Amen Dunes, Marissa Nadler, Dream Police / Trans Pecos / 10.24.14

October 27, 2014

Written by: Jason Ribadeneyra

Amen Dunes, Marissa Nadler, Dream Police


@ Trans Pecos


First thing I noticed when we walked into the Trans Pecos space were all the vintage Fender amps up on stage. Deluxe Reverbs, Vibroluxes, Princeton Reverbs, the list goes on. “That’s like 11 grand in amplifiers right there,” I said to myself. I ignored that estimation and began looking for a seat in which to take it all in. Luckily the venue is blessed, or cursed, depending on the individual, with tall oddly shaped benches lining the walls. We claimed one closest to the stage and sat down. We were early for the show, a Sacred Bones CMJ showcase, and the only other people in the room were huddled in dark corners occasionally nippin’ at whiskey-filled Arizona iced tea bottles, as the venue hadn’t acquired its liquor license yet.

Dream Police were first. A large man with ill-fitting black Levis hopped up on stage and strapped on a guitar. “Bass player… I knew it,” I thought as the other two members appeared from said shadows and approached their respectable positions. One took up a white twelve-string electric and another perched behind a wall of synths, drum sequencers, and something that looked like a dialysis machine and started heavy noise that sounded kind of like Big Black doing a jagged cover of “Boys Of Summer.” The drum tempo was set relatively stationary throughout and things were interesting until the guitarist/singer suddenly started barking loud clipped mutterings into the microphone. I didn’t dig his voice or the way they exploded from the PA like apes from a cage. These guys are masters of the screeching lead and I admire the relationship they’ve allowed their bass and guitar to forge but found when that pulsing drum machine gets involved they become something of a poor man’s War On Drugs. Not quiet the War On Drugs, more like a fistfight on drugs if you will.

Then, suddenly, Marisa Nadler sort of just appeared on stage. Standing slightly stage right and cradling a brown acoustic like an unconscious toddler, she began a simple 4-note song that, along with her sadcore vocals, took the room quick and had everyone in slow motion. Like the female Roy Orbison, Nadler crooned through songs from last February’s July album (see what I did there?), among others. During a break between songs some audience doofus quipped “Yr songs are pretty,” which elicited a slight smirk from Nadler before overtly summoning a stocky man in a Starter jacket from the side of the stage, whispering something in his ear and causing him to march hard in the comment makers direction. Before anyone knew what was really going down the guy was being forcibly removed from the club while yelling, “Why are you doing this!? Do you know who yr fucking with? Do you know who my father is!?” As more ugliness continued from the front of the club, Marissa seemed stoic, tuning her guitar and clearing her throat. Unfazed, she simply said, “This is an old song,” before going into her next and last number. When it was all over I explained to my girlfriend that “she’s from Boston.”

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Next up was Amen Dunes, the moniker of songwriter Damon McMahon. I was anticipating this guy’s set like I haven’t anticipated anything in a good long while. His recent release Love fully regained my faith in the seemingly disturbed still being able to have their place in modern rock n’ roll. It’s a comforting notion. I stumbled upon the record on fucking Youtube of all places, hearing “Lonely Richard” after it appeared in the suggested videos section while I was watching documentaries on the history of the KGB. It was a revelation. Anyways, Damon performed with a drummer who, we were told, “played with me as a duo in the beginning.” It worked. “Splits Are Parted” lingered for a good 4 minutes with McMahon + acoustic before the beat crashed in and took the song higher. Playing with mallets and what looked like a magic wand, the drummer, whose name I wish I knew, complimented the sound at all the right times. Dunes have a drone simplicity that relies mostly on McMahon’s voice as the guiding instrument for each song’s prominent melody but this show had them trading off each other during songs like “Lilac In Hand.” It was awesome to watch and hear. At times both men appeared borderline entranced by the sound they were creating. Ten yard staring into the middle distance. Ultra, one of the best bands around and not just in NYC, worldwide my man. Amen Dunes is the truth. I wouldn’t lie about something like that.


We left before Moon Duo played because our carriage was about to turn into a pumpkin. Next time, next time. See ya’ in the pit!


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