Dead South, Deer Ticks, and Turtles

Red Rocks

Anybody’s bet on a place not to find me would be at Red Rocks Amphitheater, just down the hill from where we live, during a rock concert. We have been there three times before, but never for a packed house performance as we saw the other night. Our friends came upon some free tickets, and offered us two, and because they are really nice people and fun to be with, we accepted.

We met an hour before showtime and drove on down, and tailgated. I was not aware that this is a big thing for rock concerts. I have walked through the tailgating section before Denver Bronco games, and it is a big deal. Many people who tailgate the Broncos do not attend the games. For us, given our age, it was sandwiches, banana bread, and one beer.

The venue that night was folk-bluegrass, mostly. I like acoustical music, and really enjoyed Mumford and Sons before they chose to go heavy metal. The engineering behind filling an auditorium like Red Rocks, an outdoor amphitheater, with sound, requires tremendous amplification. “Acoustic” might be a stretch. It is not “unplugged” in any sense. It is extremely loud.

Here is the venue:

Dead South

Dead SouthThis is a Saskatchewan band with four members, pictured above. They played for an hour. The place was only half-filled and filling up during their set. I enjoyed them. They interacted with the audience, and if I can say so as a guy, have great sex appeal. I could not understand one lyric they sang, but that would be true for the whole evening. After they played, they joined the crowd in the seats just below us, and the man on the left, Danny Kenyon, had girls tripping over each other to make their way to him for a photo and a full-frontal kiss. He’s a very sexy man, but the others are no slouches. Nate Hilts, second from the right, is usually the lead singer, and carries it well, strong voice and charismatic stage presence.

Many years ago, and I mean many, I attended a concert in Billings, Montana that featured Smith as the opening act, followed by Iron Butterfly. I did not know that the custom for rock concerts was to be drunk, high, or both, such a straight-laced guy I was and am. So while the opening act, Smith, was pretty good, Iron Butterfly and their signature act, In a Gadda da Vida, with its 15-minute drum solo, in my stone-sober view, sucked. I said so on the way home, and was never again asked to attend a rock concert. I once attended a celebration hosted by some Unitarians as they welcomed in the winter solstice by banging drums. That was far, far better than In a Gadda da Vida, in my opinion.

That’s just an outside view of rock concerts in general – talent is where you find it, and these guys, Dead South, in my mind, stole the show.

Deer Tick

Deer Tick

My first piece of advice would be to change the name, not that it isn’t clever, but because when you put it in a search engine, many other things come up first. This was a classic rock band, as I saw it, with rhythm guitar, lead guitar, bass and drums. The lead singer, seen on the right above, is John J. McCauley. The people behind me suggested he might be Tom Petty’s bastard child. Like Petty, he’s a weak singer.

The bass player, not pictured,  left an awkward feeling. He was never near a microphone, and had to mostly just stand there and play his bass, allegedly the easiest-to-learn of the amplified instruments.

The drummer, Dennis Ryan, was a very good drummer, and made the set for me. I like good drums (I am a Hal Blaine fan going back to the time when I did not know I was listening to Hal Blaine).

At one point, Mike, my friend sitting next to me, suggested this was the worst band he had lever heard play. I mentioned Iron Butterfly, but he said they were in fact very good. He saw them on numerous occasions. I only saw them once and was stone cold sober, so defer to his judgment. Deer Tick, individually talented men, are not a good performing group. They failed to connect with the very young and getting-more-stoned-and-drunk audience. Too bad.

Trampled by Turtles

T bt T

Finally, the main feature. This group has been around for years, has many big hits and has sold millions of songs in the digital age. Of course, I had never heard of them. Interestingly, they hired four classical musicians, two violins, a viola and cello, who did a soft play-in at the beginning. They promptly drowned them out. The classical players would return at various times in the act, but could barely be heard above both the crowd and the heavily-amplified group.

The lead singer for this group is Dave Simonett, and I could not help but notice that he sounded a lot like Paul Simon. Each of them have soft voices, though Simonett projects better (and with great effort). Paul Simon always hit his notes, part of his appeal, but his voice lacks resonance and range other than a falsetto now and then. Simonett lacks that ability.

The group is seven abreast against the audience, and features some very good mandolin playing by Erik Barry. Their songs mostly sounded alike to me, my problem I suppose, as the audience members knew the words. The light show that accompanied the music has to have enhanced the chemical highs in the audience.

We left probably three songs before finale, to beat the crowd. The stadium was full by this time. We all agreed that the best part of the show was the very beginning, Dead South.


I cannot “woo.” My vocal range is ends many decibels below. In watching TV shows, I notice that in older times audiences laughed and applauded, but never wooed. These days it is nothing but woos, mostly unearned by mediocre performers. In addition to the-woos, there is also the piercing yelp-woo. A young guy behind us would let go with one of those now and then, and it would, no kidding, pierce my ear drums and make me jump. I cannot imagine the ability to generate such noise with mere vocal chords. Is it damaging? Is he hoarse the next day? My right ear still has a high-pitched ring.

Even as the music was, aside from the charisma of Dead South, pretty ordinary fare and unmemorable, at least 60%, maybe more, of the appeal of a live rock concert is the ability to get high, get drunk, and pretend that you are listening to a recorded performance by the group. (Live performances rarely measure up to studio-recorded music.) With Trampled by Turtles much of the audience was singing along to the non-melodic songs and unfathomable lyrics. I realized that they were reciting the group’s recorded music, overdubbing and enhancing it with pot, meth and beer. I suspect the combined total of all of this is a buzz not unlike that produced by cocaine. These kids were flying high above the amphitheater.

Music has power. I know this, I do not demean it or the people who enjoy it. I have long suggested is that its real value in terms of controlling the herd is that its lyrical messages go straight to the brain while bypassing any internal filters or editors. Much of our lax sexual mores and drug-soaked culture can be traced to music, which over time has pushed us further and further into a freedom frenzy. Over the decades it has slowly moved us from straight-laced and conservative to what I can only think of as extremely decadent.

What I saw and experienced in this concert was a mostly young crowd high on pot and meth and drunk on top of that. The combination of that, the loudness of the music, and the light show produced a orgiastic frenzy. The stadium was in bedlam, inhibitions set aside, and no one embarrassed by the spectacle.

I realize as I write that that I am no different now than when I sat through the Iron Butterfly drum solo. I am what they might call “uptight.” I don’t let go, don’t get high or drunk, though beer has at times been my best friend. I don’t blend with a baked crowd. The music has no effect on me, in fact, has never been a big deal to me. I have liked a lot of it over time (though I avoid oldies), but for the most part enjoy quiet solitude when alone, conversation when with friends and family. Music means little or nothing. I can live without it.

I am the last person who should be reviewing a Red Rocks rock concert.

17 thoughts on “Dead South, Deer Ticks, and Turtles

  1. Great review! I don’t think reviews should be allowed only by people who are music nerds. This was quite refreshing (though I can’t join in the praise of how attractive that first band looks 😂). I like your observation about how applause has changed. I used to say that I felt like a seal clapping and going ‘oo-oo-oo’ and that it always felt kind of dumb.

    I used to be incredibly passionate about music but have had my reservations about some aspects of it, the inciting of drug, alcohol etc abuse being one of them. For me, the music, and dancing to it was usually enough to give me a pretty good high, but it also marked me as a crazy person, because how could I dance with such abandon and enjoyment without being drunk or stoned..? (I’m not a professional dancer or trained in any way, just love to move to good songs).

    These days I’m having a hard time with what’s popular because much of it is so disturbing on an energetic level that I feel you HAVE to be drugged yo to even be able to stand it. Leads me to frequently request changes at my local coffee shop, a place where I feel people should be able to relax and chill instead of getting fear and aggravation pumped into them.

    Have you come across any of the reports about how rap/ hiphop music was / is being created to trend, and to what ends that was done? Connection between music industry and private prisons?

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      1. Interesting that the authors seem to have bought in to “terrorism” as being real and are definitely bought in on climate change, victims of the very spectacles they describe.

        Something I noticed at a recent family gathering, the iPhone photo. People have practiced, from a young age, their best pose and automatically assume it. The smiles are fake, the mood of the gathering interrupted by the damned photo. I think the whole procedure is a royal pain in the ass, but it is now part of our daily life. I think back in the 60s and 70s, when cameras were few and not as intrusive, we often got awkward photos of people because they had not studied how they looked on camera. It was more like real life.

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        1. No one investigator/author can possibly understand the scope of our engineered existence. Terrorism and climate change have been unusually popular with the MSM, meticulously staged, and therefore judged “true” without question by most of the population occupied with the day-to-day anxieties and the realities of being so busy chasing The American Dream. Most of us forgot to smell the roses long ago. Soon it will be a crime to publicly criticize terrorism, climate change and Israel.

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        2. That is so true, Mark. We used to be our “Natural selves”. But today, we must “pose in a way” to be “accepted in a way” that is “accepted in society today”…. whatever the hell “that’s suppose to mean”…I don’t know. But like you said, There was a time when we were “awkward …But at least we were “REAL”.

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  2. Thomas Sheridan, a mixed bag ala’ Tarpley, Farrell, MMG, etc. once expressed his dismay at a Pink Floydian’s concert (Gilmour?) when he watched most of the large audience recording the stage show on their devices rather than actually watching the concert. He claimed that for these kids reality was now an option. I’d say it’s now an app.

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  3. Bluegrass is making a “Yuge” comeback. Possibly since it’s good music to smoke pot to and the legalization frenzy fits right in is why it’s being noticeably pushed. Been wanting to see the Dead South, even a local semi talented bluegrass band from my town is getting national attention, if they were a rock band they would go unnoticed, although some of their parents are well to do. And as we’ve learned you don’t make it in the biz unless someone has connections. Record labels and concertpromoters aren’t waiting around for garage bands to get their act together. I’ve heard Red Rocks is a great place to see a concert.

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  4. Speaking of reviews… I just saw Tarantinos new flick Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Very underwhelming imo. Some interesting moments, kind of intriguing details throughout… But I’m not sure what if anything it adds up to.

    It rehashes some of the Manson/ Tate story, from an oblique angle (following on recent Manson documentary/ movie on Netflix or someplace.) Heavily blackwashes hippies again… To what end? Booster shot? Why?

    Maybe with all the pot legalization they want to nip hippie culture in the bud?

    Many of his movies have high highs and low lows (in terms of craft and filmmaking).. This one is middle of the road, or perhaps leaning towards the low side, with its cartoony violence in questionable taste at points.

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  5. Adding… By cartoony, I don’t mean the violence itself, which is persuasively brutal, but the characters are very white hat/ black hat. The heroes are painted with some layers and depth, but the villains are mostly contemptible, dehumanized and let the audience indulge their taste for righteous vengeance. Except that Tarantino pushes the vengeance almost to a point of sadism and torture. So to go along with him you have to view some categories of people (Nazis, hippies) as inhuman bugs, with no depth or dimension beyond that label. People who chose or happened into the wrong “cult” I guess.

    The heroes in this latest flick are the “beautiful people” of the Hollywood hills, or their lackeys, who are likeable, or at least sympathetic. Their righteous vengeance, given these class divisions, thus has a kind of fascistic shading— a term some of the hippies even use in discussing actors and the media they grew up on.

    But where I’m going with all this is that I know a lot of young “liberals” love Tarantino’s work, and I’ve already seen them rave about this one on Facebook. So it’s weird their taste for this material, given their pro-gun control stance, professed hatred of violence etc. There’s little to no gunplay in this movie, but brutal violence nonetheless. And yet the liberals approve. Apparently they accept this portrayal of hippies as sort of loser rejects of the working class— not a group they wish to identify with.

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  6. Mark it’s like a slap in the face living realities we’re curious about yet will never truly get the chances necessary to live it like others we see living it realizing maybe we missed something but it’s too painful to admit. Where living vicariously is impossible. Rock concerts are like venus fly traps for those coming late to the party Mark. Yes your review seems fed by one who worried about being seen out of place which activated fight or flight defense mechanism mindset. Mark here’s the key to neutralizing fear being spotted out of place or insecurity you’re not cool because you don’t party or sing Woo well when surrounded by others who don’t share your plight. Smile. Yes that simple. Keep smile on your face. Give people thumbs up or nod at them for no reason other than to acknowledge their existence. Tell someone their beer looks delicious asking them what booth sold it. Don’t put down what you enviously know nothing about like drugs and music. Remain positive and open to appreciating and valuing those who are glad you are there who are not judging you because you can’t sing Woo or because you don’t know where to stand whether to sit how long to clap or sway to the music or whether to untuck your shirt wear your hat backwards or whether to buy any merch. Merch people are also the best to engage with quick inner sanctum questions which you clearly have many. Being upset at those who put in the time to feel like somebody earning their stripes making or enjoying music attending concerts appearing being their element do so because it makes a positive difference to them for their own reasons in their otherwise uneventful or challenging lives. If you ever go to another concert act like you’ve been there before high five a few people just because and watch others without them knowing exuding the pure joyful emotions they previously kept inside them now being let out for themselves and themselves only for their own reasons in their own ways doing you no harm all wanting to have a good time assuming you there for the same however you choose to find it.

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  7. Nobody cares about Tarantino/ hippies? Okay, I’ll stick to the point of the post here : )

    QUOTE:
    “Music has power. I know this, I do not demean it or the people who enjoy it. I have long suggested is that its real value in terms of controlling the herd is that its lyrical messages go straight to the brain while bypassing any internal filters or editors. Much of our lax sexual mores and drug-soaked culture can be traced to music, which over time has pushed us further and further into a freedom frenzy. Over the decades it has slowly moved us from straight-laced and conservative to what I can only think of as extremely decadent.”

    This goes all the way back to Plato’s “Republic” (whenever that was written.) His perfect society would ban musicians and poets… lol. Seems unrealistic! Not everyone is a philosopher…

    Incidentally Bloom discusses this quite a bit in that book I mentioned. In his critique of debased American culture, especially youth culture.

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    1. Music has power, which is why it is not left to chance. No one becomes a famous musician by accident, and it should be no surprise that behind the “stars” are studio musicians, song writers and behavioral psychologists. Attitudes and beliefs are formed by the music of the era.

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  8. I went to the Red Rocks Park once to walk with my husband (there was not a concert going on). The place smelled like urine and throw-up. The energy of the place felt off–what can I say, I am sensitive to energy. Personally, I would never go back there–for a walk or a concert. In my opinion, TPTB trashed a beautiful location for what is basically a form of modern art. And, not one guy in Dead South looks appealing to me. Deer Tick looks disturbing with the clown make-up. I do not like celebrity worship, attractive or not.

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