The Wave Pictures - This British trio made its DC debut in fine fashion with a lovely 64 minute set of eclectic pop-rock. The opening number was a real eye opener with a galloping rhythm section laying it down for singer-guitarist to weave a western-psyche jangle into a song the Sadies would be proud of. They shifted gears to more rhythmic pop, then some pop-rock, using various levels of sound and pattern. This was quite eclectic, but held all together with a solid rhythm section and some really amazing guitar work. These liquid runs were not heavily distorted (some reverb at times) and were amazingly busy. Yet the notes all came together into great hooks in the same style of Bob Mould, Chris Spedding or Curt Kirkwood (Meat Puppets). It is this skill that really elevated the excitement of the live show. Often hearfelt pop music is something I can respect, but not really get into during an hour's worth of standing at a club. But this set had so much sound shifting and guitar skill out front and underneath, that every song commanded attention. The guys seemed quite likable and the backstage crowd eventually filled to near capacity and really enjoyed the set. It is great to see this English band come along on tour with their fellow countrymen and go from coast to coast (AND get an hour to play). Hopefully the buzz will grow.
Allo Darlin' - In just a bit over three years, this band is making quite a name for themselves (possibly the only band name which forces you into your inner British accent). A couple of the band are from Australia and the other two are from England. But they are based in London and working their way into the hearts and ears of thoughtful pop music fans everywhere. The sound is much steadier than that of the openers, although this is a very sympathetic bill. I really get a 10,000 Maniacs vibe, which is the usual case when there is a mid-range female voice leading intelligent pop-rock musicians through a series of smooth flowing songs. Nothing particularly trendy, but yet another band showing their skill in making pop music that does not go for throbbing hooks, but more subtle compositions. This is the sort of shift made famous from the early Beach Boys songs to later Brian Wilson compositions. This is not entirely in my wheelhouse, but when you are this good, it is easy to let go and enjoy. Even the solo vocal/ukulele encore sounded better than I would have thought coming into this set. But the band came on for a more rocking conclusion to this latest British invasion.
Quote of the Night: From the Wave Pictures guitarist... "We really like this place. Everything but the pool table, as there is a hard roll to it. Ok, if you are casual players, but we are very competitive at pool, so save your coins for other things. I am sure there are better pool tables in Washington. But everything else is great. 10 out of 10!... except for the pool table. Sorry, I should not have mentioned the pool table because I really like this place..."