Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Swirlies - Big Hush -- Black Cat - Jul 6 2015

Big Hush - This local twin guitar quartet tried to teeter on the brink of feedback early on, occasionally getting it wrong, but quickly finding that edge, giving their music a fascinating mix of safety and danger. They work well with melody in some sort of a post shoegaze world of intensity underneath a dreamy vocal line. In fact the vocals are quite good and at one time spectacular. They have three voices, one female, that take turns with leads and harmonize in different combinations. One song had some counter vocal lines at work, the type of which is nearly foreign in most songs I encounter these days. At worst, this is a decent band, but at their best they have some excellent songs that will stay with you. I hope to see them again later this year and see if they can resonate as strongly, then I will get a good read on their talent. For now, I'll keep them high in my charts with a bullet.
Swirlies - There is nearly a full room in the backstage of the Black Cat as this occasionally active Boston band now scattered about many cities in a couple of continents. The hardcore Swirlies fans should be excited that original member Seana Carmody is back on guitar and vocals along with Damon Tutunjian, original bassist Andy Bernick and two more recent veterans joining in on this 25th anniversary tour. It is easy to see why they have a devoted following, but do not quite hit the mainstream (much to the mainstream's loss). They have a deep 50-Foot Hose feeling in their mysterious songs, which they twist around with their proto-shoe gaze sound filled with dreampop vocal lines, a hard hitting rhythm, and a mix of jagged and (yes) swirling guitars. Frankly, every Sonic Youth fan should have jumped aboard with this band as the creativity and sonic interest is every bit as high. And with catchy songs fully evident tonight, the show is a big success. The crowd is stoked from beginning to end as every song helped build this splendid set, including Shawna's solo voice and guitar closer. Great band--I hope this isn't the last time I say that following a live show.

Photograb of the Night: Look carefully. This is a stellar makeup job from Natalie Sharp who has done other classic rock album covers and much more.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Exit Vehicles - Tone - Rom -- Rock'n'Roll Hotel - Jul 3 2015

Rom -The first of three local bands, all of which I have seen before and all of which are well worth seeing again. Rom is a trio that subtly move from fine indie rock with power pop moves into a more full throated punk power pop offshoot. They did a great job of tracking their set to increase the intensity and power and get the audience more and more revved up with each song. They put a few new songs into the set including a cool instrumental that sounded like a lost Buzzcocks track sans vocal. The closer was particularly fiery without losing the melody and really grabbed the crowd by the throat. Fine, fine, and then some.

Tone - This quintet of instrumentalists showcasing three guitars atop a rhythm section is a far better testament to DC music than what is going on tonight at RFK. The band started off with their controlled intensity that will immediately take you into the worlds of Mogwai and Kinski. But they have their own style that is so commanding as their second cut showed brilliantly. Ferocious yet warm, the overall pounding was punctuated with subtle guitar moves that seemingly form from the etherworld. You simply can not go wrong with the unrelenting power and musical craft of Tone.

Exit Vehicles - Ah yes, the band with the singer and drummer book-ended by twins. Exit Vehicles casts a memorable look on stage and has the musical chops to back it up. Tone is a tough act to follow, but with a new album in hand, this band is ready to showcase it on the stage at the Rock'n'Roll Hotel. They are up for the task for as soon as the soundman gets it together by the second song, the band's playful yet strong alternative rock meets power pop moves comes full force. There often is a playful rhythm section with guitar moves that go from powerful crunching chords to more snappier runs. It is coming together nicely tonight with the clarity of the vocals cutting through the thicker sounds. This set rounded off a great night of local music. I was happy I celebrated the colors and the noise tonight rather than tomorrow where I will be sitting with my cat to ensure the excessive colors and noise does not bother him. Rock music is a never ending 365 days a year celebration.

Video of the night: Hieronymus Bosch's brilliant painting 'The Garden of Earthly Delights' has an amazing amount of detail within, including some musical notation on a torture victim's bum. An enterprising pianist recorded this hellish melody.



Wednesday, July 1, 2015

RECORD REVIEWS: JUNE 2015

Without further adieu...

AM & SHAWN LEE “OUTLINES”
I saw this duo quite a few years ago in a club long since closed and repurposed. I found the band quite good at having some real bite with their electronic pop music. With these ten songs, it seems there is a softer approach then I recall. That is often the case going from live show to recordings, although not as much as it used to be. Although I miss some of the more intense moments, they still have an overall sound that is strong enough and plenty of hooks in their songs. This is all quite danceable but good enough to listen to on its own as well. Although I would prefer a bit more guitar like that in ‘Heartbeat’ which also has a creative drumbeat. Thankfully there are enough creative drums as well. I don’t know that there are considerable strong songs that you should start on as the whole album breezes by steadily enough. In the pop world, AM & Shawn Lee still have their great touch at work.

ANDALUSIA ROSE “FIRST STONE” EP
This seven-song psyche-fest starts off with a great little ambient opening before showing a more straight forward west coast psyche style, slightly westernized with the guitars and vocals, but with a good mix of hard rock and spacey moves worked in as well. It all works quite well with a a surprise around every corner all the way to the twisted cover of ‘The Rose’ to close it out. This trio should be a real hoot and a holler live, I would think. There is just that little extra push at all the key dramatic moments.

COOPER “COOPER”

Although from Brisbane, Australia, Kat Cooper has also spent a bit of time in Canada and LA prior to concocting this universal pop album. It all sounds quite big, bright, and classic not rooting down to any particular place or time. There are songs that veer toward heavy pop-rock in the manner of Joy Formidable and other sharp pop songs that have great synthesizer parts such as ‘Ghosts’. The variety is helpful and even a bit more would be desirable. But each song is strong and of high quality so it is hard to find much fault with anything here.

Songs to start with first:

Heaviest of Weights - The opening cut has a strong Joy Formidable feel which works for me.

Forward - Smooth and steady in the deliver of this fine pop tune.

Novocaine - Another big, big song.

DJANGO DJANGO “BORN UNDER SATURN”
Popsike is getting quite popular. Thankfully, Django Django is not jumping on a bandwagon but carving their own space somewhat in between the heavier psyche bands like Black Angels and the poppier ones like Temples. The vocal harmonies and overall tone is outstanding here, while the musical backing is modern, but fully reminiscent of classic psychedelic pop bands of the 1960s. This is a very warm and embracing sound that shows great ability and understanding of this music. Small wonder this band is making a big name for itself. These harmonies will be staying with me long after this record stops.

 Join me to see Django Django and the Beat Connection live and in person at the 9:30 Club on Wednesday, July 29th.

Songs to start with first:

Giant - The opener is the longest cut, which had me thinking how rare that is, but it conveys the mood of the album quite well, so why not?

Shake and Tremble - There’s a bit of Secret Agent Man in here, so you know it’s catchy.

Reflections - Great rock moves in a pop setting that also balance old vibes and new sounds.

EXIT VEHICLES “STAGES”
One of the sharper bands around DC in recent years has been Exit Vehicles, proven by this fine new album. They manage edgy guitars over smooth bass lines, punchy drums and vocals that somehow bridge the soft tones with the harsher sounds. No easy feat this, but these guys manage it quite well over most of these ten songs. They faded a little with the hooks at times, but always had precision and energy to keep things moving along. This is strong and accessible, so give it a listen and you will likely be back for more.

And you can see their excellent live show with the amazing Tone at the Rock’n’Roll Hotel this Friday night, July 3rd.

Songs to start with first:

Face Behind - A bit of post punk pop guitar with a great hook and fine vocal line.

Circular - Surprising twists in the songwriting turns a good song into something quite compelling by the time it concludes.

Millenial - Gutsy little finishing number to round out a fine album.

FIST CITY “EVERYTHING IS A MESS”

Well not quit everything is a mess as this Alberta band has a lot of things tight and to the point in their assertive punk music with those classic Canadian hooks. When this works, it works very well indeed. There are times where the vocals get a bit monotonous and the music is no better. But when they nail a hook and retain their power, they have a great sound. That happens often enough to make me happy I had a full listen (and then some).

Songs to start with first:

Bad Trip - Revved up pop to punk with fuzzy guitars and plenty of drive.

Shotgun - Has a classic punk hook here and some great sonics to make it their own.

Surf’s Up - Instrumental psycho surf punk is much fun, especially the way this sounds.

FOOTWERK “CASUAL ENCOUNTERS”
This Washington DC hip hop collective has put together a fine album here, strong in sound with lots of variety that I always look for in this genre. There is plenty of rap atop sharp rhythms, but with female backing vocals and occasional lead male vocals in a soul vein, there is a lot here. There are some strong rock moves here as well and the producer deserves kudos for putting all this together with great balance and clarity. And any genre with tasty guitar runs like on many of these songs will always succeed with me. This was a pleasure to listen to and makes me with I had been able to catch a live show previously—hopefully I will get my chance again. I don’t need to break out the individual songs, it’s all good.

EZRA FURMAN “PERPETUAL MOTION
This ranges from power pop delivered by a pop gun into more forms of inorganic combinations than I can possibly figure out. The first cut sounds like equal measures of sugary pop, punk, and hip hop all tossed together to see what happens. If you really want to test your creative limits, give this a listen, as there are familiar sounds put together in such ways you have not quite heard before. There is just too much here for me to digest and make sense out of. It’s like taking the Bonzo Dog Band and Skafish songs and running them through a meat grinder to sample the oozings. Full credit for going out there. You may want to pull back a bit to let some of us in, or just keep stretching the barriers until people catch up.

Songs to start with first:

Restless Year - Is the sound of hip hop, punk, and sugary pop music coming together in equal proportions?

Ordinary Life - ‘I’m sick of this record already’ is the first line, I can’t say that, although I have some puzzled looks here and there, but less here.

Can I Sleep in Your Brain - Cool garage pop tune, a little on the standard side for this album, which is ok by me.

ROBIN GUTHRIE & MARK GARDNER “UNIVERSAL ROAD”
If you don’t recognize these names, you may have heard of the two bands they were pivotal members of—Cocteau Twins and Ride, respectively. Unfortunately as is often in the case of these collaborations you end up comparing the new material to the older works of each band. And when it is not a reformation of either band, the expected new direction takes a while to get used to. This work is decent enough, but takes a much safer mainstream route than what I would have hoped for. There are some lush interiors of these songs and they are certainly attractive enough for fans of the lighter side of British pop music fused with ambient guitar wash.

Songs to start with first:

Dice - Mainstream rock appeal with some of the lush textures subtly placed within.

Amnesia - Interesting acoustic guitar work within a structure that still pulls in the dreamy background you expect.

Sometime - A smooth operator of a song.

GWENNO “Y DYDD OLAF”
Normally anything I discuss with a name this Welsh is some classic psychedelic folk record born out of Meic Stevens and Pererin. But here we have a thoroughly modern pop album with electronics, ambiance, and scrumptious female vocals. It is a little better than most as it attracted enough attention for me to stay with, especially when the vocals clicked.

Songs to start with first:

Chwyldro - Somewhat dark backing with spritely beat and great inviting vocals.

Caon Peiriant - Spacey beginning leads into a catchy enough song with just enough mysterious distance.

Fratolish Hiang Perpeshki - Sounds like a Boiled in Lead title, but is much more of a throbbing dance cut with cool vocals.

THE HENRYS “QUIET INDUSTRY”

Sparsely arranged folk is tricky music to tackle. It is easy enough to create, but challenging to make it creative, unique, and compelling. I am not sure the Henrys fully catch all the key points, but there are some strong and unique moments among these 14 songs. When they focus on vocals and guitar, the vocals are not interesting enough to pull me into their world. But when the rhythm section is doing some funky things and the guitar work jabs away creatively, things are much better.

Songs to start with first:

A Thousand Corners - A fine arrangement of strongly plucked acoustic guitar and light percussion, almost Pentangle like.

Was Is - A bit jazzier and rhythm section is front and center.

When the Far Shore Disappears - Strange moody song where the vocals work with the distant musical atmosphere.

INSTANT EMPIRE “LAMPLIGHT LOST”
This is an amalgamation of power pop, quirky indie rock, and even a bit of hip hop or R&B at times. The vocals have a strong personality to them—kind of warm, kind of challenging. Musically, it is a mixed bag as they don’t always lock into a comfort zone and get a bit too noodling at times. But there are germs of ideas that show creativity and can connect with a lot of modern rock fans.

Songs to start with first:

Young Adult Fiction - Fresh vibrant opener has the pace and energy to resonate.

N.E.S.W. - A bit of hip hop within this fine rocker.

Neighbor Girl - Their longest and most ambitious song succeeds with a touch of epic quality within the pop moves.

JOVAN KARCIC “2011”
Stay with this album as it just may creep up on you. Karcic is from my old stomping ground of Ohio and is presently a member of Scrawl. His solo album is filled with snippets and short songs mostly that start off a little oddly until they ultimately head off into some fascinating pathways. It is a mixed bag for sure with some odd little fragments that would make Robert Pollard continue working. But for the most part, Karcic has a style that moves from modern rock to psychedelic in unique ways. I was not sure he could win me over when I started listening, but I am fully on board at album’s end.

Songs to start with first:

Pledge - The start was fair, but the finish added an air of mystery and expectation, which I don’t hear too often in songs.

Open Up the Window - Things star getting psychedelic.

Roundy Round - Things continue to get psychedelic in this surprisingly long song.

LEFT LANE CRUISER “DIRTY SPLIFF BLUES”
Blues rock will never die, it will just twist and morph and go with the flow of every gritty bar band that wants to get a little bit heavy. These guys take the toughness and song writing skills of a Steamhammer or Groundhogs and inject a bit of Skynyrd attitude and come up with the goods. Like those bands, the base is quite tried and true, but the execution and the thoughtful moves in the songs are what separates them from the average band. These guys can take their sound into more places than most and come out alive and with lots of followers watching their back.

Songs to start with first:

Tres Borrachos - The opening cut takes not prisoners and gets the ball rolling. Jump on or steer clear.

Elephant Stomp - Creative guitar sounds are normally not part of hard blues rock, but they work here.

All Damn Day - A bit of heavy metal funk? Why not.

LINDEN “REST AND BE THANKFUL”
Pure Pop Music for 21st Century Now People could be the working title of this album. I suppose we can debate the word pure as this is on the lush side of pop music, with delicate but focused instrumentation and quietly high flying vocals. The quality stands out far more than the originality, but that is a worthy goal for any 21st century band. Like most basic pop records, this one didn’t blow my mind, but it was nicely done and made for a happy listen.

Songs to start with first:

I See - Gentle undulating pop moves all over this opening song.

Rest and be Thankful - If this was spacier, this could be one of my favorites, the Folklords.

Dream Dream - Add a touch of jangle and some clever arrangements and you have a song that is a step up from the pack.

LITTLE WINGS “EXPLAINS”
This one is somewhere in between wyrdfolk and a certain quirky singer songwriter style. The vocals may take some getting used to as they are Nick Drake quiet, but with odd dynamic twists and turns, singing a mix of strange and poetic set of lyrics. At times it is a bit too precious for me, but when he is not trying to hard, he can be quite effective. Little Wings, also known as Kyle Ward, gets bonus points for creativity in their execution, but it is still not quite enough for me to get too excited about, at least at this juncture. This could change.

Songs to start with first:

By Now - The opener has a great lilting style with delicate vocals singing more challenging lyrics. Mysterious mood.

Fat Chance - If you like this song, you will like this album.

Hollowed Log - No pedal steel and lovely vocal work.

LONE “LEMURIAN”
I thought I made a vow to review less instrumental electronica music? Somehow this record slipped past my napping Quality Control Department and made it way into my Itunes. Poor poor me that has these sixteen songs. While they did not offer the hoped for surprise, they were perfectly decent soundtrack cuts that offered melodic backing music to whatever activity was at hand. There were some annoying throbbing moves here and there, but on the positive side there were some arty vocal touches that were a pleasant surprise. I would rather see an accompanying film with music like this, but there are a few nice things going on as it is.

MAIL THE HORSE “PLANET GATES”
This began as a mixture of west coast cowpoke rock and roll with stabs at a poppier indie rock. Usually I prefer the latter, but it is in this band’s character to go for that US desert blues rock fully westernized and laid back to the fullest. This band has enough skill to pull in even people like me for the ride, at least for a little while anyway. The guitars and keyboards had the right balance of crunch and playfulness respectively in the cuts that worked best for me. The vocals are what you would expect but pulled back even further into Americana. If this is your style, you should really listen to this band as their creative elements seem a cut above the many in this field.

 Come to Acre 121 on Friday, July 10th and see how this band cuts it on stage. My guess is that they will do just fine.

Songs to start with first:

Best I Can - If you liked the Flying Burrito Brothers, give this a listen.

Wasted Sex - Nasty sounding electric guitar and barrelhouse piano make for a great song.

Drink Your Health - Steady rocker with those laid back yet intense vocals aided with big harmonies and bigger guitars.

OH MERCY “WHEN WE TALK ABOUT LOVE”
Sorry, but this band name has me singing their name in my Mike Heron voice from ‘Mercy I Cry City’. But back to this album; if you like polite pop music that is radio friendly, give this a listen. It may annoy some of you, while others will accept its warm embrace. I have heard too much of this to know where I fall, but these guys do this music well.

Songs to start with first:

Without You - Not the Nilsson cut, but it does take you back to that era.

Sandy - A fine pop song with saccharine vocals and plenty of drive.

Cool Water - One of their songs where an acoustic guitar takes the lead adding a spacey folk quality to their album.

MICHAEL RAULT “LIVING DAYLIGHT”

This is not quite power pop, but an energetic pop music that takes a page or two from the late sixties when fuzz guitars were the rage. I love the guitar sound here as it seems so purely rooted in that style as opposed to having about nine pedals in play. When the vocals click and the song has a great hook, this is some of the most fun music around. It doesn’t always click, but there is always something that works in each song. This was a pleasure as one of those records that is a bit of a nostalgia trip, but sounds modern enough and makes you wonder why you don’t hear more of this.

Come see Michael Rault with Happyness at Tropicalia on Friday, July 17th.

Songs to start with first:

Hiding from a Heartbreak - Easy going pace with plenty of fuzz guitar.

Suckcess - Ultra catchy song with plenty of bite—easy to bounce around the room to.

Lost Something - The fine vocals make this the catchiest song on this album.

RAVI SHAVI “RAVI SHAVI”
There are plenty of fine garage styled rock bands out there. But it is the bands with best pop hooks and/or creative twists that will sink deeper into the memory. The ‘and’ is in play with this Providence band as they have the hooks and great style adjustments along with some very clever songwriting moves. Yet you can sit back and not think about any of this and enjoy their sound and energy as they never lose sight of the simple joy of playing rock music. These guys have it down well and as long as they keep working up clever songs while retaining their spirit, they should do quite well.

Songs to start with first:

Bloody Opus - Something between the Saints and Dickies is a really good way to rock.

Hobbies - Cool song elevated further with a killer break past the half-way point.

Accidental - Sharp rocker that is super catchy.

SROS LORDS “RULE”

This is fine lo-fi punk rock from one of the better places for all things rock, Detroit, Michigan. They are closest in sound to a Chicago band called the Mentally Ill with the bombastic rhythms, an abrasive buzz in the guitars (maybe a synth). Of course the manic vocals are out front with plenty of intensity and desperation. This is well done with just the right balance of creativity and ‘screw creativity, let’s rock’ attitude. It is not for everybody but if you are not sure if people still play decent punk rock music, give this one a listen and you may be pleasantly surprised.

Songs to start with first:

Fits You Fine - This takes me back to Detroit hardcore with more grungy punk infused.

Cleaner Love - Tub thumping drums drive this one home.

Sniper - Maybe the catchiest song for me.

TALK IN TONGUES "ALONE WITH A FRIEND"

I thought this album was going to be a fine little psychedelic throwback, but as the eleven songs came forth, there were many interesting twists and turns. This LA band is capable of sounding very classic-LA in both psychedelic and pop ways, but they weave in some east of the Atlantic moves as well and take things into different areas of pop music before rocking out a bit more at the end. It somehow all comes together and is a light little adventure, maybe sounding a bit more safe than it is, but they have such a relaxing effect. I am not sure of the staying power of this music, but it will be fascinating to listen to again.

Songs to start with first:

Time’s Still for No One Yet - Good garage pop opener with plenty of jangle and catchy vocals.

After Tonight - Swirling delicate pop move, not too retro, not too modern.

She Lives in my House - The 13th Floor Elevators’ sounding title yields a 13th Elevators’ sounding song and that is very good.

TURK TRESIZE “If it is to Be”

There is a lot of fine roots rock’n’roll here in these 15 songs. All the usual elements are here: gutsy rasps of vocals firing out, solid electric guitar thickness, rolling piano and thick organ sound, all atop the power of the rhythm section. The vocals are strong with fine female backing, with the lead sounding like a cross between Rob Tyner (MC5) and Bob Seger. This is definitely old school soulful rock music (you know that when they rhyme rock’n’roll with soul as in ‘Hail, Hail’). Don’t expect the unexpected and it may get a bit much at times, but if you want the real goods delivered with sweat and sincerity, give this album a listen.

Songs to start with first:

Just You - The second cut finds the groove and shows off the basic skills in the execution of this band.

101 - Fine songwriting covers a big range of emotions and sounds.

Too Much - Fine ballads still work on me and this one does, in part as there is more guts than usual.

VIENNA DITTO “CIRCLE”
The mysterious qualities in both the music and vocals give this delightfully accessible music a distinct edge that has this jaded listener surprisingly engaged. The overall feeling goes from old fashioned lounge music to modern poptronica. This was a nice surprise as normally I am a tough sell for music like this. But this duo’s command of old musical forms and sparkling playing and singing make for a great adventurous journey on this album.

Songs to start with first:

A Wheel Within a Wheel - Every vocal utterance is crystal clear as the music lurks along until you are fully enveloped.

Hold On - Shockingly loud beginning makes way for a snappy lounge pop ditty.

Liar Liar Quietly - A slow jazzy one, heck this is all good, don’t stop at three songs.

THE WEATHER STATION “LOYALTY”
Here’s a lovely album that will take you back to the days of Joan Baez, Carole King, and Anne Briggs. The female vocals are perfectly attuned with the song and highly expressive in that understated manner. What really makes things even stronger is the similar understatement in the musical backing. This approach lifts the songs into a clear focus that commands attention. And the quality is such that this attention is held and rewarded throughout these eleven songs.

And you can see this all LIVE at the comfortable DC9 club on Friday, July 17th.

Songs to start with first:

Loyalty - The title cut is a fine example of the quality songwriting and seemingly easy going execution.

Shy Women - Fabulous mood created by the vocals and restrained playing, like a light Phox song.

Personal Eclipse - Just another excellent song.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

PREVIEWS of COMING ATTRACTIONS: Early July 2015

A little quiet start due to the holiday, so after the fireworks, join me in the clubs for the real fireworks.

Over 1,000 people have read my interview with Damon Tutunjian of the Swirlies. You can do that too, but more imporantly I highly advise you join me at the Black Cat on Monday July 6th for a celebration of their 25th year of existence.


Mates of State hits the Rock'n'Roll Hotel on Wednesday, July 8th.


Mail the Horse will in no way mail it in when they appear at Acre 121 on Friday, July 10th.


Moon King reigns over the night sky from the DC9 stage on Saturday, July 11th.


The amazingly underrated Stiff Little Fingers will be at the Black Cat on Saturday, July 11th. Here's a classic that I just heard as musical backing for a travel show on hotels in Ireland(!!).


Mourn is something I've been doing a lot of lately, so now I can see the band Mourn at the DC9 on Monday July 13th.


Also at the DC9 comes Eskimeaux, which will have me longing for an igloo as it will likely be quite warm on Tuesday July 14th when they play.

Monday, June 29, 2015

The Adolescents - Weirdos - History Repeated -- Black Cat - Jun 28 2015

History Repeated - History was repeated rather quickly for those attending tonight's show who also took in Mission of Burma the night before where this fine local band also opened the festivities. I missed the Burma show so I cannot compare, but having seen this John Stabb led quartet many a time, it is still more repeated history for me. And it is memorable history at that for these guys always put on an entertaining set. It's jagged rock mixing classic punk and post-punk with plenty of flair and personality. They had it going on tonight even though it was a crowd more fit for the downstairs room when the set began. The crowd improved enough to justify the bigger room and I will never understand a late coming audience on a Sunday. But for those that were here, they are sufficiently warmed and ready for the LA invasion.
Weirdos - Well, the 35+ year wait to see this legendary LA punk band was worth it. The Denny brothers along with veteran Zander Schloss and a younger drummer are here with all those great songs from Dangerhouse and Bomp singles and beyond. They still managed to bring that crazed edge to their thick classic and speedy punk rock sound. They are a bit like the darker crazier alter ego of the Dickies. The crowd really got off on this music and they kept getting louder and more involved as the set went on with these veterans just banging out song after song with very little down time. The sound is really thick and melodic with great snarly vocals that are a lot more fun than the testerone vocal style employed by many hardcore bands that followed. There are still a number of Dangerhouse bands from LA who I have never had the chance to see, and some that will be impossible to see, but these guys were top of the list and they delivered on all the hopes I had for this show.
The Adolescents - If this set was a little anti-climatic, it was only for me due to having seen this excellent band three times previously and also the disappointment that this was the first time someone named Agnew was not one of the guitarists. But Tony and Steve were there with their excellent vocal work and bass playing and the new recruits delivered the great melodies of one of the most fun bands from the LA scene. Rarely are backing vocals employed as well as this (Naked Raygun comes to mind where they are as integral in the songs). They played a rousing set tonight that kept the crowd going the whole time with a mix of songs from all eras of their band, of course neglecting very little from their essential first album. Tony still has that odd 'third-person' style with his banter and stage presence, perhaps partly due to fronting a band called the Adolescents in his fifties. But he still has the voice and sense of humor to keep things moving and the band was on the mark tonight. So ultimately, I had a lot of fun. This is one excellent tour showcasing the essential early LA scene and how it still works today.

Facebook grab of the night: A while back, I reposted this 'review' that the Damned's Captain Sensible had posted. I want to show it again as it really speaks to younger music fans of how difficult it was to gain acceptance for the great music that came out of the punk rock scene. Yes, many critics unlike this one 'got it', but radio did not and many music fans turned up their noses without even trying to understand the brilliance of this sound and why it was such a healthy injection into the music world in the late 1970s. And as Captain Sensible reminded people, the Damned are still here, the magazine that published this is long gone.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Carl Palmer Band -- Ram's Head On Stage - Jun 25 2015

Carl Palmer Band - It is normally tricky for a drummer to take out his former band's material on the road, as it often results in the writers and voices and main instruments being replaced. Yet Carl Palmer was the P of ELP and as ELP fans know was an integral part of that band's formula. Now for the past few years Carl Palmer has taken the ELP material out on the road with the more expected version of a power trio: guitar, bass, and drums. I am finally happy to see how these newer full instrumental ELP interpretations and as a bonus, I will get to see one of the best rock drummers of all time show off his skills.
It is quick to see how fun this format is tonight as both the young guitarist and bassist show off plenty of chops in their playing and their creative use of sounds to 'synthesize up' their parts. They alternated interpreting the vocal lines on their instruments on the few songs that had them, while avoiding the Greg Lake solo acoustic numbers. As for Carl Palmer, he had all of his amazing skills on display. He is such a hard hitter with a level of quickness that just isn't seen often. In his drum solo during 'Fanfare for the Common Man' he showed amazing skills with his cymbal work, coaxing many tones and rhythms with flashy moves. His kit is not of the Terry Bozzio/Neal Peart school, but he can create a lot of melody out of it. And his playing partners stay with him the whole night with lots of progressive and metal moves of their own. The bass player looks like he is playing a six string bass and also adds the stick to a few songs. The guitarist is seated with a slight injury but has amazing speed and touch. The ELP songs sound great and they focus on the classical cuts that ELP did so you would not have to know anything about them, but would really dig them if you enjoyed classical music and metal. But the crowd tonight knew the material and were fully into this excellent set.

Quote of the Night: Carl Palmer came up to a downstage mic in between songs and song couplets to introduce them or tell stories--"it's kind of nice to get up, you can rearrange your shorts", but it was his intro to a nice surprise, which was quite memorable "When we were discussing ideas for songs to do, I brought up 'Mars, the Bringer of War',Holst, yes right. But I lost that argument... our first (laughter). And we ended up doing '21st Century Schizoid Man' the King Crimson song, no our band doesn't do it. So now we bring you 'Mars'... oh, and then yeah, we'll do 21st Century Schizoid Man."

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Olli Hirvonen - Christian Winther Soul House -- Embassy of Finland - Jun 23 2015

This was part of the Nordic Jazz Festival featuring jazz artists from the musically rich countries of Scandanavia. Much thanks to Embassy of Finland for hosting such a lovely event in their beautiful building. Embassy events are the best. Partake whenever you can, as there are a lot of events open to the public.

Christian Winther Soul House - Christian Winther is a saxophonist who comes to us from Denmark via New Orleans, where he has lived for the last 18 years. He is joined by an area trio, Allyn Johnson on piano, Billy Williams Jr. on drums, and Romeir Mendez on bass. The saxophone is clear and controlled with subtle speed and precision that invokes a comfortable feel throughout. The piano provides a lot of exciting flourish as Johnoson adds a lot to the sound. The bass holds it together with highly creative drumming adding even more thrust to the sound. Winther can play the standards, but his own songs fit well into any set featuring traditional material--at least from my perspective (keeping in mind rock and folk are my areas of expertise). The performance went over extremely well in the full room as Winther and these fine local musicians bonded very well indeed.




Olli Hirvonen Trio - Hirvonen is on home ground, hailing from Finland, but travelling the world with his unique guitar talents. Tonight he has New Yorker Ethan O'Reilly on bass and a drummer named Marc whose last name I did not catch. The first cut was a jazz cover song and it was decent enough, but when they went into Hirvonen's original material, the band really started cooking and the genres began blending. The guitar sounds were smooth and a bit spacey, almost keyboard like as Hirvonen soloed before the band joined in, with a near rock and roll intensity. There was a playful progressive style and ambient mood setting woven into these songs quite seamlessly with the skill of this trio. There was that progressive jazz noodling that can be excessive, but with all of the variety and the spirited playing, that never was a problem tonight. The guitar is one my least favorite instruments when I do spend some time with jazz, but it worked tonight with the variety of sounds and liquid playing in these engaging songs.

Video share: I have an extensive collection of music from Finland and their neighboring countries as there is a great musical history there. I urge you to explore. Here's but a taste from an album I really enjoy.



Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Porcelain - Cat Martino -- DC9 - Jun 22 2015

Cat Martino - Solo female vocals and electronics is the challenge here in the opening set. It is a challenge at least to convince me that I should watch backing tracks live on stage. Vocals are a big help and initially Cat Martino does a great job with loops and showing depths of mood. There was a little disconnect for me between her quiet and her loud as her quiet parts were nearly inaudible. Musically, she left enough space for the vocals to work although there seemed to be a problem at one point where the backing seemed lacking. She pulled out an electric guitar that helped one song, but ultimately this was a disjointed set. There is some talent here, it is just a question of pulling it all together.
Porcelain Raft - Mauro Remiddi has a long career in music with bands in his native Italy and beyond. But now in New York, he's going it alone which is a risky sell for someone like me. I enjoyed his recent album well enough, so I was hopeful. And hope was rewarded as his rich singing voice and smart melodic backing was quite riveting. And it got even better when he strapped on his guitar for several songs as he varied his playing from creative rocking to deep ambient moods. His vocals began to soar into heights unheard since the days of MIJ (a crazed cult record if ever there was one). Well, he wasn't too crazed as he kept it all in an accessible place even as he explored beyond the boundaries of most electropoppers. He exhibited great personality with the crowd who were really enjoying his set. If you like Caribou as I do, you should really give Porcelain Raft a listen.

Quote of the Night: from Cat Martino in the middle of her set, which is foreshadowing as to why I have only a little time left in the live music world and perhaps the world in general... "I got a text message that distracted me."

Monday, June 22, 2015

King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard -- U Street Music Hall - Jun 21 2015

King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard - This Australian outfit has enough albums out to make you think they have been around for 20 years based on the release rates of most bands these days, but in fact they are merely one of the most prolific bands out there. There records are steeped in their brand of psychedelia and are quite interesting, but it is this live performance where it all comes together in a masterful display of classic psychedelic rock. There is a 13th Floor Elevators vibe with loads of guitar a distorted harmonica and a steady throbbing rhythm section. The songs may not be quite as catchy, but the overall effect is nearly as mesmerizing. They play a mix of short songs and long jams with enough shifting around in arrangements to keep things quite fresh throughout. The club was half full but everyone was up front and as stoked as any crowd I have seen in some time. They even did a solo voice/guitar encore saying they usually don't do encores, but such was the crowd's roar. So clearly this band is connecting and as their unique name gets out there and the word of mouth continues to spread, these guys could and should really get big... at least as big as Black Angels and other fine bands in this arena. Great sound tonight, too, U Street.
photo: 9:30 Club tweet

Quote of the Night: From my favorite Irish football player Roy Keane's autobiography discussing the possible signing of the (aptly named) Robbie Savage.

'I rang Mark Hughes. Robbie wasn't in the Blackburn team and I asked Mark if we could try to arrange a (transfer) deal. Sparky said: 'Yeah, yeah, he's lost his way here but he could still do a job for you.'' Keane explains.

'Robbie's legs were going a bit but I thought he might come up to us, with his long hair, and give us a lift - the way Yorkie (Dwight Yorke) had, a big personality in the dressing room. 'Sparky gave me permission to give him a call. So I got Robbie's mobile number and rang him. It went to his voicemail: 'Hi, it's Robbie - whazzup!' like the Budweiser ad. I never called him back. I thought: 'I can't be f**king signing that.'"

Friday, June 19, 2015

Viet Cong - Girl Band -- Rock'n'Roll Hotel - Jun 18 2015

Girl Band - This is some really twisted music that will wrap you up like a boa constrictor and possibly do some damage. It is the slow kind as the band has thick and throbbing backing with desperate wailing vocals on top. It is as if members of Screamers and Mars are covering Crass songs. Perhaps more than a little Throbbing Gristle influence as well? One good thing is the variety of vocal style as the desperation style would get a little, well desperate if done over the course of 45 minutes. Musically this can wear you down, but they mix it up well enough to allow some oxygen in while you are wrapped up in this intensity. These Irish lads did very well in front of a very big crowd here tonight.
photo: Rock'n'Roll Hotel twitter account

Viet Cong - And the crowd continued to grow in size and excitement as this Canadian quartet hit the stage. Thankfully the soundman got it together after one song to allow me to focus on the music rather than the problems (touring soundmen tend to struggle in this club). Even then, it took several songs to try to figure out exactly what the band was making work so well. And I am not sure I ever quite got the answer, which is a big positive as they kept me alert throughout their set. One song reminded me of New Model Army, while another was as if Gang of Four were crossed with Savage Republic. And just when I focused on songs, they went off on PiL meets Swans style throbbing droner. When this band really nailed it, they were as good as anybody. When they were less so, they were still a powerful presence. Great night of creative music, tonight, and it was great to see so many people were here to dig in.

Photo Grab of the Night: This was a discovered in Argentina via Google Earth. If any crop circles, etc. are the result of aliens, hopefully they are behind this one.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Richard Thompson - Robert Ellis -- Birchmere - Jun 16 2015

Robert Ellis - We begin with an odd personality from Houston, Texas. He's got a big hollow body guitar and a microphone and does quite well with both. His guitar style is impressive--everything is picked but with his lighting left hand, It is picked quite assertively and fortunately the race between hands stays pretty much a draw the whole night. Song-wise, I thought he started slow and that was also true of his stage patter although ultimately his odd humor worked its way through and the last couple of songs were particularly strong. Although he is a fine singer songwriter that can hold his own, I wonder if a light rhythm section may add an interesting layer to his music sending it even higher than the sum of its parts.
Richard Thompson - This is about the fifth time I have seen Richard Thompson over the last 25 years or so. I have also listened to nearly all of his music as a solo artist, collaborator, and of course with Fairport Convention. Just as the albums over the last half century are extremely varied, his live show is always just a little bit different each time around. That is due more to his backing musicians, or lack thereof, than his steady high quality vocal and guitar delivery. This time around he is electric with drums and electric bass backing his electric and acoustic guitars. Ergo, the searing guitar solos are more a part of this set, not that they are ever truly lacking even in his acoustic solo shows. He performs a couple of acoustic numbers without the band, including a song from his latest album and the classic '1952 Vincent Black Lightning'. He even keeps the acoustic strapped on as the band returns before handing it to his guitar tech who stays on stage to add a second guitar to 'Guitar Heroes' because as he says, "it's so complex it makes Rite of Spring look like Sugar Sugar." This songs is a long cut featuring a great original rocker talking about all of Thompson's influences that include a solo in the style of that guitarist following the verse about them. It is a perfect reminder about what I believe makes Thompson so great. Even if you find a guitarist better (although not many), or a songwriter more amazing, or a singer more powerful, I am not sure you can find anyone who's composite score in all three categories could be any better than Richard Thompson's. And even at 66 years old, he still is not showing any signs of holding back in any of those categories. So I see no reason not to continue to grab his albums or see this superb live performance.

And you get one more chance in DC tonight at the Birchmere as he will play another great set to a very full club.

Quote of the Night (well, at least after the one listed above): Robert Ellis after a fan's shout-out.
"You did alright, son."
"Well thank you... ....Dad."

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Iceage - Witch Coast -- DC9 - Jun 15 2015

Witch Coast - I was lukewarm to this local trio the last time I saw them, which certainly had nothing to do with them apologizing to the crowd for being the substitute act for Australia's Low Life who could not get the Visas together to make this gig in the Land of the Free. No apologies necessary, for although we missed out on a fine band from a long ways away, we got a nice set from a much improved outfit. The set was twice as long this time around clocking in at 33 minutes plus, which allowed us to see the range of dark Savage Republic like songs to more catchier positive major key numbers. They still rely on too much reverb in the vocals which I commented on last time and a woman from Baltimore I was chatting with mentioned this time (while joining me in enjoying their overall sound). It is always nice to see improvement. With a steady drum, a thrusting bass, and fine guitar sounds shaping decent songs, this band is worth continued listening.

Iceage - These Danish teens connected very quickly with a world audience with the release of their debut album and world tour in 2013. They are back with an exciting sophomore album and an even larger near capacity crowd tonight. I was impressed with the album, but it is even more amazing live from this band who is now all of age to have a drink in this country. They have taken their masterful fusion of punk and post-punk and expanded it into even more diverse rock territories while somehow increasing the underlying tension and power. The bass throbs away in post punk glory while the drummer has a lot of creative breaks that fit perfectly in the varied structures of their songs. I am not sure how the guitarist can coax such fascinating sounds that contrast the quiet and loud ranges with such dexterous playing. His moves remind me of something you would hear in Love. However, the vocals are more from Love's buddies the Doors with that Morrison like presence and moodiness. Elias Bender R√łnnenfelt has great command of the stage as a front man and although offers a scary churning style that never quite explodes, I think their next stage of growth could be in offering some change ups in his tone. Hardly a criticism, but more of a guess, as this band could dumb it down and still generate an intense pit like they did tonight. Thankfully, they are incredibly smart and are clearly one of the more original heavy bands worth following.

Coincidence of the Night: I was amused to see that the person I was chatting with had an exact copy of my Decomposition Book that I use for taking notes. I did not know they were so popular and I am glad I am not alone using pen and paper in this hi-tech age. Thanks to Taliesin for taking a break from his cardboard tunnel games to pose with my well worn notebook.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Preview of Coming Attractions - Late June 2015

It's heating up in and out of the clubs as there is plenty going on. Here is only a small sampling of what is attracting me and what me be of interest to you...

We've lost John Renbourn and Bert Jansch in recent years, so it is all the more reason to catch Richard Thompson while you can. He is incredibly prolific and could hold my attention for a 24-hour marathon. You get two shots to see him at the Birchmere, tomorrow and Wednesday this week only!


Pattern is Movement moves on in to the Black Cat on Wednesday, June 17th.


Viet Cong takes aim at the Rock'n'Roll Hotel on Thursday, June 18th.


Miami Horror brings the scares to the U Street Music Hall on Friday, June 19th.


King Gizzard and the Lizard brings two indigestible main courses to the U Street Music Hall on Sunday, June 21st.


Porcelain Raft floats on over to the DC9 on Monday, June 22nd.


Jeremy Loops circles into Annapolis at Ram's Head on Tuesday, June 23rd.


Damnwells stir up the crowd at the Howard Theatre on Friday, June 26th.


And head back to the Howard on Monday June 29th for Doomsquad.


Sunday, June 14, 2015

Courtney Barnett - Chastity Belt - Darren Hanlon -- 9:30 Club - Jun 13 2015

by Kyle Schmitt

Darren Hanlon - This affable Aussie kicked off the evening with a fine solo acoustic set. His songs present fully considered scenarios and musings, which often take a circuitous route to fruition. One tune’s introduction featured fond remembrances of a fistfight that occurred in his hometown one Christmas Eve, then segued into a lament over the lack of good Mexican food down under. Hanlon’s songs rise or fall on the strength of his wordplay. His love of a memorable turn of phrase leads to lyrics that vacillate between clever and questionable, as demonstrated by two tracks he performed off his 2002 LP Hello Stranger, “Punk’s Not Dead” (she’s “just gone to bed”) and “Don’t Cheat the Future” (as “you’re just cheating yourself”). At his best, Hanlon gives sagacious advice on religion (warning us not to “underestimate the fitness of a determined Jehovah’s witness”) and aging, proclaiming that, while hair turns gray and skin turns to leather, “the best thing about growing old is we all do it together.”

Chastity Belt - The individual notches of Chastity Belt complement each other well throughout their mid-tempo rock songs. Guitarist Lydia Lund stands out due to her high-register playing in the verses. Annie Truscott’s bass-playing provides an added dimension to “On the Floor”, while Gretchen Grimm’s stick work (switching between a tom-heavy arrangement and a breezier ride-cymbal beat) propels “IDC”. That song features singer Julia Shapiro’s best moment, as she answers the question “Is it cool not to care?” by shrugging “I don’t really care.” Although Shapiro channels her frustrations into lyrics like “I’m never satisfied” and “I never expect much from anyone”, she gives the impression that negative people and experiences don’t wear on her much anymore. When she dismisses a former acquaintance as “just another man tryin’ to teach me something”, it’s clear she’s left the offending cad far behind. Chastity Belt also gets credit for Shapiro and Truscott playing the set in their socks, as well as posting one of the best band profile pics on all of Facebook (as seen on the link above).
                                                   photo from 9:30 Club
Courtney Barnett - The innately likable Barnett was tremendous in her headline role. Her three-piece band switches seamlessly from lightly accompanying her meandering inner dialogues to co-navigating her surprisingly heavy breakdowns. Barnett displayed significant instrumental chops on the bluesy “An Illustration of Loneliness (Sleepless in New York)” as well as her purest pop shot, “Dead Fox”. Her songwriting narrates tales of Christmas medical emergencies in “Avant Gardener” and the “Depreston” experience of “getting older and dying, but also looking for a new house in a shitty suburb.” Despite projecting an image of collected cool, Barnett warns listeners repeatedly against placing too much hope on her shoulders. “Pedestrian at Best” explicitly details the perils of putting her on a pedestal, while “Kim’s Caravan” actively seeks to deflect such emotional investment (“I am just a reflection of what you really want to see / so take what you want from me”). The sold-out crowd remained adoring throughout her set, however, an easy feat when cheering a performer whose least awkward stage rap involves asking “Is everyone ok? You guys ok?” An incredibly strong performance that ranks with the best 9:30 shows in recent memory.

Esoterica - Hanlon reminisced about a past 9:30 performance supporting Billy Bragg. He said the club provided him a complementary meal, noting that, after five years of getting drinks on the house at other venues, free food really sticks out in your memory … He also likened the girls dancing on the venue’s side-stage balcony to stalwart Muppets critics Statler and Waldorf, a comparison some musician was bound to make eventually … Between songs, Barnett exposed the differences between American and Australian English. She mistranslated the 40 degrees Celsius temperature in her home country as being equivalent to 150 million degrees Fahrenheit here in the states. Later, she estimated the cost of an onstage item at “two dollars fifty”.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

K. Flay - Panic is Perfect -- Rock'n'Roll Hotel - Jun 12 2015

Panic is Perfect - This San Francisco quintet has a fine grasp of bouncy pop music. It is fun without being too precious. And even better, the live setting gives the rhythm section a chance to really fire and rock out enough to pull in a heavier crowd. Still, it is the bright sounding keyboards spiking out the melodies with crunching guitar and the occasional synth move that drive the songs home. They have a full time lead vocalist that keeps the crowd engaged, while they all move well and pull the crowd into their world as the set moves on. Good fun, all in all, with a perfect opening for this young Friday night crowd. I think many of them will be back for future headlining sets.
K. Flay - There is quite a lot of blending of style here in the music of Kristine Flaherty. She may be known as a 'rapper' but has a lot of musical forms working here. To start, she has an eerie singing voice that is highly effective at creating a chilling atmosphere. And behind her is a powerful drummer and a guitarist who create a strong post punk environment that perfectly set up the quiet vocals with strong music that does not distract or overpower at all. This is smart post hip hop music that helps keep things fresh in 2015 for us old timers, but clearly works even better with the young crowd tonight who are having a great time.

Cartoon Grab of the Night: Since this was such a literate crew of musicians, here's one for the literary crowd...

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

DMA's -- DC9 - Jun 9 2015

DMA's - I left the Paul Weller show before encores to try and catch some of this band's set. Since they came all the way from Australia to share their music with this country for the first time, I felt I should make the effort, even if it ended up being their final five songs. There was a decent crowd here who were digging these youngsters' fine hard hitting rock songs. They had three guitars cooking with the rhythm section along with a dedicated vocalist who had enough power to retain his clarity on top of this strong music. Yet they pulled it back with some of the band taking a break leaving acoustic guitar, vocals and just a touch of electric guitar coming in late in one of the two songs. Hopefully these guys will have a good tour and I can come back again and see the full show as they have the songwriting and the chops to make for a great live set.

Paul Weller - Hannah Cohen -- 9:30 Club - Jun 9 2015

Hannah Cohen - Sultry lounge vocals are the draw here, although you don't want to overlook the drummer and keyboardist backing up Ms. Cohen. The drummer has a great combination of power and restraint of pace that adds to the drama of the vocal work. The keyboards are lush and assists in the creation of the quiet restrained power of this music. The trio was confident and in full control of this big stage and large crowd. I suppose there is a minimalist post-Radiohead approach here, thoroughly modern yet classic. I quite appreciated and it appeared a lot of the crowd did as well. It was easy to drift away into this musical world and I am doing that a lot of the time these days. So Hannah Cohen and I had a meeting of the minds, as they say in Contract Law.
Paul Weller - I am a bit surprised that it has taken me until 2015 to see Paul Weller (although I saw his former Jam bandmate Bruce Foxton several years back with Stiff Little Fingers). I had all the early Jam albums, but never caught that great band. I stopped paying attention even with Weller's fine solo work after his stint in the Style Council had me listening elsewhere. Tonight he covered a lot of ground from his long career with a leaning toward his recent albums and even a 'B' side of a UK single ('The Old Original'). He was assisted with two drummers which surprised me a bit, although one was standing and adding lighter but distinct percussion moves in addition to the occasional kit drumming. There were keyboards, bass, and another guitarist, yet the most interesting sonic element was that every band member added backing vocals. All of this massive sound came together with surprising clarity while retaining its power. The songs varied nicely with Weller jumping on piano for four songs, two of which had a welcome bouncy style that reminded me more of Squeeze or Ian Dury (my blog cohort Kyle thought it was a bit McCartneyesque which seems even more accurate). From 'White Sky' to 'Whirlpool' this set rocked harder than I expected and the band was fully in the groove thanks to the fine rhythmic foundation here. Kyle tells me he did the Jam classic 'Town Called Malice' which I had to miss as I wanted to catch a few songs from an Australian band at the DC9. But Paul Weller made me happy I chose to come here tonight for almost the full show.

Quote of the Night: Weller, apologizing for several water breaks... "I've got a dry mouth, from jet lag possibly"    ...or perhaps it has something to do with 40 years of smoking. No matter, the songs came quickly and really built into a fine set.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Wire - Julian Lynch -- Black Cat - Jun 6 2015

Julian Lynch - Heady textural guitar music is the formula here from this solo performer. I liked how he slowly built his sound to the point where it was not clear where the set began. But the guitar bursts and following vocals made it clear that song were evolving from the soundscape. Ultimately it was more about the overall tone and textures of the music more than the song, although he had separation and slightly altered moods. A decent tune-up for a Wire set.
Wire - The legendary band returns yet again, as they continue to work hard with excellent new albums and steady touring thereafter. We are blessed to have them around as such a hard working bunch. The three original members remain and Matthew Simms has now been around long enough to flex even more guitar muscle into the unit known as Wire. He works up magical guitar parts around Colin Newman's guitar in creating new forms furthering their signature, yet varying styles formed on their brilliant first three albums. Their set pulls from there along with much recent material, which still sounds fresh and brilliant as the creative spark has not passed by this band, as it does so many as they age. They really worked up a droning style that increased steadily through the set, although Wire's songwriting always has much more clarity and feeling than that of many drone bands. The DC fanbase was here as always and was revved up throughout. They were even treated to a three song encore beginning with the sub-minute song from Pink Flag, 'Brazil'. There are always a few surprises with Wire, but the dependable sound and brilliance in their songs will get what you come here for. They will stop doing this on their terms and I am happy to see that their final day has not happened yet. And this was one of the precious few bands I was willing to see after learning what I write about below.
Obit of the Night: It is with great sadness I announce that the woman who posed for this classic album cover has died. She was one of my closest friends, which almost sounds pale in describing the deep and complicated relationship we had. She worked for me and with me and got me through many challenging times over the last quarter of a century. She was so private, I still dare not write her name and very few who knew her, connected her with her former life as a model. There is a large hole in me right now that I will eventually refill with the memories; and some carefully chosen music...

Friday, June 5, 2015

Bells and Hunters - Hank & Cupcakes - Uptown Boys Choir -- Rock'n'Roll Hotel - June 4 2015

Uptown Boys Choir - This is a strong little quintet featuring the songs of bassist/lead vocalist Kevin de Souza. I also see Black Checker's Tony Porreco on lead guitar with a female vocalist/acoustic guitarist, a guy on keyboards, and of course a drummer. The range of instruments helps with their powerful sound and all of the band seem to be a pretty sharp group of players. They have some Americana in their along with strong rock moves that they can pull back into a more acoustic quieter feeling when they choose. There is a lot of potential here and their better songs really cooked.
Hank & Cupcakes - Hailing from Brooklyn via Israel is this intriguing pop/rock duo featuring bass/synthesizer and backing vocals with a female lead singer on drums. The key is both the synthesizer in the backing and the bass sounds that work in unique ways. This is far from NoMeansno (yes, I'm old) or Lightning Bolt (yes, I keep up) and their funk or nu-metal moves. Instead, this duo has pop moves with a bit of blues in the vocals and an overall energy that pushes things into some fairly intense rock that stays catchy. The vocals come close to Penetration's Pauline Murray at times with that melodic clarity and power. The band is colorful (in dress and sound) and although I didn't quite see the point of watching them in 3D glasses, they had a great quirky humor and stage presence. This is the first date on a four month tour so they were fresh and energized. But I bet most every city on the tour will be treated to a very fun filled show.

Bells and Hunters - When I see a local band a few times in short succession, I appreciate a break from them as I will get some new songs and maybe some other features that will be fresh and welcome to my ears. I had plenty of that here as this fine local band has even become sharper and more on the mark than ever. I am not sure they ever quite had the power and confidence I saw last night, especially in some of the early songs, which were well executed with the drummer pushing things along and the lead guitarist cutting loose. Everyone else locked into the groove and it all worked as you hope it does when you go out for live rock and roll. And a new song had a sixties garage feeling worked into it which I quite liked and kept the set moving along well. I knew I would enjoy the bands tonight, but all three offered something unique and special and Bells and Hunter capped off a great night of music.

Facebook Grab of the Night: more music humor...