Just as the doors opened at Dada last night, True Widow bass player Nicole Estill pulled up in a pick-up truck with the band's drum kit in the back. This was a night for Texas music. The band, Dallas' latest band to hit it big after serious publicity from NPR and Pitchfork ahead of their new album on metal label Relapse Records, were the support to Brooklyn psychedelic slow-rock band Naam on this tour. But given how new album Circumambulation just came out, and how this is True Widow's first gig in Dallas since the release, this Dada show became an album release party.
Even so, Naam went on stage relatively late to play a set which flirted with stoner rock stereotypes by using a permanent keyboard player to complete the room-filling sound. Their deafening songs were sluggish in the best possible way, barely peeking over the precipice of stoner rock to produce a set which beguiled and stomped, caressed and smashed -- a train which ran away very, very slowly, but in a threatening manner. Astonishingly bearded bass player John Preston Bundy provided the exuberant anchor around which the band rotated, with keyboards providing one layer before singer and guitarist Ryan Lee Lugar absolutely piled on top with a distorted guitar that could probably have been heard in Houston. It's also worth mentioning that the only person to wear sunglasses for the whole night was the Naam drummer, a rock and roll star to the very end.
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Stepping onto the Dada stage a little after eleven, True Widow reminded me of the more psychedelic slow-jam parts of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club's heyday in their rolling slow-rock, which never sped up or slowed down. It just kind of was, if that makes sense. Like something that is both hazy and frenetic at the same time, True Widow exist in a place that is neither fast nor slow but perfectly of its own pace, a world that both rocks aggressively and beguiles quietly. Stoner rock is essentially loud, distorted rock with the pace and speed that so many associate with rock and roll entirely removed, replaced by a dynamic that values amplification over energy, ear-splitting noise over pace. It can therefore often be difficult to appreciate stoner rock live in the same way one might anticipate appreciating a rock concert; exuberant movement is not going to cut it.
True Widow are a very fine example of a stoner rock band indeed, and a disappointingly small Dada crowd was deafened to the point where it really was unclear whether or not the audience were appreciating the concert, given the ringing in the ears and the lack of stopping between songs. They are not the chattiest band, although this probably lends itself well to the image. Dallas is very lucky to have them, and here's to a conquering heroes return set at some point in a larger venue. For now, True Widow is in the unusual place of being better known outside their home city than within it. Let's hope that changes soon.