Friday, October 30, 2009

Future of the Left/Uninhabitable Mansions/Drink up Buttercup - Rock'n'Roll Hotel - Oct 29 2009

Drink up Buttercup - The fourpiece (GBD [guitar/bass/drums]with keys) started up the set in front of four people. I felt bad, but the crowd swelled quickly and ended up at about 50. The crowd hopefully was as pleased as I was to catch this fun set. It kind of began as typical indie pop-rock with vocals straight out of Shins school among many others that seem to have this tuneful strain. But then... they went playful and headed into Akron/Family space which is a very good space to be if you do it right. I think they did and they even added some 1970ish British oddball band moves--not Bonzo Dog, more of a Velvett Fogg/Tea & Symphony kind of thing. It will be interesting to see which of their leanings play better over time. I am trying not to suggest it is either/or, but their were some real differences in some songs. Nice job.

Uninhabitable Mansions - Same lineup as first band, but with another guitar and some female vocals with the keyboards. I don't know if this a side project or a supergroup (more like a AAA all-star game as I only knew one of the three bands that these members are a part of--Clap Your Hands, Say Yeah). No matter their long term plans, they have a new album and are hitting some east coast spots. Good steady as she goes pop rock for the entire set. Some catchy lead guitar lines on two songs that almost (key word) reminded me of Thomas Mapfumo or good English post-punk work. A few of the songs were a bit too lah-de-dah, although I'm listening to a really cool song on their myspace page as I write this that is anything but. I don't want to let my bias toward minor keys get in the way of what was a good pop-rock set. You could (and we all have) do a lot worse and this band could do well at some sort of level they choose to operate at.

Future of the Left - A Welsh power trio is the future of the left and although the future was in doubt early for me, I left with not a worry in the world. The opening cut sounded like some post-metal outfit that reminded me of the band t-shirt the opening band bassist had on -- Rage Against the Machine. It was hard, heavy, abrasive, a bit angular and sometimes with dance/hard hip hop rhythms. Or so it sounded to me. I was ok with this, but it wasn't moving me a whole lot until it kept getting better and better and I was getting more comfortable with the sound. And, these guys had to be the funniest band I have seen since The Stupids. But these guys were smart with really clever British humor. Maybe the six night Monty Python documentary I just viewed had me primed for the unique humor, but it worked. And the last song was a scream with an ending that has been done in this manner, but not quite this way. The guitarist left his guitar on the floor to feedback, fiddled with a synthesizer, then kept moving the cymbals that the drummer was trying to hit and dismantling the kit spreading it around the stage. The bassist is in the audience with and without bass. The drummer moves upstage and tries to stretch and reach as many cymbals as he can while everything finally fades away. Dramatic, powerful, great conclusion.

Quote of the Night: A transcription of Future of the Left would be great, but I'll just use this - "On this song, we take our cue from Genesis.... Really. We might shave our drummer, maybe make him marry a young asian woman. Then act in several bad films..." and on and on....

Monday, October 26, 2009

Wooden Shjips/Black Whales - Red & the Black - Oct 25 2009

Black Whales - Seattle offers us another indie rock band with a couple guitars, bass, drums and a percussionist/hammond organist. I heard decent songs, the usual indie feel and a few nice individual players. Like many sets, this one went out with a bang with two really strong finishers. The hammond was inaudible for one song and barely heard on a couple more. I was looking forward to more from that and frankly, van space could have been saved. My mind always wanders during these sets as to what, if anything, will catch for a band like this. Could they break with a track on the new Garden State type film? Or will this be the last I see of them.

Wooden Shjips - With the recent demise of Dickie Peterson from Blue Cheer, it is only fitting that these San Francisco psychedelic jammers come to town. I saw them previously outdoors at Terrastock last year and enjoyed it, but something didn't quite work. Tonight, they were in a dark and (too) small club and the psychedelic sound was much more explosive and fun. They are closer to Hawkwind than Blue Cheer and feature a really primitive driving rhythm section, especially with the minimalist drums. Keyboards thicken the mix and the guitarist jams along, singing now and then and going into freak-out fuzzfest solos when the time was right. I now see why the band generally gets favorable press. They have locked into some classic sounds, but do them in their own personal way.

Quote of the day: "Thanks for coming. This is day 17 of our first US tour. It's kind of beating us senseless so thanks" from the opening band.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Kung Fury/King Giant/Gerunds/Yell County - Red&the Black - Oct 23 2009

Yell County - A good tight, hard power pop/punk trio sort of in the Zeros/Ch 3 mode perhaps. Solid songs, strong playing throughout and even a few nice creative breaks amidst the grinding melodies. Mostly straight ahead and quite catchy. A nice DC band we have here.

The Gerunds - The first thing that struck me was a good Buzzcocks style sound, a bit dirtier perhaps, but strong and solid catchy hooks. The vocals threw me off into unknown territory. There were two primary vocalists and some back-up elsewhere. A very interesting clash of styles that was tricky to grasp but ultimately quite rewarding and unique. I could go into one of my long rants about "originality" but here is an example of good catchy rock music with a personal and original approach. No wheels reinvented, but a unique quality band that had the packed club involved from the outset. Nice Raymond Chandler references, too, so smart as well. But with a name like the Gerunds... The singer is from Dag Nasty many blue moons ago and they covered one of the old songs that I was surprised to instantly remember. Excellent set.

King Giant - Five bikers get plugged in and light the stick incense on the stage. So what do we get here? Well before the notes come, the singer says the first song is "Lady Whiskey". Hmmmm, could it be southern jam rock? maybe metal? a cover of Wishbone Ash? No, now the incense is getting to me. Well, it was metal/hard rock. Sabbathy type licks a bit steadier and unvarying. As the set went on, I did feel that things were much too steady. A good strong sound for fans of this genre, but no real variance. Not every band can be Opeth or should be Opeth, but I would have liked a bit more, especially since the set seemed long to me.

Kung Fury - The show was running a bit late, the set up was taking a while and finally this three piece kicks in and opens with my favorite Antmusic song, "Dog Eat Dog". A pretty dingy rocking version of it, though which set the tone for the originals. Decent, dirty hook oriented rock'n'roll not unlike Bobby Steele's post-Misfits band, the Undead. The sound wasn't quite as good at least at the start of the set. The vocals were a bit low and murky and the guitar didn't really punch in until after a few songs. The crowd gave them good feedback after initially appearing to peter out quite a bit (some did leave since it was after 12:30 when the set started). Like the Undead, this band isn't instantly accessible but there is a germ of an idea here. I will stay tuned for more.

Quote of the night: "John's wearing his speedo and Trevor has his arm around him and I say 'Trevor, did they catch that on camera?'"

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Sea Wolf/Port O'Brien/Sara Lov

Sara Lov - Quiet folkish singer songwriter with nice voice, acoustic guitar and recorded backup tracks played on vinyl on a portable record player. That is a first, maybe a last, but it worked. A couple Sea Wolves helped out a bit at the end. Decent enough songs. She had to tell me she was covering an Arcade Fire song which I didn't pick up on because I didn't recognize it or it sounded different. I don't know their catalogue well enough anyway. The last original she did was quite good. Nice.

Port O'Brien - The surprise hit (for me at least) of last years Monolith Festival at Red Rocks in Colorado. They seemed to have lost the Neil Young type lead guitarist but still had a couple of guitars and banjo along with the rhythm section. The lead singer does a nice job and ultimately they produce a loose, jangly folk rock/americana blend that really works for me. They have above average songs and play a loose, fun style that is in the direction of Akron/Family but doesn't quite get that crazy or to that height. Two albums out and good things ahead for this band. I sense they already are doing pretty well across the Atlantic. Check them out.

Sea Wolf - A couple of guitars, bass, drums, keyboards and cell/keys. Lighter touch present with this band. Nice songs with good low-key vocals. This is the sort of band that I would need multiple listens to appreciate fully I think. As it is, I liked it well enough, but it didn't compel me to explore much more than this. Plus I have now added it to the list of Wolfmother, Wolf Eyes, Wolf Parade and many more where I have stopped trying to figure out which wolf is which. Even the owl bands confuse me, so I have had enough wolves for one lifetime. Still, nice set.

Quote of the Night: From the Port O'Brien lead singer... "We were in Baltimore last night and my parents showed up by surprise from the west coast. They're here and I thank them for coming . I also thank them for the $10 Whole Foods gift cards they gave everybody."

Monday, October 19, 2009

Art Brut/Princeton - Black Cat - Oct 18 2009

Princeton - This Los Angeles quartet plays pop music with a little jangle now and then. Full time keyboards augment the guitar bass drums with a couple of vocalists. The band seems ridiculously clean-cut to the point where I would have been razzing them in my punk youth. Now, I would be happy to let my (fictitious) daughter date them, unlike 90% of the rest of the bands I see. Decent enough, but a bit too clean for me. They did stun me with a killer guitar break in the fourth song, so there were some fun moments. Just not enough of them.

Art Brut - I tend to get a little skeptical about bands that become critical darlings whether they are behind it or not. But after a few disappointments, I feel like I am on a positive roll. First Wavves was great and now Art Brut was completely deserving of the press I have read. The five piece band with a couple of guitars and no keys came out rocking with a cover of Roadrunner that morphed into another song. The songs kept coming with sort of a garagey take on those late seventies punk-new wave crossover bands. I am thinking Adam Ant or the Cleveland-to-Indiana scene, but with a rocking garage feel as well. Great humor, abundant energy, killer hooks and strong playing. Flat out fun with post modern comments from the clearly intelligent and humorous singer. The crowd definitely got into it and the only problem there is that the club was only half full, if that. Go see Art Brut and have some real straight ahead fun. I know I need the fun fix as often as I can get it.

Quote of the Night: Interesting exchange from the Door personnel to a group of three, one underage (more paraphrasing than actual quotes due to length). "You Can't leave the premises after you've gotten stamped." Why is that? "It's the law, liquor license controls" But what is the reasoning? "Once stamped, we are responsible. If you were to come back drunk and discovered here, we could not defend ourselves" Can we leave to go eat and buy another ticket then? "No, it doesn't work that way. The same issues apply. You can eat at our cafe through there or go up to the club. That's it".

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Raveonettes/Black Angels - 9:30 Club - Oct 16 2009

Black Angels - They have a drummer and guitarist and have three others that switch between bass, a couple of guitars, electronics, keyboards, and percussion. They start with a heavy psychedelic garage sound which always wins me over to some degree. The songs were good, a bit rocking, lots of moodiness and one part hooks, two pars jam. The vocals were heavy on the reverb which I almost find as tedious as demonic metal vocals, but there was enough quality singing underneath that it did not bother me a bit this time. Sometimes it was a bit too much a downer (like the recent Coen Brothers movie) but ultimately it was a high quality, well received set (like the recent Coen Brothers movie).

The Raveonettes - The duo returns after playing the Black Cat last time (see far below) and achieves the elevated status of the 9:30 Club for this tour, albeit with the stage pushed forward to the edges of both side bars. The crowd did fill in to make for the desired sardine look that the 9:30 prefers as opposed to giving people room to maneuver and not have purses rammed into their lungs. But I digress. The Raveonettes came with a rhythm section with drums heavily treated to sound nearly electric. There were some things going on in the background more than just guitars, but it was mostly subtle. Vocals and catchy songs in lusch psyche setting are the reason to come and the band delivered. A really nice combination of simple well worked sounds form a reasonably fresh result. Happy times, good light show, sound wasn't fully to my liking as there was too much bass throbbing early, kind of like when the car comes up to you at an intersection and the hip hop bass rattles the newspaper boxes next to you. And note to the manic guy I've seen at other shows. I love the enthusiasm of your pogo and long arms in the air. But lose the high pitched yelps that you do in triplets, timed with the music. Kind of painful and weird. But keep the enthusiasm, it helps at laconic rock shows.

Quote of the Night: From the Black Angels guitarist- "Has anybody got a snare drum? Got a huge hole here. Anyone?" Duct tape to the rescue, but a couple songs later they pulled it up and it was more hole than head at that point. Raveonettes road crew to the rescue and the replacement saved the set.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Om/Six Organs of Admittance/Lichens - DC9 - Oct 15 2009

Lichens - This was one man looping his chants, some through distortion boxes and creating a meditative droning ambiance, complete with bird noises. It was a nice sound and the crowd enjoyed it and it was a perfect starting point for tonight's interesting bands. One thing, I don't know if this name is correct as it doesn't match what I see on Myspace.

Six Organs of Admittance - I admit to being a big fan of this Ben Chasny effort which is basically him on guitar and vocals doing solo material or collaborating with others. Chasny plays excellent acoustic guitar and is quite versatile covering Eastern modal patterns as well as other fingerpicking acoustic styles. He sang more times than not and it was somewhat an extension of the first act in style. He was also joined by a second guitarist on song four for the remainder of the set. I found it easy to be involved in his music which is the way I feel about his records as well. An excellent second act to tonight's play with an appreciative and very large audience filing in.

Om - Om was formed when a metal band split up and the two members of the rhythm section created this experimental psyche minimalist concept. They have two albums out and they are successful in creating their own brand of psyche-drone power. The drummer, who had changed between albums, was quite creative with his cymbal usage. The bassist was solid and they had a third guy sometimes help with extra sounds which is fairly important as minimalism can only take you so far. I believe it was the guy in the opening set, but the club was jammed and the stage was dark and sightlines are not good at the DC9 (hence the tvs they install so people in the back can at least see something). Anyway, there were some major fans and the set went over well. To be honest, I thought it lacked something that I can't quite finger. It was just missing some sort of spark that would put me more in their world. The songs were good, but personally, I find listening to the albums the better choice for their sound. Maybe it was the one guy who yelled more than once to "turn it up" and "louder". Normally, I would roll my eyes, but he may have been right this time. I think this music needs to rattle your bones a bit more.

Quote of the Night: From the guys talking movies behind me-- "I can live with a Tron sequel". Yeah, me too. There's lots of movies I live with that don't live with me.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Renaissance/Jann Klose - BIrchmere - Oct 12 2009

Jann Klose - We have a German born, but living in New York, singer/songwriter/guitarist playing acoustic. The highlight was a very good, strong voice with plenty of range. I see he is playing a Jeff Buckley tribute festival soon, where he will be a good fit. Songs were decent, but not too out of the ordinary from what I could detect on first listen. Decent enough opener.

Renaissance - To celebrate the day of my first half century on this planet, I indulged in seeing a band I really enjoyed in high school, yet had never seen before. The band is still lead by the two key ingredients, Annie Haslam on vocals and Michael Dunford on guitar. Coming on to excellent entrance music, the two are joined by a drummer, bassist and two keyboard players. It quickly becomes evident that having two keyboard players is a great idea as they can get piano, harpsichord, organ and synthesizer sounds out in great quantities to really fill out the songs and give a full rich sound to the songs which the quite large audience knows all too well. Haslam is in excellent voice and the players all do a great job. I think if I had tried to write the set list, I would have gotten 8 or 9 of the 10 songs selected. I am glad they did three off of my personal favorite, "Turn of the Cards" when I would have guessed one song. "Prologue" at the outset and "Ashes are Burning" as the encore both featured a lot of creative almost jazzy and rock touches that may surprise those that expect the pastoral classical folk rock that Renaissance mostly represents. Great set.

Quote of the Night: Annie Haslam - under her breath, but audible "shit, oops, sorry. I actually let two "shits" slip during a live radio interview this morning before they cut me off. It was just too early in the morning..."

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Dinosuar Jr./Lou Barlow & the Missing Men - 9:30 Club - Oct 8 2009

Lou Barlow and the Missing Men - Lou Barlow does double duty tonight which has happened many times during recent Dinosaur Jr. tours. This is a new three man group (fifth show together, he stated) assembled where Lou plays guitar, bass, and bass pedals with a guitarist and drummer. The music is close to Sebadoh but a bit more ragged and less edgy (although it depends which Sebadoh you are talking about and I probably shouldn't open up that issue anyway). Some nice songs here which does not surprise me in the least, but quite sloppy even when you don't mind that sort of loose feel.

Dinosaur Jr. - This is the third time I have seen them since their reformation and I got the usual guitar based music I would expect. Since they are carrying on quite enthusiastically, I wanted to hear the new material more than the old this time around. I found it quite excellent and every bit as enjoyable as the older classics. The band has graduated from selling out the Black Cat to playing the larger 9:30, albeit with the stage moved up. Good crowd showed up which makes me wonder why we can't have a little more room in the back to not jostle each other when the club creates that extra space behind the stage. I'll save that discussion for later on in this blog. Good show, but there was a sense of quiet. That may be due to the real excitement I saw just the night before, but Lou Barlow commented that he always forgets how still a DC audience is. He was not criticizing per se, but I think there was just a bit less energy here than at other shows I have been at recently.

The_cool_ghoul.jpg image by illoman
Is J. Mascis the Cool Ghoul?????

Quote of the Night: Lou Barlow, early in his first band's set-- "I think this is being taped for an NPR radio show, that's just great, wonderful." Then just prior to last (and good rocking) song - "I would like to ask NPR to erase this whole show and never have it aired".

Os Mutantes/DeLeon - State Theater - Oct 7 2009

DeLeon - A three-piece from Brooklyn which is actually a five-piece, but the drummer and trumpeter had to stay home for "logistical reasons" as the band mentioned. That of course means that the tour bus was fully packed with equipment and people. Well, the remaining DeLeon still put on a very nice set. Kind of Spanish gypsy-esque music with some rock moves and lots of creative juices within. A fine opener for this tour.

Os Mutantes - How could this show be as great as it was? I had no idea that Sergio Dias could be this brilliant in 2009. This band formed in 1966 with the Dias brothers and a female singer. They were an essential part of the Tropicalia musical movement in Brazil along with Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil and Tom Ze. They were all arrested and/or threatened by the Brazilian government several times. Os Mutantes unravelled in the seventies until a reunion in 2006 after years of tributes by major artists. Sergio's brother Arnaldo's physical and mental health didn't allow him to participate much, but Sergio soldiered on with a full band and new recordings. I was absolutely stunned at how well he played and sang. I am very forgiving of older artists and love to see them even if they have lost a step. But no need here as I didn't detect any aging at all aside from a few gray hairs and age lines. He played killer leads, psyche rock rhythms and sang with a strong voice. The other six members filled in wonderfully and the old and new songs were excellent. They were joking around a lot, claiming to have had little sleep, but maybe that was to their advantage. A few songs were so ferocious that the (all-too) small to moderate crowd slowly worked their way forward with increasing smiles, applause and yells. Like the Plastic People of the Universe, there is the historical reason to see this show, and also like that band, there is the musical reason These bands risked everything to make music unlike 99%+ of the rest of the musical universe and I don't know if that creates an inner drive to bring out more passion than the rest, but the results are there. This is brilliant, creative and diverse music and was one of the finest shows I have seen in some time.

Quote of the Night: Sergio Dias-"We are going to play some new songs next which hopefully is ok with you. We don't feel it is right just to play the old songs if we are going to continue. Hope you don't mind, just boo us if you want, we are used to that." He is referring to their early days in Brazil either on their own or backing Caetano Veloso who writes about the extremely negative reactions they got by straying from traditional music. This made the much overrated negative reactions to Dylan at Newport look like a love fest. My source is Veloso's absolutely brilliant autobiography. Veloso wrote the most intellectually amazing autobiography I have ever read in the music field. "Brutality Garden" is another great book about the Brazilian Tropicalia movement. I recommend the books and music to all music lovers everywhere.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A Place to Bury Strangers/Darker My Love/All the Saints - DC9 - Oct 5 2009

All the Saints - Power trio starting off in a sludgier Dead Meadow style. Nice roaring sound from this Atlanta band, not unlike citymates Dead Confederate. Not bad, some potential here, just not overly moving. And please control your feedback, too, the blasts between a couple of songs made me long for the days when the headliners turned down the volume on the opening acts. The last cut was strongest and left a slight positive feeling with me. Still, I would like to see some variance, better songs, a focus on vocals, something more.

Darker My Love - We have a five piece with keys and a couple of guitars, two lead vocalists. The sound was very driving and solid with lots of creative moves withing from the keys and guitars. The overall song structure and emphasis on vocals was a cut above and really made for a moving set. Almost a loose Meat Puppets-like singing style at times, not quite the Neil Young jamming (I will get that in two weeks when I see Port O'Brien here) style. Good psyche and garage feeling present though many of the songs. Enough variety to keep me engaged, too. A very strong set by a likable band.

A Place to Bury Strangers - A three piece again that comes out with a thick layer of smoke spreading out the small and crowded club. The lighting was from a projector which did create a nice psychedelic effect that has grown in popularity over recent years. An interesting dirty punk feel to the driving murky psychedelic sound. The vocals were almost Ian Curtis like, but not quite as dramatic. The sound was the key here, but I did feel I was listening to different songs at times including a strong instrumental half way through the set. I like the dramatic build that the set had with the increasing song intensities and my growing familiarity with the sound. By set's end, I was completely won over. Great job by a band well worth seeing live.

Quote of the night: "Fuck football? Who said that? That's gross man--weird, too." From the second band responding from a fan who let his feelings be known about the Monday night game.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Wavves/Ganglians/Tennis System - Rock'n'Roll Hotel - Oct 1 2009

Tennis System - I liked them the first time I saw them and like them even more this time. I still heard the Ride sound this time around but I will add that the bass and rhythm guitar mirror the Wipers kind of rhythm although they don't exactly sound like the Wipers. But any comparison to the Wipers coming from me is a very good thing. The band played strong, rocked out, and have a few really nice songs and is one you do not want to miss by coming fashionably late to the show.

Ganglians - Not exactly freak folk, more like freak plodding rock if there is such a category--hopefully a small one. There was so much reverb on the vocals, I think the sound is still bouncing around in a corner of the club. I almost sense a parody, but not really. There just doesn't seem to be anywhere to go here, it is akin to the classic image of a serpent swallowing it's tail. The slightly slower songs with keyboards were not too bad.

Wavves - This duo has got some media buzz going for it. I normally roll my eyes at the undersized rock band style that is happening more these days, but this guitar-vocals and drummer duo worked just fine for me. The drummer is a blur and pounds the hell out of his kit. The guitarist is loud and flexible. They pound out heavily rocked out songs with plenty of pop hooks. Power-pop is not the correct label, just very catchy fast rock. Great stuff.

Quote of the night: You can guess which band said..."I think this is our last song, maybe not."

Thursday, October 1, 2009

New Model Army/Ego Likeness/Sleeper Agent! - Rock'n'Roll Hotel - September 30 2009

Sleeper Agent! - Better than average sound quickly comes out of this four-piece with drums, bass, guitar and a vocalist. Strong punk sound with good musicians and very good guitar moves. But the singer looked way too much like John Stabb of Government Issue. He had the facial expressions, the stage moves, a similar voice, hmmmm. Could it be? He's got a little age on him, but looks good. Note to myself to check later. Well, when he comes out later wearing a Double O shirt, I am convinced it is him and finally I see via Myspace that it is the new John Stabb band. A good one, too.

Ego Likeness - Interesting three piece. A tall blonde woman singing with a guitarist and a standing drummer on an electric kit. Very goth rock. Singers looks somewhere between Annie Lennox and Jennifer Miro (Nuns) and sounds somewhere between the former and Siouxsie Sioux. Decent enough songs and a nice style contrast between the opener and the headliner.

New Model Army - This long running UK punk/post punk band has recently been touring pretty hard on this side of the ocean and still releasing good material. They have a nice mid-tempo anarcho-rock sound clearly out of punk, but a bit on their own, not unlike what the Ruts did, although the style is a bit more rock oriented here. Keyboards were inaudible at first and sound took a while to become as strong as the music behind it. I find it odd the roadie was still signaling the sound man to change the drum monitor during their final song, but if still ain't right.... An engaging frontman with the classic British smile kept things interesting between songs and the hour-ten set plus a couple encores thereafter went over well with the sizable crowd. A recommended act, for sure.

Quote of the Night: From the singer who I now know to be John Stabb: "Thanks to the Rock'n'Roll Hotel for having us. It only took us six months to get a show here. So note to bands, plan on six months to break in with the owner of these three clubs." Interesting enough quote from an opening band, but Stabb has played here before with a Government Issue reunion/benefit show, so if it is tough for him...