LOS ANGELES, CA- Dead Sara broke into the scene when their single “Weatherman” blasted into our earholes. That song is a hard-rocking ripper that is guaranteed to get an uninitiated Dead Sara listener banging their heads to its undeniable guitar licks and anthemic “Go for the kill” chorus.
They used the momentum of “Weatherman” and their universally heralded, self-financed, self-titled debut album to get signed to the big leagues at Epic Records in 2013. But everything wasn’t all rainbows and sunshine, as issues with the label and then-current management soured, forcing stall their careers for a bit before gaining their independence and crowdfunding their sophomore LP Pleasure to Meet You in 2015 which hit the number two spot on Billboard’s Heatseekers chart.
Atlantic Records would then come knocking, and they once again got major label support for their 6 track, 2018 EP Temporary Things TakingUp Space. While the pandemic may have stalled their creative endeavors for a bit, they were able to complete and release their third, full-length, studio album, Ain’t It Tragic on September 17th, 2021. Dead Sara fans rejoiced.
Produced by Dead Sara’s Sean Friday (drums), Ain’t It Tragic is a collection of 11 killers songs that not only highlights everything long-time fans love about the band but also opens our eyes to some of the exciting new sonic/artistic elements. You can get a sense that there was an effort to make the music more acceptable to a wider audience, and not just cater to their headbanging, mosh pit crowd. I think it serves Dead Sara very well.
Emily Armstrong (guitar and vocals) takes center stage with the intensity of her vocal performances. Whether she’s belting out with Weatherman-like ferocity on the quick-paced “Hands Up”, “Light Out” or “All I Know is That You Left Me For Dead” or singing with passionate intensity on the more downtempo tracks (“Lover Stay Wild” and “Losing My Mind”, “Good Times”), her inner rock star shines brightly throughout all 11 tracks. You can almost feel the intensity in her eyes as you listen to her sing.
Siouxie Medley (guitar) once again gives the listener those undeniable Dead Sara riffs that the listeners have been pumping fists to for close to a decade. Her riffs on “Gimme Gimme” make that one of my favorite tracks off the album. She also shreds with a steady potency in “Good Times”.
While Sean got some assistance from producer Noah Shain (who worked with the band on their first two albums), the listener really gets a sense of the “fresh blood” in the sonic presentation, which is a result of not only some of the artistic choices that the band took with songwriting this time around but also because of Sean’s approach to crafting the musical soundscape. One musical particular that stood out to me was the use of the guitar line in “Lover Stay Wild”. The mix of hat distorted guitar line acts as a second voice that sings along with Emily; that wild lover that Emily is singing to, almost reassuring Emily in the bridge that that “wild” will stick around.
“Losing My Mind” is perhaps one of the most adventurous Dead Sara recordings I’ve ever heard. Its distorted, dystopian production really drives home the theme of the song. It may feel a little out of Dead Sara’s wheelhouse, maybe a little more alt-rock than hard rock, but Emily’s vocal performance really brings it back home and makes it feel authentically Dead Sara.
The Roxy was the final stop on their 2021 tour. Having hit up a handful of festivals and large market cities like Chicago, New York, and Boston, the band decided to treat their hometown with two back-to-back performances at the venerable Hollywood venue. I was only able to attend the “early show”, which started at 8, but if I didn’t have an hour+ drive back home and another couple hours sitting in front of a computer formating photos, I would have gladly stuck around for the 11:45 show.
I heard through the grapevine that Dead Sara performed a different setlist for the second show, but I was quite content with what they gave me for the early performance. Not only did they perform my favorite songs from their new album (“Starry Eyed”, “Love Stay Wild”, “Gimme Gimme” and “Good Times”) but they played also played some of their fan-favorites like “Lemon Scent”, “Mona Lisa”, “Mr. Mr.” and, of course, “Weatherman”.
The band was introduced to the stage by music vet Matt Pinfield. While the younger folk in the audience may not be familiar with him, as someone who grew up on MTV when they actually played music video, I thought it was a pretty cool co-sign.
I loved the way the show opened. They started the evening with the opening track off Ain’t It Tragic. The way that that song’s chorus crescendos really gets the anticipation and adrenaline pumping. As Emily sang the chorus, “There is no way to say how I really feel knowing that, I’m not everything that you want, Nothing in life ever comes easy, But I’ll try and I’ll try better now this time,” it felt like a war cry. It felt like Emily was singing what the purpose of the night was all about. It was almost like she was telling us that she was going to prove the haters wrong, and I loved that ethos.
With their Deadicated (their loyal fanbase) line-up at the front, fists were pumping through the night, and voices were singing along to every song. The addition of two extra players on stage gave Dead Saraa the pieces to really make the studio sound of their album really come to life, filling out every sonic nook that was explored on the album.
Emily, Siouxie, and Sean really brought it during this performance. I was surprised that Emily was in the air as much as she was, jumping off of Sean’s drum kit on multiple occasions, and even the tall monitors that lined the back of the stage. I thought Emily had claimed that those days had passed!
But perhaps, they’ve been reborn. It’s taken a lot of blood, sweat, and tears for them to have gotten to this moment. A lot of drama and a lot of disappointment. With Ain’t It Tragic it almost feels like a musical rebirth for the band. Their music is evolving and perhaps they are taking it back to the beginning. “All their heroes are dead” (“Heroes”) and they are just getting “back to the rhythm that [they] started” (“Hypnotic”). That includes getting wild and jumping off tall monitors. And I’m all for it.
Dead Sara has announced another slate of tour dates for early 2022 with Slash featuring Myles Kennedy & the Conspirators and a couple of upcoming festival dates. Do you know what’d be tragic? If you didn’t catch them perform live soon. Just sayin’.