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Tuesday, November 12

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Review Tue May 10 2011

Review: ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of The Dead & Surfer Blood

Gongs rang and unearthly voices chanted eerily over unseen speakers, filling the air over an empty Bottom Lounge stage. Four guys entered stage left and the noise stopped; silence for two seconds. "That was pretty fucking awesome!" screams ...And You Will Know Us By the Trail of the Dead's Jason Reece. The band brawled into the guitar builds of "Strange News From Another Planet". And that is how Saturday night began.

Of all the things which could be written about Trail of the Dead, the one thing that could not be written about the band is that they are boring subject matter. They are not one of those bands that stands there and just plays their instruments. Frontman Conrad Keely lamented into the microphone, jugular veins popping, open mouthed and face scrunched, Jamie Miller's cymbals didn't come up for air, and Reece jumped and swung his arms around the strings of his guitar. The band doesn't write boring songs either. Their second song, "Spinal Jetty," was a dark Alice in Wonderland meets Chronicles of Narnia journey of "falling down through a hole in the ground/let[ting] the minute men carry you back to the winter queen's home". The song is not lyrically sparse on the band's new release Tao of the Dead, but it seemed to be so live as the three stringed members rocked out to one another for extended periods of time. All three moving back to their microphones only scream choruses into them in unison.

Reece took over vocals on "Weight of the Sun" while the Jamie Miller's bass drum reverberated from the force of the beating the rest of the kit was taking. By "Smile Again" Keely's guitar gave up and lost a string. The guys also took a break from the heaviness to play what Reece announced as their "positive uplifting track", "Caterwaul". At some point during "Caterwaul," Reece ended up in the middle of the crowd while the guitar tech took his place, and guitar, on stage. From there on the stage was filled with musical instruments — sweat flinging off in different directions. Miller took up the guitars. Reece took over the drums. Miller took over the vocals. Which was about the time Keely's second guitar string decided it couldn't go on; it broke part way into "Totally Natural". Luckily, no instruments were seriously harmed. (Although Reece kicked over the bass drum and Fulbright knocked over an amp before they walked off stage.)

Techs once again took over the stage, setting instruments upright and changing out the guitars for co-headliner Surfer Blood. As predicted, the Trail of the Dead crowd disappeared as quickly as the band did which made way for new first, second and third rows of fans. Lead singer and the so-called band mastermind, John Paul Pitts took the stage with "Leave it To Beaver" hair and blue checked shirt. Instantly the Bottom Lounge became a little more wholesome (except for the casual lyrical references to cocaine).

The new front-rower's pulsed a different kind of energy into the space previously occupied by head Trail of the Dead's head bangers; they waved their arms in the air with good-natured rambunctiousness to the Weezer-like set start off "Floating Vibes." The infectiously energetic guitar chord choruses seemed to afflict both the vocal choruses and the crowd and it remained that way for the rest of the night.

To his own rhythm, Pitts subtly jerked his guitar and body in robotic motions while singing verses of college love gone wrong in "Twin Peaks". The song, despite musical buoyancy, is lyrically weighty (If I'd known all your ghosts / I never would have come so far); at least as weighty as anyone can be in their 20's.

The hour-long set never eased up, although the cadence slowed with whispered vocals and lo-fi guitar chords in alt-pop song "Take it Easy". And the washy-reverbed guitars in "Harmonix" gave way to one note plucks while Tyler Schwarz drum kept measured time to lyrics that required steadiness ("I won't wait around for the ice to thaw out"). Building up to the highest note, Surfer Blood ended their set with forcible, echoed vocals and a wall of guitar-made choruses in closer "Swim". Their kind of catchy energy is impossible not to love.

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

Read this feature »


  Chicago Music Media

Alarm Magazine
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Theft Liable to Prosecution
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