UPDATE! James saw the Dead South in concert last year, and he wrote about his experience RIGHT HERE!
James rocks. You knew this.
He sent me this awesome CD as one of two (!) birthday prezzies this year. Near as I can tell, this is a 2019 re-release of this Regina act’s 2014 original, with a bonus track included!
An obvious comparison would be Mumford & Sons, and that whole raft of bluegrass-inspired, banjo-rocking country-ish stuff from a few years ago. Other times it sounds like Irish drinking music, or Eastern European traditional tunes, or straight-up down-south bluegrass. But where, as one example, the radio-ready Mumford ends is where Dead South picks up, especially in (my favourite) the latter half of the record. There’s real grit, here, and not just in Nate Hilts’ vocals. Lyrically and musically, this is often darker, heavier, more poignant and real, echoing that harrowing old country feel. Real attention has paid to the sound of the album here, too, big and roomy and booming, yet crisp and sharp as a well-honed knife.
I saw it described as “gothic country,” online, and that’s very apt.
Damn, I really like this album. Thanks heaps, James!
YouTube has you covered, here’s a vinyl rip of the whole 2014 release:
Andino Suns are a great live band and you should definitely go see them if you’re able.
I’m mentioning this up front because I feel like much of my time is going to be spent on variations of “it’s not the band I hate, it’s their fans,” and I find that whenever I complain about things in one of these, the complaint becomes the takeaway. And Andino Suns were really good and that shouldn’t get lost.
Anyway, The Dead South. They are locals who made good, a bluegrass band from around these parts that’s gone on to tour the world. This was the sold-out first night of their Canadian tour for their new album, Sugar & Joy. When Mika and I were in Toronto for Thrush Hermit, we saw a poster for their (then-upcoming) (and possibly still upcoming, depending on what time I send this out) (update: whoops) Halloween show, showing them as zombies – The Undead South.
We saw them last at the Regina Folk Festival this summer, where they played a storm-delayed abbreviated set in front a crowd who gave them one of the most raucous ovations I’ve ever heard. I was a little surprised that they were back so soon, but no complaints – though their rising popularity meant that we wound up missing out on my favourite seats at the end of Row L For Legroom. Instead, we settled on Row M and its Maverage Legroom.
Before the show, we did some digging, trying to find out who the opener would be. The poster in Toronto advertised Elliott BROOD; no such luck here, though I was happy with who we got. The first band didn’t tell us who they were for a long time, and when they did, they had two names. Normally known as Beach Body, they released a country-tinged EP as the Southside Coyote Boys and were asked to perform as them, so it’s possible that this was technically their first performance. I liked this well enough, though their laid-back sound might have been better suited for a smaller venue. Really, the best part was that the lead singer had bought his mom Dead South tickets for her birthday but “accidentally” neglected to tell her that he was playing on the show too.
This set was also the start of some especially disrespectful audience behaviour. It’s been a long time since I’ve heard people yell for an opening act to get off the stage, but here we were. Not many people, but there were a handful of drunk girls behind us who couldn’t wait for the Dead South and weren’t shy about screaming so. Multiple people complained to the ushers, whose collective response was “…meh.”
Andino Suns were up next, and these guys were great! High-energy Chilean music from Moose Jaw, which I know is a cliché by now but I have no better way to put it. These guys tore the roof off the place and made tons of new fans. I’d heard their names around here for a while now but somehow we’d never made it out to see them before. That’s a shame, as it turns out. Gotta take advantage of having them around before they’re too big to keep playing here.
During the break, we went out into the lobby. Mika left for the bathroom, and as I was waiting for her to return, a couple in front of me started having an argument. I’m not entirely sure about what, but I think someone called someone a bitch. Or implied it. Or whatever. Mika returned and I immediately shushed her so we could watch this drama unfold. All around us, other couples and groups were frozen mid-conversation, trying to pretend that they weren’t watching what we were all watching. Mika said she saw the girl smack the guy; I missed it and that makes me sad. Security rushed to the scene (one guy ambled up) for this amazing conversation:
“I hear you’re hitting people.”
“Only a little.”
“You’re not allowed to do that here.”
“I didn’t know that.”
Alas, ignorance of the law is not a defense, and she was escorted from the building. I was pretty sure she was one of the loud drunks sitting behind us and was devastated to later learn this was not the case.
Finally, it was time for the Dead South, which meant that the drunks behind us could quit screaming for the opening acts to leave and instead scream for the Dead South to take off their shirts and have their babies. For the record, this was girls screaming at guys; progress, I guess. We also had a new group of top fans, the four people who insisted on standing when everyone else was sitting. Look, it’s not hard. Stand when other people stand, sit when other people sit. But no, they were going to stand the whole time. Of course they were in our way, but I felt worse for the little kid who was right behind them. The ushers weren’t going to make them sit down, but they were there in a hurry if the kid tried to stand on his chair or in the aisle so he could see too.
And I understand that the Conexus Arts Centre really wasn’t a good venue for this show. It’s a sit-down place and the Dead South are a get-up-and-dance band. This should have been in the hall downstairs, even if it holds fewer people. But come on. It’s like they say, it takes fewer muscles to smile than to be a prick.
As for the band, they were great. It’s why we went, after all; we’d just seen them and they were great then too. This time was like that, but with fancy lights and stained glass backdrops and a big sign with their name on it. And it was indoors and we were sitting and hadn’t just spent 90 minutes sheltering in the car. But otherwise, same idea. And much like at the Folk Festival, they were greeted as hometown heroes and the crowd went nuts for everything they did. Case in point: the show closed with the song Banjo Odyssey; I think if you can get hundreds of people to sing along with the refrain “I guess she’s my cousin but she needs some sweet lovin’ anyway,” it’s a telling testament to your popularity. Or your fanbase.