Wayland: A Concert Review

December gets pretty packed over at Wicked Lil Pixie. Not to mention that I am usually elbows and assholes into an edit between holiday event breaks. But that doesn’t sate the need I have been feeling to do reviews. So, why not review the last concert I went to?

photo courtesy of Nico Zammuto*

photo by Nico Zammuto*

There could be one reason, which I will offer up in the spirit of full transparency. I’m a fan of Wayland. I have seen then more in the last year and a half than any other concerts put together during my “concert hiatus.” Still I feel my familiarity with their show gives me a different perspective on the concert this past weekend.

To give you an idea on just how much I wanted to make the show, I will lay it out for you. It was my 22nd anniversary. My wife had asked if I would mind her going to her mother’s holiday party with her, though (spoiler alert) I think she was going to regret missing this show. It was colder than sin and half as fun in Wisconsin that night, and on the road to getting worse. It was about a 40 minute drive to the place. And finally I was on my cane from the unfortunate fight I had with a patch of ice that shifted my knee out of joint. So hobbled, cold, dressed in my Band Camp shirt and Reno hoodie, and I went to the bar.

The opening acts were all good. I may do reviews on them later, especially Left of Reason. They have a weird karmic link with Wayland for me that isn’t that unusual, but I have little belief in coincidence. Sufficed to say, they were all solid and fit into the styles of music for the night. To large of a divergence from the style of the headliner is jarring for me. This wasn’t.

photo by Nico Zammuto*

photo by Nico Zammuto*

During the show, I would check Twitter from time to time between songs. Watch for my wife texting me that she was heading home from Milwaukee. And of course, to see that Wayland was making an appearance at Toys for Tatas at Silk Exotic. Easily the same 40 or so minutes away from the club as I had driven. That let a schedule looking somewhat like this:

7:00 National Anthem at the Janesville Jets game
??? Appearance at Silk Exotic for Toys for Tatas in Madison
11:00 take the stage at the Back Bar (back in Janesville)

And y’all thought I was insane going from 5am until after the concert was over. These guys were swinging for the fences just in the scheduling. And totally nailed it.

When they hit the stage, the show took on a different tone from the first three bands. Even more surprising, was that it took on a different tone for me than previous Wayland shows. Everyone was out and in place other than Mitch, the lead singer. Once they dropped into the song, he came out on stage, leading with his voice. Even more so than his singing, there was the power and presence. As if building up the energy f0r the show at the last minute, he paces. Quickly. It’s like seeing a lion or a tiger at the zoo stalking along the glass. A contained energy that seems to be on the edge of breaking out.

photo by Nico Zammuto*

photo by Nico Zammuto*

Now this isn’t to say that he was bouncing around like a teen with ADD jacked up on Monster energy drinks. Because during the ballad style songs he would level, being still and letting the lyrics and music do the heavy lifting. Like when he was solo on the stage singing a new song they recorded called “Follow.” Though someone in the audience called it “the stalker song.” Mitch replied with, “If she turns around, it’s not stalking.” And with a smile on his face said, “Yeah, it’s the stalker song.”

Keep in mind that whole exchange wasn’t a heckler. It was more of an in-joke. Something for those fans who have seen them live. A lot. On stage or over YouTube is the only way to have heard Follow as it hasn’t released yet. Which is how they do it. I saw that in the changes to the song Reno from the first time they played it on WJJO at a Sound Lounge from when it released. Writing it on the road means revising it on the road. Perfecting it. Though I can’t really see much that could be changed with Follow. It is a strong song with a compelling story.

Keep in mind that many of the folks who are coming to the shows have seen them before. They’ve bought the CDs. Many of them could sing the songs from memory. I have several in my writing playlists, so I know I can. The band knows this. Reno is currently the #1 requested song on WJJO, the rock station in Madison, WI. During their performance of it, Mitch was kind of taunting the audience to sing it. He held out the mic towards the audience at the pivotal line of “one road out of Reno.” Several times. It was more of a party with friends than a concert from your favorite band.

photo by Nico Zammuto*

photo by Nico Zammuto*

Though when the section came during several songs for a guitar solo, it was clearly a rock and roll show. Tyler and Dean had the solid beat and baseline going. The foundation with which a really great song can be built on. That allowed Phill, the lead guitarist to pull out the stops on a devastating guitar solo. Halfway through what was his best playing of the night it struck me how much it was like opening the doors to the stable on a wild horse and saying, “go play.” Watching the notes run and jump their way through the song. When Mitch pointed him out at the pause in the music before the end of the song, it seemed like even he was taken aback by it.

There are two final notes I have from the show. Two things that really set this band above others like them. Aside from the writing, the stage presence, the work ethic and their talent, there is more that sets them at the head of the pack. With all of their gifts, it could all fall apart if it wasn’t for one simple fact – they perform like they are a team. If something if off on the sound, even during a song, one of the others will catch the eyes of the sound tech and get them to adjust without breaking the song.

But there is something else that has less to do with their concerts, their music, and more to do with their fans. Much like other entertainers in other genres have done, they engage their fans. They stick around after the show to take pictures, have drinks, help the fans get the shirts and CDs they want. Autograph things for them. Hell, I’ve seen one fan with tattoos of their autographs signed on her shoulders. Around the Wayland logo Tyler had drawn on for her. And on December 7th, their table was packed at the end of the night.

I had picked up my shirt right after the last song. It’s my way of tracking how many shows I’ve been at. In addition to my way of supporting the band and keeping them on the road. I honestly feel that this crazy tour schedule (dubbed Always on Tour) of theirs is working for them. It was a really good show before. This week was a killer show. A face melter. I figure there were as many people packed in that bar as there was when they played Redneck Reunion Fest there a couple months back.

I considered sticking around to say hello to them if nothing else. My Warrior Wall at home already has a signed photo and signed guitar from them. (Got the guitar from the Band Camp VIP pass.) So I left it up to those I went with. I just knew that if I made my way up and into the people around the table, someone would knock my cane out from under me. And after four hours on my feet, I didn’t know how well that would have went. I did get a bit of a grin heading out to warm up the truck for the others watching the fans who were up there and the band interacting.

For me that is what makes a concert more of a show. There are good concerts, but then there are shows. And this was a show. In all the right ways. Totally five star rating, well worth seeing live. And they are really best seen live.


*Full photo accreditation: Nico Zammuto is one of Wayland’s biggest fans. And she was up at the front of the stage, taking pictures. Doing everything I cannot. She graciously agreed to allow me the use of her photos (which I found due to the band posting one of them). You can find all of her photos on her Facebook page. Including some of the other bands. Especially the holiday surprise Left of Reason brought out for their last song.

Only One Road In…

Mitch Arnold of Wayland

Mitch Arnold of Wayland

“There’s only one road in and one road out of Reno.”

-Wayland, Reno

So I have been have working through further posts on my playlists. Part of what is halting me is Camp NaNoWriMo. Everything seems to take back-burner when you are writing a 50,000 word novel in 30 days with a 40 hour a week day job. Also it seems to be the heart of concert season. Shown by the fact that I went to yet another concert for Wayland. This time in Janesville.

Okay, honestly it was a miniature music festival called Redneck Fest Reunion. Even though the later part of the night we were there for seemed decidedly non-redneck in nature, who were we to argue? The last three bands to play were Wayland, Royal Bliss and Bobaflex. A deal for the $10 at the door to get in.

Phill showing the guitar who's boss

Phill showing the guitar who’s boss

I know, get to the point. Part of the point was to share the photos my wife took at the event. Yes, every photo on this page was taken by Mrs. Zombie with her new SLR camera. We bought it last year to replace the first digital Rebel we bought her, with all the lenses being compatible. As we were closer than at the Acoustic New Year, she managed to get some awesome shots.

The other reason is to do my part to get #RENO trending. Reno is their latest single that releases on iTunes and the radio in the next couple of weeks. Honestly, I think this is one of their best songs. Ranks right up there with Welcome To My Head for me. WJJO already has an acoustic recording from the last sound lounge they did over there. In theory you can request it now. Once it releases, I am sure they will be playing it light crazy. But requests never hurt.

If you’re not from Madison, direct your station to their YouTube channel for a preview and the contact for them. For the acoustic version of Reno, link to this video below…

Now, you may ask yourself if Mitch is really singing Reno in the photo at the top. I am pretty sure he was. Like 83% sure he was.

Tyler Coburn of Wayland

Tyler Coburn of Wayland

Even though I have put their songs on the playlists for several of my stories under construction, you may also wonder why it is I am pimping this band out like one of my favorite authors. Maybe it is a belief that art is connected. Through the written word or the prose set to music. Possibly it is due to the inspiration their music has given me and the way it has grown on me over the past year and a half. Or the sheer number of shows they do in the area.

Dean Pizzaz of Wayland

Dean Pizzaz of Wayland

Honestly, I think it has to do with interaction. I see a few bands like Wayland that are dealing with fans in a similar way that Felicia Day did back at the beginning of The Guild series. They engage the fans. Interact on Twitter and Facebook. Hang out at the merch booth after a show signing things. If they see you enough at shows they will recognize you when you show up. I assume if they don’t they will treat you as if they did. Foremost, they appreciate you.

The concept of the statement of “I appreciate you” is a whole other can of worms, and topic of its own blog in the future. But these guys seem to embrace the concept wholeheartedly. Both on and off the stage.

They don't play, they put on a SHOW

They don’t play, they put on a SHOW

Any band that can type in four letters to a reply in Twitter and get me to bring booze soaked cupcakes to a show has got to be pretty good at inspiring and involving fans. I know some of you out there are thinking that isn’t a tough sell, but apparently I have many people fooled into believe I am not an introvert. I’m a writer. If I didn’t have a really needy older dog, I would write at home an even fewer people would ever see me. As it is, I still don’t feel right saying hello to any of them at a show. And my wife won’t act as my public relations as she tends to at conventions. Or at least how she used to.

Phillip Vilenski of Wayland

Phillip Vilenski of Wayland

Sure at Romantic Times I can hand out cupcakes to a bunch of authors sitting around an editor I know and then pick on them for accepting food from someone whose name they don’t know, but musicians are different. They are social people by nature. Or at least their art is. In my defense, I have practiced the art of indifference for decades. It was tempered in the fires of choir and drama class through high school and college. The art of public speaking, maintaining character and test taking were the best classes other than creative writing and English I took in school. But again, my introverted nature (or lack thereof) is a topic for yet another blog post.

Robin was getting artistic here...

Robin was getting artistic here…

The band I’m discussing is a touring band. Seriously a touring band. Like 320 or 330 shows last year. One of their standing hashtags (as well as themes on their concert shirts) is #alwaysontour. At 330 shows in a year, that’s no boast either. Check out the Wayland facebook page for information on the band and their touring schedule. If they are showing near you and you love classic rock, they are worth the time to go see. If you are a listener to your area’s rock station, call up and demand they play this music.

Dean playing the bass line

Dean playing the bass line

And if you do make it out to their show and you like it, stop by the merch table. Buy the EP for $5, or a t-shirt proudly proclaiming yourself as a Wayland Warrior. Get your CD signed, the guys will sign anything. Each dollar you spend keeps them on the road. It keeps them on the road, writing new songs, and singing. I have already bought 4 copies of the EP (and given away three of them to other people), and have more Wayland shirts than any other kind of shirt other than zombie shirts. Let’s face it, I am Zombie Joe.

For my part, I always make a point to spend money on some swag and usually $5 or so directly into the gas fund. The amount tends to weigh on how many people show to the event, the size of the venue, and how much money is in my pocket at the end of the night.

If you are on Twitter, link up to this with the #RENO hashtag to get it trending. Or, if you love rock and roll, click onto their website or Facebook page and find out when they are playing near you. You shouldn’t be disappointed.

Are you not entertained?

Are you not entertained?

Story Inspiration: The Playlists

Every author has a different process. The guideline that has stood the test of several writing conferences seems to follow the formula of – this is the one and only true way to do things… unless something else works for you, then do that. For me, music isn’t only a needed feature, but it is significantly related to the piece I am working on. Each and every project has it’s own playlist. While some have to avoid anything with lyrics, I embrace it.

I say this for several reasons. Well a couple of reasons. At least two. Halfway decent ones.

One of my favorite bands as of late has been Wayland. If you are following my feeds in Facebook or on Twitter you have likely seen several posts about going to their shows or cool things coming up from them. Around a year ago or so, I was unaware of them. My initiation into the Wayland Warriors revolves a lot around not only the music, but the band itself. They mimic many aspects of my favorite writers, or celebrities in general.

So let’s take it by the numbers…

1. Their Attitude

During the course of the year, I have checked out many of the videos the band has posted. In a couple of the interviews they related how much satisfaction they get when fans write them/tell them about how a song affected them or inspired them. While bringing in the money is always a possibility, and really should be a goal, this attitude is the target of an artist. A real artist.

2. Their Interaction

Before and after a set, the group is always around the bar or the merch booth. They talk with fans, engage them and seem to really listen to them. These are the people that will be financially supporting them and will potentially pass along the fever to join the Wayland forces like a zombie-infected bite, so it makes sense. This is a lot of what I think draws people to new media, and they are enacting a similar model.

3. Their Music

Describing the music is difficult. It boils down to the song they are playing. For my part, I see them as a rock band in the truest sense of the word. It can be hard and heavy; or it can be melodious and harmonized; or it can be something powerful that moves you from the gut – it all depends on the song. Several of the songs have lead me to the next point.

4. Their Inspiration

Remember my point on fans being inspired by something they played? After finishing up with Under the Hood, I was looking into a second book with those characters. One not for charity, but for regular publication. With the bad guy involved there would be a lot of empathetic and telepathic battles going on. When looking for songs to fill out the playlist that would live on the iPod/iPad for writing, I came up with a couple to represent the bad guy in question (Blood by In This Moment and I Miss the Misery by Halestorm), but for the hero I was looking for something. A song that would become Dukes’ anthem of sorts. And in going through the music I had on hand I came up with Welcome to My Head.

Welcome to My Head was one of their big singles off their EP. I bought it at the first concert I saw them in. It’s a thing with me, support local artists/writers morphed into a support touring bands rule. Especially ones that frequent your local area or are local to your area. It didn’t register at the time, but the lyrics to the song fell right into place with the idea I had for the climactic showdown between my Honkytonk Hunter and the Monster(s) he was to be facing.

Though I have linked it before, I’ll include the video below for those who haven’t yet heard the song…

5. Their Personalities

While all of this is good, the personalities of the people in question meshing well with mine will lock that association into place. It will draw me into going out to their shows. It will keep me listening. New songs coming out will likely find their way into my next projects if their themes mesh with whatever I am writing. Hell, it kept me out at Brat Fest, sitting in the rain to listen to their set. (It was a light rain, but still…)

Next blog post, I will go over some of the other artists that are sitting on my writing playlists. As well as picking apart what it is about these songs specifically that marries them to the stories I am working on.

Until then I have to run. I am making a bunch of my Iron Druid cupcakes (renamed to their original Irish Car Bomb theme) to bring to the concert tomorrow night. Yes, there is booze in them. No, they aren’t vegan. Yes, they use real sugar, real butter, and reach Dutch process cocoa powder. Photos will follow if I remember.