Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Allah-Las - Tashaki Miyaki -- Rock'n'Roll Hotel - Nov 21 2014

Tashaki Miyaki - This is an LA power trio and since it is from LA, they are rather easy going on the power. Instead, they opt for that classic easy brand of psyche-rock that shows a bit of roots as well as decent song structures. The female drummer handles the lead vocals with only a touch of harmony from the bass player now and then. Her voice has a chill to it, but is not too icy but rather contemplative. The guitarist works in many layers of fuzz and leads the band into a few extended space exploratory jams that do not overly dominate. The songs are decent enough but it gets to be a bit of background like at times. I also thought they were doing 'Wild Thing' once until they turned those riffs into their own song. To be completely fair, I could not quite capture the magic due to an even worse than typical Friday night crowd of idiots around me whose conversation was far more important than the music.
The Allah-Las - Also from LA, this twin guitar quartet extends that California brand of psychedelic music even further into this night. It is not surprising to recall that they once toured with the Black Angels, for their sound is as if the Black Angels relocated to California and worked in a Long Ryders sound into their core. This band has great command over the pace of their music, so that the jangled guitar will warmly pull you in to enjoy the pop hooks present in their melodies. The vocals have a distinct personality and complete the package. I was hiding as far away from the noisy crowd tonight, but it was difficult as this band nearly sold out the venue. Based on the live show and their fine album, it is no surprise to see them drawing big crowds. They have hit on an approach that is both comfortable yet original enough to last long in the memory.

Classic billings from the past... This one generated a fun discussion, with Comus's manager recalling that the show was not as good as it sounded, as the PA was woefully insufficient that night. And Arthur Lee was proving to those that met him, that he really was not comfortable touring. Still, if I had a time machine...

Friday, November 21, 2014

Five Guys Named Moe - Arena Stage - Nov 20 2014

Five Guys Named Moe - The Arena Stage is one of the finer DC theatrical institutions and is celebrating its 65 years of presenting fine theater, including several musicals in recent years that have been quite wonderful and a great historical connection of the history of rock'n'roll with the present rock scene in DC.

This musical is yet another link in the long chain of rock'n'roll, yet goes back a bit further than the usual rock origins and has deeper roots to blues and jazz. This is the music of Louis Jordan, 'The King of the Jukebox', who was quite popular in the middle of the 20th Century and had a versatile style that eased blues and jazz into a popular form that lays the roots for rock and also makes for fine musical theater.

The play features a character named Nomax who has the blues over girlfriend problems. In his imagination, the characters from the Jordan song 'Five Guys Named Moe' come to life out of his radio and through Jordan's music walk him through the ups and downs of life and relationships. The device is quite simple and with not much new ground being broken here, yet still has an inner strength due to the focus on this central character. Kevin McAllister in the role both has fine vocal moments as well as a low key acting style that is often upstage behind the action of the five Moes and makes for excellent theater.

The set is clean and bright with the band upstage center allowing the Moes to run around on steps all around and above them with plenty of room up front for dancing. Everything is quick and keeps the audience on their toes as the songs keep coming. The performers are all well cast and show great personality and enough characterization to make for a well rounded presentation. There is some calypso music, theatrical song stories, and plenty of dancing including tap and audience participation. The crowd clearly had fun as that is ultimately the main theme of this presentation. Well that, and Nomax's more thorough understanding of the path to make his relationship with his girlfriend work.

As I have said many times before, I fully encourage club going music fans to branch out into musical theater, dance, and the vast array of arts available in DC. For me, a theater experience like this makes important connections with the music I see created by young bands in front of a few dozen people in a small dark club. And 'Five Guys Named Moe' is a well performed and well defined link in this long chain.

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Very Small - Model Stranger - Time Columns -- Velvet Lounge - Nov 16 2014

Time Columns - If you are a fan of the local band Buildings, you will want to check out this Frederick/Baltimore trio. They play an instrumental neo-prog style that is assertive and nimble with plenty going on. Early on, they go psycho crazy after a rather funky start. This deep dark noisy passage is something I hope they explore more. Even if they stick to their bouncy rhythms and tricky guitar and bass counterpoints, there is plenty to enjoy. I just like that King Crimson 'Red' sound that can break things up and really lift this to new heights. OK, call this post rock if you like that term, but there is plenty to rock out with here. Enjoy.

Model Stranger - This trio hails from Chicago. They start with a rather basic marriage of classic rock and indie rock, but thankfully their 33 minute set allowed them to show off a few special moves. The guitar sound varied smartly from a rhythmic grinding sound to a spacier psyche approach depending on the song. The bass kept things flowing, while the drummer varied the beats in subtle ways. They had songs with some pop hooks, although they could stretch them out into classic rock jams. The particularly soaring last number reminded me of Dust meeting Leafhound, which is a rather ungodly sound. So this was a fun and fascinating set from a band that is slippery yet with an interesting approach that yields some great results.


The Very Small - We are three for three with the power trios tonight, as this local band hits the stage. It's a little late for me as the equipment shifting was a bit onerous tonight. In fact, there is more equipment in the audience area than actual audience, despite a decent Sunday night turnout of a couple dozen or so. I rather liked their low key Amon Duul II opening jam as they were warming up before they exploded into their louder stronger music. This may be post punk meeting post funk as the basslines punch up the rhythm quite a bit. Good energy all around and some powerful three part harmonies are quite nice and unexpected. Some of the lead vocals are almost too edgy in a Suicide Commandos/Jell Biafra manner, but the music makes it a decent enough match as it is strong and challenging much of the way. Hope I can catch these guys again for more than a few songs. They are worth a listen.

Quote of the Night... from a recent F365 column: Aston Villa got a much-needed point at West Ham on Saturday, but no surprises that it was achieved through a 0-0 draw. It's now five goals in 11 league matches this season. The goals in their last seven matches read 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 1, 0. I think that's a binary translation of 'TEDIUM'.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Empires - Cold Fronts -- DC9 - Nov 15 2014

Cold Fronts - Here's another punk/power pop hybrid outfit, this time hailing from our north in Philadelphia. They have a more desperate edge to them than most and that propels their 34 minute set forward with a vigor and a sense of abandon that makes it pass quite quickly. The edgy near romantic vocals remind me quite a bit of Richard Hell and the guitars have wild edgy moves that add to the chaos. Yet the melodies and rhythms keep it under control and it holds together well. Good fun.
Empires - Good crowd tonight for an early show at the DC9, who have been drawing good crowds at the three recent shows I have attended. This Chicago band has a good following and proved why with a tight 35 minute set that showed that indie alt rock still works. First off, they are one of the rare bands of this type with a dedicated full time lead vocalist. I have always found that odd that what is fairly normal in metal and punk, just does not happen with frequency in the indie rock scene. But it works here as the vocals are warm and smooth, but with plenty of heart and avoidance of saccharine. The music matches the warmth but with a bite in the guitar that keeps the songs rocking. Empires are a band like what U2 or even Big Country would sound like if they stayed in the clubs. There is also an Echo and the Bunnymen vibe when they kick things up a notch, particularly in the closing number. There is nothing reinvented here, this is just five guys that know how to write and play very good songs and have the energy and conviction to make it an entertaining evening.

Photograb of the Night: Here is a school teacher who in his 40 year career, wore the same outfit for class picture day for their yearbook. I am glad I did nothing like this...

Friday, November 14, 2014

O'Death - Joe Fletcher - Stone Jack Jones -- DC9 - Nov13 2014

Stone Jack Jones - He was a Coal Miner's son... and grandson, and great grandson and... well, he is a musician now and a very fine one at that. From West Virginia via Nashville comes Mr. Jones and his two extremely capable sidemen who gave me a great dose of my favorite sort of mystical folk. One sidemen used a keyboard mostly as a drone accompaniment while he played electric guitar. The other sideman had some mysterious banjo and guitar runs. That left Jones to handle the deeply contemplative vocals and add some guitar and harmonica. This is dark, deep woodsy folk music that reminds me of Woven Hand or Bill Callahan with vocals that range from a classic style of Derroll Adams, yet with a hint of Lou Reed now and then. This is exactly how you transcend traditional folk into a modern form and still take the listeners on a journey where time becomes a blur while the magic of the song wraps around you. Great music, great set, I hope people take time from their busy lives and spend some time in this world. It will do you good.

Joe Fletcher - Also from Nashville comes a more classic style blues and country folker. It is just Fletcher with voice and guitars, acoustic or electric. He shows some fine touch and guitar and pounds out the riffs as well as he brings some old time rural rock'n'roll into his songs. He did manage to get some of the sizable crowd to sing along to a fairly complex bit, so he connected well tonight. This will take you back and is always a good fit on a bill like this.
O'Death - I have not seen this band in ages and it was high time I caught up with them. They take a singer songwriter on acoustic guitar and surround him with high quality musicians that could raise the dead with their playing and brand of music. This is rootsy material but it is frenetic or mannered and always has a lot going on. The rhythm section is excellent and powerful, while the guitar is flanked with violin and banjo/ukulele. The violin work is great and absolutely frenetic at times in the manner of Boiled in Lead. Yet the vocals are warm and the one harmony voice lifts them even higher, atop this great music. I hope I don't wait another five years before I see these guys again. They do the body good.

Quote of the Night: From Stone Jack Jones after two mesmerizing songs... "We're going to play a song that has more than one chord in it now."

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Saintseneca - LVL UP - Dead Professional -- DC9 - Nov 10 2014

Dead Professional - This is my first time in seeing this one-man act with a full band. In lieu of backing tracks, there is now a rhythm section behind John's vocals and guitar. Immediately, all the benefits are apparent: harmony vocals, extra embellishment, more rhythmic variation, etc. The two newcomers play a smooth style which lays the foundation for these fine rock songs that often cover extensive power pop territory. The crunchier pop tunes remind me a bit of Sloan, but there is quite a variety of style between the songs--some poppier, others heading into deeper moods, even ballad like. Dead Professional always has delivered a solid set, only now it is even fuller and more accomplished. Do keep this band on your radar.

LVL UP - These guys live a little north of my brother who lives just north of NYC. The crowd was really packed in tonight and made this their best trip yet to DC, or so they said. It worked for me too, as this twin guitar power pop/punk attack was really clicking tonight. These guys have the songs and the understated vocals enhanced the rich melodies. They even pull back to ballad pop rockers as well. So this was quite pleasant and filled with energy from stage to the crowd. Bonus points for snare attack that reminded me of the MC5's Dennis Thompson. That is always a good thing.
Saintseneca - From one of my former home towns of Columbus, Ohio, comes this talented rootsy rock outfit. I've had some health issues lately so I had to cut out after just a few songs, although I wanted to at least catch the vibe. And from what I saw, this band has a core strength of sound that they can move beyond cliche with some interesting arrangement choices. They also showed off at least one well written song that was rich in vocals and smooth and flowing underneath. Hopefully I can catch more next time, although based on the large crowd tonight, it may be tough getting in.

Quote of the Night: From John in the opening set...
"Are there any hecklers in the crowd?"
"More bass!!!"
"That is a good heckle."

Friday, November 7, 2014

Ian Anderson -- Lincoln Theatre - Nov 6 2014

Ian Anderson - It is always a pleasure to catch up with the latest tour from Jethro Tull icon Ian Anderson, as it is like welcoming an old musical friend who never fails to have some new tricks up his sleeve. Jethro Tull was about my 4th or 5th concert ever at Hara Arena in Dayton, Ohio from way back in my high school days. It was such a mob getting in that you could lift your feet and be carried into the arena hundreds of feet later. Some windows did not handle the stress quite as well as I recall. Tonight's crowd could have included some of those same youngsters that have stayed with Ian Anderson through the many different bands and style of music he has created under the widest of progressive labels. Tonight he brings a tight veteran band consisting of drums, bass, guitar, and keyboards to join in with his flute and acoustic guitar. The biggest change over the years is a guest vocalist who works with him not only on harmonies but also on shared lead vocals, often with a tradeoff on individual lines within a song. It is quite evident that Anderson's 67 year old voice does struggle with the high notes and the famed flexibility that he worked into his music over the last 45 years. Once you get used to this presentation, it works well as Anderson still can nail the core parts and works to extract everything he can for his part. The harmonies work well on a few of the songs that were double tracked in studio and it allows Anderson to do some flute flourishes when Ryan O'Donnell handles the vocals.

The band is top notch as you would expect with David Goodier and John O'Hara from the Tull days on bass and keys respectively. Add the slightly younger Scott Hammond on drums and the 'kid' Florian Ophale on guitar and you not only have a great band, but the same band that worked on the latest album. And that works out great as they begin with seven songs from 'Homo Erraticus' all complete with some theatrical bits and well above average backing videos. I thought the material was excellent and it holds its own amongst the classic songs. But they added a cool version of 'Bouree' and a good block of 'Thick as a Brick' to end their first set.
In the second set, it was all Tull material with a clock and calendar projected behind the band to aide in the placement of these songs from the second album on, including some famed singles. This was a blast as not only were there some of the expected songs, but a cut like 'Sweet Dream' was a pleasant surprise. But the true shock was hearing a great 'With You There to Help Me' from a Benefit, an album he virtually would not touch for many a decade, as he never felt he could give it on honest go due to some of the lyrical content and memories. He later joked that the critics may have been right when they said he stepped over the line with 'A Passion Play', but still wanted to do one of his favorites from that album, 'Critique Oblique' which certainly tends toward a challenging oblique progressive musical form. I was thrilled that he covered his folk rock phase as well, as the diversity of the Tull material is half the fun. But there was 'Aqualung' to close and 'Locomotive Breath' as the encore, which the crowd always appreciates (and then some). Quite simply, it was terrific fun for me and I was pleased that my friend who doesn't hit the old rock circuit much anymore also had a great time. As long as Ian Anderson can get up on one leg and play those flute runs with a great band beside him, I'm there.

Set List:  Doggerland, Enter the Uninvited, Puer Ferox, Adventus, The Engineer, Tripudium ad Bellum, The Browning of the Green, Cold Day Reckoning, Bouree, Thick as a Brick Living in the Past, With You There to Help Me, Sweet Dream, Teacher, Critique Oblique, Too Old to Rock'n'Roll, Songs from the Wood, Farm on the Freeway, Aqualung, Encore - Locomotive Breath.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Cass McCombs - Meat Puppets -- Black Cat - Nov 2 2014

Meat Puppets - This must be about the fifth or sixth time I have seen this legendary band along with a couple of Curt Kirkwood solo shows tossed in for good measure. The first thing that is odd is that there is a second guitarist and he looked a lot like one of the Kirkwoods, and sure enough he is Curt's son and of course, Cris's nephew. His guitar work is mostly rhythm and adds a lot of heft and pace to let his older relatives do their crazy moves that have made this band famous. This set is really heavy in spite of some Freddy Fender covers and a quaint Sloop John B. The guitars were firing and the drums strong, courtesy of Doug Sahm's son Shandon (as there are interesing family connections everywhere). This band taught me and a lot of people the value of the Western side of Country & Western, although they really shared more sonic and geographic space with other desert dwellers like Kyuss. The band had its astral exploration gear on tonight and they really took off much of the time. There was even a crazed 'Black to Comm' type song that had me watching a tennis match trying to keep up with the two guitars, let alone the bass in between. Trippy, heavy fun as this 71 minute opening set flew by. I wasn't sure they would still have it, but they do, so I won't give up on them anytime soon.
Cass McCombs - This was an interesting set in that there was a clear line of demarcation for me. When McComb's second guitarist went to the pedal steel, the songs lost me. But when he played electric guitar, I found the music enchanting and I was fully engaged. This is a bias of mine that some bands can fend off with creative use of the pedal steel, but it just did not happen tonight. But to focus on what really worked, I found McCombs' songs with two guitars to be quite deep with airs of mystery that subtly pulled me in. There was almost a mototik beat in the first song that offset the moody vocals and scenic guitar work. They could rock out a bit, too and had a nice array of songs that showed some real class. The music that did less for me was not a complete turnoff and probably has more than its fair share of fans out there. I saw enough of what I did like to recommend a fair listen to his songs. There will likely be something special to grab on to, no matter what your taste as there is a lot of class here.

Photo Grab of the Day (and yes, I resort to bathroom humor when desperate).

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Dum Dum Girls - Cherry Glazerr - together PANGEA - Ex Cops - Mozes & the Firstborn -- Black Cat - Nov 1 2014

This is the Burger Record Label's showcase tour, which seems to be turning into an annual event. I have a blast at these, so let's dig in as it is a big lineup...

Mozes & the Firstborn - I recognized this band as someone I have enjoyed before and a few songs in, I was reminded why in a big way. They bring a popsike style with a heavier psychedelic rock approach like combining the 3 O'Clock with Black Mountain. This band from two of the countries comprising Benelux are touring hard and have a great record along with a great live set. It was nice to see a good crowd for them at tonight's early start. All it takes is one careful listen and this band should be on your watch list. They have all the components and really kick it into high gear, which is what you want in psyche rock music (and look into Netherlands history for a great foundation to work off of).

Ex Cops - And from North Carolina and North Denmark, comes this intriguing little trio that uses drums, guitar, and female vocals to stir up their brand of pop rock music. The guitarist adds some harmonies and there are some undercurrent sounds, but the steady drums lay out the landscape for some careful edgy guitar sounds and powerful vocals. At their best, they achieve a grandeur sound with soaring vocals that sound as if they were cathedral born and echoing throughout a valley. They pull it back for a few songs, but the powerhouse cuts are the ones that will stay with me for a long time.

together PANGEA - Second time around for me for this LA twin guitar quartet. They brought their srong west coast jangly punk garage sound to the Black Cat once before and have it working every bit as well tonight. They vary their songs quite a bit with different tempos or a slant to pop or rock, punk cuts either 60s style or 70s style, etc. The crowd had grown quite a bit by now and they were fully into this set as this is a band that knows how to blast away from a stage.

Cherry Glazerr - This LA trio brings the rawest simplest approach tonight with a jagged edge pop punk style that takes me back to the early days of punk with bands starting from nothing. But just as those bands started from scratch with more vision than ability, the ability came with a fresh approach and created some memorable music. Cherry Glazerr does the same as each song built into a very fine set of music with just enough variety among a mostly hypnotic beat and grinding Rickenbackers. Feral sounds mix with more under control moments as everything pulls you into their murky powerful environment. Very interesting music and yet another interesting vision on this showcase event.


Dum Dum Girls - This established quartet is augmented with another guitarist so that lead singer Dee Dee can focus more on vocals. But she straps on a guitar as well for a rare three-guitar sound. Her vocals smooth out the intricate post punk guitar style that gives this band its own edge in what by now is a fairly established environment. The rhythm section is sharp and adds to the mysterious overall approach that cooly embraces this Black Cat crowd. The harmonies are excellent and at times are four-women all at once almost composing an alto section of the choir. The music is as deep as the voices as there is a lot going on to drift away with. Very alluring music here and a great ending a night of five unique bands that have a lot to offer.

Quote of the Night: from the soundman after the fourth band concluded... "Long night."

Yes, but thankfully to the Black Cat and all of the bands, it went smoothly and even I who get so very tired after a couple of bands was going strong all night. The Black Cat started it early and every band got to play a full set without the show running long. There are still a lot of screwups in this regard from other clubs, but most of the shows in DC from small to large do a pretty good job here and I thank them for that (especially when I remember some disasters for me and my friends in other cities).

Saturday, November 1, 2014

RECORD REVIEW - OCTOBER 2014

THE ALLAH LAs "WORSHIP THE SUN"
I have not even come close to reaching the saturation point of popsike bands who take that 1960s pop and psychedelic styles and deliver the 21st century goods with clean, crisp, and occasionally powerful music. The Allah Las have fine garage pop vocals with spacey harmonies, jangly guitars, and rat-a-tat drumming. They mix it up a bit with some California country styled songs as well as a few modern touches, but they could vary it even further--especially with fourteen songs. But this LA band on only their second album, has done a fine job of adding their easy going style to the popsike formula and have come up with something I'll be playing further.

Songs to try first:

Had it All - Great hooks, strong jangle, and strong vocals.

Follow You Down - Nice chunky guitar with a more modern slacker songwriting touch.

Worship the Sun - All sun worship songs are good.

ARANIS "MADE IN BELGIUM II"
Made in Belgium indeed. Is everything coming out of Belgium so vibrant and exciting these days? It certainly is on the football pitch and always has been in the chocolate shoppes, but now the music scene seems to be exploding as well. Everything that comes to me is at least interesting and more often genuinely exciting. Aranis is easily on the exciting side of the scale, but not in ways that so many of the other bands are. Here, we have a progressive form of classical, folk, and rock music that invokes Magma and other original progressive bands. There is a lot here and something for just about any music lover who really likes music in all its forms.

Songs to try first:

Skip XXI - A great entry into this magical world of dextrous musical forms.

Tolles Pferd - Pianos at sprinters' pace.

Kablamo - A strong playful mood with great flute, piano, and strings and just a great title.

BIBLE PILOT "AN ENORMOUS CITY"
This local band has a six song EP out, which offers something more than the usual indie rock fare. I hear a sort of twisted King Crimson at times (Basement Town) as these guys try to stretch out vocally and musically a bit from the comforts of pop rock. Yet there are some quirky catchy pop moments as well and some interesting keyboard work throughout. As with anyone in this town, I want to see what they do on stage some time--could be very interesting.

TIM BRAGG "REVAMPED 3"
Prolific musician, author, and activist Tim Bragg is back with another fine collection of fourteen songs. His style is almost lack of style, but in a positive way of playing feel good rock music that is not trying too hard to fit into any latest or retro trend. Instead, it is straightforward rock music, light at times, driving at others. The vocals are thoughtfully delivered and the guitar tones change from jangly to slightly fuzzy to clean or whatever the emotional tone is desired.

Songs to try first:

Some Answers - Just a simple song that has effective guitar work underneath.

Life Ain't So - Bragg channels old fashioned pop rock moves and still manages to make it seem so fresh.

Been Before - A tougher blues rock song with some harmonica and fine vocals, too.

BULLY ep
I enjoyed this Nashville band's live set a few weeks back and was anxious to hear how they translated to recorded works, as their hard driving rock music is a natural for a live stage. And it is refreshing to hear that this is a fine record with a slightly different approach to their brand of hard driving pop rock music. There is a little less garage punk edge on the recording, although the toughness of the songs are still there. Instead, the focus is more on the vocals than the guitar with double tracked harmonies and such that won't sound the same on stage. The guitars still sound crisp and cutting with a nice bite to them when needed. This is a fun band that can fit into a lot of rock fans' listening habits.

MATT CONFUSION "SATORI - TAKE ME AWAY"
This is all just voice and electric guitar. The electric guitar has a lovely striking tone and his voice is easy going as these songs amble along a crooked little path in a sunny glade. This is nearly outsider music, with enough skill and melody to keep it firmly musical. I would rather listen to outsider music than the latest quality indie rock-Americana band that sounds like far too many other bands. Give this one a shot and see what you think.

Songs to try first:

I'm a Mess - Playful folk rock song with nicely plucked clean electric guitar and easy going vocals.

Call - He makes odd and quirky seem smooth and normal.

St. James Infirmary - Breezy, bluesy, but still with his unique approach.

J FERNANDEZ "MEMORIZE NOW"
This six song ep provides a lot more than I expected. Yes, there are quirky catchy pop moves in here, but there is almost a spacey progressive tone in some of these songs. Chicago's J Fernandez has brought out some personalized textures to these songs that dance around the melodies in nimble ways, giving room for the vocals to occupy a more inner space in the proceedings. I would write more but I get more confused as I try to decode the formulas here. There are only six songs. Give them a spin and see what direction you head toward. Retro-future pop, indeed.

HANDSOME JACK "HANDSOME JACK"

Good rootsy blues rock is plentiful and has been plentiful for my entire lifetime and then some. Handsome Jack does not break any new ground as few are able to do with this style anymore, but has some fine characteristics in his music that make this worth a listen. First off, his voice has a restrained approach that creates drama because he pulls back with great clarity as opposed to forcing himself forward in a more cliched manner. The music is crisp and plays around with paces and styles from early rock moves to deepwater blues sounds. These ten songs move along nicely and create a full pattern of an album that is more successful than most of this type.

Songs to try first:

Echoes - No, not the Pink Floyd classic, but a gritty blues rocker that sets the tone for the album.

Leave it all Behind - A slower one to change the pace and tone effectively placed in the middle of the album.

You and Me - Undulating currents of rhythm set the stage for this song.

HUNDRED VISIONS "SPITE"
Spirited garage punk works most of the time if the spirit is truly present and Hundred Visions quickly shows that it is. They have many of the requisite components, snarling vocals, assertive fuzzy guitars, and a pounding rhythm section. The bigger step is having good hooks and/or something unique to bring into the sound. The hooks are here more often than not and they really employ a panoply of sounds and tempos to keep everything fresh with each song bringing something new to the plate. Yes, this style works for me, but Hundred Visions has even a little bit extra to climb higher on my personal play list.

Songs to try first:

Our Ritual - Fierce guitar and a cool song.

Thanks for Nothing - Great vocal melody and a good variety of sounds.

Embalmer's Apprentice - Bouncy beat, acoustic guitar, and noisy breaks. What is not to like?

JEFF THE BROTHERHOOD "DIG THE CLASSICS"

Normally I don't get too excited about 'covers' albums or Eps, but this band made their six-song EP essential listening with a cover of the Wipers 'Mystery'. Between that and 'Gouge Away' by the Pixies, I was a happy listener. These guys rock in an easy going manner and manage to sound faithful to the original songs with enough personal spin to make it worth everyone's while. Add My Bloody Valentine, Colleen Green, Teenage Fanclub, and Beck, and you have a lovely little record, especially fun if you enjoy these things.


NEW CANADA "NOVA NOVA SCOTIA"
Could be the new drummer that is driving this local trio in a heavier direction from eclectic psychedelic folk to all over the place psychedelic folk-rock or it could be just the way they feel these days. Fear not, New Canada fans, they still have that strange outsider art approach that I have long written about and use acoustic guitars as well as electric to get the musical message across. The rhythms section is there to anchor it with the occasional baseline that adds as much trippiness to the proceedings as that of the fuzzbox. This is one of those bands that dances around edginess while seemingly offering comfort, which offers a pleasurable challenge for the listener. Yet, it is all easy to relax and enjoy if you want to go that route. I suggest you give it a try.

Songs to try first:

Gyroscope - Great grinding psychedelic backdrop for vocal gyrations.

I am Not Your Moon - Sort of the soundtrack to your dream at the carnival.

Lifeboat - Lilting melody with comfortable twists and a fine arrangement.

QUINTRON & MISS PUSSYCAT "SPELLCASTER II: DEATH IN SPACE"
This is one of the oddest albums I've had in quite some time and one of the more exciting albums as well. They start off by reminding me a bit of Cigarbox Planetarium with instrumental keyboard and guitar works that cast evocative shadows about. But they go to far deeper and darker places in addition to the bright dreamy landscapes from CP. They even add some vocals, disturbing in their simple intense style. Each song hikes along a different landscape, yet it all barely stays together in a manner that invites creative initiative. Their song title 'Carnival' sums up the spirit here, with a sense of fun that has a thick dark scary undercurrent to it.

Songs to try first:

Death in Space - One of the spookiest instrumentals I have heard in a long time.

Do the Raid - A very twisted Christmas song, of sorts.

Steve - Nice rocker, although it sounds like something in your head if you awake at 3am.

VARIOUS ARTISTS "CECI N'EST PAS UN DISQUE"
This Belgian album is available at a special November 29th tribute concert at the Muziekodroom in Hasselt, Belgium. Although it is a sad occasion as it marks the one year anniversary of Kabul Golf Club member Florent Pevee's death from a traffic accident. The concert will be comprised of the bands on this record that have all covered Kabul Golf Club material. Filling out this LP are some of the brilliant post-hadcore attack songs of the Kabul Golf Club. The band was really hot and had great material and great style with a cutting edge energy that lifted their music up to great heights. The cover songs here are quite good and employ a few variant styles that each band brings to the material. It is intense, but in some cases more nuanced. I particularly enjoyed the range that the Sore Losers showed in their cover of 'Demon Days'. Kabul Golf Club was a great band and this is yet another fine (and limited) release by Hypertension Records--a label that should be on your radar.

WE WERE PROMISED JETPACKS "UNRAVELLING"
I have been a fan of this Scottish band ever since I first heard their name. Then, when I actually attended a show, the real fandom began as their strong assertive power pop songs were wonderful. This band is so accessible, but there are some thoughtful songwriting moves in their material as well. With this new album, that is even more evident as these eleven songs all have outstanding individual personality, even as they feel like a united album. They have such smart shifts between shoe gaze, pop, rock, and post punk and it is all quite seamless thanks in part to the emotive vocals. This is definitely one of the classiest post-Radiohead rock bands working today.


And check out their great live set at the 9:30 Club on Wednesday, November 19th.

Songs to try first:

Safety in Numbers - Not the Adverts song, but a smooth dish of their power pop music served with relish.

Peaks and Troughs - Monster rock songs may have hooks this good, but they are rarely this warm.

Disconnecting - A long spacey cut still with pop hooks and surprises, but a unique tone for this band.

JAMES WILLIAMSON "ReLICKED"
As a major Stooges fan, I've followed the band's activities closely over the years. I heard that in recent times James Williamson pitched an idea to Iggy for them to rerecord the post-Raw Power Stooges songs that were incomplete and that had been released in various bootleg and authorized rough and unfinished versions. Instead the Stooges made a new album, which while much better than 'The Weirdness', still was not quite up to what new versions of 'Open Up and Bleed' and 'I Gotta Right' would have yielded.

So James Williamson took it upon himself to do this album with a series of guest vocalists. And of course, everyone of them invites comparisons to Iggy and the older recorded versions of these songs, which while raw, still have that feral brilliance of the Stooges. Some of that is evident here in the ferocious Williamson guitar which still has that needed nasty streak. The Stooges rhythm section does well and the arrangements are good. But this record still ends up frustrating me with lots of vocalists that either do cliched blues versions or their own punk or rock styling to the songs. Only a few of them work well enough to really get me excited (see below). But if you like James Williamson the guitarist, there is still plenty here to give a fair listen to.

Songs to try first:

'Til the End of the Night - Alison Mosshart gives it a lighter blues workout, which works here (along with some hot guitar leads).

Rubber Leg - Two versions. I like the Ron Young one better, but the JG Thirlwell one is fine. I think this song is just brilliant and raw enough to work with more than Iggy.

I'm Sick of You - Cool song where guitar work remains similar and Mario Cuomo doesn't mess up the singing.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

PREVIEWS of COMING ATTRACTIONS - Early Nov 2014

You'll flip for the Burger Label showcase at the Black Cat this Saturday, November 1st, headed by the Dum Dum Girls. But here's something from AJ Davila y Terror Amor.


Then head back to the Black Cat on Sunday the 2nd for Cass McCombs and the eclectic Meat Puppets.


DC's Typefighter joins Pup at the DC9 on Wednesday, November 5th.


Ian Anderson may not use the Jethro Tull name any more, but you'll plenty of great Tull music at the Lincoln Theatre on Thursday, November 6th. I will be certainly be there.


Until the Ribbon Breaks will join London Grammar at the 9:30 Club on Friday, November 7th.


Nikki Lane is in my ears and in my eyes at Gypsy Sally's on Tuesday, November 11th.


The Dream Police storm the Black Cat on Wednesday, November 12th. I wonder if they have a song called 'Cheap Trick'.


O'Death brings its lively music to the DC9 on Thursday, November 13th.


Andrew McMahon visits the 9:30 Club on Saturday, November 15th.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Temples - Spires -- 9:30 Club - Oct 28 2014

Spires - From the Temples to the Spires, these are well matched bands both by name and by sonic output. Spires has the exact look on stage as Temples with a lead singer-guitarist, bassist, drummer, and a guitarist/keyboardist. This band works the same popsike sonic territory as Temples, but of course has its own personality. The drumming and bass lines are both quite quick with the drums creating a more rock sound, while the bass smooths out the rhythm with a steady humming line. The vocals are strong with the harmonies on the lighter side of things. Guitars ring out strong and heavy at times with the tuneful melodies evident throughout. I particularly like how the keyboard parts were bold with a jarring sound that diversified the songs much more than usual (not quite Goblin, but in that direction). The songs were good and the execution even better and there is a strong likelihood of success awaiting this band.
Temples - I loved this band when I saw them last year at the DC9 and their show made my Top Ten shows of 2013 for DC. So it is no surprise that their album is also heavy on my play list and that the band has had great success with it, as well as their increased touring. So now it is the larger environs of the 9:30 Club that house the popsike fans that come to worship the Temples, or at least dig the songs. And it is of course hard not to fall back into 60s lingo when you groove to this music. Even the two ecstatic dancers that were going strong all set had an old fashioned sinewy style that took me back. These songs have some best pop hooks out there these days and the vocal quality and musical execution is top notch. They handle the big club and the big sound system just fine tonight. There is plenty of bite in their sound to make the live experience well worth the effort on any stage. I love this band and my only complaint is that I want more music. It is still pretty much the first album, although they jam it out a bit to get more than an hour out of their set. And they know how to jam, so again, see these guys live some time, as few do it this well.

More closet cleaning... or in this case, from my parents' garage. I am not sure how I did without this product for so long. My closet is like a breath of fresh air (moths beware).

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Damned - T.S.O.L. - The Briefs -- Black Cat - Oct 26 2014

The Briefs - This is a 21st century band from Seattle with a 'no apologies needed' late seventies classic punk sound. The songs aren't overly dazzling, but the energy and pace do the trick and the requisite hooks pop out enough to make it all pleasant. Shades of revved up Drones, 999, and Eater come to mind (yes, the second tier, but still fun). Brisk and rollicking this is, although I have to wonder about a song that calls for us to 'kill Bob Seger now'. Aren't we a little late for that to matter? At least they didn't follow that with a Reagan song.

T.S.O.L. - I have always thought this band was one of the most overrated in the history of punk rock and a part of a lot of the things that went wrong along the way. But I was interested in catching this near original line-up as back in the day I had only caught the decent but different second version of the band with Joe Wood on vocals. But now it is the mercurial Jack Grisham back on vocals, which was the focal point for their early work. His range doesn't seem as strong these days as his vocals are a bit shrill, but forceful enough. The rhythm section is banging it out well and Ron Emory's guitar is tough as ever. They load up on early material from their first EP and LP which gets the packed house revved up, although thankfully without a crazed moshpit. This was all decent enough, but it didn't seem to fire. I enjoyed the slightly cynical sense of humor that plays better these days, such as not remembering how many presidents there have been since their song bitching about Reagan. So I'll save my TSOL treatise for another day and give them a mildly indifferent passing grade tonight.
The Damned - It has been great fun seeing them in recent years with Dave Vanian still at the helm showcasing his great crooning voice and Captain Sensible providing the guitar licks and goofball humor. The other three guys have given this band a stability that was a word that was impossible to use when discussing the band in those brilliant early days of punk. They did their usual set of songs tonight covering their early punk songs, the great Machine Gun Etiquette material and the revved up poppier psyche-rock follow-ups on the Black Album and beyond. They gave it a bit of a Halloween twist by opening with 'Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde' and 'Plan 9, Channel 7', although there always is a little Halloween in the Damned any time of the year. The sound was a bit iffy at first with overly light keyboards and barely audible bass. But it improved which helped bring the band's energy forward much better. They were pretty hot, although I preferred their show the last time through as the best of the three recent shows I have seen. Still, a recommended band for 2014 and as long as they care to go and an absolutely essential band to add to your record collection--one of the best bands of all-time.

Set List (with a few holes filled in by www.setlist.fm): Dr. Jekyll, Plan 9, Love Song, Machine Gun Etiquette, I Just Can't Be Happy, Wait for the Blackout, Lively Arts, Silly Kids Games, History of the World, 13th Floor Vendetta, Ignite, Stranger on the Town, Eloise (Great Paul Ryan cover!), Disco Man, New Rose, Neat Neat Neat.  Encores: Curtain Call, Nasty, Anti-Pope, Smash it Up

Quote of the Night: Captain Sensible after playing 'I Just Can't Be Happy Today' ...
"The old ones hold up pretty well to what the newer acts come up with. For instance..."
Crowd: "Morrisey"
Sensible: "Morrisey? That song could have been written for him."

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Whitey Morgan & the 78s - The Highballers --Gypsy Sally's - Oct 25 2014

The Highballers - It's been a long time since I've seen one of the finest area honkytonk, country & WESTERN bands, and it's high time I see them at Gypsy Sally's, one of their favorite venues. There is a big crowd in the sizable room and they all are digging into this easily digestible music. The band employs loads of skill and style in making this music so easy to grab on to. These all sound like classic songs (well one IS by the Bee Gees interestingly enough) with their solid backing components, along with crisp guitar leads. There are twin lead vocalists and harmonies with a male and female voice providing significant diversity. It's all done with humor and a relaxed feel good style that is perfect for a night in the clubs. They can hold their own with anyone on any stage and even have enough glitter on their guitars to work with Billy Zoom. Even if this genre is not at the top of your list (and it's not for me), you owe it to yourself to see a great band like this as they offer up great songs that link the wide array of rock'n'roll styles that hold the universe together... or just come out, let your hair down and have fun.

Whitey Morgan & the 78s - It seems like this Flint Michigan band is a hard touring outfit. That may be apparent from simple web research or a comment they made about having 'a rare four days off without a show', but is also obvious from their skills on stage. They have three guitars cooking atop of a rhythm section. One is a pedal steel, which works for me in ways that many bands fail as it compliments the sound with subtlety and style and doesn't go for any syrupy emotions. Instead, all three guitars have a strong bite as they tear into hard C+W music that probably doesn't sit too well with the mainstream crowd. You pretty much need to embrace the outlaw music to dig into this. And the large crowd tonight did all of that. Gypsy Sally's is a comfortable place, feeling like a smaller Birchmere or Hamilton, but their pattern of booking some of the finer touring and local roots bands has certainly helped bring in a good crowd like tonight.

Quote of the Night... from the Highballers' guitarist - "And now for something we hope you really like."

Rocky & Bullwinkle references will always get you extra credit points in my book.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Drowners - Bully -- Rock'n'Roll Hotel - Oct 21 2014

Bully - Up first tonight is a twin guitar rock quartet with a female vocalist adding rhythm guitar. Her vocal work is attractive but tough enough to almost live up to their name. It has to have a little toughness as the band cooks up some stirring hard rock with plenty of pace and a cutting edge. The lead guitar swirls around, sometimes underneath the verses, which is a jarring and effective move when done well. No real new ground here, but this band knows its territory and works it well. There is a young crowd that is enthusiastic yet eerily polite tonight and they seemed to enjoy this set.
Drowners - And to finish the night is another twin guitar quartet from NYC ready to rock the house down. By set's end, they did just that as a good solid rocking set built to a powerful finish through their crafting a fine set list. The early material showcased warm music with some jangle in the guitar and strong focused singing. The rhythm section seemed to push things forward with strength and a smooth style, which left plenty of room for thoughtful guitar moves. The songs were all pretty solid, but a gutsy cover of Gun Club's 'Sex Beat' really ramped things up. Fortunately they had a few originals equal to the pace and power of this song to follow. The last cuts seem to come more from that LA punk scene that Gun Club grew out of and brought out the inner punk rocker in me that is never to far away with a band that has the right energy. Drowners are a band that is attracting a young crowd and they have a lot to offer them and even some of us old timers as well.

The 'clean out the parents' medicine cabinet photo of the day. This product was available at Revco once upon a time for twenty-nine cents...

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Agent Orange - The Architects -- Black Cat - Oct 20 2014

By Kyle Schmitt 

The Architects - This band of brothers brought their Kansas City classic rock to the Black Cat’s backstage. Singer/guitarist Brandon Phillips has a fine ear for vocal melodies; his timely pauses and phrasing bring to mind The Crystals as much as any hard-rock group. His sibling rhythm section (bassist Zachary and drummer Adam) added some thrash to The Architects’ sound, which would’ve been just at home in the late 1970s. A cover of AC/DC’s “Sin City” fit tightly into their set, while the group’s own “Daddy Wore Black” was damn near anthemic. “Cadillac” brought some impressive swagger to a set that had already featured Brandon presenting his pick to the heavens in delayed, sweaty anticipation of another guitar-based attack. Bonus points for the band’s Tumblr account, which features copious entries in a Rachel Maddow fan fiction anthology.
Agent Orange - Singer/guitarist Mike Palm knows where he’s from and why he’s here. His band played most of their debut album Living in Darkness, the SoCal classic that helped establish west coast punk, while Palm offered a tribute to Z-Boy skating legend Jay Adams. Palm also paid tribute to DC, claiming he was sick of getting sent out to Springfield for gigs. He estimated that the band hadn’t played the Black Cat since it left its original location (many crowd members looked as if they’d probably attended the show in question). Old favorites “Everything Turns Grey”, “I Kill Spies”, and “Bloodstains” provoked dancing from the old-school audience, as did a crowd-pleasing cover of the Dead Kennedys’ “Police Truck”. Palm even displayed his chivalrous side when he honored a bride-to-be by engineering a “ladies only” mosh pit and serenading the dancers with Jefferson Airplane’s “Somebody to Love”. The group showcased their renowned surf-rock chops by bookending their set with genre classics “Miserlou” and “Pipeline”. Although “The Last Goodbye” helped round out the show, Agent Orange gave reason to believe that 35 years in the business weren’t enough for this proud DIY outfit.

Quote of the Night: “Can you imagine if your job not only allowed you to drink at work, but supplied the alcohol?” - Mike Palm upon recommending the bar at Black Cat.

Lia Ices -- 9:30 Club - Oct 20 2014

Lia Ices - Tonight's opener (and closer for me) is an interesting singer who does well to create pop music with a personal flair. Lia Ices' powerful voice elevates the music maybe not to Kate Bush levels, but to something that will grab your attention. The drums are steady, the guitar lighter and more intricate, and the keys and backing tracks there to thicken out the sound a bit. It could be dream pop were it not for the strong vocals that will keep you wide awake. Still, you may drift off into her pop world with her array of songs that may be a bit too steady. The second to last cut featured a heftier electric guitar with some added synth leads that created some extra excitement. The only flaw for me was that the set should of closed on this cut rather than the next song which was a bit of a let down. Still, a solid set of interesting music that went over well enough with the sold-out crowd awaiting Phantogram.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Minus the Bear - O'Brother -- Rock'n'Roll Hotel - Oct 19 2014

O'Brother - I have already decided that the state of Georgia was a surprisingly fertile land for some extremely interesting heavy bands, Mastodon and Kylesa being the most famous of the bunch. So I am not surprised to expand my list further with these eight year veterans I am catching up with finally. They start out ultra heavy with three guitars blazing away atop the powerful rhythm section. There are strange trebly runs that invoke indie rock that has me thinking they are too indie for the doom crowd and possibly too doom for the indie crowd. But they are so good, they can probably pull in a majority of anyone who likes things heavy and creative. The vocals are surprisingly strong as the remind me quite a bit of Queens of the Stone Age at their steadiest and heaviest style. Or perhaps it is as if Josh Homme was jamming with Mogwai? There songs vary enough primarily through the vocal work, that any more comparisons are not terribly important. They impressed me a bunch and this sold out room was warm to them as well. Great start and worth the price of admission alone.

Minus the Bear - But why quit after a great opening set, when you get one of the strongest bands coming out of Seattle since a certain movement captivated the world a couple of decades back? No one was quitting as the packed house was fully engaged in this band's set. Their sound was inviting, but with a cool side to it as well, which they managed to integrate without any awkward transitions. This showed great skill as if Magazine was integrated with Echo & the Bunnymen or the Teardrop Explodes. Or perhaps Minus the Bear's neo-psyche approach is worked into strong songs that could be adapted to other rock styles? The formula is not exactly clear to me, which is always a good thing as it shows this band has confidently taken a creative path resulting in music that is so easy to get into, without being forgotten amidst dozens of other similar bands. I left completely convinced of this band's skill and power.

Photo grab of the Night... This was a facebook post from Christ Stein via Tim Sommer. It follows one of my favorite games of comparing photos in very odd ways... So here we have a fire eating bass player with a scroll eating avenger.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Chomp Chomp - Sir EU - Dullard -- Velvet Lounge - Oct 15 2014

Dullard - Thankfully, this gentleman's moniker was not prophetic to what I thought of his set. And it was going to be a challenge tonight as I was hearing electronica and hip hop, usually something I would enjoy at home more than in a club. Dullard was just one guy with his computer and electronic gear, but he managed to cook up a smart set that was a pleasure to listen to. His drum programming was a bit better than average and the overall thickness of the sound worked well for me. Good job.

Sir EU - Jesse aka Chomp Chomp is working the beats for this DC area rapper. I can follow some of it well enough, but at other times the cliches come out in between the fast dialog which is less comprehensible. I am not sure there is a lot of new ground here, but I rather enjoyed a couple of his later raps as he had more interesting lines with just enough innovation on the beat. Enough of the crowd was getting into the set and he delivered the goods quickly and efficiently. So if the local hip hop scene is your scene, Sir EU should be a part of it.
Chomp Chomp - We have another electronica set which does not always excite me in the live setting. However, it seems a really good fit at the small and cozier Velvet Lounge. There was a modest crowd close to twenty who added to the comfort with a bit of dancing and a lot of support. Jesse's music began with a nice pulsating beat that never went into a more annoying throb. He kept it nimble and interesting with various melodic shifts and bursts. The real success in making this set work for me was his tracking where he shifted from darker material to brighter poppier bits before finishing with a grandiose powerhouse. This was the right setting for a pleasant night of music with enough variety to hold attention from beginning to end. So I was happy to attend.

Quote of the Night: From Sir EU... "You people are slaves, I got the microphone."

Yes, but I had the pen.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

PREVIEWS OF COMING ATTRACTIONS - LATE OCTOBER 2014

Zola Jesus plays my favorite Smithsonian Museum, the Hirshhorn this Friday, October 17th.


Minus the Bear will have me pondering their name when I see them on Sunday, October 19th when they hit the Rock'n'Roll Hotel.


Lia Ices coolly welcomes us to autumn at the 9:30 Club, on Monday, October 20th


The Drowners head to the Rock'n'Roll Hotel on Tuesday, October 21st (after a meet'n'greet at Doc Martens in Georgetown earlier in the day).


Ocean Blue sails in to play the Jammin Java on Friday, October 24th. They do two shows that night and the first one is already sold out.


Wampire and Tops get you ready for Halloween at the DC9 on Monday, October 27th.


Temples is one of the best bands in the world right now. I caught them at the DC9 a while back and apparently a whole lot of people agree with me as they are now headlining the 9:30 Club on Tuesday, October 28th.