The year was 2010 and summer was coming to an end for my four best friends and I; the trip we made to Atlanta from Charlotte was our last attempt to bond before we left to our respective colleges. The tour included The Dirty Heads, Sublime, with Rome, and Matisyahu. The stage was held outdoors at The Masquerade, and to the promoter’s dismay, a heavy rainstorm settled its sights on downtown ATL but the music didn’t stop. Unified by the music and relentless downpour, the crowd’s disposition shifted as a feeling of connected consciousness overwhelmingly elevated the experience to something I could never forget. Sharing this story is a no-brainer, especially because as I pulled into the Fillmore this past Sunday night, those once-dormant feelings began to vividly reform. My body felt uneasy but my heart was excited. It’s that weird feeling you get when distant family comes into town or when you’re pressured to make a hasty decision for something you’d rather take time on; unfortunately, there was no time.
The first band of the night, “Oh No Fiasco”, was setting up and I had to take myself out of that subjective place. Greeting the crowd with confidence, front woman Lindsey Stamey expressed her excitement to be a part of the Odyssey Tour, and made eye contact with almost everyone up front as she announced their name. Paramore-influenced guitar riffs and vocals met a “four-on-the-floor” drumbeat and quirky synthesizer for “Stand In Lover” which made for a danceable and pleasurable opener. The crowd’s interest piqued as Stamey asked for a “volunteer”, which to the selected fans fortuity, was sat in a chair onstage while seductively sung the lyrics of “Why Is It So Hard”. This Knoxville five-piece band showed immense passion when playing their popular single, “Clarity” while also proving their musicianship as every instrumental stop was on time – a skill that in a larger group must be perfected with practice and time. After the band gave thanks and mentioned their merchandise table, both members of Midi Matilda graced the stage, bringing laptops, iPad-integrated, and traditional guitars, and a Macbook that played a key role in their aspect of live/pre-produced performance. After watching a few videos on their YouTube page, I was left intrigued by this method of playing and couldn’t wait to see the exact procedure of it. With a swift-to-start approach, drummer Logan Grime, who couldn’t have appeared any happier to be playing (no sarcasm intended), began playing the opening drums for “Love & The Movies”, which set a earnest tone for the otherwise modish and 80’s-inspired song. As an attentive musician, seeing two band members on stage while hearing the instruments of a four to five-piece band definitely took some getting used to. By their third song and single “Ottowa”, I was beginning to respect the great deal of exactness that was expected of both members, as one mistake or tempo flub could send the band off-sync with not only each other, but also the pre-produced material. By the end of the set, it was hard to be indifferent to their stage antics which included go-pro recordings from Grime’s perspective, and both musicians switching instruments while lead singer Skyler Kilborn took to an auxiliary drum, proving his percussive chops. Not only did the two San Francisco natives show major versatility, but they also proved that a whole band is almost unnecessary when material is produced and performed in diligent and systematic manner. Taking a break from the crowd, I stepped outside meeting someone who claimed to be kin to Dustin “Duddy B” Bushnell of The Dirty Heads. Promising me a session with the headliners after the show, I was anxiously thinking of questions for an impromptu interview, while staying wary of this encounter to not get high hopes for anything until I received a phone call. Spoiler alert: never did get that phone call. Not before long, friends attending the show texted me, frantic to see what they called “the act of the night”, Shiny Toy Guns. This new-wave, post-punk revival quartet from Los Angeles wasn’t a priority for me as I was predisposed to their breakthrough singles such as “Le Disko” and “Don’t Cry Out” years ago and have remained apprehensive to their music for no logically sustained reason at all. (Seriously though, their music is great and this is a classic example of how easy it is for us humans to take something and process it in comparison to a stereotype because we’re lazy. Objectifying for the sake of objectifying. I don’t recommend it.)
Shiny Toy Guns exploded into an aggressive set as they started with “Ghost Town” from their second album, “Season of Poison”. I lost track of time and my notes became irrelevant, as I danced to their music. I felt like a true fan when keyboardist Jeremy Dawson began playing the arpeggiated bass line from “Somewhere to Hide” and I instantly recognized the single from their newest album, “III”. Many of the crowd members started to assemble towards the front of the stage and shared a grin as they recounted songs from albums past such as “Ricochet” and “Le Disko”, which to revisit my statement earlier, ROCKED THE HOUSE. Lead singer Carah Faye Charnow had a warming charm and was able to entertain the crowd with almost anything she said. At one point, she even pointed out the iPad charger cable which was being used as a belt for her jeans. “Speaking Japanese” and “Don’t Cry Out” were the last tracks I was able to recognize before the band announced they would be playing one more track for the night while “giving it all” they had for “You Are The One”. At this point, it had occurred to me the reason why their first studio album, “We Are Pilots” had been nominated for a Grammy; the group has a uniquely antique sound, not to mention the amount of talent each musician brings to the stage. They were a class-A act, although seemingly mismatched for the ska-reggae rock “Dirty Heads” from southern California. Only time would only tell.
Elation overcame me when guitarist/vocalist “Duddy B” stepped on stage with supporting members of the Dirty Heads, as they were greeted by a unanimous fanfare of chants. Immediately after the last keyboard (played by a mysterious 6th member) was sound checked, the band kick-started their set with a single from their sophomore album, “Cabin by the Sea”. High energy with lively lyrical content and equally spirited hand drumming, in credit to percussionist Jon Olazabal, successfully fired up fans as almost everyone swayed in rhythmic motion to the chorus of “Dance All Night”. Going back to the first track of their premier album, “Any Port In A Storm”, singer Jared Watson began chanting the chorus to “Neighborhood”, instantly taking the crowd back and building confidence in the long-time fans who in a cult-like manner, could spit every lyric to both rhymed verses. “Taint”, a track from the newest album commenting on the backlash from their fans and the music industry as a whole, had almost everyone singing to the chorus. Tracks from the Dirty Head’s premier album, “Any Port In The Storm” rang clearly through the Fillmore’s incredible sound system. Tracks such as “Stand Tall”, “Check The Level”, “Lay Me Down”, and “Believe” were revisited before they revealed new tracks from “Cabin By The Sea” such as “Spread Way Too Thin”. Mannerisms of musicians aren’t something that particularly crosses my consciousness at every show, but I could easily sense an amount of rigidity between founders Jared “Dirty J” Watson and vocalist/guitarist Dustin “Duddy B” Bushnell. It may have been the Charlotte air or an unrelated stroke of misfortune, but I don’t think I was the only one to notice. Overall, the impression I received was that this tour was something necessary for the Dirty Heads in promoting their newest album, “Cabin By The Sea”, but seeing them simply playing through the motions of each song made me feel remorseful for the high anticipation I possessed for the show. Although partially let down by the headliner, I gained a great deal of appreciation for the opening acts of the night and my new favorite band, Shiny Toy Guns.
The Dirty Heads remaining tour dates: