Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Ambulars - Cigarette - Cloud Becomes Your Hand -- Black Cat - July 27 2011

Cloud Becomes Your Hand - What intended to be a review of Tim Robbins at the Birchmere instead becomes a review of the show at Black Cat's Backstage. But since I needed to turn off my air conditionrt to assist water repairs for the evening, I needed to do a later night show (I'll spare you the full details). So I get to see one of the countless Brooklyn bands starting out tonight's festivities. They line up with drums, violin, guitar/vocals and a couple of guys on keyboards/electronics that also break out percussion and ukuleles. Immediately an experimental music genre looks like the easy label to apply. But with that, there is always a need to explain further. The music had a nice drive to it with some interesting vocal chants ceding way to longer instrumental rhythms and icy violin runs. Lots of variety thereafter with some ripping guitar moves and prog moves. There was even an O'Death syle Americana/rock stomper with power chords from guitar and ukulele amidst cute electronica twitches. They closed with something reminding me of King Crimson's "Lizard". This was a tight, fun 30 minute set that worked its magic on me and the growing crowd. I recommend this band to any open minded music fan and will be back at their next show.

Cigarette - And yet another poorly named band that I don't immediately spot on my internet search. And since I have other things to do, I will get to the music. There are seven people on stage although that changes from song to song moving to a low of four. I think one person was out there for only one song. Lots of instrument switching as well, which I am not sure was really needed from a listener's point of view, but probably had to do with who wrote or sings the song or whatever. The resulting music was much smoother than the stage moves fortunately. The band had a light droning dreamy groove going the whole set. Delicate vocals toward shoegaze, but never too heavy. This was not always compelling, but was effective.

The Ambulars - I won the bet with myself. During the previous two sets, there were a couple of guys carrying on long winded conversations while the bands were playing. I bet myself that at least one of them was in this band. And one of them was. I realize that you are visiting friends, but there is a backstage for that if you really need to talk. Obviously if you are in the back of a club, you are not bothering the band, but you do bother listeners like me, who have to get up and move to a new location. That said, I will clear the slate and see what this band can deliver. I liked the simple immediate loud guitar-bass-drums-vocals delivery of tuneful pop-punk music. The drumming in particular had enough muscularity to push out at the listeners. The songs were pretty catchy for the most part. Buzzcocks-like, but not at that level of complexity and flexibility. I did note that the endings were a bit sloppy and not thought out. Tightening needed. Also, the band cried out "Everything's wrong" after a few songs when tuning went awry. There were some feedback issues too and I think they lost quite a bit of momentum. Still, there's hope if they learn to handle tough conditions and tighten their songs up.

Quote of the Night: From the openers... "We were in the James River today. Oh Boy--it is the warmest river I've ever been in."

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