Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Uriah Heep -- Ram's Head - June 29 2010

Uriah Heep - First time for me since 1976. Many people are not aware of how active they have been since then, as they have not hit these shores in just under ten years. That was truly evident as visa problems pushed back their tour dates a week or more, at least this one anyway. Although they were not quite as big in the US as Deep Purple, both bands have huge followings in Europe and Asia and get extensive work there. I am still surprised Purple hasn't toured here (ok I see they snuck into California for two shows in 2007), but Uriah Heep has finally made it over for a few shows. It is Mick Box on guitar as the only original member, although Trevor Bolder (Spiders from Mars) was new at that '76 show and aside from a couple years off, he has been with them since. The drummer retired a couple years back, but the vocalist and keyboardist have been with them since 1996. So it is not a surprise that they are tight, together and know their stuff. They all are older, although it is hard to judge the drummer's age and his strength and speed are youthful enough. When they hit it, they are hitting it with speed and power. There are some orchestrated harmonies that they handle well, with a synth to add some angelic chorus sounds as well. Frankly they look good and a lot more fit than many in the crowd. But everyone had a good time. My favorite moment was the singer asking someone "Are we disturbing your conversation?" He was smiling and not being a jerk, but many in the audience applauded, so I am not the only one bothered by audience yammering during songs. It actually was a lot less tonight than club shows with college crowds, but Heep did a singer/keyboardist duet on "Rain" and had a couple featuring acoustic guitar as well, so there were quiet moments. And that variety was nice and it really was a fun night. They did two shows and I attended the early show. Don't rip me if I have the set list wrong (I don't know much beyond 1976) but I had the set as:  Wake the Sleeper/Return to Fantasy/Book of Lies/Bird of Prey/Sunrise/Stealin'/Rain/The Wizard/Gypsy/Angels Walk with You/July Morning/Easy Living w/ encore of Lady in Black. If you haven't slowed down, check these guys out, because they haven't either.

Quote of the Night: paraphrasing of a pre-show chat between two musicians/Heep fans, well one guy's rant anyway... "I mean (John) Wetton wasn't that good. (Gary) Thain was a great bassist, nice guy, played real melodic. But Wetton? Fuck, I coulda outplayed that guy. Really down period with him, man. Thain was great."

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Hole - 9:30 Club

Hole - I thought some of their music of old was good, but like many grew weary of the Courtney Love soap opera. This show popped on the schedule and I was slightly interested until I saw the $45 price. Too risky and too little value for that kind of money. A lot of people agreed as the turnout sounded fairly low. Frankly, I am surprised even enough people showed to allow this show to go on. But that was their mistake, because as you'll read from the Washington Post, sometimes the best ticket is the one you didn't buy.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Walter Schreiffels - John Bustine -- DC9 - June 27 2010

John Bustine - I just saw this singer/guitarist earlier this month, so scroll down to the June 3rd show or click here to get the details as not much changed for this set. But it is nice seeing him again as he has a very nice style. His songs are a bit on the down side of life and he does pull the listeners into his world effectively enough. Always worth a listen. I am sure I will be seeing him again some time.

Walter Schreifels - Well, opening with a song called "Arthur Lee's Lullabye" is a nice start for this singer with acoustic guitar. While his name was not familiar to me at first, I had read that he was in a couple popular hardcore punk bands, Gorilla Biscuits and Youth of Today. The latter being a band that is key to a personal mystery. I ended up with a Youth of Today t-shirt and I cannot recall seeing them. My memory of bands I have seen is in the MENSA category, so this really frustrates me. I know I did not have their records, so how did I get that t-shirt? Well, it's gone now as I sold it with its tattered collar to someone in Germany who has an on-line museum of Youth of Today t-shirts and a few other NYC hardcore bands. What a world. But back to this set. He seemed likable enough, although his stories between songs were a bit odd and non-linear. He did Gorlla Biscuits songs, a cover of Agnostic Front and Sick of it All medley (one of his favorite bands, not mine). The harmonica came out later, predictably. Frankly, I am becoming less interested in punk and hardcore guys going acoustic. It is happening a lot and it can work pretty well (TV Smith for example), but if you are up there all by yourself, you better have something beyond Sick of it All. And I really did not feel it tonight. I was comfortable with the music, just not inspired to get involved.

Quote of the Night: Lyric from John Bustine... "I was headless for you..." This one reminds me of one of my favorite Dementia Precox songs called "Love is Headless" which was named for a line from a Dark Shadows episode where someone tried to compare an incident where a headless ghost was attacking someone to a basic love affair. I miss writing like that.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Wavves - Cloud Nothings - Farewell Republic -- Rock'n'Roll Hotel - June 25 2010

Farewell Republic - After missing out on my earlier plans, I arrived in plenty of time to catch this band. They had a guitarist, keyboardist and rhythm section. The early sound was kind of droning psyche neo-Bauhaus sound. The keyboards were surprisingly droning and nothing really seemed to happen. The songs moved into different directions and the last couple were pretty good. Still, something seemed disjointed between the players with the drummer sounding like John Bonham too often and the transitions being too noticeably odd. As the keyboardist sang more, there was a decent Akron/Family fun to the proceedings and they seem like good guys. They are recording soon and are kind of new, so I will grade this incomplete for now and look for improvement next time. I suspect they can do it.

Cloud Nothings - From Cleveland, Ohio comes this four-piece with a two guitar attack. First there was the Choir, then the Raspberries, and now comes this band. Yes, I am skipping a bit of history but these guys fit into that power-pop pattern with a post-punk attack of which I will make further comparisons without alliteration. I was hearing something between the Buzzcocks and 999, a bit closer to the latter. There was also a lot of the early punk-era LA scene evident. They really had the hooks similar to great cult bands like the Nerves or maybe even the Zeroes, although some of the songs were more at Dils-like speed. Some really good guitar interplay at times and the encore had an almost Pere Ubu like break in it (which I wrote in my notes before I learned they were from Cleveland). Great band, great set and a perfect pairing with out headliners tonight.

Wavves - Things have changed since the last time in this club. Wavves excellent drummer is gone and in Memphis, Jay Reatard died but had split from his rhythm section anyway. So the Wavves guitarist/singer hooked up with the two from Memphis and kept it going. Funny how I saw both acts, and I had consciously thought of how similar they were. So this made perfect sense and even with the added bass, was not terribly different from the previous show. The songs are excellent if you dig through the massive reverb and high energy fast and noisy playing full of punk and psyche moves. It was a little shambolic tonight with broken strings on two different guitars and various other odd moves, but it kind of fits the spirit of this crazed pop music. A very young crowd was seriously into it and the club was a little more full this time around. I like these guys and will recommend a listen to their tunes via recordings or through a fun night out like this.

Quote of the Night: After Wavves drummer was rambling on about something, the guitarist and drummer duelled  - "Can you take the drum vocal out of my monitor?" crowd chuckles
"Yeah and can you take his mic out of my monitor? Fuck you."

Friday, June 25, 2010

Steve Hackett - Renaissance -- State Theater - June 24 2010

Renaissance - They announced a new website called which seems appropriate as these venerable progsters have really been living on the road in recent years when I had pretty much thought they had retired. Well, not hardly as they also had a new ep for sale and said a new album was coming. They also asked who had seen them before as they were here a couple years back. Well, no it was last October (reviewed here) at the Birchmere. The band remained the same tonight and it is a good one. For some reason, I always like bass players that play a 5-string bass and this player had his part down. I also like the drummer's light touch even though he looked like Carmen Appice. I had to look to see if he was using brushes and he was only using his sticks delicately. The two keyboards work well together and there is much harmony vocals adding to the Annie Haslam leads. The set list was Prologue/Carpet of the Sun/Midas Man/The Mystic and the Muse/Running Hard with an encore of Mother Russia. "The Mystic and the Muse" is a new cut and within about 90 seconds, they seemed to have drawn from about three songs of their old catalogue. But that is a compliment, as some of their other post-original band material veered into dull pop music. They are trying and succeeding in the retention of their majestic classical music meets progressive rock approach that worked well in their classic years. Their set went over very well with this crowd which was no surprise.

Steve Hackett - I had not kept up to the doings of Mr. Hackett after his departure from Genesis (just before they got bad) and his early solo work which I played at my college radio DJ gig in the 1970s. He is renown as a brilliant progressive guitarist with fiery playing and delicate touch. He has played here before, but it was either acoustic or solo. He has a full band with a rhythm section, keyboardist (who has worked with him for some time), a sax/flute/whistle player and a woman who joined in about 2/3 the time on rhythm guitar and vocals. The first song absolutely smoked with a ripping early King Crimson sound--not completely surprising as the instrumentation was a match. Nothing quite hit that high for me with what followed, but it all went well. There were a variety of styles all well within a classic progressive format. He did some acoustic numbers which showcased his finger style picking which he also used to great effect on some of the electric guitar songs as well. He really does have an outstanding touch so guitar wonks and prog-heads alike do fill out the clubs to see him. I liked the double leads with the other guitarist and all the musicians were first rate. The band seemed tight and whether they veered towards space rock, jazz, pastoral folk, or pop-rock, they hit it every time. I was surprised at how much singing he did, proving that Genesis was correct in handing the vocals to Phil Collins when Gabriel left. Alright, cheap shot--his singing was quite fine although his guitarist took a lead and his drummer had some, too with the drummer having a voice as all but the best lead vocalists. An enjoyable set for me as I delved into unknown territory with a known artist. The large crowd was also very happy tonight.

Quote of the Night - Annie Haslam - "I am wearing these sunglasses not to look like a rockstar, but to hide the migraine I am having. So the band is sympathizing with me (a few more in shades)". She did fine, which although I share her approach in warning people when I don't feel well, it does seem odd when all goes quite well.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Good Old War - Yukon Blonde - Audra Mae -- Rock'n'Roll Hotel - June 23 2010

Audra Mae - Audra Mae is the singer/guitarist here. She is assisted by a stand-up bass player who adds some mandolin and various players who will be showing up later in subsequent bands. She did not do anything too out of the ordinary, singing good solid folk songs and a blues number. However, she had a deep rich voice with excellent range and used it with great confidence. She had a touch of southern C & W at times in her voice as she is from Oklahoma relocated to LA, it sort of fit. The music never went C & W and was always easy to like and well performed. There really was just enough extra to her performance to give her a real shot at establishing a world-wide audience. Great beginning to this evening.

Yukon Blonde - From Vancouver, comes this intriguing foursome. The immediately begin with a serious shoegaze instrumental buildup easing into rural psychedelia. There are shifts from song to song roughly in these general areas. They can be loud and heavy, west coast twangy country rock, shoegaze psyche and all points in between. There were good transitions and dynamics keeping me on the edge of my proverbial seat. The songs were good, the arrangements even better. I will compare them to an oddball band named for their singer, JD Blackfoot (at least on "The Ultimate Prophecy"), although the sound has more modern touches. These space cowboys really laid it out and even had band members from each band jump in and help out. Good fun, great set and a decent appreciative crowd agreed with me.

Good Old War - This three piece from Philadelphia has a pretty good following, but this was my first exposure. They have a fascinating sound that is energetic happy pop with a good rootsy base. They have drums, keys and guitar on most songs with strong harmonic three-piece singing. The vocals really are key, although the instruments do their parts well enough to keep a good pace going. The guitarist plays acoustic, although he has a unique way of adding electric leads. His electric guitar is on a stand at playing height. He keeps his acoustic in place and reaches around to play several assertive electric leads throughout the set. It looks odd, but his dexterity is good and it works. A lot of snap and fun to the songs, even if the lyrics run the course of happy/sad--maybe more contemplative from what I could pick up (and I don't often do well with a bands' lyrics on first listen). Good set and it was nice to see people getting into it without much prompting. It's nice to see simple pop music delivered with an individual voice and creativity.

Quote of the Night: "So tonight we're playing with Good Old Boys... what? Good Old War? Well, it's your fault for not introducing us. They are a great band and great guys... or so I'm told." Amusing good hearted patter from Yukon Blonde. Clearly these bands got on with everyone playing in each other's sets.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Damien Jurado - Kay Kay and his Weathered Underground -- Iota - June 20 2010

Kay Kay and his Weathered Underground -- OK, let us start with an inventory. I see drums, a bass, lead guitar, acoustic guitar and lead vocals, keyboards, violin, sousaphone, trombone and french horn (no truth to the rumor the french horn had refused to practice today). The first song begins with a dreamy pop vocal line with light, quirky music. I hear big band sounds (well that is a keen grasp of the obvious) and interesting keyboards that almost do what the vibraphone did for Tim Buckley. Some startling loud lead guitar work pops through and not surprisingly there is a lot going on here. The songs varied nicely as the set went on with the vocal lines leading the song with lots of room for instrumental jamming in lots of directions. Kind of a cabaret rock feel mostly, but this is music not to be pinned down. The violin got lost in the mix mostly, but it was showcased a few times. The brass was also a bit subtle, but I rather liked that approach. And it is certainly a challenge balancing this many diverse instruments in a small club. Overall, the sound was quite good and the band played really nice songs that indie rock fans with a sense of adventure should love. I know I did.

Damien Jurado - I was wondering how a 9-piece band from Seattle could do a tour for opening band money in small clubs when they answered the question by having the rhythm section, lead guitarist, keyboardist and violinist come back on stage to back the minimalist folkie, Damien Jurado. Jurado mentioned how much fun he was having playing with a full band as that has not happened for him often. As the set progressed, I was in complete agreement. Jurado writes powerful dark folksongs and has a dazzling voice rich in timber in an early Tim Buckley way (lacking a bit of that ridiculous range, closer to Jackson Browne's range, but stronger). The songs were crisp and deep and the backing band adding lovely color. Of course even the extra noise could not drown out a loud check printer at the bar that had half the crowd looking back and got a bemused glare from the lead guitarist. There is always some kind of noise at this club. Jurado remained to do three numbers with just his voice and acoustic guitar. It is more of a challenge to do this after the band, usually it is the reverse. But when your songs are of this great quality, they can easily survive all by themselves. The moderately sized crowd thought so as well.

Quote of the Night: Jurado - "Here is another sad song for you. Of course these are all fictional, you know. If they were about me, I'd be committed a long time ago."

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Loose Lips - Detox Retox - The State Department -- Black Cat - June 19 2010

The State Department - The first of three local bands I have seen in the past. First up we have a four-piece with drums, bass, guitar and a vocalist with just a bit of keyboard noodling. I love the guitar sound as it fits in with those beautiful 60s garage bands with thick strong distortion. But it does not overpower the mix which is good as the rhythm section is tough and the vocals are out front. They aren't also stuck in the garage as the songs are modern, accessible and fun. The axemen switch instruments which doesn't alter much except the guitar break is more of a post punk wash as opposed to linear soloing. Good songs, good set and good crowd support. This is a band to check out.

Detox Retox - Another four piece with a singer adding some guitar, keys and percussion at times. This is the first of two bands celebrating their new releases tonight. These guys have a really nice individualized sound that keeps their indie rock songs from staying with the pack. The lead guitar has a compressed attacking sound that is quite unique and enjoyable. The singer has a nice range and the rhythm section keeps things bouncy. Catchy songs and the crowd started growing into what was a pretty nice number for the main stage at the Black Cat with three up and coming local bands. And speaking of which, multiple members of the other two bands joined these guys at the end for a nice rousing "Suffragette City". Another fine set and another local band that is worth your time and hard earned dollars.

Loose Lips - And finally, the third four piece featuring a twin guitar attack and another good dancy rock style that fits right in to this evening's show. They have a new ep out which sounds good based on the live versions. The last cut they played from it was particularly outstanding I thought. And it really helped vary their sound a bit which may have been the only complaint I had up to that point. The rhythm section was even more reggae-rock based than the previous bands. The pace was good and the hooks were enough to keep interest in the songs as you dance along, should you choose. And another Saturday night is in the books where we can all celebrate the fine local music there is in this town.

Quote of the Night: From the openers..."It's all Cream covers from here out...This is a Cream b-side."

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Isis - Melvins - Totmoshi -- 9:30 Club - June 16 2010

Totomoshi - This three piece immediately captures my interest with some Turkish Erkin Koray like moves on guitar snaking around a hard metal sludge reminiscent of... oh, I don't know, maybe the Melvins. As the songs continued, they became much more linear and less interesting, although the occasional guitar moves worked well enough. The rhythm section, vocals and songwriting just did not add enough to create any steady interest for me. Vocally, I was wondering if the ghost of Darby Crash is fronting a metal band. Nothing bad here, just an opening band that was suited to this bill.

The Melvins -  This is the second time I have seen them with their 2 drummer line-up and have concluded that it is my favorite line-up (keep in mind I have only seen 3 of their 5? 6? line-ups). They came in to the theme of Rawhide looking like they stepped off a four-horse spaceship. Nice to see the bass player trying to catch up to Buzz's hair. All the sludge Sabbath riffs are in play with just a bit of pace now and then, but never too fast. Power and incredible volume are the order of the day at the very full club. Minimal stage patter and done to music which is sort of keeping to what seems to me a larger intelligence behind the music which newcomers and non-fans may think pretty dumb. I always sense something ironic and witty with these guys as they play straight ahead with their unflinching power. But back to the drummers... Dale Crover hardly needs a second drummer, but the live set is enhanced as it is a pleasure to watch two great drummers lock in and watch for their occasional divergences. No intricate African polyrhythms, just locked in pros pounding away. These guys are crazy and foxes and still dishing it out to appreciative crowds. The one thing I could have done without, was the feedback solo, but it was still short of Kawabata.

Isis - This is the final tour for this LA drone prog-metal band. They are reasonably interesting and were doing well, but I did not stick around as it has been a tough week. But I am turning the corner health wise, so I'll still be banging out the reviews.

Observances of the Evening: Another reason I left, was the weird vibes I was getting in the balcony. The crowd was filling it out pretty significantly and Security was doing much of what they should do to keep aisles clear and all. I do get annoyed at this club at times, but they mostly do what they have to do. Still, I saw security running up to talk to people without seeing any reason for it. Once, they brought a red plastic cup for the guy to pour his beer into. He had a frosty/clear cup and had the correct stamp (which they certainly want to check, although he had to be over 30, closer to 40). Then a guy in a police t-shirt came up. I am guessing nothing really happened in the end, but it was just a bit weird for about 20 minutes. Gotta watch out for these metal shows, although this wasn't a pure metal show and their was no frisking before the show (which will happen for bands leaning just a bit more to metal than these three).

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Dead Meadow - Jacuzzi Boys -- Black Cat - June 15 2010

Jacuzzi Boys - I have no idea why, but this trio looks like they are going to be fun even as they are plugging in. And I was right as they just went into a buzzsaw set of songs that reminded me of a Jay Reatard sort of set, which sadly we will never see again. These guys were born in a garage and it sounds like they will stay there until they die. Quick, hard and simple, sort of like a cross between the Cramps and 999. Nothing revolutionary here, just a good time that most of the crowd seemed to appreciate.
Dead Meadow - Long been one of my favorite bands, I will not ever miss an opportunity to see this interesting trio. They have a great psychedelic sound with steady pounding drums, throbbing playful basslines, chunky Sabbath/Spaceman riffs cut with spacey wah-wah leads, and sexy searching vocals. Good crowd tonight backstage, but I keep waiting for the rest of the world to catch up with this band. They are huge with insiders and get some great ATP shows which are curated by other musicians. They grow their fanbase with the usual combination of releasing good records and touring hard. I thought tonight's show was as good as any, maybe the best that I have seen. They added some new songs since last time and one of the great things about them is that they write excellent songs and jam with them as opposed to just throwing out some cool psychedelic jams. They were rocking for about 75 minutes and everyone was digging it. There is no reason for rock fans not to try out this band based on all the years I have been following them. It just keeps getting better and better.

Quotes of the Night: "This is a song about dead animals", "This is a song about baseball"... The opening band proved you can keep your stage banter as simple as your songs and make it all cohesive and successful.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Blitzen Trapper - The Moondoggies -- 9:30 Club - June 14 2010

The Moondoggies - A four-piece with keyboards takes the stage and for two songs, dished out a rather cliched California country rock/Americana hybrid. Just as I was ready to start a rant about the ever increasing amount of bands in this overly mined style, they switched gears on me. The third song was very gutsy and rocked nicely. The fourth song was very well written with enough creativity going on underneath in addition to the quality vocals. And it stayed at this high level the rest of the set. Not too many bands start with a whimper and turn it around so quickly, but the Moondoggies succeeded nicely at that. Now guys, work on the stage patter and tuning delays some. Although I think one delay was due to a broken string which may have required complicated tuning adjustments versus merely switching guitars. But those are minor quibbles, as I was happy that this band did so well.

Blitzen Trapper - The club had now filled out nicely and was raring to see this hot and up and coming band. Their first record got a lot of raves and was certainly decent, but I am even more interested in hearing what is reported to be a rather strong and very different second record. And I will really get my fill of this band as coincidentally, their new CD arrived in the mail for me to review. But first, the live show. This band has six members who smoothly switch between a variety of keyboards and guitars with the usual rhythm section keeping the beat. They started with a crowd favorite in their classic pop-rock vein. They mentioned their new record and shifted into a series of newer songs. I did detect a bit more strength in the sound as a few of them added a British psyche-pop style in the manner of late sixties Kinks or Tomorrow. Very catchy songs and not a huge variation from their sound. It is interesting that Midlake and now Blitzen Trapper have or at least seemed to have made conscious decisions to shift directions from record to record. The key to making this work is to retain the base where people will recognize your individuality in the sound. I think both bands were very successful at this with their latest albums (I am guessing with this band based on the live cuts tonight). As the set continued, older songs came into play more and the band did a solo song and a duet between their main singers. A very good variety of sounds tonight and this band really does write some great songs.  Truly a band on the rise in my mind. Now, time to listen to the CD.

Quote of the Day: "I think I am related to about half of Denver" from Pam Grier when we were chatting about her Denver high school days and some of my friends who also came from that era. I was so happy to have that to talk about and not go into the "I have all your movie posters" spiel. Do check out her autobiography which I will be digging into shortly.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Tennis System - Asteroid No. 4 - Some guy -- Velvet Lounge - June 12 2010

Some Guy - Some guy started off with a harmonica solo, then a guitar and vocal song and finally a poem. As he talked between songs, I wondered what drug he was on, but it was so odd, I eventually thought he may have a speech defect. I did not bother to find out (obviously). This was "real people music" as someone once defined it and it wasn't nearly as interesting as Larry "Wildman" Fischer, although I hope this guy is less "real" than Fischer. This was short, although with a start time just after 10:30pm, that was essential.

Asteroid No. 4 - This is one of several interesting psychedelic bands from Philadelphia. I was looking forward to them as I have their first album, but haven't kept up with them. They went on stage with three guitars, bass (guitarist/vocalist from Kaleidoscope) and drums. Two of the guitarists sang and there was good emphasis on both the vocals and the songs which were surprisingly traditional within the psychedelic wash. At times I even heard songs that made me think of Husker Du or Dinosaur Jr. if only they had started ten years earlier (and kept the guitar fireworks to a minimum). Good sound, nice songs and a good appreciative crowd. I don't ask for much more than that except...

Rest of the Show - Way too late for me tonight to continue. The last time I was at the Velvet, I was here until 4:30am (one hour due to time change) and although I think they were on track to better that, between my illness and historical lack of sleep during the summer months, I had to take a pass on two of my favorite bands. Or was it just one? I am not sure if Kaleidoscope was on the bill. Well, sorry, but I really think most shows should start before 10:00pm. Running a little long on weekends may work, but not this time for me.

Quote of the Night: Actually I had a second good one from the other night, courtesy of Ward White... "This is yet another power pop song about the relationship between Freud and Kafka."

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Wreckless Eric & Amy Rigby - Ward White -- Black Cat - June 9 2010

Ward White - White plays electric guitar and sings and has a violinist accompanying him tonight. His voice is very much like Eric Carmen (Raspberries) with its higher pitch and breathy feeling. The guitar playing is somewhere between folk and Billy Bragg. The violin gives a nice edgy strength to the sound. The songs are moody, but varied enough and quite easy to access. He is in good spirits despite the low attendance (20-25).

Wreckless Eric & Amy Rigby - Ah, this takes me back to my college days and going into the record store and seeing the first 20 singles on Stiff Records on sale. I preferred the Damned and the Adverts, but there were some nice ones by up and comers Nick Lowe and Elvis Costello. And was this band called Motorhead new wave? Guess I would have to buy it and find out. Stiff's fifteenth single release, sandwiched between Elvis Costello's third single and Ian Dury's first, was the first release by Wreckless Eric. And although he didn't quite match the success of his neighbors', he far exceeded that of the Roogalator or Lew Lewis and his Band. His career has been erratic, but he has kept it going and has a lot of respect of his peers and some hardened fans (which thankfully swelled to more than 50 by now). He is joined by his wife as they play guitars and basses with some keyboards and some computer drum tracks. The sound is good, both vocalists are strong and there's some good rock beats even when the rhythm is from the acoustic guitar and not a drum track. The opener was "You Can't be a Man (without a beer in your Hand)" which sort of sets the tone for his sense of humor. Both of them were quite funny with their patter. The cover "Put a Little Love in Your Heart" was ok, but my mind always wanders off to the Circle Jerks' version. The fans were not numerous, but were smart and rightly enjoying this set. Quite sincerely, the duo commented how much they enjoyed tonight and that isn't always the case, so they invited everyone to come join them in Raleigh the next night as their guests. Sadly, that is a bit far for me, but I hope to see them again some time.

Quote of the Night: After Eric was running down his fellow youths from the late 60s who were pompous and fashion oriented... "the rest of us were discussing what the link was between John Mayall's Bluesbreakers and the Pink Floyd. I can tell you now that there isn't one."

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Native - This Town Needs Guns - Octaves

Octaves - This Baltimore five-piece kicks it off with a ton of energy. The music seems post-hardcore to me, if I may coin a term (or steal one I haven't really heard of). In the same way post-punk offered complexity to punk, I think Octaves take hardcore punk energy and add a lot of interesting guitar and keyboard noises going on underneath the roar of the rhythm section and vocals. I hear a touch of the pre-grunge Tales of Terror and some sort of foreign hardcore influence like the Finland bands or something. Good crowd tonight (1/2 to 3/4 full as the set went on) at the downstairs Black Cat room and they were into the band. And the set was dedicated to the drummer's recently deceased cat, which I can sadly relate to in years past. And a good set it was, even if it clocked in at only 22 minutes. But I will likely be seeing more of this band after they return from their Southern tour.

This Town Needs Guns - From Oxford (England, not Mississippi or Ohio, etc.) comes a four-piece with a very modern indie pop-rock sound. The band sounds accomplished but the vocal style and vocal lines kind of resemble those of latter Talking Heads and their many followers including Modest Mouse. That just happens to be a personal dislike for me and it has taken me quite a while to figure out why, since those bands I mentioned are so successful. But in recognition of that, this band did dish out effective music to an appreciative crowd that knew their songs. They were a bit slow between songs with lots of intelligent, but inane chatter. Still, they were super-nice to the crowd, so I did not mind so much only that between tunings and other delays, it slowed a bit of the momentum. I thought the last cut was excellent as it had some real chunky rhythms in addition to the good melodic guitar lines that the rest of their songs had. They were over big with the crowd, so all went well for them.

Native - From Northwest Indiana (perhaps Merrillville where I worked once for a few weeks in 1984?) comes this inventive dual guitar four-piece. The sound is immediately powerful and creative--quite similar in style to the first band tonight. There were very creative dynamic shifts with the guitar moves and underlying rhythms. The vocals were a bit one-note, but there was still plenty of room for movement in the song structures. Very heady stuff for what is otherwise a powerful blast of rock. Again, it is kind of post hardcore to me, very much akin to John Lydon going from the Sex Pistols to PiL while reaching in the can for... well, Can and his other krautrock influences. I did hear some of the krautrock dynamics here, but in a louder rock setting than what PiL did. Good music. I hope to hear more of this band.

Quote of the Night: From the English band... "We are This Town Needs Guns from Oxford. We don't have guns. It's a joke."

Friday, June 4, 2010

Members of Morphine (Elastic Waste Band) - Milkmachine - John Bustine -- Velvet Lounge - June 3 2010

John Bustine - We have a singer/songwriter with an acoustic guitar up first. Amazingly, the show started on time with an early start time. Unfortunately, the crowd was a bit small but was building some toward the end. Bustine's skill is in his voice more than guitar playing, although that was certainly competent enough. His songs were good and they were on the down side of life, as most of these songs trend toward, but had great touch and feeling. A good set of songs and someone worth checking out next time.

Milkmachine - Second time for me with this eclectic combo. The last time was a fine set at the Red & the Black. This one may have been even a bit better, allowing for the delays as the tuba player had to release a veritable river of saliva at several points between songs. They play tuba, trumpet, accordian and drums. Musically, they are closest to Gogol Bordello in spirit, but not as electric and manic. The energy level is plenty high on a few raucous songs and the slower ones are also excellent. They have plenty of spirit for rock'n'roll people who normally don't venture toward acoustic sets. The songs are strong and just a lot of fun. I cannot imagine a bad review of this band. It is a more a question of how good. And I say very good and I think the future is very bright for them.

Members of Morphine - I like both their names, one accurate, the other amusing and completely it goes as "The (Ever Expanding) Elastic Waste Band/Members of Morphine and Jeremy Lyons". Basically, Morphine was an excellent three-piece who's singer/guitarist/bassist died of a heart attack while performing in 1999. They had a very unique sound and the drummer and alto saxophonist continue in that vein with an additional musician, Jeremy Lyons. Lyons plays a bit of blues on guitar for a couple cuts, but goes to their special "traditional" 2-string slide bass for the rest of the set which combines jazz, blues, folk into an avant-lounge sound. He does most of the singing aside from a few times when Dana Colley takes a break from blowing his sax. The songs are quite unique and wonderful as the instrument choices are good and they are played through some electronics which add some subtle textures to the mix. The singing is low key and surprisingly evocative. There is a droll quality to this band in some of the songs and certainly in the engaging stage patter. They really nail a mood and pull the audience in. The crowd had swelled nicely and it was good to see a big crowd here after a few disappointments in the Lounge. Everything clicked tonight for band and audience. This was a wonderful set and my expectations were surpassed significantly.

Quote of the Night: From Mr. Bustine who had just finished his set.
"That's It."
"One more!"
"Nope, no more."

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Mono - The Twilight Sad -- 9:30 Club - June 3 2010

The Twilight Sad - We have a five piece from Scotland opening the show tonight. Pretty nice to get two bands from different continents for $15 at the 9:30 Club, but it appears that while a few hundred people agreed with me, there was room for many more. No matter, the crowd on hand greeted this fairly young shoegaze band with a bit of enthusiasm (measurement is tricky with shoegazers, if not any indie rock band). The band delivered a good, steady set. The sound was pretty predictable with the guitar and bass. The keyboards were more for soundscape than for assertive playing. The drums did their job, although one song sounded surprisingly thuggish to me. I knew it was thuggish beat, both with the obvious conscious thought, but also subliminally as my mind wandered off into an analysis of why Kiss was such a bad band. The singer did a good job delivering attractive vocals above the din. He reminded me of the many polite stylists that filled out rosters on 4AD or Factory (which covers pretty much every singer other than Shaun Ryder of Happy Mondays, I suppose). I liked their second to last song best as it had the heaviest sonic roar. Overall it was a good set and they successfully whetted the appetite for all of us awaiting the main course.

Mono - I have seen this Japanese instrumental four piece twice before, at an outdoor stage in Kentucky and last September at the Rock'n'Roll Hotel. Although the crowd was small for the 9:30, it is a big step up from their last venue and they have grown their audience. They've done this by touring hard and releasing ever more interesting albums. Mono really has the dynamics down in the shoegaze genre with very careful builds from quiet to loud. Not every song follows that simple pattern and they adjust tempos to keep things interesting (always a key for instrumental bands). I noticed the quality drumming more than I have in the past, so that may be the key to it. The two guitarists work together well and produce great sounds. The bass player holds it together and adds keyboards in a couple of songs. They are very careful in composition and, not surprisingly, have even played with orchestras recently. Tonight's crowd was reserved, but a careful scan showed that pretty much everyone was focused on the music, quietly swaying and moving with the beat. So, another good show by Mono and they remain on my list of bands I want to see every time they come through.

Coming Attractions: As I approach my 200th post, I am brainstorming on how to add some things to my blog. So stay tuned for some changes and maybe even some essays. I have been a bit slow on some essay plans as my CD reviews take up a lot of time. But I want to keep delivering the musical stories as best I can. And I thank everybody that checks in and reads to the bottom.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Drink Up Buttercup - Skelliton -- DC9 - June 1 2010

Skelliton - There is an early clue that the DC9 has been redesigned since last I was here. They have a new staircase where you enter closer to the bar and land upstairs in the backside by the dressing room. This redirects a bit of space toward the front which is good and in the event of a mosh pit (rare but mosh pits have happened here), people won't get shoved down the stairs. There were a few less stools unfortunately, but the crowd was small, so I found my space as the three piece rock band hit the stage. The rhythm instantly reminds me of a raw punk section such as the Adverts with a guitarist who actively works with it in a power-pop punk punkesque kind of mode. The vocals from the guitarist reminds me of Ant Trip Ceremony (I must be the only blogger mentioning them) in a garage-folk style. They also have a Dangerhouse label-LA feel. I liked the set well enough but it is too early to call them an unpolished gem, more of an uncut gemstone. And with gigging and practicing, we'll take those hacks at the rock and see where we are in a few months.

Drink Up Buttercup - Speaking of months, it has been over 7 months since I last saw these guys. At least I remembered that I had seen them about half way through the first cut. I get embarrassed when I do that, but it could be worse in that I could forget about the previous show entirely. So in looking at the old write-ups and my notes, here is what we have in common. Akron/Family. Yes, they still remind me of one of my favorites and obviously that works for me. I think I found them steadier during this set with the same sort of catchy songs. A good edginess to the material and a nice mix of switching between keyboards, extra guitars, and extra percussion. I wrote down a cross between Sparks and Efterklang? Now that is morning, I am not sure what that would sound like. But listen for yourself some time. These four guys from Philly seem to play out enough and put on a good confident, entertaining show.

Quote of the Night: From behind me from a discussion of bands "I am so behind on some of this shit." This is the lament of all of us that try keeping up with things. At least we are trying.