January 2009
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Brett Dennen at Warehouse Live

Last Thursday was another night spent at Warehouse Live. This night, however, began with an unfamiliar and unpredicted moment of line-waiting. Not to mention, I had just used the last minute or two bragging to friends and telling them not to worry because Warehouse never has a line. I hate lines. The line is what keeps me out of trendy midtown bars and clubs. That is, until the wee morning hours when the line begins to dwindle. I was relieved when reaching my ticket counter destination didn’t take as long as I anticipated. So, what is it about Brett Dennen that draws a crowd? Well, I was about to find out.

Once inside, I had to slither my way through the multitude of attendees to get close enough to take a few pictures with my inadequate camera. I know what you’re thinking, but haven’t you ever heard the saying ‘if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em’? It’s really a terrible excuse but in this case I use it to justify my impolite behavior. I can either complain about the people who squeeze their way to the stage or I can do it right along with them. At least I had enough courtesy not to plant myself in front of a short person. Some people do that! You know who you are.

Anyway, the wavy-haired starlet, Erin McCarley, had already begun her set prior to my tardy arrival. My guess is that she opened with her single, “Pony (It’s Ok)” because I didn’t hear it and I don’t think she would leave it out. She wore skin tight leggings and a long cardigan. The first full song I heard was “Lovesick Mistake.” She put down her guitar and started it slow. Eventually the song picks up but is all-in-all a sweet, soft number. The brooding message in this song is that she’s moving to fast and has thrown away what she should have held on to. Consequently, she missed her chance at love.

She did a cover of “Tom’s Diner” originally by Suzanna Vega. Vega’s version is written as an a cappella which fueled some creativity in McCarley and her band, resulting in a dressed up adaptation. McCarley initiated it with the recognizable ad-libbed “Doo doo doo doo, doo da-doo doo” but at the start of the hook, a beat-boxing keyboard player took me by surprise. The drums entered in at the second verse. She introduced the song by saying, “I didn’t write this…kinda wish I did.”

Her drummer and keyboard player were both very attractive yet ordinary looking. With their clean cut haircuts and classy clothing they did not look like your typical musician. She played her debut title track, “Love, Save the Empty.” As I mentioned in a previous post, this is the track you hear on the trailer to the soon to be released film, He’s Just Not That into You. By the way, this movie, in my opinion, has just as distinguished an array of cast members as the 2004 film Crash.

1. Pitter-Pat
2. Lovesick Mistake
3. Tom’s Diner (Suzanna Vega cover)
4. Hello/ Goodbye
5. Love, Save the Empty
6. Gotta Figure This Out

As the slow display of between performance pack-up and set-up took place, I couldn’t help but overhear a conversation by some kids about the recent concerts they’d been to. They brought up Iron and Wine and I envied them for their opportunity to see Samuel Beam, the man behind the recording name. I have not yet had the pleasure.

Ron Johnson, the Rastafarian bass player emerged first to scatter some incense around the stage and then lit them to set the mood. It went well with the whole art-deco rug and Ethiopian color themed display emitted from the stage. I’ve never noticed the rugs before. Are they always there? When Brett appeared from behind the curtain I was shocked by his size. He played the whole show in bare feet (I think as a tribute to his vidoe for “Make You Crazy” which you will see at the bottom of this post) and he still looked 6 ½ feet tall.

They played one of my favorites right off the bat. It’s a song called “Wrong About Me.” The noun ‘turncoat’ was not part of my vocabulary until I researched the lyrics of this song. He speaks of leaving the only life he knows behind in order to establish himself, and when he talks about selling out he uses the term ‘turncoat,’ which means traitor. Further lyrics tell us that the tradeoff to being called a turncoat is not working for free. So, basically, he couldn’t care less if we scold him for selling out. He’ll take the money along with the name-calling. Personally, I think it’s silly when fans throw a hissy about artists selling out. As long as the group or individual actually has talent why does it matter? It does mean more expensive ticket prices for us but, rather than objecting, we should be happy for their success.

When they performed “Closer to You” I was trying to get a picture of Ron but he hardly ever faces the crowd when he plays. The guy sure wasn’t camera shy though. Between songs we had several opportunities to capture his intentional poses. A girl in front of me was taking videos of Brett and Ron protested, “…not enough pictures of me, come on, you all have your cameras!” I’ve been in Texas long enough that hearing someone say, “you all” instead of “ya’ll” sounds funny to me.

The drummer’s name is Randy Schwartz. The cymbals on his drum set had been filed down to include a few crescent moon-shaped indentations. I was waiting for the significance of the malformed instruments but, from what I could tell, they weren’t used for anything out of the ordinary. For all I know it could be the result of a rowdy spark of vandalism or damage caused from transporting equipment while on the road.

A lot of the lead guitar spotlight moments were pretty bluesy and Ryan, the guitarist, finally showed off some of his capability in the song, “When You Feel It.” During this song John, the keyboard player, stood and offered a little electric/acoustic guitar.

When they played “She’s Mine” the response it got made it seem like a crowd pleaser, which makes sense as it was a single from his second album, So Much More. Brett’s articulations of his words sometimes make me think that he has overcome a childhood lisp which has the power to sneak out occasionally, and did on some annunciations during this song. After “She’s Mine” Ron looked at me and at my red hair and said, “Are you related to Brett?” Yes, Brett and I are both part of the rare redhead clan and that makes us kin.

During “Ain’t No Reason” I was trying to decipher where the airy whistle sound was coming from. I think John may have been playing some kind of wood, maybe similar to a recorder. Remember playing the recorder in elementary school? We didn’t even have wood. We had the cheap plastic kind that the school could afford to buy wholesale. And what was our final exam? You guessed it… “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”

John also played a maraca during “Make You Crazy” and they ended that song with a jam session.

The last song before the encore was “Blessed” and, with the keyboard solo, the in-unison crowd clap began. Brett hadn’t said a word to the crowd until the end of the set when he said, “I feel like I haven’t said anything to ya’ all night, how are ya’?” They did four encore songs and the first two were solo of Brett. The second solo, “When She’s Gone” is recorded with Missy Higgins adding harmony. She was on tour with him early in 2008 but is now doing a tour with Justin Nozuka and Lenka and is scheduled to hit the Houston House of Blues on February 19, 2009. Missy is also featured on Brett’s “Follow Your Heart.”

The full band came back for a song called “Heaven.” His most recent album is called Hope for the Hopeless. At first, I didn’t know where they came up with the title because it’s not named after one of the songs on the album. With that being said, it can be found in “Heaven” as part of the phrase, ‘Is there a home for the homeless/ Is there hope for the hopeless?’

It was during “Heaven” that I smelled the reefer. Really?! Indoors?! I’m used to it at the Woo Pav (The Woodlands Pavilion) amphitheatre where concerts are held outside, but not in a confined indoor sector of Warehouse Live. As if we needed more cliché, Ben Harper’s “Walk Away” played as we shuffled out the doors. If they had played Harper’s “Burn One Down” it would have been too much for me to handle.

1. Darlin’ Do Not Fear
2. Wrong About Me
3. Closer To You
4. Follow Your Heart
5. When You Feel It
6. Who Do You Think You Are?
7. She’s Mine
8. Desert Sunrise
9. Ain’t No Reason
10. Make You Crazy
11. Blessed


1. Nothin’ Lasts Forever (BD solo)
2. When She’s Gone (BD solo)
3. Heaven
4. World Keeps Turning

This is the official video for “Make You Crazy” off the October 28, 2008 released album Hope for the Hopeless. That’s Mandy Moore trying on shoes.

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