Saturday, September 27th, 2014 – The Wind and The Wave Brave the Heat at Western Days

With it officially being fall it means it’s time for festival season to kick back into high gear.

Even the city of Lewisville gets in on the action with their annual Western Days Festival (sponsored in part by 99.5 The Wolf), taking place in the heart of historic downtown Lewisville.

All sorts of art and food vendors were set up along the multiple blocks they had blocked off; and there was plenty going on to entertain. Live music was one of the things that occupied some time; and, of course, that would be the thing that got me out here in the first place.

In all honesty, I was completely unaware of this festival until just a few days prior to it, when I happened to see a Facebook post from the Austin duo The Wind & The Wave, saying they’d be performing at it.

I had seen their first Dallas area gig about five months before (when they played the March Madness Music Festival that was happening in conjunction with the NCAA Championships), and I couldn’t pass up a second opportunity to see them, especially for free.

The weather was the exact opposite of how it had been back in April. Instead of light rain and chilly temperatures, the sun was out in force and there was not a cloud in sight. Actually, they may have preferred it the other way around, because this afternoon, the sun was beating right down on them.

It was 4:04 when Patricia Lynn picked up her acoustic guitar and Dwight Baker his electric; firing up a sample track with the drums and bass, as they opened with the incredibly infectious, “My Mama Said Be Careful Where You Lay Your Head”. They may have only had a couple dozen people watching them intently, but all of them seemed taken by the lead track from their From the Wreckage album, bobbing their heads to the music, while Lynn sang, “…Love taught me everything I know, everything I know. Sometimes you keep it near, sometimes you let go…”

“We are The Wind and The Wave from Austin, Texas,” she announced afterwards, thanking the city of Lewisville for, “having us at your intersection.” “It’s a lovely intersection,” added Baker, before moving on to the subsequent track off their debut record, “From the Wreckage Build a Home”, which was often haunting, but in a lovely way. “I want to rename this show Lewisville Skin Cancer 2014,” Baker cracked upon finishing it.

If you were fortunate enough to be in the shade, it wasn’t all that bad. Even the crowd at least at their backs to the sun’s rays, though the band had neither of those luxuries. “Sweat is rolling down into my eye balls and burning my eyes. That’s happening right now,” Lynn remarked. It may have been uncomfortable, but they weren’t going to let that stop them, as they carried on with a song about growing up and making your own way, as well as the importance of family, “Loyal Friend and Thoughtful Lover”. They then slowed things down some with “This House is a Hotel”, which at times showcased the higher register Lynn is capable of, and it sounded gorgeous. Baker had thrown in some harmonies here and there already this day, and did so again now, with the pair of them repeatedly crooning at the end, “It’s not at all good, but it ain’t that bad…”. “I’m not gonna lie, it’s pretty bad. It’s pretty hot,” Baker cracked afterwards.

They continued with “When That Fever Finally Takes a Hold On You”; and Baker riffed on his axe while Lynn took a moment to tune her guitar before the following song. His electric guitar was far more prominent on “The Heart it Beats; The Thunder Rolls”, which had some semi-dark undertones at times. It’s just a very moody track. Then, they switched things up.

A mandolin had been sitting in plain sight behind Lynn, and now she exchanged her guitar for it, while Baker swapped to an acoustic. They used them for a couple of songs, like the cherry, “It’s a Longer Road to California Than I Thought”, as well as another tune. “We are The Wind and The Wave, as you can tell from the thunderous turnout,” joked Baker in between the two songs, also mentioning their debut record had recently come out on RCA Records.

After switching back to their acoustic and electric guitars, Baker also noted their single had come out eight weeks or so before, and it was in the Billboard Top 40 charts. “But not in Dallas,” he said playfully. “With Your Two Hands” was the single he spoke of, and it was by far the catchiest thing they did (which is saying something); and I doubt I was the only one who felt compelled to tap my foot along to the beat.

“It’s pretty hot. I still haven’t figured out why y’all are all standing here,” Lynn said to the crowd after that song. Not many people wanted to endure the heat, though they did have their section of fans out, while others I think quickly became fans of theirs. “You could fry an egg on this guitar,” she finished, before Baker chimed in, this time saying that Skin Cancer Jamboree 2014 would be a great name for this. He got serious, though, thanking the sponsors and the city for having them as a part of this, before doing their final original song of the afternoon, “Raising Hands, Raising Hell, Raise ‘em High”.

In closing, Baker mentioned they had been asked to record some covers for the TV show Grey’s Anatomy. “Last year, or maybe it was this year. It’s all running together. Shit, I don’t know,” he confessed. A timeframe didn’t really matter. The most important thing was they had done some covers, and one was a classic from Simple Minds.

They had to wait for the mandolin to “recover from sun exhaustion” as Baker put it; and once Lynn had it properly tuned, they did their version of “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” to wrap up their 47-minute long set. They’ve made it their own, giving it more of a folk sound; and it was a fun one to end with.

It was a great performance; and for those who were fans, it was nice getting to hear nearly everything off their record.

What I like the most about The Wind and The Wave is all of their songs tell stories, and are often quite deep if you really pay attention to the lyrics. The clever banter is also a constant, and it makes them all the more entertaining. Let’s not forget about the phenomenal voice that resides in Patricia Lynn, which often leads you thinking, “Wow!”

Their Dallas fan base may not be strong in numbers yet, but it will be. Especially considering the national attention they have been getting for a while now.

They’ll actually be back in Dallas on October 10th at the House of Blues opening for Bernhoft, who they’ll be touring much of the country with from October through early November. A full list of their tour dates can be found HERE. Be sure to check out their record in iTUNES, too.

Saturday, September 27th, 2014 – Reckless Kelly Pumps Up the Crowd at Western Days

With it officially being fall it means it’s time for festival season to kick back into high gear.

Even the city of Lewisville gets in on the action with their annual Western Days Festival (sponsored in part by 99.5 The Wolf), taking place in the heart of historic downtown Lewisville.

All sorts of art and food vendors were set up along the multiple blocks they had blocked off; and there was plenty going on to entertain. Live music was one of the things that occupied some time; and, of course, that would be the thing that got me out here in the first place.

One act I was eager to see was Reckless Kelly.

The Austin-based country/rock band is no stranger to the D/FW area, though I’ve never managed to make it to a show when they’ve been up here. They routinely headline some of the biggest venues in the area, though it would seem it’s easier to get people out to an air-conditioned venue later at night than it is to a (free) show in the great outdoors at six in the evening.

Don’t get me wrong, as there were several dedicated fans ready for them. A few dozen sat in folding chairs, with dozens more standing; and as it got later and the heat from the sun subsided, the number of eyes on them grew substantially.

The quintet made their way on stage as they were being introduced by one of the radio personalities; ripping right into their opener as soon as he had said what he needed to.

Immediately you could feel the massive presence they had in tow as they commanded everyone’s attention; and then they got into what was pretty much a full headline set.

Covers always interest me, mainly because some bands stay as far away from them as possible, while others have no problem with it, and quite enjoy putting their own twists on some classics. Reckless Kelly apparently fits into that latter category, and they opened with a deep cut from Bruce Springsteens’ catalog, “My Love Will Not let You Down”. The mandolin Cody Braun wielded helped in giving the song more of a country vibe, though it definitely retained its rock core; and singer and rhythm guitarist Willy Braun even gave The Boss a run for his money, belting out the song in a gritty, raw tone of voice. “Come on, boys!” he roared as they hit an instrumental break — almost like he was taking a cue from Springsteen’s playbook — as David Abeyta took the spotlight on a killer lead guitar solo.

They knew their time with everyone was short, and never wasted much time this evening; and now, drummer Jay Nazz rolled them right into their next track. “How we doing y’all?!” Willy excitedly asked the crowd, many of whom screamed back at him. “This is an Alejandro Escovedo song for you!” he informed everyone. Nazz held a maraca in one hand and a drumstick in the other, and his drumming on “Castanets” was absolutely phenomenal. He was completely in the zone; and at the break, Willy walked up on the drum riser and stood beside him and jammed for a few moments. The singer then made his way back to the forefront of the stage, hopping atop a monitor. “Come on!” he mouthed as he threw his hand in the air, further pumping up the spectators; before he and Abeyta concluded the song by facing one another as they shredded on their axes.

No one cared in the least that those were covers, because they owned both of them, but now it was time for some original music, and it started with the title track to their 2011 album, “Good Luck & True Love”. Its catchy hooks dug in to everyone, making them enjoy the show all the more, while plenty sung right along with the band, “…Maybe it was just one night of good luck and true love…”. As the guitars and drums fell silent, Joe Miller proceeded to lay down some hefty riffs on the bass, and Willy made sure to point him out, asking everyone to say “hi” to him. The Braun Brothers then got to show off their full vocal capabilities as they co-sung “Lonely All the Time”. Their voices were rich and vibrant, and when layered over one another, well, it resulted in the best thing they had done thus far.

“Here’s one y’all might remember from the old days,” Willy told the crowd. It appeared as if he was about to move on to the song, but then added, “And by old days, I mean, oh, about thirty years ago.” Abeyta now had a twelve-string guitar in his hands, using it as they handled another rock classic, this one coming from Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers. Their rendition of “Listen to Her Heart” was stellar; and while they kept it pretty spot on, there were some slight tweaks here and there, giving it a bit of an Americana vibe.

The applause rang out while Willy played some riffs on his guitar, getting everyone excited before stopping. They teased everyone for just a bit, again acting as if they were starting the song before quitting. They kept it going the third time around, officially getting the more outlaw country tune “Crazy Eddie’s Last Hurrah” underway, and it was another one the audience thoroughly seemed to enjoy.

An acoustic guitar was brought out to Willy, who then told the onlookers they had a song about the road for them. He was referring to the lead track from the Bulletproof record, “Ragged as the Road”, a song that received some strong cheers as they started it. Upon finishing it, a fan shouted a request at them. “We’ll get to that one,” Willy told the person, politely joking with them by saying, “We know what we’re doing up here.” He mentioned this next one was the latest single from the record they released just one year ago. Willy and Cody again did some co-singing, this time on the melancholy “The Girl I Knew”. “…You come and steal my heart with your wild eyes shining, then you smile as you break it in two. What did you do with the girl I knew?” goes the poignant chorus, and the brothers delivered that emotion in their singing.

Before moving on, Abeyta switched to an acoustic guitar, while Willy grabbed his neck rack and harmonica. Miller and Nazz left the stage to those three for “Wicked, Twisted Road”. It may have been the slowest thing they did this evening, but it also the most powerful. You could tell the lyrics came right from the heart, and Willy appeared to be connecting with it on a deep personal level.

As they neared the end, Miller returned to the stage, grabbing his upright bass for the first time this night, and he began to tune. Nazz got back behind his kit shortly after; and when that song was over, Willy handed the reins over to Cody, who said they had “a little bluegrass” to play. “Wild Western Windblown Band” was the song, and it’s lively pace was the exact opposite from the previous few songs. It reinvigorated everyone, from the band to those watching; and Abeyta got to show off his skills some more on another nice solo.

The lead guitarist then swapped back to an electric guitar, while Willy got a little nostalgic, saying he and Cody were big fans of The Everly Brothers growing up. “We worked this up the other day,” he said in advance of “Bird Dog”. It created a fun atmosphere, and they kept some of those 50’s era vibes intact, while modernizing it some, too. Willy and Cody spent much of the song huddled around the main microphone, with Abeyta throwing in the “bird dog” part and such.

A few times this night Cody had busted out his fiddle, and he brought it out again here, using it for the intro to their next track, while Cody shook a tambourine. Miller started a clap along with the now couple hundred people who were now standing along the street (many of whom were a little further back from the stage, though still glued to the band). Already there was an unmistakable Irish jig sound going, and fans roared when Willy stated they were going to “take it on down to Ireland one time”, doing so with “Seven Nights in Eire”.

“We’ve been playing this song for a long, long time…” Willy mentioned, saying it was originally done by Richard Thompson. “It took a long time for us to learn it, but after doing it a couple thousand times, we feel confident it is the best song on the subject,” he finished. I’d say he’s right about “1952 Vincent Black Lightning” — another song that they have made completely their own — and it fit with the outlaw tones of some of their previous stuff.

Nazz bridged them into the following song; and with everyone back on electric instruments now, they were ready to finish strong, first serving up “Vancouver”. “Here’s a little Joe Ely for you right now,” said Willy. They had just enough spare time left to throw in their take on “My Eyes Got Lucky”, something all the Texas country music fans really went crazy over. Willy then led the charge into the final song of their 71-minute long set, “Nobody’s Girl”, which really seemed to personify these Red Dirt rockers spirit, leading to an awesome finish.

My first experience with Reckless Kelly was far better than I even thought it would be.  The showmanship they displayed was off the charts. Best of all, it never wavered; and by the time things were done, they had only grown into an even more powerful force.

It’s the type of performance that can only come after you’ve spent the better part of two decades together, logging a few thousand shows at least, and developing just the right chemistry amongst band mates.

This may have been my first Reckless Kelly show, but it certainly will not be the last.

They’ll be back in North Texas on November 7th at Billy Bob’s in Fort Worth, though they have plenty of other dates around the Mid-West before then. Their full tour schedule can be found HERE. Be sure to head over to iTUNES and check out their albums, too.

Saturday, September 13th, 2014 - The 7th Annual Dia de los Toadies: Day II – The Toadies Wrap Up Their Festival with One Last Run Through Rubberneck

The gates at Panther Island Pavilion were set to open at three this afternoon, and unsurprisingly, there weren’t many people there at that time.

Still, there were a little more than a dozen people already lined up; and once they finally did open the gates, it became clear everyone either already had a wristband from attending the first night of Dia de los Toadies or they had their tickets for the day already printed out.

It was a die-hard bunch right there.

Of course, the bands weren’t slated to start until 3:40, meaning there was a lot of time to kill. Time that was best spent either checking out the food trucks that were there, or just sitting at the tables around said trucks, resting up for the long day that lie ahead.

This was my fourth Dia (all have been consecutive), and the weather was nicer this day than any of those in years past. The clouds were keeping the sun at bay, to the point it looked like rain may not be out of the question. That also kept the temperature more than bearable. In fact, a jacket didn’t hurt, even in the early afternoon. This is Texas, though, so those conditions didn’t last forever.

The event got started over on the smaller stage, and since it was in Fort Worth, it was appropriate that a hometown band like Blank-Men would be the first to play.

They stood apart from everyone else this day in the fact that they relied heavily on electronics/synthesizers.

Vocalist and bassist Sam Swanson, guitarist and vocalist Alex Atchley, drummer Joey Kendall and synth player Emily Thompson opened with an instrumental piece, rocking out for a few minutes before Swanson counted to four, leading them into their next number.

“It’s all coming together now,” the bassist remarked after one of the songs off their Fact or Fiction? EP, “Radio Silence”. They were definitely in the groove now, as they kept pumping out one song after another, alternating between Swanson and Atchley handling the vocals, and even co-singing at times.

“This songs about,” Swanson said, pausing briefly to think, before giving a nod to a Fort Worth venue, “Spending all your money at The Boiled Owl.” They even joked about their merch at one point, saying they had “small circular things for sale” and that they wouldn’t mind if everyone bum rushed the table and just took whatever they wanted.

“Here’s one for all you hardcore kids,” Atchley said before one song. It was heavier from what they had done thus far, especially with the intro on the moog Thompson was responsible for.

Blank-men’s style of music was quite different from what I typically like, but by the time they finished, I was rather enjoying it. They play it very well, blending both the rock and electronic genres nicely.

You can find their EP on BANDCAMP; and see them live on November 4th at Three Links in Dallas.

People now headed over to the main stage, where another Fort Worth-based band — The Longshots — were about to get started.

They were the first of many bands this day whom I had seen previously, though they looked a little different. They were a four-piece now, something I had evidently missed, assuming the news was even shared on any of their social networks whenever it may have happened.

Nonetheless, I was looking forward to seeing them again.

The fact that they were down to two guitarists/singers now didn’t seem to inhibit them much, though they did focus on a different set of songs from what I recall from the other shows I had seen. “The Chase” got their 32-minute long set off to a good start, with some killer riffs, while the beats Brady Hamilton was dishing out were perfect to bang your head to, as Joey Gorman handled the singing.

Many of the bands this day used these stages to try out some new(er) material, and The Longshots were no exception. “…We appreciate being able to play on this stage with our friends…” Gorman said after singing another song. He then realized he didn’t want to exclude anyone, and extended that to include everyone who was playing on this field, saying, “we’re all homies.” Fellow singer and guitarist Alex Zobel now took the reins, as they did another cut from their self-titled debut they released earlier this year. “Back to the Rio Grande” showed off more of the bands garage rock sound; while the track that followed highlighted the harmonies both Gorman and Zobel are capable of, as the latter chimed in on each chorus.

One of the lines from that song was about “medicine”, leading Gorman to say afterwards that the song was about “the legal distribution of medical marijuana in America and their opposition towards it.” He said it so deadpan, you might have thought he was serious, though he was more being extremely sarcastic.

They debuted a brand new song to the people, a song that got off to a softer start, before getting more intense. Hamilton counted them into “Uppercut”, which boasted a sweet instrumental jam, complete with some nice riffs, with the drums and Kris Luthers’ bass also having their moments. The rhythm section then really got to shine on their final number, which had a heavy instrumental breakdown.

It was a really good set, though it was different from my past two Longshots experiences.

While they did have those raw rock numbers, they also had plenty of slower songs mixed in. Personally, I enjoyed those styles of songs, though it did make for an interesting mix. However, the biggest difference was how restrained they were.

These guys are usually jumping all around the stage, and while it would have been impossible this day, even jumping off it and mingling with the crowd while shredding. That same energy just wasn’t there this afternoon. I highly enjoyed hearing the music, but the show… Maybe it was just an off day for them.

If you want to check out The Longshots music (and you should), you can find it in iTUNES.

Scott Beggs (co-owner of the Dallas venue Three Links) was introducing all the bands this day, and before the next act on the smaller stage, he pointed out that all the bands had been handpicked by The Toadies, making this their own “personal playlist” of sorts.

The stage was then given up to Residual Kid, a trio who had made the short trip from Austin.

Their music was a mixture of grunge and punk, grunge in the fact that it had a dirtier sound to it, and punk in the way that some of their songs were just a couple minutes or so.

They managed to fit 10 songs into their 34-minute set, getting their first two done quickly, and bridging them together so seamlessly that it was fairly hard to tell they had started “Friend”. It was the lone track they did off their Faces EP, and was pretty catchy to boot.

“This one’s brand new,” stated singer and guitarist Deven Ivy before the group continued. “It’s not so chilly up here,” he mentioned afterwards, then tacked on, “with a jacket,” to that sentence. He, bassist Max Redman and drummer Ben Redman kept the blistering pace up with songs like “Names” and “Glue”, which were as short and to the point as the titles were. It was kind of nice, because they didn’t bother stretching the song(s) out, rather, just say what they wanted to and then finish it.

One song they did was about Sonic Youth, and during it, Ivy ran his axe along the top of his cabinet, creating some nice tones. Throughout the show he had mentioned who they were, and as their time on stage drew to a close, he joked, “We’re still Residual Kid.” Their final song had a heavy break down during it; and in its final moments, Max took his bass off and let it fall to the floor. He then flipped it over, with the strings now being visible, grabbed the mic stand he had occasionally used this day, propped his bass up at an angle, and then ran the whole stand up and down the neck. It’s was pretty rock ‘n’ roll.

I knew many of the bands on the festival this day, but Residual Kid was one that was new to me, and they proved to be a good surprise.

Of course, there are still bands that play some sort of punk or grunge rock out there, but it was good to see a younger band who knows the importance/significance of those styles and has incorporated it into their sound.

You can find their EP in iTUNES. As for shows, they have one coming up in Austin on September 23rd at The Palm Door.

It was later in the five-o’clock hour now, and the sun had not only made an appearance, but it was getting pretty warm at this point. That’s Texas for you. Still, at least it wasn’t unbearably hot.

The main stage now belonged to Somebody’s Darling, who just a few weeks before this had played a big CD release show for their new album, and those new songs were expected to be in full force this day.

In a switch up from how that CD release show went, though, they opted to get a couple of slightly older songs out of the way first.

Frontwoman and rhythm guitarist Amber Farris jumped around to the beats Nate Wedan was producing, as they built up to their first song. “Put your cold hands in my warm jacket. Keep ‘em there to we leave…” the singer than crooned, as they got “Cold Hands” underway. The roots rockers had their own little fan base out this evening, and they were happy to clap along once Farris began to do so. “Alright, here we go! Let’s do this!” she yelled as they amped the song back up; and lead guitarist David Ponder killed it with the closing guitar solo.

“We’re Somebody’s Darling and we’re happy to be here,” Farris stated over the mixed noise of the guitars, keys, bass and drums, which soon gave way to the other single spawned from Jank City Shakedown, “Wedding Clothes”. Both bassist Wade Cofer and pianist Mike Talley added their voices to the chorus of “Just waiting on my fever to break…”, which really strengthened it. Talley even stole the show for a moment when he quickly ran his fingers over the keyboard, starting at one end and going down to the other.

Before that second song, Farris also mentioned they were going to get warmed up. After that, I’d say they sufficiently were.

Now they got to their new stuff, tackling the lead track (and single) from Adult Roommates, “Bad, Bad”. “We’re excited to be on stage with The Toadies!” Farris remarked after they had finished that song. She encouraged everyone to get drunk for them, though added, “Stay sober enough.”

She cleaned up “Vowels Flow” for any and all young ears that may have been listening. “…While the girls at the mall rack the bills, while their daddy screws us all…” Farris belted on the first verse (you can use your imagination as to what word was changed and from what). It’s nearly impossible not to get into that feel good song; and after the second chorus, Farris tried to pull any stragglers in, yelling, “Alright, Fort Worth. Let’s go! Come on,”

The stirring “Come to Realize” brought the mood down slightly, though the song about the demise of a relationship and pondering what caused it was a highlight of their set (and I’m not just saying that because I’m incredibly partial to it). It really did result in an amazing moment. “Let’s do this!” Farris said aloud, before Wedan hammered out the beats for “Set it Up”, which was another one that had Ponder doing an excellent solo.

Off to the side of the stage, there were some booths set up, and one of them had a giant moustache in front of it. The funny thing was it was seesaw; and before going any further, Farris pointed it out, along with the people who were currently on it. “Everyone needs a good seesaw now and then,” she laughed, before they busted out the second single from their new record, “Generator”, which had a handful of people (just that I could see) singing along to it.

That was a sign that their 37-minute long set was nearly over, but they still had a little something left to give.

“We’re gonna slow it down now that you got all rowdied up,” said Farris, who now had an acoustic guitar in her hands. They jumped to the final two songs on the album; and “Smoke Blows” isn’t quite as slow as it was made out to be. Neither was “Keep This Up”, which again utilized the three-part harmonies between Cofer, Talley and Farris, and proved a good one to end with.

The energy from the crowd may have been vastly different from the near capacity show they played a few weeks back, but the bands energy was every bit as vibrant as ever.

That’s not to say the audience wasn’t into it, either, but the band wasn’t able to get all the sing alongs going like they can at their usual shows, where they’re the main act.

Since they didn’t have much time, they had to keep a fast pace, and pretty much launched one song after the other at the onlookers.

Basically, Somebody’s Darling was responsible for what was one of the best sets of the day.

They’ll be at Dosey Doe in The Woodlands on October 9th, and then have a couple of short tours planned later in the month, where they’ll hit Georgia, North Carolina, Illinois, Indiana and Tennessee. They’ll also be playing Charlie’s Backyard Bar in Marshall, TX on November 7th and Lee Harvey’s in Dallas on November 8th. Full info on all their shows can be found HERE. Don’t forget to check out their albums in iTUNES, either.

The massive field that is Panther Island was really starting to fill up now, as more and more people arrived, and several of them seemed excited to see The Quaker City Night Hawks.

“Good evening Fort Worth, Texas…” Sam Anderson sang in his rich tone, as the roots rock outfit got started. It wasn’t just a welcoming, but also the first line of their first song. The first of many new songs they did this evening, and it had been perfectly designed to be the opener, with the first few lines quite fitting of the day. Bassist Pat Adams and drummer Matt Mabe were responsible for a pretty heavy rhythm section on that song, as well; and you could already tell Mabe was thoroughly enjoying being up there, as he was giving it 110%.

“What’s up, Fort Worth?” Anderson asked, during a momentary pause before they fired up their next song. “That’s a new one,” he informed the onlookers when they had finished. “We’re glad to be here,” the singer and rhythm guitarist told everyone after another jam, before commenting on the weather. “Thank you… whoever is responsible for that,” he said, prompting one guy in the crowd to shout that he was the one behind the cooler, cloudy day. “That guy!” Anderson exclaimed and pointed, telling the crowd they should buy that man a beer.

Sans some backing vocals, David Matsler had been rather quite so far. However, he now took over on the singing duties, as they did “Fox in the Hen House”. It was the only old jam they did this night, and you could tell who was a fan of the band, because some people got quite excited when they began it. The best part was the harmonies. Everyone except keyboardist Andrew Skates sang on the chorus, “…‘Cause the fox is in the hen house now.” That number came to a mighty finish, due largely to the drums.

“We’re gonna play some new stuff for ya,” Anderson announced, before Matsler went back to singing. The percussion was so heavy on it that Mabe lost his beer because of it. “My whole beer just spilt cause of the vibrations,” he told his band mates in a very disappointed tone. He shook it off, and they got to another new song. One so new, it had never been played live before.

“Back in the winter of fifty-three, the mean ol’ devil had it out for me…” Anderson sang at the start of that dark, but engrossing track, which again had Adams, Matsler and Mabe providing some harmonies. A couple more followed, and once it was all said and done, Anderson thanked everyone who had paid attention.

“We are Quaker City Night Hawks, and we love you,” he told everyone.

Their 34-minute long set went by too fast, and if they had been able to play longer, I don’t think anyone would have had a problem with it.

This was my third time seeing these guys, and quite honestly, I think it was the best. Even topping the hour long or so set I saw them do last year, when I first caught them live.

Quaker City Night Hawks are as solid as they come, and it’s far too easy to see why they have not only became a favorite of many here in North Texas, but also established themselves as a heavyweight in the music scene.

They’re different from a lot of bands out there. Different doesn’t necessarily mean new, but they’ve found a style that they excel at and can pull off exceptionally well. They’re definitely one to keep an eye on, as they may be the next big thing to come out of the D/FW area. The potential is certainly there.

They have a gig in Roswell, New Mexico on September 19th, and then one in Amarillo, Texas at Hoots the following night. On October 24th, they’ll be marking their 5th anniversary as a band with a show in Fort Worth; and then on Halloween night you can catch them at Granada Theater in Dallas. As for albums, they have a few in iTUNES.

Next up on the schedule was something that was a real treat to the festival goers, and one band I was excited to see: Pleasant Grove.

It was only earlier this year when I first heard of them, when they performed a reunion show, which was anticipated by many. From what I later learned, the band was part of the old guard of the North Texas music scene, going back to the late 90’s, before breaking up in the mid-2000’s. Luckily for the scene, they haven’t stayed dead, and are now beginning a renaissance.

Just like many of the other bands on the bill, Pleasant Grove played a lot of newer songs they’ve cooked up.

Marcus Striplin and Bret Egner (both of whom were also the guitarists) traded off on singing during their set, with the former taking the first song, and the latter the second.

That second song also had Chris Mayes moving to the lap steel guitar that was attached to his pedal steel. Those instruments fit (and helped make) their sound, which was often melancholy, though never quite depressing.

“Thanks y’all. What’s up?” Striplin asked upon finishing those songs, before doing another that featured some duel singing from the vocalists. “The sunset’s beautiful,” Striplin then remarked. Indeed, it was. They had gotten a good time slot this day, and while a glare from one of the buildings way off in the distance had been reflecting back at them for part of the show, the sun had set enough now that it wasn’t too bad.

“Only a Mountain” was one of their classics they did this day, coming from The Art of Leaving LP, and to me, it was one of the most striking songs of their set.

Their 35-minute long set allowed them a few more, including another brand new song, titled “Pleasing You”. “…When you have the first laugh, then you can have the last dance, baby,” Striplin sang early on in it, with the rest of the song being just as creative and interesting.

He wished the crowd a “happy Dia!” after they finished, then sent everyone on their way.

These guys, which included bassist Tony Hormilosa and drummer Jeff Ryan, were another standout act of the day.

Of course, everything they did was new to me anyway, though the very little old stuff they did play still holds up nicely, and the new songs were every bit as good. Honestly, you have to wonder why these guys never “made it” and broke out on a national level back during original time together, especially considering that happened to several Dallas bands during that time. Perhaps they were just a little ahead of their time, especially with all the craze that currently surrounds genres that incorporate some folk elements to them.

However, the thing I liked most about Pleasant Grove wasn’t the music, but the lyrics. Every song was deep and highly emotional, two qualities you don’t always see together, though they make a potent mix.

If you want to stay in the loop about shows, keep an eye on their FACEBOOK PAGE. They also have a couple of albums you can purchase in iTUNES.

The job of closing out the second stage went to Ume, who became the first band ever to play Dia for a second time.

“Hey, Fort Worth! We’re Ume,” singer and guitarist Lauren Larson told the crowd in a warm, friendly tone once they stepped on stage. That was about the extent of talking she did this night, though, as they focused primarily on their music in the 36-minutes they had.

“The Conductor” started their set, and right from the start, Lauren began demonstrating what a superb guitarist she is, taking the axe at one point and raising it up and behind her, where just the guitars neck was behind her neck, while she continued to shred away on it.

They threw in a couple of older songs, but mostly, they focused on Monuments, which was released earlier this year; and now drummer Aaron Perez established the steady beat that begins “Too Big World”, while Eric Larson hung back more at first, before really getting into it on the chorus. She used the instrumental break to kneel down and shred on her axe; and once she stood back up, she did a little backbend, before twirling in circles right at the tail end.

They wound it straight into “Burst”, which saw the fiery guitarist pumping her fist in the air, almost as a call to action to the onlookers, before striking the body of her guitar. After some brief silence, the trio suddenly erupted into “Embrace”, which kicked things up several notches; and afterwards, they delved more into their shoe gazey style of rock with “Hurricane II”, which is often as mesmerizing as it is raw. She again sank to her knees at one point on that track, holding her guitar vertically as she viciously picked at the strings.

While Eric and Lauren tuned, Perez started up the drum roll that begins “Oh, Fate”, a song that gradually builds, before striking with a fury. They had pretty much every set of eyes glued to them by now, and “Until The End” and “Chase It Down” further ensured that no one could turn away.

After that, Lauren took a moment to thank The Toadies for having them out, saying they were one of the first bands who ever gave them a chance, so you got the feeling that they [Ume] have immense respect for them.

They were almost done, and now reached back to 2005’s Urgent Sea and pulled out “Baby Xie-Xie”. It’s a beast of a song, especially live, with Lauren kicking the air at times, as she coordinated all of her moves perfectly with the music. The song also contained what was the best moment of their set, and it came when she fell onto her back, letting her guitar slide onto the stage beside her, before rolling somewhat on top of it, never missing a note.

All that was left now was their single, “Black Stone”, which delivered one last quick punch to the ears of the onlookers.

I’ve seen Ume half a dozen times now, and this was the best show I’ve seen them do.

Since releasing Monuments, they’ve been pretty busy making the most of the traction they started going with that single that has come from it, and all their time on the road has led to an incredible tightness. Even Perez, who has only been with the band a few months, looks like he has been a part of the outfit since the start.

The energy they pack into their shows is crazy, while their stage presence this night captivated many. Next to all that, the thing I enjoyed the most was that the vocal levels were turned up higher than normal, making every word crystal clear.

Ume’s next show will be in Houston at Fitzgerald’s on October 24th. Be sure to check out all their albums in iTUNES, too.

The main support band was one that has been around almost as long as The Toadies have, and in Texas (especially D/FW), they’re every bit as much of a staple. I’m speaking, of course, of Old 97’s.

I’m probably one of the few people left who had never seen Old 97’s before, and I was looking forward to that finally changing.

The band was all smiles as they were introduced, and then quickly got to work, coming out swinging with the upbeat and catchy “If My Heart was a Car”, off their debut, Hitchhike to Rhome. It was immediately clear they had their own fans out this night, as many sang along with singer and acoustic guitarist Rhett Miller.

“Barrier Reef” came next, and they didn’t allow any downtime between the songs. Instead, they just kept pushing themselves, with Miller putting on quite a show, even though he was often stuck behind the microphone, while lead guitarist Ken Bethea — who wore a poncho for these first few songs — raced about the stage. I was also quite impressed with the slick moves Murry Hammond worked in to his bass playing.

Two songs in and I was already questioning myself in how and why I had never seen these guys before.

“How y’all doing tonight?” the friendly Miller asked, adding that it was a beautiful night, while some mangled guitar chords set up their next number. It was “Dance with Me”, and the semi-dark song had a real sense of urgency to it. Before hitting the second verse, Miller proceeded to jump around some. He clearly had a lot of energy pent up, and he still had plenty of time to work on getting it all out.

As they stopped, the vocalist made everyone aware that it had also been twenty years since they released their debut record, at a time when he was roommates with Clark Vogeler, who later went on to become The Toadies lead guitarist. “That was a lot of fucking years ago,” he said rather simply, before their attention shifted to the recently released album, Most Messed Up, doing the lead track, “Longer Than You’ve Been Alive”. The song that somewhat chronicles their adventures over the last couple decades seemed to come at just the right time in the show, helping set the stage for the rest of their set.

“Cheers!” Hammond yelled afterwards, though he raised a bottle of water to the sky, an action that caught a little flak from some of the patrons, who wondered where his beer was. He paid them no mind, though. “I was born here. Grew up in the sticks out that way,” he said, pointing towards the general direction. He let everyone know the only reason he every even got to Dallas was to see a Dead Kennedys show, and then thought to himself, “I’ll stay here and do this.” It worked out for him.

He now took over on the reins, singing the very country sounding “West Texas Teardrops”, which was followed by what Miller called a “straight up love song”. “It’s called Let’s Get Drunk and Get it On!” he announced. It may have been another new song, but it was one fans have apparently quickly taken to, as many threw their fists into the air at the chorus, shouting along, “Let’s drink whiskey and do it all night long! Let’s get drunk and get it on!

Drummer Philip Peeples got a shout-out from his band mates as he got the next song going, which happened to be “Four Leaf Clover”. The very Western sounding track saw both Bethea and Miller leaping into the air when they could, with Bethea eventually making his way over to stage left, where he and Hammond worked off one another as they picked away at their instruments. They then returned to their debut record, doing a slightly more intense version of “Stoned”.

“What a great night!” Miller said excitedly, later on mentioning how pumped up he was to see The Toadies, and that he made sure to bring his ear plugs just so he could stand right in front of the speakers for them. They weren’t quite done with their new record yet, and now did “This is the Ballad”, which was quite deep. “A State of Texas” appealed to everyone’s Texas pride (at least I know it did mine); and Miller flat-out killed it on his acoustic for that one.

“This is off the new one,” Hammond simply said, before singing another tune, this one being “The Ex of All You See”, which was one of the most infectious things they did this night (and that’s saying a lot). Miller chatted with the audience for a bit, again thanking them, before doing another oldie, “Big Brown Eyes”, which was instantly followed by “Nashville”, a song that had some laughing as he (with the help of Hammond at times) sang the opening line, “I married Caroline back in May of ’99. It was fucked up at the time, but I figured we’d keep trying…” It was far from a humorous song, though, and is instead a reflective number about trying to figure out why nothing ever works out.

Upon finishing “Rollerskate Skinny”, Miller climbed atop his amp, stretching his arms towards the sky. You could tell they were building to something. He then got some serious air when he jumped; while they ripped into the final song of their 54-minute long set, “Time Bomb”.

The song about infatuation brought their performance to a roaring finish, with Miller waving goodbye and exiting the stage once it was done, while the rest of Old 97’s threw some picks at the crowd, before doing the same.

Seriously, how have I been a fan and avid supporter of the D/FW music scene for nearly a decade, but never seen Old 97’s before? I don’t know how I screwed up so badly.

I thought their performance was extraordinary, to the point they almost, almost unintentionally stole some of the thunder away from The Toadies.

From start to finish, their set was explosive, as they tackled a variety of songs, some of which almost sounded like a cross between country and rock (and at times even punk), while others more fit the lines of your typical (and true) country songs.

They’ll be on the road from the end of September through mid-October, and their tour dates can be found HERE. You can sample all of their albums in iTUNES (and I know I will soon start adding them to my collection.)

The day had been long, but with nonstop music, it passed quick; and now, it was finally time for the band of the hour: The Toadies.

After being on the road in support of the 20th anniversary of Rubberneck for much of the last five to six months or so, this was going to be the final gig of the tour. For me, this show was also going to complete a trifecta. I had seen their Dallas stop of the tour back in May, and in July I made the jaunt up to Denton, when they kicked off another leg of the tour. And now, I was excited to hear Rubberneck front to back once more, and for perhaps the final time ever.

It was 9:53 when Doni Blair, Vaden Todd Lewis, Mark Reznicek and Clark Vogeler walked onto the stage, waving and smiling at the fans. Most had gathered around the stage for a good view of everything, while others watched from a distance, relaxing in lawn chairs or just sitting on the grass.

Lewis approached the edge of the stage, still grinning at the fans, before starting them off on “Mexican Hairless”. The instrumental jam sent fans jumping about and cheering, while others banged their heads along to the aggressive piece. Right as it ended, Vogeler launched them into “Mister Love”. “Are you gonna save me? Can you save me?” Lewis growled in a raw, gravelly tone throughout the track. His voice sounded even more striking (and at times even terrifying) than at either of the other shows I had seen this year, making it clear that this performance of the album was going to be a cut above the rest. On top of that, the singer was constantly making different gestures with his hands or waving his fingers around; and at the final, “Can you save me?”, he stretched his arms out to the side, almost like he was basking in the love from the fans.

While they were busy playing the music, several beach balls had been tossed out in the crowd, which may be stereotypical of festivals, but all the same was fun, as people kept batting them away whenever they got close.

The band wound it right into “Backslider”; and as excited as fans were to hear that rocking number, it paled in comparison to the reaction “Possum Kingdom” got, which was not just screams and yells, but also people turning towards their friends and high fiving them. It was pure ecstasy for everyone as they sang right along, “And I promise you, I will treat you well. My sweet angel, so help me, Jesus.”

The string of beloved songs just kept coming, with “Quitter” sounding even angrier than normal as Lewis spit out the lyrics; and the hefty rhythm section of Reznicek and Blair continued to show their teeth during “Away”, which ended with Vogeler rocking out by his amp, getting the guitar tones as good as they could possibly be.

As Lewis has said at the past shows, he doesn’t like to speak during this portion of the set, as he wants to keep this live experience of Rubberneck as authentic as possible. That also extends to the usual sing along parts in the songs, like “Away”, which instead was handled completely by the band. However, one song where they couldn’t get away with that was “I Come From the Water”. Everyone knew the drill and didn’t even have to be told what to do as they hit the chorus, and the throng of fans shouted at the top of their lungs. It creates a moment that’s quite bonding for Toadies fans.

The most interesting part of the night came during “Tyler”, which was memorable to say the least. Shortly after singing, “I stumble in the hallway,” The Toadies blew out the speakers. The look of confusion on the faces of the band members as well as the crowd was hilarious in hindsight, as everyone was left scratching their head and looking around for a second, like, “Wait. What just happened?” Even without the amps, you could still somewhat hear the bass, drums and guitars, and the band went on playing, though they looked unsure. That was when fans showed their mettle. It was like instinct, everyone knew what to do, as they began singing the final noises from the tune, “Yeah-eh-a. Oh-oh-oh…”. It was far more audible than any of the instruments, and it was concrete proof of not only people’s love of these songs, but also their love for this band.

“I think we broke it,” Lewis said after they got it fixed, which happened as soon as the song ended. For the record, having the speakers blow is how you know you’ve seen a killer concert; and they were still just getting warmed up.

They got back on track, racing through the final three songs, as Reznicek bridged them from “Happy Face” into “Velvet”, and they only stopped long enough for Lewis to get a twelve-string acoustic guitar, before concluding the Rubberneck set with “I Burn”. “Sift the ashes for reminders; stony things remain,” Lewis sang, using his bullet mic for a couple of lines, as he placed his left palm into the air, before clenching his fist.

38-minutes was how long it took this night to run through those eleven songs, and they were far from done.

“That was the Rubberneck set,” remarked Lewis, also mentioning how “fucking crazy” it was that it has been twenty years. He was equally amazed by the fact that Dia de los Toadies was now in its seventh year. “This is the most fun one I think we’ve had yet,” he said of the festival, before saying if everybody was down, they’d do some more songs.

“Push the Hand” got the remainder of their 64-minute long set going, and it seemed to reinvigorate the crowd, as well as the mosh-pit, which was small, but had been going on throughout the show. During the last brief instrumental break, Blair and Lewis walked towards one another, interacting a bit as they jammed. The subsequent track from Hell Below/Stars Above, “Little Sin”, came next, though they axed the extended outro they often give the song. Instead, they jumped right into “No Deliverance”, which I thought sounded even better than normal this night. For example, there was something about the line, “I saw black monsters twisted in love,” and the way Lewis sang it that was just quite gripping this night.

“Are we still having fun?” he asked afterwards, a question that was answered by a resounding amount of cheers. They took time out to thank all the bands who had played, including the Old 97’s, who Vogeler joked would surely be going somewhere.

Blair then switched to a different bass before starting them on “Summer of the Strange” — one of the only new songs they did this night. Not that anyone had a problem with that. “…This is our indulgent three and a half minutes, bear with us,” cracked Lewis before they busted out their rendition of Blondie’s “Heart of Glass”, a song that they quite possibly played for the final time this night.

“Oh, shit! I’ve got to start this one,” Lewis said, sounding a little apprehensive. He bought himself some time by telling everyone that several years ago he had written a song that he was now regretting writing. “It’s the most difficult song I’ve ever written,” he stated, leading everyone to wonder what it could be. I was racking my brain trying to figure it out, and I doubt I was alone.

I was not expecting “Hell Below/Stars Above” — a song I had only heard live once, nearly five years ago — but that was what they did. It made for a truly surprising moment, catching every single fan off guard; and the best part came at the end, where one of their techs added his voice to the mix. He could sing, and it helped make that gospel-like ending more like how it sounds on the recording. The thing I like most about that title track from their sophomore album is how it changes midway though, yet it still sounds like the same song. As Lewis said, it’s a difficult song, but it’s also a beautiful one, and it capped off this main set fantastically.

They were gone all of a couple minutes, before the noise from fans brought them back out. “Do y’all want some more songs?” Lewis asked, acting as though he was shocked. “We’ll play some more songs,” he added, before they broke into the primal, “Sweetness”, which was another track that had the singer making different motions with his hand at times as he sang.

They had another cover planned, and Lewis went back twenty years, mentioning that some of the songs from the original Rubberneck recording session had been cut. One of those was a cover of Pylon’s “Stop it”, and for that one, Lauren Larson of Ume joined them, tearing it up on her axe. The fans and the band were really digging that one. For starters, each time Lewis began clapping along, the fans did, too; and on the second chorus, Vogeler began jumping around.

“You guys tired?” Lewis then asked, a question that was met with a forceful, “NO!” The band then returned to their second album, performing the final track from it, “Doll Skin”. It had sounded great acoustic the night before, but there’s something about the electric version. It’s not exactly an all-out rock number, nor is that soft. Still, out of everything they had done, it’s not what you would think would be a perfect crowd surfing song, yet that was exactly what one man did, as he had his friends hoist him in the air.

“You’ve been fantastic. Thank you so much,” Lewis told the attendees, before extending that to cover their crew who put this on and everyone who had any part of it. “I’m from Fort Worth, I’m a big fan of Fort Worth, and this is all fucking Fort Worth right here,” he finished, before saying they would be leaving everyone with this. “This” was “Rattler’s Revival”. Fans again clapped along whenever they saw the frontman doing it; and really, what a fitting song to end their 19-minute long encore with. Not just because it’s a hard-hitting number, but because it’s one of the newest things in their catalog, and after spending most of 2014 on the road, focusing on their twenty-year-old debut, why not look ahead to the future, and hopefully, another twenty years, or even more.

I was thinking about it this day and Dia was the eighth festival I’ve seen/covered this year.

I’ve really come to enjoy the festival atmosphere; but as fun as all of those others have been, there’s one thing that’s different about Dia de los Toadies, and that’s what made me enjoy it not only more than those other festivals, but also more than ever: it’s because everybody there has an undying love for The Toadies.

It’s really cool to go to something like this and know that the common denominator is that everyone enjoys the same band. It breeds a real sense of camaraderie, and that is a special feeling.

So, kudos to The Toadies for giving their fans something like this to congregate at once a year. Here’s to hoping it continues for many more to come.

As for their set itself, it was solid as ever. This is a band that has a real staying power, even more than twenty years into it, and that was clear once more this night in Fort Worth.

They do have a few more shows this year. One will be in Houston at the Untapped Fest on September 20th. Another will be in Pharr, Texas at the Pharr Events Center on October 19th, with an Austin date at Emo’s on December 26th. Let’s not forget about Dia de los Toadies 8, which should be happening in September 2015. As for their albums, the remastered version of Rubberneck can be purchased at KIRTLAND RECORDS, while everything else can be found at iTUNES.

(Read my review of night 1 of this year’s Dia HERE.)

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014 – EDJ Electrifies the Crowd at Granada Theater

This night at the Granada Theater may have been all about Delta Spirit, though EDJ was charged with warming up all of the headliners’ Dallas fans, and there were a couple hundred there by the time nine-o’clock rolled around.

Eric D. Johnson stood alone on the sizable stage, sans the guitar he clutched and the keyboard that sit in front of him.

The rest of the instruments (such as drums) came in the form of sample tracks, which fired up as he began his first song, “Lose it All, All the Time”. As soon as he opened his mouth, his semi-nasally voice proved to be the most distinctive quality about him; while the song — which was the first of many he did from his recently released debut album — was overwhelmingly cheery.

“It’s good to be back in Dallas,” Johnson remarked, pointing out this was his first night of this tour with Delta Spirit, which meant the folks of North Texas were getting a very fresh performance from him, before the road had a chance to perhaps take a toll.

“Mostly Just Fantasies” had more of a minimalist sound to it, with the musician crooning at the start, “…There’s two kinds of people: those who are and those who aren’t…”. He then segued things directly into the next song, informing the crowd he used to be in a band called Fruit Bats, which drew a strong reaction from the onlookers. “This is something from that band,” he finished, before launching into “Dolly”. The all too catchy song left the audience singing his praises and applauding him, prompting a very sincere, “Thanks, guys!”, before keeping the chill mood going with “Odd Love”.

“For Joy” was perhaps the most impassioned song of Johnsons’ 41-minute long set, with the raw emotion radiating from his voice out to the audiences, who was cheering throughout the amazing track. The drums had been quiet for some time now, but the sample tracks with them kicked back up, taking him into another strong number.

“…You guys are cool!” he told the crowd before taking things back down some with “Child in the Wild”, a song which focused on how much more simple things were when you were young, and I think it had everyone there getting a little nostalgic. It was undeniable that what people loved the most about “For the Boy Who Moved Away” was the harmonica Johnson used at times, while he gently plucked the strings of his guitar with his fingers. The spectators were raving about that harmonica, which wasn’t even used much on that one, but he was about to give everyone a good taste of it.

“…This has more harmonica. I think you guys will like that…” he laughed before his final number, which didn’t require the guitar at all. “I save all my harmonica shit for the end,” he laughed, as he ended with “Minor Miracles”. The highlight came when he let out a powerful solo on that harmonica, and then walked over to stage right, where he continued singing the song, without a microphone. The track was light enough and the crowd was keeping silent, so you could still hear nearly every word he sang. The crowd looked on in awe, and it made for an awesome moment.

EDJ’s set was far better than I think anyone had anticipated.

Considering it was just Johnson, he commanded the crowd’s attention quite well, truly making it difficult to pull your eyes away from him. His voice was distinctive and uniquely his, fitting with his semi-quirky songs that were filled with emotion.

His music may have been vastly different from Delta Spirits’, but he set the stage perfectly for them.

EDJ will be on tour for most of September, with another series of dates in the latter part of October. A full list can be found HERE. You can also purchase his album in iTUNES.

Sunday, September 7th, 2014 – Starmother Serves Up Some Bluesy Rock at Gas Monkey

Despite being a free show at Gas Monkey Bar & Grill, there wasn’t much of a crowd on this Sunday. That can’t be totally unexpected, given the bill consisted of a couple local acts and a touring band that I doubt anyone was familiar with beforehand.

Still, a little more than fifty people or were scattered around the massive patio that houses the outdoor stage; and those who did show up were rewarded with a show that they will not soon forget.

Opening the show was Starmother (who, until recently, was known as The Neckties); and while I had been aware of the band for a couple years, I had never managed to catch a show before this.

A new moniker also means new music; and in their 33-minute long set, they played many of the songs off their forthcoming Electric Mistress EP, opening with the title track, “Electric Mistress”. The instrumental piece got things off to a roaring start, with bluesy tones from lead and rhythm guitarists Charley Wiles and Blake Cheek, respectively; while Troy Bruner added a lot of tenacity with some pulse-pounding drumbeats, and bassist Robert Burroughs helped intensify that mighty rhythm section.

“How we doing tonight?” Blake asked everyone, while Troy bridged them into their next song. “We’re happy to be here with y’all,” he added, after letting everyone know who they were, and then they ripped into “Flat Broke Blues”. The band’s style is a mix of rock and blues, and it was demonstrated very well on that song, which was often rather fiery, with some sweet licks thrown in.

They kept the new songs coming, doing one that ended with a wicked instrumental finish, really highlighting these guys musicianship. The action packed end from it then spilled over into “I Don’t Need”, which was blistering from start to finish; and shortly into it, Blake sit his guitar down, embracing more of a frontman role as he belted out the lines on this soulful rock number.

They kept the adrenaline-pumping pace up with “Way Down”, incorporating a lot of energy into the song that was just a little more than two-minutes. Robert and Troy then took the reins, beginning a very rhythm driven intro for “Just Another Man”. It was a change of pace from everything thus far, as they slowed things down and showed off the softer side they are capable of. “…I don’t want to be just another man…” Blake crooned on the chorus of the song that was teeming with emotion. They also worked a great jam session into the song, which spiked once Charley knocked out a solo, and then the other instruments proceeded to escalate.

“We have an album coming out…” Blake told the onlookers, saying it would be out sometime this year. With that, they jumped back to the Chop & Change record they released under the old band name back in 2012, doing “Southside”. The name may have changed, but the style of music they play hasn’t much (apart from a little tighter sound), so that classic still fit with everything else. They had just one left after that, going straight into another jam that showed off their more tender side.

I’m really hating that it took me so long to see these guys. Their performance this night was great, and they put a lot of energy into it.

Blake possesses a great voice, often putting a lot of heart into his singing, while the music has a slightly fresh sound to it. They pull off the bluesy rock genre very well too, easily earning a top spot amongst other similar acts here in the D/FW area.

They have a couple of shows planned for October, one at Lola’s in Fort Worth on the 3rd, the other at Sundown at Granada in Dallas on the 11th.

Sunday, September 7th, 2014 – Goodnight Ned is Spot-On at Gas Monkey

Despite being a free show at Gas Monkey Bar & Grill, there wasn’t much of a crowd on this Sunday. That can’t be totally unexpected, given the bill consisted of a couple local acts and a touring band that I doubt anyone was familiar with beforehand.

Still, a little more than fifty people or were scattered around the massive patio that houses the outdoor stage; and those who did show up were rewarded with a show that they will not soon forget.

The main support slot this night went to Goodnight Ned; who had released their debut album a little more than a month before this. And after regrettably missing that show, I was looking forward to finally seeing the Dallas-based rock/Americana band again, and now knowing most of the songs.

They focused heavily (though not exclusively) on Ned this night, opening with the vibrant “50,000 Years”, which seems to play to all their strong suits. The keys are often the driving force of the moody song; and about halfway through, Jonas Martin hopped up from his chair as he continued to bang away on the keyboard. The multi-part harmonies were also in full force, as Jonas, guitarist Conner Farrall, drummer Michael Munoz and bassist Matt Trimble chimed in with singer and guitarist Chase McMillan, creating an amazing texture.

“…One. Two. Three. Four,” Jonas counted, before starting them off on “Now I’m Gone”. He didn’t get far before stopping. “Wait, that’s not right,” he remarked, while his band mates and their large section of friends/fans chuckled. He got the notes right the second time around; and he also took over on the lead vocals, with some of the other guys lending their voices here and there on the soulful jam.

Upon finishing it, Connor made the official introduction, telling those watching that they were Goodnight Ned. “…AKA Starmother’s newest, biggest fans,” he added, giving props to the opener.  Their 41-minute long set then continued as they went back to the Smoke From the Sails album from a couple years ago, doing “Papa Jack’s Bag”. The highlight of it came at the extended instrumental outro they gave the track, which featured a lively piano solo.

After another song — which again had Jonas at the helm — the pianist informed everyone they had a cover planned, and it was by Father John Misty. “…He’ll be here in spirit in about five seconds,” he laughed, before they tried their hand at “This is Sally Hatchet”. It could seem like an odd song to cover, but a few months before this they did a show here at Gas Monkey doing a whole set of covers from Father John Misty. Chase was in charge of singing on it; and the bass lines Matt was knocking out sounded very robust, adding a little more kick to the tune.

“We’re happy to be here with you,” Conner mentioned afterwards, pointing out that the headliner, The Picturebooks, had come all the way from Germany. “Well, we came all the way from Lower Greenville,” Jonas added, before saying this next song was another off their album they had for sale. “No it’s not,” Chase told him, smiling at him. “Why do I keep saying stupid shit?!” Jonas asked aloud. At least he was able to laugh at himself.

Instead, they did one of the newer songs they have. Conner finally showed off his voice on it, which is smoother in comparison to Chase’s; while nearly the whole band partook in the chorus, “…Everyone knows you’re the scarlet letter.” They offered up one more, before Michael wound them right in to their closing number. “This is also a song about birds. But wolves, too, I guess,” Jonas informed everyone as they built up to “Wolves & Crows”. The aggressive song is arguably their best; and towards the end of it, Chase tore off from his mic, walking back towards the drums as they shredded on a quick instrumental portion.

I’ve got to say, it was nice finally being able to see these guys and be familiar with their songs. I also think this was perhaps the best Goodnight Ned show I’ve seen. It may not have been perfect, but the way they handled themselves was.

All five guys were working perfectly with one another, each delivering a precise performance that contributed to them being a well-oiled machine this night. You could tell they were in tune with one another every single second they were on that stage. That’s perhaps an unexpected side effect from all the harmonies that they utilize, because there’s even less room for error.

Even their movements were often done in time with each other, though it felt like they were just going with the flow rather than it being rehearsed.

With the recent release of Ned, Goodnight Ned has had a lot of buzz surrounding them, and if you saw the show this night, you know exactly why they are deserving of it. They really are a shining talent here in the scene.

They don’t have any shows listed on their calendar at the moment; though you should go check out their records in iTUNES.

Saturday, September 6th – SpaceCamp shows Off a New(er) Sound at Liquid Lounge

The show at Liquid Lounge this night got off to a little earlier start then I expected.

It was a little before nine when I walked in the intimate room, and there were already three musicians on stage.

With just a couple more songs to go, I never caught the name of this instrumental band, who was good, though that’s just a style I’m seldom a fan of.

Following them up was a singer by the name of Charley Crockett. Now, if you’re like me, when you hear the name Crockett, you immediately think of Davy Crockett, and from what Charley said later this night, he is kin to the historical figure, and that is something he’s proud of.

To be the only person on that stage, he did an amazing job of filling it up. His music was incredibly soulful and very bluesy, and it all came from the heart, as he and his guitar produced one song after the other. “That’s a new one I’m working on,” he remarked at the end of one song, before bridging it right in to another.

“Down Trodden Man” was one of the cuts he did from his latest EP, and it was quite fitting of the wanderer role he had already cast himself in. “…I do believe if I had wings I’d still be lonesome,” he crooned on one line; and despite sounding like it would be a sad song, there were never even any slight undertones of it. Instead, he seemed almost cheerful; and at one point, when he cut out on his guitar, the onlookers decided to start clapping along, something Charley welcomed.

He threw out a few more songs, each one dripping with raw emotions, which was the quality everyone watching seemed to enjoy the most about his set.

Not only was he an exceptional singer and songwriter, he was also an extremely skilled guitarist. It was something to watch as he wailed on his axe, making music that spoke to people on a deeper level than many songs do.

Charley Crockett was the most surprising act to me this night, as I was not expecting to discover such a talented solo artist by coming to this show. I’m glad I did, though, and I’m looking forward to seeing him again.

He’ll be back in Dallas on October 8th at Adair’s Saloon, and he has plenty of other tour dates as well. They can be found HERE, and you can download a couple of free songs of his HERE.

Perhaps the most interesting band of the night was Skinny Cooks.

How often do you see a rap and spoken word band perform, using a cello and a xylophone. That’s exactly what Nigel Newton (who played the xylophone) and Brianne Sargent did, though. They were also joined by a drummer and bassist, who really fleshed out the sound, though it was those two core members who received everyone’s attention.

They only got 19-minutes, squeezing four songs into that time and rotating on who provided the vocals. As I said, at times it was more like spoken word, others it was rapped, but no matter what was going on, it was riveting.

Simple, yet complex; with the emotions being conveyed in the music.

I’d definitely be interested in seeing them again sometime.

Their music can found on BANDCAMP.

Paco Estrada was next up this night, and it had been far too long since I had seen the singer/songwriter with a full-band. Making this all the more special was the fact that Zuriel was joining him on the violin.

Zuriel was one of the first members Paco picked up when forming what eventually became Paco Estrada & One Love, a band that started about six years ago, and disbanded four years ago now (man, that makes me feel old.) In the aftermath, Zuriel has only played with Paco once, and that was just a few weeks before this show, making this a special treat for longtime fans.

The 50-minute set was an interesting one that covered a variety of albums (and bands), beginning with them going all the way back to Paco’s days in SouthFM. “Blue & Grey” was a song that iconic Dallas band never did much, as the slower pace didn’t fit with their noisy rock shows, though it worked this night, and caught longtime fans a little off guard as Paco started the first line, “Collected all these words to paint this picture for you and try to get you to see…” It was mostly Paco and his acoustic guitar for a while, with Zuriel, the drummer and bassist hanging back, before it really escalated towards the end. Zuriel was even wailing on his violin there at the end, reminding some people of some days long gone by.

From that song from nearly ten years ago, they jumped ahead to some of Pacos’ newer music, doing the sweet love song, which I believe is titled, “The Way That I Love You”. Following that new staple was another new one, and one that quite honestly sounded like a cover. I wasn’t alone in thinking that, either. It sounded phenomenal, though for some reason, it just didn’t feel like one of his, despite the fact that it was. The drummer was crushing it during that song, while the riffs burrowed their way into your head instantly. The lyrics stood out, too, with one line I remember being, “… Burn it to the ground, let the truth be found…”.

“Zuriel just made some shit up,” laughed Paco, who wasn’t really joking, as Zuriel is a master at improve. “This is the song about the girl behind the girl behind the girl,” Paco stated before “She”, a song off 2013’s How I Spent My Summer Vacation EP. “…I could never give you my heart; she left me black and mostly blue. You could give me all the love in the world, but baby, I’ll never give it back to you,” he belted on chorus of that emotional tune about being forever haunted by a past love.

“Harder!” one fan/friend shouted once that one was done, prompting Paco to ask, “Why is that always your go to word?” In retaliation, he said they were going to go softer, joking that, that was a shame for everyone, because they had a really “awesome” totally redone version of a Tool song planned, but instead would just skip over it. He bantered on, saying he and Zuriel were in counseling trying to work stuff out, before sitting up their next tune. “It’s a sad song. But they’ve all been sad,” he remarked, before pulling v2.0 of “Killing Me”, as was performed by One Love. Zuriel looked like this was all second nature to him, and at times, he plucked the strings of his violin, before using the bow later in the song.

“Just like we practiced, just like we practiced,” Paco laughed, who had just earlier stated he sends the tracks to the bassist, so he can listen to the songs he’ll be playing, and I’m fairly certain Zuriel was winging it all night long. The bassist then chimed in, saying he wanted to do “She Talks to Angels”, something Paco was easily persuaded to do. “I don’t know why that happened, but it did,” he stated after finishing the rendition of The Black Crowes song, which was followed by another original from The Anatomy of Letting Go, “Reckless Love”, which again found Zuriel in the zone, since it was from the One Love days.

They had one song left, but first, Paco thanked the openers, saying he happened to find Charley Crockett on the side of the road; and also mentioning the people who had come to this show wearing the band shirts (for the headliner, SpaceCamp), saying “There’s always that guy,” at shows. (For the record, I was one of the guys who had worn the band shirt.) To end things, they did the old standby, “Whiskey Kisses”, which once again saw Zuriel doing a bit of a solo towards the end.

Paco and his band did not disappoint. Then again, they never do.

It was a nice smorgasbord of his music, from his solo records, to his past bands, while also looking ahead to his future. I’m sure I got this point across by now, but it was also fun seeing Zuriel back on stage, going between playing his violin in a more traditional manner, to rocking out on it, to the point it can rival any electric instrument.

I say this every time, and I’ll say it again: Paco is the best singer/songwriter in the D/FW area, and that fact was proven yet again this night.

You can find all of his music on his BANDCAMP; and he should have a new release out by the end of the year.

Wrapping up the night was SpaceCamp; and they had changed things up since the last time I had seen them.

Paco Estrada got no downtime; however, unlike the past SC shows, he wasn’t using his acoustic guitar this time around. Instead, he just stood in front of the mic, using his voice. The other big difference was they now had a keyboardist, who was also responsible for running the live tracks, something they started doing more recently.

Rounding out the band was guitarist Mike Dove and bassist Emsy Robinson, along with frontman Jeremy Rodriguez (AKA Tomahawk Jonez), plus a drummer, whom I hadn’t seen with them before.

They opened with “The Dancer”, and right away, Jeremy  began rapping, “My fears, my pain fall upon your ears so they don’t feel the same…”, putting not only a ton of emotion into it, but also making it sound quite fierce. Paco took over on each chorus; and at the end, he was responsible for tacking on a part of a cover song, singing, “…So I’m never gonna dance again, the way I danced with you,” from “Carless Whisper”.

“We were in Lubbock last night,” Jeremy stated, saying the girls there liked to drink whiskey, and asked if that was true of the girls here. Paco followed that with a rhetorical question. “What college girl doesn’t?” “If This is Goodbye” sounded like a different song live as the sample track got it going; and Jeremy clapped along there at first, causing some fans to join along. He later pointed to Mike when the rest of the instruments cut out; making sure all attention was on the guitarist. When they got to the choruses, Jeremy hung his head, though still danced along; and Paco put an overwhelming amount of emotion into the second one. I’m not sure what caused him to make it even more charged than normal, but it made the already great song even better.

“Do y’all want to hear another song from that same album?” Jeremy asked, referring to the Full Moon EP. “That wasn’t too convincing,” he replied after a lackluster response from the crowd, who did better the second time around. Before they could move on, though, Mike had to change guitars, and then they were off onto “The Lover”. They had redone some parts of it, especially at the end, when both Paco and Jeremy each sang of their different parts in unison with one another, sounding absolutely amazing.

“Faster! Harder!” a patron shouted, leading Paco to inform him they were not Daft Punk. “That’s not a Kanye song?” Jeremy replied, believably feigning some surprise. “Reach for the Sun” came next, and while several of SpaceCamp’s songs are positive and uplifting, that one has to take the cake. As Paco began the final chorus, Jeremy beat his chest, then slowly raised his head until he was gazing towards the ceiling, seeming to look right past it and towards the stars.

“What the fuck is wrong with this stand, Gene? “Why are you trying to sabotage our set?!” Paco joked with the sound man; though the mic stand had been giving them some trouble. They slowed things down and got quite serious with “Surrender to the Night”; then picked the pace back up with “White Horses”, which Jeremy jokingly dedicated to all the women in line for the bathroom. There was no line, though he did say that right at the time one woman happened to walk out, which was hilarious. “What’s the worst that could happen?” Jeremy finished, creating his own echo effect when singing that final word, and it sounded awesome.

“You want to keep that mood going?” he asked afterwards, as the keyboardist started the track to “Dancing with the Devil”. It had barely got going when Jeremy had him kill it, something that perplexed his band mates. “Are you not ready to dance with devil?” Paco quipped, getting a laugh from the crowd. The track sounded fuller when it came back in, just like it should; and that number really exploded when they hit the last chorus, from the singing, to the instruments, everything was in high gear.

“These are all true stories by the way,” Paco informed everyone once they finished. With only two EP’s worth of music in their catalog, they had played nearly everything they had, except for one song. They ended their 50-minute long set with “Before you Die”, which sounded more relaxed this time around than I’ve heard it in the past. It was more behooving of the song, allowing it to become even more emotional than it already is. As usual, Paco added some of “Blue and Yellow” by The Used to the end. “…Rather waste my time with you…” he crooned, before getting to one line he put so much into and held for so long, his face visibly turned red.

Jeremy was excited when talking to me about them using the sample tracks now, especially after how it has gone over at their other recent shows. I was quite intrigued to hear it, but at the same time, I’m one of those people who’s typically not a fan of the use of tracks.

It doesn’t work for every band, often detracting from the sound in my opinion, but for SpaceCamp, it fits. The band has such a unique sound in the first place, describing themselves as trip-rock, and the use of the tracks really did help give all the songs the perfect feel. It really was like you were hearing the recordings live, though they had that raw quality that can only come with a live performance.

I dug it, and it sets the stage for a whole new SpaceCamp.

You can purchase both of the bands EP’s over in iTUNES.

This was a very diverse night of music here at Liquid Lounge, but one that was overflowing with talent, making it a solid night from start to finish

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014 – Sidewise Serves Up a Heavy Dose of Rock at Cain’s Ballroom

For the first time in a little more than five years I went to see a concert in the city of Tulsa, Oklahoma. The only other time I’ve made the drive up there from Dallas was when Dallas (and Mid-West) legends The FEDS performed their farewell show in early ‘09.

At least this show was under happier circumstances.

I was pulling double duty, reviewing Sevendusts’ set for On Tour Monthly and Gemini Syndromes’ for this site. A couple other bands were joining them at Cain’s Ballroom this night, though. The Kansas City, Kansas-based Sidewise was one of them.

The quintet mixed metal and hard rock together, which was readily apparent from their opener, “Farewell to Virtue”. There was a lot of force behind it, making it easy to head bang to; and one of the guitarists, Matt Wilkinson, viciously screamed on some of the backing vocals. On the flipside, frontman Nico gave the music a semi-melodic component, singing in a hevy, yet smoother tone much of the night.

“…We’re from Kansas City…” he informed everyone afterwards, before announcing their next song was titled “Reconnect”. It was catchy in some regards, with potential to even be a good sing along to audiences that are familiar with it, something they didn’t have this night. “Make some noise, Tulsa!” roared Nico towards the end of it. It was around then that Sean Thibodeaux wound up breaking one of his guitar strings, and he quickly retreated to go grab a new axe. “We have a new album out…” Nico mentioned while killing time, adding that everything they were doing this night was off the Made of Matches record.

“The Fool I Am” was another song that had Jason Dean pounding out some hefty beats on the drum kit, and Josh Graves rounded out the good rhythm section with some good bass lines, while Sean and Matt ran about the stage. “Give it up for our brothers in Moks of Mellonwah who opened,” requested Nico, before they did what I thought was one of their best tracks of the night, “Prism”. “…Here I stand before you with my heart engulfed in flames…” went one of the lines on the first verse, before getting to the chorus of, “Why can’t you see this light that I’m shining through you? It never burned so bright, but I still can’t get through to reach the other side…” Lyrically it was an awesome song, and the music bed packed a serious punch, again mining more of the metal variety.

“Make some noise for yourself, Tulsa,” Nico told the crowd once they were done, really liking how much people seemed to be enjoying it. He let everyone know they might recognize the next one. Singing along was also encouraged, but before they could get it going, they lost the kick drum. “We can’t have a show without kick,” Nico halfway joked with the sound guy while he tried to resolve the issue. It delayed them just a few moments, and then they got to the song going. “Do you know it yet?” Nico asked shortly into the intro. It was “Head Like a Hole” by Nine Inch Nails, which struck me as funny in a way, considering I had seen NIN just two days prior to this. They did a good cover of it. They gave it more of a harder edge to fit their style; and Nico packed a lot of energy into it, really getting into the song. The audience liked it, too, and several were singing along.

“That was great,” he told everyone of their participation. The people weren’t done yet, though. “Let’s see some hands!” shouted Nico, as his band mates got “The Final Awakening” underway. Some horns went up in the air, while others started clapping along with the beat of what is the final track on their latest release. “If you guys feel like I do, I want to hear you scream!” declared Nico before an instrumental break, succeeding in getting a rise from people.

The band showed off more of their metal side with “Our Last Words”, which was a drastic change of pace from their other material in my opinion. I’m not even saying that was a bad thing, but the extreme screams that Nico and Matt did at times definitely woke you up and got your attention. The four of them on the forefront of the stage all thrashed about in unison with one another at times; and there was even a point when Sean jumped into the air and spun around.

“Cain’s Ballroom, we have one more…” Nico said, a little sadness seeping into his voice over the fact their time was almost up. “…Let’s see you guys moving out there,” he finished. With the last couple of songs, they had been getting progressively heavier, and “Breath to Breathe” took the cake as being the most intense thing they did this night. Nico offered one more word of thanks as he finished the vocals, then left the stage for Matt, Sean, Josh and Jason to do an instrumental outro as their 30-minute long set ended.

They worked great on this bill, being very similar in style to the headliner and main support act they were setting the stage for; and based on the interactions they had going on at times with the crowd, I think a lot of people enjoyed them, too.

Their stage presence was pretty strong, and the energy they put into it all ensured they had your attention. Nico was a compelling frontman; and your eyes gravitated towards all five of them, as they each excelled at different points on everything they did this night.

Especially if you like heavier rock music, then Sidewise is a band you at least need to listen to. If they ever get down to Dallas, I’d be game to see them again, too.

Along with their newest album, they have a few others available in iTUNES.

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014 – Monks of Mellonwah Warm Up the Crowd at Cain’s Ballroom

For the first time in a little more than five years I went to see a concert in the city of Tulsa, Oklahoma. The only other time I’ve made the drive up there from Dallas was when Dallas (and Mid-West) legends The FEDS performed their farewell show in early ‘09.

At least this show was under happier circumstances.

I was pulling double duty, reviewing Sevendusts’ set for On Tour Monthly and Gemini Syndromes’ for this site. A couple other bands were joining them at Cain’s Ballroom this night, though. Like the opener, Monks of Mellonwah.

The band from Sydney, Australia has been touring the states for a bit, and wound up landing a spot on a few of these final dates Sevendust had planned.

Style wise, they were different, fitting more of an alt rock, even indie sound. The early birds who got here didn’t seem to mind they weren’t hard rock, though; and those who had made it out for their 6:30 start time gathered around the stage as lead guitarist Joe de la Hoyde, bassist John de la Hoyde and drummer Josh Baissari began a lengthy, serene intro. It was “Ghost Stories Intro”, the first track off the Turn the People record; and soon, vocalist and rhythm guitarist Vikram Kaushik stepped on stage, as they rolled it into “Ghost Stories”. The peaceful pace of that intro didn’t last much longer, though; and later on, Joe tore things up with a guitar solo that led to a sensational finish.

They rolled it right into “Afraid To Die”, and John was thrashing about while laying down his bass riffs, which dominated much of the tune. “It’s a pleasure to be here in Tulsa…” Vikram remarked afterwards, and he also acknowledged what an historic venue Cain’s was, as well as dropping the word, “crikey” while he was speaking. (I couldn’t help but think of The Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin when he said it.)

Vikram showed off the falsetto voice he is capable of at times on the catchy “Tear Your Hate Apart”; and upon finishing it, he pointed out they had a few “second timers”  there. He took a moment to work on a rapport with everyone, first thanking those fans for coming back, saying he did remember them and he was glad they made it back out. He then talked about their time in the U.S. “We came here a few months ago and thought we’d only be here a few weeks. Then we wound up on tour after tour…” he noted.

It was already easy to see why one thing had led to another for these Aussies, because their songs were both catchy and deep (in a lyrical sense). “…Come chat with us…” Vikram then urged everyone to do after their set. “…You can make fun of our accents, or we can try our Yankee accents on you,” he joked. Shortly afterwards, they initiated a clap along with the onlookers, and the beats Josh was laying down at the start of “Pulse” was perfect to clap along to. However, not many people joined along at first, prompting Vikram to playfully ask, “Are you too cool to clap or what?”

“It’s time for our ballad,” he told the crowd before their next song, adding they could “feel free to cry”. I don’t believe any tears were shed, though it was a lovely song. Joe and Vikram even got face to face with one another and jammed at one point, really slowing things down before Josh started working on a massive build up.

They had saved the best for last, and for the final song of their 25-minute long set, they went back to the Stars Are Out EP, performing “Swamp Groove”. It was quite bluesy at first, and while it retained those elements throughout, it spiked and became a powerhouse number filled with soaring guitar solos and mighty drumbeats that saw Josh become a madman behind the kit.

I didn’t know what to expect from the openers, since I had never heard of the first two before, but man, Monks of Mellonwah were a nice one to stumble across.

In terms of genre, they may have been a stark contrast from Sevendust and Gemini Syndrome, but honestly, the semi-indie style rock is often what I prefer.

As I kind of touched on earlier, they make it a little fresh. Maybe not groundbreaking, but while their music did have a certain radio friendly vibe, there was, again — as I previously mentioned — depth to the songs. They’re a solid group, too, and were extremely tight this night; no doubt a side effect from all the time they’ve been spending on the road.

Those who did show up early really seemed to enjoy these guys, and I know I’ll be seeing Monks of Mellonwah in the future. So, here’s to hoping a Dallas show will happen sometime down the road.

If you want to stay up on their goings on, check out their FACEBOOK PAGE. As for their albums, you can find those in iTUNES.

Saturday, August 23rd, 2014 – Somebody’s Darling Rolls a Homecoming and Album Release Show into One Grand Event

This night wasn’t all that different from October 6th, 2012.

Well, it was considerably warmer than that October night nearly two years ago; but the other circumstances were quite similar.

Back in late 2012, Somebody’s Darling finished up a tour in their hometown, a show that also served as the album release party for their sophomore record, Jack City Shakedown.

The venue was different this night, and Trees can accommodate far more people than the club they did their last CD release at. The space was needed, too. This was also their first show back since completing a tour, which included some dates in Wisconsin and Illinois earlier in the month, while this Dallas show was their fourth straight, after doing a run through Houston, San Antonio and Austin.

Trees was pretty packed even during the main support act; and when 10:30 rolled around, people were already claiming their spots in front of the stage. By the time the curtain opened at 10:50, you were pretty much stuck where you were at, as folks stood shoulder to shoulder with one another.

The band had promised to play everything off the new album Adult Roommates, and they began tackling the release with the sixth cut off it, “Vowels Flow”. “Where’s your honey? Where’s your soul?” singer and rhythm guitarist Amber Farris crooned at the start, adding a lot of soul into the roots/rock number. Their performance exploded before the final chorus, when the quintet went all-out on the instrumental section, and Amber hunched over her guitar, tearing it up, as she first walked over to lead guitarist David Ponder, and then went to bassist Wade Cofer on stage left, before returning to the main mic.

“Alright!” she shouted in her twangy voice, as if to say they were just getting warmed up. With that, they went into the newly released single and lead track, “Bad Bad”, with Nate Wedan laying down a beat that was perfect to bob your head to. These songs may be new, but they have been worked into the live shows for months. Even back in January and February (the last two times I saw them) they were doing large amounts of new material. So, their fans are familiar with them, and that was what was cool about tonight. People already love these songs, and “Bad Bad” was one that received some mighty cheers as they started it.

The night wasn’t entirely about the new stuff, though.

“Where you at, Dallas?! Where you at?!” Amber asked, getting a loud response from everyone. “Let me tell you something,” she added. Nate had already started on the drum bed for the next song, and Amber then jumped right into the lyrics. “Well, I believe God made a lover for me…” she sang on “Back to the Bottle”. They played half of the songs from that previous release, and this one raised the excitement level considerably, especially during the instrumental jam, where the keys Mike Talley was playing where highlighted. David and Amber stood back to front with each other as they cranked out some notes, and shortly after, she and Wade were face to face with one another, rocking out. Her face was seldom seen during that time, as it was shrouded by her long, curly locks.

“Thanks, goddammit!” exclaimed Amber after brushing the hair from her face. “How you doing, Trees?!” she then asked, getting another rise from everyone. “That feels good. I love you guys!” she remarked with a warm smile on her face. As she spoke, a large cloud of smoke billowed out from the stage towards the audience; and then they went for one of their heartbreakers. Upon hearing it back in January, “Come to Realize” was an instant favorite of mine; and I do believe they made some tweaks while recording it. It sounded more fleshed out than I recalled, though it’s still wrought with emotion. “So I think about the morning, the way the coffee fell, and I came to realize I was by myself. And I wanted to know, was it me? Was it you?” goes the second verse of the song that epitomizes heartache. Wade lent his voice to the track, helping with some backing vocals on the chorus, and together, he and Amber sounded quite impressive.

“We’re selfish, and we like to throw parties for ourselves,” Amber joked afterwards, saying that was why they had The Suffers open up for them (that soul band from Houston had a party going in their own right.) “Let’s do it!” Amber finished, informing everyone this next song was titled “Set It Up”. David served up a superb solo during it; and upon finishing it, Amber mentioned that everyone in the band had done some writing on this new album, something that hasn’t happened in the past.

Mike was responsible for writing the next one. “It goes like this,” stated Amber. Mike and Wade crooned along with her on the profound chorus of “End of the Line”, “This is the oldest we have been; this is the youngest we will ever be.” There were many haunting elements about it as they slowed the pace down; and upon reaching the final chorus, the crowd burst into another round of cheers.

“Where you at, Dallas?!” Amber again asked, before informing everyone they had got home at five in the morning after their show in Austin. “This is why we do this,” she said, beaming at all the North Texas residents who had come out to support this night. David showed off his skills with another slickly done solo during “Same Record”; and once it was over, Amber asked for everyone to give it up for Wesley [Geiger], who had opened the show. “Once again, we’re selfish. We like to throw parties,” she joked.

“Alright, now here we go,” she said, as they brought out another oldie in the form of “Weight of the Fear”. The one thing with older tracks a band has been playing for a few years is that they have done it so many times, it’s just second nature. That was highlighted with that staple from Jank City. The clap along that came at the lull made everyone a part of the song; and David was killing it, often capturing everyone’s full attention.

“Cheers, Dallas!” Amber shouted, making a toast to all their friends and fans. “…We’ve been a band for a long time, and we’re excited to still be doing it,” she said, speaking of having a chance to put out yet another record. That said, they kept going with album number two, by doing “Keep Shakin’”. The amount of cheers and whistling that followed the end of that song was unreal. Everyone here was a die-hard Somebody’s Darling fan, and they were making it well known.

“Can I introduce the band?” asked Amber, who then took a few minutes to introduce “Red Pants on guitar” (AKA David Ponder), as well as Nate “Grizzly Bear”. “I stole the best bass player in town, and I don’t feel bad about it,” she remarked before naming Wade. Once that was taken care of, Amber swapped out her electric guitar for an acoustic. She said a few of them had a hand in writing this next one, as did Jonathan Tyler (of Jonathan Tyler & The Northern Lights.) It was the next to last song off the album, “Smoke Blows”, and despite the acoustic, it wasn’t that slow of a song.

The five-piece even dug all the way back to their first album, and the lone track they did from it was “Cold Hearted Lover”. Even now, it’s still a beloved tune, and peoples reaction to it this night proved that. Afterwards, something surprising happened. Wade, who is usually silent sans the backing vocals, spoke. “You guys know how to bounce?” he asked. “Come on, we need everybody to bounce,” he said, trying to get some movement going before one of the singles off Jank City Shakedown, “Cold Hands”. There wasn’t much jumping about, though Amber did try to get another clap along going. It started off slow, with few participants, though. “I see you in the back. We’re not starting till you’re all doing it,” she told the audience, prompting some more people to get involved. “I need this!” she shouted enthusiastically.

No sooner had they finished, and then David started them onto to the next one. Amber just laughed and shook her head. “We weren’t gonna do it, but let’s do it. Screw it,” she said. In the last year plus, they’ve made Faces’ “Stay with Me” into a staple of their longer sets, and I don’t think anyone would have viewed the night complete if they hadn’t done it. It became a massive sing-along, not just with the crowds aiding them, but also some of the many musicians who had come out to support their friends this night. Most of Goodnight Ned got up on stage and helped on the choruses, as did Corey Howe, from Dead Flowers.

“We’re happy that Trees let us party here tonight,” said Amber, thanking the venue one last time before they wrapped their 68-minute long set up with the final track, “Keep This Up”. More clapping was required as they gave their set a fun sendoff, as was singing. Even if people didn’t know the lyrics, the refrain of, “How can I keep this up?” was easy to pick up on.

If there hadn’t been a couple of songs missing, you would have thought they were done. But everyone knew better, and after a couple minutes of shouting, Amber ran back down the stairs from the green room and out on the stage.

“We got to get the boys out!” she said, looking that way. David returned, as did Nate, who simply sit behind the kit and watched his band mates during “Two Lords”. Amber had her hands free, and David grabbed the acoustic. “…It’s super meaningful to us. We wrote it about a buddy of ours,” she said before the song, which deals with two fellow musicians who took their own lives. “…I wish I could have told them I’d hate they way they leave,” went one of the lines of what was a chilling song, and one only those familiar with the D/FW music scene will truly understand and appreciate.

The full band was intact now, and they had saved their biggest two for last. “Wedding Clothes” was one; and as Nate rolled them into the last song, he proceeded to clap along to the beat he was delivering on the kick drum. Much of the crowd joined along. “Generator” was the final song they had to do off Adult Roommates, and it has been a routine closer for many months now. “Thank you again Dallas for coming out…” Amber said during the instrumental break, pointing out that the album wouldn’t be available digitally until September 16th, so everyone here was getting the “exclusive”.

That powerhouse number concluded not only their 14-minute long encore, but also one epic night.

This was what an album release show should be. A club packed with fans who are anxious not only about getting their hands on the latest release from a band they love, but also seeing them pull out all the stops to make this something more than just your average show.

The last few times I had seen Somebody’s Darling they were clicking on a level that affirmed they were one of the areas’ best. That was still holding true this night. The showmanship, the musicianship and even the way it was all executed was no different from that of a bigger ticket act you’d pay good money to see here at Trees.

That’s why Somebody’s Darling has built such a solid reputation not only here in Dallas/Fort Worth, but even in the Mid-West — where they often tour. That’s why they can pack out pretty much ever show they do: because they deliver an experience each time they take the stage.

It’s only been five years since they released album number one, and each follow-up they’ve put out in the last few years has proven to be a cut above their previous material. With Adult Roommates, they’ve crafted something that has more depth and feeling and in a more mature manner than their previous stuff; and in a couple of years, I think it’s safe to assume we’ll be talking about another album, where they have outdone themselves yet again.

“Bad Bad” is available as a single, with the full album dropping on September 16th. In the meantime, if you don’t have their first two records, you can get them in iTUNES (as well as pre-order Adult Roommates.) Their next show will be on September 13th at Panther Island Pavilion in Fort Worth (as part of The Toadies Dia de los Toadies music festival). They also have a short tour planned in October, with shows in Atlanta, GA; Charlotte, NC; and Raleigh, NC, on October 17th, 18th, and 19th, respectively. Specifics can be found HERE.

Friday, August 8th, 2014 – Andrew Tinker Gets the Party Going at House of Blues

image(Photo credit: Ronnie Jackson Photography)

Opening up the party Exit 380 was throwing for themselves in celebration of their first ever vinyl record was Andrew Tinker.

It was fitting that the Denton-based musician be on the bill, given he recorded Exit 380s’ Photomaps record at Big Acre Sound. He wasn’t alone, though, and had a couple band mates to make this a full-band show.

Part of me was skeptical in a way, because after seeing him solo a few months prior, it was absolutely chilling, while another part of me was excited to see what kind of difference a full-band made.

The trio of Andrew Tinker, bassist Jacob Smith and drummer Lupe Barrera (who was so new, he had only done a couple of rehearsals with them) got their show going with a catchy, upbeat number. “…Lord knows it’s been quite, but the music never dies…” went one of the lines from the chorus. As it neared the end, Andrews’ playing on his guitar got less intense, while Lupe also greatly softened his drumming, as the three of them bridged themselves perfectly into their next track.
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One of the most striking parts of the entire night came at the end of it, when Andrew belted out some of the line a cappella. It was jaw dropping. He formally introduced his band mates before they tackled “I Can’t Do it Alone”, which was one of several songs they did from the Upon the Ecliptic album. The song about realizing you do need others to help you along your journey is a beautiful one; and the bass and drums made it all the more inspiring.

“…Must have been in love, must have been out of my mind… To think that you would stay through another season or two…” crooned Andrew, with nothing but his voice filling the Cambridge Room of the House of Blues. He went a little further into “Must Have Been in Love”, before he placed his hands back on his guitar and his band mates joined along, creating a sort of cinematic effect. A light drum roll then segued them into “So Does a Season End”, which found each instrument getting its moment. Andrew started the break by busting out a harmonica and doing a solo, which snowballed into a drum solo, and then Jacob letting loose some thick bass lines, as they gradually brought it back up and exploded into the final part of the song.

The soulful and poppy sounds continued with “I’ll Come Around”; and they kept the great flow they had going alive as Andrew quickly strummed on his axe, relenting some when they began “Always Loved”. Another lengthy instrumental break was thrown in, and it turned into a drum solo, with Jacob quickly getting in on the action. Eventually, they backed off it, creating the impression the song was almost done, but that was when Andrew struck with a guitar solo.
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They offered up one last song — another peaceful number — and that concluded their 43-minute long set.

Like I said, I was a little hesitant as to how the full-band would sound, ‘cause Andrew Tinker is the epitome of what a singer/songwriter should be in its rawest form, but man, the additional band members made the music so much more powerful in every regard.

The tight trio gave the songs more of a punch; and with it being fleshed out, the lyrics even seemed to carry more weight. Making it all the more impressive was knowing that Lupe had only practiced with them a couple of times, because they all looked like they had more chemistry with each other than that.

If you got out here early enough this night, you witnessed something special; and it proved to me that Andrew Tinker excels in all musical environments, be it with a band or alone.

He has a couple of records available in iTUNES, which you should definitely check out if you don’t have them.
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image(Photo credit: Ronnie Jackson Photography)

Sunday, August 10th, 2014 - No Weapon Formed Delivers a Precise Rock Show at The Curtain Club

The Saving Abel show wasn’t originally supposed to be held at The Curtain Club, but that was where it wound up. I was okay with that, given my immense love for the venue; and actually, it made me all the more excited to see the stacked bill of local talent that had been assembled to open the show.

No Weapon Formed took the stage with quite a few eyes on them. Many were fans — some sporting their NWF shirts; and frontman Brandon Thomas stepped on stage shortly after his band mates got their opening number going. Lead guitarist Josh Presley started showing off his skills from the get go, knocking out a killer solo at one point in the track, before they dove right into the next. Drummer Dylan Burt quickly grabbed his kick drum and pulled it closer (I think it had moved slightly during that song), and then joined them.

“Thank you.” Brandon told the crowd once they had finished the track. They didn’t allow much downtime, and now rhythm guitarist Nolan Bradvica opened up their next tune, which ended with an instrumental outro between he, Josh, Dylan and bassist Soleh, while Brandon exited the stage to allow the crowd to fully focus on them. “We love Curtain Club. This is like our second home.” Brandon remarked before they unleashed another couple of songs. Brandon seemed even more charismatic than usual on the latter of those two; and both he and Josh harmonized at one point on the track, which sounded awesome. Perhaps the best point came at the end, when Brandon grabbed the mic stand and pulled it off side to his left, though he was still screaming loud enough it had no trouble picking up the sound.

It was here they found out their set was nearly over, prompting a decision to have to be made on what to close with. They choose what Brandon called their “best one”. It was, indeed, one of the highlights from their 27-minute long set, and during it, he again thanked the Curtain Club for having them out. “We fucking love you!” he told the crowd, shortly before they brought it to a rip-roaring end.

Having to axe one song may have been slightly disappointing for the band, but that didn’t dampen what was a killer show.

They have a great sound that’s not solely hard rock, but certainly isn’t just your standard rock music, either; and the wails Brandon is capable of evokes almost an 80’s rock sound.

It’s good stuff; and you should go see them if you get the chance.

They’ll be at The Rail in Fort Worth on September 5th; then on the 20th of that month you can find them at The Boiler Room in Dallas.

Sunday, August 10th, 2014 - Story of a Ghost Makes Their Mark on Dallas

The Saving Abel show wasn’t originally supposed to be held at The Curtain Club, but that was where it wound up. I was okay with that, given my immense love for the venue; and actually, it made me all the more excited to see the stacked bill of local talent that had been assembled to open the show.

For the past few shows, Story of a Ghost had been playing main support to Saving Abel; and this was their final show of their run with them.

The quartet hailed from Joplin, Missouri; and when the curtain opened on them, Logan Graves was putting a beat down on the drums. Bassist Rikki Ramirez emerged from stage right shortly after; and guitarist Aaron Hearse wasn’t far behind. The roaring instrumental intro earned them lots of attention, though the venue wasn’t nearly as crowded as it had been for the local act before them.

“How the hell you doing Dallas, Texas?!” frontman Davin Casey asked once they were done. “…Let’s make it a helluva night!” he shouted after mentioning this was their final date with Saving Abel. Rikki proceeded to clap his hands together, eventually getting much of the couple dozen people watching them to do the same; and there came a point in the track when Aaron rushed off the stage and stood with the crowd as he rocked out.

“This kinda shit does not happen in Joplin!” stated Davin, who was riding high on the crowds’ energy. Number wise, the audience may not have been strong, though people were very engaged with the outfit. “…This is a Texas exclusive!” he remarked, before glancing at all the plaques of bands that adorn the Wall of Fame. Some of them went on to achieve national fame, others will always be Dallas legends, but the one constant as they all cut their teeth here at the Curtain. He said something to the effect that this place was here because of all those bands, and then they launched into another song. Davin screamed some on that track, and when he was doing it, he executed excellent control over his voice. Really, it was impressive to hear; and when it hit a lull, he moved over to the keyboard that sit in the stairwell on and off the stage.

“I don’t know if you know this, but it’s fucking hot in Texas,” he remarked afterwards. The audience cheered, affirming they were all too familiar with this. “Are there any rock fans here?” he then asked, using that to setup a cover of “Wasteland” by 10 Years, which concluded with Aaron again getting out in the crowd.

There were some fans out there who were familiar with Story of a Ghost before this night, and now, Davin pointed them out, saying he thought they’d know this one. “…I don’t expect you to sing it with me, though,” he told them, clearly wanting to be proved wrong. So, a few people were happy to do that, and did help them out on “March”, which was backed up with a strong stage performance. With that, they were already onto the final number of their 28-minute long set; and during it, Aaron jumped into the air, doing a nice 360° spin while he was up there.

Their hard rock style was very melodic, and at times sounded a little commercialized, but not in a negative way. In fact, it gives it a broader appeal to your general audience, which of course can’t hurt any band.

They were very tight and had some great chemistry with one another, which really showed through during their performance. Would I go see them again? Yes, yes I would.

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014 – Gemini Syndrome Goes Full Throttle at Cain’s Ballroom

Just in seeing the Gemini Syndrome banner being put up on stage was enough to send their die-hard group of fans into fits of excitement.
image(Photo credit: Ronnie Jackson Photography)

The Los Angeles-based hard rock outfit was doing main support for Sevendust on this current tour; and even on a Tuesday night at Cain’s Ballroom in Tulsa, Oklahoma, they had a strong showing of fans out.

Causing even more excitement was vocalist Aaron Nordstrom, who wandered out in the crowd several minute before they hit the stage, even posing for a picture with one very young fan. It was cool to see.

The lineup was a little different this night, as it was one of the dates Rich Juzwick was missing to attend to personal matters, meaning Gemini Syndrome would be performing as a four-piece.

The audiences’ anticipation mounted when the house lights dimmed, and many roared at the top of their lungs. Nordstrom bowed to the spectators after he stepped out on stage. “Tulsa! Tulsa!” he yelled, getting substantially louder with the second one, before screaming in more of a heavy metal voice, “OKLAHOMA!”

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(Photo credit: Ronnie Jackson Photography)

With that, their intro faded out, and they jumped in to the super heavy, “Resurrection”. Guitarist Mike Salerno and Nordstroms’ vocal interaction on the first couple of verses is really something to see live, with Salerno screaming one word in a throaty voice, before Nordstrom repeats it in a slightly less intense tone. Drummer Brian Medinas’ actions easily earned him people’s attention as well, from tossing one of his drum sticks into the air and then standing to catch it, to bowing to Salerno during his stellar guitar solo. Upon finishing the song, Medina again rose up from his seat, beaming at the crowd.

“How we feeling tonight? Is everybody ready for this?!” Nordstrom asked, checking in on everyone. Not only was the crowd ready for this, they seemed to have been waiting for it for weeks. “Here we go,” he finished, as they began “Falling Apart”. Bassist AP and Medina delivered a monstrous rhythm section on the track, particularly at the start; and plenty of fans were singing right along to the chorus, “…You push me to the side every single time, and I can’t help you from falling apart again.”

Just two songs in and these guys were already on fire. There was also a great dynamic at work, where the band had plenty of energy to feed off of from the crowd, and in turn, the more action packed show they were delivering just helped the audience get more lost in it all.
image(Photo credit: Ronnie Jackson Photography)

“We are Gemini Syndrome. Thank you for being here,” Nordstrom then told everyone, before hitting a more serious note. “…I’m guessing every single person here is like myself, and have something you don’t like about yourself…” he remarked. “…But that shit is what makes you different…” he preached, before bellowing, “YOU ARE NOT ALONE!” Salerno then knocked out the opening lines of “Basement” — as they continued working their way backwards on the Lux album. “Let me see your hands!” Nordstrom requested before the first chorus, resulting in a slew of hands shooting up into the air. Medina continued showing off his skills as a drummer and pure love for it by flipping one of the sticks around, and later twirling it between his fingers.

“Y’all are beautiful,” Nordstrom informed the crowd, while another sample started to play. Medina was on his feet, lightly tapping some of the cymbals. “We still having a good time?” Nordstrom then asked, before saying that the first word ever in existence was “love”. “And from the bottom of our hearts, we love you,” he said sincerely. The track led to the epic intro for “Mourning Star”, which saw this hard rock band showing off the slightly softer side they are capable of, and they pull it off exceedingly well.

The segue into their next song was seamless; and now, another guitar was brought out on stage. “Y’all don’t mind, do you, if I play a little guitar tonight?” asked Nordstrom. There were no objections to it. Then again, why would there have been? “Pay for This”  was dedicated to liars and thieves; and while it was slightly strange seeing Nordstrom abandon his role of frontman (even if it was just for one song), he still managed to pack a ton of energy into the performance, even breaking away from the microphone stand when he could. AP was also completely in the zone on that track, and he hunched over his bass for the first verse or so, just dominating it.
image(Photo credit: Ronnie Jackson Photography)

Like the previous transition, a sample track led them into what was coming next; and as Nordstrom handed his guitar off, he thanked the crowd for “indulging” him on that.

“Tulsa!” he suddenly shouted, raising his voice when he repeated the city’s name. “Make some fucking noise!” he then stated, making it sound more like a command, and one fans were happy to meet. “…Let me see everyone’s hands in the sky, like you’re reaching for heaven,” he then told everybody, after saying they’d need some help with this next one. The onlookers proceeded to clap along as “Stardust” got going. “…It’s no mistake; …you are perfect in my mind…” the audience sang along, loud enough you could kind of hear them at times, something the frontman highly encouraged. Medina had continued to be a driving force this night; and as they hit the songs’ lull, he again stood up and flipped a stick into the air, still smiling, as if he was having the time of his life.

“THANK YOU!” Nordstrom hollered as soon as it was over. Already, this incredible set had reached its end, and they had packed so much into it, I was surprised they had only been on stage about thirty-minutes at this point. “We’re going to end this very similar to the way we started.” Nordstrom announced. His voice dropped to a sudden whisper. “Tulsa,” he quietly said, as if he were about to share a secret with everyone. It progressively got louder, though, and the rise in it was rapid. “Get the fuck up!” he instructed as they wrapped it up with “Pleasure and Pain”. It induced a lot of head banging among everyone; and the band made sure to pull out all the stops during it. Salerno and AP jammed next to one another during the second verse, and Nordstrom stamped his foot and banged his head to the most brutal parts of it; while Medina couldn’t resist doing one more toss of his drum stick, and I think this one was the highest yet.
image(Photo credit: Ronnie Jackson Photography)

“From the bottom of our hearts, we fucking love you,” Nordstrom stressed at the end, his gratitude being purely genuine. “Sevendust is about to destroy you…” he finished, as their 35-minute long set came to an end. That wasn’t the last time he was on stage this night, though. He also joined Sevendust to co-sing their encore of “Splinter”.

Coincidently, the only other time I have seen Gemini Syndrome also happened to be in Oklahoma (at Rocklahoma), and while they were great then, this slightly longer set made all the difference.

Even being down a member these guys still laid waste to the stage at the historic Cain’s Ballroom with ease. Their showmanship was superb, and you can tell each one of them thoroughly enjoys being on a stage and performing for whoever is watching. They functioned at a level that is well above many of their counterparts, and this show made it all too easy to see why Gemini Syndrome is a band on the rise. They even gave Sevendust a serious run for their money, which is no small feat.

The final show of this run with Sevendust is August 23rd in Sioux City, Iowa at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. Gemini Syndrome also has some dates through the rest of the month, scattered about Colorado; New Mexico and Nevada. Full info on when and where can be found HERE. Also, if you don’t have Lux, do your ears a favor and go pick it up in iTUNES.

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image(Photo credit: Ronnie Jackson Photography)

Sunday, August 10th, 2014 - The Suicide Hook Takes No Prisoners at The Curtain Club

The Saving Abel show wasn’t originally supposed to be held at The Curtain Club, but that was where it wound up. I was okay with that, given my immense love for the venue; and actually, it made me all the more excited to see the stacked bill of local talent that had been assembled to open the show.

The second band up this night was The Suicide Hook. I hadn’t seen them before, though had heard of them, mainly due to Jasen Moreno’s rise to prominence a couple years ago, when he became the new singer for Dallas legend: Drowning Pool. He may not have as much time for his local project now, at least not when Drowning Pool is on the road, but they’re still kicking. Actually to say they’re merely “kicking” would be an understatement.

It was hot outside. Miserable even, and it wasn’t any cooler inside the venue. So, it was a little surprising when the curtain opened and you saw Jasen, who was wearing a hoodie, with the hood pulled up over his head. It may not have been comfortable, but it did help with the look; as they exploded into the first song of their 28-minute long set: “Headlines”. It was more than enough to bring a sizable number of people up to the front of the stage, as they watched on, completely captivated by the hard rock, borderline metal band.

Drummer Joey Johnson wound them right into “Eyedropper”, which explored more of their metal side. However, Jasen could switch from screaming to singing in a split-second on the brutal number, which ended with all of them violently banging their heads. “Well, how the hell are you?!” he asked once they finished it. “Thanks for hanging out. We are The Suicide Hook,” he said, making the formal introduction. They tore through another track that brought out everyone’s inner rock beast; after which Jasen urged everyone to come a bit closer. “If you want to bring it in and get closer to the stage, it’s alright with us,” he said, before removing the hoodie.

“Are y’all ready for some more rock n roll?!” he then growled. “Let’s do this! Come on!” he shouted as they started into another tune, one that featured a wicked guitar solo courtesy of Adam Nanez. “Here’s to us, here’s to you,” Jasen said when toasting with some shots that appeared on stage during that last song. “I’m sorry, I didn’t wait,” bassist Joseph Rosales halfheartedly apologized.

Once the shots had been downed, they unloaded a couple more songs, bridging them into one another; and in between that, Jasen again thanked the crowd, specifically saying he couldn’t “say thank you enough” for the support. “It’s been fun. We’re The Suicide Hook. Don’t forget the name,” he stated before their closing song. After a performance like this, I think it’d be pretty hard to.

The show was ferocious, and even with limited room on the stage due to all the backlined equipment, they still found plenty of space to move around; and even outperformed many of the other acts on the bill this night.

There can be little doubt that all the time Jasen has spent on the road in the last couple years has helped hone his skills as a frontman, which makes The Suicide Hook a cut above the rest among many of their counterparts here in the scene. I was quite honestly blown away by it all. Their sheer musicianship and the way they commanded the stage was something to behold, and they just flat-out killed it this night.

They’ll be playing again on September 13th at Trees in Dallas, if you’re free.