Baltimore trio Double Dagger died on October 21, 2011 with a final, hometown show at the Ottobar. Now, with If We Shout Loud Enough — a documentary on the band’s last few days that aims to recreate the experience of watching a Double Dagger show from the pit — its entry into the punk rock time capsule is complete.
“I think it captures that energy and that spirit really perfectly,” said former frontman Nolen Strals. “I’ve seen a lot of documentaries on different bands, but this is the only movie that I’ve seen where it actually feels like you’re in the audience, you’re right there getting hit with elbows and stage diving.”
During its nearly ten-year run, Double Dagger specialized in a distinct, minimalist style of punk rock: just bass, drums and a lot of noise. The nucleus was Strals’ lyrics, full of wry wit and existentialist dread that sounded like epic prophecies when delivered in screaming form.
The group is releasing If We Shout Loud Enough — which derives its title from their throaty, death-defying anthem “Vivre Sans Temps Mort,” also the opening song at the Ottobar show — in conjunction with a final, from-the-grave album titled 333 this Saturday for Record Store Day.
It’s a fitting end to a much-beloved act, one that became a source of pride and appreciation for Baltimoreans. The band even attests that without the city, things would have turned out much differently.
“I don’t think Double Dagger would exist without Baltimore because Baltimore created the set of circumstances that brought the members together,” said Strals. “I think it was a big inspiration to the way we operated and it served as the inspiration for several of our songs.”
The band members have kept busy without Double Dagger. Strals and former bassist Bruce Willen are graphic designers; they run a business called Post Typography whose past high-profile clients include The New York Times. Strals also leads punk outfit Pure Junk and Willen is in Peals with Future Islands bassist William Cashion. Former drummer Denny Bowen is the guitarist and frontman for rock band Roomrunner and he occasionally makes a guest appearance in the touring band for fellow Baltimorean Dan Deacon.
With so many obligations, Strals insists there are no plans to play together in the future. Life can always change, he said, citing the unlikely possibility of a benefit show to help if any of them fell deathly ill. As of now, the band is over for good. Coming to terms with that, though, is still a tough pill to swallow.
Strals said it’s the little things that make him miss Double Dagger.
“There’s this instrumental song called ‘Neon Gray’ and any time it was part of our set, I always got really excited because for that song, I could just stand over to the side and just watch those two guys play and I just thought it was so perfect,” he said. “At the last show, I teared up once or twice but the saddest I got was [watching] them play that song.”
For senior anthropology and Spanish major Tyler Brock, who saw the band four times, it was the raw energy that made the live experience transcendental.
“[I’ll miss hearing] ‘No Allies’ and ‘The Psychic’ because those songs are gnarly to begin with and people would just lose their s--- when they played those,” Brock said. “Every show, guaranteed.”
He also feels the band will always be associated with the entity that birthed it: Baltimore.
“They were always pumped to play Baltimore,” said Brock. “I always had to respect that because you get a lot of other bands go play D.C. or go play New York. But Double Dagger kept the majority of their shows right around Baltimore.”