Maybe you heard, but there were some big doings at Higher Ground last Thursday, as now-legendary proto-punk band Death took to a Vermont stage for the first — and, if you believe the rumors — last time. Predictably, excitement and expectations for the show were unusually high. In fact, I don’t recall any local show in recent memory as hotly anticipated or inflated with hype as the reunited trio’s debut VT date.
There was all manner of Facebook pimping and Twitter … um, tweeting preceding the show. There were several local radio interviews with the band. There was a preshow press conference at 242 Main. There was even a television commercial advertising not only the gig but a forthcoming documentary film about Death directed by local filmmaker Jeff Howlett. Oh, and I whipped up a pretty decent feature story in last week’s edition. Maybe you saw it? The one in which I interview Mos motherflippin’ Def, bitches! Ahem.
So, yeah. A ton of hype. In fact, maybe too much.
(Please hold while I feverishly wring my hands trying to come up with a diplomatic way of phrasing this next bit.)
This gives me no pleasure to write, but the show was disappointing.
I arrived in time to catch the tail end of the opening set by local punk rockers Folk Heroes, who were ragged, energetic and fun. And very, very loud.
During an intermission, waiting for Rough Francis to take the stage, I began to take stock of the unusual surroundings. An enormous camera and boom arm — like, 15 or 20 feet tall — dominated the room. Uniformed film crew milled around with expensive-looking gear. The band’s merch table was a mountain of T-shirts and records. Higher Ground felt less like a rock club than a movie set. Weird.
Rough Francis tore through a typically excellent set, whetting the audience’s collective appetite for Death — BTW, there is not a more exciting hard-rock drummer in Burlington than RF’s Urian Hackney right now. Period. Holy hell, that kid can play.
Finally, Death took the stage. They dove right in, unleashing a few choice classics from …For the Whole World to See. And it sounded … great, actually. But then things took a turn south. Like, to Jamaica.
The remainder of the evening felt more like a retrospective of the Hackneys’ projects since Death than a celebration of the band we all came to see. They marched through one Lambsbread number after another, sporadically tossing in a few tunes from their old Christian-rock outfit the 4th Movement and, every once in a while, a Death song. By the time they got around to playing “Politicians in My Eyes,” my excitement had been carried away in the trade winds.
I left feeling disheartened and a little duped — a sentiment echoed by a number of folks on the way out the door. Nothing against Lambsbread, who really are a solid reggae band and certainly part of the larger story. But we came to see Death, and, unfortunately, that’s not really what we got.
Maybe it’s because I fell so head over heels in love with Death’s story. Maybe it’s because I, too, bought into all the hype, and my expectations were unreasonably lofty. Or maybe I just wanted the show to be more than it really was, which was simply the epilogue to a fantastic story 35 years in the making, the coming full circle of three marvelous, visionary musicians and a celebration of their wondrously talented and loving family. And, just maybe, contrary to the crowing of certain folks in the blogosphere and other social-media outlets postshow, the evening was supposed to be less about “making history” and more about appreciating it.
And finally, this week’s totally self-indulgent column segment, in which I share a random sampling of what was on my iPod, turntable, CD player, 8-track player, etc., this week.
Drunk Duff: Whoops, thanks for the redirect!
Drunk Duff: Hello - No mention of Pushing a Brain Uphill Fest or Wolf Eyes but a lot of words…