My buddy turned to me and said, “They’re playing ‘JM,’ they’re about to tear it up.” Plenty of bands have anthems, songs they’re known for, but most don’t have clear-cut burners that take their time absolutely bringing the place down.Off the top of my head I can name three: Weezer – Only In Dreams, Sigur Ros – #8, and Lynyrd Skynyrd- Freebird. Tonight, I saw Strand of Oaks play ‘JM’ and burn down Dallas TX.
Let’s step back for a second…have you heard of Strand of Oaks? Neither had I. A few weeks back I happened to hear their single, Goshen ’97, and it was one of the most compelling things I’ve heard in a while. I was compelled to listen with full attention. I was compelled to find out who this band was and where in the world they came from. Strand of Oaks is pure, distilled rock and roll, even when they hide in the shadows.
Before the show I got to speak with Tim(the very bearded frontman) and I asked some of the standard music questions and got the expected answers. When I stopped trying to play interviewer and just talked to the guy, the music became clear. We talked about basketball – Jordan/Pippen, Nowitzki/Nash, Lebron, and his respect for the Spurs. The common factor was the team. He had an admiration for the individuals who were better as a team, even when the individuals were of the highest individual caliber. Strand of Oaks has released a few albums but the most recent, Heal, is the first to feel as if it was written for a band of friends to play hard on stage, together. The together is what made tonight’s show so special.
From the start to the finish, this was a band effort. I’ve listened to and love the new record, but Heal was meant to be played and heard live. The keyboards and backing vocals are more prominent, the aggression of the bass player cuts through, and the shear power of the drummer’s snare drum force you to bear witness to something special. These days, most bands aren’t better live than on record…any time you get to see a band that is, you’re seeing something special.
Back to ‘JM.’ It builds and falls, it builds and falls, until it just builds and builds. There is a moment where music stops being about how pretty/how perfect/how rocking it is and it just transforms to an experience where the groove is set and there is no other option than to just play whatever you have as hard as you can and howl as loud as you can and make sure that everyone can feel you. Strand of Oaks did that tonight in front of about forty people in Dallas. The fact that it was small town Dallas didn’t matter. It could’ve been the Greek or the Garden, they played their hearts out for anyone that would listen.
The burner songs are important because they can define bands. Not that a band has to rely on them or always play them, often times the burners aren’t even necessarily the best songs. The burner is important though because it tells you who the band is and what matters. With Strand of Oaks, ‘JM’ was a stage without spotlights. Every band member played hard and then harder until reckless abandon was the only option left.
An audience watching reckless abandon is an audience transformed. A small bar in Dallas was transformed tonight. Strand of Oaks deserves your attention