Sunday, August 30, 2009

Mother Mother/Paul Michel/We Were Pirates - Rock'n'Roll Hotel - August 29 2009

We Were Pirates - They were power-pop. Well, a bit more thoughtful and introspective rather than the sunny, happy faced style I suppose. A little jangle present and really good vocals from the guitarist (later he switched to bass) with the bassist doing some nice backing vocals. Decent enough songs and ultimately a nice set. A band I would be happy to see again.

Paul Michel - Didn't I just see this duo? I did. The duo is back and in a bit more control of the computer. Live, there is a guitar, a drummer and both sing. On computer, there are bass lines and some keyboards or electronica. Although I am not a fan of computer music, I will say that having a live drummer makes it much more acceptable to me. It depends on the style of the music, too, and this rocking songwriter style is an odd one to rely on computers. But it works well enough and I thought this set was a little stronger than the last. I will stay tuned.

Mother Mother - This is a five piece with core instruments and the women vocalists playing keyboards part of the time. The bass player stepped up with a sax and clarinet a couple of times which was nice. The music was interesting hard pop. I have trouble pegging it which is a good thing. It reminds me of Abba and the B-52s playing more like the Dickies. Well, that ain't it, but I enjoyed trying to dream up a descriptor as much as I enjoyed the music. A good, fresh take on pop music, somewhat danceable, but more designed just to emit energy and connect with the audience. And I have not yet seen a smaller crowd as into a band as I had seen tonight. The club was only a little more than half full, but the fans were loud, knew the band's material and were more supportive than even a good metal crowd. This Vancouver band has been here three times and intimated that they would love to play here more were it not for the massive amount of land between here and Vancouver. Here is hoping they can grow there fan base and make that trip a little easier.

Quote of the night: From Paul Michel ' "our computer bass player is a real asshole..."

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Nebula/Entrance Band/Naam - Black Cat - August 25 2009

Naam - The evening begins downstairs at the Black Cat. A small crowd is assembled but quickly fills to a moderate level as Naam kicks in. They are the first of three power trios in what appeared to be some combination of psyche, metal and hard rock bands. Naam has me hearing Blue Cheer right away, but it then morphs into a Hawkwind style. As the songs keep coming, it gets more into the heavy psyche style with even a hint of Sabbath. I thought they would be more metal, but they stayed spacey with some intriguing vocals that were strong, but atmospheric. The band I was finally reminded of was Om who are playing here shortly. They were a couple of metal guy who left their band and went into heavy psyche. Good sound, very nice band we have here. From Brooklyn, what a surprise.

Entrance Band - Third time for me with this trio and second time this year (see Sonic Youth show below). I thought this was their best effort. The expected psychedelic swirl of a sound was excellent, the songs sparkled and the crowd was at its peak and into the show. The guitarist thanked his dad for being here. I had him spotted early on kind of in a "spot the narc" sort of game played back in the sixties. The band's new record on Ecstatic Peace still isn't quite out, but the songs I heard have me itching to make a purchase.

Nebula - Unfortunately the late start thinned the crowd out a bit with some of the x'ed hands and metro riders cutting out before Nebula got set up. They announced prior to their song that their drummer quit on them after last night's show in Baltimore and they were able to get a replacement and get five songs together for the show tonight. They hoped to have a couple more tomorrow. Pretty amazing they were able to get something together that quickly, but also pretty necessary as they are only a week into a US tour with an extensive European tour right after. Note to this drummer and any others--life on the road for lesser known bands is rough. If you think you might not like it, you won't so don't even bother. Anyway, the new drummer did well, but the band was my least favorite of the night. They did more of a hard rock style with good wah-wah leads. A decent amount of power and pop, but just a bit more lacking in the song department. A good set, but judgment will be withheld until they get more settled.

Quote of the night: From the bassist of Naam talking to a guy behind me... "I'm kind of lost in the zone, but we have a hotel tonight. We showered, washed all our clothes and have a bed tonight. Gonna be awesome". The simple pleasures of the road. Kudos to him for recognizing a fan who bought a shirt from them the night before in Baltimore. And kudos to the fan for really supporting the music he likes by going to both shows. Nice to see the enthusiasm on both sides.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Love/Kuschty Rye Ergot/Pablonious Bill

Pablonious Bill - Good opening set by an electric guitarist/singer with a sax player (playing pretty lightly and sporadically) and a drummer who had to join in just after the set started as he was downstairs. Kind of folk, kind of singer/songwriter style (apologies to people who hate that label, but it just seems to fit and I'll have to work on coming up with alternatives as I cringe a little whenever I write it). I enjoyed, the crowd was very supportive although I smelled a fair number of friends and family in the audience. No matter, good job.

Kuschty Rye Ergot - Third time seeing this band and I like them better every time out. They almost begin ambient, but I would say it is more rock soundscape style as the rhythm section really keeps a rock music feel which I think is a positive as too much ambiance or freak jazz moves often lose me unless the artists are really top notch. The music builds to more psychedelic rock and I felt sort of an Agitation Free type feeling as they shared a kind of eastern music prog sound that Ag-Free did so well. Two long instrumental songs and I was involved the whole way.

Love (featuring Johnny Echols backed by Baby Lemonade) - Ok, this just wasn't destined to be anywhere near as transcendent as when I saw this same lineup with Arthur Lee a few years ago. That was pure magic with Lee still only recently out of his ridiculously long prison sentence singing songs of freedom, playing with Baby Lemonade who he played with before incarceration as well and finding original guitarist Johnny Echols to join in on the tour. So this time around, Arthur Lee has joined Ken Forssi and Bryan Maclean in the dying way too early club and realistically this is about the only version that could call itself Love with the appropriate fuller explanation in parentheses. The set started well and did have some strong moments. The five piece was augmented with a guy who played some of Arthur's tambourine and harmonica parts, but also added trumpet and keyboards which was nice. Rusty Squeezbox's vocals did the songs justice and the players were all good. Highlights were "Stephanie Knows Who" from Da Capo which Arthur Lee didn't perform much and included some harpsichord and "Revelation" when they were called back for a unplanned second encore. A few of the smart audience were calling for this side-long monstrosity earlier in the set to chuckles and they did (thankfully) a short version which was kind of fun. For those not in the know, this is considered about the only mistake on Love's part where they devoted side two of their second album to a pretty dull and very long jam of a song. Echols sang this and Signed DC and still had some nice solos in him.

Robert Plant with Johnny Echols.

Quote of the night: Well, no interesting quotes, but I did pass Johnny Echols walking into Ben's Chili Bowl as I was walking out. I would have introduced myself, but my hand was sticky with chili overflow and needed to get to the club to clean up a bit. I would have liked to asked about the tour with some of the people involved as there were obviously some problems, but I really did not need to thanks to this excellent Washington Post article. Some good lessons here.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Robert Gordon/Fleshtones - 9:30 Club - August 14 2009

Fleshtones - This long running NYC garage rock band still delivers a fun show. They don't let a quiet audience get in the way of their energetic moves and by bringing their style/shtick out full throttle, they easily win over crowds. They are a four-piece with the singer sometimes moving to a sadly under mic'ed farfisa once in a while. Grind it out garage pop that played well in the punk era when they began and has played well long before and since. I've seen many of their moves at a previous show such as the axemen moving in unison and they take their wireless instruments and mics into the crowd many times. The best moment tonight was when the guitarist gave his instrument to the legendary Kim Kane (Slickee Boys) and the bass was handed to a ten year old boy. Kane rocked out, the boy was keeping a simple line going with the drummer and the three band members went into the middle of the crowd and did push-ups. OK, you had to be there. But if you make it to the northeast and get a chance to see these guys, treat yourself to some fun.

Robert Gordon - Although I looked forward to seeing this legendary rockabilly singer, I was also drawn to his backup band which consisted of Chris Spedding on guitar, Glen Matlock on bass and Slim Jim Phantom on drums. Interestingly, all four were relevant in my early punk rock days. Matlock, most obviously, was a founding Sex Pistol. Spedding played guitar for some acts and took the young Sex Pistols into the studio for the first time. Slim Jim Phantom drummed for the Stray Cats and Gordon worked with Link Wray in that era and got the deserved respect from the youngsters for the roots and what they were doing presently. Anyway, Gordon did a lot of classics and the band was solid. Nothing too upstagey, which was both good and bad. Gordon tooka break half way through "cuz I'm gettin' old" leaving each member to sing two of their songs each. Spedding did one where he paid tribute to 10-12 classic guitarists naming them and playing a famous riff which was fun--Hendrix to Paul Kossoff if I heard the last one correctly. Matlock lead them in a "God Save the Queen" and Slim took the lead on "Rock this Town." Gordon came out to finish and the crowd was fully into the set by this point. An older crowd, but quite enthusiastic. Good show with some interesting players I never thought I would see.

Quote of the Night: "I'm the most punk rock of anybody as I hauled my suitcases all through the airport" from Slim Jim Phantom. Poor Glen, still not punk enough for the Sex Pistols.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Hammers of Misfortune/Ludicra - DC9 - August 13 2009

Ludicra - A very metal looking band hits the stage and rips into a ferocious monstrosity that sounds like a cross between Napalm Death and Slayer. Whew, the rest of the set settles into more of a compositional death metal. There were some very catchy riffs coming out of the four players. The female singer and female guitarist were the only vocalists and pretty much limited themselves to the death metal screech/shriek sort of thing which does tire me out when there isn't a real voice to offset it once in a while. Close your eyes and your not sure if the singer is male, female, a blender in need of oil, or a wounded animal. But metalheads do like this sort of thing. Still, good music with good hooks.

Hammers of Misfortune - Large band of two guitars (one from previous band), bass, drums, singer and an organist. Three people sang (two women) and it was all singing for this band. I thought it was going to be a progressive metal band from what I read, but the metal was not really there, at least in the modern style. It was a very hard, assertive progressive sound with great organ, strong rocking guitars, good rhythm section and vocals that tried to cut above the rock (and failed early in the set until the sound got better). A good throwback sound and a nice set. The songs did not quite move me to great heights, but they were close. I would recommend them and see them again.

Quote of the Night: "First, we'll dedicate this set to the great Les Paul, the creator of this very guitar". Kudos to the Hammers of Misfortune guitarist for starting the set with this which did draw applause from the crowd, almost all of who knew exactly who Les Paul was and what he meant even if they probably couldn't pick him out of a police lineup.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

New Riders of the Purple Sage/Commander Cody Band - Birchmere - August 12 2009

Commander Cody Band - I guess the Lost Planet Airmen are indeed lost. I wanted to check out Cody more than the headliners and he was allowed the chance to put on his full show as his set was an hour and a quarter. He sang (allowing three leads to other members) and played piano and was accompanied by drums, bass, guitar, organ and a pedal steel player. The band was smart, experienced and the lead guitarist was quite good. Another guest (Bill Kirchen) jumped in on guitar for a few songs which was sort of in Cody's easy going spirit. Cody sort of sounded like Gary Busey--the sort of crazed, gnarled, road worn voice and dialogue that often will make for good rock'n'roll. The sound was a honky-tonk boogie sort of rock with Cody mentioning Texas a few times. He is from Detroit which is one reason I wanted to seem him as I am a fan of the early Detroit scene (although you won't find a Bob Seger review from the Verizon Center here should that happen). All in all, a decent set which was worthy of my time.

New Riders of the Purple Sage - Ok, the real reason I came to this show was to get a refund for my Electric Prunes ticket when they cancelled and I picked a night that might offer some amusement. And this night offered Commander Cody along with a band that was part of my youth that I pretty much tried to ignore most of my life. I knew these guys were from California, knew they had some radio play back in the day (ah, Panama Red, that was their hit), and knew they did a kind of country rock. I thought it was more LA based, but actually it was SF and they were formed by Grateful Dead members and only two others. One of the two, David Nelson (guitar,vocals) was the only member onstage tonight. The pedal steel player is also a longtime member (replaced Jerry Garcia early on), but the others are all recent additions. The sound did have some of the classic SF psyche elements, but did kind of go heavy jam and slowed to country rock or folk country at times. I was interested that Richie Unterberger mentioned he liked Quicksilver, Jeff.Airplane and lots of SF Psyche bands, but not the Grateful Dead. That was always my position too and I do have to include the New Riders on the Dead side of that divide. Big crowd tonight and I think most of them were on the New Riders' side.

Quote of the Night: "There's no 'o' in team." A couple was discussing sports behind me and I missed the exact reasoning behind this twisted gem. It did fall between a twin trashing of Michael Vick and the Boston Red Sox.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Akron/Family / Wand - Rock'n'Roll Hotel - August 11 2009

Wand - Formerly known as Wooden Wand or Wooden Wand and the Skye High Band, basically Wand is just some singer songwriter from Nashville with a guitar and a voice. Sound familiar? Well, he really doesn't sound very Nashville too often and I enjoyed the set a lot more than the early music I heard by him a few years ago when he was lumped in with the freak folk movement. He had a steel and electric guitarist accompany him on most tracks and a steel guitarist from Nashville normally has me locating all exits, but in this case he added more atmosphere and spookiness (courtesy of reverb) to the moody songs of Wand. This was akin to the sound to what Jimmie Wilsey gave to Chris Isaak. All in all, a decent set. I am not ready to jump on the bandwagon, but a good set by a decent song writer is a good start to any evening.

Akron/Family - The first time I have seen them since the retirement of one member. I knew that Seth, the main guitarist was still in the band, but wasn't sure who else was left. Turns out the bassist and drummer remain which is good as it is probably the most potent three piece possible of the original four. All sing lead and harmonize and there was less wholesale instrument switching this time around (compared to two previous sightings at this club). Some electronics and loops, but they pretty much just rocked out as a power trio. And it was indeed powerful. Some folkish elements and vocal bits, but a bit less of the sing along material. The crowd was a little laid back as they noted (although they improved as the night wore on), so that may have lead to a more psyche jam outing. The bass player commented that they were having fun and surprised themselves a bit with the ferocity (forgot the word he used, but that was certainly my impression as well). Excellent set by a band well worth seeing. The crowd was bigger than the first show, but not bigger than the second, so I hope they can catch a few breaks and build their audience some. They deserve it.

Quote of the Night - "I have seen quite a few people take notes in a club but you're the first to do so on a copy of Watchmen". Yes, I almost always have a book or magazine in hand. I just had to bring this graphic novel this time as I had about twenty pages to go prior to hitting the club and absolutely had to finish it. The show started a little late, so the fate of the world was resolved for me. Excellent novel.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Fiery Furnaces/Wye Oak/Screens - Black Cat - August 8 2009

Screens - I am smiling very early in the first song. A guitarist, drummer, keyboardist and singer with two guys harmonizing at rare times. Keyboard lead songs with good guitar textures and powerful drumming. Wailing singing as everyone is intense but not in a forceful way. I am thinking it's a great postpunk kind of sound as if imagining ATV getting music lessons from Can. Strong, beguiling music that I could see visibly convince the crowd that they were seeing a very fine band.

Wye Oak - I have reviewed this duo before and enjoyed them a lot. Nothing changed this time, only new songs from a new album. I still enjoy the drummer using feet and his right hand while keeping his left on a keyboard. The vocals are from the female guitarist who does an excellent job as well. Lots of sound from two people, not just a folk sound, but a fuller indie rock sound with some folk elements. Good things can indeed come from Baltimore and this band hopefully will do very well as they increase their touring this year.

Fiery Furnaces - Third time seeing them and they have a different look every time with slight instrument adjustments between the brother and sister duo. This time, brother is solely on guitar (no keys) and sister is solely on vocals. Jason Lowenstein (Sebadoh) is back, but on bass, not guitar. And the fourth member is a drummer. Good, interesting music as always by the Furnaces, but never quite enough to induce me into buying their music. Smart, thoughtful, quietly unique songs that I do enjoy live which is why I keep coming back. There was an added Jangly garage pop this time around. I think I liked the second incarnation better with Lowenstein on guitar. There was a good crowd, but no bigger and maybe a tad smaller than last time which could be due more to the economy than the band. But the crowd enjoyed it and it was a good night on the whole.

Quote of the Night: "You mean I can't take that in? Can I get it back?" from the guy in front of me who had his huge backpack with him and had two normal water canisters and another one that looked to hold about a gallon. He wanted that back and they held it at the ticket counter for him. Thankfully the line and club wasn't jammed or you would here my rant about backpacks.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros/Sean Bones - DC9 - August 5 2009

Sean Bones - A group with the guitar, bass, drums, keys and one singer. Kind of a lo-fi garage pop with some psyche soca-calypso rhythms going on half the time. This was another one of those sets that began as an "eh" for me and ended up more of a "yeah, ok". So a decent job by a likable little band.

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros
- It looked like about nine musicians playing the usual arrray of rock instruments with an accordian and a trumpet among the unique sounds present. I couldn't make a full accounting as the club was packed most likely due to the band's coverage on NPR's All Songs Considered (hosted by Bob Boilen--see below). The set started well and I felt an Akron/Family kind of vibe at work with this conglomerate. As the set went on, it kind of got a bit cloying for me, although that's a little harsh. Still a little too precious. Immediately after I wrote those notes, the band completed its song dedicated to love (the emotion, not the band) and the singer then asked the crowd "why don't you guys all hug each other?" which a few decided to. The soundman was closest to me and thankfully he was busy.

Quote of the night: "Are you Bob Boilen? You sort of look like him." from a nice NPR fan who came over to me. If I had recognized the name instantly, I may have gone into elaborate fakery which may have gotten me a phone number for my little black book, but I didn't connect the name with the show until she told me and I am ultimately a bit too ethical for that. The only other music person I have been compared to is Dave Grohl which would be far more lucrative were I wildly unethical. Bob Boilen? You decide.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Fear/Agent Orange/DI/Total Chaos/Bloodhook/Unskilled Professionals/The Pogo - Jaxx - August 4 2009

The Pogo - Three piece band were all members "sang". Dull, dull, dull. A very green band that was just a quiet dull set of cliches that didn't inspire much pogoing. Although there was a small moshpit that tried to form, but it looked more like a carnival bump 'em car ride with a dozen cars out of order. Nothing insulting here, just utterly pointless other than allowing some young kids to get on stage and work out aggression while figuring out if they want to become a real band some day.

Unskilled Professionalz - Also a young local band, but much more promising. A three-piece again that actually had songs and variety and some decent playing. Some dead spots of course, but this band showed me young kids can try to do punk at least at a minimally interesting level without sliding into the oh so many dull cliches.

Bloodhook - Well, the cliches are back. A slicker three-piece with a slightly more metal-punk attack. The players were good, vocals dull, only a couple songs stood out, although one stood out because I thought it was a cover of Sabbath's "Symptom of the Universe", but no, just something sounding way to close. Ho-hum. Was that a Toxic Reasons t-shirt on that woman? Yes it was! Note-Toxic Reasons was the punk band I managed thirty years ago in Dayton, Ohio.

Total Chaos - Hopefully they wouldn't be "total" chaos and their set would hold together a bit. It did. They were a raucous four-piece with a vocalist in front of the basic three. Too bad he couldn't sing, but he was loud and powerful, so it fit well enough. Some metallic leads, but good frantic hardcore punk with some glam metal crossover. Fun, at least and better than I hoped.

DI - The first of three old time LA punk acts that I was amazed that I hadn't seen back in the day. DI is lead by Casey Royer who drummed for the Adolescents in the early days. None of the three behind him was in early versions of DI, but they were all good choices. Casey was humorous as I expected in kind of a California-lite version of Tesco Vee. The band rocked hard and tight and really delivered much more than I expected. "Richard Hung Himself" was a bit too sped up and lost some of the cool dynamics it has, but that happens at live shows, it seems. The drummer looked like William Bendix which was scary.

Agent Orange - Speaking of speeding up and losing dynamics... Agent Orange is a tight three piece that does surf, punk and strong emotive rock (Can I say that and avoid labelling someone emo?--probably not, but I'm not changing it). The band was strong, good, engaging, but the sound was poor. Vocals were lost and not expressive when heard, although that may be part aged singer and part soundman. Still, the highlights were quite good, so I enjoyed the set. It just seemed that the old Poshboy-produced recordings are the way to go.

Fear - I pretty much expected Lee Ving to show up with some mediocre support and was hopeful that it would not be dreadful. It wasn't but it was closer to dreadful than good. But, hey, Fear was never that good. They had a brilliant spot on Saturday Night Live, played a couple great songs in Penelope Spheeris's first Decline movie, and really had nothing else. The first album was ok and had a couple killer songs, but after that there was nothing. I will say that Lee's vocals carried through better than almost all the previous bands and he sounded stronger than I expected. So it's nice to finally see Lee, but once is plenty. And what a hairdo! But maybe it is real based on what I now see below.

Quote of the Night -- "Montrose, you remember Montrose?" from
one of the proud parents who were huddling around me early in
the evening as best I could deduce since they were my age and
not in uniform.