It’s incredibly satisfying when a band you’re seeing for the first time meets the expectations that took root when you listened to their recordings. You know what’s even better? When those expectations are totally obliterated, the band is even better than you could have hoped, and you walk away feeling like this.
I’d been trying to make it to a Dead Fame show for months, and the big moment finally came last night, when supporters of Richmond Playlist packed the Camel for the blog’s super-fun birthday party (yes there was cake, and it was delicious!). DF took the stage as the second of three bands, installing a snazzy light show that included a roving, green laser that, while the band was working out a few technical difficulties, became the subject of a fantastic English-majors-talking-about-science conversation between my wife and me about how the laser seemed to be moving the smoky air it touched, and whether this was actually possible. Our conclusion? We have no idea what we’re talking about.
Dead Fame’s set got underway a few minutes later and, within the first few moments of “Glass Jacket,” I was floored. Blown away. Gobsmacked.
The first thing that hit me was how complete their sound was — a fully realized, energizing and enveloping arrangement — followed soon after by Michael Means’ stage presence, which was pure electricity. This second bit came as something of a surprise, given how cool, calm and collected his baritone vocals come across on the group’s Frontiers EP. In person, he was dancing furiously, engaging the crowd at every turn and punctuating his syllables as if he was an extension of Eric Klemen’s drum set. I have a huge amount of respect for any performer who leaves that much sweat on the stage; there’s nothing more contagious than unbridled energy, and that’s exactly what Means gave the Camel last night.
Of the many things that hit me just right about their performance — Eric Klemen’s drumming, which felt both frenetic and composed at the same time, and Sadie Powers’ masterfully manipulated fretless bass are two great examples — KC Byrnes’ guitar was particularly interesting. His hollow-bodied Gretsch provided shape and color to each composition, with a feeling of variety that reminded me of the great Bob Ross. Yes, that Bob Ross. You know how he always made people feel like they could paint the same awesome landscape he was painting… only no average person had the ridiculous arsenal of brushes he did, like that wedge-looking thing he’d use to make mountaintop snow? Byrnes sounded like he was working with every brush under the sun, only instead of adding happy little trees, he was adding harmonic swells here, driving rhythms there, always with an eye towards complementing, not overwhelming. Sneaky-impressive stuff.
I could go on and on, but I encourage you to go see them for yourself at your first opportunity. In the meantime, have a listen to two Dead Fame songs below (I posted two others yesterday), pick up their EP here and find out more about last night’s party by checking out the Cheats Movement’s awesome photos here and Richmond Playlist’s write-up here. Thanks for the shout-outs, fellas!