Thursday, May 15th, 2014 – Sam Morrow Makes Magic at Opening Bell Coffee

Every now and then, you get an email informing you of a band or musician that is new to your ears. That was how I discovered Sam Morrow, and I must give a shout-out to the good people at 1888 Media for making me aware of him.

The folk singer/songwriter grew up in Texas, before eventually relocating to California, but with a new album just released; he had to come back to his home state for a string of shows.

The Dallas date was taking place at Opening Bell Coffee, which provides the perfect intimate setting to see a singer/songwriter. I was a little late to the show. It started at eight, and it was probably ten minutes after when I got there, walking in just as Sam finished what I’m guessing was probably the second song of the night.
imageAs I grabbed a seat in the crowded little room, he introduced everyone to Matt Bradford, who gave the songs a more fleshed out sound via a pedal steel guitar and a lap steel (which he alternated between).

I at least made it in time to hear one of my favorites from the “Ephemeral” album, “Old Soul”. There’s no way you can even equate the recorded version of it (or any of the songs) to how they sounded live. As soon as his rich and at times booming voice made its appearance, you were transfixed (the people who were there for the show were, at least.) That doleful song was one of the best this night, and while he’s still a relatively young musician, he’s already very in tune with everything, like the times he raised the level of his voice, gradually stepping back from the microphone the louder he got.

“This next song’s called Gone.” Sam told the crowd, as they did another melancholy track, on which the pedal steel added a great tone to it. “What’s up, everyone?” he asked, getting a mixed response from the spectators, some of whom where there to see him, and others were so involved in their conversations I don’t think they even knew a musician was on the stage. The duo did one of the more upbeat tracks from the album, just don’t confuse that with happy. “…That whiskey and that heroin helped me grow my new skin…” sang Sam near the start of “14”, which is just one of the songs that offers some insight into his past life, which is one of the best connections a musician can make with their fans.

The cover portion of the set followed, and first up was a song that surprised me a little, as Sam put his spin on “Bright Lights” by Gary Clark Jr. Indeed, it was his own spin, and while it lacked the bluesy sound of the original, it seemed to have even more energy in it, which is saying something, considering he had no full band. However, his acoustic guitar and the lap steel that Matt had now switched out to were more than enough for an excellent rendition, especially when Sam played a brief solo, followed by Matt soloing on his lap steel.

“We got a lively crowd… Don’t get too crazy.” Sam joked after that song. At least he saw the humor in it and could joke about the situation. That first cover may have been one some people knew and others might not have, but now they moved on to one that everyone should know, Springsteens’ “Dancing in the Dark”. The Boss is one of those musicians that while countless bands may cover his music, few, if any, could ever do anything to improve on it. I’m not saying Sam improved on it, either, though he has crafted a version that does it justice, and the little nuances make it his. Nuances like stretching out the word “shoulders” on the line “I’ll shake this world off my shoulders.”, then pausing after it, to the changing of a line from the final chorus to, “You can’t start a fire, sitting around trying to mend a broken heart.”

“I just released a record, uh… Two weeks ago.” Sam informed the crowd after that number, though he did have to think a moment on how long that record had been out. He pointed to where he had his merch setup, telling people they could buy it there. “We just started accepting credit cards… We’re fancy.” he cracked, before giving everyone another highlight moment of the night, this time in the form of “Run”. After all those originals they had done, it was hard to believe the mood could get anymore woeful, though it was about to.

“This one is extra sad. I mean, they’re all sad, but this one’s even more sad.” he told everyone, speaking of the subsequent track from his album, “December”. There is more of a somber tone on that one than any other, and it was conveyed well this night. “Give a hand for Matt, who keeps switching back and forth.” Sam asked of everyone afterwards. He had been going between the lap and pedal steel quite a bit over those last few songs, then Sam quipped that he tries to make him switch as often as he possibly can. That earned him a laugh from the audience and a grin from his band mate.

Even though I walked in slightly late, I still got to see 44-minutes of the show; and now, with that time almost up, they did what I’m guessing was another cover, but maybe not. Either way, it was one I didn’t recognize, but sounded quite good. I did know the closer, however, which was “Sure Thing”, and while it continued the gloomy mood, it managed to end the set on a sort of positive note.

I genuinely love the singer/songwriter genre, and from my experience, it’s rare that you find one who really takes your breath away with their talent, but that was just what Sam Morrow did this night. At least that was the feeling I got, and I’m sure a few others, too.

I was told that live, Sam was even better than how the album sounded, and that doesn’t begin to cover it. His voice was utterly astounding, and the integrity his music has (especially lyrically) further made this into a true experience.

He’s definitely better live, and that way, you can also chat with him and see what an easy to talk to and down-to-earth guy he is.

If you ever get the chance, go see a Sam Morrow concert. It would be a good investment of your time (and money).

He has no shows booked at this moment, but whenever some pop up, you’ll be able to find them HERE. Be sure to pick up a copy of “Ephemeral”, too.

What a great way to spend a Thursday evening, and I’m already looking forward to Sam’s next Dallas show, whenever that may be.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, February 15th, 2014 – White Lies Make Their Dallas Debut

I must confess, until just a few weeks prior to their show at the Granada Theater, I had never heard of White Lies.

That’s probably a good thing, because that meant that I haven’t spent the past few years anxiously awaiting the British band to tour through Dallas. Instead, I became a fan rather last minute and only had to wait a couple weeks.

That’s not to say I wasn’t excited, though. In fact, I was probably every bit as excited as any die-hard, longtime fan of the six-year old rock outfit.

The only opening act on this was the Brooklyn, NY singer/songwriter Frankie Rose.

I’ll preface this by saying I had trouble figuring out what songs she did, and by trouble I mean even after spending time listening to her music I couldn’t pinpoint the specific songs, which is a personal fail in my book.

But I digress. She and her band (which consisted of a drummer, lead guitarist and bassist) delivered a great 31-minute set.

I didn’t know what to expect, but I wound up liking her music far more than I thought I would.

The first song had a nice build to it, before the drummer suddenly broke into the song, which had me quickly trying to figure out where he was. See, the kit was on far stage left – out of my line of sight – and until that first beat I had overlooked it. They carried on with several more songs, and periodically Frankie would chat with the crowd in the already packed Granada Theater.

“…This is a Saturday night. Is it a late night town?” she asked, following it with another question, “Are you going to go out after the show?” You could tell she was just looked at as the opening act, because the response was almost nonexistent, and I know full well the party was continuing for more than a few people after this show (and I was one of them).

They ran through a few more songs, including a “romantico one” as Frankie put it. In my opinion, it wound up being one of their best songs of the night. The rhythm section was in full effect on it, and even though I was standing near the back of the venue, I could still feel the floor shaking beneath me; and really, that’s always a fantastic feeling.

With only one song left, Frankie mentioned that they were heading to Houston the next night, unknowingly committing one of the biggest faux pas you can make in Dallas.

To say I hate or even dislike Houston would be inaccurate, but most Dallasites do and they were vocal about it this night. She appeared baffled by the reaction, and just moved on and concluded their set.

Their time on stage flew by, and I mean that as a compliment, because that’s how much I enjoyed it.

The music was great, with some nice electronic and synthesizer touches thrown in, but more to the point to accentuate the guitars, bass and drums rather than overpower them. Frankie has quite a set of pipes on her too, fitting both the more rock sounding songs as well as the dreamier landscapes they had going on others.

If you’d like to check out her music, she has two records available that you can find in iTUNES.

As ten o’clock neared, the patrons began filling back in from their trips to the bar, or to go outside and smoke or whatever else, as they settled in for White Lies.

Five minutes before they hit the stage I got offered to go up to the balcony (which is typically reserved for staff of either the venue or the bands crew) and of course took it.

I mention that simply because it transformed this entire concert experience.

The sound up there was superb, far exceeding that down at the lower levels. As expected, a roar of fanfare filled the venue when the three core members; singer and guitarist Harry McVeigh; bassist Charles Cave; and drummer Jack Brown took the stage, along with Tommy Bowen and Rob Lee, who add the keys/synthesizers and an extra guitar to the mix.

They quickly launched into the title track from their 2009 debut album, “To Lose My Life”, and the sound—at least up in the balcony—was ten times better than even their albums sound.

It was pure ecstasy from the start, as Harry sang the lovely chorus in his strong, unique tone of voice, “Let’s grow old together and die at the same time…” That was a stellar song to open with, and for part of it I was glued to Charles, who was an exceptional bass player from right out of the gate, and was crushing it as he quickly plucked the strings of his bass.

With that old classic out of the way, they turned their attention to the barely six-month-old album “Big TV”, getting the first single off it, “There Goes Our Love Again”, out of the way early. It seemed to be just as much of a crowd pleaser as their first song had, and afterwards Harry addressed the crowd.

“Dallas, how’s it going?” he asked; the clamorous applause and cheers continuing once he spoke. He noted that this was the first time they had been to this “beautiful city”, and that they had enjoyed walking around and seeing part of it earlier in the day.

Overall, that was one of the few times they talked with the crowd which I liked. Even though it was kept at the bare minimum, it was still more than enough to form a connection with the fans, though the main focus was on the music. It suited them. Another I liked was that despite having a new album to promote, they also drew heavily from their past two albums; resulting in a great mix of old favorites and new classics.

As good as those two songs were, it was their next one where things really exploded. They pushed themselves to new heights on “A Place to Hide”, which was completely irresistible, and even though I was seated I felt a pretty strong urge to get up and start moving around. It was just intoxicating. But then again, that could be said of much of White Lies’ music.

They were continuously switching between albums, never doing two consecutive tracks off one album, and now got back to the new material with “Mother Tongue”. Whether they had been wanting (or waiting) to or not, the crowd got a chance to participate on this one. After the second chorus, the band got a clap along going. It was merely the first of a few this night, and I have to say it was pretty cool to see a sea of people throw their hands up in the air, clapping in unison. Especially since I had such a unique perspective of it.

“This is one of our favorite tracks from our second album…” Harry told everyone in advance of their next number. “It’s called Streetlights.” he finished, as they finally got around to doing a track from “Ritual”. I can’t say that it’s also a favorite of mine from that record, though it is a good tune, and there was something entrancing about the steady drumbeats and keys of the verses.

“This is a beautiful venue. The kind you dream of playing…” Harry remarked after that song. Strong words from a band who has headlined the historic Wembley Arena in London. He piled on the very genuine praise about the Granada (it’s more than deserving of it), before Jack eventually led them into their next song, another oldie, “Farewell to the Fairground”. Harry worked the crowd over during the slow part after the second chorus; just motioning at everyone, encouraging them to make some noise. He had complete control over everyone as he did so.

“I wish no harm to come of you; split bottles in shopping aisles…” he sang after the applause subsided, as they went right into another one of their love songs, “Be Your Man”. It was their next song, another from their first album, that really got the spectators excited, though.

From the first note on the keyboard the crowd was screaming with glee, having already deduced the song was “E.S.T”. Most were giddy when it too turned into a clap along; and personally, I thought it really was one of their highlight songs of the night, as there was a type of magic aura in the air while they played it.

However, “The Power and the Glory”—which is one I’m partial to—outmatched it. “…I was empty handed leaving as I was when I came…” crooned Harry while the audience clapped along to the steady drumming. Live it was everything I hoped it would be, and was extremely infectious; and during it, they continued to expand upon their stride, which they had hit long ago.

With their show in its final stretch, it was time to bust out a couple more singles, the first of which was “Getting Even”. “This is the first single we ever released…” Harry informed everyone, setting up the next song. “We hope you like it.” he added. To say everyone simply liked “Unfinished Business” would be an understatement, and that leads me to one point I’ll go ahead and make.

It’s really remarkable that these guys were able to make their first album as high caliber as it is. From start to finish it’s a completely solid album, the likes of which every band hopes to release one day, though most will never even come close. Then, they managed to (at the very least) maintain that same level of skill and craftsmanship over the course of their next two albums, again coming up with products that are superior to most out on the market.

It just comes down to that solid consistency, and it’s a shame more bands don’t have that.

But I digress.

They were still far from done with the “Big TV” album, but now did one more gem from it, “Goldmine”, before changing gears a bit.

Rob and Tommy exited the stage, leaving just the founding members of White Lies, as Harry ditched his guitar for their next song. Instead, he used a little synthesizer, while Jack got up from his kit, manning a keyboard as well as a xylophone (yeah, you read that right). Charles was the only one who didn’t switch instruments, and Harry took just a moment to talk about the song, which happened to be a cover.

It was a very different take on Prince’s “I Would Die 4 U”, being a pretty stripped down rendition from how Prince did it. That was good though, because they made the song completely their own with a very unique spin put on it. Harry got to show a gorgeous falsetto tone on it, and lyrically, it was a perfect fit with the bands original stuff. “You’re just a sinner I am told. Be your fire when you’re cold, make you happy when you’re sad, make you good when you are bad…” he sang; making it sound like this song had been written just for them.

They returned to their standard lineup, doing what’s really the only song of theirs I’m indifferent to, “First Time Caller”. I will admit though, that live it got me a little more engaged than the recording does. Afterwards, came the final song of their set, “Death”, which had another clap along moment, and ended an astounding 69-minute set.

No one (well, almost no one) moved after the band retreated to the green room, though, as they anxiously awaited the encore.

The cheering was perhaps even more loud when the five guys returned to the stage than it had been when they first started.

They talked with the crowd for a moment, mainly expressing their gratitude, before finally getting to the title track from their 2013 release, “Big TV”. Again, the crowd was encouraged to clap along on it; and as they hit the brief instrumental bridge, Harry strode to center stage, throwing his arms up in the air, silently egging the audience on, and they again erupted with cheering and applause.

“…We have one more…” Harry stated, again thanking everyone who was there for coming out to see them. The urgent sounding and electrifying “Bigger Than Us”. “Thank you so much!” Harry shouted in the final seconds of the song, which concluded their 10-minute encore.

The applause started while the final notes were still being played, and only grew stronger once the five guys stood next to one another at the forefront of the stage; bowing to everyone for the love they had been shown, as well as basking in it. I’ve got to say, seeing the kind of reception they got was a cool moment.

As it stands, I’ve seen several hundred concerts at this point, and this White Lies show is one of the most spectacular I’ve witnessed.

I’ll be the first to admit the seats had a lot to do with that, because the whole atmosphere changed up in that balcony. But that wasn’t the only reason.

I feel like I already used a lot of my praise earlier when talking about their albums, but they also put on a splendid show.

From stage presence to musicianship, Harry McVeigh, Jack Brown and Charles Cave were to full package. Not only that, but they have a very distinctive sound, with mixes of 80’s era British acts thrown in to their more modern rock style, which results in a sound that is completely theirs.

It was easy to see why they’ve opened for bands like Coldplay and Snow Patrol, because the talent is definitely there. I’d even go as far as saying that there’s no reason why White Lies couldn’t be as popular as Muse is here in the U.S.

Okay, White Lies doesn’t use any theatrics at all; while that’s a key element to Muse’s shows. In the other aspects though, it’s a dead heat; and if the American audience latches on to these guys, there really is no reason why they couldn’t be playing arena’s over here in a few years time.

They have plenty of dates booked around the world, including several more in North America. Check out their full schedule HERE; and also be sure to add their music to your iTUNES library.

This was a fantastic way to spend the night. Many thanks again to the Granada and certain people who work there for all the hospitality. It made a great night truly unforgettable.

However, the night was still young. It wasn’t even 11:30 when they finished, and with several other shows going on this night that I would have liked to have seen (counting this one there were seven total), I could at least make one other…

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.

Friday, June 28th, 2013 – Disrupting the Harmony

There were some big things going down at the Curtain Club this night, specifically, not one, but two CD release shows.

Yes, in a pretty rare event two bands who were releasing new albums ended up on the same bill, and even better yet, both had even performed at the Broadcasting for Boobies benefit concert WhiskeyBoy Radio orchestrated last year. Since that I’ve personally felt like I owed both bands, which were Triple SP and Enamored, and catching a show that’s such a milestone for each of them seemed like the perfect way to finally repay them.

Triple SP was up first, and due to traffic, I was cutting it pretty close, but got there with just a few minutes to spare before the Fort Worth based band began.

Some wicked guitar lines with a slight hint of feedback got things going, Bryan Motleys’ fingers moving swiftly and gracefully over his guitars strings as they ripped into “My Someday”. The primarily instrumental song no doubt came to life once singer and fellow guitarist Derek Procter, along with Brian Scheid  and Jacob Bobo, the bass player and drummer, respectively, joined the mix, as the quartet rocked out in a very tight manner. That track is part of five-song concept story arc they put on this new album “Disrupting the Harmony”, and those five songs mesh together pretty fluidly. So, as soon as it ended Brian welcomed everyone to the show, thanking them for coming out, and then announced the subsequent track on the record that his band mates had already bled the music into. “…This is Definition of Insanity!” he shouted. He even did about half of the singing on that track, with Derek handling the first verse, while Brian yelled/sang the second.

Granted, they were only two songs in, but thus far their set had a killer flow, one that was disrupted at this point when Jacob asked if he could borrow a kick pedal from one of the other bands. “…The spring broke…” he stated. That took a couple of minutes, and while it was an inconvenience, stuff like that happens, and it didn’t throw them off their game for the rest of the night.

One of the other bands did come to their rescue, and once they had that other pedal Derek started them into one of the handful of fan favorite songs from their “Transmissions” album, “Behind Your Back”. Something that was new to me on this song was the three part harmonies they incorporated on the chorus, with both Bryan and Brian singing along with Derek. “…Things that you say never mattered anyway…” the trio sang, sounding downright incredibly, and Derek also owned his guitar solo during the song.

Jacob, who is a newer addition to the outfit, wound them right into their next song, which was “State of Mind”, and during it showed really off some of his chops by tossing one of his drumsticks in the air at the end of the first chorus, doing it in a very clean, fluid motion. Derek ditched his guitar for their next couple of songs, and with some heavy low end bass riffs Brian brought them into one of the instant classics from their new record, “You Can Be Anyone”, which sends a bit of an inspiring message. “…You can be anyone you want. You can be anyone you need…” Derek sings repeatedly during the song, and as he did so this night he took advantage of not being stationed in front of the mic, moving all about the stage and acted very comfortable as just a front man.

They kept that format for another killer rock number, “Lost”, then Derek picked his guitar back up as they kicked things up a few notches with “I Want it All”. Their momentum may have been interrupted early on, but there was no denying they were on fire at this point, and next Brain enticed the audience by telling them they were going to do another “fan favorite” from their first record. That fan favorite was “The Outsider”. Afterwards, they cranked out another track from the new album, “Alone”, and I found it interesting that over the last few new songs they had been working their way up (“You Can Be Anyone” is track five, while “Alone” is two, so you get the gist.) And now, with time enough for one last song, it was clear what it was going to be. Brian was the one who segued them into it by saying, “…As the Beastie Boys used to say, this is the first song off our brand new album!” he roared excitedly before they tore into “Symptom”, which capped off their 38–minute long set, in epic fashion I might add.

They brought their A game for this show, that was obvious, and that resulted in this being the best of the now three Triple SP shows that I’ve seen. I loved the fact that they bridged so many of the songs together, even if they did have a little hiccup near the start; it still gave things an excellent flow.

It was a superb show, and showed great musicianship, which is really kinda rounded out by Jacob Bobo. I hadn’t seen the band since he joined the fold, but he helps push things to another level. And as much as I don’t like saying it, because I was a fan of previous drummer Alex Lanz (it’s worth noting he put in all the drum work for this record), Jacob seems to be the missing component the band probably didn’t even know was missing (or at least not for awhile).

They’re a great band who, frankly, is a bit underrated here in the scene. I say that because they mainly play in Fort Worth, and their Dallas shows are a bit rare, and while they have a very dedicated fan base, which is the most important thing, it isn’t as big as it could be. Sure, that’s stuff nearly every local band struggles with, but hopefully the show this night and the new record will start to turn the tides for Triple SP.

Regarding “Disrupting the Harmony”, you can pick it up, along with their old record, in iTUNES. By all means do, because it’s fantastic. They also have a few shows lined up over the next several months, and they’ll be back in Dallas on July 26th at The Boiler Room. On August 17th they’ll be at Tomcats West and then in October, on the 26th, they’ll return to Tomcats, while in between that, on September 21st, they’ll rock The Grotto in Fort Worth.

As soon as they finished I headed over to the adjacent Liquid Lounge to see what was going on over there, and came across singer/songwriter Caroline Murphy.

I don’t mean this nearly as negative as it might sound, but she was wasn’t the best singer I’ve heard. Don’t get me wrong, she had a good voice, good enough to captivate you, but, at least for me, it was the songwriting that made sure I stayed there for the remainder of her show.

She was probably about halfway through her set, singing a song about briefly meeting a fellow student in preschool, then running into him again years later, in rehab of all places. It quickly became apparent she was the type of songwriter who delved into her personal life and didn’t mind people knowing about her life experiences, and that was what I enjoyed.

“Hurricane” was a real stand out from her set, and the song about how quickly things can change (specifically in a relationship) had a great chorus, “…Nobody knows how much the wind can blow away. I mean, in a single day…” “The Dishes Song” was another intriguing number, and it was followed by another track I thoroughly enjoyed, which she said was titled “Maria”, then added, “Or maybe Excited and Sad I’m not sure, yet…” That seemed to indicate it was a newer song, and a great one at that.

She ran through a few more songs, and the one she closed with excellent, so it was a bit of a surprise when she finished it she said, “I have never played that live before. I mean, that just all came to me right now. Weird…” She sure didn’t act like she was creating that song on the spot and it seemed that, like her other material, she had played it many times over.

I thought she was great, and as I touched on earlier, she doesn’t have a voice that will make your jaw hit the floor, but she can sing very well, and she knows how to pen some great, honest songs. If you get the chance to, check her out live, at least once.

Afterwards, I crossed the patio back to the Curtain Club where Redline on stage.

I regret not getting back there sooner so I could have seen their full set, cause these younger guys (all were under twenty-one, because they bore a “B” on their hands to signify they were playing that night, rather than the traditional “X” all other minors receive) were rocking the place.

They covered a few different categories, doing some softer rock stuff, in the vein of ballads, to some pretty intense rock songs. It was a great show (at least what I saw) and bassist Austin Adams, guitarist Joseph Campise, drummer Nathaniel Williams and vocalist Joe Rodriguez were working it and making sure the crowd of onlookers was drawn in.

I plan on seeing them again sometime, and in the near future you should be able to buy some music from them, because they announced this night that they would be recording a record in July.

After they finished, the festivities of this duel CD release show were set to continue as Enamored took the stage.

They got right down to it, opening their 35-minute long set with the lead track from the “Requiem” EP, “Empty”. Mind you it had been nearly a year since the only time I had seen them live, and it was immediately apparent how much they’ve grown in that time. Most notable was front woman Jules, whose voice was even more powerful than before as she belted out the chorus, “I’ve waited all my life for you, just to stand by your side…” It was a magnetizing track that pulled everyone who was there to see the band up towards the stage, and probably even a few others who weren’t there for them.

“Suck my dick!” Jules shouted during the second pause after that song before their new drummer Thomas Stewart, and guitarist and bass player, Aaron Heles and Robert Albritto, respectively, fired up the subsequent song from their EP, the more intense rock song, “Release”. There was no questioning that they were already on fire, and upon finishing that song they took a little timeout as Jules spoke to the audience, thanking everyone for coming out among other things, and saying she didn’t care what tallies at the door said regarding how many people they drew. “…It ain’t about the money, it’s about the love…” she said. I don’t think you’re going to find many musicians that will say that, truly not seeming to care about the ever important draw of fans you pulled, but that’s true in a way, and they were definitely getting the love this night.

When they got back to it, Aaron started the catchy chord progression that is heard throughout “Bring Down”, which is one of their best songs, and my personal favorite. They took another pause and Jules thanked all the drummers that had helped her out along the way, noting that a few were out in the crowd. She also of course shouting out Nick Sarabia of Red Angel Theory, who has not only helped them out with live gigs in the past, but also aided them on the recording of this record. She continued chatting with everyone and talk turned to what she was drinking. “…I’m Jules and I’m an alcoholic.” She said, then tacked on, “Oh shit, is this not anonymous?!”

All of that made for some humorous moments this night, and I thought it was nice to get a little glimpse of the actual person they are (or rather she is) rather than just the performer side of her character. Soon, they busted out another short track, “Better Off Alone”, which is one you won’t find on the EP, and once it was done the shout outs continued, this time by thanking all the band members who were out supporting them, which included (but certainly not limited to) The Circle and Solice. Jules went on to thank them (Solice) for the drink they had gotten her, saying she’d be out at their show here the following week, buying them drinks, “…And you better drink whatever shit I give you…” she said and laughed.

She wasn’t finished talking, though Aaron and Thomas cut her off by starting their next song. After all, they did only have a limited amount of time up here. They ran through the albums closing track, “Escape”, and then slowed things down a bit with “Free”, which is still a pretty mighty song. “Slaves and Toys” seemed like it might be the final song of their show, but they had one more song left over from their EP. That was “Never Again”, it brought their show to a perfect close.

They were phenomenal, and I was really amazed at how much they’ve tightened up in the last year. Both Aaron and Robert had a good bit of swagger as they moved about the stage, owning it on their respective instruments, and Thomas was an excellent fit with them, tearing it up on the drums. You never would guessed that this was one of the first (if not the first) live gig he’s done with them. And while I talked about Jules earlier, I’ll say it again, she has a powerhouse voice.

They left everything on stage this night, there’s no doubt about that.

You can find “Requiem” in iTUNES, and you should definitely check it out. As for their upcoming shows, they’ll be at The Boiler Room in Dallas on July 12th, otherwise, just keep tabs on their FACEBOOK PAGE so you’ll know when and where they’re playing next.

There were a couple bands left at this point, and next up was a Dallas based band I was unfamiliar with, called Manny the Martyr. With a name like that I didn’t know what to expect, and wasn’t sure if I’d be sticking around through their set or calling it an early night (it wound up being the former.)

I was expecting something similar to the other bands on this bill, rock to harder rock, so it was a bit of a surprise when they broke into the lead track from their “Aqua Lounge” EP, “Brighter Sun”, a song that, much like their other songs, encompassed elements of reggae, and funk, with even a bit of ska. Yeah, it was an eclectic mix, and it worked well for them, drawing their sizable collection of fans towards the stage, and once Jake Cravens opened his mouth and began to sing, I knew I was going to like it. After all, when it comes to music the vocals are the most important thing in my opinion, and he had a killer voice.

“…This next song is called Aydagee” he said to the crowd, as they busted out a track that was even a better fit with the reggae genre. Jake spit the words out at a lightning pace in a tone that’s pretty authentic to that genre, while Joel Simka delivered some powerful beats from his drum kit, and guitarists Mike Ubben and Brad Green played some sweet riffs. Those are two slightly older songs of the bands, but they were eager to play some newer material this night, too, and next up did one titled “Too Soon”. Bassist Jayson Vaughn kind of stole the show during this one, repeatedly doing some high kicks as they got the song underway, alternating between which leg he was kicking in the air, all the while slapping away at his bass, and near the end of the song he repeated the kicking motion.

Following it was another new one, and one Jake made sure to point was brand new, as in, never having been played before. It was a catchy song with a great hook, and wound up being my personal favorite song they did this night. Breaking up the new music was another song from their album, “DDJ”, which was more rock/pop based then their other stuff, but in a good way, as it showed that they can be versatile. While cranking out that song, Joel suffered a little mishap, when either one of his drumsticks broke, or it slipped out of his hand (I missed it right when it happened.) He didn’t reach for a new one right away, though, instead he just used the one stick he still had to bang about the kit, and doing quite a good job at it.

They had two more new tracks for everybody, both of which had titles that got some laughs from the audience. The first was “Two Inch Hero”, while the other was “Leftover Sexy”, and despite the funny names, they were straight up great songs that incited everyone to just have a good time. “…Where are my smokers at?” Jake asked the crowd once they finished up that last song. “This song is just for you…” he said, setting up “Bougyman”, which the fans got to participate on a bit at one point, before closing out their 37-minute long set with the funky rock song, “Hit the Brink”.

These guys were fantastic, putting on a very fun, lively performance that was impossible not to get caught up in. They also managed to command the crowd quite well, and got everybody actively engaged in their show.

They made me a fan with their highly original sounding music, and I look forward to seeing them again.

During their set, Jake mentioned they would be back here at the Curtain in August, I believe the 30th was the exact date, to release their new album they will soon be recording. That will no doubt be a good show to see, and as of now it looks like it’s the only gig they have on the books. In the meantime, their current record, “The Aqua Lung”, can be downloaded for FREE simply by visiting their REVERBNATION PAGE. Take of advantage of that sweet deal.

There was one last band up this night, Blackout I believe was their name, but once Manny the Martyr finished I went ahead and left. It was late already and would have been nearly one before they went on stage, and I knew the following night here at the Curtain was going to be a long one, so I decided to cut this night short.

Friday, June 14th, 2013 – Part II: The Phuss

The other show I wanted to see this night was at Club Dada, and I got there just in time, walking in just a few minutes past eleven, right when The Virgin Wolves were starting their set.

The sounds of Chase Robbins and Carson Coldiron’s guitars swirled about and filled the room, as did the bass, played by Kristin Leigh, leading into “Slick Shoes”, and with that powerful opener the band immediately commanded the crowd’s attention. After a short pause they moved on to “Crawl”, which was packed with some aggressive and explosive beats courtesy of drummer Steve Phillips, who you could tell was quite dedicated to what he was doing as he was tearing things up on his kit. The at times sultry “What You Want To Hear” followed, and was occasionally co-sung by Chase and front woman Jaimeson Robbins, and it was the way she sang the final lines of the song that really made it stand out this night. “…Guilty-ty-ty-ty-ty…” she belted out, raising her voice and putting a little more fierceness into each enunciation.

They segued the end of that last one directly into “Lies”, and upon finishing it Jaimeson exclaimed, “It’s fucking hot outside.” A fan then shouted, “It’s fucking hot inside.” A fact she then reiterated. It was rather miserable, but the heat sure didn’t keep the fans from enjoying the show, nor did it hinder the band, who soon launched into the raw “Crooked Smile”, which as some blistering guitar solos at times. The well-crafted piece of rock known as “End Of The Line” was, as usual, a personal highlight of their set, and was followed nicely by “Oh, Sugar”, which starts out pretty intense, before getting a little more moody with some light bass riffs.

As their 36-minute long set neared the end, they made sure to pull out two of the biggest fan favorites, like their current single “Black Sheep”, and while shouting some of the final words to the song Jaimeson was banging her can of beer against her head, causing some of the cans contents to spew into the air. They then went all out for their final song, “Virtue And Vice”, which had many fans singing right along, some of whom even shouted along with Chase on his line on the second verse, “I rode all night through the motherfucking rain…” Then, during the songs potent instrumental outro, Jaimeson went over and grabbed Kristin, somewhat hugging her, catching her off guard just a bit, and soon she let her bass go as it hit the floor. She didn’t try to retrieve it, though, instead she just stomped on it a bit while the song wound down.

It was an amazing set, every bit as good as the one I saw them do just two weeks before, and even better in some ways. That probably had something to do with the fact that they had a larger crowd here at Dada, giving them more energy to feed off of.

If you want to see a phenomenal, energetic live show, they’re one of the best acts you could possible see, especially here in North Texas. Go check out their full-length album “Pretty Evil Thing” in iTUNES, and for those who live in Oklahoma City, they have a show coming up on July 13th at Leon’s Lounge inside the Chameleon Room.

The aren’t many bands that can compete with a performance like that, but one of the few that can was headlining this show, and that was The Phuss.

The trio got their gear set up with time to spare, taking the stage shortly after midnight, and singer and guitarist Joshua Fleming got their 44-minute long set started with “Something to Die For”, which beckoned everyone who was out on the patio inside, as the few dozen people clustered around the stage. As it drew to a close, Josh grabbed his guitar by the neck and held it in the air, screaming the remaining lines, “…I can feel you changing me…”, leaving bassist Forrest Barton and drummer Trey Alfaro to carry the song for a few seconds, something they did with ease. As soon as it ended then Josh fired up another longtime staple of their shows, “One for Now Three for Later”, and that shorter number soon gave way to another hit of theirs, “Stupid Girl”. The quick pace and sheer loudness of it always makes it a heavy hitter, but this night it seemed to be filled with a little more piss and vinegar than usual. From the pulsating beats trey was cranking out to Josh’s catch guitar riffs, it just seemed to have even more character to it than normal, and was one that everybody thoroughly enjoyed.

After that constant onslaught of punk rock music, they took a break while Josh made a little speech, starting by saying that a lot of things, like venues and such, change. “…But one thing that hasn’t changed are The Virgin Wolves and the Hanna Barbarians…” he added, speaking of the two opening acts. He went on to say how great it was to have such good friends on this bill with them, essentially making it one big party, which isn’t something you hear many bands say these day. At most, many acts just shout out the other bands on the bill simply for courtesy, not because they’ve forged a real relationship over the years, so that was nice to see.

Eventually Josh informed everyone they have been working on some new material, leading them into a couple of new tracks, the first of which was “Straight Line Impala”, a song I found myself even more fond of after hearing it for a second time now. The next one, “At the Bottom of it All”, was my favorite of the two, though, which Josh set up as being about “…Drinking too much and fucking someone you’re not supposed to fuck.” It’s a great song in true Phuss fashion, and Forrest has some truly killer bass lines on that track. Next, they kicked things up a bit with the brutal “Bleed”, before doing one last track from their self-titled album, “21 Ain’t What It Was”, and as they hit the chorus of that rocker, Trey spit some water into the air, as it spewed out and then rained down.

At this point, someone ion the crowd commented on Forrest’s beard, and Josh agreed on how amazing it looked, cracking a joke about (which I don’t recall specifically now), but the gist was that he could get lost in it. Once he had finished the punch line, though, he admitted the joke had sounded better in his head. It was clear they were almost done with their set, especially when the broke out “Preacher, Preacher”, which surprisingly didn’t round out their show, for the first time in a long time (at least out of the times I’ve seen them.) It was a bit strange not hearing it as the closer, but that didn’t have any impact on the song overall, and neither did the little slip up Trey had at the start, when he dropped one of his drum sticks during the intro. He recovered quickly and got them right back on track, and on an unrelated note, the way Josh sang the song this night, doing it in a slightly different vocal tone, made it sound better than I think I’ve ever heard it sound.

I was prepared to walk out of that, since that song usually means they are done, but once Forrest and Josh huddled around the drum kit, it was clear they still had a little left. After talking for a few moments, Josh informed everyone they hadn’t made a setlist in two years, a number which soon grew to four, and he said they were trying to figure out what to do next. Soon, they broke into their next song, which I didn’t know, and I assume it was a cover, because once they finished it Josh admitted they shouldn’t have played that, then gave a “fuck you” to any possible music critics, saying they had just done that one to have fun. “…Now we’re going to do one we actually know…” he told the fans, announcing it was another oldie from their first ever album, the “Wanted” EP. “…This is Pointed Guns in the House of God.” He stated before tearing into the song. While most of their stuff is fairly short and clocks in around three and a half minutes, that one goes nearly twice as long, though it didn’t seem it, and it gave an explosive end to their show.

It was a fantastic show, and from the moment the guys of The Phuss stepped on stage to the second they finished they had everyone entranced with their display of raw rock music laced with punk stylings.

The next show The Phuss has will be on July 12th at the Wild Rooster Bar in Fort Worth, and they’ll be back in the city on August 15th at The Grotto. In between that they’ll also do a show in Wichita Falls, TX on August 10th. Also, check out “The Phuss” LP in iTUNES.

Either of these two bands are great to see on their own, but whenever they share the stage it makes for a can’t miss night of music, and this night was no exception. It just proves that Rock ‘n’ Roll is alive and well in the D/FW area.

Tuesday, May 28th, 2013 – Best Coast Brings a Bit of the West Coast to Dallas

I was surprised this night when I arrived at one of Dallas’s best venues, the Granada Theater, this night. And it wasn’t just because of the line that stretched well outside the doors. It was also due to the age of the attendees, the majority of whom were minors, resulting in their hands being adorned with X’s. That made me feel like an old man at the show, which by the way, there were some elderly people seen about this night, too.

Age is simply a number, though, and the reason this largely young crowd had gathered at the Granada this night was to see Los Angeles’s own Best Coast, who was kicking off their latest tour this night, and the rabid, diehard fans were eager to see one of their favorite bands.

So eager in fact, that the Twitter board (where you tweet the Granada and then your tweet shows up on one of the projection screens) had numerous people saying things like they wished it was already nine so Best Coast would play. That couldn’t magically happen, though, and to get to the main course, first everyone had to witness another band from Los Angeles, The Lovely Bad Things.

The band was ready to go, but first they pointed out that this was their first ever show in Dallas, stating how glad they were to be here. They then launched into an aggressive, fast-paced 34-minute long set, which focused primarily on their new album “The Late Great Whatever”, and “Darth Lauren” opened up the show.

Their sound was a mix of punk rock with a surf-esque sound, and it was shown off quite well in that opener, which singer and guitarist Camron Ward sang, or rather slightly screamed, with a bit of anger mixed in to his voice. “…This song’s about people you hate…” Lauren Curtius told the crowd, setting up a song from 2012’s “New Ghost/Old Waves” EP, “I Just Want You to Go Away”. She did most of the singing on that tamer song (at least more tame by their standards), having a great voice, offering a stark contrast between in and Camrons’, which allowed them to keep things fresh.

Before their next song one of them made the remark that it was really hot in Texas, something I can’t deny, but that always makes me laugh, because almost every touring band mentions the heat here in the Lone Star State, and that’s something most Texans don’t even acknowledge unless it’s in the mid-90’s. They then did another newer tune, “Maybe I Know”, which was more the speed of their first song, and jam-packed full of rock in the little over two minutes it lasted, and boasted a tight rhythm section, which was currently made up of drummer Brayden Ward and bassist Tim Hatch.

“This next song’s called North Bend.” Camron told the crowd before starting what was a highlight of their set and saw him taking back the reins as lead singer. It was after that song when things got real interesting, though, and they totally switched things up. Lauren and Tim swapped instruments, leaving her with the bass, while Camron took over drum duties and Brayden stepped up to the stage left mic and put the other guitar to use. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a band change things up that much, especially all at once, but it worked, as they ran through “You Done Messed Up”, I honestly thought Brayden seemed more at home as a guitarist instead of a drummer, while Camron did a nice job on the kit.

Lauren took back her guitar from Tim after that, and one of them mentioned that this next song was their oldest, kindly asking the audience not to judge if it sounded terrible. They also encouraged everyone to get into it and do some dancing. “…It’s not ‘Dancing optional” Tim said to everyone, “It’s dancing yes.” That got a laugh from the crowd and band alike, and once they started “Cult Life”, which definitely brought a West Coast surfer vibe to the Granada, there were a few people getting down to the song.

Upon finishing it, Tim and Camron swapped places in order to do “Fried Eyes”, and near the end of it, at the height of the track, both Camron and Brayden fell to their knees, shredding on their respective instruments, and that was certainly the most Rock ‘n’ Roll moment of not only their set, but also the whole night. Things only escalated with “Randell the Savage”, which was true punk rock that had a rather violent attitude about it.

They made one more big change, as Brayden returned to the drum kit, while Lauren was handed the bass again, while Camron did most of the singing on “Honeycomb Cocoon”. Tim then got the bass back for their final song, “Hear or Anywhere”, which Lauren first told everyone was a song about ADD. It was a dynamic tune an brought their song to an explosive end, especially for Tim, who was having such fun, he somewhat dived off the stage near the tail end of it, and was caught by the adoring crowd.

To say the bands first Dallas show was a success would be an understatement, and the people who had been wishing there was no opening band just an hour before, were now smitten with the band, again taking to Twitter to say how amazed they were by this band that was new to them.

It was an amazing show, filled with piss and vinegar as the band wildly thrashed about the stage on their quicker songs, and didn’t let up much on the slower ones, either. All four of them are great singers with very different sounding voices, allowing them to project several different moods on whomever happens to be in attendance at the time, and the harmonies they occasionally created were pretty killer, too.

My only complaint would be that Camron could work on his enunciation a bit, because often when he was singing, I had trouble deciphering the words that were coming out, only being able to understand every sixth one or so.

Aside from that, they were a phenomenal act, and while I still thought they were an odd choice to open for Best Coast, just because of the contrast in musical styles, it worked out well and gave the fans a taste of something different.

They have a couple shows coming up in California, one on July 27th at the Glass House in Pomona, the other at the El Rey in Los Angeles on August 18th. And to check out and purchase their music go to either iTUNES or BANDCAMP.

Over the next twenty plus minutes the fans packed in as tightly as possible, making personal space nonexistent, anxiously awaiting the bands arrival on stage.

Once the lights dimmed and the screen covering the stage began to retract upwards, there was a massive, deafening cheer. I half expected some dramatic entrance from the band, but there was nothing like that, instead, the four-piece band were in their spots and ready to go.

“My highs are high, my lows are low…” sang front woman and rhythm guitarist Bethany Cosentino, and with that opening line from “Goodbye” the crowd fell silent and gave the band their full attention, and nearly everyone was passionately singing right along with Bethany. They immediately moved on to the title track of their 2010 album “Crazy for You”, which was laced with hooks, then she led them directly into the subsequent song from that record, “The End”.

It took roughly five minutes to play those three songs, and the shortness of their music made sure they could fit in a multifold of songs during their 59-minutes on stage.

There was little banter done this night, but that’s not to say Bethany ignored her adoring fans, and at this point she mentioned this was the fourth time they had played the Granada, even going as far as to say it is one of their favorite spots to play. While she was saying that, the bass player placed that instrument on the rack, trading it out for a guitar in order to do the dreamy sounding “Summer Mood”.

They may have released a new album just last year, but you wouldn’t have known it thus far, since they had only played stuff from their first record. But that was about to change as the drummer segued them into a track from “The Only Place”, “Last Year”, which the fans of course turned into another sing-along. Upon finishing it, they took another little timeout, and Bethany said something she admittedly said she thinks she says at every show they do in the state. “…Texas is my favorite state besides California…” she stated, seeming to genuinely mean it and not just saying it to get a reaction from everybody. With that said, however, it only made sense to do a song about the bands home state “The Only Place”. It’s one of the most surf style sounding songs they have and with both the music and the lyrics it does an excellent job of evoking the stereotypical carefree West Coast attitude, particularly on the chorus, “…Why would you live anywhere else? We’ve got the ocean, got the babes, got the sun, we’ve got the waves. This is the only place for me.”

By this time it was abundantly clear that the music was what they were all about, and for good reason, since that is what they excel at, and now continued by slowing things down with “No One Like You”. By this time, the other musician had been using his bass for several songs, and now traded with Bethany, taking her guitar. He then started them off on another slower number, “How They Want Me to Be”, and was soon joined by lead guitarist Bobb Bruno and the rest. It may not have been as upbeat as most of their other material, but there was a little more of an emotional depth to it, making it seem incredibly personal.

What happened next was also slightly personal, and once the song was over Bethany suddenly asked something to the effect of what stinks, then lifted her left arm and took a whiff, quickly deducing it was she who smelled. Bob then made his way towards center stage and she quickly told him not to come smell of her. That wasn’t his intention, and instead he made a remark which she then repeated so the audience could hear it. She then asked everyone if it was alright if they did a new song, which everyone seemed down with. The song was “Fear My Identity”, which is more along the lines of their early sound, though it came across as sounding more mature and solid, seeming like proof that some of Best Coast’s best stuff has yet to be written.

Things started getting to get more upbeat and poppy with that last song, which is definitely the bands area of expertise, and at this point they got back to doing some songs like that with the “When the Sun Don’t Shine”, and afterwards they launched right into “Our Deal”. A somewhat surprising highlight of their set was “Let’s Go Home”, which is really good on the album, but in the live environment was transformed into something else entirely. “Who Have I Become” was a nice one to follow it up with, and this other newer song left most of the crowd just admiring it and soaking in what should become a future staple, since they had yet to commit the lyrics to memory.

Now, as they neared the end of their performance, they pulled out a few songs that Bethany pointed out they hadn’t played in a little while, and with “Honey” she asked everyone to forgive any mistakes that might occur. The rhythm heavy song seemed to go off without a hitch, and before doing their next song, which was another that didn’t require the use of the bass, Bethany remarked that she was sweaty. “AND SEXY!” yelled a guy in the audience, a comment she barely acknowledged, and pointed at Bob saying, “He’s the sexy one.” They then tackled “I Want To”, a song that contained what was arguably the best part of the set, as Bethany held the final word of the last “…And I miss you so much.” I’m surprised she didn’t run out of air as she stretched out the word “much” as much as she possible could, and if there were still any doubters, that moment was proof that she is a vocal powerhouse, which was only further proven once the song exploded into a driven pop number.

Their final few songs were a nonstop onslaught, from “Something in the Way” to “When I’m With You”, two songs that capture the bands lo-fi sound very well on the recordings, but live there’s a whole different aura to them. “…I Don’t even know if I’ll remember all the words to this next song…” Bethany told the fans, noting it was another they hadn’t played live in quite awhile, then they busted into “Each and Every Day”, which seemed to played a little faster than what you hear on “Crazy for You” and that was part of what made it so good this night, and brought their set to an epic finish.

That of course wasn’t the end though, despite the fact that some people went ahead and bolted for the doors, but only a small handful did that.

It took just a couple minutes, but they returned to the stage and Bethany told everyone this was normally the part of the show she would do some pushups. “…But I’m wearing a dress.” She added, which was her reason to not do them this night. She told everyone to just imagine the worst pushup ever done and that was her, saying, “I’m no Gwen Stefani.”

“Do You Love Me Like You Used to?” kicked off the encore portion of the show, and capping off the additional 6-minute long set was their breakout single about pining over someone, “Boyfriend”, during which Bobb dropped to his knees at one point, proceeding to tear it up on his guitar.

Thus ended a truly spectacular show, and rather early, too, as it wasn’t even quite a quarter after ten.

As many positive things that I’ve heard about Best Coast, I’ve also probably heard just as much negative stuff, from other blogs labeling the subject matter of the songs as generic, to saying their hipster band.

Sure, there were more than a few hipsters at the Granada this night, but I wasn’t one of them. I was there because in listening to their music, it caught my ear and I wanted to see what they were like live. And sure, the songs are almost exclusively about love (either being in it or falling out of it), but what band doesn’t write songs about that, and besides, while playing them this night, there was a certain emotional depth added to each of them, and rather than just songs they acted as a window into Bethany’s personal life.

As for their live show, I thought it was superb. The songs sound more fleshed out live than on the albums, and honestly, those recordings don’t do justice to what you get at a show. The drummer and bass player meshed well with them, but took more of a backseat to, say, Bobb, who could go from meticulously plucking the strings of his axe to shredding in an instant. Still, Bethany managed to be the most entrancing member of the group, and fittingly so. She said herself that she was “no Gwen Stefani”, but in her own right she’s every bit as good and there’s no denying that she is a true vocal dynamo.

The band has several shows booked around the U.S. stretching into September, and for their full calendar go HERE. If they’re coming to a town near you, go see ‘em, and also be sure to check out their music in iTUNES.

As I left Dallas’s best premier venue and walked to the parking lot behind it, there was already a throng of people surrounding the stage door, waiting for the band to make an appearance in hopes of meeting them and having them sign some merch. That’s more than just dedication on those fans parts, that’s absolute love.

Sunday, May 26th, 2013 – The Benefit for Micah Creed

The bands of the Dallas/Fort Worth music scene have been banding together a lot lately for various causes, from the fertilizer plant explosion that destroyed the town of West, to the tornado that ripped through Moore, Oklahoma, which is fantastic. It’s great to see people come together for stuff like that, but it’s even better to see bands unite for a cause that isn’t also a major news story, and that’s what was going on this day before Memorial Day.

This night was in support of a 7-year-old boy, Micah Creed, who has a rare brain tumor, with the proceeds of this night going to benefit his family to help with the expenses incurred by his treatments.

Over a dozen bands had been assembled to play three clubs, The Curtain Club, the Liquid Lounge, which hosted several acoustic artists, and the Boiler Room.

The Curtain Club was my first stop of the night, where Mara Conflict was getting ready to rock the stage, and it had been a few years since I had last seen them.

Their 39-minute long set began with a sample track, a speech rather. It was the “Mad as Hell” speech from the 1976 film Network, making them one of a few bands I’ve seen recently who have used that speech at some point in their show. Perhaps that says something about the state of our country right now.

The five-piece then ripped into their first song, and they were a lot more hard rock than what I remembered, especially with these first couple of songs, where front man Joshua often let out some brutal screams, something I’m not always a fan of, but I didn’t mind it.

“How the fuck are y’all doing?!” he asked the handful of people after finishing their second song. He then went on to say they have been working on some new stuff and had with them a demo they would be handing out later with two new songs, and the next one was one it. It was “Broad Brush”, which in my opinion was their best song of the night. It’s borderline metal, with Dylan rapidly firing off the beats from his drum kit, while Ben and Jarrod roamed about the stage, quickly hitting the strings of their guitars, giving an energetic performance to accompany this killer song.

They moved on to what I assume is another newer one, “You Sleep”, then did another track, which had a very lengthy instrumental part, allowing bassist Charlie, Dylan, Jarrod and Ben to show their prowess as both musicians and performers. They lightened things up ever so slightly with “Closure”, which didn’t seem to have quite as much screaming as their previous songs and made clear what a great singer Joshua is, and his voice has got a nice range to it. Make no mistake, though, this was still a song you could headbang to. They cranked out one more before ending with a track from their self-titled EP released in 2009, “The Fault is Mine”, which gave a strong finish to their set.

It was a good show, and despite the lack of fans they still hold back, and gave it their all. They’re an awesome band, and I had forgotten how entertaining their stuff is, especially their new songs, and if you’re a fan of hard rock music, than you definitely need to give Mara Conflict a listen.

You can buy their three song EP in iTUNES and they do have another show lined up for June 30th at Wit’s End in Dallas.

As soon as they finished I headed over to The Boiler Room to see what was going on there.

A band by the name of As Above, So Below was rocking out, a little ways into their set, and for a Sunday night they were playing to a very sizable crowd. They definitely had the largest draw out of any of the bands that I saw.

The group was fronted by Jacob Pierce, perhaps best known from the defunct band Faint the Fiction, who made a name for themselves, even if it was mainly just here in the D/FW music scene.

He and the rest of his band mates, bassist Johnny Reeves, guitarist Max and drummer Joey Payow were putting on a real performance, which was enhanced by the lights they had brought with them, which set up the amps as they shone all over the stage. “This next song’s called Paint it Red” Jacob told the audience, who was soaking in every little detail of the show. They followed it with the single from their upcoming debut EP “Built to Fail” as well as a few other songs, one of which was a cover, before ending with “Truth be Told”.

Their music was heavy and loud, with a bit of a sharpness to it, which alone was more than enough to get people engaged, but the stellar performance made sure they held everyone’s undivided attention.

That’s what really captivated me, the primal attitude they had towards the show, giving it their all and letting it be very raw and real. Oh, this also happened to be their first ever live show, and they managed to make a big impression on people, both old and new fans alike, and as soon as they finished almost everyone in the club was talking about what they had just seen.

It may be a little different from what I typically like, but they instantly made me into a fan, and I look forward to seeing them again, and many other times at that.

They have a show coming up at Trees in Dallas on June 22nd and from the way they talked this night, their debut album should be out in the near future (say a few months from now) so stay tuned for that as well.

I stuck around for the next band, which happened to be Red Angel Theory, whom I had last seen on this same stage about a month and a half prior to this.

 One of their newer tracks, “Psycho”, got their show going, right after an intro song played, and they tore into the song with a fury, in particular Phil Sahs who thrashed about and rocked out on his bass, and later in the song guitarist Brandon Deaton let loose some sweet riffs on his axe. Next they got into their older, fan favorite stuff with the heavy “It Often Lies”, which was immediately followed by “Shattered”. They experienced some technical difficulties on that one, and while drummer Nick Sarabia was singing the backing vocals throughout the song, his voice went unheard by the crowd. He didn’t stop singing, though, but without his voice the song lacked the fierce punch it usually has. That’s not to say it was a disaster either, though, as Monica Koohi can muster an equally as vicious sound to her voice, so it still sounded great, even if it was silent for a second or two here and there.

Afterwards, they wound things into another new song, before doing the song I was most hoping to hear before heading back to the other venue. That song was “Inception”, which Monica set up by saying it was “…About starting over and new beginnings…” That masterpiece song was a definite highlight of their set, and I stuck around for the one after it, which happened to be another newer one, “Suffocate”, during which Brandon  owned a brief guitar solo.

It’s not that I didn’t want to see the rest of their set, but I’ve seen Red Angel Theory more than a few times, and I couldn’t say that about the other band.

As for their set night, sure there was a little technical hiccup, but aside from that it was great, especially in terms of energy. They seemed like a completely different band than the one I had just last month, appearing more dedicated than ever, like they were on a mission and they weren’t going to stray from it. Presumably that mission was to put on as spectacular a show as possible, and they accomplished just that.

You can find their three song EP in iTUNES and they do have a few shows coming up over the next months, beginning with June 29th at Hailey’s in Denton. On July 12th they’ll be at the Curtain Club in Dallas and then on August 3rd they’ll be in Greenville, TX at Hartline’s.

I ducked out and headed back to the Curtain Club. Hazeland was getting ready to rock the joint, and I had been wanting to see them for months now but just hadn’t been able to. Actually, I had seen them once before with their original vocalist, and with all the screaming they were too hardcore for my musical tastes, but they had a new singer now and what I had heard online I really liked.

The band began right about the time I got over there

The rhythm section of bassist Mike Hayes and drummer Clay Wise got them going on their first number, “Look Here”, which was made to be an opener. “Hey, hey, hey turn on the gas and kick a little ass…” sang front man Brad Amos  on the chorus, before formerly introducing each member during the instrumental break, which was ruled by Robert “Ozz” Veliz, who did a wicked guitar solo. They followed it with another track from their newest EP, the rhythmic “Hustle”, which had Mike and Brad singing most of the song in unison, their voices combining together to make a very interesting sound, and a fantastic one at that. And when he wasn’t singing, Brad was often seen jumping about center stage, obviously getting into the music they were making.

The next song they did was a new one, a brand new one, and Brad mentioned they would soon be heading into the studio to work on a new record due out in the fall, and this song “Control” would be on it. I found it to be one of the best songs of their set, maybe even the best, and it was the furthest away from their old material, and there was even a noticeable difference between it and the bands current music, with “Control” sounding much more solid. It wasn’t all new music, though, and next they did the slightly older “Killer of the Year”, which was a very tune, both in terms of the song and performance that went along with it, making it easy to get into.

Upon finishing it then Ozz started having some problems with his gear, when one of his pedals messed up, then a sample track began to inexplicably play, causing all four of them to look around wondering what was going on. That got resolved (well, somewhat) quickly, and they carried on with their next song, a track from 2011’s “Carnival of Dreams” record “Backstabber”. It did sound better with Brad at the helm, and I liked the funkiness of the first half of it, before it turned into a full-blown rock song near the end with dazzling guitar riffs, some pulsating bass lines and thunderous drumbeats.

They had saved the best for last, and “Empty” started to close out their set. “You never loved me, you used me like a toy… but I won’t be fooled again, I know it’s just all one big empty LIE!” Brad sang on the songs bridge, or rather spoke part of before belting out that last line. That’s definitely the best song in their arsenal, but they weren’t quite done just yet, closing out their 28-minute long set with a cover song that had reggae vibe to it, and they owned it.

I hate that it took over six months for me to see the band with their new lineup, but it was worth the wait, and they put on a great show.

There was a bit of theatrics to their show, with Ozz wearing a hockey mask of sorts, though it was painted blue with some black mixed in on it making a very cool pattern that was very attention getting. Then you had Mike, who looked kind of Slash-esque with the hat he sported, but not in a copycat sort of way.

All around I really enjoyed it, Brad’s a great singer, it was good seeing Clay back on the drums, even though he has been with the band for a few months now, and they all made for a very entertaining show. That’s all the more reason I’m glad I was able to see this show, because this would be the final time that Brad and Ozz would perform live with Hazeland, and one short week later they both announced that they had resigned from the group, and with Ozz gone that makes Mike the only original member left.

Hazeland shows no signs of stopping, still going into the studio to record, and it will be interesting to see how the reforming process goes. Best of luck to everybody involved, both current and now former members. I look forward to seeing what the future holds for everybody.

If you’d like to purchase their music, you can find both records in their store on REVERBNATION. They also have a show scheduled for July 12th back here at the Curtain Club, but I guess that could all depend on if they can solidify a new lineup by then or not.

Part of wished they had played a little longer, but on the flip side I was alright with the shorter set, because when they finished I hightailed it over to the Boiler Room to see The Circle.

I think they were still on their first song when I walked in, and being the headliner here at the Boiler Room coupled with the fact that it was still so early (they started around 11:30) that afforded them a rare opportunity to play as long as they wanted to.

After their first song (or at least the first one I caught) the band wound things right into their next song, but first singer Don Mills raised a toast to all bands that played this night, commending them for coming together in support of this worthy cause. They then tackled one of my favorite songs of theirs “406”, which is raw and brutal in the best possible way with Don screaming on some parts of the track and singing on others, like the chorus, “Can you bring me back to life, ‘cause I’ve been dead for so long…”. The song didn’t go off without a hitch, and not too far into it Kenneth Henrichs started experiencing some trouble with his bass.

To kill some time Don said he had tried to see all of the bands that played, but pointed out there was no way anyone could and again praised everyone who partook in the event, from the organizers to the bands and of course the fans for coming out. The bass still wasn’t up and running, but they weren’t going to wait around anymore, and Don plainly pointed out they weren’t the first band to ever have something like this happen, and sometimes all you can do is push on. They did just that, and while “Beggars Can’t be Choosers” lacked the full rhythm section, Marc Berry was able to compensate for it with his massive drum kit, and guitarists Craig Nelson and Alan Sauls didn’t seem affected by it, still rocking out on their axes.

Kenneth rejoined the band sometime on their next song, and to solve the problem„ the bassist from Enamored (who played earlier) set up his rig and let Kenneth use it. He seemed to be making up for last time, instantly getting into the song and just dominating things as he slapped the strings of his bass. The gritty “I Am” came next, and around the final chorus Don asked everyone to give them a thumbs up or thumbs down to let them know if it was good or not. “I hope you liked it.” He said, adding it would be one of the cuts on their debut EP. They kept things moving with a couple more songs, and after the first one Alan rolled them right into the next with some great guitar chords, while Don counted them in to it.

“Skeptical” was another personal highlight of mine, and by this time they were all operating in perfect synch with one another, becoming a true force to be reckoned with. After finishing it, Don glanced at his watch to check the time, then remarked, “I don’t know why I keep looking at my watch, it’s dead.” That led them into another song, during which Alan broke a string on his guitar, though he continued to play it, switching to another one before doing “My Trip to the Desert Sucked”. Near the start of it Craig leapt into the air at the same time Marc pounded out a beat on his drums, which was pretty cool to see. Then at other times, mainly on the chorus, Kenneth added some backing vocals to the song with his loud, vicious scream, complementing Dons’ voice nicely.

They dusted off one of their oldest songs, “Somewhere”, and later in the song Craig owned it, shredding on his guitar during his little solo. That led them to their final song of the night, which was of course their current single, “Sleep On It”. It has something different than any of their other songs, making it standout even more than their other stuff already does, and was (and is) the perfect way to end their set. Before getting to the bridge, Don brought Kenneth’s nephew, Tyler, to the stage and the young kid helped in the singing/screaming, and did a great job.

That seemed like the end, but the final notes had barely finished resonating when someone shouted for one more, then the sound guy joined in, in egging the band on for one more. Don told everyone there was one song they had decided to cut from the set this night, and that ended up working out rather well, because they were now able to do it for the encore of their nearly hour long set.

The set was one of the best I’ve seen them do, even with the small technical issues, and they’re clicking better now then even, at least out of the year that I’ve been seeing them. They’re definitely improving with each show, and then I think their time in the studio has helped them excel even further. So, if you want to see an amazing live show from a band that writes killer music, then go see The Circle. You’ll be glad you did.

Head over to their REVERBNATION PAGE to download some live cuts of their songs, and buy “Sleep On it” in iTUNES for a mere $.99. Hopefully that will hold you over until their EP is released. Also, they have a show coming up on July 12th in Dallas, at, you guessed it, The Curtain Club.

They were the perfect end to what had been an excellent rock show, and I enjoyed seeing a band I was unfamiliar with, a few I was but can never see enough, and then one I had been wanting to see for some time. It was a fantastic night, and it was great seeing people come out to support such a worthy cause.

Saturday, May 25th, 2013 – The Polyphonic Spree

The Levitt Pavilion. I had heard of it before, probably around this last year, but I had never been there.

What is the Levitt Pavilion? It’s an outdoor concert venue located in downtown Arlington. It’s also a park that takes up a whole city block, with the massive stage located on the East end of it, and they bring all sorts of bands in to play the stage, from local and regional bands that frequent the clubs of the D/FW area, to bigger national touring acts, such as the headliner this night.

The concert season at the venue had just kicked off the night before, and this night there were two openers on the bill, the first of whom I missed completely, while the other was Calhoun.

I had seen the band once before, a few years ago, and didn’t really care for them much, but I was certainly up for giving them another chance.

I only caught their last 20-minutes or so, but I must say I enjoyed their music. I don’t remember much about them from that first occasion, but I think they’ve changed their sound up a little since then, and it works well for them. I really enjoyed it, and wouldn’t mind seeing them again, and getting the experience of a full set.

After them was the headliner, The Polyphonic Spree, who began their set a little after 8:30, but not before some of the workers at the Levitt name dropped the sponsors and also encouraged everyone to donate some money when they came around collecting it, reminding everyone that while the concerts are free to attend, they aren’t free to put on.

It had been two weeks to the day (and almost even to the exact time) since I first experienced The Polyphonic Spree live, and after seeing they were doing this show, how could I pass it up, especially at the low cost of free?

The show this night was very similar to that other one, including the beginning, where a large banner stretched across the stage, covering all of the band members, while the nineteen-piece band/choir proceeded to play a light piece.

As that was going on, the twentieth member, singer Tim DeLaughter, began to use some spray paint on the banner, having to write backwards so it would be readable by the audience. The message this night was different, reading, “This nite is for you”. He then grabbed a pair of scissors, cutting through it, but not in a straight line, cutting off small pieces of it and throwing them out the fans, before finally cutting all the way through it, and as the banner dropped to reveal the band, the music rose to its height.

Suddenly, it stopped, and as the instruments fell silent, the band froze, not even moving a muscle for a few seconds, before diving back into the instrumental track, which they eventually wound into their first song, the vibrant, upbeat “Section 22 (Running Away)”. The six-piece female choir, the guitar and drums were on full display on that song (among other instruments) as Tim bounced about the stage, singing in his cheery voice.

Upon finishing it, he talked about having “weathered the storm”, as it had rained late in the afternoon, and thanked everyone for sticking around. “…I see a lot of you who were out here earlier…” he said, then basically promised to make this a night that wouldn’t soon be forgotten. I think they next did “Section 7 (Hanging Around the Day Part 2)”, after which Tim again expressed his excitement about the night, saying it was “…Gonna be a hootenanny tonight.” His voice acquired a real southern drawl when he said that, sounding more country than he really is, or at least acts. They next did a track from the “Together We’re Heavy” album “ Section 14 (Two Thousand Places)”. It was a highlight of their set, as Tim marched about the stage giving everyone what could be considered some words of advice, crooning “…You gotta be good, you gotta be strong, you gotta be two thousand places at once…”.

The energetic front man conducted his band at the start of their next song, thrusting one of his arms out in the air and as he did so, the cello player, violinist and multiple other musicians plucked and or struck a string on their instrument. That went on for quite a few times, and there was only once where the band jumped the gun and struck their instruments ahead of his cue. Like I said, this show was similar to the one I had seen a few weeks prior, that includes the setlist, which wasn’t a bad thing, and I was getting pretty excited at this point knowing what was coming next. The band soon tore right off into “Section 23 (Get Up and Go)”, with Tim singing the first line of this amazing rock song, “You’re satellite cover’s blown…”

The crowd was diverse, with people coming from all walks of life, and if any them hadn’t been feeling the band yet, then that song surely did the trick, because it’s hard not to be reeled in by its catchiness. “…Did y’all know it’s been seven years since our last record…” Tim said to the audience, seeming to be in a state of disbelief about that himself. He mentioned that, that will soon be changing when their new record comes out on August 6th, and that set up a new song from it, “Hold Yourself Up”, which I foresee as being my favorite track from the forthcoming record. It’s classic Polyphonic Spree, mining the same vein as many of the songs they performed this night, and has what I think is a wonderful line, “…She’s got roller coaster eyes…”, which is also periodically sung by the choir, all whom harmonize on it.

They were definitely on a roll, and after doing one of their new songs, Tim told everyone to store the next one away in their mind. “…This is for you Arlington, you won’t forget it!” he exclaimed, as the band created the gorgeous textures that make up their medley of The Who music, first doing a bit of “See Me, Feel Me”, which was slower, then stepped it up as they suddenly did a bit of the true classic, “Pinball Wizard”. Tim wasn’t lying, that really was a moment worth filing away in your mind. They didn’t let up either, patching things seamlessly into “Section 11 (We Sound Amazed)”, which they then eventually bridged into “Section 2 (It’s the Sun)”, doing it all so flawlessly that you might have thought it was one massive long song if you were unfamiliar with their music.

They had one last new offering for everyone and that was “You Don’t Know Me”, another fantastic song that elevated the mood by sending the message that you can’t let anyone bring you down. “…This is our night!” Tim excitedly said when he addressed the crowd after that song, mentioning that everyone had “shared a moment” from that little rainstorm earlier, adding that everybody was now connected for having stuck it out, and while there set was winding down, they still had quite a bit left to do. One of those still left in the chamber was big choir and sing along number “Section 8 (Soldier Girl)”.

Afterwards, Tim tried to evoke more of the raw Rock ‘n’ Roll spirit from everybody, asking, “Can I get a hell yeah?!” There was an audible response of that, though he also got something unexpected which he called attention to, and that was a peace sign. “…Only at a Polyphonic Spree…” he said laughing, truly loving it. The laughs weren’t over yet, though, and out of nowhere Tim suddenly began singing the theme song to the old children’s show The New Zoo Review, humming over the parts he couldn’t remember, but that was only a few words. It was completely random and had more than a few people cracking up.

“This song’s called Tripping Daisy!” he shouted, throwing in a reference to his legendary Dallas based rock band, then pointed out they didn’t have a song by that name. “We do have one called Light and Day, though.” He added, leading them into the dynamic “Section 9 (Light and Day - Reach for the Sun)”. That same word could also be used to describe the performance that went along with that spectacular song, which would have been a fine way to end the show, but they still had a little left in the tank. Tim again began a conversation with the crowd, speaking in his southern voice, finally saying, “…I’m sorry, the country comes out when I get excited…”. He had reason to be excited, as he spoke about Tripping Daisy, mentioning there’s not a day of his life where he doesn’t think about that band. I knew what was coming next, though frankly I hadn’t been expecting it to happen, despite wanting to.

At that other show of theirs I caught they had dusted off a Tripping Daisy song, and now they were going to do it again. “My Umbrella”, which sounded like a true rock song, even with instruments like a harp, French horn and an array of other instruments being played, and that track brought their 70-minute long set to an astounding end.

That could have been a fitting end to the night, however the stage lights stayed on, turning a nice shade of blue, giving the impression that there would be more. Sure enough, they weren’t quite done yet, and all twenty members soon walked back out on stage and resumed their posts for the 13-minute long encore.

They kicked it off with the bright “Section 12 (Hold Me Now)”, which is another personal favorite of mine, and I was ecstatic to hear them do it live. There next and final song was another cover, and before starting it Tim mentioned it was by a band that really influenced him in his younger days. “…No, it’s not Soundgarden…” he said, though he professed his love for that band, too. He built up some suspense as to what it might be, finally dropping the band name Nirvana, which the crowd seemed pretty excited about.

The song was “Lithium”, and they did a killer rendition of it, putting a different twist on it, yet still keeping it fairly close to form. They all made sure to give it their all, making one final push, and the harp player even picked up his harp near the end of the song, holding it out over the crowd, a move that amazed me.

That was the end of the show, but as the massive group huddled around one another to show their appreciation to everyone, Tim started into one final speech, thanking everyone for coming out and being a part of the night, sounding absolutely sincere about it.

It was a stunning performance they delivered, and while not everyone stuck around for the whole thing, they did all seem thoroughly captivated by it while they were there. Bear in mind that does include all age ranges, from some preteens to even a few people who appeared to be in their seventies, and everything in between. That just goes to show that the music that The Polyphonic Spree makes and the lively, high-energy show they put on don’t have a targeted age range, rather, it can and does appeal to everybody.

The show was just as much of a spectacle as it was the first time I saw them, and while the entire band will dazzle you, just in the way that such an array of instruments are able to fit together sound-wise and create such rock sound. However, it definitely is Tim DeLaughter that will capture and hold your attention more than anyone, and this night he was constantly moving around the stage, often running, and mingling with his band mates, or looking out at the audience and doing everything he could to make sure the people were fully enthralled by the show.

They seemed like they were, and I can’t imagine a single person left here disappointed this night.

Be sure to check out the bands TOUR DATES, of which they have some around the U.S. and even various parts of the world. Also, head over to their store in iTUNES to find their older records, and mark your calendars for August 6th, when the band will release “Yes, It’s True”, their first original album in seven years. And do be sure to come out to the Granada Theater in Dallas on August 9th for the bands official hometown CD release show.

As for the Levitt Pavilion, it’s a wonderful venue and I love what they’re doing, not only by putting on free concerts, but there making a town that isn’t a real destination for live music (at least not like Fort Worth and Dallas are) into one, even if it is for a few months out of the year. Actually, a lot of other cities in the D/FW metroplex could take a cue from them in my opinion. For example, I know Plano has a venue similar to this, but as far as I know it’s barely used, and I’m sure there are other cities that are the same way, yet here’s Arlington, one-upping everybody else.

They have a lot of great acts coming through the Levitt, and they are as follows:
June 19th – The Lone Star Circus
June 20th - Chubby Carrier
June 21st – Sara Hickman
June 22nd – The Light Crust Doughboys
June 23rd – Snarky Puppy
June 26th – Vocal Trash
June 27th – Carabali
June 28th – Monte Montgomery
June 29th – Jason Eady
June 30th – Billy Joe Shaver
July 3rd – Atlanta Rhythm Section
July 5th – Del Castillo
July 6th – The Quebe Sisters Band
July 7th – Terry Hendrix & Lloyd Maines
July 11th – Girl in a Coma
July 12th – The O’s
July 13th – Ruthie Foster
July 14th – Radney Foster

Those above concerts are all free to attend, then there will be one they charge for on September 14th which will feature Foreigner. So, go check out one or several of those, and starting in late August they will also have another concert season starting up.

Great night, and best of all it was over with early.

Saturday, May 11th, 2013 – Ishi Does Dallas Again

A few different venues throughout Dallas were hosting what they billed as Homegrown after parties, and the one I most wanted to see was at Three Links, the new venue that has moved into the old LaGrange space.

The venue is essentially the same, though it has undergone some aesthetic changes, which were all for the best. A luxurious looking red curtain now hangs on the wall behind the stage, with the same fabric acting as trim around the stage. It makes things look pretty classy.

As for the music, it was an interesting mix this night, with a couple punk rock bands opening, while the electronic group Ishi was headlining the show.

The first act up was PVC Street Gang, who was almost done by the time I arrived.

I’m kind of glad all I saw was their final song, because I didn’t much care for their stuff. It was just too rough around the edges for me, with the bands singer/guitarist doing more screaming than I care for.

The second trio of the night mined a similar vein as the first, but the one big difference was I knew I liked The Phuss, and it had been far too long since I last saw one of their shows.

The aggressive punk rock act began their set with “Something to Die For”, which seemed especially fierce this night. In fact, during one of the instrumental breaks when Joshua Fleming was slinging his guitar (and body) about the stage, he knocked his mic out of the stand, resulting in a loud sounding thud. A fan tried to fix it, but he didn’t have enough time before the next line of the song, so instead he held it for Josh while he shouted into the microphone.

Eventually it got put back in place and stayed, and mere moments after finishing that song than Josh started them in on their next one, “One for Now Three for Later”. As usual, during the brief silence before the second verse the fans helped out by shouting “BITCH!”, as did band members bassist Forrest Barton, drummer Trey Alfaro and Josh, all off mic. Already they were seeming more driven than usual and their raw, primal energy had everyone’s full attention in the packed venue.

“Are you fucking ready, Dallas?!” yelled Josh as he tuned his guitar. The audience roared to signify they were, while his response was, “Yeah, I fucking doubt it.” It was also during this time that some of the fans were asking for things to be turned up louder, and Josh told the sound guy to “blast everyone out” ‘cause it was what they wanted. It nearly did too, and from “Stupid Girl” on out you could feel the bass lines Forrest was cranking out as they shook several internal organs. Now that’s rock at its best.

Afterwards, Josh mentioned to everyone they had been in the studio for just a few days and were about to go back in the next week or so for a few more and try to finish recording. That was the segue into some of their newer material, the first of which, if I heard correctly, was called “Straight-line Impala”, and it was pretty badass. I favored the next song even more, though. They then did some more stuff from last year’s self-titled record, with Josh saying they had been having fun so far, but they were about to get serious for a minute, as they tore into “Bleed”. It’s filled with pain and anger, and both emotions are apparent in Josh’s singing, as he angrily yells, “…You’re gonna bleed me dry…” It was also during that song that Trey broke one of his drumsticks, hurling what was left of it to the crowd, quickly replacing it and barely missed a beat.

Their onslaught of rock continued with the gritty “The Romantic”, and at the end of it they wound it right into another one of their newer songs, which is my personal favorite of their new stuff, as it evokes the true spirit of Rock ‘n’ Roll. They began to wind things down with their song about being young, sorta, “21 Ain’t What It Was”. That led them to their final song, as Trey started laying down the beat, tossing his drumsticks up in the air one at a time, then barely flipping them again once they got into his left hand as he hit one of his toms. That’s one of the most entrancing moments of “Preacher, Preacher”, but the song didn’t’ fully take off until the bass and guitar roared to life and the fans started shouting along to what Josh was singing.

It creates a wonderful concert moment, and that song alone is an experience. Josh again encouraged everyone to come buy some of their merch, which they had on sale, before leaving the stage, but he didn’t get far before the crowd started chanting for an encore and the request was undeniable. “..>We’ll do one more…” he said after returning to the stage, “But it’s gonna be a short one god dammit!” It wasn’t short, at least not my definition of short, but it was a kickass tune and brought their set time to a lengthy 46-minutes.

The last couple of Phuss shows I saw, which were at the end of last year, they had pushed themselves to a whole new level in regards to their performance, and they’ve only built upon that since.

They’re more precise and in synch with each other than a lot of bands will ever be, and their live show is a raw, violent explosion of rock, just like it should be, and that makes them one of the best bands in the D/FW area that you could see right now.

Pick up their self-titled album in ITUNES, and expect a new release from The Phuss sometime later in the year. Also, they’ll be headlining Club Dada in Dallas on June 14th, with some great talent opening for them.

Now it was time for the headliner, and just eight short days after Ishi had done their monumental CD release show, they were giving their hometown another dose of love, and Dallas was more than ready for it.

The fans packed in tighter than sardines as they got ready to start, and for the first time in my few short years of being an Ishi fan, I was going to see them as a three-piece, sans the backing female vocalist, a role which has been filled by Becky Middleton for the last few years.

Right before they got going, singer John Mudd left the stage, making a few additions to his wardrobe, as he returned looking very similar to how he did at their CD release show. He wore a mink stole of sorts draped around his shoulders and sported a hat that was covered with reflective pieces of glass, like what a disco ball has.

Much of the audience sang right along with him as he made something of an “Ooooooh” sound to start of their opener, “Mirror Ball Sky”. It also didn’t take anyone long to succumb to the music, as much of the crowd started dancing and even jumping around, fully engulfed by the peaceful sounding song.

They threw the songs out quickly, and they had barely finished it when drummer Jonathan Merla, who was also in charge of the computer and sample tracks, started the one for “Our Time”, resulting in a massive cheer when they realized what track it was. Since this is one song that typical uses the female singer, I was curious as to how that part would be done, if it was at all. It was, with John singing the bridge, giving it more of mystical feel, before he jumped back into action with the final verse, “Don’t let go of who you are…”

They got back to focusing on their new material, as Rocky Ottley plucked the strings of his guitar as “Moon Watcher” began to build. Despite it being a slower song, it’s still one of their best in my opinion, and certainly didn’t slow down the dancing that was going on, and at the end of it John bowed to the crowd, in perfect time with the music. “Emotional Hard Drive” was another tune that sent the audience into somewhat of a frenzy, grooving to the infectious beat. Various moves were made on this song to correspond with the lyrics, looking at his imaginary watch on the line “…I look at my watch wondering when…”, or making a move like he was flexing his arm as he sang “…As you strut you stuff, looking so tough, well I don’t buy it.” All the while, the stunner shades he wore were lighting up colors of neon red and lime green.

They followed it with “Touch The Future”, yet another song that had some fans singing along, aiding in the backing vocals. Near the end of the song, once Jonathans’ drumming and Rockys’ guitar playing got a little more intense, John grabbed the mink, slinging it in the air as he twirled it about, sending small bits of the fur flying around the air. That made it apparent they were starting to step things up this night, and they only kept pushing themselves with “Slowly But Surely”. Shortly before the first line, John and Rocky, who were standing on opposite sides of the small stage, ran towards the center and leapt into the air, each landing on the side the other had started out on. It was neat to see, and very well calculated on their part. Things only got more interesting though, and closer towards the end John fell to the floor and began to hump it, as if there was woman there only he could see. It’s far from a new move, but it is one I hadn’t seen him do at a show in awhile, and this night I think it earned him some looks of disbelief, while other people just couldn’t keep from laughing.

They switched up the mood with the almost eerie “Digital Wounds”, and after finishing it, Rocky had to ask his band mates what was next. “I.S.H.I.” you saw Jonathan say to him, but then John decided they needed to deviate slightly from the setlist, and instead do their new song, which, to the best of my knowledge hard first been debuted eight days before. I liked it even more this time around and it’s an incredible song that I think will, in time, become the bands next anthem.

A sign that their set was coming to an end was one of the singles from the “Digital Wounds” record, “Disco Queen”, because after all, you need to save your best songs for last. “Rocky Ottley!” John shouted at one point in the song, giving him the spotlight for a bit as Rocky cranked out his killer solo. Before carrying on with their next song, John reached behind an amp and pulled out his Native American headdress, complete with neon elements adorning the feathers which are constantly lighting up. Everyone knew what was coming, and they eagerly awaited the start of “Mother Prism”. It’s a song that truly is something else and it promotes a real feeling of camaraderie. In fact, for the six plus minutes the song spanned, everybody seemed like they were one, and as a unit everyone was fully engaged by that masterpiece.

With the two singles from their new record out of the way, it was time to focus on the remaining highlights from the “Through the Trees” album, and with “Pastel Lights”, this dance party was kicked into high gear. Every single person in there was doing some type of moving around on that one, even if it was as simple as swaying about. “This is our last song of the night, Dallas.” Said John as the track for “Shake Your Dandelion” started, and he again thanked everyone for coming out and supporting them two weeks in a row. There’s a real seductive quality to the song and it left everyone satisfied as it concluded their 58-minute long set, however, my favorite part of the song was a brief guitar solo Rocky embarked on, taking some liberties with it, which resulted in something amazing.

No, the show wasn’t nearly the spectacle they had made their CD release gig into, and the setlist this night wasn’t as beefy either, but the performance was still every bit as good.

Ishi isn’t much different as a trio as they are as a four-piece, in fact, with it just being the core members this night, I thought they seemed even a little more cohesive. It was all top-notch in every aspect.

And in regards of the turnout, that speaks to what a force Ishi currently is. I can’t think of any local band right now that could do a big event like a CD release show, then turnaround eight days later and do another concert in the same town, and come awfully close to selling out both. Especially when practically all of their fans were at the show the week prior, which would mean the only reason they’d want to see the band again is sheer love for their music. And really, that’s more than enough reason, and just goes to show how much the music fans of Dallas (and beyond) have embraced Ishi.

June will be a fairly active month for Ishi, with shows in San Antonio at The Korova on the 7th, then Fitzgerald’s in Houston on the 8th. On the 21st they’ll bring the part to the Wild Rooster in Fort Worth, while the following night they can be seen at the Grand Stafford Theater in Bryan, TX. Also, be sure to check out both of their albums in ITUNES.

It had been a great night. Hell, it had been an amazing day, but at this point I had been listening to live bands for over thirteen hours, and I was ready to call it a day.

Saturday, May 11th, 2013 – The Homegrown Music Festival: Year 4

In three short years the Homegrown Music and Arts Festival has established itself as a Dallas institution, and is arguable the festival that takes place not only in Dallas, but even the entire North Texas area.

A large part of the appeal (well, besides the music) is that it takes place in the urban oasis that is the Main Street Garden Park, a vibrant park, which occupies a full city block, that is usually a good place for people to walk their dogs in or bring their children to play on the playground equipment. However, this one day out of the year two stages are set up, one on the East end and the other on the West, as the park is transformed into a music lovers paradise.

The first two years the festival focused exclusively on North Texas based bands, before expanding in their third year, allowing bands from all over Texas to play. Only a handful of North Texas bands performed during the 2012 installment, but now in its fourth year, Homegrown was getting back to basics, and out of the fifteen bands lined up to play, only four hailed from outside the Dallas/Fort Worth region.

Kicking off this glorious day was Ross Edman, who is better known by his stage name as the electronic act, Datahowler.

His start time was 11:30 that morning, which was about thirty minutes before I got there, making Datahowler the only act I missed this day. It was surely an interesting show, though, since he was supposed to be playing his music alongside a yoga instructor who was in turn leading some individuals in a yoga routine.

I imagine that took him out of his comfort zone a little, but he was one of a handful of musicians pulling double-duty this day, and in a few hours he’d get back to what he specializes in.

I can’t say I’m too upset that I missed his set, since what he does is a style of music I’m not really into. However, you can check out his “The Crystal Gazers” EP in iTunes, if you are into some more ambient, electronic stuff.

Some stop and go traffic resulted in me getting there a little later than I wanted to, arriving right at noon, which I knew meant I was cutting it close, as that was when Madison King and her band were scheduled to start.

Sure enough, as I hurried out of the parking garage, the music crept into earshot, revealing they were in the midst of their presumable opener, “Whiskey In the Morning”.

During my trek over to the other side of the park where the Chevy stage was located, I was surprised by all the people that were already here. Sure, it might not have been a ton, but considering the festivities were just getting underway, there were a lot. Perhaps it’s as simple as they just have excellent taste in music and didn’t want to miss even one of the many great bands playing this day.

But I digress…

Upon finishing that song, they did another from Madisons’ “Darlin’, Here’s to You” record, “Here In Arms”, which is still one of the best songs in their repertoire and tells a great story. Songs from that nearly two year old album were few and far between this day, though, like their next one, which she announced to everyone was titled “Me and You”. Chris Carmichael launched them into the song with some awesome beats in what was essentially a brief drum solo, before electric guitarist Michael Smith and bassist Wade Cofer jumped into it. It’s a love song, and a very good one at that, that had a great flow to it and out of handful of new songs they did during this around 30-minute long set, it was one of my favorites.

During a break after that song, Madison started talking about what a great day it looked like it was going to be, and briefly mentioned that she had already had to duct tape her high heels, laughing as she said, making it sound like at the very least it had been an interesting day for her thus far. They then moved things along with another new tune, “Ghost of the One that Got Away”, and then another song which she dedicated to someone, resulting in two women running up towards the stage and somewhat dancing along to the song.

My favorite song of their set ended up being the next song, which was a slower, hauntingly beautiful number, with one of the lines being, “…We make evil inventions from the best of intentions…” All of those offered a nice glimpse at what Madison has been writing, and they give the impression that her next record will in all likelihood outdo her first, which is saying a lot. Speaking of that first record, they next played the gorgeous, “Nazarene”, during which Madison intricately plucked the strings of her acoustic guitar with just her fingers. “…This next song is called Saved By a Son of a Gun…” Madison told everyone, but almost immediately after starting it, she brought it to a stop. She thought either something was off or that her capo was on the wrong fret, but upon realizing all was right, they started it again, and this time this catchy song went off without a hitch. That brought them to the final song of their set, which was “Darlin, Here’s To You” and it was a fantastic song to end on, especially with the fiery guitar notes and even solo, which Michael rocked by the way.

Okay, so technically Madison King and her band didn’t get the day started, but since they were the first act I saw, they got it started for me, and what a way to begin.

Madison is one of the best singer/songwriters in the D/FW, a fact that everyone who saw her this fine afternoon would surely attest to. And it’s not just that the music and lyrics are great, but it’s also the fact that she so obviously pours her heart into the performance.

If you haven’t seen her yet, you should, and luckily she has several shows coming up in Dallas in June, one of which will be on the 5th at Three Links, then the 14th at the Belmont Hotel and finally the 20th at Sundown at Granada. Also be sure to check out the “Darlin’, Here’s to You” album in iTunes.

The next band was getting ready to take the Shiner stage, but, like all the bands this day, they were introduced by the events MC. “…Have you ever seen a wolf play drums?” the MC asked everyone, then added, “You’re about to.” before introducing the another country band, J. Charles and the Trainrobbers.

I had seen the band once before, and that had been over a year ago, so I was looking forward to finally seeing them again.

Steve Visneau was already sitting behind his drum kit, and after the three remaining members filed on stage, he and singer and guitarist Jeffrey Charles Saenz fired up the first song of their 40-minute set, “Mercy Killing”. They quickly commanded everyone’s attention, specifically when J. Charles’s voiced surged as he belted out, “There’s a bullet here for me, a bullet here for you. Only problem is we love each other too damn much it’s true…” It’s one hell of a song, and only got better when the sounds from Justin Youngs’ bass and Daniel Creamers’ keyboard became more prominent. They soon followed it with the subsequent track on their “Upon Leaving” record, the gritty, “Letter to a Thief”.

“This next song is called My Year.” J. Charles quickly told the crowd as they tore into another amazing song. Towards the end of that one there’s a little lull, during which both Jeffrey and Justin walked back by the drum riser. Then, as the music began to swell, the two marched back up to their respective microphones in perfect synch with each other, where they both sang, “My heart’s been on fire all year long…” I believe it was followed by a non-album track, after which J. Charles made some small talk with the audience, admitting he wasn’t “…good at talking…” That’s alright, not every band needs to have banter, especially when the music is as good as this was. He did use that time though to promote the merch they had for sale, which included their new album, and he used that as a segue into their next song.

It was the single from their debut album, the gripping, “Something Wrong”, which at times is almost a sing along, as the chorus is catchy enough it could easily have the fans shouting along to it. “Three Shades of Black” brought the noise level down slightly (at least for a bit), but not the intensity of their playing was still there, especially in Steve’s drumming.

They changed things up a bit for their final two songs, as Taylor Rea joined them, walking over to stage right. J. Charles grabbed his mic stand, moving it where he could face her, saying something to the effect that they were going to have a standoff, and she moved her mic stand to look at him. They did the lovely duet “Ain’t So Blue”, and they had a lot of chemistry going on as they sang back and forth to one another, even on occasion getting some amazing harmonies going. They had one final song planned after that, and that was their longest song yet, “Tennessee Roads (No Moon)”, which often had Taylor singing some backing vocals, word-for-word with what J. Charles was singing.

I remembered them being a great band the first time I saw them, but nothing on the scale of what they were this afternoon.

They’ve tightened and polished things up a lot in the last sixteen months, and it shows in their performance. They were very coordinated in their stage performance and operated like a well-oiled machine.

It was quite the performance they put on, too, overflowing with energy. More than once during the instrumental breaks of some songs J. Charles worked his way up on the drum riser, shredding on his guitar while banging his head to the heavy beats Steve was laying down.

They may be a country band, but they have the perfect blend of a rock and country sound, and between that and J. Charles’s rich, distinctive voice, they are sure to reel you in. So, if you haven’t yet experienced J. Charles and the Trainrobbers, you are truly missing out.

You should give their “Upon Leaving” album a listen, and buy it in iTUNES if you like it. If you’d like to see them live, they’ll be at the Magnolia Motor Lounge in Fort Worth on June 15th.

The next band of the day was one of the out-of-town bands, the Houston based, The Tontons.

They got another good introduction from the MC, who mentioned that last year Eisley played the festival, noting they used to be called Mos Eisley, before George Lucas asked them to change their name. So, after introducing The Tontons, he added, “…Or as George Lucas calls them, The Tons.”

The quartet, led by front woman Asli Omar, had several newer songs to play for the ever growing crowd, though to a lot of people I’m sure they all were new.

Their opener was one of those newer songs, and was a prime example of what the band is about, with a captivating music bed that could easily pull you in, and it made perfect use of Aslis’ soulful, rich and even at times slightly raspy voice. They may be a indie rock band, but with that song I think everyone knew they were in for one of the most unique and original performances of the day.

Asli aided drummer Justin Martinez in the percussion field on their next song, as she shook a tambourine throughout it. Afterwards, Adam Martinez started them on a fan favorite from the “Golden” EP, “Vietnam”, with the infectious guitar chords that at the very least should have you swaying along to the song, if not inciting some full on dancing. Once it was finished, Asli addressed the crowd, urging everyone to enjoy this day they had, before summer arrived making it so hot we wouldn’t even want to step outside. “…By the way, this hair is like a oven.” She added, referring to her afro.

They got back to business with one of the two songs from their recently released 7’’ vinyl record, “Bones”, and the song was simple named “Bones 1”. It carried a more rock sound with it, with some, at times, blistering riffs from Adam, and while Tom Nguyen’s bass lines were often more subtle on some of their other music, they were anything but during this song, creating a very cohesive and solid rhythm section. Yet another new song came next, which took them to the emotion filled title track of their most recent EP, “Golden”. “You’re shallow and silly and oh so conniving. I’d say you were stupid but that’d be denying you were ever smart enough to date me, ever strong enough to break me…” Asli sang on the chorus while dancing along to the song.

During another short break in between song, Asli encouraged everyone to check out their Austin friends Quiet Company, who were playing right after their set, as well as Zhora, who was set to be the next band playing here at the Chevy stage. “…That’s the best part of Texas…” she said, “…We are all family…”

Another barrage of new material followed, as they cranked out three more songs, one of which was another where Asli again played the tambourine. They had been up there for about half an hour at this point, and to wrap up their 34-minute long set, they did the lead track from their self-titled album, “Leon”.

Having only see them once before this (which had been over a year ago), I had forgotten how amazing The Tontons really were.

They are incredibly versatile, owning the more rock style of music they play, but also pulling off the slower, almost jazz like songs, which is reminiscent of something you would have often heard in a lounge setting in say the 60’s.

The interesting music and superb vocals made them one of the most unique bands of the entire day, which in turn made them one of the most memorable.

Between ITUNES and BANDCAMP, you can purchase every single one of the bands releases, even getting a few singles for free download over on their bandcamp page. As for shows, their schedule is currently empty, and word is they are going to be working on a new record.

Three bands in and it had already been an amazing day, and while there were plenty of bigger name bands yet to come, I was most looking forward to the next band on the Shiner stage, the Austin based rock outfit, Quiet Company.

Opening their set was “And You Said it Was Pretty Here”, a bonus track from their new/old record “A Dead Man On My Back: Shine Honesty Revisited”, which is a re-recording of one of the bands first album. This cheery sounding tune found the band looking a little out of place, as Cody Ackors was playing one of the guitars, an instrument he’s actually quite great at, leaving the heavily bearded Thomas Blank to focus on his keyboard. It was the first time I’d heard them open with that song, and despite the drastic differences between it and some of their past openers, it worked every bit as well, as more and more people gathered around the stage to watch the spectacle that was starting to unfold.

Cody gave up the guitar to Thomas, while he assumed his spot on stage right, surrounded by his numerous instruments, which included the trombone, a floor tom and a keyboard. The sample track for “It’s Better to Spend Money Like There’s No Tomorrow Than Spend Tonight Like There’s No Money” began to play while the band got ready for it. “…You better stop and smell the roses. You better love the life you live. You better take note of when it’s killing you…” sang singer and guitarist Taylor Muse on the chorus, and after the second one the music gave way to Thomas and his solo on the melodic. It wasn’t just the standard instrumental break, though.

“…We all have regrets.” Taylor said to the crowd, noting he regretted “eating at the Great Wall of China Buffet in Bryan, Texas.” “But one thing I’ve never regretted is dancing at a rock show…” he added, as he proceeded to encourage everyone to cut loose, have fun and dance to the rest of the song, to which some people did.

Those two songs got them off to a fierce and dynamic start, and it was only about to get better as they prepared to do a few songs from what is arguably their best record, 2011’s “We Are All Where We Belong”.

“So you say you got peace about it, I purpose you could live without it…” sang Taylor at the start of “Preaching to the Choir Invisible, Part I”, which had Cody, at least at first, accompanying drummer Jeff Weathers in the percussion field, as he tapped some drumsticks on the rim of the tom. The deep meaning, multilayered song culminated with the guitars, drums and bass, played by Matt Parmenter, soaring to life, as the four members at the forefront of the stage shouted in their singing voices, “We belong!” over and over again, a cry that even their fans who were in attendance joined in on.

Upon finishing it, Taylor again told everyone who they were. “…We’re Quiet Company, a metal band from Austin, Texas…” he said, which caused much of the crowd to laugh, because metal, they are not. He also took this time to point out their merch booth they had, telling anyone who wanted to buy something to go visit the guy in the purple shirt. There happened to be two guys wearing purple shirts, and the one who was not the merch guy said something like, “Who are you talking to?” in the spirit of being funny. Actually, it was funny, but Taylor has a quick and clever wit about him, and instantly had a comeback. He jokingly said he was talking to the guy who didn’t know he was selling the merch, telling everyone, “…But he does have that nice dog, go try to buy it from him.”

As they entered the tail end of their 32-minute long set they did another favorite from their 2011 album, “Everything Louder Than Everything Else”, which they then wound right into the single from the record, “You, Me, and the Boatman”, with some simple guitar feedback followed by Jeff tearing it up on the drums. That amazing rock song, which is really set off by the trombone, soon led them to the final song of their show, which was the more serene “On Modern Men”. That track grows on me each time I hear it, especially in the live setting, and it’s undoubtedly at its best when they all croon and then shout, “Make way for your modern man, we fought to exist. We crawled from the water to the dry land and our hands are the dirtiest.”

It may be an older song, but it fits well with the themes from the songs on “We Are All Where We Belong”, and offers the perfect way to cap off a show.

There may have many bigger name bands left to play this day, but Quiet Company was every bit as astounding as those others were. For the record, they were every bit as professional, too.

They are truly one of the best live bands I have ever experienced, putting on an energetic performance that never ceases to amaze, and their greatest quality, their musicianship, is constantly on display and always shining. If you haven’t seen them yet, you are truly missing out.

This little 32-minute performance instantly became the highlight of my day and was the moment to beat, and while a few bands came close, in my opinion, none surpassed what Quiet Company did.

As for their upcoming shows, on June 7th they’ll be in Chicago, IL at Schubas. They’ll also play the Horseshoe in Toronto on June 11th. And do be sure to check out their music on either iTUNES or BANDCAMP. If you like straight up Rock ‘n’ Roll, you’ll love what they do.

So far, the genres played had included some country and a few varieties of rock, and now, it was time for the only electronic band of the festival, Zhora.

It was a different Zhora than had been seen before, though, because a little over a week before the show, half of the band split, leaving just vocalist Taylor Rea and drummer Ross Martinez. So, in order to do this show, they had enlisted the help of Michael Smith on guitar, while Ross Edman worked the electronic aspect of things, and there was also a musician playing a keyboard.

Right before starting their set, Taylor grabbed a futuristic looking visor (think something out of Star Trek), placing it over her eyes, and then they were off.

One of their newer tracks, which will presumably be on their forthcoming full-length, began their set as they started to take the crowd on an adventure through vivid, sonic soundscapes. “The Hold”, a song from their debut EP, came next, followed by “Futuristic Land”, a song where Taylor really put her vocal effects pad, which was mounted on her mic stand, to use. She changed it to where her voice had a distant sound to it, with just a hint of reverb while she sang, with one of my favorite lines of the song being, “…If I’m seeing stars, pull me to your constellation…”.

This short set consisted of another newer track, which had an excellent dreamy quality to it. It was also with that song where the bands show really seemed to take off. Taylor had been swaying and dancing about to the music thus far, but it was on that song where she got a little more forceful, moving about the stage as she really began to entrance, and even command the crowd. But no sooner had the behavior started, and then it was time to end their 26-minute long set. “Sunset”, which oozes with thick sounds from the synthesizer, was their closing number, and was undeniably the highlight of their show.

Zhora is another band I had only seen once before this day, and honestly, the show was kind of lacking from what I had experienced before.

I can’t really fault them, after all, three of the members on stage this day aren’t even official band members of Zhora. They made it work well, and considering they probably didn’t get much practice in, they came across as being pretty cohesive, bust still it was a little lackluster.

That doesn’t mean they’re not a great band, though, and they are one of Dallas’s best electronic bands, at least out of the ones that I’ve heard. Their songs have a nice texture to them, and their newer material is fantastic. But as far as the live show is concerned, while all the members obviously play a key role, it’s really all about Taylor Rea, who, even on what I felt was kind of an off day, still easily managed to make herself the main focal point of the show.

Keep an eye on their FACEBOOK PAGE for upcoming show dates, which they will no doubt have coming up in the future, once the band is reassembled. In the meantime, download their four song EP on their BANDCAMP PAGE, plus some other stuff.

Now, most times at concerts, things are always running behind, but oddly enough, they had actually gotten pretty ahead of schedule at this point. So, in order to get things back on track everyone had to wait for a bit, as The Burning Hotels set time wasn’t until 3:20.

Now, it had been quite some time since I last saw The Burning Hotels, and the few shows of theirs I had seen I had never managed to get into their music, so I was curious as to if they would change my opinion of them this day, or if it was going to be more of the same.

This indie rock bands 36-minute set focused largely on their 2011 self-titled record, as they kicked off their set with the infectious “Always”, and exerted a lot of energy throughout it. They quickly followed it with a song from the “Novels” album, “To Whom it May Concern”, which found the four-piece getting more into the performance, as lead guitarist Matt Mooty and the bands bass player moved about the stage, and even Chance cut loose when he didn’t have to be stationed in front of the microphone. They changed pace bit with their next song, the at times soupy sounding “Days Are Gone”, which also found Matt singing just as much of the song as Chance did.

They followed it with another track, which if memory serves correctly was one where Chance kind of put his keyboard to use, and next did a tune from the “Eighty Five Mirrors” record, “Lovely, Lovely Lady”. “Sound City” was another song they did, though the biggest crowd pleaser seemed to be their single “Beard”, which had Matt taking over the main vocal duties, and not only was this song the biggest crowd pleaser, it was also the one that had most of the audience dancing along to it while Matt sang the chorus, “…Why did I love you?… Why did I ever love you at all?” Afterwards, they had one more song planned for everyone, before getting to the slightly electronic inspired track, “To You with Love From Me”, which brought their show to a close.

Being objective, it was solid set. I believe I had only seen them twice before this, and I did enjoy the overall show much more this time around then my previous experiences. It’s a little inventive and very alluring. They’re also great musicians, especially Chance and Matt, and that’s evident in watching their live show.

However, on the subjective front, I still wasn’t won over as a fan. Chance sings the majority of their material and in the live setting, his voice is constantly on the verge of cracking. Mind you, it never did, but he has a rather high pitch to his voice, and it’s incredibly shaky and unsteady. And for someone like me, who basis if I like a band or not solely on the singer’s voice, I just can’t overlook nor get past that.

As of right now, the only show date on the bands calendar is their September 14th gig at Panther Island Pavilion in Fort Worth, where they will be one of many bands playing the Toadies annual music festival, Dia de los Toadies. They will no doubt be playing some gigs between now and then, though, so keep an eye on their SHOW CALENDAR. And to purchase the bands records, go HERE and HERE (they have two different pages in iTunes, hence the two separate links.)

Now, it was time to get to the country music portion of the day. Sure, a few country bands had played earlier, but the next three bands were bigger names, with all three being routine headliners.

One of those acts was the Dallas duo, The O’s, ho received another memorable and noteworthy introduction from the MC’s, which now included Dallas musician Grant Jones.

The other MC said he recalled the days the band was a four-piece outfit, calling themselves “The Hoe’s”, but when they lost two of their band mates, so too did they lose a couple letters.

It made for a good joke, and before even starting their first song, multi-instrumentalist John Pedigo mentioned he was glad to know how they came up with their band name. That’s the thing with this duo, they’re pretty humorous, though they had little time to let that side show this day.

The O’s were still pretty fresh off the release of their third album, “Thunderdog”, and they began this set with the lead track from it “Outlaw”, as John started strumming his banjo, while Taylor Young supplied the beat with his bass drum while simultaneously playing his acoustic guitar. It was a surprisingly uplifting song, creating a pleasant, hopeful mood amongst the audience, but not only that it also seemed to summarize all the years of work and effort these two have put into the band, specifically with the line, “…We all fight the good fight, we all know what is right. We worked too hard to have nothing change…”, which was mainly sung by John, though Taylor added some backing vocals for most of the song.

Afterwards, John found a clever way to work in all the sponsors of the event, saying something along the lines of he had driven his Chevy truck down here and drank a Shiner Bock beer, but only after having a Red Bull to help him get going (the Red Bull ten was where the beverages were being sold at). Taylor was even impressed by it, but he quickly told John they needed to cut it, reminding him they only had a limited amount of time. “I’m sorry, we like to talk…” he told the crowd, before saying their next song was about the fine city they call home, which was appropriately titled “Dallas”. John plucked the strings of his pedal steel guitar for that one, while Taylor did the singing, essentially professing his love for the city, even saying “…This is where I’ll die…”

I’ve never considered myself a true fan of The O’s (at least not before this day), and even though their newest album at been out nearly a month now, this was the first time I had heard anything from it, and I loved those first two tracks from it they had played. It was a step (or two) above their previous material (which is saying a lot) and made it very clear they had outdone themselves on their newest effort.

This show wasn’t all about their new stuff, though, and next they ventured into their sophomore record, “Between the Two”, by doing a song about what else, but the city of Dallas. At least that was the subject matter according to John, who kind of laughed when saying something like it gets hard to find new things to write about. The song was “We’ll Go Walking”, which may be set in Dallas, but it’s more of a love song than anything.

“…This next song is called Kitty…” Taylor told everyone, as they tackled the final track from “Thunderdog”. That song took them almost completely out of their comfort zone, and was very atypical of them, as it had more of a rock sound and the way Taylors’ voice flowed on the song was superb. It was the banjo that really stole the show, though, as John often ran it through an effect via a pedal, and with the help of that, his banjo made a gritty, distorted sound that could rival that of any guitarist from the many rock bands that had played thus far.

It was an excellent departure from their roots, though they soon returned to their folk/country roots with a couple more tracks from their second album, one of which was the rather beautiful “Pushin’ Along”. That led them to the final song of this short 28-minute long set, which was the upbeat “Everything’s Alright”. In setting it up, John announced to everyone the song title, than added, “…Because it is…”, almost reassuring everyone that things were alright.

Each time I’ve seen this duo over the years I’ve become a little more of a fan, and the performance they gave this day, coupled with the brilliant setlist, solidified me as one. They were extraordinary and put forth a show that stands out as being another very memorable one from this amazing day.

You should definitely head over to iTunes and check out their three albums, particularly “Thunderdog”. As for upcoming shows, from June 7th through the 15th they’ll be over in the UK, so check out their REVERBNATION PAGE for their calendar and specifics on where they’ll be. Come July they have a couple dates in Arlington, TX, one at the Grease Monkey on the 5th and the other at Levitt Pavilion on the 12th. On the 13th they’ll play at Hank’s in McKinney and they have many other dates immediately beyond that, all throughout Texas.

That set seemed hard to follow, but one of the few bands that would have no trouble with that was Somebody’s Darling.

It had been several months since I last saw the band, but their opener hadn’t changed, and as soon singer and rhythm guitarist Amber Farris sang the first line of “Weight of the Fear”, you could tell the throng of people were entranced. As well they should have been, because her voice, which has an especially soulful quality to it on that song, was in rare form. Her voice certainly wasn’t the only gripping aspect to the song, though, and one of the others was lead guitarist David Ponder’s stellar solo.

Drummer Nate Wedan started them on their next song, doing a little bit of a solo at first, while keyboard player Mike Talley clapped along to the beat, before Amber eventually crooned the first line of “Back to the Bottle”, “Well, I believe God made a lover for me…” It was another stellar number, albeit in a different way than their first song, particularly at the end when Mike really got to show off his skills on the keys with some fiery notes. Next up, they had a little treat for all their fans, both the old and new ones alike. They usually have at least one cover song in their set, and now they did one that I had never heard them do before, and that was the classic from the band Faces, “Stay with Me”. They put a slight country twist on it, but Somebody’s Darling is still pretty close to a rock band, allowing them to pull the song off with ease and make it entirely their own.

The crowd definitely seemed to love it, and they followed it with a few more originals, as Amber informed everyone that the next song was “Cold Hands”, which is one of the singles and the lead track from their latest release, “Jank City Shakedown”. The guitars soared to life on this occasionally bluesy track, and were rounded out by a solid rhythm section, of course including bassist Wade Cofer, who effortless and methodically plucked the strings of his bass, with that certain swagger that most bass players seems to have.

“We’re gonna slow things down for a minute.” Amber told the crowd upon finishing the last song, saying it quite quickly, as they seemed in a hurry to finish their set to make sure they adhered to the allotted amount of time they had. The slower song she spoke of was “Pretty Leaves”, which is arguably the most beautiful song they currently do, and it tells a real story, with its lyrics packing a huge emotional punch. After Nate’s drum outro, Amber took a minute to banter with the audience, reminding everyone that the next day was going to be Mother’s Day. Her recommendation to anyone who was out here at Homegrown with their mom was simple; “…Get mom plastered today…”

After her sage advice, they did another cover song, and this one was my personal favorite that they do. It’s a rendition of Jack White’s “Love Interruption”, and not only to they own it completely, but it my opinion, they also upstage the original. They had one song left for everybody after that, and they had saved one of the best for last, finishing with the very well orchestrated and intense, “Wedding Clothes”. As it wound down, Amber had the idea to jump off the stage, which was probably about five feet off the ground, give or take a little, and she told everyone of this. Sure enough, after playing her final notes on the guitar, she leapt into the air, rolling onto her back after she hit the ground, and still clutching her axe. “I had to.” She could be heard saying, making it sound like it was a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Their 35-minute long set was a sensational one, and out of all the bands that played this day, Somebody’s Darling is another one that comes to my mind first when I think back on it. Hell, this show they did this afternoon was almost every bit as good as their CD release show last October, which is hands down the best SD show I’ve personally seen.

They’re a band with an overabundance of talent, with David, Wade, Mike and Nate having phenomenal talent on their respective instruments, and Ambers’ voice alone is enough to leave you in complete awe. And no, she’s not too shabby on the guitar, either. However, the best part is they don’t wield any of that talent in a flashy way, and are instead pretty modest, simply doing their thing while they’re on stage.

They have two LP’s available, both of which can be bought via iTUNES, and they also have quite a few shows lined up. They’ll be at the Hunt County Fair in Greenville, TX on June 11th, then the next week, June 18th, at the Wherehouse in Fort Worth. June 20th will find them down in Austin at Stubb’s BBQ, and the 21st they will be in Tyler, TX at Stanley’s Famous Pit BBQ. They’ll be stopping in Shreveport, LA at Bear’s on the 22nd, then on the 27th they have a free show going down at Sundown at Granada in Dallas. A couple Oklahoma gigs are lined up for late July, and then on August 31st they will be headlining the famous Granada Theater in Dallas for the first time ever.

Concluding the country music portion for the festival was another Austin band, The Band of Heathens.

I had listened to their music before, and while I didn’t hate, I didn’t love it either, and I was curious as to how it be conveyed live.

I was able to find a modicum of shade near the guardrail by the stage, but in taking it I was only able to see four of the five members of the band, and their bassist was not in my view, though I don’t think that made much of a difference in the long run.

The lead track from 2009’s “One Foot in the Ether”, “L. A. County Blues”, began their 42-minute long set, and what a way to start. Both Gordy Quist and Ed Jurdi served as the guitarists, and the latter of those two did the singing on this song. Except on the chorus, when Gordy chimed in, creating some amazing harmonies as they crooned, “We’re burning down Las Vegas, half asleep by noon…”. At times they were even aided by pianist Trevor Nealon, who helped them achieve true vocal perfection. It was such a good opener because it highlighted exactly what the band was about, which is a nice blend of country and Americana music with some smooth, soulful and passionate singing.

Their next song, “Shake the Foundation”, also demonstrated those qualities exceedingly well. Gordy handled the lead vocals this time around, but Ed was often adding his deeper, more blues sounding voice to the mix, while Richard Millsap kept a steady and solid beat going throughout the song. “Right Here With Me” showed off a different side of the band, and I thought the song had more of a minimalist sound to it, at least in comparison to the previous songs. It was more simple, and Ed and Gordy, who each sang a few lines before passing things off to one another, often merely plucked the strings of their guitars, though they still put quite a bit effort into it, making it appear more complex than it really was.

It’s already been a couple years since the bands last studio record, and at this point in the show, they offered everyone a taste of their next album. At least hopefully it was a taste, because after finishing it Ed clarified that it might be on their next record, which he added would most likely be out later this year. I sure hope it makes the cut, because out of the seven songs they did, this one was my personal favorite. All I remember is the final line of the chorus, “…Riding shotgun through the past.”, and the song created somewhat of a solemn atmosphere as they recalled times that have come and gone. It was just a fantastic number, and while I can’t say I really can relate to it, it still stirred some type of emotion in me, and really, isn’t that what any great song should do?

They again slowed things down with “Jackson Station”, which was the only song they did off their first studio album, leaving them with just enough time to do a couple from their latest effort, “Top Hat Crown & The Clapmaster’s Son”. One of those was “Should Have Known”, which is catchy enough it could easily get people dancing along to it, and from what I saw this day, there were a small handful of couples who were doing just that. The best thing about this song, though, was when they proceeded to rock out. They had added some instrumental portions to a few of their previous songs, but they went into a full on instrumental breakdown during this one, which took up at least a couple minutes. I’ve said many times before that I’m not a real fan of instrumental music, and that does apply to breakdowns, but in this case I loved it, and not only did it add a nice layer to the song, it also showed off the chops that Trevor, Richard, Gordy and Ed have.

By this point, more than a few fans were shouting requests for a fan favorite song (“Cornbread”), and had this been a headlining set, they probably would have done it, but it wasn’t, and they brought things to a close with the single from their newest record, “Medicine Man”. Gordy’s voice had been nothing short of impressive before, but it was downright astounding during this song as he belted out some of the later lyrics.

I was hoping I’d like their music and show, and I ended up enjoying it all much more than I thought I would. The music they churn out is almost an homage of sorts to the classic country acts, though it’s certainly modernized. The best part of their show however, was the harmonies. It’s done on their records, but it doesn’t even come close to sounding the same as it does in the live environment. In my opinion, that’s a lot of what made their live show so incredible, because both Gordy and Ed are more than capable lead singers, and when their voices mix in the various ways they did this day, they sounded unbelievable.

I think that helps set them apart, because I don’t think there are many country bands like this that utilize two male vocalists, and I also think that is why you need to see The Band of Heathens live, so you can experience that for yourself.

They tour quite a bit, and on June 8th they’ll be in Pagosa Springs, CO for the Pagosa Folk ‘n Bluegrass Festival. The Tap Room in College Station will host them on June 27th, then the next night they’ll be at the Magnolia Motor Lounge in Fort Worth and the night after that they’ll be in Bee Caves, TX at Hill Country Galleria Amphitheater. They have several more dates scheduled in July, including another North Texas show at Dan’s Silverleaf in Denton. As far as the bands records, you can purchase their stuff (which is a mix of live and studio records) in iTUNES, as well as get a free download of some of their stuff on NOISETRADE.

The next act up was a very big change of pace from the previous acts, as it was the hip-hop group A.Dd+.

I’ll admit, I was ready to write them off long before they even started, because I’m not a fan of hip-hop and rap in the least, but then again, the hip-hop act from last year’s Homegrown at surprised me, so there was a chance A.Dd+ could do the same.

The duo of Paris Pershun and Slim Gravy’s entire 32-minute set consisted of songs from their new album, “DiveHiFlyLo”. They did a CD release show for their hometown fans awhile back, but it has yet to drop on the national scale, so I can’t even attempt to run through what tracks they did.

The two men rushed onto the stage, announcing, “…We in the house…” during their first track. What really surprised me was the tremendous stage presence they had, and even my eyes were glued to the stage. They followed it up with a ton more tracks in quick succession, some of which were handled mainly by Slim Gravy and others by Paris Pershun, while of course others they both rapped on, and those were the tracks where they were nothing short of being a well-oiled machine.

Before one track, Paris Pershun asked everyone to put their middle fingers in the air. “Put your peace signs up.” Slim then instructed, creating a conflicting and rather funny moment. They did some more stuff from “DiveHiFlyLo”, which they said would be released soon, and at one point during the show Paris took time to address the band’s name to everyone who was unfamiliar with them. Basically, the “.” And the “+” sign are just in the written name and not said in their actual name. So basically, you just say each letter individually to get their name, and that seemingly lengthy explanation eventually led to a rap about their name.

As their set neared the end, Paris threw in some more humor as he asked everyone to them on Twitter, saying something to the effect of, “…You’ll see us and be like, ‘That’s those two black guys who wear backwards pants.” By this point in the show they had, had a friend of theirs come up and rap on one song with them, and now for their final track, he returned as Slim and Paris jumped off the stage into the area used by the photographers, pacing about as they really got the crowd riled up.

I might not have cared for it much personally, but you have to give credit where credit is due, and after experiencing this A.Dd+ show, I can see why a few years ago the Hip-Hop scene in Dallas was exploding, and why these guys were at the forefront of that.

They are exceedingly talented at what they do, and while I won’t be buying their records and probably won’t be seeing another one of theirs shows, for 32-minutes this day they had me enthralled, and even enjoying the music to an extent.

You can find their first release in either ITUNES or BANDCAMP, and in the not too distant future their sophomore release should be available in both of those outlets, too. As for shows, keep an eye on their FACEBOOK for updates.

The day was getting closer to an end now, and it was time for another change in musical styling’s, as two soul acts would be the next performers.

The first of the two was Larry g(EE) and his rather large band, which was comprised of Beau Bedford and Daniel Creamer, both of whom played the keys, and Beau even dabbled with the guitar at times. There was also a choir, featuring three women and a man, and along with the bassist and drummer, there was also a saxophonist, trumpet player and another like instrument used.

This new age man of soul and his band kicked tings off with “Game”, a track from Larry’s debut EP, “Weekends”. If you were unfamiliar with Larry g(EE), then you were probably both surprised and impressed  by the powerful and soulful voice that came out of him, as they wove together a mix of soul, funk and even some R&B on that song. The crowd loved it, and they enjoyed the next song, which was one of Larry’s newer tracks, just is much, and a highlight of that song was the mini choir, who added quite a bit of backing vocals to the tune.

However, it was their next song that truly had everyone mesmerized, as Beau first told everyone they wanted to take them somewhere, and then Larry said essentially the same thing. The audience screamed with delight, obviously more than willing to go along for the ride. They wanted to take everyone “higher”, and to do that they did an amazing cover of the Sly and the Family Stone classic, “I Want to Take You Higher”. There probably aren’t many bands that can pull that song off, but Larrys’ band has all the right parts to do it, and I dare say his voice can give Sly Stone’s a run for its money. That one definitely seemed like the crowd favorite of the night, yet Larry and his group were still just getting warmed up, as they did another newer song, which was dedicated to the city of Dallas.

A couple more tracks from the EP came next, one of which was the more tender love song “I’m Your Fool”, which had Larry scaling back on his singing, showing off a softer side to his voice, and showing that he’s not all about belting out the lyrics with a fiery passion. For the record, though, the passion was still more than evident on that number. Larry set up the fan favorite “Camera Phone” by first saying he wanted his picture taken with the crowd, pulling his phone out and handing it to the drummer, who snapped a shot of him and the massive amounts of people in the background. It’s a bit more soulful than some of his other originals, and it also has a serious groove going on, making it one you can really get down to.

No question that Larry had been the main focal point thus far, even with all of his band members constantly doing something, they were almost more of an afterthought in a way, except on the next song, when Larry exited the stage, giving it all to his band mates. It was another cover song, and I’m fairly certain it was “Rock Me Baby” by B.B. King. There was a little more umph to their version, and the three female singers had a moment to shine, as they each sang one of the verses, working their way down the line, eventually reaching the guy, who also sang. By this point Larry was back on stage, completely consumed by the music, soon taking back over the vocal duties as they brought it to a close.

They had a couple songs left for everyone at this point, and one was another non-album song, “I Don’t Know” or rather, “IDK”, which he set up as being about “making bad decisions”. The horn section really got put to use on the final number of their 32-minute set, “Yo Mama”, which was nothing short of electrifying. Towards the end, Larry hopped off the stage running about the grassy area, before eventually racing back up onto the stage, bringing the show to an extraordinary end.

It was an incendiary set, plain and simple.

For the record, I’m not big on the soul genre of music, either, but it’s almost impossible to deny the talent that flows in and subsequently out of Larry. He’s a beast when it comes to singing and has an aura about him that pulls you in and will hold your interest for the entire time he and his band are on stage.

Go experience a show for yourself, either on July 6th at Summerfest in Milwaukee, WI, or in Dallas on August 6th at The Belmont. You can also purchase his EP in ITUNES.

That new wave of soul was excellent, but now it was time for a classic taste of the genre, as The Relatives were getting ready to take the Shiner stage.

They were introduced by Jeffrey Liles, who works at the Kessler Theater, and a high-up at the Dallas Morning News, and both men piled on the praise about The Relatives. The gentleman from the DMN mentioned that the band had disappeared for awhile, “…But I often said they needed to save their voices so they could save the world…” he said, shortly before they left the stage.

Drummer Matthew Strmiska, bassist Scott Nelson and guitarist Zach Ernst were already on stage, and soon five older gentleman filed on stage, Head Deacon Earnest Tarkington, who took his spot on stage right behind some congas, Reverend Gean West, Tony Corbitt, Tyron Edwards and Reverend Tommie West, all of whom stood behind some microphones.

This gospel/soul ensemble played several songs from throughout their career, but the main focus was on their recently released record ”The Electric Word”, and they opened with a song from it called “Let Your Light Shine”. The Reverend Tommie West led them on it, doing a majority of the singing, though they all participated, creating all sorts of divine harmonies, with Tyron Edwards even employing the use of his insanely high falsetto voice, which definitely got your attention. That ended up being merely the start of a 47-minute long sermon of sorts, as the gospel aspect of their music radiated forth from every song, creating a very spiritual atmosphere.

They won a lot of the crowd over with that upbeat song, and next brought things down with the slower “Your Love is Real”, as they continued giving praise. Tommies’ voice flowed so smoothly throughout the song, soothing in a way, though it was the few lines that Gean sang that seemed to steal the show. “One of these mornings, it won’t be long, you’ll look for me and I’ll be gone…” he crooned in a rougher tone that was filled with character. They wound it seamlessly into their next song, and upon finishing it, Gean took a moment to promote their new album, encouraging everyone to go over to their merch table and pick up a copy. He mentioned that before this show a friend of his told him not to beg the crowd to buy their CD, and he then said to everyone, “…So y’all don’t tell him I begged…”, creating a rather comedic moment of their set.

“Speak to Me (What’s Wrong with America?)” was one of the songs they did from their initial run back in the 70’s. It dealt with racial discrimination, which was obviously a much bigger problem back when they wrote it, but while it may not carry the same weight now as it did then, at least in that regard, it’s message about acceptance I imagine was just as strong now as it must have been back then. At least that was what I took from it, and it further enforced that you shouldn’t judge anyone based on their looks (and not just skin color, but also tattoos, piercings, etc.)

“Don’t Let Me Fall” was another track from the groups early years, and while it may be a short song on the album, it was anything but live. They got the audience to interact with them on that song, from things as simple as clapping and singing along, the best, though, was when Tommie asked everyone to “drop it down”. He and many of his band mates formed a cradle of sorts with their arms, then lowered their arms down a little below their waist, and much of the crowd followed suit. That went on for several times, with the old and newly converted fans happily obliging the band. Right before it ended, Tommie told everyone they were going to do it one more time, “…And I want you to drop it down real low!” he exclaimed, as he lowered his arms so much they were almost scrapping against the floor of the stage. The fans again obeyed, and did so with a huge smile on each of their faces.

Beforehand, they made it seem like that would conclude their set, but thankfully, it did not, as Gean proceeded to tell everyone of a book he read from every morning, mentioning different things it said to do to praise God, “…You praise God to dance…” he said, sounding like a pastor as the stage became his pulpit. That last sentenced I mentioned he said was a fitting one, because the song they then did had even more people swaying and dancing along to it than their previous songs had. They were able to squeeze one more song in after that, to bring to a close what had, at least for me, been the most surprising set of the day, and I say that simply because I was not anticipating the action that ensued during their show.

As great as the act before them was, The Relatives proved that the classic brand of soul mixed with gospel and funk is far superior. Mainly because they just don’t make bands like The Relatives anymore.

Actually, I’ve never cared for a choir like group like this before, and while I’d stop short of saying I’m now a true fan of The Relatives, I am a true believer in what they do.

What really amazed me was the voices of the five of them. It’s clear just by looking at them they aren’t any spring chickens, and I mean that in the most sincere way possible. When they just spoke and talked with the crowd, their voices matched their looks, sounding pretty worn and old, but when they sang, they sounded like a group of twenty something’s who were in the prime of their singing careers. It was mind boggling, but in the best possible way.

Aside from their heavenly voices that intertwined in the best ways imaginable, another standout quality to their show was their demeanor, and you could tell they were all just as happy as they could be being on that stage and performing for everyone.

They have a couple shows coming up over the next few months, beginning with one at the Solid Sound Festival in North Adams, MA on June 21st. They’ll also be Albuquerque, NM on July 20th at the Route 66 Summerfest. As for their albums, visit their pages in iTUNES either HERE or HERE. One of those is their new album, while another is their older one.

The festival was now in its final hours, and as soon as The Relatives finished I headed over to the Chevy stage, where a ton of people had already gathered all around the stage.

Headlining this one was the mighty, The Polyphonic Spree. I’ve heard a lot of good things about them over the years, whit many people even saying the band puts on the best live show they’ve seen, but during my seven plus years of being active in the local music scene, I had never seen one of their shows, and was excited to finally experience one firsthand.

A large white banner stretched across the stage, and was tied to both sides of the stage, and while the band prepared, all you could see was some silhouettes as they walked back and forth across the stage, oh, and band members’ feet.

Finally a figure, who ended up being front man Tim DeLaughter, appeared, and spray painted several letters on the backside of the banner. “Yes It’s True” it read when things were all said and done, and that is the title for the bands upcoming album. He then cut the banner at the center with some scissors, revealing the massive, almost cult like looking group.

I say cult like simply because the whole band (which is twenty plus members strong) wear essentially the same attire, with the men sporting robes with bright pastel colors on them, while Tim wore a shirt of the same pattern, and the women in the band wore white robes with simple horizontal blue stripes on the top of them.

“Hi Homegrown, we’re Tripping Daisy!” Tim gleeful exclaimed, referencing his storied Dallas rock band that started over two decades before. It seemed like just a joke of sorts at the time, but by the end of their show that comment would make much more sense.

I was immediate awe, mainly in how twenty plus people were able to fit so well on the stage, still allowing enough room to move around. The band quickly launched into their first song, which was “Section 22 (Running Away)”, the lead track from their most recent original record, “The Fragile Army”. This upbeat, poppy love song was so chipper it was impossible for your mood not to be influenced by it. My mind was quickly taken off the fact that my legs were starting to feel like jelly as I took in the completely brilliance of that song and the band in general, and in those few short minutes they more than lived up to all the hype that has surrounded them.

They gave their show a very fluid quality, often transitioning one song flawlessly into the next, and such was the case here, as they wound things into a song from “Yes, It’s True”. Tim stated that afterwards, saying it was just “a taste” of what’s to come, and at one point later in the show he even pointed out it had been six years since their last release, as if to say this was long overdue. They then got back to some stuff all their fans would now, with Tim announcing their next song was “Two Thousand Places”, or as it appears on the “Together We’re Heavy” record, “Section 14 (Two Thousand Places)”.

Tim toned his energy down to fit the slower mood of the song, and instead of frantically running about, he more paced around, while singing, “You gotta be good, you gotta be strong, you gotta be two thousand places at once…”. Accompanying him on it, at least in parts, was the six-piece all female choir, who stood on some risers at the back of center stage. Upon finishing it, a fan shouted out a request to him, which was inaudible from where I stood. “What?” Tim said, as he leaned out towards the crowd to try to hear better. “Oh, you want some of this?” he said in a second, suddenly turning towards stage right and thrusting his arms out towards his bane members, conducting them. Right on cue the violinist, cello player and many of the other musicians made one quick pluck of the strings on their instruments. It happened another time or two, and they maintained perfect synch with Tim’s movements, before several of the musicians led the charge into the explosive “Section 23 (Get Up and Go)”.

They next did another new song, “Hold Yourself Up”, and out of the small batch they of new material they did this night, that one was by far my favorite. They followed it with what everyone thought would be their only cover of the night, doing a medley of Who songs, starting with “See Me, Feel Me”, which was so harmonious, it often sounded otherworldly. It soon grew into more of a rock song, though, as they moved along to “Pinball Wizard”, where their lively performance once again ensued. They didn’t let up with their next song, either, which Tim said was yet another new song, but not in a true sense, as they had already leaked it.

He was talking about “You Don’t Know Me”, which was slightly different from their other original songs, having a stronger rock vibe, where the guitar, bass and drums where much more prevalent, though the choir, French horn, trumpet and the rest of the plethora of instruments were still put to use.

Tim left the stage for their next song, getting up close to the guardrail as they did the first of two songs from their debut album “The Beginning Stages of the Polyphonic Spree”, “Section 8 (Soldier Girl)”. Everyone seemed truly saddened when he said the next song would be their last, but the curiosity was piqued when he noted they might have a surprise after it. They ended things similarly to how they began, with “Section 9 (Light and Day - Reach for the Sun)”, which is another incredibly glowing song that exuded happiness and positivity.

That may have been the end of The Polyphonic Spree’s music for the night, but they still had one spectacular trick up their sleeve, as Tim began to reminisce about Tripping Daisy. “…There’s not a day of my life that goes by that I don’t think about the band…” he said, adding those were some of the best days of his life.

“No, they’re not seriously about to cover a Tripping Daisy song, are they?!” I thought to myself, and I guarantee you anyone even remotely familiar with that legendary band was thinking the same thing.

Tim continued by recounting the band’s early days, from playing venues I had heard of, like Club Clearview, and more than a few that must have shut their doors long ago. He even recalled how the bands first gig was at an open mic night at Club Dada. Soon enough, he mentioned that Josh Florence, one of the masterminds behind Homegrown, was a big Tripping Daisy fan back in the day, and that this song was for him. “…I busted a nut on this song all over town …” said Tim.

I had never even heard a Tripping Daisy song before this, so no, I couldn’t appreciate this as much as I would have liked to, but that still didn’t mean I wasn’t anxious to hear what they had planned.

“My decision, your decision, there’s no common ground…” Tim suddenly belted out, as the instruments, including the harp, sprang to life. The song was the first track from their first album, “My Umbrella”. It was certainly different from Tripping Daisy’s original, but it was amazing all the same, and by the time they finished it their set clocked in right at 60-minutes.

The things that surprised me the most about The Polyphonic Spree was that, despite all the things going on, on stage, it never once seemed like a sensory overload. All the instruments worked in perfect harmony together, and while many of the instruments may typically be stereotyped as being used in classical orchestras, The Polyphonic Spree certainly broke that mold.

And while much of their music was very poppy, it was also very in-your-face, even downright vicious at times, and that was all thanks to Tim. His voice has one of the most unique sounds I’ve ever heard, and what you hear on the recordings is essentially what you get live. Probably even a little better. He’s also a sensational front man who had seemingly limitless supply of energy, constantly running about and doing everything he could to pull the audience in and get them engaged in the show, which wasn’t too hard for him. Just astonishing, and I’m pretty sure he could run circles around front men that are half his age.

First off, their new record will be released on August 6th, so just a few months away now. But in the meantime, check out their other records in iTUNES, and between live cuts, holiday records and such, there are plenty to choose from. They have several dates throughout the U.S. in June and July, hitting up the states of Alabama, Tennessee, Ohio, Indiana, Minnesota, Kansas, Illinois, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Washington D.C., Massachusetts and New York. They’ll also be doing shows in the countries of Australia, South Korea, France and the UK. For specifics on all of those, go to their TOUR PAGE.

Some people left after that. Actually, some even left before The Polyphonic Spree was finished, but there was one band left, and closing out the day over on the Shiner stage was a super group based out of Austin/Los Angeles, the Divine Fits.

Despite some people calling it a day, the band still had a very healthy sized crowd, all of whom were anxious to see what I believe was the bands first ever show in Dallas.

The four-piece rock outfit, which is made up of guitarist Dan Boeckner (Handsome Furs), bassist and multi-instrumentalist Britt Daniel (Spoon) and drummer Sam Brown (New Bomb Turks), as well as Alex Fischel who worked several keyboards, took the stage a little after their 9:30 scheduled start time, and to much fanfare I might add.

The band is only barely into their second year as a group and only had one album to draw from, as they quickly got down to business, opening with “Neopolitans”, which is the final track from “A Thing Called the Divine Fits”. While repetitive, the key(s) Alex continuously struck were infectious, though the level of excitement spiked when the rest of the band ripped into the song and Britt began to fully sing the song. I don’t mean to undercut it, but it was simplistic in a lot of ways, which in turn made it somewhat of a haunting opener.

Dan took over on vocal duties as they kicked things up a few notches with one of their singles, “Baby Get Worse”. “…My heart was beating in, in and out of time…” he sang on the chorus, as the song seemed to burrow deeper into everyone’s head with each passing second, as a lot of people were moving around to it, which resulted is some loud cheers and applause when they finished it up. Britt handled the next song, and before starting their love song titled “Like Ice Cream”, Alex left his keyboard station, picking up a guitar, which he rocked on the song.

Upon finishing it, he returned to his original post, while Dan and Britt swapped out instruments, as Sam started them into “Would That Not Be Nice”, a song that really showcased their skilled musicianship, especially Britt, who had some more subtle, yet intricate riffs, which he cranked out like the pro he is. Upon finishing it, the two again switched out instruments, though this time Britt exchanged his bass for a guitar, as they did another album track, “Civilian Stripes”, which was one of my personal favorites of the night.

“We’re gonna do some Frank Ocean…” Dan informed the crowd, which got a nice reaction, as I heard some people start asking their friends what song they thought they would be covering. The song was “Lost”, but if you weren’t familiar with it and if they hadn’t just said who they were covering, you wouldn’t have known it. Obviously they made some changes to it to better fit the style of music they play, and in all fairness I’m personally not a fan of Frank Oceans’ music, so I thought their version of it was much better, mainly because it sounded much more lively. I think a lot of that was due to the full live band rounding out the sound and making it so lush, rather than the sterile sound the (I assume) drum machine gives the original song.

Britt got back to his trusty bass once that song was done, and while tuning it, he asked Dan to tell everyone about their next song, which was a new one they’ve worked up. Dan summed it up by saying, “…It’s about heartbreak and drinking…” Classic. It really was a killer song, though, and one of my favorites from their set. Next up they had another cover in store for everyone, and this time it was a more classic song, coming from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. The song was “You Got Lucky”, which Dan sang, with Britt adding the occasional backing vocals. It was another knockout cover, and one that really fit their style, both musically and lyrically, exceedingly well.

They were nearing the end of their 48-minute long set at this time, and next did “Flaggin a Ride”, which was followed by the subsequent song on their record, “What Gets You Alone”, which was the most intense song they did. Judging from it, they had saved the best for at least close to last, and to cap off this show, they had one last cover, one that can be found on their record. The song was “Shivers”, originally done by The Birthday Party, and for it Alex added the bass lines, leaving Britt to take up the rhythm guitar. The song teemed with emotion, particularly with the opening line, “I’ve been contemplating suicide, but it really doesn’t suit my style…” His singing gave it a very melancholy vibe, as well as sounding very apathetic.

The crowd somewhat dispersed after that, though droves hung around in hopes of an encore. It didn’t happen.

Surely no one was disappointed in that, though. After all, they had played almost everything from their record, and certainly hit the highlight tracks and then some.

They put on a great show that seemed to pass all too quickly, and I loved the dynamics they had going on. For instance, the vocals. Both Dan and Britt are amazing singers with very unique voices, and switching up who did the singing like they did ensured things never got stale (though I doubt that would have been a worry in the first place).

However, it’s really all about their musicianship. It’s clear each of them have spent many years doing what they do, damn near, perfecting it, as they each played their respective instruments with ease, making it appear so effortless that any non experienced person from the crowd could have joined them and been just fine. Their talent was a true thing of beauty, and something to marvel at.

Pick up their debut album in iTUNES, and they have several shows on the horizon too, which can be viewed HERE. They’ll be doing gigs in New York, Illinois, Tennessee, Ohio, California, Oregon and Texas, as well as a few around Canada.

As the crowd lingered, hoping for one more song from the band, they instead saw Josh Florence rush onto the stage. His speech was short as he thanked everyone for coming out and also promised that the fifth annual Homegrown Music and Arts Festival would be even better.

That’s a bold statement, and one they’ll be hard pressed to accomplish. But then again, I didn’t think there would be any topping last years, yet they managed to.

I liked the fact that they returned to focusing predominantly on the Dallas music scene, while the few bands from out of the immediate area were a nice way to switch things up, especially since they were scattered about the lineup.

As far as I’m concerned, Homegrown IS the best music festival in the North Texas area, and this year solidified it as that. So, go ahead and make sure you keep your Saturday’s in May 2014 free, ‘cause most likely it will be one of those days when they do the sixth edition of the festival. At the very least it’s a fun way to spend the day, and you can be a very casual music lover and still enjoy it.

It didn’t seem it, but it had been a long day, and it wasn’t quite over yet as I made the very short journey to Deep Ellum for one of the Homegrown after parties…

Friday, May 10th, 2013 – Ronnie Fauss

The suburbs of the Dallas area don’t usually come to mind as a place to go see live music, and the few venues that I’ve known of over the years have never been able to make a real run out of it. However, the one venue that has lasted is one I had never been to before this night, and that Love and War in Texas, which is primarily a restaurant.

They get some pretty notable Country/Americana/Folk acts through, but since those typically aren’t the genres I go for, I had seldom had a real reason to go there, until this night, when Ronnie Fauss and his band were playing.

Opening up for him was a band out of Austin called Greg Mullen and the Cosmic Americans, who was starting their final song when my dad and I arrived and stepped out onto the nice and spacious patio where the stage is located.

It’s hard to get a feel for a band in just one song, but I liked what I heard in that one song. You can listen to and buy both of the bands records on their BANDCAMP site, so check that out, as well as their FACEBOOK PAGE to keep up-to-date on their goings on.

Ronnie Fauss and his band missed their 9:30 start time by a bit, due mainly to some guitar issues, which were finally fixed by Ronnie replacing the battery in his acoustic guitar.

“I’m Ronnie Fauss and this is my band The Chupacabras.” He told the crowd of a little over a dozen, as they then embarked on a 71-minute long set.

They played a majority of his newest album, “I Am the Man You Know I’m Not”, which is also his debut on New West Records, beginning with the song, “The Last”. “…I’ve seen your future, baby, and it looks a lot like your past. I was your first, oh let me be the last…” Ronnie sang on the chorus, while Chris Norwood plucked at the strings of a lap steel guitar, a traditional instrument in country music, that, oddly enough, wasn’t used much this night. Then again, it’s not like they really needed it.

They picked the pace up immensely as Ronnie belted out the opening line of their next song. “Well, I’m driving this rig up to Oklahoma City…” he sang, as drummer Bill Spellman, bassist Rocky Garza, and electric guitarist Chad Hannon ripped into “I Don’t See You”, which is one of my personal favorites song of his, and was one of the catchiest of this entire night.

Chris switched to keyboard/piano for the next few songs, as Ronnie announced to everyone that the next song was called “Tia Maria”, a song that was originally found on the “Mulligan” EP. It’s a true country tune, telling a story of a wife and her cheating husband, and by the end of it, Tia Maria” has “…shot herself right through the head…” It may sound sad, but there’s actually a certain amount of humor thrown into the song.

 “…This next song is called Pistols In the Air.” said Ronnie, leading them into another track from the new album.  There was a brief instrumental breakdown during that song, and Chad stole the spotlight for a moment with some nice riffs that comprised a guitar solo, which was his first, but far from last of the night. They then pulled out another older song of Ronnies’, and while Chris was readying his mandolin, Ronnie asked everyone if they enjoyed a “good revenge song”, as that was what their next song was about. It was “One Eye Open”, and while it appeared to go off without a hitch, Ronnie copped afterwards that he forgot to do his harmonica solo, mainly because he forgot to pick his neck rack up before the song in order to do it.

No harm, no foul is what I say, especially since Ronnie pointed out that Chad picked up the slack by doing another solo. Chris again switched instruments, going back to the keys this time, but mere seconds into the more melancholy “Answers You Already Know”, Ronnie brought things to a stop. “…I didn’t learn from my mistake…” Ronnie told everyone, before reaching down and picking up his harmonica, before starting the song again.

It’s a song that shows off what a truly brilliant songwriter Ronnie is, with a line from the first verse being, “…Children are nothing but grownups who have not had their hearts broken yet…”, which soon gives way to the chorus, “And the stars shine brighter in Texas than they do in Colorado…”

They followed it with what Ronnie said was mostly an autobiographical song. I got almost giddy at that, knowing it was my favorite song of his, “It’s a Long, Long Way”, which I had not heard live since the first time I saw Ronnie, when he was just a solo artist, about two years or so ago. The song does take you through his whole life, right from the opening line, “Well, I was born in the year that Nixon resigned…” The song came to a sudden end, though, which Ronnie noted, saying it was a “impromptu end”, and sadly that happened before the final verse, which includes the line, “…Said life is not about riches, but then Snoop said it’s nothing but money and bitches…” Regardless, excluding that certainly didn’t ruin the song, and it was still a standout.

Before doing the single and lead track from the newest album, “The Night Before the War”, Ronnie plugged local radio station 95.3 The Range, saying he was lucky enough to get some airplay from them, telling everyone that the song might sound familiar if they too listened to the station. Afterwards, they did a the final remaining tracks from the new record, which were “A Pretty Nice Night for Houston”, and “This Year”, during which the mandolin was again put into action, .before going back to the keys for another utterly outstanding song, “Good Enough”.

That left them with just a few more songs from Ronnie’s back catalog, all of which came from 2010’s “Mulligan” EP, but can now be found on the compilation album, “The Sun is Shining Somewhere, but Somewhere isn’t Here”.

One of those was “Just Another Tuesday”, while another was a song that finds Ronnie wishing that multiple characteristics were different, aptly titled “Wish”, and both of those songs again called on Chris to play the mandolin. “To Ease My Mind” seemed like the perfect song to end on, especially with the killer outro they gave it, where Bill, Rocky, Chad and even Ronnie rocked out. Actually, in most cases that probably would have been the end of it, but given the show and the longer set time they had to fill, they had worked in a couple of cover songs.

One of those covers was a much more up-tempo version of Merle Haggard’s “Swinging Doors”, but it was their next song that really captured my attention, almost as much as their original stuff had. Ronnie invited  Greg Mullen on stage with them, who brought his acoustic guitar with him, despite not knowing where to plug it in at, and the sound guy was unable to help them, since he was MIA at the moment.

Ronnie again thanked Greg and his band for playing the show with them, mentioning they crossed paths doing a show in Austin and also encouraging everyone to buy Gregg’s new album, “There are America’s Beyond This America.” “…And I thought my album titles were confusing…” said Ronnie.

The song they did to end it all was “Please Don’t Bury Me” by John Prine, and even though I hadn’t heard the song prior to their rendition of it, they still did an amazing job with it. Like their other cover, this one had a faster pace to it, but that’s what made it so good, as it was really catchy and offered a very fun way to end what had been an incredible set.

Both of those songs were really a fitting end to the show, because it is the more classic country music spirit, like that of Haggard and Prine, and Ronnie embodies.

He’s a storyteller through and through, a fact that is constantly radiating from his music, and his voice has a distinctive twang that sets his sound apart from anyone else’s.

Now, I’m not saying there aren’t other country musicians and bands taking some pages out of the original playbook like he does, but all the same, I always find it refreshing when a singer or band focuses on what country is (or was) about. Rather than going with the glitz and glamor sound of the pop influenced brand of country that Nashville currently breeds. You know, the stuff that populates (or rather pollutes) the airwaves of all major radio stations.

So, if you want to hear some good ol’ fashioned country music with a bit of a modern vibe to it, check out Ronnie Fauss and his extremely talented band and listen to/buy his records in ITUNES. Better yet, go see a live show. He’ll be back in Plano on June 6th at the Courtyard Theater, then the following night, the 7th, he’ll be opening for Gary P. Nunn at the Granada Theater in Dallas. He and his band will then return to Love and War on June 23rd to open for Micky and the Motorcars.

Very fun night, and I just might need to get out to Love and War a little more often.



Saturday, May 4th, 2013 – Cinco de Mustache Cinco: In Memory of Clint Waycaster

I was familiar with the annual Cinco de Mustache event, which took place at various Dallas venues since 2009, even though I never attended any of the concerts that always took place close to Cinco de Mayo. However, I was not familiar with the man who orchestrated the event, Clint Waycaster.

Sadly, Clint passed away sometime last year, though his annual Cinco de Mustache party was continued, this year spearheaded by Roland Rangel, as a way to honor Mr. Waycaster.

The Curtain Club was the host venue for this, and several great bands had been tapped to play it, some of whom I knew, others I didn’t.

The first band up was called At Night, and despite arriving early (around 8:40), I had missed most of the bands set, hearing only a handful of their songs.

I loved what I heard, though, as this four-piece rock outfits music featured a lot of their keyboard player, giving it a more distinct sound than most bands.

This proved to be a rather eclectic night when the next band, Cord, got on stage, and one of the instruments they had set up was a pedal steel guitar. It’s not often you see one of those on that stage, a stage ruled predominantly by rock and hard rock bands.

Before beginning, the bands singer made a brief speech about Clint, reminiscing about how he used to play songs for his friend. He talked about how Clint was always honest with him, telling him if a song was either terrible or great, then added a third response. “…Sometimes, I’d play a song and he start crying, and I’d think, ‘That must be a great song.”

They then started what was an extraordinary set, and while their first song didn’t strike me as being too country sounding, they quickly eased into it with the next song in their 30+ minute long set. They weren’t just traditional country music, though. There was a real rock flare to their music, too, even on the few songs where the lead guitarist took a seat at his pedal steel guitar.

Their stuff was impressive, with great music and well-written lyrics, which helped their set pass rather quickly, leading to their final song which the bands singer said he had written as part of another band many years ago.

I wish I could be a little more detailed with their set, but I can’t seem to find much about the band. Nevertheless, if you ever see the name Cord on a venue’s website, make a point to try to see them.

The night got more rocking with the next band, Meridian, who hadn’t done a show in about two and a half months. Making things more special was the fact that this show marked the return of an old friend to the lineup, as Moe Martinez was returning to drum for the band.

Almost as a way to celebrate his return, they opened their 35-minute set with “Nights Like This”, a track that hasn’t kicked off one of their live shows in quite some time. If Mark Sims and Shannon Nedved’s roaring guitars didn’t get your attention, then Moe’s drumming should have, as he tore into his kit. He had an obvious renewed passion for it, and even though I couldn’t see much of him this night, you could tell his heart was fully in it and he was savoring every moment of being back on stage. All that resulted in the entire band clicking more than I’ve seen them click in a long time. Throughout each chorus, vocalist Tim Ziegler often made a ripping motion with his as he sang the line, “…On nights like this, people will be ripped apart…”

There was no pause or awkward silence between songs, as they quickly moved on to “All Hands”, which, coupled with the other song, made for a killer way to start things off, and together those songs packed quite a wallop. And just an interesting side note, that was another song where Tim slightly changed up the lyrics, instead of signing “…I’ve found the next best silhouette to take the place of you…” on the chorus, he switched the latter part to, “…She’s got the shape of you…”.

Things kept moving right along with one of their newer songs, and during an instrumental break while bassist Chris Gentry, Shannon, Mark and Moe were throwing down, Tim shouted out Moe, asking, “Does anyone recognize Moe Martinez?!” Afterwards, Mark started them in on another track from their self-titled debut EP, the poppy sounding “Starts & Ends”. That one is still my favorite Meridian tune, and the newer version of it (new from the original demo at least) grows on me more and more each time I hear it.

Another older gem of the bands came next, a song that they’ve been doing since their inception and whose chorus goes, “…This is war, the city is going to burn tonight…” Hopefully, it will make the cut for the next album (whenever that may happen) because it is one of their best, and I love how it’s even eerie in a way. “Lazy Eye” was their next song, and is another standout new one they’ve created, and after it, they slowed things down a bit, but first Tim shouted out to a fellow singer/songwriter who he said helped him out on writing the tune.

It was Paco Estrada, who was headlining this night, and Tim said while he was struggling writing lyrics for the song “Train”, he went to Paco for help, spending a few days with him to get it written. While he was praising the man who is one of the best singer/songwriters Dallas has, Tim realized Paco was nowhere to be seen. “…And I’m saying all this and he’s not even here, so fuck him.” He declared, in a joking manner, of course. “Train” is always is a sign that the bands set is almost over, but this softer song wasn’t the next to last tune like usual. Instead, they picked the pace right back up with a song I was afraid they weren’t going to play this show, “Redigress”.

Tim had been goofing off throughout the show, thrusting his pelvis around at one point earlier, but during this song, he turned his back to the crowd and preceded to shakes his ass. It offered a great deal of comic relief so to speak, especially on what’s more of a serious song that ended with Tim propping a leg up on the center monitor, surveying the crowd while singing the final line, “…Fuck all your politics. Fuck all your stupid tricks. Fuck all the things you say. Words only get in the way.” That then brought them to their final song, which, as any Meridian fan knows was of course, “Hey Lover”.

They almost got through their set without anything happening, but near the end of that song, and coincidentally right at the line, “…When everything is broken…”, Shannons’ guitar went out on him due to some technical issue. You could see it all on his face, as he suddenly realized his guitar wasn’t making any noise, and while tried to fix real quick, there was only about thirty seconds left of the song, so eventually he just gave up, laughing it off and watching his band mates as they thrashed about.

Really, that can’t be held against them, not just because it was a technical issue, but it was only for the final bit of their show.

Overall, this was the best Meridian show I’ve seen in a long time, like, probably over a year. I attribute a lot of that to the return of Moe, since he was one of the founding members of the band, and was the missing component that honestly, I never knew was missing into this night.

The drummer they had to fill his shoes was great, but in hindsight, he never truly meshed with the band. And after being gone from Meridian for around a year and a half to focus on family, you could tell Moe was not only glad to once again be following his passion, but also playing some great rock music with his friends.

It’ll be interesting to see what lies ahead of the band now that their original lineup is back intact, and with them firing on all cylinders like they were this night, there’s shows will be something you want to witness firsthand.

Currently, they don’t have any shows booked, but you can find their debut EP in ITUNES, and by all means, you should purchase it.

After them was another Dallas band who I had heard a lot of good things about recently, and that was Dead Flowers, who was fresh of the release of their debut album.

The band mixes several different genres together, including rock, with some country and blues undertones, all of which were on display in their first song, “No Tragedy”. I’d say it was more of a country song, but the rapid beats Ed Chaney was supplying, along with the with the heavy and fast paced guitar chords lead guitarist Vince Tuley and singer and rhythm guitarist Corey Howe were playing made it more of a rock song, and one that instantly pulled you in. The country flare, at least in my opinion, came through on the lyrics, with part of the chorus being, “…Oh, my darling, I hope you see, even though we’re fucked up, we’re meant to be…” Definitely a good an impressive opening number, and they continued on with the following song on their “For You” record, “You’re Wrong”, which has more of a loud, fiery blues vibe to it.

“Were any of you at our CD release show here a few weeks ago?” Corey asked as some of their fans cheered to say they were. “Not here…” he then said, correcting himself and mentioning the right venue. He also asked if anyone had bought their album then. “Well, this song isn’t on it.” He finished as he, bassist Evan Winston Johnson, Vince and Ed broke into this non-album track, which was one of the best of their set. Near the end of it a string on Coreys’ guitar broke, resulting in him having to change guitars after finishing the track.

While plugging the guitar in, he took a moment to say how bad the brand of strings were. “…But I bought ten of them, so…” he finished. That then led them to a wonderful that told a story, a story of murder, and was aptly called “Murder Shuffle in a (Minor)”. “…Lay your hands on a woman be the greatest sin…” wailed Corey on one of the lines closer to the end of this explosive song, which ended up being my favorite of their set.

They did a few more songs, two of which I’m not sure of the titles, but sandwiched in-between those two was the soulful, bluesy track, “I’m A Man”. They then closed their 38-minute long set with the lead track and longest song from their album, “I Won’t Go”, which was just another one of their many great songs, and left me wishing they could play a little longer, because I was desperately wanting to hear more. And after all, isn’t that how a band should leave the crowd?

I don’t know why I hadn’t checked out Dead Flowers before this, even if it was as simple as listening to their music online, but I’m regretting not now, because they were amazing and lived up to all the positive stuff I had heard about them.

Corey has an amazing voice, that can even sound a little rough around the edges at times, which makes their sound that much better, given all the genres they roll together. He and his band mates also deliver a killer show on top of that, and even though they aren’t your traditional rock band, their show was every bit as intense as the band before them.

They’re a band you must check out, at the very least by previewing their music on ITUNES, and if you’d be interested in seeing a show, they have a couple coming up in Dallas, one of which will be on May 31st at Club Dada, the other at Three Links on June 14th.

You don’t often see nights like this where every band from start to finish is about the same caliber of talent, but so far they all had been, and there was never a moment where things seemed to dip, nor would there be as Paco Estrada and his band got ready to close out the show.

They embarked on their set with “American Girls”, which has become the new standard opener, and out of the newer music Paco is playing these days, this one is hands down the best of them all. It has a more simple rock sound to it, in the classic rock sense, though much softer, since Pacos’ acoustic guitar is the most prevalent instrument, despite being surrounded by a full band. “…From the Jersey girls to the Southern belles…” he crooned at one point in the song, in his soulful and rich sounding voice. They continued with another new song, which I believe is titled “The Way I Love You”, and it’s Paco’s specialty, a beautiful love song with great lyrics, while Scotty Isaacs piano playing and the softer, yet thick bass lines Joel Bailey was cranking out perfectly accented the song.

The songs about love continued, as the band tackled one of Paco’s more recent hits, “When We Were Made”, from the “Definite and Indefinite…” record. It had all of his fans caught up in it, some of whom were even swaying side to side while he sang the chorus, “…That’s when we were made for each other.” Another classic of his followed, and before starting it Paco joked, saying something to the effect of it being a cautionary tale of why not to play with shovels. He was setting up “Breaking Down”, which begins with the line, “You grab your shovel and your digging axe, ‘cause you have to be the first in line to bury the past…” However, that is not the message of one of Paco’s more personal songs, where he later sings, “My father had a heart attack at fifty-eight, I never thought that man was built to break…” Still, I find the best part of this song to be the latest cover he has mashed it up with.

After one of the last choruses, the band, which was rounded out by drummer AJ Blackleaf and an electric guitarist, continued the music bed, and after a musical break, Paco began singing the classic song from U2, “One”. He started at the line, “Did I disappoint you, or leave a bad taste in your mouth?”, however it was when he got to, “…And I can’t be holdin’ on to what you got, when all you got is hurt.” where it really sprang to life. You could see the emotion and passion Paco was putting into his singing bleeding out onto his face, then, and it was glorious.

Even if it is but a partial cover, he and his band own it, making it entirely their own. That wasn’t the only cover of this show, though, as next they did a song I had never heard Paco play before, and that was Modern English’s “I Melt with You”. It was slower than the original (or even the various covers that I’ve heard of it), transforming the song from a rock track to more along the lines of easy listening, so to speak. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and he was able to pull it off in a way that made it seem like one of his own songs.

Afterwards, the band started talking amongst themselves, and during that a female fan ran and jumped on stage, whispering into Paco’s ear. She then approached the mic and asked everyone to give it up for Paco. “It’s like I have my own personal cheerleaders.” Said Paco once she had left the stage and he retook the mic.

He informed everyone he had promised that woman he would play a song she had requested, and his band mates filed off stage, meaning this next song was going to be a stripped down acoustic.

I wondered what it would, because in his decade plus long career, he’s written countless songs that are fan favorites. I was anxiously awaiting the start of the song, when he suddenly sang, “New York down to Mexico, Seattle to the Oklahoma. Your ghost will always haunt my soul. Los Angeles to Baltimore…” That’s the opening lines of “I Will Follow”, a song I had not heard in years. It was wonderful getting to hear it again, though Paco did something he seldom did during this song, and that was stumble through the lyrics, at least at one line.

In his defense, his singing abruptly gets quicker as he sings, “…No I’m not telling you lies, I’m not telling you this so that you’ll be surprised. I’m just telling you this to get shit off my chest, it’s the only way that I have learned to survive…” Early on in that he said the wrong line, skipping ahead in the song a bit, which threw him completely off, as he shook his head like, “I can’t believe I did that.”, then giving himself a second before picking back up where he was supposed to be.

The slipup didn’t affect the song much, and is easily forgivable in my opinion, besides, it was just so fantastic hearing that oldie again.

That put them at the tail end of their 45-minute long set, and after the band rejoined Paco, they performed the gorgeous, “I Will Never Let You Go”, which really highlight Scotty’s talent as a pianist. That then took them to their final song of the night, which Paco dedicated to a friend and legend of the North Texas music scene, Matt Slider, best known as the singer of The FEDS, a band that had a nice thirteen plus year run. He happened to be in attendance, and earlier in the show, while talking to Slider, he told me he hoped Paco would play a certain song, and it was the song that usually ends his sets, “Haunting Me”.  It’s another song that is done as a mash-up, and after finishing it out, Paco tacked on some lines from Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” to conclude the song.

This was a fine way to cap of an incredible night, and I’ll say it once again, Paco Estrada is one of the best singer/songwriter’s in the area, and this band he now has backing him is one of the best he’s had in some time.

If for some reason you haven’t heard of him yet, head over to his BANDCAMP PAGE to find, listen to and buy most of his releases. Also, keep a check on his FACEBOOK PAGE for upcoming show dates.

It was another incredible night at my favorite Deep Ellum haunt, especially since everything this night was done in memory of Clint Waycaster, and the money from the raffles and auctions they were doing went to benefit a charity. Fun was had by all, and even though I didn’t know Clint, I imagine he would like the fact that his event was being continued and that people were having fun at it, instead of being saddened by his early passing. So, here’s to hoping the Cinco de Mustache celebration continues next year with a sixth edition.

Lastly, I have a random piece of info. This show took place nearly seven years to the day that I first walked through the doors of the Curtain Club. Who was playing here the night of May back in 2006? Well, one band was SouthFM, and the other was Darby. The former was the rock band Paco used to front, while the latter act was led by Tim Ziegler. Point is, after all these years, I find it neat that those two singers are still sharing the stage with each other in their respective current projects.

Friday, May 3rd, 2013 – Digital Wounds

Tonight was a monumental night for Dallas’s premier electronic band, Ishi, who, after spending at least the last year and a half working on their sophomore record, were finally ready to release it to their fans. Well, at least in physical format, since the album had been available online for a few weeks at this point.

Still, everyone knows that a bands CD release show is typically one of the best shows they ever do, so it seemed almost a sure bet that by the end of the night, Ishi’s fans would have one of Dallas’s finest venues, the Granada Theater, packed.

The lineup for this show wasn’t your typical lineup, and Ishi was the only true band  on the bill, and the first opening act was The Nikki Trash Burlesque Experience.

As the name suggests, it’s a burlesque show, and the person at the helm of it, Nikki Trash, is a drag queen.

It wasn’t a drag show, though , and when I got to the Granada just shortly after eight, the handful of people who were already there were huddled up close to the stage, cheering and applauding as one of the dancers slowly disrobed.

They went through several dancers, covering a wide spectrum, with a couple of the ladies being plus sized, while a couple others were more my definition of alternative, and one even sported a mohawk.

After each performance Nikki Trash could be heard asking everyone to give the dancer at the moment a round of applause, at one point saying something to the effect of, “That’s some weak applause for such amazing titties!”

After the next to last performer, she introduced her own “god damn self” to the stage. Like the others, Nikki did a choreographed performance to a song, though she (he?) lip-synched along with it. The most noteworthy part of her show, though, was what she later referred to as her slave girl, which is exactly how I would have described her.

Nikki “drug” the girl around by her hair, making her lick her boot at one point, and even set atop her as they appeared to go at it.

Yeah, it was a different opening act, but it was actually fun to watch, and it’s a shame no more people were there to see it.

Would I see them again? Probably not, that is to say I wouldn’t go to a venue just to see Nikki Trash, but if you are into that kind of thing, than you should definitely check out The Nikki Trash Burlesque Experience.

The main support was Booty Fade, which is a collaboration between two Dallas are DJ’s, one of which is DJ Sober, and the other is Picnictyme.

I’m not a real of fan of stuff like this, and I really don’t know what to say about it, since practically everything they did was scratch some records, play some samples and stuff like that (sure, I know it was a little more involved than that, but that’s what I took away from it.)

Not being a fan of that style, it all sounded more or less the same to me, the good thing however was that their 54-minute long set seemed to pass by rather quickly, which was good, because I was afraid it would drag on an on.

The one thing I do remember from it is at one point around halfway through their set, Picnictyme said they realized that today was James Brown’s birthday, and they decided to do a tribute in honor of the Godfather of Soul.

“…Everyone’s sampled.” He said, adding, “Sober’s sampled him. I’ve sampled him…” They then sampled a portion of one of Brown’s songs, with Picnictyme singing part of it, too.

If you’re in to DJ’s, check out Booty Fade, as well as the individuals that make up the act.

I was glad when they finished up, though, not just because I was starting to grow weary of it, but because it meant it was getting close to time for Ishi to take the stage.

At 10:22, the lights went out as the screen in front of the stage raised up, revealing frontman John Mudd, guitarist Rocky Ottley, drummer Jonathan Merla and Becky Middleton, who was singing some backing vocals, along with a additional musician who was behind some keyboards over on stage left, and he played various instruments throughout the night.

They were all about using visuals to entice the crowd this night, and began with a large area of light on the horizon, which was broadcasted on some large totems of sorts that were set up on either side of the drum kit, and it looked as if you were traveling through space towards the light.

Despite some dapper attire, which included a vest and a jacket, John looked as eccentric as usual, with what appeared to be a mink stole (or some sort of similar animal) draped across his shoulders while he sported a hat that had reflective tiles, much like a disco ball, all around it. You can get a better idea of what I’m talking about by watching their music video for “Disco Queen”, and he had his face painted like it is in parts of the video to boot.

There was just enough time to take all of that in and John welcomed everyone to the show, then the sample track to “Mirror Ball Sky” kicked in, as they began their set with the lead track from the “Digital Wounds” album.

Accompanying the song was two disco ball, or generated images of them, broadcasted on the Granada’s screens on the left and right of the stage, which helped in giving the show more of a party atmosphere.

The fans at this nearly sold-out looking show cheered and applauded the band, almost as much as they had at the start of their set, and after subsiding briefly, the noise from the rabid fans again rang out as they fired up a hit from their “Through the Trees” record, “Our Time”.

John had certainly been mobile during that opening number, but he really cut loose now, dancing about the stage and providing all sorts of moves while signing, “Don’t let go of who you are. You came too far to be the one left standing on a falling star…” The chorus, “This is our time…” seemed especially appropriate this night, since the band hopes to push themselves into a bigger national spotlight with this new release, making this show a staging point of sorts for all of that. However, the best parts of the song came when Becky grabbed her mic approached the center stage for one of the few lines out of all of their songs that belonged solely to her. “…Wash your fears in the crystal river moonlight.” She belted out with her fiery voice that packs a punch, before retreating to her spot on stage left as John again took the spotlight to finish up the song.

He removed his jacket after that song, but put the stole right back around him. “Dallas, we will never stop loving you.” He said, obviously grateful to all the fans who had come out to celebrate and support his band and its newest release.

They returned to doing songs from their new album, including the serene and dancey tune, “Moon Watcher”, which seemed to place everyone in a state of bliss as they watched in awe. “…I’ll be riding the waves of our sweet, sweet memories.” John sang on the chorus, making the motion of a wave with his left arm, very fluidly I might add. He also did a little more hip shaking on that song, and is it came to an end, he crossed his arms, one hand on each shoulder, and bowed in perfect synch with the music. There was almost no downtime before their next song, the more electronic and even somewhat techno sounding, “Emotional Hard Drive”.

It was around this time where their show got elevated to the next level, as the laser light show began. The totems had small holes in them where some laser devices were housed, as the beams shot out at the crowd, waving about seemingly inches above the heads of those at the back of the venue. Not only is it a highlight track on their album, but it also was a highlight of this show, infecting the audience while Rocky bounced around, shredding on his guitar, as John, who had taken off his stole by this point, roamed around the stage.

They almost immediately got their next song going, which was “Touch The Future”, and as Becky added some “ooooh’s” to it, two people stepped through the stage door, bringing with them a couple of massive balloons, big enough a person could have fit in them if possible (though they might have had to hug their knees to fit). They were thrown out to the crowd, one of them busting nearly right away, while the other was bounced around all over the front part of the venue, almost ending back on stage before John hit it back out to the crowd. Eventually it too popped, and the audience let out a collective, “Ahhh” of disappointment. It was also during that song, which finds John singing in an incredible high falsetto voice, where he put on his stunner shades, with some parts glowing a neon red, while others were green.

Over the course of the next several songs, it would get so dark on stage that those shades were the only things truly noticeable, at least from where I stood at the back, and they seemed to be gliding through the air on their own accord.

They kept things moving swiftly along as Jonathan started them in on their next song, which was the title track of this new record, “Digital Wounds”. The song evokes an eeriness of sorts, yet it’s beautifully captivating. The upbeat “ISHI” came next, which has a sing along ending of “I.S.H.I. We’re rolling high on our own dreams tonight.”, and is another song that hints at the bands drive for success.

They still showed no sign of letting up, as they continued to tackle one song right into the next, though here John started everyone on a clap along, while again thanking everyone for showing up. The clapping went on for at least half a minute, with no one actually knowing what is was leading to, nor did they seem to care, they were just following instructions and enjoying being completely caught up in the moment, enjoying this brief escape for the drudgeries of everyday life.

Suddenly, the track for “Disco Queen”, the first single from this new album, started to play, and the crowd got ecstatic. The rather suggestive song was one that everyone had been anxiously awaiting, singing along with the chorus, “When I look into your eyes, the beat drops and we collide to the rhythm of the night…”

John disappeared to stage left as they song came to an end, while Jonathan and Rocky fired up the next song, though they kept their playing pretty light. Also joining them was the additional musician, who was shaking some maracas, or some type of similar instrument.

Rocky chatted with the crowd for a moment, thanking everyone for coming out. “Dallas, this one’s for you!” he declared while raising a toast to everyone. Soon, John returned to the stage, having donned his now customary attire for the song, which is a large Native American headdress and a luxurious red rope that nearly touches the floor. To top it off, each feather on the headdress has a neon element on it, with the designs and color varying from feather to feather.

They then truly got “Mother Prism” underway, with John crooning the first line, “Don’t be too hard on yourself, there’s enough love to go around…”, while making a circle with his left hand. It’s one of the most positive, upbeat songs I think I’ve ever heard, and it exudes an overwhelming amount of joy. “So let’s create the dance where we celebrate each other…” John sang as the song continued, and soon after Becky and Rocky chimed in, chanting the chorus, “Aiyah ayay, aiyah aiyah ayay!” It wasn’t just them, though, as the room was filled with a throng of fans shouting along with them on this anthem that is all about uplifting peoples spirits.

That could have been the show right there, simply because it would have been a perfect note to end on, but then again, there were still several fan favorites left, and even a few more new tracks, like “Naked Blur”. It slowed things down a little, and they got progressively got slower with the final song on “Digital Wounds”, the beautiful, more acoustic based track, “Diamond Door”.

Their 56-minute long set came to a quiet end. At least it kind of ended. While the band left the stage, they were replaced by two dancers, both of whom had what looked like hula-hoop’s fashioned to the waist of their tights, so they just hung there, moving around as they twirled about the stage.

It was very nicely though out intermission, making sure the show didn’t stop just because the band members were taking a breather.

Soon, Rocky and Jonathan returned to the stage, adding some light notes and beats to the track. Becky and John then made their way back out, and he had undergone another wardrobe change, this time wearing a white robe, or something similar to one, plus a piece over it that covered most of his upper arms and then a majority of his torso (watch the video that was mentioned earlier to see what I’m talking about.) It was a cool and very futuristic look.

Thus began their extra songs (at other shows John has made it clear they don’t like doing encores, instead just taking a break and then doing the rest of the stuff their fans want to hear), and the first of those was another oldie, “Make It”. It had been a long time since I had heard that one live, and it was quite nice getting to experience it again.

They had almost played “Digital Wounds” in its entirety, sans two songs, and somehow, I had failed to notice that “Slowly But Surely” was absent from the first set. While his band mates got it going, John climbed off the stage and into the massive crowd, climbing atop one of the partitions just in time for the opening line, “I’m coming for my love.” He moved about throughout the song, winding his way through the crowd, who obviously enjoyed the closeness, as you could see everyone who was around him at the different times pulling out their phones to snap a picture.

Getting back on stage was no easy task for him, but he eventually did once the song was over, disappearing on stage right while Becky took center stage as two dancers walked onto the stage. They busted out their cover of The Bangles “Walk Like an Egyptian”, with the dancers performing the dance moves and walking like an Egyptian. When given the chance like this, Becky really steals the show, and has an incredible voice. John eventually returned to the line of sight, hiding behind Rocky for a few moments as he outstretched his arms with the robe/cape waving behind Rocky. He then walked more towards center stage, co-singing the song as he again forced his voice into a higher register, which he pulls off with ease, and his voice doesn’t even come close to cracking.

The rest of their set would be the hits, well mostly so, and one of those which got greeted by a strong reaction from fans was “Come Closer”. “…Take my hand for the ride…” John sang at one point in the song, making a motion with his hand like he was driving a car.

Their next number was a bit of a surprise, as John said they had a new one for everybody. “And only for you.” He added, as they began a track that hopefully will make it on their third record, even though that is years away at this point.

If I were to compare it to any other Ishi song, I would say it most resembles “Mother Prism”, in the sense that it was more peaceful. It even had a chant that I can see catching on just like the one of “Mother Prism” has. It was another spectacular Ishi song, and it’s nice to know they are already looking ahead to the future.

This additional 33-minute long set started to wind down with “Pastel Lights”, which really got the fans moving around, though it was “Shake Your Dandelion” that received the most fanfare any of their songs had gotten since their show first began. “You know what time it is, Dallas. This is our last song of the night.” John stated as the track led them into the seductive and suggestive song, which was the perfect way to cap of what had been one of the best concert experiences I had ever had.

If there has been a better Ishi, it was one I was unable to attend, but I kind of doubt that, because the band was in rare form this night.

The stage show was amazing and everything was perfectly coordinated, though not to the point of seeming over rehearsed where it had all been planned to a tee. Then you have the energy, not just from the band, but the fans, as they fed of each other’s energy for the full 89-minutes they were on stage.

In regards to their set pieces, they served to only enhance the show experience, making it an even more memorable show than it would have been with just the band. And for anyone who read my posts regular, you’ll know lately I’ve been tough on some bands who have used different visual aspects and such, but Ishi is one of the bands doing it right, because they do it to enhance the show, not to seem like they’re a bigger deal than what they are. Besides, they already are a big deal.

That leads me to this, what I saw this night, is easily capable of becoming an arena-sized show. And let’s be frank, even though there are other bands in Dallas whom I’m a bigger fan of, simply because I’m more of a rock person, I can’t, at least at this moment, think of any band who even shows signs of one day being capable of playing an arena.

Ishi could, though, because the energy is there. Between Rocky running around the stage, Jonathan’s aggressive style of drumming, which often found him standing up from his kit and banging about the cymbals, while John is a mesmerizing frontman who will always command 100% of your attention.

The aesthetics are every bit as good, too, and already a few notches above most bands, and I can only imagine what they can do once they get an even bigger budget.

The band has truly found itself by fully embracing the electronic sound with this new album, and that was made very obvious this night.

Like I said earlier, they are hoping to do big things this year as Ishi, a fact John made sure to point out multiple times this night, which is all the more reason to get in to the band now, because this thing could blow up at any moment.

They have a couple shows coming up in Colorado, one on May 24th at Casselman’s in Denver, the other at State Bridge in Bond on the 26th. They’ll also perform at Stubb’s in Austin on May 31st. And do be sure to pick up their albums in ITUNES, which consist of not only their two full-length records, but also some remixes.

This was an amazing night, definitely one of the best shows of the year, and it was great seeing a Dallas band headline of of Dallas’s best venues for the first real time, and I doubt it will be the last, either.

Wednesday, May 1st, 2013 – Dope Stars Inc. Invades the U.S., but The Rabid Whole Steals the Show

I hadn’t originally planned on going to Trees this night. In fact, I wasn’t even aware the venue was hosting a show this night, until about a week before when a friend forwarded an email along to me from the PR guy for one of the bands. Long story short, I offered to go to the show to review it and got guest listed to do just that.

The only hometown act on this bill was the first act, Sinsect, who started their set at 8:20.

They were a duo, and set up like a DJ would be, with both James Ashley and Joe Virus operating a few synthesizers. Their first few songs were all instrumental, as cranked out their electronic pieces with various sample tracks intertwining with them. Things got even worse with James began singing on their last two songs, doing some full on singing for their final number, while he just added the occasional line on another. His voice was essentially auto-tuned and had a very digital sounding effect to it, which I disliked it because you couldn’t tell what he was capable of on his own.

All of that resulted in me not liking their set a whole lot, and at least it was short, even though it felt like it lasted forever.

I guess I should say I’m not a huge fan of the kind of music in the first place, but still, I have seen a band or two who are completely electronic like this, and then their singer has blow my mind with his voice. That wasn’t the case with Sinsect, though, and not only did their music do nothing for me, but James, or rather his voice, hid behind all the effects. Who knows, maybe that was for the best, but then again, what does that say about you as a singer?

If you’re curious to listen to their stuff, well, they do have an album, “A Broken Hero”, which can be purchased in ITUNES.

Well, at least the night was bound to get better with the next act, and that was The Rabid Whole from Toronto, Ontario.

This was the band whose PR guy I had been in contact with, and after listening to their stuff online, I was ecstatic to see what they were like in the live setting.

As the curtain opened on them, a cloud of smoke engulfed stage left, then slowly billowed out towards the crowd, making it easier to see bassist Oscar Anesetti. The band bills themselves as a 21st Century Alternative Rock outfit, and they definitely looked the part with their jackets and other attire which had a futuristic look to it.

They waited on the sample track to lead them in to their first song, while Chalsey Noelle laced some beautiful piano notes over it via her keyboard. It was the calm before the storm, though, as guitarist George Radutu, drummer JJ Tartaglia and Oscar soon ripped into “Stargazer”. “I’m still expecting you to break my fall, assuming everything goes wrong…” belted out frontman Andreas Weiss on the chorus, who was racing about the stage and often propping one leg up on the monitors, gazing out at the crowd while he sang. Before the final chorus, he placed the microphone back in the stand, picking up his guitar, shredding on it while signing the remainder of the song. That was the extent of his guitar playing, at least for the time being, though, and he placed it back in its stand once the song concluded.

With that one song they had pulled almost everyone up to the front of the stage, even if everyone was only about two dozen people, and after allowing just enough time for the crowd to applaud and cheer for them, they fired up “Delusion”. It was followed by another song from their “Refuge” album, “Corporate”, which was a infectious and powerful number, partly about chasing your dreams. “…It’s the day that my friend turned corporate. Hard to think that this shell was once a man…” Andreas sang on the chorus. There were also some moments of the song where he softly whispered a few lines, giving it somewhat of a chilling tone.

They let up after that one, at least long enough for Andreas to mention that this was their first ever time in Dallas and that they were excited to be here. He of course also noted that they had some stuff for sale back at their merch table, and then they got back to it with a song from their 2009 debut album, “Autraumaton”, called “Selfish Nature”. Afterwards, Chalsey left her keyboard station which had kept her slightly out of view, joining her band mates at the front of the stage with what I will call a keytar. There was no real neck to it, so instead it looked like just a keyboard with a strap on it.

“We have a video for this next song. It’s called Future.” Andreas said hastily, as they started the lead track and single from their latest album. Maybe it’s because in listening to their stuff online it had become my favorite song of theirs, but I found it to be the best song of their set. It’s just a perfect blend of sheer rock with more electronic tones that can put you in a mood to dance, and Andreas and Chalsey’s voices fit well together as they each sang a few lines on the chorus, his having a more forceful, raw quality to it, while hers was more delicate and had a very pretty tone.

Following it was a slower song, at least slow by their standards, and that was the title track from their 2012 record, “Refuge”, which was another song that saw Chalsey doing a fairly good bit of singing. Once they finished it, Andreas walked up the stairs at the back of the stage, while Chalsey disappeared in the shadows of far stage right, as JJ took the spotlight, doing a killer drum solo. Really, a lot of drum solos are less than awe-inspiring, but he played a great piece that held your attention throughout. As it wound down, Chalsey got back behind her keyboards, while Andreas descended the stairs. He informed everyone they had one song left, maybe two, depending on if they had enough time.

In case this was their last song, they were going to go out with a bang with the aggressive, “Metro”, which featured a thick and heavy rhythm section. As luck would have it, they were able to do one more after that, and they chose to close their 38-minute long set with another older song, “All The Same”. Andreas again thanked everyone for coming out to the show while he put his guitar on. Near the end of it he asked everyone to help them out and repeat after him. “What does it take to make you bleed?” he sang, with only a few people shouting it back at him afterwards. He wasn’t too impressed, saying it was even worse than what the people of Portland did to try to entice everyone to get more into it. It worked, and the shouting grew stronger and louder as a few more people joined in. After the sing-along portion was over, Oscar proceeded to attack his bass, viciously slapping it as they finished up the song.

Their set was phenomenal, and even though there was a VERY sparse crowd at Trees this night, it still speaks volumes about The Rabid Whole that they were able to pull nearly everyone up to the stage and get them actively engaged in the music.

Speaking of their music, that’s what initially drew me in. It’s fun yet serious with a nice space rock sound, and while I wouldn’t say it’s original in the sense that what they are doing has never been done before, it is more unique, and I doubt you’ve heard many bands that pull of this musical style as well as they do. Aside from the music being easy to get into, you also have the lyrics, which are very well written and come across as telling fairly personal stories, which makes it easier for them to get behind it.

As impeccable as their music is, though, and as well as their energy translates onto the recordings, it’s their live show where it’s all at.

From the moment they started, they were going ninety miles a minute, never letting up for even a moment. They didn’t care that they were only playing for about thirty people, and I have a feeling they could have only had an audience of three and they still would have been putting on the same show. Why? Because they were obviously all having fun on that stage, and I think everyone quickly picked up on and was reeled in by that.

The only complaint I have is more of a technical issue, and that was that the main mic could have been a little louder out in the crowd, because at times I had trouble hearing Andreas while he was singing.

Aside from that, everything was perfect, and The Rabid Whole ended up stealing the show right out from under the headliner, as unintentional as it was.

Their current tour may be over, but keep an eye on their tour dates, either on their OFFICIAL WEBSITE or their FACEBOOK PAGE, especially if you live in Canada, since that is the bands home territory. You can also find their two albums in ITUNES, plus a remix of their first album. I would highly urge everyone to check out the “Refuge” record, as it’s one of those rare albums where every song is exceptional.

The headlining band for the night was Dope Stars Inc., who had traveled all the way from Rome, Italy to be here, and despite having been around for ten years now, this marked the bands first U.S. tour.

Traditionally, the band is evidently a five-piece, however, on this tour they were a trio, consisting of singer and guitarist Victor Love, bassist Darin Yevonde and drummer Mark Madhoney.

Oddly enough, they entered the stage to a good deal of fanfare, and evidently, most of the people were here for Dope Stars Inc.

I didn’t know what to expect, because I hadn’t even listened to their music beforehand. They had a real industrial rock sound, and were even alternative rock, and like the two bands that opened for them, they did have an electronic sound to an extent, even though that was all supplied through sample tracks.

Honestly, after their first song, I contemplated leaving, because I just didn’t care for it a whole lot, but I decided to stick around at least through the next couple of songs.

“…This is next one is called Vyperpunk!” Victor shouted, which resulted in some members of the crowd cheering with excitement. Like most of their songs, there was almost a techno sound to it, but in the most rocking way, and I found myself getting a little more into the music. Before starting their next song, Victor dedicated to Michael J. Fox, or at least that’s what I thought he said, but his accent was so thick (both when he was and wasn’t singing), I thought surely I had misheard him. Turns out I had understood him well enough, as they stared “Save the Clock Tower”, from their newest album, “Ultrawired”, a song that is a bit of an homage to the Back to the Future film series.

“It’s Today” was what did it for me, as it piqued my interest and ensured I’d stick it out for the rest of their set. It’s a riveting song, an anthem in a way, with Victor encouraging everyone that, “It’s today that we have to wake up all the energy we own…”, which is the first line of the course, before ending with, “…Our time is dead. Our time is now. And now is past.” They really seemed to hit their stride with that song, too, Darin pacing around the entire stage while he effortlessly tore it up on his bass. Actually, I had to look several times to make sure it was a bass he was playing, because as quickly as he was strumming the strings, it looked like it was a guitar. Aside from that, Mark was devastating it on the drums, often standing up from time to time as he continued to lay into his kit, while Victor was shredding on his guitar.

“It’s hot here in Texas.” Victor proclaimed, before they started their next song. They followed it with “10,000 Watts of Artificial Pleasures”, which got the biggest rise from their little fan base, as Victor first told everyone the song title, than asked something like, “Are you ready for the pleasures, Dallas?”. The aggressive “Bang Your Head” came next, which found Victor often snarling and yelling the words, and once it was over he set things up for Mark to do a drum solo, as he and Darin left the stage. The drum solo didn’t impress me to the extent the other one from the other band did, but it was still a great solo.

Once he put the finishing touches on it, Victor returned to the stage, with Darin eventually following suit, as they continued their barrage of songs, first with one I wasn’t able to figure out, and then doing what I believe was “Banksters”. They kept moving right along with “Make a Star”, from 2005’s “Neuromance” album, and then another track from their latest record, “Blackout”. Those songs weren’t slow by any means, but they really picked things back up with “Self Destructive Corp.”, while “Defcon 5” began to wind things down. At the end of that latter song, Darin, who resting a leg on the monitor, let his bass dangle in the air as he plucked one of the strings, then Victor announced they had one last song left. It was the title track of their 2009 album, “21st Century Slave”, which ended their 69 –minute long set. Now, a lot of their songs make statements in one way or another, most of which seem more social or political, but this one is probably the most notable. It deals with being a slave to the corporate world and being “brainwashed” by various forms of “propaganda”, with the message being that technology is the key to freeing our minds and bodies from all of that.

Yeah, there’s songs carry a message with them.

While watching them play, I wasn’t all that crazy for their actual music, and was more watching them for their performance, which is definitely an area they’ve perfected in their ten-year existence. However, after listening to their stuff a little more, like while trying to identify the songs they played this night, it has really grown on me.

It’s good rock music with a twist, and something well worth listening to. I’m still not all that crazy about Victors’ voice, which frankly, isn’t the best in the world. I wouldn’t call it bad though, either, which puts it in the spot of being one of the most unique voices I’ve ever heard, and he writes some fantastic lyrics that can be rather thought provoking.

I went from not being sure I’d even stay for their set, to watching it all, and now I’ve gone from not having a real interest in seeing them again, to liking them enough that if they ever get back to Dallas, I’ll most likely be there.

Yeah, they won me over is a fan.

Check out all of their records in ITUNES, and you can even get a free download of the “Ultrawired” record on their OFFICIAL WEBSITE.

It was a fantastic night of music (with the exception of the first band), and I love shows like this where more independent and small time bands tour through, because I like getting a little taste of what else is out there, outside of the local North Texas music scene.