MANHATTAN, NY—Vocalist/guitarist Jason Simon, bassist Steve Kille and drummer Mark Laughlin met while attending all-ages punk and indie concerts in and around Washington, D.C. They formed Dead Meadow in 1998 from the remnants of two indie bands, determined to craft a new sound utilizing classic rock sounds. They combined ’60s psychedelic rock and ’70s heavy metal with themes from fantasy and horror authors such as J. R. R. Tolkien and H. P. Lovecraft. A debut album was released in 2000. The band members relocated to Los Angeles, California, and after a few personnel changes, the band is back to its original lineup. The group’s sixth and most recent studio album is 2013’s Warble Womb.
Everything old is new again. At the Bowery Ballroom on Feb. 11, Dead Meadow’s heavy-bottomed, guitar-driven sound hearkened back to the power trios of the late 1960s like Cream and the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Recreating the ambience of that era, Dead Meadow played before a low-tech light show projected onto the large screen at the back of the stage. Again imitating the hard rock pioneers, Simon spent almost the entire performance playing lead guitar with his fingers and altering the sounds with his numerous foot pedals, ranging the distortions from wah-wah to fuzz to reverb to echo to feedback. Simon sang just enough lyric to label the compositions as songs; he was more focused on playing extended guitar leads. These blues-influenced leads ranged from sludgy, monolithic heavy metal drones to hypnotic, trance-inducing shoe-gaze riffs. The booming blues cadences were seduced by ethereal guitar improvisation, evoking an otherworldly atmosphere. At the end of the set, Simon removed his guitar and the band walked off stage, but the guitar effects continued to echo until the encore began. Dead Meadow’s love of tripped out riffs showed a band mastering a crunchy, dark, cerebral space rock. The group only needed to defeat monotony by giving the singing an equivalent amount of depth and punch.
Visit Dead Meadow at deadmeadow.com.