Saturday, January 31, 2015

PREVIEWS of COMING ATTRACTIONS - Early Feb 2015

I am still easing my way back into live events and although I don't have a blow-out schedule, there are some special shows coming up in the next two weeks. Here is but a few choices for you...

Natalie Prass comes to the DC9 this Wednesday, February 4th. Take a look/listen:


Drew Gibson has a new record out and it is a good one. Join him and a packed Iota club to see what it all sounds like live on Friday, February 6th.


The Chris Robinson Brotherhood flies into the 9:30 Club on Wednesday, February 11th.


My all-time favorite experience from Baraboo is seeing Phox, which has now surpassed visiting the Circus Museum in that small Wisconsin town (of course that visit was almost half a century back). They are at the 9:30 Club on Thursday the 12th.


JMSN gives you some blue eyed soul with a modern flair on a lucky Friday the 13th at the U Street Music Hall.


Doomtree invades the U Street Music Hall the night after on Saturday the 14th.

Friday, January 30, 2015

RECORD REVIEWS - JANUARY 2015

Got a lot going on, so let's get some reviews posted before the weekend starts, to give you some ideas of future listening... Oh, and for those that care to get even more of me (provided I figure out how I will use it), I am now on Twitter at twitter.com/DC_ROCK_LIVE

And before we get started, I wanted to alert everyone to a cause I'll be writing about further for the next couple of days (and maybe more depending how it goes). But basically, if my fellow DC readers think this photo below is good development for DC, then they should do nothing. If like me, whether they have a direct interest as friends of mine do or just whether they are troubled by the full impact on their community, I hope they will investigate further at: Stop the Pop!

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JONATHAN BADGER “VERSE”
This latest release from the fine Cuneiform label features a fascinating guitarist who somehow manages to walk a terrain between edgy guitar music and flowing dreamy ambient soundscapes. There are ten songs which show distinction and separation, but should be listened to as a whole to let the full flowing effect settle in. I particularly enjoyed Nimbus which showed up in the middle of the album and pulled everything together and included some ethereal backing vocals along with some Magma-esque progressive moves. This is a strong album for anyone who is interested in the more experimental side of music, but it will also pull in a lot of rock fans who would like to try some new waters but don’t want to go too far in the deep end.

COTILLON “COTILLON”

LA’s Jordan Corso is the main guy behind this and he assembled some interesting musicians for this record, including some Modern Lovers. And there is some Jonathan Richman style here in these bouncy pop ditties. There is a lot of variety in the arrangements with the core spirit contained in the vocals being the steadier connector between the songs. Like the Modern Lovers, you may not like every song, but there are the gems you will return to along with songs that you are pleased exist in the universe, even if you don’t want to return to them as often. But for me, I quite enjoy this.

Songs to try first:

Gloom - The opener shows the quirky style in a smooth setting with the somewhat upbeat style despite the title and shoe gaze subtleties.

Asteroid - Some fascinating stylistic and sonic shifts in this song that are pretty amazing even in their seeming simplicity.

Infection - Strong rock sound with slacker vocal style still is a fine combination when it clicks like this.

THE DIVISION MEN “UNDER THE GUN” 
This is deep distant folk music with that Leonard Cohen styled spoken sung lyrics. Fortunately there is some haunting female backing reminding me of some Pearls Before Swine songs that did that style so well. Delicate acoustic guitars are punctuated with the pings of glockenspiels, but it is the vocals that you follow in your journey through these songs. It is a slow and measured journey. I am highly interested in psychedelic folk music and I look for real magic that ensues from songs such as these. I think we are bit short of magic here, but that still leaves many lovely songs, that work better in small doses than as a whole.

Songs to try first:

Boomerang - The mood is established early with the stark musical setting, and vocal offsets.

Lay it Down - The female lead vocal goes an even more haunting direction atop guitar and piano.

Dying to Get By - The extra jolting guitar at the outset and stronger singing gives this album a pleasant burst.

DUKE GARWOOD “HEAVY LOVE”
Deep bluesy folk, although not terribly traditionally sounding is the boilerplate for this album. The key is the delicate and somewhat spacey electric guitar, picked in a folk manner but sounding a bit more otherworldly. He mixes tones and styles well, which makes for some riveting music. At times, the vocals let me down as he does not smooth out his tones to match his music. With greater care there, this could be a powerful and consistent album. But there are still some strong tunes to explore.

Songs to try first:

Sometimes - The opening cut establishes the mood that will prevail throughout and pulled me in.

Burning Seas - Guitar sound had me drifting off comfortably.

Snake Man - What does a Snake Man sound like? Like this.

DREW GIBSON “1532”

This is another fine album from one of DC’s better singer-songwriters. Drew Gibson has been touring some over the years, which is great as the rest of the country should take to his excellent timeless music. He has stuck close to his family for these songs as he has explored his past and present thoughtfully and poetically in the stories contained in the lyrics. Musically, he is as warm as ever with such a pleasant manner of hooking you in with varied guitar styles and his embracing voice. His acoustic guitar and vocal work are always a treat just by themselves, but this album like his last adds plenty of full band arrangements to different degrees to keep things fresh throughout. This makes for a lovely listen late at night with the lights low, but should be listened to many times over in any environment you find yourself in. You will gain much with the experience.

Join me for the live set at the Iota this Friday, February 6th. He's always good live.

Songs to try first:

Bettie-Jane - What a fabulous opener with a great folk rock song and modern snappy syncopated rhythm.

Vincent Henry Valentine - Fine musical slow build to follow the fine lyrics.

Hallow Flood of Wounds - Even as this rocks out some, it flows with mannered conviction.

H.HAWKLINE “IN THE PINK OF CONDITION”
Quirky vocals over sharp cutting guitar passages and punchy rhythms. There are days when I may get a little impatient with easy going music like this, but today is not one of them. Instead, the lilting melodies, steady simple rhythms, and playful vocal work all has an innocent charm that steadies out this odd brand of pop music. Give it a spin, it could really give you a lift.

Songs to try first:

Sticky Slithers - Good opener even if the main riff reminds me of Wishbone Ash’s ‘Blowin Free’

Moons in my Mirror - Sharp pop rocker that oddly worked, I know not how.

In Love - Perhaps if Syd Barrett had brightened up and tightened up…

HOWLIN RAIN “MANSION SONGS”

The last Howlin Rain album I heard was their live LP which was rocking and pretty intense throughout, while showing off Ethan Miller’s fine songwriting. Well, if you enjoy the song writing, that is pretty much all of what you will get on this spare, stark album. It is not unlike the pullback in the last Nick Cave record compared to his previous two. There is some intriguing sound that works its way into the basic piano and/or acoustic guitar backing on much of this that adds some needed texture. The songs seem a bit toward the Nick Drake side of privacy, so they should hold your interest, especially if you are already a big fan. If not, I would start elsewhere and work your way toward this record. There is a lot to digest, even if it did not fully satisfy me on first listen as much as I had hoped. I will give it future listens and records like this sometimes work there way in over some amount of time.

Songs to try first:

Coliseum - Folk moves with vocals that twist away from the guitar until the female backing pulls it in.

The New Age - Heartier singing in this one takes it out into rocky terrain.

Wild Bush - A rhythm section and cheesy keyboard make this one the most fun cut on the album.

JMSN “Blue”
Christian Berishaj is JMSN and is from Detroit and has ‘associated’ with Kendrick Lamar. Those three clues give you a little idea of what you may expect. The Kendrick Lamar clue invokes quality production imagery and thoughtful arrangements. The Detroit clue is directed toward their rich R&B and soul sounds from Motown and beyond. The third clue is that when a ‘one-man band’ chooses a nom-de-plume to release his work, you can bet there is a modern electronica feeling to some extent. So put all of that together and you have 14 songs of JMSN. There are some excellent sounds and vocal work here. Fans of the genre should dig in and enjoy. I am a tougher sell and I have trouble getting beyond some of the cliches like ‘My Way’ and ‘I’m addicted to your love and I just can’t get enough’,

Give this a shot live on Friday the 13th at the U Street Music Hall. Should be a good crowd on hand.

Songs to try first:

Street Sweeper - Bubbly rhythm and smooth vocals with interesting sonic arrangement.

Waves - Gutsy vocal performance. Some real spark here.

Delay - A bit more energy in this song with what sounds like a mellotron, of all things!

MOUNT EERIE “SAUNA”
When I was younger and spent some time in an actual sauna, I found it interesting, but the exhaustive feeling along with relaxation and borderline uncomfortable heat had me wondering whether I really was enjoying this or not. And now the musical sauna, which starts out with an organ chord for ten minutes as various sounds weave in and out. I thought it may be an instrumental until half way through and vocals snuck into the mix. The drone is nice and the Frippian philosophy beyond guitar is present here and in other cuts. There are 12 songs in all, but it is one long extended dream that sometimes sounds as if it was intended to be a subliminal backing track for Pink Floyd. That is if you take out the noisy bursts of songs like ‘Boat’. That is an arty number that I would have enjoyed in 1978 and it is not too bad now. But it does not quite have the variety of vocal strength or style to fully involve me. But I am happy to have tuned in and sweated it out.

JACK NAME “WEIRD MOONS”

This eight song LP is on the short side in length, but not in content. Jack Name adds a mannered electronica to a classic psychedelic approach and comes up with a decent little album here. There are even some soft and easy pop elements in here along with a light Wooden Shjips jamming approach as well. I won’t try to break out which songs were better as all eight flow by in a steady manner in about a half an hour. And from the song titles, the theme of weird moons is also sustained throughout. This is a good listen and a pleasant stroll through psychedelic realms where you still feel your feet on the ground.

 And the live show could be very interesting. Check it out at the 9:30 Club on February 23rd.

NEW MADRID “SUNSWIMMER”
This seven song album has some really long songs, so you get a whale full of psychedelic music, and fine psychedelic music at that. From the opening chants and building drama to the driving rhythms, they mix it up well. They have a great feel for the material and the vocals pull back a bit to a mysterious and delicate feeling to these songs. As eerie as this can sound, there is surprising amount of warmth due to tempered vocals and some thoughtful guitar runs. I think there may be better records that I just don’t care for, but this is what many would consider a decent record that I will put up in the best of the month category. It is just a matter of style and feel that this band employs so brilliantly here.

Songs to try first:

All around the Locust - Great building tension like Kohoutek, but with trippy vocals like Sun City Girls.

Manners - Starts with a driving Wodden Shjips vibe, but vocals push and pull into fascinating sonic space.

And She Smiles - A good long smile in this 12 minute jam to close out this fine record.

ROUND ABOUT “THE BEST LAID PLANS”
I have seen this local band live many a time in the past few years and it is nice to get a new album from them. It is especially nice as some of the nuances of their pop songs come through so well with this fine production and mix. Nothing fancy, but just a clean presentation of an acoustic guitar where each string comes through with purpose and is offset by some fine electric guitar leads and fills. The rhythm section is balanced just right and the vocals show warmth in each of these eleven songs. Some songs are well constructed pop rocks songs, others are light rockers. There are enough well felt hooks in some of the songs to stand out as solid radio friendly singles (if there was such a thing anymore). Good job here from this solid band.



And take a look at the live show at the Velvet Lounge on Saturday, January 31st.

Songs to try first:

Chasing You - The opener establishes the fine sound components that work so well together in this snappy pop song.

Something’s Missing - A solid pop rocker.

Odds and Ends - REM like rocker with even gnarlier guitar sound.

TY SEGALL BAND “LIVE IN SAN FRANCISCO”
    by Kyle Schmitt
Live in San Francisco retains the energy of Ty Segall’s blow-out garage rock live experience. While Segall’s September set in DC relied heavily on his 2014 album Manipulator, most of this material predates that record. There’s not much variation in these 10 tracks, but they do capture the fiery feel of his live show. “Wave Goodbye” and “I Bought My Eyes” conjure the image of a musician whose most personal moments come when bleeding out through his guitar solos. Very slight credit for bringing someone named Judy onstage after “Feel” to tell the following joke: “Why can’t you play poker in Africa? Cuz there’s too many cheetahs.” That corny interlude doesn’t compare with Segall successfully commanding the 9:30 audience to deliver a crowd surfer from the club’s first rows to the venue’s rear and back again. But perhaps you had to be there in both cases to appreciate the little victories between guitar histrionics.

Songs to try first:

Death – Guitars surge like waves, then crash in a squall of feedback.

Thank God for The Sinners – Vocals provide a sense of purpose and unity to complement the music’s urgency.

What’s Inside Your Heart –  Segall implores you to tell him what’s inside your heart so he can rip that love apart.

VARIOUS ARTISTS “CHARRED REMAINS”
What a pleasant surprise it was to learn that my good friend Bob Moore’s cassette compilation from 1982 featuring some of the finest punk and hardcore acts from the USA. This is the first reissue and they did a fine job with the cover and the full booklet. And what a collection of bands. This was the first place you got to hear two fine DC acts, Void and Double O as well as he debuts of Die Kreuzen, Articles of Faith, and many more. A few barely established bands like Husker Du and Toxic Reasons were the known acts here. But it did not take long before many of these bands became legendary and some of the individuals did great things as well. It was great to hear all of this and the Rebel Truth and Personality Crisis songs sounded particularly excellent (although I had some vinyl issues on the latter cuts—as much as I like the size of the record and the booklet, I still struggle with the vinyl renaissance we are under, but that’s a topic for another time). This was great then and still holds up well for anyone who liked the bands of that era or want to hear the roots of many of the bands they like now. Check this one out at Radio Raheem Records, they already sold out of their first run. They are pressing more so grab a slice of history that even in 2015 you can still jump around the room to.

YOUNG EJECTA “THE PLANET”
I am a hard grader on electronica, but this EP easily gets passing marks. The music is sequencer driven and heavily rhythmic with simple shifts allowing the vocal work to sell the melodies. It is a bit Moroder like with some good spacey effects. It is the vocals that really make it interesting with fine lead singing and some harmonic overlaps which show some careful thought. There are also some sonic shifts and varying emotional tones to keep this interesting throughout the six songs. If you are an electronica fan, you will want to go out of your way for a listen or more.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Wings Denied - Tone - Technicians - Cryptodira -- Black Cat - Jan 23 2015

Cryptodira - The crowd is still filing in, but those of us that here 'early' (9:20) were in for a treat. This twin guitar quartet from Long Island showed a lot of creative flair in their melding of death metal and progressive metal. There are Opeth moves in here and even the vocals have some of the same sharp switches that Mikael Akerfeldt employs. The opening and closing songs were utterly brilliant with a solid set in between. The lead runs in the opener were nearly Ubu like in their oddness and the bizarre double lead done quietly in the last cut was about as dramatic as you can concoct in heavy music. These guys have got some great ideas and have got enough chops to satisfy most core metal fans. If anything, they can try to work on some creative rhythms to match the lead breaks.

Technicians - I know I really enjoyed this local quartet previously, but I was insufficiently prepared for how good they were tonight. Their name is appropriate as a starting point as these guys all know their craft well and put together an intense and heavy sound with both precision and room for the sound to breathe. They remind me a lot of the prog-metal band Kattatonia, but with an infusion of a heavier modern psyche-rock band like Kinski perhaps. There are shoegaze moments, post punk intensity, metal moves, psyche vibes, and a lot of really great sounds that work into smoothly delivered and well constructed songs. I also liked the drumming on the last song, which employed some of the swing that the great hard rockers did back in the day that is sometimes a lost art now. This band are placed well on the bill as they are a perfect transition between their surrounding bands. Technicians? Yes, but with great vision to create a powerful and heavy brand of rock music not seen enough around these parts.

Tone - What more can I say about this local fixture? To no doubt repeat much of what I said in previous reviews, this intense shoegaze styled rock band employs three guitars and a rhythm section that you can not overlook to create a powerful instrumental set that flows by with great drama and majesty. Simply put, if you are a fan of Mono or Mogwai, you should already be a fan of Tone. But certainly make the effort to see a live show as they make an hour long set feel almost therapeutic by the finish. It was a rainy messy night, but there were enough people here at the big stage to make for a memorable occasion.
Wings Denied - We finish this exciting evening with a progressive metal band finishing up an eastern tour back in their home town. It is getting late and some of the energy is sapped due to having four bands with a fairly late start, adding the weather concerns for some of folks here. But the band did plenty to keep the levels in the red with a strong performance of some interesting metal music. I am going to need another show or two to fully pull together their sounds and influences, but that is to their credit as they manage to have some complex moves played in an almost drone fashion of some sort. There are plenty of breaks and the vocal work is clean and strong along the top of it all. This was quite a vibrant night of heavy music that varied along many genres and was just the fix I needed before heading back into my backlog of folk album reviews and lighter rock efforts.

Photo grab of the night: And what better way to finish off a night of heavy and creative music with a completely soft cliche photo which I am totally unapologetic for (as my cat is waiting patiently for me to finish this review)....

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

ShowPony - Caustic Casanova - Wet Socks - Curse Words -- Velvet Lounge - Jan 20 2015

Curse Words - This quartet does the modern punk thing like so many bands that blur together for me. It could have been awfully cliche, but fortunately this band had a couple of strong points. They had two lead vocalists on the guitars who alternated, traded lines, or harmonized to create enough variety in the early songs. The band played quite well although it did get a little too 'same old' with pace and punch as the set wore on. Still, a decent enough band for this style of music and a good way to start off the night.

Wet Socks - Speaking of cliche, I was worried that this would be yet another one of those guitar and drum blues rock duos that may be good, but that we have too much of these days. Fortunately, this Savannah band had the chops to blow the roof off and did it with a familiar yet original style. They reminded me of a couple of the Cramps covering Hawkwind's Space Ritual. It was psychedelic, assertive and so thick sounding, that you certainly did not need other instruments. In addition to both members singing, the real thickening agent was the way the guitarist worked in bass lines into the songs. Francis from Caustic Casanova briefly told me he was sending two channels to different amps and was masterfully working pedals. However it was done technically, it was a great result that created some really fun music that they were able to form into distinct songs, drones, and riffs. Loud and proud.
Caustic Casanova - It has been a while since I have last seen one of my all-time favorites in the DC area, which is ok by me as it has allowed a lot of good things to happen for them. They are signed to Retro Futurist Records and will have a second album out soon. They have done well on some lengthy touring and have gotten all the tighter as a result with plenty of new songs for me as well. And they laid it on thick, fast, and with a more demonic edge tonight. They still have a great psychedelic eound in their metallic approach, but add a lot of distinct personal elements. They even had a guest vocalist (George Burton, I believe) who chipped in by writing some words to a strange instrumental cut that reminded me again of MX-80 Sound (I rarely get to say that, so I keep bringing it up whenever possible). The newer songs are more for fans of Boris, Kylesa and Tool, and many more. I liked how they had a lot more double vocals now with the female voice of the drummer added to the male bassist voice. Although they struggle to get above the pummeling sound, they end up succeeding for me and the decent Tuesday night crowd here. They are hitting on all cylinders now, catch them while you can.

ShowPony - This instrumental trio plays post rock it would be fair to say, although I cringe every time I type that genre label. I actually like post rock music, but it throws off strange connotations that usually do not apply to the bands. These guys rock, they just have more of a assertive progressive approach to it, like stripped down hard prog rock bands. This is angular music that will interest a lot of rock fans who want a bit of variety--especially on a night like this with four heavy bands that were each quite unique, yet contributed to a great night of music.

Quote of the Night: First band before the second song... "Oh boy, I forgot my capo" (but disaster averted as he did a great job anyway).

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Roadkill Ghost Choir - The Jones -- DC9 - Jan 17 2015

The Jones - It has been a while since I have seen this fine area trio that performs blues rock in the manner of the bands of my youth. When done well, this is living, breathing unified music that flows comfortably thorough you. And these guys still have it down and are even more locked in than ever. They have a new album with plenty of new songs to add to their set, although there is still room for a fine cover of Hendrix' Voodoo Child. The bass lines are getting more and more creative, while the guitar work is strong but sensitive. The percussion fills in with comfortable breaks that don't overwhelm but bring the necessary presence in a trio format. Vocals are soft and inviting, with songs you can remember later on. It all works well and there is a big crowd tonight to take it all in. They dug it, I dug it and if you remember California and UK blues psyche-rock bands from 40-50 years ago, you'll dig it too.
Roadkill Ghost Choir - It is probably well that this band is from Deland, Florida which is in between the cliches of Daytona Beach and the strange place that is Orlando. This may have drawn them to explore psychedelic territory as far away from these worlds as possible. And these six guys do a fine job of presenting these explorations in their songs, which range from loose relaxed spacey jams to tighter popsike hook filled tunes. They get almost too soft in the middle part of the set, but come back with a sharp turn into a Long Ryders type heartland psychedelic cut. And then after a few more, they finished with a scorching version of Nirvana's 'Breed' that brought the house down. I invariably enjoy a fine psychedelic set and although this band is not quite at the Jacco Gardner, Temples level, the seed is there and there is plenty to enjoy as they continue to get better and better. They made plenty of fans tonight that will be back the next time they tour through.

Quote of the Night: The crowd was so large, that I had a lot of strangers sitting down in my booth engaging in conversation. It was all good, if not a bit strange at times including this...
"What happened to your finger?"
"What do you mean (I had a band-aid on one that I noticed a half hour later)?"
"What did you do to it?"
"I am not sure, they all seem to work. See."

Saturday, January 17, 2015

French Admirals - Exit Vehicles - Feral Conservatives - Oppo -- Rock'n'Roll Hotel - Jan 16 2015

Oppo - Alas this was not a reformation of one of my favorite Dutch bands Opo, but instead the first of four local bands that I am seeing for the first time on tonight's interesting showcase. This trio is fairly new on the scene and there is a little bit of that start-up feeling showing here. They have it down well enough musically, especially in the bass lines, but they appear to be still trying to nail an identity. When they veered toward power pop where there songs had some hooks, they had just enough energy to make things click. The more standard indie rock songs did not come off as well. The components are here and with more time and effort, it will be worth monitoring their progress.

Feral Conservatives - I was standing in the back area of the club, so it took me two songs before I realized the woman singing was actually playing an electric mandolin and not a guitar. It was not the sonics so much (although that was noticeable when I focused), but I had to look at the size of the people and compare the bass and work out the ratios (which proves why I will never be a good painter in the realistic perspective style). The songs varied with power pop punk energy components as well as more standard pop rock moves. The rhythm section is strong and the mandolin sound can work well enough, although it got a little 'same old' in the middle of the set. Perhaps a few more energized songs like the ones that bookended the set will help with that.

Exit Vehicles - The only quartet of the night features the striking visual of bookend twins on guitar and bass surrounding the drummer and lead vocalist. They start with a thick and quick brand of rock with a fine deep powerful sound where they still manage some subtlety. They move more into more playful rhythms with their subsequent songs and the players all manage them skillfully and emphasize a few welcome hooks as well. The vocals are strong, which you expect with a full-time vocalist. It is interesting to note that there are not any harmonies tonight, which I miss to some degree, but are not essential if you get everything else right. This band did well and pulled the large crowd into their musical world.I would like just a wee bit more power and variety like there was early in the set, but they are still a fine finished product as they are now.
French Admirals - This fairly new trio has plenty of experience in other bands and they show their skills tonight. The guitarist handles the vocals and has some interesting patterns within their solid rock foundations. The rhythm section keeps it solid with a drummer that is able to push the songs forward with just enough edge to get the crowd leaning forward. The bass lines are smooth and fill a lot of space for the guitarist to work around in. The sharper and more nimble they are in their music is when things really click. This was a fine sendoff set to a nice little tour they have set up in the eastern environs. They are working hard and as they continue to write quality songs, they should become a strong presence in the DC scene.

Photo grab of the night... This was from a recent Bert Jansch guitar workshop in England. Bert is no longer with us and since there are always many passings to report, I just want to say that I am happy to see a couple of greats that are still with us and still playing well. Here's John Renbourn and Wizz Jones showing people how its done (over 50 years later into their professional careers)


Friday, January 16, 2015

PREVIEWS of COMING ATTRACTIONS: Late Jan 2015

Here are just a few samples of what is in store for you and me in the next two weeks. There are some fine local band shows to keep your eye on as well (take a peak at the recommendations in the column to the right for the latest. Enjoy!

Thursday, January 22nd is a busy night. I suggest you allot some time for one of these shows:

River Whyless flows to Gypsy Sally's with the excellent Luray opening.


Or try Lia Ices who I saw last year. She visits the DC9 on the 22nd.


Or give Footwerk a workout at the Rock'n'Roll Hotel on the 22nd.


Team Spirit is exuberant at the Fillmore on Monday, January 26th.


And if you are not hitting the B-52s and Dot Dash in Rockville, on Thursday the 29th, you may want to try Zola Jesus at the Black Cat.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Cracker - Camper van Beethoven -- 9:30 Club - Jan 14 2015

Camper van Beethoven - This well received band broke up after a seven year run in 1990 with leader David Lowery forming Cracker which explored a more California C+W sound. But about a decade later, he and other musical cohorts decided it might be time to play some of that unique brand of indie rock that CvB did so well. And a collected assembly of musicians have managed to keep both bands going ever since. Camper van Beethoven have long been my preferred band and it was great to see them play a set that passed the hour mark. It allowed a lot of favorites to be played such as the extremely likable 'Take the Skinheads Bowling' along with the Status Quo song 'Pictures of Matchstick Men' which has practically become one of their own. The sound was on target and the crowd was here early to take in this excellent set. The violinist who also played some guitar and keyboards is the key component that gives their sound a special unique feeling, while retaining comfort. There was even some roots showing toward the end of the set which was a good lead in to Cracker (although one song reminded me of the Decemberists).
Cracker - We have most all the same musicians with the addition of a steel guitarist. There is more keyboards as well to duel the guitars in the lead portions. I thought that some of the recent album had too much steel guitar high in the mix, but that was not quite as much in the live set. Still the playing is fine, but too much in the classic manner, which I just do not handle as well as most fans. But when I focus on the songs, many of them show fine qualities that have made this band so popular over the years. So the fans dug them, as well they should and the musicians had a busy night, but were up for the challenge of double duty with the requisite style shifts, subtle as they are. Most people should feel they got their money's worth tonight, even if they only like one of the versions, no matter which one.

9:30 Issue of the Night: I have long hated those dolls on restroom door identifier for male and female restrooms as I have long been an unpaid usher helping people ensure they are in the right place whenever I am standing near one on the balcony. But last night the upstairs female restroom was closed, so they converted the male one by putting up a sign in front of the doll with just enough light on it to read. I thought it would be worse, but I only noticed one man entering and exiting to a surprised woman that was about to go in. I know you don't like signs much, 9:30 Club, but maybe some real signage is due now and beyond.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

History Repeated - Delarcos - Plurals -- Black Cat - Jan 13 2015

Plurals - This Baltimore quintet has two female vocalists, one on bass and one on keyboards that don't work. There are a couple guys on guitar and one on the drums. Since the keyboard doesn't work, the player says she will sing the parts. Shambolic? Perhaps, but it is all quite brilliant thirty minutes later. The sound is thick grungy punk that succeeds in clarifying itself as needed through interesting guitar moves and intense and creative vocal lines. They remind me of a cross of X-Ray Spex and the Bags with a few post punk moves in the mix. Crazed spirit, Vocal sirens, way cool music here that works with the sizable crowd in the back room. This was a blast and the day I stop liking this is the day I give it all up including a sizable chunk of my record collection. But I can't see that happening when a band like this brings a smile to my face.
 Delarcos - A bit of an all-star lineup where I recognize some faces and get a little info from a scene veteran on others. They have a couple guitars, rhythm section and a full-time saxophone all working to create a loose and dense brand of post harDCore. It's actually more mid tempo punk with a nod toward Flipper. There is not quite the genius of that, but there is a wonderful method to the madness here. This would be less effective on record in your living room, but it is brilliant in a small club. And to quote the next band's vocalist, 'the fun just never ends'.
History Repeated - This band has been a secret weapon in the DC area for some time. Recognition has been a bit slow, but the smart set has always been around for this quartet led by the inimitable John Stabb. Long one of the absolute best front men in DC, he can still bring his half crazed style to the stage. The rest of the band is rock solid with Derrick's guitar moves always bringing an edgy excitement to these songs. The post punk slashing and gnashing create a powerful environment to get lost in for about 50 minutes or so. These guys don't play out all too frequently, so keep your eyes peeled for future shows as it both a chance to see history repeated and even a bit of history created.
Quote of the Night: After opening with some songs of divorce and breakup, John Stabb introduces the next song... "This is a the positive uplifting song about getting married. It's called 'Just Buried'."

Thanks to Davis White for the pic's from the show!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

The New Orleans Suspects - Paul Barrere + Fred Tackett -- The Hamilton - Jan 9 2015

Paul Barrere + Fred Tackett - Lowell George may have died over 35 years ago, but his band Little Feat regrouped and has carried on quite nicely over the years. Two of their guitarists are here tonight, with Barrere being a guitarist dating back to the earliest days and Tackett taking over at the restart. So these guys work together well as there is a variety of electric guitars, some tasty slide runs, and a mandolin for the latter part of the set. They are also joined on keyboards for a few songs at the end, but it is mostly just guitars and voices. The voices are older and a bit weathered but the instrumental interplay works comfortably throughout their 45 minute set. They cover 'The Weight' along with most likely a few other songs more expert in this genre than I will recognize. All in all, it was a fine set to open the night, although even in the one club where they tell people to shut the hell up while the band is playing, the conversation noise was ridiculous to the point where I even told people to keep it down (they moved a few feet over and were only slightly less loud talking about how their jobs were going). I hope this is not a continuing sign for the year.
The New Orleans Suspects - I need a New Orleans fix pretty regularly in my life. Although I don't always have the music on regular rotation at home, when I do spin a Dr. John disc or when it comes to the clubs, it is highly welcome and needed. Fortunately, I have moved to the very back of the crowded club and am sitting by the bar where it is much quieter for some odd reason and can really dig into this music. New Orleans music is like a gumbo with a lot of jazz, blues, rock, and world moves working their way into the mix combining to form something unique without too much footing in any one genre. The band tonight exemplifies this style and even though they have been playing together for a short time, they are talented veterans of the scene. Starting with the rhythm section you have over 30 years each of experience with the Neville Brothers and the Radiators, which is pretty much all you need to know there. Up front you have saxophone, keyboards and guitar trading off the leads in what becomes a mix of loose jamming and tight song structures comfortably mixing in. Ultimately, the cool part is that the band has distinct songs where they manage to vary the sounds and styles so it avoids the feeling of an hour long jam session. The keyboardist went into sharp piano runs and very soft organ sounds. I particularly liked the organ as it was a great counterpoint to the sharper guitar and sax sounds. The band was spot on tonight and I will highly recommend a visit to the Hamilton tonight as they do one more show before heading out for more touring. Just get there early and sit up front with the rabid fans and attentive listeners.

Photo grab of the Night: In honor of my extensive work to organize, research, and price my record collection of over 2,100 discs which will be up for sale soon, I found this...

Monday, January 5, 2015

Top Shows of 2014

I really don't like best album lists, but I don't mind doing the top ten shows reviewed in 2014. I had about 126 to choose from if I counted correctly, which is the lowest in about four years. But it was still a tough choice and I had to leave lots of exciting shows off of the list. What remains is a mix of the old and new, the big and the small, the known and the complete surprises. So without further ado:

10. Lee Bains III and the Glory Fires with Wanted Man at the DC9, July 22nd. I saw the band twice but this one came together more brilliantly than the Black Cat show. Ferocious rock and roll here.

9. Ex Hex, Speedy Ortiz, and Teen Liver at the Black Cat, October 5th. The Merge records representative felt it was the tour of the year, and the show lived up to the hype. This one rocked from start to finish in three distinct styles.

8. Black Angels, Roky Erickson, Golden Animals at the Black Cat, February 14th. Roky is starting to drift a bit more, but his set list was much improved with more Elevators than Aliens, while the Black Angels continue to be brilliant every time through.

7. Ian Anderson at the Lincoln Theatre, November 7th. He was probably better at the DAR show a few years back, but a fine new album and another intriguing set list full of surprises (albeit no Led Zeppelin covers this time) made for an exciting evening.

6. Marissa Nadler, Janel & Anthony at the Rock'n'Roll Hotel, July 8th. Nadler was great again as were local greats Janel & Anthony, but it was Janel's double duty working in both sets that made this a special show.

5. Boris, the Atlas Moth, and Sub Rosa at the 9:30 Club, August 3rd. It is near impossible for me to keep Boris off the list as they always deliver on stage and the Atlas Moth was pretty wonderful, too.

4. Cate le Bon, Kevin Morby, and Pree at DC9, January 15th. Brilliant show from beginning to end with a great local opening band and two excellent touring acts full of creativity and passion. Any one one band this night was worth well beyond the price of admission.

3. Throwing Muses and Tanya Donelly at the 9:30 Club, June 27th. I knew these names quite well, but not their music. Both sets showed me that my ignorance was misspent.

2. Sinkane, Helado Negro, and Kahli Abdu at DC9, October 8th. I think it was the surprise at how all three acts had such creative ways to move me, often using a core style that leaves me so unmoved at many other shows.

1. Second Hand Rose at the Atlas Performing Arts Center, October 10th. Quite simply, I wasn't sure I wanted to go to this but ended up being completely blown away by a unique band that we were very fortunate to have on this continent, even if for just a week. We need more bands with the guts to add glam to their mix.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Badfish - Ballyhoo! - Dale and the ZDubs - Bumpin' Uglies -- Fillmore - Jan 2 2015

Bumpin' Uglies - This is one of those Fillmore shows that I like as they mix some local bands with the touring headliners. And since Annapolis's Bumpin' Uglies spend a bit of time as a touring headliner themselves, this show gets off to a fast start. They do the heavy reggae-rock-ska sound with a leaning toward the rhythm. I liked their slightly heavier sound in a song late on, as that gave a nice jolt of energy and variety. Some of this is 'same old' but the energy is good and they whipped the crowd into shape, so it was a fun beginning. And as they had so much adrenaline going, they whipped through their set so quickly, the guitarist did a solo song for a couple minutes at the end.

Dale and the ZDubs - It has been a while since I last saw this Silver Spring dub-rock outfit, but it was probably wise to do so as their growth is all the more evident. They have taken the basic reggae-rock approach and added more sophisticated rock sounds and style into their songs. The energy and rhythms are still there, but it seemed to take the audience a couple of songs to find the groove. In fact, this was one of the rare occasions that the rear of the crowded room was dancing more than the people packed up front, as the older people in the room connected more quickly. But the kids dug this, too as the six-piece band with plenty of guitar, sax, and keyboards locked in and kept the music flowing. I hope they continue channeling sounds and styles from early rock'n'roll through the various world beats they know well. That will keep them a dance step ahead of a crowded field.
Ballyhoo! - And the third Maryland band in a row also works the rock reggae terrain. I stayed for only a portion of the set, but these guys had the chops and occasionally the song writing stood out. I actually preferred their straight rock blasts a bit more than the quieter reggae portions as they seemed to connect in a more interesting and audacious manner. But they were firing on all cylinders and the crowd was fully engaged from what I could see.

Badfish, A Tribute to Sublime - I didn't stick around due more to my back issues as opposed to seeing a tribute band (I enjoy tribute bands now and then). But I was happy to see the three original bands tonight as the sound was strong, energy big, and songs that were worth listening to as they occasionally moved beyond the simple adrenaline rush.

Friday, January 2, 2015

RECORD REVIEWS - December 2014

ACID BABY JESUS “SELECT RECORDINGS”
There is deep psychedelic resonance throughout this music started from the distorted vocals and continuing through the jangled guitars and twisting noisy leads. Yet the band pulls the volume back at times, to focus on deep dark psychedelic moods as if traipsing through a surrealistic dream. They mix up the backing well, although the vocals stay a bit too distortedly consistent. This is a pleasant little record that keeps things odd and slippery enough unlike some of the heavier psyche masters working the clubs. If you like psychedelic music, you will want to give this a listen and you may just go for it in a big way. If not, it is still cool and worth your time.

Songs to try first:

Night of Pan - Trippier sounds on this one with a nightmarish quality throughout.

Ayahuasca Blues - OK, if there’s a sitar in a song, it will usually make my top three.

All of Your Love - Trippy finish with quiet beginning and shockingly bouncy rhythms.

THE BLIND SHAKE “BREAKFAST OF FAILURES”
Raw crude punk… the very description either makes you run away for cover or come closer to see how sleazy and ferocious this music is. If you approach, you will be rewarded with something that reminds me of the Flesheaters covering Icons of Filth.This band manages to add psychedelia to garage punk moves and unify it an a unique manner. They are tuneful throughout even as they throb and careen around with intensity and verve. This was a blast and I would go well out of my to catch them live if at all possible.

Songs to try first:

Old Lake - Vocals add psychedelic sheen to crazed and damaged punk attack.

Pollen - Rollicking riff is more crazy psyche with punk attitude. Killer.

Young Carnival Waste - Great title, wild guitar moves, desperate vocals, rollicking rhythm, strange shifts, all this and more.

CANOPIES “MAXIMIZE YOUR FAITH”
The Canopies brand of pop music is sometimes a bit too much on the produced side for me. But letting it work its way into me for ten songs ultimately had its benefits (another reminder of the benefits of the album format). The assured style they have in the vocals and strength in the arrangements eventually pays dividends as the quality and tunefulness take hold. They are far from my favorite band, but their strength in the pop arena is clear. I am happy to have listened and hope they can move into more of a Zombies style a they progress with their songwriting. But for now, they should draw a lot of pop fans who want some guts in their pop music.

Songs to try first:

The Plunderers and the Pillagers - Has that big production opening and a snappy song to follow.

Enter Pure Exit Pure - Fine sonic textures and nifty beat underscore a fine vocal line.

Sparkle and Hum - Smooth rhythms and jagged guitar with fine beats at the end.

CRACKER “BERKELY TO BAKERSFIELD”
While I did not follow Cracker as closely as I did Camper van Beethoven, I have now come to accept both bands as part of my listening pleasure these days. This two record set from Cracker and an upcoming tour where both bands will be playing (as opposed to separate tours as each band in the last 2 years or so). Like most two record sets, it gets a little long. In this particular case, the quality is pretty steady throughout, but the second disk emits much more of the California country and western feel. Not the worst brand of country for me, but something that does not hold me as much as the more general pop-rock of the first disc. The songwriting has some great lyrical moments and strong musical journeys, so there is going to be something here to enjoy. I look forward to the live show as well, although I just hope they keep the steel guitar a little more buried in the mix.

Songs to try first:

Torches and Pitchforks - Great Guthriesque folk number to start of this eclectic double album.

Beautiful - Great pop rocker that adds garages from many different decades into its core.

I’m Sorry Baby - This is the best from the Bakersfield side as its heart is as evident as the music is strong.

EMMY THE GREAT “S”
Four songs starting with ’S’ grace this EP. The style is dreamy electropop with fine female vocals. When the song connects like in ‘Social Halo’, they are on to something pretty decent. There is even some nice guitar in ‘Solar Panels’ As a whole, it only half stands out, but there is only fours songs to try, so it is hard to say how much more Emmy the Great can deliver. If you like dreamier brands of pop music, you should give this a spin or two. There is some potential here.

EX-CULT “CIGARETTE MACHINE”
Six fine post modern punk rock blasts go down for me like a smooth Chai tea. Ex-Cult delivers everything an old punker would want with a fresh sound amidst the comforting roar. There is pace and thick powerful guitars along with a snotty English accented vocal line, but there are fine noisy breaks as well. These guys have a whirlwind of sounds that comes together even as the guitar breaks careen off into noise land. Think Iceage covering the first Saints album and that will give you a taste of this very fine EP. Listen, buy, relisten often.

HR & the SCOTCH BONNETS “QUEST”
HR has had some shaky performances with the Bad Brains in recent years, but you can still count him to bring his reggae vocal stylings to a fine band. And the Scotch Bonnets are that as they merge reggae into some fine pop tunes and come with a pleasing hybrid. These five songs will let you drift away to the melody and steady vocal rhythms, while maintaining enough heft to keep you coming back for additional listening.

THE JONES “THE JONES”
I have always enjoyed this area trio in the clubs as they have a good grasp of blues based rock music. They stretch out the guitar sounds and use tasty bass lines and steady drumbeats to keep the sound grounded in the late sixties psyche-tinged blues scene. This is a fine representation of their sound, even if this kind of music is always better live. But the production of the vocals and overall vibe they concoct here, will have you coming back for more. There is just something smooth and pleasant about this music, even as they fire it up a bit. They seem to be adding some Dead Meadow to their Groundhogs/Black Keys approach. By all means check ‘em out live, but pick one of these up on your way out the door.

Songs to try first:

False Hope - Great psyche vibe with an almost Dead Meadow like baseline Great guitar pyrotechnics, too.

The Gypsy - A fine song and a great sonic atmosphere where the band is locked in.

Late Night Bus Pass - Slow and steady on this one, until one final blast.

LISA/LIZA “THE FIRST MUSEUM”

Here are seven more folk songs from one of Maine’s finest singer songwriters. They all start with ‘The’ or ‘I’ so you can expect a lot of first person story telling. They are delivered with her breathy voice that articulates her point with a slight quiver, giving this an edgy sort of dreaminess. There is the barest of acoustic guitars in backing, although the playing is firm yet delicate and creates a fine atmosphere for these songs. The stark feeling is quite rich in detail, which is not as easy as just leaving space between notes. Lisa/Liza has a fine ability to create enough complexity in a simple setting to keep you riveted. If you like cult classics like Kay McCarthy or Mary-Anne, you should enjoy this.

MENACE BEACH “RATWORLD”
I am not sure I get a full sense of what this band looks like after hearing this. There are a lot of varying elements like 60s style punk rock, psychedelic jamming, pop rock, heavy post punk, and various other bits and pieces. The sound is quite vibrant and bouncy so it is a fun listen. And over 12 songs there is a lot to digest. It may not all come together for me in the cohesion department, but it is still a worthwhile listen.

Songs to try first:

Drop Outs - Sounds like a Temples song recorded in the garage.

Lowtalkin - Fierce song really pushes the bands’ limits to great success.

Tastes Like Medicine - Power Pop with double capital P’s if not all caps.

PLASMODIUM “CLAIRAUDIENCE”
Initially, I felt I was in for a predictable electronica pop ride filled with familiar sounds that would either sit nicely in the background or turn out to be entirely forgettable. But Plasmodium’s nine songs worked their magic on me in ways that took me back to the early electronic music I enjoyed with the additional pleasure of executing fresh invigorating arrangements. This is a remastering of a 2004 album with members from GWAR and Sparklehorse on here, so there is some real talent at work. Sonically, there is electric guitar, drums, and plenty of electronics and keyboards working off of these in intriguing ways. The vocals work wonders as they are somewhere between Ian Curtis and Gyn Cameron (my late friend of Dementia Precox). There are even some horns that work there way in late into this album. All nine songs have a lot to offer, but they play through better together than separately. OK, maybe I could do without the second to last song with the drive-through window confusion. Otherwise, this was a pleasure to listen to something that pulled me out of my comfort zone and into an intriguing and occasionally challenging musical world.

MARY LEIGH ROOHAN “SKIN AND BONE”
Country folk is at the heart of this or rather at the skin and bone of this fine musical body. MaryLeigh Roohan has a firm almost Sandy Denny quality in her voice that works on soft and heavy levels. And that is good as the band can push the rock or pull back to lighter sounds as the song requires. The ten songs are carefully tracked to allow a great variety of music that coheres into an album featuring fine songwriting and great vocals throughout. I like the folkier items, but the rockers work very well and show far more than average chops in the playing and arrangements. There is a dreaminess in the backing even a the vocals seem firmly rooted and are delivered directly with honest emotions. This album is a keeper and makes me sorry I missed her Jammin Java show.

Songs to try first:

Coward - The opener has some great guitar work accompanying a smooth and interesting song.

My Surrender - Superb backing creates a quiet but decisive tone for this truly fine song.

Get Me Home - Although I love the folkier cuts, rockers like this really jump out at you and are a great part of the album.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Previews of Upcoming Attractions for early January 2015 (and a quick message)

State of the Blog Address or rather a few thoughts on where we are at.

We are into the seventh year of DC ROCK LIVE. There were many times last year where I was 90% positive I would be fully retired by now. But on we go. The one revelation that worried me most was when my late afternoon thoughts went from ‘Oh, good I’ve got a good show tonight’ to ‘Oh good, I get a night off’. I guess doing over 200 shows a year will do that to you. But as I’ve gone from over 200 shows in 2012 to over 160 in 2013 to about 130 this year, I am finding a better balance for the rest of my life and all the various aches and pains.

But stay tuned for more this year. I want to stay active and continue to document a few of the fun things that go on in this city. I’ve enjoyed it tremendously, even as my body and mind are at their weariest. Whether we continue with more writers or a smaller schedule, we shall see. The reason ‘taking it one day at a time’ is a cliche is because it is a sound way to approach many things. Now on to the business at hand.

Here are just some of the upcoming shows I am hoping to see, time willing. Give them a listen and join me if you like. Despite all the negatives, the power of live music can't be beat.

Local rockers Dale and the ZDubs are one of four bands at the Fillmore this Friday night, January 2nd.


Willie Watson comes to the Hamilton on Thursday, January 8th.


New Orleans Suspects have two nights for you to choose from at the Hamilton on Friday or Saturday, January 9-10th. There are also a couple members of Little Feat on hand.


I have seen both Cracker and Camper van Beethoven touring in recent years, well now since those bands share so many members, they are touring together at last and hit the stages of the 9:30 Club on Wednesday, January 14th.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Jonny Grave and the Tombstones -- Hill Country - Dec 27 2014

Jonny Grave and the Tombstones - Another fine local band presented for free at the best BBQ place in Penn Quarter (well, the only one as the other place closed and was too small for music anyway). Grave is an excellent guitarist either solo or with a band. Tonight he has a strong complementary outfit complete with rhythm section, guitar, and harmonica. They cover the usual terrain of blues rock with some Americana roots, but do it in a way that is fresh and vibrant, which can be a challenge for most. It helps that the guitarists can duel away with lead runs that reflect different styles and personalities. The vocals are rich and all the players have the touch to make their integration smooth but with plenty of heft to push things along in an exciting manner. It is a smaller crowd as holiday travel is taking a toll, but they are more engaged with the music than a larger crowd would be, so it was a great way to take in this band.
Quote of the Night: From JG after an audience request... "Moby Dick? Ha. No, the last thing we need is a 15-minute drum solo". Then people clamored for everything in the key of 'D' before the cliched Stairway to Freebird requests came in.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Lilt -- Holiday Market - Dec 20 2014

Lilt - 'tis the season for free shows as this is the second in a row for me. In this case, there was a bit more sacrifice as it was a chilly day for this outdoor show with a couple of tents for performers and some of the holiday shopping crowd. It is a bit awkward with people walking in between doing their shopping and in Lilt's case, the music was so inviting to the passerby, that there were a few human traffic jams with interested listeners. And that is no surprise, as Lilt's music has always had an immediate appeal to me with the skillful playing of Tina and Keith on flutes and strings respectively. The music is Irish traditional for the most part, which works perfectly in the wintery season as the melodies add warmth while recognizing the cool environment surrounding. They were supplemented with some nice bodhran playing and with a couple of Irish dancers, which is often a part of their sets. The audience appreciated the quality presented whether they stayed for a couple of songs or were there for far longer than I stayed. If you like Irish music at all, make Lilt a part of your live experience as their particular brand is one of the more inviting brands out there.
Photo from yesterday's show from Lilt FB page.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Alex Vans and the Hide Away -- Hill Country Barbecue - Dec 19 2914

Alex Vans and the Hide Away - It's been a while since I've seen this fine local outfit and when you have a free show in a comfortable setting, it is pretty hard for me to justify staying home watching Rosemary & Thyme. The club is quite full and the only unfortunate part of that is that people are a bit preoccupied with their conversations. While this is an annoyance, I understand it more at free shows (odd that this was not the case last time here). But it is the holiday season and Alex Vans is a pro, so the band whips through songs pretty quickly and effectively and make their presence felt. They are more a warm straight up rock style with some roots, but not brazenly roots oriented as are many of the performers here. It is just them all night, so they sprinkle some covers in to the mix. 'Suzie Q' worked well, although I missed the CCR psyche moves. Queens of the Stone Age was even more of a pleasant surprise as they worked these songs in between several of their fine originals. The band works well in a bar setting as they have a warm delivery with vocals, like smoother Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers type sound with plenty of guitar and a flowing rhythm section. I did not last until 'the wee hours of the morning' but I doubt little changed in the quality of the performance.

New Years Plans? I do not really recognize this holiday any more than I get excited about odometers turning over into a new set of numbers, but.. if you are interested in taking part in The Downtown Countdown featuring Third Eye Blind, Delta Rae, The Lloyd Dobler Effect, DJ Urban Cowboy, and DJ Dirty Elbows, then just click on the link above or right here. Use the code dcrock for a $10 (of which nothing comes back to me, so it is just for your pleasure and savings).

Monday, December 15, 2014

Paperhaus - U Street Music Hall - Dec 14 2014

by Kyle Schmitt

Paperhaus - Eight months after the masters themselves played a few blocks over at 9:30, Paperhaus took on the audacious task of playing Kraftwerk’s classic Trans-Europe Express in its entirety. The band told the audience that they used to cover “Neon Lights” by Kraftwerk, claiming that the band is “a huge part” of how they understand music. They proved they understood Kraftwerk in turn, bringing out the pop in “Europe Endless” and the ominous sensibilities of “Hall of Mirrors”. Credit goes to Danny Bentley and Matt Dowling for keeping on the beat even while playing a multitude of repetitive rhythms. The drumming on “Trans-Europe Express” was especially impressive, as the band had three percussionists playing simultaneously to reproduce the correct sound. This undisputed highlight got the crowd moving and helped Paperhaus put their own imprint on a personal tribute.
Esoterica: Steven Faith played several songs sampling Kraftwerk’s music before and after the live band set… A mysterious hooded figure gyrated onstage to “Hall of Mirrors”, creeping it up during the verses before darting back towards the DJ booth… Andy, who’s seen Kraftwerk five times beginning in the 1990s, thought the Paperhaus set was “terrific” and captured the more-attractive elements of the German originals.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Black Checker - The NRIs - Sarmust -- Rock'n'Roll Hotel - Dec 11 2014

Sarmust - This is the only band in tonight's local showcase that I have not yet seen... much the fool I have been. The exciting beginning chant over light keyboards and percussion reminds me of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, not exactly something expected from any opening band. I am almost disappointed when the guitar chimes in and the trio moves to a rock format with such an amazing beginning. Yet there should not be any reason for me to lack confidence that these guys would deliver further creativity in their music. And they did. The vocal work was somewhere between Omar Souleyman and Bob Theil, powerful expressive and at times mystical. The drummer knew how to pull back or deliver a rock beat when needed. The keyboardist had good variety with a subtle style to enhance the songs. Guitar work was jagged, rocking, and even funky at times. Simply great vibrant music that will push boundaries of even those of us who are well versed in world music. Do not stand still, go see this band the next time out.

The NRIs - And now to the known bands for me--known, respected and always enjoyed. The NRIs have solid rock songs but offer so much more to the two guitar, rhythm section lineup. Specifically, there is violin, keyboards, sax, and both male and female backup vocals to make for a full exciting set of arrangements. They use all these instruments judiciously as warm songs always come forth even with so many interesting components within. It is always a pleasure to see this band and it was no different tonight.
Black Checker - Speaking of pleasure, this wild power pop trio should be putting a smile on your face if you are listening at all. They always conjure up great pop hooks, but are adding even more energy and speed to their set. The speed is great as they maintain clarity and inventiveness keeping it all under control, perhaps teetering at the edge at times (which is more fun than never teetering at all). A recent drummer change seems to be pushing things along nicely. Everything is crisp, fun with a sense of classic pop music evident even as it is revved up to punk rock speeds and beyond. I should point out that the sonic and lighting improvements at the Rock'n'Roll Hotel aided this show as well. Soundman Dennis is just getting started with the changes and it should make for even steadier and more inventive experiences at this fine venue. And when the Rock'n'Roll Hotel delivers a great local showcase like this (as they often do), you owe it to yourself to give DC bands some of your time, as you will find it well spent.

Quote of the Night: from Black Checker after their opening cut... "That was a fast song."   ...as they went into their second cut which was just about as fast.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Cymbals Eat Guitars - Alex G - Ricky Eat Acid -- DC9 - Dec 10 2014

Ricky Eat Acid - Ricky sits at an electronica table working up loops, samples, beats and just a wee bit of live vocals. The good news is that he did not have a Macbook open and refrained from bobbing his head up and down. He seemed like a nice guy, too.

Alex G - The last time they were billed as Sandy Alex G as there is an Alex G out there as well in the music scene. As confusing as the name is, this Philly quartet combines a lot of familiar sounds such as Violent Femmes, Mission of Burma, and Sebadoh into some odd mix of rock with an overriding Meat Puppets vibe, particularly in the vocals. They make it work with a seemingly laconic attitude where clearly there is plenty of power underneath it all. It is a lot of fun with good songs and the occasional extended jam that moved into some surprisingly heavy territory. This is a fine band that is developing enough fans around here to support their own shows.
Cymbals Eat Guitars - This quartet was just here in September opening for Bob Mould. They did a fine job that night in the big environs at the 9:30 Club. But tonight, it was the smaller but nearly full room at the DC9 for them to test their music out. And they easily passed this test as their vibrant rock music had the intimacy and variety to keep the crowd fully involved throughout the lengthy set. I was pleased that they began the show with a song that they had never played before. Bands that tour frequently should try to add new songs or odd covers whenever possible to spice it up for us that were at the last show. The opener showed a fine command of tension in the controlled pace fo the music with the vocals trying to push outward. The band then varied the pace with crisply played faster rhythms,  bouncy keyboards, ringing guitars, and the intense lead vocal work. They impressed me even more than I expected tonight seeing them up close and good things await future tours for this Staten Island band.

Obit of the week - Brian Goble died of an apparent heart attack this past Sunday in the Vancouver area. Brian was the lead singer of the Subhumans (Canadian, not UK) as well as a long time bassist for DOA. He had a quiet intensity that burst out of his vocal work with those bands, as well as a wry understated sense of humor amongst the serious times. He was a great guy that will be sorely missed by many people all around the globe. Joe Keithley says it well here. But I'll leave with a great photo from Bob Montgomery that shows what punk bands looked like before they found punk. From left to right, this is Brad Kent (DOA, Avengers), Brian Goble, Dimwit (DOA), and Joe Keithley (DOA).