Dax has been the frontman of three previous bands — Acid Bath, Agents of Oblivion, and Deadboy and the Elephantmen — before releasing We Sing of Only Blood Or Love under his own name in 2007. With songs like “Grave Dirt on My Blue Suede Shoes,” “The Serpent Is Eating Itself,” and “Living Is Suicide,” it’s easy to dismiss his music as yet more of the same grungy metal rock that frequents the Vaudeville. But in contrast with the lyrics, his sound is surprisingly even, symmetrical, and insanely precise.
Instrumentals bond seamlessly with vocals, epic breakdowns and crescendos are effortlessly executed, and even the parts that strike you as spontaneous are taken totally in stride, as if these guys have been playing together for years (Not the case — this is their first tour with these four band members, and Dax reports, “It’s working out well.”). But what stands out the most is his voice. Dax is a man of small stature and not one to spark up a conversation, though seemingly more out of shyness than pretension. Before the show, he was just another guy, quietly having a cigarette outside. But when lights dimmed and the music started, he became some other being entirely.
Closing his eyes and opening his mouth wide, he channels something from deep inside that courteous exterior, belting “Baby, I ain’t got time to die” in a gritty and formidable cry. The pre-show persona of Dax Riggs reflects nothing of his stage presence. The band’s disheveled appearance lends to the same adage: What you see is just the tip of the iceberg. Despite their long hair and I-don’t-give-a-shit appearance, their talent is undeniable. Theatrical, but not egregious. Just the right blend of dark folk, metal, blues, and rock, with a pinch of head banging thrash for flavor.
The bravest part of their performance was an Elvis Presley cover. Dax managed to mould “Heartbreak Hotel” into an eerie song of despair able to stand on its own. Twisting the lyrics into a macabre incantation, it echoed of a much darker and lonelier road than I suspect Elvis had had in mind.
Their current tour brings them from their home base of Austin, Texas, up through some of the smaller venues of Missouri, Nebraska, Iowa, and South Dakota. So how do the efforts of local music organizers affect bands like this one? “It’s the most important thing,” says drummer Charley Siess. “It introduces people to a lot of new music they would have never heard otherwise, and lets them form their own opinion of a band instead of being affected by what others say about it first.” He adds, “Too much research beforehand makes for a disappointing show, anyway.”
(Photo courtesy of Fat Possum Records)