I’ve made no secret of my admiration for Los Angeles’ own Dead Sara — currently touring in support of their self-titled debut album — so when the opportunity came to catch the band opening for Chevelle at Club Nokia, I jumped at it. The chance to interview the Emily Armstrong and company ahead of the show — well, that is just the icing on the cake.

Dead Sara is not the first band on the bill tonight. That honor falls to another LA quartet, Blowing Up the Moon. Their music is a faithful throwback to the early-90s grunge explosion that the band members look to have been born toward the tail end of. Josh Conway’s animated drumming is the highlight of the set, though Andrew Stogel’s lead vocals are worth a listen for fans of Layne Staley who can’t stand that William DuVall upstart.

Dead Sara opts to open their set with the slow burn of “Sorry For It All,” Siousxie Medley’s clean fingerpicking accompanied by Emily Armstrong’s plaintive vocal. These complementary elements — the backbone of the band’s sound — gradually increase in volume and immediacy to heavy chording and full-throated caterwauling, respectively. Bassist Chris Null and drummer Sean Friday authoritatively anchor the song, which isn’t even given the chance to fade out before Medley’s guitar kicks up a powerful stomping riff, transitioning slickly into “Test My Patience.” Armstrong’s raw, seismic voice seems liable to blow out Club Nokia’s PA at any moment, and by the end of the second number the scattered yells of “Chevelle!” that could be heard as Dead Sara took the stage have been silenced. The crowd now seems to be entirely on board, and Armstrong responds with an enthusiastic “Fuck yeah, LA!”

The band tears through four more songs — including “Lemon Scent,” a personal favorite of mine that absolutely kills live — before closing with “Weatherman,” the lead single off their album. Heads begin banging around the club the second the song’s driving, primal riff begins echoing off the walls, and Armstrong enlists the Dead Sara fan contingent that has apparently congregated by the stage to turn the song’s chorus into a classic rock star call and response. The band leaves the stage to thunderous applause, having successfully converted a fresh batch of fans.

As for the evening’s headliners, frankly Chevelle’s energy quotient is only a fraction of what Dead Sara brought to the stage. The band’s instrumentation, however, is crushingly heavy — all the more impressive coming from a three-piece act — and highlighted by some chunky, palm mute-heavy guitar work from frontman Pete Loeffler. The band opens with “The Clincher,” the lead track off 2004’s This Type of Thinking (Could Do Us In), to enthusiastic roars from the crowd. Other highlights include the title track off last year’s Hats Off to the Bull, as well as a couple of numbers from the band’s best-known record, 2002’s Wonder What’s Next, “Send the Pain Below” and “Closure.” (The latter song sports a monster outro riff that is my favorite thing Chevelle have ever written.)

The band opens their two-song encore with another track off that album, “The Red” — which Loeffler begins solo before being rejoined by bassist Dean Bernanrdini and drummer Sam Loeffler — before closing out their set with “Face to the Floor,” the lead track off Hats Off to the Bull. Chevelle is one of those bands that basically writes one song over and over, but it’s a pretty good song and the crowd that filled Club Nokia to see them files out into an uncharacteristic Los Angeles downpour completely satisfied.

More info on Blowing Up the Moon

More info on Dead Sara

More info on Chevelle

Photography by Christine Perez