Saturday, April 30, 2011

Hot Tuna -- Birchmere - Apr 29 2011

Hot Tuna - I am finally catching up with these road warriors after missing out many many times. And this is an interesting time to catch them as they are touring their first studio album they have released in twenty years. In addition to the two founders, their long-time mandolinist/guitarist and drummer, they have an additional guitarist/violinist and female vocalist who worked with them on the album. It's hard for me to believe that this is the first time I am seeing any member of Jefferson Airplane as much as I liked them. Well maybe not, as I really did not ever want to see Jefferson Starship. But I have loosely followed Hot Tuna from afar as they shifted between countless electric and acoustic tours. This show was full-on electric and for 2 1/2 hours, delivered lots of interest, diverse music. The new cuts were a mix of styles and some worked very well, while others were fair. They covered many other points of their history which definitely revved up the large crowd tonight. They even went back to a song from the 1920s. And that was the key to the success of this band. They really had a diverse collection of songs that covered the blues, rock, folk, and even touched on their classic psyche style along with moments of Americana, jazz, and bluegrass. It was all seamless in the transitions due to the quality and experience of the players. Jack Casady, who just turned 67, still looks the same with the expected aging. He sounds like he can play for another 20 years as he has always been one of my favorite bass players. He even jumps, which is more than I can do some mornings. He slides between foreground and background effortlessly which is always the sign of a good bass player. Jorma Kaukonen (now 70!) moves with caution and care, but has fingerwork that is still capable of dazzling. Plenty of sharp tones from his thumb picking with some delicate finger touches when needed. His solos were strong, although he was happy to share time with his other two players who had many great moves of their own. I particularly like the drum work as it was very similar to Casady, as his playing stayed light and steady when needed, but pushed rock-heavy when that was appropriate. As much as I enjoyed John Mayall here, this was a higher on my list, as both the feel of the musicians and the eclectic material really brought this up a notch (although to be fair to Mayall he purposely will stay closer to straight blues). If you are uncertain about which of the many older acts is worth seeing (and I know I am), I am happy to report that Hot Tuna is one of the better choices you can make. And it really looks like it may stay that way for a while. And it's nice to see the DC duo from the SF scene play back on their homefront, which they enjoy as well. For as Jorma said... "A lot of those (SF) people didn't really get our DC humor, as one guy said to him back in the day...Wow, man. Like I thought you were beautiful people, but you're just regular guys!" Yes, two regular guys that have been playing great music together for 52 years.

Quote of the Night: Another one from Jorma while tuning... "Sometimes people who don't play guitar say 'don't those things (whammy or tremolo bars) throw the guitar out of tune?' Of course they throw it out of tune, it's what they are supposed to do!"

Friday, April 29, 2011

Tone - Gray Young - Screen Vinyl Image -- DC9 - Apr 28 2011

Screen Vinyl Image - I had enjoyed this duo once before and after a couple of songs, I started wondering why I had not gone out of my way more often to see them. They are riff happy guitarists playing raw basic power chords with a bank of synthesizers set for them to lay down some drum beats and noise backing. It sounds like the fastest sogns on the Saints first album played by an industrial/electronica band. The key to really bringing it alive were the vocals which offered a very melodic top to it all. It reminded me of the emotional noise of Ride, although the sound was different. Elements of Chrome, but surprisingly catchy. The duo kept it cool on stage and had screen images projected on them. I sat on a vinyl seat in my booth and made myself a vow to spend more time checking this band out. You should, too.

Gray Young - From Raleigh, NC, comes a power trio that immediately sounded quite a bit like U2 but with more power in the drums. They varied the sound a bit thereafter, but it was good solid indie rock that had extended time for tight instrumental work. The more intense the guitar workout was, the more shoegazey it sounded. This is a smart, together band that is easily accessible. They balance songs and jamming well. The vocals were fine, but used less than I had expected. They won the crowd over well enough to deserve another show some time down the road. Hopefully they have the drive to keep it going.

Tone - Three guitars, bass, drums and microphone for talking, not singing. I thought I just saw these guys, but it was way back in August. I do recall that they were jaw dropping with their waves of psychedelic shoegaze sound. I felt the progressive rock foundation more in this set. They really reminded me of King Crimson's "Red" album at times, with much more guitar. I made the same note I did last time that they fit nicely with Kinski and Kohoutek, although the more song oriented Kinski is the closer fit. Loads of sound, high volume, melodies, undercurrents, pounding rhythms. What is not to like here? Jump in this bandwagon. I was not the first, but you should not be the last.

Quote of the Night: Too quiet tonight, so I'll take one from the doorman at the 9:30 Club the other night who did the usual detailed math of figuring out if 1959 plus 21 is a year prior to 2011 and then ensuring that my youthful face matches the ID picture... "Underage drinking tonight." Okaaaaaay...

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Rise Against - Bad Religion - Four Year Strong -- 9:30 Club - Apr 26 2011

Four Year Strong - Clean rocking hardcore punkrock night begins with this Massachusetts based four-piece. A lot of beards in this band. Are there too many beards in punk rock these days? Not sure, but there have been too many bands that sound like Offspring. Fortunately, this band varied their sound from that during their 28 minute set. They had loads of genuine pace and energy and were fairly melodic throughout. A couple songs were catchy while the rest just blasted away agreeably. They spent too much time dictating a required circle formation for the dancers up front rather than letting them get off on the music as they saw fit, as they were dancing along without any proclamation from the stage. They do need to work on stage patter... "Give it up for Bad Religion...and after that, the band you're probably here to see, Rise Against!" Uh, no. I'm here to see Bad Religion and hell, show some confidence. Maybe a few people were here to see you.

Bad Religion - I was buying this band prior to their first album when compilation cuts had to suffice. But they did more than suffice as there were few bands that moved from punk into hardcore and kept hook oriented songwriting skills at such a high level. These guys are all just a few years younger than myself. They still have original members on vocals and bass. Their two guitarists are punk legends, Greg Hetson and local fave Brian Baker, as Brett Gurewitz was not touring. The songs are excellent and went over well with the crowd, although the newer material was obviously not known enough to generate massive dancing. But doing songs from their first album, Suffer along with some other more recognizable tunes got  the expected great response. They can still deliver the fast paced melodic thrashers as well as anyone and with Dr. Graffin leading the way, they are worlds sharper than most bands as well. They didn't move around much (and if they have legs and a back like mine, I can see why), so they are showing their age. "I don't know how many more years we can do this people. I mean it." Graffin explained quite earnestly. As the Heartbreakers always said... "could be the last." If so, they went out with "Sorrow" and the guitars were blazing, rhythm section flying and the thoughtful lyrics thrust forward. I am happy to have had the chance to follow these guys for their long and storied history.

Live Photos (2011)
Rise Against - From Chicago comes this four-piece, sometimes with a couple of guitars, other times with a lead vocalist. The second guitar did add quite a bit to the sound. And the sound was massive. The soundman did a good job of pushing it to the brink but not into hyper-red annoying levels, although a couple of times the vocal screams went off a little harsh. But still a fine job presenting these guys. I was expecting to be a little cynical but they won me over pretty quickly with songs that were melodic but also seemed to have pretty sincere heart on display. Although I could have done without being told that they were playing a new song with "a message".  But when you have songs that make you want to move, I won't argue. I liked the bit of Irish feel in a couple of them that I also get from Street Dogs/Dropkick Murphys. Maybe it's the sound of the streets with a good folk background? Whatever, it worked. The crowd was having fun and I gave my prime viewing spot to a couple of short kids who were kind of hanging out behind the scenes. They can learn more than I can from these fellow straight edgers. Yes, and they are the future, etc. I just had to write that to show how many cliches swirl around in my brain giving me no right to be too cynical. Good rocking fun tonight. Most everyone looked happy and got home at reasonable times even. The band continues on for more sold-out shows. They have it working right.

Quote of the Night: Too many, tonight, but I liked this Bad Religion exchange:
Graffin: "It's been six months or so since we were last in the DC area, Is that not right, Brian?"
Baker: "Yes, that's right, Greg"
Graffin: "I'm glad you confirmed that because we were actually in Baltimore. Ooooh." (Boos)
Baker: "Hey, I'm not the smart one."

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Fresh & Onlys - Crocodiles - Young Prisms -- Red Palace - Apr 25 2011

Young Prisms - From San Francisco, comes this shimmering four-piece with drums, bass, guitar and female vocalist. Starting with my overused adjective in my first sentence, we quickly continue down a path of shoegaze psyche-rock. The rhythm section is pretty basic and the guitarist has plenty of room to establish the sound. The vocals are used as an airy instrumental accompaniment. Good atmosphere created by this band, but it was bit too "same old..." for me. The 35-40 people that got here early were respectful and the band did a decent enough job for the opening slot.

Crocodiles - Five pieces here with keyboards and a male singer who added rhythm guitar on a few songs. The drums and organ really kick it up a notch as the set gets going. The singer seems to have his Bryan Ferry/Richard Butler moves down and by half-way through the second song, when the soundman got everything gelling, I could hear that his vocals were quite good. They had a neo-psyche thing going like the Teardrop Explodes, Bunnymen sort of sound, but they could really rock it out beyond that at times--particularly with the second guitar. The lead guitarist had an interesting style and was pretty skillful in coming up with things that just seemed a bit more personal to me than most guitarists are capable of doing. There were loads of pop hooks in the lead and backing vocals and everything really came together in a highly energized set that the burgeoning crowd really got off on. The dancing up front got really intense and they were given extra cheering even as they were breaking down their gear. The nearly full room had a great time. This San Diego band is off to the Austin's Psychefest (as are the all bands tonight) and then on to even bigger things, most likely.
Kristin Klein photo in My Photos by
The Fresh & Onlys - These guys have to have a bit of confidence and ability to follow the Crocodiles tonight and throughout their tour together. Also from San Francisco, the band lines up with a rhythm section and a couple of guitars with the singer playing rhythm guitar. They remind me a bit of Tame Impala with a real dreamy pop-rock psyche sound. The lead guitar runs are quite creative and often invoke that mythical western landscape sound found in Ennio Morricone soundtracks and the Sadies among others. When you can pull that altogether and deliver catchy songs with solid vocal work, you have a winning formula that will indeed be able to follow the Crocodiles. They were also able to  push the rock quotient up when they wanted and had a good steady growth to their set. Very smart work here. They clearly have it together and were a pleasure to see tonight. The left coast is alive and well with some nice second generation bands from the Paisley Underground that in many ways, are doing it better than that generation did.

Quote of the Night: Banter between the axemen of Young Prisms...
"It is weird that hockey is still going on and it's so hot."
"No, because hockey's indoors."

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Avant-Fairfax Festival - Apr 23 2011

Nathan Bowles + Scott Verrastro - The Fourth Annual Avant-Fairfax Festival begins with a couple of drummers that work together at times. Verrastro has long been apart of Kohoutek, Kuschty Rye Ergot and other local psyche outfits. They had full kits but showed a lot of deft percussion work and created nice sounds and even a touch of simple drum melody. Were that drum solos were good as this, and then we wouldn't have whining critics constantly complaining about them.

Cash Slave Clique - Two guys with mysterious electronics unseen due to the large equipment cases they were housed in. OK, I could have walked around and looked and actually I did take a peak. But it is sometimes more fun just to take in the results rather than go behind the curtain, especially in the electronica world. The synth loops were on top of the rhythm sections and they had a lot of purpose with their pulsing bursts of sound. I kind of prefer the melody and controlled noise over the rhythm in these kind of sets, so these guys had it working for me. Catchy at times, challenging, but never too obtuse. Good set.

Drums Like Machine Guns - So far, the festival is humming along at a blistering pace with two stages set up on different floors. All it has taken is a quick use of the stairs between sets and another band is ready to play. I am liking that. There were three guys here playing electronics, guitar and using a microphone. No drums and thankfully no machine guns. They were pretty much noise merchants displaying their wares. They chatted a bit and had a nice sense of humor about it all. Their noise had some interesting patterns amidst the feedback and dissonance and was not overly harsh, so it went well enough.

Frankzig - We have a nice finger style guitarist here. He had touches of flamenco, folk and even a bit of rock in his acoustic mix. He had long songs and added some meditative vocals latter in the songs. It reminded me of a more grounded Robbie Basho, with a bit of Peter Lang and that Takoma style sound. Yet it was worldly in its feel and was really easy to get lost in. And that is one of the keys to simple acoustic music, having listeners fully involved. Based on the audience reaction, Frankzig was a success.

Fun - Two guys walked around the audience making wailing sounds like whining hedgehogs with the occasional exploding sound. Before they came to the front and uncloaked, I figured out that one of the sounds was balloons popping. Then, it became clear that all sounds were and would be balloon related. The two masked men proceeded to blow up balloons, pop them, release the air through pinched stems, use a helium tank, and then some. They stuffed balloons under their cloaks and did a few sumo moves to pop some more. I am not sure I can make this sound as good as it was. Ludicrous? Of course, but the humor was good and quite honestly, I thought the sounds created were better than many of the noise bands I am exposed to. Ultimately, this act lived up to its name.

Human Adult Band - A couple of guitars and a drummer hit the stage. Perhaps it was the logo on the drummer's t-shirt that reminded me of Crass, but this band did have a serious anarcho-punk sound to it. There were grungey psyche elements and they varied the tempo a bit. There was not a whole lot of virtuosity present, but some good sounds emerged. It was getting a little too Lydia Lunch for me after a while, but they upped the tempo a bit and closed with something that rocked out a bit. Crassholes had fun.

Mutwawa - Two masked, hooded and fully robed figures attach a table full of electronics and dish out a heavy dance set. Heavy drone beats dominated with noisy breaks and some white noise moves within. It was fine for what it was, and I am not the critic to figure out how this fits in to that genre (although these guys seemed sharp). One interesting note was that a different section of the audience was digging this more than myself and some of the other classic psychesters. But that is what is good about a festival--exposure to lots of different styles and genres. So far, so good today.

500mg - This is a solo project of Michael Gibbons, the guitarist for the great band Bardo Pond (reviewed here a few weeks back). He began with some noise work on his pedal board before he strapped on his guitar. The sounds are reminiscent of Bardo Pond and are full, lush and quite moving. He lays down some very interesting rhythm loops and plays some lead runs on top of that. Scott Verrastro joins in half-way through with some bell ringing as he walks around the crowd and then adds some light to moderate kit work. I swore I heard some melodic guitar progressions that were similar to Meic Stevens "Ghost Town" and although they probably were close, I  realize I also have famous UK guitarists on my mind tonight. But for now, this Philadelphia guitarist and local drummer did a great job and the crowd appreciated it.
 July 2003 Botallack

Michael Chapman - I was excited to see one of the greats of the UK finger-style guitar scene finally after all these years. I actually own some of Chapman's test pressings that I acquired on the collector's market some years ago. And of course, I have loads of released vinyl and CDs of this eclectic performer. He is a bit similar to Roy Harper and John Martyn with all kinds of styles and an independent spirit to play whatever he wants. But tonight, it was a six-string guitar and voice. And that was plenty. I was amazed at how adept and skillful his playing was at 70 years of age. I did not detect any slippage and his ability to stir up emotion with deft, dynamic touches was astounding. I knew I would enjoy seeing him, but did not expect it to be at this high level. His finger picking, slide work, harmonics were all subtle but strong. He had that old deep bluesy voice of his and had a nice sense of humor as well. He had a funny story about "Fahey's Flag" and then added that it was a pastiche of John Fahey. "Pastiche is French for piss take". The room was overflowing with a very ecstatic crowd, some of which knew little of his history. But they knew great music when they heard it and it was going on here.

The Black Twigs - aka The Black Twig Pickers. I saw these guys at Terrastock a few years back with Jack Rose. Sadly, Jack Rose is no longer with us but the three Black Twigs play on. They use guitar, a couple of banjos, violin and a washboard. They feature some singing along with the acoustic music they play. The music is traditional Appalachian folk and is quite good. Although not a fan of country music, I really love the Appalachian folk style and these guys have it down. They are playful with the songs and vary it around a bit. I liked the one song that I had seen a few years back where the banjo player picks up some thin sticks and plays drums on the violin strings as the violinist fingers and bows a tune. The set may have been a bit long for a festival, but that was ok by me. Although, it ended up being the last set for me.

Caves Caverns / Kohoutek - Unfortunately, the stage shifting broke down and they had to do a lengthy set up for Caves Caverns. I was waiting around, but then went up to the stage to see if they were ready. The stage was set but no band was in site. It was 12:30am and I had over a half hour drive back and a 20-minute playtime with my cat, so I had to call it a night. I reviewed Caves Caverns recently enough and they were decent. Kohoutek is always very good and I am sure they did a great job tonight. There will be another time (yeah I said that last time, too).

Aside from the slowdown at the end, the festival went very well and it was an outstanding line-up. I think they have established themselves as a part of the local government's arts festival and should be able to continue.  With perhaps no more Terratocks (parts of three bands tonight appeared at the last Terrastock festival), a mini-version of that is sorely needed.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Grails - James Blackshaw -- Red Palace - Apr 22 2011

James Blackshaw - I have heard of this fine UK-based fingerstyle guitarist, but had not heard any of his music. And the first surprise for me was that his style is based much more on American guitarists like John Fahey, Jack Rose, and the lighter side of Ben Chasney. Although he was no doubt influenced by the senior circuit of UK guitarists, I did not get the wild feel of a Davy Graham or the traditional feel of the others (not that they were without plenty of US blues style in their music). But aside from trying to detect the influences on the notes, I easily got into the spirit of his music. The notes from his 12-string acoustic came fluidly with an assertive finger-style playing. He had one of the deeper bass string sounds that I have heard from an acoustic guitar. The songs were long, in fact he played only four of them in his 35-minute set and there wasn't a whole lot of chatter between songs. Just deep, serious playing that the small crowd really got into--especially the guy that yelled "shut the fuck up" at a noisy couple at the bar behind the crowd. A nice set, and a good warm-up for me before the Michael Chapman set tomorrow.

Grails - I last saw this Portland collective at the Terrastock Festival in Louisville, Ky a few years back. They were a solid entry in that fine field, but did not move me enough to dig in much deeper. I was looking forward to seeing what these six guys were up to and was pleasantly surprised with the results, mixed as they were. The band has a few interchangeable parts with a couple guys rotating at the drum kit and several acoustic and electric guitars going. There is a full-time keyboardist (who percusses a bit) and a bass player who also has some synthesizers and does the only "vocal" work which is pretty much musical sound textures that do not involve lyrics. They weave their songs together with only one break in the set and I liked their  slow fade-in entrance with members coming on at different times and an exit done in similar fashion. Some good trippy music, sometimes heavy, sometimes quiet and spacey. They are able to assemble some interesting hooks and dynamics to really pull me in at times. There were other moments where I kind of faded away from what they were doing, but it was not too terribly long of a downspell. The crowd was only about half full tonight, probably a little less, but was very enthusiastic. One guy was too enthusiastic and was tossed for trying to start a mosh pit. Huh? Ultimately this 55-minute set and 10-minute encore came off quite well. I am not quite ready to go nuts over this band, but they have certainly raised their game a bit and are well worth a night out.

Quote of the Night: Almost no audible stage patter and none in the mics. From Grails... "it will be the only break of the night." which one guy explained when after about ten minutes, they were a bit slow in switching instruments and getting things set up. The rest of the set was fluid and noisy at all times even with the multiple switches. Well done.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Title Tracks - Foul Swoops -- Black Cat - Apr 20 2011

Foul Swoops - The first of two power trios hit the stage, the backstage actually at the Black Cat. Good straight up punk rock music with the emphasis on rock is what immediately catches and keeps my ear. The first song reminded me of a Walter Lure Heartbreakers' song without the Thunders solo. Just straight ahead rock without a lot of frills here. Maybe the Gears? the Tools? the Controllers? Many of the lesser known grind-it-out latter ('79-'81) day punk bands come to mind. Stage presence is a bit lacking here, which is being polite, but they do keep the music coming. The set was maybe a bit long at 36 minutes, but this is easy music to like, but it is harder to love. And some will likely hate it altogether, but those people are not at the show anyway (after no doubt blowing a month's allowance on the Charlie Sheen event). The crowd of 40-50 people enjoyed it well enough.
John Davis, Michael Cotterman, Mike Sneeringer
 - Photo by Eamonn Aiken in My Photos by
Title Tracks - Title Tracks moves things up a notch or two musically. They have all the punk energy, but loads more pop hooks and melodic attack. I hear 999 and the Buzzcocks early on, although it shifts to more American in style as the songs keep coming. The guitar work and vocals shine and the rhythm section pummels along and is quite together. This DC band has just returned from Europe and is off to the Midwest to support the release of their new CD. They are certainly at a level of ability to obtain new fans and sell bucket loads of CDs. Although one criticism, is it that hard to get someone to cover your merch table at least for a time prior to your set's conclusion? It was empty all night and I saw a lot of people looking to buy early. Hopefully they stuck around after your set. I have even done this task full-time or part-time for bands that are in the Rock'n'Roll Hall of Fame or would sell out the 9:30 Club 3-5 times over were they to reunite. So if any band ever needs some help...  But that is my only complaint tonight, as I want to leave with the memory that I saw a good band that also earned major points for covering the Wipers "Telepathic Love". Awesome.

Quote of the Night: Pretty quiet night, so it goes to the headliner "Hey Foul Swoops, can we borrow an amp?" Although this short-out slowed things down a bit, they got the momentum back quickly and the set went on cleanly thereafter.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Nathan Robinson - Kelly and the Ruths - Tim Lake - Sova -- Apr 19 2011

Tim Lake - First time for me in Sova, although I have walked by it a few times as it is next to the Rock'n'Roll Hotel.  I may have ordered something years ago, now that I think about it, but I did not know they booked much music there. It is a nice little coffee shop that expands into a bigger place with a couple of upstairs rooms and an outdoors area in the back. Tim Lake starts things out upstairs with a mobile PA to assist with the vocals. He plays acoustic guitar with a pick in modestly striking manner, although he does add some nice fingerstyle in a song later on in the set. He is doing some covers, maybe some originals, as I certainly don't know them all. Scott Walker's "Duchess" is all I need to hear to prove to me he has good taste in song selections. Everything sounded good and he has a pretty good voice, which obviously helps if there is only one instrument supporting it. Good assured playing, despite his being nervous as he announced early. A nice 25 minute set that the relaxed patrons enjoyed.

Kelly and the Ruths - This Philadelphia trio went without the microphones tonight and set up with an acoustic bass, a snare drum and an acoustic guitar. I was hopeful the vocals would come through, but had no worries once everything started. The two female voices and one male voice came through loud and clear and were the star of the show. I really enjoyed the thoughtful harmonies and was reminded a little bit of the Unthanks at times. It was only at times, as the band produced an eclectic mix of songs that were folk, jazz (contemporary and classic), pop, blues, and combinations thereof. The Akron/Family would love a set like this. The songs also went from deep and touching (Beekeeper) to rowdy fun (Ella Fitzgerald's When I get low, I get high). The bass was nice, percussion helpful, and the guitar strummed along steadily, but it was the vocals from all three that lifted the songs. Perhaps they are catching me at a perfect moment, as I have been wearing out my copies of the recent Broadway revival of Hair and the original Ian Gillian version of Jesus Christ Superstar over the last few weeks. I do get into moods where I marvel at great vocal leads and choruses from Thomas Tallis on down to those soundtracks to the Zombies, etc. And the songs I heard tonight fit right in and made for a fun show for me and the one to  two dozen people hanging out. They just ended a 19-city tour, so hopefully they will grace our fair city again. They could easily break out with a lot of music lovers from the indie rock world and beyond.

Nathan Robinson - We now have the lead singer/guitarist of the Archivists doing a solo set on acoustic guitar and harmonica. He also has Kelly join him on harmony vocals for a few songs. I was not surprised that he would do well as he has proven to be a good singer/songwriter with the Archivists. He played mostly if not all originals (I did not detect a cover, which certainly doesn't prove anything). His guitar style was assured as he flat picked assertively through the songs. He was able to adjust intensities within song and created nice drama where you could really focus on the lyrics. His 35 minute set flew by and capped off a very nice evening of music.

Quote of the Night: Nathan Robinson mentioning the tip jar an merch table for Kelly... "Please support her, she's gotta get back to the real world." Kelly: "Real world--Boooooo!"

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Raveonettes - Tamaryn -- Black Cat - Apr 17

Tamaryn - Drums, bass, guitar accompany a female vocalist that is Tamaryn. The music is dream pop with a spacey feeling throughout. I am reminded of an LA band called Midnight Movies and there are traces of the Banshees, but those bands are edgier. This is quite smooth and flowing. It is an agreeable sound, but I am the type of listener that likes more jagged edges and variance, unless a band really can suck me completely in. Not quite, here, although there is plenty of quality and I am sure many listeners enjoyed the set a lot. I enjoyed it enough and it certainly is a good fit for the headliners tonight. In answering the basic questions that I often ask myself when I see a band, here is my conclusion... Did I enjoy the set? Yes. Would I see them again? If convenient or the billing is right. Would I buy their music? No, but I wouldn't turn it off if I heard it on a radio show.
Gallery :: Live :: LiveThe Raveonettes - Interesting to see this band return to the Black Cat after I previously saw them in front of a modest crowd at the 9:30 Club with the Black Angels, who themselves played the 9:30 Club recently with a modest crowd. This time it is back to the Black Cat and it is a packed house that looks just shy of a sell-out, but not by much. The Raveonettes are a male/female duo on vocals, each playing guitar and bass. They have a couple guys with them that play floor toms, guitar, and keys/electronics. I have always enjoyed this band's sound ever since a friend recommended them to me years ago. They haven't changed much since then, but they have a lot of subtle shifts within their goth-psyche-lush pop rock sound. They have a garage psyche feeling in the songwriting, but they don't radically alter the instruments to easily slip into a cliche. They somehow pull the diverse elements into their personal sound that keeps a listener like me entranced (see opening band's write-up for a comparison). It's icy-cool and hypnotic, but the songs are very inviting. I enjoy the multiple level of lights from stage, amp tops, above and behind. They have these long thin lights surrounding them upstage as well. There were sometimes where things cut out causing the light man to run around and find the cure, but it did not mar the set, which lasted just under an hour prior to the encores. The new material sounded especially good, but they played some favorites of old that the crowd recognized and showed their appreciation for. Another fine outing by a band that I enjoy every time out.

Plug of the night: One last plug for the Avant Fairfax festival coming this weekend. Two long nights of music with the DJ/electronica sets slated for Friday and the fuller band sets for Saturday. The line-up is stellar and it is pay what you can afford, but do try to contribute as there are artists from the UK, California and many points in between. I'm psyched!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Velvet - The Chance - The Honeyguns -- Black Cat - Apr 15 2011

The Honeyguns - I have long been interested in checking out the progress of this promising local band since I last saw them in July of oh-ten. Well, progress noted. I sensed then  that this band could really obtain a large audience with their friendly, catchy style and saw even more evidence of that during their half-hour set. The vocals continue to be strong and clear delivering the core of their songs. the rhythm section is both hearty and nimble with bass playing that can mix comfortably among dancy patterns and rock runs. The guitar sound is excellent with plenty of treatment, but not too overwhelming as some metal or shoe gaze guitarists might choose. The choices they make and the quality of songs they write are truly excellent and will appeal to modern rock fans, classic rock fans and R&B old-timers. The decent Friday night crowd was having a lot of fun and it was nice to see people freely dancing and swaying to rock music and not needing a fix of a DJ boring beats into their heads. The upside is great for this band as long as they keep playing and making friends in the business. Check them out while the cover charge is minimal.

The Chance - A local trio hits the stage with the guitarist doing the only vocal work. The sound is post-punk/shoegazey for the most part with a thick, quick fat sounding rhythm section. The first song was something about New York which I heard said about 18 times. I can't really judge lyrics at live shows, so I have no idea what the theme was, but it seemed odd (although I see I can study it at their myspace page). I couldn't come up with an easy comparison, but I got stuck with thinking this was a cross between Bauhaus and Funeral Oration (a hardcore band that infrequently sounded like Joy Division). There was a basic undercurrent and lots of swirling songs, but frankly there was a lot lacking. The songs were simply not memorable. There seemed to be a lot of distance between band and audience and not in a cool detached way. There was a good sound and a lot of effort was done to achieve that. Now, work on some songs to bring the listeners in. I am sure some people enjoyed this, but the crowd sounded pretty flat and uninterested for the 50 minute set.

Velvet - I somehow have missed this band who is doing their farewell show tonight. There is not a whole lot of point in writing up a review of farewell shows, unless it is Fugazi or something akin to that. They did have a nice grungy pop rock sound. They were nice enough to give away all t-shirts, posters and CDs for free (but just take one please) and the t-shirts were gone before they went on. Unfortunately they had a lot of tech difficulties with equipment but worked their way through. Good-bye Velvet, I am sure I'll see some of you in other bands some time soon.

Quote of the Night:  Overheard in the crowd... "Get out of my brain, you sexy bitch."

Friday, April 15, 2011

Acid Mothers Temple... - Shilpa Ray and her Happy Hookers -- Red Palace - APr 14 2011

Shilpa Ray and her Happy Hookers - OK, I already did the compare and contrast with Nico cliche that she is probably tired of hearing at her show at the 9:30 club opening for Grinderman. That was a nice blast of music that worked well enough on the big stage, but was not brought to cozier environs tonight. 40 to 50 people were quietly entranced by the fine set Ms. Ray and her three cohorts provided. The rhythm section set the foundation as is usually the case, while the guitarist wailed away with an energetic yet not overpowering set of chords. Ray's harmonium is a welcome addition to the usual rock band instruments, but her powerful voice is the star. It's bluesy and she has a great control of the dynamics. Kudos to the soundman for adjusting the levels so her highs did not overpower the PA as they did in an early song. The music had a Nick Cave/16 Horsepower feel which is a mighty nice place for we listeners to be a part of. They played a hot 45 minutes and surely won over a few new fans. Their name is now locked into my memory as one that will trigger a response to add them to my calendar the next time they come to town.

Acid Mothers Temple and the Melting Paraiso U.F.O. - Speaking of cliches, the easy one with this band is to call them the Japanese Hawkwind. They keep it simple with drums, bass, and monster guitar and have one guy play some simple rhythm guitar or make great spacey runs on his Roland synthesizer. They begin with a long succulent jam from their latest album "Pink Lady Lemonade" and then move on to some rocking songs that fit nicely into the mix. There are few breaks, but a couple of real rock songs in the psychedelic stew. The sound was loud and strong and this may have been the best show of theirs I have seen (of three, although I saw Kawabata play solo and guest with about four other bands at Terrastock). The crowd swelled to about 60 or more and it was interesting to see that many of them were dancing, bobbing, weaving and swaying to the groove. Psyche crowds are low-key (like me) but the music was intoxicating enough to get the majority moving. I was thinking that fresh off of my metal show the night before, that why aren't more metalheads at shows like this? A set like this a great fit that all but the most narrow minded metal freaks would get off on. It is a tricky world where you can find any music you want, but learning where to branch out of your comfort zone does take effort. Although not everyone has to cover the amount of genres and sub-genres that I do, I really hope to see more audiences bleeding into each other as life goes on. But for now, I certainly can recommend this band to people who like it heavy and like it spacey. Always a treat.

Quote of the Night: Right before the last number, Shilpa Ray and her band had this chuckle inducing exchange:
SR "This is our last song, so let's be real quiet now..." ...pause...
Drummer in a whisper "... any time now..."
Bassist "This is the soundcheck, right?"

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Accept - Sabaton - Katatomic - A Sound of Thunder -- Jaxx - Apr 13 2011

A Sound of Thunder - I saw this metallic quartet once before at the Velvet Lounge and was interested to see how their thunderous sound would translate to the bigger stage. Not surprisingly, the big PA helped them deliver a solid set of interesting metal. The rhythm section was loud and strong throughout, with the drumming standing out nicely. I recall how mesmerized I was watching him set up his massive kit at the Velvet Lounge and was surprised to see it a bit simpler tonight. But there was plenty of tools at his disposal and he sounded spot-on throughout the set. The guitar work is metal precise and with enough flourish to get the crowd revved up, although at times it was a bit buried in the mix. Not often, and it did not really hurt anything and may be even part of the intent. Nina's vocal work was interesting and elevates their sound by not being overly cliche-metal. It reminds me a bit of prog and punk bands that dabbled with metal like Circus 2000 and Penetration. I think as they progress, they are capable of progressing into an original sound that could be quite amazing. We shall see. For now, they are certainly going to give the DC area metal crowd something to get excited about.

Kat Atomic - I have seen this band before here and again there were a lot of covers, maybe all covers as I am not the full expert on all things metal. They have a decent enough sound--something akin to "the sound of the 80s" they say as they played songs from then and before. "The Immigrant Song" came off ok, but I was less interested in the Dio number and for "Barracuda"? Please, I'll take the cello version of Rasputina before I want to hear this. I find this band somewhat out of place in a night of original music. But they paid to play and that is the way it works here.

Sabaton - I knew nothing about this Swedish metal band and was actually a bit worried during their opener as the keyboards reminded me of dated Michael Mann soundtracks. However, by the second song, I was won over and everything continued quite wonderfully thereafter. Even the keyboard sound changed a bit and got better. The key was that a few of the songs had vocal work and song structures that reminded me of the folk work of Dick Gaughan (5 Hand Reel, Clan Alba) or Martin Cockerham (Spirogyra). No real surprise there as the Scandavanian metal scene is far more than death metal. Many bands have a good understanding of the great folk and folk-rock bands coming from Norway and Sweden in particular. But there was nothing quiet or pastoral with Sabaton. They had a ton of energy and a nice accessible quick pace in their music. They also seemed pretty sharp and lyrically covered a lot of history with wars and battles being the themes (Gallipoli, WWII, etc.). A winning set that the nearly full club was definitely into.

Accept - I do recall listening to Accept's first album back in the early 80s when a metal friend lent me his albums in exchange for digging into my punk collection (this was right at the crossover beginnings after all). I always thought they were kind of AC/DC light which didn't excite me a whole lot, not being a huge AC/DC fan, but Accept could occasionally nail a really good song. And yes, I can't avoid it... they were a perfectly acceptable band to my ears. They hit the stage with their new singer they have had for a couple years now and had a loud and proud sound that was a bit bass heavy. The two guitarists cut through it well enough and this was the rare mix at Jaxx where the vocals weren't too over the top. I was enjoying it all well enough and the band had a bit of subtle variety in the songs. It did get a little long in the tooth I thought, as they are not exactly Metallica or even AC/DC as songwriters. I did enjoy the moment the bass player and guitarist were trading licks one for one, while the rhythm guitarist stayed back. That was unique. So all in all, a good set that delivered a classic metal sound to the Springfield crowd (Note to touring bands like these guys and Sabaton... I know it's always a winning formula to do the "hello 'town that you are in' shtick, but I have a feeling that there is only a tiny percentage of people here actually from Springfield. Even the club management has thanked patrons that come from beyond the DC/VA/MD area to the shows here).

Quote of the Night: When the opening band was told that they should do their last song after completing their second not-too-terribly long song...  "Fuck, really?" They rightfully looked surprised but quickly kicked it in and did several more 4 minute songs. I really don't understand Jaxx sometimes as 35 minutes seems reasonable to me. The second band got cut off of their "Paranoid" cover after the second verse at the 26 minute mark. I love efficiently run shows, but things seemed a bit odd tonight.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Greenhornes - Hacienda -- Rock'n'Roll Hotel - Apr 12 2011

Hacienda - Taking the stage is a drummer, bass player/vocalist, guitarist and keyboardist. They launch into a rootsy blues-rock sound. It's loud and electric with a nice bite.  They are from San Antonio and there is a harder-edged Doug Sahm sound in their somewhere, from what I recall of Sir Douglas Quintet. The keyboards came to life in the second song with that lovely farfisa sound. I was liking it well enough, but like a lot of blues based material, it wasn't truly lifting me to any great heights. I did like the southwestern style they employed. Yet, as the set went on, they mixed in some pretty fierce sounding songs and varied it around a bit. Slowly, I was pulled into their world and really enjoying what they were doing. I was not alone as the good crowd tonight was slowly increasing the volume of their ovations. By set's end, the 100 plus in the crowd gave this band a great ovation. We all had proof that good bands hitting the road can really grow their audience when they have the goods to deliver. Hacienda has certainly got the goods to come back as a headliner next time.

 The Greenhornes 
Take ★★★★ on World Tour, Play Vancouver
The Greenhornes - I was interested in this show, but had some doubts when I asked myself the simple question of Why? I knew nothing of this band, other than the rhythm section went to work with Brendon Benson and Jack White in the highly celebrated Raconteurs for a couple of albums. I saw that act and enjoyed it. And while the rhythm section was good, they were simply a rhythm section. But with Jack White drumming and Benson doing some solo work, the Greenhornes got back together. The critics were kind to their recent record, so I decided to make the trip to the NE side of H Street. First surprise was that they had a fourth musician on guitar/organ. It was apparent early on that the rhythm section was good. The lead vocalist/guitarist was decent enough, although his stage movements were less than Roky Erickson, maybe closer to that of Kraftwerk. The songs were simple bluesy rock/indie rock styled I would say and frankly were not exactly pulling me in. They hit more of a garage-based rock sound as the set went on and I was enjoying it a bit more. The crowd was respectful, but there was not quite the growth of excitement that was felt during the Hacienda set. I was thinking that it was if this southern Ohio band was working with rejected songs by another southern Ohio band, Guided By Voices. But then I quickly remembered, that Pollard releases every good, bad and indifferent song he writes under GBV or various other guises. But there was a similar sound and inconsistency to GBV, although it was a lower-key approach. At least there were a few high points, but overall, I would like to hear better songs or have something a bit more exciting to grab onto.

Quote of the Night: From Steven Adler's book "My Appetite for Destruction".... Howard Stern asking him the following "How the hell do you get kicked out of Guns'n'Roses for doing drugs?" I think the answer lies in these pages, as even with a co-writer, Adler appears to me to be about the dumbest person I have ever read about. At least he appears to be honest, although I always remind myself of the new adage... Never trust a junkie.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Cloud Nothings - Eternal Summers - Invisible Hand -- DC9 - Apr 11 2011

Invisible Hand - Would that Adam Smith's writing on the invisible hand sound this good, it would be on a best seller list (instead of a quoted classic that no one reads). This Virginia four-piece featured a couple of guitars and immediately put them to work grinding out a strong, gutsy punk-power pop sound. The basslines were really quick and the drumming quite assured. The songs were really catchy in a Dickies/early Lemonheads sort of way. Vocal work reminded me of the Buzzcocks in that there was a pleasing attack to it. The guitar breaks and solos were freakishly good and reminded me of the thrash-era Meat Puppets in noisiness and unpredictability. The sound was a little unsteady at times, occasionally with the vocal levels, but the whole set had a certain unpredictability to it in spite of the fact that each song was quite easy to access. Sharp, striking material delivered with great dexterity, assurance and charm. Winning set enjoyed by all.

Eternal Summers - Next up is a trio from Roanoke with the usual instruments and vocal microphones for all. The female guitarist sang lead throughout the 35-minute set. I was hearing sounds reminiscent of the Alley Cats and maybe a touch of early Toyah. The music definitely took me back to the early punk days when all kinds of pop, rock and hardcore styled musicians got together and played cutting edge music in many different degrees of skill, tempo, and volume. There was an acceptance of intriguing visions then before things became too compartmentalized. It seems music scenes are more open again these days and Eternal Summers is a lovely band that could have been at home in 1979, but has an important place today. There was a spacey undercurrent to their sound with nice reverb levels on the guitar. The songs seem thoughtful and the musicians allow some space for the sounds and words to sink in. It is catchy and has some pace, so there is plenty of pop within the rock, but they are able to keep it down a notch and groove in their own little world. A sneaky good set of songs that required an audience willing to listen. Thankfully, the room was about half-full and was filled with good listeners tonight. They were rewarded once again with this band.

Cloud Nothings - I saw this trio open up for Wavves some time back and they held their own then and were a band that I definitely wanted to see again. They exploded into their sound instantly with hyper-energized non-treated guitar chords. Their new bass player was up to the pace and picked his way through his fast lines. The drummer was unbelievable good. A super-fast player that even had a Keith Moon touch now and then. Stunning effort. The songs were all very catchy pop songs played in the manner of the Dickies or maybe Ted Leo. These guys are from Cleveland, so I was thinking that maybe this sound is similar to that of the Choir if they had come around at the time of the Dead Boys. Really pop with superior pace and just a touch of attitude. The vocals were fine, although the singer was chugging from a bottle of honey all night to keep it going. I see plenty of honey along with hot tea and lemons on band contract riders, but it isn't often consumed straight-up on stage. Great music from this moderately tight band that controls their abandon at incredible pace. Hopefully things will go well for them. I think they have surpassed the entertaining Wavves already, so hopefully they can grab some of that band's buzz.

Quote of the Night: from the openers... "Two other great bands are playing tonight. Don't go anywhere. Yeah, we sure didn't some to see you." Well maybe not, but this was one of those nights where I told the doorperson that I had come to see the headliner, but I felt like going back and splitting my vote between all three excellent bands.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Bardo Pond - Surf City -- Black Cat - Apr 10 2011

Surf City - I rarely do much research on the bands I am going to see as long as I come up with one reason to see a show. So this unknown four-piece hits the stage running with a Hawkwind-like rhythm section laying it down for two guitars to add to the grind and create a synth-like swirl. The vocals are melodic and nice and seem to be grabbed from some pop song memory and grafted on. I thought I was hearing a couple of Ramones songs later in the set (think Joey's pop songs) playing atop a steady controlled noise with a Tommy Hall (13th Floor Elevators) jug part played on guitar. This set worked extremely well like a nice jambalaya, with clearly defined parts combined for a nice total experience. So, were these accomplished musicians some kids from Brooklyn hoping to catch the eyes and ears of Animal Collective or Caribou? No, they are from New Zealand and have traveled a long way for our listening pleasure. And pleasure was had by the fairly full backstage crowd. There is a lot to grab onto in their songs. Hopefully the audiences will continue to come out for this band while they are here. I have a feeling they will be back again some time. Hope so.

Bardo Pond - This band is a known commodity for me and a lot of people in this area. I have seen this Philadelphia quintet at two Terrastock festivals and once previously here many years ago. But it has been nearly two years since the last festival in Louisville, and with a really nice new record out, I was anxious to see these psychedelic doom merchants. The Gibbons brothers create strong, atmospheric, noisy powerful guitar sounds that seemingly have a lot of intricate sounds for something so thick. The bass fattens things out considerably and the drums keep it all going and offer many startling little breaks within the drone. Isobel Sollenberger offers up downer/dreamy vocal lines and flute parts to add a touch of treble in the deep dark songs. Bardo Pond does have real songs as there is some character and style adjustments when they do break. But they really can lay out a throbbing drone that is ever so addictive. Just when they appear to rock out a bit, they pull it back into the groove like a taffy machine stretching out that sweet sludge but never losing the mass. They played an hour long set that was well received so they were invited back for another 20 minutes or so. Downer music never felt so uplifting.

Plug of the Night: A Bardo Pond side project is headed back to our are here on April 23rd at the Avant Fairfax Festival. Lots of great bands will be there and I am really looking forward to the set by veteran UK guitarist Michael Chapman. I have loads of his material and even own some of his test pressings. I have been here before. You will get a ton of great music for a very low price. The line-up looks better than ever. I hope many of you join me there.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Riverbreaks - DC9 - Apr 7 2011

Riverbreaks - Well, I could not make this show due to the Wire show at the Black Cat, but I did manage to hobble over for the last two songs. The band was good, as I expected, and the nice thing to see was the energy in the room. It was a fairly crowded DC9 with a lot of people into the music they were hearing. It was easy to see that the rest of the set must have been good to have that kind of energy going late. Hopefully they sold some of their brand new CDs and I look forward to seeing them again some time.

Wire - Weekend -- Black Cat - Apr 7 2011

Weekend - Pretty small turnout at the 8:47 start time, but the crowd grew steadily throughout this band's 45 minute set. And the band? They are a trio from San Francisco with a bit of buzz about them. They actually sound quite a bit like Wire in their first song with their Brit-pop feel and multiple sharp-edges. They actually have a lot of Ride in their sound as well, and this becomes more pronounced than the Wire sound as the set continues. The shoegaze element is more in the vocals than the music, although just as I make a note to that effect, the guitarist explodes with a loud wash of sound. At times, the drumming and bass lines were a bit too steady. Fans may say that would be hypnotic, but it made my mind wander a bit more than I like. But they found ways to bring me back in when they snapped off a song that was a bit more catchy or varied the volume and pace a bit. The closer was a real blast and the filling club was treated to what this band is capable of. I am not fully convinced, but it is early in their career and there are some really nice things to work with here. As for an opener to a Wire show? Certainly, this was a fine choice and I enjoyed it as such.

Wire - I last saw this band right as I began this blog about 2 1/2 years ago. I had seen in 1987, but this show was better. So I was excited about seeing this band, whose first three albums are among my all-time favorites. They are again composed of three original members with the retired BC Gilbert being replaced by a different guitarist this time, Matt Simms. They come out to some throbbing music reminding me of side project Dome. But they immediately cut into a jagged edge rocker that showcased some of their signatures: Quick, agile drumming; rocking guitars with drone touches; Sneaky vocal lines that are melodic yet distant; and an overall sense of command and control. They varied their songs quite a bit thereafter with an emphasis on their fine new album, "Red Barked Tree". They played their song about the midwest as they called it, "Map Reference 41°N 93°W" and unlike the other older songs they played, this one sounded like the original. "Two People in a Room" was even more smoking than the original, which was plenty fast, but this version had an amazing menace to it. And was it "40 Beats That" that they played from Pink Flag? I have to admit I am pretty terrible at coming up with titles and trying to match songs I hear with the 70-100,000 floating around in my personal database known as my brain. They played for an hour to their adoring fans and did five more songs in two encores for another 25 minutes or so. The finish was a really twisted and wonderfully gnarled version of "Pink Flag" that is a really fun alternative to the original. I was thinking about half way through this set that Wire is good live, but more important on record. By the set's end, that distinction became much more narrow. I hope the band continues to record and play out more frequently, as it is still a powerful show.

More blogs: I had been a reader of Les Enfants Terribles, but the writers are moving to different sites and now I follow the musical rantings of Megan at Fuzzy Logic. She was at this show and the last one I was at, and one of these days we may actually meet. But I do recommend the blog.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Hammer No More the Fingers - Caverns - Deleted Scenes - Zoos of Berlin -- Red Palace - Apr 6 2011

Zoos of Berlin - This quartet is from Detroit not Berlin. I detected neither the classic MC5/Stooges sound out of them (let alone Motown), nor the steely arty krautrock from Berlin. Although the first song did make think of Hawkwind trying to sound like Supertramp. Ultimately, I think the band was more for fans of Modest Mouse or Maps + Atlases. Although I am not much a fan of this sound, the band did a nice job with it. They were good at bringing some interesting keyboard backgrounds in with a pulsating rhythm to the pop-rock tunes. A lot of dual vocals carried the songs. A fair effort that many will find engaging and the 25 people or so seemed engaged.

Deleted Scenes - It has been a while since I last saw this local four-piece. Their half-hour set was filled with their usual mix of guitars and keyboards  playing catchy pop songs on top of an edgy, gutsy rhythm section. They rock out and have some great keyboard sounds that sound fairly old school in their otherwise modern take on hard edged pop music. Maybe a bit of Talking Heads at their edgiest? The sound was similar to the first band, but the added bite made things more interesting for me. The crowd had swelled to near 50 people, where it stayed the rest of the night. They were more respectful than many of the crowds these days and were having a nice time during this set.

Caverns - It has been a while since I have seen the mighty Caverns. If you have not read it here before, then know it now. This is one of the more original and exciting bands in the DC area. If you like heavy, hard music and are tired of the cliches, then you owe it to yourself to check out this band. One metal guitar, one powerhouse drummer and one classical-jazzy pianist create non-stop instrumental mania on stage. They only blasted away for 25 minutes tonight, but they had it going on with just a touch of sound imbalance that was corrected pretty quickly.  I could drone on, but you get the idea.

Hammer No More the Fingers - I always thought this North Carolina band was from somewhere around here and was gratified to hear them say they felt this was their home away from home. They have grown a nice fanbase around here and the folks on the dance floor showed a lot of enthusiasm for their set. And why not? This power trio rocked hard with loads of power-pop moves to suck in the listeners. The guitar work is interesting in that it has a snakey, slippery feel during many of the verses and the breaks, but can power up for the choruses. The rhythm is good with inventive basslines and punchy drumming. They remind me of the Rhythm Pigs, an old Texas band that also even more formerly adopted DC as a home in the eighties. Hopefully this band will be a bit more remembered than the Pigs were, but for now, enjoy their output. This was a show to promote the CD and it hopefully aroused a lot of interest.

Quote of the Night: From Deleted Scenes after thanking the other bands... "Don't take (the tone of) my voice as a sign of irony, it's just that we're tired."

Monday, April 4, 2011

Black Angels - Suuns - 9:30 Club - Apr 3 2011

Suuns - Great entrance as a keyboard note wails away while the guitarist, bassist and drummer get ready. A wash of noise sneaks into the mix before the drums join in with the rhythm. The music continues in a rhythmic fashion, lead as much by the keyboards as the drumming. The vocals are a bit shoegazy with a romantic sneer not unlike Reg Presley of the Troggs. The music was psychedelic in its own unique way, similar to Wooden Shjips, but a bit more shogazey. There was a bit of instrument shifting in the addition of a guitar, but the keyboards, synth and sound effects seemed to lead much of the way. The quiet songs were a little too obtuse to hook up with, but the rockier tunes worked quite well. This was an interesting set that was politely received by the smallish crowd. There was enough of an originality to it that will keep me tuned in to see what this Montreal band can come up with next.

Black Angels - This is at least my third time seeing this fine psychedelic band from Austin. They have always impressed me and it was no different tonight. They are one of the steadiest, reliable bands of those that I see routinely. They succeed in creating a silky smooth groove oriented psychedelia which is unusual as their songs are quite short and are not merely vehicles for extending the music into long flowing jams. They have a bit of variety in their songs as well, although the overall sound is well defined within a large fenced in free-range. The vocals are a cut above and remind me of a cross between Canned Heat and Dead Meadow. The real success is that they take a classic psyche feeling and yet sound firmly entrenched in the modern day. They are not a throwback band trying to emulate garage heroes of the 60s (although they no doubt love those bands, as I do). The club had picked up a bit more in numbers and excitement during this set as many were familiar with the band. The approach remained the same as previous visits with lots of instrument switching to allow for multiple guitars, percussion or keyboards as the song warranted. They played for 55 minutes before coming out for a three song encore, the first of which was a nice solo guitar and vocals performance. Another fine appearance that went over well with their growing number of fans.

Road trip anyone?  If anyone is down in Austin at the end of the month, do check out Austin Psyche Fest. The information is on the Black Angels site. They deserve a lot of credit for being a part of this event for the forth time and I would love to head down there some day to take in the fun one of these years.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Mike Watt and the Missingmen - Sons of Guns -- Black Cat - Apr 1 2011

Sons of Guns - I suppose I should not get irritated by generic band names that are used elsewhere, but these guys are not linked as I have no idea who they are. They are not a European band I found on Facebook or an Oregon band I found on Myspace. I do have other things to do in life, so now on to their set. The first cut was a nice swampy blues rock number that was far simpler than the Gun Club, say for instance. They then moved to tribal thumping rootsy blues/rock with punk attitude. They were a four-piece with a singer and just one guitar and things were kept simple throughout. Ultimately I was feeling a bit of San Francisco sound and the closest band I can think of is Fang, if they had gone bluesier. The songs varied between likable and dull, about every other one. They kind of reminded me of roadie bands and buddy bands that toured along with Black Flag. No surprise then, considering our headliner. A reasonable 22 minutes, but nothing I would ever want to own on vinyl, CD, or MP3.
Mike Watt, center, will be joined by 
Missingmen Tom Watson, left, and Raul Morales at Mercury Lounge in 
Goleta on Sunday.
Mike Watt, center, Tom Watson, left, and Raul Morales

Mike Watt and the Missingmen - I found it interesting that I have seen Mike Watt more with the Stooges than in all his other bands combined. I do recall seeing the Minutemen open for Black Flag in Detroit and being outstanding, which surprised me as I was only a lukewarm fan of their records. I may have seen him a second time, but my memory is off on this one, so perhaps it was just the one time. I have seen the Stooges four times, so I was interested in catching this variation which I had heard was a bit of a throwback to the Minutemen style. The backroom is sold out with an interesting mix of old and new fans. The first song had a great old feeling of grind it out guitar with Watt's funky and jazzy bass runs. Drums were solid and the band was comfortable working off each other. They proceeded to mix it up with slower, mid-tempo, and fast numbers with Watt handling all the vocals. The slower ones went into a lounge-jazz beat style that worked better than I thought it would for me. Watt's vocals were closer to Nick Cave than Tom Waits, if I had to pick. It was steeped in the southern Cal-SST style of old more than a Minutemen copy. After a 40-minute set, they came back for a slew of encores, mostly sung by the guitarist. The tempo was steadily faster and the crowd was rocking out nicely. This last 20 minutes made the night for me. Nothing overwhelming here, but good solid original rock music done by guys who I can respect and have a good time listening to. Mike Watt fans know who they are and they will not be disappointed. Trendy fans can seek the latest craze elsewhere.

Quote of the Night: I didn't hear much tonight and aside from the unconscious guy dragged out midway through Watt's set, it was a nice easy night. Watt did say he'd  " to thank Dante for having us all these years and Ian...", so it was nice to see some of the old early 80s veterans getting together for the show.