Dead Professional - This is my first time in seeing this one-man act with a full band. In lieu of backing tracks, there is now a rhythm section behind John's vocals and guitar. Immediately, all the benefits are apparent: harmony vocals, extra embellishment, more rhythmic variation, etc. The two newcomers play a smooth style which lays the foundation for these fine rock songs that often cover extensive power pop territory. The crunchier pop tunes remind me a bit of Sloan, but there is quite a variety of style between the songs--some poppier, others heading into deeper moods, even ballad like. Dead Professional always has delivered a solid set, only now it is even fuller and more accomplished. Do keep this band on your radar.
LVL UP - These guys live a little north of my brother who lives just north of NYC. The crowd was really packed in tonight and made this their best trip yet to DC, or so they said. It worked for me too, as this twin guitar power pop/punk attack was really clicking tonight. These guys have the songs and the understated vocals enhanced the rich melodies. They even pull back to ballad pop rockers as well. So this was quite pleasant and filled with energy from stage to the crowd. Bonus points for snare attack that reminded me of the MC5's Dennis Thompson. That is always a good thing.
Saintseneca - From one of my former home towns of Columbus, Ohio, comes this talented rootsy rock outfit. I've had some health issues lately so I had to cut out after just a few songs, although I wanted to at least catch the vibe. And from what I saw, this band has a core strength of sound that they can move beyond cliche with some interesting arrangement choices. They also showed off at least one well written song that was rich in vocals and smooth and flowing underneath. Hopefully I can catch more next time, although based on the large crowd tonight, it may be tough getting in.
Quote of the Night: From John in the opening set...
"Are there any hecklers in the crowd?"
"That is a good heckle."