Radiation Puppy - First, the basics on my initiation to a Bier Baron show... It's a small corner stage upstairs from the main bar area with an odd L shape that contains a long bar and lots of pub decor and seating closer in--fairly high on the comfort scale. The PA is decent enough, although their was an annoying buzzing throughout the entire night. This Baltimore band begins with just a vocal and piano opener before the singer straps on a bass and is joined by a guitarist and drummer for the rest of the set. They have tons of energy, perhaps too much as they ask us how we are doing three times before each of their opening three songs. They play a balance of old-school rock, barroom rock, with some modern touches, but ultimately feel like a quality bar band trying to move up. That was evident when they play a completely non-ironic version of Hall & Oates "Rich Girl". Better, but wholly unnecessary was their take on Pink Floyd's "Time". They were likable enough with the crowd and this is a bar, so there is nothing wrong with a bar band opening a low-cover fee bar show ($5).
The Fed - Back to the known with this area two-guitar quartet. Well, it was more like five guitars as the singer/rhythm guitarist set a record for me (and probably him) by breaking three strings in three different songs, including the opening two numbers. His lead guitarist is a southpaw, so all the back-ups were his or borrowed or restrung or whatever, but they managed to keep the set going through it all. Their signature brand of garage based blues rock which is not quite punk, not quite pop-nuggets, not quite straight blues does come together nicely when they are on. I guess I could call them a poor-man's Graveyard which says more to the elite status of Graveyard rather than anything these guys lack. They also reminded me of the famous California Jam concert which featured heavy hitters like ELP, Deep Purple and Black Sabbath finishing the event. The Fed is the Black Oak Arkansas of that show, just an American rock band that won't reinvent the wheel, but deliver the music straight forward and with a smile, ensuring a good time and plenty of rock.
Braddock Station Garrison - I love contrasts and dynamics, which you do not often get enough of in club shows. This two-guitar local band offered up much more than I expected and had me fully involved for their nearly hour-long set. The first song turned out to be the most amazing of the night with a hypnotic groove established by the bassist and the drummer's beat something between Bo Diddley and Hawkwind. Although the vocals had a solid indie pop-rock melody, both guitars had this murky deep fuzz that had me thinking of some of my favorite drone bands. This fascinating guitar sound remained for a few songs and kept a sense of menace in the room, even though the overall feel was lighter. They moved into more positive pop-rock territory before darkening up again toward the end. The finish was a medley of two Johny Cash staples (If I gave you two guesses, you would get it right). The band is not quite at the level to bust out in any big way, but they have some brilliant ideas and are solid with their playing and songwriting. I hope they challenge themselves by digging deeper into sounds, beats, textures, and off the wall shifts, as they could become something that people would flock to around here. If not, check them out anyway as they deliver a solid set of music.
Quote of the Night: Headliner's rhythm guitarist..."We are going to do Side One of 2112 if you stick around for our encore." was among the long Rush discussion as he broke out his near-Alex Lifeson style guitar. Nice Rush patter and that is the sort of daring I am talking about, although the Johnny Cash songs certainly do appeal to a broader crowd.