For Your Disapproval ’18 Style

•January 9, 2019 • Leave a Comment

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Another year has come to pass. Another year crammed full of great new music, and I continue to hear about how all music sucks. 2019 was a very fruitful year for new music, established artists and new acts alike making interesting, intriguing and exciting records across all genres. Why did I stop at 24 you ask? Well, it just seemed like the right number. Good records that didn’t make the list included upcoming tourmates Yob and Voivod, I enjoyed both records but didn’t spend enough time with them. Also not making the cut were the new PrincePiano And A Microphone 1983 and St VincentMasseducation. Both are stellar works, fantastic, but to me both seemed to represent an artifact, a document rather than an album, Prince moreso than St Vincent’s sparsely reworked version of Masseduction (which was near the top of last year’s list, btw). Making the list were Synaptic Empire stalwarts Okkervil River, Kacey Musgraves, and Will Johnson in the form of one half of Marie/Lepanto, Fave Raves Esben and the Witch, Windhand, High On Fire and The Soft Moon, metal titans Sleep quietly released The Sciences on 4/20 unknown to most of even their own fans,  Behemoth released a monster of an album and Atlanta’s Dead Register returned with a set of doomwave tracks that should take them to another level. Legacy act Judas Priest shocked fans with a surprisingly strong, solid outing this year with Firepower, while members of The Big 15 Guided By Voices, The Damned and Elvis Costello continued their winning ways, and another Big 15 act, the Melvins released the biggest dud of their career for me, then followed it up with an outstanding collaboration with Sleep’s Al Cisneros for the Sabbath single. But honestly the year wouldn’t have been anything without our local D/FW talent. Leon BridgesGood Thing expanded his sound from his charming debut, The Cush received recognition for their wonderful Isle of Man EP, and I played Motorcade on the podcast more than any other band this year from their incredible self titled release.

But for me the year was owned by a very young Goth quartet from Dallas, Rosegarden Funeral Party. I am simply stunned by this barely 2 year old band, The Chopping Block EP was a staple in my ears from the first moment I heard it. The lead track, the blistering “Blitzkrieg In Holland” was my favorite song of the year without hesitation. The closer, “Eden” a close second. Both songs haunted my headspace for most of 2018, and I never once minded. Their new record coming out in 2019, The Martyr, is going to be a monster. Mark my words and get in on them now DFW music fans before they leave us behind for bigger and greater things. It’s absolutely inevitable.

  1. Rosegarden Funeral Party – The Chopping Block EP
  2. Sleep – The Sciences
  3. The Damned – Evil Spirits
  4. Kacey Musgraves – Golden Hour
  5. Motorcade – Motorcade
  6. Esben and the Witch – Nowhere
  7. The Cush – Isle of Man EP
  8. Behemoth – I Loved You At Your Darkest
  9. Dead Register – Captive
  10. Leon Bridges – Good Thing
  11. Elvis Costello – Look Now
  12. Shannon Shaw – Shannon In Nashville
  13. Wooden Shjips – V.
  14. Kamasi Washington – Heaven And Earth
  15. The Soft Moon – Criminal
  16. Judas Priest – Firepower
  17. Guided By Voices – Spacegun
  18. High On Fire – Electric Messiah
  19. Marie/Lepanto – Tenkiller
  20. Okkervil River – In The Rainbow Rain
  21. Windhand – Eternal Return
  22. Melvins – Sabbath (With Al Cisneros)
  23. . Hop Along – Bark Your Head Off, Dog
  24. . The Beths – Future Me Hates Me

Live the year belonged to U2. I went up to Tulsa for the kickoff date of the tour and not only was it the best U2 show I’ve seen, not only was it the best show of the year, it was the best show of my life. Caught Big 15 members Slayer and Guided By Voices IN THE SAME NIGHT and walked out of the Melvins show at Trees 20 minutes early. I loathe the 2 bassist thing. It’s horrible to me. Got to see Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds again, and if you’re not a fan or are unfamiliar, this is a show you need to see. His charisma oozes all the way out through the front door, it’s astounding. Neurosis came back to Dallas for the first time since 2000 and leveled Canton Hall, while Sleep took out the Bomb Factory next door just a few months later. Club shows included incredible sets from Pleasure Club, playing a second show after opening for the Toadies and Helmet at Bomb Factory, and speaking of Slayer before, Testament and Behemoth had fantastic sets on the front end of that night. Lord Buffalo surprised me a bit at Ridglea Room, and I finally took the lovely Ms. Leah Vahrenkamp to see one of the all time favorites, The Moody Blues back in January. We also crossed a bucket list act off for her with Simple Minds in November, who were just as vibrant as the last time they played Dallas in 1994. Again, we had locals, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention a couple of shows we put on this past year, Quiet Company/Rocketboys at The Tin Panther with Picnic Lightning and Ansley was quite a rock show, and we celebrated The Synaptic Empire’s 8th Birthday Party at MASS with The Cush, Rosegarden Funeral Party, Dagger Club, The Speedlights and Rei Clone. Look for all five of those bands to have incredible success in 2019, they all deserve it for sure.

Shows

  1. U2 – 05/02/2018 Bok Center, Tulsa Ok
  2. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – 10/23/2018 Bomb Factory, Dallas, TX
  3. Neurosis – 07/20/2018 Canton Hall, Dallas, TX
  4. Simple Minds – 11/03/2018 Toyota Music Pavilion, Irving, TX
  5. Sleep/Pinkish Black – 12/16/2018 Bomb Factory, Dallas, TX
  6. Slayer/Behemoth/Testament – 06/19/2018 Bomb Factory, Dallas TX
  7. Guided By Voices – 06/19/2018 Trees, Dallas, TX
  8. The Cush/Rosegarden Funeral Party/Dagger Club/The Speedlights/Rei Clone – 11/10/2018 MASS FW, TX
  9. Quiet Company/Rocketboys/Ansley/Picnic Lightning – 06/16/2018 The Tin Panther, Fort Worth, TX
  10. Pleasure Club – 03/02/2018 Three Links, Dallas, TX
  11. The Moody Blues – 01/22/2018 Toyota Music Pavillion, Irving, TX
  12. Lord Buffalo – 09/08/2018 Ridglea Lounge, Fort Worth, TX

For Your Disapproval ’17 Style

•January 21, 2018 • Leave a Comment

I cannot believe this is my first post in 3 years. Hope to do this a little more often. Alright, let’s get down to it! The Synaptic Empire’s favorite 20 records on 2017!

  1. U2 – Songs of Experience
  2. St Vincent – Masseduction
  3. Moon Duo – Occult Architecture Vols 1 & 2
  4. Pallbearer – Heartless
  5. Melvins – A Walk With Love and Death
  6. The Angelus – There Will Be No Peace
  7. The New Year – Snow
  8. Power Trip – Nightmare Logic
  9. The Mavericks – Brand New Day
  10. Kreator – Gods of Violence
  11. The National – Sleep Well Beast
  12. Dead Cross – Dead Cross
  13. Crystal Fairly – Crystal Fairy
  14. Electric Wizard – Wizard Bloody Wizard
  15. Blondie – Pollinator
  16. Mastodon – Emperor of Sand
  17. Dead Register – Fiber
  18. Temples – Volcano
  19. Queens of the Stone Age – Villains
  20. Bell Witch – Mirror Reaper

Well 2017, not terribly heartbroken to see you ushered out, but we got a decent amount of solid records and great shows out of you, so I guess you weren’t ALL bad. Above is a rough list of my favorite 20 records of the year. No real surprises, I honestly didn’t get to listen to as many newer bands as I should’ve this past year. That doesn’t mean they aren’t out there, I was busier with work and booking shows etc than I was in getting to explore as much as usual. Also, I’m not a huge streamer, I’ll use Spotify for a release until I can get a real copy in my hands but try as I do, I really don’t seem to connect with music in that fashion. It feels too disposable to me, just my opinion. There were some things I didn’t get around to this year like 2 new Guided By Voices records, Robert Pollard released the 101st full length of his career. Insane. The new Depeche Mode was surprisingly good, just sequenced oddly in my opinion. Not sure how I’d redo it, so don’t ask. Arcade Fire released a dreck of a record, I mean awful. In this day, there’s no excuse for that in my opinion, too many artists are firing on all cylinders to just shove something out there. Enjoyed the new Mogwai a bit as well, as I did the first Chris Stapleton release of the year, and the new Bjork continues in her fine tradition as well. The new Toadies record Lower Side of Uptown had some good moments on it, and I liked the new Foo Fighters well more than Sonic Highways or St Cecilia EP. Other notable releases included Flaming Lips Oczy Mllody and Black Joe Lewis’ Backlash records.

From the official list, St Vincent had another fantastic record with Masseduction, even if not as adventurous as her past output. Which isn’t really saying much, as she’s made incredibly interesting records her whole career. Mastodon’s Emperor of Sand was another fine outing from them, no new ground really from Once More Around The Sun, while both Moon Duo records complemented one another perfectly. Kreator, Pallbearer, Power Trip, Dead Cross and Bell Witch kept the metal torches alive (whatever Dead Cross actually is, not truly sure, ha) and Queens of the Stone Age put out Villains, their first since 2005’s Lullabies To Paralyze I truly enjoyed. Temples and The National kept the indie fires burning along with The New Year and an incredibly difficult to categorize record by The Angelus, who I saw this year for only the second time. Truly a standout effort from them, There Will Be No Peace. The Melvins were busy this year, touring and releasing the sprawling double offering A Walk With Love And Death and a side project Crystal Fairy with Omar Rodriguez Lopez from At The Drive-In and Terry Genderbender of Les Butcherettes fleshing out the band. The Mavericks continued their path to their own unique sound, and we got a surprisingly strong Blondie album, Pollinator. Also made some new friends in Atlanta’s Dead Register, whose Fiber EP is terribly good.

 

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But at the end of the day the new U2 record, even with a production misstep or two, wound up at the top. Polarizing as they are for the digital torch and pitchfork crowd, they released their finest recording since 2004’s How To Dismantle AN Atomic Bomb. Songs of Experience, for me, helped wash away what I didn’t care for in Songs of Innocence and get them back on track. At this juncture, mid 50’s looking at their 60’s, they’re making exactly the music they should be making. Pleasant Adult Alternative songs that aren’t probably going to win over any new fans at this point, but they have their stripes already. Bono had his best vocal performance in years, lyrically and phrasing wise too. If you’re interested in more, there is a two part podcast where fellow U2 aficionado Chris Logan joins me to discuss track by track, The Synaptic Empire podcast episodes 104/105.

 

Show-wise this year, I had the Eagle Claw boys up a couple of times from shredmelting good times, and launched the Wayhomer Wednesday series at Main at South Side. I also saw a few good shows as well…

  1. Iron Maiden 6/23/17 American Airlines Center
  2. The Damned 5/18/17 House of Blues
  3. U2 5/26/17 AT&T Stadium
  4. Rod Stewart 8/11/17 Verizon Theater
  5. Wilco 10/3/17 Toyota Pavillion
  6. Melvins 9/9/17 Trees
  7. PJ Harvey 4/28/17 Bomb Factory
  8. Sleep/Pinkish Black 1/30/2017 Granada
  9. Bryan Ferry 3/19/17 Verizon Theater
  10. Pallbearer 5/12/17 Curtain Club

Also caught stellar sets from The Angelus, MC 900 Ft Jesus, True Widow, The Cush (JUST GET BETTER!!), Tripping Daisy, Sub Oslo, Fogg, Rei Clone, Huffer and Sam Lao.

Big disappointment this year from the Tears For Fears/Hall & Oates show, as the “opener” only play about 15 minutes, grabbed his stuff and walked off, setting Tears For Fears onstage about 15 minutes before we got there, work makes us hoof it to shows sometimes, and kinda thought the special guest denotation was misleading. Missed their first 3 songs, including Sowing The Seeds of Love and Leah’s favorite, the OPENING SONG Everybody Wants To Rule The World. She was crushed and I was crushed for her. Otherwise they put on an incredible show, even if Head Over Heels sent me reeling into a deep nostalgia trip that was difficult to shake for the rest of the night. Was a good show overall, but a damper was put on the night from the onset.

Speaking of the podcast, went out to Nashville in August for the first Nashville Rock N Podcast Expo with my producer and Rock Strikes Ten host Joey Haynie. Was a really great event and met all sorts of likeminded podcasters and LOTS of KISS podcasters, lol and realized some podcasters have incredible egos! (Riiiiight, should’ve known that already). It was a great time mostly put together by Decibel Geek’s Chris Czynszak and Rock and or Roll’s Brian Kramp. Got to catch Nashville’s The Tip at the pre party, nice sorta sleazy rock n roll that’s either missing or overlooked today. I got a few cool interviews and did what I could to press the flesh and further The Synaptic Empire, maybe I got three more listeners out of it, ha! Good stuff, looking forward to Rock N Pod 2 for sure!

All in all, 2017 was a fun year musically for me, and I hope our year starts off great with the Moody Blues on 1/22, one of Leah’s absolute favorites and I’m finally taking her to see them after kidnapping her for so many shows over the years! That’s just a couple of days after the release of the Motorcade record, the early front runner to top next year’s list, January is already hot!

 

 

Feature: The Synaptic Empire Unleashed

•January 7, 2015 • Leave a Comment
Click To Order!

Click To Order!

‘Twas the summer of 1991. I was almost 21 and for some reason that year was the year of elusive employment. I couldn’t buy a job to save my life. I was hanging out in Denton with a couple of friends when their neighbor came downstairs and asked if we would like to hear about a great business opportunity. Being chronically unemployed, I said sure. So while my friend’s wife was making dinner, the husband and I went, optimistically, upstairs to hear about this opportunity.

None of it made sense at all. These people were getting rich selling products to themselves? Gotta rope your friends and family into it as well? It was my introduction to Amway. Pyramid scams. A bunch of bullroar. But, during the seemingly 9 hour sales pitch, a question was asked of me. What would you like to have more than anything? A bit stumped, my buddy piped up “A record label.” Hmmmm, a record label. That hadn’t ever crossed my mind – I was going to be the next Louis Messina, concert promoter extraordinaire – but sounded pretty cool.

So I jumped on it and just a scant 24 years later, I’ve started The Synaptic Empire, the record label for The Synaptic. It was evolutionarily the most logical step forward for The Synaptic. There are many big plans for 2015, but this is by far the biggest. And is already a reality.

We have released the 4th record from Fort Worth’s psychedelic shoegazers The Cush, Transcendental Heatwave, due 1/27/2015 with the first CD release party at The Grotto on 1/30/2015! It’s quite a leap, but I believe in this band and record so much I decided to put my money where my mouth is, got behind the record and made it my first release.

Transcendental Heatwave is available for preorder right now, and will ship 1/23/2015. Do yourself a favor and pick one up!

Preview: Panther Robe/Wire Nest – The Grotto, Fort Worth, TX – 09/06/2014

•September 5, 2014 • Leave a Comment

PRWN posterWhen Panther Robe kicked off The Synaptic 4th Birthday Party back in June, the 30 minute slot they were given just didn’t give them justice. “30 minutes gets us warmed up!” remarked bassist Chad DeAtley. DeAtley, along with fellow members Quincy Holloway, Clay Stinnett, Chris Plavidal, Sean French, Colin Arnold, and Chad Walls used those 30 minutes certainly turned some heads with their dual drumming, hypnotic grooves and left field take on instrumental dub and experimental music. So, we at The Synaptic wondered, what would happen if we just let them loose to do whatever they liked and meander a bit? And that’s what they’re going to do! Along with like-minded duo Wire Nest – comprised of Sub Oslo members John Nuckels and Frank Cervantez, The Grotto will be transformed into an experimental wonderland, providing the perfect backdrop to polish off Fort Worth’s Gallery Night. Although both acts have only played handfuls of shows each, these veterans of the D/d/FW scene know how to bring it. Do not make the mistake of missing this first ever pairing of 2 of the area’s more thoughtful instrumental artists. You will kick yourself if you do!

 Panther Robe and Wire Nest co-headline Sat, 9/6/2014 at The Grotto in Fort Worth. 10:00 PM, Tickets $7.00 at the door.

Feature: Five Questions With Baboon

•June 20, 2014 • Leave a Comment
Baboon at Three Links 2/1/14. See them Saturday at The Grotto in Fort Worth,

Baboon at Three Links 2/1/14. See them Saturday at The Grotto in Fort Worth.

Baboon is one of the most endearing acts of the D/d/FW scene. Born in Denton and moved to Dallas, they were adopted early on in their career by Fort Worth. Arguably the most Fort Worth band to never call Panther City home, the adoration Fort Worth showers this band is akin with the fervor reserved for their brethren band the Toadies. Baboon is the sort of band that can lay off the stage for 3 years and return with a passion and hunger unparalleled by most current acts. I’ve known and watched this band for over 20 years, I’m proud to call them friends, and even prouder they agreed to return to Fort Worth for their first proper show to headline and celebrate the 4th Birthday of The Synaptic blog/podcast, etc. I sent drummer Steve Barnett a few questions to answer, let’s see what he had to say.

The Synaptic: For those who don’t know, could you attempt to describe Baboon and your music?

Steven Barnett: Baboon is mostly very, very loud. Beyond that, we’ve made an effort over the years not to paint ourselves into a corner stylistically. We’ve given ourselves the freedom to be very accessible/poppy or completely irritating and inaccessible. That’s one of the things I’m most proud of about Baboon. I think each of our CDs has been pretty distinct from the others, and the same can probably be said for most of our songs.

TS: Baboon has been more active in the past year than in the preceding 5. Why the sudden spike in activity?

SB: A lot of people wondered about what happened to us there for a while, because we never made any formal announcements that we were splitting. I knew that I personally needed/wanted a break from the band, but I also knew it was inevitable that we’d wind up together again, so announcing a “break up” seemed like a melodramatic thing to do. So we all just did our own things for a while. Any spike in activity lately is purely a result of renewed enthusiasm for the group. As soon as we get bored/boring again, we’ll probably take another break.

TS: There were rumors following your incredible Three Links show back in February, are there any definite plans for recording new material?

SB: There are no definite plans for anything, but there are various ideas swirling around. We’ve talked about writing new material. I’ve got tons of old unreleased Boon stuff (studio recordings, live recordings, live videos) that I’ve toyed with the idea of doing something with. James (Henderson)and I talked about the idea of writing new songs, but rather than slaving away for months in the studio, just recording them live. We’re really just making it up as we go at this point.

TS: You’re a pretty avid film buff. In the Criterion (would there be any other edition?) film “Baboon”, who would play the members of the band?

SB: Well obviously Zach Galifianakis would make an excellent Mike (Rudnicki)…or maybe Nick Offerman. Dennis Quaid as Andrew (Huffstetler) . James would have to be played by someone British, period. Bart (Rogers) is a tough one…maybe Mark Harmon? For me, Christopher Walken or maybe David Byrne (he counts as an actor, right?).

TS: Horseheads, moustaches, ascots, matching outfits, whistles aside, without giving anything away, can the good people of 817 expect any surprises this Saturday?

SB: Yes. See you Saturday!

Baboon plays with The Cush, The Skeeves, Huffer and Panther Robe for The Synaptic’s 4th Birthday Party, Sat 6/21/2014 at The Grotto in Fort Worth. Be sure to get your tickets here and don’t miss out on any of the fun!

 

Feature: Meet The Cush

•June 18, 2014 • Leave a Comment
The Cush at Lola's

The Cush at Lola’s

The collective amount of time I’ve known the members of The Cush could make up a lifetime. Weddings, shows, various bands, various sounds, hell, Burette Douglas was even in the first band I ever put on stage at the Weatherford National Guard Armory in ’92 (there’s footage somewhere…) and I couldn’t be prouder of where these four have wound up musically, on the verge of releasing their incredible 4th album, Transcendental Heatwave, I knew this show was a no-go without them on the bill. Burette and his wife, bassist/vocalist Gabrielle Douglas  answered a few questions for us leading up to Saturday night’s, pardon the term, face melter of a show.

The Synaptic: Describe The Cush for the uninitiated?

The Cush: Texas psychedelic, space rock and all that it entails with male/female harmonies. We can get loud and rocking, then turn it around to space cadet country, and then throw in some kraut rock.

TS: Who makes up the current lineup of the band?

TC: Burette Douglas- Guitar/vocals Gabrielle Douglas– Bass/vocals Josh Daugherty-Guitar/Steel guitar Todd Harwell– Drums

TS: The band’s 4th record is upcoming, what can you tell us about Transcendental Heatwave?

TC: It rocks man. This album was mixed by David Castell, whom we worked with on Buck Jones‘ album, Shimmer. We always wanted to work with him again, and really psyched that here we are, almost 17 years later, making a record together again!

TS: Panther Robe’s Chad DeAtley tried to skirt the question, but maybe you can answer honestly. In a street fight between The Cush and the members of Panther Robe, who would win?

TC: Panther Robe, they out number us 3 to1, and he who wears the panther robe is invincible.

TS: Aside from the new record, what’s on the horizon for The Cush, and what can the audience expect this Saturday night?

TC: You never really know what is over the horizon, hopefully good things! But, we are planning a European tour, more new music, and videos! Saturday night the audience can expect the unexpected!

The Cush plays with Baboon, The Skeeves, Huffer and Panther Robe for The Synaptic’s 4th Birthday Party, Sat 6/21/2014 at The Grotto in Fort Worth. Be sure to get your tickets here and don’t miss out on any of the fun!

Feature: Meet The Skeeves

•June 16, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Skeeves walkinI came across The Skeeves a few years back while working on the FW Music Co-Op Compilation CD. They were nowhere near my radar until I heard their track and was instantly intrigued. The Fort Worth based quartet wound up being a favorite not only on the comp, but live as well. Interchanging instruments, sharply dressed, The Skeeves made an impact and are about to release their second cd in the coming months. This is definitely a band to watch for, and one not to miss on 6/21. I sent The Skeeves multi-instrumentalist Victor Salinas a few questions so you all can get to know The Skeeves.

The Synaptic: How would you describe The Skeeves?

Victor Salinas: Texas post punk soul

TS: Who are The Skeeves?

VS: We are four guys trying to make some good tunes. Sr on vox/lead guitar/keys, Lyle on everything, Jr on drums/keys and Victor on bass/keys/vox.

TS: What can listeners expect from the new record? How was working with Matt Barnhart?

VS: A fuller better album and hopefully listeners will agree. Working with Matt was great and easy. We still need some more studio time before this album is complete, so we will be working again with Matt.

TS: Are The Skeeves above making a national spectacle of themselves to get noticed in 2014/15? Sex scandal? Embezzlement? Political aspirations?

VS: Of course not. Stay tuned!

TS: When was your last show and what can the audience expect from a rested The Skeeves on the 21st?

VS: Our last show was last year. You should expect a rowdy good time with a nice mixture of old and new songs!

The Skeeves plays with Baboon, The Cush, Huffer and Panther Robe for The Synaptic’s 4th Birthday Party, Sat 6/21/2014 at The Grotto in Fort Worth. Be sure to get your tickets here and don’t miss out on any of the fun!