Dawn Landes - It was a tough start tonight as the doors did not open until 8:30 pm and this set started at 8:45. There was a long line as it was nearly a sell-out, so there was no way to get in on time for me. Still, the club did well getting people through quickly and I only missed 5-6 minutes with 80% or more of the crowd already in place. And it was a challenge for Dawn Landes as she has a light country folk pop sound with just acoustic guitar, bass, drums. She has a backing vocalist, not that she needed it much, as she carried her tunes with strength and conviction and still kept it warm and not too overpowering. With the crowd still abuzz, the solo acoustic song headed too close to 'acoustic death in clubland', but most of this set worked well and was warmly received by the younger and friendly crowd. So everyone may have been rushed at the beginning, but by the end of the set was sufficiently warmed up and satisfied.
Noah and the Whale - Touring their fine "Heart of Nowhere" album, Noah and the Whale come across the Atlantic to lay out their clean and focused pop rock sound to a well established fan base. They have earned the crowds over the years, by writing very catchy music that balances several styles allowing them to pull fans from many varied styles of rock or pop music. This music could easily get lost in the middle of the road mainstream, but for the quality of the songs and the strength of their conviction in the delivery. The vocal work is strong and the band mixes up instrument combinations of electric and acoustic guitars, keyboards, and violins all atop the rhythm section. The violin (and vocal qualities) really reminds one of the National, although this music is a bit brighter. It is almost a bit too steady for me at times, but it is hard to find any fault in their delivery. The songs are really good and if you deliver them well as they did tonight, then this is a great band for this young crowd (and plenty of us old timers as well) to dig into to. The band seemed sincerely nice and apologized for the tight start as it was on them, as they had to get a replacement driver from Atlanta and rolled into town a little too late. One or two good songs, let alone a whole set's worth, and all was forgiven.
Quotes of the Night: Noah and the Whale did seem like really nice guys as they were chatting about hoping to be the talisman to get the government reopened tonight (and they were). They asked the question "So we only have tonight in DC, what should we see?" and waited for answers which they listened to and commented on. This reminded me how stage patter can vary between Q+A rapport that is direct with at least some meaning and those questions that are merely rhetorical. For instance take these from the opening band...
"This is a love song, are you ready for that?"
"Does anyone like Bruce Springsteen?"
and the ubiquitous (and of course, both bands did it tonight) "So, how is everybody doing?"