December 21, 2014

On November 22, it was rock night at The Merrow, featuring San Diego locals The Dexter Riley Xperiment, Sensory Station, and Dead Sara from Los Angeles; they’re the only band I was familiar with before entering the venue. The Merrow features a fairly large stage and dance floor, along with pool tables and a small seating area for people to enjoy the shows. The main bar area is a smaller room at the main entrance, which can be cordoned off from the stage room by large black curtains. It’s a nice venue, decorated in a nautical theme (“Merrow” is the Gaelic term for merman/mermaid according to their website), though its parking lot is absolutely tiny; patrons have more luck in the mini mall across the street.

The opening band for the evening was The Dexter Riley Xperiment, a blues rock quartet. The music was pretty laid back, sitting mostly in the lower tempo range, with riffs and hooks vaguely reminiscent of Ted Nugent or Stevie Ray Vaughn. Unfortunately, the band’s sound and tone made listening rather difficult. The bassist was incredibly loud, at times overpowering the drums, and his tone used so much of the midrange that the guitars were hard to hear. I couldn’t even hear the rhythm guitarist throughout most of the show. At the end of the set, I was left with the impression that DRX is fairly new as a band, and the musicians haven’t gotten around to setting their sound as a band, instead of individual musicians.

The second band, Sensory Situation, took a more experimental approach to their music. Another quartet, the lead singer doubled as the sole guitar player and they featured a keyboard player. This band also tended toward lower tempos, though their music was stylistically more varied than the previous band. The singer shouted or screamed some of the lyrics, and there were some parts that definitely tended toward the heavier side of rock & roll, almost sounding metal at some points. Like DRX, unfortunately, Sensory Station’s sound wasn’t very cohesive. While the bass wasn’t nearly as overpowering, there was absolutely no room in the mix for the keys, and I couldn’t hear a note he played throughout the entire set. Unlike DRX, SS is far enough along to have an album for sale, so I’m hoping the studio mix compensates and lets everyone be heard, and that the live sound will eventually follow suit.

The headliner for the night, Dead Sara, played San Diego as the last night of a short tour up and down California (plus Vegas). As with the rest of the show, their music has definite roots in the blues, though Dead Sara is more along the lines of a grunge band. After the previous two acts, I was relieved to hear that their instruments worked so well together; nobody overpowered anyone else, and it seems like they’ve long since worked out everyone’s place in the mix. The stage presence was excellent, with singer Emily going with or without a guitar as the songs required. The music itself tended towards much higher tempos and energetic vibes, reminiscent of Nirvana and Rage Against the Machine, both bands they’ve covered in the past. Some of their songs, such as Monumental Holiday and Weatherman, were given outro breakdowns not present on the album, a nice addition to the live experience that adds incentive to seeing them perform again. The Weatherman outro sounded particularly RatM-like, with its heavy riffing and the crowd chanting “Go for the kill, go for the kill,” a fitting end to the set and the evening.

By: Chris Hicke


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