So Gray, the New Black advertised this show by tweeting to a few Dallas media outlets. Nothing wrong with that, but they included the hash tag #bestbandindallasipromise. If you're going to flaunt this kind of hubris, our advice is to actually be the best band in Dallas. Failing that, you ought at least to have your full band present. Their website lists three members, but the bassist was nowhere to be found.
They took the stage (as a two-piece) a bit after 11:00 p.m. The lead singer and guitar wizard, Mike Hamilton, sort of resembles Dallas music icon Don Cento, but in a western shirt with an ironic hole in the knee. Oh, all right, maybe the hole was just from normal wear and tear. The drummer appeared to be some species of "peep" or "bro." But appearances can be deceiving.
Hamilton used all sorts of effects on the guitar, with sometimes quite impressive results. Noodling away and making use of foot pedals, he made the guitar throb like a bass, chime like a keyboard, or growl like... uh... an electric guitar. In any case, he was doing his best to prove it's better to be the most interesting, rather than the best, guitar player in the room. Of course he's by no means unaccomplished, but his willingness to stretch the limits of the instrument to make new sounds was more enjoyable than a cold technical demonstration would have been.
Their songs aren't catchy per se, and I doubt that's what they were going for, but they are toe-tapping and engaging in a sort of pop-prog way.
N thought Gray's sound was somewhat emo, with Hamilton's David Lowry voice and earnest over-enunciated personal lyrics ("I practiced kissing in the bathroom," or "You don't know me any more, a slave to the wind that blows you away") a la Say Anything. Although it should be noted that Hamilton said from the stage, "We don't have any sad songs." R thought they were too '80s influenced and nuanced (both of which he meant as compliments) to be strictly emo. We both heard echoes of early Eels in there.
Song titles which we picked up included "First Train to Brooklyn," "8 mm" and "I Don't Suppose" (which can be heard on their website).
We were enjoying Gray more than we'd enjoyed their opener, Zach Potts, but at 11:23 the Lakewood was down to 40 people attendance. Apparently a lot more people had come to see Hamilton solo earlier in the evening.
We didn't have a lot to say about the poor drummer. He was simply overshadowed by Hamilton's adventurous pyrotechnics, and while he certainly wasn't bad, he was also not great. It sucks to be merely good when you're in a band with someone who can showcase.
Late in the show, the two switched instruments, and while it was kinda neat, not all that impressive in the execution. Bottom line, if your trick doesn't improve the show, don't do it, at least not while you're still building a reputation.
R often notes that you can judge a band by the number of musicians who come to see them. we saw just one --- but a good one, Chad Stockslager of King Bucks, a brilliant keyboardist and all-around damn friendly guy.
At a quarter to midnight, the band was still playing away, but we counted only 26 attendees. As 12:00 approached, less than twenty. The dwindling audience was sort of a shame, because Gray, the New Black does deserve at least a listen by more people.
In sum: we enjoyed them, especially Hamilton's talent, but we both thought that Gray would benefit from a stronger band sound. The drummer could stand to make his hands a bit heavier, and perhaps they suffered from the lack of the bass. Overall, lots of potential but by no means the best band in Dallas. Sorry, fellows.
LOCAL MUSICIAN NOTES:
We talked outside to Kyle Harris, of the Pull Tabs, who are still recording.
Later on at the Barley House, we ran into Danny Balis and Max Hartman. The latter said that he's working on a new band with engineer and producer Tom Bridwell. Exciting!