Wednesday, September 30, 2015

PREVIEW of COMING ATTRACTIONS - Early October 2015

Sleepy HaHas come to the Libertine on Friday, October 2nd -- new club for me.


Maritime sets anchor at the DC9 for one night only, Saturday, October 3rd.


Honduras, the band not the country, comes to the U Street Music Hall on Tuesday, October 6th.


Wavves and Twin Peaks make a powerful duo at the 9:30 Club on Wednesday, October 7th. But if you like a cozier club, check out Wild Ones at DC9.



Waxahatchee opens for Kurt Vile on Thursday the 8th at the 9:30 Club. And again, if you want a smaller crowd, check out Teen Daze and Heavenly Beat at DC9.




The Growlers roar back to the 9:30 Club, specifically on Saturday, October 10th.


What can I say about a band called Ruby Rabbitfoot? Nothing, until I see them on Sunday, October 11th at the Black Cat.


Dear Hunter heads over to the Rock'n'Roll Hotel on Tuesday, October 13th.


Mac DeMarco is on stage at the Howard Theatre on Wednesday the 14th.


Stick with the Domestics, who open for Blitzen Trapper at the Black Cat on Thursday, October 15th.

Monday, September 28, 2015

The Jesus and Mary Chain - The Black Ryder -- 9:30 Club - Sep 27 2015

by John Miller

The Black Ryder - Tonight’s show begins quiet.  But I guess that is to be expected considering the music is slow and completive. It is a stark difference compared to the early days of The Jesus and Mary Chain. The Black Ryder takes the whole shoe gazing thing and runs with it--Slow, methodical and polished. I am well aware of how this may make me sound but the softer, magical pieces sounded like they could be found on the soundtrack to the film The Crow.

The vocal duties are split between both Aimee Nash and Scott Van Ryper; Nash takes the reins on the slower pieces evoking Belinda Butcher of My Bloody Valentine and Ryper sings on the more up tempo stuff. Ryper’s vocals, in particular, were overpowering; lots of feedback, scratchy. As the set continued the levels were evened out and most of the earlier issues were but a memory.

There weren’t many solos tonight but I don’t know that this type of music necessarily merits wild, soul barring riffs. As I said earlier, this is slow, even the up tempo stuff is on the slower side; lots of nodding along and contemplating whether or not the chipped paint on the floor of the 9:30 Club can tell the future. A little bit spooky and a great compliment to The Jesus Mary and Mary Chain.
The Jesus and Mary Chain - Let’s be honest here, reviewing The Jesus and Mary Chain is like taking an introduction to Shakespeare; what more can be said about them? They have been around for so long that everything that needed to be said has been said. I guess what really matters here is can they still play and is the crowd receptive?

Tonight The Jesus Mary Chain will be playing the entirety of their seminal album Psychocandy. They begin tonight by letting the middle-aged crowd know that they would be playing two separate sets with a short intermission between the two. The first set was a primer of sorts, prepping the crowd for the main show. Despite that, being a primer, the first seven songs flew by and by the end everyone was drunker, ready to continue dancing, and forgetting the beginning of the week was just a few hours away. Running through a collection of material that ranged from April Skies to Reverence the night got progressively louder and I was wondering if not wearing earplugs were a wise option. I thought Mike Krol was loud Sunday, I can’t imagine how loud it was for those in the front row tonight; the fuzz, the feedback. My head is going to explode.

I’m not quite sure when this type of concert originated; one where a band plays the entirety of a specific album. It seems that it’s a relatively new thing. I was unsure how it would play out; would the set list match the album’s track listing? Would there be any variation in composition? The show actually ended up being pretty straightforward in regards to Psychocandy. They begun with Just Like Honey and ended with It’s So Hard. It’s important to remember that this album shares more in common with Sonic Youth’s earlier material than the shoe gazing they have become known for. Aside from a few songs, the majority of the album is noise, the good kind of noise. So it was an interesting choice for Black Ryder to open the show considering their influences.

So to answer my previous questions; could The Jesus and Mary Chain still play and was the crowd receptive? Yes and Yes. Even though the audience was certainly lively, moving throughout the evening, the show unfortunately did not devolve into a riot. A far cry from the 25 minute sets they were known for when Psychocandy was released. A fantastic show all around.

Mike Krol - Title Tracks - ROM -- Comet Ping Pong - Sep 26 2015

by John Miller

ROM - DC mainstays, ROM opened tonight with a quick set, only about twenty minutes. I hadn’t realized it at the time but I do have some history with the band as I believe I have played live with them at some point though I could be mistaken; those small shows tend to run together. Though I do know, as Dead Women, they played a very, very small house show a couple of years back and could not have been nicer considering how many people showed up.

“And are down to play gigs in the trenches and not bitch about anyone or anything = rock n roll attitude” – Brandon Ables


ROM plays everywhere and they still bring a crowd. It’s nice to see local folks supporting local bands; god knows I never got that kind of support when I was playing. But enough self effacing, ROM plays quick, good songs that kind of sound like a louder Sunny Day Real Estate. They also have a drummer with glasses; I’m four for four with tall, skinny drummers with glasses at Comet Ping Pong.


Title Tracks - And it is yet another band that played the mid-slot and continued the theme; tall, skinny drummer with glasses. These Washington DC natives are more straight ahead rock than ROM with power pop leanings. Unfortunately I do not have any history with these guys so no worthless stories or quotes, nevertheless these guys reminded me of later day Weezer, breezy, melodic songs. Like ROM before them, Title Tracks had a local contingent tonight. Lots of hugs and an abundance of older folks that kind of look out of place; nothing wrong with a little parental support.

Mike Krol - Mike Krol ended the festivities tonight (unfortunately the drummer did not wear glasses) and before they even began, I could tell this was going to be quite different than the previous two acts. I was super uncomfortable with the noise being unleashed by the PA. I’m not necessarily an earplug guy but I seriously considered taking advantage of the dollar option before the show started.


Smoke machine? Check. Flashing, colored lights? Check. Beginning the show in complete darkness? Check. There is vision here. These guys are about to put on a show, they take their theatrics seriously. And as the lights come on, five men, dressed as strippers, dressed as cops take the spotlight. Obviously with a set up like this, there was lots of energy. There are easy comparisons; Alice Cooper, et al though at various points tonight, I was reminded of The Blood Brothers. Now nothing can really, truly compare to The Blood Brothers, but occasionally the rhythmic motions of the songs came close.

           
“I forgot to put up the barbed wire.”


This is party music. This is beer drinking with a general air of lingering crustiness. The crowd, even though it has thinned out since the previous two acts, seems to really enjoy what they are experiencing. There is so much confusion, almost Kaufmanesque. I always enjoy it when the band performing has to instruct the crowd when to clap.  I imagine with a more familiar audience, Mike Krol’s shows would be insane, but he can only do so much with this DC crowd tonight.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Truly - Fellowcraft -- DC9 - Sep 24 2015

Fellowcraft - Two 'rules' were broken when this local power trio started; first, don't go into lengthy patter before your first song, unless there is something really special going on. There wasn't. Second, don't open with a sing along, especially as the opening band. But they won me back by immediately launching into a wah-wah guitar run, so we are back on good footing. These guys are new, excited, maybe a bit nervous and they used some of that to good effect with the energy they infused in their songs. They kind of ran around a few styles as they still should be afforded more time to fully find their way and try it all until then. At their best, I thought they sounded like Point Blank trying to cover Budgie. The vocals were much better when tough than when earnest and all three sang with the guitarist taking the lead. The playing was fine and even good at times. Early days. Stay tuned.
Truly - This was a treat. Were there some psychedelic moves in the Screaming Trees? Yes. How about Soundgarden? Not as much, but 'Hunted Down' from the first EP feels very psyche to me. So take the drummer from the Trees, the bassist from Soundgarden and singer/songwriter steeped in psyche rock and even add keyboards and you have a great combination. These guys really have a spectacular sound that keeps some of the early grunge toughness but spinning it into a sweeping psychedelic approach. The vocals are gentle which is a great offset to the music that veers from raging to mysterious. The players all work off of each other perfectly, which you may expect having been together so long, yet is refreshing as they don't play out much in recent years. 20 years since last in DC I think they said? The songs reminded me of a stronger update on The Golden Dawn, a brilliant Texan band from the 13th Floor Elevators days. What a great set and anyone who stayed home to watch a football game in lieu of this truly deserved what they got. I sure hope I get another shot at seeing them as I am not sure I'll be here in 20 years.

Photograb of the Night:

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Ultimate Painting - Ruby Fray -- Comet Ping Pong - Sep 21 2015

by John Miller

Banter is an important part of any live musical experience. Good banter can do a number of things but ultimately it’s a way to connect with everyone; putting everyone at ease, little laughs between sets; birthing inside jokes with strangers in the moment. But more on that later as the show last night was quite interesting and one in particular that I haven’t seen since beginning writing for this publication.

Ruby Fray - Last night begin with Austin natives, Ruby Fray and as the vocals began to punctuate the music, I could tell that this particular set was going to be good; instead of being something she is suppose to be, the vocalist is performing the way she wants to, a way that in which she is comfortable with, her own style. And for someone so young to have found their voice is a rarity.

“Time for two more? Time for one more? Two more! Okay two more! We will play them really fast!”

This never happened. Ruby Fray began to play the slowest song of the night after getting the okay for two more songs. And that was how the set played out the majority of the night, lots of slow, doom & gloom stuff punctuated by bursts of energy that eventually collapsed again under the aforementioned gloom. I am reminded of X; underneath everything there are regional influences. Some twang occasionally will find itself slipping in and co-mingling with the finger picking, tom, and minor keys.

I also make soap (awkward pause) for your body”.

As I alluded to earlier, it had been some time since I had seen an opening act like this; one that is difficult to follow.
Ultimate Painting - This is a side project of both Jack Cooper and James Hoare, and it was an interesting change of pace from the soft, loud aesthetics of Ruby Fray. Very laid back, Slacker rock at its very best; think Sebadoh, Dinosaur Jr. with some sixties British pop rock thrown in for good measure.  There was even some Bob Dylan tonight as well. Though I can’t remember the name of the piece, James Hoare took over the majority of vocal duties in a piece that was reminiscent of Subterranean Homesick Blues; steam of conscience and all.

The very first thing I noticed from tonight’s performance were the guitar solos; their tone was excellent, crisp, and every note was played with purpose. Coupled with the jangly rhythmic backing of James Hoare, Cooper’s solos would sometimes find themselves meandering into jam territory as the pieces would come to an end, helping punctuate that laid back attitude of the song structure.

Ultimate Painting is on tour supporting their second release, Green Lanes as they mix in earlier cuts with newer, both have a seasonal quality, however the latter is warmer. It is no surprise that these songs do feel seasonal in nature as Ultimate Painting could qualify as Romantic in some circles; lots of outside imagery sprinkles the lyrics.

“This is our last song (pause for awkward clap). Ha, ha, nice try. We know you are all busy people.”

A more pointed insult to this unaffected DC crowd couldn’t have been a better way to end the night. Slacker obviously has negative connotations associated with it, however, in this sense, it is what Ultimate Painting seems to be aiming for; this super chill, lazy river aesthetic. Even though we sometimes think of slackers as being unmotivated or lazy these songs are far from it. The song writing is tight and aside from a couple of pieces tonight, quick. Ultimately it is amazing to see a band apply those strong composing skills and apply them to play in a style that seems to contradict their abilities as songwriters.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Cheap Trick - Fillmore -- Sep 20 2015

Cheap Trick - Like many who followed Cheap Tick in the early days, I always felt this band was very underrated. You would generally find them in a really cool rock fan's record collection and that even included some serious punk rockers. Then Cheap Trick broke and I wondered if they actually maybe one of those odd 'overrated underrated' bands that gets talked about by some with somewhat overly reverent tones. But in studying some live footage on television and revisiting the early works, no this band is legitimately excellent and deserving of all they get and then some. Basically, they have taken a Beatles like sensibility of rock music and balanced elements from whatever they personally like about rock music and created their own small but substantial niche between a lot of popular genres. They nail the pop hooks, rock hard, push a jam, pull back into songcraft, and just create a great time for themselves and the audience.
All of that was on display tonight with the three veteran Tricksters and Rick Nielsen's son who does a bang-up job on drums in the touring band. They played a set featuring their big hits of course, but a variety of material from their first album onward. There were a few covers sprinkled about including a cool version of Lou Reed's 'I'm Waiting for the Man', which they've done for some time and allows Petterson a lead vocal after a 12-string bass solo opening. Zander is in fine voice, Rick Nielsen is 66 years young and still has at least a few good years left, so Cheap Trick is still a force for any fan of rock'n'roll, pop, and assertive rock music. These guys do it all with just the right formula.

Photo of the Night: Rick Nielsen certainly loves excess when it comes to collecting guitars. Good thing he doesn't play the organ or he may covet this. What I would like to know is exactly how many combination of sounds can you produce and can you manually flip all the switches into these combinations in one lifetime?

Friday, September 18, 2015

Ride - DIIV -- 9:30 Club - Sep 17 2015

DIIV - I looked forward to seeing these New Yorkers and even with a slow start, things got quite interesting. They feature a couple of guitars on top of a rhythm section with a keyboardist who adds a lot of third guitar and backing vocals. His contributions are key as the keyboards create a nice swirling effect dreamy pop sounds that have a bit more rocking drive with the rhythm section. The third guitar gives it a bit of heft and even more 'driiv' showing that they are a perfect opener for tonight's unique headliner. There is even more psychedelia and intense rock moments as this set keeps getting better and better. The crowd was really stoked by the closer and the loud ovation was richly deserved. I am happy enough right now with the time invested and could leave a very contented man. But why on earth would I ever do that.
Ride - The 1990s were a bit of a lost decade for me as I spent more time with the 1960s and 1970s. But Ride's debut 'Nowhere' was one of my few prized possessions from that decade. I liked some of the shoegaze scene, but Ride was far and away my favorite as I heard so much beyond shoegaze. After a long acrimonious hiatus, the guys are back and are exciting audiences everywhere. The only question tonight was going to be exactly how good are they sounding these days? They didn't miss a note tonight as the sound and playing was brilliant from the beginning to end. Drums were big and bold, guitars sounded exquisite as they layered unique sounds together with intriguing parts that are well thought out and almost mystical. The two voices were rich and steady throughout. The bass playing was the personal surprise as I am not sure I realized how important it is to their sound. He mixes fingerstyle with picking and lays down some of the smoothest runs around, so the other instruments sound even more striking. The songs are really great and there is one screaming shoegaze freakout during the closer, 'Drive Blind'. The crowd was a bit more shoegazing than the band, for although they were appreciative, the movement was rather slight. I wanted to jump out of my skin when they launched into 'Decay' for the first time on a live stage since 1991(they announced even a couple of other firsts tonight).

Based on what I have read, these kids have grown up and realized at least some of the folly of earlier arguments. Hopefully these live shows can inspire them to some more group creativity as I would certainly welcome more Ride music into my world. But if not, this was a great night as one more unexpected pleasure that I would not have imagined in the last couple of decades.

Quote of the Night: Mark Gardener... "Washington, it's been a long time."

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

PREVIEWS OF COMING ATTRACTIONS: Late September 2015

Hey, let's start with a surprise that this show is happening at all AND that there are still tickets available. How can Ride have tickets available and something called Catfish and the Bottlemen be sold out the night before? Then again, don't tell me. I don't want to know.

The mighty Ride is back and after some succesful monster comeback shows is now touring through our fair city. Catch them this Thursday, the 17th at the 9:30 Club.


Sunday, September 20th... well, I scored free tickets for Cheap Trick, but it would be nice to visit Algiers at the Rock'n'Roll Hotel.


Ultimate Painting puts on the ultimate show at the Comet Ping Pong on Monday the 21st.


The Pope is coming next week, but if you want to see the anti-pope, check out Ghost at the Fillmore on Tuesday on 22nd. Secular music fans should check out Mikal Cronin, Calvin Love and Cairo Gang at the U Street Music Hall that night.



Gardens & Villa will come up roses at the Rock'n'Roll Hotel on Thursday, September 24th.


Sego opens for El Ten Eleven at the Black Cat on Friday, September 25th. Or head over to the DC9 for Phil Cook.



Mike Krol hits the Comet Ping Pong on Saturday, September 26th. But I will be at the Pinch for Caustic Casanova's record release show. Yay!



And if you liked Ride, you should check out a band that may have influenced them and certainly influenced hundreds of other bands... it is the Jesus & Marychain playing Psychocandy in full at the 9:30 Club on Sunday the 27th with Black Ryder opening.


Fidlar crawls on over to the Black Cat on Monday the 28th.


And if you need a psychedelic detox from this busy month, why not come to the Velvet Lounge on Wednesday the 30th for the Dead Flowers. (Note--not on VLounge calendar but on band tour page. Watch my recommendations column for the final word).

Monday, September 14, 2015

Nick Diamonds - Small Feet -- DC9 - Sep 13 2015

Small Feet - You know the expression... small feet, big songs. This may be a simple Swedish duo of vocals/guitar and drums/electronics, but the sound is strong and the songs are amazing. So this quiet little set delivered as well as any full bodied, well amped major league band on a big stage. The guitar work is simple, but smart; the drums steady with one hand ready to control some electronic synth backing. The vocals are key as he sounds a lot like Neil Young, if Neil could really sing. But there is almost a Wire like vibe to the music, although it is hard to fully place. And with lines like 'unicorns are fun, they're as evil as they come', it is hard not to focus in like a laser on these songs. There is a  bit of folk, a solid dose of pop, and a week bit of Scandanvian progressive sound in this mix. It all comes together brilliantly thanks to the voice and songs of Simon St√•lhamre. I hope a lot of the late arrivers were paying attention as this show started as about a dozen people and finished up with at least 50 in the room. I would think it will be much bigger next time as this album gets played more and more.
Nick Diamonds - This is the solo moniker of Canadian Nicholas Thornburn who seemes to have a new band every year or two, Islands being one of the more famous. He is here with a partner who joins him on synthesizer and vocals. This is classic synth pop on the majestic side of soul. The music is bold and crisp with interesting hooks and counters, while the vocals are filled with subtle twists and surprisingly he even reminds me a bit of H.R. on his quieter songs. The songs are interesting and this is all solid and agreeable to the large crowd. It is easy to dive in to this music, but the quality is there to keep you mind working full time. 

Quote of the Night: ND... "Let's give this Sunday a Wednesday feel (laughter), Tuesday?"
Crowd: "Thursday!"
ND "Thursday? Let's not push our luck."

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Titus Andronicus - Spider Bags - Baked -- Black Cat - Sep 12 2015

by John Miller

Three bands tonight, three good bands, putting on a good show. Once projectiles are hurled into the general vicinity of the live music, that’s usually a sign of a good show. I can see how that may be misconstrued, trust me though, everyone was into it.

Baked - Opening the festivities promptly at 9:30, Baked put on a risky set.  Not in a pejorative sense but their style (low-fuzz stoner rock) tends to be somewhat difficult to pull off live as there is a tendency for muddiness. The guitar and bass levels are so high tonight that I had a difficult time making out what all the mumbling was about. In addition to the vocals, I really wanted to hear what that woodgrain vintage Casio was all about. Baked didn’t really seem to care though, which ended up being an interesting parallel to what would follow later. Despite the levels, the music is well composed and definitely something one could put on in the background if one was partial to getting, well, baked (that was bad, I apologize).

Spider Bags - The Spider Bags took some time to get situated. From what I could make out from the intermediate asides between songs, they traded some old, broken amps for some suspect guitars with issues. Midway through their third song, tuning issues solved, the garage rupturing feedback was doing its thing nicely; Knobs spinning and turning, lots of resonance and pitch coming from their newly acquired instruments. Lots of that mid-song banter ended up being drowned out by said resonance but that oblivious attitude worked well with the wild solos that littered the set. There was a sloppiness to it but not in a bad way, more like an earnest passion that just needs to expressed in any way possible. Certainly an interesting contrast to Baked; we went from, “Fuck you, I don't really care”, to “Fuck! Sometimes I can't control myself and this is coming out whether you like it or not”. Both attitudes played very well tonight.
Titus Andronicus - The show’s last set was a quick one; Titus Andronicus hopped on stage, tuned their instruments, said thanks and left. It wouldn’t be a punk show without some subtle jabs at the audience.  And we waited as Wu-Tang Clan ran through the PA as it sounded like there were opposing chants of ‘Nats’ and ‘Os’ came from the patient parishioners. And as the 36 Chambers shuts their doors, Patrick walked up on stage and begans with a sermon; Life and Punk. The flock was more than receptive and less than a minute into the set they were singing along, helping with the lyrics to Upon Viewing Brueghel's "Landscape With the Fall of Icarus”. Aside from the new stuff (which was longer than I was expecting), there were sing-a-longs throughout the evening. But that should have been expected, especially at a sold show. It always amazes me how these guys from Jersey and New York are so good at being relatable. But I guess songs like “No Future Part Three: Escape From No Future” are pretty universal; every one’s a loser on some level. Titus Andronicus is most certainly gifted; they showed the fine line between being earnest and relatable and being earnest and full of shit.

Dengue Fever - Analog Soul Club -- Rock'n'Roll Hotel - Sep 12 2015

Analog Soul Club - A couple hours of DJing starts off the evening from this local outfit. Not really my favorite beginning, but I've learned to enjoy this more, especially if there is quality and unique music more than just a good dance beat. And this group was on tonight with a worldly mix of sounds that was appropriate for the unique music of Dengue Fever coming later.
Dengue Fever - This is probably the fifth time I have seen this one of a kind LA band. Start with a bunch of guys that have a good handle on garage rock from the deep southern California history, add a heavy dose of world music interest, and front it all with a powerful Cambodian singer steeped in the great history of Cambodian Pop music and you have quite the recipe for success. Their set is filled with the many recognizable songs from their back catalog along with some unique songs from their latest LP. The club is packed with one of the more diverse audiences around thanks to the Cambodian musical connection with this band and their fabulous singer, Chhom Nimol. Aside from some mic problems, everything clicked well tonight as the crowd was moving and participating fully with this fun filled set. This band has a great sound and a great look including one of the most disparate height differences between singer and bassist since the Misfits (not important, just a way for me to get some cheap heat on Glenn Danzig). I am happy this band keeps going and going as they are always a welcome boost when they come to town. No exception tonight.

Quote of the Night: - "Arghhh! This is why I hate vinyl!"

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Jenny Hval - Briana Marela -- DC9 - Sep 9 2015

Briana Marela - Careful layering of female vocals begins this set before the electronica fills out the atmosphere and the drums lay down the anchor. The two vocalists sharpen the mood into more of a pop structure. Yet as the set progresses there is a mix of atmosphere morphing into songs throughout. The drummer moves forward to work some electronic parts and adds several subtle steel drum parts which creates a watery sound and lets the music really flow. There is good attention to detail here and this turned out to be a lovely, well received opening set.
Jenny Hval - I've enjoyed many performances from this talented and creative Norwegian singer over the years. I cared a bit less for her daring recent album, although I respected the attempt. I had hoped it would be more interesting live and it was all of that, although it still requires a fully opened mind. Hval begins on the floor of the stage spurting out vocal bursts as an electronica guy works the table behind her. As she rises, two women in platinum wigs come out to move about the stage more than actually dance. It was theatrical and added to the edginess of the music. Hval varied from stretched out words to piercing highs covering more range than you would expect. This is more Scott Walker than Kate Bush, and with the intensity and backing reminded me of an even more stripped down Suicide. She indeed was bleeding music all over the floor as she accurately described it. Quite odd:  appreciated by some, perhaps less by others (although they may have had a Metro train to catch). I was in the right mood for it so it worked for me as I have been away from the clubs for quite a few nights now. This was quite the welcome back.

Quote of the Night: Hval... "My name is usually Jenny, but tonight I think it's Carrie."

Sunday, September 6, 2015

PREVIEWS of COMING ATTRACTIONS - Early September 2015

September shows coming a bit slow to me (as is fall weather for all), but things get really good, really soon.

Jenny Hval and Brianna Morella will likely fill up the DC9 this Wednesday, September 9th.



One of my favorite bands in the world today, Woven Hand is touring with Chelsea Wolfe and they play the U Street Music Hall on Friday, September 11th. Be there early or you will have blown it.


Head over to the Howard Theatre later on that Friday the 11th for Lizz Wright.


Saturday September 12th has so many choices in clubland that I can't cover them all. I will likely be at Dengue Fever at the Rock'n'Roll Hotel, but the Heartless Bastards at the 9:30 Club that should be of interest. Or perhaps the white hot Titus Andronicus at the Black Cat?



Small Feet and Nick Diamonds shine on at the DC9 on Sunday, September 13th.



Holly Miranda plays the Rock'n'Roll Hotel on Tuesday the 15th (and just as Pablo Picasso should never be called an asshole, Holly Miranda should never play a veranda).


Or try On and On at the DC9 on that Tuesday as well, if you choose the NW rather than the NE.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The Walking Guys - Andrew Tufano - Throwing Plates -- Jammin Java - Sep 1 2015

by John Miller

The Throwing Plates and Andrew Tufano - It was a homecoming of sorts for both opening acts, Throwing Plates (nee Jamie & James) and Andrew Tufano. The two are local to the area and at least three of the four players were coming home after touring the country this past summer. Other than the obvious (the vocalists) it was difficult to differentiate the two as once the Throwing Plates finished their set, Andrew Tufano swapped spots with Jamie, while James and bassist Doug remained. The two had a very similar sound and could be best described as something playing in the background as Katherine Heigl questions her romantic choices.

It isn't easy to be negative as both were so positive, but the music is so homogenized that there isn't really anything to say beyond sweeping generalizations. That's not to say that either were bad, far from it, musically they were very competent; vocals were nice, harmonies worked, bass held the rhythm, but it was so vanilla and saccharine. There is definitely a place for these two opening bands, but I am not too sure I necessarily want to travel there.
The Walking Guys - The Walking Guys have a gimmick. They walk to each of their shows; fairly straight forward, if not a little thin. Starting in Maine, the four have made their way south and hopefully they will reach their final destination, Tennessee, with everyone intact. I only say this because their choice of wardrobe leaves a little to be desired as far as safety is concerned. Clad in black t-shirts and dark jeans, this quartet looked like a backwoods Ramones. It didn't dawn on me until much later that while the black t-shirt is a timeless staple, these were probably being worn because it is much easier to hide the stains that have no doubt accumulated while on their adventure.

As I alluded to earlier, the Walking Guys have a gimmick and there was some trepidation on my part that they would be just that, a gimmick. As the show progressed those fears were alleviated as the four guys put on a particularly enjoyable set. In between songs, they shared stories from the road; everything from being sponsored by Saucony (their 'dad' shoes) to the very real fear of being murdered by a Celtic drum aficionado. I may not be the biggest fan of the singer songwriter genre, but they certainly were not as straight forward as the genre might suggest. The quartet played in a way that was new to me; Riders. Each would perform a song of their own compostion while the other performed limited backing duties (aside from Will Stevens who backed up each on his guitar) and once finished, they passed the guitar down and the next Walking Guy would repeat. The songs, while musically typical of the genre, were lyrically enjoyable to digest (especially those that revolved around pancakes). These four were telling stories throughout; inviting the audience to join them on their walkabout, as opposed to telling them everything is going to be just fine. Each had a distinctive voice. The one weak spot was Will's first song that sounded suspiciously like Bon Jovi's 'Wanted Dead or Alive'. But considering it was the first song he ever composed, I think we can all give him a pass. All kidding aside, these four were exceptional storytellers and I wish them safe travels to their final destination.

And of course there are more area shows within walking distance (the editor's bad joke here) including a DC show at Ebeneezer's Coffeehouse, this Thursday, September 3rd.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

RECORD REVIEWS: AUGUST 2015

Ladies and Gentlemen, how do...

AIRCRAFT “7 GEMS FROM THE SPARKLING VOID”
These seven gems are seven snappy songs on this extended EP. Imagine the Black Angels trying their hand at power pop and you roughly have the sound achieved here. These are sharp little pop nuggets that may soar off into space, but only take a few quick orbits before coming back to ground. There is as much B-52s as there is Simply Saucer, which gives them a slightly unique position between the worlds of popsike and power pop genres. I love the harmonies on ‘White Light’, while it does not sacrifice on guitar sounds that vary from spacey to sharp and precise all on top of a punch up of a rhythm section base. I love the drive these songs have while the vocal delivery sends them to great heights. It takes a bit of audacity to call your songs gems, but Aircraft did not understate the precious nature of these songs. I look forward to their live show and future releases.

ANCIENT WARFARE “THE PALE HORSE”
This band occupies the space between dream pop and Americana. It is not overly dreamy, but it is deep and contemplative particularly in the deep, resonant female vocals that command attention from the outset. This is one of many albums recently where I need at least a few songs to come into the rhythm of the band and in this case, it did not take terribly long and was worth the time. By album’s end, this was an enchanting experience that I hope to repeat again soon. And their Velvet Lounge show was quite the exclamation point on this album.

Songs to start with first:

Dreamcatcher - Good twang in the guitar, subtle strings, and a deep mysterious vibe in general.

The Last Living Trial - Classic melody with a fine combination of striking and flowing instruments behind the excellent vocals.

Rolling Tides - Long and flowing more than droning, but the hypnotic effect is similar—this one’s a real favorite of mine.

ROBBIE BASHO “RAINBOW THUNDER - SONGS OF THE AMERICAN WEST”
Of all the sadly out of print music, I really don’t understand why Robbie Basho’s full catalog is not out for the masses to discover and rediscover. And he’s not just a one-off oddity, as his releases number in the teens (depending on how official you want to be), starting off on John Fahey’s Takoma Records. Thanks to Grass-Tops Recordings, a treasured part of my vinyl collection is now being reissued (and my Basho vinyl ALL sold quickly). This is one of his final releases and has a balance of his traditional and esoteric moves with a leaning to the western Americana roots as the title implies. Although not quite my favorite Basho album on the whole (I would put this in about the middle), there are brilliant songs and even the Basho albums of less interest than this, blow away most of their peers. Robbie Basho was a very special artist that was able to form a stirring voice (through vocals, guitar, and piano even) that is almost impossible to replicate, yet is easily accessible and understood. Buy this and everything else you can get your hands on. Next, go after ‘Zarthus’, one of the finest albums ever and finally reissued in 2014.

Songs to start with first:

Redwood Ramble - The instrumental opener shows off his flashy playing and creative dance moves on the fretboard.

Crashing Thunder - His unique voice adds even more layers of intensity on top of the guitar as he starts his venture west.

Rainbow Thunder - One of my favorite Basho songs with a mystical water theme. This is magic.

WILLIS EARL BEAL “NOCTURNES”
If you want to have lush electronica in 2015, then why not do what Willis Earl Beal does, and front it with some modern soul vocals? The answer is that there are not that many people with a modern imagination and vision who have the classic voice to pull this off. This is akin to some of the excursions that Scott Walker takes, but it is much more grounded and accessible, ala some of the intriguing moves David Bowie made over the years. And it succeeds today, anytime anywhere.

Songs to start with first:

Under You - Mysterious opener slowly builds a quiet platform for his careful vocals with haunting female vocal backing.

Like a Box - Interesting vocal patterns once again, gripping song.

Lust - Whistles, humming, singing, like a walk down a rainy dark alley where it all somehow feels safe.

THE CAIRO GANG “GOES MISSING”
This is an interesting but not terribly consistent pop-psyche effort from Chicago. The odd thing to me is that it seems to invoke different degrees of throwback sounds and modern touches. A couple of songs could easily have been found on a Pebbles compilation, while most others clearly sound more recent. The jangling guitar is steady throughout and the rhythm is a fraction slower than most, which makes this a little slippery at times. It is ultimately pretty interesting to digest and there is enough intrigue to invite future listening.

Songs to start with first:

Be What You Are - Yes, it is a throwback 60s popsike sound, but it has enough heft and heart to make it succeed, even among the cynical.

Sniper - Balancing jangle rock of old with jangle rock of new.

Some Other Time - This is a surprisingly odd little Scott Walker meets Daniel Johnston type song. Yeah, that makes no sense to me either.

PHIL COOK “SOUTHLAND MISSION”
There is some nice rolling piano, harmonies, varied guitar styles and sounds, but the music just moves around a few Americana variations in rather non-compelling ways. It begins with a Grateful Dead style, although it is not quite that lazy (a Deadhead I am not). There are some nice folkier cuts with some good guitar later on and an odd almost pop song even later (‘Anybody Else’). It is decent music, but it just didn’t separate itself from the pack with a cutting edge that would have had me sit up and take notice. I would recommend his prior band, Megafaun first and if you really like that, this may be worth a foray.

COPYWRITE “A HEART OF GLASS”

If you start off right at the opening passages you may be lulled into thinking you would be getting a quality and slightly updated old school rock album. It does not take long to dispel this notion and by the second song, it is not clear where exactly you can pinpoint Heart of Glass’s version of rock music. There are so many fascinating moments of heightened drama in these widely varied arrangements, that you just can not pin this music down. It is like a modern post punk Haizea, for those of you who know that brilliant Spanish psyche-folk band. Even the chilling vocals have great expression and mystery within. Oh, and there is just one more mind blowing fact about this Australian band. They recorded this album at home while they were finishing high school. That just is not right, but we recipients of this lightening bolt of an album will accept it just the same as absolutely bizarre as this is. And only 75 Facebook likes? This should be soaring into the thousands if enough people listen to this marvel.

Songs to start with first:

Break the Screen - Good enough rocker, but when they cut to bass solo, partly with drums, I dropped what I was doing to fully engage.

White Lies - From post punk to adventurous glam rock to subtle psychedlia? God knows what they are doing, but it’s pretty great.

Social Frustrations - OK, this is song four and another complete mystery is opened on how they created such an odd gem. Just listen to them all.

DELA SANTE “DELA SANTE”
It always seems like progressive music comes from bands far away. We have only on occasion had a local band that fit the bill for inclusion with the classic prog bands of old and new, but it has been a while since Little Bigheart and the Wildebeest displayed their chops. Now out of the ashes of several fine local bands comes this strong instrumental collective. Like good progressive music, there are many variants and leanings within the varied songs. Often, there are psychedelic moves, but there are interesting rhythmic shifts and plenty of fascinating synthesizer tones that keep the music mobil and fresh. I also like the flute and what is either a pinched trumpet or a kazoo. This band will keep you guessing, all the while pummeling you into submission with their driving energetic melodies. There are funky bass lines, pastoral passages, and outright heaviness. Not for the meek, but so easy to rock out with while keeping your brain moving. This is a fun release. Kudos to these guys for getting this together.

J.A.G. - The opener hits you with mysterious sounds atop a killer bassline and rollicking drums. Then the melodies set your imagination soaring.

Bienvenidos - Screaming space guitar is way, way out.

Vaulted - If I am vaulted, I think I am more in orbit than preparing for a landing.

FROG EYES “PICKPOCKET’S LOCKET”
This album is a bit of a challenge. The musical inventiveness is quite profound somehow combining indie rock with Eastern European psyche-folk (as they are from Victoria, British Colombia). There is space between violins, guitars, and an interesting rhythm section. The vocals are the issue that keeps me from elevating this to one of the finer records I have heard recently. There are many that would say that the intense phrasing is the best part of this record, so the choice is yours. Perhaps it is an acquired taste, but it is a record worth spending some time with as there is inventive quality each step of the way through these ten songs. You might get a different review from me if I had the time to give this five or ten uninterrupted listens or maybe not.

Songs to start with first:

Joe with the Jam - Fine psychedelic rock oddity with lots of fascinating undulating patters emerging.

Death’s Ship - 2/3 edgy, 1/3 playful and it somehow comes together.

Crystal Blip - A little more relaxed and fun.

GARDENS & VILLA “MUSIC FOR DOGS”
 
This could be a simple synth-pop band, but fortunately the musicians put their heads together and create some nice variety within the simple catchy format. It may be as much as a few bars of introduction music before blending in more familiar sounds. Or it is a significantly slower or faster beat. Or perhaps it is the addition and subtraction of items or densities in the arrangements. What you have throughout are catchy well written and performed pop songs that hearken back to the Beach Boys and take you through 80s synth bands up through today. They do it well.

You can catch the live set at the Rock'n'Roll Hotel this month, Thursday, September 24th.

Songs to start with first:

Maximize Results - After an synth-instrumental intro, this cut adds intense vocals and rhythm to stir things up whilst still in a poppy format.

Everybody - I like the walking rhythm and big opening sound that takes me to a happy place.

Paradise - Cool lounge guitar and beat to open up this interesting little song.

HERBCRAFT “WOT OZ”
The real craftsmanship here, is the way this band brings forward the classic Neu! styled krautrock format into some nice long driving jams.  This is mostly instrumental, but there is plenty of creative noodling that keeps these repetitive riffs flowing in a compelling fashion. There is a certain worldliness to this where fans of Goat seem like the natural fanbase for this music. I am hooked. This is music to trip by, even when you are as sober as I am, perhaps especially when you are as sober as I am.

HOOTON TENNIS CLUB “HIGHEST POINT IN CLIFF TOWN”
This Liverpool band has that loose rock’n’roll style that rocks too hard to be slacker, but is not quite as chipper as Guided By Voices, for example. They play around with guitar intensities, which helps keep the album rather fresh and allows it to finish better than it starts. When they rock it out a bit, they sound like Sebadoh (maybe that subconsciously explains their song ‘Barlow Terrace’ ). Ultimately it is a mixed bag, that works well when you are in the mood, or perhaps young enough. But they are young, this is their debut, and the highlights are worth hearing. It will probably be quite fun live as well.

Songs to start with first:

I’m Not Going Roses Again - Easy to rock back and forth with this rock melody and even handed pace.

Spokes - Smooth psychedelia with some wild guitar moves.

Fall in Luv - Another fine psyche scorcher to finish up with a smile.

THE JET AGE “DESTROY REBUILD”
This long running DC area band has always delivered quality indie rock with a dose of power pop. This album started a bit slowly for me, but whether it was taking the time to get into their style or simply that I liked some of the middle and later songs more, ultimately this album reminded me of what is really good about the Jet Age. They have fine songs with a band that knows how to pull back or push forward to make the melodies that much more attractive upon delivery. There is some fine guitar playing and sonic textures at hand as well. These guys still know how to get it done.

Songs to start with first:

It Cuts Both Ways - A lighter song actually sounds quite fresh here.

In Time All Want will Cease - Great contrasts of thick and sparse moments and fine vocal work.

I Can’t Breathe - but thankfully, he can still write songs and keep a good band together that knows how to fire.

THE JONES FAMILY SINGERS “LIVE from MT. ZION”
This is live gospel music with all of the back and forth between singers and audience, but with unrelenting music every step of they. This is really rocking with a drummer pushing everything forward. The bluesy gospel lead and backing vocal style is intense and tuneful. Certainly this is enhanced listening to it on an early Sunday afternoon, but as it plays on, it reminds me that it is still far better in a live setting. This is a pretty good capture of a fine band and I would like to enjoy them more in a church or club some time.

BRIANA MARELA “ALL AROUND US”
This is lighter fare, but with plenty of substance. Briana Marela has a cute voice and uses it for intriguing pop songs as well as dreamier fare. There is nothing terribly fancy or wildly different going on. It is more a matter of controlling the environment and effectively setting moods and pace and feeling within each song. The adjustments are minor but clear and effective for holding attention by bringing in just enough variety.

And you can see what Brian Marela does live when she opens for the outstanding Jenny Hval at the DC9 on Wednesday, September 9th.



Songs to start with first:

Take Care of Me - Sparse instrumentation, but effective mood to set up the attractive and somewhat subtle pop vocal moves.

Dani - A dreamier song than the snappier pop songs that start off the record.

Everything is New - A steady song that is deep yet easily accessible.

MARIAN McLAUGHLIN “SPIRIT HOUSE”
As long term readers know, I have been a Marian McLaughlin fan since the early days of this blog. As a psychedelic folk and progressive folk fan, I gravitate quickly to highly original folk songwriters like Marian McLaughlin. But as an extensive collector of the genre, most do not have the originality and staying power to continually resonate with me as much as Marian has over the years. She has the ability to balance creative musical moves and song ideas with comfortable settings and extraordinary arrangements. Ethan Foote has collaborated with her on the arrangements for some time now and their partnership keeps getting better and better. There are so many memorable moves with complex string arrangements at one time, and then with lighter touches at others. At no time, does anything seem extraneous and the clarity of each song shines through. Every passage has me sitting at attention in anticipation of the next phrase or musical move. It is time for the world to share the discovery.


This record is out in early September and keep your eyes here for live show recommendations.

Songs to start with first (from Side One, but all ten are great):

Even Magic Falters - The opening cut has everything: delicate inventive guitar, string arrangements, and haunting vocals all working with a fascinating song structure.

Your Bower - More complexities unfold, yet it seems so light and airy.

Calm Canary of the Arctic Sea - A spritely reminder that this genre is not all dark and simple, but rich with intrigue and imagination.

MENACE BEACH “SUPER TRANSPORTERREUM”
This Leeds band has a nice attack style on garage guitars meeting electronica psychedelic rock. Something like that, at least. This is driving catchy melodic power with some fun electronic and synthesizer bursts among the usual array of rock instruments. Not unlike Hawkwind, but more in the nature of the Count Five and the Ramones at the core. Just five songs here, but the style is steady and the hooks are decent. I will need more to fully judge how much I would want to listen, but I have heard enough to know that a live show would be loud, gutsy, and fun.

MONK PARKER “HOW THE SPARK LOVES THE TINDER”
Just eight moderately long songs here, all in a stoned out, droned out, Americana style. There have been times in my life, where this would have worked magic. Nowadays is not one of those times, but there are some fine moments within. I particularly enjoyed the Spiritualized channeling going on in ‘The Happy Hours’. There are some decent instrumental shifts with double time drumming, cheesy organs, brass, and whatnot, but the reverbed vocals are a bit too steady for me. If you like Bill Callahan, you may like this or you may just want to stick with Bill Callahan. You decide.

JASON A MULLINAX “HOME WORLD”
This is electronica with bite and motion. From the brisk pace and crisp sounds in ’Staring Daggers’ to the mysteries of ‘Hello Human!’, Jason Mullinax has created an array of well thought out songs that have plenty of surprises in addition to great melodies. There are sixteen songs and aside from a few short blasts, there is much here to digest, perhaps too much in one sitting unless you are doing other things. But the quality through much of this will draw more attention than the average (mostly) instrumental electronica music album. It is nice to hear something in a genre that I am wary of work so well. But it is not too surprising as I enjoyed this local artist's work with Pilesar.

MY CRUEL GORO “EP”
Just three songs, which is my rock bottom for me spending time on a review (depending on song length). Fortunately, there is nothing crying out for in depth analysis here. These are just fine melodic garage punk rippers. But do not underestimate them, as there are clever little sounds and songwriting shifts along the way that portends fine things ahead for this band. Glue Buzz is amazing in both its density and clarity as it sounds like punk psychedelic trip to the stars and back.

STOLEN JARS “KEPT”
Once the quirky guitars started annoyingly pulsating at odd intervals, I knew I would not like the vocals. Sure enough, I could predict the short strained vocal manner that has been done way too much in indie rock. I will blame Maps & Atlases for all of this, mostly because I really got annoyed with their sound and slight popularity (plus they are not around any more to take exception). If I want indie rock, I’ll look for something more flowing. If I want percussive style guitar, I will go to Thomas Mapfumo. It is records like these that make me run to my Ramones and Radio Birdman records, post-haste!

TEEN DAZE “MORNING WORLD”
This album veers into a big sound at different points on this album but continually pulls back into an even handed lush pop sound that works about as often as not. it is just a matter of how memorable the hook is and how interesting the vocal work is. The music is quite steady and not terribly exciting, but when the shapes and atmospheres come together, they create a moody environment that is more positive than most moody music. I found ‘Along’ rather odd in that the verses are almost carbons of Pink Floyd’s ‘Echoes’ although the finish was totally different, yet I could not shake the vibe. All in all, a fair effort that was a nice change up for much of what I listen to, but does not quite have enough yet to go into full rave mode.

You'll have to wait to hear the live show, but not too long as they hit the stage of the DC9 on Thursday, October 8th.

Songs to start with first:

Valley of Gardens - I like the opening intense build-up into a more normal song structure by the end.

Post Storm - Long moody piece is perfectly named as there is a quietness amidst nearby chaos here.

Infinity - A bit more of a rock song that may shake you up a bit late into the album.

TOTALLY MILD “DOWN TIME”
I like this brand of moody pop rock music with the way the component parts work together. The guitar and bass are often playing at different times, jabbing away in between the steady drum beats. Everything is so soft, yet jarring and the slightly detached, yet warm female vocals seem to be viewing this intriguing mix while coming up with a way to work with it. They move around a bit and lock in at times depending on the song. There is even a surprising saxophone sendoff on the tenth and final song. This is not always brilliant, but it always held my attention and occasionally had me quite interested and excited.

Songs to start with first:

Christa - The opener grabbed me, even in a quiet way.

Move On - A smoother more straight forward pop song works well on this album, too.

Nights - Sliding guitar runs with twangy rhythm creates a nice alternate setting.

WORLD OF GUITAR TRIO “PERFECT STRANGERS”
This is a pretty straightforward concept, similar to the Three Tenors. Take three virtuosos of the acoustic guitar and turn them loose on some long instrumental compositions. The one thing I wanted to hear was if three distinct guitarists playing together could have the clarity of a duo. But it appears that these three virtuosos go it alone on separate tracks. Basically, if you are a talented finger style guitarist, you already sound like two guitarists and when you play vibrant music, such as these players do, there is plenty going on. Thankfully, none of it is muddled, so instead of worrying about technicalities, it is easier to set back and let these guys work there fingers out with lightning moves and slower moves containing great expression. There are flamenco inspired bits along with a melodic folk approach that achieves quick and attractive long themes. It is all technically accomplished, but has a very direct approach that is not for the eclectic crowd. It is more for the many guitar aficionados.