Friday, July 31, 2009

Jody Watley - Birchmere - July 30 2009

Jody Watley - Here's my guilty pleasure show of the year. I am not much into celebrated disco divas who move on to smooth pop-R&B charting, although there are a fair number of artists I have some respect for. I have always like Jody Watley more than most and it helped that my post punk industrial dance music singer-composer friend was also a major fan of Ms. Watley. So, off to the Birchmere and see how she is doing as an independent artist in 2009. The show starts with a DJ on stage who played 6-7 songs in a manner that mostly could have been handled at the soundboard. The band enters and gets going with keyboards, drum kit, percussion and the DJ supplying the sound. Jody Watley comes on to a great ovation by the sizable crowd and is stunning (ok that was one reason I was always a fan). Absolutely fabulous hair, great hoop earings. One glove? Well I can guess that one. Devoted crowd that supplied a mostly standing ovation after two cuts. The songs came fast and furious and the band was solid and not even a bit flashy, so the focus was on Jody aside from their introductive solos. She was in fine form, does have a very good voice and great command of her songs. The DJ proved his value during the set as there was a bit of improvisation and some nice handling of recorded bits like backup vocals. The medley jam was good with some spontaneity within and someone walking near me in the parking lot mentioned it was a Shalamar song which Jody said she didn't do that often but the mood was right. Anyway, I had a nice time and it was a solid show where her many fans were happy. Possibly the only negative may have been a pretty short show for $50 or thereabouts. I didn't catch the exact time, but the DJ came on at 7:50, soloed for a while and I ended up home at about 9:45 (15 minute drive or so), so maybe an hour or a bit over. But I am glad I challenged myself by going to this show.

Quote of the Night: After some geeky fan scooted up to the front and was kneeling low pointing a camera straight up to Jody, she quipped (during a song) "Get a good angle. If it doesn't look right, put me on photoshop. Do you promise?" Aside from the fact that her legs probably looked like Manute Bol from that angle, I would guess it turned out fine.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Black Moth Super Rainbow/Dan Friel - Rock'n'Roll Hotel - July 26 2009

Dan Friel - One guy doing electronica. You know, I get one request a week from someone who wants to be my myspace friend and does this kind of stuff from noise to ambient, most likely in their bedroom. This music was somewhere in between noise and ambient. A lot of people stood around and watched and listened. No one danced or bobbed their head. Yet, it wasn't involved shoegazing either, just a mild respect. After a few cuts, I went upstairs to listen to the jukebox blast out Black Sabbath and Metallica and read some more of my Dawn Powell novel. Nothing terrible, just not enough to hold my interest.

Black Moth Super Rainbow - The set begins with a funny video introduction on a screen in front of the stage. The band comes on and the music begins with video. The screen was a bit distracting cutting off a lot of viewing although the video was well above average. Musically, it was electronic, although instrumented as opposed to computer and it seemed fair at first. But as it played on, I really got involved and found it quite catchy. The crowd was large and supportive with some dancing and swaying this time. The singer had a crazed angora suit with a mask/wig that looked like Abbie Hoffman, no wait more like Tommy Chong. He was out in the crowd a lot mingling while singing which everyone enjoyed including an enthusiastic 12-ish year old boy there with his dad. I thought the staging reminded me of the Flaming Lips and what do you know, I now read that they toured with them (I try to do more research after my observations than before and enjoy making the connections on my own). This is music I am far from an expert on, but I think they do it admirably. And one key was having real people play bass, drums and keyboards. It really makes a difference.

Quote of the night: "This band is a bunch of douche bags and anyone who likes them is a douche bag." I'm paraphrasing a bit from the very funny intro video that had a seemingly real rant by a guy who talked about his five most hated non mainstream bands which included Black Moth Super Rainbow. Then there was a funny rebuttal of sorts. A nice way to open things off.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Caverns/Paul "Spirit Walker" Michel/Hammer No More the Fingers/Vinnie Vegas -

Vinnie Vegas - Classic five piece with keys. Decent harmonies when they chose to use them I would say it was a decent rock sound with some psyche and singer songwriter touches. Set built nicely. I will say they are not without talent which mathematically equals talented, but perception-wise, just a wee bit moderated.

Hammer No More the Fingers - This three piece did a nice job in the second time I have seen them. SOme good songs emerge amidst the reverb heavy rock. Even some Adverts/999 style punk is present within the general indie psyche-rock sound. Good variety, solid band.

Paul Michel - Being that the show started late which is totally as expected here as my usual lunch with a certain attorney, I had hoped for an acoustic act. No, a guitarist-singer, drummer, and keyboardist. And they took a long time as they were using a computer for the first time for bass parts and more. I could not stifle the yawns and I really did not enjoy the set. There was just something annoying in the style and stage patter. A few good songs at the end very enjoyable, so I will withhold full judgement.

Caverns - The fifteen to twenty people left (about 40-50% of earlier crowd although much of that was band members) enjoyed another fine set by one my local favorites. I've seen this band four times now and although the shock of the sound has worn off, I still can really get deep into the groove they create. A band everyone who likes assertive rock music should check out. I am still reminded by the sadly neglected MX-80 Sound for the few of you that want to search out obscure interesting bands.

Question of the Day - No quotes, so I'll do my Cecil Adams impersonation: "Why would anyone want to name their band after a lousy Kevin Nash wrestling character?" Good question. Let's see how many we can find that were inspired by "Big Lazy". Nash first started as Steel which seems too simple to be a band name. I don't know of one out of the garages that went with just "Steel". Next up is Oz and there was a prog band from England called Oz, although they got to the name first. Next is Vinnie Vegas a bad gimmick (maybe better than Oz) that didn't last too long. Hope this band lasts longer. Last we have Diesel (not counting his own name) which was a band in the Netherlands in the early 80s, again predating Nash's character. So there's only the one knowing Nash usage at this point and they opened the bill tonigh. Hopefully they'll come back some time under a better wrestling name like Mikey Whipwreck or Mankind (well that would work if they go metal).

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Stellastar/Wild Light/Postmarks - Rock'n'Roll Hotel - July 17 2009

Postmarks - The winning haircut by the female vocalist/slight guitarist catches my eye quickly. It's the Louise Brooks look (with a wee bit more on back and sides) that is at least the second such haircut I've seen this past year on a stage. Backing are guitar, bass, drums and keyboards w/synth. I would say the starting point was a 60s pop-psyche style, but it really hit the modern indie rock-shoegazer-light psychedelic style a bit more as it went on. Yet another band that rocks it out at incredible power on the last song making me wonder if they could only have a bit more of that more often. But still a good band and an enjoyable set from this Miami-based band.

Wild Light - I first thought this may be the first New Hampshire band I've seen, but I seem to recall saying that already, but it has to be a short list. Slicker sound than Postmarks, but that is not necessarily a good thing and quite specifically here it was not. A good pop-rock sound from this four-piece who made me dizzy switching between bass/one or two guitars/keyboards and rotating lead vocal duties. An accomplished band that is just a bit too mainstream for me, but I would gladly watch them again some day and see how they do.

Stellastar - Where has this band been hiding from me? Oh, in New York City between 800 other touring bands. This four-piece is the real deal. Strong two guitar attack, great rhythm section and surprisingly original songs in a very established straight ahead rock style. The sound absolutely roared but didn't cause any wincing because it was a powerful mid-range roar. I was surprised at what a large crowd there was tonight until this band kept playing. Then I realized I should have been up on this band long ago. Yes, over 28,000 myspace friends, ok I'm slow here.

Quote of the night - "Is this water?" someone asked me about the two large containers next to me. I answered yes although how would I know if it wan't monkey urine? Well, that would probably cost $8, but anyway we had a nice chat as I tried to convince her that her son and a friend can go to most good clubs in DC at underage shows, because it's pretty well enforced and DC was one of the originators of the all ages show courtesy of the Dischord bands.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Occidental Brothers Dance Band/The Moderate - DC9 - July 16 2009

The Moderate - Ok, we begin with a young band composed of a couple guitars, bass and drums with the guitarist singing. I smell the blood of an indie band. Yes, that's what we have alright in kind of a pop-rock vein with a nod to Neil Young/Tom Petty/alt country once in a while. Started kind of off-kilter early on, but eventually did pretty well. One guitarist broke out a sax a couple of times which worked well. Their Black Keys cover wasn't much help to the set, but I am guessing they still are in need of songs. I think in a year, they'll be just fine.

Occidental Brothers Dance Band - A couple guys from Ghana on drums and vocals/percussion/trumpet teamed up with a guitarist, saxophonist, and a guy playing electric stand-up bass. They all live in Chicago and immediately described themselves as a Central African Jazz Indie Rock band. That's about right. Guitar lines were African styled and the music varied within their description. I didn't feel a wildly compelling drama in the music but it was very well played, fun, and easy to move and dance to. A couple songs did allow me to really soar with them in very high places. Certainly a nice night out for this small to moderate DC crowd tonight.

Quote of the Night: "You don't have to stay in line, you're a regular, come with me." from a server at Ben's Chili Bowl. This 50 year old U Street establishment has been even more packed since Mayor Fenty took the Obamas there for one of their first pre-inaugural meals in DC as president elect family. So 8:00 seating is pretty tough and I was quite surprised that me coming in every three weeks or so for a few months qualified me as a regular, but I'll take it. Now if they will only let me eat for free like Bill Cosby (who last discussed this restaurant on a Sunday morning news show). I am a regular at a couple other places, too, but I will consider the Full Kee in Chinatown my true regular spot.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Sonic Youth/Entrance Band - 9:30 Club - July 7 2009

The Entrance Band - Saw this three piece at Terrastock last year and was impressed. I enjoyed them again. They aren't a perfect fit (who is other than a wannabe clone?) with Sonic Youth but they are a good act and went over well, although a bit politely. The guitarist/vocalist plays a right handed strung guitar left handed ala Dick Dale and Albert King. I always find that fascinating for a start. He and his rhythm section perform spacey west-coast psychedelic jams that seem to be more of an updating of the San Francisco scene rather than Los Angeles where they hail. Solid set and he even handled a broken string without a hitch--must be something to do with the upside down/backward style.

Sonic Youth - Fourth time for me. Third time at this club, well second as the first was at the old 9:30 Club locale in 1987. I seem to hit a winner on the even number shows. The second was at CBGBs and they were breaking out Daydream Nation at that show which I really enjoyed. I found their show a couple years ago adequate, but being that it was the first of two shows in one night, it felt light and crammed into a tight timeslot. No problems here as they did their two sold out shows on successive nights and had plenty of time to do everything they wanted. Their energy was good, the songs really rocked--some good newer ones and a few from the classic back catalogue. The sound was very good--maybe a tad light on vocals, but it roared while allowing me to hear the intricate parts. A classic band still with plenty of fire.

Quote of the Night - From a guy near me directed toward the opener... "I saw you at Terrastock!" Yes, so did I. I was hoping to chat with him a bit, but I missed him. And then you become a sardine in a sold-out 9:30 Club show.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Jay Reatard/TV Smith - Black Cat - July 5 2009

TV Smith - Devoted (ha ha) readers of my blog will note that the vast numbers of bands covered here often come from the tricky to define psychedelic field and the easy to define classic punk field. And we begin with one of my favorites who I am seeing for the first time, Mr. TV Smith. TV was singer for the Adverts, a second tier UK punk band who wrote first tier songs. The Adverts first lp was once described as a series of A side singles on top of each other. Two albums and several singles and they were finished. TV has carried on sporadically playing acoustic guitars and writing songs in a Billy Bragg vein. He began with the Adverts "No Time to Be 21" and also played "New Church". His solo songs pretty much sounded like Adverts songs with power chorded acoustic riffs and punk style lyrics. Great energy, great songs and a respectful and enthusiastic audience lead by yours truly.

Jay Reatard - Hadn't heard a note of this act but had read many good things. I had mainly come for TV Smith anyway. Surprise! Brilliant set! A power trio of three guys at various stages of King Buzzo's hair growth put on a masterful display of classic punkrock with post punk, psyche, and power pop nods. Blistering pace with no quiet time between songs (ala early Husker Du and Honor Role) had me enjoying each song more than the last. This band deserves all the accolades and I only wished it was in the upstairs stage of the black cat as opposed to the packed, smelly downstairs room. I know, a packed club is more fun for all, but hopefully they will have even more fans for their return and fill the club even further. If anyone listens or sees them, they will be converted.

Adverts/Jay Reatard - Jay Reatard's encore featured TV Smith singing for Adverts songs with Jay Reatard. What an amazing bonus! Worthy of a set unto itself. Gary Gilmore's Eyes, One Chord Wonders, Bored Teenagers, and... ugh, this is what I get for fogetting my notebook, maybe it was We Who Wait? Whatever, it was brilliant and seeing TV Smith thrash around to these songs really made me feel I was at the Roxy in 1977.

Quote of the Night: TV Smith introuction... "This is a song I wrote for Lords of the New Church called Lord's Prayer". This kind of confirms my theory that Stiv Bators and his Dead Boys cronies really weren't writers and faded hard when they ran out of Rocket from the Tombs songs to claim as their own. I really don't know Lords that well and maybe Brian James could write well enough, but Lords was a big disappointment in the end. But this is a long discussion...