I must admit, I was partially expecting Hayes Carll’s show at The Kessler Theater this night to be a full band performance.
Sure, I knew these series of shows he was doing around Texas were acoustic duo shows, but in the announcement regarding them, there was also mention that there would be some full band gigs sprinkled in certain places. Then take into account that this was his fifth and final straight night in D/FW. This was also his second sold out Dallas show of the week (the first had been Wednesday at the Double Wide), and he had also played Denton, plus made a two-night stand in Fort Worth (and if those shows weren’t totally sold out, I’d bet they were close to it.)
There aren’t many musicians who can play the same area that much so close together and still bring people out; which was why I thought this might be a full band show, because after four nights in the metroplex, I figured he’d be doing something bigger to still get the fans out.
Upon walking into the showroom after the lone opening act started it was obvious there would be no band. The stage was barren of all the amps and instruments that are typically set up, and that had me very intrigued.
After all, how good a musician really is all comes down to what they are capable of in a stripped down environment.
Sure, Hayes Carll may mine an Americana genre of music, but he has plenty of loud rock songs that hold the crowd’s attention with ease. Would he still be able to do that basically all on his lonesome? I honestly didn’t know, though I would soon find out just how good of a singer/songwriter an all-around musician he really was (or wasn’t).
The opening artist was Scott Nolan, who was on his first song when I walked in, and at first, I could have cared less for him.
That opening tune didn’t do much for me, though the night would get better; and this guy was a storyteller through and through.
I believe it was after that first song that he mentioned he had made a long drive from his hometown of Winnipeg, Manitoba. He mentioned he drove about two hours, while his girlfriend drove sixteen or so. He joked about that and several other things, including saying he had cleaned up his appearance a bit, getting a haircut and trimming his beard (which was still fairly long) after hibernating for the winter, saying he figured he should look a little more decent to try to get by customs.
As soon as he stopped the on-sided conversation, he began his next song, which was “Shake it Loose”. The bluesy number still wasn’t my favorite of his, but it certainly had my attention, especially when he softened his guitar playing and almost dryly gasp into the mic, “Shake it loose. Come on baby, shake it loose…”
He told as many if not more songs than he did play songs; which I enjoyed. It’s always nice getting some back-story to songs, and even if you don’t know them, it allows them to connect with you more. For example, a lengthy story he shared about his late tour manager, who he said had been the tour manager for a few other bands before he and Scott crossed paths. Those few other bands (at least the ones mentioned) were The Guess Who and BTO.
“…Then he ended up with me, and you see how that turned out…” said Scott, who playfully joked that he has often thought he was the man who (unintentionally) killed Ernie Blackburn. He went on to tell everyone that Ernie owned a backline company, clarifying for those who might not know that, that was company for “lazy musicians” who wanted to rent gear instead of haul their own around. The motto he had for the company was “You Rock, We Roll”.
Since he left this world, Scott said he had played this song every time he did a show, and always did it for his dear friend. I think you can figure out what it was called.
“’Cause you rock, we roll. That’s what you told me, brother. We can do it together, you can’t have one without the other…” he sang on that incredible song, which was the one that won me over. Considering it was just him, his guitar and harmonica, it was loud and it was rocking; and knowing that story behind it made it pretty deep.
Another story he told was about Folsom Prison, where he was invited to a singer/songwriter workshop a few years back. He mentioned his cousin spent most of the last twenty years of his life in that prison, and he was the first person/inmate to mix all of the cultures of the inmates into one room, finding a common ground in music.
Scott noted what a really amazing thing it was, seeing Bloods, Crips, members of the Mexican Mafia, white supremacists and others co-existing together and getting along while they played music. It goes to show what true power music does have, and even now you could tell Scott was humbled and amazed by his experience there.
That may have been the neatest story he shared, but the best one came when he said he came home one day to his girlfriend and one of her friends drinking red wine. They had been doing that for awhile, and shortly after switched to something else (tequila maybe? I don’t remember for sure.) “So I did what any sensible man would do.” he said, “I joined in.”
His girlfriend’s friend brought up the game of Twister, which he pointed out was apparently responsible for a lot of the divorcees in the 70’s, “Including my own parents.” he said, making it hard to tell if he was being serious or perhaps joking.
To make a Twister board he got several albums and placed them on the floor, while a corkscrew acted as the spinner. I don’t remember what the albums were, though he said he put a lot of thought into it, naming some of them and even where he placed them.
One was an album by Bobby Bare, and Scott mentioned he had made friends with Bobby Bare Jr., whom he told this story to. “…And eventually I got a note from Bobby Bare (Sr.) that just said, ‘You’re welcome, kid.”
Aptly, the song was titled “Twister”, and it was as hilarious as you would expect. “For my Christian neighbors, I pull the curtains tight. If this is wrong, I don’t want to be right…” he crooned on the short track.
I might not have been sure at first, but Scott Nolan was a great singer/songwriter, and his 36-minutes on stage seemed to pass by too quickly.
If you get a chance, go see one of his shows. He’s highly entertaining, and in more aspects than just being a talented musician. At the very least, check out his music in iTUNES (also HERE). You’ll be glad you did, especially if you’re a fan of the singer/songwriter genre.
With his set being done, all that was left now was to wait for Hayes Carll to take the stage, which happened about half an hour later.
It was 9:06 when the lights dimmed and Scott Nolan returned to the stage; this time to backup his friend Hayes Carll. All the fanfare went to Hayes Carll, of course. A lot of it may have been because the room at The Kessler is more intimate, but the noise level earsplitting. I mean, I had been to a show a couple nights before this at a venue and a crowd that was much larger than this, and that specific band didn’t even get near the reaction Mr. Carll did this night.
Like I said, part of that surely has to do with the size of the room, but on the other hand, he is just that loved.
It was anyone’s guess as to what would come first, either a song or a story. It wound up being the former, as he picked up his acoustic guitar and lightly plucked the strings, eventually starting the chords for “Beaumont”, which was greeted with almost as much applause as Hayes had gotten.
“The night was feelin’ lucky, so I asked you to dance, and the way you looked up at me made me think I had a chance. When I put my arms around you, I knew you weren’t given in. I hope it will be different if I pass this way again.” he sang on the second verse of this tale of semi-heartache, while the fans acted as his backing vocalists, singing every word along with him. It was never overpowering of what he was doing, but more just added a nice echo effect to it all.
“Welcome to The Kessler…” he said once that classic had concluded. His talk quickly turned to Scott Nolan, who sit on the seat he had earlier, with a guitar in hand and keyboard at his side. “I’m sure Scott already told y’all about the long drive he made…” Hayes said, before the conversation took another turn, this time to Winnipeg. “…The last time I was there, it was forty-two degrees below…” said Hayes, which made me shiver just hearing about temperatures that cold.
“When you have to go, you have to question the safety of it…” he added, putting his own unique perspective on things, reminding everyone that even in when it gets cold in Texas, that’s never a real concern. “I mean, there are lots of guys walking around as eunuchs up there, and you’re like, ‘Well, what happened?’ and they say, ‘Well, I had to take piss and it took longer than expected.”
A few minutes was all it took for the comedy portion of the show to get into full swing, and there was still plenty of it to come.
“So, this is night ten of my Pub Crawl Tour…” said Hayes, joking in his dry sense of humor that he was just “getting lazy” since he was doing these as acoustic duo gigs. “Basically, I just pick one town and then play five shows there.” he quipped, pointing out he had done five shows down in Austin, before bringing it up here to North Texas.
He then mentioned his Double Wide gig, specifically speaking about the venue when he said it was “similar” to The Kessler. That other venue is great, and it’s the best of the best as far as dive bars go, and I was curious how he was going to draw a comparison between it and the elegant listening room that is The Kessler. He paused for a second after saying it was “similar”, then carried on, “In almost no way at all.”
He had already been talking longer than he had played music thus far (not that anyone minded it), but he was due for another song now, and busted out another from 2008’s “Trouble In Mind”, “Wild as a Turkey”.
Afterwards, came a block of new songs. In fact, the only new songs he did were all strung together here, and Hayes made clear that the first of these new ones “wasn’t for everyone”. “Actually, I don’t know if it’s for anyone.” He added, saying he could handle any criticisms people might have.
“I used to want to get with you.” he sang at the start; taking a strategic pause to let the crowd react. Nearly everyone was cheering over the subject matter, and then he continued with the next line, “But now I want to get with your daugh-ter.” he crooned, again pausing afterwards. Some people still hollered back at him, liking the lyrics even more now that he had said that, while others quietly laughed and shook their heads. “Yeah, that’s usually where I lose people…” he remarked, his dry sense of humor again coming in handy.
It was classic Hayes, having moments like that where you couldn’t help but laugh, and others that were flat-out honest. I’m sure I’m paraphrasing this, but part of the chorus was something like, “Maybe you should just stop asking questions to things you don’t want to know.”
The next new song was about his ten-year-old son. “He’s a magician. Not a musician, a magician…” Hayes pointed out, making sure everyone heard him correctly, saying it’s kind of hard as a parent when your child tells you they want to be a magician. “He’s also into cake decorating.” he said, as if to say it only got worse.
He talked about when his son first started trying all the tricks that he would quickly call him out on it and tell him he could see what he was doing. “He has tiny hands.” he suddenly said, sending the audience into a roaring fit of laughter, which only intensified when he thought about it for a second and admitted, “…I was a dick about it.”
There’s a silver lining to the story, though, and it’s that his son stuck it out, never paying attention to any discouraging words, and has gotten pretty good at it. So good in fact, that he got asked to join the Austin Association of Magicians (or something like that). The audience applauded that feat. “Oh, you’ve heard of them?” Hayes answered surprisingly. “They’re an ancient, mystic society that meets every other Monday at the International House of Pancakes.”
The song is called “Magic Kid”, and not only is a lovely song that a father wrote for his son, but it’s also an uplifting song for anyone, with a core message of just being yourself, finding something you like and enjoy and sticking with it, regardless of what anyone says or thinks.
With those two out of the way, Hayes mentioned that these new songs were going in the “reverse order of life”. The first one being about when your older, while “Magic Kid” was about a young kid. Now, the focus was going to shift to something a little more serious, and Hayes set up the next one as being a song about “losing your significant other to someone else”.
“I don’t know all the words, but we’ll get as far as we can.” he mentioned right before starting the track that sounded like it be another classic Hayes Carll song. It was, but not in the way everyone had first thought.
The first line of the second verse was something like, “Things have changed since he moved in…”, and he continued singing, “…He poots, you think it’s cute. I poot, you leave the room…”
Are you getting this yet? Yes, Hayes Carll has again proved his songwriting genius by crafting a track about losing one’s wife to the child y’all had together. “My baby took my baby away…” went a line from the chorus.
I was in near tears on that one from laughing so hard and I think more than a few people were in the same boat, because bursts of laughter could be heard all throughout the song, while he sang it with a straight face. I’m being dead serious when I say that song was genius (it’s on the same level as that old hit “She Left Me for Jesus”), and if it doesn’t make the cut on his next album I’ll be very upset, because it’s one of the greatest things that has ever been written, and not just by him.
“I’m realizing three of these songs won’t be popular with ladies.” he confessed after that one. “I have songs for ladies…” he continued, but noted those were more for the guys, or any woman who might have a sense of humor for situations like that. (That’s possible for two of those songs, though I don’t imagine many, if any woman would find a song about wanting to basically “upgrade” from her to her daughter funny. Maybe I’m wrong, though.)
So, now that those three stage of live had been covered there was only one left: conception.
Hayes mentioned that subject matter of this next song was something that has never happened to him “I’ve played this song one hundred and seventy-four times…” he said, making a point as to how rare an event this is.
I already knew what song this had to be, and I was excited, because the only other time I had heard him do it was the first show of his I ever say, almost two years ago at the Homegrown Music Festival in Dallas. He then mentioned the name of the song which was “One Bed, Two Girls, Three Bottles of Wine”.
Apparently, he didn’t want Scott Nolan being the only guy who did a song about having a threesome.
“…I’ll be your boy, your toy to torture, touch and teach me. So, Sandra tied me up as Sally laid me down…” he sang, before getting to the brilliant chorus, “…While I’m kissing hers, the others loving mine. If the devil is watching, he thinks I’m doing fine…” It only got better on the second verse “…Whoo-wee, someone’s chewing on my knee… Oh flip, they’re playing with my…” he stepped back from the mic at that last part, leaving it up to the audience to infer what the next word would have been.
Things slowed down on the instrumental break, as Hayes stated he kept hoping that “life will imitate art”. He then elaborated on that. “I write songs about beer. People bring me beer. I write songs about drugs. People will sometimes slip me drugs. I write a song about a three-way. Nothing.” he said, acting perplexed by it all.
As funny as the song is though, the best part is the realistic approach it takes, with the hero of the story more or less cracking under the pressure. “…For five minutes I was king of all I see, and then the end came sooner than expected…” Hayes sang, going on to mention he wished he had paid more attention to adult movies during his teen years, so he’d know how to handle such a “unique and surprisingly complicated situation”, and which point he’s left to watch as the girls continued without him.
Man, that was great. I have to say, I liked the way the show started, but I was still on the fence as to how it might play out, but those new tracks squashed the doubt I had.
After those few fun(ny) songs, it was time to bring the mood back down, and “Chances Are” was the perfect song to do that. “…Every heart has got a story, mine just has a few more scars. But they could heal if you would hold me and tell me what my chances are.” sang Hayes on the somber tune, a tune that bleeds heartache with every word and every note, which is precisely what makes it so good.
It was time for another story now, as Hayes mentioned that it was Scott Nolan who wrote this next song, a staple of his. “…I try to give credit where credit is due whenever I can…” Hayes said, as he went on to relay a story Scott had told him about some of his more recent shows where he opened up with this song that he wrote, and later had people from the crowd come up to him and ask, “Why did you open with a Hayes Carll song?”
“And you shouldn’t. You should never open with a Hayes Carll song.” joked Hayes. The conversation than took a different turn, when he went into a little tale about being up in Canada with a friend (I don’t remember who he said he was with) and his friend got invited to the “Canadian equivalent of the White House”. Hayes tagged along with him, and mentioned there were all these intimidating armed guards outside the place, when he happened to realize he had forgotten his passport.
“…So I grabbed one of my CD’s and was like, ‘This has my picture on it. This is me…” he said, as he attempted to get them to let him in. He said they stared at for just a second, then looked at him, said “Okay. Go on.” and motioned him in.
“Canadians.” Hayes simply said, sounding amazed by their kind and trusting nature.
By that time, I had almost forgotten they had even talked about a song that Scott had written. Apparently, I owe Mr. Scott Nolan a big thank you, because he wrote what is my favorite Hayes Carll song.
Hayes played some notes on his harmonica and plucked at his guitar, before singing, “Arkansas; my head hurts. I’d love to stick around and maybe make it worse. I’ve got a girl out in Henrietta, and her love is like tornado weather…” Hays sang on the slowed down version of “Bad Liver and a Broken Heart”. “Indian summer: Oklahoma sunset. If there’s a nicer place I haven’t been there yet…” sang Scott, who handled the second verse of his song. The added a nice dynamic to it, especially since Scott has such a standout and unique sound to his voice. The fans then took it upon to help out on the last verse, lightly singing along with Hayes who had taken back over. “…Doesn’t anybody care about truth anymore? I guess maybe that’s what songs are for. You’re the wind, and I’m on fire. In this line of work no one retires. Come in clean, leave torn apart. A bad liver and a broken heart…” everyone sang.
Little did the fans know, they weren’t done singing along just yet. “Drunken Poet’s Dream” is another fan favorite, and the crowd got a little riled up upon hearing. Hayes even added a few extra lines to the start of the second verse, one of which was “…She tastes like pills and cheap cologne…”
That’s one song he co-wrote with his friend and Texas music legend Ray Wylie Hubbard, whom he spoke of now, mention what a huge admirer he is of Mr. Hubbard and followed him around quite a bit in his younger days before befriending him.
For their first co-write together Hayes said he got to Ray’s place and asked him what he had been writing about lately. “Farm animals.” Hubbard answered. Hayes noted that, that was an “unexplored” style of songwriting for him. “…I usually write about drugs and alcoholism…” he said, rattling off several other topics that his music has covered, none of which had been farm animals.
“And Ray Wylie Hubbard was just killing it with farm animal songs. Let’s see, he’s got songs about goats, cows, pigs…” he said, listing off a whole menagerie of creatures. He even mentioned Ray’s song “Snake Farm” and sang a line or two from it.
“…Now, you can call me a sellout… but I’m paying my bills…” said Hayes, talking about all the companies that used that song.
Well, none of that actually happened (the being rich part at least). With that, he and Scott started the final track from his “Little Rock” album, “Chickens”, which was the only song he did from that record this night. Scott stole show during it, tearing into an incredible guitar solo that left everyone’s mouth agape, while they cheered his prowess as a guitarist.
Afterwards, Hayes went even further back than that 2005 album. He mentioned that this next song was one of the first he ever wrote, and it was the first one of his songs that someone ever covered.
The band he said that covered it was a duo with a female singer, while the guy played a flute; making them sound like they were an interesting act to say the least. Also, to stick with “artistic integrity”, the woman sang the song from a “lesbian perspective”.
He then started the tune and the fans cheered with glee. “I have another song that starts like this.” Hayes quickly stated. That’s a line I’ve heard the last three times I’ve seen him, and he always plays the song that everyone new and was expecting. Tonight, it was a different story.
He did the title track from his debut album, “Flowers and Liquor”. It has held up well against his other, newer music, and one line, “…I’m getting excited, I hope I’m invited. I want to spend the night with you.” is still pure Hayes, even twelve years after that debut album dropped.
He rolled the end of that one right into the title track from his current LP, “KMAG YOYO”. It’s a song you would think would sound good acoustic, but surprisingly, it did. Actually, it was great in this format. Lyrically it’s closer to being a rap (really) and given the fact that he was setting his own pace on it this time, Hayes seemed to do it just a hair quicker than it’s performed at the full band shows.
He made a switch to an electric guitar for the next couple of songs; playing some notes as the fans wondered what was coming next. He played a brief lead in to the song, before finally getting to the all too recognizable notes of “I Got a Gig”, a song that chronicles his adventures of starting out as a musician and all the dive bars you have to play while paying your dues.
Upon finishing it, Hayes pointed out it had been something like five years since he and Scott had played together like they were at the moment, and he congratulated him for being so great “on the fly”. Now that impressed me, because I figured there had been some type of rehearsal done. Nope, he was just winging it, and you never would have guessed it.
“…Drinking beers is about the only thing I can do anymore without practice…” Hayes said, again using his deadpan delivery of humor. But to make sure Scott didn’t feel signaled out by that, Hayes told everyone he was going to put himself in similar shows and do a song he seldom plays.
“Don’t Let Me Fall” was the song he did, which is a solid little track from “Trouble In Mind”, and I enjoyed getting to hear it live.
After switching back to his acoustic guitar, Hayes announced he was going to do a song by his friend. Everyone already knew what was coming, but Hayes confirmed it by saying it was a song about why it’s a good idea for traveling musicians to carry a Bible on their dashboard. Aptly, the song is called “Bible On the Dash”, and it tells a very entertaining story about how you can get out any trouble you might run into (i.e. police officers, border stops, etc.) by simply having a copy of the good book with you.
How good the night get any better than that? Well, there was still the greatest duet ever written to do, though I skeptical how this might turn out.
Hayes said at some of these shows he had done both the male and female parts, but opted to start bringing fans on stage to sing with him to give it more of a vibe. When he did this is Dallas for his Holiday Hangover Tour, it was a disaster (see HERE), hence why I was skeptical as to how this might go.
He then went into a story about one of the Fort Worth shows he had played a night or two before, where there were “five thousand people” out in the crowd. He asked for a volunteer, and one woman was almost “falling over the barricade” as he put it, trying to be picked.
“…Will you put your lips to the microphone and sing clearly?” was one of the questions he asked her, and she said yes to all of them.
“…Minutes are going by. I mean I have a cigarette and a beer in my hand just waiting. Five thousand people there, all waiting for her to get up on stage. So, she gets up there… and her name’s like, Sally or something like that. So I’m, ‘Sally, are you ready?” “Ready for what?” she responded. “To sing!” Hayes said he told her. “We just talked about when you were right out there!” “Oh, I’m not gonna sing or nothing.” she answered.
Granted, some of that was probably slightly embellished, but it made for one helluva story. So, when Hayes did chose a woman to join him, he made sure to tell her that if this didn’t go well he’d have to ask that she ;eave the show without a refund. “No pressure or anything.” he added.
It seemed like it was going to be a disaster when she got on stage and was in a slight state of disbelief when she realized she didn’t even get the lyrics “like at karaoke”. “This song’s about the great political divide in America.” Hayes said, still starting “Another Like You” regardless of what direction this might go.
He, of course, nailed his part, while the moment of truth came when it got to the first female part of the song, and the woman (whose name I sadly don’t remember) looked pretty sheepish up there. “You were falling like the Alamo. Drinking fast and talking slow…” she sang; instantly sending the sold out crowd into a deafening roar as they let her know how much they liked it.
I’m assuming she is by no means a professional singer, and given that, she had an astounding voice. I mean, wow! She sang it all very well too, and I think there were maybe just a few words at one point she forgot, but sung something else that still fit before getting back on track.
They even had a good chemistry going on the back and forth part as Hayes and her looked at one another. “Well, you’re probably a democrat.” she sang, as he remarked while they kept alternating, “Well, what the hell is wrong with that?” “Nothing if you’re Taliban.” “Well, I bet you slept with half the south.” “Oh, don’t you ever shut your mouth?”
This was redemption for that other Dallas show I mentioned, and she sang the song flawlessly.
Soon after she left the stage, Hayes started another song that was nearly unrecognizable as an acoustic song, and that was the closer for his 88-minute long set, “Stomp And Holler”. It still had a nice kick to it, though, and was still a fitting final song. “…From all I’ve seen, you only get one shot at what you’re gonna do in this life…” he sang, before getting to the line that was on the shirt I happened to be wearing, “I’m like James Brown only white and taller…”, which is followed with, “And all I wanna do is stomp and holler.”
The fans were taking the song title to heart, stomping and hollering right along with him, before some of those who were seated gave him a standing ovation as he and Scott left the stage.
That couldn’t be it, though; surely not. Okay, there were some songs that he probably wouldn’t do this night because they wouldn’t best fit the acoustic vibe, but I could think of at least one more he had to play.
He wasn’t gone anytime when he returned to the stage. “I say this every night. I would do this every night if people showed up or not, but it’s a helluva lot more fun when people do.” He told his fans, being truly humbled that this many people had come out to see him this night.
He was alone for this one, and soon began the 7-minute long encore portion with a song I was expecting, “Grateful For Christmas”.
Sure, he had sung plenty of gloomy songs this night about unrequited love or having your heart broken by one circumstance or another, but the most poignant song of the night was this one.
It still has that certain Hayes Carll charm, like in the line, “Lord, what I’d give for one good looking cousin.” but it’s far from being a happy song. Instead, it goes through all the stages of Christmas you have in your life. When you’re a kid, the holiday is (usually) a big family affair, probably traveling somewhere (in this case Waco) where your grandparents live, surrounded by aunts, uncles and cousins galore. Then you lose a grandparent, and the get together gets a little smaller; more with your immediate family.
“Hey mom, how you doing? Yeah, I miss him too…” he sang on the final verse, which deals with the loss of a parent, along with having to share the holiday between your family and your spouses.
It really brought a little tear to your eye, and while I don’t listen to it often on the record, it is a song that cuts right to the bone. It’s a good thing, though, because it’s a song that reaffirms a way of thinking I’ve had for many years now: savor the small things in life and enjoy every second you spend with anyone you care for. Be it family, friends or whatever, because they won’t always be there, and just because something has been one way for most of your life (like Christmas), doesn’t mean it always will be. Point is, there is a lesson in this song, and it’s one that should be taken to heart.
So, after killing the happy mood with that one, it was time to end on a positive note.
Scott rejoined him for this last number, which again had fans ecstatic when they heard the opening chords. Remember that song earlier where I said Hayes mentioned he has two songs that start the same way. Well, “Girl Downtown” is the one that everybody knows and loves (and the one he typically plays). It created another sing-along moment, and the fun, happy song about love was a wonderful way to wrap-up the night.
Yeah, I had my doubts about how god this show might be, but Hayes Carll proved just what an excellent musician he is this night.
“Beaumont” ensnared the fans from the get go, and by the time he got to those brand new songs I was enthralled, while he finished strong with the last several tracks of the main set.
If I had to pick, I’d still say the full band shows are better overall, but the band isn’t necessary to him putting on a memorable show.
His witty banter is one part that ensures that, while the songs still sounded fantastic, even if they lacked the punch they usually have.
Basically, Hayes Carll is a true entertainer, because he can hold your attention and keep you invested in what he’s doing no matter what the setting is.
I’ll finish by saying this: this was the fourth straight night I had been out at concerts for the week. I had seen some great local rock bands, a killer national touring electronic/pop band from Detroit, and one of the best rising stars in the Texas music scene. However, this show, this acoustic show by one of the most prolific (and underrated on a national scale) singer/songwriters who’s currently in the game was the best show out of those four.
If you haven’t heard of Hayes Carll, you’re really missing out, and you remedy that by going over to iTUNES right this instant and checking out his music. (Don’t use, “Oh, but he’s an Americana musician and I don’t like Americana.” as an excuse, because his music is as much rock as anything.)
By now, the Pub Crawl Tour is over, but he still has some shows coming up here and there. His full schedule can be viewed HERE.
It was a phenomenal night here at The Kessler, and in just six days it would all be repeated (well, with different bands, at least.)
I must admit, I was partially expecting Hayes Carll’s show at The Kessler Theater this night to be a full band performance.
Now that the music portion of SXSW is getting underway, the North Texas music lovers can start indulging in all the talent that’s traveling south (and making pit stops along the way). And for that, the booking entity that is Parade of Flesh has everyone covered, with a lot of great stuff coming down the pike this week.
Perhaps the most buzzworthy and intriguing show they have will be taking place at Club Dada on Wednesday, when Parade of Flesh will give the folks of Dallas a taste of The Pizza Underground.
You can tell by the name alone that they are a bit of a comedy act, and the New York based quintet spoofs songs from The Velvet Underground, one way or another making them all about pizza.
Surprisingly, as odd, and even awful as that sounds, it actually looks and sounds rather good. In fact, in watching some of the live videos that can be found on Youtube, there’s a slight entrancing quality to this band who gets their percussion by beating a pizza box and plays an assortment of other seldom used instruments, such as a kazoo and a glockenspiel.
People will no doubt be out in droves, if for no other reason than just to experience firsthand what The Pizza Underground is like. Aside from that, how many times are you ever going to see Macaulay Culkin (yes, the actor) singing and playing songs about pizza?
(Listen to The Pizza Underground’s demo HERE)
Sure, The Pizza Underground will be the band everyone is talking about when the night’s over, but there’s some other great talent on the bill, like Moving Units.
The Los Angeles based outfit, which is led by Blake Miller, mines a more poppy genre and classifies themselves as being Nu Disco. They pull of said disco vibe without over-saturating it in electronic elements, though. Instead, it’s a nice blend of all the computerized effects with a cool and fun pop/rock sound that is bound to have most of the crowd at Dada this night dancing and moving around.
(Listen to “Until She Says”)
Starting off the show will be singer/songwriter Toby Goodshank, who has released over a dozen records in his career thus far, with his newest one due out next month. His folk stylings may differ a bit from the other acts on the bill, though he sounds to be a solid musician in every regard; and I imagine his set will prove an excellent way to start of the night.
(Listen to “Truth Jump Fall”)
So, come out on this Wednesday night and see what Parade of Flesh has cooked up for you. It’s gonna be a memorable show from start to finish, and one you’ll most likely be telling your friends about (you’re friends who aren’t lucky enough to be here, that is).
Wednesday, March 12th @ Club Dada
Doors @ 8
$13 to $15 (purchase advanced tickets HERE)
If you’ve heard of King Camel Productions (run by Jeffrey Brown) lately, it’s probably because of the Local Education shows he been presenting, having put on six in a little over a month (and, of course, they typically take place on Hump Day).
However, with SXSW coming up, those are momentarily taking a backseat so he can focus on the touring bands coming through. For example: the SW ForeplayFest that’s coming up at the Double Wide on Tuesday.
The Nashville based Pujol will be the headliner of this epic bill, and with a new album (the bands second LP) due out in just a couple months, you can expect to hear a bunch of new songs from them. I can’t say I’ve seen Pujol before, though I have heard good things about their shows, and their music, which they classify as Southern Gothic Rock, has a good sound. It’s often sludgy, which could largely be attributed to the semi-coarse voice Daniel Pujol has, which, in turn gives the music a lot of character.
(Listen to “Black Rabbit” & “Mayday”)
(Photo credit: Alison Eden Copeland)
There are some slick punk sounds mixed in with the power pop (which at times sounds rather dreamy) style of music Nightmare Boyzzz make. The result is something that you can really get in to and surely several people will be thrashing about to the Hunstville, Alabama quintet this night.
(Listen to “Problem Child” and “Badvibes”)
(Photo credit: Alison Kaylor)
One of several bands adding some diversity to this show will be Cobalt Cranes, which is led by Kate Betuel and Tim Foley. I’ve never been a real fan of the shoegaze genre, and while Cobalt Cranes incorporates that style into their sound, they’re aren’t one-dimensional in the sense that, that is all they are. They bring a lot of rock to the table, too; and the Tim and Kate periodically layer their voices over one another, which makes for some lovely harmonies. Intoxicating, that’s the word I’d use to sum up this band.
(Listen to “Head in the Clouds” & “Indigo”)
Honest and raw songwriting is the trait that makes Communist Daughter, which is fronted by John Solomon, such a standout act. They have more of a folk/Americana sound to their music, but can be fairly intense when they want to be. There are some gorgeous male and female harmonies woven into some of their tracks too, sounding rather ethereal at times. I have to say, out of all the great talent on this bill, it has to be Communist Daughter I’m most interested to see.
(Listen to “Speed of Sound”)
The Great American Canyon Band from Baltimore, Maryland is yet another act on the bill, and they’re more somewhere in between the two previously mentioned acts. Paul and Krystal Masson lead a group that isn’t quite shoegaze, yet has the gauzy elements of the genre sprinkled about in every aspect of their sound, and while there’s some folk styles thrown in, it can’t truly be classified as that, either. Instead, those genres are married together in a way that creates something extremely original; and the often melancholy vibe so many of their songs possess allows their music to be pretty striking with the listener.
(Listen to “Lost at Sea” & “Young Lady”)
(Photo credit: (Sarah Sunderman)
There’s a very fuzzed out sound to Douglas & The Furs, much like you would expect from a California rock trio. It’s some pretty trippy and untamed Rock ‘n’ Roll they play, and they sound to be some very proficient musicians to boot. This won’t be their first show at the Double Wide either, so they’ll surely have some fans out supporting them, while they make more along the way.
(Listen to “You’re Itching Into My Mind”)
(Photo credit: Vishal Kumar Malhotra)
The lone North Texas (or even just Texas) band on the bill is Fort Worth’s The Longshots. They’ve been busy since releasing a new album just a few weeks back, and have toured through a few states since then, and this stop in their home area will be a short one, before they travel down to SXSW and then end the month with some shows out in Los Angeles. There’s a certain garage rock style to their fun, yet intense rock tracks, making it obvious as to why they’ve gotten so much buzz surrounding them lately.
(Listen to “The Chase”)
So, if you are going to make the trek down to Austin for SXSW, come get warmed up for it, and if you’re not, at least you’ll get to experience a portion of what you’ll be missing out on. I’d also be willing to bet that King Camels’ SW ForeplayFest will wind up becoming an annual thing, so not only will you be a part of history if you attend it, you’ll also be able to brag to your friends one day that you were at the first one, before it was a big deal.
Tuesday, March 11th @ Double Wide.
Doors @ 8
$10 (purchase advanced tickets HERE)
Lately, if I have made the trip across the D/FW metroplex to Fort Worth, the destination has been Billy Bob’s Texas.
It was more of the same this night, when the venue that is known for being the “world’s largest honky-tonk” was hosting one of the best bands in the state, The Dirty River Boys.
There was an opening band this night, and that was Crooks from Austin.
Admittedly, I didn’t keep up with their set as far as what songs they did, but I’ll hit the highlights of what I do remember.
They were playing the smaller Honky-tonk stage, and had already started by the time I got there.
They finished the song they were doing, at which point singer and acoustic guitarist Josh Mazour regaled the audience with a story about how it’s not a good idea to decide to pick up a stray cat and pet it. Evidently, that was something he had tried recently and learned the hard way why it’s not wise.
They had a truly authentic country sound, from the twang in his voice, to the upright bass Joey McGill played, and even had an accordion and trumpet thrown into the mix, which were played by Anthony Ortiz Jr. and Doug Day, respectively.
They did at least one cover during their time on stage (I don’t recall what famous country singer they covered, since country music is not my forte), but it was good. Their original stuff was even better, and you could tell the audience was liking by all the people that swarmed the dance floor and danced with their special someone’s.
Even the slower “Pull Up Your Boots” got some movement going, while a song that stood out to me was “My First Gun”. Granted, that was probably because of the story that accompanied it, which was Josh informing everyone that he wrote it about five years or so ago, when he was dreaming about killing his boss at the time. “…I never did anything to him or his woman, but I thought about it… A lot.” he said before they started the track.
Some of their final songs where just the core group of Josh, Joey, lead guitarist Ryan Goebel and drummer Rob Bacak, before Anthony and Doug rejoined them for their final few songs.
They were quite good. I can’t say I liked them to the point that I’d feel like I have to see them the next time they come through the North Texas area, though I am contemplating buying their record. So yeah, overall, I did enjoy Crooks.
They have plenty of shows coming up across Texas, including a return trip to Billy Bob’s on May 8th, plus a gig at Hat Tricks in Lewisville on March 28th. For their full tour schedule, go HERE. Also, you can find their LP on either iTUNES or BANDCAMP.
They were a good little warm-up act, but the real show was going to come when The Dirty River Boys took the main stage.
There was a thirty-minute break in between bands, which gave most of the people plenty of time to be shown to their seats at the sea of tables that cover the floor in front of the main stage.
By the time 10:30 rolled around and one of the staff members at Billy Bob’s came out to introduce the band, there were a surprising amount of people there. I saw surprising given the fact that The Dirty River Boys are still by all accounts a local band. They may do shows all over the country, but they’re widely known yet. However, the healthy fan base they do have is also a dedicated one, which was proved this night.
At 10:32 bassist Colton James, drummer Travis Stearns and the two singers and acoustic guitarists Marco Gutierrez and Nino Cooper stepped on stage.
“How we doing Billy Bob’s Texas?!” Marco asked, while Travis went ahead and gave the crowd some percussion by slapping his hands against the cajon he sat on.
Having seen them just barely a month before; I was expecting the same setlist, since most bands don’t switch things up that often. Then again, The Dirty River Boys aren’t most bands, and when Nino grabbed the mandolin, it became obvious that this wouldn’t be the exact same show I had seen last month, and that had me excited.
They wound up starting with “Boomtown”, and Nino jumped about at the start while he strummed the mandolin. The fans responded well to it, and it was an excellent opener, not only being one of their tracks that really gets people pumped up, but also one that shows how much talent resides in this band, as they handled some of the words in rounds, with Marco and Colton singing and harmonizing along with Nino. There was even a cool moment after the second chorus where Colton spun his upright bass around, while the feathers and raccoon pelt that hang from it twirled right along with it.
Once it was done, Marco led them right into the title track from their second EP, “Train Station”, which is another song with breathtaking harmonies. “…I fear I’m losing her again. My head’s on the horizon, my heart’s wherever the hell she sleeps!” Marco belted as the track sprang to life. It’s a song that blend beauty and heartache with some Rock ‘n’ Roll moments, and there was even a part where Colton played his bass with a bow, similar to how a violinist does.
Those were two of the older songs they did this night, and while more would come, their primary focus was on the material from their forthcoming album. They had worked in a few more new tracks than they were doing the last time I saw them, and Travis counted them in on the first new one of the night, which was sung by Colton.
“Billy Bob’s, what’s going on?!” Marco asked, seeming gleeful to even be there. The fans did their part at making some noise, while he went on to say they’d be playing a lot of new songs this night. “…This one’s an old one.” he finished, as they tackled the lead track from “Science of Flight”, “Dried Up”. Apart from doing lead vocals, Marco also played the harmonica when it was called for, but that wasn’t the only add-on this song got.
They’ve been known to throw in portions of cover songs into their music, and while I’ve heard them do one of Bob Dylan’s songs before, it hasn’t been on this specific song before. “…Everybody knows that baby’s got new clothes…” he sang during the lull that came before the final chorus, then moved along to the chorus of that Dylan hit “Just Like a Woman”. “She takes just like a woman. She makes love just like a woman. And she aches just like a woman.” Marco crooned, softening his voice as each sentence ended, before getting louder when he sang, “But she breaks just like a little girl.” The crowd was roaring at that point, as they got back to their original and finished it up, before moving directly into their next number.
“This song’s about a union painter that Nino met several years ago.” Marco informed everyone, while Travis played some soft, though sad notes on his harmonica. “…I’m surrounded by others, but I’m always alone. When the paint and time comes, I jump back on the train. Spend all my green dollars just to poison my veins…” Nino sang rather somberly on “Union Painter”, which sounded like it was even a little more low-key than the album version. That’s to say it just sounded like it was more acoustic. Nino also made a little change to one of the lines, catering to where they were this night as he sang, “…I’m still searching for freedom beneath Fort Worth skies…”
Afterwards, it was time for them to bust out another new one. They might be an Americana band, with dashes of country, but above all, The Dirty River Boys are a rock band. This song was a fine example of that, and it packed a punch; while also being one of the songs that Colton used an electric bass on. Speaking of that, his playing on it was pretty slick, particularly on the chorus, as he quickly moved his hand up and down the fretboard.
“…This is what we call a Chinese fire drill.” Marco stated before leaving his post and sitting on the cajon. Travis took up the mandolin, while Colton grabbed a banjo, as Nino began to play some soaring notes. “…The louder you get, the crazier this bad boy gets!” shouted Travis as they had some fun before their next song. Marco just added a bit of drums to the start, before taking over on the upright bass for the short sing-along that is “Lookin’ for the Heart”. “But I’m just growing old with a whole deep in my soul. Won’t you give me back that heart you took from me?” sang Nino on the track that is far more upbeat than you would guess just based on the subject matter.
They reverted to their normal positions when it was done; and Marco started setting up their next song, saying on their last album they had covered a Townes Van Zandt song. “…We don’t do it too much these days…” he said, noting they had decided to this night, though. The song they covered is “Lungs”, and it’s a favorite of mine from “The Science of Flight”. They give it a real dark, ominous quality, which in turn puts a good spin on it; and while they might not play it much anymore, I’m glad they did this night.
Another new one was due now; but first Marco mentioned how lucky they were to come across Colton James and add that fine talent to the band. He [Colton] again assumed the role of lead vocalist on this one (which was one I don’t think I had heard before), though it sounded pretty good. “Take it away, Nino!” he said at one point later on in the track, as Nino ripped into a guitar solo. I have to say, acoustic guitars were not meant to sound like that. At least I’ve never heard another band make them sound the way Nino and Marco do. The guitar solo he did was amazing, and it was more electric sounding than most electric guitars are.
The audience went to clap, but had no time to, because as the final notes rang out, Nino started singing “My Son”. “I don’t know where you’re going my son. Taught you to walk, but you learned how to run.” he sang before all of his band mates joined in, again forming some incredible harmonies. “How you gonna find your way back home? The roads you knew they’re paved and gone.” Sang Nino on the first chorus, changing it slightly before sticking with the chorus from the album version the second time around, “How you gonna find your way back home? The maps you drew they’re burned and gone.”
“…The only way that you can be found is through your footsteps in the cold, dead ground.” the four guys sang, before Nino went into another brief guitar solo, which only made the song even better.
They gave a quick shout-out to their friends in Crooks for getting the party started, before firing up an instrumental piece. It was soulful and bluesy sounding, and I highly enjoyed it. I assumed it was the intro for another one of their new tracks; and they amped it up, sounding like they were about to break into whatever it was, before pulling back on it. Then the chords for “Draw” came into being; and since that was a song that was absent from their last show I caught, I was ecstatic.
It was a bit of an alternate version, and was more toned down than what their fans have to come to know from the album. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t still a great song, though. “If you’re alive, make some noise!” roared Travis during one of the breaks, as he made sure everyone was still feeling very much a part of the show/experience.
They were still far from being done, and while Colton again swapped over to his electric bass, Nino mentioned that the next song they would be doing was one that The Ranch (95.9FM) in Fort Worth had been playing, and thanked them for it.
There’s a reason why “Desert Wind” is their newest single, and one they’ve already released for public consumption (i.e. on iTUNES), and it’s made known every time they play it. “Lately, I’ve been thinking, and I just can’t seem to get you off my mind… Lovely lady, where you are. I hear your voice and I feel your scars…” he sang on the sweet and powerful track. The drumbeats are mixed in perfectly, giving the song as much kick as possible; and he got so into his drumming on this one that – for the second time this night – he knocked his hat off.
“If you know it, sing it.” Marco told the fans as he moved things right along to their next number.
“Carnival Lights” got one of loudest reactions from the fans, as well it should. It was another song they put an alternate spin on, doing a slow version of it. Actually it was pretty much just Marco until after the first chorus. “…With her poison inside medicine bottle, filled with nothing but her own shortcomings. She leans her head back; she puts ‘em down and they taste alright…” he softly sang, before Travis interrupted the pause. “Y’all still with us?!” he asked. Of course, everyone was. Marco then continued, “Please, just try to stay conscious tonight.”
Now the full band came in, just in time for the even more emotional second verse of this spectacular tune. “Billy Bob’s, this is your time to shine.” Marco told everyone before the final chorus, making the song into a genuine sing-along. It was cool moment to say the least, but they weren’t done yet.
That Dylan cover has been tacked onto this song in the past, but with it having already been done, I was wondering what, if anything, they might add to “Carnival Lights”. They did have something planned, and Colton took his cowboy hat off and hung it on the scroll of his bass for it.
“…Now I’m so happy, no sorrow in sight. Praise the Lord, I saw the light.” Marco added, which was just one of several lines they did from Han Williams’ “I Saw the Light”.
They went right into another new song; again one that was sung by Colton, before Marco took over on the next one. In between those, they chatted with their fans, though.
“Are y’all having a good time so far?” Marco asked, before saying he couldn’t stress enough what an “honor” it was to be on this stage (this was their first ever headlining show at Billy Bob’s). Then, upon finishing that song he did, he shifted the focus to their new album, which they recorded during this past December and January. “…We can’t wait to get this new music out to you all…” he said.
They only had a couple of old songs left this night, and rather surprisingly, the balled-esque “Riverbed Wildflowers” got one of the loudest reactions from fans. I mean, it should because it’s a fantastic song, even if it deals with the heartache of having feelings for someone who doesn’t feel the same. “…Well, these riverbed wildflowers are dying now; and I’m through waiting around on you…” Nino sang towards the end, before they added a little extra something to the song, repeating part of the chorus an extra time or two at the end, adding some truly lovely harmonies to it.
“This song’s about life on the road.” Marco stated, after he had again thanked everyone for making it out to the show, during which time Colton switched back to his electric bass. This song is easily the best one from their new batch of music, and even just in general. It does depict the life of touring musicians (“…Well, we work all night just to drive all day…”) and it’s more rock sounding than most of the true rock music that you hear.
They made something special with that song, and the same can be said about their next one, which Nino dedicated to the man they co-wrote it with, Ray Wylie Hubbard. “…It’s about the violence south of border.” he said, as they began to sing about how their hometown of El Paso, as well as those towns over in Mexico, have changed.
“You cross that dirty river and you never come back.” Marco sang at the end, then Colton and finally Travis, before Nino took back the reins. His band mates harmonized with him on the last line, “If you cross that dirty river then you’ll never come back.”
After one of their earlier songs (“Draw”), Marco mentioned it was just one of a few songs they had about whiskey. Well, now they got to another, which was yet another new track. “…There’s nothing like a whiskey drunk on a Friday…” he sang on the cheery tune, which will surely become a sing-along once they get their new album released.
The end was in sight now, and while Nino went over to stage left and grabbed the mandolin, Travis spoke to the crowd.
“After four and a half to five years of being a band, our van finally hit two hundred and fifty-thousand miles!” he exclaimed (a moment that was documented with the footage being posted on the bands Facebook page).
He then asked how many people had seen them before. Most everyone in attendance had, though there were still plenty of first timers. “Y’all know how we like to do it!” yelled Travis, speaking to those who were familiar with them. “…So, are y’all ready to raise some hell?!” he bellowed.
Moments after that, he got everyone to stand up. I have to say, the seats were detrimental to the energy out in the crowd. Not that everyone wasn’t enjoying the show, but you just can’t really get into the music (or at least I can’t) when you’re sitting.
With that said: once everyone rose out of their seats and began clapping, singing and stomping their feet along to “Raise Some Hell”, the mood changed immensely. In that moment every fan was one, as they were completely immersed in the song and were having the time of their lives.
That was how their 88-minute long set ended, but the celebration wasn’t done yet.
They never left the stage. Instead, Travis mentioned that they’ll celebrate fans birthdays every time they can, but there are only, at most, four chances a year that they can do shows and celebrate the birthday of one of their own. Tonight was one of those nights.
Nino Cooper was genuinely surprised when a birthday cake was brought out and handed to him, and everyone in Billy Bob’s helped in singing “Happy Birthday” to him.
“Are y’all ready to rock out another one or what?!” Travis asked after a few minutes went by.
“Crooks, we need ya.” Marco said, calling on their friends, who soon joined them on stage. Then Nino appeared, having traded his cake in for an electric guitar.
It was very appropriate for their final song, which was a cover of The Rolling Stones “Honky Tonk Woman”. I stand by what I said about their rendition of the song the last time I saw them; they do it better than The Stones; at least in comparison to the recorded version.
Think what you will of that statement, but it’s the truth, and once the song came to an end, Travis stood up from the cajon, tossed one of his drumsticks in the air, caught it and then struck right through the skin of one of his drums. Because if you’re going to end a show, you might as well end it in style, right?
This may have been their first ever headlining show at Billy Bob’s, but I don’t think it will be their last.
Okay, the place wasn’t sold out like some of the other acts that come through are capable of doing; but there were a lot of people out, and they were loving every second of the show.
Then again, how could you not? There are so many layers to The Dirty River Boys, from the harmonies, to the emotion-filled lyrics, to the awesome rock numbers, of which there are plenty.
I absolutely love this band. I may be a new fan, but they won me over from the start, and each time I see one of their shows (this was the fourth one I’ve caught), that love I feel grows.
They are, without question, one of the best bands that resides in Texas, and it’s not going to be long before the world takes notice.
They have plenty of tour dates scheduled up through July, and they can all be found HERE. That includes show in Texas, Oklahoma and even Louisiana. As far as North Texas shows go, they’ll be up in Denton on March 27th at Dan’s Silver Leaf. They’ll be at the Iron Horse Pub in Wichita Falls on March 29th, and then April 25th will find them at the Granada Theater in Dallas. They’ll also be back in Fort Worth on July 24th.
Go see ‘em if you can, and if you can’t, check out their music in iTUNES.
It was a great night of music here in Fort Worth; and while the drive there and back were both long, The Dirty River Boys were more than worth it.
The Austin, Texas based The Clouds Are Ghosts may have started as just a little side gig, but it didn’t take long for the two founding members to realize they were on to something as they began writing and recording some of their song ideas.
Joseph Salazar ended up leaving the band, but Jason Morris stuck with it, bringing five other musicians into the fold; officially giving birth to The Clouds Are Ghosts.
Their debut album came in late 2009, with an EP following a couple of years later, and now, the band has released their anxiously awaited third album, “Fractures”.
Not only is it their newest record, but it’s also their most professional and solid collection of songs to date; and it begins with the atmospheric rocker, “Fifty Four”. The piano and drums at the start create a mix of beauty and force that is astounding, blending the best of both worlds. Jason Morris’s remarkable voice than reaches out of the speakers and grabs you; growing more urgent as the pace of the music increases, ensnaring you and making sure you’re in this listening experience for the long haul.
The best quality “Defense” has is its ebb and flow. You can feel the song building to something, yet it tapers off each time you think it’s about to make its move. That highlights the more subtle elements of the track, like the smooth guitar lines, which complement one another, before it jumps into action during the final minute. It’s edgy in a way, and it’s a track not to be overlooked (or unappreciated.)
After reeling you in with those first two songs, the members of The Clouds Are Ghosts are ready to show off their softer side, and do so with “Leaman”. In comparison to those first tracks, it mines a little more of the ambient genre that the band classifies itself as. More though, it’s a serene track that’s designed to make you think. “…Now we fight, we kill, we don’t seem to know how to rise above. We think we do, so we blind the eyes of the young…” Jason croons, demonstrating a whole other side and range of his voice, often hitting some gorgeous falsetto notes.
After that little detour, the band brings things back up with eerie and dark sounding “Marionettes”. It doesn’t even take twenty seconds for them to make and establish the mood; while the semi-hushed vocals fit well with it. At least until it roars to life. That’s when it truly grabs your attention: when the guitars soar into action, and a solo is worked in nicely and at just the right moment to add some extra emphasis.
Things get al little more tender and heartfelt with “Angelface”, which, at almost six minutes, is the longest track from the album, before they get into one of the most attention getting songs.
“…There is no time for hesitation, for everyday we’re growing old.” goes a line from “Blue”, which is a song that focuses on how short life really is, and the need to live and experience it to the fullest. It’s a song that washes over you and resonates in your soul, particularly the line, “They say the road before you is long. They say that life is too short. So run…”
The dreamy, pop landscapes are back in “Singularity”, which is a rather soothing track, at least until its abrupt, vicious swell, when it transitions into one of the most intense offerings from “Fractures”, before waning as it leads into “Lavender House”. Just because the bass isn’t as noticeable or the drums aren’t as heavy doesn’t mean that latter one isn’t an impactful song, though.
Perhaps the most intricate track on the album is “Running Dream”. The guitars, bass, drums and yes, even the piano, all get their moment to shine and work in fine harmony with one another. It’s all carefully woven and acts as a nice setup for the tenth and final track on the album, “Decimeters”.
Of course, there can always be different meanings to the songs than the one each listener may interpret, but it strikes me as being a track about the impending end of a relationship. It’s not gloomy or done as a desperate plea, though. It’s actually a beautiful song filled with acceptance and a “light at the end of the tunnel” perspective.
To sum up “Fractures” in just one word: perfection.
The production quality on this thing is superb and deserves a major commendation in its own right. I mean, this thing is on par with what many of the most famous and wealthiest musicians crank out in terms of how polished and well mixed it is.
Aside from that, “Fractures” just has a very fluid feel to it; while the songs all mesh with one another, in the sense like this is more of a concept album rather than an assorted collection of songs they wrote.
While the six-piece outfit may identify as a mix of ambient, electronic and pop styles of music, they are really so much more than that. It’s all in the way they fuse those different genres together, taking the best parts of each one and creating something that is entirely their own.
When you hear pop, you probably think of the generic and increasingly mind numbing stuff you hear on the radio, but that’s not the part that The Clouds Are Ghosts brings in. It still manages to be catchy, yet creative. It’s more or less the same for the other genres, too. There is a definite electronic vibe, but there music isn’t drenched in the sound, and they balance the ambient side of things in there just right.
With all the bands that are out there, I can’t say I’m shocked that I’ve never heard of The Clouds Are Ghosts before, though I am surprised they managed to avoid my radar for so long.
In listening to this album, it’s readily apparent that they are one of the shining stars in the Austin music scene, and “Fractures” should be the album that starts really taking them places.
The Clouds Are Ghosts are:
Erin Fillingame - piano
Jason Morris - vocals
Steven Paul – guitar and synths
Michael Parker - guitar
Earl Bowers - drums
Jon Klekman- bass
Download the album for free on: BANDCAMP / Purchase in iTUNES
Visit The Clouds Are Ghosts websites: Official Website / Facebook / Twitter / Youtube
Current Shows: The band will be performing at SXSW this year. Dates include 3/11 @ Guero’s 5PM / 3/11 @ Soho Lounge 8PM / 3/13 Symphony Square 5PM. Visit their TOUR PAGE for full details.
Photo credit: Ashley Treat
Three Links was my second destination for the night, where a truly killer bill had been assembled.
I hated that I had missed my friends in Vinyl (who are spectacular), and Mothership was just starting their final song when I arrived (it had been awhile time since I had seen them, but they sounded better than ever). A band called Crypt Trip also got the night started, but all three of them were nothing more than appetizers.
Not that the place wasn’t already packed for Mothership (and assumingly the other bands); but the most exciting thing about this show was that The Virgin Wolves were coming out of their hibernation. They hadn’t played a show since last summer; and they had been greatly missed.
Of course, it took a bit for them to get set up, though the sound check was swift. “It’s been eight months since we’ve been on stage!” declared rhythm guitarist Carson Coldiron. The guitar and bass chords swelled as he spoke, pumping up the crowd, leaving everyone wondering what their opening number would be.
I’m not gonna lie, I was hoping for “Slick Shoes”, and for a few moments it seemed like that classic from the “Bad Blood” EP might be what they burst into, but it was not.
Instead, they broke into “Black Sheep”, which was equally as good. It may have been eight months since they shared a stage together, but it didn’t even take a second to reignite their energy and chemistry on stage, as Carson, lead guitarist Chase Ryan and bassist Kristin Leigh began throwing down. “I bet you look good, I bet you look good, I bet you look good in the morning light…” sang Jaimeson Toon; Chase backing her up on most of the verses, giving the song a nice one-two punch.
I’ll go ahead and say this: if they had accumulated any dust over those eight months, they made sure they shook it all off during their rehearsals.
Drummer Steve Phillips quickly led them into another gritty rock number, “Crawl”, as they started making their way down the tracklist of their “Pretty Evil Thing” LP. “…Gave you just one hour to show me how bad you can be. I gave myself three cigarettes and whistled just like a bird.” Jaimeson sang in a more sultry voice on the second verse; grabbing her hair and pulling it down over her face as she did so.
As usually, they had little transition pieces worked up between most of their songs this night, stretching it out here as Carson took a moment to thank all the bands who had opened for them. He also pointed out that this Jaimesons’ place of employment. Chase then semi-slowly plucked the strings of his guitar, bringing them to my personal favorite track, “End Of The Line”. It’s arguably their catchiest song, and shows off a little different side of The Virgin Wolves, while still retaining that raw rock vibe that makes them standout. There were some issues with the microphone towards the end, which led to Jaimeson and Chase sharing his mic, while Kristin used hers as they all sang, “I can’t sleep, I can’t breathe, I can’t find the door…”.
Steve kept on delivering the beats until they were ready for one of their slightly blues infused numbers, “What You Want To Hear”. Some banter with the crowd took place afterwards, while Chase also took time to thank everyone for coming out this night. Surprisingly, the show wasn’t sold out, though there were a lot of people there, and they were all transfixed on the band.
They kept running thorough “Pretty Evil Thing”, though they did skip track five and moved on to “Lies” when they got back to business. That (at times) showed off the bands softer side, which is something that doesn’t even really exist, and they kicked things back up with their next song.
However, they first took a moment to wish one of their fans a happy birthday. “…She’s good looking. I’m just saying. Get ya some.” Jaimeson said of the birthday girl. It was after that, that they did the darker sounding “Crooked Smile”. It’s another one of their best songs, and tonight it was a highlight of their show, as Chase and Kristin stood facing one another near the end of the song, tearing it up on their guitar and bass, respectively. Then, as it drew to a close, Jaimeson approached Chase, as the two grinded against each other.
“The amount of people in here makes me happy.” Jaimeson stated after that one. They marched on with “Oh, Sugar”, before again skipping over a track on the album, because, well, you’ve got to save the best for last.
“I like it when you don’t leave.” Jaimeson said, before encouraging everyone who might want to, to buy their merch. “…We have stuff you can wear. Stuff you can listen to. Stuff you can smell in your house.” she said, then added, “That’s right, I said smell…”
“ Vagabonds” was the final, somewhat slow song they did, and from it, they jumped right into “Bad”, which was an electrifying way to end what felt like an all too short 36-minute set.
“Surely that’s not it?” I thought. Though the band did a legit job at making it appear that they were done. Then the cries for an encore started, and eventually Chase and Carson retook the stage, saying they thought they might could do one more.
“Carson, how’s my hair look?” Chase asked. “Shitty.” Carson replied. They had a friend join them on stage for this next song, and that was Chris Breland. He sings in the band Black Habits – whom I’ve seen once before – and evidently has something else going on, because Carson mentioned he was in a band. “…I don’t know if I can say what band or not, yet…” he said, seeming to catch himself before he let it slip.
Their little encore segment started with a cover of Danzig’s “Mother”, and stylistically speaking, it fits The Virgin Wolves perfectly.
Jaimeson and Chris were a force to be reckoned with as they shared the vocal responsibilities. They killed it on the song, and as it came to an end, some guy suddenly began to crowd surf, and soon took a fall that looked like it could have been way worse for him than what it wound up being.
That wasn’t it, though. Remember, I said they skipped over one of their songs so they could save the best for last, and, without question, their best is “Virtue And Vice”.
A small mosh pit even broke out during the song (something I haven’t personally seen at one of their shows before), while both Chase and Kristin shouted the line on the second verse that they’ve revamped for live shows, “I rode all night through the motherfucking rain!” “And I wound up standing at his grave.” Jaimeson chimed in.
Towards the end, Carson even grabbed a beer can from one of the fans up front, sliding it across the neck of his guitar a bit before handing it back.
That, was the perfect way to end this show, and that song allows all five of them to unleash any energy they have left, ensuring everything gets left on the stage.
I had missed seeing The Virgin Wolves more than I knew I had, and I’m glad I at least caught them a few times close together leading up to their little hiatus.
Hopefully it won’t be another eight months before they grace a stage somewhere in the metroplex, ‘cause they’re just too damn good.
They play rock music the way it was meant to be played, and they’re live show is a must-see, especially if you haven’t seen them before.
Pick up “Pretty Evil Thing” in iTUNES (it’ll be $9.99 well spent), and throw ‘em a like on FACEBOOK so you’ll know when they have another gig.
Well, I managed to catch not one, but two fantastic shows this Saturday night. I’d call that a win.
I must confess, until just a few weeks prior to their show at the Granada Theater, I had never heard of White Lies.
That’s probably a good thing, because that meant that I haven’t spent the past few years anxiously awaiting the British band to tour through Dallas. Instead, I became a fan rather last minute and only had to wait a couple weeks.
That’s not to say I wasn’t excited, though. In fact, I was probably every bit as excited as any die-hard, longtime fan of the six-year old rock outfit.
The only opening act on this was the Brooklyn, NY singer/songwriter Frankie Rose.
I’ll preface this by saying I had trouble figuring out what songs she did, and by trouble I mean even after spending time listening to her music I couldn’t pinpoint the specific songs, which is a personal fail in my book.
But I digress. She and her band (which consisted of a drummer, lead guitarist and bassist) delivered a great 31-minute set.
I didn’t know what to expect, but I wound up liking her music far more than I thought I would.
The first song had a nice build to it, before the drummer suddenly broke into the song, which had me quickly trying to figure out where he was. See, the kit was on far stage left – out of my line of sight – and until that first beat I had overlooked it. They carried on with several more songs, and periodically Frankie would chat with the crowd in the already packed Granada Theater.
“…This is a Saturday night. Is it a late night town?” she asked, following it with another question, “Are you going to go out after the show?” You could tell she was just looked at as the opening act, because the response was almost nonexistent, and I know full well the party was continuing for more than a few people after this show (and I was one of them).
They ran through a few more songs, including a “romantico one” as Frankie put it. In my opinion, it wound up being one of their best songs of the night. The rhythm section was in full effect on it, and even though I was standing near the back of the venue, I could still feel the floor shaking beneath me; and really, that’s always a fantastic feeling.
With only one song left, Frankie mentioned that they were heading to Houston the next night, unknowingly committing one of the biggest faux pas you can make in Dallas.
To say I hate or even dislike Houston would be inaccurate, but most Dallasites do and they were vocal about it this night. She appeared baffled by the reaction, and just moved on and concluded their set.
Their time on stage flew by, and I mean that as a compliment, because that’s how much I enjoyed it.
The music was great, with some nice electronic and synthesizer touches thrown in, but more to the point to accentuate the guitars, bass and drums rather than overpower them. Frankie has quite a set of pipes on her too, fitting both the more rock sounding songs as well as the dreamier landscapes they had going on others.
If you’d like to check out her music, she has two records available that you can find in iTUNES.
As ten o’clock neared, the patrons began filling back in from their trips to the bar, or to go outside and smoke or whatever else, as they settled in for White Lies.
Five minutes before they hit the stage I got offered to go up to the balcony (which is typically reserved for staff of either the venue or the bands crew) and of course took it.
I mention that simply because it transformed this entire concert experience.
The sound up there was superb, far exceeding that down at the lower levels. As expected, a roar of fanfare filled the venue when the three core members; singer and guitarist Harry McVeigh; bassist Charles Cave; and drummer Jack Brown took the stage, along with Tommy Bowen and Rob Lee, who add the keys/synthesizers and an extra guitar to the mix.
They quickly launched into the title track from their 2009 debut album, “To Lose My Life”, and the sound—at least up in the balcony—was ten times better than even their albums sound.
It was pure ecstasy from the start, as Harry sang the lovely chorus in his strong, unique tone of voice, “Let’s grow old together and die at the same time…” That was a stellar song to open with, and for part of it I was glued to Charles, who was an exceptional bass player from right out of the gate, and was crushing it as he quickly plucked the strings of his bass.
With that old classic out of the way, they turned their attention to the barely six-month-old album “Big TV”, getting the first single off it, “There Goes Our Love Again”, out of the way early. It seemed to be just as much of a crowd pleaser as their first song had, and afterwards Harry addressed the crowd.
“Dallas, how’s it going?” he asked; the clamorous applause and cheers continuing once he spoke. He noted that this was the first time they had been to this “beautiful city”, and that they had enjoyed walking around and seeing part of it earlier in the day.
Overall, that was one of the few times they talked with the crowd which I liked. Even though it was kept at the bare minimum, it was still more than enough to form a connection with the fans, though the main focus was on the music. It suited them. Another I liked was that despite having a new album to promote, they also drew heavily from their past two albums; resulting in a great mix of old favorites and new classics.
As good as those two songs were, it was their next one where things really exploded. They pushed themselves to new heights on “A Place to Hide”, which was completely irresistible, and even though I was seated I felt a pretty strong urge to get up and start moving around. It was just intoxicating. But then again, that could be said of much of White Lies’ music.
They were continuously switching between albums, never doing two consecutive tracks off one album, and now got back to the new material with “Mother Tongue”. Whether they had been wanting (or waiting) to or not, the crowd got a chance to participate on this one. After the second chorus, the band got a clap along going. It was merely the first of a few this night, and I have to say it was pretty cool to see a sea of people throw their hands up in the air, clapping in unison. Especially since I had such a unique perspective of it.
“This is one of our favorite tracks from our second album…” Harry told everyone in advance of their next number. “It’s called Streetlights.” he finished, as they finally got around to doing a track from “Ritual”. I can’t say that it’s also a favorite of mine from that record, though it is a good tune, and there was something entrancing about the steady drumbeats and keys of the verses.
“This is a beautiful venue. The kind you dream of playing…” Harry remarked after that song. Strong words from a band who has headlined the historic Wembley Arena in London. He piled on the very genuine praise about the Granada (it’s more than deserving of it), before Jack eventually led them into their next song, another oldie, “Farewell to the Fairground”. Harry worked the crowd over during the slow part after the second chorus; just motioning at everyone, encouraging them to make some noise. He had complete control over everyone as he did so.
“I wish no harm to come of you; split bottles in shopping aisles…” he sang after the applause subsided, as they went right into another one of their love songs, “Be Your Man”. It was their next song, another from their first album, that really got the spectators excited, though.
From the first note on the keyboard the crowd was screaming with glee, having already deduced the song was “E.S.T”. Most were giddy when it too turned into a clap along; and personally, I thought it really was one of their highlight songs of the night, as there was a type of magic aura in the air while they played it.
However, “The Power and the Glory”—which is one I’m partial to—outmatched it. “…I was empty handed leaving as I was when I came…” crooned Harry while the audience clapped along to the steady drumming. Live it was everything I hoped it would be, and was extremely infectious; and during it, they continued to expand upon their stride, which they had hit long ago.
With their show in its final stretch, it was time to bust out a couple more singles, the first of which was “Getting Even”. “This is the first single we ever released…” Harry informed everyone, setting up the next song. “We hope you like it.” he added. To say everyone simply liked “Unfinished Business” would be an understatement, and that leads me to one point I’ll go ahead and make.
It’s really remarkable that these guys were able to make their first album as high caliber as it is. From start to finish it’s a completely solid album, the likes of which every band hopes to release one day, though most will never even come close. Then, they managed to (at the very least) maintain that same level of skill and craftsmanship over the course of their next two albums, again coming up with products that are superior to most out on the market.
It just comes down to that solid consistency, and it’s a shame more bands don’t have that.
But I digress.
They were still far from done with the “Big TV” album, but now did one more gem from it, “Goldmine”, before changing gears a bit.
Rob and Tommy exited the stage, leaving just the founding members of White Lies, as Harry ditched his guitar for their next song. Instead, he used a little synthesizer, while Jack got up from his kit, manning a keyboard as well as a xylophone (yeah, you read that right). Charles was the only one who didn’t switch instruments, and Harry took just a moment to talk about the song, which happened to be a cover.
It was a very different take on Prince’s “I Would Die 4 U”, being a pretty stripped down rendition from how Prince did it. That was good though, because they made the song completely their own with a very unique spin put on it. Harry got to show a gorgeous falsetto tone on it, and lyrically, it was a perfect fit with the bands original stuff. “You’re just a sinner I am told. Be your fire when you’re cold, make you happy when you’re sad, make you good when you are bad…” he sang; making it sound like this song had been written just for them.
They returned to their standard lineup, doing what’s really the only song of theirs I’m indifferent to, “First Time Caller”. I will admit though, that live it got me a little more engaged than the recording does. Afterwards, came the final song of their set, “Death”, which had another clap along moment, and ended an astounding 69-minute set.
No one (well, almost no one) moved after the band retreated to the green room, though, as they anxiously awaited the encore.
The cheering was perhaps even more loud when the five guys returned to the stage than it had been when they first started.
They talked with the crowd for a moment, mainly expressing their gratitude, before finally getting to the title track from their 2013 release, “Big TV”. Again, the crowd was encouraged to clap along on it; and as they hit the brief instrumental bridge, Harry strode to center stage, throwing his arms up in the air, silently egging the audience on, and they again erupted with cheering and applause.
“…We have one more…” Harry stated, again thanking everyone who was there for coming out to see them. The urgent sounding and electrifying “Bigger Than Us”. “Thank you so much!” Harry shouted in the final seconds of the song, which concluded their 10-minute encore.
The applause started while the final notes were still being played, and only grew stronger once the five guys stood next to one another at the forefront of the stage; bowing to everyone for the love they had been shown, as well as basking in it. I’ve got to say, seeing the kind of reception they got was a cool moment.
As it stands, I’ve seen several hundred concerts at this point, and this White Lies show is one of the most spectacular I’ve witnessed.
I’ll be the first to admit the seats had a lot to do with that, because the whole atmosphere changed up in that balcony. But that wasn’t the only reason.
I feel like I already used a lot of my praise earlier when talking about their albums, but they also put on a splendid show.
From stage presence to musicianship, Harry McVeigh, Jack Brown and Charles Cave were to full package. Not only that, but they have a very distinctive sound, with mixes of 80’s era British acts thrown in to their more modern rock style, which results in a sound that is completely theirs.
It was easy to see why they’ve opened for bands like Coldplay and Snow Patrol, because the talent is definitely there. I’d even go as far as saying that there’s no reason why White Lies couldn’t be as popular as Muse is here in the U.S.
Okay, White Lies doesn’t use any theatrics at all; while that’s a key element to Muse’s shows. In the other aspects though, it’s a dead heat; and if the American audience latches on to these guys, there really is no reason why they couldn’t be playing arena’s over here in a few years time.
They have plenty of dates booked around the world, including several more in North America. Check out their full schedule HERE; and also be sure to add their music to your iTUNES library.
This was a fantastic way to spend the night. Many thanks again to the Granada and certain people who work there for all the hospitality. It made a great night truly unforgettable.
However, the night was still young. It wasn’t even 11:30 when they finished, and with several other shows going on this night that I would have liked to have seen (counting this one there were seven total), I could at least make one other…
On this freezing cold night (or actually, slightly below freezing), there was a sweet show going on at Club Dada, and it was all presented by Parade of Flesh.
I’m not gonna lie; the sudden drop in temperature made me reconsider the thought of going out this night. But in the end, it sounded like it was going to be too good of a concert to miss.
For me, the guy who almost exclusively sees local North Texas bands, it was a bit of a different show; since two of the three acts were from out-of-state.
There was one Dallas band on the bill, though, and that was Dead Mockingbirds.
I had only seen them once before, and evidently was so eager to see them I arrived at Dada fashionably early (that’s a thing, right?), about forty-five minutes before what wound up being the start time. In fairness, I did think the show would start earlier than that, but at least it allowed for a good time hanging with the band.
The trio of Kenneth Everette Pritchard, Matthew Crain and Trinidad Diaz hit the stage at 8:41, as the rock music began to flow freely.
They were the odd man out on this bill, at least in terms of sound, but the already decent sized crowd (there were between twenty and thirty people there already. Not bad for the middle of the week) was very receptive to it.
Their opening song, like many of their tracks, had a fun vibe, and when he wasn’t having to do the singing, Kenneth was quickly swaying back and forth. Well, except for the little time he spent on the platform in front of the stage where the monitors set, where he tore it up on a guitar solo, dropping to his knees as he brandished his guitar.
The crowd got a few seconds to applaud them, before Matt laid into his drum kit, setting up their next track. Upon finishing it, Kenneth quickly thanked Parade of Flesh for putting this show together and putting them on it, before taking the conversation in a completely different direction. “It’ll cost five dollars to sniff us after the show.” On a related note; I don’t think anyone took them up on that offer.
They knocked out a couple more numbers, before Kenneth again addressed the crowd. “Y’all are too good looking.” he remarked, though he wasn’t looking at the audience. Instead, he was tuning his guitar. “Where the fuck did all y’all come from?!” he said, shocked by the ever growing number of people.
He then kicked off their next song with some slick sounding notes. A song that was yet another to feature a sweet, more old school sounding guitar solo. Kenneth noted that would be one of the songs on their next record.
Their 31-minute long set continued, as they seemed to pick the setlist as they went, and could be heard deciding on the songs during their breaks. “Fuck Alone and then…” Kenneth told his band mates at one point.
“Fuck yeah! We just went to jail!” Kenneth exclaimed after their next couple of tunes. He then thanked the other bands on the bill, and Club Dada for hosting the show. That brought them to the final leg of their set, which included a couple of songs I actually knew, but only after they did one more from their new(er) batch.
It was one I really enjoyed, and Trinidad and Matt gave it a real cohesive rhythm sound, complimenting one another nicely. Then you had the wickedly good guitar solo, which was just the icing on the cake.
The first of their next two songs was “Omega”, the b-side from their record. A fact Kenneth pointed out after they played it, before pointing over to their little merch suitcase, where they had that 7-inch vinyl record for sale. That brought them to “Munich”, which was a little more up-tempo than the recording is, as they blazed through it. The beginning was extra good, though, as Trinidad and Kenneth stood facing one another as they rocked out the intro.
Clearly excited to be here; Kenneth again thanked everyone who had a hand in putting this show together or was on the bill as the song trailed off. While he was doing that, Trinidad walked over the drum kit, kneeling by the bass drum as they bridged it into their final song of the night.
Like I said, this was only my second time seeing Dead Mockingbirds, and they were better than I even remembered.
It was an onslaught of raw rock music they cranked out this night, and their stage show matches their snappy sounding songs. And along those lines, the quick pace they gave their set this night ensured there was never a dull moment.
You can download a few of their singles –for free- over at REVERBNATION. You can also catch them on February 27th or on March 17th at the Double Wide in Dallas. Both of those shows are being presented by King Camel.
They may not have had the country elements to their music like the next two bands did, but they had something better; pure, quality rock music, in a vein you just don’t hear much in the music these days.
In fact, their show was so great, that after seeing the band that followed them, I found myself wondering if the show had already peaked.
The second band up this night was Promised Land Sound, who hails from Nashville, Tennessee.
They hopped on the bill a little more last minute, after the original booked band jumped off, but after checking out their music online, I liked it. They were certainly the most country-sounding band on the bill, with not as much rock flare to their songs as Futurebirds had, but they still fit.
Their 38-minute long set was made up mainly of songs from their debut full-length, which is self-titled and was released last year; though they threw in some other songs, as well.
Take for instance their first song, which was pretty good, but already had me feeling mixed emotions about the band.
I had only given their record a couple of listens (on Spotify), but there was one song that instantly stuck out to me, and that was “Empty Vase”, which was what they did next. The catchy song was as good live as I had hoped it would be, and it just has a fun vibe, with some strong beats from Evan Scala, and nice riffs from lead guitarist Sean Thompson, as well as Sean Cotton.
Singer and bassist Joseph Scala informed everyone that their next song was a cover, though I had trouble hearing who he said did it, and was unable to figure out what it was. All the same, it sounded quite good. It was followed by “Wandering Habits”, while the song that was billed as their slow one, which came after, was without question their best track of the night.
They were on fire while performing “Make it Through the Fall”. “I can’t keep myself from moving on. I can stand to do you any wrong. There’s a warmer season out there for us all. We’ve got to learn to make it through the fall.” Joseph loudly sang on the chorus of the song that could have easily been a sing-along, if only they had, had any sort of fan base here.
They truly killed it with that one, especially at the end, when the noise level rose up, commanding everyone’s attention. However, that was the only moment of their set where I felt that feeling.
They knocked out a couple more, one of which was “Fadin’ Fast”, before Joseph asked everyone if they wanted to hear a brand new song. Of course, everyone was indifferent to it, but nor did they mind it. It was a good one, one of their top three from this night, in my opinion.
Before calling it a night, Joseph put a feeler out, asking if anyone might have a floor they’d be willing to let them crash on, before going into their final song.
I mentioned I had mixed feelings about these guys, and my main qualm came with their performance/stage presence.
It was rather dull and boring, even lifeless. I hate to even say that, ‘cause even when I don’t like a band, I still don’t like to be negative. But at the same time, I have to be honest.
This isn’t even about their music, as I did like it. It’s just that they never grabbed the audience. They never captivated me, and I never felt any type of connection with the crowd on their part. Rather, it seemed like four dudes just happened to show up there and thought, “I guess we’ll play some music for a bit.”
That just doesn’t work, and I know they’re a newer band, but still, I expected more from a touring act.
All the same, you can find their music (an LP and a EP) in iTUNES. And while I can’t find a page that has their tour dates (otherwise I’d list some), just check out their FACEBOOK PAGE to see when they might be coming to a town near you.
See, that was why I thought the best band of the night may well have been the first one, and I wasn’t sure if Futurebirds would be able to wash that taste out of my mouth or not. Spoilers, they were.
The six-piece outfit got their gear set up, before retreating back to the greenroom to prepare for the show.
It was 10:31 when they stepped back out, and the anxious crowd – which numbered probably 80 people or so, at least - made their way closer to the stage.
They may have put out a brand new record just last year, but their set this night was a nice spread from all of their albums, and getting their show going was “Battle for Rome”, off of “Hampton’s Lullaby”.
“…And the sun it won’t save my life this time.” sang Thomas Johnson, who was one of the groups guitarists; his band mates, guitarists Carter King and Daniel Womack, the latter of whom played an acoustic, backing him with some amazing vocals.
It only took a minute or two to realize what you were watching was something special; from the harmonies, to just the explosive performance they were already putting on, quickly proving that the stage is where they belong.
“It’s good to be back in warm, sunny Dallas.” Carter stated, so sarcastically he seemed dead serious. He then thanked the audience for “braving the cold” to come out to this show.
The lead vocal duties were tossed around a lot this night, though the bulk of it seemed to go to Carter, who sang lead on “Serial Bowls”. The lengthy instrumental section at the end allowed them to really let loose, even Brannen Miles, who I believe was the bassist, and pedal steel guitarist Dennis Love.
At this point, the momentum was flowing, and after some roaring applause, Carter spoke into his mic; “I guess we’ll play another.”
Thomas started jumping up and down as he started “Johnny Utah”, his movements quickly escalating, to the point he was springing around all over his portion of stage right. His vicious shredding on his guitar came at a price, though; it cost him a string. It didn’t seem like that big of a deal however, and they powered through the tune, which had Thomas adding some wonderful backing vocals on the chorus, hitting an extremely high falsetto tone I never would have guessed was within his range.
Towards the end, Carter dropped to the floor and laid back on the stage, quickly plucking the strings of his guitar, and as he gave in to the music, it created one of those perfect concert moments.
Their drummer brought them right into their next song, which finally gave Daniel, who had an American flag bunched up and attached to his acoustic axe, a chance to show off his singing chops. The song was “Happy Animals”, and Thomas was left out of the first few minutes of it, as he now had to worry about repairing that broken string, which was a task he got done quite quickly.
Once he did get that remedied, he returned to the front of the stage, but his strap wasn’t secured. Of course, he wasn’t going to let his guitar fall off, though, and instead held it vertically in the air, picking away at it until he had a break so he could get it fastened. That got him back in action with some time to spare for the epic ending they gave that one, absolutely throwing down at the end. The three singers turned their backs to the crowd as they took the chance to interact a little more with their other band mates, while slinging their guitars around and banging their heads in time to the mighty drumbeats.
The spell had been cast by this time, and everyone in Club Dada had fallen under it, and were completely glued to this band who hailed from Athens, Georgia.
“We’re gonna play a brand new one.” Carter informed the crowd, who loudly cheered in support of the idea. “Don’t cheer just yet. You haven’t heard it…” he joked. True, it might have been premature, but once the song was done, they were still worthy of the cheering they had already received, and got even more now.
“That was hyper speed!” Carter exclaimed, looking at his band mates with a smile on his face; giving the idea that they had done it a little quicker than they should have.
They got back to “Baby Yaga”, their newest album, with the lead track, “Virginia Slims”. Thomas was back in charge on that intoxicating number, which was one of the truest country sounding tracks they did, and at times, Dennis played some gorgeous notes on his pedal steel guitar. As it ended, their drummer kept the beat going, and he and Brannen had a little jam session, filling the gap in between songs.
After those more intense songs, they slowed things down ever so slightly with “Sam Jones”. “This sure brings me down. No one’s here to stay. We’ve got nothing to lose. And we’ll take it to our graves.” Daniel sang on the chorus of the more melancholy song. Despite the sad vibe it has though, it was far from being depressing.
He would continue to sing, but only after Carter thanked Promised Land Sound and Dead Mockingbirds for opening up the show. He also shouted out a printing company, who had printed up some silk-screened posters of the show poster for this show. “…Come buy something and we’ll give you one free.” Carter encouraged everyone.
If their show had a lull, it was the song they had just done, as well as “M J B”. That latter song worked to kick things back into high gear, though, and was just another song of theirs that had a dynamic ending. Carter spun in a circle, only once, his hands a blur as he played his guitar. After doing that, he and Thomas stood back-to-back with one another. They didn’t just lean against each other, though. Instead, they were pushing against one another, quite forcefully from the looks of it, making it look like they were trying to hold one another up.
“Sending you pictures from the naked beach, but all I want is you here naked with me…” sang Carter at the start of what had already become a personal favorite Futurebirds song of mine, “Tan Lines”. A lot of other people seemed to like it too, a few of whom were even singing right along to it.
After finishing it, banter again turned to the cold weather. “We were in Montana few weeks ago and it wasn’t even this cold.” Carter told everyone, again thanking everyone for enduring it.
Continuing with music from “Baby Yaga”, they went on into “Dig”, which, for a majority of the time, was one of the most authentic sounding songs they did, complete with Thomas singing in a very twangy voice. You could tell not everyone was very familiar with their music, because as they eased up at the end, the room was filled with applause. They even held the silence for a moment, before ripping back into the song, delivering one of their most dazzling displays of the night yet.
“I don’t know this song.” Thomas could be heard saying as they prepared for the next one. “Pay close attention to Thomas’s guitar playing.” Carter instructed the crowd, perpetuating the joke. Okay, of course they knew it, but it was one of a few songs they did that I didn’t, nor could I figure it out after the fact. All the same, it was a nice song.
Throughout their set, there had been a woman standing in front of the stage, often shouting out different songs she was wanting to hear. One that had been repeated was one I was also hoping to hear, “Heavy Weights”. “This isn’t Heavy Weights.” Carter informed her, while Thomas added, “Don’t get your hopes up, either.”
Instead, they did another song that required the heavy use of their three-part harmonies, “Death Awaits”. It might not have been that other song, but it was a great one. I’ll even admit, in listening to their stuff, that was one track that didn’t do much for me, but live, live it was something else entirely.
It was again time for some more thanks now, which this time went to Parade of Flesh for putting this show together. They then broke into a cover, and one you probably wouldn’t have expected them to do.
They put their own twist on Stevie Nicks’ “Wild Heart”, which was arguably their best song of the night. And the end, the a capella end where Daniel, Thomas and Carter crooned, “Where is the reason? Don’t blame it on me, blame it on my wild heart.”, that was to die for.
I think they only did one more song after that. I say “think” because a.) it was another I didn’t know, and b.) it sounded like it could have been a few songs mashed together. It made for one helluva way to end their 81-minute long set, especially because the further they got into the song, the more amped up they got. And by the time it was all over, no one was really ready for them to be done.
“Thanks. We’re Futurebirds.” said Carter before they jumped off stage.
Some people went on their way, either leaving, or going over to the bar to get a drink, accepting the show was probably over. Others weren’t ready to believe that though, and the chants of “One more song!” could be heard.
Is what was funny, it happened in small groups. Like, a handful of people would shout it, then, since the band wouldn’t have come right back out, they’d quit. But another group would just be joining in at that time, and keep it going for a moment, before some more people began chanting.
Eventually, it paid off.
“…Aw, shit guys!” Carter exclaimed as they retook the stage, getting ready for one last song. It added about four minutes onto their show, and I’m not 100% what this encore was, but I’m thinking it was “Yur Not Ded”. Whatever it was, it was the perfect way to end this performance, bringing it to a stellar finish.
I don’t really know what I was expecting from Futurebirds, but I wasn’t prepared for what transpired.
Their music may have some more country undertones to it, but they put on as solid a rock show as I’ve ever seen.
Their highly energetic performance made sure you couldn’t pull your eyes off of them even if you wanted to, and having three vocalists to alternate between kept things constantly fresh.
On that note, even though all three of them might have different tones and textures to their voices, they can also all sing. Damn well at that, and they all have just a subtle twang to their voices that serves as a binding characteristic between them all.
I’ll restate what I said when I posted the picture of them I took on Instagram. “This band; this band was something special to watch.”
They, all six of them, impressed me, turning me into a full-fledged Futurebirds fan with ease.
You can check out their tour dates HERE. And if they’re coming to a town near you, you shouldn’t hesitate to go see them. I know I’ll be trying to catch them next time they come through Dallas. Also, right here in iTUNES is where you can find all of their albums.
Couldn’t have been a better way to spend a Wednesday night then this, and I also need to give one more shout out to Kenneth of Dead Mockingbirds for getting my cover into the show. Thanks again, man!
Three Links was my second destination of the night, for another show I had put a fair amount of consideration going to.
Sealion was headlining the place this night, and while I won’t recount the whole story, I didn’t start out as a fan of theirs.
Actually, even now I wouldn’t consider myself a true fan, but after trying to give them more of a chance, I found myself slowly warming up to their 2010 debut album. Then, after seeing a small portion of their set where they opened for the Toadies in Denton almost a couple years back, I found myself enjoying their music a bit more.
That said, I hadn’t seen them since April of 2012, and this seemed as good an opportunity as any to see them again and give them another shot.
They were setting their gear up when I arrived, preparing for a show that was a mix of material from last year’s “Kenneth” album, along with some new songs.
The punk sounding quartet raced through their 49-minute set, beginning with what I believe was a couple of newer songs (admittedly, I didn’t recognize everything they played this night.)
And since I am honest, their first couple of songs, which were segued from one into the next, were ones I didn’t care for. Singer and rhythm guitarist Hunter Moehring screamed more than sang on those tracks, using a throaty sound I hadn’t heard him utilize before, and that’s just not something I care for from any band.
Drummer Alex Poulos then rolled them right into a song from their latest release, “Spruce Moose”. I did enjoy that one much more, as it was more along the lines of the bands almost surf-rock infused brand of punk, which is an interesting blend to say the least. Their eager fans were happy to hear it, too, shouting along while Hunter sang, “…I don’t to be like you…” That quick little tune started the process of reeling me in, and I have to say, it was a fun track.
They followed it with another (presumably new) song, after which Hunter informed everyone that they would soon start recording on album number three.
“Dudes, grab a dude. Ladies, grab a lady…” he instructed after saying they were going to slow things down with their next song. It was different from anything else I’ve ever heard them do, simply because bassist Samantha Villavert sang it. She’s a new addition to the outfit since I last saw them, and aside from being a good bass player, she brings a great voice to the table, and while this one did have a different sound for a Sealion song, it was still Sealion.
Samantha later acknowledged that her parents had come out to this, their first ever Sealion show, and she thanked them for staying up late to be there. They kept things going with a couple more songs, one of which was called “A Good Dream”, and, as Hunter said, was about “lying in bed all day”.
“If you wanna dance, we’ll dance with you.” he told the decent size crowd-, before he, lead guitarist Cole Denton and the rest knocked out “Finks”, which started another string of songs (three to be exact, back-to-back-to-back.) What came next I found to be their best track of the night, and there was one point during it where Hunter knelt beside his amp, tearing it up on his guitar, before creating some excellent feedback.
They brought it into their next song, one that was so new Hunter couldn’t even remember when they wrote it, first saying Wednesday before correcting himself, “No, Thursday.” By the time it was over, the fans who were gathered in front of the stage were feeling it enough they decided to start a small mosh pit while the quartet cranked out another track.
Their set was almost done by this point, and the fans were vocal about their displeasure for this, just not wanting the night to end, as they did what I believe was “T.V. Land”, another song off “Kenneth”.
Hunter then announced they were going to close with a cover, and though I didn’t understand who he said originally did the song, it was one they put on their album, and that was “All We Know”. It was as if everyone knew this would be their last chance to let it all hang out until the next weekend, with plenty of the fans getting into a semi-frenzied state as they got another mosh pit going.
Hunter even jumped out in it closer to the end, and just because he was part of the band didn’t make him impervious to getting caught up in the body slamming, and he held his, even bashing in to a few people, while never missing a note on his guitar.
That was quite a way to end the show; a show that made me a little more of a Sealion fan.
Like I said, there were a few songs I just flat-out didn’t like, but overall, from the music aspect, I enjoyed it.
The main qualm I had a few years ago was with Hunters’ voice, a voice that has both grown on me and gotten better with time. And though it’s not the best voice ever, it fits with what they do, and by no means does he come anywhere even close to being the worst singer I’ve ever come across.
As for their show, these talented musicians put on a good performance, while also keeping it light and fun. Actually, that was what I enjoyed most about them this night; it was all about having fun and just enjoying yourself.
No, they won’t be one of those bands I go see every chance I get, but I’ll try to see them again sometime, and probably much sooner than another almost two years.
They’ll be at the Double Wide in Dallas on Thursday 27th, as part of a show that is being presented by King Camel. You can also find all of their music on their BANDCAMP PAGE, either for free, or very cheap.
Overall, I was glad I decided to come over to Three Links for Sealion’s set, as they made it worth it.
This night was going to be a busy one, and it was starting at my favorite venue, The Curtain Club, for the second night of the venue’s 16th anniversary weekend.
Like the night before, a couple of younger bands with teenage members were playing first, beginning with a band called The Neverending.
I walked in at not the best time, as they were having some technical issues.
“It’s usually our drummer who breaks everything.” joked their frontwoman, as it was now one of the bands guitarist who was having some trouble and had broken a string.
It seemed almost like a curse, seeing as the first band from the night before also suffered from a broken guitar string, and this guy in The Neverending just made the best of it and played through.
Getting back on track, that made for some long silence as they figured things out, and I never really thought they got any momentum going after that.
It’s not that I disliked them or anything, I just simply never got into it.
The same could be said about the next band, The Bombs.
I just never got into their darker brand of punkish sounding rock, though for what they did, these three girls (plus their fill-in drummer), did it well.
On another note, about both of those bands, not only was it good to see a younger generation of musicians down here, but it was especially nice to see they had brought out there friends/fans, who, for a short time, outnumbered the twenty-one and older crowd.
After them, was the band I was there for, seeing as they had requested my presence and given me a ticket to the show, and that was Alterflesh.
“In the incomprehensible vastness of the universe, how strange we’re even here…” singer Dayvoh could be heard saying, as the curtain began to open and reveal them. It goes along with spiritual, otherworldly aura the band strives so hard to create at their live shows, and like all the little speeches Dayvoh makes like that, it sets up the next song, which in this case was “Megahub”.
Once Kevin Mills came in on the track, Dayvoh, bassist Paul Kubajak and even guitarist Ben Schelin began jumping around, before Dayvoh entered frontman mode and started working over the audience as he began singing the song. “Most will go their entire lives without even understanding it. I recommend a much closer view of practical experience…” goes the bridge of the song, which, like all their other tracks, is supposed to make you stop and think about life.
“Welcome to the Curtain Clubs’ sweet sixteenth, take two…” Dayvoh said to the audience once the song had ended, and, like in that song, he continued delivering his words at a lightening pace to minimize the time spent talking. He went on to say how good it was to see some “young blood” down here and named the two opening bands, before also pointing out some of the other bands who were out supporting them, just a few of whom were The Circle (who had played the night before), Solice, 26 Locks and New Voodoo. Speaking of New Voodoo, Andrew Lewthwaite was lending his guitar skills to Alterflesh this night, serving as the bands second guitarist. Dayvoh finished with, “Support your scene.”, before hopping down on one of the steps in front of the stage while Paul started their next song, “So Much More”, with some sweet bass licks.
It features some knockout drumming from Kevin, and once it was done, Dayvoh continued to reel the crowd in and get them engaged. “Are you awake, Curtain Club?! Let me hear you!” he shouted, before doing another transition for their next song. “Mystics all around the world say we all slowly burn in time… This one’s called Embers.” he declared, as they went into one of their newest numbers.
“Brothers and sisters, everyday is a gift. Live it to the fullest.” were the encouraging words that preceded their next song, “Start Over”. As the name suggests, it’s a song about beginning anew, specifically without someone who used to be a part of your life, and as Dayvoh repeated the first line of the track, “Light a fire, burn it all away…”, Xtina, the singer in Solice, made her way on stage.
At their last show they had gotten her to join them on that one, and lightening struck this night as she again lent her voice to it, making a great song sound exceptional. As they hit the second chorus, both Paul and Dayvoh leapt in the air, in time with the drumbeat, then, as the song wound down, Dayvoh knelt down on the stage, as did Xtina, their voices sounding incredible as they intertwined with one another on “…Light a fire, burn it all away. Start over again without you.”
She and her band got some props thrown their way as she exited the stage, before Dayvoh turned his attention to the Wall of Fame. “…On these walls, you can see the marks of all who have come before…” he said, pointing at the dozens and dozens of plaques, ranging from those who were never more than local legends to those who went on to achieve national fame. “This next one’s a fun one. It’s a political rant. ” stated Dayvoh as they got ready for “Watch Rome Burn”. In short, this “rant” focuses on how this “Information Age” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and after the second chorus of the track, Andrew, who had already brought a lot to the table, went off on a several seconds long guitar solo, which sounded killer.
I’m going to get off topic for a minute, now. Since Alterflesh had started, there was a great energy from out in the crowd. You could feel it and tell that everyone was enjoying what they were watching. At one point a small mosh pit of three or so people started, which was no big deal, until one guy accidentally slammed into a woman, knocking her to the floor and causing her to lose her drink.
That was a couple songs prior to the one they had just done, and that changed the whole mood of the crowd. For starters, the tension was palpable. The only reason a fight didn’t break out between that guy and the woman’s boyfriend/husband was because other people stepped in between them to make sure nothing happened. I won’t get much more into to it, but basically, the guy who hit the woman didn’t feel he owed her a replacement beer, while the other guy believed she was owed at least that.
Getting more on topic, this still persisted even now, and after that song, Dayvoh said something about he knew this was a rock show and he wanted everyone to have as much fun as they possible could. After all, that is the point of a concert. “…But the next girl I see fall, ‘cause some guy hits her and doesn’t help her up. I’m gonna jump down there.” he said firmly, earning raving applause from pretty much everyone in there.
That still didn’t quite settle it, though, and it only ended before the guy removed himself from the situation. But before that happened, one of the guys from The Circle went and grabbed an Alterflesh poster off of one of the walls here in the club and hung it on the monitor, right in front of the guy. They had used a quote on this poster, and it read, “Kindness… It doesn’t cost a damn thing. Sprinkle that shit everywhere.”
That’s what made this so ironic. Dayvoh is all about being a peaceful, kind individual, as really everyone should, and Alterflesh more or less preaches that exact message in their music.
The downside from all that, is all that energy that was going in the audience was no dead. Don’t get me wrong, the band themselves hadn’t lost any momentum, but with all that negativity leaving people wondering if they might have to jump in and break up a fight, it killed the carefree atmosphere, as everyone just stayed almost perfectly still and watched.
They were almost done at this point, and in regards to the next track, “Into the Sun”, Dayvoh said something about how we (collectively) are “…Like every other element, forged in the heart of a supernova…” It’s another newer one, and a great one at that, and it was also their final original track of the night.
“…If you’ve listened to the radio at all in the last ten years, then you’ve heard this song…” Dayvoh told everyone in preparation of the first ever cover song Alterflesh would do. It would a rendition of Staind’s “For You”, though of course they put their own unique spin on it. Ben and Andrew had been feeding off one another all night long, facing each other as they picked away on their guitars, and such, and the two again rocked out on this one, while towards the end Paul dropped to his knees and flat-out tore it up on his bass.
It was fun way to end their 39-minute long set, and this was one of the best shows I’ve seen these guys do.
Where to start…
How about back to Andrew and Ben. Yes, Dayvoh does play guitar on some songs, but he still has to focus on being a frontman even then, so he can’t interact as much with Ben. But like I said, he and Andrew had some real chemistry going.
That also freed Dayvoh up to really work the crowd for the entire show, and you could really feel the rapport he had going with everyone.
And for those who may not know, he spent many years as a spoken word poet, and brings that flare to his singing in Alterflesh, creating something that is purely original and different from anything you have ever heard before.
Then you had Kevin and Paul, both of whom were in the zone this night.
They’re one of those bands who doesn’t play too often (every few months), yet they’re tighter than a lot of bands out there, and they brought their A+ game to the stage of the Curtain Club this night.
They don’t have any music to buy at the moment, but you can sample several songs over on REVERBNATION. You can also see them right back here at the Curtain Club on March 8th as part of 26 Locks CD release show. They also have a show booked at O’Rileys in Dallas on April 4th.
I didn’t stick around long after they finished. It’s not that I didn’t want to see some of the other bands on the bill, but I had already committed to go cover another show, and headed out for the other venue.
“If you’re lucky nuff to be at Hank’s, you’re lucky nuff.”
That was what a sign above the stage at Hank’s Texas Grill in McKinney had written on it, and I have to say, after going to the venue, that’s a fitting statement.
It’s not just a concert venue, it’s also a restaurant and bar, and a nice one at that. It’s far more spacious than I would have guessed, stretching back quite a ways. At the back is where the stage is located, and it’s comparable to many venues in Dallas, Denton or Fort Worth. It’s cozy looking on stage, but not too bad; the stage is elevated enough to allow everyone a good view of the band playing; and the room’s small enough to be conducive to an intimate feeling between the fans and the band.
It should be noted this is a country venue, and they bring a variety of acts, even big-ticket ones, up here to the suburbs (just the night before Texas legend Ray Wylie Hubbard graced the stage).
This night, Hank’s was hosting The Dirty River Boys, who had spent the last week up in Steamboat Springs, Colorado for the Steamboat MusicFest, and before returning home to Austin, these El Paso natives were going to treat their North Texas fans to a show.
At ten on the dot the Nino Cooper, Colton James, Travis Stearns and Marco Gutierrez emerged from backstage, and were greeted with a bunch of fanfare. They may not be a hugely successful band yet, by they definitely have a following, and their fans were out in full force this night.
“How’s it going Hank’s?” Marco asked the crowd while he and his band mates settled into their spots. A few songs in they mentioned it had been about three years since the last time they were here, and noted they were happy to be back.
They cut right to the chase, however, starting their epic show with the lead and title track from their 2011 EP, “Train Station”. Nino added some subtle backing vocals to Marco’s singing, as the two softly plucked the strings of their respective acoustic guitars. It had a little more kick to it than even what comes across on the record, with the highlight moment being when Marco belted out the line, “…My heart’s a broken record, the needle’s singing out here name.”
The crowd loved it, and made it known with some deafening cheers and applause, while they marched on with their next song, which found Nino taking over the lead singing responsibilities, amidst the amazing four-part harmonies they all contributed to. He changed part of the chorus of “My Son”, from “How you gonna find your way back home? The maps you drew and burned and gone…” to, “…The roads you knew are paved and gone…” It was a nice artistic change, and on another note, Travis absolutely owned his cajon during this track. For those unfamiliar with the instrument, it’s a boxlike percussion instrument, and for him it also serves as his stool. He went to town on it, slapping it wildly and forcefully, and it was really something else to watch.
They moved to some more recent material, doing the outlaw country sounding song, “Lungs”. Now that they had done a few that their fans were familiar with, it was time to give everyone a taste of what their forthcoming record will be like. They did plenty of other new songs during this show, and this was one of a few that found Colton doing the singing. He’s got a great voice, and the fact that neither he, Nino or Marco sound anything alike adds an incredible mix of diversity to their music, though there’s still that common thread that binds everything together.
“That was a new song. This one’s an old one.” Marco informed the audience. Most of their songs didn’t have a seamless transition, though for the most part, they smoothly rolled from one song into the next, as was the case here. Marco pulled out his harmonica for “Dried Up”, a beautiful song with some nice hints of rock thrown in, and it’s a song that really shows off what a precise band they are. For instance, there are times when Marco lays into his harmonica in perfect time with one of Travis’s drum beats. Just shows the kind of accuracy you can get when you play shows at a near constant pace.
They even added a fun little touch to it, ending with Marco tacking on a portion of Bob Dylan’s “Just Like a Woman”. “…She makes love just like a woman. She aches just like a woman.” He sang, flashing a grin at the crowd before he sang the final line, “But she breaks just like a little girl.”
It’s little touches like that, that can make a great song absolutely unforgettable, as was the case this night. They followed it with another new song they’ve cooked up, and afterwards did an old fan favorite with a new twist. They kept “Carnival Lights” pretty slow and entirely acoustic through the first chorus, with only Marco playing it. “…So she stays lonely, with her poison inside medicine bottle, filled with nothing but her own shortcomings. She leans her head back, she puts ‘em down and they taste alright. Please, just try to stay conscious tonight.” sang Marco on the chorus of this emotionally heavy song, and then asked everyone a question. “Y’all still with us, Hank’s?” The crowd hollered at him to signify they were, and that was when they kicked the song into high gear with the full band. That soft start wasn’t the only change they made to the song this night either, and at the end they all four harmonized on the line, “Please, just try to stay conscious tonight.”
They got into more of a rock mode with their next song, another new one, which required Colton to swap from his upright bass to a standard electric one, before going switching back for their next one. “Y’all feel like singing with us?!” Travis shouted at everyone, standing up from his drum kit and waving his hands in the air to pump everyone up. He led them in what to sing while Nino walked over to stage left and took the mandolin out of its stand on top of one of the amps. The song that required some audience participation was “Boomtown”, and the fans were eager to join in. “Y’all take the second round.” Marco instructed early on, as Nino did the main singing, with Colton and Marco coming in at different intervals, harmonizing with him. The fans were more than willing to help out, especially on the chorus, “Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey! There’s a boomtown on the rise.” They kept it pretty fun, too, with Colton spinning his bass around at one point, the feathers and raccoon pelt that adorn it twirling right along with it.
No sooner had the song finished, then Marco set things up for the next one. “This is what we call a Chinese fire drill.” he stated, as the lot of them switched instruments. Nino went back to his acoustic guitar, while Travis took the mandolin from him. Colton brought out a banjo, which left Marco with the upright bass. They did a brief jam, just making some noise before stopping and counting themselves in on one of their most fun tracks, “Lookin’ for the Heart”. It really was one of the most fun songs of their show this night, and not just because you could tell they were having so much fun doing it.
There was one moment when Travis, who was pacing around a bit, turned and ran into one of the support columns on the stage. What followed looked like something out of a cartoon, and was very humorous, as he looked bewildered at the column. He proceeded to flip it his middle finger, than pretended to kick it, looking like he was about to get a bar fight with the thing.
Upon finishing it, they all returned to their normal roles. “…This is a country song about punk rock…” Marco told everyone. It was another tune from their new batch of music, and it really is about punk rock, and even has some tinges of the genre mixed in with their alternative/country/rock sound. The mood was brought down a bit as Nino started playing some notes on his harmonica, getting “Union Painter”, which is another one of their songs that tells a real story, underway.
They weren’t done with the storyteller songs, either. “This song’s about life on the road.” Nino told everyone. I was expecting one of the songs off their “Science of Flight” record, which has a title that fits that description. That wasn’t it, though. Instead, it was another new one, and Colton had to bring his electric bass back out for it.
I don’t say this often about music, so there should be quite a bit of merit in the following statement; the song was absolutely mind blowing. Seriously, not only during it, but also for the duration of their set I was thinking to myself, “Holy. Shit.” It was a roaring rock number, and was not only the most intense thing The Dirty River Boys have done, it was one of the most intense songs I’ve ever heard. It was beast of a song, and these guys really made something special with this song that had Nino singing about all the experiences of a touring band, from loading in and out of clubs and all sorts of other stuff. And fitting with the pace of the song, there was a point in the song where Travis threw his drum stick in the air, as high as he could, and caught it perfectly.
“You can bet your sweet ass that’s going on next album.” said Marco, while Travis set up the beat for their next tune, another new one that Colton was able to show off his chops on. The electric bass was back out for that one, as well as the next one, which was their most recent single.
Travis pointed this, saying that some of the people in attendance may have heard it on one of the local radio stations, and if no one had, they could call and request it. Marco started in with the chord progression of the track, leading in to it, before his guitar fell silent. Attention then turned towards Nino, who was looking up with his eyes closed, presumably counting himself in for “Desert Wind”. He and his band mates all came in at the same moment, launching into the gorgeous and moving powerhouse of a song.
“We haven’t done this one in a little while.” Marco remarked when things quieted down, seeming like he was talking to himself more than the audience. The song he was referring to was “Six Riders”, which had a few people gleefully singing along to it, and even if they hadn’t done it in awhile, you sure couldn’t tell it.
Once it was over, Travis interrupted the show, going ahead and apologizing to his band mates, acknowledging that he knew what he was about to do was highly unprofessional. Apparently, he had forgotten to bring a pack of cigarettes on stage with him, and now asked if anyone had one they would be willing to spare. “I can’t breathe. I need a cigarette.” he told everyone, before one fan dug a cigarette out and tossed it to him.
“Riverbed Wildflowers” came next in the set, and for a slower song, it packs quite a punch, and it may well even strike an emotional chord in you. They livened things back up with another new song, which Nino dedicated to everyone who was drinking whiskey this night. That was what the song was about, and started with all four of them harmonizing on the first line or so, before exploding into a rowdy rock song. It got the people moving, as did the next song, which was one they co-wrote with Ray Wylie Hubbard. They explained it was written about the violence in their hometown of El Paso, as well as the border city of Juarez. If anything can give that amazing rock song from earlier in the night a run for its money, it’s this one. It boasts a vigorous music bed, and Travis did some vicious drumming on it, rocking out to the point that the trucker hat he had been wearing finally went sailing off at one point as he thrust his head back.
The next number was done almost primarily by Nino, and that was the pretty and delicate, “So Long, Elanie”. People seemed to like (I, for one, did), but after finishing it he promised they were going to bring things back up, then looked at the other three guys to make sure they were ready. They created a haunting intro for “Letter to Whoever”, with some spooky music and eerie crooning into the mics, before busting into the short, quick paced song. “Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Travis Stearns!” Marco shouted before he got a short drum solo during the instrumental break.
A few songs back they had pointed out they only had a couple left, and now, the night was about to come to an end.
“How many of y’all have seen us before?!” Travis asked, again rising up from his kit to get a good view of everyone. Quite a few hands shot up in the air, while others shouted they had. “So, y’all know how we like to do it then!” Travis roared, continuing to rile everyone up, while Nino retrieved the mandolin. They were ending their 93-minute set with “Raise Some Hell”, which musically resembles a Irish jig, and is arguably their most fun song. It certainly got the audience in a boisterous mood, many of whom seemed to take one of the lines from the song as a command, and stomped their feet against the ground. It also became a fun sing-along for nearly everyone, as the fans shouted right along with the band, “…Boys, we’re gonna raise some hell tonight!”
If that was their mission this night, it was one they accomplished, and they left everyone in a frenzied state as they retreated to the backstage area.
No one thought it was over yet, though, and a small group of people began chanting for “one more song”.
At most a minute passed before Marco peaked his head out from the door, then walked back onto the stage.
“It’s been a long week in Colorado.” he remarked as he got back behind the mic. He began the 11-minute encore portion all on his lonesome, having a little moment where all eyes were fixated on him.
“…I let you down, well, I fell through, but by and by I’ll get through to you. Just let me in again when it feels right…” he crooned on the oh so lovely and poignant song, “Another Night”, which is about a “stupid, drunken night” and seeking forgiveness. Nino joined him fairly early on in the song, adding another guitar part to it, and shortly after that first chorus was when Colton and Travis rejoined them, kicking things up a few notches. There’s also what I think is a pretty profound line towards the end, and that is, “…Lips, they’re only lips if they have no meaning.”
That was the last original song they did for the night, and Travis wound them into their final number. I’d guess it was something they worked up for their time in Colorado, and it was a pretty awesome way to close things out with.
They covered a classic from The Rolling Stones, and that was “Honky Tonk Woman”.
I know this will be considered sacrilege by many, but their version was superior to the Stones. They sped it up more from the original version, which made it harder hitting, and even mixed some very light country sounds into what was otherwise a sensational rock song. I guess the point is they made it their own, and once they finished it, Travis stood up from his drum kit and jabbed one of the sticks into one of the drums (I believe it was the snare, though I couldn’t see too well), signifying that they were indeed done.
I do an annual Best Of list on this blog, running down my favorite albums and concerts from the past year. When putting that list together late last month, out of the 120+ concerts I saw last year, I ranked one of The Dirty River Boys shows I saw second. This night, I was reminded why they placed so high on my list.
They’re aren’t many bands like this out there, at least not that I’m aware of. I’m not just talking about all their obvious qualities, either.
Yes, the fact that they have four very capable singers, each with their own unique tone is fantastic, and it’s only made better by how they’re incorporating more of that into their new music. Not only that, but they’re just skilled musicians in general, being right at home on any of the instruments they spend time on. As for their live show, I’d say it’s one of the best I’ve ever seen from almost any band, being extremely energetic and fun. It’s not even any of that, that makes them so astounding, though.
Is what makes them so astounding is the sheer fun they so clearly have while on stage, which in turn translates to the audience, allowing you as a spectator to enjoy what you’re seeing even more. It’s the raw emotion that’s found in their music and the passion they put into singing and performing the songs that make their shows such an experience.
You just don’t often find bands that put that kind of feeling into their music, and that’s what sets these guys apart from most bands.
This quartet recently went into the studio and laid down the songs for their next record, which will be coming out sometime this year. In the meantime, they have an LP and two EP’s, as well as a single of “Desert Wind” all available in iTUNES.
As for shows, their next one will be on January 31st at Cheatham Street in San Marcos. They also have a show in Helotes at the Floore’s Country Store on February 8th and a gig at The Office Sports Bar in Lubbock on the 28th. And on February 21st, they’ll be back in North Texas, with a Fort Worth gig where they’ll headline Billy Bob’s Texas. And for those like me, who live about an hour away from Fort Worth, I promise, their show would be well worth the drive. And after that, it looks like their next North Texas show won’t be until April 25th, when they play the Granada Theater.
Thus ended a wonderful night in the suburbs. I doubt Hank’s will be a venue I frequent, mainly since I’m not a very avid listener of country music, but I look forward to hopefully seeing another show there sometime. And one of the best things about this concert was that it was over relatively early, and the drive home was a little shorter than it is coming back from Dallas.
Growth and evolution are (or at least should) be evident in any bands music, and from my experience, it’s typically there to some degree. After all, it’d get tiring and bland if a band basically just keeps recreating their past music, right?
That’s something the Dallas based Daylight Industries seems to recognize, and they’ve taken it to the next level.
Their first EP was a good representation of the bands early days, playing more progressive and even slightly industrial sounding rock tunes, which ranged from about four minutes in length to six and a half plus. But even by the time it’s saw its release (June of 2012) the band was already heading in a different direction, cutting down on how long their songs ran, as they made the jump into being more of rock band.
It’s a style that’s on full display on the recently released “Faith Healer”, a five track EP that will leave you wanting a follow up record immediately.
The vigorous “Faith Healer” begins the eighteen plus minute long jaunt through the EP, luring you in with ease and compelling you to listen to the rest of the record. It’s as raw a rock song as you have ever heard, with unbridled amounts of energy, particularly on the hellacious chorus, which they managed to make perfectly capture the energy that they put into it at live shows. Even the verses, which are slower (considering how the rest of the song is, at least) is still hard hitting, and boasts some mesmerizing guitar riffs.
The only (slight) remnant from Daylight Industries past can be heard in “Aphasia”, which at just a little over four and a half minutes is the longest track on the EP. The progressive/industrial rock style featured so prominently on their first EP can at times be heard on the well-crafted song structure of this tune. That’s actually the best part of this number, the way that the drums, bass and guitar all act to truly accentuate one another. Sure, that’s something all songs do, but it’s a little different with “Aphasia”, and instead of merely complimenting one another, it’s more as if one instrument extends the reach of the others, while vocalist Keith Allen alternates between a serene crooning of the lyrics and forcefully belting them out.
“If I’m a saint then I’m the patron saint of fools. The prison guards that run this town have made up all the rules… And I nearly lost my life, I swear I’d been confused. How I lived with what I told to be the truth.” Logan shouts on the chorus of the blistering “Sit In”. Personally, I do have other favorites I like more on this EP, but if you know nothing about Daylight Industries and you’re only going to listen to one of their songs, this would be the one I’d recommend. Lyrically it’s very real and even relatable, being one of those songs that may well make you stop and think (i.e. “…I can’t just grasp reality outside my television…”). The drum parts of the song also get your attention, often being flat-out wild and crazy, while still having structure and sounding very fluid.
The final two songs the EP has to offer are the shortest ones both clocking in at a little under three minutes, which may be part of the reason they have even more kick to them. “Lesson Learned” is hands down the heaviest song on the record, with a slight hard rock edge to it. It still sounds very much like Daylight Industries, though, and it adds a nice diversity to the album.
Then you have “Junkie Logic”, which is quick and to the point, and it packs a fierce punch. It captures the band in their element (as well as in their prime), going full throttle as they deliver a smack down of Rock ‘n’ Roll on the ears of the listeners. It’s so easy to get lost in this track, that it doesn’t even seem like two minutes and fifty-one seconds pass by, and then it’s suddenly over, and that’s a quality few songs possess.
While “Faith Healer” is a departure from Daylight Industries roots, it’s a necessary one that has revealed a whole new layer and depth to the band, who already didn’t have much trouble standing out.
Keith Allen has one of the most unique voices I’ve come across, and it’s one that’s instantly recognizable, but that’s not the only trait the band has that makes them so prominent. The textures of the guitar notes and the solid, dominating rhythm section that is found on each track are full of character, to the point there’s no mistaken them for any other band than Daylight Industries.
The point is, they’ve somehow managed to set themselves apart from the rest of the pack, and in time, I think it’s safe to assume they’ll do even more than that.
Daylight Industries is:
Barry Townsend - Bass
Brandon Tyner - Lead Guitar
Keith Allen - Vocals
Stephen Smith - Drums
Ruvayne Weber – Guitar
Purchase the album on: iTUNES
Visit Daylight Industries websites: Official Website / Facebook / Reverbnation / Twitter / Youtube
When you think of musical duos, the first thing that probably comes to mind is artists who mine more of the singer/songwriter genre, and certainly not a rock band. Sure, there are rock duos, but how many do you really know of? Just a small handful most likely.
There’s so much more on the line when it comes to duos, like wondering if they’ll be able to entertain and command the stage in the same way a four or five-piece band would.
That thought was at the forefront of my mind this night, when the Columbus, Ohio based Twenty One Pilots rolled through town, performing at the House of Blues.
Fans of this highly original act had packed the House of Blues to near capacity, seeming rabid with excitement, cheering and hollering once the lights finally dimmed, leaving the stage shrouded in darkness.
Unseen was Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun’s entrance to the stage, the latter taking a seat behind his massive drum kit, which sit on a platform, elevating it enough to ensure everyone had a good view.
Both were wearing their signature ski masks, while Tyler rocked out on a keytar as they got this monumental show going with “Fake You Out”. “Let’s dance!” he shouted out after one of the earlier lines, “…And I’ll fake. All I wanna”, the audience doing just that. They continued to amp up the intensity, with one of the most memorable moments of the show coming at one point when Tyler jumped on top of and then off his piano.
Already they were demonstrating complete control and dominance over not just the crowd, but the stage as well, their presence and energy filling the sizable area, to the point you had to wonder that if they were just getting warmed up, what was yet to come?
They took things in the opposite direction with their next song, Tyler taking a seat at the piano for “Migraine”, showing of his stellar rapping ability on most of the track, though it was the chorus of that emotion-filled song that had everyone singing along with him. “Am I the only I know, waging my wars behind my face and above my throat? Shadows will scream that I’m alone…” the audience echoed along with him. “Tonight, there are only two places in the world.” Tyler said at one point during “Fall Away”. “Dallas, and everywhere else!” he roared, before going back to busting out the song’s lyrics.
Thus far, there had been just enough time in between songs for the crowd to applaud, and while they showed how much they had enjoyed that tune, Tyler pointed at Josh, using his index finger and thumb to make a gun. They both pretended to shoot one another in the head, the stage lights again going completely out, leaving the fans wondering what was going to happen next.
When they were seen again, the two had exchanged their ski masks for skeleton masks, also sporting some body suits that had rips on them. Tyler dabbled on both the piano and keys at various points on “Ode to Sleep”, but it was the beginning that was utterly breathtaking. I’m not a real fan of rap, but had been enjoying the moderate amounts of it so far, and then he let loose on the first verse of that song. The precision he put into it was something else, and the further he got into it, the more he raised his voice, and also sped up the pacing. Like I said, I’m not a fan of the rap genre, but as a rapper, Tyler earned my utmost respect with that song, and the more poppy elements of the song were quite fun and enjoyable, too, meshing surprisingly well with the par parts.
They continued with the songs off their most recent album, “Vessel”, slowing things down now as Tyler used a ukulele for the more tender, “Screen”. It earned another sing along moment, the fans crooning, “We’re broken… we’re broken people…”, though it paled in comparison to sing along in the next number. Josh left is drum kit to add some notes from the keyboard to the start of “House of Gold”, a song everybody seemed eager to hear. I believe it was the second chorus, that, when they reached it, Tyler quit singing, the audience picking up the slack, very audibly singing, “I will make you queen of everything you see, I’ll put you on the map. I’ll cure you of disease.” It was a beautiful moment on what is one of the most beautifully written songs I’ve ever heard, and making the live version even better was the addition of Van Morrisons’ “Brown Eyed Girl”, or at least a snippet of the lyrics which were thrown in.
It was immediately followed by another cover song… Well, sort of. The song was Andrea Bocellas’ “Time to Say Goodbye”, and while the backing track of that song played over Twenty One Pilots version, giving it an operatic feel, the song was totally different. The words were rapped, and the mash up of two polar opposite genres (opera and rap), somehow blended together gorgeously.
“…I could not wait to stop and say hi to you all…” Tyler said when they finally took a break. By this time he and Josh had ditched their skeleton attire and ski masks, looking like normal people now, as Tyler chatted with the audience at length, commenting on how they started things off a little more mysterious with the lighting and such, working their way up to this point in the show.
He also mentioned that they also had some old stuff planned for everybody, having already done a couple of their classics, and adding to it with a song off the “Regional at Best” record, “Forest”. He played the piano at times on it, while also acting as a frontman at times, pacing around the stage and engaging the crowd on that gem of a song. He kept up the same behavior on their next song, but first mentioned what a “weird concert” this was. “…It feels like you all trapped us here and want to kill us, but before you do you said, “Play some music.” Tyler joked, soon adding, “We’re going to give you everything we have.”, a statement that earned them some uproarious cheering.
The honest song writing that acts as a window into Tyler’s life continued with “Addict with a Pen”, which was followed by “Holding On to You”. As they started it, Tyler left the stage and hopped onto the guard rail, standing up on it as he struggled for a moment to get his balance, before spitting out the words. That was just one of a few sweet concert moments that took place during that song, with another being when the first opening act, Sirah, joined them on stage, singing a few lines of the song. The one that took the cake though would have to be when Josh suddenly left his drum kit, calmly walking over to the piano on stage left, and climbing up on it. He then walked to the edge, turned around, and did a back flip off it, before returning to his drum duties.
Another unforgettable moment came towards the end of the at times more electronic sounding “Semi-Automatic”, when some of the stage hands brought out a small platform that had a partial drum kit on it, just a bass drum and a snare, plus a cymbal. They carried it to the edge of the stage, shoving it into a part of the audience, as the people who were there grabbed and held it as they moved it further back to ensure enough people had a hold on it. Josh then left his kit for this one, walking out onto the platform and sitting down, as he proceeded to wildly bang about this extra kit for several moments, until the song came to an end.
It was nothing but a sea of phones for that, as everyone attempted to capture that moment in one format or another, as well it should have. Honestly, how many bands have you seen do a stunt like that? I doubt many, and personally, that was a first for me.
The audience was still all worked up over that, as Josh returned to his full kit, eventually laying down a steady bass drum beat as they knocked the more cheerful sounding “The Run and Go”. “Why do you do what you do?” Tyler said, taking a pause during that song, though he kept striking the keys of the piano. He said that was a question his mother asked him. “…To put it in context, it was the first time she had ever seen me perform.” He again got personal with the fans, spending a few minutes talking about that, and how is mother, who had brought some of her friends to that show where she first saw him perform, said they were worried about him and how he acted like he did on stage. Tyler then gave a passionate little speech, saying he responded by saying that was just how the music affected and impacted him, earning him a deafening applause from the crowd who agreed with him. “…This is also my mom’s favorite song.” he added as they went back into the song and finished it up
Afterwards, he continued bantering with everyone, while Josh briefly left the stage. “…When I wrote these songs in my basement, I didn’t know there were rules…” he remarked, elaborating that he wasn’t aware that they needed a certain type of structure, or you should or shouldn’t do certain things with the chorus and such. “…I was just writing these weird songs…” he said, adding he was glad so many other people liked hearing his “weird” songs.
He continued, talking about how moving and changing music is, and in his speaking, you got the idea of what a deep and wise individual Tyler is. Characteristics that are evident in his songwriting itself, but they run much deeper than just that.
They soon got back to business with “Car Radio”, Tyler sounding more like a poet as he spoke/rapped the lyrics, again leaping off the piano at one point in the song.
With that, their 84-minute long set was nearly over, but first he connected with the audience one last time. “…This show is something I won’t soon forget…”, seeming genuine about the remark. Talk then turned to Twitter, when he said he doesn’t use social media to thank each town they play in, saying he feels like that ruins, if you post about how much fun each city was. He was more concerned with the people who were here now. “…I don’t live anywhere near here…” he said, going on to say how special it was that everyone was out here with the sole purpose of wanting to see them live and hear their songs.
He soon started speaking to one particular fan, asking him what his name was. “…There’s a moment in this next song, where I take my shirt off. And then I’m going to look at you, and we’re going to have a moment…” Tyler joked, before saying he wanted this fan to take his shirt off along with him, ensuring that no one would laugh or anything, because people would see him doing it, and then take their own shirts off.
It didn’t quite work like that, and while some people did remove their shirts during “Guns for Hands”, more were singing along to it, their enthusiasm turning to amazement as the song neared the end. Two floor toms were brought out and placed near the center of the stage, both Josh and Tyler taking a spot in front of them. They both acted as percussionists, forcefully beating on them as they stood back to back, before doing a 180°as they continued beating on them, ending their show in spectacular fashion, and leaving the fans feeling even more pumped up than they had all night.
No one wanted it to be over just yet, though, and after some shouting and clapping for one more, Tyler returned to the stage, playing the final track from “Vessel”, “Truce”. He segued it perfectly into “Trees”, where he was joined by Josh. The way they had ended the main set seemed hard to top, but they had devised a way to do just that, and again some stage hands rushed out towards the end of the song, this time with two smaller platforms they handed to the fans.
One was for Tyler and the other belonged to Josh, as they carried those toms from earlier out with them, concluding the night with a fiery drum solo that you just had to marvel at.
By the time it was all over, they had played their newest full-length in its entirety, plus a nice array of older stuff, and had put on one of the best live shows I’ve ever seen any band do.
I’ve caught a decent amount of shows here at the House of Blues, and there are some four and five-piece rock bands I’ve seen take this stage and fail to put the energy in to the show or have the presence it takes to fill this stage, two things that did not befall Twenty One Pilots.
They commanded the audience’s full attention without ever having to ask for it, relying completely on their explosive live show to capture and captivate them, and they did so with relative ease.
Personally, I find it easy, especially with larger bands, to overlook drummers, since they’re usually pushed towards the back of the stage. That’s far from the case with Josh Dun, who had a certain charisma about him, and was a fierce drummer. And Tyler is pretty much the ultimate frontman, having an amazing, and even beautiful singing voice, while doubling as a very skilled rapper, and as he roamed and ran about the stage, you really had no idea what he might do next.
It was that spontaneity that made their show so fun and engaging, allowing you to look on in wonder, and the diversity of their music didn’t hurt either, and the fact that no two songs of theirs even sound remotely the same kept things fresh throughout the night.
Tyler may be right that he writes weird songs, but they’re real, honest and relatable songs, something that’s hard to find in music these days. It didn’t hurt that he was so humble about everything, either, coming across as being truly privileged to be on this stage in front of so many people. But I digress. For me, it’s substance like that, that will always be the most important quality music can have, and if you’re lucky enough to see them live and get the joint experience of their music and their action packed live show, well, it’ll be a time you won’t soon forget.
Serving as the main support band for Cults at Trees this night was the fellow New York based band, Sacco. The group seems relatively unknown at this point (based on the “likes” they have on Facebook, which numbers 160 at this time), but it quickly became clear they aren’t long to be an obscure act.
The curtain opened on this powerhouse of a trio at 9:14, drummer Chris slamming into his kit, resulting in a jarring beat that started them into the lead track from their forthcoming self-titled record, “Carnival Ghost”. Andy Breihan did the singing on this song, also being the guitarist, while John Fredericks rounded out the rhythm section of the alluring track, which earned them the undivided attention of all who were there.
“Come closer.” Andy encouraged when they were done, causing those who were near the stage to move up a little further, while others who were further back in the venue obliged and gathered around. They hurried along with their 27-minute long set by doing “Driving”, a low key tune that included some nice harmonies from Andy and John, ending with a very fuzzy sounding and very stellar guitar solo.
Once it was done, the two switched out instruments, John grabbing his guitar off a rack that set behind him, while Andy got his own bass. That wasn’t the only thing that changed with these next few songs, though, as John now took over lead vocal duties. “I think you’re pretty, you think you’re not… We don’t see it the same, we’ve been living on different pages…” he sang at the start of the immediately engrossing “Think You’re Pretty”. It successfully told a story, a love story, and a well crafted/written one at that, about two people who never things eye to eye. I found myself wondering if it could get any better after that song, only to be shown it could when, with a few swift beats, Chris segued them into “ Kerosene”. The short two and a half minute long song was every bit as riveting as the one before it, just in its own unique way, and that pace only continued with “Sixty Battles (Carmelina)”, which they smoothly transitioned into.
They returned to their starting instruments for the next to last song of their set, the surprisingly soulful “Sunny Afternoon”, before pulling off one more change. Andy had been dabbling on a keyboard throughout the show, but now he took Johns’ spot, along with his bass, leaving him to focus on the keys. Andy had picked up the singing again on the previous song, and kept it up on “Where It Ends, Where It Begins”, which just seemed very fitting to end with.
Their new found throng of Dallas fans was hoping it wasn’t over, though, still anxiously watching them, even after seeing John clear his pedal board off the stage, all the while the sample track for the song wound down. “We’re done.” Andy stated rather plainly, and only then did the onlookers turn around, several of them making a bee line to the merch table to get a copy of their record, which they had noted during the show would not be officially released until next year.
Their time on stage may have been brief, but Sacco managed to wow me, and win over several members of the audience.
There are some softer, even calming elements to their music, though it still maintains a nice true rock sound, especially when you experience them live. Their music may not be cutting edge, but there’s a lot of originality to it, and with John and Andy, both of whom have incredible voices, taking turns on who does the singing, it constantly keeps things sounding fresh. And for people who are like me, and tend to pay more attention to the lyrics, this is a band that should appeal to you instantly.
I’ll end by saying this. It’s been a long time since I saw a band I had absolutely no knowledge of, one whose music I had never listened to before and literally knew nothing about before having seen them, and felt instantly compelled to go buy their CD. However, that was my feeling a couple songs into their set, and I was ecstatic when they mentioned they did have a record for sale. And when “Sacco” officially releases sometime next year, it’d be in your best interest to at least listen to some of the songs, if not buy it, ‘cause believe me, these guys are going to be something.
(NOTE: Check out a couple of their songs HERE.)
(Note 2: My review of Cults set can be read over on On Tour Monthly.)
It’s not too often I end up at the same venue two nights in a row, yet this night, I found myself back at Prophet Bar, for yet another round of touring acts.
The Limousines were responsible for getting me out on this Monday night, having seen them just barely over two years ago when they were on tour with The Sounds. They blew my mind then, and since that night, I had eagerly been awaiting their return to Dallas.
They were on tour with a couple of bands, and the one opening this show was Dresses, who were from Portland, Oregon.
I didn’t see much of them, as they had already started by the time I got there, though I enjoyed what I heard.
Every band on this bill was very different than the others, and Dresses was no exception, mining more of an indie/pop/rock sound, with the main members being frontwoman Timothy Heller and lead guitarist Jared Ryan Maldonado, who even played a ukulele for a few songs. While she was the lead vocalist, he also sang on some songs, and the two even harmonized at times, their voices blending to create some beautiful textures.
It was all well crafted, with more subtle tones at times that served to accentuate the vocals and even the lyrics to the songs.
I just wish I had gotten to see more of them and get a better idea of what they’re like, though I did enjoy what I saw.
They do have a record available, “Sun Shy”, which is actually their debut album. Give it a listen, and it may well make you a fan.
Sandwiched in between the opener and the headliner was San Francisco’s own The Limousines, who wound up having quite the following out this night, some of their fans rushing to the front of the stage as soon as Dresses left to ensure they had a good spot, all the while beaming with glee about seeing this electronic act.
They brought with them a pretty professional looking setup, from a couple of scrims (one on each side of the stage) that had multi-colored lights shining from behind them throughout the show. They also had a cool looking “case” that stood in front of the unused drum kit and had the band’s name on it, with the letters looking like all sorts of old runes. The letters on that were also illuminated, switching through the color spectrum.
Aside from aesthetics, they had also grown a member since I first saw them, now being a trio with the addition of a multi-instrumentalist who often played bass this night, but also dabbled on the keys/synthesizers and electronic drums.
Oh yeah, they also had a smoke machine, which frontman Eric Victorino triggered before walking backstage. In such a small venue, the fog got pretty dense as it billowed out, helping create a mood before multi-instrumentalist Giovanni Giusti, Eric and the bass player made their way on stage.
Their long awaited second LP, “Hush”, was released earlier this year after a successfully funded Kickstarter campaign, and they got their show going with the lead track and first single from it, “Love is a Dog from Hell”. It didn’t take long for the crowd to get into the song that laments love lost, moving about and even doing a little bit of dancing to the track. They were only just getting started as they immediately fired up “Undercover”, the bass during that song being so heavy at times you could feel the floor vibrating, which is always a sure sign of a great show.
It didn’t take long after the music subsided and the applause dies down for one female fan to shout at Eric, “Have my babies!” “I don’t have time for babies. I’m too busy.” he said, politely turning down her request, but it wasn’t the last time she would make it this night.
“Haunted” was the first of a few songs that saw Giovanni and the other guy heavily using their electronic drums, while Eric moved his mic stand out of the way on that one, giving him a little more freedom as he paced around more, and got pretty passionate at times. “I’m haunted, I’m haunted by you…” he belted out on the chorus, dropping to his knees at one point, packing that and many other lines from the song to the brim with emotion. That simply made it all the more enjoyable for the audience, and after finishing it, he had a question for everyone. “Does Dallas, Texas know how to dance?!” They proved they did on the incredibly catchy “Fool’s Gold”, which somehow managed to sound even better live, and was certainly more fun. Eric made an array of little movements with his hands during the first verse, conducting them to the music, while at one point during the song he instructed everyone to put their hands up. The fans listened, moving their fists up and down to the beat.
“Little Space” was definitely the most electronic sounding song they did this night, after which Giovanni and the other guy let up on the electronic drums, as he went back to his bass for the lively “Gimme Control”. “I’m sorry I declined your baby offer earlier…” Eric again told the girl from earlier, who was very into the show. “I’m just too busy. I am.” he said, looking at the bass player, who in turn was looking at Eric like that was just an excuse. The trio moved on with “The Last Dance”, which featured some real percussion as Giovanni periodically beat on a floor tom that set beside him, against the wall of stage left.
“…Tell me, how am I supposed to know, should I hold you, should I let you go? Let me know, I’ll let you go…” Eric sweetly sang on another gem and instant classic from the “Hush” album, “Bedbugs”, ending it as he crooned, “…I could lie and tell you we could still be friends…”
Everyone was saddened to hear Eric announce they had just one song left, but after a quick chat with Giovanni, they decided to do two. One of those songs was “Stranger”, and as they finished it, one girl let out a loud shriek of excitement. “I guess I am having your babies.” Eric said after pinpointing it was the same girl as before “She’s a shrieker.” he stated while laughing. As it stood, they had played the majority of “Hush”, and now, to end their 41-minute long set, they performed the title track. That song is something else in the live environment, and Eric was in top form while performing it, in complete control of the stage as well as the audience’s attention while he thrashed about on stage, then, in true rock star fashion, left the stage right after his final line.
Even after two years I still remember that first of theirs I saw pretty vividly, and the one this night at the Prophet Bar is another one that’ll live on in my mind for quite some time. And since they didn’t do anything from the “Get Sharp” album, it almost was like seeing them again for the first time this night.
Their showman for sure, and the three of them owned the stage this night as The Limousines. However, as amazing as Eric’s voice is (and it does sound even more remarkable live), and as mind blowing of a live show as they put on, one of the most surprising things to me is that is heavily as they rely on electronics and even backing tracks, none of it sounds synthetic. It’s all very real and has a clean, organic sound to it all.
Check out their records in iTUNES, and they do have one more show booked for the year in San Jose, CA at the Blacnk Club on December 20th.
They alone were worth coming out on this Monday night and the $15 price tag, but there was one more band after them, and they hailed from Nashville, TN.
I had listened to a little bit of Mona’s music just a few days before the show, and honestly, didn’t really get into it. There are plenty of bands, though, that end up being better live, and I figured I’d stick around for a few songs and give them a chance.
They played a decent amount of material from their self-titled record, beginning with “Listen to Your Love”. Whatever reason I had of not liking their music beforehand was quickly dispelled with that explosive number, which had pulled pretty much the entire crowd (of around 80+ people, not band for a Monday night) as close as they could get to the stage, watching in awe.
Well, I now knew I’d be sticking around until they finished.
The quartet killed some time as they dealt with the drummer, Vince Gard’s monitor, which wound up not being turned on. “…That means he played that song like a badass!” said singer and rhythm guitarist Nick Brown, before they moved on to another single from their debut album, “Teenager”. Audience participation was a must on it, and they got nearly everyone clapping to the beat at the start of it, while Nick asked the fans to sing along at the end, which most everyone seemed happy to do, though it wasn’t loud enough. “Vince’s girlfriend is louder than that!” Nick told everyone in order to get some more out of them, and that helped lead to the start of some Texas jokes, since his girlfriend was from Texas, and her sisters were actually part of the audience.
After having some fun and laughs with everybody, they got back into show mode, doing a song from the recently released “Torches & Pitchforks”, “Wasted”, which I did find to be a bit repetitive at times. You could already tell that humor, especially in regards to banter, was a big part of Mona’s show, and at this point it appeared they were about to do a cover. “I heard there was a secret chord…” Nick crooned while softly plucking the strings of his guitar, getting an excited reaction from a few fans. A rendition of “Hallelujah” was not coming though, as he stopped right there. “Are you fucking kidding me?” he said, about the idea of them even covering that song, before they promptly tore into “Darlin’”, lead guitarist Jordan Young, bassist Zach Lindsey, Vince and Nick all rapidly rocked out on their instruments.
Upon finishing it, the Texas jokes continued, and while none were negative, they were pretty hit and miss with this group of Texans. “…I know, Texas jokes aren’t funny. Lighten up. It’s a Monday…” Nick said, acting as if he was irritated, but in a joking way. And since that wasn’t working, he put the target on himself. “…That guy with the mic makes less and less sense the more he drinks…”, which got the biggest rise from the crowd yet.
They kept going with a couple of other songs, the latter of which wound up being one of my favorites of theirs. It was very sharp and filled with venom, essentially being the epitome of a rock song. It was interesting when they finished it, though, Nick saying to everyone, “…Sometimes you play songs that aren’t even songs…” “Was that even a song before we started it?” Zach asked, giving the impression that perhaps it came about spur of the moment. Nick then moved the conversation in to what concerts have evolved into these days. “…You hear what you know, and then leave…” He then added, “I don’t believe in that.”, before continuing with, “I know music played by humans for humans is a novel idea…” The thing is, all of that would almost be funny if there wasn’t so much truth to it.
Is what wound up being funny, though, was that after this speech about people only sticking around to hear the “popular” songs, they did “Goons (Baby, I Need it All)”, which Zach pointed out after they finished was the one song that everyone here knew (well, I didn’t know it, though.) It was ironic that things would work out that way, but certainly not hypocritical.
The talk of music continued, and now Nick also incorporated some real life experiences in order to show how different everybody is. “I’ve met people that have dicks who like other people with dicks. I’ve met people with dicks that like people with vagina’s…” He then threw in a meeting with someone from here in the Deep Ellum area of Dallas. “…Earlier I met a guy who’s been homeless for six months and said he’s an atheist…” (while on the topic of religion, at one point during the show Nick informed everyone that he was the son of a pastor, I believe it was, laughing when he said no one probably would have thought that.) The purpose of all that was to show that while we’re all different as far as background and beliefs go, we’re still all pretty much the same. “…Music is bigger than all of us. Fuck religion… fuck state….” he said, adding a bunch of other institutions to that list, before closing with, “I believe in music.”
I think that was the most Rock ‘n’ Roll speech I’ve ever heard, being very impactful, and they of course had to prove that, going almost right in to “Shooting the Moon”, which Nick put his guitar down for. He joined the audience on that one, as the crowd parted, letting him go where he wanted, which was almost back to the bar, before he eventually returned towards the front of the stage. They toned things down just a bit with “Like You Do”, and only did more so once Nick got his guitar back, knocking out “Pavement”.
I believe they followed it with another track from 2012’s “Mona”, “I Seen”. Regardless of if that’s right or wrong, Jordan, Zach, Vince and Nick tore it up on their respective instruments, and even though their 70-minute long set was almost over, they still had a lot of energy left to put into it.
One more song came next, after which they again thanked everyone for coming out on this Monday night. “…No one ever wants to do anything on Monday’s.” said Nick, before they brought the night to a close with “Lean Into the Fall”.
What they did was put on a real, entertaining performance, the likes of which are hard to find.
Making it all the better was the fact that I was not prepared for it in the least, and that’s always a great feeling when you see a band and they completely blow you away.
Anyway, in watching the members of Mona on stage, all the potential they have is readily evident, which makes me glad I saw them here at the Prophet Bar, because there’s no doubt they’re destined for bigger and better things (and bigger stages). They just have all the key components, from the live show, to writing meaningful music that has that certain radio friendly quality to it, and everything else a band needs to succeed.
They may be done playing for now, but keep an eye on their tour schedule, ‘cause they’ll no doubt be busy in 2014. And in the meantime, check out their music on iTUNES.
Very fun night, and it was nice getting to some bands from beyond the North Texas music scene. Too bad every Monday night can’t be this much fun. Oh, and this also wound up being the 600th concert I’ve seen. Not bad if I do say so myself.