Concert Wrap — Murder By Death, May 30 @ The Music Hall

May 31st, 2008 at 2:34 pm

Adam Turla of Murder By Death howls at the moon. Photos by KEVIN KINDER

You missed it, didn’t you? Perhaps you were at the Eureka Springs Blues Weekend, which would be a valid excuse. Maybe some more of you were down on Dickson Street, catching a live music event there, and I can’t blame you for that.

But all of you sitting at home, wishing there were cool things to do or wondering why innovative bands never come through Northwest Arkansas, you’re partially to blame for any lack of activity.

About 100 people, mostly young hipster types, showed up May 30 at The Music Hall in Fayetteville for critically acclaimed alternative rock band Murder By Death, whose latest album, “Red of Tooth and Claw,” has received a wealth of positive ink and has been a staple in the blog’s stereo for the past few weeks.

Click here to continue reading about Murder By Death’s concert on May 30 in Fayetteville.

Before I seem to hype them any farther, however, let me say this: This was no transcendent rock concert, nor will it climb very high on the best-concerts-I’ve-ever seen list.

But Murder By Death and openers dios (malos) and Gasoline Heart have been crossing the country, playing venues of all types. And they’ve been playing to much larger crowds.

Murder By Death

After the show, MBD frontman Adam Turla told the blog that in the eight years his band has been performing — for a total of about 1,000 shows, including many in Europe — he couldn’t recall a concert like this.

The band drove all night from Baton Rouge, La., to make it to the show on time. For their effort, the band performed for a very small group, the majority of which knew every word to every song.

His payday for the show was probably the smallest on the band’s 3-month tour, he said, and it left him wondering if an all-ages, no-alcohol venue [such as The Music Hall] was the right setting for his band.

On a night such as this, it’s up to the bands to supply their own energy and perform a legitimate set. Thankfully, I think all the concertgoers felt like they got their money’s worth from the trio of performers that took the stage that Friday evening.

Turla’s deep, terrorizing vocals seem a little bit less threatening in a live context, but no less venomous. Coupled with Sarah Balliet’s electric cello work and a tight rhythm section, the band was solid throughout its hour-long set. The band pulled heavily from its recent album, and it provided the evening with its highlights, “Comin’ Home” and “Spring Break 1899,” the former of which sounded so fantastically creepy it raised the hair on my arms. Seriously.

It was a no frills show, but none were needed. It was a solid, fun rock concert, not life changing, but certainly worth attending.

Turla told the blog his band may consider another Fayetteville stop, if the circumstances were different. Let’s only hope the band takes the chance — and that Northwest Arkansas audiences do, too. Otherwise, I’m afraid more bands are just going to keep driving, looking for a more receptive welcome in Tulsa, Springfield or elsewhere.

About the openers: I wondered why the drummer for dios (malos) was placed at the front of the stage, and not in the rear, like most drummers are. It didn’t take me long to figure out why. He assaulted his drum kit, using windmill actions reminiscent of The Who’s Pete Townshend, except he was on drums instead of guitar. He was the most entertaining of the quartet, which played acidic pop rock. Instrumentally speaking, the band was solid, but the echo-drenched vocals couldn’t keep my attention.

The first opener, Gasoline Heart, is no stranger to The Music Hall, previously performing at the venue as The Kicks. The crowd of 30 or so they played for caused Louis Defabrizio, the band’s lead singer, to remark that it felt like he was playing at a talent show, and I can’t blame him for the assessment. Gasoline Heart was melodic, catchy and had a few dedicated fans among the sparse audience. One of those fans was called up on stage during the set to sing the chorus of the band’s closing song, “All The Way.” A band with so few audience members is only playing for pride, and it certainly has nothing to be disappointed in with its performance on Friday.

Murder By Death setlist: 1) Ash; 2) Steal Away; 3) Sometimes the Line Walks You; 4) A Masters in Reverse Psychology; 5) ’52 Ford; 6) Black Spot; 7) Boy Decide; 8) The Desert Is On Fire; 9) Dead Men and Sinners; 10) One More Notch; 11) Until Morale Improves, The Beatings Will Continue; 12) Comin’ Home; 13) Spring Break 1899