Oppo - Alas this was not a reformation of one of my favorite Dutch bands Opo, but instead the first of four local bands that I am seeing for the first time on tonight's interesting showcase. This trio is fairly new on the scene and there is a little bit of that start-up feeling showing here. They have it down well enough musically, especially in the bass lines, but they appear to be still trying to nail an identity. When they veered toward power pop where there songs had some hooks, they had just enough energy to make things click. The more standard indie rock songs did not come off as well. The components are here and with more time and effort, it will be worth monitoring their progress.
Feral Conservatives - I was standing in the back area of the club, so it took me two songs before I realized the woman singing was actually playing an electric mandolin and not a guitar. It was not the sonics so much (although that was noticeable when I focused), but I had to look at the size of the people and compare the bass and work out the ratios (which proves why I will never be a good painter in the realistic perspective style). The songs varied with power pop punk energy components as well as more standard pop rock moves. The rhythm section is strong and the mandolin sound can work well enough, although it got a little 'same old' in the middle of the set. Perhaps a few more energized songs like the ones that bookended the set will help with that.
Exit Vehicles - The only quartet of the night features the striking visual of bookend twins on guitar and bass surrounding the drummer and lead vocalist. They start with a thick and quick brand of rock with a fine deep powerful sound where they still manage some subtlety. They move more into more playful rhythms with their subsequent songs and the players all manage them skillfully and emphasize a few welcome hooks as well. The vocals are strong, which you expect with a full-time vocalist. It is interesting to note that there are not any harmonies tonight, which I miss to some degree, but are not essential if you get everything else right. This band did well and pulled the large crowd into their musical world.I would like just a wee bit more power and variety like there was early in the set, but they are still a fine finished product as they are now.
French Admirals - This fairly new trio has plenty of experience in other bands and they show their skills tonight. The guitarist handles the vocals and has some interesting patterns within their solid rock foundations. The rhythm section keeps it solid with a drummer that is able to push the songs forward with just enough edge to get the crowd leaning forward. The bass lines are smooth and fill a lot of space for the guitarist to work around in. The sharper and more nimble they are in their music is when things really click. This was a fine sendoff set to a nice little tour they have set up in the eastern environs. They are working hard and as they continue to write quality songs, they should become a strong presence in the DC scene.
Photo grab of the night... This was from a recent Bert Jansch guitar workshop in England. Bert is no longer with us and since there are always many passings to report, I just want to say that I am happy to see a couple of greats that are still with us and still playing well. Here's John Renbourn and Wizz Jones showing people how its done (over 50 years later into their professional careers)