Going into the Cat’s Cradle Back Room on August 9, I had absolutely no clue who I was there to see. I had just listened to a few of the band’s songs on the ride from Greensboro; that was about the extent of my knowledge. I also knew the name of the band was Slaughter Beach, Dog. The name is what piqued my interest, I heard it and immediately thought “F*ck yeah.” What I did not know was that the headliner of this band was none other than Jake Ewald from Modern Baseball, which I also know absolutely nothing about, but I had at least heard of them. The bassist from Modern Baseball, Ian Farmer, is also a part of Ewald’s group while Modern Baseball continues their hiatus; though they are all due to perform in a one off-show with musician Daniel Johnston as a part of his final tour.
Modern Baseball’s hiatus has allowed Ewald to take a different, much needed approach to his music and help him get past the dreaded writer’s block. He decided to create a sort of narrative, revolving songs around characters or a specific situation allowing him to blend fiction and reality. What came from that decision was a ten track debut called “Welcome.”
Ewald manages to create this melancholy yet romanticized world. He continues to create these imaginary worlds within the confines of his music in his newest EP, “Motorcycle.jpg.,” with stories and characters that make you wonder what he takes from his past and what he creates from scratch.
Slaughter Beach, Dog is traveling with Shannon Moser who hails from Modern Baseball’s hometown, Philadelphia. Her style is similar to that of Slaughter Beach, Dog with her harsh folksy sound and gritty realistic lyrics. Also traveling with the band is Downhaul, an indie rock/emo band that originates from none other than Greensboro. Their sound reminds me of Blink-182’s early work in a good way.
Compared to the Melvin’s show next door to the Back Room, Slaughter Beach, Dog’s audience was tame, with a decent but not nearly as rowdy crowd gathered around the stage. It would have been tough to find a spot where you could not directly see Ewald’s face underneath the beard and canvas ball cap he was sporting that evening.
The smaller venue added a personal touch to it that a band as emotional as Slaughter Beach, Dog calls for, kind of like being jammed in an underground bar in Greenwich Village back in the beatnik days when Bob Dylan was still fighting for his bread. Ewald began by playing some songs off “Welcome”. The first song that jumped out at me was “Jobs.” The steady beat of the drums and the opening lyrics, “My friends don’t need jobs, cause they all sell drugs and spend their Friday nights setting fire with their college degrees,” caught my attention right away. After that, I was intently listening to the stories he told.
“Politics of Grooming” is another one of Ewald’s darker songs. He talks about a child who finds his alcoholic mother dead on the floor after she tucks him in like any other night. Even though these songs are not complete reality, there is still a grim truth that comes from Ewald’s voice that shoots a chill down your spine as you watch him perform. Most of Slaughter Beach, Dog’s discography so far contains sad stories, though they did play a few songs from their new EP, “Motorcycle.jpg,” and those songs while still sad, had more of a rock n’ roll vibe than “Welcome.”
Leaving the show, I was more impacted by Slaughter Beach, Dog’s work than when I originally listened to it in the car. Since then, I have been listening to “Welcome” non-stop and eagerly await their upcoming full album, “Birdie,” which will be released October 27.