Dead Professional - Tonight's theme is of talented musicians and the choices they make. Dead Professional is a one man band with electric guitar and voice. The first song shows off clean singer-songwriter styled rock music with a nice throaty guitar sound and strong vocal work. That remained evident throughout the set, although there were added drum tracks and recorded bits. He did a T. Rex cover which made perfect sense. The choice here is to whether go full band with this material as that is the more normal route. I would prefer that as drum machines never sound right to me except in extreme electronic acts, and even then live percussion is welcome. Yet, it is not easy to keep a full band together playing out for both artistic and budgetary issues, so there is not always an easy answer. Judging on the quality of the songs and the performance, Dead Professional has some fine material to work with and did quite well tonight. Going solo electric is gutsy, but it has worked for Thompson, Bragg, and Hitchcock, so it is well worth keeping an ear tuned to hear where this Virginia guitarist goes next.
Harmonic Blue - Guitar, Bass, and Drums work hard behind a full time vocalist for this surprisingly different Maryland band. Their sound is not terribly radical, but you just don't hear it that often in the clubs. They take a hybrid jazz-pop style and play highly skillful passages behind the melodies. The players are outstanding but the vocal lines had me thinking all night. The singing was mostly effective aside from a few odd trail-offs in a scat jazz sort of way. It is almost impossible for me to embrace this style, yet the players all have my respect. If I were the Machiavellian manager I would play around with the vocal lines and try a different approach, that is unless I wanted to take over mid-1970s radio where this band as is would be a massive success. Oh, and the bass player played a mean harmonica which was a welcome and surprising addition to this style.
Poor Young Things - From one of my favorite cities where I have never visited, Toronto, comes this quintet featuring three guitars. That is the first choice which always has be a bit skeptical, especially when a power-pop, surging rock, touch of punk style is what your band will present. Fortunately it works fine here in a rather surprising way. This band plays in a fairly safe format, yet the guitarists do a lot of different parts yet manage to not over complicate the song. That takes some real skill which is impressive enough, when I am not just relaxing and digging into these meaty hooks. It did not take more than about 20 seconds to be reminded of a great Montreal band called the Nils which was one of the earliest Canadian bands to transform punk into pop music at a high level. They could also move to a much tighter Dolls/MC5 sound on the wonderful "Building a Boat". Not all the songs were as magical as that, but the quality never wavered and the pace and volume was there to keep the energy in the room for the full 45 minutes or so. I will be back when they make it back through, especially if it is one of those nights where you just want to really rock out.
Quote of the Night: From Harmonic Blue's singer... "It's amazing what a hand can do."