Sunday, July 8, 2012

These United States - The Henry Clay People - Kingsley Flood -- Black Cat - Jul 7 2012

Kingsley Flood - Wow, if this isn't the American version of the Levellers, I am not sure what is. If you are going to do Americana these days, it helps if you have a burning rock pace working--especially if you're opening the show on a Saturday night. This Boston based sextet (1/6 DC based they tell us) has the usual rock band instrumentation but has a violin/sax player and a keyboardist employing a trumpet frequently. The brass and violin gives more life to the sound, but also simply adds to the pace and volume. They add some old rock'n'roll moves at times and have lots of solid vocal work. I even detected one break that sounded like the Voidoids (more of that, please). Some of it covered familiar well worn terrain, but was quite effective. At times, they transcended that into something special. This was absolutely fun, and occasionally something that resembled headliner material. Their 46-minute set felt a lot longer, not due to boredom, but they had very few breaks and packed in more notes per minute than most any Americana-esque band you will see.

The Henry Clay People - This band sounded familiar and sure enough I saw them about three years ago on a tour through town. I was not overly wild about this LA-based quartet to say the least, but I was looking forward to seeing them again as they are still touring the country. Immediately they made a good impression with me and the moderately sizable crowd tonight. Pretty much straight rock in an indie style is the formula with the twin guitar attack. They said Fugazi was the best band ever, and their music confirms that belief. As the 38 minute set wore on, I did feel the vocal lines became a tad monotonous, and aside from a nice Ramones move once and a few energized flourishes, it was getting a little overly steady and less vibrant. The crowd quieted a bit, too. Still, this is a solid rock band whose years on the road have paid off well, and was a lot more fun this time around for me.

These United States - Initially, it was evident that this five piece band was going to bring the volume and power down a notch. It takes a confident, talented band to do that and it was not more than a couple songs in before I realized this band had the magic and would deliver a winning set. They have the ubiquitous Americana/indie rock sound, but have sharp songwriting that is far more accomplished than most bands you will see. I do not often dig into the lyrics at a live show, but I heard enough that this does sound like a band I would want to explore further. They have a story telling style in their songs, but with tons of solid rock and heartland sounds to comfort the delivery. One guitarist switched to steel guitar and headed a bit too deep into cliches with that sound at times. Fortunately, over half of those songs had a more natural less dominating steel sound, so ultimately it all worked. They went from deep to playful with smooth, natural transitions that kept it all going well. They reminded me of a heartland Drive-by Truckers with less murder ballads and one focused vocalist. They did a Willie Nelson cover  and came back with one encore after reminding the crowd that chanting USA is not quite correct. The crowd quickly shifted to TUS without being corrected further. The 70 minutes flew by and this band established itself as a solid band that will likely get about everybody here back for the next show, next tour.

Quote of the Night: From These United States singer... "How about a round of applause for air conditioning!" I am grateful the Swans with their no air conditioning policy were not here on this 105 degree day (and I am thrilled that the Swans will be here on my birthday in the cool month of October).

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