Knocked Out. That’s what I was after the DEAD SARA concert last Monday. I was excited to see these guys, because I discovered them a couple years back when they were just starting to gain some traction. I had heard their song called “Weatherman” and was extremely impressed. To top it all off, they were going to be playing my favorite venue, Trees Dallas.
There were to be 3 openers: THE PROJEKT, LOVE STRICKEN DEMISE and THE WANS. THE PROJEKT opened with a familiar song from THE PRETTY RECKLESS, “Make Me Wanna Die”. They’re a pretty young band, and I’ll be interested to see how they grow. They just recorded a new original song titled “Heroin”, though as they clarified during the show, “Of course, it’s not that we condone drug use…it’s just the name of the song.” They immediately followed up that comment by playing the song. I’m afraid she couldn’t hear herself very well tonight, as the recorded version of this song shows she has a very strong voice, though this night, it seemed a little reserved. They played the FALL OUT BOY song “Suger We’re Going Down Swingin’”, which they really cranked up, and did pretty well.
Next up was LOVE STRICKEN DEMISE. I had seen and shot their drummer, Rico Gutierrez before (in GENERATOR, opening up for ACE FREHLEY), though didn’t make the connection between the letters LSD and the band I’ve been following on Facebook. I was quite excited to have a chance to check out his new project, and boy, they didn’t disappoint. Their guitarist, Billy Blair II, killed it. With fantastically gritty tones and proper shredding, it begged your attention. However, that attention was already strongly pulled by both the lead singer, Nikki Mckibbin, and the bass player, Holly Wood; both very attractive ladies. At first sight, I half expected them to be just eye candy, but much to my relief, they both are proper musicians! Nikki can really sing! With a great range and strong voice, she certainly fits. And Holly was totally rockin’ that bass. Not only because of the nice, thunderous tone, but because she was all over that neck!
Of course, I can’t go on till I mention Rico! There’s a reason he was voted one of the best drummers in Dallas. What I really like about him is his incredibly intricate, yet full and very tribal playing. For all intents and purposes, you’d expect there was at least another drummer somewhere in the room; except there’s not. Just Rico. Playing with a fury you have to see. LSD properly primed the crowd for the next band, THE WANS, hailing from Nashville, TN. For just a three-piece band, these guys have a monstrous sound! They totally rocked the place. I was especially into it, as I’m a sucker for good old Rock ‘N Roll’. With great melodies, interesting harmonies, and kickass tones, the band made the crowd go nuts.
I might describe them as THE RACONTEURS meets rollicking southern rock. The lead singer, Simon Kerr, has a great range, and can really work the guitar.
Mark Petaccia on the drums kept surprising me with cool little fills, and intricate, yet incredibly clear backing that really just drove the songs deep into your chest. Thomas Bragg on bass was equally impressive. He was all over the neck, with great little riffs and really rounding out the sound. Of course, Simon was just wringing everything he could out of his axe. The thing I enjoyed most about this band was they kept surprising me with cool chord changes, unexpected time signature shifts, and little inserts thrown in. I love to be surprised like that. I got the CD, and to be quite honest, it doesn’t really do this band justice. It’s almost too polished. I don’t know if it’s just because they were opening up for DEAD SARA, and had to bring down the house just to survive, or if the producers just got a hold of it a little too much, but this is definitely a band you want to see live. The energy was infectious and the crowd just ate it up.
Then it was time for DEAD SARA. I had to really fight my way to the front and even then, I wasn’t able to get right up to the stage. The room was ready. Once again, Trees had it done right. The lighting was fantastic, mixed with the smoke machines and properly loud sound, it was great. They opened up with “Sorry for It All” with the crowd singing every word through about half the song. It almost made me laugh. Though I was also a bit worried that tonight was going to be one of those “campfire sing along” nights. A good song, but a bit odd to follow what the last band had rocked us up to. Then it started to grow. The next song was “Test On My Patience”, which really jams. With such a driving melody and huge, deep sound, that was all the room needed to get crazy! This song accentuates lead singer Emily Armstrong’s beautiful and raw vocal abilities. All night I was blown away by her range, and done with a sexy, gravelly tone.
Of course, she’s not just there for her voice and good looks, she plays guitar too! Also impressive, was Siouxsie Medley on lead guitar. She will rock the hair right off your head. Not just bar chords here, folks, this girl can shred! With sweet riffs, fills, bends and everything you’d expect from a top level guitar player, I was knocked out. That’s not to play down Chris Knoll on the bass. He too does brilliantly, to fill out the bottom range of the songs, and once again, kick you right in the chest. He’s also impressively intricate. And man, Sean Friday really pulls everything together behind the kit, solidifying all these great parts into a massive, rocking, headbanging affair. They played a few of my favorites, such as “Lemon Scent”, “Mona Lisa”, which has a rollicking groove, “I Said You Were Lucky”, “Mother Teresa”, which really shows off Emily’s range once again, and “Mr. Mr.”
I’m not sure how they did it, but starting with the first song, they seemed to increase the energy, song by song, all night! I couldn’t imagine they would be able to keep up with that trend, but somehow they did! Another thing I was quite impressed with was how they worked the room! Emily, between songs, would joke with the crowd, and quite a sense of humor she has too. At the end of one of the first songs, she launched her guitar damn near to the back of the gathered audience. They went nuts. She came back to the microphone, saying “I didn’t quite think that one through, did I?” laughing, while she tried to pull the guitar back to the stage by the cord.
“Yeah, you weren’t expecting that, were you?” Meanwhile, the staff hurried into the pit to retrieve the instrument. The crowd seemed cool though, and gave it back without a fight. Then later on, she did it again. This time, however, improperly calculating the trajectory and I’m pretty sure, nailing a guy in the head towards the front of the crowd. “I’m sorry man,” she said, “After that, I feel I should just give you the guitar… but unfortunately, we’re not a big money band yet, and can’t really afford that… Um, Fuzzy’s Taco’s after the show?” We all cracked up.
Then, it was time for the encore, and we were all beside ourselves that it was their first hit “Weatherman”! I have never heard this song hit so hard! No one in the entire place stood still.
After a few verses, someone decided to try and crowd surf. She was soon invited up on stage, followed by about 10 other people. DEAD SARA really does it right. They bring it more than most big bands, and yet they maintain that small, hometown band feel that everybody loves. I can’t wait till they come back again. After the encore, I think everybody was content to leave. I’m really not sure they could have gone any higher that night, and everybody was just happily exhausted. So glad I made got the opportunity to go to this one! See ‘em. Seriously. Now, I better go before The Maestro busts me for my word count. Till next time! ~RW
LIVE REVIEW AND PHOTOS: RYAN “C.B.” WHITEHEAD/ARDENT OWL MEDIA