Getting to the Catalyst involved a trip over the Santa Cruz Mountains in downpour conditions, but we persevered, finding parking a few blocks from the venue and making our wet way to the box office. We were met by two lines, snaking out of the club in different directions, and quickly discovered that there were actually two shows happening simultaneously. Murder By Death was playing in the Catalyst atrium, and Too Short was playing in the main room. As we’d walked up, Jeanine had mentioned that the bigger line didn’t seem like the usual Murder By Death crowd, and sure enough, the long line was for Too Short, and the short line wasn’t.
We made our way inside and then proceeded to wait for over an hour because “8:00” apparently means “8:45” in Catalyst-ese. It’s not like soundchecks were still happening either. I think the delay was purely so the venue could sell more alcohol. Lame.
There were a bunch of audience members wearing Murder By Death Whiskey Crew patches, which I think was a Kickstarter reward. There was also a bountiful merch table for both Murder By Death and opener Rocky Votolato. I was once again tempted by the red long johns, and once again reminded myself that I live in California, and long johns don’t get much use here. Oddly, I ended up not buying anything, although I should get their new album (as a Kickstarter reward) in the mail any day now (edited to add: it showed up shortly after I wrote this! It's good!).
Rocky Votalato was a guy with an acoustic guitar and a harmonica. He played a decent set of music not too far removed from the kind of thing Murder By Death does. Think singer-songwriter who leans toward indie folk and Americana, and you’d be pretty much right. His songs were pretty good, with some of them making me think I should pick up an album or two. His newest record, “Hospital Handshakes”, is coming out in April. His set was around 45 minutes.
He seemed happy with his reception too, saying that Murder By Death’s audiences have been kind to him on this tour so far. That may be the case, but there was a lot of bar noise, not to mention a loud conversation happening right behind us that was horribly distracting. People who talk during the show piss me off. Take it outside, assholes.
Murder By Death followed in short order, opening with I Come Around, from 2012’s “Bitter Drink, Bitter Moon” ( I almost wrote “last year’s”, but damn, it has already been more than two years since that album came out) and soldiering though a set that included songs from the just-released “Big Dark Love” and older favorites. Of the new songs, my favorite track was Dream In Red, although the title track from the new record is also really good. Of the older songs they played, I’ve always been partial to Shiola (which singer/guitarist Adam Turla played mostly solo) and set closer, Comin’ Home.
I’ve seen (and written about) the band a few times now, so I’ll dispense with a longer review (look here, here and here for older reviews). All band members were in fine form, and everything flowed well. There was one pause while Adam tuned his guitar, during which he requested his band mates to fill the time with jokes. Bassist Matt Armstrong’s joke was a groaner.
“What’s the difference between a chickpea and a garbanzo bean?”
“I wouldn’t pay to have a garbanzo bean on me.”
There was a two-song encore, and then it was back out into the night for us, not waiting around to see what kind of catastrophe the mixture of drunk Murder By Death fans and similarly afflicted Too Short fans might cause. That said, the fans at this show weren’t as out of control as the last time we saw the band.