Q: Are We Not Metal? A: We Are Death Plant! Reviewing Death Plant’s Live Show at Oberon’s in Ashland
There tends to be some confusion about this band: People make assumptions based on their name. One female DJ had said they were not at all what she expected. She thought she would basically hear <roar> <roar> <roar> with a name like Death Plant.
Initially, I also admit that I fell into a similar trap. The first single I was exposed to by them is one off their brand new upcoming EP, which (fingers crossed) will be ready for release in mid-March. The single was “Rectifier,” which, after one listen, I asked myself, “what is this earnest retro metal circa 1988 with parts where male vocalist, Anthony Lowder, sounds like he’s channeling Axl Rose’s voice to perfection?”
But genre-wise, Death Plant is not a one-trick pony. If anything, it is their own take on this concept. (On their website, they announce: “Genre is so 2010.”) Somewhat musical chameleons, Death Plant can’t be pigeon-holed; they show their versatility through nods to ska and pop, their tongue-in-cheek humor, social commentary, observations on the difficulties in making it in the music business, reverence for raw rock powerhouse qualities, and sometimes through spoken word segments similar to the way The B52’s Fred Schneider did with such quirky glee back in the day.
At a January 11 show at Oberon’s, this breadth was apparent, as was their ability to standup sonically to their name. Setting the tone of their set, female vocalist Mel Lowder promised the crowd, “We’re really going to try and rock your [GD] faces off!” before plunging into the first rocker called “Be Kind Rewind.”
Compared to their studio recording, their live sound is much more rough, dirty, and LOUD—which, sure, can be said about pretty much any band, of course, but with this band, it’s really up-and-in-your-face; perfect for that Saturday night bar scene crowd. Through their first three numbers, they worked seamlessly; the third with a fast-paced, galloping ska-like frenzy, not letting up for a moment or giving the audience a break from their wall of guitar. Even the purposefully slowed refrain in the song “Leave Me Alone,” which usually sounds like sugary sweet confection, had much more volume and rough tension live.
The band themselves are conscious of it. After about four songs, Lowder wondered aloud if the sound settings were making everything too loud. “Do we want to keep yelling?!” she asked. I couldn’t hear anyone make a clear response to this, and the band simply forged ahead, next performing “You Don’t Know Me”—with Lowder, again, screaming, sounding exactly like Courtney Love did on certain choice “Hole” cuts.
The constant aural layer of intensity that night was awesome in its sheer power, and also impressive recognizing they did not relent; like running a sprint through a marathon. (Sure, Death Plant shared the evening with two other bands, so their set was only about 30 minutes long, but still…). They closed the show with one of the brand new tracks off their upcoming EP.
At 11 pm, they stopped playing rather abruptly. I wanted more, but my shouts of “Encore!” seemed to go unheard. Even so, it left me looking forward to checking out the new EP.
Death Plant will perform in The Bamboo Room at King Wah’s, 1182 Court St., Medford, Sunday, Jan. 26 at 6 pm and also at Johnny B’s, 120 E. 6th St., Medford, Saturday, Mar. 14 at 8 pm.