Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Joy Formidable - A Place to Bury Strangers - Exitmusic -- 9:30 Club - Mar 26 2012

Exitmusic - This New York duo features a guitarist along with a female vocalist also on keyboards and guitar. Her long dress and striking looks do command attention and it is not too much of a surprise to learn she is also an actress on HBO's Boardwalk Empire. They are supported by an electronics/keyboard guy to help fill out the sound. And while that helps fill things out, I am not sure how much it is needed as this duo can deliver a whole lotta sound with just a few instruments. It helps that Alexa Palladino's vocals are nearly operatic at times, making Siouxsie Sioux look more like Olivia Newton-John. Devon Church's guitar provides a spooky background and churns out the chords into a music that sounds like some combination of Banshees/Midnight Movies/School of Seven Bells, etc. There is a lush feeling that never quite develops because the music is so edgy. This is a good thing. The crowd is here early tonight and is latching onto this music quite easily. The band employs a great control of the dynamics which I find compelling when it is done this well. There were a few moments when things were not gelling, but they passed quickly enough and the half-hour set was a real success. This band has a lot of potential, yet can deliver a striking sound today. They went beyond warming the crowd up here tonight.

A Place to Bury Strangers - It is high time I catch up with this powerful NYC area trio. In fact, it does not take long to realize I missed the earlier trains to sonic paradise. Thankfully the trains are still running and the 34 minute journey with this band was quite a trip. The sound was heavy and driving in some sort of Bunnymen/Jesus and Marychain/Spacemen 3 shoegaze psyche power rock sort of thing. Somehow they do it all on guitar, bass and drums with lead vocal work mostly with the guitarist. The power and volume were ever present, but music is so seductive that I never felt pummeled or overwhelmed. That is quite a difficult balance to maintain, but these guys have the vision and ability to make this alchemy happen. And the light show was a masterwork of Germanic expressionism that I wish more bands would employ. There was nearly no breaks in the sounds as they quickly brought out their songs which succeed by standing out as songs and not just one extended jam. This was an awesome set that was completely effective as a vibrant live presentation. I don't know about the rest of the crowd, but I could leave right now and be extremely happy with the show thus far.
The Joy Formidable - But why leave early when you can catch this hot Welsh power trio? They were my '2011 Best DC show' when they played the Black Cat and have since played on television a few times and had several huge arena shows opening for the Foo Fighters. So it is a packed house tonight with a sufficiently warmed crowd. They know the songs by now as this is 'the last tour of the first album' as guitarist/vocalist Ritzy Bryan states later in the set. I also did not know she had lived in DC and was up on the cherry blossom season going on. But she did not spend a whole lot of time pandering to the crowd, who were more excited to just dig into these fascinating noisy and tuneful songs. This band could be cutesy bubblegum pop if they wanted as they have it in them. Thankfully, that is down deep as they layer on thick slabs of sound atop powerful drums. Bass and guitar really lay it on thick with warm engaging vocals on top. Great stuff going over well with a nearly sold-out crowd (perhaps it did sell out by show's end as it was crowded). They encored with a song from their new album which is in the can awaiting release. It featured Bryan's vocals and bassist Rhydian Dafydd on acoustic guitar. This certainly changes the formula a bit which is a nice tease for the new album. They next brought out a guest harpist. But if anyone was worried about a low-key finish, they went from a harp based intro to a powerful version of "Whirring". They still proved to me that they are one of the best bands working today as they command a great sense of pop with creative heavy sound. And a whole lot of people are learning this.

Quote of the Day: It was Sterling Hayden's birthday yesterday. Although long passed, his work in such essential films as "The Asphalt Jungle" and "Dr. Strangelove" will forever live on. Additionally, I highly recommend his memoir "The Wanderer".  I read it after the Village Voice raved about it years ago. I have seen Robert Osborne of TCM wave it around telling people to read it. My friend is still blown away after he finished it a couple years back. Here's an excerpt...
To be truly challenging, a voyage, like a life, must rest on a firm foundation of financial unrest. Otherwise, you are doomed to a routine traverse, the kind known to yachtsmen who play with their boats at sea... cruising, it is called. Voyaging belongs to seamen, and to the wanderers of the world who cannot, or will not, fit in. If you are contemplating a voyage and you have the means, abandon the venture until your fortunes change. Only then will you know what the sea is all about. "I've always wanted to sail to the south seas, but I can't afford it." What these men can't afford is not to go. They are enmeshed in the cancerous discipline of security. And in the worship of security we fling our lives beneath the wheels of routine - and before we know it our lives are gone. What does a man need - really need? A few pounds of food each day, heat and shelter, six feet to lie down in - and some form of working activity that will yield a sense of accomplishment. That's all - in the material sense, and we know it. But we are brainwashed by our economic system until we end up in a tomb beneath a pyramid of time payments, mortgages, preposterous gadgetry, playthings that divert our attention for the sheer idiocy of the charade. The years thunder by, the dreams of youth grow dim where they lie caked in dust on the shelves of patience. Before we know it, the tomb is sealed. Where, then, lies the answer? In choice. Which shall it be: bankruptcy of purse or bankruptcy of life?


Chris said...

I got there a couple minutes after 8:00, and it sort of set the mood for the night to see the place at least 2/3 full already for the start of the first band's set. Exitmusic isn't exacly my style, but the singer's voice is absolutely amazing. (Until she said something between songs, I thought it was a guy in a dress.) It will be interesting to see how their sound develops over time. A pleasant surprise - I knew absolutely nothing about them going in.

Last year, it seemed that Joy Formidable would benefit by playing a bigger club to complement their big sound. Boy, did they ever. I also thought that Bryan was a much better performer this time - more confident, more of a ringleader, maybe a little swagger. It was an incredible show.

Last year, I ran into a guy I knew in high school who knows Bryan. I think he said she used to be a family's nanny when she lived here.

Other Chris said...

I arrived in the middle of A Place to Bury Strangers. Looks like I should have a arrived a bit earlier based on your review of Exitmusic. Going by myself, I figured it was easier to go later rather than earlier. Less standing around talking to myself. I found, though, that 9:30 does have some nice places for loners (note the 'n', not the 's' ;) to sit and hang out. I was amused (or perplexed) by the usual small but noticeable stream that left at the end of the main set. Missing "Whirring" is kind of like--I don't know what. Maybe leaving prior to overtime in at the NCAA championship basketball game? I don't get it. It's not like there's traffic.

Chris, you are correct, Ritzy said in an interview she was an au pair when she was in DC.

David Hintz said...

I have long gotten over the 'going alone' issue although that is something to overcome. Fortunately I chatted with a couple people I knew, but I always have reading material and fortunately there are a couple of spots with lighting. Don't forget that the 9:30 Club is really good about listing times on their website and they do vary night to night.

Glad you guys liked it so much, as well as the many people around me. I sometimes second guess myself when a band like this blows me away the first time around, but they seem to really have something profound to offer music fans of all ages.

Chris said...

Yeah, I'm still working on the going alone thing. I know it's silly, particularly since I've missed a few bands I would have loved to have seen live because I didn't want to go alone. I used to go frequently to the old 9:30 Club when I was younger with a group of friends. But, then, the having a family cliche happened and it's hard to find those that still keep up with music. It helps, though, to have reviews such as yours as, I, like you mentioned, sometimes wonder if something is as good as it seems.

Chris said...

P.S. Thanks for the tip regarding the 9:30 Club times. I didn't know that. I just figured it starts when it starts.

David Hintz said...

Great points on the aging issue with people moving on and all. It is something my friends and I have discussed for years. I had to travel a lot when I was younger, so I got in the habit of doing things like movies and live music by myself. So I have gotten used to it aside from live theater. For some reason, that creeps me out a little, although I still do that alone when I can't find someone to adjust their schedule and join me.