Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Tyler Toliver - Joe Zelek - Casey -- Jammin Java - Aug 30 2010

Casey - Casey is a local singer/songwriter with acoustic guitar and harmonica on a couple of songs. Yes, you have heard that sentence before with a number of names. So how does he stand out? Well, as usual, you start with the songs. They are catchy and thoughtful with a story telling bent that is neither too downbeat or wildly enthusiastic. He has a clean, crisp rhythm guitar style without a lot of frills, but some quality chord changes among the standards. His voice is really clean and strong, more of an Eric Anderson as opposed to Tim Buckley or Leonard Cohen. He is folk all the way with an Americana underbelly. It was a nice set that a large enthusiastic crowd very much enjoyed, as did I.

Photo by Sheri Oneal. Franklin, TN 
Joe Zelek - Zelek is a singer/songwriter with acoustic guitar and was accompanied by a lead guitarist (on acoustic). He had a lean lineup tonight which I think improved things for me. His style is unabashedly country. Yet with the limited line-up it had the folkier qualities I preferred. There was plenty of space to focus on the songs, some of which were very good. Others kind of had that corn syrup feel that I taste when I delve into country artists. The lead guitarist had some nice runs and provided some backup vocals which filled out things nicely. The stage patter was good and quite funny, although I didn't need to know about radio promotion and billboard positions. A decent set and another one that went over well with the crowd.

Tyler Toliver - Toliver is a local singer/songwriter with an acoustic guitar. He also happens to be an active US Marine and looks like he could clear out an entire bar of ruffians and not break a sweat. But he also seems like a nice quiet guy who just wants to play his songs. They were decent country songs, I suppose, but they kind of came off all at one level. It just was not enough to excite me in any way, although admittedly I am a tough sell with country music. So I suggest seeking other reviews.

Quote of the Night: Earlier, I was packing groceries into my well-worn '94 Subaru when a car pulled up and gave me a sales job (for the third time in as many years)...

"Hey, I can fix that damage for you for a really low price"
"This car has 200,000 miles on it, it hardly needs body work"
"Yeah, but that rust will give everybody cancer"
"Then I suggest you drive on, quickly."

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Iggy and the Stooges - House of Blues (Atlantic City) - Aug 27 2010

 Iggy & the Stooges - This is my second time seeing this new line-up after seeing the formerly reunited line-up twice in 2007. Quite simply the Stooges are essential music on record and the live shows have been monumental events for we are so devoted to their essential music. I could write a chapter on why the music is great, but instead will limit it to a few comments on the show. My review of their London show earlier this year can be found here. Tonight's show was similar with a few exceptions. Mike Watt had a leg harness/cast over his pants which was not noticeable while playing. He stood fine and was his usual brilliant self on bass. However, he could not walk and had a crutch and crew member assisting him (including sitting behind a curtain near the stage rather than going offstage prior to the encore. But no effect on his playing. James Williamson's skills are more of what fans are curious about. I would say he has still got it and is even a bit sharper than in London or South America. He is as poker faced as Scott Asheton, yet I really think those two are the happiest two to be out there. His guitar was loud, clear and I can easily allow for some shortcuts taken as he still drops my jaw a few times, like on the guitar line on "Johanna". I watched Steve Mackay more this show and it is so cool and helpful that he is a full time member. He adds keyboards on two songs, percussion on a few and plenty of sax. He looks like he is a personable guy having a ball. Scott Asheton and Iggy Pop are the anchors and every one of you already know that. I will say that Iggy moved better than ever with less evident hip problems--although this was the first show on the mini-tour. I was front row and digging each and every song with no ability to take notes. I may have the order a bit off and I swear I am missing a song, but perhaps not. They did NOT do "Kill City" and "Cock in my Pocket" from the London set, but added "Johanna" and "No Fun". Here is what I have for the set list: Raw Power/Search and Destroy/Gimme Danger/Your Pretty Face is Going to Hell/Shake Appeal/1970/LA Blues/Beyond the Law/I Gotta Right/I Wanna Be Your Dog/Penetration/I Need Somebody/Death Trip/Open Up and Bleed...Encores- Fun House/Johanna/No Fun. Check youtube as I saw plenty of video being shot.

Picture from The Mail Online
Only three more US cities to go and back to other continents for the Stooges. If you are into rock music and you particularly like punk or alternative, you are either crazy or broke not to go see this band somewhere in the world. I have always liked the Asheton-guitar Stooges a little bit better, but it is fascinating to see the Williamson-guitar Stooges now and we sadly cannot have the former version ever again. So go see this band. Now.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Gifts from Enola - Tone - Solar Powered Sun Destroyer -- Iota - Aug 26 2010

Solar Powered Sun Destroyer - I've seen this band a couple times before and they are always a great addition to any bill. They live up to their name by bringing heavy spacey psychedelic rock in buckets of volume with three guitars a bass, drums, some synth samples and vocals. The bass player plays drums for the mighty Caverns. Very heavy and easy to absorb. I kind of wish they could figure out better vocal lines at times, but a few of the songs really work. The closer was a monster that leaves me with a sweet taste in my mouth.

Tone - Wow. What a tidal wave of sound this was! Three guitars, bass and drums doing all instrumentals with the dynamics of Mono and the power of Mogwai. Toss in other instrumental and near instrumental powerhouses like Kinski and Kohoutek and hopefully that will get you some idea of how good this band is. I loved the pounding drums which anchored the stringed instruments who were able to move around from psyche to moodier shoegaze to rock and metal with nice transitions. Tight, strong and they are from around here. Rolling Stone listed this band as one of their top 100 choices at last years South by Southwest Festival. If that is the case, I need to check out the other 99 bands.

Gifts from Enola - This Virgina band is just finishing up a massive tour of mostly smaller clubs across the country, paying a lot of dues and hopefully making a lot of fans. It is another sonic assault with only two guitars this time and some vocals. They went more in the direction of Boris than Mono, meaning they were a bit more song oriented and metal edged. They were not quite up to the mighty Boris, but that is ok. They were powerful and shifted around nicely in the song. Unfortunately, the show started a tad late and the changes were tough and a bit slow, so I had to leave early to make sure I made metro and get some sleep before my trip to see the Stooges tomorrow. But I stayed long enough to see that this band is right there with the previous two as somebody I would love to see again. Great show tonight.

Plug of the Night: Pardon the pun, but I do want take this opportunity to pretend I am Paul Harvey and tell you about an excellent product I have discovered and now make it a part of my concert experience. Maybe since the recent death of Black Motorcycle Club's soundman (see previous writeup eariler this year), I might try to see that band again. But like Dinosaur Jr. and others, I would never do it without earplugs. I have tried homemade jobs and simple disposables, but the good folks from Earpeace have sent me some really nice carefully designed reusable earplugs. Please check out their site and give these a try. I have used them a couple of times and after the initial lessening of the overall sound, you can clearly hear all of the instruments and range of sounds coming through, allowing you the full experience. Tell them I sent you and they will say "who sent you?"


Thursday, August 26, 2010

Kitten on Capitol Hill - Deb Felz - The Spend -- Velvet Lounge - Aug 25 2010

The Spend - This band is actually one Matt Shaw from Chicago who plays guitar and sings. He mixes things up between a straight acoustic sound to a complex hollow-body electric with loops. He uses an interesting finger style on the acoustic guitar, almost a clawhammer type approach enabling him to create some nice tough sounds mixed in with some intricate quite strumming. Electrically, it is quite varied in sound and goes into a spacey near-psychedelic landscape. Vocally, he has a deep intensity and brings it up a bit at times (basically not staying in Nick Drake territory). I always have trouble comparing acoustic players, although it reminds me of some Simon Joyner songs I heard many years ago. Electrically, I thought it approached Adam Franklin's solo work, which is a compliment. And to top it off, he actually covered a Black Sabbath song (Solitude) and actually rocked it out more than Sabbath did. Can't say that too often after a solo set. This was a very engaging set and "The Spend" is definitely an act worth donating a few bob to.

Deb Felz - Ms. Felz plays acoustic guitar and sings her original songs. She is accompanied by a pianist and a guy tapping out beats on an electronic drum box. The songs sound a lot like much of the indie folk rock you hear, but are creative enough to keep one's attention. I found her songs good and her voice quite good, although at times she missed the microphone. The keyboards were a bit too low in the mix, but popped through for a few solo moves. They were subtle and complimentary and ultimately worked well. I kept thinking that someone really oughta buy that guy a tabla and get some real percussion. I am not sure the percussion really helped a lot. This was the first time these three played together and there was certainly some evidence of that, although I am always glad when they tell me this. Some work needs to be done here, but there are some great ingrediants to work with.

Kitten on Capitol Hill - Their myspace songs sounded pretty cool, so I thought I would check out this area rock band. They are four people strong with two guitars working, one of which a female handling the lead vocals. Unfortunately the crowd of 20-25 or so faded to about 5, so it is really hard to review what amounts to rehearsal/party with friends. But the band soldiered on admirably. Unfortunately, their set was a bit erratic for me. The singer/rhythm guitarist was effective and when they really nailed a good original song, they sounded excellent. Other songs drifted into more plodding rock including a kind of pointless cover of "Born to be Wild". The lead guitar was decent and unfortunately I heard problems in the rhythm section, especially the bass. They really did not seem locked in, to quote my musician friend who confirmed my thoughts. Still, I will return to the couple of really good songs and a style that if they sharpen could work well. I will give them another shot some day.

Quote of the Night: from Deb Felz... "Shhhh... Felz is actually a pseudonym, as my real name is really long and really Jewish"

Monday, August 23, 2010

The English Beat - Bad Manners - Chris Murray -- 9:30 Club - Aug 22 2010

Chris Murray - Chris Murray played acoustic guitar and sang for two sets prior to each band tonight. Then, he took his turn as a rhythm guitarist for the English Beat, giving him about the longest workrate I have seen from someone this year. His two sets comprised about 12 songs or so that all had a folk/reggae/ska sound, although obviously simple and stripped down. He did requests and a fairly rabid fan base up front obliged. Simple likable music that did what it needed to do.

Bad Manners - Buster Bloodvessel brings his ska band to the US shores for a rare set of shows. He is the only original member of this band that was formed at the height of the two-tone ska craze in England during the punk years. According to their official site, he has certainly lived up to his name by getting banned from television appearances in two countries. Singing to blow-up dolls and pouring baked beans on your head sounds borderline, but mooning the audience on a television show that the Pope was supposedly watching does sound like a more worthy offense than wardrobe malfunction. Anyway, tonight he is the only original member, fronting a band with bass, guitar, drums, keyboards, saxophone, trumpet and trombone. Classic ska sounds throughout and there was plenty of energy on stage and in the crowd. They got people jumping and it was fun to see a pogo dancing crowd, which really goes back a long ways. Mostly their songs and a dance crazed version of "Woolly Bully" comprised their set. Good fun and the singer seems legit as the looney at the pub. He was hanging around in front of the club at the show's end, chattering away with people. Good show.

9:30 Club DC(2008)
The English Beat - And we have an even bigger band from the original British ska era, also with one original member, vocalist/guitarist David Wakeling. He has reformed the band out of Los Angeles where he now resides, and has been touring pretty hard in recent years. Although not quite as big as the Specials or Madness, this band had a solid following and had a nice approach with ska songs and a few rockers. That was evident tonight as a couple of songs really rocked hard, while most others moved around from very dancy to pop to some sort of combination. He had less brass than Bad Manners with only a sax which was used 75% of the time. It was a bit more guitar driven, although bass and drums really carry the ska songs. "Click Click" even had a Pogues undercurrent working and was a highlight. But the song I recall playing on my radio show (1979-1980 in Dayton Ohio) which closed the show was "Mirror in the Bathroom". It is still one of the finest songs from that era. Amazingly, this song brought them to the two-hour mark and with all the other music, this was one jam-packed high-value show tonight. The crowd kept the energy mostly, although a few filed out early--happy, but exhausted most likely. At least that is how I would describe myself.

No love for vuvuzelas - From Wakeling after making some odd noises, "Well that's better than those fucking trumpets at the World Cup".

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Underdog - Naysayer - Dead End Path - The Mostly Dead -- Rock'n'Roll Hotel - Aug 21 2010

The Mostly Dead - Showtime is 5:30pm about 5 minutes after they opened the doors. Hardcore Matinee returns, but with only about 10-15 people here for the set. There was so much echo in the sound, I thought the set was more psychedelic than usual. Of course this band is clearly in the hardcore punk school, they are not exactly psychedelic, although creative. Hard to review a show that is this quiet and polite, but the band persevered professionally. They are an excellent band for this genre and you will have other chances to see them, including at the Black Cat in about a week. Are hardcore matinees mostly dead? We shall see.

Dead End Path - The first of two last minute replacement bands, as I learned that for a few reasons including a bad injury, the middle bands canceled and replacements were found. This four-piece is from Wilkes Barre, PA. The crowd swelled to 25-30, so it was still a little tepid and polite. The band still kicked it in with a solid hardcore song with some metal. Nothing overly distinctive, but it rocked nicely. They had a good attitude and did a decent enough job of it.

Naysayer - From Richmond, Virgina comes another four-piece hardcore band. All bands tonight feature a vocalist, guitarist, bassist and drummer. In fact, every bass player was stage left. The fact that I am making notes about that is not a good sign. This band was energetic with a very athletic and intense singer. He did claim to shoot his voice out in the second song, but he kept the guttural singing going well enough. The sound was a bit too metal for me, but it was ok. The crowd is now 35.

ASBURY 9-11-05 
Underdog - I was looking forward to seeing this old time NYC hardcore band. I believe I missed them back in the day, but I liked some of the records I heard. In fact, very quickly into this set, I was reminded that I always had them toward the top of my favorite 80s NYC bands from that scene along with Kraut and Token Entry perhaps. The sound was cleaner and tighter and a bit more pure hardcore punk, without the metal touches of Cro-Mags or Sick of it All. The songs had some real pop and the band seemed pretty tight. They even did a couple reggae-punk songs, so you really know they are old-school. A few songs were a little too by-the-numbers, but most were well above the median line for hardcore. Good set to a lively crowd that may have hit 60, so it did start feeling like a real show. And it was dark when I left the club. And I am rewarded by having more time for the required playtime with my cat before I go to bed, so maybe these matinees are not such a bad thing.

Quote of the Night: from Underdog... "This song is so fucking old, it predates the Madonna song with the same name. It's called True Blue."

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Kavanaghs - Thee Lexington Arrows - The Electricutions -- DC9 - Aug 19 2010

The Electricutions - A couple of guitars alternating on vocals with bass and drums. Full speed ahead punk with power-pop like hooks, but staying strong. The guitars blast away while the bass player sprints up and down his neck handling the more complicated lines. I recognize him from Yell County who I have enjoyed in the past, so I figure this set will stay strong. It does. They sound like a solid LA-Dangerhouse era punk band somewhere between the Dils and the Zeros, I would say. Very quick, plenty of hooks and no screwing around. All business, very few breaks, just a bunch of cool songs that could probably work at any speed. It is always fun to see this sort of music done well. See if you agree with me.

Thee Lexington Arrows - Another four-piece from Baltimore this time around. We are clearly in for another set of punk rock. The difference this time is that this band is looser than the previous band. Not loose, per se, but there is more of a New York Dolls or MC5 lead guitar sound in the otherwise uptempo catchy pop-punk sound. The leads are good and help color a couple of really excellent songs that stand out from the rest. So there is a higher standard of deviation between the songs, unlike the first set. The vocals got a little buried n the sound at times and they had an annoying buzzing sound that turned out to be a guitar problem and not a cord, but a loaner from the headliners fixed that. Enjoyable set at the end of the day.

The Kavanaghs - This four-piece came from Argentina. No punk sound this time around, pretty much staight ahead mainstream pop-rock. The guitarists alternate lead vocals and do some harmony. The singing is the strongest part of their sound although there is some punch to the songs. It is just a little too mainstream for me. The early songs sound like those that any bar band could come up with. Fortunately the latter songs had a bit more of a power-pop sound with good harmonies. So I was won over--barely, in part because the band was enthusiastic and there was a positive vibe tonight amongst the moderate sized crowd. And if you need any more hints at their sound, their last couple of songs for their encore were covers by Badfinger and the Beatles. What, no Klaatu?

Litigation Update - Finally, Jake Holmes has decided to sue Jimmy Page for his deserved share of the royalties of his song "Dazed and Confused". Holmes' version is great, it came first and it obviously is where the Zeppelin version came from, although the words were changed some. Actually Page did it first in the Yardbirds and a comment by their drummer Jim McCarty prompted me to engage in an email exchange where he implied that I was right about Holmes and he his stage comment only meant that they did it before Zeppelin. Supposedly McCarty brought the song to the Yardbirds arranged it and did not get (or steal) any of the credit. So he's clear. I am not even sure Page is fully at fault as he probably let his gangster management take care of these things. But compare the Page original "Black Mountain Side" to the Bert Jansch traditional arrangement of "Black Waterside" and you do start to wonder about that first Zeppelin album. I think a bit of income redirection is needed here and hopefully the courts will agree, although this should have been settled long ago without Holmes having to initiate anything in the courts.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Lou Barlow & the Missingmen - Wye Oak -- Rock'n'Roll Hotel - Aug 18 2010

Wye Oak - It is always challenging to review someone for the fourth time, and even the guitarist joked about just playing here two weeks ago (opening for Deer Tick on July 22nd). But for people who don't peruse my back pages, Wye Oak is an excellent duo from Baltimore. They feature female vocals and guitar with a guy who plays one-handed (and 2-footed) drums while playing a keyboard. They did feature some new songs that they were working on in the studio which is a bonus for those of us that see this Baltimore duo regularly. But they had some older classics as well which always go over well with their audiences. This band just gets better and better and have a great style of indie rock that breaks out of that sound with great style and determination. They rock hard and have plenty of thickness to their sound with only two people making it. They keep playing and playing, so you should have other times to check them out. I still see an opening gig for a really big band or some headlining tours in the future for them.

Lou Barlow & the Missingmen - I saw this latest Lou Barlow (Dinosaur Jr., Sebadoh) band open for his other band, Dinosaur Jr., at the 9:30 Club. They had some good songs, but it was a bit sloppy. Tonight was improved, but there were still plenty of casual endings and oddball moves. Still, it is a live set far closer to Crazy Horse than the Replacements, so there is plenty of quality to be had. I would see them again in a second, because their spirit is good and sense of humor is appealing. But the songs are really excellent. That is not a surprise. Barlow had plenty to contribute to Dinosaur, but if you were not sure of him without Mascis, he quickly dispelled any doubt of his abilities with his work in Sebadoh. It is more great work here with an excellent guitarist and drummer assisting. Barlow did six songs on acoustic guitar before bringing them out. He strapped on an electric guitar for several songs while playing some bass pedals--struggling a bit actually, as this has its challenges apparently. He plays bass for the last few songs which really rocked hard. Lots of varied tempos, but just great rocks songs that range from thrash to folk. The crowd was reasonable in size and enthusiastic, which was an improvement over his "rather dire" western states swing. I am just glad he likes to keep writing and playing out. I will always make room on my calendar for any incarnation he brings to DC.

Quote of the Night: paraphrasing Barlow - "Our last show here was opening for my other band and it was our 3rd show. We recorded it for NPR which was a disaster. During the show I said I never wanted this broadcast again. My Mom was listening and told me 'Lou, people don't need to know that. You shouldn't dwell on your mistakes.' She was right."

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Long Walks on the Beach - Fergus & Geronimo - Archivists -- Velvet Lounge - Aug 17 2010

Archivists - Their first song was an excellent segue from the Roky Erickson & the Aliens song I just finished on my IPOD. It was a good singer/songwriter garage rocker right in that vein. This two-guitar four-piece then went into a rocker that reminded me of Mission of Burma.  Strong angular guitar moves with a thick rhythm line. They shifted seamlessly to indie rock and some garage-Americana rock in the style of Elliott Brood, maybe. If this was 1970 and I was an A&R (Artists and Repertoire--if ever there was a stupid title...) rep, I would probably scold them for not having one definitive sound. But this is 2010 and it is welcomed these days, especially when you keep your identity while doing so. This band did and the crowd was into it. Good set from an up and coming band that I am sure I will be seeing again some day.

Fergus & Gernimo - Another two-guitar four-piece hit the stage with some garage rock of their own. These guys are from Denton, Texas, home of some great garage psyche bands past and present. Their style is sort of a jangly psyche-power pop with some driving songs as well. I heard hooks that linked to the 50s and 60s. Some songs rocked well, but a few kind of flattened out a bit. The vocals weren't as strong as I had hoped although some harmonies did work. Solid set that went over well with a surprisingly large crowd tonight.

Long Walks on the Beach - This drums and guitar duo says that this is their first "venue" show. If that is the case, then they did a nice job of it. They started with a rustic folk song that sounded good, but they dropped that sound to more of an indie-dance pop sound that I would call Caribou-lite. The drums were good, there were computer samples (with the bass sounds a bit too high and fuzzy at times), guitar and vocals from the guitarist. The set did not knock my socks off, but for a start, it was entertaining enough. With continued work, these guys could do just fine.

Quote of the night: From the openers... "You are such an attentive audience. It's so quiet as you hold your breath waiting for me to say something witty. I don't advise that." Yes, I too was holding my breath in shock that there weren't 18 conversations going on around me as you were playing. Talk about going back to 1970...

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Public Enemy - Son of Berserk - Kendo the Almost Famous - The Cornell West Theory -- 9:30 Club - Aug 14 2010

The Cornell West Theory - So I go to hip hop shows about once every two or three years and I get treated to an opening act that I have seen before. This local outfit is on a very good local label, Sockets Records. They bring a couple vocalists with lots of musicians--bass, drums, percussion, keyboards and electronics/sampling. They really have a beautiful dub, spacey vibe going on which seems pretty unique to me. They added a female vocalist for much of the set. Unfortunately the set was only 15 minutes, but it still gave the crowd a good taste of this excellent local band.

Kendo, the Almost Famous - From NYC, comes Kendo and his band of drums, bass, guitar, DJ and additional vocalist. They hit the stage quickly after the last set and get a still slow growing crowd. In fact, the crowd was kind of dead. I know it's opening acts, but it is Saturday. I liked this bands metallic guitar and punchy sounds. Rather straight ahead lyrics from what I can pick up and the crowd did start stirring it up a bit. But 15 minutes and gone.

Son of Berserk -And a couple minutes later and this more straight ahead rap group hits the stage. They have a DJ and three vocalists. After some of the expected raps like "they're is a show here tonight, a party here tonight, put your hands in the air", it did seem the lyrics got a bit more serious. Hard to pick up full dialogue unfortunately, but there was some good energy. And why not, because they were done in thirteen minutes. Hmmmmm. As I say, I don't go to too many hip hop shows, but this little appetizer tray comes a little too quickly with portions too small to my liking. Especially since there was about a 45 minute delay after this with no real stage breakdown.

Public Enemy - The crowd had swelled, shy of a sellout but good numbers of people who were pumped to see this legendary outfit. They had the major two of course, Chuck D and Flavor Fav. Professor Griff is still around along with long time DJ, DJ Lord. They have their various Bomb Squad security guys and dancers along with a guitar, bass and drums setup. It is the 20th anniversary of "Fear of a Black Planet" which is one of the few hip hop albums I have heard more than once, but I still am not going to pretend to be an expert here. I did see that they did not do the album front to back. They did a lot of it, but nicely mixed in older cuts, newer ones and some recent efforts. It was a good set list and they built it nicely as it got heavier and wilder as the night went on. The musicians and DJ really pounded out the noise. That is what draws me to this act. They really can pound the sound into you as good as some post punk shoegaze outfit. But then you also have two great vocalists who are worth seeing on their own. Chuck D has one of the best voices anywhere, in addition to having plenty to say of course. This was 90 minutes of high energy music with plenty of action on stage with the whole crew putting out. Flavor Flav's mother was in attendance as a bonus. Strong set as expected and an outfit anyone should see, even if you have seen a lot less hip hop than even I have.

Quote of the Night: "Don't fuck my concert" from Chuck D as he stopped things to admonish someone in front and try what I believe was the classic peace making effort that used to happen so many times at punk or hardcore shows. Nostalgia for me, but mostly a good move by Chuck D. The crowd seemed happy and positive after that.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Moderate - The NRIs - The Beanstalk Library -- Black Cat - Aug 13 2010

The Beanstalk Library - The first of a trio of local bands tonight at the BIG stage at the Black Cat. Ultimately, the crowd was equivalent to a sizable crowd downstairs, but it was nice to get the better facilities and have some room to breathe. This band had not played in a while. They started as a duo and then brought out the rhythm section. The first couple of songs were pop, but started jangling in a latter-day Husker Du manner. They brought a guest keyboardist which filled out the sound quite nicely with the two guitars working. The songs slowly rocked out a bit more in a Neil Young-like Americana bent. In fact they covered Young once. Nice set that won the crowd over.

The NRIs - A fairly new band from what I gather is up next. They are lead by an Indian-from India-American on guitar and vocals with a full crew of rock band participants including keyboards and violin. The violin is a great touch as a few of the songs need the extra touch to bring something original to the mix. But most of the songs are really quite good and I was thinking of sort of a Port O'Brien brand of folk-rock with the emphasis on rock. Good use of female backing vocals. I liked the improvised song of "...what a good idea it was to throw down your guitar..." which was sung when the other guitarist ended up needing a timely tuning job after a rather rousing move. "Was he loaded?" was in my notes prior to that as he did show a wry sense of humor in his patter. No matter, this was a good set from a band to watch. So go watch them next time.

The Moderate - Before reading my review of this band 13 months ago, I wondered if they had gotten a bit better. In fact, I was thinking they were going to get better and they have. They feature dual guitars, with one of them singing, and the usual rhythm section. The drummer had some creative and powerful fills and the bass player had a nice throb working at times like a Jah Wobble light. When the songs were on the strong side and when the guitars had some nice interplay, the material was excellent. The actually began with the lead guitarist playing some sax which they had done before. I liked it then and I even liked it better this time. It really reminded me of some of the early live King Crimson. I think they should use this quite a bit more. I have not always liked saxophones mucking things up, but it can be extremely effective when done well. These guys do it well. A nice enjoyable night and thanks to the Black Cat for opening up the big stage for the locals.

Quote of the Night: From the opener... "Thanks for coming out early." You're welcome, but it's 9:45pm, which I would not exactly call early. But I know what you mean.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Mumiy Troll - Run Run Run -- Black Cat - Aug 11 2010

Run Run Run - I remember a guy from high school saying that he and some friends were stoned and walking around telling everyone they just heard Hocus Pocus by Focus and Run Run Run by Jo Jo Gunne. Of course this has nothing to do with this band who possibly named their band for the Velvet Underground song and not the Jo Jo Gunne song or the Supremes or whoever. This five piece from LA had keyboards and a couple of guitars. Ergo, the sound is full and pretty slick for the most part. At times it is too slick with song writing that seems awfully commercial, middle of the road sounding. But there is enough garage rock and interesting guitar moves to keep me from becoming too jaded. They have a decent amount of energy and perhaps if they can come up with more intriguing songs, they could be quite good. They are decent enough now, though, and like many bands I sort of like, they closed with a great raucous song.

Photo by Michael Muller.

Mumiy Troll - This four piece from Vladivostok dates back to 1983, although only their singer/guitarist/synth player was in that band. The remaining three members have all been around for a decade or more, so it is well established combo at this point. They have been touring hard in the USA, as I believe this is the third time they have played here in recent years. I recall the first time I saw them, they said that they could play the east coast and just do the bigger shows (larger cities and larger Russian population), but they wanted to hit smaller clubs all across America. Well, apparently like many hard working bands, that had some success as they are still hitting clubs all over, but I see they are much larger clubs in Denver and perhaps other cities. But tonight, it was the beginning of the tour in front of a large, very excited, and heavily Russian crowd at the Black Cat. There was also significantly more women than men and a pretty good range of ages. The band came out rocking and it was a solid show. I would say their sound mostly reminds me of the more mainstream aspects of British post-punk. They have sort of Bunnymen/Teardrop Explodes moves, but with rhythms out of the reggae/dub Stiff Little Fingers style. They began one song which was clearly a hit as the crowd exploded at the opening chords. This one sounded like a Gogol Bordello song, except that it was probably written before much of Gogol Bordello material was. This is certainly a fun band, although I would be curious to see the reactions in Denver or Kansas City. It must be good, since they are headed there again.

Movie Review: Pianomania played at the Goethe Center Monday to a packed house. It was a very funny movie about a piano tuner/technician from Steinway and how he caters to professional players for live shows and recordings. Although seeing perfectionists at work can be exhausting, there was a lot of humor here and good personalities, so it was a really nice documentary. There are new movies every Monday this month, so check them out.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Little Bigheart & the Wilderbeast - The Loom - Stand of Oaks - The Idiomatics -- Red & the Black - Aug 7 2010

The Idiomatics - This trio hit the stage with some nice indie rock with just a touch of power pop in the early songs. They mix up their rhythms some which is always a nice way to keep interest high. The guitarist sang and the vocals were a highlight, reminding me of my old pal Jughead from Cincinnati's SS-20 (I really would like to find references not as obscure, but it is tough some days). At times the band was a bit mannered and the guitarist needs to place his effect boxes in a set up something better than the minefield he created tonight. I liked their song "Rosemary" which had me thinking of other bands that did songs with Rosemary in the title... Deep Purple, Simon & Garfunkel and Bert Jansch come to mind. Nice set that went over well.

Strand of Oaks - This band is one guy singing and finger strumming a hollow body electric guitar. His playing, singing and his songs were good enough to command full attention the whole way. His voice and guitar sound reminded me of some of my favorite odd folk artists, especially Meic Stevens from Wales. He was engaging with the crowd without the overbearing nature that some solo artists engage in. He played through an overly loud song that boomed out from the downstairs jukebox or some odd source. Excellent set.

photo by Sarahana Shrethsa 
The Loom - We have a six-piece band from Brooklyn with a bit of instrument shifting, but mostly featuring drums, bass, electric guitar or banjo, guitar, keyboards, french horn or trumpet. Male vocals lead with female vocals prominent in assistance. So if you guessed this set up produced some sort of quirky Americana sound, you would be right. But this group really produced some excellent quirky Americana folk-rock with jazz and psychedelic touches as well. The rhythm section reminded me of what Pentangle had with veteran jazz sessionmen that could add different flavors to their mix. The horns and other instruments seemed to weave in and out with almost fade-in and fade-out quality. Very unique sounds reminding me of some of my favorite Toronto artists like Elliott Brood and Do Make Say Think. I will have to check them out again to see if it is the songs I like best or the arrangements. No matter tonight, as it was a very strong set in front of a good crowd.

Little Big Heart & the Wilderbeast - The 21st gig for one of my favorite local young old-school prog-rock bands. Even if you have never heard any old school prog, you would not have any problem getting into this band's accessible rock songs. They are a four-piece with a couple of guitars and a bass player who adds some keyboards. The three guys in front all sing well and each has some leads. They have gained a lot of confidence and not only bring some enthusiastic fans, but are attracting some new ones as well. A few sound problems tonight with some feedback and it was kind of an off night for the sound in general (which is challenging here as a lot of it is stage volume) but it was minor and they handled it just fine. I have seen them four times myself, and this won't be the last. Do check them out some time and see for yourself.

Quote of the Night: From the Loom's singer "Be sure to sign up in our guest book and leave your email and information so we can find you... Hmmm, that sounds rather ominous. Leave your personal information and we will find you."

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Arcade Fire - Spoon - Merriweather Post Pavilion - August 6 2010

Spoon - Spoon starts thing off in the sunshine in front of a good crowd, but one that is continuing to grow. They begin low-key with just acoustic guitar and voice and a touch of keyboards. Eventually the full band emerges although it varies from a four-piece to a five-piece (extra percussion) to a band with a backing horn section. It sounded quite "Decemberists" to me especially early on. There was also a nice clanging guitar that reminded me of XTC and even a strong pop song that rocked in a Wire sort of way. The songs were catchy and most had this nice edge of which I speak. The sound was a bit lost up where I was sitting (Row W, off to the side), but you have to expect a bit of that outdoors. Was that guy walking by wearing earplugs? Unless someone next to him was planning to whistle loudly, he is hardly going to need protection here. Spoon's set went an hour and they kept the crowd involved and happy. They are a good band and deliver some solid rock songs that easily work their way into your brain.

Arcade Fire - This Montreal band has been on fire pretty much since their debut. I wish I had caught them earlier before they could easily pack out a venue this size. To be honest, I wanted to see them this tour but I also wanted to check out this venue to see if this was somewhere I may want to go more often. By the time they began, the place was quite full with only a few scattered seats empty and the uncovered lawn quite full as well. The night was surprisingly cool for a summer in DC, which was a big break. This place is huge. I was expecting it to be similar to Red Rocks in Colorado, but has over twice that capacity at 19,316. The sound was only just good enough to get a feel of the band, but the ambiance just does not do it for me. No fault of Arcade Fire, however, as they came out rocking from the outset. I really only know their first album well and they played at least three songs including Tunnels. They had eight members playing the usual rock instruments along with two violins at times and an accordion. I felt more of a Buzzcocks feel live with the very accessible, yet strong songs and Win Butler's voice. They completely blew one song as they started looking at each other and slowly stopped playing before coming to a full halt. Butler explained it was a new one and they tried to use drum machines, but they didn't get them to work right. This is the second big show I have seen outdoors in the last couple years, and just like REM, tonight's headliner brutally blew a song. No big deal, just interesting. But my question is that in a band with two drummers, why are using drum machines? Frankly, I did not miss the rest of that song and there was plenty of rhythm everywhere else. The band quickly got back on track and delivered the goods to an appreciative crowd. They have done well in living up to their hype and deserve crowds like this. As to future large shows for me, they will continue to be few and far between as the connection is a lot tougher than in a club or a venue under 5,000. But never say never, so we shall see.

PS--I don't have a set list. It is not like they have 500 songs they know anyway.

Quote of the Night: "Yeah!!!" plus applause as a couple finally sat down during the Spoon set after being asked a couple of times since they were blocking people's views. Now this is a rock concert, so I was sympathetic to the people standing. But they were the only ones out of at least a 1,000 people in our section and they could have moved almost anywhere else if they wanted to dance which they were not doing. Four songs later, they sat down just to prove they were doing it when they wanted to, I suppose. Fascinating group and individual interplay here, well maybe not, but my mind wanders. Oh, and there was no question when Arcade Fire hit the stage and everybody jumped out of their seat.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Naomi Punk - Sister Ex - Masters & Johnson -- DC9 - August 5 2010

Masters & Johnson - A young trio from Olympia, WA hits the stage in front of a very small turnout. It starts with a rather rough sounding song that seems to have lots of internal clashing going on. It kind of rocks in a loopy sort of way. I am thinking of the early "learn on stage" punk bands like ATV or Subway Sect, if not the true odd ramblings of the Shaggs. I cannot say I really enjoyed the 15 minute set, but it was rather fascinating and took me back to a more innocent time (about 15 years prior to another young trio from Olympia). The long finisher actually did have some inventive fun moves. Interesting, but more work will either kill this band off, make it slick and dull, or vibrant and exciting. Who knows?

Sister Ex - A steady four-piece ground out the punk rock tunes with the emphasis on rock. Quickly paced mostly, but some nice variety in tempo and sound at times. It's kind of the "aware" 1979-81 sound. I heard Vktms with Niagara (Destroy all Monsters) like sound on vocals. Some good bass lines, but their stage patter needs a lot of work. But when you are talking to ten people...

Naomi Punk - Two guitarists, one who sang, a drummer and a guy at a keyboard that was pretty much there for samples from the sound of things. A lot of dialogue samples between songs to sort of string the set together, which was not a bad idea, since the maximum people applauding was 8 until the last song when the middle band came back in the room. The songs were rocky-psyche lo-fi affairs from the Jay Reatard/Wavves school, but not quite as catchy. Perhaps a bit more eclectic for this band. There was annoying buzz in an amp, but this set did not last long. Most likely shortened due to the low turnout. Yeah, it was a bummer, but it still could turn into a good rehearsal. Instead it was plow ahead and get through it. Perhaps a little more promotion on the myspace page or band website would help.

Quote of the Day: Paraphrasing Josh Elliott on ESPN who I heard in the gym take a shot at his employer after his cohost had read news for the last 10 minutes... "Yes, Josh Elliott also here as part of this show even if I haven't spoken in a while. That's called bad production."

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Boris - Russian Circles - Disappearer -- 9:30 Club - August 3 2010

Disappearer - We begin with a power trio from Boston. And there is plenty of power in the crushing steady riffs going in their approach. They are somewhere between Boris and the Melvins, closer to the latter. There is a hint of songwriting going on and it worked perfectly in an opening set. They might need to show a bit more variety if they go longer, but for what this was, this was very good. Again though, the volume was a bit much on the vocals, particularly that of the guitarist (which turned out NOT to be the case in subsequent sets, so I am not being wimpy here). A good start.

Russian Circles - We have another power trio from Chicago this time (not Brooklyn as I had joked with someone before the set). They stayed fully instrumental which can be a challenge if you don't have the songwriting or virtuous playing needed to keep things going. Well these guys had all that and then some. They began with some weird heavy psyche piece that reminded me of a great cult band from Sweden, Alrarnas Tradgard. They got heavier as they went on with some serious pace at times. The guitarist was laying down loops and their was lots of psyche vibes in the mix. The third song had a great eastern motif working as well (and I am always a sucker for that). I heard lots of sounds reminding me of other of my favorites like Mogwai, Motorpsycho, and Paik. Metal fans who like bands like Mastodon would enjoy these guys as well as fans of Sleep and the Melvins. But these guys carve their own territory and did a great job tonight.

Boris - I was hopeful of two things before this show. First, I was hoping Michio Kurihara of Ghost would be touring with them as been the case in recent years--check. Second, I had hoped that the club would fill up enough to justify this bump up from the Black Cat--check, not a sellout of course, but a sizable enthusiastic crowd. This Japanese outfit is one of my favorites as they are very heavy, but have good songs, a variety of styles from metal to hard pysche and to lush shoegaze. The transitions are smooth, the vocals good (both male and female) and have great style and command of their sound. They were absolutely off the charts tonight. They had a smoke machine puffing away and a far better than average light show (evident here)that really enhanced what was going on. Michio did his usual job of filling in with very subtle moves or very overt ways depending on what was needed. Wata's guitar playing was even more amazing than I recalled. Takeshi handled the middle of the stage with most of the vocals and moving around his double neck bass/guitar axe with his usual proficiency. Atsuo is the basic lunatic drummer who connects with all the crazed metal fans they have. He blasted away on his kit and gong and staod on his drums on the closer with the other three pounding away in a steady throb. He got the crowd going and joined them on a crowd surging run. The band finished up and wisely did not return for an encore as the closing was an absolutely perfect ending for an amazing evening. Do not miss this band if you like anything even remotely heavy in your rock listening. And with the opening acts, this was one great evening.

Quote of the Night: From numbskulls in front of me that couldn't even spoil this brilliant night as hard as they tried..."You need to do this" "Fuck you" "You know what, you're a pig" "Fuck You" "Fuck You"... Etc. ad nauseum. You know people, Scarface was a really shitty movie.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Frazey Ford - Stripmall Ballads -- Iota - August 1 2010

Stripmall Ballads - I have not seen these guys in a while and I quickly realized that was a mistake. They have an immediacy to their brand of Americana folk-rock. That comes from the fine songs of Phillips Saylor, the singer-guitarist of the band. He also plays banjo and is assisted by bass and drums tonight. Although he plays acoustic instruments, he plays leads like he is holding a stratocaster and has just enough effects to vary the sound nicely. But it all comes back to the excellent songs. A very fine opening set tonight and I will not wait as long to see them again.

Frazey Ford - When I reviewed her CD for Folkworld, I was impressed and wanted to see how the material worked live. Obviously that chance came tonight when this Vancouver based singer and her backing band came to the Iota. Frazey Ford has a lovely voice, somewhat fragile, but with a rootsy feel in the blend. She is able to smoothly transition from other-worldly to grounded. She plays acoustic guitar often and has bass, drums and an electric guitarist who adds a bit of banjo and backing vocals. A few songs were a bit too much of the country twang for me, but that is a minor criticism. Mostly, the songs were easy to get involved with and had enough subtle variety to keep interest. The audience was fairly sizable and was into the set. It was nice to not hear much noise from the crowd, aside from the ridiculously loud ever-present printer at one of the bars. Nice set and a nice night out on a lovely Sunday evening.

Quote of the Night: From the opener... "Do you like the banjo? Well, I just got my Social Security Statement recently which tells me quite the contrary."