Monday, June 29, 2009

The Church/Adam Franklin - State Theatre - June 28 2009

Adam Franklin - I saw a good review of Franklin (singer from Swervedriver, one of those big bands in the UK that don't necessarily translate to the US... Stone Roses, Primal Scream, etc.) in Jack Rabid's Big Takeover Magazine (essential reading for you uninitiated out there). The CD of Franklin was excellent as was this live set. He plays good straight rock music with a psyche-shoegaze vibe ever present. Tasty guitar interplay, good songs--nary a wrong note to be found in his set. And he plays a nice really beat up Fender. Check him/them out when they come to a town near you!

The Church - This Australian band drew a good crowd tonight and seemed to deliver the lush pop rock the masses wanted. I found them a little bit samey with something vacillating between college rock and mainstream rock. Not at all bad, just not enough for me to really sink my teeth in. But if you want some good catchy songs and you lean a bit toward the mainstream, do check out the Church.

Quote of the Night - A guy telling the merch. stand attendant... "The last time I was here, I was watching a movie... mid seventies... I think it was The Cat from Outer Space".

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Ozric Tentacles/Big in Japan - State Theatre - June 26 2009

Big in Japan - Three piece with a drummer, keys/flute/sax vocalist, and a bass player who played a bit of guitar. Kind of simple rhythms for a prog looking band with one song even reminding me of Flipper (not an insult). Bass a bit buzzy, vocals cloudy but they were very infrequent anyway. I enjoyed the music and the flute and sax were nice touches. I'll give them passing grades for establishing a nice sound for the evening.

Ozric Tentacles - These little known, but long time UK space rocking psyche progsters hit the State Theatre for the second time that I've seen. I missed the last show which had around 45 people, but tonight's was much better attended. They are lead by their guitarist/programmer/synth writer Ed Wynne (and if I create a joke about his name it will show you how really old I am, so I'll spare you). His wife Brandi places bass and more synths/sequencers/samplers etc. They have a drummer too to keep things thrusting forward. The sound was very good and the music is more fun for me live than the couple of records I've heard or own. After a while, some young lad looking way too much like Ed Wynne came on to play keyboards while Brandi focused on bass. Yes, he is their son and he really punched up the set quite a bit to my liking. Ed switching to acoustic guitar also gave some different results to keep the set from being too much of a smooth prog muzak feel. I am not sure I want to go buy the records, but it is nice to see this family jamming away from time to time.

Quote of the Night: Quiet night, so it will be quote from the previous show. While buying some future tickets (still waiting for those comps, clubowners), I overheard a guy say "I've lived within a couple blocks from this place for x years (3? 5? forgot the number) and I've been to like one show, but now I'm hitting three in less than a week--Vander Graff Generator, The Church, and Peter Murphy".

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Van der Graaf Generator/Acoustic Strawbs - State Theater - June 24 2009

Acoustic Strawbs - Third time in recent years that I've seen these hard touring veterans. They tour as a five piece full band and promised this version next year (with former Strawb Rick Wakeman's son replacing John Hawken). But the acoustic version is Dave Cousins and Dave Lambert on guitars and lead vocals along with bassist Chas Cronk also supplying backup vocals, 12-string and not quite acoustic foot pedal Roland effects. Even acoustic, this trio plays great, strong progressive songs from their wonderful back catalogue. Cousins has one of the finest voices anywhere and I'm always surprised at how good a singer Lambert is as well. Lambert plays excellent leads and the sound is quite full. They played Lay Down/Grave New World/Oh How She Changed (and I have gotten my money's worth at this point of the evening)/ A new song about Norway/Hangman and the Papist/Autumn. The set ended kind of early for me, but it was 45 minutes which tells me how involved I was in the songs. The Strawbs are an excellent still undiscovered band for many who still can deliver great music.

Van der Graaf Generator - A rare, rare appearance from this cult progressive band from the classic prog days. Like King Crimson, they play a hard assertive progressive music that is darker than most and was very influential amongst many different styled bands. John(ny Rotten) Lydon has always cited VDGG and Can as key influences and you can really hear that in the vocal stylings of Pete Hammill and what Lydon did. Hammill's writing and vocals are exciting and unique in any genre and he still delivered searing vocal lines tonight. He also played guitar and a Roland. He was accompanied by long time key early members Hugh Banton on Hammand/Roland and Guy Evans on drums. Early in the set, I was really missing the sax attack from David Jackson who played with them a few years back but retired. Hammill moved to guitar after three songs and there was a bit more attack which livened things up. By the end of the set (where he ultimately played 4 songs on guitar, 6 on keys), I got used to the three piece sound and felt they delivered a still credible set of strong VDGG songs (Scorched Earth and Lemmings included, although not all the "hits"). Probably the best of the set was a Pete Hammill solo album song (missed the title but I'll find it sometime) that he promised that although solo, it was still pretty extreme. It certainly was and got the best ovation from the many hardened VDGG fans in attendance. Great show.
No, he won't.

Quote of the Night: I'll do two. Early in the set, the crowd was yelling thanks for coming and various welcomes and one guy yelled "Finally - it's been 36 years!" Hammill responded "well, forever actually."

But the annoying three guys on the metro (and I wasn't alone based on the eye contact I made with a woman just as they exited) gave all of us within earshot various highlights of their favorite company Christmas parties of years past. I'm not sure I needed this in December let alone June.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Vieux Farka Toure/Elikeh/Farafina Kan - Rock'n'Roll Hotel - June 22 2009

Farafina Kan - A local ensemble comprised of six men drumming with one playing an exotic African stringed instrument and five women singing, dancing and percussing. They play the music of Mali and other West African countries. Obviously the rhythms are key, but melodies come through. The vocals are call and response style as I try to sound like the expert I am not (although I recognized some traditional dance moves as I've seen some dance companies many moons ago). The performers were excellent and the music was moving and had the large crowd off to a great start.

Elikeh - Three guitars, two drummers (one trad, one kit) Bass and two brass players took the stage and played kind of a Soca-rock thing as best I can describe. I really need my world-beat expert buddy from Dayton (DJ Rev. Cool aka Jim Carter) to help me with the details. Another nice effort from this local band.

Vieux Farka Toure - Between Bonaroo and festivals in SF and Detroit, Mr. Toure is touring the country and is not to be missed. He's a great guitarist playing snakey and ringing lines in an African fusion rock style which is hard to describe. It reminded me of George Clinton with the interesting style combinations and guest musicians moving in and out of the songs (some from the opening bands, others from parts unknown). His basic band is himself on vocals and electric guitar with an acoustic guitar, bass, drummer on kit and drummer on traditional drums. Big sound even with the smaller lineup and strong powerful music. Not always intricate, sometimes focused on power, other times on mood, but it had me hooked from beginning to end.

Quote of the Night: Quiet night and I can't hear in loud clubs even though I am sure there is bizarre conversation going on around me. After getting assistance with the English wording(?), Vieux Farka Toure said that "everyone's the same, brother-sister, you know..."

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Vandaveer/Lost in the Trees/Englishmen - DC9 - June 16 2009

Englishmen - The keyboardist from These United States joined a m/f guitar/vox duo for a nice set of folkish songwriter material. Nothing exploded off the charts but it was quite accessible and pretty high quality to my ears. In this genre, there isn't much difference between a nice opening act and some of the big-label headliners. Although one thing would help this band's chances--picking a name that can be quickly found in Myspace or Youtube.

Lost in the Trees - Eight people crowded the stage playing various instruments including: 2 violins, 2 cellos, acoustic guitar, mandolin, electric guitar, accordian, glockenspiel, tuba, keyboard, and drums. The singer mentioned that this was the "lite"version as 14 of them will hit the stage when they are home in North Carolina. Excellent music and a lovely set well arranged and well received by the sizable crowd. They reminded me of one of the surprise sets at last year's Terrastock Festival, an oversize band from Louisville called Sapat. My radar goes up when I see a mini-orchestra headed to the stage at a rock show, but after these two bands, it's time to worry less and be open to great music from bands of any size.

Vandaveer - Married folk duo with Mark Charles Heidinger singing and playing guitar with his wife (portraying a latter day Diana Dors look) adding excellent harmonies. Solid enough and occassionally transcendant. A local act that is worth going out of your way for. I enjoyed the set and the night very much.

Quote of the Night: Ok, the set up... After 8 musicians left the stage, the two members of Vandaveer step up, position two microphones and plug in an acoustic guitar. The guitarist spends several minutes working with the soundman to get his monitor correct singing "1-7, all good boys go to heaven" or somesuch ditty. After several minutes of tweaking the soundman asks the patiently seated female singer for a check giving us the quotes "Check-sounds good". About half the audience chuckled and prompted the guitarist/husband to add "You're not supposed to show me up until the third song, that's what we agreed on." All in good fun, I might add.

Friday, June 12, 2009

The Dillinger Escape Plan/3 more bands - Rock'n'Roll Hotel - June 11 2009

Four bands tonight, at least they are starting early, which they pretty much have to in compliance with local laws and all...

Octaves - First, does the Royal Praetorian Guard (aka security with a chiseled head) have to stand guard front and center of the fairly low stage so the lead singer's head is only a couple feet above his? Well, yes, as this was his spot the rest of the night. He needn't worry as this band didn't exactly rev the crowd into a frenzied mosh pit. Thrash-rock, some rocking, some ringing guitars, dull vocals, inane chatter, but sincere and I think he could do better. Band isn't there yet.

Knife the Glitter - "I know what you're thinking, this is the best name ever". That from one of the members. Well, he can look back at the end of the year to see if he makes my best name list. Until then, maybe they can come up with some more interesting songs. Instrumental prog-metal, choppy rock that stayed well below the heights of Caverns or Kinski. Something was missing and I am not talking about the vocals.

The Number Twelve Looks Like You - Prog-thrash. Some good moves among banal singing, even a couple psyche moves. Still, just not consistently compelling even on a low expectation scale. Still, not terrible.

The Dillinger Escape Plan - A very popular band, at least out east. More of the thrash, metal, prog, creative moves kinds of things that the other bands sometimes approached. In this case, the Dillinger guys have it a bit more together. To be fair, I was pretty well exhausted at this point, so I'll defer to the crowd who enjoyed them much. I doubt I would want to hear their CDs or MP3s too often, though. You could do worse (and I did earlier that evening).

Quote of the Night: While walking along H Street, two women got out of their car and walked up and asked "Could you tell us how to get to Washington DC?"

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Dark Meat/Vomit Lasers Family Band - The Red & the Black - June 10 2009

The afternoon began with me getting an early start to beat rush hour traffic out of DC and get to Vienna, Virginia to see Luka Bloom, a classic Irish folker. I was surprised at the traffic trying to get onto Constitution and begin heading west and took a U-turn only to get into another jam. Fortunately I had the radio on NPR and I hear about the shooting by some archaic white supremacist who this planet had to suffer with for 88 years. So, another U-turn and I got out of the way of traffic through several road closures and a bridge closure. But there was another good show, closer to home, so off I went...

Dark Meat/Vomit Lasers Family Band
- Actually two of this band opened with another guitarist whose name I failed to catch. It was a nice set with a George Clinton cover and several other psyche-rock jams. But Mr. Soundman, next time watch the painful vocal bursts. I mean, there was only one guitar amp mic'ed along with one vocal mic. How hard can it be?

The full, and I mean full band hit the stage later. Well, the trumpeter stood in front of the stage, but the other seven members were there. I was worried when the singer/guitarist didn't really explain how many microphones they needed until the bass player got there. It started pretty messy, but decent and then it all sort of made sense by the next song. There was the trumpet with a faint piccolo, and trombone (also doubled with keys and percussion) in addition to 2 guitars, bass, drums, backup vocals. Kind of a post-rock sixties psyche-garage band sound. Very reminiscent of a band I enjoyed a lot called the Linus Pauling Quartet. Raucous, unique and lots of fun. A really fun band I will go see again anytime they come through.

Quote of the Night: After explaining to the booker/money taker that Luka Bloom's loss was his gain tonight, he said that yeah, someone dies like that and bridges and roads lock down and someone dies on this side of town (Northeast) and nobody blinks...

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

TV on the Radio/Dirty Projectors - 9:30 Club - June 9 2009

Dirty Projectors - The wind and rain abated just as I pulled into the club prior to the opener's set. They started as a electric guitar and female singer duo which was good but it should have been acoustic. I hoped for change and got a full band of three women, three guys. One guy sang, but the women all sang even better including some really magical and very weird vocal work--very rhythmic to the point where I wasn't sure it was voice or synthesizer. Could've been both, but mostly voice I think. Unfortunately the music was noodling guitar clashing with funky bass, sometimes working other times making my mind wander. Overall, not too bad, but a reconfiguration could produce some real magic. Oh, and flip a coin, heads they're from Brooklyn, tails they are from somewhere else. It's heads!

TV on the Radio - First time for me and I purposely didn't listen to anything by them which means almost everything was new as I hadn't heard anything in over two years. They start strong, went stronger, slowed a bit and finished up with a vocal wallop with the opening band assisting in a huge choral finale. Great dreamy psyche into pulsating throbs of acid rock and soulful flourishes. A really excellent set and a creative band. I enjoyed it lots as did the sold out crowd that had their tickets the day they went on sale.

Quote of the Day - "Somebody get that man in the sound booth a drink" from TV's guitarist. Yeah, he was doing a good job, I'll give him that, but I'll be damned if I'm wading through the sardines to get to the sidebar and come back with his $8 drink when a band of your size and stature has enough of a rider to give me a diet coke and him plenty of the hard stuff.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

X/Steve Soto and the Twisted Hearts - 9:30 Club - June 6 2009

Steve Soto and the Twisted Hearts - Soto is the bass player for the Adolescents and was integral in creating the great LA backing vocal style in the punk scene. This just preceded Bad Religion's "Oozin' Aahs". So I looked forward to seeing him at lead vocals and rhythm guitar with a band I did not know. He was augmented with guitar, bass, drums, and keys/accordian. They played a rootsy rock music that is pretty common in California. Many of the songs were well above average if not very good and the musicians were excellent as well. Soto was in fine voice as well. The crowd grew during the set and had a good time.

X - The original four members tour as X and many of them play and tour in various other bands as well. Apparently, they played the 30 songs voted on by DC people visiting their web site. So no classic was skipped and it was fun to see what made it through or was missed. If memory serves, this may be the first time I heard "When our Love Passed Out on the Couch". Musically it started slow (with John Doe saying that if there were too many slow songs, we were to blame and having Exene snap back that the slow songs are ok), but it really built and the magic of the X style came through winningly in the end. I was worried that turnout was going to be weak, but it did pack out by the time they played, although the stage was moved forward. There music doesn't quite have that dangerous edge that they had in the day, but maybe that's due to seeing Billy Zoom's constant beatific grin while the dark lyrics are sung. Zoom had a bandage on his forhead, covering his third eye no doubt, but was his usual grinning, affable self spending the time between closer and first encore staying on stage taking photos of the crowd, chatting, shaking hands. He's in his own world, but he's one of the friendliest guys you'll see. Great band, still. Catch them when you can.

Quote of the Night: Steve Soto told the story of the Adolescents first US tour playing the old 9:30 Club with a straight edge band who baffled them when they did stretching before the set, while the only thing the Adolescents stretched was the boundaries of substance use and partying. He then said he'd hang out and exchange war stories by the merch stand. So I did make it over later and chatted with him as I saw that tour in Chicago. He remembered it was with the Bad Brains at the Cabaret Metro. He also remembered them getting stuck in Dayton for a bit and staying with Ed Pittman. I chatted with his guitarist from Dayton even who had the Toxic Reasons first single (I managed Toxic Reasons in 1980 and a bit after). So it was fun rehashing old memories and it is amazing he remembered all the details he did, but that's the way it was for me as well. Good times, challenging, but certainly rewarding now.

Love is All/Real Estate/Ra Ra Rasputin - Black Cat - June 4 2009

Ra Ra Rasputin - Good dance/pop band four-piece. Nice groove got the crowd hopping and swaying and even a restart of the last song was quickly forgiven. They seem to gig quite a bit and will earn their following. Although it has hard for me not to think of the Boiled in Lead song that their name reminds me of.

Real Estate - Ok, I swear I've seen these guys before or is it just the singer's hair and glasses? I, of course, am writing this without doing any research on my own blog. But to the music... I was pleasantly surprised that such a dully named band could come up with such good music. Really good rock music with a touch of Americana, but kind of psyche-pop-rock I would think. I believe they realize their vocals aren't their best attribute (but not bad) as they do a couple of instrumentals. Very enjoyable in spite of the name (I may be biased as I've just retired from 25 years of reviewing businesses in the mortgage and real estate industry and I'm still enjoying my separation).

Love is All - Now this band I know I saw recently at the Rock'n'Roll Hotel (See December entry below). I liked them then, like them now. I wouldn't mind seeing them again as I can always use a dose of their infectious new wavey pop songs done on the sunnier side of the X-Ray Spex street. They both take me back and allow me to just have fun in the moment. Two things I always like to do.

Quote of the Day: Love is All's singer... "I don't want to be rude, but it's more fun without the cameras in front as I'd like to be able to see people, too". This in response to massive flashes by two cameramen the whole night long that kept me half blind and looking down a lot. I'll have to remember this when I compile my list of ten things that annoy me at clubs.