Oh Death, where is thy sting?


Saturday, 6pm, Orange Stage

Death comes but once in a lifetime, unless you're a stand-up comedian, and granted, the Hackney brothers are funny.

"We live about 15 miles east of Burlington, [Vt.], mainly because Burlington has a noise ordinance," reveals drummer Dannis (pronounced Dennis) Hackney. "That doesn't work well for musicians who play loud rock & roll, so we had to move out into the country. Out in the country ain't no noise ordinance."

Noise ordinance, hilarious. Austin doesn't know anything about that ....

In early 1970s Detroit, neither did David, Bobby, and Dannis Hackney. The Motor City's music ordinance boasted Stevie Wonder to the Stooges and all points between.

"And here we are in United Sound Recording Studios, bumping elbows with people like the Funkadelics, Bootsy Collins, the Dramatics, Gladys Knight, Marilyn McCoo, and Billy Davis," reels off Bobby, the bassist, singer, and primary songman in Death. "You've got a couple engineers who'd recorded all these great groups, like the Rare Earth, the Rationals. Bob Seger had done a number of sessions at United Sound. So they really knew the rock sound.

"At the time we were signed up, it was '75, and the whole rhythm and blues thing, you know, the Gamble & Huff scene out of Philadelphia, all that stuff was happening. But to the engineers who had worked those rock bands in the mid-to-late Sixties, we were kind of a breath of fresh air, because we gave the equipment a chance to breathe, if you know what I mean [laughs]."

Breathe with the scabrous politics of the MC5, the ground-floor punk of Iggy Pop, the back-alley soul of the Temptations. Love's Arthur Lee would have moved to Detroit to double-bill with Death. The 26 minutes on Drag City's February 2009 revelation, ... For the Whole World to See – the band's debut some three and a half decades later – prove that Death is, in fact, a singular experience. It came for David, the trio's Pete Townshend, as lung cancer in 2000.

"David wanted to spin death from the negative to the positive," explains Bobby about the group's then-notorious moniker. "He said: 'Man, death is just a door. No matter who you are, you have to go through this door.' It really connected with rock & roll at the time. We got on board. David was in the process of writing rock operas around the whole concept."

Did David find that door at the end?

Bobby: "I think he did."

Dannis: "I know he did."

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