In Attendance at the Capitol Hill Block Party – The Dead Weather

photos by Jim Bennett

There was no band at Block Party my friends and I were more excited to see than The Dead Weather and we were determined to get up close to see Jack White and Alison Mosshart in person. The Main Stage was a little crowded, but we had to go for it and after close to an hour of squirming, shuffling, and biding our time, we ended up more or less at the front.

Packed in tight and waiting for the Dead Weather to come out, I couldn’t help but notice the absolutely gorgeous collection of instruments on stage. There seemed to be five or six different kinds of pristine pearl on white Gretsch guitars, all matching, all with gold trim, and all glimmering as the well-dressed roadies tuned them and moved them about. Included were a rectangle-bodied Bo Diddley-style guitar, and a butterfly-bodied one a la an electric Muddy Waters. I wouldn’t have been surprised if there were fifty thousand dollars worth of guitars on stage.

Seemingly just as the sun dipped below the horizon the Dead Weather came on stage to wild applause and started into “60 Feet Tall.” I wasn’t really ready for how much of an amazing badass Alison Mosshart was and I think I almost had a heart attack about seven seconds into the first song after her knee-crippling energy, appeal, and stage presence hit me like a ton of bricks. Dressed in black and blue and with long black tussled hair, she was absolutely mesmerizing the entire night. Even as we would inadvertently get sucked into a riotous whirlpool of amped-up high school kids down in front of the stage, my eyes were completely transfixed on her as I tried to keep my balance and avoid losing my flip flops. In between songs she would treat the stage like her living room, sauntering around like no one was watching her, sitting down on an amp and crossing her legs while she’d smoke a cigarette and sip on a cocktail. During songs she would be recklessly climbing all over the furniture, singing and yelling and posturing seductively (to put it lightly), smoking cigarettes, spitting, knocking mic stands down, rolling around, smiling mischievously, and never failing to drive the crowd into a frenzy. She completely dominated all night long and while there was more clamor for Jack White, Alison Mosshart’s performance was unforgettable.

They played their dark, heavy blues rock louder than I could have imagined, coming at us like a freight train. Mosshart sang and played frontwoman, Jack White was on drums (better than I thought he’d be), Jack Lawrence from the Raconteurs was on bass, and Dean Fertita of the Queens of the Stone Age was on guitar and organ (several of the songs featured the signature deep gothic organ characteristic of later White Stripes records). Mosshart would often play the white Bo Diddley guitar and team up with White on vocal duties while Lawrence held down the bass. They rocked the hell out of every song including “Cut Like A Buffalo,” “The Difference Between Us,” and “New Pony.”

After playing for a while, the band stopped and a soft recorded interlude began playing. The band got up and started to walk around, each member attending to something else. Jack White stood behind his drum kit, wiping himself off like thousands of people weren’t hanging on his every move. Eventually he made his way around the side of the stage, in no rush at all, and Lawrence sat down behind the drums. We all knew what was coming next.

He moved around some equipment and picked up the white butterfly-bodied guitar and strapped it on to a wild ovation. Meanwhile, Mosshart appeared at the back of the stage, behind all of the equipment, cigarette and cocktail in hand. Ever so slowly she made her way around the other side of the stage with a seemingly disinterested nonchalance as White adjusted his guitar and Lawrence and Fertita settled in behind the drums and the organ respectively. Eventually Mosshart strolled out onto the stage and met White at the mic and they began softly signing “Will There Be Enough Water?,” their faces less than an inch away from each other. The song started slowly and built up to a series of furious Jack White guitar solos of the highest order that had to be among the most mind blowing few minutes I had ever seen live; no one can tell me there’s a better guitarist playing popular music today. After a while the song came full circle, with White and Mosshart returning to the mic to softly finish the it off, singing “If you caught me, does that make it a sin?” until the song ended and they left the stage.

An encore had to be forthcoming and sure enough they came back out, returning to their original arrangement to play two songs, finally breaking into the new single “Treat Me Like Your Mother” after Jack White introduced the band (“I’m Jack White and we’re the Dead Weather from Nashville, Tennessee”) and let us know they had time to play one more before “they pull the curfew plug.” The song ended to all kinds of hollering, cheering, and carrying on from the audience and the four band members, like true showmen (and woman), met at the front of the stage, put their arms around each other, faced the audience, and paused for a beat before bowing and leaving the stage ringing with feedback.

View more photos here.

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One Comment

  1. Rose
    Posted July 27, 2010 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

    He’s one of the sweetest, most respectful musicians I’ve ever met. Their inability to be altered by their status is so refreshing – you can find them in any city they play just casually drinking coffees and smoking cigarettes. True rockstars – amazing stage presence with a completely delightful sound to boot. A genre all their own, I hope they continue producing work for years to come. It’s magical what happens on that stage when the four of them play.

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