I got to the [...and You Will Know Us by the] Trail of Dead show way too early and as a result, caught the entirety of the first band's set. The Damn Low are a duo who may not actually be a real band - the whole thing seemed to be some sort of inside joke I didn't care enough about to figure out.
The duo play a minimalist blues punk, a la the White Stripes (though I have a sneaking suspicious they might resent the comparison). It's easy material to play, but they were pretty ok at it and it all might have been good except for one thing - the whole thing was cloaked in some sort of "irony." Folks, irony is dead. This sort of thing has got to stop. The guy sang a song about his "two favorite things," as he put it: "guns and dogs." Har har, get it, cause that's so redneck, har har. I'm over it.
We didn't realize the show was four bands so we left for a bit and skipped band number two and half of the set by Midnight Masses, whose residency it was. I didn't know anything about this band or I might have realized why they were playing with Trail of Dead's "original line-up" - the two bands have two members in common. Midnight Masses is a whole lot of people though, and the only original member of Trail of Dead who isn't in their band, Conrad Keely, joined them for the part of the set I saw.
Midnight Masses make tug-at-your-heart-strings gospel-influenced alternative rock. It's better than it should be, for what it is - I think because this band (in stark contrast with the first act) really means it. They are sincere, if a bit unoriginal. As to be expected of a band with so many members, the songs were layered. The songs, which grapple with spiritual subjects, build on a lot of pounding tom-toms. One, the obvious high-point of the set, opens out into an choral solo with a half dozen voices replacing instruments, then builds it up into swelling refrain. It's moving....easy, but moving.
Midnight Masses is fronted by the tall and charismatic Autry Fulbright. He's got a welcoming and bold stage presence, but unfortunately, he's not as good of a singer as he thinks he is. He noodles around way too much and doesn't quite hit the notes with the precision his style calls for. The rest of the band seems a little scattered as well, the pieces not quite settled. The band seems fueled by instinct - not quite jamming but with a lot of freedom. Which is fine, but not quite my thing. I can't say as I care much about the future of this band, but I'm pretty sure they'll do well for themselves, and they're definitely worth checking out, if you're into that kind of thing. [myspace]
Trail of Dead, whose "original line-up" is apparently songwriters Jason Reece and Conrad Keely along with a bass player, closed the night out with a great set. They hit up quite a few old favorites that loyal fans probably haven't heard live in a decade, and tossed in a song or two off their better-known albums (notably "Another Morning Stoner"). We got the rare treat of seeing Keely behind the drums and all three kept the show low-key, as such a small event should be. They kept the set short and sweet and left a happy audience. [myspace]
p.s. NYC Taper taped the show. Check it!