Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Live review: Flickerstick, Radiant*, [Daryl]

11.06.2004 @ Lakewood Theater- Flickerstick Tarantula Release

Three Dallas bands -[Daryl], Radiant*, and Flickerstick- played the Lakewood Theater and showcased three styles of indie rock that had depth and stamina and amazing presence. Three solid bands kept (most of) the crowd out of the plush comfy seats for the night.

The show was Dallas music in evolution. Radiant* are local, having played mostly around the metroplex with the occasional foray into Oklahoma, [Daryl] is on tour, having hit the eastern states and now moving westward, and Flickerstick is, well, Flickerstick. Winners of VH1’s Bands on the Run reality show and veterans of tours in the U.S. as well as the U.K., Brandin Lea, Cory Kreig, and crew have an international following. From lovable homeboys to notorious rock stars, the music and personalities at Flickerstick’s Tarantula release party ran the gamut.

[Daryl] was the sacrificial first band on stage. The line at the theater’s door at 7pm guaranteed a good turnout for later, and the fans were ready to go tonight. Lead singer Dylan Silver’s The Who-style guitar thrashing and rollicking was entertainment enough, but [Daryl] is a huge ensemble group. Seven members, from horn player Dave Hayes to keyboardist Justen Andrews, filled every inch of available stage. This group of best buddies, lead by the angsty Silvers (who only looks like Robert Smith of The Cure without the makeup and bad hair) are reviving the 80s phenomenon of synthy, bouncy rock. They made me long for my jellies and safety pins. Playing a set mainly from their latest, Ohio, a concept album about Silver’s childhood in that state, [Daryl] got the crowd moving and shaking their fists. In this band, there’s something for everyone to like. Drummer Spammy Lamm tossed out a sweaty towel but the audience politely stepped aside and let it fall. “Nobody wants that?” chuckled Silvers, “Here, toss it back. We’ll put some Justen sweat on it. I guarantee you that always works.” It did.

Radiant*’s fans were vocal. Chanting until the first riff, and screaming when vocalist Levi Smith peeled off his jacket, the girls in the front row were none too happy about a pushy reviewer trying to get photos. Radiant* is a must-see band. We Hope You Win is due out in spring 2005 and they played “160,” “That Girl,” and “She’s Alright” from the new album. It promises to be a bit harder and faster than the previously released The Sound of Splitting Atoms, a tour-de-force of cathartic ballads. Radiant* is supremely consistent live; every show is better than the last. Smith and guitarist Dragan Jakovljevic are consummate showmen, backed by the powerful bass and drums of Jon Shoemaker and Daniel Hopkins. Ask any band that has shared the spotlight with them and props are always forthcoming. “Radiant*’s a good band,” chips in Brandin Lea, the lead singer for Flickerstick, “one of my favorites.” If you leave Radiant* show uninspired, you weren’t paying attention.

After intermissions filled with Jet’s Get Born, the crowd was revved for Flickerstick’s return home. True to their reputation, yes, there was a fight, but, no, the band wasn’t in it. Yes, there was alcohol, but, no, the band wasn’t falling down pissed. There may have been drugs, but Brandin Lea says grass makes him hungry and he doesn’t smoke it anymore. There definitely were groupies. But mostly there was one freakin’ great set.

I have a confession: I wasn’t feeling the love for Flickerstick before they hit the stage. I’m, a bit too mature to envy the rock star life. I’m not cute enough to get past the bouncer, not hip enough to hang out without being in the way, and totally geeky with my little notebook. Completely out of my element around anyone cool, actually. I wasn’t a Flickerstick convert, even backstage, drinking their beer. When Tarantula arrived in my mail in its sterile brown paper package, it left me lukewarm. I stuck it in the CD player a few times, but nothing. This morning, though, in the grog of my hangover from too little sleep and not enough beer to alleviate the boredom of the hurry up and wait last night, I’m listening with a newly educated ear. My little computer speakers bring back the pounding in my chest of the Lakewood’s monsters. I’ve been sucked in by Flickerstick’s persona, by watching Brandin up behind the Korg Trinitron and seeing his world. It’s a glimpse of brilliance. The live show is the songs given the flesh they need; it’s Brandin and Corey and Rex bouncing off each other. Three spinning stars held in check by Fletcher’s flatline personality and Todd’s just plain niceness. It’s all about the music and the band on stage broke down my internal barriers like no piece of shiny plastic ever could. As polished as Tarantula is, it can’t capture Flickerstick live.

In the echoing reverb of the Lakewood Theater, more suited to civilized movie dialog than the wall of noise emanating from Flickerstick, true rock-and-roll hit Dallas. Waiting to go on, Brandin quipped, “I see empty seats out there; I’m not used to that.” After their orchestrated entrance, he got down to what they are known for: his clear and concise vocals, the frenetic guitar of Rex Ewing, and Cory Kreig’s words. Lea is a minor rock god with ragged hair and an obtrusive yellow daisy pinned to a jacket that bled red under the spots so that his hair matched it precisely. Behind them ran a psychedelic commentary of vintage commercials hawking the benefits of caffeine and dancing Muriel cigarettes. Repeated screams of “I love you, Brandin!” and flowers came from front row fans whose ages easily covered the span of fifteen to fifty.

Lea conducted the crowd and worked hard for it even though the crowd sang along from the first song. Despite the unfortunate similarity to that other Brandon’s matador hand-on-hip style of delivery, this Brandin is no over-produced MTV pretty boy. What you hear on the album is pitance compared to what you get live. Sitting on the edge of stage, Lea connects to the audience and jokes that he’s enjoying “playing in a nice neighborhood like Lakewood, instead of getting shot.” Climbing on the speakers to drive the energy even higher, he ratchets up the frenzy of rabid fans.

“I like the way that it’s killing me… I love my nicotine, I love my alcohol… I love the way she screams, my teenage dope fiend.” The words from ‘Teenage Dope Fiend’ are the band’s anthem. Smoking on stage, Fletch’s cigarette hangs apathetic and limp from his lips, while Brandin holds his between fingers, in jaded, tired style. In the break before the sad, pitiful ballad, “Bleeding,” Lea graciously accepts flowers from a fan and places them on the drum set reverentially, as if on top of a tomb. Lead guitar Cory Kreig stands absolutely still doing his licks until the music catches him in its wave and rips him off his heels. Dangerous boy Rex- all soaking six feet of him- is down on his knees, a bouquet of flowers dangling from his back pocket. Generating the driving beat in the smoke halo and strobing light show, he’s transported by the music, with his preppy Asian princess staking out her territory from the wings of stage right. Fueled by political frustration and preceded by a tirade on the current administration, Flickerstick delivered a far more inspired “The Ones” than the plodding version on Tarantula. After a final wave to the fans from Brandin, Rex tossed his guitar with abandon across the stage to the crew. A trailer of noise that wouldn’t stop confused the crowd into thinking that Flickerstick wasn’t coming back and began the exodus of the comfy chair sitters. But the band came back for the requisite encores of “Coke” and “Direct Line to the Telepathic,” after which a bewildered Rex roamed back out on stage, hanging onto the vestiges of the energy and a foaming beer. Instead of any musical last effort, he tossed out an extra towel or two to the remaining diehards.

With homage to Pink Floyd, U2, and a bit of Britpop, sometimes all in the same song, Flickerstick is nearly impossible to label. Maybe that’s why we don’t hear them on ClearChannel. In an interview prior to the show, I asked the band about the diversity of their fans’ taste in music, but none of the guys would narrow down their sound for me. After experiencing the show, I realize my search for a label is pointless. Flickerstick is rock, in totality. They encompass all that went before. Exiting the stage, a sweaty Fletcher asked me, “So, what would you call us?” I had to say I didn’t know. In his typical brevity, he smiled and said, “See.”

As Brandin said in his parting words, the night was “Mucho craziness.”

Flickerstick Set List:


Catholic Scars and Chocolate Bars

Girls & Pills


When You Were Young

Pistol in My Hand

Got a Feeling

Never Enough

Teenage Dope Fiend

The Tourist

All We Are Is Gone



Sorry… Wrong Trajectory

The Ones


Direct Line to the Telepathic

Radiant* Set List:

That Girl



Save Yourself

The Way You Make Me Feel



She’s Alright

Do Not Delay

[Daryl] Set List:

Make Up

You Were Way Too Young

Just Because the Lake Was Frozen Over

Uneven Surfaces

The Make

Leak in the Media


Rooms 31 & 30

Happy Accidents


The Crash That Took Me

Originally written for in November 2004.

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