It’s the last band of the night on a warm June evening. Two long haired guys, a drummer and guitarist, set their gear up on the stage at Dan’s Silver Leaf in Denton, a north Texas city often described as a mini Austin or what Austin used to be. I’ve been here several months checking out the local music scene centered mostly on Denton Square and adjacent streets. Every kind of music can be heard in the small city (the little d) a stone’s throw from Dallas and Fort Worth. Still, numerous venues have closed their doors in years as the laid back college town experiences gentrification, a sour note for the sleepy arts community composed of many students and alumni of the city’s two universities, University of North Texas and Texas Woman’s University.
It’s a typical night in Denton hanging out at Dan’s where Slobberbone’s Brent Best runs sound and Houston transplant Craig Welch of Brutal Juice runs the door. I have become as common as a bar stool here and the neon longhorn behind the bar has become the most notable feature in my Denton photos. There’s three bands on the bill: Sama Dams from Portland, Dezorah from McAllen,Texas and The Last Great American Rock Band.
A cheap domestic pint is my drink unless it’s hot in which case it’s beer and whisky, sometimes a White Russian. I should go home but a sense of duty keeps me. I order another. By the time TLGARB take stage it seems more fitting to close the bar and start mopping. Watching the band set up, I am fooled into thinking this must be a classic rock 2-piece like Tom Petty, Allman Brother or Lynyrd Skynyrd. Stay 5 minutes, snap a few shots and sneak out the door. The musicians are not hurried nor do they seem overly concerned the room feels empty. Something catches my eye: there’s a crash cymbal with a massive chunk missing from its body. Quickly note absence of bass player. Did you leave the bassist in trunk of car and forget him? Brent adjusts their levels. Drummer has gadgetry set up on chair.
What kind of band names themselves The Last Great American Rock Band? The lights dim as the ice in my whisky melts into oblivion. The room dissolves in droning hypnotic rhythm. No band introduction. The stage is lit by a few bluish lights giving guitarist Scotty Warren an angelic halo of hair light while drummer Brandon Young is shrouded in near darkness. Flickers of colored light appear from the assorted electronic geekery present but the players on stage are quite still. The drum rolls are fast and plentiful providing an endless cycle of waves for the guitars to surf on with a degree of disconsonant agility. Slowly the mind takes flight or slips down a rabbit hole of kaleidoscopic radiance... a series of cascading dreams unfolding....
A few weeks later and I am standing in the practice room of Brandon and Scotty. Music gear covers every inch. They have agreed to do a podcast and I’ve shown up with cameras, Zoom recorder and cables without knowing what to expect or what to ask. I have gleaned little to nothing from their Facebook profile and I suspect that everything they really need to say happens when they are creating sound with their respective instruments. You’ve read about musicians who picked up the guitar and then could not put it down and I would not be surprised if Mr. Warren woke up playing his guitar and would never think to stop playing. Brandon and Arlington, Texas native is the more talkative of the pair. Fresh off a tour with Claire Morales, he learned you really could make a living as a touring band if you hustle. When I had met them just a few weeks earlier the idea of touring for months seemed an unlikely event but now, something has changed in the pair of musos.
They work through songs they admit are challenging and push their abilities. Rarely do I see a post rock instrumental band honing craft before me. It’s like finding unicorns prancing in the yard - it just doesn’t happen and all the things you wanted demystified suddenly come to light. Like everyone else, they will resort to ordinary language to explain parts the other may have forgotten; they have definite opinions on Star Wars v. Star Trek. Post rock doesn’t mean they don’t have a Led Zeppelin influence somewhere. They are not unaware the confusion and prejudices the name inspires... Yes, this is musicians in their natural habitat and they are definitely The Last Great American Rock Band.
We’ve got a podcast coming out soon featuring The Last Great American Rock Band.
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