(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Concert review - ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead, with La Femme, Silver Snakes, and Git Some

3 April 2014 (Summit Music Hall, Denver CO)

Good intentions and all of that... I wanted to make it down to Denver in time to catch all of the acts, but I ran quite late, arriving just in time to catch La Femme's extended soundcheck. I was disappointed to miss Silver Snakes and Git Some, but I wasn't alone; most of crowd showed up sometime during La Femme's frantic set..

032 La Femme
It seemed to take a long time for La Femme to get their monitors and mics correctly set up, but that gave us plenty of time to take in the band members and appreciate each one's unique style, from pseudo-vaquero panache to metrosexual boxer chic. Think Adam Ant, but organized by an ADHD costumer. But the random mix of looks was central to band's artistic sense of theatre: it's not a show unless it's a spectacle. It didn't matter, though, whether the band's appearance aligned because they played in such close formation.

031 La Femme
Back in 2010, I reviewed La Femme's EP, Le Podium # 1, appreciating the way they grafted surf guitar tonality onto new wave. Over the last several years, they've honed that style, pulling in punk and synth pop influences. The blend of reverbed surf twang and synth textures -- call it noir wave -- occasionally recalled bands like The Cure, but generally La Femme was in a class all their own. The dark energy was great and, although almost all the lyrics were in French, everyone could appreciate the side trips into Krautrock trippiness and Velvet Underground psychedelic drone.

011 La Femme
The music worked, but the band's visuals were even better. The front edge of the stage was fenced with keyboards, with only the guitarist going without. His consolation prize accessory was a wonderfully retro theremin. They engaged the audience with stylized dance moves and ironic poses. Frontman Marlon Magnée was chaotically charismatic, whether offering a campy come-ons
to the crowd or sexually assaulting his keyboard. It was crazy fun, but also a little bewildering for some in the audience. Afterwards, I heard someone asking, "What the hell was that?"

024 La Femme
By the time their set ended in a trainwreck celebration of noise and dancing, they had played enough punk thrash to lay the groundwork for Trail of Dead’s set.

092 Trail of Dead
Contradictions are at the heart of what powers …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead. They ambitiously create rich, concept-heavy post-rock albums that are executed with raw punk rock intensity. Their music spans from fragile, wispy psychedelic patterns to peaks of roaring chaos. But the biggest contrast is between the serious, focused tone they find in the studio and the unfiltered range of emotions they bring to the stage. This tour is all the more intriguing because it’s a brief pause before resuming work on a new album that’s scheduled for later this year. With their most recent release being 2012’s Lost Songs, they may have thought it would be hard to motivate a good turn out, so this tour reaches back to what is regarded as the band’s breakout album, Source Tags & Codes.

099 Trail of Dead
After La Femme's wild finale, it didn't take long for roadies to clear their equipment and power up Trail of Dead’s gear. So, after this brief break, the band came out and launched immediately into “It Was There That I Saw You”. The opening vamp passed quickly and they soared into the driving swirl of the song. The dynamics of the album version were preserved, but the band was wired and pounded through the tunes. Conrad Keely seemed to swap out guitars for almost every song and Jason Reece often traded instruments with Jamie Miller, but these transitions never slowed the flow of their performance.

078 Trail of Dead
Even stripped of their studio production nuances – like the ambient crowd sound and free jazz noodling at the end of “Baudelaire” – the tunes lost none of their power or presence. Trail of Dead nailed the punk foundations of the songs and made them as cathartic and moving as ever.

089 Trail of Dead
It was clear that the crowd was intimately familiar with Source Tags & Codes, sometimes feeling torn between singing along and surrendering to the visceral punch of the music. For all the meaning that we imbued these songs with, Keely and Reece were even more invested. They played like they were tapping into their younger selves with the hindsight of all the changes they had seen. The personnel shifts and bulkier configurations of the past seemed to melt away and this four piece group channeled the epic scope of that earlier incarnation. Like guitarist/drummer Miller, bass player Autry Fulbright II has only been with Trail of Dead for three years, but his charismatic presence was a strong part of the stage chemistry. Both men seemed just as committed to these songs as Keely and Reece.

059 Trail of Dead
All too soon, Keely marked the end of the series, noting “This is the last song,” and then he sighed, “It’s a short album.” The wistful sound of “Source Tags & Codes” was perfectly appropriate and it was even shorter without the string coda of the album version. As the final notes faded, the audience seemed drained for a moment before the band kicked into “Mistakes & Regrets” from 1999’s Madonna. It captured the retrospective mood in the wake of Source Tags & Codes and then dismissed it.

115 Trail of Dead
The crowd settled in as Trail of Dead wandered through another five songs from their back catalog, with particularly strong performances on “Catatonic” (Lost Songs) and “Would You Smile Again” (Worlds Apart, 2005). For this latter tune, Reece reached into the crowd, giving people a chance to sing along and participate in the ritual. After wrapping up the main set, they came back out for a single encore, a version of “Richter Scale Madness” from the band’s first album. The nihilistic flail of the tune energized us all for the late night ride home.

More photos on my Flickr.

No comments:

Post a Comment