...And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead @ Echoplex, 3/17/09
Photos by Andrew Hanson/LAist
It's St. Patrick's Day and where am I? In a pub toasting a nation I technically have no kinship with or have ever had the pleasure of going? No. Out in the bushes pretending to "look for leprechauns" while I retch my guts out in a strong green stream? Nope. This year was spent at the Echoplex with Funeral Partyand ...And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead henceforce known in this piece as Trail of Dead. I was not alone in my decision to forgo or at least postpone the holiday's traditional activities in order to see the show. The Echoplex on Tuesday was fuller than I expected and there was absolutely no green to be seen.
Arriving just as Funeral Party took the stage, I immediately regretted the decision to come early. Sure, Funeral Party musically sounded great, and I'd salute every member of the band. Every member, that is, with the exception of Chad Elliott, to which I would like to address the following question:
How is it that your vocal chords have not yet ripped themselves out of your throat, packed their things, and left you? Really, they should have done it a long time ago. And probably filed a police report for physical abuse.
Elliott's inane screaming marred whatever beauty the guitarist, bassist, and drummer were trying to create, but the real tragedy is that, occasionally, he would sing in a lower octave before building up to that horrid screeching, and he sounded...good. You could see it in the faces of the crowd when that happened. We were like drowning men who had broken the surface, gasped at the sweet air only to be eaten by sharks before we could be rescued. Don't believe me? Here's a sample lyric:
She loves you. / She loves you. / Yeah, Yeah, Yeah./ She wants to fuck you. / She wants to eat you./ She wants to kill you. / Oh yeah.
Who wrote this stuff? I've heard better lyrics come out of a 7th grader's secret diary. Although it could be quite catchy if sung by a male preying mantis as a lover's lament. Particularly since the song would be shortened as his head would have been snapped off soon after. Funeral Party could be a decent band if they could get their lead singer to slow down and well...sing.
The Trail of Dead show started with a bang and ended just as quickly. The PA system gave out in the first few minutes. "Fuck, we can't lip sync this show? We're going to have to actually warm up for you guys," joked lead singer, Conrad Keeley. A few minutes and several roadies later, they were back up and running, assaulting the crowd with their monster guitars and powerful drumming. Bands usually revolve around one singular element. Sometimes it's a lead singer's distinct vocals, sometimes it's a crazy guitarist or pianist, but in Trail of Dead it is all about the drums. In perfect symmetry Trail of Dead's two drum set face each other at the back of the stage. Each set commanded by a drummer, who each appeared to be possessed by some sort of drum demon egging him on to pound faster and harder upon the skins, which resulted in a furor of sound that one could imagine could only be duplicated by the Horsemen of the Apocalypse. It was incredible.
However, while the music that the Trail of Dead played that evening was powerful enough to fill giant arenas. (A fact confirmed by a huge wall of man working security who muttered in awe, "Man, they really fuck shit up.") They cannot produce the quality of sound that is on their recordings. Which may be an unfair measure, but one that all live bands should be aware of. A recording is the band at it's most perfect. Each piece has been recorded and re-recorded and re-re-recorded so that everything is just so. Now live there are two kinds of bands. Ones that surpass their recordings and those who fail to . Most bands are in this latter category, and Trail of Dead, I regret to say falls into that category. For all their bombast and raw energy, their songs were blurry. It was almost as if a fog had descended upon the music and one had to desperately try to make out the notes. But perhaps that was the point. Perhaps the Trail of Dead are the impressionist painters of rock n roll. They want you to feel the songs rather than sing them. They want to blow your hair back and engulf you in their music, not allow you to think about one lyric or another. If this is true, they certainly succeeded.