There can be no arguing that in the world of metal, especially in this current day, that Mastodon reigns supreme.
For years the Atlanta, Georgia outfit has been revered by metalheads, known for their intricate progressive songs that often push the traditional ideas of metal music to new heights. The innovative quartet is also set apart by the fact that bassist Troy Sanders, guitarist Brent Hinds and drummer Brann Dailor all do some singing, resulting in some captivating dynamics.
It’s the live show where you’re able to best admire those abilities, as they constantly rotate on who has the lead. It’s also something to marvel at the superb musicianship each of the four of them possess, and they are quite technical with their styles of playing.
With their newest and sixth studio release, Once More ‘Round the Sun, having been released earlier in the summer, it’s time Mastodon hit the road in support of it, doing a 21-city tour in the U.S., with a U.K./European tour following. Just a few days ago they kicked off the Once More ‘Round the Sun Tour, a tour that will no doubt see them playing several new cuts off this release, along with many of the classics beloved by fans.
They’ll be performing at South Side Music Hall in Dallas on October 21st, and if you’re a fan of music, metal or not, you can count on it being an experience you won’t want to miss out on.
Tuesday, October 21st at South Side Music Hall in Dallas.
Doors at 6:30 / Music at 7:30. Gojira and Kvelertak will open.
$33 day of show. Purchase advanced tickets HERE.
There can be no arguing that in the world of metal, especially in this current day, that Mastodon reigns supreme.
Not just every band can pull off doing a two-night stand in one city. Originally, Twenty One Pilots wasn’t even going to, but then this Thursday night show sold out in a matter of weeks, resulting in the addition of a Friday night gig (which, too, sold out.)
The way it looked this night, you would have thought it was a Friday, though.
The streets were crawling with life as people made their way to the House of Blues; and once getting downstairs to the showroom, it looked like most people getting there at 7:30 were late to the party.
There was no way of weaseling your way up to the front. The crowd was already too large. Vinyl Theatre opened up the show, while the following act, Misterwives, left much of the crowd speechless, mainly because of frontwoman Mandy Lee’s powerhouse voice.
In patiently waiting for the band of the hour, fans were cheering everything, from the stage hands bringing the piano on stage to taking the sheet off that had been covering the drum kit. Everyone was clearly beside themselves over what they were about to see.
I first saw Twenty One Pilots eleven months ago, when they played here, and then in May of this year while out covering the Suburbia Music Festival. Their one of those bands you instantly like, not only because of their nonstop stage show, but also because they let their true colors show, making it feel like they’re no different from any of those watching them.
As darkness enveloped the room, a recorded voice (with a dignified British accent I might add) proceeded to speak to the crowd. “…Look around you. These are your people…” was one of the sentences. This was the “clique” (as they refer to their fans), and for the remainder of the night, it was as if everyone was connected with one another in some way.
Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun appeared in the shadows, receiving rave reaction as Joseph stood atop his piano, while Dun was elevated several feet in the air thanks to a massive drum riser. Both wore their signature ski masks as they kicked off their 74-minute long set with “Guns for Hands”, which had Joseph using the piano intermittently, racing around the stage when he wasn’t. At the breakdown, he was again standing on top of it, tossing the microphone from one hand to the other before he resumed singing. “…It’s obviously best for them to turn their guns to a fist,” he sang, raising his fist into the air before the lights abruptly dimmed.
“Is there anyone out there?!” the frontman shouted as they segued into one song that everyone seemed to have a personal connection with, “Migraine”. My previous encounters with them have seen a lot of people knowing the songs, but nothing to the magnitude it was this night, and Joseph made use of it, allowing the fans to sing several of the lines on that one, including, “Sometimes, to stay alive, you’ve got to kill your mind.”
“…For when you remove the tricky tricks, only skeleton bones remain,” the narrating voice said, alluding to what was now coming. The two members returned to the stage with their clothing that has skeleton bones imaginary on it.
“…Some see a pen, I see a harpoon!” Joseph belted on “Ode to Sleep”, adding some extra emphasis to the last word of the first verse. It was then he ripped his mask off, revealing his face for the first time this night. “LET’S GO!” he roared as he sprinted towards the piano, again jumping and moving all over the stage when he wasn’t tied down to an instrument.
Dun knocked out a brief drum solo before swiveling over to the electronic drum pad beside him for “Screen”, while Joseph broke out his ukulele. It was the complete opposite of that often aggressively rapped song before it, but that diversity is one thing that makes Twenty One Pilots such a standout band. “Take it away!” Joseph told the audience, as the room filled with the collective voice, “…We’re broken people.”
“All my people, thank you so much for coming!” he exclaimed, before starting a bit that involved “Nigel” (the voice that had been doing some narrating). It was pretty entertaining as they conversed, with Joseph asking how their songs were sounding. “Pretty good,” Nigel replied, adding it wasn’t the music he had grown up with. The two “chatted” between each song, but this led to and entertaining medley of covers, from DJ Khaled’s “All I Do is Win” (which Nigel said was his jam back in the day) to “Bugatti” by Ace Hood, and even some Beyonce with “Drunk in Love”, which was apparently the song Nigel and his wife danced to at their wedding. It was good fun, giving everyone a laugh, before they turned back to their originals.
“I wrote this for my mom,” stated Joseph, garnering some massive cheers from fans. “House of Gold” is purely infectious and so upbeat and happy, while telling a story of wanting to take care of your parent later in their life. The last chorus belonged all to fans, who knew it by heart. “I will make you queen of everything you see. I’ll put you on the map, I’ll cure you of disease,” everyone crooned. It was a magical moment.
Apart from their current material, they threw in a handful of stuff from their past records, and “Forest” was one of those. It boasts a vehement rap portion, and when they got to that part, Joseph jumped onto the drum riser, spitting out the words as he knelt down towards the bass drum. They then reached back to their self-titled record with “Fall Away”, a song that included Jesse Blum of Misterwives, who added a lot of trumpet to the mix, making a smooth, funky sounding rap jam. It was a nice touch.
“This is an old one called Addict With a Pen,” Joseph informed everyone, as they stayed on their 2009 release with a slower, but no less lyrically powerful song. “…This song has a verse that my brother sang…” Joseph remarked in advance of the next song, saying he was going to give it a try. “By the way, we’re going to give you everything we have… This is music. Use it,” he added from behind his piano, getting a roaring response. They went back to the Regional at Best album (which is no longer in print or available for purchase), doing “Kitchen Sink”, which concluded with a smaller drum kit on a platform being brought out. It wasn’t handed out into the crowd, though. Instead, it sit at the forefront of the stage, and Dun made his way over to it, giving everyone a clear look at his forceful skills; while Joseph took over on the primary kit.
Afterwards, the vocalist grabbed his microphone, holding it above his eyes as if to block out some of the light so he could see better. He peered at the audience while covering the length of the stage, before approaching the crowd, who held him up for the first part of “Holding On to You”. This band really is all about their fans. When he did get back on stage, he lobbed the mic into the air, catching it with little effort. “Listen up! Listen up! Come on!” he instructed, as the crowd again got to use their voices.
The sounds of “Semi-Automatic” really pumped up fans, who were later told to get low to the ground. There was some hesitation, but no questioning as everyone knelt down, springing up as Joseph sang, “I’m semi-automatic; my prayer’s schizophrenic…” The platform with a smaller drum kit was again carried out, and this time it was passed into the audience, and Dun made good use of it, brutalizing the kit for the short time he used it.
Once he got back on the stage, they went right into the next number, and Dun proceeded to strike the top of the piano with his drumsticks, creating an interesting sound for the time he did it. “This is a duet featuring you,” Joseph pointed out, mentioning their show here the following night, saying he wanted to have a little friendly competition from night to night, and he was hoping this crowd set the bar so high that those who came to night two couldn’t top it. The duet was “The Run and Go”; and towards the end, he asked that each member of the audience find a partner, saying when he said, “Get up”, that was the signal for one person to lift the other onto their shoulders. Again, it was a super fun moment for the crowd.
With a keytar now in hand, Joseph and Dun closed their set with “Fake You Out”, which was complete with jumping (from everyone, on and off the stage). They even tacked on a portion of Lana Del Rey’s “Summertime Sadness” to the tail end of their original, and then came another piece that they had written, as Joseph sang about how happy they were to play the town again. There was also something that was a little saddening to fans, though. “…This is the last time we’ll play this place, where Vessel ruled the day…” That means next time they come to Dallas, they’ll have new songs in their arsenal, and will most likely not be doing Vessel in its entirety.
No one believed they were done. After all, this was the Quite is Violent Tour, and they still hadn’t done the song where that lyric comes from.
They eventually returned, and their 13-minute encore started with none other than “Car Radio”. “Sometimes quiet is violent. I find it hard to hide it…” fans echoed along with Joseph on that single. The ultimate part came towards the end, when after leaving the stage, Joseph appeared in the balcony, singing the remainder of the track up there. Some hoped his way down would be jumping, and there would have been plenty of people to catch him if he had, though that might have been too risky.
Instead, Dun played an interlude on the keyboard while the frontman wound his way back to the stage. “Truce” took no time at all to play; and then Joseph asked the spectators if they had one more in them. It was clear they did.
The final one was “Trees”, and he made sure everyone was as wrapped up in it as possible. The excitement escalated immensely near the end, when two platforms, each with a bass drum, were handed out to the crowd. When they got on them and got their footing to stand up, a sudden shot of confetti filled the air. I’d say it was raining the stuff, but it looked more like a blizzard.
It was an electrifying end to a show that never relented or had any weak spots.
This night saw a completely different Twenty One Pilots than I had seen before. Both previous times Joseph was still baffled by the fact that people actually knew these “silly little songs” he had written. The love and dedication they were shown was almost overwhelming to the young man. That’s something he seems to have become accustomed to in not even a full six months’ time.
He has learned to wield that to their advantage, as was seen a multitude of times this night, with all the crowd participation he instigated. And while he did use that in their favor, he never took the crowds immense love for granted, and it was clear both he and Dun where doing this all for the fans.
The band is completely genre-bending, even pushing the boundaries of current music. I think that’s part of what makes them so relatable, because they don’t fit a mold, sending the message that you’re meant to be you, and not who anyone else thinks you should be. Lyrically, their songs are just as deep, touching on a variety of topics that are identifiable.
That said, is hard as I think it will be for them to top Vessel, I feel confident they can; and I’m already anticipating the new songs they’ll be showing off whenever they return to Dallas.
The Quiet is Violent Tour is nearly over with dates in Europe and the UK scheduled for November, as well as a one-off date in Mexico City. Specifics can be found HERE. And if you don’t have their music, head over to iTUNES to pick it up.
Earlier this year, Bear Hands was one of the many bands that played Edgefest up in the suburbs of Dallas. They may not have been the biggest name on that bill, but they were one of my personal favorites from the day; and now, with their fall headlining tour just starting to get underway, they were returning to North Texas, this time to do a proper Dallas show.
The smaller Cambridge Room in the House of Blues was hosting the event; and as the opening band, Wild Party, played to the crowd, it looked like it was going to be your normal Wednesday night turnout. Of course, it was still early at that time, too. Skip ahead to 9:30, shortly before Bear Hands took the stage, and it was pretty packed. More than a hundred people were in the room, chatting with their friends or checking their phones to kill time, before busting out in cheers when the quartet took the stage at 9:36.
“What’s up, kids?!” singer, rhythm guitarist and keyboardist Dylan Rau asked the crowd, before letting them know who they were, just in case some didn’t. “Thanks for being here with us!” he exclaimed.
Drummer TJ Orscher had already started to buildup to their first song, rapidly striking the rim of one of his drums, before they exploded into their first number. The percussion was made more pronounced by bassist Val Loper, who had a floor tom sitting in front of him, and he used it for the first portion of the tune; while guitarist Ted Feldman bounced around some.
The lead guitarist then launched right into “Bone Digger”; causing the applause they were receiving for that first song to become applause of excitement as they began one of the many catchy offerings from Distraction. Before the first chorus, Feldman had sat his guitar aside to play the electronic drum pad that was setup beside him, creating a slightly synthesized element to the smartly constructed track. The bombardment of songs continued as a mangled mix of the instruments segued them into the lead track from Songs From Utopia: Volume One, “Part I: What I’ve Learned”. The guitar tones were often rich and intoxicating on that one; and they kept showing off some of their different sides, this time with Loper primarily shaking both a maraca and a tambourine, even hitting one against the other.
The audience grew ecstatic as they moved on to “Bad Friend”, with many holding their phones up in the air to capture it, while nearly everyone sang along, “I am training up, making right; watching what we build slowly die…” Rau focused more on his keyboard during the verses, switching to his guitar when the song needed more of a punch and showed off some slick skills on the axe.
“This song’s all about long nails…” Feldman said as they took a momentary break. They ran with that, making some jokes, with Rau ultimately finishing the conversation with, “Nothing says femininity and crazy shut-in like long nails.” “What a Drag” was the lone song they did of 2010’s Burning Bush Supper Club, though based on fans reaction, they picked the best one; and Loper rotated between a maraca and his bass on the verses and choruses.
Loper got a clap along going with the fans as they got the pulse pounding “Peacekeeper” underway; and it was on that one that you really got to see what an exceptional drummer Orscher is. He was completely unrestrained as he forcefully hit the cymbals on the choruses, proving himself to be a beast. “Is everybody doing okay? Like, health-wise?” Feldman joked with the crowd afterwards. He never outright said it, though he was clearly getting at the recent cases of Ebola that have occurred in Dallas; and the way he phrased it got a little chuckle from people.
The subsequent track from their latest album, “Sleeping On the Floor”, followed; and as it ended, Rau fiddled with his keyboard, giving it a deep, low end sound. The keys even crackled a bit as it bridged them into the next cut off the record, “Party Hats”. It had even more bite to it than the recording does, and they delivered a rocking performance of the often entrancing song. Actually, I think their stage show was the most raw it had been all night during that one, and they kept the momentum going from there.
But first, Rau took a second to thank everyone for coming out, mentioning they had played this venue once before when they were touring with As Tall as Lions. “Was anyone here for that?” he asked, with only a couple of people raising their hands that they had been. “…I’m so glad it’s all new to everybody,” he stated, and you could tell he really was appreciative of the fact that their music was getting out there to new ears, who in turn went the extra mile by showing up at a show.
They kept cranking out the songs, doing “The Bug” and “Agora”, the latter of which invigorated the crowd, as people kinda danced along to it. It was also on that one that Rau started his progression towards a traditional frontman role, as he laid his guitar down and just used the keys. He bowed to the fans as if he were worshipping them, and then they began “Part II: Bullshit Savior Complex”, where Rau removed the microphone from the stand and roamed about the stage some. He ended it lying on the floor, and in the silence that followed, remarked, “…I don’t know what to say anymore. Here’s a moment of silence.”
He stayed down there for just a bit longer, before standing up; and several of the ladies cheered when he undid the bun he had his hair in. Loper and Orscher retreated to either side of the stage, while Feldman and Rau handled the first segment of “Moment of Silence”. The full band was later required, though Orscher worked his way to the electronic drum pad, while Loper manned the keys as the song reached its pinnacle; and Rau made his on echo effect as he repeated “out” from the tracks final line, “Only one way out.”
That felt like it could be a perfect closing moment, though there was still one song left, and everyone knew it. “Thanks for coming out!” Loper said to the spectators as they fired up “Giants”. “…I am loving you more…” goes the chorus, a line that is printed on one of the shirt designs they had for sale; and the way people were singing along to it this night, you could tell it had some personal meaning to a lot of them.
“Thank you so much! Have a great fucking night!” shouted Rau as their 48-minute long set came to an end and they left the stage.
Some people started clearing out, but most hung around hoping for more. “Encore! Encore!” the chants started, growing more demanding.
It brought the guys back out, and Rau said they’d do one more. “…We have the time, we have the energy,” he stated, before informing everyone this last one was a cover of a Violent Femmes song. They had cooked up a rendition of “Kiss Off”, and it was more fleshed out and exhilarating than the original. The frontman jumped around quite a lot while he sang, and there was one awesome moment where Loper suddenly leapt over the little guard rail and got out in the crowd, with those right there quickly spreading out to give him some room. There looked like there were almost some close calls where he would have inadvertently hit someone with his bass, but never did.
They really went all out on it, making it a vibrant, fun way to end the night.
Personally, I enjoyed getting to see them do a full set, verses the abbreviated one from that festival back in April; and they were very solid this night.
As a band, they have a strong chemistry with one another; and you could tell they were feeding off the audience’s energy, creating a nice rapport. The diversity in their music style makes for a good experience, too. They have plenty of more raw rock numbers, while some of those others are more indie rock, and are great to groove to. Then you have Rau’s voice, which has a distinct, unmistakable tone, further helping them stand out.
They still have a ton of dates on their schedule, including the West Coast and several states in between, as they make their way back to New York. That won’t be until mid November, though. Their full list of dates can be found HERE; and head over to iTUNES to pick up their music (Distraction is only $5.99 at the moment).
Swedish Heavy Metal institution SABATON released their seventh full-length record Heroeson May 16, 2014 via Nuclear Blast and reached some of the highest chart entries in the band history, among them the first #1 in their native Sweden, #2 in Finland, #3 in Germany, #4 in Czech Republic, #6 in Poland, #7 in Switzerland – and many more!
Today the band unveils the lyric video on the album opening track 'Night Witches'.
Commented guitarist Thobbe Englund: „Actually it’s one of my favorites. It reminds me a lot of JUDAS PRIEST, in a kind of ACCEPT style. It’s a really cool metal song - tough & hard.”
Added guitarist Chris Rörland: „It’s a very good opening song for the album. You start with it, and you get a good idea for the whole album.”
Order your copy of Heroes HERE.
Nuclear Blast is proud to announce the signing of Belgium’s finest - anthemic grooving rock/metal outfit DIABLO BLVD!
Formed in 2005 with all members hailing from the city of Antwerp, Belgium, the band is named after a CORROSION OF CONFORMITY song and lead by notorious stand-up comedian and singer Alex Agnew. With current and ex-members of bands like A BRAND, BORN FROM PAIN and MEURIS, this eclectic five-piece quickly started to turn heads and playing shows to appreciative crowds all over Belgium and the Netherlands.
Building on groovy riffs, catchy choruses and a charismatic stage presence, DIABLO BLVD offers what made their heroes great within a wide range of influences from the heavy genre (like DANZIG, THE CULT, GUNS ‘N’ ROSES, BLACK LABEL SOCIETY and TYPE O NEGATIVE), classic rock and even blues.
After two successful full-length albums and numerous celebrated shows around Europe DIABLO BLVD went to the legendary ICP studios in Brussels with producer Ace Zec to record the brand new album Follow The Deadlightsin collaboration with the American duo Jay Ruston (mix) and Paul Logus (mastering) who have previously been behind the sound of ANTHRAX, STONE SOUR, MEATLOAF and STEEL PANTHER.
Commented the band: “Everybody! We are absolutely thrilled to announce that we’re going to join the Nuclear Blast family for our first world-wide release. Signing to Nuclear Blast is like getting the hot chick everybody wants. They were our first choice when we started looking for a deal and to see it actually coming through still feels unreal. So a big thank you to everyone involved for making it happen and we hope to see you all in 2015.” - DIABLO BLVD
Follow The Deadlights is planned for release January, 2015 via Nuclear Blast.
This night had been a long time in the making.
At the tail end of 2013, The Dirty River Boys ventured into the studio to lay down their next album, with the session stretching into the first month or so of 2014.
Ever since, fans have anxiously been awaiting the arrival of what has come to be called The Dirty River Boys; and this night they were doing the second CD release show of their tour.
They may have originated from El Paso, and currently call Austin home, but the Americana/rock quartet has amassed a good following in North Texas, and a lot of fans came out to Billy Bob’s Texas this cool, rainy night, showing them this can be a home away from home for them.
“How we doing Billy Bob’s?!” Travis Stearns asked after seating himself atop his cajon, behind his drum kit. He repeated the question, getting a stronger rise out of the audience the second time around.
They then got down to business, opening their 92-minute long set the same way they had when I last saw them (back in July), with “Raise Some Hell”. It works even better here at the start over its old closer spot; and even though everyone who was intently watching them was seated at the tables, many were still stomping their feet and singing along to the chorus, “…Boys, we’re gonna raise some hell tonight!” While singing it, vocalist and acoustic guitarist Nino Cooper often had a fiery, determined look in his eyes, making you think that this wasn’t just any old Dirty River Boys shows, and that look never left him this night.
Fans started clapping, though it was overpowered by fellow guitarist and singer Marco Gutierrez, as he opened up “Road Song” with some licks from his acoustic. He added some slight harmonies here and there on the fast paced tune; while Stearns delivered a ferocious beat, striking the cajon with one hand while holding a stick in the other to beat on the full kit. Those first two songs had come from the now two-year-old Science of Flight album, but now, they started getting to some of their newer material. Stearns grabbed a shaker, using it at the start of “Thought I’d Let You Know”. Gutierrez now took over on the lead vocals on the sweeter love song. “So I thought I’d let you know that I’ll never let you go; and I’m holding on ‘till a heart can take no more,” he sang on the chorus, while his band mates threw in some awesome backing vocals.
Upon finishing it, Gutierrez laid his guitar down and had just gotten behind the drum riser when he realized he was jumping the gun. He chuckled as he looked at Cooper and put his guitar back around him. They pulled out another (semi) oldie in the form of “Heart Like That”; and once it was done, then it was time for Gutierrez to swap out to a banjo. They kept that constant pace of songs up by going right into “Sailed Away”. Colton James stood atop the drum riser; the raccoon pelt that has hung from his upright bass was now mounted and stretched across the front of it, while a skunk pelt has also been added since I last saw them. He had done some backing vocals here and there so far this night, but now got to take the reins on that infectious track, while the rest of the guys created some harmonies on the chorus.
The banjo was shelved for a bit, and Stearns rolled them into their next number, as they dished out a roaring extended intro to one of the cuts from their first EP, “Draw”. “Come on!” Gutierrez shouted shortly before he started the first line, which earned some applause and shouts from their adoring fans. The final words, “And I know I’ll never ever be satisfied,” were drawn out, with Stearns striking his cajon at the start of most of the words to better accent them, before they tore back into the song, giving it a strong finish.
“This is the second night of our CD release tour…” Gutierrez mentioned during their first break of the night. Cooper then chimed in that along with these new songs, they would still be doing the old ones fans loved, like the following one. “This one’s about a union painter we met in El Paso,” he stated, which was more than enough to get some people excited. “Union Painter” is a certainly a fan favorite, and I was quite glad to hear it again, especially after it had been absent from the setlist the last time I saw them.
That started them on another stretch of songs; and now the two guitarists stared at one another, making sure they were on the same page before starting their next jam. “This is also on the new album. It’s called Loser,” Gutierrez informed the spectators, as they busted out the slightly more rock sounding song. He broke out his harmonica for “Dried Up”, which became a sing along at times without them having to ask for it, right up to the end where they added a bit of Bob Dylans’ “Just Like a Woman”. “Nobody feels any pain, tonight as I stand inside the rain…” he sang, going through the first chorus of that Dylan song, before they brought it to a close.
There was little time to clap before Cooper started counting, “One. Two. Three. Four.” The four then harmonized as they began “My Son”, keeping it up on each chorus; while Cooper threw in a wicked guitar solo after the second chorus. I’ve said it before, but it’s really amazing what you can make an acoustic sound like with the help of some pedal boards, because just hearing it, you wouldn’t guess it was an acoustic axe making that sound. Stearns was showing off some slick moves on the drums, too, even using a tambourine to hit the cajon.
Another new song came next, and while I’ve heard a lot of them out of all the times I’ve seen them this year, “Scraping the Bottom” did not sound familiar. It instantly became my favorite off the new record, though. “Open my heart and you’ll find two spirits at war; both fighting a hopeless battle for a hopeful soul…” Gutierrez crooned at the start of this darker number about trying to reclaim what you’ve lost. “…Once it’s gone, it’s something earned, not just found.”
After mentioning that the official release for The Dirty River Boys wasn’t until the following Tuesday, they pointed out those here were in luck, and could get their hands on a copy this night. They then went on to the subsequent track off the record, one about “life on the road” as they put it. “Highway Love” is all about that, and despite the hardships of it (i.e. doing all the setting up and loading out before having to drive well into the night to get to your next location, etc.), it’s all worth it if you love it.
Afterwards, they switched things up, and before they even had a chance to say it, some fans started shouting, “Chinese fire drill!” That’s what the band calls it; and now James was on the banjo; Stearns on the mandolin; and Gutierrez on the bass. The four of them clustered around a condenser mic that had been brought on stage at set dead center. “This is version two,” Gutierrez laughed, while Stearns began clapping his hands, making it clear he wanted everybody else to do the same. Fans were happy to oblige as James again sang lead on the tune. Cooper then took the spot directly in front of the microphone, while his band mates leaned in close to all sing on “Lookin’ for the Heart”, making it the most fun version of that catchy song I’ve heard them do.
In a twist, James was left as the sole member on stage, taking a seat in a chair that had appeared, while he clutched an acoustic guitar. “This song’s about a good friend of mine,” he said in advance of the albums 13th and final track, “Falcon’s Song”. It was the most poignant thing that was played this night, making everyone just feel melancholy, while they looked on, completely immersed in the tale.
“How many of you have maybe seen The Dirty River Boys once or twice?!” Stearns asked once they all resumed their normal positions. Much of the crowd cheered, though there were some who answered when he asked if this was their first time, and they made it clear they’d be back for a second. James used a bow (similar to say, a cello) to play his bass at times on “Simplified”, while Gutierrez just used a shaker for the first bit, before moving on to a harmonica. He picked the banjo back up before the track sprang to life, though it went unused for the time being.
“Skate and Destroy” again found James singing lead, and once it was done, Gutierrez joked that they were “pioneering skate folk”. It may not be the next big genre, though they make it sound pretty good. “Are y’all ready to sing with us?” Stearns then asked the patrons, before they pulled out one of their originals that every fan is familiar with: “Carnival Lights”. They got some help on it, especially at the final chorus, before tacking on a portion of Hank Williams’ “I Saw the Light”, which prompted both James and Stearns to remove their hats on the gospel-like song.
“It’s not all fun…” Gutierrez remarked, saying that life on the road comes with good days and bad days. “…And then you come to Billy Bob’s and you see people singing your songs…” he added, alluding that this was definitely a good day for them.
“Desert Wind” continued their set, and it was followed by “Teenage Renegade”. They’re two pretty contrasting songs, though they flowed well into one another, the first playing more to peoples emotional side, and while the other can do that lyrically, it has a more lively sound, making it easy to get into. Cooper proceeded to play some chords as he segued them into another song, and the notes had a real Spanish flare to them at first. “Thanks for braving whatever crazy weather’s going on out there. We’re having fun in here, though,” Gutierrez said to fans, most of whom were probably unaware it had even rained until stepping out of the venue later.
“Six Riders” started to wind down their set; and before their closer, they shared a little bit of hometown pride with everybody, noting that wherever they go, they’re always proud to say they’re from El Paso. The “horrible drug violence” in Juarez was brought up, as they briefly talked about how much it has changed their hometown, and they wanted to write a song about it. “Down by the River” is the lead track from the album, and the hard-hitting rock song finds both of the primary vocalists trading off constantly. It’s so dynamic that it’s a perfect closer.
They disappeared backstage, while the fans immediately started hollering for an encore. “BOOMTOWN!” one man shouted. He soon got his wish.
“What do think? Should we play another song?” Gutierrez asked the audience once the reemerged. He went on to say they’d be happy if they were even playing in front of two people. “Back in El Paso, we used to play for tacos and enchiladas,” he joked, though sounded completely serious. “This is too much. It’s too much,” he laughed, before Stearns took over, asking if everyone was still alive. He requested everyone’s voices, leading the fans in warming up their voices for “Boomtown”. Even after an hour and a half, they still appeared to have energy to spare, with Cooper and Gutierrez doing a good deal of jumping during it, while James spun his bass around at one point.
They went right into the last song of the night, with Cooper quickly swapping out to an electric guitar. It wasn’t for the Rolling Stones cover they’ve often done, though. Many fans were elated to hear one of their oldest songs, “She”. It was censored, with Gutierrez taking out the F-bomb on each chorus, singing, “…She’s like her own messed up version of a fairytale. Everything’s backwards, she ain’t no princess…” Each of the members were formally introduced during that one, too, like, “Colton ‘The Crawfish’ James” and “The thunder from down under, ‘Travis Stearns’.” Once that was taken care of, they went into an instrumental break, before bringing their 12-minute long encore to a devastating end.
This was one of the best performances I’ve seen The Dirty River Boys do.
Sure, they’ve been doing some of these new songs since the start of the year, gradually working more in, but you could tell the fact that this record is now officially out in the world has really energized them.
They were clearly happy up there (even more so then usual) giving the listeners a good taste of the new record, while still throwing in many of the old favorites. It was a topnotch show in ever regard, from the professionalism they execute their performances with, to the energy they inject into it, making it incredibly fun to watch.
Now that this new record is out, expect them to be pushing it hard. They already have much of the rest of 2014 mapped out, including an East Coast and Mid-West tour. You can find all of their dates HERE; and if you live in the North Texas area, you’re next chance to see them will be at Stanley’s Famous BBQ Pit in Tyler on October 24th. After that, it’ll be December 6th, when they return to Hank’s in McKinney. Also, do pick up their music (two LP’s, two EP’s and “Desert Wind”, which is only available as a single) in iTUNES.
Mastodon has announced they will perform their new single, “The Motherload,” on The Late Show With David Letterman on Monday, October 27th. In addition, "The Motherload" will be released as a special limited-edition 12” vinyl picture disc in honor of Record Store Day’s Black Friday celebration, which takes place on November 28th.
"The Motherload" is the latest single from Mastodon’s current studio album ONCE MORE ‘ROUND THE SUN, which earned the band its highest U.S. and U.K. chart debuts ever, peaking at No. 1 on Billboard's Rock, Hard Rock, Tastemakers, and Alternative Album charts, as well as debuting at No. 6 on the Top 200 chart. As expected, ONCE MORE ‘ROUND THE SUN, has been applauded by the media as some of the finest work from Mastodon to date:
"The mercurial metal heads have improved on the lean hard-rock pummel of 2011’s the Hunter with lattices if ornate riffs and primal vocals…the band sounds best when taking risks." - Rolling Stone
"The band’s prog-metal potential stuns, with Dailor sounding like a young Ozzy over shredding guitars and enough drum dominance to blow out your speak system. Head-band on." - Spin.Com
"The Atlanta thrashers continue to walk a fine line between brutal hardcore, bespectacled math rock, and area-ready melody." - Entertainment Weekly / The “MUST LIST”
The globally-celebrated hard rock masters will kick off their fall North American headlining tour in support of ONCE MORE ‘ROUND THE SUN today, Wednesday, October 15th, in Boise, Idaho. The band will perform songs from the new album, along with crowd favorites from their five previous studio albums. The tour will once again feature the celebrated and previously sold-out lineup of Gojira as main support and Kverlertak opening each show.
Mastodon tour dates:
10/15 Boise, ID Revolution Center
10/16 Reno, NV Grand Sierra Theater
10/17 Pomona, CA Fox Theater
10/18 Phoenix, AZ Marquee
10/20 Austin, TX Stubbs Amphitheater
10/21 Dallas, TX South Side Music Hall
10/22 Kansas City, MO Uptown Theater
10/23 Madison, WI Orpheum Theater
10/24 Detroit, MI Fillmore
10/25 Ft. Wayne, IN Piere’s
10/28 Portland, ME State Theater
10/29 Montreal, QC Metropolis
10/30 Providence, RI Lupos
10/31 Long Island, NY Paramount Theater
11/01 Sayreville, NJ Starland
11/02 Stroudsburg, PA Sherman
11/04 Baltimore, MD Ram’s Head Live
11/05 Knoxville, TN The International
11/06 Nashville, TN Marathon Music Works
11/07 Atlanta, GA Tabernacle
11/08 Orlando, FL Kinkfest
11/19 Dublin, Ireland The Academy
11/20 Belfast, UK The Limelight
11/22 Southampton, UK 02 Guildhall
11/24 Manchester, UK Manchester Academy
11/25 Newcastle, UK Newcastle 02 Academy
11/26 Glasgow, Scot Glasgow 02 Academy
11/28 Brixton, UK Brixton 02 Academy
11/29 Birmingham, UK Birmingham 02 Academy
12/01 Nottingham, UK Rock City
12/02 Bristol, UK Bristol 02 Academy
12/04 The Hague, Netherlands Paard Van Troje
12/05 Torhout, Belguim De Mast
12/07 Spain, Madrid La Riviera
12/08 Barcelona, Spain Razzmatazz
12/10 Milan, Italy Fabrique
12/11 Pratteln, Switzerland Konzertfabrik 27
12/12 Munchen, Germany Backstage
12/13 Dortmund, Germany FZW / Freizeitzentrum
12/15 Vesterbro, Denmark Store Vega
12/16 Oslo, Norway Sentrum Scene
12/17 Stockholm, Sweden Fryshuset
12/19 Helsinki, Finland The Circus
A couple months ago, out of nowhere, it was announced that Gas Monkey was extending their brand, and planned to open a new venue just right down the street from their bar and grill location in Dallas.
Following, came the announcement of several bands that would be playing the 32,000 square foot Gas Monkey Live over the coming months, as the crew set to work revamping and customizing the space that used to be Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar.
The grand opening party featuring Social Distortion was planned for Saturday, October 11th, but then, rather last minute, it was announced there would be a soft opening party, one to let some people scope out the new spot ahead of time.
Three hometown bands were picked to play the event, which was limited to the first 500 people, and somewhat surprisingly, only a hundred or two came out. My theory is aside from being a weeknight, people just didn’t have much notice to plan on getting out there. But you don’t need a ton of people to have a good time.
The venue is something to behold. It’s massive and very open, and upon first walking in, you feel like you might could get lost in there. The giant bar in the center is in the shape of a guitar (it looks magnificent), and the venue continues funneling you back to the stage. There’s a real modern, even upscale look to it all, which is nice. It’s quite fancy ascetically speaking, without making you feel like your underdressed if you just have on, say, jeans and a t-shirt.
The first band to be able to test out the stage and sound system was Fantasma (coincidentally, bassist Daniel Castaneda runs lights here, as well as being the production manager), and I had not seen them in far too long. So long, in fact, that I was unaware Josh Sanders now held down the guitarist role.
The venue offered up a few more surprises as they began, and on the back of the stage is a massive wide screen video board, which began to show some visuals. It was a couple of planets in space, while the band’s name/logo also appeared on the screen. It looked awesome; and for any local bands who may happen to play here, that should eliminate people having to ask other concert goers, “Who is this?”
The quartet opened with one of the new songs they’ve cooked up, and right away you got a taste of what the sound system was capable of. The bass lines Dan was cranking out sounded ultra heavy, even dominating the track completely. It was nice to hear the bass be so prevalent.
“We’re happy to be the first to christen this stage,” vocalist Dale “DJ” Wilkerson remarked as they segued into their next song, “Colors Run Red”. It was the first of a handful they did off the Stories of Earth Women record. I still haven’t gotten used to hearing it at the start of the set verses the end yet, though it fits well early on, further energizing them. The electronic, space rock sounds continued with “Panda”; and afterwards, DJ asked the audience how they were liking it so far. He then grabbed a brightly colored bottle he had with a drink he had brought, prompting Dan to joke with him, “Did you bring a juice box to the show?”
Drummer Michael Kudlicki then launched them into their next song. The beats were pulse pounding, and shortly after when Dan layered his bass over it, it was absolutely thunderous. I’ve seen my fair share of shows where I’ve been able to feel the rhythm section vibrating my internal organs, but this had me a little worried it might change the rhythm of my heartbeat. Ha. DJ then hopped onto the drum riser, grabbing a pair of sticks and striking some of the cymbals for a few moments before jumping off and returning to the microphone. “BoA Constrictor” is one of the most brutal songs they’ve done, really making use of the screaming both DJ and Dan are capable of; and there were some cool moments in the instrumental portions before each verse where DJ grabbed the cord of the mic and twirled it in the air. Dan killed it on that song as well, showcasing some awesome moves, even acting as if he were going to nail DJ in the head with his bass at one point.
“Are you hearing it all? Like, all?” DJ asked, checking in with everyone real quick, before they broke out their rendition of Ellie Goulding’s, “Lights”. That’s where their electronic element comes in very handy, because they’re able to make the track sound similar to the original, while injecting a real rock flare into it, making it their own. “That’s an original that we wrote,” DJ said once it was done, sounding quite serious. “That’s a running joke that we have,” he added, as they continued with “The Chase Scene”.
Josh had been bringing it so far this night, and owned during that intense intro; while later on, DJ picked up the mic stand, using it like a sword to knight Dan, before acting as if he were going to chop his head off. A sample track bled them into the next song, but not everyone was on the same page. DJ asked Dan what the next one was, and it was titled “In an Out”, which apparently, was not what the track went with. “Communication is the key to teamwork. You’re all witness to that,” DJ quipped as they began the correct song, which had a very ominous start.
Some silence followed in between it and the next track, and Dan gave DJ a look. “What? You know I don’t know what to say in between songs, but you still give me a mic,” he only half joked before they did another new tune. The job of ending their 37-minute long set then fell to “Ra”. It makes for an awesome closer, simply because it’s so explosive, and it leaves you wanting more. DJ spent several seconds at the start trying to adjust the mic stand, before eventually just kicking it over. It’s not like he needed it anyway, because he moved around a lot; and Mike was a beast on the kit during that one, delivering the beats with forceful precision.
“I’m proud of myself. I didn’t mention Ebola once,” DJ stated after the final applause subsided, before they began the process of tearing down their gear.
Granted, I haven’t seen Fantasma much lately, but this was one of the most solid shows I’ve seen from them in a long time.
Josh brings a component that they’ve been missing for a little while, adding just as much of a vibrant performance to the shows as Dan, DJ and Mike do. That makes them a force to be reckoned with, even more so than they have been in the past, and they proved that this night.
They don’t have anything else on the books at the moment, and their schedule has gotten a little sparse lately, but just stay tuned. In the meantime, you can download nearly their whole album for free on REVERBNATION. If you like those songs, go buy the other two tracks in iTUNES.
Now that things had been broken in some, it was time for the second act of the night, LA Wedding.
After finally seeing them for the first time just a few months before at Gas Monkey Bar & Grill, I was looking forward to catching them again.
Their first single from their debut EP, “Closure”, kicked off their 39-minute long set, dancing back and forth from being a serene and quick paced rock number, as frontman Randy Stephens sang about needing closure to a relationship. “Yeah, I just need some closure. That’s all there is to pay for the ride home…” goes part of the chorus.
Guitarist Jovan Santos then bridged them right into their next song with some sweet, moody riffs. “Come close! Come on!” shouted fellow guitarist Dave Perez, trying to reel in more of the audience who was scattered about the room. Ross Rubio then laid into his drum kit, serving up some rapid-fire beats to begin their most ferocious number, “The Hard Way”. “What’s up?” asked Randy once they had finished it, commenting, “It’s loud in this mother fucker.” Yeah, it was. Even with earplugs.
My personal favorite, “Responsible”, followed. “Such a crazy mixed up world we’re breathing in. It’s everywhere, you can’t avoid the poisoning…” goes the start of the second verse of what is an overall hopeful song about persevering and not letting events from your past define you. “This is one of the coolest stages I’ve ever been on!” Randy exclaimed once they were done, playfully inviting everyone to join them up there and experience it.
They moved on to one of the non-album tracks, and during “Believe it”, Randy got fairly emotional. It meant something more to him this night, and shortly after the first chorus, he pulled his glasses off to wipe his eyes, but never lost his composure. It took just a few seconds after concluding the song for him to get back to his usual self; and then Ross used his electronic drum pad for a bit as they rolled into the next number. The bass lines Pat Llull was knocking out were pulsating, mixing perfectly with the beats as they did a little intro for their take on Muse’s “Madness”. They do a mean version of it, keeping it true to form, while adding their own little touches here and there.
“This is our first time here. Get it?” remarked Randy before they did another cut from their EP, “Bad Boy”. Upon finishing it, he informed everyone that to go along with this free show, they had some free merch to hand out. “This is a merging of two bands,” he stated, referring to Ursa (the band all the instrumentalists were a part of before LA Wedding), with the other band in question being LA Wedding. He tried to entice more people up to the stage with the prospect of throwing the CD’s out to people, but there were enough empty patches in the crowd that he chose not to, and just wait to hand them out later. “This is the first song we wrote together,” he started before “Such Things”, a song that began with him using the mic stand, slowly waving his arms up and down as he stood in front of it. The song boasts a killer music bed that’s quite aggressive; and later in it, Dave started jumping around, making his way back to his amp for just a bit.
“…Without them, I’d be up a creek,” said Randy, referring to his band mates, after again mentioning the merging of the bands. That was when some different names got thrown around, like when some couples combine their names, and “Ursa Wedding” or “Ursula” were the two brought up. “Like in The Little Mermaid,” the frontman cracked.
“Going Under” started winding down their time on stage, and that hard-hitting track was followed by the final song from the Degree of Discomfort EP, “I Know You Love Me”. Both Ross and Dave added a lot of backing vocals on what is their longest song, making for some nice harmonies at times, as they brought their set to a solid end.
In some ways, I thought they were even better this night than the first time I caught them. The band chemistry seemed to be even better this time around, and they were just clicking on an excellent level.
They got the use out of the sizable stage, too, commanding most of the people’s attention while they were up there.
To be such a new band, they already have a great set of songs lined up, and the couple that aren’t on the record sound even a slight cut above those that are, making the future look pretty bright for LA Wedding.
You can find their EP on BANDCAMP; and keep an eye on their schedule. They’ll surely have something else in the next month or two.
Rounding out this sneak preview show was Marquis of Vaudeville. I had seen them only once before (four years ago or so, I think), though I was looking forward to finally seeing them again.
“The Wild Lost” was the introduction to their 57-minute long set, serving as a welcoming to all those who had stuck around. “…A spectacle of splendor. Stupendous and sublime…” sang Toby Lawhon over the circus-like guitar chords Bryan Geddie was playing, as they brought the audience into their world of grandeur.
“Thank you, Gas Monkey Live,” Toby said afterwards, acknowledging he knew that most of those who were there had not heard of them before, but they were going to put on a good show for everybody. Their drummer then cracked his sticks together, counting them into “Utopian Playland”, which was followed by the at times haunting, “An Ordinary Day”. That latter song was the most pulse pounding thing they had done thus far, coming to a dynamic end that had bassist Geneva Arena moving all about stage left.
When Toby had an acoustic guitar brought out to him, it appeared like they were about to tone things down some, but that was not the case. The drumming on the next track was still very forceful; however, towards the end they ran into some technical issues, when the vocals became mute. It wasn’t the speakers or anything, though. Instead, it was simply that the microphone cable had come unplugged, though they didn’t discover that until the very end. “Come see me after the show and I’ll sing that last part for ya,” Toby told everyone afterwards. I don’t know if anyone took him up on that, though as a joke, the thought did cross my mind.
After “The Nightmare Machine”, Toby picked up the setlist and uncrumpled it, as it had gotten pretty beat up from him apparently stepping all over it. The next song was a shorter one, but it was a gut punch. Arguably, one of the best things they did this night. What came next was very good, too; while a line from their next track, “The show must go on,” made for another appropriate track that helped create an overall flow to their performance.
“Wow! That was fancy bro,” Toby commented, referring to a sweet lick Bryan threw in at the end of another song. The singer went on to mention all the merch they had for sale, from their debut record to bookmarks for those who were readers. “And if you’re not, you should probably pick up a book,” he said only half jokingly. “Bright Star Hope” showcased a slightly softer side of Tobys’ voice, and he’s capable of a great range, nailing those higher notes. They returned to their more theatrical sounding stuff with “The Bones of Knotwright Lane”, a song that one gentleman really enjoyed, and he screamed, “WOO!” when it was done. “I like your attitude,” Toby said to him, before reaching down and picking up the now tattered and torn set list.
One more song was all it took, and after it, the piece of paper was in pieces. “I think we’re down here now,” Toby said aloud, as he grabbed a little shred that had fallen to the floor and examined it. “What time is it?” he then asked, with one person replying, “Early!” “I like that. It’s early time…” laughed the vocalist, before a woman shouted she wanted another song like the previous one. “Alright, we’ll give you the barn burner,” he said, shortly before the brief track known as “Ere the Tempest” kicked on, leading them into “Corps of Night”. The powerhouse song brought their set to a fiery finish, with Toby often using both hands to grip the mic stand as he sang, packing just a little more determination into their final moments.
Marquis of Vaudeville proved to be the perfect band to close down this night. Often, they do various themed shows, and even though this wasn’t as big of an extravaganza/production as some of the other gigs, they still added a real theatrical element to it all.
Their entire set just flowed, like each song was telling a part of a story, and they wanted the audience to be along for every step of it. You don’t see that all that often, and that sets them apart from many of their peers.
I highly enjoyed them this night. Even more so than I remembered from that first time I had seen them, and I’m going to try hard to not let several more years pass before I make another show of theirs.
Check out their album on iTUNES. It’s 19 songs for $10. You can’t beat that deal.
This was a good night at Gas monkey Live (and from what I hear, the official grand opening was an absolute success), and it has me interested in the venues future.
Being so large, there are only a select number of bands that it can accommodate. I mean, if you had a band headline here whose pull was seven to eight hundred people, it would feel empty. It’s going to be competing for a whole different level of bands with a whole different set of venues, giving a more unique setting over many of them in the area.
I liked it. The sound and lights were awesome this night, and I’ll be looking forward to my next outing there.
Music Promoter Lee Sobel, via his company, GET IT ON PRESENTS, is producing a series of genre-driven live music events at local clubs that Sobel calls “mini-festivals.” These events spotlight specific genres to help bands build a local scene with other like-minded bands and to give their fans a full night of the music they love — be it Alternative, Americana, Psychedelic, Hard Rock, Funk, etc. Sobel is currently putting on these mini-festivals in NEW YORK CITY, PHILADELPHIA, BOSTON, CHICAGO, DALLAS, DENVER, LOS ANGELES, SAN FRANCISCO and PORTLAND, OR.
Lee Sobel is a former filmmaker who has been putting on music events for going on two decades. “Being a music promoter is about two things,” says Sobel. “Loving music down deep in your soul and survival.” Sobel will cover the travails of navigating the live music biz in his forthcoming book: LOVE ME OR HATE ME: A Music Promoter’s Survival Story.
Article in 10/9/14 SF CHRONICLE about Sobel’s Mini-Festivals.
Friday, November 14th
Get It On Presents Dallas Alternarock Fest! at Bryan Street Tavern in Dallas, TX.
$10 admission / 21+ w/ID
8pm My Lucky Lighter
9pm Drive Thru Society
12am King for President
Friday, December 12th
Get It On Presents Dallas Punkpop Fest! at Liquid Lounge in Dallas, TX.
$10 admission / 17+ Admitted (Anyone Under 21 will be charged an additional $5 by the club)
9pm A Life In Arm’s Reach
10pm Under Dog House
11pm Bullet Machine
(Photo credit: Luminous Love Photography)
New neo-soul artist Alma will release her first full length album, Tactics, on October 17. Alma, a talented singer and songwriter, is a Madison, WI native.
Tactics opens with just Alma and a microphone as she poetically invites listeners to examine the flaws of our human nature, a running theme through the album. Her vocals are smooth, soulful and precise, layered with tight background vocal arrangements.
Tactics’ stylistic leanings, a catchy mix of pop, R&B and jazz are reminiscent of Joss Stone, Emily King and Adele. Alma even experiments with spoken word and rap within Tactics.
“The project itself came together in less than five months, from the moment I sat down and said, ‘Okay, I should probably make a record,’ to the day I got the final mixes,” Alma says. She credits the accomplishment to bassist and producer Chris Thigpen, whom she met while studying voice at Columbia College in Chicago.
The two carefully arranged each song before hitting the studio in August. The product of their teamwork is eight unique yet cohesive tunes, from the hard-hitting “Take 21” to the gentle piano-driven “Head Rush,” each addressing a different aspect of human nature.
“I basically just put all my dirt out there,” Alma says, referring to her candid confessions of her own human nature. Topics like jealousy (“Blind Side”), doubt in God (“Worn”) and even an ugly sugar addiction (“Honey”) can be found on Tactics. Her openness endears her to fans, who donated over $5,000 to the project through crowdsourcing.
Maps & Atlases are an indie rock group from Chicago, IL. Forming in the fall of 2004, the band came together searching for a sound that was both technical and organic. They gained critical attention from an article in Guitar Player magazine in their October 2006 issue. In that interview, guitar player Elders says “Our goal was to put existing technical elements in a new context, and create something artistically unique, but still accessible.”
Gaining a loyal following through the years, the internationally touring band has released three EPs, two full length albums, and has toured the festival circuit in the United States. Their song “Vampires” was featured in NBC’s shows “Up All Night” and “Parenthood”.
“Cleanup makes what they describe as “math rock,” but the effect is far more euphoric than I ever remember algebra class being. The finely tuned mix of cerebral and emotional throughout the eight-track Sun Life LP makes it an irresistible listen, one of the sharpest records to emerge this year from North Texas.” –DFW.com
“Ice Eater takes pride in making music it considers unusual, but the five musicians who make up the post-prog-punk outfit are naturals in terms of pushing the sonic envelope. When describing their sound, the guys go back and forth between intentional mystery and direct comparisons to underground ’80s icon Joy Division.” –DFW.com
I’ve often said there is beauty in simplicity, and that statement can be applied to Snake in the Grass, the debut album from Dallas-based singer/songwriter Poppy Xander.
Almost all eleven tracks that comprise the record feature just her voice and a piano; and there’s something refreshing in the fact that there’s nothing over-the-top.
Don’t jump to conclusions and assume that it’s all ballads, or even remotely close to, say, Sarah McLachlan, though. It’s pretty much the antithesis of that; as the classically trained pianist uses her skills to create some intriguing music that focuses on depth.
From the opener, “The Ren and the Robin”, you’re immersed in a world of vivid storytelling and what some may consider a little offbeat songs (I mean that is a term of endearment). That one in particular is accompanied by a semi-serene, yet moody piece on the piano, making for an interesting offset between the often dark imagery the lyrics conjure.
Xander demonstrates her versatility right away, switching to a huskier voice on “Blackwater on the Rise”, which has a distinctive lounge vibe to it (along with some slight hints of jazz), and it succeeds at transporting you back to a bygone era. The following track, “Paisley”, is a standout from the record, as she taps into a more operatic side here and there. The song (which goes against traditional songwriting, as it does not include a chorus) is somewhat rooted it politics, for example, the third verse, “Take it from them, one percent; and hide it where they’ll never find. Line their country’s walls with dollars; bleed us dry and we’ll up rise.”
The next couple of songs take on a more minimalist sound with the piano being softer from the previous tracks, though it strikes when it can. “Lost Boy” sounds gorgeous, yet ominous; while Xander’s voice is utterly mesmerizing on “Paintman”.
Around the halfway mark, there are finally some love songs. Well, at least “No Way Out” is more centered around love (and the impending heartbreak that often comes with it); while the title track, the somewhat jazz inspired “Snake in the Grass”, is all about lusting after someone. Things switch gears yet again with “Time”. For starters, the piano is replaced with a guitar, and the haunting notes are behooving of what sounds like it could have been a spoken word poem when it was first conceived, before being set to a tune.
“I was Bonnie and you, you were Clyde. Take over the town in just one night. But you robbed of my love; shot up my hopes in a pool of blood,” goes a verse from “Darkness of Your Love”, drawing a very nice comparison between a past romance and those notorious bank robbers.
“Just Over the Rainbow” offers what could be a perfect finish to the album. It’s uplifting and brimming with hope; a stark contrast from how the album began. However, there’s still one song to go, and “Keep Calm and Carry On” again finds Xander focusing partly on politics as well as social issues. From being monitored by the government to people struggling to earn enough to make ends meet, while also going into debt to own things you might not necessarily need. It’s incredibly thought provoking, and easily the most relatable offering from Snake in the Grass.
I can honestly say this is the first album I’ve ever listened to that is just piano and vocals, and it made more of an impression on me than I thought it would.
Nothing about Snake in the Grass is typical of modern music. It’s rooted deeply in the classical vein, while the structuring of the songs often go against the grain. That’s what allows it to stick with you, because it is so different from… well, just about anything you hear. Aside from that, Xander has a phenomenal voice, showing off a vast range; and no matter what the style is she has mastery over it.
The music may be an acquired taste; and admittedly, it took me a few runs through before the songs really started clicking with me more, but that just makes the album all the more interesting. It’s like there are different layers to each track, and the more you listen, the more you uncover.
Purchase the album on:
iTUNES / Bandcamp
Visit Poppy Xanders’ websites:
Facebook / Reverbnation / Twitter
(Photo credit: Brian Hilson)
New Politics are getting ready to kick off their epic “Everywhere I Go” fall tour, hitting up 40 cities across the country throughout October and November.
The band just released the new single “Everywhere I Go (Kings and Queens),” another huge track that fits in perfectly with Billboard's description: “Drawing from the Hives and early records by Chronic Future, the Brooklyn band employs a catchy chorus, angst-ridden shouts and aggressive power chords as its principal strategies.”
New Politics’ previous hit single "Harlem" was Top 5 at Alternative radio for 2 months, with follow-up "Tonight You’re Perfect" reaching Top 15 at Alternative as well. Both songs were synced across a wide variety of campaigns from the trailer for Disney’s Frozen to promos for The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon to commercials for Microsoft. The band is hot off a huge tour with Fall Out Boy and Paramore, and has also toured arenas with the likes of Jane’s Addiction, 30 Seconds to Mars and P!nk.
10/14 9:30 Club - Washington, DC
10/15 Cat’s Cradle - Carrboro, NC
10/16 The Fillmore - Charlotte, NC
10/17 Beacham Theatre - Orlando, FL
10/19 Revolution - Ft. Lauderdale, FL
10/21 The Masquerade - Atlanta, GA
10/22 House of Blues - New Orleans, LA
10/24 Cain’s Ballroom - Tulsa, OK
10/25 House of Blues - Dallas, TX
10/26 Mohawk - Austin, TX
10/28 Sunshine Theater - Albuquerque, NM
10/29 The Rock - Tucson, AZ
10/30 House of Blues - San Diego, CA
10/31 House of Blues - Anaheim, CA
11/01 Fonda Theatre - Hollywood, CA
11/02 The Fillmore - San Francisco, CA
10/04 Hawthorne Theatre - Portland, OR
11/05 The Rio Theatre - Vancouver, BC
11/06 Neptune Theatre - Seattle, WA
11/07 Knitting Factory - Boise, ID
11/08 Murray Theater - Murray, UT
11/09 Gothic Theatre - Englewood, CO
11/11 Granada Theatre - Lawrence, KS
11/12 The Pageant - St. Louis, MO
11/13 Varsity Theatre - Minneapolis, MN
11/14 The Rave/Eagles Club - Milwaukee, WI
11/15 Deluxe at the Amber Room, Old National Centre - Indianapolis, IN
11/16 House of Blues - Chicago, IL
11/18 Bogart’s Cincinnati - Cincinatti, OH
11/19 Mercury Ballroom - Louisville, KY
11/20 House of Blues - Cleveland, OH
11/21 Newport Music Hall - Columbus, OH
11/23 The Opera House - Toronto, ON
11/25 Irving Plaza - New York, NY
11/26 Paradise Rock Club - Boston, MA
11/28 Town Ballroom - Buffalo, NY
11/29 Theater of the Living Arts - Philadelphia, PA
11/30 Webster Theater - Hartford, CT
* All w/ SomeKindaWonderful and Bad Suns
Songs are insights into the soul. At least they are for Jason Corcoran, the probing singer-songwriter that records under the moniker Gaston Light. In the last four years Corcoran has laid bare his psyche in a revealing and transcendent batch of tunes that sound like the deep musings of a man twice his age. The 26-year-old artist released his raw, auspicious Gaston Light debut, Peel, in 2011, and then upped his creative game in the revelatory 2012 single, “Truth I Suppose.”
Now it’s time to dream.
“Dream Good,” the new Gaston Light single and accompanying video, opens with a swirling, haunting yet strikingly sunny combo of layered guitar, synthesizer and vocal tracks topped by an acoustic piano. Corcoran purposely channeled his influences, namely Big Star, Roy Orbison, The Animals and Phil Spector, to craft a tune that modernizes a classic sound.
“It was meant to be a power pop record,” the Dallas-based Corcoran says of the song set for release Oct. 14, 2014. “Originally the idea was Big Star meets Roy Orbison with that wall-of-sound production. I wanted it to be classic but sound like 2014.”
Lyrically “Dream Good” is about hope, to put it simply.
“So I’ll hold on and keep my eyes on the prize,” Corcoran sings, “I’ll have the beggar’s truth over a rich man’s lie/There’s a hell inside of paradise/Or so I’ve been told/Right now I need you by my side, my pretty baby, if you would/Before the sun grows cold and help me dream good.”
But all great songs are intricate in their simplicity. When Corcoran explains the genesis of the “Dream Good” lyrics he delves into the root of his creative mechanism.
“The lyrical inspiration stems from that hopelessly hopeful quality of Woody Guthrie,” he says. “There’s a lot of simple wisdom throughout his writings. Also, he has that quote where he talks about there’s too many song that knock people down and how the world doesn’t need any more of them. That really resonated with me.”
“Dream Good” was recorded in the spring of 2014 at Baby Bird Studios in Venice, Calif. Corcoran worked with electric guitarist Dave Green, bassist Dave Jones, drummers Justin Ivey and Josh Mervin, pianist and organist Mark Nilan Jr. and producer-vocalist Nathan Blumenfeld-James, who also helmed Peel.
The video for “Dream Good” should also resonate with listeners and viewers. The clip is a provocative, fantasy-like excursion that reveals the flip-side of the lyrics in an attempt to cement their hefty messages. It was directed by Dustin Bath and filmed inside a Motel 6 near LAX and the always congested Lincoln Boulevard in Venice, Calif.
“The video is a peak into what I didn’t want in my life,” Corcoran says. “You sometimes become aware of what you don’t want when you’re in the thick of it. I didn’t want to do some video of me shirtless running down the beach. I was ready for something actually closer to reality. It represents a ‘bad scene’ that can be visually appealing, but unless you’ve been there you know it’s not.”
Now that “Dream Good” has been recorded and filmed, Corcoran is ready for more. “Dream Good” is the first installment in a series of single releases followed by an EP via Dallas-based Idol Records in 2015. This is just the beginning. There’s more soul searching to come.
“Music has always been the one thing that has lifted me up throughout the years,” he says. “I wanted to finally write those songs that would do the same for someone else.”
The Fort Worth-based Swindle Boys are continuing to pump out a new single each month, and the third one — “Wanderers” — is perhaps their best yet.
Many of their songs are rather relatable, but the fact that this one deals more with the human condition ensures it’s a track that connects with everyone who takes time to listen.
“Disappointment can take you over in the blink of an eye… and turn your heart to stone…” vocalist Joey Swindle sings at the start. It’s partly about not letting events of your past make you callous or jaded, and also about how we as people need to start taking time for one another.
“It’s not a waste of time to invest your time in another life,” goes the following line of the hopping song — which nicely blends the catchy elements of the pop genre with a grand scale rock atmosphere — as the song continues to make the point that everyone needs someone. Maybe it’s a friend, it could be a partner, or whatever else, to help make the journey through life a little easier; because humans are emotional creatures by nature, as they point out later, “We were meant to explore, to love and to mourn. Hold nothing back.”
At its core, “Wanderers” is a song about how we all could stand to be a little kinder to everyone; and from the impassioned singing, to the vibrant guitar notes (which waxes and wanes accordingly), and even the subtle keys (which accents the lyrics perfectly) it’s a message they succeed at getting across.
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