Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Mittenfields - Mean Ideas - The Plums -- Black Cat - Aug 8 2011

The Plums - Second time around for me and this time, Martin Bisi is no where in sight (and I hope that very few people get this joke since it is at my expense). The band starts well with two guitars blaring away, bass and drums pounding out a nice krautrock rhythm and a welcome cellist sawing his instrument in half. It is not too long where I am pining for the days when soundmen screwed the opening bands on volume as it is loud and my earplugs are safely secured on my desk at home. The faster rhythms descend into some less interesting noise reminiscent of that very long filmed Velvet Underground rehearsal mercifully broken up by the police. DC's Finest are not here tonight, so the band plays their "song" for the entirety of their half-hour set. Noise bands tend to lose me when they don't have real songs or sustain my interest with strong dynamics. This band does have some nice moments, but I would prefer Mogwai, Bardo Pond, Kohoutek, Paik, and a few others.

Mean Ideas - A couple of guitars, bass and drums and most importantly male and female vocals trading and sharing lead duties with the drummer joining in at times. I stress the vocals here, as they are what really make this band required listening for me. They hit vocal power and style heights that take me back to Balin/Slick of the Airplane and the vocals of the Peanut Butter Conspiracy (a band that is actually a lot better than their name). In fact the band has a lot of the rock styling of PBC with a dose of Quicksilver Messenger Service thrown in to give the required tough guitar sound. I do enjoy the guitar sound here as it is rock-strong with only a cinnamon like hint of shoegaze swirl deeper within. A couple of the players here are in the NRIs, another fine local band. This band has the songs, the sound and plays and sings together like they've been doing it a long time. They delivered tonight.

Next up is a stand-up guy delivering sit-down material. I am not sure where this is going, but after losing interest in the content and the delivery I go to the trusty IPOD and listen to... Jethro Tull. Well that's a band that would send many rock critics to the worst Fringe act in the country. While I ponder this, the guy introduces the headlining band...

Mittenfields - The crowd has been sizable all night with the backroom about 80-85% full. They instantly take to the Mittenfields sound. Although shoegaze is the key, I am struck with the classic rock foundation present. The rhythm section is surrounded by three guitarists who do head off to the stratosphere with regularity, but there are great rock sounds and good song structure as well. The bassist handles vocal duties and supplies good energy throughout. He and the drummer always keep the set moving forward with significant thrust. One guitarist off to the side physically reminds me of the recently departed Mark Tulin of the Electric Prunes and the music tonight does fit right in with the "Get Me to the World on Time" spirit of the Prunes. The band is loud, but stays out of the pain range which allows more focus on the songs which show enough quality that they could even stand a lighter treatment if desired. But why do that, when you can create the exciting guitar work that this band accomplishes. This was a solid set tonight and I plan to see them again as they have the skills and energy needed to become a fixture of the DC scene.

Quote of the Night: From the Mean Ideas after a long outro... "It's a set full of closers, ladies and gentlemen". True enough, but I'll recommend Major Stars, my favorite band for turning rock ending moves into whole songs.

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