When Fort Worth's Burning Hotels make their way across I-30 for a visit, Dallas shows up.
More than 200 people filled up Dada at its peak, but it felt more like 500. Celebrating the release of one of the most anticipated records by a DFW act, Burning Hotels (bye bye, "The") unleashed many new tunes from their self-titled second album.
And, judging by the crowd's response, there was an instant connection.
Taking the stage 20 minutes after their original set time start (more on that later), principal songwriters/vocalists/guitarists Matt Mooty and Chance Morgan led the charge. And while the band positions itself as a duo, don't think the rhythm section of bassist Marley Whistler and drummer Mike Ratliff are aloof hired guns. Ratliff was exceptional on the band's older material as well as the newer material. The guy has arms that seemingly never tense up.
You might have heard about how there is a notable difference in the material on Burning Hotels and the band's debut LP, Novels. Well, the songs performed felt like they were more influenced by '80s dance pop records rather than post-punk records. Hell, a number of the songs were accompanied by a backing track with beats that would not be out of place on records by ABC or Dead or Alive.
Sure, the idea of such a transition sounds misguided, but Morgan and Mooty didn't jettison what makes their material sparkle: their arresting melodies.
The band's earlier material, which did get some attention in the set, balanced the pace. Did you really want the band to always play songs with hi-hat hits that ran 90-miles-a-minute? No, but songs like "Lovely Lovely Lady" and "Austin's Birthday" were still wonderful reminders of what brought people to the band in the first place. And with how the 12-song set went, those faithful will probably remain faithful.
One other thing to point out: Though the band comes across as nicely-groomed and well-rehearsed, they knew how to wing it when things teetered on falling apart. Whether it was Morgan having guitar issues, their tuners dying, or monitor issues, the band kept a positive cheer and moved forward.
Before Burning Hotels' set, Air Review ran late with setting up all of their equipment, filling up Dada's relatively large stage with gear. By the time they were done with their 45-minute offering, there was a concern that Burning Hotels would go on too late. Alas, all was well, especially since Air Review received a pretty fanatical crowd reaction.
The five-piece rushed through their set, very aware of trying to not to run late. There was plenty of nervous between-song banter, thus making the set even longer, but the crowd didn't seem to mind. With tunes that either sounded like a Seryn peer or Old 97s-by-way-of-Radiohead inspiration, the band left an impression.
Hoyotoho opened the evening and played 40 minutes of building-block rock with plenty of atmospheric polish. With lots of tom-tom fills and keyboard trickery, the band didn't feel plodding or monotonous. And as an added bonus, the material got better and better before the set reached its conclusion.
Personal bias: I saw Burning Hotels a couple of years ago at the Double Wide. Why it's taken me so long to see the band again beats the hell out of me.
Random note: In the middle of Burning Hotels' set, they sang "Happy Birthday" to Will Hunt, a guy who has filled in as their drummer in the past and recorded the band's music.