Last Night: ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead and The Secret Machines at the Granada Theater

...And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead, The Secret Machines, Ume
Granada Theater
September 29, 2009

Better than: reminiscing about the old days and listening to "Another Morning Stoner" all alone in my bedroom, huddled up in a ball, crying. Actually, most things are better than that...

There was a time--not too long ago, either--when a performance from either Austin's ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead or Dallas' own (by way of New York City) The Secret Machines would have packed crowds into a space like the Granada Theater.

But perhaps the most notable observation at last night's bill at the Granada was the fact that, even with their draws combined and the balcony roped off from audiences, the theater's draw was actually quite thin, allowing fans almost too much room for comfort. Almost immediately, this visual took away the sting out of the night's potential.

The fact that The Secret Machines' set dragged--even at a surprisingly short 50 minutes--didn't exactly help.

The weird part? Brandon Curtis, Josh Garza and Phil Karnats started things off with such a bang, forcing audiences to scramble for earplugs as a wall of reverberated sound washed over the room and the trio grooved into its first song of the night, "Nowhere Again." Around the room, heads nodded and bounced in unison to the beat--a pretty remarkable sight, actually. The mood remained high, too, as the band continued along, regaling the crowd with the swinging sounds of "Sad and Lonely."

Problem is, as the band continued along its set, its energy level couldn't keep up to the pace the set's opening had determined. As the set progressed, the band settled into a slower, more stoner rock groove--fine for the band and its show, but not up to the bar in this case. And without its usual high-production stage set-up, and instead just a few lights behind them, it didn't have the same gravitas either.

By the time the band's set came to its quick end, it seemed to have perplexed more than anything else; audiences were left without hearing a good portion of the Machines' popular tracks. The set was just too short; the band had trouble finding its groove and the audience didn't seem to catch the whole show it had wanted to see.

The proof was in the even smaller crowd that remained for Trail of Dead's set 30 minutes later. Performing at a significantly higher energy level clip than the Secret Machines, Trail of Dead viscerally performed tracks spanning its entire catalog with a 70-minute show well worth its headlining slot. Unsurprisingly, though the band, performing as a six-piece, offered up songs from its entire catalog (from the first song it ever wrote to tracks off its most recent release, The Century of Self), the highlights came from its still-seminal Source Tags & Codes breakthrough--specifically "It Was There That I Saw You" and the song it save for its encore, "Another Morning Stoner."

Though the small crowd appreciated the effort and the performance, the numbers about the room at the end of the show (a relatively early 11:15 p.m.) showed that the audience was more interested in showing up for The Secret Machines. Although, based off that band's performance, that sentiment didn't necessarily appear mutual.

Critic's Notebook
Personal Bias:
This was my first time seeing The Secret Machines, but I've been a fan on record for some time. Between the two acts, though, I definitely prefer the works of Trail of Dead.

By The Way: With Ben Curtis now off in School of Seven Bells, he's been replaced by fellow Dallas native Phil Karnats. Given that the band was and remains just a three-piece, that's a pretty big adjustment. Karnats, though, seems to be doing a commendable job of both emulating Curtis' playing style, while offering up unique flourishes of his own.

Random Note: Trail of Dead frontman Conrad Keely had some sweet art prints for sale at the merch booth.

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