Friday, April 5th, 2013 – Part I: The Deep Ellum Arts Festival 2013: Day I

It’s spring, which means it’s festival season, this week it was time for the annual Deep Ellum Arts Festival.

Like the name suggests, it is an arts festival, with tons of artists from all over setting up shop along Main Street, which is partially blocked off.

Also, they have a variety of bands playing multiple stages, which is what gets my interest, especially since it’s free. So, since I was going to catch a show in Deep Ellum in the first place this night, why not get down to the area early and see some of the acts at the arts festival.

Midnight Empire had been playing for awhile by the time I arrived, and I made it over to the stage as they were wrapping up one of their newer songs. They had some old gems thrown in, too, though, like the fan favorite, “Can’t Get Enough”. It sounded as good as usual, and the sweet guitar solo Art Struck rocked out helped make the song, but they were oddly reserved while performing it. Actually, the same went for their entire set, or at least what I saw of it. I hate to say it, but it did affect the show, and as cohesive as drummer Matt Cook and bassist Rick Reynolds were on the next song, “Tidal Wave”, it just seemed weird with them being rather motionless, while singer Jacob Henderson casually walked around the stage. After finishing it, he said he didn’t think they had played that song in about a year or so, asking Art if that was right or not. They finally agreed it was, and that they had probably last played it at one of the clubs down here in the Deep Ellum area. The ballad “Two Against One” brought the level down for a moment, before bringing it back up with some more full on rock songs, four to be exact, which closed out their set. That seemed like the end, but after finding out they had a few more minutes left on the clock, Jacob informed everyone they were going to do one more, another new one that would be on their sophomore album.

I’ve only seen one full show of the bands, and caught another partial set before this one, so I know what Midnight Empire is capable of, and will gladly write this off as they were just having a bad night. Still, none of them really seemed like they were into it, and the passion from the musicians (or lack thereof) can make all the difference in how shows are perceived.

This was just an off night for them, and still think they are probably one of the most talented bands in the Dallas music scene at the moment. They have two big shows coming up, one will be at the House of Blues in Dallas on May 22nd opening for Ratt. The other is July 18th at the Rock USA Festival in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Check out their debut album “Everything and Nothing” in ITUNES, as well as get some free singles on their REVERBNATION page plus some live cuts of a couple newer tracks on their SOUNDCLOUD page.

I killed a little bit of time by walking around and looking at some of the art after they finished, getting back to the stage a little after eight to make sure I didn’t miss any of Sayonara.

This was going to be an interesting set from the band to say the least, since earlier in the day singer and guitarist Debbie Blythe had gotten ill, posting online that the show may have to be an instrumental one.

Luckily, by the time they started had 8:19, her voice had recovered thanks to a steroid shot she had gotten at the doctor, which she mentioned a few songs into their set. All that said, you never would have known anything was wrong as they rocked out their opener, “Rendezvous at the Slaughtered Lamb”. That first song of their 44-minute long set sounded exactly like the fans were expecting, with Debbie hitting all the notes just fine with her unique voice, while the often smooth bass lines Sean Blythe was cranking out gave the song a great texture. When that song ended, he mentioned he had been down in Houston and had “…hauled ass…” to get back up here in time to do the show. That brief banter ended, as they started into one of only a couple older songs that were in the setlist this night. It was the lead track from their first EP, “Mothership”. It’s still one of their best songs, and since I’d only seen the band once before, I forgot how good it was live, being a fairly loud rock song with some killer beats from drummer Jonny Williams, but contrasting that, Debbies’ voice is a little softer and lacks the aggression heard on other songs, which makes for an exceptional tune. They did another new song next, one that often found Debbie moving her guitar behind her, playing the keyboard instead, giving it a slightly different feel from their other songs. At this point, Debbie apologetically informed everyone she needed to give her voice a rest, turning the next song into an instrumental one. “…I hope y’all don’t mind too much…” she said to the fans, several of whom were clustered in front of the stage. They seemed okay with it, and personally, I liked it much more than I thought I would. As I’ve said many times before, I’m not a fan of instrumental music, but without the lyrics taking some of my attention, I was able, or rather forced, to pay attention to their musicianship, and each of them is amazing at what they do. Sean owned it on the bass (and not just during this song), really getting into the music and rocking out. Jonny made the drumming look rather effortless at times, offering some slick moves from time to time, and Debbie picked at her guitar with calculated precision, but could also shred quite well when she needed to. Another new song came next, followed by another instrumental, and I believe that one actually is meant to be an instrumental track. “I Need Japanese Steel” was one of the most impressive songs of their set, and they cooked up one hell of a song with that one. After finishing it, Debbie mentioned she had been put on antibiotics, which led to a conversation about how she found out a little while back that drinking anything alcoholic while taking meds doesn’t make them any less effective. Instead, she said it just makes the potential side effects, say tiredness for example, more potent. It made for an interesting conversation, but soon they did another newer song, and then one of my favorites of theirs, “Discourage Wolf”. They had one left in the chamber after that, and finished a great show with one more new one.

I think the band members were just as skeptical of how this show was going to go as some of the fans were, and giving the circumstances, I was impressed by them.

For an off night, Debbies’ voice sounded great and showed no sign of weakness. In fact, there was one song where she did some screaming, and her voice didn’t even crack. And I did touch on their performance earlier, but this was a real rock show they put on this night.

Keep up to date with them and see when they’ll be playing, and if you can, go to a show. You’ll be glad you did. Besides, both times that I’ve seen them know Debbie has been sick and had to hold back on her singing, so if their this incredible on an off night, no telling what they’re like at 100%.

There was one more band I wanted to see at the arts festival, but I killed some time by going into the Curtain Club, then going to the Deep Ellum stage to see Vinyl Pilot.

I got there a little late, and the band was finishing up one song, which they eventually wound into “Watch It Grow Old”, from their older “So far, By Far” EP. The stage was smaller, especially with all the gear and five guys on it, but they didn’t let that hinder them, especially not lead guitarist Kyle Burkett, who was moving all over stage left, tearing it up on his guitar. He wound them seamlessly into their next song, which is the following track from that EP, “Keyword Optimism”. “Lock your doors and close your windows. So far, by far this is the worst time that I have ever had…” sang singer and rhythm guitarist Jeff Lowe, whose voice perfectly fits the upbeat, in your face style of Alt/Rock with touches of Pop that the band plays. They stopped long to briefly chat with the crowd, and then announced their next song was a newer one, before launching into it. So far, it had been strictly about the music so far, but they, or rather the bands newest addition, bassist Patrick Hunter, had some fun with the crowd now. He mentioned how lovely everyone looked, saying that they all ranked probably a nine and a half. “…Alright, alright, I’ll say a ten…” he said all serious like, like he was rating an official contest or something. “Bet You Won’t” was the next song in the setlist, but it didn’t being like it normally does, instead they had worked up an awesome intro for it, which just had the quintet, including keyboardist Chase Eriksen and drummer David Tapp just jamming. They were going all out and it lasted a few moments, before subsiding, highlighting Jeff’s singing for a moment as the song officially got underway. They kept up the high-energy pace of the show with the arresting “No Way in Hell”, but soon shook things up with the title track of their latest EP, “A Beautiful Disaster”. Beautiful is exactly what it is, with the notes Chase plays on the keyboard being nothing short of heavenly, while the lights guitar and bass lines accentuate it quite well. It’s not all serene and relaxing, though, eventually growing into a beast of a rock song, and in my opinion, it doubles as being the most intense song in their arsenal. With that, their 33-minute long set (well, that was what I caught of it anyway) was almost up, and they ended with a new, non-album song called “The Great Unknown”. It’s the perfect title for a song to close with, and left things on a good note.

This was the best Vinyl Pilot show I’ve seen yet, even if they didn’t have as much room on stage as they did at the last venue I saw them at. The reason I liked this one so much more is because they seemed more cohesive here. They were all in synch with one another, and I loved how Kyle segued them from one song to the next early on in the set. It gave things a very fluid feel, and I wouldn’t complain if they did even more of that.

And going back to the cohesive thing, Patrick meshed much better with them than he did on February 1st when he played his first show with them. I don’t mean that just in the sense that they’ve gotten more accustomed to each other, either. He added some comical relief of sorts with his occasional dialogue, and got a good rapport going with the audience.

Their an all-around great band, and if you want to see a show for yourself, well they have a free one coming up on June 5th at the Rockin’ Rodeo in Denton. They’ll be opening for Bowling for Soup, which is all the more reason not to miss out on the show. You can also find both of their EP’s in ITUNES, which I’d suggest checking out.

Night one of the arts festival was pretty fun, and I got to see some great bands, but just because the festival was getting ready to close for the night didn’t mean the night was over, as I headed back to the Curtain Club for some more music.

Friday, January 27, 2012 – Daylight Industries

This night found me at my favorite Deep Ellum venue, the Curtain Club, once again. Where, as always, a stellar line-up of rock had been assembled.

Opening up the show was Tonight Tonight!, though apparently the band has changed their name to, Vinyl Pilot. I like the new name, it shows not only more originality, but also a growth. The main thing however is that, despite the name change, they still put on the same brash live performance. I got into the Curtain moments after they started, and lead guitarist, Kyle Burkett, was moving all over stage right (and then some), shredding as he did so, and the same goes for Jeff Whittaker, at least when he didn’t have to be stationed in front of the mic. Bassist, Matt McCoy, was trying to do the same, but he was plagued by technical problems this night as his bass kept shorting out, though he still made the best of it. They only did about seven songs this night, and they had some great sample tracks that segued one tune into the other. Most just had a cool sound, but one even featured that famous line from Scarlett Ohara in Gone with the Wind, “…As God is my witness they’re not going to lick me. I’m going to live through this and when it’s all over, I’ll never be hungry again. No, nor any of my folk. If I have to lie, steal, cheat or kill. As God is my witness, I’ll never be hungry again.” Their 30ish minute long set was coming to an an end, and before the final song, Jeff asked everyone to “…Listen up and pay attention.” before they broke into it. Not long into it, Matt hopped up on the bass drum of David Tapp’s kit and stood on it with his back to the crowd. It gave the impression that he was going to leap off it in spectacular fashion; instead, it was something much more original. He shimmied out of his pants, revealing his bare ass. Everyone quickly noticed, with Kyle being visible shocked, as was keyboardist, Chase Eriksen. Jeff soon turned around to see what everyone was making a big deal of. “Oh. My. God!” he said. Towards the end of the song Matt did jump off the drum, and as soon as it was done, the curtain was quickly closed.

It was definitely a memorable show, to say the least. But above all else, it was a great show. That’s one thing that really makes these guys so good, they put on a show equivalent to that of a brand new band who has something to prove, though they have a certain maturity to them since they’ve been around for a little while. Definitely an act you need to check out if yo have the chance, and on that note, they have a couple shows in Dallas coming up. The first will be on February 11th at the Doublewide, while the other will be at The Door on February 24th. You can also buy the bands EP, “So Far, By Far”, on iTunes.

An interesting band was second up, going by the name, A Modest Dose. It wasn’t even the fact that they had two vocalists that made them different, it was more the fact that they were a cover band. That’s just not something you see often, especially here at the Curtain. The first few songs were sang by Abe Flores, and while I didn’t know most of them, they did do a cover of Weezer’s, “Buddy Holly”. He lacked a strong, confident voice, and most of what he sang was inaudible to me. It in no way had me engaged with the show, but then after doing some songs he placed his mic back in the stand and handed the reins over to Katie Harper, who took her mic out of the stand and made the jump from backing vocalist to lead singer. I wasn’t familiar with much of the material, but thanks to Jeremy of Night Gallery I know one song she sang was a Flyleaf tune. She did it well, tapping into a slightly deeper tone that was very complimentary of the song, while one of the few original songs they performed, “Searching”, stood out to me as being the best one of their set. Then you had their cover of Paramore’s “Misery Business”. Katie is hands down the best singer in the group, and thus far I had enjoyed what she had sang, but that song wasn’t one of them. It wasn’t bad per se, she doesn’t have to voice to quite pull it off. She did another one or two, before Abe took back over for the final song of their 40ish minute long set. It was a Smashing Pumpkins song, and if I remember and heard correctly, Jeremy told me it was “Cherub Rock”.

I don’t hesitate to call out a band as being shit, and for those who read my posts regularly, you know that. That’s not the case with this guys however, instead I saw a band with very good potential, if they take care of some things. First, as I said, Katie is the better of the two singers, and if they wish to keep the male / female vocalist dynamic going, I’d suggest he take some lessons. Next, if they want to be an original band, then the focus would need to be on writing more original material and replacing most of those covers. Sure, cover songs are okay (and of course if you are a cover band, a necessity), but if most people are like me, then they don’t want to hear more then two to three during a show. All that aside, the band and performance was alright. And really I guess all I said only applies if they do wish to be an original band, if not, then they’re already on the right track. If you would like to see the band, you can do so on February 25th at the Across the Street Bar in Dallas.

The one and only, Night Gallery, was up next. They came out blazing with a killer first song that really showcased the intense performance they are capable of. Guitarist, Jeremy Root, even shredded a bit here and there on it. As the final notes rang out, drummer, “Duckie”, rounded it into the next song, “Dirty Side”, and then did the same for the following one, “Crazy Brave”. They came to a stop after that, and “Duckie” requested someone to get him a water. Otter asked everyone the same thing for him, though imitated as if he was using an intercom, “…Drummer needs a water…” he announced, before mentioning who every got him one could get their EP free of charge. This led into a promotion of their merch table, “We have shirts, EPs, which are only a dollar tonight, and stickers.” said Otter, then got into some oddities by adding, “Dental dams, midgets, elephants…”  Yes, they do have it all! Someone had gotten Duckie a water now, and as soon as Otter named the next song, guitarist, Johnny Hand, ripped into the first single from their forthcoming album, “My Friend Pretend”. The single from their EP, “She Runs”, came next, and then another song from their “Sneak Preview” EP. “…This song is called Without Regret.” Otter said, as they did one of my favorite Night Gallery tunes. If you listen to their lyrics, you’ll find each of their songs tell a good story. This one is no exception, and for someone reason I just really like the chorus, “We’ve said goodbye a hundred times, here’s to a thousand more.  We’ll try to give it one more shot, am I worth fighting for?” Otter built up their next song, which will be the next single from their full-length, “The Tide”. I’ve never thought of this one as being a bad song, but live it’s just failed to speak to me like some of their other material does. I’m beginning to hear it with different ears though, and appreciating it for the great song that it is. There’s always a light feeling to the bands shows. Sure, they’re there to put on a rock show, but you can also tell they just want to have fun, which most bands forget about, and they lightened the mood even more so with a fun song about a notorious serial killer, “Mr. Ripper”. You may not think “fun” would be your initial reaction to a song of that nature, but if you heard it you would feel otherwise. Their 35 minute long set was nearing the end, as they used the mighty, “The Signal”, to close things out. Duckie counted them, “One, two, three!”, as he beat down on his kit, while the other guys, including bassist, Craig James, simultaneously played a note on their instruments. He counted them again, “Uno, does, tres!”, and then one final time before really tearing into the song. Throughout it, as with most of the show, Otter “danced” with his mic stand, doing anything from swaying back and forth with it to lifting it up in the air and twirling it around.

It was a really good set they did, and they had even made a slight change as Craig and Jeremy had swapped spots on stage, with Craig being on far stage right and Jeremy right beside him.  You can catch the band on Saturday, February 11th at The Aardvark in Fort Worth. They have another Fort Worth gig on March 9th at Tomcats West, and then will do an out of town show at Click’s in Tyler on March 23rd. As for their LP, “Loud as the Sun”, they are hoping to have it out sometime in the spring, possible April or May, but it all depends on if they have the funds to press it. Lastly, I did a little interview with Jeremy, Craig, and Otter after the show, so tune in to my “The Music Enthusiast Podcast” if you want to hear it. I’ll have the show with the interview up on February 5th, and you will have to be a subscriber to the WhiskeyBoy Radio Network to hear it.

The final band of the night (or so I thought) was Daylight Industries. This was the groups first live show with their new drummer, Steve Smith, and mere seconds after starting it was apparent he was a machine on the drums. The first song began with a little heavier rhythm section, as Barry Townsend covered almost every inch of stage left, and even the drum riser, thrashing his bass around as he did so. For the first couple songs Keith Allen played the role of typical front man, bending down to where he was at eye level with the dozen or so people amassed in front of the stage, and even at one point joined the crowd and got a mosh pit going with a couple of fans. After that, however he grabbed a guitar, which did add a little more texture to the songs that just wasn’t accomplished from lead guitarist, Brandon Tyner, on his own. They played a little over 40 minutes in all, with keyboard player, Ashley Hagmann, adding some great backing vocals on a couple.

If you’re looking for a band who puts on an impressive live show, then Daylight Industries is one you need to check out. As I said, Keith is a great front man, but even when he is playing the guitar the other band members more than picks up any of the slack. In fact, another worthy moment came in the final song when Steve stood up from drum kit, all the while continuing to put a beat down on it and as he did so, there was something about his demeanor that was very rock ‘n’ roll. I also like their eclectic sound, which seems to draw a bit from rock, hard rock, and even progressive, with perhaps a slight tinge of metal thrown in as well. It’s just something you need to hear, which you can do at their Reverbnation page where they several live cuts as well as a studio recording of “Hanging Fire”. Or, better than that, see them live this Thursday, February 2nd at Headhunters in Austin. They too will be at The Aardvark in Fort Worth on February 11th, and you can see them in Denton at Hailey’s on March 17th.

After their set was when I did that interview with Night Gallery, and then called it a night only after the venue shut their doors and forced everyone off the patio area. I can honestly say I have never been down in Deep Ellum that late, since I usually leave as soon as the last band is done, but it was fun hanging out with the different band members.