Concert review: Bass Drum of Death pounds its way into the Old Rock House, Friday, March 2
The room smelled like cigarettes, perfume and cold air. The pre-concert hum of the Old Rock House crowd, waiting on Bass Drum of Death, was punctuated by a guy telling the girl next to me that he was actually, right then, in the middle of composing a blues ballad. Really now? She sipped her drink, politely.
Then the band came through the small crowd, hopped on stage and gave everyone, this girl in particular, the relief they’d been waiting for.
Almost at the exact moment headliner Bass Drum of Death played its first note the sound guy, ever devoted to his board, stepped out for a smoke. A sign of confidence in how things would sound, or indifference to the show? My vote is for indifference because that’s how I felt at the end, too.
Guitar, bass and drums. Simple. The crowd responded within three seconds, whooping, raising glasses of beer in the air. There were moments of exuberance like this but they were few in the hour-long set. The band is, in a nutshell, what every fucked middle schooler wants to be when they grow up. Thrashing around on stage, strangling their guitars, banging their heads. Their sound is tight and loud. Their sound is chaotic and brave. Their performance was boring.
I hate coming to this conclusion because in my mind, it’s quite hard for a show to be boring. There’s an enormous amount of energy that’s generated when an audience and a band collide during a live performance. There’s an exchange of understanding that what’s about to happen is singular. When that musician on stage looks out at the audience that is an invitation.
Last night at Old Rock House in an odd, yet perfect space that invitation was not extended. Perhaps it was lost in the mail somewhere between here and Mississippi? I’m not saying that the music wasn’t great, it really was. At times fast, with nice bass underneath the intricate guitar, overlaid with some really smooth echoing vocal effects that complimented the rough guitar and unrelenting drums. Each of the musicians did their part in making a really great musical whole: the bass surged forward at times, shaking things up, while the lead guitar was pleasantly loud and scratchy when it needed to be and the drums kept it all together. Lead singer John Barrett even let out a nice little scream or two that jolted the zombie-like audience out of their beer bottles and brought the show back to life. But it wasn’t enough.
Last night there was no exchange. At least, none that I perceived. The highlights included a Ramones cover that closed the show and a chick who yelled a marriage proposal to the lead singer. At least she didn’t yell “Freebird.” Though as clichéd as that is, I can’t help but smile thinking about it.
I’ve always thought of myself as a sound person as opposed to lyrics person. But last night I discovered that without the connection you get to make during a live show, sound just isn’t enough. The performance was static. With their heads down, Bass Drum of Death played. Maybe this was a part of the act? If so, it didn’t resonate with me. Would I go out and buy Bass Drum of Death’s newest album? Hell yes. Am I going to go out of my way to see them live again? Probably not.