Dead Meadow / Film School / The Out Crowd
Doug Fir; Portland, OR

[02-10-06]

Located in sunny southeast
Portland, Oregon, the Doug Fir is a hip little hangout that just might make
you nauseous, depending on what kind of person you are. The Doug Fir screams
pretension with its log cabin walls, neo-lounge lighting scheme and Frank
Lloyd Wright feel; hipsters adorn the place like gargoyles at Notre Dame.
Sarcastic dig aside, the Doug Fir is a fine establishment. One-third
restaurant, one-third bar and one-third venue, there is always a good-sized
crowd. The venue itself is in the basement and is a medium-sized room, making
it a great place to see a show; there are no bad sight lines and the sound is
usually spot on.

Tonight's crowd was rather sparse during the set by Portland-based openers,
The Out Crowd, Matt Hollywood's post-Brian Jonestown Massacre project. Being
the chronically late person that this reviewer is, the majority of The Out
Crowd's set went by without my beaming presence. The last "song," however, was
a 20-odd minute drone of guitar, feedback, keyboards, and one grubby looking
dude in sunglasses sitting in a chair, every so often ripping pages out of a
book into a microphone. As the jam seemed to be winding down, an apparently
annoyed Matt Hollywood set his guitar against his amp and walked off stage.
Guitarist Elliott Barnes stopped Hollywood and appeared to ask him a question;
Hollywood appeared to answer, shaking his head and pointing to a light that
was shining onstage, apparently in his eyes. The jam went on without him for
another five minutes until each member ambled offstage, the grubby-looking guy
with the book languidly bringing up the rear.

The Bay Area band Film School was up next. Despite the pompous name and the
dippy-looking hat that singer/guitarist Krayg Burton insisted on wearing,
(think Duckie from Pretty in Pink) Film School proved themselves to be
an engrossing live band, full of energy and effects-heavy songs lying
somewhere between shoegaze and The Cure. Film School's set began with
guitarist Nyles Lannon, a tall, lanky dude with long blonde hair and
horn-rimmed glasses, playing a few notes and letting the pedals do the rest.
Burton soon joined in, as did keyboardist Jason Ruck, the wall-of-sound
eventually segueing into "On and On," the first proper track on their new,
self-titled album. The upbeat "Pitfall" was next, its bouncy bass line
bounding along until the song makes a switch to an Interpol-style progression
at the halfway mark. Throughout the show, bassist Justin Labo cavorted around
the stage, acting as the very personification of his bouncy, melodic bass
lines while Ruck stood placidly in the shadows, adding his keyboard textures
in virtual anonymity. By the time set closer "11:11" erupted into its huge,
dancey conclusion, the audience was dancing, and one girl had burst forth from
the back of the room to flail about in front of the stage. A more enthusiastic
endorsement could not be had.

One of the best things about seeing independent bands is that they very often
have to set up their own equipment, which, for a band like Dead Meadow, could
have a detrimental effect. Watching drummer Stephen McCarty with his
delinquent beard and Charles Manson hair carry out his huge-ass bass drum with
a Celtic design on it kind of kills the aura of mystery that the band seeks to
evoke on stage. Luckily for Dead Meadow, they had a secret weapon in their hip
pocket: a smoke machine! Nothing creates mood faster than a Chauvet F-650
Hurricane Fogger turned to the "Oregon Coast" setting. On Dead Meadow's last
album, the sublime and psychedelic Feathers, the quartet managed to
combine the heaviness of their past albums with the ambient swirls of shoegaze
and psychedelic, even adding a little acoustic guitar to the mix. In a live
setting, the now three-piece (temporary?) Dead Meadow loses all pretense of
subtlety or texture; loud, heavy and thick are the order of the day.

With the green backlight and sitar drone loop in full effect, Dead Meadow took
to the stage. Guitarist Jason Simon played a couple of notes on his guitar,
and the brief sound coming through the Orange amplifier was enough to cause a
small intestine to unwind. One girl crinkled her brow, perhaps lamenting the
fact that she left her earplugs in her other jeans. Simon looked at bassist
Steven Kile and then at McCarty and nodded. McCarty clicked his sticks four
times and the pummeling began with "The Whirlings." Each note picked by Simon
was like a sledgehammer to the gut. The crowd was covered in a thick, sludgy
tar of huge distortion that, for awhile anyway, even managed to overpower the
drums and the bass. In the most acid casualty sense, it was actually possible
to "see" the riffs cut across the room, their edges pixelating under their
hugeness. Riff after riff came and went and the crowd became more and more
amped, which, at a Dead Meadow show means they're swaying extra hard.

The set was heavy with material from Shivering King and Others as well
as new songs that, according to a source, are so new they don't even have
titles yet. The show peaked with "At Her Open Door" from Feathers, an
amazing song in any capacity. Live, the song is utterly mind-blowing, clearly
the band's bread and butter number. The build-up at the end of the first half
of the song resolved itself with a droning chord punctuated with the
occasional wah-wah solo; the song lost none of its power despite the missing
2nd guitarist. The set ended with "Through the Gates of the Sleepy Silver
Door," a 13-minute opus that plods along until a drum breakdown that would
make John Bonham proud finally beats the song into submission. Throughout the
show, the girl without the ear plugs had tried various times to use her
fingers to block the sound, but by the end of the show had given up entirely.
The sound was just too huge and Dead Meadow too awesome to continue the fight.

Set List:

The Whirlings

Such Hawks Such Hounds

Good Moanin'

What Needs Must Be

Everything's Going On

New One #1

I Love You Too

New One #2

At Her Open Door

New One #3

Babbling Flower

New One #4

Sleepy Silver Door

  

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