Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Preview of Upcoming Attractions - Early August, 2014

Summer will likely heat up in August as there is only one direction for the thermometer to go from where it is today. Here are some of the acts providing further fire to the month of August.

Get ready for People Get Ready, who start off the month with a bang at the DC9 on Friday, August 1st.


Lots of action in DC on Wednesday, August 6th. I may be at Gypsy Sally's for Dawn Drapes or perhaps I will take in Jesse Marchant at the DC9 or Hooray for Earth at the Black Cat. Decisions, decisions.



Tiny Ruins will fill the stage of the DC9 on Thursday, August 7th.


No coffee and cherry pie available at the Twin Peaks show at the DC9 on Sunday, August 10th, just plenty of music (and DC9s fine menu).


Akron/Family's Dana Buoy is also hitting the DC9 on Tuesday, August 12th. And for the record, the bands are the ones contacting me to cover these shows, not the DC9, although the staff there treat me very well, so I am happy to spend time in that club.


And maybe I'll try a club I haven't tried in a long time, by heading to the Blues Alley on Wednesday, August 13th to see Lisa Lim.


Monday, July 28, 2014

Saint Rich - Rusty Maples -- DC9 - Jul 27 2014

Rusty Maples - I have not seen a Las Vegas band, since I hung around there in the punk community some thirty years back. Thankfully, Rusty Maples is several cuts above that of Subterfuge in both quality and style. What I thought might be a good indie rock band turned into a great little group of rockers with fine songs and a high end style. I really focused on the rhythm section as they created a fast and rollicking environment for the lead guitarist to run around in with busy and unique patterns. The singer had a powerful voice and added acoustic guitar to steady things a bit. But not too much, as this band had a sense of danger even as the overall tone of their songs was comforting. Yet they were loud and intense as everything came together. They definitely went over well with the small Sunday night crowd tonight. This was their first time out east and if they stick to their guns, they will be back many times more with even bigger crowds who know their name.
Saint Rich - Spirit was a fabulous band that is rather forgotten about these days, although many have read about the recent lawsuit regarding Led Zeppelin's 'Stairway to Heaven'. Perhaps it is the lead guitarist's height and somewhat big hairstyle that reminds me of Randy California. But also, this band does a lot of the things a second generation Spirit might do today. Randy California was a great guitarist and the guitar work here is innovative and excellent. Both bands had a rootsy style with an understanding of exploratory pop and rock styles as well. Clearly Saint Rich is a smart bunch that can handle pop songs with a post punk approach that is more intellectual than musically showy. This was a great introduction to this music that keeps the intellectual side working, while rocking out. This was a quite a showcase of upcoming talent tonight, for those that made it out on a steamy Sunday evening.

Quote of the Night, or rather another installment on the best/worst musician on musician insults...

14. Noel Gallagher on Jack White
“He looks like Zorro on doughnuts.”

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Lee Bains III and the Glory Fires - Wanted Man -- DC9 - Jul 21 2014

Wanted Man - This local trio had a guest guitarist tonight, a certain Anthony Pirog who is quite brilliant and prolific in just about anything he does. Being that one member of Wanted Man also has the name Pirog, it all makes perfect sense. And what would have been a fun crazy psycho-blues rock show with just three, became even louder and wilder with four. The rhythm section pummeled away with both guitarists blazing away with thick rhythms and dueling solos. Somehow the hearty vocals made it through the forest of fuzzed out barre chords. This was well delivered rock and roll music pushed beyond the barriers that the large crowd totally dug tonight. A solid opening set, perfectly leading into the headliners.
Lee Bains III and the Glory Fires - This quickly rising quartet takes the opening band's sound and pushes it even further into the stratosphere with even more punk pace, crazy guitar moves, and wilder vocal work. Yet they have hearty songs, many of which would sound just fine unplugged. But I'm happier that they are electric tonight with loads of energy as they join the crowd on the floor in addition to working off of each other on stage. They have ballads, although some move into blistering rock before you have a chance to catch your breath. They pile on the songs Ramones style before taking a short break to engage in a bit of stage patter. The 42 minute set was dense, action packed, and just right for waking up every body part of mine. They are touring just their second record, so I don't see this Alabama band's energy slipping away anytime soon. And that is a good thing, as I need bands like this to keep my energy up. You don't stay complacent with the Glory Fires, it just isn't done.

Quote of the Night... More classic musician on musician insults and barbs, as the series continues with...

15. Elvis Costello on Morrissey
“Morrissey writes wonderful song titles, but sadly he often forgets to write the song.”

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Phox - Trails & Ways -- The Hamilton - Jul 19 2014

Trails & Ways - First up tonight is a twin guitar quartet with rhythm section that we have seen many times before. One difference is that all members sing, with two female voices and three different lead vocalists. That variety keeps things fresh, as the music is quite often the usual sort of light indie rock fare that does not stand out too much for me, with so many bands doing this sort of thing. There were some nice lead guitar jabs that cut into the rhythm in more creative ways, which helped quite a bit. And a couple of songs seemed quite moving on first listen. So, all in all, this is a good opening act that hopefully will use this touring experience to sharpen up some areas, go loose and crazy in others, and keep working on new songs that really sing to a crowd.

Phox - My how things can change in such a short time. It was not long ago when I discovered this band in an opening slot at the Black Cat. They impressed me a lot that night and I made sure to see them again when they were an opener at the Hamilton less than a year back. They quickly established this headlining show for a large tour in support of their first album, which surprised me a little in that I was not sure audiences would discover them this quickly. And of course as this sort of lead-in implies, it was not a problem tonight as the show was sold-out with an excited diverse crowd. As I have written three times already, this band has a strong focal point with the sultry vocals and great style of Monica Martin. But it does not take an expert listener too long to realize that the full band has strong players that understand nuance and subtlety much better than most bands. they smoothly work from guitars to keyboards with a trumpet and banjo to spice things up some. If anything, they seem to have even more moments of musical intensity as they are stretching out their range from their brand of great lounge pop music into stronger rock moves with thicker sounds. They have some new material including a killer pop ballad that I look forward to hearing again, hopefully soon. If it just took hard touring, a lot of bands would succeed. But the high school friends from Baraboo, Wisconsin that have formed Phox have tons of talent and style and work together to make it succeed at a high level. What's next, Lisner Auditorium or the Lincoln Theatre? We shall see.

Quote of the Night: from Ms. Martin... "I probably sound like a broken record, but thank you all for coming tonight..." Take the word probably out, as she was gushing that about every other song. Fortunately, her quirky patter is part of the fun as you (and probably her as well) are never quite sure of what she will come up with next.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Previews of Coming Attractions - Late July 2014

Here's some audio-video highlights of upcoming shows, many of which I plan to attend. Enjoy the clubs, everyone. Hope to see you at some of these shows.

Horse Thief gallops into the Jammin Java on Friday, July 18th when they open for Paper Kites.


My favorite Wisconsin band Phox is hitting it big and headlining the Hamilton on Saturday, July 19th.


Lee Bains III brings his trebled ferocious rock sounds to the DC9 on Monday, July 21st.



Clientele schedules a meeting at the Black Cat on Tuesday, July 22nd. Come early to see local greats, Dot Dash.


Red Wanting Blue wants to see you at the Hamilton on Wednesday, July 23rd.


Hmmm....It's Thursday, July 24th. Do I see Flume at the 9:30 Club? Or maybe the Fresh & Onlies at the DC9? If not those, then perhaps Hospitality at the Rock'n'Roll Hotel. Decisions, decisions.




One thing I know, is that I will be at the Kooks when they hit the 9:30 Club on Sunday, July 27th.


And maybe Glasgow's Honeyblood at the DC9 will be a good way to end out the month on Wednesday, July 30th.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Owls - Hop Along -- Black Cat - Jul 13 2014

Hop Along - This powerful band really snuck up on me tonight. They began with just vocalist/guitarist Frances Quinlan playing one song. She showcased rock oriented folk strum on he electric guitar while moving around her vocal range with a strange outsider intensity. She would make a quite arresting busker, no doubt. But then another guitarist showed up with a rhythm section in hand, and they proceeded to fire off some of the more explosive rock music that the backstage has seen in some time. They began with a Guided by Voices sensibility although the songs were fuller and a bit deeper in the vocals. Thankfully, Quinlan had the power to stay on top of this fierce music in a manner that also reminded me of Jesse Sykes. She even snuck in a smart little vocal loop to harmonize with. The songs got tighter as the set went on which was rather interesting as well. But I am spending too much time thinking about this music, it is best to let it kick you in the face and roll with it. Oh, and the large crowd totally dug this set, unsurprisingly. This not the first show for this Philadelphia based band (even if it was my first) and I hope to see them back soon.
Owls - This quartet is from Chicago, and although I probably had that in my subliminal memory, I don't recall purposefully thinking of the Chicago band Tortoise who they reminded me of. But you can also throw in some Slint, Sebadoh, and basically any creative indie band that has the talent and imagination to concoct catchy math rock tunes that weave rhythm patterns and guitar parts in more complex ways than most of the indie bands. Honestly, this music does not reach me as well today as it would have 15 years ago. That is more to do with me than the band, as they seem quite good at this sound and some of the songs have great spooky hooks to them. The vocals were too much in the strained seriousness range for me, but they were better than the stage patter. Still, when I focused on sinewy guitars cutting into chopping bass and drum patterns, there were intriguing moments to experience.

Quote of the Night - And still another quote from Tom Hawking's 'harshest musician on musician insults' list...

16. Alan McGee on Coldplay
“Coldplay are the dictionary definition of corporate rock. The singer is about as weird as Phil Collins. They are career rock personified. EMI should’ve signed Otis The Aadvark instead. At least he only sucks his thumb rather than corporate cock.”

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Wild Beasts - Mutual Benefit -- 9:30 Club - Jul 12 2014

Mutual Benefit - This band is pretty much the songs, vocals, guitar, and keys of Jordan Lee supplemented by three helpful musicians offering drums, keys, guitar, and some quality backing vocals. Their approach is wrapped in subtlety throughout their set with a rather fragile warmth ever present, even as there is a cool pop music style at work. They get quite dreamy at times and it is a little surprising that this style results in some shorter songs. But there are some fine long running contrasting cuts that stretches the band out a bit. This variety helps, although I wouldn't mind some more sonic variety as well (oddly enough the drummer provides some by going from kit to bongos). But they have their approach and it works well over the course of the full set. This is an 'album band' even if you like their songs. The approach worked better on me when taken as a whole. They are a band to keep an eye on as they could easily grow into something big.
Wild Beasts - One of the more ironically named bands I have seen in a while, as there is nothing at all bestial about this UK quartet, nor is their music anywhere near wild by nature and design. There is hefty vibrant pop music here with a touch of distant soul as the vocal work is the powerful presence in most of these songs. The drummer remains the same, but the other three switch off between guitars, keyboards, and a bass, but the bass is not used much in many of the cuts. The keyboards provide the foundation and the guitars work off of the drums to keep a brisk walking pace going. The older cut they identified was a bit punchier and there is some variety between the songs, although the lush agreeable pop music style they have concocted is quite steady and mannered. This is not a style of pop music that I gravitate toward, but with vocals this good, I am happy to see bands like this click with larger audiences (and any group into foosball is ok with me). These guys do it right and the crowd was well rewarded tonight.

Quote of the Night, or rather another Musician on Musician insult as the series continues (check past + future posts for the full set):

17. Noel Gallagher on Kaiser Chiefs
“They play dress-up and sit on top of an apex of meaninglessness. They don’t mean anything to anybody apart from their fucking ugly girlfriends.”

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Viet Cong - TV Ghost -- DC9 - Jul 9 2014

TV Ghost - It is nice to see this Lafayette Indiana quartet back in DC as they offer a familiar yet original sound into the post-mod psyche musical universe. They have a steady mesemerizing rhythm section working non-stop that allows the gutiars to weave psychedelic patterns from spacey waves to sharper bursts of power and melody. The vocals are interesting as they shift from various Robert Smith and Ian Curtis moves, moving along various waves of intensity. He even sounded like the singer from an obscure Spanish band Pan & Regaliz at one point. They handled the stage lights going out for a few songs without missing a note, and frankly that just added to the overall sense of edgy mystery that they manage to concoct. It was another fine set from a band who always has a big welcome back sign from me.
Viet Cong - This band is new on the scene and hails from the fine distant evirons of Calgary. The drummer and bassist/vocalist are from the band Women, who tragically lost their guitarist whose guitarist sadly died in his sleep. They are now with two guitarists and have a powerful sound that works well fresh off of TV Ghost's set. They start with that same intense brand of psychedelia but explore even crazier variants of this theme. They combine the jagged and smooth tones of the guitar in far more extreme ways than other bands would dare attempt. And somehow it all works. At times the songs go power pop, yet there are strong post-punk moves slashing and attacking as well. And then, just when I am getting somewhat comfortable, they throw out an oddball prog-math song that sounds like XTC covering Chrome. But to top that all off they go into a long jamming psyche song that sounds like Wooden Shjips on meth. Crazy fun, here, this band will wake you up and get your blood moving. It may be better for them if they learn to harness this into something more focused, but frankly, I hope they don't. I like the challenge they bring to their audience, who seemed to enjoy this every bit as much as I.

Quote of the Night... Let's head back to the list of musician on musician insults, today from a guy who is coming to town next week...

18. Nick Cave on Red Hot Chili Peppers
“I’m forever near a stereo saying, ‘What the fuck is this garbage?’ And the answer is always the Red Hot Chili Peppers.”

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Marissa Nadler - Janel & Anthony -- Rock'n'Roll Hotel - July 8 2014

Janel & Anthony - I'm still on the sick side of life, but am healthy enough to partake in this excellent double bill tonight. First up are long time locals who are international successes in their own right. If you have not seen them before, you should rectify that some time, as they continued their string of never delivering anything short of a great set, at least to these ears. Their music is mostly instrumental, making the two cuts that Janel sings on all the more striking with her heavenly tones. Musically, her cello and his guitar always cook up exciting sounds that go from lush to striking with thoughtful and dramatic transitions. There is some powerful music headed toward the drone rock terrain, yet has playful underpinnings. It was great to see two acts tonight who are this talented as it allowed for a 47 minute set that was vibrant the whole way through. The crowd contained plenty of fans, so everything clicked (even if the thunderstorm and early start caused some late arrivals--even me for the first few minutes).
Marissa Nadler - I am a long time fan of Marissa Nadler's music. Her songs are brilliant enough on their own, but she has a real bonus for us tonight. Janel & Anthony are on the full tour, so she has recruited Janel to add cello, backing vocals, and a bit of keyboards for her full set. This added sound matches the further expansive nature of Nadler's songwriting over the years. She has really found her muse with dense thoughtful songs that run the emotional gamut, while sounding so fresh and intriguing. Add the extra Janel touch and this set was quite magical. The modest crowd were as enthusiastic as metalheads, while being quite respectful during the quiet moments. Marissa Nadler continues to grow into one of the more important folk based singer songwriters in this or any country.

Photo grab of the Night: I think Germany still scored a few more goals during the show tonight...

Monday, July 7, 2014

Previews of Coming Attractions - Early July 2014

Between the holidays and a nasty summer cold, my calendar has thinned out a bit, but it is picking up soon. Here are some of the events I will be attending. Do give it some consideration for an evening of fun in the metropolis of your dreams.

Marissa Nadler plays the Rock'n'Roll Hotel on Tuesday, July 8th. Her sets are incredibly moving and a fair number of people have figured that out now. Come early as Janel & Anthony open.


or check out Dub Thompson at the backstage of the Black Cat on Tuesday, July 8th.


Wild Beasts and Mutual Benefit hit the 9:30 Club on Saturday, July 12th.



You should definitely hit the clubs on Sunday, July 13th. I will be seeing the Owls at the Black Cat, but will be sorry to miss Nightmare and the Cat at the 9:30 Club and Nightmares on Wax at the U Street Music Hall (I guess I just want to avoid the nightmares that night).



Wednesday, July 2, 2014

RECORD REVIEWS - JUNE 2014

THE ASH "THE ASH"
Although I sometimes get some new metal or progressive metal to review, rarely to I get something that takes me back to the early 1970s. Vienna, Austria's The Ash has this sound down pat when metal was actually hard rock, often with progressive elements mixed with melodious writing. Generally those that like and play this music well take the route of being a cover or tribute band. It is nice to see a band tackling the style successfully with original material. Musically, these guys have all the chops down. The vocals are clean and powerful. The rhythm section sets a strong foundation for the guitars and gives them plenty of space to shred. The leads remind of the Randy Rhoads school of post Eddie Van Halen wizardry. There are some double leads and other interesting twists as well, including some serious Kashmir styled riffs. Hard to believe that this type of music is a real alternative over the mainstream at both the big label and indie levels. This album makes for fun listening in 2014.

Songs to try first:

Burn - Although this is a Deep Purple title, I was hearing a Scorpions sound even before they sang "Here I Am" multiple times!

Global Peace - This has an Ozzy feel and a great crunching guitar over a thicker, slower pace.

Try - Lots of interesting metal shifts in this song. Complex and highly engaging.

AVERS "EMPTY LIGHT"
This band reminds me a lot of the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. Thankfully, when I saw Avers play live, they didn't destroy my hearing. But they do blast away with plenty of shoe gaze styled guitars over heavy drums and keys. I actually prefer this record as the nuances come through more clearly. They are capable of coming up with fun pop melodies that easily slip into the popsike category. If they are not doing that, they tend to drift off into a moody slow jamming sort of song. The drumming is a great foundation here and the others know how to weave around the beat quite well.

Songs to try first:

White Horses - This has the subtleties I like in a warm popsike setting.

GirlswithHeadaches - Catchy melody with bursts of volume following the walking beat.

Mercy - I love the vocals on this one and pulling back with acoustic guitars was a masterstroke.

LEE BAINS III and the GLORY FIRES "DERECONSTRUCTED"
If you like your deep down heartland bluesy singer songwriters adding crazed punk rock and post punk guitar moves to their songs, then check out Lee Bains III and his band. This reminds me a bit of Shooter Jennings fleshing out his songs with a fierce rock band a few years. back. It is also for fans of Jon Spencer, Grinderman, and anyone who likes that distant spot on the horizon where a punk band can meet up with an Americana band and have a great time together. The songs are all pretty good here and Bains has a solid gutsy delivery on each of them. The hard drumming, throaty bass, and crazily fuzzed out shrieking electric guitars all come together to lift this well off the ground. There are some style shifts later in the album which keeps things interesting and just as lively. These guys will be a kick live, I don't see how it could not be an exciting evening with them on stage. So it is no surprise that Sup Pop picked them up as this record is worth several spins, as well.

Come see Lee Bains III and the Glory Fires at the DC9 on Monday, July 21st.

Songs to try first:

The Company Man - The opening cut screams out crazy guitar moves with a smoother but very tough vocal line.

Burnpiles Swimming Holes - Love the modified Bo Diddley beat with all the other expected components at work.

Flags - Great punk pace and power chords create another layer of fun in this album.

CLOUD BOAT "MODEL OF YOU"
This appropriately named band works in the dream pop environs. Yet they have strong dynamics that they carefully employ in unique ways such as the vocals rising in intensity as the music does so belatedly on a slightly different wave length. There are tricky things going on in these arrangements yet everything is silk to the touch. Not everything is as dynamic as I would like, but it all fits comfortably together in a unified style with enough variations between songs to maintain high interest throughout. I would enjoy this band live, as well, I think.

Songs to try first:

Hideaway - I was just wondering if this band might be too steady for me, when the dynamics of this powerful song kicked in.

Portraits of Eyes - This has an old school vocal style that I can't quite place as this powerfully spreads a warmth over me.

Aurelia - As welcome sounds of strong electric guitar weave in among the percussion, the vocals soar away.

MIKE COOPER "TROUT STEEL" + "PLACES I KNOW/MACHINE GUN CO"

I was excited to get the news that legendary UK guitarist Mike Cooper's early records were being re-released. And most readers will likely wonder about the 'legend' label, well perhaps cult figure is better although he is a legend among those in the know in the UK land of 1960s and 1970s guitarists. He has easily included with the Grahams, Jansches, Renbournes, Wizz Jones', etc., and like them he takes a classic British folk style and puts a serious personal twist into it.

Starting with 1971's 'Trout Steel', he brings in jazz moves made obvious with the bleating brass blasts in between his bluesy folk vocals atop his acoustic guitar and bass, such as in "That's How". Just when you think he may go into a more straight forward style he tosses out an eleven minute epic "I've Got Mine" which is psyche folk jazz if there is such a thing. And if not before, then he created it here. There is also a wyrd Americana folk style reminiscent of the Holy Modal Rounders, although it is a little more focused here. Wilco fans, check out the precedents for alt country and include some of these songs. But don't get too comfortable when you realize that the seven minute plus "Pharaoh's March" is clearly an homage to Sanders and not Xerxes.

1972's 'Places I Know' has more traditional material early on, although he can't help explore intriguing jazz locales in the latter cuts including the magnificent 15-minute 'So Glad'. This was ambitious music for its time, even as that was the goal of many musicians of that day. This holds up extremely well today. I recommend this music to people who find Beefheart a bit too coarse or Gram Parsons a bit too rooted. But if you like a combination of that along with someone who understands British folk and American blues, then Mike Cooper is a must-listen.

HESSIAN/PRIMITIVE MAN "THE ABYSS STARES BACK #2"
The second of this fine series features two bands    This is a series from Hypertension Records (www.hypertensionrecords.com) which is worth checking out as there are many exciting bands along with cool vinyl editions and bonuses for subscribers. As they say… "the record industry is dead, long live the underground!"

Hessian spends eleven minutes letting rip a ferocious blast of nu-metal with deathly overtones, yet with a post punk precision. This may be somewhere between Killing Joke and Gorgoroth. Furious drums, churning guitars and dark vocals just go and go and go. This transported me into their dark world, but offered an active journey filled with subtle overtones of hope.

Primitive Man is all of that. The vocals are primitive guttural sounds that may or may not be in an actual language, but stake out territory in the death metal world as the guitars, bass, and drums bang out a steady onslaught of noisy metal. This is a little too much in the straightforward death metal dirge world for my tastes, but there is a sonic atmosphere worked up that is successful for fans of the genre.


PAPERTWIN "VOX HUMANA"
Electropop is something that makes me uneasy when it comes time to putting down words of description or praise. It is all so easy to like, but I am not sure I pick up on all the transcendent bands out there in this large and growing field. Papertwin has come up with this six song ep that seems a bit more interesting than most, as the vocals as sonic shifts underneath offer a little more for me to grab onto. It is dreamy and laid back, but "Headlights" and "Whale" deliver some serpentine hooks that pulled me into their world. And that is generally what makes something worthy of more than one listen in my book. And if you like thi genre a lot, I would keep an ear to the ground for Booklyn's Papertwin.

PHOX "PHOX"
Regular readers know how much I love this Baraboo band. They were off to a great start with me if only for their beginnings in Baraboo, Wisconsin, a cool place I visited when I was young, which was well before any of the band Phox was born. But even without that history, their two live shows fully captivated me with their comfortable sound and careful and intelligent approach to a unique brand of pop music. You could tell that their debut record would be excellent, as their live set managed to capture a delicacy in their sound that showed remarkable restraint as they built the drama with in the song. Monica Martin's vocals are of star quality as she takes that sultry lounge singer's voice and weaves into the creative pop melodies that this band devises. This is such comfortable music, but yet with so much subtle brilliance in the execution. All twelve songs play well together as the atmosphere is established throughout with clear divisions of songs and clarity in the execution. Strong debut and between the quality here and their hard touring of recent years, this band is ready to explode.

Come see for youself when Phox hits the Hamilton on Saturday, July 19th. I will be there, seeing them for the third time.

Songs to try first:

Calico Man - The opener is the shortest and most mysterious of the bunch, a great way to hook you into the album.

Slow Motion - A lot goes on sonically with lush atmosphere that includes open space, and thicker rock moments.

Laura - Great vocals atop a lounge piano, yet with spacey synth and string moves that build this into a rock song.

PS I LOVE YOU "FOR THOSE WHO STAY"
Jangly guitars, hard charging rhythm section, and desperate yet fetching vocals… Hmmm… sounds like a lot of music I listened to in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The songs are very catchy and this formula could easily slip into an oh too cozy and cute zone. Fortunately the band does not let this happen as the guitars can roar with the best metal heads and the band twists the thumbscrews of intensity at many startling points on this album. There are nice delicate passages as well, which tend to how gnarly these guitars sound in other songs. The vocals remind me of a sonic space somewhere between Pere Ubu and Devo and musically, this is not far off from the early works of either, modernized a bit. Like the early Cleveland scene, there is a lot of playful song writing merged into a decaying industrial town landscape in these songs. It is not quite the same thing as there is a touch of modern shoe gaze sneaking in at times, but it is awfully close and very welcome to these ears.

Songs to try first:

In My Mind - Why not open with the opener and see if that guitar break near the end wins you over as well.

Limestone Radio - Monster fuzzy guitar hook will lock you in with a stranglehold within seconds.

For Those Who Stay - Just when I think I figure this band out, they stretch out this song with tasty guitar jamming.

RADIO MOSCOW "MAGICAL DIRT"
I still can not get over how some of the musical forms that were so cliche when I was young are now so startling rare these days. I am thinking of progressive bands, which outside of Europe, you just don't hear much of anymore. Hard rock bands are slightly more common, but those that have that combination of soul and funk skillfully in their sound are still on the rare side these days. So thank-you Radio Moscow for coming up with all of these familiar songs and having the skill and vision to make it all sound so fresh and invigorating (even if your real fans don't use words like 'fresh' and 'invigorating'). This is rock music, learn to love it.

Songs to try first:

So Alone - Blasting rock with plenty of soul and funk moves. Bliss.

Death of a Queen - I am a sucker for double leads, but these babies scream out like few others.

Bridges - There is devilishly clever songwriting here and crazed rock moves, this is creative hard rock.

ROM "SODA CHRIST"
It did not take long for me to realize that I loved this DC band's style and sound. They play classic punk era power pop songs that do not sacrifice the power of the guitar, nor the pop vocal melody lines. Although I have a few songs picked out below each of these nine songs can stand alone as a worthy cut to listen to. But I enjoyed letting them build into a powerful display of great song writing craft being fleshed out as exciting and vibrant arrangements. Every song pops out at you quickly and earnestly and each sound is well crafted and purposed. These guys are fresh on the scene as ROM, but (wisely) changed their name, so you may have seen them as Dead Women. I recommend jumping on this 'redesigned' train quickly because you will enjoy the ride and it hopefully will be a long and fun filled journey.

Come check out the live show at the DC9 on August 5th.

Songs to try first:

Jerry Princess Taste - Great combination of quirky pop and driving power pop.

Belia - There is such a strong guitar sound here, yet the vocals are lovely in classic power pop form.

Old Bull Lee - A slightly slower moody style with a surprise guest female vocal spot.

THE SLAMBOVIAN CIRCUS OF DREAMS "A BOX OF EVERYTHING"
If you are like me and have not heard of this band (and if I heard this name once, I surely would have remembered such a picturesque name), then this greatest hits package is a great place to start. They remind me of California's Kaleidoscope in the exoticism department, but with songs and arrangements that are more comforting and fit into folk rock forms with ease. Circus is the appropriate word as there is so much playful music in the arrangements, yet the quality of the songs could also work in a stripped down folk environment. The production quality is a real plus here, especially considering this band's reputation for live shows. The sound is rich with the instruments filling the room while preserving clarity for each. There are three previously unreleased songs among eleven that hardened fans will already know and love. Hopefully they will make it down from their Hudson Valley haunts for a DC area show some time soon. I have some catching up to do.

A TROOP OF ECHOES "THE LONGEST YEAR ON RECORD"

This is an album of nine instrumental songs. The band has a loose psyche post rock meets jazz rock vibe to its overall sound. And if that sounds a bit confusing, sounds such as this are supposed to make you think at least a bit. There is some room for feeling, although this band does not move me as much as Mono or Mogwai, for example. Those bands are designed to be heavier and I missed that here. So if you want to explore a more easy going sonic terrain, join the Troop of Echoes for a twisted stroll through lesser trodden urban alleys.

TURN TO CRIME "CAN'T LOVE"

 
Just seven songs here , well six with an instrumental intro, but Turn to Crime gives off a good taste of what they are about. There are a few complex flavors that combine to form some sort of lo-fi garage pop jam sound with quirky beats, lightly twisted vocals, and musical jabs and parries that combine in strange and mostly welcome ways. I am quite interested in this band as it features the work of Derek Stanton, from the defunct yet excellent band, Awesome Color. It does not always come together for me, so I am left more with an interesting appetizer that hints at the good things that may come next. I am appreciative that this is daring and a few steps beyond his previous work. I will definitely stay at this table for as long as the dishes keep coming.

THE WEATHERVANES "LONG WAY DOWN"
 
The trouble with labels like 'alt country' (or anything with alternative in them) is that eventually they can become so entrenched that you may need a double 'alt' to start distinguishing bands. I am not exactly where I would put the WeatherVanes on this scale, but they have long been one of my favorites of the broader Americana genre as they always manage to keep close to the heartland, yet explore a wider array of sonic possibilities than most bands attempt. All the variety I have come to expect is on display in these thirteen songs. There are boozy honky tonk numbers, delicate folk songs, folk rockers, hearty Americana numbers, and scorching rockers surrounding a folk rock core. In other words, you should find something to like here if you are even the slightest bit open to rock music with the Americana style.

Songs to try first:

Mountain to River - The opener showcases the great combination of delicate folk music and searing rock moves that this band pulls off far better than most.

Long Way Down - The title cut is rather a classic style that could resonate with purists as well as more adventurous listeners.

Grace - This one goes down smooth with a clean rock style and wistful folk moves, quality sounds from end to end.

WILD BEASTS "PRESENT TENSE"
Normally electropop impresses me in subtle ways where I can enjoy it, but I don't tend to revisit it too frequently. I thought this band would slip into that crowded area for me, but thankfully the vocal work is outstanding and has me more transfixed than usual. There is more delicate music than intensity, but the musicians work their palette to coax out some intriguing sounds that lay a good foundation for the excellent vocals. It all comes together into a pleasurable album.

Wild Beasts will be in DC on Saturday, July 12th at the 9:30 Club.

Songs to try first:

Wanderlust - No surprise that this has a radio edit to take out a swear word, as it works some pop magic.

Nature Boy - I though the record would settle into something mild and acceptable, but this vocal work proves me wrong.

A Dogs Life - Apparently a dog's life is a lot dreamier and psychedelic than I had previously thought.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Laughing Man - Black Checker - Rom -- Churreria Madrid - Jun 29 2014

Rom - I have very much enjoyed this local trio under their former name, Dead Women. But with their new (and very welcome) moniker Rom, they are set for an exciting restart. And based on tonight and a new album that will be reviewed shortly, this is a band you should put on your radar. Tonight's show is a new room for me tonight, upstairs from this Adams Morgan restaurant/bar. Oddly enough, I saw a house show right next door in a residence above the bike shop so the room style is quite familiar. Rom did suffer a bit with the makeshift PA as there were some early feedback issues that did get worked out. Also, the vocals were a little thin, which is a downer as they are a key component of the songs. But even with that, the music of this band still connected with the fine skills that each of the three players exhibited. These guys can churn out great power pop songs and twist them around into various levels of intensities to keep things interesting. One song was a dead ringer in style to that of Kinski, when that brilliant Seattle band heads toward more hook-laden songs. They have got plenty of shows lined up for the summer, so I suggest you hit one of them.
Black Checker - Speaking of power pop... what better way to follow up a set by Rom, then bring out another excellent DC trio, who comfortably fits the genre. Of course, the genre may be the same, but this band has its own personality and energy and seem to be in strong form tonight. The sound was a little tricky with no feedback, but the vocals were a bit loud in some of the songs. But everything came through clear enough for a rocking time to be had by the mostly full room. The music was brisk, tight, and with loads of hooks brought on by quick guitar riffing on top of a strong rhythm section. In between their fine songs they snuck in covers of the Police and Queens of the Stone Age, which added to the fun. So it was another fine night from a band that keeps getting better with every gig.

Laughing Man - I feel bad about missing this set as I think I would like their sound as I see it described. But duty called for some other things going on in life, so I will have to catch these guys another time... hopefully soon.

Quote of the Night: From Black Checker after spotting a guy wearing a fez... "Dude, where did you get your hat? Did you get it from Turban Outfitters?"

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Throwing Muses - Tanya Donelly -- 9:30 Club - Jun 27 2014

Tanya Donelly - An original Throwing Muse member is here to open tonight's show with some of her own outstanding material. Donnelly handles all vocals and plays electric guitar with three other string players. She has a cellis, electric guitarist w/slide work, and an acoustic guitarist who also has a foot pedal on a drum box. These instruments combine to form a powerful atmosphere of distinct voices that meander in and about with playfulness that never deviates far from the song. Donelly's singing is great and she has some innovative moves in a few of the songs which are quite striking. This reminds me at times of an early Woven Hand/J. Munly sound with a bit more warmth and coziness here. The bright and dark songs contrasted well and fit together due to the strength of this band. The crowd was enthusiastic and treated this set pretty much as a headlining set, which it easily could have been.

Throwing Muses - I felt I knew this band, but then as I prepared to come to the show I realized I had known their name and their standing, but did not spend much time with their music. It did not take more than a couple of songs before I started kicking myself for being so negligent over the years as they have a great sound, familiar yet distinct. Tanya Donelly's step sister Kristen Hersh is on hand for vocals and electric guitar with her original drummer and long time bass player. They have an early Nirvana/Wipers feeling to them even though they started over by the other ocean in Rhode Island. The component sounds again work so well together with firm and steady drumming, a smooth and flowing bass, and crisp choppy guitar chords straight out of the power pop-punk bin. Hersh had some subtle shifts in sounds and could string out some lovely guitar lines when desired. The songs kept coming and coming and built into an outstanding set. But there was even more fun in store when Tanya Donelly joined in for the last 25 minutes of the hour long set and added guitar and vocals for some of the classics that the audience were very much in to. There were chills, some warmth, intriguing lyrics and stories which I would need more time to digest, and it all worked extremely well. I am happy they are back so I can correct my oversight and the fans here are happy for many more reasons as they called them back for a few more cuts before heading home.

Quote of the Night: Kristen Hersh was telling an interesting story about talking to her label long ago and wondering why they weren't selling many records. The label said it was ok, because they were getting 'reaction'..... "We heard our song in a store so Dave went up to the record store clerk and asked if they had the Throwing Muses record. He said 'you mean Weezer?' So that's why no one buys our record because Throwing Muses rhymes with Weezer."

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Lake Street Drive - The Sun Parade -- 9:30 Club - Jun 24 2014

The Sun Parade - This quartet does a fine job with breezy indie rock with some folk rock moves her and some pop moves there. It is all brisk and bright, and thus is a sun parade of sorts. It is always nice when a band's name gives you the quick and dirty on their particular sound, and this band is as good as it gets in that department. This is all likable music, although I have that sense that this is easy to forget, like a decent sugary dessert that while not memorable, does the trick for that moment. A lot of music falls into that category and it may say as much about me coming to a live show after reviewing four albums just prior. They went over well enough with the crowd and being that they hail from a quality music scene I have spent a little time in, Northampton, MA, they should continue to good things and will hopefully grow into a solid headliner some day.
Lake Street Drive - This is one powerhouse of a band and what is somewhat unusual these days, the power comes from the vocals. Instrumentally, they are on the lighter side although that is lighter on volume and heavy on style. Rachael Price's lead vocals have all the bluesy power we have all heard before, but with plenty of range and style shifts into whatever direction the songs go. The guitarist switches off to trumpet, which even further showcases the vocals. I should add that all members supply decent backing vocals frequently. The rhythm section also deserves star billing as the acoustic bass and drums have a playful swing style which is underused these days compared to the late sixties when it was pretty much de rigueur. This band sold out the club tonight and many people here were highly familiar with this band from many successful past shows as well as their fine recorded works. It is fascinating to think of this music occurring at any point in the last 50 years. I would think this band would succeed just about anywhere along that spectrum. They certainly succeeded tonight.

Quote of the Night... or rather another of the harshest Musician on Musician insults compiled by Tom Hawking. I'll give you two, as the first one may be too British for us (meaning I don't get it, although I do know the Levellers music and their bass player is named Jeremy)...

20. Richey Edwards on The Levellers
“You could go to any Levellers concert and stand in the middle and shout, ‘Jeremy!’, and 75% of the audience would turn round.”

19. Kurt Cobain on Guns N’ Roses
“They’re really talentless people, and they write crap music, and they’re the most popular rock band on the earth right now. I can’t believe it.”

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Bear Hands - Lightwaves -- DC9 - Jun 21 2014

Lightwaves - This is only the second show ever for this DC band? Perhaps so, but they have hit the ground running with this sharp little twenty minute set of throbbing pop music. They could really lock into a groove, while delivering their quality pop vocal melody lines with clarity and just enough energy. The pulsating sound of it all was fascinating, helped with keyboards in addition to the rock trio of instruments. The drumming was a bit crude at times, occasionally helpful to the throb, other times distracting. But overall, there was a solid core sound that works well and they successfully warmed the large crowd present at an early Saturday evening show.
Bear Hands - I missed a DC show from this band earlier this year (and a number prior to that) and am happy to catch up and see what these Brooklynites can deliver. The first couple of songs had me impressed with their playing and some of their choices of how they interacted with each other, but I was not so sure about the songs. Thankfully, I was here for 50 minutes with this band and about mid way through the set, they had built up a strong identity that made complete sense. This is quirky pop music with a bit of post-punk heft in many of the songs and it took me a while to fully integrate what they were doing with their marriage of contrasting sounds. They seem like a band that works their ideas out with creative moves slowly integrated by each member over time. There is a lot going on individually, but it is hard to notice as the group seems so locked into a group sound. They mentioned they are always happy here in DC and DC is happy with them as tonight's show was sold out. And I am happy that I finally joined in on what many people have known about for some time now, that Bear Hands is a strong band, well worth devoting some club time to.

Photo grab of the Night: Amusing caption writing is a fine art...

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Pillar Point - Pleasure Curses -- Jun 17 2014

Pleasure Curses - It often happens that I recognize the name of a band I had seen before, but can't place the specific sound (or do worse and guess wrong). This was the case tonight, but before this local duo struck a note, I immediately recalled that this is the guy that looks and sounds like Morrisey as they concoct some decent electro-pop music. Their half hour set still went along those lines tonight, with the singer playing guitar on the opening and closing numbers while occasionally fiddling with some electronics. But the music was mostly set up by the other member who played a lot of bass, worked synthesizers and electronics, and even hit some drum pads. The vocals work well to establish a mood with just enough breathy qualities in them. Even with the instrument shifts, there are some moments that get a little too 'samey' for me, as the second song with the guitar snapped me back to attention. I would suggest they add a few guitar chords in a few more songs to keep us on edge a bit more. But this was a likable set from a band that does bring the pleasure, even if we are all cursed.
Pillar Point - The Iota certainly succeeded in booking complimentary bands tonight as this touring trio picked up right where Pleasure Curses left off with a solid set of thoughtful pop music with plenty of electronics and keyboards. The band is actually one person with two touring members, but I am reviewing a live show, so it is a band for me. They included keyboards, a drummer which always helps in the live setting, and the singer played guitar frequently. He created some interesting tones, but more importantly, added some heft to the songs generating some real rock excitement. The keyboards were busy in a positive way as the songs merged complex underpinnings with clean melodies on top. The second to last song they played was a perfect example of combining different layers of sound into a vibrant song. They are from Seattle, on their first tour, and could develop enough fans to do this all again some day. It was a smallish Tuesday crowd with lots of good shows going on throughout DC, but there was some real dancing and enthusiasm here, so I think I chose well tonight.

Quote of the Night... or rather another 'musician on musician insult as collected by Tom Hawking:

21. Paul Weller on Freddie Mercury
“He said he wanted to bring ballet to the working classes. What a cunt.”

Monday, June 16, 2014

The Trews - FLINTface - Clones of Clones -- DC9 - Jun 15 2014

Clones of Clones - This local quartet features a twin guitar line-up with a couple of keyboards for occasional use. The rhythm section was steady as the band cooked up an 80s style alt rock sound with some pop melodies in there as well. The lead guitar was quite busy and was generally a highlight for me and gave their music just enough distinction to be interesting, even for those of us that have 'heard it all'. They faded a lot of endings which was kind of anti-climactic, although the last couple of songs were more tight. That would be the one recommendation on what otherwise was a fine opening set, well received by a fairly small crowd.

FLINTface - Interesting band, this. Rather this is a band that features singer songwriter Joe Scorsone with his wife assisting on vocals and a sharp backing band. They have a balanced Americana rock sound that encompasses rural and urban feelings in the manner of Petty, Walkabouts, and many other successful acts. The dynamics in the better songs are achieved with a great sense of subtlety creating a dramatic environment for the vocals. They did a great job and it was nice to see the crowd double and fill out the club into something of an event, even if the usual self absorption blocked some of the contact between band and audience. This is a sharp little outfit worthy of a look and a listen.
The Trews - I enjoyed this Canadian band's album, but was not sure if their rather straight ahead rock format was unique enough. Well, for album listening maybe, maybe not, but a live stage is where music like this thrives. Not only did this band blast away with great playing from all four members, but the lead guitar work had the crowd cheering in ecstasy. Some of the songs also went more into a cool direction in the manner of a T2 or Mighty Baby. The vocals were hearty and could stay on top, although due to a vocal infection, the singer had to dip into his 'magic spray' more than once. The crowd definitely got over their dull conversations and dug in for this set. These guys are touring hard and that is the best way for music like this to get over.

Quote of the Night, or yet another of our series of nasty musician on musician insults (and thankfully the last on Courtney Love)...

22. Kathleen Hanna on Courtney Love
“Where’s the baby? In the closet with an IV?”


Thursday, June 12, 2014

Preview of Coming Attractions for the rest of June 2014

I'm out of town for a few days, but want to come back in time to see...


The Trews, who come in from Canada to play the DC9 this Sunday, June 15th.


Sharon Van Etten brings her excellent music to the 9:30 Club on Tuesday, June 17th.


But if you want some other opportunities on Tuesday, why not try Painted Palms at the Black Cat or Pillar Point at Iota.


I really dug the Tweens latest album and now I get to see it all live and up close at the Black Cat on Wednesday, June 18th.


Lust for Youth (and who doesn't, at least at some point in life) hits the Union Arts on Saturday, June 21st.

or check out Bear Hands on Saturday the 21st at the DC9.


Joywave splashes forth at the Rock'n'Roll Hotel on Tuesday, June 24th.


Lake Street Drive comes to the 9:30 Club on Wednesday, June 25th.


Rodrigo Amarante has a lovely album out and will certainly showcase much of it at the 6th and I Synagogue on Saturday, June 28th.


And if you still have the energy, head out to Gypsy Sally's on Sunday, June 29th for the Jamestown Revival.


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

My Gold Mask - Motion Lines -- Black Cat - Jun 9 2014

Motion Lines - I saw this band eighteen months back and made my frequent complaint of seeing a couple of decent musicians playing to sub-mediocre drum machine beats. That is all fixed tonight as they have three members and shift around a bit on instruments with the occasional drum machine used only when the drummer moves forward to sing or play keyboards. A bass is used at times and the guitarist has a nice array of sounds, so they have a lot more to offer this time around. There's is a rich and dreamy sound without frequent dynamic shifts, although when it happens, it does stand out distinctly. The mood is good and there were at least a couple of songs that had me take notice. They are doing well and are worth a listen some time again.
My Gold Mask - This Chicago trio has a lot of the same instruments and works the same general area as the openers, but is a bit more intense about it all. The female lead vocals are powerful with a slightly goth sense to the pop. It is some unholy combination of Siouxsie, Poly Styrene, and Deborah Harry. She also plays some percussion, although there is a stand up drummer and synth player handling most of the beats. The guitarist thickens the vocal works even more when he chimes in. Otherwise, he comes up with a lot of powerfully thick sounds. They sound surprisingly dense, yet the percussion is good in maintaining clarity throughout. Some of the songs are quite catchy and the crowd is digging it all well. Thankfully, this quiet Monday night crowd doubled in size, which resulted in 30-40 enthusiastic people. They made me smile more than once, no small task as I am severely in the midst of my pre-travel anxiety. If you like a more intense brand of electronic pop music, then give this band a look and listen.

Quote of the Night, or rather more quotes from Tom Hawking's '30 harshest musician on musician insults'. And it's a twofer tonight...

24. Courtney Love on Dave Grohl
“As for that drummer, well, he’s hit on me so many times. He’s just a very very conflicted guy about me, which is why he continually writes songs about me to hear he ‘hates’ me more than ‘anyone else.’ Kurt loathed HIM more than anyone else (except a journalist) … He’s just sub-mediocre kind of [guy] who does this ‘nice guy’ nonsense.”

23. Dave Grohl on Courtney Love
“She’s an ugly fucking bitch.”

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Dan Saks -- Historic 6th+I Syngagogue - Jun 7 2014

Dan Saks, Sephardic Songs + Stories - It is good to hear that Dan Saks is still doing well in Mexico City, where he moved just before the previous time his band DeLeon played the Washington Jewish Music Festival. That was two years ago and although it has resulted in less DeLeon since then, we are treated to an intimate version of some of their music along with other traditional Sephardic songs, as interpreted by this former DC area native. Dan has also brought out Kevin Snider, his childhood friend and band mate from the area to assist on several songs tonight. Otherwise it is just Dan, an acoustic guitar or banjo, and his excellent voice. I really enjoyed his stories as he did have a lot to say about the songs and the traditions with all the changes and alternate viewpoints that crop up. There was a supportive crowd tonight in the downstairs area of the Synagogue as it was completely filled. He even had his brother and mother assist he and his bass player with backing vocals on the last cut. I think the only way to improve this show would have been a slightly longer set (this was under an hour or so) or possibly an opening band. But I would rather have quality music in small doses with good musicology instead of cliched stage patter, so this was a lovely way to spend a Saturday night.
Quote of the Night: Dan Saks - "When I research these songs, there is always a discrepancy - That's the theme for tonight, discrepancy."

And if you would like to read an old interview I had with him, click here.