There's always something special about shows in the Showcase Lounge (the smaller of the two rooms at Higher Ground)‚ especially when the show is on the same night of a much more popular show in the Ballroom. On this night‚ Reel Big Fish were also playing‚ and as I made my way to the Showcase Lounge‚ past the line of black-and-blonde-hair-dyed‚ Chuck Taylor-sporting scene kids bragging about how they got to meet the band last time they came town‚ I was welcomed by a sparse crowd of perhaps eight. Hello‚ highest level of hipsterdom‚ I've finally arrived.
That night Dead Meadow seemed like the perfect yin to Reel Big Fish's yang‚ or perhaps the yang to Reel Big Fish's yin. Either way‚ the ska-punk of Reel Big Fish is the ideal soundtrack for a young high schooler's Ritalin-addled mind‚ a quick fix of pure youthful vitriol for them to let all their young and confused aggression out to.
Conversely‚ Dead Meadow sound more like The Melvins high on really good weed‚ or the Jimi Hendrix Experience trying to play while submerged in a deep swamp. Slow‚ droning riffs‚ Jason Simon's sandy croon‚ and a guitar sound that employs a lot of fuzz‚ wah‚ wah and more wah is the name of their game. In other words‚ stoner rock of the highest order. It's no wonder that the upcoming documentary on the new psych movement entitled Such Hawks‚ Such Hounds is named after one of their songs.
I don't really like to think of this kind of music as dull‚ but rather music to just zone out to‚ dig the grooves‚ and maybe forget that you're actually listening to music. Multiple times at the show I found myself in a trance as I grooved along‚ only to snap out of it at random moments and remember‚ Oh yeah‚ I'm at a concert. If there is one problem I have with Dead Meadow‚ it's that Simon appears to be a great guitar player -- his wah-teeming leads invoke images of lush forests and expansive deserts -- but his solos are often stuck in the middle of lackluster songs. They played many songs from their most recent release‚ Old Growth‚ which I find bafflingly boring compared to 2005's Feathers. The best moments of the show came where he jumped off into some rather lengthy improvisations‚ finding the sweet spot on the wah pedal like it was a clutch‚ cajoling his American Vintage Telecaster while his body slivered like a desert snake on the verge of starvation. Unfortunately‚ songs like "Ain't Got Nothing (To Go Wrong)‚" "What Needs Must Be" and a few others never really rose above the oozing gooey environs and stiff herky-jerky riffs of their studio compatriots. The song of the night was easily their instrumental "Greensky Greenlake‚" which is so good because they don't attempt to make a fully formed song‚ but rather just let Simon float along in his reverberated guitar slime‚ which is what this trio is best at.
What I must give credit to Dead Meadow for‚ however‚ is that even at their dullest‚ when my mind was completely elsewhere‚ they kept my ass groovin'‚ as if I was in a sort of rhythmic and meditative trance‚ only subconsciously aware of the aural turn-on that lay before me. And given this band's nature and the fact that I didn't take drugs before going to the show‚ it's probably this kind of effect that they were going for. Can't really fault 'em for that.