TVD Live: Dead Meadow with The Blackbells at DC9, 10/31

Halloween night’s opener The Blackbells delivered subtle, vocal heavy rock with an early ’90s Tom Petty honky-tonk song structure. Despite their genre differing vastly from the headliner Dead Meadow they managed to charm and ready the DC9 audience, who were divided in attire; half wore plaid shirts and beanies, inspecting the stage the instruments, waiting patiently, the other half in costumes, mostly chatting about earlier parties and parties to follow.

Dead Meadow plays creative stoner rock. Transitioning from “At Her Open Door” to “What Needs Must Be” may seem a little colorless, but, let us not forget, to enjoy shoegaze, psych/stoner rock, one must prepare to be lulled into rhythmic head nods and coaxed into a haze—enjoy it. This is not to say that Dead Meadow’s songs are “all the same” or “mind numbing”—far from it, they use looping, play rhythm and blues, and experiment heavily on stage.

I would get a specific movement down (melting into a sound), and their drummer would switch up the beat to keep us guessing. Once they warmed up, I felt I’d lifted a garage door in California to hear the three playing their hearts out.

This trio was formed right here in Washington, DC, has seven albums, and has been together since 1998. During “Everything’s Going On,” I whispered to my friend, “this one sounds like Wolfmother” only to find out later that they had worked with Andrew Stockdale from Wolfmother, leading to it being reinterpreted as “Pilgrim” on Wolfmother’s Cosmic Egg. (Thanks, Wikipedia!) Wow, I knew they were close with Fugazi, but these boys have some global reach.

The thing that stuck with me after the show was the contrast between how they sound live and how they record. Something is always lost, in my opinion, when you are not hearing music live, but the difference for Dead Meadow is massive. When I listen to them at home, I don’t feel the throbbing rhythm as definitely, and I don’t grow as excited about the interesting riffs, but hearing them live for the first time, I didn’t want to stop.

I’ll be at upcoming Dead Meadow shows, and if you are already a Dead Meadow fan and missed the show because of god knows what reason, they did play a beautiful rarity, “Greensky Greenlake,” as thir encore, which they did not play during original drummer Mark Laughlin’s absence. He just returned to the group earlier this year.

Earlier, as The Blackbells’ palatable catchy riffs filled the tiny room, and the unassuming lead singer unhinged his jaws to sing the hook of their newest single “One By One,” the whole crowd nodded their heads remembering Stroke9, Oasis, The Verve, and Our Lady Peace. Any individual who came of age during the early ’90s can wrap their nostalgia around these guys: likable, familiar, indie-rock of the ’90s.

All in all, a fantastic way to enjoy All Hallows Eve.

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  • District Derrick

    I love pieces that give us a glimpse into not only into the artists and their music but also into the crowd and the venue. I am impressed how you can make your readers SEE the music. Very well written.

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