Making Marks - You would think it will be a pretty good bill when the first band is a four-piece that hails from Norway. They are here with an international contingent of bands from London based Fika Records (joined by one local band tonight). In a word, this band is charming. They have a breezy style and an almost-Americana indie pop sound that reminds me more of the Band or Band of Horses, than that of Norwegians Folque, or Kong Lavring. Their sound progresses into more universal pop rock with the occasional guitar jangle or power. The guitarist/lead vocalist even tells us in advance how excited he is for the next song as he gets to play a guitar solo and encourages cheering. They do mix in some of that northern European style at times and I hear a bit of the folk-pop of Evensong perhaps mixed with indie rock of the Shins. This is comfortable music that is almost impossible not to like, especially with the pleasant chatter in between with stories about the Norwegian embassy assisting them by advertising their shows on their cultural calendar portion of their website (somewhat lessened when he saw that these were the only Norwegian cultural events anywhere on the calendar). Hopefully Norway will continue to export this type of culture, as well as a few other genres I can think of from that musically fertile land.
The Smittens - This collective hails from Burlington, Vermont and instantly carves out a unique sonic space that not not many bands would be daring enough to follow. They play nimble pop music as opposed to power pop, but it is their vocal personality and songwriting which goes much further a field than many a band could or would choose to do. The first song was about bubble gum, which does foreshadow their set somewhat, but they stretch their pop hooks in and around complex labyrinthian paths and manage to come out tall and proud by each song's end. They sound a bit like the Dickies unplugged, or perhaps the B-52s, if the B-52s knew the meaning of the word restraint. Yet, I am also reminded most of a poppier version of one of the famed ESP label's key bands, the Holy Modal Rounders. And it is not often you will see a Holy Modal Rounders comparison here or most anywhere else. But there is still nothing overly challenging here, it is just a sharp personal twist on pop music and it stays fun and vibrant throughout the set. If I heard them correctly, it has been ten years between DC shows, so hopefully they will make it to DC again some time before 2023.
Sorry, Mean Season and Tigercats, but I am both physically and mentally exhausted tonight and need to get back to rest and contemplate how I am going to adjust my schedule that only has three open nights in the next 27 days. I hate missing sets, but there is no point in forcing it where it feels more like a burden than that of a fun time like it is for the rest of this excited sizable crowd tonight at the Velvet Lounge.
Quote of the Night: From the opening band... "This next song is for the person out there studying Norwegian--not many people do that. On behalf of our nation, we thank you."