So there I am at 7pm, sitting in front of Double Dagger, from Baltimore, Maryland, asking them who their favourite Wire character is. I have a very limited number of interview moves. More on that soon
Sometimes you build gigs up months in advance, looking at setlists and live videos, listening to early EPs and B-sides, trying to make sure you have your own enjoyment covered from every possible angle. But other times you don’t. Other times you only discover a band exists about 24 hours before they’re due to play, but they sound good, so you go see them play upstairs in Whelans.
When this happened with the Mae Shi, it started a long, fruitful relationship with the band and even wove a new strand in the spider-web of vague ‘types’ of music I spend time finding out about. It happens at things like HWCH and other festivals a lot too. But it’s still great, in the same way that meeting someone new and interesting is great: you can’t anticipate it happening, but when it happens, it just makes sense.
So there was Double Dagger. There’s only three of them, a drummer, a bassist and a singer. It’s actually visually jarring to see a band without a guitarist or at least a keyboardist, like you’re looking at the skeleton of a band, missing the bits that normally make melody or texture. But they don’t need that.
They go with the loud-quiet-loud formula. Nolen Strals, a man who chooses to perform without his very thick prescription glasses most of the time, talks the verses while the bass and drums hang back a little. He literally grabs members of the crowd to tell them things, whilst singing. “The stage is a lie”, he says at one point, in the kind of weary way you’d say it if you’d been saying it for a decade and no-one had believed you yet. Then a pedal is stepped on and the bass becomes what three guitars are for Built To Spill. Or maybe not.
They make lots of noise, but there is never a note wasted, because there can’t be. One guy (Bruce Willen) is responsible for all of the music except drums at any given time, and because Strals might not even be singing a melody at any given time, this means everything follows him. It’s the power-trio thing taken to the next level. It could fuck up badly, but it doesn’t.
The songs are imperatives to do stuff, all about wasted time, boredom, death and repetition. They work. Not many people saw Double Dagger in Dublin, but if everyone who did kicked everyone except the bassist, drummer and singer out of their band, we might have the start of something a bit weird, at least.
Guess who was filming it.
(honorary mention to Guilty Optics, who were pretty good too)