Luke Mitchem - One man, one acoustic guitar, and one microphone on stage at the Rock'n'Roll Hotel. This has been a real problem in the past, but never was it as bad as tonight with noisy bar patrons loudly talking and laughing while Luke Mitchem plays a quality downer folk song. Fortunately, I was able to focus on Mitchem for a while and heard an excellent voice, good songs, and merely fair guitar work. Nothing dazzling but a controlled, deliberate pace set up a dramatic vocal line in many of the songs. Fine artist here, but hopefully next time I will be seeing him at Jammin Java or Sova or any of the few places where you can play this sort of music. Until then, I won't be able to get the full effect of the lyrics and the mood. Where is that ear piercingly loud band I saw the other night just when I need them to punish these people. Oh the irony... At least I was able to hear that one of Luke Mitchem's new songs on his forthcoming album sounded like one of his best tonight, so he is worth another look for sure.
The Last Monarchs - It has been a while since I have seen this four-piece and I am glad I waited, for it seems they have gotten a bit better in the mean time. Not that they were not enjoyable before, but there seemed to be a disconnect between the players that I just could not get by. But tonight, the acoustic guitar, violin, bass, and drums came together both sonically (thank-you sound man) and with cohesiveness in the playing. Then putting a male and female voice on top, we were left with a nice rocking Americana. Some of the vocal work went a little bit country, but the rhythm section keeps things rocking well enough. Their new song also was a winner with a deep rumbling rhythm that offset the vocal melody line nicely. I am happy they are working hard and doing well. Nice set.
Aunt Martha - I must confessed I missed the first few songs as I was covering two shows tonight, as I lost track of my promises (fortunately I did not promise to do the third show that I was asked to cover). But I had seen the band before and I know they are good. They feature a combination of things that we heard earlier, but take it in their own original direction. I could easily see them slipping into Band of Horses type material, but like the Loom, Iron & Wine, and even the mighty Woven Hand, Aunt Martha uses some sonic creativity to stay out of the basic Americana folk-rock world. They feature drums and an acoustic guitarist who handles the lead vocals. The second guitar and bass player have keyboards next to them and are frequently adding fascinating sonic layers into the songs. This is a strong band where the sky is the limit as they continue to play out and release music and find their audience. One thing though, if you are fortunate to get enough rabid fans that continue to applaud and call out for an encore (as opposed to the ones that quietly wait for it), it might be nice to do one more--or just tell the soundman to start the house music right when you are finished. But on the positive side, check this band out (their album is streaming at their website). I will be back the next time they play DC.
Quote of the Night: Prior to the last song, Luke Mitchem wanted to discuss what it was about... "I don't ever tell an audience to be quiet, but..." I know why he does not do that. And although I would like the bartenders or security to help out, I know why they do'nt, but someone has to do it. Three of us did after he said this and one guy told a group to quiet down earlier in the set. I have done it before, but I really get tired of playing the 'angry old guy' which I have vowed not to become. But if I check my temper and try to be polite about it, I think I will be doing more police work. It seems any time myself and others have done this, the people around us are happy we have said something.