Dead Sara At The El Rey Theatre
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By Crystal Larsen
A year of relentless touring, including a slot on tour with GRAMMY winners Muse, has certainly fared well for L.A. rock quartet Dead Sara, who returned home on May 9 for a sold-out performance at the El Rey Theatre. The band — vocalist Emily Armstrong, drummer Sean Friday, guitarist Siouxsie Medley, and bassist Chris Null — demonstrated their hard-hitting rock and roll is a powerful force to be reckoned with.
As I tried to find a place to stand on the crowded floor of the venue, I kept getting reprimanded by a security guard warning me to stand on the "other side of the black line" for fear I was blocking the walkway. Soon enough, there wasn't a space to be found on the walkway, or anywhere in the venue for that matter.
Taking the stage to a huge welcome from the audience, which included fans from as far away as Mexico and Australia and has more than tripled in the last year, Dead Sara opened with the building "Sorry For It All," a performance that proved time on the road has taken Armstrong's range to all-new impressive levels as she carried notes during the song's crescendo with natural ease.
While the band has long been lauded for their energetic live shows, on this night the crowd was thrown into a frenzy as circle pits erupted during the fast-paced "Test On My Patience" and "Monumental Holiday," the latter of which summoned comparisons to the punishing Nirvana track "Breed."
Dead Sara soared through nearly every track on their self-titled debut album, including the rarely performed "Dear Love" and the anthemic "Whispers & Ashes," before Armstrong strapped on a worn electric guitar engraved with the words "rock is dead" and dove into the rebellious "Lemon Scent." The song came to an end with a ritual belonging only to some of the greatest rock musicians as she raised her guitar and smashed it to the ground, shattering it to pieces. "Oops," she said, unapologetically.
The night was almost over but it felt like we were just getting started as they launched into a cover of Rage Against The Machine's "Killing In The Name," which featured Medley performing the screeching solo originally played by Tom Morello as Armstrong confidently led the crowd in a shouting match.
Null's distorted bass led into the unreleased track "Blue Was The Feeling For You." The performance, packed with melodic riffs and unforgiving vocals, was delivered with such heavy emotion I lost all track of time, the result of a band capable of creating a transcendent experience.
During "Weatherman," I watched as everyone in the crowd lifted their hands in the air and shouted along to the chorus with such dedication I thought they might rush the stage. But Armstrong joined them instead as she leapt into the crowd during the song's final moments, before making it back to the stage for her monumental leap from a stack of amps.
If Dave Grohl was in the audience, he certainly would have repeated what he's said before: "Dead Sara should be the next biggest rock band in the world."
"Sorry For It All"
"Test On My Patience"
"I Said You Were Lucky"
"Face To Face"
"Dear Love"/"Baby Rock"
"Whispers & Ashes"
"Killing In The Name" (Rage Against The Machine cover)
"Blue Was The Feeling For You"