Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Justin Townes Earle - American Aquarium -- Sep 16 2014

American Aquarium - This Raleigh band features a whole lot of guitars. The lead vocalist plays acoustic in front of two electric guitarists and one steel guitar who occasionally dabbles with keyboards. There is a rhythm section as well, and initially I am rather surprised that so many instruments creates such a light sound. Eventually the arrangements improve and take shape with a certain finesse as they enhance the rootsy songs. I prefer the keyboards over the steel (as usual) as they offer something different to work under the swirling lead guitars that elevated a few of these songs into something quite cool. They had a long set of 47 minutes to showcase enough quality to get the audience sufficiently warmed up with more than a few of them likely becoming new fans.
Justin Townes Earle - I've enjoyed Earle's music for some time now. His dark, wry style with a deep mean streak makes his hybrid of country-folk-roots music edgy and exciting. Tonight, he has a rhythm section and guitarist/steel guitarist whom I recognize from a previous tour. The band is solid and fully engaged in the dark yet attractive atmosphere of the songs. Initially, the sound was not there as the vocals were not coming through (kind of important here). The soundman righted that issue quickly enough and there were no distractions thereafter, as the set flowed smoothly. I like the edge of these intense songs with such smooth stylish delivery as that contrast keeps my mind fully engaged, unlike many other bands that play in this general style. Earle's songs are rather timeless and don't comfortably fit any genre or place, which makes them all the better for it. This is the first of two nights and if you have not experienced him on stage, you should head on out to the Birchmere tonight. He's always worth the effort.

Quote of the Night: Justin Townes Earle talking about how he probably will never write happy songs... "One of the worst things in the world is a song that feels better than you do."

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Ty Segall - Wand -- 9:30 Club - Sep 15 2014

By Kyle Schmitt

Wand - A spare drum kit was shoved to the front of the stage despite the headliner’s kit not even being assembled. Four guys came out to begin and end their first song with white noise, throwing in a noisy screech mid-tune for consistency’s sake. The singer/guitarist and drummer seem to drive this train, to the extent that Wand almost seems like two separate units (this may be due to the singer standing stage left, territory Ty Segall himself would later claim). Traditional song structure was thrown out for this set, as the singer only spoke when he had something to say. Wand possesses an insistent quality to their music, and sparsely applied vocal melodies and guitar shimmers augment an unrelenting sound. Their set ended with accordant heaviness and the drummer bashing his ride cymbal like an eight-year-old killing a piƱata. 

Ty Segall - With his band looking vintage western glam, Segall kept the crowd physically engaged throughout his set. His four-piece tore into “Susie Thumb” and “Thank God for Sinners”, inspiring handclaps and eventually much stage-diving. Maintaining fire throughout his performance, Segall makes it through at least one verse per song before succumbing to his id and facing side-stage to launch another joyous solo. Segall took on a directorial role with some fans, plotting the journey of one crowd surfer from the front of the stage to the venue’s rear, and then rooting on the man’s subsequent return with cries of “Bring him back!” He concluded his encore by thrashing through “Girlfriend” and - what else? - completing his third stage dive of the night. While the man has released enough material that even the great Manipulator isn’t necessarily a career peak, Segall ensures that anyone who catches him live will stick around for his next move.

Esoterica: While others were throwing their bodies off the stage, one enterprising fan tossed a notebook at the band. According to Segall, “I would read it out loud, but it’s personal.” … His “manager” Jimmy introduced the band onstage, claiming he discovered the band in a Jupiter saloon and paying tribute to DC owning his favorite basketball team, the Washington Generals …


Here are some of the fun and intriguing shows that I hope to see coming to a DC club near me and you.

Justin Townes Earle brings his interesting perspectives and great songs to the Birchmere for TWO shows, tonight and tomorrow, Wednesday the 17th.

There's an important show by the Mix at the Electric Maid tonight (Tuesday the 16th). They are a German band filled with disabled members speaking out for all people with autism and other disabilities. And from what I hear, the show will be featuring lots of ABILITY.

Beverly with DC favorite Frankie Rose in the band will be at the 9:30 Club on Wednesday, Sep 17th.

Masterson plays the Jammin Java in Vienna on Friday, Sep 19th.

The Growlers return to the Black Cat on Saturday, Sep 20th.

Holychild takes stage at the 9:30 Club on Monday, Sep 22nd.

Slow Magic works its... er, tricks at the DC9 on Tuesday, Sep 23rd.

Slow Magic // Girls - Live On Tour from SneakyBoy on Vimeo.

Pure Bathing Culture and Tennis play a few sets at the 9:30 Club on Thursday, Sep 24th.

Bo Ningen plays with Kasabian on Sunday, Sep 27th at the 9:30 Club.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Man... or Astro-man? - The Pack A.D. - Wray -- Black Cat - Sep 14 2014

Wray - A Birmingham trio is up first, and despite the working in of a ferocious shoegaze sound, this is actually the Alabama side of Birmingham, not England. The vocals are where the floating dreamy ambiance occurs. Underneath is a ferocious churning rhythm section and grinding guitar moves that is quite exciting. At times it shares a droning feel, although it is quite busy so it has a different feel. The audience is probably not digging in as much as I am, but there are clearly many people up front that are hooked. I love the brisk and punchy energetic sounds rolling on and on, unyielding. If these guys can work up a few more creative flourishes, they could have something really great. As it is now, it works for me. And post first draft review note... The band accurately describes their sound on Facebook: powergaze.

The Pack A.D. - Yet another guitar and drums duo, this time it is all female with both chipping in on vocals. There is a primitive punk beat within this fierce blues-rock structure in a manner you would expect. They have a fine personal style that makes this cliched format work a bit better than most. Still, it is that guitar and drums thing I have heard too many times to get terribly excited about. One more instrument would add a lot. These two are talented and it is a decent set as it is, but I would like to see more next time through.
Man... or Astro-Man? - These guys tore it up last time through, in one of the best shows of the year. Tonight, it was not quite in that league. I was pretty tired from my schedule, so between that and this Sunday night, I think the edge was off a little. But the band somewhat agreed telling the crowd that they gave themselves a high C grade after a few songs, where they had broken strings and other problems. It was also the last night of the tour, so I was not the only tired one in the room. Yet even with these problems, the songs were still pretty awesome as this band plays some of the more creative and ferocious variety of surf-garage rock that you will ever want to hear. So they still gave me a good kick in the butt with their pace and power and had wild melodic runs zipping around my ears the entire time. This is one of the most reliable bands to deliver a fun high energy set, and even with a few screw-ups, they did it again tonight.

Quote of the Night: Three left in the countdown to finish off the list of worst musician on musician quotes compiled by Tom Hawking.

3. Morrissey on Brett Anderson
“He’ll never forgive God for not making him Angie Bowie.”

Sunday, September 14, 2014

King Crimson -- Kimmel Center (Philadelphia) - Sep 13 2014

King Crimson - A train trip to Philadelphia is a small price to pay to see a full-band (and then some) King Crimson performance. The striking sound is evident before they hit a note as there are three full drum kits downstage to be manned by longtime Crimsonite Pat Matstelotto, Bill Rieflin (REM, NIN), and Gavin Harrison (Porcupine Tree). Rieflin has some electronics.synthesizer he works at various times while the other two engage in percussion beyond their kits. They vary the sound from a three-part barrage to intricate weavings of individual drum patterns. It all works even better than I expected, especially since this is a heavy set. The four players upstage are Robert Fripp of course, joined by Jakko Jakszyk on guitar and vocals and flute, veteran cohort Tony Levin on basses, and classic era band member, Mel Collins on saxophones and flutes. The players were all brilliant and even with all the heavy percussion and strong songs, there was clarity throughout. Collins and Fripp were on opposite sides of the stage each blasting away and tonally meeting to the point that their instruments sounded nearly identical at times. There were older cuts as well as new, instrumentals as well as vocal workouts, all of which worked in balance. Jacszyk's vocals were powerful and Levin offered some effective harmony in a few of the cuts. This was a majestic hall with four levels of seating (reminding me of the Strathmore) and showcased the band perfectly. The crowd around me was fully engaged throughout, some traveling much further than I to attend. Considering Robert Fripp was quoted in 2012 with "my life as a professional musician is a joyless exercise in futility", there are a whole lot of people thankful that he has soldiered on and surrounded himself with people who obviously took great joy in playing tonight. Mel Collins not only sounded brilliant, but was all smiles acknowledging the crowd afterward. It would be easy for Robert Fripp to pack it in, but thankfully he assembled this great crew to put out a powerful 2-hour set that just about everyone will remember for a long time.

Set List (from as I didn't take notes, but it seems correct)...
Lark's Tongue in Aspic, Pt 1, Level Five, A Scarcity of Miracles, Pictures of a City, One More Red Nightmare, Hells Bells, The Letters, Sailor's Tale, Hell-Hounds of Krim, VROOOM, Coda: Marine 475, The Light of Day, The Talking Drum, Lark's Tongue in Aspic, Pt2, Red, Starless, Encore: HooDoo, 21st Century Schizoid Man

Quote of the Night: from the usher in my front section... "What is it with all the men here, I've never seen so few women!"

We chatted a bit more as I chuckled and looked around and noticed he was correct (making me feel like I was in a high school science club reunion). Although the numbers did improve as the final seats were filled, I was thinking that although some forms of music started male-heavy but adapted over the years (punk, metal), progressive music may still a domain mostly for the guys. And perhaps the heavier rocking prog bands are even more the model, as I believe Rush may have ratios like this. Thankfully more women drifted in with some taking seats near me and were digging everything every bit as much as the guys. There were even some younger fans as well, so all is well in the end.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Revely - The Deep Space Network - Eileen Graham - Jann Klose -- Ebeneezers - Sep 12 2014

Jann Klose - This is my first trip to Ebeneezers Coffeehouse and based on tonight, it will not be my last. And if they continue to book great acts like this German-born, international traveler Jann Klose, I will be back plenty. Klose has one of the best voices you will find in the clubs. He plays a strong acoustic guitar, which is mostly plucked, with an occasional foray into fingerstyle. After hearing a few songs, it is no surprise to learn that he was cast as the voice of Tim Buckley in a recent film about Tim and Jeff Buckley, as there are few voices that can get anywhere near that of Tim Buckley (who is also an absolute giant that more people need to listen to). Klose did a great version of Tim Buckley's "Song to a Siren" and although his voice is a little different, he exploded into a sustained high register at the end which had the audience gasping. The audience was completely enchanted and enthused by this set and I don't know who was more surprised, Klose or myself. It was a great crowd that even started clapping along to a song near the end causing Klose to raise his eyebrows and comment that he didn't even have to say anything. Jann Klose's folk style is too powerful to be contained in just that genre. He is a fine songwriter whose powerful presence should win over just about any audience on any stage.

Eileen Graham - Local singer songwriter (and voice coach) Eileen Graham is on piano and vocals with Luke Brindley assisting on guitar and electronic kick pad. Sadley, there was a cord or amp problem that snuck in and out of the set at various times, but the musicians soldiered on and it wasn't that bad until the final cut, which wisely turned more into an acapella outing with the audience clapping along to help it out. And again, the audience was enchanted by Graham's set which featured many fine songs in a classic singer songwriter style that was rock, pop, folk, slightly rootsy, all quite warm at the heart of it. The guitar parts added fine tonal coloring often in the way Michio Kurihara adds color to the songs of Daman & Naomi. This set reminds me a lot of that, although Graham's voice is much more powerful. I enjoyed her music and the arrangements were crafty and worked well in this comfortable live setting.

The Deep Space Network - This Fredericksburg Virginia band is not the space rockers like Hawkwind or Spacious Mind that I had hoped for and instead, display a rather clean attractive pop rock sound. It is a little too pretty and controlled for me, but they do it well. The audience who is sticking around through the many styles of music tonight is taking to the tunes well enough and the band is friendly with a touch of humor as well. The sound did not work well enough for me. The drums were too dominant in the mix and the fuzzy bass thickened things in a muddy sort of way. Whether it was that the guitarists' amps were pointed backwards or whatever other choices were made, that sound was a bit too compressed. But they played hard and had a song or two that worked and others that had my mind wandering. Still, this is a fine band for this style.
Revely - This area quintet is fairly described as a Christian rock, but don't turn off your brain just yet. Christian folk and rock were quite decent and downright exciting back in the 1960s and 70s. Then it got awfully cliched, but it is good to see again, in various forms (and frankly in various faiths if you listen around the world). I was in the back of the club and the sound was a little better, although this band did not shoot for quite the power of the previous band. The vocals were a tad slight, but the music was pretty solid rock music that was light enough, but with some gutsy guitar work on occasion. I left a little early, but it had little to do with the band as they were doing a decent job.

I did enjoy the night and this club is one to keep on your radar as it is a comfortable room and had one of the brightest and supportive audiences I have seen in some time. It may have had something to do with the choice of beverage...

Quote of the Night: And one more from the nastiest musician on musician insult compilation...

4. Elton John on Keith Richards
“It’s like a monkey with arthritis, trying to go onstage and look young.”

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Mike Stinson -- Hill Country - Sep 6 2014

Mike Stinson - Mr. Stinson is a singer songwriter guitarist from Houston, Texas. He has a sharp as nails band with him from Houston and Austin and that is mostly why I am here. After finishing up at an early 9:30 show featuring Bob Mould (keep scrolling below this post), I get to see yet another friend from back in the fun days of punk rock. Mark Patterson is a great drummer for hire out of Austin, and he has been playing there many years. But he was in some bands too, including one that I worked with back in 1980 in Dayton, Ohio called Toxic Reasons. So my night was made right away when we had plenty of time to reminisce and catch up with current events (like him playing with Wanda Jackson!). But when it was time for Mike Stinson to hit the stage, both myself and the sizable crowd here had a great time. And what is not to like? This is a free show in the downstairs club at this fine BBQ restaurant in Penn Quarter. Hill Country offers some cover charge shows, but the majority are free. They showcase fine local bands and also very sharp professional touring bands like this. Everything really clicked tonight with a superb rhythm section and a highly active and sensitive lead guitarist. Stinson adds some rhythm guitar and the steady vocals. The vocals were a bit fuzzy in the mix, otherwise the sound was balanced well among the instruments. There was a nice variety to the set with roots music at... well, the root of it all. They could slow it down with a bit of western twang, rock it out with the best of alt country (and beyond) or increase the toe tapping with a quick honkytonk stomper. Stinson's songs have the creativity to allow 90 minutes to flow by with nary a distracting thought. There was quite a bit of dancing and everything was clicking between band and audience. It was a long night of music for me, but I enjoyed every note, and would have had fun even without having friends in the bands.

Bob Mould - Cymbals Eat Guitars -- 9:30 Club - Sep 6 2014

Cymbals Eat Guitars - An early show tonight, so the crowd is still filing in but there are plenty here to greet this interesting east coast band. Their very name gives you a hint of the fight between instruments that I notice during their songs. It's more of a clash of sounds that harmonizes together. There are keyboards, guitar, bass and drums and they somehow manage a smooth shoegazey sound with a sharp post punk attack and melodic nimble bassline. I have to give the drummer props for making sense of it all, too. Just when I feel comfortable, I start to get edgy, then I relax... very effective. The band tore it loose quite well for the last couple songs which went over well with the crowd. Good job by these up and comers.
Bob Mould - Where to begin here? Bob and I were good friends back in all the Husker Du years and many beyond. We spent a lot of time together and worked on some projects together (mentioned in his book, so happy hunting). Although we're not in touch any more, he's still an old friend I am reviewing, so there is not much of a critical stance here. And that is no problem with that because the more challenging electronica era of his career is long gone and he's back to fronting a ferocious rock trio. He begins with a couple of 'old friends' by playing 'Flip Your Wig' and 'Hate Paper Doll' to get the show rolling. From then on it is a mix of old and new with plenty of great songs from the new album. There are equal parts toughness, warmth, thoughtfulness, care free rock... this is one rocking set that really will take you back, or give you a full taste of what you missed. There are only a couple of moderate breaks, with most of the songs toppling over each other to make their way out. This always worked wonders with his early bands and in these days of tuning between every song (another hint to the young bands), this welcome approach really increases the excitement and the immediacy of the music. He even apologized for one tuning break 'before the stretch run'. Yes, some tuning when really needed is a good thing. No matter what phase of Bob's career you like (and most like nearly if not all of it--even the electronica had its moments), you will like what Bob, John Wurster, and Jason Narducci deliver.

Quote of the Night: We're nearly finished with the harshest musician on musician quotes collection...

5. Boy George on Elton John
“All that money, and he’s still got hair like a fucking dinner lady.”

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Buzzcocks/Loud Boys -- Black Cat - September 4, 2014

by Kyle Schmitt

Jumping over a firehose that extended halfway down S St. NW, I got in line outside the Black Cat on Thursday night and offered my extra ticket to the person right behind me. He didn’t already have one, which was good, and then he started looking familiar. Glasses, paperback novel, small notebook …

“Ehh … David?”
“Yeah. Kyle?”

My new friend in line is my current editor! This happy coincidence gave me someone to talk to next to the sound booth as the Loud Boyz kicked off the show. These DC-based punk rockers were on the money with their no-frills opening set. They call their best song “Loud Boyz Anthem” and that’s a straightforward, self-aware decision. The Loud Boyz brought a solid, unrelenting attack to the Black Cat stage, and they’re playing H Street Fest in two weeks if that sounds enticing and you missed them here.
The Buzzcocks began their set with the same three songs they opened with (“Boredom”, “Fast Cars”, and “I Don’t Mind”) when I saw them twice in Chicago about a decade ago. While these songs are punk classics, the apparently immutable setlist started the evening in a rote manner. The group eventually caught fire with intense, extended endings on “Sick City Sometimes”, the standout track off their 2003 self-titled album, and a nasty “Nothing Left”. Pete Shelley’s voice retained a clear-eyed earnestness on the pop gem “You Say You Don’t Love Me” and the newly released “Keep On Believing”. This tune and “Chasing Rainbows”, which sounds like a Joey Ramone song enhanced by a wiry, ascending Shelley guitar line, prove that the Buzzcocks’ songwriting chops remain potent as always. 

In contrast to his more reserved, gray-bearded bandmate, Steve Diggle unleashed his inner 18-year-old guitar hero throughout the set, playing to the crowd and bumping fists with the punters. His enthusiasm clearly inspired the audience, which he implored to “Blow the fuckin’ roof off!” and “Keep rock ’n’ roll alive!” Diggle walked the stage hoisting a microphone over the crowd during a singalong version of “Harmony in My Head”, and seemed to invigorate Shelley as the band rolled through “Noise Annoys” and “Oh Shit!” during the set’s latter half. Crediting rocks’s standard bearers at night’s end, Diggle said this music was “about Chuck Berry, the fuckin’ Ramones”, and despite his accent, I’m 90% sure he threw in the Buzzcocks at the end of that listing. After their set, it’s hard to disagree that his own band belongs in that rarified company.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Buzzcocks - Loud Boyz -- Black Cat - Sep 4 2014

Loud Boyz - Appropriately enough, we have a solid local punk band doing the honors tonight and getting this show off on the right foundation. The twin guitar attack has a loose rock appeal with a touch of hyper-Dictators meets Lazy Cowgirls through the Dead Boys and NY Dolls. As the set moves along, the songs actually sound a bit more classic harDCore. I think they marry the loose punk style with the fast hardcore sound, keeping melodies in the mix as well. Not at all bad and more often than naught, quite decent. The crowd is sufficiently warmed and they have pretty much packed the room by set's end.

Buzzcocks - Well, this ripped. Even with many years between shows, these guys barely age (aside from Pete Shelley looking more John Martyn with gray beard). They have all the vitality and energy of youth and of course, they have the songs. Of course much of the youth, lies in Steve Diggle who looks like he should keep doing this until he dies on stage--his sheer joy at playing and working with a crowd is something to behold. They did a fine job of doing loads of the oldies, but they also placed in fine songs from over the recent couple of decades as well as sharp numbers from their new album. They didn't get in for a sound check so after a minute of checking lines and then just cutting loose, things got off to a great start (pay attention younger, finicky bands). The sound guys tweaked it a bit and everything clicked well enough. By half way through they were hitting full stride, with short breaks to allow the music to pummel the crowd with its power and all of the awesome pop hooks. My co-contributor Kyle was here and thoroughly enjoyed it, especially how they built momentum and then brought it home on a high. Some of the older classic punk bands operated at their best in the underground, which was good for them and good for us. However, the fact that the Buzzcocks did not break in a big, big way (especially in the US) is near-criminal. In an alternate universe somewhere, the Buzzcocks would have exploded into the pop and rock charts and sold a zillion records. I would have rather lived there, where popular music was great music.

Obit note... As I was putting together the Ian Anderson interview, I learned that Jethro Tull's original bassist, Glenn Cornick had passed away. He was the first original member of that band to pass on and he was always one of the more popular players among Tull fans. His strolling bass line on Bouree will live on for many generations to come and his sharp bass lines in the various styles they employed on the first three albums are worthy of study. He seemed like a really good guy and I am sorry he is not around, relaxing in Hilo, and still playing.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014


What can you talk about with someone who has been releasing music for 45 years? I have read two books on Ian Anderson and his band Jethro Tull, seen a couple documentaries, and have listened to all of his music over most of those 45 years. I make no apologies (as evident below) in being a long-time fan as I believe Jethro Tull was about my 4th or 5th concert I ever attended back in my high school days in the mid 1970s.

I have seen him in recent years and have very much enjoyed the concerts. I am certainly excited about the next one in DC at the Lincoln Theatre on Thursday, November 6th. See you there!

David Hintz: …I do want to warn you that I am an over 40-year fan of Jethro Tull and not a cranky music critic.

Ian Anderson: OK, fire away.

DH:  Alright, so let's get started with the new album, "Homo Erraticus", which might be one of my favorites among the many fine albums since "Roots to Branches" and beyond. But this one follows Thick as a Brick 2, which had brought back to life (fictional creation) Gerald Bostock. How did you decide to use Bostock in the writing of this album?

IA:  Only in as much as he is a writer's tool… he is a non de plume, an alter ego if you like who can express opinions that are not mine in a voice which is not mine, which allows me to get away from just telling you about me all the time which would become very very boring, very very quickly. So he is a useful tool and I think as a performer I have to perhaps behave a bit like an actor. I have to undertake character roles even though some of the things I may be saying are not my views. We assume sadly, in rock music, that when people say 'I' and 'me' or 'we' that they are talking about themselves. That surely does not apply to Quentin Tarantino when he writes a directs a movie and it didn't apply when Shakespeare wrote his works, it didn't apply with most of the great works of literature or even the lesser ones. So even Dan Brown who invents characters, or perhaps borrows them from somewhere else, I'm not sure… but whatever it is, you know in modern rock music we think it has to be heart on sleeve and for more than one reason I am not Alanis Morissette, I am someone who does not want to sing about me all the time or even very much of the time, since I think that is is a fairly small fraction of all the things I have ever written in which I am talking about my emotions. Most of those songs are from very early on in my career.

DH:  Yeah, and that makes sense. Most people start with 'coming of age' and contemporary themes when they are young. Now there are also quite a variety of musical styles on this album, even for you, which is generally par for the course. Are the arrangements worked out ahead of the time, and then fleshed out with the band? How did that work here?

IA:  Well the writing process started in the first part of January in 2013 when I started at 9:00 am on the first of January and spent the next two or three weeks working on the essential elements of the album. I polished them up a bit a couple of months later and then made some demos to send to the band along with all the lyrics and chord sheets and everything. So they had pretty much the parts that they could peruse over the coming months until we went into the studio to work on the rehearsals and the recording. And at that point, the basic structures and arrangements they have and have written (them) all out. We can play through most of the music, but without any of the real embellishment in terms of parts, so that becomes the most interesting bit about rehearsal--you let people come up with their ideas, listen to what they have, and here and there you might redirect them a little bit in terms of sound, in terms of musical polish, you have to make sure they works with everything else. When people come up with ideas in isolation, they might be quite good ideas, but they don't necessarily work, like what the bass player has might not work with the chords that the keyboard player has. You have got to be, in that period of rehearsal, fairly flexible and since the guys work with a lot of written music and a lot of scribbling, penciling, and rubbing out going on and hopefully after a day of working on a particular piece--of trying to get three or four minutes of real time music brought up to recording standard every day. Then when the recording begins, ideally it is the same kind of schedule where you can try to nail four minutes or so each day and work to keep on the actual fairly detailed schedule of recording in order to deliver an album when you said you would do it.


IA:  I suppose the fun part is working on the arrangements and the bit that is not fun and gets very serious is the bit where you are actually recording because you really do have to pay attention and concentrate with less time for joking around and frivolity when you are actually recording. The fun bit is the week before.

DH:  Now this album has a variety of songs since it covers the whole history of the planet pretty much. But I can also place some of the songs seemingly in different points in your career. For instance, the instrumental "Tripuduim ad Bellum" had some of that swinging London vibe that may have worked on your first album. Do you ever make connections with your back catalog as you work on these songs or is that more my job?

IA:  Well it is not so much a job, but I think it is there to the extent that it is there and is done fairly knowingly and carefully to do for the listener what for what Beethoven does to me if I listen to his symphonies and think, 'oh, wait a minute, I've kind of recognized that idea from somewhere else'. It's kind of nice when people go back and revisit some elements of their early work because they are like old friends dropping in for a cup of tea. So whether your favorite novelist will make references to earlier efforts, whether it is a character or subject material, it feels good as a recipient of that to be able to make those connections. And I think that the fans by and large would like to do that too, but by and large you have to be careful not to overdo it because at its worst, it could be self plagiarism. At its best, it is carefully calculated little snippets that help people join dots together. The one word that sums it up for me is continuity. I would like people including myself to be able to look at what I might be doing now or ten years ago and make some connections with something perhaps from 20 years ago or forty years ago--if that approach is judiciously applied.

DH:  Great. I also liked the Scottish roots I heard in 'Puer Ferox Adventus' with that chant vocal that reminded me some of Dick Gaughan among others.

IA: Well, it's also more of that early music thing when before there was harmony as we know it in the modern Western tradition. It was basically melody and sometimes melody against a drone. So in essence that is the nature of Celtic music,whether it is in Scotland or whether it is the music that came to us in Central Asia from what is well, from the period of five to seven thousand years ago in what now that enchanted land of Iraq, where are boys in boots have fairly recently vacated. But that is the heartland of that music that found its way into the ethnic forms of India and indeed, northwestern Europe. The bagpipes, if you like, from Brittany, northern France, Scotland and Ireland and of course the drone music of the instruments that formed the tradition of Indian classical music… So again, there are those definite connections. When I am writing something, I think I draw upon a lot of influences musically that may suit one piece and not another.

DH:  Sure.

IA: The rest of that music definitely owes something to the traditions of church music that I grew up with in Scotland. So there are elements of that going on and in other places, element of things that are perhaps much more jazzy, elements of things that are perhaps are more classically styled and in cases like 'The Engineer' or 'The Turnpike Inn', you know, these are things that are drawing more upon the traditions of British folk music of two hundred years ago rather than one thousand years ago.

DH:  You have rejected the term 'concept album' about some of your works, but of course this a song cycle I think it is fair to say, which creates a very different way of writing. Did all your songs go into this album or did you reject ideas that would not fit?

IA:  No, I really just wrote what I needed to write because the whole thing was sketched out at the end of day one when I had the introduction to the first piece 'Doggerland' and some idea of the title that was there and some of the essential music for the verse and course along with some lyrics were there at the end of day one. So day two was 'where do I go with this?' and writing down the bullet points as they were of the scenario of the unfolding album. So somewhere around the second of the third day it was written out, so it was just a question of sitting down and saying 'ok what's next, oh it's that bit, we'll see what I can do with idea' and it was pretty much written around a skeletal bullet point reference. In fact, what is written on the album cover--the little synopsis of the various pieces, that is almost exactly what I wrote at the beginning, day two, if you like, of where was going to go with each piece, what it was based on, and what were the lyrical points I was trying to make. To me it was fairly important that I keep that as it was written and I included it in the album artwork, not to be clever or pretentious, but that is my working process. That is how it came about. As indeed on the coffee table book version of the album, the deluxe package, limited edition, all the original versions of the demoes are included as well. They were actually recorded in a hotel room in Barbados using my laptop computer, a travel guitar, and working extremely quietly so as not to annoy the neighbors.

DH:  Interesting…

IA:  So sometimes I think the process of making a record like that is worthy of explaining because there are going to be a few, a tiny percentage of the people, who might listen to the music who are interested in how I came up with it. So for them as well as in a sense for me, as to remind myself of the process, it is quite good to have those ingredients as part of the way you present the music. It is not the important bit, but it is peripheral information that rounds it out into more of a worthwhile purchase for those that want more than just a CD in a jewel box.

DH:  Absolutely, for fans like myself who want to dig into it, I do that all the time.  Now you did not get to work with Steven Wilson on this album, but I think he has been a rather inspired choice for some of your remixes of older works and 'Thick as a Brick 2'. How did you two meet up?

IA:  Well, I read about him online really, as someone who was working on remixes of I think it was 'Court of the Crimson King', their first album I guess it was. So when EMI and I were talking about doing a remix and 5.1 surround mix box set of 'Aqualung', I suggested they get in touch with Steven Wilson. I figured if Robert Fripp had given his blessings to Steven Wilson to remix and rework that early iconic King Crimson album, then Steven must be a guy to consider doing it. So they approached him and he did a couple of demo mixes for me and with my approval, EMI engaged him to do the 'Aqualung 'album. I was in the studio at times and we worked on various aspects of it.  And then we went on to do the same with 'Thick as a Brick' and then he did the mixes of 'Thick as a Brick 2' and he subsequently has done 'Benefit' and the newly or about to be released 'A Passion Play' together with its unfinished predecessor, 'the Chateau d'Isaster Tapes'.

DH:  Ah, right.

IA:  And he just said yesterday… in fact I was doing a recording of questions and answers of all the bits and bobs of the 'Warchild' album. Steven, I believe is starting work next month on that. So it is a work in progress really, at some point I have said to him as well as the folks at Warner Brothers who of course have bought the EMI chunk that includes my work. At some point Steven will get too busy or get bored with it. There is an awful lot of work there for one person to be tackling all of that stuff. I can't see him doing this forever and it would seem like forever if you have got that far into the catalog, there is a lot more stuff that may not interest him. As a mixing engineer, it may not be something he's able to do because of course he is working for other people and most importantly working for himself and his career as a performing artist. I do have another person up my sleeve who I worked with on the 'Homo Erraticus' album, which is Jakko Jakszyk, who coincidentally and curiously is about to embark upon some tours with Robert Fripp and the original members of King Crimson who are going out to play the early King Crimson record catalog. Jakko is actually the guitarist and singer of the new King Crimson lineup. I suppose he is doing what Greg Lake did in his early days, playing and singing.

DH:  Yes, that is interesting (as I am ticketed to a local show). I am running a little long here, so before I close I want to thank-you personally as because of your music and bands like Horslips and a bit of Steeleye Span when they made it to the radio, was the music that got me back about 25 years ago to explore British folk deeply which I've gone to European folk, psychedelic folk, progressive folk,etc. So It's become my passion as I've tried to become more expert there. So thanks for opening this up to me with all the different ways you worked with folk music and rock music.

IA:  Oh, we try to keep it interesting and there's lots of elements of folk music in not only my part of the world, but elsewhere which is nice to draw upon.

DH:  It is, yes.

IA:  It is music of the people, you know music that is less formal and academic, speaking volumes to me both then and now. I cast my mind back to listening to Sonny Terry, Brownie McGhee, and J.B. Lenoir and a few other black American blues and folk-blues singers, acoustic blues performers were the people that got me into seriously thinking about making music myself. Surely this is folk music. We call it 'The Blues', but you know to me it is folk music, like when J.B. Lenoir is strumming his guitar and singing about Viet Nam and race riots in Alabama, that is absolutely as redolent as anything you might hear in English folk music about sexual tensions and issues that came up in historical times that are forever enshrined in traditional English folk music. Much of what I learned as a teenager from Black American blues very closely follows for me emotionally and in terms of subject material is very often quite close to the traditions of British folk music. I can't speak for other forms of folk music that I listen to since I don't speak their language. I don't speak Finnish, so as much as I love Varttina and other bands in Finland, I'm afraid I don't have the faintest Idea of what they are singing about.

DH:  Right.

IA:  Its the same thing when I listen to Indian music with some music I don't know what they are singing about, but it is the quality of the voice and the emotion and the melodic nature of it that is appealing. But whenever I encounter folk music sung in English in another part of the world, then I always think that there are a lot of parallels that can be drawn and obviously some that can't. And no one strangely… and we haven't heard about returning soldiers, male or female, returning from Iraq and the middle east, singing songs filled with the anguish and their own experiences. It is kind of weird that it seems to be like where people don't go. For me, had I been on a tour of duty in such a place, I would feel compelled to try and find a way to work in song. And if not in song, to write about it or make it something that was something that was other than a diary recounting of events--something where you could do something more artistic. But strangely I don't know, by and large maybe people don't have the skills or develop the skills or they just don't want to talk about it because it is too awful and too personal. I mean I meet some from time to time and am engaged in some aspects of consciousness raising for the returning  troops for your country as well as mine, in fact more so in your country. Of course, I have met lots of wounded and blinded and damaged vets that have returned from Iraq and Iran during recent years. Their tales are very harrowing and I can understand that they don't maybe want to talk about it too conspicuously, but in a way that is what music and other arts are there for--to allow you to get that stuff out rather than internalize it and perhaps destroy what remains of your life. Sometimes when can engage someone in that conversation you do sense some catharsis, maybe going through the experience of talking to a complete stranger, especially if it is one you can't see, such as damage involving deafness and blindness… You know it is very sobering and humbling when you hear what people have to say.

DH:  Right.

IA:  But I still remain surprised that in the contemporary music world, we don't hear people using those experiences making them the folk music of today. Because surely tales of battle, of death and destruction, and pointlessness of it, they are the very much the subject of folk music of the past. But somehow it doesn't seem to have made it into the folk music of the present, but you might have a better clue than I do.

DH:  Yes, you have given me sort of a challenge as I listen to you, in trying to listen more for this with what comes my way with newer folk music. And even the whole media coverage is more that way, too, to some extent.

IA:  It is rather like somewhere where people don't want to go… I mean geographically, they probably did not want to go, but they went there to serve their country as in some previous adventures, it is all been seemingly for naught especially with recent events in Iraq and Afghanistan.…

We chatted a few more minutes on this topic and I wanted to make sure that I mention that his show in Richmond, Virginia on October 5th at the National Theater is dedicated to veterans. All proceeds from this concert go to support programs helping veterans, first responders, and to raise global awareness to the global threat from Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs). There is even a dinner the night before, so this is certainly a show to consider for those in the Richmond vicinity.

Monday, September 1, 2014


It is hard enough for me to get a handle on electronica, but I only have five songs here to learn what Alma Construct is about. They are mostly instrumental (until the final song) and are more interested in landscapes and thoughtful moods than in pop music or dance beats. They vary the thickness of their sound and do a nice job of fading in and out the various synthesizer washes to bring some drama to their music. If you like this sort of thing, it seems they do it well as there is some thoughtful moves here to work with. This band is actually a 19 year old man, so there is nothing if not significant upside.

Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson seems to be on another wave of prolific writing and creativity. Following 2012's epic follow-up 'Thick as a Brick 2', he has continued with a theme oriented song cycle. He has brought back the fictional Gerald Bostock to 'write the lyrics' which cover the rather large cradle to the grave theme of humanity working across these fifteen songs. The music matches the breadth of these themes as not only will fans make many connections to previous Jethro Tull sounds, there are other classical and world elements embedded in the arrangements. There are the heavy moments in 'The Turnpike Inn' and the folkier elements of 'Puer Ferox Adventus'. Is this his best since 'Roots to Branches' (which I felt was brilliant)? It is hard to say as there have been a string of fine albums in between. Suffice it to say, that long-time Jethro Tull fans have little reason to be disappointed with the choices Ian Anderson is making in his songwriting and the execution of these fine albums in the 21st Century.

Come back tomorrow for my interview with Ian Anderson and then get your tickets for his Lincoln Theatre performance on November 6th.

Songs to try first:

Doggerland - Strong opener sets the tone for a panoply of sounds that you expect from a wide open Ian Anderson album.

Puer Ferox Adventus - Lovely seven minute song that weaves a classic folk rock tapestry.

Tripudium ad Bellum - Instrumental piece that reminds me of distant Tull and even a bit of Pentangle.

This is an intriguing combination of electronica, shoe gaze rock, dream pop, and maybe even a touch of post punk rock. Rather than a mess a conflicting tastes, Bear in Heaven manages this combination with a delicate touch and brings out the best of these styles. The ultimate effect is a dreamy environment with lighter pop moves and some post punk flashes in the beats or guitar. The vocals blend in but have enough force to take a lead role in most of the songs. It is all agreeable to the ear and is quite charming in the end.

Songs to try first:

Autumn - Opening cut successfully marries many styles and focuses int a unified theme for this band.

If I Were to Lie - Dreamy, but with a bite.

Memory Heart - Great vibe created by use of space and contrast.


I suppose if you put shoe gaze music into a taffy pulling machine and set it to power pop, you may get something like 'Bummer Summer'. Flashlights have a thick fuzzy, shoegazey sound that they somehow stretch into catchy pop rockers that appeal to album listeners and certainly those that head to the clubs. OK, a simpler description is modern garage with punk-pop-rock style and plenty of energy. There is good heart in the vocals, although she knows how to pull back a bit for emphasis, which is a smart touch. Some songs work better than others, but the variety is nice and the gems stay with me, so I look forward to seeing this band live.

And I will be doing that when Flashlights and the very fine Paws open for Total Slacker at the DC9 on Monday, September 8th.

Songs to try first:

All Cats are Beautiful - They had me at the title, but the fuzzy shoe gaze pop was good, too.

Bottle Kids - Great Swell Maps rocking melody atop nimble drums and cool vocals carrying it along.

Islands - A nice quiet break amongst the rockers, with piano and vocals leading into a more contemplative mid tempo rock ballad of sorts.

Straight blues is tough these days. It is all pretty good, but the form is rather rigid, so you better be at the top of the game or you are just one of many. So why not twist it around a bit and raise a few eyebrows? That is what Greek musician Paul Karapiperis has done with these seven sinful songs. Purists may want to condemn him to Hell for this sacrilege, but I was thrilled with the way he could add wildly psychedelic passages to standard blues runs and make it all sound so natural. The opener "Welcome Boy" is a wild journey through earth and space clocking in at nearly seven minutes. There are a lot of subtle shifts here and there with even some Spanish flair shown in some of the guitar moves. This a grounded psychedelic album with exciting twists and turns that should have any psychedelic music fan very interested.


Instantly I am reminded of the 3 O'Clock, or more accurately the name they first went under: Salvation Army (one guess as to why they changed it to The 3 O'Clock). The reasons are simple, not only do they capture that same spirited sense of popsike, but also the vocals are quite similar, only a tad lower on the register. The other key is the quick pace of these songs. The bass lines are fast with light but nimble drumming to match it. The guitars dance around letting the vocals create the dreamier psyche atmosphere. This style of music may be getting over played these days, but I don't think it has reached saturation point. With bright bands that tend to their craft like Philadelphia's Literature, there is still plenty of room for more pop music with that 1960s happy psychedelic vibe.

Literature plays at GWU this Sunday, September 7th.

Songs to try first:

The Girl, the Gold Watch, and Everything - Snappy cut gets things started with both feet running.

Court Date - Breezy style, still with plenty of pace.

Dance Shoes - Smooth harmonies over the top of underwater guitar moves. Fascinating sounds.

Some times it is more impressive when I moderately enjoy a band in a genre where I am a tough sell than it is for a band to do well in my comfort zones. Love Links has a light electro-pop approach that I would easily dismiss no paper. Fortunately, Love Links has an approach and style that pulled me in and kept me with them for these ten short songs. The female vocals are soft and effective with light melodies punctuating the vocals, while metronomic rhythms drive it along with an intriguing contrast. I also like the jabbing fuzzy electric guitar which stands out in the space created here. This is a fun little album that hopefully will surprise many more.

This is about as straightforward a style of pop music as I've heard in a while. There are modern electronic touches, old style guitar solos and female vocals that are warm with just the right amount of power. I was all set to be a little negative with this release as I did not see how they could do anything beyond the basic structure of the first song. But then. lo and behold the magic worked in very confusing ways as this is just way too straight for me. But then I recall my guilty passion for songs like Giorgio Moroder's 'Call Me' and it made sense. This band hits all my pop buttons that are buried deep into some of early musical experiences. Just don't tell my friends how much I really like this music.

Songs to try first:

Inferno - This hook yanked me in with the uncontrollable force that is pop music

Part of Me - Dramatic vocal work makes this song move along to the crisp rhythm.

Tell Me How it Feels - This rocks to the point I feel I am hearing Richie Blackmore playing with Blondie.

This five song EP is a decent enough document of Mutual Benefit's creative flair int he world of pop music. I would prefer something a little longer as their subtlety creates a slow build in my mind where it takes a lengthy listen to fully appreciate what they do. I did enjoy the more overt psychedelic touch they employed on 'Backwards Fireworks'. That is the the Mutual Benefit which interests me most. They offer a light but serious approach to pop music and are worth exploring if this is your beat.

Check out their live show at the Rock'n'Roll Hotel on Thursday, September 11th.

Although singer/songwriter Ben Riddle is Australian, the band is southern California all the way and it shows. Although both the USA and Australia have similarities with the more spacious western lands, so it is a fine musical marriage. They manage to find the common ground of expansive rural folk that is rooted to the historical roots of music more than one place. they waver between country and folk, and of course I prefer the folkier cuts. Nothing is particularly weak here, so this should be an album for all fans of those genres as well as those on a lookout for solid singer songwriters.

Songs to try first:

Hold Me - A memorable melody and arrangement stays with me well after this one ends.

The Sea - Lovely melody with harmonies and cool banjo/accordion arrangement with guitar and the rest.

This is Happening - Brisk drum work with a light touch reminds me that yes, this is fine folk rock and not too country for me.

DC band Soja has some smooth reggae working here in these thirteen songs. There are several guest stars to help shape some variant sounds which helps keep things fresh. But the core sounds are good and there is a soulful approach here that merges in classic should and R&B moves in a radio friendly blend (as we said back in the day). That may be a bit off-putting at times but the quality is there and the heart seems genuine enough. They succeed at getting you on the dance floor and may keep you on the toes with the shifts in vocals and style.

Songs to try first:

Your Song - featuring Damian Jr., Gong Marley with great vocal interplay.

Once Upon a Time - pop sensibility within reggae moves and dancehall horns.

She Still Loves Me - this one is on the pure side of reggae and the vibe is a welcome fulcrum.

I saw Brian Trahan a while back with his band Farewell Republic. He alerted me to a new project he has undertaken with a set of fine musicians under the name Sun Nectar. This a seven song album with songs long enough and worked out thoughtfully enough, that it deserves the title of album. Initially, I thought that this would be a standard electro-pop record, but the complexities of the songs and talents of the musicians explode out quite quickly in an understated manner. 'This Monster' is an amazing song and could almost be math rock with some theoretical fuzzy math theorems at the core. The strings there and in other spots are striking. 'Shepherd, Shepherd' is also a highly effective song that reminds me of Fuchsia meeting the Decemberists. As exciting as the music is, there is a relaxed quality thanks to the easy going vocals and overall atmosphere. This is a sharp, intelligent record that does not lack emotion as it challenges listeners trying to fit it in to expected patterns. Pop music always will work at primitive levels, it is nice to see it work at advanced levels as well.


Shoegazey psychedelic rock that at times reminds me of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and other times kicks it up a notch into Wooden Shjips territory. I like the space in the guitar sound and the metronomic rhythms rally pull me into what they are doing. They lack a little of the edge that may put this near my favorite album pile, but I wouldn't mind giving this a few more spins. This is a fine little record that may not overwhelm, but is able to sustain a comfortable atmosphere that should appeal to many a listener.

Songs to try first:

Slacker - I like the easy going pace and the vocals do rather live up or down to the song's title.

Frances in Space - Has a Hawkwind/Krautrock hypnotic rhythm allowing the guitarist to cut loose.

Unknowns - Relaxed psyche-rock in that BRMC manner.

This local release is a good fix for anyone's metal habit. I never get too far away from heavy loud riffage, although I would likely get bored if I tried to live a life of metal. But there are plenty of newer acts putting welcome additional spins on the genre as well as those that want to recapture the magic of early Black Sabbath. There is a little bit of both here. Just when these songs establish a catchy riff, the man behind this record (Luis Castellanos) tosses in something unexpected and creative. It does not get too overwhelming for the purists, but offers more for those of us that feel like we've 'heard it all'.

Songs to try first:

Lethal Elite - Thick metal with a nice Opethy break.

Drone War - Crunchy Sabbath riffs with a few tricky shifts.

Awake - Thoughtful shifts between quiet and loud with loads of dynamics

I was quite excited when I was approached with this album from Belgium's Will Z. He sent it as I was a fan of the amazing 1978 album Book of AM done by Gong's Daevid Allen and some communal musicians living on an island off of Spain. Will Z. worked with two of these musicians here. Sometimes projects like this sound better than the results, as maybe a fan of the music gets the people together but the core of the new work isn't as strong as the concept. Fortunately, here Will Z. has some lovely songs that are fully in the spirit of the Book of AM album and moves from psyche-meditative to what even becomes fairly catchy folk rock. There are some nice arrangements with different sounds, but plenty of space as well as this music works perfectly between Book of AM and Fit & Limo. There are more misses than hits with modern artists trying capture that magic psychedelic folk feeling from the sixties and seventies. This is a big hit and should have any fan of the genre giving full attention.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Perfect Pussy - Joanna Gruesome - Potty Mouth - Love of Everything -- Rock'n'Roll Hotel - Aug 30 2014

Love of Everything - This is one whimsical set from one whimsical guy from Chicago who plays guitar, bass, keyboard, electronics, and sings a lot with plenty of looping. There is a strong outsider quality with an airy detached sense of happiness within these slight songs. It is spacy at times with a sens of childhood wonder about it all. I can see people not loving this, but it is pretty hard not to like it. It is simple, but by design as the organization of these ideas was clear. You could feel the crowd enjoying it as they began to feel the vibe here. At 28 minutes, it was just right and an effective first course in a long evening of music.

Potty Mouth - These four women have carved a spot in my musical world where I enjoy keeping up with them and everything they do. They are from Northampton, MA and are composed of some Smith grads with a young singer guitarist in front handling most of the vocals with clarity and a subtle sneer akin to Penelope Houston's folkier style. But the band rocks from a garage style to a mid-tempo punk style with sharp post-punk pop moves in Burma-Du manner. They also have a controlled grinding style that reminds me of Mass's Proletariat from many decades ago. There recordings are as interesting, but they have the skills and style that work well on stage as well. I hope they keep this together as they are a full formed band with a sound that can work anytime, anywhere.
Joanna Gruesome - I finally get to catch this Cardiff band who made a highly enjoyable record a while back. Now here is the snotty punk vocals that are closer to Ari Up meets Poly Styrene. The twin guitar band cooks up a massive storm behind it all with highly energized, yet intricate riffs that remind me of New Model Army and some of the more thoughtful punk bands. The songs are always interesting and a few would be great power pop songs, although these are played as if they are completely out of control. But these sharp musicians know exactly what they are doing by giving all the energy and drive for the people that want to cut loose, while giving those in the back who want to lose themselves in quality music plenty to digest, as well. The crowd has nearly filled the room and are completely digging this band. I need to leave before the other co-headliner, but it has been a fine night of assertive and personal music tonight.

Quote of the Night:  And yet another from the musician on musician insult collection...

6. Boy George on Madonna
 “A vile, hideous human being with no redeeming qualities.”

Friday, August 29, 2014


Lots of cool things happening around here, so here are some videos and audios of bands coming to town which I will be seeing or wishing I was there (as they never quite spread out enough)...

Cymbals Eat Guitars open for my old bud, Bob Mould at the 9:30 Club on Saturday, September 6th. It's an early show, so you can do much more on your Saturday night.

When planning your education, do you opt for Money or go for Literature? You have your choice on Sunday, September 7th when Money hits the DC9 and Literature heads to GWU.

Flashlights and Paws make for a great combo at the DC9 on Monday September 8th.

S. Carey comes to the Rock'n'Roll Hotel on Tuesday, September 9th. That's brother Stephen, not sister Shannon who plays in our excellent local band, Luray.

Mutual Benefit makes a swift DC return to the Rock'n'Roll Hotel on Thursday, September 11th.

Jann Klose arrives up close and personal with his excellent songs to Ebeneezer's Coffee House on Friday, September 12th.

Ty Seagall is hyped up quite a bit, but is worth every bit of it as he has both the inspiration and perspiration to offer reels of great music in his many projects. Catch him at the 9:30 Club on Monday, September 15th.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Frog Eyes - PS I Love You -- DC9 - Aug 25 2014

PS I Love You - It's Canada night at the DC9 with an east west connection. This Ontarian duo gets us started with a riveting 40+ minute set. Unlike many guitar-drums duo, there is no time spent wondering about what they might sound like if they had a bass player or keyboards or both. Instead, the drums lay it down and the guitarist/vocalist creates enough tuneful noise for three people. He does this by controlling bass sounds with his feet and having a strong guitar style that is full of thick noise and plenty of colorful fills and runs. It's like Dinosaur Jr. with less soloing or Husker Du and Christmas with that busy hard rocking attack at pop songs where a catchy hook is not lost amongst the noise. Vocally, he is similar to Pere Ubu's David Thomas with a strong but quirky voice that adds loads of personality to the songs. At one point he switched guitars which had a bass string on top  which he played with his right hand on the fretboard, while his right hand cut the intricate guitar parts below. Great work and no one (including a tough sale like me) should feel the need for any more band members needed. This music was thick and a lot of fun and the crowd went from interest to full born enthusiasm by set's end.
Frog Eyes - And from the far western realms of Canada comes this quirky quartet with guitar/vocals, keyboards, bass, and drums. The music is light, eclectic, with plenty of space for keyboard raindrops and guitars to rev up or scale down. The singer is very Bowiesque with a good range and intensity. In fact, as I wrote that note I was rather shocked that I don't see nearly as many Bowie styled singers as I did in the post punk years. That's actually a shame because we need more stylists that at least try to work this territory. And it was worked well tonight as these fascinating songs were quite lively and unique. This band is really hard to describe, but perhaps they are a slightly brighter Fall styled band? That's safe as the Fall were actually about nineteen different bands over the years. His stage patter was bizarre and disarming, but ultimately quite fun. He was so nutty and semi-sequitor at times that he made Robyn Hitchcock look like Walter Cronkite. The crowd was also digging this act and it was one of the more attentive and energized crowds I have seen this year. Thanks to everyone here from club to crowd to bands, this turned out to be a great evening.

Quote of the Night: More musician on musician insults here (great quotes from Frog Eyes tonight, but impossible to make sense of in a written column. You had to be there)....

7. Elton John on Madonna
“Anyone who lip-synchs in public on stage when you pay £75 to see them should be shot.”

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Bear in Heaven - Young Magic - Weeknight -- Rock'n'Roll Hotel - Aug 22 2014

Weeknight - Icy goth tones fill the club for the entirety of this 38 minute set. They had guitar and keyboards and constant male/female harmonies at work with their electronics in the background. The harmonies were a strong reminder of the Raveonettes and were the best part of it all. One cut reminded me quite a bit of a Dementia Precox song of my youth and this type of sound has certainly been around for quite some time. When they added some western twang to the urban feeling, I enjoyed the contrast. Otherwise it was a bit too steady and unchanging for me, taken as a whole. Still, there was some pleasant noise being shaped into songs going on here.

Young Magic - Even dreamier goth tones with dashes of psychedelia are present in this set. Live drums was a plus as the two in front worked a mix of keys, electronics, and some guitar. The vocals are female and take charge atop the electro pop moves and darker moments. Again, quite steady and decent enough, although the throbbing bass undercurrent was more annoying than pleasant for me. The band kept the spirit alive tonight, although with this style, it is rather subdued.

Bear in Heaven - This trio has more of a traditional approach with bass, guitar, and drums, although there are some electronics worked in from what I hear. Right away, the nimble bass work drives home a lovely song which is incredibly catchy, but flowing with depths of emotion that is quite moving. The second cut immediately shows more variation than I have heard all night as they go a more drifting psychedelic direction as if they were the grandchildren of Pink Floyd. They had a profound sense of slowly building intensities to exciting crescendos. This is a mature sound and the band has a great approach both to writing their songs and developing arrangements to make them something memorable. This is a class act and I hope they do well.

Quote of the Night - From the opening band plus a comment from the soundman working next to where I was...

Band: "Thank you all so much for coming out early tonight."
Sound: "Actually, it's late."

I chuckled as this was the third night in a row of the shows I've attended where bands have arrived late and either gotten no soundcheck or rushed soundchecks with the doors being delayed. There were some glitches at some of the shows, but the sound experts and the bands all worked together to correct things. Still, the bands can do a little better to make for a better show by managing their travel time better. It's tough, but hopefully this won't be a trend.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Spider Bags - Harness Flux -- DC9 - Aug 21 2014

Harness Flux - One guy gets up with guitar, microphone, and magical effects box and cuts loose. Loose is the key word, but in that positive way where the music is expansive and atmospheric, yet fully rocking in a spacey psychedelic style. I am hearing links to wild outsiders like Michael Yonkers, S.T. Mikael and even a bit of Bevis Frond. Although ultimately by the end of the set it sounded more like Spaceman 1. Although the garage psyche-rock sound is prominent, there are a lot of interesting twists and turns in this 36 minute set. And in my post-set research, I learn that I (and many more folks around here) have seen John M (Harness Flux) in the Cheniers, as well as some other bands. So he has proven long ago, he knows how to work a guitar and he did it again in this solo set tonight.
Spider Bags - This hot trio has expanded into a quartet to get that extra guitar heft in their live set. Fortunately, the new guitarist was ready for the pace of this intense act and didn't miss a beat. Not only do these guys rock hard and fast, but like the Ramones, they just bang out clusters of fierce little songs barely coming up for air or in need of tuning. But you don't want to just head bob yourself into the unrelenting rhythm, as there is a lot of detail to listen to in these songs. They take sort of a Lazy Cowgirls style, but even get more complex with moves that make me think of the Hellacopters, Weirdos, and even some guitar solos that would work on a great Radio Birdman cut. There are power pop hooks and they even twist into slower, rootsier songs toward the end, although they twist them in creative new directions. This band may have been born out of the garage, but the music is quite worldly with lots of exciting well written songs that will connect with large audiences. Get on board as I don't see how these guys can fail to connect to mass quantities of smart jaded rockers as well as the enthusiastic youth.

Quote of the Night - Back to the list of musician on musician insults. The last quote was Robert Smith bashing Morrisey. Now Morrisey takes aim...

8. Morrissey on Bob Geldof
 “Bob Geldof is a nauseating character. Band Aid was the most self-righteous platform ever in the history of popular music.”

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Jacco Gardner - Smoke Green -- DC9 - Aug 20 2014

Smoke Green - Second time around for me seeing this local psychedelic rock quartet. Their psyche jams successfully creates wide spaces within the volume of rock music coming forth. This music breathes. They lock in and jam hard and occasionally a song works its way through. They would fit nicely on a bill with Wooden Shjips and Kohoutek (the latter doing a DC show next week). The guitar work is fine and the rhythm section pounds away and adds some interesting funk textures at times. This is flexible psychedelic music that is easy to get into with plenty going on to make for strong sets that hold your interest. Always a pleasure.
Jacco Gardner - Speaking of pleasure, few bands make me feel as good as Nederland's Jacco Gardner (that's the country, not the town near Boulder, CO). These guys define popsike in the same manner that Temples do, and I hope they start getting some of that success headed their way, as their music is every bit as great. They have toured the US pretty hard thus far and it is evident with a fine core of fans filling at least half of the club tonight. Their sound is similar to that of a psyche folker like Mark Fry working with a sharp band like the Zombies. The harmonies are gorgeous and the relaxed easy going feeling in the songs has a pleasant narcotic effect. The little crazy jam at the end was the icing on this delicious cake. This is my third time for this band and I will be happy to see them every time they come through. Now if they take some time to get that next album ready, all the better.

Quick Obit of note -- The Dayton music scene lost another important person, and it is all the worse that he was one of the nicest guys I ever worked with. Chris 'Troy' Green died recently from liver cancer at way too young an age (mine). I met him and worked with him as the bassist of the highly underrated band, Dementia Precox.  He is the second member of that band to die, which still does not sit right with me. But of course I will remember all the good times we had and what a pleasure it was having him around. And I have the music. He is missed by all who knew him.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Miniature Tigers - The Griswolds - Great Good Fine Okay -- U Street Music Hall - Aug 14 2014

Great Good Fine Okay - We start the night with a multiple choice question. And after listening to a full set of this Brooklyn quartet, I choose 'D' - Okay. They play an overly bright soulful pop with plenty of electronic pulsations in the beat. It's heavy with keyboards, with bass and drums banging away too, although the electric guitar made a welcome appearance later in the set. They were competent enough, but there was not enough there for me to connect with as they did not really hit any of my areas of interest. I am not sure they transcended the levels of their chosen approach either, but I think the potential is there. I do have one nagging question... can three falsetto voices harmonize? Tune into this band and let me know your answer.

The Griswolds - This band comes all the way from Sydney, Australia, which reminds me that I just heard that Radio Birdman is back doing some Australian shows. While I knew there was no way the Griswolds would connect with me the same way Birdman did, I at least found a decent band here. There still is a little too slick of a pop sound for my liking, but the hooks were supplemented by youthful energy with good guitar work mixing with keyboards which burst forward impressively. These guys are really young as the drummer just turned 21, and they seem to be working pretty hard to make a name for themselves. I think they won over some of the crowd and they had several of their own fans there a well. While I may not return for their next DC show, I suspect they may be headlining and doing just fine without me.
Miniature Tigers - And finally a band hits the stage that takes the components and momentum of the first two bands and puts it together in a satisfying combination. The keyboard and vocal pop moves are here, but there is even more heft in the sound and some real jangle in the guitar work. The pop hooks are warm and inviting and the fat bass playing stands out in a positive way. I also like the vocal harmonies as there is a bit more subtlety and variation here than previously. It is a slick sound, but with enough warmth to make a broad appeal for many music fans. And it was a good crowd tonight that took up more than half the space, although they all pushed forward to really enjoy the bands. Summer shows do bring out the youth with a healthy influx of energy to a show. Miniature Tigers was up to the task of delivering them the goods.

Quote of the Night: With the Premier League ready to get under way, here's a line from Football365's Mediawatch column where they point out the rather odd things that the mainstream British Press comes up with...

Biblical Proportions
Writes Steven Howard in The Sun: 'FOR 13 long years Chelsea and Frank Lampard have been inseparable. Like Rodgers and Hammerstein, Cain and Abel, Marks and Spencer, one didn't operate without the other.'

Except when one killed the other.