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Fair To Midland Review

By Mike Daniel
Staff Writer

Darroh Sudderth has invented a new dance. Call it the Inter.Funda.Stifle. The lead singer and lyricist for Dallas art-rock band Fair to Midland is known for his on-stage theatrics, which have come to characterize the band as a plumber of indie rock's harder-edged
aural fields.

Mr. Sudderth threw it out best during the band's dynamic spaz-fest, "April Fools," late in its homecoming show at the Curtain Club on Friday: a circular, barely-in-balance stomp around the stage with his right arm flailing and his head thrashing, as if caught in a
mosh pit with his left arm hooked around a tetherball pole.

No, the dance name doesn't make sense other than its service as a CD title for the band. And actually, little about the individual parts of Fair to Midland does make sense. Its five members look dissimilar, pay little mind to the biz's pretty-boy demands, and by accounts
have differing musical tastes that range from old-school country to gangsta rap.

But when those parts coagulate on stage as they did Friday (actually Saturday: it didn't perform until 12:50 a.m.), logic becomes irrelevant as the senses rage with approval.
No wonder Serj Tankian of System of a Down quickly signed Fair to Midland to his Universal Records-distributed Serjical Strike imprint in April. He then carted the band away to Toronto to record a full-length disc that's due in March.

Fair to Midland not only delivers heady, poetic, powerful and often fascinating hard music, they deliver it live with the gumption of a marauding pack of tribal warriors. Fair to Midland's 50-minute, nine-song set (presented with no breaks except for the one-song encore, "Say When") began serenely with "The Wife, the Kids, and the White Picket Fence," ramped up with "The Walls of Jericho" and hit a barreling pace with "Vice/Versa."

That number first supplied Mr. Sudderth's unreal vocal abilities a proper workout; his high-pitch wails recall metal yelpers King Diamond and Geoff Tate, and his lower registers possess the ghostly introspection of Travis Meeks (Days of the New) and Maynard James Keenan. Then, on "Upgrade Brigade," Mr. Sudderth unleashed rap lines delivered
as if he'd been smoking three packs a day for 20 years. Replicate that, Mike Patton.

All the while, his bandmates (guitarist Cliff Campbell, bassist Jon Dicken, drummer Brett Stowers and keyboardist Matt Langley) produced tight, aggressive riffs, rhythms and fills that struck a balance between individual enthusiasm and deference to the band's sound as a whole.

The whole of Fair to Midland may be improbable and uncategorizable; perhaps the most similar big-time band today would be The Mars Volta melded with 10 Years. But FTM's sonic product is as weighty and buff as a Mr. Universe contender. Let's hope Mr. Tankian doesn't slick it down too much.