Jim Suhler and Monkey Beat held a CD release party with special guest Gary Nicholson.

15-July-2016: It’s always an exciting night when locals boys return home to play for friends, family, and fans. That happened Friday night at the beautiful Kessler Theater in Dallas for a Monkey Beat CD release party.

The crowd arrived early as prolific songwriter Gary Nicholson opened the show with 11 songs from his 500+ track repertoire including “One More Last Chance,” “Squeeze Me In,” and “Same Kind Of Crazy.” His tribute anthem, “Pay Bo Diddly,” ended his set and earned a standing ovation.

Jim Suhler and Monkey Beat came out to the thunderous applause of anticipation. The praise continued well into the opener — a Texas blues song featuring Shawn Phares firing up the keyboard.

Suhler has written songs that compliment his voice perfectly like “Leave My Blues Behind” and “Across The Brazos.” Phares showed his versatility after nailing an accordion solo on the blues song. Beau Chadwell laid down a driving drum beat to a rocking instrumental which led the group of guitar solos and duets.

The set segued into classic rock as Suhler and bassist Patrick Smith — playing his first gig with Monkey Beat — faced off in a mini-jam session.

The rocking “Tijuana Bible” was reminiscent of a harder-edged Eagles song. All members shined on solos that pumped up the crowd and got them jumping and juking.

A Jimi Hendrix-inspired song featured a haunting keyboard intro as Suhler was master of the fretboard. Chadwell pounded the skins as Suhler and Smith played off each other — a great combination for years to come.

The band performed a medley of older rock songs, the highlight being the classic “Hush.” Chadwell and Phares got their turns in the spotlight during this fan favorite. The title track from Panther Burn had a Steve Earle vibe to it and thrilled the crowd.

A great drum solo led to “Let Me Be” turning into a jam that had fans on their feet and screaming. A tribute to Lightning Hopkins in “Po’ Lightning” was straight-up, old-time Texas Blues, which the purists in the crowd loved.

They slowed it down for “I’m Praying For Rain,” with its exquisite guitar solo, but Smith was still jumping and tossing his long hair back and forth for “Restless Soul.” It came after a jamming intro that had the crowd stomping their feet.

Covering Rory Gallagher’s hit, “Bullfrog Blues,” was Texas Rock at its finest and one of the band’s best closers. The band had as much fun playing as the audience did listening.

Rapid-fire riffs were the style as Jim led “The Devil In Me” for their last song. Wearing devil horns he got at an AC/DC concert and saying, “At least I’m getting paid for making a fool of myself,” he tore into a Stevie Ray Vaughan style solo — Dallas’ favorite son. It ended in a long jam session that earned a well-deserved standing ovation as they left the stage.

Jim and Monkey Beat has been around for 22 years and released six albums. They’ve built a loyal fan base over the years, and it continues to grow. With their new album, Live At The Kessler, getting rave reviews, the number of fans should increase even more.

Look for Jim Suhler and Monkey Beat as they tour through mid-October.

Special thanks to Jeff Lyles at the Kessler Theater for his help.

Joe Guzman of National Rock Review was on hand to record the event.

Jim Suhler and Monkey Beat
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Gary Nicholson
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Kessler Theater
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