By Andrew Bansal
(photos by Matt Nielson)
August 10th 2017, The Observatory Orange County, Santa Ana CA: Dead Cross, the Los Angeles-based hardcore punk/heavy metal group, started out in 2015 as a four-piece featuring Dave Lombardo on drums, two members of The Locust i.e. Justin Pearson on bass and Gabe Serbian on vocals, along with Michael Crain from Retox on guitar. The band booked their debut shows in 2015 even before they had any material ready, but were able to put together a short set of original songs for a run of Southern California shows in club venues such as The Roxy, Slidebar and Glass House. But in 2016, Mike Patton replaced Gabe Serbian as the vocalist while the rest of the lineup remained the same, the band signed to Patton’s label Ipecac, and was given a whole new lease of life. Dead Cross released their crushing self-titled debut LP on August 4th, and embarked on a North American headline tour, starting off with their debut show in this incarnation at The Observatory in Santa Ana last Thursday August 10th.
The band Secret Chiefs 3 featuring Trey Spruance of Faith No More has been chosen as the support act for most of the shows on this tour, but this was one of the shows they were not on, and we were treated to two other opening acts instead, and got an exclusive show in that sense. When the likes of Patton and Lombardo are involved, you can expect the unexpected when it comes to opening bands, and sure enough, this show entertained the audience from start to finish.
Doors opened at 7, and at around 8:15, stand-up comedian Neil Hamburger stepped onto the stage. He began by putting forth an endearing rendition of Heart’s ‘Crazy On You’ with Erik Paparazzi on acoustic guitar, and then laid into a hilarious stand-up set wherein he mocked and ridiculed a number of rock and metal celebrities and had the audience in splits, and the set had its fair share of gags and knock-knock jokes. Going to concerts is all about having a good time and what’s better than a great music-oriented comedy set as an opening act? Neil Hamburger closed with a cover of The Four Lads’ ‘Standing on the Corner’, soaked in a well-deserved applause and bid goodbye to the audience.
Neil Hamburger photos:
Ho99o9, a hardcore punk/industrial/experimental hip hop trio that started out in 2012 in Newark NJ and relocated to Los Angeles in 2014, was the main support act for this show, and they lived up to the billing and then some, as they absolutely ripped the stage to pieces with one of the most insane live performances The Observatory has probably ever witnessed. Ho99o9 opened for Faith No More at the Wiltern in 2015 and played a headline show of their own at the Roxy in 2016, so some people in this audience knew that they were in for a treat, but first-timers were in complete shock as Ho99o9 went about their 40-minute set. With a blend of fast-paced hardcore punk and contrastingly slow, doomy, horror-laden industrial hip hop compositions performed by three uncontrollably energetic members, this band put on a fantastic show and livened up the building as mosh pits and fights broke out, and the energy and intensity levels went sky-rocketing. The singer himself jumped into the crowd on more than one occasion. The insanity of a Ho99o9 live show cannot be fully described, it can only be experienced firsthand, and as we were fortunate enough to have that experience, we must thank whoever was responsible for putting them on this bill. Ho99o9 is the embodiment of unabated musical expression.
And lastly at 10:15, Dead Cross hit the stage, as the venue was almost fully packed by this point, and for a brand new band that just put out their debut album which many people may not have heard yet, the turnout here was as good or better than anyone would have expected. Those who did listen to and familiarize themselves with the self-titled debut would have hoped for the band to open the live show with track #1, ‘Seizure and Desist’, because when you talk of perfect opening tracks, this one certainly qualifies in that category. Wisely enough, the band did in fact open with this very song and grabbed the audience by the throat straightaway, as the circle pits went full speed ahead, with empty or full beer cups, hats, shoes and other small personal items flying about.
The one common question on the minds of ticket holders was how long of a set Dead Cross would end up playing, with the debut album being only 27 minutes in length. As it turned out, they ended up playing the entire album in order, with two new tracks sandwiched in between, the first one with an as-yet-unknown title, and the second one called ‘My Perfect Prisoner’, which the band claimed to have “just written yesterday”. The set on the whole was about 45 minutes long. Amidst raucous and unanimous calls for an encore, they came out to give the crowd the most ultimate tease you could ever imagine, as Michael Crain pointed at the Slayer tattoo on his arm, and the band played the opening few seconds of Slayer’s ‘South Of Heaven’, only to walk off the stage.
Performance-wise, it was clear that Dead Cross was more than ready to deliver their 100 percent on this stage. Their first show with this lineup meant a lot to them and they showed as much with a top-notch rendition of the debut album and the newer tunes. Mike Patton was in his element as vocalist and frontman, Lombardo was firing away relentlessly on the drums in the background, and as Patton rightly pointed out during the show, the two younger members Justin Pearson and Michael Crain inspired Patton and Lombardo to extract the very best out of themselves to keep up with the pace and intensity.
This show was a great indication that Dead Cross is already the best side project Lombardo or Patton have done till date, together or separately. One would hope that it becomes a thing of importance in the lives of these four musicians, because it would be rather tragic and unfortunate if this went down as a one-album, one-tour band. Metal and hardcore punk fanatics in North America (and anywhere else this band goes), catch a Dead Cross show and thank us later.
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More Dead Cross photos:
Dead Cross set list:
01. Seizure and Desist
03. Obedience School
05. New song
06. Bela Lugosi’s Dead
07. Divine Filth
08. Grave Slave
09. The Future Has Been Cancelled
10. My Perfect Prisoner
11. Gag Reflex
12. Church of the Motherfuckers
Dead Cross + Secret Chiefs 3 remaining tour dates:
08/11/2017 – Las Vegas, NV @ Brooklyn Bowl
08/12/2017 – Phoenix, AZ @ The Marquee *
08/14/2017 – Dallas, TX @ Gas Monkey Bar & Grill
08/15/2017 – Houston, TX @ Warehouse Live
08/16/2017 – Austin, TX @ Emo’s
08/18/2017 – Tucson, AZ @ The Rialto Theatre *
08/19/2017 – San Diego, CA @ The Observatory North Park
08/21/2017 – Los Angeles, CA @ El Rey Theatre
08/23/2017 – Berkeley, CA @ The UC Theatre
08/25/2017 – Vancouver, BC @ Vogue Theatre
08/26/2017 – Seattle, WA @ The Showbox
08/27/2017 – Portland, OR @ Wonder Ballroom
08/29/2017 – Sacramento, CA @ Ace of Spades
09/08/2017 – Baltimore, MD @ Baltimore Soundstage
09/10/2017 – Philadelphia, PA @ Union Transfer
09/11/2017 – Boston, MA @ Royale
09/12/2017 – New York, NY @ Gramercy Theatre
09/13/2017 – Brooklyn, NY @ Warsaw
09/15/2017 – Detroit, MI @ St. Andrew’s Hall
09/16/2017 – Chicago, IL @ Riot Fest *
09/17/2017 – Milwaukee, WI @ Turner Hall Ballroom
09/19/2017 – Minneapolis, MN @ First Avenue
09/20/2017 – Lawrence, KS @ Liberty Hall
09/23/2017 – Denver, CO @ Ogden Theatre
* = no Secret Chiefs 3