Coventry may be my hometown, but it’s a strange old place. Taylor John’s House remains one of the city’s hidden gems – a secret hidden-away bunker containing: a bar littered with fairy lights, a venue with excellent sound quality and a curious scent of musty wood. As I pass through the Canal Basin and its eclectic mix of craft shops, I pass a yoga group in full stretch as well as a small group of chavs daring each other to jump into the murky waters of the basin itself. A strange old town it is indeed and for tonight’s headliners, it’s certainly an awfully long way from their native Washington DC.
The bar fills up quickly as the bands soundcheck somewhat obviously behind a velvet curtain – the mood is chirpy rather than raucous as the lights dim down inside this noble little jazz bar. I‘m not gonna lie, there’s some cracking ‘tashes and old school clothing about the place and as the soothing tones of Kyuss, Desert Sessions and Soundgarden keeping the waiting huddles of beards bobbing, there’s already a feeling that this is going to be a really good night. Such is the retroism on show in the room that one guy has outdone us all by turning up in a Ghostbusters t-shirt – that’s true commitment.
Tonight’s openers The Stranger’s Family Band are a complete no-show, so it’s up to local musos Resurrection Men to open proceedings with a unique hybrid sound that sits somewhere in the middle of The Pixies, Kyuss and Russian Circles. Initially beginning instrumentally, this twin-guitar ensemble circle around their lynchpin drummer on the tiny stage, managing to move everywhere from darkened passages of doomy atmospherics to the jerky stylistics of indie outfits like The Young Knives. Eventually they’re joined by a wild-eyed frontman on his way back from the bar who pumps out short, sharp lyrics about “hotel sex” and “being alone”. Their bizarre set-up, yet undeniable groove sees them win over the crowd remarkably well as they proceed to blast through a half hour of up-tempo and unhinged rawk. Their sloppy exuberance and huge array of sofa-slept beards give off the initial notion that this could be a trainwreck waiting to happen, but in the end I can only give full credit to what it has to be said is a hugely talented and profoundly original live act.
Dead Meadow have brought a show. And a damn good show it is too. Before the trio of lanky frames even appear, the room is drenched with lava-lamp projections and gentle cosmic feedback bathes the eager crowd in a glorious ambiance. Mark Laughlin’s opaque drumkit is surrounded by radiant green stage lighting and as the band hit the stage it’s all too apparent how comfortable they are in these most intimate of tiny club settings.
Immediately cranking into the hulking opening riff to ‘Good Moanin’, Dead Meadow simply never look back during a fascinating hour of psychedelic stoner-fuelled rock. Vocalist Jason Simon is the obvious focal point and immediately loses himself and his mind to every rise and fall of his guitar strings, his eyes closed and lost to the true art of producing scintillating fuzz-laden epics. Laughlin’s explosive and ever-inventive drumwork anchors the power trio’s universe-trawling sound as Dead Meadow ably bounce between simplistic stoner rock heyday riffage and galaxy-threatening tornadoes of experimentation.
Across the stage, Steve Kille is the ultimate bass-players bassist behind his Rickenbacker and whilst he remains locked in a colossal groove for the entire show, he’s also never afraid to take over and steer the band’s rhythm himself as Simon glides off on one of his dozens of soul-searching solos.
All three of these players are complete masters of their instruments, their control and their vision and as I look out across the adoring grins on the faces of each and every member of the audience, it’s truly remarkable to see how 15 years’ worth of playing experience has turned this legendary act into an completely unstoppable live unit. Much of tonight’s set is culled from Dead Meadow’s new opus ‘Warble Womb’, but it matters little as to hear the delights of newbies ‘Mr Chesty’, ‘Six to Make the Light Shine Thru’ and ‘1000 Dreams’ line up alongside classics of the quality of ‘Sleepy Silver Door’ simply makes for a perfect hour of blissful psyche-rock at its finest.
Impressively, the Washingtonians leave the stage in the exact same way they arrived – the lava lamp effects and swaying feedback return as the crowd applauds and heads back happily into the cool evening breeze. It’s still a strange old town, but with the occasional portal into another world such as tonight’s show, it’s not always all that bad to be sent back to Coventry.
Scribed & Photos by: Pete Green