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

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

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

It was a die-hard bunch right there.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nonetheless, I was looking forward to seeing them again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At least this show was under happier circumstances.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At least this show was under happier circumstances.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

image(Photo credit: Ronnie Jackson Photography)

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

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

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

The trio of Andrew Tinker, bassist Jacob Smith and drummer Lupe Barrera (who was so new, he had only done a couple of rehearsals with them) got their show going with a catchy, upbeat number. “…Lord knows it’s been quite, but the music never dies…” went one of the lines from the chorus. As it neared the end, Andrews’ playing on his guitar got less intense, while Lupe also greatly softened his drumming, as the three of them bridged themselves perfectly into their next track.
image(Photo credit: Ronnie Jackson Photography)

One of the most striking parts of the entire night came at the end of it, when Andrew belted out some of the line a cappella. It was jaw dropping. He formally introduced his band mates before they tackled “I Can’t Do it Alone”, which was one of several songs they did from the Upon the Ecliptic album. The song about realizing you do need others to help you along your journey is a beautiful one; and the bass and drums made it all the more inspiring.

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

The soulful and poppy sounds continued with “I’ll Come Around”; and they kept the great flow they had going alive as Andrew quickly strummed on his axe, relenting some when they began “Always Loved”. Another lengthy instrumental break was thrown in, and it turned into a drum solo, with Jacob quickly getting in on the action. Eventually, they backed off it, creating the impression the song was almost done, but that was when Andrew struck with a guitar solo.
image(Photo credit: Ronnie Jackson Photography)

They offered up one last song — another peaceful number — and that concluded their 43-minute long set.

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

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

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

He has a couple of records available in iTUNES, which you should definitely check out if you don’t have them.
image

imageimage

image(Photo credit: Ronnie Jackson Photography)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

image
(Photo credit: Ronnie Jackson Photography)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

image

image

image

image

image(Photo credit: Ronnie Jackson Photography)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, August 15th, 2014 – The Band of Heathens Throwdown at Hank’s

This weekend (well, part of it) involved me spending time up in the suburbs. You may not find a cluster of music venues all within a block or so of each other like you can in Dallas or Fort Worth for instance, but the ones that do exist get topnotch talent to come through.

Hank’s in McKinney was my destination this Friday night; and after four months since their last North Texas gig, The Band of Heathens were returning to the area.

Their wound up being an opener, which I was unaware of until walking into the venue portion of the bar and grill.

Elise Davis was on the stage, and with the exception of her acoustic guitar, she was all alone.

I only caught her last two songs, and before the final one, she showed off a great sense of humor. She shared an anecdote about when she first moved to her current city of Nashville, and she took on a waitressing job, saying how “original” that was. “…‘Cause no one had ever done that before…” she said, referring to being an aspiring singer/songwriter and having to work at a restaurant. The best part was how deadpan serious she was.

She went on to say this final song was a very accurate account of her first night in Nashville, when she got to talking to a guy who invited her back to a party. The song was called “Make the Kill”, and it did sound like an autobiographical account of her trying to get over the end one relationship by having some fun in her new town.

I really enjoyed those two songs, and wish I had seen more.

She’s a legitimate country musician (i.e. not the Nashville style pop infused stuff that currently infects so much of the genre) that had a Southern twang to her voice and her songs actually told stories.

Elise has a few records available in iTUNES. She also has a few shows planned for the rest of this month, which can be found HERE.

The Band of Heathens already had their gear on stage. Everything was set, and after about twenty minutes or so of downtime, the quintet walked out of the green room, took the stage and were greeted by some loud fanfare.

This is a band that constantly changes their set up, and even back-to-back shows would offer a completely different experience. However, their opener for this night wound up being the same song as they used the last time I saw them, back at the end of February: “Talking Out Loud”. The soulful song is such a great opener, though, and the line, “…Hold on, if it get uptight.

We’ve got to make everybody feel alright,” could more or less be considered their mission statement. Gordy Quist aided Ed Jurdi with some backing vocals on the chorus, and when he wasn’t singing, he worked to adjust his mic stand, finally getting it just right. He [Gordy] broke into a roaring guitar solo; and as the song neared the end, Ed added some additional line that fit the night. “…Say it’s Friday night. The time is right to set you free…” he crooned in a rich, smooth tone.

The sizable audience applauded the band, but not for long, as Gordy used his guitar to segue them right into “Jackson Station”, which was the first of a few tracks they did off their self-titled record. Trevor Nealon was tucked away on stage right, his two pianos taking up all of that corner; and all eyes focused on him when he delivered an excellent piano solo after the second chorus. They’re a band who’s known for spicing up their songs for the live setting, and they concluded that co-sung number with a roaring instrumental jam.

“I never meant to cause you any sorrow, I never meant to cause you any pain…”, crooned Ed. It wasn’t a cover of Prince’s “Purple Rain”, though the first verse of that iconic song served as a fitting setup for their original. “…By all indications, we were just fine.
At least that’s how I had it made up in my mind…” goes one of the lines from “Caroline Williams” — one of the cuts off last year’s Sunday Morning Record — and out of the handful of times I’ve heard this one, this was the best rendition of it that I’ve heard. There were an array of very subtle differences over it and the studio version, with the most obvious being the way Ed sang some of the words. It’s amazing what a slightly different tone can do.

Gordy reached back for his neck rack and harmonica, while Ed, drummer Richard Millsap, bassist Scott Davis and Trevor began “Rehab Facility”. It was definitely the most rocking track they had done up to this point, and not just due to the faster pace, but also the piano solo and then the sweet licks Ed produced during a guitar solo. Richard then led them directly into their next number, which Ed mentioned was “about the power of music.” “And the power of the soul. And the power of music in your soul,” he said, sounding not unlike a preacher delivering a sermon. A sermon about the power that music is capable of. “You’ve got to feel it! You’ve got to want it!” he shouted at the end, right around the point he and his band mates eased their instruments over the drums, making it known the song was “Records in Bed”. “Sunday morning service, records in your bed. Well, they’re good for your soul and the feed your head,” goes part of the chorus, which certainly speaks to the power of music. “Round and round and round so slow…” both Gordy and Scott sang on another part of the chorus, and the mixture of three different voices working off one another was breathtaking. During a guitar solo, Ed began to taper off, eventually leading to silence that made the crowd think they were finished, and they began to clap for them. The band revved it back up, though, doing several more rounds of the chorus; and the end was nothing short of incendiary.

The applause rang out, and one patron cheered on “that keyboard guy”. Gordy ran with it. “…Yeah, what’s his fucking name…” he asked, before introducing Trevor Nealon to everyone. By the way, Trevor was completely oblivious to the fact anyone had even called him “that keyboard guy”. The group proceeded to do another instrumental jam, starting out rather quiet, though it progressively grew louder. They used that to get everyone ready for “L. A. County Blues”, and when they suddenly broke into the lead track off One Foot in the Ether, the crowd got excited. Practically everyone was singing along to what is one of their staple songs.

“Thank you for being here…” Gordy told everyone, before saying that they wanted to recognize someone who had driven three hours to be here at Hank’s and see The Band of Heathens on his birthday. Gordy also noted the man was a veteran, and the noise level spiked with that news. With that acknowledgement taken care of, they moved on with the slightly softer, semi-soothing “One More Trip”. No sooner had they finished it, and then Ed struck a chord, playing it a few times over before leaning into the mic. “Well, I should have known better this time…” he belted on the opening line of “Should Have Known”, a song I had not heard them do in more than a year (or the last two times I’ve seen them). Trevor was on his feet for much of the song, methodically hammering away on the keys; and Ed slightly changed one of the early lines in the track, adding in “done” on, “…Other days, we done rolled in the gold…” Their prowess as musicians again shone after the second chorus, when they inserted an instrumental break; and the fans put their hands up and began to clap along after seeing Ed do it. It sounded more uptempo than the studio version, too; and Ed and Gordy also tossed in a killer duel guitar solo. Then, at the tail end, they finished unexpectedly as Ed sang, “Just that I.” The audience wasn’t expecting that, leading to a cool moment where you could hear those who were singing along finish the line, “Should have known better this time.”

One of the highlights came when eased them into what came next, and it was quickly apparent it was “Hurricane”. Several people even hurried in from the patio, where they had either been chatting with friends or smoking; and the limited space in front of the stage quickly filled up. It’s a fan favorite that is usually requested, but by pulling it out mid-show like this, no one had a chance to get scared that maybe they wouldn’t be playing it this night. Considering that’s a cover of a Leon Everette song, it seemed fitting that another cover would follow, and Gordy kept the reins as they performed Bob Dylans’ “The Man in Me”.

He and Ed now traded their electric guitars in for some acoustics, but that didn’t mean they were completely going to slow things down. “Nine Steps Down” has a certain kick to it, though some of the solos were slower, which allowed them to be performed in an intricate manner. “…It’s gonna string everybody in a hang man’s noose,” Ed sang towards the end, doing so a cappella, before his band mates jumped back into the track.

“It’s good to be back in Texas,” remarked Gordy afterwards. “It’s good to be playing shows in Texas,” he added, noting he didn’t care how hot it was. They changed gears and did one song I haven’t heard them do before, and that was “Ain’t No More Cane”. Not only did it feature some five part harmonies, but Scott, Trevor and Richard all sang lead on it, each one doing a few lines before handing it off to the next, while Ed and Gordy were the main ones responsible for the chorus. Ed even busted out a harmonica at one point, and as soon as he had finished with it, he tossed it behind him. Talk about compelling.

Ed then swapped back out to an electric, as they got ready for another track that boasts some multi-part harmonies: “Shotgun”. The lead track off their latest release is one of my favorites, and live, well, it really is one of the best songs they have at their disposal. As some of his band mates tuned, Ed gave a birthday shout-out to a woman named Jill, and then he and Gordy had a momentary conversation off mic. “He was asking if I said the name properly. He thought I said Jim,” Ed said, chuckling a bit.

The acoustic guitars were now back on the racks, and they broke out one of the other instant classics from Sunday Morning Record: “Miss My Life”. It’s impossible not to get into that infectious song; and while it’s on the other side of the spectrum musically, pretty much the same can be said of “Shake the Foundation”. That one had a slick, dark intro that had a thick rhythm section going, and, of course, it came complete with some instrumental breaks and solos. Near the end, Ed even chimed in with Gordy, as the two sang a line a cappella.

They wound up ending their 103-minute long set with the lead track from their debut studio album, and “Don’t Call On Me” was a vibrant closer.  The song was stretched out much longer than just the five-minutes or so it lasts on the recording, though at one point, they took a moment to thank the crowd, giving the impression maybe they were almost done. “…We couldn’t do this without you,” they told the crowded venue. All of a sudden, they recycled the chorus from “Records in Bed”. “Round and round and round so slow… The deepest grooves you’ll ever know…” They did it a multitude of times before going back to “Don’t Call On Me”, and all five of them seemed to be having a blast during that high-energy finish.

It appeared to be over. The lights came on, and the sound guy asked everyone to give it up one more time for The Band of Heathens. He then asked if anyone wanted some more Band of Heathens.

“I’ve got one more question for you. Do want more Band of Heathens?!” The crowd did, though they weren’t doing a great job of showing it. Most of the band had gone to the green room, while Ed had stepped out the door at the back of the stage that opens up to the parking lot. He now poked his head through said door and waved dismissively at everyone, as if to playfully say, “That’s not good enough.” They didn’t make the people wait much longer, though.

“Thanks for being here. Thanks for participating. Thanks for the requests, even if we didn’t get to all of them, we try our best,” Ed told the patrons. Richard had already begun laying down the beat for their final song, and he stretched it out for some time before the rest of the band jumped in on “Medicine Man”. When he wasn’t playing his guitar, Gordy often gripped the microphone, taking on a more forceful persona as he walked about the stage. The lone song from their encore spanned 10-minutes, and, as it usually is, it was an incredibly way to end the night.

The set list was superb. I enjoyed hearing those few songs I hadn’t in awhile, as well as some I never had, and the few consistent staples they do have could never get old.

To kind of echo what they said this night, it was good to see the Austin-based band back in Texas, as the shows in their home state have been pretty infrequent lately; and after almost six months in-between shows for me, this did the trick. It was everything you wanted from The Band of Heathens; and the rock/Americana outfit put on a show that enriched the souls of everyone who was at Hank’s this night.

As of right now, their next North Texas show will be on October 18th at the Granada Theater in Dallas. A West Coast tour is planned for September, and they have other dates booked after that. Check out their full schedule HERE. Also, if you don’t have their albums, then head over to iTUNES.

What a way to spend a Friday night.

Sunday, August 10th, 2014 - A Sunday Night Rock Show with The Circle

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

Talent like The Circle: who was fourth out of the six bands on the bill (and the final local DFW band of the night).

“It’s a Sunday night at the Curtain Club!” roared frontman Don Mills, while his band mates began their 27-minute long set by launching into “Break This”. The song had been debuted when they played here at the end of June, and it sounded even better this night than what I remembered. “Five, six, now your voice is making me sick… Nine, ten, now you’re never seeing me again…” went one of the lines, copying off the old kids rhyme.

“This place is fucking full on a Sunday night!” exclaimed Don once they finished. Indeed, it was; and The Circle had more eyes on them then any band this night. That includes the headliner, who he then gave a shout-out to, asking if anyone had heard of Saving Abel. Drummer Marc Berry, bassist Kenneth Henrichs and guitarists Craig Nelson and Alan Sauls were already beginning “Save Me”, which seemed to build on the energy and excitement they had established with that opener. At one point, all the instruments pretty much cut out for a second, and it was then that Kenneth pointed and looked out at the crowd, making a very metal face as he gritted his teeth together.

It was hard not to notice that strapped to Alans’ chest was a GoPro camera, because with the cramped conditions on stage (since Saving Abels’ gear was all backlined), Alan had been spending plenty of time on their boxes that have their logo painted on them, so the camera had been pointing out towards everyone. “…I want to see some of the stupidest shit I’ve ever seen…” Don told everyone, mentioning they planned to make a little video out of all the footage they got. “Who cares about work tomorrow morning?!” he then asked, making a toast to the audience. It’s worth noting said toast was made with a bottle of water on Don’s part.

The intro for the “The Other Side” had already begun, and now they started touching on the stuff from their Who I Am EP. They came out swinging, but it was with that song — one they’ve been playing for much longer — that they hit their stride. Some fans sang along; and in the back half on the track, Don proceeded to slap one of the cymbals on Marcs’ kit.

“We’re three songs in, so you know what that means…” he said as soon as they had finished. He asked everyone to get their drinks up, toasting all the local musicians. “Local music is by far the best music that’s never been heard,” he declared. Sad, but true. “I want to have your babies!” someone in the crowd shouted, causing a look of surprise to come across Dons’ face, as he said to Craig that, that was a first.

“Failure” followed it up; and as they hit the second chorus, Craig raised his axe into the air for a moment, while aggressively plucking the strings. Their abbreviated set contained one more newer tune, and that was “What Do You Say?” Craig got goofy on it, and when Alan approached him, he started to make all sorts of faces for the GoPro, looking right into it, and even dropping to his knee as he continued to stare at it. They had a solid flow going by this point, as they weaved each song into the next, and the transition to “I Am” was seamless.

Marc stood up behind his kit at the start, beaming at everyone for a moment; and after that heavy rock number, they were ready to close it out with “Sleep On it”. Don motioned and called to Kenneths’ nephew, Tyler, to join them on stage. He handed off the reins to Tyler on each chorus; and at the last one, he [Tyler] sang in a deep, throaty manner. It was fitting for the song. “Get ‘em up one last time!” Don bellowed as the song neared the end. It looked like a sea of drinks for a moment; and then they finished, with enough time left they probably could have done one more. If they hadn’t already done their routine closer that is.

It was a very solid performance, and I swear these guys just get better each time I see them. The crowd helped out a lot, because not only was the room packed for them, but they also had plenty of people as close as they could possible get, which helped create an excellent atmosphere.

Even with little space to work with, they still found plenty of room to move around, still delivering the type of show you’ve come to expect from them, and I think it earned them a few new fans this night. Also, I know I’ve said this the last few shows of theirs I’ve caught, but I’ll say it again: I love how fluid they’re making their shows. Diving headfirst from one song to the next really adds a sense of professionalism.

They’ll be back here at the Curtain on September 20th, but before that, they have a gig at Andy’s in Denton on August 28th. They’ll also be up in Greenville on October 11th at The Hanger. Lastly, if you don’t have Who I Am, go get a copy in iTUNES.

Sunday, August 10th, 2014 - Dialogue May be Rehearsed, but Saving Abels’ Show is Full of Heart

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

Of course, Saving Abel was who a lot of people were there to see, and they were ecstatic when the band finally hit the stage at 11:10.

“We! Are! Saving Abel!” Scotty Austin roared as they began the title track from the “Bringing Down the Giant” record. The four of them who were at the forefront of the stage all thrashed about in synch at the heaviest parts; and it didn’t take long before Austin pulled his shirt off and cast it aside.

“I’m gonna handle this a little differently…” he said to the crowd, saying he had played to more people than this in his living room. “This is like your own private Saving Abel show!” he told fans, mentioning he was holding them all accountable this night. “Now, how about a little Love Like Suicide?” he said while he stared out at the audience and tilted his head around. With that, guitarists Jason Null and Scott Bartlett, bassist Eric Taylor and drummer Steven Pulley opened up what is the newest single they have released. It kept the lively, hard-hitting pace up, and while new, their fans seemed to be loving it as much as they did the classics that were coming up.

“You guys are a lot of fun! For real!” Austin said with a smile on his face. He added they wanted to meet everyone after they got off stage and wouldn’t be going anywhere except their merch table. “…That shouldn’t take long. What, there’s like, fifty of us?” he joked. There were probably at least eighty people still hanging around, probably a little more.

They then worked their way back to their debut, self-titled album with “New Tattoo”. The high-octane number really got the crowd going, and when he wasn’t singing, Austin was speaking to the crowd. “This is a small room. I can see the whites of your eyes!” he spoke, with the point of that being he needed to see everyone getting into this. “I want to hear some hell raising!!” he shouted at another point. Taylor and Pulley gave the song a strong finish, as Taylor was facing him while dominating his bass; and as they wound it into the next song, a fan climbed on stage. The band didn’t seem to care much, though eventually one of the staff members at the venue led the guy off stage, but only after he had grabbed a pair of drumsticks and started lightly tapping on one of the drums. The song they had gone into was “Contagious”, and it was followed with a nice transition into “Stupid Girl (Only in Hollywood)”, which had most everyone singing along.

“We came here for one reason: to have a mother fucking party with you!” shouted Austin, as he proceeded to banter more with the crowd. There were younger kids in attendance, and he noted that if any parents were offended by that, then they just needed to remember they brought their kids to a rock show. Speaking of young kids, it was at this point a little girl who was just a few years old put her horns up. “…That’s the cutest shit I’ve seen.” Austin remarked, adding that if you didn’t think that was adorable, then there was something wrong with you; and he also joked that it was ruining his mojo.

He talked a lot of how small the crowd was this night, and now declared everyone here to be a member of Saving Abel. “You don’t get off that easy. That comes with stipulations!” he stressed, while shaking his finger at everyone. The stipulation was everyone had to sing, and for anyone who didn’t know the words, well, they were told to just make shit up. “That’s what I do every night!” Austin laughed. “…Because rock ‘n’ roll ain’t about being perfect. It’s about having fun.” Tis true. Now, not everyone did know the lyrics for what came next, but a vast majority of the crowd did, and at times they overpowered the band on “The Sex is Good”.

Afterwards, Austin gave it up for all the talented local acts that opened up the show, stating they were music fans first and musicians second. He outright said there are a lot of “shitty” bands out there and that Dallas was lucky to have so many talented ones; then, speaking to the musicians, told them not to let that (the “shitty” ones) jade them. He switched topics to how much touring they have done this year, and with shows in forty-seven states just since January 1st, they have been busy. That has led them to miss their home state of Mississippi. “…So we’re bringing Mississippi with us!” Austin shouted before “Hell of a Ride”. Bartlett showed off his chops as a guitarist on the killer solo, earning him some praise from the crowd.

“I’m not ready to leave Mississippi just yet!” said Austin, more speaking to Null. Null treated it as if Austin was his drill sergeant. “No, sir! I am not, sir!” he quickly spoke while standing at attention. He and Bartlett then stood side by side with one another and shredded as they opened up “You Make Me Sick”. “For real, we’re having a great ass time. This feels like a private party. Usually we have a barricade here…” Austin told the crowd upon finishing the track. They then took several minutes to allow him to introduce the entire band, and each member got their moment when they were named. Taylors’ bass was said to be the thing that made the ladies “shake their ass”; and when he stopped at the request of Austin, then so, too, did the fans stop moving. Austin himself admitted he can be long-winded, and told a story, with the moral being “you can do whatever you want to,” encouraging worlds for everyone there. “…All these songs came out of this guy’s head!” Austin said, pointing at Null. “He’s crazy as shit!” he added; and during Nulls’ piece on the guitar, he managed to break a string.

He played “Mississippi Moonshine” like that, with one of the strings dangling in the air. Before moving on, their manager joined them on stage, and he had bought drink tickets for everyone, causing the crowd to swarm the stage to try to get one before immediately going to redeem it. Once they had been passed out, their manager mentioned Saving Abel was working on a new record, calling it “their best stuff yet”, and now they did a song from it.

It was the following song that was the most emotional one. Austin mentioned he had a brother who had just finished a tour in Iraq, “…It’s the people in suits tell us who to fight. They tell us where to fight. They tell us when to fight, but it’s never them fighting. It’s our brothers and sisters,” he said solemnly. “18 Days” seemed to hit home for a lot of people, and there were a few who shed some tears, including Austin, who wiped his eyes once they had finished it. He stressed that the message was serious, but he did try to cheer people up after that poignant moment. “I tried to join the military. They told me I was “mentally unstable”, whatever that means,” he quipped.

With their 92-minute long set winding down, they had some fun, and Null and Austin switched places. “In my mind I’m a badass guitar player,” said Austin as he placed the strap around him. Null took on the lead vocals, but first, they brought nearly every audience member up on the stage with them. You couldn’t see Pulley from all the people, who sang and danced along to their rendition of AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell”.

They were about ready to end it, but first, Austin shared his thoughts on musicians who took things too seriously, pointing out that’s not how Saving Abel does it. “…Life is shitty, and rock n roll mother fucking rules!” he declared, prompting the loudest response all night. That led them to “Drowning (Face Down)”; and after expressing that they truly would be nothing if it weren’t for their fans (as well as mentioning what a great venue Curtain Club was, and we needed to ensure it sticks around), they wrapped it up with “Addicted”.

Usually, that’s where the curtain closes and the band (whoever it may be) goes on their way. Not these guys. The urged everyone to buy every other bands merch. Not theirs, but those who opened. Their tour partners in Story of a Ghost, and while the locals weren’t mentioned by name, they were included in that, too, because if people didn’t, then “music will die” which would subsequently mean that “rock will die”. “Have a good ass time. We! Are! Saving Abel!” Austin again belted, bringing things to a close.

To me, much of the dialogue, at least that around this being like a “private show” or there being “stipulations” and such seemed overly rehearsed/scripted. Now, I know that’s something any touring band does. After all, if you’re playing a different city nearly almost every night, you can’t be expected to come up with new banter. On the other hand, you can make it sound spontaneous. It’s all in the tone of which you say it. Basically, parts of that just felt like they were going through the motions.

I want to stress, their love for the crowd, the support of the other musicians and anything along those lines was definitely legitimate and came from the heart. As for their show, in terms of performance, it was unrelenting; and I think they delivered everything everyone wanted to hear during their time on stage and did it in a memorable fashion.

They really do care about their fans, and that’s cool to see.

They have plenty of dates scheduled through this fall, and they can all be found HERE. Don’t forget they have a few albums in iTUNES, too, with another one apparently in the works.

Saturday, August 9th, 2014 – The Collective Crushes it at Their CD Release Show

This was a monumental night for me. Why? Well, it marked the 700th concert I’ve seen. Not too bad. How fitting, too, that it would just so happen to take place at my favorite venue: The Curtain Club.

As usual, the night consisted of four bands, a couple of whom I had seen many times before, while the others were either little known and even unknown to me.

The third band of the night was The Collective, and it was a big night for them, as they were celebrating the release of their debut album.

I had heard the name before, but knew nothing about them; and as I usually do with bands I’m not familiar with, I watched from afar.

“Happy birthday, Chad! Happy birthday, Kris! Happy birthday, me!” said frontman Derek, getting all those well wishes to the sound guy; the singer of Krash Rover (who played before them); and himself out of the way early. After all, this night was also about the birth of Inherent — their debut album — and they cut right to the chase with “Blessed Ex”.

They had a strong fan base of at least a couple dozen people who were already getting rowdy and singing along to the chorus, “Swallow this down now, it must be contained… Remember the target and take back my aim. No need to ever remember your name.” Each time he sang it, Derek pulled one arm back and took a stance as if he were preparing to fire a bow. He asked everyone to give it up for Scott, who tore it up on a guitar solo; and as the track neared the end, Derek, who had been moving all over the place, jumped atop their light box, causing a bright light to illuminate his face as they closed it out.

Their fans, old and new, applauded the chops and showmanship they had demonstrated on that song, and then Grego launched them into “Aspasia” with some rapid-fire drumbeats. They were part of the way through that one when I decided I had to get a closer view. For bands I’m a fan of, I’ll be front and center; but it has been some time since a band actually compelled me to go up to the front of the stage.

Derek made sure everyone knew Chad Lovell, and when asking those who did to raise their hands, the sound guy himself put his hand in the air. Derek found that to be hilarious; and he also mentioned they had achieved a hat trick on the birthdays, before stating that this next song was “about destroying your own fucking self”. It was titled “I, Saboteur”, and once it was done, Derek informed everyone they were just going to play “straight through the new album”. He added this next one was one he wrote about his father when he passed away in the previous year. It created a somber moment, though it was short-lived, because this was a band who didn’t want to nor know how to slow things down. Scot and bassist Jake were going full throttle on “All Tucked In”; and at one point, Derek made his way off the stage and out into the crowd, where he continued to thrash his body around as he engaged with some of their friends/fans. There was also a cool moment when Grego stood up from his kit during a quick lull in the song.

“Prioritease” came next, and the energetic frontman continued to demonstrate his prowess as he flipped the microphone in a tight spin on the second chorus, catching it without even glancing at it. “You ready?! Bob your heads!” Derek instructed at one point, while he knelt down on the light box. Bobbing your head was again required on “Calloused”, which was different from anything else they had done, as it was partly rapped. They’re certainly a diverse band; and it was pretty impressive how Derek could go from spitting out the words to singing at the drop of a hat. “When you bring me your disdain you’ll soon discover there ain’t nothing here but pain…” went the chorus, which was sung in a smooth, though mighty tone.

Derek now had an idea. “Let’s fuck Chad up!” he said, before adding they should at least wait until their set was over. “This song’s called The Torch,” he then announced, as they did a song that was equal parts reserved and hard hitting. They amped things back up with “Inward”, which saw Derek starting to crouch of the light box, singing while surveying the audience. He even lightly slapped his face after finishing one line; and when the song seemed to end, Grego ran out from behind the drums, rushing to the front of the stage where he beginning high-fiving people. Then, when he sat back behind his kit, they picked the track up where they had left off. It was a fun moment, and very cool.

More stellar guitar solos came flying during “The Charlatan”; and then came a sing along, which was made up of three simple words that no one had trouble shouting along, “Just say the word!” Derek continued interacting with the fans, kneeling down at front of the stage, but then he took it to the next level when he again jumped off the stage, headed to the back by the bar, and then went out the doors to the patio. A small handful of fans then got a mosh pit going as things came to an end.

“Here’s to being twenty-seven forever!” declared Derek as they downed some shots that had appeared on stage, and then busted out a non-album track called “Repair”. He shared a joke with everyone once it was done, asking if anyone liked Wendy’s. Of course, people did, and the joke he had recently heard went, “You gonna like it when des nuts get dragged cross yo face.” “I was, like, did I just get Puked or something?!” he finished, speaking of his reaction when someone pulled that on him. They did one more, possibly “Manumitter”, since it was the only track they hadn’t done from the ten-song release. Their fans weren’t satisfied with just one more, though, and immediately began demanding one more.

I’ve seen a few shows where the crowd wants to hear an encore from a band, but due to time constraints, they are seldom done. Actually, while I’m sure I have seen a few bands (who weren’t the headliner) do an encore, none come to mind at the moment. “You want one more?!” Derek said to the crowd, before speaking to his band mates, “They want one more,” and as he moved the mic away from his mouth you could hear him ask Scott, “What are we doing?!” “You don’t even have one more song!” one fan shouted.

He then looked at Chad. “When you were doing this,” he said, holding his hands out as if he were measuring something, “I thought you meant something else. I didn’t know you were telling us we had a really long set,” he laughed. Luckily, they did have something left in their catalog, and “T Gondii” was honestly my favorite song of their set. “Slow this down before I come unbound; you’ve got to turn it around and put your…” Derek and Scott harmonized on the first line of each chorus, doing it completely a cappella. The instruments came back in then, while the repeated the line a couple of times, finishing it with, “Put your trust in me,” which Derek sang in a growly voice.

And so ended their 57-minute long set, which made for a show I don’t think anyone will be forgetting anytime soon.

Part of me hates that it took me so long to actually see and hear The Collective. Another part is glad it did, ‘cause I didn’t have to anxiously wait for them to get an album done and out. And I do know I’ll be seeing them many times to come.

They impressed the hell out of me this night, with their incredibly dynamic performance that captivated everyone, and the songs were often catchy, while still retaining the ballsy sound rock music is supposed to have.

Perhaps this was all the culmination of a surge of emotions over the release of their new album, but I don’t think so. These guys have nailed down what a performance should be like, and it’s pretty clear it’s what they’re meant to be doing.

They have a couple Dallas shows coming up next month, one on September 18th at The Boiler Room, and the other will be at O’Riley’s on the 20th.

Saturday, August 9th, 2014 – Dead Beat Poetry Dishes Out the Rock at Curtain Club

This was a monumental night for me. Why? Well, it marked the 700th concert I’ve seen. Not too bad. How fitting, too, that it would just so happen to take place at my favorite venue: The Curtain Club.

As usual, the night consisted of four bands, a couple of whom I had seen many times before, while the others were either little known and even unknown to me.

I was unsure how this night was going to turn out when I first arrived, because I was practically the only non-band member there. Granted, it was only 8:40 or so; and the show started around 9:30, instead of nine, which was when I had assumed things would get underway.

The duo of Lulio Guevara and Brandon Keebler, better known as Dead Beat Poetry, was starting off the night. Their 38-minute set consisted of some new songs, as well as material from both their records, like the opener, “Redbone”. They traversed a myriad of styles, and that one was a little blues inspired rock. “This next song’s entitled Golf Clap.” Lulio informed the handful of people who were there. On the plus side, everyone did seem to be paying attention.

Their best moment of the night came with “La Revolucion”, which spanned nearly seven-minutes and featured a fiery guitar solo; while Brandon kept up a pulse-pounding pace on the drums. It embodied the rebel spirit, too, and the cry of “I got a taste for revolution!” on the chorus was catchy, while one of the lines from the verses, “I look out my window, I don’t like what I see.” seemed all too appropriate for the times we’re living end.

“Obnoxious” was another good song; and after it, Lulio showed off a different side of his voice as they did an intense number that found him screaming more than anything. It was good. He then mentioned this was Chad Lovell’s birthday, and pointed out the man who was busy working the sound for them. “He’s thirty today.” said Lulio, which led one of the bartenders to reply with, “That’s an ugly thirty.”

With that out of the way, they embarked on their final song, one that boasted a drum solo from Brandon, and Lulio stepped over to the stairwell on the side of the stage, allowing all attention to go to him. There was also a lengthy instrumental break they threw in; and Lulio rocked out another, albeit brief, solo at the end.

If I’m remembering right, I think I did see a part of a Dead Beat Poetry show a few years back. However, I think I was feeling tired that night and left shortly after they started.

They gave a solid performance this night. Every song has rock roots, though you got to see how deep Lulio’s well of inspiration is, because they all drew on a vast array of other genres and musicians. In that respect, it was even impressive.

You should check them out, and go see them if you get a chance. Keep an eye on their FACEBOOK for word on future shows; and you can find their music on BANDCAMP.

Saturday, August 9th, 2014 – New Magnetic North Comes Out from Their Hibernation

This was a monumental night for me. Why? Well, it marked the 700th concert I’ve seen. Not too bad. How fitting, too, that it would just so happen to take place at my favorite venue: The Curtain Club.

As usual, the night consisted of four bands, a couple of whom I had seen many times before, while the others were either little known and even unknown to me.

The “deadliner” slot went to New Magnetic North, who took the stage a little after one in the morning. The show was last minute for them. In fact, I didn’t even know they were playing until just a few days before, which gave me more incentive to come out to the Curtain.

It had been too long since I had last seen them. In fact, Tim Ziegler was still the vocalist, and due to his busy schedule, he stepped down as their singer about a year-and-a-half ago or so. That left guitarist and founding member Jacob Aaron to step up and take on the lead vocals.

The band wasn’t complete this night, however. Bryan Ziegler was out of town, meaning they didn’t have their second guitarist and had to perform as a trio.

Before beginning, Jacob mentioned that this was Chad’s birthday (Chad Lovell, who runs the sound at Curtain). The dozen or so people who were still there made little noise, prompting Jacob to tell them that “was some pussy ass shit”. Everyone did better the next time around. With that, they opened with the old standby, “Eleven”. Despite being just a three-piece with Jacob, bassist Bobby McCrary and drummer James Guajardo, the song still sounded spot on. That’s not to say the second guitar wasn’t missed, but they did a fine job without it this night. Having never heard Jacob sing (apart from backing vocals), I was even surprised at how similar his voice sounded to that of Tims’. Even the tone sounded alike.

“Sorry about the delay in getting this kicked off…” Jacob told the crowd while he tuned his guitar. Someone in the crowd mentioned it was Old Greg’s fault. “Yeah, Old Greg was giving us some problems.” Jacob said laughing (that’s a cover band some of them play in, who originally was supposed to play this night instead of them.)

The progressive rock act dished out quite a few songs this night; and after the second one, Jacob mentioned they had “come up from the basement”, saying it had been a year or so since they had done anything on a stage. They have been hard at work on their debut album, though; and after thanking the ten to twenty people who had stuck around for being there, they did another song that will no doubt be on it: “Dedicated to: The Machines”. Jacob began it by creating a bit of feedback as he held his guitar up to his amp, and just crushed it later on with the sheer amount of energy he packed into the performance, while Bob stole the spotlight for a time with a semi-solo. That was perhaps one upside to having such a basic band: the bass prevailed over everything else.

“You’re our test crowd, in case you didn’t know by this point.” joked Jacob, showing he at least had a sense of humor about it all; and Chad had personally thanked them for jumping on this bill with such short notice. “Can we make this look like a show?!” Jacob then asked everyone, adding they were going to “fucking smash your face in,” with this next one. “Is what our hope is.” he then soon added, not wanting to be presumptuous. It was titled “The Watchers”, and like so much of their music, it was very technical and intricate. They got probably thirty seconds into it, and then suddenly stopped. Jacob approached the mic. “That’s the version where we don’t know how to play the fucking song, so imagine what it’ll sound like when we actually do.” Was it a fuck up? Yeah, of course. Still, I loved the way they played it off. They didn’t have any flubs the next time around, and the song was monstrous. I haven’t heard them do anything like this before.

For their next song, they welcomed Deric to the stage. For the first time, they were having some keys/midi added to some of the songs, and that was his job. “If anyone needs any legal representation on the way home, this is the mother fucker…” Jacob informed the people, pointing at Deric, before they unleashed another intense number that probably got some eardrums close to bleeding.

What came next took up a huge chuck of their time on stage, and Derics’ keys were most prominent at the start of the tune. It sounded like something you would hear in some movie set in space, say Alien. It was calm, yet there was something eerie about it. It went on for a while, before Jacob mentioned they were hoping to get Chad behind the drums for the following song, and wanted to give him plenty of time to prepare. The newest song in their “catalog of bull shit” lasted probably twelve to fifteen minutes easy. The first portion was brutal (once the full band came in), while the second was more tranquil, again highlighting the keys. It started to come to an end, or so it seemed, before they ripped back into it. Man, they’ve cooked up some impressive songs since I last saw them.

“…We get so tired of those two to three-minute long pop songs…” remarked Jacob, before Bob chimed in, saying their remedy for that was to just do fourteen minutes of one note. Now they got Chad Lovell up there, and the old Course of Empire drummer (for those who don’t know, they were around from the late 80’s through late 90’s. Well before my time in the local music scene) helped them in doing something Jacob pointed out they had not rehearsed, though they did all love the song. “…I know they’re a little old for some of you young fucks…” Jacob told the audience, speaking of Jane’s Addiction, whom they were covering. They tried their hand at “Mountain Song”, and it sounded perfect.

They weren’t done yet, though, and Chad enjoyed his time behind the kit a little longer, helping them in finishing out their 51-minute long set with one last original number that again required some keys. Finally, at the urging of the crowd, he did a drum solo once everyone had left the stage, and while just a handful of people still remained, he captivated everyone’s attention.

This probably wasn’t the best show New Magnetic North has done. In talking to them, I know they were a little apprehensive about doing this show without the other guitar. That’s understandable; and they did experience a bump or two along the way. Still, I thought they did great.

For any loyal readers, you know I’ve been a fan of Tim Ziegler for a while now (since ’06); and I was just curious as to how they would sound without him. That’s not to insinuate that he made the band, but changing singers can also be risky regardless of who you are.

They sounded even better than what I was expecting; and they didn’t lose any ground in the transition between drummers and lead singers. Actually, I think they gained some.

All I know is I’m looking forward to seeing another NMN show; and hopefully within the next year or so they’ll have an album done. It has been a long time coming, but after hearing the selection of songs this night, it will be well worth the year’s long wait.