The sun had long since baked Deep Ellum's concrete into a considerable second source of heat by the time the Secret Machines graced the outdoor stage at the DOMAXXII Showcase on Saturday. Knowing this and, like their counterparts on this stage, quick to point it out, the Secret Machines made sure to also make fast work of earning the crowd's attention.
Maybe it was a ballsy move for the Dallas ex-pats to perform two of their biggest hits, "Now Here is Nowhere" and "Atomic Heels," in the second and third slots of their set, but as the sun finally started showing signs of setting behind the Dallas skyline they faced, the band's play proved a masterful one. Just ten minutes in, and the crowd was completely entranced by the intoxicating blend of oppressive heat, impossible noise and unrelenting groove.
Defiantly, but also per standard practice, dressed in all black, the linearly positioned Machines were the first of the Outdoor Stage performers to face the competition of the indoor stages' attractions--something that, in this event planner's eyes, proved a more considerable draw than expected. Just a few yards over, albeit enclosed in concrete enclosure, The Secret Machines were playing right up against an impressive draw inside Trees for The Hope Trust's DOMA Showcase debut.
Still, the Machines pressed on, droning away and slowly, but surely, earning an appreciative, and hardly modest, audience. And rightfully so: Even without the aid of their standard, and impressive, touring light set up, this outfit capably captivated its crowd--which, right out front, included a former collaborator for each of the Machines' three players, The Polyphonic Spree's Tim DeLaughter, whose cheers, even when primed to drone out amongst all those surrounding his, managed to stand out.
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Whereas The Secret Machines' set faced competition from the indoor stage performances that began at seven o'clock, the other Dallas-connected outdoor stage performers in Jonathan Tyler & The Northern Lights faced no such hurdle. And, while performing to the biggest crowd the outdoor stage drew in its five-hour span, the hometown products took opportunity by the horns.
Performing as a ten-piece (with added organ, guitar, back-up vocals and percussion) the blues-indebted southern rockers proved in this performance exactly what it had proved at Austin City Limits last summer: Rock 'n' roll can fight back even the most distracting of Mother Nature's offerings.
Indeed, Jonathan Tyler and his Northern Lights diverted the crowd's thoughts from the heat and turned them toward, well, dance-related ones. Forgetting the sun's beating for a moment, the audience shimmied and jived about to the band's jammy live display. Credit the band's energy, which overcame the environment, for that much. Do the same for its live show pedigree: In the past year, this band's already impressive live show has only improved. The added band members helped, sure. But this performance, from a set of just-happy-to-be-there performers, would likely have pleased regardless.