Joined: Nov 2003
Zach Shields and Ryan Gosling’s spook-rock experiment, Dead Man’s Bones, came to life in full force on Sunday, June 27, 2010 at Eagle Rock Center for the Arts. Joined on stage by ghost cowboys, magicians, mentalists, marionettes, and a kid’s choir (who named themselves “ A Warm Glass of Milk” for the evening), Dead Man’s Bones turned Sunday straight into an all ages Halloween Prom, with a generous helping of balloons, cotton candy and popcorn. |
A massive queue around the block before doors at eight said it all. Dead Man’s Bones isn’t just a flicker of a candle; this band is real, even if they’re pretending to be grave dwelling zombies for the sake of song. Pompadours and pin up girls, secretary sweaters and more flannel than a Walmart in Wyoming, Eagle Rock was alight with vaudeville aficionados on their tip-toes to experience the resurrection of the variety hour. And Dead Man’s Bones delivered.
But they didn’t do it alone. This wasn’t just a concert, this was a lesson in the obscurer arts. The Ghost Cowboy brought the center to its knees with his painful picking and wail to a prop ghost, “You invented me!” Lit up in blue, he cast a spell, or sang us into one, with all the lilting sorrow of a dying campfire and a man on the run. A non-speaking performance by a master of the Theremin followed with so much creepy flying saucer action, we felt like we were being abducted by hipster aliens. Accompanied by wild-west piano, the speakeasy that was this stage made prohibition seem utterly dreamy. Rob Zabrecky gave us paper magic and his wistful brand of tap dancing. His uber thin frame teetered and wobbled like the marionettes (operated by Bob Baker Marionettes’ clan) that soon followed. The cranky mentalist shtick (bad psychics always get a laugh) brought up volunteers from the audience and cracked jokes about dead (wait-or-are-they-alive?) grandmothers and he slammed us for not being dead still when he needed to concentrate. Then the waif-like Tina Lenert made magic with rings and silk and joined Rob Zabrecky on the harp for a placid version of “Paper Moon.” The ensemble felt cohesive and warmly homey.
And then the big draw. Shields and Gosling poured onto stage like the “Dead Hearts” in their song. Gosling’s falsetto capped like a cherry Sunday Shield’s merciful crooning. In moments, the two silenced us all. The center felt stunned. Girl fans nervously giggled at quiet moments and their giggles were misplaced. Dead Man’s Bones is simply not a Hollywood-type-side-project. Shields and Gosling shed their heart-throb image from the first belting of “keep on walking til I find you,” a somber, but almost predatory ballad.
When The Silverlake Conservatory of Music Children’s Choir joined Shields and Gosling on stage, the two men lit up. It’s a thing of magic. They so heartily welcomed the unpredictability and the possibility that the kids bring to the performance (though no major kid gaffs occurred). The children sung heavy lyrics about trying to die and being zombies and losing souls and they danced like it would bring rain made from candy and popsicles. Here, the anachronism works. The profound and the morbid are made celebratory when 15 cherubic nubiles give the funeral-like-eulogies a go. There’s something oddly soothing about children embracing the darkness that makes the darkness not so looming and ominous.
It should be said there’s nothing cutesy about this choir, and Shields and Gosling are the first to admit it, giving the stage to two stellar singers (Macy, 18, and Dakota, 16) for really, honestly, good versions of “Bad Romance” and “House of the Rising Sun.” On top of that, we had our faces melted by young Cosmo and his incredible interpretive dance to “Pa Pa Power” (think Punky Brewster dancing as fast as she can). These kids go for it.
Dead Man’s Bones played most of their songs from their self titled release and rounded out the set with a new song (the name of which was not given), giving props to Gosling’s cousin, Bully, for learning the drum part in two days. We were asked to sit for most of the show and we pretended we were fourth grade zombies in Pleasantville under red, black and white balloons that decorated columns and the ceiling like swollen stars, while Shields, Gosling, and crew raised the dead.
The Dead Man’s Bones don’t have a ton of shows to catch but definitely catch one if you can.
Dead Man’s Bones: Concert Review
"I've got a disease and the only cure is more piano," Ryan Gosling half-joked into the mic as he raised one eyebrow and took a seat before a vintage, deconstructed piano. The sound-man obliged and the audience cheered for the full-bodied, moody organ sounds that are signature of Dead Man's Bones' self-titled debut. |
Gosling and Zach Shields took the stage as Dead Man's Bones Saturday, June 26, for the first of two consecutive, all-ages dates at Eagle Rock's Center for the Arts, performing alongside the Silver Lake Conservatory Children's Choir for a night of foot-stomping, goth-gospel mixed with the baroque pop of the Zombies.
That, combined with several dance worthy do-wop songs left us perplexed as to whether we had stepped into some sort of haunted mystic revival, or rather a junior high sock hop. Think Tim Burton and Woody Guthrie teaming up as the creative directors behind a 7th grade talent show.
Prior to the show, Gosling and Shields told the L.A. Times that they hope "to cultivate [these shows] into an ongoing series of vaudeville-style special events featuring a rotating cast of characters, music and supernatural art forms," as well as up the ante on audience interaction, taking an otherwise traditional rock show and turning it into an immersive theatrical experience full of wonder and mystery.
"We're treating this particular show more as a party -- a birthday party vibe, or a dance party with kids," Shields told the Times. Indeed, it was standing (or sitting) room only for fans decked out in '50s rockabilly attire, packed in amongst popcorn and cotton candy machines, a counter full of free cupcakes, black and white balloons, and a face painting station where people could have skulls painted onto their cheeks.
In between songs there was a Bob Baker Marionette show, psychic demonstrations and magic acts by performers such as harpist Tina Lenert and the wild-card eccentric Rob Zabrecky. But unfortunately for us skeptics, and definitely for those in the front row, much of the magic wasn't very magical at all as the strings and slips of hand that make the illusions seem even remotely possible were clear as day.
Revealed magic tricks aside, the biggest upset throughout Dead Man's Bones' set was the plague of delays and false starts in between songs that yanked fans out of the requiem-like dream-state that any repeat-all play of the band's album can dip a listener into.
Or, perhaps it wasn't an upset at all. Perhaps the band was just breaking the fourth wall, and stubbed its toe while fumbling through a postmodern attempt at smashing through the looking glass that separates Gosling and Shield's supernatural ballads from the audience crammed against each other on the venue floor.
Dead Man's Bones set list:
1. "Lost in the Night"
2. "In the Room Where You Sleep"
3. "Paper Ships"
4. "Name in Stone"
5. "Never Grow Old"
6. "Dead Hearts"
7. "Business Trip"
8. "My Body's a Zombie for You"
9. "Pa Pa Power"
10. "Beyond the Veil"
Dead Man's Bones at Eagle Rock Center for the Arts: Woody Guthrie Meets Tim Burton - Los Angeles Music - West Coast Sound
Dead Man’s Bones reinvent the concert experience (6/27) |
Dead Man’s Bones reinvent the concert experience (6/27)
Good news! It turns out that I don’t hate the Eagle Rock Center for the Arts. After a recently witnessing a complete failure of a show at the out-of-the-way venue, I was worried that the venue only occasionally offered relevant shows for a reason. But Dead Man’s Bones, the musical project of Ryan Gosling and Zach Shields, is not something that comes around every day. In fact, the group (which also includes the Silver Lake Children’s Conservatory Choir) played one of the best shows I have ever been to during their last stop in town, which was on Halloween appropriately enough. But a little research into this two-night event made it clear that I was not getting the same show I had previously enjoyed. In fact, I was not going to see a show like anything I had previously seen. It is amazing what looking at a flyer or website or literally any advanced media before going to a show can do for your expectations (this goes out to the angry and confused Notebook fans who apparently didn’t bother to read anything about this ahead of time.).
But anyway, based on the strength of their previous shows, I actually thought this would be a good show to bring my housemates, who don’t necessarily have the same musical taste as me. So to judge based on the reactions of people mostly unfamiliar with the band, the show was a success, with a couple posters bought and even some nice autographs from Zach Shields. Judging the show based on my own sometimes harsh, often snobbish, and easily disappointed point of view? It was a rare occasion of the show going beyond the stage and into the audience, the building, the decorations, and the organization. Or as the FYF Website read (the shows producer), “this is not a show, it is an event.”
One thing that having a traditional opener gives you is the ability to run late. So, I don’t know how much of the show I missed by living in Garden Grove, but walking in and quickly finding a spot during “In The Room Where You Sleep” was an instant mood changer, transporting me back months to their last performance and back decades to the 50’s inspired dress and decorations that adorned the room and its occupants. The structure of the show saw the headliner playing three to four song mini-sets with breaks that featured magic, puppets, strange paper cutting, a harpist, and more. In this first mini-set, it was also revealed that there would be new music for this event, something that would probably be good to start with.
The standout for me was a song led by Zach Shields that included synth beats and the lyrics “Time Is On Our Side”, with a feel evoking both the current Twin Sister album and the classic Clinic song “Distortions”. While Gosling carries a more confident and consistent singing voice, Shields has the ability to go beyond Gosling in range and emotion. And on this song, that is exactly what happened. Other new songs would have to settle for just equally as impressive as the older numbers, which luckily still places them in the top echelon of current music. The “To Die”/”Turn The Lights On” song or songs (a couple of Dead Man’s Bones’ new songs felt like they could end up as two or three songs in the future, and in this ones case, I wasn’t really sure if they were supposed to be heard as one or as two) fits the theme of the first record and though the earlier verses are not the strongest material yet, the latter part really brought the 1st whole mini-set together. Finally, the two new numbers that ended the evening sounded rough, but had moments that clicked perfectly. They just might have been better suited sandwiched between a couple crowd-pleasers
The thing about Dead Man’s Bones is that many of the songs have undergone transformations, both minor and major, since the debut album, Don’t Let A Lack of Talent Get You Down, was recorded. Keeping that in mind, the new songs seem even better when considered blueprints for what will appear on the next Dead Man’s Bones album. A song like “In The Room Where You Sleep” when performed has a backing part that transforms and greatly improves the already good album version and “Ghost Ship” traditionally involves audience participation, giving the number a stronger peak and elevating its impact. But yeah, the band has a grasp on its strongest material, with the surprising absence of the female lead vocalist who had previously accompanied the group on tour only affecting the set minorly (No “Werewolf Heart”). “My Body’s A Zombie For You” shows the children at their most enthusiastic and “Pa Pa Power” (a song that Shields made clear he thought should end the set) featured the two principals playing piano side by side and ended with a dance party on stage, which I admit(siding with Shields) did make it awkward getting the kids back to their positions. And it was really nice hearing “Name In Stone”, the non-album track that is the finest thing they have written to date.
The rest of the program saw varying success in its effectiveness, but it wasn’t really about loving everything. I could have done without two of the students performing “Bad Romance” and “House Of The Rising Sun”, (the latter, I admit, did bring down the house) but the evening was about the spectacle of performance and the joy was seeing so many different levels and types of artists sharing their craft. I mean, I don’t know what that “Business Trip” number was all about, but it was weird, funny, kind of catchy, and something I won’t soon forget. And seeing them play coach and backing band through that song revealed the greatest pleasure I get about seeing this band. It’s not the fact that they use kids or that the kids are cute and talented, it’s watching them work with the kids and treat them with the kind of respect that children long for. Both band members spend more time watching and coaching the children than they do looking at the audience, clearly living and dying with every success and failure.
You always want to see a performer who loves what they are doing and obviously Gosling doesn’t need to be doing this for money, fame or notoriety. He could easily have a label give it multiple times more press, but the two guys take pride in that they are doing this themselves, learning to play every instrument, creating their own sound effects, and even producing their own viral music videos. The one guy who doesn’t need to be DIY is Ryan Gosling, but this is his love, Shields’ love, the children’s love, hell, it’s the weird ass magicians love too. And though the selfish part of me wishes we saw a little more of the band, I’m sure there will be more traditional shows in the future. I mean, Halloween is right around the corner, right?
Dead Man’s Bones reinvent the concert experience (6/27) Consequence of Sound