It's time for my semi-annual discussion of the
wonders of The Deathray Davies. This Dallas, Texas band is easily
one of my favorite live groups, and these days I try to catch
every one of their infrequent Atlanta appearances. Unfortunately,
for reasons known but to The Touring Gods, they always play
Atlanta on a weeknight, which has the side effect of making
them not as well known as they ought to be.
Luckily for me, although the show was on a Tuesday night, The
EARL's doors opened at 9 and the first band began shortly thereafter.
I've noticed this weeknight change in The EARL recently: it
is the only one of my usual venues which is making an effort
to start concerts at an earlier time. I like the change; even
though the shows still run later than I'd like (considering
I have to work at my real job the next day), it's much nicer
to see the headliner on by midnight and done by 1 or 1:30 am
Anyway, I hadn't picked up on the earlier start time, so when
I got to The EARL around 10:15 , the first band (whose name
I do not know) had already finished and the middle band, The
Whigs, were already setting up. More importantly, I looked around
the back room of The EARL and a nice crowd had already formed.
This was much better than the previous
time I had seen The Deathray Davies, when they played to
perhaps 15 or 20 people.
I've heard of The Whigs, but I had never seen them until this
night. Many of my friends in Athens recommended this young band
highly. Once they began playing, I liked the four piece Whigs.
Playing fairly straight-up instrumentation (guitar/guitar/bass/drums),
they reminded me a bit of The Pixies with more guitar hooks
and less yelling. At times during the set, the lead singer dropped
his guitar and went to play keyboards. Those songs had more
of a psychedelic edge, with longer instrumental parts and an
almost jam feel to them (which is perhaps natural, considering
the band is from Athens). However, I preferred the original
straight-up instrumentation, with "The Pixies meets The
Archers of Loaf" songwriting and pop vocals carrying everything
along. All in all, for such a young band, they were quite enjoyable,
and I think I'd like to see them again in the future.
After The Whigs finished, the crowd thinned a little bit (which
suggests that others had also heard favorable things about The
Whigs), and The Deathray Davies took the stage. Their set was
quite reminiscent of the one they played earlier
this year, also at The EARL. They played my favorites off
their 2002 album, Day
of the Ray, including The Medication's Gone,
They Stuck Me in a Box in the Ground Part 4, The Aztec
God, and Persuasive Is Your Name. Furthermore, they
showed off the new quicker songs from their most recent outing,
the Black Nail Polish Factory. For instance, I
Regret the Day I Tried to Steal Daniel's Ego moved along
at a faster pace, with less of the reverb and production echo
found on the album. Likewise, The Girl Who Stole the Eiffel
Tower had a power and distinction to it that the striped
down album version couldn't match. In fact, most of the songs
they played (including earlier material which I had heard previously)
showed off the professionalism and tight musicianship of The
Davies, and reminded me why I think they are one of the best
touring band I've seen in a long time.
The highlight of The Davies' set was a new song, theoretically
untitled, although lead singer John Dufilho called it Chainsaw.
This began with the soon-to-be-immortal lines, "I bought a chainsaw
at the pawnshop/ It cuts real good, chop chop chop." As I stood
there laughing and dancing (the song is quite catchy, in a typical
Davies-esque way), the vague creepiness of the song and its
chorus ("I'm coming for you") began to register. This is likely
a result of the fact that The Davies asked for the soundguy
to turn off all overhead lights so that the band played lit
by strips of lights draped over the instruments, the amps, and
the musicians. The visual effect (combined with the inherent
weirdness of Chainsaw) was eerie, and yet somehow appropriate
for The Davies, who focus more on their music than on displays
of virtuoso musicianship.
Finally, after a long set that included the band asking for
requests from the audience, The Davies finished with the song
that is more or less their anthem. Is This On is the
quintessential song by this band with crunchy guitars, fundamentally
important keyboards, and a dance-along melody. As they finished,
I stood around for a moment to catch my breath and think of
how much I really love watching this band. Then I headed home,
humming in my head, and began to count the months until The
Deathray Davies return again.