Shows You Know You Wanna See: October 21 - 25

Tuesday, October 21st
-Dallas

Music @ 9

-Dallas (South Side on Lamar)

ALL AGES
Doors @ 6:30 / Music @ 7:30
$33
_____
Wednesday, October 22nd
-Dallas (Downtown)

ALL AGES
Doors @ 7
$15+
_____
Thursday, October 23rd
-Dallas (Deep Ellum)


-Fort Worth

Doors @ 6 / Music @ 9
$10

-McKinney

Music @ 9:30
$7
_____
Friday, October 24th
-Dallas (Deep Ellum)

Music @ 9
$10

AGES 21+
Doors @ 10

Music @ 10:30
FREE

-Fort Worth

Doors @ 8 / Music @ 8:30
$10

$5
_____
Saturday, October 25th
-Dallas (Deep Ellum)

Music @ 10:30
FREE

-Dallas (Downtown)

ALL AGES
Doors @ 7
$20+

-Fort Worth

Music @ 7:40

Doors @ 8
$10

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.

Maps & Atlases Plays Fort Worth On Halloween

imageMaps & Atlases are an indie rock group from Chicago, IL. Forming in the fall of 2004, the band came together searching for a sound that was both technical and organic. They gained critical attention from an article in Guitar Player magazine in their October 2006 issue. In that interview, guitar player Elders says “Our goal was to put existing technical elements in a new context, and create something artistically unique, but still accessible.”

Gaining a loyal following through the years, the internationally touring band has released three EPs, two full length albums, and has toured the festival circuit in the 
United States. Their song “Vampires” was featured in NBC’s shows “Up All Night” and “Parenthood”.

image

Cleanup makes what they describe as “math rock,” but the effect is far more euphoric than I ever remember algebra class being. The finely tuned mix of cerebral and emotional throughout the eight-track Sun Life LP makes it an irresistible listen, one of the sharpest records to emerge this year from North Texas.” –DFW.com

image

Ice Eater takes pride in making music it considers unusual, but the five musicians who make up the post-prog-punk outfit are naturals in terms of pushing the sonic envelope. When describing their sound, the guys go back and forth between intentional mystery and direct comparisons to underground ’80s icon Joy Division.” –DFW.com

Show info:
Friday, October 31st, 2014 at Shipping & Receiving in Fort Worth.
Purchase tickets HERE.
Doors: 8:00 p.m. / Music at 9:00 p.m.

Single Review: “Wanderers” by Swindle Boys

imageThe Fort Worth-based Swindle Boys are continuing to pump out a new single each month, and the third one — “Wanderers” — is perhaps their best yet.

Many of their songs are rather relatable, but the fact that this one deals more with the human condition ensures it’s a track that connects with everyone who takes time to listen.

“Disappointment can take you over in the blink of an eye… and turn your heart to stone…” vocalist Joey Swindle sings at the start. It’s partly about not letting events of your past make you callous or jaded, and also about how we as people need to start taking time for one another.

“It’s not a waste of time to invest your time in another life,” goes the following line of the hopping song — which nicely blends the catchy elements of the pop genre with a grand scale rock atmosphere — as the song continues to make the point that everyone needs someone. Maybe it’s a friend, it could be a partner, or whatever else, to help make the journey through life a little easier; because humans are emotional creatures by nature, as they point out later, “We were meant to explore, to love and to mourn. Hold nothing back.”

At its core, “Wanderers” is a song about how we all could stand to be a little kinder to everyone; and from the impassioned singing, to the vibrant guitar notes (which waxes and wanes accordingly), and even the subtle keys (which accents the lyrics perfectly) it’s a message they succeed at getting across.

Swindle Boys is:
Joey Swindle
Matthew Swindle
Josh Brown
Chance Cochran

Purchase the single on:
Bandcamp

Visit Swindle Boys’ websites:
Facebook / Twitter / Youtube

Saturday, September 13th, 2014 - The 7th Annual Dia de los Toadies: Day II – The Toadies Wrap Up Their Festival with One Last Run Through Rubberneck

The gates at Panther Island Pavilion were set to open at three this afternoon, and unsurprisingly, there weren’t many people there at that time.

Still, there were a little more than a dozen people already lined up; and once they finally did open the gates, it became clear everyone either already had a wristband from attending the first night of Dia de los Toadies or they had their tickets for the day already printed out.

It was a die-hard bunch right there.

Of course, the bands weren’t slated to start until 3:40, meaning there was a lot of time to kill. Time that was best spent either checking out the food trucks that were there, or just sitting at the tables around said trucks, resting up for the long day that lie ahead.

This was my fourth Dia (all have been consecutive), and the weather was nicer this day than any of those in years past. The clouds were keeping the sun at bay, to the point it looked like rain may not be out of the question. That also kept the temperature more than bearable. In fact, a jacket didn’t hurt, even in the early afternoon. This is Texas, though, so those conditions didn’t last forever.

The event got started over on the smaller stage, and since it was in Fort Worth, it was appropriate that a hometown band like Blank-Men would be the first to play.

They stood apart from everyone else this day in the fact that they relied heavily on electronics/synthesizers.

Vocalist and bassist Sam Swanson, guitarist and vocalist Alex Atchley, drummer Joey Kendall and synth player Emily Thompson opened with an instrumental piece, rocking out for a few minutes before Swanson counted to four, leading them into their next number.

“It’s all coming together now,” the bassist remarked after one of the songs off their Fact or Fiction? EP, “Radio Silence”. They were definitely in the groove now, as they kept pumping out one song after another, alternating between Swanson and Atchley handling the vocals, and even co-singing at times.

“This songs about,” Swanson said, pausing briefly to think, before giving a nod to a Fort Worth venue, “Spending all your money at The Boiled Owl.” They even joked about their merch at one point, saying they had “small circular things for sale” and that they wouldn’t mind if everyone bum rushed the table and just took whatever they wanted.

“Here’s one for all you hardcore kids,” Atchley said before one song. It was heavier from what they had done thus far, especially with the intro on the moog Thompson was responsible for.

Blank-men’s style of music was quite different from what I typically like, but by the time they finished, I was rather enjoying it. They play it very well, blending both the rock and electronic genres nicely.

You can find their EP on BANDCAMP; and see them live on November 4th at Three Links in Dallas.

People now headed over to the main stage, where another Fort Worth-based band — The Longshots — were about to get started.

They were the first of many bands this day whom I had seen previously, though they looked a little different. They were a four-piece now, something I had evidently missed, assuming the news was even shared on any of their social networks whenever it may have happened.

Nonetheless, I was looking forward to seeing them again.

The fact that they were down to two guitarists/singers now didn’t seem to inhibit them much, though they did focus on a different set of songs from what I recall from the other shows I had seen. “The Chase” got their 32-minute long set off to a good start, with some killer riffs, while the beats Brady Hamilton was dishing out were perfect to bang your head to, as Joey Gorman handled the singing.

Many of the bands this day used these stages to try out some new(er) material, and The Longshots were no exception. “…We appreciate being able to play on this stage with our friends…” Gorman said after singing another song. He then realized he didn’t want to exclude anyone, and extended that to include everyone who was playing on this field, saying, “we’re all homies.” Fellow singer and guitarist Alex Zobel now took the reins, as they did another cut from their self-titled debut they released earlier this year. “Back to the Rio Grande” showed off more of the bands garage rock sound; while the track that followed highlighted the harmonies both Gorman and Zobel are capable of, as the latter chimed in on each chorus.

One of the lines from that song was about “medicine”, leading Gorman to say afterwards that the song was about “the legal distribution of medical marijuana in America and their opposition towards it.” He said it so deadpan, you might have thought he was serious, though he was more being extremely sarcastic.

They debuted a brand new song to the people, a song that got off to a softer start, before getting more intense. Hamilton counted them into “Uppercut”, which boasted a sweet instrumental jam, complete with some nice riffs, with the drums and Kris Luthers’ bass also having their moments. The rhythm section then really got to shine on their final number, which had a heavy instrumental breakdown.

It was a really good set, though it was different from my past two Longshots experiences.

While they did have those raw rock numbers, they also had plenty of slower songs mixed in. Personally, I enjoyed those styles of songs, though it did make for an interesting mix. However, the biggest difference was how restrained they were.

These guys are usually jumping all around the stage, and while it would have been impossible this day, even jumping off it and mingling with the crowd while shredding. That same energy just wasn’t there this afternoon. I highly enjoyed hearing the music, but the show… Maybe it was just an off day for them.

If you want to check out The Longshots music (and you should), you can find it in iTUNES.

Scott Beggs (co-owner of the Dallas venue Three Links) was introducing all the bands this day, and before the next act on the smaller stage, he pointed out that all the bands had been handpicked by The Toadies, making this their own “personal playlist” of sorts.

The stage was then given up to Residual Kid, a trio who had made the short trip from Austin.

Their music was a mixture of grunge and punk, grunge in the fact that it had a dirtier sound to it, and punk in the way that some of their songs were just a couple minutes or so.

They managed to fit 10 songs into their 34-minute set, getting their first two done quickly, and bridging them together so seamlessly that it was fairly hard to tell they had started “Friend”. It was the lone track they did off their Faces EP, and was pretty catchy to boot.

“This one’s brand new,” stated singer and guitarist Deven Ivy before the group continued. “It’s not so chilly up here,” he mentioned afterwards, then tacked on, “with a jacket,” to that sentence. He, bassist Max Redman and drummer Ben Redman kept the blistering pace up with songs like “Names” and “Glue”, which were as short and to the point as the titles were. It was kind of nice, because they didn’t bother stretching the song(s) out, rather, just say what they wanted to and then finish it.

One song they did was about Sonic Youth, and during it, Ivy ran his axe along the top of his cabinet, creating some nice tones. Throughout the show he had mentioned who they were, and as their time on stage drew to a close, he joked, “We’re still Residual Kid.” Their final song had a heavy break down during it; and in its final moments, Max took his bass off and let it fall to the floor. He then flipped it over, with the strings now being visible, grabbed the mic stand he had occasionally used this day, propped his bass up at an angle, and then ran the whole stand up and down the neck. It’s was pretty rock ‘n’ roll.

I knew many of the bands on the festival this day, but Residual Kid was one that was new to me, and they proved to be a good surprise.

Of course, there are still bands that play some sort of punk or grunge rock out there, but it was good to see a younger band who knows the importance/significance of those styles and has incorporated it into their sound.

You can find their EP in iTUNES. As for shows, they have one coming up in Austin on September 23rd at The Palm Door.

It was later in the five-o’clock hour now, and the sun had not only made an appearance, but it was getting pretty warm at this point. That’s Texas for you. Still, at least it wasn’t unbearably hot.

The main stage now belonged to Somebody’s Darling, who just a few weeks before this had played a big CD release show for their new album, and those new songs were expected to be in full force this day.

In a switch up from how that CD release show went, though, they opted to get a couple of slightly older songs out of the way first.

Frontwoman and rhythm guitarist Amber Farris jumped around to the beats Nate Wedan was producing, as they built up to their first song. “Put your cold hands in my warm jacket. Keep ‘em there to we leave…” the singer than crooned, as they got “Cold Hands” underway. The roots rockers had their own little fan base out this evening, and they were happy to clap along once Farris began to do so. “Alright, here we go! Let’s do this!” she yelled as they amped the song back up; and lead guitarist David Ponder killed it with the closing guitar solo.

“We’re Somebody’s Darling and we’re happy to be here,” Farris stated over the mixed noise of the guitars, keys, bass and drums, which soon gave way to the other single spawned from Jank City Shakedown, “Wedding Clothes”. Both bassist Wade Cofer and pianist Mike Talley added their voices to the chorus of “Just waiting on my fever to break…”, which really strengthened it. Talley even stole the show for a moment when he quickly ran his fingers over the keyboard, starting at one end and going down to the other.

Before that second song, Farris also mentioned they were going to get warmed up. After that, I’d say they sufficiently were.

Now they got to their new stuff, tackling the lead track (and single) from Adult Roommates, “Bad, Bad”. “We’re excited to be on stage with The Toadies!” Farris remarked after they had finished that song. She encouraged everyone to get drunk for them, though added, “Stay sober enough.”

She cleaned up “Vowels Flow” for any and all young ears that may have been listening. “…While the girls at the mall rack the bills, while their daddy screws us all…” Farris belted on the first verse (you can use your imagination as to what word was changed and from what). It’s nearly impossible not to get into that feel good song; and after the second chorus, Farris tried to pull any stragglers in, yelling, “Alright, Fort Worth. Let’s go! Come on,”

The stirring “Come to Realize” brought the mood down slightly, though the song about the demise of a relationship and pondering what caused it was a highlight of their set (and I’m not just saying that because I’m incredibly partial to it). It really did result in an amazing moment. “Let’s do this!” Farris said aloud, before Wedan hammered out the beats for “Set it Up”, which was another one that had Ponder doing an excellent solo.

Off to the side of the stage, there were some booths set up, and one of them had a giant moustache in front of it. The funny thing was it was seesaw; and before going any further, Farris pointed it out, along with the people who were currently on it. “Everyone needs a good seesaw now and then,” she laughed, before they busted out the second single from their new record, “Generator”, which had a handful of people (just that I could see) singing along to it.

That was a sign that their 37-minute long set was nearly over, but they still had a little something left to give.

“We’re gonna slow it down now that you got all rowdied up,” said Farris, who now had an acoustic guitar in her hands. They jumped to the final two songs on the album; and “Smoke Blows” isn’t quite as slow as it was made out to be. Neither was “Keep This Up”, which again utilized the three-part harmonies between Cofer, Talley and Farris, and proved a good one to end with.

The energy from the crowd may have been vastly different from the near capacity show they played a few weeks back, but the bands energy was every bit as vibrant as ever.

That’s not to say the audience wasn’t into it, either, but the band wasn’t able to get all the sing alongs going like they can at their usual shows, where they’re the main act.

Since they didn’t have much time, they had to keep a fast pace, and pretty much launched one song after the other at the onlookers.

Basically, Somebody’s Darling was responsible for what was one of the best sets of the day.

They’ll be at Dosey Doe in The Woodlands on October 9th, and then have a couple of short tours planned later in the month, where they’ll hit Georgia, North Carolina, Illinois, Indiana and Tennessee. They’ll also be playing Charlie’s Backyard Bar in Marshall, TX on November 7th and Lee Harvey’s in Dallas on November 8th. Full info on all their shows can be found HERE. Don’t forget to check out their albums in iTUNES, either.

The massive field that is Panther Island was really starting to fill up now, as more and more people arrived, and several of them seemed excited to see The Quaker City Night Hawks.

“Good evening Fort Worth, Texas…” Sam Anderson sang in his rich tone, as the roots rock outfit got started. It wasn’t just a welcoming, but also the first line of their first song. The first of many new songs they did this evening, and it had been perfectly designed to be the opener, with the first few lines quite fitting of the day. Bassist Pat Adams and drummer Matt Mabe were responsible for a pretty heavy rhythm section on that song, as well; and you could already tell Mabe was thoroughly enjoying being up there, as he was giving it 110%.

“What’s up, Fort Worth?” Anderson asked, during a momentary pause before they fired up their next song. “That’s a new one,” he informed the onlookers when they had finished. “We’re glad to be here,” the singer and rhythm guitarist told everyone after another jam, before commenting on the weather. “Thank you… whoever is responsible for that,” he said, prompting one guy in the crowd to shout that he was the one behind the cooler, cloudy day. “That guy!” Anderson exclaimed and pointed, telling the crowd they should buy that man a beer.

Sans some backing vocals, David Matsler had been rather quite so far. However, he now took over on the singing duties, as they did “Fox in the Hen House”. It was the only old jam they did this night, and you could tell who was a fan of the band, because some people got quite excited when they began it. The best part was the harmonies. Everyone except keyboardist Andrew Skates sang on the chorus, “…‘Cause the fox is in the hen house now.” That number came to a mighty finish, due largely to the drums.

“We’re gonna play some new stuff for ya,” Anderson announced, before Matsler went back to singing. The percussion was so heavy on it that Mabe lost his beer because of it. “My whole beer just spilt cause of the vibrations,” he told his band mates in a very disappointed tone. He shook it off, and they got to another new song. One so new, it had never been played live before.

“Back in the winter of fifty-three, the mean ol’ devil had it out for me…” Anderson sang at the start of that dark, but engrossing track, which again had Adams, Matsler and Mabe providing some harmonies. A couple more followed, and once it was all said and done, Anderson thanked everyone who had paid attention.

“We are Quaker City Night Hawks, and we love you,” he told everyone.

Their 34-minute long set went by too fast, and if they had been able to play longer, I don’t think anyone would have had a problem with it.

This was my third time seeing these guys, and quite honestly, I think it was the best. Even topping the hour long or so set I saw them do last year, when I first caught them live.

Quaker City Night Hawks are as solid as they come, and it’s far too easy to see why they have not only became a favorite of many here in North Texas, but also established themselves as a heavyweight in the music scene.

They’re different from a lot of bands out there. Different doesn’t necessarily mean new, but they’ve found a style that they excel at and can pull off exceptionally well. They’re definitely one to keep an eye on, as they may be the next big thing to come out of the D/FW area. The potential is certainly there.

They have a gig in Roswell, New Mexico on September 19th, and then one in Amarillo, Texas at Hoots the following night. On October 24th, they’ll be marking their 5th anniversary as a band with a show in Fort Worth; and then on Halloween night you can catch them at Granada Theater in Dallas. As for albums, they have a few in iTUNES.

Next up on the schedule was something that was a real treat to the festival goers, and one band I was excited to see: Pleasant Grove.

It was only earlier this year when I first heard of them, when they performed a reunion show, which was anticipated by many. From what I later learned, the band was part of the old guard of the North Texas music scene, going back to the late 90’s, before breaking up in the mid-2000’s. Luckily for the scene, they haven’t stayed dead, and are now beginning a renaissance.

Just like many of the other bands on the bill, Pleasant Grove played a lot of newer songs they’ve cooked up.

Marcus Striplin and Bret Egner (both of whom were also the guitarists) traded off on singing during their set, with the former taking the first song, and the latter the second.

That second song also had Chris Mayes moving to the lap steel guitar that was attached to his pedal steel. Those instruments fit (and helped make) their sound, which was often melancholy, though never quite depressing.

“Thanks y’all. What’s up?” Striplin asked upon finishing those songs, before doing another that featured some duel singing from the vocalists. “The sunset’s beautiful,” Striplin then remarked. Indeed, it was. They had gotten a good time slot this day, and while a glare from one of the buildings way off in the distance had been reflecting back at them for part of the show, the sun had set enough now that it wasn’t too bad.

“Only a Mountain” was one of their classics they did this day, coming from The Art of Leaving LP, and to me, it was one of the most striking songs of their set.

Their 35-minute long set allowed them a few more, including another brand new song, titled “Pleasing You”. “…When you have the first laugh, then you can have the last dance, baby,” Striplin sang early on in it, with the rest of the song being just as creative and interesting.

He wished the crowd a “happy Dia!” after they finished, then sent everyone on their way.

These guys, which included bassist Tony Hormilosa and drummer Jeff Ryan, were another standout act of the day.

Of course, everything they did was new to me anyway, though the very little old stuff they did play still holds up nicely, and the new songs were every bit as good. Honestly, you have to wonder why these guys never “made it” and broke out on a national level back during original time together, especially considering that happened to several Dallas bands during that time. Perhaps they were just a little ahead of their time, especially with all the craze that currently surrounds genres that incorporate some folk elements to them.

However, the thing I liked most about Pleasant Grove wasn’t the music, but the lyrics. Every song was deep and highly emotional, two qualities you don’t always see together, though they make a potent mix.

If you want to stay in the loop about shows, keep an eye on their FACEBOOK PAGE. They also have a couple of albums you can purchase in iTUNES.

The job of closing out the second stage went to Ume, who became the first band ever to play Dia for a second time.

“Hey, Fort Worth! We’re Ume,” singer and guitarist Lauren Larson told the crowd in a warm, friendly tone once they stepped on stage. That was about the extent of talking she did this night, though, as they focused primarily on their music in the 36-minutes they had.

“The Conductor” started their set, and right from the start, Lauren began demonstrating what a superb guitarist she is, taking the axe at one point and raising it up and behind her, where just the guitars neck was behind her neck, while she continued to shred away on it.

They threw in a couple of older songs, but mostly, they focused on Monuments, which was released earlier this year; and now drummer Aaron Perez established the steady beat that begins “Too Big World”, while Eric Larson hung back more at first, before really getting into it on the chorus. She used the instrumental break to kneel down and shred on her axe; and once she stood back up, she did a little backbend, before twirling in circles right at the tail end.

They wound it straight into “Burst”, which saw the fiery guitarist pumping her fist in the air, almost as a call to action to the onlookers, before striking the body of her guitar. After some brief silence, the trio suddenly erupted into “Embrace”, which kicked things up several notches; and afterwards, they delved more into their shoe gazey style of rock with “Hurricane II”, which is often as mesmerizing as it is raw. She again sank to her knees at one point on that track, holding her guitar vertically as she viciously picked at the strings.

While Eric and Lauren tuned, Perez started up the drum roll that begins “Oh, Fate”, a song that gradually builds, before striking with a fury. They had pretty much every set of eyes glued to them by now, and “Until The End” and “Chase It Down” further ensured that no one could turn away.

After that, Lauren took a moment to thank The Toadies for having them out, saying they were one of the first bands who ever gave them a chance, so you got the feeling that they [Ume] have immense respect for them.

They were almost done, and now reached back to 2005’s Urgent Sea and pulled out “Baby Xie-Xie”. It’s a beast of a song, especially live, with Lauren kicking the air at times, as she coordinated all of her moves perfectly with the music. The song also contained what was the best moment of their set, and it came when she fell onto her back, letting her guitar slide onto the stage beside her, before rolling somewhat on top of it, never missing a note.

All that was left now was their single, “Black Stone”, which delivered one last quick punch to the ears of the onlookers.

I’ve seen Ume half a dozen times now, and this was the best show I’ve seen them do.

Since releasing Monuments, they’ve been pretty busy making the most of the traction they started going with that single that has come from it, and all their time on the road has led to an incredible tightness. Even Perez, who has only been with the band a few months, looks like he has been a part of the outfit since the start.

The energy they pack into their shows is crazy, while their stage presence this night captivated many. Next to all that, the thing I enjoyed the most was that the vocal levels were turned up higher than normal, making every word crystal clear.

Ume’s next show will be in Houston at Fitzgerald’s on October 24th. Be sure to check out all their albums in iTUNES, too.

The main support band was one that has been around almost as long as The Toadies have, and in Texas (especially D/FW), they’re every bit as much of a staple. I’m speaking, of course, of Old 97’s.

I’m probably one of the few people left who had never seen Old 97’s before, and I was looking forward to that finally changing.

The band was all smiles as they were introduced, and then quickly got to work, coming out swinging with the upbeat and catchy “If My Heart was a Car”, off their debut, Hitchhike to Rhome. It was immediately clear they had their own fans out this night, as many sang along with singer and acoustic guitarist Rhett Miller.

“Barrier Reef” came next, and they didn’t allow any downtime between the songs. Instead, they just kept pushing themselves, with Miller putting on quite a show, even though he was often stuck behind the microphone, while lead guitarist Ken Bethea — who wore a poncho for these first few songs — raced about the stage. I was also quite impressed with the slick moves Murry Hammond worked in to his bass playing.

Two songs in and I was already questioning myself in how and why I had never seen these guys before.

“How y’all doing tonight?” the friendly Miller asked, adding that it was a beautiful night, while some mangled guitar chords set up their next number. It was “Dance with Me”, and the semi-dark song had a real sense of urgency to it. Before hitting the second verse, Miller proceeded to jump around some. He clearly had a lot of energy pent up, and he still had plenty of time to work on getting it all out.

As they stopped, the vocalist made everyone aware that it had also been twenty years since they released their debut record, at a time when he was roommates with Clark Vogeler, who later went on to become The Toadies lead guitarist. “That was a lot of fucking years ago,” he said rather simply, before their attention shifted to the recently released album, Most Messed Up, doing the lead track, “Longer Than You’ve Been Alive”. The song that somewhat chronicles their adventures over the last couple decades seemed to come at just the right time in the show, helping set the stage for the rest of their set.

“Cheers!” Hammond yelled afterwards, though he raised a bottle of water to the sky, an action that caught a little flak from some of the patrons, who wondered where his beer was. He paid them no mind, though. “I was born here. Grew up in the sticks out that way,” he said, pointing towards the general direction. He let everyone know the only reason he every even got to Dallas was to see a Dead Kennedys show, and then thought to himself, “I’ll stay here and do this.” It worked out for him.

He now took over on the reins, singing the very country sounding “West Texas Teardrops”, which was followed by what Miller called a “straight up love song”. “It’s called Let’s Get Drunk and Get it On!” he announced. It may have been another new song, but it was one fans have apparently quickly taken to, as many threw their fists into the air at the chorus, shouting along, “Let’s drink whiskey and do it all night long! Let’s get drunk and get it on!

Drummer Philip Peeples got a shout-out from his band mates as he got the next song going, which happened to be “Four Leaf Clover”. The very Western sounding track saw both Bethea and Miller leaping into the air when they could, with Bethea eventually making his way over to stage left, where he and Hammond worked off one another as they picked away at their instruments. They then returned to their debut record, doing a slightly more intense version of “Stoned”.

“What a great night!” Miller said excitedly, later on mentioning how pumped up he was to see The Toadies, and that he made sure to bring his ear plugs just so he could stand right in front of the speakers for them. They weren’t quite done with their new record yet, and now did “This is the Ballad”, which was quite deep. “A State of Texas” appealed to everyone’s Texas pride (at least I know it did mine); and Miller flat-out killed it on his acoustic for that one.

“This is off the new one,” Hammond simply said, before singing another tune, this one being “The Ex of All You See”, which was one of the most infectious things they did this night (and that’s saying a lot). Miller chatted with the audience for a bit, again thanking them, before doing another oldie, “Big Brown Eyes”, which was instantly followed by “Nashville”, a song that had some laughing as he (with the help of Hammond at times) sang the opening line, “I married Caroline back in May of ’99. It was fucked up at the time, but I figured we’d keep trying…” It was far from a humorous song, though, and is instead a reflective number about trying to figure out why nothing ever works out.

Upon finishing “Rollerskate Skinny”, Miller climbed atop his amp, stretching his arms towards the sky. You could tell they were building to something. He then got some serious air when he jumped; while they ripped into the final song of their 54-minute long set, “Time Bomb”.

The song about infatuation brought their performance to a roaring finish, with Miller waving goodbye and exiting the stage once it was done, while the rest of Old 97’s threw some picks at the crowd, before doing the same.

Seriously, how have I been a fan and avid supporter of the D/FW music scene for nearly a decade, but never seen Old 97’s before? I don’t know how I screwed up so badly.

I thought their performance was extraordinary, to the point they almost, almost unintentionally stole some of the thunder away from The Toadies.

From start to finish, their set was explosive, as they tackled a variety of songs, some of which almost sounded like a cross between country and rock (and at times even punk), while others more fit the lines of your typical (and true) country songs.

They’ll be on the road from the end of September through mid-October, and their tour dates can be found HERE. You can sample all of their albums in iTUNES (and I know I will soon start adding them to my collection.)

The day had been long, but with nonstop music, it passed quick; and now, it was finally time for the band of the hour: The Toadies.

After being on the road in support of the 20th anniversary of Rubberneck for much of the last five to six months or so, this was going to be the final gig of the tour. For me, this show was also going to complete a trifecta. I had seen their Dallas stop of the tour back in May, and in July I made the jaunt up to Denton, when they kicked off another leg of the tour. And now, I was excited to hear Rubberneck front to back once more, and for perhaps the final time ever.

It was 9:53 when Doni Blair, Vaden Todd Lewis, Mark Reznicek and Clark Vogeler walked onto the stage, waving and smiling at the fans. Most had gathered around the stage for a good view of everything, while others watched from a distance, relaxing in lawn chairs or just sitting on the grass.

Lewis approached the edge of the stage, still grinning at the fans, before starting them off on “Mexican Hairless”. The instrumental jam sent fans jumping about and cheering, while others banged their heads along to the aggressive piece. Right as it ended, Vogeler launched them into “Mister Love”. “Are you gonna save me? Can you save me?” Lewis growled in a raw, gravelly tone throughout the track. His voice sounded even more striking (and at times even terrifying) than at either of the other shows I had seen this year, making it clear that this performance of the album was going to be a cut above the rest. On top of that, the singer was constantly making different gestures with his hands or waving his fingers around; and at the final, “Can you save me?”, he stretched his arms out to the side, almost like he was basking in the love from the fans.

While they were busy playing the music, several beach balls had been tossed out in the crowd, which may be stereotypical of festivals, but all the same was fun, as people kept batting them away whenever they got close.

The band wound it right into “Backslider”; and as excited as fans were to hear that rocking number, it paled in comparison to the reaction “Possum Kingdom” got, which was not just screams and yells, but also people turning towards their friends and high fiving them. It was pure ecstasy for everyone as they sang right along, “And I promise you, I will treat you well. My sweet angel, so help me, Jesus.”

The string of beloved songs just kept coming, with “Quitter” sounding even angrier than normal as Lewis spit out the lyrics; and the hefty rhythm section of Reznicek and Blair continued to show their teeth during “Away”, which ended with Vogeler rocking out by his amp, getting the guitar tones as good as they could possibly be.

As Lewis has said at the past shows, he doesn’t like to speak during this portion of the set, as he wants to keep this live experience of Rubberneck as authentic as possible. That also extends to the usual sing along parts in the songs, like “Away”, which instead was handled completely by the band. However, one song where they couldn’t get away with that was “I Come From the Water”. Everyone knew the drill and didn’t even have to be told what to do as they hit the chorus, and the throng of fans shouted at the top of their lungs. It creates a moment that’s quite bonding for Toadies fans.

The most interesting part of the night came during “Tyler”, which was memorable to say the least. Shortly after singing, “I stumble in the hallway,” The Toadies blew out the speakers. The look of confusion on the faces of the band members as well as the crowd was hilarious in hindsight, as everyone was left scratching their head and looking around for a second, like, “Wait. What just happened?” Even without the amps, you could still somewhat hear the bass, drums and guitars, and the band went on playing, though they looked unsure. That was when fans showed their mettle. It was like instinct, everyone knew what to do, as they began singing the final noises from the tune, “Yeah-eh-a. Oh-oh-oh…”. It was far more audible than any of the instruments, and it was concrete proof of not only people’s love of these songs, but also their love for this band.

“I think we broke it,” Lewis said after they got it fixed, which happened as soon as the song ended. For the record, having the speakers blow is how you know you’ve seen a killer concert; and they were still just getting warmed up.

They got back on track, racing through the final three songs, as Reznicek bridged them from “Happy Face” into “Velvet”, and they only stopped long enough for Lewis to get a twelve-string acoustic guitar, before concluding the Rubberneck set with “I Burn”. “Sift the ashes for reminders; stony things remain,” Lewis sang, using his bullet mic for a couple of lines, as he placed his left palm into the air, before clenching his fist.

38-minutes was how long it took this night to run through those eleven songs, and they were far from done.

“That was the Rubberneck set,” remarked Lewis, also mentioning how “fucking crazy” it was that it has been twenty years. He was equally amazed by the fact that Dia de los Toadies was now in its seventh year. “This is the most fun one I think we’ve had yet,” he said of the festival, before saying if everybody was down, they’d do some more songs.

“Push the Hand” got the remainder of their 64-minute long set going, and it seemed to reinvigorate the crowd, as well as the mosh-pit, which was small, but had been going on throughout the show. During the last brief instrumental break, Blair and Lewis walked towards one another, interacting a bit as they jammed. The subsequent track from Hell Below/Stars Above, “Little Sin”, came next, though they axed the extended outro they often give the song. Instead, they jumped right into “No Deliverance”, which I thought sounded even better than normal this night. For example, there was something about the line, “I saw black monsters twisted in love,” and the way Lewis sang it that was just quite gripping this night.

“Are we still having fun?” he asked afterwards, a question that was answered by a resounding amount of cheers. They took time out to thank all the bands who had played, including the Old 97’s, who Vogeler joked would surely be going somewhere.

Blair then switched to a different bass before starting them on “Summer of the Strange” — one of the only new songs they did this night. Not that anyone had a problem with that. “…This is our indulgent three and a half minutes, bear with us,” cracked Lewis before they busted out their rendition of Blondie’s “Heart of Glass”, a song that they quite possibly played for the final time this night.

“Oh, shit! I’ve got to start this one,” Lewis said, sounding a little apprehensive. He bought himself some time by telling everyone that several years ago he had written a song that he was now regretting writing. “It’s the most difficult song I’ve ever written,” he stated, leading everyone to wonder what it could be. I was racking my brain trying to figure it out, and I doubt I was alone.

I was not expecting “Hell Below/Stars Above” — a song I had only heard live once, nearly five years ago — but that was what they did. It made for a truly surprising moment, catching every single fan off guard; and the best part came at the end, where one of their techs added his voice to the mix. He could sing, and it helped make that gospel-like ending more like how it sounds on the recording. The thing I like most about that title track from their sophomore album is how it changes midway though, yet it still sounds like the same song. As Lewis said, it’s a difficult song, but it’s also a beautiful one, and it capped off this main set fantastically.

They were gone all of a couple minutes, before the noise from fans brought them back out. “Do y’all want some more songs?” Lewis asked, acting as though he was shocked. “We’ll play some more songs,” he added, before they broke into the primal, “Sweetness”, which was another track that had the singer making different motions with his hand at times as he sang.

They had another cover planned, and Lewis went back twenty years, mentioning that some of the songs from the original Rubberneck recording session had been cut. One of those was a cover of Pylon’s “Stop it”, and for that one, Lauren Larson of Ume joined them, tearing it up on her axe. The fans and the band were really digging that one. For starters, each time Lewis began clapping along, the fans did, too; and on the second chorus, Vogeler began jumping around.

“You guys tired?” Lewis then asked, a question that was met with a forceful, “NO!” The band then returned to their second album, performing the final track from it, “Doll Skin”. It had sounded great acoustic the night before, but there’s something about the electric version. It’s not exactly an all-out rock number, nor is that soft. Still, out of everything they had done, it’s not what you would think would be a perfect crowd surfing song, yet that was exactly what one man did, as he had his friends hoist him in the air.

“You’ve been fantastic. Thank you so much,” Lewis told the attendees, before extending that to cover their crew who put this on and everyone who had any part of it. “I’m from Fort Worth, I’m a big fan of Fort Worth, and this is all fucking Fort Worth right here,” he finished, before saying they would be leaving everyone with this. “This” was “Rattler’s Revival”. Fans again clapped along whenever they saw the frontman doing it; and really, what a fitting song to end their 19-minute long encore with. Not just because it’s a hard-hitting number, but because it’s one of the newest things in their catalog, and after spending most of 2014 on the road, focusing on their twenty-year-old debut, why not look ahead to the future, and hopefully, another twenty years, or even more.

I was thinking about it this day and Dia was the eighth festival I’ve seen/covered this year.

I’ve really come to enjoy the festival atmosphere; but as fun as all of those others have been, there’s one thing that’s different about Dia de los Toadies, and that’s what made me enjoy it not only more than those other festivals, but also more than ever: it’s because everybody there has an undying love for The Toadies.

It’s really cool to go to something like this and know that the common denominator is that everyone enjoys the same band. It breeds a real sense of camaraderie, and that is a special feeling.

So, kudos to The Toadies for giving their fans something like this to congregate at once a year. Here’s to hoping it continues for many more to come.

As for their set itself, it was solid as ever. This is a band that has a real staying power, even more than twenty years into it, and that was clear once more this night in Fort Worth.

They do have a few more shows this year. One will be in Houston at the Untapped Fest on September 20th. Another will be in Pharr, Texas at the Pharr Events Center on October 19th, with an Austin date at Emo’s on December 26th. Let’s not forget about Dia de los Toadies 8, which should be happening in September 2015. As for their albums, the remastered version of Rubberneck can be purchased at KIRTLAND RECORDS, while everything else can be found at iTUNES.

(Read my review of night 1 of this year’s Dia HERE.)

Friday, September 12th, 2014 – The 7th Annual Dia de los Toadies: Night I – An (Almost) Acoustic Party at The Shack

Another September can only mean one thing: it’s time for the annual Dia de los Toadies.

This was the seventh one the iconic Fort Worth band The Toadies had put together (well, them and their team at Kirtland Records), and it seemed to further prove that seven is the bands lucky number.

Seven years from the release of Rubberneck to Hell Below/Stars Above; seven years from their breakup to their revival; an now, the seventh year of Dia just so happened to coincide with the 20th anniversary of Rubberneck. It is a bit of a strange coincidence if nothing else.

For the second year in a row, Panther Island Pavilion in Fort Worth was hosting the festival; and originally, this first night of it was supposed to take place outside. Leave it to Texas to have freak weather, though. A cold front had moved in the night before, dropping temperatures into the 70’s (when it’s usually 90 something, yeah, that’s cold), while rain and mist made the conditions even less pleasant. So, rather last minute, the show was moved indoors to a building called The Shack, which sits in the main parking lot of Panther Island Pavilion.

It was a large warehouse/hanger, giving it quite an industrial feel, which somehow, just seemed to fit the bands.

It has become tradition that the first night of this now weekend long festival is an acoustic one, or as they call it, almost acoustic. I actually witnessed it the first year it was ever attempted, back at the 5th annual Dia down in New Braunfels; and after skipping the acoustic night the previous year, I was looking forward to hearing the reworked songs again.

Kicking off the night was the Denton-based singer/songwriter Doug Burr, whom I had not seen in probably a couple years, and I was looking forward to finally having another opportunity at seeing him.

Most of Doug Burr’s set consisted of new songs, though he did throw in a couple of oldies for everybody. “Red, Red” was one of those, coming from the already four-year-old album, O Ye Devastator. Burr wasn’t alone, and he was joined by a fellow guitarist, Dave; while Burr was seated, allowing him to add some percussion via a small kick drum.

The thing I enjoy most about his music is the fact that it tells stories, much like the way, say, Bruce Springsteen does (though the style of writing is the only comparison that could be made between those two artists.) That was shown on every track he played this night, with the beginning line from one going, “There was blood in our tracks, all covered in snow…” Whatever the title of that one may have been, it was actually one of my favorites, thanks largely to notes Dave threw in. He was quiet on his guitar at times, but struck at just the right moments to really accent the song, making for some great underlying notes.

They ditched the acoustic mood with “I Got This Fever/O Ye Devastator”. It may not have been true to the electric form of the recorded version, but their acoustics got pretty loud, while Burr kept his foot busy with that pedal for the small kick drum, giving the song some roaring percussion.

“Dave and I spent all day fixing this place up, didn’t we Dave?” Burr joked afterwards, saying they had been the ones responsible for getting everything set up after the team decided to move the show indoors. The duo then did another song, and upon finishing it, Burr informed everyone they had spent this last year working on a new record. “It’s alright,” he said, sounding almost completely indifferent. “We’re proud of it. The record, not the year,” he added, a joke which was either said so dryly people didn’t get it, or they just didn’t think it was too funny. I, however, thought it was pretty good. He let the audience know they were from the “good ol’ state of Denton, Texas,” and then they unleashed another new track on the people’s ears.

Not only was the song loud, but Burr sang it at a near machine-gun pace, prompting Dave to tell him afterwards that, that “wasn’t very acoustic.” “We’re keeping it almost acoustic, just like the rules say,” the singer quipped, before they ended their 30-minute long set with a couple more new tunes.

From the first time I saw him, I was a fan of Doug Burr, continuing to catch him whenever I was able; but lately, it doesn’t seem like he’s played too much. That said, having gone so long without seeing a performance, I had forgotten what an astounding singer/songwriter he is. Really, he’s one of the most talented here in the D/FW area.

He proved it quick this night, and with each passing song, he further established that is fact.

He has a remarkable voice; prominently displayed his storytelling chops this night; and even showed off some pretty good wit.

His next show will be on October 3rd at Three Links in Dallas. Also, head over to iTUNES where you can find his records; and according to what he said this night, he’ll finally have a new release out in January.

With Old 97’s providing direct support the following night, The Toadies had tapped Rhett Miller to do a solo set on this acoustic show, and I was interested in seeing him. See, not only had I never seen him solo before, I had never seen him live at all; and after all the good words about he and Old 97’s, I was expecting something special.

Sure enough, Miller delivered.

His 35-minute long set had two parts to it, and the first were all songs that belonged either to him or Old 97’s. After mentioning this venue was a “good plan B” for The Toadies to use, he launched into one of a few tales of heartache this night, “Lost Without You”. “…She was not like the rest, until she left…” he sang, filling that line (and several others) with loads of emotion this night.

It got his set off to a good start; and then, he began to reminisce. Miller mentioned he had known The Toadies for a while, especially “the guitar player”, “Who’s going to be playing keys tonight,” he stated. He was referring to Clark Vogeler, who used to be in a band called Fun Land. Miller said as much, and even though that was long time before I was introduced to the local scene, I have of course heard lore of Fun Land. However, I did not know they went by the name Melt before adopting that other moniker. Miller pointed that out and said he enjoyed the band so much back then, he wrote a song about them. Aptly, the song was titled “Melt Show”, and it was on it he began showing off his more rock and even punk side. The fast paced tune allowed him to bang his head around; and he did the ol’ standard windmill move to pluck at his guitar, executing it so fluidly and effortlessly, you just had to marvel at it.

He wound things right in to “Wasted”, which was one of a few songs he did this night that revolved around getting drunk. Even though the only instrument was his acoustic guitar, Miller managed to make the song incredibly catchy; while the opening line of “I’m gonna play guitar till my fingers fall off, sing till my voice is gone…” already seemed fitting of his behavior this night.

“It’s true,” he laughed, speaking of the line, “Tonight, I’m gonna get wasted with you.” That may have happened later, but for now, he was all about the music. “Come Around” was another track he did from his solo career, bringing things back down, and highlighting his falsetto tone on that lovely track. He was in the zone now, hitting these next few tracks one right after the other. “Won’t be Home” came next, and it further enlivened the crowd, while the cheery and infectious “Singular Girl” pulled everyone more into it.

“Woo!” Miller exclaimed upon finishing it, thanking everyone for watching him, and also saying he had heard The Toadies sound check, and that people were in for a treat. “…Tomorrow night I’ll be here with Old 97’s,” he mentioned, but then stated it felt good to be here by himself this night. That said, the concluded his original portion with “Let’s Get Drunk and Get it On”, a song that was rowdy even done solo, and a lot of spectators seemed to look at it as an anthem, cheering at each chorus.

People were left wondering what was coming next, especially since Miller had laid his acoustic guitar down now. Clark Vogeler then stepped on stage, took a seat behind the keyboard, and spoke into his microphone asking if it was live. Yeah, it definitely was, and suddenly and unexpectedly hearing his voice caused some people to jump a bit.

Miller mentioned that when he found out he’d be playing this event, he and Vogeler immediately started “hatching plans” as to how they could collaborate. They decided on this, having Vogeler play his keys, while Miller said he was just going to stand there and sing. “Which is terrifying,” he confessed in a moment of pure honesty. If he truly did feel that way, he didn’t show it this night, and after informing the crowd that some “sad, beautiful shit” was about to happen, they started tackling a series of covers.

The first was a moving rendition of Elvis Costellos’ “Almost Blue”, a song that seemed perfect for Miller to cover, as its vibe went with many of the other songs he had done. He now looked to the past, telling everyone that he and Vogeler used to be roommates “for years and years”. “He taught me all the good music I know,” Miller admitted, saying that included Elliot Smith. The duo covered “Baby Britain”, with Miller laughing afterwards that they should take this to LA and “play one of those dark bars”. “The Dresden,” Vogeler recommended, with Miller joking they’d need to get some sports coats before doing it.

Miller then regaled everyone with another story of when the two were roommates. “He didn’t know how to play piano back then,” Miller said of Vogeler, and he really did seem impressed by his friend’s abilities on the keys. “He barely knew how to play guitar then, too,” cracked Miller. A sweeter song they did this night was “This Will be Our Year” by The Zombies, a song Miller later mentioned was not easy to play on the piano, and that Vogeler deserved some props for it.

“Thanks for bearing with this crazy experiment,” he finished, as they rounded things out with David Bowies’ “Changes”. “Ch-ch-ch-ch changes, turn and face the strange…” Miller belted on the chorus, injecting some punk elements into the song by his manner of singing, which sounded a bit mismatched considering the keys, yet it went together.

Rhett Miller was highly entertaining from start to finish. The singer lived up to all the praise I have heard surround him, and actually, he was far better than I even thought he’d be.

He had no trouble owning the stage completely, even up there all by himself. He was a ball of raw energy; and while he may have been tied to the mic stand this night, he never let that hinder him.

He has some tour dates coming up, scattered across the country and spread out over the next few months. You can find a full list HERE. As for his solo records, you can purchase them in iTUNES.

The crowd was fairly thick as The Toadies start time neared, and I’d guess there were at least around a couple hundred people in the impromptu venue, most of whom were packed in, in front of the stage. They had waited long enough, and after a sound check had been done, the room started to fill with screams and chants, as people hoped to make the band appear.

And they did.

“We having fun yet?” Vaden Todd Lewis asked after sitting down on his stool. “I’ve been having fun,” he added, before officially welcoming the attendees to the seventh annual Dia de los Toadies. He sounded skeptical when remarking, “We’ll see how this goes,” and then they were off.

The music bed for “Backslider” was largely the same, and people knew it almost instantly and often sang louder than the band was. Just further proof that those songs from Rubberneck are still what fans enjoy the most. While it may have been similar, there were still some changes to the track, and it was quite restrained over the version people know by heart. Part of that was due to Clark Vogeler, who was on the piano all night, and on this song, it had a very old timey, almost ragtime style.

Those iconic songs were peppered sparingly across their setlist; and now, Lewis switched from his six-string guitar to a twelve. Mark Reznicek had his full drum kit in front of him, and he began the next song with some beats that sounded like it went with “Magic Bullet”, and sure enough, it did. Considering how thick the song is, it wasn’t one I was expecting acoustic, though the retooled rendition of the song was still quite heavy.

“Pretty great, huh?” Lewis remarked, while Doni Blair swapped out his electric bass for an upright one, a sight I had never seen before, nor ever thought I’d see. The intro for the next song was weird, which made it unrecognizable. It wasn’t until Lewis sang the first line, “I come from the water, I crawled up on the shore,” that the fans roared, and started to sing right along with “I Come From the Water”, and once more their collective voice was often louder than the bands. Lewis snapped his fingers while singing the second chorus; and during the instrumental break, the keys were again very prevalent.

That finished getting everyone warmed up on this chillier night, and the noise that followed that fan favorite was deafening. They switched gears after that, however. “…This is a new piece that’s intended to bum you the fuck out,” Lewis stated. If that was indeed their mission, than “The Appeal” certainly accomplished it. The final track from 2012’s Play.Rock.Music is one of the most powerful ones the band has ever produced (emotionally speaking), as was clear right from the start, with the line, “I wish I could tell you the way that I feel. I know that I failed you, so I make my appeal…” It’s soaked in both desperation and sadness; and for the most part, the crowd just looked on and watched, while others chatted with friends, since very few people seemed to know the lyrics. Then they got to the final verse, and Lewis, who had been pretty gentle so far, kicked it into overdrive, and belted out that last portion with a fiery passion. It was easily the most powerful moment of this set.

The electric bass and twelve-string guitar were both back in play now as they continued to keep fans on their toes. “We’re gonna play a Blondie song now,” Lewis informed everyone. “You think I’m fucking you, but we’re gonna do a Blondie song,” he added, stressing this wasn’t a joke. If you had seen them at all this year, then you knew he wasn’t kidding, because they’ve made “Heart of Glass” into a staple during this 20th Anniversary Rubberneck Tour. The acoustic setting was actually pretty behooving of it; while next up was a song that I hoped, though seriously doubted would be done acoustic.

“There it is!” a guy shouted as Lewis went back to the mandolin. He proceeded to pluck the strings of it, making a very interesting chord progression. “Is this Rattler’s?” I thought to myself. Sure enough, they had created an alternate version to the single from their 2012 release. “Rattler’s Revival” was entrancing to say the least, and it sounded more like what either traditional Middle Eastern music or even Indian music sounds like, being more of a cross between the two. The music bed wasn’t the only thing that had undergone a massive change, though. The words on the usually venomous song were more spoken rather than sung, which helped in creating an eerie feeling as Lewis spoke of being void of emotion, just like a snake. That pace continued right up to the end, when Reznicek repeatedly tapped one of the cymbals, which made it just a little creepier.

“It’s going pretty good,” Vogeler remarked afterwards, sounding somewhat surprised. Lewis then thanked their “wonderful, fantabulous crew”, calling out Dwayne and Wes by name. Those two crew members/techs had already been doing a lot this night, adding different instruments to the mix, even if it was something as simple as a shaker.

He went on to drop word of their next album, saying they had been having so much fun with this first night of Dia over the past few years that they decided to make a record in this vein. “…It’s even weirder than this shit,” he remarked. So, Toadies fans have that to look forward to in 2015.

They kept working away on that latest album with “Beside You”, and while it was more rock based — roaring to life on each chorus — they also put a fun twist on it, in the form of Dwayne adding a banjo into the mix. It folkified the song a bit. Next came a very special treat for all those who had decided to venture out here, even if the weather may have been better suited for staying at home: they got to hear a new song for the first time ever. I had trouble understanding the title, though I think it was “Belly of the Whale” (a line which was repeated here and there in the song). It was a super catchy song. Honestly, probably one of the most infectious things these guys have ever cranked out. “…I tried to sink my demons in the deep, so catch me if you can,” Lewis sang at a couple points during the track, a line that guaranteed it fit The Toadies mold.

“We’ve literally never played that before,” Vogeler pointed out, before they started joking that they had just made that all up on the spot. “Doni improvised it,” Vogeler said, while the bassist went with it and shook his head, like, “Yeah, I did.”

An acoustic show would not be complete without “Doll Skin”; a track I hadn’t heard in a couple years. The bass was dominant throughout, giving it a real punch, while the keys also had some time to shine, which balanced it all out.

“You may or may not know this is the twentieth anniversary of Rubberneck,” Lewis remarked afterwards, mentioning how “crazy” that was, and expressing his gratitude to everyone for coming out, not just this night, but over all the years. Fans were delighted to hear the song that became the bands breakout hit — “Possum Kingdom” — which sounded more or less the same, even with the addition of the banjo. The keys were quite prominent on it, too; and the instrumental jam at the end was killer.

Help from their road crew was again needed as they got ready for the special cover song they had worked up for this year’s show, and Wes used the twelve-string, while Lewis had the six-string axe. Apparently, David Bowie was the popular artist of the night, because The Toadies tried their hand at “Heroes”, pulling it off beautifully. Toadies fans don’t often get to hear the softer tones Lewis is capable of, which he got to display better on this song than anything else they did this night, and it was amazing.

“…The tiny guitar is back…” he laughed after having plugged the mandolin back in. He thanked Rhett Miller and Doug Burr for opening, along with all the fans for showing up to make this possible, adding that they would be “loud as shit” the next night. “I love playing Fort Worth…” he concluded.

Their 55-minute long set came to a close with a song that they haven’t gotten to end with at all this year: “Tyler”. Even on a mandolin, the opening chords are unmistakable, and, like always, everyone was singing along to every last word of the classic.

The band waved their goodbyes, saying they’d see everyone the following night, but the fans had other things in mind.

I was actually a little taken aback by how much noise the audience made; making it crystal clear they wanted an encore. After a couple minutes, the band felt compelled to come back out, though they had nothing else left to give.

“We’ve been rehearsing like this for eight days!” Vogeler stated. “We didn’t expect this,” Lewis added, referring to fans wanting an encore, and he kindly let everyone know they had just played everything they knew how to in this setting.

People were okay with that then, but I bet next year, these guys will be sure to throw in at least one more song so they’ll have an encore at their disposal if necessary.

The acoustic set was superb. The band did a nice mix of songs from a variety of albums, while the two covers fit nicely, and that new tune whet fans’ appetites for what’s to come in the world of The Toadies. Aside from that, as a fan, it’s just really cool to hear such unique versions of these songs.

All in all, this was not a bad way to get the weekend going; and now it was time for everyone to go home and get ready for the daylong festivities.

(Read my review of day 2 of this year’s Dia HERE.)

Album Review: Photomaps by Exit 380

imageFifteen-years is a long time for any band to be together in general, but especially a local band. Actually, that’s somewhere around three to four average lifetimes in local band years. That’s how long Exit 380 has been kicking, though; and they have outlived many of their DFW counterparts, some of whom flirted with major label success and toured the country.

The band that was started by friends back in their college days at UNT in Denton may not have had those encounters with big breaks, but then again, that might be exactly why they have lasted as long as they have. They were never made empty promises that they would be the next big thing. If you ever were told that, and then it didn’t pan out, it’s easy to see why you would lose faith in the music industry, and perhaps even decide to hang it up and leave the band life behind.

That’s not to imply that Exit 380 is all fun and games for the members, either, but they do have a 50/50 balance of enjoying what they do and being professional at it.

It’s also rare you find a band who has kept pretty much the same lineup for the past eight years; and after a couple year absence, Bobby Tucker returned as the band’s drummer. Aside from that brief stint away, the band has been the same since the mid-2000’s, and that chemistry and camaraderie they’ve had plenty of time to establish has led to them getting better with each album, while they explored a diverse range of genres, from edgy rock to experimenting more with folk music.

But now, with their first release in more than two-and-a-half years, they’ve found themselves going back to their rock stylings, bringing renewed life to their earliest sound, along with continuing to experiment as musicians and try out some new genres.

The bands sixth LP, Photomaps, begins with “Laid Up In the Road”. Like many of their best songs, it doesn’t focus on a personal experience, but rather tells the story of a drunk who feels more at home on his own — in the middle of a road  then being surrounded by people, be it family or friends. The nearly three-and-a-half minute track tells you enough about the fictitious character to get you interested, yet also complete his story. The music bed also really gets your attention, and lead and rhythm guitarists Aaron Borden and Jeremy Hutchison, respectively, have some soaring solos. It’s been many years since they wrote a true edgy rock song, and it’s instantly clear their time away from it gave them a clear perspective as to how they want it to sound.

Speaking of Borden, as any longtime E380 fan knows, he’s also pretty talented in the songwriting department (the now classic, “Closure”, is still one of the most beautiful songs they’ve produced in all their years together.) Well, “Love Somebody, Cold” is another song he penned, and he sticks with doing what he does best: writing songs that revolve around love. In this case, it’s about still deeply caring for someone, even though the spark is fading fast out of the other person. Surprisingly, it’s a very upbeat song, with some great piano pieces thrown in (courtesy of Andrew Tinker, who produced the record at Big Acre Sound), alongside a well defined rhythm section and some sweet guitar licks; while Blocker sings at the end, “…And you know I won’t be the one to roam.”

The coolest intro has to go to “Lonely Days”, and after Tucker establishes a solid beat, the guitars quickly fade in with some awesome, ballsy chords. It has been quite some time since Exit 380 last did a rock song of this magnitude. The band is on fire on the track, operating as collective in a way that I don’t think they ever have before. Each instrument plays off one another, and even the various notes Blocker hits help accent the other instruments, and in turn, they aid his voice. Overall, this song proves that this is a more robust Exit 380 than fans have ever seen before.

Originally, Photomaps was going to be a collection of songs that all found the band experimenting with a Spanish flare. Things changed once the actual writing process took place, as they more split their time between styles. However, while “Hearts In the Sand” is a rock song, it also has some Spanish sounding elements scattered throughout it. It’s found subtly in some of the notes and hinted at in the lyrics at times, though this is still primarily a rock tune, and they save that stuff for later. Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the synth solo towards the end. You would think it wouldn’t work well with the track, yet somehow, it does. Granted, I haven’t heard many (or any?) synth solos, either, but I would say this one is worthy of being the best.

“Take It Like a Man” concludes the rock section of the album, and it’s another one very reminiscent of old school E380. Say, circa 2006, back during the Last Monday era. It’s a hard-hitting number, and there’s a nice sense of urgency at the end, as the track comes to a slightly abrupt, but roaring finish.

For the second portion of the album (or Side B on the vinyl copies), Jeremy Hutchisons’ guitar is traded in for a mandolin, while Borden puts his lap steel guitar to use. “A Song About Us” isn’t new to most fans, as it appeared on the first Hand Drawn Records compilation album. Still, I find it nice the track actually found a home on a record, because with it becoming a staple at live shows, it’s deserving of that. It’s another one that Borden wrote, though there is not a trace of heartache to be found like in the earlier song. In fact, it’s quite upbeat, and Blockers’ skills on the harmonica help in setting it off.

Speaking of upbeat, there’s “The Love Sleeps”. It has to be one of the most infectious songs written (and I mean that in a much broader sense than just E380’s discography), or at least that I’ve ever heard; and it emits a feel good vibe for all two-minutes and thirty-nine seconds of it. It’s an ideal song to dance along to, especially with a partner; and it’s just refreshing to hear something so overwhelmingly happy. If you’re ever having a bad day, this would be the song to put on, and then just feel the smile as it slowly creeps across your face.

“La Rosa Carlina” is the final original offering on Photomaps, and it personifies that Spanish vibe they initially wanted to go with. The one-off appearance of a violin is almost hidden during it, but if you listen closely enough, you can hear it creeping in here and there. The harmonies the violinist adds at the end sounds incredible, too, creating a nice male and female vocal part. The song itself is a good story about the guitarist of a band who adoringly watches Carlina — a dancer — who moves graceful to the music they are playing. “…Each twirl brings a smile, each smile a wink…” goes part of the chorus of yet another song that shows just how much the band excels at crafting and telling unique stories.

Like most bands, Exit 380 started off pretty humbly, doing acoustic covers back in their earliest of days. While they may have started out that way, they quickly ditched that in favor of original material; and in the seven to eight years that I’ve been seeing them, I’ve never heard them do a cover song. At least not until recently, when they tried their hand at Townes Van Zandts’ “Pancho and Lefty”. It’s the first cover they’ve ever recorded, and it perfectly fits the style of Photomaps. Like so many other tracks from the record, it tells a story; and they lifted elements from both Van Zandts’ version as well as Willie Nelson and Merle Haggards’, reusing the intro of their rendition to make for a powerhouse ending. It’s more than a cover, though, they truly leave their mark on this beloved classic, and that’s not an easy thing to do no matter what song you’re covering.

This isn’t the longest Exit 380 record ever. In fact, at just about 34-minutes, it plays out almost like a beefier EP, and passes just as quickly, because you get so wrapped up in these songs and simply lose track of time.

But if I had a choice, I’d go with quality over quantity, and that was the decision they made with Photomaps.

No, it isn’t the longest album they’ve ever released, though it is leaps and bounds ahead of anything they’ve ever released (that’s really saying something, ‘cause I still hold The Life and Death of Mr. and Mrs. Alexander Stone in high regard and consider that concept album impeccable.)

For old fans, it’s great to hear them return to those alt/rock sounds they started with, and the growth they’ve undergone individually as musicians and as a band have helped reinforce that genre, and they take it to the next level. For newer fans, you still get some of that folk stuff, with a different twist put on it, as they continue to push their musical boundaries.

In fact, I think that’s another reason why they’ve had such longevity as a band: they’ve never gotten stagnant. I can see how it could be easy to concoct a “formula” so to speak for songwriting and then just stick with what you do best, but that’s not for Exit 380. There’s always room to improve; and really, how many bands can say that fifteen-years in they’re creating their most spectacular material to date? Well, I know at least one.

Exit 380 is:
Dustin Blocker - vocals, pianos
Aaron Borden - guitars
Jon “The Hutch” Hutchison - bass
Jeremy Hutchison - guitars
Bobby “Shoes” Tucker – drums

Purchase the album on:
iTUNES / Bandcamp

Visit Exit 380’s websites:
Official Website / Facebook / Twitter / Youtube
imagePhoto credit: James Villa Photography

Single Review: “Soon” by Swindle Boys

image“Soon” — the latest single from Fort Worths’ Swindle Boys — expands on the newer direction the band is going musically. It further fleshes out the arena rock/pop sounds that first appeared on the Motion EP; and they offered fans a better glimpse just last month, when they released the first of many singles to come (a new one dropping at the start of each month).

They also self-describe themselves as having a little new wave vibe, and while the keys are still heavily used, this doesn’t sound as new wave to me as “Comeback” did. “Soon” is more a straightforward number that is a 50/50 blend of rock and pop. Much like the previous single, it comes across as a behemoth of an anthem, and one that will resonate louder within you each time to listen to it.

It’s a song about moving forward and not letting events of the past — be it tragedy, your own mistakes, etc. — define you.

“…But if the past has proven anything at all, we’ll go on.” Joey Swindle sings at the end of the first two verses. Other lines are about hammering home the fact that it — which can be relative to however the listener wants to interpret it — is just a moment, and it will pass.

It’s calming in a way, and can provide a sense of peace in listening to it, what with the smooth vocals and angelic, yet intense guitar chords. The track boasts a driven rhythm section as well.

They may only be in their second month of releasing singles, but with each one, you’re getting a clearer picture of what Swindle Boys want to do with their music, and so far, I’m really digging the grand, lush sound they’re going after. One which can appeal to indie rock fans and pop music fans alike, and they marry the two genres together in a fantastic way.

Swindle Boys is:
Joey Swindle
Matthew Swindle
Josh Brown
Chance Cochran

Purchase the album on:
iTunes / Bandcamp

Visit Swindle Boys’ websites:
Official Website / Facebook / Twitter / Youtube
imagePhoto credit: Shanna Leigh Tims

Album Review: “The Dark” by Waking Alice

imageWaking Alice has been around the North Texas music scene longer than most, though it wasn’t until mid-2012 when the current incarnation came to be.

With Rus Chaney as the new lead vocalist and Jonn Levey taking the role of the drummer, they got back into the performing circuit; and three singles came shortly after, allowing them to display the new lineup.

It’s hard to believe that’s already been nearly two years ago, and in those two years, the four-piece outfit has deepened their chemistry, which has resulted in even better material, which is showcased on their first legitimate EP (as this lineup).

The Dark starts with the two most recently written songs in the bands catalog, beginning with what is perhaps the best cut on the EP: “November Burns”. As the title of the EP suggests, these are darker songs, and topic wise, they are a bit different from their first three singles. This is a song about being betrayed by those close to you, offering a vivid account of it. “Waking now from this nightmare of mine; the sutures all but gone…” Rus sings in his unmistakable, slightly gruff tone of voice; and you can feel the raw emotion of it all. Of course, it wouldn’t be a Waking Alice tune without some sort of guitar solo, which Brandon Brewer adds at one point, before eventually easing back into the haunting chord progression of the verses that sticks with you. I’m also fond of the little false ending. A part where live you just might begin to clap, assuming the song is over, before the instrumentalists rip back into it.

“Bi-Polar Heart” is the longest track on the album — nearly five-and-a-half minutes — and the most epic, too. It’s more progressive than anything they’ve done in the past, taking a sudden turn into a very tranquil section that lasts for just a bit. That’s something Waking Alice doesn’t do often (show their soft side). It makes for an interesting change of pace for them, though, and it still retains all the elements that make Waking Alice who they are.

“The Dark” marks the midway point of the EP, which is something a little different for Waking Alice. It’s an instrumental song, which is something I don’t believe they’ve ever done before. They may have lengthy instrumental sections at times, but this is completely different. It’s a high-energy number that keeps the momentum from the first half of the record going, even expanding upon it. One of the best things about it is how each instrument as its own moment. Brayton Bourques’ bass is pretty dominant at the start, then sneaks in later on to accent the drums — which gets a couple of solos. It’s also a little surprising that the guitar is left waiting in the wings for the first half, though it works to the songs advantage, ‘cause when Brandon Brewer does strike with it, it hits fast and hard. At just under two-and-a-half minutes, it’s a perfect length for an instrumental track, letting them better highlight their prowess and instrumentalists, but not dragging on to the point it seems tedious.

“Paper Rock Shotgun” is one song Waking Alice fans have been hearing for quite awhile now, and it has finally been recorded. It’s the antithesis of the first half of the EP. Instead of dealing with backstabbing or the souring of a relationship, it focuses on the blossoming of a new one, one without all the deceit. It brings a hopeful aspect to everything, one that proves that even if you feel down and out, something good can always come along. The instrumental breakdown is also pretty slick, and it’s another track where they fool the listener into thinking it’s over before it roars back to life.

Despite having been recorded at a completely different time, “Hostage” fits perfectly with this collection of songs. For fans, if you look at it as the final piece of the puzzle of this EP, it honestly makes you look at the song in a new light. The nearly year-old track is about rising above whatever’s holding you down and no longer being a victim. “…Now I’m on my feet, I’m gonna kick some ass.” Rus belts on the chorus of what is the heaviest of the five songs.

Not many albums come full circle. That shouldn’t necessarily be a prerequisite for any, but it can be a nice touch. The Dark is one that does.

It starts out one way — with a fairly bleak perspective — and ends by realizing that with the bad, there must also be good; and also you need to take control of the situations around you.

These tracks offer a great look at what Waking Alice has grown into in these last two years, and just what a solid group they are. I’d say it’s the best thing the band has done in all their years together, and it leads you to wonder: If they’ve grown this much as musicians and writers in just two years, then what will the next batch of songs sound like?

Only time will tell, but for now, let’s just savor The Dark.

Waking Alice is:
Rus Chaney - Lead vocals
Brandon Brewer – Guitar and backing vocals
Jonn Levey - Drums
Brayton Bourque - Bass

Purchase the album on:
iTUNES

Visit Waking Alice’s websites:
Official Website / Facebook / Reverbnation / Twitter

Current Shows:
Saturday, September 27th at Shipping & Receiving in Fort Worth

image

Album Review: “Motherfolk’nrock’nroll” by The Rye Boys

image“…These days, the Rye Boys have become organized, honing their hellish skills into an inhuman force of good times and alcohol. The term “band” would not be an accurate portrayal of these fellows, as they have also been known to rake yards, and give mighty fine handshakes…”

That’s an excerpt from the current bio for The Rye Boys, and I think it sums up the band quite well.

They’ve been around for a few years now (forming in 2009), but just within the last couple of months released their debut album, “Motherfolk’nrock’nroll”, which, by its title alone, should also be very telling of the folk/rock/country outfit.

The album takes you all over the place and covers a variety of emotions, though it begins with a low-key tune revolving around love. “If I lie awake she could sing me to sleep. When she’s not around I see no need to dream…” goes the first line of “Lucy Song”, with trace amounts of heartache bleeding through in the vocals not just on that portion, but the entire song. It’s a great song, and personally, I’m quite fond of the whistling thrown in, which is incredibly brief, though makes for a nice effect, before they create more of a rip-roaring raucous at the end.

The pace escalates quickly with “Yellabelly”, which is a fascinating hybrid of not just country and folk music, but also some punk. It’s all condensed into almost exactly one minute, showing just how vivacious The Rye Boys can be, and they pull off the gin-soaked sing-along type songs very well.

There’s a slight degree of lo-fi quality to both “Follow Me, Pt. 1” and, to a lesser extent, “Follow Me, Pt. 2”, that makes for a nice sound. It’s mainly found in the unison singing — which is featured most heavily on the first part — but it’s a nice effect, showcasing the vocals in their rawest form. In some ways, they sound better on those two than any other track on the record.

The album throws another twist at you with “Candidate”, which finds The Rye Boys exploring their rock side. It’s a side you’ll get sucked right into, thanks in part to the thicker, heavier percussion, while the guitars easily take center stage with some catchy riffs on the song that deals with not always being cut out for the game of love. “I am the worst candidate… I can’t help you or myself…” goes part of the chorus, which could easily be a fan sing-along.

“Yesterday” may mark the halfway point of “Motherfolk’nrock’nroll”, but with it, the band shows they still have some tricks up their sleeve, and this one happens to be in a form of a solo acoustic song. It’s possibly the best song on the album, and touches on some social issues that can really get the gears turning in your head. “Is it a sin to murder for your country? The Bible says I’m unclean, but the president assures me that God is on our side…” goes the chorus, which is executed in the form of some nice crooning. It’s a song about someone who is struggling with the process of war — having trouble with killing — and perhaps the best part is how the first two choruses are sung more pondering that line mentioned a moment ago, as if trying to become okay with that fact. However, the final chorus is filled with anger and rage about having to do something that is surely so hard to condition yourself to do.

The mood becomes much lighter with the upbeat and fun “Nickels & Dimes”, which can get you moving with ease — even if you’re setting in front your computer speakers listening to it. In fact, you’ll probably be a somewhat sad that it only lasts a little under two minutes.

“Misery Keeps” is another bare bones song, which also stands out as being one of the strongest on the album, and is just solid all the way around, from the lyrics (“…when he learned what love was, he tried to push away his own…”) and storytelling, to the way the intensity grows the further along it gets.

Said intensity then peaks with “Aeroplane”, which is another party-style folk number that evokes some movement from the listener. Then you have “Mama”, which shifts that energy around slightly, and thanks to the heavily featured piano, sounds reminiscent of an old-timey Western tune.

Out of the twelve songs on the album, the only one that really fails to capture my interest is “Yard’s On Fire”. I can’t say that it’s a bad song, nor can I pinpoint anything that could have been done better. It really is as simple as it doesn’t appeal to me.

“Motherfolk’nrock’nroll” then concludes with the howling (in both senses of the word) “Good Time”, a joyous song whose title pretty accurately describes the listening experience of this record.

“Motherfolk’nrock’nroll” is indeed a marrying of the folk/country/rock genres. Not necessarily on every song, but occasionally, and you can bet on hearing at least two of those genres woven together on each track. Above all else, they’re nearly all vibrant, fun songs that you and some friends can jam to, to get ready for some hell-raising good times.

The Rye Boys are (and key members in making the record were):
Clayton Smith -  Vocals/Guitar
Nic Harper - Vocals/Banjo
Jobie Ritchie - Bass
Kraig Zirnheld - Drums
Denver Graves - Producer/Arranger
Mixed by Salim Nourallah

Purchase the album on:
iTUNES

Visit The Rye Boys websites:
Official Website / Facebook

Single Review: Swindle Boys Strike Back with “Comeback”

image

It hasn’t quite been a full seven months since Swindle Boys (the Fort Worth-based rock/pop outfit formed by brothers Joey and Matthew Swindle) released their latest EP. The long-awaited “Motion” EP was the first record to capture the band’s newest sound, but even at the CD release show they were looking towards the future and threw a new song or two in the mix.

Their current plan is to release one single per month over the course of the next few months, and the first hit digital store shelves in the wee hours of this morning (right as the clock struck midnight).

It’s an astounding track titled “Comeback”, which perhaps captures the group’s style better than anything else they’ve released thus far. The keys give the song an electronic sound at times, though it’s mixed in well with the other instruments, and never dominates things. The guitar contributes what is often an ethereal quality, before rushing to life, and the drums are, without question, the backbone of the song, providing a steady, yet forceful beat at times and springing into action on the vigorous chorus.

What gets my attention the most, though, is the sheer emotion that is packed into every last word. “…You and I, you know, we’re not the same. But I can love you like you’ve never seen. You know, it wasn’t my choice to leave, but it has to be done…” Joey sings as the tune goes into the first chorus (and throughout it), mixing feelings of both longing and heartache in the delivery.

“Comeback” is one of those songs that gets your attention the moment you first listen to it. It commands it, and it should quickly work its way on repeat on whatever medium you’re using to listen to it. It also gives you hope, hope that if more pop music can start sounding like this, then maybe the genre won’t be as disregarded as it seems to be these days.

Swindle Boys is:
Joey Swindle
Matthew Swindle
Josh Brown
Chance Cochran

Purchase “Comeback” on:
Bandcamp / iTUNES

Visit Swindle Boys websites:
Official Website / Facebook / Twitter

Current Shows:
Friday, July 4th at Shipping & Receiving in Fort Worth

image(Photo credit: Shanna Leigh Tims)

Friday, February 21st, 2014 – The Dirty River Boys Do Billy Bob’s Texas

Lately, if I have made the trip across the D/FW metroplex to Fort Worth, the destination has been Billy Bob’s Texas.

It was more of the same this night, when the venue that is known for being the “world’s largest honky-tonk” was hosting one of the best bands in the state, The Dirty River Boys.

There was an opening band this night, and that was Crooks from Austin.

Admittedly, I didn’t keep up with their set as far as what songs they did, but I’ll hit the highlights of what I do remember.

They were playing the smaller Honky-tonk stage, and had already started by the time I got there.

They finished the song they were doing, at which point singer and acoustic guitarist Josh Mazour regaled the audience with a story about how it’s not a good idea to decide to pick up a stray cat and pet it. Evidently, that was something he had tried recently and learned the hard way why it’s not wise.

They had a truly authentic country sound, from the twang in his voice, to the upright bass Joey McGill played, and even had an accordion and trumpet thrown into the mix, which were played by Anthony Ortiz Jr. and Doug Day, respectively.

They did at least one cover during their time on stage (I don’t recall what famous country singer they covered, since country music is not my forte), but it was good. Their original stuff was even better, and you could tell the audience was liking by all the people that swarmed the dance floor and danced with their special someone’s.

Even the slower “Pull Up Your Boots” got some movement going, while a song that stood out to me was “My First Gun”. Granted, that was probably because of the story that accompanied it, which was Josh informing everyone that he wrote it about five years or so ago, when he was dreaming about killing his boss at the time. “…I never did anything to him or his woman, but I thought about it… A lot.” he said before they started the track.

Some of their final songs where just the core group of Josh, Joey, lead guitarist Ryan Goebel and drummer Rob Bacak, before Anthony and Doug rejoined them for their final few songs.

They were quite good. I can’t say I liked them to the point that I’d feel like I have to see them the next time they come through the North Texas area, though I am contemplating buying their record. So yeah, overall, I did enjoy Crooks.

They have plenty of shows coming up across Texas, including a return trip to Billy Bob’s on May 8th, plus a gig at Hat Tricks in Lewisville on March 28th. For their full tour schedule, go HERE. Also, you can find their LP on either iTUNES or BANDCAMP.

They were a good little warm-up act, but the real show was going to come when The Dirty River Boys took the main stage.

There was a thirty-minute break in between bands, which gave most of the people plenty of time to be shown to their seats at the sea of tables that cover the floor in front of the main stage.


By the time 10:30 rolled around and one of the staff members at Billy Bob’s came out to introduce the band, there were a surprising amount of people there. I saw surprising given the fact that The Dirty River Boys are still by all accounts a local band. They may do shows all over the country, but they’re widely known yet. However, the healthy fan base they do have is also a dedicated one, which was proved this night.

At 10:32 bassist Colton James, drummer Travis Stearns and the two singers and acoustic guitarists Marco Gutierrez and Nino Cooper stepped on stage.

“How we doing Billy Bob’s Texas?!” Marco asked, while Travis went ahead and gave the crowd some percussion by slapping his hands against the cajon he sat on.

Having seen them just barely a month before; I was expecting the same setlist, since most bands don’t switch things up that often. Then again, The Dirty River Boys aren’t most bands, and when Nino grabbed the mandolin, it became obvious that this wouldn’t be the exact same show I had seen last month, and that had me excited.

They wound up starting with “Boomtown”, and Nino jumped about at the start while he strummed the mandolin. The fans responded well to it, and it was an excellent opener, not only being one of their tracks that really gets people pumped up, but also one that shows how much talent resides in this band, as they handled some of the words in rounds, with Marco and Colton singing and harmonizing along with Nino. There was even a cool moment after the second chorus where Colton spun his upright bass around, while the feathers and raccoon pelt that hang from it twirled right along with it.

Once it was done, Marco led them right into the title track from their second EP, “Train Station”, which is another song with breathtaking harmonies. “…I fear I’m losing her again. My head’s on the horizon, my heart’s wherever the hell she sleeps!” Marco belted as the track sprang to life. It’s a song that blend beauty and heartache with some Rock ‘n’ Roll moments, and there was even a part where Colton played his bass with a bow, similar to how a violinist does.

Those were two of the older songs they did this night, and while more would come, their primary focus was on the material from their forthcoming album. They had worked in a few more new tracks than they were doing the last time I saw them, and Travis counted them in on the first new one of the night, which was sung by Colton.

“Billy Bob’s, what’s going on?!” Marco asked, seeming gleeful to even be there. The fans did their part at making some noise, while he went on to say they’d be playing a lot of new songs this night. “…This one’s an old one.” he finished, as they tackled the lead track from “Science of Flight”, “Dried Up”. Apart from doing lead vocals, Marco also played the harmonica when it was called for, but that wasn’t the only add-on this song got.

They’ve been known to throw in portions of cover songs into their music, and while I’ve heard them do one of Bob Dylan’s songs before, it hasn’t been on this specific song before. “…Everybody knows that baby’s got new clothes…” he sang during the lull that came before the final chorus, then moved along to the chorus of that Dylan hit “Just Like a Woman”. “She takes just like a woman. She makes love just like a woman. And she aches just like a woman.” Marco crooned, softening his voice as each sentence ended, before getting louder when he sang, “But she breaks just like a little girl.” The crowd was roaring at that point, as they got back to their original and finished it up, before moving directly into their next number.

“This song’s about a union painter that Nino met several years ago.” Marco informed everyone, while Travis played some soft, though sad notes on his harmonica. “…I’m surrounded by others, but I’m always alone. When the paint and time comes, I jump back on the train. Spend all my green dollars just to poison my veins…” Nino sang rather somberly on “Union Painter”, which sounded like it was even a little more low-key than the album version. That’s to say it just sounded like it was more acoustic. Nino also made a little change to one of the lines, catering to where they were this night as he sang, “…I’m still searching for freedom beneath Fort Worth skies…”

Afterwards, it was time for them to bust out another new one. They might be an Americana band, with dashes of country, but above all, The Dirty River Boys are a rock band. This song was a fine example of that, and it packed a punch; while also being one of the songs that Colton used an electric bass on. Speaking of that, his playing on it was pretty slick, particularly on the chorus, as he quickly moved his hand up and down the fretboard.

“…This is what we call a Chinese fire drill.” Marco stated before leaving his post and sitting on the cajon. Travis took up the mandolin, while Colton grabbed a banjo, as Nino began to play some soaring notes. “…The louder you get, the crazier this bad boy gets!” shouted Travis as they had some fun before their next song. Marco just added a bit of drums to the start, before taking over on the upright bass for the short sing-along that is “Lookin’ for the Heart”. “But I’m just growing old with a whole deep in my soul. Won’t you give me back that heart you took from me?” sang Nino on the track that is far more upbeat than you would guess just based on the subject matter.

They reverted to their normal positions when it was done; and Marco started setting up their next song, saying on their last album they had covered a Townes Van Zandt song. “…We don’t do it too much these days…” he said, noting they had decided to this night, though. The song they covered is “Lungs”, and it’s a favorite of mine from “The Science of Flight”. They give it a real dark, ominous quality, which in turn puts a good spin on it; and while they might not play it much anymore, I’m glad they did this night.

Another new one was due now; but first Marco mentioned how lucky they were to come across Colton James and add that fine talent to the band. He [Colton] again assumed the role of lead vocalist on this one (which was one I don’t think I had heard before), though it sounded pretty good. “Take it away, Nino!” he said at one point later on in the track, as Nino ripped into a guitar solo. I have to say, acoustic guitars were not meant to sound like that. At least I’ve never heard another band make them sound the way Nino and Marco do. The guitar solo he did was amazing, and it was more electric sounding than most electric guitars are.

The audience went to clap, but had no time to, because as the final notes rang out, Nino started singing “My Son”. “I don’t know where you’re going my son. Taught you to walk, but you learned how to run.” he sang before all of his band mates joined in, again forming some incredible harmonies. “How you gonna find your way back home? The roads you knew they’re paved and gone.” Sang Nino on the first chorus, changing it slightly before sticking with the chorus from the album version the second time around, “How you gonna find your way back home? The maps you drew they’re burned and gone.”

“…The only way that you can be found is through your footsteps in the cold, dead ground.” the four guys sang, before Nino went into another brief guitar solo, which only made the song even better.

They gave a quick shout-out to their friends in Crooks for getting the party started, before firing up an instrumental piece. It was soulful and bluesy sounding, and I highly enjoyed it. I assumed it was the intro for another one of their new tracks; and they amped it up, sounding like they were about to break into whatever it was, before pulling back on it. Then the chords for “Draw” came into being; and since that was a song that was absent from their last show I caught, I was ecstatic.


It was a bit of an alternate version, and was more toned down than what their fans have to come to know from the album. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t still a great song, though. “If you’re alive, make some noise!” roared Travis during one of the breaks, as he made sure everyone was still feeling very much a part of the show/experience.

They were still far from being done, and while Colton again swapped over to his electric bass, Nino mentioned that the next song they would be doing was one that The Ranch (95.9FM) in Fort Worth had been playing, and thanked them for it.

There’s a reason why “Desert Wind” is their newest single, and one they’ve already released for public consumption (i.e. on iTUNES), and it’s made known every time they play it. “Lately, I’ve been thinking, and I just can’t seem to get you off my mind… Lovely lady, where you are. I hear your voice and I feel your scars…” he sang on the sweet and powerful track. The drumbeats are mixed in perfectly, giving the song as much kick as possible; and he got so into his drumming on this one that – for the second time this night – he knocked his hat off.

“If you know it, sing it.” Marco told the fans as he moved things right along to their next number.

“Carnival Lights” got one of loudest reactions from the fans, as well it should. It was another song they put an alternate spin on, doing a slow version of it. Actually it was pretty much just Marco until after the first chorus. “…With her poison inside medicine bottle, filled with nothing but her own shortcomings. She leans her head back; she puts ‘em down and they taste alright…” he softly sang, before Travis interrupted the pause. “Y’all still with us?!” he asked. Of course, everyone was. Marco then continued, “Please, just try to stay conscious tonight.”

Now the full band came in, just in time for the even more emotional second verse of this spectacular tune. “Billy Bob’s, this is your time to shine.” Marco told everyone before the final chorus, making the song into a genuine sing-along. It was cool moment to say the least, but they weren’t done yet.

That Dylan cover has been tacked onto this song in the past, but with it having already been done, I was wondering what, if anything, they might add to “Carnival Lights”. They did have something planned, and Colton took his cowboy hat off and hung it on the scroll of his bass for it.

“…Now I’m so happy, no sorrow in sight. Praise the Lord, I saw the light.” Marco added, which was just one of several lines they did from Han Williams’ “I Saw the Light”.

They went right into another new song; again one that was sung by Colton, before Marco took over on the next one. In between those, they chatted with their fans, though.

“Are y’all having a good time so far?” Marco asked, before saying he couldn’t stress enough what an “honor” it was to be on this stage (this was their first ever headlining show at Billy Bob’s). Then, upon finishing that song he did, he shifted the focus to their new album, which they recorded during this past December and January. “…We can’t wait to get this new music out to you all…” he said.

They only had a couple of old songs left this night, and rather surprisingly, the balled-esque “Riverbed Wildflowers” got one of the loudest reactions from fans. I mean, it should because it’s a fantastic song, even if it deals with the heartache of having feelings for someone who doesn’t feel the same. “…Well, these riverbed wildflowers are dying now; and I’m through waiting around on you…” Nino sang towards the end, before they added a little extra something to the song, repeating part of the chorus an extra time or two at the end, adding some truly lovely harmonies to it.

“This song’s about life on the road.” Marco stated, after he had again thanked everyone for making it out to the show, during which time Colton switched back to his electric bass. This song is easily the best one from their new batch of music, and even just in general. It does depict the life of touring musicians (“…Well, we work all night just to drive all day…”) and it’s more rock sounding than most of the true rock music that you hear.

They made something special with that song, and the same can be said about their next one, which Nino dedicated to the man they co-wrote it with, Ray Wylie Hubbard. “…It’s about the violence south of border.” he said, as they began to sing about how their hometown of El Paso, as well as those towns over in Mexico, have changed.

“You cross that dirty river and you never come back.” Marco sang at the end, then Colton and finally Travis, before Nino took back the reins. His band mates harmonized with him on the last line, “If you cross that dirty river then you’ll never come back.”

After one of their earlier songs (“Draw”), Marco mentioned it was just one of a few songs they had about whiskey. Well, now they got to another, which was yet another new track. “…There’s nothing like a whiskey drunk on a Friday…” he sang on the cheery tune, which will surely become a sing-along once they get their new album released.

The end was in sight now, and while Nino went over to stage left and grabbed the mandolin, Travis spoke to the crowd.

“After four and a half to five years of being a band, our van finally hit two hundred and fifty-thousand miles!” he exclaimed (a moment that was documented with the footage being posted on the bands Facebook page).

He then asked how many people had seen them before. Most everyone in attendance had, though there were still plenty of first timers. “Y’all know how we like to do it!” yelled Travis, speaking to those who were familiar with them. “…So, are y’all ready to raise some hell?!” he bellowed.

Moments after that, he got everyone to stand up. I have to say, the seats were detrimental to the energy out in the crowd. Not that everyone wasn’t enjoying the show, but you just can’t really get into the music (or at least I can’t) when you’re sitting.

With that said: once everyone rose out of their seats and began clapping, singing and stomping their feet along to “Raise Some Hell”, the mood changed immensely. In that moment every fan was one, as they were completely immersed in the song and were having the time of their lives.

That was how their 88-minute long set ended, but the celebration wasn’t done yet.

They never left the stage. Instead, Travis mentioned that they’ll celebrate fans birthdays every time they can, but there are only, at most, four chances a year that they can do shows and celebrate the birthday of one of their own. Tonight was one of those nights.

Nino Cooper was genuinely surprised when a birthday cake was brought out and handed to him, and everyone in Billy Bob’s helped in singing “Happy Birthday” to him.

“Are y’all ready to rock out another one or what?!” Travis asked after a few minutes went by.

“Crooks, we need ya.” Marco said, calling on their friends, who soon joined them on stage. Then Nino appeared, having traded his cake in for an electric guitar.

It was very appropriate for their final song, which was a cover of The Rolling Stones “Honky Tonk Woman”. I stand by what I said about their rendition of the song the last time I saw them; they do it better than The Stones; at least in comparison to the recorded version.


Think what you will of that statement, but it’s the truth, and once the song came to an end, Travis stood up from the cajon, tossed one of his drumsticks in the air, caught it and then struck right through the skin of one of his drums. Because if you’re going to end a show, you might as well end it in style, right?

This may have been their first ever headlining show at Billy Bob’s, but I don’t think it will be their last.

Okay, the place wasn’t sold out like some of the other acts that come through are capable of doing; but there were a lot of people out, and they were loving every second of the show.

Then again, how could you not? There are so many layers to The Dirty River Boys, from the harmonies, to the emotion-filled lyrics, to the awesome rock numbers, of which there are plenty.

I absolutely love this band. I may be a new fan, but they won me over from the start, and each time I see one of their shows (this was the fourth one I’ve caught), that love I feel grows.

They are, without question, one of the best bands that resides in Texas, and it’s not going to be long before the world takes notice.

They have plenty of tour dates scheduled up through July, and they can all be found HERE. That includes show in Texas, Oklahoma and even Louisiana. As far as North Texas shows go, they’ll be up in Denton on March 27th at Dan’s Silver Leaf.  They’ll be at the Iron Horse Pub in Wichita Falls on March 29th, and then April 25th will find them at the Granada Theater in Dallas. They’ll also be back in Fort Worth on July 24th.

Go see ‘em if you can, and if you can’t, check out their music in iTUNES.

It was a great night of music here in Fort Worth; and while the drive there and back were both long, The Dirty River Boys were more than worth it.

Album Review: “Sidetracked - A Soundtrack For An Imaginary Motion Picture” by Darrin Kobetich

image

Darrin Kobetich has been active in the music scene for awhile; a few decades to be exact.

While he’s always been a solo instrumentalist; much of his time in real bands was spent playing hard rock and thrash metal music.

However, in more recent years his focus has shifted back to his solo material; and he’s gotten truly creative with it.

His most recent album is “Sidetracked - A Soundtrack For An Imaginary Motion Picture”, which plays out exactly like the title suggests; as if it’s an accompanying soundtrack for a film. A film that doesn’t even exist.

The nearly eight and a half minute long track “The Order Within Chaos” starts you on this journey. It’s a semi-ambient sounding track; gradually intensifying the deeper you get into it, though there’s a certain level of serenity maintained throughout it. Some subtle yet thunderous percussion can also be heard in the latter half of the track; reminiscent of war drums from far off in the distance, before they die completely as the song recedes into “When the Rain Finally Came”.

A full-blown feeling of calmness washes over you while listening to the song, which is complete with the soothing sounds of raindrops mixed in, in the background. The tranquil guitar chords only accentuate the mood the song sets. It gets traded in for a banjo on the short “Banjer in the Bayou”. And while you would think that track would sound completely out of place given the previous songs; it doesn’t. In fact they go together quite well, and the transition into it is rather fluid.

The vast array of sounds continues with the low-key “Creeper”. It’s another song that’s worthy of the title it was given; and while it’s far from being ominous, it does just creep along, winding itself to an interesting end; an end that features good use of a theremin, which gives it a cool sci-fi like vibe.

Those first few songs manage to work together in ways you wouldn’t think possible until you actually hear it for yourself. However, they are but the calm before the storm.

With the acoustic intro, you might be thinking that “Giant Behemoth” isn’t going to live up to its name. Then you hear the shrill feedback, and Darrin brings forth the thrash metal sound of his earlier bands.  It’s as heavy as the album gets, with some mighty drumbeats joining the roaring and intense guitar lines. Then, it suddenly dies out: the song ending about as calmly as it began.

“Winging It” brings things into a more rock pace, still using the drums from the previous song. Gradually though, those are pulled back; setting the album up for a completely different sound.

“Counter Cultural Tribal Dance Theme” and “Percussion Concussion” go together perfectly. The former incorporates a nice use of some type of woodwind instrument at various moments, and it executes the tribal sound excellently. In fact, there’s some Indian flare to it; and while I’ve never watched a Bollywood film, it sounds like something that would fit in one of those style movies.

The latter of the two is more toned down, yet still aggressive and possess a certain hypnotic quality to it. That’s actually appropriate, seeing as “A Trance Harp Beach Party” is utterly mesmerizing. It may be somewhat simplistic in some regards, but it’s great.

The remaining five tracks on the album all play out as another segment of the story; a story that has reached the climax at this point and is now headed for the resolve.

“The Gift That Came Here” starts the still lengthy journey to the records close; and as uplifting as it is, you can’t help but feel good and know that the most tumultuous times (“The Giant Behemoth”) are far behind.

“An Air of Pall” takes that mellow mood to new heights, while “The August Moon” continues it; at least until a sharp rise pierces the tranquility. It’s by no means on the scale of previous songs and instead serves to show that there’s still some surprises to come on this album.

“In the Misty Forest On the Edge of Time” is more of an interlude than anything, and the 48-second track gives way to “The Man Who Came From Wales”, which is the ideal last song for this record. It oozes joy, creating one of those picture perfect endings in your head before the credits proceed to scroll by.

For those who frequent my blog at all, then you probably know I often mention that I’m not a fan of instrumental music. Yet that’s all “Sidetracked…” is.

I liked it the first listen through, and I must confess; subsequent listens made me downright love it.

This isn’t just instrumental music, though. It’s more like a composition and it plays out in an epic fashion.

It’s even more remarkable that just one person was able to put all this together, doing all the instruments – and of course, everything else - entirely on his own.

It was a big undertaking, no doubt; but in the end, it all came together perfectly. You can tell Darrin has a lot of natural talent as a musician, and that talent seeps out of the speakers, clearly noticeable.

In the end, “Sidetracked…” is an impressive piece of work, and even without any lyrics whatsoever, it still manages to make more of a connection with the listener than a lot of records these days do.

Purchase the album on:
iTUNES / Bandcamp / CDBaby

Visit Darrin Kobetichs’ websites: Official Website / Facebook / Reverbnation

image

(Photo credit: Scott Carson Ausburn)


Monday, December 30th, 2013 – The Toadies Close Out 2013 Right

A little over a year prior to this, the Toadies graced the stage of a venue you wouldn’t expect them to; Billy Bob’s Texas.

Billy Bob’s is one of those venues that’s known all over, primarily because they hold the title of the “world’s largest honky tonk”. Of course that means country bands are the main acts that play there, but the Toadies brought out the people in October of 2012, so much so that Billy Bob’s decided to have them back.

And with 2013 coming to a close, there could be no better final concert to see for the year than this iconic Fort Worth group, as they ended their sixth year together since the band’s resurrection.

Eleven Hundred Springs was opening up the show for them, which was a bit of an odd mix, given that they are a Texas Country band. The people who were there early enough to catch them though, seemed pretty receptive to their music, which does have some tinges of rock thrown in.

And for those wondering how EHS got put on as the opener, some of the band members from them and the Toadies go back a few decades. Also, they were the band Mark Reznicek started drumming for after the Toadies broke up in 2001.

I didn’t get there until a little later, missing the first half or so of Eleven Hundred Springs set, walking in right as they were doing a favorite of mine, “Great American Trainwreck”. “I’m just another boxcar in the great American trainwreck. You can’t take your eyes off of the way I crash and burn…” singer and guitarist Matt Hillyer sang on the chorus of that short, but strong song, which everyone seemed to enjoy.

They kept things rolling with another tune, probably one of the many covers they throw into the mix, before doing a classic from the “Bandwagon” album, “Why You Been Gone So Long?”. You could tell the difference from the usual EHS show where their fans are out in full-force, since they typically get a sing-along going on the chorus, “…Wolf’s are scratching at my door, don’t you hear that lonesome wind blow? Tell me baby, why you been gone so long?” That didn’t happen this night, but it didn’t make the song any less great, either.

They busted out another cover afterwards, this one being the classic, “T for Texas”, which had an electrifying fiddle solo thanks to Jordan Hendrix, who can really rock out on that instrument when he wants to, and that wouldn’t be the only moment he got to shine this night. Another original came next, with the fun, “Seven Days”, before doing a partial cover of The Allmen Brothers’ “Midnight Rider”. Bassist Steve Berg, drummer Arjuna Contreras, Jordan and pedal steel guitarist Joe Butcher kept the music going while Matt addressed the audience.

“We’re really glad to be here tonight. Actually, we’re really glad to be anywhere these days. Every day’s a blessing, and don’t you ever forget it…” he said, speaking at lightning pace, rivaling an auctioneer. He went on, noting that this next song went out to “the freaks”, listing some of the different kinds, like the weekend warriors, saying something along the lines of how they go out and party for almost two days straight, but still manage to function. The core message was that really, everyone’s a freak in some way. “…It don’t matter if you’re man or woman, black or white, it don’t make no difference. We’re all the same…” Matt added. That’s the usual lead in for what may well be the most popular song they’ve written, “Long Haired, Tattooed, Hippie Freaks”, which reinforces the idea that you should never judge a book by its cover.

It had barely come to an end when Arjuna hastily beat on one of the cymbals, counting them in to what was a true fiddle solo, with the rest of the band adding some background music while Jordan worked his magic. That lasted a good couple of minutes, after which Matt pointed out they had only a couple songs left before getting out of the way for the Toadies.

The last couple of times I’ve seen them (earlier this year and the summer of 2012), they hadn’t played my favorite song of theirs. I’m not really complaining about that, because with all the material they have, that’s what allows them to keep their shows fresh, switching things up. But considering they typically play an hour and a half or so, and this show being considerably shorter, I sure wasn’t expecting “See You in The Next Life”. And then Matt started crooning the song. “You asked me if I wanted my jacket back, you know, it looks better on you. I said, ‘What about your favorite shirt?’, you said I could keep that, too. I said I’ll see you next time, but baby I don’t know when. I can’t help but feel like crying. It’ll never be the same again…”

Lyrically speaking, it’s an absolutely gorgeous song about a love that just didn’t work out, despite wanting it to. “…I could tear all of my hair out, trying to think of things to say. When all I really want to know is how the hell it’d end up this way?” Matt continued, shouting out that final mentioned line as they hit the chorus strong, amping it up from how it is on the recording.

I have to say, it was great hearing that one, and after taking that more serious turn, it was time for them to end on a lighter and fun note. “This song’s called Raise Hell, Drink Beer.” Matt informed everyone, saying he figured some of that would be going on later once the Toadies took the stage.

As it usually is, it was a fun one to end with, and even though I only got a portion of this already abbreviated set, they put on one helluva show.

They’ve been together long enough they mastered the live show, and know how to entertain the people watching them, whether you’re a real fan of their music or not.

They have songs that can make you laugh, they have songs that may make you cry, and they have some that can make you think. All of that makes it easy to see why they are one of the best original country bands in Texas, and they do tour all over the state, often at that.

The next shows they have lined up are for February at the Golden Light in Amarillo, the 8th at Bash Rip Rocks in Lubbock and the 21st at the Broken Spoke in Austin. March will see them playing at Love and War in Texas in Plano on the 2nd, then back to the Broken Spoke in Austin on the 21st. March 22nd will find them at Gruene Hall in New Braunfels, before they play the Grapevine location of Love and War on the 28th.They already have shows booked through next July, and will no doubt be adding more that in the coming months, and for their full schedule go HERE. You can also check out their vast collection of record in iTUNES, and “Bandwagon”, which is arguably their best record, is only $5.99. That’s a steal.

I thought the turnout may be light this night, considering it was a Monday, and also assuming that some people may be out of town. None of those were major factors, though, as droves of fans packed in tightly next to one another, and everyone was so excited even the roadies sound checking the instruments and placing the setlists on stage was applauded.

It paled in comparison to the deafening roar the fans let out once Vaden Todd Lewis, Doni Blair, Mark Reznicek and Clark Vogeler made their way on stage, though.

“How we feeling tonight?” Vaden asked the audience, while he and the rest of the band got situated. There was then an awkward silence as they readied their first song. As it turned out, the spirit of change from this year’s Dia de los Toadies festival was still in the air. Not quite to the extent that it had been back in September, but there were still some surprises and deeper cuts.

“I guess I left myself wide open. I guess I earned that weight…” Vaden suddenly started singing while strumming his guitar in short bursts, getting “Push the Hand” underway. It was an unexpected start to their 73-minute long set, but seeing as it’s usually the second song they do in their shows, it still seemed right at home here at the start. It was also a slightly rough start, though, with Vaden flubbing the second verse, starting it with the second half, “It’s been a long time, a long time coming back…” He rode it out, then repeated the lines at the correct time, though you could tell there was a bit of self-loathing for messing that up.

That wasn’t given much after thought, and if anyone in the audience was upset about it, Clark’s seamless transition into “Happy Face” more than made up for it. After all these years, it’s still those songs from “Rubberneck” that really get the crowd going, and in usual fashion the band played almost everything from their major label debut, including following it up with one of the biggest fan favorites.

They really employed use of the segue this night, a quality I quite liked, instantly launching into “I Come from the Water”, which prompted dozens of fans to start jumping about with glee. “Sing it!” Vaden said to everyone as they hit the chorus, stepping back from the microphone, while the audience proceeded to shout the words at the top of their lungs. During the second verse Vaden raised his left fist in the air while singing, making a few different gestures and movements with his hand, something he had done during the previous song and occasionally did throughout the night, and while subtle, it added some nice elements to the show.

They weren’t about to let up yet, and Vaden and Clark got some noisy feedback going, before Clark laid into his whammy bar. Eventually Mark, who, even for him, was in rare form this night, started viciously pounding away on his kit, as they went old school with a song off the “Pleather” EP; “Got a Heart”. It may be relatively rare to hear it live, but man, that song is the Toadies in their purest form, and this night was unquestionably one of the best songs they did. They weren’t ready to break just yet, though, and Mark quickly set up the thunderous beat that is the backbone of “Hell In High Water”. Clark knocked out his little guitar solos during the instrumental break near the end, doing a couple of strong notes, before Vaden held up one finger, signaling for one more, which was the loudest of the three.

It was already clear this was going to be a great show, but hearing that one so early on cinched it, and I, for one, was excited to see how the rest of the show was going to play out.

“Are we having fun yet?” Vaden asked their adoring fans, bantering with them a bit before they started “Animals”, the first of a handful of songs from last year’s “Play.Rock.Music.” album. “Tomorrow the sun will rise and I’ll see it with sober eyes. But all I really want tonight is you…” goes the first line of the song, whose music bed is accurately reflective of the raw, primal lyrics, which even has a slight degree of sophistication to it (that’s to say it’s a little different than your average songs about sex). The quartet bled the final notes from that tune into their next one, “Mister Love”, which got nearly everyone all riled up again. Vaden held his guitar straight in the air, still playing as he sang into the bullet mic, “…Love, love, love…” before laughing that callous laugh that makes the song.

The crowd clapped and clapped for them, and once it died down enough they moved on to the next track, which came as a pleasant surprise to me. “Little Sin” has been noticeably absent from the two Toadies show I saw earlier in the year. In fact, the last time I probably heard them do it was on this very stage in October of 2012, and now here they were, dusting it off. The live environment is where that song is at its best, with the little tweaks they add to it. Like the longer pauses Vaden takes on each chorus, letting silence fall before singing, “Little sin.”, as well as the “false” ending they give it, stopping, making it seem like they’re cutting it short, before breaking back into it and jamming the outro.


The bullet microphone got put to use again on “No Deliverance”, giving the song the eerie quality it has, and after that Vaden spoke to the fans, setting up their next song. “The Toadies don’t do a lot of love songs…” he stated, adding something about murder, which caused everyone’s mind to be on the same page, thinking they were going to play their biggest single. Instead, they had something different in mind. “…You know, if you want to cut them up in little pieces and keep them around your apartment.” Vaden finished, leaving fans scratching their heads as to what it might be. It wound up being a deep cut from “Hell Below / Stars Above”, “Jigsaw Girl”, and a large amount of people seemed glad to hear it. The only other possible mistake I caught this night came at the bridge of that song. “Laid on my bed, your beautifulness.” Vaden crooned, following it with “Jigsaw girl, my whole world.” It was that latter part he switched around, but it was impossible to tell if it was because he got ahead of himself, or if maybe it was intentional. Either way, it worked.

Having been awhile since the last “Rubberneck” song had been played, they rocked out “Backslider”, and afterwards had one final true surprise for everyone. Excluding their acoustic-ish show at 2012’s Dia de los Toadies, it had been a while since I had heard the lovely “Doll Skin”, which is just the right mix of prettiness and rock.

Once it ended, they chatted some more with the fans, as Vaden asked everyone if they had, had a good holiday. “…Or still having a good holiday.” he corrected himself. He soon announced the name of the next song they would be doing, “Summer of the Strange”. Doni laid down his sweet, dominating bass lines that kick off the song, then swapped to another bass once the song was finished. While that was going on, Vaden took a swig of his beer before starting one of the few other sexually charged songs they have, “Sweetness”. “Cut right down to the soul, to the center of you. I found me a home for the sinner in me…” is one of the many great lines that intoxicating song has to offer, and as it ended, Mark downright killed it on the drums.

“How many first timers do we have?” Vaden asked the throng of fans, causing a surprising amount of hands to go into the air and roars of, “Yeah!”, to be shouted, as people made it known this was their first live Toadies experience. “How many repeat offenders?” Vaden then asked, which of course the majority of the people were. “I like that ratio…” he remarked, before they broke into the song that put them on the map, “Possum Kingdom”. Personally, I think it’s funny in some ways that, that’s still the song everyone clamors for, given that some of their fan base were only a few years old, or had even barely been born when that song hit it big on the radio airwaves. On the other hand, it shows the true power a song can have, and how music really does transcend the generations.

Mark rolled them right into another song off their newest release, the lusty, dark and rhythm heavy “Sunshine”. The crowd was then put in another state of euphoria upon hearing the first notes of “Quitter”, which concluded the main portion of the show.

Demands for an encore started immediately, though the four musicians took their time in returning to the stage, no doubt taking a short breather before the final 19-minutes of their set. “…This one’s a bit of an ass shaker…” Vaden informed the crowd before they struck with “Rattler’s Revival”.

The remainder of the encore was all about “Rubberneck”, and for the first time ever, I heard “Away” done as an encore. I have to say, as much as I like it thrown somewhere into the main set, it worked quite well here, and the fans seemed even more excited about hearing it than usually. “Can you believe next year will be the twentieth anniversary of Rubberneck?” Vaden reflected when the song was over. He also let some interesting news slip; that they will be re-releasing the album, completely remixed and re-mastered. And it was that tidbit of info that caused every Toadies fan to salivate a bit.

The next song featured Arjuna Contreras of Eleven Hundred Springs helping them out with some additional percussion, and as the snare and floor tom were being brought on stage, Doni, Clark, Mark and Vaden had some fun, playing a few seconds of different cover songs, including “Crazy Train”. They made it seem like they might actually play one, and when it didn’t happen they actually got booed, something they all laughed at. No one could actually stay mad at them, though, and that all evaporated as they started “I Burn”. “This song’s about marijuana. Trust me… No, it really isn’t.” said Vaden before the song. It featured some more crowd participation, as the fans were charged with shouting, “We got stupid!”, at which point Arjuna had made his way on stage, and, acting like he had done it dozens of times, violently beat on his partial kit, in synch with Mark.


“We’re gonna leave y’all with this one.” Vaden told the fans, the job of ending the night falling, as it typically does, to “Tyler”, which leaves everyone with a sort of high.

I feel like I’ve said this a lot the last few times I’ve seen the Toadies, but out of the little over a dozen shows of theirs I’ve seen, this was one of the best ones.

Even having not done a show in a few months they were still in excellent show shape, with the kind of chemistry you can only have after spending years together and touring extensively.

It was fitting that they end the year in their hometown, something Clark brought up at one point during the night, when he noted how good it was to not only be in Fort Worth, but also at Billy Bob’s.

And for me personally, I really couldn’t have thought of a better final concert to see for the year.

They’ve already announced a ton of tour dates, beginning on March 19th, for their tour in support of the re-release of “Rubberneck”, and they promising to play the entire album at these shows. Their full schedule can be seen HERE, and more dates will be added in the coming weeks.

“Rubberneck” will officially be re-released on April 1st, and will include some bonus songs not found on the original version. And until then, if for some reason you don’t have any Toadies music, find it in iTUNES.

Saturday, September 14th, 2013 – Dia De Los Toadies Seis

It took six years, but the Toadies finally brought their roving music festival known as Dia de los Toadies to their hometown of Fort Worth.

Actually, with the festival having been stationed in New Braunfels for the last three consecutive years, it was easy to forget the festival was meant to roam about the Lone Star State in the first place.

I must admit, it felt a little strange to me, though, being only the third time I attended the festival it was also the first time I (or rather my dad and I) didn’t have to trek south to Central Texas for the event. Instead, it was just a short(er) little jaunt over to Fort Worth and the Panther Island Pavilion, which was the spot for this year’s event.

It wasn’t a little slice of heaven like the setting of the past few years, but it was a nice space. Still, it could benefit from some shade trees, and while it was fairly removed from Downtown, leaving the attendees unable to see or hear any traffic or anything, the buildings of downtown Fort Worth still served as a reminder that you were in the city.

Being in North Texas this year, the lineup drew almost exclusively from the areas talent, and getting the day long festival going was some students at the School of Rock, but not just any students, they were students from the dean’s list.

Their nearly 30-minute long set consisted entirely of covers, including some Fleetwood Mac and Janis Joplin, among others.

The group consisted of a large collection of musicians, who often played musical chairs, with five of them beginning with an instrumental piece, before a girl who looked like she was perhaps ten joined them on stage for their first song with lyrics, and surprised me by having a more powerful voice then I was expecting.

It was a good glimpse of what could perhaps be a future crop of local area musicians, and while all of them were already good at their craft, there were two that really got my eye. One was the first bass player who was on stage with them, and played most of the set. He killed it, having an awesome style of playing while slapping the bass. The other was one of the other vocalists, and before their final song, an instructor or someone with the School of Rock walked up to the mic, informing everyone that Zoe (the singer) would soon be graduating from the school after something like four years, and this would be her last time performing as a student.

She had a wicked voice, often conjuring more of a sharp growl, and as a front women had a great presence, getting into the music and moving accordingly to it, and just had an aura about her that ensured they had your undivided attention.

Kudos to the School of Rock for doing what they do, and to all the kids for putting complete dedication into their set and best of luck to them as they continue to improve.

Over on the smaller stage, the Play.Rock.Music. stage (of course named after the Toadies most recent release) was the Fort Worth based, The Cush.

Their 28-minute long set featured a hefty bit of new material from the album they are currently working on, and I believe their opening song was one from it. They did throw some more rock stuff into their performance to better fit with all the other acts, however this song was a little softer, and featured some truly gorgeous harmonies and textures from the husband and wife duo of Burette and Gabrielle Douglas, the former playing a guitar, while she rocked the bass.

She did most of the singing on it, and afterwards they did another new one, which if I heard correctly was titled “Orange Like Water”. Afterwards, drummer Todd Harwell led them into a song from 2010’s “Between the Leaves” with a mighty drum roll, launching them into the explosive “I Shout Love at the Heart of the Atom”. They might be more of a low-key outfit that does more indie like songs, but that doesn’t mean they can’t throw down when they need to, and that song served as a prime example of that, and really allowed guitarist Josh Daugherty to cut loose.

“This song’s called The Drone.” Burette said to the small crowd of onlookers, before they did the more soupy, dreamy sounding song which was drenched with some sounds courtesy of a synthesizer. They were almost done, now, doing two more newer ones, and “Cover Your Eyes” kicked things back up into high gear. It was easily the most intense thing they played this afternoon, and Todd knocked out some strong beats on the song’s outro, which all but belonged to him, before they did their closing track.

In fairness, I haven’t see The Cush much, with this being only the third time I’d caught them, but they grow on me each time around.

In fact, Gabrielles’ voice sounded better than I’ve ever heard before, being absolutely beautiful. Part of may have also had to do with the new songs, which I found to be some of their best stuff to date, particularly the more rock oriented songs. They pull of both styles exceedingly well, though, and the duel vocalists adds an interesting component to their whole dynamic.

Check out their records in iTUNES, and stay tuned to their FACEBOOK PAGE for future show updates and news about their forthcoming record.

Back over on the main stage (which was the Panther Island Pavilion stage I should add) a newer Dallas group was getting ready to perform, and that was These Machines are Winning.

The band has earned praise since their debut, and especially after releasing their first record earlier in the year, but I had yet to see them, and in fact, had never even listened to their music, so I was clueless on what to expect.

However, I did not expect to see three guys (they did not have a drummer by the way) dressed in solid black, which included hoodies, and yes, they did have the hood drawn over their heads. Probably one of the crazier things I’ve seen a band do in in heat that was pushing 100 degrees, but that also earns them some serious props for sticking with their signature look regardless of how hot it was.

“It’s Been So Long” kicked off their set, and I was a bit surprised to find out how electronic based their music was, with the percussion also being thrown in on the sample tracks. I don’t mean that as a bad things in any way, it just wasn’t quite what I was expecting. It was a striking sound right from the start, and I mean that about just the tracks themselves, let alone with the slick guitar parts that lead guitarist Dave Christensen and singer and guitarist Dylan Silvers, were adding on, as well as the rhythmic bass lines Hightower was cranking out. It completely enveloped me, and they had me mesmerized throughout the duration of their 26-minute set.

With a little bit of feedback they brought it right into the following song from “Defender 1”, “Get a Little Closer”, which was eventually bridged into “Brains Inside Our Head”. Dylan ditched his guitar for “Just One More (Monolith)”, taking up more of a front man role and proving he was just as comfortable on stage without a guitar as he was playing it, walking around a bit while delivering the lyrics. “This song’s called Beat S.” he announced after placing his guitar back around him. “…You’ve been looking at me like I was somebody else. You’ve been looking at me like I could fix this whole god damn mess…” he sang on the second verse of the song which somewhat breaks the mold of traditional songwriting by lacking a true chorus, something it really doesn’t need.

Upon finishing it, Dylan then named their next song, “Fornication”, which I thought was probably their most rocking number, even though it still had a real electronic element to it. It eventually gave way to “You Have Been Talking to a Ghost”, as they continued to power through their set as quick as they could to fit everything in, and once it was done they took a pause. Dylan spoke more to the ever growing crowd, rather than thank the people for coming out and the Toadies for having as he had done at other points in their set. “It’s fucking hot. It’s gonna cool down. It’s gonna rain.” he said.

The first part of that was very true, but sadly the other two sentences never did happen this day. With that said, the trio tackled their final song of the day, “If This City Won’t Sleep”, capping things off nicely.

Sometimes, when it comes to electronic samplings, I think they can sound fairly cold and sterile, but that was far from the case with These Machines are Winning. It was very vibrant, and while I’d hesitate to say they are breaking new ground, their music is highly original and very different from most of the stuff currently out there.

It is very creative music, and the synth sounds work in perfect combination with the rock flare Dylan, Dave and Hightower bring with their live instruments.

Since seeing them, I’ve listened to “Defender 1” a few times, and the songs do translate well on the record, and they do pull them off live exactly how you hear them, though it is the live show where things are really at for them. They put on a pretty energetic show, as well as a fun one, and one I hope to see again soon.

To keep up to date on their shows, just stay tuned to their FACEBOOK PAGE, and do be sure to preview and even buy “Defender 1” in iTUNES.

Over on the other stage, an old iconic Denton band was about to be doing one of their occasional reunion shows.

That band was Baboon, who was part of the “Fraternity of Noise” (a title that was collectively given to three bands back in the early 90’s), and while that may have been well before my time, I was still somewhat familiar with Baboon, and have been for a little while now. (side note: this was the second year that Dia de los Toadies has featured one of the bands from the “Fraternity of Noise”.)

Baboon has been in business for over two decades now, and semi-retired would probably be the best word to use for them. They’ve never actually hung it up and called it quits, though their reunion shows are few and far between, and because of that they had quite the audience.

They traversed much of their lengthy career, at least as much as they could, the fiery “Rise” was how they began things. It definitely piqued my interest as they jumped into action, and each member of this quintet was pretty spry, and certainly didn’t let their age show on them.

“Lush Life” wasn’t quite as aggressive as that first track, but still packed a good punch, and they quickly followed it with “Breaking Glass”, which I thought had some sweet guitar lines, which in turn made it a catchy little tune. Before the next song, vocalist Andrew Huffstetler noted they were doing it because it was a request, pointing out that is something they don’t always take. They named the evidently longtime fans, who I assume were in a relationship of some type, since they said the guy had requested it for the lady, and fittingly so, because “Nation of Twos” was somewhat of a tender love song.

The mood changed when they fired up “I’m Okay if You’re Okay”, which I found to be the most interesting song of their set. There was an eerie atmosphere to it at times, with some haunting riffs from guitarists Mike Rudnicki and James Henderson, while Andrew forced his voice into a falsetto tone, letting loose a violent scream shortly after, while the rhythm section of drummer Steven Barnett and bassist Bart Rogers was off the wall. At times, parts of the song seemed so opposite one another it was almost contradictory, yet it worked.

With some beats on his kit, Steven wound them into “Dracula Eyes”, which wound up being one of my favorite songs they did. It may not have been an all-out onslaught of rock like some of their other material, but it was an all around brilliant song. They continued busting out the classics with “Closer”, then eased into “California Dreaming” with some light guitar chords, at least until the song took off. By the time it was done, they only had one song left, and it was “Evil”.

It was a great 32-minute set in my opinion, but for the longtime fans, it evidently was not long enough, with the chants for an encore starting no sooner had the final notes been played, making them the only band (aside from the Toadies) to get demands for an encore. It was a request Baboon really seemed to want to grant, but with the time constraints of the festival, they were unable to do so.

Obviously, I can’t attest to what a Baboon show was like back in the day, but from the looks of it this afternoon, I’m going to guess that they haven’t lost much of their edge.

In terms of a high-strung, energetic show, Baboon was the best there was on the festival, constantly moving about, and in Andrew’s case even jumping, proving they could run circles around the fresher bands they were sharing the stages with.

There were times when Andrews’ voice would crack a little, but that was only on some of the high notes he hit, and that’s the only compliant I can make about their show.

In regards to their music, I think it has withstood the tests of time, still sounding creative and fresh compared to any rock you’d hear now days, probably because they just don’t make rock bands like Baboon anymore (at least not in mainstream rock).

Who knows when these guys will be pulling out the drums, guitars, bass and microphone again, but whenever they do, I’ll definitely try to be there to witness another show.

Back over on the main stage, another trio was ready to go, and the rock continued with Oil Boom.

The band is readying a brand new record, and they squeezed in several songs from it, but also threw in some current and older stuff, like “45 Revolutions Per Minute”, a smart, fun little tune that was completely consuming. Dugan Connors kept the drum beats going, bringing them into one of those songs from their upcoming record, and it was followed by another.

Once it was done, bassist Steve Steward made a reference about how big the stage was, and it wasn’t your typical reference. “Remember that part in the Batman movie, where Batman, or Bruce Wayne and Vicki Vale are in the dining hall on opposite sides…” he said, speaking of the 1989 Batman film. “That’s what I feel like…” he said, then added, “Ryan’s Vicki Vale, obviously.” talking about his band mate, singer and guitarist Ryan Taylor.

That made for a great laugh, and served to only make them more entertaining than they already were, before they continued on with two more songs, tied together nicely with a little bit of guitar feedback. “…Here’s one you all will know, maybe.” Ryan said to the crowd. It was one from last year’s “Gold Yeller” EP, and though I didn’t know it, I quickly became a fan of “The Great American Shakedown”. “Shaking down, shaking down, shaking down, you know I’m all shook down…” Ryan sang on the chorus, the unique tone his voice has making the song all the more irresistible.

The next song they did featured a stellar guitar solo from Ryan, and while it was the most prominent instrument at the time, Steven and Dugan held it up with a tight rhythm section, then after one more new song, they reached the final song of their 37-minute long set. It was one off their first record, and even though “Bite Your Tongue” was older and had been written with the bands original singer, it still came across as a staple of their set, and was one of the highlights.

Having heard of Oil Boom for a few years prior to this, it was good to finally see them live. In fact, I had listened to their music a few years back (around the time of their first album, so circa 2011), and wasn’t really drawn in by their music, but damn, their stuff this day sure got me hook, line and sinker.

A lot of that has to do with Ryan, who, just in comparing their two EP’s, is a much better singer, in my opinion, giving their sound a whole a new style. And speaking of their sound, it is rock first and foremost, but there’s some underlying blues and soul qualities to it, some of their songs even having a revamped 50’s to 60’s era sound to it.

Now that I have seen Oil Boom, I’m wondering why it took me so long to do so, and I’ll have to make it a point to see them a little more often when I can.

They’re keeping busy, with a show in Austin on September 28th as part of the Pecan Festival. On October 4th they’ll be in Houston at the Continental Club, then Sundown at Granada in Dallas on the 5th. The 12th will see them in Fort Worth at the Flying Saucer for Beerfest, and the following weekend they’ll be back in Cow Town for Lolaspalooza at Lola’s Saloon on the 19th. On the 25th they’ll be at the Blue Note in Oklahoma City, with a Tulsa gig on the 26th at the Mercury Lounge. Lastly, on November 9th they’ll be back in Dallas at the Granada Theater, opening for Johnny Marr of The Smiths. As for their music, you can of course pick up their EP’s and some singles in iTUNES.

The pace of the day was about to take a drastic change over on the Play.Rock.Music stage, though not everyone (myself included) knew just what they were about to experience.

This San Antonio based quartet known as Piñata Protest was on their way out to California to start a tour with Guttermouth, but they were stopping here first to give the Dia attendees a taste of their self-described (according to their Facebook page) “Mojado punk” brand of music.

I was expecting the punk part, though, especially not after seeing singer Alvaro Del Norte wielding an accordion. Not the most punk rock sounding instrument, at least you wouldn’t think it would be.

The outfit recently released their new record, “El Valiente”, and they opened with the first full song on it, “Vato Perron”. It quickly became apparent they’ve carved out their own little niche for themselves, the accordion adding a real Mexican flare to their music. Actually, all of the instruments did, from the notes Matt Cazares played on his guitar, to the rapid fire beats drummer JJ Martinez was cranking out, working in perfect tune with Marcus Cazazres’s bass lines.

It was all fast paced like punk music, is though, and they lowed through their 34-minute long set, going almost straight into another number. That new album of theirs wasn’t the only source of music for them, and actually, they seemed to draw equally from it and their first release, “Plethora”, running through the short “Jackeee”, before doing the title track of album two, “El Valiente”.

They were both throwing down and making for a very fun live show, but it was about to get a little more hardcore. Alvaro took off the accordion he was using. “Are there any punk rockers out here?!” he asked, saying he meant real, true punk rock fans, not pretenders. Some of the onlookers roared back at him to signify there were. “…Prove it.” he said, “Start a fucking circle pit…” he commanded. As for the song, I don’t know exactly what it was, but I’m leaning towards “Que Pedo”. Regardless, once they tore into it, a mosh pit erupted, lasting the whole not even complete minute the song did. Actually, some of the people looked confused, surprised the song was already over, but hey, that’s a true punk rock song right there. Short, intense and to the point.

After another tune, they did an Irish song for everybody. At least that’s what Alvaro told the spectators. “…This is an Irish drinking song for all you Irish motherfuckers.” he laughed. I believe it was “Life on the Border”, and upon finishing it, they geared up for their next song by getting the audience to clap along. Alvaro asked for everyone to get their arms higher in the air, making a wisecrack once they were fully stretched upwards. “Oh, I can smell your armpits from here.” He said, waving his hand about as if he were trying to waft the smell away.

That song was “Guadalupe”, which was relatively tame by the standard Piñata Protest had so quickly set, before rolling it into “Suckcess”, kicking things back up. The full-blown punk rock side they are capable off showed itself again with their next song, another pit forming, as a handful of people slammed against one another for the duration of another song that was unknown to me.

By now it seemed like their time should be running out, but with very few songs that are even three minutes long, they kept powering on with “Volver, Volver”, which JJ wound into “Rocket”, Marcus banging his head about to the drum beats of that partially instrumental song.

A very catchy song was “Tomorrow, Today”, and once they finished it, it was time to put their spin on a couple of traditional songs. “…This song’s about a little cockroach, who likes to smoke weed…” Alvaro said to the crowd, who both laughed and cheered at that, before he went on to dedicate it to all the “officers in uniform” for keeping everyone safe this day. I promise you, you have never heard “La Cucaracha” sound like the way these guys did it, putting a very punk twist on it, even complete with a trumpet. They then wrapped up their set with Alvaro said was another traditional song, “Cantina”, another one they no doubt made much more punk sounding than it originally is.

Piñata Protest was easily the most original sounding band of the festival (and that could actually be extended to most original band I’ve ever heard in general), and they also stuck out as being one of the highlight acts of the day.

Fun and aggressive is an interesting mix, especially in the way they mixed it, but that was made them so enjoyable. It was something fun that you could cut loose and have a good time listening to, though also doubled as a fierce and tight rock show.

These guys pull off their unique style incredibly well, and their live show is one to behold, because they won’t disappoint. There’s also a good chance they might be near you on this tour they are a part of. For all their dates, click HERE, and they will be on the road through mid-October. Also, do your ears a favor and give them a taste of something different by checking out their records in iTUNES.

Back on the main stage, it was time for another drastic shift in music (compared to the band that had just finished), and everyone was about to get countrified by the duo, The O’s.

“Thunderdog”, the band’s latest LP, was the main source of their music this day, but they also drew from “Between the Two” a little bit, like with their opener, “We’ll Go Walkin’”. “Every morning, when we wake up, I brew up some lovin’ and pour you a cup…” sang John Pedigo at the second verse of that sweet love song. That overwhelmingly happy song transfers its emotions well onto the listeners, making it impossible to be in a bad mood.

“…This song’s called Dallas.” said acoustic guitars and other vocalist Taylor Young, who also adds the percussion by stomping on a pedal to hit the bass drum that sat at his feet. That tune was the only bumpy part of their set, as I had trouble hearing Taylors’ voice, and even John’s as he harmonized with him. Whatever the issue was, it resolved near the end of it, which was just in time for them to do the lead track from “Thunderdog”, “Outlaw”. It’s perfect proof that this new record features their best collection of songs yet, and this song’s at the top of the list. “…We’ve all got the right to fix things that we don’t like… Revolt, reshape and reload…” the two sing on the chorus, which I think sends the message that if you want something to change, you can and need to be the one to make it happen.

“Found the One” continued their show, and they shared a little bit of the banter they usually make, something Taylor mentioned earlier when he apologized, “…We’re trying not to talk as much today as usual…” Here, they pointed out the producer of their recent record. “…You look hot…” Taylor told, before pointing out he meant in hot in the sense of the temperature. John then chimed in, saying something to the effect that he thought his band mate meant the physical sense, because he was looking pretty good.

They then started a real gem from the new album, “Rearranged”, which was also a very captivating moment of this performance. “Well Taylor, it looks like wearing black wasn’t a good idea after all…” John said to his band mate, as they began to talk about some of the other bands, like These Machines are Winning and their outfits, while saying Baboon probably had the smartest idea by dressing in all white. “…That joke never gets old.” Taylor stated, giving the impression they used that before, which only made the joke that much finnier. They then stepped it up with the only song they have that is borderline rock, and that is “Kitty”, which sees John shredding on his banjo at the end.

There was a long build up to their next song, John doing a lengthy harmonica solo before the two started the music bed of “In Numbers We Survive”, which they segued nicely into “Pushin’ Along”, which required John to use his pedal steel guitar. It then came time to end their 42-minute long set, and what better way to conclude it than with “Everything’s Alright”.

I believe I said this the last time I saw The O’s, and I’ll say it again, they’re growing on me each time I see them. This was definitely the best show I’ve seen them do, even topping the festival I saw them play back in May, mainly because they were able to squeeze some additional songs into this one.

If you’re looking for great, quality country music, then they’re a group to check out. Both John and Taylor are fantastic singers with their own unique sounding voices that can add different tones to their music, and they can harmonize like no one’s business. They also write some topnotch music with brilliant lyrics.

You can find their three records in iTUNES. They’re also keeping busy through the rest of the year, playing Three Links in Dallas on October 4th, with a gig at the State Fair of Texas on the 11th. The 20th will find them back in Fort Worth at Lola’s Saloon, then on the 25th they’ll be up in McKinney at Hank’s Grill. For November they have shows planned in Grapevine, Dallas, Plano and Denton, and even a show in Nashville, TN come early December. For all of those dates, go HERE.

The Burning Hotels were ready to go over on the other stage, having amassed quite a crowd.

While everyone loves  these guys, they’ve never won me over, but I was open to perhaps this being the time the band finally clicked with me.

Their 35-minutes on stage began with “Always”, with a couple of other songs (I suppose newer ones) coming next, none of which did much for me. As I’ve said before, I’m not a fan of Chance Morgans’ voice. However, I have enjoyed the songs that guitarist Matt Mooty sings on, and had been somewhat looking forward to “Days are Gone”. It was the first song of the night where Matt really had a part in singing, and maybe he was just having an off night, but his voice was far from good.

It really caught me off guard how incredibly pitchy he was, and the same could be said of Chance, as they continued on with “Lovely Lovely Lady” and “Sound City”. By that time, I had all but zoned out, making it seem like the perfect time to go ahead and get a place in line to buy some Toadies merch, as The Burning Hotels finished up with three more songs, including “Allison” and the closer, “Beard”.

I’ve tried to get into The Burning Hotels, I really have. There even a handful of songs that I really like the recorded versions of, but in the end, honestly, I just feel these guys are overrated.

All the same, if you want to listen to/buy their music, you can do so HERE and HERE.

Now after seeing a few acts I had caught before, I was looking forward to checking out another act that was new to me… Well, sort of.

I had heard of The Dirty Rivers Boys before, about a year ago, and loved their music, but hadn’t managed to see one of their shows when they had come through town, at least not until now.

They looked much different than any of the other bands this day, with the bass player, Colton James, wielding an upright bass, while drummer Travis Stearns sit atop a cajon, with only a partial drum kit of a snare and a tom around him.

No sooner had the MC of the event introduced them, then they got down to it, opening with the lightning quick, “Letter to Whoever”. The catchy beat reeled you in immediately, and I believe it was Nino Cooper who handled the singing on that one, while also playing a guitar, and he spit out the words just as rapidly as the song was quick. There wasn’t even really time to applaud their efforts as they continued on to their next song, “Heart Like That”. “She’s just a girl with a ramblin’ heartache, he’s grown a hard, lost man…” went the chorus of that infectious track, which wound up being my favorite of theirs and a real sing along quality to it.

Those two songs had come from their first full-length record that came out last year, but now they went back to the first two EP’s they released, playing a song from “Train Station” and “Long Cold Fall”, respectively. They switched things up slightly with “My Son”, which showcased what incredible harmonies the quartet is capable of, as Nino, fellow guitarist Marco Gutierrez (who did the majority of the singing on it), and even Travis all chimed in, their voices blending together to make a beautiful sound. Nino then took back the reigns for their next number, briefly saying it was a song he wrote about a union painter he had met, aptly called, “Union Painter”, and had a true country sound to it.

“This is what we like to call a Chinese fire drill.” Marco told the crowd, as they all took on different roles for the next song. If I got it right, it had Travis playing a banjo and singing, Marco on bass and Colton rocking the mandolin. Once they finished it, they reverted back to their typical instruments for what they said was a “drinking song”, which was “Draw”. They rolled it into another song I wasn’t able to figure out, though it was more of a heavy hitter than the previous song. “…There’s this brand new thing on the streets called punk rock…” one of them said before ripping into the song, which did have a slight punk rock feel to it.

Their 40-minute long set was nearing the end, cranking out one more softer song in the form of “Youngblood Blues”. They then prepared to go out with a bang, Nino switching out to a mandolin for their last two songs, “Boomtown” being one of those, and it got everyone pretty active. It was wound pretty fluidly into their final song “Raise Some Hell”, which at times sounded like an Irish jig, making it all the more fun.

That was actually somewhat of an abrupt end to their set, because I figured they might do a little more, and they were one of the only bands this day that had me wishing they had gotten a longer set time. And really, it’s always good to leave the crowd, even if it’s only some of them, wanting more

Everything about The Dirty River Boys was phenomenal, from the lively show to the killer music and just the attitude they seemed to have about it all. By that, I mean they were just having fun doing what they love to do, with just enough seriousness that any band needs, while still being pretty relaxed and just going with the flow.

Their show was one you could just cut loose at and have a good time, though it certainly didn’t hurt that each of them had exceptional voices, and the harmonies were to die for.

Check out all of their records in iTUNES, and even go catch a live show if you can. They’re keeping busy with shows all over Texas, Oklahoma and even a few other states, spread out through the end of November. For all those dates, go HERE. They will be back in the D/FW area on November 22nd at the Granada Theater, then the next night they’ll be in Austin at Antones for their last show of the year.

Night had finally fallen and the heat was finally more than bearable now, as the show entered the headliners portion of the night.

I had been pretty excited about the Tyler based family band, Eisley. I had missed their last stop or two through Dallas, and they were  finished touring for the year, but thankfully they were doing this one-off show.

They played an assortment of songs from various points in their careers, though opened with the title track of the album they put earlier this year, “Currents”. It seemed slow at first, but by the time they hit the chorus, when guitarist Sherri DuPree-Bemis joined sister Stacy King in crooning, “Do you believe in fate, baby? Ask me, ask me…” it roared into a force to be reckoned with.

Dialogue was kept pretty minimal, simply thanking the fans for coming out and the Toadies for having them, as they worked to fit in everything they had planned, and next moved on to “Invasion”. Afterwards, Sherri took over lead vocal duties as they busted out a few from what is their best record in my opinion, “The Valley”. “Better Love” was one of those songs, and by the time they finished it, Sherris’ guitar had a broken string. “…Do we have an extra guitar? We probably don’t, do we?” she asked, before choosing to “rock it out”. “What string is that? G? Who needs the G string?” she joked, before pointing out is was another that had snapped. Drummer Weston DuPree then started them into “Sad”, he and bassist Garron DuPree creating a knockout rhythm section on that one.

“I feel like I have to hold my head on when I sing that one, ‘cause it’s so hard.” Stated Sherri while she caught her breath, Stacy joking with her that it might just fall right off if she didn’t. She didn’t have to exert herself quite as much on the next two songs, “Save My Soul” and “Mr. Moon”, the latter one finding Stacy fully focusing on her keyboard. Upon finishing it, they did chat with the crowd for a few minutes, as Sherri recalled her, Stacy, Chauntelle DuPree-D’Agostino and the rest of the group cutting their teeth at the clubs in the Deep Ellum part of Dallas. “…None of us were old enough to legally get into the clubs, but they still let us play…” she said, before cracking, “Now we’re just old moms with babies…”

Fitting along the lines of that reminiscing was their next song, and old one from 2005’s “Room Noises”, which they said they were doing just for their fans in their home area. No, it wasn’t the ever popular single from that disc, but it was one that’s every bit as good, “Golly Sandra”. It was quite nice getting to hear that more classic song of theirs, which is one of my favorite Eisley tracks, and it was balanced out by the title track of one of their newest releases, “Deep Space”.

Chauntelle added some commentary after they finished it, laughing as she said she had forgotten some of the chords near the end of that song, so she just winged it. “…We’ve been off for two months and I’ve been painting a house…” she informed everyone, noting that between that and being a mom she didn’t have much time to practice. Her sisters agreed with her, that two months in “mommy world” keeps you busy enough that you would forget some things. They followed it with another track from the EP, and considering what had just happened, it seemed apt that it was “Laugh it Off”, which eventually wound into one song that never disappoints, “I Could Be There For You”. It’s nice how it features all three of the sisters singing at least a few lines apiece, particularly Chauntelle, who doesn’t show off her voice on any other song but that one.

They had one last song to do from “Combinations”, and that was “Many Funerals”, after which they once again thanked everyone for coming out. They then wrapped up their 58-minute long set with their current single, the ethereal sounding, “Drink the Water”.

I must say, I was slightly disappointed they weren’t able to fit “The Valley” into their set, but that one stellar song missing didn’t do anything to diminish they knockout show they put on.

The rush they seemed to be in only aided them, making them appear to be even tighter than they already are as they tore through all those tracks, while simultaneously giving it a very fluid feel.

This was definitely one of the best Eisley shows I’ve seen (even though I’ve only seen a handful), and even though it was a one-off performance, the group was more than on point.

Expect to see them back out on the road sometime next year, and in the meantime, hit up iTUNES to check out the collection of albums they have put out over the years.

The main support slot for this year’s Dia de los Toadies went to the Austin based Gary Clark Jr., who is a mix of rock, blues and even some soul.

“When My Train Pulls In”, one of the singles from his debut full-length, “Blak & Blu”, kicked off their set, quickly proving they can also add jam band to their style, too. The recording of that song is close to eight minutes, but this live version lasted slightly over ten, as Gary Clark Jr. riffed and shredded on his guitar, while his band mates, a drummer, bassist and guitarist, tore it up right along with him.

They kept the jam fest going with “Don’t Owe You a Thing”, and then roared into full rock mode with “Travis County”, which was also one that could have and did have some people dancing along to its contagious, poppy vibe. It had quickly become apparent that Gary wasn’t much for chitchat, and he only occasionally offered a “Thank you.” in response to the cheers he was getting. He was all about the music and letting it consume him, and as they carried on, they switched things up from those first few songs.

The falsetto tone of voice he suddenly switched to for “Please Come Home” was enough to catch those who were unfamiliar with him off guard. It was truly impressive how well he pulled that off, though, keeping it up for the duration of the more tender song, which, like every other song, was complete with a guitar solo to demonstrate mastery of the instrument.

“I don’t believe in competition. Ain’t nobody else like me around…” he smoothly sang at the start of “Ain’t Messin’ Round”, which saw their return to the rock genre. It was followed by an instrumental song, which I’m guessing was “Third Stone from the Sun”, Gary lightly picking at the strings on his guitar, and as the time went on, he progressively picked up the pace. It eventually gave way (rather seamlessly, too) into the soulful and even somewhat funky “If You Love Me Like You Say”. The long instrumental segment of the song also featured a good little drum solo, before the full band broke back in to march the song along to its end.

Next up they did the title track itself, “Blak and Blu”, bleeding it into what was arguably the best song of their 63-minute long set, “Bright Lights”. “…You’re gonna know my name by the end of the night…” Gary crooned on various parts of the song, which, when taking out of context, was very fitting, because everyone who was getting their first taste of his music certainly wouldn’t be forgetting him anytime soon.

It was complete with a jam portion, and once they finished it, their set suddenly ended, as he again thanked everyone and he and his band left.

I was kind of mixed about them. On one hand, I’ve stated many times before my disinterest in instrumental music, yet their songs abounded with them, at times causing me to lose some interest. On the other hand, the musicianship (especially on Gary’s part) was superb, and even standing a good ways back from the stage his intricate playing was something to marvel at, making the instrumental parts more than bearable to me.

Overall, I did thoroughly enjoy their show, and it truly was a show they put on. They have a different sound about them, one you don’t hear much of these days, and the crisp, fresh sounding voice of Garys’ is what sets is all off.

Gary and his band will be out on the road from the end of September through the end of November, hitting up several parts of the country. For full details go HERE, and they will also be performing at the House of Blues in Dallas on November 27th. Also, be sure to pick up a copy of “Blak & Blu”. You’ll surely love it.

For the first time in nearly eight hours, silence fell on Panther Island Pavilion. Well, at least silence from the live music. The roadies set to work on getting their stuff off stage and setting up the Toadies gear, allowing the fans to make a beer run or do anything else without fear of missing anything.

By around 10:30, things were all set as the intro song for the Toadies began to play. It wasn’t one of their typical intro songs, though it fit well given where they were. It was George Straits’ “Big Balls in Cowtown”, and after the song had nearly played all the way through, Vaden Todd Lewis walked on stage.

Now, if you’ve seen the Toadies a few times within the last several years, you know they typical stick with the same tried and true set list, usually opening with the same song with many others falling in the same spot each time. There’s nothing wrong with that, hell, I love their traditional set list, but for this year’s Dia they decided to throw everyone for a loop, throwing a multitude of surprises in.

I’ll preface this by saying I find “Play.Rock.Music.” to be every bit as good as the iconic “Rubberneck”, with not a single track on that record being one you should skip over, and one of my personal favorites from their latest disc is “We Burned the City Down”. So, I was pleasantly surprised when Vaden began strumming on his guitar, singing, “Well, misery loves company, that’s why we’re thick as thieves. Let’s move out to the country and live just the way we please…” Soon, Clark Vogeler made his way to stage left while Mark Reznicek took a seat behind his drum kit, joining in after the first chorus, as if they had done this song a few dozen times over already. Once the song kicked into high gear, Doni Blair stepped on stage, bass in hand, as they concluded that deep cut/rarity, and it wouldn’t be the last one of those this night, either.

Their wasn’t even time to applaud that one before some cheers erupted from everyone, excited at the start of “Backslider”. After all, it is those classics that are still the bands bread and butter, even all these years later. Afterwards, they moved on to that follow up to that album, “Hell Below/Stars Above”, Mark counting them in on the rather unexpected “Jigsaw Girl”. That’s an easy song of theirs to overlook, but in hearing it your reminded what good track it is, especially in the live setting, with its nice ebb and flow, while Doni and Mark created an impressively tight, albeit soft rhythm section on the verses. They weren’t about to stop there, and with a mix of mangled feedback they swirled things into their next song, another one I had not experienced live.

Even by their standards, “Cut Me Out” is an extremely intense song, allowing all four of them to get wild, Clark tearing it up on his axe at lightning speed. The crowd seemed to enjoy it, and in a set that was comprised so much of songs that they have seldom done in recent years, it was must play. They rock kept coming as they segued the end of it seamlessly into “I Come from the Water”, the only song that was fit to follow that other up. “Sing it!” Vaden shouted into the mic as he stepped back from it, giving the audience their routine chance at singing the chorus back at them, the shouts of “I come from the water!” flooding out of the fans mouths.

So far, this was shaping up to be what was probably the best Dia de los Toadies yet, and after a quick time out where Vaden thanked everyone for coming out, saying, “…We’ve had a blast for the last two days…”, they continued to crank out some more music.

In recent years, only a couple of songs still get played from the record that officially marked the bands comeback, “No Deliverance”, but they were looking to change that this night, and next did one I hadn’t heard in a few years, “Don’t Go My Way”. As that semi-dark and haunting song came to an end, Clark led them into the next, one of their newer cuts, and it was the best intro I’ve heard him do yet for “Animals”, really putting his whammy bar to use for it. It was just more exaggerated than what you hear on the recording, and that heavy song about the most primal human instinct fit perfectly with the one that came before it. It was then Todd’s turn to start the next one, the pulse pounding “Push the Hand”, before offering up another classic in the form of “Quitter”.

The banter resumed after that one, with Todd pointing out he recognized a few faces from the almost acoustic show the night before. “…That’s always weird and cool…” he said, referring to how it gets them out of their element. He then thought back to the early days of the Toadies. “…They would run us out of the clubs when we first started…” he said, pointing out it was nice now how they get to do this festival each year and play as late as they want to. He even stated that the best part of this night was yet to come, and that they were even going to have some surprise guests join them.

Doni then got them going on “Summer of the Strange”, a song that garnered some very audible cheers from some, seeming to signify that, while new, it’s already become a fan favorite. They then dusted off “I Am a Man of Stone”, which was were one of only two mistakes were made out of this night. Todd got a bit tangled up before the second chorus, flubbing the line, “…Now you’ve got me branded. Broken but still standing, watching you wreck everything…”, starting by uttering one of the earlier lines, before realizing his mistake, which only threw him further off as he tried to recover. Those couple sentences certainly couldn’t ruin the song, but it happened nonetheless.

However, no mistakes were made on “Away”, another song that briefly became a sing along, the crowd chanting, “When I’m away.” a few times over. What happened afterwards, though, was by far the best part of the night for me. Four and a half years is a good chunk of time to have been seeing these guys, and each time I’ve seen them I’ve hoped to hear the lead song from “Hell Below/Stars Above”, and within the last year I finally gave up hope of ever hearing it. So, I was both ecstatic and shocked when Todd began rapidly strumming his guitar, churning out the opening part of “Plane Crash”. The brief jolt of high energy Rock ‘n’ Roll that song offered was something else, and after all those years of hoping beyond hope to hear it, it was everything I hoped it would be.

They had already thrown several curve balls had their fans, and another one came next when they started into “Hell In High Water”. Sure, it has been a staple of their shows since 2008, but more recently it has been reserved for an encore. Yet here it was, in the main part of the set, begging the question, “What did they have planned for their encore?” As fans know, near the end of that one Clark has a sort of solo, knocking out a few lines while pressing his guitar against his amp. Once he finished that he returned to the front of the stage, when Todd made the remark, “I feel like we need one more.” Prompting Clark to return to his amp, letting out wicked and near deafening note.

Upon finishing it, Todd again thanked all the bands who played the festival. “…If you’re wondering how we put all this together each year, fuck, I don’t know…” he laughed, before thanking Kirtland Records and Sonar Management for helping organize it all. “…If it weren’t for you guys I’d have more gray hairs than normal…” he remarked. They then suddenly jumped back into the show, the fans hollering after quickly realizing it was “Possum Kingdom”, and shortly before making his entrance on the drums, Mark struck a pose by angling his arms towards the sky, as if he were a super hero about to take flight.

All these years later that’s still the one most fans love the most, which may not be a good thing, because shortly after they finished was when a very steady stream of people began to leave, and they kept filing out until the night came to an end. It was sad, really, but on the other hand, it showed who the true fans and diehards were.

That song was a sure sign the night was coming to an end, yet at the same time, there were still several songs I could think of they hadn’t played yet, making me wonder how much more they really were going to do. It turned out they had a lot left to give before wrapping up the main portion of the show, and next dug out “Unattractive”, before hitting another favorite of mine, “Sweetness”. “No Deliverance” changed the pace up a bit, being one of the few songs where Todd uses his bullet mic almost exclusively, and once it was over, he mentioned they only had a “couple left until the fake ending”. “…Do you know about the fake ending?” he asked the crowd, all of whom of course did.

During those last few songs a small mosh pit had broken out semi close to the stage, and Todd asked everyone to be careful, saying no one wanted to see anybody get hurt. “Well, there are some people I’d like to see beat up.” Todd said, adding, “Sorry, Doni.” Once the jokes were finished, they continued going off the beaten path by doing “Tyler”, which is normally reserved as an encore, and again begged the question, “What do they have planned for this encore section?”

“This is a good one to shake your ass to, if you brought it. I brought mine.” Said Todd before the final song of their 81-minute long set, which was none other than the high-speed “Rattler’s Revival”.

They took their leave, as did some more of the fans, obviously not concerned with the special guests the band said they had coming up.

A minute or two past before they returned, and once the four-piece reconvened on stage, Clark did the talking. He introduced the first of their series of special guests, a man he said was responsible for much of the Toadies sound, the bands original guitarist, Charles Mooney. Clark ceded his guitar to him and left, and as Charles struck a few notes, a technical issue arose. “…It can’t be a festival without an issue.” Todd said, demonstrating some quick wit by adding, “It has to do with my dad…” To pass the time he got the list of every band who had played and named them all, then bantered on, pointing out that he has been doing this for twenty-four years now, and what a nice privilege that has been.

By that time, the issue with the guitar was resolved, and for this song with Charles, they dug deep, all the way back to “Pleather”, doing “Ruth”. You couldn’t tell it had been about two decades since he had played with the band, owning it on that song, even using his teeth to pluck the strings at the end, all with a vicious stage personality. It was great moment, and he seemed to have a lot of fun doing it.

Clark took back over once it was done, and Doni welcomed their next guest on stage, his little brother, Zach Blair. Vaden pointed out he plays in Rise Against. “..I think they have some potential…” he joked, while handing his guitar over to Zach. It appeared that for one song he was going to be nothing but a front man, and that song was “Velvet”, which saw him pacing about the stage, taking advantage of the mobility he suddenly had.

Shortly after, Zach was replaced by their next guest, James Hall, who had been an opening act for them on the previous night. The thing I hated most about one song from “Play.Rock.Music.” was how nearly impossible it would be to do live, and even worse was it was another favorite of mine from that disc. So, I was quite surprised when Vaden announced the song, “Laments of a Good Man”, with James singing what, on the song, is the devilish voice heard inside the characters head. It translated pretty well live, and James had a good voice for it, sounding a bit wicked. The only hiccup came right at the very end, when he flubbed one line, which in turn made Vaden stumble over his part, laughing about it once they finished the tune.

No Dia is complete without a cover song, and this year (at least for the rock set), they did was Vaden joked was a “obscure” cover. It was a rendition of Joe Walshs’ “Rocky Mountain Way”, and while it didn’t sound like anything the Toadies would do, that was what made it so great, because it put them out of their element a bit, proving they can tone it down a bit.

After nearly twenty minutes this encore was surely close to an end, and their parting song to everyone was “I Burn”. It’s the only way a Toadies show should end in my opinion, capping off the 23-minute long encore nicely.

I’ve only seen three Dia de los Toadies, but out of those three, performance wise, this was the best one, hands down. I return to all the deep cuts they did. That’s how you make this an experience for the fans, perform songs you haven’t touched in awhile or have perhaps have even never played live to make it even more of a spectacle.

It sure worked well for the toadies this night, who were in rare form, even for them, and the banter, which can be lacking at some shows, was well above par, further making everyone feel like they were more of a part of this whole thing.

You can say what you want to about the Toadies, but there’s a reason why they were able to rise from the ashes of their seven year breakup and prove they were not only still relevant, but also a force to be reckoned with. Dia de los Toadies is a testament to that. Well, that, and how many people still love the band and the music they create.

There’s nothing on tap for the band right now, but who knows, they might do one or two more shows before the year’s end. And if you don’t already have them, go check out all their records in iTUNES.

This was a very fun Dia, even without the road trip to Central Texas, but now the question is where will the seventh installment of the festival be held? All of Texas is fair game, and while it could return here to Panther Island Pavilion or New Braunfels, it could just as easily could be held anywhere else.