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The Mid-Week Beat: All Roads Lead from Death (the band)

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o-A-BAND-CALLED-DEATH-570This week’s post come from Dave Hernandez, Brown Paper Ticket’s Venue Outreach Specialist. You may know Dave from his stint as the bass guitarist of The Shins or as the founder/guitarist/lead singer of the legendary Albuquerque punk band Scared of Chaka. Dave has over 25 years of experience in the DIY music community, from booking/promoting shows to touring the world, playing in DIY and major label acts. You can expect to see many more posts from him sharing his stories from being on the road with his current band The Intelligence or recommending some upcoming shows that we’re ticketing.

Please welcome Dave to the Mid-Week Beat and look out for future posts from Mr. Hernandez.

All roads lead from Death. Well, a lot of roads at least. This week’s Mid-Week Beat is punctuated loudly by the documentary A Band Called Death.

Forty years ago, three teenage brothers in Detroit created the band Death. They were loud fast and cool, but decidedly the opposite of what was being marketed for African Americans in the music biz in 1973.

To be fair they were raising a ruckus around the same time as The Stooges, MC5, and the Modern Lovers, but nothing with their level of intensity or speed really took hold until Bad Brains invented hardcore approximately five years later in Washington DC. So, essentially, before there were the Sex Pistols OR Ramones, there was Death.

To celebrate the limited screenings of this awesome piece of history, I will be highlighting some bands and events happening this week that owe a lot to these three brothers from Detroit. Three brothers that decided to not change their band name and play Motown. Although how cool would a Death record be that was produced by Motown?

Thursday, August 1

Chain and The Gang Biddeford, Maine   Ten years after Death disbanded in Detroit, the punk scene in DC was in full swing. It had been largely energized by the existence of the earlier mentioned Bad Brains, who many believe picked up where Death left off. Namely inventing genres of punk rock music and performing them in front of awestruck (and white) audiences. A band that definitely would not have existed without Bad Brains was Nation of Ulysses, led by one Ian F. Svenonius. They made their mark in punk rock history by blending a sharp-dressed aesthetic with a smashed-face live volatility. Lyrically, they took a page directly from the sociopolitical dissatisfaction of Death.

Ian Svenonius has continued to churn out far-left political rantings set to dance/punk stylized sights and sounds for the better part of the last two decades in bands such as The Make Up and Cupid Car Club. Catch his latest effort, Chain and the Gang in Biddeford, Maine this Thursday at The Oak and The Ax.

Friday, August 2

Adam Ant St. Louis, Missouri   Touring in support of his first record in 18 years, Adam Ant Is the Blueblack Hussar in Marrying the Gunner’s Daughter, Adam Ant brings his swashbuckling new romantic troubadour character to St Louis tonight. This contemporary of Siouxsie Sioux once chased Los Angeles punkers Black Flag up the street for making fun of his pirate costume. I’m not sure they would’ve ever lived it down had the dandy highwayman and his merry boys caught up with them. Insanely more theatrical than Death, but I could imagine hearing both bands at different times at the same party back then.

THE UNCLUDED (Aesop Rock & Kimya Dawson)Missoula, Montana  Minnesota MC Aesop Rock who cut his teeth as part of Rhymesayers, home of Atmosphere, is joining up with Kimya Dawson from Moldy Peaches fame for a new experiment in acoustic guitar-backed hip hop. Although completely different stylistically they meld lyrically with punk-laden confessional themes of life as outsider cast-offs. Tonight ties up a two month tour in Missoula, Montana.

Tuesday, August 6

FILM: A BAND CALLED DEATH Portland, Maine  Punk before punk existed, three teenage brothers in the early ’70s formed a band in their spare bedroom, began playing a few local gigs and even pressed a single in the hopes of getting signed. But this was the era of Motown and the emerging disco sound. Record companies found Death’s music— and band name—too intimidating, and the group were never given a fair shot, disbanding before they even completed one album.

Equal parts electrifying rockumentary and epic family love story, A Band Called Death chronicles the incredible fairy-tale journey of what happened almost three decades later, when a dusty 1974 demo tape made its way out of the attic and found an audience several generations younger. Playing music impossibly ahead of its time, Death is now being credited as the first black punk band (hell…the first punk band!), and are finally receiving their long overdue recognition as true rock pioneers.