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.

Shows You Know You Wanna See: September 14 - 20

Monday, September 15th
-Dallas (Downtown)

Doors @ 6:30 / Music @ 7

-Fort Worth

Music @ 10
Tuesday, September 16th
-Dallas (Deep Ellum)

$12 to $15
Wednesday, September 17th

AGES 16+
Music @ 8
Thursday, September 18th
-Dallas (Deep Ellum)

All ages (17 & under MUST be accompanied by a legal guardian.)
Doors @ 8 / Music @ 9
Friday, September 19th
-Dallas (Deep Ellum)

Music @ 10:30

AGES 21+
Doors @ 10

-Dallas (South Side on Lamar)

Music @ 8
FREE ($5 donation suggested)

-Fort Worth

Saturday, September 20th

Music @ 6:30


-Dallas (Deep Ellum)

AGES 17+
Doors @ 8
21+ $10 / 21- $15


AGES 21+
Doors @ 8 / Music @ 9

-Fort Worth


ALL AGES (under 17 MUST be accompanied by an adult)
Music @ 10
21+ $15 / 21- $20




The 7th Annual Dia de los Toadies will Focus on Quality Over Quantity


It’s already been a little more than seven years since the iconic North Texas band The Toadies was resurrected, and after rejoining the living, they had the idea to start their own music festival.

With each year, Dia de los Toadies has become a bigger event, and one fans from across the state trek to, regardless of where it may be held.

For the second year in a row, Panther Island Pavilion — in the bands hometown of Fort Worth — will be hosting the festival.

To be located smack dab in the middle of downtown Fort Worth, it’s easy to forget you are there, with part of the Trinity River running alongside the banks and a sprawling expanse of land to house the stages. It manages to offer a good escape from the rush of city living, even if you’re still technically right there.

As for the festival, the difference between this year’s installment and ones in recent past is there aren’t quite as many bands partaking. It’s down to nine (from a dozen or so), but the ones that are fortunate enough to be a part of the lineup are all top-quality and headliners in their own right.

Of course, you have The Toadies, who have been out on the road much of this year in support of the 20th anniversary of Rubberneck. This will be the final show of the tour, making this the last time you’ll get to hear the band do all eleven tracks from their platinum selling debut, just like you’re listening to it. They also did several deep cuts last year at Dia, and you can surely expect some more this time around.

From the main support act of Old 97’s (who are every bit as much of a Texas staple is The Toadies are), to Austins’ Ume, who has been making a mark all over the country with the recent release of their album, Monuments. Plenty of local talent from D/FW will also be represented, like Somebody’s Darling, whose roots rock sounds have been pushed to new heights on their forthcoming record, to The Longshots, who put on one of the most high-energy shows of any outfit in the area.

The daylong, second day of the event will be one you’ll want to be at from start to finish, while the almost acoustic show on the first night will be just as entertaining. The reworked versions of the songs you know and love from The Toadies is interesting; and with Rhett Miller and Doug Burr providing support, you can’t go wrong.

So, come out to Fort Worth and make a weekend of it. After all, the shows at Dia are often the best The Toadies do — going above and beyond their standard — and they only come around once a year.

Event info:
Friday, September 12th at Panther Island Pavilion.
All ages.
Gates at 7 PM / Doug Burr at 8 / Rhett Miller at 8:50 / Toadies at 9:50.
$35+ (buy tickets HERE).

Saturday, September 13th at Panther Island Pavilion.
All ages.
Gates at 3 PM / Music at 3:40.
$35+ (buy tickets 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

Indie Rockers Foxtrot Uniform Crack New Musical Code with Release of Cisco

imageFrom the minute they became a band in 2011, Foxtrot Uniform formed their own musical language, speaking through sinuous grooves, intriguing textures and nods to some unexpected historical references. On their Sept. 2, 2014, release, Cisco, the Dallas-Fort Worth band display their mastery of many dialects, fusing rootsy rock, funk and even psychedelic blues into 10 seductive originals.

Named for the location of the country house where it was recorded, Cisco follows the band’s lauded 2012 debut, Huj! Huj! Hajrah!, which ranked No. 3 on Fort Worth Weekly’s year-end top 10 list. Characterizing Cisco as bluesy, soulful, gritty and raw, the paper already has praised the album as “a sumptuous, moody, slow-burning experience.”

That experience includes soon-to-be-buzz tracks “Honey Bee,” “Grab My Gun” and “Never Get Out of California,” along with “Not Alone,” on which guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Kenny Uptain gives a loving nod to the Mickey & Sylvia hit, “Love is Strange.”

nd now Uptain, co-founding drummer/harmony vocalist Kelly Test and keyboardist/vocalist Katie Robertson, the band’s core trio, are ready to decode it all for fans with several special shows this fall to celebrate the new album.

Uptain and Test share a history dating back to their time together in the Mike Mancy Band. Test, no stranger to high-profile gigs, also has performed with Cooder Graw and Pat Green, and still plays percussion with the Polyphonic Spree, with whom he appeared on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” in 2013. He also engineered the album, and photographed the cover-art images of a burning chair — which met its demise in a father-son bonding moment years ago.

“Why put a La-Z-Boy in the dump when you can drink some whiskey with your father and burn stuff on a Friday night?” jokes Test, who says the photos remind him of his dad’s “rebellious, mischievous, witty spirit.” Test once refused a friend’s offer to buy them for use on an album cover because he was saving them for his own — never dreaming they’d wind up on an album recorded at, and named after, the very site of the chair’s sacrifice.

Talk about recycling. That’s the DIY way, and if there’s anything Foxtrot Uniform stands for, it’s getting it done — on their terms.

Current shows (please check for updates):
Aug. 28 – Golden Light Cantina, Amarillo, Texas
Aug. 29 – The Blue Light, Lubbock, Texas
Aug. 30 – Foundry Bar, Dallas
Sept. 27 – Bear Creek Park, Keller, Texas
Oct. 5 – Huey’s Midtown, Memphis, Tenn.
Oct. 7 – The Basement, Nashville
Oct. 8 – Terrapin Brewery, Athens, Ga.
Oct. 12 – Huey’s Cordova, Memphis, Tenn.
Nov. 7 – Stanley’s, Tyler, Texas

Follow the band at:

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:

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

Current Shows:
Saturday, September 20th at The Grotto in Fort Worth / Saturday, September 27th at Shipping & Receiving in Fort Worth


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:

Visit The Rye Boys websites:
Official Website / Facebook

Single Review: Swindle Boys Strike Back with “Comeback”


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)

Clearfork Music Festival Announces 2014 Lineup, The Black Angels Lead the Way

imageThe Clearfork Music Festival marked its debut last year, and while it boasted a stellar lineup of twenty-four bands on three stages, it seemed like it may just be destined to be a local festival. They tapped some national touring talent for it, with He’s My Brother, She’s My Sister and Spoonfed Tribe (who will be making a repeat appearance) being some of the most noteworthy bands on the lineup of the daylong event.

However, like most things in this life, they must start with humble beginnings. That was made apparent late last week when the forces behind the festival (that would be Keep Texas Live) revealed the lineup.

Their still keeping it fairly local, but the term “local” has now been expanded to encompass all of the Lone Star State. Between The Black Angels and The Bright Light Social Hour (both rank at the top of the bill), it’s hard to determine which Austin-based band will get more fans out. Sure, The Black Angels are a favorite of many, and rightfully so; but TBLSH has been touring heavily for years now, all independently I might add, and have earned spots on music festivals across North America, including one that gave them an opening slot for Aerosmith while in Canada.

Wild Child is another band who is quickly making a name for themselves, and their folk sounds and duel female and male lead vocals easily delight whoever happens to be fortunate enough to hear them.

Other acts that caught my eye right off the bat included Lincoln Durham (he’s quite possibly the greatest one-man band to ever exist), and Fort Worth locals like Panic Volcanic (who ooze an authentic gritty, sexy rock sound), Son of Stan (whose synthesized pop rock sounds are wondrous) and Lindby (they’re an eclectic mix of several different genres). Let’s not forget Animal Spirit (probably one of the most original sounding bands around, and they perfectly represent the Fort Worth sound) or We’rewolves (they’re a straight up incredible rock group). Royal Savages (another band that acts as purveyors of the Fort Worth musical style) and singer/songwriter Kaela Sinclair (who earned endless amounts of accolades over her debut album last year) can’t be counted out, either.

That little list of mine is barely even scratching the surface of what Clearfork 2014 has in store for patrons, and more acts will be announced down the road.

They’re also changing venues this year, moving to Panther Island Pavilion.

All of that points to one thing: Clearfork isn’t looking to be just another festival that solely draws from the extensive well of local talent. They’re looking to make a mark and solidify the fest as an annual tradition. I’d say they stand a good shot at achieving that, too.

So, you might want to go ahead and circle the date August 30th on your calendar and leave it open. Better yet, go ahead and plan to attend Clearfork.

Show info:
Saturday, August 30th at Panther Island Pavilion in Fort Worth.
For more info as it becomes available, visit

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


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


(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.

Friday, September 13th, 2013 – Hayes Carll at the World’s Largest Honky Tonk

This weekend was going to be spent in Fort Worth, and originally, I planned on seeing the Toadies this night as they kicked off the sixth edition of their music festival. Then I happened to check the show calendar for one Hayes Carll, only to see he was going to be playing at Billy Bob’s Texas this same night.

That show had already won out beforehand, but was only made better when I happened to score a pair of tickets via a contest Hayes did on Twitter a few hours before the show.

I had only been to Billy Bob’s once before, to see the aforementioned band, actually, and the set up this night was much different this time around. The substantial floor in front of the stage, which was completely empty on my first trip here, was now filled with seemingly endless rows of tables, stretching as far as possible from side to side and front to back. I assume this is probably how Billy Bob’s typically is, when they don’t have a rock band playing that could bring some rowdy fans.

It was a nice setup, and I was glad to find out that not only were there seats, but also what a good spot they were, being in the second row back from the stage and a little to the left of it.

It was a little after the 10:30 scheduled start time when someone there from Billy Bob’s got on stage and welcomed everyone to the show, plugging some of their other events while also noting what a big Hayes Carll fan he was, and how excited he was for the show. Once that business had been taking care of, he then welcomed the man of the hour to the stage, as Hayes Carll and his Gulf Coast Orchestra took the stage.

Hays got things going by plucking the strings of his acoustic guitar, slowly giving the first song shape, before singing the first line of “The Letter”. “I meet some wild people out here, those who are pretending and others more sincere…” he crooned on the seemingly appropriate opener that’s somewhat about his journeys on the road.

Upon finishing it, he officially announced who they were. “…All the way from Austin, welcome Hayes Carll and the Gulf Coast Orchestra.” Hayes said loudly as whipped into “Faulkner Street”. His Gulf Coast Orchestra got to step it more with this song, particularly Scott who no longer had to gently play his lap steel guitar, and electric guitarist Travis was able to cut loose on a brief solo or two. They moved right along to the next song, the crowd cheering after the first few chords that Hayes played. He then softened his playing, “I have two songs that start this way. I hope it’s the one y’all want to hear.” he said to the sizable audience. I believe it was the one fans were most excited to hear, and that was one of the fan favorites from the “Trouble in Mind” record, “Girl Downtown”. It had much of the crowd enthusiastically singing along, and it was also the first of a few consecutive numbers that found Travis holding the side of his guitar against him, picking at it as if it were a lap steel, while I believe Scott switched over to an electric guitar.

Even though they were only a few songs in, they had been knocking them out left and right, but now it was time for a story, as Hayes mentioned his hometown on the Texas coast, which was around Crystal Beach on the Bolivar Peninsula, and it got a roaring applause from everyone. “…That’s the loudest applause Crystal Beach has ever gotten.” He said while laughing. He talked about a variety of things down there, but the central focus was one Bob’s Grill and World Famous Sports Bar, a club he used to play, which he said had a “misleading” name. “…The whole place was probably about as big as this stage is…” he said, adding that no one who was currently in attendance would have been there. He then backtracked slightly, “Well, you two might have been, but you would have been watching a fishing tournament or something.” He stated he was a bit of a wonder down there, being the only person who could both play a guitar and sing at the same time, so he quickly made a name for himself and started picking up more and more shows. “…My show at Jeannie’s One led to my show at Jeannie’s Two, which was a bait shop located right behind Jeannie’s One…” he said, while rattling off a few other venues.

He then wound things back to Bob’s, which was owned by (of course) Bob, who, as Hayes put it, “…was a drug dealer.” He went on to say he bought some exotic animals with his profits from selling drugs, “…But the prized possession in his collection was a African Lion.” said Hayes, adding that there was a window behind the stage at Bob’s, and when Hayes played there, Bob would often bring the Lion’s cage there and place it behind the window. He continued own, mentioning that Hurricane Ike had devastated the area a few years back, but before it hit, Bob did “the Christian thing” and let all of his animals loose to give them a fighting chance. “Now, instinctually, that lion went to higher ground…” Hays told everyone, with higher ground happening to be a church, a church which some people also took refuge in, entering only to see a lion already in there. “…It was three days before the National Guard could get in there to assist everyone, so for three days those people were on one side of the church, while the lion was on the other… Like a sort of redneck Life of Pi…” he added. “Now, the reason for that long winded explanation is because this next song has a line about a lion tamer, and I didn’t want anyone to get confused.” he pointed out.

The intro alone to “I Got a Gig” had an excellent sound, with one of the guitarists starting first, while the other followed suit shortly after. Oddly enough, it gave it somewhat of a haunting sound, but was soon broken when the rhythm section, bassist Cody and drummer Mark, as well as Hayes joined in. And that explanation does indeed help the song make a little more sense, as he sings on the third verse, “There’s an old lion tamer parked behind the bar, a hundred pounds of weed in a stolen car…”.

They then slowed things down as Hayes led them directly into “Rivertown”, a personally favorite of mine from the “Little Rock” record, and one I was ecstatic to hear them do. “…And time will bring you down, time make you cold. I turned my back some time ago, and now I’m going home…” he sang on the rather somber track, before they immediately picked the mood back up with the title track from that 2005 release. Both Scott and Travis used an electric guitar for “Little Rock”, a very rocking number, and while they were doing more intense songs, it only made sense to the title track from his most recent release, but first, it was time for some more witty banter.

“This song’s about a soldier who has a morphine induced coma…” Hayes informed everyone, then outlined all the things that happen in “KMAG YOYO” as being hallucinations from the drug. The funny part came when he said he has young singer/songwriters ask him what the formula is to have a hit song in the Top 40 country charts. “…Some people write songs as a story…” he said, also giving a few other examples of writing styles, calling them “irrelevant”. “…The thing you need in your songs is keywords. See, I know this, obviously.” he said, in perfect deadpan humor. He went on to say, “…I usually teach a seminar about this…”, before telling anyone who wanted to learn a thing or two to grab a pencil and some paper. “Those keywords are…” he said, then preceded to list off “Taliban”, “IED, or any other acronym you can think of”,  “Trucks” and “Spring break” were some of the words he said every song needed to have to be a hit, and once he had dropped that knowledge on everybody, they ripped into the very rhyme based “KMAG YOYO”. Scott truly got to show off his chops as a guitarist on that one, killing it on the guitar solos, even embellishing them from how they are on the record, subsequently giving it even more rip-roaring action.

There was just enough of a pause to allow the audience to applaud them, while Travis took a seat behind the pedal steel guitar, finally putting it to use on the gloomy “Chances Are”. Things got a little more uplifting after that semi depressing track when Hayes announced the next song was (and I’m sure I’m paraphrasing this) “drunks, and the women who love them.” Between that and pointing out that it was one he had co-written with Ray Wiley Hubbard, the fans knew exactly what song it was, loudly cheering for “Drunken Poet’s Dream”, which featured Travis on the mandolin. They didn’t let up, segueing it right into the next one. “I haven’t done this one in awhile, let’s see if I can remember the lyrics.” said Hayes before he started spitting out the lines of “Down the Road Tonight”. He didn’t seem to have any trouble with the words, and probably around halfway through the song they lightened up on the playing, allowing Hayes to formally introduce each of his band mates. Once he had done so, he left the stage, leaving Mark, Cody, Travis and Scott to do an instrumental jam, and quite a great job at it, at that.

After a minute or two, Hayes returned as they finished out the song, “Jukebox gypsies, mustang sally’s, don’t go walkin’ down dark alleys…”.

Most of his band left after it, leaving just he and Scott on stage, with Hayes informing everyone he was going to do a new song from his upcoming album, due out “…In the spring… Of 2017.” he joked. This was one he wrote about his son, who told him he wanted to be a magician. “Not a musician, a magician.” Hayes reiterated. He mentioned that’s a hard thing, because “…you see a life full of suffering ahead…” for your child, even saying his son wasn’t very good at first, and he would tell him when he was doing tricks for him that he could see what he was doing. “…But he didn’t listen to me or any of the other naysayers…” Hayes said, adding he had recently even become a member of the Austin Association of Magicians, an accomplishment that received some applause from the crowd. “You’ve heard of them?!” Hayes jokingly said, with surprise in his voice. He went on to say that his son is “…the youngest member, by about fifty years or so…” and they meet every other week “…At the IHOP, right by my house.” he finished.

There was an overall meaning to that story, though, as Hayes said he wished he had, had that spirit and determination his son does when he was his age, pointing out that everyone could benefit from picking what they really want to do and doing it, if only it were that simple. “…I hope he never loses that.” he said in closing. The song is called “The Magic Kid”, and it’s a sweet song with a message that everyone could take to heart, as he sings a few different times during it, “Who we are is who we are. Why is that so hard to be?”

While acoustic, it was a good change of pace from the other slower songs which dealt more with heartache, and as the Gulf Coast Orchestra filed back out on stage, Hayes again lightened up the mood by saying the next song was about license plates.

He named a few states and their slogans, like how Oklahoma is the OK state. “I like that, they’re like, “We’re not great, but we’re ok.” He said, and after mentioning North Carolina’s, he joked that that South Carolina’s was, “We wish we were North Carolina.” Talk then turned to the “Live Free or Die” state, New Hampshire, which Hayes said he felt was the best motto, eventually wrapping things up by saying how horrible it would be to be in prison in that state, having to make license plates that read, “Live Free or Die”. “…If you all listen to the third verse of this song, we might learn something tonight.” he told the audience before pulling out a track from his debut album, “Live Free or Die”. It was a humorous song, and that lesson he mentioned, well, it was, “…So if you catch your wife with another man, it’s best to hold off as long as you can. Then shoot him in another state where they got a different license plate.” That is just another example of what a brilliant writer Hayes is (and evidently always has been.)

“Bad Liver and a Broken Heart” came next, albeit a much different rendition than that which you hear on “Trouble in Mind”. Hayes used a harmonica on parts of it, doing a very scaled back acoustic version of it. Personally, I am more of a fan of the album version, probably ‘cause I’m a rock fan first and foremost, but even acoustic the song sounds really good. Fitting with that tone was “Hard Out Here”, which again saw Travis playing the pedal steel. In what I’m guessing is typical fashion, Hayes added some additional lyrics near the end of the song, drawing from experiences on the road, as recently as that day.

He spoke it more than singing, telling the audience of how they played a show in Marfa the night before, and didn’t get to bed until about five in the morning. He continued by saying the hotel room was infested with various bugs and such, like a tarantula, which happened to be in his bed. So, after (literally) a couple hours of sleep, he said he and his band mates woke up and got in the van to head to Fort Worth, only to discover their van had broke down, resulting in some of them riding in an Impala to the show, while the others drove a U-Haul with the gear loaded in it. Such is the life of a touring musician.

Soon after finishing it, they pulled out another blistering number, “Stomp and Holler”, which was a signal that they were at the tail end of their performance, and they wound it pretty fluidly into “I Don’t Wanna Grow Up”. Then, to wrap things up, they did the one song I had anxiously been waiting to hear since they first got on stage, “Beaumont”. That beautiful, straightforward love song about the feeling not being mutual was a perfect way to close things out, and that’s actually one of the few songs I’ve heard any band do that works well as both an opener and a closer (Hayes opened with it at a Dallas venue a few months back).

By the time that was all said and done, they had been on stage for an impressive 90-minutes, leaving me wondering if there even would be an encore or not.

Everyone was hoping for one, though, making sure the band knew it, too, by chanting “Hayes!” repeatedly. It had only been a minute or so since they had left when they made their way back out, Travis picking up the mandolin, while Scott was finally going to use the accordion. “I say this every night, but I would do this every night rather anyone shows up or not, but it’s sure a lot more fun when you do.” he said to everyone before embarking on a 12-minute encore portion. It was nearly impossible not to smile as they ran through the upbeat and incredibly catchy “Bottle in My Hand”, before an electric guitar and the lap steel were put back to work for “Wish I Hadn’t Stayed So Long”. They had one last song left for anyone, another one that came from “KMAG YOYO”, “The Lovin’ Cup”, offering a good, upbeat way to call it a night, and after again thanking everyone for coming out, Hayes and the Gulf Coast Orchestra retreated back stage.

It was a fantastic show with a nice selection of songs from all of his releases, hitting just about every song the fans were wanting to hear and then some.

This was only the third time I’ve seen him live, and it was definitely the best, due mostly to the song selection in this lengthy set.

Hayes is a true entertainer, in terms of a singer and songwriter in the witty and/or honest songs he writes and the almost non-stop doses of laughs he adds to the live performance. So, if you want to see a very enjoyable and memorable show, go see Hayes Carll.

For a list of his tour dates, go HERE. He’s staying pretty busy through the end of September, with a few dates in the Mid-West and the East Coast, and will n doubt be announcing some more shows throughout the rest of the year, so stay tuned. And to check out/purchase his music, head over to iTUNES.

It was a very fun night at Billy Bob’s, and at least now I can say I’ve seen a legitimate country show at the world’s largest honky tonk.