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The Murder City Devils At The Teragram Ballroom, Sunday February 12th 2017

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The Murder City Devils

 

I saw The Murder City Devils once, at the FYF fest, years ago, and I remember their set as pure violence, almost insane and completely unapologetic, but so wild that I had to move in the back of the lawn… That’s the reason why I was back to see them at the Teragram Ballroom on Sunday, but this time I am proud to say I managed to stay in the front the whole time, although it was not that easy.

The Murder City Devils are from Seattle and two bands from the Pacific Northwest were opening. First, there was Joel Cuplin, a guy alone on stage with several instruments, a loop pedal and intriguing sounds coming from his guitar, saxophone and flute. There was an incessant drone and the slow beat in the background was creeping out the soundscapes while his sax with a repetitive Arabic vibe, was like a variation around Ravel’s Bolero at times. All his songs were building a heavy and krautrocky ambiance, with scattered, emotional and impatient vocals, jazzy elements, a cacophony of instruments and loop recordings, a symphony of weirdness, like a dawn that would never rise… he may have been alone but he was making a very full sound, casting a spell on the audience that had made the right decision to venture in the venue early.

Deep Creep were a much more traditional rock quartet from Seattle, with a heavy hitting style, at least this was my first impression. They had infectious beats and hooks, their sound was tough and their strong frontwoman (ex-Pretty Girls Make Graves’ Andrea Zollo) was going from a sweet to a more aggressive style. They were artsy and a bit dark with a punk rock spirit, a touch of blues, and a true dance potential. Zollo, who was wearing a DIY ‘No Ban, No Wall’ leather jacket, was the main attraction, although all the members (they all come from punk bands from the Murder City Devils, to Pretty Girls Make Graves, the Cave Singers and Cute Lepers) were moving with style along their highly charged, and not-that-traditional-after-all music… But with a name like theirs, there should have been more than what it seems first. They had songs with a spooky vibe, others with a much more boisterous sound and even a sort of Art Brut feel, and after their creepy swag dance, it was time for another much more insane one, when the Murder City Devils took the stage.

There is no doubt that the Seattle band wants to creep you out, explode your head, even split out the earth in several pieces. Vocalist Spencer Moody was a dynamite on stage, but much more than everyone else, he screamed pure terror and, in a restless stylish move, he repeatedly swung his mic stand, and being front row, I had the feeling I would receive it on the face at any moment – but Moody was always catching the thread attached to the stand at the last minute, putting it back in position before it had the time to fall down. And that’s practice! The music was loud and noisy, often earthshaking and people knew it, they immediately followed the flow, adding to the mayhem, and the rest of the show engulfed my memory with a flood of arms and legs moving in the air. It was pure chaos and it smelt danger, it was a constant charge to your senses, loaded with Moody’s restless assaults, and then there was that spooky organ on many songs, which brought a Dracula’s castle vibe.

Starting the show with ‘I Don’t Wanna Work for Scum Anymore’, the Devils could be the bastard sons of the Stooges or the Misfits, and Moody could be a Frankenstein version of Eagles of Death Metal’s Jesse Hughes. He certainly brought the same kind of mad energy on stage but if Hughes makes heart shape signs with his hands, Moody probably wants to rip your guts apart with one of his blood-thirsty raucous screams,… while swallowing his mic. No I am joking, he reached out the crowd a few times and there was noting but love between him and the people.

I had never really listened to the Murder City Devils on record until tonight, and I thought it would be impossible for them to manage to reproduce this same adrenaline rush, this droning bass-and-drums, this funny shine-chilling organ and especially Moody’s let’s-creep-everyone-out vocals. And after spending a few hours listening to them, I can say that they do in a certain way, but their show adds another layer of energy rarely reached during live performances.

They haven’t released anything since their 2014 ‘The White Ghost Has Blood On Its Hands Again’, so the show was not promoting any recent release, although they played 4 songs of this album, while the rest was all about ‘R.I.P.’, ‘In Name and Blood’, or ‘Empty Bottles, Broken Hearts’…The band broke up in 2001 and returned in 2006, I am not sure they have stopped since, and why should they? The Devils tore through their one-hour set with a raging passion, barely slowing down, may be just a bit with ‘Hey Playboy’, during which Moody was shouting ‘Sweet Freedom’ with the primal scream of a drunk. At the end of the show, I was just happy to have survived, while staying front row, and when I thought it was probably impossible to top this energy level, a young guy next to me told me: ‘On Friday, (It was the second show of the band at the Teragram this week…) it was ten times wilder’…What?

Setlist
I Don’t Wanna Work for Scum Anymore
In My Heart
Idle Hands
Somebody Else’s Baby
Hey Sailor
Pale Disguise
I Want a Lot Now
Press Gang
I Drink the Wine
Cruelty Abounds
Midnight Service
Hey Playboy
Dancehall Music
Dancing Shoes
18 Wheels
Bride of the Elephant Man
Not Everybody Gets a Good Time
Rum to Whiskey
Murder City Riot

More pictures here and here.

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Joel Cuplin

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Deep Creep

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