The Dead Weather Denver

Following The Dead... Weather to Denver and Salt Lake City Part 1

Andrew Olson

Reader Weekly

After seeing The Dead Weather perform in Minneapolis a few weeks ago, I was so blown away that I decided to catch their live act in Denver and Salt Lake City.

The cities, crowds, venues, and performances were very different despite the set list remaining the same. Two factors that had the greatest effect on the shows were the ages that the club allowed in and the overall health of Alison Mosshart, the lead singer.

In Denver the show was held at the Ogden Theater in the Downtown area. It was aFirst Avenue or NorShor styled theater with all ages and general admission seating. We were the first in line outside the First Avenue show, but we ended up being about 20th in line in Denver despite arriving over an hour before the doors even opened.

While standing in line outside the theater, the crowd was talking about when they had began following Jack White of the White Stripes. Some had been fans from the beginnings and others hopped on the bandwagon during the more recent Raconteurs period. While my wife and I had probably traveled the farthest, there were many out of state attendees who had trekked to the show.

When the doors finally opened we rushed up front and managed to get second row behind a guy who must have been 6 foot 5. The opening band in Minneapolis was The Screaming Females, which lived up to its name, except there was only one female in the band. The singer would almost unhinge her jaw like a snake when she belted out her screams while singing. She also wore a frumpy, long, polka dot dress in stark contrast to their hard sound. For Denver the opening band was upgraded to a Detroittrio called Tyvek. Punkish right down to the unshaven legs of the female bass player, they were a vast improvement and a great opener. Matt, the drummer, stood up through the entire set and wore dark sunglasses. The guitarist/singer Kevin wore 1980s giant glasses and looked like he just got done being an extra in the original Revenge of the Nerds movie. Their look, attitude, and music was high energy fun.

After the opener finished there was a lull. There were two young guys next to me wearing dark rimmed glasses who had waited in line behind me before the show. When Tyvek finished and the stage was being set up for The Dead Weather the two young guys sat on the floor to rest their weary legs. A few minutes later a guy was pushing his way toward the stage and confronted the boys sitting on the floor. He fed them a line about how it was a fire hazard to sit on the floor and pretended to work for the venue. He had a faux-hawk provided by copious amounts of hair gel and reeked of Axe body spray and cheap beer. He was what MTV would label a “douche”. The youngsters got up, apologized, and then let the douche get in front of them. A good Samaritan behind the boys spoke up and soon my wife and I entered the foray, telling the douche that these young guys had waited for hours before the show for their prime spot. It wasn’t worth fighting over and the douche didn’t give in. This was a precursor to what would follow and make me label Denver: “Douche-ver”.

The next moment helped my view when a girl who was about 4’9” asked if she could speak to her tall friend in front of me for a moment. She swore she wouldn’t stick around. So I let her in, and it ended up improving my view because Shaq's twin brother in front of me had to move and I now had a front row seat despite my new hobbit obstruction.

The band finally came out and immediately some other douche in the audience squirted his water bottle (that the club had just provided him for free) directly onto the lead singer Mosshart. This affected the show and changed the mood. The Dead Weather usually attacks their audience from the moment they come out. Your ears are accosted by the band and your senses are stripped from their assault. When Mosshart was sprayed with water it changed the tempo and she began a downward spiral. Some of the locals had talked about how she couldn’t handle the elevation and during previous shows when she was visiting with her band The Kills she had had health problems.

The band had a few weeks off since I had seen them at First Ave. and were playing their first show of a month long tour out West. They had spaces between their songs and Alison would drop on the floor several times and then go off the stage for a moment then return. In Minneapolis I thought she reminded me of Jim Morrison when she crawled onto the speakers and reached out into the crowd. In Denver when she laid on the floor while singing it was identical to a famous Rolling Stone picture of Morrison.

The longer than usual breaks between songs also lead to the first time I have ever heard Jack White blurt out something out of character on stage. He proceeded to ask the audience if they thought, as he did, that Bill O’Reily and Glenn Beck were Nazis. The crowd cheered and then the band went into a song. Despite it being cool and drizzly outside it was like the unconditioned Red Star on a hot summer day inside; HOT and SWEATY!

As the show progressed the audience grew more and more pushy and soon there were two drunken gentlemen slamming into the crowd from a few rows back. The front row pushed them back and then they lifted their pushy friend to pass him up front via body surfing. No one grabbed him and soon he went plunging head-first into the floor. This ended the pushing and soon the show settled down again. At both theMinneapolis show and in Denver the crowd stayed civil until the encore. This may have been due to the song choice of “Treat Me Like Your Mother” and a Dylan cover of “New Pony”. It was pent up anger that spewed out and a crowd who had been amazed by what they heard and felt the need to get closer. I heard several times from many longtime fans after all the shows, “this was the best live show I have ever seen.” That thought is also what led me to drive so far to see a band and follow them the next night another 8 and a half hours to Salt Lake City.

Unless you write for Rolling Stone or Spin getting an interview with the band would be almost impossible. One thing I have learned over the years though is that no matter who the band is they always need to get on their bus after the show. Lenny Kravitz goes so far as to employ a decoy to get the handful of people that gather to look the other way when he sneaks out. Jack White was approachable years ago, but is untouchable today. He leaves right after the band finishes and beats the crowd out. InMinneapolis a drunk girl grabbed him and he ran to the bus without a word. In Denverhe never came out to the bus, and was driven out of the venue in a van. Mosshart was quickly put on the bus and their manager told the crowd that she didn’t feel well.

A few hours later when most had given up Dean Fertita (guitar/organ) and “Little” Jack Lawerance (bass) came out and signed a few autographs and spoke with fans. There is a comical interview with the band on Youtube that captures their vibe, and you learn quickly that Little Jack (“LJ”) never talks. Dean is a friendly guy and talks at length with the fans. He took pictures and hung out with the 15 or so fans/groupies around the bus for about 15 minutes. That is very generous for a band that has an album at #6 on the Billboard charts. He also spoke well of Duluth and remembered when he played with the Queens of the Stone Age on their tour named after our city in 2007.

It was funny watching the locals run from the venue to the parked buses trying to hunt the band down after the show. The assembled crowd was a bit strange, with two Jonah Hill look alikes dressed in cowboy shirts and spouting lines from Superbad and a very tall butch haircut woman (?) wearing tight skin colored spandex and talking about her hair salon.

Come back next week for the rest of the story on seeing the band in Salt Lake City.