Finicky Ears

Dead Man’s Bones @ The Echo – 10/31/09, Echo Park, CA

Posted in Live Reviews by finickyears on November 2, 2009

Dead Man's Bones Choir

The phrase “vanity project” is thrown around when an actor decides to delve into the music world. The assumption is that movie stars use their star power to stroke their ego every chance they get and that talent and passion are non-factors in the creative process. Strangely, Dead Man’s Bones’ debut self-titled album used the working title Don’t Let a Lack of Talent Get You Down. But vanity project couldn’t be further from the truth when talking about Ryan Gosling’s musical endeavor. What do you notice about the album cover below?

Dead Man's Bones Album

See Mr. Gosling? He is way on the right. Although he handled most of the vocal duties at the Dead Man’s Bones Halloween show Saturday night at The Echo, never did it feel like he was front and center of the music project. It felt like collaboration in the truest sense of the word. A collaboration between the band’s two principals, Ryan Gosling and Zach Shields. A collaboration between the gang of costumed ghouls that they pick up at every road stop (I hear they are traditionally a local children’s choir, but kids with nothing to do on Halloween are a hot commodity, so we were left with friends of the band, a couple of teenagers and the soundman’s two small children dressed as skeletons). A collaboration between the eager crowd, the venue (which was decorated wonderfully) and an always tumultuous night of the year that can see people get too drunk and too rowdy in a heartbeat. No, there was nothing vain about this show.  If anything, the night was risky and adventurous; a celebration of youth in the arts.

Even the last number of the evening emphasized this, as Gosling invited one of the choir members to perform a song she had recently written. She stepped up to the piano, nervously, and performed a lovely little piece. Not the kind of thing that would pump up a crowd about ready to leave. Not the kind of thing rock stars usually embrace, i.e. turning the spotlight away from themselves. But the crowd was respectful and erupted in applause as the young lady took center stage in what you imagine was the biggest moment of her life.

The band, however, did not shy away from Ryan Gosling’s presence. After the first song, a crowd member shouted, “We love you, Ryan!” in a voice that imitated a 13-year-old fan girl. The band laughed it off, with the touring female singer encouraging the crowd to keep it coming. As this was the last date of the tour, it’s hard to imagine this was anything new for them. However, every number felt raw and dangerous. Gosling had a recurring look of pain on his face, like he was waiting for everything to go wrong at any moment.

This was never more apparent than during the biggest moment of the night. The youngest of the choir, a girl around 6 or 7 who was dressed up as a skeleton, laid down in the middle of the stage, a sheet placed in front of her to project a video. Now this is not the actual video from the show, but it was similar in production and such:

After the movie ended, you could see the girl’s shadow rising up from behind the sheet. She then grabbed the microphone and sang Nancy Sinatra’s “Bang Bang.” Watching a 6-year-old sing this song solo was creepy, adorable – and most of all – terrifying. Terrifying because everyone wanted her to get through it unscathed. You could see every band member mouthing the words to her, giving her support and, likewise, the crowd backed her up with applause at every break. The result was an unforgettable number that still gives me chills when I think about it. Here is a video of a different girl singing it in Chicago (Our girl was better!):

The rest of the show did not disappoint either. The combination of “My Body’s a Zombie for You” and “Pa Pa Power” to close out the initial set worked to get the crowd moving. The band went the untraditional route by staying on stage for the encore break. Gosling announced that “they knew three more songs,” and when the crowd responded, he assumed we wanted to hear them. The final full-band number of the evening used the audience as the back-up choir for “Paper Ships” as every member of the stage show introduced himself (Gosling’s sister was in the choir, and I believe his brother was in the band). The opening acts included MCs as sheeted ghosts, a 1940s variety revival show and a guy playing a xylophone.

Hopefully, they will be back in town before next Halloween.

Visit Dead Man’s Bones on MySpace here!

Buy Dead Man’s Bones here!


One Response

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  1. J to the K said, on November 3, 2009 at 12:14 pm

    good first, Philip! Ryan Gosling sounds like the perfect man, and i must have a crush on him now. more posts, please.

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