We sent our newest correspondent, Brandon Blair to check out Mike Graff and [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Spoonfed Tribe[/lastfm] on Friday at the Kessler Theatre… sounds like it was a hell of a show.
MIKE GRAFF AND THE [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]SPOONFED TRIB[/lastfm]E AT THE KESSLER
The Kessler itself is somewhat of a local legend – in its almost 70 year history it has sold wartime ration cards, been owned by Nashville Songwriting Hall of Fame’s Gene Autry, served as a revival tabernacle, and weathered (barely) the 1957 Dallas tornado only to have its insides burned out in a fire. It even operated as a sweatshop at one time according to current owner Edwin Cabaniss.
The venue lay discarded for over 30 years before being purchased and revitalized, reopening in 2010. Now, 69 years after its construction, it’s an Art Deco masterpiece with cozy vibe and even boasts a showing room upstairs known as the Kessler X+.
Friday night was, for Mike Graff, Boogie Night. If his previous performances were darkly contemplative and ethereal in nature, this performance wore velvet pants and wielded dual glitter cannons. The duo (consisting of Graff and drummer Guyton Sanders) was tight, Sanders firing dance beats while Graff cranked traditional rock riffs out of an equally traditional Fender amplifier.
Graff’s performance did betray a slight uneasiness in vocal delivery; he later suggested that the songs were written as “sort of a joke”, but the liveliness of the material suggests it was made not for laughing, but for dancing. If anything was missing in their set, it was the crucial oomph that only a skilled bassist can bring. Graff says it’s in the works – perhaps the addition might peel some of the wallflowers off their seats and draw them onto the Kessler’s luxuriously spacious dance floor.
Mike Graff is famous in North Texas for his ability to carve soundscapes out of any room with a single guitar (Mike was the sole guitarist in influential Dallas post-industrial rock band Course of Empire, but you’d never guess by listening), and has worn many hats. In 2001, with CoE drummer Mike Jerome, he forged a beautifully textured ambient album, Atmospheres for Lovers and Sleepers under the moniker Halls of the Machine.
Recently he has performed amalgamations of a few CoE and HotM favorites, weaving pieces of songs into one another and peppering them with more recent compositions. Tonight’s offering was a side of him many haven’t yet seen, but one that should continue to entertain his fans as it develops, especially if he breaks out the sequins.
The Spoonfed Tribe, a notoriously hard-to-define Dallas rock act, drew a line in the sand with their very first song. A thunderously percussive affair, the song provided some explanation to the band name: tribal drums cannoned phrases back and forth between the musicians, at times playing in unison, at times accenting one another as in-the-know fans danced exuberantly.
The tribe deals rhythm in a big way, but their set list broadened so quickly that it was characteristically difficult to get a bead on it. This, as it turns out, was refreshing. They tread the highways of jazz, blues, and hard rock, while meandering in some of the more obscure areas in between, making use of flutes, synths, and other interesting additions, all with hypnotic precision.
The aural experience coupled with some terrific lighting to create a highly engaging experience, and The Spoonfed Tribe draws a wide range of fans because, quite simply, they play a wide range of music. Their longevity speaks in the tightness of their playing, and their passion translates well to the onlookers, the most conservative of whom couldn’t help but tap a toe or booted foot.
While the turnout wasn’t as robust as I’ve seen it in the past the staff were gracious, the food and drink were welcome (vegetarians will find Kessler’s Davis St. tacos w/ seasonal veggies top notch fare), and the entertainment was delivered dutifully. A good night, and one I would heartily recommend to anyone who wants to see just how far Oak Cliff has come in the last ten years.