. . . And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead, Avalon, November 8
It was a little disconcerting to enter Avalon against a tidal flow of people heading for the exits prior to the start of last Wednesday night’s performance by . . . And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead. It was an all-ages show on a school night, and the band who’d just finished — the spastic Blood Brothers — do seem to have hit a chord among the kids with their most recent disc, the Guy Picciotto–produced Young Machetes (V2). But Trail of the Dead have built a reputation over the years as a powerful, art-damaged live act in the same earnest (as in emo) prog-punk vein as the At the Drive-In/Mars Volta kids and Coheed and Cambria. And their new So Divided (Interscope) is a return to form after the overreaching of last year’s epic Worlds Apart. For a few seconds, I thought I’d missed the band I’d come to see. But then the stagehands removed the Blood Brothers’ disturbing Munch-Scream-inspired backdrop (from the cover of Young Machetes) and all was good.
Better than good. When Trail of the Dead finally emerged, there was plenty of room to wander close to the stage. Not that moving around was all that easy: from the first slam of “Mistakes and Regrets,” a tune that opens with an inviting piano melody before speeding up into a flurry of rolling drum fills and post–Sonic Youth guitar dissonance, right up through the pounding finale, by which time Dresden Dolls frontwoman Amanda Palmer (who guests on the new album) had joined them, first to sing the melancholy yet muscular “Will You Smile Again?” as a duet with Conrad Keely and then to pound on one of their keyboards, Trail of the Dead kept the crowd pinned in place. One keyboardist took over drums to allow the drummer to shout the lyrics to “Caterwaul” as he climbed a speaker column and leapt back to the stage, and the set continued to accumulate intensity until Palmer was wrecking one piano while three guys were pounding on the drum kit with splintering sticks and Keely was attacking the strings on his guitar. Next time, all you Blood Brothers fans might want to stick around.
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