Monday, January 31, 2011

RECORD - REVIEWS - January 2011

Maybarduk - no hay Pueblo Vencido
Maybarduk : No Hay Pueblo Vencido
Peter Maybarduk is a local attorney who represents some interesting causes concerning various concerns for developing countries. And at times, he plays some music as well. I have enjoyed his live set in the past and it is nice to catch up with this 2009 release. The production, courtesy of J. Robbins, is stellar and Maybarduk creates a few different atmospheres with the arrangements of his twelve original songs. This is good singer songwriter material, but it can rock hard like in "Dom Helder Camara" or move into the light guitar and voice of "Sundays". There is a touch of spacey cello pars on the latter song and other songs have brass, glockenspiels and much more. The songs themselves are a nice mix of styles and quality. A few suffer from a bit too much of a prosaic stance, but a majority of them have nice heartfelt lyrics that are successful. The arrangements and playing works well with just enough touch of rock bite amidst the folk and light rock styles. There is a Spanish theme in guitar style and songs about South America, but it does not dominate. Instead it gives Maybarduk his own spot in a crowded field of singer songwriters. This is a nice album to start out with and it will be interesting to see what he comes up with next, as I believe a new album is expected this year.

Songs to sample:

Darker Days - The first cut has nice alternating acoustic and electric moments as it weaves his personal tale.

Elizabeth La Paz - Nice lyrics and a good atmospheric soundscape. This one shows the production and arrangement skills that he and Robbins are capable of.

Dom Helder Camara - This is a reworking of something he did with his former rock band and it does rock out nicely wtih electric guitars deep in the mix and a clear clean vocal on top belting out the politically stinging lyrics.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Killer Balloons - Mercies - Presto Bando -- Red Palace - Jan 29 2011

Presto Bando - I finally set foot in the reconstituted club combining the upstairs space at the Red & the Black with the Palace of Wonders. The Red Palace features more room, a bigger bar, a huge elevated stage, bigger sound, and a better comfort level for the audience. First up is a well dressed three-piece featuring a guitarist/vocalist with a great Eraserhead styled hairdo. Immediately, the audience awakens to some original challenging sounds. My first impression is Daniel Johnston meets Captain Beefheart meets Dead Milkmen meets early Devandra Banhart. Eclectic, you ask? Yes. The crowd of about 25 people were into it which was nice to see. There was a fun sense about it all and a confidence in the band, so it came across well. As a fellow audience member and I discussed after the set, that although the live show is a tough place to analyze lyrics, clearly these were some sharp lyrics to go along with the sharp music. Not for the faint of heart, but I do recommend music lovers challenge themselves with this band at least one time. I'll be back.

Mercies - Another trio hits the stage and they look familiar. As I continue to work my way through the never ending list of talented bands in this area, everyone looks familiar and I have trouble keeping track of the people I see, meet, and even have good talks with. Thankfully, at set's end, the guitarist comes up to chat and it turns out he is in the band Little Bigheart and the Wilderbeast who I have seen numerous times. This band is different than his other band with a more modern, edgy pop rock sound. The bassist has an interesting buzzing sound on the first song and both he and the guitarist do a lot of two-part singing which works very well. The Mercies brand of pop music is more toward the agitated pop sound and just writing the word agitated immediately makes me think of the Styrenes and some of the other pre-punk styled bands that had agitated approach to conventional musical forms. Not that these guys were angry, as they were having a good time as was the swelling crowd which had at least doubled in size. And it is their second show ever, and hopefully far from their last.

The Killer Balloons
Killer Balloons - I have seen this band once before and reviewed their debut album. They have a great accessible sound that combines classic rock with garage moves and strong vocals pushing forward solid pop melodies. They have added a keyboardist who plays some organ and piano. Without looking at previous reviews, I am willing to be I mentioned the singer reminding me of a lower pitched Feargal Sharkey (Undertones). That catchy kind of singing came through loud and clear in spite of the nice racket cooked up by the four guys behind him. These guys can play and can come up with the songs as they played numerous cuts from the album, at least three new originals and a cover of the Who's "Baba O'Riley". That was fun until I looked around and suddenly felt like this high school anthem of mine was written back when very few of the people in this room were even alive. But thoughts of confused timelines and aging quickly passed and I enjoyed the rest of their set. They appear to be working hard and hopefully will continue to add to their fan base, as their music should appeal to a whole lot of people out there.

Quote of the Night: From the openers and a fan from the crowd:
"This is a song about terrorism."

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Archivists - Fluorescent Sense - Southern Problems -- Rock'n'Roll Hotel - Jan 28 2011

Southern Problems - The band got things underway in front of a decent crowd of about 40 people. That is a nice crowd for a band starting at quarter after nine and playing their fourth or fifth show. They were a three-piece with the guitarist doing almost all the singing. The sound was mostly straight ahead rock music featuring a muscular Ibanez guitar, but with a bit of an indie rock sound in there as well. They veered toward pop a few times and had a couple of songs that featured some interesting cross patterns between the guitar and the five-string bass player. The bass player had a lot of positive energy and played a lot of interesting runs to either the guitar runs or the power riffs. The drumming was good, but perhaps a little too good as his ride cymbal had a lot of trouble staying upright, while the kit ran around the stage bumping the microphones out of place. But the sound was solid and the band was together. Ultimately the riff songs stood out the most and the band reminded me of Sugar at times with the guitars, vocal work and song structure. Good half-hour set and well received by the crowd. The positive energy vibe works both ways.
Fluorescent Sense - They hit the stage with two guitarists and the usual rhythm section. One sang lead and at times went upstage to play a real live Farfisa. Farfisa, like a mellotron, is almost always worth bonus points from me. Although I thought the early songs did have a garage-psyche feeling to them, it really wasn't due to the occasional use of the Farfisa. It had more to do with the interesting arrangements they had where they were able to latch onto the late sixties San Francisco meets LA style of psyche-rock. I could not really come up with a perfect comparison (which is good) but it was as if Canned Heat tried to play like the Music Machine. And if I thought the first bass player tonight had a lot of energy, this guy was trying to jump out of his skin. He reminded me of an old cover band from Cincinnati I saw as a college student. Fortunately, in this century, the black spandex one-piece and mirror shades are but a distant, painful memory. I heard a bit of Mighty Baby in their songs which is a big positive for me. I was wondering if their subtleties were a bit much for the growing audience, until their cover of the Velvet Underground's "White Light/White Heat" prompted to someone shout out for "Sister Ray--all of it". But they did not have that 17 1/2 minute song in their plans tonight. The Velvet song and a couple others reminded me a bit of the Feelies and I swear I heard the Kink's "Village Green" hook in a song. All in all, this band had a lot of great music in their set. They have their voice and only a couple of songs failed to move me. Now if they can work on their stage patter a bit, they can really start soaring.
Delaware. Photo by 
The Archivists It is a bit after eleven and the crowd has swelled to about 75 people or thereabouts. I have seen this band once before as they played a fine set at the Velvet Lounge. Their one ep is a good indicator of their sound, but a live set can bring a bit more out of them (like it does for almost everybody). The Archivists have the most classic indie rock sound of the night with the two unique guitar sounds dancing around in front of the solid rhythm section. The songs are catchy and intelligent. Although the Friday night crowd was likely a bit on the happy side by now, they were quite attentive to this music. I particularly enjoyed the two distinct guitar tones on "Phantom Pains" which had biting lead sound on top of a grungy thick slab of sludge that reminded me of a twisted Chicago punk band called The Mentally Ill. Vocally, the range was kind of cross between Billy Corgan and Colin Meloy, which offered a distinct clarity to the lyrics while flowing with the hooks in the songs. They finished with a nice gutsy rocker which capped off a very good night of local music. It is nice to see decent crowds supporting the local music scene and having a great time doing so.
This review originally appeared at WeLoveDC.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Twin Tigers - Tennis System -- Black Cat - Jan 27 2011

Tennis System - It has been far too long since I last saw this exciting area four-piece. In fact, they have expanded with some membership changes and additions into a five-piece employing a keyboardist. The sound remains the same with their usual shoegaze wash of intense psychedelic fury. However, their newer material (destined to come out in May or some time this year) has even stronger pop hooks than before. Still, plenty strong, but slightly more accessible. Strong 40 minute set tonight complete with smoke machine bursts and projected lighting effects. A more than half filled backstage audience seemed to know this band at least as well as I did, and although quiet, were pretty well into the music. I have not witnessed a bad set by these guys yet.
taken by mike white
Twin Tigers - This is a two-guitar four piece with male and female vocals and the basic rhythm section. They are from Athens, Georgia which certainly has a few bands of note, but it had me thinking. I have yet to see a band from Athens, Greece, despite a healthy amount of Grecian records in my collection. Can I not get a reunion by Socrates drank the Conium? Or perhaps Aphrodite's Child, Poll, PLJ Band? Where is Dionyssus Savopoulos these days? But I digress. To the matter at hand, Twin Tigers is another rock solid shoegaze styled band. They have the great swirl of sound and can be fairly heavy but maybe even a bit more to the accessible hook side of pop music. Their sound is quite dreamy much of the time and very easy to get lost in. They had some slower moments that created great tension so they understand dynamics and pacing about as well as anybody in this genre. They were surprised at the size of the crowd, so it appears they are just getting around a bit. I will be paying attention to see how they do, it could be quite well.

Quote of the Night: From one of the twin tigers... "We would like to thank the Tennis System because they are the coolest band we've played with on this tour." Not too surprising as the Black Cat did a great job of matching tonight. Just as they were eclectic a few nights back, they lined up kindred spirits tonight. It works both ways as long as the quality is there.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Sons of Disobedience - Barrio Andalusi and Guillermo Christie - George Karos -- Black Cat - Jan 25 2011

George Karos - Karos comes out with acoustic guitar and microphone. Rather that should be microphones since his acoustic guitar needs to be mic'ed as opposed to having a pick-up. He explains later that he had a bad pick-up and thanked the soundman. And it was an interesting sound Karos created. His chording involved fingertip strumming that was on the quiet side that changed into a clearer finger picked style when he opted for detailed playing. The guitar may have been quiet, but his voice was quite bold and striking. It was like the guitar styling of Elly & Rikkert met a vocal merging of Robbie Basho, MIJ, and Denis (yeah, some of those choices are pretty obscure, but he didn't sound like Colin Meloy or Jeff Buckley). Kudos for playing through the fire alarm that fortunately went off rather quickly. It was not exactly a Great White sized crowd as there were about ten people present at the set's peak. It was a nice set and it fits the sort of things I look for in an acoustic set in terms of creativity and dynamics, all within a comfortable throwback sound.

Barrio Andalusi featuring Guillermo Christie - Barrio Andalusi plays and oud and Guillermo Christie plays tambourine, hand drums and an electronic drum box. Andalusi's playing is quite accomplished as he varies from Spanish, Morrocan, Macedonian, Turkish, and more instrumental folk music. Christie's percussion punctuates the music nicely and this is a lovely transportive set. Kudos to the Black Cat for booking this unique set of opening bands along with the headliner playing in another style entirely. The crowd grew to 15 and were quite positive with their support.
is how u must step 2 the microphone
Sons of Disobedience - Guitarist/Vocalist Ron Winters joins up with a bass player and drummer and presents the Sons of Disobedience. They play a mix of rock, metal, punk and the bass player's funky bass lines. But it rocks out in a bluesy sort of way much of the time. Yet, the second cut reminds me of the Bad Brains metallic era with the Black Spots demo kind of sound. And a latter cut would truly make the Buzzcocks proud. All in all, they did a great job with a nice variety of songs. A few of the songs kind of laid there, but the highlights were worth it and the playing was excellent. Thankfully the crowd swelled to about 25 not counting the three people in front of me who left in terror with the heavy dose of volume the band created (frankly, it wasn't overly loud). Fun, enjoyable evening of eclectic entertainment (god, I promise I was not trying for alliteration there) and I hope there are many more nights like this. In DC, most of the time, there are.

Side issues - I just wanted to comment on my side-bar. I try to list shows that I go to along with shows I would like to go to or that I think will be enjoyable shows for people that like creative, but entertaining music. Although some are must sees for me, others I make up my mind on covering a few hours before the show. I try to cover a lot of ground and am happy to promote anything of interest, so let me know if you promote shows, especially away from the major clubs.

I also am planning to write reviews for the We Love DC blog in the near future. I will continue to write most of my reviews right here and will reprint my reviews appearing at We Love DC on this blog after they have been published there. Frankly, whether I write there or not, We Love DC is a must read for music fans, so do give it your support.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Stripmall Ballads - Petticoat Tearoom - Daddy Lion -- Velvet Lounge - Jan 20 2010

Daddy Lion - It has been a while since I have seen this nice local band, in fact so long that now it is a nice solo act of Jeremy presenting Daddy Lion. Jeremy plays electric guitar and sings a couple of old numbers and a lot of new material tonight. I always think Billy Bragg when I see one guy with an electric guitar banging out more rock than folk, but I heard a more subtle Meic Stevens sort of sound which worked quite well. More songs were good than not and Jeremy has the ability to put together nice sets and records that can do quite well here in DC and beyond. Well worth a sampling whether he has a band behind him or does his gig solo.

Petticoat Tearoom - From Baltimore and thereabouts come this trio playing bass, acoustic guitar and acoustic guitar/mandolin/accordion. All three sing and clearly have worked out careful CSN like harmonies. The sound is sort of a California Americana/folk/rock with a touch of country. The songs were decent enough and although this style is not my favorite, I thought the bass playing helped give things a bit of a push which was nice. They did have some nasty sounding cord problems that slowed the set a bit, but they got through it alright. I was a bit distracted by the multi-insrumentralists haircut as it reminded me of Bob Markley of the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band which is a great band and has a very odd story worth checking out.

Bob Markley

Stripmall Ballads - The trio I have seen recently is present with a fourth person playing harmonica at times. The sound is strong featuring electric guitar this time around with a very swinging rhythm section. The harmonica is a little light, which I actually prefer, because unless the player is one of the best, I often find it too distracting. This gave plenty of room for the usual strong vocals and interesting songs. This band is one of the finest area bands at hitting Americana folk-rock with touches of bluegrass and R&B even. They remind me of one of my old favorites, Cordelia's Dad. They did have a them tonight, calling the show, "The Cupcake Anti-Social". Well into the set, they finally made use of the big batch of cupcakes on the floor in front of where they were playing. Their singer read a poem about his problems with cupcakes (he expressed preferences for twinkies and other stripmall foods by sharing plenty with the audience). He went barefoot and pretty much made waste of the cupcakes. He polled the crowd that was about 2/3 against cupcakes and 1/3 for. I personally like them, but he made key points that I absolutely agree with. The elitist take on cupcakes now with lines around the block to buy them and some Simon Cowell clone on the Food Network critiquing a blood cupcake like it's a Waterhouse painting is rather sickening. But I treat them like statistics, very likable, but misused by too many people. Great show tonight. Catch this band!

Quote of the Night: From Jeremy when someone shouted out a request... "No, I don't want to do that on... Well, how often am I gonna get a request?"

Monday, January 17, 2011

Justyn with a Y - The Echo Wall - Maybarduk -- Velvet Lounge - Jan 16 2010

(Peter) Maybarduk - Maybarduk is a band primarily focused on the singer songwriter guitarist who shares his last name with the band. He performs a little solo material but is quickly assisted with a female vocalist, some percussion, keyboards, and ukulele. He has some backing tracks for some of the songs while others have spare live arrangements. Either the full sound or the spare sound worked well enough depending on the song. The guest performers were undermic'ed and too low in the mix which was due to another late Velvet start and the lack of a full sound check. But they soldiered on and I heard some fine songs and some interesting musical moves on the guitar. No comparisons come to mind, but I would like to hear more with better sound and an audience that wasn't rudely talking and laughing during his set. Yes, here I go again, but I surprised to see this at the Velvet Lounge. My main advice to him is to leave the typewriter at home next time. Some ideas are better in the planning meeting than on stage. I did get a CD from his friend handling merch, so I will be digging into his songs more in a couple of weeks. And he has a new record out soon that was recorded with J. Robbins, so there hopefully will be good things ahead for Maybarduk.

The Echo Wall - Although a full band is present, the focus clearly goes to the singer/guitarist at center stage who plays a solid Americana folk songbook on acoustic guitars. He is helped with female vocals, violin, glockenspiel, keyboards and bass. The accompanying musicians at times take a back seat, but at other times do add some strong sounds to the mix and the arrangements are pretty decent. It's a little loose and mistakes sometimes jump out, but the song is never lost and the emotions come through quite well. I think they have the makings of a nice little band, as I tried to stay optimistic in spite of some of the worst rotten fruit/human sweat smell I have ever encountered. Not sure where that was coming from.
Photo of Justyn Withay
Justyn with a Y - Fortunately the nice large crowd tonight was quieting down as the night wore on and most people stayed to see Justyn hit the stage and sing along to his electric guitar work. I am glad he brought the electric as the DJ downstairs was blasting away to the point I was tapping my foot to what was going on downstairs rather than up (C'mon Velvet Lounge, I know you need the $$$ downstairs, but this has been happening too much lately). Anyway, Justyn's songs and playing easily overwhelmed the distractions as he had a great folk and rock style that combined good riffing, basic chords, with some tricky unusual moves. At one moment it's a bit like Billy Bragg, at others more Beau or Nicodemus. As I said in his CD review, he channels obscure artists as well as mainstream singer songwriters. It is that combination that made for an entertaining set and someone worth seeing again.

Quote of the Night: Justyn... "This is a new one called Year of the Rat, some astrological junk or something..." Actually I was paraphrasing and using this space to say that this was an excellent spooky sounding song that will sound good on a new record some day I think.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Hume - Buildings - Skeletons - Laughing Man -- Black Cat - Jan 15 2010

Laughing Man - This power trio begins with some edgy angular sounds as I try to place them. Well, first off, since this is a Sockets Records showcase, I think I can use edgy and angular just about every time. Laughing Man goes into a blues rock with psyche vibes type sound sort of like Bevis Frond trying to play like the Groundhogs. Well, maybe that's me trying to be too clever here. More of a giveaway is provided by the band when they cover a TV on the Radio song. That's more the general camp they fit into if you need a quick reference. I almost hear a Cravats like bite to the music, too. The band is solid with a good strength to the playing and the guitarist's vocal work. They have a keyboardist come up a couple of times and a sax guest and finally another ten guest musicians and singers adding violins, flutes, horns and a saw. It looked like Arcade Fire or the Decemberists, but it wasn't quite the payoff after a long delay in getting set up. Still, I agree with what one of the many patrons here to view this set had to offer... "You guys are good!"

Skeleton$ - This 5-piece featuring keyboards and a couple of guitars has a quiet style with plenty of dynamic shifts of volume and style. The voice wavers between a talking singing style with a Peter Gabriel type resonance. I hear an odd stew of jazzy prog moves like a Canterbury band trying to allow some space in the mix. They are also similar to Fuschia at times. Odd and very interesting. The closer did not do much for me, but the rest of the set was fascinating.

Buildings - I have enjoyed this band many times before and tonight was no different. And if there is any criticism, it may be just that. The instrumental trio did their usual energetic songs in front of the projected videos on the dark stage which is pretty much how it is been in the past two years. But if they never do anything different (I am sure they have and they will), this is an excellent band performing engaging music that although a bit different is easy to latch on to. I am always impressed when instrumental bands can capture my attention because it is generally harder for them with the way I engage with music. But these guys succeed every time. The large crowd agreed and they went over very well tonight. Definitely one of DC's better bands.

Hume - Hume lines up with a bass/vocalist, guitarist and a couple of drummers. Obviously percussion is stressed and the duo does lay down a nice set of beats. The axemen play complex progressive moves for the most part although not in the grand storytelling way of the old prog bands, but more in the modern manner of sharp shards of melody and transition. Yes, edgy and angular again and in some ways they have a little bit of each of the three bands tonight. And that is what made tonight such a success. All four bands were easily distinct in their sounds, but were sonically related and well grouped for a great evening of music. Hume was solid and Sockets Records Showcases are must-see events for fans of DC music.

Quote of the Night: From Cheetah Chrome's surprisingly good autobiography where Cheetah while in high school met Iggy in a restroom before a Stooges show... "...I introduced myself and said I was a big fan, and that I'd heard he was looking for some downs. I was actually pretty nervous talking to him.

"Yeeeaaahhhh, maaaannn," he managed. "Whaddya goooootttttt?" Oddly enough, he talked exactly like he sang.

I told him I had Tuinals, but the chloral hydrates were personal stash; I wasn't parting with those.

"Yaaaa gotttt liiikkkee fooouuuurrr? Hoow muuuch dooo yooo waaaant?"

"Sure man, here," I said, opening my little bottle, taking out two 100mg and two 200mg pills and putting them in his hand. "No charge man, just do a great show. I'm really looking forward to it!"

He took the pills and looked at me. "Whaaat kinda druuuug deeeealer aaaare yoooou?"

"I'm not a drug dealer, I'm a Stooges fan! Kick ass tonight!"

At that he smiled, walked over to the sink, put his head back, and took all four pills. Then he ran the water, took a big drink and splashed it all over his face, thanked us again, and walked out.

"God, he must have the tolerance of a moose!" I said to Chuck, admiration in my voice.

No such luck. He apparently had the tolerance of a 5 foot 7 guy who was already fucked up and took enough downers to stop a rhino.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Grant Hart - The Venables -- Black Cat - Jan 13 2010

The Venables - A power trio hits the stage and plays rock music that is comfortably in between power pop and a punkrock/rock hybrid. The songs vary a bit with the couple of songs that had a good guitar bite to them being the best of the bunch. But there was a nice slower song which was good enough on its own, but augmented by a nice freak-out guitar solo. I will need to see these guys again some time as many of the guitar solos were gone as the lead guitarist was playing bass while they find another to fill those shoes. Good solid set by a potentially enjoyable band. One knock on them was their oddball stage patter did not always work too well. I was thinking maybe there was a Geoffrey Rush type character that they could consult. But that did make for a perfect set-up for our headliner.
Grant Hart has spent the past 10 years exploring other artistic 
Grant Hart - I saw Grant Hart, an old buddy of mine, for the first time in 22 years last December at the Velvet Lounge. It was sparsely attended, but a decent solo show which provided good proof of his songwriting skills and performing abilities. Tonight began in similar fashion with a lot of high quality solo songs featuring his surprisingly good voice and decent electric rhythm guitar. He began his second song by starting "Heaven Hill" but then played something else, stopped it saying he didn't want to play it and went back to a good version of "Heaven Hill". "Sorry Somehow", "2541", "Never Talkin' to You Again" by request soon followed. Grant coments... "I really fucked up my brain lately." Lately? He then asked for requests for his bad songs that he could cover. I immediately thought "Baby Song" which someone else quickly requested. "No, No, No, Not with a ten-foot pole". OK, then back to the better songs from Husker Du, Nova Mob, and his solo records. Some one requested "Flexible Flyer", so he brought up the opening band and the four-piece brought it nicely to life (with the bass player now playing lead guitar). Apparently, the Venables were ready and had a whole book of Grant Hart songs they could do. So they played another 6-7 mostly Husker Du songs after Grant vetoed many in the book with "Nope...not doing that...hate that song..." The sea shanty tune was good and "Pink Turns to Blue" was solid although he doesn't hit the high notes. A good seventy minute set with oddball and sometimes clever banter from the always intriguing mind of Mr. Hart. He encored with three solo songs that were deep solid gems showing an interesting contrast to the mid/early Replacements type set preceding this. Actually it was like the Replacements on a good night, because unlike most Replacements sets which were drunken shambles and horrible, this one was fun and reminded the 75 or so present at what a great songbook exists, courtesy of Grant Hart.

Quote of the Night: From Grant... "Bigger crowd than last time, I wonder why". Well, last time was after the snows a couple of days before Christmas at the Velvet Lounge. And although the Washington Post promoted that show, this time DC ROCK LIVE had it promoted on its calendar. Yeah, that must be it.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Max Levine Ensemble - Good Luck - Bomb the Music Industry - Delay -- Black Cat - Jan 8 2010

Delay - A power trio from Columbus, Ohio, a place I lived but never truly called home. They even had some fans making the long trek. Those fans along with the large local crowd were treated to a spirited half hour set of up-beat dose of power-pop-punk. I thought the double vocals gave the music an extra bit of thrust. It tapered off just a wee bit at the end in terms of energy, but it was an effective set nonetheless. These guys are together.

Bomb the Music Industry - A couple guitars, bass, drums, keyboards and plenty of vocal mics were the formula here. And the keyboardist broke out a trombone a few times. Trombone for a mostly high energy punk rock set? I have not seen that since I saw the Clitboys in Columbus, Ohio in the early 80s (Yes, I really did see a band called the Clitboys). There was plenty of abandon in this set and sometimes that was a detriment. The crowd was very much into the band when they were clicking which was more time than that. But a few times, it was a bit confusing like at sets end which landed with a bit of a thud. Still a decent time, although when they said we deserved a double drum solo, I wondered what we had done to them to deserve that.

Good Luck - A power trio with a female bass player who shared vocals with the guitarist. And by the way, my mentioning gender is to give an idea of the vocal stylings since we are long past the days where it is unique to the instrument playing side of the music. More good power-pop punk songs which is going to be the theme of tonight's show. I thought the were the steadiest of the bands tonight and there was some thoughts to the arrangements and some sneaky moves happening underneath the melody. Well done and I would love to see them again some time.
The Max Levine Ensemble - Many, many fans turned out for their tenth birthday party. These guys have deserved this celebration as they have played some great powerpop punk music over those ten years (or at least the couple of times I have seen them previously). Unfortunately, I was feeling pretty ill tonight (and still feel like crap as I plow through this review), so I left a bit early. But I wanted to see if they were on and whether the crowd was digging it. The answers were yes and yes.

Quote of the Night: Without getting it exactly correct, a Bomb the Music Industry member dedicated the set to the victims of the shooting in Tucson and talked about the stunning nature of political disagreements leading to such horrid conclusions. It was a good speech, although given the name of the band, it does show that maybe we do live in the age of irony.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Modern Man - Rival Skies - Prisms -- Rock'n'Roll Hotel - Jan 6 2010

Prisms - We begin a night of local music with this four piece from Alexandria. They line up with two guitars, one of whom handles all the vocal duties. Immediately, a lush UK-styled shoegaze rock sound comes forth with a bit of pace. The music is pretty muscular and reminded me of Ride and the more rocking songs of Adam Franklin (Swervedriver). Vocally, I am also reminded of Salvation Army (actually the Three O'Clock, renamed after a certain charity objected). There were enough pop hooks and quality vocals to keep pretty much everyone focused and into their sound. I enjoyed the set and the nice shoegaze-psyche freak-out finish on one number was something that really opened my eyes to their potential.

Rival Skies - This band lined up with a couple of guitarists, rhythm section and a female vocalist who added keyboards on occasion. It was nice to see the crowd expand from about 30-40 people to at least double for this set. They heard a tribal thump and surprisingly murky guitar sound to get things started. The vocals cut in at the high end and the music continued to be both mysterious and accessible--no small feat. The vocals continued to be flatly delivered (not off key, just straight) while the guitar work had a unique low-end swampy sound with some subtle high end coloring at lower volumes than one would expect. Overall, I would say it was dreamy pop-rock with a touch of shoegaze, but they did a nice job of creating their own sound. The songs were good and they varied a few things at the end. One guitarist warned us about the next song, which as I expected went into a faster and louder style. It was as if the Avengers had merged with Radiohead. A powerful combination for sure. Very nice set, well received by the crowd and I don't see how this band can't help but do well in the future (well, actually I can because I've seen it before, but if they keep working hard, good things should be happening).

Modern Man - Another five piece lining up like the previous band, but with a male singer on keyboards. One guitarist did harmony vocals and a couple of leads and both singers worked well together. The sound was the most straight ahead rock sound of this evening. There were plenty of creative moves in many of their songs which kept things interesting throughout the set. I found many of the early songs reminded me of the late 60s and early 70s era where bands where blending soul styled vocals with heavier rock sounds (and equipment) into some interesting rock jams. Possibly the San Francisco scene was closest to this type of sound, but Modern Man is still rooted in the present and not a nostalgia band. They rocked steady and had some catchy thoughtful songs which composed a fun, successful set. The club was filled with over one hundred people by now and it was refreshing to see that sort of support for the final high quality local music this area can and did provide (just get there a bit earlier next time!).

Quote of the Night: from Modern Man... "If you enjoyed that song, you might not like this." as they proceeded to go from a creatively dissonant alt rocker into a more straightforward feel-good rock classic sound. Ha, but it all worked and variety is the spice of life.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Top Ten Shows of 2010

This is my third Top Ten list and I found the choices more difficult this year. Like last year, my first cut reduced the list to 25 and it took some time to hit the magic ten. This year I found the order almost meaningless whereas in the past, there were some clear breaks and overwhelming favorites. The list is twelve long as I decided to include two non-DC shows that were important to me and still include a full ten DC area shows. And here they are...

12. Magma - French Embassy (September): I was quite impressed with this band at the time, but the show really stayed with me longer than I expected. They have a very creative classical, yet experimental take on progressive rock music, especially in the vocals area. They hooked with me with their opening number and kept me interested throughout the set.

11. Members of Morphine - Velvet Lounge (June): The substance was good, but the style was extraordinary. I knew a bit about this band, but did not expect to be pulled into their sonic world as I was in this small, quiet club. Saxes, guitar, drums and vocals and a world of their making--a real world, but one which has a lot of room on the sidewalks.

10. Retribution Gospel Choir - Rock'n'Roll Hotel (February): Two of the members of Low with a different drummer turn it up a notch for a rocking set with the great songwriting I expected. And I anytime I can give props to fellow Duluthians, I will do so. But they earned it this night.

9. Caedmon - Edinburgh, Scotland (May): This and any remaining show could easily be first on my list. This one was important as I had a small part in talking this band into reforming. So I certainly felt obligated to show up. I was glad I did as they did a great job over two nights and I spent some time with them in between. The band is a mere cult act in the grand scheme of things, but they played an important part in the psyche-folk-rock scene in the classic era. And they are good people still making some good music when they choose to.

8. Grinderman - 9:30 Club (November): The Bad Seeds made my list a couple years back, so it is no surprise that four of them in this dark and intense combination would make my list again. Nick Cave and company really can deliver his challenging and high level songs. There is no good excuse to miss any show that Cave is a part of.

7. Public Image Ltd. - 9:30 Club (May): This was a mild surprise. I expected them to deliver a good show, but it was at a higher level than I thought. Lydon was pleased enough with the way things went to promise more PiL projects in the near future (although Arri Up's untimely death has slowed things for a while). Lydon put together a band featuring members from the Damned/Mekons and the Pop Group. So there were plenty of diverse creative elements there to add nice original moves to the still recognizable songs from the PiL catalog.

6. George Kinney and Kohoutek -Velvet Lounge (July): It is not surprising that my list contains one show from a pivotal member of the 1960s Texas psychedelic scene who hasn't played in ages. What is surprising is that it was George Kinney of The Golden Dawn making my list and not Roky Erickson. Roky was enjoyable, but George Kinney was in great physical (and mental) shape and played guitar and sang like a guy 30 years younger. Three of the Kohoutek veterans helped out and did their usual great job (and had fun doing it when I chatted with them later). Sadly, the Golden Dawn got lost below the radar of the 13th Floor Elevators success. If you do your part to correct this, you will likely be rewarded with an excellent psyche-rock set.

5. Woven Hand / Serena Maneesh - DC9 (October): I would call this a double headliner bill as the bands were touring together. Each has major talent, although Woven Hand is a bit better known. Woven Hand are one of my favorites working these days and they delivered an excellent set as I expected. I cannot praise this band enough and I won't spend a whole lot more time here. Serena Maneesh had a wild and heavy psyche-rock style and had David Eugene Edwards join them on a song for a nice bonus. It was great to see two excellent bands and to see both enjoying each other's sets while on tour together.

4. Iggy and the Stooges - Atlantic City (August): Tough call between this show and the London show, but this one had the better playing (and I was in the front row). The London show had Suicide, a great crowd, a classic venue, but this one rocked out a little harder and was right in my face. These guys are still pure genius and worth traveling long ways to see.

3. Shooter Jennings & Hierophant - State Theater (September): I knew Jennings was doing unique things with Hierophant (unlike many in the crowd), but was still stunned at the overwhelming roar of rock music these guys created. The material was varied and strong. It cleared out a whole lot of people in the back, but for those of us up front, we had a wonderful night.

2. Boris - 9:30 Club (August): This Japanese trio with Ghost's guitarist put on another intense set of tuneful loud post metal rock music. They are intense and accessible in a very creative way considering the brute force of the sound. A great band that really needs to be experienced live.

1. Government Issue - Black Cat (December): This was so tight and such a strong set, that they earned the top spot. They were an important band in a very simple and direct way, but are not always thought of when you think of the great bands of the past. They showed a sold out show why they are indeed one of the finest acts of the punk era. I had fun reliving these songs, but I would have had a blast hearing them for the first time if that were the case.

See you all in the clubs in 2011!


Here is the last installment of my Top 100 Record Albums of all-time. Sorry for those of you waiting for Sergeant Pepper or Astral Weeks, but I am not auditioning for Rolling Stone, but listing MY favorite 100 as I outlined long ago. I hope the more common albums are reminders of how important some of these bands are and that the more obscure ones remind everyone how much great music there is to discover, whether it is in a record store or fair, or an on-line store or catalog.

10. Pink Floyd - The Piper at the Gates of Dawn (UK) 1967: This of course is the Syd Barrett led Pink Floyd which has groundbreaking psychedelic space rock mixed in with Syd's whimsical acid drenched children's songs. I wish Jugband Blues from the second album was on this, but it still has some of the finest songs this band could ever come up with. There were some good moments in the Gilmour years to be sure, and Barrett's solo records attract a rabid following (although I find them rather sad), but this is the record where it all came together.

 9. Blue Oyster Cult - Blue Oyster Cult (USA) 1972: Although the third album, Secret Treaties, was my gateway to this band and is perhaps the most steady listen of all their albums, it is the debut that makes my list these days. They cover a wide range of territory here with some slow and spacey psychedelic numbers like "Screams" and "She's as Beautiful as a Foot". And it took me at least twenty listens to "Workshop of the Telescopes" before I realized what a great song that was. The playing is solid, the Melzer lyrics are cryptic. It was the perfect listen for high school kids looking to challenge themselves before punk came around or before they were old enough and sharp enough to dig deeper underground.

8. Bad Brains - Attitude (USA) 1982: This was the first full length Bad Brains release and it was on cassette. I got it as quickly as I could and went nuts listening to it on my car stereo while driving over to some punk rock party in Dayton. I ended up taking people for drives a few times that night so we could listen to it over and over. I normally don't want to play things non-stop like that, but this was so addictive and important, it was the only way to go. Blistering punk rock with monster hooks. I saw them on their first tour in Detroit and it only got better live. Glad they finally got the accolades they deserved, but sorry they could never keep a rhythm going in their band business like they could in their songs.

7. Black Sabbath - Paranoid (UK) 1970: Sabbath was another essential band of my youth and is still an essential listen to metal heads and hard rockers everywhere. They created a distinct time and I have little time for the many rock music fans who turn there noses up at this. It is brilliant music which is surprisingly creative and intricate. No one quite sounds like these guys which is true of many of the top bands on this list. There are great moments among the first six albums, but this was the big one for me with lots of hits and cool songs like "Hand of Doom". I still listen to this multiple times every year now in the fifth decade since I first heard it.

6. Wire - Pink Flag (UK) 1977: This was one of the most fascinating documents of the early punk years. I loved the dark, serious nature of their approach and the 21 fully realized short songs crammed onto one LP. I played this on every radio show that I hosted from 1979 to 1980 and I had so many songs and song combinations to play. When Wire reunited and did a 1986 tour of the US to play (only) their new material, they had a New York band open for them who played this album in order, long before All Tomorrow's Parties was around. This is pop music, punk music, and experimentally simple. They are headed back to DC this spring and I am anxious to hear them again as they are smart, distant and accessible all at once. They obviously had a huge impact here with Minor Threat's cover of "12XU" being evident of their influence. Get the second and third albums, too.

5. The Saints - Eternally Yours (Australia) 1978: We loved the Saints back in the early punk days, but it was the first album that did it at that time since it had blistering pace and heavy guitars like few other bands. The second album had horns and more complexity that was more difficult to entirely grasp in the days of 1234 let it rip music. It rocked hard, so there was a lot to like. But it took many years before I fully appreciated the full effect and the timeless nature of the music. The Saints never bonded with the punks and the punk scene. Along with fellow Aussies Radio Birdman (who they also did not bond with), they brought the Stooges/MC5 sound to punk far better than anyone had in the UK or the USA despite almost everyone trying to do so. The Saints box set is an essential collection of songs from the early albums and live shows. The live sound is stunning and there is a nice full version of this album recorded earlier at another studio.

4. Pentangle - Basket of Light (UK) 1969: I have nearly 100 records featuring Pentangle or its five versatile and excellent solo musicians. This is their third record and is generally thought to be their best. The band was a supergroup merging two outstanding fingerstyle guitarists (Bert Jansch and John Renbourn) with a couple of sought after versatile jazz-blues-folk session men (Danny Thompson and Terry Cox) on rhythm section (with stand-up bass). They grabbed a great female singer (Jacquie McShee) who was doing some blues-folk numbers and away they went into uncharted territory. They combined all of their styles into a mystical mix which still mystifies people today. I was fortunate enough to attend their reunion in London a couple years ago and also saw Bert Jansch at the Jammin Java a few weeks back. This album just crackles with masterful playing as it moves from the swinging London pop sounds of "Light Flight" to the dark folk of "Hunting Song". This is the place to start for creative reworking of folk music from the classic era.

3. The Wipers - Over the Edge (USA) 1983: I was pleased to be one of the earliest Wipers fans outside of Portland as I ordered their album right as it came out based on a couple of sentences from some magazine ad. I immediately tried to turn everyone on to them, but it was not as easy as I thought. They had a strong guitar song with speed and hooks that fit nicely in the punk/new wave/power pop scene, but they were not an obvious fit. They were developing a bit of a cult following and did end up making much more sense to people in Europe. When this third album came out, I bought it immediately and practically fell over when I heard the first twenty seconds of the title cut. It was going to be THE Wipers album then and there. Fortunately, the rest of it was brilliant as well. Greg Sage had a perfect touch in incorporating psychedelic rock, punk rock, and dark folk and blues into busy, yet simple songs. He was a very strange and difficult individual from everything I have heard and we have Kurt Cobain to thank for bringing his brilliance a bit more out in the open, but the Wipers still deserved a lot better. This has been number one on my list at different times.

2. Comus - First Utterance (UK) 1971: Tough call between this and Number One below. As I was collecting psychedelic folk records about 25 years ago, a friend asked Byron Coley to play him something from that era that blow him away. He grabbed this record and my friend sent me a tape. I have now bought about six versions of it, flew to Sweden to see the band's reunion show, hired on as their road manager for an aborted US tour, and have gotten to be good friends with a couple of them. And it was refreshing (but not surprising) that Bobbie Watson (the female vocalist/percussionist) is one of the nicest people I have met, yet she is a part of one of the scariest and darkest folk bands of all time. It has been fascinating to see how many death metal fans love this record even though a bass is the only electric instrument. The themes are terrifying and the music is theatrical, but terrifyingly real. They were able to capture the feel of a secret Druidic sect breaking out of the unknown and unleashing their ancient music into the modern world. This is not for the faint of heart and if you want to explore psychedelic folk music, I recommend you start with other bands on the list. Then try this band. You will need the prerequisites to make any sense out of this. I am not sure I fully do, but I will forever enjoy they strange shifts in the songs and how they can go from ugly depraved themes to sheer beauty on one album. No one has ever sounded like this, and few are even in the vicinity.

1. The Stooges - Fun House (USA) 1970: Well, if this isn't the perfect rock album, then I will never hear perfection. The first five songs are note perfect raging protopunk rock songs. The last two add Detroit funk and freakout free jazz into the mix and by the last note, it is easy to determine that nothing has ever sounded like this, not will again. There have been many people have been converted to this since it sold next to nothing in the day (like the Velvet Underground and some others). It is such an important album, that there have been two six-disc releases that document the entire studio sessions including all 28 takes of "Loose". I still love the manic moments of "TV Eye" and the crazed closing of "1970". These are rock moments that sound as good on record as they do when you see the powerful stage moves of Iggy Pop at the live shows. I am so thankful that they reunited and I have seen both the Ron Asheton version and the James Williamson version twice. But if that had not happened and I was stuck with this as my "deserted island disc", I would be almost as happy. I could dissect the component parts, but that is not important. I would say to run and listen to this, but I would guess most of my readers have heard it a few hundred times. But if it is been a while, give it another dozen spins or so. Don't ever let it get too far away from you.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

RECORD - REVIEWS - December 2010

Paris Stairs
Brittany Jean is from Springfield, Virginia and although has been performing for some time, she can be considered a newcomer on the local scene. That is in part due to working with Will Copps on drums and Brian Young on guitar and bass. The band has recorded a four song ep due for release this January and the four songs are well worth a listen. Brittany Jean's vocals have a medium strength to them which I rather prefer than that of a Joplinesque belter of the blues. She has pop sensibilities, but covers Americana and classic rock styles comfortably. The music is a catchy indie rock/Americana/folk hybrid of some sorts and makes for comfortable listening. The band has the energy to push the melodies forward, so it is actually comfortable, but purposeful listening. This is a good start, although the recording at the famed Inner Ear studio is a little murky at times, but that is probably a bit by choice along with the fact that this is the band's first recording. When they do the full length release, they will hopefully have some clever production and arrangement ideas to give some variance and clarity to the sound. But for now, good songs and good energy will keep me happy.

The song to try first: "Paris Stairs" has an infectious melody with energized vocals that have me backtracking to play this several times in a row.

JUSTYN WITH A Y - Swansong LP plus untitled EP
I am not sure if Justyn's album is called Swans or Swansong as the "ong" is crossed out in both places. This is a live recording in the Laurel National Forest and there are some natural bird and cricket sounds sneaking into the mix of acoustic guitar and voice. It's not my favorite production technique, but it is not too distracting. The playing is strong, unvarnished and straight ahead. There is a somewhat feral quality to it, but it does not lapse into weird "real people music". He reminds me of some of my favorite obscure folk artists deep in my vinyl collection. Nicodemus comes to mind and maybe a simpler Perry Leopald. There is some fine material here and I can recommend this to folk fans who like a few earthy twists in the guts of the music. The ep has a rock rhythm section and electric guitar (or effects at least). There is a nice production here which keeps a raw garage feel in the folk-rock sense of the mid-60s, yet sounds more within today's indie scene. There are still great acoustic guitar runs on the ep as well and the rhythms remind me a bit of 16 Horsepower, although Justyn's voice and songs are his own and not as much in that vein. It sounds like he has a nice arsenal of songs and I am looking forward to seeing him live at the Velvet Lounge on January 16th.

Songs to sample:

"Jason Moran" - Highly energized strumming with vocals that come straight from a Peter Hammill styled depth. That is an excellent vocalist to sound like.

"Even if Your Road Leads Down" - A good strong guitar melody with some intricate picking and a nice vocal line on top. A good rock feel to a classic folk style here .

"Coastal Highway" - Has an old Nicodemus feel to it with a great distant vocal line and some nice guitar work.