Review & photos by Andrew Bansal
April 22nd 2014, The Satellite, Los Angeles CA: Detroit-based proto-punk cult legends Death began their journey when three brothers Bobby, David and Dannis Hackney started the band as an R&B group in 1971, before switching to punk-driven rock ‘n roll. Unfortunately, their initial rise between 1971 and ’76 was followed by a long period of inactivity, but about five years ago, their early demos resurfaced as official releases by Drag City Records and the band was resurrected with guitarist Bobbie Duncan replacing David Hackney who died of lung cancer in 2000. Last year’s documentary film ‘A Band Called Death’ encapsulated their history and took them into further prominence, and their third archival album ‘Death III’ was released by Drag City yesterday April 22 2014. To celebrate its release, the band held a special event at the Satellite to coincide with the date.
Doors opened at around 8:45 PM and the sizable queue of ticket holders entered the venue. Thus began a long wait, as the band wouldn’t appear until as late as 10:45, which was a bit bizarre considering the advertised event start time of 9 PM. But for this gathering of Death fans, it undoubtedly turned out to be well worth the wait. Firstly, the three members of the band sat down to hold a Q&A with the audience, wherein they answered standard questions about topics such as early influences, the Detroit rock ‘n roll spirit and future plans. Bassist/vocalist Bobby Hackney talked the most and gladly reminisced the impact of rock idols like The Beatles, Alice Cooper and The Who on Death in the early days.
The band then went on to show us two music videos on a projection screen, of the song ‘Not A Nice Guy’ by Bobby Hackney’s sons’ band Rough Francis, and a premiere of the Death song “We’re Gonna Make It”, a heartfelt tribute to David Hackney featuring old stills and footage of him and his band mates. After that, they disappeared backstage for a short break and all was finally set for some live rock and roll by Death.
Death came out to present a solid dosage of their material old and new, including the 2012 single ‘Relief’, and even a couple of songs they’d never performed live before. It’s clear from their performance that they still have what it takes to deliver this music, not only playing the parts right but doing so with the attitude and expression it demands, which in many ways is as important as the music itself. They brought forth a real old-school Detroit rock ‘n roll vibe, and I was instantly reminded of the fact that a much younger Detroit-based band Against The Grain had played on this very stage a few months ago. It just puts things into perspective in terms of the pioneering impact of Death on an entire genre, and on the Detroit music scene.
Seeing Death perform and be a witness to their Q&A was no less than a history lesson for the rock ‘n roll enthusiasts in the crowd. Death announced plans to be fully active and take the band to stages worldwide, so if you want a taste of the roots of the great genre we all adore, go see Death the next time they play a show in your town.
Check out more photos from the show below (view them here if you’re on a non-Flash device):
Death’s next LA area show:
7/03 @ The Roxy Theatre, West Hollywood CA (Tickets)