Live: Dead Meadow, Ancient Sky – 4/16/08 at Black Cat Backstage

Dead Meadow at the Black Cat, backstage. With Ancient Sky.

The Red Room is a nice place. That’s where we wait before former local (D.C.) band Dead Meadow put on their show at the tiny backstage venue of the Black Cat.

The backstage is very intimate and small and comfortable and the sound system is pretty great. We get right up next to the stage.

Brooklyn (by way of Richmond, VA and surrounding towns) rockers Ancient Sky set up and play. The band plays some type of stoner-ish psychedelic rock. The have a guitarist/singer; a bassist; a drummer; and a man on horns, keys, noise, and other assorted sound-making devices (all musically based). They are a good band and I was excited to see them.

They played with a controlled gusto. The bassist was a bit too into just his instrument but the singer/guitarist worked well, as did the other players. As performers they reminded me of a subdued (in fierce, rockin’ energy) Howlin’ Rain. The singer’s passionate yelps also recalled My Morning Jacket’s Jim James, as weird as that sounds. Ancient Sky sounds nothing like either of those two bands. But the vocal performance is definitely reminiscent of that of live Howlin’ Rain (a great live band).

Ancient Sky played their experimental rock and it was terrific. A superb performance from an up-and-coming (they just finished recording their debut album in D.C.) band with solid songs. Ancient Sky is indeed a band to watch.

Dead Meadow came on. Guitarist/singer, drummer, bassist. They were awesome. A very slow melt of the face. They completely blew me away. They played a great show.

Admittedly, the three-piece has a strong catalogue, but it’s littered with songs that sound the same. That showed during the show, when I thought one song was being played but then they actually played that song later in the night. This happened several times. Oh, well.

Guitarist Jason Simon’s vocals are obscured and hard-to-hear on their records. Same goes for their live shows. But did the lyrics really matter when the music was this great?

Bassist Steve Kille did some jumping and played well. Drummer Stephen McCarty showcased his strong playing. Jason’s solos and the band’s jams that extended the songs well past the pop-music minute mark made for an awesome spectacle. Just pure rock ‘n’ roll in a great, small venue.

The crowd interacted well with the band and there were some really dedicated fans in the audience. Before Dead Meadow began their encore, they brought one of the audience members on stage. He had some kind of connection with the band (his uncle or something…). In the words of a 21st Century Camus: It was funny. It was cool.

Steve told the onstage fan to introduce the band as “Black Mountain.” That got some laughs. (Has anyone listened to “Angels,” from Black Mountain’s latest, In The Future? Sounds similar to Dead Meadow’s “At Her Open Door,” from Feathers) After the show, Steve explained that the band was friends with Black Mountain and that they were “really nice guys” (the L.A. transplants and the Canadians have toured together).

The encore continued the pleasurable face-melting. Mind, this was not face-melting in the “I’m gonna rock your socks off” vein or pure rock fury vein, but the “Oh my gosh, this is pretty dang awesome. Mind-blowing even. What good music” vein.

Dead Meadow rocked. Plain and simple.

A great show.

– R.H.


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