Album Review: “Afternoon, and Early Evening” by Kevin Taylor Kendrick

imageThere’s a difference between being a singer/songwriter and a storyteller, and just because you’re the former, doesn’t necessarily make you the latter. It takes a special skill set to really convey a legitimate story to people through song, and while it’s hard to find (at least from my experience), Houston native Kevin Taylor Kendrick possess it.

That trait is prominently on display throughout his debut album, “Afternoon, and Early Evening”, and right from the very first track.

While 90% of the album is largely Kevin armed with his acoustic guitar, the lead track is much more fleshed out than that. The at times fanciful tale that is “Art of Ball and Chain” is complete with a harmonica, giving the song a bit of a southern sound when it’s played, to some rapid, simple percussion that truly is the songs backbone. Then you have the female vocals that can be heard on the chorus, which accentuate the song, without stealing any thunder away from Kevin. It’s easily the catchiest song “Afternoon, and Early Evening” has to offer, and will ensure the album hooks you from the start. And while the remainder of the tracks may be more stripped down, the most enticing thing about this song is the lyrics, revealing what a passionate story teller and incredible writer he is, and that’s the quality that binds all these songs together.

“Stolen by the Wind” is done in the true songwriter fashion, the lone instrument being the acoustic guitar, Kevin playing a series of chords that give the song a underlying melancholy vibe, which is behooving of the lyrics.  “…Oh it’s not that I’m jaded, I just can’t pretend to take part in your struggle or care who will win…” he sings during the first verse, later matching it with an equally blunt and honest line, “…It’s not that I’m bitter, it’s just to preserve what’s left of my memory and my weathered nerves…” The first song on the record may be a great example of his ability as a story teller, but it’s this song that showcases his talent as a songwriter, as he takes a personal story from his life and lays it out for all to hear.

“…Can’t you see, a storm’s a brewin’, behind my eyes…” Kevin croons at one point in “Ain’t Got Nothin’”, a song that traverses several themes, the most prominent of which is loneliness. It paints a sadder picture, while the subsequent track, “Whistles”, is more of a folksy sounding tune, with a chipper melody that will stick with you for awhile, taking you through another small portion of Kevins’ life, allowing you as the listener to feel like you know him just a little bit better.

“The Rider” again slows things down, Kevins’ voice piercing the largely placid guitar notes he’s playing. A at times distant, even slightly soupy effect is applied to his voice at times on the track, making it stand apart from the rest of the songs on the record, as it aids the mood the song is trying to (and successfully does) create.

“The Road” is somewhat of a reflective song, as Kevin looks back on life, while preparing for what the world is like, and in that, it’s one of the most relatable songs this record offers up. It’s very tranquil, allowing the lyrics to carry even more weight, and the words of wisdom keep coming at you, for example, you have the line, “…You lose life much faster when money’s your master…”.

“I thought life had just begun, I was finally on my own. Twenty-two I thought was young, I’d just left my mothers’ home…” he sings at the start of “On My Own”, building upon the nature of the previous song, though this one is more introspective. It’s also more ominous and dark sounding, dealing with the trials of life and the real world, such as the passing of time. “…I’m scared the next ten years will be gone before they’re here…” he confesses with one line, conjuring an image of death as sings of how fleeting time is.

If you’re feeling glum after that track, “The Brook”, a gentle and sweet love song, will relieve that feeling, reminding you that it’s the simple things in life that are the most important and memorable. The record than takes you to “The River”, an appropriate follow-up song, at least title wise. It, too, deals with love, though it partly focuses on more of the heartbreaking aspects of it. In the end, though, it’s not a sad song, but more of a triumphant one.

This nearly 44-minute long record comes to a close with the second to longest track that’s found on it, “Here’s to Hoping”, which is a departure from how it all began. The full band (i.e. drums, and even what sounds to be a pedal steel guitar at times) is utilized, but not to the same degree as the opening track. Instead, “Here’s to Hoping” is another more folk sounding song, whose beauty lies in its subtlety. From tender side of his voice that Kevin taps into, to the often delicate notes of the guitar, blending together beautifully, and offering a perfect end to this record. Especially with the guitar solo outro, which occupies the final forty seconds or so, giving closure to this story.

“Afternoon, and Early Evening” is an album you – the listener – can really get lost in. It’s compelling, and with the songs being so raw, it offers great insight to who Kendrick is as a person, since his personal life, struggles and/or thoughts are often laid out for you to hear.

Quality music like these is hard to come by these days, when so many acts are more concerned with copying the latest pop sound in hopes they’ll fit the mold of the artists who currently dominate the radio. However, substance goes much further than that, because substance allows fans to really connect with the music and have it resonate with them. And this collection of songs definitely resonates with you.

Kevin Taylor Kendrick is:
Kevin Taylor Kendrick, Nathan Quick and Chris Tallman

Purchase the album on: iTUNES

Visit Kevins’ websites: Facebook / Reverbnation
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Saturday, February 22nd, 2014 – Hayes Carll’s Pub Crawl Tour Finishes its North Texas Run

I must admit, I was partially expecting Hayes Carll’s show at The Kessler Theater this night to be a full band performance.

Sure, I knew these series of shows he was doing around Texas were acoustic duo shows, but in the announcement regarding them, there was also mention that there would be some full band gigs sprinkled in certain places. Then take into account that this was his fifth and final straight night in D/FW. This was also his second sold out Dallas show of the week (the first had been Wednesday at the Double Wide), and he had also played Denton, plus made a two-night stand in Fort Worth (and if those shows weren’t totally sold out, I’d bet they were close to it.)

There aren’t many musicians who can play the same area that much so close together and still bring people out; which was why I thought this might be a full band show, because after four nights in the metroplex, I figured he’d be doing something bigger to still get the fans out.

He wasn’t.

Upon walking into the showroom after the lone opening act started it was obvious there would be no band. The stage was barren of all the amps and instruments that are typically set up, and that had me very intrigued.

After all, how good a musician really is all comes down to what they are capable of in a stripped down environment.

Sure, Hayes Carll may mine an Americana genre of music, but he has plenty of loud rock songs that hold the crowd’s attention with ease. Would he still be able to do that basically all on his lonesome? I honestly didn’t know, though I would soon find out just how good of a singer/songwriter an all-around musician he really was (or wasn’t).

The opening artist was Scott Nolan, who was on his first song when I walked in, and at first, I could have cared less for him.

That opening tune didn’t do much for me, though the night would get better; and this guy was a storyteller through and through.

I believe it was after that first song that he mentioned he had made a long drive from his hometown of Winnipeg, Manitoba. He mentioned he drove about two hours, while his girlfriend drove sixteen or so. He joked about that and several other things, including saying he had cleaned up his appearance a bit, getting a haircut and trimming his beard (which was still fairly long) after hibernating for the winter, saying he figured he should look a little more decent to try to get by customs.

As soon as he stopped the on-sided conversation, he began his next song, which was “Shake it Loose”. The bluesy number still wasn’t my favorite of his, but it certainly had my attention, especially when he softened his guitar playing and almost dryly gasp into the mic, “Shake it loose. Come on baby, shake it loose…”

He told as many if not more songs than he did play songs; which I enjoyed. It’s always nice getting some back-story to songs, and even if you don’t know them, it allows them to connect with you more. For example, a lengthy story he shared about his late tour manager, who he said had been the tour manager for a few other bands before he and Scott crossed paths. Those few other bands (at least the ones mentioned) were The Guess Who and BTO.

“…Then he ended up with me, and you see how that turned out…” said Scott, who playfully joked that he has often thought he was the man who (unintentionally) killed Ernie Blackburn. He went on to tell everyone that Ernie owned a backline company, clarifying for those who might not know that, that was company for “lazy musicians” who wanted to rent gear instead of haul their own around. The motto he had for the company was “You Rock, We Roll”.

Since he left this world, Scott said he had played this song every time he did a show, and always did it for his dear friend. I think you can figure out what it was called.

“’Cause you rock, we roll. That’s what you told me, brother. We can do it together, you can’t have one without the other…” he sang on that incredible song, which was the one that won me over. Considering it was just him, his guitar and harmonica, it was loud and it was rocking; and knowing that story behind it made it pretty deep.

Another story he told was about Folsom Prison, where he was invited to a singer/songwriter workshop a few years back. He mentioned his cousin spent most of the last twenty years of his life in that prison, and he was the first person/inmate to mix all of the cultures of the inmates into one room, finding a common ground in music.

Scott noted what a really amazing thing it was, seeing Bloods, Crips, members of the Mexican Mafia, white supremacists and others co-existing together and getting along while they played music. It goes to show what true power music does have, and even now you could tell Scott was humbled and amazed by his experience there.

That may have been the neatest story he shared, but the best one came when he said he came home one day to his girlfriend and one of her friends drinking red wine. They had been doing that for awhile, and shortly after switched to something else (tequila maybe? I don’t remember for sure.) “So I did what any sensible man would do.” he said, “I joined in.”

His girlfriend’s friend brought up the game of Twister, which he pointed out was apparently responsible for a lot of the divorcees in the 70’s, “Including my own parents.” he said, making it hard to tell if he was being serious or perhaps joking.

To make a Twister board he got several albums and placed them on the floor, while a corkscrew acted as the spinner. I don’t remember what the albums were, though he said he put a lot of thought into it, naming some of them and even where he placed them.

One was an album by Bobby Bare, and Scott mentioned he had made friends with Bobby Bare Jr., whom he told this story to. “…And eventually I got a note from Bobby Bare (Sr.) that just said, ‘You’re welcome, kid.”

Aptly, the song was titled “Twister”, and it was as hilarious as you would expect. “For my Christian neighbors, I pull the curtains tight. If this is wrong, I don’t want to be right…” he crooned on the short track.

I might not have been sure at first, but Scott Nolan was a great singer/songwriter, and his 36-minutes on stage seemed to pass by too quickly.

If you get a chance, go see one of his shows. He’s highly entertaining, and in more aspects than just being a talented musician. At the very least, check out his music in iTUNES (also HERE). You’ll be glad you did, especially if you’re a fan of the singer/songwriter genre.

With his set being done, all that was left now was to wait for Hayes Carll to take the stage, which happened about half an hour later.

It was 9:06 when the lights dimmed and Scott Nolan returned to the stage; this time to backup his friend Hayes Carll. All the fanfare went to Hayes Carll, of course. A lot of it may have been because the room at The Kessler is more intimate, but the noise level earsplitting. I mean, I had been to a show a couple nights before this at a venue and a crowd that was much larger than this, and that specific band didn’t even get near the reaction Mr. Carll did this night.

Like I said, part of that surely has to do with the size of the room, but on the other hand, he is just that loved.

It was anyone’s guess as to what would come first, either a song or a story. It wound up being the former, as he picked up his acoustic guitar and lightly plucked the strings, eventually starting the chords for “Beaumont”, which was greeted with almost as much applause as Hayes had gotten.

“The night was feelin’ lucky, so I asked you to dance, and the way you looked up at me made me think I had a chance. When I put my arms around you, I knew you weren’t given in. I hope it will be different if I pass this way again.” he sang on the second verse of this tale of semi-heartache, while the fans acted as his backing vocalists, singing every word along with him. It was never overpowering of what he was doing, but more just added a nice echo effect to it all.

“Welcome to The Kessler…” he said once that classic had concluded. His talk quickly turned to Scott Nolan, who sit on the seat he had earlier, with a guitar in hand and keyboard at his side. “I’m sure Scott already told y’all about the long drive he made…” Hayes said, before the conversation took another turn, this time to Winnipeg. “…The last time I was there, it was forty-two degrees below…” said Hayes, which made me shiver just hearing about temperatures that cold.

“When you have to go, you have to question the safety of it…” he added, putting his own unique perspective on things, reminding everyone that even in when it gets cold in Texas, that’s never a real concern. “I mean, there are lots of guys walking around as eunuchs up there, and you’re like, ‘Well, what happened?’ and they say, ‘Well, I had to take piss and it took longer than expected.”

A few minutes was all it took for the comedy portion of the show to get into full swing, and there was still plenty of it to come.

“So, this is night ten of my Pub Crawl Tour…” said Hayes, joking in his dry sense of humor that he was just “getting lazy” since he was doing these as acoustic duo gigs. “Basically, I just pick one town and then play five shows there.” he quipped, pointing out he had done five shows down in Austin, before bringing it up here to North Texas.

He then mentioned his Double Wide gig, specifically speaking about the venue when he said it was “similar” to The Kessler. That other venue is great, and it’s the best of the best as far as dive bars go, and I was curious how he was going to draw a comparison between it and the elegant listening room that is The Kessler. He paused for a second after saying it was “similar”, then carried on, “In almost no way at all.”

He had already been talking longer than he had played music thus far (not that anyone minded it), but he was due for another song now, and busted out another from 2008’s “Trouble In Mind”, “Wild as a Turkey”.

Afterwards, came a block of new songs. In fact, the only new songs he did were all strung together here, and Hayes made clear that the first of these new ones “wasn’t for everyone”. “Actually, I don’t know if it’s for anyone.” He added, saying he could handle any criticisms people might have.

“I used to want to get with you.” he sang at the start; taking a strategic pause to let the crowd react. Nearly everyone was cheering over the subject matter, and then he continued with the next line, “But now I want to get with your daugh-ter.” he crooned, again pausing afterwards. Some people still hollered back at him, liking the lyrics even more now that he had said that, while others quietly laughed and shook their heads. “Yeah, that’s usually where I lose people…” he remarked, his dry sense of humor again coming in handy.

It was classic Hayes, having moments like that where you couldn’t help but laugh, and others that were flat-out honest. I’m sure I’m paraphrasing this, but part of the chorus was something like, “Maybe you should just stop asking questions to things you don’t want to know.”

The next new song was about his ten-year-old son. “He’s a magician. Not a musician, a magician…” Hayes pointed out, making sure everyone heard him correctly, saying it’s kind of hard as a parent when your child tells you they want to be a magician. “He’s also into cake decorating.” he said, as if to say it only got worse.

He talked about when his son first started trying all the tricks that he would quickly call him out on it and tell him he could see what he was doing. “He has tiny hands.” he suddenly said, sending the audience into a roaring fit of laughter, which only intensified when he thought about it for a second and admitted, “…I was a dick about it.”

There’s a silver lining to the story, though, and it’s that his son stuck it out, never paying attention to any discouraging words, and has gotten pretty good at it. So good in fact, that he got asked to join the Austin Association of Magicians (or something like that). The audience applauded that feat. “Oh, you’ve heard of them?” Hayes answered surprisingly. “They’re an ancient, mystic society that meets every other Monday at the International House of Pancakes.”

The song is called “Magic Kid”, and not only is a lovely song that a father wrote for his son, but it’s also an uplifting song for anyone, with a core message of just being yourself, finding something you like and enjoy and sticking with it, regardless of what anyone says or thinks.

With those two out of the way, Hayes mentioned that these new songs were going in the “reverse order of life”. The first one being about when your older, while “Magic Kid” was about a young kid. Now, the focus was going to shift to something a little more serious, and Hayes set up the next one as being a song about “losing your significant other to someone else”.

“I don’t know all the words, but we’ll get as far as we can.” he mentioned right before starting the track that sounded like it be another classic Hayes Carll song. It was, but not in the way everyone had first thought.

The first line of the second verse was something like, “Things have changed since he moved in…”, and he continued singing, “…He poots, you think it’s cute. I poot, you leave the room…”

Are you getting this yet? Yes, Hayes Carll has again proved his songwriting genius by crafting a track about losing one’s wife to the child y’all had together. “My baby took my baby away…” went a line from the chorus.

I was in near tears on that one from laughing so hard and I think more than a few people were in the same boat, because bursts of laughter could be heard all throughout the song, while he sang it with a straight face. I’m being dead serious when I say that song was genius (it’s on the same level as that old hit “She Left Me for Jesus”), and if it doesn’t make the cut on his next album I’ll be very upset, because it’s one of the greatest things that has ever been written, and not just by him.

“I’m realizing three of these songs won’t be popular with ladies.” he confessed after that one. “I have songs for ladies…” he continued, but noted those were more for the guys, or any woman who might have a sense of humor for situations like that. (That’s possible for two of those songs, though I don’t imagine many, if any woman would find a song about wanting to basically “upgrade” from her to her daughter funny. Maybe I’m wrong, though.)

So, now that those three stage of live had been covered there was only one left: conception.

Hayes mentioned that subject matter of this next song was something that has never happened to him “I’ve played this song one hundred and seventy-four times…” he said, making a point as to how rare an event this is.

I already knew what song this had to be, and I was excited, because the only other time I had heard him do it was the first show of his I ever say, almost two years ago at the Homegrown Music Festival in Dallas. He then mentioned the name of the song which was “One Bed, Two Girls, Three Bottles of Wine”.

Apparently, he didn’t want Scott Nolan being the only guy who did a song about having a threesome.

“…I’ll be your boy, your toy to torture, touch and teach me. So, Sandra tied me up as Sally laid me down…” he sang, before getting to the brilliant chorus, “…While I’m kissing hers, the others loving mine. If the devil is watching, he thinks I’m doing fine…” It only got better on the second verse “…Whoo-wee, someone’s chewing on my knee… Oh flip, they’re playing with my…” he stepped back from the mic at that last part, leaving it up to the audience to infer what the next word would have been.

Things slowed down on the instrumental break, as Hayes stated he kept hoping that “life will imitate art”. He then elaborated on that. “I write songs about beer. People bring me beer. I write songs about drugs. People will sometimes slip me drugs. I write a song about a three-way. Nothing.” he said, acting perplexed by it all.

As funny as the song is though, the best part is the realistic approach it takes, with the hero of the story more or less cracking under the pressure.  “…For five minutes I was king of all I see, and then the end came sooner than expected…” Hayes sang, going on to mention he wished he had paid more attention to adult movies during his teen years, so he’d know how to handle such a “unique and surprisingly complicated situation”, and which point he’s left to watch as the girls continued without him.

Man, that was great. I have to say, I liked the way the show started, but I was still on the fence as to how it might play out, but those new tracks squashed the doubt I had.

After those few fun(ny) songs, it was time to bring the mood back down, and “Chances Are” was the perfect song to do that. “…Every heart has got a story, mine just has a few more scars. But they could heal if you would hold me and tell me what my chances are.” sang Hayes on the somber tune, a tune that bleeds heartache with every word and every note, which is precisely what makes it so good.

It was time for another story now, as Hayes mentioned that it was Scott Nolan who wrote this next song, a staple of his. “…I try to give credit where credit is due whenever I can…”  Hayes said, as he went on to relay a story Scott had told him about some of his more recent shows where he opened up with this song that he wrote, and later had people from the crowd come up to him and ask, “Why did you open with a Hayes Carll song?”

“And you shouldn’t. You should never open with a Hayes Carll song.” joked Hayes. The conversation than took a different turn, when he went into a little tale about being up in Canada with a friend (I don’t remember who he said he was with) and his friend got invited to the “Canadian equivalent of the White House”. Hayes tagged along with him, and mentioned there were all these intimidating armed guards outside the place, when he happened to realize he had forgotten his passport.

“…So I grabbed one of my CD’s and was like, ‘This has my picture on it. This is me…” he said, as he attempted to get them to let him in. He said they stared at for just a second, then looked at him, said “Okay. Go on.” and motioned him in.

“Canadians.” Hayes simply said, sounding amazed by their kind and trusting nature.

By that time, I had almost forgotten they had even talked about a song that Scott had written. Apparently, I owe Mr. Scott Nolan a big thank you, because he wrote what is my favorite Hayes Carll song.

Hayes played some notes on his harmonica and plucked at his guitar, before singing, “Arkansas; my head hurts. I’d love to stick around and maybe make it worse. I’ve got a girl out in Henrietta, and her love is like tornado weather…” Hays sang on the slowed down version of “Bad Liver and a Broken Heart”. “Indian summer: Oklahoma sunset. If there’s a nicer place I haven’t been there yet…” sang Scott, who handled the second verse of his song. The added a nice dynamic to it, especially since Scott has such a standout and unique sound to his voice. The fans then took it upon to help out on the last verse, lightly singing along with Hayes who had taken back over. “…Doesn’t anybody care about truth anymore? I guess maybe that’s what songs are for. You’re the wind, and I’m on fire. In this line of work no one retires. Come in clean, leave torn apart. A bad liver and a broken heart…” everyone sang.

Little did the fans know, they weren’t done singing along just yet. “Drunken Poet’s Dream” is another fan favorite, and the crowd got a little riled up upon hearing. Hayes even added a few extra lines to the start of the second verse, one of which was “…She tastes like pills and cheap cologne…”

That’s one song he co-wrote with his friend and Texas music legend Ray Wylie Hubbard, whom he spoke of now, mention what a huge admirer he is of Mr. Hubbard and followed him around quite a bit in his younger days before befriending him.

For their first co-write together Hayes said he got to Ray’s place and asked him what he had been writing about lately. “Farm animals.” Hubbard answered. Hayes noted that, that was an “unexplored” style of songwriting for him. “…I usually write about drugs and alcoholism…” he said, rattling off several other topics that his music has covered, none of which had been farm animals.

“And Ray Wylie Hubbard was just killing it with farm animal songs. Let’s see, he’s got songs about goats, cows, pigs…” he said, listing off a whole menagerie of creatures. He even mentioned Ray’s song “Snake Farm” and sang a line or two from it.

“…Now, you can call me a sellout… but I’m paying my bills…” said Hayes, talking about all the companies that used that song.

Well, none of that actually happened (the being rich part at least). With that, he and Scott started the final track from his “Little Rock” album, “Chickens”, which was the only song he did from that record this night. Scott stole show during it, tearing into an incredible guitar solo that left everyone’s mouth agape, while they cheered his prowess as a guitarist.

Afterwards, Hayes went even further back than that 2005 album. He mentioned that this next song was one of the first he ever wrote, and it was the first one of his songs that someone ever covered.

The band he said that covered it was a duo with a female singer, while the guy played a flute; making them sound like they were an interesting act to say the least. Also, to stick with “artistic integrity”, the woman sang the song from a “lesbian perspective”.

He then started the tune and the fans cheered with glee. “I have another song that starts like this.” Hayes quickly stated. That’s a line I’ve heard the last three times I’ve seen him, and he always plays the song that everyone new and was expecting. Tonight, it was a different story.

He did the title track from his debut album, “Flowers and Liquor”. It has held up well against his other, newer music, and one line, “…I’m getting excited, I hope I’m invited. I want to spend the night with you.” is still pure Hayes, even twelve years after that debut album dropped.

He rolled the end of that one right into the title track from his current LP, “KMAG YOYO”. It’s a song you would think would sound good acoustic, but surprisingly, it did. Actually, it was great in this format. Lyrically it’s closer to being a rap (really) and given the fact that he was setting his own pace on it this time, Hayes seemed to do it just a hair quicker than it’s performed at the full band shows.

He made a switch to an electric guitar for the next couple of songs; playing some notes as the fans wondered what was coming next. He played a brief lead in to the song, before finally getting to the all too recognizable notes of “I Got a Gig”, a song that chronicles his adventures of starting out as a musician and all the dive bars you have to play while paying your dues.

Upon finishing it, Hayes pointed out it had been something like five years since he and Scott had played together like they were at the moment, and he congratulated him for being so great “on the fly”. Now that impressed me, because I figured there had been some type of rehearsal done. Nope, he was just winging it, and you never would have guessed it.

“…Drinking beers is about the only thing I can do anymore without practice…” Hayes said, again using his deadpan delivery of humor. But to make sure Scott didn’t feel signaled out by that, Hayes told everyone he was going to put himself in similar shows and do a song he seldom plays.

“Don’t Let Me Fall” was the song he did, which is a solid little track from “Trouble In Mind”, and I enjoyed getting to hear it live.

After switching back to his acoustic guitar, Hayes announced he was going to do a song by his friend. Everyone already knew what was coming, but Hayes confirmed it by saying it was a song about why it’s a good idea for traveling musicians to carry a Bible on their dashboard. Aptly, the song is called “Bible On the Dash”, and it tells a very entertaining story about how you can get out any trouble you might run into (i.e. police officers, border stops, etc.) by simply having a copy of the good book with you.

How good the night get any better than that? Well, there was still the greatest duet ever written to do, though I skeptical how this might turn out.

Hayes said at some of these shows he had done both the male and female parts, but opted to start bringing fans on stage to sing with him to give it more of a vibe. When he did this is Dallas for his Holiday Hangover Tour, it was a disaster (see HERE), hence why I was skeptical as to how this might go.

He then went into a story about one of the Fort Worth shows he had played a night or two before, where there were “five thousand people” out in the crowd. He asked for a volunteer, and one woman was almost “falling over the barricade” as he put it, trying to be picked.

“…Will you put your lips to the microphone and sing clearly?” was one of the questions he asked her, and she said yes to all of them.

“…Minutes are going by. I mean I have a cigarette and a beer in my hand just waiting. Five thousand people there, all waiting for her to get up on stage. So, she gets up there… and her name’s like, Sally or something like that. So I’m, ‘Sally, are you ready?” “Ready for what?” she responded. “To sing!” Hayes said he told her. “We just talked about when you were right out there!” “Oh, I’m not gonna sing or nothing.” she answered.

Granted, some of that was probably slightly embellished, but it made for one helluva story. So, when Hayes did chose a woman to join him, he made sure to tell her that if this didn’t go well he’d have to ask that she ;eave the show without a refund. “No pressure or anything.” he added.

It seemed like it was going to be a disaster when she got on stage and was in a slight state of disbelief when she realized she didn’t even get the lyrics “like at karaoke”. “This song’s about the great political divide in America.” Hayes said, still starting “Another Like You” regardless of what direction this might go.

He, of course, nailed his part, while the moment of truth came when it got to the first female part of the song, and the woman (whose name I sadly don’t remember) looked pretty sheepish up there. “You were falling like the Alamo. Drinking fast and talking slow…” she sang; instantly sending the sold out crowd into a deafening roar as they let her know how much they liked it.

I’m assuming she is by no means a professional singer, and given that, she had an astounding voice. I mean, wow! She sang it all very well too, and I  think there were maybe just a few words at one point she forgot, but sung something else that still fit before getting back on track.

They even had a good chemistry going on the back and forth part as Hayes and her looked at one another. “Well, you’re probably a democrat.” she sang, as he remarked while they kept alternating, “Well, what the hell is wrong with that?” “Nothing if you’re Taliban.” “Well, I bet you slept with half the south.” “Oh, don’t you ever shut your mouth?”

This was redemption for that other Dallas show I mentioned, and she sang the song flawlessly.

Soon after she left the stage, Hayes started another song that was nearly unrecognizable as an acoustic song, and that was the closer for his 88-minute long set, “Stomp And Holler”. It still had a nice kick to it, though, and was still a fitting final song. “…From all I’ve seen, you only get one shot at what you’re gonna do in this life…” he sang, before getting to the line that was on the shirt I happened to be wearing, “I’m like James Brown only white and taller…”, which is followed  with, “And all I wanna do is stomp and holler.”

The fans were taking the song title to heart, stomping and hollering right along with him, before some of those who were seated gave him a standing ovation as he and Scott left the stage.

That couldn’t be it, though; surely not. Okay, there were some songs that he probably wouldn’t do this night because they wouldn’t best fit the acoustic vibe, but I could think of at least one more he had to play.

He wasn’t gone anytime when he returned to the stage. “I say this every night. I would do this every night if people showed up or not, but it’s a helluva lot more fun when people do.” He told his fans, being truly humbled that this many people had come out to see him this night.

He was alone for this one, and soon began the 7-minute long encore portion with a song I was expecting, “Grateful For Christmas”.

Sure, he had sung plenty of gloomy songs this night about unrequited love or having your heart broken by one circumstance or another, but the most poignant song of the night was this one.

It still has that certain Hayes Carll charm, like in the line, “Lord, what I’d give for one good looking cousin.” but it’s far from being a happy song. Instead, it goes through all the stages of Christmas you have in your life. When you’re a kid, the holiday is (usually) a big family affair, probably traveling somewhere (in this case Waco) where your grandparents live, surrounded by aunts, uncles and cousins galore. Then you lose a grandparent, and the get together gets a little smaller; more with your immediate family.

“Hey mom, how you doing? Yeah, I miss him too…” he sang on the final verse, which deals with the loss of a parent, along with having to share the holiday between your family and your spouses.

It really brought a little tear to your eye, and while I don’t listen to it often on the record, it is a song that cuts right to the bone. It’s a good thing, though, because it’s a song that reaffirms a way of thinking I’ve had for many years now: savor the small things in life and enjoy every second you spend with anyone you care for. Be it family, friends or whatever, because they won’t always be there, and just because something has been one way for most of your life (like Christmas), doesn’t mean it always will be. Point is, there is a lesson in this song, and it’s one that should be taken to heart.

So, after killing the happy mood with that one, it was time to end on a positive note.

Scott rejoined him for this last number, which again had fans ecstatic when they heard the opening chords. Remember that song earlier where I said Hayes mentioned he has two songs that start the same way. Well, “Girl Downtown” is the one that everybody knows and loves (and the one he typically plays). It created another sing-along moment, and the fun, happy song about love was a wonderful way to wrap-up the night.

Yeah, I had my doubts about how god this show might be, but Hayes Carll proved just what an excellent musician he is this night.

“Beaumont” ensnared the fans from the get go, and by the time he got to those brand new songs I was enthralled, while he finished strong with the last several tracks of the main set.

If I had to pick, I’d still say the full band shows are better overall, but the band isn’t necessary to him putting on a memorable show.

His witty banter is one part that ensures that, while the songs still sounded fantastic, even if they lacked the punch they usually have.

Basically, Hayes Carll is a true entertainer, because he can hold your attention and keep you invested in what he’s doing no matter what the setting is.

I’ll finish by saying this: this was the fourth straight night I had been out at concerts for the week. I had seen some great local rock bands, a killer national touring electronic/pop band from Detroit, and one of the best rising stars in the Texas music scene. However, this show, this acoustic show by one of the most prolific (and underrated on a national scale) singer/songwriters who’s currently in the game was the best show out of those four.

If you haven’t heard of Hayes Carll, you’re really missing out, and you remedy that by going over to iTUNES right this instant and checking out his music. (Don’t use, “Oh, but he’s an Americana musician and I don’t like Americana.” as an excuse, because his music is as much rock as anything.)

By now, the Pub Crawl Tour is over, but he still has some shows coming up here and there. His full schedule can be viewed HERE.

It was a phenomenal night here at The Kessler, and in just six days it would all be repeated (well, with different bands, at least.)

Album Review: “Sidetracked - A Soundtrack For An Imaginary Motion Picture” by Darrin Kobetich

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Darrin Kobetich has been active in the music scene for awhile; a few decades to be exact.

While he’s always been a solo instrumentalist; much of his time in real bands was spent playing hard rock and thrash metal music.

However, in more recent years his focus has shifted back to his solo material; and he’s gotten truly creative with it.

His most recent album is “Sidetracked - A Soundtrack For An Imaginary Motion Picture”, which plays out exactly like the title suggests; as if it’s an accompanying soundtrack for a film. A film that doesn’t even exist.

The nearly eight and a half minute long track “The Order Within Chaos” starts you on this journey. It’s a semi-ambient sounding track; gradually intensifying the deeper you get into it, though there’s a certain level of serenity maintained throughout it. Some subtle yet thunderous percussion can also be heard in the latter half of the track; reminiscent of war drums from far off in the distance, before they die completely as the song recedes into “When the Rain Finally Came”.

A full-blown feeling of calmness washes over you while listening to the song, which is complete with the soothing sounds of raindrops mixed in, in the background. The tranquil guitar chords only accentuate the mood the song sets. It gets traded in for a banjo on the short “Banjer in the Bayou”. And while you would think that track would sound completely out of place given the previous songs; it doesn’t. In fact they go together quite well, and the transition into it is rather fluid.

The vast array of sounds continues with the low-key “Creeper”. It’s another song that’s worthy of the title it was given; and while it’s far from being ominous, it does just creep along, winding itself to an interesting end; an end that features good use of a theremin, which gives it a cool sci-fi like vibe.

Those first few songs manage to work together in ways you wouldn’t think possible until you actually hear it for yourself. However, they are but the calm before the storm.

With the acoustic intro, you might be thinking that “Giant Behemoth” isn’t going to live up to its name. Then you hear the shrill feedback, and Darrin brings forth the thrash metal sound of his earlier bands.  It’s as heavy as the album gets, with some mighty drumbeats joining the roaring and intense guitar lines. Then, it suddenly dies out: the song ending about as calmly as it began.

“Winging It” brings things into a more rock pace, still using the drums from the previous song. Gradually though, those are pulled back; setting the album up for a completely different sound.

“Counter Cultural Tribal Dance Theme” and “Percussion Concussion” go together perfectly. The former incorporates a nice use of some type of woodwind instrument at various moments, and it executes the tribal sound excellently. In fact, there’s some Indian flare to it; and while I’ve never watched a Bollywood film, it sounds like something that would fit in one of those style movies.

The latter of the two is more toned down, yet still aggressive and possess a certain hypnotic quality to it. That’s actually appropriate, seeing as “A Trance Harp Beach Party” is utterly mesmerizing. It may be somewhat simplistic in some regards, but it’s great.

The remaining five tracks on the album all play out as another segment of the story; a story that has reached the climax at this point and is now headed for the resolve.

“The Gift That Came Here” starts the still lengthy journey to the records close; and as uplifting as it is, you can’t help but feel good and know that the most tumultuous times (“The Giant Behemoth”) are far behind.

“An Air of Pall” takes that mellow mood to new heights, while “The August Moon” continues it; at least until a sharp rise pierces the tranquility. It’s by no means on the scale of previous songs and instead serves to show that there’s still some surprises to come on this album.

“In the Misty Forest On the Edge of Time” is more of an interlude than anything, and the 48-second track gives way to “The Man Who Came From Wales”, which is the ideal last song for this record. It oozes joy, creating one of those picture perfect endings in your head before the credits proceed to scroll by.

For those who frequent my blog at all, then you probably know I often mention that I’m not a fan of instrumental music. Yet that’s all “Sidetracked…” is.

I liked it the first listen through, and I must confess; subsequent listens made me downright love it.

This isn’t just instrumental music, though. It’s more like a composition and it plays out in an epic fashion.

It’s even more remarkable that just one person was able to put all this together, doing all the instruments – and of course, everything else - entirely on his own.

It was a big undertaking, no doubt; but in the end, it all came together perfectly. You can tell Darrin has a lot of natural talent as a musician, and that talent seeps out of the speakers, clearly noticeable.

In the end, “Sidetracked…” is an impressive piece of work, and even without any lyrics whatsoever, it still manages to make more of a connection with the listener than a lot of records these days do.

Purchase the album on:
iTUNES / Bandcamp / CDBaby

Visit Darrin Kobetichs’ websites: Official Website / Facebook / Reverbnation

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(Photo credit: Scott Carson Ausburn)


Album Review: “A Pig Eating Past Love” by Johnny Beauford

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Johnny Beauford may well be one of the hardest working and most diverse musicians in the North Texas music scene.

He’s probably best known for fronting the Dallas rock band Bravo, Max!, and an abundance of material (and apparently time, too) also led to the start of Johnny Beauford & the Jack Kerowax.

But aside from being a capable rock musician, Beauford is also an accomplished solo singer/songwriter, whose solo music mines a more Americana/folksy vein. And now, a few years after his first solo album was released, he’s gotten around to recording and releasing his sophomore effort, “A Pig Eating Past Love”, which is rooted deep in the lo-fi, minimalist sound of his first release, and was recorded almost entirely all on his own.

Each song on “A Pig Eating Past Love” brings something different to the table, and for “Little Dance”, it’s the way it highlights Beaufords’ voice. His soft plucking of the guitar is barely audible for parts of the song, making it at times sound as if he is singing a cappella on this ethereal track. His voice shines on every single word, and he may well have you hanging on it, as he walks a fine line of being strong, yet restrained with his vocal delivery.

“S Is For Schizophrenia” is the catchiest offering on the album, boasting a more fleshed out sound from the previous song. Though a drum kit is the only new instrument added to the mix, it gives a much fuller sound than you’d expect to this fairly rocking number.

That pace is quickly changed with “Ann Marie”, where the only percussion effect comes from some of the chords Johnny plays on his acoustic axe. Songwritingwise, Beauford’s at is best with this track, which is teeming with emotions, and despite the sad, even at times downtrodden lyrics, there are also some glimmers of hope to be found in it.

The embodiment of the lo-fi sound is, without question, “Huck Finn’s Hideout”. The short, two and a half minute long track has that grainy quality to the vocals, giving it a simple sound, like perhaps it’s a home recording. There’s beauty in simplicity like that though, you just have to be able to appreciate it. The song has grown on me with each listen, and the heavy use of the harmonica is another nice touch that sets this song apart from the others on the record.

The pinnacle song on the album hands down has to be “Fire Fly”. With only his guitar, Johnny Beauford has created a ravishing and haunting music bed. It’s simple enough you’ll be singing along with it after a few listens, and there’s an odd duality in the fact that the song is also somewhat complex in some regards. It’s one that will stick with you, and it stands as unequivocal proof for any doubters that a full band sound is not a necessity when it comes to crafting a solid, excellent song.

The title track, “A Pig Eating Past Love”, is the longest track from the album, coming in a little shy of four minutes. Some may consider it to be a brilliant song, mainly because it kind of is. It surges forth at times, then recedes back, with that ebb and flow being the best characteristic of the song. Lyrically, it’s another emotionally charged number, even raw, and you can even hear a subtle dose of contempt in Beaufords’ voice at times, like on the line, “…Look me in these eyes when you curse me with those lips…”, before it comes to a nice tranquil conclusion.

That gives an appropriate lead in to the final song, “You’re Evaporating Anyway”, which ends things on a pretty note. It’s a soothing song to listen to, and ends this listening experience in a lovely way.

Honestly, this is a perfect album for a singer/songwriter – any singer/songwriter – to release.

It’s to the point and at only 21-minutes, it’s digestible for anyone who chooses to listen to it. Fans can listen to the whole thing with ease, while any new comers this release draws in won’t have to invest much of their time in seeing what “A Pig Eating Past Love” is about (though it will surely earn subsequent spins).

In all, it’s just a well-rounded album that showcases who Johnny Beauford is as a musician, and he did a great job selecting the songs that would make the cut, as they all show a slightly different side to him, revealing what he’s capable of.

As I said at the start, he may be one of the hardest working musicians in North Texas, and after hearing this sophomore album of his, it’s clear he is one of the best.

Purchase the album on:
iTUNES

Visit Johnny Beaufords’ websites:
Official website / Facebook

Watch the official music video for “A Pig Eating Past Love” HERE.
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Photo credit:
Rhombi Survivor Photo Safaris

Friday, September 20th, 2013 – Paco Estrada

Trees had put together a rather last minute local rock show for this night, with it coming together only about two weeks before. I knew nothing about it, aside from that Paco Estrada was playing it, doing his first full band Dallas show in three months, and it had been even longer than that since I saw him last, so there was no way I could miss this one.

There were only two opening bands, and I never caught the name of the first, probably because they had so many friends/fans out they didn’t think to drop their name, assuming everyone already knew who they were.

They didn’t do a lot for me, and part of that was due to their singers’ voice. In fairness, he did note he had been sick, even saying himself, “…My voice sounds like a bag of dicks…”, but all the same, there was only one song they did where I thought he sounded good and it was enjoyable. Aside from that, their music seemed a bit generic, very of pop/rock, and in a tiresome way.

A trio took the stage next, known as Nine Left Dead who had made the trek from Oklahoma City.

They opened with an instrumental song, which made me curious if that was going to be all they were, but starting with their next song, one of the members began singing (I believe it was the bass player).

The further they got into their show the more I enjoyed it, and some of their songs I thought were pretty well crafted, having some excellent music beds that were even catchy at times.

The only bad thing was they never really got any momentum going, often taking lengthy pauses in between songs, and at one point near the end the singer apologized to everyone, citing they were currently in the studio working on some stuff and they didn’t have much planned.

They could definitely stand to polish and tighten things up, but they are on the right track.

Last minute like this, you can’t expect to get an all-star lineup, but at least they were able to get one all-star act, and Paco Estrada and his band were about to take the stage.

When it came time for Paco and his band to start, pianist Scotty Isaacs began, softly striking the keys as he created a heavenly intro to “American Girls”. That was just one of several songs they did from the upcoming “Bedtime Stories” record, and Paco led them in winding it into their next song with some licks on his acoustic guitar.

Afterwards was when Paco formally introduced himself to everyone, though most of the meager crowd was probably already familiar with him. After another one of their new jams, they launched into one of the true gems from Paco’s recent years, and one that is just starting to find a life in the live set, “The Girl with the Heart of Steel”. “…The love you gave that could never be returned. So you took the knife and you cut your hand. You swore by your blood they could never break your heart again…” Paco belted out before they reached the chorus, “And that’s when you became the girl who could never feel…”.

He has penned a number of excellent songs over the years, and that one is close to the top of my list for being one of his best, especially in terms of lyrics. The new stuff kept coming with another catchy song, after which Paco slightly joked about one of the cities he frequents. “…Austin’s a good place for music, Dallas is of course great… But there’s just something about Tyler…” he said, not meaning any disrespect to the town at all, rather just saying it had a different vibe to it.

Things got more lively when they busted out “She”, whose more rock sound allowed Joel Bailey and Ryan Thomas Holley to cut loose a little more on their bass and guitar, respectively. Still, no one seemed to take more advantage of that song than drummer AJ “Irish” Blackleaf. He went ballistic on his kit, having almost a robotic style of playing by keeping his arms fairly rigid, but he tore it up, all the while wearing a smile, quite obviously having the time of his life.

As they wound up most of the upcoming music, they started to tap some of Paco’s (more recent) back catalog, with the fan favorite “Whiskey Kisses”, which sounds so much better when fleshed out by the full band. It was followed by another song all about love, which Paco explained was about a fairytalesque love, where you’re more or less caught up in the moment. It was a beautiful track, with the line (which I think I got right), “…These are the moments that make the hard times worth it…” being one that really stuck out to me.

That flow kept going with “When We Were Made”, Ryan adding some excellent notes to the end of it, which, while somewhat subtle, were enough to take the song to a whole other level. “Breaking Down” then brought the night to a close, the song springing to life towards the end when Paco crooned parts of the chorus. I really don’t think I’ve ever heard that song sound so intense before, as they embarked on more of an instrumental portion. As it drug on, I started to wonder if they were going to tack a cover song onto the end of it, as is tradition, or if they had switched it up in their time off. Eventually, it was met with the one response I was hoping for, the music subsiding as Paco sang, “Did I disappoint you, or leave a bad taste in your mouth?” I still say the addition of U2’s “One” is the best cover they’ve mixed with that song yet, and it seemed to sound extra amazing this night.

Paco had stated that would be their final song of the night, so as soon as it was over, the house music started coming back up, while a handful of fans begged for an encore. Their request was met when Paco stepped back up to the mic and said they did have one more for everyone. That last song was “Haunting Me”, and it was a nice end to their 59-minute long set.

It was an excellent show, and after again hearing some of those new songs, it got me all the more excited for “Bedtime Stories”, which will no doubt be a great collection of songs.

Also, the full band serves Paco, well, and after years of having a rotating cast of musicians accompanying him, it’s good to finally see some starting to became mainstays, like Joel and Scotty. Hopefully Ryan will be able to make this permanent, too, because his voice and slick playing added some nice elements to things this night.

Next up, Paco will be doing a couple of Austin shows, one on September 26th at 219 West Rooftop on 6th Street. The following night he’ll also be playing Darwin’s Pub, with Ryan Holley helping him out on both shows. Also, check out his records, including the very new “How I Spent My Summer Vacation” EP on his BANDCAMP PAGE. (Also, check out this interview Paco did with DFW Undercover.)

Despite the low turnout (which was expected for a last minute show), it was good night, and Paco and his band were more than worth the cover price.


Friday, August 30th, 2013 – A DFW Undercover Showcase

This was a big night for the local music advocates that collectively make up DFW Undercover, who specialize in doing video interviews with bands, as well as live photography (via Piercing Photography). This night marked their first ever showcase, and it was a singer/songwriter showcase at that.

The Labb in Denton was the host venue, and while I had heard of it before, I had never actually been there.

It’s mainly a sports bar, and as far as sports bars go, it’d be one I’d frequent if I lived closer to Denton… And if I was an avid sports fan. It was a nice place inside, with several large TVs hanging above the bar, and of course some pool tables and dart boards were scattered around, as well as some tables. The patio was where the show was taking place, though, where a decent stage is built as a permanent fixture, with plenty of tables and chairs to accommodate onlookers.

Zach Smith was the first artist this night, but I got there a little later then I intended, which resulted in me missing most of his set.

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I really enjoyed what I heard, though, especially the song I walked in on, which featured a backing female vocalist along with him and his percussionist. “This next song’s about alchemy… But it’s about other stuff, too.” said Zach before beginning “The Stone Refined”, which was followed by a track titled “Waiting for the Sun”, which ended with a very long but very good sounding instrumental outro. They then did one last song to conclude their set, which Zach pointed out to his little section of fans was, who had been cheering him on, was one they had never heard before.

Even with only catching a glimpse of his performance, I thought he sounded great, and he has an excellent voice.

Aside from this solo stuff, he also plays in a band called Cloth’d in the Sun, so check them out, too.

Up next was Dallas based singer/songwriter Ashley Falgout, who, like the other acts on this bill, I had never heard of previously, but was interested to hear.

She played a large array or original material during her 52-minute long set, and after finishing her first song, she confessed/joked that she does “…a lot of songs that are half-ass written…” That may be true, but to me, I certainly never would have guessed that, let alone thought it.

After playing another tune, she mentioned how warm it was (the downside of a patio in the Texas summer), then proceeded to set up a cover song. “Sometimes I learn other people’s songs…” she said, then added, “Or two chords out of it…”, noting that she doesn’t feel it has to be precise. That led to do an amazing rendition of Ani DeFrancos’ “Not a Pretty Girl”, a song that she really turned into her own.

She did a nice job of conversing with the crowd, even if it was a one-sided conversation most of the time, it made it seem like she was really able to connect with everyone, and now talked turned to Spotify. She said she only recently learned what it was, and her album, Long Over Due”, could be streamed on it. “…Or if you want to give me money…” she said, pointing out it was also on iTUNES.
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She did another killer song about a past relationship, and followed it with a medley of one of her songs as well as a cover of what she said was her favorite song, but (not surprisingly) was one I didn’t recognize. Afterwards, she cranked out a few more numbers, before ending with what I think was “Just Another Lullaby”, and then that was only because the sound guy informed her she needed to wrap it up.

She wound up being my personal favorite act of the night, with her incredible and distinctive voice, which even sounded a bit sultry at times. She was also a very talented songwriter, with fantastic lyrics that often seemed pretty personal.

If you’re into the whole singer/songwriter genre, then Ashley Falgout is definitely one you need to listen to, and her record can be purchased HERE.

There was one last act up for the night, and it was more of a full acoustic band, led by Fred Rush. He’s probably best known as being the drummer for Ugly Mustard (who have been a fixture in the D/FW music scene since ’93), and as far as his new solo project went, this was only going to be their second show.

This acoustic trio, which also consisted of Jeff Michnal on the cajon and Johnny Pina on an acoustic bass, opened with “My Heart Screams”, which was a real knockout. “This is what I’ve been waiting for. I can’t believe I found it, finally…” Fred crooned at the start, shortly before the song kicked into high gear, given they were just using acoustic instruments, after all. Once they finished it, Fred took a moment to thank DFW Undercover for hosting this event, as well as the goal they have. “…I’ve been on a soapbox for twenty to thirty years…” said Fred, saying that the people behind DFW Undercover seemed to be on the exact same soapbox. That soapbox he was referring to was sharing the mentality that everyone in the scene needs to come together for the sake of making things better, rather than bands, venues and the ilk acting as if other bands and venues and such are their competition.

They then moved on to what was a pretty upbeat sounding song, “Insomnia”, with another tune sandwiched between it and “Marigold Lane”. They played several seconds of that latter one, before Fred suddenly brought things to a halt. “I started it in the wrong key.” he said, laughing, adding he thought about going with it, but then decided against it. It had sounded good before, but the key it was supposed to be played in served to make it an even more infectious song, and towards the end of it, Fred’s son, Trent, joined them on stage, adding a little extra percussion to the mix. He grabbed a guitar for the next song, though, and took a seat on a stool on stage right.

Fred stated that they were going to do a cover song, and they gave the crowd a little tropical taste by trying their hand at the Zac Brown Bands’ “Island Song”. Not quite what you’d expect from some guys who are typically in rock bands, but they pulled it off nicely, and despite the contrast between it and Fred’s original stuff, that cover meshed nicely with it all. They had another cover in store for everyone, and as Fred put it, it was in the “spirit of the singer/songwriter showcase”. “…I don’t know where he gets it from…” Fred cracked after informing everyone that his son played in a band, and now the father and son duo kind of co-sang on “Diary for Poets”, which Trent wrote for his group Welcome to Wednesday, though it was Trent who did a bulk of the singing on this one.

Trent, too, could certainly sing, and he and Fred created some awesome harmonies on that track. “…The band was called Fred, I think we’re going to rename it Trent.” Fred joked after they finished it. Apparently, Trent was supposed to leave after that, but he decided they should do an impromptu performance of “All Apologies” by Nirvana. Jeff, Johnny and Fred went with it, with Fred chiming in from time to time, and given the fact that this wasn’t planned, they nailed it. At least I thought they did.

Trent did exit the stage after that one, and they began wrapping up their 51-minute set with another original, before things got a little heartfelt with the last song. Fred dedicated it to his father, whom he said was like Superman to him growing up, and that currently he was experiencing some health issues. With that said, it was fitting that the song was called “Ordinary Superman”, and it brought their set to a wonderful end.
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You wouldn’t have guessed this was just their second show, ‘cause Fred seemed perfectly at home behind the microphone with a acoustic guitar in his hands, just like Jeff looked comfortable playing the cajon, yet both have little live experience with any of that.

Fred has a pretty unique sounding voice, too, so it’s hard to believe he’s been keeping that in for song. Oh, and he writes some really good lyrics as well. And for the record, Fred Rush and his band made a lot of noise for an acoustic group.

I know what I said about the artist before them, but I liked Fred Rush and his band just as much, in a different way.

That’s what was so cool about this night. All of these singer/songwriters covered different areas of the spectrum, which was just another reason why I loved the showcase so much, because I don’t see that many singer/songwriters, let alone a small handful on one night, so it was nice that it was all so eclectic, with each act having different styles.

Kudos to DFW Undercover for orchestrating such a cool event, and expect more from them. In fact, they have another show at Hailey’s in Denton on October 11th.


All photos courtesy of Piercing Photography. All rights belong exclusively to them.

Song Review: With “White Heat”, Jessie Frye Looks to Start a Fire

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In five years, the Denton based singer-songwriter Jessie Frye has released two EP’s, the most recent being very well received by fans and critics alike. However, in those five years one question has abounded; “When will you put out a full-length?”

Well, last week, everyone got the first glimpse of what her much anticipated debut full-length, titled “Obsidian”, will sound like, when the lead single “White Heat” was released.

It’s showcases a much different side to her music then ever heard before. Jessies’ piano is still an integral part to the song, but not in the more classical style of her past material, instead, this one’s more of an electronic track. The at times soupy sounds of the song are rounded out nicely by the thick drumbeats and subtle, low bass lines, while the guitar serves to enhance the dreamy quality the song creates.

It feels safe to say that this takes Jessie out of her comfort zone, but it’s nice to see an artist embrace something new and different, after all, that’s what sparks growth as a musician. There is one constant, though, and that’s Jessie’s enchanting, marvelous voice. It sounds even better than where the last record left off, and she’s able to create a plethora of textures with it, exerting complete control over it, at times singing in a more sultry tone, like on the line “White on white heat Perfect alchemy…”, and at other point it’s strong and forceful.

In listening to “White Heat”, you’ll understand exactly why Jessie Frye is a North Texas treasure, and while it may be several more months before the world can listen to the full “Obsidian” album, “White Heat” is the perfect song to whet peoples appetites while simultaneously making them even more excited for the record. It’s a gorgeous blend of indie and pop, and if this tune is any indicator, then “White Heat” is but only the kindling for a roaring fire.

The Jessie Frye band is:
Chad Ford- Drums
Jordan Martin- Guitar
Jessie Frye- Piano/Vocal
David Kellogg- Bass

Purchase the single “White Heat” as well as the previous two EP’s in Bandcamp.

Upcoming shows include:
September 13th at Pour Jons in Siloam Springs, AR / September 14th at Foam in St. Louis, MO / September 20th at Village Café in Bryan, TX / September 21st at Avant Garden in Houston, TX / September 28th at Flipnotics in Austin, TX / October 12th at The Poplar Lounge in Memphis, TN

Album Review: “Water in a Whale” by Jillette Johsnon

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It’s usually safe to say that most young musicians are still trying to find their niche in the business. From figuring out what style best suits them, to searching for their voice (literally and figuratively), and everything in between. However, that isn’t the case with twenty-four year old Jillette Johnson on her debut full-length album “Water in a Whale”.

A lot of that can probably be attributed to the fact that she has been performing live for around half her life, and while she may well still be finding her place (since that’s an ever evolving process for anyone), she’s certainly further along than most her age, and that becomes readily clear as you delve into “Water in a Whale”.

Torpedo” is the lead track of the album, and is quite an appropriate first song. Lyrically it perfectly capture Jillette’s determination and grit, like with the line from the chorus, “…But I will not lay down in the road, I will not make it easy…”, while musically, there’s a certain ethereal quality to it that will both enthrall and rouse you instantly, ensuring you’ll be listening intently to the remaining tracks.

The next song, “Cameron”, has a more bare bones sound, at least at first as the piano beautifully sets up this serious track, though there’s a nice build throughout the song that happens gradually before it erupts into an anthem of sorts. On the surface, the song is about a transgender friend of Jillette’s and the struggles faced in his youth. However, when you truly listen to the lyrics, they transcend that situation, applying to anyone, regardless of sexual orientation, race, etc., who has ever just felt out of place, as if you don’t belong/fit in. The chorus, “…The world is full of aliens But you are a real, live human…”, is rather brilliant, and Jillette packs it full of emotion and meaning with her powerhouse voice.

A favorite song of mine on the record is “Flood the Ocean”, which is made abundantly cheery with its catchy melody, and it breeds positivity. While the following song, “When The Ship Goes Down”, breaks away from the semi-pop mold cast by the other songs, exhibiting a more classical vibe, which is quite behooving of the elegant mood the song creates, as Jillette croons about wanting to get the most out of her life.

I don’t know if pop is necessarily the best category to lump her music in, because there is a certain sophistication to it that is lacking in much of the pop music you hear on mainstream radio these days, but one song that certainly doesn’t fit that pop classification is “Last Bus Out”. It’s much more up-tempo than the other ten tracks that comprise the album, and is borderline rock, as the band cranks things up and cuts loose. There are some nice electronic elements (in the form of auto-tune) thrown in on a few words here and there, too, and along with the reverb, it adds some nice effects to the song. It’s one you’ll surely be hearing in your head long after you’ve hit the stop button (in a good way, of course.)

If you still have any traces of doubt about what a vocal dynamo Jillette truly is, then “Pauvre Coeur” will be sure to squash it. Her voice is the primary instrument on it, and the listener gets to hear her show off exactly what kind of vocal range she is capable of on this gorgeously sad song, and it may well leave you breathless. The heartache of the song is conveyed perfectly and in much detail, as she paints a very vivid picture for a song that is teeming with emotion, and could be best summed up by the final line, “…I am far too beautiful to be yours.”

Like you might infer from the title, “Peter Pan” is a short number about not wanting to grow up (or at least having a part of you that doesn’t want to.) This rocking little track begins with her (presumably) reminiscing about events from her adolescence, “We don’t get drunk on Tuesday nights anymore. We don’t have the stink from the weed with the towel on the bathroom floor anymore…” It’s yet another great (and infectious) tune this album has to offer, and one that many listeners could probably connect with, as it speaks of your friends growing up, going about their life, while you’re “…the only one left in Neverland…”

Another dazzling track is “Basset Hound”, which tells a tale of being infatuated with someone, and a splendid tale at that. One of the best things about the song, at least in my opinion, is one of its more subtle traits, specifically the way she enunciates “Basset”, putting a little extra emphasis on the “bass” portion of the word, which in turn makes the pronunciation of it completely unique. Sometimes it’s the little nuances like that, that are the difference between an already great song being an excellent one, and such as the case here.

“…Cut split ends to save our strands…”, that seems like the line that would best describe the breakup song “Butterfly Catcher”, which has a slightly more delicate sound than the songs that precede it, yet it manages to have a certain upbeat pop quality, while emanating a melancholy feeling. Sure, those sounds and moods may be a little contradictory, but weaving them together in the way she does is what makes it sound so fantastic.

“Heathen” is easily the most inspirational song on the album, and is another favorite of mine. Like the lead track, it has a certain piousness about it, probably because there are some not so subtle religious undertones to it, like on what strikes me as being a rather profound line, “Cinder blocks around my brain. Came to mock but I remain to pray…” The music bed also boasts a sort of orchestral sound, albeit a scaled back one, which is what really sets the song off.

Bringing this excursion to an end is “True North”, which is a fitting song to close with, and seems to bring the story the album tells full circle. As stated in Jillette’s current bio, it’s about “…coming home and accepting the failures that you endure…” And in the end, it’s the failures as much as the successes that make you into who you’re supposed to be.

All in all, “Water in a Whale” is an utterly flawless record from start to finish, including the two B-sides that are also a part of it (“17” and “Box of Crayons”), which are up to par with the eleven core tracks.

There’s not a song on it that sounds second-rate or inferior to the others, and because it’s so well rounded, I’d say this record is at a caliber that some artists could spend a decade’s long career trying to create and still not manage it.

It traverses between soft and sweet, raw and edgy, and at times, even a bit sultry. But through it all, it’s the passion that really makes “Water in a Whale” so outstanding. I mean, a lot of people can sing, but there’s a more limited number of singers that can squeeze so much emotion into their music, let alone capture that quality so well in a recording studio. That rare feat is something Jillette has accomplished, making each song seem incredibly significant to her, which allows the music to transcend to a whole other level.

She has no doubt set the bar high with “Water in a Whale”, but with such a plentiful amount of natural talent, when it comes time for a sophomore record, I don’t think either her or her fans will have to worry about the dreaded “sophomore slump”.

Purchase the album on:
iTunes / Bandcamp / Amazon MP3 / Barnes & Noble / or physical copies from her Online Store

Visit Jillette Johnsons’ websites:
Official Site / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Youtube

Current show schedule:
July 12th at Robert Mondavi Winery in Oakville, California / July 16 at Joe’s Pun in New York, New York / August 23rd at Fountain Square in Cincinnati, Ohio

imagePhoto Credit: Rebecca Miller

Saturday, May 11th, 2013 – The Homegrown Music Festival: Year 4

In three short years the Homegrown Music and Arts Festival has established itself as a Dallas institution, and is arguable the festival that takes place not only in Dallas, but even the entire North Texas area.

A large part of the appeal (well, besides the music) is that it takes place in the urban oasis that is the Main Street Garden Park, a vibrant park, which occupies a full city block, that is usually a good place for people to walk their dogs in or bring their children to play on the playground equipment. However, this one day out of the year two stages are set up, one on the East end and the other on the West, as the park is transformed into a music lovers paradise.

The first two years the festival focused exclusively on North Texas based bands, before expanding in their third year, allowing bands from all over Texas to play. Only a handful of North Texas bands performed during the 2012 installment, but now in its fourth year, Homegrown was getting back to basics, and out of the fifteen bands lined up to play, only four hailed from outside the Dallas/Fort Worth region.

Kicking off this glorious day was Ross Edman, who is better known by his stage name as the electronic act, Datahowler.

His start time was 11:30 that morning, which was about thirty minutes before I got there, making Datahowler the only act I missed this day. It was surely an interesting show, though, since he was supposed to be playing his music alongside a yoga instructor who was in turn leading some individuals in a yoga routine.

I imagine that took him out of his comfort zone a little, but he was one of a handful of musicians pulling double-duty this day, and in a few hours he’d get back to what he specializes in.

I can’t say I’m too upset that I missed his set, since what he does is a style of music I’m not really into. However, you can check out his “The Crystal Gazers” EP in iTunes, if you are into some more ambient, electronic stuff.

Some stop and go traffic resulted in me getting there a little later than I wanted to, arriving right at noon, which I knew meant I was cutting it close, as that was when Madison King and her band were scheduled to start.

Sure enough, as I hurried out of the parking garage, the music crept into earshot, revealing they were in the midst of their presumable opener, “Whiskey In the Morning”.

During my trek over to the other side of the park where the Chevy stage was located, I was surprised by all the people that were already here. Sure, it might not have been a ton, but considering the festivities were just getting underway, there were a lot. Perhaps it’s as simple as they just have excellent taste in music and didn’t want to miss even one of the many great bands playing this day.

But I digress…

Upon finishing that song, they did another from Madisons’ “Darlin’, Here’s to You” record, “Here In Arms”, which is still one of the best songs in their repertoire and tells a great story. Songs from that nearly two year old album were few and far between this day, though, like their next one, which she announced to everyone was titled “Me and You”. Chris Carmichael launched them into the song with some awesome beats in what was essentially a brief drum solo, before electric guitarist Michael Smith and bassist Wade Cofer jumped into it. It’s a love song, and a very good one at that, that had a great flow to it and out of handful of new songs they did during this around 30-minute long set, it was one of my favorites.

During a break after that song, Madison started talking about what a great day it looked like it was going to be, and briefly mentioned that she had already had to duct tape her high heels, laughing as she said, making it sound like at the very least it had been an interesting day for her thus far. They then moved things along with another new tune, “Ghost of the One that Got Away”, and then another song which she dedicated to someone, resulting in two women running up towards the stage and somewhat dancing along to the song.

My favorite song of their set ended up being the next song, which was a slower, hauntingly beautiful number, with one of the lines being, “…We make evil inventions from the best of intentions…” All of those offered a nice glimpse at what Madison has been writing, and they give the impression that her next record will in all likelihood outdo her first, which is saying a lot. Speaking of that first record, they next played the gorgeous, “Nazarene”, during which Madison intricately plucked the strings of her acoustic guitar with just her fingers. “…This next song is called Saved By a Son of a Gun…” Madison told everyone, but almost immediately after starting it, she brought it to a stop. She thought either something was off or that her capo was on the wrong fret, but upon realizing all was right, they started it again, and this time this catchy song went off without a hitch. That brought them to the final song of their set, which was “Darlin, Here’s To You” and it was a fantastic song to end on, especially with the fiery guitar notes and even solo, which Michael rocked by the way.

Okay, so technically Madison King and her band didn’t get the day started, but since they were the first act I saw, they got it started for me, and what a way to begin.

Madison is one of the best singer/songwriters in the D/FW, a fact that everyone who saw her this fine afternoon would surely attest to. And it’s not just that the music and lyrics are great, but it’s also the fact that she so obviously pours her heart into the performance.

If you haven’t seen her yet, you should, and luckily she has several shows coming up in Dallas in June, one of which will be on the 5th at Three Links, then the 14th at the Belmont Hotel and finally the 20th at Sundown at Granada. Also be sure to check out the “Darlin’, Here’s to You” album in iTunes.

The next band was getting ready to take the Shiner stage, but, like all the bands this day, they were introduced by the events MC. “…Have you ever seen a wolf play drums?” the MC asked everyone, then added, “You’re about to.” before introducing the another country band, J. Charles and the Trainrobbers.

I had seen the band once before, and that had been over a year ago, so I was looking forward to finally seeing them again.

Steve Visneau was already sitting behind his drum kit, and after the three remaining members filed on stage, he and singer and guitarist Jeffrey Charles Saenz fired up the first song of their 40-minute set, “Mercy Killing”. They quickly commanded everyone’s attention, specifically when J. Charles’s voiced surged as he belted out, “There’s a bullet here for me, a bullet here for you. Only problem is we love each other too damn much it’s true…” It’s one hell of a song, and only got better when the sounds from Justin Youngs’ bass and Daniel Creamers’ keyboard became more prominent. They soon followed it with the subsequent track on their “Upon Leaving” record, the gritty, “Letter to a Thief”.

“This next song is called My Year.” J. Charles quickly told the crowd as they tore into another amazing song. Towards the end of that one there’s a little lull, during which both Jeffrey and Justin walked back by the drum riser. Then, as the music began to swell, the two marched back up to their respective microphones in perfect synch with each other, where they both sang, “My heart’s been on fire all year long…” I believe it was followed by a non-album track, after which J. Charles made some small talk with the audience, admitting he wasn’t “…good at talking…” That’s alright, not every band needs to have banter, especially when the music is as good as this was. He did use that time though to promote the merch they had for sale, which included their new album, and he used that as a segue into their next song.

It was the single from their debut album, the gripping, “Something Wrong”, which at times is almost a sing along, as the chorus is catchy enough it could easily have the fans shouting along to it. “Three Shades of Black” brought the noise level down slightly (at least for a bit), but not the intensity of their playing was still there, especially in Steve’s drumming.

They changed things up a bit for their final two songs, as Taylor Rea joined them, walking over to stage right. J. Charles grabbed his mic stand, moving it where he could face her, saying something to the effect that they were going to have a standoff, and she moved her mic stand to look at him. They did the lovely duet “Ain’t So Blue”, and they had a lot of chemistry going on as they sang back and forth to one another, even on occasion getting some amazing harmonies going. They had one final song planned after that, and that was their longest song yet, “Tennessee Roads (No Moon)”, which often had Taylor singing some backing vocals, word-for-word with what J. Charles was singing.

I remembered them being a great band the first time I saw them, but nothing on the scale of what they were this afternoon.

They’ve tightened and polished things up a lot in the last sixteen months, and it shows in their performance. They were very coordinated in their stage performance and operated like a well-oiled machine.

It was quite the performance they put on, too, overflowing with energy. More than once during the instrumental breaks of some songs J. Charles worked his way up on the drum riser, shredding on his guitar while banging his head to the heavy beats Steve was laying down.

They may be a country band, but they have the perfect blend of a rock and country sound, and between that and J. Charles’s rich, distinctive voice, they are sure to reel you in. So, if you haven’t yet experienced J. Charles and the Trainrobbers, you are truly missing out.

You should give their “Upon Leaving” album a listen, and buy it in iTUNES if you like it. If you’d like to see them live, they’ll be at the Magnolia Motor Lounge in Fort Worth on June 15th.

The next band of the day was one of the out-of-town bands, the Houston based, The Tontons.

They got another good introduction from the MC, who mentioned that last year Eisley played the festival, noting they used to be called Mos Eisley, before George Lucas asked them to change their name. So, after introducing The Tontons, he added, “…Or as George Lucas calls them, The Tons.”

The quartet, led by front woman Asli Omar, had several newer songs to play for the ever growing crowd, though to a lot of people I’m sure they all were new.

Their opener was one of those newer songs, and was a prime example of what the band is about, with a captivating music bed that could easily pull you in, and it made perfect use of Aslis’ soulful, rich and even at times slightly raspy voice. They may be a indie rock band, but with that song I think everyone knew they were in for one of the most unique and original performances of the day.

Asli aided drummer Justin Martinez in the percussion field on their next song, as she shook a tambourine throughout it. Afterwards, Adam Martinez started them on a fan favorite from the “Golden” EP, “Vietnam”, with the infectious guitar chords that at the very least should have you swaying along to the song, if not inciting some full on dancing. Once it was finished, Asli addressed the crowd, urging everyone to enjoy this day they had, before summer arrived making it so hot we wouldn’t even want to step outside. “…By the way, this hair is like a oven.” She added, referring to her afro.

They got back to business with one of the two songs from their recently released 7’’ vinyl record, “Bones”, and the song was simple named “Bones 1”. It carried a more rock sound with it, with some, at times, blistering riffs from Adam, and while Tom Nguyen’s bass lines were often more subtle on some of their other music, they were anything but during this song, creating a very cohesive and solid rhythm section. Yet another new song came next, which took them to the emotion filled title track of their most recent EP, “Golden”. “You’re shallow and silly and oh so conniving. I’d say you were stupid but that’d be denying you were ever smart enough to date me, ever strong enough to break me…” Asli sang on the chorus while dancing along to the song.

During another short break in between song, Asli encouraged everyone to check out their Austin friends Quiet Company, who were playing right after their set, as well as Zhora, who was set to be the next band playing here at the Chevy stage. “…That’s the best part of Texas…” she said, “…We are all family…”

Another barrage of new material followed, as they cranked out three more songs, one of which was another where Asli again played the tambourine. They had been up there for about half an hour at this point, and to wrap up their 34-minute long set, they did the lead track from their self-titled album, “Leon”.

Having only see them once before this (which had been over a year ago), I had forgotten how amazing The Tontons really were.

They are incredibly versatile, owning the more rock style of music they play, but also pulling off the slower, almost jazz like songs, which is reminiscent of something you would have often heard in a lounge setting in say the 60’s.

The interesting music and superb vocals made them one of the most unique bands of the entire day, which in turn made them one of the most memorable.

Between ITUNES and BANDCAMP, you can purchase every single one of the bands releases, even getting a few singles for free download over on their bandcamp page. As for shows, their schedule is currently empty, and word is they are going to be working on a new record.

Three bands in and it had already been an amazing day, and while there were plenty of bigger name bands yet to come, I was most looking forward to the next band on the Shiner stage, the Austin based rock outfit, Quiet Company.

Opening their set was “And You Said it Was Pretty Here”, a bonus track from their new/old record “A Dead Man On My Back: Shine Honesty Revisited”, which is a re-recording of one of the bands first album. This cheery sounding tune found the band looking a little out of place, as Cody Ackors was playing one of the guitars, an instrument he’s actually quite great at, leaving the heavily bearded Thomas Blank to focus on his keyboard. It was the first time I’d heard them open with that song, and despite the drastic differences between it and some of their past openers, it worked every bit as well, as more and more people gathered around the stage to watch the spectacle that was starting to unfold.

Cody gave up the guitar to Thomas, while he assumed his spot on stage right, surrounded by his numerous instruments, which included the trombone, a floor tom and a keyboard. The sample track for “It’s Better to Spend Money Like There’s No Tomorrow Than Spend Tonight Like There’s No Money” began to play while the band got ready for it. “…You better stop and smell the roses. You better love the life you live. You better take note of when it’s killing you…” sang singer and guitarist Taylor Muse on the chorus, and after the second one the music gave way to Thomas and his solo on the melodic. It wasn’t just the standard instrumental break, though.

“…We all have regrets.” Taylor said to the crowd, noting he regretted “eating at the Great Wall of China Buffet in Bryan, Texas.” “But one thing I’ve never regretted is dancing at a rock show…” he added, as he proceeded to encourage everyone to cut loose, have fun and dance to the rest of the song, to which some people did.

Those two songs got them off to a fierce and dynamic start, and it was only about to get better as they prepared to do a few songs from what is arguably their best record, 2011’s “We Are All Where We Belong”.

“So you say you got peace about it, I purpose you could live without it…” sang Taylor at the start of “Preaching to the Choir Invisible, Part I”, which had Cody, at least at first, accompanying drummer Jeff Weathers in the percussion field, as he tapped some drumsticks on the rim of the tom. The deep meaning, multilayered song culminated with the guitars, drums and bass, played by Matt Parmenter, soaring to life, as the four members at the forefront of the stage shouted in their singing voices, “We belong!” over and over again, a cry that even their fans who were in attendance joined in on.

Upon finishing it, Taylor again told everyone who they were. “…We’re Quiet Company, a metal band from Austin, Texas…” he said, which caused much of the crowd to laugh, because metal, they are not. He also took this time to point out their merch booth they had, telling anyone who wanted to buy something to go visit the guy in the purple shirt. There happened to be two guys wearing purple shirts, and the one who was not the merch guy said something like, “Who are you talking to?” in the spirit of being funny. Actually, it was funny, but Taylor has a quick and clever wit about him, and instantly had a comeback. He jokingly said he was talking to the guy who didn’t know he was selling the merch, telling everyone, “…But he does have that nice dog, go try to buy it from him.”

As they entered the tail end of their 32-minute long set they did another favorite from their 2011 album, “Everything Louder Than Everything Else”, which they then wound right into the single from the record, “You, Me, and the Boatman”, with some simple guitar feedback followed by Jeff tearing it up on the drums. That amazing rock song, which is really set off by the trombone, soon led them to the final song of their show, which was the more serene “On Modern Men”. That track grows on me each time I hear it, especially in the live setting, and it’s undoubtedly at its best when they all croon and then shout, “Make way for your modern man, we fought to exist. We crawled from the water to the dry land and our hands are the dirtiest.”

It may be an older song, but it fits well with the themes from the songs on “We Are All Where We Belong”, and offers the perfect way to cap off a show.

There may have many bigger name bands left to play this day, but Quiet Company was every bit as astounding as those others were. For the record, they were every bit as professional, too.

They are truly one of the best live bands I have ever experienced, putting on an energetic performance that never ceases to amaze, and their greatest quality, their musicianship, is constantly on display and always shining. If you haven’t seen them yet, you are truly missing out.

This little 32-minute performance instantly became the highlight of my day and was the moment to beat, and while a few bands came close, in my opinion, none surpassed what Quiet Company did.

As for their upcoming shows, on June 7th they’ll be in Chicago, IL at Schubas. They’ll also play the Horseshoe in Toronto on June 11th. And do be sure to check out their music on either iTUNES or BANDCAMP. If you like straight up Rock ‘n’ Roll, you’ll love what they do.

So far, the genres played had included some country and a few varieties of rock, and now, it was time for the only electronic band of the festival, Zhora.

It was a different Zhora than had been seen before, though, because a little over a week before the show, half of the band split, leaving just vocalist Taylor Rea and drummer Ross Martinez. So, in order to do this show, they had enlisted the help of Michael Smith on guitar, while Ross Edman worked the electronic aspect of things, and there was also a musician playing a keyboard.

Right before starting their set, Taylor grabbed a futuristic looking visor (think something out of Star Trek), placing it over her eyes, and then they were off.

One of their newer tracks, which will presumably be on their forthcoming full-length, began their set as they started to take the crowd on an adventure through vivid, sonic soundscapes. “The Hold”, a song from their debut EP, came next, followed by “Futuristic Land”, a song where Taylor really put her vocal effects pad, which was mounted on her mic stand, to use. She changed it to where her voice had a distant sound to it, with just a hint of reverb while she sang, with one of my favorite lines of the song being, “…If I’m seeing stars, pull me to your constellation…”.

This short set consisted of another newer track, which had an excellent dreamy quality to it. It was also with that song where the bands show really seemed to take off. Taylor had been swaying and dancing about to the music thus far, but it was on that song where she got a little more forceful, moving about the stage as she really began to entrance, and even command the crowd. But no sooner had the behavior started, and then it was time to end their 26-minute long set. “Sunset”, which oozes with thick sounds from the synthesizer, was their closing number, and was undeniably the highlight of their show.

Zhora is another band I had only seen once before this day, and honestly, the show was kind of lacking from what I had experienced before.

I can’t really fault them, after all, three of the members on stage this day aren’t even official band members of Zhora. They made it work well, and considering they probably didn’t get much practice in, they came across as being pretty cohesive, bust still it was a little lackluster.

That doesn’t mean they’re not a great band, though, and they are one of Dallas’s best electronic bands, at least out of the ones that I’ve heard. Their songs have a nice texture to them, and their newer material is fantastic. But as far as the live show is concerned, while all the members obviously play a key role, it’s really all about Taylor Rea, who, even on what I felt was kind of an off day, still easily managed to make herself the main focal point of the show.

Keep an eye on their FACEBOOK PAGE for upcoming show dates, which they will no doubt have coming up in the future, once the band is reassembled. In the meantime, download their four song EP on their BANDCAMP PAGE, plus some other stuff.

Now, most times at concerts, things are always running behind, but oddly enough, they had actually gotten pretty ahead of schedule at this point. So, in order to get things back on track everyone had to wait for a bit, as The Burning Hotels set time wasn’t until 3:20.

Now, it had been quite some time since I last saw The Burning Hotels, and the few shows of theirs I had seen I had never managed to get into their music, so I was curious as to if they would change my opinion of them this day, or if it was going to be more of the same.

This indie rock bands 36-minute set focused largely on their 2011 self-titled record, as they kicked off their set with the infectious “Always”, and exerted a lot of energy throughout it. They quickly followed it with a song from the “Novels” album, “To Whom it May Concern”, which found the four-piece getting more into the performance, as lead guitarist Matt Mooty and the bands bass player moved about the stage, and even Chance cut loose when he didn’t have to be stationed in front of the microphone. They changed pace bit with their next song, the at times soupy sounding “Days Are Gone”, which also found Matt singing just as much of the song as Chance did.

They followed it with another track, which if memory serves correctly was one where Chance kind of put his keyboard to use, and next did a tune from the “Eighty Five Mirrors” record, “Lovely, Lovely Lady”. “Sound City” was another song they did, though the biggest crowd pleaser seemed to be their single “Beard”, which had Matt taking over the main vocal duties, and not only was this song the biggest crowd pleaser, it was also the one that had most of the audience dancing along to it while Matt sang the chorus, “…Why did I love you?… Why did I ever love you at all?” Afterwards, they had one more song planned for everyone, before getting to the slightly electronic inspired track, “To You with Love From Me”, which brought their show to a close.

Being objective, it was solid set. I believe I had only seen them twice before this, and I did enjoy the overall show much more this time around then my previous experiences. It’s a little inventive and very alluring. They’re also great musicians, especially Chance and Matt, and that’s evident in watching their live show.

However, on the subjective front, I still wasn’t won over as a fan. Chance sings the majority of their material and in the live setting, his voice is constantly on the verge of cracking. Mind you, it never did, but he has a rather high pitch to his voice, and it’s incredibly shaky and unsteady. And for someone like me, who basis if I like a band or not solely on the singer’s voice, I just can’t overlook nor get past that.

As of right now, the only show date on the bands calendar is their September 14th gig at Panther Island Pavilion in Fort Worth, where they will be one of many bands playing the Toadies annual music festival, Dia de los Toadies. They will no doubt be playing some gigs between now and then, though, so keep an eye on their SHOW CALENDAR. And to purchase the bands records, go HERE and HERE (they have two different pages in iTunes, hence the two separate links.)

Now, it was time to get to the country music portion of the day. Sure, a few country bands had played earlier, but the next three bands were bigger names, with all three being routine headliners.

One of those acts was the Dallas duo, The O’s, ho received another memorable and noteworthy introduction from the MC’s, which now included Dallas musician Grant Jones.

The other MC said he recalled the days the band was a four-piece outfit, calling themselves “The Hoe’s”, but when they lost two of their band mates, so too did they lose a couple letters.

It made for a good joke, and before even starting their first song, multi-instrumentalist John Pedigo mentioned he was glad to know how they came up with their band name. That’s the thing with this duo, they’re pretty humorous, though they had little time to let that side show this day.

The O’s were still pretty fresh off the release of their third album, “Thunderdog”, and they began this set with the lead track from it “Outlaw”, as John started strumming his banjo, while Taylor Young supplied the beat with his bass drum while simultaneously playing his acoustic guitar. It was a surprisingly uplifting song, creating a pleasant, hopeful mood amongst the audience, but not only that it also seemed to summarize all the years of work and effort these two have put into the band, specifically with the line, “…We all fight the good fight, we all know what is right. We worked too hard to have nothing change…”, which was mainly sung by John, though Taylor added some backing vocals for most of the song.

Afterwards, John found a clever way to work in all the sponsors of the event, saying something along the lines of he had driven his Chevy truck down here and drank a Shiner Bock beer, but only after having a Red Bull to help him get going (the Red Bull ten was where the beverages were being sold at). Taylor was even impressed by it, but he quickly told John they needed to cut it, reminding him they only had a limited amount of time. “I’m sorry, we like to talk…” he told the crowd, before saying their next song was about the fine city they call home, which was appropriately titled “Dallas”. John plucked the strings of his pedal steel guitar for that one, while Taylor did the singing, essentially professing his love for the city, even saying “…This is where I’ll die…”

I’ve never considered myself a true fan of The O’s (at least not before this day), and even though their newest album at been out nearly a month now, this was the first time I had heard anything from it, and I loved those first two tracks from it they had played. It was a step (or two) above their previous material (which is saying a lot) and made it very clear they had outdone themselves on their newest effort.

This show wasn’t all about their new stuff, though, and next they ventured into their sophomore record, “Between the Two”, by doing a song about what else, but the city of Dallas. At least that was the subject matter according to John, who kind of laughed when saying something like it gets hard to find new things to write about. The song was “We’ll Go Walking”, which may be set in Dallas, but it’s more of a love song than anything.

“…This next song is called Kitty…” Taylor told everyone, as they tackled the final track from “Thunderdog”. That song took them almost completely out of their comfort zone, and was very atypical of them, as it had more of a rock sound and the way Taylors’ voice flowed on the song was superb. It was the banjo that really stole the show, though, as John often ran it through an effect via a pedal, and with the help of that, his banjo made a gritty, distorted sound that could rival that of any guitarist from the many rock bands that had played thus far.

It was an excellent departure from their roots, though they soon returned to their folk/country roots with a couple more tracks from their second album, one of which was the rather beautiful “Pushin’ Along”. That led them to the final song of this short 28-minute long set, which was the upbeat “Everything’s Alright”. In setting it up, John announced to everyone the song title, than added, “…Because it is…”, almost reassuring everyone that things were alright.

Each time I’ve seen this duo over the years I’ve become a little more of a fan, and the performance they gave this day, coupled with the brilliant setlist, solidified me as one. They were extraordinary and put forth a show that stands out as being another very memorable one from this amazing day.

You should definitely head over to iTunes and check out their three albums, particularly “Thunderdog”. As for upcoming shows, from June 7th through the 15th they’ll be over in the UK, so check out their REVERBNATION PAGE for their calendar and specifics on where they’ll be. Come July they have a couple dates in Arlington, TX, one at the Grease Monkey on the 5th and the other at Levitt Pavilion on the 12th. On the 13th they’ll play at Hank’s in McKinney and they have many other dates immediately beyond that, all throughout Texas.

That set seemed hard to follow, but one of the few bands that would have no trouble with that was Somebody’s Darling.

It had been several months since I last saw the band, but their opener hadn’t changed, and as soon singer and rhythm guitarist Amber Farris sang the first line of “Weight of the Fear”, you could tell the throng of people were entranced. As well they should have been, because her voice, which has an especially soulful quality to it on that song, was in rare form. Her voice certainly wasn’t the only gripping aspect to the song, though, and one of the others was lead guitarist David Ponder’s stellar solo.

Drummer Nate Wedan started them on their next song, doing a little bit of a solo at first, while keyboard player Mike Talley clapped along to the beat, before Amber eventually crooned the first line of “Back to the Bottle”, “Well, I believe God made a lover for me…” It was another stellar number, albeit in a different way than their first song, particularly at the end when Mike really got to show off his skills on the keys with some fiery notes. Next up, they had a little treat for all their fans, both the old and new ones alike. They usually have at least one cover song in their set, and now they did one that I had never heard them do before, and that was the classic from the band Faces, “Stay with Me”. They put a slight country twist on it, but Somebody’s Darling is still pretty close to a rock band, allowing them to pull the song off with ease and make it entirely their own.

The crowd definitely seemed to love it, and they followed it with a few more originals, as Amber informed everyone that the next song was “Cold Hands”, which is one of the singles and the lead track from their latest release, “Jank City Shakedown”. The guitars soared to life on this occasionally bluesy track, and were rounded out by a solid rhythm section, of course including bassist Wade Cofer, who effortless and methodically plucked the strings of his bass, with that certain swagger that most bass players seems to have.

“We’re gonna slow things down for a minute.” Amber told the crowd upon finishing the last song, saying it quite quickly, as they seemed in a hurry to finish their set to make sure they adhered to the allotted amount of time they had. The slower song she spoke of was “Pretty Leaves”, which is arguably the most beautiful song they currently do, and it tells a real story, with its lyrics packing a huge emotional punch. After Nate’s drum outro, Amber took a minute to banter with the audience, reminding everyone that the next day was going to be Mother’s Day. Her recommendation to anyone who was out here at Homegrown with their mom was simple; “…Get mom plastered today…”

After her sage advice, they did another cover song, and this one was my personal favorite that they do. It’s a rendition of Jack White’s “Love Interruption”, and not only to they own it completely, but it my opinion, they also upstage the original. They had one song left for everybody after that, and they had saved one of the best for last, finishing with the very well orchestrated and intense, “Wedding Clothes”. As it wound down, Amber had the idea to jump off the stage, which was probably about five feet off the ground, give or take a little, and she told everyone of this. Sure enough, after playing her final notes on the guitar, she leapt into the air, rolling onto her back after she hit the ground, and still clutching her axe. “I had to.” She could be heard saying, making it sound like it was a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Their 35-minute long set was a sensational one, and out of all the bands that played this day, Somebody’s Darling is another one that comes to my mind first when I think back on it. Hell, this show they did this afternoon was almost every bit as good as their CD release show last October, which is hands down the best SD show I’ve personally seen.

They’re a band with an overabundance of talent, with David, Wade, Mike and Nate having phenomenal talent on their respective instruments, and Ambers’ voice alone is enough to leave you in complete awe. And no, she’s not too shabby on the guitar, either. However, the best part is they don’t wield any of that talent in a flashy way, and are instead pretty modest, simply doing their thing while they’re on stage.

They have two LP’s available, both of which can be bought via iTUNES, and they also have quite a few shows lined up. They’ll be at the Hunt County Fair in Greenville, TX on June 11th, then the next week, June 18th, at the Wherehouse in Fort Worth. June 20th will find them down in Austin at Stubb’s BBQ, and the 21st they will be in Tyler, TX at Stanley’s Famous Pit BBQ. They’ll be stopping in Shreveport, LA at Bear’s on the 22nd, then on the 27th they have a free show going down at Sundown at Granada in Dallas. A couple Oklahoma gigs are lined up for late July, and then on August 31st they will be headlining the famous Granada Theater in Dallas for the first time ever.

Concluding the country music portion for the festival was another Austin band, The Band of Heathens.

I had listened to their music before, and while I didn’t hate, I didn’t love it either, and I was curious as to how it be conveyed live.

I was able to find a modicum of shade near the guardrail by the stage, but in taking it I was only able to see four of the five members of the band, and their bassist was not in my view, though I don’t think that made much of a difference in the long run.

The lead track from 2009’s “One Foot in the Ether”, “L. A. County Blues”, began their 42-minute long set, and what a way to start. Both Gordy Quist and Ed Jurdi served as the guitarists, and the latter of those two did the singing on this song. Except on the chorus, when Gordy chimed in, creating some amazing harmonies as they crooned, “We’re burning down Las Vegas, half asleep by noon…”. At times they were even aided by pianist Trevor Nealon, who helped them achieve true vocal perfection. It was such a good opener because it highlighted exactly what the band was about, which is a nice blend of country and Americana music with some smooth, soulful and passionate singing.

Their next song, “Shake the Foundation”, also demonstrated those qualities exceedingly well. Gordy handled the lead vocals this time around, but Ed was often adding his deeper, more blues sounding voice to the mix, while Richard Millsap kept a steady and solid beat going throughout the song. “Right Here With Me” showed off a different side of the band, and I thought the song had more of a minimalist sound to it, at least in comparison to the previous songs. It was more simple, and Ed and Gordy, who each sang a few lines before passing things off to one another, often merely plucked the strings of their guitars, though they still put quite a bit effort into it, making it appear more complex than it really was.

It’s already been a couple years since the bands last studio record, and at this point in the show, they offered everyone a taste of their next album. At least hopefully it was a taste, because after finishing it Ed clarified that it might be on their next record, which he added would most likely be out later this year. I sure hope it makes the cut, because out of the seven songs they did, this one was my personal favorite. All I remember is the final line of the chorus, “…Riding shotgun through the past.”, and the song created somewhat of a solemn atmosphere as they recalled times that have come and gone. It was just a fantastic number, and while I can’t say I really can relate to it, it still stirred some type of emotion in me, and really, isn’t that what any great song should do?

They again slowed things down with “Jackson Station”, which was the only song they did off their first studio album, leaving them with just enough time to do a couple from their latest effort, “Top Hat Crown & The Clapmaster’s Son”. One of those was “Should Have Known”, which is catchy enough it could easily get people dancing along to it, and from what I saw this day, there were a small handful of couples who were doing just that. The best thing about this song, though, was when they proceeded to rock out. They had added some instrumental portions to a few of their previous songs, but they went into a full on instrumental breakdown during this one, which took up at least a couple minutes. I’ve said many times before that I’m not a real fan of instrumental music, and that does apply to breakdowns, but in this case I loved it, and not only did it add a nice layer to the song, it also showed off the chops that Trevor, Richard, Gordy and Ed have.

By this point, more than a few fans were shouting requests for a fan favorite song (“Cornbread”), and had this been a headlining set, they probably would have done it, but it wasn’t, and they brought things to a close with the single from their newest record, “Medicine Man”. Gordy’s voice had been nothing short of impressive before, but it was downright astounding during this song as he belted out some of the later lyrics.

I was hoping I’d like their music and show, and I ended up enjoying it all much more than I thought I would. The music they churn out is almost an homage of sorts to the classic country acts, though it’s certainly modernized. The best part of their show however, was the harmonies. It’s done on their records, but it doesn’t even come close to sounding the same as it does in the live environment. In my opinion, that’s a lot of what made their live show so incredible, because both Gordy and Ed are more than capable lead singers, and when their voices mix in the various ways they did this day, they sounded unbelievable.

I think that helps set them apart, because I don’t think there are many country bands like this that utilize two male vocalists, and I also think that is why you need to see The Band of Heathens live, so you can experience that for yourself.

They tour quite a bit, and on June 8th they’ll be in Pagosa Springs, CO for the Pagosa Folk ‘n Bluegrass Festival. The Tap Room in College Station will host them on June 27th, then the next night they’ll be at the Magnolia Motor Lounge in Fort Worth and the night after that they’ll be in Bee Caves, TX at Hill Country Galleria Amphitheater. They have several more dates scheduled in July, including another North Texas show at Dan’s Silverleaf in Denton. As far as the bands records, you can purchase their stuff (which is a mix of live and studio records) in iTUNES, as well as get a free download of some of their stuff on NOISETRADE.

The next act up was a very big change of pace from the previous acts, as it was the hip-hop group A.Dd+.

I’ll admit, I was ready to write them off long before they even started, because I’m not a fan of hip-hop and rap in the least, but then again, the hip-hop act from last year’s Homegrown at surprised me, so there was a chance A.Dd+ could do the same.

The duo of Paris Pershun and Slim Gravy’s entire 32-minute set consisted of songs from their new album, “DiveHiFlyLo”. They did a CD release show for their hometown fans awhile back, but it has yet to drop on the national scale, so I can’t even attempt to run through what tracks they did.

The two men rushed onto the stage, announcing, “…We in the house…” during their first track. What really surprised me was the tremendous stage presence they had, and even my eyes were glued to the stage. They followed it up with a ton more tracks in quick succession, some of which were handled mainly by Slim Gravy and others by Paris Pershun, while of course others they both rapped on, and those were the tracks where they were nothing short of being a well-oiled machine.

Before one track, Paris Pershun asked everyone to put their middle fingers in the air. “Put your peace signs up.” Slim then instructed, creating a conflicting and rather funny moment. They did some more stuff from “DiveHiFlyLo”, which they said would be released soon, and at one point during the show Paris took time to address the band’s name to everyone who was unfamiliar with them. Basically, the “.” And the “+” sign are just in the written name and not said in their actual name. So basically, you just say each letter individually to get their name, and that seemingly lengthy explanation eventually led to a rap about their name.

As their set neared the end, Paris threw in some more humor as he asked everyone to them on Twitter, saying something to the effect of, “…You’ll see us and be like, ‘That’s those two black guys who wear backwards pants.” By this point in the show they had, had a friend of theirs come up and rap on one song with them, and now for their final track, he returned as Slim and Paris jumped off the stage into the area used by the photographers, pacing about as they really got the crowd riled up.

I might not have cared for it much personally, but you have to give credit where credit is due, and after experiencing this A.Dd+ show, I can see why a few years ago the Hip-Hop scene in Dallas was exploding, and why these guys were at the forefront of that.

They are exceedingly talented at what they do, and while I won’t be buying their records and probably won’t be seeing another one of theirs shows, for 32-minutes this day they had me enthralled, and even enjoying the music to an extent.

You can find their first release in either ITUNES or BANDCAMP, and in the not too distant future their sophomore release should be available in both of those outlets, too. As for shows, keep an eye on their FACEBOOK for updates.

The day was getting closer to an end now, and it was time for another change in musical styling’s, as two soul acts would be the next performers.

The first of the two was Larry g(EE) and his rather large band, which was comprised of Beau Bedford and Daniel Creamer, both of whom played the keys, and Beau even dabbled with the guitar at times. There was also a choir, featuring three women and a man, and along with the bassist and drummer, there was also a saxophonist, trumpet player and another like instrument used.

This new age man of soul and his band kicked tings off with “Game”, a track from Larry’s debut EP, “Weekends”. If you were unfamiliar with Larry g(EE), then you were probably both surprised and impressed  by the powerful and soulful voice that came out of him, as they wove together a mix of soul, funk and even some R&B on that song. The crowd loved it, and they enjoyed the next song, which was one of Larry’s newer tracks, just is much, and a highlight of that song was the mini choir, who added quite a bit of backing vocals to the tune.

However, it was their next song that truly had everyone mesmerized, as Beau first told everyone they wanted to take them somewhere, and then Larry said essentially the same thing. The audience screamed with delight, obviously more than willing to go along for the ride. They wanted to take everyone “higher”, and to do that they did an amazing cover of the Sly and the Family Stone classic, “I Want to Take You Higher”. There probably aren’t many bands that can pull that song off, but Larrys’ band has all the right parts to do it, and I dare say his voice can give Sly Stone’s a run for its money. That one definitely seemed like the crowd favorite of the night, yet Larry and his group were still just getting warmed up, as they did another newer song, which was dedicated to the city of Dallas.

A couple more tracks from the EP came next, one of which was the more tender love song “I’m Your Fool”, which had Larry scaling back on his singing, showing off a softer side to his voice, and showing that he’s not all about belting out the lyrics with a fiery passion. For the record, though, the passion was still more than evident on that number. Larry set up the fan favorite “Camera Phone” by first saying he wanted his picture taken with the crowd, pulling his phone out and handing it to the drummer, who snapped a shot of him and the massive amounts of people in the background. It’s a bit more soulful than some of his other originals, and it also has a serious groove going on, making it one you can really get down to.

No question that Larry had been the main focal point thus far, even with all of his band members constantly doing something, they were almost more of an afterthought in a way, except on the next song, when Larry exited the stage, giving it all to his band mates. It was another cover song, and I’m fairly certain it was “Rock Me Baby” by B.B. King. There was a little more umph to their version, and the three female singers had a moment to shine, as they each sang one of the verses, working their way down the line, eventually reaching the guy, who also sang. By this point Larry was back on stage, completely consumed by the music, soon taking back over the vocal duties as they brought it to a close.

They had a couple songs left for everyone at this point, and one was another non-album song, “I Don’t Know” or rather, “IDK”, which he set up as being about “making bad decisions”. The horn section really got put to use on the final number of their 32-minute set, “Yo Mama”, which was nothing short of electrifying. Towards the end, Larry hopped off the stage running about the grassy area, before eventually racing back up onto the stage, bringing the show to an extraordinary end.

It was an incendiary set, plain and simple.

For the record, I’m not big on the soul genre of music, either, but it’s almost impossible to deny the talent that flows in and subsequently out of Larry. He’s a beast when it comes to singing and has an aura about him that pulls you in and will hold your interest for the entire time he and his band are on stage.

Go experience a show for yourself, either on July 6th at Summerfest in Milwaukee, WI, or in Dallas on August 6th at The Belmont. You can also purchase his EP in ITUNES.

That new wave of soul was excellent, but now it was time for a classic taste of the genre, as The Relatives were getting ready to take the Shiner stage.

They were introduced by Jeffrey Liles, who works at the Kessler Theater, and a high-up at the Dallas Morning News, and both men piled on the praise about The Relatives. The gentleman from the DMN mentioned that the band had disappeared for awhile, “…But I often said they needed to save their voices so they could save the world…” he said, shortly before they left the stage.

Drummer Matthew Strmiska, bassist Scott Nelson and guitarist Zach Ernst were already on stage, and soon five older gentleman filed on stage, Head Deacon Earnest Tarkington, who took his spot on stage right behind some congas, Reverend Gean West, Tony Corbitt, Tyron Edwards and Reverend Tommie West, all of whom stood behind some microphones.

This gospel/soul ensemble played several songs from throughout their career, but the main focus was on their recently released record ”The Electric Word”, and they opened with a song from it called “Let Your Light Shine”. The Reverend Tommie West led them on it, doing a majority of the singing, though they all participated, creating all sorts of divine harmonies, with Tyron Edwards even employing the use of his insanely high falsetto voice, which definitely got your attention. That ended up being merely the start of a 47-minute long sermon of sorts, as the gospel aspect of their music radiated forth from every song, creating a very spiritual atmosphere.

They won a lot of the crowd over with that upbeat song, and next brought things down with the slower “Your Love is Real”, as they continued giving praise. Tommies’ voice flowed so smoothly throughout the song, soothing in a way, though it was the few lines that Gean sang that seemed to steal the show. “One of these mornings, it won’t be long, you’ll look for me and I’ll be gone…” he crooned in a rougher tone that was filled with character. They wound it seamlessly into their next song, and upon finishing it, Gean took a moment to promote their new album, encouraging everyone to go over to their merch table and pick up a copy. He mentioned that before this show a friend of his told him not to beg the crowd to buy their CD, and he then said to everyone, “…So y’all don’t tell him I begged…”, creating a rather comedic moment of their set.

“Speak to Me (What’s Wrong with America?)” was one of the songs they did from their initial run back in the 70’s. It dealt with racial discrimination, which was obviously a much bigger problem back when they wrote it, but while it may not carry the same weight now as it did then, at least in that regard, it’s message about acceptance I imagine was just as strong now as it must have been back then. At least that was what I took from it, and it further enforced that you shouldn’t judge anyone based on their looks (and not just skin color, but also tattoos, piercings, etc.)

“Don’t Let Me Fall” was another track from the groups early years, and while it may be a short song on the album, it was anything but live. They got the audience to interact with them on that song, from things as simple as clapping and singing along, the best, though, was when Tommie asked everyone to “drop it down”. He and many of his band mates formed a cradle of sorts with their arms, then lowered their arms down a little below their waist, and much of the crowd followed suit. That went on for several times, with the old and newly converted fans happily obliging the band. Right before it ended, Tommie told everyone they were going to do it one more time, “…And I want you to drop it down real low!” he exclaimed, as he lowered his arms so much they were almost scrapping against the floor of the stage. The fans again obeyed, and did so with a huge smile on each of their faces.

Beforehand, they made it seem like that would conclude their set, but thankfully, it did not, as Gean proceeded to tell everyone of a book he read from every morning, mentioning different things it said to do to praise God, “…You praise God to dance…” he said, sounding like a pastor as the stage became his pulpit. That last sentenced I mentioned he said was a fitting one, because the song they then did had even more people swaying and dancing along to it than their previous songs had. They were able to squeeze one more song in after that, to bring to a close what had, at least for me, been the most surprising set of the day, and I say that simply because I was not anticipating the action that ensued during their show.

As great as the act before them was, The Relatives proved that the classic brand of soul mixed with gospel and funk is far superior. Mainly because they just don’t make bands like The Relatives anymore.

Actually, I’ve never cared for a choir like group like this before, and while I’d stop short of saying I’m now a true fan of The Relatives, I am a true believer in what they do.

What really amazed me was the voices of the five of them. It’s clear just by looking at them they aren’t any spring chickens, and I mean that in the most sincere way possible. When they just spoke and talked with the crowd, their voices matched their looks, sounding pretty worn and old, but when they sang, they sounded like a group of twenty something’s who were in the prime of their singing careers. It was mind boggling, but in the best possible way.

Aside from their heavenly voices that intertwined in the best ways imaginable, another standout quality to their show was their demeanor, and you could tell they were all just as happy as they could be being on that stage and performing for everyone.

They have a couple shows coming up over the next few months, beginning with one at the Solid Sound Festival in North Adams, MA on June 21st. They’ll also be Albuquerque, NM on July 20th at the Route 66 Summerfest. As for their albums, visit their pages in iTUNES either HERE or HERE. One of those is their new album, while another is their older one.

The festival was now in its final hours, and as soon as The Relatives finished I headed over to the Chevy stage, where a ton of people had already gathered all around the stage.

Headlining this one was the mighty, The Polyphonic Spree. I’ve heard a lot of good things about them over the years, whit many people even saying the band puts on the best live show they’ve seen, but during my seven plus years of being active in the local music scene, I had never seen one of their shows, and was excited to finally experience one firsthand.

A large white banner stretched across the stage, and was tied to both sides of the stage, and while the band prepared, all you could see was some silhouettes as they walked back and forth across the stage, oh, and band members’ feet.

Finally a figure, who ended up being front man Tim DeLaughter, appeared, and spray painted several letters on the backside of the banner. “Yes It’s True” it read when things were all said and done, and that is the title for the bands upcoming album. He then cut the banner at the center with some scissors, revealing the massive, almost cult like looking group.

I say cult like simply because the whole band (which is twenty plus members strong) wear essentially the same attire, with the men sporting robes with bright pastel colors on them, while Tim wore a shirt of the same pattern, and the women in the band wore white robes with simple horizontal blue stripes on the top of them.

“Hi Homegrown, we’re Tripping Daisy!” Tim gleeful exclaimed, referencing his storied Dallas rock band that started over two decades before. It seemed like just a joke of sorts at the time, but by the end of their show that comment would make much more sense.

I was immediate awe, mainly in how twenty plus people were able to fit so well on the stage, still allowing enough room to move around. The band quickly launched into their first song, which was “Section 22 (Running Away)”, the lead track from their most recent original record, “The Fragile Army”. This upbeat, poppy love song was so chipper it was impossible for your mood not to be influenced by it. My mind was quickly taken off the fact that my legs were starting to feel like jelly as I took in the completely brilliance of that song and the band in general, and in those few short minutes they more than lived up to all the hype that has surrounded them.

They gave their show a very fluid quality, often transitioning one song flawlessly into the next, and such was the case here, as they wound things into a song from “Yes, It’s True”. Tim stated that afterwards, saying it was just “a taste” of what’s to come, and at one point later in the show he even pointed out it had been six years since their last release, as if to say this was long overdue. They then got back to some stuff all their fans would now, with Tim announcing their next song was “Two Thousand Places”, or as it appears on the “Together We’re Heavy” record, “Section 14 (Two Thousand Places)”.

Tim toned his energy down to fit the slower mood of the song, and instead of frantically running about, he more paced around, while singing, “You gotta be good, you gotta be strong, you gotta be two thousand places at once…”. Accompanying him on it, at least in parts, was the six-piece all female choir, who stood on some risers at the back of center stage. Upon finishing it, a fan shouted out a request to him, which was inaudible from where I stood. “What?” Tim said, as he leaned out towards the crowd to try to hear better. “Oh, you want some of this?” he said in a second, suddenly turning towards stage right and thrusting his arms out towards his bane members, conducting them. Right on cue the violinist, cello player and many of the other musicians made one quick pluck of the strings on their instruments. It happened another time or two, and they maintained perfect synch with Tim’s movements, before several of the musicians led the charge into the explosive “Section 23 (Get Up and Go)”.

They next did another new song, “Hold Yourself Up”, and out of the small batch they of new material they did this night, that one was by far my favorite. They followed it with what everyone thought would be their only cover of the night, doing a medley of Who songs, starting with “See Me, Feel Me”, which was so harmonious, it often sounded otherworldly. It soon grew into more of a rock song, though, as they moved along to “Pinball Wizard”, where their lively performance once again ensued. They didn’t let up with their next song, either, which Tim said was yet another new song, but not in a true sense, as they had already leaked it.

He was talking about “You Don’t Know Me”, which was slightly different from their other original songs, having a stronger rock vibe, where the guitar, bass and drums where much more prevalent, though the choir, French horn, trumpet and the rest of the plethora of instruments were still put to use.

Tim left the stage for their next song, getting up close to the guardrail as they did the first of two songs from their debut album “The Beginning Stages of the Polyphonic Spree”, “Section 8 (Soldier Girl)”. Everyone seemed truly saddened when he said the next song would be their last, but the curiosity was piqued when he noted they might have a surprise after it. They ended things similarly to how they began, with “Section 9 (Light and Day - Reach for the Sun)”, which is another incredibly glowing song that exuded happiness and positivity.

That may have been the end of The Polyphonic Spree’s music for the night, but they still had one spectacular trick up their sleeve, as Tim began to reminisce about Tripping Daisy. “…There’s not a day of my life that goes by that I don’t think about the band…” he said, adding those were some of the best days of his life.

“No, they’re not seriously about to cover a Tripping Daisy song, are they?!” I thought to myself, and I guarantee you anyone even remotely familiar with that legendary band was thinking the same thing.

Tim continued by recounting the band’s early days, from playing venues I had heard of, like Club Clearview, and more than a few that must have shut their doors long ago. He even recalled how the bands first gig was at an open mic night at Club Dada. Soon enough, he mentioned that Josh Florence, one of the masterminds behind Homegrown, was a big Tripping Daisy fan back in the day, and that this song was for him. “…I busted a nut on this song all over town …” said Tim.

I had never even heard a Tripping Daisy song before this, so no, I couldn’t appreciate this as much as I would have liked to, but that still didn’t mean I wasn’t anxious to hear what they had planned.

“My decision, your decision, there’s no common ground…” Tim suddenly belted out, as the instruments, including the harp, sprang to life. The song was the first track from their first album, “My Umbrella”. It was certainly different from Tripping Daisy’s original, but it was amazing all the same, and by the time they finished it their set clocked in right at 60-minutes.

The things that surprised me the most about The Polyphonic Spree was that, despite all the things going on, on stage, it never once seemed like a sensory overload. All the instruments worked in perfect harmony together, and while many of the instruments may typically be stereotyped as being used in classical orchestras, The Polyphonic Spree certainly broke that mold.

And while much of their music was very poppy, it was also very in-your-face, even downright vicious at times, and that was all thanks to Tim. His voice has one of the most unique sounds I’ve ever heard, and what you hear on the recordings is essentially what you get live. Probably even a little better. He’s also a sensational front man who had seemingly limitless supply of energy, constantly running about and doing everything he could to pull the audience in and get them engaged in the show, which wasn’t too hard for him. Just astonishing, and I’m pretty sure he could run circles around front men that are half his age.

First off, their new record will be released on August 6th, so just a few months away now. But in the meantime, check out their other records in iTUNES, and between live cuts, holiday records and such, there are plenty to choose from. They have several dates throughout the U.S. in June and July, hitting up the states of Alabama, Tennessee, Ohio, Indiana, Minnesota, Kansas, Illinois, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Washington D.C., Massachusetts and New York. They’ll also be doing shows in the countries of Australia, South Korea, France and the UK. For specifics on all of those, go to their TOUR PAGE.

Some people left after that. Actually, some even left before The Polyphonic Spree was finished, but there was one band left, and closing out the day over on the Shiner stage was a super group based out of Austin/Los Angeles, the Divine Fits.

Despite some people calling it a day, the band still had a very healthy sized crowd, all of whom were anxious to see what I believe was the bands first ever show in Dallas.

The four-piece rock outfit, which is made up of guitarist Dan Boeckner (Handsome Furs), bassist and multi-instrumentalist Britt Daniel (Spoon) and drummer Sam Brown (New Bomb Turks), as well as Alex Fischel who worked several keyboards, took the stage a little after their 9:30 scheduled start time, and to much fanfare I might add.

The band is only barely into their second year as a group and only had one album to draw from, as they quickly got down to business, opening with “Neopolitans”, which is the final track from “A Thing Called the Divine Fits”. While repetitive, the key(s) Alex continuously struck were infectious, though the level of excitement spiked when the rest of the band ripped into the song and Britt began to fully sing the song. I don’t mean to undercut it, but it was simplistic in a lot of ways, which in turn made it somewhat of a haunting opener.

Dan took over on vocal duties as they kicked things up a few notches with one of their singles, “Baby Get Worse”. “…My heart was beating in, in and out of time…” he sang on the chorus, as the song seemed to burrow deeper into everyone’s head with each passing second, as a lot of people were moving around to it, which resulted is some loud cheers and applause when they finished it up. Britt handled the next song, and before starting their love song titled “Like Ice Cream”, Alex left his keyboard station, picking up a guitar, which he rocked on the song.

Upon finishing it, he returned to his original post, while Dan and Britt swapped out instruments, as Sam started them into “Would That Not Be Nice”, a song that really showcased their skilled musicianship, especially Britt, who had some more subtle, yet intricate riffs, which he cranked out like the pro he is. Upon finishing it, the two again switched out instruments, though this time Britt exchanged his bass for a guitar, as they did another album track, “Civilian Stripes”, which was one of my personal favorites of the night.

“We’re gonna do some Frank Ocean…” Dan informed the crowd, which got a nice reaction, as I heard some people start asking their friends what song they thought they would be covering. The song was “Lost”, but if you weren’t familiar with it and if they hadn’t just said who they were covering, you wouldn’t have known it. Obviously they made some changes to it to better fit the style of music they play, and in all fairness I’m personally not a fan of Frank Oceans’ music, so I thought their version of it was much better, mainly because it sounded much more lively. I think a lot of that was due to the full live band rounding out the sound and making it so lush, rather than the sterile sound the (I assume) drum machine gives the original song.

Britt got back to his trusty bass once that song was done, and while tuning it, he asked Dan to tell everyone about their next song, which was a new one they’ve worked up. Dan summed it up by saying, “…It’s about heartbreak and drinking…” Classic. It really was a killer song, though, and one of my favorites from their set. Next up they had another cover in store for everyone, and this time it was a more classic song, coming from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. The song was “You Got Lucky”, which Dan sang, with Britt adding the occasional backing vocals. It was another knockout cover, and one that really fit their style, both musically and lyrically, exceedingly well.

They were nearing the end of their 48-minute long set at this time, and next did “Flaggin a Ride”, which was followed by the subsequent song on their record, “What Gets You Alone”, which was the most intense song they did. Judging from it, they had saved the best for at least close to last, and to cap off this show, they had one last cover, one that can be found on their record. The song was “Shivers”, originally done by The Birthday Party, and for it Alex added the bass lines, leaving Britt to take up the rhythm guitar. The song teemed with emotion, particularly with the opening line, “I’ve been contemplating suicide, but it really doesn’t suit my style…” His singing gave it a very melancholy vibe, as well as sounding very apathetic.

The crowd somewhat dispersed after that, though droves hung around in hopes of an encore. It didn’t happen.

Surely no one was disappointed in that, though. After all, they had played almost everything from their record, and certainly hit the highlight tracks and then some.

They put on a great show that seemed to pass all too quickly, and I loved the dynamics they had going on. For instance, the vocals. Both Dan and Britt are amazing singers with very unique voices, and switching up who did the singing like they did ensured things never got stale (though I doubt that would have been a worry in the first place).

However, it’s really all about their musicianship. It’s clear each of them have spent many years doing what they do, damn near, perfecting it, as they each played their respective instruments with ease, making it appear so effortless that any non experienced person from the crowd could have joined them and been just fine. Their talent was a true thing of beauty, and something to marvel at.

Pick up their debut album in iTUNES, and they have several shows on the horizon too, which can be viewed HERE. They’ll be doing gigs in New York, Illinois, Tennessee, Ohio, California, Oregon and Texas, as well as a few around Canada.

As the crowd lingered, hoping for one more song from the band, they instead saw Josh Florence rush onto the stage. His speech was short as he thanked everyone for coming out and also promised that the fifth annual Homegrown Music and Arts Festival would be even better.

That’s a bold statement, and one they’ll be hard pressed to accomplish. But then again, I didn’t think there would be any topping last years, yet they managed to.

I liked the fact that they returned to focusing predominantly on the Dallas music scene, while the few bands from out of the immediate area were a nice way to switch things up, especially since they were scattered about the lineup.

As far as I’m concerned, Homegrown IS the best music festival in the North Texas area, and this year solidified it as that. So, go ahead and make sure you keep your Saturday’s in May 2014 free, ‘cause most likely it will be one of those days when they do the sixth edition of the festival. At the very least it’s a fun way to spend the day, and you can be a very casual music lover and still enjoy it.

It didn’t seem it, but it had been a long day, and it wasn’t quite over yet as I made the very short journey to Deep Ellum for one of the Homegrown after parties…

Friday, May 10th, 2013 – Ronnie Fauss

The suburbs of the Dallas area don’t usually come to mind as a place to go see live music, and the few venues that I’ve known of over the years have never been able to make a real run out of it. However, the one venue that has lasted is one I had never been to before this night, and that Love and War in Texas, which is primarily a restaurant.

They get some pretty notable Country/Americana/Folk acts through, but since those typically aren’t the genres I go for, I had seldom had a real reason to go there, until this night, when Ronnie Fauss and his band were playing.

Opening up for him was a band out of Austin called Greg Mullen and the Cosmic Americans, who was starting their final song when my dad and I arrived and stepped out onto the nice and spacious patio where the stage is located.

It’s hard to get a feel for a band in just one song, but I liked what I heard in that one song. You can listen to and buy both of the bands records on their BANDCAMP site, so check that out, as well as their FACEBOOK PAGE to keep up-to-date on their goings on.

Ronnie Fauss and his band missed their 9:30 start time by a bit, due mainly to some guitar issues, which were finally fixed by Ronnie replacing the battery in his acoustic guitar.

“I’m Ronnie Fauss and this is my band The Chupacabras.” He told the crowd of a little over a dozen, as they then embarked on a 71-minute long set.

They played a majority of his newest album, “I Am the Man You Know I’m Not”, which is also his debut on New West Records, beginning with the song, “The Last”. “…I’ve seen your future, baby, and it looks a lot like your past. I was your first, oh let me be the last…” Ronnie sang on the chorus, while Chris Norwood plucked at the strings of a lap steel guitar, a traditional instrument in country music, that, oddly enough, wasn’t used much this night. Then again, it’s not like they really needed it.

They picked the pace up immensely as Ronnie belted out the opening line of their next song. “Well, I’m driving this rig up to Oklahoma City…” he sang, as drummer Bill Spellman, bassist Rocky Garza, and electric guitarist Chad Hannon ripped into “I Don’t See You”, which is one of my personal favorites song of his, and was one of the catchiest of this entire night.

Chris switched to keyboard/piano for the next few songs, as Ronnie announced to everyone that the next song was called “Tia Maria”, a song that was originally found on the “Mulligan” EP. It’s a true country tune, telling a story of a wife and her cheating husband, and by the end of it, Tia Maria” has “…shot herself right through the head…” It may sound sad, but there’s actually a certain amount of humor thrown into the song.

 “…This next song is called Pistols In the Air.” said Ronnie, leading them into another track from the new album.  There was a brief instrumental breakdown during that song, and Chad stole the spotlight for a moment with some nice riffs that comprised a guitar solo, which was his first, but far from last of the night. They then pulled out another older song of Ronnies’, and while Chris was readying his mandolin, Ronnie asked everyone if they enjoyed a “good revenge song”, as that was what their next song was about. It was “One Eye Open”, and while it appeared to go off without a hitch, Ronnie copped afterwards that he forgot to do his harmonica solo, mainly because he forgot to pick his neck rack up before the song in order to do it.

No harm, no foul is what I say, especially since Ronnie pointed out that Chad picked up the slack by doing another solo. Chris again switched instruments, going back to the keys this time, but mere seconds into the more melancholy “Answers You Already Know”, Ronnie brought things to a stop. “…I didn’t learn from my mistake…” Ronnie told everyone, before reaching down and picking up his harmonica, before starting the song again.

It’s a song that shows off what a truly brilliant songwriter Ronnie is, with a line from the first verse being, “…Children are nothing but grownups who have not had their hearts broken yet…”, which soon gives way to the chorus, “And the stars shine brighter in Texas than they do in Colorado…”

They followed it with what Ronnie said was mostly an autobiographical song. I got almost giddy at that, knowing it was my favorite song of his, “It’s a Long, Long Way”, which I had not heard live since the first time I saw Ronnie, when he was just a solo artist, about two years or so ago. The song does take you through his whole life, right from the opening line, “Well, I was born in the year that Nixon resigned…” The song came to a sudden end, though, which Ronnie noted, saying it was a “impromptu end”, and sadly that happened before the final verse, which includes the line, “…Said life is not about riches, but then Snoop said it’s nothing but money and bitches…” Regardless, excluding that certainly didn’t ruin the song, and it was still a standout.

Before doing the single and lead track from the newest album, “The Night Before the War”, Ronnie plugged local radio station 95.3 The Range, saying he was lucky enough to get some airplay from them, telling everyone that the song might sound familiar if they too listened to the station. Afterwards, they did a the final remaining tracks from the new record, which were “A Pretty Nice Night for Houston”, and “This Year”, during which the mandolin was again put into action, .before going back to the keys for another utterly outstanding song, “Good Enough”.

That left them with just a few more songs from Ronnie’s back catalog, all of which came from 2010’s “Mulligan” EP, but can now be found on the compilation album, “The Sun is Shining Somewhere, but Somewhere isn’t Here”.

One of those was “Just Another Tuesday”, while another was a song that finds Ronnie wishing that multiple characteristics were different, aptly titled “Wish”, and both of those songs again called on Chris to play the mandolin. “To Ease My Mind” seemed like the perfect song to end on, especially with the killer outro they gave it, where Bill, Rocky, Chad and even Ronnie rocked out. Actually, in most cases that probably would have been the end of it, but given the show and the longer set time they had to fill, they had worked in a couple of cover songs.

One of those covers was a much more up-tempo version of Merle Haggard’s “Swinging Doors”, but it was their next song that really captured my attention, almost as much as their original stuff had. Ronnie invited  Greg Mullen on stage with them, who brought his acoustic guitar with him, despite not knowing where to plug it in at, and the sound guy was unable to help them, since he was MIA at the moment.

Ronnie again thanked Greg and his band for playing the show with them, mentioning they crossed paths doing a show in Austin and also encouraging everyone to buy Gregg’s new album, “There are America’s Beyond This America.” “…And I thought my album titles were confusing…” said Ronnie.

The song they did to end it all was “Please Don’t Bury Me” by John Prine, and even though I hadn’t heard the song prior to their rendition of it, they still did an amazing job with it. Like their other cover, this one had a faster pace to it, but that’s what made it so good, as it was really catchy and offered a very fun way to end what had been an incredible set.

Both of those songs were really a fitting end to the show, because it is the more classic country music spirit, like that of Haggard and Prine, and Ronnie embodies.

He’s a storyteller through and through, a fact that is constantly radiating from his music, and his voice has a distinctive twang that sets his sound apart from anyone else’s.

Now, I’m not saying there aren’t other country musicians and bands taking some pages out of the original playbook like he does, but all the same, I always find it refreshing when a singer or band focuses on what country is (or was) about. Rather than going with the glitz and glamor sound of the pop influenced brand of country that Nashville currently breeds. You know, the stuff that populates (or rather pollutes) the airwaves of all major radio stations.

So, if you want to hear some good ol’ fashioned country music with a bit of a modern vibe to it, check out Ronnie Fauss and his extremely talented band and listen to/buy his records in ITUNES. Better yet, go see a live show. He’ll be back in Plano on June 6th at the Courtyard Theater, then the following night, the 7th, he’ll be opening for Gary P. Nunn at the Granada Theater in Dallas. He and his band will then return to Love and War on June 23rd to open for Micky and the Motorcars.

Very fun night, and I just might need to get out to Love and War a little more often.

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Saturday, May 4th, 2013 – Cinco de Mustache Cinco: In Memory of Clint Waycaster

I was familiar with the annual Cinco de Mustache event, which took place at various Dallas venues since 2009, even though I never attended any of the concerts that always took place close to Cinco de Mayo. However, I was not familiar with the man who orchestrated the event, Clint Waycaster.

Sadly, Clint passed away sometime last year, though his annual Cinco de Mustache party was continued, this year spearheaded by Roland Rangel, as a way to honor Mr. Waycaster.

The Curtain Club was the host venue for this, and several great bands had been tapped to play it, some of whom I knew, others I didn’t.

The first band up was called At Night, and despite arriving early (around 8:40), I had missed most of the bands set, hearing only a handful of their songs.

I loved what I heard, though, as this four-piece rock outfits music featured a lot of their keyboard player, giving it a more distinct sound than most bands.

This proved to be a rather eclectic night when the next band, Cord, got on stage, and one of the instruments they had set up was a pedal steel guitar. It’s not often you see one of those on that stage, a stage ruled predominantly by rock and hard rock bands.

Before beginning, the bands singer made a brief speech about Clint, reminiscing about how he used to play songs for his friend. He talked about how Clint was always honest with him, telling him if a song was either terrible or great, then added a third response. “…Sometimes, I’d play a song and he start crying, and I’d think, ‘That must be a great song.”

They then started what was an extraordinary set, and while their first song didn’t strike me as being too country sounding, they quickly eased into it with the next song in their 30+ minute long set. They weren’t just traditional country music, though. There was a real rock flare to their music, too, even on the few songs where the lead guitarist took a seat at his pedal steel guitar.

Their stuff was impressive, with great music and well-written lyrics, which helped their set pass rather quickly, leading to their final song which the bands singer said he had written as part of another band many years ago.

I wish I could be a little more detailed with their set, but I can’t seem to find much about the band. Nevertheless, if you ever see the name Cord on a venue’s website, make a point to try to see them.

The night got more rocking with the next band, Meridian, who hadn’t done a show in about two and a half months. Making things more special was the fact that this show marked the return of an old friend to the lineup, as Moe Martinez was returning to drum for the band.

Almost as a way to celebrate his return, they opened their 35-minute set with “Nights Like This”, a track that hasn’t kicked off one of their live shows in quite some time. If Mark Sims and Shannon Nedved’s roaring guitars didn’t get your attention, then Moe’s drumming should have, as he tore into his kit. He had an obvious renewed passion for it, and even though I couldn’t see much of him this night, you could tell his heart was fully in it and he was savoring every moment of being back on stage. All that resulted in the entire band clicking more than I’ve seen them click in a long time. Throughout each chorus, vocalist Tim Ziegler often made a ripping motion with his as he sang the line, “…On nights like this, people will be ripped apart…”

There was no pause or awkward silence between songs, as they quickly moved on to “All Hands”, which, coupled with the other song, made for a killer way to start things off, and together those songs packed quite a wallop. And just an interesting side note, that was another song where Tim slightly changed up the lyrics, instead of signing “…I’ve found the next best silhouette to take the place of you…” on the chorus, he switched the latter part to, “…She’s got the shape of you…”.

Things kept moving right along with one of their newer songs, and during an instrumental break while bassist Chris Gentry, Shannon, Mark and Moe were throwing down, Tim shouted out Moe, asking, “Does anyone recognize Moe Martinez?!” Afterwards, Mark started them in on another track from their self-titled debut EP, the poppy sounding “Starts & Ends”. That one is still my favorite Meridian tune, and the newer version of it (new from the original demo at least) grows on me more and more each time I hear it.

Another older gem of the bands came next, a song that they’ve been doing since their inception and whose chorus goes, “…This is war, the city is going to burn tonight…” Hopefully, it will make the cut for the next album (whenever that may happen) because it is one of their best, and I love how it’s even eerie in a way. “Lazy Eye” was their next song, and is another standout new one they’ve created, and after it, they slowed things down a bit, but first Tim shouted out to a fellow singer/songwriter who he said helped him out on writing the tune.

It was Paco Estrada, who was headlining this night, and Tim said while he was struggling writing lyrics for the song “Train”, he went to Paco for help, spending a few days with him to get it written. While he was praising the man who is one of the best singer/songwriters Dallas has, Tim realized Paco was nowhere to be seen. “…And I’m saying all this and he’s not even here, so fuck him.” He declared, in a joking manner, of course. “Train” is always is a sign that the bands set is almost over, but this softer song wasn’t the next to last tune like usual. Instead, they picked the pace right back up with a song I was afraid they weren’t going to play this show, “Redigress”.

Tim had been goofing off throughout the show, thrusting his pelvis around at one point earlier, but during this song, he turned his back to the crowd and preceded to shakes his ass. It offered a great deal of comic relief so to speak, especially on what’s more of a serious song that ended with Tim propping a leg up on the center monitor, surveying the crowd while singing the final line, “…Fuck all your politics. Fuck all your stupid tricks. Fuck all the things you say. Words only get in the way.” That then brought them to their final song, which, as any Meridian fan knows was of course, “Hey Lover”.

They almost got through their set without anything happening, but near the end of that song, and coincidentally right at the line, “…When everything is broken…”, Shannons’ guitar went out on him due to some technical issue. You could see it all on his face, as he suddenly realized his guitar wasn’t making any noise, and while tried to fix real quick, there was only about thirty seconds left of the song, so eventually he just gave up, laughing it off and watching his band mates as they thrashed about.

Really, that can’t be held against them, not just because it was a technical issue, but it was only for the final bit of their show.

Overall, this was the best Meridian show I’ve seen in a long time, like, probably over a year. I attribute a lot of that to the return of Moe, since he was one of the founding members of the band, and was the missing component that honestly, I never knew was missing into this night.

The drummer they had to fill his shoes was great, but in hindsight, he never truly meshed with the band. And after being gone from Meridian for around a year and a half to focus on family, you could tell Moe was not only glad to once again be following his passion, but also playing some great rock music with his friends.

It’ll be interesting to see what lies ahead of the band now that their original lineup is back intact, and with them firing on all cylinders like they were this night, there’s shows will be something you want to witness firsthand.

Currently, they don’t have any shows booked, but you can find their debut EP in ITUNES, and by all means, you should purchase it.

After them was another Dallas band who I had heard a lot of good things about recently, and that was Dead Flowers, who was fresh of the release of their debut album.

The band mixes several different genres together, including rock, with some country and blues undertones, all of which were on display in their first song, “No Tragedy”. I’d say it was more of a country song, but the rapid beats Ed Chaney was supplying, along with the with the heavy and fast paced guitar chords lead guitarist Vince Tuley and singer and rhythm guitarist Corey Howe were playing made it more of a rock song, and one that instantly pulled you in. The country flare, at least in my opinion, came through on the lyrics, with part of the chorus being, “…Oh, my darling, I hope you see, even though we’re fucked up, we’re meant to be…” Definitely a good an impressive opening number, and they continued on with the following song on their “For You” record, “You’re Wrong”, which has more of a loud, fiery blues vibe to it.

“Were any of you at our CD release show here a few weeks ago?” Corey asked as some of their fans cheered to say they were. “Not here…” he then said, correcting himself and mentioning the right venue. He also asked if anyone had bought their album then. “Well, this song isn’t on it.” He finished as he, bassist Evan Winston Johnson, Vince and Ed broke into this non-album track, which was one of the best of their set. Near the end of it a string on Coreys’ guitar broke, resulting in him having to change guitars after finishing the track.

While plugging the guitar in, he took a moment to say how bad the brand of strings were. “…But I bought ten of them, so…” he finished. That then led them to a wonderful that told a story, a story of murder, and was aptly called “Murder Shuffle in a (Minor)”. “…Lay your hands on a woman be the greatest sin…” wailed Corey on one of the lines closer to the end of this explosive song, which ended up being my favorite of their set.

They did a few more songs, two of which I’m not sure of the titles, but sandwiched in-between those two was the soulful, bluesy track, “I’m A Man”. They then closed their 38-minute long set with the lead track and longest song from their album, “I Won’t Go”, which was just another one of their many great songs, and left me wishing they could play a little longer, because I was desperately wanting to hear more. And after all, isn’t that how a band should leave the crowd?

I don’t know why I hadn’t checked out Dead Flowers before this, even if it was as simple as listening to their music online, but I’m regretting not now, because they were amazing and lived up to all the positive stuff I had heard about them.

Corey has an amazing voice, that can even sound a little rough around the edges at times, which makes their sound that much better, given all the genres they roll together. He and his band mates also deliver a killer show on top of that, and even though they aren’t your traditional rock band, their show was every bit as intense as the band before them.

They’re a band you must check out, at the very least by previewing their music on ITUNES, and if you’d be interested in seeing a show, they have a couple coming up in Dallas, one of which will be on May 31st at Club Dada, the other at Three Links on June 14th.

You don’t often see nights like this where every band from start to finish is about the same caliber of talent, but so far they all had been, and there was never a moment where things seemed to dip, nor would there be as Paco Estrada and his band got ready to close out the show.

They embarked on their set with “American Girls”, which has become the new standard opener, and out of the newer music Paco is playing these days, this one is hands down the best of them all. It has a more simple rock sound to it, in the classic rock sense, though much softer, since Pacos’ acoustic guitar is the most prevalent instrument, despite being surrounded by a full band. “…From the Jersey girls to the Southern belles…” he crooned at one point in the song, in his soulful and rich sounding voice. They continued with another new song, which I believe is titled “The Way I Love You”, and it’s Paco’s specialty, a beautiful love song with great lyrics, while Scotty Isaacs piano playing and the softer, yet thick bass lines Joel Bailey was cranking out perfectly accented the song.

The songs about love continued, as the band tackled one of Paco’s more recent hits, “When We Were Made”, from the “Definite and Indefinite…” record. It had all of his fans caught up in it, some of whom were even swaying side to side while he sang the chorus, “…That’s when we were made for each other.” Another classic of his followed, and before starting it Paco joked, saying something to the effect of it being a cautionary tale of why not to play with shovels. He was setting up “Breaking Down”, which begins with the line, “You grab your shovel and your digging axe, ‘cause you have to be the first in line to bury the past…” However, that is not the message of one of Paco’s more personal songs, where he later sings, “My father had a heart attack at fifty-eight, I never thought that man was built to break…” Still, I find the best part of this song to be the latest cover he has mashed it up with.

After one of the last choruses, the band, which was rounded out by drummer AJ Blackleaf and an electric guitarist, continued the music bed, and after a musical break, Paco began singing the classic song from U2, “One”. He started at the line, “Did I disappoint you, or leave a bad taste in your mouth?”, however it was when he got to, “…And I can’t be holdin’ on to what you got, when all you got is hurt.” where it really sprang to life. You could see the emotion and passion Paco was putting into his singing bleeding out onto his face, then, and it was glorious.

Even if it is but a partial cover, he and his band own it, making it entirely their own. That wasn’t the only cover of this show, though, as next they did a song I had never heard Paco play before, and that was Modern English’s “I Melt with You”. It was slower than the original (or even the various covers that I’ve heard of it), transforming the song from a rock track to more along the lines of easy listening, so to speak. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and he was able to pull it off in a way that made it seem like one of his own songs.

Afterwards, the band started talking amongst themselves, and during that a female fan ran and jumped on stage, whispering into Paco’s ear. She then approached the mic and asked everyone to give it up for Paco. “It’s like I have my own personal cheerleaders.” Said Paco once she had left the stage and he retook the mic.

He informed everyone he had promised that woman he would play a song she had requested, and his band mates filed off stage, meaning this next song was going to be a stripped down acoustic.

I wondered what it would, because in his decade plus long career, he’s written countless songs that are fan favorites. I was anxiously awaiting the start of the song, when he suddenly sang, “New York down to Mexico, Seattle to the Oklahoma. Your ghost will always haunt my soul. Los Angeles to Baltimore…” That’s the opening lines of “I Will Follow”, a song I had not heard in years. It was wonderful getting to hear it again, though Paco did something he seldom did during this song, and that was stumble through the lyrics, at least at one line.

In his defense, his singing abruptly gets quicker as he sings, “…No I’m not telling you lies, I’m not telling you this so that you’ll be surprised. I’m just telling you this to get shit off my chest, it’s the only way that I have learned to survive…” Early on in that he said the wrong line, skipping ahead in the song a bit, which threw him completely off, as he shook his head like, “I can’t believe I did that.”, then giving himself a second before picking back up where he was supposed to be.

The slipup didn’t affect the song much, and is easily forgivable in my opinion, besides, it was just so fantastic hearing that oldie again.

That put them at the tail end of their 45-minute long set, and after the band rejoined Paco, they performed the gorgeous, “I Will Never Let You Go”, which really highlight Scotty’s talent as a pianist. That then took them to their final song of the night, which Paco dedicated to a friend and legend of the North Texas music scene, Matt Slider, best known as the singer of The FEDS, a band that had a nice thirteen plus year run. He happened to be in attendance, and earlier in the show, while talking to Slider, he told me he hoped Paco would play a certain song, and it was the song that usually ends his sets, “Haunting Me”.  It’s another song that is done as a mash-up, and after finishing it out, Paco tacked on some lines from Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” to conclude the song.

This was a fine way to cap of an incredible night, and I’ll say it once again, Paco Estrada is one of the best singer/songwriter’s in the area, and this band he now has backing him is one of the best he’s had in some time.

If for some reason you haven’t heard of him yet, head over to his BANDCAMP PAGE to find, listen to and buy most of his releases. Also, keep a check on his FACEBOOK PAGE for upcoming show dates.

It was another incredible night at my favorite Deep Ellum haunt, especially since everything this night was done in memory of Clint Waycaster, and the money from the raffles and auctions they were doing went to benefit a charity. Fun was had by all, and even though I didn’t know Clint, I imagine he would like the fact that his event was being continued and that people were having fun at it, instead of being saddened by his early passing. So, here’s to hoping the Cinco de Mustache celebration continues next year with a sixth edition.

Lastly, I have a random piece of info. This show took place nearly seven years to the day that I first walked through the doors of the Curtain Club. Who was playing here the night of May back in 2006? Well, one band was SouthFM, and the other was Darby. The former was the rock band Paco used to front, while the latter act was led by Tim Ziegler. Point is, after all these years, I find it neat that those two singers are still sharing the stage with each other in their respective current projects.

Album Review: “Born on 4/20” by Alex Allred

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Alex Allred is a singer/songwriter who has been entrenched in the North Texas music scene for a little over a decade now. He’s probably best known for fronting the hard rock outfit, The Aftermath Theory, a band that after five years, decided to go on an indefinite hiatus.

He’s working hard to change that, though, and in the late 2000’s he began writing some acoustic songs, readying himself for a solo career, and suddenly finding himself without band made this a good time to pursue this new musical outlet.

This new music was a vast departure from what he was used to, but it allowed him to test and push himself as a songwriter. A little over a year after his rock band had more or less called it quits, Alex was releasing his first album as a solo artist, and he had also welcomed two other musicians into the fold to back him up.

The album is titled “Born on 4/20”, which is his actual date of birth, and isn’t just a collection of random songs, but songs that chronicle his life.

The album begins with the title track itself, “Born On 4/20”, which is a promising, upbeat song that partly deals with Alex’s birth. It’s driven predominantly by the acoustic guitar, which eventually builds and hits a rather epic climax towards the end of the song. I feel the overall message of the song, though, is about chasing your dreams, regardless of what others may think, best summed up with the line, “…Count all your blessings and never attest to the world that dreams are only for the chosen…”, which Alex sings in his distinctive voice, which has nice, almost soothing quality to it.

The album doesn’t let up any, as it moves on to “Little Warrior”, a very melodic track where Alex continues to tell his life story to everyone, beginning with the (very) early days of his childhood. The drumming is often more simple on this one, often just a steady beat made by slapping one of the skins, but it mixes quite well with the guitar, creating a catchy music bed that will no doubt burrow its way into your head.

Things continue full-steam ahead with “Another One”, which mines a vein similar to the previous track, before offering a glimpse at his softer side of singing and writing with the longest song on the album, “Panic Attack!” which, despite the brief crescendo, is still more of a tranquil song.

“Phase”, which is the shortest offering on the record, comes next and finds Alex returning to his Rock ‘n’ Roll roots, albeit in more of an acoustic way. Sure, it may have a very stripped down sound, but it’s rather intense and could go up against some of the loudest rock songs and hold its own with ease, especially since it boasts a more noticeable rhythm section than previous song.

“I would do it if it takes me a lifetime. Good news, I’ve got nothing but time…” Alex croons at the start “#1 Scenario”, a song where he seems to reaffirm his love and dedication for his music career. It also finds him returning to a more traditional acoustic style of sound, different from the song that came before it, but that’s okay. His music doesn’t all have to be in-your-face to stick with you, in fact, this is one of the highlight tracks on “Born On 4/20”.

One of the cheeriest songs on the album is “Moments”, which emits a rather carefree attitude with its positive vibes, as Alex reminisces about growing up in his suburban neighborhood, before things take a more serious twist with “Biology, Not Chemistry”. “It scares me to say that we share the same DNA…” sings Alex, a line that perfectly summarizes how real and raw the track is.

There’s a slight reggae influence to “Just Breathe”, which is appropriate, given what the song is about. One of the lines from the chorus is, “…I could get used to this, faith, love and cannabis is happiness…”, obviously making marijuana what he is referencing to breathing. It’s not just a song about smoking pot, though, at least not in the sense where he’s simply stating that he does it. Rather, he kind of delves into what he gets from it, making a slightly more complex song than you might think it would be.

Aptly following it is “Young & Dumb”, where Alex bluntly recounts an indiscretion from his later teen years when a police officer caught him smoking a joint while driving down the highway. He’s very transparent about it all, matter-of-factly stating that it happened, though, essentially admitting that it was mistake of his youth, yet not showing any regret about the situation. Like he sings, “…Give it up for the young and dumb…” Oh, and the guitar chords are most excellent on this tune, too.

“Higher Learning”, a song that takes the listeners through Alex’s college years, is a real sing-along track, particularly on the chorus, “…Never said I didn’t do every little thing I wanted to…”, which I could see everyone shouting along with at one of his live shows. It’s just another fun song that “Born on 4/20” has to offer, and is a contender for best song on the record.

“Life & Times” concludes this nearly 40-minute long listening adventure, ending things on a chipper note, and this more love based song finds Alex meeting his (presumably) current girlfriend, and it comes across that he has an optimistic outlook on the future, as well he should.

“Born on 4/20” is a nice concept album of sorts, and it’s refreshing to see a musician write an entire collection of songs where he bares his soul, exposing who he is and informing everyone of what shaped him, rather than writing songs about ex-girlfriends and bad break-ups and such.

It’s also a record that will grow on you, trust me. I listened to every song at least five times each while working on this review, and with each listen, the music, from the beats to the chords, as well as Alexs’ one-of-a-kind voice, became more and more appealing to me.

These days, you don’t often see trios, and you probably wouldn’t think an acoustic one would be all that special, but Alex Allred and his band are one to get acquainted with, and “Born on 4/20” is the perfect introduction to their style.

The Alex Allred Band is:
Alex Allred - Vocals, Guitar
Kevin Broussard - Percussion, Vocals
Clinton Potter - Bass

Purchase the album on:
iTunes / Amazon mp3

Visit Alex Allred’s websites:
Offiical website / Facebook / Reverbnation / Twitter / Youtube

Current Shows:
Saturday, June 29th at Liquid Lounge in Dallas, Texas

Saturday, April 6th, 2013 – The Deep Ellum Arts Festival 2013: Day II

It was time for round two of the Deep Ellum Arts Festival, and I was getting a much earlier start this day.

The first band I wanted to see went on at 2:20, at I got down to Dallas around that time, but the search for a parking spot took some time, and by the time I made it over to the main stage, Nicholas Altobelli and the Gigawatts were a little ways into their set.

Actually, they weren’t quite the Gigawatts, since they were missing a drummer and bassist, but we’ll get to that in a minute.

Not long after I got there, Nicholas announced to everyone they were going to do a more “sensitive song”. That sensitive song was one of the tracks from his latest “Without a Home” album, “27 Stories”. “I don’t want to become something I’m running from… Crash and burn in the ground without making a sound, is that so hard to believe, or is it just me?…” Nicholas sang on the opening lines, using a more somber tone of voice on it to reflect the mood of it. After finishing it he mentioned his backing band The Gigawatts (pronounced like jig-a-watts), which was pedal steel guitarist Heather Kitzman, acoustic guitarist Robbie Saunders, and on the keys was Rahim Quazi, who is an accomplished area musician in his own right. Nicholas mentioned they were missing a few members, asking if they should change their name to the “gigabytes” since there were less of them. “No,” you could hear Heather saying while laughing. They then did another track from the new album, “I Don’t Think Tonight is Going to be a Good Night”, which was a little more upbeat, despite still being more of an emotional song, and it’s that certain level of emotion that is essentially a constant in all of Nicholas’s music. Without going into detail, he said that they seem to be cursed at the Deep Ellum Arts Festival, saying they played here for three straight years and something always seemed to go wrong, and now they were sans a drummer and bassist. Still, that’s not terrible. They switched things up a bit as Heather left her pedal steel guitar and approached the stage right microphone. She has another band, The Blondelles, an all female Country band that does both covers and originals, and now one of her band mates from that group joined them on stage to perform a Blondelles tune. The song was quite good and the occasional harmonies they had going on were very delightful, leaving me with a strong desire to see a Blondelles show. They returned to their typical lineup and did a couple more tracks, one of which was a new one called “Dogwood”, which Nicholas said would be on his next record. Yes, not even two months after the release of his latest album and he’s already working on songs for his next album. You have to respect that. As for the song, it was very catchy and I loved the story it told. I’d even go as far as to say it’s one of the best things he’s written, which is saying a lot.

At this point, he asked the person working the sound how much time they had left. “…Please don’t say, like, forty minutes.” He said. Well, how much time do you think they had left? Yep, forty minutes. Judging Nicholas’s reaction, it was obvious they hadn’t prepared that meaty of a setlist, which meant most of what they did next was all impromptu.

Heather volunteered to do another song of the Blondelles, which killed some time, and afterwards Nicholas busted out an older song of his, one which he set up as being about a town in Michigan. The town he spoke of was Ann Arbor, which was the title of the song. I first saw Nicholas about a year ago and this song was my favorite from that set, but then he mentioned he was probably going to be retiring it to make room for his newer material. So, hearing it was a bit of a treat, for sure. He and Heather handled that song, but the other band members joined in for “I Just Want to Feel Real”, which was undeniable the most upbeat song of their set. It had already kind of been a song swap since Heather had done a few songs, and it definitely became one here, as Nicholas handed his acoustic guitar off to Rahim as the two traded places. He introduced himself to everyone, then did one of his originals and the title track of one of his albums, “Supernatural”. It was an infectious tune and instantly made me a fan of Rahim’s. I’ve heard some great things about him over the years, and now, I understand why. He got back behind the keys after that song, and they spread the love around some more, letting Robbie do a song, which had a Bluesy vibe to it. The best part about those other two songs was watching Heather, Robbie and Nicholas trying to play along with it and add backing vocals in parts, because, since they were unfamiliar with the songs, they were having to watch both Rahim and Robbie with an eagle eye while they were doing their song.

That seemed to have exhausted a lot of their options, and now Nicholas again asked how they were on time, hoping it was almost up. “Perfect.” He said after hearing they were down to three minutes, giving them just enough time to do the single from “Without a Home”, “The Lucky Ones”.

Considering about half of their set was made up on the spot, it was great show, and they pulled it all off without a hitch. Even without the rhythm section and doing acoustic versions of all the songs. I even think that out of the handful of shows I’ve seen of Mr. Altobelli’s, this one was the best yet.

See a show if you can. They’ll be playing at AllGood Café in Dallas on May 31st, along with The Blondelles. On June 28th they have a gig at Sundown at Granada in Dallas, and on July 11th they’ll be up in Denton at Dan’s Silverleaf. And if you’d like to listen to/buy Nicholas’s records, check out a couple of ‘em in ITUNES.

After their set, I went to find some shade, and wound up at the Deep Ellum stage were a band by the name of Chant was finishing up their set.

They were a mix of R&B and Soul, and what little I saw was absolutely amazing. The trio had a fantastic sound going for them, and by the looks of it, I wasn’t the only one they had reeled in. There was quite a crowd watching them, and once they were finished, the audience erupted in applause and cheers.

I killed some more time once they finished, ending up at the Singer/Songwriter stage around four where Clint Niosi was doing a show.

I first discovered him late last year at the Dallas Observer Music Awards showcase, but there was one big difference between that show and the one he was about to do, and that was that he now had a full backing band. In fact, this was the debut show of The Unaccountable, which was what Clints’ backing band has been named.

However, just because Clint now had a full band, comprised of Tommy Garcia on drums, Matt Hanson on the piano, bassist Aaron Bartz, and Claire Hecko playing the violin, didn’t mean he was going to stray too far from his sound.

Their 35-minute long set got off to a slow start as he slowly plucked the strings of his electric guitar setting up a song from his 2008 album “The Sound of Dead Horses Beaten Against Cold Shoulders”, “Coalmine Canary”. When it was time for the instrumentalists to join in, they were all pretty reserved with their playing, too. The bass lines were subtle, at times hardly even noticeable, while the drums were loud enough to be heard, but offered no competition between any of the other elements, and the keys and violin served to really accentuate Clints’ voice, which was undoubtedly the main focal point throughout the show. That all held pretty true for every song, and next they did the somewhat eerie “White Elephant”, off last year’s “For Pleasure and Spite” album. In listening to it, to realize not only how much power the music has in setting a songs mood, but also how much the lyrics and the tone they are said in affect it. “…There’s nothing new and it’s all been done. Nostalgic for the way it never was…” sang Clint on one of the later lines of “New Light”, a song that is one of the best example at what an incredible songwriter he really is. All of those songs thus far, and most of his in general, have a certain ominous quality to them. I like that about his music, but “My Mepistophilis” was a refreshing change of pace, since a little bit of the song is more upbeat musically. That served as a turning point in a way for the show, because the songs that followed it, “The Sum of Parts” and “Little Heart”, also have a somewhat happier or more tranquil vibe, despite that latter song being about a breakup. Sometime around this point (probably a few songs before) a guy walked up to the stage. “Hey, don’t be afraid to actually play that guitar!” he said to Clint, who shrugged it off as the guy walked away. It was funny, mainly because the guy couldn’t appreciate what the band was actually doing. They had a few songs left now, and had saved the best for last, and both “The Formless Black” and “Shark In Your Water” were highlights of the show, even though they sound completely different from one another. They had one song left after that, and ended it with another track from the latest record, “While I’ve Got You on the Line”.

It was a fantastic set, even if some people thought he needed to play the more loudly.

As a solo artist Clint is great, and when I first saw him he was accompanied by Claire on some of the songs, but The Unaccountable create a whole new layer on the live performance.

They make the songs really pop. Sure, it’s all very subtle, but, like I said in another recent review (though it was meant in a completely different way then), there’s beauty in subtlety. You don’t have to be a loud rock band doing flashy stuff on stage to get people’s attention. All you really need is to be able to write deep, powerful lyrics that can captivate the listener… Well, at least the listener who can appreciate it.

Clint is a truly remarkable songwriter, and hands down one of the best in the area. As for the band, he did a good job at assembling some talented individuals that really fit with his style.

Be on the lookout for the band, and as of right now their next show is May 18th as part of the Arts Google Festival in Fort Worth where they will be playing at Sinaca Studios. As for his two albums, they can be purchased in either ITUNES or BANDCAMP.

As soon as they finished, I hightailed it back to the main stage at Good Latimer, where the Indie/Folk band The Fox and the Bird was getting ready to play. I’ve heard a lot about them over the years, but had never made it to a show, so now was the time to see what all the fuss was about.

Their 47-minute long set was a mix of old and new material and they opened with one of those new songs. I was drawn in to it almost immediately, though, due largely to the three and even four part harmonies they often had going on, making it very entrancing. They followed it with “Traveling Bones”, a sweet little love song where backing singer and occasional lead singer Sarah Scotts’ voice intertwined gorgeously with singer and acoustic guitarist Dan Bowmans’. “…I’m in love with the view, but I’m more in love with you…” the two sang in synch with each other. They did a little over half of the songs from their debut album “Floating Feather” this night, and the next song they tackled from it was “Women In the Kitchen”. Additional acoustic guitarist Jacob Metcalf sang lead on that tune, which had more had more of a Folk/Country vibe, and Petra Kelly’s violin playing was superb on it. They did a newer song next, which just so happened to be about the fine city of Dallas, which made it very relatable for all those in attendance. By all those, I mean a lot, as there didn’t appear to be an empty seat anywhere, forcing a lot of people (myself included) to stand and watch their performance. Upon finishing it, Jacob mentioned that their new album, an EP titled “Darkest Hour”, should be out sometime in May. They then did a few songs from it, which required Dan to exchange his guitar for an accordion. Not only that, but he also used a trumpet from time to time over the course of the next few songs, one of which was sung Sarah, showcasing what a strong voice she has, while another was the final song from their first record, “Hey Sister”. It was slower in relation to most of their other stuff, which in turn made the drums, which were manned by Paul Grass, the dominant instrument. His drum kit was pretty small and far from traditional, as his bass drum was a suitcase. Very interesting, and as odd as it looked, it resulted in a sound much like that of an actual bass drum. They got back to their normal setup, with Dan on the guitar, in order to do “Oldest Old”, which was one of my favorites of their set, and “Old Mother” wasn’t too shabby, either. They did a couple more new tracks, then arrived at the title track from their current album, “Floating Feather”. This cheery song was the only I was truly familiar with (I admittedly haven’t listened to the album a whole lot). It was every bit as good live as the recorded version, and is arguable the best song they’ve written. They had one left after that, bidding everyone farewell when they finished it, saying “…We’ll see you next time.”

Now, I know the whole Indie/Folk genre is kind of played out at the moment, since it has suddenly become the hot commodity and there are now a bazillion bands like that who have become successes from the commercial aspect. Honestly, I’m as tired of it as probably everyone else is. And while you can’t say there’s no other band out there like The Fox and the Bird, you can say they are doing it all right.

It’s creative musically, and lyrically several of their songs tell some good little stories. Plus they are all very capable and great singers, whose different tones of voice make sure nothing ever gets to repetitive.

I really liked it and am glad I finally got to see one of their shows. Hopefully I can make it to another sometime in the near future.

Find their album “Floating Feather” in either ITUNES or BANDCAMP, and keep a check on their FACEBOOK PAGE for info about future shows.

So far there had been a lot of diversity between all the bands (and that’s just from the ones I chose to see) and it was about to get more eclectic when Reinventing Jude took the stage.

I’ve heard of the band for a few years now, but it wasn’t until the last six months or so when I actually listened to their stuff and became a fan.

The band, which is fronted by Jude Gonzalez, was functioning as a quintet this night, and along with all the typical instruments a band has, they also had a cello player.

Their first song proved the self-description of being a Ballroom Rock band to be an accurate one. That’s the similarity between their songs, they all have somewhat of a mellow vibe to them and are rather relaxing, while also stimulating. It’s quite interesting, and had me captivated from the start. I think they followed it with “1919”, which let Judes’ smoky voice flow while she played her guitar. There’s no doubt that she drew the most attention, but her band mates were putting on a good live show as well and put more energy into it than you might expect based on their style of music. Yun Kim was a powerful drummer who was really into it all, and lead guitarist Nathan Hanlon is an exceptional guitar player, though he was more restrained here than with the rock band I last saw him in. They did another song before getting to what I think was “Midnight 30”, which was at times a little more upbeat, and had some nice cello parts courtesy of Ashley Montez, while bassist Chris Townsend and Yun created a very strong rhythm section on that one. “The Talk” was one of their most dynamic songs of the night, and “The Weather” was pretty good, too. Jude announced their next song was “Secret”, a track from the 2011 album “Shoulder Season”, and another one that showed off Judes’ somewhat sultry voice as she crooned on the chorus, “…I’m gonna fall in love and I’m gonna keep it…”. Before beginning the next one, she announced it was named “Swimmer Song”, which was an amazing song, and they did one more after it to finish up what had been a stellar 47-minute long set.

It was a nice set and I can’t believe it took me so long to see a Reinventing Jude show.

They have an extraordinary sound, and Judes’ voice is one of the smoothest and most distinctive I’ve heard. The slower pace most of their songs have might not be for everyone, but if you don’t mind that and you like music that has real substance and meaning to it, than you need to give Reinventing Jude a listen.

You can buy their albums in ITUNES, and get some free downloads of some singles on either REVERBNATION or SOUNDCLOUD.

They usually keep pretty busy when it comes to live shows, and as of right now you can find them at Hailey’s in Denton on May 10th, and the following weekend, May 18th, they’ll be at The Freeman in Dallas.

There was one last act I really wanted to see this night, and that was the Alt/Country band from the small town of Belton, Texas, Kirk Baxley and the Old Number Sevens.

The four-piece’s opening track was really good, and they kept the show rolling with the smooth sounding “Drive”, which is one of the tracks from the “Cold as a Stone” EP. It does kind of call into question how Alt/Country the band is, though, and singer and rhythm guitarist Kirk Baxley brought that up at one point during their set, saying that some people will classify them as that. “…I like to think of us as being more Belton, Texas Country…” he said, and that genre has a dash or two of rock added to the mix. Those first two songs had been pretty loud and fast paced, but now they took things down for a few notches with the sensitive love song, “Constantly”. Kirk’s always been good at the ballads, and that tune is a fine example of that. They stepped things back up afterwards with what was the most rocking song of their set. The bands lead guitarist really got to cut loose on this one, shredding and cranking out some awesome lines, and the drummer was able to let his chops show as well. It was beast of a song, and hopefully it can make it onto their next record. Kirk did some chatting with the crowd in between songs, doing everything from pumping the crowd up, to talking about the next song they were going to do. He did the latter here, saying the one they were about to do was for his dad. It was nice song, and they followed it with a few other non-album tracks, one of which was an old gem from the first time he played back during the time of his first country project, “God in Rock ‘n’ Roll”. I love that song and the positive energy it has, and it was great getting to hear it again, ‘cause it’s been a couple years at least since I last heard it. Before their next song, Kirk asked if anyone hailed from a small town, saying that was exactly what this next song was about, and it was aptly titled “Small Town”. “…Being from a small, small town, it ain’t easy…” Kirk belted out on the chorus, telling it like it is in a way, but the overall message is being from a small town isn’t that bad, and it certainly can’t define who you are or what you can do in life. They again slowed things down, way down at that, this time with the title track of their EP “Cold as a Stone”. I believe it was at this point where Kirk asked if anyone had a problem with them slowing it down and making it even more depressing. It was hard to think that could happen, but it did, and I think that was also the song where the bands bass player switched from an electric bass to an upright bass. It added a good sound to the music, but he went back to the electric bass for their next song, “Bring My Brother Back”, and after another song, they broke out the fan favorite, “Rock ‘n’ Roll in My Veins”. “I’ve got rock ‘n’ roll in my veins, but I love country music just the same…” Kirk sang at the start of this intense rock song, a song where you saw a glimpse of his rock frontman personality jump out. I thought the show was over with that, since it is a fan favorite and seemed to please everybody who was watching them this night, but they had one more left to cap off their 65-minute long set.

It was an awesome show, and much better than the last time I saw them, where they were limited to a five song set. I really liked it because even though he’s been doing this for a few years now, I’ve never been able to see a full set from him and his band in order to get a real taste of what their sound is like, and now that I have, I love it.

The music is far from being true Country, so it’s not going to alienate his older fans (at least not most of them), but they’re certainly not the loud, heavy rock songs he used to write, either. Instead, what he does now is a nice blend of each.

After all these years, Kirk is still one of the best singer/songwriters here in the area. Sure, he might not live in Dallas per say, but this has always been his hometown of sorts, which he pointed out while playing, saying he’s often been at the Deep Ellum Arts Festival in past years, but had never performed it until now, and he was proud to be able to.

They’ll be pretty busy the last half of May, doing a two night stand at the House of Fifi Dubois in San Angelo on May 17th and 18th. On the 24th they’ll be at The Rattlesnake Inn in Florence, then on the 31st they have a gig at Darwin’s in Austin. Also, be sure to check out their EP in ITUNES.

There was one band left, and somehow I didn’t know The Roomsounds were playing this thing until a few hours before this point. I really considered staying to see them, but after being out since the early afternoon, I was beat and decided to call it a night.

All in all, I had a blast at the Deep Ellum Arts Festival, or rather watching the bands that played it. This was the second straight year I’ve attended two out of the three days of the festival, and I’m already looking forward to what bands will be playing it next year.

Friday, March 29th, 2013 - A Blend of Acoustic and Electric Rock

Another weekend was about to start, and what better way to kick it off than by catching a show at my favorite Dallas venue, The Curtain Club.

Stand 2 Reason was the first band up this night, but due to some traffic jams, I didn’t get there until they were almost done.

What I heard of this mostly acoustic band was really good, though. They had the standard rhythm section, but the other three members of the group all played acoustic guitars, which actually added some great layers to the music, and the singer, Andy, has a great voice.

During just a few songs, they made me into a fan, and hopefully I’ll get to catch a full show sometime in the future.

Up next was the main band I was there to see this night, the Austin based, Distant Lights.

One of their newer songs, which I believe is titled “Science”, began their set, and got them off to quite a start. I was prepared for a show much like their one here in November, which was almost all-new material, but it was completely different this time around. In fact, their next song was a shocking surprise to me. I’ve never seen a Distant Lights show where they didn’t close with “Artifice”, yet now Gaelan Bellamy was cranking out the opening lines of it, shredding on his guitar, before Kevin Abbenante beat down on his drums, kicking it up even a few more notches. It is the most song in their arsenal, and the lengthy instrumental bridge is the highlight of it, giving bassist, Sam Marshall, Gaelan and Kevin a chance to take the spotlight and really rock out. It really just didn’t feel right at this point in the set, though. I think it’s a song that’s best reserved for the closer, or it would probably even make a mean opener. “We are Distant Lights, from just down the road in Austin, Texas…” announced frontman, Gabriel Fry, who also mentioned that most of what they were performing could be found on their albums, pointing to their merch booth. They slowed things down considerably with “Metamorphosis”, which has a nice flow that is truly complimentary of the song, starting off slow and heavy on the rhythm section, but as the lyrics get more exciting, “…and as the channel opens up I marvel at the power as it grows…”, so too does the music, amping up considerably. All that makes it a very well written song. They followed it with “Dystopia”, the lead track from their “Simulacrum” album and one I had not heard in far too long, and then moved on with one of their newer songs. That actually started them on a series of newer songs, and no sooner had they finished it than Kevin launched them into the aggressive, “Tightrope”. The mood fluctuated over the course of the next two songs, “Suffocating” and “Patterns On the Rise”, both of which have a real ebb and flow to them, being fairly relaxed at some points, before jumping into a full on rock song. That eventually led them to the final song of their 35-minute long set, “What’s On Your Mind”. It’s no “Artifice”, but it is the next best thing to go out on, and has Gabriel rather viciously belting out the chorus, while prowling around the stage.

It was a spectacular show they put on, and definitely the best of the night. They put such energy into their performance and have an undeniable stage presence. Even though the Curtain was fairly empty when they played, they still managed to captivate the attention of almost all of the onlookers, which doesn’t happen too often in my experience.

I almost want to say that Gabriel carries the band with the way he conducts himself on stage and the stellar voice he has (it is one of the best I’ve heard, and he sounds even better in the live setting than their recordings do), but that wouldn’t be true.  Gaelan’s skills on the guitar are out of this world, and he’s certainly at his best on the occasions when he’s shredding. Lastly, Kevin and Sam make a dynamic rhythm section, with Sam’s slick method of grooving on the bass, while Kevin is more assertive with his drumming, making it well rounded.

They’re just a killer group, and after not playing the Dallas for a few years, I’m glad that they’re starting to venture up here again. Hopefully it can become a normal thing once every two to four months or so.

You can find their first album in ITUNES, and word is they have almost completed their next record. They also have shows coming up on April 26th at Click’s in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and April 27th at Rock ‘N’ Blues in Covington, Louisiana. They have a hometown gig in Austin on April 28th at the Dirty Dog Bar, opening for Powerman 5000, and on May 11th they’ll be down in San Antonio at Fitzgerald’s.

So, once Distant Lights finished I went over to the Liquid Lounge side of the venue where Aaron Pose was doing a set.

I figured the singer of Admiral Grey was probably almost done at this point, and sure enough he was, only having two songs left, both of which were newer ones he had written. One of those songs was titled “Another Day”, but the best of the two I heard was by far his closing song, “Home”. Before starting he talked about his recent decision to take a break from music, saying he needed to “recharge his batteries”. “…I don’t know how long that’s going to take. Could be three months, could be six months, it could be a year…” he said, saying it was just time to take a break and focus on family for a while. Evidently, part of what spurred that decision was when he wrote this song, “Home”. And he said when writing songs, he just let’s it flow, barely even paying attention to what he’s writing at the time. He added that after he finished this song and then read, he knew it was time to take a break. Emotionally it was a deep song, dealing with not always being there for the people who need you, and honestly, may be the best thing Aaron has ever written.

The music scene will feel kinda empty without Aaron being an active part of it, but I feel where he’s coming from and I doubt anyone can blame him for taking some time off. I’m just glad it’s not a permanent hiatus, though.

Aaron doesn’t have any solo music available, but do check out Admiral Grey’s “Long Road” EP.

As soon as he was finished, I headed back to the Curtain, where the next band, Breaking Midway, was just getting warmed up.

I wasn’t instantly drawn in by them, and honestly, they struck me as being bland at first. There was no gripping quality to singer and acoustic guitarist Kelley Hannahs’ voice, and the first full song that I heard, “Dreaming”, came across as being a little drab. “Volcano” was a little more vibrant, and had a nice backbone, courtesy of drummer, Jay Chagnon, and their upswing continued with “I Won’t Let You”. It was after that song that I decided the band was more of an acquired taste, and one I was liking a little more with each song. They did a couple more tunes, one of which was another from their 2012 debut record, “The Speed of Life”, titled “Wish”, which was one of the catchiest songs of their set. “Living Room” was another standout from their set, and after another track, they did one of their newer songs, “Home”. There’s a real sentimental quality to the song, and while it didn’t connect with me on a personal level or anything, I must say it was quite moving. They had certainly hit their stride at this point, and now did “Finally Free”, which had more of a rock sound to it than their previous stuff, and the same could be said about “Done”, which just had a little more vigor to it. They only had one more for the night, and after laying her guitar down on the stage, Kelley said they had “saved the best for last”, and she wasn’t joking, either. I don’t know what it was, but it definitely was the most in your face song of their set.

By the time it was all said and done I don’t know if I’d say I had become a fan of Breaking Midway’s, but I had enjoyed their show.

I guess my main thing with Kelleys’ voice was it didn’t immediately grab me, which is what I prefer, but if you listen to a few songs, you’ll discover an endearing quality to it, and one that should hold your interest. Her, the lead guitarist and Jay put on a good show, but the bass player, he was rather lifeless, and appeared to be going through the motions instead of actually being invested in it and enjoying being on stage, which in the end was the only thing I disliked about their show.

Check out their albums in ITUNES, which ranges from a full-length to some singles and even a live record recorded right here at the Curtain Club. They also have a gig coming up on May 11th at O’Riley’s in Dallas.

I stuck around for the headliner, Ol’ Jug of Whiskey, whom I’ve heard a lot about and was very eager to finally see what they were like.

Their show this night was a first for the band, who is typically an acoustic act, but tonight was doing their first ever electric set.

The first song of their set required their guitarist, Mike Drake, to use a mandolin, adding an interesting vibe to what was more a rock song. He switched to a guitar after that, but after a few more songs, I decided to go back to the lounge.

They are a great band with an awesome sound and singer, Bryce Frazier, has knockout voice, but I just never felt drawn in by it. Instead, I kept thinking, “I’d enjoy Exit 380 a lot more than this.”

It’s just a personal preference, and nothing against Ol’ Jug of Whiskey.

I’ve seen Exit 380 quite a bit over the last few months, but there was a big difference between those other shows and this one, and that was that this was an acoustic set. The band doesn’t do many of those, and I was informed by their singer, Dustin Blocker, that to form their setlist they ended up looking at all their songs in iTunes to refresh their minds on what songs were more acoustic based. Yes, that also means that little rehearsal time went into this show, a fact they pointed out a couple times while on stage.

Beginning their brief 29-minute set was their song that is featured on a Hand Drawn Records compilation CD, “A Song About Us”. The song was really set off by Jeremy Hutchison, who was acting as the drummer this night, playing what I think was a djembe (not sure, and I’m pretty much clueless outside the traditional drum kit). It was all very fluid as he beat it with his hands, giving the song some great rhythm. There was a very lax mood to this show, even more so than normal, and after that song guitarist, Aaron Borden, said something about needing more bass. “That was all you…” Blocker told him while laughing, presumably referring to some little mishap I didn’t catch. They continued with “Soul Burning Train”, which was one of only two new songs that fit with this set, and honestly, I think this stripped down version was even slightly better than normal, just seeming a little more behooving of it. Those are two great songs, but they’re pretty much standard at most E380 shows, and I was looking forward to the older stuff, like their next song, “Dammit”. That’s still my overall favorite song of theirs, and I’ve only heard that now decade plus old song performed once before, over two years ago. A lot of their songs, particularly their newer ones, tell some great stories, and while “Dammit” is different from their current stuff, I think it tells the best story. Besides, Dustin adds a little more bass to his voice on that song, which in turn gives it a lot of texture. Now they informed everyone that they “didn’t quite rehearse” for this show, then started into a bonus track from the Townies album, “Oil Machine”. The tambourine that Dustin played and the more delicate bass lines Jon Hutchison was playing created a great atmosphere and the harmonizing Dustin and Aaron were occasionally doing sounded wonderful. As it ended, Dustin got  all crazy with his voice, hitting all sorts of notes. “…Harmonize that…” he told Aaron once they finished the song, and the two couldn’t help but laugh at one another. “Is it time for…” Aaron said, trailing of, but letting his guitar do the talking, starting a classic from the “Last Monday” album, “2 Lie”. “…You’ve been up all night, question me question life. You don’t think just desire, but don’t you fucking lie to me.” Dustin sang, that being the final line of this relatively tranquil song with a catchy vibe, which is what makes it another favorite of mine. They next did another song from that record, a hidden one, and another I’m pretty certain I had never heard live before. It was “A Much Needed Apology”, which is the most peaceful and calming song they’ve written, but they picked the mood back up a little, doing “In The Park”, which brought their set to an end.

It may have been a short show, but it was amazing and I’m glad I decided to see it. After all, how many times am I going to hear them do my two favorite songs in the same set? That’s probably not going to happen very much.

If for no other reason, it was also interesting just to see Jeremy act as the percussionist, since he’s typically a guitarist, and do such a killer job at it. In fact, I think they were a little too hard on themselves about having not rehearsed. Was it perfect? No. But it sure didn’t seem like they hadn’t rehearsed at all, either.

Then again, if you’ve been a band since 1999, you should be cohesive enough to pull something like this off with relative ease.

As of right now, it looks like their next show is going to be on June 2nd at the Capitol Bar in Fort Worth. Also, do check out all their albums. They have several available, and between ITUNES and BANDCAMP, you can get them all.

This wasn’t a bad night of music at all, and it was good getting to see some bands I hadn’t seen before, along with the ones I’m all too familiar with.

Saturday, March 2nd, 2013 – The Summer and The Fall

It was back to my favorite Deep Ellum haunt, The Curtain Club, this night, where, just like the previous night, a killer lineup of bands had been assembled.

Olivine was one of those bands, and I missed the first bit of their set, because I was out on the patio talking with Paco Estrada, who would later play.

I had never seen the band before, though I had seen their singer, Jake Mai, when he opened for People On Vacation last year, shortly before forming Olivine. I enjoyed the music then, but it was obviously not completely rounded, since it lacked a full band.

That expansion, and the use of electric instruments made all the difference this night. What I did see of it was an explosive performance of pop/rock music. Bassist, Jorge Garcia, and lead guitarist, Casey Hollyfield, put on a dynamic live show, and Jake certainly did his fair share when he didn’t have to be stationed behind the mic. They played several songs off their debut record, “Drift”, and even at one point brought things down, when Casey, Jorge, and drummer, Joe Bortscheller, left Jake alone to do an acoustic song. For their final song, they did the title track itself, “Drift”, which is easily the best song in their arsenal.

Their music is extremely radio friendly, and mines that vein of pop/rock. Usually, that’s a style of music I try to stay away from, simply because it sounds so generic now. Every now and then, though you see a band that can pull it off well, and Olivine is one of those bands. Sure, it may not be groundbreaking, but it sounds good, and that’s what really matters.

Check out the “Drift” record in iTunes. And while they have no shows booked at the moment, keep tabs on their OFFICIAL WEBSITE to find out when they do.

After them was Erik Chandler, who’s probably best known as the bassist of Bowling for Soup, and this night was doing his first show with his backing band. It consisted of Doug McGrath (formerly of SouthFM) on bass and Taylor Young (of Dallas’s hottest country duo, The O’s) on drums, while Erik played the guitar. Now, practically his entire 34-minute set was originals from his upcoming record, meaning I can’t elaborate with song titles like I typically do. After their first song, Erik made mention of the record, talking about how good it is and acknowledged that he has been working on it for awhile. “…And trust me, y’all are all very thankful for it…”, referring to the album, which was self-described as being one of the best records ever. After another original they did a cover of Elvis Costellos’ “(What’s so Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding”. “…If I wrote this song, I wouldn’t be here right now…” said Erik before starting it. It was a great rendition of the song, and they kept it pretty spot on, with the exception that it sounded like it was more up tempo. Afterwards, Erik thanked Olivine for opening the show, and People on Vacation for putting it all together. “…You don’t get this much rock anymore…” he said, a statement I didn’t find entirely accurate, especially after the show here the night before, which boasted three bands who routinely headline the Curtain. Point is, rock is still very much alive in Dallas. Anyway, they did another song that was about Eriks’ first car, and upon finishing it, he mentioned how good it was to be back at the Curtain. “…This was the place of cutting teeth…” he said, speaking of the early days of Bowling for Soup (whose plaque still proudly adorns the “Wall of Fame” in the venue). He continued, “…It’s like a family reunion, ‘cause almost all the same people still work here…” They did a couple more originals, before doing another cover, which I was unfamiliar with. “…This is another one I didn’t write, but I sure wish I did…” Erik said. Periodically throughout the show fans had been buying them drinks, and at this point, someone handed Erik a shot, which he couldn’t identify. He hesitantly drank it, and while I don’t remember what it is, he said he usually didn’t get along with it. It was too late to do anything about it, though. Before their final song, Erik set it up by saying it was one everyone could all relate to. “…We all have that one cunt that really fucked you up…” he said. It was called “Tonight’s the Night”, and it really was the best song of their set.

I was sure it would be good, but still, the most I’ve ever heard Erik sing is adding the occasional backing vocals on various BFS songs, which makes it hard to truly gauge anyone’s voice. However, Erik’s got a good set of pipes on him, and sounded quite great this night.

The music’s really good, too, and for anyone who is a fan of BFS, you’re guaranteed to like his stuff.

Check out his FACEBOOK PAGE to stay up to date with his goings on, and expect his debut album to drop sometime this year.

Next up was the headlining band, People On Vacation, which is of course the side project of fellow BFS member, Jaret Reddick, and co-founded by another Dallas musician, Ryan Hamilton.

This was a big show for the band, because not only were they celebrating the release of their latest album on CD (it has been available digitally since late last year), it was also Jaret’s birthday show. Jaret pointed this out before they even began the show, and mentioned he probably wouldn’t make it through the night sober. Joining them for this full band performance was Linus Dotson, AKA Linus of Hollywood, on keys, and Jaret pointed him out to the crowd. “…My boo flew in for this show…” he said, and continued by saying that since it was his birthday week, if Linus peed on anything this night it would be completely legal. Yeah, all that happened before they even played a song, which was proof enough that this was going to be an unforgettable night.

They began with “Prettiest Girl In The World”, which surprised me a little, because the last times I had seen them it was more of the closer, or at least fell later in the set. The upbeat, happy tune the song carries made it work well as an opener, though, and immersed the audience into their music. Like his band mate that played before him, Jaret mentioned how good it was to be back at the Curtain Club. “…We just played here…” he said, adding it had only been three days or something, referring to their show here which had barely been a month ago. They then did another song from their newest record, “We Are The Lucky Ones”. “Why can’t we just skip to the good parts. Read through the last page before start. I’ll raise one hand to the heavens, I’ll use the other to cross my heart and hope to die…” Ryan and Jaret both sang, with drummer, Todd Harwell, adding the well planned beats, that dance in between each line. The crazy banter continued after that song, and while shouting out all the other acts on the bill, Jaret officially named Eriks’ band, calling them “Erik Chandler & The Prima Donna Motherfuckers”. They joked about for a few minutes, having the audience laughing right along with them, before eventually busting out another fan favorite, “Back To Being Friends”. Upon finishing it, Ryan was put in charge of entertaining the crowd, while Jaret put on some chapstick. Before he had a chance to say anything, though, Linus chimed in, saying he’s told Jaret before that he thinks he’s addicted to that stuff, and needs to quit using it. “…It’s funny, because while he’s telling me that, he’s over there smoking a cigarette…” he said, speaking of past cases. They briefly debated if someone even could be addicted to chapstick, before discussing how they were going to start their next song. “…You start it.” Jaret told Ryan, who proceeded to strum his acoustic guitar. I had never heard them start this song this way before, but those chords on their own sounded phenomenal. Soon, Linus started in on the keys, which confirmed it was “Alone with You”. That one’s still my favorite POV song, mainly because of that one line, “…Begging for a pardon like a subject of a warden, like I burped up something and swallowed it again…”. I still think that’s pure genius. When it ended, Jaret pointed out that Ryan was the “Where’s Waldo of St. Patrick’s Day”, as he did have on a striped shirt, with green instead of red. Soon, conversation switched to Ryan’s parents, with Jaret saying he didn’t know much about Ryan’s dad, except, “…He helps with the Holiday Salsa. And he likes to weld…”. This led Ryan to tell everyone the best advice he ever received from his father. “Son, if you’re going to be dumb, then you need to be tough.” According to him, that was the best advice he got, and Jaret countered it with his. “My dad didn’t want to have the sex talk with me, so he just told me, “Son, keep it in your pants unless you’re going to the bathroom.” “True story.” He added. When they got back into song mode, they did another happy song from their first EP, “She was the Only One”. During that song, and the past few, a women had been going around taking pictures of the band with her iPad, and at this point, Jaret pointed it out, saying something like, “…Steve Jobs would be rolling over in his grave if he knew the iPad was being used to take pictures in the pit at a rock show…”. Linus then proved his wittiness, ‘His iGrave.” Brilliant (and quite possible true). Ryan was persuaded to play a song he wrote for Linus during one of their UK tours, aptly called, “Linus of Hollywood”. All though short, it was pretty humorous, and not bad at all for something that, at one time, was probably quickly made up. Another song of Ryan’s (a legitimate one) followed, and it was the song about searching for love, “Lonely Fish”. “So many fish in the proverbial sea, I wonder ‘round the world just hoping that you’ll bump into me…” he sang, the first line of this spot on tune. I’m still glad it made its transition into a POV song, because it was one of the best in Ryan’s catalog, and the full band sound just makes it that much better.  The talk then turned to Christmas, when they mentioned that with the release of “The Summer and The Fall” on CD, it was like Christmas. “Play a Christmas song!” shouted one of the audience members. “You really want us to play a Christmas song?!” Jaret asked, and they all looked at each other like they were contemplating the idea. However, the closest they got was Linus playing the tune of one on the keyboard. They then brought things down ever so slightly with “Rainy Day”, and soon after followed it up with the perfect song, and one of their best, “Because Of The Sun”. I liked the little metaphor that made, simply saying that the sun will shine after any storm, and things will get better. “It’s Not Love” came next, and Ryan started the song. Almost immediately, Jaret peaked over his shoulder, looking at where the capo was placed, before putting his on the same fret. Ryan didn’t seem to notice, or if he did he ignored, but everyone else got a kick out of it. “…We just topped Coldplay with that one…” Jaret said when they finished, noting that nobody even had to drop all the cash that they would have to see a Coldplay concert. “…I wrote this next song in the shower…” Said Jaret, which prompted a look from Ryan and bassist, Beau Wagener, of, “Do I want to ask?” “No, not like that!” he quickly replied, which didn’t stop Ryan from asking him if he heard “…Hundreds of screaming children coming from the drain…” It wasn’t as bad as it first sounded, with Jaret saying he thought of it while in the shower, then penned it once he got out. The song was the rhymey, “I Get You”, which is a quick and nice little love song. Jaret began talking about his birthday, stating that the best gift he got was having a service come out for a whole year to pick up his dogs poop. They were then informed they had enough time for one more song, and Beau, Todd and Linus left the stage, leaving the two to close out their 60-minute long set with a more acoustic style song. It was a cover of Ratt’s “Round and Round”, which further proves the bands love for classic 80’s metal songs, which is typically what they cover. It was a very different take on it, yet it sounded amazing. It was the harmonies that really made the song, plus the slower pace gave it more of a somber feeling.

It was a pretty good song to end with, and it was another fantastic People On Vacation show.

With their hectic schedules, they haven’t played live much lately, and I’m pretty certain the last time I saw them was last May. So long I had almost forgotten how entertaining they are.

The mix of infectious pop/rock songs, with hilarious humor make them one of the only bands that encompasses every aspect of entertainment, and they’re bound to reel you in with at least one of those.

Check out the two records they now have available, both of which can be found in ITUNES, and keep a check on their FACEBOOK PAGE for future show dates. ‘Cause hopefully, if neither of them get too busy with their primary bands, they’ll be doing another People On Vacation show sooner rather than later.

They may have been the headlining band, but there was one more act after them, and it was the insanely talented, Paco Estrada.

Joining him was his backing band, which is yet unnamed, but is comprised of Scotty Isaacs on the piano, Joel Bailey on bass, AJ Blackleaf supplying the beats on a partial drum kit, and the newest addition, Nathan Parnell on an electric guitar.

They opened their 42-minute set with one of Paco’s newest songs, “American Girls”, which has a little bit of a folk sound to it, but also is a bit of a classic rock song. As that song came to an end, Paco kept strumming his acoustic guitar, transitioning them right into their next song, which sounded all too familiar. Personally, I think Pacos’ most current release, 2011’s “The Definite and Indefinite…”, is overall the best collection of songs he’s done to date, but over the last year or so, most of those songs have found their way out of the live set, including the gem, “Whiskey Kisses”. Well, tonight they had decided to dust it off, and I think it was largely due to Nathan on the electric guitar. Once they hit the chorus, Nathan’s guitar work really livened up the song, while AJ tore in on the drums. It suddenly became a full-blown rock song, which is something Paco hasn’t done in a very long time. “…Your sweet whiskey kisses, that’s what I’ve been missing. When you lose your inhibitions…” he belted out on the chorus, in his rich, soulful voice. They did another new one, “The Way I Love You”, and afterwards, Paco acknowledged a friend and fellow vocalist who was out enjoying the show. “Tim, when was the last time I got to sing for you?” he asked, speaking to Tim Ziegler. It almost made it sound like the next song was dedicated to him, which I doubt was the case, since it was the ultimate love song, “When We Were Made”. Seriously, you’ll be hard pressed to find a love song as powerful as that one is. After another new song, the enthralling, “She”, they did yet another song I hadn’t heard in a few years. It wasn’t an original, though. “We got any Deftones fans in here?” asked Paco, which got a rise from the audience. He mentioned something about knifes, then said, “… I’m Mexican, so I got a knife in my boot at all times…” As you might have guessed by now, they were covering “Knife Party”, which was often a staple back in the days of Paco & One Love. This was a little more rock version, though, but still the best part was just the way Paco sings the chorus, “…Go get your knife, go get your knife and lay down. Go get your knife, go get your knife, now kiss me.”, with the force he puts behind it making it nothing short of phenomenal. It had only been a few weeks since I had last seen Paco, but since seeing that show in Fort Worth, I had anxiously been awaiting this one, to hear the song they did next, or rather the cover they tack onto it. “This song’s about my dad.” Said Paco, as they started “Breaking Down”. The part about his father comes on the second verse, “…My father had a heart attack at fifty-eight. I never thought that man was built to break. He told us that if he went under, he didn’t want them to resuscitate…”After a couple more trips through the chorus, Paco looked at his band mates during a brief instrumental break, before jumping into the cover. “Did I disappoint you, or leave a bad taste in your mouth? You act like you never had love, and you want me to go without…” he sang. I’ll say it again, out of all the covers he’s added at the end of this song over the years, U2’s “One” is truly the best. He has a knack for conveying real emotion while he sings, and that’s at its best here, especially on the line, “…We’re one, but we’re not the same. Will we hurt each other, then we do it again…”, which is sung with a fiery passion, and personally, I think it trumps U2’s original version of it. At this point, they only had a couple more left, and Paco mentioned that they were “…All love songs, so they’re all slower tempo…” That held very true to their next song, and another classic I hadn’t heard in awhile, “I Will Never Let You Go”. Now they only had one left, and it was the routine closer, “Haunting Me”. “…I’ll pack my bags. I’ll put my heart in a box of letters from you I have. I’ll disappear and paint it black, and when the memory of my face begins to fade, I’m coming back…” Paco croons on the second verse, giving the song somewhat of an eerie vibe. This is another one where he usually adds a cover song on the end of it, and it is the Whitney Houston classic, “I Wanna Dance with Somebody”, which is a positive note to end on.

The difference between this show and the one I had seen before it was like night and day. Like I said, that electric guitar brought them to a whole new level, and while they still had the songs that were very piano based, the drums and guitar surged to life on others.

It brought everything to life, quite honestly, this is the best band I’ve seen Paco surround himself with since One Love disbanded in late 2010. So, hopefully this will be the band that sticks with him for awhile. I guess only time will tell on that.

However, while this band may not have any recordings, Paco’s catalog is extensive, and several of his older records can be purchased via BANDCAMP.

Their music was a great way to conclude the show this night. It’s just a shame that so few people stuck around, because, as I’ve said many times before, Paco is the most talented singer/songwriter in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Oh, and the incense they have burning during their shows makes it even more of an experience.

It was another killer night of music at the best venue in Deep Ellum, and if you weren’t there, you missed out.