Dead Rock West did an admirable job. Overall, they have a country roots rock sound with some of that vaguely defined "Americana" feel, which complemented the Peacemakers. My first impressions bounced around bands like the Beat Farmers, X, and maybe a touch of early REM. Of all these, X was the most obvious, with Cindy Wasserman and Frank Lee Drennen providing nicely contrasting vocal harmonies over a punky/rockabilly jam. Okay, the music angle is well covered but what about the mood?
Dead Rock West, the more I could pick up a mid-60s' rock vibe, like the Animals or early Rolling Stones. Simple parts came together to create something rich and interesting. I bought their CD, Honey and Salt, and recognized several songs from their show. The energy is fairly different than their live show, maybe a little more down tempo. It wasn't as hot as their live show, which is typical, though the songs are tight and compelling. Rocket From the Crypt was my favorite of what I heard them do live. This song drives strongly and has that wailing guitar I mentioned. The CD also has their cover of X's Burning House of Love, which features harmonies that are a little sweeter than X's. Check out some of the links and give them a listen.
Roger Clyne is because of the mood he creates. There's a kind of openness and acceptance that Roger personifies and the crowd takes on as their own. It's a diverse mix of people. Frat guys, older hippies, bikers, cowgirls, and more co-mingle and the shared ritual of the show transcends the labels. Don't think of it as a hippy Be-In love scene. There's a deeper layer of pragmatism that recognizes that we are all flawed and that's okay, maybe even desirable.
The crowd is just as important as the band. We all sing along with every song. Roger turns the microphone to the audience and acknowledges that these have become our songs, too. The songs talk about Mexico as an idea (Mexico, Nada, Banditos), flawed relationships (Preacher's Daughter, Down Together, Girly), and the true love buried in those relationships (Green and Dumb, Your Name on a Grain of Rice, Mercy). Then there are the drinking songs (Mekong, Jack vs Jose). Roger takes on all of these characters and the whole band throws themselves into each song. This is deeply sincere music.
The first 45 minutes passed in a blur with no real break between the songs. Then the pace let up a little and the party was well underway. The setlist favored the Refreshments era more than some of his shows, but there were still plenty of songs from the recent CDs. Roger surprised us with a cover of Tom Petty's American Girl. Normally, he doesn't play a lot of songs by other artists. Another treat was pulling out Feeling, a real old Refreshments song that I hadn't heard in a very long time.
After the band wrapped up Nada and walked offstage, the crowd chanted, "uno mas" until they came out for a final encore (Tributary Otis). Feeling wrung out and purified, we all walked into the night. It was a fine evening for cerveza y tequila.
More photos on my flickr.