Concert Reviews

Drab Majesty’s Crowd Made Mandatory Laryngectomies Seem Less Inhumane

Drab Majesty joined forces with Emma Ruth Rundle and Jaye Jayle.
Drab Majesty joined forces with Emma Ruth Rundle and Jaye Jayle. Garrett Gravley
On the same night Emma Ruth Rundle and Jaye Jayle were scheduled to play Double Wide, Drab Majesty had a day off in the middle of their tour with Smashing Pumpkins and booked a headline gig at Club Dada.

Naturally, combing the two shows only seemed practical. After all, Rundle and Andrew Clinco (aka Deb Demure) are both members of the Los Angeles post-rock/ambient trio Marriages, and when Clinco started Drab Majesty, Rundle contributed vocals to two tracks on the project’s 2012 EP Unarian Dances. History aside, both the Dada and Double Wide shows were organized by the same promoter, and given the overlapping audiences of both headlining acts, there was no sense in having the two shows compete against each other.

For those reasons, Rundle and Jaye Jayle ditched their show at Double Wide and instead opened for Drab Majesty at Dada. The merger seemed auspicious in theory and certainly made for a stacked bill, but as the show panned out, it became progressively more evident that the two shows should have respectfully kept their distance, especially as the crowd kept talking over the first two acts.

“This song is called ‘Heaven,'” said an understandably disgruntled Rundle toward the end of her set. “This song is also called ‘Shut the fuck up.’”

“This song is called ‘Heaven,' This song is also called ‘Shut the fuck up.’” – Emma Ruth Rundle

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Despite Rundle’s urging, the audience kept talking over her set. It was evident they were waiting for Drab Majesty to come on, but apparently a considerable portion of the crowd has not familiarized themselves with the practice of respectfully going outside to hold a conversation during a band’s performance.

Audience chatter aside, Jaye Jayle opened with a rather impressive set. The Louisville side project of Young Widows’ Evan Patterson has honed a unique style that possesses elements of neofolk, post-punk, Americana and even some krautrock. Patterson sings in a low register and pulls off a dynamic vocal delivery that is rather similar to that of Nick Cave’s. The instrumentation in tracks such as “Ode to Betsy” incorporates a minimalist style one would hear from bands such as Suicide, as well as a dark, fuzzy guitar tone that seems to take influence from New York’s no-wave scene.

Rundle’s set was just as eerie, but nonetheless more atmospheric. The post-rock and experimental styles she utilized in previous projects such as Red Sparowes and Marriages are very much still present in her artistic palette, but they seem to blend much more beautifully with the folk and baroque pop elements of her solo output. The ethereal guitar quality evoked a similar feeling as Cocteau Twins, and some of the more textured elements bring to mind post-rock predecessors such as Godspeed You! Black Emperor.

A listening room environment would have been more conducive to Rundle’s and Jaye Jayle’s sets, so it goes without saying that the crowd’s aforementioned disruption had a dampening effect. Moreover, there was stylistic contrast between the first two acts and Drab Majesty that, while an acceptable deviation, had an unwelcoming and unexpected side effect.

Make no mistake, though – Drab Majesty were just as deserving of everyone’s attention. They did mistakenly thank Austin rather than Dallas, but the crowd was understanding and did not infer an insult from that. Drab Majesty were unarguably the biggest draw of the night, attracting the most enthusiastic ovation and enjoying a more attentive crowd than the two prior acts.

The post-punk influences Clinco derives from are incredibly on-the-nose — at times, the dance-y synth-pop sounds almost exactly like Gary Numan and Clan of Xymox. Through other points of the band’s set, there’s even a blend of shoegaze. Songs such as “39 by Design” have lyricism that enhance the listening experience, but the vocals were soaked so heavily in reverb that even the stage banter was difficult to decipher.

To Drab Majesty’s credit, they did end the show on a high note. But given that it persisted on such a low one in thanks entirely to audience members who cannot keep their mouths shut, that task is unfortunately not as impressive as it should have been.
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Garrett Gravley was born and grew up in Dallas. He mostly writes about music, but veers into arts and culture, local news and politics. He is a graduate of the University of North Texas and has written for the Dallas Observer since October 2018.