On June 15th, 2000, The White Stripes performed at Jay’s Upstairs in Missoula, MT, just five days before the release of De Stijl, the band’s second album. Today, June 20th, 2020, De Stijl celebrates its 20th birthday, and though The White Stripes are no longer together, the band has released footage of “Death Letter” from that Jay’s Upstairs concert, which will also appear in the Third Man Records Vault Package #44.
The 2000 Son House cover came before frontman Jack White would add a Big Muff to his pedalboard, and well ahead of its emergence as a fan-favorite live track, way back in the days of $1.25 pints of Pabst and Hi8 camcorders. This rendition of “Death Letter” featured Jack’s high-pitched vocals, percussive guitar picking, and Meg White‘s steady drumming, typical of the band’s minimalist garage rock and blues sound at the time. While not as extensive as later versions, which usually include an improvised intro and some segues, Jack took the solo to familiar places thanks to his trusty DigiTech Whammy pedal and high-gain tone.
Though the band had only been together for a couple of years at this point, Jack and Meg’s chemistry is palpable. A simple glance or an audible “Hey!” from Jack signals the changes, which sees Meg follow in lockstep. The crowd seems entranced throughout the grainy video too, and while there are not many people at the tiny venue, it certainly foreshadows the arenas that followed in later years. Watch the classic footage below and head to the Third Man Records website for more information on future vault releases.
The White Stripes – “Death Letter” – 6/15/2000