Friday, February 27, 2009

And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead/Funeral Party/Midnight Masses - Rock'n'Roll Hotel - Feb 26 2009

Midnight Masses started things out by singing in a circle with backs to microphones and ended the set the same way with a build to and fade from a strong set of dynamic smooth psychish Americana. Although I sometimes have a bias against larger bands (Vocals/bass/drums/2 guitars/keys/drum or 3rd guitar) who don't sonically show me the need, I got over my bias and got into their steady moving emotional sound. Very accessible and easy to enjoy. One guitarist looked like the mysterious protagonist in Val Lewton's The Seventh Victim and the singer reminded me of a young Phil Lynott--I miss Phil Lynott. This Brooklyn band is on its way to SxSW. Good luck!

Funeral Party hit the stage on time and delivered a nice energetic set. Good noisy independent straight noisy rock with an earnestness that seemed strained at times, but that's a minor criticism. There was some variety in the songs with the guitarist doing a U2 thing and then one intro had me thinking they were going to cover the Dead Kennedys "Holiday in Cambodia" based on the swirling intro. But not to be. Good set.

Having already gotten my money's worth, I was only too pleased to see one more band (with another cool name)...

And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead came on to a jam packed room and delivered a strong set which the audience enjoyed. Although it may have been a bit more obvious if it wasn't as jammed as it was and the audience could move, making it look more like a 9:30 Club sellout as opposed to R'n'R Hotel sellout. I used to be able to breathe in this club. But back to the music. This band has a solid loud accessible sound that seems to combine just about every major rock movement since the sixties (except grunge maybe). The amalgamation works for the most part. An annoying crackling buzz marred the set, but it was more noticeable in their monitors than it was in the crowd except for some quiet moments where it was quite annoying. But the quiet moments were few and the band laid it out and delivered.

Quote of Night: From Trail member to soundman... "If you drink white wine and eat artichokes, it tastes like poo."

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Tom Jones - 9:30 Club - Feb 25 2009

Tom Jones makes another appearance at the 9:30 club and I just had to revisit my youth and take this one in. None of my music friends made fun of me as there is a certain coolness and respect given to Tom Jones which is also given to Tony Bennett. There may be a few more, but most of the others probably play Branson and not the 9:30 Club.

Mr. Jones had an eleven piece band behind him--four brassmen, drums, bass, keys, guitar, three backup singers with the male doing some percussion. The brass and singers took some breaks so it was nice to hear some songs in a stripped down setting, although the full band never went over the top and instead kept a smooth solid backing with Tom Jones always in front of the sound. I always listen closely to the sixtyish singers and find they sing quite well, but don't quite hit some of the highs and do the screams in their older songs. I think Mr. Jones has a few limitations, but not many as he still had a great voice with some guts behind it. I was worried at first as the sound wasn't quite as good out of the gate as it eventually became.

The hits were there, of course, and some newer material. I give him a lot of credit as his recent album has a majority of songs where he was a co-writer. That takes some effort even for people that were prolific writers which he was not.

So a good night of fun with a near-sell out audience that was a bit younger than I thought it would be (Ray Davies still had the oldest crowd I've observed at the 9:30).

Quote of the night: Tom Jones talking about a Howling Wolf song he played--"it was recorded as 300 pounds, but I'm happy to say on a good day, I'm only 200 pounds" ...and more ladies underwear flew onto the stage.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Fujiya and Miyagi/School of Seven Bells - 9:30 Club - Feb 19 2009

School of Seven Bells came out as two women on guitar and keyboards surround a male guitarist. Drum machines in use with both of the women singing. Early on, I was a bit worried that although I liked the first song, the easy listening shoe-gaze lush melodies would get tiresome. The guitars didn't do anything fancy as a unit, the keyboards were for atmosphere, this may indeed get old. But, the vocals were stellar (not unlike a less dynamic Chimera ( 1970 UK version--and that's today's requisite obscure reference no one has heard of) and there were enough good songs amidst the more easy listening songs to make for a nice set. So I was pleasantly surprised.

Fujiya and Miyagi - I had heard krautrock mentioned in the description of this band which intrigued me enough to go to this show. The show started with keys/guitar/bass with all three singing. Late in the second song, the drummer jumped in giving a needed humanity to the percussion. I admit a bias against drum machine only bands in all but a few instances (Big Black being one). I wasn't hearing the krautrock which wasn't too surprising as that term is one of the more difficult descriptors out there as it covers a wide range of Germanic 70s progressive. I heard more of a English electronica pop not unlike Midge Ure lead Ultravox (although I haven't heard that in 25 years, preferring insted the John Foxx lead Ultravox). But as the set went on, the electronic grooves got a bit more intense at times with some nice guitar and key moves coming off the steady rhythm section. For the second time tonight, I was pleasantly surprised that I could lock in with the band as opposed to tuning out the sameness.

One of my many regrets was not accepting post punk dance music (particularly the Manchester Factory scene post Joy Division) as much as I should have. I felt that would have given me a bit better diversification as a young person. But it's never too late, I suppose.

Rant of the Evening: There was a slow building crowd tonight and since there was space, I quickly left my viewing area near the soundboard in the back as three people decided to have a non-stop conversation in front of me talking over the music. I went off the side stage right in front and continued to be annoyed by the 9:30 Club staff talking over in the music with one guy having a nice nasal high pitched voice which easily cut through the music. Now as much as I hate the former, I realize I should accept some of that-especially in the back. But I won't accept the people receiving a portion of my money from cutting into my enjoyment at my expense.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Kevin Seconds/Vic Ruggiero/Kepi Ghoulie - Black Cat - Feb 15 2009

Kevin Seconds is the "big name" here from the Reno based hardcore band, 7 Seconds. The supporting players are also from bands, Slackers and Groovie Ghoulies respectively. They all played together, each supporting one another with the woman on merchandise, filling in on bass for a bit. Electric and acoustic guitars, bass, and light percussion made it a bit more than straight acoustic folk music, although much of Kevin Seconds set was just him with an acoustic guitar. Vic Ruggiero was more the blues rock-folk type and Kepi Ghoulie was more eclectic pop rock.

Likable enough, but not much in the way of standout cuts or style. There was a nice crowd of about 60-70, many of which were familiar with related bands of course. The crowd enjoyed it more than I expected. All three players did have good personality and were having a good time and made the in between song banter mor enjoyable than most. So the Red Sea did not part tonight, but ten bucks was better spent here than at a two-star movie.

Quote of the night: Vic Ruggiero said something to the tune of--"Which of these two songs would you like to hear? You know, this is like American Democracy--a band will give you two choices, neither of which you like, you'll yell for one and then they'll play something else. American Democracy, still better than alternatives I guess". He did later decry that Obama's election gives him less to write about now. Keep looking, there's lots to write about.

Actually Vic's best quote is from his Myspace page: "Every stupid band's got a prick that goes solo these days..."

Friday, February 13, 2009

(Sounds of) Kaleidoscope/The Tennis System/Big Gold Belt - Black Cat - Feb 12 2009

Big Gold Belt - Two piece opener with a guitarist working in front of a Mac and a female singer/monotone delivery system (about half and half). Singer looked good and was better when doing cutesy vocal touches. Droning, shoegaze electronica fun, I suppose. One song moved me toward the end.

The Tennis System - Pure shoegaze at the start but the set moved into a pop-psyche direction, not unlike a poppier, more upbeat Ride. I don't know my shoegaze scene too well and it seems like many categories to be awash with fuzzy borders and category combinations, but all-in-all, a catchy band.

(the sounds of) Kaleidoscope - I saw this band a couple of years ago and was wary as I already have two different Kaleidoscopes in my record collection, but they were likely aware and have the parenthetical clause working here. I enjoyed the band a few years ago and was very happy that I thought them even better this time around. Strong driving psychedelic rock with good atmospheric vocals (when not lost in the mix) are the focus here. Two guitars blazing away in a washed out echo over the driving rhythm section. A good band that I will be happy to see any time they show up.

I began the evening as one of the eight people to watch the opener, although it quickly grew to thirty to forty. The large crowd peaked in the middle set and then faded to about half at the time the headliner closed. The show started at around 9:30, moved smoothly with the headliner beginning at 11:10. Metro line finishing at midnight and weekday work needs may have added to the decline. I don't think it was band quality, but I think there are real issues on when to start and end shows and I'm not sure I have the answer. I would enjoy having them start earlier and always wanted that when I had my M-F 8-5 job, but so few people seem to be there at the early hour. Is that because they are conditioned that way? I think so as some "matinee" shows at the 9:30 will certainly attract a full cloud if they've plunked down $25 to $40 to see the act.

This is the second time in a row, I've seen significant tapering off of crowds and I will continue to monitor this behavior as I find it disturbing (and if that's the worst of my problems, I will sleep well).

Quote of the Night: Kaleidoscope singer noting that "it's Thursday, some holiday--Martin Van Buren Day?"

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Caverns/Deleted Scenes/Hammer No More the Fingers/Acedia - Rock'n'Roll Hotel - Feb 6 2009

Another night at the Rock'n'Roll Hotel, a lovely club unfortunately with a concrete floor colder than my condo's floor. Numbness aside, good music to be had...

Acedia - A Maryland band that is steady, psyche-rock. Vocals seemed a bit to pretty at first, but I think they deserve credit for not just turning up the reverb and sounding like everybody else. A few odd mistakes and moves, but they professionally blazed ahead and turned in a nice set.

Hammer No More the Fingers - First question I have with a band like this is will they live up to their excellent name? In a word, no, but they gave it a good attempt. They were a three piece and I almost sensed a Minutemen quirkiness at times, but it never really got that good or strong enough in any of the three instruments. A steady set from a seemingly educated band and I wouldn't mind seeing them again in a year.

Deleted Scenes - Maybe I'm overly attentive to names tonight, but this band lived up to theirs in that they are indeed the equivalent of a bonus feature to a main course DVD. Just not original enough to headline their own DVD or Mid-level rock club. Too many bands sound like this. Unfortunately none of them get signed to Sub Pop, well Band of Horses aside but their songs are better. What annoyed me was the Ric Ocasek yearning vocal style that can be done at any pitch, but always sounds the same and distracts me from the music every time.

Caverns - Here we have a three piece of drums, guitar and piano with no vocals. The drummer is hard rocking pounder, the keyboardist is classically trained, and the guitarist is a thrash-metalhead. Based on the sounds, it seemed that two different songs were going on but the players were together and created an exciting music that played out like a good mystery novel. Great unique sound that works far better than I can describe by summarizing the parts. The guitarist really covered the stage which was kind of fun as it didn't prevent him from releasing his tonnage of riffs. There was a brilliant and neglected band from the punk era that I am reminded of: MX-80 Sound. I hope this DC band goes far. Great job!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Antony & the Johnsons - Sixth Street Synagogue - Feb 3 2009

Another interesting show at the synagogue. I think I went to the first as they moved beyond lectures into music and other entertainments by bringing in Devandra Banhart over a year ago. Always a fun time here.

TBA - The very famous TBA opened the show. In this version, TBA was a female singer/guitarist who did a lovely job with laying down guitar lines that created that moody atmosphere that works in today's psyche-folk world. Her vocals were in the Marissa Nadler camp and I liked the way she strung a song cycle together with no breaks. too bad I never heard or saw her name.

Antony & the Johnsons - The transgender critical favorite made his first appearance in Washington DC and did a great job. A good band with lots of strings which were oddly placed in front of the stage with him half way back at the piano. Along with the usual low lighting (this is a temple), he was tough to see for our large section on the right. But the voice was the main ingredient and was in fine form. Intriguing music that reminded me of Kate Bush, not as a soundalike, but in principal they both have a classical style mixed in with hooky folk, rock and pop that is clearly a singular vision based on their approach and talents. Good show, well attended and supported by the enthusiastic crowd.

Quote of the Night - Antony had a few long rambling stories that were a little more rational than say, Grandpa Simpson, but had one simple quote I liked between a couple of songs: "Transcendentalism or masochism? I've reached a fork in the road..."