Houndmouth with Jarrod Dickenson
Granada Theater – Dallas, Texas – September 28, 2019 | Words and Photos by Cassie Preston
“Wow … you are really enjoying yourself!”, I hear someone holler to me.
Let’s press rewind. It’s 2017. I’m wearing huge earrings (like usual), a kimono (like usual) and a skinned knee (like usual). I fell down about two seconds after entering the first Fortress Festival in Fort Worth. By the time Houndmouth takes the stage, I’m on my third craft beer. The combination of both my high ABV beverage, lack of food and their Americana blues sound has given me this great sway – in – place – but – not – quite – dancing move that has clearly gained popularity.
Fast forward to Friday night, I rounded the corner to the front of the Granada after parking in back. I walk up to the entrance to see a sign taped to the door; I’ve beat the doors, which explains the short and small line behind me. Jarrod Dickenson, a gruff ginger who clearly doesn’t own a razor opens the evening to our meager crowd. He’s a Native Texan and brings with him his wife all the way from Ireland. She’s radiant and lights the stage up even though she only shakes tambourine and harmonizes with Dickenson. He’s a talented songwriter with creative songs like, “Ballad of a Lonesome Traveler” and “A Cowboy & the Moon”. I understand that musicians have stage personas, but there is something about Dickenson’s performance that seems … disingenuous.
I grab a beer between sets, notice that the venue is quickly filling up, so I begin my push towards the stage. I chat with a cute couple with matching Xs on their hands, Ryan and Abbey (with an “e”, she was very specific about that detail). Ryan plays baseball at Abilene Christian University and made the three and a half hour trek just to see Houndmouth … after his coach said he could miss practice. The two of them went to ACL last year which is how they stumbled upon the band. Ryan talks about – specifically – Houndmouth’s live performances in comparison to some pretty famous, substantial bands he’s been lucky enough to see. As I listen to them, I realize that Ryan and Abbey have pretty sophisticated taste in music beyond Drake, Twenty One Pilots and Ariana Grande. I ask about the folded up poster at their feet; Ryan smiles brightly and unfolds it, “LET ME PLAY DRUMS ON PALMYRA!”. He tells me he used to be the drummer for The Deplorables, calling himself the Ringo Starr of his band. At this point, I don’t even know if I’m as cool as Ryan and Abbey.
Houndmouth is on their third and shortest studio album, Golden Age, while strategically releasing singles one by one, California VooDoo & California VooDoo II. Matt Myers is front and center of the band, playing guitar and lending his vocals. He’s supported by Zak Appleby on the bass and Shane Cody on the drums. The current trio have added two saxophones and a pianist to accompany them. Unfortunately for Houndmouth fans, there is a clear absence of their female singer, Kate Toupin who departed the band in 2016. Cody picks up the slack in Houndmouth’s opening song, “My Cousin Greg” from their 2015 album, Little Neon Limelight. As I move through the venue, I notice a slow fade between the sea of early age college kids that are bright eyed with the novelty of seeing a concert and the young professionals who came for a social hour with their friends. The latter take flash photos of their group with the band in the background and post to Instagram silently next to each other.
With the bold opening line of my favorite song “15 Years”, I realize the difference between this band and Jarrod Dickenson despite their commonality of an Americana sound and style; there is no way these tall, lanky dudes in their late 20s actually served “Fifteen years on the county line”. But Houndmouth is lyrically earnest and performs authentically unlike Dickenson. As Houndmouth begins “Say It”, I’m at the back of the venue but I can feel the joy from the crowd up front despite only seeing the back of their heads. The song closes, Appleby pants into his mic, “You guys are wild as shit. You guys are awesome.”. Somewhere between those two songs, I catch Cody puff on the vape he thinks he’s carefully hid. Doesn’t that kill you or something now?
Houndmouth ends their set with their most popular and heartfelt song, “Sedona”. Suddenly, the entire iconic Granada Theatre is filled with a chorus of voices singing along with the band. Even those social media addicts are a part of this singular moment. I look directly at each member of Houndmouth and there is this frozen moment in time where each one of them has this face of pure joy and gratuity. And as the stage darkens, there is an absolute battle cry from someone near me at the front of the venue, “FOR NO ONE!!!” which not only scares the absolute shit out of me but also ruins the sweet moment we had together. The crowd idles for a moment as they wait for an encore from the band.
By “Darlin’”, the second of the band’s three song encore, I notice the majority of those social media addicts with their flash iPhone photos are leaving. Did these people even come here to enjoy a concert? Or was this just a social media stop to show how interesting they are? People, you are missing life. There are those around you, places and experiences happening right in front of you and you are staring into a screen.
I haven’t lost complete hope. I ran into that cute couple after the show; Ryan got a drumstick from the band.