Lately, Dallas has been pretty dead when it comes to shows. The last great show that came to Dallas was when Fake Problems and Laura Stevenson played to a crowd of about 10 in an old cement factory. Not that that was a bad thing (actually the opposite), but I kind of figured that after that pathetic showing, bands would just start axing Dallas from their tour dates immediately in exchange for cities that can, I don't know, actually support them and give them enough money to eat for the night. Needless to say, I'd kind of written off the prospect of any bands coming to Dallas for the foreseeable future, except for screamo nonsense.
Therefore, waking up one morning and finding out that not only was Chuck Ragan in town, but that he was in town to actually play a show, was a pretty amazing surprise. I'd seen him play a few times before when The Revival Tour rolled through, but I'd pretty much written off any chance of seeing any bands until about June. I bought tickets and set out to drag my brother to see one of the best musicians and all around nicest dudes in punk.
The show was at The Loft, which is a pretty medium-sized venue in Dallas. The opening act was a band called the Drowning Men from Austin that had apparently ran into Chuck when he played in Austin and just tagged along to open for him in Dallas. I'd never heard of them before and had no exposure to their music prior. They played a pretty short set and I honestly didn't catch a lot of it, but what I did hear impressed me. They definitely fit with the overall style of the show and played great, catchy rock tunes with great vocals and some impressive keyboard play. Definitely recommended and a band that I'll be trying to catch the next time I'm in Austin or when they next through Dallas next.
After the Drowning Men came Sharks, a band that's been getting a lot of publicity in punk circles and that I was pretty eager to check out. I was a little curious how their music would fit opening for Chuck just because of how fast and loud their songs were compared to Chuck's newer, more folksy direction, and how the energy from their set would carry over. I didn't really know what to expect but I definitely didn't expect them to blow everyone away like they did. They played some of the best new punk that I've heard in a long time and they were all phenomenal musicians. In particular, their guitarist was amazing and had some of the greatest solos that I've ever seen live. You could tell just by watching that even though the band had come all the way from England and had nowhere to sleep for the night that they were having a great time and really giving it their all. Towards the end of their set, Chuck came out and sang a few lines from "Rooftops" while the band kept playing. It was definitely one of the best openers that I'd seen and the band did a great job getting everyone excited for Chuck to come out and play. I don't know many of their songs or what songs they played, but I definitely understand now why this band is getting so much press and think that they're a band to watch in the future.
After teasing everyone with the lines from "Rooftops", there was about a 45-minute wait in between Sharks' set and Chuck's. It was a pretty long wait, but once Chuck started setting up, the crowd started to move forward and the cheering started. Chuck greeted the crowd and opened by playing "Open Up and Wail", a pretty short song that got the crowd singing along and excited. Afterwards, he greeted the crowd and played about 15 more songs, with a good mix from all of his albums. The majority of his songs came from the excellent Feast or Famine, but there were quite a few new songs and tracks from Gold Country thrown in for good measure. The new songs were excellent, and he mentioned that the new album (the name escapes me) will be coming out in September, so mark your calendars. One of the best parts of the set was the dialog and stories that he told as he played. It was a very heartfelt experience and it was clear that he likely tells the stories behind the songs because they mean a great deal to him.
Some highlight songs of the show were "Congratulations, Joe" and a solo session where he caved to the crowd's request and played "God Deciding". Chuck closed with "The Boat", which is one of my favorites and the crowd sang along and rushed the stage to try and cherish the moment.
After the show he hung around by the stage and took the time to meet and answer the questions of any fans who were willing to wait in line and talk to him. It was a real treat to get to meet the man and I definitely took advantage of it by getting him to answer all of the questions that I had about his music and touring.
I've never seen Hot Water Music live (and probably won't in the near future), so getting to see Chuck play an actual Hot Water Music song was an awesome experience. But I think it says a lot about his quality as a musician that his solo stuff is just as phenomenal as anything that he ever produced when he was with HWM. Getting the chance to see such a phenomenal musician at a small, emotional show was a real treat.
Incomplete set list:
- Open Up and Wail
- Do You Pray
- For Broken Ears
- God Deciding
- Meet You in the Middle [new song]
- Let It Rain
- Cut 'Em Down
- The Boat
- California Burritos
- Turns out that "The Boat" is actually a tribute song that HWM originally wrote for the awesome British band Leatherface. I'd always wondered if that was the case and got my chance to get an answer straight from Chuck. Turns out that HWM was going to write it as a tribute to Leatherface, but it didn't really fit so Chuck took the idea and changed it to be one of his solo songs.
- I also took the opportunity to ask Chuck if The Revival Tour is going to be hitting America again at any point. Chuck said that he was trying to put it together and that another Revival tour is going to take place later this year.