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.