One of the more heartwarming stories in the music world over the past several years is that of Detroit "proto-punk" band Death. Death's story has been pretty well documented at this point, including an in-depth writeup in the New York Times and plenty of coverage by the indie press at large (such as this Pitchfork review), and interest in the band was rekindled recently with the 2012 release of the documentary A Band Called Death.
Briefly, the story is as follows: three brothers form a band in Detroit, and they record an album worth of ahead-of-their-time rock tunes, before having their career derailed largely due to a poor band-naming choice. After releasing a limited run 7", the remainder of the recordings are stored in a dusty attic for nearly 35 years before the album, For All The World to See, is given a full release by Drag City in 2009. World rejoices.
Of course, as with anything that benefits from significant amounts of pure, unadulterated hype, the facts need to be separated from the fiction. Claims that Death were "the first punk band" and "punk before punk existed" are nothing but laughable, credibility-damaging bullshit; The Stooges had released three albums prior to Death's formation, and punk forerunners The Velvet Underground and the MC5 (among others) were alive and well around the same time, as well. It's also questionable how "influential" a band that only released a few hundred copies of a 7" during their lifetime could actually be. Rather than showering Death with unrealistic praise, I compare them to Los Saicos, a Peruvian band who, without having been exposed to the garage rock explosion in America and the UK in the mid-60s, somehow developed a sound oddly similar to their contemporaries around the globe. Anyway.
I was fortunate enough to be present at Death's show at Europa in Greenpoint April 2010, which was opened by the band Rough Francis, featuring children of the members of Death. I enjoyed the bejeezus out of that show - it was arguably one of the most joyous concert experiences I've ever witnessed, since it was truly a family affair. I've literally never seen performers that were as excited (and appreciative!) to be playing a packed house in New York City as I did on that night.
So, a little over three years later, we have this show, which coincided with local showings of A Band Called Death at a nearby indie cinema. While the band's material speaks for itself, a couple factors contributed to this show being less enjoyable than it should've been. First off, apparently some idiot had arranged for an incredibly obnoxious MC to work this show, and predictably this devolved into an embarrassing display of shameless self-promotion. I don't want to devote any more time than is absolutely necessary to discussing this attention whore, so I'm'a cut that shit off here, but suffice it to say the easiest way to make it painfully obvious that you don't go to many NYC shows is to berate the crowd with mindless "party people in the house!" bullshit and / or admonish the crowd for being "complacent," both of which happened. Seriously, go fuck yourself.
What's more, the club on this night was SWELTERING hot. No clue why lpr didn't have the AC on; hopefully this doesn't bode poorly for their finances, since this reminded me of times I've walked into a deli that's just barely hanging on, and the poor bastards have their lights off to save on the electricity bills. Would be a shame to lose lpr, since it's easily the best non-Bowery-affiliated venue at which to catch a show in Manhattan, but no AC on July 1st is pretty brutal any way ya slice it.
I walked in towards the end of The Everymen's set, and these guys had Jersey written all over them. Their "thing" reminded me of the final time I could bear to see Titus Andronicus live, which included (for me) the exact dividing line at which Titus' earlier, rockin' punky material gave way to overwrought, cloying emo garbage. Not that The Everymen were as unbearable as what Titus Andronicus has become, (that would be tough!), but it certainly seemed like things could turn out that way. Man, was it hot inside (le) poisson rouge.
Purling Hiss was up next, and I was excited to see their set. They started off with a patient, rockin' stoner groove which reminded me quite a bit of Dead Meadow's best work. Unfortunately, slowly but surely the set morphed into a bunch of samey, poor-man's Dino Jr. soundalikes. Still hot as balls up in this sum'bitch.
Death's set was up next, and not a moment too soon. With the modern lineup of surviving brothers Bobby Hackney on bass and vocals and Dannis Hackney on drums with Bobbie Duncan on guitar (guitarist and third brother David Hackney died of lung cancer in 2000), the band tore through their coulda-been-hits like a band half (a third?) of their age. They played every song off of ...For All the World to See, and a couple off of the "odds and ends" follow up from 2011, Spiritual Mental Physical, braving the stifling heat and turning in a roaring performance. Personal favorites were "Keep on Knocking," the show-stopping "Politicians in My Eyes," and "Masks," which hilariously cribs the verse section from the Beatles "Got To Get You Into My Life" note-for-note. See above and below for videos, of course.
At the Europa show, Bobby Hackney proudly announced that the band was working on new material, and although no new recordings have surfaced in the years since, at this show they encored with a song which he said is part of an upcoming single. (See below for a teaser of this new song.) Also, Jack White's Third Man Records recently released a 7" with songs from the Hackney brothers' pre-Death project, RockFire Funk Express - if you're not into the physical copy thing, you can grab it off of iTunes.