Monday, June 27, 2016

Broncho - Winter - Faron Young Cannibals -- DC9 - Jun 25 2016

by John Miller

Faron Young Cannibals - I am reminded immediately of one of David's recent reviews and how aggressive crowd work can sometimes have quite the negative effect as Faron Young Cannibals meanders through their first two songs. Pandering is best used on believers; you preach to the choir. Faron Young Cannibals are so far removed from any of that; laid back, much like their music. Their nonchalant attitude resonates with the crowd. Normally I might knit pick about small things; introductions, not knowing what or where the set is going, a lack of crowd work but it's as if I have somehow been infested with this even keeled demeanor through osmosis. Though there are times when it's too easy; some of the structures are obvious. Then Faron Young Cannibals begin to harmonize like The Beach Boys and those simple structures are quickly forgotten. There is twang here; they would fit well on an unofficial King of the Hill soundtrack. 
     
Winter - Winter begins and the floor begins to bounce in rhythm with the bass. The effect work by the guitars more than makes up for a lack of keyboards as those missing layers make their way through between the solos (to be honest they don't need them). There are elements of My Bloody Valentine though Winter reminds me more of both Moon King and Youth Lagoon; hazy, blue, and at times, surprisingly loud. The bass is exceptional; it's bright, lots of mid range. And as the bassist begins climbing about the PA like a jungle gym, it’s obvious where that energy comes from. After so many failed attempts, the bassist’s acrobatics finally elicits a response from the crowd.
Broncho - Broncho closes tonight. They have brought with them an interesting set up; full length mirrors and a smoke machine. It's like Enter the Dragon in here except without the whole kung-fu. Supporting their latest release Double Vanity, Broncho is an interesting mix previous two bands tonight; there are elements of Americana and significant effects. It's on the slower side, elements of prog; exploration. The second piece ends with the guitar working through this weird, cloudy mess and suddenly switches gears as the third piece begins; stuttering, strange and significantly faster. The vocals are something, Ryan Lindsey has this nasally, Midwest thing going on. It's as if Tom Haverford has somehow found his way from Pawnee Indiana to Washington DC by way of Broncho. I'm even hearing some Mark Knopfler too. The bass is fuzzy. It fits well with the smoke that has enveloped the front of the stage. Their compositions are duplicitous; they begin approachable but as the time passes the songs start to take shape, becoming these snake like beasts, sliding, slithering, exploring, and surprising. Even as the room goes dark, the crowd swells and the floors continue to bow.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Black Mountain - Majeure -- Black Cat - Jun 25 2016

Majeure - We begin with the drummer of Zombi, an interesting duo from Pittsburgh. He has electonica backing that is very rhythmic in composition and his drumming just pummels it deeper into powerful patterns. It is always a positive to have live drumming with electronica, although you don't often get drumming this good. Obviously it is important tonight as it is the lone focal point. The electronica is not terribly special beyond its intensity, but some of that is me as long time readers will know. But that last long song had more going on with lots of compositional dynamics. Good opening set, not too long, just a strong burst of energy to set you up for the main course.
photo - Geert Braekers

Black Mountain - It has been a while since this strong psychedelic Vancouver band has graced a DC stage with its unique presence. But it took mere seconds before they grabbed command with an incredibly loud sound with full clarity showcasing the edgy dynamics of their sound. Kudos to their soundman who took this tough room and filled it with this powerful music, leaving no room for idle conversation. But that was not going to be a problem as the hardened fans were mesmerized by this performance. It was not a full house, as they only had a few more people than their large Rock'n'Roll Hotel crowd they previously had, but that was ok with me. It left a bit of space around me, which helps as you listen to music that launches you into space exploration. And that is what these guys do with a killer rhythm section setting a steel girded framework for loud guitars and clever keyboards to direct the journey. Add male psyche-hippie vocals to chilling female vocals, and you have the complete package. The set was well thought out with highlights from all of their four albums. And there is plenty of variety of song within their arsenal of sonic textures. You get some serious songwriting rulebreaking in 'Tyrants'. which still amazes me to this day. I expected a solid set tonight, but this band pushed it much further and delivered a real gem. Hope they don't wait so long until next they return.

Photo Grab of the Night - And early Syd Barrett photo of a painting I will assume he did and inspired him in writing 'Scream thy last Scream'.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Mika Pohjola Trio - Sigmar Matthiasson's NYC Quartet -- Embassy of Finland - Jun 22 2016

Sigmar Matthiasson's NYC Quartet - Embassy events are the best for a variety of reasons and Embassy of Finland was nice enough to invite me a third time for a cultulral event as they had a private show that was part of Nordic Jazz Fest 2016. They worked with the Embassy of Iceland this year in getting this fine Icelandic bass player to open the show with his quartet featuring piano, drums, and electric guitar. Although over 8% of Iceland's entire population is in France to cheer on their amazing national football team, it is good to see a few of them here to support this fine musical act. Matthiasson has a smooth style as does his band, although I am not sure 'smooth' is the right adjective for a good jazz show. Basically the seams were not showing as they went through solos and melodic runs. They performed several of Matthiasson's songs along with some adapted Icleandic folk songs, which I really liked, including one that could have easily been reworked into a folk rock classic as these four showed a lot of teeth for this cut. I liked the structures of the songs and they had plenty of character developed by the fine touch of these four musicians. And they may have all met at the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music in NYC, but they are a four-continent band as they explain with members from Iceland, Tunisia, Venezuela, and Kosovo. This was a fine set that the rather large crowd quite enjoyed.
Mika Pohjola Trio - Finland's Mika Pohola is the son of a Jazz guitarist and has had a long musical education on violin, drums, and piano. All of that shows up here as he and his saxophonist, and drummer cook up a very rhythmic punchy set of songs that is a nice contrast to the first set. They had a playful quality as they worked through original songs and a version of Ornette Coleman's 'Humpty Dumpty' (in honor of his long career and recent passing). I also liked 'Kid's Song' which had that vibe of an exciting manic kid's playground backed by sharp exciting music. This set was also well received, deservedly so, and concluded a warm intimate night of music in the lovely big room at the Embassy of Finland. But now, it was back to the buffet table for a second round of the amazing culinary offerings.
photo-Vincent Gallegos

I want to thank the Embassy of Finland for their courtesy and their support of DC music blogs. I encourage everyone to visit them when you get a chance at Embassy Day or whenever you can. I have also enjoyed events at the Embassies of France, and Cote d'Ivoire. There are great things happening at embassies all over town and if you live in DC, you really should be experiencing them.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Tancred - Otis Infrastructure -- Songbyrd - Jun 15 2016

Otis Infrastructure - Hmmm... one guy on vocals and electric guitar playing under what sounds like a band name. I sense a solo outing with songs that are probably written for and usually performed as a band. And that does look to be the case, and unfortunately sounds to be the case. There is nothing wrong here as the vocals are quite good, but it just does not escape the feeling of a missing band. The guitar work is set more to rock than folk, so unless guitarists can switch to acoustic guitar and have the chops to play solo folk or folk-rock, I wish they would refrain from taking band songs and performing them solo. I am being a little harsh here, as this is not as bad as I've seen, but it is lacking and there is no escaping it (he even alludes to this by saying that Tancred will be a full band). I will say more about Otis Infrastructure when I see the full band, but these songs certainly have potential under a full arrangement.
Tancred - We start solo again with a female guitarist/vocalist and I really like the serpentine guitar lines, which help carry the song. But when the second song begins, the bass player and drummer walk on stage to join in and we now have a full band attack. And they really push things along nicely as the full sound of a strong power pop/rock band emerges. They remind me a bit of Juliana Hatfield and a bit of my old favorites, LovelikeFire. The vocals are particularly great as she jumps quickly into upper octaves and back. It is very attractive, but you never lose sight of the great music going on underneath. They have a thick sludgy sound that never loses the precision of the melody. The hooks are really fine and the best songs are incredibly memorable. This is a band that makes me want to run home and listen to their studio output. A very fine set from a band I can highly recommend to a lost of different genre fans.

And this was my first time at the Songbyrd and it was impressive. It is a downstairs room with small slightly elevated stage. It looks like you could pack 150 people in there and there is a nice wooden floor, bar to the side and some seating in the back and along the sides. A good crowd tonight was enjoying the music, as they should with a great band and a solid sound system.

Cartoon Grab of the Night:

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Beth Orton - Emmy the Great -- U Street Music Hall - Jun 11 2016

Emmy the Great - This talented performer from London via Hong Kong says she really likes DC and has backed it up with several fine performances in recent years. I saw her just this past February and enjoyed the set. This time around it was an opening gig, so it was handled solo. While I missed the trio, Emmy's music is stark with plenty of space for vocals to occupy beyond any instrumentation. She used both synth/keyboards and lightly spacey electric guitar strumming to create the atmosphere for her songs. She even included the first song she ever wrote, which had some laughs at the audacious in your face lyrical quality. She is a likable performer and a fine stylist and DC clearly likes her back.
Beth Orton - Completing the London show tonight is Beth Orton, a folktronica sort of artist that has done extremely well in Europe and commands a reasonably strong presence here in the US as well. Although not a huge crowd tonight, it is packed up front with some serious fans. Orton has two musicians that play a combination of drums, bass, and keyboards. She starts on electronic sounds and the first few songs are decent, but stray more to a mysterious pop rock sound. Her vocals are always compelling, so it is effective, but not drawing me in as much as her recent excellent album. Then she strapped on an acoustic guitar and the set became more magical. The folk element was there and the band assisted in going a bit folktronica here, a bit psychedelic there, or offering a steady folk rock foundation for Orton's dynamic lyrics and voice. She even played solo as well, so there was a lot of variety in this set. I can't complain about that, even if I have my favorite songs and styles. It was nice to finally catch a set from this talented artist.

Photo Grab of the Night: Since this is an English show, here's a photo of what an Oxfam Charity Donation Center did with the overrun of donated copies of 'Fifty Shades of Grey'.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Gang of Youths - StereoRiots -- DC9 - Jun 10 2016

StereoRiots - OK, first off, I don't need to be asked to make some noise or show some excitement twice before I have heard a note. Nor do I need two band members ask me how I am doing before I have heard a note. Finally when the music actually starts, things are better. Although not a dazzling display, the rhythm section is solid, the guitar occasionally interesting, and the keyboards offer a rich thickening agent in the sound. The vocals are a bit passive and lost in the mix, but it is a decent enough rock sound. This is a likable enough set, although I think more character needs to be developed in the songs and overall presentation. The potential is there.
photo: Jordan Munns (Knitting Factory show)

Gang of Youths - This Australian quintet has quite a personal history with members backgrounds and citizenship including America, Fiji, Samoa, and New Zealand. No matter what their cultural influences say about themselves, they all clearly bond and lock in to rock music. They start with a quiet vocal/guitar rustic song that morphs into a full fledged monster when the band kicks in. Whoa, step out of the way as these guys are tearing it up. They feature one to three guitars, keyboards and a powerhouse rhythm section that doesn't just lay down a foundation, but tears off at full speed and demands everyone keep up. They do, as these guys play some of the most blistering music I have heard since Lee Bains or even Radio Birdman. The stage patter came later, well after the crowd made a lot of noise and moved forward. But this was not all power and speed, the songs were really good, sounding like something you may have heard before, but with loads of twists--the break in the third song was a cacophonous moment of brilliance. The singer came out and interacted with the receptive crowd, including me even, and this proved again that an early show can be every bit as brilliant as the late-night shows. I was a bit jealous that a friend of mine in Tasmania got to see Radio Birdman recently, but not now, as the continent was kind enough to grant us this treat. Hopefully this band will return and with the word of mouth that will spread after performances like this, there should be quite the crowd next time around.

Quote of the Night: Gang of Youth's singer explaining how he was enjoying DC and many of the cities he was visiting in the USA except...

"Nashville - what a bunch of sanctimonious assholes.... That shithole was my place of residence for one year."

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Yumi Zouma - Color Palette -- DC9 - Jun 8 2016

by John Miller

Color Palette - It is uncommonly quiet tonight. While we all wait for technical support to solve issues that delay the beginning of the show, the whispers of the PA, barely there, keep us company. From what I remember Color Palette had more members than the three that show up tonight. My recall can be less than reliable though. From what I remember the last time they played DC9, they were putting the finishing touches on their newest effort. In the three months that have passed, that album, Vaporwave, has been completed. To be honest, I'm not too sure much as changed since I last saw them live. Though my first impression is that Color Palette are significantly more confident than previous, much of what David and I observed from earlier shows holds true; warm, familiar, etc. And those feelings are particularly apt considering the name of their newest release. There is an unmistakable sense of nostalgia

Yumi Zouma - It’s no surprise that members of Yumi Zouma are playing as if they were part of four separate ensembles. Supporting their debut album, Yoncalla, Yumi Zouma are known as much for their music as the distance that has separated them. Finding themselves collaborating over email, they have been able to remain uniquely individual. I've seen several of these international bands come through Washington recently, usually catching them early on their respective tours to bear witness to many pieces being played for the first time live. Tonight, Yumi Zouma doesn't disappoint as they premiere a couple of songs off their new album. The crowd is more than receptive; they have grown considerably. This genre, the neo-dance, vaporwave is confounding to say the least. I would be remiss not to mention that a lot of these bands wouldn’t have been of age when the music they are so obviously influenced by was popular. It’s curious that when they do lean on musically nostalgic elements, there doesn’t appear to be any physical connection. I wonder why that is? Conversely, why are we as an audience so receptive? Usually we find ourselves making comparisons as a whole but as they began to play, I noticed the individuals as opposed to the whole. The guitars reminded me of Chris Stein from Blonde, the bass was reserved yet funky, the vocals have hints of neo-dance group Electric Youth, and the keys, Phoenix. It's quite interesting and something that I don't find myself noticing too often. The results are actually quite similar to Color Palette before them; warm and familiar, leaning on the past to connect with the audience.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Nada Surf - Big Thief - Bird of Youth -- 9:30 Club - Jun 1 2016

Bird of Youth - Quirky pop rock and jangly flowing rock bob and weave with each other to find their space for this Brooklyn quintet. The band features dedicated female vocals atop a couple guitars and a rhythm section. So nothing terribly fancy here, just steady solid rock music, cleanly delivered a bit tough at times, but mostly in a warm friendly manner. And thus, they went over well with the incoming crowd. The songs vary in quality as I heard on their album that I reviewed last week. And again, their song 'Dad' (or was it 'Dad 2') was a powerhouse.

Big Thief - Sandwiched in between two more predictable and quality drenched bands, comes this intriguing quartet. Also featuring female vocals, although with guitar for most songs in keeping with the two guitar sound we would have all night tonight. Yet, the range of sound was wildly varied here. The band started with three of them watching the singer open with a quiet solo effort of voice and guitar. After that oddly quiet beginning, the band kicked in a rolling rhythm to get things moving. The second guitar was finally brought in and added some unique counterpoints. The songs went quite esoteric in an experimental pop sort of way. They could rock as well, but still threw change-ups with the male guitarist doing a brief a capella cut and then finally fading out with a similar song to the opener. Different, but mostly quite exciting and daring and it all made a lasting impression between these ears.
Nada Surf - This veteran quartet is still led by Matthew Caws on lead vocals and guitar with plenty of vocal help from long time drummer Ira Elliott and secret weapon, guitarist Doug Gillard. I have long been a fan of the ex-GBV and Death of Samantha musician and he fits in well here, with Nada Surf's strong and smooth power-pop/indie rock hybrid. The songs feature equal parts Byrds, Raspberries, and Hüsker Dü. And these are excellent songs rich in hooks and power, that can stand with the best of those bands. It is all warmly delivered, but with plenty of strength and conviction underneath. They introduced a touring bass player if I heard correctly and he locked right into this fine band. File this show under that ever increasing list of bands that I really should have seen long ago. But better late than never, as they still have all it takes to put on a great rock set.

Quote of the Night: From Mr. Caws - "I was going to make a joke about wanting to tour with the best 'B' bands. The Beatles, Byrds, Beach Boys, and Bad Brains weren't available, so we settled for the fifth and sixth best. Well, I guess I made that joke."

Good choices, but how about... Bad Company, Brownsville Station, Black Oak Arkansas, and Boy George?  Nah. Let's try Black Sabbath, Blue Oyster Cult, Budgie, and the Buzzcocks.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

RECORD REVIEWS: MAY 2016

AMBER ARCADES “FADING LINES”
This is the moniker for Annelotte de Graaf, a Dutch singer/musician with a sweet ethereal styled voice that never gets too goth and instead veers toward dream pop. Yet she still has a bit of grounding, although the strong instrumental prowess of the band has a heavy hand in that. Beats and bass are big, bold and sharp with a bit more shimmer and dreaminess coming from the guitars. There is nothing unheard here, just a bit of extra divergence among the instruments with a band that can keep it all cohesive and effective throughout. This is a steady and high quality album.

Songs to start with first:

Fading Lines - Fine pop moves and strong contrasts within instruments that meld together well.

Right Now - Great popsike moves with some sharp undercurrents.

Turning Light - Lighter touch with crisp snare work and ultra-warm vocal.

JULIANNA BARWICK “WILL”
Instantly, this reminds me a lot of Fursaxa with the intense yet delicate vocal work. However, each song adds something to the vocal style, whether it is piano, electronic sounds, or some combination, this album builds on the slightest of inclines. This is certainly not for all tastes, as it is stark, dreamy, droning steadiness, but it worked perfectly for me. This type of album is never one you reach for in a passion and marvel at the songwriting, but wait for the mood to be right and let it work its magic, while your mind drifts to your own comfortable thoughts.

Be sure to come see this music live at a perfect venue for her, the 6th and I Synagogue on Wednesday, June 15th.

Songs to start with first:

St. Apollonia - The opener begins with a stark ethereal landscape of looped voices.

Beached - Prominent piano and oh so delicate vocals in the background.

Heading Home - Late on, you sense that she is indeed heading home.

BENT KNEE “SAY SO”
I knew I would be sorry I missed Bent Knee when they played the Songbyrd the other week. But I had another commitment and now after hearing this album, I am even more curious at how these songs would be played live. For on record, the sound is bold and varied with all kinds of instrumentation weaving in and out at wildly divergent volume levels. Courtney Swain’s lead vocals are operatic lounge, were there such a classification. And between her and her bandmates, if it doesn’t exist, they invent it. The experimental components are intriguing enough that even the Zappa-Beefheart brigade will take to this. Yet the melodic sense is generally far clearer than those two and is quite amazing how it all comes together. The dynamic range that you get right on the opening song is as varied as anything I’ve heard. Rarely has quiet to loud worked so well. This hits all the right buttons for me and will for any adventurous listener.

Songs to start with first:

Counselor - Startling guitars and violins work off quieter sounds and intense vocals.

Eve - Nine minutes of surprise.

Good Girl - An intriguing nearly psychedelic folk experience.

BIRD OF YOUTH “GET OFF”
This is a good folk rock album of sorts. It is more steeped in pop culture than Americana or classic British style, and there is a heavy Byrdsian jangle which contrasts nicely to the prominent acoustic guitar rhythm. The female vocals are laid back, but with emotion and not so detached as they may initially sound. The beats are steady and the songs are varied enough. This does not always dazzle, but has a steady quality throughout and a few highlight songs to zone in on.

And don’t delay, they open the Nada Surf show tomorrow night, June 1st, at the 9:30 Club. It will be fun.

Songs to start with first:

Dad - No doubt that is Roger McGuinn III playing a jangly 12-string Rickenbacker on this catchy cut.

Burn - A good rock song that pushes it a bit, not quite Deep Purple, but hey the motive is different.

Dad 2 - Short follow-up later in album, yes this is a fine song (or try River Monster the closer, if you want a different song).

BLACK MOUNTAIN “IV”
It’s been a while since “III” and I was hoping “IV” sounded a little more inventive than the last “IV” I bought from Mahogany Rush, while in high school (actually a serviceable LP). This has all the components you expect in a Black Mountain LP:  a finely honed psychedelic vibe delivered through quivering vocals; big distorted guitar parts; interesting drums; droning bass; and quirky synthesizer bits. There is the usual variety of long droning songs, shorter made for radio songs (almost, anyway), quieter acoustic moments, and other varieties of texture and volume. The main problem I have had on past albums is that there are song clusters where they sound like the best band in the world and others where they sound ‘meh’. I know most albums have this quality, but their divergence was more than most. This time around, they seem a whole lot steadier and while I stay am waiting for that knock’em dead classic, this will do nicely ’til then.

And be sure to join me at the Black Cat on Saturday, June 25th, for the Black Mountain live experienc.

Songs to start with first:

Florian Saucer Attack - More punk style oddly enough, reminiscent of Penetration or Flying Saucer Attack (of course)

You Can Dream - Classic Black Mountain mid-tempo psyche rocker with cool vocals, heavy guitar, and bubbly synth.

Line Them All Up - A lovely little pop psyche-folk cut, similar to a solo project from the guitarist a few years back.

FIONA BRICE “POSTCARDS FROM”
Fiona Brice offers ten postcards from cities around the world. Lots of great places I have been such as Paris, Antwerp, and Dallas (well good anyway). Plenty of other exotic locales are explored, but when there is Denton in addition to Dallas, I think she has a bit too much Texas especially as she is from Northampton, England. Regardless, Fiona Brice is a fine violinist and has worked up arrangements from a highly diverse group of acts from Kanye West to Boy George. The works here have a strong ambient quality to them, although their striking arrangements make me think of a bold soundtrack. And this is the soundtrack to a travelogue around the world with varied tones and imagery in each of these ten songs. I don’t really have any favorites and would just rather play this beginning to end, while deep in contemplation.

BRODKA “CLASHES”
Polish chanteuse Monika Brodka has fashioned an exceptionally powerful album, full of mystery and suspense lurking around each eerie keyboard line and guitar strike. Her vocals will pull you in with an attractive lilt that can twist into a quietly intense burst of emotion. And just when you partially figure out this surreal dreamscape she has envisioned, she tosses in a fairly straight pop song and then some strange punk rock cut from Venus. Even the brass additions sound alien. This is profound and great. I list three songs, but get the whole album as this is a creative journey that anyone reading this far into a list of album reviews will want to take.

Songs to start with first:

Mirror Mirror - This is an extremely mysterious opener that has me riveted for what I am in for.

Funeral - This is in a dreamworld, not sounding like dreampop, but in a surreal musical valley that few have ventured to.

My Name is Youth - Where did this avant garde punk rock song come from?

THOMAS COHEN “BLOOM FOREVER”
Cohen has a style that veers toward lounge, but there is such an eerie intensity to it, there is not really a simple way to describe his songs. There is an overall easy going quality with some strong sounds underneath. His vocals are relaxed at times but stretch into a slight quivering intensity and are a challenge to get a handle on. But it is a fun challenge, at least in the early songs. Eventually things settle down, even with an edge occasionally present. Often albums rise in drama, but this one evolves into a more relaxed state of falling tension, that is until the grand finish of ‘Mother Mary’. It is an interesting approach and I appreciate the creative effort and unique tracking.

Songs to start with first:

Honeymoon - The opener mystified me and I wasn’t sure if I connected, but I could not turn away my ear.

Bloom Forever - The title cut offers much of the opening song qualities but starts making sense of it all.

Only Us - A moody piece with deep vocals and lovely piano.

FEWS “MEANS”
I am rather surprised I still rather enjoy music like this—lively soft pop music with a muscular rhythm section. It is all nice and catchy and I thought I was well beyond this. But no, this UK band hits a few buttons that remind me of how I enjoyed the early Cure albums. The guitar work is brisk and busy and surprisingly rocking even as the vocals and overall song structure goes into straight popland. Not bad at all, and quite good if you really and truly like this. And extra credit is given for having a song called ‘Zlatan’.

Songs to start with first:

I D - Electronica beat morphs into a scrumptious melody.

The Zoo - Vocals kick in (to stay) on song two and brighten the music into a soft but gutsy pop approach.

If Things go on like This - Nice rock moves within this catchy number.

GIRLS ON GRASS “GIRLS ON GRASS”
If you lean toward country, but don’t want to lose that rock’n’roll vibe, you may want to give Girls on Grass a listen. They have all the component parts of country music in their song and in the vocals. Yet the electric guitars are quite bold with a fine jangly quality throughout and some recognizable rock’n’roll moves spicing up the proceedings. This band pulls me in to their songs more than I expected. I suspect a combination of the rock moves and the deep feeling they have for their songs is what does the trick. This would be interesting to see on stage.

Songs to start with first:

Too Pretty - Country rock with plenty of Americana jangle on a classic rock’n’roll riff.

Drowning in Ego - A fine rumble and lots of snare hits highlight this nimble cut.

Pissin Down a Road - Tough bluesy rocker down at a walking pace. They can grind it out.

PETRA HADEN “IMAGINARYLAND”

These are reissues  from the fine experimental violinist, Petra Haden. One of triplets (that have performed together), she has had a long and varied career working with the Foo Fighters, Mike Watt, and many more along with releasing solo records or collaborations with Bill Frisell and Woody Jackson.
“Imaginaryland” was her first LP in 1996 and features thirteen songs of mostly looped vocals. There is violin at various points and it is all quite engaging. There is more experimentation in the arrangement than the composition, as the songs all have strong melodic character. The presentation is intriguing and successful in sounding unique, but comfortable. That is not to say there is no wild experimentation as ‘Song for the Whales’ has some unique slide violin sounds.
“Petra Haden Sings: The Who Sell Out” is from 2005 and is a faithful interpretation of the album. That is faithful in that it is complete and recognizable in the vocals. The instrumentation is composed of voice orchestration, in fact this is 100% vocals as this album title is literally correct. I would be interesting in the quantity of voices in some of these songs as percussion, basslines, guitar melodies, and vocal harmonies are all covered. This is a lot of fun, although I am not sure how much I will want to revisit this (true of most remake projects, even as audacious and unique as this). Although the faithful lead vocals make this more likely.

HOODED FANG “VENUS ON EDGE”
By Kyle Schmitt
This Toronto-based four-piece band sounds uptight and unsettled even at their most melodic. D. Alex Meeks’ drumming gives these songs an unrelenting feel (as on the bludgeoning “Dead Battery”), while vocalist Daniel Lee sounds as if he’s rushing both toward and away from something malevolent when breathlessly promising, “I’ll see you to the other side.” Any atmospheric moments are soon preempted by announcements like, “They’re calling your name, but you have no face” on “Plastic Love”. Hooded Fang sounds its best when their music gets a chance to breathe. April Aliermo’s bass provides a welcome counterpart to the group’s normally full-blast sound on “Miscast” and “Vacant Light”, which builds off a commanding rhythm-section arrangement. These tunes, along with “Glass Shadows”, showcase a band that makes you want to dance amidst the cacophony.

Songs to start with first:

Shallow - Almost trance-link despite the intense drumming and shrieking ghost harmonics.

Plastic Love - Spooky treble and Aliermo’s jumping bass line drive this song.

Glass Shadows - All the band’s best elements coalesce during the synth-heavy intro and a terrific staccato bridge.

KIKAGAKU MOYO “HOUSE IN THE TALL GRASS”
This is a lovely psychedelic record that reminds me a bit of the Jacks, or at least what they would be doing now if they were still around. There are short snippets and stretched out songs that all feed from the same psychedelic trough at an easy going pace. Yet there are dynamics and freak out fuzz guitar excursions that add a lot of excitement to the spirited mood. Fans of Kohoutek in this town, along with fans of anything psychedelice, krautrock, or psyche-folk should give this a listen. It is a long term keeper in this household.

Songs to start with first:

Kogarahi - Absolutely addictive hook on this lovely popsike cut.

Silver Owl -  I initially thought this ten minute song might be too gentle, but then came the fuzz.

Trad - Anything but ‘trad’, unless it is psychedelic trad krautrock. Yeah, there is no such thing until now.

RUSSELL MORGAN “BEGIN SIMPLE”
It is hard not to be impressed with the deep resonant voice of UK folk singer songwriter, Russell Morgan. He has the depth and resonance of Mick Softley with the breathiness of Nick Drake. There are lovely acoustic guitar passages, but some are accompanied by a piano and others are washed out in some dreamy keyboard background. There is some percussion and bass notes at times, but everything is subtle and serves an intriguing base for the rich vocals on top. This works for me.

Songs to start with first:

You Don’t Feel - Deep strong song, sets the mood for the better upcoming cuts.

Go North with You - The violin makes a fine addition to the arrangements.

I am Alive - Rocking, a bit funky, interesting vibe at work here.

MUTUAL BENEFIT “SKIP A SINKING STONE”

This is a tricky little band that features modern sounds with a fair amount of electronica, but used in conjunction with classic instrumentation for an easy going pop folk style that somehow seems out of date, but ultimately works just fine. Pop will never go out of style and Mutual Benefit has their own style that reeks of class and precision. Yet there is nothing pompous or overbearing, so this should succeed with any thoughtful music fans and for those that like rich fulfilling melodic music. And they vary it up quite a bit as they also add some even more romantic folk moves as the album moves onward, on its steady journey.

Songs to start with first:

Skipping Stones - Deep thoughtful pop music with shimmering waters in between the vocals.

Getting Gone - A swaying hammock of a song. Just lay back and take it in.

Nocturne - More mysterious and flowing than hook oriented. A nice break half way through.

BETH ORTON “KIDSTICKS”
Beth Orton came on my radar when she recorded and played with the late bert Jansch many years back. While Orton is not a pure folkie, neither was Jansch when you explore his full catalog. They worked well together and Orton went on to make a big name for herself, especially in Europe. She is teeming with creativity on this record as it does not fit comfortably into any one style. At times it is quite experimental, while other times fits comfortably into a folk, lounge pop, or light indie rock vibe. It is not quite as intense as Kate Bush, but it has that audacious originality within. Even when experimental, there is a comfortable engaging quality that allows this to be easily absorbed, if not fully understood on first listen. So basically, smart music fans should be giving Beth Orton full attention and this album has many wonderful songs to indulge in.

Join me on Saturday, June 11th, when Ms. Orton along with Emmy the Great come to the U Street Music Hall in what no doubt will be a superb show.

Songs to start with first:

Snow - Heavy rhythms and interesting vocal meter will grab you right from the opening.

Petals - Haunting chorus and dazzling arrangment.

Dawnstar - Deep moody piece that flows into the longest cut on the LP, while holding attention firm and fast.

OXENFREE “BEACONS”
The brisk, slightly jangly guitars will quickly send you back a few years to the heights of indie rock. Yet the vocals have this unique intensity to them that give “Beacons” a lot of personality. The guitars and rhythm section are up for the challenge of taking it up a notch with some powerful breaks that will not let the listener comfortably settle in (some of it approaches shoegaze, even). And that is a positive for this style of music, especially these days. This variety is what makes this album work better than it otherwise would. I say that a lot, so more specifically it is the making of smart instrumental choices and crafty songwriting with twists and turns that is key to having someone who listens to a thousand new albums a year pay more than passing attention to you. And Oxenfree gets my attention.

Songs to start with first:

Fine Dining - A good opener establishes their sound.

Lucky - I like the powerful opening and then the pullback—keeps the intrigue working.

Everybody Knows - Female vocal turn is a good contrast as things were starting to get too vocally settled—cool arrangement, too.

PALE DIAN “NARROW BIRTH”
This is a mix of spritely elecropop as well as dreamier light shoegaze rock. There are plenty of electronics, but some strong guitars in some of the songs. Even with the guitar bursts and interesting noises, they still sound like they have sanded the corners a bit on their sound. But they also vary the songs just enough to make for distinct moods. Ultimately this is a good album where they make it more interesting than not, although it does not quite jump out at boldly. I think by the third listen, it will be more embedded in my head.

Songs to start with first:

Evan Evan - Gutsy guitar, still smooth and a good indicator of the musical scope early on.

Feral Bloom - They really stretch their sound in fascinating shapes on this one.

Judy Garland - Darkest song on the LP as they start varying tones and textures nicely.

THE POP GROUP “THE BOYS WHOSE HEAD EXPLODED”
The Pop Group has returned with a vengeance, but of course they started with a vengeance and had several decades in between where they probably lived with a vengeance. Their recent shows excited their many fans on both sides of the Atlantic and now they offer up this slab of archival live material. It is all from 1980 at several venues in Europe with much of it coming from a show in Köln. The Pop Group was always a bit beyond post punk for me. To oversimplify, they took George Clinton and Captain Beefheart moves and brought them to a punk scene, which was about the only scene at the time that could handle their intense style. The recordings here are well enough to show some of the excitement, but still can’t quite do justice to how crazed this must have been that night. But Pop Group fans should want to grab this fascinating document of what these guys did live. And of course all the classics are here like ‘We are all Prostitutes’ and ‘Feed the Hungry’. This is a strong slice of punk rock history.

PURE PHASE ENSEMBLE “4 LIVE at SPACEFEST!”
These UK psychedelic jammers kind of start slowly here on this live album with carefully layered psychedelic landscapes. It is almost too careful until ‘Notatki’ kicks in with Germanic moves and a 15 minute build to a rousing climax. Then ’Zostan na Noc’ carries the intensity right away with a throaty bass upfront and sax and guitar battling in the background as the drums march them all onward. There are some almost normal songs as the record goes on, but ultimately this is a spacey continuous sonic adventure that works well. The band features Ride’s Mark Gardener and has created an accessible, but still challenging brand of space rock.

PURO INSTINCT “AUTODRAMA”
Let’s see… Electronica set to pop? Check. Female Vocals? Check. Electro drums beats? Check. It is all here. It is all bright and likable. There were moments that stood out, maybe the vocals on ‘Tell Me’ at different points, but it all blends in to a pleasant backdrop. That is fine and well, but it just is not something that I see the need to ever go back to, especially when there will be dozens more like this coming out soon enough.

SHOWPONY “ARROW SMITH”
I have enjoyed this local trio many times over the years, so it is nice to get a listen to their new full length LP. It is still the same instrumental trio format that has worked so well in the past. The recordings have the luxury of overdubs, although they keep that restrained enough to where you can sense the live show feeling. They have a busy modern post rock sensibility, but they also have moves reminiscent from the days of classic progressive rock with fine melodic runs with lots of guitar notes, contrasting bass runs, and creative rhythms. The epic song suite ‘Trip to Florida’ split into four parts on Side B. It is a lot of drama to it and instrumentally manages to convey a story. Be sure to catch these guys live as well as they always manage to deliver an entertaining set. And this will be something that you can easily put on for a great listening experience. Just don’t try to multitask as it will command your attention.

SPOOKYLAND “BEAUTY ALREADY BEAUTIFUL”
I can point to many subtle rock bands that I enjoy immensely, but if push comes to shove, I would go for a big bold rock band first. Spookyland is all of that with powerful drums and bass laying down the foundation for great slashing post punk guitars that sound like they are twisting razor wire around your limbs. The vocals have a strange quality to them that may not work for all as there is a cornball vibrato slightly inherent in the high pitched approach. I think they offer a good personality to it all, but others may disagree. They definitely work on the stronger rock songs as opposed to the few that are moodier. There are some shifts with piano led songs or even a moody shoegaze number, but the rockers are the majority and it is a better album for that.

Songs to start with first:

Nowhereland - The second cut has bold slashing guitar and a laconic yet intense vocal line that weave around each other well.

Big Head - Another strong melody with big bold moves from all players.

Prophet - They engage a certain epic surreality here.

SULFUR CITY “TALKING LOUD”
I hope I am not becoming too lazy in my reviews (sometimes guilty when deadlines are near), but every now and then I let the artists’ or their webmaster’s descriptions of their style suffice. Of course, I only use that if I like it and agree with it and this time out, the slight puzzled feeling I had after three times was relaxed when I read Sulfur City’s description of themselves as “Grunge Gospel Blues Stomp Dance Scream”. Although I also detect some soul and rap in their as well. Good effort here—a lot of fun rock sounds to digest.

Songs to start with first:

Whispers - The opener is a rousing, bluesy rocker that sounds ever so familiar… hmmmm.

Pockets - Some bold moves in this one, marrying styles from many different decades.

One Day in June - Slower blues rock, but really heavy underneath.

THAYLOBLEU “OSCARS & JELLYFISH”
I have really enjoyed this DC band from their early days to their present position of being a fine regular gigging rock band. They feature some fine players as they can infuse R&B into their set that fits comfortably with their more ferocious rockers. This album is a fine representation of what they are all about. The component parts that I have heard many times on stage are all here: strong beat; nimble five string bass runs; ferocious guitars; and flexible vocals that can handle the rockers and the groovier cuts. I always recommend these guys when I can, so why not jump on board now, as they are starting to make some waves around here and maybe beyond.

And be sure to catch the album release show at the Velvet Lounge on Thursday, June 16th.

Songs to start with first:

Locked - Strong gutsy performance showing exactly how these guys rock.

Bones of Contention - Sharp songwriting with excellent arrangements and sonic shifts. Can stand with anyone.

Welcome to Anacostia - Fiery closer has pace and power and a great guitar solo.

TWIN PEAKS “DOWN IN HEAVEN”
Twin Peaks are maturing in a direction that I can’t quite figure out and it is not terribly close to where I would have guessed. Well, it is still catchy pop music and that is close to the power pop sounds they espoused when they were not quite old enough to drink. But now instead of going heavier or more psychedelic, they have embraced a more pop music approach. It is still strong and there is less of that stoner element, which I think works better as you move on (unless you embrace it in a deep psychedelic way). There are even some rootsy folk moves and what I would call psyche-gospel sounds on ‘Stain’. This album will take more than one listen to fully embrace it, but you can tell that it has the elements there to be something that can be enjoyed many times over many years. It is ultimately exciting to see a young band challenge themselves and us with this expansive writing, but I still prefer the live set.

Songs to start with first:

Wanted You - Good pop song with just a touch of psyche and nice bite to it.

Butterfly - Some of that good garage rock with lots of pop include bah-buh-bop-bahhhh’s.

Getting Better - The rollicking piano is a real surprise.

VARIOUS “TRIBUTE TO PET SOUNDS”
The Reverberation Appreciation Society presents this tribute, so you can kind of guess what the various bands may sound like. And with the Black Angels opening with ‘Good Vibrations’, you probably know exactly the direction this will take. They do a fine job with this classic (and the only song from that era that I truly think is a classic). There are a number of bands I don’t know (as is always the case with these) and others I know of like Holy Wave, but the best thing about this album is that all the bands follow the psychedelic reverb drenched theme and still play recognizable versions of the songs. It is also a good mix of heavier psyche and popsike, with some of the inherent pop in every song here (nothing unrecognizably reworked). This release was to coincide with the Austin festival, but bad weather forced a total shutdown. So this is all that remains for 2016. It may be blasphemy as i am not a fan of this all-time great album, but I would pop the tribute on for spin well before considering the original.

PETER WOLF “A CURE FOR LONELINESS”
The J. Geils Band was a moderate success in the seventies when I was young. I thought they were not bad, but never excited me a whole lot. I always found it odd it had the name of the band leader who was a rather nondescript guitarist. Thinking now, perhaps this was a band that really had no stand-out players and just laid down a funky, fun rock-soul beat. And they left room for perhaps their best (and most famous) player, Peter Wolf, to sing his heart out. Wolf had a decent solo career, but I have not detected him on my radar for a long, long time, until now. His solo LP is a fine effort that still has his excellent expressive vocal tones, surprisingly intact. He sounds great and interestingly enough has shifted styles somewhat to a more Americana approach with a bit of Appalachian folk and country rock. It is an extremely smart move and works here on both the studio cuts and live songs that are intermingled. For the Geils fans, their is a version of ‘Love Stinks’ but it is played in an uptempo bluegrass style. There are some cuts that are more soulful as it is a nice mix that still fits together well. This is a fine record and a document to show his voice is alive and well and still worth hearing.

And hear it you can, if you hurry on out to the Birchmere on Wednesday, June 1st.

Songs to start with first:

Rolling On - The opener sets the tone of the well known voice as Wolf takes it in a strong folkish sound.

How Do You Know - This has that snappy, funky blues style of Wolf’s old band.

It’s Raining - Just a well written song, with heart and soul on full display

YUMI ZOUMA “YONCALLA”
Delicate electropop is not really my thing, but this is awfully cute. The country of origin is Sweden, but this sounds about as universal as anything. There is a coolness to the music, but a warmth in the vocals, which is probably as good of a hint of Sweden that is possible here. The songs are nice, but don’t stand out enough that I prefer one over another. Instead, it makes a nice listening experience if you enjoy modern electronic pop music. Again, not my particular area or expertise or enjoyment, but I am actually liking this enough to think it is better than many more of these I review (and those I won’t even bother to listen to).

And you can hear all of this live at the DC9, on Wednesday, June 8th.

Monday, May 30, 2016

PREVIEWS of COMING ATTRACTIONS - Early June 2016

The rain has cleansed the city (ha ha) and we need not of arks to survive, but clubs to hide away in and to take in two (or three) of every band in the world. Here are but a few choices:

Nada Surf headlines an excellent show with Big Thief and Bird of Youth at the 9:30 Club, this Wednesday, June 1st.



And if you would rather go old school, see the excellent Peter Wolf (former J.Geils band vocalist) at the Birchmere also this Wednesday.


Braids weaves their magic at the Comet Ping Pong on Thursday, the 2nd.


The Washington Jewish Music Festival is always fun and kicks off on Friday June 3rd, running all the way to June 15th. See the full schedule here.


Kaytranada comes to the 9:30 Club on Friday the 3rd.


The Slambovian Circus of Dreams pitches tent at Jammin Java on Sunday, June 5th.
The Slambovian Circus of Dreams-Promo 2015 from Slambovian Broadcasting on Vimeo.

The always popular Waxahatchee returns to DC to the Black Cat on Monday the 6th.


Bayonne bounds into the Black Cat on Tuesday the 7th.


King Khan konquers the kountry by storming the Black Cat on Thursday, June 9th.


Beth Orton with Emmy the Great offer an oustanding show at the U Street Music Hall on Saturday, June 11th. Or try Casket Girls at Songbyrd or Eagulls at Rock'n'Roll Hotel. This is one of those nights where I want to have clones.




And Juliana Barwick brings her fine music to the 6th + I Synagogue on Wednesday, June 15th.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Kill Lincoln - Caustic Casanova - Psychic Subcreatures -- Black Cat - May 27 2016

Psychic Subcreatures - A local quartet starts us off tonight in the big room of the Black Cat with a decent enough crowd that is pushed forward, which is a good sign that there is some enthusiasm in the air. We have drums, guitar, female vocals, and a synthesizer player on stage. Yes, he handles the bass sounds and more frequently than the occasional classic synth quirkiness. The opener reminds me of 50-Foot Hose as just about any synth-mysterious female vocal song will do. But they move into more garage punk territory with a bit of that surf-reverb sound working in, such as in many LA bands. The vocals are solid, not over the top, and come somewhat in between Alice Bag and Niagara (Destroy all Monsters). There are some catchy moments in here along with plenty of power. When they nail a particularly good song, they really show off a strong ability to attract a lot of rock fans who seek both intensity and flair. Nice set, well received.

Caustic Casanova - My favorite homegrown trio is back and I am seeing them for the first time in a long, long while. Although I have missed them, it does offer an opportunity to take a more fresh view without the memories of recent reviews in my ever evaporating short term memory. All the signature moves are there: Stephanie's accurate powerhouse drumming along with increasing vocal help; Francis' vocal intensity and throbbing bass runs; and Andrew's sonic assault guitar style that keeps it psychedelic in sound but metallically powerful throughout. The one thing that strikes me is that all the touring has paid off with an even more together and confident band that has the great noisy style that Hüsker Dü used to employ by keeping transitional noise going between songs that never allowed you to catch your breath. And the songs are distinct enough to have their own character, although tonight it was more about the overall effect. As usual they had my mind wandering around to all kinds of great music from different scenes and eras as their opening riff took me back to Ted Nugent's 'Stranglehold' (?!) and their closing freak-out reminded me of the MC5 cutting into 'Black to Comm' but not quite hitting the Paik finish (which is possibly one of the best all-time). And based on the big ovation at the end, the sonic effect of the entire powerfully constructed set worked on all the enthusiastic rockers in attendance. They are off to explore the country further this summer, so if they head to your town, do yourself a favor and check them out.
Kill Lincoln - And the local showcase of strong talented band continues with a power trio that makes room for a brass trio downstage center. The guitar and bass player handle the vocals and along with the drummer cook up a loud raucous dance punk musical blend. Of course you can toss them into ska punk with this kind of lineup, but it was even more straight up rock than many of those bands. The two trombones and one saxophone were up to the pace and power of the rock band and everything came together for some great hard edged dance tunes that the people up close to the stage were taking advantage of. Even us older, cooler heads in the back were enjoying this all. I did not stick around for the full set, due to a late night plan tonight, but I highly doubt any of the energy faded throughout their set. I just didn't get to see if the one on-stage dancer/jumper did anything more than that guy for Madness did in the early days.

Facebook Grab of the Night: Happy 40th anniversary to the Damned one of my favorite and still undersung bands of all-time (and check out this great BBC Radio6 documentary). Their recent shows have gone well, but still allowed time for long-time Crystal Palace supporter Captain Sensible to take in that tough loss to ManU at Wembley with UK Subs bassist, Alvin Gibbs.


Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Albino Rhino - Automagik - Ménage À Garage -- Velvet Lounge - May 24 2016

Ménage À Garage - This local trois-piece band backs up its clever name with some fine ripping music that sounds straight from the garage. Although the 'garage' has changed over the decades, this group seems to favor the 70s-80s garage punk sound with a trace of power pop in the mix. The songs are good and occasionally show some real flair. They also develop a deep growl in their sound, which is quite effective for the material. Although tight, the one flaw I see or felt was that the music did not quite congeal as much as I would have liked. But that is common when it is early days for a band. It rarely happens immediately and the core sounds and songs are a great basis for this trio to continue to grow and be a fun rock band to have about town.

Automagik - From one of my old stomping grounds (Cincinnati) comes this trio that should be a quartet were it not for an injury to their lead guitarist. Fortunately their lead vocalist's guitar work is good and shows enough flair to keep a set going. The opening song confused me a bit, but then their songs found a groove that brought out an older sort of glam rock infused with occasional funky blasts. I will still have to grade this incomplete rather than try to pick apart weaker moments, but if their guitarist is named Johnny Thunders, Jr., this could be an act worth checking out again for a full review.
Albino Rhino - We finish with a four-piece that adds keyboards to the classic rock trio and a couple of the guys trade the vocal parts. But these guys bring the funk in that Isaac Hayes manner. The wah-wah was so prominent in their brisk opener, I thought I would be dreaming of it all night (turns out I slept better than usual). Wild Cherry came to mind as well as this took me back to my younger days when this was more prevalent. They had some twists in different songs and almost went progressive--further adventures there could be fun. But this is the kind of music I would want to see people dance to, well played and energetic and not that monotonous beat. It is hard to believe I miss this style as much as I do, since I certainly did not in 1975, but these guys work the style proudly and effectively.

Quote of the Night - Overheard behind me after a cut from the opener.. "I love that song--it takes me back to 2000"  ...or for me, it takes me back to my glory middle age days, that I wax nostalgically for, so often.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Twin Peaks - Ne-Hi - Jimmy Whispers -- Rock'n'Roll Hotel - May 19 2016

Jimmy Whispers - The last time I saw Twin Peaks in DC, they brought another Chicago act to open called the Lemons. They were silly fun and it was a good choice. This time around we have a solo artist who isn't nearly as funny or as musical as the Lemons. Whispers just plays backing tracks that I would imagine are a mix of home-made items along with whole songs like Louis Armstrong's 'What a Wonderful World'. I really didn't write any notes as nothing really went on. The young crowd up front was far more accommodating than the more usual cynical crowd would have been, so this happened without incident. Oddly enough, I did not recall last night how much I disliked his last album when I reviewed it here last March. I really did not need that reminder.

Ne-Hi - And another Chicago act is here on this tour and we fared a bit better this time. These guys are sound enough and feature the usual twin guitar quartet rock approach. There is nothing lo-fi about Ne-Hi. They integrate thoughtful runs by all four players in a way that connects well enough and offer a lot to hone in on. They almost remind me of Savage Republic if they had taken a pop approach. At least that comes to mind on the more rocking songs with pace, where they are at their best. This almost goes post-rock, but manages to keep a pop sensibility in there, so it rests somewhat comfortably in between worlds. Not bad at all.
Twin Peaks - This is the third time I have seen this young Chicago band. They have added keyboards to the twin guitar attack since the first time I saw them, which fills out their raucous sound just a wee bit more. It also adds another vocalist as all four front men join in on several choruses and there are a few different lead singers as well. But it is the rollicking guitars and catchy songs that will grab your focus. And they still do it well with a bit more confidence and maturity now that they are a veteran road band. They hit all the right power pop and pop-punk buttons to make for a sound that will certainly attract a crowd. They did that tonight as the club was quite full and probably even better attended sense the density of young fans that crowd to the front was pretty high as opposed to the relaxed older crowds that disperse evenly throughout the club (sorry, I saw a baking show examining how to make sure a cherry cake has well dispersed fruit in the batter). Anyway, this band is solid as ever and becoming a fine reliable outfit that you can expect good things from if you want to cut loose on the evening they come to your town.

Quote of the Night: Jimmy Whispers after a failed crowd surfing moment that lasted 3/4 of a second... "You guys suck."

Funny, I was sort of thinking the same thing.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Strawbs -- AMP - May 18 2016

The Strawbs - I have seen one of my favorite bands many times in recent years as the Acoustic Strawbs where Dave Cousins, Dave Lambert, and Chas Cronk play mostly acoustic instruments in a rock fashion. But this is the first time I have seen the full 5-member electric Strawbs since 2004 (and the first time they have toured this way in the USA since 2007-8). The show I saw had the full members from the 1973-75 Strawbs, although this time the core trio are joined by long time drummer Tony Fernandez and new keyboards wiz, Dave Bainbridge (from Iona). And what a sound these guys come up with. The keyboards are magnificent with plenty of organ/mellotron type sounds that thicken the atmosphere both within the songs and as transition pieces. The drums of course push things forward and a heavier bass and an electrified Dave Lambert really make things soar. Even on acoustic guitar, Dave Lambert showed a great ability to solo and keep things rocking but now he can carry it further, yet still knows how to pull back and add lighter touch to the more delicate passages. Dave Cousins still has that incredibly resonant voice and Lambert and Cronk are there to fill in with the occasional lead vocal as well as the harmonies. The set list is heavy from that very progressive 1973-75 era with a first set having such classics as 'New World', 'Ghosts', and 'The River/Down by the Sea'.
photo: Dick Greener

After the break, they treated us with a rendition of what Rolling Stone called one of the Top 50 Progressive albums, 'Hero and Heroine' in entirety, although done 21st century style as Dave Cousins pointed out. They worked wonders with this material as it sounded fresh as ever and the pace and complexity of the title cut came through brilliantly. This finished off an excellent night where you could really obtain the full understanding of why the progressive scene was so exciting in the early seventies. Yet it is fresh as ever and extremely well played by a great band. If you think you have seen them enough as a trio, do yourself a favor and see the full band while you can.

And the sound was immaculate at my first experience at AMP, a small couple hundred or so club run by Strathmore (although a bit north of Strathmore auditorium and mansion). It is a comfortable venue that is booking well and they certainly had the PA to let a rock band shine.

Quote of the Night: Dave Cousins - "People don't understand what I'm doing, but I do." Well, not exactly the quote of tonight, but one he gave me in 2012 when during an interview which I enjoyed immensely. Read it here, much of it is still relevant.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Adia Victoria - The Grey A -- DC9 - May 17 2016

The Grey A - I thought I had seen this local quartet before, but it was actually fellow writer Kyle Schmitt who took a set in at a Those Darlings show a couple months back. He covers their approach well and I found this blues rock band to be a a fine outfit that can work on many a bill. There is not a whole lot new here, but when you play it well and vary it a bit with distinct songs, you are going to do well. And their second cut had some absolute magical guitar parts embedded within, so they are capable of transcending from the many average bar bands. Definitely worth a look and the crowd dug this set well enough.
Tiny Desk Show photo: @miraehontzphoto

Adia Victoria - I was sure I had seen Adia Victoria before and I did take her set in at a Those Darlings show one year ago. But no Those Darlings tonight, just this fellow Nashville singer songwriter guitarist who is making one of my predictions come true (infrequent as that is) by rising up into headline status and drawing a big crowd on a Tuesday evening. She has an album out now, which no doubt will do well as people discover her great take on blues rock and intense songwriting. She has an air of mystery to her approach that seems gentle, but has a razor sharp intensity cutting through her quiet songs and her loud rockers. The band adds drums, bass, and guitar to her offerings and there are also keyboards, which add just the right amount of magic in the background and in the transitions to really elevate this already strong material. She could hold a room at full attention just playing solo. But all five members are locked in tonight as they control the atmosphere with Adia Victoria's vocals left to strike out and leave a lasting memory to take home. Although she has worked her magic at the DC9 a number of times, she may have to move up a club size or two the next time through.

Photo Grab of the Day: The other Lemmy dated back to 1945.