September 26th, 2012
The Dirty Three are not your traditional power trio. The Melbourne, Australia trio consisting of Warren Ellis (violin), Mick Turner (guitar), and Jim White (drums) have made distinct instrumental post-rock that contains elements of jazz, classical, and indie rock. Two/Thirds of the Dirty Three are from Nick Cave’s band, the Bad Seeds, and much of the same spirit you get with Nick Cave: manic, primal, and deeply sorrowful music. While the band has been around almost 20 years, I was just introduced to the band a week earlier by a friend with the band’s music quickly convincing me to take on the concert at Lincoln Hall this past Wednesday. What I experienced was a band and show that is truly one-of-a-kind.
The heart and soul of the band is frontman/violinist Warren Ellis, who is best described as a complete wild man. That is not the description you usually get with a classically trained violinist, but no other violinist plays like a metal guitarist, spits, howls, and gypsy dances their way around stage like Ellis. Ellis seems like some crazy hybrid of 19th century violin virtuoso Paganini, Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson, and the brute force of Neil Young. This makes for a completely compelling sight especially when mixed with Ellis’s grizzled, caveman look. Rather than the Devil going down to Georgia like Charlie Daniels suggested, I’m pretty sure that the Devil actually went Down Under to give Ellis his violin skills in exchange for his soul.
Adding to the wildness of Ellis was his storytelling. Since the songs themselves don’t have any words, a seemingly drunk Ellis explained each song with outlandish detail before each song including talks of Mark Zuckerberg as “Satan”, psychedelic trips as Bono’s hemorrhoid, and life in the “Valley of Pauls”, a dream world Ellis created where in his mind Paul McCartney, Paul Hewson (Bono), Paul Newman, and Paul Gadd (Gary Glitter). While many of Ellis’s stories made little sense, it did point to what I think would be a brilliant album idea. I would love to see someone put out any album where they say what the song is about in the first 30 seconds, followed by the song itself with no words. Not sure why no one has ever tried this, but I think it would be pretty brilliant.
Being unfamiliar with most of the Dirty Three’s catalog, it’s hard for me to get too much into song by song beside listing my highlights at the end. On top of Ellis, Turner and White added incredible depth to the band’s music, with White particularly being one of the best drummers I have seen in quite some time. The range of textures he would provide and how much the songs bounce around yet stay in step is a testament to how good of a drummer Jim White is.
Dirty Three put on a captivating live show and some pretty strong studio work for fans of Nick Cave or anyone who are fans of jazz, classical music, or experimental rock. I recommend giving them a shot if they come to your neck of the woods.
Can’t Miss: “The Pier”, “Sue’s Last Ride”, “Sea Above, Sky Below”
Can’t Hit: none