Healing Power - This collective has a lot of diverse elements immediately apparent. And almost immediately, they show signs of the skills needed to put it all together in a cohesive package. They alternate lead vocalists, yet all of them seem to have high soaring voices that are fairly profound for the Black Cat's backstage. The guitars and synthesizer parts are a mix of pop and rock with a few postpunk jagged edges, while drums and bass really lay down a gutsy foundation that could fuel a classic punk band. Yet it all works quite well in their half hour opening set. They have amusing stage patter where they thank all members in the Kiss Army in a southern preacher style. They also call themselves 'Neil' after Mr. Diamond, which makes sense as I hear a bit of Sweet Caroline running through one of their songs, if it were played by a high energy new wave band. They are from Cincinnati which makes sense as I remember it as these guys could be the next generation from the Raisins, the Kustoms with nods to many more of the assertive pop rock bands from southern Ohio. The large crowd enjoyed it, although the club was getting surprisingly hot (even though the Swans were not on the bill).
Xenia Rubinos - First off, I am much happier seeing Xenia Rubinos here in DC, than I would be if I were seeing the Rubinoos in Xenia, Ohio. She hits the stage behind a keyboard and mic with only a drummer for support. She quickly meets my expectations with some inventive rhythmic pop music, but knocks me on my butt with some extreme experimental moves. I hear some Chaka Khan mixed with a hip hop feel delivered with high energetic bursts. Then she sets sail with some Sheila Chandra styled staccato vocal mannerisms, before delving into perhaps a bit of Kristeen Young, Diamanda Galas and Scott Walker terrain. Yes, Scott Walker would enjoy this, I suspect. Suffice it to say, this is a well developed personal vision that I am not sure everyone fully could get into on one listen, but the crowd did respond to the energy and creativity here. Fascinating and a joy to behold.
Lady Lamb the Beekeeper - While I feel like I am catching a hot act in Xenia Rubinos in the early stages, I feel I am getting on the Lady Lamb train a little bit late. While the band name has often meant a solo performance for Aly Spaltro, she is now sporting a full band here complete with drums, bass, and keyboards (from her labelmate, Ms. Rubinos). The folk rock is there and it has a great jangle quality in her guitar playing. There are a lot of tempo shifts, which seem to make the pop hooks even larger. These are smart, well crafted songs given fine interpretation mostly from Ms. Spaltro with her excellent guitar work and voice. She sings with a toughness and a vulnerability, but leans more heavily to the former. She can hit the blues or soar off into folkland, but has the jangly pop going much of the time surrounding it all. She tackles a few songs solo on guitar and then banjo, which offers even more interesting contrasts within the theme. This all works extremely well and the full room is absorbed with this set. And although I do not know all the insiders in town, when I see two other notable people from other clubs here tonight, I am reminded of the stock market axiom of buying with the insiders. Clearly, she is on the rise, even as she is quite humble in her thanks for so many people coming out on a Monday night. She may have to move it upstairs when next she tours through.
Other notes -- RIP to Ray Manzarek, a fun guy who was essential to rock music.
And on the lighter side, I wish Sir Alex Ferguson a great retirement, and I think he would even bristle if he saw this on EBAY (let alone see that the asking price was 1,500 quid)