The Venables - A power trio hits the stage and plays rock music that is comfortably in between power pop and a punkrock/rock hybrid. The songs vary a bit with the couple of songs that had a good guitar bite to them being the best of the bunch. But there was a nice slower song which was good enough on its own, but augmented by a nice freak-out guitar solo. I will need to see these guys again some time as many of the guitar solos were gone as the lead guitarist was playing bass while they find another to fill those shoes. Good solid set by a potentially enjoyable band. One knock on them was their oddball stage patter did not always work too well. I was thinking maybe there was a Geoffrey Rush type character that they could consult. But that did make for a perfect set-up for our headliner.
Grant Hart - I saw Grant Hart, an old buddy of mine, for the first time in 22 years last December at the Velvet Lounge. It was sparsely attended, but a decent solo show which provided good proof of his songwriting skills and performing abilities. Tonight began in similar fashion with a lot of high quality solo songs featuring his surprisingly good voice and decent electric rhythm guitar. He began his second song by starting "Heaven Hill" but then played something else, stopped it saying he didn't want to play it and went back to a good version of "Heaven Hill". "Sorry Somehow", "2541", "Never Talkin' to You Again" by request soon followed. Grant coments... "I really fucked up my brain lately." Lately? He then asked for requests for his bad songs that he could cover. I immediately thought "Baby Song" which someone else quickly requested. "No, No, No, Not with a ten-foot pole". OK, then back to the better songs from Husker Du, Nova Mob, and his solo records. Some one requested "Flexible Flyer", so he brought up the opening band and the four-piece brought it nicely to life (with the bass player now playing lead guitar). Apparently, the Venables were ready and had a whole book of Grant Hart songs they could do. So they played another 6-7 mostly Husker Du songs after Grant vetoed many in the book with "Nope...not doing that...hate that song..." The sea shanty tune was good and "Pink Turns to Blue" was solid although he doesn't hit the high notes. A good seventy minute set with oddball and sometimes clever banter from the always intriguing mind of Mr. Hart. He encored with three solo songs that were deep solid gems showing an interesting contrast to the mid/early Replacements type set preceding this. Actually it was like the Replacements on a good night, because unlike most Replacements sets which were drunken shambles and horrible, this one was fun and reminded the 75 or so present at what a great songbook exists, courtesy of Grant Hart.
Quote of the Night: From Grant... "Bigger crowd than last time, I wonder why". Well, last time was after the snows a couple of days before Christmas at the Velvet Lounge. And although the Washington Post promoted that show, this time DC ROCK LIVE had it promoted on its calendar. Yeah, that must be it.