“I've got a disease and the only cure is more piano,” Ryan Gosling half-joked into the mic as he raised one eyebrow and took a seat before a vintage, deconstructed piano. The sound-man obliged and the audience cheered for the full-bodied, moody organ sounds that are signature of Dead Man's Bones' self-titled debut.
Gosling and Zach Shields took the stage as Dead Man's Bones Saturday, June 26, for the first of two consecutive, all-ages dates at Eagle Rock's Center for the Arts, performing alongside the Silver Lake Conservatory Children's Choir for a night of foot-stomping, goth-gospel mixed with the baroque pop of the Zombies.
That, combined with several dance worthy do-wop songs left us perplexed as to whether we had stepped into some sort of haunted mystic revival, or rather a junior high sock hop. Think Tim Burton and Woody Guthrie teaming up as the creative directors behind a 7th grade talent show.
Prior to the show, Gosling and Shields told the L.A. Times that they hope “to cultivate [these shows] into an ongoing series of vaudeville-style special events featuring a rotating cast of characters, music and supernatural art forms,” as well as up the ante on audience interaction, taking an otherwise traditional rock show and turning it into an immersive theatrical experience full of wonder and mystery.
“We're treating this particular show more as a party — a birthday party vibe, or a dance party with kids,” Shields told the Times. Indeed, it was standing (or sitting) room only for fans decked out in '50s rockabilly attire, packed in amongst popcorn and cotton candy machines, a counter full of free cupcakes, black and white balloons, and a face painting station where people could have skulls painted onto their cheeks.
In between songs there was a Bob Baker Marionette show, psychic demonstrations and magic acts by performers such as harpist Tina Lenert and the wild-card eccentric Rob Zabrecky. But unfortunately for us skeptics, and definitely for those in the front row, much of the magic wasn't very magical at all as the strings and slips of hand that make the illusions seem even remotely possible were clear as day.
Revealed magic tricks aside, the biggest upset throughout Dead Man's Bones' set was the plague of delays and false starts in between songs that yanked fans out of the requiem-like dream-state that any repeat-all play of the band's album can dip a listener into.
Or, perhaps it wasn't an upset at all. Perhaps the band was just breaking the fourth wall, and stubbed its toe while fumbling through a postmodern attempt at smashing through the looking glass that separates Gosling and Shield's supernatural ballads from the audience crammed against each other on the venue floor.
Dead Man's Bones set list:
1. “Lost in the Night”
2. “In the Room Where You Sleep”
3. “Paper Ships”
4. “Name in Stone”
5. “Never Grow Old”
6. “Dead Hearts”
7. “Business Trip”
8. “My Body's a Zombie for You”
9. “Pa Pa Power”
10. “Beyond the Veil”