When we last checked out an …And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead show, the band had a grown a little tamer with age. Chalk it up to simple maturity or sharing the bill with Surfer Blood, but the howling Austin art-rockers had significantly mellowed their live act. The craziest thing that happened was guitarist/vocalist Conrad Keely shrugging and pushing over their amp stack at the end of the set, a far cry from the widespread destruction of their earlier performances.
But Wednesday’s concert at Chicago’s Bottom Lounge found the quartet tapping into the cyclonic energy of their younger days. Maybe it was the alcohol. Maybe it was their reinvigorating new album. Maybe the looming Thanksgiving holiday left them feeling extra festive. Whatever the case, Trail of Dead ripped through a “Best of” set that recalled the reckless inertia of their performances of old.
The band front-loaded the show with newer material from Lost Songs. At first, the crowd planted themselves and bobbed their heads, gratefully clapping and showing the sort of polite enthusiasm shown toward pretty much any enduring indie band that has graduated from rookie upstarts to elder statesmen. But as the older tunes started to creep in, the audience began to boil. The pensive “Mistakes & Regrets” induced some good-natured shoving, which exploded into full-on thrashing a few songs later with an extra sneer-ful, loaded-to-the-gills version of “A Perfect Teenhood”. On record, the Madonna fan favorite shifts constantly in speed and tone, and the band pushed this even farther live, building from brooding shoegaze to snotty punk, then spiraling into several improvised, bluesy riffs. Keely indulged in some muddy ass-shaking before speed-balling into the song’s snarling climax of “fuck you! fuck you! fuck you!”
After a much-needed recess with the mini-prog rock opera of ”The Spiral Jetty” and ”Weight of the Sun (or the Post-Modern Prometheus)” off of 2010’s Tao of the Dead, part-time frontman/guitarist/drummer/jokester Jason Reece and bassist Autry Fulbright II made their obligatory jaunts into the audience. “Can I join you in your festivities?” asked Reece before hopping onto the floor and launching into “Homage”, ensnaring several folks in his seemingly endless microphone cord. A bottle of Jameson was passed around during “Totally Natural”, and Keely dedicated “Another Morning Stoner” to Pitchfork: “Sometimes they’ve liked us and sometimes they’ve hated us. But this is one they liked.” The communal chaos reached a pinnacle during set closer “Richter Scale Madness”, where nearly the entire audience took the stage to dance and lend gang vocals.
Although an encore wasn’t planned (the house music and lights came on afterwards), Trail of Dead took the stage one last time for a sped up “Will You Smile Again?”. Reece drunkenly waxed nostalgic about their first show in Chicago, when they got kicked out of Empty Bottle for being too overzealous, Pitchfork guru Ryan Schreiber later putting them up. Now older and a little bit wiser, the band proved that they can still deliver that type of blistering performance without the unnecessary property damage.
Photography by Sergio Soltero.
And You Will Know Them…
Up To Infinity
Mistakes & Regrets
A Perfect Teenhood
The Spiral Jetty
Weight of the Sun (or the Post-Modern Prometheus)
Another Morning Stoner
Richter Scale Madness
Will You Smile Again?