Highway Cross - I thought this band sounded familiar and I see that I did catch a set a couple of years back. I enjoyed the creativity they employed while dishing out a short set of hardcore punk songs. It was quite similar tonight, although I thought they were extra special here. They only play for 17 minutes, but do not spend more than a few seconds (if that) between songs. The songs are loaded with energy and strong sonic patterns working between the two guitars. The lead guitarist does an awful lot beyond the expected solos. The opening number's chord patterns reminded me of the Bad Brains' "Don't Bother Me". That formative harDCore sound mixed with that of Chicago's Effigies is what I was hearing here tonight. And the sound was crisp and powerful in the big room of the Black Cat. I will try to see this band a little more frequently as they have great understanding of their genre and are willing to push out more than most.
Tone - I was chatting with someone about how I see a band and don't realize until the next day that I have seen them once, maybe twice before. I see so many bands that sometimes my brain is a disorganized mess. But with DC's Tone, the first time I saw them provided a permanent memory of the brilliant sound they conjure up. I have enjoyed them a lot in the subsequent shows and now after tonight's 51 minute set, I have to conclude they are an essential part of the DC music scene. They still perform instrumental music with three guitars and a rhythm section. And although the term shoegaze will quickly come to mind, it is important to state how much these guys really rock. The drummer provides rollicking beats which don't anchor the sound as much as kick it forward. The four axes all work powerfully off of the beat to do textural work, sonic exploration, and engage in fierce rocking riffage. There is loads of melody and distinctions between songs. If you like Mogwai or Mono, Tone offers nothing less than those giants of the field. But they also add a ferocious rocking quality like Kinski at times. If you are someone who has not experienced this band by now, then you need to hop aboard. Bands do not last forever.
Black Clouds - This DC trio works the same terrain as Tone with loud roaring instrumental music. They have some synth sounds worked into the guitar, bass, and drums and blast away their brand of thick and powerful shoegaze rock. A nice touch is the spiffy light show which shoots out of various points of the stage amidst the smoky atmosphere. They have some intricacies noticeable, although I would still like to see more in the songwriting. Although to be fair, they don't have three guitarists on stage to play off each other. They did a fine job tonight and the Black Cat had a few hundred people here that supported local music that could easily play on any world stage. The crowd left happy and I had a great night from start to finish.
Plug of the Night: Although I thought my festival days may be behind me, I am tempted to do Cropredy this year (helps that I may have a place to stay two fields over from the rural locale). There is a fine line-up, although if you don't want to go to England, you will be able to see Steve Hackett in DC at the Lincoln Theatre as he kicks off his US tour on March 26th.