Sunday, December 14, 2008

Strip Mall Ballads/Southeast Engine/North of Canada - Red & the Black - Dec 12 2008

Another cold night in the funky Northeast quarter. I do enjoy H Street up here as it reminds me of Broadway in Denver, places that could be used for movie backgrounds from the 60s and possibly earlier in some spots.

North of Canada comes from the south part of DC and was a four-piece with two guitars. Started and finished strong with a middle that had my mind drifting a bit. Vocals were ok when they were straightforward and not straining to hit notes. Nice guitar rock at times and perfectly decent for an opener in an upstairs loft which this club pretty much is.

Southeast Engine comes from Southeast Ohio, Athens in particular--home of Ohio University. I spent a night there once in 1976. They had keys, guitar, bass and drums and kind of ran the gamut from California stylized 70s rock to more of a rootsy midwest sound. A couple of songs went a bit quiet, a couple of times the keyboardist did some honkey tonk, and once they even went part mystical ala Woven Hand. The variety and quality worked with me. Good set, not something I want to go nuts over and buy their back catalogue, but a band I was happy to see.

Strip Mall Ballads - This DC outift had some amusing songs from the lyrics I could pick out (not my strong suit). The singer played banjo and acoustic guitar with a guitarist, bassist, and harmonica player helping out. This sounded more of a talented busker playing with some other musicians who laid some notes out there without anyone really caring what the full effect was. And the effect was just a bit on the dull side for me. Nothing hdeous, just les interesting than I had hoped. I think there were some good songs there, but I would like to hear them in a different way. After writing this review, I looked for a weblink for them and found no website of Myspace page, so that kind of proves my point I guess.

Quote of the Night: "Thanks for being quiet during the quiet song" from Southeast Engine's bassist. The crowd hushed considerably when the singer was accompanied by light drumming in a couple spots which was nice as there were other times that it was the typical people carrying on loud and long conversations while the band played. I mean there are only a thousand other bars without cover charges that you can converse in along with plenty of down time between bands as well as a downstairs bar you can go. I did see less cell phone checking on the plus side, but I was kind of toward the front.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Love is All/Darker My Love/The Strange Boys - Rock'n'Roll Hotel - Dec 6 2008

A pretty nicely packed house nearly filled the Rock'n'Roll Hotel, the finest club in Northeast DC (which isn't saying much if you know the Northeast, although I really enjoy this little two block area of H street).

The Strange Boys began things with a 2-guitar, one voice jangly garage pop-psyche sound. They even covered a Nugget (I think it was Baby, Please Don't Go by the Amboy Dukes). They were a young band from Austin Texas. I thought the vocals were more Meat Puppets than Standells, but an adequate opener made a nice start to the evening.

Their touring partners, Darker My Love, were up next. They were a five piece with keys, two guitars, basic rhythm and two axemen singing. Also in the psychedelic genre, but more of a driving sound that was somewhat in the direction of Spiritualized/Spaceman 3. Really good songs, although a couple toward the end had me daydreaming a bit until their rousing closer. Very good set.

No psychedelia next with Sweden's Love is All. Do you remember the days where punk and new wave blended together into less definable categories? This band hearkened back to that era with its very snappy, jangly danceable pop-punk. The female vocals were a bit like Toyah Wilcox or a slightly lighter Pauline Murray (Penetration). The band had drums/bass/guitar with keyboards and a saxophonist making some great simple tonal thrusts as opposed to heavy soloing. Lots of energy and infectious. Great music and a great Rosemary('s Baby) haircut as a bonus.

Oddity of the Night: Leaving the club at about 12:50am, I walked passed four adult bananas walking the other way. One of them was smoking and I didn't pick up much of their conversation as it was cold and I wanted to get to my car.

Friday, December 5, 2008

O'Death/Wye Oak - Black Cat Backstage - Dec 4 2008

Two outstanding bands in the intimate backstage of the Black Cat with 80 or so patrons. A great Thursday evening as I recover from my cold.

Wye Oak was a duo with a woman on lead vocals and electric guitar; and a guy who drummed with his feet and right hand and played organ/keys with his left and did some harmonizing vocals, too. They reminded me of one of my favorite prog-folk groups, Emtidi in that they played a moody folk style with a rock background and minimal instrumentation. The guitarist really cut loose at times with riffs reminiscent or Wire's Lowdown and even some of the faster stuff from Pink Flag. Intoxicating mix of styles by a duo that knows how to make their musical points.

O'Death had bass/drums/violin/acoustic guitar/banjo-ukelele (I believe) with a couple guys singing. They may be from NYC, but are a perfect fit within the Denver sound that I know too well, closest to Slim Cessna's Auto Club in that they are frantic rootsy rockers with bluegrass and Americana touches. Very fast and catchy. They also reminded me of my favorites, Boiled in Lead, but without the world beats and Irish tunes, although WITH a white-hot violinist. The crowd was dancing and moving quite a bit more than usual. Fun band that should not be mised.

Quote of the Night: My ears were muddled and the music was loud so I'll go back to dinner at Ben's Chile Bowl where this half-nutty lady sitting next to me at the counter commented as she saw the BACK of my north-England police procedural paperback by Peter Robinson: "That's a good book". You don't say?