By Zachary Swickey
LOS ANGELES – “Why Catch Without Arms?” was the first question we asked Dredg when talking to the band before their Sunday (June 10) gig at the iconic Roxy Theatre in Los Angeles where they performed their aforementioned third album from start-to-finish along with some other B-side material.
“Well, we had already done this before with our first two records, and this is one we hadn’t done yet. We had done Leitmotif and El Cielo out here already, and Pariah in Germany,” explained guitarist Mark Engles.
The band had only performed the album on one other Cali date – although they mentioned other non-Cali shows are a possibility later this fall – a couple nights before, but they had apparently rehearsed it plenty as they didn’t seem the slightest bit rusty. As they ripped into the album’s opening track, “Ode to the Sun,” fans erupted into screams as if they were all witnessing the sun itself for the very first time.
Dredg’s last effort – 2011’s Chuckles and Mr. Squeezy –divided fans with its pop-centered sound, which was likely due to the influence of producer Dan the Automator (an underground hip-hop production legend). When we asked the band how the collab came about, it sounded pretty simple. “He remixed one of our songs in ’06 maybe. That’s basically how. It started with the remix, which turned into a friendship,” said singer Gavin Hayes.
The next song of the night was the album’s first single, “Bug Eyes,” which features an introduction from singer Gavin Hayes wailing on his slide guitar before the song eventually takes flight. I couldn’t help but notice drummer Dino Campanella constantly tucking his left drum stick under his right arm during “Not that Simple” when he would be required to play the keys and drums simultaneously. (Imagine how tricky that must be?) He destroyed and pillaged his kit with ferocity throughout the entire set – it’s no wonder Shaun Lopez of Crosses describes him as the “Ivan Drago of drums.”
Things got more chill and sexy during “Zebraskin” – one of their album’s more eccentric moments, which has Hayes playfully singing, “A couple of drinks mid-day, mid-day/ Haven’t felt this way, this way, since yesterday.” My personal favorite track, “The Tanbark is Hot Lava,” had Campanella pummeling the drums with Zeus-like force (he broke many a stick throughout the night). Bassist Drew Roulette notably added more flair and jubilance to his bass strumming through the set, and the band performed several impromptu, ambient segues that strung all the tunes together wonderfully.
Most bands often come-and-go in a short span of five years or less, but Dredg have been rocking out (with all original members) for nearly 20 years now. When we asked the band about this feat, Roulette responded, “It’s nice that it has been this long, yet we haven’t had to go off and find any new members or anything. Our goal is to get into the Guiness World Records book as the longest lasting band ever.”
The sonic sounds of Engles’ guitar sliced throughout “Spitshine” with fans singing along with Hayes, “Spitshine my corroded halo!” (Engles must get his strings from the same alloy of Iron Man’s suit considering how violently he plucks.) The loudest point of the night (things got straight up metal) was “Hungover on a Tuesday,” which had Campanella once again annihilating his drums and Roulette literally taking his fist to his bass during particularly aggressive moments.
Fans then got treated to two B-sides, “Uplifting News Channel” and “Stone by Stone,” from the Catch sessions, which are so good in their own right, it’s baffling why they were left off the album. You wouldn’t have known from the crowd’s reception, because the majority knew every word to the rare songs. Dredg wrapped-up the night appropriately by performing a stellar version of their instrumental track “Down to the Cellar” off their fourth effort, The Parrot, The Pariah, The Delusion, and one of the most heralded works, “The Canyon Behind Her” from my favorite record of theirs, El Cielo.
Dredg has always been perceived as an ominous band (quite similar to Tool) in that they aren’t selling themselves or trying to get a million fans on Twitter. When asked for comment on this notion, Roulette appropriately responded, “I just think we have made it a point over the years to let the music speak for itself.”
The band also casually mentioned that they’ll be dropping a 45-minute documentary on the making of Catch Without Arms in some type of download form. Quite a nonchalant reveal, but be on the lookout for it to hit the Internet as soon as next week.