Monday, March 30, 2015

PREVIEWS of COMING ATTRACTIONS - Early April 2015

Take a listen, take a look, and see if any of these shows are worthy of your time. I plan on being at as many as I can, body and mind permitting.

You can start out the Month of April by heading to the Paperhaus this Wednesday for a big show featuring Chicago's Crown Larks, Anthony Pirog and many more.


And continue on by partaking in the Liturgy at DC9 on Thursday the second. YES, their amazing drummer has returned!


Jose Gonzalez
brings his intimate, but oh so big sound to the 9:30 Club on Tuesday, April 7th.


Mountain Goats come down from the hills to hit the 9:30 on Wednesday, April 8th.


Lady Lamb the Beekeeper comes for likely will be a popular show at the DC9 on Thursday the 9th.


Friday April 10th... to Whirr at the DC9? or to walk on the Diamond Rugs at the Black Cat? I haven't decided yet. Here's the evidence.



Rodrigo Amarante is a fascinating artist worth heading over to the 6th + I Synagogue on Sunday, April 12th.


And if you are not sick of music by now, perhaps you can find out if you are Sick of Sarah, as that band hits the Black Cat on Tuesday the 14th.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Joel Harrison + Anthony Pirog Telecaster Tribute Band -- JVs - Mar 28 2015

Joel Harrison + Anthony Pirog - Two of Cuneiform Records finest guitarists team up for a real treat tonight. Most DCers are familiar enough with Anthony Pirog by now and he is joined by Joel Harrison who returns to his native city and chose to cook up a couple of sets of songs that he grew up with long ago. They have a veteran rhythm section of Jack O'Dell and John Previti laying down the foundation for their wild guitar excursions. Because even though this has a Link Wray styled country blues rock style, the guitarists take it up and outward several notches. They are both amazing stylists and comfortably work together as if they have been touring this for years. Yet the playfulness is there and their sense of fun comes through to the large crowd at this Falls Church club.
 photo from the show courtesy of Joyce at Cuneform Records.

They even do some Link Wray as well as tackling the vocals of the Hank Williams classic, 'Your Cheatin' Heart'. It is all familiar aside from the soloing, which would have had audiences of the fifties and early sixties fleeing in terror, like they did in those radiation monster movies of the day. And like when I saw Johnny A recently, Harrison added some drama by controlling the dynamics through volume shifts, which makes familiar material all the more exciting. They added some guest singers and keyboardists (an old high school pal) to add even more layers to their sound.  Great fun tonight.

And you have one more chance to see Joel Harrison in DC as he plays two sets tonight at the Bohemian Caverns on U Street. He will be doing a bit more of his unique genre bending style that he exhibits on his latest album, 'Mother Stump'. So don't expect Link Wray, but expect to be impressed by some superior guitar work.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

DTCV -- Velvet Lounge - Mar 27th

DTCV - This band (actually a duo tonight) is pronounced Detective. They are not these guys, who were signed to Swansong when I was young.
Although one member was Michael des Barres, who was married to the more famous des Barres, Pamela, who is a groupie/writer who wrote the classic 'I'm With the Band'.

James Greer of this DTCV is also from LA and is a writer who wrote 'Guided by Voices-A Brief History' (and many more books and screenplays) about his tenure in that band. He also lived in my old musical home ground of Dayton, while in that GBV and was even engaged to Kim Deal.
So with all these interesting connections and the pleasure I had from listening to their album (reviewed last month), why was tonight such a dud? Well, we can start with the Velvet Lounge going back to their bad habits of opening the doors much later than announced (over 45 minutes tonight) keeping everyone in the dark crowded downstairs bar. Then, we run up where the band starts immediately before everyone can even get in and settle. The band is just a duo as their drummer flew back to LA to shoot a video for Health, which he is also a member of. The good news is he is flying back for the New York show on Saturday--that makes me feel better. The bassist is supposedly selling their merchandise tonight for some reason, unless that is some sly humor from the band. So that leaves just a couple guitars and vocals... and humming feedback. Some of the songs are decent at the core and they go over well enough with the crowd. But frankly, in lieu of remaining for more bands, I feel like spending more time with my cat before settling into bed with an old Dark Shadows episode, so home I went, while U Street partied on.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Swervedriver - Gateway Drugs -- Rock'n'Roll Hotel - Mar 25 2015

Gateway Drugs - Wow, three of the four members here are children of a member of the Knack! 'My Sharona' was drilled into our heads for about a six month period, where it seemed easier to escape life itself than that dramatic power pop hit. The kids stretch out the pop hooks here and create a stronger post punk psyche rock vibe that works quite well tonight with this large crowd. I particularly like the trade-off lead vocals between male and female voices. When they harmonize, they remind me a bit of the Raveonettes singing with a tad of Bunnymen in the music. This is quite good and a pleasure to listen to. But then they cap it off with even more fun, as they reach back before their birth to their California forebears, the Count Five, an do a great cover of 'Psychotic Reaction'. They left to a great ovation and can likely pull a lot of this crowd back again.
http://www.pennyblackmusic.co.uk/MagSitePages/Article/7832/Interview/Swervedriver-Interview
Swervedriver - It looks like these guys are back to stick around a while after their reunion tour. I had not kept up recently, but they are touring a new album with the band that has been around a few years featuring Adam Franklin, guitarist Jimmy Hartridge, long time bassist Steve George, and prolific American drummer Mikey Jones (who worked with Franklin's solo band). It is a tight powerful unit that delivers the volume and intricate moves you expect and they had it working well tonight. It did not seem quite as intense, perhaps due to the newer material or maybe even more so, the fact that I was in the back of the club as opposed to right up front last time they were here. They still have a great take on the hard rocking shoe gaze style with Adam Franklin's fine work, although tonight I found some of his vocals less interesting than on his solo albums or earlier Swervedriver material. But I will always try to be on hand for a Swervedriver show, as their brand of power is a great boost to life, that not every band can achieve merely by turning up their amplifiers.

Plug of the Night: I am highly looking forward to this, as the Damned are an interesting subject for a film, a brilliant band with a flawed career who I can listen to and talk about the whole night long. And Lemmy gets it right, the Damned were a true punk band.


Monday, March 23, 2015

Johnny A. -- Jammin Java - Mar 22 2015

Johnny A. - This is my first time encountering this veteran Boston guitar maestro. He is touring with a guitarist and rhythm section and brings his highly stylized guitar work to a long set of instrumental music. It is clearly blues based from the outset, but the style is nearly progressive with its intricacy and expansive genre bending moves. This becomes more clear as he does a Beatles tribute set of songs and works in lots of riffs and other songs, either complete like a Bee Gees cover, or partial takes on famed Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin riffs. It all works because of his great skill at interpretation and repurposing these songs into his band's approach. When you are lacking vocals, it is as important to do that as well as have the underlying talent. He and his band certainly have the talent and the fairly sizable Sunday night crowd is really digging in and enjoying the set. His humorous patter is also effective in keeping things lively, and he even uses humor in his playing like when returning to 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow' for a few bars after he had worked in the whole song about a half hour earlier in the set. I particularly enjoyed his dynamic volume shifts, going 'wicked quiet' for a solo, before kicking in the monster riffs. Guitar fantatics and players will obviously enjoy his work, but with personality and style like this, he easily appeals to a wide range of blues and rock fans.
Quote of the Night: Johnny A - "This is from the 'Sometime Tuesday Morning' album. Anybody got that one?"
crowd - "Oh yeah!"
"Yeah, I got a shitload of them, too."

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Thaylobleu - Hello Dharma - Chess Club Romeos - Swell Daze -- Iota - Mar 21 2015

Swell Daze - With the first notes, I am hoping I am hearing Good Times/Bad Times instead of something ripping off that song, not that turnabout is not fair play concerning Led Zeppelin. Turns out it is the Zeppelin cover, which works ok for me. But then more covers are routinely tossed into this 42 minute set. And it was mostly bad times for me with my least favorite Pink Floyd song being played (just guess--prize for the winner) and the Beatles, who hardly ever work well unless there is a real twist. The original music was ok as this band rocks quite nicely, especially with some hot guitar. Certainly this is a fine bar band, but I will need to hear more to see if the originality is up to the playing abilities.

Chess Club Romeos - More rock music delivered thick and assertively by a local quartet who features two guitars, at least when one of them isn't on keyboards. They all sing which adds a lot of heft to the sound and pushes things forward. They also could push the pace when needed, which I enjoyed a lot. Their songwriting is the main key to their success, as there is something just a little bit unexpected, perhaps in the vocal melody. Overall their sound is a bit in between Max Webster and Moxy (actually closer to the former, from what I recall of my memories of decades, nay centuries past). Less covers here, although I would not have recommended them closing with an old rock'n'roll chestnut. Next time, they should finish with their smoking original cut that was fourth from last. But this was a fine, fine set of interesting rock music covering a lot of ground.

Hello Dharma - More strong old school rock music on hand here and this band is decent enough, but I didn't quite get the personality shining through enough to distinguish their approach. I did enjoy the twin leads, as I saw two Thin Lizzy shirts the previous night, but this was the only band of the seven to actually employ some Lizzy style. A few more covers, I think (as I can conclude there were when a band member says we might recognize the next one, even when I don't). Probably a decent band here, but four 45 minute sets for this late starting show for my second night in a row gets pretty tough for me.
Thaylobleu - Well here's my late night wake-up call. Thaylobleu me away tonight with an even finer set than the previous ones I have seen. They have their usual mix of intriguing rock songs coupled with funkier R&B numbers, yet none of them fit comfortably within each genre. It is as if this was the musical equivalent of Hugh Crain's Hill House where as one character described the house as having no perfect right angle anywhere, creating something that is a bit off yet looks so right. And with Thaylobleu's music, that is a good thing as they are fine players who can really churn out such interesting songs with a bit more flair and panache than previously. They may not make a lot of people comfortable with their unique and sometimes challenging songs, but I hope they keep pushing the envelope. And they do rock out comfortably, so you don't have think too hard on this. Suffice it to say, they are on to something good and there are a whole lot of people in DC who should be checking them out.

Quote of the Night: From the opener ... "You guys rock, are you ready to keep it going?"

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Borracho - Lo-Pan - Against the Grain -- The Pinch - Mar 20 2015

Against the Grain - From the great music city of Detroit comes this amalgamation of metallic style that gets this night out to a rousing start. They start with a loose thick monster of a song before cutting into a hardcore metal crossover approach. There are plenty of tempo shifts thereafter with the ever present underlying power keeping it all together. Major bonus points for taking few breaks and keeping the noise level highs and the songs forthcoming. Call it a bit of MC5, Valiant Thorr and Saint Vitus all dosed up on Blue Cheer (band or drug, you decide).

Lo-Pan - This is the second time I have seen this Columbus quartet and I was definitely looking forward to hearing their unique approach. Actually seeing the band live is part of the experience, as their mountain of a vocalist sets up behind the drum kit with the guitar and bass front and to the side. So he's overseeing the suite of songs by leading with his powerful vocals. This band could be from Georgia with their way of merging psyche, metal, and punk together, but it is the Ohio Columbus for them, home of very few bands worth considering (I lived there once). But these guys are worth going out of your way for as they proved it again tonight with another solid thick set.
Borracho - And if you haven't had your fill of interesting modern metal by now, there is now the local band that does it so well. This trio has a great approach with keeping it simple at the core, but stretching the intensity out at a steady pace by digging deep and letting fly. It was running a bit late for me tonight, so I can only judge the first half of their set, but they still had the same inner strength as exhibited on the album I own, as well as past shows. These guys should be on your radar if you like any sort of heavy music at all. They capture a basic primal sound and shape it into their own, which is not as easy as it sounds. Kudos to them for captaining a powerful night of music.

Quote of the Night: from someone nearby... "...but that would be legal in Romania."

Monday, March 16, 2015

Twerps - Ultimate Painting - Expert Alterations -- DC9 - Mar 15 2015

Expert Alterations - This Baltimore trio has a jangly take on post modern British psyche rock music. It is a simple and effective approach with a strong steady sound. Vocals are a bit too downer for me and perhaps that is why I am not fully feeling this music as well as I thought I would. I normally like this style a lot and these guys are close to pulling it off. Although not quite there yet, it certainly works well enough to open this fine billing tonight and the crowd did enjoy the set.

Ultimate Painting - This UK band has a strong western US influence. They have a couple of guitarists who both vocalize playing on top of a steady rhythm section, who can mix it some oddball moves. The guitar work is as quirky as the songwriting as these odd pop nuggets somehow merge well into loose psychedelic jams. This is a 180 degree reversal from the first band where I would not expect this style to work, but it somehow does. It is a full house by now and the crowd has caught the groove and was engaged for this 41 minute set. This was fun and quite original and I have had a full night already. But why stop with two bands?
Twerps - All the way from Melbourne comes this hard touring quartet. This is the first I have caught it with them and it was high time as they also have a fairly original take on pop rock music. The trick that works for them is that they balance both the quirky and the mannered within the same song somehow. The formula is not all that obvious other than they clearly understand song structures and are daring enough to move in original directions. They mix up the tempos well and alternate male/female lead vocals with some harmonies also changes things around to keep things fresh. A few songs stayed in a more expected range, but most soared into interesting terrain that was a pleasure to explore. Fun times and I am happy they are adding so many frequent flyer miles, as their music should work just about anywhere they play.

Quote of the Night: From the Twerps... "Wow, this is crazy. We played DC two years ago to six people. So thanks for coming out, on a Sunday, yet."

Sunday, March 15, 2015

PREVIEW of COMING ATTRACTIONS - Late March 2015

Shows are crowded with quite a few sell-outs across a great many clubs. People have tired of the winter and it is time to head out. Here are some choices for you and me.

Join me at the DC9 for Shannon Wright, this Wednesday, March 18th.


Chess Club Romeos play with the mighty Thaylobleu and along with two other bands, they will amp up the volume at Iota on March 21st.


or hit the record release show of Jonny Grave at the Black Cat also on Saturday the 21st. There will be a ton of blues.


The mighty Swervedriver and Gateway Drugs hit the Rock'n'Roll Hotel on Wednesday, March 25th. Bring earplugs.



Or if you don't trust your earplugs take in the Carribean, who flow into the Bossa Bistro on the 25th.


Hmmm what to do on Friday the 27th? We have Big Data and Chappo at the Black Cat...or DTCV at the Velvet Lounge. I am not sure where I will be, but it will likely be at one of these (and if you know my style, you can probably see me at the Velvet Lounge).




Joel Harrison does a couple of shows on Saturday and Sunday, the 28-29th. The first is at JVs and the second is at Bohemian Caverns.


Finally, Oliver the Kid wanders into the U Street Music Hall on Monday the 30th.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

American Television - Railsplitter - Dot Dash - Curse Words -- Velvet Lounge - Mar 13 2015

Curse Words - This is the second time around for me and this local twin guitar quartet (all four bands would have this exact format on stage tonight). I don't know if it was me or them, but they seemed a tad sharper tonight. I liked them well enough last time, but they had just a bit more thrust this time. Some of the sameness remains, but I noticed a couple of really sharp songs, some interesting basslines, and the well thought out twin vocal parts were still exceptionally good. And what's more, this was a perfect bill as all four bands had a fine pop punk style with a bit of variation, but well within a fairly tight sub-genre. Great start and pretty much right on time, too.

Dot Dash - There is not much more for me to say about this band, as I have been fan for a long time and have seen them maybe eight or nine times by now. They've gone through a few lead guitarists and this is the second time I've seen them with Steve Hansgen, who is an excellent fit. Tonight, their brand of power pop meets punk style was a bit deeper and darker than usual. That had a bit to do with the sound and environment at the Velvet Lounge. But I am not complaining as it allowed for a slightly more intense time and the vocal work was still clear above the powerhouse rhythm section and twin guitars. Everyone around here should make an effort to see this band, unless you sided with the Newport group that thought Bob Dylan plugging in was a sell-out.

Railsplitter - Welcome back, twice over actually, as this band and the headliner have taken over a year off as they had to take care of some minor things around the house, like having baibies and getting their families set up. Such distractions... The vocals here remind me quite a bit of Jake Burns, and that is a good thing. Musically they veer toward power pop or melodic rock, but it is pretty heavy and born out of punk rock. They have plenty of moves to offer fans of any and all of those and their set was quite strong and they were having a great time. So was the crowd.
American Television - And another band that was clearly happy to be back on stage rocking out to a very full room of fans that treated all bands well and had much more enthusiasm than usual. Yeah, it was Friday night, but this band like the others had the energy and the songs to make for a great night. As someone who was going to punk rock shows in the 1970s, I sometimes have troubles with shows like this. But when the bands know the music and have just enough of a personal or creative take, it works for me. And American Television had it working tonight. I missed a couple of really good shows in DC tonight, but I am happy I chose this one as it delivered.

Obit of the Night: Rock music lost another great as 77 year old Daevid Allen passed away, pretty much right on cue as his cancer had returned a few months ago and this date was expected. Allen was an original member of the Soft Machine, but was more famous for founding Gong, a wild and creative force. Allen was a classic hippie type who pushed the boundaries of progressive music, few that there were, into some highly original territory. The recent Gong record he did was excellent and was a great note to end on. 


Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Jukebox the Ghost - Little Daylight - Secret Someones -- 9:30 Club - Mar 10 2015

Secret Someones - This is bold assertive pop-rock and is quite pleasing to the ear. No doubt, the full band harmonies help, where even the male drummer joins the three females on bass, guitar and guitar/keyboards. The insturmental sound is gutsy with just a wee bit of variety that leans toward Americana, but never quite gets there. I liked their songs, and although their cover of Nirvana's 'Breed' only came in second best this year of the 2 cover versions I've heard, I liked the personality they infused into their version. Good job with the set and the crowd enthusiasm grew throughout. They will do well.

Little Daylight - In front of the drummer were three keyboard sets with guitars and a bass available for multiple combinations of sound. The real key to making this all work was how they seamlessly blended the lush keyboard sounds with the throbbing bass and quirky guitar sounds. Ultimately, they had some sort of post-punk pop sound with an intelligent classic pop form as well. I enjoyed their twist on Bowie's 'Let's Dance' as some of the audience did just that. The large crowd tonight dug in and had a great time with this set as well.
Jukebox the Ghost - Every city likes to see 'their own' make good, and it has fully happened here with this fine trio. In what is becoming a recurring theme tonight, the music is so smart yet enjoyable. These guys nail the pop sound about as well as you can with a loud intense approach added in. There are two lead vocalists that sound just different enough to work well together. The guitar work is strong with clever restraint used when needed. The drums are as powerful anchor as you would want and can take things up to the next level, which can keep a long set flowing. I really enjoyed the keyboards as the guy can really play. His piano work was full of moves that had me wanting more of the Emerson/Wakeman model in pop or rock music. He also knew when to show off or pull back and handled synthesizer solos as brilliantly as his piano gymnastics. This was a package tour ending tonight and the bands sounded like they truly enjoyed it (yeah, they all do, but this time it seemed a little more so). There are plenty of more tours on the horizon for this outstanding band.

Quote of the Night: From the openers... "This is the last night of the tour with Juicebox the Gh... Juicebox? Yeah we like Juicebox!"

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

El El - Avers -- Black Cat - Mar 3 2015

Avers - I thought this name was familiar. Turns out I saw this Richmond collective 10 months ago and wrote just about the same review then that I would tonight. So you can click on it and get the gist of this great band. I will add that if you like Black Mountain, Bevis Frond, and any other modern psyche band, you will easily get into Avers. They manage fine songs and extended jams with equal aplomb. Their 45 minute set had me riveted throughout.
El El - This Nashville band also has a crowded stage, but a much quieter sound, which is quite a challenge following such a strong and loud performance. Yet, they nailed it. The rhythm section is strong and there is a saxophone along with what are usually two keyboards with one guitar, but there is some switching off and on. There are a lot of vocalists and the harmonies and variety is quite nice. Is this band the urban smooth of indie rock? I just know that I wished all of electro-pop bands that I see at the U Street Music Hall would sound as good as this. The reason is simple, there are many fine musicians here who have creativity and synchronicity with their fellow players. They are having fun as is the large crowd out tonight in the backstage room of the Black Cat. And I cannot think of a time where I saw such a high percentage of actual dancing going on during a set. This is a band to watch.

Photograb of the Night: 

Monday, March 2, 2015

PREVIEWS of COMING ATTRACTIONS - Early March 2015

Here's some video and audio of bands that should be on your radar when they come to town soon.

El El comes to the Black Black Cat Cat on Wednesday, March 4th. Be be there there.


Of Montreal and Yonatan Gat hit the 9:30 stage on Saturday, March 7th.


Dry the River flows into the Rock'n'Roll Hotel on Sunday, March 8th -OR- join me for And the Kids (click to listen) at the DC9.


Jukebox the Ghost and Little Daylight will brighten the night at the 9:30 Club on Tuesday, March 10th.

Great Peacock displays their plumage at Hill Country BBQ with no cover charge whatsoever on Thursday, the 12th.


Join me for Kevin Morby and Ryley Walker when they visit the DC9 on Friday the 13th.



Will Butler brings his Arcadian fire to the Rock'n'Roll Hotel for a solo show on Saturday the 14th. And if you are broke, check out the Highballers at Hill Country BBQ (spend your $ on the food).


The Twerps will be entertaining me on Sunday, the 15th at the DC9. Please join the fun.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Bencoolen - Turtle Recall - Black Checker -- Black Cat - Feb 26 2015

Black Checker - This trio gets tighter, faster, crazier, each time out. It's like the Buzzcocks have entered the Age of Steroids. Fortunately, these guys are nice so there will be no roid rage, just fun blistering power pop done with their special style making them one of the best in town in this genre. I write about them a lot, I like them, you should too and I'll stop right there.

Turtle Recall - This local outfit apparently has adopted the band naming philosophy of the Be Sharps. They start off strong with a couple of guitars, bass, drums, and alternating male and female lead vocals. The secret weapon is a violin which is always a nice add for a rock band. And these guys rocked. They sounded Americana at first, but very heavy, Then, it was more standard rock, then more urban, then it just went on a little too long and after 46 minutes the soundman apparently told them that we had another band to get to. They are young and there are some fine ingredients here, so here's hoping they sharpen their identity and continue to grow.
Bencoolen - I have enjoyed this local band's music, but this is the first time I have caught them on stage, and they are at their best here, at least tonight. They have a great sound with a couple guitars, rhythm section, and a vocalist that duels with a saxophone above it all. The vocals are strong and clear and of fine quality. The band can really cook and has some sharp songwriting skills and thoughtful rhythm shifts within songs and in the variety of songs in their set. I had to split early so I could write this review and get to sleep for my long trip tomorrow, but I saw enough to be quite impressed. The crowd was digging it too, and they were pretty great all night for all the bands. This was a fine local showcase.

Look-alike of the night - I haven't had a doppelganger moment in a while but the female singer of Turtle Recall looked an awful like Celia Humphris of Trees. I mostly want to make this point, as I think this is the first time I have been able to reference this legendary band from 1970. And that's because no one has sounded like them in all the years I have been going to shows and reviewing records (we are talking thousands just since I started this blog).

Thursday, February 26, 2015

RECORD REVIEWS - FEBRUARY 2015

I'll post the reviews a couple days early this month as I'm out of town for a bit. A ton of music has come in and it is tougher and tougher to keep up (remember, I also review for Folkworld), but it's fun to get a lot of diverse music and there are some gems as always.

ANAMAI “SALLOWS”
When an ambient band establishes as strength in sound as Anamai does, it works well with me throughout a full album length. The musical patterns are there, particularly in the vocals, which although they do not vary much, they add a distinction to the sound which is a great focal point. They remind me quite a bit of an excellent Brooklyn band, Silver Summit, if you stretched their music out like taffy.

THE BLACK RYDER “THE DOOR BEHIND THE DOOR”
This is a familiar ryde along the psychedelic shoe gaze highway. It is a fine album that trends more toward lush than daring, although there is some variety among the songs. Maybe not enough to excite me as much as the average shoe gazer, but enough to enjoy the music. I will keep spinning and see what more it brings to the table after a few listens.

Songs to try first:

The Going Up was Worth the Coming Down - Quality psyche-folk, especially in the acoustic guitar.

Santaria Pts 1&2 - A fine droning guitar allows the drums to be more expressive along with the vocals.

BOUQUET “IN A DREAM”
This five song EP is accurately named. It is a mix of pop music and contemplative music all encased in a dreamy production. While I sometimes may slight this style of music as it does not often work with me in general, when a band nails it, it gets high marks. And Bouquet has written lovely flowing songs that I would be happy to hear many times over or sandwiched in a hits radio station in a David Lynch film. This is a successful record and a band I would be happy to see some time in DC.

WILL BUTLER “POLICY”
This might be the second most famous Arcade Fire ‘Butler’, but often I prefer the lesser known members of the star bands anyway (e.g.… S.Carey from Bon Iver’s band, Skip Spence from J.Airplane/Moby Grape). I think I would enjoy this more than if the other Arcade Fire members did albums, as it is quite playful and fun. He mixes styles almost too much for cohesion’s sake, but while the garage pop sitting next to the thoughtful ballads doesn’t always add up, they do show steady quality. Ultimately, this is a gutsy little feel good pop record that has more innocence than you would ever expect from someone in Arcade Fire. It’s only eight songs, so it goes by a bit quickly, but it is a fine showcase of songs.

Songs to try first:

Take My Side - The opener shows off a sturdy garage rock with pop flair and bold confidence.

Finish What I Started - A laid back Bill Fay type song, well sung, and arranged carefully.

What I Want - Part Richard Hell, part Leonard Graves Phillips (Dickies) in vocal style and song approach.

CATSCAN! “CHALLENGER DEEP”
Try to grab on to this DC duo while you can. It may tough as they appear pretty slippery on this long player. Just when you enjoy one song and have their style down, they do a juke and a shimmy and are off in another direction. Since it is all playful, smart, and fun, it works very well. When you have humor and thoughtful sonic approaches working, that is your identity more than something genre specific. They kind of have a Dead Milkmen meets Couch Flambeau approach working, as best as I can describe. It is spirited and rocks with pop hooks bouncing around in most songs, so it is well worth your time and exploration.

Songs to try first:

Marine Biologist - Strange almost glam-progressive rock song with unique vocals and sounds abounding.

Voodoo Dollhouse - Really fun garage pop rocker that can work in any of the past six decades.

Meathook Fanclub - Metal meets electronica with quirky humor still intact somehow.

CHAMPS “VAMALA”
Although the quirkiness and gentle approach to pop music may be something we all hear regularly enough, Champs takes it to a thicker more powerful place. Power is a tricky word as things are subtle, but there is such strength and conviction in every note and hook working its way into the listener’s body and psyche. There are even some psyche folk moves in some songs. This one may not be for everybody, but they hit a lot of my buttons and did so with a sense of class and grace that I don’t see often enough.

Songs to try first:

Desire - Strange harmonies evolve into soaring majestic pop.

Running - A smooth sing song melody should stay with you for some time.

Forever Be Upstanding at the Door - A great psyche folk song worthy of the masters.

DTCV “UPTIME!”
This band combines a fine array of sounds into their brand of pop music. The hooks are there with the vocal delivery is more rich and expressive than most. The guitars, bass, and drums can rock with the best of them and show plenty of strength and conviction throughout the 12 songs here. But everything is so bright and sunny on the high end, that a sense of balance remains. There is nothing spectacular here, just smart and hearty and extremely listenable tunes.

Songs to try first:

Astros - Great opener with a wide range between heavenly vocals and down to earth guitar chords.

Early Alone - Lovely quivering vocal with more gutsy guitars.

Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame Induction Song - Yeah, the song is almost as good as the title.

DELTA ROUTINE “YOU AND YOUR LION”
Although from Milwaukee, this band draws plenty of inspiration from the biggest delta in this country. They have extreme roots at every turn, although the songs show a bit of that New Orleans style hybrid of blues, rock, jazz, and folk. I particularly like the nasal and expressive vocals. The band has some swing to it in many of the arrangements which keeps the album fresh and lively. There are some exceptional songs here that are worth exploring. And they are quite a kick in the pants when they come to town. Put them on your calendar and maybe consider a date with this album, too.

Songs to try first:

Chains of Me - The opener establishes the depths of the Louisiana sound this band can concoct.

On a Saturday Night - A real rocker that is worthy of Saturday night.

Home with You - Love the snappy melody, even as they take striking breaks.

DUTCH UNCLES “O SHUDDER”
Not without its charm, this record sticks to an electronic pop format with compelling lead vocals. The vocals were the best part as the music had a rather numbing effect on me rather quickly. “I Should Have Read” had better music with spritely piano passages, but for the most part, I would only recommend this to electro-pop fans, and there are a sustainable number of those in the universe.

EVANS THE DEATH “EXPECT DELAYS”

I like this band. They do interesting things. Expect the unexpected and all that. Familiar, yet odd. The female vocals have a beauty with a bit of an edge at times. The guitars go soft or hard at the blink of an eye. The songs have a languid quality, but show off enough intensity to remind one of their presence. Although based in London, they sound good enough to warrant a tour on this side of the Atlantic. Everything just has that certain sheen on it here and it is hard to explain further. Maybe a few more listens, maybe not, but I will be listening.

Songs to try first:

Intrinsic Grey - The opener scared me at first with a overplayed neu folky beginning, but then it got nice and noisy.

Idiot Button - Great dreamy backing with jabbing guitars and loopy attractive vocals.

Waste of Sunshine - Wonderfully dreary tone in music with great spacey vocal.

GAZER “FAKE BULBS - PHONE COMMERCIAL”
This eight song record (long EP, short LP) is an intense but steady ride. There is an earnest punk feeling at times, but the music is far darker in a Savage Republic vein. There is plenty of percussion, some jagged guitar runs, rumbling bass, all the components of a solid post hardcore effort. It is a bit hit/miss as song structures could be more interesting, but the energy levels are excellent and the sonic blast is fun. Try ‘I Passed the Bar’ for something particularly interesting from this Cincinnati band.

GENGAHR “SHE’S A WITCH”
This four song ep offers a taste of a nice little pop outfit from the United Kingdom. The title track is quirky pop that is smooth enough for mass consumption. I preferred ‘Haunter’ with its folky guitar line and airy pop vocals. There’s some stronger electric guitar and popsike vibes as well (very much UK these days). These are all fairly subtle moves as the overall dreamy pop feeling particularly in the vocals keeps it all together. This sounds like an interesting band that could do well if they can continue to write well and keep the variety lively.

HOPE GRIFFIN “SAY WHAT YOU WILL”
In only six songs on this EP, Hope Griffin makes a successful presentation of her skills as a singer songwriter. The songs are fine, but the warm intensity behind them is present in the instrumentation and the singing. The basic root might be blues, but the roots spread wide and deep. Take a listen to ’Subtle Riddles’ with the trade off lead vocals and strong melody and see if you are imaging hearing one of your favorite singer songwriters, That is just what Asheville, North Carolina’s Hope Griffin may become. Here’s hoping for a live show some time this year, as well.

IN TALL BUILDINGS “DRIVER”
While I was afraid this album was going to sound like every other light minded indie rock album I have heard, I am glad I stayed with it. It is akin to reading a mannered literary novel as a break from the hardboiled crime fiction I normally tear into. It is good to balance things out and In Tall Buildings has done that here, at least for me. They do it with quality and the care of their delivery. They have a sense of drama, but it is so subtle, it is easy to miss. If you want smart, yet accessible, take a careful listen here. Perhaps you will be as pleasantly surprised as I was, or maybe you were a lot sharper from the get go.

Songs to try first:

Bawl Cry Wall - The opener sets the tone and the quality level for the album.

Exiled - A lovely song with just enough in the sound of the guitar and the push from the rhythm section to elevate it.

Unmistakable - A song that starts out simply and builds great tension and even rock volume by its close.

CHRISTIAN LOPEZ BAND “PILOT”
This five song EP is a classy little appetizer from this fine teenage West Virginia singer songwriter. And this does have class, both in production and songwriting for starters. These are warm engaging melodies with polished instrumentation played with heart and arranged with a variety of approaches. It all unifies into roots based music that is good enough to broaden its appeal to non-roots music fans who like good hooks and energized pace. All five songs flow together well, but have you time for one, check out ‘Amiss’. Nothing amiss here from this recording and I already know his live show is solid.

KEATH MEAD “SUNDAY DINNER”
When I was young and we traded records with friends to sample other artists that we could not afford to spend $3.99 to buy their record, it was a good way to get a full listening of some people you knew about or knew one song on the radio. There were a couple of artists that I borrowed and spent some time with, but then never went on to buy. I find many records like this these days, and like this one, they often fit in between that ‘Dan Fogelberg and Kenny Rankin’ category that I created so long ago. Keath Mead has many of the attributes of these older albums, although the style is fully modern indie rock singer songwriter based. The songs just don’t quite grab me like albums that would have fit the ‘Shawn Phillips to Bob Dylan’ category that I created (where I went on to buy). Not that this is bad, far from it (Try out ‘Change’ for a catchy cut), just that this a little less interesting for me to invest further time in. But if you like fine songs on the lighter side, arrangement wise, give this a try.

NEW MADRID “SUNSWIMMER”
These guys blew me away at the DC9 a couple weeks back. But the album is merely good by comparison. It is a more subtle exercise in dreamy psyche pop and rock music with a couple of tracks that go for more than 23 minutes combined to finish off the album. It covers the variations that this band can produce from quiet to loud and frantic to passive, so it represents them well. I just wish it had that more unpredictable cutting edge of the live set. Still, this will be listened to again many times in this household, until next the band returns.

Songs to try first:

All Around the Locust - The song starts slow and simple but builds into an impressive array of guitar moves.

Forest Gum - Pixie-esque melody with trippy guitar and throbbing bass.

And She Smiles - Long dreamy drones work for me, but they are not for everyone.

A PLACE TO BURY STRANGERS “TRANSFIXIATION”

Sometimes I forget how good the core music is from this band, when I spend time thinking of their overall light how and stage presentation. But of course, the sound, light, and fury all come together on stage into a strong live event. But the music is thick, strong, and daring all by itself even as you sit back in the couch. Don’t get too comfortable, as the jarring vocals and stabbing fuzzed out guitars are not designed to let you rest easy. Although some of the songs have a more contemplative sonic intensity, rather than the cuts that slash and burn. It is all melodic and moody, so it works quite well with a diverse audience, as long as they like intense music of some sort. Well, they better enjoy loud intensity in the tons with this lot.

Songs to try first:

Straight - Anything but… well, the vocal line is a rather normal melody, but everything rages all around it at strange angles.

Love High - Sounds like a warmer Big Black.

Now it’s Over - Like a Joy Division song at 45rpm.

PRIMA DONNA “ALBUM”
This one kind of began like an LA glam-punk-metal hybrid on the light side, but there were a couple of sparkling moments along the way. Just not enough of them to warrant more relistening in this household. I go way back, but I didn’t have any fond memories of REO Speedwagon in high school, and little has changed by now. At their best, maybe Hanoi Rocks? If you like rock music loose and sleazy with a catchy pop component, give it a try.

RICKED WICKY (Robert Pollard) “I SELL THE CIRCUS”
I thought this was going to be a Robert Pollard solo album and it is, although they released it under the band name ‘Ricked Wicky’ which has an inside meaning tracing back to his youth. And after a listen, that makes perfect sense as this has a unique full band feeling to it, compared to the last solo LP. The songs are a bit longer and feel fully formed with beginnings, middles, and ends. There are still loose and fun moments with plenty of shifting around various rock styles. But it all pulls together with a full album feeling more than usual, at least based on my off and on listening to Pollard’s output. There is so much here to like with every style shift succeeding. This is a fine job from a guy who went to many of the shows I went to (and even promoted) in Dayton, Ohio way, way back in the day. And is that a mellotron I hear on ‘Rotten Blackboards’? That even takes me further back.

Songs to try first:

Death Metal Kid - Almost a death metal riff done indie rock style with extra chunk—different for sure.

Even Today and Tomorrow - A lovely acoustic guitar weaves around a fine vocal line. Lovely song.

Mobility - An even keeled deep little rocker—so slight, yet strong.

SONNY & THE SUNSETS “TALENT NIGHT AT THE ASHRAM”
This album is an interesting personal take on pop rock music. It does not always work for me, but I appreciate the unique approach they take. It is almost a blending of disconnected parts, but the quiet audacity of this band makes it work. I hope I have time to give this a few more spins as I think there is even more respect to be gained with subsequent listening. It takes guts to keep things at a deliberate pace with space enough in the music to hear the vocals clearly as well as the strange instrumental choices.

Songs to try first:

Talent Night at the Ashram - Easy going California-esque light and easy jangle rock.

Happy Carrot Health Food Store - A low key popsike going on in this fascinating cut.

Secret Plot - Some prog sounds mixed in with this bouncy pop oddity.

THE STONE HILL ALL-STARS “AWAY”

It is always a pleasure to hear a record from this veteran Baltimore bunch. They feature the usual folk-rock roots band instruments along with a brisk chirpy accordion (no surprise that a previous band from the two core members was called the Polkats). There songs are snappy with great little hooks and playful instrumentation. The lyrics offer some fun stories to chew on as well. This is simply classy roots music that can appeal to all ages along with music lovers who appreciate song craft. There are some jazzy moves, heartland folk moves, some world touches, lots of good stuff melding together into tasty songs. Try them out!

Songs to try first:

Away - The title cut is a sharp number that tells you plenty about the makings and the quality of this band.

Jones et al v Petrie - Great storytelling in this long and fulfilling song.

Despite the Current Mess - Superb flowing duels of piano and guitar with a story on top.

TWERPS “RANGE ANXIETY”
After a delightful psychedelic opening, the Twerps head into quirky pop range. There is some anxiety present in the range as they have a subtle post punk undercurrent, although the hooks are more playful than not. There are some nice variations between the songs with male and female vocal leads, different guitar textures, whimsy versus intensity…. This is a smart little band here that is well worth your attention if you want to keep up with clever pop moves. Great name, too.

Songs to try first:

Back to You - A finely honed edge on this catchy song.

Stranger - Great vocal work and one of the more infectious melodies here.

Simple Feelings - Great ringing guitar sound fades in to set up this moving pop rocker.

VISION FORTUNE “COUNTRY MUSIC”

A guy came up to me and said I got some good news and some bad news about the new Vision Fortune album, ‘Country Music’. I said ‘what’s that, then?’ He says, the good news is that it is NOT country music. I says, ‘great, so what’s the bad news?’ It’s electronic music! OK, not ready for the Henny Youngman joke book, but it was ironic to find my second to last favorite genre entitled with my least favorite genre. I am fully capable of liking the best of either genres and unfortunately this is not close enough to rank up there. But it is not too bad either, as this duo experiments more than most, particularly with interesting drones and some intriguing sounds. The percussion drove me a little batty at times, but that may be part of the intent. If you like your music experimental, but still with decent patterns, you may want to check this album out. They try harder than most.

JANNE WESTURLUND “MARSHLAND”
I recall enjoyed Helsinki’s Janne Westerlund’s previous album quite a bit, so it was great pleasure to receive this in the mail. And within one song, I knew I had another album that would make it to the top of my replay pile. Westerlund has a spiritual style that mixes folk, blues, and Scandinavian styles into a compelling blend that reminds me of Woven Hand. I can’t pay much more of a compliment than that, as I think David Eugene Edwards of Woven Hand (and 16HP) is one of the best songwriters out there. And there is definitely a link between simple arrangements with a droning style on some of the songs here. But there is a fairly broad mix of songs here with enough style variation in the tone of the song and arrangement to make for an engaging listen all the way through. Grab onto this one, psyche-folk fans.

Songs to try first:

It Takes a Strong Jesus to Carry Me Home - Powerful blues, folky, spiritual opener.

Stranger’s Row - Second cut retains the magic while showing off even more versatility in style.

Marshland - Epic title cut is a droning powerhouse that I know DEE of Woven Hand would enjoy.

YOUNG GUV “RIPE 4 LUV”

Much of the time, this has simply too much of a sugary modern pop sound to it for me to digest. The electronics are all there behind vocals that sometimes deliver something fun, other times not so much. ‘Crawling Back to You’ and ‘Kelly I’m not a Creep’ have a Nuggets rock style that works better. This band does play around with form enough to show potential, but I am kind of scratching my head at present.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Leisure Cruise - Tigers are Bad for Horses -- DC9 - Feb 22 2015

Tigers are Bad for Horses - This local pop duo had a third member working some subtle backing on a Macbook. The main moves stood out more prominently as the female member handles vocal duties, while the fellow works keyboards an synthesizer. His playing is quite meaty, which I find so helpful for this style of music. His synthesizer runs were strong and offset the controlled lounge/R&B style singing. They even had a guest trumpet on a couple of songs, which offered a nice change of pace. I find so much to like in lounge music now that I'm older, as long as there is some heart or heft to the sound. This outfit offered just enough to make this a pleasant opening.
Leisure Cruise - This NYC quartet may offer the fun of a leisure cruise, but their music won't have you leaning back in your deck chair. They have a hard classic rocking sound with modern touches of shoegaze and even some progressive feeling in there. The drums and keyboards (or bass when he switches over) are the strong components along with the female vocals. Interestingly, the guitarist aims for interesting textures and subtle stylistic backing. The crowd seemed to be having fun and it is nice to see such turnouts in recent days. I suppose the winter is stoking the flames of desire to get out and have some fun. This band delivered.

Quote of the Night: From the headliners... "Thanks for choosing us over Hollywood." ... Not a thought to the contrary. Just call me George C. Scott or Sacheen Little Feather.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

A Place to Bury Strangers - Ed Schrader's Music Beat - Multicult -- Rock'n'Roll Hotel - Feb 20 2015

Multicult - A Baltimore trio kicks off this evening with some mighty thunder. They have a powerful post-hardcore sound with a great throaty bass, busy drumming, and gnarled guitar. Good ripping aggression here, but the song writing seems in between something old and something new and never quite builds the level I hoped for. Still, a sound opening sound in this 25 minute set.

Ed Schrader's Music Beat - This band is so unique, that it took only seconds before I realized I have seen them before, although it has been a while. You just don't forget the crazed talk and wild songs of these guys. It is simply distorted bass and stand-up drumming/lead vocals for 30 minutes where they blast away their short funny songs, with even funnier interludes. The sound is Screamers meets Chrome meets Shellac. This is primal punk that most people grow out of, if they ever had it all. Thankfully these guys have locked in to a brand of craziness that is still fresh and invigorating anywhere, anytime. If they could only bottle this.
A Place to Bury Strangers - I have always been impressed with this ferociously noisy New York trio, so I am shocked that I am so blown away, yet again. I should be ready for it by now, but just listening to their albums and seeing other bands for the year or two in between shows just doesn't prepare you for the sonic and visual bursts of power these guys deliver. Not only do they bring a sound man, but they have a lighting guy who both work with the local club specialist, who set the stage for the musicians to just focus on their intensity levels. The world stopped for me as I just fell back into this music, as non relaxing as it is. I particularly liked their noisy take on a gimmick that a lot of Americana bands do. In those cases, the band may come out into the crowd for a singalong with just acoustic instruments. Here, the three guys work their way over to the soundboard where there is a small kit set up with bass, guitar, electronics, and a small PA cabinet. Somehow they keep the volume and intensity up with this lo-fi rig. A few more songs there to the finish and the large crowd paid homage before drifting away into the night. Quite a night.

Quote of the Night: from ESMB... "If you want to pay $30 for a bottle of booze and a biscuit that has been in a plastic bag for a loooong time, go to Amtrak.com"

Friday, February 20, 2015

Bud's Collective - Christian Lopez Band - Cabin Creek -- Tree House Lounge - Feb 19 2015

Cabin Creek - This area band is playing when I arrive and thankfully their music is warming the room on this cold, cold night. They have a stand-up bass with three guys encircling him on a variety of guitars, banjos, pianos, and drums. The variety of sounds shapes the songs into more Americana country or folk-rock. Overall, there is an Appalachian country feeling throughout with more twang in the vocals than that of the guitars. Good solid set of music, at least what I heard of it here tonight in front of a surprisingly large crowd who braved the weather to take in some live music.
Christian Lopez Band - Christian Lopez is a young West Virginian singer songwriter armed with acoustic guitar and a fine band behind him consisting of drums, bass, and banjo/backing female vocals. The rhythm section is excellent as it keeps things brisk and on the edge of the seat. The guitar and banjo are up for the challenge as most of these songs flow by with energy and grit. The vocals are warm yet strong enough to stay on top of it all and deliver the song with the requisite passion and inspiration. The songs all flow together well into a full set of music, nearly an hour's worth, and show off enough textures to hold interest. They cut back to guitar and vocals to break things up nicely, before covering a rousing Johnny Cash number with the band in full rock mode. This was an excellent set of music that went over well with the crowd who deserves extra credit for coming out tonight.

Bud's Collective - I'm a bit wimpier than most tonight as I cut out early, although that has more to do with my schedule as being a weather wimp. But I'll be back for more at the Tree House Lounge, which has some nice new things happening there.

Quote of the Night: from the crowd... "...that sausage making moment..."

And speaking of crowds, great job DC at filling the clubs on nights where it is so easy to stay home and bundle up. This is two nights in a row with large and involved crowds.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

New Madrid - Go Cozy - Witch Coast -- DC9 - Feb 18 2015

Witch Coast - Echoey guitar, steady bass, standing drums sans cymbals, and distorted voice... generally a decent psychedelic formula, but in this case it did not work as well as I had hoped. The basic riffs were decent and they churned out some fine rock, but it really did not assemble itself into anything gripping. The vocals were so distorted to a point that a synthesizer would have been more effective. It was also a really late start tonight, so they only played 17 minutes, although without more effective songwriting, I am not sure a longer set would have mattered. So nothing terribly wrong, more of a case I was hoping for better from this local trio. It could happen and I hope to report back within a year. There's a good chance, this could develop into a strong act.

Go Cozy - This area band combines lush sounds with jagged guitar thrusts into something that ultimately comes together quite well. It depends on the song, as a few had me drifting away from them. But when they clicked, they nailed a great sound and had a hearty melody to latch on to. They did a great psyche-jam toward the end of the set that was impressive. The combination of female and male vocals gave a nice variety to the set as well. Good job and a fun band to have on a number of bills.
New Madrid - I never would have thought that I would look to Georgia for a plethora of my favorite bands working in the 2010s, but with Kylesa, Mastodon, Baroness, Black Lips, Coathangers, etc. I was not sure if this Athens band would move high on that impressive list as the noise they were making before and after their first song was more interesting than the song itself. But from song two onward, these guys blasted out some wild and wonderful psychedelic rock reminiscent of Wooden Shjips, Hawkwind, and even Comets on Fire. They just had a couple of guitars and a rhythm section, but they cooked up all kinds of interesting noise and fascinating patterns that worked off of each other. A good crowd had braved the cold and late start and looked quite thrilled to be a part of this tonight. If you like it heavy, wild, and unpredictable (yet with songs you can latch on to), look into this band. You may be wearing a smile as wide as mine after 40 minutes.

Photo grab of the night:  My friend Don Habil is posting some great music photos he took in years. back. He has got punk rock well documented in the 1970s and here's a couple shots from 1979. This is what punk rock looked like in Dayton, Ohio with the great Toxic Reasons. I'm in the crowd with my friend Jeff, along with Victoria, long time Toxic roadie Bob Kramer, and the late Gyn Cameron hiding down low. This was our music.



Monday, February 16, 2015

PREVIEWS of COMING ATTRACTIONS - Late February 2015

Lots of great shows headed our way to DC. Take a look and listen below and you can now follow me on Twitter, where you can find out where I'm headed that evening. I can't tell you how excited I am about that... I really can't.

Depending on snowfall, you may want to head to the DC9 to see Emmy the Great tomorrow, Feb 17th.


And New Madrid is bringing a Spanish flair to the DC9 on Wednesday, Feb 18th. Or are they? Come and find out.


Thursday the 19th is loaded with great shows at the Velvet Lounge, 6th+I Synagogue and DC9. But I may try to double up for St. James and the Apostles at the Rock'n'Roll Hotel and Christian Lopez at the nearby Tree House Lounge. We shall see...


A Place to Bury Strangers is always exciting live and you should experience this yourself at the Rock'n'Roll Hotel on Friday, February 20th.


Join me on a Leisure Cruise going asea at the DC9 on Sunday, February 22th.


Ariel Pink and Jack Name make for a great double bill at the 9:30 Club on Monday, February 23rd.


Running After Ganymede from S Wadsworth Adams on Vimeo.

Springtime Carnivore rips some flesh, opening for the DoDos at the Black Cat on Tuesday, February 24th.


And you can finish off the month on Saturday the 28th at DC9 with performances by 2:54 and Honeyblood.