Review by Waleed Rashidi
Death By Stereo at Friar Tuck's Bar and Grille, Pomona February 2, 2008
Better than: Any band whose name contains the word "Death" in it — even the veteran metal band Death themselves.
Download: "Entombed We Collide" video.
One can never even remotely predict what might happen at any given Death By Stereo show. Case in point: Over the past decade, yours truly has witnessed vocalist Efrem Schulz zip up zippers of jacket-wearing audience members, throw his mic in the air for a random frontman takeover after resigning himself to the floor of the mosh pit, and engage himself in ridiculous stage gymnastics that would make Bela Karolyi proud, amongst other shards of insanity. So, on Saturday night at Friar Tuck's in Pomona, even before the Orange County-based melodic/metallic hardcore foursome hit the "stage" in the bursting-at-the-seams suburban venue, we knew we were in store for an intimate session of impressive action.
But what we didn't know was just how over-the-top impressive it would become. After a slew of opening acts, including the truly outstanding Jessie Deluxe (whose set we missed — damnit!), the Death hit an audience poised and primed, with some dudes milling about grasping pitchers of their favorite ale all for themselves.
Immediately upon the act's opening song, the floor exploded, bodies slamming with fury while the security did its damndest to contain and confine such activity to the front of the stage. (At one point during the band's set, one of the staffers stepped up to the mic to remind the audience of its "no moshing" policy, which was only mildly observed, leading to a host of ejections.)
But that's par for the course for Death By Stereo fans, most of whom are used to catching the act in far larger venues, under more mosh-friendly situations. They're also familiar with the sheer musical virtuosity that each member exudes — guitarist Dan Palmer shredding his Fernandes fretboard on countless occasions, bassist/vocalist Tyler Rebbe locking in the low-end counter melodies and vocal harmonies, and newest member Chris Dalley on the drums, slamming with perfection to many of the parts that were written by the band's previous three drummers. In fact, even in a venue that didn't feature a full PA rig, the members of the Death were able to deliver on all ends.
And lest we forget about Schulz, whose incomparable vigor found him jumping just short of driving his spiked noggin through the low stage ceiling, diving into the audience belting his prose within microns of stoked faces, climbing up on bar tables, losing his mic on more than one occasion, and, of course, shaking up several surprised DBS newbies with his impromptu antics.
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As for the act's set list, Schulz and company weren't afraid to delve far into the reaches of the four-album Death By Stereo catalog, even performing a number of cuts from their debut, If Looks Could Kill, I'd Watch You Die — quite notable (and laudable), considering that Schulz is the sole original member of the outfit (and the only one who performed on that particular album). All the while, requests for Jagermeister shots to be sent to the stage were constant, interludes featuring the hits of Quiet Riot and Van Halen were attempted (and largely aborted), and audience members hollered along to choruses, often rivaling the wattage produced by the front of house sound system. True, Death By Stereo outgrew venues of this size long ago, but it's satisfyingly spectacular to have them perform within arms' reach on these special occasions.
Personal bias: Schulz sang lead vocals on a Big Drill Car tribute track, which I recorded a couple years ago.
Random detail: During one of his many performances on the audience floor, Schulz engaged in a split-second duet with Jessie Deluxe herself, and even wrangled another talented Jesse — the Aggrolites' Jesse Wagner, that is — to the stage for quick stint on the mic.
By the way: You can catch madness similar to the aforementioned on an even more localized level March 8 as part of the Strung Out Benefit Show at the Vault 350 in Long Beach