Photograph by Katrina Wong Shue
The crowd was still and waiting at The Phoenix, as they waited for Death Valley High to make their way onto the stage. As soon as the band came on, singer Reyka Osburn struts his way in front of the band like a possessed substitute teacher with the band behind him standing still. The music began, very guitar driven in tone, and the band came alive. As soon as the band started swaying and bobbing their heads, Osburn began going ballistic. His skill as a frontman are clearly good, as the audience, many unsure of who this band even were, were slowly becoming more and more invested. The crowd became less still, the cheering became louder, and the band on stage relished in this increase of energy themselves. Most of this was thanks to Osburn’s confident leadership skills as he demanded the new fans to participate anyways, even if the songs were unfamiliar to them.
Death Valley High played the odd cover, including the comical choices of Billy Idol’s Rebel Yell and THAT song from the stripper scene in Lost in Translation, yet they played these songs with dead seriousness. Suddenly, Death Valley High became a show of sarcasm and tongue-in-cheek humor rather than immaturity and conformity. Instead of just hearing the guitar-driven songs that focused more on tone than rhythm, the songs, and band, began to make more sense. The standard drum patterns and the simpler bass lines started to make more of an impact. The show sneakily pulled into a new gear just by being a bit silly. Clearly this band has thought of ways to win over new listeners, because, by the end of their set, the crowd was cheering for Death Valley High just as much as they cheered for Osburn announcing that the headlining band Mindless Self Indulgence were on next.
For the duration of the set, everyone in the band was in full motion and was having fun. Osburn would do the typical routines any good frontman should do (interact with the crowd, jump off drums and amps, come back on stage with a stylish hat and so forth) and then he would try his own tricks (one of which included him passing the microphone side to side past his mouth: something that sounded neat but looked very bizarre). For what it’s worth, the band tried, and they clearly succeeded in branding their band name into the heads of all of us (especially since they got the crowd to chant Death Valley High for quite a long time). Death Valley High were what you’d expect from a good opener band: The talent and energy of a new group that still have a lot of space to grow, but the impact of making the entire night even better than just having the headlining act be good on their own. Death Valley High probably sold quite a few albums at the merchandise counter, and they certainly didn’t take what they had, and what they can easily get, for granted.