Over The Weekend: Pleasant Grove at the Kessler Theatre

Pleasant Grove
Kessler Theatre
August 7, 2010

Better than: Ignoring the past.

The trend of bands booking a show for the purpose of playing a seminal album in entirety hit home this past weekend, as the revered, but, for the most part, dormant, local heroes in Pleasant Grove took to the Kessler Theatre on Saturday night to perform their 2002 release, Auscultation of the Heart, in its entirety for a packed house of its most loyal fans.

Indeed, quite the crowd showed at the Kessler on Saturday night--seemingly as many as the newly renovated Oak Cliff performance space has yet seen--for this show. And the crowd, quite predictably was one filled with familiar faces to the band, consisting predominantly of longtime fans eager to hold on to the memory of their favorite local act's finest release.

It was tough not to dwell on the level of adoration and appreciation evident in the room. Eventually, co-frontman Brett Egner could no longer ignore the dumb, reverent looks on his crowd's faces--or their extended moments of loving cheers and applause.

"It's a lovefest out here," Egner remarked about halfway through the band's scheduled ten-song performance. "Did everyone take ecstasy?"

The crowd laughed.

"I did," Egner continued, presumably kidding.

More laughter.

"We did!" exclaimed Egner's partner in lead vocals, Marcus Striplin, in rare high-energy form, his hair grown out with an epic mustache grown in to match.

Again, one assumes, these were nothing but jokes. but they hit home: This crowd was an especially reverent one.

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But their appreciation of the moment was merited: At this performance, the band, with its original five-piece of Egner, Striplin, drummer Jeff Ryan, bassist Tony Hormillosa and keys/slide guitar player Joe Butcher, was in fine, top form--a vast improvement over the band's two-hour, somewhat sloppy offering some six months back at Bryan Street Tavern. It was a performance that harkened back to the band's celebratory "last" performance, a couple years back, at Sons of Hermann Hall. They were crisp, clean, and, most important for a band with such a delicate sound, singular.

Which makes this all the more exciting: After the performance, as the band mingled among its fans in the theater's bar room and smoking patio, Hormillosa hinted that, despite rumors to the contrary, he expects his band to perform again in the not-too-distant future.

Big surprise.

Critic's Notebook
Personal Bias:
Almost none. Like the Theater Fire and Black Tie Dynasty, Pleasant Grove's impressive run as the critical indie darling of Dallas was winding down just as I arrived in town almost three years ago now. I own Auscultation, and enjoy it just fine. But aside from the small pockets of folk dragged to this show by their eager friends, I had about as little invested in this show as anyone.

Random Note: This show proved again just how great a room the Kessler can be when all things come together. The room, as always, sounded great and looked just as good. But the other pieces were in place on this night, too: great performers and a respectful, appreciative audience.

By The Way: If you get the chance, check out the upstairs black light art exhibit at the Kessler. It's a trip.

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