The Kin - This NYC trio (two via Adelaide, Australia) is first to go on, although I would consider this more of a double headliner bill. Look for my interview with this band some time within a week or so (if my recorder worked well enough), as I had a fun chat with them before the show. The two brothers play keyboards and guitar and both handle all the vocals trading off some leads. Their songs are smartly balanced between classic pop, gutsy rock, and singer songwriter style. They sound amazingly fresh, yet manage to avoid settling for trendier indie rock patterns or Americana comfort (well there may be a reason for that, but there are quite a few Americana bands on foreign shores). And, oh yeah, their drummer is pretty amazing as well. He plays a modified kit with a large drum he straddles and several cymbals, with everything struck by hand. It was clear at the outset that these guys have played in DC several times as the crowd of 70 or so was packed up close to the stage digging deep into this music. The crowd may have swelled to about 90 by set's end and were some of the most attentive listeners I have seen in a while. The band came out into the crowd using only voice, acoustic guitar, and a clipboard for percussion. The crowd sang along and playing four songs in this manner only added to the energy of the set. But it was back on stage to plug back in until they closed with an explosive rocker. Vocals were excellent, drums were original and very cool, guitar parts rocked, and keyboards/key bass held the melodies together. They have the skill, personality, and the songs to attract a lot of diverse music lovers. This was a tune-up show of sorts as they had back to New York for a residency at the Rockwood Music Hall. Their autumn tour will bring them back right here on October 9th. I plan on being here.
Apache Relay - This Nashville band is six-strong with loads of guitars, well two or sometimes three anyway. They also feature keys, mandolin, and a violin quite often, along with a rhythm section. This is the rootsy, Americana, indie sound that is pretty prevalent these days. The great thing about this band is that they don't shy away from heavy sounds to match the vocal intensity. They rock hard in an even sort of way. They remind me a lot of the National and the Decemberists at their more straightforward rock moments. My only complaint is that my fondness for their sound wore off toward the end of the set as they didn't vary things enough or show any of the dynamic shifts in songwriting that helps create a bit of excitement for the listener. This is not a deal breaker, though, as they had enough talent to keep me hanging in there. And the violin always keeps my alertness up. Definitely a good band, but it will be interesting to see if they can take it up a notch and become a great band.
Quote of the Night: "Oh so that's why he has so many fingers taped up!" from me, seeing the Kin's famous street drummer bash away at those cymbals.