Sometimes costumes, makeup and theatrics come off as a gimmick that overshadows the music, an ill-advised affectation. But when Deb Demure of Drab Majesty took the stage at the Larimer Lounge Sunday — looking like a combination of the most androgynous era of David Bowie and a vampire or Celtic shaman — the black rays painted from the eyes to the cheek gave a vision of a dark horizon, a black sunrise in reverse. Appropriately, the performance hinted at the dawning of a new day.
With white shirt, dark pants and boots, Demure, a towering figure on stage, looked like an unconventional religious figure from a part of the world where civilization is ancient and its mysticism steeped in even more ancient ritual magic. Even the name Drab Majesty suggests the imagery and ideas present in the works of Decadent authors like Oscar Wilde, the godfather of glam rock's aesthetic, and J-K Huysmans, Wilde's more occult-oriented informal tutor in literary darkness. It was definitely a look for the season ending on Sunday with the Day of the Dead, yet Demure's image was not without humor — including a "666" affixed to the bottom front of the guitar. After all, if you can't crack a smile with this stuff, you're probably missing the point.
Complementing this image was music that traded in lush atmospheres and echoing yet gritty soundscapes, like a combination of Red Lorry Yellow Lorry's cavernous depths and the Chameleons' bright, soaring, emotionally charged melodies. All those sounds coming from one gender-ambiguous musician was a fascinating dynamic and contrast; Demure used the classic Romantic disordering of the senses to expose the audience to a greater understanding and acceptance of music that might not otherwise find a wide audience. And by taking that a step further by blurring the lines of basic identity, Demure's performance was more than just a rock show. It really was like one of those rituals Demure has been attempting with Drab Majesty, opening your mind to more possibilities of what a rock show can look like and what it can sound like; it can also break down the binary thinking that has rendered so much music safe and easily marketable because it falls into distinct yet artificial and narrow categories.
And Demure was in good company with shoegaze/post-punk/no-wave local openers Voight and bluesy, Americana death-rock tour headliners King Dude. If this wasn't a wave of the informal movement sweeping the American underground, it sure felt like one — and swept the audience away.
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Bias: Drab Majesty's 2015 Careless is easily one of the top ten albums of the year.
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Random Detail: Ran into Keith Curts of Echo Beds and Tiana Bernard, formerly of Hot White, at the show.
By the Way: Voight just released an excellent new cassette single with the songs “Shadow” and “Excision” that you can get here. King Dude also released a worthwhile album this year: Songs of Flesh & Blood - In the Key of Light, which you can also get here.