Orchard Wall - The first of what appears to be a roots based local showcase on the big stage at the Black Cat. I don't know if it's the lack of touring bands in the last gasp of winter or the price of gas or the overall cost of touring, but these local showcases on the main stage of the Black Cat are welcome to me and a sizable crowd tonight. First up are a four-piece with drums, stand-up bass, guitar/harmonica/vocals and a violinist who adds some female harmony vocals. The guy singing lead has a nice rasp, although at times is a bit Dylanesque (thankfully well shy of parody). Some of the songs were really good and the third one particularly hit some subtleties, yet was easy to latch on to. I am hearing Appalachian folk approaches in this brand of Americana folk-rock. The violin is helpful, but the vocal harmonies are a little erratic in that the voices seem too distinct at times and do not really blend as nicely as one would hope. Still, I am being a little picky as this was an enjoyable 30-minute set by a quite likable band. They are a fine part of the local roots scene.
The Reserves - This band immediately takes a more electric indie rock approach to their brand of roots music. Quite simply, if you like the National, you will like this band--just imagine keyboards instead of violin and a less deep lead vocal. Colorful lead guitar work and thumping drums (from the WeatherVanes drummer) keep things lively. A few songs tapered off here and there, but mostly this band was successful and has some nice potential.
Whiskey Parade - Back to a more acoustic Americana roots music this time around. There is banjo, violin and some guest electric guitar late in addition to the acoustic and rhythm section. The banjo is nearly inaudible in the early set and this is sounding a bit like good folk songs that are being played by people that have not worked out arrangements. No sooner did I come up with that opinion, then the singer told us all that this was their first show. In that case, everything makes perfect sense. There is nothing like getting up on stage and learning as you go and this band has the talent to do that. I did start to hear some complex work in one song, but the vocals reminded me it was a cover of Dire Straits' "Money for Nothing". The banjo sound exploded in the second to last song as the violin also went nuts on a honky tonk stomper. This is what I expect a bit more out of from a band with a Pogues-like name. Still, a nice debut here and you don't have to wait around for them to grow into something special, as there is enough to enjoy right now.
The WeatherVanes - Well, if you want accomplished arrangements from four guys that have the songs and the ability and comfort to play off of each other with a touch of soul, then here is the band that puts it all together tonight. Americana folk-rock that folks a bit more when they are acoustic, with the switch to electric guitar focusing them more on rock. I will pause while you catch your breath from that startling revelation. The keyboardist adds some banjo and mandolin as well, so they do vary the sounds nicely which keep things fresh over a long set. But as interesting as it all was, my mind wandered as I was reminded of how much the look of this band reminded me of the Eagles of Death Metal. But sound-wise, not even close. This is sharp heartland music that Axl Rose also would 'not get'. But the sizable crowd tonight got it and showed their appreciation. The crowd had thinned a bit due to the hour but probably surpassed 200 tonight, making this a highly successful local show here at the Black Cat. Do check out the WeatherVanes some time soon if you even remotely enjoy this type of music.
Quote of the Night: Rather quiet night tonight, so another great example of British journalism (from Chelsea defender John Terry supposedly discussing an opposing goaltender)...
Headline from The Sun: 'TERRY: SHUT IT WOJ'.
Number of mentions of Wojciech Szczesny, shutting it or otherwise in subsequent article: None.