Live Review: Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and Death From Above 1979 with Deap Vally at Showbox SoDo 10/20/16

photo by Alex Crick

“How about this?” Julie Edwards screamed from the drum set halfway through Deap Vally’s set, “Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and DFA 1979! This is the friggin’ rock n roll circus man!”. Edwards remark couldn’t be more true – truly, tonight’s sinfully good double feature is a match made in heaven. At first, the combination might seem a bit of a head scratcher. A bloodthirsty duo from Toronto with two albums ten years apart, and San Francisco rock stalwart with seven records over fifteen years. Maybe it’s the mystical bass energy channelled between Jesse Keeler and Robert Been, or maybe it’s something else, but who cares! The fact that this tour even exists is a treat like no other. As DFA themselves described the tour, it’s “100% Certified Organic Rock and Roll. Don’t be scared, come live your lives with us”. If only every night were like this one, it’d be a lot harder to get up every morning. Together with Los Angeles’s gnarliest rising sister act Deap Vally, BRMC and DFA brought all the acronyms and amplifiers that the Showbox SoDo could physically handle.

Come through the Showbox doors into Deap Vally’s set at any point on Thursday night and the response is going to be about the same: “Damn”. Lindsey Troy and Julie Edwards have spent the last five years pinpointing their particular brand of badassery. While their Island Records debut Sistrionix made a defining entry splash, sophomore record Femejism strips off any and all excess production to focus on their no-nonsense approach to minimalist blues rock. It seems having producer Nick Zinner (of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs) in the mix for album #2 has had a variety of impacts, the least of which have given Deap Vally an even gnarlier cutting edge and a Karen O-worthy wardrobe. Troy rocks a blinding stars and stripes jumpsuit while shredding through one furious track after another, while Edwards is ready to take the world to its knees on the drums. If there’s any common theme in the acts presented here this evening, it’s that the stage is the best place to be introduced to each of their respective musical worlds. This is particularly true for Deap Vally, who welcome the crowd this evening with a blistering blues rock romp that won’t leave their memories easily.

Deap Vally:

photo set by Sunny Martini

There is something about Death From Above 1979 that speaks to the snot-nosed teenage punk inside everyone. No matter what degree to which you might have actually manifested that persona in those years, DFA will bring it out of you at least once in the brutal forty-five minutes they hold the stage. But much more likely, that moment will happen some time in the first six. It depends on what speaks to you first. If it’s the unquenchable fury of Sebastien Grainger’s drumming, or the fact that he’s losing his voice alongside you screaming along, it will be the opener track “Always On”. But if you are slow to amazement and need to feel it down in your utmost being, it will happen as Jesse Keeler rips into a truly second to none bass solo on “Right On, Frankenstein!”. It’s moments like these that accent every single one of DFA’s fourteen picks for the evening. I don’t know how they did it, but the Toronto duo find themselves in a very small minority of bands who took ten years to make their second album and can still pick any track off of either record and it will elicit maniacal applause from the audience. Look around the audience and you will see grown men who haven’t smiled in years grinning and squealing like children. And yet, it’s not just the screwball punk numbers like those that feel like teenage catharsis – it’s also the (sparing) slow ones like “White is Red”. When they aren’t pumping toxic amounts of teen angst into the air, DFA are wax nostalgic for a rock and roll teen dream like you’ve never been creative enough to imagine. Every thing Sebastien and Jesse seem to touch, they turn to face-melting gold. Here on tour with Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, it’s fun to see both fans and fellow artists appreciating their unique gifts.

Death From Above 1979:

photo set by Sunny Martini

photo by Alex Crick

Anticipation bustled in the turnover before Black Rebel Motorcycle Club took the stage. This is a big moment for Seattle fans, as it’s the first appearance in Washington the band has made since Sasquatch! 2013, and the first time they’ve played up here outside a festival in twice as long. The mosh pits from DFA had settled, and now, it was time to take in something entirely different, a sound with a similar desire to drive, no doubt, but with a horizon burning longer, brighter, and perhaps more menacing than that of their Toronto counterparts. Adding only one to the total number of bodies on stage, Peter Hayes, Robert Levon Been, and Leah Shapiro formed a harrowing triangle on stage and immediately began to fill the space in between with raucous, vibrant noise. BRMC were loud as can be. If any fan didn’t recognize the introductory new song “Bandung Hum”, they at least recognized the meditative buzz of a Black Rebel groove, as Been and Hayes seemed to volley energy between them from opposite corners of the massive stage. Breaking next into “Rival” from Specter At The Feast and the title track from Beat The Devil’s Tattoo, the crowd reaction loosened, letting the sonic blast flow over them in glistening wonder. Hayes and Been find brilliant ways to pass power between them, letting each track roll on in bloodstained glory without missing a beat. As the trio tears into “Let The Day Begin”, their cover of the classic by The Call, you can feel a palpable wonder in the room. Maybe it’s Jesse from DFA offstage somewhere, sharing this moment with Robert as he rips into that bass line, the one his father wrote so many years ago. Three different shades of bass mastery, all rolled into one magnificent show. Julie Edwards was right – this is the rock n roll circus, and it might be the best one you catch this year.

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club:

photo set by Alex Crick

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