Sunday, November 9, 2008

Dead Meadow Amaze at the Troubadour

Dead Meadow came back to town on Saturday night for an amazing set at the Troubadour in front of a devoted audience of fans. It's hard to describe a show by Dead Meadow without resorting to all the usual references: hypnotic, dreamy, ruminative, visually stunning, trippy, oh my god! wicked trails. I don't think I've yet come to grips with just how great this show was!

I only got to know their music a year ago and had seen then at the Echoplex last February. I was very impressed with them then, but that didn't prepare me for this show. This was one of those off-earth experiences that take you away for 90 minutes or so.

Arriving as his orchestra were beginning their set, I was quickly attracted to their music. It was similar to the orchestral rock I'd heard the night before by Other Lives, being augmented by two violins but here, with a trumpet, too. What an impressive display of musicianship by the band who numbered seven this night. Gorgeous sweeping string sections and soaring vocals, with great keyboard, I was hooked from the start.

This Los Angeles band is playing a residency every Monday night this month at Silverlake Lounge and I can't wait to check them out again. his orchestra, quite impressive.

I'll admit, after a week like this (emotionally exhausting. You know, overthrowing tyranny is hard work!) coupled with three show in a row, I was tired. But, fear not, when Dead Meadow came out and Jason Simon began tuning his guitar and I heard snatches of guitar chords associated with specific Dead Meadow songs, I got real excited. It's a privilege to get to hear such a thing. From that moment on I was riveted to the stage.

Taking the stage at 10:15, backed by a phenomenal light show and fog, the band was lost in a combination swirl of music, lights and fog. Like Xu Xu Fang, it's an all-encompassing experience. There is no world beyond this one, for the moment.

The background looked like the soap bubbles of some gigantic washing machine set to the hallucinogenic cycle going by, as pinwheels of colored shafts rotated constantly on top of it, bathing the band in intense light patterns. I hope someone took pictures.

And then there's the music. These are serious musicians who play with extraordinary precision and craft. The odd thing about this ambient, trance music style is that it only works for me when strict discipline is applied. The songs just tumbled out one after another, "What Needs Must Be", "I'm Gone" and others from their last CD, Old Growth. It was nice to hear them do the one that sounds like an Indian Raga, "Seven Seers".

I can't decide if they sound better live or not. The vocal was so clear and the tremendous noise just the three of them achieve is incredibly impressive. I love the way Jason emphasizes consonants in his singing which really clarifies the lyrics. Stephen Murphy's drumming is a sight to behold as he sometimes becomes lost in a blur and Steve Kille's bass adds all the gravity the sound requires.

They even performed my favorite songs from Feathers, "At Her Open Door" and "Such Hawks Such Hounds", as well as "Heaven" and some new songs no one had heard before. But everyone was focused intently on the band and we would have listened to anything they wanted to play. The audience is almost as serious as the band. It's just a pleasure to hear a band play so well and see a crowd enjoy it so much!

Another amazing concert in another week of superb shows. And next week will be the same!


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