Thursday, February 28, 2013

RECORD REVIEWS - February 2013

This local band has been putting on some fine live shows over the years around here. I think they made a great call in recording their sophomore album with Chris Stamey at his studio in North Carolina. Stamey was always under the radar as a player, but was a superstar with other musicians and he knows sound. The Riverbreaks have a great Americana pop/rock base to work with and that shines through on this album. There is a constant flash of instrumental thrust, but more of a focus on the song with just enough guitar, violin, or keyboards to augment the vocals and rhythms. I believe good things are happening for this band as they have the ability to pull in some of the main stream fans of Josh Ritter or Alejandro Escovedo with this sort of sound. Their writing is not consistently at that level, but they are getting there.

Songs to try out first:

Wild Fruit - The opening number is perfectly balanced between pop, rock, and Americana with shining instrumental sound.

Corn Blue Night - I sense the Chris Stamey influence here as the power-pop elements are brought out with a nice quietly gnarly guitar sound underneath the catchy vocals.

Paper Moon - Delicate acoustic guitar makes way for a lovely slower ballad before electric guitar takes over. This balances epic with personal through a deft touch.

Or check out their new video...


This local funk rock band has a fascinating approach to some genre combinations I do not hear often--at least the way they do it. They play funky beat oriented lounge jazz rock, and can take that concept into some bold extremes. There are frequent dual vocal parts for male and female. Imagine Ashford and Simpson working with the Contortions or Arto Lindsay going crazy Eddie Hazel style. This is daring gutsy music that dares to alienate different sides of the equation. I am not sure I would want to hear this every day, but it is a welcome kick in the pants much of the time. I hope they do not lose the jagged edges, for if they were to soften the blows, they would sound like too many other bands.  I definitely plan to catch them live again some time soon.

Songs to try out first:

YOWWYCH - You can decide pretty quickly in this opening cut of whether you will get into this. Once the guitarist started wailing away, I was hooked.

Fishes - Good mixture of funk and rock guitar with a strong vocal workout and vibrant pace.

Cooke - A powerful long number with a dramatic build, particularly with the vocals.

This hard touring band has put on many fine shows in DC over the years. They have tremendous energy which is not always easy to transfer to studio work. This five song ep (along with three remixes) mostly succeeds with the energy, as well as their dance oriented highly edged funk rock. "Lead!" is the one that reminds me of the No Wave meets hard UK post punk rock sound that gets you closer to convulsions than dance steps. "Age of Advice" is a nifty little pop song that pulls it back a bit yet, with a biting lyric and really great hooks, it is real surprise. The arrangements here are stunning and I hope to hear more of this on future albums. This is a nice little record and really impressed me in their song writing skills. I knew about their energy and sound, but the creative moves on a few of these songs can rival all the Animal Collectives out there.

** See Spirit Animal TONIGHT at the Rock'n'Roll Hotel opening for the wonderful Efterklang **

And they have a video for "Lead!", so try this out and see if you can avoid coming to the show...


If you are into electronica based pop music, this Brooklyn based band may just have an EP for you. The textures are rich and the vocal work is top notch and allows them to stand out in a crowded field. Personally, I like some songs a lot more than others, so it may be a matter of whether you want to dance or dig deeper into a song's structure. "Out There" was particularly memorable with a David Bowie vibe in their somewhere. "Rescue Me" also provided some fine vocal tradeoffs and a clever contrasting percussion and guitar bridge. The Giorgio Moroder/Kraftwerkian synth moves on "Disco Heart" were surprisingly good. This music is not in my area of expertise, but as more bands put as much quality into the playing and singing as they do the beats, I may get to know this genre better.

Hard alt metal attack is on the menu for this twelve song LP. They say they are a Belgian two-man noise generating army, which succinctly previews this controlled sonic assault. This is the work of an organized 'army' and there is no anarchic running amok in this regiment. These two have been doing it a while (although this is a return after a four year layoff) and it is no surprise to see that they have worked a bit with Steve Albini as they are clearly sonic cousins. There is an urgency to the vocals, yet they do not lose clarity and keep the song moving forward without losing intensity. The guitar noise and percussion also exhibits just enough control, although untrained ears may sense a reckless abandon. I have been hearing lots of great noisy rock coming out of Belgium in the past year, and this welcome return continues the pattern. And if these guys can deliver the goods live, perhaps a return trip to the Benelux area is something I need to consider. Keep the music coming!


This Richmond band put on a great live set this past month and they provided this, their most recent album to me along with some newer songs they are working on. The album captures much of what I heard live with piano and voice carrying the thrust of the song, and rock instrumentation merging in demonstratively or pulling back for atmosphere as the song dictates. There are strings as well and the sound is positively mystical at times. They really remind me of Spriguns mostly due to the Mandy Morton like vocals, although there is a bit more power here beyond the mysticism. The real success here is in their determined creation of a musical world that pulls the listener in and keeps them deeply involved throughout each flowing song. This is a band worth exploring further. And their newer songs from a working copy CDR sound good, with a touch more variety even due to the inclusion of brass and modern rhythmic touches.

Songs to try out first:

Turpentine - Dreamy psyche-folk with the spacey guitar and vocals enveloping the rich piano. Great dramatic tension in this one, nearly a theater piece in its own way.

Lorelei - A Germanic tale they describe as a love song for mermaids and pirates. There is a sense of antiquity here, at least before they head off toward rocking coastlines.

Mint - There is a lovely flow to this song. It opened the set the other night and perhaps haunts me still.

This is a Spanish/Czech Republic folk rock band that is starting to make a name for itself in continental Europe. They seem to embrace some of the fine progressive folk rock bands of the past. In particular, Spain had a lot of them like Granada and la Bullonera and many more from the Movieplay label. Yet there is more folk here in a few of the songs and they also are capable of blasting out some great rock moves as well. It is this diversity which makes this music successful. The instrumentals sometimes get a little predictable, but when they rev it up, pull it back, or add the lovely vocal work, they have something special.

Songs to try out first:

Riderland - Sadies styled folk rock with killer violin jam amidst the rock moves and heartfelt vocals.

Epic Tale - Nice spicy near jazz instrumental mix here, like Kebnekajsne from Sweden.

La Cima - The most searing rocker with power guitars and speedy strings all over the pummeling rhythm section.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Torres - Pree -- DC9 - Feb 25 2013

Pree - This local psyche-folk four-piece begins with two songs from their lead vocalist on acoustic guitar. She was a bit tentative at first and kind of messed the first song up, but it had an incredible amount of guitar work within. She can easily keep an audience enthralled for a whole set, but it was nice to see her move to electric while bringing on the guitar, bass, and drums portion of Pree. Now the spacier pop rock tones fly off in the many directions that this band likes to go. They don't keep their feet planted too long in one place, but it is a smooth ride on whatever journey they are on. There seems to be a bit more bounce in their step and maybe it is the energy from their new bass player. They have a bit of heaviness toward the end that revs up the people, but the sizable crowd was with them the whole way. They are off on some more touring and will hopefully be back for more high quality sets later this year.
Torres - This 'band' is actually Nashville singer/songwriter Mackenzie Scott who handles the vocals and guitar tonight, joined with  a guitarist, bassist/keyboardist, and drummer. After searching the web for information on them and avoiding the links to Fernando Torres (this band is in much better form), it seems that this artist is just starting to make a name for herself. And after seeing this hour long set, it will not take long before Torres becomes a familiar word on most music lovers' lips. Her vocal work is strong and vibrant with a real bluesy growl down low that can jump to ethereal highs instantly. She is not quite at Savage Rose's Anisette levels (not many are), but his voice has far more than you usually hear in the clubs. The guitars contrast nicely from grungey undertones to spacey realms while showing off intriguing patterns within. The songs even have intricate European prog moves somehow somewhere, even as they purport a simplicity. This is tricky material, but delivered straight, strong and with full confidence. There is some post-Radiohead moves and a full fledged shoegaze freakout at the end. Scott handles the encore solo and plays a long mesmerizing song that fittingly caps off this creative set. I almost said 'wildly creative', but there is a control and straight forward approach that is perplexing since so much is accomplished. Rather than keep scratching my head over this, I think I will go listen to some of their recorded music to try to keep this music with me a while longer.

Quote of the Night: Pree's bassist... "I'm shedding ravioli."

Monday, February 25, 2013

Trouble Funk - Scream - Shady Groove - Black Market Baby - Junkyard - Youth Brigade - Static Disruptors - Worlds Collide -- 9:30 Club - Feb 24th 2013

Tonight we have a show loaded with harDCore bands and Go-Go bands from days of old to celebrate the Corcoran Gallery's "Pump Me Up" exhibit featuring art of the famous DC music scenes. I have not seen the exhibit yet, but plan a visit prior to the April 7th close. Henry Rollins is here to host and introduce the bands tonight and there are a lot of bands here to fill in the eight plus hours the club is open today and tonight. That is a lot of time to spend on the concrete balcony, so I did not stay for all of it, but here is what I took in...

Worlds Collide - A more 'modern era' hardcore band gets things underway with their metal tinged strong and assertive songs. Dense, straight ahead and good solid opening set to greet the surprisingly large crowd here at 4pm.

Static Disruptors - Playin' the DC Groove is what this old Go-Go collective does here with their half-hour set. There some original members that go back to 1980 and some younger guys. Plenty of brass helps, but the sound is mostly percussive. The vocalist looked and sounded like he belonged in Nashville instead of fronting this collective.

Youth Brigade - Two shows in two months? What seemed impossible is now becoming routine. I enjoyed their last set quite a bit. It seemed a bit rougher tonight and I am thinking their has not been much rehearsal in between shows, which is understandable. The closer was again "Stepping Stone" with guests like John Stabb helping out. Not as much magic tonight and that may have been in part due to the pace being closer to the Monkees than SOA. Oddly enough, the 'other' Youth Brigade from the west coast was playing with the Cockney Rejects in Baltimore tonight. My head is spinning.

Junkyard - Another Go-Go collective here with a powerful sound. The multiple vocalists were quite good as their voices harmonized a bit and the dance steps got the crowd worked up for the first time tonight. The percussionists were fantastic and songs were coming out non-stop. This set was excellent, fresh and popping.

Black Market Baby - These guys retire more than Terry Funk. But I am happy to catch their set as I did not have a golden ticket to their Black Cat show in December. Their signature old style punk song structure played at hardcore pace was still working well tonight. I enjoyed it as did much of the crowd. Before their set Henry Rollins mention that he didn't like calling something a problem (at least the third time he talked about not doing something before doing it with different wording), but instead said that problems were solutions waiting to happen and everyone in the room is the solution, so go out there and be the solution. Apparently, that did not extend to the monitors which some of the band struggled with. The drummer threw a fit and his sticks a song before he called off the set prior to what was to be their closing number. Awkward and a fitting time for me to take this aching body home before I need a cane to get me there (I saw three canes tonight).

Quote of the Night: from Mr. Rollins while introducing Junkyard... "As we go deeper and deeper and further and further into the night... well, I don't like to play favorites, but I've waiting for this for a long time."

And people actually pay to hear him talk... a cover charge... three times what we can pay for a good Velvet Lounge show... I would pay to see Rollins sing in the Black Flag reunion. Unfortunately, after decades of no Black Flag, there are now two factions revisiting those classics. So Henry is possibly the wisest of all of them, steering clear of the mess.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Snowden - The Mean Season - Ocean Versus Daughter -- DC9 - Feb 22 2013

Ocean Versus Daughter - This Richmond outfit starts off with a solo piano/female voiced song. It is a steady rhythmic piano with occasional flourish along with deep ethereal, yet strong, vocals on top. I could listen to a whole set of this, but it was nice to see a bassist, drummer, and cellist fill out the sound from thereon. The music retained the quiet intensity and dramatic tension and easily pulled me in. The vocals remind me a lot of Spriguns' Mandy Morton with their icy sense of quiet which can firmly move into great depths (of the ocean here). There is intricacy in the music that reminds me of Sweden's Efterklang (coming to DC shortly). They had some feedback problems which marred the otherwise exquisite sound they achieved tonight in their 32 minute set. Hopefully they will be playing DC again some time soon, as they have the musical complexity and songwriting skill that will likely reward repeated listening.

The Mean Season - I really have enjoyed this local trio in past sets and they won me over again tonight. I was impressed with how they can concoct a steady textural landscape and then move into quick intricate patterns before moving back into more open shaped music. This creates a lot of intrigue over the course of a set and keeps things fresh and vibrant on the entire journey. Clearly, we have a well booked evening of intelligent, yet catchy music here tonight. The heavier rock numbers that sneak into their psyche-pop-prog-rock moves are a nice jolt to the system and expand things even further. With the amount of quality local bands around town, I have trouble remembering just how good some of them are. Now after three times with the Mean Season, that will not be a problem here.

Snowden - This band has been pretty much a solo vehicle for Jordan Jeffares, although he has recruited two excellent players in the band who hopefully will remain over future albums and tours. I immediately recognize Mikey Jones who plays with Adam Franklin and with Franklin's band Swervedriver, in America at least. Jones lends his precise powerful drumming in a more stripped down manner to give the foundation for Jeffares' thoughtful pop music. The third member adds some mildly anarchic bass playing which rocks the music out in strange and interesting ways. His keyboards are more traditional in a modern atmospheric sense. The music is a fine combination of lush and edgy, a combination that does not always marry this well. It may more often head into dream pop land, were it not for Jeffares' vocals which keep things firmly aground. The band has played DC quite a bit and based on the full room tonight, they may be ready to graduate to a larger club. Their 55 minute set capped off a strong night of music for fans looking for a bit of intelligence mixed into emotionally moving songs.

Deja vu? - Thankfully, no repeat of the Agnostic Front show... although, I am hearing there was a fatal shooting near the club when the show was getting out. I left quickly and did not see or hear anything, but apparently it had nothing to do with the club and the patrons. It was a crowded Friday night in the U Street corridor, and sadly these things do happen. Here is the initial Washington Post report.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Upcoming DC Events for your participation

While I always keep a calendar of recommended events in the right column of this page, I wanted to make special mention of some exciting events coming up shortly and later on this year. They feature music front and center, but also bring in art and theater. Although I spend an awful lot of time in clubs, I also support theater, art, book readings, and many other great cultural events around town that I will probably should sneak into DC ROCK LIVE more frequently. So first, check out the following art show with a rather big music tie-in...

DC FUNK-PUNK THROWBACK JAM - 9:30 Club, February 24th

If you missed the two Salad Days shows at the Black Cat, here is your chance to see some of the bands that played those nights. As a very cool bonus, the DC funk/go-go scene is also represented at this show. The irrepressible Henry Rollins will be your host in what will be a historic night where you are sure to get some great music. Note the 3:00pm start time as there is so much to take in that afternoon and evening. This is all to celebrate the opening of an exhibition at the Corcoran Gallery of Art entitled PUMP ME UP: DC subCULTURE of the 1980’s and the release of the film The Legend of Cool “Disco” Dan. The Corcoran's exhibit runs from February 23rd through April 7th and will definitely be worth a visit after this show.

ONE NIGHT WITH JANIS JOPLIN returns to the ARENA STAGE, June 21st through August 11th

This show was such a success, that it is back for an encore run which will give you another chance to see a fine theater piece that brings you the music of Janis Joplin and that of her inspirations. It was a tremendous show and I will have more when the show dates get closer. Perhaps, I will again interview a cast member as I did previously (see Mary Bridget Davies interview in my Interviews section on the right). Put this on you calendar and stay tuned.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

9 Songwriter Series -- Iota - Feb 19 2013

9 Songwriter Series - This series founded by local songwriter Justin Trawick has been going strong for a few years now and it is high time I finally make it out. Perhaps it was the aspect of reviewing nine separate acts in one night that scared me off, but more likely it was merely a case of schedule conflicts. Whatever the case, it was time for me to give a listen to nine singer songwriters playing quick little sets and enjoying the camaraderie with a full room of attentive listeners as well as fellow musicians. The format is clean and simple: each artist does a two song set solo or with a guest and immediately introduces the next act. At the conclusion, each artist again pops up for a quick one-song encore. It's a showcase for the songs, the voices, and a guitar or piano (along with a percussion box). And it was a full night of folk and singer songwriter material which played well with the crowd. I'll offer a quick note on each of the performers:
Paul Pfau - Good breezy style with fairly active songs that are nicely balanced.

Jon Braman - Odd that he actually wrote a song called "Sumertime", but not as odd or interesting as the second song which had rapped verses atop his ukulele.

Brittany Jean - One of my favorite performers in a band setting had all her charm and energy working here in this format.

Cathy Ditoro - She had the look and sound of a classic coffee house folk artist with the stool and acoustic guitar.

Brandon Walker - Good piano work and likably sweet songs.

Ken Wenzel - Vibrant strumming, good melodies in the songs, a tad long on the second song, but what the hey.

Rachel Levitin - Although it had the folk feeling, the songs have good pop hooks for voice and guitar and would work in a band setting.

Justin Trawick - A snappy opener and a rather loose approach until his second song showed the serious side as he delved deeper into it.

Matt Boyer - Playing a hollow body, he probably was the best guitarist of the night (and guested in other sets frequently). Songs decent, but guitar work excellent in a Meic Stephens vein.

Quote of the Night: Parpahrasing Justin Trawick to start the evening... 'We are keeping this show a listening show, so don't talk because you paid good money to hear music (that we wrote at 3am last night). Thank-you'.   And it worked... aside from the crazy lady up front.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Riverbreaks - The North Country - Orchard Wall -- Black Cat - Feb 16 2013

Orchard Wall - When you encounter a familiar genre such as Americana or alt-country (as we will have through and through tonight), you really want to see bands rise up and beyond the basics. The violin here is something that brings in some personality and the entire band has a strength and resolve at the core to keep there music fresh and interesting. When it was time for a cover song, they asked us to sing along if we knew it. I rolled my eyebrows as I usually do not recognize cover songs or know the words well enough even if I do. But they instantly accessed the corner of my brain containing "Smoke on the Water" and "Stairway to Heaven" note for note memories. This time, it was the Doobie Brothers "Black Water" which was practically a high school anthem for us. Not bad, and much more sensible than a Led Zeppelin cover, although there are a few that could work for them. Their use of a flugelhorn was also a nice accent, although it could have been a bit louder in the mix. They had enough quality songs that stood out, so they should do well with their skills and their approach.

The North Country - I have been seeing this band quite a bit lately, and they get still continue to impress me more every time out, as opposed to getting used to their sound and needing a break. The main reason is that although they have the feel of a rootsy Americana band, they take it up and well beyond the confines of the genre. A Radiohead cover is one clue, although a simple focused listening to their whole set will be enough. Sadly, there was the usual weekend crowd of conversationalists bringing their Algonquin Table wit to their private talks which are unfortunately magnified into a high decibel buzz. After relocating positions a few times, I was able to absorb this excellent 45 minute set. Like Robert Plant's Band of Joy, they have a rhythm section that makes things quite worldly and allows the music to soar above ground more than most bands that occupy this general rootsy base. They employ spacey sounds more from the strong combination of violin and cello, with some from guitar as well. They reminded me of some sort of Spirogyra and the National combination at times where the strings were adding such depth in the songs. This is a very good band that creates music that a wide variety of music fans can easily dig into.
The Riverbreaks - The Black Cat corrected their tactical error by opening the curtain to the back room so this amazingly large crowd could spread out. It is a credit to the bill, but particularly to the Riverbreaks for getting around six hundred people out for a local showcase. But it was a special show as their second album is finished and available to all (to be reviewed here shortly). The Riverbreaks may be the most grounded band here tonight, but they have plenty of flourish and skill to grab hold of a sound and add their personality to it. They have all the usual instruments with full time keyboards and frequent violin adding that little bit extra. The vocal work is strong and the songs are inviting. I think the trick is that they manage to keep the warmth of the songs clear, while still having the energy to rock it out to a large room. They also add some back-up singers and a guest cellist to jazz up their arrangements a bit in a few of the songs. I am always happy to see the local shows get a good turnout, but it is a testament at how well this band is connecting that they are now drawing crowds like this. Hopefully that growth will continue here and for many other deserving area bands.

Genre of the Day: I always enjoy the genres that some bands create for themselves in their promo materials. Today's favorite is the band Idyll who describes their genre as.... Dramatic Acoustic Folk Pop.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Retribution Gospel Choir - Deathfix -- DC9 - Feb 14 2013

Deathfix - This is the third time I have seen this excellent local band and as such, I am not sure I have a whole lot to say other than that they should be included in every indie rock music fan's universe. The well known names of Brendan Canty  on guitar and vocals ad Richard Morel on keys and vocals make up the core of the band. They along with an excellent foundation on the drums and bass blast away with psychedelic rock that can go a little straighter and even funkier if they like. There are layers of complexity delivered with great skill that should be a model for aspiring bands to see what makes a good local band turn into a great local band (and thus something that can achieve recognition worldwide). I would go well out of my way to see them again.
Retribution Gospel Choir - After my personal loss (see below), it was essential to get out of the house and into the world. And not only do I get to see one of my favorite bands, but I have the added connection of seeing a band from Duluth, Minnesota, where I was born oh so long ago. Normally, I try not to stretch my connections sightings too far, but it really helped tonight for me to lock into this band. But I have been a fan of them since early on when 2/3 of Low added a drummer and took the music of Alan Sparhawk to some very heavy places. They vary things up well, but less so tonight as they were blazing away the entire 62 minutes with barely a moment's rest. There was no set list as they dovetailed their shorter songs before moving into an incredibly long droning jam which went on and on and was wonderful every step of the way. It is interesting that some of the better songwriters around like Sparhawk and David Eugene Edwards (Woven Hand) are enjoying adding this drone element to their music. It is rock and psychedelic and not ambient, so it is not a big jump and it is great to see talented writers push the limits in this manner. Brendan Canty joined in on one spacey tune toward the end of the set. It was a good sized crowd tonight, but this band should really be packing them in at bigger clubs. But maybe we can keep it a secret a little while longer so we can all get right up front and let the roar of this spectacular music blanket us again.

Tribute of the Night: Sadly, my cat Tam Lin passed away this morning. While some have suggested that bringing in personal matters into this blog is wrong, I feel it is a good time to remind people that this is not a professional magazine here. My goal is to bring a sense of history and connection to all the great music going on along with a desire to get people excited to go out and discover the many great bands toiling away and experience it all live. But until I get other writers aboard (if that ever happens), this is pretty much my solo journey through it all. And not only do I have biases in music, my personal life bleeds into how I perceive music on a given day (positively and negatively). My cat's illness has affected the quantity of sets I have caught in the last three months and made me more indifferent about a lot of them. But he has moved on and I will need to get out of the house more, so it is time for more live music in the next few months. Tam Lin was a total joy to live with and hopefully I will find some of that joy in the music I take in, like I did tonight.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Cherry Tree - Sammy Witness - Simply Subtle -- Velvet Lounge - Feb 11 2013

Simply Subtle - Not too bad a turn-out on a Monday night at the Lounge, with about 20-25 people drifting about. A rock trio starts things off with some good bluesy heartland songs. The guitarist has a nasal voice reminiscent of many southern rockers like or maybe Paul Westerberg. The harmony vocals work well and these two carry a few decent tunes here. The band are all good players, although there is a slight tentativeness at times. Oh that explains it as they tell us that this is their fifth or sixth show in the year or so that they have existed. I liked the blues rock a bit more than the funky bits, but that got the crowd dancing, so what do I know about it. The crowd response is pretty hot, again for a Monday, with genuine enthusiasm. That gives them a little extra energy and they pull off a good set, albeit maybe a little long at 49 minutes. They are recording and look like they could be around a while and I'll be happy to see their progress.

Sammy Witness - Sammy is a singer songwriter who plays acoustic guitar. She is joined by a full band (Protection Program) who also employ some sneaky synth/electronic recordings or sounds underneath some of the songs in addition to guitar/bass/drums. They did a great job recreating the vibe, spirit, and density of their album (reviewed here) as they have a lot more going on than many an indie four-piece that comes our way. The guitars really ring out with ethereal electric sounds and striking acoustic chords. They both add a lot of mobility to the melodies with their creative runs as the rhythm section creates solid beats that at times become fairly intricate. The lead vocals are strong and assured and the better songs will have you soaring off with this band. It is too bad they could not have had that large Velvet Lounge crowd from Saturday night, but the 15-20 that were here showed much appreciation for the skills and style of this band. They add parts of many genres beyond the solid folk rock foundation to keep things fresh and vibrant throughout the set. They kept the set fun and energized, making this Monday night as fun as any weekend night (although clearly some people needed to cut out and get ready for another day's toil come Tuesday morning). But as tired as I was today, they brought me back to life for a little while, which is why I still head to the clubs any time something looks interesting.

Cherry Tree - Unfortunately, seeing a drum kit coming down and new one going up sapped the energy I had as it continues to be rough at the home front. Real life interferes again, and I will need to see this band another day. Sorry, guys.

Quote of the Day - From the always reliable British Press (courtesy of

Headline to Mark Lawrenson's column in The Daily Mirror: 'Brilliant Bale's a match for Messi and Ronaldo.'

Extract from column: 'He is not quite at their level...'

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Dead Women - Pity Rally - Lush Farm -- Velvet Lounge - Feb 9 2013

Lush Farm - This Baltimore trio has a certain heaviness to a post-indie sound that is quite endearing. They have a touch of bombast and bravado with the vocals and guitar at times as if Sebadoh was covering Muse. They keep it low key at other times and handle these contrasts quite well. They quipped they 'are the surviving members of Pearl Jam' and that is another hint to their sound, as if the Pearl Jam guys were still fighting for indie cred by going undercover at clubs like the Velvet Lounge. The 40ish minute set was filled with highlights and the overall sound kept the interest of this very full room. Yet another Baltimore band to keep an eye on, and they are recording so hopefully they will be back to promote a new album sometime soon.

Pity Rally - This twin guitar quartet falls somewhere between the Shaggs and early Redd Kross. This is pop music in search of power or something. I heard some moody indie moves and occasionally they seemed to be playing together. Actually there were some cool sinewy guitar runs snaking in, around, and on top of the main melody. They actually grew on me a bit, like a fungus. Maybe they will turn into a delectable mushroom some day. It is not here yet, but based on stage patter (what I could hear of it with their quite somewhat less than confident voices) and a facebook posting, they are still learning and you kind of have to do some of that on stage on a multi-band bill like thins. Some of the crowd really dug them, too.
Dead Women - I really enjoyed this local trio when I saw them last December. If anything, they have gotten even better since or I am now completely sold on what they have together. The songs have brilliant assertive pop qualities like that of the Undertones, but it sounds more like a skilled band like REM playing them. Maybe there is some of that same style and energy that the Only Ones had in these sounds somewhere. Whatever the case, the band is tight, mixes up the pace nicely, and has some of the strongest vocals in town for this type of rock music. This is not highly complex on its own, but reaches enough complex levels withing power-pop/rock music to pull even jaded veterans in. The band's rhythm section has just enough drive to elevate things, too. I can offer various other random thoughts, but basically this is a band you should check out. It will not take long to decide if you want to go along for the ride (it is usually about two songs into the set for me).

Quote of the Day: From Lush Farm...
Guitarist - "We have nother 35 songs for you"
Drummer - "17 more, we already did 14 (pause) uh, it's too complicated."

Saturday, February 9, 2013

The 27s - The Courtesans - Davey Brown Band -- Rock'n'Roll Hotel - Feb 8 2013

Davey Brown Band - It is always a good way to start an evening of local bands if you get a band of high caliber right out of the gate. Davey Brown is all of that as he is ready with guitar and his big booming voice (just shy of Tim Rose and Joe Cocker). He starts and ends it with a solo number, but the full band of drums, bass, and steel guitar is there for the rest. The playing seems quite strong tonight and the band is really rocking, although they alternate nicely between fast and slow and loud and moderate. I am not sure if this is the best I have seen of the band or if it is the case that sound is just more vibrant tonight with all the instruments pushing it out a notch. Whatever the case, this is a great opening set and a good crowd of around a hundred or so is having a great time.

The Courtesans - And a local bill is always well served by this veteran power-pop/rock trio. Again, they seem to be even heavier tonight than other times, so I'll give kudos to Dennis, the soundman, who is clearly giving room for the bands to really bring it tonight, while keeping everything clear. The Courtesans have a great balance of power-pop, rock, and soul-rock played with an advanced garage degree (PhG?) in a harmonious and enjoyable manner. And they never have delivered a sub-par set among the roughly six times I have seen them. Crisp and powerful, this set tonight keeps the crowd involved and happy.
The 27s - This is a relatively new DC band on the scene, although they have played together awhile and have past experience which they exhibit in this set. My first impression of how to describe them has me thinking I need a few more impressions. So after a few songs it starts to come together, but I find it fascinating how a good basic rock/power pop sound can still sound so personal. The rhythm section blasts away and with rhythm guitar (also lead vocalist) some times keeps things rudimentary at a quicker UK original punk level. Yet there are Buzzcocks or 999 style guitar runs jabbing away and they remind me a bit of the Rich Kids if they had fully gotten their act together. I hear some of the Nerves and some of the more assertive American power-pop/punk energy here as well. This is straight forward rock/pop music, but with lots of little flourish to keep it fresh and fun and perfect end to a Friday night--actually it is about midnight, so that is more the beginning for some people. The Rock'n'Roll Hotel did well tonight, yet again, by giving the stage to some rock solid local bands that were up to the task of putting some smiles on people's faces after a long week.

Quote from 'the Big Game' (DC ROCK LIVE is not the official blog of a certain sporting event) -
Some nobody from San Francisco's football club (of all teams) decided to bash gays prior to the big game. Before his agent gave him the proper language for his expected apology, these are his words...
" The derogatory comments I made yesterday were a reflection of thoughts in my head, but they are not how I feel."

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Trixie Whitely - Dumpster Hunter -- Iota - Feb 2 2013

Dumpster Hunter - One guy on stage with electric guitar and microphone leads me to wonder why he is called Dumpster Hunter. Actually, he quickly explains he is Jeff Taylor of the band, Dumpster Hunter. Even in the first song, I quickly determine that this is music in search of a full band. The clean vocals are on top of spacey, trippy rock guitar with interesting textures, but rhythmically all over the place. This could be really good if there was an anchoring rhythm section and weaving patterns among one to three instruments. But not to be tonight. He's got a crazed fun style at work here and even reminded me of Presto Bando once (obviously I am missing their sound already). Maybe there is a more rational Daniel Johnston in here as well. At the end of his 48 minute set, I am still left with the feeling that I witnessed a tease of something that could be very good, but gets the dreaded grade of 'incomplete' tonight.
Trixie Whitley - I enjoyed seeing Trixie Whitely this past November at the Jammin Java and looked forward to the quick return visit to our area. I was again disappointed that her rhythm section did not make the trip and it would be a solo show tonight. However, in this case, it was not as glaring an issue as with the opener as Whitley's lounge jazz/deep quiet rock music functions very well in a stripped down format. In fact, there are plenty of musicians who should vary things between solo, duo, and full band arrangements on record and live as it keeps things interesting for people on stage and the ones that came to listen. She shifted between a couple of guitars and electric piano which kept things fresh and vibrant. Her guitar playing is sneakily effective as her deft touch and intriguing tones do far more than merely accompany her dazzling voice. Unfortunately that dazzling voice was limited tonight as she was apologizing for being extremely hoarse. It forced her to tune down her guitars which did create an even deeper and darker environment for her songs. She still had a lot of excellent vocal moments as she soldiered on and only struggled with certain breathy high points. I doubt anyone complained as the large crowd was still highly involved with her music. My favorite was a duet with Jeff Taylor on piano which was quite magical the way they blended together with a great Patti Smith like rant in the middle of the cut. Her debut album is now out and she is enjoying good crowds, good press, and at even less than 100%, she can still back it all up by delivering some amazing music.

Quote of the Night - From the Jeff Taylor, who apparently understands my point to some degree... "Just have a few more (songs)... most of them I like playing with a band."

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Alex Vans & the Hideaway - Low Cut Connie - The WeatherVanes -- Iota - Feb 1 2013

The WeatherVanes - This fine local quartet starts off tonight's proceedings at a fairly full Iota. It is a loaded bill and these guys brought their headliner qualities to their 45-minute set. They do the Americana thing with great songs and style. There is guitar, bass and drums with the fourth guy handling keyboards, banjo, and mandolin. The guitars vary from energetic acoustic to moody electric and add to the great variety of material and shades that make their sets so engaging. And it was not just me as the crowd was very much into the set. The couple next to me was completely sold as they wanted to know who they were and who was this Jeff Buckley guy that their song "Grace" was about. It has been a while since I have seen this band, but they have not lost a step and sound better than ever. Americana fans have no excuse not to be here, and they could be probably convert some of the rest of you as well.

Low Cut Connie - This quintet is from New York which is easily to figure out from their accents, although the charismatic singer/pianist is a Jersey boy. So no Brooklyn imports here, aside from the drummer and occasional guitarist/singer whose English accent gives him away even without his bandmate's introduction. They hit the stage running with a rollicking Jerry Lee Lewis styled rock'n'roll number. The pace and energy continues throughout the night as classic early rock'n'roll stays as the main starting point, although the pianos, guitars, and vocals all take different lead moments while the songs vary enough to not become cliche. I often review a lot of blues and roots rock CDs where I invariably say that the record is ok (as I've heard it all before hundreds upon thousands of times), but I would rather see what they could do live. This band proves why as the energy and volume really rile the crowd up tonight into far more dancing than you usually see in the DC rock clubs. I have a feeling that these guys have enough quality where there records may be able to capture some of this spirit. But if you want the real show, you need to catch them live. I am happy I did and the Nilsson cover of "Jump into the Fire" sealed the deal.
Alex Vans & the Hideaway -  I have not been able to catch this hard working singer songwriter as much as I would have liked even though I've known about him for some time. He mentioned how often he used to play open mic nights here and all that experience and his touring has likely helped shape his songwriting and performance into the heights shown tonight. He's got a strong bass player, drummer, and new keyboardist/guitarist assisting his work on vocals and guitar. When the one guy is on keys, the band takes on a more modern rock feel as it is very percussive unerneath the melody, while the second guitar adds a bit more of an old fashioned jangle to the pop rock sounds. I really sense a Small Faces feeling through much of this music with the perfect marriage of pop and rock and bit of soulfulness down deep. There is just enough gritty rock music here as well, which is welcome on a Friday night following two strong bands. This band can jam it out when they desire. There were three different styles on the bill tonight, but they all came together in a feast of delectable music. Try the tasting plates or do a full course menu some time soon.

Plug of the Night: Deli Magazine concluded their annual survey of DC's Breakout Artist of the Year recently. Frankly, as far as lists and polls go, I rarely think it is important who wins, but it definitely serves as a nice list of bands I really enjoy and a lot more that I need to see. So check it out, and the winner Shark Week is a good choice based on a couple of nights I have seen their set.