Thursday, October 3rd, 2013 – Here We Go Again with Lauren Mann & the Fairly Odd Folk
You have to respect the touring bands, and no, I don’t mean the big time touring acts that are guaranteed to make money. I mean the bands who dream of being a full-time touring act, making a living doing what they love, and actively pursue it.
That said, what is perhaps my favorite Canadian based band, Lauren Mann and the Fairly Odd Folk were back on tour, their Here We Go Again tour, and this night they were returning to what has become their Dallas home, the Prophet Bar.
Opening up this show was singer/songwriter Ashley Brooks, who played an electric guitar and was accompanied by band mate and fellow guitarist Andrew Lyon.
Their 22-minute long set got off to a somber start, as Ashley said Andrew wanted to say something. He wasn’t near a mic, so she ended up speaking for him, saying he wanted to dedicate the show to a friend who had recently died. “…This show’s also for my sister…” she said, adding she had passed away just a few weeks prior from suicide. She then set up her first song, “Simple Living”, saying it was about a guy she was with for three years. “…He was on drugs and just… a hot mess…” she said, noting she thought she could “fix” him.
That storyteller vibe continued for their next song, as well as most of their show, as Ashley said the next one was, “…Hard to sing.” She went on to tell a story of how she was diagnosed with a brain tumor at fifteen, and went she went in for surgery, there was nothing there. It was called “Miracles”, and it was a great tune, clearly being a testament to her faith. She gave her voice a rest afterwards, while Andrew played an instrumental piece. As I’ve said before, I’m not a fan of instrumental music, but this song had a good sound, and I really enjoyed it.
They then resumed their originals, first with “Maybe” and then another. “That’s my favorite song we’ve done…” Ashley remarked after the other song, which also happened to be my favorite tune of theirs this night, and both her voice and the music bed for it just had a great sound. Since starting, Ashley had promised a mix of originals and covers, and now they delivered their first and only cover of this night. “Does anyone know who Alison Krauss is?” she asked the handful of people who were there so early on, most of whom were either staff or other band members. The duo did a pretty rendition of “When You Say Nothing at All”, before ending with a track I believe was titled “Breathe”, which was a little more minimalist compared to her other songs, as Andrew lightly plucked the strings of his guitar, while Ashley just sang.
Before exiting the stage, though, she addressed the crowd, saying they had planned to do some more covers, “…But we’ll save those for next time…” she said. She went on mention she’s finishing up recording some tracks that will be released in the near future, saying all she wanted to do was help other people through music, just in the way it had helped her.
Though it was a short show, it was good one. Ashley had good voice, sounding delicate at times, though she was also capable of hitting some big notes. The songs were well written, and I enjoyed the connection she made with the onlookers by talking about her songs and getting more personal.
You can listen to some demos she has recorded over on her REVERBNATION PAGE, and those studio recordings she mentioned should be available soon. In fact, she said one would be coming out this month.
The first full band of the night was the main one I was there to see, and that was Lauren Mann and the Fairly Odd Folk.
This was the band’s second Dallas show this year, having hit The Prophet Bar back in May, and they had changed things around since then.
They opened with a very cool intro, led by Jay and Jessica Christman, the latter plucking some of the strings on her bass before he joined in with some light drum beats. Josh Akin soon came in on the guitar, though it was Zoltan Szoges who really set the piece off, using the numerous keyboards and synthesizer around him. All together, it sounded slightly heavenly, and it ceased suddenly once Lauren Mann grabbed a ukulele and approached the microphone.
I said they had changed things around, and much to my Lauren began whistling, signifying the start of the lead single from their “Over Land and Sea” album, “I Lost Myself”, a song that has previously been reserved as the show closer.
It worked quite well as an opener, Laurens’ rich, vibrant voice piercing the near silence as she eased everyone into the show, before the rest of the band soon joined in. A little over a minute in was when things sprang to life, though, as Zoltan began banging on a floor tom with one hand, while using the other on his array of keyboards. As it drew to a close, Lauren even acted as a percussionist, grabbing the drumsticks and pounding on the extra tom, before taking a seat at her piano at center stage.
“This is a traveler’s song.” she remarked as they launched into what is perhaps one of their most fun songs, “A Traveler’s Anthem”. It’s so upbeat it’s simply irresistible, and they followed it with another amazing sounding song, which I’m guessing was a cover. Zoltan broke out his keytar for some of that latter one, but the best part came at the end, when they broke into an unexpected percussion outro. Josh clapped along to Jay’s beats, while Jessica beat on the massive bass drum that sit beside the drum kit and Lauren shook a tambourine, while Zoltan again put the tom to use.
The briefly paused after that, taking a few moments to chat with the handful of people, and eventually Zoltan got to a joke. “I think I say this every time we play here…” he started out, saying he just ruined the joke, but laughed that since almost none of the people were familiar with them it would still be funny. “…Alberta is Canada’s Texas.” he said of their home province, “Or Texas is the U.S.’s Alberta.” he cracked, saying Alberta also had oil and cattle, as well as other things Texas as known for. He went on to make the very nice compliment of, “That’s why we always feel at home here in Texas.”
With that connection made, they got back to the music, and now did one of their new songs from their forthcoming third record. It was titled “You Don’t Look the Same”, and in comparison to the rest of their material, it sounded totally different. It just had a whole new vibe, though it still meshed with the rest of their cheerful tracks, and was all it took to get me really intrigued about what they’ll soon be working on. No sooner had they finished it then Lauren segued them into an older song from “Stories From Home”, “Stow Me Away”.
They’ve tweaked it from the album version, incorporating all of the band, though it’s still largely driven by Lauren and her piano, allowing for a nice lull in the show. Said lull was continued in the form of “Of Life And Of Death”, which ended with some very subtle sounds, though it was more than enough to propel to the song to another level. As it concluded, Zoltan picked up a bow, like you would play a cello with for example, and proceeded to pull it across the xylophone. He was very precise about it all, doing it in perfect synch to the music and Lauren’s singing, accenting it extraordinarily well.
They weren’t going to slow down from that, either, the sample track for “Love, I Lost” bleeding into the end of the previous song as the sounds finished resonating. With that, they were back on the upswing, and upon finishing it, Zoltan offered up some more banter.
He mentioned that it had been a weird tour so far, doing a show one day then having a day off, and that this was only the third show they had done in the U.S. on this tour. Talk also turned to impending hurricane that was headed for the other states on the Gulf Coast, and how they were going to be headed right for it. “…We’ll be going through our first hurricane…” Lauren said laughing, like it was going to be more of an adventure than anything. They also spoke of their new record, which they’ll be recording at the start of the new year, and how they’ll be launching a campaign to raise money for it. “We asked the bank for money to make it, and they said no. We asked our personal accounts for the money, and they said no. So then we asked our parents, and they said no.” Zoltan informed everyone, then clarified, “I’m kidding, we didn’t ask our parents. We’re in our late twenties and that would be awkward.”
When they got back to the show, they did “When I Feel Lost”, a more fleshed out rendition than what you hear on “Stories From Home”, giving the bass, drums and guitar more of a role, while Zoltan even dabbled on his keytar at times. The group then got a cool intro going for their next number, Josh standing by his guitar amp to create a bit of feedback, with things soon giving way to the ukulele intro of the ethereal, “Fragile”. Jessica and Zoltan briefly swapped spots at one point, as she struck the xylophone, and since Lauren had left her piano, he even put his keytar aside to play it at one point.
“We have one more…” said Lauren as they rolled it right into their final song, and she urged everyone to get a little closer to the stage. “We might have a little surprise for you.” she said with a smile on her face. Since the start I had been curious as to what they were going to end with, “How It Goes” seemed like it would be an excellent note to end on.
Jessica took over keyboard duty while Zoltan opened a suitcase and started throwing instruments out to everyone, from little shakers to tambourines and such. He then started clearing things out of the way, giving him room to eventually pick up that giant bass drum and roll it out into the crowd. They might not have had much of an audience, but those who were there were loving this, with at least half a dozen people picking up a drum stick or two and banging on the drum. And as the song and their 42-minute long set came to an end, Zoltan climbed on top of the floor tom, shaking a tambourine to the beat, before leaping backwards off it.
There are so many layers to the show Lauren Mann and the Fairly Odd Folk do, for starters, the performance itself. Zoltan mentioned they would be performing their five hundredth show on this tour, and while the members have changed since they first started, they’ve definitely broken in this new lineup. The five of them have incredible chemistry together and are nothing short of being a well-oiled machine.
They make the show much more intense than you would expect just from listening to their music, conducting themselves so fluidly with the music, and each member of the quartet packs in a ton of energy into their performance.
Aside from that, their just great musicians in general, writing some nice, catchy and fun indie/pop sounding music with a folk spin on it, and it’s music that is progressively getting better. “Over Land and Sea” is an exceptional record, but that one new song they did this night was even a bit above that, which is saying a lot.
In the end, though, it’s how fun and joyful they make their shows that will really stick with you. You’ll likely have smile on your face the whole time LM&TFOF are on stage, and the lightened mood their show puts you in is one that will stick with you for awhile.
They’ll be on the road in both the States and Canada through early December, so check out their TOUR PAGE for all the show dates. After that they’ll be in the studio working on their next record, with plans to get back out on the road next summer. So, stay tuned, help them fund their next record, and go see them if they come to a town near you, you’ll be glad you did. Also, check out their first two records in iTUNES. (Also, depending on when you see this, you can snag a FREE download of “Over Land & Sea” HERE.)
The mood of the night shifted drastically with the next band, Desert Noises, who were a serious rock band hailing from Provo, Utah.
The four piece delivered 38-minutes worth of rock on the crowd, the majority of which I believe came from a new album they mentioned they had just finished recording.
Is what made them stand out at the start was the harmonies their singer and rhythm guitarist and bass player created. He [the bassist] appeared to have a knockout voice as well, and they intertwined to make something outstanding.
After the first couple of songs, they did one from 2011’s “Mountain Sea” album, “Oak Tree”, another track that really utilized the harmonies, while also boasting some, at times, haunting guitar notes. They continued on with another new one, their singer announcing they had recently wrapped up the recording process, and that the next song would be on it. “What’s it called?” one person asked, speaking of the new album. “We don’t know yet.” the singer smiled and said.
They carried on with several more songs, eventually having a discussion amongst themselves to make sure that this was their first ever show in Dallas. By then they were almost done, and they closed out their show with a very interesting song that only featured the lead guitar and some beats from the drummer, while the other two musicians just sang. It was very different from their other stuff, but sounded oh so good.
Their rock sounds, which were some of the more original that I’ve heard, were also laced with some Americana undertones, and even Southern Rock to a smaller degree.
That, coupled with the killer voice their singer had and the nice mixture he and the bass player created, as well as the well written songs, they ensured they’d be a band you wouldn’t soon forget. Well, that and dynamic stage show they put on, really throwing down and rocking out.
Do yourself a favor and check these guys out. They have a few records in iTUNES, and I’m guessing this new record, whenever it drops, will be the best thing they’ve done yet. They also have a few shows left on their tour, which you can find HERE.
After those two touring bands, it was time for one last Dallas act to close out the night, and that was singer/songwriter, Steve Atkins.
They were a bit different, too, at least in comparison to the other acts. Steve was accompanied by two other musicians, one playing a ukulele and the other an electric guitar, without an amp, while he used an acoustic. The electric guitarist also had a computer in front of him, which had all the sample tracks for the other instruments they were lacking.
He of course mined a different genre than the other acts, his music being more of an acoustic pop style, which become readily clear just with their first song. After “Animal”, one of the tracks off his “Locals” record, he and the ukulele player donned some hats. “Now we’re settled in.” Steve remarked as they dished out another song.
“The Tide” continued their string of love based songs, as Steve repeatedly sang, “I would never let you down.” on the chorus. They had also worked a cover into their show, doing a rendition of Rihannas’ “We Found Love”, albeit a very different version from hers. It lacked all the electronics, a little more bare bones, which made the lyrics and Steve’s singing more of the main focal point, and they pulled it off nicely
They continued rushing through their 33-minute set, seeming to want to get it over as soon as they could. Probably because, as Steve mentioned, he knew just about everyone had to work the next day. They got back to tackling the EP with “New Beginnings”, then “Coming Around” before ending with “Stick & Stone”.
Personally, Steves’ stuff wasn’t quite up my alley, It was just too mushy and lovey dovey for my tastes, but at the same time, I can respect it for what it is. That’s simply his style of songwriting and singing, and it suits him well, being something he, and his band mates, pulled off with ease.
If that’s something that would appeal to you, give his stuff a listen. You can find “Locals” in iTUNES, and if you keep an eye on his FACEBOOK PAGE, he’ll no doubt announce another show sometime soon.
This fun got off to an early start and ended relatively early, too, which was a nice change of pace from one to two in the morning. Kudos to the Prophet Bar for continuing to give touring bands a chance, and if you weren’t here (which you probably weren’t), you missed out on one spectacular show