Sunday, May 3, 2015

Joe Pug - Field Report -- 9:30 Club - May 2 2015

Field Report - It is just Christopher Porterfield of Field Report on guitar and vocals and unfortunately without a backing band and some volume, annoying conversations rule the day. When I am able to focus on the music, he has a nice little style to his playing with fingers or picks and there is occasionally some backing synth or echoes adding some mystery to the song. But any mystery is bludgeoned by the idiots next to me in 'the VIP' section of the club. I guess status has its privileges. I would have said something, but that only would have highlighted that there were other conversations further away, but still audible, coming into play. So the choice was to stay and be frustrated or go home, play with my cat and do what I want. Easy choice.
Excessive rigs - keyboards... Again, not so much excessive, but just a huge early version of the Moog synthesizer. This one belonged to Keith Emerson. Interestingly, it was delivered to the studio while he was working on the first ELP album. His experimental noodling became the 'Lucky Man' solo. I had a guess of Paul Beaver, which is a good guess as he may have had one just like this.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Twin Peaks - White Reaper - Shirt/Pants -- Rock'n'Roll Hotel - May 1 2015

Shirt/Pants - This Virginia band looks and seems quite young. One of the giveaways is the erratic stage patter where there was not a lot of comfort or coherence. But when they launched into their music, there were many interesting things at work. Best of all was the lead guitar, which was busy in a creative manner with plenty of pace and surprise. The overall style was reminiscent of early Lemonheads crossed with Rights of the Accused, although the soundman, Dennis, had a more accurate take with hearing a lot of Pavement in their sound. We agreed that there is a lot there to work with. I would be disappointed if this was an old band mailing it in, but these guys have every chance to fully put together their talents and become a serious force. I hope they go for it.

White Reaper - From the fertile grounds of Louisville, comes this hard charging quartet featuring guitar, bass, keyboards, and drums. The players rip through ferocious punk power pop and sound a lot like the Dickies, as the vocals and pop melodies are quite similar. One cut reminded me of the Sweet's 'Ballroom Blitz', although much closer to how the Damned played it. I really enjoyed the keyboards farfisa-esque sound with its loopy fun melodies working of the fury of the guitar and bass. They delivered tonight and they got my heart pumping.
Twin Peaks - There's another guitarist added to the lineup I saw last August at the DC9. I thought that might be a bit of overkill, but it all gelled quite nicely tonight. They were even more furious and even a bit tighter as they take their Guided by Voices styled classic garage rock and infuse it with youthful punk energy. They pull back often with hook laden pop rockers, but it is still pretty assertive stuff. They are still young, but are getting quite comfortable with playing on stage, touring, and working an ever increasingly populated room. Good things await and they are quite good right now.

Continuing the Excessive theme quiz (and excessive isn't a criticism, necessarily)... What famed keyboardist uses this synthesizer, which while excessive in size, is a vintage Moog, which couldn't have been any smaller at the time?


Friday, May 1, 2015

RECORD REVIEWS - APRIL 2015

Here are this month's releases sent to me and reviewed just for you. Hope you are as weary reading about them as I was writing about them (seriously, there is some excellent music here, so take a look and go listen to what strikes your fancy).

JOHN ANDREWS and the YAWNS “BIT BY THE FANG”
This has laid back and quirky qualities working simultaneously as these pop ditties unfold. If you like slacker music, I would advise you to give this a listen. If not and if laconic pop music frustrates you, then steer clear. I lean toward the latter. I found a few light hearted whimsical moments that connected, but this did not transport me away from the urban decay that I was looking for when I listened to it. To each his own, but always beware of dangerously accurate band names.

Songs to start with first:

Don’t Spook the Horses - The opener establishes the vibe. If you are spooked, leave the stable.

I’ll Go to Your Funeral - Strong contrasting guitars carefully played before a country song from the 4th dimension is born.

Bit by the Fang - Good psychedelic ever so slow fade-out. Yes, I like the fade out.

APOLCALYPTICA “SHADOWMAKER”
This is a fascinating album for metal fans who want something progressive or beyond. There are a lot of elements at work, most interesting is that what sounds like guitars and bass with strings is instead three cellos. They cover highs, low end, leads, rhythm, and have great dynamics as well The vocal work is rather standard and does not venture into deathly territories. But the instrumental passages can be quite adventurous working Curved Air terrain with a Kattatonia attitude. I wish the vocals (new to the band) were more progressive or sartorial or something, but I feel they will grow on me. The instrumental work will have me coming back many times. Metal needs more of this kind of imagination, and for that matter all genres can generally do with further injections of strings whenever possible. For now, check out this mighty Finland band on this record or on stage if you can (they were fabulous when I saw them a few days ago).

Songs to start with first:

Shadowmaker - The title cut has some atmospheric parts, some great crunching sounds, and some wildly inventive lead cello.

Reign of Fear - Killer strings—strings that kill or at least induce fear.

Till Death Do us Part - The first of two long closers is a great progressive instrumental.

THE APPLESEED COLLECTIVE “LIVE at the ARK”

I quickly hear the washboard percussion, which is perfect for the incredible pace of the banjo, guitar, bass, and violin. You really can’t play a washboard slowly, it just rips away, along with the rest of this fine band. The first few cuts are smoking with pace as they light up the stage with their brisk, on target Americana moves. They pull back some, which allows a more bluesy singing from their female banjo player. Then they go to a laid back porch style folk before ratcheting it up again. So it is a lot of back and forth with sincere style shifts and many changes of pace. That makes for a vibrant live experience, and in this case—live album. But whether they are flaunting bluegrass moves or engaging in flamenco styled guitar, there is one thing that is consistent and that is the sense of fun they bring into each song.

See for yourself at Gypsy Sally’s, when they open for the Hillbilly Gypsies on Friday, May 22nd.

BEAUTY PILL “DESCRIBES THINGS AS THEY ARE”
This album is a tricky little devil. Maybe more of a big devil as there are a lot big bold sounds and style shifts to sort through. This is a very worldly album, with the rhythms being the starting point of their creativity. There are electronic sounds mixed with classic instrumentation from a variety of areas that are hard to pin down to a genre. The vocals are effective with strength or vulnerability as needed. At times I am not so sure about whether it all comes together, but when they nail it, it goes extremely well. Although this is a local DC band, they have been quite prominent or quite silent, as this is their first album in eleven years. Beauty Pill’s Chad Clark is a studio ace and that is proven here as the production and sumptuous, thoughtful arrangements are up there with the best of the busiest progressive bands. Obviously there is a lot here and I’ll figure it out eventually, but I am enjoying it well enough on first listen. I can see a rather large fan base for quality such as this.

You have tonight and tomorrow to catch this band at the Artisphere, so make your plans quickly.

Songs to start with first:

Afrikaner Barista - Mysterious wordly images come forth from these rhythms and wild sonic shifts.

Steven and Tiwonge - They pull back a bit with a lovely song and still some intriguing rhythms which are lively than they first appear.

Dog with Rabbit in Mouth Unharmed - Female vocals are easy to get lost in, especially as the musical melody wraps around you… unharmed.

BRADDOCK STATION GARRISON “A HINT OF RECOGNITION”
While you may want to lump this local band into one of those good bar bands that you will gladly spend some time with on a weekend evening, you may want to check out their original songs a bit more closely. The eight songs on this album will give you good crisp thoughtful rockers that have a lot of fascinating guitar interplay, even more sonically than stylistically speaking (MC5 joke in that sentence). Most of these songs have just enough clever moves to stay away from the ruts or well traveled highways of straight up rock music. Yet it is all recognizable rock, just a little bit classic and a little bit indie and a few of the songs will make a fine first impression. Catch a live show, too, as they deliver the goods there as well.

Songs to start with first:

She’s Too Cool for Me - Nice combination of jangly rhythm guitar and clean lead with good melodic shifts.

Lies - Well it’s not the Saints ‘Lies’, but it goes from its Bank Generation verses to cool bits with wildly fuzzy guitar.

Never in Danger - Hmmm… take the Stooges Gimme Danger and have REM rewrite it an record it? Cool song.

CALEXICO “EDGE OF THE SUN”

This veteran Tucson band is known for their brand of Southwestern Americana rock music. Yet there is a more universal vibe inherent in much of this album. Sure, the spicy flavors of the southwest are present, but both the instrumentation and the melodies move the music into broader territory. I believe the cover art is quite accurate in conveying the mood and spirit of the album, showing also a sense of time that is not easy to pin down. No matter where you place this album comparatively to the rest of your music collection, if you are like me, you will be reaching for it for many relistening occasions to try to work out its mysteries or just to sit back and drift away to the melodies.

Songs to start with first:

Falling from the Sky - The opening cut has wonderful lush keyboards and mellotron like sounds behind a strong warm song.

Bullets and Rocks - The vocal harmonies create a subtle mystery in this engaging song.

Cumbria Donde - If you want the deep southwestern sound, here it is with some electronic coloring in the mix.

LA CASA al MARE “THIS ASTRO”
This six song EP offers thick dreamy shoe gaze music. There really is not a whole lot to distinguish it from its predecessors, unless you are an expert in the field. I am not, although I enjoy a lot of it. This is perfectly fine music, but it could be one song or 18 songs, it all just flows over me with those washed out guitars, deep bass, ringing drums, and dreamy vocals. The one exception is ‘At All’ which has some real pop hooks and backing vocals that are more reminiscent of power pop. So this is something for the genre fans, but there are hints of some broadened horizons that could pull in the rest of us.

THE COLOR EXCHANGE “CUBED”
This North Carolina band impressed me with a DC appearance a couple years back as ‘the Clockwork Kids’, so I looked forward to their new album. The ‘Kids’ have grown up and changed their sound around a bit, but they still feature some quality musicians and fine lead vocals carrying some thoughtful songs. There are more keyboards here in addition to all the rock standard instruments, which add a new texture to their sound. Gently coaxing the drama out of their songs, seem to be where they make the most of their abilities and separate themselves from the pack. I think they are more than half successful songwise, based on first listen of this album, but they are off to a good start under their new name.

Songs to start with first:

Tongues - Starting off, we have a strong song that showcases all their instrumental abilities along with great vocals.

Beacons - A bit more quiet here, but this is a nice pullback that draws attention in the same manner of shouting.

Century - A fine sense of mystery and building drama in this arrangement.

CRYSTAL JACQUELINE “RAINFLOWER”
The very name, Crystal Jacqueline, conjures up light psychedelic imagery and that is a fair starting point here. The female vocals have a relaxed clarity to them as they navigate the dreamscape paths the songs take. Sure there is a touch of the ‘Kiss in the Dreamhouse’ Siouxsie and the Banshees here, but the vocals are purer and not as intense. There is an interesting weaving of thick and thin sounds along the path of this album. The mood moves through a relaxing middle portion to a riveting send off with the title cut and closer pushing up to new heights. This path is clearly up to a distant peak, through the clouds and a chilly atmosphere. This English artist is a great successor to the likes of Vashti Bunyan, Mary-Anne, Mandy Morton, and many more.

Songs to start with first:

Siren - The opener creates a powerful and inviting atmosphere that you won’t want to stop here.

In My Chair - The sharp electric guitar and driving rhythm section allow the vocals to push through foggy path.

Again… Dragonfly - The closer has tremendous soaring vocals and strong dramatic accompaniment.

DMA’s EP
Six mostly snappy songs are on tap with this Australian pop rock outfit. Bright singing, acoustic and electric guitars bopping around the beat, and a punchy rhythm section help create these likable songs. The guitar leads are a bit twisted, just enough so you don’t get too much saccharine in your diet. They also pull it back into a pop folk mode on ‘Delete’ and ‘So We Know’, so you get some variety here. Although I liked the heaviest (yet smooth) rocker ‘Feels Like 37’ the best of this small sample. I would enjoy this band live, I think it is safe to say. However I am debating whether to forgive them for the superfluous apostrophe, not that’s not it… it’s just plain wrong (not that I can cast the first stone, or the hundredth stone).

And they make their way from their continent to ours to play the DC9, on Tuesday, June 9th.

DEATH “N.E.W.”
Several years back, I read about this mysterious band that had only one rare 7” record to their name, when the seven songs they recorded where discovered in an attic and were to be rereleased and would show them to be the missing link between Detroit proto-punk of the Stooges and MC5 and the late seventies punk rock. Yeah right, I thought, until I heard the songs in all their jaw dropping glory. Rarely does the reality exceed the hype, even when the hype is this huge. The three brothers from Detroit were truly on to something different for their time in their town or anywhere. Actually, it made perfect sense coming out of the brilliant Detroit and Ann Arbor scenes. Fast forward to today and we have the one guitarist/vocalist/writing brother dead and the rhythm section playing in a Vermont gospel/reggae band. The acclaim has finally come in and there is an excellent documentary film worth seeing that can tell the story better than I. So the rhythm section did some tribute shows before recruiting a new guitarist to begin again. And the results are in. Like the Stooges’ new albums, expectations should be kept down and there is no reason to expect anything near as brilliant as the early material. And like the Stooges, this does pale to the original songs, but not as much as the Stooges. There are ten nice little rockers here, with a few of them fitting in quite well to what they did so long ago. I truly look forward to their visit to DC.

Songs to start with first:

At the Station - An intriguing guitar sound working underneath a tough vocal melody and punchy rhythm.

You are What you are - This has that great clipped vocal style they employed early on.

Resurrection - Good lyrics and a gutsy song that just feels good down deep.

DIARRHEA PLANET/THOSE DARLINS “LIVE AT PICKATHON”




Pickathon is a pretty good looking festival in Oregon. Both the state and the festival offer a pretty diverse array of bands. These two are from Nashville and fit the punk label generally enough, but with two differing styles.

First the hideously named Diarrhea Planet offers up decent anthemic punk rock with roaring bass, plenty of cymbals and strong vocals atop the furious barre chords. Thankfully, they mix it up a bit such as in ‘Kids’ with some dynamics. Otherwise it is all pretty assertive and melodic enough with some moments of crazed soloing over wild pace. For the kids, or perhaps the kid in most adults.

Next, Those Darlins’ have more of a Buzzcocks crunch in the guitar work and that same sort of punk and pop balance featuring strong melodies and clear vocal work. They even show off roots with a very nice cover of the Vibrators’ ‘Sweetheart’. The music rocks just hard enough and balances the pop moves well to pull in many types of rock fans, but especially those of us that were there for the Vibrators and Buzzcocks back when their first records came out.

You can see Those Darlin’s this Friday night, May 8th, at the DC9.

FUTURE OF FORESTRY “PAGES”

This is gentle folk from Eric Owyong playing everything aside from a bit of guitar and steel guitar. He is also aided with some superb lead and harmony vocals from Ali K. The songs are nice, but they work on a more prosaic feet on the ground level than I particularly enjoy. I am speaking musically as much as I am lyrically. I thought that over 14 songs, there was some evidence that they can get there, so I hope they stay with this approach and keep honing their craft. There still is plenty of fine material for fans that like this more straight up approach.

Songs to start with first:

By the Water - There is a bit of anthemic rock in this folk rock song featuring quiet and loud moments.

Cross the Oceans - Fine walking pace with full vocal harmonies and atmospheric guitar twang.

Trust - This is closer to the deeper heartfelt folk that searches mystical borders even if they never cross.

GACHA “SEND TWO SUNSETS”

I believe this record convinced me to stop reviewing electronica records. Not because it was so awful, as they create some respectable atmosphere here that is a bit above an ambient feeling. It is more trance than dance, I suppose, but the problem is that I really don’t know how to describe this anymore. It is like fans of this music trying to delineate between hardcore bands like Siege and DRI. There are differences, but it is all noise to most of them. To be fair to my reviewing abilities, I have found enough electronica based artists that move me when I sense that they have created something that is moving, physically and mentally. This is simply nice background music for me. So, if you like moody, atmospheric electronica with careful female vocals give this long player a spin, but read someone else’s review first.

GEOGRAPHER “GHOST MODERN”
Another in the appropriately named album titles list. This is about as modern pop as you get in 2015 with some beats that sound real thankfully, electronica, and a mixture of vocals, part detached, others quite emotional. There is a ghostly ethereal quality to all of it. That works well enough when I am in the mood.

You can see what it is like live and in person at the U Street Music Hall, when they play on Saturday, May 23rd.

Songs to start with first:

Need - This has a strong foundation and interesting vocal work.

You Say You Love Me - Bouncy new wavish dance music, not normally my thing, but they do this well.

Patience - I rather enjoy this lighter approach with quivering vocals and waterfall piano runs.

HANNAH IN THE WARS “HANNAH IN THE WARS”
If you like stylish introspective music that still rocks a bit, have listen to these ten songs. The female vocals are delicate with lovely tone and enough emotional range to raise and lower the song’s drama just enough. The instruments are arranged like the textural difference in a fine main course with crunchy bits and smooth silky textures.

Songs to start with first:

Burning Through the Night - The opening cut establishes a mysterious basking for the wispy, yet assertive vocals.

Rear View Mirror Baby - Dovetail female vocals with male harmonies sneaking atop crystal guitar moves and a rumble of other backing—quite the aural imagery.

Only Wanna Be - Exquisite vocals and daring piano beyond the cymbal wash.

IGLOMAT “III”
The simple strategy to winning tic tac toe is to grab the middle square and hope for the best (and enjoy the Paul Lynde joke along the way). Nothing is so simple for getting into Scotland’s Iglomat, even if their single is named after this simple game. With this song and the nine others, they offer up a number of oblique angles in their instrumental passages with plenty of guitar and vocal jabs, sometimes coming at startling moments. It is great drama, enhanced by their ability to create such lovely passages as well as jarring or odd moments. Even if you are not a fan of post rock or the more experimental ways of achieving melody and structure, give this a listen and you will likely find some fascinating songs.

Songs to start with first:

My God it’s Full of Stars - Very fine song, but the 2001 reference is welcome and appropriate.

The Kelpies - Like Goblin smoothed out, vibrant and dreamy all at once.

Tic Tac Toe - Strong guitar, strong synthesizer, and a strong sense of melodic balance.

IT WAS ROMANCE “IT WAS ROMANCE”
This seven song record showcases the interesting power pop style of this up and coming Brooklyn outfit. I particularly enjoy the quiver in the female vocal work of Lane Moore, which is some sort of combination of Chrissy Hynde and Feargal Sharkey. Her songs also remind of the way a favorite of min, Lovelikefire, integrated shoe gaze sounds while focusing on delivering heartfelt hooks. Ultimately there are many pleasant elements to these songs that are fully in balance. Listening to this music is a pleasure due to the smarts and skills of the people behind it, who have the spark of creativity and put it to use in a comfortable format. I hope to see them live some time as well. But for now, join me in listening and relistening to all seven songs, you will be glad you did.

LABASHEEDA “CHANGING LIGHTS”
Guitar oriented indie rock will be with us for a long time to come it appears, as it can encompass a number of post modern rock styles, I suppose. The trick here or anywhere is how to stand out. Labasheeda just about does enough here with these twelve songs—at least most of them. A few slip back away from the memory rather quickly, but there are some gutsy numbers that harken back to punk rock days with a variety of styles that include sludge, art punk, grrrrl power, and more. There are even slide guitar moves that sound unique in the context of the styles elsewhere in the song, and even more oddly, a violin that snakes around the near Kim Gordon vocal work. Good stuff.

Songs to start with first:

Spiral Song - Fine opener with hefty guitar lines, slick vocals and some guts to the rhythm.

Wasteland - Has a bit of Ari Up spunk with the sludgy guitar riffs—brings back the memories.

Tightrope - Great guitar parts, distinct and powerful in unison.

LITTLE MAY ep
This is a bright little gem. In just five songs, they convinced me they are a band I want to follow as they progress through life (actually I only needed two). They are from Australia, so it may be a challenge seeing them, but hopefully they will keep writing and releasing records like this. They work the folk and folk-rock range in a universal manner, not being too rooted, but shooting outward with big bold strokes worked around the quieter traditional sounds. The female vocals are exquisite, the guitars are delicate and the arrangements are full and thoughtful. This is excellent.

And what do you know, but they are opening for the Vaccines at the 9:30 Club on Thursday, June 7th. Sounds like an absolute winner.

MIKAELA KAHN “MILK & HONEY”

This short album has seven songs that work the modern rhythm and blues. There is electronica in the backing for the most part, although you can hear some real guitars and keyboards in there as well. The star are the vocals of Mikaela Kahn with her smooth delivery that can pull at the emotions without going too far over the top. The backing music showcases the vocals well with reasonable restraint but some fine harmonic touches. The songs may not completely bowl you over, the but the delivery is so composed, that it will make for a satisfying listen.

ROISIN MURPHY “HAIRLESS TOYS”
Honestly, this is the kind of modern electronica soul music that I occasionally see at the U Street Music Hall and end up wishing I had gone to another club instead. It is reasonable enough if you like the approach, but I prefer something with a bit more old school backing and more dynamic in vocal delivery. There are eight really long songs here to explore if this is your field of expertise.

THE KYLE SOWASHES “EVERYBODY
Raucous power pop re-emerged during the punk scene and will endure for a long time. Kyle Sowash and his band do the tradition proud with plenty of moves reminiscent of Husker Du, Ted Leo, and Sebadoh. the hooks are decent and the guitar has an extra ferocious edge on some of the cuts. They slow a few down and play around with the pace just enough to delineate the songs as they come fast at ya. The only area I can see to work on is the vocals, which work best when there is some energy. Occasionally, they trail off a bit too lazily. Otherwise, these songs will have you boppin’ around, figuratively if not literally

Songs to start with first:

Lemons - Not too tart here, with a fine hook and plenty of power.

Driveway Moments - One of the most brisk songs of the 17 here, no time for slack.

King Chip of Fudge Mountain - Radio friendly reworked title of an earlier song on the LP. Use you imagination if you dare.

NEW POLITICIANS “REMISSION”
This seven song record features a steady and powerful sound that fits perfectly into that British neo psyche/shoegaze post punk world. The guitars are strong and spacey with a controlled beat and up front vocals that remind me of many of the classic singers from the 80s onward. It is all a pleasant listen, but the songs were about half and half, with the better half having me sit up and take notice with the others sliding into comfortably assertive background music. That is not bad and if you like this style of band, New Politicians has done enough here to dig into.

OOFJ “ACUTE FEAST”
Edgy electronica is the entree special here. Their sound is immediate and has a certain strength to it, which is good as their name had me thinking of either a misprint acronym of local band, Office of Future Plans, or a typo on a Batman fight scene cartoon insert. There is nothing overly original here, although the icy female vocals certainly have enough personality to stand out. Musically, there is a decent thrust to the sound and pace, but ultimately it creates a strong atmosphere, akin to a thick city fog with features of buildings and street lamps working their way through the mist. There is even some sax to add to the urban mystery feeling here. This is a fine full length effort that will sate the thirst of electronica lovers.

TY SEGALL/KING TUFF “LIVE AT PICATHON”
By Kyle Schmitt



This split EP features 2013 live sets from Ty Segall and King Tuff, who take vastly different approaches to their performances. Segall exchanges his current molten-guitar attack for acoustic playing on his six tracks, all but one of which come from his 2013 album Sleeper. This approach allows the dynamics and groove to carry these tunes. “Queen Lullabye”  benefits from nice vocal interplay, and “The Keepers” even boasts a whistling solo.  “The Man Man” sounds almost reminiscent of a more lucid Syd Barrett; only “Girlfriend” (which preceded the other five tunes in its release) feels robbed of any urgency through the instrumental choices. While Segall’s songs convey the roiling emotions he endured in dealing with his adoptive father’s death, King Tuff stresses the importance of doing the Frankenstein and walking/rocking these streets in the middle of the night.  A purposeful “Anthem” segues into the even more anthemic “”Keep on Movin’”. Tuff’s soloing on this statement of purpose sounds exquisite, as does his guitar-work on “Stranger”, where his breezy rockabilly riff is accented by some on-point barking. More good times abound on “Dancing on You” and “She’s On Fire”, which rely on Tuff’s signature style of danceable guitar rock.

Songs to start with:

The Man Man - Echoing vocals announce this worthy psychedelia.

Crazy - Segall retains his intensity while crooning a song that sounds almost … sweet.

Keep on Movin’ - Prototypical King Tuff song that perfectly captures his weird charm.

Stranger - Tuff keeps on barkin’ to let you know how much he feels it.

TEI SHEI “VERDE”
Five electronica driven cuts here, none of which clocks in at over five minutes, which as good as they focus more on the song than the mood. Not that there is any lacking of ethereal synth backing, but between the lovely vocals and the jabbing melodies, the tunes carry the day here. This is a great way to take your electronica skills and work them around tasty vocals and in classic pop patterns, with just enough surprise to keep things interesting. This was just as fun live, if not more so, when she was recently in DC.

STEALING SHEEP “NOT REAL”

I really was not sure that this was going to work well for me as the cute electronic pop sounds dominated early. Thankfully, I stayed with it as there was a more varied approach in the arrangements as things went on. Sure, electronics were a part of it, but there were some interesting guitars and real drums that worked in a variety of manners behind the light and lovely female vocals. There are some crafty songs here and most should strike a resonant chord within the ear of every pop music fan, even if this style is not exactly on your short playlist.

Songs to start with:

Sequence - The opener has enough of their style and push to get you interested.

This Time - Nice 1960s guitar buried with the modern lush sounds and a snappy beat and vocal line makes for a catchy song in any era.

Greed - A bit of a Banshees begin gives way to brass instruments working some magic deep in the background.

TRIUMPH OF THE WILD “WE COME WITH THE DUST”
This is raw in the sense that it sounds like front porch musicians stomping out some honkeytonk rootsy folk and blues as best they can into their cassette recorder. Actually the recording is better than that, but the playing is direct and on the twisted side of life. If you are Stampfel & Weber/Holy Modal Rounders fans, you should take to this. Especially if you also like the torch blues singing in a female voice, as there are some fine moments for that, too. I was quite worried at the start of this record, that although I may respect it, I would not want to listen to it ever again. But by ‘side two’ the band pulled me into their world and I am sure I will go back for another visit to their dusty, hot, and arid front porch.

Songs to start with first:

Tombstone - A strong song that displays their style to their advantage

Killing Season - Fine songs with some good instrumental twists.

One is the Number - The most ferocious rocker on the album, always wins a nod from me.

TURN TO CRIME “ACTIONS”
Former Awesome Color axeman Derek Stanton continues to explore new ground in his interesting guise entitled Turn to Crime. It is raw in an entirely different way from his former band with an even lower fidelity approach and much more variety in structure with synthesizers, odd percussion, and twisted vocals. He even reminds me of Bowie at the outset going into a Berlin-esque synthesizer beat with darkly crooned vocals. There are some twisted psychedelic guitars on ‘Light’ which really jump out from the odder songs here. It is a mixed bag in terms of results, but it kept my mind working overtime as I listened to each song, which shows how inventive this is. I particularly enjoyed the eight minute ‘Feels Right’ with its Iggy-Bowie feeling featuring guitars, synthesizers, percussion, and droning vocals.

THE VALKARYS “FLYING WITH GOD”
This Scottish old school psyche band has a steady approach to the style. As we have all heard many times before, these guitars jangle with fuzzy interludes. Yet the rhythm section has control of a slower tempo, which invokes a more atmospheric thoughtful presence into the music. The vocals understand this well enough and pull back just enough. Nice.

Songs to start with first:

Honey Hill - Quite like Iggy Pop’s ‘The Passenger’ stretched out a bit. Like real theft, always steal from the best.

Xylophobia - A fear of xylophones, as the joke goes (it’s actually wood)… fine dreamy psychedelic rock—entrancing.

Fistful of Dollars (Revisited) - Not Morricone, alas, but a bouncy walkabout through the old psychedelic west.

SAM VICARI “GIVING UP”
Chewy, yummy power pop is the silly way to describe this music. Sam Vicari reminds me of a lighter version of Redd Kross, but not much lighter. The guitar work is crisp and rocking. His voice is even slightly popper than that of Jeff MacDonald and it achieves a lot of the same warmth and comfort. There is a bit of a stripped down Cars style to some of the songs. He strips down the instrumentation at different points, which is just enough to take a standard formula and freshen it up a bit. He keeps things on the smooth side as this album is easily digested and for power pop fans, it is a dessert they will return to often.

Songs to start with first:

Little Stones - The opener sets the tone with punchy guitar, sweet voice, and irrepressible hooks.

All and Everyday - Just another great hook and vocal line.

Just Enough - Great voice and bass beginning before the full band blast to finish it off.

YAZAN “HOWLIN’”
This is a four song EP that doesn’t need too long to establish itself as in an in your face lo-fi, down and dirty, blues rocker. The guitar almost breathes out its heavy riffs, while the bass rumbles, and the drums echo around the room. It’s an enjoyable racket that indeed, features plenty of ‘howlin’ on top of it all, It is not overly reckless, but has the feeling of an animal in a crouch exploding outward. I’ve heard this style before and I’m sure I’ll hear it again, but I prefer Yazan to many of the others I have heard along the way.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Sixx A.M. - Apocalyptica - Vamps -- Fillmore - Apr 29 2015

Vamps - A Japanese quintet starts things off to a packed house tonight. They have a touch of glam, but far more more heft and pace to be tossed into that category. Their particular brand of metal has some old school hard rock inherent, alas lyrically, too. Yet there are some near industrial moves within and the guitar work is quite strong. The energy was high and they successfully pulled the crowd in. So ultimately this was an effective half hour opening set.

Apocalyptica - As expected, tonight's show would be just a wee bit louder and wilder than the enjoyable earlier set at the Embassy of Finland. To start, the percussionist was now at a full drum kit and with his power and skill, he was a great anchor for the three cellos. The cellos had that same outstanding interplay that was evident in the acoustic setting and the players were still able to bring it down and get delicate plucking and quieter passages working as well. New singer Frankie Perez has a fine resume and added some quality vocals for about half of the set Ultimately, it was the overall power and unbelievable speed that really amazed the crowd. The band are veterans and had lots of their own fans here tonight, but the roar at the close of the set from virtually the entire crowd just showed how amazing they were in their 45 minutes on stage. The one surprise for me was how well they worked the crowd by moving around the full width of the stage with their cellos. Kudos to the crowd for accepting something more creative than what may exist in their record collection, but with music this vibrant and thrilling, it was not much of a leap for them.
Sixx A.M. - It was only a few hours before the show, where I realized that in addition to the first two bands, I was going to see Nikki Sixx's band headlining tonight. While I somewhat loathed Motley Crue, I was happy that it was the one member I would want to listen to and even have a conversation with. Sixx is still on the bass and has a lead guitarist and lead vocalist in his trio (and contributing the initials to make up the band name). The singer does the drumming on the records, but they have a touring drummer to allow him to focus on his vocals. All of them contribute solid rock moves throughout the fare, which is decent post Crue rock music. It is not my favorite brand of metal or hard rock, but the band delivers what this crowd wants and seems on top of their game. I doubt too many people went home disappointed tonight.

Drumkit Quiz answer: The drumkit I highlighted a few posts back, was that of Terry Bozzio, of Frank Zappa and the mothers fame and then with his band, Missing Persons. He is on a lot of albums, so he has a lot of percussion. Kudos to two faithful readers who got the answer correct.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Apocalyptica -- Embassy of Finland - Apr 29 2015

Apocalyptica - This exciting three-cello rock band from Finland is opening for Nikki Sixx's band tonight at the Fillmore. They had some time to put on a brief half-hour set for a select crowd at the Embassy of Finland this afternoon. And thanks to the Embassy, I was invited to this lovely event and got to see a nice hint at what is coming tonight. This band features three cellos, a percussionist on a drum box today (no doubt a full kit tonight) and a vocalist. The vocalist took a few songs off, but added a strong hard rock/metal style to the rich and rocking cellos. I particularly enjoyed how one cello handled the bass, the other the leads, and the third did a plucking rhythm or some dual bowing with the lead. They went beyond that formula, but their basic sound is quite full and diverse showing off the versatility of the cello. I chatted with one member, who said that cellos are somewhat coming more into vogue now, but there weren't that many cello rock bands in Europe to draw influence from. I mentioned a great and obscure Dane, Tomrerclaus to him who he had not heard of, but he was quite familiar with the fine US dual cello/percussion band, Rasputina. The band did quite well today and it will only get better as it gets louder tonight.
And thanks to the Embassy of Finland for putting on such a nice program. I always have a great time at embassy events and want to remind everyone that many embassies will soon be opening their doors for the masses of DC residents that come to visit on the annual open house event. Over a quarter of million people take part, so get started early. It's gotten so big, that it is split into two Saturdays with much of the world embassies open on Saturday, May 2nd, while the European Union members (including Finland) open their doors on the Saturday the 9th. Get the details here.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Previews of Coming Attractions - Early May 2015

Stix Hix may Nix Pix, but here are some more trustworthy attempts to entertain you.

Hey, the Twin Peaks were just here kicking up a racket at the DC9. This time it is the Rock'n'Roll Hotel on Friday, May 1st. Next time it will be an even bigger more crowded club where you will lose more of your dollars. So go now, especiall with White Reaper on the bill.



I will bringing you my field report on Field Report when they hit the 9:30 Club on May 2nd.


The Donkeys bray into action at the DC9 on Tuesday, May 5th. Raucous local outfit Time is Fire, who I just reviewed a few days ago is opening.


Speedy Ortiz has the pace and creativity to make Wednesday, May 6th an important date for you, so join them at the Black Cat.


Former Superchunkian, Mac MacCaughan keeps the Black Cat busy on Thursday, May 7th.


Those Darlins and Adia Victoria are at the DC9 on Friday May 8th and the Replacements have already sold out, so join me at the DC9 (I already wasted my money on the drunken louts masquerading as the Replacements many years ago... ok, it was all of four dollars, but it is the principle).


It is an honor to have John Cooper Clarke come across the pond and grace several US clubs with his poetic presence. He is in DC at the Hamilton on Tuesday, May 12th. Don't miss.


Epichorus is part of the Washington Jewish Music Festival. They play the DCJCC on Wednesday, the 13th.


Golem is also a part of the festival and they play on Thursday the 14th at the Historic 6th + I Synagogue.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Time is Fire - Cigarbox Planetarium -- Bossa Bistro - Apr 26th

Cigarbox Planetarium - If you have not seen this local duo, it is difficult to describe them. Yet they inspired me to write what is still my personal favorite review of the thousand plus reviews I have done. Read it here, as their sound and approach is not going to change any time soon and did not tonight. It is still guitar channeling Link Wray and Duane Eddy coupled with two banks of keyboards creating farfisa and carnival organ sounds among other subtle sonic shifts here and there. I could easily enjoy both players as solo acts, but thankfully they come together in something that is astonishing in its wildly creative retro approach. If you consider yourself a music fan, you owe it to yourself to stretch your boundaries in some sort of past/future nexus and seek this band out. Perhaps you aren't old enough to recall hearing the Stones and Beatles on the radio and hunting through your parents lame record collection to try and find something anywhere near as cool on the Ray Coniff records (no) or Percy Faith records (not much) before hitting that instrumental gem on Andre Kostelanetz. So do the next best thing and check out one of the area's best kept secrets, Cigarbox Planetarium.
Time is Fire - This is a fairly new entry on to the local scene and they are more than welcome to it based on what I hear tonight. Start with the energy as the band is loaded with it. The drummer creates a firm beat for the guitarist to riff heavy on, while the bass player bounces around, both on the fretboard and in the club from end to end. The singer reminds me quite a bit of Arthur Brown (as the photo above so obviously shows), although he like everyone else on the planet does not quite get all the way to Brown's heights. But he stays on top of the racket and adds some percussion as well to the strong rhythmic qualities of the songs. I particularly liked the early songs with the wild snakey guitar runs that reminded me of Baris Manco crossed with Omar Souleyman. As the set went on, a few more reggae beats worked their way in and they got a tad too jamming toward the end. But it was still fun and great live, so the set had never a dull moment. A really fun night in the clubs tonight.

Oh and a quick note about the club. The downstairs area of this Adams Morgan club has had music for some time. This was in the upstairs area, where if you miss the intimacy of the Red & the Black, you can find it here. It's tiny, but the sound is good and it is a fine place to see some interesting bands. They may not always be this good, but with a cover of $5, you really can't go wrong.


Follow up on my prior post - A couple of hints about the drumkit photo I posted last time... The owner of it played for a prolific musician who died young and whose son carries on the music today. The drummer then formed a band with his wife who had some success, before he went solo and she went to Hustler Magazine. The answer... next time.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Tei Shi - Pleasure Curses - Champagne Fever -- DC9 - Apr 25 2015

Champagne Fever - This local duo is in the electronica field, although I am pleased to see a lot of bass playing in their set. Add soulful vocals to these throbbing bass lines and you have an act that is able to create a fine live sensibility to the synth runs and drum beats. They are active on stage throughout and have some decent tunes as well. This is a quality opening set and perfect for a Saturday evening in a crowded club. You could feel the audience working up the beginnings of a fever.

Pleasure Curses - I have enjoyed this duo quite a bit in the past with their Morrisey-esque vocals delivering fine pop tunes with electronics backing that up. Tonight was a bit more subdued for some reason. The vocals were more like withdrawn-Bowie, still with a fine quality, but down a notch on the energy scale. A couple of songs later in the set picked things up and showed them at their best. So it was not a home run tonight, but they are still a band worth catching some time.
Tei Shi - The crowd quickly revved up to the fascinating music of this trio, led by Argentian born, Brooklyn residing Valerie Teicher. With full time drums and a guitarist/keyboardist backing her vocals and occasional keyboards, they combined atmosphere and strength to deliver some powerful and unique pop music. The first song was all about atmosphere as the drummer proved able to create passages that emphasized the quiet before he would punch into a bigger beat for a bouncier song. The vocals are not quite as audacious as Kate Bush, but they have some of the same effect, especially with music that is challenging whilst retaining accessibility. There is only an EP out at present, so the future looks quite bright for Tei Shi, especially as this is day one of an extensive tour. I am glad I caught her in the beginning of what could be a long career, as crowds are certainly going to get larger and ticket prices higher the next time through.

Photo of the Night: I saw a picture of an overwhelming drum kit. So here's a quiz, whose kit does this belong to?

Friday, April 24, 2015

Grand Funk Rairoad -- Maryland Live! Casino - Apr 23 2015

Grand Funk Railroad - I have never quite known how to fit this monster band of my youth into the grand scheme of my take on rock history. I recall them as arena behemoths (selling out Shea Stadium faster than the Beatles) with some radio friendly hits and some gnarlier, gritty midwestern styled brutal rockers. Having never seen them in their day, would tonight be a night of seeing some creaky, out of shape old folks hobbling in with canes trying to rock out? No, that was just the crowd. The five piece version of 2015 (which has been together unchanged since 2000) looked great, looked mean and lean and probably could have cleared out the whole sold-out room by themselves if need be. But that was hardly needed as the fans were totally into this set, as well they should have been as Grand Funk Railroad still has a surprisingly high energy set to present tonight.
The band features the original rhythm section with Don Brewer on some lead and backing vocals as well. Vocals and rhythm guitar are handled by Max Carl of 38 Special, who has been around a long time, but still sounds great. Bruce Kulick put in several years at lead guitar for Kiss, which is appropriate as that sound hearkens back to Grand Funk, and he had plenty of thick blues rock riffs and solos to lay out tonight. They have a keyboardist, Tim Cashion, who I believe has an MFA in music and he adds some vocals as well. Everyone but Mel Schacher sings, which adds even more strength to the powerful instrumental base. Mel's 'bong rattling bass', as Homer Simpson describes, is still there and with John Bonham long deceased, Don Brewer has to be the hardest hitting veteran drummer out there. His overall energy can keep this going about a year after he's dead. Amazing. And the band showcased a variety of solos in tried and true or unique ways with the part where four of them were on percussion with Carl's harmonica solo being particularly brilliant.

The set was constructed well with the five songs I could remember off the top of my head all there (well four, but I recognized a fifth quickly enough in my 'oh yeah' moment). To answer my original question, this band fits perfectly well into the strong tradition of Michigan rock music. The original band members hailed from Flint and worked with Terry Knight and Question Mark, but took that to a much heavier place, cooking up sounds that fit well in with Mitch Ryder, early Bob Seger, and even a bit of the MC5. Michigan rock might be one of the best scenes from top to bottom and Grand Funk not only is a big part of that history, but still has the fire and the ability to show you why in 2015.
I don't know if I have this set list correct, but this is what they did earlier this year and if not exact tonight, it's close...  Bottle Rocket - Rock and Roll Soul - Footstompin' Music - Shinin' On - The Loco-motion - Walk Like a Man - Second Chance - Drum solo - Lightning and Thunder - Inside Looking Out - Some Kind of Wonderful - I'm Your Captain - We're an American Band

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Marian McLaughlin -- Strathmore Mansion - Apr 22 2015

Marian McLaughlin - Often when I have seen one of my favorite DC area artists several times over most of the 6 1/2 years I have been writing about them, I am at a loss of what to add. But that is never the case with Marian McLaughlin. Even if the focus is on songs I have heard before, there is always something new to discover within her unique approach to folk in the direction of classic UK and European psychedelic folk artists of the sixties and seventies. Additionally, she continues to explore new terrain with the help of Ethan Foote who plays bass and continues to work out brilliant arrangements to an ever growing series of instuments.
Tonight was the culmination of a month long residency at the Mansion of Strathmore, which celebrates its tenth year of assisting young musicians continue to grow. It made for a fantastic environment tonight as Marian had Ethan Foote, a percussionist, a guitarist and brass players, but also had the Strathmore's recent resident artists, Invoke, a classic string quartet. The combination of sounds was magical tonight and the soundman deserves credit for making it all clear with Marian's strong vocal work and delicate picking clear. The players had a great sense of the song and used their power and restraint to enhance the already stirring drama within the song.
The continuing growth of Marian McLaughin (which will be shown in a second album later this year) is such a pleasure for the many of us that have seen her at various house shows and clubs in the DC area. And a good part of that is the collaboration with Ethan Foote, which is something I probably should have written more about in the past. It reminds me of Joe Boyd and Robert Kirby working with Vashti Bunyan and Nick Drake or Mickie Most producing early Donovan classics. Collaborations such as these can take dazzling core material and allow them to soar even further into the stratosphere.

It was also a pleasure to see a different audience tonight than the usual faces in the crowd that I can always find and almost predict in advance when I see a local band. Marian has the ability to pull in young and old music lovers, including many of those that have never heard of any of the artists that she reminds me of. She has a song she played tonight called 'Even Magic Falters' that is true enough, although her particular magic is going strong and growing to heights where people cannot help but notice and engage. Marian McLaughlin has a lot of fans in the world. Many of them don't know it yet, but they will.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Elvis Perkins - Kinsey -- Historic 6th + I Synagogue - Apr 21 2015

Kinsey - Thankfully, there were no jokes about sexuality, etc. as Nick Kinsey has probably heard all too many. So it is just a man named Kinsey playing guitar, singing and using a kick drum. But the ace up his sleeve was using Elvis Perkins' keyboardist for about half of the set. The little bit of coloring and subtle synthesizer runs really sharpened up the set. Perkins songs were decent enough by themselves and he had a strong clear voice with a gutsy rhythm cooked up on either acoustic or electric guitar. He varied the tones a bit more than the style, but it all came together rather well tonight.
 photo: Rob Gordon

Elvis Perkins - And speaking up famous names, although my first thoughts go to Elvis Presley and Carl Perkins, this is actually the son of the great actor, Anthony Perkins and nephew of Marissa Berenson (among a lot more... see Wikipedia). But all that means nothing if he doesn't have the songs or the style. It was quickly evident that he had more than enough of each and he could maintain a keen interest throughout his full set. He played guitar throughout with occasional harmonica bursts and some sort of flute solo once. He also had his ace keyboardist and a woman on bass, zither, or glockenspiel. Nick Kinsey joined on drums for many songs and even the added percussion meshed well with the careful tonal accompaniment to create mystical settings or earthly calm. This was excellent music with intriguing vocal patterns, interesting stories, and deep music that could be playful as well. He is working a terrain I have enjoyed following before, perhaps somewhere between Perry Leopold and Jeff Buckley. But his own voice is confident and powerful with many flexible twists and turns keeping things quite exciting in a quiet way. Although there was room for a few more fans tonight, it appeared he had a strong contingent of people who figured him out quicker than I did. I will be back with them the next time he is through.

Quote of the Morning...  From my Mom earlier (and these days I can't use many of her quotes, sadly):  "Someone took me to an opera on Sunday. I made it through the first two acts but sat in the hallway for the third, which I didn't mind as someone always dies in the third act anyway."

Monday, April 20, 2015

Doldrums - Moon King -- DC9 - Apr 19 2015

Moon King - This Toronto duo is showing four phases of the moon tonight as they have a drummer and guitarist/keyboardist augmenting their stark approach of two vocalists with one or two guitars going between them. It is a challenging night for them as only seven people are here marking yet another poorly attended show after so many others that exceeded my expectations. Maybe it is just a random occurrence, although the steady rain tonight may have a little something to do with it. Although the band is young, they were quite savvy in dealing with it by just plowing ahead with their music, not spending much time between songs with patter and pauses, but keeping it flowing. And that worked to the advantage of their churning psyche riffs which mixed dark post punk and lighter pop moves depending on the song. The male/female vocal combination was solid and the focal point throughout. Their sound is not quite full enough or vibrant enough yet, but they are off to a good start and could easily develop into something solid and fulfilling. The core of the music is there.
Doldrums - Oh dear, during the first song, I am wondering if this electonic outfit's name may be all too accurately named. It didn't help that there was a slow transition into the second song resulting in a restart after not getting it right. At least one of the keyboard/electronic guys went to a drum kit which always livens up the sound for me. Eventually they got it together and it wasn't half bad thereafter. In fact, it may be a good mix of electronics and soulful pop rock music. It really did not connect with me though, as I'm a hard sell for this. But like most Canadians, they seemed like really nice guys and they hopefully will find a larger audience than the dozen to 15 people here tonight. Perhaps this should be at the U Street Music Hall? Seems a better fit.

Dream of the Night: I vowed in a dream that I would explain the concept of Mensi of Angelic Upstarts using a second mic on his collar to pick up his vocals as he often sang away from the main microphone. He was doing that quite a bit as I was watching from backstage. Well, it made sense in my dream. Not having seen Angelic Upstarts, I cannot prove this didn't happen.