I Got Jealous Again

The other night I was playing guitar, and I got to wishing that my hands could do more. That my mind could do more. That my ears could do more. There’s so much I wish I could do on the guitar and with my voice, but – despite what I was always told – all men are not created equal. Don’t get me wrong – I think I’m pretty damn good at some stuff, but there is so much more that I wish I could do. I got to thinking about how most of  my friends play in bands, and then I noticed how pretty much every one of them has some amazing skill that I wish I had. So I started writing this list. It’s like ‘Best Of’ list (with some biographical information about myself mixed in), highlighting a few of my friends and just how insanely jealous I am of them.

Kevin Aldridge
Kevin Aldridge

Kevin Aldridge – Songwriting
I can’t remember the exact time or date, but I’m guessing that I first met Kevin sometime around 2003/4. He was putting together a new band, Chatterton. At the time, I had no clue as to what I was doing as a musician or as a songwriter. Kevin, on the other hand, seemed to have a lifetime of experiences and knowledge under his belt as a musician, and I could tell that he knew what he was doing. Other than that, I didn’t really know anything about Kevin. But I learned a lot about him in the tracks that Chatterton released on their self-titled EP in 2006. While there are a lot of songwriters who can write a good song, Kevin is a songwriter who makes me believe every word. There is an underlying, accessible emotion in the background (and foreground) of every song. I can hear it in their 2010 EP, The Cold Open, and I can definitely hear it in his recent, full-length solo album, The Viper Sessions. There’s an old Waylon Jennings album that I like called ‘Singer of Sad Songs’. Every time that album comes up on my playlist, the album title makes me think of Kevin. However, I think Kevin takes it one step further. He’s not only a singer of sad songs, he’s also a songwriter. And I think he’s the best one around.

Ray Liberio
Ray Liberio

I don’t even know where to start. Ray has to be one of the nicest guys I have ever met. He’s also superduper talented. At first, I thought he just played bass. Then I found out he was a singer. And a frontman. And that he played in one of the bitchin’-est bands in all of DFW. And then he did the album art for my band’s EP. And he makes fliers for shows. And he did the artwork for my solo CD. He’s also a cancer survivor. Every time I hang with Ray, it makes me feel good about the world. The dude is just so upbeat…even when he’s wizarded. In most of our conversations, I get a history lesson about DFW music – and music in general. But what I really love about Ray is that he’s just so fucking metal. The beard. The tattoos. The bands. The fulltime job. The homeowner. The artist. The minister. The cats. It’s so awesome. He’s DIY all the way. I look at Ray and see a guy lives a life that he wants to live. I don’t think everyone does that. If you ask me, that’s fucking metal.

Steffin Ratliff
Steffin Ratliff

Steffin Ratliff – Guitar
It’s no secret that Steffin is my guitar hero. After watching him play guitar for the past 10+ years in Pablo & The Hemphill 7, my admiration and jealousy continue to grow. I’m a guy who loves reggae and ska more than anyone I know, and I can tell you this: Steffin plays it like it should be played. Some may say that reggae and ska are super easy to play. Sure, just learn some barre chords and you’re off! There is some truth to that. But on the other hand, it takes a truly great player to make any style sound easy. You’ve gotta have style to make it look easy, and you’ve gotta have a certain touch to make it sound good. Steffin has both, and I wish I could do the things that he does with his guitar. It only gets worse when I think about the fact that I have had gear crush on his Strat/Silvertone setup for nearly as long. Damn, it sounds so good! To make my jealousy skyrocket, all I have to do is go see him play with The Apache 5. That band plays a completely different genre and style, and he kicks ass at that, too! It’s not fair. BTW Joshua Loewen also plays guitar in that band. Talk about unfair! Gah!

Joe Vano
Joe Vano

Joe Vano – Frontman
Since I’m being completely transparent here, I might as well admit that I think I was an awful frontman. I just didn’t do anything right. Engage the crowd? Nope. Hang out and talk with people before shows? Nope. After shows? Nope. Look like I’m really having the time of my life on stage? Nope. In fact, I pretty much stood in one place and never really moved from that spot. Now that I think about it more – I was pretty damn boring. When we played with Pablo & The Hemphill 7, not only did I get to stand in awe of my favorite Fort Worth guitarist, I got to see a master frontman in action. And let me tell you – school was in session. Joe Vano seems to be at home on stage. Like it is a big party and he is the host. Man, I wish I could be like that. He is electric on that stage. If you’ve ever played after band that you know was better than you, you’ll know what I’m talking about. When we played with Pablo, I got my ass kicked on guitar, and I also couldn’t help but realize that I was a distant second as a frontman those nights. But I’m glad we got to play those shows. I think it made me better by getting private lessons from the best in town. Well, public lessons.

Kenny Wayne (Best Mandolin Tone Ever!)
Kenny Wayne (Best Mandolin Tone Ever!)

Kenny Wayne Hollingsworth – Tone
Back in 2000, I bought a Roland JC-120 at Mars Music over off of South Cooper in Arlington. #Memories. I pretty much only bought it because 1) I needed a bigger amp and 2) I saw Slightly Stoopid use one back in 1999 at Fitzgerald’s in Houston. And I had read about reggae guitarists using those amps a lot in the 70’s. But I didn’t know wtf I was doing. Then in July 2004, Jorts spent a day with me…GuitarCenter-hopping around DFW, helping me find a new amp. I ended up buying a Fender Tone-master (made in 2000). It’s an awesome amp for sure. But again, I had no idea what I was doing with guitars and pedals, much less amps and tone. Somewhere along the way, I started to get into surf music. In surf music, tone is king, and I’ve learned a lot more about how important it is to get the right tone for a song. In 2008, I found a vintage 1966 blackface Fender Showman for $600 on Craigslist, and I bought it. I was in tone heaven! And I started listening for tone more and more. That’s when I noticed Kenny Wayne’s tone at an Orbans show.  Holy crap. It’s like everything and everyone faded away into darkness. A light came down from the heavens (or the ceiling above the stage) and all I could see was Kenny’s amp. It’s like it was talking to me. Is it possible to fall in love with an amp? Fast-forward to a few months ago. I was at Blue Smoke Studios with Kenny. He had a couple of his Mockingbird Amps with him…because, you know…he started BUILDING HIS OWN AMPS! We were trying to find the perfect tone for some song I was working on. Kenny was hopping all over the room, turning a knob on a pedal here and a switch on an amp there. It was one of the coolest things I’ve ever witnessed, watching a tone master (zing!) dialing in a tone. When I’m at home, turning a knob on my amp, I’m pretty sure I look like Homer Simpson trying to build a grill. Le grille?! What the hell is that?! Next time you are at an Orbans show, be sure park yourself in front of Kenny’s amp for a couple of songs. Thank me later.

Sam Anderson
Sam Anderson

Sam Anderson – Voice
Even though I play guitar, I’ve always thought of myself as a singer. In fact, singing is my favorite aspect of music. Guitar is a distant second. I don’t have some crazy story about how I started singing when I was 2-years-old or anything like that, but I can’t remember a time when I didn’t like to sing. I’m pretty sure that it has something to do with how much my mom sang to me when I was little. I sang in choirs at the first chance I could (in 3rd grade) all the way up to when I was 22yo in the TCU Concert Chorale. It’s funny to think about how I was in musicals in high school, and that I played guitar at church during college. Those days seem so long ago.

After quitting my band in 2009 so that I could start a family, it didn’t really bother me that I was no longer performing….until about 5-6 months ago, at which point I decided to come out of hiding and play an acoustic show. It had been over 2 years since I played anywhere. I didn’t even know where I could play. But I remembered that Sam had a weekly gig at the Magnolia Motor Lounge, and lucky for me, he was all about letting me open up for him on a random Tuesday night. So I played a 45-minute set one night back in October, and then I sat and listened to Sam’s set. That guy is one hell of a singer, guitarist and overall performer.  As I sat there and listened to Sam sing, I was simply in awe of the soul in his voice. It’s polished. Not necessarily in the sound, but in the way that he knows how to vocally craft a song and maneuver through his voice. Sam knows his strengths as a singer and he plays to them. He’s a confident singer, and I can only imagine that much of that confidence has come from the fact that he is constantly playing shows and playing for new audiences. He’s also gotta be one of the hardest-working musicians in DFW. That night, I really came to appreciate the fact that Sam knows who he is as a musician. When I look at myself, I feel like I have no idea who I am as a musician. I don’t think I’ve really found my voice or my style, and, honestly, it’s very frustrating. So when I see a guy several years younger than me put on a flawless set, full of songs that showcase an amazing level of finesse – in both voice and guitar – I get jealous. Then I think about the fact that he does that night after night, pretty much all year long. Wow. I admire that. Someday I hope I find my voice like Sam has found his.

Well, that’s my list. What did you think? Pretty big love fest, right? I have more people to talk about: Big Mike, Eric Dodson, Peter Black, Jordan Richardson, Cliff Wright, Jordan Roberts, Jeremy Hull, Steve Steward, Joshua Loewen, Daniel Hardaway, Justin Pate, Joe Rose – as I’m jealous of all them, too. Maybe I’ll write about them in a ‘Part 2’ post or something.

Welp, see ya later!

My Fort Worth Weekly Music Awards Showcase Recap

fort-worth-weekly-music-awards-2012I began my Sunday not believing I would make it to the showcases later that evening due to sickness. But I decided to forgo traditional medicine in favor of whiskey so I laced up my converse like the true Fort Worth patriot I am and braced myself for the INTENSE HEAT. I started out at Magnolia Motor Lounge, where I saw a few bands including parts of Foxtrot Uniform and The Will Callers. I think it was during one of those sets when I updated my Facebook status saying, “It’s my destiny to marry and support a musician. Sad truth.” Guys with guitars are hot, it cannot be denied. Those bands were fun but I was really just killing time (with whiskey) to go to Lola’s and see Pinkish Black and Burning Hotels.

Now, bear with me. For the past several years, I lived in Baltimore so I was new to the Pinkish Black phenomenon. First, I didn’t realize they were metal. Second, I didn’t realize there were only two of them. All I knew prior to last night that friends have said they were rad. So I went to check out the hype. I was TOTALLY BLOWN AWAY. It amazed me that so much sound could come from two smallish looking dudes. I don’t know enough about metal to make a lot of those kinds of references, but their wall of sound reminded me a lot of former Fort Worth outfit, Valhalla who had a huge sound from only three smallish dudes. I thoroughly enjoyed the Pinkish Black set and complimented the singer profusely afterwards.

Next up were the Burning Hotels, whom I LOVE. The crowd was intense at that point and I was suitably tanked enough not to care. The Hotels played a great mix of old and new songs and I’m pretty sure everyone involved was having the best time ever. I’m sure I annoyed people around me by telling them that I was there, dancing on those Vivid nights! But regardless, THIS is the kind of shit I moved back to Fort Worth for. I always kind of joke around, calling the Weekly Awards the Fort Worth Grammys, but Fort Worth has a serious amount of talent that cannot be denied. Admittedly, I did not do as many of the venues and see as many of the bands as I would have liked. As I mentioned, I am sick so I was pretty laser focused on booze/self-medication but I had an awesome time. I hope to do more venue hopping next time around and catch more bands. But, can I just throw out the suggestion that we do this in the dead of winter next year? Can I get an amen?

I Get By With A Little Help From…

For my first “wizard-post” I wanted to write about something very specific. I imagine as the weeks and months brush by I will write often about local music, records I think you should hear, funny things people said, etc. etc. But in writing, as in most things in life, no matter what purpose or brilliant idea you intend on making the focus of your piece, the events that you have experienced more recently tend to force their way onto the page. So in thinking about my inaugural wizard-post I kept coming back to the thing that has probably impacted me the most in my twelve years of Fort Worth residency: people.

I moved to Fort Worth in the fall of 2000 for University, which I withdrew from after only one year. What kept me here in Fort Worth was a community of musicians whose friendships have not only grown over the years, but have made this place home. I have come close to moving out of DFW twice since I have been here: once after a tough breakup when California sounded and looked like heaven (at least in the sense of escapism) and then once after marrying my wife who has never lived outside of the Fort. But each time the people are the thing that kept me from viewing this town as the past rather than the present and future.

Without turning this into a peek into my closet of skeletons, I, like all of you, have seen my share of pain, problems, and even some real suffering. But it seems my friends, both close and casual, have always been the ones to pull me out of the deep end. It so happens that most of those friends are either musicians or in some way connected to the music community of Fort West, it’s not weird really, that’s just my peer group. But the thing is that whether it was through specific acts of kindness, or just pleasant conversation and libation, these merry men (and women) have always been the cure to what ails me, it seems.

The Apache 5
The Apache 5

Of late, the band that I choose to give my free time to whole-heartedly has gone from a hobby to a beacon and a real joy for me. The three friends I chose to play with me in The Apache 5 have gone from talented friends who I get along with, to one large family made up of four smaller ones. Recently one of our family members, bass player and vocalist Kyle Barnhill, suffered an unfortunate accident which rendered him incapable of playing with the band for a few months. Not wishing to hinder the band’s momentum or summer plans, Kyle insisted we find a temporary replacement and keep working until his hand could completely heal. In stepped Chuck Brown, the bassist from Telegraph Canyon and longtime Chat Room barman. Chuck not only brought his awesome talent, but his absolute best effort and real friendship to the band and our music. Our first show with Chuck was one of real rock and roll frivolity at Lola’s for the Good Show Live Concert Series and as I write this we prepare for the biggest show of the band’s short career, Friday On the Green in the Magnolia district. If Chuck hadn’t arrived when he did we would’ve missed out on some great shows and experiences.

So as we await Kyle’s return once again it’s the amazing people of Fort Worth that continue to amaze and inspire me, people like Chuck Brown. So whatever great new places, food, drinks, and bands you read about and decide to try here on Fort Wizard, remember it’s the people who are making them exceptional, and more importantly, making them home.

Ye Olde Bull & Bush Defines Neighborhood Pub

Since this is my first blog, I wanted to take a minute to introduce myself. Hi! I’m Lauren. I moved to Fort Worth the fall of 2000 to attend TCU and have been smitten with the city ever since. While I did move to Baltimore for a few years for my career, I’m happy to be back living in what I consider to be the best city in America. I’m looking forward to writing about some of the new things Fort Worth is bringing us food/bar/music-wise. But I also look forward to writing about things that might appeal to my fellow wizard-ettes. Dirty dive bars are great and all, but sometimes a girl just needs a good pedicure, you know? But before I explore all the new, I’m going to begin with one of my favorite older haunts in Fort Worth. So without further ado, here is my first FortWizard.com blog!

Ye Olde Bull And Bush Pub (Fort Worth, TX)
Ye Olde Bull And Bush Pub (Fort Worth, TX)

Ye Olde Bull and Bush has been a favorite meeting spot for my friends and I for the better part of the last decade. At some point, we began affectionately calling it Ye Olde Twist and Shout for some reason, but like most ideas that occur while drinking good beer and whiskey, I cannot remember why.

The Bull and Bush pretty much defines the idea of a neighborhood pub, with a lot of the patrons having little in common except their favorite watering hole. Everyone is friendly, from the patrons to the staff and the ambience is one where no one is trying too hard to out-cool or out fashion anyone else, which is pretty refreshing. Additionally, the staff is completely knowledgeable about their wide beer selection and they are willing to share the wealth with samples of beer until you find one that suits your fancy.

If I had a complaint, it would be the same one I have about most FW bars- I wish they would ban indoor smoking! I’ll save my rant/thoughts about that particular topic for another time but as someone who spent the past four years in a city with an indoor smoking ban, I can tell you it’s pretty great.

We all know the brutal summer is coming soon but it’s not here yet so I hope you will take advantage of this decent spring weather and join me on the patio with some cold beers. Feel free to bring the dog!

Ye Old Bull and Bush is located at 2300 Montgomery St. Fort Worth, TX 76107.

Ben Harper & Relentless7 Hit Number 1 on iTunes Charts for Week Ending May 10, 2009

Ben Harper & Relentless7 Top iTunes Charts
Ben Harper & Relentless7 Top iTunes Charts

Holy crap! Ben Harper & Relentless7 topped the iTunes charts at #1 for the week ending May 10th. Those guys deserve it, too. Their album, White Lies for Dark Times, is an experience. Go buy it.

From TheTimesHerald.com (here):


1. “Boom Boom Pow,” Black Eyed Peas
2. “Don’t Trust Me,” 3OH!3
3. “No Surprise,” Daughtry
4. “Poker Face,” Lady GaGa
5. “Blame It,” Jamie Foxx
6. “Sugar (featuring Wynter),” Flo Rida
7. “Day ’n’ Nite,” Kid Cudi
8. “Old Time’s Sake (featuring Dr. Dre),” Eminem
9. “The Climb,” Miley Cyrus
10. “Halo,” Beyonce


1. “White Lies For Dark Times,” Ben Harper and Relentless7
2. “Epiphany,” Chrisette Michele
3. “Twilight (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack),” Various Artists
4. “Only by the Night,” Kings of Leon
5. “Star Trek,” Michael Giacchino
6. “All I Ever Wanted,” Kelly Clarkson
7. “Fantasy Ride,” Ciara
8. “The Fame,” Lady GaGa
9. “Hannah Montana: The Movie (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack),” Miley Cyrus, Hannah Montana
10. “With Roots Above and Branches Below,” The Devil Wears Prada

Congrats to Ben, Jesse, Jason and Jordan. I can’t wait for the second album, so get on it already!

Bonus: Here’s Ben Harper & Relentless7 performing their single, Shimmer and Shine, on the Late Show with David Letterman:

Today I Learned About Forces

Forces hold everything together. There are strong forces and weak forces. There are electromagnetic forces and gravitational forces. Cohesive forces hold together molecules of the same type, like water molecules. Adhesive forces hold together objects of differing types, like chalk adhering to a chalkboard. Some forces only impact objects within a finite range, while other forces have an infinte range of impact (like gravity for instance). Today I learned that a local band can be a force in a community, in a group of friends, in a family, and in the life of an individual.

Today we buried Jon Ward. The funeral was extremely moving. The burial was beautiful. A few hundred people and a sunny sky. It really hit me today that a local band can impact the world in a variety of ways. That a local band could be a force that provides inspiration. That a local band could lift the spirit of a man fighting for his life. That a local band could be a cohesive and adhesive force for a group of friends. That a local band could bring a smile to the faces of a grieving family. Darth Vato brought friends together and made people happy. That might just be the greatest memory I’ll have of our little band.

Jon Ward had a significant impact on us all. He was a force of compassion that apparently had an infinite range. Today I was humbled by the support and love shown for Jon. I sincerely felt lucky and blessed to have known him. He obviously had a deep connection with a lot of people, and it was very easy to see that in the slideshow. In a way, it seemed like people smiled bigger in pictures with Jon. He just brought that out of people. God must need more of that in Heaven.

RIP, Jon. We miss you so much already.

Ben Harper & Relentless 7 White Lies for Dark Times Out Now!

Ben Harper & Relentless 7
Ben Harper & Relentless 7

Guess what? It’s Cinco de Mayo 2009, and Ben Harper‘s new record, White Lies for Dark Times, comes out today. Ben’s new band is called Relentless 7, and the band is made up of people I know. How weird is that? Jesse (bass), Jason (guitar), and Jordan (drums) were all members of a Led Zeppelin cover band called Pudge Zeppelin. They were also members of other bands (Oliver Future, Wan Santo Condo) that I got to see several times at the Moon bar in Fort Worth, TX. But now they are on to bigger and better things. And when I say “bigger and better” I mean an international tour and a badass new record with Ben Harper! The album is called White Lies for Dark Times, and you should go get it.

White Lies for Dark Times - Ben Harper & Relentless 7
White Lies for Dark Times – Ben Harper & Relentless 7

If you know me at all, you probably know about my lack of knowledge for all things music, especially rock music. I know pretty much next to nothing about 1970’s rock music, but after hearing this new album, it’s easy to hear the influences and the style they are tackling. The style is there. The tones are there. I saw them play much of the album live on a National Geographic webcast from Rome, Italy. And I’ve listened to the entire album on MySpace. After those two listening sessions, I’m practically a Relentless7 know-it-all. Not really. Anyways, I think Ben Harper & Relentless7 created an album that is everything a rock album should be. I recommend it.

Jordan Richardson in the studio with Darth Vato (2003)
Jordan Richardson in the studio with Darth Vato (2003)

If you didn’t already know, Jordan Richardson (drums) produced and engineered all 4 Darth Vato records. He kind of grew up with us as a band. He taught me so much about tone, and he was a very big influence on me taking an interest in music gear, specifically guitar amps. I met Jordan in 1999 (Looking back, it’s kind of a weird story. I might tell you about some other time), and from the moment I met him I knew he would eventually be a famous musician.

There are very few people that have a spark about them. It’s like a passion or a force that is driving them, and you can just tell that one day all the stars will align. For some people, talent and hard work will eventually meet up with luck and opportunity. Jordan is one of those people. He’s extremely talented, and he has put in a lot of work. His music dreams are coming true. Seeing how the music industry is an extremely tough environment in which to succeed, it’s awesome to know that is happening for a friend of mine. Now go buy the record. I wanna see that thing #1 on the Billboard charts. All over the world, even!