Dead Sara

  • Dead Sara's Emily Armstrong
    Photo: The Recording Academy

Welcome to The Set List. Here you'll find the latest concert recaps for many of your favorite, or maybe not so favorite, artists. Our bloggers will do their best to provide you with every detail of the show, from which songs were on the set list to what the artist was wearing to which out-of-control fan made a scene. Hey, it'll be like you were there. And if you like what you read, we'll even let you know where you can catch the artist on tour. Feel free to drop us a comment and let us know your concert experience. Oh, and rock on.

By Crystal Larsen
West Hollywood, Calif.

Though they have yet to release their debut album (their self-titled release drops April 10), Los Angeles-based hard rockers Dead Sara had no problem packing the Viper Room in West Hollywood, Calif., on Feb. 27. The show was part of KYSR-FM's local music program, Close To Home, which spotlights local artists and musicians.

Kicking off the evening were electro-punk band Frontline Brigade, who managed to put on an electrifying musical light show in their short 30-minute set, and Indians, another local band fronted by actor Joe Hursley (who I thought looked way too similar to actor Hugh Laurie, who plays in Band From TV).

By the time Dead Sara took the stage at approximately 10:15 p.m., there wasn't a single open space left to stand, sit or squat in. As the lights dimmed the crowd welcomed lead singer Emily Armstrong and band to the stage with the warmth and acceptance befitting a veteran band … not an act who has yet to release their debut album.

As each member took their position onstage — Armstrong front and center on the microphone; Sean Friday on drums; Siouxsie Medley on guitar to the left; and Chris Null on bass to the right — Medley led them into their opener, "Sorry For It All," and the crowd came to a hush. As Armstrong sang the opening lines under a dim spotlight with all eyes on her, she seemed unaffected by the pressure that comes with performing in front of an intimate Hollywood crowd, most of whom had likely only heard less than a handful of the band's songs. But as Armstrong wailed into the mic with such vigor and passion, and the band's tight performance carried on, it was clear the only pressure set on them was to exceed the audience's expectations, which they had done after only one song.

"Wow, it's really quiet in here," Armstrong said at the song's finish. It was clear the crowd (myself included) didn't want to miss any piece of what was going on. As Armstrong picked up her guitar, the band led into the heavy "Test On My Patience." By now Armstrong's long hair was down, flowing wildly to each lyric she wailed and each chord she strummed. The set got heavier as they drove into "I Said You Were Lucky," which perfectly fuses Armstrong's punk-influenced, Riot Grrrl-reminiscent vocals with a distorted guitar riff. As Armstrong wildly danced onstage, the performance was both chaotic and controlled.

Next was "Face To Face," a heart-wrenching torch song that would place any vocalist high on the vulnerability scale with lyrics such as "Face to face with a man who says I'm trying/Just a little too hard for love and his affection." As the strobe lights flickered, the energy between Medley's ripping on guitar and the grit in Armstrong's voice was contagious. As she sang "Am I dead? Am I dead to you?" I could only help but think that this band is clearly alive.

Next up was a new song, "Blue Was The Feeling For You." The screaming "Lemon Scent" followed and as Armstrong sang "This is the part where it gets kind of physical," that was clearly the truth. The crowd was geared up and insane, just in time for the band to close with their viral single, "Weatherman." This is the kind of song that will melt your face off.

For this performance Armstrong leaned out into the crowd as she sang the lyrics, clearly overjoyed to see attendees screaming back. As the song drew to an end, something started to build up as feedback rang through the venue and everyone wondered what was going to happen next. And like clockwork, and as if she's been doing this for decades, Armstrong climbed atop one of the amps onstage and quietly sang the chorus. Was she going to pull a Kurt Cobain and throw herself into the drum set for a dramatic close? No, but she did leap off the amp to finish the song in true rock and roll fashion.

Does this band realize they are on the precipice of becoming something huge? Even if they don't, they are definitely enjoying the climb.

"If I could be anywhere, it would be here," Armstrong sang. I think we all shared that sentiment Monday night. 

Set List
"Sorry For It All"
"Test On My Patience"
"I Said You Were Lucky"
"Face To Face"
"Blue Was The Feeling For You"
"Lemon Scent"
"Weatherman"

To catch Dead Sara in a city near you, click here for tour dates.

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