Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Dead Meadow with Jennifer Gentle and The Out Crowd at The Brickyard, April 8

Great to have DC’s Dead Meadow in town. Their excellent new album, Feathers, perfects the refinements they’d begun with Shivering King and Others, attaining a fine, if improbable, melding of Sabbath and Galaxie 500. I was looking forward to the show.

Of the first two bands, The Out Crowd played a short, enjoyable set, sounding like Teenage Fanclub or the Posies with a serious garage-rock bent. Jennifer Gentle had some genuinely interesting songs (Syd Barrett’s unpredictable melodies colliding with “Harold the Barrel”-style restlessness) spoiled by genuinely annoying singing (Elmer Fudd does Kurt Cobain). Their set ended with a long drone jam that used up my reserves of good will.

Starting off with the stuttering trudge of “I Love You Too,” Dead Meadow were extremely loud. The bassist played a Rickenbacker through an Orange stack that overpowered everything else. Though I enjoyed the vibrations for a while, the volume wasn’t serving the material very well. The vocals for instance, already ethereal and disembodied on record, were almost obliterated. They did songs from all four studio albums, with the riff-heavy early material working well alongside the mellower new material. They do have a lot of great tunes, but I imagine the fine points of individual numbers all blended into a vast pool of fuzz and wah for a casual listener. It wasn’t enough for me that they played well and seemed a nice bunch of kids. The gig didn’t have that spark of brilliant musicianship or connection with the crowd to take it to the next level. They also played with no stage lights, where they could have benefitted from some visuals to suit the heavy psychedelia they churned out. After an extended version of signature tune “Sleepy Silver Door” (a song so good they recorded it again on Feathers), Dead Meadow left the stage, before returning to play an unnecessary encore to a scattering of loyal (or simply inert) fans.

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