Wednesday, March 6
Cat's Cradle, Carrboro
Representing the jagged edge of the Austin, Texas, music scene, and you will know us by the trail of dead delivers the kind of show that should prompt a lot of respect around these parts: The sheer force and frenzied delivery on display were similar to some of the best bands the Triangle has produced. Much like Polvo and Archers of Loaf in their heyday, or, more recently, Sorry About Dresden and The Cherry Valence, this quartet uses distorted guitars to anchor their assault. Trail of Dead and Those Peabodys, like their non-regional historical predecessors Sonic Youth and Live Skull, are abrasive almost to the point of being obnoxious. And like those NYC groups, these bands make beauty from excess. Would this be the second or third wave of Big Noise Rock? When it sounds like this, who cares?Despite the distracting fact that one of them looked exactly like Owen Wilson and another like Art Garfunkel (they probably hear that a lot), Those Peabodies held the audience's attention in a way not every opening act can manage. Delivering a set of tight riff rock that harkened back to the best of early '70s to '80s proto-metal, the band's lack of posturing gave their set grit, a quality they share with Trail of Dead.
In critical circles, much has been made of the Trail of Dead's affectations: They're "art rock"; they're "androgynous," attiring themselves in black and flicking cigarette butts (clove, most likely) at convention, all the while hiding a lyrically unoriginal ambivalence behind the wall of noise they so expertly generate.
But none of this was apparent from their set, except the noise, which was glorious. Guitarist Kevin Allen, staid and un-showy in a John Entwhistle sort of way, just stood back by his amp and murdered his guitar while the other three band members leapt around the stage and traded off instruments and vocal duties. Conrad Keely and Jason Reece switched between playing guitar and the drums, while bassist Neil Busch sometimes traded his bass for guitar, creating a visceral, three-pronged attack that shook spectators and demanded movement.
When hipsters refer to a show being "off the hook" or "over the edge," it's usually a pretty hazily defined point that only becomes real once the band has gone past it. Trail of Dead crossed that line about a third of the way into the set and never looked back.
They kicked off with the first song from their current release, Source Codes and Tags, thundering through almost nonstop to the climactic howl-fest, "Totally Natural." The set included a good mix of new songs and cuts from their Merge-released gem, Madonna.
The Trail of Dead doesn't depend nearly as much on sonic effects as the no wave bands they get compared to, instead opting for a display of pure power and conviction. The screams were delivered with genuine emotion, while the softer passages were downright hypnotic. When they threw a guitar on the floor or came out into the crowd or kicked over the drum kit at the end of the show, it seemed new and exciting all over again, as if the band was truly carried away. Whether or not that's true, only they know, but most of the crowd seemed to agree that they weren't just going through the motions. Either way, the show maintained its urgent appeal, channeling chaos into a tight, furious spectacle that allowed the Trail of Dead to make an impact that lingered long after the final feedback faded.