Preview: The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion – Trees – Dallas, TX – 1/23/13

•January 22, 2013 • Leave a Comment

jonspencerbluesexplosion_130123_feature-300x199Just try to dismiss them. Try discounting them too. I did. 2004’s Damage certainly wasn’t my favorite offering from my beloved The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. I had written them off completely – an afterthought, a fun glimpse into my 90’s listening regimen. So when they came to town in May 2010 (while everyone else was up in Denton seeing Wilco) and I saw them demolish HOB’s Cambridge Room, I rejoined my beloved Blues Explosion whole-heartedly. Please sirs, forgive the momentary doubt.

2 years later and even toting a fantastic new record Meat and Bone, Jon Spencer, Mr. Judah Bauer and Russell Simins are returning to Dallas to level Deep Ellum again like it’s the 90’s. If you ever, EVER liked anything this band did, just go. Every memory and reason you loved them in the first place will flood your senses and make you fall in love all over again. And resent The Black Keys. So pull out those old JSBX records, reintroduce yourself, and strap in for a great night of punkbluesrock. And don’t skip out on openers, Fort Worth’s Fungi Girls are sure to deliver as well.

I’m going to pull out Damage right now.

The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion plays Trees this Wednesday, 1/23 Tickets available here.


Hey Look At That… A Podcast

•January 20, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Well, I’ve been threatening it for about a year, but here is the first installment of The Synaptic Radio podcast. This won’t be much of a surprise to any of the long time followers of The Synaptic, but it’s a rundown of what I like, comprised of my favorite 12 bands (an expanded Big Eight!) and what I believe in general represents myself and The Synaptic as accurately as can be expected. I already have the first 3 shows done, and all will be out within the next several days so I can get caught up and current.

So, therefore, without further adieu, I present to you, fair friends of The Synaptic, the inaugural podcast. I hope you enjoy it!

Episode 001

Volume: 35 Denton – Denton, TX, 3/8-11/2012

•March 17, 2012 • Leave a Comment

The Jesus and Mary Chain took the stage just after 8:30 Wednesday as the final act of 2012’s 35 Denton festival. Delayed from their original Sunday night festival closing slot, the Reid brothers and company performed their first show in America since their 2007 Coachella appearance.

And thus this year’s installment of 35 Denton was coming to a close.

I cannot tell a lie, I wasn’t overly bowled over by the lineup this year for 35 Denton. And then scheduling conflicts made things even more difficult. Much like ACL’s 2011 lineup, I recognize that it was a better offering than last year, just not a lot I was interested in seeing this time. For me the main things to see were Scotland’s The Jesus and Mary Chain and San Francisco’s OM.

Last year there was enough room to bounce to and from venues with relative ease, unless you wanted to see a show at Rubber Gloves. It seemed this year the festival had grown enough that several performances were at the “one-in-one-out” capacity early in the night, leaving festival goers to homestead in the clubs where their biggest priority was on from an early point of the night, not daring to venture out into the night for the fear of no entry at another spot. Thursday night was a homesteading night for me from the get-go, staying at Rubber Gloves all night through Denton’s incredible Vaults of Zin to True Widow and fest priority OM. I split from OM a little early in an attempt to catch a little of Mikal Cronin’s set at The Labb, but alas it was not in the cards.

I was unable to make it on Friday due to a little 5 year anniversary for Leah and me. I can tell you with certain accuracy Doug Burr and The Burning Hotels were incredible. Bringing us to the misery that was Saturday. I would like to ask 35 Denton not to order cold rain for next year’s festival. Please. But through the rain I persevered as much as I could, catching some Atlas Sound, Best Coast and walking up to Bun B just as they broke into “Big Pimpin’”. The Do For It Records showcase at Abbey Underground was the only thing on my mind for the remainder of the evening. Only The House Harkonnen was going to fully salvage the day. And after a blistering set by Fort Worth’s The Phuss, it was going to take a bit of work. The Phuss were absolutely great and I implore you to get out and see them. Now. This was followed by a respectable set from The Spectacle (yep, I did that), the only thing in my way was Shaolin Death Squad. Who took forever. And ever. To an almost unfair level. I had talked 6 or so people into seeing The House Harkonnen, who ended up going on 42 minutes late, to no fault of their own. Due to the delay, all of those people left without seeing HK. The 30-ish minutes they got to play were well worth the wait, as they pummeled ears and scorched the earth with their ridiculous brand of metal/punk.

With the announcement of The Jesus and Mary Chain’s postponement, I had a decision to make. I wanted to see a couple of bands on Sunday, but that was in conjunction with the closing set from JAMC. I wish I was able to tell you right now how great The Oh-Sees, The Raincoats, and  The Angelus were on Sunday, but with rising gas prices and another trip to Denton looming on Wednesday, I decided to forego Denton Sunday in order to make it out to the Denton Fairgrounds on Wednesday.

Added to Wednesday’s bill was psychedelic garage rocker Ty Segall in what was an instance of inspired booking. This somewhat made up a little for missing Mikal Cronin on Thursday, as Segall’s band tore through 30 minutes of a set I had no idea I’d get to see. A rather large crowd had gathered for this free show, and it was the right move on 35 Denton’s part for sure. Almost 20 years since I saw them last, The Jesus and Mary Chain emerged, taking the stage. Hitting career high points with “Blues From a Gun”, “Head On”, “Sidewalking”, “Some Candy Talk” and “Just Like Honey”, I was transported back to that Deep Ellum Live show in December of ’92, remembering… there’s just not that much to see. Absent were the ungodly fog machines shrouding the band in backlit wonder, leaving the Scottish post-punk legends naked and without a net. I love this band, and as I told a friend later, it was “brilliance though boredom”. It was one of those types of show where had I missed it I wouldn’t believe people telling me they left out of boredom. The strains of “Reverence” were ringing through the air as we made it to the car, officially ending my 35 Denton 2012 weekend.

This festival is doing many things right each year, and getting better each year. A couple of thoughts though. 1) 2:00 am for 4 straight nights is tough on those commuting each day. 2) I apologize if this is petty and sound like an ingrate, but if you send someone an e-mail, telling them what press credentials they have been allowed, make sure they get that level. I was informed I was to have full Level 2 access via e-mail, only to get Level 1 when I showed up. What reason was I given by the head of press? A very flippant “That was a typo”. No apology, nothing. Last year I was afforded 2 full press passes and busted my hump with 5 articles about the festival, believing that would be some good faith towards this year and years to come, but I guess not. Do not get me wrong. I fully appreciate the chance to attend and review the weekend. Maybe next year.

But I digress. I am looking forward to what 35 Denton pulls out of its hat for 2013. Can’t wait to see you all there!

Volume: 35 Denton Day 1 – 03/08/12

•March 10, 2012 • Leave a Comment

35 Denton, N. Texas’ first major multi-day music festival, has gone through almost more name changes than years in operation. The kickoff event for the Texas festival season has certainly worked to stake its claim on the festival circuit, trying different things each year to see what sticks and what doesn’t. This year there isn’t as much of a main stage presence as in past years, completely foregoing any main stage acts for opening day, making the opening night of the festival a more club oriented affair.

There are really 2 objectives this year: OM and The Jesus and Mary Chain. Therefore with Thursday being geared towards the clubs, I staked my claim at Rubber Gloves from the get go. There wasn’t to be a chance of missing either OM or True Widow, I made certain of that.

The night began with a nice surprise from Denton’s heavily prog influenced act Vaults of Zin. Reminders of Fort Worth’s much lamented Yeti were abound for sure. I had heard great things about these guys, and they did not disappoint.

I completely missed the next act, Terminator 2 while dealing with a what I now know was a dying phone. Oh the joys of having to unexpectedly buy a new phone, which is what I had to do. Up next was True Widow, who released their stunning sophomore full-length As High As The Highest Heavens… last year. I had been looking forward to seeing them for a while, and whereas they were very good, my anticipation for OM eclipsed their set a bit.

By this point the room is filled and the door had to implement a one-in-one-out policy for entry. I had seen OM a few years back at the Wall of Sound festival in Fort Worth, and was truly blown away by them. Since then, they released the excellent God is Good, replaced drummers, and added keyboards to their live performances. Al Cisneros (Sleep) hypnotic head bob, basslines and chanted vocal style are the stuff of legend, transfixing the capacity crowd to a more peaceful plane.

I mistakenly thought I could slip out of the last few minutes of their set to catch Mikal Cronin’s set across the festival at The Labb, but evidently he tore through his set and left nothing in his wake, as he was finished 15 minutes before his set time was over. This was a great disappointment to me. But alas, it had already been a great night.

I was unable to attend Friday’s shows, but my correspondent Jasun Lee will have a rundown of all the action.

See you all out there Saturday!

Feature: Rolling Out New Aspects of The Synaptic

•March 1, 2012 • Leave a Comment

What a sorta tough year this has been. I’ve been very busy with my other entity, the one that brings in real income, the pet sitting business I run with my girlfriend, Waggin’ Tails Pet Sitting. Only a year and some change into this business we’ve seen incredible growth, a growth that has borrowed me away from this community I love so dearly.

Last year the goal was to write more and delve into the aspects of The Synaptic I thought would set it apart from others. “Starter Kits” was to help others discover artists/genres/labels/scenes they might not have been familiar with. Along with this was supposed to be a “Body of Work” section that would review an artist’s entire body of work, noting ebbs and flows in the music, changes for good or bad, from album to album, a cohesive review of an artist’s recorded career. Both of these proved to be massive undertakings, and in time I hope to be able to devote myself to these particular sections of The Synaptic. But until then, they will lay dormant.

There have been a few things that have come down the pike that I would like to expand on under The Synaptic moniker and diversify The Synaptic Empire as I like to call it. I have been afforded some opportunities around D/FW and have been exploring them. The Synaptic blog itself, while not going away by any means, was to be a catalyst to be able to work on other things and get back out into the D/FW/d music community and toil in a medium that I love. Music. I do not kid myself that I am a spectacular journalist or writer, although I think I pull it off alright.

I said last week when I hit 600 fans on Facebook I would make a big announcement, and it came a little quicker than I had planned. So what does 2012 and forward have in store for The Synaptic and those of you who have joined in my musical journey?

1.       Vahrenkamp/Brown Representation (VBR).

Late last year the decision was made to work directly with artists for booking and light management along with my partner and contract lawyer Justin Vahrenkamp. This is in the infancy stage and we have taken on 3 clients already, a very diverse roster with the country rock act Badcreek, instrumental metal quartet The Velia Shrine, and we have just added The Skeeves with their take on early British punk/alternative. I have always been driven to help young artists in any way I can, and believe VBR can help advance some bands that need a helping hand.

2.       The Synaptic Podcast.

I have been approached by CNJ Radio, who produces podcasts such as Wrestling House Show and Rock Strikes Ten to produce a podcast for them. At this point we plan to do two, 30 minute podcasts per month, beginning in March. Audio reviews, show previews, topic discussions and interviews are all being planned for these, I just hope I can fill an hour’s worth of time per month. I hope to have the first one out by mid-March, but we shall see. I do not like talking about things I “plan” to do until they are done, but I’m hoping this keeps me accountable with you guys.

3.       Promoting More Shows.

Also late last year I was given the opportunity through the Fort Worth Music Co-Op to book one Thursday night at Lola’s Saloon per month. Thursdays have definitely been a challenge, I plan to branch out and produce more and more shows in 2012. Having already branched into Dallas last week, it’s looking like you will see more Synaptic produced shows in the not so distant future. Show promotion was my very first foray into music 20 years ago next month, and has been something I have wanted to do all my life. I like going to shows, and I want to put on some shows I think others would like to see too.

4.       More Twitter Action.

The plan is to live tweet as many music awards programs as possible while also using Twitter to the best of its ability. I live tweeted the Grammy’s a couple of weeks back, and I gotta tell ya, staying live on the show while attempting to be witty for 3.5 hours was tough. But I’m up for it if you are.

5. Return to Turntable.FM.

Before things got hectic last year, I was popping into The Synaptic’s Turntable.FM room fairly regularly to play some music with whoever wanted to show up. The plan is to pick a day and time each week for a two hour block of Turntable.FM fun. I will let you all know when that day and time will be. Hopefully was can expose each other to some new stuff since we all have varying tastes.

2011 was supposed to see the launch of The Synaptic Store, but unfortunately those plans feel through. I’ve been wracking my brain to come up with more of a reason to keep my followers engaged that wasn’t just posting a few videos up each morning on the Facebook page. If all of these plans do come through, I will not only be thrilled, but feel like I am contributing something to the music community I so dearly love. With that being said, hold me accountable. Have some questions, suggestions, or constructive criticisms please e-mail me directly at

I look forward to the rest of 2012 being busy. Please join me on the ride.

I humbly thank you for indulging me this far.

Randy Brown


Volume: The Burning Hotels/Mon Julien/Ishi – Lola’s Saloon, Fort Worth, TX – 2/18/2012

•February 29, 2012 • Leave a Comment

I am going to avoid cliché here. No “incendiary”, no “set the house on fire”, no “burn”, “flame”, or “explosive” to describe The Burning Hotels show the other night at Lola’s. I will focus on two other words.

Control and confidence.

In allegiance with several great bands currently hailing from Panther City, The Burning Hotels are the most ready. They are, in my mind, the closest heir to the Toadies legacy. Not in similar musical styles, but just with unparalleled drive, confidence and their demeanor of control onstage.

What I witnessed from The Burning Hotels at Lola’s Saloon was an incredibly tight, confident band solely in control of their destiny and their crowd. Playing heavily from last year’s self-titled Synaptic album of the year, The Burning Hotels tore through roughly 75 minutes worth of hits, highlighting the entirety of their recorded output. There’s a reason I go on and on about this band. They outdo themselves every time I see them. Add the minimal laser light show to the mix, this certainly didn’t feel like a small club show, but the intimacy and energy did.

Add to the bill the former Black Tie Dynasty/Daryl supergroup Mon Julien and headliners in their own right Ishi and you had a stacked bill from top to bottom. All three acts headliners on their own, bringing the house down for not just a rock show, but what was also upstart Blackbox Music’s coming out party, it was an extraordinary night all around. If this is how Blackbox Music is coming out swinging, we’re all on notice.

You know when the evening breaks down into an impromptu dance party after all festivities were over it was an undeniable success. A Whitney dance party erupted into God knows what, even a little pole dancing on the bar.

Congrats to everyone involved for a triumphant night of local music!


Preview: The Burning Hotels/Mon Julien/Ishi – Lola’s Saloon, Fort Worth, TX – 2/18/2012

•February 17, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Click To Buy Tickets

2011 was the year Fort Worth’s The Burning Hotels put everyone on notice. 2010 saw them knocking on the door of greatness with their album Novels and a handful of blistering live shows, yet 2011 saw their self titled third release announce their full arrival – Burning Hotels topped most local “Best Of” lists as they honed their live show into a balanced juggernaut of post-punk/new wave brilliance. 2012 shows no signs of slowing them down either, their triumphant performance at Dallas’ Granada Theater last month proved that.

Packing the power of that show, reportedly 800 in attendance, into one of their home stages at Lola’s Saloon is an almost frightening prospect. With headliners in their own rights, Black Tie Dynasty/Tripping Daisy/Midlake/Daryl supergroup Mon Julien makes their Fort Worth debut along with openers(!) Dallas’s self-described “Folktronic” act Ishi this is indeed a stacked bill.

I truly believe this will be one of those “I was there” types of shows. If you do not have your tickets already get them now as you don’t want to miss this one.

See you there.