Groundbreaking Detroit band Death lives again to reclaim its place in rock history (Will's Pub)

by

THIS LITTLE UNDERGROUND
Death - TAMMY HACKNEY
  • Tammy Hackney
  • Death
There have been some nice instances of important but overlooked bands finally getting their due over the years. But few are as righteous as Death (Feb. 13, Will’s Pub), who’ve recently become perhaps one of the greatest history-righting rock stories of all time. Emerging from the Detroit underground that was coursing with the blood of the Stooges and the MC5, these three pioneering brothers, by dint of both their place and race, should’ve been etched in the seminal and absolutely essential proto-punk chapter in the history books. Instead, their stars were crossed, and despite some pretty major interest, they went nowhere and folded in 1977 right before punk erupted and changed the world. But these guys were doing it way before Bad Brains.
Death at Will's Pub - MICHAEL LOTHROP
  • Michael Lothrop
  • Death at Will's Pub
Fortunately, their place in the music canon has now been restored, thanks primarily to excellent indie label Drag City, who brought the band from footnote to headline beginning in 2009 by finally giving proper release to their 1970s recordings. Death has since reunited (minus the late David Hackney), gotten the documentary treatment (2012’s A Band Called Death) and released new music (2015’s N.E.W.).
Death at Will's Pub - MICHAEL LOTHROP
  • Michael Lothrop
  • Death at Will's Pub
After an unlikely climb from an abyss of memory and time, they finally made their Florida debut. Like most of the world, I never saw Death’s original lineup with band visionary David Hackney, who died nearly a decade before they reformed. In his stead was guitarist Bobbie Duncan – a bandmate of the other two Hackney brothers (Bobby and Dannis) in reggae act Lambsbread – who laid down the licks respectably.
Death at Will's Pub - MICHAEL LOTHROP
  • Michael Lothrop
  • Death at Will's Pub
The rhythm section of Bobby and Dannis, however, was O.G. With it leading the charge, the pulse of Death is still alive with all its economy, kick and clarity. Right there, in that room, it was vintage Detroit brought back to miraculous life.
Death at Will's Pub - MICHAEL LOTHROP
  • Michael Lothrop
  • Death at Will's Pub
The show was a monumental opportunity to see not just living history but history reclaimed. For underground music heads, it almost doesn’t get any more significant than this. Fortunately, there are a lot of us in Orlando, enough to pack the room with respect, raptness and full appreciation of the momentousness of the occasion.
Death at Will's Pub - MICHAEL LOTHROP
  • Michael Lothrop
  • Death at Will's Pub
Death at Will's Pub - MICHAEL LOTHROP
  • Michael Lothrop
  • Death at Will's Pub
But the vibes coming off the stage were just as beautiful. The players beamed with the joy and gratitude of guys who’ve been granted a second, even bigger lease on artistic life and are taking a victory lap they probably never thought they’d see.
Death at Will's Pub - MICHAEL LOTHROP
  • Michael Lothrop
  • Death at Will's Pub
Death at Will's Pub - MICHAEL LOTHROP
  • Michael Lothrop
  • Death at Will's Pub
Thankfully, black punk isn’t such a unicorn nowadays, as the great annual Afropunk Festival attests. But it’s not been historically common. And back in 1973, it was practically revolutionary. Had that bit of history on Death been duly marked all along, think about how much more interesting and advanced punk would be now. Luckily, a more chromatic new era is on the rise right now, and Death can be counted in it as both a reinstated historical cornerstone and a living part. Sometimes the cosmos is just, if a little late.
Death at Will's Pub - MICHAEL LOTHROP
  • Michael Lothrop
  • Death at Will's Pub
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This Little Underground is Orlando Weekly's music column providing perspective, live reviews and news on the city's music scene.

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Email Bao: baolehuu@orlandoweekly.com





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