Marian McLaughlin - Joanna Newsom and Marissa Nadler do not have much of anything on Marian McLaughlin aside from a massive following and larger audiences respectively. Although she is off to Baltimore, she plans to be back in DC plenty of times, gracing stages and house shows with her lovely deep psychedelic tinged folk music. I am sure I have mentioned Vashti Bunyan, Veronique Chalot, and Joan Mills before and all of that is evident here tonight. In paying attention to her intriguing guitar technique, I find even more Incredible String Band flourish within the choices she makes. Like the ISB, this music is creative, but digs deep emotionally with comfort and style. It is beyond high time her music finds bigger audiences and hopefully her new record coming out early next year will help in that regard.
Br'er - This is a one-man show featuring voice, harmonium, and intensity. He begins with a Swans cover of "You're Not Real Girl" and although it was likely not planned, he got overly animated toward the end and toppled his harmonium over. That gave him the chance to walk among the crowd singing the 'nothing inside you is real' refrain in a chilling moment. Hard to top that beginning, but the set was solid the whole way through. The harmonium is a really cool instrument as it wheezes, bleats, and bends its sound out into a room. He used his voice to twist and turn along with it creating drama throughout the songs. Sitting with some fine local musicians, allows me to steal the name of Alan Vega of Suicide as an influence which does make sense to me. I was also thinking of Tuxedomoon's Winston Tong, although this is more intense. And of course Nico used a harmonium. Fascinating music that certainly demands attention.
The Lost Civilizations Experimental Music Project - I have long been a fan of this improvisational outfit and they (along with their well chosen opening acts) are particularly welcome tonight after last night's big name band debacle. The core of this group is Ted Zook on an electric basscello and Mike Sebastian on saxes. They are joined tonight by percussionist Amanda Huron sitting at a drum kit. Although jazz obviously comes to mind with the improvisational approach and choices of instruments, they hit many avant garde buttons along the way and live up to the 'experimental music' part of their name. Yet it is easy to drift off in the tones, occasionally being jarred by moments of sharp contrasts and integration between the players. It is not too far removed from the urban sounds of the no wave era of NYC. Urban comes to mind, but that got me thinking if a saxophone can ever truly sound rural? If there is an example, please let me know. Anyway, this was another fine set that let me drift off into those thoughts and more and I again recommend this band to anyone who enjoys the creative process and music lovers that want to grow outward.
Quote of the Night: Paraphrasing Br'er as he started... "Thanks for coming tonight, although I'll miss the person who was telling all of us about the South. It was so fascinating!"
So again, it is not just me. People who engage in "inane bar chatter" (his quote, but I think I've used the word inane, too) are incredibly annoying to those around them and they also cut into the musicians' concentration as well. Now tonight was a free show, which as great as that is, also invites people who come to the bar for usual bar things and don't have anything invested. Still, a little volume control would be nice. Why is respecting one's environment so difficult? Oh, the answers evident there.
The Black Squirrel is more bar than club with a long bar filling its narrow confines in its Adams Morgan locale. Yet, the stage affords room for small bands and solo acts and the sound was quite good tonight. So there are some positives here, for sure.