Oakland – This past Monday, ambitious garage rocker John Barrett’s project Bass Drum of Death played a raucous set at the stylishly small Club Leo’s in Oakland. Bass Drum of Death’s set was preluded by sets by local bands War Cloud and Pookie & the Poodlez, but the stars of the show were definitely the Oxford, Mississippi trio of delightfully chaotic rockers.
Bass Drum of Death started out as the solo project of guitarist/percussionist John Barrett, who, until 2008, played shows as Bass Drum of Death playing only guitar and a solitary bass drum. Recently he has teamed up with drummer Josh Hunter and composer/performer Len Clark, and the project has released three albums since 2011: debut GB City, 2013’s dark self-titled effort, and last year’s Rip This, which saw the band producing more artful, accessible, radio-friendly songs. The show at Leo’s boasted a healthy dose of tracks from each of these three albums.
Bass Drum of Death’s set opened with 2013 track “Bad Reputation,” and as soon as the song began, the younger folks in the crowd erupted into the first full-on mosh pit this reviewer has seen in over a decade. The youthful crowd in the center kept their violent energy at the same risky, volatile level throughout most of the first half of the set, through ballistic tracks “I Wanna Be Forgotten,” “GB City,” and “Nerve Jamming,” the last being a true crowd favorite. Even during newer, tamer songs like “Electric” and “Left For Dead,” the mosh pit in the center of the action failed to die down, with the older folks (such as myself) standing along the perimeter watching with a mixed internal cocktail consisting of both envy and disgust. The thirtysomethings wished they had the energy to exert such jovial illustrations of physical disarray, yet they also seemed perfectly content avoiding the waves of flailing attendees attempting to provoke them into joining the drunken hurricane of fists enveloping the front and center of the dance floor.
Things died down a bit for the head-banging energy of “Sin is in 10” and current single “For Blood,” and a more classic rock/blues-y vibe took hold during “Way Out” and “Route 69 (Yeah).” A peppier, Green Day-ish vibe presided over “Young Pros,” but the familiar belligerent moshing burst forth once more for “Lose My Mind,” “Crawling After You,” and set closer “Get Found,” which has been featured in an MLB video game.
While the band apparently played an encore after several minutes of silence–after the lights came on—it was not witnessed by many. Nevertheless, the main set spoke volumes to the band’s talent and effervescent prowess, and hopefully they follow suit with their recent trend and churn out another great album in the next year or so.
Bass Drum of Death has a few tour dates left on the North American tour, and then they head to Australia to open for DZ Deathrays. They will also appear at the Netherlands’ Best Kept Secret Festival this June. Their latest album, Rip This, is now available via Innovative Leisure.