DEAD MOON is one of the greatest bands of all time. Period. That's it.
The Oregon trio broke up in 2006, but we haven't had to say goodbye entirely. Married couple Fred and Toody Cole formed a new band, Pierced Arrows, and last year Dead Moon—with drummer Andrew Loomis—reformed for a gig at the Crystal Ballroom to celebrate the venue's 100th anniversary. The three repeated the trick just a couple of weeks ago. It didn't seem like we were ever in serious danger of losing Dead Moon—until Fred underwent heart surgery last year. He's since recovered, although his long-term hearing loss makes it unlikely for Dead Moon or Pierced Arrows to become full-time concerns again.
For the uninitiated, the 2004 documentary Unknown Passage covers all the bases, but doesn't fully diagram the power and impact of the band. The Coles were, and are, complete DIYers, right down to the house they built themselves in Clackamas. There's a mono lathe in one of the spare rooms—the same one used to cut the Kingsmen's "Louie, Louie"—and they released a string of LPs and 7-inches more or less on their own. Their most devoted fan strongholds are in Europe, particularly in the Eastern Bloc, where Dead Moon's unremittingly raw take on American blues and punk must have seemed, in the early '90s, like an earth-shattering jolt of the happiest kind.
Unknown Passage is crusty, unglamorous, and intimately genial, just like the band. Loomis comes off as Dead Moon's patron saint, a damaged, boozy presence whose sweetness is counterbalanced by his punchy, to-the-point drumming. And the Coles seem like pioneering homesteaders flashed forward 175 years and handed buzzing plugged-in instruments. While Unknown Passage frames the Dead Moon story, tonight's real centerpiece is the stripped-down set Fred and Toody will perform after the screening. It's not time to consign this wonderful music to the history books—not yet.