Single Review: “Soon” by Swindle Boys

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Purchase the album on:
iTunes / Bandcamp

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

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014 – Kitten Shows Their Claws in Dallas

Tactics Productions had a great show going on at Club Dada this night. It offered a good way to get an early jump on the weekend, without being out too late; and more than a few people had opted to get a live music fix this hump day.

There’s no questioning that Kitten was the band nearly everyone was there to see. Fans had staked out spots in front of the stage early on this night. A handful of them even wore some headbands with cat ears on them. One guy even sported a hat with fuzzy cat ears on the sides, and the platform shoes he was wearing let him tower over everyone else in attendance.

By the time their 10:24 start time neared, there were at least a hundred people waiting anxiously for the band. In fact, they were so ecstatic some cheers even started minutes before they took the stage, prompting everyone to glance over at the door to the green room. No one had left it… Yet.

When it did come time to start, the four instrumentalists filed on stage, and vocalist Chloe Chaidez wasn’t far behind. The first portion of “Why I Wait” was almost inaudible, as she whispered just as it’s done on the recording. That changed once they hit the chorus, though, and the song packed quite a punch. Chaidez sauntered around for the first bit, before jumping onto the extended part of the stage — a ledge of sorts where the monitors sit. It was there where she spent much of her time this night, being able to better interact with the audience, and for now she was frequently banging her head and tossing her hair around.

Everyone applauded them, but the noise was drowned out by the start of “Japanese Eyes”. If Chaidez needed anytime at all to warm-up, all she required was that first song, and she was on fire now. They hit the first chorus and she turned her back to everyone, shaking her backside at the spectators, and got even more into the track when she grabbed a tambourine, using it and thrashing about as it came to an end. The quintet was quickly building up the intensity, and had already established a no holds barred, take no prisoners attitude, which was pushed to new heights with “Sensible”. The heavy electronic sounds and mighty percussion incited some dancing from nearly everyone, and at one point Chaidez leapt atop that ledge and began leading the crowd in a clap along, something they were all too eager to do.

They took their first break of the night after that. “We’re in Dallas, Texas!” Chaidez exclaimed, playing to the crowd just a bit, before mentioning she didn’t any more than ten people would have been here. She was way off on that assumption. “…Thank you.” she said quite humbly.

Both times the phrase “Just let me breathe” was repeated multiple times over on “Cut it Out”, she would bend down on more of the fans level, holding the mic out to them, allowing them to sing. When she wasn’t doing that, she was dancing wildly around the stage; and perhaps the best moment came near the end, when she again grabbed the tambourine and then raced over to the drum kit, jumping about the kick drum and leaned over the drummer.

“What a crowd you are! Damn!” she remarked afterwards, seeming truly surprised by how invested everyone was in this performance. With that, she asked if everyone was ready to dance, and right as the crowd answered, the track for “Like a Stranger” came on. If no one else was ready to, she was, and did a lot of dancing on that number. Everyone could see her pretty well on that ledge, and towards the end, she dropped the microphone and proceeded to flap and pump her arms in the air, leaving those watching in a state of awe. She was an ball of energy during that song, even more so than most of the others.

The party atmosphere continued as they wound it into the dreamy “G#”. Chaidez waved her arms from side to side at the start, and the fans picked up on the motion, and before you knew it the place had turned into a sea of arms swaying from side to side. The rhythm section sounded unbelievable on that song; and she pulled another good stunt towards the end, as she climbed atop some gear or something in the corner of the stage (my view was slightly obstructed), standing on it as she belted out, “…We’ll see you all again!”, which caused dozens of phones to go up and start snapping pictures.

The transition to a rendition of Berlins’ “Take My Breath Away” was seamless, and Kitten has just the right sound to pull that song off. Chaidez left at one point, right as the guitarist launched into a blistering solo that wowed everyone. She wasn’t gone long, though. Just long enough to let them have their moment.

“That was our new hit single. What did you think?” she joked once they finished it. They then got back to their original stuff with “I’ll Be Your Girl”, and shortly after starting it, Chaidez pulled a cat ears headband off of one fans head and put it on herself. She then made a fans night by pulling her on stage with her, something the fan almost seemed reluctant to do at first, because she was in shock it was actually happening. “I’ll be your protection, I’ll be yours for life…” the two sang, and the fan was working it hard enough she was almost giving Chaidez a run for her money. It was really hard to tell who enjoyed that more, because each of the young women were smiling from ear to ear as the song ended. Chaidez went so far as to say she thought she was her favorite girl she has ever gotten to help on that song, and even commented about how into the performance the girl had gotten.

All of a sudden, Chaidez was alone on stage, and she mentioned this next song was a sad one. She grabbed an acoustic guitar, and informed everyone this next one was titled “Apples and Cigarettes”. Stripped down like this, where there was nothing else for her voice to compete against, it was utterly astounding. Breathtaking even. She had everyone transfixed as she delivered that emotion filled song, and once it was done, she appeared to wipe some tears from her eyes, proving it was one she connects with on a very personal level.

Her band mates were back on stage now, and they were all ready for the next one. “This song you can dance to!” she said with a smile, as she resumed the active forntwoman role on “Sex Drive”, during which came another clap along moment.

Some of the best songs in the live format came from the Sunday School EP, and one of those was “Chinatown”. It provided one of the most raw moments of the entire night. They were all completely immersed in it; and there came a time when Chaidez grabbed the hand of the guy mentioned earlier who was wearing some platform shoes. He kissed her hand, and then she leaned out towards him and gave him a peck on the lips.

“This is overwhelmingly amazing for all of us!” she remarked once they finished, truly being blown away by all the love they were being shown. They began to wind down with “Cathedral”, after which she introduced her “boys”. Nick was on the guitar, Cameron behind the drums, Omar on the bass and Josh on the keys. They each got some noise made for them; and then they fired up the most wild song of the night: “Kitten with a Whip”. It whipped everyone (no pun intended) — band members and fans alike — into a frenzy, and despite Chaidez shaking her body almost constantly all night, this was the only song that seemed overtly sexual in some slight manner. They put every last ounce of energy they had into that one, and Chaidez even rolled across the stage at one point, before motioning to that guy in the platform shoes. She had him bend down so she could get on his shoulders, and it was from that perch she danced a bit (as much as she could), while everyone looked on in amazement.

After 66-minutes, and especially with an end like that, I don’t think anyone really expected an encore. I know I sure I didn’t. But that doesn’t mean no one hoped for one.

A couple minutes went by, but Chloe Chaidez reclaimed the stage, all by herself.

Apparently, some people haven’t gotten the memo that shouting “Freebird!” as an encore isn’t all that funny anymore, but she acted like she didn’t hear the request. Maybe she really didn’t.

The most beautiful moment of the night came in the form of “Kill the Light”, which was done acoustically. It was the way she enunciated the words and the emotion she poured into them. It was overpowering. I would have even been content with that as a closer, but they still had a little gas left in the tank. It appeared “Doubt” would be the final number, and once the last line had been sung, Chaidez once again thanked everyone, and then made her way through the crowd and back to the green room. The band gave the track a long instrumental finish, and one by one, they all disappeared, until only the drummer was left. Some hefty beats concluded it, but as he walked off the stage, the guitarist got back on.

He began to strum the axe, and all of a sudden, Chaidez appeared one last time, creating some more fanfare. The now duo played a cover of “Don’t Dream it’s Over” by Crowded House, and it was another song that really highlighted the gorgeous tone of her voice.

That put the show at nearly 90-minutes, and that really was it.

I was blown away. Honestly, I knew nothing about Kitten before this night. I just came to the show to see a show (plus I was a fan of the local opening act), but wow!

Kitten was dynamite from start to finish, and very unrelenting.

The entire band was excellent, but there can’t be any arguing that all eyes were focused almost exclusively on Chloe Chaidez. She has a persona that commands your attention, and left everything on stage; and despite using her assets at times, the main thing she relied on was her natural talent, which seemed limitless this night.

Everything was topnotch, and the showmanship was so very impressive. I’ve got to say, they earned a lot of respect in my book, because in terms of performance, this is what a band should be.

They have a few shows left on their current tour, and exact dates can be found HERE. Pick up their record in iTUNES, too.

Album Review: “You Can Take Your Sorry Ass Back To West Texas!” by Madisons

imageThe Austin-based Madisons formed in mid-2011, and quickly set to work building a name for themselves. I was introduced to the band in May of 2012, when they played the Homegrown Music and Arts Festival in Dallas. Shortly after came their debut record; and they’ve managed to stick to a schedule that even some bands with major label backings have trouble doing: releasing an LP every two years.

Changes occurred in these last two years, though, and only two members from the original lineup still remain. Change can be a good thing, though, and in this case, it has seemed to create a revitalized Madisons. One that has honed their sound and better perfected it during the time between records, and the difference is noticeable right from the start…

The seven-piece folk rock/ Americana outfit wastes no time in getting down to business, placing what is perhaps the best track on the record — “The Misadventures of Shea Grant” — right at the start. It’s as high-strung as they get on this nearly 40-minute long experience, and it’s absolutely pulse-pounding from start to finish. The drums establish a furious pace, and the vast array of instruments, from the guitars to the violin, upright bass and the rest keep up with ease. You’ll surely be singing right along with the chorus of this infectious number, “…I would settle for a smile in the pouring rain, but your smiles won’t pay the rent. It’s a retelling of my summer of discontent…”, in no time, and the rest of it will follow soon after.

Their folk stylings shine more brightly on “A Long, Slow Death in San Marcos, Texas”, where the trumpet is heard much better. The song covers a lot of ground, but is perhaps best summed up by the opening line, “I’m not responsible for the way you say you feel. That’s what therapists teach assholes so they don’t have to feel like assholes…” It’s filled with lyrical gems, from “…You can’t love me for what I am, but you hate me for what you’re not…” to “…There’s a leak in the ceiling and the floor’s begun to rot…” (which violinist Jocelyn White shouts alongside Dominic Solis’ lead vocals, giving it a nice effect.) The line is more or less a metaphor for the gradual desolation of a relationship, and it works beautifully.

The album has quickly been heading on a downward slope in terms of intensity, and with the gentle guitar chords and soothing violin that prevail for nearly the first half of “In My Pocket Forever”, you may be thinking Madisons has already done as much rock as they’re going to. That’s where you’d be wrong. It slowly surges to life; the electric guitar bringing renewed energy when it suddenly arises during an instrumental break. It acts as a prelude of sorts to the explosive end the track has, proving this is a band who has some tricks up their sleeves. As for the song itself, lyrically, it depicts what is easily the most unsettling story on the record, based on real events involving a fourteen-year-old girl who got pregnant by a man twice her age, and he eventually set her on fire. It may not be a story you want to hear, but at the same time, how many bands these days get that real with their music?

There’s a surprisingly fun vibe at times to “Carolina”, which is perhaps the most emotional song on this disc, dealing with letting go of a person you still feel for, all because it’s the best thing to do. The record then goes into “Losing Pictures”, which gives the opening track a run for its money. Presumably, it’s where the album title stems from, with one of the lines in it being, “So drag your sorry ass back to Los Angeles, but don’t forget what you burned. Live inside my friends if you have to, and dig your knees in the dirt…”There’s a definite good riddance feel to this song, verses the emptiness conveyed in the previous one, and being grouped together like this, you get a perspective on two very different relationships. The opening line itself, “Mary never knew she was a terrible person, but that’s what she come to learn. Some folks can’t handle what they’ve been handed, but some folks get what they deserve.” is quite powerful, too. The ebb and flow of the music bed is spectacular as well, waning on the verses to give the words more weight, while the build up to the choruses let you know you’re in for it.

They get back to a semi-gentler tone with “You’ll Never Know”, which carries with it a message of telling people whatever you may need to while you have the chance and don’t keep it held in. The band then throws you for a loop, when you suddenly hear Jocelyns’ voice on “Sucker Punch”. She stands as the lone vocalist on that downcast track, and the heartbroken feeling even bleeds through in her delicate voice. “…How am I surrounded by the ones I love, but I still feel so goddamned alone?” she pines at one point.

Madisons then try something a little different for them. “The Hill” is another personal song penned by Dominic, one about feeling forever trapped in a small town you don’t think you’ll ever get out of. It doesn’t quite fit the folk genre, though, and while it’s sort of rock (especially in the stellar guitar solo), it can’t be categorized fully in that, either. Indie may be the best genre to use to describe it, and the heavily used xylophone adds a nice touch to it all. You know how I said they’re a band with some tricks up their sleeves? Yeah, this is a prime example.

They fully embrace their country side with “Meet Me By the Riverside”. The banjo is in full effect on the joyful, folksy number that makes use of the numerous voices they have at their disposal. It’s just damn catchy, and you’ll no doubt find yourself stomping your foot along to the beat.

“The Fiscal Year” then rounds out this ten-track record, and it’s also the shortest on it. Like so many of the others, it’s about a relationship, and Dominic ponders at the start that, that’s all he seems to do (writing songs about the relationship). With all the turbulent moments portrayed on this album, it ends on a happy note. “The Fiscal Year” is a love song, plain and simple, and the line, “…‘Cause I want to spend my life making art for you…” couldn’t be described as anything else but sweet. There are some other good lines thrown in (“…Don’t go to work if you hate what you do…”); and style wise, they again stray a little from what they’ve set as their standard. There’s a saxophone solo thrown in, and while it’s brief, it gives the song a pretty bluesy vibe.

In just ten songs, Madisons capture a wide spectrum of different emotions on You Can Take Your Sorry Ass Back To West Texas! Best of all, you can tell they’re all sentimental. They all come from some deep part within Dominic Solis.

Their first album, Desgraciados, was great in my opinion. It set the stage for them, making sure you knew they were all about telling stories AND making quality music, and not sacrificing one just to have the other. They’ve taken themselves to a new level with this new release, though.

Their sound is more polished and fierce; and the stories told take you even deeper than those of the first album. It’s an all-around superb record that should rival even the biggest Americana releases of 2014.

No, it’s not necessarily something you’re going to listen to if you’re in a depressed mood and in need of a pick-me-up, but if you value legitimate substance, then You Can Take Your Sorry Ass Back To West Texas! will be a record you’ll be listening to repeatedly for a long time to come.
Madisons is:
Dominic Solis - Vocals, acoustic guitar
Jocelyn White - Vocals, violin
Cameron Cummings - Vocals, electric guitar
Oscar Gomez - Trumpet
Thomas Damron - Upright bass
Nick Kukowski - Vocals, banjo
Mike Rothschild - Drums

Purchase the album on:
iTUNES / Amazon mp3

Visit Madisons’ websites:
Official Website / Facebook / Twitter


Album Review: “Skylines” by Shapes and Faces

imageThe Dallas-based quartet known as Shapes and Faces has been around for a little more than a couple years now, and are now on the verge of the release of their debut album, “Skylines”. Perhaps the most intriguing thing about the band is that you can’t pigeonhole them into one certain genre. They’re self-described as being indie, rock and new-wave. There are also some elements of pop thrown in, and probably even some other styles.

They don’t just mix them, either. They traverse through all of those styles, which makes for quite the listening experience.

“Big Sky” opens the little over 37-minute long record, starting off a little slow, before its catchy music bed, complete with heavy drum beats and blaring guitar riffs really take hold. There’s a very upbeat feel to it, and it will have no problem in reeling you in and making you interested in the rest of the record.

That spirited track then gives way to the rocking, “Blank Stairs”. “…Without yesterday, you never get older.” goes the chorus of the albums shortest track, as the four-piece shows that aside from crafting songs that get your attention, they’re also great lyricists. It’s a monster if a song, and my favorite from the album.

“Lost in CT” gives it a run for its money in my opinion, though. The band shows off their gentler side at first, while the track obviously stems from deep personal experiences. That emotion is conveyed, and one of the messages I get from it is to savor the little moments. “And the answers are always on the edge of the earth. When you don’t seem to notice what you’re home is really worth.” Derek Bennett sings on the chorus, a somewhat simple, yet impactful line.

Then, the catchy notes that begin “For You” spill out of the speakers. The track blends a new wavy vibe with rock exceptionally well. I’m hesitant to say it’s cutting edge, though there is a very refreshing quality to the way the keys interact with the bass, drums and guitar. Simply put, it’s mesmerizing.

‘To Survive” dances between an entrancing atmospheric vibe and an indie/rock song that rocks like no other. Two sounds that may sound contradictory, but they’re blended well on this lovely track; which fades out to the lone instrumental song on the record. I’ve said it before in past articles, and I’ll say it again: with few exceptions, instrumental music is just something that generally doesn’t appeal to me. However, there’s something truly captivating about “Artifacts”. The flow it has is great, starting slow, building up, then tapering off. After assuming it’s just going to be a more relaxed number, then it roars to life, providing something you can bang your head to.

The lyrical depth is again highlighted on the chorus of “Red Lights”. “In the end I just want you to find yourself outside of this cage…” Derek sings, a genuine quality heard readily in his voice. It’s a touching song, and the same could — to some extent — also be said of the following track, “Monster Tommy”.

The album closes out strong with “In My City”, which carries a certain feeling of triumph to it, and also seems to be coated in a layer of longing for days gone by, while simultaneously being excited by the prospects of things to come. All of which makes for a fitting way to end the record.

It’s definitely an all encompassing record, and one you won’t tire of for some time. At least you shouldn’t.

It’s refreshing to hear a band be able to pull off a varied style of sounds, and most impressive of all is how they make it sound like it fits what Shapes and Faces is, instead of, you know, coming across as if they’re trying to do something different for the sole purpose of being different.

If you haven’t gotten the drift by now, “Skylines” is well worth the investment of your time in sampling it, and if you like it, then you’re money, too.

Shapes and Faces is:
Derek Bennett – vocals and guitar
Ryan Martin – drums and backing vocals
Jeff Givens - guitar
Chase Gamradt - bass

Purchase the album on: iTUNES or Bandcamp

Visit Shapes and Faces websites: Facebook / Reverbnation / Twitter / Youtube

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…

Thursday, October 10th, 2013 – The Runaround

It had been over a year and a half since I last saw the Austin based folk outfit Wild Child in Dallas (having caught them at SXSW earlier this year), and this night was going to be a big one for the band.

Two days prior to this show at the Prophet Bar, the band released their highly anticipated sophomore record, “The Runaround”, making this the Dallas CD release show for the new album, and their Dallas fans were ready to partake in the festivities.

The lone opening act on this show was Prophets and Outlaws, who played a mix of new and old songs during their 39-minutes on stage, along with some covers.

It was one of those newer songs that they opened with, before doing a song that singer and guitarist Matt Boggs said was their “ode to Elvis”. It was the shorter “Honey Child”, which certainly could have gotten a lot of hips shaking about, though there were only a handful of people up front actually dancing to the soulful, bluesy song. Next came one of their covers, and it was a well known classic, made famous by The Band.

They did a brilliant rendition of “The Weight”, utilizing every vocalist in the band, which was most of them. Drummer James Guckenheimer, bassist Matt Murrow, guitarist Stevie G and keyboard player Jamie Ringholm all sang a different verse of the song, coming together and harmonizing on the chorus, along with Matt, even doing it in rounds to add a distinctive flare to it.

“Do y’all want to hear a brand new song?” Matt asked the decently sized crowd, though most of them seemed indifferent to it. All the same, they rolled things right along into a new one, and after another track, they broke out another cover. I believe it was a version of Ray Charles’s “I Don’t Need No Doctor”, with a little more of a rock spin on it, and Matt has a certain quality to his voice that allowed them to pull it off.

“This is our best one, in my opinion.” Matt stated before they broke into the lead track from their self-titled debut EP, “Soul Shop”, a rather relaxing song. “We’re gonna need some howls on this next one.” said Matt, noting it was a newer song they were thinking about releasing around Halloween. A few of the onlookers answered his request, doing a wolf howl once or twice during the song, and once it was finished they had just enough time left for one more tune.

I’ll say that for what they do, Prophets and Outlaws pull of the style exceedingly well. However, after seeing this full band show and an acoustic one a few months back, I have to say that their music just isn’t what I care for.

It just doesn’t grab me and strike a chord in me or anything. That’s all relative, though, and if you like a mix of soul and blues, that have slightly more of a country sound, then this is definitely the band for you.

They have two EP’s you can check out and purchase in iTUNES. As for shows, they tend to keep fairly busy, and on October 31st they’ll be at the City Tavern in Dallas, with a show on November 1st at Grotto Live in McKinney. For more tour dates, check out their REVERBNATION PAGE.

They hastily cleared their gear off, while Wild Child began the process of setting up, and by the time they were ready to go, singer and baritone ukulele player Alexander Beggins asked for everyone to get a little closer. Apparently, the band has made a lot of area fans since I first saw them, as the majority of the people who were scattered around the bar and elsewhere made their way right up front.

They began with a joke, though it didn’t start out that way as singer and violinist Kelsey Wilson first mentioned how early they had to be up this morning in order to perform on one of the local morning shows on one of the TV stations. She pointed out getting up that early made her want to punch people, but she did alright, only punching one news woman. “…But she only made it through the first half inch of her makeup…” Alexander chimed in, the crowd, along with his band mates erupting in laughter.

That was a great way to break the ice, and with there being no way to top that, they promptly started the show with the title track and lead song from this new album, “The Runaround”, a very fun song that got everyone moving around at least a little. “How are you doing this fine Thursday eve?” Alexander asked the fans, which spurred a conversation between band mates as Kelsey stated she always hopes it really is Thursday when he asks that question.

After bantering (mainly) amongst themselves for a moment, they got back to the music, hitting their more tender side with the second track on the record, “Victim to Charm”. The violin and cello, which was played by Sadie Wolfe, worked together harmoniously at the start of that one, “Dear, don’t be alarmed, as I trace the freckles on your porcelain arm…” Alexander sang softly into the mic. It’s a beautiful line for an equally beautiful song, that also featured some nice harmonies from the two vocalists.

Those new ones were well received, though the fans almost turned into rabid animals when Kelsey said they were going to do some old ones, clearly eager to hear the ones they knew and loved. That collective mood of excitement shot through the roof as Alexander played the opening notes of “The Escape”, the audience singing right along with Kelsey and Alexander, whose voices layered over each other’s nicely. “Lost my breath, I’m feeling weak, my bones escape my skin…” everybody sang, the fans obviously ecstatic that this favorite of theirs was still in the setlist. They took things down a few notches with “Silly Things”, and while the rhythm section was lighter, it was still pretty powerful, Chris D’Annunzio lightly plucking the strings of his bass, which caused the floor to vibrate at times. The crowd again proved their love for Wild Child and their music, loudly singing along to the final line, “…Come get your coffee pot, ‘cause it hasn’t been used since I last used you.”

The band appeared a bit surprised by all the love they were getting, and now pointed out that this was the first crowd they had played to since “The Runaround” came out just two days prior to this. And now, having done the first two tracks from both their new and old albums, it was time to get back to some newer stuff with the first single from “The Runaround”.

Kelsey informed anyone who didn’t know that they had just released a music video for the song “Crazy Bird”, saying it was “weird”, which could be a big understatement. However, while the video is weird, the song itself is not, and both will leave a lasting impression on you. It was fun and upbeat, being an irresistible song that will immediately put you in a happy mood.

Speaking of happy mood, Kelsey said they had picked up a new motto from their friends in Prophets and Outlaws backstage. “You can only have as much fun as you want to have.” she said, Alexander adding those were “words of wisdom”. It is true, and they and the crowd were prepared to have as much fun as possible this night, and not much could be more fun than a “butt grabbing song”, which was exactly what Kelsey said t he next one was. Not much of that was going on as they busted out another slow one, “This Place”, though, Evan Magers adding some soft, subtle notes from his keyboard at parts, while Carey McGraw kept a slow and steady beat going on the drums.

That slow tune transitioned well into “Stitches”, which at first didn’t come across as what Kelsey said was their “new favorite party song”, but once it got going, it clearly was a fitting party tune. As soon as it concluded they seamlessly launched into another old one, “Bridges Burning”, the audience echoing along with Kelsey, “…Wait for me, I want you to wait for me…” “Y’all are tripping me out!” she exclaimed after finishing the song, still seeming a bit baffled by all the love. The audience was then presented with a choice of either getting a new fast one or an old fast one, which was “Cocaine Hurricane”. It was unanimous, and the choice was that old fan favorite, which is still a highlight of their shows.

Their 53-minute long set was nearing its end, and they still had a couple more new ones to do, one of which was the instant classic, “Living Tree”. “You guys are my favorite people in the whole wide world.” remarked Kelsey after they finished the song, still overwhelmed by it all, and they began to wind things down with the final track on the new album, “Left Behind”.

There was only one fitting way to close to the show, though, and that was with the final number from 2011’s “Pillow Talk”, the haunting, “Tale of You & Me”. “Sleep good and hold tight. Just know that’ll make it right.” the whole band shouted repeatedly at the end, creating the greatest sing along moment of the night, the entire crowd joining them, making for the best possible end to what was surely Wild Child’s best Dallas show yet.

This was quite the night, and Wild Child is quite the band. The duel vocalists and the way they constantly change things up, from both Kelsey and Alexander singing lead, to incorporating some dynamic harmonies and even singing in time with one another are what make them standout so much. And while those two do tend to be the main focus of the show, the rest of the group is of course just as vital a part, and contribute a lot to the energy they have.

On that note, it was their older songs that they did that were the most cohesive and flawless. That’s nothing against their new material, but you could tell those oldies had been performed hundreds of times over and they’d developed such chemistry for them, while some of the newer ones they still haven’t worked out all the movements.

In the end, though, it’s easy to see why the band just performed at Austin City Limits (doing a gig at the festival a couple days after this Dallas date), and why they’re creating such buzz. And the way folk music is becoming such a big thing currently in mainstream music, and given the unique and fresh spin Wild Child puts on their tunes, it’s believable that they have a shot at making it.

Wild Child will be on the road until the end of the year, doing shows from the East Coast to the West Coast and several states in between, and for all those dates go HERE. And do check out both of their albums in iTUNES, and if you dig ‘em, definitely buy them.

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

Thursday, September 5th, 2013 – The Dangerous Summer

The Door was hosting some touring bands this night, and quite an excellent touring show at that.

The Dangerous Summer had been touring the country hot on the heels of the release of their third record, and one of the bands joining them on the tour was one of my favorites, Tommy & the High Pilots.

There was one local Dallas band on this bill, though, and that was The Happy Alright, who I happened to miss (the show did start at 6:30, after all.) But with a name like that, surely they were good.

Following them was a band from Portland, Oregon called Rare Monk, who I thought was hit or miss at times. On one of the first songs of their set, singer Dorian Aites was banging away on the keyboard while screaming into the microphone, screaming on what was really rather a poppy song. It just didn’t seem to fit with their overall vibe, but after that, they seemed to hit their stride, and I really enjoyed it.

Then they got to their final song, which was a cover. “…’Cause they’re fun to do…” said Dorian, stating why they were doing a cover. It was a Pixies song, specifically “Where is My Mind”, and it was kind of butchered, at times sounding like how you would expect the track to, but it was the vicious screams that moved it so far away from the original.

Aside from those two mentioned songs, I really dug ‘em. This standard rock band did also have a violinist, though, which was played by Isaac Thelin, and while he was no doubt a great violinist, the instrument just didn’t go with their style. It sounded more like the guitar, and instead of complimenting it and working together, they more both sounded the same, to the point it was overkill.

Their tour with The Dangerous Summer is almost over, but they have a few California dates left, and you can find specifics out on their TOUR PAGE. And if you want to listen to/buy their music, you can do so on BANDCAMP.

Santa Barbaras’ own Tommy & the High Pilots had the main support slot on this tour, which, while it might not have been “their” tour, it was still a big one for the band, being the first time they had hit the road since releasing their fourth disc, “Only Human”, in late May.

That album is the basis for this being the “Year of the High Pilots” (there was a small sign taped to the drum kit that read “#YOTHP”, which evidently began as a joke but has become a small-scale movement), and that record was pretty much the exclusive source for their songs this night.

Their 40-minute long set began with bassist Steven Libby adding some extra percussion by beating on a floor tom, in synch with what drummer Matt Palermo was doing, as they eased into the vibrant “Young and Hungry”. They managed to pull in a lot of the audience with that song, and while the crowd was relatively small, they still congregated around the stage, obviously liking what they heard. As for me, even having seen the band half a dozen times before this, I was left in a state of awe just by that one song, simply because their new sound is so different from their past stuff, being even more upbeat and so enthralling.

 They didn’t waste much time, as Matt bridged them into their next song, with Michael Cantillon adding some beautiful notes from his keyboard over it, before things exploded into “Innocent”. “…Sometimes I wake up, deep in the night, and I want to tell you I’m innocent…” sang singer and guitarist Tommy Cantillon on the chorus, his voice soaring just as the song itself did. They slowed things down slightly with the title track of the new record, “Only Human”, which is one of the songs that really utilizes the vocal harmonies of Tom, Mike and Matt, creating some gorgeous textures that you never would have guessed they were capable of, but after hearing it you wonder why they haven’t done more of this sooner. Towards the end of the song, when it slowed as Tom repeated the songs opening line, Mike moved away from his keyboard, busting out some nice dance moves and making the show all the more fun.

Isaac Thelin of Rare Monk joined them for their next song, violin in tow. Following their previous song nicely was my favorite from this new album,  “Devil to Pay”, which allows Tom to truly show off his vocal chops while he sings the first verse a cappella. “…The way I’ve acted, you’d think I’d know better. I never wanted to become your dead letter…Waking every morning just to wash my dreams away…” he crooned, before his band mates joined in with some harmonies. “So tell me, do you love in the worst way still?…” they sang on this beautiful song, which was only enhanced by the violin, making it seem all the more sweet.

Upon finishing it, Tom quickly strummed the strings of his guitar, giving the impression they were about to step it back up, before suddenly taking it off and holstering it in a stand. He then returned to the front of the stage, slowly pulling out a harmonica as he spoke to the crowd. “I’m going to tell you all something I learned a very long time ago…” he said, “There is no such thing as a wrong dance move…” he finished, informing the audience he’d like to see them moving around to the song, which he pointed out was one they didn’t write. Within the last year, they’ve made their cover of the Talking Heads “This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)” a staple of their shows, and personally, I was ecstatic to find it still had a place in their set list. They don’t merely cover the song, they put their own twist on it, making it completely different (and I dare say better) than the original. About half way through, Tom left the stage, running throughout the crowd, showing off his dance moves. Some people appreciated it, like the one woman he stood back to back with, and while she was surprised at first, she kind of danced with him, having a good time, while other people looked at him like he was either spastic or having a seizure, and they didn’t know what to do. It was all in good fun, though, and I found it all very amusing. While all that was going on, Mike had switched out to a acoustic guitar, and shortly before Tom got back on stage, Isaac rejoined them, this time with a saxophone, another instrument he appeared to be an expert at, and it gave the song a real nice quality.

The jokes flew after that, when Tom asked everyone if they were ready for The Dangerous Summer, then added, “…It’s been a fairly safe summer so far.” Some people found that to be hysterical, and after noting he was glad it hit the mark with some people, he said something to the effect of, “This shirt is a joke.”, referring to his wardrobe, specifically his possibly loud shirt.

They then got back to their original stuff, with the lead track from “Only Human”, “Get Up”, which again found Steve briefly playing a tom, before getting down to business on his bass. It was one of the shorter songs they did this night, but hands down the most intense, too, and if you somehow hadn’t been feeling it yet, that tune was sure to reel you in. “Somebody Make a Move” came next, and while it is an original of the High Pilot’s, it came across like it could easily be a cover. I mean that in a good way, because it has so many elements that songs seem to need to have these days to get radio airplay, and while it may not be a single of theirs, I could definitely see it being a good one for airwaves. Once it was done they had one last one to offer to everyone, segueing directly into “Outta My Head”, which was a bit of a sing along for their small number of long time fans, and gave what was one of the best shows I’ve even seen them do a very impressive finish.

Seriously, this show is second only to the show I saw them do in Austin during this year’s SXSW.

Part of what makes the High Pilots so good as the fact that they are continuously evolving, rather than finding one particular groove and sticking with it. Their new music is so different from any of their previous stuff, even more infectious in some aspects, and is certainly their best stuff to date.

Sure, there were a few older songs that I wouldn’t have minded hearing this night, but at the same time, it great getting to hear so much new stuff, especially when it’s all such standout material. It created a sense of wonder for me, just soaking it all in and enjoying it.

Even their live show seems to have benefited from the new songs, as they’ve tightened things up a lot, as well as have gotten a little more active and engaging.

Tommy & the high Pilots are one of those bands that really should be famous, something you’d surly agree with once you listen to their music if you haven’t already done so, and hopefully, this really will be the year of the High Pilots.

They have a couple of dates left, one on September 13th at San Diego Music Thing in San Diego, CA, and the other show on the 14th in Fresno, CA at the Victory Café at Hardy’s. Check ‘em out if you’re in the area, and you can find all of their records in iTUNES.

Shortly after they finished, it was time for The Dangerous Summer to hit the stage. I was a newer convert to the band, having only listened to them a week or two before this show, but was instantly made into a fan, and was looking forward to what the current Los Angeles based group would bring to the stage.

This tour was in support of “Golden Record”, their latest LP, so of course they played a lot of stuff from it, including opening with the lead track, “Catholic Girls”. By this time, the crowd numbered around sixty people plus, not a large turnout, but they were definitely a rabid fan base, some even shouting along to ever word of the song, something you don’t often see fans doing when it comes to new material.

Still, it was the “classics” that everyone was really wanting to hear, and all it took was one of the guitarists, Cody Payne, playing the first few chords of “Where I Want to Be” to get people really riled up. They continued cranking out some hits from 2009’s “Reach for the Sun” record, segueing things right into “A Space to Grow”, with Ben Cato doing a bit of a drum roll to lead them into the following track, which got one of the loudest responses out of everything they did this night. That song was “The Permanent Rain”, which was overflowing with emotions, and AJ Perdomo did a great job of packing them all into his singing, while busting out the bass lines.

The onslaught of songs ceased for a moment after that, allowing Michael Cantillon of Tommy & the High Pilots to make his way on stage and behind the keyboard, while AJ chatted with the crowd. They toned things down just slightly with another new one “Miles Apart”, before getting to some stuff from the only other album they had yet to touch on this night, and that was “War Paint”.

The title track itself was a beast of a song live, and Cody and fellow guitarist Matt Kennedy really got to cut loose, as did AJ, moving about whenever there was a break in the singing. “Siren” came next, and fitting nicely with it was the new tune “Honesty”, before they picked back up into their more aggressive rock/pop sounds with the hard hitting “No One’s Gonna Need You More”.

“…I still feel you in here, I still live inside your eyes…” sang AJ near the start of “Knives”, a slightly dark and brooding song that creates an excellent mood. “Sins” was almost just as fierce, while I found “Of Confidence” to be a highlight of their set, and was a prime example of what an exceptional writer AJ is. The deepness of the lyrical content continued with the heavy (emotional speaking) “Northern Lights”, and while it was the softest thing they did this night, it also seemed like it was one everyone had been wanting to hear the most.

The audience was a bit disappointed when AJ stated they had one song left, obviously wanting the show to continue much later into the night, but “Never Feel Alone” seemed to appease everyone, and brought their 59-minute long set to a close.

Or so it seemed…

AJ went over to their stage hand, who had been busy tuning guitars for them all night, and spoke to him for a second, before returning to center stage. “So, we do have one more song for you all.” He said to everyone, no doubt making the crowd curious as to what this final song would be. It wound up being another gem from “War Paint”, “Work in Progress”, which really did cap of the show this night.

They put on a really great show, one that I enjoyed much more than I thought I would. Their primary focus was no doubt the music, as they tore from one song right into the next, but AJ was also comfortable behind the mic, and could hold a conversation with the audience. He often reminisced about past Dallas shows, asking if anyone came out to different ones from years past, and more than a few fans had been in attendance at those.

AJ even went as far as to say he always felt at home when he was here in Dallas, quite a nice compliment.

They’re pretty intense live, though the most gripping thing is still the lyrics, which are sure to resonate with everyone. Even this night I personally had some trouble hearing AJs’ voice, and his vocals could have stood to be turned up a little more, but still, it’s definitely the best element the band has.

They’re at the tail end of this tour, with shows at Soma in San Diego, CA on September 12th, the 13th at the Alley in Sparks, Nevada and the 14th at the Victory Café at Hardy’s in Fresno, CA. From late September to early October they’ll be over in the UK and then in late October they’ll be traveling to Australia, and for full dates on those shows, go HERE. And if you don’t have any of their music, pick it up in iTUNES.

It was a great night of touring bands here at The Door this night, with some making me a fan, while others made me into more of a fan.

Song Review: With “White Heat”, Jessie Frye Looks to Start a Fire


In five years, the Denton based singer-songwriter Jessie Frye has released two EP’s, the most recent being very well received by fans and critics alike. However, in those five years one question has abounded; “When will you put out a full-length?”

Well, last week, everyone got the first glimpse of what her much anticipated debut full-length, titled “Obsidian”, will sound like, when the lead single “White Heat” was released.

It’s showcases a much different side to her music then ever heard before. Jessies’ piano is still an integral part to the song, but not in the more classical style of her past material, instead, this one’s more of an electronic track. The at times soupy sounds of the song are rounded out nicely by the thick drumbeats and subtle, low bass lines, while the guitar serves to enhance the dreamy quality the song creates.

It feels safe to say that this takes Jessie out of her comfort zone, but it’s nice to see an artist embrace something new and different, after all, that’s what sparks growth as a musician. There is one constant, though, and that’s Jessie’s enchanting, marvelous voice. It sounds even better than where the last record left off, and she’s able to create a plethora of textures with it, exerting complete control over it, at times singing in a more sultry tone, like on the line “White on white heat Perfect alchemy…”, and at other point it’s strong and forceful.

In listening to “White Heat”, you’ll understand exactly why Jessie Frye is a North Texas treasure, and while it may be several more months before the world can listen to the full “Obsidian” album, “White Heat” is the perfect song to whet peoples appetites while simultaneously making them even more excited for the record. It’s a gorgeous blend of indie and pop, and if this tune is any indicator, then “White Heat” is but only the kindling for a roaring fire.

The Jessie Frye band is:
Chad Ford- Drums
Jordan Martin- Guitar
Jessie Frye- Piano/Vocal
David Kellogg- Bass

Purchase the single “White Heat” as well as the previous two EP’s in Bandcamp.

Upcoming shows include:
September 13th at Pour Jons in Siloam Springs, AR / September 14th at Foam in St. Louis, MO / September 20th at Village Café in Bryan, TX / September 21st at Avant Garden in Houston, TX / September 28th at Flipnotics in Austin, TX / October 12th at The Poplar Lounge in Memphis, TN

Thursday, August 1st, 2013 – The Debut of Overseas

It’s not often anyone gets to witness a birth of a band, and far more rare is the chance of anyone actually caring about, sans some close friends and family of the band members who go to the show more out of necessity. That wasn’t quite the case this night at Dan’s Silver Leaf, though, because it was no mere bar band making their live debut. This night was seeing the birth of a newer super group by the name Overseas, who was known to most fans of the Texas music scene as being a new side project from Will Johnson (the singer of Centro-matic).

While the collaboration began a few years ago, there was nothing tangible until this past June when they released their debut record, making the next step these rare clusters of live shows. Rare due to the fact that the four members are spread out across the country, hailing from Texas, New York and Washington state.

Joining them on their Texas jaunt was the Austin based Monahans, a band I had not seen in a few years, and I was glad to see they had been tapped as the opening act.

Their set was mainly comprised of songs from their 2013 releases, and they opened with “The Meadow”, singer and rhythm guitarist Greg Vanderpools’ smooth, vibrant voice cutting the serene intro, going hand in hand with the music. That quality alone seemed to entrance everyone, even calling in more people from the patio, interested in what was going on, and despite the technical difficulties Britton Beisenherz had with his guitar during the song, the applause was still roaring.

As he and the sound guy worked to fix things, Greg made some small talk with the audience, mentioning how “thrilled” they were to be playing with Overseas. Shortly after things were back in working order, though Britton laid his guitar down, instead focusing on his keyboard, starting them on the quick paced “Forward/Reverse”, which was a highlight of their set. Roberto Sanchez was killing on the drum kit, rapidly firing off the solid, strong beats, and making them even tighter was Joshua Zarbo’s bass lines, and later into it Britton did abandon his keyboards to throw his guitar back in the mix.

Some more banter followed that song, and it was good sarcastic wit at that, with Greg saying, “…August in Texas can only mean one thing; pack all your friends in a club, put on your favorite long sleeve shirt and see what happens.” On this 100+ degree day, it was hard not to laugh at that, and before getting into their next song, Joshua took over Brittons’ guitar, allowing him to focus exclusively on the keys. They then did a 180°, slowing things down drastically with the beautiful “The Loss of Feeling”, and while it was less energetic than the first few songs, it was no less captivating.

There was a bit of time to kill after that one, too, but Greg freely admitted he had ran out of things to say. Joshua picked up the slack, though. “I haven’t ran out of things to say…” he said, mentioning that he used to live in Denton, even saying they “…were some of the best years of my life…”, a statement everyone readily applauded. “…This song’s off our newest album…” Greg soon said, referring to the “Leveler” record. “It’s called Diamonds.” They completed that song, and then Roberto set them right off onto their next number, “Awakened”, which again found Britton predominantly playing the keys. Both songs meshed well together, giving the vibe that this one was an extension of the last, and the fact that “Awakened” was largely an instrumental song was nice too. It allowed the onlookers to really take notice of their musicianship, which was impeccable, and each member of the quartet has a very fluid style of playing, but can throw down, too.

The relaxing vibes continued with “Echoes”, but things soon escalated back to a serious rock vibe with “Beat of a Thousand Drums”, which had a rather epic sound to it, and it was followed by another awesome number. That led them to the final song of their 42-minute long set, and when speaking of it, Greg said it was one he found depressing for a very long time. They then eased into a rendition of The Smith’s song “Death of a Disco Dancer”. It was a spot on cover of it, and they also managed to make it their own, putting a little more of a rock twist on it, and it was a splendid way to end their show.

Before this night, I couldn’t have told you much of what I remembered about Monahans, aside from knowing I liked their music, but after seeing them again, man…

They killed it this night, and even came close to upstaging Overseas, without trying to, of course. Their music is a nice blend of rock and indie, focusing more on the former, though taking some of the dreamy qualities from the latter. It’s a constant intriguing bombardment of the senses, while the lyrics are near genius, and if you listen to their recorded stuff, expect their live show to sound just like that… Probably even a hair better

Speaking of their records, you can find them all in iTUNES, and keep tabs on their OFFICIAL WEBSITE for updates on any future shows they’ll have.

They were a great appetizer, but of course, everyone was most anxious for Overseas, and shortly after Monahans cleared their gear off stage than the crowd began to from at the front of the stage, as fans eagerly awaited the headliner. By the time their 11:15 start time rolled around, it was hard to even move, with a gap at the back just big enough for one person to traverse at a time. No one seemed to mind, though. They were more focused on seeing this debut show than caring that their personal space was being slightly invaded.

The tranquil melody of “Here (Wish You Were)” filled the room, and as soon as he opened his mouth to sing the first line, David Bazans’ voice took a strong hold on everyone. Having no prior knowledge of him meant I didn’t know what to expect, but instantly he sounded exactly as portrayed on the album (a quality so few bands achieve these days), his rich, rather booming voice proving entrancing as he crooned the words of this rather somber song. He was also the bassist in the group, and the other part of the rhythm section was comprised of Will Johnson on the drums, a microphone right next to his kit. It was a chilling moment when he joined in after the first couple verses, harmonizing perfectly with David, their voices mixing gorgeously. It was a moment of sheer bliss, and truly met the definition of beauty.

They stepped things up ever so slightly with the lead track from their self-titled album, “Ghost to Be”, one of the many songs that Will sang while softly pounding out the beats. That short track was followed by the subsequent song on the album, the mostly instrumental “Redback Strike”. It was really the first full-fledged rock song they did, with brothers and guitarist Matt and Bubba Kadane doing some sweet riffs, though it was hard to see them doing their work, as they had their backs to the crowd for almost the entire show. I’m guessing they were watching for cues and making sure they were in time with everything, but still, it wasn’t too conducive of the typical concert atmosphere. Upon finishing that track, Will welcomed everyone to their first ever concert, and they kicked things into high gear.

Will got to cut loose on “Old Love”, and while I knew he had been a drummer at various times in his decades long adventures with different bands, I’ve only seen him act as a guitarist. But man, he tore into his kit with a passion on this song and was unrelenting. He’s a beast, no doubt, and it was good getting to see another side to this fantastic musician, and a side that isn’t seen much anymore, no less. All the while, David was belting out his catchy song, which tells an actual story and is quite deep at that. “I’m thinking back to a sensual act I enjoyed with a girl in my teens…” it starts, before taking an insightful look at a relationship. They marched on with another track from David, “Hellp”, continuing to play a portion of the songs exactly as they appear on their record, but before the next song, they had to do a game of musical chairs.

David seated himself behind the kit, while Will filled what had thus far been empty air at center stage, acoustic guitar in hand, while I believe it was Bubba who picked up bass duties. Evidently, Will isn’t the only multi-talented individual in the group, and in this format they offered up the first of four new songs. Their first batch of songs might be a fairly old now, but the fact remains that the album itself is still brand new, but it’s nice to see that their creative juices are already flowing again, allowing them to make new music. It gives hope that this side project does have a future, and for the record, this song sounded incredible. The Kadane brothers traded spots after that track, The mellow mood continued with “Lights Are Gonna Fall”, after which David reclaimed his bass, and Matt took over the drums, and while that was going on, Will was plugging in his electric axe. “…We’ve had fun over the last forty-eight hours figuring out how to b a band…” he said, after again thanking everyone for coming out. Much of the crowd laughed, and while it was meant as a dose of humor, but he showed he was serious, too, adding, “Seriously, we’ve been up a lot…” They then gave everyone another taste of what album two may sound like, then tapped another song from “Overseas”, “The Sound of Giving Way”, before everyone returned to their starting posts.

At this point, David first made mention of their new record, saying they were indeed working on one and would be playing some songs from it. “…A few of which you’ve already heard…” he said. But before doing any more new songs, they did the more leisurely paced “Came with the Frame”, which saw David again retaking the role of lead vocalist, and it was matched well by the next song, which also had a softer vibe. Will counted them in on the next song, one last new one, and it was one of my favorites, not just out of the new batch, but the whole show in general.

“Down Below” was the final strong push of the night, allowing Bubba and Matt to amp things up on their guitars, and the song that’s one of the best on their record was also a highlight of the show. Shortly after knocking out the final beats, Will left his kit, again grabbing that acoustic guitar, and this time no one took his place. They concluded their 54-minute long with the hushed “All Your Own”, which Will sang in a slightly gruff murmur, his distinctive voice being on full display for the few lines he had to sing.

And just like that it was over. The band waved goodbye, again thanking everyone for coming out. Everyone seemed fully satisfied with what they had heard and seen, not only witnessing a small piece of history as Overseas got their first live gig under their belt, but also hearing their entire record performed live, and then some. That’s a feat that I doubt will be done much, especially once they do release another album, when some of the songs from their debut will be relegated to deep cuts.

At times, you could tell they were a new band. Like I mentioned earlier, Matt and Bubba rarely faced the crowd, and I don’t mean to imply that, that was a hindrance to their show, rather than it just made them seem a little less personable as a group. It wasn’t just that, though, as there were times you’d catch small, ultimately insignificant things that reminded you they were a new band, however, the experience and professionalism each one has counterbalanced all that.

In those two days spent rehearsing they were able to get a lot done, and that’s the part that deserves more focus. They were still surprisingly cohesive, and there was never a moment of, “How are we going to start this song?” or “What’s next?”, as they rolled through their set very smoothly and fluidly, with Will, David, Matt and Bubba coming across as if they had played these songs hundreds of times.

Then you have the interesting dynamics. Sure, it’s nothing new for a band to utilize two vocalists, but Will and David aren’t mere singers with jaw-dropping voices. They’re also extraordinary storytellers, a quality that bled out of every single song they performed this night.

They may not be a band that will play live shows all the time, but that just creates more reason to see them when they do perform a show near you, and based on this night, I’d say the career of Overseas is getting off to a nice start.

They do have shows in New York lined up for mid August, playing the Mercury Lounge in New York on the 19th, then the Knitting Factory in Brooklyn on the 20th. They’ll then have a break until October, with a small string of shows along the West Coast, begging with Neumo’s in Seattle, Washington on October 11th. They’ll be in Portland, Oregon at Doug Fir on the 12th, before traveling to California for shows in San Francisco and Los Angeles. The first will be hosted at Bottom of the Hill on the 14th, while the LA date will be on the 16th at Satellite. And don’t forget, you can also find their album in iTUNES.

It was a fun night in Denton, and it was also proof that smart rock music, music that can actually make you stop and think, is still alive.

Friday, July 19, 2013 - Vinyl

For the past several weeks (probably longer), I’d been sticking to my traditional concert going habits of seeing bands I’m all too familiar with. Sure, I’ve seen some bands I don’t often catch, too, (even stumbled across some ones that were new to me in the process), but it had been some time since I caught a concert with bands that I had either never seen or rarely see.

It was time to change that this night at The Prophet Bar, were some acts I seldom see were gracing the stage.

First up was Vinyl, formed about a year ago, partly by two no ex-members of Trebuchet, back when that band was on an extended hiatus. Some readers may recall that Trebuchet was one of my favorite bands to see, but me making it to a Vinyl show had never worked out, until this night…

They opened their 32-minute long set with “Trucker”, setting the aura nicely with its more tranquil start. “Conversation’s better alone. ‘Old Resistance’ is driving home…” crooned singer and rhythm guitarist Justin Hawkins, and after that first verse ended was when the quartet erupted into their full rock glory, and never relented much after that. The last notes were still ringing out when Steve Phillips slammed down on his drum kit, segueing them into the next one, which happened to be an instrumental one. I’ve said this many times before, but I’m not a real fan of anything instrumental. At least not typically. It was a killer song, and personally, I liked the music bed for it more than any other song they did this night. Something about it just really grabbed me. Aside from that, watching Justin and lead guitarist Dustin Fleming rock out on their guitars is always something to marvel at, as they do it so effortlessly and all in very fluid motions. You could also say somewhat of the same for Hunter Johnston, who rounded out the rhythm section on the bass.

The dialogue between songs was kept short since they didn’t have much time, and it was around this point that Justin first informed everyone of who they were and that they were from Denton, and then they continued with “Electric Sheep”. It covered the spectrum, from being dreamy at times, to Steve and Hunter truly being the backbone of the song as it became a rhythm powerhouse, and at times it was even more of a guitar rock song with some sweet riffs and even a nice solo.

A couple more songs followed, and the former of those two ended up being one of my favorites they did, while during the latter Hunter really let loose, playing his bass with a fury as he thrashed about center stage. Steve again bridged the songs together, and once that latter song was over he exploded on his kit, doing a brief drum solo as he set up one of their rawest tracks, “No Halo”. Upon finishing it they had one last offering for the crowd, and then their time was up.

In the end, I think it may have been a good thing it took me so long to see Vinyl, because they’ve had plenty of time to tighten up and become very cohesive with one another in the live environment.

All that showed this night, and they seemed both precise and calculated during their superb set. For me, I found their music slightly incorporated a few elements that made me love Trebuchet (i.e. different guitar licks, the clever lyrics and Justins’ voice), but Vinyl is certainly a different creature. Their songs are more powerful and explosive, so they’re definitely forging their own path.

Visit their OFFICIAL WEBSITE to listen to some music and see their upcoming show dates, and then go catch one. I know I’m going to have to start making their shows a little more frequently.

The main support slot this night went to the Dallas based Bethan, and with them came a dramatic change in musical style in comparison to the opening band.

The final track from the “Chapter 1:” EP, “I Have Nothing To Say”, started their set, and on it violinist Becki Howard often harmonized with front woman Jessi James Hall, their voices quite gorgeously, creating a very intoxicating vibe. They carried on with another song from their debut record, and Kevin Howard quickly left his keyboard to pick up his guitar for “Vague” as they continued their journey through their self-described alternative noir genre of music.

Afterwards, they cranked out one of their newer jams, and once it was over the usually quite Jessi stated she was “…Really happy to be playing…”, beaming as she said it. “I’m not just saying that.” she added, making clear she really was excited, prompting Becki to joke with her, saying something along the lines of, “You know, instead of just pretending to be [happy].”That banter soon gave way to another new number, and soon after came the more glum sounding “Bad Valentine”, though the harmonies that started on the second verse and lasted for the duration of the song seemed to brighten it ever so slightly.

Jessi then took more time out to address the sizable crowd, this time noting they were getting ready to record their first full-length record, saying that the next song was the first one they wrote for this upcoming album. “… It’s called In Our Paris.”, she said. Drummer Daniel T. Hall took up guitar duties for that song, adding some soft notes to it, while also still manning his drum kit and keeping a soft, steady beat on the hi-hat cymbal.

“I can’t take credit for this next one…” Jessi said as they launched into a cover of Tom Waits “All the World is Green”, doing an utterly beautiful rendition of it, then doing one last original song to wrap up their 36-minute long set.

Out of the few times I’ve seen them, this show definitely ends up ranking the best, and I could tell the experience they’ve gained over the last year (which was roughly when I saw them last) has had a beneficial impact on their live show. That’s to say they were more mature than I recalled, and for the most part their show had a nice flow to it.

What they play is different from the vast majority of stuff out there, requiring you to appreciate the subtle nuances of the music, while Jessi’s voices stands at the forefront of it all. And speaking of subtleties, I failed to mention bassist Jesse Hopkins, who was a little more tame, though laid the ever crucial groundwork for the rest of the music to go on.

If you want to hear something different and a little more outside the box than most music, give Bethan a listen. You can purchase their music either on iTUNES or BANDCAMP, and check their FACEBOOK PAGE for updates on future shows.

Closing out the night was another Dallas outfit, The Auxiliary Voice. I’m thinking it had been about three years (give or take a few months) since I last saw the band, so I obviously recalled very little about them, aside from remembering I liked their music.

They brought their own lights with them, rather simple, yet crucial in setting the ambiance as the house lights went out, while those filled the room with a bright white light as an intro track began to play. Soon, lead guitarist Tony Webb walked on stage and proceeded to lightly pluck the strings of his axe. Moments later he was joined by singer and rhythm guitarist Matthew Hittle, and the two set up their ambient rock sounds. The remaining members, bassist Justin Young and drummer E.J., as well as keyboard player Kristin Leigh eventually made their way on stage, too, enriching their sound.

The thing that made their show so spectacular was the flow they gave it, and now wound things directly into their next song, where the keys were a little more audible, as was Kristins’ voice, and she added a little more backing vocals on that track. It was followed by more of a slower, eerie tune, and for awhile featured no bass whatsoever, resulting in Justin moving has bass behind him as he stood there, waiting for his mark. It was balanced out by a more serene number, and with their 33-minute long set nearing the end, they unleashed a couple of instrumental tracks, with another song (which was partly instrumental) sandwiched in between.

Matthew then thanked everyone for sticking around. “I know it’s late.” he said, even though it wasn’t even quite 1AM. And, as fans in the packed Prophet Bar screamed for more, the band retreated back to the green room area. Evidently, they have a very dedicated fan base, as they should, considering the band really doesn’t play all that often.

As for their show, like I said, I remember very little from my previous encounters with them, but I feel confident in saying the difference from a few years ago to now is like night and day. They were so well polished, in terms of both musicianship and showmanship, delivering everything perfectly. Frankly, I’m really not even a big fan ambient/experimental rock like they play, but the Auxiliary Voices’ stuff is truly mesmerizing, playing out so beautifully, even giving the impression that each song tells a piece of a much larger story.

They don’t have any shows coming up (that I’m aware of, at least), nor do they have a record (yet), but stay tuned to their FACEBOOK PAGE for updates on both fronts, and if you get the chance to see them, take it. I know I’ll start trying seeing their shows a little more frequently from now on.

It was a killer night all around, and I enjoyed the smorgasbord of sound (my apologies for the rhyme, by no means was that intentional), from rock, to alternative noir to ambient. Those various styles from each band meshed together surprisingly well, and it was fun seeing some acts I don’t often witness firsthand.

Friday, July 5th, 2013 – Life is Still Good

There was a special night of music going on at the Kessler Theater in the Oak Cliff part of Dallas. It wasn’t just because the venue was playing host to three amazing bands, but the only non-local act (though local in heart), the Brandon Callies Band, was celebrating the release of their brand new EP.

In promoting the show, all the acts stated they were proud to have the opportunity to play “one of the best listening rooms in Dallas”, which is quite true. The Kessler isn’t your typical venue you find in Deep Ellum or other parts of Dallas, nor Denton or Fort Worth for that matter. There’s little standing room available in the elegant venue, instead, they have opening seating (at least it was open this night), with patrons being able to pick which spot works best for them and just relax and enjoy the show.

So in order to better fit in with the environment, each of the three bands had switched things up from how they typically do it, doing some softer, even slower songs instead of their louder, more rock numbers.

(NOTE: Exit 380 and The Brandon Callies Band also performed this show, and for various reasons, my review of their sets were used for On Tour Monthly. If you’d like to read that portion, you can find it HERE.)

The Orange had the honor of closing things down this night, and from their setup it was quickly evident this wasn’t your typical Orange show. At least it wasn’t going to start like one.

For starters, they did a short acoustic set, beginning with everyone, including harmonica player Chicago Dan and blues guitarist Buddy Neighbors, on stage, as was Scott’s sister Melissa, who played a tambourine, with the exception of bassist Jason Jessup, who set out for most of it. Cody Waits added an additional acoustic guitar to the mix, while singer Scott Tucker also wielded one, as he mentioned that this first song was being done per request, and it was an old school Orange song. I don’t even know the last time I heard “Kiss, Kiss Bang, Bang”, but it had been years (just guessing I’d say ’07 or ’08), but even after all those years, that has still remained one of my favorites of theirs. Even this night, being performed acoustically, it was still every bit as catchy as the full-blown rock version, and it’s one of those tracks that has a great hook.

Jason joined them for their next song as they entered more into their realm of pop-infused rock, and it was at this time that Scott stated they were doing a couple sets this night. “We love sets!” yelled out one of the spectators, causing everyone to laugh, and Scott replied to him, “We love sets, too.” He went on to say that none of the crowd had heard their next song done acoustically before, and to much surprise, they pulled out an acoustic rendition of one of their most high-strung songs, “Blowup”. That’s one song I never would have thought would have worked in this format, yet oddly enough it did, and still retained a lot of its raw energy, even if it was scaled back a little. Jason left once they wrapped that song up, and then Cody took over on lead vocals for “All the Way Down”.

Considering how the band usually is, I really enjoyed that little change of pace as they demonstrated that their tunes can be just as mesmerizing when stripped down. I think it was Buddy that stole the show during that portion, though, since he was the only one using an electric guitar his riffs filled the room, making him seem like he was even more skilled than he already is (if that’s even possible.)

They now assumed their normal spots, as lead guitarist Kirk Livesay switched out to an electric, though Scott held on to his acoustic for one more song. But before raising the noise level, Scott took a moment to say that most everyone who had seen them before knew how wild and crazy their live shows could get, by either breaking guitars or running into stuff (i.e. drum kits) and other such shenanigans. “…And then you don’t see us for awhile after the show, because we’re usually throwing up or trying to fix our guitars…” he added, pointing out this was going to be tamer by their standards.

“…This is more of an intimate song.” he said before they started their next song, called “Into Me”. I think I had heard it once before (but am not certain on that), but regardless, I loved it, and despite the solid rhythm section, it almost fit more with those acoustic songs. Dan and Buddy weren’t a part of it, and Melissa used an oboe of all things, an instrument that was surprisingly audible over the other instruments, giving a lovely sound to the track.

From here on out they were all-electric, and next did what I thought was one of their best songs of the night, and it really took the listeners on a journey. The same can be said about one of their most epic songs, “Cityscape”, which was performed by the four core band members, and with its lengthy instrumental portions creates intricate soundscape. They kept the newer stuff coming with “Valium”, and afterwards Melissa rejoined them on stage, tambourine again in hand. “…This is going to be one of our singles…” Scott announced about the next song, breaking the silence that was caused from tuning. “…We want it to be perfect for you…” he added, as I got the impression that they might not have played it live before. If they had, it wasn’t at a show I had seen, as it sounded new to me, and there’s definite reason for it being a single. It was a powerful rock number, and frankly I find it to be one of the best things they’ve churned out yet.

Chicago Dan and Buddy again got on stage for their next song, as they again switched things up, specifically Scott and Cody, who swapped spots. “…Scott’s going to attempt to play the drums.” Said Cody. “Hey, dude, I had a drum set before I had a guitar.” Scott replied before counting them into the electrifying, “Dead Nation”. As they reverted back to their normal setup, Buddy took his leave, having finished his stint with the band for the night, while the remaining members cranked out their lead single from the forthcoming album, “Mr. Moneymaker”.

Then, it was time for their final song of the night, and I was curious about what they were going to close with, since their sometimes closer “Blowup” had already been played. Scott asked if the lights could be dimmed a little bit, a request that was quickly met, and that was a dead giveaway to the song, while him asking the audience to close their eyes solidified that it was another odyssey, “Thirty Minutes to Midnight”. There’s a real heavenly feeling to that predominately instrumental track, creating a great aura, and you really get to see Kirk, Jason, Cody and Scott show off their prowess as instrumentalists, making it a great way to conclude their 70-minute long set.

That appeared to be the show, and a few of the spectators headed for the door, all the chants for an encore began. I, too, was about to leave, and then Cody walked back out from the backstage area, stopping at center stage. “Do y’all want to hear one more?!” he asked. The fans definitely did, since Scott had made clear that this would be their final Dallas show until the release of their new album. Once Cody took a seat behind his kit he again asked for everyone to make some noise, while his band mates began to trickle back out on stage.

Scott encouraged everyone to come up to the front of the stage, which just about everyone did, squeezing their way in between the tables that were set up directly in front of the stage, invading what little empty space there was. They were prepared to go out with a bang, and the fan favorite from their debut EP, “Teleprompters”, was just the explosive end this show need, and what their fans needed to help hold them over to the next Orange gig.

This was definitely one of the best shows I’ve seen them do, even if they weren’t as rowdy as they usually are. And while they might have been more restrained, they certainly weren’t any less energetic, still having their customary presence that keeps you glued to them the entire time they’re on stage.

Perhaps some people didn’t like the fact that the bands (and I mean all of them) did things a little differently this night, however I found it refreshing. After all, you can see any of these bands rock out at just about every show they do, so it was nice to see them stretch their legs a little more, venturing into some more seldom seen territory.

A stellar night, no doubt, and I enjoyed seeing the Kessler host a night of nothing but local music, because while the venue does support the local D/FW scene, they most often host more national touring acts. But this night, this night the locals owned it.

Album Review: “Criminal Birds” by Criminal Birds


Criminal Birds has been around a relatively short amount of time, only a couple of years, but in that short time the quintet of younger musicians have managed to make somewhat of a name for themselves, even earning praise like they are “on par with any big ticket national act.” as said by Auditory Asylum’s Stephen Ellis.

They’ve obviously been able to make an impression on those who have managed to hear about them, but now, with the release of their debut album, a four track EP released in March 2013, they’re in more of a position to get their name out there, and probably turn a few heads in the process.

Right from the ringing guitar chords that begin “Chill Out” you know you’re in for a treat, as the music bed manages to successfully stitch together the genres the band classifies themselves as. There’s a nice texture to the guitars, which give off more of an ambient sound at first, and the notes are simple, yet complex at the same time. The soupy sound rapidly disappears as they hit the chorus, though, and they show they can rock with the best of them, from aggressive drumbeats to soaring guitar riffs, all of which is matched with Reggie Hastings’s singing, his voice suddenly springing to life. Speaking of his voice, I also quite like the way he enunciates certain words, like “breathe” and “breeze” during the first verse, putting a nice spin on them.

“Wait” starts off with a dynamic rhythm section and builds on the momentum created from the opening track, starting off as a fairly powerful rocker. However, you soon realize the track has a brilliant ebb and flow to it, as it switches gears from a percussion driven indie rock song on the verses to a softer love song vibe on each chorus. All of that combines to make it not only the longest song on the EP (at 5-minutes), but also the most beautiful.

The end of the previous track bleeds perfectly into “Slow Down”, and does exactly as the name suggests, while also evoking a melancholy feeling. “…Bring me to my knees, crippling my feet. Show me you’re lovely, then take it right from me…” Reggie croons near the start of the song, his voice almost completely void of any emotion, which serves to magnify the heartbroken mood the song conveys.

The nearly 18-minute long jaunt through the bands sonic soundscapes comes to a close with “End Daze”, which mines a sound similar to the first track, so it ends almost like it began. It’s another fantastic mix of full-blown Rock ‘n’ Roll with some ambient layers thrown in, and the lyrics, particularly on the bridge, demonstrate how rather profound their writing can be. The line; “It doesn’t matter how hard you try, you’re still a product of your own design. … It doesn’t matter how hard you cry, there’s no pity for those who lie, tangled up in your wicked insides, in your denial.”

In the end, their self-titled debut EP is a wonderfully woven tapestry of sounds that shows off various sides to the group, and it’s hard to fit them into just one category of music.

The music is much more mature than you might think younger musicians (in their early to mid 20’s) would be capable of. That just speaks to their great musicianship, and they come across as sounding like an incredible tight and well coordinated band and you can probably listen to the songs dozens of times over and still discover something new that will catch you interest.

Granted, Criminal Birds isn’t reinventing the wheel or anything (though that could happen in the future), but they are putting a very intriguing and interesting spin on it.

Criminal Birds is:
Reggie Hastings – Vocals / Guitar / Keys
Taylor Dondlinger – Lead guitarist
Gunnar Ebeling - Bass
Grahm Robinson - Drums

Purchase the album on:
BANDCAMP (the EP is FREE to download)

Visit Criminal Birds websites:

imagePhoto credit: Zack Huggins

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.