Theatre Fire, Calhoun, Chemistry Set

I'd been meaning to catch Theatre Fire's live show for months, but stuff kept coming up. You know, laundry, house renovations. That one night, I really did have to work early the next day. When I arrived at Club Dada on Saturday night, I chugged a beer and hoped that the first band's tired combo of Creedence and Jimmy Buffett would end so we could get to the band everyone had been telling me about, but two songs in, the band introduced itself as the Theatre Fire. Whoops.

Two members were absent, though, so I gave the remaining foursome a second shot, and their lulling, acoustic take on country music began to branch out with additions like xylophone and slide guitar. TF's songs were admittedly simple, but the set built a warm, pleasing mood that resembled a quieter Li'l Cap'n Travis.

Even so, the crowd was unimpressed until they got Fort Worth's Calhoun, whose midtempo make-out rock left all watchers starry-eyed. The band's Dallas debut benefited from restraint, as songs never got too poppy, and the vibraphone and organ parts were dynamic enough to offset the overused wah-wah pedal on lead guitar. Despite Calhoun's catchiness, I could barely remember the band's songs afterward, but considering how many people at Dada sang along, including Chemistry Set's Steve Duncan on guest vocals, I must have been the exception.

Chemistry Set had quite a task following Calhoun, but the band came out swinging, with all knobs turned to full. Some of the songs dragged with grungy guitar chords and excessive drums, but at their best, CS combined the whimsy of Starlight Mints with the bite of Dallas legends Funland, and they finished the night by matching Calhoun's talent.

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sam Machkovech