Last Night: Dead Confederate at Respectable Street, July 28

Dead Confederate

With John Ralston & Invisible Music, the Dewars, and Lavola

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Respectable Street

Better than: Hiring a Nirvana cover band to play your private party.

The review:

Thanks to Invisible Music violinist Susan Sherouse and percussionist Tiffany Jezek -- who are both pregnant -- Respectable Street enjoyed an evening of music devoid of cigarette fumes. Nothing new to New York crowds, for sure, but for South Florida's liberal-on-smoking club culture, it was a welcome breath of fresh air (literal and otherwise). For having two band members with buns in the oven, John Ralston & Invisible Music had some moments of sheer unadulterated bluster. (Perhaps the most intense rock group with two expectant mothers ever?)

Sherouse was doing a magnificent job with her string instrument when we walked into the room during the song "Into Your Eyes," adding a Celtic hue to the ample song arrangement. Gregg Lovell, who also fronts Lake Worth Americana troupe Black Finger, was simultaneously filling in the gaps with buoyant chords on the Nord electromechanical piano.

True to the name of the band, John Ralston was the undeniable leader of this group, which performed as a seven-piece this night, with his higher-pitched vocals that took adventures into gravelly and quavering realms. On "Your Heart Is in Overtime," Ralston dished out some groovy '70s licks on top of his down-home delivery. We'd place the quartet's grand-sounding orchestral rock somewhere between Tom Petty amiability and Arcade Fire grandeur.

After a brief intermission and without much notice, Athens, Georgia, quintet Dead Confederate ripped into its boisterous set. With his lanky frame and three-sizes-too-large shirt denoting "Turf War," Dead Confederate lead singer Hardy Morris cut a striking figure on stage. But contrary to his waify frame (picture Deerhunter's Bradford Cox, only smaller in stature) Morris unveiled impressively husky vocals throughout the night. He reached down deep into the depths of his lower register to nail the painful yelps on "The Rat" -- one of the group's signature tunes, which was revealed relatively early on in the set. The band shifted dynamics on "Wrecking Ball," the titled track from its blaring debut album, with Morris keeping his voice streamlined and the rest of the band following in a Mazzy Star-like hazy pace. A few measures in, however, the flow picked up and deafening, bombastic pedal fuzz followed.

The set was filled with a hearty amount of material from the five-piece's yet-to-be-released (August 24 date) album Sugar -- of which "Giving It All Away" was the standout. In this song, Dead Confederate traded in its amplified howl for a more straightforward rock charge. It was the most cohesive the group sounded all night.

Things went topsy-turvy on the next song, "Heavy Petting," as the group reached back for its '90s bawling grunge-rock roots. Morris resorted to his anguished vocal styling while the rest of the group dished out squawking guitar riffs and pouncing snare drums; it was all very redolent of Bleach-era Nirvana. Quite loud quite catharsis that either enthralled the remaining audience members or made them question: "Hmmm. I heard this sometime in the '90s, didn't I?"

Personal bias: Nirvana got me through high school.

Random detail: With exception for this West Palm Beach gig, Dead Confederate has been touring the U.S. with lo-fi indie group Deer Tick, which was playing in Miami on the same night.