Thursday, November 14th, 2013 – Twenty One Pilots

When you think of musical duos, the first thing that probably comes to mind is artists who mine more of the singer/songwriter genre, and certainly not a rock band. Sure, there are rock duos, but how many do you really know of? Just a small handful most likely.

There’s so much more on the line when it comes to duos, like wondering if they’ll be able to entertain and command the stage in the same way a four or five-piece band would.

That thought was at the forefront of my mind this night, when the Columbus, Ohio based Twenty One Pilots rolled through town, performing at the House of Blues.

Fans of this highly original act had packed the House of Blues to near capacity, seeming rabid with excitement, cheering and hollering once the lights finally dimmed, leaving the stage shrouded in darkness.

Unseen was Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun’s entrance to the stage, the latter taking a seat behind his massive drum kit, which sit on a platform, elevating it enough to ensure everyone had a good view.

Both were wearing their signature ski masks, while Tyler rocked out on a keytar as they got this monumental show going with “Fake You Out”. “Let’s dance!” he shouted out after one of the earlier lines, “…And I’ll fake. All I wanna”, the audience doing just that. They continued to amp up the intensity, with one of the most memorable moments of the show coming at one point when Tyler jumped on top of and then off his piano.

Already they were demonstrating complete control and dominance over not just the crowd, but the stage as well, their presence and energy filling the sizable area, to the point you had to wonder that if they were just getting warmed up, what was yet to come?

They took things in the opposite direction with their next song, Tyler taking a seat at the piano for “Migraine”, showing of his stellar rapping ability on most of the track, though it was the chorus of that emotion-filled song that had everyone singing along with him. “Am I the only I know, waging my wars behind my face and above my throat? Shadows will scream that I’m alone…” the audience echoed along with him. “Tonight, there are only two places in the world.” Tyler said at one point during “Fall Away”. “Dallas, and everywhere else!” he roared, before going back to busting out the song’s lyrics.

Thus far, there had been just enough time in between songs for the crowd to applaud, and while they showed how much they had enjoyed that tune, Tyler pointed at Josh, using his index finger and thumb to make a gun. They both pretended to shoot one another in the head, the stage lights again going completely out, leaving the fans wondering what was going to happen next.

When they were seen again, the two had exchanged their ski masks for skeleton masks, also sporting some body suits that had rips on them. Tyler dabbled on both the piano and keys at various points on “Ode to Sleep”, but it was the beginning that was utterly breathtaking. I’m not a real fan of rap, but had been enjoying the moderate amounts of it so far, and then he let loose on the first verse of that song. The precision he put into it was something else, and the further he got into it, the more he raised his voice, and also sped up the pacing. Like I said, I’m not a fan of the rap genre, but as a rapper, Tyler earned my utmost respect with that song, and the more poppy elements of the song were quite fun and enjoyable, too, meshing surprisingly well with the par parts.

They continued with the songs off their most recent album, “Vessel”, slowing things down now as Tyler used a ukulele for the more tender, “Screen”. It earned another sing along moment, the fans crooning, “We’re broken… we’re broken people…”, though it paled in comparison to sing along in the next number. Josh left is drum kit to add some notes from the keyboard to the start of “House of Gold”, a song everybody seemed eager to hear. I believe it was the second chorus, that, when they reached it, Tyler quit singing, the audience picking up the slack, very audibly singing, “I will make you queen of everything you see, I’ll put you on the map. I’ll cure you of disease.” It was a beautiful moment on what is one of the most beautifully written songs I’ve ever heard, and making the live version even better was the addition of Van Morrisons’ “Brown Eyed Girl”, or at least a snippet of the lyrics which were thrown in.

It was immediately followed by another cover song… Well, sort of. The song was Andrea Bocellas’ “Time to Say Goodbye”, and while the backing track of that song played over Twenty One Pilots version, giving it an operatic feel, the song was totally different. The words were rapped, and the mash up of two polar opposite genres (opera and rap), somehow blended together gorgeously.

“…I could not wait to stop and say hi to you all…” Tyler said when they finally took a break. By this time he and Josh had ditched their skeleton attire and ski masks, looking like normal people now, as Tyler chatted with the audience at length, commenting on how they started things off a little more mysterious with the lighting and such, working their way up to this point in the show.

He also mentioned that they also had some old stuff planned for everybody, having already done a couple of their classics, and adding to it with a song off the “Regional at Best” record, “Forest”. He played the piano at times on it, while also acting as a frontman at times, pacing around the stage and engaging the crowd on that gem of a song. He kept up the same behavior on their next song, but first mentioned what a “weird concert” this was. “…It feels like you all trapped us here and want to kill us, but before you do you said, “Play some music.” Tyler joked, soon adding, “We’re going to give you everything we have.”, a statement that earned them some uproarious cheering.

The honest song writing that acts as a window into Tyler’s life continued with “Addict with a Pen”, which was followed by “Holding On to You”. As they started it, Tyler left the stage and hopped onto the guard rail, standing up on it as he struggled for a moment to get his balance, before spitting out the words. That was just one of a few sweet concert moments that took place during that song, with another being when the first opening act, Sirah, joined them on stage, singing a few lines of the song. The one that took the cake though would have to be when Josh suddenly left his drum kit, calmly walking over to the piano on stage left, and climbing up on it. He then walked to the edge, turned around, and did a back flip off it, before returning to his drum duties.

Another unforgettable moment came towards the end of the at times more electronic sounding “Semi-Automatic”, when some of the stage hands brought out a small platform that had a partial drum kit on it, just a bass drum and a snare, plus a cymbal. They carried it to the edge of the stage, shoving it into a part of the audience, as the people who were there grabbed and held it as they moved it further back to ensure enough people had a hold on it. Josh then left his kit for this one, walking out onto the platform and sitting down, as he proceeded to wildly bang about this extra kit for several moments, until the song came to an end.

It was nothing but a sea of phones for that, as everyone attempted to capture that moment in one format or another, as well it should have. Honestly, how many bands have you seen do a stunt like that? I doubt many, and personally, that was a first for me.

The audience was still all worked up over that, as Josh returned to his full kit, eventually laying down a steady bass drum beat as they knocked the more cheerful sounding “The Run and Go”. “Why do you do what you do?” Tyler said, taking a pause during that song, though he kept striking the keys of the piano. He said that was a question his mother asked him. “…To put it in context, it was the first time she had ever seen me perform.” He again got personal with the fans, spending a few minutes talking about that, and how is mother, who had brought some of her friends to that show where she first saw him perform, said they were worried about him and how he acted like he did on stage. Tyler then gave a passionate little speech, saying he responded by saying that was just how the music affected and impacted him, earning him a deafening applause from the crowd who agreed with him. “…This is also my mom’s favorite song.” he added as they went back into the song and finished it up

Afterwards, he continued bantering with everyone, while Josh briefly left the stage. “…When I wrote these songs in my basement, I didn’t know there were rules…” he remarked, elaborating that he wasn’t aware that they needed a certain type of structure, or you should or shouldn’t do certain things with the chorus and such. “…I was just writing these weird songs…” he said, adding he was glad so many other people liked hearing his “weird” songs.

He continued, talking about how moving and changing music is, and in his speaking, you got the idea of what a deep and wise individual Tyler is. Characteristics that are evident in his songwriting itself, but they run much deeper than just that.

They soon got back to business with “Car Radio”, Tyler sounding more like a poet as he spoke/rapped the lyrics, again leaping off the piano at one point in the song.

With that, their 84-minute long set was nearly over, but first he connected with the audience one last time. “…This show is something I won’t soon forget…”, seeming genuine about the remark. Talk then turned to Twitter, when he said he doesn’t use social media to thank each town they play in, saying he feels like that ruins, if you post about how much fun each city was. He was more concerned with the people who were here now. “…I don’t live anywhere near here…” he said, going on to say how special it was that everyone was out here with the sole purpose of wanting to see them live and hear their songs.

He soon started speaking to one particular fan, asking him what his name was. “…There’s a moment in this next song, where I take my shirt off. And then I’m going to look at you, and we’re going to have a moment…” Tyler joked, before saying he wanted this fan to take his shirt off along with him, ensuring that no one would laugh or anything, because people would see him doing it, and then take their own shirts off.

It didn’t quite work like that, and while some people did remove their shirts during “Guns for Hands”, more were singing along to it, their enthusiasm turning to amazement as the song neared the end. Two floor toms were brought out and placed near the center of the stage, both Josh and Tyler taking a spot in front of them. They both acted as percussionists, forcefully beating on them as they stood back to back, before doing a 180
°as they continued beating on them, ending their show in spectacular fashion, and leaving the fans feeling even more pumped up than they had all night.

No one wanted it to be over just yet, though, and after some shouting and clapping for one more, Tyler returned to the stage, playing the final track from “Vessel”, “Truce”. He segued it perfectly into “Trees”, where he was joined by Josh. The way they had ended the main set seemed hard to top, but they had devised a way to do just that, and again some stage hands rushed out towards the end of the song, this time with two smaller platforms they handed to the fans.

One was for Tyler and the other belonged to Josh, as they carried those toms from earlier out with them, concluding the night with a fiery drum solo that you just had to marvel at.
By the time it was all over, they had played their newest full-length in its entirety, plus a nice array of older stuff, and had put on one of the best live shows I’ve ever seen any band do.

I’ve caught a decent amount of shows here at the House of Blues, and there are some four and five-piece rock bands I’ve seen take this stage and fail to put the energy in to the show or have the presence it takes to fill this stage, two things that did not befall Twenty One Pilots.

They commanded the audience’s full attention without ever having to ask for it, relying completely on their explosive live show to capture and captivate them, and they did so with relative ease.

Personally, I find it easy, especially with larger bands, to overlook drummers, since they’re usually pushed towards the back of the stage. That’s far from the case with Josh Dun, who had a certain charisma about him, and was a fierce drummer. And Tyler is pretty much the ultimate frontman, having an amazing, and even beautiful singing voice, while doubling as a very skilled rapper, and as he roamed and ran about the stage, you really had no idea what he might do next.

It was that spontaneity that made their show so fun and engaging, allowing you to look on in wonder, and the diversity of their music didn’t hurt either, and the fact that no two songs of theirs even sound remotely the same kept things fresh throughout the night.

Tyler may be right that he writes weird songs, but they’re real, honest and relatable songs, something that’s hard to find in music these days. It didn’t hurt that he was so humble about everything, either, coming across as being truly privileged to be on this stage in front of so many people. But I digress. For me, it’s substance like that, that will always be the most important quality music can have, and if you’re lucky enough to see them live and get the joint experience of their music and their action packed live show, well, it’ll be a time you won’t soon forget.

Sunday, November 17th, 2013 – Free Dominguez

The Prophet Bar was hosting a very unique show this night. Free Dominguez, best known as the frontwoman of Kidneythieves, was performing this night, and this final show of an only two-show tour of Texas was more of an intimate party than just your typical concert.

This Dallas date was billed as a “private event”, with buying tickets in advance being the only way to get in, as no tickets were sold at the door, giving it an exclusive feel, to an extent.

On top of that, Free had organized the lineup, with her cousin Jordi Baizan and fellow Los Angeles based singer Sierra Swan opening for her. (Dallas locals At Night were also scheduled to perform, though their van broke down on the way back from their Houston show).

However, since this was such an early show (starting about 6PM), both openers had finished by the time I was able to get there, though I heard good things about both.

Still, everyone was most excited for Free Dominguez, who had been over at the merch table meeting people and signing stuff for most of the evening (from what I heard), only leaving shortly before her and her bands 8:40 start time in order to get ready for the show.

Much of their 67-minute long set was comprised of material from “Volcano and the Sea”, an album that at one point during the night Free said she had been wanting to make for ten years, sounding elated that it had finally happened.

They kicked things off exactly how the record does, with the beautifully serene yet roaring rock number, “Calling”. She informed the decent size crowd on the title after they finished it, chatting with everyone briefly. “This is going to be our last song.” Free joked before they launched into “Beautiful”, which was just one of many songs this night that guitarist Static was able to shred on.

Drummer Beak Wing counted them in on the mesmerizing “Line in the Sand”, which was the last song they did in order as is heard on the record, and afterwards Free  again spoke with the crowd, creating a real rapport with everybody. One thing she did was point out a couple who had drove all the way from St. Louis to see this show, a feat that earned them a round of applause. “…It’s stuff like that that keeps me doing what I’m doing…” remarked Free, being genuinely humbled by that, as well as all the fans in general who had come out to show their support.

“Make me a simple life before I die…” Free crooned as they started “Simple Life”, which somewhat deals with materialism, and wound up being a highlight of their show. At least I thought so. Upon finishing it, she pointed out one of the lines from it, for those who might not have caught it, and that was, “…Things that are forever are forever changing…” She commented on how that’s more or less a mantra for her, and it is probably one of the most true lyrics from a song. Talk then led to the next song, which Free noted was the first song she and Static wrote that wound up leading to “Volcano and the Sea”. “…He was screwing around on Skype…” she said, saying she liked what he was doing on his guitar and asked him to continue.

They then slowed things down with the dark and gorgeous “Corridors”, with Free hitting some utterly beautiful notes with her voice. “That’s always a fun one to do. It’s always different.” she stated, referring to Static as “the feral one”, adding that he always keeps them on their toes while performing it. And while they had toned things down with that song, they were about to scale back even more as Beak Wing and bassist Matt McJunkins left the stage. Free told everyone that for this next segment, she let Static pick the songs they were going to play, ones she hadn’t prepared for and was going to be as surprised as the audience. “…I might even forget the lyrics, like I did last night in Houston.” she said laughing.

This portion of the show saw them doing some stripped down covers of Kidneythieves songs, and the first one was the lead track from “Zerospace”, “Before I’m Dead”. They may have sounded a little different, but it was these songs that everyone seemed to love, and much of the audience was even singing along to them, especially “Jude (Be Somebody)”, which everyone seemed ecstatic to hear, and it did even catch Free off guard. “I don’t know what it is.” she said after Static’s first riff on the guitar, reiterating that after the second, before realizing. And no, she didn’t flub the words to either of those tracks.

As the rhythm section returned, Free took a few moments to discuss another project she and Static are working on, which will be a hip-hop collaboration. She expressed her love of the genre, even saying they recently got word from the label that they will be able to get who they want to collaborate with for what I believe she said would be an EP that would most likely be released in the first half of next year. She sounded very excited about it, and it will no doubt be an interesting record to hear once it’s finished.

As they got back to her solo material, they did some revamped renditions of a couple songs from “(.Unearth.)”, the addition of Matt and Beak Wing really helping flesh out the songs from how they are on the album, helping transform “
Darkest Rivers” into a beast of a song, and one they could all really throw down on. “…Enjoy it…” said Free, urging everyone to get the most out of it, adding, “…’Cause I don’t know when we’ll be back…” Following it was “Questions + Lies”, which helped wind the evening down, but they still had a couple songs left to do.

But before playing any more, Free pointed out that a special guest was in attendance, and that was someone who had backed their Kickstarter campaign, picking the reward option of having her write a song about him. In order to get to know him she said they had talked online many times, and she also had him keep a dream journal for a while, which he then gave to her. She was excited about the song, saying how good it was sounding and that she has had to fight the urge to share even a snippet with him, because she wants him to be surprised when he hears the full song, which she said would be titled “Mr. Goodnight”.

They got back to it with “Hearts Like Parachutes”, which made them appear as if they were still getting warmed up, with the whole band really loosing up, especially Matt, who thrashed about to the beat. Then, before their final song, Free pointed out someone else who was in attendance. It was a young girl who was at her first ever concert, and Free said she was glad the child had been in the bathroom earlier when she said the “f-word”. “…I’m sensitive about that stuff…” she clarified, shortly before encouraging everyone to support their favorite band by buying their music, then bashing a streaming service with, “Fuck Spotify!”. It was “Wolf” that brought their show to a close, though even after a little more than an hour, no one was ready for it to come to an end, letting it be known when it was said that would be the last song. “Do you not want me to enjoy this shot?” Free said jokingly, having gotten one early on in the night, but only drank a portion of so it didn’t “fuck up” her voice as she put it. A respectable ting to do I might add, since so many musicians these days don’t seem to think twice about how it might affect their singing.

As the band retreated back stage, the DJ they had at the event began to spin some more music as everyone started to mingle a bit, thinking it was over. It wasn’t.

Static and Free returned to the state after a minute or so, performing over the track the DJ had going, giving everyone one little bonus track.

It was truly an incredible show, and making it all the better was the intimate feel it had. The Prophet Bar is a smaller venue, and all four members were fairly cozy on stage, having just enough room to do a little moving around. That didn’t keep them from putting on one helluva show, though.

There’s no question that Static is a phenomenal guitarist, stealing the spotlight at times as you watch in wonder at his mastery of the instrument. Beak Wing and Matt are also experts at their craft, while Free Dominguez is amazing in all aspects. Often this night she could be seem conducting her body very fluidly to the music, moving her hands and arms about in perfect time to what her band was playing. On top of that, she has a stellar voice, which was no doubt the main tool that left everyone in awe this night.

Honestly, the first time I ever heard any Kidneythieves songs was the covers they did this night, it has prompted me to listen to their records. And while it may be a departure from the group that made her famous, Free’s solo music is every bit as great, albeit in a different way, but in the end, it’s all riveting music that will pull you in and make the trip an experience.

If you haven’t yet heard her solo stuff, check it out in either iTUNES or Bandcamp.

I’m glad I wound up going to this show, as it was well worth it, and I definitely won’t miss out on the next one… Whenever that may be.

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013 – The Riverboat Gamblers Cause a Ruckus at Rubber Gloves

A Tuesday night is a bit of an odd night for a show. At least it is in most towns, but not Denton, where the venues in the college town regularly host bands on any given night of the week. And making this show a little more special was the fact that the old Denton residents, now Austinites, known as the Riverboat Gamblers were kicking off their summer tour.

I had heard of the Gamblers quite awhile back, but had never seen them live until nearly a year ago down in New Braunfels at the Dia de los Toadies music festival, and since then had anxiously been waiting for them to hit the D/FW area.

Rubber Gloves was hosting the show, providing a more intimate setting to see the band in, though it seemed near impossible to reach the venue, which is right next to some train tracks, and a train was just sitting there on the tracks. Not being a Denton local, I don’t know my way around well enough to have figured out a back roads approach, which meant I waited nearly an hour before the thing finally got off the tracks.

By that time the first band had just finished, and the next band quickly set their gear up. They weren’t the next act, though. Instead, Mike Wiebe of the Riverboat Gambler got up on stage and announced they were doing something they seldom do, and that was have a comedian do a set, and then welcomed his friend on stage.

His name was John Tole, and I’m not in the business of reviewing comedians, so I won’t him. However, I will say I found him to be funny as hell. Nothing seemed to be off limits in his short little set, and that included making fun of himself, from his weight to his appearance. The humor was largely, shall we say, “adult”, and although it at times made you cringe, it was impossible not to laugh.

Great comedian, and definitely one I’d like to see again sometime.

At 10:35, the next band took the stage, and that was Blacklist Royals, who were from Nashville, Tennessee, and were touring with the Riverboat Gamblers.

During their 38-minute long set, the quartet played an array of songs, new and old, first playing a couple newer ones back-to-back. They had a bit of a punk rock sound (and look), and sped through those first two songs, before their singer and rhythm guitarist addressed the crowd briefly. “Things They Say” was one of several songs they did from their debut album “Semper Liberi”, and then did a couple more new ones which were bled into one another, and one of those was the title track of their next album, “Die Young with Me”. With some feedback emitting from the bass and guitars, they swirled it into “Rock and Roll”, which certainly seemed to embody the Rock ‘n’ Roll spirit.

Things then took a more serious turn, even hitting a somber note,when the singer stated that he wrote the next song about a fried who had passed away in recent years. It was pretty heavy, but that realness it captured was what made it such a fantastic song, one of the best of their show in my opinion. They rolled it right into another one, and after finishing it joked about how the Riverboat Gamblers fan demographic was not women, though there were a few in attendance, and the singer said something along the lines of, “You look good.” “…This next one’s a brand new one. We’ve never even played it before.” He said, before the group launched into a song that I believe was called “She’s the One”. This may have been its live debut, but they seemed pretty polished while playing it, and if he hadn’t have said that in the first place, I would have figured they had played it several times over before. The drummer transitioned them into their next track, “White Line Fever”, before they switched things up a bit, with the lead guitarist and bass player leaving the stage. “…This song’s about my hometown in my home state… Which is a long way from here.” The singer announced, performing the song solo, before they kicked things back up with another song or two.

Before wrapping up their set, the singer mentioned the merch they had for sale at the back, joking about it not being all riches while out on the road, even teasing that the bass player had to take out a loan just to afford the shirt he had on. “…He ruined his credit, but at least he looks good.” he said, getting a laugh from everyone. “…Sing it if you know it!” he later shouted, before singing the first line of the very patriotic “American Hearts”, “There’s an American heart, reckless and wild…”

That song brought their time on stage to a roaring finish, and while the Blacklist Royals didn’t have nearly as many eyes on them as they deserved, they did seem to make fans out of everyone who was watching, myself included.

Like I said, their music had a real punk flare to it, in the sense that it was fast and rather aggressive. However, after listening to their first album, I get a real [Bruce] Springsteen-esque vibe from them. Not in the musical style so much, but just in the fact that the Blacklist Royals songs tell actual stories that can strike a chord with people, while embodying the American spirit.

In listening to their stuff, it’s easy to see why they have toured so extensively over the last few years, both nationally and internationally, and they no doubt keep winning over new fans wherever they play.

Head over to iTUNES and give their record a listen, or even buy it, and stay tuned for their next record. And if you get a chance to see them live, you should definitely take it. You can find all their tour dates right HERE.

Now, it was finally time for the Riverboat Gamblers. The large crowd had packed in the showroom early in anticipation of the band, and people got even closer to the stage when drummer Sam Keir and bassist Rob Marchant made their way on stage. They got things going with some heavy beats and riffs, a prelude to the chaotic blitz that was to come, and kept it going while the remaining members took the stage.

Front man Mike Wiebe, guitarists Fadi El-Assad and Ian MacDougall and Rob then proceeded to clap, getting most everyone involved before they tore into their first number, “Rattle Me Bones”. That fast paced tune had everyone moving around, a mosh pit erupting at the front of the stage, while those who didn’t want to partake moved back to where it was safe. The band instantly got into show mode, and Mike continuously walked to the edge of the stage, leaning forward and falling out at the crowd, causing the moshers to stop, catching him, sometimes before his feet even left the stage as they simply pushed him back up. It was quite cool, and something he did constantly throughout the show.

As the song neared the end, he ran over to stage right, grabbed part of the curtain and ripped it from the wall (in fairness it’s not attached all that well), while Sam transitioned them into their next song. The adrenaline kept flowing as they launched into the lead track from 2012’s “The Wolf You Feed” album, “Good Veins”. “…You knew what I was before you fell in love. I’ve got bad blood you’ve got good veins…” shouted Mike, while his band mates often added some backing around him, adding a good layer to it and the majority of theirs other songs this night.

“…We pound these guitars like jackhammers!” Mike exclaimed as they took a very short timeout to tune up before getting back to business with “Bite My Tongue”. Ian, Rob and Fadi continued thrashing about while shredding on their instruments, as Mike hurriedly paced about the stage, at one point jumping up and grabbing the main support beam on the ceiling (which was just a few feet above his head), and hung from it for a few seconds. At this point, Mike noted that he and Fadi grew up in Denton. “…A lot has changed since then. Like, apparently now trains can just park on the tracks for as long as they want…” he joked. He went on to say they had moved off nearly ten years ago, but were now going to do a song they wrote while they still lived in Denton. “…Ladies and gentlemen, ladies and gentlemen, I want to play for you all a song from a record called Something to Crow About. It’s called Save You!” he roared as they exploded into what ended up being a sing along.

They kept on drawing from that now ten year old record, segueing things directly into “Hey! Hey! Hey!”, and soon after taped one of their more recent releases, doing the quick song “DissDissDissKissKissKiss”. As it neared the end, Mike left the stage, winding his way through the audience, and best I could tell even left the showroom, working his way into the bar area. The instrumentalists kept right on going, bleeding the music bed perfectly into their current single, “Blue Ghosts”. Ian handled the backing vocals at the start of the song, before Mike seemed to suddenly re-materialize, making his way back on stage, not missing a line of the song. Upon finishing it, they churned on one last quick song, “Death by Stereo”, before gearing up for what would come next.

Mike decided to get up close and personal with everyone for the next song, dragging the mic stand out into the crowd, everyone in the general area dispersing, giving him enough room while still circling around him to watch. The audience sang along to  “Comedians” while the band cranked it out. I was one of the lucky few who was as close as possible for this, and at one point my hat got lifted as Mike put it on himself (I’m sure that has to up its value to at least 25 to 30 bucks), but the best part came when he continued to search for more antics to pull. He walked over to one side of the room where a folding chair sat, and once he moved it the sound of glass shattering could be heard. He then put the chair around him, the seat resting on his back, while he held the top of it so the bar wouldn’t choke him. It made for a crazy good and memorable moment.

Ian, Fadi, Rob and Sam moved right along into “The Ol’ Smash and Grab”, and Mike rejoined them moments later. As I said, he had often stepped off the stage this night, allowing the fans to catch him, but he did a full-blown stage dive during that song. No advanced warning or anything, just leapt into the air without fear of falling, and sure enough, everyone’s arms shot up in the air, catching him without fail. Once that tune came to an end, Mike joked that he needed everyone’s approval, and he’d appreciate it if people “wooed” along with him, leading the swarm of fans in shouting “Woo!” a few times over. Soon after they tackled “Keep Me From Drinking”, though it was the following song that was a standout of the night. “This song is very fast!” said Mike before they burst into “The Song We Used to Call Wasting Time”. He wasn’t lying, and the lightning fast paced rhythm section incited another mosh pit, and almost on the same level of quickness was another track from “To The Confusion of Our Enemies”, “Rent is Due”.

That unrelenting approach of diving from one song to the next was working incredibly well for them. And even when they did stop, it usually wasn’t for long, like now, when Mike mentioned how great their newest record was. “…That’s not me being cocky, either. Jesus told me so.” he said, setting up the glorious “Heart Conditions”. Their set was nearing the end now, but before getting to their last batch of songs, Mike told everyone a story, beginning with them driving down University earlier in the day, making him recall his youth.

“…I don’t want to sound like that guy who says things were better in my day or things are better now…” he said at the start, mentioning how earlier in the day he had seen a kid on a skateboard crossing the highway. I should note I don’t remember the whole story verbatim, but he went on to say back in his day you had to watch out for “cowboys” and such. He went on to say he had a run in with one of these cowboys at the Arby’s (which he noted was something else now), when one walked up to him and asked him a unintelligible question. “…At first I thought he was asking if I wanted any sausages, and I didn’t know how to answer that question…” Mike said, then added he found out the guy was asking him, “Do you want to start any shit?!”, to which he said he replied “No.” and then went home. That story got quite a few laughs, while the next part got the applause, when he said several years ago, he had met some very good friends, and a few years later they began playing friends house parties. And now, they tour the country and the world together.

No sooner had he said that then they tore into “True Crime”, before unleashing the monster of a song that is “On Again, Off Again”. They kept drawing from their 2006 record, doing “Don’t Bury Me… I’m Still Not Dead Yet”, which is nothing short of an anthem (an  excellent one at that) and again at the crowd going wild. It was a fitting way to end their set, though they weren’t quite done yet, and Mike summed up the whole encore process. “…We can go out back for a few minutes while y’all chant for us to come back…” he said, “…Or we can do one fucking amazing song right now, and then all meet up at the bar.” The fans chose the latter option, skipping all the BS and getting right to the point. “…This one’s called The Art of Getting Fucked Over!” declared Mike, before they started the final song of their 55-minute set. He got back out in the crowd again on this one, grabbing the chair from earlier (the same one he placed around him), standing on it this time around. “I want to see the slowest circle pit ever around me.” He commanded, the audience pushing in as they began to encircle him. Next he said he wanted to see everyone’s hands on the backs of the people in front of them, giving them a little massage. Everyone did just that, chanting along with him towards the end, “G-A-M-B-L-E-R.” The tame circle pit suddenly sprang to life when the song picked back up, the people scattering and slamming against one another as it became a full-fledged mosh pit, and was an epic way to end what had been an epic performance.

The most enthralling quality the Riverboat Gamblers have is their brash, “fuck it” attitude. I mean that in the best way possible, because while a lot of bands say it’s all about the music, very few actually take it to the extent that they do. From the first chord you could tell Fadi, Ian, Rob and Sam had completely succumbed to the music, letting it flow over them, and the same could be said of Mike, who was being completely spontaneous throughout the night.

That’s kind of what I mean by the “fuck it” attitude, thing. Aside from the songs themselves, nothing was rehearsed or pre-planned. They just got up there, cut loose and let the chips fall where they may, so to speak. In turn, that makes the show a truly unique experience for the spectators, because this night was different than any other night of their tour will be. Just like the gig the following night was no doubt different than any other stop of the tour will be.

They’re performers through and through, and you if you want to see an intense, high-strung show, you’ll be hard pressed to find one better than what the Riverboat Gamblers put on.

For info on all their show dates, go HERE. They will be playing in Denver, CO, Seattle, WA, Portland, OR, San Francisco, CA, Fullerton, CA, Los Angeles, CA, San Diego, CA, Tempe, AZ, El Paso, TX and Austin, TX, with the tour ending on September 7th. They also have a show in Dallas on September 12th at Three Links (it’s part of the Elm Street Music and Tattoo Festival), which means I know where I’ll be on 9/12. And don’t forget to pick up their records in iTUNES.

Great night filled with raw Rock ‘n’ Roll, and, thanks in part to the comedian, a good dose of humor, too.

Wednesday, May 1st, 2013 – Dope Stars Inc. Invades the U.S., but The Rabid Whole Steals the Show

I hadn’t originally planned on going to Trees this night. In fact, I wasn’t even aware the venue was hosting a show this night, until about a week before when a friend forwarded an email along to me from the PR guy for one of the bands. Long story short, I offered to go to the show to review it and got guest listed to do just that.

The only hometown act on this bill was the first act, Sinsect, who started their set at 8:20.

They were a duo, and set up like a DJ would be, with both James Ashley and Joe Virus operating a few synthesizers. Their first few songs were all instrumental, as cranked out their electronic pieces with various sample tracks intertwining with them. Things got even worse with James began singing on their last two songs, doing some full on singing for their final number, while he just added the occasional line on another. His voice was essentially auto-tuned and had a very digital sounding effect to it, which I disliked it because you couldn’t tell what he was capable of on his own.

All of that resulted in me not liking their set a whole lot, and at least it was short, even though it felt like it lasted forever.

I guess I should say I’m not a huge fan of the kind of music in the first place, but still, I have seen a band or two who are completely electronic like this, and then their singer has blow my mind with his voice. That wasn’t the case with Sinsect, though, and not only did their music do nothing for me, but James, or rather his voice, hid behind all the effects. Who knows, maybe that was for the best, but then again, what does that say about you as a singer?

If you’re curious to listen to their stuff, well, they do have an album, “A Broken Hero”, which can be purchased in ITUNES.

Well, at least the night was bound to get better with the next act, and that was The Rabid Whole from Toronto, Ontario.

This was the band whose PR guy I had been in contact with, and after listening to their stuff online, I was ecstatic to see what they were like in the live setting.

As the curtain opened on them, a cloud of smoke engulfed stage left, then slowly billowed out towards the crowd, making it easier to see bassist Oscar Anesetti. The band bills themselves as a 21st Century Alternative Rock outfit, and they definitely looked the part with their jackets and other attire which had a futuristic look to it.

They waited on the sample track to lead them in to their first song, while Chalsey Noelle laced some beautiful piano notes over it via her keyboard. It was the calm before the storm, though, as guitarist George Radutu, drummer JJ Tartaglia and Oscar soon ripped into “Stargazer”. “I’m still expecting you to break my fall, assuming everything goes wrong…” belted out frontman Andreas Weiss on the chorus, who was racing about the stage and often propping one leg up on the monitors, gazing out at the crowd while he sang. Before the final chorus, he placed the microphone back in the stand, picking up his guitar, shredding on it while signing the remainder of the song. That was the extent of his guitar playing, at least for the time being, though, and he placed it back in its stand once the song concluded.

With that one song they had pulled almost everyone up to the front of the stage, even if everyone was only about two dozen people, and after allowing just enough time for the crowd to applaud and cheer for them, they fired up “Delusion”. It was followed by another song from their “Refuge” album, “Corporate”, which was a infectious and powerful number, partly about chasing your dreams. “…It’s the day that my friend turned corporate. Hard to think that this shell was once a man…” Andreas sang on the chorus. There were also some moments of the song where he softly whispered a few lines, giving it somewhat of a chilling tone.

They let up after that one, at least long enough for Andreas to mention that this was their first ever time in Dallas and that they were excited to be here. He of course also noted that they had some stuff for sale back at their merch table, and then they got back to it with a song from their 2009 debut album, “Autraumaton”, called “Selfish Nature”. Afterwards, Chalsey left her keyboard station which had kept her slightly out of view, joining her band mates at the front of the stage with what I will call a keytar. There was no real neck to it, so instead it looked like just a keyboard with a strap on it.

“We have a video for this next song. It’s called Future.” Andreas said hastily, as they started the lead track and single from their latest album. Maybe it’s because in listening to their stuff online it had become my favorite song of theirs, but I found it to be the best song of their set. It’s just a perfect blend of sheer rock with more electronic tones that can put you in a mood to dance, and Andreas and Chalsey’s voices fit well together as they each sang a few lines on the chorus, his having a more forceful, raw quality to it, while hers was more delicate and had a very pretty tone.

Following it was a slower song, at least slow by their standards, and that was the title track from their 2012 record, “Refuge”, which was another song that saw Chalsey doing a fairly good bit of singing. Once they finished it, Andreas walked up the stairs at the back of the stage, while Chalsey disappeared in the shadows of far stage right, as JJ took the spotlight, doing a killer drum solo. Really, a lot of drum solos are less than awe-inspiring, but he played a great piece that held your attention throughout. As it wound down, Chalsey got back behind her keyboards, while Andreas descended the stairs. He informed everyone they had one song left, maybe two, depending on if they had enough time.

In case this was their last song, they were going to go out with a bang with the aggressive, “Metro”, which featured a thick and heavy rhythm section. As luck would have it, they were able to do one more after that, and they chose to close their 38-minute long set with another older song, “All The Same”. Andreas again thanked everyone for coming out to the show while he put his guitar on. Near the end of it he asked everyone to help them out and repeat after him. “What does it take to make you bleed?” he sang, with only a few people shouting it back at him afterwards. He wasn’t too impressed, saying it was even worse than what the people of Portland did to try to entice everyone to get more into it. It worked, and the shouting grew stronger and louder as a few more people joined in. After the sing-along portion was over, Oscar proceeded to attack his bass, viciously slapping it as they finished up the song.

Their set was phenomenal, and even though there was a VERY sparse crowd at Trees this night, it still speaks volumes about The Rabid Whole that they were able to pull nearly everyone up to the stage and get them actively engaged in the music.

Speaking of their music, that’s what initially drew me in. It’s fun yet serious with a nice space rock sound, and while I wouldn’t say it’s original in the sense that what they are doing has never been done before, it is more unique, and I doubt you’ve heard many bands that pull of this musical style as well as they do. Aside from the music being easy to get into, you also have the lyrics, which are very well written and come across as telling fairly personal stories, which makes it easier for them to get behind it.

As impeccable as their music is, though, and as well as their energy translates onto the recordings, it’s their live show where it’s all at.

From the moment they started, they were going ninety miles a minute, never letting up for even a moment. They didn’t care that they were only playing for about thirty people, and I have a feeling they could have only had an audience of three and they still would have been putting on the same show. Why? Because they were obviously all having fun on that stage, and I think everyone quickly picked up on and was reeled in by that.

The only complaint I have is more of a technical issue, and that was that the main mic could have been a little louder out in the crowd, because at times I had trouble hearing Andreas while he was singing.

Aside from that, everything was perfect, and The Rabid Whole ended up stealing the show right out from under the headliner, as unintentional as it was.

Their current tour may be over, but keep an eye on their tour dates, either on their OFFICIAL WEBSITE or their FACEBOOK PAGE, especially if you live in Canada, since that is the bands home territory. You can also find their two albums in ITUNES, plus a remix of their first album. I would highly urge everyone to check out the “Refuge” record, as it’s one of those rare albums where every song is exceptional.

The headlining band for the night was Dope Stars Inc., who had traveled all the way from Rome, Italy to be here, and despite having been around for ten years now, this marked the bands first U.S. tour.

Traditionally, the band is evidently a five-piece, however, on this tour they were a trio, consisting of singer and guitarist Victor Love, bassist Darin Yevonde and drummer Mark Madhoney.

Oddly enough, they entered the stage to a good deal of fanfare, and evidently, most of the people were here for Dope Stars Inc.

I didn’t know what to expect, because I hadn’t even listened to their music beforehand. They had a real industrial rock sound, and were even alternative rock, and like the two bands that opened for them, they did have an electronic sound to an extent, even though that was all supplied through sample tracks.

Honestly, after their first song, I contemplated leaving, because I just didn’t care for it a whole lot, but I decided to stick around at least through the next couple of songs.

“…This is next one is called Vyperpunk!” Victor shouted, which resulted in some members of the crowd cheering with excitement. Like most of their songs, there was almost a techno sound to it, but in the most rocking way, and I found myself getting a little more into the music. Before starting their next song, Victor dedicated to Michael J. Fox, or at least that’s what I thought he said, but his accent was so thick (both when he was and wasn’t singing), I thought surely I had misheard him. Turns out I had understood him well enough, as they stared “Save the Clock Tower”, from their newest album, “Ultrawired”, a song that is a bit of an homage to the Back to the Future film series.

“It’s Today” was what did it for me, as it piqued my interest and ensured I’d stick it out for the rest of their set. It’s a riveting song, an anthem in a way, with Victor encouraging everyone that, “It’s today that we have to wake up all the energy we own…”, which is the first line of the course, before ending with, “…Our time is dead. Our time is now. And now is past.” They really seemed to hit their stride with that song, too, Darin pacing around the entire stage while he effortlessly tore it up on his bass. Actually, I had to look several times to make sure it was a bass he was playing, because as quickly as he was strumming the strings, it looked like it was a guitar. Aside from that, Mark was devastating it on the drums, often standing up from time to time as he continued to lay into his kit, while Victor was shredding on his guitar.

“It’s hot here in Texas.” Victor proclaimed, before they started their next song. They followed it with “10,000 Watts of Artificial Pleasures”, which got the biggest rise from their little fan base, as Victor first told everyone the song title, than asked something like, “Are you ready for the pleasures, Dallas?”. The aggressive “Bang Your Head” came next, which found Victor often snarling and yelling the words, and once it was over he set things up for Mark to do a drum solo, as he and Darin left the stage. The drum solo didn’t impress me to the extent the other one from the other band did, but it was still a great solo.

Once he put the finishing touches on it, Victor returned to the stage, with Darin eventually following suit, as they continued their barrage of songs, first with one I wasn’t able to figure out, and then doing what I believe was “Banksters”. They kept moving right along with “Make a Star”, from 2005’s “Neuromance” album, and then another track from their latest record, “Blackout”. Those songs weren’t slow by any means, but they really picked things back up with “Self Destructive Corp.”, while “Defcon 5” began to wind things down. At the end of that latter song, Darin, who resting a leg on the monitor, let his bass dangle in the air as he plucked one of the strings, then Victor announced they had one last song left. It was the title track of their 2009 album, “21st Century Slave”, which ended their 69 –minute long set. Now, a lot of their songs make statements in one way or another, most of which seem more social or political, but this one is probably the most notable. It deals with being a slave to the corporate world and being “brainwashed” by various forms of “propaganda”, with the message being that technology is the key to freeing our minds and bodies from all of that.

Yeah, there’s songs carry a message with them.

While watching them play, I wasn’t all that crazy for their actual music, and was more watching them for their performance, which is definitely an area they’ve perfected in their ten-year existence. However, after listening to their stuff a little more, like while trying to identify the songs they played this night, it has really grown on me.

It’s good rock music with a twist, and something well worth listening to. I’m still not all that crazy about Victors’ voice, which frankly, isn’t the best in the world. I wouldn’t call it bad though, either, which puts it in the spot of being one of the most unique voices I’ve ever heard, and he writes some fantastic lyrics that can be rather thought provoking.

I went from not being sure I’d even stay for their set, to watching it all, and now I’ve gone from not having a real interest in seeing them again, to liking them enough that if they ever get back to Dallas, I’ll most likely be there.

Yeah, they won me over is a fan.

Check out all of their records in ITUNES, and you can even get a free download of the “Ultrawired” record on their OFFICIAL WEBSITE.

It was a fantastic night of music (with the exception of the first band), and I love shows like this where more independent and small time bands tour through, because I like getting a little taste of what else is out there, outside of the local North Texas music scene.

Saturday, March 16th, 2013 – SXSW 2013: Day III Part I

Why not make the last of my two and a half days in Austin the longest day of all? That way I could cram in as much live music as possible before heading back to Dallas.

So, instead of heading downtown in the early afternoon like the previous days, my dad and I journeyed down there in the late morning, arriving at Whole Foods shortly after eleven.

Yes, that is the Whole Foods store that sells natural and organic foods, and on the rooftop of the store (which was a nice patio area that even had a small playground area for kids) Quantum Collective and Amazon MP3 were presenting a showcase dubbed the Southwest Invasion.

It was an odd setting for a concert, but hey, whatever works.

The bands had started even earlier than when my dad and I arrived, and stumbled across a gem of a band from Echo Park, California, named Rainbow Jackson. They were essentially done, only having a few songs left to do, but what I heard was sensational.

They are self-described as scuzzed-up power pop, and while that is accurate, they could just as easily be considered rock ‘n’ roll. There was also somewhat of a dreamy quality added to it by Sam Dagger and Chad Carlisle, the lead guitarist and singer and rhythm guitarist, respectively, giving a slight 60’s vibe to the music. And speaking of Chad, he has an amazing set of pipes. Just an all around incredible voice.

I wish I had been able to see more of the bands set, or even another show or two they undoubtedly played while here in Austin.

They have an EP and a single available on their BANDCAMP PAGE, and I should mention both are free to get, so go download them.

The Royalty was up next, and after hearing many good things about this El Paso, Texas based band, I was excited to finally get to see a show.

Their brief 19-minute long set focused entirely on their 2012 full-length, “Lovers”, and they began with “Other Boys”. That song (and their music in general) also had a dreamy quality to it, only in the indie rock vein, and came courtesy largely of keyboard player, Daniel Marin. Fitting perfectly with it was the sweet and even soulful voice of singer, Nicole Boudreau, as she sang about a love gone by. Things got pushed a little closer to the rock realm with “Say the Word”, and allowed guitarist, Jesus Apodaca, bassist, Mike Hernandez, and drummer, Joel Quintana, to get more into it and rock out, while Nicoles’ voice soared on the chorus, “Just say the word and I would never leave, I would never leave you…” “This next song is called I Want You.” Nicole said, which was about the extent of the talking she did, aside from announcing who they were, as they had to rush through their set. After that catchy, up-tempo number, they did “Please Lie”, which is a genius blend of multiple more nostalgic styles of music, with a bit of a modern twist. I would have loved if they could have played an additional twenty minutes, because I was really caught up in the music, but by now their time was almost up, and as Jesus and Mike swapped out instruments, Nicole set up their final song, which was their single, “Bartender”, which arguable was the best song of their set.

Even with a short set, the band still lived up to what praise I had heard, as well as my expectations just from listening to the music.

They are unlike anything else I’ve heard, and while it could be easy to say they’re simply a pop band upon first listen, they’re really much more complex. As it says on their bio on Facebook, some of their influences are the “…girl-groups of the Motown and Spector era…” which is evident, and predominantly is manifested in Nicoles’ unique voice. It’s not just the range she has that is remarkable, but the fact that she can have a soulful quality to her singing when needed, or can even fit into that Motown genre with ease.

They’re a very talented group, whose already got some good accomplishments under their belt, including having their music featured on numerous television shows, and with a show and sound like this, I imagine that momentum will only continue. So go see them now, while they’re still relatively unknown, and you can catch them in a more intimate setting.

They don’t have any tour dates on the books right now, but just keep an eye open, and check out both of their albums in either ITUNES or BANDCAMP.

After them was one of the bigger name acts playing this day party, and that was Casey Crescenzo and his group of touring musicians, collectively known as The Dear Hunter.

They got the same 19-minute long set, but as long as their songs are, they only got to play a handful of tracks, most coming from various EP’s in the Color Spectrum collection, like “Echo”, from the “Orange” EP. It worked well as an opening song, starting off slow, but quickly gaining speed, with the best moment being the instrumental break, where Casey and his five band mates, two other guitarists, a bassist and drummer, got to cut loose, and even with the tight conditions on stage, still managed to rock out. They wound it seamlessly into their next song with some mangled guitar notes that lasted for a bit, before their drummer started in, giving the song more body and revealing it to be the final track from the “Yellow” EP, “Misplaced Devotion”. It raised the already high mood exponentially, and that’s something a great band would do, start the listener off at one place, then bring them up more. Also, the harmonies on that song, as Casey and a few of the other musicians shouted, “Ooooohhhhh” repeatedly, were to die for. The oldest (and longest) song the rock/indie/progressive outfit did was “The Pimp and the Priest”, before concluding things with “Home”, which seemed like it was written to be a closing song, and provided a great ending to this brief little set where all the songs seemed to tell a small piece of a larger story.

I wouldn’t say I had actually seen a The Dear Hunter show before, but I had caught the last bit of his set last year when the band toured with Anthony Green, and since then I had been eager to see the band. I still am actually, at least a full set from them. Part of me know even regrets coming to Austin on Thursday, and wishes I had stayed in Dallas to see the headlining show that TDH did that night. But I digress…

Though short, they still put on a phenomenal performance. Caseys’ voice sounds every bit is amazing live as it does on the recordings, and that, along with his ability to pen songs that tell a story, are the two best things the band has going for them. And when you combine those with their lively performance, you get something that’s out of this world.

They recently released their latest album, “Migrant”, which they’ve been touring in support of. A few dates remain on the current tour, and can be found HERE. I hope more will be added sometime, too, and if they are, hopefully they’ll come back through Dallas. Speaking of the record, you can buy it HERE, along with their many other releases.

I had thoroughly enjoyed all those bands I’d seen here so far, but the one I was most excited to see was Erin Austin, who is probably better known by her stage moniker, OK Sweetheart.

The title track of her 2011 debut, “Home”, opened her and her bands set. It’s a infectious little tune, and during parts of it they had almost everyone clapping right along with the drumbeats, and that audience participation made things all the more fun. “Traitor” was another track from that album that made it into their abbreviated set, with Erin crooning out the lyrics, “…I keep on smiling at it all, ‘cause I’ve got something that they don’t, and wouldn’t you like to know what is…”, while banging away at the keys on her piano. They followed it with “You Let Me Down”, which is one of the best examples of the bands self-described “heartbreak pop” sound and is chock-full of emotion, then moved on to one of their many new songs, which I believe was titled “Looking”. It was really good, however I was more partial to the next and final song of their 17-minute long set, “Come Back to Me”. Erin left her piano for that one, and asked everyone to clap along to the beat for the duration of it, which she also did. It was a very solid song, and is just one more of her newer songs that has now become a favorite of mine.

There were many others I would have liked to have heard this day, too, if only they had, had the time for it. Still, it was a great set they did, and out of all the bands I saw here on top of Whole Foods, they were my personal favorite.

The touring musicians that playing alongside her were some of the best I’ve seen in OK Sweetheart, out of the few times I have seen them live. The guitarist, bassist and drummer all had good stage presence and were just great musicians. As for Erin, I’ve said this (or at least something similar to it) each time I’ve seen her and I still stick by it, she is one of the best vocalists out there, and not just in the female vocalist category, either. Her voice is heavenly, yet there’s a real force to it that will capture your attention from the first word, and keep you fascinated right up until the end of the last song.

You can find the “Home” album in ITUNES, plus a live recording of one of their newer songs “If You Let It”, which is a gorgeous, amazing song.

Afterwards, we headed towards Downtown Austin, where the majority of the action was.

The specific destination was a newer venue called Amped, which featured stages both upstairs and downstairs, and the Red Gorilla Music Festival had filled both stages with some great talent. It was here (and downstairs) that the Seattle, Washington based act, The Local Strangers, were playing.

When talking about another band I saw while down in Austin, I mentioned Noisetrade.com, and that website was also responsible for me coming across this band.

They were already playing by time we got there, but I did see the final 30-minutes of their show.

The duo of Aubrey Zoli and Matt Hart, both of whom sang and he played an acoustic guitar, were finishing up one song, then announced their next one was “Mr. Blackberry”, from their 2012 full-length, “Left for Better”. It was a short song, but was utterly astounding. Matt really utilized his guitar, using it to add a slight percussion effect to it, while Aubrey killed it with her strong, undeniable voice. “…This next song’s called Partner in Crime” Matt said, as they brought things down a little. With this more folksy song you stated to see all the layers the band has, though, as they alternated between who sang, and even harmonized at times giving the song a lovely layer, making it one of the most beautiful songs of their set. In setting up their next song, Aubrey mentioned that the day before they had played it in a church and it was little awkward. “…You’ll understand when you here it…” she said, as Matt began “Devil and a Stiff Drink”. I’m they sure they did feel a bit odd playing that song in a house of God, especially with the lyrics, some of which are, “…I don’t need no savior, don’t wanna be saved, don’t need no holy roller telling me just how I gotta behave. Just give me my Devil and a good stiff drink…” That doesn’t mean it’s not a fantastic song, though, and another good one was “Give Up the Ghost”, which transitioned the show into a slight somber mood. “Uptown” brought things back up, though, and even on this stripped down version the song still had a certain peaceful quality to it, which was only enhanced by the upbeat tone Matt had while singing. They came across as being very personable, talking to the meager crowd in between every song, and now they added a bit of a storyteller’s vibe to the show. Matt mentioned the next one was written by Aubrey, after she started watching the TV show Breaking Bad, catching up on all five seasons of the series in just a short span of time. As they said, “…It’s a lot to take in…” It was a really great song that will hopefully make it onto their next record someday, and it was also the last original one they did. In setting up their final song, they mentioned they have a full-band back in Seattle and that they do a cover of a Patty Griffin song, which is what they closed with. That song was “Forgiveness”, and they did a beautiful rendition of it.

I was truly surprised by this band, mainly because with only one instrument, and that being an acoustic instrument no less, they managed to be almost every bit as loud as a full blown electric group.

The best part however, was definitely the Americana/Folk brand of music they played and the vast range it had in every aspect, and how they could be doing a stunning song with some harmonies one moment, and then switch gears to something that really packed a punch. Switching it up like that ensured that they never got monotonous and always kept the attention of the crowd… Well, that and the stellar voices each Matt and Aubrey possessed.

You can find both of their records in either ITUNES or BANDCAMP, so give them a listen. They also have some shows coming up, so check out their TOUR DATES for a complete list.

The Heart of Texas Rockfest was the next destination, mainly because if I didn’t have anything listed at a specific time, why not go there and see who was playing. And the band setting up on stage was one I had seen Thursday after first getting down here, Love and a .38.

Singer, Ryan Hudson, started the Los Angeles based bands set with a joke, saying they were about to do a show of nothing but “Freebird”. Danny Excess then launched the band into “Shots at Sunset”, while Ryan thrashed about to the music before having to start singing. His voice was a little (or a lot) worse for wear compared to the other day, especially on the chorus, “Lights at midnight, halfway home…”, where he almost fell completely flat. I can’t fault him, after all, a song or two in he mentioned they had done “a million shows” in four days. “…At least it feels like it.” He added. Unfortunately, that’s a side effect of playing multiple shows in a day, and after seeing them the other night, I know what they’re capable of when they’re at one hundred percent. “”This next song is called Lovely Lies.” He said, as his band mates edged into the killer rock song. “…This next song is our most Texas song…” he announced after they finished the last song, then looked at the rest of the band to see if they agreed. “It’s not really about Texas…” he clarified, “…But it’s our most Texas song…” The song was “Just a Woman”, and Domo Domaracki helped get it going, with the almost bluesy notes he cranked out on his guitar. They followed it with their all out rock song “Rock ‘n Lola”, which really allowed bassist, Justin Emord, and Danny to let loose and roam about the stage and shredding on their instruments. With that, their short 21-minute set was almost up, but not before their cover of a rock classic. “…I know it’s night, but we’re gonna do this song anyway, just because it’s fun…’ Ryan stated, segueing them into “Sunglasses at Night”, which they do a great cover of, even with Ryan having an off day.

Honestly, no, they weren’t as good this time around as the other show of theirs I had caught, and I think I made the reason for that clear. But despite being his voice being shot, Ryan still acted like a professional frontman, and gave it his all singing, not trying to half-ass it or anything. And regardless, music wise, they still sounded excellent.

You can find the EP they have in ITUNES, along with enough singles to make another EP. And one of those singles is “Sunglasses at Night”.

As soon as they finished, it was on to Peckerheads, where Civil Twilight was getting ready to play a set.

Despite the band being a fairly big name act, I hadn’t even heard of them until seeing they were playing another free show down here, then decided to catch this one at Peckerheads instead.

The four-piece band, who originated from Cape Town, South Africa, was still setting up when we got there, and had amassed quite the crowd, all of whom seemed eager for the band to start.

They began their 25-minute long set with the explosive “Soldier”, and I liked how it eased you in. Kevin Dailey’s keyboard playing and the notes guitarist, Andrew McKellar, churned out, while soft, were more than enough to reel you in. It was the chorus where the song suddenly sprang to live, though, as singer and bassist, Steven McKellar, shouted, “…I don’t stop ‘til the end of the show I don’t stop ‘til my country says so I don’t know why I raise this hell I’m just a soldier, fighting for someone else…” The craftsmanship that went into the song was very noticeable live, and I loved the nice ebb and flow it had, which kept you fascinated throughout it. To say I was hooked would be an understatement. They slowed things down a little with another track from their self-titled album, Trouble”. It was on that one where the band, and in particular Steven’s voice, reminded me a lot of U2 and their frontman, Bono. It didn’t come across like they were trying to emulate that band, but regardless, that’s not a bad group to sound like. Steven set up their next song, saying that a fan had requested it, and went into a little speech about how when someone does request a song, a band should play it, because that’s such a huge compliment that someone does know the song and likes it so much. That was the gist of it, anyway, and earned Civil Twilight a lot of respect in my book. I’ve seen and heard stories of other bands who cuss at fans for requesting a song, so it’s nice to see a band that appreciates their fans enough that they’ll honor a request. The song was “Quiet In My Town”, which was the longest and most beautiful song of their set. “Today I heard that someone left this earth, that someone disappeared, left no mark here. Today I heard that someone just got up and left himself lying on the ground…” crooned Steven, who had switched out to a guitar for this song, or at least part of it. The somber mood it set conveyed the sadness perfectly, and was even beautiful in a sense, before transitioning into a full-scale rock song, when Steven got his bass back and Richard Wouters began pounding out the beats on the drums. The band wrote something else when they did that song, and it truly is a masterpiece. That brought them to the final song of their set, and saw Steven take over the keyboard duties, while Kevin got his bass in order to do “Letters From the Sky”. What really set this song off was Andrew playing his guitar with a bow, like how a violinist does, adding a pretty texture to the song, which also started out rather tranquil, but eventually became a force to be reckoned with.

That was it, and they started working to get their gear off stage, while some fans screamed, “But you have to play River!” The guys shrugged it off at first, but then looked at the sound guy, like they might do it if they had time. “I’m sorry, we’re out of time.” Steven informed the audience, and he seemed very genuine with that, seeming sorry that they couldn’t do this other song so many people wanted to hear.

I’m perfectly happy with what they did, though, and while more would have been nice, it was an amazing set they did nonetheless.

What I enjoyed most about them was how each song tells an actual story. There’s true depth and meaning to their music, which sadly doesn’t always seem to be a key factor in music these days.

They have a few festival shows happening this summer, one of which will be in Chattanooga, Tennessee in June, and the other will take place in July in Cincinnati, Ohio. Check out their TOUR DATES page for full info, and also head over to ITUNES and check out their two records.

As soon as they finished it was down the stairs and out the doors, making our way to The Dizzy Rooster where a Chicago based band, Hessler, was scheduled to be just starting.

They were indeed in full swing, and there were plenty of other people who wanted to see the band as well, making it hard to even push through the crowd to get back to where the stage was.

After finishing up the song they were on, they announced the next one was “Kamikazi”, which comes from their debut EP, “Bad Blood”. The slick guitar notes and rapid, loud drumbeats at the start made it an easy song to headbang to, but they really kicked it up several notches once Lariyah Daniels started singing. She, guitarists, Igz Kincaid and Frankie Sripada, and bassist, Erik Michael, ran all over the stage, not letting the tight, close conditions on stage restrict them in the least. That made it quickly apparent that the live show was where these guys excelled and that this was going to be an assault on all the senses. After powering through another song, they moved on to the darker, “Confessions”. There seemed to be a little more grit, piss and vinegar in Lariyah’s singing on this song than the others, especially on the last verse, “…Come to me, come to me, deadly sins. Raise your glass and let’s see who wins. I am my own God and I know it well, I forgive you father and I’ll see you in hell…” “This one’s called Taste the Lips.” Lariyah said, shortly after finishing the last song, as they kept things moving right along with another adrenaline pumping hard rock/metal song. Igz and Frankie had been adding some backing vocals periodically throughout those previous songs, but now Igz assumed more of the lead role on “Wicked World”. His voice was better than I was expecting, but the best part I thought was the way his voice intertwined with Lariyahs’ on this more co-sung track. “Rising Sign” was one of their most exhilarating songs of their set, and also featured one of the coolest and most memorable things I’ve ever seen a band do. Frankie and Igz took the center stage for some guitar solos, but they didn’t do it in the ordinary way. Each moved their guitar to their back, then each bent over, interlocking in a way. The way they did it, Frankie was facing the drum kit and Igz the crowd, and he played Frankie’s guitar like that, before they did a 180 so Frankie was facing the audience, doing a solo on Igzs’ guitar. Once they brought that song to an end, they did another from their EP, “Windy City Wild Child”, before concluding, I think, with “Last Alive” Or at least the crowd thought they were concluding the show. “Do y’all want to hear one more?!” Igz screamed, which was greeted with a good deal of fanfare, but the sound guy didn’t seem to approve. “Y’all need to make it quick.” He said. They did, and Igz screamed out the title of this last song, which was “Shark Attack”, and truly was the best way to end this memorable 36-minute long set.

I mentioned in my review of the previous night that one band put on the best overall show I saw down here in Austin, but Hessler by far put on the most vigorous performance. Like I said, they still managed to tear it up, despite the small stage, and there were even a few moments where Igz stood on a barrel that sit in front of the stage, rocking out a solo, and Lariyah did the same thing during another song.

Their stage presence and energy was out of this world and they were unrelenting with it. Definitely one of the best live acts I’ve ever seen.

The only thing with their set was I had a lot of trouble hearing the vocals, which were overpowered by all the instruments. I could understand bit and pieces, but I would have loved the show even more if they had really been audible.

Go, check out the band. You can find both of their albums and a single in ITUNES. Also, they will apparently be playing one day of Rocklahoma in Pryor, OK in late May. So if you plan on attending, check out Hessler. And for all their dates, go HERE.

Waterloo Records was the next stop, and getting there required walking several blocks west, arriving there about ten minutes after five.

Dawes was scheduled to start at five, and sure enough were already into their set. The parking lot outside of Waterloo was packed, though, and a spot with a good view of the stage was next to impossible to find, which resulted in not having a view of this Americana/Folk band.

“My Way Back Home” was the first song I heard them do, and was a good introduction to the band. I’d heard of them, but had never listened to their stuff before this, so I didn’t really know what they sounded like, but after hearing it, I loved it. They have the perfect Alt/Country/Americana/Folk sound, and Taylor Goldsmiths’ voice was built to sing it, as was demonstrated on their next song, “Someone Will”, from their newest album. They followed it with the final song from the “Nothing Is Wrong” album, “A Little Bit of Everything”, whose lyrics make you take pause and think about life, at least it did for me, and is one of the best story songs I’ve heard in a long time. “Fire Away” came next, and was unexpectedly the last song of their set, and upon finishing it Taylor apologized, simply saying they had evidently ran out of time. Thing was, he seemed as shocked as the fans were.

Especially after hearing them I was hoping for a little longer set than that, but what a taste this was. I’m definitely now a Dawes fan, and hopefully will be able to check out their show at Gexa Energy Pavilion in Dallas on June 1st, as part of the KXT Summer Cut concert, which will feature a ton of other awesome bands, both national and local Dallas bands. Dawes will also be on tour in support of their new album, so check out their TOUR DATES for  list of where they’ll be. You can also of course find all of their records in ITUNES.

Now it was time to make the hike back to downtown to start winding down this day…

(Check out the remaining post about my SXSW experience, which will be posted on April 19th.)

Sunday, March 10th, 2013 – A SXSW Appetizer

Austin may be the host city for SXSW, but how many cities host pre SXSW concerts? Not many. In fact, while a band might do a “SXSW Tour”, it’s only the three major music cities in North Texas that get to host a real pre show, just the day before the bands head down to the state capitol.

Well, this night The Prophet Bar in Dallas was hosting such a show, with several touring acts stopping through, while a couple local acts were on the bill to round it out.

Up first was a band from New York, Northern Faces, who sadly, I did not see. I just couldn’t get out there early enough (I think the show began a little after seven).

I heard great things however, and after listening to some stuff from their debut EP, “Southern Places”, they do sound pretty amazing. Really wish I had seen them, but hopefully they’ll get back through Dallas sometime before next year’s SXSW.

When I did arrive the second band, the McKinney based Lantic, was almost all set to play.

They didn’t do much for me. Their singer’s voice was pretty bland in my opinion, which was actually my chief complaint. On the positive side, though, the bands bassist, was nothing short of outstanding. He was the entire show and put on a spectacular performance, slapping the bass like a madman. He was far more energetic than his other band mates, and had my full attention for the duration of their set.

Following them was another touring act, this one from Lawrence, Kansas. They went by the unique name of Cowboy Indian Bear, and with a more offbeat name like that, I was curious about what my ears were about to hear.

With the opening number of their 36-minute set, they established themselves as being a tight quartet, often getting some ethereal harmonies going, which occasionally included keyboardist, Katlyn Conroy, bassist, Martinez Hillard, and drummer, Beau Bruns, joining singer and guitarist, CJ Calhoun, to create some beautiful music. After that song, they mentioned how glad they were to be back in Dallas and how much they like the city. A brief dialogue started between them and the crowd, and something was said prompting Martinez to ask what county they were in, and he planned to give it a shout out. “Dallas.” Someone said. “Seriously? This is Dallas county, named after the city? That’s cool…” he said, giving props to the county. That then led them to their next song and single from their upcoming “Live Old, Die Young” record, “Does Anybody See You Out?”. It’s a gorgeous little song, with a bit of a haunting quality to it, specifically on the bridge, “…I’ll grind you up and spit you out…”, which gets repeated for a good minute or so. By the end of that, I was fully captivated by the band, and they moved on to their next one, which CJ said was titled “Jennifer”. It has a very strong drum bed, something I don’t always pay much attention do, but it builds at steady rate, and truly is the backbone of the song. They followed it with another song, which I think might have come from their first album, “Each Other All the Time”, and afterwards prepared for their next song. They chatted with the crowd a lot during the downtime between songs, and now Katlyn said they hadn’t planned to talk this much, and rather focus on playing as many songs as possible. It worked out well, though, and made them come across as being pretty personable. They tackled a few more songs from their new album, like “Seventeen”, portions of which were sung by both CJ and Katlyn, whose voices mixed together marvelously. I believe it was “Let It Down” that they did next, before switching things up for their last song, which was more percussion based, and had CJ adding some extra beats on a tom.

Cowboy Indian Bear left me thoroughly impressed. They have a solid indie/rock sound, and the multiple harmonies add an entrancing layer to their music. I know that is becoming a big thing in music now, but they don’t sound like they’re doing simply to conform or “fit in”, rather like that’s the direction their evolution has taken them. And speaking of evolution, there is a huge difference between their first record and this new one. They sound much slicker and more polished now, and at one point in the show Katlyn mentioned that they’ve spent the last three years crafting “Live Old, Die Young”. It’s believable, too, ‘cause you can tell a lot of time and effort was put into writing those song.

And in regards to the harmonies, every member has a great voice and is more than capable of singing lead on their own, so combined they made the band a force to be reckoned with.

Their calendar is pretty empty at the moment, but they do have a gig lined up in Brooklyn, New York on May 2nd at Cameo Gallery. And be sure to check out their records in ITUNES. “Live Old, Die Young” won’t officially drop until April I believe, however they were selling advanced copies on this tour. It’s worth the money, trust me.

Baskery followed them, and the trio of sisters had flown here all the way from Stockholm, Sweden.

Their set up was pretty minimal compared to the other acts, with Greta Bondesson sitting at center stage, surrounded by a few basic pieces of a drum kit, like a small bass drum, a tom, and I believe a snare, while a tambourine was rigged to pedal she could step on to play it. Sunniva Bondesson stood over on stage left, guitar in hand, and Stella Bondesson used an instrument you don’t see a whole lot of, and upright bass. I’m pretty certain they opened with a song from their “New Friends” album, “Shame and Dance”. They finished it, and the applause from the crowd quickly started. Everyone seemed pretty taken by their style of folk rock, as well they should have. And I know that if I hadn’t already been in front of the stage, I would have felt compelled to move up there after that tune. They talked with the audience for a second afterwards, and I think it was Sunniva who asked, “…Where is you all?…” One of her sisters then had a little fun with the comment, correcting her, “It’s where are you people.” They deserve props though, ‘cause for English not to be their first language, they spoke it very well, and there was no real language barrier anyone, the audience or the band, had to get through. Even their accents, while noticeable, weren’t all that thick, and disappeared completely when they sang. Sunniva then switched out her acoustic guitar for an electric, as they got ready to do a newer song from their forthcoming album, “The Shadow”. They did another song from it, which they said was about a plane crash, and while on the subject of planes, they asked everyone if they were afraid a plane crashing into one of the buildings, which they had been talking about, marveling at how tall some of them were. “…It’s a miracle that they don’t…” Sunniva said, before they moved onto “The Big Flow”.  For a trio that lacked the “traditional” full band set up, these girls had already delivered an intense show, and they stepped things up even more with another track off the “New Friends” album, “Throw a Bone”. The three voices intertwined beautifully with one another, often dancing around each other, with one singing the lead, and the other two adding the backing vocals, which were every bit as strong as the lead. Upon finishing it, they mentioned that they were on their way to SXSW, also pointing out that this was the first show they had ever done in Dallas, and they were glad they could play on a more obscure night and still have an audience to play to. They offered up another catchy new one with “The No No”, which they said was a little bit of “Swedish soul”, and sadly, that brought them to the final song they had in their 36-minute long set, but not before talking with the crowd a little more. They shouted the other bands, naming Exit 380. “…I think that’s the name of our hotel.” Sunniva said, cracking a joke that no one really seemed to get. She noticed this and pointed out that no one was getting their Swedish sense of humor. “…I’m saying we’re staying with the guys tonight…” she said. They also revealed they have that stereotypical idea of Texas, by saying that when they think of Dallas, they think cowboy hats. You can’t blame ‘em, even people in other parts of the U.S. think Texas is nothing but farmland where everyone rides horses around, but that couldn’t be more further from the truth. “…It’s good to see Dallas has its funky areas, too…” Greta said. They then set up their final song, which they said was about their hometown and called “Out-of-Towner”. Now I wouldn’t have minded hearing a lot more music from their “Fall Among Thieves” record, but out of all the songs on it, I’m glad that was the one they chose to play. They started it with an amazing soulful intro, which was a mix of harmonies and Sunniva passionately belting out a line from the song, all of which was done a cappella. They then fired up the guitar, banjo and bass and ripped into the song, bringing their set to a fiery finish.

What a show. I had listened to their music after seeing they were on this bill and instantly became a fan, and live they were everything I thought they would be and then some.

These sisters are a well oiled machine, and I’d bet that family bond helps make them a little tighter than most bands. Each one has a superb voice, yet they all sound similar enough to one another that it’s not some drastic change when they switch up who’s doing the singing. And despite the instruments being scaled back in comparison to other bands, I guarantee you that these ladies makes just as much noise as a five-piece rock outfit does.

Check out their older album, “Fall Among Thieves”, and be on the lookout for their new record sometime this year. After hearing a few of the cuts from it, I’m rather excited to hear the full thing. You can also find a list of all their upcoming shows on their OFFICIAL WEBSITE, and if you live in Europe, they may be coming to a town near you this May through August.

Closing out the night was the bigger name hometown act, Fort Worth’s, Exit 380. Sure, I had just seen the band a few weeks before this, but I don’t see them nearly as much as I would like, so I was looking forward to seeing them again. Plus, they had dusted off some of their more rock tunes at that other show, and this one was going to showcase the bands current country sound.

As usual, their set began with the lead track from the “Townies” record, “Run For The Gold”, whose lyrics conjure images of a time long gone. Before their next tune, vocalist, Dustin Blocker, mentioned how much he enjoyed playing with touring bands. “…It’s like I was saying earlier, these bands wouldn’t be driving all the way from New York, or even flying overseas, if they weren’t good…” he said. I had never really thought of it in that sense until he made that comment to me earlier when we were talking, but that’s a very valid point. And come to think of it, I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen a bad touring act. Aaron Borden then started them into their next song, “Daddy Was A Freight Train”, by picking away at his lap steel guitar. Thus far it was just like the previous show I had seen, not that I’m complaining about that. I noticed the difference with the third song though, and I believe it was before that one that Blocker pointed out to everyone that they were going to be playing folk songs that told some little stories. He then busted out one of his harmonicas, playing it briefly, before he sang the opening line of “Little Trip” at the same instance that Jody McCauley came in on the drums. It was all done very precisely, making them out to be a very tight band, which they in fact are. Jeremy Hutchison switched out to an acoustic guitar for the next song, “Soul Burning Train”, and at the chorus, when it really takes off, it undeniable becomes one of the best songs in their arsenal. In the break between it and the next tune, Blocker talked about this odd Sunday night gig. “…Sunday night, who knew it was so much different from Saturday night…” he said. They moved on, and Jeremy busted out his mandolin for a few songs. The first was my absolute favorite newer song of theirs, “Missy Gardner”. “The old train depot was vacant of people. Their cars must have drove them away. But Sue is still standing with feet firmly planted, until my return she will stay…” Blocker softly sang on the more tranquil song. The lyrics are the best part of it, and while a lot of their songs do tell stories, I think it tells the best, or at least it’s the one I’m most drawn to. A track of theirs that was featured on a Hand Drawn Records compilation CD came next, but not after a little, shall we say, “mishap”. Aaron began his part on the electric guitar, but Blocker quickly pulled the plug on it all together, pointing out that he thought the guitar was in the wrong key. “…You can’t argue this…” he said, pointing at his harmonica, and even playing it again to make sure the guitar didn’t match up with. They tried it again after Aaron made some quick adjustments, and this time they were good to go on “A Song About Us”. “This next song is called Where Do We Go From Here?” Said Blocker, segueing them into another slower song, which still has a tight rhythm section supplied by Jon Hutchison on bass and Jody. While Jeremy swapped back to his electric guitar, Blocker brought up the fact that this was a school night, and made a remark that, that was something he hadn’t had to worry about in quite some time. He and Aaron then had a conversation, mostly off mic, but you could hear Blocker recalling his college days, then sounding like he was in disbelief that, that had already been about ten years ago. That banter gave the show a slight comedic element, even if that wasn’t the intention, and at least made me laugh a bit. At this point, it sounded like they switched the remaining two songs of their 40-minute set around, opting to do another one I was hoping for right then, and that was “Cajun Rock (A Violent Man)”. Live, it’s one of the more intense things they currently do, but it pales in comparison to an older gem of theirs that concluded their set. They went all electric for “Quid Pro Quo”, and even though the crowd had thinned out at this point, you could still feel the energy jump tenfold as they tore into the song, and it was an incredible note to end on.

As much as I liked the last show of theirs I saw, I missed hearing some of these folksy tunes, but I didn’t realize exactly how much until I heard them live this night. Sure, I like their rock stuff from years ago and would love to hear some of those back in the setlist one day, but all the songs on “Townies” make it one of the best albums Exit 380 has released over their nearly 14 year career. And even with the somewhat slower music, they still manage to keep their live shows rocking, and they should easily hold your interest.

So go ahead and check out their music for yourself in either ITUNES or BANDCAMP. The next few shows they have include a trip to Austin on April 27th, where they’ll perform at Maggie Mae’s. Then on May 11th they’ll be doing a hometown gig at The Wild Rooster in Fort Worth.

This was an incredible night of music, and those two touring acts I caught alone made it worth it, while Exit 380 was just the icing on the cake. In fact, this show was so great I chose to go to it over staying at home and watching The Walking Dead… That’s saying something.

Oh, and in just a few short days after this, I, too, would travel down to Austin to see what all the fuss about SXSW is about.

Sunday, November 4th, 2012 – Delta Spirit

Delta Spirit. The band has been around since 2005, but it wasn’t until early on this year that I first listened to their music. I dug it.

They stopped in Dallas back in April, but I opted to catch a local show that night, hoping I’d get another chance to see them in the not too distant future, which turned out to be this night. They were stopping at the House of Blues, and I was very much looking forward to seeing what their live show was like.

The House of Blues seemed nearly empty when I arrived, with maybe eighty or so people in there. It kind of surprised me, but as is the norm, the masses got there closer to the headliners set time, which probably wasn’t a bad idea.

See, the opening band was Fidlar, from Los Angeles, California, and I didn’t find them to be anything special.

They opened with one of their singles, “Cheap Beer”, as their singer and rhythm guitarist said something like along the lines of they liked drinking cheap beer. The song didn’t strike me as being anything special, nor did the ones that followed. Then, a few songs in, their singer/guitarist spoke to the crowd. “How are we doing, Housto…” he shouted, before trailing off. His band mates began to laugh, while the crowd booed. “I’m sorry, my whole life has been a blur…” he said, laughing himself. I understand that touring can make the days long, and how you could make a mistake like that. Still, it’s a rookie mistake. Especially when so many people of Dallas look at Houston as a cesspool. Now, I’m not one of them, and think Houston is an alright town, though I don’t appreciate the two getting mixed up.

After that I really had no interest, and it simply due to bad vocals. The music was very Punk influenced, and honestly wasn’t half bad. It was aggressive and fast-paced, and while it wasn’t anything new, it did recall a much simpler era of the genre. But the vocals, from all the guys who sang in any capacity, but especially the lead singer, was nothing but a whine.

It failed to engage me, and I was glad their set was kept to 29-minutes, which still seemed like 29-minutes too long.

No, I did not like them in the least. However, you can find their records HERE, and if you do like their stuff, then HERE is there Facebook Page.

The HoB crew and the roadies then started prepping things for Delta Spirit. After nearly half an hour it looked like they were ready, and the lights even dimmed, but that proved to be nothing more than something to tease the crowd, which now numbered several hundred.

Shortly after 10:30, it was time for them to start, but the stage was so dark at first, it was hard to tell what was going on. But then some lights came on, to reveal Brandon Young on the full drum kit on stage left, while Kelly Winrich was standing in front of a partial kit at the back part center stage, which boasted a pretty large drum, too. The two started a percussion intro, and lead guitarist, William McLaren, soon began playing some notes over it. It was an intriguing way to start, and I’d be lying if I said it didn’t immediately pique my interest. Singer and rhythm guitarist, Matthew Vasquez, and bassist, Jonathan Jameson, walked on stage after a few moments, and they gave the thunderous percussion more of a structure, as it began to transform into more of a song. “Thunderclouds have been making faces, my friends are on the front porch getting wasted. Freedom sits this side of the hill, calling me back but I never will…” Matthew sang, the opening line of “Idaho”, one of the hardest hitting songs from the band’s latest, self-titled release. It’s not often where a band can leave a member of the crowd in awe with just one song, but such was the case with Delta Spirit. Actually, I felt that feeling just about halfway through the tune. It quickly became obvious that Matts’ voice would be the main essence of the show. There was a slight twang in it, which is an element not captured by the studio recordings, and he seemed to aggressively yell many of the lines. Then again, I don’t know if that’s the right word to use, because even the yelling had a heavenly sound to it. They were no doubt off to an explosive start on their 60-minute long set, and they kept the momentum going with a track from “Ode to Sunshine”, “Parade”. Kelly had moved over to the keyboard by this point, while Matthew rocked out the opening chords of the song. Many of those older songs of theirs have more of a Folk sound to them, to a lesser extent on that specific song, but it’s still there. That proved irrelevant to the live show, though. It sounded like it had been tuned up slightly to better suit the live environment, plus you had Jonathan and William getting into the song, rocking out on their respective instruments, and even Matthew did the same, breaking away from the microphone every chance he got and shredded on his axe. After that one, Kelly made his way back to the secondary drum set, as he and Brandon started the band off on “Tear It Up”, which was a good one, though it was their next song, “Money Saves”, that was one of the highlights on the night. It had become a personal favorite of mine and was every bit as good live. Perhaps even better. It was the chorus where it really sprang to life and was nothing short of dynamic, with Matthew belting out, “…They all said what you had, you let it go. Like managing a hurricane, let it blow. With your money saved, your money saved. I alone, yes, I alone with you…” Just the raw energy they put into it (as well as their live show in general) was enthralling, making it easy to retain the audiences’ attention, but with the dominating rock songs so too must there be some slower, softer stuff to balance it out, and that was what they got into next. The song was “Ransom Man” from 2010’s, “History From Below”, which couples an acoustic tone with a Folk style. It was a vast departure from practically everything else they had done thus far this night, but acted as a nice breakup. The stuff from their newest album jump out at you, grabs you and shakes you around, which is what I love about it, and I just don’t get that with their previous records. That’s not to say there aren’t several great songs from those albums, such as this specific one, they’re just not as intense. But to get back to the point, that’s what made that song so enjoyable, because it showcased a different side of Delta Spirit. However, that “different side” was short-lived, and as it trailed off, they wound it into some feedback, which served as the transition into “Empty House”. “…How could one little speck make a difference to the rest? Well it doesn’t, never will, just like me.” Crooned at the end of the song, a line which I think sums up how important and deep their lyrics are, as they are the true essence to every song. “Salt In the Wounds” brought things back down, before rising back up with “Bushwick Blues”. There’s a local band here in Dallas that I’m a fan of and they have been known to cover that song from time to time. Personally, I think their live version trumps Delta Spirits’ recorded version, but when comparing both live versions, it’s no contest. They again left awestruck, a feeling I seemed to experience quite a bit of during their set. They then dove into “People C’mon”, which has somewhat of an eerie melody that will stick with you for awhile. Then, they did a tune that pleasantly surprised me, and that was “White Table”, which seemed to me to have an extended jam outro, and was killer. They followed it with “St. Francis”, which struck me as being a deeper cut, though one that the fans enjoyed hearing, as you could hear some shouting along, “…Everyone wants, what nobody needs…” They had saved the best for (close to) last, and made a transition before the next song, which saw Matthew taking over keyboard duties, and Kelly seemed to briefly disappear from sight. When he became visible again, he was holding the lid of a metal trashcan, which he promptly began to beat on, starting the aptly titled, “Trashcan”. It was hands down the most fun song of their set, and I think a lot of that could be attributed to the upbeat, catchy piano lines, which had most of the fans moving around at least a little bit. I assumed they would do their main single from the new album now, but no, they had something else planned. Matthew quickly said they were going to end with a song that was a mix of “…Crazy, Rockabilly and Psychobilly…”. The first band that came to mind was the Dallas based, Reverend Horton Heat, who I’m not necessarily a fan of, but certainly am aware of. But Delta Spirit wouldn’t be doing one of their songs, would they? Turns out they were, and after Matthew mentioned the band, he stated that this cover was, “…Just for Dallas…” Not being a fan of the bands, I don’t know their material, but I’m semi-certain that they covered “Octopus Mode”. Whatever it was, Rockabilly sound fit well with Delta Spirit’s live show, and was an interesting way to cap off the set.

They made it seem like that was it, and more than a few minutes passed before they all made their way back on stage.

Sure, that was expected, because there was one song they had yet to do. I figured it would be that one song and that would be it, though. Instead, they had a couple more to offer up as well.

The Americana sounding, “Children” kicked off the encore portion of the show. It was a good way to get going, and no sooner had they finished it, then Brandon set the beat for the song everyone was wanting to hear the most, “California”. Not only is it a stellar song, it’s also a unique one, as it lacks a true chorus. Some might say that’s the backbone to every song, and I would be one of those. However, it gets by well without one, and seems to tell an even better story of loss and letting go because of that. Most bands would use their current hit to end on, but not these guys, at least not this night. Kelly shook some maracas for the last song of the 15-minute long encore, which was “People, Turn Around!”, and once it picked up, he stood by the main drum kit and occasionally beat on one of the cymbals with said maracas. All of that made it much more engaging live than it comes across in listening to the recording, and as it drew to an end, Kelly went over to the drum kit he had used periodically and threw what appeared to me to be a bass drum right onto center stage, where it rolled around before settling.

Yeah, that seemed like a perfect ending to a set that had been no-holds-barred.

As I’m writing this last part, it’s been a little over a week since I saw this show, and I’m still astounded from it.

For starters, they know how to work the crowd, and often got everyone clapping along to the beat, and even on a couple songs had the audience sing the chorus a few times.

The you have their stage show, which was truly one of the most entertaining, aggressive and tactical performances I’ve seen. They commanded your attention with their high-strung, off-the-walls performance, and to any and every singer who also plays a guitar, you could learn quite a bit from Matthew Vasquez.

This doesn’t apply to every band I’ve seen, but, as I touched on earlier, so many singers who are also the rhythm guitarists seem glues behind the mic stand. I get that, to an extent, because after all, they do need to sing. But Matthew is proof you don’t have to be and was a beast of a entertainer. Honestly, I found him to be the most captivating of the whole band, and if you’ve seen Delta Spirit before, then you know that’s saying a lot.

They were one of the best bands I’ve ever seen live, and are in a class all their own.

The band has a few tour dates left, and will be doing a Australian tour in January. To find all the dates, go HERE. And you can find all of their music in ITUNES.

Tuesday, October 30th, 2012 – The Sword

This was bound to be an awesome night at Rubber Gloves.

The best Metal band out of Austin, The Sword, recently released their new album, “Apocryphon”, and of course with a new album comes a new tour. And tonight, their tour was leading them to Denton, and seeing them was a perfect reason to make the drive up to Denton.

The first act of the night was an instrumental band from Austin, Eagle Claw. Now, I’ve said many times in the past, I am not a fan of instrumental music, so I wasn’t too excited about seeing them. Luckily, I didn’t have to.

By the time I made it up to Rubber Gloves the band had already done there thing and the next act, Gypsyhawk, was pretty much setup and raring to go.

I’ll be frank, personally, Gypsyhawk’s music didn’t appeal to me a whole lot. I wouldn’t say I disliked them, but music is supposed to ignite something within you. It’s supposed to get you excited and make you feel something, and that did not happen for me. Not with these guys.

However, I believe being impartial is a must, and just because I didn’t enjoy their music doesn’t mean I couldn’t or didn’t appreciate it.

When it comes down to music it’s always the voice that makes it or breaks it for me. And while I wasn’t too keen on vocalist and bassist, Eric Harris’s growl of a voice, it did fit well with the nostalgic Metal sounds they produced. And by that I mean they had a Classic, true Metal sound. Most of what they did this night came off their latest effort, “Revelry & Resilience”, such as the second song of their set, “The Fields”. “…This one’s about quantum physics…” Eric said before they started the tune. But some songs from an older EP were also performed this night. I believe one was “Commander of the High Forest”, and I know they did a song that bears the same name as the band, as Eric simply put it as a song about, “…Fucking girls and then leaving town…”.

Okay, those songs and everything else they fit into their 35 to 40-minute long set might not have been my cup of tea, but there’s no denying that these guys are excellent musicians. Guitarists, Erik Kluiber and Andrew Packer, did nothing but shred and rock out. Eric had a nice swagger as well, and knew how to play the bass with the right amount of force, yet also seemed gracefully in doing it. As for drummer, Ian Brown, I couldn’t see much of him, but what glimpses I caught, he was tearing it up.

I might not have become a real fan of Gypsyhawk’s, but they are a great band.

You can find both of their records right HERE in iTUNES. They will also be joining The Sword on all their show dates through December, and you can find all the cities they will be rocking HERE. They’ll also be in Dallas on December 17th at Trees.

After a seemingly short set change, everything was ready for The Sword to take the stage, and then came the waiting.

They didn’t leave the packed Rubber Gloves waiting too long, though. And shortly before 10:30, lead guitarist, Kyle Shutt, singer and guitarist, John Cronise, drummer, Santiago Vela III, and bassist, Bryan Richie, walked onto the stage, too much fanfare. They waved a bit and smiled at the fans as they got their instruments, and then it was on.

What better way to begin a show than with the lead track and single from the bands new album, “The Veil of Isis”. The intro itself got the fans fired up, and once Santiago started pounding away on the drums, a good portion of the people began banging their heads in synch to it. Then John opened his mouth to sing the first line, “As the night arrives the day concedes her crown…”. Sadly, this was were the only hindrance of their set came in to play, though it was certainly not the bands fault. The sound system at Rubber Gloves isn’t always the best, and such was the case tonight, and for the first few songs, it was next to impossible to understand what was being sung. Yes, it sucked, but there are some lengthy (and heavy) instrumental parts on that song, and at least those weren’t impacted. They fiddled with their instruments for a moment, and whether it was their intention or not, that little delay succeed in building anticipation for their next song. It was the only of their set that I didn’t know. Perhaps a cover, or maybe a song that has never made a record, either way, it was every bit as good as everything else they did this night. Santiago wound that song right into the next, “Hammer of Heaven”, before John and Kyle ripped into their guitars and Bryan started attacking his bass, truly getting it underway. I was slightly surprised, seeing as the song was released as a one-off single earlier this year, which gave me the impression it was more to get something new to the fans rather than one that would make its way into the live show. It was a beast of a song live, though, and Bryan and Kyle shouted the chorus, which is the song title, right along with John, giving it a lot of extra force. By this point, all of the technical kinks had been resolved, and the vocal were much clearer… And just in time, too. They soon busted into “Tres Brujas”, which got everyone worked into a frenzy, and a small mosh pit was born. It lasted throughout the show, though fizzled out here and there, and it did make it hard to fully watch the band, but that’s part of what comes with seeing a band like The Sword. Anyway, it was great getting to hear that song, seeing as it is my personal favorite of the bands, and it was the mythical lyrics like those in that tune that captivated me and made me a fan of theirs in the first place. The music was obviously the main focus of their performance, in the fact that they seldom spoke to the crowd, instead doing the songs as close together as they could, and next up they pulled out “Maiden, Mother & Crone”. After it, they did an older one from 2006’s “Age of Winters”, “The Horned Goddess”. The song has never stuck out to me on the recording, but life, it’s a whole different matter. While instrumental stuff isn’t my thing, it’s the instrumental portions that really make the song. Be it the full-band going with the flow of the music bed or the short, incendiary guitar solo Kyle goes into. It’s just thick, delectable Metal that will have you banging you head to the music at every possible chance. “We’re gonna play some new songs for you…” John said after that song concluded, as they geared up to do some more stuff from “Apocryphon”. “Cloak of Feathers” was song they did from it, while Bryan started them on the rhythm heavy, “The Hidden Masters”, with some light bass notes, which soon grew more thunderous. “This next song is called Seven Sisters.” John told the crowd. It’s a standout track from the album, and it’s every bit as good live as the recording would lead you to believe. I liked that tactic, start with mostly older stuff, then throw some new tunes in around the halfway mark, but they made sure not to overdo it, and next got back to their classics with the fan favorite, “Freya”. It was pure, in-your-face Metal complete with some killer guitar licks, proving that old-school Sword songs are sometimes the best. After “To Take The Black”, they did two final new songs, the first of which John dedicated to the East Coasters who had survived hurricane Sandy. “…Hopefully they aren’t in the Eyes of the Stormwitch…” he said, then added that was the title of their next song. It’s a good one, but I was more enthralled by the title track itself, “Apocryphon”, which was one of their best songs of the night, as it was one they seemed to be really into. They had been telling their fans for the last few songs they were nearing the end, and now came the final song of their 71-minute long set. They then lit into “The Chronomancer I: Hubris”, which gave the show a nice, finalized feeling, yet also left you wanting more.

And surely there would be more. Right?

Maybe thirty seconds passed from the time they disappeared backstage to the time one of their roadies walked on stage and to the center mic. “Are there any Sword fans here!?” he asked. The fans erupted, to which he said, “Well let ‘em know!”. After he finished and started to walk away, the band reemerged, took their spots, and got ready for a 9-minute encore.

They had in-store two fan favorites, both of which are my favorites by the band. First up was “Barael’s Blade”, and when they got to the part where John starts singing, they chose to instead repeat most of the intro again. When they got to the chorus of the song, they let the audience handle it, as almost everyone shouted out, “Behold! The bastard’s blade!” They quickly moved on to the next and last song, and with a few light taps on one of his cymbals, Santiago revealed it to be the song that everyone seemed to want to hear most, “Winter’s Wolves”. “Can’t you see what you have wrought here? Bloody battles will be fought here…” John soon sang, before getting to what is my favorite line from their songs, “…I would mount your head on bloody spears outside your palace gates, and watch as crows peck out your eyes, and your cities are laid to waste.” They then brought it to an end as most bands do, all striking their instruments a few times in unison, Bryan viciously so, allowing the sound to resonate a little in between, before stopping it all together.

Even with the technical difficulties at the start, this was still a spectacular performance. They brought their A game and left it all on the stage, and how many bands do you see these days that do that?

Really, The Sword is one of those bands that every other band could take lessons from. They’re phenomenal performers and incredible musicians who know how to make extraordinary music. Metal music that is. Anymore, (most) Metal bands have singers that scream incoherently, but just like the band that opened for them, The Sword is a band that pays homage to the classic sound of the genre, but with a definite modern influence. And John actually sings, not doing anything even close to screaming.

I was blown away by their set, and my third time seeing the band live was definitely the best.

The band will be touring the U.S. in support of “Apocryphon” until December 18th, with a European tour starting in early January. You can find all their tour dates HERE, and if they are coming to a city near you, believe me, you don’t want to miss out on them. Also, they will be back in the area on December 17th, performing at Tree’s in Dallas. Also be sure to check out their records in ITUNES.

When they finished, it wasn’t even midnight yet, making this a VERY early show by Denton standards. I was glad for that, though, because that meant I could get home at a decent hour, even with the hour long drive back.

Friday, October 19th, 2012 – A British Invasion

Few things can be better than free concerts. Even better is when they feature international touring bands. Better still is when those bands are from England, and they are both ones I’m a fan of.

Sadly, things like that don’t happen too often, but this night, that was exactly what was going down. The South Side Music Hall at the Palladium Ballroom complex in Dallas was the venue hosting this event and the sponsor for it was Jack Daniel’s Saloon.

It was bound to be a pretty cool night, and when I arrived, at close to eight, they had a DJ playing.

Now, I don’t care for DJ’s, and this one didn’t prove to be an exception. He played for an hour even after I got there, though, so I had to tolerate it.

As I said, both bands playing this even were from England, the first one specifically being from Liverpool, and it was the trio, The Wombats.

I had seen the band before, nearly a year ago, and after seeing they were coming back to the U.S. for another leg of their tour, hoped they would hit the city again. Sadly, Dallas did not make the initial cut, but then this show came together. I was very much looking forward to seeing them again.

They began their 61-minute long set with the lead track (and single) from their latest album, “Our Perfect Disease”. Singer and multi-instrumentalist, Matthew Murphy, set it up by hitting a few keys on his keyboard and synthesizer, and for a brief moment that was all you heard, before he started singing, “We don’t admit it but we never seen eye to eye. My hobby’s moaning and yours is making money…”. It had been nearly a year since I last even listened to this song, and had forgotten how incredible it was. It has an incredibly infectious melody, and it was after the first chorus where they kicked their performance into high gear, when the drums and bass become more prevalent, and Dan Haggis got much more lively on the drum kit, while Tord Øverland-Knudsen started to thrash about with his bass. Yeah, there was already no question that this was going to be one helluva show. Dan wound that right into their next song, “Kill the Director”, which they tried to turn into a sing along. “This is no Bridget Jones.” Murph sang numerous times, then tried to get the audience to join him. There didn’t seem to be too many fans of the band at this show, though, ‘cause it stayed relatively quiet. They still seemed grateful to the fans who did shout along, though, and didn’t let the lack of participation affect their mood. “Girls / Fast Cars” came next, which is easily the most straightforward song in the bands arsenal. “…I like girls, girls and fast cars. It’s cheap and it’s pathetic, but you can’t hate me just because…” Murph profess during the song. After finishing it, Murph stated that this was the bands second time to play Dallas, and even gave a shout out to the venue they played last year, The Granada Theater. “…There were a lot of lamps on stage. That’s what I remember most about that place…” he recalled, after mentioning what a nice venue it is. They then got back to making music with another song off their 2008 album, “Party In a Forest (Where’s Laura?)”, and then came the latest single from “The Wombats Proudly Present: This Modern Glitch”. I don’t remember exactly what Dan said, but it was something like, “…It is called “Love Will Go On” and it’s by Celine Dion.” That was of course a joke, and they instead did a much better song, the more sexual based, “Jump Into the Fog”, which offers what could be considered a little word of wisdom, “…It’s just that life tastes sweeter when it’s wrapped in debauchery…”. It was followed by a song along the same lines, which Murph set up by saying, “This song is about being an only child and being fascinated with…” I’ll say hookers, though I think he used one of the many other words that exist to describe that type of woman. He then started strumming on his guitar, which got more rapid, culminating with the band breaking into “Patricia the Stripper”. Afterwards, they did the fun song, “Techno Fan”, which has a slight techno influence and definitely has a beat that will get you moving. Now, not too many people seemed to be taken by it this night, but regardless, it was still one of the most energetic songs of the show. The song that follows it on their current album also followed it at this show, and that is the similar sounding, though more toned down, “1996”. They didn’t stop when the song was over. Instead, they segued it into a short instrumental piece, which was pretty rocking, before the guitar chords wound them into “Moving to New York”. Something was said about their next song having to do with a wedding, and while I missed out on what exactly was said, I think some girl in the crowd said something about marrying Tord. “You’re getting married!?” Murph said. “You heard it her first, Tord is getting married.” He added, while Tord was cracking up. The song was “My First Wedding”, which is about a less than ideal wedding situation (at least for one person), and then, when you thought the song was finished, they broke into another instrumental song. This one had a definite hoedown sound, and it didn’t really fit with the song, though it still worked, and did accomplish its primary objective, which was to get some laughs. During the next break, somehow they got on the topic of Tord being a Viking (he is of Norwegian decent), and Dan and Murph began drawing all these comparisons, one of which was, like, that he was the Viking version of Yoda. It was fun(ny) and as random a conversation as it seemed, it fit well the atmosphere of the band’s music and live show, which is just about having a good time. “This next song is called Tokyo, Vampires and Wolves.” Murph said when they were ready to move on, and also noted that it would be their next to last song of the night. When they got to their final song, it was of course none other than “Let’s Dance to Joy Division”, the happiest song The Wombats have done, and makes for the perfect note to end on. It seemed like the end of that song was the end of the show, but they decided they had a little bit left to give. The tune had tapered off, but Dan started counting them in with some light taps on the cymbals, soon exploding back into action on his drum kit, while Tord and Murph tore back into their bass and guitar, for another minute or so long instrumental shred fest to really cap of their show.

There are a few different levels I judged this performance, and one of those was comparing it to the other one I had seen. Yes, I would have loved it if they had gotten more time this night and could have done some deeper cuts like at the other show. But that’s nothing the band had any control over, and still, they were able to do the best of their material, which is good enough.

The you have their performance. It was every bit as good as what I remembered, and maybe even better. Tord is a beast in the live environment, and he covered practically every inch of the stage this night, just flat-out owning it. This is not intended to be a slight against the other members, but he is by far the most vigorous performer on stage. However, when Murph doesn’t have to be stationed behind the keyboards, he can give him a run for his money, while Dan is an incredible drummer, and demands your attention.

Now for the slightly negative. Murph’s voice didn’t sound quite up to par this night. It wasn’t downright bad, but it wasn’t quite as good as what I remembered hearing last November. I think I know the reason for that, too. For the last year and half or so the band has been on tour, with only a few months downtime here and there. That tour has consisted of two U.S. legs now and at least two extensive legs over in the U.K. and other such countries. That would no doubt take a toll on a person, especially ones voice, which I’m sure was the case with Murph. That can’t be helped and is just one of the things that comes with touring, but it did serve as a slight impairment to the show this night.

That aside, it was a great set, and I look forward to The Wombats next trip to Texas.

That’ll probably be awhile, though, because I know this was the last tour for their current album. So, until they can get another album recorded and released (which will surely be a couple years or so from now) go check out their previous records, all of which can be found in ITUNES.

When they finished, the crew quickly set to work at tearing down their equipment and getting it off stage, then got everything sound checked for the next and final act. Coincidentally, they, too, were a trio, who resides in Southampton, England. The band was Band of Skulls.

The band had played Dallas back in March (at the same venue The Wombats played last year), but their show fell on St. Patrick’s day. There’s always a big parade on Lower Greenville Avenue that day, which is where that other venue is located, and the mass of people meant there were no parking spots to be found, so sadly, I had to miss out on the show. I didn’t know when I’d have another chance to see Band of Skulls, either, since typically a band will only play a market once per tour. I’m glad there was an exception this time, though, as this would make up for the complete disappointment I felt earlier in the year when I missed their show.

Drummer, Matthew Hayward, guitarist and singer, Russell Marsden, and bassist and singer, Emma Richardson, took the stage to much fanfare. Then, Matthew started a steady beat on the bass drum, with some guitar and bass notes laced in between them. They were beginning with the title track from their current record, “Sweet Sour”. The duel voices (which were used often during their performance) added a striking quality to this song, which started with Russell singing, then turned into the two harmonizing, while Emmas’ voice gradually grew louder and louder, surging past his to become the dominant one for a time. It was amazing, and far better than what I had set my expectations to be, and I could only hope the rest of the night would get better. “Thank you!” exclaimed Russell when they finished, which was something he said often this night when they would finish a tune. There were enough offerings from their new record this night, but their main focus was on their 2009 debut, “Baby Darling Doll Face Honey”, and next they did the track, “Patterns”. They were off to a great start, and just with those first two songs it was evident they were a no-frills Rock band whose primary focus was the music. By that I mean, they kept conversation to a bare minimum, opting to just play their songs, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. They went from that one straight into their next song, which Russell led them into with the sweet guitar licks that start “Bruises”. I truly was in awe so far, but as good as those first few songs had been, they had barely even scratched the surface of what was to come, and their set really erupted with the song that follows that previous one on the album, “Wanderluster”. “You’ve seen the world, and all the glory is what you want, not what you need…” sang Emma, the opening line of the truly mesmerizing song. It was around this point in the show they did briefly talk with the audience, specifically Russell, who mentioned this was their last show of the tour, “…And were proud to be spending it here with you all!” he said. “Lies” was another song that was co-sung at various points throughout, such as the chorus, “Lies are the truth that you tell to yourself…”. No sooner had they finished it then Russell made his way over to stage left, standing at the forefront of the stage, holding his guitar out towards the crowd while he picked away at it. It was nothing other than notes at first, but then he transitioned it into their next song, the short but sweet, “Bomb”. After it, they slowed things down a little bit with “Fires”, which shows that as skilled as they are at writing roaring Rock songs, they can write more meaningful ones that pack just as much of a punch. The rhythm heavy and chilling, “Blood” came next, and then what may be one of the best named songs ever, “You’re Not Pretty But You Got it Going On”. Now, I am a newer fan of the bands, having first really listened to their music earlier in the year, but still, I had made myself familiar with all their songs… Or so I thought. Somehow, I had never heard the song “Hollywood Bowl” until the moment they started it. I even though it may be a cover at first, and only found out later it was indeed an original of Band of Skull’s. It ended up being a gem from this show, though. As things started to wind down, they did the catchy, “I Know What I Am”, then, for their final song, busted out one that came as a real surprise to me. Every album tends to end with a softer/slower song, but how many times do you ever those songs played live? Not often, right? That’s why it shocked me when they started the final track off their first record, “Cold Fame”. “What’s the point of fame if it’s been abused?…” Russell asked with the first line of the song, before getting to the chorus that cuts to the bone. “…But still I fall from grace with this microphone. How’d you find yourself if you never roam? Certainly, I’m indebted, baby. Certainly, certainly, yeah. I know my place but it don’t know me…”. It was hauntingly beautiful and it’s one of those songs that actually (successfully) makes you feel the emotion it’s trying to convey. It was enthralling, and the perfect way to cap off their 60-minute long set.

I really thought that might be it. Earlier on in the show Russell said something about their voices being on their last leg, so they needed help from the crowd in singing. They didn’t let that hinder them, though, still giving it one-hundred percent as far as singing went, unlike other bands whom I’ve heard say the same thing and then do let the fans sing half of some songs, which is not what I paid to hear. But then the chanting of “BAND OF SKULLS!” started. It was subtle at first, but caught on quick, and soon the three members walked back on stage.

“This is a song we like to call The Devil Takes Care of His Own.” said Russell, before they broke into the song. It was good way to get this 11-minute encore going, but it was merely an appetizer for two of the bands most popular songs. Everyone’s excitement spiked when they heard the muffled guitar notes, realizing it was the Blues infused, “Light of the Morning”. That was the main song I had been waiting to hear for the last hour plus, and it made sense that they would end with it, but no, there was still one song left. They didn’t give the fans any recovery time, ripping right into “Death by Diamonds and Pearls”, which brought the show to an explosive end.

Band of Skulls put on one of the best live shows I’ve ever seen.

It was incredible. Emma, Matthew and Russell are all unbelievably skilled musicians and they let it speak for itself. That is to say it was obvious it was all about the music this night, and while I like it when bands speak to the crowd a decent bit, there’s also something to be said about those who are straightforward and just play their music, which adds a ton of professionalism to the bands persona. And that was precisely what Band of Skulls accomplished.

Another aspect that made the show so phenomenal was the embellishments of the songs. Every band changes the songs slightly in the live setting, singing them in a different tone or something, and various other ways. Most times I dislike that with a passion, because I prefer to hear the songs exactly how I know them and have listened to them over and over and over again. Band of Skulls ended up being the first band I’ve seen where the live versions of the songs were even more amazing than on the records. Odyssey is probably the wrong word to use to describe it, because none of the tweaks were ever long enough to really be considered that, but I still find that as good a word as any. Already soaring guitar solos were expanded upon and turned into epic pieces, some of the bass riffs became fiery solos, and there were even some pulse pounding drum solos.

It all made for a fantastic, high-energy show, and one I will not soon forget.

The band does have several shows remaining this year over in England, and early next year they will do a few dates in North America opening for Muse. You can find the dates HERE, and  go see them if you get the chance, as they will blow your mind. And you can of course find their records in ITUNES.

By the time it was over, it wasn’t even quite midnight, making this a very early night.

Saturday, October 13th, 2012 – The Toadies

Perhaps one of the most iconic venues in North Texas (and maybe even the country) is Billy Bob’s Texas.

It’s a VERY large venue, also serving as a place to hang out in the day, with some pool tables and other such entertainment. The venue routinely hosts some of the best Country/Americana bands from all over the nation, and that is why I never figured I’d end up at this place in the historic stockyards of Downtown Fort Worth.

Granted, I am becoming more of a Country music fan, but not to any of the acts that would play here. But this particular night, there were no country bands gracing the stage at Billy Bob’s. Instead, the world’s largest honky-tonk was hosting what is perhaps the best band to come out of Fort Worth: The Toadies.

The band had enlisted two Austin based bands to pen this show, the first of whom was Boy + Kite.

I wanted desperately to see this band again, after seeing them last year’s Dia De Los Toadies music festival, but the drive to Fort Worth is a long one, and by the time my dad and I got there and made it in, the band was practically done. I recognized a couple of their songs, while some others sounded new to me (though I haven’t listened to their music in awhile, so they could have been older tunes). The band seemed much tighter this time then what I remembered, and their stage show was definitely improved, with the three members at the forefront of the stage running about, shredding on their guitars or tearing it up on the bass.

What I saw I enjoyed, and hopefully the bands first ever show in the North Texas area will not be their last.

You can find their debut album, “Go Fly” in iTunes. And as of right now, their next show will be on November 9th at Fitzgeralds in Houston, Texas.

Second up was Quiet Company, and honestly, I’m not sure who I was more excited to see tonight. The Toadies, or these guys. That’s absolutely no joke, either.

The band walked on stage one minute after their scheduled 9:15 start time, and singer and rhythm guitarist, Taylor Muse, asked everyone how they were doing. That was answered with some applause and cheers, and he responded, “Yeah, me, too.” He was holding a drum stick which he then placed in his mouth and bit down on it, as he and the rest of the members cut loose on their instruments. The beginning to “Everything Louder Than Everything Else” gradually grew louder, before Taylor grabbed the drum stick from his mouth and proceeded to use it to play his guitar, then sang the opening line, “Long, long ago, back when the ocean was our home, we crawled out of the sea, so eager to breathe…”. I like all the levels this song takes you to, from that opening line, to reaching its pinnacle about halfway through, with, “…But when I go, there will probably be no angels singing, no harps ringing. No pearly gates, nor devil’s flames, just nothing…”, while it ended with bassist,  Matt Parmenter, guitarist, Thomas Blank, and trombone player, Cody Ackors, all co-singing with Taylor on, “…Don’t let me go, I’m not prepared.  I’m so damned scared that I’m almost there…”. The song takes you through some varying degrees of emotions, which is precisely what makes a good song to open with. As it came to an end, drummer, Jeff Weathers led them right into their next song, which was one of the bands singles, “You, Me, and the Boatman”. It was soon followed by another powerful song of the bands, “Preaching to the Choir Invisible: Part II (What Do You Think Happens When We Live?)”, which is always a highlight of the set. Usually for their next song, they have a sample track that kicks on about this time, segueing them right into it. However, they didn’t use it for this show. Instead, Matt moved over to the keyboard, and they all awaited his cue to start. “HEY!” he suddenly shouted, prompting Matt to begin pounding away on the keys, setting up the catch melody of “It’s Better to Spend Money Like There’s No Tomorrow Than Spend Tonight Like There’s No Money”. Taylor was able to get a little more animated on it, making gestures with his hands throughout it, since it doesn’t require him to play his guitar for the entire song. He made up for it on the next song, though, as he began wailing on his guitar soon after that song ended. This instrumental intro they have crafted perfectly captures a high-energy Rock spirit, and is probably the most intense the band gets, before it breaks into “We Went to the Renaissance Faire (…All Our Friends Were There)”. When it was over, Taylor started talking about Fort Worth. “…I’m sure there’s a lot of cross pollination here, but I think Fort Worth is far superior to Dallas…” he said, to which the crowd roared in agreeance. Not me, though, I knew it was just an attempt to make the people of Fort Worth feel better about where they live (That’s a joke people… Sort of.) It was also around this point where they mentioned that the band had entered into a whole new chapter. All five of them have now quit their jobs to make Quiet Company their main priority. “…So please, tell your friends about us and have them come see us…” Taylor urged the audience. “…I have a three year-old daughter and I’d really like to be able to feed her…”. From here on out they tackled one song right after the other, starting with “Preaching to the Choir Invisible: Part I (What do You Think Happens When We Die?)”. Cody sit his trombone down afterwards, and walked over to stage left, where the keyboard sit. They started an ominous instrumental lead in that instantly got me excited, because it could be nothing else but “The Easy Confidence (What I Would Say to You Now)”. Cody didn’t stay at the keys long, soon going back to the other side of the stage while Taylor started singing, “I was screaming out your name, I guess you never heard me. I was screaming it for years, and I think I deserve a reason for why you’ve remained so elusive…”. A little over a year ago when they released their latest album “We Are All Where We Belong”, that song popped out as being my personal favorite, and a year later it still is, making me look forward to the end of their set, just to hear that tune. Now along those lines, when you see a band enough, you come to know their setlist. Quiet Company somewhat tweaked theirs between the time I saw them back in April and then when they got back to Dallas in August, , though their final song remained the same, and that was the fourteenth track from their newest record. So obviously, I was anticipating that would be next… Luckily I wasn’t expecting it. Instead, the fiery end of “The Easy Confidence” came to a simmer, and then stopped all together as Jeff started some soft and steady drumming. It was a song I had never heard live, “On Modern Men”, coming from the record, “Everyone You Love Will Be Happy Soon”. Not only that, but I haven’t listened to the song much in the first place, so I wasn’t sure exactly what was going on. “So lift your hands up from your sides, rinse them both off with your pride, and let the world see what we’re not.  Because we have carved out our desires, and placed them in the hands of liars that will forget you when they want…” sang Taylor, who simultaneously slowly wrapped the microphone cord around his neck, making a noose of sorts. Sure, it threw me for a loop at first, but this was every bit as good of a note to end on as the other song has been. Maybe even more so.

In all their set was 44-minutes long, which was a pleasant surprise, since usually the opening acts get abbreviated sets. However that was just as much time as most of the other shows I’ve seen them do. There was one difference, though, and that was that they seemed even better this night than usual.

Their performance was spot-on, which is precisely what I’ve come to expect from these guys, yet they were even better than usual. I can’t pinpoint one specific thing, rather, it was the combination of the energy they all put forth, as well as how cohesive they are as a unit. And if they’ve gotten that much better in just a few months, imagine what awaits them, now that they are a full-time touring band.

Their show really was every bit as good as what The Toadies would soon do, but the only thing was Quiet Company didn’t have nearly the audience that they deserved. It wasn’t until they finished that a mass of people entered the venue, and I guarantee that if they had been there earlier, they would have been wowed, because I heard plenty of other people talking about how impressed they were by the band. Even when the night was done, I decided to splurge and finally buy one of the bands shirts, and their merch booth was still swamped at that time.

Obviously, the bands goal is to get out on the road more now, and currently have completed their second East Coast tour. So there’s a good chance the band will get to a city near you in the not too distant future. According to a post they made on their Facebook page, they will start doing about 200 shows a year, all over the United States, and hopefully beyond. They even have plans to release a new EP by year’s end with another full-length to come out sometime in 2013.

But in the meantime, you can find all their previous records in either iTUNES or BANDCAMP. You can even get a SIX SONG SAMPLER for FREE download if you just want to get a feel for the band’s music. And if you have the opportunity to see them live, by all means do. They are really one of the best bands I’ve ever seen or heard, easily making my top ten list. Quite possible even my top five.

Once everything was all set up and ready for the Toadies to take the stage, an interesting intro song started to play through the house system. It was by the Texas Country band, Eleven Hundred Springs, who coincidentally Mark Reznicek went on to play drums for after the Toadies 2001 breakup, and the song was “We’re From Texas.” As odd as a song choice as it seemed, it actually fit pretty well, and as the four members walked out on stage, Mark was even wearing an Eleven Hundred Springs shirt.

After taking the stage, frontman and guitarist, Vaden Todd Lewis, chatted with the crowd for just a moment, asking how everyone was doing, and then they got down to business. I thought I knew what was coming, since the bands set has been essentially the same the past few times I’ve seen them, but this night they threw a little bit of a curve-ball to their fans.

They still opened with a classic, but this time lead guitarist, Clark Vogeler, started them into “Happy Face”. It was a nice little surprise, and I was glad that things had been revamped, at least to some extent. That one was also just as powerful of an opening song as the other one has been, but in a completely different way, and got them off on a solid start. No sooner had that song ended, then Vaden moved right into the next song, occasionally plucking the strings on his guitar as he sang the first line of “Push the Hand”, before bassist, Doni Blair, Mark and Clark joined in to round out the sound. Those first two songs came from the bands first two major releases, and they kept barreling on, doing the title track from album number three, “No Deliverance”. I’ve often found myself on the fence with this song. I like it better live then the recording, but even then I can take it or leave it at times. But tonight, it sounded absolutely phenomenal. The other mic that Vaden uses, which gives his voice a more gravelly texture, definitely helps make the song, but it was at its best on the softer line, “…And then I saw her, bathed in light. A host of angels knelt at her side. She said, “You have forsaken all you believe. Crossed earth and oceans to be with me…”. It had a rather eerie vibe to it, which was exactly what made it so enjoyable. They paused after it, making some small talk. I believe asking everyone to give it up for the opening acts and such. Then, Clark started wailing on his guitar, using the whammy bar to fire up “Away”. Throughout it all you could hear most of the crowd (which I think totaled something like 3300 people) singing right along to it, and at times the audience was even more audible than Vaden was. Afterwards, he set up the bands next song, which was the first single from their latest effort, “Play.Rock.Music.” Doni began plucking away at his bass strings, before Mark joined him on the rhythm section intro of “Summer of the Strange”. As the two played, Vaden made his way from back by the drum riser towards the front of the stage, somewhat dancing as he walked, getting to the mic just in time to deliver the first line, “Give me back control. Give me back control. Give me back…”. I still say that song is one of the most off-the-wall ones the band has done, but has weird a sound as it has, it still is similar enough to the rest of their material to fit in. The music had barely ceased when Vaden started casually rocking out the killer intro of “Sweetness”. A little over halfway through, he changed up one of the lines, singing something else besides, “…Cut right down to the soul, to the center of you. I found me a home for the sinner in me…”, then got back to repeating that line a few more times. I can’t remember what he said at this point, but I liked the subtle change, which added just something extra to it. They followed it by ripping right into a fan favorite, “I Come from the Water”. There’s something about that song that as soon as you hear it makes it so easy to lose yourself to it. As soon as I realized it was that song I got excited, and even though I had been sick for a few days before this, which had resulted in a weak voice and sore throat, I still found myself compelled to join the rest of the crowd in singing along to the chorus at the top of my lungs. It really is that incredible of a song, and I liked the placement of it in the middle of the set even more than when it has been the opener. Another breather came after that song, and this was where Vaden started a conversation with the crowd with, “I’ve never gotten political on stage before…”. Obviously that had me thinking he was about to endorse one of the two presidential candidates, or at least something equivalent on that spectrum. However, what he said ended up being along some completely different lines. “…Has anyone seen  Looper?” he asked, adding, “Yeah, that’s a good flick.” The topic of conversation changed after that, as Vaden mentioned that Mark’s birthday was happening on this weekend. “No joke.” he said, as if to get rid of any doubt, while Mark stood up from his kit and made a few poses, while the crowd chanted, “U.S.A”, a few times. That made me realize that this is the third straight year that if seen the band at about this same time of year. Two years I caught a Denton show, which partially took place on his birthday, and then last year I believe it had just barely passed when they performed in Dallas. After things settled down, Mark led the band into their next song, “Waterfall”, which started another little onslaught of rock, as right after it was done they went into “Little Sin”, which was then followed by “Backslider”. Things then hit a slower spot with a song I was surprised didn’t make it into the setlist for this year’s Dia festival, “Song I Hate”, but at least they were playing it now. “I’m giving up on you. How could I ever call you mine? You’re too pretty, too simple, too easy. You’re just a waste of time…” Sang Vaden. That’s what makes that song so great, the lyrics are honest and raw, making it sound pretty authentic. They set up the next song as being the second single from their latest record. “…And I say second because hopefully there will be more…” said Vaden. A long guitar note rang out from Clarks’ guitar, starting them on the primal tune, “Animals”. It offers a good, realistic take on love, like with one of the lines from the first verse, “…You know love is a magic trick. Fools the eyes and drives the hips, but it’s crazy the shit it gets you through…”. The bands biggest hit, “Possum Kingdom”, came next, but after finishing it, it seemed like they still had a bit more to do. Why? Because Vaden stated, “Looks like this is going to be a three beer set.” One of their roadies brought out another beer for him. They were now in the homestretch, and started to wind things down with another new single and one of the bands best songs to date, “Rattler’s Revival”. Finally, to cap of their 61 minute-long set, they did one that is typically saved as an encore, “I Burn”.

The show had been incredible, and despite the more basic setlist (say, in comparison to the meaty show I had seen last month), this one was still every bit as good… Probably even more so. And they still had a little bit left in the tank for this night.

Now, throughout the show, security had taken several people out, thinking there were fights going on, when in fact some of the people were just moshing. As the main set came to an end, a few more incidents arose, leading the band, specifically Vaden, to plead with the security to leave the fans alone. “…They’re moshing, they’re not fighting. Moshing isn’t fighting. It’s still stupid as hell, but it’s not fighting…” he said, though it fell on deaf ears.

After a couple minutes of being gone, the band reappeared on stage to finish out the show, and got their 14 minute-long encore going with “Hell In High Water”. I didn’t get to fully enjoy this song, because during it was when a real altercation broke out next to me, with one guy grabbing anothers throat (where was the security when they were actually needed?). Luckily, it was resolved quickly, but for a minute or more that had my attention, as I, and numerous other people, just tried to stay out of the two guys way. The band wound that song perfectly into “Mister Love”,  and after it came their final song, which was none other than “Tyler”.

In terms of performance, this really was one of, if not the, best show I’ve seen the Toadies do. They were so on point with everything, which made the entire night quite impressive and was something to really marvel at.

I’ll keep this short and sweet, if you haven’t seen the Toadies, you need to. They know precisely what they are doing on stage and how to keep the crowd entertained, so you will not be disappointed.

As of right now the band is on the final leg of a tour with Helmet, and have only a few dates left. You can find all of them HERE, and if they aren’t coming somewhere near you, then you can surely count on the band touring sometime in 2013. And if you’d like to purchase the band’s music, well, you can find all of their releases right HERE.

All in all, it was a very fun and memorable night in Cowtown. I’ll have to try to get back occasionally, too. ‘Cause really, the drive over this way isn’t too bad.

Thursday, October 4th, 2012 – Tommy & the High Pilots

I was unfamiliar with most of the bands playing The Prophet Bar this night, but there was one band on the bill I really wanted to see, and that was the touring band, Tommy and the High Pilots.

They were the second band of the night, and by the time I got there the first band was practically finished.

I never caught their name, but the last two songs that I caught were really good. Their singer had a powerful voice, that was really quite killer.

I wish I could say more about them, like where to find them online and tell you about any future shows they have, but sadly I can’t. I really hope I stumble across these guys again, though.

Tommy and the High Pilots were up next, and they started their set with one of my favorite songs from their debut record. Singer and guitarist, Tommy Cantillon, began plucking away at the strings of his acoustic guitar, setting up the very catchy melody of “Round N’ Round”. As singers often to live, Tom, took some liberties with how he sang that song (and several of the others this night), hitting some different notes or using a tone unlike that on the recorded version of the song. I’m not usually a fun of that behavior, but it worked for them, and managed to make some already spectacular songs even more amazing. I believe it was Michael Cantillon who started them on their next song, playing a little intro on the keys, which was really pretty, before bassist, Steven Libby, drummer, Matt Palermo, and Tom joined in on “On The Line”, the lead song from the bands acoustic EP, “The Sawhorse Sessions”.  Along with the keys, Michael had been dabbling on an electric guitar during those first two songs, but at this point he took the acoustic one from Tom, who then got an electric guitar. In setting up the song, Tom said it was about a certain type of women. “…We’ll call her a bitch.” he said, and then launched into “Bluesy Floozie”. It’s another sing along of the bands, and especially the chorus, “…I listen at your window. I listen at your wall. I listen to your footsteps. I listen to it all…”, is so infectious it will have you doing just that with ease, or if you don’t know it, then you’ll at least be dancing around. In fact, after finishing it, Tom called out someone towards the back, saying something like, “…You bring a whole new definition to “chair dancing”…” He then laughed, as the person was apparently looking around like, “Is he talking about me!?” “Yes, I’m talking about you.” he added. So far, they had played older songs, but this tour was also about showcasing some of the new songs they’ve written, and they did one next, which was called “Broken Down”. Another new one followed, and afterwards they did, as Tom put it, “…A song we didn’t write, but wish we did. In the business we call it “a cover”.” It was a cover of a Talking Heads song, “This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)”, though their version was a far cry from the original, in the best way possible. Tom opened it by playing a harmonica, while the keys were the primary instrument for the first portion of the song, and gave me chills, simply because it sounded so beautiful. Then Matt and Steven joined in with some light beats and notes. I was left in awe, while a girl in the crowd asked who that song was by, I assume because she enjoyed it so much. But I must say, after listening to the original version, I prefer the High Pilots rendition of it. There is no question that they made the song their own, and out of the few covers I’ve heard them do, I think this is my favorite. One last new song was planned for the night, which was “Devil to Pay”. Now, out of their new material, there’s a new quality to them that their previous stuff lacks, and that is three-part harmonies (between Tom, Mike and Matt), which sounds absolutely heavenly. Their time was running out at this point, but they still had enough time for the two songs they had planned, one of which was “Lorraine”, and Tom tried to get some crowd participation, by telling everyone the chorus was as simple as, “Where’s my money gone?”. They even toned that song down to fit it’s acoustic vibe, as Matt joined the other three members at the front of the stage, and just kept beat on a tom for the song. And then they got to the final song of the night, and there were three different songs I was hoping it might be, and it was at least one of those three. “Where To Start” ended their 38 minute set, and was oddly the only song they performed from the “American Riviera” EP, but still, it’s a good one to play. And during it, Steven, Mike and Matt shared a little chuckle, while Tom sang the line, “…Will I be depressed, when I am forty, getting horny, having no sex…”, which made me feel a little better about the fact that I still laugh at the line from time to time.

I had kind of forgotten about it, since it has been awhile since I’ve seen these guys live, but they really do put on one of the most fun and enjoyable live shows I’ve seen. You really can lose yourself in the music and just cut loose and have a good time. I only wish that good time could have lasted a few more songs, but maybe that will happen with their next stop in Texas.

Speaking of which, it will be a little while, but they told me they hope to get back through the area sometime in early 2013. In the meantime, they’ll be going back to Santa Barbara to lay down their next record. And hint, hint, it will most likely be more than just an EP.

So, until that new album is recorded and released, check out their old ones, “Everynight”, “American Riviera” and “The Sawhorse Sessions”.

After them was the first of two Austin based bands, and the first one up was Sounds Under Radio.

I’d heard of them before, but never really listened to their stuff, so I didn’t know what to expect now. Their music was good, with the first two songs sounding rather dark and ominous, while the third was a little more piano based. However, they sounded too mainstream for more (at least what I heard kind of reminded me of The Fray, and is that really a band you would want to be like?), so I went ahead and left.

It was also kind of weird that the band was only two guys, one played the keys, the other guitar and sang, while they had a laptop that played the bass and drum lines. Then as I was walking towards the door they said something about them being two fourths of Sounds Under Radio, so I guess they are a full-band, but the whole band couldn’t make it for this show.

If that does sound like you kind of music, well, you can find the bands Facebook page HERE.

There was one last band after them, by the name of Suite 709. I know absolutely nothing about them, but hey, they could be good.

That is unlike me to skip out on some of the bands without giving them a chance, but I did have stuff to do, such as finish my podcast to have ready for the next week, and I really just wanted to go ahead and get that knocked out. Who knows, maybe that made me miss out on something great.

Sunday, September 30th, 2012 – Circa Survive Makes Some Violent Waves

Well, I had been looking forward to this night for a few months.

There aren’t too many national touring bands I listen to, but one of the few I am a fan of is Circa Survive, whose “Violent Waves Tour” was leading them to Dallas this night, specifically the House of Blues.

My cousin introduced me to their music a few years ago, and the two of us went to this show together, where I could finally see if their live show lived up to the hype I had heard.

When we got there, the Atlanta based quintet, O’ Brother was already rockin’. They were my favorite opening act on this bill, and I loved how heavy their music was. It was thick and intoxicating, and their singer/guitarist had a killer voice that flowed well with the music. They put on a pretty good stage show to boot, and I felt they did a good job of engaging the crowd.

You can find their music in ITUNES and check out their tour dates HERE.

After them was Balance and Composure, who hailed from Doylestown, PA. Overall, I did like these guys, though there were several spots where I was on the fence about them. When he sang, their singer/guitarist had a pretty good voice, but he often raised his voice to a scream mid song, losing every ounce of tone he had, sounding as if he was just speaking it. But then he slip right back into his singing voice, and all was good.

Despite not liking that too much, it did give the music a cool, volatile quality. The band reacted well to that, really cutting loose when it was called for.
Their latest record, “Separation”, is quite good, and well worth purchasing, which you can do HERE. And to find out more about the band, future show dates, etc. go HERE.

The only band I didn’t really care for this night was the Los Angeles based, Touche Amore. The reason I disliked them was simple; they were a Hardcore Rock band.
Their singer didn’t scream incoherently, at least not all the time, but he did still scream, and I hardly consider that talent. However, there were a couple of songs they did that I liked okay, and even their second song in Anthony Green of Circa Survive came out on stage and joined them by adding some backing vocals to it.
They did earn some respect from me, though, when at one point their vocalist thanked Circa for taking them out on tour. “…A band like us should not be playing the House of Blues…” he stated, and he/they should be giving some props realizing that fact, let alone acknowledging it.

I might not have cared for them, but if that is your type of music, you can find their website HERE, and buy their music HERE.

Once they finished, people (myself included) began to make their way into any available gap that was anywhere directly in front of the stage. It was pretty cramped, and absolutely no one had any “personal space”, but at least they had a good view of what was going to transpire.

The crew got things ready for them, which included pulling off the sheets that covered what were lights. They were fairly tall, and reminded me of how the board on the video game, Tetris, is, with there being multiple squares on each structure, and there were five of the lights in all, all lined up behind the drum kit.

A little before 9:30 the lights dimmed, and as the members of Circa Survive filed on stage, they were greeted with a deafening sound of cheers and applause.

“TEJAS!” screamed Anthony Green, in his signature whiney wail. He said a few more words about the great state, and then the band embarked on a 76 minute long journey that would incorporate a slew of songs from their four full-length records, beginning with the lead track from “Juturna”.

The fans got ecstatic at the first notes and beats of “Holding Someone’s Hair Back”, and it was during these older songs where the fans sang along most passionately. In fact, you could hear the crowd even better than Anthony at times, as they shouted along, “…It’s nothing personal, you’re an embarrassment. Don’t cut me out…” That was a great kickoff to the set, but this tour was in support of their latest album, “Violent Waves”, and next they tackled a couple of songs from that album. It was readily evident that their fans were dedicated and rabid, making me feel unworthy of even calling myself a Circa Survive fan, but with the next song I saw just how diehard they are. Whereas most fans criticize new albums (from any band) and openly state they’d rather hear the old stuff, Circa’s fans embraced the new material. “Sharp Practice” was easily one of the most electric songs of their set, and the crowd pushed and shoved each other, and most of them were singing every single word, such as the chorus, “You get what you paid for. We can’t sell our Goddamn souls anymore, anymore…”. Anthony was the only one who addressed the crowd, and that was kept to a minimum, as they primarily went from one song to the next, however, after that song he briefly spoke to the fans, then ended with, “…This is the Birth of the Economic Hit Man”. The few times I had listened to that seven plus minute opus, it had failed to engage me, but live I found it to be much more appealing, and it really didn’t feel like it took seven minutes for them to play. With the next song, they finally tapped into the “Blue Sky Noise” record, doing one of my favorite songs from it, “Glass Arrows”. They slowed things down just a little with “We’re All Thieves”, but picked right back up with “Imaginary Enemy”. As that song ended, drummer, Steve Clifford kept right on going, having a few second solo, patching that song into whatever they had in store next. And what they had in store was the song that directly follows it on the record, “Through the Desert Alone”, which took shape when guitarists, Colin Frangicetto and Brendan Ekstrom, as well as bassist, Nick Beard, ripped into the song. And then you have the brilliant opening line from it, “Sadly, I walk around this place on the shells of eggs…”. And at least for me, that was the highlight of their entire performance. Another new song, “The Lottery”, came next, and the intricate instrumental intro to that song is quite impressive, especially when you’re watching the band tear it up on their respective instruments. That was also one of the songs that saw Brendan adding the occasional backing vocals, with the line, “Who’ll take the lottery? We’re the unlucky ones.” They again toned things down, this time with “Brother Song”. Upon finishing it, the band did brief instrumental piece, which I thought was their next song, before abruptly stopping, while Anthony divulged the next song. It was “In Fear and Faith”, and it sounded stellar. It was also during that song that several enormous balloons were thrown out into the crowd for people to bat around. There was confetti put inside each one (side note: two confetti cannons had shot out a TON of the stuff during their second song) and over the course of the next several songs they all were popped, with the confetti inside raining down on the people. “…We did a music video for this next song…” said Anthony, using the word “weird” to describe said video. The song he spoke of was “Suitcase”, which would be the final song they would do from “Violent Waves”. I try to be as precise as possible, but there was one song they did this night that I don’t recall where it fell in the setlist. I think it came after that, and I’ll say it did, but I’m not 100% sure. They wound the previous song into the first of only a couple of songs they did from “On Letting Go”, and this one was “The Difference Between Medicine and Poison Is in the Dose”. Personally, I think that song has the best and catchiest chorus out of any of the band’s songs, and the last four lines of it really packed a punch, as Anthony stood at the front of the stage, singing, “…I can’t be honest with even myself. Did you ever wish you were? Did you ever wish you were? Did you ever wish you were somebody else?” “I love this next song…” he stated. “…Because it’s so fast…” You could feel the anticipation that caused in the air, than he finished, “…This is Semi-Constructive Criticism”. The song has an undeniable faster beat to it, and Steve really demolished it on the drums during that one. Immediately after it was done they launched into “Stop the Fucking Car”, and again followed that pattern for the final song of their set. The first guitar notes sent everyone into a frenzy as it quickly donned on the crowd that it was “Act Appalled”.

That was one helluva note to end on, and after the final drumbeat, while the final guitar chords were still ringing out, the band exited the stage. And as soon as they disappeared, the chanting began, some saying “ONE MORE!”, while others chanted, “CIRCA!”, over and over again.

It didn’t take too long before they returned to do a couple of the singles from their third LP. The first was “I Felt Free”, while before the last song Anthony made a dedication. “This song goes out to my two sons who are at home.” he said, as a seemingly long pause followed, though I’m sure it was mere seconds. “I can’t get started from the part where I left off yesterday, should have spent my time a little wiser. I sat alone, guilty as sin…” he belted out, getting underway with “Get Out”. Again, the fans were singing every word, and at the second verse, he pointed the microphone towards the crowd, allowing them to sing practically the entire verse. Yeah, it was a pretty cool moment.

Those two songs added an additional 8 minutes to their set, and at the end of their final song, the confetti cannons again spewed confetti on the audience.

In some ways, I do think that the band was oversold to me, just in that I had heard so much hype about their live performance, I think I had conceived some unreal ideas about what is was going to be like, but that’s not to say they still weren’t exceptional.

They had an overwhelming stage presence, and were pretty much the only band I’ve seen play on this stage who has what it takes to hold their own and deserve the crowds complete and undivided attention.

Brendan is an extraordinary guitarist, and he picked away at the strings with sheer ease. And when someone can make playing the guitar look that easy, well, I think that’s one of the signs of being truly talented.

Colin was on the other end of the spectrum, being a little more active, and even occasionally jumping around, while still shredding just as hard as Brendan did. Nick and Steve did an excellent job at holding down the rhythm section, and then of course you had Anthony. He certainly has what it takes to helm the band, and he was much more active and engaged the fans more this night then when I saw him earlier in the year on his tour in support of his latest solo record. However, he spent all of his time either on stage left or the center stage, which for me was fine for me, seeing as I was close to the center, but I think vocalists need to spend an equal amount of time on all parts of the stage. Personally, I think this creates somewhat of a distance between the band and the fans on the side of the stage that is getting neglected, and I say that from personal experience with other acts.

Then again, I don’t know, maybe all of the fans on stage right did feel just as connected to the band as I did. Still, I think they could really benefit from Anthony covering every inch of the stage.

That aside, I have no complaints with the show they put on, and it was definitely one for the books.

You can find all of the bands records in ITUNES, and while their tour is over, you can stay tuned to their OFFICIAL WEBSITE for any future tour announcements. And whenever they come back through Dallas, I will definitely be in attendance.