Strange Birds + Grandpa vs. Prowler + Dead Sara = The Best Rock Show I’ve Ever Seen

Dead Sara - Ottobar, Baltimore, 8/5/16
Dead Sara – Ottobar, Baltimore, 8/5/16

Ottobar in Baltimore is not a large venue, but it is the perfect venue to see three high-energy bands leading up to Dead Sara, who have rapidly become one of my favorite bands. I listen to their two albums, 2012’s Dead Sara and 2015’s Pleasure to Meet You on repeat in my car. After seeing them for the second time last night, I cannot overstate how powerful and invigorating their music is. But more on that another time.

Strange Birds - Ottobar, Baltimore, 8/5/16
Strange Birds – Ottobar, Baltimore, 8/5/16

Last night’s show was amazing not only because Dead Sara is an incredible live band, but also because the two bands who opened for them set the tone for the night.

Strange Birds, a band from Baltimore whom I now feel compelled to follow, opened the night with a heavy pop punk sound. Lead singer Warren Thompkinson’s voice growls over the microphone like a drunken bar brawler who just downed a pint of beer – which is perfect for their music. Heavily distorted guitars and pounding drums carried a set of uptempo songs that got the early crowd moving and plenty warmed up for what was to come.

Grandpa vs. Prowler - Ottobar, Baltimore 8/5/16
Grandpa vs. Prowler – Ottobar, Baltimore 8/5/16

The second opener, Grandpa vs. Prowler, was too in sync, too well practiced in live performance to be just a group of friends who decided on a whim to go on a two-week national tour with Dead Sara. But that’s exactly what they were. Featuring actors Danny Masterson (of That 70’s Show) on guitar and Michael Peña (of many films) on drums, the seven-piece rock band from L.A. had me convinced that they had been playing together for years.

However, after talking to guitarist Chris Wadhams a bit after the show, we found out that Grandpa vs. Prowler was just a group of friends. They elected to use a two-week vacation from their lives to cram onto a tour bus with their close friends Emily, Siouxsie, Sean, and Chris of Dead Sara, and play a whirlwind of shows along the East Coast. They’re playing in New York City tonight. Wadhams will evidently fly home after that to return to his regular 9-5 on Monday.

And Dead Sara played an awesome set in front of a hungry, unhinged crowd, including a punk anthem screaming “Fuck you Donald Trump!” It was like a rally to unleashing our collective I-don’t-give-a-fuck and I’m-sick-of-this-shit mindsets. I’ll have much more to say about Dead Sara’s music in the coming weeks.

I don’t understand the lives these people live, but their vacation made for the best damn rock show I’ve ever seen. I’m currently trying to find the best way to follow Strange Birds – I can’t wait to see them again.

Steve D

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