Black Checker - The EP release party takes place at a Columbia Heights venue I'm visiting for the first time. It is quite large with bar and restaurant area. The stage is in the corner and there is a lot of seating with room for standing and dancing, which a few people took advantage of. The crowd was large, filled with many familiar faces in the DC music scene which is a plus as the audience was into the music. And why shouldn't they be as Black Checker is becoming one of the sharpest power pop bands in the DC area. They have always been fun, but seem even tighter after plenty of gigging and continued songwriting. They have a new EP out which I gave a quick listen to and will review in a week. In three words: it is excellent. The only problem with it was that it reminded me of the weakness of the PA tonight. It simply was not sufficient for a large room and a big crowd. The soundman did as well as he could as the vocals were clear and strong, but the guitar was a bit too compressed and the drums did not have the sufficient drive. Yet, the energy was there and you could hear all the instruments well enough as they gave life to these snappy, varied songs. Of course they played the new EP, which I recognized. But the real test to how good of hooks they have is that I recognized older cuts that I had not heard in nearly a year. All good power pop bands should aspire to create songs that stick and stay with listeners and Black Checker has that going on. They even offer a few slices of varied tones and styles, both in their originals and their cover of the Toadies "Possum Kingdom". They asked if I remembered the 90s? Actually, no I don't, but this was a fun change of pace. This is a band that is worth going out of your way for and hopefully they will continue to follow the arc they are presently on.
Quote of the Night: "MUSIC!!!" yelled the bar patron to my right as the bookers tonight made a major miscalculation by having a comic start of proceedings (and at 10:07pm with three bands to follow). Frankly, this booking has never been anything short of a disaster when I have experienced it before. I was stunned when Bonnie Prince Billy wanted a comic before his set of music (and after a brilliant opener) at the Birchmere some years back. You could hear every cough across the room as the leaden material was instantly entombed by the perplexed audience. Even Jello Biafra, who has drawn big crowds for spoken word shows, was heckled long and hard with his 'talk' between sets of music in Denver, as a sold-out crowd was dying for Slim Cessna's Autoclub (who were on Biafra's label and wanted him to perform). Tonight, this poor comic had a PA that did not cut through the indifferent crowd and spent 10-15 of the worst minutes of his career trying to garner the attention of the audience. It is a noble attempt to combine comedy and music (or not so noble if it is vaudeville), but I have yet to see it work.