Clue yourself to the sound of Gene Wilder’s voice arising from the darkness, the drug-manic Wilderzations of Willy Wonka, and the louder the voice gets, the more intense the anticipation gets . . . then the band, the Trail, The Dead, the four guys in black, they come on to make noise, loud noise, a thrilling noise.
. . . And You Will Know Us by The Trail of Dead
11 Mar 2002: Bowery Ballroom New York
“Richter Scale Madness” is the song, and the band turns it up . . . “Dream Machine, John and Exene, smear campaign and a swat team,” and the place erupts. Shreds of guitar noise, pummeled along by a booming bass and trouncing drums. The band sings “This is a riot, right? Let’s all riot riot, Let’s tear this place to shit . . .” and dammit if they don’t tear up the place later on.
But I’m getting ahead of myself here. Jason Reece starts out on the drums, but then he plays guitar and sings, then he goes back to drums, then later smashes a guitar. Conrad Keely rocks, and he’s the man, you know, as Frank Booth would say, and the other guys, well Neil Busch rocks out on the bass, spread-eagled legs, waiting for the touch, or the thrust, or the rock, the Tony James Gen X of it all, then they go! Kevin Allen maintains the chaos on lead guitar, never straying far from his Marshall-situated beer or cigarette. They’re cool and all, but you know the score and the score is Jason and Conrad, motherfucker badasses, feeling no pain, cranking it up for us. The faithful. The wanting. The precious. It’s all v-e-r-y glamorous. And it rocks.
“There’s no knowing where’s going . . .” oh the words spark out in between songs, the band moves ahead, feeling its nuances. Interlocking guitar strands in between the bass and drums, building to a crescendo of blistering strength, the highs and lows, the shadows and tall trees, the jet black mattes. Where it goes, it leaves a trail of dead in its wake. I know. I just used it. The words.
The weed came out during “Mark David Chapman” and Conrad wanted some. Jason instigated the crowd to violence. He did it. Correcting himself, he then preached non-violence, and went into “Gargoyle Waiting”. Screaming Joe and Micklike, the words rush out, “In all noir, you go for the kill.” It’s all v-e-r-y dangerous. Or is it?
“That girl wants it louder,” spoketh Jason, and they launched into the heaviest song of their set (and the first one from the new CD Source Tags & Codes)—“this song is called Under Death, Unwound, Sonic Youth and Slint . . . FUCK YOU!” and the new song “Homage” explodes! It’s all v-e-r-y glamorous. And it rocks.
Then Conrad starts up the fluid guitar lines of “Another Morning Stoner” and it all makes sense. The lights, the passion, the imagery, the blackness of the hardcore leanings of the band. From Texas, holy fuck! Husker Surfing Buttholes! The audience laps it all up. These guys are big, bigger than your average jean-wearing hardcore band. The Trail of Dead Are It. They know it. They feel it.
Neil takes front and center on “Baudelaire” and it’s cool. It’s pop. It soars when it should and feels right in the rock when it has to! And Jason back to front for “Aged Dolls”. His Morrison-esque take on the stage comes complete with another nod to violence and mayhem, a rampant rip through a top chick’s silver chorded guitar, splintering, smashing, destroying . . . for us . . . “she’s in the rear-view, she’s in the rear-view, she’s in the rear-view.” It’s all v-e-r-y glamorous. Hardcore rocks.
You still here? You waiting for the ending? The ending? You mean the fuck-it-all-up part? You mean the bait-the-crowd-part? You mean the trash-the-stage part? A Trail of Dead is a Trail of Dead is a Trail of Dead . . . .equipment. And almost dead bodies. Conrad nearly impaled Jason with a guitar fling whipped back toward the drumset. The body of the guitar . . . Jason’s head . . . three inches apart . . . sheer force of guitar death, evaded, momentarily.
Conrad started it all with his fond remembrances of playing at Continental in the East Village, where “we’d have a bottle-throwing fight with the audience. Now, we don’t want to go back to Austin and tell everyone that New Yorkers are a bunch of pussies, do you?” That started the logical conclusion to “Totally Natural” with Bowery Ballroom-supplied plastic cups a-flyin’ through the air with the greatest of beer, water, wine, vodka and whatever else was left undrunk by the crowd. A sea of chaos, a mess of confusion, toppled monitors, thrashed drumset, mic stands hurled, bottled water tosses, feedback, cheers, relentless noise, the mayhem, the fun . . .
Ah, it was just like the good old days of early hardcore . . . It’s all v-e-r-y glamorous. And it rocks.