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.

“Kim and Jessie” by M83

M83 is the French electronic group that will be supporting The Killers at the Verizon Wireless Theatre here in Houston on Monday, February 2, 2009.   I saw them perform this song last night on Connan O’Brian.  I LOVED it and now I am IN LOVE with this band. Little did I know that, after deciding last night to post it today, the song would come with such a hilarious video.  This video looks like it could have been inspired by the movie comedy Blades of Glory. Check out the 2008 album Saturdays=Youth. 

“Dark End of the Street” by Cat Power

2008’s Jukebox was a collection of covers by Cat Power (a.k.a Chan Marshall). Dark End of the Street is a follow-up EP of the Jukebox overflows. It’s a 2008 release as well, but it came out in December. Have a listen to the reinterpreted title track while you view a photo slideshow of the alt-folk singer-songwriter.

“Used to Be” by Beach House

This 7″ single off of the album, Devotion, was released back in October. Pitchfork, the indie publication and media website, has been covering this group since their birth and has provided us with their latest video, “Used to Be.” The duo hailing from Maryland is due to perform at SXSW following an appearance in Houston at the Orange Show Center on March 17th.

“Jai Ho” by A.R. Rahman

In light of my plans to see the movie Slumdog Millionaire tomorrow, I thought I would post the theme “Jai Ho” by composer, A.R. Rahman, who produced the score for the movie. This movie cleaned up at the Golden Globe Awards winning four nominations. The repeated ‘jia-ho’ break-down, which preludes the lyrics in stacatto, is my favorite segment of the song. This also was the portion that was aired every time members of the project took the stage to accept their award. Upon tuning in for the awards, I had never heard the song. So, every time they played the little stage procession fragment I kept saying to myself, ‘man, that’s a cool song. I’ve gotta download it.’ Below please find the Jai Ho Dance Video led by 18 year old principal actor, Dov Patel, and actress, Frieda Pinto.

“Pictures” by Madi Diaz

It’s not too early to start your preparation for South By Southwest folks. Rumors emerge everyday of new artists suspected to be in attendance. You can find this one under video links in the official SXSW website. Madi Diaz recorded her first solo album, Skin and Bone, in 2007 and now has a collaborative EP with fellow Berkley graduate, Kyle Ryan, entitled Ten Gun Salute. The native Philadelphian is scheduled to perform in Austin on March 18th at 8pm during the SXSW lineup. No venue has been posted yet.

Magnetic Concert Review

I worked for 13 ½ hours on Saturday. Around 11:30pm I pleaded with one of my managers to set me free. I explained that I had been at work all day, but more importantly that I had a concert to get to. A friend of mine was playing at a place called the Milan Pavilion. Caleb is the lead singer of a band called Magnetic. Ladies, if you’re a sucker for long beautifully maintained dreadlocks you might just melt if you saw my buddy Caleb.

The whole event of poetry, art, and music took place from 6pm to 2am and when I arrived with my friend and co-worker, Cesar, we perused the area admiring some art that was on display.

By the way, Cesar and I managed to dodge the cover charge. We must have looked lost but nobody bothered to point us in the right direction. We made our way through the back door while $10 was being collected at the front entrance. We only realized it once we were safely inside. That’s not the first time I’ve ducked the cover folks. I’m kind of notorious though I don’t try to be.

I trailed timidly behind Cesar as he made his way to the bar. I was a little apprehensive. I like a good dive as much as the next person but this place was just a bit sketchy for my taste. The red carpet and the odly and randomly placed outdoor-wedding-alter-type interior archways made me feel like I just walked into some kind of fun house. Or better yet, like I was entering the set of a horror film and at any moment the scary clowns were going to close in on me. Furthermore, when I glanced at the mounted television what I saw was an old Godzilla trailer. It was a step down from the House of Blues which was the last venue I saw them play.

It is evident that the group embodies a fusion of each members musical background. Caleb was raised on gospel but now plays the frontman with the soulful pipes. It’s not a surprising progression for him as soul originated from gospel, right? A more bluesy form of it anyway. The size and arrangement of Mike’s drums led me to believe that he was trained strictly as a jazz drummer, but Caleb informed me that he plays everything. Wu is the lead guitarist who, naturally, contributes harmonizing vocals as well. Throughout the set there were several moments when I found myself fixated on Rob Rrias and his bass playing. I have always been fascinated by the bass. It started years back when I saw Nickel Creek in concert and they had a stand in acoustic bass player. It was difficult to listen beyond the genius mandolin playing of Chris Thile to explore other components, but I did and I discovered that the bass was a very integral part of the whole. It was easy to listen to the bass guitar after I had come to that conclusion. Magnetic is one of those bands that allows you to focus on each part and clearly see how it fits in and what it brings to the overall soul, funk, and blues sound. I always say that my eyes can hear too. I say this because it seems as though you can hear one specific instrument so much better when you look at the person playing it.

They did a cover of Bill Wither’s “Aint No Sunshine” and Wu and Caleb alternated the 26 consecutive ‘I Know’s’ in the song. No, I never counted. My dad told me when I was little. The song came on the radio and our conversation went something like this, “Jen, guess how many times they say ‘I know’ in this song?” “I don’t know dad how many?” “26.” Now, whenever I hear the song I find myself asking whoever I am with if they know how many and, in most cases, when they don’t I will inform them.

It was during this song when I noticed that Wu looked like my boss Chad. Cesar laughed in agreement when I mentioned it.

I’m beginning to learn the songs as I’ve seen them perform three times now. If they had an EP, or even a demo, I would have them down for sure. Get on it guys! Oh, I’m just messing with you.

Most of the songs are really catchy. As Cesar said, “I want to sing along but I don’t know the words.” I’ve really come to like the song “Inevitable” which was played towards the end of their set. It has a nice guitar solo. Wu is like the sax player of a jazz band. You don’t need him for the beat but when he’s doing his thing all eyes are on him. I guess that goes for any lead guitar.

There is one song that stuck out for me the first time I heard them play. The song is called “How Long” and Caleb has pulled it from every other show I’ve seen. The song is calm and steady in its repetition until the little wrap-up jam session at the very end. The well written lyrics tell me that the song is about forgetting our insecurities. We must recognize what we have to offer and must, furthermore, expose those qualities from within us. If you follow the link above to the band’s myspace page you can listen to this song and others. Sorry I don’t have any embeddable audio for you.

Jen’s Cover of “A Dream” by Priscilla Ahn

Hello all. I hope this Friday evening has you eagerly anticipating whatever weekend antics might come your way. For some reason, today I simply feel like doing whatever I can with whatever I have at my disposal to somehow make this weekend superior to other ordinary weekends. To start I thought I would dip my toe into the pool of podcasting. So, my experimentations of the past hour have produced this little sample. I might want to ad that the product of this test run was achieved in a very primitive way. I went into my my tiny closet, laptop in tow, and shut the door to avoid all interfering noises while recording. I was just going to talk into the thing but on my way home from work I played this lovely song and thought that I would sing it for ya as my first podcast. Yikes! Here goes nothing…

[audio:A Dream.mp3]

“A Dream” cover by Jen

“Pony (It’s Ok)” by Erin McCarley

Erin McCarley

Jim Fusilli of the Wall Street Journal has compared this native Texan to Fiona Apple and Feist. Erin McCarley’s debut album, Love, Save the Empty, was released on Tuesday. Tracks from this album have been featured on episodes of several drama series, including One Tree Hill. As I have mentioned before, One Tree Hill is my guilty pleasure. In my defense it has also been a source for a lot of really great music. I will be seeing Ms. McCarley supporting Brett Dennen on January 22nd at Warehouse Live so keep an eye out for the concert review!


“Pony (It’s OK)” by Erin McCarley
Erin McCarley - Love, Save the Empty (Bonus Track Version) - Love, Save the Empty

And here’s the video for “Love, Save the Empty.” You’ll see footage from the move, He’s Just Not That Into You, because the song is part of the soundtrack.