Live Reviews

Black Mountain/Dead Meadow

The Scala – London
24th November 2005

When we heard that this gig was for real it was a no brainer, we were never gonna miss it. Both bands have been played to death here at HQ all year round so the promise of a show together was the kiss of life. Sub Pop’s Wolf Parade opened the show but we missed them by an inch but made it in good time to see Dead Meadow hit the stage in good time. Dead Meadow have been around since 1988 and come from the wonderful music state of Washington DC, and area that has spawned some of the best bands in underground history such as Henry Rollins, Fugazi, and Minor Threat.

Over these years about 5 albums have been released, (in fact one of them even came out on Fugazi bassist Joe Lally’s Tolotta Records and they were the only band to have a Peel Session recorded out of the BBC studios as well fact finders) so tonight was a good show to check out some of their previous material as well as tracks from the classic current record “Feathers“.

Now, there was confusion before the show about who was going to headline tonight but after what must have been a flick of the coin the Meadow took to the stage early and played what was more like a headline slot! It was electric, and built up bit by bit from start to finish until the field was full and the crowd was in a firm trance. For a 3 piece, they have quite a remarkable sound that transcends well from the record to the stage.

With the constant flow of bass skills from Steve Kille and the mesmerizing anchor man in drummer Stephen McCarty you have one of the most solid rhythm sections on the planet. This skill helps vocalist/guitarist Jason Simon produce his layered vocals coated in reverb with what looks like little effort although you know somehow he is thinking every note as he twangs yet another 2 minute stoner solo. This band has the knack to jam your lazy arse into the ground. Taking Hendrix by the horns, twisting it round with the heaviness of Sabbath and the psychedelic drugs of the Verve b-sides, the Meadow are a force to feel tonight and drummer McCarty shows how good he is with drum rolls that mulch your brain. I was way too stoned to remember each song but I do know that they finished with a killer version of the hidden track form the end of the Feathers album that destroyed people. It was an amazing show but Black Mountain had not even played yet and it felt as if nothing could ever match what we had just witnessed.

The show Black Mountain played this year at Metro was incredible but also looked a little tight for space on the night. Tonight they seemed comfortable on a bigger stage with a better PA and they managed to turn the entire crowd into a warbling wreck within the first 4 songs. The monstrous Don’t Run Our Hearts Around, No Satisfaction and Modern Music kicked in to get the crowds blood flowing after the Meadow had destroyed all vein action which led to a killer Druganaut session and some early stuff before the folk imploded Heart of Snow, the demanding, blood rushing No Hits and the mellow Set Us Free literally glued people’s feet to the ground.

Once again, the rhythm section is faultless and gels together something that could easily fall apart if the wrong people are holding fort. But the Mountain have one of the tightest operations going since Scrooge and the most interesting thing about this is Stephen Mcbean’s presence. He plays so casually and makes near to no eye contact with the crowd whatsoever. His demeanor is one of a prowling fox who makes no bones about stinging a progressive solo through your ears with distortion without emotion. Mix this with the eerie vocals of Amber Webber whose delivery must be akin to a stoner Portishead and you have a Mountain to climb on your own. The band are on fire and we all melted to the sound of it tonight.

At the end, members from Dead Meadow joined them onstage which ensured a jam of chronic proportions and what a great way to end a perfect night out. Looking back though, one of the main reasons that this night was so good is that it was all fuelled by a bunch of people discovering 2 of the best records that have stood out of the crowd this year. The indie scene is thriving, it’s operated on a small scale but good word of mouth is never wrong when the bands are this good. Smokin’…