Sunday, May 29, 2011

2. Whiskey Folk Ramblers at the Kessler, 5/28/11

2. The Whiskey Folk Ramblers, at the Kessler, following Sorta.

Not pictured: seventeen other guys.

Entering the Kessler as the evening began, we were accosted by a fellow in a hat, vest and tie who vaguely resembled Jack White.  He mistook R for someone else, then said, "Oh, you're not Philip."  N countered with, "And you're not Jack White," which seemed to aggrieve him, as he turned away without a word.

When Fort Worth darlings Whiskey Folk Ramblers took the stage, the surly Jack White impersonator turned out to be their lead singer.  Hello!

Unlike Sorta, this band was new to us.  So what are WFR like?  Are they a rock band? A country rock band? A folk band? Or a band who can't figure out what they are best at?  Tough call.

Based on their sound, we guessed their two biggest influences to be (1) Tom Waits, and (2) Tom Waits' early material. 

Ha ha!  We kid because we love.  WFR are a rockin', rollickin' six-piece, with a guy on harmonica and horn, another on banjo and accordion, a standup bass, full drum kit, and probably an empty jug in there somewhere.  Sort of like Reverend Horton Heat or the Squirrel Nut Zippers, if they were obsessed with that Johnny Cash/Old 97's rattling train sound.

And then there's the vocal stylings of lead singer Tyler Rougeux.  He's got a kind of nasally mushmouth delivery reminiscent of Michael Stipe.  Neither one of us heard much in the way of lyrics, and not just because of the onslaught of the sextet's sound.  At one point he introduced a song with "This izza songabow an ol lady wanna hiyo wumma," which did not help clarify anything.  The fans seemed to eat it up, though.

We were deeply disappointed to see Tyler's beverage of choice on stage was water.  "Whiskey" is in your very name, my man --- live up to it!

WFR did an admirable Dylan cover, "You Ain't Going Nowhere," straying from the original and making it their own.  We felt he might have mentioned Bob's birthday, though (May 24th!).  Tyler announced this song as "our last country song," and then the band began a song that seemed to have come out of the Tom Waits Clone Factory.

In sum: we would be very hard pressed to find an untalented member of the band.  The horns shrieked like electric guitars, the drums were muscular, the music was loud but not muddled (except for the vocals).  We did feel they should either take the hipster costumes all the way or just give it up, but musically, they deliver.  And yet... we didn't come away with our arms overloaded with WFR merch.  Was it because they've bottled that foot-stompin' Old 97's sound but not the energy?  Was it because they don't seem to have fully embraced a sound and made it their own?

Tough call.

1. Sorta at the Kessler, 5/28/11

1. Sorta, at the Kessler.

The first band of the project!  Sorta, take a bow.

We love these guys.

In the interests of that "full disclosure" stuff that Serious Journalists are always going on about, it must be noted that we are both quite familiar with Sorta, both musically and personally.  Great guys.

Anyhow.  Music at the classy Kessler (which serves up some delicious sliders).  Cover at the door was $15.  There were about 90 people in attendance.  Call it 92 with us.

As you will notice if you glance at the Wikipedia link above, Sorta was dealt a blow in 2007 after the death of one of its members, perhaps the most highly-respected musician in Dallas, Carter Albrecht.  They've recovered nicely, however, as this show proved.  They demonstrated both their enviable musical prowess and relaxed stage presence at the Kessler.

Indeed the crowd was involved with the show throughout.  At one point a girl near the front called out, when frontman Trey Johnson said something about what he was drinking, "Let's all get Sorta drunk!"  The crowd groaned at this, but we thought it was pretty clever.  The crowd was pretty forgiving of Trey's endless tuning, as well.

Trey and bassist Danny Balis have all learned a lot from expanding into solo work.  Chris Holt seems to have picked up on a few of Carter's keyboard tricks, showing passion at the keys but without making a big production out of it.

"Grown Man," "Make a Wish," "Demons," "Little Bay," "Telescope" and "85 Feet" were among the setlist picks, but "Fools Gold" was a crowd (and N) favorite.

In sum: Sorta rocks.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Metapost: The Project

The idea.  The challenge.  The project. 

The reason for the blog:

Two men, forty shows, eighty days.

Two men --- that's us, N and R.

Forty live music shows --- that's whatever comes around.  No schedule.

Eighty days --- that's May 27 to August 14, summer of 2011.

Stay tuned.