Friday nights in Deep Ellum are a great place to party and hear bands from all musical backgrounds. You can probably find ten shows every night in this area of Dallas alone. Early Saturday mornings, at 1:30 am, there are more people on the streets then there were at 8 pm Friday evening. The nightlife in Deep Ellum is legendary in Dallas, Texas.
Two excellent local bands, THE KUL and SON OF SWAN, were great choices to warm up the crowd for the shredding master Michael Angelo Batio. THE KUL I have seen before, at Trees Dallas, opening for legendary LITA FORD. They impressed me then and still are just as impressive. I had not seen SON OF SWAN before, but I heard good things, particularly from The Maestro who raves about them.
THE KUL consists of Johnny Lenix (vocals), Great Dane (guitar), Andrew Supulski (guitar), Ashley Jeans (bass) and Jeff Mount (drums). They combine funky heavy rock with punk and make it work really well. Johnny Lenix is a great frontman, excellent vocals and has excellent energy. He gives 110% and the band mixes well together. One minute you are listening to killer solos by Supulski or Dane and the next minute you are focused on Mount or Jeans’ bass lines and her killer red Fender Jaguar. I hope to get to see these guys over and over. They have become my favorite local Dallas band.
Neil Swanson (vocals/guitar), Cody Gatlin (bass) and Billy Walker (sheepskins), better known as SON OF SWAN is also an excellent local Dallas unit. I was in for one hell of a surprise. Not only had I not seen this band before, but I certainly will not forget them. Swanson is a master guitarist. He makes playing the heavy and fast riffs look simple. He reminds me of a blend between fellow Texan guitarists Stevie Ray Vaughan (RIP) and Eric Johnson. Neil is clean in his notes and seems to fly through the riffs effortlessly. It was quite obvious he was in complete control from the very first chord. SON OF SWAN is a very clean and tight band. Check out their latest new EP New Texas. You will be very impressed.
I’ve had Michael Angelo Batio’s music in my collection for a long time. He seemed larger than life. A double guitar? I don’t even know what you call it except that. Batio is left handed, but plays right handed, EXCEPT when he has this beast. Then he can play both at the same time. Hammer ons and pull offs with this monster (as he had no third hand….yeah, hard to believe), but he can and does switch from one side to the other playing equally as well. Astounding!
More than a guitar player, Angelo has had a huge career, all over the world. Known as one of the originators of the “shred technique” he is a very personable guy. He shared with the audience throughout his set personal stories from his career, how he has been all over the world many times, the people and bands he idolizes like Randy Rhoads (RIP), METALLICA and Dallas’ own PANTERA. One memorable story included a time when Dimebag Darrell (RIP) approached him informing him that he had one of his instructional videos and used his technique. How cool is that? It’s a small world ain’t it?
Playing the set with a pre-recorded backing track, Batio is literally a one man band. He controls all music and video screens behind him with foot controls. The stage is literally a compact show. Angelo begins with a pre-recorded soundtrack and video on two small screens on either side of the double guitar, which is propped up in its case in the center of the stage, positioned like a coffin and arising from the dead….Angelo comes nonchalantly to the stage…..starts a few licks from “Crazy Train” and proceeds to melt our faces with “Tribute to Randy” on his signature “Armor Flame” Dean ax. I want one of these bad boys.
He blew the crowd away with incredible songs like “Metallica Rules”, “Zeppelin Forever”, “Tribute to Dimebag”, “Rainforest” and “8 Pillars of Steel”. I was right at the stage, four feet from this master guitar player. He did no singing and guess what, I never noticed….an hour and a half of kick ass shredding and masterful song compilations. When the set was over, it was too soon. I turned around and looking at the crowd, it was like everyone had seen the spirits in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and all their skin had melted from their skulls with only eyeballs protruding. Pick your face up off the floor, son!!
Angelo knows how to entertain a crowd. He is personable, funny and very appreciative of his fans. He made a point to stay afterwards for every fan who wanted autographs or a photo with him. I can count on one hand the artists or bands who have actually made time to hang with their fans after the gigs and only one artist who stayed until the last fan left. Batio is a complete gentleman, very cordial and of course one of the most killer guitar players on the planet. He is impressive all the way around. A complete honor to see and meet him.
LIVE WORDS: MARK EHRLICH
LIVE PHOTOS: ARDENT OWL MEDIA