Phosphorescent, Shiny Around the Edges and Dallas Family Band
The Kessler, Dallas
July 23, 2010
Better Than: Navigating the freak show that was the second night of Lady Gaga's stint in D-Town.
Friday night at The Kessler Theater in Oak Cliff might has well have been diversity night. With an assortment of styles featured on the bill, headlined by folk-country rockers Phosphorescent, one wasn't required to be much else than simply a fan of music to get a real kick out of the entire evening.
With a crowd of 100 or so watching in the main theater, the shiny happy people of the Dallas Family Band commandeered the main floor, in front of the stage, so that their rays of ramshackle harmony could hit as many as possible. While their enthusiasm was admirable, at times, their overall product meandered and lacked a bit of focus. Regardless, their multipart harmonies and inventive instrumentation was a jovial way to kick off the proceedings.
The group, which makes an understatement out of the term "power trio," came out and turned what was looking like a pretense-filled noise session at the beginning into a wall of groove constructed of amps of fury. Ending their sledgehammering set with the title track from their Holy Roller record, the hubby/wife combo of Jennifer and Michael Seman displayed a keen ability to absolutely bring the noise, and all kinds of funk with it. The stage presence of the couple was intense and their sound even more so.
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After the beautiful main theater space filled up to at least a couple of hundred people (which is probably a low estimate, I can only count so high), Matthew Houck and his five Phosphorescent bandmates took the stage at 11:20 p.m. and made a seriously direct point to make sure everyone knew what their latest (and kick-ass) record sounded like. Sporting a hairdo that can best be described as an indie-rock Krusty the Clown, Houck dispelled any notions that the band is a one-man show these days. The pedal steel, manned by Texan Ricky Ray Jackson, did every bit as much of the heavy lifting for much of the set as Houck's overall presence did, including the set-opening, jazzified country number "Los Angeles" and the following song, "It's Hard to Be Humble (When You're From Alabama)," which was even more blistering and rollicking live than the excellent studio version is.
With a delicately aching voice that fluttered from on-key to off, but never missed the mark, it took several songs before Houck decided it was time to give the new tunes a break and let some of the older numbers have some air. In the case of the two songs that followed, "older" is an appropriate term. "It's Not Supposed to Be That Way" and "Too Sick to Pray" are remade classics from the canon of Willie Nelson that included in the band's damn-near seminal 2009 disc, To Willie. In the live setting, the neon-tinted distinction and smoke-scented honesty that made both the originals and remakes great remained intact. Houck, however, didn't seem to be in much hurry to give this audience of Texans any more songs from one of the state's legends. That's fine, though; the audience near the stage was being quite clear as to what they wanted to hear.
Closing out the regular set with "Wolves", from Pride, Houck honored the requests of the people that were unrelenting in their scream-requesting of this specific favorite. When time came for the encore, it was Houck, solo, who busted out a couple of tunes, including "Full Grown Man" (which was also a favorite among the song-screamers), before his mates joined him for a bombastic and cathartic end to a thoroughly enjoyable night where it would've been hard for someone not to hear something that prompted them to smile, regardless of what corner of the musical world they typically inhabit.
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Personal Bias: I hate people that shout requests, nay demands, at the band during a show. Stop it! Get over yourself. Boss around your iPod at home. Let the band play what they want to play.
Random Note: It was really cool to see The Kessler as vibrant as it was Friday night. The crowd and the bands were a big part of that, sure. But, Dee Jay Cee Pee (aka Chris Penn) spun some really sweet tunes that helped me enjoy the evening a little more than even I would have normally.
By the Way: I really do dig the concept and spirit behind the Dallas Family Band. It's clear that these folks really love the concept as well. If my three-year-old son can go off to college and find a bunch of friends to make music with, like this group has, I'll be a happy daddy.