Saturday, March 28, 2009

YaHoWha 13/Kohoutek/Afterhours/Dark Sea Dream - Velvet Lounge - March 27 2009

Dark Sea Dream - Lush, loud droning with bits of melody sneaking through. Two guitars, one doing vocals and drums. Thick, solid opener. Avert thy gaze shoeward.

Afterhours - From Milan, Italy. Hmmm, sounds familiar, looks a bit familiar too. Oh yeah, by the third song I remember them from the Gutter Twins show last November (see below). Excellent then and still delivering the goods tonight.

Kohoutek - There are two good things about a Kohoutek set in DC. First, you will get a solid heavy psychedelic set. Second, there almost always is a very special band to follow there set. No exceptions here as they did their usual slow dramatic build of interesting psychedelic meanderings. Enjoyable as always.

YaHoWha 13 - As intriguing a band as you will find and their is a book on the band and its late leader, Father Yod. For a quick biography, check here. They played their spontaneous psychedelic music as a three piece with the key members all present. They led the audience in a breathing exercise which was helpful as it was getting to about 2:30am by then and I needed something to refresh my system. A very fun set by a band I wasn't sure I would ever see. Happy travelling, guys.

Quote of the Night: "They had like 30 roadies, man". Well, I doubt that, but Afterhours had to be one of the few bands ever in Velvet Lounge history to pull up in a full tour bus. I have always had trouble figuring out the money in this business.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Efterklang/Peter Broderick/Bellflur - DC9 - March 26 2009

Bellflur - Beat happy pop rock with too many instruments for synth pop and they seem too nice and poppy for shoegaze. Nice Banshees guitar in one song, good strings. Lightly entertaining beginning to the night which helps as they started quite late.

Peter Broderick - Not only did he complain/apologize/take a few minutes to fix some distortion that was annoying him (I barely noticed), but through extensive use of his recording/playback device he employed, he actually looped one of his complaints. Ugh, play through it. A good voice akin to Nick Drake with ego or confidence, but the drones tired me a bit. The crowd enjoyed it and there was some talent here.

Efterklang - I have heard this band before but couldn't remember the details. Ok, the singer has an accent I can't place, they look foreign. They have seven members and trade lots of instruments. Hmmm, maybe they sound like the new Canadian scene--Arcade Fire, et. al. No, they are from Denmark augmented with someone from Sweden (if I heard correctly, probably didn't) and two Americans (heard that right). Well that sort of adds up to Canada in a way and the sound was very fitting with the northern scene. It grew stronger and more fun as the night went on. My mood brightened considerably and I really enjoyed the quality and attitude of this band. They played lots of brand new material that had more electronics than their older material, but still had that eclictic pop-rock-prog sound. Recommended.

Quote of the Day: Connecticut basketball coach Jim Calhoun who wasn't sure what Yahoo was and insisted is "something I probably couldn't get ahold of." He went on to quote sports books published between 1948 and 1965. If he can't handle the internet (where Yahoo investigated major recruiting violations at his school), he should at least try reading the NCAA Guide to recruiting which he also says confuses him. That's enough March madness for this column.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Flower Travellin' Band/Gondola/Kuschty Rye Ergot - Velvet Lounge - March 17 2009

Gondola - A nice late start on a Tuesday evening as Gondola hits the stage at 10:15 or thereabouts. I'm still tired from the Pogues, but am alert enough to enjoy this non-stop 40 minute assault to the senses. Pretty much power-trio material with about 8 lines of throwaway vocals, so pretty much instrumental hard psyche rock music. Good stuff, not memorable, but there is some potential here.

Kuschty Rye Ergot - A little more interesting sound with this band. A kind of spacey psychadelia that was even a bit grungy at times. The drummer for Kahoutek is in this band and that is a good anchor. I enjoyed the set, but it kind of ended with a thud as some feedback was out of control or they were out of time with this late starting show.

Flower Travelin' Band - This long running Japanese band is playing about five shows in the USA which is a first and maybe a last? So this one was a must-see for me. They had a great fusion of styles beginning in Psychedelia and including jazz, blues, rock and maybe a bit of Japanese traditional sounds. I heard nice rhythms, a singer that could hit Robert Plante notes, and the best sitarla player I have ever seen (check it out on their site). This band was on Atlantic Records once in the day, so it's nice that they were finally able to make it over on this side of the Pacific. Nice to see a packed house for the show, albeit in the tiny Velvet Lounge--a small club, but one with good taste.

No pithy quotes, comments or stories happened to me tonight. I will have to remember that when two or three happen to save them for these occasions. That may be taking journalistic license, but hey this is a blog. It is the 21st Century of storytelling.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Pogues/Marseille Figs - 9:30 Club - March 16 2009

Marseille Figs - A three piece with singer/guitarist and two guys that switched around from various keyed instruments or brass. A twisted folk-blues Americana sound pretty much was the main course. A couple of songs, Caesar's Revenge and Jumbo were intense standouts. Some of the material was a bit duller, but still a good opening set. The musicians helped out on brass for a few Pogues songs, too, which was a nice complement.

The Pogues - The first of three nights in DC for the Pogues seemed like the best night to catch them for two reasons. First, Shane MacGowan may have more voice and coherence. Second, it avoids the St. Patrick's Day crowd. And that seemed to be a successful formula for another fine Pogues show. MacGowan still can hit most cues and sometimes focus his growl into hitting notes. Aside from one time where he started to wander off in the middle of a two song encore and had to be redirected back, he was in good control of himself (great head of hair, too). The band was solid and is all original from its second lineup. I am always impressed with Terry Woods, now 61 in his 42nd year of being in professional bands and still playing with great dexterity and style. The Pogues may not have that killer raucous edge that they had as youngsters playing original punk tinged Irish music, but they still are a great night out and a classic one of a kind band.

Quote of the Night: "And the address on this is what?" queried to me by the ID checker at the door while studying my drivers license. Now, I am 49 years old, look like the photo, so why are secure quality control procedures employed? I don't even drink, but the stamp washes out easier than the "x" so I answered. I have news for the 9:30 Club. Perhaps the DC Government is incompetent enough to send a 49 year old tester to see if Clubs are following ID procedures, but they would be laughed out of any courtroom if they decided to take action.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Feelies/Shrubs - 9:30 Club - March 14 2009

Shrubs started it off with pretty light power pop. More jangly pop, I suppose. They did a Feelies song which they intro'ed by saying the Feelies have never played it live. At the conclusion, I saw why. Somehow "Where Have all the Flowers Gone" became "Eve of Destuction" by the end, unless I dozed off. It wasn't all bad, just kind of Feelies Light and then some. And then Shrubs did what so many mediocre bands do--they closed with a scorching cool song with great lead guitar noise that still retained their basic style. I just wish that bands who are smart enough to know to close with their best song, could write a few more of them in that style.

The Feelies - Hoboken's finest comes to town for the first time in many years. They had the
two drummers/percussionists working with the two guitars and bass. Like the Pixies, REM, and even Husker Du, the Feelies created a nice niche back in the punk/post-punk day and it still sounds great. Very nice songs from beginning to end with some good dynamic lead guitar. Crazy rhythms throughout and just a real thoughtful quality band at work. They still have it, catch them while you can.

Quote of the Night: "What a good looking crowd... You know, I can't see anybody." --Shrubs.

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Airborne Toxic Event/Alberta Cross/Henry Clay People - Black Cat - March 12 2009

Henry Clay People - This young band hit the stage and earnestly layed out its Americana flavored SoCal rock. Perfectly nice, but not overly compelling. Still, likable people get more of a chance from me and these lads were likable. I will recommend the drop Honkytonk Woman from the set. They played it like the original which I've heard far too many times. Do what Gary Louris did when I saw him. He picked a song by Relatively Clean Rivers where I was probably the only person in the audience with the album and even I didn't remember the song.

Alberta Cross - An anglo-Swedish ensemble from Brooklyn? Not as surprising to me anymore as Brooklyn seems host to the most non-scenic diverse set of bands anywhere. The band started off with some really good Americana music, folky, light rocking, etc. (It kind of went from between Crazy Horse and Vetiver for me) But it really kept building and building into some of the more exciting music I've heard in a while. It's hard to say where they fit into the best bands I've seen, but I thought their set was so well executed in terms of drama and momentum which I normally don't think about a whole lot. This is a band to keep an eye on. Do you hear me SxSW industry types and Bonaroo attendees? Of course not, this is just a Blog, not Billboard or Rolling Stone.

The Airborne Toxic Event - A good crowd had built up by now and the band was pretty well known by most. I thought their good songs stood out and captured my attention. But any others just drifted on by. If the playing is strong enough, that doesn't mar the set, but in this case it did. Still, a good band that did indeed nail some really nice songs. I'll keep both eyes open.

Quote of the Night: Airborne's singer... "Here's one for the Krishna girls" Ok, I eventually figured out it was Christian girls, but hearing things incorrectly is much more fun.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

These Arms are Snakes/All the Saints/The Coathangers/Caverns - Rock'n'Roll Hotel - March 11 2009

Caverns - Another fine show and the last one for a while. I have written about them twice before and everything is still good.

The Coathangers - I believe in this century that there isn't any need to point out whether a band is all women or some percentage as there has been enough "integration" to make it far less unique than when I was young. But this band does take me back to the post-Slits world of early punkrock. This band reminds me of the crazed fun you could experience when seeing Milwaukee's Ama-Dots or LA's Frightwig. Coathangers had exhuberance to burn and this set was a lot more fun than I thought it would be. It is nice to be able to feel this primal joy again.

All the Saints - Three piece shoe gaze from Atlanta. Nice sound, but the songs didn't jump out at me. Maybe this isn't my favorite style, but I don't mind it in small doses. Fair effort, but this set couldn't challenge the diverse fun of the openers.

These Arms are Snakes - Heavy, powerhouse songs in the Nine Inch Nails neighborhood. Very modern, intense and well received by the revved up crowd. This band knows what it wants and delivers the goods and I'm reduced to cliches, so check them out for yourself.

Quote of the Night: "We suck, good night" from The Coathangers as their last song fell apart. Really that was the only one, except for the bass breaking down in the first song with the replacement bass being plugged in just in time for the last four notes. Didn't hurt their set a bit, with their attitude and style being so good.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Five Four/Caverns/Mother - Velvet Lounge - March 7 2009

Mother were a six piece band that pretty much created the sound of a trio. Take a tip from a friend of mine if you ever tour... Less members are less mouths to feed. Musically, their songs began by sounding like Thin Lizzy outtakes with roadies singing. But then, to be fair, the last couple of songs were strong and rocked nicely. So there is a kernel of something working here.

Caverns - Read my review below. Nothing has changed other than I put them and Detroit's Paik as THE two most interesting and intense power trios working today (and they both have very original takes on the power trio concept).

Five Four - I left early as it got crowded and I was mostly here to see Caverns and remind myself of the goods and bads of this club as I may be bringing a band here in a few months. I've warned the band of the negatives, so we shall see.

Quote of the Day: Well, it was more of what was throught but I would have heard it if I could read minds. "Who is this weirdo?" was thought by a good friend of mine when I stopped to stare at her as we almost walked right by each other on Mass Avenue today. Fortunately we both recognized one another, although even as I recognize someone, when it is a surprise, it takes such a long time for my otherwise quick brain to process the information. Nice to know small town style can occur in DC.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Black Lips/Gentleman Jesse and his Men/Sons of Guns - Black Cat - March 5 2009

Sons of Guns - Normally I get annoyed when I walk in late and miss part of the opening set. Not this time as just a short amount of noise from this band was enough of a warm-up. They played rock music, like a bad version of the old Texas punk of say Poison 13. Not terrible but quite forgettable. But they are from Utah. I've been there, I know, I know.

Gentlemen Jesse and his Men - A nice set of punchy pop-rock with just enough punk to remind me of an Americanized version of the early Jam. Very Weller like vocally and good catchy music with guitars that keep it moving with a jangly snarl. One song was closer to the Beatles, but all in all a good set by a likable band.

Black Lips - I've seen the band before and there weren't anything new in wait for me, but I came back so I knew what I was getting. And that was a jangly rock psyche set that owes a bit more to the garagey part of the 60s as opposed to the explorers of Space (although that found it's way into the set a bit). I liked the lava lamp like ink blot cells projected out, but the black surfaces of the club muted the effect a bit much, so I wasn't confused enough to think I was seeing the Velvet Underground or Jefferson Airplane or anything. Good set, good fun and a good crowd as well.

Quote of the Night - "What did you say? Ok..." in response to an enthusiastic drunkard who was loud but so incoherent I didn't understand a thing he said and he was right next to me. "People who yell in nightclubs..." That was a quote either Tony or Chip Kinman of Rank and File said onstage to a heckler back in the early 80s. And after a long Federal career, that heckler grew up... be me... Good day.

Whigs/Dead Confederate/Trances Arc - Black Cat - March 4 2009

Trances Arc - The first of a trio of Georgia bands spanning Atlanta to Athens kicked off with a medium paced earnest rock sound. Forgettable may be too harsh, but I had a lot on my mind and they didn't grab me from my thoughts too often. Still, it's three bands, so hey, not bad.

Dead Confederate - I've seen Dead Confederate before and the reverb is still set on 11. But that's ok by me as I enjoy their psychedelic slo-core with some faster punches and wallops peppering in on occasion. Jesus and Mary Chain, what have you wrought?

The Whigs - Everyone's favorite political party is now a band and has a had a growing following year by year, unlike the political party. I liked the singer-guitarist with a voice somewhere between Neil Young and Presley... that's Reg Presley of the Troggs. Catchy pop rock with songs that weren't too long and were reasonably laden with hooks. Solid and hard not enjoy for a simple night out on the town.

Surprise of the Night - Everything went like clockwork with quick changeovers and the headliner beginning before eleven allowing them to play a nice long set. Both openers played reasonably sized sets, too, so lots of music and no frustrating waits. I'm even getting through the door more quickly at the Black Cat. Hallelujah.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Blitzen Trapper/Alela Diane - Black Cat - March 2 2009

Alela Diane started things out with a song that was a bit too country for my tastes. The second song made me sit up and take notice as it was a much more mystical folk-rock styled song. The rest of the set varied but most mostly high quality singer-songwriter US folkrock for the most part. Her dad was on guitar making this the rare act where the parent is not the feature (Spirit comes to mind as another). She could have done without the cover song which sounded too much like her sound already (I've forgotten it alrdeady, but it was an old hit by a female singer songwriter). Still, a really nice job by someone who get give some of the mainstream artists in this genre a run at their money.

Blitzen Trapper - A sold-out show with everyone mostly turning up despite the snow and ice from earlier in the day. The band started off strong with eclectic pop sometimes toward power pop. Nice catchy songs, quirky arrangements--good fun. Then they went a little quieter and my mind wandered a lot more than it should have. The lead singer then did some solo songs with his guitar and harmonica and then a duet before the band returned. That slowed down the momentum for me. But they did a bit of a psychy freakout toward the end which was a nice surprise. A really good band who I would advise to stick with the fuller sound. If you're going to go solo with an acoustic guitar, you better be really really good. I know John Martyn and Davy Graham have just left us, but you have to be a bit better than this to replace them.

Quote of the Night: "Bad banter!" someone yelled while the band was talking between songs. I am not sure they really said that as the banter wasn't really bad, just unimportant and that doesn't sound like something someone would shout. Sounds more like what my mind would twist something into.