Scenes From Saturday Night's Death Show At Dada.
There's a scene in Back To The Future in which Marty McFly rips through “Johnny B. Goode.” It's a scene that's rockabilly before rockabilly technically happened. The crowd's loving it. They're twisting and shouting, and Marty is having the time of his life being a rock star at a prom in the '50s. A fellow then picks up the phone and tells his cousin he has to listen to the song. The cousin is Chuck Berry.
Towards the end of his performance, Marty gets a little carried away and starts sliding across the stage picking through metal riffs. He gets up and kicks over an amp. The crowd and the band alike stand slack-jawed. Confusion and terror take over the pure mirth that filled the space just moments before. Marty hands the guitar to a bandmember who looks at the guitar as if its a tool of black magic. It technically is.
“I guess you guys aren't ready for that yet,” Marty says, before adding with a cocky little smile, “but your kids are gonna love it.”
In its essence, that's the ethos of Death, a proto-punk band from Detroit. After checking out the Who, the band turned its funk music into a fast and aggressive form of music that we all recognize as punk today. This was in 1971, two years before CBGB's opened up in the East Village. Three years before The Ramones got together and Blitzkrieg Bopped their way into our hearts. Six years before Bad Brains figured out how to tune a guitar into an audio manifestation of the middle finger. Before punk was born, there was a trio of three black brothers from Detroit, and they called themselves Death.
In 2009, the label Drag City found the band's recordings and released them. What followed was a national rediscovery, a critically acclaimed documentary and now a tour. We had Karlo X. Ramos on hand at Dada to take photos of Death, a band that people weren't quite ready for in its original run.
But their grandkids, they sure do love it.