Sunday, July 31, 2011


Bottle Rocket "Petrichor"
 Cover Art

This is a project comprised of Brooklyn solo artist Angel Ocana and Philadelphia band, Disco Machine Gun, front man Michael Roberts. Their combined talents lead to this interesting six-song ep. They play with mostly modern forms here. Indie Rock is the starting point, although there is that sharper modern edge to it, with quirky quieter moments alternating with the more rocking passages. I hear a little bit of Adam Franklin's quiet psychedelic tinged music influencing the first cut. But things get a little more mystifying in mostly a good way thereafter. There is a distinct shoegaze feel with good steady shimmering backing sometimes leading to a more driving variation. The singing is quite good and is the fulcrum to the songs. The sound quality is nice throughout with enough guitar dynamics to interest a diverse amount of listeners, provided they have at least one adventurous bone in their body.

Songs to try out...

November - Powerful lush pop-rock shoegaze song. So easy to grab on to, it could qualify for a hit single if it got the break-out. I will play this over and over.

When the Leaves Turn Over - Sebadoh meets Fugazi style rock.

Petrichor - A little more of the Adam Franklin (Swervedriver) style.

Mittenfields "The Fresh Sum ep"

I don't feel any conflicting emotions going on in my head when I try to figure out what category to place this in. It is shoegaze and then some. But every label requires more detail... The opener, "Mixed Signals" roars away with waves of guitar sound. Intense, emotional, loud... all the good things that good shoegaze music provides are present here. It was also nice to see some varied tempos and volumes along with some instrumental twists as the five-song ep continued. I particularly liked the wah-wah guitar sneaking its way into the mix on "My Mind is an Avalanche". It mixes in with quiet moments before making way for a nice wild ride toward the finish. This was my favorite of this short set. For better or worse, the ep started to settle in a little too comfortably for a bit until the "bonus cut" "Swim in a Tight Parallel" brought it back up a notch. Most any shoegaze fan or loud rock music lover will enjoy this release. There are examples of excellent songwriting here and even the lesser material sounds like it would be a kick in the brain on stage.

And that theory can be tested out on Monday, August 8th at the Black Cat where Mittenfields will play with two other bands for the a measly eight dollars. I will be there, so should you.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Blackberry Belles - Ugly - Spoonboy & the Papas -- Black Cat - July 29 2011

Spoonboy & the Papas - I had intended to be at the Red Palace tonight with a late run to the Black Cat. However, insane Friday night traffic forced me into Plan B. So it was off to the Black Cat a little early tonight. Unfortunately, it was a little late of the opening set which started right on time. I was able to catch the last three songs by this band and liked what I heard. They did sort of a sea shanty combined with melodic punk on one song. The other two were nice melodic pop-punk songs. A good sound, pretty tight, and a band I will try to see again when I can.

Ugly - Hmmmm... The first song reminds me of the pop of April Wine mixed with the heaviness of Moxy with an occasional twist of Max Webster. There, that's a reference to three 1970s Canadian bands that few people have heard of. Fortunately (or not), this band quickly moved into other sonic territory forcing me to open my mind further. They had a nice mixture of light and heavy that was more extreme than other times I may say that. And after a 41-minute set, this was a bit too much actually. What happened for me was that the louder moments promised a lot. But by set's end, the quieter moments were winning out and it did not quite work as well--perhaps considering this Friday night show. I did like some of the keyboards work and the Crazy Horse style rock that snuck in on a song or two. While I did not sense a cohesive vision at work tonight, there are some cool things going on. These guys are on my list of bands to monitor for future growth.

The Blackberry Belles - This is the CD release show. I have already favorably reviewed the CD as well as favorably reviewed the band's live show and gave space for an interview with two of the three members of this local band. So at the risk of overkill, here's another review of the Blackberry Belles. The band did yet another fine job of presented their modern take on 60s garage/pop/soul rock'n'roll. I enjoyed seeing them on the big stage at the Black Cat and the Friday night summer crowd was big enough to justify having this all-local show up here. The sound was great right from the first note and stayed that way throughout. Everything blended together well and the band had its usual energy bringing out an extra pop in their songs. So it was a good show tonight by a band you should and will be hearing from for some time around here I think.

Girls’ Rock Camp (ATL)

Quote of the Night: "Ladies and Gentlemen, girls rock" from our headliners as they featured their wildly talented female drummer. I wanted to point this out as tonight was also a benefit for Girls Rock, a good looking organization that hopefully will continue to prosper.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Interview with The Blackberry Belles -- Part Two

Part Two:  Interview with Tony and Jesse, 2/3 of the Blackberry Belles.

And don't forget, Friday, July 29th--see the band at the Black Cat and buy their CD!

DH  I am curious of your opinion on this. I have an (ongoing) argument with a friend where he says a live show should have the band featuring new and unique arrangements. That may work for Bob Dylan or Bruce Springsteen, but then I counter with the Ramones or the Stooges where you don't want unique. How do you feel about that with your music, do you like to play with it?

J  We will mess around with at practice. You know, jokingly play songs differently and joke around that we will play it that way at a show, but we end up playing it the way we have it. Some of the songs have changed a lot...

DH  Since you thought you had them done (laughter)

J  Yeah, we've gotten to the point now where we're comfortable with each other and comfortable with the songs we have--definitely the songs on the album, to where it would take a lot of time... Some of this would take so much time since we don't have the time to rehearse often enough. We could spend our time rearranging the songs we have or spend time trying to write new stuff so we don't play the same songs at the show. So we've really been trying to focus on that, but a lot of times we can only get together once a week for a couple of hours.

T  But I feel like our material has the ability to change, you know, like on stage if something happens and if like I miss cue... there are times where I change songs, not completely, but I'll stop playing what I would be playing they are carrying the songs. Like they will always react. They are always right there like they know what's going on.

DH  Yeah.

J  Or it's a horrible train wreck. It's one or the other. (laughter)

T  I don't think we've had any train wrecks on stage.

J  Not lately.

DH  I can sense that it could go either way. It seems like there is a nice feeling among the three of you that you can play around with it. But also when you are kind of new, unless you are destined to be the new Phish, you don't want to go hog wild improv...

T  Yeah, we show some serious restraint.

DH  I sense some of your musical influences date back to before you were born.

T  Yeah, definitely.

DH  How do you discover that era through each of your musical journeys. I am always curious about that with younger people.

T  Well you know, I grew up on hip-hop and then I met some friends who were in to death metal. Like I skipped right over Metallica and went to Obituary and Deicide. And then grunge hit and then I don't know how many copies of Jane's Addiction albums I've worn out. Or Blood Sugar Sex Magik by the Red Hot Chili Peppers... and then when I started playing guitar and getting into old blues guys, I was digging back. But I never really got to the garage thing until uh... You know, like the White Stripes hit and the Black Keys hit and I listened to that and thought that was really cool. And then when I joined the Breakups, Ted from the Breakups just started feeding me all this old garage rock and they were listening to same blues stuff I was listening to like Buddy Guy and whatnot. It's like I am right there with those guys. I'm not trying to put myself on their level, but I'm feeling the same things they are feeling, so I'm digging deeper into that. Oh, and then also Prince. Yeah, he's one of the bigger influences on my musical upbringing.

DH  And how about you?

J  Well, I started in a similar place I guess. I was really into hard rock. My younger childhood friends and older brothers got me into metal. So I grew up on Metallica, Pantera, Guns'n'Roses and all that kind of stuff. I lived in that scene for a number of years until I got towards the end of high school and my taste kind of mellowed out and I started listening to more classic rock kind of stuff ore even jam band stuff. Kind of in and out of that and I've sort of stopped looking for music for a long time and sort of take things that were handed to me. So I can't say that I have a lot of garage rock influence or anything like that. I am kind of a lazy music listener and have listened to a lot of the same stuff for a long time. But it's kind of all over the place.

DH  That is interesting because when you are in a band, especially when you write, because if you are kind of scholarly and hearing every chord progression known to man, you can feel like 'this sounds good, where am I stealing it from?'

T  I wait for other people to tell me where I'm stealing it from. (laughter) It's like this sounds great, and I hope that person doesn't sue me. But if I play something at home and say I obviously know what that is, I'm not going to do that.

DH  But if they sued you, that would be a good sign, then it would show you would have enough money to warrant it. (laughter)  So how do you play the bass parts--what do you do with your keyboard?

J  The Fender Rhodes that I play, I rewired the insides of it to maintain the internal tremolo and EQ and its like a guitar, it's got pickups and you plug a cable in and out to it, but now it is split so two octaves come out into a bass amp. I struggled for a long time to find the right combination of stuff. I tried different effects and things without rewiring, but I really wanted to isolate the two sections from each other because when you play it in this way, I want the bass to sit way up higher in the mix than the upper register of the piano and have that punch. And that was missing until I finally just cut the pickups into two sections. So now it's like two little pianos. The top half goes to an old Silvertone Sears guitar amp that kind of fell into my lap with the bottom going into a bass amp.

DH  Yeah, Ray Manzarek of the Doors had to do the same thing, but he had that separate little bass thing...

J  Yeah, I would love to have the Hammond on stage with me, too, but I don't think my arms are long enough to reach over there. The organ I use is just a Roland/Hammond clone which I run into a Leslie cabinet which gives it a nice growl.

DH  Ah yes, it has that Leslie swirling thing.

T  And you have to carry it....

J  Yeah, although in smaller places with a bunch of bands, I'm kind of a pain in the ass to deal with because they have to have four mics to set up and I'm bringing in a mixer and doing the mix myself, the bass and everything else.

DH  They think they are getting off light with a trio.

J  Well, I take it easy on them.

T  We set up a wall of amps and they are all his. (laughter) I've got this one amp and his are like he's Ted Nugent. And I still get told to turn down. The soundman goes turn down and you've got to be kidding me.

J  I can't argue if you call me a masochist (laughter)

DH OK, so the Black Cat show is for your CD release which I've reviewed and enjoyed. You've put this out yourself, right? No label?

T/J   Right.

DH  Which is the way it goes these days a lot. How are you trying to make it available? -- after this CD release show of course.

J  We are open to suggestions. I've never done it this way before. Some of the online tools now available for bands for cheap or free are pretty incredible. We use Bandcamp which some of the folks we knew were using. So we started investigating different options. And that's a good one. It's a got a good interface and gives you some options of design and how you want to display your stuff and how you want to sell it which is great. You can let people name their own price, you can name a minimum price, they can pay more if they want to, they can download songs individually.

DH  Right.

J  But they are linked in to several other places. I guess in the end we need to use all the online tools that we can and just try to push the CDs to the people we talk to and at shows. I'm not really sure what labels do for bands anymore. Not that I don't think they do anything, but I  haven't talked to anyone in depth about how it works with some of the DC labels that a lot of really great bands are on. Like what actually is happening there. Are they getting money fronted for the recording or?

DH  That's a good question and something I want to learn more from talking to more of you guys starting at different levels. I mean it is one thing if Subpop signs you, but it does seem like there is the rise of the publicist now. I have friends who do that and now more bands are skipping labels, doing recording themselves, then the road...  Anyway, I am glad Bandcamp is going well. That seems to be good place with what I've seen.

J  It's really easy to use and they manage your... the cut they take from your sales is pretty minimal and they are not involved with making you charge if don't want to charge. You can use it for free and give all your stuff away. If you do charge, they handle all of it--you set up your Paypal account or whatever and funnels it to you.

DH  So you can give it away for free and they don't charge you?

J  Up to a point. I think if you were using up a lot of their bandwidth, you know, they are going to need something I guess. It's cool to because you can use it to search for music. We'll look at our stats there and find that people came across our tunes within Bandcamp, looking at something else. They categorize it, so it's a little community...

--(we continued on this theme for a bit)--

And after discussing clubs, mini-tours and how good there drummer is (she is very good), we called it a day. I am thankful that this band is as enjoyable to hang out with as they are when listened to live or on the new CD. Do check them out at the Black Cat and hopefully many more shows down the road.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Ambulars - Cigarette - Cloud Becomes Your Hand -- Black Cat - July 27 2011

Cloud Becomes Your Hand - What intended to be a review of Tim Robbins at the Birchmere instead becomes a review of the show at Black Cat's Backstage. But since I needed to turn off my air conditionrt to assist water repairs for the evening, I needed to do a later night show (I'll spare you the full details). So I get to see one of the countless Brooklyn bands starting out tonight's festivities. They line up with drums, violin, guitar/vocals and a couple of guys on keyboards/electronics that also break out percussion and ukuleles. Immediately an experimental music genre looks like the easy label to apply. But with that, there is always a need to explain further. The music had a nice drive to it with some interesting vocal chants ceding way to longer instrumental rhythms and icy violin runs. Lots of variety thereafter with some ripping guitar moves and prog moves. There was even an O'Death syle Americana/rock stomper with power chords from guitar and ukulele amidst cute electronica twitches. They closed with something reminding me of King Crimson's "Lizard". This was a tight, fun 30 minute set that worked its magic on me and the growing crowd. I recommend this band to any open minded music fan and will be back at their next show.

Cigarette - And yet another poorly named band that I don't immediately spot on my internet search. And since I have other things to do, I will get to the music. There are seven people on stage although that changes from song to song moving to a low of four. I think one person was out there for only one song. Lots of instrument switching as well, which I am not sure was really needed from a listener's point of view, but probably had to do with who wrote or sings the song or whatever. The resulting music was much smoother than the stage moves fortunately. The band had a light droning dreamy groove going the whole set. Delicate vocals toward shoegaze, but never too heavy. This was not always compelling, but was effective.

The Ambulars - I won the bet with myself. During the previous two sets, there were a couple of guys carrying on long winded conversations while the bands were playing. I bet myself that at least one of them was in this band. And one of them was. I realize that you are visiting friends, but there is a backstage for that if you really need to talk. Obviously if you are in the back of a club, you are not bothering the band, but you do bother listeners like me, who have to get up and move to a new location. That said, I will clear the slate and see what this band can deliver. I liked the simple immediate loud guitar-bass-drums-vocals delivery of tuneful pop-punk music. The drumming in particular had enough muscularity to push out at the listeners. The songs were pretty catchy for the most part. Buzzcocks-like, but not at that level of complexity and flexibility. I did note that the endings were a bit sloppy and not thought out. Tightening needed. Also, the band cried out "Everything's wrong" after a few songs when tuning went awry. There were some feedback issues too and I think they lost quite a bit of momentum. Still, there's hope if they learn to handle tough conditions and tighten their songs up.

Quote of the Night: From the openers... "We were in the James River today. Oh Boy--it is the warmest river I've ever been in."

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Adrian Hardkor & the Bad Decisions - The And Company - Lucy Michelle & the Velvet Lapelles - DC9 - July 26 2011

Lucy Michelle & the Velvet Lapelles - From Minneapolis, this versatile five-piece band comes to our fair city. They have drums and cello that stay pretty steady, but electric and acoustic guitars and basses mix in with accordions, glockenspiels, ukuleles and added percussion in many combinations. A female voice is on top of it all and unfortunately the voice was a bit shrill atop some muddy lows early on in the set. Fortunately the soundman righted things and the band's sound came together much better. The sound was likable enough with its Americana leanings. As the set wore on, the driving quality of the music was pulling me in nicely. The band has more going on than initially meets the ear. There is a more worldly quality than I first suspected. Ok, the Gogol Bordello-like gypsy stomper they did was rather obvious, but I could detect it in other songs, too. I am glad they decided to bring their kids along and bring their music to the east coast. Based on the audience response, there are some Lapelles fans to be won out east.

The And Company - This Massachusetts trio lost the awards for longest band name and largest group tonight, but they made up for that by delivering one of the more creative sets I have seen this month. The one constant was a keyboard/vocalist. The drummer added lead vocals and a bit of acoustic guitar while the third member also added vocals, acoustic guitar, some keyboards and percussion. They even set up a xylophone and brought out an accordion for one song. The songs were even more varied than the underlying instruments. The first few songs had a playful experimental pop quality to it not unlike a Philly band I like called Kelly and the Ruths. They came back to earth a bit for some of their songs and settled more into folk and folk-rock idioms. In fact, the acoustic guitar led songs were the weakest of the set. They were decent and may help give a bit of variety, but the keyboard led numbers really shined brightest. Vocal work also was of high quality as well. Both the songs and arrangements were clever. The modest crowd obviously agreed as they sounded about three times as loud as their actual numbers. It has been two years since a previous tour? I hope I don't have to wait that long for the next DC show.

Adrian Hardkor & the Bad Decisions - Adrian Hardkor is on acoustic guitar and vocals. His "bad decisions" led to being accompanied by an electric guitar, a bass and a violin (part of the time). They did a nice job rushing up on stage to get started ten minutes after the previous band as it was 11pm. You see people, there is a reason why I carp on the Velvet Lounge and DC9 to get their butts moving and get these shows started on time. It really is not fun watching people leaving the club during the final band's set. And at times I am joining them. Fortunately those that stayed, kept the hyper-enthusiasm going for this band's set. It was decent Americana-folk, although honestly I did not see enough in the arrangements to make me excited enough to want to go out of my way for this band. There is a kernel of good song writing here, so we will see what develops. I really missed the violinist when she left the stage. Perhaps the twangy country touches turned me off a bit. There is some talent here, so time will tell, I suppose.

Rant of the Night: I don't know how to say this delicately, but frankly I don't give a rat's ass about Amy Winehouse. Never did. I sometimes get "accused" of writing up a lot of positive reviews. Part of the reason is that I choose the shows I go to and don't get sent to see pompous, over-rated, over-priced major acts like Amy Winehouse. Even if the acts are not pompous, the press coverage is. I am never bothered when Husker Du, Sonic Youth or Nirvana go to big labels and on to arenas (well, not Husker Du) and there are plenty of huge, huge acts I respect, but I really wish more fans of celebrities would become fans of music, film or theater or whatever.

And if you want to discuss celebrity deaths, I will leave this column with a more positive obituary. GD Spradlin died recently at age 90. He is not a well-known name, but you've seen him in movies and will remember his richly unique southern accent if you take a look at his filmography. He was a very normal human being who led a full life and never entered Rehab or had any need.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Interview with The Blackberry Belles

DC's own Blackberry Belles have increasingly put on excellent live shows at many clubs and venues in the past year. They have now released their first record (reviewed favorably here a month back) and celebrate with a CD-release party this Friday night at the Black Cat. I hope the attendance is good and most any rock fan should not be disappointed with this band in any way. But come on out and judge for yourself.  Here is a part one of an interview I had with two of the Belles conducted this past Sunday...

Interview with Tony and Jesse, 2/3 of the Blackberry Belles.

David Hintz:  The Blackberry Belles, have a been around a year is it?

Tony (guitar/vocals):  A little over a year.

DH  OK, and three members all in the DC area?

T  Yeah

DH  And did you all grow up in the DC area or where in the country?

Jesse (keyboards):  I was born in DC but grew up in Northern Virginia. My folks are from Texas, moved up here in the 70s, bounced around for a while, had me in the city then moved out to Burke, in a little log cabin.

DH  That's interesting. I lived on a mountain in Colorado for 18 years, but it was a comfortable house, not a log cabin... 30 miles west of Denver was all.

T  And I grew up in Xenia, Ohio

DH  And me from Kettering (we spoke earlier about the Xenia tornado and other things as these are both cities around Dayton, Ohio).

T  And I've been out here since I want to say 2003.

DH  And your drummer (Alison), where is she from?

T  She is... where is she from?

J  She is from here and California. I think she spent most of her childhood out in Cali... Her family was military, so she bounced around, ended up back here.

DH  Yeah, all us Federals end up back here.

T  They knew each other quite a while...

J   Yeah, Allie and I were in a band shortly after high school. She was the original drummer for a band, The Ordinary Way, which was a band I played in from 1999 to 2006 and so right when I joined up, she had left, so we got another drummer. But she would periodically come back and we would do shows together and sometimes we would have two drummers or she would play percussion. We got to know each other pretty well.

DH  Yes, and you Tony are in another band right now.

T  Yes.

DH  And are you, Jesse, in any other side projects right now?

J  Not really, little things here and there.

DH  But you are in a band now...

T  Yeah, I am in the Courtesans right now.

DH  Yeah, the Courtesans have been around a while...

T  Yeah, actually the Courtesans started... actually, I was in Supercade with the bass player from the Courtesans, and then drummers and singers kind of came and went and then one day, we were like ok, it's time we just sing. It doesn't matter if we can't. We just need to do it. And then at that point, we just became the Courtesans. And I was in another band at that time as well. And when that band broke up, I started to look to put together this band.

DH  Right, so you were active interested and I was kind of curious about this. Because it does seem so different now. You did not hear about this 30 years ago as much--people being in two bands, but now it is so common. So is the goal to do something different? Because your bands are different, although they could play on the same bill.

T  Yeah it was weird because I think when I was in Supercade or right after we became the Courtesans and we were trying to find our way, everybody was in another band except for me. (laughter) Well it was kind of like I have lots of time on my hands. I want to be in another band. So I started answering Craig's List ads and I got into a band that was doing garage rock, you know 60s garage rock, the Break-ups, so once the Break-ups broke up, I wanted to keep doing this kind of music and at that time, it didn't translate to what the Courtesans were trying to do. So I did not want to have this huge hodgepodge of different sounds and I wanted to focus more on this (Blackberry Belles).

DH  That makes sense. I find it interesting as I try to think back. We had "fuck bands" which would be (multi-band) combos that went out and do one show, but now big bands, huge, I mean Jack White or whoever with all kinds of things going on... But how about the writing? How does this band write and who do you choose when you are in two bands what your focus is?

T  A lot of the times I just know when I'm writing. It's like this is definitely a Belles song or a Courtesans song and there have been songs I have demo'ed to one band and they're like 'ehhh' so I play it to the other band. The song writing for the most part is that I'll have the skeleton of a song--sometimes I'll have verse, chorus, bridge, you know all that stuff and lyrics, and then I'll come in and everything will get switched around and parts will change and everybody is influential on the creative process. And on some songs like the end of "Listen baby", we were going to do a third verse and (Jesse) said why don't we do something different and he just started playing something and he came up with the end of "Listen Baby" and I had to find something that would fit lyrically at the end of that and it worked out really well.

DH  Yeah, that's good. I want to point out here that you are a three-piece with no bass. Keyboards, guitar and drums. And I think you guys, especially the two of you do really well with the arranging. It does sound full and uh, if you do work creatively on putting things together, it doesn't matter how simple it is underneath as opposed to lining up like the Marshall Tucker Band with three guitars.

T  Everything I am doing is extremely simple because I've got to play and sing.

DH  Yes!

T My approach is I'm going to play as little as possible. I'm going to get away with smoke and mirrors and it works out.

DH  Right. And how was your Fort Reno show?

T  It was great!

J  We had a really good time. We were worried about the weather. It was hot, but clouds kind of rolled in and threatened with storming but held off. Yeah, it was great. There were a lot of families there which was cool--kids dancing and stuff. I've only been to one show there before and it was so long ago, I don't really remember it--who was playing. But it was a good experience.

DH  Yeah, it looked like it when I wrote the review of the one I attended. It's really not for me, but it's a really cool thing because there are so many young people there exposed to it...

J  Surprisingly the sound is good there. The PA does not look like much. The stage sound is really good.  It's the same guy that's been running it for a while, doing the sound. And someone does the booking. But they have it together.

DH  You guys do pretty well, at least I think, in playing just about every club here--short of the 9:30 Club or have you played there?

T  We have Not played the 9:30 Club.

J  There's a lot of little places that we haven't played...

DH  Smaller clubs...

T  We got really lucky with the Black Cat and the Rock'n'Roll Hotel. They pretty much got behind us right out of the gate. They were just giving us main stage shows and we were bringing nobody since no one knew who we were. And they would turn around and give us another show. I have never understood it. We love (the Black Cat). And the same thing with the Rock'n'Roll Hotel. I hustle to try to get that place filled up, get different bands to play on the bill, different organizations to come in, you know, to try to get some more people in there with us. And they have just believed in us from the start and we are lucky to have both of those clubs.

DH  With most of your shows as headliner, are you arranging the opening bands?

T  A lot of the time we are. I mean, it seems like they trust us to put together a bill.

J  I don't know, maybe it's like half and half. We did a Mondo Topless show...

T  Well that was not ours.

J  And the Billy Woodward and the Senders show.

T  The first one wasn't ours, the second one was.  I put that one together with Billy Woodward. He helped us on that one. He got the Dirty Names in on that one. And then it was us and the Dupont Circles on the bill.

DH  It's important to get bands you like and something sympathetic, too...

T  Yeah.

DH  But also the clubs would want them to bring their own fans, so is that something you would consider? It's hard to know...

J  Well, you learn as you go, I guess. It's hard and I think most bands understand. As we we were when we started, we were not really capable of bringing a crowd that's gonna make the club very happy. You know they need to break even and everyone's kind of aware that there's a line in there where everyone's going to either lose or make money and if you're not going to get them up to the line, then they'll need to look for someone else. Nothing against the bands. So, we've been on some shows where there were some bands that should not have been on for that reason. But there's out of town bands where it's tough. It's really up to the club in the end to allow the show to happen, once they see what's going on. They approve it, see that it's a good idea.

DH How do payouts work? Do bands have to get involved?

T  Some times the bands have to get involved. Some times the clubs depending where you play. I can't name names.

DH  That's fine.

T  Like we'll play shows where there will be an opening band that didn't bring anybody and some of these clubs poll at the door to see how many people you bring and then we'll just say 'whatever, split the money three ways'.

J  If they're from out of town or something, like the Velvet Lounge or something, there's not really a huge take at the end of the night. So if a band drove two hours to get there, at least give them the gas money. It's not like we had to work that hard...

T  I'm pretty sure we've just given up our money, especially like when they come over at the end of the night with like $13. For three bands, I mean like what's going on here? (laughs) I mean you give it to the guy that needs it. I'm going to just drive home.

DH  Yeah, I used to book shows and just give the money to bands and watch them fight... (more discussion) And now to segue into this. You have your CD show coming up this Friday night (at the Black Cat)... and I'm double booked that night, but I will make it by for your set.

Part 2 to come when I can devote time for transcription....

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Swirlies - Psychedelic Horseshit - Wild Fruit -- Rock'n'Roll Hotel - July 22 2011

Wild Fruit - A rock trio is this with loose, jangly, grinding guitar and bass atop snappy drumming. This is a good modern take on garage music with a nod to the 60s, but with extra doses of modern punk attitude and a DIY approach. Raw Australian punk, Cub Koda, lots of interesting lesser known acts were dancing around in my mind while listening to this set. While they did not set the joint afire, they rocked the crowd and gave me enough to think about until next time...

Psychedelic Horseshit - Unfortunately, a bit more of the latter and not enough of the former. A couple of guys made noise on guitars amidst a whirl of electronica, drum machines and maybe a touch of keyboard. The most interesting part was the lyrics with lines like "Every time I'm standing next to you, I want to throw up". There was low-key fun here and formal musicianship was not the goal. I hope they keep working at things. I think there heart is in the right place, but a little more needs to be done to bring this up a notch or two.

Swirlies - The five members of this long running band came from various corners of the world to convene to play a couple of shows. So tight edgy new songs to promote was not exactly the purpose here tonight (in fact there was joking about playing songs from their "new album"). Instead, it was a few musicians getting together to bang out some great indie, shoegaze, edgy rock music from their 21 year history. I do detect Dinosaur Jr. in style, but instead of powering into loud guitar brilliance, they move more toward a shoegaze based Sonic Youth styled rock intensity. I also detect some Feelies, but the songs all vary nicely from moodier pieces to blistering melodic attacks (Yes, if only Jerry's Kids or Gang Green decided to push their creativity a bit). The drummer is quite strong and powerful. Bass and sometimes used keyboards thicken things out nicely while the two and sometimes three guitars do indeed swirl around in between the powerful attacks. The vocals are the most shoegazey sort of sounds with the female vocals in the direction of Kim Gordon and the male vocals nicely understated. I am glad I got this chance to finally see this fine under the radar band and it was nice to see a few serious fans present. The over half full club had a nice time and hopefully did not witness the Swirlies for the last time.

Quote of the Night: A surprise Big Boys comment from the openers... "We have this dedication to Biscuit of the Big Boys. He used to stay 'Start your own fucking band' so you all go out and start your own fucking band."

Friday, July 22, 2011

Kindlewood - Small Sur - Jonathan Vassar -- Bella - July 21 2011

Jonathan Vassar - It is hot outside--dangerously hot. The club is hot--uncomfortably hot. It is going to be a small turnout, but the musicians are willing and able to soldier on. Vassar left his band, The Speckled Bird, back in Richmond and plays a set of acoustic guitar, harmonica and singing. The guitar playing is pretty simple, but his delicate touch is decent and gives room for his vocals. His songs are in the melancholy camp for the most part. Some times it was  bit too consistently low-key, but that was best on a night like tonight.
Small Sur - This three piece featured guitar/vocals, saxophone, and drums/backing vocals. The sound never felt right all set. The main problem was the lead microphone which seemed foggy. Perhaps the lead vocals were the issue, but I am guessing not. The instruments were pushing into feedback far too often as well. And this band played on the lighter side in sort of a Vetiver or Low Anthem manner (at least on the quieter side of those bands). I liked a couple of the songs including a nice long almost jamming sort of song. I will hope to see this band in better conditions next time.

Kindlewood - By now, I am melting into the furniture and I am afraid I have to miss this band. They are local, so hopefully there will be another time.

Quote of the Night: From Mr. Vassar (my NYTimes impersonation)... "If anyone's wondering about the scratch on my face, my cat used it as a launchpad yesterday." Even if I wasn't immediately sympathetic, I was later when my cat latched onto my leg scratching it to hell when he was mad about me going to bed. But these are minor inconveniences compared to this continuing heat wave. I am just happy the Swans are not in town (to explain, they played the Black Cat and requested the air conditioning be turned off).

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Interview with Damon Tutunjian of the Swirlies

The Swirlies are playing the Rock'n'Roll Hotel this Friday night. They have been playing a fascinating brand of "loud, wall-of-noise/shoegaze guitar rock and twisted, lo-fi introspective pop.", to quote a fan. I was able to connect with Damon Tutunjian who helped found this band 21 years ago. Here is the interview and I hope we have a good crowd for what will be a rare chance to see this exciting band.
David Hintz (DH):  21 plus years... Why are you still here and what do you enjoy about playing out?

Damon Tutunjian (DJ):  Well, uh. heh-heh. Let's see that's a trick question.

DH  It is.

DT  I don't know. It would probably be more productive if we actually tried to do some new music I suppose, instead of playing out. But it is nice to play. We all like playing a little bit and we like our old songs. So it's nice to get together and play. At this point we mostly just do it for fun. This band is not trying to go anywhere, that's for sure. We all have careers or jobs or are playing in other bands. Sorry if that's a lame answer, but that's pretty much what it is all about. We are friends and getting to play a little music. I don't know.

DH  For bands that have been around, that makes sense. You also lead into a point I wanted to get to... Do you enjoy the creative process of writing new music and creating with your friends than playing live?

DT  Yeah, that's actually always been the attraction is writing songs and recording and producing. The things we are best at. We are not really a fantastic live band or anything like that. I think we make pretty good recordings and the studio trickery is more fun for me. So I hope we can do more of that at some point. The idea is to not really get anywhere with doing it, but the personal satisfaction of doing it.

DH  Right. What about when you were starting out? Personally I have known of of you guys more than I've known your music and I have now listened to quite a bit of it.

DT  Yeah, I've got the same issue.

DH  (Laughs) You guys started out at Taang records and at my age I started out buying all the early Taang Records.

DT  So did I.

DH  Was it challenging being kind of unique? I know that label kind of expanded to different directions but of course they were the hardcore kings in Boston which was such a tough, hardcore punk town. Was it difficult in the early days, both in releasing music in Taang and playing shows, booked with some odd bands?

DT  It was pretty strange, but Andy and I were really big into the old hardcore punk scene, so we were getting FUs and Gang Green Records, of course FUs weren't on Taang.

DH  Right

DT  You know, Gang Green. I like Mission of Burma a lot and they reissued some of their stuff. And of course kids like the Lemonheads and stuff so it was kind of thrill being on Taang. But we knew we were a weird choice. We liked playing with hardcore bands as we did some times, more than who we were supposed to play with. I don't know, to us it was always more fun to play on crazy bills. But I do think it was kind of hard for Taang to market us. I mean it didn't really work in the long wrong. I think we could have made a wiser choice if we wanted to do this for a living. But it certainly made it more interesting and less predictable I guess.

DH  And the people were good to work with their, too.

DT  Ahhhhh.... no. (Laughter) There was some fantastic people there early on who were very supportive. Then the label moved out to California. Wellll, we had a very bad contract. I'll say that. Know what I mean?

DH  Yes I do.

DT  Everything that could be in our favor was not in our favor.

DH  No, I sympathize. I really do. I used to manage bands and I have never understood...

DT  Who did you manage?

DH  I managed a band called Toxic Reasons

DT  Oh Toxic Reasons, yeah.

DH  Remember them? From Dayton Ohio, yeah.

DT  Yeah, yeah. I know Toxic Reasons.

DH  Yeah, ok. As a punk hardcore guy, you probably should. Just curious do you have any Gang Green/Chris Doherty stories?

DT  No, I never met those guys.

DH  Oh, ok. laughter. I met them a couple of times and I recall they started like three fights at the Jockey Club.

DT  I do know the guys in Slapshot. I knew Mark, the drummer.

DH  Oh, they just played here, but I missed them.

DT  We were both big Smiths fans. Maybe I shouldn't say that out loud. laughter

DH  That's ok. You gotta start somewhere, so

DT  Yeah.

DH  Does labelling bother you like from critics and such? I mean psychedelic is such a broad label while shoegaze and lo-fi I try to be careful when I use those terms. Does anything like that bother you or do you just let it slide by?

DT  Nah, I don't care. I don't think we're psychedelic. Some of our stuff could be old England shoegaze, but I don't know. I don't really like shoegaze music. I think it's all washed out and weak sounding. I like aggressive and I don't know, but our stuff is heavier and what's the word...

DH  Industrial was a word we used to use long ago.

DT  Yeah, I just think our stuff is heavier than most shoegaze.

DH  Yeah, that's why I hesitate using it because it has a precious quality to it that I don't like to use.

DT  Yeah, a lot of bands like My Bloody Valentine, but they all emulate this sort of this later washed out My Bloody Valentine and I was like, you know, You're Living All Over Me--Dinosaur Jr. is amazing--My Bloody Valentine... That's the kind of stuff that has the shoegaze edge I like. You know, the rougher stuff.

DH  Yep, you and I are a good fit there, then.

DT  What are you listening to? Punk, but are you kind of all over the map?

DH  I'm all over the map now at this point. I went from punk into psychedelic folk.

DT  Psychedelic folk, like what? Banhart?

DH  Yeah, well I collect the old stuff from like all over Europe and the world. I mean you start with the classic Fairport Convention, Pentangle, Steeleye Span (chuckles) and then you go into the Kong Lavring, Ougenweide... oh god, just tons and tons of bands. I saw Michael Chapman the other day. I mean, Roy Harper.

DT  I went on these, I like these blogs where they post these all these links to all this vinyl. I assume you get a lot of your stuff from that, right?

DH  Yeah, I do. But once you get on the collector's market, you get a lot, although I don't make as much money as I used to, so I don't buy as much.

DT  Yeah, I sold my records a long time ago. Now I buy music gear. (laughter)

DH  Yeah, of course. I have thousands of records anyway and I just can't always get to them... Robbie Basho is another name, and of course Comus is a classic. Have you ever heard Comus?

DT  No.

DH  Oh gosh, oh you'd love Comus.

DT  Yeah, I think I need to hear some of this stuff. Again, I did download some stuff off some sites. I moved to Sweden and I was looking for some old Swedish stuff. My parents-in-law, they have some really funny records like one that was put out by the government to promote social democracy and it's like, oh what is it called... It's really funny songs, you know songs about like sharing you food with poor people and stuff like that (laughter) oh, and another one by a band called Kebnekasje.

DH  Oh yes.

DT  Yeah, named after the tallest mountain in Sweden. It's like jam band, I don't know...

DH  They are hard to describe. Right, they are like a perfect band because I put them in my psyche folk section, but they are something...

DT  Yeah, what do you call that? Do you know Kebnekasje then?

DH  Yeah, um hmmmm.

DT  Oh ok, Yeah, my mother-in-law used to see them.

DH  That's great

DT  Yeah, there's like ten people in that band.

DH  Yeah, I've got like four or five records by them.

DT  Oh wow.

DH  Yeah, they did a lot. I'll try to burn you something as a little gift for your show maybe.

DT  Oh that would be really cool. Yeah, make me mix.

DH  I'll do that.  (after more discussion on my blog, that he did not meet Lou Giordano, etc.).

DT  Lou certainly produced and engineered a lot of things I liked. We never really met any of the real... I guess we did some things with Carl Clauster (spelling?) who worked on the drums. But we never worked with the Boston legendary producer folks. I know the guy who runs Q Division and I know a couple people from Fort Apache I suppose. Out here we're kind of left to our own devices.

DH  Yeah, one of my questions here was talking about your outsider status, so that was kind of what I was guessing which is both good and bad career-wise, maybe.

DT  Bad (laughter) but satisfying.

DH  But you're still here. One thing that is not so much a question but I noticed when I put you in my ITunes, you ended up right between Swell Maps and Syd Barrett, so I thought wow...

DT  That's interesting.

DH  Isn't it? I thought that was a great combination.

DT  It's quite nice and bizarre.

DH  Yeah, I don't know if I could do better describing you.

DT  Yeah, we are kind of in between there.

DH  They are part of your brethren anyway even if the sounds aren't quite alike.

DT  Yeah and I like Syd Barrett.

DH  So, just a few shows on this tour?

DT  Yeah, just a few sloppy shows. (laughter) . Yeah I live in another country and we're all spread over the east coast--kind of impossible and this was the most we could find time for. I hope we can record something.

And then we went on to talk about his life in Malmo, Sweden which was interesting to me, but maybe not so much here (plus transcribing interviews is such a time consuming pain, unlike bashing out my rambling reviews). But I appreciate Damon taking the time to chat before heading off to the airport. And I am hoping for more fun talk about music this Friday night.

Mother Mother - Dance for the Dying -- Red Palace - July 19 2011

Dance for the Dying - A local four-piece begins things off. They have guitar, bass and drums with a female singer who also plays some keys and percussion. In fact, the two axemen also play some keys as well. All of this makes sense as they have a strong dancey pop sound with plenty of energy. The songs start out a little in the Blondie/Bangles vein, but more toward their poppy songs and not the ones with more bite. Eventually a couple of songs with a little more guts entered the set which worked for me. Frankly, even the songs that did not work for me were well executed and supported by the good sized crowd (although a few of the usual "ringers" were responsible for some of this). Still, a good band that I will welcome easily enough on any given night, although not go out of my way for. If you like more mainstream, slick dance/pop rock sort of songs, then I would recommend going out of the way for this band. You will enjoy them.

mm-2009-nov-set-1-09Mother Mother - The club must be about 90% full for this Vancouver five-piece. I like the symmetry with two women on similar keyboards and backing vocals on each side of the stage. The guitarist/lead vocalist is in the middle with the drums and bass in the back. The bass player is allowed a trip downstage to play a saxophone solo on an instrument that looked about 150 years old. They establish a slick style quickly enough and although it may be a bit too much for me, the inventive songs and vocal arrangements keep my attention up. A nice cover of the Pixies "Gouge Away" helps things, although it mostly reminds me of how great a song it is as opposed to giving me any tricky new arrangement to hear. I think perhaps the guitarist looks just a little bit too much like Sting for my liking. Kind of creeping me out a bit as I do get a sense of Sting and the Police with this band's combination of edgy pop/rock and comfortable mainstream appeal. The switch to acoustic guitar lead to some nice style shifts into more straightforward indie rock terrain, so this band proved to me that they are talented enough to do a lot of interesting things. It would not surprise me or bother me too much if these guys really built themselves a large following. I am seeing it happen with another band I saw a while back, Fitz and the Tantrums. I liked Fitz better, but these are two bands to watch to see if they move upward in club size.

Quote of the Night: The crowd was roaring for Mother Mother and invited this response from the singer... "I love unbridled expressions of freedom." And the crowd bleated out a predictable roar.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Howlies - Young Buffalo -- Black Cat - July 18 2011

Young Buffalo - From deepest, darkest Mississippi (not really, they are from Oxford) come this interesting trio. The opening song had a tribal thump with powerful guitar chords and keyboards as all three wailed away on vocals. The bass player alternated with a couple of banks of keyboards and they all ended up doing a lot of instrument switching with each taking turns on lead vocals. This was indie rock on steroids for power more than speed, although the pace was quick with lots of fast jangly guitar. Part Feelies and part Neu! works its way into this music more in spirit than style. Good stuff here with motion, melody and thrust. They are hitting a lot of the country this year and hopefully they will make it back some time. I think many of the 25-35 people here would be happy to see them again.

Howlies - The crowd grew a bit more for this Atlanta four-piece. There will always be room in my life for simple catchy pop-punk and straight up driving punk rock. This band was clearly born out of the Ramones and sounded even more like the Lazy Cowgirls who were in the generation in between the Ramones and the Howlies. This band has their chops with really great speed and harmonies. There were also more twists and turns musically as they did slow it down a tad for an early 60s style once and then did a heartland pop song with plenty of pace. There were more of downstrokes on these guitars in this 40 minute set than you would see in the longest Grateful Dead show that you never went to (if you were like me). Fun, fun, fun. The crowd was digging it and the band mixed it up well, but that was not overly essential. It's not like the Ramones ever went into improv mode. So, this was straight forward rock music, yet intricate in its simplicity.

Promo of the Night: I just finished interviewing Damon Tutunjian of the Swirlies who are playing the Rock'n'Roll Hotel this Friday night. I will be posting it shortly so you can see how awkward we both were talking on the phone for the first time. It was interesting though, in that we could easily sit down and talk music for about 3-4 hours which may be the way I will take these interviews if I do more of them. But I do want to promote this interesting band that has been around 21 years, so come out this Friday night for a rare chance to see this band. Could be the last.

Monday, July 18, 2011

EMA - Helado Negro - Hays Holladay -- Red Palace - July 17 2011

Hays Holladay - Electronic music courtesy of a member of an electronic/pop band called Bluebrain. It is the usual noise boxes and notebook computer. The electronics are decent and there are a lot of vocals which is something I generally need to alleviate the feeling that I am watching someone play a CD. The vocals were decent but more treated than I felt they needed to be. This was not a bad 25 minutes and the growing crowd was appreciative.

Helado Negro - More of the same from a guy from New York who looked like the drummer from the band Boston. The crowd was up to about 50 people by now and they seemed to enjoy this set. There was not much dancing, but the electronics were secondary to his singing. There was a personal pop style at work with lyrics in Spanish and rhythms in that direction, but not to any classical salsa style. There was one song in particular where he was headed in the direction of modern Scott Walker material. That was indeed interesting, although much of the rest of the set was lighter in tone. A bit long at 45 minutes, but engaging.
EMA - First I would like to thank Walter Hill for making an excellent movie "Southern Comfort" which distracted me from going to this club on Saturday night instead of tonight. And thanks to the Flix Network for showing this movie instead of any of his other movies which I easily could avoided (The Warriors, anyone?). So my itch for live music lead me to this intriguing four-piece. They were lead by a tall blonde woman on guitar and vocals with a key musician on violin and keyboards, her sister on drums, and a woman playing guitar and violin who they recruited a week and a half ago to join the tour. The combination of vision, musical chops, and improvisational assistance worked its magic tonight. The music was atmospheric, but intense. They could mold quiet passages that grabbed the listener better than most heavier rock bands. They did have a really cool droning song that sounded like Mudhoney covering New Order. But mostly it was more like the Joy Formidable covering Nico. Way cool set here. Even the a capella song worked. There was also an intense Patti Smith like rap over a two violin and drum background. This music was varied yet cohesive. I hope they can continue working with a full band with the ability to thicken and thin out the arrangements in interesting ways. If they do, the songwriting and presence is there for there to be great things ahead. This will be interesting to watch.

Quote of the Night: Holladay closed his non-stop set by breaking silence with a "thank-you" which cues the audience to react. During the applause, someone asked "Is there a Q+A?" which better expresses my awkward feelings at watching a guy at a computer on stage.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Urge Overkill - Dot Dash - The Jones -- Rock'n'Roll Hotel - July 14 2011

The Jones - A power trio is up first. The guitarist sings lead and the others do a little backing vocal work. The sound is slow to moderate paced blues-rock in a classic no frills style. It reminds me of the straighter Groundhogs sound or Blue Cheer perhaps. The vocals are clean and not demonstrative which gives the songs a more personal and interesting touch. The rhythm section simply pounds things out in a steady fashion and the guitar work sometimes rises to some nice high points. This is a startlingly competent band. No nonsense, the pauses in the set were few. Do not be fooled by this "classic" genre, the band rocks and has just enough musical personality and creativity to where it is truly their band and not just some average bar band playing something you have heard for 45 years. Most of the 40 or so odd people here seemed to recognize this as well.

Dot Dash - Another local band is up next. This time, there is an additional guitar. The band had a nice power pop vibe working with the usual ringing guitars, driving beat and two-part pop vocal harmonies. At times I thought they lost the plot with the vocals, but most of the time the songs were brisk and interesting. I may recommend a few more dark/edgy songs to go with the positive sounding songs. I am referring to how the Buzzcocks do it. Ultimately, I did catch a couple of songs that had something else going on, so the band has it in them. This is a good band that is worth keeping an eye on.

Urge Overkill playing the Mercury Lounge
 in NYC on 10/4/10  Photo by Jeff Fasano
Urge Overkill - This Chicago band is back and as a four-piece this time allowing the two original members (Nash Kato and Eddie Roeser) to stay on guitar throughout. It has been 15 years since they flamed out after their brief surprise success with the Neil Diamond cover song used in Pulp Fiction. Not surprisingly, that song did not make it in the set tonight, but there was plenty of room for lots of great music. For a band with a hardcore name and playing in the grunge era, they actually had more of an outsider reputation of playing their own odd brand of indie rock. That was on display tonight, but whether it was the new album or their mood, their music was a lot tougher than I expected. They rocked pretty hard and the new rhythm section was likely an important part of this. But Kato and Roeser lead the way by trading off their lead vocals with Roeser mostly adding some nice searing guitar parts. I was a bit surprised that the club was only about half full when I was expecting a sell-out (this is a good example of why I will never print predictions of expected turnouts). But the people here were big fans and the feedback was powerful. They even cheered quite hard for about four minutes when the band finally returned for an encore by saying "We thought you were kidding." They rewarded the fans with another 15 minutes on top of their hour long set. Welcome back guys, it looks like we all had fun tonight, so let's do it again some time.

Quote of the Night: Kato after a loud ovation after a song... "This is more than a pleasant surprise. This looks like, I don't know, a buck and a half more than we ever played to here before."

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Bill Callahan - Ed Askew -- Rock'n'Roll Hotel - July 13 2011

Ed Askew - It is quite a treat to have someone who recorded on the great sixties label ESP playing on a DC stage in 2011. The label had a great eclectic roster including the Fugs, Godz, Pearls Before Swine, and the Holy Modal Rounders. It is great to see him still active; and with labels that understand and market "cool" such as Subpop and Drag City putting out his music, he just may have the deserved audience that alluded him decades ago. Voice-wise, he sounds like a poet. Actually he was a painter, but it is best to simply call him an artist. He sings and plays a bit of harmonica and has a keyboardist with him who plays ukulele on one song. The keyboards are solid, although sometimes the arpeggio styled playing gets a little loopy. But this is all the better to judge the quality of the songs and Askew's abilities on stage. The result was very successful in a low key way and the rapidly filling club really was hanging on every note. It was an older, sharper crowd, but they really enjoyed both the historical implications and present abilities of Ed Askew. If you like Roy Harper and Tom Rapp (Pearls Before Swine), it is only natural that you would enjoy this music.

Bill Callahan - Oh, the guilt. How could I know of Bill Callahan all these years and yet failed to have seen him live or own any of his music? He even operates right in my wheelhouse of outsider folk music and accessible experimental music. Well, time to catch up tonight and wedge in between the denizens of the Rock'n'Roll Hotel in this sold out show. Callahan used to perform under the moniker Smog and seemed to do a lot of well known songs that may go back to that era along with recent material under his own name. No matter, as whatever he chose sounded great to me and the rest of the audience. Callahan played acoustic guitar and a bit of harmonica. He had a drummer who laid down simple percussion patterns underneath the music. He also had an electric guitarist who laid down wild crazy guitar runs all over the place--on top, in the middle, underneath--Glorious psychedelic moves creating loads of exciting sounds while allowing plenty of room for the vocals and acoustic guitar. And Callahan's rich baritone is a marvel, but actually the marvel is how he uses every tool at his disposal and with his band to bring forward these rich, vibrant songs. Even his harmonica playing is understated and used to create nice textures and not just blare away in shrill annoying blasts. The second cut, "Baby's Breath" was crazy good with its tempo adjustments and powerful lyrics. The set goes over well with this adoring crowd and were it not for the usual claustrophobia I get at Rock'n'Roll Hotel sellouts, this was spectacular for me as well. I could wax on, but I have someone's back catalog to look through before I plan some purchases.

Quote of the Night: Ed Askew alluding to the ESP days... 'That was from an album recorded in 1971, but didn't come out until 2004. Uh, there was a little delay."

Monday, July 11, 2011

Modern Man - The Attic Ends - Archeology -- Rock'n'Roll Hotel - July 10 2011

Archeology - Well, if you have an extra date on your tour, why not play a second DC club in two days? That is what Portland's Archeology did. And their reward was to get another audience of about 30 people where I am guessing I am the only one to have seen their Velvet Lounge set. And based on the response, this strategy was a success. The set was similar and went over extremely well with the crowd. I also found it solid and was quite comfortable with their sound now. I will stand by what I said and add that it did remind me of Low Anthem type songs played loudly in a steady rocking manner.

The Attic Ends - From Brooklyn comes this interesting four-piece. But of course being from Brooklyn means they have a diverse history which I recommend you read about at their website. They have drums, guitar, keyboards and a female singer. They come out strong with a thick shimmering rock sound that reminds me of early Banshees in a happy mood. Probably LA's Midnight Movies is the closest sound I have in my collection with a sound that is steeped in moody rocking psychedelics. The sound is a bit off early but seems righted by the second song when the vocals come through more clearly and the keyboards are better balanced. They walk a tricky tightrope just as the Doors did by having bass keyboards. I think perhaps using a real bass player may, like the Doors did, may be a way to go long term. But for now, that is a minor complaint as this set was very good. The singer can really wail away and has boundless energy. The three players lay down a thick steady interesting sound throughout their half hour set. The crowd is going nuts and the vibe is great. There are good things on the horizon for this band and I have a feeling they will be back.

Modern Man - It has been a while since I have seen this area band. They are a four-piece with two guitars and play a fantastic mix or rock styles. They blend old and new sounds together seamlessly which could cause a band like this to get lost in the shuffle. But the antidote to that is to write good songs and play them with vigor and purpose. And tonight Modern Man did just that. The smallish crowd grew to about 45 people finally, but sounded more like 450 people. Who are these people? They must have been imported from a Reykjavik metal festival or something as they sound like few DC nightclub crowds I have seen recently. Let's hope this enthusiasm continues and as long as we have good local bands like this that play with fine imports like we had tonight, then the club scene has a lot to offer. Modern Man can be a part of that as long as they want to. Rock on.

Quote of the night: Archeology bassist as tourist... "We went to your mall. It was good--browner than I thought, but not your fault."

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Caribbean - Archeaology - The Loom - We Were Pirates -- Velvet Lounge - July 9 2011

We Were Pirates - The third time for me seeing these local rockers. I have enjoyed them before, but there was something just a wee short in their music to allow me to rave about them. They started strong tonight and the sound was really enhancing their songs. The vocals were clear and at a nice level. Rhythm section was fine and the reverbed guitars were strong and clear. They slipped in three new songs, the first one being great and the others good. They started to lapse a bit as the set went on and that is where it hit me. They tend to start well, but keep things at such an even pace that when a few lesser songs come into the set, I don't feel as energized. That being said, I thought they did a better job of avoiding that tonight. This was the best I have seen from them yet and if they can just mix it up a bit more, I think they may really have something. The talent and the sound is there.

The Loom - I have not seen this Brooklyn five-piece in almost a year and was hoping they would be as good as last time. Well, even better tonight. Aside from the rhythm section, they have a french horn/trumpet player, a keyboard/percussionist/female backing vocals (one lead) and a guitarist/banjo playing male singer. I think if you using weaving concepts in your band name, you make a challenge for your music to weave complex elements together into a colorful output. Like my favorites Woven Hand, The Loom also is able to weave many distinct sounds and styles into one of the more satisfying patterns you will find. If you are hearing this from another room, you may think that they fall into the basic Americana music that is so popular these days. But it does not take long to hear the serious edge they have. There is a Velvet Underground thing going on similar to where Lou Reed could play three simple chords and sing a couple of lines and scare you out of the club. It's not as scary here, but there is some urban psyche jazz offsetting Americana psyche folk. Unknowingly, they have grown out of the rural Americana psyche scene of the late 60s that produced tons of forgotten records like Relatively Clean Rivers or Bear Mountain Band. They tell me they have a new record ready this November and have some serious touring planned. Catch them quickly, so you can say you got here before the masses.

Archeology - A Portland four-piece featuring a couple of guitars is next. They feature two vocals going almost at all times, although it is more of a tone strengthening result as opposed to intricate harmonies. The guitars are strong, the rhythm good and the band has good command of the songs. As easy as it was to get into their music, I found it quite challenging to actually grasp. It's like when I was a kid and we would stick our fingers in cups of mercury and couldn't feel anything as the silver liquid surrounded them. Yes, in days of old, children played with poison and it was fun. After a few intriguing songs, I imagined a couple members of Arcade Fire got together with a member of the Cure and a member of Slim Cessna's Auto Club (Denver) and put together this side project. This was a fun set that I found quite compelling. And with as much music as I put into my head, I am quite happy when that happens.

The Caribbean - Although feeling alert, it is getting late, so I decide to stay for just a few songs. This local outfit had two guitars, one voice and drummer tonight. The guitars were sounding interesting but the songs were not quite there. And the drummer was playing something that would have sounded good in another band, but did not seem to relate here. The songs were kind of like the secondary Guided By Voices or Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments songs. I did feel a lot of that Ohio style lo-fi pop thing going on. I think I could enjoy this if and when it clicks. I will probably see them again and get a better read some time.

Quote of the Night: Megan from the Fuzzy Logic blog asked if I was going to use this We Were Pirates patter... "So, since we are playing with the Carribean does that makes us We Were Pirates of the Carribean? I know, I think I'll go drink some rum."

Maybe Bob Mould's book is getting me with its many dark moments, but I rather liked We Were Pirates telling the modest crowd... "glug, glug, Thanks for making the trip upstairs." I don't know about anyone else, but I wouldn't set foot in this bar even if I did drink were it were not for the upstairs shows. But later that night, there was the usual weekend "battle" between the noise of the downstairs vs. the upstairs.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Courtesans - SoSoSo -- DC9 - July 6 2011

SoSoSo - A local trio gets things going tonight. Good energy is apparent quickly enough and the music is simple enough rock music that does not lock into a specific space or time. I liked the second cut with a really nice grind-it-out rhythm going on. The drummer and guitarist switch places for a bit and I am amazed how the drummer can play about half a song with his guitar strap having slipped off. Eventually he had to take a break and fix it when he had to do more complex moves on the fretboard, but nice poise and strength until then. This was a decent enough set. They are breaking in their fourth bass player and that seemed to work out ok. Enjoyable enough for an opener and continued work on sharpening up the songwriting could pay dividends. All in all, I will walk into the obvious trap (while cryptically extricating myself) and say this set was more so-so than Zoso.

The Courtesans - Another local trio where I have consistently been left with a good impression following the few times I have seen them. The guitarist is also in the Blackberry Belles and offers enough distinction to clearly identify two separate bands. Of course, it helps that in addition to a drummer in each band, the third member offers radically different sounds in the keyboards of the Belles and the bass playing here. The bass player also offers several lead and backing vocals here. All three guys are solid musicians, play well together and sing well together. The music is straightforward pop/rock with a leaning toward a modern feel. The key is that the songs are catchy, while the playing has just enough of a groove to it where you can feel that they are a step above what you may expect from a local band. This is a good band well worth checking out. The audience was a bit low tonight as it was a Wednesday, but I still hope for the days where local bands draw a bit more than what seems to be happening in these lean times.

In continuing my story from yesterday's post... I am reading Bob Mould's autobiography right now. I could not help but skim forward to a couple of sections as I spent a lot of time with him in the good old days. I was surprised that he mentioned writing for a zine I put together that had hardcore and punk musicians writing about pro wrestling. Hardcore Wrestling only had one issue, but it was fun and even though it was not quite as extensive as Bob writes, it did have its fans (as you can see by clicking on the link). It was my second zine and typed out in hotel rooms on a fellow auditor's Commodore 64 with a word processing program he got from a magazine and set up by typing in the machine language. Ah, the good old days. Still, that was luxury compared with my college zine (The Miami Carcass) where I used typewriters, mimeograph machines, and whatever I could.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Liturgy - Dope Body - -- DC9 - July 5 2011 - I believe this is how this "band" was spelled on the DC9 website. I guess if they called themselves EBAY or, they could be more difficult to find on the Web, if they even have a website. Not that I would particularly care, although it probably would be more interesting than this set. I apologize to all the do it yourself'er electronica composers out there, but I just really don't want to see you slouched over your notebook computers on stage. At least these guys did some vocal work on top of the sounds. But most of the time, I would rather listen to your recordings at home, although my expectations will not be too high. But on stage? You better have something really interesting going on. A few of the people in the crowd really thought so tonight and hopefully they have a blog where they can explain why.

Dope Body - An interesting combination from Baltimore is up next. A drummer, vocalist and two bass players comprise the unique combination. One bass player has a computer and loads of switches. He has a higher tone and some higher squawks and screeches, while the other bass player lays down the traditional bottom. This band is intense and is a natural brutal progression into post-hardcore worlds. They make Chrome sound like the Cowsills. It can be a bit much at times, but sometimes they hint at a tune. The second to last song sounded like a lost track at the end of a Big Black rerelease. I swear I heard Steve Albini and Santiago Durango's guitars clashing away. It had that Rollins Band intensity going on as well. It did seem a bit long after 20 minutes, but a couple of better tunes made the 35 minute set work pretty well. I do like these sets as long as I don't hear them too many times in a row.

Liturgy - This two-guitar four-piece did not just hit the stage running, but hit their speed far more quickly than any drag racer could ever hope for. Thrash metal approaching shoegaze tones at hyper speed. There are some throwaway vocals on top of some of the songs and normally I would encourage bands to do more, but these guys should just toss them aside and stick to the instrumental sonic assault that they do as well as anybody doing this sort of thing. I had a drummer friend that used to try to emulate Wayon Jenning's drummer, Richie Albright, with his quick right wrist. Well this guy had his right stick a blur while keeping his wrist stationary and somehow having the stick flying in between his thumb and index finger. Motortik? No, more like the progression from hand eggbeaters to food processors. They did slow it down during parts of a few songs later in the set which was a nice break. Their music reminded me a bit of ECW Extreme wrestling. For better or worse, ECW introduced (among other innovations) matches that were heavy on high spots and seemed to have wall to wall finishing moves. This music was similar as most of the songs sounded like fast and loud dramatic endings, yet they just went on for 3-4 minutes. I would have thought 45 minutes of this may be pushing the audience's minds and bodies a bit, but these guys were good enough to pull it off. The modestly full room seemed to marvel at this band from the comments I caught in the back of the room. This is the first day of their US tour, so hopefully a few people will check out this review and others and decide to check out this band.
Jane Scott in January of this year in Lakewood, 
Ohio.Obit... And speaking of wrestling, I was going to talk about the wrestling connection with me in Bob Mould's autobiography. But I am going to save that as I want to mention the death of Cleveland rock critic Jane Scott at age 92. She was in her mid thirties when she shifted her job at the Cleveland Plain Dealer into rock criticism when Beatlemania broke. She continued her whole life and "criticism" may not be the right word as she was a big fan of the many good bands that came through Cleveland. Nothing like a blond grandmotherly looking lady who sincerely is rocking out in the clubs decade after decade. I was hanging with Husker Du at a show in Cleveland when she came up to chat with Grant Hart. He was his usual engaging self but tried to slip in a joke to her by saying that in Europe, Bob did not have his signature 'flying bee guitar'. Funny, but in her review, she had 'flying vee'. She knew her stuff and kept her enthusiasm for decades longer than most rock'n'rollers.