The two words "psychedelic rock" usually evoke images of the Grateful Dead, tie-dyed t-shirts, and overextended jam sessions inspired by too many shrooms. Unfortunately for Washington's Dead Meadow, those two little words are all over their bio, so I was a bit apprehensive upon arriving at their Toronto show. One of the fans I met swears that Dead Meadow is "the best band on the planet," and though that's obviously to be taken with a grain of salt, he's actually enthusiastic enough to be believable. They might not be the best band on the planet per se, but Dead Meadow has definitely got something going on - especially if they can pack the Horseshoe on a Wednesday night.
On tour to promote their latest release, "Feathers", the quartet of Dead Meadow took to the stage looking like four hipster punks that you'd find at a Bright Eyes concert. With little fanfare aside from the roar of the crowd, the foursome immediately locked into the groove with the audience and each other. Bassist Steve Kille was especially active, sweating and moving and playing off frontman Jason Simon's hypnotic crooning.
As for the music, forget the Grateful Dead - Dead Meadow squarely fits in as part of the new wave of psych-rock who have updated the sound for the current generation. The quartet managed to merge the psychedelia with tinges of stoner rock and even shoegazer, with bursts of electric guitar keeping the kids up front cheering. There was an edge to their melodic riffage, and a darkly moody undercurrent creeping just beyond your senses. No matter how much you were tempted to just tune out during their five-minute jam sessions, something kept pulling you back to alertness.
Okay, so fuzz pedal effects aren't for everyone, and neither are songs that drone on longer than eight minutes - we're looking at you, opening band Jennifer Gentle - but for the huge crowd that had gathered at the front, Dead Meadow truly were the best band on the planet. For the rest of us, it all starts to sound a bit same-y after a while, but it's at that point that you just close your eyes and sway along with the rest of the crowd.
Writer: Caitlin Hotchkiss