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

Wednesday, November 6th, 2013 - Sacco

Serving as the main support band for Cults at Trees this night was the fellow New York based band, Sacco. The group seems relatively unknown at this point (based on the “likes” they have on Facebook, which numbers 160 at this time), but it quickly became clear they aren’t long to be an obscure act.

The curtain opened on this powerhouse of a trio at 9:14, drummer Chris slamming into his kit, resulting in a jarring beat that started them into the lead track from their forthcoming self-titled record, “Carnival Ghost”. Andy Breihan did the singing on this song, also being the guitarist, while John Fredericks rounded out the rhythm section of the alluring track, which earned them the undivided attention of all who were there.

“Come closer.” Andy encouraged when they were done, causing those who were near the stage to move up a little further, while others who were further back in the venue obliged and gathered around. They hurried along with their 27-minute long set by doing “Driving”, a low key tune that included some nice harmonies from Andy and John, ending with a very fuzzy sounding and very stellar guitar solo.

Once it was done, the two switched out instruments, John grabbing his guitar off a rack that set behind him, while Andy got his own bass. That wasn’t the only thing that changed with these next few songs, though, as John now took over lead vocal duties. “I think you’re pretty, you think you’re not… We don’t see it the same, we’ve been living on different pages…” he sang at the start of the immediately engrossing “Think You’re Pretty”. It successfully told a story, a love story, and a well crafted/written one at that, about two people who never things eye to eye. I found myself wondering if it could get any better after that song, only to be shown it could when, with a few swift beats, Chris segued them into “
Kerosene”. The short two and a half minute long song was every bit as riveting as the one before it, just in its own unique way, and that pace only continued with “Sixty Battles (Carmelina)”, which they smoothly transitioned into.

They returned to their starting instruments for the next to last song of their set, the surprisingly soulful “Sunny Afternoon”, before pulling off one more change. Andy had been dabbling on a keyboard throughout the show, but now he took Johns’ spot, along with his bass, leaving him to focus on the keys. Andy had picked up the singing again on the previous song, and kept it up on “Where It Ends, Where It Begins”, which just seemed very fitting to end with.

Their new found throng of Dallas fans was hoping it wasn’t over, though, still anxiously watching them, even after seeing John clear his pedal board off the stage, all the while the sample track for the song wound down. “We’re done.” Andy stated rather plainly, and only then did the onlookers turn around, several of them making a bee line to the merch table to get a copy of their record, which they had noted during the show would not be officially released until next year.

Their time on stage may have been brief, but Sacco managed to wow me, and win over several members of the audience.

There are some softer, even calming elements to their music, though it still maintains a nice true rock sound, especially when you experience them live. Their music may not be cutting edge, but there’s a lot of originality to it, and with John and Andy, both of whom have incredible voices, taking turns on who does the singing, it constantly keeps things sounding fresh. And for people who are like me, and tend to pay more attention to the lyrics, this is a band that should appeal to you instantly.

I’ll end by saying this. It’s been a long time since I saw a band I had absolutely no knowledge of, one whose music I had never listened to before and literally knew nothing about before having seen them, and felt instantly compelled to go buy their CD. However, that was my feeling a couple songs into their set, and I was ecstatic when they mentioned they did have a record for sale. And when “Sacco” officially releases sometime next year, it’d be in your best interest to at least listen to some of the songs, if not buy it, ‘cause believe me, these guys are going to be something.

(NOTE: Check out a couple of their songs HERE.)

(Note 2: My review of Cults set can be read over on On Tour Monthly.)

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.

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.

Saturday, May 25th, 2013 – The Polyphonic Spree

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, May 23rd, 2013 – Lauren Mann & the Fairly Odd Folk Travel Over Land and Sea

This night found what has become one of my favorite Canadian bands, Lauren Mann and the Fairly Odd Folk, returning to Dallas in support of their new/old record, “Over Land and Sea”. Their third Dallas show found them back at the Prophet Bar, the same venue they did their first Dallas gig at, and this was almost the halfway point for their North American tour, which boasted an impressive 70+ shows.

Opening up this show was a Dallas singer/songwriter whom I’ve heard a lot about, even having listened to some of his music, but had never seen live. His name is Kirk Thurmond, and he was doing a solo acoustic set this night.

It seems like it’s been awhile since I saw a musician whom I hadn’t heard seen before that wowed me with an acoustic set, but Kirk blew my mind this night, and amazed the handful of people that were in the venue.

He played a lot of stuff from last year’s “Only Love” album, at least I presume he did. He mixed in a new song or two as well, saying when he was about three-fourths done with that most recent record he had already began writing some songs for his eventual next release.

His next to last song seemed to be the audiences favorite of the night, and definitely was mine, as the slower, more tender song really highlighted is smooth, soulful voice and he packed that tune full of emotion.

Not many musicians are able to get up on a stage and captivate a crowd with merely their voice and an acoustic guitar, but Kirk Thurmond is one of them, and nearly everyone there seemed completely enthralled by his 30-minute long set (give or take a few minutes).

Hurry on over to iTUNES and check out his records, which include one EP and a LP. Also, keep an eye on his FACEBOOK PAGE for future show updates.

The good thing about starting with an acoustic artist was that the next band was already set up, and within five minutes after Kirk left the stage, Sean Michel and his band were ready to rock.

They were one of two touring bands on this bill, but this trio was a little closer to home, hailing from Little Rock, Arkansas.

“Truth, Soul and Rock ‘n’ Roll” That was a phrase I had noticed on one of the shirt designs at the bands merch table, which piqued my interest to say the least, and I was wondering if that would be an accurate description of their sound, or merely a slogan that just sounded good.

Much of their 33-minute long set this night came from the “Electric Delta” album, and I believe they opened with the albums closing track, “Lord I Wait”. The bands namesake, Sean Michel, had an impressive beard that stretched down most of his torso and hair nearly as long, and if you happened to see him on the street and judge his appearance, you’d most likely guess he was in a heavy metal band. It couldn’t have been further from that.

His voice immediately pulled you end, having a very soulful quality, but also had some blues and southern characteristics to it, making it unlike anything I had heard before. The stage become more of a pulpit as he and band mates Seth Atchley and Bradley Batterton, the bassist and drummer, respectively, proceeded to play their music that dealt with all sorts of religious aspects, and very bluntly at that.

They continued bringing everyone into the music by stepping things up a bit with their second song, then got more upbeat with “He Is The One”. It was, to an extent, about Seans’ experience of being saved, as he shouted the chorus in his strong voice, “…He is the One, He is the first born Son of the God you cannot see, now plain as day to me…” It was great song, especially live as they went all out during it, and it was one of a few highlights of their set.

Upon finishing it, Sean mentioned they had some albums for sale at their merch table. “…We got
vinyl for the hipsters and CD’s for the normal people…” he joked, before he started them into another cut from the album, “Unbelievable”.

It was a knockout song, and secured the attention of the small crowd who watched from a distance, but seemed in complete awe. Sean setup their next song, saying it hit radio airwaves back in 1958, adding, “…I like to think that was one of the first times anyone ever heard Rock ‘n’ Roll… And now we’re gonna try our hand at it.” My knowledge of ‘50’s era music is horrible at best, and I don’t know what they covered, though it did sound familiar. Regardless, they did a stellar job on it, giving it a real Southern Rock vibe, with a heavy rhythm section and some in-your-face guitar licks.

They brought things down with a seven-minute long (give or take) number called “The River Song”, which was gospel rock at its finest, and told a full story to boot. The best part was one the second chorus, and when he was signing a line that a preacher in the song was saying, Sean adapted a character voice that fit the part. I believe it was on the next verse that Sean added some additional lines, speaking to the audience, in short telling everyone that when the world tries to get you down, or there are people saying it would be a better place without you to not “listen to the devil’s lies”. Overall, the message that everyone has a purpose here.

I was loving it, but already it was time to bring their set to an end, and they did so the lead track from “Electric Delta” which is hands down the most intense song in their arsenal, “Mississippi Mud”, and Seans’ Southern Rock voice sounded better here than it had all night, which is saying a lot.

“Truth, Soul and Rock ‘n’ Roll” that’s not just a good saying to slap on a t-shirt, it also perfectly describes this amazing trio.

They have some killer chops, with both Bradley and Seth holding their own on stage, whereas some musicians can fall into the background, especially when the front man as is overpowering as Sean was. Speaking of Sean, he was as good a guitarist as he was a singer, and shredded on his axe with absolute ease.

As for their music, yeah, it deals with God, Christ and all related things, topics that I realize can be off-putting to some, depending on personal beliefs. I want to say though, that Sean is simply singing about what he’s passionate about, which is what makes the show so enthralling, because he’s able to get behind it wholeheartedly. And for the record, there isn’t a single song that comes across as being “preachy” to the listeners, in the sense of him trying to impress his beliefs on anyone. So, take it for what it is, which is incredible music that needs to be heard.

To pick up his music, head over to iTUNES to find the two records he has available. You can also purchase physical copies in both CD and vinyl format in his ONLINE STORE. As for shows, check him and his band out at the Lifelight Festival in Worthing, SD on August 31st.

If I hadn’t known better, I would have thought no band could out do that, but I had seen Lauren Mann and the Fairly Odd Folk a few times before, and knew it was certainly possible.

Once they had everything setup and ready to go, Jay Christman counted them in on the drums, soon joined by guitarist Josh Akin, with the rest of the band following suit, too. It was a brief instrumental piece, a prelude of sorts, and moments after finishing it they began their first full song, “Let’s Make Our Escape”.

Musically it served to ease everyone into the show, being a bit of a slower song, but the group had instantly flipped the switch into performance mode, and Zoltan Szoges was multi-tasking. He played a keyboard with one hand, a tambourine with a kick pedal he worked with his foot and also alternated between a xylophone and an extra tom, flipping the drumstick in the air at the end of the first chorus, during one of the few breaks he got.

After finishing it, Lauren Mann announced their next song, before getting right back to striking the keys of her piano as they began what is one of their best and most beautiful songs, “A Traveler’s Anthem”. “…We-e-e-e-e-e could sail to new frontiers and le-e-e-eave behind all that we hold dear…” she sang on the chorus of the song that really fits this touring band, and the enunciation of some of those words is part of what makes it such a breathtaking track.

Those first two songs came from their 2012 album “Over Land and Sea”, which was re-released this year on a record label, but with their next song, they tapped their 2010 debut record, “Stories From Home”. It was the more tranquil “When I Feel Lost”, though it seemed a little more amped up for the live version, with Zoltan switching out instruments and rocking a keytar.

No sooner had they finished it then he took a seat behind the piano, which Lauren had just vacated. “…Don’t trust computers…” he said into the microphone, making fun of the technical issues that arose during those first few tracks with the laptop, which was presumably adding some sample tracks to the music. There were no devastating results from that, though, at least not as far as I could tell.

He continued talking at a rapid pace, making sure they could stick to their allotted time, and he kindly asked everyone to dance along to the next song if they felt like it. “…We’re from Canada and dancing is our national pastime.” He said, then added, “I’m just kidding…”

I didn’t see many dancing along, but before getting the song underway they did manage to get quite a few people clapping along to the beat. Then Lauren proceeded to pluck the strings of her ukulele, and Josh and bassist Jessica Christman finished fleshing out “How It Goes”, an infectious number that found Zoltan adding some extra percussion as he steadily beat on the floor tom. Lauren then wound it right into the lead track from their current record, the at times eerily beautiful “Fragile”. There were also a few lines here and there that Jessica chimed in on, harmonizing with Lauren, creating a lovely mixture of the two voices.

With some mangled guitar chords, which was more like feedback, Josh transitioned them into their next song, another oldie and favorite of mine, “The West Coast”. Upon finishing it, Lauren took a few moments to thank the crowd and such, as well as talk about a charity they’ve partnered up with, Charity Water, which helps bring clean drinking water to people in developing countries. It’s a cause they obviously feel strongly about, and it’s rather nice to see a touring band, who needs all the financial help they can get, promoting a worthy cause like that and trying to raise some money for them.

They resumed playing some music with another instrumental piece, the title escapes me at the moment, but it was a rendition of a more classical piece, with a very modern twist on it. That segued them into another standout song of their set, “Love, I Lost”. “…And we’ll find the place where we first embraced. Beginning and the end, could we begin again?” Lauren crooned at the end of this rather triumphant sounding track.

Josh swapped out to an acoustic guitar for the first part of the enchanting “Dance With Me”, switching back to the electric as the music began to culminate, and that led them to their final song of the night. Zoltan made one final bid to get people engaged in their set, saying he was going to be throwing some instruments out to anyone who wanted them. While Lauren whistled into the mic, the signature beginning to the single “I Lost Myself”, Zoltan was tossing out various percussion instruments to anyone and everyone. He started with some small shakers, then a few tambourines, but it was the last instrument that really surprised me.

Their massive bass drum had been setting to the right of the drum set, and aside from a few taps by Jay here and there, it had gone unused this night. Actually, the last time I saw them Zoltan even played it on a song or two, but not tonight. Instead, he hoisted the thing above his head to get it out of its tight spot, bringing it to the edge of the stage and then laying on the floor, rolling it out in the midst of the audience. He then threw out multiple drumsticks, enough that at least six people could have played if they wished. Everyone loved it, even though most had most likely never even heard of the band before, you could tell they gleefully excited to be a part of the performance, and that made for an excellent way to end their 37-minute long set.

Definitely the best band of the night, and out of the three Dallas shows Lauren Mann and the Fairly Odd Folk have done, I can say without hesitation this was the best.

With the exception of Lauren and Zoltan (who do happen to be husband and wife) and rest of the Fairly Odd Folk is often a changing cast, made up of whoever is able to join them at the time they need to tour. However, with Jay, Jessica and Josh I think they’re starting to get some more stable band mates, and they are definitely solid together.

A lot of that can probably be attributed to all the time they’ve spent on the road, doing a tour of Canada earlier this year, while I believe Zoltan said this was the thirty-third U.S. show on this tour, which boasts more than a whopping seventy shows. Yeah, all that time on the road has done them good, as they all operated in perfect synch with each other, having everything down to a tee, but kept it all spontaneous enough that you felt like you were watching something rehearsed. Rather, everyone here this night was getting their own experience of the band, as this show was different than, say, the one they had done the night before in San Antonio, or the one they would do after in Kansas City, MO.

They play a mix of folk/indie/pop music, with some touches of rock here and there, but don’t think they’re like any of the folk bands that are currently dominating mainstream music. Their sound is much different, and in my opinion it’s the lyrics that are more folk sounding, and they also have a lot of depth to them.

If you have chance, do go see Lauren Mann and the Fairly Odd Folk. Their live shows are a spectacle to watch, and their passion for what they are doing is constantly on display. Find all their tour dates HERE, and they do include some more throughout parts of Canada through June, with a West Coast tour starting in early July. Also, head over to iTUNES to find both of their records.

Robert Baker was the final band this night, and the band was a duo, consisting of Robert on an acoustic guitar as well as drummer. I stayed for probably about 20-minutes or so, but his music never clicked with me, so I just decided to leave.

Well, part of it was because I wasn’t feeling the music, but it also because after the show Lauren Mann and the Fairly Odd Folk put on, it was impossible to top.

Still, it was an excellent night of both homegrown talent and some amazing bands from abroad. I’m fortunate to have been able to see all three shows LM&TFOF have done here in Dallas thus far, and I’m looking forward to their next trip through town.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But I digress…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was an incendiary set, plain and simple.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, April 26th, 2013 – Greysmyth

A truly great weekend entails spending a night at the Curtain Club, at least in my opinion, and there were some talented bands playing there this night.

I wasn’t able to stay for the whole night, though, which is a rare event for me, and I didn’t even arrive until the first band was almost done with their set.

I did get there in plenty of time to see the instrumental trio Son of Swan, though.

The sirens of the songs sample track blared before drummer Billy Walker started them in on “SOS”, the opening song of their 30-minute long set. They got right down to business, with Neil Swanson so effortlessly shredding on his guitar, letting loose some shrill notes at times, while bassist Steve Wilson roamed all over the stage with a real swagger to his step. They followed it almost immediately with “Children Of The Night”, which is yet another raw rock song that encompasses some amazing guitar riffs and solos. At this point Neil approached the mic, informing everyone of who they were, before moving on with a couple more songs, one of which was a cover. Now, I’m not familiar enough with all their stuff to know it, but they did another original before tackling another cover. “…If you don’t know this one, well, maybe you should.” Neil said before they began it. I’m fairly certain they followed it with the intricately woven “30K Curse”, and before starting their final song, Neil made a very accurate statement. “…Remember, everybody that is somebody used to be nobody.” Very true, and great final words to speak for the night, before starting what I want to say was “Dog Days”.

Sure, song-wise this probably isn’t as accurate as I like to be, but that doesn’t change the fact that all those original songs plus the rest that comprise their seven song debut record are masterpieces.

Seriously, they are some of the best songs I think I’ve ever heard and when you see the live show that accompanies them, then you’ll love the band even more. Billy’s an incredible drummer, Steve has that casual persona that most bassists have, yet he’s constantly storming around the stage, and I don’t know how anyone couldn’t consider Neil to be one of the best guitarists they’ve ever seen.

He does steal the show with his guitar work, his hands racing all over the fretboard, yet he manages to maintain a more humble attitude in his playing. Whereas some guitarists give you the impression that they are wanting to go all-out and do some ridiculous guitar work that seems like it’s just to show off, Neil doesn’t at all come across that way.

It never seems like what he’s playing is meant to be showy, rather it’s just the natural progression of the song, and he doesn’t, say, hold the guitar in front of the crowd like “Look what I can.” Instead, what you see is simply a virtuoso at work.

I never imagined a day where an instrumental band could hold my interest, yet this was the third time I’ve seen them now and all three times my eyes have been glued to the stage. So if you think you won’t like them just because they are an instrumental act, just give them a chance. You’ll probably end up loving the music, and if you see a show, you’ll be blown away.

So far the only place to pick up their CD is at live shows, and next up on their calendar is May 24th at The Rail Club in Fort Worth, May 31st at O’Riley’s in Dallas and they will return to O’Riley’s on June 22nd.

Up after them was Greysmyth, and this was a pretty big show for the band, and even a bigger one for the singer.

See, this was the groups first show with Justin Ranton fronting the band, and it was also the first time he had performed on stage in over a year, and personally, I was beyond excited to be seeing that guy on stage again.

They opened their set with a song called “Avalon”, which got off to a slower start with some light notes from guitarists, Jerrod Nelson and Spuds Berryman, while Justin held back on his singing a bit. “Come on Dallas!” he roared after a bit, as drummer Brayton Lyons, bassist Kobe Garinger and the others really cut loose on the song, transitioning it into a full on assault of rock. They  did several great songs this night, but that was one of my favorites. Before beginning their next song, Justin took a moment to speak to the crowd, mentioning that it had been “a long time” since he had been on a stage as he thanked everyone who was there for coming out. “…This next one’s called Feed the Need.” He said, as his band mates ripped into the song. “Feed the need, my intention is to be close to you…” sang Justin on the chorus of this powerhouse track, which was really driven by the rhythm section. They did one more hefty rock track, “Peripheral”, before slowing things down with “Rose”, which Spuds announced was for his wife. It oozed with feelings, but not in a true lovey dovey way, and it showed off another, more sensitive side to the rock outfit. “…He’s saying he can’t live without you…” Justin said to Spuds’s wife after they finished the song. They didn’t immediately bring things up, though, instead doing another lighter track, “A Way to Love”. Both of those softer songs were really good, but I really liked the latter of those two, and they both pushed the band out of their element a bit, in a good way. They returned to what they do best with a song called “Bloodlines”, before finishing their 34-minute long set with the killer, “Corpse Flower”, which was proof they had saved (one of) the best for last.

It was a great rock show, and I found myself wondering why I hadn’t heard of the band before Justin joined them, even if they hadn’t played too many live shows.

It was fantastic seeing Justin on stage again, and while he began the show seeming a little apprehensive, he quickly warmed up and got into the swing of things, moving about the stage, operating in synch with the music and just being a commanding frontman. And even though it had been so long since he sang on stage, he hadn’t lost any of his stage persona.

Regarding the songs, Spuds, Kobe, Brayton and Jerrod have created some great stuff and put on a good performance, getting better the further they progressed in their set.

The music is different from Justin’s past projects, and compared to those I think it’s more melodic (that’s not to say Greysmyth is a Melodic Rock band by any means), but his voice fits quite well with the music, and even kind of pushes his voice to new heights.

Point is, I loved their set, and I’m eager to see how Greysmyth is going to grow from here on out, like, what their songs will sound like with Justin being a part of the band now, and how much better their live shows will probably be once they get more practice under their belt and become even more cohesive.

Definitely keep an eye on these guys, or better yet go see them with your own eyes. They’ll be playing Wit’s End in Dallas on June 1st, then they’ll be back at the Curtain Club on July 26th.

Not long after they finished was when I left. Junk and Carmeci were probably great this night, but Greysmyth and Son of Swan were well worth the ten dollar cover, and I’m glad I was able to see both of them.