding stuff with “The Bones of Knotwright Lane”, a song that one gentleman really enjoyed, and he screamed, “WOO!” when it was done. “I like your attitude,” Toby said to him, before reaching down and picking up the now tattered and torn set list.

One more song was all it took, and after it, the piece of paper was in pieces. “I think we’re down here now,” Toby said aloud, as he grabbed a little shred that had fallen to the floor and examined it. “What time is it?” he then asked, with one person replying, “Early!” “I like that. It’s early time…” laughed the vocalist, before a woman shouted she wanted another song like the previous one. “Alright, we’ll give you the barn burner,” he said, shortly before the brief track known as “Ere the Tempest” kicked on, leading them into “Corps of Night”. The powerhouse song brought their set to a fiery finish, with Toby often using both hands to grip the mic stand as he sang, packing just a little more determination into their final moments.

Marquis of Vaudeville proved to be the perfect band to close down this night. Often, they do various themed shows, and even though this wasn’t as big of an extravaganza/production as some of the other gigs, they still added a real theatrical element to it all.

Their entire set just flowed, like each song was telling a part of a story, and they wanted the audience to be along for every step of it. You don’t see that all that often, and that sets them apart from many of their peers.

I highly enjoyed them this night. Even more so than I remembered from that first time I had seen them, and I’m going to try hard to not let several more years pass before I make another show of theirs.

Check out their album on iTUNES. It’s 19 songs for $10. You can’t beat that deal.

This was a good night at Gas monkey Live (and from what I hear, the official grand opening was an absolute success), and it has me interested in the venues future.

Being so large, there are only a select number of bands that it can accommodate. I mean, if you had a band headline here whose pull was seven to eight hundred people, it would feel empty. It’s going to be competing for a whole different level of bands with a whole different set of venues, giving a more unique setting over many of them in the area.

I liked it. The sound and lights were awesome this night, and I’ll be looking forward to my next outing there.

Saturday, September 27th, 2014 – The Wind and The Wave Brave the Heat at Western Days

With it officially being fall it means it’s time for festival season to kick back into high gear.

Even the city of Lewisville gets in on the action with their annual Western Days Festival (sponsored in part by 99.5 The Wolf), taking place in the heart of historic downtown Lewisville.

All sorts of art and food vendors were set up along the multiple blocks they had blocked off; and there was plenty going on to entertain. Live music was one of the things that occupied some time; and, of course, that would be the thing that got me out here in the first place.

In all honesty, I was completely unaware of this festival until just a few days prior to it, when I happened to see a Facebook post from the Austin duo The Wind & The Wave, saying they’d be performing at it.

I had seen their first Dallas area gig about five months before (when they played the March Madness Music Festival that was happening in conjunction with the NCAA Championships), and I couldn’t pass up a second opportunity to see them, especially for free.

The weather was the exact opposite of how it had been back in April. Instead of light rain and chilly temperatures, the sun was out in force and there was not a cloud in sight. Actually, they may have preferred it the other way around, because this afternoon, the sun was beating right down on them.

It was 4:04 when Patricia Lynn picked up her acoustic guitar and Dwight Baker his electric; firing up a sample track with the drums and bass, as they opened with the incredibly infectious, “My Mama Said Be Careful Where You Lay Your Head”. They may have only had a couple dozen people watching them intently, but all of them seemed taken by the lead track from their From the Wreckage album, bobbing their heads to the music, while Lynn sang, “…Love taught me everything I know, everything I know. Sometimes you keep it near, sometimes you let go…”

“We are The Wind and The Wave from Austin, Texas,” she announced afterwards, thanking the city of Lewisville for, “having us at your intersection.” “It’s a lovely intersection,” added Baker, before moving on to the subsequent track off their debut record, “From the Wreckage Build a Home”, which was often haunting, but in a lovely way. “I want to rename this show Lewisville Skin Cancer 2014,” Baker cracked upon finishing it.

If you were fortunate enough to be in the shade, it wasn’t all that bad. Even the crowd at least at their backs to the sun’s rays, though the band had neither of those luxuries. “Sweat is rolling down into my eye balls and burning my eyes. That’s happening right now,” Lynn remarked. It may have been uncomfortable, but they weren’t going to let that stop them, as they carried on with a song about growing up and making your own way, as well as the importance of family, “Loyal Friend and Thoughtful Lover”. They then slowed things down some with “This House is a Hotel”, which at times showcased the higher register Lynn is capable of, and it sounded gorgeous. Baker had thrown in some harmonies here and there already this day, and did so again now, with the pair of them repeatedly crooning at the end, “It’s not at all good, but it ain’t that bad…”. “I’m not gonna lie, it’s pretty bad. It’s pretty hot,” Baker cracked afterwards.

They continued with “When That Fever Finally Takes a Hold On You”; and Baker riffed on his axe while Lynn took a moment to tune her guitar before the following song. His electric guitar was far more prominent on “The Heart it Beats; The Thunder Rolls”, which had some semi-dark undertones at times. It’s just a very moody track. Then, they switched things up.

A mandolin had been sitting in plain sight behind Lynn, and now she exchanged her guitar for it, while Baker swapped to an acoustic. They used them for a couple of songs, like the cherry, “It’s a Longer Road to California Than I Thought”, as well as another tune. “We are The Wind and The Wave, as you can tell from the thunderous turnout,” joked Baker in between the two songs, also mentioning their debut record had recently come out on RCA Records.

After switching back to their acoustic and electric guitars, Baker also noted their single had come out eight weeks or so before, and it was in the Billboard Top 40 charts. “But not in Dallas,” he said playfully. “With Your Two Hands” was the single he spoke of, and it was by far the catchiest thing they did (which is saying something); and I doubt I was the only one who felt compelled to tap my foot along to the beat.

“It’s pretty hot. I still haven’t figured out why y’all are all standing here,” Lynn said to the crowd after that song. Not many people wanted to endure the heat, though they did have their section of fans out, while others I think quickly became fans of theirs. “You could fry an egg on this guitar,” she finished, before Baker chimed in, this time saying that Skin Cancer Jamboree 2014 would be a great name for this. He got serious, though, thanking the sponsors and the city for having them as a part of this, before doing their final original song of the afternoon, “Raising Hands, Raising Hell, Raise ‘em High”.

In closing, Baker mentioned they had been asked to record some covers for the TV show Grey’s Anatomy. “Last year, or maybe it was this year. It’s all running together. Shit, I don’t know,” he confessed. A timeframe didn’t really matter. The most important thing was they had done some covers, and one was a classic from Simple Minds.

They had to wait for the mandolin to “recover from sun exhaustion” as Baker put it; and once Lynn had it properly tuned, they did their version of “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” to wrap up their 47-minute long set. They’ve made it their own, giving it more of a folk sound; and it was a fun one to end with.

It was a great performance; and for those who were fans, it was nice getting to hear nearly everything off their record.

What I like the most about The Wind and The Wave is all of their songs tell stories, and are often quite deep if you really pay attention to the lyrics. The clever banter is also a constant, and it makes them all the more entertaining. Let’s not forget about the phenomenal voice that resides in Patricia Lynn, which often leads you thinking, “Wow!”

Their Dallas fan base may not be strong in numbers yet, but it will be. Especially considering the national attention they have been getting for a while now.

They’ll actually be back in Dallas on October 10th at the House of Blues opening for Bernhoft, who they’ll be touring much of the country with from October through early November. A full list of their tour dates can be found HERE. Be sure to check out their record in iTUNES, too.

Saturday, September 27th, 2014 – Reckless Kelly Pumps Up the Crowd at Western Days

With it officially being fall it means it’s time for festival season to kick back into high gear.

Even the city of Lewisville gets in on the action with their annual Western Days Festival (sponsored in part by 99.5 The Wolf), taking place in the heart of historic downtown Lewisville.

All sorts of art and food vendors were set up along the multiple blocks they had blocked off; and there was plenty going on to entertain. Live music was one of the things that occupied some time; and, of course, that would be the thing that got me out here in the first place.

One act I was eager to see was Reckless Kelly.

The Austin-based country/rock band is no stranger to the D/FW area, though I’ve never managed to make it to a show when they’ve been up here. They routinely headline some of the biggest venues in the area, though it would seem it’s easier to get people out to an air-conditioned venue later at night than it is to a (free) show in the great outdoors at six in the evening.

Don’t get me wrong, as there were several dedicated fans ready for them. A few dozen sat in folding chairs, with dozens more standing; and as it got later and the heat from the sun subsided, the number of eyes on them grew substantially.

The quintet made their way on stage as they were being introduced by one of the radio personalities; ripping right into their opener as soon as he had said what he needed to.

Immediately you could feel the massive presence they had in tow as they commanded everyone’s attention; and then they got into what was pretty much a full headline set.

Covers always interest me, mainly because some bands stay as far away from them as possible, while others have no problem with it, and quite enjoy putting their own twists on some classics. Reckless Kelly apparently fits into that latter category, and they opened with a deep cut from Bruce Springsteens’ catalog, “My Love Will Not let You Down”. The mandolin Cody Braun wielded helped in giving the song more of a country vibe, though it definitely retained its rock core; and singer and rhythm guitarist Willy Braun even gave The Boss a run for his money, belting out the song in a gritty, raw tone of voice. “Come on, boys!” he roared as they hit an instrumental break — almost like he was taking a cue from Springsteen’s playbook — as David Abeyta took the spotlight on a killer lead guitar solo.

They knew their time with everyone was short, and never wasted much time this evening; and now, drummer Jay Nazz rolled them right into their next track. “How we doing y’all?!” Willy excitedly asked the crowd, many of whom screamed back at him. “This is an Alejandro Escovedo song for you!” he informed everyone. Nazz held a maraca in one hand and a drumstick in the other, and his drumming on “Castanets” was absolutely phenomenal. He was completely in the zone; and at the break, Willy walked up on the drum riser and stood beside him and jammed for a few moments. The singer then made his way back to the forefront of the stage, hopping atop a monitor. “Come on!” he mouthed as he threw his hand in the air, further pumping up the spectators; before he and Abeyta concluded the song by facing one another as they shredded on their axes.

No one cared in the least that those were covers, because they owned both of them, but now it was time for some original music, and it started with the title track to their 2011 album, “Good Luck & True Love”. Its catchy hooks dug in to everyone, making them enjoy the show all the more, while plenty sung right along with the band, “…Maybe it was just one night of good luck and true love…”. As the guitars and drums fell silent, Joe Miller proceeded to lay down some hefty riffs on the bass, and Willy made sure to point him out, asking everyone to say “hi” to him. The Braun Brothers then got to show off their full vocal capabilities as they co-sung “Lonely All the Time”. Their voices were rich and vibrant, and when layered over one another, well, it resulted in the best thing they had done thus far.

“Here’s one y’all might remember from the old days,” Willy told the crowd. It appeared as if he was about to move on to the song, but then added, “And by old days, I mean, oh, about thirty years ago.” Abeyta now had a twelve-string guitar in his hands, using it as they handled another rock classic, this one coming from Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers. Their rendition of “Listen to Her Heart” was stellar; and while they kept it pretty spot on, there were some slight tweaks here and there, giving it a bit of an Americana vibe.

The applause rang out while Willy played some riffs on his guitar, getting everyone excited before stopping. They teased everyone for just a bit, again acting as if they were starting the song before quitting. They kept it going the third time around, officially getting the more outlaw country tune “Crazy Eddie’s Last Hurrah” underway, and it was another one the audience thoroughly seemed to enjoy.

An acoustic guitar was brought out to Willy, who then told the onlookers they had a song about the road for them. He was referring to the lead track from the Bulletproof record, “Ragged as the Road”, a song that received some strong cheers as they started it. Upon finishing it, a fan shouted a request at them. “We’ll get to that one,” Willy told the person, politely joking with them by saying, “We know what we’re doing up here.” He mentioned this next one was the latest single from the record they released just one year ago. Willy and Cody again did some co-singing, this time on the melancholy “The Girl I Knew”. “…You come and steal my heart with your wild eyes shining, then you smile as you break it in two. What did you do with the girl I knew?” goes the poignant chorus, and the brothers delivered that emotion in their singing.

Before moving on, Abeyta switched to an acoustic guitar, while Willy grabbed his neck rack and harmonica. Miller and Nazz left the stage to those three for “Wicked, Twisted Road”. It may have been the slowest thing they did this evening, but it also the most powerful. You could tell the lyrics came right from the heart, and Willy appeared to be connecting with it on a deep personal level.

As they neared the end, Miller returned to the stage, grabbing his upright bass for the first time this night, and he began to tune. Nazz got back behind his kit shortly after; and when that song was over, Willy handed the reins over to Cody, who said they had “a little bluegrass” to play. “Wild Western Windblown Band” was the song, and it’s lively pace was the exact opposite from the previous few songs. It reinvigorated everyone, from the band to those watching; and Abeyta got to show off his skills some more on another nice solo.

The lead guitarist then swapped back to an electric guitar, while Willy got a little nostalgic, saying he and Cody were big fans of The Everly Brothers growing up. “We worked this up the other day,” he said in advance of “Bird Dog”. It created a fun atmosphere, and they kept some of those 50’s era vibes intact, while modernizing it some, too. Willy and Cody spent much of the song huddled around the main microphone, with Abeyta throwing in the “bird dog” part and such.

A few times this night Cody had busted out his fiddle, and he brought it out again here, using it for the intro to their next track, while Cody shook a tambourine. Miller started a clap along with the now couple hundred people who were now standing along the street (many of whom were a little further back from the stage, though still glued to the band). Already there was an unmistakable Irish jig sound going, and fans roared when Willy stated they were going to “take it on down to Ireland one time”, doing so with “Seven Nights in Eire”.

“We’ve been playing this song for a long, long time…” Willy mentioned, saying it was originally done by Richard Thompson. “It took a long time for us to learn it, but after doing it a couple thousand times, we feel confident it is the best song on the subject,” he finished. I’d say he’s right about “1952 Vincent Black Lightning” — another song that they have made completely their own — and it fit with the outlaw tones of some of their previous stuff.

Nazz bridged them into the following song; and with everyone back on electric instruments now, they were ready to finish strong, first serving up “Vancouver”. “Here’s a little Joe Ely for you right now,” said Willy. They had just enough spare time left to throw in their take on “My Eyes Got Lucky”, something all the Texas country music fans really went crazy over. Willy then led the charge into the final song of their 71-minute long set, “Nobody’s Girl”, which really seemed to personify these Red Dirt rockers spirit, leading to an awesome finish.

My first experience with Reckless Kelly was far better than I even thought it would be.  The showmanship they displayed was off the charts. Best of all, it never wavered; and by the time things were done, they had only grown into an even more powerful force.

It’s the type of performance that can only come after you’ve spent the better part of two decades together, logging a few thousand shows at least, and developing just the right chemistry amongst band mates.

This may have been my first Reckless Kelly show, but it certainly will not be the last.

They’ll be back in North Texas on November 7th at Billy Bob’s in Fort Worth, though they have plenty of other dates around the Mid-West before then. Their full tour schedule can be found HERE. Be sure to head over to iTUNES and check out their albums, too.

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014 – EDJ Electrifies the Crowd at Granada Theater

This night at the Granada Theater may have been all about Delta Spirit, though EDJ was charged with warming up all of the headliners’ Dallas fans, and there were a couple hundred there by the time nine-o’clock rolled around.

Eric D. Johnson stood alone on the sizable stage, sans the guitar he clutched and the keyboard that sit in front of him.

The rest of the instruments (such as drums) came in the form of sample tracks, which fired up as he began his first song, “Lose it All, All the Time”. As soon as he opened his mouth, his semi-nasally voice proved to be the most distinctive quality about him; while the song — which was the first of many he did from his recently released debut album — was overwhelmingly cheery.

“It’s good to be back in Dallas,” Johnson remarked, pointing out this was his first night of this tour with Delta Spirit, which meant the folks of North Texas were getting a very fresh performance from him, before the road had a chance to perhaps take a toll.

“Mostly Just Fantasies” had more of a minimalist sound to it, with the musician crooning at the start, “…There’s two kinds of people: those who are and those who aren’t…”. He then segued things directly into the next song, informing the crowd he used to be in a band called Fruit Bats, which drew a strong reaction from the onlookers. “This is something from that band,” he finished, before launching into “Dolly”. The all too catchy song left the audience singing his praises and applauding him, prompting a very sincere, “Thanks, guys!”, before keeping the chill mood going with “Odd Love”.

“For Joy” was perhaps the most impassioned song of Johnsons’ 41-minute long set, with the raw emotion radiating from his voice out to the audiences, who was cheering throughout the amazing track. The drums had been quiet for some time now, but the sample tracks with them kicked back up, taking him into another strong number.

“…You guys are cool!” he told the crowd before taking things back down some with “Child in the Wild”, a song which focused on how much more simple things were when you were young, and I think it had everyone there getting a little nostalgic. It was undeniable that what people loved the most about “For the Boy Who Moved Away” was the harmonica Johnson used at times, while he gently plucked the strings of his guitar with his fingers. The spectators were raving about that harmonica, which wasn’t even used much on that one, but he was about to give everyone a good taste of it.

“…This has more harmonica. I think you guys will like that…” he laughed before his final number, which didn’t require the guitar at all. “I save all my harmonica shit for the end,” he laughed, as he ended with “Minor Miracles”. The highlight came when he let out a powerful solo on that harmonica, and then walked over to stage right, where he continued singing the song, without a microphone. The track was light enough and the crowd was keeping silent, so you could still hear nearly every word he sang. The crowd looked on in awe, and it made for an awesome moment.

EDJ’s set was far better than I think anyone had anticipated.

Considering it was just Johnson, he commanded the crowd’s attention quite well, truly making it difficult to pull your eyes away from him. His voice was distinctive and uniquely his, fitting with his semi-quirky songs that were filled with emotion.

His music may have been vastly different from Delta Spirits’, but he set the stage perfectly for them.

EDJ will be on tour for most of September, with another series of dates in the latter part of October. A full list can be found HERE. You can also purchase his album in iTUNES.

Sunday, September 7th, 2014 – Starmother Serves Up Some Bluesy Rock at Gas Monkey

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.

Opening the show was Starmother (who, until recently, was known as The Neckties); and while I had been aware of the band for a couple years, I had never managed to catch a show before this.

A new moniker also means new music; and in their 33-minute long set, they played many of the songs off their forthcoming Electric Mistress EP, opening with the title track, “Electric Mistress”. The instrumental piece got things off to a roaring start, with bluesy tones from lead and rhythm guitarists Charley Wiles and Blake Cheek, respectively; while Troy Bruner added a lot of tenacity with some pulse-pounding drumbeats, and bassist Robert Burroughs helped intensify that mighty rhythm section.

“How we doing tonight?” Blake asked everyone, while Troy bridged them into their next song. “We’re happy to be here with y’all,” he added, after letting everyone know who they were, and then they ripped into “Flat Broke Blues”. The band’s style is a mix of rock and blues, and it was demonstrated very well on that song, which was often rather fiery, with some sweet licks thrown in.

They kept the new songs coming, doing one that ended with a wicked instrumental finish, really highlighting these guys musicianship. The action packed end from it then spilled over into “I Don’t Need”, which was blistering from start to finish; and shortly into it, Blake sit his guitar down, embracing more of a frontman role as he belted out the lines on this soulful rock number.

They kept the adrenaline-pumping pace up with “Way Down”, incorporating a lot of energy into the song that was just a little more than two-minutes. Robert and Troy then took the reins, beginning a very rhythm driven intro for “Just Another Man”. It was a change of pace from everything thus far, as they slowed things down and showed off the softer side they are capable of. “…I don’t want to be just another man…” Blake crooned on the chorus of the song that was teeming with emotion. They also worked a great jam session into the song, which spiked once Charley knocked out a solo, and then the other instruments proceeded to escalate.

“We have an album coming out…” Blake told the onlookers, saying it would be out sometime this year. With that, they jumped back to the Chop & Change record they released under the old band name back in 2012, doing “Southside”. The name may have changed, but the style of music they play hasn’t much (apart from a little tighter sound), so that classic still fit with everything else. They had just one left after that, going straight into another jam that showed off their more tender side.

I’m really hating that it took me so long to see these guys. Their performance this night was great, and they put a lot of energy into it.

Blake possesses a great voice, often putting a lot of heart into his singing, while the music has a slightly fresh sound to it. They pull off the bluesy rock genre very well too, easily earning a top spot amongst other similar acts here in the D/FW area.

They have a couple of shows planned for October, one at Lola’s in Fort Worth on the 3rd, the other at Sundown at Granada in Dallas on the 11th.

Sunday, September 7th, 2014 – Goodnight Ned is Spot-On at Gas Monkey

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.

The main support slot this night went to Goodnight Ned; who had released their debut album a little more than a month before this. And after regrettably missing that show, I was looking forward to finally seeing the Dallas-based rock/Americana band again, and now knowing most of the songs.

They focused heavily (though not exclusively) on Ned this night, opening with the vibrant “50,000 Years”, which seems to play to all their strong suits. The keys are often the driving force of the moody song; and about halfway through, Jonas Martin hopped up from his chair as he continued to bang away on the keyboard. The multi-part harmonies were also in full force, as Jonas, guitarist Conner Farrall, drummer Michael Munoz and bassist Matt Trimble chimed in with singer and guitarist Chase McMillan, creating an amazing texture.

“…One. Two. Three. Four,” Jonas counted, before starting them off on “Now I’m Gone”. He didn’t get far before stopping. “Wait, that’s not right,” he remarked, while his band mates and their large section of friends/fans chuckled. He got the notes right the second time around; and he also took over on the lead vocals, with some of the other guys lending their voices here and there on the soulful jam.

Upon finishing it, Connor made the official introduction, telling those watching that they were Goodnight Ned. “…AKA Starmother’s newest, biggest fans,” he added, giving props to the opener.  Their 41-minute long set then continued as they went back to the Smoke From the Sails album from a couple years ago, doing “Papa Jack’s Bag”. The highlight of it came at the extended instrumental outro they gave the track, which featured a lively piano solo.

After another song — which again had Jonas at the helm — the pianist informed everyone they had a cover planned, and it was by Father John Misty. “…He’ll be here in spirit in about five seconds,” he laughed, before they tried their hand at “This is Sally Hatchet”. It could seem like an odd song to cover, but a few months before this they did a show here at Gas Monkey doing a whole set of covers from Father John Misty. Chase was in charge of singing on it; and the bass lines Matt was knocking out sounded very robust, adding a little more kick to the tune.

“We’re happy to be here with you,” Conner mentioned afterwards, pointing out that the headliner, The Picturebooks, had come all the way from Germany. “Well, we came all the way from Lower Greenville,” Jonas added, before saying this next song was another off their album they had for sale. “No it’s not,” Chase told him, smiling at him. “Why do I keep saying stupid shit?!” Jonas asked aloud. At least he was able to laugh at himself.

Instead, they did one of the newer songs they have. Conner finally showed off his voice on it, which is smoother in comparison to Chase’s; while nearly the whole band partook in the chorus, “…Everyone knows you’re the scarlet letter.” They offered up one more, before Michael wound them right in to their closing number. “This is also a song about birds. But wolves, too, I guess,” Jonas informed everyone as they built up to “Wolves & Crows”. The aggressive song is arguably their best; and towards the end of it, Chase tore off from his mic, walking back towards the drums as they shredded on a quick instrumental portion.

I’ve got to say, it was nice finally being able to see these guys and be familiar with their songs. I also think this was perhaps the best Goodnight Ned show I’ve seen. It may not have been perfect, but the way they handled themselves was.

All five guys were working perfectly with one another, each delivering a precise performance that contributed to them being a well-oiled machine this night. You could tell they were in tune with one another every single second they were on that stage. That’s perhaps an unexpected side effect from all the harmonies that they utilize, because there’s even less room for error.

Even their movements were often done in time with each other, though it felt like they were just going with the flow rather than it being rehearsed.

With the recent release of Ned, Goodnight Ned has had a lot of buzz surrounding them, and if you saw the show this night, you know exactly why they are deserving of it. They really are a shining talent here in the scene.

They don’t have any shows listed on their calendar at the moment; though you should go check out their records in iTUNES.

Sunday, September 7th, 2014 – 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.

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.