October 10, 2012
Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion - The Woodlands
The Woodlands, TX USA
Review by Michael Victorick
Photos by Wayne Posner
Dead Sara - Buzzfest 29
Intrinsically Beautiful Voice
This will be the third instance the name Dead Sara has been typed by my hand and submitted to Jam Magazine. If I had it my way, Dead Sara would be typed 100 more times before the year's end. My first exposure to this group came during an assignment covering Chevelle earlier this year. I saw them again during the Warped Tour. Both times they blew me away. In fact, this band has been going non-stop throughout 2012, and finally, it's paying off for them.
This Southern California rock band is comprised of four very talented individuals whose combined talents give off a Led Zeppelin / Janis Joplin vibe. Singer Emily Armstrong and guitarist Siouxsie Medley are the backbones of Dead Sara. The two met in high school and have been writing songs together going on ten years. Starting out as Epiphany, the two musicians changed the name in 2005 to Dead Sara in reference to the Fleetwood Mac song "Sara". There's a line in the song that on paper reads "Said Sara" but is often heard as Dead Sara - thus the name of the band. Armstrong and Medley also chose the name to pay homage to their musical hero, Stevie Nicks.
It wasn't until 2009, after drummer Sean Friday and bass slinger Chris Null joined the band that Dead Sara finally started to take on the look you hear today. This rhythm section previously plied their wares with Sonny Moore, better known as Skrillex. In April 2012, Dead Sara released their debut recording on the indie label, Pocket Kid Records. A song from the record, "Weatherman" was used in a national ad campaign by Fiat. Since the album's release, the band has supported Chevelle, The Used, was featured in the Vans Warped tour, appeared in several festivals, and landed the coveted opening slot for the 2013 Muse tour. Not even fractured ribs suffered by Siouxsie Medley could keep this band off the road for long.
When the legendary Grace Slick was asked who her favorite singer was of the moment, without hesitation she said Emily Armstrong. There's a good reason too. Her voice is so pure of sound you feel every ounce of emotion coming out of her mouth. Not one to stay in any one spot for long, it's always a challenge for a photographer to get a pristine shot of this amazing singer. But when she straps on her guitar, and walks up to the mic, you know magic is about to happen. Yes, I'm going a bit overboard in my praise for this band, but if you've seen them live, you understand why I hold this band in such high regard.
However, there's more to Dead Sara than Armstrong's intrinsically beautiful voice. Guitarist Siouxsie Medley is always on point. Though her partner gets much of the attention on stage, her work with the guitar is amazing as well. Both artists feed off of one another. Siouxsie hits all the right notes, and strums the perfect chords to accentuate the emotional energy of Emily's vocal performance.
The steady presence of Sean Friday and Chris Null brings the Dead Sara sound full circle. They have been playing together for years, and the connection these two have is apparent in every song this band performs. It also helps that they totally believe in the two principle songwriters and feel a sense of honor holding down the fort while their counterparts take center stage. Any time these two anchor the band's now hard rock anthem, "Weatherman", their playing is incredibly tight and the energy they expend is just plain crazy. Chris Null's bass tone is simply ridiculous, and the sweet sounds emanating from his instrument will make your ears bleed.
The third time was the charm for this scribe to see Dead Sara perform. Instead of the usual 30 minutes a band receives as an opening act, the band was allowed a full hour. They took advantage of it like seasoned pros. Two compositions, "Sorry for it All" and "Testing My Patience" were tour de force songs that really showcased this band at its finest. Other tunes included "Lemon Scent" and "Mother Theresa" from their 2008 release, The Airport Sessions, and a brand new tune slated for their sophomore release.
Dead Sara also managed to throw in a cover during their set, but it wasn't what anyone would have expected. It wasn't from the girl's inspiration Nicks, or their idols Led Zeppelin. No, this group whipped "Killing in the Name Of" by Rage Against the Machine. Emily Armstrong's vocal prowess was fascinating to witness on this song and had the crowd roaring with approval.
The closing number for this group is always a treat because it typically means you're going to get to see Emily jump off of something very high. Tonight they chose "Weatherman" and the singer didn't disappoint in the aerial hi-jinx department. Midway through the song, the ever nimble Armstrong took a flying leap off of Chris Null's 8 x 10 bass cabinet to add her dramatic flair and exclamation point to the show. It worked!
When you have logged as many miles on the road as Dead Sara has, especially the last six months, you would expect a slip up here or there when it comes to performing. Not this band. This band knows it's paying their dues and there is a bright light at the end of their tunnel, aka the Muse tour. They also know they have to bring their "A Game" every night and it's time to record a new album as well. If anything, the extensive touring Dead Sara has undertaken this year has brought this four-piece outfit closer together than ever. It shows in the music they perform not only today, but in the future as well.
"Over the last year," said Armstrong after the show, "we have managed to figure out what we are capable of. Our first album was a little all over the place. Now the four of us know what we are looking for we have developed a more solid and cohesive sound. You'll see it on our next record."