Cigarette - I was quite mixed the last time I saw this collective. They had a lot of members on stage doing various things that I could not describe as busy. Tonight was similar as there is a lot of space in their music. It is dreamy with a very light touch. It has a Hush Arbors sound done at a Jose Gonzalez type volume. Or perhaps Simon and Garfunkel covering Stone Breath. As much as I am intrigued by the sound, I really thought it was more suited for a smaller room with quieter respectful fans (like the Velvet Lounge or Red Palace). The best review I could write while sitting in the back would be of the crowd noise that was twice as loud as the band (and it was not particularly disrespectful, but within the normal bounds). It is a shame because I think I could be a big fan of the music.
Buildings - No problem with volume in this set, as this local three-piece turned in yet another great set. They have not changed the formula much over the years with their instrumental angular playful version of postpunk. The guitar was busy as ever over the quick drum beats and mobile bass runs. Hey was that actually a vocal? Well, the guitarist audiblized something during one song but if you blinked, you missed it. There was one song that was a bit heavier than usual. They were playing new material off their latest album and did in fact have a few very subtle shifts in their songs which is nice--especially as an instrumental band. Buildings are always a welcome addition to any bill, and a fixture in the Sockets Record showcase.
Imperial China - I always look forward to seeing this trio. They are another key part of the Sockets Records story with another unique vision in the post punk world. The crowd is huge tonight and most of them know the importance of this label and these bands and are not just here for a Saturday night out. I have not seen these guys for a while, but they quickly remind me of all the things I like. The guitarist/singer has a table of electronics, while the bass player actually plays guitar more frequently. And the drummer pounds away nicely of course. The songs are short and more jagged and dark than Buildings. Early in the set, I am enjoying it but wondering what it is I like about this band. By the set's end, I am fully absorbed into their music which reminds me of how talented they are. On the surface, with a quick listen, the music is good. But a slow and steady diet of the music reaches a very satisfying conclusion. It is hard to define the alchemy at work here, but work it does. This is still an essential band for all of us.
Protect-U - We finish with an electronica duo, oddly enough not on Sockets Records. But the two guys have done individual projects there in years past. The rhythms were nice, the bass strong and thankfully they had some nice melodies on top with a good balance going on. Again, I go into my struggle mode at watching guys behind computers and oscillators bobbing their heads up and down as electronica spews forth from the machines. I am not sure if it is worse than the stereotypical heavy metal head bob, but maybe actually I am. The music did head toward a Tangerine Dream feeling for a bit, until I remembered that I missed the guitar sound of TD. The crowd was thinning out quite a bit which may have been due to the hour or maybe there are just a lot more people like me who like the more full band experiences. Still, this was ok maybe even a bit better than that.
Quote of the Night: From Sean of Sockets Records... "It's for DC. It's by DC." Simple enough and when the music is this good and continues to succeed (and survive) year after year, we are all very fortunate to have this label.