When I learned Oh He Dead wasn’t going to make it to Dallas, I called our Nashville friends and asked if the wife and I could crash at their place, bought tickets for us and our super accommodating friends, and made my way to Nashville to catch the final show the band's recently ended tour. Let me tell you how glad I am we did this. Nashville boasts some great places to eat, numerous places to take in songwriter rounds, and exceptional small music venues. We managed to partake of all these offerings and it didn’t hurt that Oh He Dead’s performance topped the weekend.
It may have been the last stop on the band’s tour, but the energy emanating C.J. Johnson and Andy Valenti was palpable. Johnson's laughter and smiles made me smile. The opening song caught me completely off-guard but delighted our friends. I had to actually reach out to the band through social media to find out that the tune is called “Back Again” and the band hopes to record it soon. The tune is a real rocker that introduced the crowd to Johnson’s edgy vocal rasp and the band’s ability to lay down a solid rock tune. That voice is such a weapon and Johnson showed it off all night.
Things really kicked in when the band played “More Time” and the crowd was introduced to the smooth vocal stylings of Valenti. The band is at its best when Johnson and Valenti are trading lines and hitting the chorus hard together. This was evident on the band’s recent single, “Bottle It Up.” The song played really well with crowd and the band musically and vocally punched the jazzy breaks perfectly giving the song an irresistible syncopated groove. This duo dynamic was best exemplified with the band’s closing and most popular tune “Lonely Sometimes.”
I do need to mention guitarist Alex Salser. Salser killed it. He’s the type of musician that technically nails his part and keeps the band’s sound tight. He’ll spend most of the evening comfortably in the background. Then when you least expect he steps forward and takes the audience on a rocking ride. I loved his solo on the Clapton cover, “Old Love,” and got a big kick out of his surf riffs on the song “Moonshine.”
One of the best things about small venues is that sometimes you bump into a band member. After the band's set I found myself standing next to C.J. Johnson while waiting to order a beer. I told her we came from Dallas to see the show and hoped the band would make it to Dallas in the future. I mentioned how much we enjoyed the evening. She was friendly and shared a little bit about the band’s recent trip to South by Southwest. It’s always impressive when artists are comfortable with engaging with folks who come out to see their shows.
Oh He Dead is the type of band that will build its following everywhere it plays. All they need is time. Now that they're back on the road it seems that time is on their side.