Last night, amid sweat and steam, the new Regent Theater in Downtown Los Angeles saw its first sold-out show with the highly anticipated performance by Canadian masters of noise-punk, Death From Above 1979. Packed like sardines in a can, fans who had missed out on Death From Above’s one-off performance at the Troubadour this past August, were praising the thrash gods above for this $15 Red Bull Sound Select #30DaysInLA show.
Attracting veteran fans, as well as firs-time curiosos, their addictive new album The Physical World has definitely garnered the duo a new popularity since their 2006 break up. From yuppies to college bros, I was kind of taken by surprise by how mellow the crowd on the floor pit were (in comparison to their early reunion shows). You call that a circle pit? That looked more like a kidney bean (and the size of one too). Is that what you think slam-dancing is? You mind as well be pogo-ing at a Weezer show. The only three crowd-surfing attempts I saw were by two girls and one dude. And the girls definitely owned it. Judging by the crowd alone, this was not the Death From Above experience I recalled pre 2006 or at any of their early reunion shows. Of all their performances I had witnessed after their 2011 reunion (SXSW – riot broke out, Sasquatch!, Coachella, FYF, Rough Trade NYC), this show was the first time I felt like I wasn’t sharing a room with veteran fans; but more so those curious and attracted to the appeal of a reunion band that is finally getting mainstream attention (even though they reunited three years ago…). Needless to say, the carnal energy and relentless need for all things hard, fast and loud was definitely the Death From Above 1979 I remembered. I just had to put the annoying drunk bros below me and the be-seen girls trying to get that perfect crowd selfie out of my line of sight, and focus on the incredible collision of drums and bass that was happening before me.
Hitting the stage closer to midnight, Death From Above 1979 opened up with “Turn It Out” the first track from their debut album, You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine. Within the first 30 seconds of the song’s chilling intro, I immediately pulled out the fancy ear plugs that the Red Bull Sound Select team had gifted me with. I had to, without a filter, fully enjoy the noise lashing that DFA was about to hand me. As I placed the ear plugs back into my purse, the crowd below was spiraling into chaotic waves of motion. With hands flailing in the air, the condensed crowd emulated a moving sea with fans bouncing from one side to the other like a game of ping pong. There was definity some drunken movement, but nothing comparable to years past.
When DFA rolled into “Cheap Talk” the opening track off of the duo’s new and sophomore album, The Physical World, fans cheered and roared as most were newbies and this is a song they can better familiarize with. Chanting the catchy chorus, at this point the fire was lit. The thick heat from the sweltering Regent was turning into a gym sock stew and like vapors rising, those of us on the balcony were inhaling the brunt of it. Ooooof.
As my hair went from sleek and chic to frizzy waves, Death From Above 1979 pummeled through practically all the songs from both their records. These guys were mad men barely even breaking to wipe their sweat or have a drink. Jesse Keeler handled that bass with his signature wide stanced poses, pretty much driving all the ladies wild. From funky bass lines to making those strings screech like an exorcism, Keeler was straight up on point. I have no idea how this man can put so much into his set knowing that he was about to head to the Exchange to perform as MSTRKRFT proceeding DFA’s show.
With those boyish good looks, vocalist and drummer, Sebastien Grainger battered his acrylic drum kit with such ferocity you would think the kit would blow. Feeling the rumble of the drum rolls tickle my skin, I was a bit disappointed that Grainger’s vocals were being drowned out by the sound. I’m not sure what was going on, but I’ve seen Death From Above enough times to know that Grainger’s melodic and powerful vocals are incredible live paired with the thunderous sound from their instruments. Unfortunately, that was not the case on this evening as the sound levels were off and Grainger’s voice was washed out by the cataclysmic bass and drums.
Regardless of the off vocal clarity, Death From Above 1979 were stunning live. Their stage presence is unmatched, even with little to no stage banter, the duo captivates the attention of anyone in their presence. Like a virus, their energy is unquestionably infectious and you just can’t help but fall victim to their deafening, yet beautiful combination of noise. Without a doubt everyone woke up with their ears ringing this morning, and I’m sure they were all totally okay with it.
Words: Sandra Burciaga
Photography: Monique Hernandez
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