Between songs, Robert Gomez is all smiles, offering an abandoned warm beer to anyone who wants it, estimating the number of chickens that have died to feed him while on tour and joking about the $12 a guitarist owes him for his favorite guitar strap. But the easy stage presence belies his melancholy lyrics and hypnotic guitar work. Gomez's quote on his MySpace profile says it all: "Sorry if I'm dark." From the sound of his amazing Friday-night solo set, he doesn't need to apologize.
Gomez is taking a break from Latin Pimps (2005 Dallas Observer Music Awards winner for Best Latin/Tejano) to tour the United States in support of his July 12 solo release, Etherville. Forgoing a bassist and keyboards, Gomez's road band includes world music composer Olivier Glissant on accordion and jazz drummer Max Oepen. The smaller touring lineup means a simpler guitar-based sound, and the scaled-down band gives his songs more room to breathe. Glissant squeezed mournful melodies and chugging chords out of his squeezebox, and his playing was a fitting complement to Gomez's chiming Telecaster and acoustic guitar work. Sparse arrangements suited lyrics like "If I could have you back, I'd only break you" and his telling a lover she is "so perfect, perfect without me." The dark, jazz-influenced sound was a welcome break from typical one-man, one-guitar singer-songwriter performances.
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Joining Gomez on the cross-country tour are two of those typical singer-songwriters--McGowan (just McGowan; who needs first names?) and Zack Hexum (brother of 311 lead singer Nick). Dallas' Kristy Kruger opened with acoustic tunes that sounded fresh from a songwriting workshop, and McGowan's clever chord changes and pleasant melodies almost made up for his songs' lack of lyrical substance. Worst of all was Hexum, who lamented a long-distance romance between cheesy John Mayer-esque come-ons and an unnecessary cover of Radiohead's "Karma Police. "