“We should probably explain the gorilla on stage,” said Murder By Death frontman Adam Turla in his smooth, whiskey-soaked voice. As it turns out, the man in the gorilla suit who strutted across the stage before the Indiana natives was their manager. After spending years working with the group, they repaid him in buying him a gorilla suit on his birthday (the day of the show) and allowing him to drink Hennessey and play solitaire on stage throughout their set. Turla warned us that anyone aspiring to such a position has been given a spoiler alert.
The night began with a toast to the band’s drink of choice in “As Long As There Is Whiskey In The World,” off Good Morning, Magpie, and it was met with many a fist pump. It was a mix of attendees—all ages and scenes—and it was more of a bro fest than I had expected.
“A Masters In Reverse Psychology,” encouraged the crowd to “keep kickin’ back those whiskey sours,” to which none objected and which also incited a mosh pit. Not a traditional one that’s all pushing, survival of the fittest and praying that you don’t fall while raging, but more like put your arm around your bro and drunkenly stumble into the group of bros next to you. It was more like a drunken pirate ship than a fight club.
Though the first half of the show included newer works among more familiar ones like “Fuego!,” the second half went hard, causing a frenzy in the crowd and forcing Turla to throw back his head as he held out long, passion-driven notes. Cellist Sarah Balliet clearly took her playing serious, as she never smiled during the music, but such concentration must have worked as her playing was flawless. Who knew the cello could be so badass? Bassist Matt Armstrong was effortlessly cool and laid-back, showing how much fun he had playing with a smirk, but never breaking character. Though the whole group made its energy clear through its craft. Drummer Dagan Thogerson’s energy was the most obvious, especially when he cut off Turla’s song introduction because he was too excited to play.
This was not Thogerson’s first time on stage that night, as he joined opening act Buried Beds on its final song. This five-piece from Philadelphia proved its versatility with every member playing multiple instruments from drums, to violin and even a doorknob giving the band’s music a polished yet DIY feel. Fake Problems, a group that seemed to make the sounds of Grease more suitable for modern day, followed up and heightened the energy of the venue with songs like “Heart BPM” and a cover of Bobby Darin’s “Dreamlover.”
As the members of Murder By Death took one last shot of whiskey and the gorilla began to run low on Hennessy, the night ended with an encore of one “nice song” and one “drunken revelry song.” The crowd surprisingly calmed down for said nice song, “Foxglove” before diving headfirst into its antics once again and rekindling the drunken bromance.