by: Thomas D. Mooney
Editor’s Note: The Night Shift: The Come Up is a three-part installment about Flatland Calvary, Dalton Domino, and Wade Bowen playing in Midland on Saturday, August 29. This is the second of three pieces. For Part 1, click here. For Part 3, click here.
It’s Monday morning and I’m looking over setlists from this weekend. The two in front of me are polar opposites.
One’s on a torn-out sheet of wide ruled paper with each song in shorthand. Everything is in handwritten scribbled Sharpie. Eastside. 7. Diana. Drunken. William. Amarillo. Dallas. Killing. The other, it’s printed out on white paper with every other line highlighted with notes between each of the 10 songs. Each song has a key that it’s in–G, F, C, F#, etc. Each line is centered on the page. Organized.
In a lot of ways, they sum up all the differences between Domino and Cordero as songwriting frontmen and the two bands they lead. Where Cordero is on point with every detail, Domino is more free wheeling and laid back. Flatland is light, crisp, and soaring. Front Porch is gritty, lead-footed, and driving. Domino walks into a place and you know it. It’s bull in a china shop style while Cordero is playing the wallflower.
The two represent the future of Lubbock music–regardless of you like it or not. With 1806 and Come May as introductions this past May, the two are already working on their sophomore albums (granted, they’re in the very early stages of each).
In a lot of ways, Domino and Cordero’s songwriting on broken hearts, relationships, summer love, and fuck you ballads have the pair playing good cop and bad cop. In “Killing Floor,” “7 Years,” and “Howl,” Domino is setting this house up in flames, dealing with devil women, drinking tall boys to cope, and having shit talking ex-girlfriends. Cordero’s “Missing You” and “Ain’t Over You Yet” has him smoking cigarettes, popping Adderall, second guessing everything, and having a solid case of the lonesome blues.
It’s old good cop and bad cop routine.
In short, Domino probably still thinks you’re a bitch. Cordero is still friends with you on Facebook. Domino is wearing those feelings on the sleeve. Cordero’s are rolled up tight and close to the chest. Still, both are genuine to the psyche of both songwriters.
FPFB guitarist Beau Bofling is pacing around with his guitar strapped over his one shoulder in the balcony behind stage. He’s stretching fingers. Playing silently. Every once in a while, he’ll make his way towards the opening and look out on Flatland and give out a “Goddamn” or “Fuck, man.” He elaborates once or twice joking that he hates them for making Front Porch follow them.
Bassist Michael Moad does the same pace with bass in hand. Drummer Chase Francis has been walking around with a pair of drum sticks practically all afternoon. He’s drumming on his thighs, a seat, or on the air drum set in front of him. A few minutes later, he’s leading some impromptu yoga stretching.
Flatland is in the later half of “Devil On My Back.” Fiddler Laura Houle and company abruptly break their “Devil On My Back” groove and begin racing towards “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” before throwing that to the way side and find their stride back on “Devil On My Back.”
For as light, crisp, and sharp Flatland is, every once in a while, they roll around in the dirt. “Devil On My Back” is one of these moments. They become the grit. Houle’s wearing a white summer dress and switching fiddles between songs. Front Porch’s Lora Markham Robertson looks on from the top shelf room. “I could never wear a dress like that with these guys,” she says referring to the long-haired and bearded southern rock hippies behind her. “Next to Cleto, it works. Next to Dalton, I don’t think so,” she says trailing off as she messes around with the frayed pieces extending from her sleeves.
30 minutes later and Front Porch Family Band are about to take their places on stage. They’re huddled around Francis who’s sitting on the back riser. Domino reiterates a drum to Francis for the third or fourth time. It’s the beginning of “East Side River Snake,” but clacking in more spots. It’s raw and coarse.
Domino turns to me and says, “We’re playing ‘East Side’ twice tonight. Opening and closing. Am I crazy?”
Yes. Yes, you are. They do.
Front Porch walks out and Francis starts the robust groove. Domino takes one last swig of Dos Equis and walks out to join them. He waves his arms up and gives out a “How yawl doin, Midland?” followed by a twang-filled “one, two, three.”
Off into the night they ride. Hope on. Listening to Domino & FPFB is like riding a motorcycle without a visor. You’re going to get some bugs in your teeth, but also going to feel the full force of the wind blowing through your hair.
They start off with a bunch of pointing up and glances towards the soundboard. Everything gets louder. Domino rumbles around stage with various head and eye signals at everyone. I assume it all shorthand code for the band, but with Domino, who really knows.
They go into a couple of new songs before biting into the meat of 1806 with “7 Years.” They ramble through some of Domino’s favorite songs from others: Charlie Shafter’s “Dear Diana,” Hal Ketchum’s “Small Town Saturday Night,” Hayes Carll and Ray Wylie Hubbard’s “Drunken Poet’s Dream,” Band of Heathen’s “Hurricane,” and “Terry Allen’s “Amarillo Highway.”
That’s one of the biggest differences between Domino and others that’s been a double-edged sword this far into his short career. He’s unafraid to tackle big songs–iconic songs–by other artists. Some call it brazen. Some call it bold. Others wish he’d play more originals altogether.
I could go for more “Howl” and “Still Find You,” but overall think that’s part of the Front Porch show. By all means, how many songs do you think Domino has written to this point? He doesn’t exactly have that extensive catalog just quite yet.
They’re about to go into “Dear Diana” and Bofling and Robertson are scrambling around trying to find a slide for Bofling to play with. Luckily, Bowen’s guitar tech pulls one out and tosses it Robertson’s way. It makes all the difference in the world. Where Shafter’s is a slow breeze acoustic-heavy picking ballad, Domino’s naturally comes out a little more rugged. A major aspect of it is the sliding wahs from Bofling.
Much like Flatland, the crowd in front are singing along to what they know and staring at them the rest of the time. It’s understandable to say the least. They get it. They erupt with Bofling’s guitar solos or Levi Fowler’s howling harmonica. Every few songs, Moad loses his hat. He’s on the far side of the stage and nearly though he’s looking right at his band mates the majority of the time, he’s almost in his own bass thumping and toned world.
Every once in a while, people file in or out of the room. Beer time. Bathroom break. Photograph opportunity. But in the majority of cases, just trying to find a phone signal. The room may as well be the Bermuda Triangle with a view.
“Jesus & Handbags” begins. Fowler exits the stage. A few seconds later, he’s in the room looking for something to drink. The case of beer is gone so he opts for a vodka-water and races back down.
Where the majority of 1806 finds Domino trudging through breakup, fuck-ups, setbacks, packs of cigarettes, and bottles of whiskey, “William’s Song” is an upbeat and rosy anthem–naturally, it’s a song written for Domino’s younger brother. They go into it.
It’s the apex of their show–specifically with Fowler, Domino, and in particular, Robertson elevating their harmony game. It peaks with “just hold on to young, wild, and free as long as you can.” It hits.
They’re carrying the weight.
Return tomorrow for Part 3 of The Night Shift: The Come Up.