Dead Meadow
w/Jennifer Gentle, the Out Crowd, the Can't See
Thurs April 7, Chop Suey, 9 pm, $10.

Unless people are idiots and don't know how to use their equipment, there is a point when total, brain-rattling volume becomes a force of its own. When it's so loud that people actually leave. I love this. I've never worn earplugs and never will, and I can't stand when people plug their ears with their fingers at shows. I like to stand as close to the amps as possible. I like to feel the air coming out of the woofer. Granted, I am almost totally deaf now, but who cares--rock music is supposed to be loud, loud, loud, loud.

The loudest concert I ever went to was My Bloody Valentine at a place called Axis in Boston, in 1993 or so. They were opening for Dinosaur Jr., a loud band on their own. I knew it was gonna sound powerful, but when My Bloody Valentine played I wasn't prepared for the air-rippling, eye-melting, dog-exploding volume. It was incredible; it made their music seem like these huge towers that rose above the band. The club had really high ceilings, and I had this sort of image of two giant towers of light shooting up from either side of the stage. That was the music.

I haven't seen Dead Meadow live, and I've been meaning to for a couple years now, but judging from their records, this is a band that has the ability to play loud. You don't want every band to play loud (abovementioned idiots thing), but Dead Meadow is one of these bands that should be playing outdoors, with mountains of amps and thousands upon thousands of naked people baking in the sun and getting flattened by their not-stoner, not-psych, heavy rock.

Formed in Washington, D.C., in 1998, Dead Meadow have gently gathered together a following, becoming somewhat a part of, but more apart from, the nationwide space/psych scene that includes Bardo Pond, Boston's Primordial Undermind, and S.F.'s SubArachnoid Space, to name a few. The main difference being that Dead Meadow's take is more firmly rooted in the UK than any of those bands. They groove more than Bardo Pond, and their earlier records are like this cross between ZZ Top, Spacemen 3, and My Bloody Valentine. The new record, Feathers, is a little too Brit-pop for my tastes. Dead Meadow needs to not do that. There may be tons of hipsters crowding their shows now, but hipsters are lame, and sounding like Blur is not a good thing. Dead Meadow's earlier shit, where they pummel the listener with slow boogie-ing riffs and sheets of feedback, with the vocals all delayed and floating in and out, is the direction I hope the band returns to, or does more with. But I am just one man.

My Bloody Valentine's Loveless record gets thrown around as the best album of the 1990s a lot, and it's often lauded for its stark beauty or whatever, and when they played that shit at superincredible volumes it became so overpoweringly psychedelic and just fucking heavy that when Dinosaur Jr. came out and played they had nothing. I remember thinking, "Wow. J. Mascis just got his ass handed to him by those Irish people." Maybe Dead Meadow live will be the same thing.

Besides Feathers' first song, which is Black Sabbath-meets-Spacemen 3 and rules, the rest of the album sounds like replicas of the heydays of shoegazer music. There's nothing wrong with the songs per se, but they're just kind of safe. Played at inhuman volumes, though, perhaps the music takes on a life of its own? That would be rad.

I was attracted to this band by the reports of heavy psychedelia, and at times they deliver, for real. But I let myself get a little misled because after the first 10 minutes my mind starts wandering, and the next thing I know I'm listening to Joe Walsh instead. Other folks probably eat this stuff up and good for them. I didn't like the majority of that British crap when it was happening, though, so we will have to agree to disagree. My prediction, however, is that in a live setting Dead Meadow will be a different band altogether, and as you are getting buried under massive sheets of pure sound you will think of this article and say, "Fuck that guy."

editor@thestranger.com

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