Sunday, October 18, 2009

Dead Man's Bones - Live in DC

The weather outside of Washington DC's, 6th & I Street Synagogue, was horrific - freezing temperatures, cold rain and flooded streets. Inside, however, was a different story. Hundreds of fans packed into the hundred-year-old building in downtown DC to see indie-dreamboat, Ryan Gosling's, new - just in time for Halloween - death/ghost obsessed band, Dead Man's Bones.

The opening act was a talent show that included magicians, mentalists and belly-dancers, which might have been entertaining if any of the performers had actually spoken into the microphones so that the crowd could hear them. Adding to the irritation was a ghost, donning a cowboy hat, who served as the host of the evening, announcing each new performer in a terrible Mexican-accent, and doing his own acoustic rendition of Madonna's, "Like a Virgin," that might have been funny if he actually knew how to play guitar. Given Gosling's willingness to embrace his own lack of talent in interviews describing the project, the crowd was beginning to worry what we had gotten ourselves into for the evening.

Alas, Dead Man's Bones took the stage with the Howard Gospel Choir (who were decked out like ghostly white-hooded monks) and quickly put all doubt to R.I.P. The band, who had been advertised more or less as duo, appeared with several musicians (all in front of a neatly lit haunted house/graveyard scene) creating a sound that was both full and varied. Despite often labeling themselves as goth-folk, Dead Man's Bones come across more like a doo-wop 60's girl band who just happen to be singing songs about zombies and tombstones. The few times the guitar was out of tune, or the gospel singers missed their cue, came off as more charming than anything else, and the entire evening seemed like a rollicking, old-fashioned Halloween party.

It's hard to imagine listening to most of these songs, in say, July, but the mood inside the synagogue last night matched perfectly with the spooky weather on the streets. Gosling clearly views his work with Dead Man's Bones as a labor of love and not just a goofy, Hollywood actor vanity project. It will be interesting to see what ultimately becomes of this project (will there be a follow up album next October?) but this is certainly one of the better actor-turned-musician works to date and destined to become a Halloween classic.

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