Thursday, April 3rd, 2014 – Madison King is Moving Onward and Upward

If you asked anyone in the D/FW are to name a local Americana/country band, you’d probably get a long and varying list. However, if you asked them to name a female Americana artist, you’d probably only get one response: Madison King.

It’s not that there aren’t others out there, it’s just that she’s the most prominent; and now, after nearly three years since releasing her debut record, she was ready to release her sophomore album to the world, and was celebrating the release of “Onward and Upward” at one of Dallas’s most iconic venues, Trees.

The night got started early, and that, combined with the storms (some of which were severe) that were hitting around North Texas, didn’t help in getting Dead Flowers a big crowd, but those who were there in time were more than eager to see them.

Their 46-minute long set was largely new songs, including their opener, which has quickly become a favorite of mine from them, and it’s one of their hardest hitting tracks. They moved right along into “You’re Wrong” with a seamlessly segue from drummer Ed Chaney, and despite the more serious (and murderous) content of the song, they weren’t afraid to show off their silly side during it, and at one point singer and rhythm guitarist Corey Howe reached for lead guitarist Vince Tuley and proceeded to tickle him. It was hilarious to see, and had Vince been closer to his mic, I’m guessing the fans would have heard him laughing.

During breaks (and this applied to both the opening acts), it was a lovefest for Madison King, and Corey noted they were “more than happy” to be playing her record release show. He also urged everyone to go pick up her new album, or even a some of the underwear that was for sale (it looked like boxer shorts with the album title printed on them). He then set to work on getting his axe back in tune, apologizing to everyone for having “played a little too hard”. As if that were a thing.

They offered up another new one, “I’m leaving”, which saw Corey sort of conducting bassist Evan Winston Johnson and his other band mates, before they all cut out. “Were you ready?” he asked Ed, then Vince and finally Evan, all of whom shook their head yes. “I’m sorry, I wasn’t.” he replied, before they ripped back into the song as he belted out in his rougher tone, “’Cause I’m leaving…”

“Well done, guys.” Corey told everyone after another new one, which had Vince throwing some great backing vocals into the mix. He repeated the words of encouragements, partly just joking around, especially once he added, “How do you want your chicken? Well done?” Moments later, Vince said something, speaking incoherently in more of a stereotypical redneck voice. “Have you been watching Duck Dynasty again?” Corey asked him, before he sit his guitar down for another newer track.

Like I said, this set heavily revolved around new stuff, and Corey prefaced the next song as being one he thought he knew all the words to. “…I haven’t fucked up any words yet tonight. For those of you who know us, it wouldn’t be proper Dead Flowers show if didn’t do that at least once.” he added, before stating this next one was in the key of E. “Isn’t it?” he asked Evan, who confirmed that it was, leaving Corey a bit surprised he was right.

The song was fantastic from start to finish, with some killer guitar riffs, and even a solo thrown in. Yeah, they were definitely in full rock mode.

“It must be humid in here, ‘cause my hair’s getting bigger and my guitar’s out of tune.” remarked Corey, who again had to get tune his guitar before doing the title track from their first LP, “For You”. “…Momma, I’ll do my best to get back home to you…” he sang at one point, pointing at his mother — who was in attendance — as he did so.

“So, we recorded a new album recently…” he said, getting no further before the applause broke out. He talked a little more about that, using it as a lead in to the title track from their forthcoming sophomore album. “Like butcher needs a knife, like a poet needs a muse…” went the first line, which doubled as the chorus. Honestly, I wasn’t really feeling it at first, and it had a slow start, but once it got going, and the bass and drums came in, it turned into gripping song, and one I thoroughly enjoyed.

Corey quickly pointed at Vince once it was finished, giving him the go-ahead to rip into their cover of The Replacements’ “Can’t Hardly Wait”. About three-fourths of the way through that song, Vince walked to the edge of the stage and turned around, then jumped off the stage (which is pretty high) and joined the crowd, darting around and interacting with a few of the people.

“Help him back up, he doesn’t have any shoes…” Corey told everyone when the song was over, though Vince managed to rejoin his band mates with no trouble — even without shoes. They had just one song left to go now, and Corey asked that everyone give it up for Madison king, then pondered, “Can you give it up for someone who hasn’t played yet?”

In this case, yes.

As usual, they wrapped things up with “I Won’t Go”, which ended with Vince tossing his guitar to the ground and picking up his shoe which he used to strike the instrument.

Now, this was only the fifth Dead Flowers I’ve caught, so I haven’t seen that many. But still, this was unquestionably the best. The sound was superb, and while they always bring their A game and a party, they pushed it to a whole new level this night.

Evan, Ed, Vince and Corey where all on fire, and I really liked all the new stuff they did (some of which I heard for the first time this night.)

They have a show coming up at the Double Wide on May 3rd, and while you wait for their new record to drop (which is probably still several months away from happening), pick up “For You" in iTUNES.

The rather large ensemble known as Dovetail was up next, and they treated everyone to a nice selection of their current stuff, with some newer material and even a cover thrown in.

As the curtain was drawn apart, lead singer Philip Creamer began plucking the strings of his acoustic guitar, kicking off “Heavy”, which so fluidly involves Daniel Creamer and his keyboard, and is easily one of their strongest songs. “We are Dovetail, from right here in Dallas.” Philip announced once the song was over, before giving a shout-out to Madison King for having them on the bill.

They then rolled out one of their newer ones, which had some amazing harmonies, especially from Matthew McDonald, who was also serving as the electric guitarist for the night. It was in true Dovetail fashion, because there was a real ethereal quality to it.

“Give it up for Madison M-Fing King!” Daniel shouted upon finishing that track, getting a good rise from the continuously growing crowd. Philip then announced they were going to do a Rolling Stones cover, and as drummer Aaron Haynes started into the steady beat, Matthew assumed lead vocal duties for “Beast of Burden”. His voice has some Jagger-esque tones to it, making it not just an easy cover for them to pull off, but also one they excel at.

They took things down just a few notches with “See the Sun”, which had Daniel and Matthew adding some gorgeous harmonies behind Philips’ voice. Once they had finished it, Matthew and Philip swapped guitars for the soulful sounding “Hey, Hey Mama”, following it with a couple more new songs. The second one out of that batch is absolutely beautiful, and the acoustic guitar wasn’t even used on it.

Guitars were traded back as their 44-minute long set neared the end, and the ever-brilliant “Julie”, which, from my experience, is usually their closer, seemed to signify the end of their set. After all, it is arguably their strongest song. But no, they had one last song to give, and it was another good one.

Sadly (or at least lately), I haven’t seen Dovetail all that much, but man, they’re such a great band.

Style-wise, they were different from the other acts they were sandwiched in between, mining a more indie/classic rock sound, but they still fit well with the bands, and the type of music they do play is something they pull off extremely well. You could even say they’ve perfected it.

Not only that, but they just have a real polished and professional vibe. It all makes it easy to see why they’ve gotten such a following over the years and have made a good name for themselves — and are continuing to.

They have plenty of shows coming up, and the full list can be found HERE. Just a few are April 25th at The Dirty Rooster in Allen, May 3rd at the Pecan Street Festival in Austin, May 21st at the Barley House in Dallas and May 24th at the Pour House in Fort Worth. Also, their full-length album “Mount Karma” can be found in iTUNES.

Thus far, the crowd — in terms of numbers — had been okay, but more like your typical Thursday night crowd (at least for a local show).

However, as 10:30 drew closer, Trees really filled up, to the point that if you had just happened to wonder in, your first thought would have been, “What national act do they have at Trees tonight?”

Madison King had the place near capacity, and a roar of cheers arose when the curtain opened and she and her band immediately started their first song.

The first handful of songs happened in the order they are on the record, beginning with the super catchy “You and Me”, which had the crowd enraptured and eagerly awaiting more. Madison on the other hand was in a state of pleasant shock, clearly blown away by all the friends, fans and fellow musicians who had made it out for this. “Thank you all so much for being here…” she told everyone with a huge smile on her face, and also pointed out what everyone knew: that this was her CD release show. “…I’m going to be doing that a lot tonight.” she informed everyone, referring to this being her CD release show, before she took a moment to thank the opening acts.

“This next song is called Chances.” She said to everyone as they began what’s one of the best songs on this new album. “…Nobody wants to invest without knowing that it’s gonna pay off in time…” she crooned at the start, before drummer Chris Carmichael and the rest of the group livened up the song that really shows off her growth as a songwriter. “I don’t sing this next one live much, because it’s super hard to sing.” Madison said in a candid confession before the next track. She was referring to “Dallas Summer Nights”, and if this song about a blossoming love is a harder one for her to pull off, she certainly showed no sign of it this night. I’d go as far as to say it was one of the best songs of this set.

The band itself was nice collection of area musicians, from Dave Prez on the bass, to Chad Stockslager over on far stage right behind the keys and Michael Smith holding down electric guitar duties, but now Madison welcomed the first “super special guest” on stage, and that was Ryan Thomas Becker. He lent his guitar skills along with his voice to a couple of songs, including the emotion filled, “Lessons Learned in Love”.

“Cheers!” Madison shouted when the song was over; holding a drink in the air. “I know pretty much all of you are my friends….” she said, adding that made the night all the more amazing, and she called it the “funnest thing ever”. Afterwards, they jumped about on the album, and decided to pick the pace back up after that slower number. “The Best Damn Night” did the trick, and that party song got everyone feeling a little more rowdy.

“…He may or may not be back later…” Madison told everyone as Ryan Thomas Becker made his way up the stairs into the green room. She then whispered into the mic, “He’s totally going to be back later on.” Attention then shifted to Dave, whom she said she told to wear some black pants, “…And this is what I get.” she joked affectionately, pointing out the colorful plaid shorts he was sporting. He just shrugged, as if to say, “Yeah, this is as good as I can do.”

“The Ghost of the One Who Got Away” was another great one from the night, and upon finishing it, Madison stated next was going to be the title track from this new album. “…I declare it released…” she said and laughed, right before the absorbing “Onward & Upward”. “…So tonight I’m going to put on my six-inch heels…” sang Madison on the next song, “Rebound”, raising one of her legs in the air — showing off the heels she was sporting for the night. And yes, that song is exactly what you’d think it would be with a name like that, and it was another standout from the show.

Corey Howe of Dead Flowers was asked to join them on stage for the next number, and after he got up there, she shouted-out a  friend who had suggested she put deodorant on her face so she wouldn’t sweat during the show. “…I totally did…” Madison confessed, adding that it was not working for her. Everyone was cracking up, including her, up until she said this next one, a duet, was a “super sad song”. “Lover’s Duet” was indeed a serious song, but a gorgeous one, especially with Corey backing her up — being very restrained from what he had been earlier in the night.

More thanks were giving after that song, and Madison pointed out her grandmother in one of the little balcony areas, saying that if anyone wanted some ear plugs she had brought plenty of pairs, all of which were kept in a sandwich baggy. With “Fallen Angels”, they were almost done with the new album, and after and enthusiastic “Damn!” regarding all the love she was getting this night, Madison commented on that. “…So far everything has been off the new album. I’m told that’s in poor taste…” she said, adding that she hates it when people do that to her. That led them to the first of a few songs from her debut album, and the first was my personal favorite song of hers, “Nazarene”. The version they did of the song was excellent, and I have never heard the song sound so amazing. It was downtempo (even more so than normal) and this haunting really stuck with you and created a moment of wonder amongst the crowd.

“Onward and Upward” wasn’t even 24-hours old at this point, and Madison was already talking about the follow-up, asking if maybe she was jumping the gun by talking about it, but no one really thought so. “…I write a lot of duets…” she said, saying that’s a type of song she really enjoys performing as well, and she plans on doing an EP of nothing but duets. With that, she invited Danny Balis on stage for a song she said she had written about three months before called “I Feel Like Falling in Love”. “You know you’ve cleared out every bar in Deep Ellum?” Danny told once he got on stage and grabbed a guitar. “Including mine.”

It was a great song, and I think already got people excited about the next release. “Thanks for coming, I really appreciate it so fucking much!” she told everyone, and again thanked Dead Flowers and Dovetail for opening up the show, adding that Philip and another one or two musicians she was sharing the stage with she had known since she was twenty. Ryan Thomas Becker again joined them for the title track from the first album, “Darlin, Here’s To You”, during which he took the spotlight with a guitar solo.

“…I need people!” Madison shouted after the applause for that last song subsided, getting a bunch of musicians on stage with her, including Philip Creamer, Billy from The Hazardous Dukes and Corey, who was now wearing the Madison King underwear he had urged everyone to buy during his bands set earlier. Madison seemed taken aback by it at first, but enjoyed it all the same. I’m just glad the underwear was more like boxer shorts and not ladies thongs.

This collection of singers was needed for the first single from the new album, “Saved by a Son of a Gun”. The fast paced, fun vibe would have been a good way to go out, but Madison said she was just going to skip right to the encore, and for one last time mentioned how humbling it was to have so many people come out to support her.

The 69-minute long set came to an end with another older song, and no show of hers would be complete without “Whiskey In The Morning”, which became a sing-along of sorts, and she didn’t even have to ask for it.

This was hands down the best show I’ve seen Madison King do, and she and her band definitely pulled out all the stops for their CD release show, making sure it was a memorable one for all who attended.

She’s not just one of the best female singers and songwriters in the area, but just one of the best acts in general. Hell, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say she’s Dallas’ own Queen of Country. This show, coupled with the new album proves and cements that title for her, and should act as the needed boost to get her to the next level.

Pick it up (along with the first record) in iTUNES, and keep an eye on her FACEBOOK PAGE for more show dates.

Fantastic night at Trees, and 91.7 KXT was partly responsible for it. I also mention that because I happened to win a pair of tickets to the show from an online contest they did. So, thanks for that KXT.

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…

Thursday, January 24th, 2013 – Kentucky Knife Fight

Deep Ellum may be pretty lively on the weekends, but unfortunately, it’s never a real hotspot on the weekdays. Like, this Thursday night for instance, because there’s rarely something major going on.

But this night, the Dallas/Fort Worth area favorites, Whiskey Folk Ramblers, were performing at The Doublewide, and playing with them was their buddies from St. Louis, Kentucky Knife Fight. No, it wasn’t a “major” show or anything, but it was one that was well worth going to.

Making it even better was the fact that Madison King and her band were opening the show. I caught her quite a few times back in 2011, but it seemed like her show schedule tapered off in 2012, and when she did perform, there was usually some other show I wanted to see more. So, needless to say, I was looking forward to finally seeing her again.

They were a trio this night, with Ms. King on the acoustic guitar, while the rhythm section was occupied by Jeff Dyer on bass and drummer, John Solis . They opened their 32-minute long set with what is quite possible the best song in their repertoire, “Here In Arms”, which just so happens to be a cover from a Dallas band with that same name. It was easily the best song of their set, despite Madison forgetting a line in it, which I think happened right after the line, “…If I’m the queen of dreams and runaways, you’re the king of patience, my love…” It didn’t seem to faze her much, though. Rather, she just pulled back from the mic on the small part she forgot, laughing, before getting back to it. They slowed things down a little with “Feel The Same”, before doing one of three new songs. It was incredible catchy, in terms of the music bed, and all around a fantastic tune. Pretty much the same can also be said of their next one, another new track called “The Mistake”, where the guitar, bass and drums intertwined with each other perfectly, allowing each to be the more dominant instrument at various points throughout it. “…This next song is one of the first I ever wrote…” Madison said, announcing it was another gem, “Tough As Nails”. After one more new song, Madison began plucking the strings of her guitar, progressively getting faster, starting the fast paced title track from her record, “Darlin, Here’s To You”. Their set had seemed to pass by too quickly, and they were already at the end, but they at least went out with a bang. “…This song is called Whiskey In The Morning” Madison told the meager crowd. It may be one of the shortest songs she has, but it’s also one of the most entertaining. For example, take the line, “…When I’m singing with the choir they say, “Girl you’re such a liar. I saw you last night drinking with my friends.” And I may have been there, too, but I’m still better than you because I don’t smell like whiskey in the morning…”

It was a good one to close with, and it ended what was a fantastic set. Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that I hadn’t seen her in so long, but she sounded impeccable this night. Her voice was gorgeous, and there were more than a few songs where it was nothing short of breathtaking.

To me, this show served to re-solidify the fact that Madison King is one of the most talented singer/songwriters in the area, judging from the new music they did, her next record should be just as remarkable as her first.

No telling when that will be, though. So, for now, be sure to check out “Darlin, Here’s to You” and keep an eye on her FACEBOOK PAGE for an future show updates.
They cleared off the stage in no time, and then Kentucky Knife Fight proceeded to set up.

It’s been right at two years since I first heard of the group, when they played this very venue for their first every show in Dallas. I caught them again in the summer of 2011 when they returned, but had missed all their other return trips since. I wasn’t going to miss this one, though…

The band is very close to releasing a new album, so it only made sense that their set this night would feature some of that new material. In fact, half of their set ended up being stuff that they have yet to release…

Like their first song, which was every bit as explosive as dynamite. It was a more intense, fiery song, and it found guitarist, Curt Brewer, often adding some backing vocals on the choruses, which really helped make the song pop. It may have been a knockout tune, but I was hoping they’d be some of my favorites of theirs, but especially one in particular. And wouldn’t you know it, they did that one next. “She looks bereft in her Sunday dress. Ruby red with the lips to match…” crooned vocalist, Jason Holler, which is the first few lines of “Always A Bribe, Never A Bride”. Most of his band mates joined him on the second chorus, as he, Curt, rhythm guitarist, Nate Jones, and bassist, Jason Koenig, harmonized to an extent, belting out, “She can tell I’m an only child. She knows why I can’t sleep at night. Has her fingers wrapped around the necks of every man, every woman, every breath…”. Then, as came to a close, Jason added some particularly long breaks in-between the final lines. “Every man…” he sang, before stopping and casually glancing around. By the second pause, the crowd started laughing, and it was indeed a bit humorous. After several seconds he put his face back in front of the mic and softly sang, “…Eve-ry breath.” Next up were a couple more new tracks of theirs, though these had at least been released as singles earlier last year. Easily the best of those songs is “Misshappen Love”, which was also arguable their best song of the night. Beginning with some sweet licks on the bass, it soon exploded into what was the loudest and most raw song of the set, and more than a few people were rocking out to it. The neatest part of it came near the end, when Jason H. picked up another microphone of his, which gave his voice a more gravelly sound, while he sang the chorus, “Why ya wanna to go and wreck my life? Why ya wanna go and bleed me dry?…”. “This next song is called Love the Lonely. It’s about loving the lonely.” Jason H. said, as they started into the slightly slower song. It still builds up to quite an aggressive tune, though, and several people were banging their heads along to the drumbeats, which were courtesy of James Baker. When it was over, Jason H. started chatting with the audience, then mentioned something about this was their “Birthday Tour 2013”, which made the rest of the guys laugh. “…It’s mathematically impossible, but today is every single one of our birthdays…” He said, then threw their merch guy into the mix, saying he was also celebrating another year of life this day. What made it so hysterical, though, was the fact that he seemed dead serious about it. They returned to the music after that, and I believe it was Nate who began picking at his guitar, starting “Herschel Walker”, which was the only song they did from the “The Wolf Crept, The Children Slept” album. It was still every bit as catchy as I remembered. They followed it up with three more new tracks, the first of which I really enjoyed. The second of those was pretty good, too, but the third was by far the best in my opinion, due mainly to this line from the chorus, “…The mistakes of the past are the ones that last…” At this point, they announced they had a couple of songs left, while Curt switched out his guitar for a banjo. Their Dallas fans seemed ecstatic upon realizing he was leading them into “Dream So Sweet”, which also featured Jason playing a little harmonica. They brought their 46-minute long set to a close with one last new song, which had an intro of sorts, that was pretty soft and consisted of only Nate lightly strumming his guitar, while Jason H. sang rather quietly. I didn’t think they’d close with something so slow, but it went on long enough, I began to doubt it ever would escalate into something more… Then it did. The rest of the guys finally added their talents to it, making it that much better, and a solid way to end the show.

There’s no denying that they were the most electric band of the night. They were all very lively and definitely commanded the crowd. Speaking of which, they had more eyes watching them then any of the other acts this night. In some ways, that’s sad, because this was an excellent bill, but in others it’s a testimony to how extraordinary Kentucky Knife Fight really is. ‘Cause to be a touring band, who, until two years ago had never even played Dallas, they now have a pretty good little fan base here.

The band has a couple show scheduled in the state of Illinois during mid-February, so visit their OFFICIAL WEBSITE for where, when and other such details. However, their big show will be a hometown gig in St. Louis at Off Broadway. They’ll be celebrating the release of their brand new record, and I imagine that will be a show not to miss out on. And before that new record hits digital retailers, check out their older stuff (and a couple new songs) on iTunes.

Finally, you had the Whiskey Folk Ramblers, who didn’t quite have the crowd they deserved. Don’t get me wrong, there was still a decent amount of people out for a Thursday night, but not as many as the band before them had.

They, too, have been hard at work on new material, and began their 55-minute long set with one of those new tunes. That wasn’t the only “new” thing about them, though, at least not for me. They were down a member from the last time I had seen them (which in all fairness, has been awhile), leaving them without a banjo player/multi-instrumentalist, and I was instantly curious as to how they would sound with its absence. Next, their drummer opened up their classic/fan favorite, “Gambling Preacher and His Daughter”. If there were any differences, they were subtle enough that I didn’t take notice of them, or perhaps the distinctive, twangy voice of singer and acoustic guitarist, Tyler Rougeux, was enough to cover it up. Whatever way you slice it, though, it was every bit as good as it always has been. Afterwards, they launched into a barrage of tunes, one of which, “Into That Slide”, came from their current release, “And There Are Devils…”. The next two were from their debut, “Midnight Drifter”, and included the catchy, “Moanin’ Rag”, before their drummer wound them right into “Goin’ Where I Don’t Know”, both of which are pretty short and very fast paced, making them fly by. To add some balance to it all, they then did a series of new tunes, one of which I recognized from the past few times I’ve seen them, and is a bit haunting as Tyler sings, “…I’ll follow you down…” A couple of songs later and they did one titled, “Drank the Bottle Dry”, before returning to some older stuff with “Curtains”. The music bed for that latter one is superb, with the acoustic and electric guitar, played by Mark Moncrieff, mixing quite well and they intertwine perfectly with the low end beats JackDaw Russell cranks out on his upright bass, though it is the Cory Graves’s and his trumpet that really makes the song pop. Tyler gave a simple explanation of what their next song was about, simply saying, “…It’s about sex…” Their next song got a nice lead in, too, when Tyler told everyone it was about an guy named “…Buster Brown…”. That made me assume it was another new one, but no. Instead, it was what is possible their most popular song to date, “Pies of Old Kylene”. They followed it with one final new song for the night, then slowed things down a little with “Sweet Waters”, which brought them to their final song. Now, a song or two before, Cory had lit up a cigarette, and could be seen periodically taking a drag off it. At this point, Tyler noticed it. “Well, look at that. Cory learned how to smoke a electronic cigarette…” he said. “At least I hope it’s an electronic one…” By that time it had been thrown to the ground and put out. They then began their final tune for the night, the lengthy, “Midnight Drifter”, which tells a story exactly like what the title suggests. “…So I took her out, stabbed her with my knife…” Tyler sings at one point, in a rather manically voice. As it neared the end, Cory walked to the front of the stage, looking like he could jump into the crowd at any moment. Sure enough, he did. Jason K. of Kentucky Knife Fight caught him, as Cory slid down the guys back, still shaking the tambourine he had exchanged his trumpet for.

This was as strong a show as I’ve seen the Whiskey Folk Ramblers do, and I have to say, I’m enjoying the new stuff. The bands first two records differ greatly in sound, and it would appear their upcoming third record will be different from those two. In a good way, though. It doesn’t come across as a complete overhaul of their sound, but rather a natural progression of it, simply evolving into the next phase. It still maintains what has been called a “spaghetti western” sound, though, and I find it interesting that a lot of the songs sound similar enough that they fit together almost seamlessly, but still maintain their own individuality.

So if you haven’t already, go check ‘em out, because I promise you haven’t heard anything like this before.

They don’t have anything on the books at the moment, but keep an eye on their FACEBOOK PAGE, as they no doubt will get something soon. Also, check out their two records in iTunes.

This was really an exceptional night, and turned out to be even better than I thought it would, which is saying a lot. And if you weren’t here, then you truly did miss out.

Thursday, October 20, 2011 – Last Joke Band

I wish I had caught on the patio sessions hosted at the AT&T Performing Arts Center earlier on this year. Alas, it wasn’t until The Orbans played last month that I really wanted to go, and now, this afternoon they hosted the next to last one for the season.

The atmosphere of it is just neat, being outside and all. And in passing, you would never expect to see area musicians playing here, in the midst of downtown Dallas.

Madison King was the first act of the evening, though she was without her full band for this show. However, Ryan Thomas Becker was joining her and her acoustic guitar with an electric one. They opened with some of the slower/softer tracks from her record, “Here in Arms” and “But For Now”, which made me think those types of songs might be what this more acoustic show was built around. And for the most part it was, but not entirely, as they did the more upbeat, “.44”, next, which, before beginning, Ryan had to think about it. “It’s been awhile since we’ve done this one.” Madison said to him. The pair did another one, “Feel The Same”, before Ryan propped up his guitar on his amp and walked off. This left Madison to do a stripped down version of “That’s When I’ll Let You Down”, which sounded great and the solo acoustic format seems the most fitting for that song. She looked at her notebook for the next song, pondering what to do next. “I cant decide what song I want to play.” she said. “My mom said something on the website today about doing Rainbow Connection, but I have another Muppet’s song I think I want to do.” I laughed a little at that, just because I wouldn’t have thought I’d ever hear a band cover a song sung by a Muppet. Also surprising, I never thought “It’s Not Easy Being Green” could sound so sad. (Something about seeing a frog sing it makes it hard to take it seriously.) But it did, and if not the best, it was at least one of the best songs she played this show. “Ryan. Can you come join me?” she asked when she finished up, as he rejoined her for the final three songs of the 36 minute long show, “Whiskey In The Morning”, “Darlin, Here’s To You”, and “Nazarene”.

I’ve said this before when I’ve seen other bands or singers do an acoustic set, and it was the case here, too. Without the louder instruments to compete with you could really hear Madison’s voice, which sounds great in any scenario, but this time sounded quite pretty as well. Definitely see a show of here if you get the chance.

This was already set to be a historic week for Ryan Thomas Becker & the Last Joke, since they were releasing their debut record the following night up in Denton. But before coming to the show here, they had gone an picked up their limited edition vinyl records, making this a sort of CD release show as well. It wasn’t a full band show, though. Of course Ryan Becker and drummer, Grady Don Sandlin, were there, but their bass player was unable to make it, which forced Tony Ferraro, who typical plays guitar, to rock out on the bass instead. None of that seemed to make a difference in the performance aspect, however. Ryan counted them in by stomping his foot on the ground three times, before they launched into “No Time Lover”. They moved right along, doing “The Train” and “Tom Petty Summer”, which is one of the catchiest songs they do, both musically and vocally. It was at this point I looked at the record I bought, which lay in front of me on the table. Those were the first three songs on side A, and as I flipped it over to the B side, Ryan announced the next song was “No, We Can’t Be Friends”, which was the first track from side B. So, they were playing the record from start to finish. That is also the only (sort of) original song of theirs on the album, as Tony wrote it. He sang the first verse of the song, and Ryan the second, while they co-sang the chorus. Towards the end of it, there are some pauses in between the chorus, and during one of them Tony stood there, obviously counting down to when they need to come back in, while Ryan stood with a blank stare, gazing up at the sky. “No, we can’t be friends. We can’t be friends.” they suddenly sang. “Theme to House Party 3” came next, which Ryan told everyone who wrote it, “…And he’s been my best friend since first grade.” he added. “Death & Taxes” closed out the album portion of the show, which Ryan later promoted, saying the official release show wasn’t until the following day. “So, y’all have the choice of looking at it, or maybe even buying it, if you want.” He looked at Tony before the next song, “You ready for this?” “Yeah.” replied Tony. “This is an old one where we come from.” Ryan told the crowd, as they started “Stake Thru Heart”. “This is the most beautiful day in all of days…” Ryan commented after the song. An older song done by he and Grady in RTB2, “Bottle the Bees”, came next, and then they touched on some stuff from “Neighborhoof”. “So Speak” came first, and while informing everyone this record was not for sale, Ryan suddenly asked, “Did Madison already leave?” “Yeah.” someone answered. I don’t recall exactly what word he used, I think either “shoot” or “darn”, then saying, “She totally sings this song with me. Oh well, we should have discussed it before hand.” So, he sang “Whistle” alone, which still sounded great, and “Finger Trace” came afterwards. “We’ve got one more song.” stated Ryan. “It’s an old country song, called He’ll Have to Go.” which concluded their 54 minute set.

It was an excellent show, even a little high energy, with Ryan kind of sliding/falling to his knees in front of Grady’s kit during one song, as he played the tune. As for their record, it’s awesome. The odd thing about it is that all the songs are covers of their friends’ bands. Yet they are all new to me. You can buy and preview the record on their bandcamp page, and it should soon be available on iTunes, too. Also, they did some songs for the Denton based, Violinist Sessions recently, and you can download those tracks for free, as well as watch the live videos (linked above in the song titles).

Saturday, October 15, 2011 – DOMA XXIII: The Showcase

It’s weird being down in Deep Ellum in the daylight. It seems… unnatural. Even stranger, seeing hordes of zombies roaming the streets. But that was the scene this afternoon as I pulled into a parking lot at Good Latimer and Main Street. The reason for the zombies was what is called the “Zombie Crawl”, and event that was hoping to break the world record for most zombies in one place. Or something like that. They ranged from people with some lite makeup to look dead with some blood, to those who really looked like half their face was gone with their teeth exposed. But the reason I was seeing all this in the first place was to attend the DOMA showcase.

The Dallas Observer was marking their 23rd annual music award season with a day long event featuring 52 bands, most of whom are nominees, on 10 stages. They had pushed it back from last years event, which occurred in July, so it would be more bearable temperature wise. And it’s a good thing they did with it beginning at 4:30 on the outdoor stage, and was still pretty warm, even when standing in the shade.

Sarah Jaffe had the pleasure of kicking this event off. I know she is highly revered in the music scene, but I’ve never understood why. I’ve listened to the tracks from her “Suburban Nature” album numerous times, and I don’t think they’re that great. In fact, I was dumbfounded last year when, if I remember correctly, she made a clean sweep at the DOMA’s, in the many categories she was up in. So, I wasn’t just too excited about this.

It was nearly 20 minutes after the scheduled start time before Ms. Jaffe and her band made their way on stage. The song itself was amazing, with Becki Howard as well as Scott Danbom playing a violin, making it very moody, and somewhat dark sounding. Sarah opened her mouth, and I was taken aback. It was so lovely, so beautiful. All of that past doubt I had of why she won so many Dallas Observer music awards last year was instantly washed away. She grabbed a bass for the second song, as Scott took a seat at his keyboard, and they did a few songs before she exchanged the bass for an acoustic guitar. About mid-show Sarah invited a friend on stage, Will Johnson, of Centro-Matic, to help her with the song “Nurture It”. She, too, had commented how warm it was earlier in the show, and talked about being sweaty. So, before starting that song, she said, “While y’all are baking, we’re going to do a ballad.”

I really wondered if any band of the day could top this set. Really, I was totally blown away by it. And that led me to this conclusion, Sarah Jaffe isn’t the best studio artist. I’ve heard of her for a couple years now, at least. As I said, I’ve listened to her music and didn’t like it, but it seemed everyone swooned over her. The difference between them and I, most of them had seen her live before. As I write this, I’ve listened to the stuff again, this time just the song clips on iTunes, and I still don’t like it. Bottom line, I don’t think her recorded work even begins to do her justice or show off her full talent. Indeed, seeing her live is an experience. And one I wish to experience again in the future.

Next on the main stage was the 16 year old, Centro-Matic. Somehow, I’d never heard of this veteran band from “…The rolling hills of Denton…” as vocalist Will Johnson put it near the end of the bands show. What followed was a 55 minute set that was the best of any band that played the main stage. Like most professional bands, they went from one song to the next without pause, but when they did stop, they were entertaining. Four songs in or so they stopped and Will said outdoor rocking could sometime be “intimidating”. “But not this time.” he continued. “Because this month is Anytober. You can get any regular foot long sandwich from Subway for five fucking dollars.” Everyone that I saw cracked up at this, but Will wasn’t done with it yet. “That just rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it? It’s not a stretch at all, Anytober.” They cranked out many more songs before stopping again and Will asked if everyone was still holding up okay. “…This is kinda like when you take LSD with a friend, you need to check on them. “Are you doing okay?” “Should we do more?” “We shouldn’t do more.” “Maybe just a little more?” That banter went on, and eventually keyboardist, Scott Danbom, joined in on it. When they finished, they dedicated their next song to “that banter.” After some more tunes, Scott got up from his keyboard and took over bass duties from Mark Hedman, who then added a rhythm guitar to the mix. That format lasted a few songs before Scott returned to the keys. Now to close out the show, they had a few good surprises worked in. The Toadies, Clark Vogeler, had been standing to the side of the stage watching most of Centro-Matic’s show, and for their next to last song he joined them on stage, rocking on the guitar. “Where are you at Sarah Jaffe?” Will asked as they began the final song, in which Sarah joined them, playing a tambourine and singing some backing vocals.

I’m definitely a fan of these guys now, and plan to get their records eventually. Also, if you live in Colorado, Missouri, Utah, Nevada, California, or Arizona, check out their tour page, as they will be going on an eight city tour in November.

After taking time out to grab a bite to eat at Twisted Root, my dad and I returned to the main stage where The Old 97’s were rocking. I only stayed for a couple of songs, but I see why they rose to the level of fame they have. It’s very catchy stuff and Rhett Miller has a great voice.

I ducked back out and headed over to the Prophet Bar where Andrew Tinker was supposed to go on at 8. Key part of that, “supposed to”. I waited as they did a mic sound check. Two more of the band members came in and set their stuff up on stage. They did a sound check, and then left the stage, not in any hurry. By the time that happened I’d been sitting there for 50 minutes, and now it was about time for the Toadies. I don’t know what the deal was, but they shoud’ve been more on time than this. Especially for a large scale event like the DOMAs. The sound check sounded fantastic though, and it only makes me want to see one of Andrew Tinkers shows more now.

We staked out a spot in the large field across from the Prophet Bar, where the outdoor portion was held, and waited. They were playing DOMA nominees over the sound system, and as RTB2’s, “When Hammer Hits Stone” faded out, the man working the sound board announced it was almost time for the Toadies. “We’re going to play one last song, at their request.” he said, as an instrumental song began to play. Maybe 30 seconds into it Clark Vogeler stepped on stage, along with Todd Lewis, Mark Reznicek, and Doni Blair. Todd asked everyone how it was going and if they were having a good time. They began their show, which drew almost entirely from the “Rubberneck” record, with “I Come from the Water”. But while Todd’s fingers where ready to start the song on his guitar, his mouth wasn’t. They played through the song before he came in on the line, “…I sucked that hot air in, and rolled up on the sand…” It was a shaky start to a show that just seemed lacking of something. They did recover nicely though as Mark brought then end of that song into the start of “Heel”. And there’s something quite charismatic about Todd during that song, when he makes the little hand gestures while singing, “Heel!” For most of the show they rotated between classics and new-ish stuff, churning out “Backslider”, “I Am a Man of Stone”, “Away”, “Push the Hand”, “Mexican Hairless”, which I felt was their second best song of the show, “No Deliverance”, and “Quitter”. Wait, “Quitter” proved to be pretty memorable, too. Upon finishing it, their stage hands brought out some drums, toms, I believe, and set them up on stage. “Yeah. Were gonna get some people out to bang on these.” Todd said. I couldn’t make them out too well, but if I heard right the two people were Centro-Matic’s drummer, Matt Pence, and Old 97’s drummer, Philip Peeples. Todd plucked away at his guitar strings, kicking off “I Burn”. They joked after it that, that should be the end of the show because of how great it was. They probably should’ve saved it to close out the night, as it was spectacular. I could be biased, as it is one of my most favorite Toadies songs, but it did seem more amazing than usual. “Let’s just consider every song from here on the encore.” Todd offered. They went on with “Song I Hate” and immediately started “Sweetness” when it was over. That one was a very pleasant surprise for me. When it was over, Todd flicked a guitar pick towards the audience and apologized. “I’m sorry, I’m not very good at the pick toss. I‘ve only been doing it for twenty years.” At this moment several people were heard shouting for “Tyler”. “I don’t know what they want?” said Todd, as he looked at Doni and Clark. The chanting was still heard, but soon turned to cheers as they started “Possum Kingdom”. It was the first in their final three song barrage, as they transitioned the end of it into “Hell in High Water”, and the final guitar notes from it became the first chords of ”Mister Love”, which ended their hour long show.

An encore was expected, though. So it surprised me when people began to walk away and leave. When they returned, some balloons were brought out as well, and placed next to Mark’s kit. I remember pointless dates, and immediately thought back to their show in Denton last year, on October 14th which carried over into the early hours of the 15th, which was Mark’s birthday.

Todd stated that today was his birthday, “He’s twenty-nine.” he added, and attempted to lead a sing-along of happy birthday. The crowd didn’t participate though. “We’re gonna leave you with this one.” said Todd, as they began “Tyler”. And while unintentional, Todd made sure the show ended just as it had began, with some flubbed lyrics. He stumbled over almost everything from “…I found a window in the kitchen…” on, recovering only in the final moments of the song.
As I said, something seemed out of place with this show. Maybe it’s because the Dia De Los Toadies from a couple months ago is still fresh in my mind, and most Toadies shows would pale in comparison to that. And I’m by no means saying I didn’t enjoy it, as I love every chance I get to see the Toadies. It’s just that I’ve seen better.

There was a mass exodus as everyone spilled out onto the streets to file into the clubs. I had the entire night planned out, but I figured the Toadies would play at least thirty minutes more than what they did. So I was clueless as to what was going down at the 10 o’ clock hour. And after wandering all the way down to where The Bone is, we turned back around and went to The Door, to wait for Air Review.

It took them a little bit to get everything just right, in regards to the sound check and that they each were getting the right amount of each instrument in their monitors. Then the Observer people were introducing the acts, telling you what to text so you could get some last minute votes in for the group. By the time all that happened it was ten minutes after eleven, and vocalist and multi-instrumentalist, Doug Hale, wasted no time on starting the show. He began playing his piano, starting “Waiting Lessons”, in which he, guitarists, Richard Carpenter and Dragan Jakovljevic, and bassist, Jeff Taylor, all harmonize. As they started the second verse, Justin Robinson came in on the drums, as did Dragan, who had a couple pieces of a kit in front of him. They continued with “At the Switch”, and afterwards Doug got up from the piano and grabbed an acoustic guitar. I thought I knew what was coming next, thankfully, I was wrong. See, apparently from the last time I saw them, “H” has been worked into the live shows. And out of the new singles they’ve released, this is my absolute favorite. I’d even say it’s my favorite Air Review song period, and I relished hearing it live. Doug took a seat back at the piano and worked to find the right keys. “There we go!” he exclaimed after finding it, and began the ever so beautiful, “All Because You’re Mine”. They brought things back up to a rock level with “My Automatic”, which was followed by a cover of a Beatles tune. Afterwards, the sound guy informed them they had time for one more. “Isn’t it obvious?” Doug asked his band mates. “We’re not going to play the most popular song we have?” was Jeff’s comeback. It then came up for a vote. “America’s Son” and “Low Wishes” were the options, and while I was shouting for the latter loud enough I couldn’t hear anyone else, everyone else wanted “America’s Son”. “We shouldn’t have done the Beatles song.” muttered Doug, too little, too late, as “America’s Son” closed their 32 minute set.

This was the best setlist I’ve heard these guys do, ever. I’ve said many times before “Waiting Lessons” is the best way for them to kick off a show, and everything after that just had such a great flow to it. And to be perfectly honest, this was my best moment of DOMA. They have a couple of shows coming up, one in Fort Worth this Thursday for a concert on the square. The other is an acoustic show in Dallas on November 3rd at the Church of the Incarnation. They should be releasing the EP they’ve been working on in the near future, too. But until then, check out the singles from it on iTunes, and their full length “Landmarks” if you don’t have it. Because, there’s a very good reason they’re up for a DOMA for best Indie act and best song of the year (“America’s Son”).

Then, it was back down Elm Street to The Bone.

The Denton based Spooky Folk got going, surprisingly, on time on the roof top stage at The Bone. On the plus side, the backdrop for the stage is the skyline of Dallas, which is gorgeous. On the other hand, the sound system is nowhere near the best. They opened with a couple of newer songs, the first of which I really liked Petra Kelly’s parts on the violin. Their show wasn’t without problems though, as they had trouble with some of the instruments occasionally, and when singer Kaleo Kaualoku got too loud, his voice sounded like it belonged on a terribly produced home recording. And he certainly can sing much better than how this set up made him sound. They did a couple from their record, “Polaroid” being one of them. Then, after tuning his guitar, Kaleo began “Bible Belt”, which had a lot of people singing along, especially on the chorus. “…I was born on the bible belt. Give me something sharp so I can kill myself! Cause I can’t go on living this way…” Lead guitarist, Jesse Perry filled some time before the next song by asking how everyone was doing. “…Can you walk in a straight line?” was one of several questions he asked the audience, all of which were something a cop might ask you. “I’m just trying to get y’all ready if the cops get y’all later.” he said. “…Cause they kinda like to fuck with people.” They then did another new song, followed by this “This Sleep”. Then, Jesse took over on the bass, as Scarlett Wright picked up her melodic and began “Resurrect!”. They didn’t get far though before having some more technical issues. They fixed it pretty quickly though, started the song again, and this time got through it. I think it was before the final song of their 39 minute set that another problem arose, and this time, Petra decided to fill the time. “So, the other night I was sitting on a patio at this bar…” I was intrigued as to where this was going, but that was a far as she got. “Thank God!” she exclaimed, as they started in on the final song.

The audio problems did impact the show, which is a shame because I love this band, and hadn’t seen them in six months. They’ll be performing at Dan’s Silverleaf in Denton on November 16th, so go see them if you can.

We left there and walked next door to Club Dada, and as soon as we got in, I regretted seeing Spooky Folk, based solely on the bad sound of the venue. Because the first thing I heard after entering Dada was The Orbans singing my favorite song of theirs, “New Dress”. In particular, the final chorus, “…What I need is a promise, the true relation of a heart. What I want is a new dress, you can wear it at the start…” Damn, I wish I hadn’t missed their show, as they sounded even better than the other times I’ve seen them.

Madison King was closing out the night here at Dada, but before I get to her set, I want to talk about something else. So, I’ll make this as brief as possible.

I saw the band Sealion for the second time the previous Saturday, and in my review I was, uhh, not complimentary at all. So, as Madison began her show someone’s arm was placed on my shoulder and a CD shoved in front of me. “I know you don’t like my voice, but here you go.” says a voice. I looked and it was Hunter Moehring, the voice behind Sealion and the person I spoke ill of in the review. “I hope you didn’t take that personally” I told him, as he told me not to worry about it and joked, “At least you know I read.”

The fact that he would do that shows a great deal of character in my book. From ’06 to early ’10 I just posted my writings on Myspace, but I never really said anything negative of a band, just “I didn’t like them.” Why? On the off chance a band found what I had written, I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. It wasn’t until sometime last year that I wanted to take a more serious approach to this, which I think means being as honest and blunt as possible. Even if I love your band, if you do something that I think is a fault at a show, I’ll point it out. And I think it’s awesome that some of the musicians tell me they value my opinion and use my criticism to improve their performance.

That said, what I do write is my opinion of that particular show. So please, don’t take it personally. And my thoughts can be swayed. The Phuss and RTB2 come to mind as bands I was indifferent to upon first hearing, but since have become a fan of. And Mr. Moehring, if you’re reading this, thanks for the CD. I listened to it and it’s good. Who knows, maybe if I see Sealion another time or two I’ll be a fan.

Okay, now on to Madison’s show…

She and the band opened with “Here in Arms”, as she sang the first line of it, “A couple scribbles on a napkin somewhere. A cup of coffee and a cigarette…”. They seemed to race through the songs, as she announced the next two, “But For Now” and “Feel The Same”. After those, she looked at Ryan Becker, who was having a busy night himself, since he had played with RTB2 at The Door just an hour before. “The duet.” she said to him, though he and bassist, Jeff Dyer, began talking in front of the drum kit. “They don’t look ready.” Madison said, who began “Till Death Do Us Free” any ways. “Things just got sexy.” Ryan said when the song was over. They followed it with “Whiskey in the Morning”, and at the beginning of it Ryan was slightly hopping around on the stage. I haven’t seen him many times where he’s just an instrumentalist, but he’s pretty great at that, too, enjoyable to watch perform. They slowed things down a bit with “Nazarene” and at the end of the song Madison broke a guitar string. “Things just got sexier.” said Ryan, “Madison’s breaking shit.” He then looked at her and asked, “Is that a good thing?” “Is anyone coming to my rescue?” she asked in vain. “I’m not gonna lie, that is the first string I have ever broken during a show.” she announced while working to get the string off. She finally did so and they were able to play “Darlin, Here’s To You”, which I thought sounded slightly different with a broken string. I figured with the technical issue they’d go ahead and call it a night, and so did Jeff, Ryan, and the drummer, all of whom got ready to leave the stage. But Madison started another song. She remarked it “wasn’t too good”, being modest in my opinion, “…But we’re going to finish the show with it. It’s about Dallas.” As they closed their 39 minute set with the song titled after the fine city.

That made for a perfect ending to a great night (and day for that matter) of music. She’ll be doing a free show this Thursday outside the AT&T Performing Arts Center. They should start at 5:30 with Ryan Thomas Becker & the Last Joke going on next.

DOMA was pretty fun this year. I wish so many bands weren’t going on at the same given time though. I would’ve loved to have seen RTB2, the Whiskey Folk Ramblers, Fox & the Bird, Soviet, Bravo Max!, Ishi, and a few others, most of whom played at the same hour at the various clubs. Maybe next year they can resolve that, though. And best of luck to all the nominees in their quest for a DOMA. The award presentation will be held Tuesday at the House of Blues, and it is free to attend.

Thursday, October 5, 2011 – “…You Were Beautiful When You Where Broken…”

Even after a long, fun day at the State Fair with the family, there seemed like no better way to end the night then going to Renfield’s Corner in uptown Dallas, for their free weekly Wednesday night shows. I was cutting it pretty close to the 9 o’ clock start time, though, but when I got there the band was just loading their gear in, further perpetuating the belief that musicians are never on time. (Though true, I do mean that as a joke.)

The act of the night was the Dallas Observer Music Awards nominee, Madison King and her band, who kicked off their 67 minute long show at 9:35. They opened with “But for Now” and continued with the song that follows it on her record, “Here in Arms”. Madison began playing some notes of that second song, which were a bit off, and lead guitarist, Ryan Thomas Becker, pointed it out, jokingly telling her, “That’s not how the song goes.” She got it right though, and afterwards they followed it with “Tough as Nails”. At this point, Madison took her glasses off and laid them on a stool beside her, then was about to start the next song. “That’s not gonna work!” she exclaimed, reaching for glasses and putting them back on for “.44”. They slowed things down a bit for the next couple of tunes, “Affectation” and “Feel The Same”, and around this point she introduced her band, Ryan, Jeff Dyer on bass, and the drummer. (I apologize, I didn’t catch his name.) Now, they switched things up a bit, as she told everyone that Ryan “…was going to sing one of his songs.” They performed it as a duet, with Ryan singing the first verse, Madison the next, and they let their voices blend for the last bit of the tune, which sounded most excellent. “Do you want to do my duet now?” she asked Ryan when they were through, dubbing this segment the “duet corner”. She repeated herself, though this time saying it fast enough it sounded like “do it corner”. All the while, Jeff had dragged a stool over the far end of the stage, which Ryan said was perfect for the duet corner, and took a seat. “That’s what happens when you get old.” Madison remarked, which left Jeff looking shocked about the burn he had just received. The song they did was what I believe is the strongest song on the album, “Till Death Do Us Free”. In the simplest sense, it tells a wonderful, albeit sad, story of two lovers who you could say still carry a torch for each other. (I’m not very good at interpreting songs, but surly I’m not getting that wrong.) The first verse was crooned out by Madison, as Ryan served as the male lead on the song, coming in at the second verse, and the line “Sent your invitation today, hope you don’t bring someone, I pray…” I think the line(s) that best define the song are this, (Ryan) “I’ll think about her.” (Madison) “I’ll think about him, (together) and wish he/she wore my ring…” After concluding that song, they covered a Bob Dylan tune, and then did a couple new songs, which I want to say was there debut. The first one featured the full band and was “hodge podged together” as Madison put it, though in listening to it you certainly wouldn’t have guessed it. The drummer and Jeff left after it, as Ryan seated himself in the stool mentioned earlier. Madison even ditched her pick for this song, instead plucking the strings on her acoustic with her fingers, giving it a spectacular sound, and was one of my favorite songs of the show. They played one more song just the two of them, “That’s When I’ll Let You Down”, before the other members rejoined them for “Whiskey in the Morning”, “Nazarene” (get a free download of the song HERE), and finally, “Darlin, Here’s to You”.

I’ve seen enough bands here I should know better, but for free I was not expecting this great of a show. I mean, hell, they ran through the entire “Darlin’, Here’s to You” record and then some. It was amazing. You can catch them next week when the Dallas Observer Music Awards showcase show goes down in Deep Ellum. They’ll be playing at Club Dada at 1 in the morning. They also have a free show coming up on October 20th outside the AT&T Performing Arts Center, where they’ll go on at 5:30, with Ryan Thomas Becker & the Last Joke following them.

Friday, September 16, 2011 - “…Tomorrow’s Just a Day With Another Name…”

Club Dada has been (or will be) hosting some awesome shows lately, that really cater to musical preferences. And tonight was another one of those killer line-ups.

Kicking off the night was Spook Easy, who I’ve been wanting to see for some time now. Guitarist, Logan Kelson, started them into the first song, as vocalist and keyboard player, Stephanie Burns, announced the song was “A new one.” They did another song after it, and then switched things up a bit. “Do y’all mind if I sing a song?” Logan asked everyone. “I know, I’m not Stephanie.” he joked, while adjusting his mic stand. I guess I was more skeptical of how he would sound than what I thought, cause when he opened his mouth and sang the song, I was bit surprised at how good he sounded. I wouldn’t say he had a great voice, though it was distinctive. Stephanie took back the reins for the next song, one from their “On a Bad Ship" EP, "Pond", which they followed with they said was an "old" song. The drummer of the band Hormones, Jordan, was filling in with them this night, and he started them into their next song, banging about the full kit, and Stephanie abandoned the keys for the next few songs. Next, they did a cover tune, then another from their EP, "Via Matilda". Their set seemed to pass pretty quickly, as they were already on their last song, which Joe Tacke began with some bass notes, then Logan came in, with the other members not far behind.

It was a very good 35 minutes, and I love the more unique sound this band has carved for themselves, which I think could be attributed partly to the distortion Stephanie uses on her vocals, which gives them a slight soupy sound.

People On Vacation was next, though not in the same acoustic format they were in when I saw them at Renfield’s Corner a few weeks ago. Noticeable from the start was that Jaret Reddick was using an electric guitar, and they also employed some backing tracks, as a drum beat began, which led them into “Rainy Day”. “Thanks.” said Ryan Hamilton, before they started their next song, “Because of the Sun”. After that one, Jaret thanked everyone. “We’re trying out a lot of new gadgets tonight.” he told everyone. “So, if something screws up, I will not carry on like a professional. I will stop in the middle of the song…” “Here’s a question. What if you play the wrong chord in the middle of the song?” Ryan asked him. Jaret responded with something to the effect that he wouldn’t make a big deal out of that. Then Ryan asked everyone to give it up for Jaret. “He tuned his own guitar tonight.” he said. And indeed, some of the people did applaud his accomplishment. But Jaret must’ve felt it was too early on, and jokingly told them not to yet, cause “…you don’t know how it will sound…”. They then did their next song, and after it Jaret compared he and Ryan to Thelma and Louise. “Wait, was one of them hotter?” Ryan asked him. “Yes!” Jaret exclaimed. “One of them only wore a wife beater and never had a bra on. It was awesome!” “Okay, I want to be her.” Ryan told him and that took them into “Back to Being Friends”. “I like these shows.” Jaret stated after the song. “We just stand here and it requires little effort on my behalf.” He then corrected himself. “I’m sorry, it takes little effort on my part for your behalf”. “She Was The Only One” came next, and after it Ryan said, “Oh yeah, y’all like that one.” “Are you informing or observing?” Jaret asked him, and they soon started the next  song. “…This next song we usually make a sing along.” Ryan informed the show goers. “I know there’s not many people here, but I don’t feel like anyone has a big ego, so maybe we can make this work…” he finished, and they began “But It’s Not Love”. The sing along didn’t go too well though, as only a small handful of people participated. Jaret next plugged their debut EP, which is due out on Thanksgiving, then looked at Ryan. “Let’s act like we’re going to do a high five and then not!” he told him, as they each raised a hand, and pretended they were. “Oh, forget it.” said Jaret at the last minute. They set up the next song as being about the prettiest girl in the world, aptly titled, “The Prettiest Girl In the World”. Then Ryan cleared the air for their next song. “Contrary to popular belief. Well, I don’t even know if it’s popular belief. But this next song isn’t about suicide, it’s about zombies.” “Come on!” Jaret said to him. “Popular belief?!” as he pointed out at all the people, or better the complete lack of. Perhaps the rain kept people in this night, but the crowd was pathetic, and you certainly never would have guessed that nearly eight months ago this band pretty much sold-out the Cambridge Room at the House of Blues. Jaret then mentioned that his son threw wiffle balls at them as they filmed the music video for the song. “…But we had to edit that out, cause we didn’t have an agreement with the wiffle ball company.” A drum track kicked off “Better Off Dead”, before Ryan sang the first line, “Live life free of inhibition…” Their set was right at the end and Jaret said he had to be back in the suburbs the next morning for his “…five year olds soccer game.” and they closed their 43 minute set with “Punk Rock World”.

The addition of the drum beats definitely added to the depth of the music, and made the show even more enjoyable. Check ‘em out in Tulsa, Oklahoma on September 22nd and 23rd at the Downtown Lounge. They’ll be in Wichita Falls at the Neon Spur on October 7th and The Aardvark in Fort Worth the following night. Then they’ll be doing a free show at Renfield’s Corner on November 9th.

Madison King and her band began setting up literally as soon as POV finished, and at 12:06 kicked off their 45 minute set. They did a couple of songs, then she announced the next one was called “Here In Arms”. As they finished the next song the music turned into some horrible sounding feedback, and she and bassist, Jeff Dyer, looked at each other, like they were unsure who was responsible for it. “That’s rock ‘n’ roll is what that is.” said Madison. “So, this is pretty exciting to say. This next song is currently on the radio.” she said of the next song, and also plugged the station, KXT 91.7. They continued on with “Feel The Same” and my personal favorite, “Nazarene”. She strummed her acoustic guitar, in preparation for the next song, and winced at the sound it made. It had apparently gotten out of tune and she took a moment to fix that, before they did the incredibly catchy, “Whiskey In The Morning”. During the song someone had gotten a shot of, I assume whiskey, and she toasted with her band and the crowd. “I’m all talk.” she said, after she had downed the shot. Saying she didn’t really like whiskey too much. The title track of her new record, “Darlin’, Here’s To You”, closed out the set, yet they still had one song in store for the people. This last song, “Dallas”, went out to a girl who is apparently a big fan, because not only did she have on a Madison King shirt, she had been requesting this song since the start of the show. “These guys don’t the song.” she said, speaking of her guitarist, drummer, and bassist. You wouldn’t have known it though, as they just went with it and improvised it quite well. It ended up being my favorite song of the night, possible because it speaks so well of the Lone Star State, and as the song describes, I, like most Texans, have “…pride coming out of my ears…” And the chorus for the song was nothing but shear genius. “…I’ll take you to the dead place of JFK, it’ll blow you away.” And on the final chorus added afterwards, “…Like it did to him on the Grassy Knoll that day.” The only part of the song I disagreed with was that “…All the rich kids live in Plano…” That’s an unjust stereotype, in the same way that most of the world thinks all Texans live on ranches, ride horses everywhere they go, and constantly say “Yee Haw”. Sure, it sounds good, but not entirely accurate.

For whatever reason, I liked this show much better than their one here last month, for the first annual Ace-A-Thon. And while I didn’t hear it at that show, their music does have a slight country sound to it. You should definitely head over to iTunes and buy the album, as I bought it at this show and it is nothing short of amazing. They’ll be at Allgood Cafe this coming Thursday, September 22nd, opening for Mindy Smith. And they have a couple of free shows in October, the first at Renfield’s Corner on the 5th, and the 20th they partake in the Patio Sessions at the AT&T Performing Arts Center.  And if you feel so inclined, you can also vote in the Dallas Observer Music Awards, where she is up in both the “Best Solo Act” and “Best Female Vocalist” categories.