By John Baggett
Every city has a local music scene, and it’s there you will find more dedicated groups of fans than anywhere else. In fact, I think the fandom for local bands is sometimes more rabid than the ones for national acts, especially when talking about the love and not the numbers. It can also produce a more flippant attitude, because it is easier to skip a local show than a big band coming to town. Foo Fighters might only play where you live once every two years, but it is easy to pass on a local show. You think, “I’ll catch the next one,” because most times there will be a next show. But that attitude can be detrimental to the future success of the bands. Venues do not book acts that are only going to draw five people, even if they are one of the best bands playing. No love means no gigs, and no gigs means no future for these bands. If you love music, you really should check out your local bands. The local bands listed below are those I know in one form or another. Some I have seen live, some I have not (though not for lack of trying). For many of them, I know one or more members outside of their music, and think their contributions should undoubtedly be recognized.
Every show Rockett Queen plays singer Walter Lee screams, “Are you ready for a rock n’ roll revolution?” And if Rockett Queen is leading this revolution into battle then I want to be on the front lines with them. This band has been around since the early 2000’s, once voted by MTV as the best unsigned band in America. They had a song featured on the soundtrack for “John Tucker Must Die” and since their 2011 e.p. “Goodnight California” came out, the band has been playing countless shows and working to make it on the national level. What I love about the band, first and foremost, is not that they are nice guys and have a great image, but their music is great. I came first for the music and still continue to go for that same reason. The band is set to release a new record, tentatively titled “Light The Fuse,” sometime this year and the songs they have been playing from it thus far have been outstanding. If you like hard rock, then by all means check these guys out. Rockett Queen recently announced an exclusive deal with Amped, the new home to Metallica, Lenny Kravitz, Billy Idol, Steel Panther and Big & Rich. As part of the new deal, the band will release “Goodnight California” in late April on CD, Vinyl and Digital formats worldwide (www.ampeddistribution.com).
How many people can say they bought a copy of a band’s album out of the drummer’s car? Well, that is absolutely how I got my copy of Channel 8’s debut “Space Animals.” I handed drummer Casey Coomer $5, and we walked to his car and I got my copy. Yes, I could have bought it digitally but I wanted a physical copy, and Casey was happy to oblige. The band is made up of Coomer on drums and vocals and lead singer/guitarist Patrick Salkin. The music is loud, noisy, and quality. These guys are not the White Stripes (or whatever two person musical act lights your particular fire), they are better. They are also one of the hardest working bands I know, constantly playing anywhere they can. I think they have played more shows since forming than a lot of other bands I know, whether it is in a restaurant like What About Kabob’s or Double Dave’s Pizza or all the way to being part of the East Texas All Star Showcase in 2013. If you love noisy DIY rock n’ roll, then here is your band.
If you want to hear about bands that get better and better each time I see them, then I have to talk about Blacktop Mojo. The band hails from Palestine. The first time I saw them they were in a battle of the bands at Liberty Hall in Tyler and I thought they were good, and they had kind of a southern rock vibe to them. But as I have seen them lately, mostly playing with Rockett Queen, they have gotten heavier and better with each gig. The band’s latest album “I Am” was one of the best albums I heard last year, and its leadoff single, also titled “I Am,” is sure to break them. Check the video out on YouTube. It has been just a few days since I last saw them play, and I am ready to see them again. If you love solid, hard rock with just a bit of a southern edge, then get this record. It will floor you.
I have shared a stage with Stuck By Hammerz, not as a singer, but it was when they served as the house band for the Local Late Night show that was part of the East Texas Comedy Festival last summer. I have seen them perform a couple of times, and I think they are absolutely terrific. The band is truly versatile and can do a prog rock number one minute, follow it up with a Bad Religion cover the next, and then follow up with a solid alternative rock song. Some of their lyrics have a bit of humor to them, some are touching, and everything they do has been amazing. If you need proof, check out their song “Prologue: The Great Dictator” from their e.p. “Skullduggery.” It still sends shivers down my spine. The band has three e.p.s and a single available on iTunes. It’s less than $20 and is some of the best music you will hear. Go give them some love and check out their live show as soon as you get a chance.
This Day Forth
This is another East Texas metal band that gets better each time I see them. These guys will melt your faces off. Their e.p. “…And Hope To Die” practically lived in my car CD player for weeks after seeing them play. The record is both melodic and heavy, and their live show is energetic. This band is just getting started, but they have the look and the talent to make it big. I predict in a few years they could be playing some of the big festivals. That is not just wishful thinking. These guys are solid, heavy, and talented musicians.
Out Of The Question
An acoustic duo that started off as a quartet, Out of the Question has been playing all over the East Texas area, all for the joy of playing music. Singer/guitarist Michael Gonzalez and guitarist/percussionist Jeremy Flowers play anywhere and everywhere they can. They mostly play covers and serve to provide an ambient acoustic sound to your night out, and they are worth your attention. You will find yourself singing along. It is always a good time when these guys are playing.
Sleep Juliet is a relatively new band hailing from Nacogdoches. Led by singer Anna Valo, the band has started making a name for itself. Like Rockett Queen and Blacktop Mojo, these guys and gal rock and rock hard. Valo has a fantastic voice and great stage presence, and the band backing her up is super tight, bringing the right amount of energy to every show they play. Their e.p. “Where Nightmares Are Born” is available on iTunes and definitely worth checking out.
Downfall Rising is a band a lot like Sleep Juliet – a female led hard rock band that knows how to bring the house down. They are also a band in transition, as singer Rachel Peloquin left the band late last year to pursue other activities. However, the band is carrying on. Until they pick Peloquin’s successor, the band is not playing any shows, but they are still practicing and ready to jump back into the scene. They have an awesome e.p. out that you can check out on Bandcamp. I am looking forward to new stuff and new shows from this band!
She Craves comes with the asterisk because they are currently on hiatus. I’m hoping that they get back to playing soon because they were the first “local” band with which I became obsessed. They came from Austin, but I saw them three times live at Clicks in Tyler. I bought two copies of their full length album “Goodbye Radio Days” the first time I saw them (I gave one to a friend). By the second time I saw them, I got to know them and periodically chat with them from time to time. Led by singer Christine Ely, the band is simply one of the best hard rock bands I have seen live. Every show I saw was tight and in my opinion they have the chops to make it on the national level. Since I last saw them live, bassist Tim Brown went on to be the drummer for Righteous Brisket. Drummer Ben Mills has been in numerous bands since but is currently tearing it up in Three33, thus turning one great band into three. I highly recommend downloading “Goodbye Radio Days” and their follow up e.p. “Static.” I also think you should check out Righteous Brisket and Three33 as well. All three bands are killer and their music deserves your attention.
The band formerly known as Magdalene has decided to re-brand themselves and made their debut performance at Click’s on February 27th. If the buzz around the show is any indication, then this band is out to set the world on fire and I can not wait for it to happen and see where they go.