Dead Sara | El Rey Theater | May 9, 2013

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I can’t remember the last time I was in a mosh pit. In fact… if I’m remembering correctly … the last true mosh pit I was in was for a Let’s Go Bowling show back, back, back in the day. Like… back in my ska days when I used to wear khakis with suspenders, a wife beater and my Doc Martins. On May 9, 2013, I went to see Dead Sara, and for the first time in forever, I found myself reliving my youthful abandon, smack dab in what was perhaps one of the most intense concert experiences I’ve had in a while.

Sometime last year, driving in my car, I heard a hard, rocking song with some bad-ass female vocals on the radio called “Weatherman”.  After the song ended, the disc jockey said that the name of the band was Dead Sara.  I hardly listen to terrestrial radio these days, but god bless the ways of old, otherwise I probably wouldn’t have heard about the band.

Later that week, before a blind date, I went to Amoeba Records to pick up a copy of their self-titled, debut, full-length album. The chick I was with was a musician who was into hard, classic rock, so I decided to play the album for her on our way to dinner to she what she thought.

The album was very, very good.  It was so much more intense than other female fronted rock bands that have been releasing albums recently.  It’s a no holds barred album. Intense power rock but at the same time extremely vulnerable. The lead singer’s (Emily Armstrong) voice is filled with such strength and passion (plus it sounds pretty!) which contrasts the steady lead guitar riffs of Siouxsie Medley, and made me recall another female rock duo … Heart, anyone?  But Dead Sara’s rock is much more blistering than Heart’s.  It’s the kind of music that boils the adrenaline in the veins … even with the vulnerable sensitive songs.

About half way through the album, my date suggested that she wasn’t feeling the music as much as I was, and that kind of put a damper on the date, because …. Well … I’m a music snob, and I didn’t understand why she didn’t like the album as much as I did.  I told her that I’d call her sometime … I didn’t.

When I got home from the date, I went online to see when they’d be performing.  I assumed, since they are Los Angeles based, they would be playing some gigs locally.  But when I logged on to their website, there were a bunch of dates having them open up for Muse at large venues (in Los Angeles, The Staples Center).  Muse? Seriously?

I’m not a Muse fan.  They were hyped as a headliner for Coachella one year, but when I saw them perform then, it was soooo not my thing, that I left to catch another act.  Muse’s single, at the time, was “Madness” and that song reminded me of Savage Garden. Nope. As much as I wanted to see Dead Sara perform, I wasn’t going to buy a ticket for Muse to see them do a short opening set from the rafters of the Staples Center. “C’est la vie,” I thought. Maybe some other time.  I followed their Facebook page, and life went on.

Months later, I get a Facebook “notification” that Dead Sara was playing the El Rey theater.  Now, THAT was more my speed.  Immediately, I got online and purchased tickets. Glad I did it that day, as tickets for the show sold out. From then, I waited.

IMG_1051It was my buddy’s Steve’s birthday, so I invited him to join me for the show.  He was coming from rehearsing for a gig (opening for Motorhead at Nokia Live!!), so I told him that I would either be outside hanging out or waiting in line for merchandise.  While I was outside in the patio area, I noticed someone who looked vaguely familiar. Holy shit.  It was Siouxsie and … what’s his name … uhh … the drummer … lol.  Unfortunately, I didn’t know the drummers name (it’s Sean Friday), but they didn’t seemed bothered by it.  I told them how long I had waited to see them perform, and they were cool enough to let me snap a group shot to post on Instagram.

I left them alone to handle their business, and I went over to the merch line to pick up a limited edition 7’’ release of their  newest single “Lemon Scent”.  I’m glad I got in line early for merchandise, as the line for merch was LONG.  So long, that I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to get the vinyl treasure I wanted.  My buddy met me in line, and after purchasing the merch and as soon as the prior act had finished their set, we decided to try to get as close up front as we could.  We got about 5-7 rows from the front, and we waited.  Every minute we waited, we could feel the crowd slowly pushing up against our backs.  That was sign.  A sign that it was about to get pretty nuts.

Found this pic online. So Badass.
Found this pic online. So Badass. (c) Brian Bowen Smith (@brianbowensmith)

When the band took the stage, they started the set with a mellow song called “Sorry For It All”.  After that, fireworks.  Dead Sara lit the fuse with “Test My Patience” and that fire burned scalding through “I Said You Were Lucky”. I know how that fire burned.  I was in the middle of the mosh pit as soon as it erupted.  For 15-20 minutes straight, I was lost in aggressive moshing. My “technique” for fending off people that were going really crazy came back to me, and I was able to float around an area with a radius of about 3 feet.

Thank god, Dead Sara broke up the intensity with “Face to Face”.  After that three song stint of mosh songs, my shirt was drenched with sweat and I’m sure I got a few bruises along the way.  I assessed what other really hard songs would lead to moshing, and I could only think of “Weatherman” so I stayed where I was, figuring that I would make my way towards the edges later in their set.  By the way, I had no idea where my buddy was.  I guess he couldn’t hang. Lol.

Dead Sara’s album is good.  Watching them perform is better. I spent my time in awe of Emily’s live vocals and the connection the whole band had with the audience.  The performance reached a high point when Emily absolutely DESTROYED her guitar on stage.  It totally felt right.  From there, the band went on to perform Rage Against The Machine’s “Killing In The Name Of”.  If Zac and Emily squared off, I’d put my money on Emily.

After the set, my buddy and kicked it a while afterwards.  He actually knew some people there and was shooting the shit. Me, I was waiting to see if a bid I placed on a one-of-kind autographed, painted, concert poster won out.  It didn’t.

IMG_1118When we were kicked out of the El Rey, we hung out in front just to decompress.  Sean and Chris Null (the bassist) were moving equipment, and- being always prepared- I asked them to sign the LP and the poster I had picked up.  Since I had two signatures, I had to wait for Emily and Siouxsie, right?  Patience pays off, as they soon followed, and I was able to snag signatures from the entire band. If you want to check out some other music treasure of mine, click through on this link.

If anything, watching Dead Sara at the El Rey proved three things in my eyes: (i) I fall in infatuation to easily with chicks who can shred an axe, (ii) Dead Sara is a female-fronted rock band that can melt your face off, and kick you in the ass, and is here to stay, and (iii) yes, you need to see them live … just make sure you invite me to come with.

Set list is below.  My video clips from the show are below as well.

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  1. Sorry for It All
  2. Test on My Patience
  3. Monumental Holiday
  4. I Said You Were Lucky
  5. Face to Face
  6. Dear Love
  7. Feeling Empty
  8. Whispers & Ashes
  9. Lemon Scent
  10. Killing in the Name (Rage Against the Machine cover) (Freedom Outro)

Encore

  1. Blue Was the Feeling For You
  2. Weatherman
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This is the first version of their concert tour poster opening for Muse. Four additional dates were added to this version. The poster is on thick paper stock, perhaps archival paper.

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