The young Latino couple from San Antonio started making out hard during the intro chords of “Information.” They jumped up and down, singing along wildly to “Bug Eyes.” They looked on with expressions of vague familiarity during “Whoa Is Me.” And they seemed to not understand why a third of the crowd went nuts during “Lechium.”
These two kids, barely old enough to drink, in their matching aqua blue t-shirts, were clearly The Pariah, the Parrot, the Delusion-era Dredg fans. And the thing you gotta love about Dredg, the artsy and experimental California alt-rock quartet, is that it doesn’t matter what era you came to be a fan—they’ll always play songs from your favorite album.
If your favorite Dredg era was the late ’90s when they were TOOL-influenced rockers with a penchant for heavy chords and weighty concepts, you’ll get a taste of that on their current tour. You’ll also get songs from their U2-tinged 2005 pop-rock turn, Catch Without Arms, as well as their 2011 guitar-eschewing Chuckles and Mr. Squeezy.
On Friday night, Dredg’s 16-song set list was about evenly split amongst the band’s five studio albums. To my taste, their Catch Without Arms material translates to a live setting the best. Songs like “Planting Seeds” and “Not That Simple” are built to fill a large room with towering tremolo-picked walls of sound and memorable sing-along choruses. And the crowd seemed to be as evenly split as the material played. It made for a whirlwind show where there wasn’t one moment of downtime, because there was always one contingent or another geeking out over a song. I hadn’t listened to El Cielo or Leitmotif in ages, so seeing “90-Hour Sleep” happen unexpectedly five feet in front of me was a nostalgic treat. And their newest songs worked live as well, though they required guitar assistance from Ben Flanagan of openers The Trophy Fire—the first time I’d ever seen Dredg as a quintet.
The Dear Hunter, meanwhile, proved they have their own hardcore devoted fans. The Rhode Island sextet also played liberally from its wide catalog, including songs from the much-anticipated Color Spectrum project (which the band was selling on CD and vinyl at the show).
Fans and Dear Hunter newbs alike enjoyed the bigger, anthemic songs, though proggy moments like the opening of “The Church and the Dime” were greeted warmly as well. The bluesy guitar solo intro and the warm, hazy percussion and keyboard backing sounded Pink Floyd-ish until that big chorus came in to remind you this is indie prog from the Alt-Press generation: “Breath in! Breathe oooooouut!” And on a 100-degree night in Austin’s sweatiest outdoor venue, who can’t relate to that sentiment?