Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Frightened Rabbit - Maps & Atlases - Bad Veins -- Black Cat - April 27 2010

Bad Veins -This duo is from Cincinnati, near my old stomping grounds of Dayton. They come at us with far more than the sounds of drums and guitar. They have lots of keyboards and bass and such coming out of their equipment which includes a big reel-to-reel player constantly spinning around upstage center. I had one of those once. Anyway, I hear a rich sound within the indie rock world with catchy melodies, strong vocals and good pop from the drums. I am hearing things in the Radiohead-Muse direction, but maybe it's because they look like they could be members of those bands as well. In any event, I was hooked by the songs with half of them really fully reeling me in. And on the last song, the old school telephone was used as a microphone. I thought it was a kitsch prop. Great set, guys.

Maps & Atlases - A couple guitars and rhythm section with one guy on vocals. Vocals... well, maybe these vocals remind me there are things I like less than demonic metal voices. I have heard other singers in indie pop rock bands sing in this direction and it just doesn't move me. It's kind of like a guy trying to hit Peter Gabriel's upper register while singing through waxed paper and a comb. As for the music, it's just the kind of noodling pop that also does not bring me in. I am sure there are people that like this and I don't like to trash bands that give a good effort but this set had nothing of interest for me. I have to say that although the cute pop songs may have brought a few people in, the crowd response seemed pretty tepid.

Photo by Jannica Honey 
Frightened Rabbit - I was quite wary of this band with all the hype surrounding them. I do recall hearing some songs long ago that I liked, but I just don't trust the bands that the music magazines gravitate to. But they get it right sometimes and Frightened Rabbit is a perfect example. This Scottish 5 piece continues to tour and sell out larger and larger clubs. The Black Cat was packed with fans that thoroughly enjoyed the band's very catchy indie guitar pop-rock. The one vocalist was strong and the songs were nicely varied in pace and presentation. They did a 12 song set with many songs recognized by the crowd who sang along, danced and were into every note. I felt the band had really classic pop sensibilities with some rural Scotland background in the songs as well. Scotlacana perhaps, although I hope that word is never used again. The three song encore featured "Poke" done on solo acoustic guitar with voice. The next two rocked out and sent most everyone home happy.

Quote of the Night: "I don't know, I think that child molesters on the internet are real scary. I am going to go out and have a smoke."

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Vieux Farka Toure - Elikeh -- DC9 - April 26 2010

Elikeh - I saw this local band open for Toure last year (previous review). They did a great job then and did a great job tonight. They had singer/rhythm guitarist from Togo originally coupled with a rhythm section, conga player, lead guitarist and two saxophones who also added percussion.  I don't know much about Togo, other than Emmanuel Adebayor, but I don't think that matters a whole lot as it is a mixed band and brings combined styles into an excellent final product. The lead guitarist was hot and I liked that the saxophones did not overwhelm. They could not help but lend a certain jazz feel, but they dropped to the background often and let the other players in. This guy I met, Felipe, reminded me of the great African percussion group, Osibisa, who I do recall. A good band worth seeing on its own around town, but thankfully were given the call again to open for the headliner tonight.

Vieux Farka Toure - This great guitarist, son of a great guitarist, put on one of the best sets I saw last year and delivered the goods again tonight. Unfortunately, this time it was at a jam packed DC9 as opposed to the Rock'n'Roll Hotel. It was close to sold out on a Monday night and was jammed to the gills downstairs before the show as the DC9 was late as usual in allowing people up. But the vibe was all good once the music flowed. The first song was amazing in its sinewy playing and reminded me heavily of Turkish great, Erkin Koray. And although Toure eventually played music very different from Koray, they do share a similarity of bringing their regional style to the world by combing some classic rock, blues and psyche elements to the mix. Toure's band is not overwhelming in size, just in the delivery. He has a rhythm section, conga player, and acoustic guitarist. The congas and his leads are the main attraction with the other three laying it down for those two to go wild. My African musicologist friend (he's lived in Mali for many years) next to me was able to describe some of the differences in songs such as the northern Mali songs he played which had a more snaky upper body dance flow than the other Mali songs with a punchier beat. But Toure then goes where he wants to whenever he wants to and makes great music out of it. Jimi Hendrix was channeled and he played some of his father's music as well. Hopefully his legend will continue to grow and he can play the bigger clubs in town with the growing fan base he deserves.

Quote of the Night: Toure, after the opening cut waving his hand and getting a wave and hellos back from the crowd... "That's to the technician actually, but hello".

Monday, April 26, 2010

Municipal Waste - Toxic Holocaust - Black Anvil -- Rock'n'Roll Hotel - April 25 2010

Black Anvil - The question tonight is a whether I can handle a genre I know a bit about, but am out of date only interested in the best of the bunch, yet am seeing three bands I have not heard of? Well let us find out. The first band is a trio from NYC. They trend toward upper mid-tempo with a death metal sound. They do play a couple fast paced thrashers which I liked, sort of death metal Ace of Spades kind of songs. The two vocalists do variant demonic voices throughout. There is too much of the "if I can't sound like Rob Halford or King Diamond, let's do a guttural demon voice" thing that exists in this genre. But if stays a little low key in the mix, I can live with it. I don't know enough to say that they fall somewhere between Gorgoroth and Exodus, so that will have to do. But they certainly know how to open a show, unlike Exodus, and they did that here. The crowd got revved up and the set went well.

Toxic Holocaust - As I struggled to read their logo (what is it about the one style everyone uses--always a challenge with the Jaxx calendar), I see that another three piece hits the stage. They are faster than the openers with a sound more of the crossover hardcore and metal sound that DRI and west coast metal bands were doing back in the day. Well they are from the west coast, but from the more indie minded Portland, interestingly enough. The drummer can move it along and the other two seem pretty well locked in. The guitarist sings in a rasp again, but it isn't overly flamboyant which is good. The guitar breaks and solos are good, a bit thin at times but this is brief and not too shocking with one guitar. I like their songs mostly and thought they were quite good. The crowd grew to mostly full club and started going a bit crazy up front. So all is well tonight for the troops.

Municipal Waste - The nearly local band (Richmond, VA) hits the stage. They have a solid following world-wide and deliver a very fast thrash metal set. Each band got a bit faster and closer to that early 80s sound. They were a four-piece with a full time singer who went with his own voice. I almost heard a bit of the Boston hardcore scene in this music and some of that went metal, too, so it all kind of blends together if you look far and wide enough. Tough, strong music that the crowd got into. Oh, and the crowd had swelled, but earlier I did a count of black (or dark blue) shirts and came up with 42 of 50 with the rest in white, flannel or gray. That seems about the usual. One kid got tossed as we had to part ourselves for the security guy to drag him out the door. But nothing else too bad during this energetic set. And the final answer is that I enjoyed the night. I won't be going to everyone of these shows, but a good set of bands will bring me back.

Quote of the Night: "The next song is about ripping your fucking face off". I think fucking as an adjective was used about 3 dozen times in stage patter and much more in the lyrics and even the t-shirts.

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Points - Davey Crockett - Maybe, Baby -- DC9 - April 22 2010

Maybe, Baby - We have a male/female duo on guitar and drums respectively with the guitarist doing the vocal chores. So, basically a White Stripes lineup with a guitarist no where near as good but a drummer that is better (which I could say about any other White Stripes type lineup). Based on the X's on their hands, this is a young upstart band. They appear pretty active and know what they are doing onstage. It was kind of a harsh garage punk that had a Cramps feel without the rockabilly. Good punk spirit if not fully developed. The vocals were buried which is kind of hard with so few instruments. Still, I enjoyed the set enough to recommend them. I'll keep watching and listening.

Davey Crockett - Another duo with another small drum kit (no toms other than floor and one less cymbal). They are from Texas, hence the name. A couple of guys this time playing very similar music to the first band. A bit more forceful and plenty of pace, but I would still say it was really fast garage punk and not hardcore. Fair set, but my favorite part was hearing a Zero Boys song come on the PA after they were finished (note - I knew the ZBs back in the early Midwest days where I grew up and am jealous of a KC friend of mine who had them come to his town which is rare that he gets a great act that doesn't come to DC).

The Points - Finally a real power trio! Ah, but the drum kit is still without toms, aside from floor. I think I saw these guys some time ago and they have been around DC for a while. A good dirty Misfits sound without the over-the-top Danzig vocals. So that does mean some decent hook oriented songs underneath the intense energetic playing. Good sound and they handled the guitar break-down well enough to keep it going. I found the crowd beer spraying toward stage to be as dull and cliched as anything else I don't want to see at punk shows in 2010. Funny, that I was just reading about the Public Image initial US tour earlier that day. I recall they had a sheer curtain between the band and audience to keep the puppets from gobbing over the band. Some things don't change.

Quote of the Night: from the headliners "How you guys doing tonight? Yeah, I know, whatever."

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Coathangers - Sick Sick Birds - (Stop Worrying and) Love the Bomb -- Black Cat - April 21 2010

(Stop Worrying and) Love the Bomb - We begin with candidates for best band name. They are a locally based four piece with a twin guitar attack. Both guitarists sing lead, one female voice and one male. The sound is sort of a punk-to-hardcore early 80s attack that reminds me of a range from the Alley Cats to the Zero Boys. That covers A-Z, so basically this is good garage-punk with decent hooks, good pace and energy to burn. The vocals got lost in the guitar roar at times and the songs did not vary a lot which one could also say about the Ramones, so it is not a big deal. I enjoyed the set and this is a good band well worth showing up early for. And enough people did in the backroom of the Black Cat.

Sick Sick Birds - Another four piece with one guitarist taking the vocal lead. They are from Baltimore and have a gutsy rock attack somewhat similar to the earnest early 80s of DC. I would say Gray Matter, but they weren't quite up to that standards, so maybe the post-Gray Matter band called Three. Good energy with songs that also fit the indie-rock mode which I cannot define but seems to paint an image clear enough for most people, no matter how broad a land mass it fences in. Some good songs and this band is worth another look. The energy of the set was sapped a bit with slow tuning (a bum string, I believe) and a shoe tying break. But they have a good sound and may do some nice things as they continue to play out.

The Coathangers - My second experience at seeing this Atlanta band who is touring hard and making a decent name for themselves. They have this great attitude first approach but also dish out some great original sounds that are not dissimilar to and edgy off-punk approach that I raved about recently at the Styrenes show. This band really takes me back to my punk days seeing a band like Milwaukee's Ama-Dots. But I heard some sharp music here where I can make a comparison to a fusion between the Slits and TSOL (Beneath the Shadows version). Their songs do attack and twist around in fun original ways. Lots of energy and although the crowd was subdued (as usual) they were clearly into it. Good stuff, check this band out. You will have a blast.

Quote of the Night: From SSB (as opposed to SSD of Boston and SST Records)... "This one's for Craig T..." Probably the first and last time I will hear a song dedicated to Craig T. Nelson. Like I mentioned that tuning took a while and they had to really dig into some old TV to keep the patter going.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Beatallica - Borracho -- Black Cat - April 19 2010

Borracho - Thick, hard rock immediately comes our way when this twin-guitar four-piece kicks it in. It's heavy with some metal, a bit of stoner rock, and when they add a little pace, they kind of head into Kyuss territory which I enjoy. They do seem to spend more time with the slower heavier rock sound in which they do well to avoid plodding. I prefer the faster or mid tempo songs a bit more, but the band is effective and has a good sound overall. A good opening tonight.

Beatallica - The sound was a bit rickety out of the gate, but eventually the guitars shined through and everyone was happy. And it usually is a happy fun time at a Beatallica show. The four piece from Milwaukee take Beatle tunes and play them in a Metallica fashion with reworked lyrics that go in the metal direction. They drew a decent crowd and most everyone is aware of what they do these days, although there may still be a small portion of the crowd that is surprised. They have been doing this a long time and they do it very well. The one thing that has changed is that they now sell CDs of their songs. Initially, they had legal issues to contend with and just gave the songs away. Metallica enjoyed their act, but the Beatles have been corporate a long time and the songs aren't even with the members anymore anyway. But Weird Al Yankovich manages as does Lez Zeppelin, so they figured out a way and now release music on an indie label. They still have the good stage patter and have great stage names like Ringo Larz on drums, so the set always is fun and moves along nicely. They have their chops musically and really do a great job with the songs. They played their recent title cut, "Masterful Mystery Tour" with the Beatles melody intact and slipped in some "Master...Master" moments from "Master of Puppets". Clever, fun and worth checking out if you like almost any kind of rock music.

Quote of the Night: Borracho responding to audience cry... "You said we sound awesome or awful?"
"Awful? Well we practice to sound awful."
"Oh, ok, we get off on self degradation."

Monday, April 19, 2010

Styrenes - Kohoutek -- Velvet Lounge - April 18 2010

Kohoutek - I've extolled the virtues of this band before, so suffice it to say that they should be worth a viewing for anyone that likes psychedelic rock. I thought they nailed it well tonight. They kind of started with Pelt-like ambiance built into free jazz then into hard psyche rock, back to psyche free jazz and finished with a rock out. The drums seem to be the key as the percussion items and mallet/stick choices change the foundation considerably. The guitarist grabs the cue. The bass holds it down. The saxophone chooses his spots and two noisemakers, an oscillator/machine guy and a guy with a guitar on the floor do wild things as well. Good stuff Check it out. And, as usual, if this band opens, expect a good headliner.

Styrenes - I was looking forward to the 35th anniversary tour of one of Cleveland's lesser known pre-punk band. Pere Ubu was the famous band (along with the predecessor Rocket from the Tombs and splitoff Dead Boys), with the Mirrors and the Electric Eels having a cult reputation along with the Styrenes. These members moved around a bit, but we had a great lineup with Paul Marotta leading the way, joined by Jamie Klimek (Mirrors) and John Morton (Electric Eels). This was a fascinating glimpse into the curious world of pre-punk. Around 1976-77, punk rock exploded quietly in NY and loudly in London. There were many bands in those cities along with LA, SF, and Cleveland most notably where "punk" found them. The Cleveland bands had all the attitude and kicked out killer music in a variety of styles that all worked. Paul Marotta (a ringer for Harlan Ellison in looks, voice, and attitude btw) controlled the show nicely, playing piano, acoustic guitar and doing most of the lead vocals. His keyboards prowess surprised me a bit and he was in great shape all night. Jamie Klimek played guitar and sang some leads. The rhythm section has worked with Marotta a while and was solid all night. John Morton looked an older version of scary and wild as he did back in the seventies, but surprisingly played guitar quite effectively and added some theremin. Morton was in his whole world the entire night with his slow set-up which took about 10 minutes longer than the rest of the band as they watched, instruments in hand. Wild guy, wild music. The set was brilliant. Everyone contributed and the songs were sarcastic, rocking, varied and a lot of fun. This isn't a sound many people are able to create and pull off successfully. I am amazed that it worked so well in 2010. Sadly, people that think they are punk rockers were no where in sight. This is the real deal folks. If you spend your time in the bathroom spraying that spiked mohawk or posing with that leather jacket, you lose.

Quotes of the night: From the Styrenes set as best as I can recall--
Morton reacting from inaudible drummer comment during prolonged setup "Shut the fuck up, shut the fuck up!"... ...Marotta-"All we can hear is John (in monitors)" Klimek-"Less John, way less, no his playing his great" Morton-"I don't need this shit, other people want me"... ...Marotta-"Is there a hospital near by? There is? And they are skilled enough to get John's foot out of his ass?"... ...Morton (re Klimek) "I just want to say what a pleasure it is to play with this man. I love him, he's amazing..." Klimek-"Oh, he says this every show, I don't know if it's sincere"...

And there was an absurdity to it with Marotta seemingly able to keep everything together and I think they all really enjoyed the show and playing together. Yet this is the beauty and the danger of early punk, will it fall apart horribly or come together brilliantly? I was on the edge of my seat and watched it come together brilliantly.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Pissed Jeans - Cloak/Dagger - The Wayward -- Rock'n'Roll Hotel - April 16 2010

The Wayward - It looks to be a punk lineup tonight with whatever years of history can bring to the form in 2010. This band begins with a decent enough sound. They are a power trio with the guitarist doing the vocal duties. The playing is good and there is an experimental punk/hardcore sound that I have heard before but can't really place. The vocals and melodic lines are a bit of a letdown for me, so they can keep trying to work on the songs. But if the kids want some dark abrasive punk, they will get a decent set from these guys.

Cloak/Dagger - This the second time I have seen this four-piece from Virginia. Their sound impressed me even more this time around. Tey go full blast, straight ahead with strong throaty vocals. The rhythm section is to notch and the guitar sound again creates some of the most interesting tones I've heard out of a punk band. The second cut sounded like some lost Radio Birdman cut which is very welcome to my ears, as Australian punk is some of the finest music out there. Rapid fire delivery with few breaks show a well prepared band that wants to deliver the goods. They did and this was an excellent set.

Pissed Jeans - For a Subpop band, they sure don't have much of a Web presence. But I guess that may be punk dedication. This band is a heavy muscular four-piece. The music is loud and tough with some almost Flipper like elements within (nowhere near that weird, though). The music is dense with industrial under currents which are nice. I wasn't blown away, but there is some sneaky effectiveness underneath the initial bludgeonery. The band went over well and it was refreshing to see a crowd get into the music with some sort of pogo combined with metal head bobbing as opposed to the mosh pit which should disappear from life. Intriguing band and one I will need to study further before I come to a final verdict. But I am glad I heard them tonight.

Quote of the Night: from the Thai restaurant earlier... "Out of all the things on the menu, you're getting the chicken fried rice? Wow."

Friday, April 16, 2010

Neil Innes -- Jammin' Java - April 15 2010

Neil Innes - The "seventh member" of Monty Python, not to be confused with Carol Cleveland, is doing a quick tour of the US and Canada. With that connection and his work in the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, it was just too hard for me to pass up this show. He did a lot of songs and song snippets over the course of a couple hours supplemented with lots of humor and stories from his most interesting collaborations with Python and Viv Stanshell. He began with a ukulele song and quickly switched off between guitars and piano thereafter. He went back to 1966 Bonzo songs and explained that they would visit record stores and buy 78s with the most bizarre titles for a tuppence and try to top each other by finding the weirdest song to record. These were hilarious and between these and his own songs, he had a lot of audience sing-alongs with choral responses (not unlike The Lumberjack Song, but shorter) that were pretty face paced and fun. And believe me, I am one of the last people that would admit to having fun with sing-alongs. He finished his first set with "Brave Sir Robin" and Eric Idle's "Bruce's Philosopher Song". The second set was more of the same with a good Elton John parody with glasses. "You're Never Alone at the Bottom of a Pile" was a fun song. He had a bad cord which was making a racket while on piano that lead to an audience member joke which he promised to steal. "I've never done a slick show in my life, so I don't know why I should start now." Well not slick, but after another crazed sing-along, he had us spell "sod off", pronounce it and then watch him sullenly leave the stage before coming back for one encore. Much fun.

Quote of the Night: Innes explaining differences between men and women-- "Why do women generalize and men don't?"

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


Red Sammy "Dog Hang Low"

Red Sammy is the nom de plume of Baltimore's Adam Trice. He is the singer songwriter of these two records and also plays acoustic guitar throughout. All twelve songs (Four from the ep) feature full band arrangements with the normal rock touches along with the Americana touches of a banjo, pedal steel and saw. And that is the ground we are firmly affixed to here--Americana. There is a strong and steady feel of the road throughout these songs. And the best of them give the listener the feeling of that open highway on a hot desert day. Sure, this motif has been used before and will be again, but the traffic on that highway is not congested enough to block good songwriting like this. There is excellent banjo and slide guitar work throughout and some fine female vocals, especially on the ep. Trice's vocals are gruff in the direction of Tom Waits, but not as twisted. Sometimes they are a bit too breathy, but with the strong music and backup vocals, they can be quite effective. If you like the music of Woven Hand, Chris Isaak, Gram Parsons and many others of that ilk, you may want to give this band a listen. I look forward to their next live set, when I get the chance.

Favorite songs:
"To the Day" - This is from the ep and features some lead female vocals. It has a very nice psychedelic folk vibe which is always one of my favorite sounds.
"Songbird" - An outstanding road song that really swings and almost gives me motion sickness with the way it moves me. Excellent track.
"Turn Away" - A bit lower key here, but heavy on atmosphere and very moving.

George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic -- 9:30 Club - April 12 2010

George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic - The circus returns to DC or rather the Starship has landed. I always liked Clinton's assessment of his role as leader of this mammoth enterprise consisting of up to 27 people rotating onstage with about 15 being the average number of musicians. Many called Clinton the ringleader, but he said he was more of a referee. That kind of makes sense in that it is clearly his show, but he allows others to lead various portions of it. Many long time P-Funk musicians are here along with a lot of DC area guests who have historical ties to the band. The primary DC area guests were the three-part "P-Funk Horns" if I heard correctly. And I should note, although I have lots of P-Funk's early albums, I am hardly an expert at keeping track of this amazing roster of musicians. However, that matters little to me and most in the crowd, as everyone is here to have a good time and get some mind blowing fusion of funk, soul, blues, blistering rock, and whatever else the P-Funkers decide to throw at the crowd. The opening act is much of the band playing for over an hour. Then, Clinton and crew play another 2 hours plus. The music is fun, high quality and covers a lot of the classic ground. The highlight for me is always the killer instrumental, "Maggot Brain" which is a ten minute guitar solo written by Eddie Hazel and performed for years here by Michael Hampton. Three guitars and a rhythm section accompanied him, so it rocked to say the least. There really isn't much more to say about this legendary act except that it seemingly lives on a tour bus and maintains many of the legendary musicians of its early days with plenty of young blood as needed and ultimately delivers a great show that you would have to be way too cynical for me if you did not enjoy it. So check it out if you have not done so, or revisit it if it has been a while. Although it probably can't go on forever, there is something cosmic and otherworldly to it all. And as he talked about his song "Paint the White House Black", it is interesting to note its release in 1993. So maybe he can keep the mothership flying forever.

photo by Marcy 

Quote of the Night" from George Clinton - "The mothership is still flyin' y'all! Fuck what they said in the paper today." referring to a lengthy piece on how the original mothership used on stage was in storage here until someone's mother wanted their garage back and it got sent off to a Prince George County dump. I have no doubt it is still flying.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Dark Sea Dream - Disco Machine Gun - Caustic Casanova -- Velvet Lounge - April 11 2010

Caustic Casanova - This show is the last DC show for a while as the band will be doing some recording into the summer which should prove interesting. And it was a solid send off. The early part of the set had a twisted art damaged punk sound which really worked well with the guitar and bass battling atop the solid drumming. The set finished with two great long psyche jams that were songs and not just mindless jamming. Their theme was New Mexico tonight (St. Louis previously) and they are at a far more rapid pace to go through the country than Sufjan Stevens ever will. An excellent DC band that hopefully will be delivering some of their fine songs on a CD for each and every one of you.

Disco Machine Gun - From Wilmington, Delaware comes this power trio plus viola. Their sound rocks and there is certainly care in their songwriting. I had trouble coming up with an easy classification which is usually a good thing (it was this time). Between the C.Casanova's first part of their set and some of the snarling jagged songs I was hearing here, I kept thinking back to the pre-punk scene out of Cleveland from about 1975-6. Maybe I was simply anticipating the Styrenes show next week at this same club which I am looking forward too. In any event, this was a good twisted rock band that I would like to hear a couple more times to see where they fit in my listening world. And thankfully, they got the sound man to get the viola sound improved after a quiet start.

Dark Sea Dream - I have not seen an amp to person ratio like this since I saw Nine Inch Nails over five years ago. And then when one guitarist pulled out two sets of effects boards that had cords and cords of old growth on them, I kind of knew what to expect. They did pretty well trying to get this massive set-up up and running quickly, but did not have time to get an annoying buzz figured out. Well, they played over it, through it and around it. This was loud psychedelic shoegaze with not much variation. I think it was a two song set. There were treated vocals and two guitars doing enough different things to make it interesting. With this sound and some work on harnessing it and writing some more songs, they could become Bardo Pond. I am sure I will be seeing their progress some time soon.

Crossword Puzzle Clue of the Week: From the new Sunday Washington Post puzzle... "30 Across: 1988 Syd Barrett album" ...Four letters...

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Caetano Veloso -- Lisner Auditorium - April 10 2010

Caetano Veloso - The third chapter of my South American trilogy starting with Os Mutantes last year and Gilberto Gil last month. Veloso is a massive talent and musically bridges Gil and Mutantes quite nicely. He, in fact, brought Os Mutantes forward as teenagers to be his backing band for some pivotal shows in his career. And all of this seemed pretty clear in his sound last night. He covered old and new with a 3 piece rock band behind him that played that amazing mixture of bossa nova, samba, psychedelia, rock, folk and pop. I only have a few old vinyl records of his, so I was not familiar with all of the songs he did, but that mattered little. They were just complex enough while not losing the pop hooks he has always been able to create. Veloso was in fine voice and moved around the stage well, really looking ever the fit 67 year old. The crowd was naturally responsive and finally by set's end and encores rushed toward the stage and danced in the aisles. The guitarist was excellent, really nailing some wild psychedelic breaks. A nickname like "the Bob Dylan of Brazil" could be an annoying anchor to some (and probably is to him) but I don't mind using it if it perks the interest of people who have not experienced Veloso or Tropicalia. His recordings are worth seeking out (I need to step this up as well) and thankfully the live show is vibrant and exciting.

Book Review: I can also strongly recommend one of the finest books on the arts that I have ever read, Caetano Veloso's "Tropical Truth: A Story of Music and Revolution in Brazil". Veloso covers his fascinating life as well as other Tropicalia artists and other artists outside of music. It is dense, philosophical and challenging (too challenging for some narrow minded types based on the Amazon reviews I read). Veloso has great intellectual, artistic and personal strengths which he has needed, as like Gilberto Gil and Plastic People of the Universe, he has been jailed (and exiled) for his politics and art. Give it a read, give him a listen. Enjoy, for it is easy to enjoy even without the incredible history.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Wedding Present - The Jet Age -- Black Cat - April 9 2010

The Jet Age - The local trio returns with another set of indie rock delivered slick and strong. These guys all play very well with solid vocals from the guitarist. The drums really push things forward and there are plenty of pop hooks in the songs. There is also hints of psyche and just flat out rocking. I got on them last time for self deprecating comments and they began again by exclaiming they were "just the opening band". But they did better with amusing comments thereafter. And to be fair, the crowd was slow to enter the club and get warmed up. But the Jet Age did the job of warming up the crowd and by the end of the set, everyone should have been happy and ready to rock some more. Good set and a local band worth checking out by all means.

The Wedding Present - The crowd finally grew to a respectable level as this British four-piece. David Gedge is the one key component to this band. He is the only original member, songwriter, vocalist and guitarist. But the remaining three look to be the same folks that I saw here 3-4 years ago (drummer may be new), so there is plenty of band continuity now. They played a variety of songs to open the set and then played their second album "Bizarro" in its entirety. The sound was good with solid rhythms and two guitars that sounded different from each other. The second guitar almost had a lo-fi punk sound like the Mentally Ill (!) at times. Gedge's sound was cleaner and in the earlier songs was played with frenetic pace as he banged out his chords into power-pop, post-punk glory. The songs are bright and catchy, sort of a Feelies sound as if Ray Davies was writing for them. This band is unique, yet quite accessible and seemingly simple. But there is a lot going on and they are worth many good listens on record and worth the trip for the live show as well.

Quote of the Night: from David Gedge... "We'll be playing Bizarro shortly, but will be doing some new songs first. Sorry about that, but you'll love them in about three years."

Friday, April 9, 2010

Acid Mothers Temple - Over-Gain Optimal Death -- DC9 - April 8 2010

Over-Gain Optimal Death - We begin with this LA trio. The sound is pounding hard psychedelic rock from beginning to end. They begin with a more moderate paced number with distorted vocals "sung" in sort of a Roger Waters/Set the Controls... mode. The songs rock out a bit more showing gutsy 70s rock underneath the psychedelic swirl of the guitar. The rhythm section is kind of on the Wooden Shijps minimalist model, but seems even simpler. A few endings were casual, but these were jams more than songs, so that hardly matters. I like the younger crowd indulging in this music, so it was a good night for band and all.
tour 2010 | 2010 Tour Poster by John Howard,, | Acid Mothers 
Acid Mothers Temple - Oh the irony, after suffering one of my most painful hearing experiences, Monday, the next show I see has Kawabata who offered me one of my other most painful memories at Terrastock with a feedback laced solo set. But I have seen his band twice before and it was "good loud" with no painful thereafter. If you don't know this band, it is a long running Japanese collective lead by guitarist Kawabata Makoto. Although there are many offshoot projects, it seems recent years have focused on the "Melting Paraiso UFO" lineup which has drums, bass+vocals, and a synth/rhythm guitarist. They certainly have great comfort in playing with one another as the psychedelic jams offered up this evening were excellent. I have enjoyed them every time, but I think this set may have been the best yet. The drummer reminds me of Charlie Watts just calmly laying down a foundation for the others to have fun with. And they did. The bass playing is excellent with some occasional jazz moves on clarinet that were fun. Kawabata cuts loose with all kinds of great guitar moves and the mystical looking man in the center offers up great synth runs and rhythm guitar playing to fill out the sound. Great set, and always a good night out with the Acid Mothers Temple.

Follow up from Monday: My right ear still hurt a lot the day after Monday's BRMC show, which annoyed me enough to fire out some emails. To the 9:30 Club's credit, they forwarded it to their Sound Engineer who wrote back a detailed response telling me much more than I ever would have expected. Basically, there is no decibel limit as they try to allow freedom for the bands to operate. He said they may have to monitor this more, but try to still allow the band some freedom. I agree completely as I do not want to see a heavy hand coming down on every show, but in this case, they may have been able to protect the band from itself and have happier customers. This is the club where security once told me I could not sit down at the top of a couple of steps due to their insurance company's demands. So, this and many other clubs should monitor all situations where liability could become involved. And frankly, I think most do in this day and age.

Oh, and no credit due to Black Rebel Motorcycle's world-wide management team who did not write me back.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club - Alberta Cross - The Cobbs -- 9:30 Club - April 5 2010

The Cobbs - This looks to be a very young five piece with a couple of guitars, keyboards and the two guitarists alternating lead vocals and doing plenty of harmony. They have a really good, hard indie rock sound with nice ringing guitars. They tried to control feedback a few times, but did not really handle it that well. A perfectly good set, but they seem like a band that could get lost in the shuffle--at least in my world anyway. Because they have talent, they may connect and do well. We shall see.

Alberta Cross - This is my third time seeing this band in the eighteen months of this blog. I have pretty much raved about them in the past and nothing has changed my mind tonight. They have gone from reminding me of a Neil Young based rock band to a fine original unit with their own sound. They vary the songs enough during the set to allow hard rockers and thoughtful ballads of sort. Nice sound tonight and a band you should be checking out if you have not already.

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club - This is also the third time for me with this band, although it has been more than three years since my last viewing. This trio has a great sound and can play strong noisy independent rock along with the Americana-rock they unleashed in their album "Howl". They have a new drummer who I immediately noticed as the drums were pounding into my ears. This was loud, so loud that I decided to move back to the sound booth. The sound man was working non-stop with a flashlight in his mouth, tweaking, turning and twisting. It was still too loud with too much humming sludge. The vocals were clear but I think their songs deserved better. My right ear was throbbing as I tried to sleep later that night. Unless I am confident their approach to their live show will change, I think I will stick to their records.

Quote of the Night: from the crowd... "I was at the baseball game today, and no work tomorrow, then off to the Masters practice on Wednesday--busy week."

Monday, April 5, 2010

Midlake - John Grant -- Black Cat - April 4 2010

John Grant - He began and ended his set on vocals and piano. In between, one to four people assisted on the usual instruments. This was high quality singer-songwriter material. His voice was deep and evocative with resonance to spare. He apologized for his dark, depressing songs, but said they were laced with some black humor so he hoped it worked. It did from what I could pick out of the lyrics. And the presentation was excellent. As the set wore on, he did vary the tempo a bit and a couple songs even had some positive bounce to them. He should be able to garner a nice following with this slot on this tour.

Midlake - I saw these guys several years ago and enjoyed their set. They do have a cross to bear with me in that I did not find their previous album anywhere near as captivating as the critics did. But that can be said for dozens of other bands on those critics' lists as well. I did hear their new album and really enjoyed their switch into a Pentangle/Fairport Convention British folkrock style. Funny, the critics now are quite lukewarm on this approach. This is a genre which I am a major collector of (and I flew to London 2 years ago for the Pentangle reunion), so they are preaching to converted with me. What I find really interesting is not only that this band likes to change their style from album to album, but how seamlessly it works in the live set. The set began with what sounded like "Willow's Song" (from The Wicker Man--the original, of course dare you ask) but was an original of theirs. They then shifted into a more electric sound that was more of a locked in groove than a woven melody. Weaving did seem the theme as they played old and new and all sounded like Midlake and it all sounded quite good. A little smaller crowd than I expected tonight, but they were very enthusiastic and it was a very good night.

Quote of the Night: lyric fragment from the opener... "I casually mention that I pissed in your coffee"

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Gunslingers - The Flying Eyes -- The Red & the Black - March 31 2010

The Flying Eyes - From Baltimore comes this two guitar four piece which looks like they are going to kick into some old school psyche. Yes, the spirit of Dickie Peterson has invaded the club as we have Blue Cheer on steroids here. Powerful blues rock with psyche guitar leads, better than average vocals and some more modern pace at times. This was good stuff where the delivery overwhelmed the songs for me on the first listen, but with the decent singing and playing, I would like to see them again and see what they can do for an encore.

Gunslingers - While it seems appropriate that this band comes all the way from France to play at a club named after a Stendahl novel, I would have been happier seeing them in a bigger club that had more than 9 paid attendees (give or take a couple, I didn't ask). I will never understand this business. But I do understand good music and this power trio delivered. Good freak-out psychedelic guitar leads with a strong fast steady rhythm section, not unlike Wooden Shjips, but a little faster. The guitarist sang with the first song sounding like Plastic Bertrand doing Papa Oom Mow in a restrained setting. That should be clear to all. The songs were good and I really thought the guitar leads were excellent. Everything was tight with pace and packed a strong whallop. This band deserved better, but between the crowd and the opening band, all attendees had a great time.

Complaint of the Night: I really don't want to spend a whole lot of time complaining, since my small cult audience will just say I am preaching to the converted, but... I really would like to see these smaller shows attended by another dozen people or so. Two of the last three shows cost me $14 (price of a CD, not much more than a download LP) and I saw six bands, one from another continent, and another three from out of town. Not one band was the slightest bit dull and some were absolutely excellent. There is good to excellent music out there. Make a vow to just go see a show of someone you have never heard of once in a while. Be adventurous, it's a spirit that is far too easy to forget about in this century.