String-Busting Rock at The Quest

Geoffrey Ziezulewicz

It is a fine example of the illogic of the music industry machine that 93X talked up the fuzz-box rock of California’s Queens of the Stone Age for weeks prior to their show, yet rarely if ever played them. This was also true of their opener, the moody, grinding, guitar-driven And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead. Which parent-company executive is writing this station’s play list?

Trail of Dead is a band known for its live shows. Since signing with Interscope last year, they have released Source Tags and Codes, and have toured quite a bit to an avid, growing fan base. Their audience has arrived mostly as a result of word-of-mouth, given their lack of mainstream exposure. They played such cuts as “Another Morning Stoner” and “It Was There That I Saw You” from their new album, performing their earlier material at the end of their set.

As Trail of Dead came out, the sound system played a recording of “Wondrous Boat Ride,” which Gene Wilder sang ominously on a boat inside a chocolate river tunnel in the 1971 film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. It was ideal for an intro song.

The guys played hard and drank hard, with the drummer and vocalist switching spots every other song. They also were rough on their equipment. Rocking out so hard busts strings easily. The bandmembers would stumble, seem as though they were about to lose their place and then regroup. Songs finished, and then finished again. The band mingled with the crowd. At the end, they smashed their instruments. At this point in music, guitar-smashing is an embarrassing cliche. This time, however, the shattered equipment seemed like a logical outcome of their frenetic onstage behavior. It would lose something on Total Request Live.

Queens put on a good show as well, even though a sizeable chunk of the crowd looked exhausted after Trail of Dead left the stage. It was an illusion: When Queens started playing, the crowd was ready. By the time they performed “The Feel Good Hit of the Summer,” the audience returned to their previous excitement, jumping, hollering and mashing into each other. The band did not one, but two encore sets.

In contrast with Trail of Dead, Queens mostly played songs from their new album Songs for the Deaf. The album was recorded with drumming by Dave Grohl, former drummer for Nirvana and frontman for Foo Fighters, but he was absent from this tour date. The new drummer played his parts well, but he couldn’t match Grohl’s intensity. Nick Oliveri’s screeching vocals was buoyed by the drums, and their stop and go style created a chaotic-sounding, but tightly controlled, sonic wall.

Trail of Dead hung out in the crowd during the Queens set. Both bands played like they were still looking for their big deal: they provided fiery, exhausting performances. It was just too bad they had to be brought together under the corporate sponsorship of 93X, whose only interest in such fire-breathing performances is in how quickly they can sell them.