Dallas Observer Music Awards

What it Was Like: Tweed EQ, Foe Destroyer and Nervous Curtains at the DOMAXXII Showcase

Tweed EQ
The Door
7 p.m.

The '70s-inspired blues-heavy arena rock that Tweed EQ throws down isn't all that much unlike anything one might find in a random smoked-filled blues bar on any given weekend.

Perhaps the one aspect that makes them unique is watching somebody as fresh-faced as 23-year-old frontman Robbie Saunders, wondering how someone so young is able to emulate 30-plus-year-old blues jams, appearing like seasoned vets in the process. I think it's safe to assume somebody's dad had a big collection of AOR records.

To be fair, the prowess of the relative newcomers shouldn't come as too much of a surprise to those familiar with the scene: At least three of the band's members have played together previously, building chemistry as Austin Brown's backing band. But while Saunders' guitar playing far exceeds that of Brown's, he is nowhere near as dynamic a frontman--which is not to say their performance was lackluster, per se, but that there was definitely something lacking.

One audience member tweeted during the performance, "I thought they had more funk to their sound."

Understandably it's not the easiest thing in the world to go balls out when performing to a mostly empty room, but in their defense I think their crowd size suffered by the fact that the outdoor stage was still going strong throughout the duration of their set. Still, not a bad way to start off this year's showcase.

Foe Destroyer
The Door
8 p.m.

Those that stuck out all the technical problems that delayed Foe Destroyers set were in for a real treat, as the four remaining members of Oso Closo (sans frontman Adrian Hulet) put on quite the show. Funny enough, I'm pretty sure I overheard the sound guy saying they should start the set without the keyboards and that he'd try to figure out the problem during the set.

"We kinda need the keyboards for the first song," I overheard guitarist Danny Garcia chide him.

Technical kinks aside, Foe Destroyer really are great showmen. Their jazz-influenced sound is as difficult to pinpoint as it entertaining to watch. Influences of prog, jangly rock and even elements of pop find their way into the band's polished sound, with the writing coming off so epic, powerful, and harmony-rich that all I could think of was that it reminded me of some kind of showy Ozma-meets-Queen affair.

Lead guitarist Chris McQueen frequently showed how he earned his DOMAXXII nomination for Best Instrumentalist. Aside from his much-heralded guitar skills, it actually turns out he's likely one of the best keyboardists in the Metroplex as well, and his vocals were not too shabby either. Contrary to the way things used to go down when Oso Closo was together, the Foe Destroyer boys divide up songwriting and lead vocal duties.

Typically, I am not big on guitar solos, or frivolous guitar wankery in general, but in the case of Foe Destroyer and Chris McQueen, I found myself eagerly awaiting each upcoming solo, finding each display of fret board wizardry more impressive than the last. The set culminated in a Garcia/McQueen double solo that was without a doubt the aural equivalent of stumbling across a complete double rainbow in one's own backyard. Still though, not a drop of wankery in sight.

Nervous Curtains
The Bone
9 p.m.
Last night was my first time catching a Nervous Curtains live set, as well as my first time taking in a show on The Bone's lovely rooftop patio. Needless to say, both exceeded my expectations. By the time the  band's 9 p.m. start-time rolled around, the patio was filling out quite nicely, and the streets below were as bustling with energy as I've seen in a good eight years. In short, it was quite marvelous.

Melancholic-yet-theatric piano lines seemed to effortlessly materialize beneath Sean Kirkpatrick's nimble fingers while the sun began to set over the Dallas skyline, creating the perfect backdrop to the band's eerie/upbeat tones. I'd like to think that if The Bone booked bands of this caliber more regularly, people would find themselves chilling on their roof on a pretty regular basis.

Due to its close proximity to the outdoor stage, it was possible to occasionally hear bass rumbles of The Cool Kids' beats faintly drifting their way underneath the Nervous Curtains' set at times. While it wasn't enough to be a distraction, it was just enough to make me wonder if this is what was meant by this year's awards theme of "plug-in, mash-up".

But seriously, Nervous Curtains' set was the most hypnotizing, engaging, and technically awe-inspiring one I caught at this year's showcase. All the while Kirkpatrick's influence on his other act, The Paper Chase, became more and more apparent.  

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Cory Graves

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