Friday, October 2, 2015

Dead Flowers - Fellowcraft - Western Star -- Velvet Lounge - Sep 30 2015

Packed house tonight at the Velvet Lounge; I am one of four people as the show begins, so that means I need to clap tonight as I cannot rely on others to do the legwork for me. Before I start, I would like to mention the person that does the sound at Velvet Lounge; every show I have been a part of has sounded superb (Ed: Agreed). So if you are out there sound guy, kudos to you.

Western Star is first up tonight and it started awkwardly; I’m not sure if they were comfortable playing in front of the small crowd. They were unsure, we were unsure but they quickly informed us that they were going to do this tonight, whether or not anyone showed up and they certainly did do it tonight as their set was an interesting and manic, coupled with classic rock leanings and major keys that sounded similar to Thin Lizzy. Songs were mostly up-tempo but there were quick bouts of somber and fast. The vocal duties are split between the bassist and rhythmic guitarist and are quite strong, some of the strongest I have seen yet, occasionally drifting into manic screaming. Although they aren’t necessarily unique, they are clear and match the music. And that was the theme of the set, manic. The crowd has tripled in size by this point and a few brave souls have moved uncomfortably close to the stage dancing along. Despite the crowd’s small size, it allowed the acts to be somewhat looser in regards to songs and banter. It led to some interesting moments tonight. Western Star’s banter is odd to say the least. I couldn’t tell if this was some kind of joke or if they just were not great talking with the audience. Ultimately it did not matter. The set was excellent. Unfortunately, Western Star did not have any music to purchase but they did let us know that they will be releasing a new album sometime in November so be on the look out.

Fellowcraft followed and I was unable to see the entire set as I had to move my car as I feared I may get ticketed. David reviewed them earlier this month and it is clear they did not have a chance to read his criticism as they suffered from the same issues as the ones he brought up. In between songs they spent a lot of time talking about dicks. Now I’m not one to turn my nose up at a good dick joke but the frequency in which they were made was somewhat excessive. I get it, it’s an empty show, so fuck it but there’s a limit guys.

This local three piece is more traditional rock than Western Star; radio friendly one could say. Musically everything sounds fine but it’s a little vanilla for my tastes, kind of like a mix between mid-nineties radio giants Collective soul and one-hit-wonders Candlebox. The whole set felt like a relic from a bygone era, they even had a ballad, ‘The Wedding’ that would be right at home on terrestrial ‘modern-rock’ radio. The crowd hasn’t really grown at all and is kind of stagnant by this point. The dick jokes continue and they begin a cover of Seven Mary Three’s ‘Cumbersome’ and that was my cue to go downstairs and wait this one out until the Dead Flowers.
Dead Flowers - This must be somewhat deflating for Dead Flowers as the crowd has thinned out considerably; four people and two members from Fellowcraft remain. I can imagine it must be pretty depressing to have three strangers show up to your show, one of them with their head positioned in front of their phone for the entirety of the show.

The show, like the others, is very loose; they stop to tell stories mid-song but it looks like they are still having a good time, which is nice. Dead Flowers sound similar to Western Star; classic rock leanings but not as manic. They most certainly wear the Texas Roots on their sleeves. The drums sound phenomenal for such a small room and their songs are peppered with intense guitar solos that recall past southern rock giants. We gained two people in the room. They look suspiciously like Garth, clearly drunk and bouncing off one another. Even though the crowd is minimal they seem to enjoy what Dead Flowers are doing. They do a quick cover of the Replacements and question whether or not they should do another, because fuck it. Instead they decided to do some new stuff; a song named ‘Fowl’. It begins quick then slows and reminds me of the Doors mixed with some kind of blues/jazz fusion. There are some real drastic time changes as well. Ultimately the set was good and I imagine with a fuller room, it would have been an exciting show, one to remember.

Thursday, October 1, 2015


This band plays sort of a hybrid Americana-Pop-Power pop concoction. I guess many people would call that indie rock and these sounds are warm and familiar to most of us that have been listening to new music in the last decade or more. The vocals are quite inviting with an earnest tone and a scraggly effect that gives the songs a bit of a rustic edge. The guitars have a quiet little jangle and there is some bounce in the beat. So while there is nothing earth shattering or revolutionary here, these ten songs are well done and will stick in the head for at least a little while. The band would certainly succeed on many bills as they can rock it up or pull it back just enough to fit in well with most of the rock and pop world.

Songs to start with first:

Upside - This song really has a snap to it and is quite catchy.

Nothing Really Changes - A slight alteration in the beat and the instrumental punch make for a subtle change.

Not Quite Yet - The guitar hooks are quite interesting here with room to breath (or sing).

The title of this album is a quick hot button debate topic, even for fans of Yes’s soon to be 71 year old former singer and jazz fusion prog violinist Jean Luc Ponty (one year older). Anderson’s voice is still surprisingly good, although his singing has never fully excited me, unless the material really offsets it with a certain level of power. At times that happens here, at other times not. I enjoyed ‘Listening with Me’ with its progressive flourish. But the reggae beat on ‘Time and a Word’ is misplaced and a couple of reworked Yes covers don’t exactly work. Ponty’s playing is good, of course, and occasionally offers the edge this music needs. There are a few live cuts added on at the end and the quality drop-off is minor, as the playing is still slick and professional. If you are a fan, you will enjoy this.

There is some sort of laconic vocal style at work here that contrasts with the occasional sharp edges of the music. The beat is steady with a bit of a pulse at work in the best songs. Unfortunately when the edge is lost, the music just sort of sits there in a less interesting puddle. Yet some of the songs work quite well and there is a strong personality to this band. It may be an acquired taste that may just be a bit beyond me on the whole.

Songs to start with first:

Then What - Punchy drums and edgy vocals with bursts of energy.

Last Call - Smoother music and edgier vocals make a nice contrast. Perhaps traces of Lou Reed, here?

True Love - Epic closer promises at what this band can deliver if they think big and work accordingly.

The sum of the parts do not quite add up here on this vinyl re-release. There is some lounge atmosphere created with guitar work that hints at spacey Americana moves and vocals that have an edge of mystery. Yet I don’t see much of a resolution to the mystery as the songs just sort of develop and fade off away from any sort of lasting memory. Perhaps several listens will yield more of what the goal was here when this was released in 2003. The parts are intriguing, but they might need a reshuffle and mix them with other sounds and styles. I am just not sure at all here. It was worth a bit of time and I hope they refined this approach as they show the skills needed to make something bold and interesting, I would think.

This is hardly the type of music I listen to regularly, which makes it all the more fun when an album like this pops up in my review pile. The Boxcar Boys play swing music with old time jazz and Americana. I hear all kinds of interesting sounds coming from tubas, clarinets, washtubs, jaw harp, as well as mandolins, accordions, fiddles and such. There are fourteen songs that are mostly instrumental, but there enough cuts with vocals that bring a nice surprise into the sound. The title cut is a real stand-out as they manage to integrate both the easy going undulating approach with some speedy instrumental prowess. These boys (and girls) do this music extremely well and both have the knack as well as the experience to integrate together in such a warm and flowing manner. So if you are tired of whatever genre you spend too much of your time in or even if you are not, give yourself a dose of this. You will feel energized.

Long one of my favorite DC area bands, it is great to see these three taking their sound to new heights on their new label. ‘New’ guitarist, Andrew Yonki, has now been firmly in place for some time and offers all the classic touches we used to hear along with some quick little tricks of his own. His style is almost Steve Turner-like, although the band won’t have you thinking of Mudhoney at first blush. Yet Francis’ vocals have some of that desperate edge of Mark Arm, while Stephanie’s drumming is as hard hitting as Dan Peters, even at half the size. But they are not on Sub Pop, they are on Kylesa’s label (Retro Futurist Records) which is the perfect home for them, as Kylesa is perhaps the most successful fusion of metal and psychedelia (with a dose of punk attitude), Caustic Casanova has been offering lots of creativity in this heavy psycho-world as well. These seven long songs flow even more seamlessly than the previous and more diverse LP, yet by no means does this lack for creative variety.

Songs to start with first:

Thundersnow - The opener is a ferocious start, as expected, but also showcases the clever shifts and arrangement choices, this trio is good at.

Elect My Best Friend for a Better World - The guitar is more psychedelic and the rhythm section even more rollicking.

No Sky July - Great vocal work and a mystical psyche droner with plenty of sharp uptempo moves somehow embedded here as well.

This is all a bit too mannered for me, although there is nothing wrong with a pleasant garden salad before a main course. So the relaxed pop moves with hints of indie rock, mainstream folk and lounge styled jazz has its place on my broader menu. The brass touches are especially good on many of these songs. Vocally, they alternate between male and female leads with the latter being my preferred vocals. There are some harmonies and perhaps this could be explored further in future. The style is delicate and tricky and once you get used to it, there is something you can appreciate about this band. It is easier to blast away in a garage rock style or play choppy indie rock than it is to compose songs like these. So full credit to this Toronto band, even if I may not always want to make a main course of this.

Songs to start with first:

Pillar - Catchy song with just enough heart on the sleeve emotion.

Memo - Walking pace with light drumming and lilting vocals has me drifting away.

Change - Excellent near-instrumental cut with acoustic guitars and brass moves. The light vocal has are a nice surprise.

I always start preparing my review in my head as quickly as possible. Even after two cuts, I was starting to get ready for something mediocre here. But even as I begin this process, I always listen to everything all the way through and am prepared to do a 180 degree turn at any point. And of course, that was the case here as I thought Decker was going to be too cute and lightweight, but once I got use to the vocal style and mannered electronic instrumentation mixed with the usual sounds, the songs really started to shine. It is psychedelic, but delicate, not quite psychedelic folk as I have heard, but if you are a fan of that genre, you can comfortably move in these circles. I hope people do not still need reminders why ‘long players’ still work in the digital age, but if you do….

Oh, and you can see them live at the Pinch on Saturday, October 10th.

Songs to start with first:

5 Oscillations - An instrumental cut with heart and a set up to…

Esther Mofet - The style is starting to work on this cut… the strong melodic hook helps.

Spades - Moody style continues off in more interesting directions.

This album may be slight for some, but I found it a rather refreshing after dinner mint that has maybe even a bit more flavor than you would expect. DeMarco has an easy going voice that hits the spot with arrangements that almost take a carnival approach, but in a restrained manner. Yes, that probably is as clear as mud, but he has a tricky dream mentality at work in the arrangements that is not the stuff of dream pop, but rather that surreal space where the normal has unreal edges. I may not go back to this record much, but it was a lovely little one-off that hit the mark.

Songs to start with first:

The Way You’d Love Her - The opener has some dizzying slide moves to counter the warm pop moves.

No Other Heart - Great walking pace where the band seems to be floating above the ground.

My House by the Water - Strange watery finish with a surprise invitation—great closing concept more than a song.

This seemed a bit tricky out of the gate. There were some classic pop rock moves mixed with an odd quirky style that I was not sure would ultimately be grating or fun. It was more of the latter fortunately, in part due to select quirkiness not being a core component, which can get really old, really quickly. There is an easy going style in this music, mostly in the vocals that is offset by some electric guitar bursts. This combination of subtle contrasts keeps the music interesting beyond the warm and pleasant hooks. This will not overwhelm you, for that is not the intent, but it may just strike a chord with you if you are in the mood.

See them live with the mighty Blitzen Trapper, all happening at the Black Cat on Thursday, October 15th.

Songs to start with first:

American Drag - The opener combines acoustic and electric, smooth and eclectic. If you are into this, the rest will please.

Beauty Contest - A nice dreamier contrast to the other cuts.

All the Time - A fine contrast of intense vocals and softer moments.

This album is big in ways you may not expect. This is more of the tightly muscled torso that can make smooth ballet moves as opposed to the power lifter or a sprinter’s legs. This is pop music with rock stylings and a dreamy atmosphere, but the moves are bright, big, and bold. And how great it is for me to hear electronica that enhances a strong song with great vocal work as opposed to just noodling away on its own. This British group follows a long line of interesting pop bands from their island and they are a fine entry into this field.

Songs to start with first:

No Harm - The opener will send you deep in a dream, like few others here or anywhere.

Forgiveness - Strong pop rocker with passionate vocals and rich instrumentation that can hold it all together.

Life is a Fear - More power in this smooth rocker.

Ella le Fantome’s vocal qualities save this being a rather one note electronica record. She (aka Tyler Elizabeth) has just enough texture to her spacey air filled passages, that keep the mood mysterious, yet serene. The eight songs all sound rather similar making this something to put on and let go in its entirety (it will only take about 25 1/2 minutes), where the mood should be able to work its way into your presence. In the right mood, this can be enchanting; but avoid if you are in one of those hyper-city attitudes or if you just need something substantial to dig in to. I am usually in these latter moods.

And as a bonus, here is John Miller’s take:

There is something interesting here but I am not quite sure I can pinpoint exactly what that is. Elle le Fantôme’s second album Paint it Blacker lacks passion. It meanders and stumbles to find meaning, trapped in this never-ending fog. While it sounds pleasant enough the album is missing that spark to really get me to enjoy this effort. There are some nice melodies here and there, even some spooky strings, but the drums are so simple that it makes the listening experience somewhat of a chore; very, very basic. As I mentioned earlier, there is something interesting here as with my first couple of times listening to the album, I thought something was there. The beginning of the opening track, Paint it Blacker, has this undercurrent of Cabaret Voltaire. But as it continues it loses that undercurrent as the song doesn't go anywhere; it become lost. Ultimately, this whole thing feels like a haze of antidepressants, I'm so even by the end of it that I don't care. And perhaps that’s the thesis but I am probably reading too much into it at this point.

This legendary guitarist was given some mysterious radio signals recorded underwater off the coast of Malibu. Not only were they eerie and mysterious, but they were inspirational as well, as Merrell Fankhauser heard music within and chose to write songs working off what he was hearing from these strange signals. Also fun is that he chose to work mostly in the terrain he got started in back in the early sixties—instrumental surf guitar. He does a wonderful job with these ten songs offering a variety of moods, subtle stylistic shifts, and interesting arrangements. But it his relaxed west coast sensibility that brings a calmness to these melodies, even on the nice rockers like ‘Mysto Spot’. This is a lovely little treat to fill out your Merrell Fankhauser record collection. He is still going strong and is definitely one of the most interesting musicians that all too few people have heard of, despite over 50 years in the business. It is not too late to get your ticket for your space age ride with Merrell Fankhauser.

This nicely named band starts off rather too much in a precocious pop manner. But if you stay with this, you get some more intriguing experimental moves. They don’t stray from the range of accessibility, but they do challenge convention nicely at times and add some surprise musical combinations in various songs. Yet the pop approach is the dominant style, quite spritely and bouncy throughout. You can almost see the laser lights, strobes, and mirror balls while this is on in your home. This is definitely a weekend party adventure for the youngest of you out there (at least those who think young).

Songs to start with first:

Rounder II - This cut will have you wit’em or agin’em.

Surf’s Up Nevermind - Quite the surprise that this band can effectively work in a surf element—great driving tune.

Long Tall Stranger - Long tall sounds are quite surprising here, with even a prog move or two amidst the fine pop tune.

There are five moderate to long mostly instrumental songs on this album. That usually spells psyche-jams or progressive music and there is a little of both here. There are flowing melodies with quick bass lines, steady drums and fuzzy guitar chords working around crisp brass bleats. Then there is ripping rock passages that follow transcendent mood setting intros, along with some female vocals which sound startling remote with so much instrumental prowess on display elsewhere. And why not close with an eleven minute Neu! meets Tortoise meets Can bit of craziness (complete with Susuzi-esque rants)? This is interesting always and quite riveting often. The band balances classic progressive skills with edgy modern rock flourish. Great job.
by John Miller
This is a very good album. I mean, let’s be honest, Froth isn’t exactly reinventing the wheel here but who said that every piece of music needs to be some trans-dimensional, life-affirming masterpiece?  Bleak is a quick album, just over thirty minutes and it makes for a very tight release. Professional through and through. There are hints of Black Rebel Motor Cycle Club, brit-pop and early Radiohead sprinkled throughout, but I think the most apt comparison would be a N.M.E. article that claims to have found the ‘next big thing’. Those stories that seem to pop up every year or so, extolling some band that has this new, amazing sound; their heads firmly planted in the past, one of those stories about a band that always seems to be on the precipice of popular culture. And that’s not to say this is a subpar or ultimately forgettable effort, far from it, definitely worth a listen.
And you can see Froth at the DC9 on Monday, October 26th.
Songs to start with first:

Afternoon – Reminds me of something off of Take Them On, On Your Own though while the fuzz is there, it does feel remarkably more positive.

Turn it Off – Do I hear some keys? Sometimes it can be hard to make out everything when listening through shitty headphones on an old laptop but the keys are a welcome addition to the song's design, and the dreamy solo about three minutes in is an interesting choice considering the garage tones of the song.

Sleep Alone – ‘Last songs’, usually experimental or slow; even though the track order may be trite, I am a sucker for them. I guess that was the long way of saying, that the last song on the album is a more dialed down affair. The acoustic takes the lead for the most part but the fuzz is still there. Though the song does end rather abruptly, it is interesting mix of three distinct guitar tones.


This trio might be from London, but you are going to hear is juke joint R&B mixed with other classic Americana elements. Yet there is a fresh approach to it that is hard to pinpoint. But overall it works quite well and this is a nice record that surprised me just enough. It will be interesting to see what kind of audience it finds, but it should find at least a moderate crowd.

Songs to start with first:

No Action - A smooth vocal with just a touch of sass and a funky prog sort of arrangement.

Turkish - Only a slight exotic feel on this song, but it works to add yet one more dimension to this interesting blend.

Never Get Back - The beat is sumptuous and the vocal line knows how to work off of it in a magical manner.

As much as I like variety, I am getting a fair amount of albums that showcase skill and are in search of an identity. This record has elements of that, although it settles mostly in an instrumental guitar album that sounds suspiciously like eclectronic pop at times. But the guitar is there and when it goes funk, it’s a bit startling. When it goes in a Chrome direction in ‘JR’, it has my interest, but there just aren’t enough moments like that. There are even some songs with full vocals.

This band can be just what the doctor ordered when you want to sit back and drift away to dreamy rock music with substance. The instrumentation is quite liquid as the landscapes develop and the vocals soar over the top, birdlike, searching and purposeful. There is nothing overpowering here, but there is a steady base with plenty of playful points and counterpoints. This reminds me a lighter Toronto rock/pop band, although they hail from Newcastle, the last of England to the north before Scotland unfolds. The best material is front loaded, but even by the end of these ten songs, the atmosphere is established and the quality is present throughout. This is a very enjoyable band that has hit their stride on this, their third album.

Songs to start with first:

I’ll Stall Them - Very nice building of the drama and great instrumentation, especially the eerie violin.

Faultlines - Piano punctuation over strings and things with a fine vocal line.

Through the Cellar Door - Quiet and well, not exactly loud, but dramatic shifts are handled with deft care.

Just a quick taste of Media Jeweler here with seven songs including two short ditties (one a reprise). Still, there is enough substance to see whether they are a band to dig into further. If you recall the Socket Circuits label here, this band would be a good fit. There is a lot of core trio sounds that remind me of Buildings, but they add horns, vocals, and jazzy R&B sort of riffs that carry this even further out there. It is even not unlike certain phases of the Sun City Girls. There is more than a little excessive noodling at times, but there are some sharp moments that show this band can be for real. With a bit more focus and careful songcraft, they could be a major player in this arena.

This pop album that is mostly in the dreamy terrain has a lot of smarts to it. It has a timeless quality with melody and even arrangements that take me back to the non-rock music of my youth. This is smooth fulfilling pop music that has rich textures and musicians that want to do more than set a mood. It is deep for the most part, but the finale is a rousing song with a parody of Madonna that references Romeo Void and the Fall among others. This is a fine record that should find many happy fans.

And do you want to see what they can do live? I do, so join me at the Rock’n’Roll Hotel, Friday, October 16th.

Songs to start with first:

The Queen of Swans - The opening cut’s lush soundscape has some heft in the sound, which is also snaky and beguiling.

Central Park East - A slightly melancholic pull back with vocals that remind me of Fuschia and music of 10cc.

Autumn is in the Air - The extra bit of romance in the vocals and string arrangements may not work for everyone, but was perfect for me.

These local rockers are able to deliver a heavy hard rocking set any time they hit the stage. The good news is that if you like the live show, the albums are able to capture that energy quite well. This one is no exception as the sound is strong and the playing fast and furious. The band operates in that newer style of hard rock that exists between the hard rock bands of my youth and the punk bands of my college years. They don’t ever quite go metal (aside from an occasional riff in there), but instead focus on melody with some of that EMO intensity on vocal style.

Songs to start with first:

No Damn Good - This rocker has that extra edge of ferocity that makes this band click.

Fire Away - They do.

Send and Return - The requisite slower one still has great ringing guitars.

The electropop contained here within has enough pace and sparkle to maintain my interest more than most… at least for a bit. The ten songs get a bit one-note after a while, so I am not sure I will be returning to this much, if at all. I can say it is a fine record if you like this approach with decent vocal arrangements and plenty of bounce in their musical step. So perhaps, a live experience would be of more interest than repeated listens to this for all of the non-genre fans out there.

Ah, Belgium… home of great chocolate, great waffles, cooking with beer, superb football, and some of the finest bands in Europe. Thankfully, I have been sent a steady diet of their music in recent years and it has been consistently great as well as diverse. Partisan is just one more fine Belgian band, a new band, and off to a fine start on this four-song EP. They employ a gutsy, but intricate post-punk sound that is full of melody and invention, along with a fascinating overall atmosphere. Most of the atmosphere is thick and powerful, but ‘Unhappy People’ is filled with a nimble bass run and jangly guitars. These four songs are all good, but they could go a few different ways with their sound. It will be hard to be as eclectic on a long player as it is here, but it will be fun to see what they do.

The magic is so slow in coming, I am afraid I boarded the express train home, long ago. This is one of those mostly instrumental electronica albums that I am always using as the benchmark of all the instrumental electonica albums I do not like, when I want to discuss the few that I do. I should say there are a few vocals, but they are pretty much used instrumentally here. I will also say that there is absolutely nothing I dislike more on a record than the throbbing knob turning sounds like on ‘Youth Group’ and all too many other songs here. Those sounds make me want to go into Japanese anime convulsions.

Were I a paid consultant as opposed to an unpaid writer, I would advise this band away from the worst of its independent rock cliches and really get them to focus on their best songs and not start this album with their worst. But since I’m not, I will just say that there are some nice laid back songs here. It is not exactly slacker, but more hazy quiet days of summer. And when it connects, it connects quite well. This band is in a nice place right now and it can even get better. I would suggest a bit more variety like they showed with ‘Woken by Noises’, but again, I’m not paid to give advice.

Songs to start with first:

Sweet Chris - A rolling little melody and a bit more classic in style than precocious.

The Ocean - The guitar noodling is actually quite warm and sets up the vocal line well.

Woken by Noises - Like the Gun Club playing in a lighter style. Huh?


Shoegaze/Post-rock/Psychedelic/Indie rock… Congratulations to the Virgance, they have just created the longest entry I have seen in the Itunes genre column. And with that amount of detail, there really is not much to add. Except that this all instrumental music, it is fairly heavy, and it is melodic. I find it odd that there are ‘radio edits’ on three of the eight songs even though the original songs are 5 to 7 minutes or so. Any radio station, such as they are these days, that would deign to play this music, will likely be playing the full version anyway. All in all, if you love this stuff, check out this album. For me, I love to catch the live version and only rarely is a band good enough to make want to take their long players home with me. These guys aren’t quite high enough to my tough standards there (but you will have me at your show in DC, should you come).

Mixed results here, but the skills in the vocals and the atmospheric arrangements are well worth exploring. It is just a matter of songwriting. I find half of the songs compelling with the occasional arrangement flourishing enough to boost their appeal even more. The rest are perfectly satisfactory, but too ordinary to stand out. The Tom Rapp cadence in the vocals of some songs work a bit of magic for me and should translate to people who never even heard Pearls Before Swine. Take a listen, this is worth at least one listen and you well may be back for more.

Songs to start with first:

One Good Way - This has a latter day Tom Rapp vibe, which always works for me.

Perfect - Rich and full vocals really get this cut soaring.

My Good Country - Stronger guitar here, with a snappy song and even a hooky vocal line.

The Woolen Men take me back to my younger days when punk rock was breaking in the late 1970s and I was trying to scour up every punk record I could. There were a lot fewer of them and they were harder to find and if you were very active you would end up with a lot of records that varied with a lot of different elements as punk was being ‘defined’. This band reminds me of many a band that had the pop hooks, with a punk attitude, a damaged art sensibility, and the ability to cohesively put together something really good. The Cravats, Gizmos, MX-80 Sound, and the Swell Maps are some of the bands that come to mind from those days. Portland’s Woolen Men do this style very well and the style is such that you will not ever sound quite like anybody else. Yet as individualistic as this is, the hooks are strong and will pull you along easily enough.

Songs to start with first:

Clean Dreams - An early lighter punk style like the Gizmos or the Mekons is well channeled in this (surprisingly long) opener.

Life in Hell - The second song strips it down into a garage pop punk style that will grab you and set you up the rest of the way.

The Wheel - Another of the longer cuts has good enough riffs and hooks to deserve the extended time.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015


Sleepy HaHas come to the Libertine on Friday, October 2nd -- new club for me.

Maritime sets anchor at the DC9 for one night only, Saturday, October 3rd.

Honduras, the band not the country, comes to the U Street Music Hall on Tuesday, October 6th.

Wavves and Twin Peaks make a powerful duo at the 9:30 Club on Wednesday, October 7th. But if you like a cozier club, check out Wild Ones at DC9.

Waxahatchee opens for Kurt Vile on Thursday the 8th at the 9:30 Club. And again, if you want a smaller crowd, check out Teen Daze and Heavenly Beat at DC9.

The Growlers roar back to the 9:30 Club, specifically on Saturday, October 10th.

What can I say about a band called Ruby Rabbitfoot? Nothing, until I see them on Sunday, October 11th at the Black Cat.

Dear Hunter heads over to the Rock'n'Roll Hotel on Tuesday, October 13th.

Mac DeMarco is on stage at the Howard Theatre on Wednesday the 14th.

Stick with the Domestics, who open for Blitzen Trapper at the Black Cat on Thursday, October 15th.

Monday, September 28, 2015

The Jesus and Mary Chain - The Black Ryder -- 9:30 Club - Sep 27 2015

The Black Ryder - Tonight’s show begins quiet.  But I guess that is to be expected considering the music is slow and completive. It is a stark difference compared to the early days of The Jesus and Mary Chain. The Black Ryder takes the whole shoe gazing thing and runs with it--Slow, methodical and polished. I am well aware of how this may make me sound but the softer, magical pieces sounded like they could be found on the soundtrack to the film The Crow.

The vocal duties are split between both Aimee Nash and Scott Van Ryper; Nash takes the reins on the slower pieces evoking Belinda Butcher of My Bloody Valentine and Ryper sings on the more up tempo stuff. Ryper’s vocals, in particular, were overpowering; lots of feedback, scratchy. As the set continued the levels were evened out and most of the earlier issues were but a memory.

There weren’t many solos tonight but I don’t know that this type of music necessarily merits wild, soul barring riffs. As I said earlier, this is slow, even the up tempo stuff is on the slower side; lots of nodding along and contemplating whether or not the chipped paint on the floor of the 9:30 Club can tell the future. A little bit spooky and a great compliment to The Jesus Mary and Mary Chain.
The Jesus and Mary Chain - Let’s be honest here, reviewing The Jesus and Mary Chain is like taking an introduction to Shakespeare; what more can be said about them? They have been around for so long that everything that needed to be said has been said. I guess what really matters here is can they still play and is the crowd receptive?

Tonight The Jesus Mary Chain will be playing the entirety of their seminal album Psychocandy. They begin tonight by letting the middle-aged crowd know that they would be playing two separate sets with a short intermission between the two. The first set was a primer of sorts, prepping the crowd for the main show. Despite that, being a primer, the first seven songs flew by and by the end everyone was drunker, ready to continue dancing, and forgetting the beginning of the week was just a few hours away. Running through a collection of material that ranged from April Skies to Reverence the night got progressively louder and I was wondering if not wearing earplugs were a wise option. I thought Mike Krol was loud Sunday, I can’t imagine how loud it was for those in the front row tonight; the fuzz, the feedback. My head is going to explode.

I’m not quite sure when this type of concert originated; one where a band plays the entirety of a specific album. It seems that it’s a relatively new thing. I was unsure how it would play out; would the set list match the album’s track listing? Would there be any variation in composition? The show actually ended up being pretty straightforward in regards to Psychocandy. They begun with Just Like Honey and ended with It’s So Hard. It’s important to remember that this album shares more in common with Sonic Youth’s earlier material than the shoe gazing they have become known for. Aside from a few songs, the majority of the album is noise, the good kind of noise. So it was an interesting choice for Black Ryder to open the show considering their influences.

So to answer my previous questions; could The Jesus and Mary Chain still play and was the crowd receptive? Yes and Yes. Even though the audience was certainly lively, moving throughout the evening, the show unfortunately did not devolve into a riot. A far cry from the 25 minute sets they were known for when Psychocandy was released. A fantastic show all around.

Mike Krol - Title Tracks - ROM -- Comet Ping Pong - Sep 26 2015

by John Miller

ROM - DC mainstays, ROM opened tonight with a quick set, only about twenty minutes. I hadn’t realized it at the time but I do have some history with the band as I believe I have played live with them at some point though I could be mistaken; those small shows tend to run together. Though I do know, as Dead Women, they played a very, very small house show a couple of years back and could not have been nicer considering how many people showed up.

“And are down to play gigs in the trenches and not bitch about anyone or anything = rock n roll attitude” – Brandon Ables

ROM plays everywhere and they still bring a crowd. It’s nice to see local folks supporting local bands; god knows I never got that kind of support when I was playing. But enough self effacing, ROM plays quick, good songs that kind of sound like a louder Sunny Day Real Estate. They also have a drummer with glasses; I’m four for four with tall, skinny drummers with glasses at Comet Ping Pong.

Title Tracks - And it is yet another band that played the mid-slot and continued the theme; tall, skinny drummer with glasses. These Washington DC natives are more straight ahead rock than ROM with power pop leanings. Unfortunately I do not have any history with these guys so no worthless stories or quotes, nevertheless these guys reminded me of later day Weezer, breezy, melodic songs. Like ROM before them, Title Tracks had a local contingent tonight. Lots of hugs and an abundance of older folks that kind of look out of place; nothing wrong with a little parental support.

Mike Krol - Mike Krol ended the festivities tonight (unfortunately the drummer did not wear glasses) and before they even began, I could tell this was going to be quite different than the previous two acts. I was super uncomfortable with the noise being unleashed by the PA. I’m not necessarily an earplug guy but I seriously considered taking advantage of the dollar option before the show started.

Smoke machine? Check. Flashing, colored lights? Check. Beginning the show in complete darkness? Check. There is vision here. These guys are about to put on a show, they take their theatrics seriously. And as the lights come on, five men, dressed as strippers, dressed as cops take the spotlight. Obviously with a set up like this, there was lots of energy. There are easy comparisons; Alice Cooper, et al though at various points tonight, I was reminded of The Blood Brothers. Now nothing can really, truly compare to The Blood Brothers, but occasionally the rhythmic motions of the songs came close.

“I forgot to put up the barbed wire.”

This is party music. This is beer drinking with a general air of lingering crustiness. The crowd, even though it has thinned out since the previous two acts, seems to really enjoy what they are experiencing. There is so much confusion, almost Kaufmanesque. I always enjoy it when the band performing has to instruct the crowd when to clap.  I imagine with a more familiar audience, Mike Krol’s shows would be insane, but he can only do so much with this DC crowd tonight.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Truly - Fellowcraft -- DC9 - Sep 24 2015

Fellowcraft - Two 'rules' were broken when this local power trio started; first, don't go into lengthy patter before your first song, unless there is something really special going on. There wasn't. Second, don't open with a sing along, especially as the opening band. But they won me back by immediately launching into a wah-wah guitar run, so we are back on good footing. These guys are new, excited, maybe a bit nervous and they used some of that to good effect with the energy they infused in their songs. They kind of ran around a few styles as they still should be afforded more time to fully find their way and try it all until then. At their best, I thought they sounded like Point Blank trying to cover Budgie. The vocals were much better when tough than when earnest and all three sang with the guitarist taking the lead. The playing was fine and even good at times. Early days. Stay tuned.
Truly - This was a treat. Were there some psychedelic moves in the Screaming Trees? Yes. How about Soundgarden? Not as much, but 'Hunted Down' from the first EP feels very psyche to me. So take the drummer from the Trees, the bassist from Soundgarden and singer/songwriter steeped in psyche rock and even add keyboards and you have a great combination. These guys really have a spectacular sound that keeps some of the early grunge toughness but spinning it into a sweeping psychedelic approach. The vocals are gentle which is a great offset to the music that veers from raging to mysterious. The players all work off of each other perfectly, which you may expect having been together so long, yet is refreshing as they don't play out much in recent years. 20 years since last in DC I think they said? The songs reminded me of a stronger update on The Golden Dawn, a brilliant Texan band from the 13th Floor Elevators days. What a great set and anyone who stayed home to watch a football game in lieu of this truly deserved what they got. I sure hope I get another shot at seeing them as I am not sure I'll be here in 20 years.

Photograb of the Night:

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Ultimate Painting - Ruby Fray -- Comet Ping Pong - Sep 21 2015

by John Miller

Banter is an important part of any live musical experience. Good banter can do a number of things but ultimately it’s a way to connect with everyone; putting everyone at ease, little laughs between sets; birthing inside jokes with strangers in the moment. But more on that later as the show last night was quite interesting and one in particular that I haven’t seen since beginning writing for this publication.

Ruby Fray - Last night begin with Austin natives, Ruby Fray and as the vocals began to punctuate the music, I could tell that this particular set was going to be good; instead of being something she is suppose to be, the vocalist is performing the way she wants to, a way that in which she is comfortable with, her own style. And for someone so young to have found their voice is a rarity.

“Time for two more? Time for one more? Two more! Okay two more! We will play them really fast!”

This never happened. Ruby Fray began to play the slowest song of the night after getting the okay for two more songs. And that was how the set played out the majority of the night, lots of slow, doom & gloom stuff punctuated by bursts of energy that eventually collapsed again under the aforementioned gloom. I am reminded of X; underneath everything there are regional influences. Some twang occasionally will find itself slipping in and co-mingling with the finger picking, tom, and minor keys.

I also make soap (awkward pause) for your body”.

As I alluded to earlier, it had been some time since I had seen an opening act like this; one that is difficult to follow.
Ultimate Painting - This is a side project of both Jack Cooper and James Hoare, and it was an interesting change of pace from the soft, loud aesthetics of Ruby Fray. Very laid back, Slacker rock at its very best; think Sebadoh, Dinosaur Jr. with some sixties British pop rock thrown in for good measure.  There was even some Bob Dylan tonight as well. Though I can’t remember the name of the piece, James Hoare took over the majority of vocal duties in a piece that was reminiscent of Subterranean Homesick Blues; steam of conscience and all.

The very first thing I noticed from tonight’s performance were the guitar solos; their tone was excellent, crisp, and every note was played with purpose. Coupled with the jangly rhythmic backing of James Hoare, Cooper’s solos would sometimes find themselves meandering into jam territory as the pieces would come to an end, helping punctuate that laid back attitude of the song structure.

Ultimate Painting is on tour supporting their second release, Green Lanes as they mix in earlier cuts with newer, both have a seasonal quality, however the latter is warmer. It is no surprise that these songs do feel seasonal in nature as Ultimate Painting could qualify as Romantic in some circles; lots of outside imagery sprinkles the lyrics.

“This is our last song (pause for awkward clap). Ha, ha, nice try. We know you are all busy people.”

A more pointed insult to this unaffected DC crowd couldn’t have been a better way to end the night. Slacker obviously has negative connotations associated with it, however, in this sense, it is what Ultimate Painting seems to be aiming for; this super chill, lazy river aesthetic. Even though we sometimes think of slackers as being unmotivated or lazy these songs are far from it. The song writing is tight and aside from a couple of pieces tonight, quick. Ultimately it is amazing to see a band apply those strong composing skills and apply them to play in a style that seems to contradict their abilities as songwriters.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Cheap Trick - Fillmore -- Sep 20 2015

Cheap Trick - Like many who followed Cheap Tick in the early days, I always felt this band was very underrated. You would generally find them in a really cool rock fan's record collection and that even included some serious punk rockers. Then Cheap Trick broke and I wondered if they actually maybe one of those odd 'overrated underrated' bands that gets talked about by some with somewhat overly reverent tones. But in studying some live footage on television and revisiting the early works, no this band is legitimately excellent and deserving of all they get and then some. Basically, they have taken a Beatles like sensibility of rock music and balanced elements from whatever they personally like about rock music and created their own small but substantial niche between a lot of popular genres. They nail the pop hooks, rock hard, push a jam, pull back into songcraft, and just create a great time for themselves and the audience.
All of that was on display tonight with the three veteran Tricksters and Rick Nielsen's son who does a bang-up job on drums in the touring band. They played a set featuring their big hits of course, but a variety of material from their first album onward. There were a few covers sprinkled about including a cool version of Lou Reed's 'I'm Waiting for the Man', which they've done for some time and allows Petterson a lead vocal after a 12-string bass solo opening. Zander is in fine voice, Rick Nielsen is 66 years young and still has at least a few good years left, so Cheap Trick is still a force for any fan of rock'n'roll, pop, and assertive rock music. These guys do it all with just the right formula.

Photo of the Night: Rick Nielsen certainly loves excess when it comes to collecting guitars. Good thing he doesn't play the organ or he may covet this. What I would like to know is exactly how many combination of sounds can you produce and can you manually flip all the switches into these combinations in one lifetime?

Friday, September 18, 2015

Ride - DIIV -- 9:30 Club - Sep 17 2015

DIIV - I looked forward to seeing these New Yorkers and even with a slow start, things got quite interesting. They feature a couple of guitars on top of a rhythm section with a keyboardist who adds a lot of third guitar and backing vocals. His contributions are key as the keyboards create a nice swirling effect dreamy pop sounds that have a bit more rocking drive with the rhythm section. The third guitar gives it a bit of heft and even more 'driiv' showing that they are a perfect opener for tonight's unique headliner. There is even more psychedelia and intense rock moments as this set keeps getting better and better. The crowd was really stoked by the closer and the loud ovation was richly deserved. I am happy enough right now with the time invested and could leave a very contented man. But why on earth would I ever do that.
Ride - The 1990s were a bit of a lost decade for me as I spent more time with the 1960s and 1970s. But Ride's debut 'Nowhere' was one of my few prized possessions from that decade. I liked some of the shoegaze scene, but Ride was far and away my favorite as I heard so much beyond shoegaze. After a long acrimonious hiatus, the guys are back and are exciting audiences everywhere. The only question tonight was going to be exactly how good are they sounding these days? They didn't miss a note tonight as the sound and playing was brilliant from the beginning to end. Drums were big and bold, guitars sounded exquisite as they layered unique sounds together with intriguing parts that are well thought out and almost mystical. The two voices were rich and steady throughout. The bass playing was the personal surprise as I am not sure I realized how important it is to their sound. He mixes fingerstyle with picking and lays down some of the smoothest runs around, so the other instruments sound even more striking. The songs are really great and there is one screaming shoegaze freakout during the closer, 'Drive Blind'. The crowd was a bit more shoegazing than the band, for although they were appreciative, the movement was rather slight. I wanted to jump out of my skin when they launched into 'Decay' for the first time on a live stage since 1991(they announced even a couple of other firsts tonight).

Based on what I have read, these kids have grown up and realized at least some of the folly of earlier arguments. Hopefully these live shows can inspire them to some more group creativity as I would certainly welcome more Ride music into my world. But if not, this was a great night as one more unexpected pleasure that I would not have imagined in the last couple of decades.

Quote of the Night: Mark Gardener... "Washington, it's been a long time."

Tuesday, September 15, 2015


Hey, let's start with a surprise that this show is happening at all AND that there are still tickets available. How can Ride have tickets available and something called Catfish and the Bottlemen be sold out the night before? Then again, don't tell me. I don't want to know.

The mighty Ride is back and after some succesful monster comeback shows is now touring through our fair city. Catch them this Thursday, the 17th at the 9:30 Club.

Sunday, September 20th... well, I scored free tickets for Cheap Trick, but it would be nice to visit Algiers at the Rock'n'Roll Hotel.

Ultimate Painting puts on the ultimate show at the Comet Ping Pong on Monday the 21st.

The Pope is coming next week, but if you want to see the anti-pope, check out Ghost at the Fillmore on Tuesday on 22nd. Secular music fans should check out Mikal Cronin, Calvin Love and Cairo Gang at the U Street Music Hall that night.

Gardens & Villa will come up roses at the Rock'n'Roll Hotel on Thursday, September 24th.

Sego opens for El Ten Eleven at the Black Cat on Friday, September 25th. Or head over to the DC9 for Phil Cook.

Mike Krol hits the Comet Ping Pong on Saturday, September 26th. But I will be at the Pinch for Caustic Casanova's record release show. Yay!

And if you liked Ride, you should check out a band that may have influenced them and certainly influenced hundreds of other bands... it is the Jesus & Marychain playing Psychocandy in full at the 9:30 Club on Sunday the 27th with Black Ryder opening.

Fidlar crawls on over to the Black Cat on Monday the 28th.

And if you need a psychedelic detox from this busy month, why not come to the Velvet Lounge on Wednesday the 30th for the Dead Flowers. (Note--not on VLounge calendar but on band tour page. Watch my recommendations column for the final word).

Monday, September 14, 2015

Nick Diamonds - Small Feet -- DC9 - Sep 13 2015

Small Feet - You know the expression... small feet, big songs. This may be a simple Swedish duo of vocals/guitar and drums/electronics, but the sound is strong and the songs are amazing. So this quiet little set delivered as well as any full bodied, well amped major league band on a big stage. The guitar work is simple, but smart; the drums steady with one hand ready to control some electronic synth backing. The vocals are key as he sounds a lot like Neil Young, if Neil could really sing. But there is almost a Wire like vibe to the music, although it is hard to fully place. And with lines like 'unicorns are fun, they're as evil as they come', it is hard not to focus in like a laser on these songs. There is a  bit of folk, a solid dose of pop, and a week bit of Scandanvian progressive sound in this mix. It all comes together brilliantly thanks to the voice and songs of Simon Stålhamre. I hope a lot of the late arrivers were paying attention as this show started as about a dozen people and finished up with at least 50 in the room. I would think it will be much bigger next time as this album gets played more and more.
Nick Diamonds - This is the solo moniker of Canadian Nicholas Thornburn who seemes to have a new band every year or two, Islands being one of the more famous. He is here with a partner who joins him on synthesizer and vocals. This is classic synth pop on the majestic side of soul. The music is bold and crisp with interesting hooks and counters, while the vocals are filled with subtle twists and surprisingly he even reminds me a bit of H.R. on his quieter songs. The songs are interesting and this is all solid and agreeable to the large crowd. It is easy to dive in to this music, but the quality is there to keep you mind working full time. 

Quote of the Night: ND... "Let's give this Sunday a Wednesday feel (laughter), Tuesday?"
Crowd: "Thursday!"
ND "Thursday? Let's not push our luck."

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Titus Andronicus - Spider Bags - Baked -- Black Cat - Sep 12 2015

by John Miller

Three bands tonight, three good bands, putting on a good show. Once projectiles are hurled into the general vicinity of the live music, that’s usually a sign of a good show. I can see how that may be misconstrued, trust me though, everyone was into it.

Baked - Opening the festivities promptly at 9:30, Baked put on a risky set.  Not in a pejorative sense but their style (low-fuzz stoner rock) tends to be somewhat difficult to pull off live as there is a tendency for muddiness. The guitar and bass levels are so high tonight that I had a difficult time making out what all the mumbling was about. In addition to the vocals, I really wanted to hear what that woodgrain vintage Casio was all about. Baked didn’t really seem to care though, which ended up being an interesting parallel to what would follow later. Despite the levels, the music is well composed and definitely something one could put on in the background if one was partial to getting, well, baked (that was bad, I apologize).

Spider Bags - The Spider Bags took some time to get situated. From what I could make out from the intermediate asides between songs, they traded some old, broken amps for some suspect guitars with issues. Midway through their third song, tuning issues solved, the garage rupturing feedback was doing its thing nicely; Knobs spinning and turning, lots of resonance and pitch coming from their newly acquired instruments. Lots of that mid-song banter ended up being drowned out by said resonance but that oblivious attitude worked well with the wild solos that littered the set. There was a sloppiness to it but not in a bad way, more like an earnest passion that just needs to expressed in any way possible. Certainly an interesting contrast to Baked; we went from, “Fuck you, I don't really care”, to “Fuck! Sometimes I can't control myself and this is coming out whether you like it or not”. Both attitudes played very well tonight.
Titus Andronicus - The show’s last set was a quick one; Titus Andronicus hopped on stage, tuned their instruments, said thanks and left. It wouldn’t be a punk show without some subtle jabs at the audience.  And we waited as Wu-Tang Clan ran through the PA as it sounded like there were opposing chants of ‘Nats’ and ‘Os’ came from the patient parishioners. And as the 36 Chambers shuts their doors, Patrick walked up on stage and begans with a sermon; Life and Punk. The flock was more than receptive and less than a minute into the set they were singing along, helping with the lyrics to Upon Viewing Brueghel's "Landscape With the Fall of Icarus”. Aside from the new stuff (which was longer than I was expecting), there were sing-a-longs throughout the evening. But that should have been expected, especially at a sold show. It always amazes me how these guys from Jersey and New York are so good at being relatable. But I guess songs like “No Future Part Three: Escape From No Future” are pretty universal; every one’s a loser on some level. Titus Andronicus is most certainly gifted; they showed the fine line between being earnest and relatable and being earnest and full of shit.

Dengue Fever - Analog Soul Club -- Rock'n'Roll Hotel - Sep 12 2015

Analog Soul Club - A couple hours of DJing starts off the evening from this local outfit. Not really my favorite beginning, but I've learned to enjoy this more, especially if there is quality and unique music more than just a good dance beat. And this group was on tonight with a worldly mix of sounds that was appropriate for the unique music of Dengue Fever coming later.
Dengue Fever - This is probably the fifth time I have seen this one of a kind LA band. Start with a bunch of guys that have a good handle on garage rock from the deep southern California history, add a heavy dose of world music interest, and front it all with a powerful Cambodian singer steeped in the great history of Cambodian Pop music and you have quite the recipe for success. Their set is filled with the many recognizable songs from their back catalog along with some unique songs from their latest LP. The club is packed with one of the more diverse audiences around thanks to the Cambodian musical connection with this band and their fabulous singer, Chhom Nimol. Aside from some mic problems, everything clicked well tonight as the crowd was moving and participating fully with this fun filled set. This band has a great sound and a great look including one of the most disparate height differences between singer and bassist since the Misfits (not important, just a way for me to get some cheap heat on Glenn Danzig). I am happy this band keeps going and going as they are always a welcome boost when they come to town. No exception tonight.

Quote of the Night: - "Arghhh! This is why I hate vinyl!"

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Jenny Hval - Briana Marela -- DC9 - Sep 9 2015

Briana Marela - Careful layering of female vocals begins this set before the electronica fills out the atmosphere and the drums lay down the anchor. The two vocalists sharpen the mood into more of a pop structure. Yet as the set progresses there is a mix of atmosphere morphing into songs throughout. The drummer moves forward to work some electronic parts and adds several subtle steel drum parts which creates a watery sound and lets the music really flow. There is good attention to detail here and this turned out to be a lovely, well received opening set.
Jenny Hval - I've enjoyed many performances from this talented and creative Norwegian singer over the years. I cared a bit less for her daring recent album, although I respected the attempt. I had hoped it would be more interesting live and it was all of that, although it still requires a fully opened mind. Hval begins on the floor of the stage spurting out vocal bursts as an electronica guy works the table behind her. As she rises, two women in platinum wigs come out to move about the stage more than actually dance. It was theatrical and added to the edginess of the music. Hval varied from stretched out words to piercing highs covering more range than you would expect. This is more Scott Walker than Kate Bush, and with the intensity and backing reminded me of an even more stripped down Suicide. She indeed was bleeding music all over the floor as she accurately described it. Quite odd:  appreciated by some, perhaps less by others (although they may have had a Metro train to catch). I was in the right mood for it so it worked for me as I have been away from the clubs for quite a few nights now. This was quite the welcome back.

Quote of the Night: Hval... "My name is usually Jenny, but tonight I think it's Carrie."

Sunday, September 6, 2015


September shows coming a bit slow to me (as is fall weather for all), but things get really good, really soon.

Jenny Hval and Brianna Morella will likely fill up the DC9 this Wednesday, September 9th.

One of my favorite bands in the world today, Woven Hand is touring with Chelsea Wolfe and they play the U Street Music Hall on Friday, September 11th. Be there early or you will have blown it.

Head over to the Howard Theatre later on that Friday the 11th for Lizz Wright.

Saturday September 12th has so many choices in clubland that I can't cover them all. I will likely be at Dengue Fever at the Rock'n'Roll Hotel, but the Heartless Bastards at the 9:30 Club that should be of interest. Or perhaps the white hot Titus Andronicus at the Black Cat?

Small Feet and Nick Diamonds shine on at the DC9 on Sunday, September 13th.

Holly Miranda plays the Rock'n'Roll Hotel on Tuesday the 15th (and just as Pablo Picasso should never be called an asshole, Holly Miranda should never play a veranda).

Or try On and On at the DC9 on that Tuesday as well, if you choose the NW rather than the NE.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The Walking Guys - Andrew Tufano - Throwing Plates -- Jammin Java - Sep 1 2015

by John Miller

The Throwing Plates and Andrew Tufano - It was a homecoming of sorts for both opening acts, Throwing Plates (nee Jamie & James) and Andrew Tufano. The two are local to the area and at least three of the four players were coming home after touring the country this past summer. Other than the obvious (the vocalists) it was difficult to differentiate the two as once the Throwing Plates finished their set, Andrew Tufano swapped spots with Jamie, while James and bassist Doug remained. The two had a very similar sound and could be best described as something playing in the background as Katherine Heigl questions her romantic choices.

It isn't easy to be negative as both were so positive, but the music is so homogenized that there isn't really anything to say beyond sweeping generalizations. That's not to say that either were bad, far from it, musically they were very competent; vocals were nice, harmonies worked, bass held the rhythm, but it was so vanilla and saccharine. There is definitely a place for these two opening bands, but I am not too sure I necessarily want to travel there.
The Walking Guys - The Walking Guys have a gimmick. They walk to each of their shows; fairly straight forward, if not a little thin. Starting in Maine, the four have made their way south and hopefully they will reach their final destination, Tennessee, with everyone intact. I only say this because their choice of wardrobe leaves a little to be desired as far as safety is concerned. Clad in black t-shirts and dark jeans, this quartet looked like a backwoods Ramones. It didn't dawn on me until much later that while the black t-shirt is a timeless staple, these were probably being worn because it is much easier to hide the stains that have no doubt accumulated while on their adventure.

As I alluded to earlier, the Walking Guys have a gimmick and there was some trepidation on my part that they would be just that, a gimmick. As the show progressed those fears were alleviated as the four guys put on a particularly enjoyable set. In between songs, they shared stories from the road; everything from being sponsored by Saucony (their 'dad' shoes) to the very real fear of being murdered by a Celtic drum aficionado. I may not be the biggest fan of the singer songwriter genre, but they certainly were not as straight forward as the genre might suggest. The quartet played in a way that was new to me; Riders. Each would perform a song of their own compostion while the other performed limited backing duties (aside from Will Stevens who backed up each on his guitar) and once finished, they passed the guitar down and the next Walking Guy would repeat. The songs, while musically typical of the genre, were lyrically enjoyable to digest (especially those that revolved around pancakes). These four were telling stories throughout; inviting the audience to join them on their walkabout, as opposed to telling them everything is going to be just fine. Each had a distinctive voice. The one weak spot was Will's first song that sounded suspiciously like Bon Jovi's 'Wanted Dead or Alive'. But considering it was the first song he ever composed, I think we can all give him a pass. All kidding aside, these four were exceptional storytellers and I wish them safe travels to their final destination.

And of course there are more area shows within walking distance (the editor's bad joke here) including a DC show at Ebeneezer's Coffeehouse, this Thursday, September 3rd.