By: Stephen McGill –
“Hi my name is Jason Reece and I hope we don’t fuck this up,” were the first words singer, guitarist and drummer Jason Reece of …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead (referred to from here on as Trail Of Dead for brevity’s sake), said to the crowd at Lee’s Palace last night before launching into a scorching rendition of “Catatonic” from their new album Lost Songs, released in late-October. Those words seemed fairly apt as the set proceeded, the Austin four-piece proceeded to tear through their set, with little regard for the condition of their instruments. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen so many broken strings and cast aside guitars at a show before. It was a purely chaotic as best evidenced when Reece made it through a few bars of “Caterwaul” before throwing his guitar into his amp, and diving right into the crowd to sing in the middle of a sudden mosh pit, while a tech filled in for him on guitar. Touring in support of Lost Songs their set covered a range of material, though heavily slanted towards the past few albums.
The band was a constantly swirling vortex, with Reece and percussionist/guitarist Jamie Miller constantly switching between instruments, and bassist Autry Fullbright II throwing himself around the stage, generally you’d find at least one member off the stage, whether on the side bars, or in the crowd. This was anchored by singer and guitarist Conrad Keely, who while still energetic was always found front and center on the stage, tearing through guitars. While the vocals were shouted and indistinct at times the instruments sounded brilliant and kept the sound system at Lee’s working hard all night. One of the highlights was midway through the set between “A Perfect Teenhood” and “The Spiral Jetty” where they suddenly burst into a cover of Patti Smith’s “Gloria: In Excelsis Deo” before crashing back into their main set. The other was the encore opener “Will You Smile Again For Me” from 2005’s Worlds Apart which led directly into “Another Morning Stoner” a pairing which sent all the diehard fans into a frenzy.
First on the stage were locals The Box Tiger, fronted by spirited singer and guitarist Sonia Sturino, who belted through a half hour set of indie rock including their new single “Set Fire To Your Friends.” The entire band were energetic and a pleasure to watch on stage. Foreshadowing the rest of the evening, towards the end of their set Sturino broke a string on her guitar, while Keeley offered her one of his to finish their set (Though she then broke a string on that at the end of their last song). Their material sounded great, pop inflected indie rock, with Sturino’s excellent vocal tone pushing it above the ranks of similar bands.
Sounding as if Le Tigre and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs were smashed together into one band, the Atlanta-based four piece all girl band The Coathangers stormed the stage and blasted through a set of punk rock riotgrrrl anthems that would make Kathleen Hanna, of Bikini Kill/Le Tigre, proud. Their tracks ranged from slower jams like “Pussy Willow” from their 2009 album Scramble to wild party tracks like “Ninja Claw” which showed an impressive range. It helped that every member of the band seemed to be able to play everything, as the last half of their set was spent constantly swapping instruments. While Crook Kid Coathanger handled most of the singing, as well as guitar, throughout the set, she spent the last half switching between drums, keys and just dancing around the stage. After 40 minutes it was hard to believe they weren’t headlining their own shows, and left the crowd clamoring for more.
Trail of Dead exudes this sense of always being on the knife’s edge of a breakdown. This lends their sets an immediacy and force that would otherwise cause It to start dragging on after a while. They’re unpredictable on stage, and when I saw them six years ago when they toured with The Blood Brothers (R.I.P), they were nothing at all like the one I saw on stage at Lee’s. Where they formerly lacked intensity and failed to capture your attention, this band bristled with it and commanded the audience to get involved, there was moshing, dancing and other spirited activity you generally wouldn’t expect from a 2/3rd capacity Toronto crowd. After an hour and twenty minute show, I don’t think anyone went away unsatisfied.