Murder by Death is a quartet from Bloomington, Indiana whose music is an unusual stew of gothic Americana, punk, rockabilly and Tex-Mex instrumental sounds – a band whose taste runs along an axis stretching from Joy Division to Calexico, ending in a series of vaguely apocalyptic concept albums.

For their show at Mavericks – a boxy club stripped of all furniture except for the bar and a table-chair combination for the ticket-taker to sit at – they were accompanied by local combos Sadie Hell and the Murder Plans.

Sadie Hell is primarily the work of one man, Ben Welland, and a revolving cast of drummers and guitarists as well the occasional bongo player or saxophonist. Since their regular lineup included a cellist for a long time – a feature shared by Murder by Death – as well as a similarly sinister lyrical outlook, it was little surprise to see them as an opener.On this occasional Welland was aided by his regular drummer, his brother on guitar and a saxophonist. They played a capable but short set, ending with their popular audience howl-along, ‘The Wolf Can’.

The Murder Plans may well have been selected for their name along, since the quartet’s music – a wistful but energetic amalgam of British indie rock circa 1985 – makes them better suited to open for a band like the Wrens or the Wedding Present. Sonic incongruity aside, their set was well-received by an audience that was breaking the 100-person mark.

Then it was time for Murder by Death to sing their songs of death and drinking – “All the good stuff” as baritone singer Adam Turla put it.

While the band’s lyrics paint an unrelentingly bleak picture, between-song banter painted a more jovial picture of a group willing to confess their love for Spinal Tappish animated show ‘Metacopalypse’ (“We’ve watched it about 10 times through in the van”), joke about their tendency to give songs long unwieldy names and debate the pro and cons of waking up covered in vomit (cellist Sarah’s raised eyebrows plainly conveyed she was more on the con side of that particular debate).

They also have a sentimental side it seems, playing ‘The Big Sleep’ by request for a man and his fiance (granted, it’s about a man on death row ...).

After a stellar set, Murder by Death concluded with a solo turn by Turla, singing ‘Shiola’ and a furious instrumental number.

The road-seasoned band performed show No. 1,000 shortly before their Canadian tour, and it showed in their tightly wound performance.

Murder by Death Set List:

Dead and Gone
52 Ford
A Masters in Reverse Psychology
Steal Away
The Big Sleep
Brother/Killbot 2000
The Devil in Mexico
Comin’ Home
Dynamite Mine
Until Morale Improves
The Beatings Will Continue
Spring Break 1899



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