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… And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead

Rock fans can spend hours arguing the merits of musicianship over passionate performance. At the Henry Fonda Musicbox Theater Friday night, ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead forced listeners to ponder that very question.

With:
Band: Conrad Keely, Kevin Allen, Neil Busch, Jason Reese.
Also appearing: Mogwai, Shannon Wright.

Rock fans can spend hours arguing the merits of musicianship over passionate performance. At the Henry Fonda Musicbox Theater Friday night, …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead forced listeners to ponder that very question.

While the band didn’t lack for energy (it tore through tunes such as “Monsoon” and “Days of Being Wild”), the evening felt relatively restrained. In part this could be blamed on one of the guitar amps, which blew up early in the set, adding to the output of the smoke machines and filling the room with the acrid smell of burning electrical insulation.

When the Austin, Texas, quartet first garnered attention in the late ’90s, it was known for anarchic shows that often left the stage in shambles. Now signed to industry giant Interscope Records, who released the band’s “Source Tags and Codes” album and the recent “Secret of Elena’s Tomb” disc, it has morphed into a professional unit.

Often compared to Sonic Youth (and Dead’s guitars’ billowing feedback recalls that New York band), it is, in its extreme dynamics and tortuous time signatures, closer in spirit to fellow Texans Mars Volta and Sparta.

The by-now-expected destruction of the stage felt desultory and pro forma. The fact that the band could return for an encore immediately afterward begs the question: If you’re going to smash your instruments, shouldn’t they stay smashed?

... And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead

Henry Fonda Musicbox Theater; 1,200 capacity; $22.50

Production: Presented by Goldenvoice and Spaceland Presents. Reviewed June 20, 2003.

Cast: Band: Conrad Keely, Kevin Allen, Neil Busch, Jason Reese.
Also appearing: Mogwai, Shannon Wright.

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