I must admit, I was partially expecting Hayes Carll’s show at The Kessler Theater this night to be a full band performance.
Sure, I knew these series of shows he was doing around Texas were acoustic duo shows, but in the announcement regarding them, there was also mention that there would be some full band gigs sprinkled in certain places. Then take into account that this was his fifth and final straight night in D/FW. This was also his second sold out Dallas show of the week (the first had been Wednesday at the Double Wide), and he had also played Denton, plus made a two-night stand in Fort Worth (and if those shows weren’t totally sold out, I’d bet they were close to it.)
There aren’t many musicians who can play the same area that much so close together and still bring people out; which was why I thought this might be a full band show, because after four nights in the metroplex, I figured he’d be doing something bigger to still get the fans out.
Upon walking into the showroom after the lone opening act started it was obvious there would be no band. The stage was barren of all the amps and instruments that are typically set up, and that had me very intrigued.
After all, how good a musician really is all comes down to what they are capable of in a stripped down environment.
Sure, Hayes Carll may mine an Americana genre of music, but he has plenty of loud rock songs that hold the crowd’s attention with ease. Would he still be able to do that basically all on his lonesome? I honestly didn’t know, though I would soon find out just how good of a singer/songwriter an all-around musician he really was (or wasn’t).
The opening artist was Scott Nolan, who was on his first song when I walked in, and at first, I could have cared less for him.
That opening tune didn’t do much for me, though the night would get better; and this guy was a storyteller through and through.
I believe it was after that first song that he mentioned he had made a long drive from his hometown of Winnipeg, Manitoba. He mentioned he drove about two hours, while his girlfriend drove sixteen or so. He joked about that and several other things, including saying he had cleaned up his appearance a bit, getting a haircut and trimming his beard (which was still fairly long) after hibernating for the winter, saying he figured he should look a little more decent to try to get by customs.
As soon as he stopped the on-sided conversation, he began his next song, which was “Shake it Loose”. The bluesy number still wasn’t my favorite of his, but it certainly had my attention, especially when he softened his guitar playing and almost dryly gasp into the mic, “Shake it loose. Come on baby, shake it loose…”
He told as many if not more songs than he did play songs; which I enjoyed. It’s always nice getting some back-story to songs, and even if you don’t know them, it allows them to connect with you more. For example, a lengthy story he shared about his late tour manager, who he said had been the tour manager for a few other bands before he and Scott crossed paths. Those few other bands (at least the ones mentioned) were The Guess Who and BTO.
“…Then he ended up with me, and you see how that turned out…” said Scott, who playfully joked that he has often thought he was the man who (unintentionally) killed Ernie Blackburn. He went on to tell everyone that Ernie owned a backline company, clarifying for those who might not know that, that was company for “lazy musicians” who wanted to rent gear instead of haul their own around. The motto he had for the company was “You Rock, We Roll”.
Since he left this world, Scott said he had played this song every time he did a show, and always did it for his dear friend. I think you can figure out what it was called.
“’Cause you rock, we roll. That’s what you told me, brother. We can do it together, you can’t have one without the other…” he sang on that incredible song, which was the one that won me over. Considering it was just him, his guitar and harmonica, it was loud and it was rocking; and knowing that story behind it made it pretty deep.
Another story he told was about Folsom Prison, where he was invited to a singer/songwriter workshop a few years back. He mentioned his cousin spent most of the last twenty years of his life in that prison, and he was the first person/inmate to mix all of the cultures of the inmates into one room, finding a common ground in music.
Scott noted what a really amazing thing it was, seeing Bloods, Crips, members of the Mexican Mafia, white supremacists and others co-existing together and getting along while they played music. It goes to show what true power music does have, and even now you could tell Scott was humbled and amazed by his experience there.
That may have been the neatest story he shared, but the best one came when he said he came home one day to his girlfriend and one of her friends drinking red wine. They had been doing that for awhile, and shortly after switched to something else (tequila maybe? I don’t remember for sure.) “So I did what any sensible man would do.” he said, “I joined in.”
His girlfriend’s friend brought up the game of Twister, which he pointed out was apparently responsible for a lot of the divorcees in the 70’s, “Including my own parents.” he said, making it hard to tell if he was being serious or perhaps joking.
To make a Twister board he got several albums and placed them on the floor, while a corkscrew acted as the spinner. I don’t remember what the albums were, though he said he put a lot of thought into it, naming some of them and even where he placed them.
One was an album by Bobby Bare, and Scott mentioned he had made friends with Bobby Bare Jr., whom he told this story to. “…And eventually I got a note from Bobby Bare (Sr.) that just said, ‘You’re welcome, kid.”
Aptly, the song was titled “Twister”, and it was as hilarious as you would expect. “For my Christian neighbors, I pull the curtains tight. If this is wrong, I don’t want to be right…” he crooned on the short track.
I might not have been sure at first, but Scott Nolan was a great singer/songwriter, and his 36-minutes on stage seemed to pass by too quickly.
If you get a chance, go see one of his shows. He’s highly entertaining, and in more aspects than just being a talented musician. At the very least, check out his music in iTUNES (also HERE). You’ll be glad you did, especially if you’re a fan of the singer/songwriter genre.
With his set being done, all that was left now was to wait for Hayes Carll to take the stage, which happened about half an hour later.
It was 9:06 when the lights dimmed and Scott Nolan returned to the stage; this time to backup his friend Hayes Carll. All the fanfare went to Hayes Carll, of course. A lot of it may have been because the room at The Kessler is more intimate, but the noise level earsplitting. I mean, I had been to a show a couple nights before this at a venue and a crowd that was much larger than this, and that specific band didn’t even get near the reaction Mr. Carll did this night.
Like I said, part of that surely has to do with the size of the room, but on the other hand, he is just that loved.
It was anyone’s guess as to what would come first, either a song or a story. It wound up being the former, as he picked up his acoustic guitar and lightly plucked the strings, eventually starting the chords for “Beaumont”, which was greeted with almost as much applause as Hayes had gotten.
“The night was feelin’ lucky, so I asked you to dance, and the way you looked up at me made me think I had a chance. When I put my arms around you, I knew you weren’t given in. I hope it will be different if I pass this way again.” he sang on the second verse of this tale of semi-heartache, while the fans acted as his backing vocalists, singing every word along with him. It was never overpowering of what he was doing, but more just added a nice echo effect to it all.
“Welcome to The Kessler…” he said once that classic had concluded. His talk quickly turned to Scott Nolan, who sit on the seat he had earlier, with a guitar in hand and keyboard at his side. “I’m sure Scott already told y’all about the long drive he made…” Hayes said, before the conversation took another turn, this time to Winnipeg. “…The last time I was there, it was forty-two degrees below…” said Hayes, which made me shiver just hearing about temperatures that cold.
“When you have to go, you have to question the safety of it…” he added, putting his own unique perspective on things, reminding everyone that even in when it gets cold in Texas, that’s never a real concern. “I mean, there are lots of guys walking around as eunuchs up there, and you’re like, ‘Well, what happened?’ and they say, ‘Well, I had to take piss and it took longer than expected.”
A few minutes was all it took for the comedy portion of the show to get into full swing, and there was still plenty of it to come.
“So, this is night ten of my Pub Crawl Tour…” said Hayes, joking in his dry sense of humor that he was just “getting lazy” since he was doing these as acoustic duo gigs. “Basically, I just pick one town and then play five shows there.” he quipped, pointing out he had done five shows down in Austin, before bringing it up here to North Texas.
He then mentioned his Double Wide gig, specifically speaking about the venue when he said it was “similar” to The Kessler. That other venue is great, and it’s the best of the best as far as dive bars go, and I was curious how he was going to draw a comparison between it and the elegant listening room that is The Kessler. He paused for a second after saying it was “similar”, then carried on, “In almost no way at all.”
He had already been talking longer than he had played music thus far (not that anyone minded it), but he was due for another song now, and busted out another from 2008’s “Trouble In Mind”, “Wild as a Turkey”.
Afterwards, came a block of new songs. In fact, the only new songs he did were all strung together here, and Hayes made clear that the first of these new ones “wasn’t for everyone”. “Actually, I don’t know if it’s for anyone.” He added, saying he could handle any criticisms people might have.
“I used to want to get with you.” he sang at the start; taking a strategic pause to let the crowd react. Nearly everyone was cheering over the subject matter, and then he continued with the next line, “But now I want to get with your daugh-ter.” he crooned, again pausing afterwards. Some people still hollered back at him, liking the lyrics even more now that he had said that, while others quietly laughed and shook their heads. “Yeah, that’s usually where I lose people…” he remarked, his dry sense of humor again coming in handy.
It was classic Hayes, having moments like that where you couldn’t help but laugh, and others that were flat-out honest. I’m sure I’m paraphrasing this, but part of the chorus was something like, “Maybe you should just stop asking questions to things you don’t want to know.”
The next new song was about his ten-year-old son. “He’s a magician. Not a musician, a magician…” Hayes pointed out, making sure everyone heard him correctly, saying it’s kind of hard as a parent when your child tells you they want to be a magician. “He’s also into cake decorating.” he said, as if to say it only got worse.
He talked about when his son first started trying all the tricks that he would quickly call him out on it and tell him he could see what he was doing. “He has tiny hands.” he suddenly said, sending the audience into a roaring fit of laughter, which only intensified when he thought about it for a second and admitted, “…I was a dick about it.”
There’s a silver lining to the story, though, and it’s that his son stuck it out, never paying attention to any discouraging words, and has gotten pretty good at it. So good in fact, that he got asked to join the Austin Association of Magicians (or something like that). The audience applauded that feat. “Oh, you’ve heard of them?” Hayes answered surprisingly. “They’re an ancient, mystic society that meets every other Monday at the International House of Pancakes.”
The song is called “Magic Kid”, and not only is a lovely song that a father wrote for his son, but it’s also an uplifting song for anyone, with a core message of just being yourself, finding something you like and enjoy and sticking with it, regardless of what anyone says or thinks.
With those two out of the way, Hayes mentioned that these new songs were going in the “reverse order of life”. The first one being about when your older, while “Magic Kid” was about a young kid. Now, the focus was going to shift to something a little more serious, and Hayes set up the next one as being a song about “losing your significant other to someone else”.
“I don’t know all the words, but we’ll get as far as we can.” he mentioned right before starting the track that sounded like it be another classic Hayes Carll song. It was, but not in the way everyone had first thought.
The first line of the second verse was something like, “Things have changed since he moved in…”, and he continued singing, “…He poots, you think it’s cute. I poot, you leave the room…”
Are you getting this yet? Yes, Hayes Carll has again proved his songwriting genius by crafting a track about losing one’s wife to the child y’all had together. “My baby took my baby away…” went a line from the chorus.
I was in near tears on that one from laughing so hard and I think more than a few people were in the same boat, because bursts of laughter could be heard all throughout the song, while he sang it with a straight face. I’m being dead serious when I say that song was genius (it’s on the same level as that old hit “She Left Me for Jesus”), and if it doesn’t make the cut on his next album I’ll be very upset, because it’s one of the greatest things that has ever been written, and not just by him.
“I’m realizing three of these songs won’t be popular with ladies.” he confessed after that one. “I have songs for ladies…” he continued, but noted those were more for the guys, or any woman who might have a sense of humor for situations like that. (That’s possible for two of those songs, though I don’t imagine many, if any woman would find a song about wanting to basically “upgrade” from her to her daughter funny. Maybe I’m wrong, though.)
So, now that those three stage of live had been covered there was only one left: conception.
Hayes mentioned that subject matter of this next song was something that has never happened to him “I’ve played this song one hundred and seventy-four times…” he said, making a point as to how rare an event this is.
I already knew what song this had to be, and I was excited, because the only other time I had heard him do it was the first show of his I ever say, almost two years ago at the Homegrown Music Festival in Dallas. He then mentioned the name of the song which was “One Bed, Two Girls, Three Bottles of Wine”.
Apparently, he didn’t want Scott Nolan being the only guy who did a song about having a threesome.
“…I’ll be your boy, your toy to torture, touch and teach me. So, Sandra tied me up as Sally laid me down…” he sang, before getting to the brilliant chorus, “…While I’m kissing hers, the others loving mine. If the devil is watching, he thinks I’m doing fine…” It only got better on the second verse “…Whoo-wee, someone’s chewing on my knee… Oh flip, they’re playing with my…” he stepped back from the mic at that last part, leaving it up to the audience to infer what the next word would have been.
Things slowed down on the instrumental break, as Hayes stated he kept hoping that “life will imitate art”. He then elaborated on that. “I write songs about beer. People bring me beer. I write songs about drugs. People will sometimes slip me drugs. I write a song about a three-way. Nothing.” he said, acting perplexed by it all.
As funny as the song is though, the best part is the realistic approach it takes, with the hero of the story more or less cracking under the pressure. “…For five minutes I was king of all I see, and then the end came sooner than expected…” Hayes sang, going on to mention he wished he had paid more attention to adult movies during his teen years, so he’d know how to handle such a “unique and surprisingly complicated situation”, and which point he’s left to watch as the girls continued without him.
Man, that was great. I have to say, I liked the way the show started, but I was still on the fence as to how it might play out, but those new tracks squashed the doubt I had.
After those few fun(ny) songs, it was time to bring the mood back down, and “Chances Are” was the perfect song to do that. “…Every heart has got a story, mine just has a few more scars. But they could heal if you would hold me and tell me what my chances are.” sang Hayes on the somber tune, a tune that bleeds heartache with every word and every note, which is precisely what makes it so good.
It was time for another story now, as Hayes mentioned that it was Scott Nolan who wrote this next song, a staple of his. “…I try to give credit where credit is due whenever I can…” Hayes said, as he went on to relay a story Scott had told him about some of his more recent shows where he opened up with this song that he wrote, and later had people from the crowd come up to him and ask, “Why did you open with a Hayes Carll song?”
“And you shouldn’t. You should never open with a Hayes Carll song.” joked Hayes. The conversation than took a different turn, when he went into a little tale about being up in Canada with a friend (I don’t remember who he said he was with) and his friend got invited to the “Canadian equivalent of the White House”. Hayes tagged along with him, and mentioned there were all these intimidating armed guards outside the place, when he happened to realize he had forgotten his passport.
“…So I grabbed one of my CD’s and was like, ‘This has my picture on it. This is me…” he said, as he attempted to get them to let him in. He said they stared at for just a second, then looked at him, said “Okay. Go on.” and motioned him in.
“Canadians.” Hayes simply said, sounding amazed by their kind and trusting nature.
By that time, I had almost forgotten they had even talked about a song that Scott had written. Apparently, I owe Mr. Scott Nolan a big thank you, because he wrote what is my favorite Hayes Carll song.
Hayes played some notes on his harmonica and plucked at his guitar, before singing, “Arkansas; my head hurts. I’d love to stick around and maybe make it worse. I’ve got a girl out in Henrietta, and her love is like tornado weather…” Hays sang on the slowed down version of “Bad Liver and a Broken Heart”. “Indian summer: Oklahoma sunset. If there’s a nicer place I haven’t been there yet…” sang Scott, who handled the second verse of his song. The added a nice dynamic to it, especially since Scott has such a standout and unique sound to his voice. The fans then took it upon to help out on the last verse, lightly singing along with Hayes who had taken back over. “…Doesn’t anybody care about truth anymore? I guess maybe that’s what songs are for. You’re the wind, and I’m on fire. In this line of work no one retires. Come in clean, leave torn apart. A bad liver and a broken heart…” everyone sang.
Little did the fans know, they weren’t done singing along just yet. “Drunken Poet’s Dream” is another fan favorite, and the crowd got a little riled up upon hearing. Hayes even added a few extra lines to the start of the second verse, one of which was “…She tastes like pills and cheap cologne…”
That’s one song he co-wrote with his friend and Texas music legend Ray Wylie Hubbard, whom he spoke of now, mention what a huge admirer he is of Mr. Hubbard and followed him around quite a bit in his younger days before befriending him.
For their first co-write together Hayes said he got to Ray’s place and asked him what he had been writing about lately. “Farm animals.” Hubbard answered. Hayes noted that, that was an “unexplored” style of songwriting for him. “…I usually write about drugs and alcoholism…” he said, rattling off several other topics that his music has covered, none of which had been farm animals.
“And Ray Wylie Hubbard was just killing it with farm animal songs. Let’s see, he’s got songs about goats, cows, pigs…” he said, listing off a whole menagerie of creatures. He even mentioned Ray’s song “Snake Farm” and sang a line or two from it.
“…Now, you can call me a sellout… but I’m paying my bills…” said Hayes, talking about all the companies that used that song.
Well, none of that actually happened (the being rich part at least). With that, he and Scott started the final track from his “Little Rock” album, “Chickens”, which was the only song he did from that record this night. Scott stole show during it, tearing into an incredible guitar solo that left everyone’s mouth agape, while they cheered his prowess as a guitarist.
Afterwards, Hayes went even further back than that 2005 album. He mentioned that this next song was one of the first he ever wrote, and it was the first one of his songs that someone ever covered.
The band he said that covered it was a duo with a female singer, while the guy played a flute; making them sound like they were an interesting act to say the least. Also, to stick with “artistic integrity”, the woman sang the song from a “lesbian perspective”.
He then started the tune and the fans cheered with glee. “I have another song that starts like this.” Hayes quickly stated. That’s a line I’ve heard the last three times I’ve seen him, and he always plays the song that everyone new and was expecting. Tonight, it was a different story.
He did the title track from his debut album, “Flowers and Liquor”. It has held up well against his other, newer music, and one line, “…I’m getting excited, I hope I’m invited. I want to spend the night with you.” is still pure Hayes, even twelve years after that debut album dropped.
He rolled the end of that one right into the title track from his current LP, “KMAG YOYO”. It’s a song you would think would sound good acoustic, but surprisingly, it did. Actually, it was great in this format. Lyrically it’s closer to being a rap (really) and given the fact that he was setting his own pace on it this time, Hayes seemed to do it just a hair quicker than it’s performed at the full band shows.
He made a switch to an electric guitar for the next couple of songs; playing some notes as the fans wondered what was coming next. He played a brief lead in to the song, before finally getting to the all too recognizable notes of “I Got a Gig”, a song that chronicles his adventures of starting out as a musician and all the dive bars you have to play while paying your dues.
Upon finishing it, Hayes pointed out it had been something like five years since he and Scott had played together like they were at the moment, and he congratulated him for being so great “on the fly”. Now that impressed me, because I figured there had been some type of rehearsal done. Nope, he was just winging it, and you never would have guessed it.
“…Drinking beers is about the only thing I can do anymore without practice…” Hayes said, again using his deadpan delivery of humor. But to make sure Scott didn’t feel signaled out by that, Hayes told everyone he was going to put himself in similar shows and do a song he seldom plays.
“Don’t Let Me Fall” was the song he did, which is a solid little track from “Trouble In Mind”, and I enjoyed getting to hear it live.
After switching back to his acoustic guitar, Hayes announced he was going to do a song by his friend. Everyone already knew what was coming, but Hayes confirmed it by saying it was a song about why it’s a good idea for traveling musicians to carry a Bible on their dashboard. Aptly, the song is called “Bible On the Dash”, and it tells a very entertaining story about how you can get out any trouble you might run into (i.e. police officers, border stops, etc.) by simply having a copy of the good book with you.
How good the night get any better than that? Well, there was still the greatest duet ever written to do, though I skeptical how this might turn out.
Hayes said at some of these shows he had done both the male and female parts, but opted to start bringing fans on stage to sing with him to give it more of a vibe. When he did this is Dallas for his Holiday Hangover Tour, it was a disaster (see HERE), hence why I was skeptical as to how this might go.
He then went into a story about one of the Fort Worth shows he had played a night or two before, where there were “five thousand people” out in the crowd. He asked for a volunteer, and one woman was almost “falling over the barricade” as he put it, trying to be picked.
“…Will you put your lips to the microphone and sing clearly?” was one of the questions he asked her, and she said yes to all of them.
“…Minutes are going by. I mean I have a cigarette and a beer in my hand just waiting. Five thousand people there, all waiting for her to get up on stage. So, she gets up there… and her name’s like, Sally or something like that. So I’m, ‘Sally, are you ready?” “Ready for what?” she responded. “To sing!” Hayes said he told her. “We just talked about when you were right out there!” “Oh, I’m not gonna sing or nothing.” she answered.
Granted, some of that was probably slightly embellished, but it made for one helluva story. So, when Hayes did chose a woman to join him, he made sure to tell her that if this didn’t go well he’d have to ask that she ;eave the show without a refund. “No pressure or anything.” he added.
It seemed like it was going to be a disaster when she got on stage and was in a slight state of disbelief when she realized she didn’t even get the lyrics “like at karaoke”. “This song’s about the great political divide in America.” Hayes said, still starting “Another Like You” regardless of what direction this might go.
He, of course, nailed his part, while the moment of truth came when it got to the first female part of the song, and the woman (whose name I sadly don’t remember) looked pretty sheepish up there. “You were falling like the Alamo. Drinking fast and talking slow…” she sang; instantly sending the sold out crowd into a deafening roar as they let her know how much they liked it.
I’m assuming she is by no means a professional singer, and given that, she had an astounding voice. I mean, wow! She sang it all very well too, and I think there were maybe just a few words at one point she forgot, but sung something else that still fit before getting back on track.
They even had a good chemistry going on the back and forth part as Hayes and her looked at one another. “Well, you’re probably a democrat.” she sang, as he remarked while they kept alternating, “Well, what the hell is wrong with that?” “Nothing if you’re Taliban.” “Well, I bet you slept with half the south.” “Oh, don’t you ever shut your mouth?”
This was redemption for that other Dallas show I mentioned, and she sang the song flawlessly.
Soon after she left the stage, Hayes started another song that was nearly unrecognizable as an acoustic song, and that was the closer for his 88-minute long set, “Stomp And Holler”. It still had a nice kick to it, though, and was still a fitting final song. “…From all I’ve seen, you only get one shot at what you’re gonna do in this life…” he sang, before getting to the line that was on the shirt I happened to be wearing, “I’m like James Brown only white and taller…”, which is followed with, “And all I wanna do is stomp and holler.”
The fans were taking the song title to heart, stomping and hollering right along with him, before some of those who were seated gave him a standing ovation as he and Scott left the stage.
That couldn’t be it, though; surely not. Okay, there were some songs that he probably wouldn’t do this night because they wouldn’t best fit the acoustic vibe, but I could think of at least one more he had to play.
He wasn’t gone anytime when he returned to the stage. “I say this every night. I would do this every night if people showed up or not, but it’s a helluva lot more fun when people do.” He told his fans, being truly humbled that this many people had come out to see him this night.
He was alone for this one, and soon began the 7-minute long encore portion with a song I was expecting, “Grateful For Christmas”.
Sure, he had sung plenty of gloomy songs this night about unrequited love or having your heart broken by one circumstance or another, but the most poignant song of the night was this one.
It still has that certain Hayes Carll charm, like in the line, “Lord, what I’d give for one good looking cousin.” but it’s far from being a happy song. Instead, it goes through all the stages of Christmas you have in your life. When you’re a kid, the holiday is (usually) a big family affair, probably traveling somewhere (in this case Waco) where your grandparents live, surrounded by aunts, uncles and cousins galore. Then you lose a grandparent, and the get together gets a little smaller; more with your immediate family.
“Hey mom, how you doing? Yeah, I miss him too…” he sang on the final verse, which deals with the loss of a parent, along with having to share the holiday between your family and your spouses.
It really brought a little tear to your eye, and while I don’t listen to it often on the record, it is a song that cuts right to the bone. It’s a good thing, though, because it’s a song that reaffirms a way of thinking I’ve had for many years now: savor the small things in life and enjoy every second you spend with anyone you care for. Be it family, friends or whatever, because they won’t always be there, and just because something has been one way for most of your life (like Christmas), doesn’t mean it always will be. Point is, there is a lesson in this song, and it’s one that should be taken to heart.
So, after killing the happy mood with that one, it was time to end on a positive note.
Scott rejoined him for this last number, which again had fans ecstatic when they heard the opening chords. Remember that song earlier where I said Hayes mentioned he has two songs that start the same way. Well, “Girl Downtown” is the one that everybody knows and loves (and the one he typically plays). It created another sing-along moment, and the fun, happy song about love was a wonderful way to wrap-up the night.
Yeah, I had my doubts about how god this show might be, but Hayes Carll proved just what an excellent musician he is this night.
“Beaumont” ensnared the fans from the get go, and by the time he got to those brand new songs I was enthralled, while he finished strong with the last several tracks of the main set.
If I had to pick, I’d still say the full band shows are better overall, but the band isn’t necessary to him putting on a memorable show.
His witty banter is one part that ensures that, while the songs still sounded fantastic, even if they lacked the punch they usually have.
Basically, Hayes Carll is a true entertainer, because he can hold your attention and keep you invested in what he’s doing no matter what the setting is.
I’ll finish by saying this: this was the fourth straight night I had been out at concerts for the week. I had seen some great local rock bands, a killer national touring electronic/pop band from Detroit, and one of the best rising stars in the Texas music scene. However, this show, this acoustic show by one of the most prolific (and underrated on a national scale) singer/songwriters who’s currently in the game was the best show out of those four.
If you haven’t heard of Hayes Carll, you’re really missing out, and you remedy that by going over to iTUNES right this instant and checking out his music. (Don’t use, “Oh, but he’s an Americana musician and I don’t like Americana.” as an excuse, because his music is as much rock as anything.)
By now, the Pub Crawl Tour is over, but he still has some shows coming up here and there. His full schedule can be viewed HERE.
It was a phenomenal night here at The Kessler, and in just six days it would all be repeated (well, with different bands, at least.)
I must admit, I was partially expecting Hayes Carll’s show at The Kessler Theater this night to be a full band performance.
Lately, if I have made the trip across the D/FW metroplex to Fort Worth, the destination has been Billy Bob’s Texas.
It was more of the same this night, when the venue that is known for being the “world’s largest honky-tonk” was hosting one of the best bands in the state, The Dirty River Boys.
There was an opening band this night, and that was Crooks from Austin.
Admittedly, I didn’t keep up with their set as far as what songs they did, but I’ll hit the highlights of what I do remember.
They were playing the smaller Honky-tonk stage, and had already started by the time I got there.
They finished the song they were doing, at which point singer and acoustic guitarist Josh Mazour regaled the audience with a story about how it’s not a good idea to decide to pick up a stray cat and pet it. Evidently, that was something he had tried recently and learned the hard way why it’s not wise.
They had a truly authentic country sound, from the twang in his voice, to the upright bass Joey McGill played, and even had an accordion and trumpet thrown into the mix, which were played by Anthony Ortiz Jr. and Doug Day, respectively.
They did at least one cover during their time on stage (I don’t recall what famous country singer they covered, since country music is not my forte), but it was good. Their original stuff was even better, and you could tell the audience was liking by all the people that swarmed the dance floor and danced with their special someone’s.
Even the slower “Pull Up Your Boots” got some movement going, while a song that stood out to me was “My First Gun”. Granted, that was probably because of the story that accompanied it, which was Josh informing everyone that he wrote it about five years or so ago, when he was dreaming about killing his boss at the time. “…I never did anything to him or his woman, but I thought about it… A lot.” he said before they started the track.
Some of their final songs where just the core group of Josh, Joey, lead guitarist Ryan Goebel and drummer Rob Bacak, before Anthony and Doug rejoined them for their final few songs.
They were quite good. I can’t say I liked them to the point that I’d feel like I have to see them the next time they come through the North Texas area, though I am contemplating buying their record. So yeah, overall, I did enjoy Crooks.
They have plenty of shows coming up across Texas, including a return trip to Billy Bob’s on May 8th, plus a gig at Hat Tricks in Lewisville on March 28th. For their full tour schedule, go HERE. Also, you can find their LP on either iTUNES or BANDCAMP.
They were a good little warm-up act, but the real show was going to come when The Dirty River Boys took the main stage.
There was a thirty-minute break in between bands, which gave most of the people plenty of time to be shown to their seats at the sea of tables that cover the floor in front of the main stage.
By the time 10:30 rolled around and one of the staff members at Billy Bob’s came out to introduce the band, there were a surprising amount of people there. I saw surprising given the fact that The Dirty River Boys are still by all accounts a local band. They may do shows all over the country, but they’re widely known yet. However, the healthy fan base they do have is also a dedicated one, which was proved this night.
At 10:32 bassist Colton James, drummer Travis Stearns and the two singers and acoustic guitarists Marco Gutierrez and Nino Cooper stepped on stage.
“How we doing Billy Bob’s Texas?!” Marco asked, while Travis went ahead and gave the crowd some percussion by slapping his hands against the cajon he sat on.
Having seen them just barely a month before; I was expecting the same setlist, since most bands don’t switch things up that often. Then again, The Dirty River Boys aren’t most bands, and when Nino grabbed the mandolin, it became obvious that this wouldn’t be the exact same show I had seen last month, and that had me excited.
They wound up starting with “Boomtown”, and Nino jumped about at the start while he strummed the mandolin. The fans responded well to it, and it was an excellent opener, not only being one of their tracks that really gets people pumped up, but also one that shows how much talent resides in this band, as they handled some of the words in rounds, with Marco and Colton singing and harmonizing along with Nino. There was even a cool moment after the second chorus where Colton spun his upright bass around, while the feathers and raccoon pelt that hang from it twirled right along with it.
Once it was done, Marco led them right into the title track from their second EP, “Train Station”, which is another song with breathtaking harmonies. “…I fear I’m losing her again. My head’s on the horizon, my heart’s wherever the hell she sleeps!” Marco belted as the track sprang to life. It’s a song that blend beauty and heartache with some Rock ‘n’ Roll moments, and there was even a part where Colton played his bass with a bow, similar to how a violinist does.
Those were two of the older songs they did this night, and while more would come, their primary focus was on the material from their forthcoming album. They had worked in a few more new tracks than they were doing the last time I saw them, and Travis counted them in on the first new one of the night, which was sung by Colton.
“Billy Bob’s, what’s going on?!” Marco asked, seeming gleeful to even be there. The fans did their part at making some noise, while he went on to say they’d be playing a lot of new songs this night. “…This one’s an old one.” he finished, as they tackled the lead track from “Science of Flight”, “Dried Up”. Apart from doing lead vocals, Marco also played the harmonica when it was called for, but that wasn’t the only add-on this song got.
They’ve been known to throw in portions of cover songs into their music, and while I’ve heard them do one of Bob Dylan’s songs before, it hasn’t been on this specific song before. “…Everybody knows that baby’s got new clothes…” he sang during the lull that came before the final chorus, then moved along to the chorus of that Dylan hit “Just Like a Woman”. “She takes just like a woman. She makes love just like a woman. And she aches just like a woman.” Marco crooned, softening his voice as each sentence ended, before getting louder when he sang, “But she breaks just like a little girl.” The crowd was roaring at that point, as they got back to their original and finished it up, before moving directly into their next number.
“This song’s about a union painter that Nino met several years ago.” Marco informed everyone, while Travis played some soft, though sad notes on his harmonica. “…I’m surrounded by others, but I’m always alone. When the paint and time comes, I jump back on the train. Spend all my green dollars just to poison my veins…” Nino sang rather somberly on “Union Painter”, which sounded like it was even a little more low-key than the album version. That’s to say it just sounded like it was more acoustic. Nino also made a little change to one of the lines, catering to where they were this night as he sang, “…I’m still searching for freedom beneath Fort Worth skies…”
Afterwards, it was time for them to bust out another new one. They might be an Americana band, with dashes of country, but above all, The Dirty River Boys are a rock band. This song was a fine example of that, and it packed a punch; while also being one of the songs that Colton used an electric bass on. Speaking of that, his playing on it was pretty slick, particularly on the chorus, as he quickly moved his hand up and down the fretboard.
“…This is what we call a Chinese fire drill.” Marco stated before leaving his post and sitting on the cajon. Travis took up the mandolin, while Colton grabbed a banjo, as Nino began to play some soaring notes. “…The louder you get, the crazier this bad boy gets!” shouted Travis as they had some fun before their next song. Marco just added a bit of drums to the start, before taking over on the upright bass for the short sing-along that is “Lookin’ for the Heart”. “But I’m just growing old with a whole deep in my soul. Won’t you give me back that heart you took from me?” sang Nino on the track that is far more upbeat than you would guess just based on the subject matter.
They reverted to their normal positions when it was done; and Marco started setting up their next song, saying on their last album they had covered a Townes Van Zandt song. “…We don’t do it too much these days…” he said, noting they had decided to this night, though. The song they covered is “Lungs”, and it’s a favorite of mine from “The Science of Flight”. They give it a real dark, ominous quality, which in turn puts a good spin on it; and while they might not play it much anymore, I’m glad they did this night.
Another new one was due now; but first Marco mentioned how lucky they were to come across Colton James and add that fine talent to the band. He [Colton] again assumed the role of lead vocalist on this one (which was one I don’t think I had heard before), though it sounded pretty good. “Take it away, Nino!” he said at one point later on in the track, as Nino ripped into a guitar solo. I have to say, acoustic guitars were not meant to sound like that. At least I’ve never heard another band make them sound the way Nino and Marco do. The guitar solo he did was amazing, and it was more electric sounding than most electric guitars are.
The audience went to clap, but had no time to, because as the final notes rang out, Nino started singing “My Son”. “I don’t know where you’re going my son. Taught you to walk, but you learned how to run.” he sang before all of his band mates joined in, again forming some incredible harmonies. “How you gonna find your way back home? The roads you knew they’re paved and gone.” Sang Nino on the first chorus, changing it slightly before sticking with the chorus from the album version the second time around, “How you gonna find your way back home? The maps you drew they’re burned and gone.”
“…The only way that you can be found is through your footsteps in the cold, dead ground.” the four guys sang, before Nino went into another brief guitar solo, which only made the song even better.
They gave a quick shout-out to their friends in Crooks for getting the party started, before firing up an instrumental piece. It was soulful and bluesy sounding, and I highly enjoyed it. I assumed it was the intro for another one of their new tracks; and they amped it up, sounding like they were about to break into whatever it was, before pulling back on it. Then the chords for “Draw” came into being; and since that was a song that was absent from their last show I caught, I was ecstatic.
It was a bit of an alternate version, and was more toned down than what their fans have to come to know from the album. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t still a great song, though. “If you’re alive, make some noise!” roared Travis during one of the breaks, as he made sure everyone was still feeling very much a part of the show/experience.
They were still far from being done, and while Colton again swapped over to his electric bass, Nino mentioned that the next song they would be doing was one that The Ranch (95.9FM) in Fort Worth had been playing, and thanked them for it.
There’s a reason why “Desert Wind” is their newest single, and one they’ve already released for public consumption (i.e. on iTUNES), and it’s made known every time they play it. “Lately, I’ve been thinking, and I just can’t seem to get you off my mind… Lovely lady, where you are. I hear your voice and I feel your scars…” he sang on the sweet and powerful track. The drumbeats are mixed in perfectly, giving the song as much kick as possible; and he got so into his drumming on this one that – for the second time this night – he knocked his hat off.
“If you know it, sing it.” Marco told the fans as he moved things right along to their next number.
“Carnival Lights” got one of loudest reactions from the fans, as well it should. It was another song they put an alternate spin on, doing a slow version of it. Actually it was pretty much just Marco until after the first chorus. “…With her poison inside medicine bottle, filled with nothing but her own shortcomings. She leans her head back; she puts ‘em down and they taste alright…” he softly sang, before Travis interrupted the pause. “Y’all still with us?!” he asked. Of course, everyone was. Marco then continued, “Please, just try to stay conscious tonight.”
Now the full band came in, just in time for the even more emotional second verse of this spectacular tune. “Billy Bob’s, this is your time to shine.” Marco told everyone before the final chorus, making the song into a genuine sing-along. It was cool moment to say the least, but they weren’t done yet.
That Dylan cover has been tacked onto this song in the past, but with it having already been done, I was wondering what, if anything, they might add to “Carnival Lights”. They did have something planned, and Colton took his cowboy hat off and hung it on the scroll of his bass for it.
“…Now I’m so happy, no sorrow in sight. Praise the Lord, I saw the light.” Marco added, which was just one of several lines they did from Han Williams’ “I Saw the Light”.
They went right into another new song; again one that was sung by Colton, before Marco took over on the next one. In between those, they chatted with their fans, though.
“Are y’all having a good time so far?” Marco asked, before saying he couldn’t stress enough what an “honor” it was to be on this stage (this was their first ever headlining show at Billy Bob’s). Then, upon finishing that song he did, he shifted the focus to their new album, which they recorded during this past December and January. “…We can’t wait to get this new music out to you all…” he said.
They only had a couple of old songs left this night, and rather surprisingly, the balled-esque “Riverbed Wildflowers” got one of the loudest reactions from fans. I mean, it should because it’s a fantastic song, even if it deals with the heartache of having feelings for someone who doesn’t feel the same. “…Well, these riverbed wildflowers are dying now; and I’m through waiting around on you…” Nino sang towards the end, before they added a little extra something to the song, repeating part of the chorus an extra time or two at the end, adding some truly lovely harmonies to it.
“This song’s about life on the road.” Marco stated, after he had again thanked everyone for making it out to the show, during which time Colton switched back to his electric bass. This song is easily the best one from their new batch of music, and even just in general. It does depict the life of touring musicians (“…Well, we work all night just to drive all day…”) and it’s more rock sounding than most of the true rock music that you hear.
They made something special with that song, and the same can be said about their next one, which Nino dedicated to the man they co-wrote it with, Ray Wylie Hubbard. “…It’s about the violence south of border.” he said, as they began to sing about how their hometown of El Paso, as well as those towns over in Mexico, have changed.
“You cross that dirty river and you never come back.” Marco sang at the end, then Colton and finally Travis, before Nino took back the reins. His band mates harmonized with him on the last line, “If you cross that dirty river then you’ll never come back.”
After one of their earlier songs (“Draw”), Marco mentioned it was just one of a few songs they had about whiskey. Well, now they got to another, which was yet another new track. “…There’s nothing like a whiskey drunk on a Friday…” he sang on the cheery tune, which will surely become a sing-along once they get their new album released.
The end was in sight now, and while Nino went over to stage left and grabbed the mandolin, Travis spoke to the crowd.
“After four and a half to five years of being a band, our van finally hit two hundred and fifty-thousand miles!” he exclaimed (a moment that was documented with the footage being posted on the bands Facebook page).
He then asked how many people had seen them before. Most everyone in attendance had, though there were still plenty of first timers. “Y’all know how we like to do it!” yelled Travis, speaking to those who were familiar with them. “…So, are y’all ready to raise some hell?!” he bellowed.
Moments after that, he got everyone to stand up. I have to say, the seats were detrimental to the energy out in the crowd. Not that everyone wasn’t enjoying the show, but you just can’t really get into the music (or at least I can’t) when you’re sitting.
With that said: once everyone rose out of their seats and began clapping, singing and stomping their feet along to “Raise Some Hell”, the mood changed immensely. In that moment every fan was one, as they were completely immersed in the song and were having the time of their lives.
That was how their 88-minute long set ended, but the celebration wasn’t done yet.
They never left the stage. Instead, Travis mentioned that they’ll celebrate fans birthdays every time they can, but there are only, at most, four chances a year that they can do shows and celebrate the birthday of one of their own. Tonight was one of those nights.
Nino Cooper was genuinely surprised when a birthday cake was brought out and handed to him, and everyone in Billy Bob’s helped in singing “Happy Birthday” to him.
“Are y’all ready to rock out another one or what?!” Travis asked after a few minutes went by.
“Crooks, we need ya.” Marco said, calling on their friends, who soon joined them on stage. Then Nino appeared, having traded his cake in for an electric guitar.
It was very appropriate for their final song, which was a cover of The Rolling Stones “Honky Tonk Woman”. I stand by what I said about their rendition of the song the last time I saw them; they do it better than The Stones; at least in comparison to the recorded version.
Think what you will of that statement, but it’s the truth, and once the song came to an end, Travis stood up from the cajon, tossed one of his drumsticks in the air, caught it and then struck right through the skin of one of his drums. Because if you’re going to end a show, you might as well end it in style, right?
This may have been their first ever headlining show at Billy Bob’s, but I don’t think it will be their last.
Okay, the place wasn’t sold out like some of the other acts that come through are capable of doing; but there were a lot of people out, and they were loving every second of the show.
Then again, how could you not? There are so many layers to The Dirty River Boys, from the harmonies, to the emotion-filled lyrics, to the awesome rock numbers, of which there are plenty.
I absolutely love this band. I may be a new fan, but they won me over from the start, and each time I see one of their shows (this was the fourth one I’ve caught), that love I feel grows.
They are, without question, one of the best bands that resides in Texas, and it’s not going to be long before the world takes notice.
They have plenty of tour dates scheduled up through July, and they can all be found HERE. That includes show in Texas, Oklahoma and even Louisiana. As far as North Texas shows go, they’ll be up in Denton on March 27th at Dan’s Silver Leaf. They’ll be at the Iron Horse Pub in Wichita Falls on March 29th, and then April 25th will find them at the Granada Theater in Dallas. They’ll also be back in Fort Worth on July 24th.
Go see ‘em if you can, and if you can’t, check out their music in iTUNES.
It was a great night of music here in Fort Worth; and while the drive there and back were both long, The Dirty River Boys were more than worth it.
The Austin, Texas based The Clouds Are Ghosts may have started as just a little side gig, but it didn’t take long for the two founding members to realize they were on to something as they began writing and recording some of their song ideas.
Joseph Salazar ended up leaving the band, but Jason Morris stuck with it, bringing five other musicians into the fold; officially giving birth to The Clouds Are Ghosts.
Their debut album came in late 2009, with an EP following a couple of years later, and now, the band has released their anxiously awaited third album, “Fractures”.
Not only is it their newest record, but it’s also their most professional and solid collection of songs to date; and it begins with the atmospheric rocker, “Fifty Four”. The piano and drums at the start create a mix of beauty and force that is astounding, blending the best of both worlds. Jason Morris’s remarkable voice than reaches out of the speakers and grabs you; growing more urgent as the pace of the music increases, ensnaring you and making sure you’re in this listening experience for the long haul.
The best quality “Defense” has is its ebb and flow. You can feel the song building to something, yet it tapers off each time you think it’s about to make its move. That highlights the more subtle elements of the track, like the smooth guitar lines, which complement one another, before it jumps into action during the final minute. It’s edgy in a way, and it’s a track not to be overlooked (or unappreciated.)
After reeling you in with those first two songs, the members of The Clouds Are Ghosts are ready to show off their softer side, and do so with “Leaman”. In comparison to those first tracks, it mines a little more of the ambient genre that the band classifies itself as. More though, it’s a serene track that’s designed to make you think. “…Now we fight, we kill, we don’t seem to know how to rise above. We think we do, so we blind the eyes of the young…” Jason croons, demonstrating a whole other side and range of his voice, often hitting some gorgeous falsetto notes.
After that little detour, the band brings things back up with eerie and dark sounding “Marionettes”. It doesn’t even take twenty seconds for them to make and establish the mood; while the semi-hushed vocals fit well with it. At least until it roars to life. That’s when it truly grabs your attention: when the guitars soar into action, and a solo is worked in nicely and at just the right moment to add some extra emphasis.
Things get al little more tender and heartfelt with “Angelface”, which, at almost six minutes, is the longest track from the album, before they get into one of the most attention getting songs.
“…There is no time for hesitation, for everyday we’re growing old.” goes a line from “Blue”, which is a song that focuses on how short life really is, and the need to live and experience it to the fullest. It’s a song that washes over you and resonates in your soul, particularly the line, “They say the road before you is long. They say that life is too short. So run…”
The dreamy, pop landscapes are back in “Singularity”, which is a rather soothing track, at least until its abrupt, vicious swell, when it transitions into one of the most intense offerings from “Fractures”, before waning as it leads into “Lavender House”. Just because the bass isn’t as noticeable or the drums aren’t as heavy doesn’t mean that latter one isn’t an impactful song, though.
Perhaps the most intricate track on the album is “Running Dream”. The guitars, bass, drums and yes, even the piano, all get their moment to shine and work in fine harmony with one another. It’s all carefully woven and acts as a nice setup for the tenth and final track on the album, “Decimeters”.
Of course, there can always be different meanings to the songs than the one each listener may interpret, but it strikes me as being a track about the impending end of a relationship. It’s not gloomy or done as a desperate plea, though. It’s actually a beautiful song filled with acceptance and a “light at the end of the tunnel” perspective.
To sum up “Fractures” in just one word: perfection.
The production quality on this thing is superb and deserves a major commendation in its own right. I mean, this thing is on par with what many of the most famous and wealthiest musicians crank out in terms of how polished and well mixed it is.
Aside from that, “Fractures” just has a very fluid feel to it; while the songs all mesh with one another, in the sense like this is more of a concept album rather than an assorted collection of songs they wrote.
While the six-piece outfit may identify as a mix of ambient, electronic and pop styles of music, they are really so much more than that. It’s all in the way they fuse those different genres together, taking the best parts of each one and creating something that is entirely their own.
When you hear pop, you probably think of the generic and increasingly mind numbing stuff you hear on the radio, but that’s not the part that The Clouds Are Ghosts brings in. It still manages to be catchy, yet creative. It’s more or less the same for the other genres, too. There is a definite electronic vibe, but there music isn’t drenched in the sound, and they balance the ambient side of things in there just right.
With all the bands that are out there, I can’t say I’m shocked that I’ve never heard of The Clouds Are Ghosts before, though I am surprised they managed to avoid my radar for so long.
In listening to this album, it’s readily apparent that they are one of the shining stars in the Austin music scene, and “Fractures” should be the album that starts really taking them places.
The Clouds Are Ghosts are:
Erin Fillingame - piano
Jason Morris - vocals
Steven Paul – guitar and synths
Michael Parker - guitar
Earl Bowers - drums
Jon Klekman- bass
Download the album for free on: BANDCAMP / Purchase in iTUNES
Visit The Clouds Are Ghosts websites: Official Website / Facebook / Twitter / Youtube
Current Shows: The band will be performing at SXSW this year. Dates include 3/11 @ Guero’s 5PM / 3/11 @ Soho Lounge 8PM / 3/13 Symphony Square 5PM. Visit their TOUR PAGE for full details.
Photo credit: Ashley Treat
Three Links was my second destination for the night, where a truly killer bill had been assembled.
I hated that I had missed my friends in Vinyl (who are spectacular), and Mothership was just starting their final song when I arrived (it had been awhile time since I had seen them, but they sounded better than ever). A band called Crypt Trip also got the night started, but all three of them were nothing more than appetizers.
Not that the place wasn’t already packed for Mothership (and assumingly the other bands); but the most exciting thing about this show was that The Virgin Wolves were coming out of their hibernation. They hadn’t played a show since last summer; and they had been greatly missed.
Of course, it took a bit for them to get set up, though the sound check was swift. “It’s been eight months since we’ve been on stage!” declared rhythm guitarist Carson Coldiron. The guitar and bass chords swelled as he spoke, pumping up the crowd, leaving everyone wondering what their opening number would be.
I’m not gonna lie, I was hoping for “Slick Shoes”, and for a few moments it seemed like that classic from the “Bad Blood” EP might be what they burst into, but it was not.
Instead, they broke into “Black Sheep”, which was equally as good. It may have been eight months since they shared a stage together, but it didn’t even take a second to reignite their energy and chemistry on stage, as Carson, lead guitarist Chase Ryan and bassist Kristin Leigh began throwing down. “I bet you look good, I bet you look good, I bet you look good in the morning light…” sang Jaimeson Toon; Chase backing her up on most of the verses, giving the song a nice one-two punch.
I’ll go ahead and say this: if they had accumulated any dust over those eight months, they made sure they shook it all off during their rehearsals.
Drummer Steve Phillips quickly led them into another gritty rock number, “Crawl”, as they started making their way down the tracklist of their “Pretty Evil Thing” LP. “…Gave you just one hour to show me how bad you can be. I gave myself three cigarettes and whistled just like a bird.” Jaimeson sang in a more sultry voice on the second verse; grabbing her hair and pulling it down over her face as she did so.
As usually, they had little transition pieces worked up between most of their songs this night, stretching it out here as Carson took a moment to thank all the bands who had opened for them. He also pointed out that this Jaimesons’ place of employment. Chase then semi-slowly plucked the strings of his guitar, bringing them to my personal favorite track, “End Of The Line”. It’s arguably their catchiest song, and shows off a little different side of The Virgin Wolves, while still retaining that raw rock vibe that makes them standout. There were some issues with the microphone towards the end, which led to Jaimeson and Chase sharing his mic, while Kristin used hers as they all sang, “I can’t sleep, I can’t breathe, I can’t find the door…”.
Steve kept on delivering the beats until they were ready for one of their slightly blues infused numbers, “What You Want To Hear”. Some banter with the crowd took place afterwards, while Chase also took time to thank everyone for coming out this night. Surprisingly, the show wasn’t sold out, though there were a lot of people there, and they were all transfixed on the band.
They kept running thorough “Pretty Evil Thing”, though they did skip track five and moved on to “Lies” when they got back to business. That (at times) showed off the bands softer side, which is something that doesn’t even really exist, and they kicked things back up with their next song.
However, they first took a moment to wish one of their fans a happy birthday. “…She’s good looking. I’m just saying. Get ya some.” Jaimeson said of the birthday girl. It was after that, that they did the darker sounding “Crooked Smile”. It’s another one of their best songs, and tonight it was a highlight of their show, as Chase and Kristin stood facing one another near the end of the song, tearing it up on their guitar and bass, respectively. Then, as it drew to a close, Jaimeson approached Chase, as the two grinded against each other.
“The amount of people in here makes me happy.” Jaimeson stated after that one. They marched on with “Oh, Sugar”, before again skipping over a track on the album, because, well, you’ve got to save the best for last.
“I like it when you don’t leave.” Jaimeson said, before encouraging everyone who might want to, to buy their merch. “…We have stuff you can wear. Stuff you can listen to. Stuff you can smell in your house.” she said, then added, “That’s right, I said smell…”
“ Vagabonds” was the final, somewhat slow song they did, and from it, they jumped right into “Bad”, which was an electrifying way to end what felt like an all too short 36-minute set.
“Surely that’s not it?” I thought. Though the band did a legit job at making it appear that they were done. Then the cries for an encore started, and eventually Chase and Carson retook the stage, saying they thought they might could do one more.
“Carson, how’s my hair look?” Chase asked. “Shitty.” Carson replied. They had a friend join them on stage for this next song, and that was Chris Breland. He sings in the band Black Habits – whom I’ve seen once before – and evidently has something else going on, because Carson mentioned he was in a band. “…I don’t know if I can say what band or not, yet…” he said, seeming to catch himself before he let it slip.
Their little encore segment started with a cover of Danzig’s “Mother”, and stylistically speaking, it fits The Virgin Wolves perfectly.
Jaimeson and Chris were a force to be reckoned with as they shared the vocal responsibilities. They killed it on the song, and as it came to an end, some guy suddenly began to crowd surf, and soon took a fall that looked like it could have been way worse for him than what it wound up being.
That wasn’t it, though. Remember, I said they skipped over one of their songs so they could save the best for last, and, without question, their best is “Virtue And Vice”.
A small mosh pit even broke out during the song (something I haven’t personally seen at one of their shows before), while both Chase and Kristin shouted the line on the second verse that they’ve revamped for live shows, “I rode all night through the motherfucking rain!” “And I wound up standing at his grave.” Jaimeson chimed in.
Towards the end, Carson even grabbed a beer can from one of the fans up front, sliding it across the neck of his guitar a bit before handing it back.
That, was the perfect way to end this show, and that song allows all five of them to unleash any energy they have left, ensuring everything gets left on the stage.
I had missed seeing The Virgin Wolves more than I knew I had, and I’m glad I at least caught them a few times close together leading up to their little hiatus.
Hopefully it won’t be another eight months before they grace a stage somewhere in the metroplex, ‘cause they’re just too damn good.
They play rock music the way it was meant to be played, and they’re live show is a must-see, especially if you haven’t seen them before.
Pick up “Pretty Evil Thing” in iTUNES (it’ll be $9.99 well spent), and throw ‘em a like on FACEBOOK so you’ll know when they have another gig.
Well, I managed to catch not one, but two fantastic shows this Saturday night. I’d call that a win.
I must confess, until just a few weeks prior to their show at the Granada Theater, I had never heard of White Lies.
That’s probably a good thing, because that meant that I haven’t spent the past few years anxiously awaiting the British band to tour through Dallas. Instead, I became a fan rather last minute and only had to wait a couple weeks.
That’s not to say I wasn’t excited, though. In fact, I was probably every bit as excited as any die-hard, longtime fan of the six-year old rock outfit.
The only opening act on this was the Brooklyn, NY singer/songwriter Frankie Rose.
I’ll preface this by saying I had trouble figuring out what songs she did, and by trouble I mean even after spending time listening to her music I couldn’t pinpoint the specific songs, which is a personal fail in my book.
But I digress. She and her band (which consisted of a drummer, lead guitarist and bassist) delivered a great 31-minute set.
I didn’t know what to expect, but I wound up liking her music far more than I thought I would.
The first song had a nice build to it, before the drummer suddenly broke into the song, which had me quickly trying to figure out where he was. See, the kit was on far stage left – out of my line of sight – and until that first beat I had overlooked it. They carried on with several more songs, and periodically Frankie would chat with the crowd in the already packed Granada Theater.
“…This is a Saturday night. Is it a late night town?” she asked, following it with another question, “Are you going to go out after the show?” You could tell she was just looked at as the opening act, because the response was almost nonexistent, and I know full well the party was continuing for more than a few people after this show (and I was one of them).
They ran through a few more songs, including a “romantico one” as Frankie put it. In my opinion, it wound up being one of their best songs of the night. The rhythm section was in full effect on it, and even though I was standing near the back of the venue, I could still feel the floor shaking beneath me; and really, that’s always a fantastic feeling.
With only one song left, Frankie mentioned that they were heading to Houston the next night, unknowingly committing one of the biggest faux pas you can make in Dallas.
To say I hate or even dislike Houston would be inaccurate, but most Dallasites do and they were vocal about it this night. She appeared baffled by the reaction, and just moved on and concluded their set.
Their time on stage flew by, and I mean that as a compliment, because that’s how much I enjoyed it.
The music was great, with some nice electronic and synthesizer touches thrown in, but more to the point to accentuate the guitars, bass and drums rather than overpower them. Frankie has quite a set of pipes on her too, fitting both the more rock sounding songs as well as the dreamier landscapes they had going on others.
If you’d like to check out her music, she has two records available that you can find in iTUNES.
As ten o’clock neared, the patrons began filling back in from their trips to the bar, or to go outside and smoke or whatever else, as they settled in for White Lies.
Five minutes before they hit the stage I got offered to go up to the balcony (which is typically reserved for staff of either the venue or the bands crew) and of course took it.
I mention that simply because it transformed this entire concert experience.
The sound up there was superb, far exceeding that down at the lower levels. As expected, a roar of fanfare filled the venue when the three core members; singer and guitarist Harry McVeigh; bassist Charles Cave; and drummer Jack Brown took the stage, along with Tommy Bowen and Rob Lee, who add the keys/synthesizers and an extra guitar to the mix.
They quickly launched into the title track from their 2009 debut album, “To Lose My Life”, and the sound—at least up in the balcony—was ten times better than even their albums sound.
It was pure ecstasy from the start, as Harry sang the lovely chorus in his strong, unique tone of voice, “Let’s grow old together and die at the same time…” That was a stellar song to open with, and for part of it I was glued to Charles, who was an exceptional bass player from right out of the gate, and was crushing it as he quickly plucked the strings of his bass.
With that old classic out of the way, they turned their attention to the barely six-month-old album “Big TV”, getting the first single off it, “There Goes Our Love Again”, out of the way early. It seemed to be just as much of a crowd pleaser as their first song had, and afterwards Harry addressed the crowd.
“Dallas, how’s it going?” he asked; the clamorous applause and cheers continuing once he spoke. He noted that this was the first time they had been to this “beautiful city”, and that they had enjoyed walking around and seeing part of it earlier in the day.
Overall, that was one of the few times they talked with the crowd which I liked. Even though it was kept at the bare minimum, it was still more than enough to form a connection with the fans, though the main focus was on the music. It suited them. Another I liked was that despite having a new album to promote, they also drew heavily from their past two albums; resulting in a great mix of old favorites and new classics.
As good as those two songs were, it was their next one where things really exploded. They pushed themselves to new heights on “A Place to Hide”, which was completely irresistible, and even though I was seated I felt a pretty strong urge to get up and start moving around. It was just intoxicating. But then again, that could be said of much of White Lies’ music.
They were continuously switching between albums, never doing two consecutive tracks off one album, and now got back to the new material with “Mother Tongue”. Whether they had been wanting (or waiting) to or not, the crowd got a chance to participate on this one. After the second chorus, the band got a clap along going. It was merely the first of a few this night, and I have to say it was pretty cool to see a sea of people throw their hands up in the air, clapping in unison. Especially since I had such a unique perspective of it.
“This is one of our favorite tracks from our second album…” Harry told everyone in advance of their next number. “It’s called Streetlights.” he finished, as they finally got around to doing a track from “Ritual”. I can’t say that it’s also a favorite of mine from that record, though it is a good tune, and there was something entrancing about the steady drumbeats and keys of the verses.
“This is a beautiful venue. The kind you dream of playing…” Harry remarked after that song. Strong words from a band who has headlined the historic Wembley Arena in London. He piled on the very genuine praise about the Granada (it’s more than deserving of it), before Jack eventually led them into their next song, another oldie, “Farewell to the Fairground”. Harry worked the crowd over during the slow part after the second chorus; just motioning at everyone, encouraging them to make some noise. He had complete control over everyone as he did so.
“I wish no harm to come of you; split bottles in shopping aisles…” he sang after the applause subsided, as they went right into another one of their love songs, “Be Your Man”. It was their next song, another from their first album, that really got the spectators excited, though.
From the first note on the keyboard the crowd was screaming with glee, having already deduced the song was “E.S.T”. Most were giddy when it too turned into a clap along; and personally, I thought it really was one of their highlight songs of the night, as there was a type of magic aura in the air while they played it.
However, “The Power and the Glory”—which is one I’m partial to—outmatched it. “…I was empty handed leaving as I was when I came…” crooned Harry while the audience clapped along to the steady drumming. Live it was everything I hoped it would be, and was extremely infectious; and during it, they continued to expand upon their stride, which they had hit long ago.
With their show in its final stretch, it was time to bust out a couple more singles, the first of which was “Getting Even”. “This is the first single we ever released…” Harry informed everyone, setting up the next song. “We hope you like it.” he added. To say everyone simply liked “Unfinished Business” would be an understatement, and that leads me to one point I’ll go ahead and make.
It’s really remarkable that these guys were able to make their first album as high caliber as it is. From start to finish it’s a completely solid album, the likes of which every band hopes to release one day, though most will never even come close. Then, they managed to (at the very least) maintain that same level of skill and craftsmanship over the course of their next two albums, again coming up with products that are superior to most out on the market.
It just comes down to that solid consistency, and it’s a shame more bands don’t have that.
But I digress.
They were still far from done with the “Big TV” album, but now did one more gem from it, “Goldmine”, before changing gears a bit.
Rob and Tommy exited the stage, leaving just the founding members of White Lies, as Harry ditched his guitar for their next song. Instead, he used a little synthesizer, while Jack got up from his kit, manning a keyboard as well as a xylophone (yeah, you read that right). Charles was the only one who didn’t switch instruments, and Harry took just a moment to talk about the song, which happened to be a cover.
It was a very different take on Prince’s “I Would Die 4 U”, being a pretty stripped down rendition from how Prince did it. That was good though, because they made the song completely their own with a very unique spin put on it. Harry got to show a gorgeous falsetto tone on it, and lyrically, it was a perfect fit with the bands original stuff. “You’re just a sinner I am told. Be your fire when you’re cold, make you happy when you’re sad, make you good when you are bad…” he sang; making it sound like this song had been written just for them.
They returned to their standard lineup, doing what’s really the only song of theirs I’m indifferent to, “First Time Caller”. I will admit though, that live it got me a little more engaged than the recording does. Afterwards, came the final song of their set, “Death”, which had another clap along moment, and ended an astounding 69-minute set.
No one (well, almost no one) moved after the band retreated to the green room, though, as they anxiously awaited the encore.
The cheering was perhaps even more loud when the five guys returned to the stage than it had been when they first started.
They talked with the crowd for a moment, mainly expressing their gratitude, before finally getting to the title track from their 2013 release, “Big TV”. Again, the crowd was encouraged to clap along on it; and as they hit the brief instrumental bridge, Harry strode to center stage, throwing his arms up in the air, silently egging the audience on, and they again erupted with cheering and applause.
“…We have one more…” Harry stated, again thanking everyone who was there for coming out to see them. The urgent sounding and electrifying “Bigger Than Us”. “Thank you so much!” Harry shouted in the final seconds of the song, which concluded their 10-minute encore.
The applause started while the final notes were still being played, and only grew stronger once the five guys stood next to one another at the forefront of the stage; bowing to everyone for the love they had been shown, as well as basking in it. I’ve got to say, seeing the kind of reception they got was a cool moment.
As it stands, I’ve seen several hundred concerts at this point, and this White Lies show is one of the most spectacular I’ve witnessed.
I’ll be the first to admit the seats had a lot to do with that, because the whole atmosphere changed up in that balcony. But that wasn’t the only reason.
I feel like I already used a lot of my praise earlier when talking about their albums, but they also put on a splendid show.
From stage presence to musicianship, Harry McVeigh, Jack Brown and Charles Cave were to full package. Not only that, but they have a very distinctive sound, with mixes of 80’s era British acts thrown in to their more modern rock style, which results in a sound that is completely theirs.
It was easy to see why they’ve opened for bands like Coldplay and Snow Patrol, because the talent is definitely there. I’d even go as far as saying that there’s no reason why White Lies couldn’t be as popular as Muse is here in the U.S.
Okay, White Lies doesn’t use any theatrics at all; while that’s a key element to Muse’s shows. In the other aspects though, it’s a dead heat; and if the American audience latches on to these guys, there really is no reason why they couldn’t be playing arena’s over here in a few years time.
They have plenty of dates booked around the world, including several more in North America. Check out their full schedule HERE; and also be sure to add their music to your iTUNES library.
This was a fantastic way to spend the night. Many thanks again to the Granada and certain people who work there for all the hospitality. It made a great night truly unforgettable.
However, the night was still young. It wasn’t even 11:30 when they finished, and with several other shows going on this night that I would have liked to have seen (counting this one there were seven total), I could at least make one other…
The only good thing that comes from the demise of one beloved band is the prospect that a new project(s) will hopefully follow, and that was precisely what was on my mind last May when Vinyl Pilot announced they were disbanding.
It didn’t long for a couple of members from the band (Jeff Lowe and Patrick Hunter) to get to work on a new project, calling it Pseudo Future. And while those two guys may have come from the same band, they didn’t bring any remnants from their previous sound along with them.
The short, 13-minute long EP gets going with a bang, in the form of the song “Loss Of Light”. It’s dynamic and even alluring, and I enjoy how prominent the bass is in comparison to other songs (by any band), when it tends to get drowned out by the other instruments. It’s a very nicely mixed song, and even features a killer, ever so slightly soupy sounding guitar solo towards the end.
“Drawing Board” is easily the heaviest song on this sampling from Pseudo Future, with some pulsating drum beats on the chorus, matched by some blaring guitar and bass lines, as singer and guitarist Jeff Lowe fiercely sings/shouts on the chorus, “We take all that we make and throw it all away!” There’s a certain tinge of venom to it, too, found primarily in the frustration and anger Jeff packs into the lyrics.
A short piece, “Remnant (Interlude)”, acts as both a way to break up the album, as well as a transition into the next song, bleeding flawlessly into “All My Friends”. At a little over four and half minutes in length, it’s nearly twice as long as most other songs on the record. They gave it an excellent rise and fall, and best of all; it’s all done very fluidly and with relative ease, roaring to life on each chorus, before tapering back off.
The final song is the customary, slow, soft love song that nearly ever album from any band has to have. In Pseudo Future’s case, that song is “Love Of My Life”, a more acoustic based song done solely by Jeff. It’s a gentle and sweet song, as he croons about having found “the one”, and is more about him professing his love than being overly sappy. All in all, it makes for a great closing note for this EP.
It’s quite a solid EP, and I like the fact that this trio cut to the chase on all of these songs, not adding anything that seems unnecessary, while still having all the parts that are key to a song and managing to convey a message in a (very) timely manner.
And as a bonus for anyone who was a fan of Jeff and Patricks’ previous project; you get to hear a whole different side to their abilities.
Jeff taps into a previously unheard part of his voice, and like I said, does some fiery screams that are quite rock sounding, while his tone still has that certain pop/rock tone to it, resulting in a forceful mix. As for Patrick, he demonstrates complete mastery over the bass. His skills ooze out of the speakers and make it noticeable by simply listening to this EP, and he and drummer Justyn Gomez combine to make an exceptional rhythm section.
Pseudo Future is:
Jeff Lowe - Guitar & Vocals
Patrick Hunter - Bass & Vocals
Justyn Gomez - Drums
Get the album for FREE at BANDCAMP
Visit Pseudo Futures’ websites: Official Website / Facebook / Twitter / Youtube
February 22nd @ Liquid Lounge in Dallas
(Photo credit: Wettengel Photography)
On this freezing cold night (or actually, slightly below freezing), there was a sweet show going on at Club Dada, and it was all presented by Parade of Flesh.
I’m not gonna lie; the sudden drop in temperature made me reconsider the thought of going out this night. But in the end, it sounded like it was going to be too good of a concert to miss.
For me, the guy who almost exclusively sees local North Texas bands, it was a bit of a different show; since two of the three acts were from out-of-state.
There was one Dallas band on the bill, though, and that was Dead Mockingbirds.
I had only seen them once before, and evidently was so eager to see them I arrived at Dada fashionably early (that’s a thing, right?), about forty-five minutes before what wound up being the start time. In fairness, I did think the show would start earlier than that, but at least it allowed for a good time hanging with the band.
The trio of Kenneth Everette Pritchard, Matthew Crain and Trinidad Diaz hit the stage at 8:41, as the rock music began to flow freely.
They were the odd man out on this bill, at least in terms of sound, but the already decent sized crowd (there were between twenty and thirty people there already. Not bad for the middle of the week) was very receptive to it.
Their opening song, like many of their tracks, had a fun vibe, and when he wasn’t having to do the singing, Kenneth was quickly swaying back and forth. Well, except for the little time he spent on the platform in front of the stage where the monitors set, where he tore it up on a guitar solo, dropping to his knees as he brandished his guitar.
The crowd got a few seconds to applaud them, before Matt laid into his drum kit, setting up their next track. Upon finishing it, Kenneth quickly thanked Parade of Flesh for putting this show together and putting them on it, before taking the conversation in a completely different direction. “It’ll cost five dollars to sniff us after the show.” On a related note; I don’t think anyone took them up on that offer.
They knocked out a couple more numbers, before Kenneth again addressed the crowd. “Y’all are too good looking.” he remarked, though he wasn’t looking at the audience. Instead, he was tuning his guitar. “Where the fuck did all y’all come from?!” he said, shocked by the ever growing number of people.
He then kicked off their next song with some slick sounding notes. A song that was yet another to feature a sweet, more old school sounding guitar solo. Kenneth noted that would be one of the songs on their next record.
Their 31-minute long set continued, as they seemed to pick the setlist as they went, and could be heard deciding on the songs during their breaks. “Fuck Alone and then…” Kenneth told his band mates at one point.
“Fuck yeah! We just went to jail!” Kenneth exclaimed after their next couple of tunes. He then thanked the other bands on the bill, and Club Dada for hosting the show. That brought them to the final leg of their set, which included a couple of songs I actually knew, but only after they did one more from their new(er) batch.
It was one I really enjoyed, and Trinidad and Matt gave it a real cohesive rhythm sound, complimenting one another nicely. Then you had the wickedly good guitar solo, which was just the icing on the cake.
The first of their next two songs was “Omega”, the b-side from their record. A fact Kenneth pointed out after they played it, before pointing over to their little merch suitcase, where they had that 7-inch vinyl record for sale. That brought them to “Munich”, which was a little more up-tempo than the recording is, as they blazed through it. The beginning was extra good, though, as Trinidad and Kenneth stood facing one another as they rocked out the intro.
Clearly excited to be here; Kenneth again thanked everyone who had a hand in putting this show together or was on the bill as the song trailed off. While he was doing that, Trinidad walked over the drum kit, kneeling by the bass drum as they bridged it into their final song of the night.
Like I said, this was only my second time seeing Dead Mockingbirds, and they were better than I even remembered.
It was an onslaught of raw rock music they cranked out this night, and their stage show matches their snappy sounding songs. And along those lines, the quick pace they gave their set this night ensured there was never a dull moment.
You can download a few of their singles –for free- over at REVERBNATION. You can also catch them on February 27th or on March 17th at the Double Wide in Dallas. Both of those shows are being presented by King Camel.
They may not have had the country elements to their music like the next two bands did, but they had something better; pure, quality rock music, in a vein you just don’t hear much in the music these days.
In fact, their show was so great, that after seeing the band that followed them, I found myself wondering if the show had already peaked.
The second band up this night was Promised Land Sound, who hails from Nashville, Tennessee.
They hopped on the bill a little more last minute, after the original booked band jumped off, but after checking out their music online, I liked it. They were certainly the most country-sounding band on the bill, with not as much rock flare to their songs as Futurebirds had, but they still fit.
Their 38-minute long set was made up mainly of songs from their debut full-length, which is self-titled and was released last year; though they threw in some other songs, as well.
Take for instance their first song, which was pretty good, but already had me feeling mixed emotions about the band.
I had only given their record a couple of listens (on Spotify), but there was one song that instantly stuck out to me, and that was “Empty Vase”, which was what they did next. The catchy song was as good live as I had hoped it would be, and it just has a fun vibe, with some strong beats from Evan Scala, and nice riffs from lead guitarist Sean Thompson, as well as Sean Cotton.
Singer and bassist Joseph Scala informed everyone that their next song was a cover, though I had trouble hearing who he said did it, and was unable to figure out what it was. All the same, it sounded quite good. It was followed by “Wandering Habits”, while the song that was billed as their slow one, which came after, was without question their best track of the night.
They were on fire while performing “Make it Through the Fall”. “I can’t keep myself from moving on. I can stand to do you any wrong. There’s a warmer season out there for us all. We’ve got to learn to make it through the fall.” Joseph loudly sang on the chorus of the song that could have easily been a sing-along, if only they had, had any sort of fan base here.
They truly killed it with that one, especially at the end, when the noise level rose up, commanding everyone’s attention. However, that was the only moment of their set where I felt that feeling.
They knocked out a couple more, one of which was “Fadin’ Fast”, before Joseph asked everyone if they wanted to hear a brand new song. Of course, everyone was indifferent to it, but nor did they mind it. It was a good one, one of their top three from this night, in my opinion.
Before calling it a night, Joseph put a feeler out, asking if anyone might have a floor they’d be willing to let them crash on, before going into their final song.
I mentioned I had mixed feelings about these guys, and my main qualm came with their performance/stage presence.
It was rather dull and boring, even lifeless. I hate to even say that, ‘cause even when I don’t like a band, I still don’t like to be negative. But at the same time, I have to be honest.
This isn’t even about their music, as I did like it. It’s just that they never grabbed the audience. They never captivated me, and I never felt any type of connection with the crowd on their part. Rather, it seemed like four dudes just happened to show up there and thought, “I guess we’ll play some music for a bit.”
That just doesn’t work, and I know they’re a newer band, but still, I expected more from a touring act.
All the same, you can find their music (an LP and a EP) in iTUNES. And while I can’t find a page that has their tour dates (otherwise I’d list some), just check out their FACEBOOK PAGE to see when they might be coming to a town near you.
See, that was why I thought the best band of the night may well have been the first one, and I wasn’t sure if Futurebirds would be able to wash that taste out of my mouth or not. Spoilers, they were.
The six-piece outfit got their gear set up, before retreating back to the greenroom to prepare for the show.
It was 10:31 when they stepped back out, and the anxious crowd – which numbered probably 80 people or so, at least - made their way closer to the stage.
They may have put out a brand new record just last year, but their set this night was a nice spread from all of their albums, and getting their show going was “Battle for Rome”, off of “Hampton’s Lullaby”.
“…And the sun it won’t save my life this time.” sang Thomas Johnson, who was one of the groups guitarists; his band mates, guitarists Carter King and Daniel Womack, the latter of whom played an acoustic, backing him with some amazing vocals.
It only took a minute or two to realize what you were watching was something special; from the harmonies, to just the explosive performance they were already putting on, quickly proving that the stage is where they belong.
“It’s good to be back in warm, sunny Dallas.” Carter stated, so sarcastically he seemed dead serious. He then thanked the audience for “braving the cold” to come out to this show.
The lead vocal duties were tossed around a lot this night, though the bulk of it seemed to go to Carter, who sang lead on “Serial Bowls”. The lengthy instrumental section at the end allowed them to really let loose, even Brannen Miles, who I believe was the bassist, and pedal steel guitarist Dennis Love.
At this point, the momentum was flowing, and after some roaring applause, Carter spoke into his mic; “I guess we’ll play another.”
Thomas started jumping up and down as he started “Johnny Utah”, his movements quickly escalating, to the point he was springing around all over his portion of stage right. His vicious shredding on his guitar came at a price, though; it cost him a string. It didn’t seem like that big of a deal however, and they powered through the tune, which had Thomas adding some wonderful backing vocals on the chorus, hitting an extremely high falsetto tone I never would have guessed was within his range.
Towards the end, Carter dropped to the floor and laid back on the stage, quickly plucking the strings of his guitar, and as he gave in to the music, it created one of those perfect concert moments.
Their drummer brought them right into their next song, which finally gave Daniel, who had an American flag bunched up and attached to his acoustic axe, a chance to show off his singing chops. The song was “Happy Animals”, and Thomas was left out of the first few minutes of it, as he now had to worry about repairing that broken string, which was a task he got done quite quickly.
Once he did get that remedied, he returned to the front of the stage, but his strap wasn’t secured. Of course, he wasn’t going to let his guitar fall off, though, and instead held it vertically in the air, picking away at it until he had a break so he could get it fastened. That got him back in action with some time to spare for the epic ending they gave that one, absolutely throwing down at the end. The three singers turned their backs to the crowd as they took the chance to interact a little more with their other band mates, while slinging their guitars around and banging their heads in time to the mighty drumbeats.
The spell had been cast by this time, and everyone in Club Dada had fallen under it, and were completely glued to this band who hailed from Athens, Georgia.
“We’re gonna play a brand new one.” Carter informed the crowd, who loudly cheered in support of the idea. “Don’t cheer just yet. You haven’t heard it…” he joked. True, it might have been premature, but once the song was done, they were still worthy of the cheering they had already received, and got even more now.
“That was hyper speed!” Carter exclaimed, looking at his band mates with a smile on his face; giving the idea that they had done it a little quicker than they should have.
They got back to “Baby Yaga”, their newest album, with the lead track, “Virginia Slims”. Thomas was back in charge on that intoxicating number, which was one of the truest country sounding tracks they did, and at times, Dennis played some gorgeous notes on his pedal steel guitar. As it ended, their drummer kept the beat going, and he and Brannen had a little jam session, filling the gap in between songs.
After those more intense songs, they slowed things down ever so slightly with “Sam Jones”. “This sure brings me down. No one’s here to stay. We’ve got nothing to lose. And we’ll take it to our graves.” Daniel sang on the chorus of the more melancholy song. Despite the sad vibe it has though, it was far from being depressing.
He would continue to sing, but only after Carter thanked Promised Land Sound and Dead Mockingbirds for opening up the show. He also shouted out a printing company, who had printed up some silk-screened posters of the show poster for this show. “…Come buy something and we’ll give you one free.” Carter encouraged everyone.
If their show had a lull, it was the song they had just done, as well as “M J B”. That latter song worked to kick things back into high gear, though, and was just another song of theirs that had a dynamic ending. Carter spun in a circle, only once, his hands a blur as he played his guitar. After doing that, he and Thomas stood back-to-back with one another. They didn’t just lean against each other, though. Instead, they were pushing against one another, quite forcefully from the looks of it, making it look like they were trying to hold one another up.
“Sending you pictures from the naked beach, but all I want is you here naked with me…” sang Carter at the start of what had already become a personal favorite Futurebirds song of mine, “Tan Lines”. A lot of other people seemed to like it too, a few of whom were even singing right along to it.
After finishing it, banter again turned to the cold weather. “We were in Montana few weeks ago and it wasn’t even this cold.” Carter told everyone, again thanking everyone for enduring it.
Continuing with music from “Baby Yaga”, they went on into “Dig”, which, for a majority of the time, was one of the most authentic sounding songs they did, complete with Thomas singing in a very twangy voice. You could tell not everyone was very familiar with their music, because as they eased up at the end, the room was filled with applause. They even held the silence for a moment, before ripping back into the song, delivering one of their most dazzling displays of the night yet.
“I don’t know this song.” Thomas could be heard saying as they prepared for the next one. “Pay close attention to Thomas’s guitar playing.” Carter instructed the crowd, perpetuating the joke. Okay, of course they knew it, but it was one of a few songs they did that I didn’t, nor could I figure it out after the fact. All the same, it was a nice song.
Throughout their set, there had been a woman standing in front of the stage, often shouting out different songs she was wanting to hear. One that had been repeated was one I was also hoping to hear, “Heavy Weights”. “This isn’t Heavy Weights.” Carter informed her, while Thomas added, “Don’t get your hopes up, either.”
Instead, they did another song that required the heavy use of their three-part harmonies, “Death Awaits”. It might not have been that other song, but it was a great one. I’ll even admit, in listening to their stuff, that was one track that didn’t do much for me, but live, live it was something else entirely.
It was again time for some more thanks now, which this time went to Parade of Flesh for putting this show together. They then broke into a cover, and one you probably wouldn’t have expected them to do.
They put their own twist on Stevie Nicks’ “Wild Heart”, which was arguably their best song of the night. And the end, the a capella end where Daniel, Thomas and Carter crooned, “Where is the reason? Don’t blame it on me, blame it on my wild heart.”, that was to die for.
I think they only did one more song after that. I say “think” because a.) it was another I didn’t know, and b.) it sounded like it could have been a few songs mashed together. It made for one helluva way to end their 81-minute long set, especially because the further they got into the song, the more amped up they got. And by the time it was all over, no one was really ready for them to be done.
“Thanks. We’re Futurebirds.” said Carter before they jumped off stage.
Some people went on their way, either leaving, or going over to the bar to get a drink, accepting the show was probably over. Others weren’t ready to believe that though, and the chants of “One more song!” could be heard.
Is what was funny, it happened in small groups. Like, a handful of people would shout it, then, since the band wouldn’t have come right back out, they’d quit. But another group would just be joining in at that time, and keep it going for a moment, before some more people began chanting.
Eventually, it paid off.
“…Aw, shit guys!” Carter exclaimed as they retook the stage, getting ready for one last song. It added about four minutes onto their show, and I’m not 100% what this encore was, but I’m thinking it was “Yur Not Ded”. Whatever it was, it was the perfect way to end this performance, bringing it to a stellar finish.
I don’t really know what I was expecting from Futurebirds, but I wasn’t prepared for what transpired.
Their music may have some more country undertones to it, but they put on as solid a rock show as I’ve ever seen.
Their highly energetic performance made sure you couldn’t pull your eyes off of them even if you wanted to, and having three vocalists to alternate between kept things constantly fresh.
On that note, even though all three of them might have different tones and textures to their voices, they can also all sing. Damn well at that, and they all have just a subtle twang to their voices that serves as a binding characteristic between them all.
I’ll restate what I said when I posted the picture of them I took on Instagram. “This band; this band was something special to watch.”
They, all six of them, impressed me, turning me into a full-fledged Futurebirds fan with ease.
You can check out their tour dates HERE. And if they’re coming to a town near you, you shouldn’t hesitate to go see them. I know I’ll be trying to catch them next time they come through Dallas. Also, right here in iTUNES is where you can find all of their albums.
Couldn’t have been a better way to spend a Wednesday night then this, and I also need to give one more shout out to Kenneth of Dead Mockingbirds for getting my cover into the show. Thanks again, man!
Three Links was my second destination of the night, for another show I had put a fair amount of consideration going to.
Sealion was headlining the place this night, and while I won’t recount the whole story, I didn’t start out as a fan of theirs.
Actually, even now I wouldn’t consider myself a true fan, but after trying to give them more of a chance, I found myself slowly warming up to their 2010 debut album. Then, after seeing a small portion of their set where they opened for the Toadies in Denton almost a couple years back, I found myself enjoying their music a bit more.
That said, I hadn’t seen them since April of 2012, and this seemed as good an opportunity as any to see them again and give them another shot.
They were setting their gear up when I arrived, preparing for a show that was a mix of material from last year’s “Kenneth” album, along with some new songs.
The punk sounding quartet raced through their 49-minute set, beginning with what I believe was a couple of newer songs (admittedly, I didn’t recognize everything they played this night.)
And since I am honest, their first couple of songs, which were segued from one into the next, were ones I didn’t care for. Singer and rhythm guitarist Hunter Moehring screamed more than sang on those tracks, using a throaty sound I hadn’t heard him utilize before, and that’s just not something I care for from any band.
Drummer Alex Poulos then rolled them right into a song from their latest release, “Spruce Moose”. I did enjoy that one much more, as it was more along the lines of the bands almost surf-rock infused brand of punk, which is an interesting blend to say the least. Their eager fans were happy to hear it, too, shouting along while Hunter sang, “…I don’t to be like you…” That quick little tune started the process of reeling me in, and I have to say, it was a fun track.
They followed it with another (presumably new) song, after which Hunter informed everyone that they would soon start recording on album number three.
“Dudes, grab a dude. Ladies, grab a lady…” he instructed after saying they were going to slow things down with their next song. It was different from anything else I’ve ever heard them do, simply because bassist Samantha Villavert sang it. She’s a new addition to the outfit since I last saw them, and aside from being a good bass player, she brings a great voice to the table, and while this one did have a different sound for a Sealion song, it was still Sealion.
Samantha later acknowledged that her parents had come out to this, their first ever Sealion show, and she thanked them for staying up late to be there. They kept things going with a couple more songs, one of which was called “A Good Dream”, and, as Hunter said, was about “lying in bed all day”.
“If you wanna dance, we’ll dance with you.” he told the decent size crowd-, before he, lead guitarist Cole Denton and the rest knocked out “Finks”, which started another string of songs (three to be exact, back-to-back-to-back.) What came next I found to be their best track of the night, and there was one point during it where Hunter knelt beside his amp, tearing it up on his guitar, before creating some excellent feedback.
They brought it into their next song, one that was so new Hunter couldn’t even remember when they wrote it, first saying Wednesday before correcting himself, “No, Thursday.” By the time it was over, the fans who were gathered in front of the stage were feeling it enough they decided to start a small mosh pit while the quartet cranked out another track.
Their set was almost done by this point, and the fans were vocal about their displeasure for this, just not wanting the night to end, as they did what I believe was “T.V. Land”, another song off “Kenneth”.
Hunter then announced they were going to close with a cover, and though I didn’t understand who he said originally did the song, it was one they put on their album, and that was “All We Know”. It was as if everyone knew this would be their last chance to let it all hang out until the next weekend, with plenty of the fans getting into a semi-frenzied state as they got another mosh pit going.
Hunter even jumped out in it closer to the end, and just because he was part of the band didn’t make him impervious to getting caught up in the body slamming, and he held his, even bashing in to a few people, while never missing a note on his guitar.
That was quite a way to end the show; a show that made me a little more of a Sealion fan.
Like I said, there were a few songs I just flat-out didn’t like, but overall, from the music aspect, I enjoyed it.
The main qualm I had a few years ago was with Hunters’ voice, a voice that has both grown on me and gotten better with time. And though it’s not the best voice ever, it fits with what they do, and by no means does he come anywhere even close to being the worst singer I’ve ever come across.
As for their show, these talented musicians put on a good performance, while also keeping it light and fun. Actually, that was what I enjoyed most about them this night; it was all about having fun and just enjoying yourself.
No, they won’t be one of those bands I go see every chance I get, but I’ll try to see them again sometime, and probably much sooner than another almost two years.
They’ll be at the Double Wide in Dallas on Thursday 27th, as part of a show that is being presented by King Camel. You can also find all of their music on their BANDCAMP PAGE, either for free, or very cheap.
Overall, I was glad I decided to come over to Three Links for Sealion’s set, as they made it worth it.
My second stop of the night was Three Links, were singer/songwriter Johnny Beauford was celebrating the release of his second solo album, “A Pig Eating Past Love”.
Deadmoon Choir had been the first band, and unfortunately, I had missed them completely.
The Birds of Night on stage when I arrived, and almost done, but after having heard of them a little while and doing what I could to promote their “Movember” benefit show a couple months back, I was glad I was finally going to get a little taste of what they were like.
I walked in at the end of one song, and shortly after the quartet started the lead track from the “Snaps” album, “Bite”.
This goes for all of their music (well, at least the handful of songs I heard this night), but you instantly gravitated to it and were pulled in by it. That song in particular just had a fresh rock sound to it with some doses of indie rock thrown in. Just in listening to their music online I liked ‘em, but that was the song that cemented me as a fan of The Birds of Night.
“I don’t mean to sound like my Twitter account…” singer and rhythm guitarist Andrew Rothlisberger told the crowd before encouraging everyone to go buy some of their merch, which was setup on the back patio. “…Meet us out back…” he said, as he proceeded to give his sales pitch in a low, eerie, voice, as if he were trying to lure a young child into a windowless van. “…We’ve got candy, liquor and shirts out there…” he said, before dropping the act. “I’m gonna quit talking like that now…” Andrew told everyone, adding it wasn’t really creepy out there, it just sounds weird to say “go out back” to buy some merch.
They followed it with a short and sweet little love song, aptly titled “I Belong to You”, before getting ready for another love song. “It’s a fifties era love song…” Andrew told everyone. “You know, if the guy’s possessive…” he said, listing off several other traits that wouldn’t work well in a relationship.
They were about to do the song, and I believe still did, but then a fan shouted out a request, “Prayer Party!” “Do y’all want to do that?” Andrew asked band mates Brooks Martin, who was the bass player, drummer Jon Aisner and lead guitarist Alex Adams. They all agreed to, and I’m glad they did. It wound up being my personal favorite song I heard, and you really got to see what a cohesive rock band they are, and they’re chops as musicians were on full display, especially during the little instrumental intro.
They still had enough time left they went back to the song they had planned to do, then cranked out a new one. “Be gentle, that’s only the third time we’ve done that one.” Andrew remarked when they had finished it. It was a good song, and it did seem like they had performed it more than just twice before. They had just one more after that, finishing up their set before hurrying to get their gear off stage.
I’m definitely going to have to catch a full set from these guys sometime soon, ‘cause I highly enjoyed those few tracks I heard, and their energy was pretty good, too.
They have a few albums up for sale over on BANDCAMP, two of which are listed at the name your own price setting, making them potentially free. Check ‘em out, and if you like it they’ll be doing a show at The Dram in Dallas on February 20th.
Up after them was Johnny Beauford, but while his record was recorded almost completely on his own, this show wouldn’t be performed that way.
He had enlisted the help of some of his band mates from Bravo, Max!, Jonathan Jackson and Garrett Padgett, the drummer and guitarist, respectively, and it didn’t take long for this trio to get set up and ready to rock.
“Good morning, sit down and read me your will…” sang Johnny, as they got their 38-minute long set going with the title track from the new record, “A Pig Eating Past Love”. It was nothing like what you hear on the album, though. The same can be said for the other songs they did, too, but they had all been tweaked and were more fleshed out with the drums and guitar in the mix (Johnny was playing the bass). It wasn’t just that, though. The pace of the music and even the way Johnny sang had been altered, doing something I didn’t think was possible; making some already great songs even better. Especially the line, “…Look me in these eyes when you curse me with those lips…” packed even more of a punch.
They segued themselves right into the next song, another one from the album, and got some light laughs (at least amount the band) when Johnny got his bass cord stuck on the bass drum, and despite shaking the cord several times to free it, it didn’t seem like it was going to happen, until it finally did. “You’re Evaporating Anyway” didn’t sound like the same song, either, and admittedly, it’s not my favorite track on the record, but it sounded great this night. Johnny used a tambourine at the start of it, and near the end Garrett was responsible for a slick and killer guitar solo.
The tambourine was again used on the next song, before Johnny threw it back behind so he could focus on his bass. “…Sometimes, white turns black…” went part of the chorus of this song that instantly had me hooked. “Thanks!” he exclaimed when they were done. “That’s a new Bravo, Max! song. These guys are in Bravo, Max!” he clarified, pointing to Jonathan and Garrett. It’s been all too long since I’ve seen that band (a little over a year), so I haven’t heard any of the brand new stuff they’ve worked out, but man, that song was exceptional and already has me salivating over that bands next release. It wouldn’t be the only new song from that band they did this night, either.
Before going on, Johnny told all of his fans plus the other onlookers that just by being here they were entitled to a free copy of “A Pig Eating Past Love” which he noted was located on the “creepy table out back”. He took a cue from the last band, joking that it wasn’t really creepy out there. “…It’s just weird to say ‘go out back and get some merch.” he said, before they did another song that was unknown by me.
Upon finishing it, Johnny thanked those who were there for coming out, as well as thanking Dead Flowers, who had lent them not only their drum kit, but also their bass amp. “Thanks for letting us play your home venue.” Johnny finished, looking at Dead Flowers’ singer Corey Howe, noting they are, in fact, the house band.
They got back to business with another song, which Garrett started by singing the first few words, before ceding things over to Johnny. Johnny then exchanged his bass for a guitar for their next song, a straight up rock number, much like what Bravo, Max! has done (in fact, this may have been another one of their new songs), which found Johnny roaring near the end as the song escalated, “Why don’t you just follow your heart?” with the next line being something like, “After all, it’s your heart.”
The three musicians harmonized at the start of their next song, before Johnny and Garrett swapped instruments, and places on stage, for their closing number. It was only the third song they did from the seven track album they were doing this CD release show for, and that was “Ann Marie”. Johnny brought his harmonica out for the song, which had a whole new spring in its step with this format, , and left you feeling satisfied with the show, but also wishing they had time to do more.
Johnny Beauford really is one of the best singer/songwriters in the area. Since first hearing of Bravo, Max! a few years ago I’ve been a fan, not just of the band, but of him as a musician, and this newest album of his really cements his place here in the music scene.
He may not be one of those musicians that every single person knows, but he is one of those musicians you need to acquaint yourself with if you aren’t familiar with him.
As for their show this night, I’ll keep it short and sweet; I’m still blown away by what they did with these songs, and it’s amazing how some touch-ups and slight liberties with the songs can enhance them so much.
Check out his solo albums in iTUNES, especially this latest one. And if you’re a fan of that, then you might want to check out Bravo, Max!, too.
Oh, and check out the remainder of their tour dates HERE (dates are at the bottom of the page.).
Since some of their gear was already on stage, it didn’t take too long for Dead Flowers to get ready and go through the sound check, and at 12:04, they were ready to roll.
Before starting any song, singer and rhythm guitarist Corey Howe gave a shout out to Johnny Beauford. “…He’s my favorite songwriter in Dallas. You can quote me on that.” He told the sizable crowd they commanded, urging them all to go pick up a CD since they were free.
Then they got into party mode.
“…Let’s get trashed.” Corey said to everyone, before offering up some advice: “Drink more, love less.”
“Here I Am” was their first song of the night, as well as the first of a few newer songs they did, beginning with Corey and drummer Ed Chaney adding some light sounds before it exploded into action. There was also a point on one line, “…I think it’s better this way…”, that the sound guy added some reverb to it. It sounded amazing, and caught everyone a little off guard, including Corey, who, as he pulled his face away from the microphone, appeared surprised by the effect, though you could tell he was pleased/impressed with it.
“We’re gonna be recording that in February…” stated Corey once the song was done, which would mean a new album from these guys later this year is pretty likely. “It’s a party. Have fun!” declared Corey, before saying they’d need some help on the next one, “You’re Wrong”. Some of the fans obliged, signing along with bassist Evan Winston Johnson and guitarist Vince Tuley when the two added their backing vocals throughout the vengeful track.
“That feels pretty good.” Corey remarked after they finished the song, then went on to tell a little story about his Police shirt he was wearing, which he said he would be retiring after this night. “How ‘bout that beard?” Vince chimed in, causing Corey to promptly defend it and say it wasn’t going anywhere. “There’s nothing sharp enough to cut it.” he added. “How ‘bout that wit?” Vince replied. “Oh, burn!” he told Corey, who couldn’t even make a comeback ‘cause he was laughing so hard.
Once they had composed themselves, they did another new song, and I’m quite partial to, after which Evan took of his jacket off, while Vince had removed his a song or two back. “…Now that we’re through with the costume changes…” joked Corey, before they knocked out a cover of one of The Replacements songs, followed by another new one, which saw Corey sitting his guitar aside for it.
Afterwards, Corey made the sales pitch that they had shirts and CD’s out on the patio, and someone from the audience asked if they had Police t-shirts. “Yes…” he answered. “They cost five hundred dollars and they come with a Cici’s gift card.” Their show would be good enough with just the music, but it’s the frequent quips like that set them apart of many other bands and adds a whole different level of enjoyment to their show.
“…Speaking of that record, this is the title track on it.” Corey announced as they started the very rocking song, “For You”. It was another one that required some fan participation, and everyone was eager to sing along on the chorus, “…’Cause no one likes a boy who falls right down on his face. She said, ‘Pick you head up, boy, don’t lose your pace!”, and Evan got the crowd to successfully clap along with him at one point, as well.
“Y’all still having fun?!” Corey roared in his gruffer voice, inciting some raucous cheers and applause from everyone who was present. “I’m Leaving”, another new song of theirs, came next, after which the four members partook in some shots that had been bought for them. “Do y’all want to do John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt?” Corey asked his band mates after downing his shots, which they all agreed to. Again, the fans were enlisted to help sing along on that short kids song, with Ed bridging them from it right into “Murder Shuffle in a (Minor)”. Vince jumped around in circles a few times after the second chorus, tearing it up on his axe, while Corey cut loose during the instrumental breakdown, darting back and forth, as he succumbed to the music, almost hitting Evan a time or two. When it was time for him to start singing again, he didn’t go back to his mic, instead walking over stage right, using Vinces’. The two then made their way over to the main microphone, each singing into one of the sides.
They did one more rendition of a Replacements song, which I believe was “Can’t Hardly Wait”, and in some ways, it was their best song of the night. Even, Vince, Ed and Corey all just cut loose on it, giving it 110% as they rocked out on that mighty number.
It was sometime around this point in the show that Corey pointed a friend in the crowd, asking everyone to turn around and wave to him. “No, that’s not for you, Peebles.” he told one of the staff members there at Three Links, whom he had been flipping off periodically throughout the night. He know instructed everyone to give Peebles the finger, some of whom did, while others didn’t. “That was almost as bad as the stage dive I did last time we played here.” Corey remarked.
Back to the show, they did one last new song. “Do we have a name yet?” he asked, speaking more to himself as he looked deep in thought while pondering it. “Nope. No name yet.” He said, speaking of their sophomore album. Right at the end of it, he drew a surprised look from Evan when he suddenly sang, “Sweet home Alabama.” It was just that one line, not the actual song or anything, and Corey quickly explained his reason for it.
“I just realized that song kinda sounds like ‘Sweet Home Alabama.” he stated, asking if they had noticed it. He only had one word for that similarity: “Gross.”
Corey made one last push on their merch, noting that if anyone got back to the table quick enough they could steal a CD. “…Or buy it, that’d be cool, too. Then again if you’re broke and don’t have money to buy it I’ll probably just give it to you, ‘cause I know how it is to want a CD but not have money for it.” He was sincere in that, too.
They slowed things down a bit with the closing song from “For You”, “Thank You”, pausing about halfway through and holding it for several seconds, before kicking the song into high gear.
With one song left to go, that also gave them one last chance to get some laughs, and while Corey’s introduction of his band mates started seriously, it quickly became an excuse to get the audience cracking up again. “He gets the most gas.” Corey said of Ed, pausing briefly, before adding, “From me, every night. Except it’s not every night, ‘cause we’re not on tour and we live just right over there.”
Once he named them, Evan asked everyone to give it up for Corey, before they closed out their 69-minute long set with their single, “I Won’t Go”, which seemed to have an even longer jam outro than what is heard on the record.
It was a great show, almost just as memorable as their one here last month.
Corey joked at one point early on in the night; saying something to the effect that he hoped no one thought that they were an actual serious band.
That’s one of the best qualities about them, though. They’re good at the banter in-between songs and it does get genuine laughs, then, when it’s time for a song, they get into a serious rock mode, and are clearly professionals.
It’s the best of both worlds, sort of like dinner and a show, all in one.
Dead Flowers may be the “house band” here at Three Links, but it’ll be a little while before they get back to the venue. Their next show is scheduled for March 1st at the Doublewide, and if you don’t have it, check out “For You” in iTUNES.
This night was going to be a busy one, and it was starting at my favorite venue, The Curtain Club, for the second night of the venue’s 16th anniversary weekend.
Like the night before, a couple of younger bands with teenage members were playing first, beginning with a band called The Neverending.
I walked in at not the best time, as they were having some technical issues.
“It’s usually our drummer who breaks everything.” joked their frontwoman, as it was now one of the bands guitarist who was having some trouble and had broken a string.
It seemed almost like a curse, seeing as the first band from the night before also suffered from a broken guitar string, and this guy in The Neverending just made the best of it and played through.
Getting back on track, that made for some long silence as they figured things out, and I never really thought they got any momentum going after that.
It’s not that I disliked them or anything, I just simply never got into it.
The same could be said about the next band, The Bombs.
I just never got into their darker brand of punkish sounding rock, though for what they did, these three girls (plus their fill-in drummer), did it well.
On another note, about both of those bands, not only was it good to see a younger generation of musicians down here, but it was especially nice to see they had brought out there friends/fans, who, for a short time, outnumbered the twenty-one and older crowd.
After them, was the band I was there for, seeing as they had requested my presence and given me a ticket to the show, and that was Alterflesh.
“In the incomprehensible vastness of the universe, how strange we’re even here…” singer Dayvoh could be heard saying, as the curtain began to open and reveal them. It goes along with spiritual, otherworldly aura the band strives so hard to create at their live shows, and like all the little speeches Dayvoh makes like that, it sets up the next song, which in this case was “Megahub”.
Once Kevin Mills came in on the track, Dayvoh, bassist Paul Kubajak and even guitarist Ben Schelin began jumping around, before Dayvoh entered frontman mode and started working over the audience as he began singing the song. “Most will go their entire lives without even understanding it. I recommend a much closer view of practical experience…” goes the bridge of the song, which, like all their other tracks, is supposed to make you stop and think about life.
“Welcome to the Curtain Clubs’ sweet sixteenth, take two…” Dayvoh said to the audience once the song had ended, and, like in that song, he continued delivering his words at a lightening pace to minimize the time spent talking. He went on to say how good it was to see some “young blood” down here and named the two opening bands, before also pointing out some of the other bands who were out supporting them, just a few of whom were The Circle (who had played the night before), Solice, 26 Locks and New Voodoo. Speaking of New Voodoo, Andrew Lewthwaite was lending his guitar skills to Alterflesh this night, serving as the bands second guitarist. Dayvoh finished with, “Support your scene.”, before hopping down on one of the steps in front of the stage while Paul started their next song, “So Much More”, with some sweet bass licks.
It features some knockout drumming from Kevin, and once it was done, Dayvoh continued to reel the crowd in and get them engaged. “Are you awake, Curtain Club?! Let me hear you!” he shouted, before doing another transition for their next song. “Mystics all around the world say we all slowly burn in time… This one’s called Embers.” he declared, as they went into one of their newest numbers.
“Brothers and sisters, everyday is a gift. Live it to the fullest.” were the encouraging words that preceded their next song, “Start Over”. As the name suggests, it’s a song about beginning anew, specifically without someone who used to be a part of your life, and as Dayvoh repeated the first line of the track, “Light a fire, burn it all away…”, Xtina, the singer in Solice, made her way on stage.
At their last show they had gotten her to join them on that one, and lightening struck this night as she again lent her voice to it, making a great song sound exceptional. As they hit the second chorus, both Paul and Dayvoh leapt in the air, in time with the drumbeat, then, as the song wound down, Dayvoh knelt down on the stage, as did Xtina, their voices sounding incredible as they intertwined with one another on “…Light a fire, burn it all away. Start over again without you.”
She and her band got some props thrown their way as she exited the stage, before Dayvoh turned his attention to the Wall of Fame. “…On these walls, you can see the marks of all who have come before…” he said, pointing at the dozens and dozens of plaques, ranging from those who were never more than local legends to those who went on to achieve national fame. “This next one’s a fun one. It’s a political rant. ” stated Dayvoh as they got ready for “Watch Rome Burn”. In short, this “rant” focuses on how this “Information Age” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and after the second chorus of the track, Andrew, who had already brought a lot to the table, went off on a several seconds long guitar solo, which sounded killer.
I’m going to get off topic for a minute, now. Since Alterflesh had started, there was a great energy from out in the crowd. You could feel it and tell that everyone was enjoying what they were watching. At one point a small mosh pit of three or so people started, which was no big deal, until one guy accidentally slammed into a woman, knocking her to the floor and causing her to lose her drink.
That was a couple songs prior to the one they had just done, and that changed the whole mood of the crowd. For starters, the tension was palpable. The only reason a fight didn’t break out between that guy and the woman’s boyfriend/husband was because other people stepped in between them to make sure nothing happened. I won’t get much more into to it, but basically, the guy who hit the woman didn’t feel he owed her a replacement beer, while the other guy believed she was owed at least that.
Getting more on topic, this still persisted even now, and after that song, Dayvoh said something about he knew this was a rock show and he wanted everyone to have as much fun as they possible could. After all, that is the point of a concert. “…But the next girl I see fall, ‘cause some guy hits her and doesn’t help her up. I’m gonna jump down there.” he said firmly, earning raving applause from pretty much everyone in there.
That still didn’t quite settle it, though, and it only ended before the guy removed himself from the situation. But before that happened, one of the guys from The Circle went and grabbed an Alterflesh poster off of one of the walls here in the club and hung it on the monitor, right in front of the guy. They had used a quote on this poster, and it read, “Kindness… It doesn’t cost a damn thing. Sprinkle that shit everywhere.”
That’s what made this so ironic. Dayvoh is all about being a peaceful, kind individual, as really everyone should, and Alterflesh more or less preaches that exact message in their music.
The downside from all that, is all that energy that was going in the audience was no dead. Don’t get me wrong, the band themselves hadn’t lost any momentum, but with all that negativity leaving people wondering if they might have to jump in and break up a fight, it killed the carefree atmosphere, as everyone just stayed almost perfectly still and watched.
They were almost done at this point, and in regards to the next track, “Into the Sun”, Dayvoh said something about how we (collectively) are “…Like every other element, forged in the heart of a supernova…” It’s another newer one, and a great one at that, and it was also their final original track of the night.
“…If you’ve listened to the radio at all in the last ten years, then you’ve heard this song…” Dayvoh told everyone in preparation of the first ever cover song Alterflesh would do. It would a rendition of Staind’s “For You”, though of course they put their own unique spin on it. Ben and Andrew had been feeding off one another all night long, facing each other as they picked away on their guitars, and such, and the two again rocked out on this one, while towards the end Paul dropped to his knees and flat-out tore it up on his bass.
It was fun way to end their 39-minute long set, and this was one of the best shows I’ve seen these guys do.
Where to start…
How about back to Andrew and Ben. Yes, Dayvoh does play guitar on some songs, but he still has to focus on being a frontman even then, so he can’t interact as much with Ben. But like I said, he and Andrew had some real chemistry going.
That also freed Dayvoh up to really work the crowd for the entire show, and you could really feel the rapport he had going with everyone.
And for those who may not know, he spent many years as a spoken word poet, and brings that flare to his singing in Alterflesh, creating something that is purely original and different from anything you have ever heard before.
Then you had Kevin and Paul, both of whom were in the zone this night.
They’re one of those bands who doesn’t play too often (every few months), yet they’re tighter than a lot of bands out there, and they brought their A+ game to the stage of the Curtain Club this night.
They don’t have any music to buy at the moment, but you can sample several songs over on REVERBNATION. You can also see them right back here at the Curtain Club on March 8th as part of 26 Locks CD release show. They also have a show booked at O’Rileys in Dallas on April 4th.
I didn’t stick around long after they finished. It’s not that I didn’t want to see some of the other bands on the bill, but I had already committed to go cover another show, and headed out for the other venue.
There’s seldom much going on, on Wednesday nights, especially not on the local level of the music scene.
This night was a bit different, though. This night saw the launch of a new concert series, all thanks to promoter/concert booker King Camel. He decided to call it Local Education, and Three Links was the venue hosting the first installment of it, which featured three trios.
First up, you had Chase Ryan & The Grave, a still semi new band that has some seasoned musicians in it, most notably the namesake himself; Chase Ryan. Being the lead guitarist of The Virgin Wolves is probably how most people know him, but with that band taking some downtime recently, it has allowed him more time to push this one.
They cranked out the first song of their 29-minute set, after which Chase thanked those who were there for coming out to the show. They kept the gritty Rock ‘n’ Roll coming with another tune, with Chase playing some nice notes at the start of it that gave the track a very slick tone. “Honey, there’s something wrong with you…” Chase howled at the start of the next song, another roaring number which eventually ended with drummer Joel Herrera rolling them right into the next one.
“Is everybody having fun yet?” Chase asked the patrons as he tuned his guitar. “We’re from Denton.” he said, looking back down at his axe, before going back to the microphone, adding, “We never leave.” He also mentioned that this was the first time, at least in this band, that he had performed here at Three Links. “We wrote this one last night.” Chase remarked, as he Joel and bassist Nate Maxwell shared a little chuckle before ripping into another action packed song with some irate lyrics. “…You greedy bitch, you fucking slut, I think I’d rather die…” Chase yelled at the top of his lungs on that fast paced, seething song.
I didn’t catch what it was Chase did at the end of the song or immediately after, but the notes he played prompted Joel to say to him, “That sounded like a premature ejaculation.” That got a good laugh from everyone who was there, and once it subsided they resumed the rock show, doing a couple more songs, which were split by a brief calm, before Chase counted his band mates into the next one.
“We’ve got one more…” Chase informed everyone, saddening myself and surely a few others that their set was already coming to an end, as it had passed all too quickly. That is a sure sign of having a good time, though. Their closing song was a heavy one, in the sense that the bass and drums were in full effect. Chase had demonstrated the rougher side of his voice plenty this night, and now, just for a few moments at the start of the song, he sang some falsetto notes, nailing them with ease, showing off the full range he is capable of. As it neared the end, Nate and Joel aided him with some backing vocals. “You come from the water that you drink and you take that poison and you put it in my mouth.” The three repeatedly sang into their respective mics, a line that had some bluesy elements to it, and also sounded a bit tribal.
Their time on stage may have been slightly short, but they completely owned it for those 29-minutes they were up there.
Their music is pretty much just unadulterated rock, with some light hints of blues-rock thrown in here and there, depending on the song. It was nice to get a real taste of what Chase is like as a singer, since in his other band he’s mainly just a backing vocalist. He has a wickedly good and unique voice, as well as some awesome stage moves.
Joel and Nate are a perfect fit for the band, too, making the show even more energetic, and each had a nice charisma about them.
Keep an eye on Chase Ryan & The Graves’ FACEBOOK PAGE for updates on future shows, and they do happen to have one on Saturday, January 25th at the City Tavern in Dallas. And now that I’ve had the experience of one of their shows, I’ll certainly try to see them a little more often.
Second up was probably the band I was most excited about seeing this night, and that was Panic Volcanic.
I haven’t seen them much, catching one of their shows in late 2011, when they were still a very new band, and the only other show of theirs I caught had been nearly two years before this.
They primarily play in Fort Worth, a town I just don’t get to often, and since that last time I saw them, they finally put out their debut album, “Freak Fuzz”, which was released last summer.
“We’re Panic Volcanic. We’re from Fort Worth.” stated frontwoman Ansley Dougherty as soon as they took the stage, adding, “We’re gonna play some rock music.” Bassist Zach Tucker then launched them right off into the lead track from their album, “Skin and Bones”. It’s a catchy number, and served as a good warm-up, which was actually what Ansley referred to it as after it was done. “Now that we’re all warmed up.” she said, trailing off before they fired up the first of several new songs they did this night.
It did pack even more of a punch than their first song, and Chris Cole picked things up a bit, getting more explosive with his drumming. “I’ve been sick all week. I’m probably gonna lose my voice with y’all tonight.” Ansley told everyone, seemingly in a way preparing the audience in case things got rough. It never did though, and her voice maintained well.
After a couple of originals, they threw in a cover. It was Deep Purple’s “Cry Free”, which they pulled off very well, and even put their own little touch on it. Being largely instrumental, it allowed Zach and Chris to be the main focal point of everyone’s attention as they jammed, while Ansley thrashed about to the music. It was also a song her voice is well suited for, since it’s a little deeper, and she also nailed the higher notes as she sang the line, “…Cry free.”
Afterwards, she pointed out to everyone that, that had been a cover and who did. “Fitting, since I’m wearing my purple pants today.” she laughed, before they knocked out another new song. It was quickly followed by another newer one, which Zach began with low-end bas riffs. In some ways, it was a simple song, with the line “Why don’t we do it in the middle of the road?…” being repeated often, but they kept it short and sweet, to the point it never seemed too repetitive. Actually, out of this new batch of music I heard this night, it was one of my favorites.
The new songs continued, and they had three more in the chamber before their show got ready to end. The second of those saw Zach using both of his hands to play the fretboard of his bass, something he does periodically anyway, though he used the style very heavily on that one. Chris burst into their final original song of the night, one that Ansley noted they would soon be releasing on a split. “We’re gonna close with a cover. ‘Cause why the fuck not.” Ansley remarked, as they ended their 30-minute set with Jimi Hendrix’s “Fire”. It was appropriate, because that’s the kind of rock music they play, and Zach leaned in on most of the choruses, helping her sing, “…Let me stand next to your fire.”
There’s no doubt that Panic Volcanic has come a long ways since the bands inception.
I thoroughly enjoyed the other two shows of theirs I saw, but you could definitely tell the difference from then and now. They were all far more confident on stage and more natural, instead of looking like they had to think about what their actions were going to be.
Overall, they’ve just grown into solid performers. Zach killed it on the bass, having that certain laidback persona most bassists seem to have, making everything he did appear rather effortless. Chris was a machine back there on the drums, making it clear he’s been perfecting his skill, and he often held my attention. As for Ansley, she’s turned into an excellent frontwoman, taking a backseat when she’s not doing any singing so her band mates will get more of the focus, yet she keeps active. That last part was especially true when she was singing, as she was constantly moving around.
Give their album a listen on either ITUNES or BANDCAMP, and if you dig it, go see a show. They’ll be playing The Grotto in Fort Worth on January 31st, with a couple more Fort Worth dates lined up for late February. One will be the 22nd at J J’s Blues Bar, the other is back at The Grotto on the 28th.
Closing out the night was one of the area’s most prestigious bands, The Phuss.
I hadn’t seen them since back in the summer, when they were just starting to work in some of their new songs, and I was eager to hear what they might be doing this night.
They got set up quick, and just a couple minutes after eleven were ready to go. Singer and guitarist Josh Fleming even told the sound guy that before bassist Forrest Barton leaned over to him and said something. “Oh, can you come mic the bass cab?” Josh asked the sound guy.
That quickly killed the excitement that had already mounted, as the fans were suddenly left with dead air. Josh decided to fill the time, though, and started what I presume was a cover song. It was one I didn’t recognize, but this impromptu number sounded fantastic as Josh played some light guitar notes and showed off a seldom seen softer side of his voice, without any of the guttural screams that make The Phuss’s music. He did a couple verses and choruses like that, by which time the bass amp was finally miked, and, as if they had practiced this several times before, drummer Trey Alfaro ripped into the song, livening it up quite a bit.
“Alright, that was a warm-up…” said Josh, who then added, “It’s a Wednesday night. We’re drunk. Let’s do this.” They did a string of new songs here at the start of their 42-minute long set, officially getting their show going with “Straight Line Impala”, which, out of the new songs I’ve heard, is my personal favorite so far. “At the Bottom of It All” gives it a run for its money, though, and is a song that pure Phuss, with some heavy and thick bass lines on each verse, while Trey became the main rhythm force on the choruses, banging wildly on his kit.
“We’re playing a bunch of new stuff tonight. ‘Cause we want to.” Josh simply stated, before pointing out that Forrests’ birthday happened to be this day. He expressed how much he likes him as a friend and what a great bass player he is, calling him the best he has ever seen. “He’s damn near my girlfriend.” finished Josh, before he reached over and slapped Forrest on the ass.
They churned out one more new song, “On the Prowl”, which was about exactly what you’re probably thinking it is, before breaking things up with one song their couple dozen or so fans would know. That one was “Something to Die For”, and as good as those first songs were, you could feel the excitement level spike at the start of this one, and more than a few people were singing right along with it, “…Sometimes I feel like I don’t, like I don’t belong…” Trey added a few extra and rapid beats to the end of it, while the notes from the bass and guitar resonated.
“Sometimes, you get really excited about playing new songs…” Josh remarked, which led them into another new one. “Y’all sound like a bunch of Wednesday night pussies!” Josh said after the applause from that last one had subsided. “But you’re not, ‘cause you’re here…” He proceeded to pluck the strings of his guitar, stopping for just a second to make a quick adjustment to his guitar. The song had already been revealed, though, and I was glad to hear that “The Romantic” had found its way into the setlist for the night.
There was a momentary pause for the fans to applaud them, before Josh fired up the final song they’d do this night from their self-titled album, “21 Ain’t What It Was”. It’s almost like an anthem of sorts, and like the other fan favorites from the night, there were a few people who were singing along with them, like on the second verse, “Twenty-one with the middle finger in the air, scream it out at the top of our lungs…”
They were in the final portion of their show, and had saved a new single for one of their last songs. It was titled “I Don’t Feel Good but I’m Having a Good Time”, and Josh told everyone they’d be releasing a music video for it soon. “I know y’all don’t really care about that, but this is the only time get to talk about it. Otherwise I’m like, ‘How are you? How was your day? Do you have a lady? No, well okay…” He went on to give what was no doubt the short story behind the song, saying it was about a party he went to but wasn’t really supposed to be there at it.
“This song’s about Jesus.” Josh said as they pulled out a couple oldies but goodies from their first EP from 2009, “Wanted”. Trey set up the beat for “Preacher, Preacher”, constantly tossing one of his drumsticks in the air while striking one of the drums with the other. “Preacher, preacher you can have my soul. I’m gonna be a holy man.” Sang Josh in a higher voice, right after the second chorus, before they kicked things back in and ended it. They then went into the subsequent track from that EP, “Pointed Guns in the House of God”. They’ve changed their style a lot since they first wrote those songs, and while “Preacher, Preacher” has always been a staple at shows, it’s nice to hear “Pointed Guns…” making a comeback, ‘cause it does still fit them.
They extended the end of the song a bit, more or less just making noise while Josh proceeded to thank everyone for coming out, as well as the other bands who played, even telling Ansley of Panic Volcanic that her voice had gotten even better in the two months since he had last seen them. “…And then you have us, The Phuss, who’s so lackluster you just can’t resist us…” he said.
He’s right about that. Well, with the exception of the lackluster part.
This seems like a good time to say something I haven’t in awhile, and that’s that when I first saw The Phuss, probably sometime in ’09, when they were just a duo, I wasn’t a fan. It took just happening to see them several times before they finally started growing me and I got to a point where I could appreciate them and their music.
That’s proof though that they are pretty damn irresistible, even if it takes you some time to realize it.
They put on a thoroughly entertaining show, and their music is a very captivating mix of rock and punk. They even sound like they’re branching out a bit with these new songs, still keeping the same basic essence that makes them, them, but just adding some different flares to it over what their past material has had.
They’ll be kicking off a night of great music at The Doublewide in Dallas on February 8th, and be sure to check out their self-titled EP in iTUNES.
It was a solid night of music, and kudos to King Camel for putting it all together. He already has several more installments of Local Education scheduled for February, and if you can, by all means, go see one.
“If you’re lucky nuff to be at Hank’s, you’re lucky nuff.”
That was what a sign above the stage at Hank’s Texas Grill in McKinney had written on it, and I have to say, after going to the venue, that’s a fitting statement.
It’s not just a concert venue, it’s also a restaurant and bar, and a nice one at that. It’s far more spacious than I would have guessed, stretching back quite a ways. At the back is where the stage is located, and it’s comparable to many venues in Dallas, Denton or Fort Worth. It’s cozy looking on stage, but not too bad; the stage is elevated enough to allow everyone a good view of the band playing; and the room’s small enough to be conducive to an intimate feeling between the fans and the band.
It should be noted this is a country venue, and they bring a variety of acts, even big-ticket ones, up here to the suburbs (just the night before Texas legend Ray Wylie Hubbard graced the stage).
This night, Hank’s was hosting The Dirty River Boys, who had spent the last week up in Steamboat Springs, Colorado for the Steamboat MusicFest, and before returning home to Austin, these El Paso natives were going to treat their North Texas fans to a show.
At ten on the dot the Nino Cooper, Colton James, Travis Stearns and Marco Gutierrez emerged from backstage, and were greeted with a bunch of fanfare. They may not be a hugely successful band yet, by they definitely have a following, and their fans were out in full force this night.
“How’s it going Hank’s?” Marco asked the crowd while he and his band mates settled into their spots. A few songs in they mentioned it had been about three years since the last time they were here, and noted they were happy to be back.
They cut right to the chase, however, starting their epic show with the lead and title track from their 2011 EP, “Train Station”. Nino added some subtle backing vocals to Marco’s singing, as the two softly plucked the strings of their respective acoustic guitars. It had a little more kick to it than even what comes across on the record, with the highlight moment being when Marco belted out the line, “…My heart’s a broken record, the needle’s singing out here name.”
The crowd loved it, and made it known with some deafening cheers and applause, while they marched on with their next song, which found Nino taking over the lead singing responsibilities, amidst the amazing four-part harmonies they all contributed to. He changed part of the chorus of “My Son”, from “How you gonna find your way back home? The maps you drew and burned and gone…” to, “…The roads you knew are paved and gone…” It was a nice artistic change, and on another note, Travis absolutely owned his cajon during this track. For those unfamiliar with the instrument, it’s a boxlike percussion instrument, and for him it also serves as his stool. He went to town on it, slapping it wildly and forcefully, and it was really something else to watch.
They moved to some more recent material, doing the outlaw country sounding song, “Lungs”. Now that they had done a few that their fans were familiar with, it was time to give everyone a taste of what their forthcoming record will be like. They did plenty of other new songs during this show, and this was one of a few that found Colton doing the singing. He’s got a great voice, and the fact that neither he, Nino or Marco sound anything alike adds an incredible mix of diversity to their music, though there’s still that common thread that binds everything together.
“That was a new song. This one’s an old one.” Marco informed the audience. Most of their songs didn’t have a seamless transition, though for the most part, they smoothly rolled from one song into the next, as was the case here. Marco pulled out his harmonica for “Dried Up”, a beautiful song with some nice hints of rock thrown in, and it’s a song that really shows off what a precise band they are. For instance, there are times when Marco lays into his harmonica in perfect time with one of Travis’s drum beats. Just shows the kind of accuracy you can get when you play shows at a near constant pace.
They even added a fun little touch to it, ending with Marco tacking on a portion of Bob Dylan’s “Just Like a Woman”. “…She makes love just like a woman. She aches just like a woman.” He sang, flashing a grin at the crowd before he sang the final line, “But she breaks just like a little girl.”
It’s little touches like that, that can make a great song absolutely unforgettable, as was the case this night. They followed it with another new song they’ve cooked up, and afterwards did an old fan favorite with a new twist. They kept “Carnival Lights” pretty slow and entirely acoustic through the first chorus, with only Marco playing it. “…So she stays lonely, with her poison inside medicine bottle, filled with nothing but her own shortcomings. She leans her head back, she puts ‘em down and they taste alright. Please, just try to stay conscious tonight.” sang Marco on the chorus of this emotionally heavy song, and then asked everyone a question. “Y’all still with us, Hank’s?” The crowd hollered at him to signify they were, and that was when they kicked the song into high gear with the full band. That soft start wasn’t the only change they made to the song this night either, and at the end they all four harmonized on the line, “Please, just try to stay conscious tonight.”
They got into more of a rock mode with their next song, another new one, which required Colton to swap from his upright bass to a standard electric one, before going switching back for their next one. “Y’all feel like singing with us?!” Travis shouted at everyone, standing up from his drum kit and waving his hands in the air to pump everyone up. He led them in what to sing while Nino walked over to stage left and took the mandolin out of its stand on top of one of the amps. The song that required some audience participation was “Boomtown”, and the fans were eager to join in. “Y’all take the second round.” Marco instructed early on, as Nino did the main singing, with Colton and Marco coming in at different intervals, harmonizing with him. The fans were more than willing to help out, especially on the chorus, “Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey! There’s a boomtown on the rise.” They kept it pretty fun, too, with Colton spinning his bass around at one point, the feathers and raccoon pelt that adorn it twirling right along with it.
No sooner had the song finished, then Marco set things up for the next one. “This is what we call a Chinese fire drill.” he stated, as the lot of them switched instruments. Nino went back to his acoustic guitar, while Travis took the mandolin from him. Colton brought out a banjo, which left Marco with the upright bass. They did a brief jam, just making some noise before stopping and counting themselves in on one of their most fun tracks, “Lookin’ for the Heart”. It really was one of the most fun songs of their show this night, and not just because you could tell they were having so much fun doing it.
There was one moment when Travis, who was pacing around a bit, turned and ran into one of the support columns on the stage. What followed looked like something out of a cartoon, and was very humorous, as he looked bewildered at the column. He proceeded to flip it his middle finger, than pretended to kick it, looking like he was about to get a bar fight with the thing.
Upon finishing it, they all returned to their normal roles. “…This is a country song about punk rock…” Marco told everyone. It was another tune from their new batch of music, and it really is about punk rock, and even has some tinges of the genre mixed in with their alternative/country/rock sound. The mood was brought down a bit as Nino started playing some notes on his harmonica, getting “Union Painter”, which is another one of their songs that tells a real story, underway.
They weren’t done with the storyteller songs, either. “This song’s about life on the road.” Nino told everyone. I was expecting one of the songs off their “Science of Flight” record, which has a title that fits that description. That wasn’t it, though. Instead, it was another new one, and Colton had to bring his electric bass back out for it.
I don’t say this often about music, so there should be quite a bit of merit in the following statement; the song was absolutely mind blowing. Seriously, not only during it, but also for the duration of their set I was thinking to myself, “Holy. Shit.” It was a roaring rock number, and was not only the most intense thing The Dirty River Boys have done, it was one of the most intense songs I’ve ever heard. It was beast of a song, and these guys really made something special with this song that had Nino singing about all the experiences of a touring band, from loading in and out of clubs and all sorts of other stuff. And fitting with the pace of the song, there was a point in the song where Travis threw his drum stick in the air, as high as he could, and caught it perfectly.
“You can bet your sweet ass that’s going on next album.” said Marco, while Travis set up the beat for their next tune, another new one that Colton was able to show off his chops on. The electric bass was back out for that one, as well as the next one, which was their most recent single.
Travis pointed this, saying that some of the people in attendance may have heard it on one of the local radio stations, and if no one had, they could call and request it. Marco started in with the chord progression of the track, leading in to it, before his guitar fell silent. Attention then turned towards Nino, who was looking up with his eyes closed, presumably counting himself in for “Desert Wind”. He and his band mates all came in at the same moment, launching into the gorgeous and moving powerhouse of a song.
“We haven’t done this one in a little while.” Marco remarked when things quieted down, seeming like he was talking to himself more than the audience. The song he was referring to was “Six Riders”, which had a few people gleefully singing along to it, and even if they hadn’t done it in awhile, you sure couldn’t tell it.
Once it was over, Travis interrupted the show, going ahead and apologizing to his band mates, acknowledging that he knew what he was about to do was highly unprofessional. Apparently, he had forgotten to bring a pack of cigarettes on stage with him, and now asked if anyone had one they would be willing to spare. “I can’t breathe. I need a cigarette.” he told everyone, before one fan dug a cigarette out and tossed it to him.
“Riverbed Wildflowers” came next in the set, and for a slower song, it packs quite a punch, and it may well even strike an emotional chord in you. They livened things back up with another new song, which Nino dedicated to everyone who was drinking whiskey this night. That was what the song was about, and started with all four of them harmonizing on the first line or so, before exploding into a rowdy rock song. It got the people moving, as did the next song, which was one they co-wrote with Ray Wylie Hubbard. They explained it was written about the violence in their hometown of El Paso, as well as the border city of Juarez. If anything can give that amazing rock song from earlier in the night a run for its money, it’s this one. It boasts a vigorous music bed, and Travis did some vicious drumming on it, rocking out to the point that the trucker hat he had been wearing finally went sailing off at one point as he thrust his head back.
The next number was done almost primarily by Nino, and that was the pretty and delicate, “So Long, Elanie”. People seemed to like (I, for one, did), but after finishing it he promised they were going to bring things back up, then looked at the other three guys to make sure they were ready. They created a haunting intro for “Letter to Whoever”, with some spooky music and eerie crooning into the mics, before busting into the short, quick paced song. “Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Travis Stearns!” Marco shouted before he got a short drum solo during the instrumental break.
A few songs back they had pointed out they only had a couple left, and now, the night was about to come to an end.
“How many of y’all have seen us before?!” Travis asked, again rising up from his kit to get a good view of everyone. Quite a few hands shot up in the air, while others shouted they had. “So, y’all know how we like to do it then!” Travis roared, continuing to rile everyone up, while Nino retrieved the mandolin. They were ending their 93-minute set with “Raise Some Hell”, which musically resembles a Irish jig, and is arguably their most fun song. It certainly got the audience in a boisterous mood, many of whom seemed to take one of the lines from the song as a command, and stomped their feet against the ground. It also became a fun sing-along for nearly everyone, as the fans shouted right along with the band, “…Boys, we’re gonna raise some hell tonight!”
If that was their mission this night, it was one they accomplished, and they left everyone in a frenzied state as they retreated to the backstage area.
No one thought it was over yet, though, and a small group of people began chanting for “one more song”.
At most a minute passed before Marco peaked his head out from the door, then walked back onto the stage.
“It’s been a long week in Colorado.” he remarked as he got back behind the mic. He began the 11-minute encore portion all on his lonesome, having a little moment where all eyes were fixated on him.
“…I let you down, well, I fell through, but by and by I’ll get through to you. Just let me in again when it feels right…” he crooned on the oh so lovely and poignant song, “Another Night”, which is about a “stupid, drunken night” and seeking forgiveness. Nino joined him fairly early on in the song, adding another guitar part to it, and shortly after that first chorus was when Colton and Travis rejoined them, kicking things up a few notches. There’s also what I think is a pretty profound line towards the end, and that is, “…Lips, they’re only lips if they have no meaning.”
That was the last original song they did for the night, and Travis wound them into their final number. I’d guess it was something they worked up for their time in Colorado, and it was a pretty awesome way to close things out with.
They covered a classic from The Rolling Stones, and that was “Honky Tonk Woman”.
I know this will be considered sacrilege by many, but their version was superior to the Stones. They sped it up more from the original version, which made it harder hitting, and even mixed some very light country sounds into what was otherwise a sensational rock song. I guess the point is they made it their own, and once they finished it, Travis stood up from his drum kit and jabbed one of the sticks into one of the drums (I believe it was the snare, though I couldn’t see too well), signifying that they were indeed done.
I do an annual Best Of list on this blog, running down my favorite albums and concerts from the past year. When putting that list together late last month, out of the 120+ concerts I saw last year, I ranked one of The Dirty River Boys shows I saw second. This night, I was reminded why they placed so high on my list.
They’re aren’t many bands like this out there, at least not that I’m aware of. I’m not just talking about all their obvious qualities, either.
Yes, the fact that they have four very capable singers, each with their own unique tone is fantastic, and it’s only made better by how they’re incorporating more of that into their new music. Not only that, but they’re just skilled musicians in general, being right at home on any of the instruments they spend time on. As for their live show, I’d say it’s one of the best I’ve ever seen from almost any band, being extremely energetic and fun. It’s not even any of that, that makes them so astounding, though.
Is what makes them so astounding is the sheer fun they so clearly have while on stage, which in turn translates to the audience, allowing you as a spectator to enjoy what you’re seeing even more. It’s the raw emotion that’s found in their music and the passion they put into singing and performing the songs that make their shows such an experience.
You just don’t often find bands that put that kind of feeling into their music, and that’s what sets these guys apart from most bands.
This quartet recently went into the studio and laid down the songs for their next record, which will be coming out sometime this year. In the meantime, they have an LP and two EP’s, as well as a single of “Desert Wind” all available in iTUNES.
As for shows, their next one will be on January 31st at Cheatham Street in San Marcos. They also have a show in Helotes at the Floore’s Country Store on February 8th and a gig at The Office Sports Bar in Lubbock on the 28th. And on February 21st, they’ll be back in North Texas, with a Fort Worth gig where they’ll headline Billy Bob’s Texas. And for those like me, who live about an hour away from Fort Worth, I promise, their show would be well worth the drive. And after that, it looks like their next North Texas show won’t be until April 25th, when they play the Granada Theater.
Thus ended a wonderful night in the suburbs. I doubt Hank’s will be a venue I frequent, mainly since I’m not a very avid listener of country music, but I look forward to hopefully seeing another show there sometime. And one of the best things about this concert was that it was over relatively early, and the drive home was a little shorter than it is coming back from Dallas.
A little over a year prior to this, the Toadies graced the stage of a venue you wouldn’t expect them to; Billy Bob’s Texas.
Billy Bob’s is one of those venues that’s known all over, primarily because they hold the title of the “world’s largest honky tonk”. Of course that means country bands are the main acts that play there, but the Toadies brought out the people in October of 2012, so much so that Billy Bob’s decided to have them back.
And with 2013 coming to a close, there could be no better final concert to see for the year than this iconic Fort Worth group, as they ended their sixth year together since the band’s resurrection.
Eleven Hundred Springs was opening up the show for them, which was a bit of an odd mix, given that they are a Texas Country band. The people who were there early enough to catch them though, seemed pretty receptive to their music, which does have some tinges of rock thrown in.
And for those wondering how EHS got put on as the opener, some of the band members from them and the Toadies go back a few decades. Also, they were the band Mark Reznicek started drumming for after the Toadies broke up in 2001.
I didn’t get there until a little later, missing the first half or so of Eleven Hundred Springs set, walking in right as they were doing a favorite of mine, “Great American Trainwreck”. “I’m just another boxcar in the great American trainwreck. You can’t take your eyes off of the way I crash and burn…” singer and guitarist Matt Hillyer sang on the chorus of that short, but strong song, which everyone seemed to enjoy.
They kept things rolling with another tune, probably one of the many covers they throw into the mix, before doing a classic from the “Bandwagon” album, “Why You Been Gone So Long?”. You could tell the difference from the usual EHS show where their fans are out in full-force, since they typically get a sing-along going on the chorus, “…Wolf’s are scratching at my door, don’t you hear that lonesome wind blow? Tell me baby, why you been gone so long?” That didn’t happen this night, but it didn’t make the song any less great, either.
They busted out another cover afterwards, this one being the classic, “T for Texas”, which had an electrifying fiddle solo thanks to Jordan Hendrix, who can really rock out on that instrument when he wants to, and that wouldn’t be the only moment he got to shine this night. Another original came next, with the fun, “Seven Days”, before doing a partial cover of The Allmen Brothers’ “Midnight Rider”. Bassist Steve Berg, drummer Arjuna Contreras, Jordan and pedal steel guitarist Joe Butcher kept the music going while Matt addressed the audience.
“We’re really glad to be here tonight. Actually, we’re really glad to be anywhere these days. Every day’s a blessing, and don’t you ever forget it…” he said, speaking at lightning pace, rivaling an auctioneer. He went on, noting that this next song went out to “the freaks”, listing some of the different kinds, like the weekend warriors, saying something along the lines of how they go out and party for almost two days straight, but still manage to function. The core message was that really, everyone’s a freak in some way. “…It don’t matter if you’re man or woman, black or white, it don’t make no difference. We’re all the same…” Matt added. That’s the usual lead in for what may well be the most popular song they’ve written, “Long Haired, Tattooed, Hippie Freaks”, which reinforces the idea that you should never judge a book by its cover.
It had barely come to an end when Arjuna hastily beat on one of the cymbals, counting them in to what was a true fiddle solo, with the rest of the band adding some background music while Jordan worked his magic. That lasted a good couple of minutes, after which Matt pointed out they had only a couple songs left before getting out of the way for the Toadies.
The last couple of times I’ve seen them (earlier this year and the summer of 2012), they hadn’t played my favorite song of theirs. I’m not really complaining about that, because with all the material they have, that’s what allows them to keep their shows fresh, switching things up. But considering they typically play an hour and a half or so, and this show being considerably shorter, I sure wasn’t expecting “See You in The Next Life”. And then Matt started crooning the song. “You asked me if I wanted my jacket back, you know, it looks better on you. I said, ‘What about your favorite shirt?’, you said I could keep that, too. I said I’ll see you next time, but baby I don’t know when. I can’t help but feel like crying. It’ll never be the same again…”
Lyrically speaking, it’s an absolutely gorgeous song about a love that just didn’t work out, despite wanting it to. “…I could tear all of my hair out, trying to think of things to say. When all I really want to know is how the hell it’d end up this way?” Matt continued, shouting out that final mentioned line as they hit the chorus strong, amping it up from how it is on the recording.
I have to say, it was great hearing that one, and after taking that more serious turn, it was time for them to end on a lighter and fun note. “This song’s called Raise Hell, Drink Beer.” Matt informed everyone, saying he figured some of that would be going on later once the Toadies took the stage.
As it usually is, it was a fun one to end with, and even though I only got a portion of this already abbreviated set, they put on one helluva show.
They’ve been together long enough they mastered the live show, and know how to entertain the people watching them, whether you’re a real fan of their music or not.
They have songs that can make you laugh, they have songs that may make you cry, and they have some that can make you think. All of that makes it easy to see why they are one of the best original country bands in Texas, and they do tour all over the state, often at that.
The next shows they have lined up are for February at the Golden Light in Amarillo, the 8th at Bash Rip Rocks in Lubbock and the 21st at the Broken Spoke in Austin. March will see them playing at Love and War in Texas in Plano on the 2nd, then back to the Broken Spoke in Austin on the 21st. March 22nd will find them at Gruene Hall in New Braunfels, before they play the Grapevine location of Love and War on the 28th.They already have shows booked through next July, and will no doubt be adding more that in the coming months, and for their full schedule go HERE. You can also check out their vast collection of record in iTUNES, and “Bandwagon”, which is arguably their best record, is only $5.99. That’s a steal.
I thought the turnout may be light this night, considering it was a Monday, and also assuming that some people may be out of town. None of those were major factors, though, as droves of fans packed in tightly next to one another, and everyone was so excited even the roadies sound checking the instruments and placing the setlists on stage was applauded.
It paled in comparison to the deafening roar the fans let out once Vaden Todd Lewis, Doni Blair, Mark Reznicek and Clark Vogeler made their way on stage, though.
“How we feeling tonight?” Vaden asked the audience, while he and the rest of the band got situated. There was then an awkward silence as they readied their first song. As it turned out, the spirit of change from this year’s Dia de los Toadies festival was still in the air. Not quite to the extent that it had been back in September, but there were still some surprises and deeper cuts.
“I guess I left myself wide open. I guess I earned that weight…” Vaden suddenly started singing while strumming his guitar in short bursts, getting “Push the Hand” underway. It was an unexpected start to their 73-minute long set, but seeing as it’s usually the second song they do in their shows, it still seemed right at home here at the start. It was also a slightly rough start, though, with Vaden flubbing the second verse, starting it with the second half, “It’s been a long time, a long time coming back…” He rode it out, then repeated the lines at the correct time, though you could tell there was a bit of self-loathing for messing that up.
That wasn’t given much after thought, and if anyone in the audience was upset about it, Clark’s seamless transition into “Happy Face” more than made up for it. After all these years, it’s still those songs from “Rubberneck” that really get the crowd going, and in usual fashion the band played almost everything from their major label debut, including following it up with one of the biggest fan favorites.
They really employed use of the segue this night, a quality I quite liked, instantly launching into “I Come from the Water”, which prompted dozens of fans to start jumping about with glee. “Sing it!” Vaden said to everyone as they hit the chorus, stepping back from the microphone, while the audience proceeded to shout the words at the top of their lungs. During the second verse Vaden raised his left fist in the air while singing, making a few different gestures and movements with his hand, something he had done during the previous song and occasionally did throughout the night, and while subtle, it added some nice elements to the show.
They weren’t about to let up yet, and Vaden and Clark got some noisy feedback going, before Clark laid into his whammy bar. Eventually Mark, who, even for him, was in rare form this night, started viciously pounding away on his kit, as they went old school with a song off the “Pleather” EP; “Got a Heart”. It may be relatively rare to hear it live, but man, that song is the Toadies in their purest form, and this night was unquestionably one of the best songs they did. They weren’t ready to break just yet, though, and Mark quickly set up the thunderous beat that is the backbone of “Hell In High Water”. Clark knocked out his little guitar solos during the instrumental break near the end, doing a couple of strong notes, before Vaden held up one finger, signaling for one more, which was the loudest of the three.
It was already clear this was going to be a great show, but hearing that one so early on cinched it, and I, for one, was excited to see how the rest of the show was going to play out.
“Are we having fun yet?” Vaden asked their adoring fans, bantering with them a bit before they started “Animals”, the first of a handful of songs from last year’s “Play.Rock.Music.” album. “Tomorrow the sun will rise and I’ll see it with sober eyes. But all I really want tonight is you…” goes the first line of the song, whose music bed is accurately reflective of the raw, primal lyrics, which even has a slight degree of sophistication to it (that’s to say it’s a little different than your average songs about sex). The quartet bled the final notes from that tune into their next one, “Mister Love”, which got nearly everyone all riled up again. Vaden held his guitar straight in the air, still playing as he sang into the bullet mic, “…Love, love, love…” before laughing that callous laugh that makes the song.
The crowd clapped and clapped for them, and once it died down enough they moved on to the next track, which came as a pleasant surprise to me. “Little Sin” has been noticeably absent from the two Toadies show I saw earlier in the year. In fact, the last time I probably heard them do it was on this very stage in October of 2012, and now here they were, dusting it off. The live environment is where that song is at its best, with the little tweaks they add to it. Like the longer pauses Vaden takes on each chorus, letting silence fall before singing, “Little sin.”, as well as the “false” ending they give it, stopping, making it seem like they’re cutting it short, before breaking back into it and jamming the outro.
The bullet microphone got put to use again on “No Deliverance”, giving the song the eerie quality it has, and after that Vaden spoke to the fans, setting up their next song. “The Toadies don’t do a lot of love songs…” he stated, adding something about murder, which caused everyone’s mind to be on the same page, thinking they were going to play their biggest single. Instead, they had something different in mind. “…You know, if you want to cut them up in little pieces and keep them around your apartment.” Vaden finished, leaving fans scratching their heads as to what it might be. It wound up being a deep cut from “Hell Below / Stars Above”, “Jigsaw Girl”, and a large amount of people seemed glad to hear it. The only other possible mistake I caught this night came at the bridge of that song. “Laid on my bed, your beautifulness.” Vaden crooned, following it with “Jigsaw girl, my whole world.” It was that latter part he switched around, but it was impossible to tell if it was because he got ahead of himself, or if maybe it was intentional. Either way, it worked.
Having been awhile since the last “Rubberneck” song had been played, they rocked out “Backslider”, and afterwards had one final true surprise for everyone. Excluding their acoustic-ish show at 2012’s Dia de los Toadies, it had been a while since I had heard the lovely “Doll Skin”, which is just the right mix of prettiness and rock.
Once it ended, they chatted some more with the fans, as Vaden asked everyone if they had, had a good holiday. “…Or still having a good holiday.” he corrected himself. He soon announced the name of the next song they would be doing, “Summer of the Strange”. Doni laid down his sweet, dominating bass lines that kick off the song, then swapped to another bass once the song was finished. While that was going on, Vaden took a swig of his beer before starting one of the few other sexually charged songs they have, “Sweetness”. “Cut right down to the soul, to the center of you. I found me a home for the sinner in me…” is one of the many great lines that intoxicating song has to offer, and as it ended, Mark downright killed it on the drums.
“How many first timers do we have?” Vaden asked the throng of fans, causing a surprising amount of hands to go into the air and roars of, “Yeah!”, to be shouted, as people made it known this was their first live Toadies experience. “How many repeat offenders?” Vaden then asked, which of course the majority of the people were. “I like that ratio…” he remarked, before they broke into the song that put them on the map, “Possum Kingdom”. Personally, I think it’s funny in some ways that, that’s still the song everyone clamors for, given that some of their fan base were only a few years old, or had even barely been born when that song hit it big on the radio airwaves. On the other hand, it shows the true power a song can have, and how music really does transcend the generations.
Mark rolled them right into another song off their newest release, the lusty, dark and rhythm heavy “Sunshine”. The crowd was then put in another state of euphoria upon hearing the first notes of “Quitter”, which concluded the main portion of the show.
Demands for an encore started immediately, though the four musicians took their time in returning to the stage, no doubt taking a short breather before the final 19-minutes of their set. “…This one’s a bit of an ass shaker…” Vaden informed the crowd before they struck with “Rattler’s Revival”.
The remainder of the encore was all about “Rubberneck”, and for the first time ever, I heard “Away” done as an encore. I have to say, as much as I like it thrown somewhere into the main set, it worked quite well here, and the fans seemed even more excited about hearing it than usually. “Can you believe next year will be the twentieth anniversary of Rubberneck?” Vaden reflected when the song was over. He also let some interesting news slip; that they will be re-releasing the album, completely remixed and re-mastered. And it was that tidbit of info that caused every Toadies fan to salivate a bit.
The next song featured Arjuna Contreras of Eleven Hundred Springs helping them out with some additional percussion, and as the snare and floor tom were being brought on stage, Doni, Clark, Mark and Vaden had some fun, playing a few seconds of different cover songs, including “Crazy Train”. They made it seem like they might actually play one, and when it didn’t happen they actually got booed, something they all laughed at. No one could actually stay mad at them, though, and that all evaporated as they started “I Burn”. “This song’s about marijuana. Trust me… No, it really isn’t.” said Vaden before the song. It featured some more crowd participation, as the fans were charged with shouting, “We got stupid!”, at which point Arjuna had made his way on stage, and, acting like he had done it dozens of times, violently beat on his partial kit, in synch with Mark.
“We’re gonna leave y’all with this one.” Vaden told the fans, the job of ending the night falling, as it typically does, to “Tyler”, which leaves everyone with a sort of high.
I feel like I’ve said this a lot the last few times I’ve seen the Toadies, but out of the little over a dozen shows of theirs I’ve seen, this was one of the best ones.
Even having not done a show in a few months they were still in excellent show shape, with the kind of chemistry you can only have after spending years together and touring extensively.
It was fitting that they end the year in their hometown, something Clark brought up at one point during the night, when he noted how good it was to not only be in Fort Worth, but also at Billy Bob’s.
And for me personally, I really couldn’t have thought of a better final concert to see for the year.
They’ve already announced a ton of tour dates, beginning on March 19th, for their tour in support of the re-release of “Rubberneck”, and they promising to play the entire album at these shows. Their full schedule can be seen HERE, and more dates will be added in the coming weeks.
“Rubberneck” will officially be re-released on April 1st, and will include some bonus songs not found on the original version. And until then, if for some reason you don’t have any Toadies music, find it in iTUNES.
Hayes Carll’s holiday shows are a tradition at this point, having been going on far longer than just the few years that I’ve been a fan of his music.
One way or another they’re made to be a little different from your typical show, either by having a theme, or, like this night wound up being, a vast collection of songs, some of which you seldom hear. And now, with Christmas done with and the New Year approaching, it was time for him to head out on the road again, with the third stop of this year’s Holiday Hangover Tour being the House of Blues in Dallas.
The first of the two opening acts was Mike and the Moonpies, who hailed from Austin. I had never heard them in any form before this, but I was quite familiar with the name, and was interested to see/hear what they were like.
The six-piece band took the stage at 8:31, fitting the country look with their cowboy hats and Western looking shirts, and they got straight to work.
“Damn Strait. Damn Jones. Damn all you smooth, country singing cowboys who knew what you were doing from the start…” sang singer and acoustic guitarist Mike Harmeier, the first line from “Damn Strait”, instantly earning them the full attention of everyone who had made it out this early. Not only did they look the part of (true) country musicians, but they also had the sound down, with that and every other song they did having that authentic country vibe, circa the era before it was turned into glorified pop music with people just singing about “country” things (i.e. pickup trucks, etc.)
“How y’all doing here House of Blues?!” Mike asked the onlookers, while drummer Kyle Ponder counted them into their next song, a very fitting one for this night. Zach Moultons’ pedal steel guitar was featured prominently at the start of the track, another one that mentioned some of the legends of country music, the chorus going, “We’ll all be with Hank, one of these days. Willie and Waylon and me and Hayes.” So, the song was appropriately titled “Me and Hayes”, and once or twice while singing that chorus Mike could be seen flashing a smile at his band mates, clearly happy to be here.
After a quick pause to talk with the crowd, Mike noted they didn’t have much time up here, so they were just going to rush through the songs they had planned, mentioning the title of their next song, “Puttin’ it Down”, another one from their latest full-length, 2012’s, “The Hard Way”. It was a personal favorite of mine from their set, and was the song that cemented me as a fan of Mike and the Moonpies, partly because Mike’s Southern twang was in rare form on that one. No sooner had it ended, then he began strumming his guitar, leading them into one of the newer songs they’ve written, saying afterwards they had thought they’d try it out on everyone this night.
They then launched right into “El Camino”, from their “The Real Country” album, and it was another highlight song of their set. It was different from their other stuff, being infused with some rock, which allowed lead guitarist Catlin Rutherford and bassist Preston Rhone to stretch their legs and cut loose, especially Catlin, who had a mean solo during the track. And even with that change of pace, they still made good use of the pedal steel and piano, which was manned by John Carbone.
The last few minutes of their 28-minute long set was comprised of one of their singles, “Sunday”, while they wrapped things up with the title tracks from their two LP’s. The first of those was “The Hard Way”, a nicely written song that tells the story of not being the settling down type, while the fast paced, “The Real Country”, concluded their time on stage.
They packed a lot into that short time on stage, which is where having those shorter songs comes in handy, and while they didn’t have nearly the audience they deserved, everyone really did seem taken by them, and they earned some great applause after each song.
I don’t want to sound like a broken record, but to me, what Mike and the Moonpies did is how country music these days should be done. Sure, they’ve put some modern elements into their material to make it current, and even slightly unique, but you can tell it’s still rooted in that classic country vein.
The music was catchy and something you could easily dance along to, and their performance was quite enjoyable, as they kept everyone’s eyes glued to them. I have to come back to Mikes’ voice, though, which is suited perfectly for this style of music, and he demonstrated excellent control over this night, and combined with what the rest of the band brought, it made for a smooth and flawless show.
Sample and purchase their music in iTUNES (also HERE), it’s well worth it, and if you want to see the band live, they have plenty of dates coming up over the next several months. For starters, Mike mentioned they’ll be back here at the House of Blues on February 8th opening for the Turnpike Troubadours. They also have shows at the Longhorn Saloon in Bandera, TX on January 10th, March 14th, March 29th and April 25th. They’ll be at Blaine’s Pub in San Angelo on January 17th, then on the 18th you can see them at Smitty’s in Denison. Then, to close out January, you can see them at Club Mist inside the Winstar World Casino in Thackerville, OK. They’ll be opening for Granger Smith at Billy Bob’s in Fort Worth on the 24th, then on the 25th they’ll be at Gruene Hall in New Braunfels. They have several other shows coming up, and for their full schedule, go HERE.
The only non-Texan on this bill was JD McPherson, who started out in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. Like the band before him, I had no clue what I was in for, and I would wind up intrigued by what went down.
As soon as they stepped on stage it was clear they were going to be a different band, utilizing a saxophone and some pianos along with the more standard instruments, like the guitar and drums, while Jimmy Sutton picked up his upright bass.
They got off to an interesting start too, as they all proceeded to clap, seemingly along to the song that was playing via the house sound as it slowly faded out. Alex Hall brought the rhythm up a little more as he started in with some light beats on his drum kit, before their first track revved up and took off. It was a beast of a song, and for those like me who were getting their first taste of JD McPherson and his group, it revealed what we were in for.
Their style was that of classic rock, and I do mean classic. It was almost a complete replication of 50’s era music, complete with the sizzling piano lines, which along with the saxophone, made up the backbone of their R&B infused sound. They weren’t merely trying to resurrect a bygone time in music history, though, adding some modern rock flares to the music to put their own spin on things.
The second song of their 59-minute long set was one of the singles from JD’s well received debut record, “North Side Gal”. The song was a fiery one, and it was one of several songs they did that had some of the couples in the audience dancing about. And it was indeed exactly the right kind of stuff to dance along to. Following it was “Your Love (All That I’m Missing)”, which lacked some of the intensity that those first two numbers had, but it was actually a favorite of mine. “Has anyone heard of The Bellfuries?” JD quickly asked everyone, with complete silence following the question. He plugged the Austin based band, saying they were great, and that was actually one of their covers he and his band put their mark on.
“You can’t win ‘em all.” he then stated, adding that’s what the next song was about, setting up “You’ve Got to Lose”, which I assume was one of their newer songs, that would most likely be on the new album he mentioned would be dropping in the middle of 2014.
Upon finishing it, the saxophone player set that instrument down, then went back to a guitar rack and picked up one of the extra axes. “Burn it up, burn it down. Let it burn across the town…” belted JD in his signature forceful voice, starting the criminally good, “Fire Bug”. These guys were on a roll, and showed no signs of easing up anytime soon, as the multi-instrumentalist who had started out the night on the sax, now moved over to the pianos, both of which were used for their next jam. I believe it was a cover, namely Bo Diddleys’ “Mona”, albeit with some extra touches from how it was originally recorded.
They knocked out a couple more songs after that, before Jimmy gracefully plucked away at the strings of his bass, creating a nice intro for “Country Boy”. It was more R&B than some of the other stuff they had done, even coming across as being a bit soulful at times, and even though the lyrics were fairly simple, often repeating “I ain’t nothing but a country boy.”, it somehow never seemed too repetitive.
To go with that country vibe they had (lyrically) established, they pulled out another cover, this one having been made famous by Neil Young, and that was “Farmer John”. Like the other cover songs they had done, this one wasn’t a simple cover. They added their own little twist to it, and that’s always the most enjoyable thing when any band covers a song; when they make it different one way or another, whether than just “playing” the song.
As far as I’m concerned, they did nothing better than “B.G.M.O.S.R.N.R.” this night. It was invigorating, and so much more lively than it even comes across on the recording, being truly incendiary. “…Don’t fool around, or bring it down. Just let me dance to the sweet little rock ‘n’ roll beat.” Went the chorus of the song they somewhat tried to turn into a sing-along. It didn’t really happen, but people were fine taking the sort of advice of the song and dancing to the tune.
They did another song after that, and while I’m not entirely sure what it was, I do know one of those few I was uncertain of was “Dimes for Nickels”. They pulled out a new track as their time on stage drew to a close, which was another song that required the use of an additional guitar. So, too, did their final song, “Wolf Teeth”, which brought things to a strong finish.
I seldom feel truly conflicted a band, but this was one that left me feeling that way. Why? Because, on a personal level, this kind of music just isn’t what I’m into. In fact, I’d usually be quick to write it off, and if I were to see an ordinary band that played this type of music, I know full well I’d quickly get bored, making their set seem like a grueling test of patience.
However, JD McPherson and company are far from being an ordinary band, and being completely objective, they were a force to be reckoned with.
I don’t mean to slight the other musicians of the band, but it was JD who was the main focus for the majority of their show, and was pretty energetic when he was able to break away from the microphone. And even when he was stationed behind it, he still had an authoritative sense about him. There were some fleeting, though impressive moments during a couple of songs where the whole band exploded with some mighty instrumental portions. And typically when those did happen, it was Jimmy Sutton, who ended up stealing the show.
Hell, he did even take the spotlight away from JD for a moment or two during other songs, too. He’s a sensational bass player, making that upright bass seem like it was a weapon, and he even had some great moves to go along with it.
And all of that, in combination with the vocal dynamo that JD McPherson is, made for an electrifying show.
They don’t have any more shows booked at the moment, but if you see they’re coming to a town near you, go see ‘em. I know I wouldn’t mind seeing another live show sometime. And give their music a listen. Maybe you’ll have an opinion like mine, or maybe you’ll love it. And trust me, if you love it, you won’t be able to buy “Signs and Signifiers” fast enough.
This show wasn’t sold-out, like I thought it would be, but there were still several hundred people there, packing tightly together as they eagerly awaited one of more underrated singer/songwriters in country/Americana music.
At 10:34 the house lights went out, instantly causing some of the fans to cheer, while the band made their way on stage. Of course the man of the hour brought up the rear, looking just a little tired as he approached the mic. That look was gone after a couple of songs, once the blood no doubt got flowing, but before ever playing a note, he welcomed the band to the stage. “Ladies and gentlemen, all the way from Austin, Texas, Hayes Carll and the Gulf Coast Orchestra band.” he said, the crowd wildly applauding them.
A brief silence followed, to the point you could have heard a pin drop as everyone wondered what the first song would be. Hayes lightly strummed his acoustic guitar, giving it away as being the title track from his most recent release, “KMAG YOYO”. (For those who may not know and are wondering, that acronym means “Kiss My Ass Guys, You’re On Your Own”.)
Being one of the only songs he does that is full-blown rock, and with more than a few blistering guitar solos courtesy of Scott Davis, it acted as a great way to perk everyone up and get their full attention, partly because I don’t imagine anyone expected to hear that song right off the bat like that. The album “KMAG YOYO” was in full effect this night, and by the time the show was over, nine of the twelve tracks from it would be played, but he’s got plenty of old fan favorites, too, and now they went into one of those.
The other guitarist, Travis (my apologizes, I didn’t catch the last names of any of the other members), exchanged his guitar for a mandolin, while Hayes picked up a neck rack with a harmonica in it. Mark laid down the beat for the next song, the rest of the band soon joining in, while they extended the intro a bit, giving Hayes a chance to really use that harmonica. The song was one of many that caused fans to rejoice, ‘cause “Drunken Poet’s Dream” is one of those superb songs. He tacked on something extra to the second verse, a pre-second verse if you will, crooning some new lines I hadn’t heard before, before getting into what you hear on the “Trouble in Mind” record. “…She says, ‘Honey, don’t worry about judgment day. All these people going to heaven they’re just in our way.”
His show had a very tight, cohesive feel to it this night, and if they didn’t go seamlessly into the next song, they only took a few second pause in between. And after this pause, came one of more than a few songs that were unexpected this night. Like the song that came before it, it was one Hayes had co-written with Ray Wylie Hubbard, though this one was the final song from 2005’s “Little Rock”, “Chickens”. It required Travis to use a dobro, while Hayes sang about what else, chickens, talking about going out and killing one. “…It ain’t meanness y’all, it’s just hungry’s what I am.” He even sounded sincere and almost apologetic while singing that, like he really was sorry that he had to kill this fictitious chicken, adding afterwards, “Yeah, chicken music. It’s all the rage.”
That often dry sense of humor is one of his most charming qualities, particularly in the live environment, and before moving on, some fans got his attention, prompting him to wish one of them a happy twenty-first birthday. “I’d tell you to enjoy yourself, but I don’t think that will be a problem.” he said while laughing. They then brought things down a little with “The Letter”, but not too much, as this was a more up-tempo version than what you hear on “KMAG…” That did make it more enjoyable for the live show, and worked well as Mark bled it into their next song, where they really kicked things back up with “Faulkner Street”.
“We’re gonna go ahead and pull out the banjo.” Hayes remarked. “We usually wait until we’ve built up more goodwill with the crowd, but we’ll see how it goes.” he added, his dry humor again coming into play, as he sounded like he genuinely thought some people may be upset that Scott was pulling out his banjo. While that was going on, Travis took a seat in front of the pedal steel guitar, which soon led to another deep cut, at least what I would consider as being a deep cut. There was a surprising amount of fanfare once everyone realized the first notes that were played were that of the slow, but beautiful “Bye, Bye Baby”. Evidently, I’m not one of the only people who really likes that song. Hays can pen some downright funny songs, and that’s what makes him so unique, but it’s the serious and pretty songs like this where you really get to marvel at and admire what an excellent writer he is. For example, take the line, “Now the drunks have turned to strangers, and the stars are out of tune, as I think about the one who might have saved me. I know you’re out there somewhere, between the highway and the moon…” It’s simple, yet deep, and the somberness that can be heard in his voice while he sings it adds a real emotional punch to the tune.
Those slow songs were spread out here and there, and now, they got back into rock mode with the subsequent track from “KMAG…”, “The Lovin’ Cup”, which called for two electric guitars. That fun catchy song was followed by one of my personal favorites of Hayes’s, and one I was ecstatic to get to hear again, “Rivertown”. Travis again used his dobro on this more poignant, outlaw country song. Like the batch of songs before it, they wound it into the next song on the record, which was also the title track, “Little Rock”. The sudden lively guitar chords seemed to catch everyone off guard, mainly because no one was expecting that one yet, but it was a pleasant surprise. The hits kept coming, and there was a near deafening roar from the audience when Hayes knocked out the first notes of the next song. He abruptly stopped. “I have two songs that start this way. I sure hope this is the one y’all are cheering for.” he said to everyone, before picking back up with it. “Girl Downtown” was precisely what everyone was wanting, and it was one of only two moments where just about the whole room joined in singing the lyrics right along with him. “There’s a girl downtown with freckles on her nose, pencils in her pockets and ketchup on her clothes. She’s a real nice girl, pretty as a plate…” sang the fans at the top of their lungs, making even hard to hear Hayes at times. It was a great moment in the end, though, because you don’t often see that level of devotion from fans.
The applause had barely died down when Hayes started the next song, signing just a word or two a cappella before his band chimed in. “Well I’m wild as a turkey, higher than a Christmas moon…” he crooned, starting “Wild as a Turkey”, another impossibly fun track. Once it was over Hayes reminisced, saying it had been about five years since he first got a chance to play the House of Blues, and it had been around ten years since he started playing Dallas in general. He then thought back to the early days of his musical endeavor, specifically Crystal Beach on the Bolivar Peninsula in Texas, and a venue called Bob’s Sports Bar and Grill. “…The name was misleading…” he stated, before cracking that he was the only person there who could play a guitar and sing at the same time, noting that made him a sort of “local celebrity”. “Things were looking good…” he said, as he proceeded to name a list of venues he played down there. One of those was Jeannie’s and shortly after he mentioned Jeannie’s Two. “…Which was a trailer parked one hundred yards behind Jeannie’s One.” he finished, before saying his next song was titled “I Got a Gig”, a track that depicts some of the rougher parts of starting out as a musician.
They were already pretty deep into the show, and they still had a long ways to go, and next came another song that is loved immensely by all Hayes Carll fans. He sang the first verse of “Beaumont” alone, with only the fans singing back at him, “I saw you leaning on a memory, with your back turned to the crowd…”, during which time Scott readied his accordion. The band joined the mix at the first chorus, while the fans continued singing along to the song that’s somewhat about unrequited love.
The night got very interesting with the next song, which was greeted with excitement as soon as Hayes mentioned it was a duet from his last album. He named one singer who had rehearsed it for these shows, but said she wound up being unable to make it. So instead, he had been picking people out of the crowd to help him sing it, noting it started off great, but the night before had been rough. “So ask yourself; do u know the lyrics, and will you put your mouth on the microphone and sing into it?” That was what Hayes told all the prospects who had already began raising their hands and shouting. He picked a young lady who quickly joined him on stage, and after they talked momentarily, he returned to his mic and told everyone to welcome Tara to the stage. “This song’s about the great political divide in America, and how physical attraction and alcohol can overcome it.” he said.
That song is called “Another Like You”, and, as he should have, Hayes nailed his part. The problem came at the second verse, which belongs to the female part. I’d say it went off the rails fast, but they would be implying that it was even on the rails to begin with. The woman he choose didn’t know the words, making them up at first, before just mumbling along to the tune. “I’m sorry, I don’t know the words.” she admitted all too late, while Hayes just shook his head. The audience was laughing it up, as it was indeed a hysterical moment. It didn’t get any better when they got to the part of the song that’s (or should be) a back and forth between the two vocalists, and by the final verse Hayes just started singing everything to compensate for it all. The funny thing was how, when taken out of context, some of the lines took on a whole new meaning giving the circumstance, like, “…Lord, it’s been a helluva ride…”
He wasn’t upset or anything, and like the fans, just had to laugh. “I think that calls for a drink.” he said aloud as she left the stage.
The accordion and mandolin were broken back out for the short, cheery travel anthem, “Bottle In My Hand”, which also deals with some of the woes going on in the world at moment. That delightful song was followed by a sad tale, though, Scott going back to his guitar, while Travis used the pedal steel for “Chances Are”. “It seems I spent my whole life wishing on the same unlucky star. And as I watched you from across the bar room, I wonder what my chances are?” Hayes softly sang, even drawling at times, on what I feel may well be one of his most overlooked gems. They moved right on into “Hard Out Here”, stirring up the fans a bit, who boisterously shouted along, “…I used to have heart but the highway took it!”
They were almost done, and their next to last song was “I Don’t Wanna Grow Up”, after which they brought things back up to the rock mood they had started the night off on. “Stomp And Holler” makes you want to do exactly that, and from the first roaring note it had everyone excited. It’s also one of those songs that’s a nice balance of smart and honest songwriting (“From all I’ve seen you only get one shot with what you’re gonna do in this life.”) and plain hysterical, (“I’m like James Brown, only white and taller.”) and, as it usually is, was a great way to end an amazing 78-minute long set.
Some people left, probably hoping to beat the rush. They were also the ones who missed out, since no one was ready for the night to be over yet, and patiently waited for the encore they hoped would happen. Sure enough, Hayes returned to the stage after a minute or so.
“I say this every night; I would do this whether or not any one showed up. But it’s a lot more fun when people do.” he stated, seeming honestly grateful that all these people showed up to see him play. The first portion of the 16-minute encore was done solo, as Hayes began “Long Way Home”. It was another one that came as a surprise, but in some regards, it was one of the best songs of his show, especially when his band joined him, given a little more depth to it.
Of course, no show would be complete without the lead track from “Little Rock”, “Wish I Hadn’t Stayed So Long”, which is one of those songs that is very fitting at the end of the night. Then, came a surprise.
I’ve caught Hayes Carll two other times this year, and at both of those shows he has done an alternate version of “Bad Liver and a Broken Heart”, which has been more stripped down (if you listen to the song you’ll know how odd an acoustic version of it would sound). It was good like that, but it lacked the hefty gut punch that makes the song what it is. Well, that acoustic rendition had been abandoned this time around, and as soon as that last song ended, Scott fired up “Bad Liver and a Broken Heart”. And I have to say, I felt a little euphoric rush realizing it was indeed the rock version. “I’ll get old before I’m good at this…” Hayes confesses near the end of the song, before soon uttering one of the truest lines that’s heard in any song ever. “Doesn’t anybody care about truth anymore? Maybe that’s what songs are for.” It was also around this time they added a bit of a cover song into the mix, singing a few lines from “I Fought the Law”, which mixed well it.
On that note, they exited the stage, leaving myself, and I assume pretty much everyone else, feeling very fulfilled.
I’ve only seen Hayes four times now, but this was without question the best show I’ve witnessed, and a large part of that was due to the spectacular song selection.
He and the Gulf Coast Orchestra band played everything anyone could have hoped for and then some. Of course to cover all that meant that the man who usually tells lengthy little anecdotes had to restrain himself, but even doing that he was still able to cutup and build a rapport with his fans.
His one-of-a-kind voice, which is at its best at live shows, as it has a different quality to it than what you hear on the records, and his creative style of songwriting make him hands down one of the best artists not only in Texas, but also on the national level.
2014 looks like it will be a busy one for Hayes. In all likelihood, he’ll have a new album out sometime this year (note: this is tentative), and February will be an insanely busy month for the man, as he does some more intimate shows around Texas, and even Nashville.
The full tour schedule can be viewed HERE, but and includes four Austin shows, as well as gigs in Gruene, The Woodlands, Galveston, Beaumont and Houston. He’ll play Dallas on February 19th and 22nd, the first of those dates being at The Doublewide, the other at The Kessler. Dan’s Silver Leaf in Denton will host him on the 18th, and he has a two-night stand planned in Fort Worth on the 20th and 21st. The first of those Ft. Worth dates is at McDavid Studios at the Bass Performance Hall, the other is at Lola’s Saloon.
The last time he did a run of these smaller venues I missed it, and that’s a mistake I won’t make twice. Also, give his music a listen over in iTUNES.
This show was a great one to start winding 2013 down with, and it left only one more concert to see before the New Year.
With the year almost over with, Austin’s own Band of Heathens had one final string of shows to play around Texas, ending what had been a busy and successful year.
Back in August, they played a couple of shows in Detroit opening for Kid Rock and ZZ Top, then in September came the release of their fourth studio album, “Sunday Morning Record”, an album the band has been supporting with near constant touring of the U.S. since its release. They hadn’t made it to Dallas since the album dropped, though. And in fact, I’m pretty sure this was their first proper Dallas gig since playing the Homegrown Music Festival back in May, meaning their show at the Granada Theater this night was a bit overdue.
A couple of great acts were booked on the bill to open for them, and starting off the night was singer/songwriter Jamie Wilson, who is one fourth of the band, The Trishas.
“It’s a good thing they filled the stage with gear. That way I don’t feel so lonely up here.” she stated while clutching her electric guitar. That was one of a couple of jokes she made this night about being the only one on stage, and while you could tell it felt a little weird to her, she never seemed uneasy about it.
The crowd was sparse since it was still so early (eight o’clock), but the few dozen people who were there were instantly taken with her as she started her first song, offering some loud applause once she finished it, while she quickly segued it into her next number.
It was during this break that she pointed out she is part of The Trishas, and the next song she was going to do was one that belonged to that band. “…I wrote it about the time I was a middle-aged man who was unhappy in his marriage.” she said, joking that, that should be fairly obvious. The song she was referring to was “Strangers”, off the “High, Wide and Handsome” album, and it told a sad story about two people who simply drifted apart. It, like most of the other songs she did, teemed with emotion, which was what made her show so riveting, especially since that emotion came from her singing.
As good as the music was though; it was the rapport she so effortlessly created with the audience that really made her set so enjoyable. Like during this next break when she mentioned she had driven from New Braunfels and decided to take her time and do some Christmas shopping on the way to Dallas, stopping in the town of Hillsboro. “…Then I hit Dallas at four, and decided I’d do a PSA at the show…” she said laughing. “…Blinkers work… and they need to be acknowledged…” she told the crowd, adding that drivers could not use so many “hand gestures”. That anecdote gave way to another song, which was then followed by a couple of newer ones.
Jamie noted that the first of these two new songs she wrote with Jason Eady (another excellent musician), and the song was inspired by an old abandoned house she said she saw when walking one day, telling everyone that the house had clearly been vacant for years, yet there was a rocking chair sitting on the porch. Personally, it was one of my favorite songs she did this night, and was just a pretty song that told a nice story she and Eady had created, based on the picture she had taken of that house. “Here’s a brand new one. Like, since Monday.” she informed the crowd, letting everyone now she even had the lyrics written down in case she needed them.
Afterwards, it was story time again, as she told the audience that she wasn’t done Christmas shopping yet, and that all her three-year-old daughter wanted was a trampoline. “I’d hate to disappoint her.” she remarked to that, then added she had also bought nothing for her husband as of yet. “I think he deserves something nice.” she said right after she told everyone he had come down with the flu right when she left him to care for three kids while she came here to play this show.
That led her to a couple of songs from a solo EP she had released a few years back, called “Dirty Blonde Hair”. One song from the record was what I thought was her best tune of the night, and that was “Dusty Shoes”. “…I’m not the trusting kind. And I’m not the answer. And I’m not the one to fix your kind of cancer…” she crooned on the first part of each chorus.
She had used a harmonica earlier in the night, and went to play it again now at the start of this next song, quickly stopping. “This is why I need people.” she laughed while spinning around and going for another harmonica. When she returned to the microphone, she said something to the effect that it would help to have a harmonica that was in the right key. “Watch this.” she said before blowing into the instrument, which now matched the guitar chords of “Little Too Rough” much better. That then led her to the final song of her 39-minute long set, which she said she wrote while she was pregnant with her daughter, with the inspiration behind it being that both she and her husband knew there would come a day where they wouldn’t remember being a family of three. That was where this song, titled “Whisper On My Skin”, came in, giving them a a permanent reminder of what that time was like.
By the end, I had been converted to a fan of Jamie Wilson’s. Actually, it didn’t even take nearly that long, and right from the start her twangy and golden idealist country sounding voice had me hooked.
Jamie got the night off to a great start, and I’m going to have to check out some of The Trishas music now, too, and maybe even see them sometime when they’re in the area. Oh, and do check out Jamies’ solo record in ITUNES.
The first full band of the night was The Southern Renaissance, who hail from right here in Dallas.
I had seen them once before, a little over a year ago, and liked them. Though I’d love them by the time their show was over with this night.
Their 57-minute long set began with a song from their full-length album, “No Better Time”, and the folk/Americana sounding band had nearly everyone hooked right after the first chorus of “Promise Me”. “Oh baby, promise me that you’ll always stay with me. Never give me away…” sang singer and rhythm guitarist Michael Donner, whose voice is purely unique, almost sounding like he belongs in a whole different era of country music. Say, the 50’s or 60’s. He has no trouble holding his own against today’s musicians, though, and already people were succumbing to the infectious song, dancing along to it and asking other onlookers, “Who is this band?!”.
“On The Horizon” was one of a few songs that employed some nice backing harmonies from lead guitarist and piano player Levi Bradford, which was soon followed by a highlight of their set, “Living Free”. “You Really Got Me” showed off the more rock vein the band is capable of, starting with some striking beats from drummer Jon Aisner, giving it a thicker backbone and an all around different flow from most of their other tunes.
Once that song came to an end, Michael introduced a friend who joined them for a few songs. That friend was Kat Wilkes, who Michael noted plays with an Austin band called Sour Bridges, and she had her fiddle in tow. While she made her way on stage, Levi put his guitar up and took a seat behind the keyboard, which eventually led them to one of their most interesting songs, which is also a very fun one in the live environment. I mentioned earlier that Michaels’ voice sounds like it would be very fitting of a different era, and “Old Fashioned Way” truly channels that. The music bed is primarily the piano, while he croons about what it might have been like to have lived in a different, simpler time.
Things picked back up with their next couple of songs, especially “Been A Long Time”, after which Levi swapped back to his guitar for a one off song. “…This song’s called Anna Lee.” Michael told the crowd, as they did a little more upbeat version of the song from their “Abraham” EP.
Everything they had done thus far was some old classics/staples if their songs, but now, as their show was in its final leg, they got to a few songs of the EP they released earlier this year, “The Southern Renaissance”, first doing the more country sounding “Get Away”, which was Kat’s final song of the night. Once she left, and they got the audience to give her one last round of applause, they moved on to the somewhat bluesy, “The Wrong and the Right”, which also had some certain gospel elements to it, and while it was vastly different from the rest of their stuff, it sounded incredible.
Levi got his guitar back out for the remainder of their set, which included a fast paced rendition of John Denver’s “Blow Up Your TV”, a song they put their own spin on, and was hands down one of the most fun songs of the night. “Big City” was another good one, and boasted some nice bass lines from Blake Butler. They took things down a few notches with “Feelin’ So Bad”, before ending their show with the more peaceful sounds of “Tall Trees”.
The Southern Renaissance was both fun and invigorating, and those two qualities were ones everyone responded to.
They were even better than what I recalled them to be, having polished up their show even more in the last year plus.
They’re almost impossible not to like, having a catalog filled with catchy songs and strong lyrics to boot. And not only to they stand apart from the majority of the other bands here in the local music scene, but also from those on the broader, national level.
They don’t have any shows booked at the moment 9at least none that I can find), but keep an eye on their FACEBOOK PAGE. As for their music, you can get their two older albums for FREE on their BANDCAMP page, and their self-titled EP is all too cheap to pass up over in iTUNES.
Now it was just a waiting game, as the final push of fans trickled in to see what The Band of Heathens would be bringing this night. Luckily, the wait wasn’t too long.
At 10:23 the screen covering the stage was pulled up, revealing the five members of the group in their places. There was no big entrance, mainly because they didn’t need one. They let the small burst of fanfare die out before one of the co-singers and guitarists, Ed Jurdi, began to strum his guitar, instantly giving the song away as one of the new ones.
“Everybody’s talking ‘bout how they just can’t do without. They don’t know their ass from a hole in the ground…” Ed sang, the first line of “Miss My Life”, one of the many gems “Sunday Morning Record” has to offer. I wouldn’t have pegged it as being used as an opener, but it worked exceedingly well, acting as a nice one-two punch to quickly hook everyone. And even with the instrumental breakdown they threw in before the final chorus, lengthening the song a bit, it still seemed to pass by quickly.
“Thanks for coming out. It’s good to see ya…” Ed said to the hundreds of fans who had made it out, while Gordy Quist went and picked up a harmonica and a neck rack. Lead vocal duties fell to him for the next song, an longtime fan favorite of the groups, and one I had not had the pleasure of experiencing live until now, “Rehab Facility”. “So open up the floodgates. Let your love down like a needle in my vein…” sang Gordy on the chorus of this serious rock number, which was a truly unforgettable song this night. And speaking of it being a rock song, it was so much so that he broke one of the strings on the twelve string guitar he was using, exchanging it for a six string once the song concluded.
While Gordy was still getting his guitar plugged in, the rest of the band launched into the lead track/ first single from their “One Foot in the Ether” record, “L. A. County Blues”. Most bands may change up their songs for live shows over how they sound on recordings, but that’s one thing The Band of Heathens is known for. From the instrumental embellishments they’ll throw in some songs, to like what they did on this one, where Ed simply hit some different notes on many of the words he sang, making an already great track even better. One of the best extra touches came from Gordy, though, who at one point either loosened or tightened one of the strings on his ax a bit, creating a killer sound that reverberated for several seconds.
After giving the fans some of those older favorites, it was back to the new music, with “Girl with Indigo Eyes”. It’s a good song on the album, but live, it proved to be a whole different beast. For starters, much of the song combined some lovely harmonies as Ed echoed most of what Gordy was singing. Then you had the fact that is was more fleshed out thanks to drummer Richard Millsap, pianist Trevor Nealon and their bass player, all of whom brought new life to what’s mainly an acoustic song. They even flat out surprised myself – and probably everyone else – by suddenly taking it into an all out killer Rock ‘n’ Roll breakdown, where Ed flat-out shredded on his guitar. It left you feeling wide eyed and thinking to yourself, “Wow!”
They were mostly about the music this night, but now Gordy quickly took the mic to inform everyone that, that had been one of their new songs, and they were about to do another one. Their bass player then promptly laid down some rhythmic notes, and Richard soon accompanied him, setting up the smooth and soulful, “Records in Bed”. This one got at least a few extra minutes of life added to it thanks to a slow, softer instrumental piece, while Ed and Gordy heavily repeated the final line, “Round and round and round we go.”, adding an extra something special to the song.
“Philadelphia” came next, and afterwards they, or specifically Gordy, wound things seamlessly into one of only two songs they did from their self-titled record this night, “Jackson Station”. Upon finishing it, turned to another new one. It was the final song from “Sunday Morning Record”, and like most last songs on most albums, “Texas” is a more laid-back song, relying heavily on Trevor and his piano. It may have been toned down, but it was still a real pretty song, allowing Ed to show off a different side of his vocal prowess.
They were ready to liven things back up after that, and oddly enough, one of their strongest songs of the night required both Ed and Gordy to rock some acoustic guitars. “Nine Steps Down” is a country song through and through, and one you’ll love from the first note. In fact, even some of the people who were standing near me this night had obviously never seen or heard of The Band of Heathens before, and even though they were on the fence about them during other songs, this was one they quickly took to. But I digress. There are also some healthy doses of rock thrown in, say, during the long instrumental middle section they gave the song, giving it one helluva kick before coming back in for the final verse.
One of the most memorable songs from their show this night wasn’t even one of their originals, but they sure did a stellar rendition of Bob Dylan’s “When I Paint My Masterpiece”. They added a certain rock flare to the song, after which they switched things up for the next segment of their set, as Ed took a seat behind one of the pianos, and after stretching his legs for a moment, Trevor seated himself in front of the other. I don’t know how many people were ecstatic to hear “Gris Gris Satchel”, but I made at least one. There’s just something about that song, that is co-sung with some incredible harmonies thrown in, that I absolutely love. That something may well be that it’s a very serene, even heavenly song, and it’s quite calming to hear. I was also pleased to hear the one that followed it, as was most everyone else at the room, who had been screaming out several song titles at the band since they had begun, and one of those was “Hurricane”.
All it took was Ed’s piano intro for the fans to identify it, cheering with joy. It’s a song with multiple layers, with the first verse and chorus being slightly haunting due to the lack of instrumentalization, before growing into a forceful assault at the end, Gordy belting out the chorus, “I was born in the rain on Pontchartrain, underneath the Louisiana moon… The high black water, the devil’s daughter; she’s hard, she’s cold and she’s mean. Nobody ever taught her, it takes a lot of water to wash away New Orleans.”
It was hard to think that the night could get any better than that, but they still had to try, and it did get even more interesting when Ed stood up from the keys, but instead of grabbing a guitar, he picked up some maracas an a tambourine. They were used nicely for the first part of “You’re Gonna Miss Me”, a song I’m admittedly not a fan of, but live, I have to say it was rather enjoyable. The breakdown they threw in the song was neat, too, starting off pretty low key, with a lot of the piano.
So far, they had offered up a smorgasbord of stuff at their fans, and now, as they hit their final stretch, it was time to play what, in my opinion, are the three best songs from the new album. One of those was “Caroline Williams”, which Ed added a sensational touch to by singing the final line, “Caroline Williams don’t live here anymore.” a cappella, giving it even more of an emotional touch. He then led them into the next track with some heavy and thick guitar riffs, a very appropriate intro for “Shake the Foundation”.
These handful of songs were the ones they’ve been trying out for awhile now, and I had heard “Shake the Foundation” the previous two times I had seen them, but it sounded nothing like this. The song that starts by discovering a lovers betrayal has been tweaked, and I dare say even overhauled, since I last heard it, managing to sound raw, yet refined.
Gordy and Ed stood facing one another, strumming the strings of their guitars as they fired up the next song, one female fan near the front screaming with glee upon realizing what it was. Not only is “Shotgun” an instant classic, it has been a staple for most of a year already, and is song that sticks out the most from my first encounter with the band. “Heard that you were talking about me. Heard you had a smile on your face while you cried, cried, cried…” sang Gordy, as the song got underway. Minutes later, when the song had ended, he thanked everyone for coming and hanging out with them this night, a sign that they had arrived to the final song of what wound up being a 108-minute long set.
That closing number was the single from the “Top Hat Crown & The Clapmaster’s Son” album, “Medicine Man”, which Richard started with some thunderous, steady drum beats. They jumped into the instrumental breakdown after the third chorus, and it was as charged as they had been all night. The energy they built from that even seemed to reinvigorate them, ‘cause when they came back in, Gordy was impassioned as he roared on the next verse, “…Might lose your house, might lose your home. But I’ll give you back more than you have known…”
Not only was that precisely how a show should be ended, but that was also how one should be done all together. But as they all waved a goodbye to their fans, you had to wonder if an encore was coming.
Indeed it was, and the crowd had only just begun to cheer for more when the five guys retook the stage, not even a full minute after they had exited.
“…We see a lot of dates when we look at our calendar…” Ed said to everyone, noting that they always circle Dallas when they see they’ll be coming to town. “’Cause we always look so forward to it.” he stated, and then proceeded to thank the fans for even making that possible in the first place by coming out to see them. The two songs they had planned for their encore took up 13-minutes, and the first of those was another one I hadn’t heard them do before, and that was “I’ve Got a Feeling”.
It was well received, and very hard not to like, but it was the final song that everyone was pretty much unanimous in wanting to hear. Periodically throughout the night, you could hear a few fans shouting for “Look At Miss Ohio”, and a group of them again asked for the song, hoping to hear it. Their wish was finally granted, and nearly everyone sang right along with Gordy on the first line, “Oh, me-oh-my-o. Won’t ya look at Miss Ohio. Running around with her rag top down…”
I think everyone would have been happy if they had played another five songs, or even more, but that was the one song that everyone, collectively, wanted to hear. And the audience was still in a state of ecstasy when Ed, Gordy, Trevor, Richard and the bassist bid one final farewell to their fans and walked back stage.
Their albums sound great, but it’s the live performances where The Band of Heathens truly excel. This night was proof of that, and they had even pushed things to a different level than what they were at even when I saw them back in May and then June.
I’m sure some of that credit goes to the heavy touring they’ve been doing, allowing them to tighten up all these new songs, and perfect things. It was hard to deny the professionalism as they glided from one song to the next, and the skill they all have as musicians is dazzling.
That’s actually the most engrossing part of their live shows, seeing any of the band members focusing completely on their instrument, and watching the magic happen. Well, that and also how not only are Ed and Gordy incredible lead singers, but everyone in the band has a good voice, and the four and even five-part harmonies that could be heard here and there were delightful.
After pushing the band so hard in these final months of 2013, it’s understandable that they’d take some time off, and it looks like 2014 will get off to a slow start. Ed and Gordy have some acoustic duo shows booked, the first one taking place on January 12th at The Nelson Odeon in Cazenovia, NY. Don Quixote’s in Felton, CA and Main Street Crossing in Tomball, TX will also host some acoustic shows, the former on January 29th, the latter February 19th. Some full band dates are: January 26th at The Funky Biscuit in Boca Raton, FL; February 28th at The Kessler in Dallas. As for their albums, check out their collection of stuff in iTUNES. And if that isn’t enough, they professionally recorded almost every show they play, and years worth of bootlegs can be purchased HERE on their official website.
This was one awesome night here at the Granada. So good in fact, that this was a clear-cut choice for being one of the ten best concerts I saw this past year.