Party like it’s 2002 in Austin. Just two days after seeing Spoon play a secret club show, …And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead played 2002’s groundbreaking Source Tags & Codes from start to finish and carried it off with the live force the band is legendary for.
Originally scheduled for Mohawk’s outside stage the show was moved to very packed and frantic crowd at Red 7 due to rain. After the exceptional BLXPLTN Trail of Dead were setup and ready to play the universally acclaimed (85 of out of 100 on Metacritic) and perfect 10 on Pitchfork record.
The heavy hit began right away as the quiet strumming of the chords and tension building of “It Was There That I Saw You” quickly turned into the chaos and ferocity the band has become legendary for live with a quick attack of guitars and feedback bolstered by wild drummming on band co-founder Conrad Keely’s tale of summer lost love. Building again as the track slows down for the beautiful bridge to come back up up for air the band moved again perfectly back to the opening chords and belted out chaos as Keely yells, “I wondered what went wrong/I wondered what became of you” in a blister of feedback.
Another Morning Stoner, the next track off Source Tags the closest song to a “hit” the band has, gave way next as the highly imaginative and sweeping riff melds something together semi-orchestral rock better than most could dream. The grandioseness of The Who, the noise and beauty of Sonic Youth, and the passion of Fugazi. It is punk and rock tripped out with the beautiful breakdown that comes in a few minutes into the song as Keely sings Why is a song the world for me? before launching back into the refrain What is forgiveness?/It’s just a dream/What is forgiveness?/It’s everything showing a maturation of the band with Source Tags representing the third LP of the band and growth since the self-titled debut of songs like “Richter Scale Madness.”
Next began “Baudelaire,” an ode to poet Charles Baudelaire sung by former bassist Neil Busch on the record, but sung by Conrad Keely as Busch has been departed from the band ten years prior replaced by Autry Fulbright since 2010. The two songs sung by Busch on the record were song by Keely although Busch definitely would have been a pleasant surprise though that seemed incredibly unlikely.
Next was co-founder Jason Reece’s blistering, “Homage,” as he moved from drums to guitar and vocals a tale of punk rock chaos and 3-chord whirlwind storm as he calls out, I circle for decades Only to find obscurity/My life is haunted by young devilry/I heard your voice On my stereo Lost into the night…the night. At this point the crowd and chaos truly took off as the crowd stormed and Reece entered the audience moving slowly but surely through the crowd with his microphone like days of punk past.
Some of the chaos onstage also caused some technical issues and Conrad Keely tossed his guitar pedal setup straight into his amp with a look of glee as the stage crew tried to fix it as well as issues later on during Worlds Apart Caterwaul with Jason Reece yelling and walking around stage, falling, getting back up and into the crowd with glee of the crowd, Keely, and look of worry of stage crew that comes with hosting a gig from Trail of Dead.
As the band went through all songs from Source Tags and Codes to the absolutely beautiful, “Relative Ways,” and closer from which the album derives it’s title, it truly was a tour de force, but not enough for the band. They came back with the 5/4 epic, “Will You Smile Again?” with a brutal stomp turned into quick hook of the ode to Brian Wilson and tale of writer’s block to the Madonna (the Trail of Dead record titled Madonna for those not in the know, not the artist herself) era album Clair De Lune.
Things picked up once again with “Catatonic” from 2012’s Lost Songs and the teen anarchy of “A Perfect Teenhood” and chants of “Fuck you!” from the crowd and to the crowd as the night winded down.
The only other highlight might have been if the band had some of the ambiance and strings that are throughout Source Tags & Codes and helps unite the songs on the album, if done correctly live would have been a fantastic spectacle to bring the performance up even higher, but this definitely didn’t cause the show to suffer.
While their popularity isn’t the same since the classic rock leaning Worlds Apart …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead have proven they are one of the few legendary bands to hail from Austin, Texas and something that people are missing out on if they don’t know of them. They have over the past 20 years created a widly diverse catalogue and some of the best songs of the era with “Another Morning Stoner,” and “Will You Smile Again?” and put on a live performance that is legendary as ever.