Dead Meadow – Live

Academy 3, Manchester 27/05/2010

By Peter Rea

The Led Zeppelin/Neil Young sounding rock band with stoner vocals are incredibly laidback, unless launching into an epic, ascending instrumental. Unfortunately, a lot of their fans are too laidback to even turn up tonight. Academy 3 is disappointingly less than half empty.

GNOD are onstage when I walk in the hall. I hang back at the bar to protect myself from their wall of sound, which stubbornly consists of one repeated riff that isn’t all that interesting. The last time I saw GNOD they were marching through the bemused crowd at Islington Mill (who were there for Six Organs of Admittance) wearing trippy budget Halloween costumes and cartoon based duvets whilst attempting to resurrect the hippy rave scene by adding guitars and confusion. Weak applause congratulates the band for stopping.

The lights go down again for Dead Meadow. A looped sitar builds expectation for too long. Finally, Steve Kille, who looks like a geekier version of Jonny Greenwood from Radiohead, makes his way to his bass. Stephen McCarty is on drums sporting a rather distinctive moustache that upstages his blond rock hair and faded flesh coloured vest. Vocalist and guitarist Jason Simon looks more grunge in a checkered shirt with prog beard.

I apologise for not knowing the set list. The band and sound engineers don’t use them and I struggled to name the tunes amid the sea of instrumentals, solos and saturated lyrics. The first two tunes continue the sitar vibe in a hazy, plodding fashion. It’s not until the bluesy third tune that the crowd gets involved (possibly ‘Between Me and The Ground’ from the album Old Growth). It has a brighter sound, much like The Brian Jonestown Massacre but with more flair on guitar.

Jason takes a swig of booze, a rather large and ornate bottle of bourbon whisky that still has the label hanging around its neck. “Nice drink!” someone shouts. The drummer mutters, wondering if that was sarcasm. Tune four continues the blues, after which another crowd member asks for more bass. During songs most of the audience remain motionless apart from foot tapping and head nodding. A group near the stage seem intent on getting lost in the chords and ‘dance’ hippy-like with sudden convulsions and fly swatting, like a Capoeira for beginners lesson at Stonehenge.

Jason’s vocals appear laboured as if a necessary evil to him; reluctantly letting the words drop out of his mouth and watching them drop to the floor. Songs spark to life through lengthy and exhilarating guitar solos before descending to their conclusion – the audio equivalent of watching a steam train that’s run out of coal, grind to a halt.

More crowd participation. One “OW!” sparks an army of imitators. This isn’t a Country gig… once again the drummer looks on suspiciously. “We’ve got much more for you tonight”, Jason announces. I’m hoping a shift in gear follows that statement. As more alcohol is consumed, the behaviour of the crowd becomes more distracting. The bassist finds a bra onstage.

Air guitar is followed by air drumming during a rapid and rather impressive drum solo. I find myself dodging erratic arm movements and uncoordinated staggering. A few leave but this gives the faithful more space in which to express themselves. Those who can still grow hair, headbang. Dead Meadow stroll off to generous applause before the owner of the bra and friend clamber up on stage to retrieve her property.

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