September 28, 2009

I have a lot of trouble passing up concerts for less than $20, so Saturday night I went to see three bands I had never really listened to ever – Trail of the Dead, The Secret Machines, and Invade Rome. I was purely going on the advice of my friend who likes both Trail of the Dead and The Secret Machines. And I trust his taste in music. When we got to the venue, the stage was packed with equipment from all three of the bands. Given that Trail of the Dead has 6 people and The Secret Machines set up a small wall of amps, it was cramped. However, having all the equipment set up already made transitions very quick. Plus, the show started right on time; gotta love punctuality.

Invade Rome started things off. They’re from Milwaukee (yay, hometown!). Craziest thing – I didn’t recognize the name of the band, but as soon as they got on stage, my friend recognized them as Freshwater Collins. They did a nice job. I wish they had more space on stage, but they worked with what they had. I think my favorite part is just how happy the drummer looked, just grinning away the whole set. I love that.

The Secret Machines came on second. First, I think they blew everyone away with just how loud they were (that wall of amps they had really did it). Second, they were easily my favorites out of the three that night. Loved the music, loved the stage presence, loved the lighting, loved the continuous-ness of the music with very little talking. I personally always like watching the drummer the most, but the guitarist really knew how to work the stage. I definitely want to see them live again.

And then, Trail of the Dead. It is clear these guys have experience playing live. I don’t know any of their music, but it was just fun to watch. And you know they did a good job when the band looks like they stepped out of a shower when they’re done. But, beyond just the number of people in the band, there were a few interesting things to me. First, they have two drum sets, which both got played a significant amount. Second, they have a guy tune guitars while they play, and then they just switch theirs out quickly between songs. Also, if the Secret Machines hadn’t played first, these guys definitely would have made my ears ring.

Strangely, I was in the front row for the whole show and the crowd was unbelievably tame. No pushing, not really even any jumping. While this obviously worked out better for me, it seemed a little lacking. Maybe it lacked the fact I wasn’t getting crushed. But I guess I associate the jumping and pushing with the excitement of the crowd. Not that the audience wasn’t enthusiastic, they just weren’t trying to crawl on top of each other. Can’t decide which I prefer now.



  1. My ears are still ringing :). I think I was impressed the most by the Secret Machines as well. The combination of the lighting, the volume, and the devolution into noisy drone really impressed me.

    • My ears also still ringing. But the volume really was what made the show. It would have been really boring if it didn’t blow you away.

  2. You’re on a roll on blog posts!

    Sounds like tons of bands are always rolling through Wisconsin. That’s pretty awesome. Seems just as out of the way as Cornell, but it was a hassle to get a lot of bands out there.

    I’ve been wanting to do some band photography recently, but I’ve been getting mixed messages about how easy it’ll be venue-wise. I obviously can’t do it with a huge band because they only allow press photographers to bring in professional-caliber cameras. But I don’t want to go all the way out to Baltimore or DC for a small band and be told that I can’t take my equipment in.

    I’ve only been able to get some so-so images with my point and shoot. Here’re my three best ones:

    Anberlin Concert - Anberlin - 19
    Anberlin Concert - Anberlin - 17
    Relient K Concert in Baltimore, MD

    • Yeah, Wisconsin’s been really good about bands so far. It helps though that I prefer small bands in concert rather than trying to find big names.

      I really like those first two pictures. Lighting really makes it hard to get a good picture, especially since any fancy stuff usually ends up just looking like silhouettes.

      • Thanks for the vote of confidence on photos 1 & 2

  3. “associate the jumping and pushing with the excitement of the crowd.” — Garrison Keillor would never associate that sort of behavior with true mid-westerners. 🙂

    • I love The Prairie Home Companion. (At least some parts of it – like the Private Eye part)

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