Sunday, May 31, 2009

Isis/Pelican/Tombs - Black Cat - May 30 2009

Tombs - a thick hard trio with a bit of tempo. Kind of in the Melvins camp at a guess. They are from New York and when bands focus on an interesting sonic assault over songs, it can be very interesting if they do it well and don't go on about it for too long. This was one of those cases.

Pelican - A four-piece (two guitar) instrumental act. They did the shoe gazing style loud assault that did have some dynamics working and about half song oriented/half jam. Perfectly good, perfectly unmoving, however. They went over well so I am being a wee bit harsh I think. But see above about set length excess.

Isis - Five piece rock band from LA here. Hadn't known of them, but they drew a good crowd and had their act together. Two guitars and some keys that became a third guitar more often than not. Vocals were kind of Opeth-like with good normal singing and some death metal growl. Music was more psychedelic heavy as opposed to metal. Good spacey vibe in the songs and quite involving. Impressive show, a vibrant crowd and a good set through and through. Worth the price of admission this time, for sure.

Quote of the Night: Virtually no stage patter and I was dead tired, so nothing interesting or dull was overheard. I will say that the Black Cat staff was friendlier than the 9:30 staff, but stay tuned for a full club analysis later this year.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Opeth/Enslaved - 9:30 Club - May 27 2009

Enslaved - Norwegian death metal sets the stage for Swedish death metal. Scary? No, actually a lot of fun with engaging, funny commentary from both bands. Enslaved performed fifty minutes of creative progressive metal that had all the usual sounds with keyboards (almost always needed to be called progressive metal I guess). Nice soundscapes, melodies, and a pretty good pulse throughout. It was the last show on tour and they survived the hijinx of Opeth taking a sampling machine and piping fart noises in their monitors which they had to explain as to why they were giggling. Satan rules? Good band.

Opeth - A near sell-out crowd was very pumped for Opeth who delivered a strong two hours of creative metal. Mikael Artedt did his usual gutteral-to-normal vocal switches and it reminded me of how good the sound was in that the vocals were not over the top of the mix (which I appreciate with the guttural vocals) but were very distinct and worked as an instrument. Great guitar interplay, keys and at least one song with some very inventive drumming. Another strong outing since the last time I saw them on a boat between Stockholm and Helsinki.

Quote of Night - Since it was the last show, both bands did a lot of "credits" of band members and crew. Three of the guys in Enslaved were taking their turns when they got near the end and the bassist/singer turned to the even more Viking-like guitarist and had him introduce their tour manager by saying "You can do your wife"... "I can do my wife?"

Monday, May 18, 2009

White Noise Supremacists/The Dig/All the Kings - The Red & the Black - May 17 2009

White Noise Supremacists - Best named band nomination goes to this solo black female guitarist/drummer/singer who did the basic one-man band guitar loops with additional guitar or drums and vocals. Very song oriented and not half-bad. Not quite fully realized, but a nice start. She's from Brooklyn, shock of shocks.

The Dig - Also from NYC, this four piece was a good standard guitars/bass/drums/keys/2-vocal pop-rock band. Likable songs, aggressive hooks, good singing, a decent blend of positives. As is often the case, the last song was the most manic and brilliant song in the set making me desire more in that vein. Still, I'll see them again, especially since they some how found me through Myspace and marketed their gig to me. Good job and important since they hit the peak attendance at 10-16 people, not counting the three club workers but counting other band members.

All the Kings - Nothing really clicked here. I took no notes and politely stayed until they kind of ended a song when the drummer stopped and thanked us all for coming. There were about three of us at this point, six maximum. Their stuff on Myspace sounded better, but there were just too many disparate parts at work and the songs simply were not that good. They are from Boston and I hope they aren't relying too much on the door here for gas money. Good luck.

Quote of the Night - Sometimes I am not sure if I hear these correctly, but I think I got this one word for word from someone not named Carmen SanDiego: "It's a college town, it's not far from Chicago, not far from DC, well it's far from New York."

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Rodriguez/War on Drugs/Donny Hue and the Colors - Rock'n'Roll Hotel - May 13 2009

Donny Hue and the Colors - Three piece guitar/bass/drums with some harmonica. Even though the music seemed a bit light at times--countryish folk, I had to move back because the bass was pounding in my ear a bit much. Maybe if the songs moved me more, I would have stayed. Nothing too exciting, but not insulting. A few more intriguing moves at the end so there is hope, but nothing to bring me back anytime soon.

The War on Drugs - This Philadelphia trio had an electric rhythm section (although the drummer was sans highhats) and a guy who sang played two acoustic guitars and one electric. Even when acoustic, the music was strong, pulsating and vibrant. Good vocals and good songs as well. Just a good strong modern rock band that is a bit psychedelic, but in a song oriented, jamming setting. A highly likable band that could do well. Keep at it.

Rodriguez - This guy from Detroit had two obscure records from about 70-71 era. Kind of a psyche-folk band, ergo I knew about these records for some time (and have the vinyl). I was surprised to see the show announced as I wasn't sure many people had heard of him. Well, the music is reissued and there is a bit of a cult following. Rodriguez showed up with a four-piece band behind him and three fairly superfluous brass players who were only lightly used and just as lightly audible when used. There were about a hundred people or so that mostly enjoyed the show(and rightly so). Rodriguez was engaging in a very burnt out stoner manner and appeared pretty frail as he was helped on and off the stage by the bassist. But he stood there, played guitar and sang just fine although the voice was a little thin. Still, a good full head of hair belying his age, a cool silver peace sign buckle on his belt, and oh yeah, some nice songs from his albums. The band was good which was essential and a pretty fun evening. Not one of those ultimate life defining moments, but worth the effort on everyone's part. Healthwise, I would put him in the better than Shane MacGowan and Roky Erickson category, but not quite up to Arthur Lee (prior to his death obviously) or Tom Rapp or countless others. Maybe a more spaced out Clive Palmer? Whatever, I hope his tour goes well as it's great to get to see another cool, "lost" artist.

Quote of the Night: In an exchange between an audience member and the guitarist/singer of the first band...

I like your (mus)stache.

Thanks, I really appreciate that. You want to come up and play shakers for us?

No, not really.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Damned/Mastodon/Kylesa - Black Cat/9:30 Club - May 12 2009

No this isn't a cool punk/metal show, but more of a basic screw-up. I ended up with a Mastodon ticket and a Damned ticket for the same night. I leaned more toward wanting to see the Damned but headed to the 9:30 to try and sell the ticket to the sold out Mastodon show. No luck, but I noticed the times were all early for the three bands and the doors were opening at 6:30. Walking by the Black Cat, they hadn't opened the doors at 5 minutes to 8:00 (Eight was the intended time), so I figured the Damned wouldn't be on until 11:00 with their two openers, so why not head back to the 9:30 and do both shows? So that's the plan!

Kylesa - I got there just in time for the middle band's set. Kylesa started with a decent but nearly cliched metal cut and then quickly moved into better territory. Very much like the headliner, being based in strong metal sound, but exploring more territory than most. So a set that made me happy as well as the progressive metalhead fans of Mastodon.

Mastodon - I just had to look up some details to see what five sold out shows in Copenhagen meant for this band. The venue can hold 10,000 people! What? Oh, further research shows that a band called Metallica is also playing. Alright, this band isn't quite that big, but good powerful songs, regular touring, no nonsense non-stop playing, and good buzz may get them in Metallica's neighborhood some day. But they are big enough now, catch them while you can. I left after about an hour-ten to catch my other show.

The Damned - Arriving at the Black Cat at about 10:35, I wasn't sure what I missed. A couple minutes later, the lights dimmed and the Damned hit the stage. Hmm, where's Vanian? I heard he missed some Europe or Far East shows with some family illness or something. Ah, here he comes right on cue to hit his vocal cue on "Love Song". It's just him and Captain Sensible with three newer guys on Bass/Drums/Keys. So the rightful focus is on Machine Gun Etiquette which provided six songs tonight by my count. First two albums supplied four and few other mid-period "hits". They covered Love's "Alone Again or" which they have recorded and makes I believe the fourth band I've seen do this (Love, UFO, and someone earlier this year I've forgotten). Sensible was in fine comedic and engaging form and the band was very good. Quite a bit better since the last time I saw them in early 1982. That had me thinking... 27 years between sightings? I think that exceeds or ties my record with Blue Oyster Cult which was about 26 or 27. I'll see if I can come up with something else. Vanian did his usual crooning and was in fine form still. Band was good, a bit apart at the seems at times, but this is the Damned. Nothing bad and the wreckless abandon is part of the charm and success. A good crowd was having a very good time. Most were like me, visiting old friends from many years ago. A great show where Sensible commented that they should get back here again soon. So in the battle between classy, slick prog-metal and classic punk, I have to go with my heart and stay Damned to eternity.

Quote of the Night - Captain Sensible was trying to recall a riot twenty years ago. "I was doing nothing, just standing on stage and a riot breaks out". pauses to listen to guy in front row. "This man has a story to tell, ladies and gentlemen, meet Malcolm McClaren!".

Monday, May 11, 2009

Ghost/Magik Makers - Velvet Lounge - May 10 2009

Magik Markers - A band with a lot of buzz that I've seen once before. A three piece with Singer-Guitarist Elisa Ambrogio with bassist and drummer/keys/guitar/whatever. I enjoyed the set more this time around with really nice driving psychedelia, both quiet and moderately raucous (if there is such a thing). I couldn't put my finger on a good comparison until I thought of the unclassifiably punk band, Flipper. The Markers do some of the same fierce originality and odd playing that the Flipper oddballs did many a year back. Good set.

Ghost - The regular six gentlemen from Japan had Helena Espvall of Espers and all kinds of other projects on cello. No surprise as singer Masaki Batoh and Espvall played for me at Terrastock last year prior to touring Europe and around. Ghost was a little more stripped down instrumentally without a lot of the electronics and timpani, but still created the usual great sounds. Batoh did start the show by blowing into something that looked like a loosely closed umbrella with burnt out Christmas tree lights on it. Michio Kurihara more than filled in any missing sounds with his usually brilliant searing lead guitar work. Nice mix of songs, although one jam got a little long on the jazz which is usually ok, but I wanted as many songs as they could pack in from their vast catalogue. Ultimately they played a lot and played great and I hope they come back again next year.

Quote of the Night: "Have you ever heard of the Fall?" I was asked while dining in Ben's Chili Bowl. Generally, the counter is good for some throwaway conversation, but that one surprised me. However, I was reading a Mojo and the guy next to me noticed the headline was a play on words on a Fall album. I did tell them that I had heard of them and seen them once in Cleveland (opening for a pre-Zen Arcade Husker Du, no less). Anyway, we do owe it to John Peel to talk about the Fall now and then. So here's my Fall story for this year.