By Joseph Tingle
On Thursday, dredg kicked off their northeast tour at the Theatre of Living Arts in Philadelphia, paying special homage to their historic album El Cielo. Celebrating the tenth anniversary of the masterwork and the release of a new vinyl edition, dredg treated their fans to a rare full-length performance of the album.
From the collective anticipation felt as the first “Brushstroke” sounded, to the flawlessly executed “Same ol’ Road” and always vindicating “The Canyon Behind Her”, dredg gave a top-notch performance that was always well-executed and managed to reproduce a majority of El Cielo‘s various sonic characteristics. Watching guitarist Mark Engles furiously work his pedal board to recreate the various weird noises of the album was an absolute joy. So was witnessing supporting troubadour Benjamin Henderson provide a shamanistic drone over ” An Elephant in the Delta Waves”.
There were, of course, some drawbacks. While vocalist Gavin Hayes gave his best performance in several tours, his slide guitar was tragically low in the mix, leading to some awkward moments in songs like “New Heart Shadow” and “Canyon”. The awkwardness continued on through the final notes of “Canyon”, when an obviously inebriated fan jumped the barricade and almost joined dredg on stage, turning the album’s fulfilling finale into a humorous moment.
But, all things considered, dredg could not have given a much better, or more intimate, performance of what many fans consider their masterpiece album. And, despite the usual security lapses and sound-marring issues that always seem to haunt the TLA, Hayes was in good spirits throughout the night- bantering affectionately with the crowd, and even appearing after the show to take pictures and give autographs to everyone in the audience.
When El Cielo was released in 2002, it was the curious new work of a little-known West Coast band. While the album would become hugely influential, the draw and mass-appeal of dredg would remain somewhat of a secret thing. Dredg would go on to release other albums, but their listeners would never change, always being made up of a rare minority of music lovers who appreciate experimental, well-crafted music that is boundless in its creative scope. While Thursday night’s turn-out was proof that dredg’s appeal remains much the same, it was also a sign that, maybe, some things are better that way.