Thursday, January 29, 2009

Thievery Corporation - 9:30 Club - Jan 28 2009

This was the second of five sold out shows. I find that amazing based on what I've heard from this duo. Still I wanted to check it out and see for myself.

Thievery Corporation - Although a duo, the show was augmented by six musicians and eight singers. The duo were on a platform at the top rear of the stage performing on keyboards, electronics and computers looking down from Mount Olympus. The music was heavy dub worldbeats electronica, I suppose. It had people swaying and dancing nicely, but it was a bit slick and at times empty. Washington Post writer Mark Jenkins is someone I almost agree with. He stated that since their material relies more on groove than melody, it tends to be samey. I think he's got it right. I didn't get to see enough of my favorite Brazilian singer, Karina who was briefly used.

Charity of the night: Since there were no good quotes or stories from the evening, I will mentin the Thievey Corporation's charity booth they had at the show. It is the UN World Food Program ( who works on global food programs.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Vic Chesnutt/Elf Power - Black Cat -Jan 22 2009

Back to the Black Cat, small stage tonight, although it should be packed. It was although it thinned out considerable as the night wore on. Late starts on weeknights? I would like to be optimistic about that, but I really don't know.

Elf Power - I didn't care much for their recent album but was looking forward to seeing them live. And I was right, they were much more interesting and fun. I have heard the genre psychedelic given to them and have never heard it much until their last song which was a great psyche nugget. The rest of the time, they were a good steady rock band of the modern era with folk touches resulting in easy access. They are from Athens, GA so that says a lot.

Vic Chesnutt - A cult songwriter who even brought Ian MacKaye out of the woodworks. He has recorded with lots of people but was promoting an album he did with Elf Power, so they obviously backed him. A good set of songs, some wry commentary and a very likable set. A very interesting artist that is worth seeing. He said he wrote a song over a year featuring names like "Dick the Bruiser and John the Piper" with the connector and profession in them. It was going well until "Joe the Plumber" threw a blanket of piss over it.

Quote of the Night: "How I got into acting? It was a combination of laziness and stupidity" Earlier that day, I saw Che with Benicio del Torro doing a Q+A. He further explained that he took an acting class in college as he needed an easy class to fill out his schedule. He then was rejected by an agent who wouldn't work with him but recommended him for a Stella Adler scholarship who he had never heard of. But he got it and the rest writes itself.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Mumiy Troll/Force Major - Black Cat - Jan 21 2009

Force Major - A power trio whose guitarist/singer had trouble with his pedals and switches losing the sound a couple of times. The band was Russian (but from Rockville, Maryland) and all stage patter was in Russian (oddly lyrics were in English). The large crowd in attendance (at least 400 people, probably more) seemed like they were mostly Russian, too. as the headliner is well known there. This band seemed younger and pretty good. Oddly, they reminded me of the brief period in DC between the early harDCore days of Minor Threat and Fugazi. There were some pre-Fugazi sounding bands like Rites of Spring who were very similar to what I heard here. Nice cello solo, too.

Mumiy Troll - Apparently a well known band in Russia, formed in the latter days of the Soviet Union and receiving lots of grief and banned performances in that era. The lyrics were all Russian, and most of the stage patter was, but a couple time the singer proved he had a good grasp of English. It was interesting to see so many people in the crowd roar their approval with the opening notes of a song that is pretty much never been played here on radio, on a movie soundtrack, or whereever. The band was energized, had a few reggae and even klezmer rhythms mixed in to their accessible rock sounds. I enjoyed what the singer described as a brand new Russian Song, "California Dreaming" with Russina lyrics. They even had an anthemy break at the end with an Obama chant that the Russian fans embraced almost as enthusiastically as the Rock the Vote Fans did the other night.

I didn't sense a real wildly unique vision here, but the cultural influences did create something a bit unique and quite fun. The fact that the singer looked like a manic Ron House (my buddy from Columbus' Great Plains) was fun, too.

Quote of the Night: I don't speak Russian, so it was slim pickings. I'll go with Mumiy Troll's lead guitarist's T-shirt... "Who the fuck is Mick Jagger?"

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

ROCK THE VOTE Inauguration Celbration - 9:30 Club - Jan 20 2009

The city was very happy on Inauguration Day, if not the whole weekend. People in the streets were courteous and smiling despite the frigid temperatures. It didn't hurt that major streets were closed to automobiles which added to the fun of just walking around DC for the day. I decided to end the day by heading off to a Rock the Vote celebration at the 9:30. I had only heard of one band, but what the hey, here goes.

Bug?/Bud?/Burke? - Damn British accents. I didn't catch the name and my web research has left me with lots of other bands, none of which I saw. But that's no problem, because this act is easily forgotten. This is a positive day so I won't complain and they were a good competent pretty rock band, but something was just a little safe and clean about them. I sensed they were going after the younger fans, the more mature of the young, not the teeny boppers. Then it was all clear when after their set, the video screen came down and they showed a Calvin Klein ad featuring the singer and the last song helping to sell their aroma, CK. Thank you Calvin Klein, indeed.

The Honey Brothers - A fun little group of guys rotating instruments and churning out quirky rock songs. I thought they may have been americana seeing the banjo and ukelele on the first song, but they never really went that route. JUSt a nice bang bang set of fun songs that the crowd warmed to pretty quickly. Nice job.

The Dresden Dolls - They say they sound like punk cabaret. I can't top that. A duo of a female pianist/vocalist with a drummer who strums a bit of guitar, too. The drummer is one of the best I've seen with great skills and an attacking showmanship that is hard not to watch, which really helps in a two person band. The singer/keyboardist was also quite fun as they had great energy with their music. I think I read positive reviews in Jack Rabid's Big Takeover magazine but wasn't sure until their closer and second cover. They first covered a Fugazi cut which was quite good an appropriate for the evening. They went on to finish with Sabbath's "War Pigs" (dedicated to the outgoing administration) with no guitar or bass. It was one of the most brilliant cover songs I have ever seen. The drums were overwhelming with the keys and strong vocals handling all the melodical parts brilliantly. It roared into a frenetic ending. Utterly brilliant. Worth the hefty admission price all by itself.

Talib Kweli - A decent enough hip hop act which I am not sure I am qualified to critique with such limited knowledge in the genre. The crowd was into it and he did a good job as far as I could tell.

I called it a night prior to Grace Potter and Michael Franti although I think I would have enjoyed the latter. But two more nights of music led me to the long cold walk home. Man was traffic bad even late and considering bridges to Virginia were closed all day.

Quote of the Night: When leaving my condo, the Building Manager (think M. Emmet Walsh) asked "Where's your tux?". Not for this party, thankfully, although I saw one tux and at least ten suits which was highly unusual for this club. More importantly, I had a great winter coat.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Raveonettes/Nickel Eye - Black Cat - Jan 17 2009

Late sell-out, so I am glad I had my ticket. But there were two good shows elsewhere in town, so lots going on this Saturday night pre-Inauguration.

Nickel Eye - Four piece with three axes and drums, two of the guys singing sometimes off key. Now that Idol season has invaded the airwaves, I can start talking about pitch being off I guess. I think Vetiver does this better as do others. A couple of songs were ok and the last one rocked and was good. So, if the band knows the rocker will excite the crowd and closes their set with it, why don't they write more that way?

The Raveonettes - Male/Female guitar and vocals duo backed with a standard rhythm section. The vocals are sung together almost all the time and add to the lush arrangements of their interesting pop songs. They are clearly shoegaze, but on the very accessible side of that scene. A very good act that was never dull and have a captured a fairly unique sound to my mind.

Quote of the Night: "Like, I didn't have a light and I go dude, you got a light and like he said no, so I went over and told this guy like I totally need your cigarette for a light. He said I could like take his matches, so I go back to the guy and like, Dude we are so there cuz now we have matches."

I'm paraphrasing a bit here, but I may have made it a bit more grammatically correct than it was.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Sword/Year Long Disaster/ Nihilitia - Rock'n'Roll Hotel - Jan 14 2009

Does seeing two metal bands that you've seen in the last year make you a metalhead? I hope not, but am beginning to wonder. This over indulgence in metal didn't deter me from joining the packed house at the Rock'n'Roll Hotel to see a what is likely the only band that has ever showed up there in a full size bus with trailer. But if Metallica likes you enough to invite you as an opener (on more than one tour) and you have a free night before your Verizon Center show, why not?

Nihilitia - A local three-piece with a female bassist who only sang on occasion in a Flipper like manor (meaning a voice was present in the mix more than a singer hitting clean notes above it all). Not really metal or even oldschool hard rock, but more of a post-My War Black Flag. The guitarist was clearly like a Greg Ginn with almost a bit of King Crimson at their most manic tossed in. No metal posing, just a good opening set.

Year Long Disaster - I saw the band open for Motorhead/Misfits/Valient Thorr in Denver last year and enjoyed their set. I thought they were even a bit better last night on the smaller stage. They are at their best when they feature a driving rhythm and hit a bit of a groove to work off of. They appear to be playing with Sword on many "in between" shows on the Metallica tour. A worthy three piece band that I won't mind on any bill.

The Sword - The Sword is a four piece with two guitars. They clearly fit in the metal scene and have Metallica style chops going on much of the time, but they bring a Sabbathy feel along with unpretentious singing. Overall, a really good mix of styles and some creative songs that allow non-metal fans who want to put a toe in the water to come out and have a good time. I am impressed that they want to play just about every night in small clubs and out of the way cities in between the big nights with Metallica. That's worth a lot of respect, right there, even if I didn't enjoy the set as much as I did.

Quote of the Night: "Make everything louder" -- except your voice, asshole. I don't where earplugs, although I wished I had them for previous sets by Kawabata and Dinosaur Jr. Most of the time, I don't need them, but between the guy yelling right behind me and the whistling guy beside me at the end, I really needed them. I am curious why the wall of amps and the p.a. are tolerable, but the one shrill voice really hurts. I'm certainly more curious of that, then engaging in a conversation with these yobbos.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Camper van Beethoven/Mystery Band - State Theatre - January 8 2009

Some unknown band from Arlington who was not on the State's website or their posters or anywhere aside from the merch table which I forgot to visit on the way out. Oh well, a nice young slightly garagey rock band that was perfectly acceptable to open the show for a half hour. And those key buzzwords above generally mean I enjoyed the outing, but not enough to pay to see them or even grab their free CD-Rs. But it was close and they looked young.

Camper van Beethoven celebrated their 25th aniversary recently, although members also play as Cracker and various solo projects, they still make it out in their original form now and then. I remembered them as a college rock outfit but didn't have a whole lot of specific memories. As they played, they certainly had some nice things going in in a light psyche, folk, rock format with some catchy riffs now and then. I did enjoy the covers I picked up on. Their take on Status Quo's (yes, the Quo back when they were psychedelic for about 4 minutes) Pictures of Matchstick Men was great with the violin taking on the cool guitar parts. Truth be told, I thought it was a Pretty Things song until I went through my CD collection. Anyway, Camper also did a punk medley of slow versions of White Riot by the Clash, Wasted by the Circle Jerks and a third song I didn't recognize. Angry Samoans maybe? And just when I thought I wouldn't recognize an original song, they went into "Take the Skinheads Bowling" which is a cute song and quite hard to forget.

A good fun ninety minute set plus encores. Another bonus that always seems to get lots of extra credit is when a band uses a violin, viola, or flute. In Camper's case, the violin was used over half the time, with a third guitar going the rest of the time in a non-Molly Hatchett sort of way, thankfully.

Odd Moment of the Night: No interesting quotes, unless it was the scream done by the guy in my metro car that everyone tried to ignore as he screamed an laughed constantly through about five stops. He also rode between the cars when moving and joined us in the car on the stops. We all did are Big City best in the art of ignorng, while keeping peripheral vision active. Fun, fun, fun.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Jucifer/Death by Sexy/Abiku - Black Cat - January 2 2009

Time to settle in on an evening of local bands on the main stage at the Black Cat to start the New Year. Only a few more people than what would fit in the backstage, but the headliners' wall of cabinets wouldn't fit.

Abiku - Two humanoids, one female, playing a guitar and a Gary Wright style key-synth (remember those early videos?). Their costuming was quite nice with shimmering, silver robes making them look like 1970s SciFi invaders from 1970s Doctor Who or perhaps the Outer Limits. Very noisy, but a few turns of melody and purpose snuck through. Not bad at all, Chrome did it first and better, but someone always does it first and better.

Death by Sexy - This power trio started strong and faded into a comfortable steady background by the end. Still, worthwile, but nothing much to go over the top of the average bluesy rock band power trio. I wouldn't walk out on them if they played again

Jucifer - White Stripes style duo with the genders revered. Ok, this band is the poster child of a question I've long pondered. If you are going to shriek, scratch and scream your way through inaudible lyrics the whole night, why bother writing lyrics? Further, why write a rock opera album about Marie Antoinette? I didn't stay after the show to find out as it was lated and I'm not comped for this. Anyway, Vanilla Sludge of lowest order. Great cabinets, though.

Quote of Night: From Death by Sexy's guitarist... "This next song is about having sex and listening to Bachman Turner Overdrive"

Saturday, January 3, 2009

TOP TEN of 2008.

In a year, where I may have set a record for a quantity of bands seen live, I've certainly had some of the best adventures I have had since the early punk rock days. Here are a few highlights:

1. Flew to Sweden to see bands on a boat between Stockholm and Helsinki and back.
2. Flew to London to see a reunion show (and bumped into two friends before the show).
3. Drove cross country to Louisville, KY to see 39 bands in 3 1/2 days.
4. Went to Monolith Festival at Red Rocks.
5. Saw live music in four states that I resided in this year (counting DC-MD-VA as a state for music scene purposes).

But now, the list.

10. Valiant Thorr - Who were these weird biker looking guys taking the stage prior to Motorhead and the Misfits? I was prepared to wander over to the merch stand, when an MC-5 styled assault hit. Although they fit into a metal show, they really blast out killer hard fast rock as good as it gets. Fun, crazy and a nice surprise.

9. Kinski - I really enjoy this Seattle four-piece who plays everything from attic shows to opening spots for Tool. This was the second time I saw them at a Terrastock festival and the third time I saw them. Great grinding, intelligent, tuneful songs--mostly instrumental, but enough lyrics to round it out a bit. Covering Hawkwind with Acid Mother Temples' Kawabata Makoto guesting was the highlight.

8. Motorpsycho - A powerhouse trio from Norway that is far too neglected in the US. They ripped into their very melodic but ultrastrong songs at Terrastock. Really outstanding choices in the playing and such simple power. It felt like they were moving in on and surrounding the crowd during their too brief set. Hard to categorize this band, but a joy to finally see.

7. LoveLikeFire - One of my breakout band predictions. Other breakout predictions were for Husker Du, Nirvana, Wipers and Ragged Bags. We'll see where they fall on that scale. Hopefully north of Ragged Bags (stll great in my mind). Three great shows in DC, Denver and Red Rocks. Hopefully their label deal resulting in their first album in 2009 will lead to great things. See below review for more.

6. Motorhead - How did I make the ripe age of 48 without seeing Motorhead or the Misfits ever. Well, the Misfits had a bad rep as a live act and there is only one original and is now 2/3 Black Flag, so I can see that. But Motorhead rocked the Fillmore hard and heavy. Truly a perfect hard rock sound. Not much more to say about these proud dinosaurs.

5. United Bible Studies - Another big surprise at Terrastock. This Irish ensemble flowed from experimental to traditional to whatever they felt like playing in a seamless beautiful manner. Just a high quality, thoughtful approach with some of the more accessible experimentation I've heard.

4. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - Finally saw my first Cave show although I've admired him for years. Excellent show as my review below describes.

3. Spiritualized - As an earlybird to the Monolith Festival (to ensure catching LoveLikeFire), the parking lot guy gave me two tickets for Spiritualized at the Ogden next week. I was thinking of going, but was now committed. Wow, what a great freebie that was. Jason of Spaceman 3's newer band was brilliant. Great psychedelia and lovely mesmerizing tunes. Very exciting show, better than the few CDs I've heard by them. Although most acts you should see live, this one is one of the most worthy I've seen this past year.

2. Pentangle - I've been a huge fan for a number of years now as I discovered their place in the English folk-rock revival of the late 60s where Steeleye Span and Fairport Convention were the better known stateside. I have seen four of the members solo and duet in the past decade or so, so it was without hesitation, I snapped up a ticket for their 40th anniversary show at the Royal Albert Hall in London where they recorded a live album in 1968. Just two quality sets of their wonderful material, but a magical night. As a bonus, I bumped into Pentangle's friend, Wizz Jones who I've met before and my old friend from Massachusetts, Charles Reynolds (now in Germany). Great band that still had enough in the tank to rekindle their musical magic from the past.

1. Comus - It's no secret of what a huge fan I am of Comus, a British band who did two albums in the early 70s and dropped off the face of the earth. Just check my Myspace page for proof of that. So when a Swedish record dealer sends me an email showing the Meloboat ad listing the bands that would be on their annual cruise, I had to look twice when I saw Comus listed with the more expected names (Opeth, Leafhoud, Bo Hansson and others). I had trouble believing this so I decided to investigate. Comus had a new Myspace page that wasn't there when I last checked, so I wrote them to ask if it was reall them? Bobbie Watson (fem vocals, percussion) wrote back and said it was them and I wasn't dreaming. They had all original members except one and were rehearsing pretty hard to get ready for this one show. It was uncertain if they would play others. That was enough positive points for me to book my passage on the Meloboat from Stockholm to Helskinki and back. And I'm so glad I did. There were fans from Canada, US, UK, Europe, and Asia that all came out of the woodwork to see Comus. The band was overwhelmed by the crowd support and delivered a brilliant set featuring their absolute best songs and a Velvet Underground cover they used to encore with. Saw the soundcheck, chatted with them a bit and their original manager that they pulled into the mix and had a fabulous time. They still haven't played a show since, but they are trying to set a few things up. I am there to help if they need it, as they really deserve to get the accolades that eluded them in 1970 when no one could understand what they were doing. I am not sure many people can today either, but those that do will have a magical time.