Justin Jones - We have a local guitarist on the big, big stage with an acoustic guitar and a microphone. He has given us a nice bonus tonight by inviting Shannon Carey of Luray to assist on banjo and vocals. I have enjoyed her work in the past and she gets to do one of her songs in this set as well. As for Justin Jones, there has a powerful yet warm presence in his songs. His rich voice is the core of it, with the guitar and banjo more delicately filling in the musical passages. The music is timeless and works well tonight. There is quite a bit of applause, although sadly with a set beginning at 7:48, the vast majority (and I mean vast) of the crowd is not here yet. As much as I like early starts, the time management is way off tonight. Jones did a solid 38 minute set, did it well, and is someone that folk and classic singer-songwriter fans should try to see when he plays around town. The quality and confidence in his material is there and he will draw you in to his world.
Floating Action - This quintet from Asheville, North Carolina has a couple guitars, keyboards, rhythm section, and microphones for all five which are used quite a bit. Yet although the vocals and the light Americana feel to their music is key to their formula, there is a hard rocking drive underneath it all which is carefully balanced. Any less, and the sound would slip into what hundreds of other lighter bands do; any more, they would be a heavy rock band in the southern rock tradition. Yet this balance allows them to live up to their highly accurate band name. Tonight's 38 minute set sounds like when Crazy Horse is slow and steady, although tighter with less Crazy Horse... maybe a heavier version of fellow North Carolinians Lost in the Trees is the better comparison. These guys jam a bit, but have the songs to avoid falling into that trap/label. I would happily see these guys again. Unfortunately, the club was still filling up as they finished. And the problem was there set ending at 9:17 with an unneeded 47 minute delay until the headliners came on. The 9:30 Club runs a pretty tight schedule, so unless something was going on that was not evident, I wish they would have pushed back the openers to give them more audience and tightened this delay to keep the momentum going.
Futurebirds - From the musically fertile land of Athens, GA, comes these six musicians that play all kinds of guitar combinations including acoustic, steel, and banjo with the rock rhythm section. They bring a full Americana sound in heavy style with gutsy vocalists among the alternating guys taking the lead. I was thinking some of the eclectic nature of Low Anthem was present, but as it really got rocking, I felt more of Drive-by Truckers vibe in their sound. The beat is heavy, but extremely steady allowing the guitarists to cut loose mostly in the rhythmic thrusts. The steel guitar is just high enough in the mix to give an eerie presence which I quite like more than when bands have it cut into the song too strikingly. There is also a murky rumble in their sound which I find something that pulls me in more than if it were left too light and clean. The only odd item, if I heard right, was apologizing before beginning their set with a slow odd little song, which was not the way the rest of the set headed. After that, they really hit their groove and keep the set flowing well. Americana fans that like a little heavy, may want to try the Futurebirds out some time soon.
Quote of the Day... courtesy of the Washington Post from Mikey Young of the band Total Control - "Bands with drum machines and three synths are not as much fun to watch as bands with drummers and guitars."