Leave it to a band called The Damn Truth to tell the damn truth. Their version of the modern, pandemic-constrained album release party is an experiment. Picking and choosing their way through a variety of approaches, the band unfurls a distinctive experience that defies categorization. Mostly a livestream concert, the brief interludes between songs during the Now or Nowhere half of the set let the audience get “backstage,” and the camera angles and movements during the performance at times take on the feel of a music video. The result is unique—good unique.
This novel format works because of the band and its musicians. More than just musicians, this is a quartet of humans who are compelling both on-stage and off. Sure, the short docu-clips between songs have been selected for their intrigue and insight into the band’s new album, but not a single word or interaction feels forced. For The Damn Truth, “This Is Who We Are Now” serves not only as a title for a hit single, but also a basic tenet of their lives. They say as much to start the stream.
Interweaving these candid moments without derailing the flow of the set takes a deft hand and a sizable dose of restraint. To make it work, the segments never linger and always provide value. Tidbits about producer Bob Rock’s influence on a track, or a quick look into Lee-la Baum and Tom Shermer’s relationship connect with the audience and help the audience connect with the music. It’s interesting to hear about the genesis of PY Letellier’s “Shot ‘em,” and listeners will never hear “Full on You” in quite the same way after hearing Shermer reveal that he had set out to write a song in the style of The Kinks.
Surrounding the behind-the-scenes cuts, the songs of Now or Nowhere explode with genuine urgency as the band runs through them, in order, with maximum energy. Feeding off of each other, Baum, Shermer, and Letellier seem to share a telepathic connection, sharing a riff or a mood with nothing other than a glance. They love playing together and they believe in the songs that they play.
The music itself is excellent. For all of the charisma and visual appeal, the showmanship never outshines the music, and much of that is due to the quality of songs and transparency of sound. Stripped down to their basic composition, each of Now or Nowhere’s nine tunes would work with only sung melody and sparse accompaniment. Live, drenched in warm, overdriven tones and with Baum singing as if her life depended on it, they reach another level. Without too much deviation from the album versions, viewers are treated to renditions that can best be described as Now or Nowhere in Technicolor.
Pulling this fervor into the second half of the show, The Damn Truth revisits a few of their older tracks through their present artistic direction. Bandwagon fans only familiar with the group’s latest release might be surprised to discover that the team has been writing and playing high quality music for several years. A bit more riff-driven and perhaps a bit rawer, these choices display a very gritty, punchy take on hard rock that draws from a couple of decades. Although often overlooked due to the larger-than-life personas of Baum and Shermer, Letellier and Dave Traina (drums) put together some incredibly thick, throbbing rhythms that drive the songs forward. “Broken Blues” and “Devilish Folk” come close to eclipsing the stars of the latest album to no one’s dismay.
At 90 minutes, the taut, edgy performance leaves the audience wanting more, and the band makes sure to express their excitement at soon being able to deliver that. Their optimism, like their music, also feels genuine.
By itself, the product approaches perfection. There are no weak songs or moments, and the highpoints are too numerous to list here. This livestream debuts Now or Nowhere in the best way possible and doubles as an introduction to the band for newcomers. It can be enjoyed on a few levels.
Incidentally, The Damn Truth may have stumbled upon a new way to release albums in the internet era. With the exception of in-person intimacy, this experimental format equals and even outperforms the traditional drop party in most areas. Combining the raw energy of a concert with near-studio precision strikes a nice balance with which to reveal new songs in a live setting. Little excerpts and snippets of uncontrived conversations provide just enough context to the album without veering into documentary territory. Most importantly, broadcasting worldwide expands the show’s reach in a way not before possible.
Whether or not this can work for other bands is unknown, but it’s a raging success for The Damn Truth. The Now or Nowhere Worldwide Record Release Experiment should not be missed by any rock fan, as it is easily one of the best livestream performances to date.
* This Is Who We Are Now
* Only Love
* Everything Fades
* The Fire
* Look Innocent
* Full on You
* Shot Em
^ Pirates and Politicians
^ Get With You
$ Too Late
^ Broken Blues
$ Kinda Awkward
^ Devilish Folk
^ Heart is Cold
*Denotes songs from “This Is Who We Are Now” (2021) // ^Denotes songs from their second album “Devilish Folk” (2016) // $ Denotes songs from “Dear In The Headlights” (2012)