Maple - First up is a local four-piece with a rhythm section and a couple of guitarists that both do some lead vocals. The lead player also employs some well place steel guitar as well. That adds a touch of honky tonk to this mix of classic and indie rock style. The rhythms are deep and rumbling, while the vocals come out on top carrying some nice melodies. There is an attractive rolling tempo through much of this and they manage to balance rock, pop, blues and a touch of Americana quite nicely throughout this 33 minute set. The closing number had some sharp guitar moves early in the song making for some added interest. This opening set of another 4-band local showcase on the main Black Cat Stage yet again shows why it is important to get to shows on time around here. More often than not, from top to bottom of the bill, the local scene features high quality music with nice personal flourish. Maple proved that once again.
Cane & the Sticks - The crowd has been at about 60 so far and will likely swell a bit more. That makes for a little extra room upstairs, but this is still a valuable way to get bands on the mainstage and allow the crowd to have some room and not get too packed into a smaller area (and short people can see the band!). Most of the crowd has been staying close to the stage thus far, giving the opening bands good feedback. For the second band tonight, we have a local power trio with most vocals from the guitarist, but plenty of assistance from the female drummer. I really like the throaty guitar sound with a nasty snarl to it. There is something odd or off-tune at times early in the set making them sound a bit like the Misfits live. Although, musically they are more into a twisted blues rock of sorts on the grungier side of another local trio, the Jones. It does sound a bit like the Misfits attempting to cover the Reverend Horton Heat or Jon Spencer at times. As the set moves on, they do lock in nicely at times for some rather exciting rock'n'roll. At first glance, the sound appears to be well ahead of the songwriting, but I will need to listen further. I do like enough of what I hear and they seem to have created a very nice sonic space for themselves.
Nunchucks - It has been a while since I have seen this twin guitar four-piece. They had a very fun, but raw power-pop set at the Slickee Boys last show and they bring a tighter presentation tonight. Thankfully, they have not lost any of the fun crunching power-pop/garage rock styling that makes them so easy to enjoy right out of the gate. Again, the lead guitar work during standard song verses gives this work a bit of originality which really helps as the hooks are not terribly new in this sort of music. They remind me of the Zeros, one of the finer power-pop punk bands of the earl west coast punk scene. Solid 38-minute set continuing this evening of fine rock music where each band has a clear personal sound.
The Courtesans - This power trio features the Blackberry Belles' guitarist/vocalist. But instead of the former band's organ, it's strong classic bass lines here. Ergo, the sound is more straight ahead rock, yet there is still elements of 60s garage-soul-rock that I am not sure I fully have noticed before in Courtesans' sets. These guys rock nicely and have some pop hooks and occasionally hit a Nils/Sloan sort of thing, but they move around a bit in rock territory nicely while keeping a steady sound. Lead Vocals are tagged off to the bass player at times and both singers add a distinctive style to the mix. The crowd is still enjoying the night and have stuck it out pretty much for every band. Another 38 minute set here as all four bands got a chance to showcase their talents on the main stage of the Black Cat. And whether they are playing a headline gig at a small club, or opening for a sold out big stage show, I would be happy to see all of them again some time. And the Black Cat is doing something like this again on the 24th. Hope to see you there.
Quote of the Night: From the Courtesans bass player... "According to my set list we are going to do a Spice Girls cover followed by a Judas Priest cover."
Ha. The main reason I wrote this one up was that it reminded me of when I was sitting in a moderately high end restaurant in Annapolis and Richard Hell & the Voidoids' "Blank Generation" came on after some jazz music. Then it was another jazz number followed by "Green Eyed Lady" by Sugarloaf, which was the fist 45rpm record my younger brother bought. It was so eerie that I asked my waitress who said it was probably a bartender or waiter's IPOD. Makes sense, but still unusual to me. But forever burned into my psyche are those early days of punkrock where virtually no one in this country's media outlets would play this music. Irony? Bitterness? What can you do.?