House of Blues
...And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead(Pt. 2)
March 31, 2005
REVIEW BY MARTY GARNER
I've been writing for liveneworleans.com for five or so months now. In that time, I've seen many of my favorite bands. I could have easily gushed over Sonic Youth, the Drive-By Truckers, Deftones, Arcade Fire, TV on the Radio. But, no, in the name of journalism, I chose to remain neutral in my reviews.
All of that shit is out the window for this one.
I have been wanting to see ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead for four years. They've consistently been one of my favorite bands, and false hurricanes and bar age limits have prevented me from seeing them until now. So I am going to gush, and you'll just have to deal with it. I promise a return to objective reporting with my next review.
Oh man. Seriously. What the hell was that?
Trail of Dead play the kind of loud that my Mom used to warn me about. "Marty," she would tell me, "if you play your music too loud, you'll go deaf." She'd slip this info to me in various ways throughout the years. When I got a car:
"Marty, I just ran into a friend of mine from high school. His dad owned a car stereo shop, so he always had the best sound system in his car." "Oh yeah, how'd the conversation go?" "Not well, because I had to yell at him the whole time. He's partially deaf."
That's sort of how I felt after the Trail of Dead show at the House of Blues. Everyone's heard a thousand times about a "wall of sound," but I have never actually felt a literal wall of sound. I've felt bass in my chest and heard ringing in my ears. But, Thursday night was the first time that a guitar actually knocked me backwards. I would call Trail of Dead "stupid loud," but there was nothing stupid about the show at all. The noise came off as totally necessary for the power and importance of the sound.
They walked onto the stage as the beginning of album opener "Ode to Isis" came from the House of Blues' P.A. system and immediately tore into "Will You Smile Again." I was already hoarse from screaming the word "yeah" as if it meant something.
Over the next hour and a half, Trail of Dead broke every rule. They passed around a bottle of Maker's Mark only to the kids who were most obviously under 21, and they pulled half of the crowd onto the stage, which HOB Security immediately broke up, much to the band's dismay.
Like My Bloody Valentine, Trail of Dead made loud, beautiful music, and none of that beauty was lost live. If anything, it was amplified by the surrounding lights, the push of the crowd, and the sight of the band. All subtlety of lyric, phrasing, and ambiance was lost in the fray, but it didn't matter. They played with the passion that many fans claimed the band lost when they signed with Interscope in 2002.
Conrad Keely and Jason Reece took turns dominating the front of the stage. Keely was more reserved--lightly nodding his head, screaming his lyrics with a bit of sensitivity. Reece was the perfect yin to his yang. Dressed in all black, he was the next Henry Rollins. Reece did huge jump-kicks, nearly bashing my teeth in on several occasions. He kneeled down at the edge of the stage, screaming and turning red from sheer intensity. He commited the mortal sin of throwing water and beer on the audience, but no one seemed to mind.
Trail of Dead commanded the respect of their crowd, and they more than got it. In his between song moments of gratitude, Keely thanked the crowd for being so intense and for being the biggest crowd they'd ever played for in New Orleans.
The music was well spread over the group's last three albums, even though this year's "Worlds Apart" was played nearly in its entirety. The furious hardcore of "A Perfect Teenhood" came shooting out of a cannon. Keely played with such tenacity that he knocked down his mic stand and kept screaming the final chorus into the air. "Another Morning Stoner," off of 2002's "Source Tags and Codes," was ferociously sped up, injected with the fear that Hunter S. Thompson used to write about. "Days of Being Wild" was delivered with a frightening noise breakdown that made the constant comparison to Sonic Youth seem both warranted and ridiculous; at that moment, Trail of Dead was better. Every song was as perfect as you could have wanted it. The passion, the fire. The brilliance. The only time the show calmed down at all was for the opening bars of "Clair de Lune." The change of pace made the already-incredible song that much more prescient. I wanted to live in the moment forever.
I waited four years to see Trail of Dead live. As Keely shoved his guitar through the bass head of one drum kit and Reece threw the pieces of the other kit around the stage, I knew that it was worth it. They were loud, fast, and important. Time will show Trail of Dead to be one of the most important and underappreciated American bands of our time. They proved their worth.