Friday, September 30, 2011

Viva Voce - The Parson Redheads -- Black Cat - Sep 29 2011

The Parson Redheads - From the vibrant Portland, Oregon scene comes this four-piece featuring a couple of guitars with all four on vocals including a female voice from the drummer. They start with a slow jangly rock tune that has shoegaze dynamics but keeps the Byrdsian jangle at the fore. As the songs are churned out, it continued in this jangly rock vein with traces of Americana folk. There was a lot of quality and they made a good connection with this crowd. In fact they thanked the crowd for being 'a great audience, so attentive and polite'. I thank my fellow audience members as well, but it helped that there was a lot to listen to. There was a Neil Young like screamer near the end and some four-part vocal harmonies that don't quite hit Byrds/Fleet Foxes territory but show a larger ambition than many other bands are willing or able to do. Thanks for making the long trip, Redheads.

Viva Voce - Also from the vibrant Portland, Oregon scene comes this male/female duo. She plays guitar and sings. He plays drums, guitar, and sings. I was expecting something sounding like maybe a too much stripped down version of the opening band (as I tend to get skeptical of two person electric groups), but as usual, it's better to let the music happen than spend a lot of time trying to predict. Immediately the sound is full. Although there were times when some samples were snuck into the mix, the guitar sound was thick and scrumptious and her playing was strong while she varied between light and heavy touches nicely. The drummer was solid and quickly switched to guitar, both between songs and sometimes back and forth within a song quite seamlessly. He kept a kick an high-hat going when playing at times, so these two know how to create a full sound. The songs were really spooky with psyche moves and really cool melodies and breaks. At times they invade the sonic space of other M/F psyche folk duos like Emtidi or Bread, Love & Dreams, but they invoke more spacey jams and rock touches depending on the song. The whole set was completely captivating and I quickly consider myself a serious fan of this band. The backstage was half full tonight yet the crowd was as responsive as if it were jam packed. Probably the only complaint was the desire for more song. These bands remind me of why Portland was on my short list of places to live after retirement along with Austin before settling here.

Quote of the Night: From The Viva Voce drummer... "We drove through a hailstorm in New Jersey just to get here. We risked our lives just being in New Jersey. I woke up this morning near New Jersey, but now I'm here and feel a little bit better about life."

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Obituary for Gyn Cameron Stover, of Dementia Precox

A Modest Obituary for (Gyn) Cameron Stover

I learned yesterday that my friend of over thirty years passed on this past Saturday, September 24th 2011. Cameron was a fixture of the Dayton punk scene and as a fixture myself, we were bound to be close as the scene was plenty small. He and I first started talking as he liked my Nuns button and anyone who even knew the Nuns was going to be an instant friend. But Cameron (I believe his real middle name and what he went by in later years) and I really hit it off better than most as we shared a comfortable middle class upbringing (he in Beavercreek, OH) with plenty of personal difficulties to deal with and a view to searching out and participating in exciting and challenging high-art and low-art projects. He started an important and locally successful band called Dementia Precox. I released their first 12" ep and worked with them on various live shows over the years. Their industrial post-punk sound was ahead of its time, but due to the usual problems, did not come out quickly enough or complete enough to showcase it on a National scale. Cameron was the main songwriter, singer and keyboardist. He was supplemented with the usual other instruments, although percussion was often on industrial metal canisters and other found metal objects. The music was dark and throbbing or playful and soaring. They were one of the many great, yet mostly forgotten cult bands of that era. I have videos of a live show where the Mayor of Dayton introduced the band and said their set was one 'that we were all looking forward to very much.' Robert Pollard named them with Toxic Reasons as the two key bands of the Dayton scene when he was forming Guided by Voices. They opened for the Ramones once or twice and had several legendary shows in Dayton, Cincinnati, and Lexington, Kentucky.

Cameron and I loved psychotronic cinema and oddball things in life and the arts. We would have many mini-marathons of Dark Shadows watching on TV where our other friends would be constantly nodding off while we gleefully watched Jonathan Frid and Grayson Hall battle it out in Collinwood at 3am. We hung out it Dayton, Chicago, Florida, wherever we could find each other in recent decades. As often is the case, I didn't see him enough toward the end, but the fun times are forever burned in the memory. And I still have the music.

His health did not appear to be at its best the last time I saw him a few years ago when I spent a weekend at his home in St. Petersburg, FL. But his spirit was in great shape. We hung out visited some of his friends and haunts, but mostly just watched loads of movies and talked. We were both stunned that Spiderman II seemed worse than Catwoman, and if even if few agree with me, it's nice to know he had my back on that one. He had pretty much given up on music then but through our talks, over the last ten years or so, he felt a little more invigorated by what he had accomplished. He mentioned that he liked having me in Florida to remind his local friends of his 'other' life in music. He had every right to feel proud of what he and Dementia Precox had done.

I believe he is survived by his parents and sister and her kids. I have not kept up with his family, but his Mother was always a dear. There is plenty more to say and but I'll just leave it here with the above random thoughts and stories.

And if you want to have a listen to the lead song on the ep I put out, check out Maladie d'esprit.

X -- Birchmere -- Sep 27 2011

X - Prior to the band's set, we were privileged to see "X: The Unheard Music", a documentary about the band from 1986. I had seen this before and recall the hilarious record company executive interview along with some good bits from Robert Biggs and some nice performances from the band. It was fine aside from the fact that when the Birchmere says this will be an all standing show in the Bandstand they mean it. Zero seats anywhere which meant a lot of us crashed on the floor to watch the film. After a short break, the original lineup hit the stage with Billy Zoom marching to his own beat as usual by going up a couple minutes early. They had promised to do two albums in their entirety and began with their debut. They usually play about half of those songs anyway, but it was nice to hear some of the obscure ones as there isn't a wrong note on that album. The sound was strong and the band did have a nice energy to it, particularly in the rhythm section. John and Exene blended well as usual, but something was a bit off with Billy Zoom. Normally he is wall to wall grins, but he was a bit more dour tonight. He mugged it up at times, but something seemed a bit off with his mood and the way the band usually meshes. They then went into songs from their second album and "Hungry Wolf" and pretty much eschewed the second album concept, which was fine by me as a lot of the songs were ones I enjoyed more anyway (note-The Birchmere site was updated to reflect this approach). "Back to the Base" almost sounded hardcore, the way these guys were working it. I was enjoying it. They ended up having three false starts which was a little startling, but I almost glad to see that as it confirmed my underlying feeling that something was a little off tonight. The songs are too good and the players are pros, so it was still a lot of fun. But I am also going to guess that maybe certain members did not want to do that other (4th?) album in entirety bit and perhaps there has not been much rehearsal lately. But I first marveled at this band 30 years ago when they had to do two sets and repeat some songs since they had not written enough at that time. I've seen them a few more times in recent years and I will see them again if they return. For the record, Exene looked in better shape than I expected and I hope she can continue to handle her MS so well (and I liked he 'Seventh Victim' haircut). They are a treasure and I think everyone should catch them while they can.

Quote of the Night:  From the That's What I Like about the Birchmere Dept....

I bumped into my buddie Zak from the excellent veteran hardcore punk band, The Mostly Dead and told him: "Glad to see you out for the old timers."
"Yeah, I was just saying to (my friend) that this is one of the few times I can actually feel young at a show."

Monday, September 26, 2011

Kink Ador - The Neon Rush - Cav Scout -- Velvet Lounge - Sep 25 2011

Cav Scout - This trio features Nathan and Chris from the Archivists on guitar/vocals with a drummer. Due to some new born children entering the Archivists world, these guys needed a side project and came up with a good one. It is always the correct move to try a different twist to what you did before and they have done that here similar to the twists of Rites of Spring into Happy Go Licky or my old buddy Ron House's switch from Great Plains to Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments. The guys have all new songs that had a nice garagey feel without being overly psychedelic. They allow space and slower tempos to give room for their solid vocal work and interesting guitar sounds. The drummer keeps things rooted nicely and the songs have their catchy melodic moments and their ethereal jam sections. Good stuff here, so keep this name in mind. Hopefully they will roll with this for  a while.

The Neon Rush - Hmmm... those X's on all four of the members are certainly a clue as to the band's age and level of experience. They are a two guitar four piece with one guitar on lead vocals and two of the other guys assisting. They begin with kind of a power-pop/indie rock hybrid, but steadily move into heavier territory. They did a couple of covers--as usual I knew just one of them, "With a Little Help from my Friends" which surprisingly sounded closer to Joe Cocker than the Beatles. They have some nice songs to work off of that rock out well and have good spacey moments and guitar work. Some of the elements do not always mesh (drum breaks at times) but these guys can make a go of it. They may not be Squirrel Bait, but they are better than Eater. Keep playing.

Kink Ador - Nashville? I would not have guess that as the origin of this gutsy little power trio. I was not at all sure what to expect but their power and control of their sound from the very first notes had me at full attention which lasted for their entire set. There was a bit of a power-pop/new wave kind of approach initially. The bass player's vocals were much stronger than Belinda Carlisle but didn't quite hit Poly Styrene range (who does?). The vocals were challenged by the intensity and guts of the three musicians underneath and she was up to the challenge. The drummer really pushed things forward with strength and that little extra surge that makes a good band into a great band. The guitar work was fiery with really cool reverb and other effects in play. Bass playing (and some cool trumpet) was solid and these songs cooked--maybe there was a bit of X-Ray Spex in here. Fun rocking stuff here. The small crowd was quite supportive (as they had been all night). They are doing a five-week tour and are likely picking up a few fans like me who did not on lick about them previously. This is a good reminder for me to continue to check out shows where I don't know anything about the headliner. You can discover some mighty interesting music that way.

Quote of the Night: From the 'with friends like these department', the Neon Rush singer and an audience member behind me had this exchange:
"I admit that we actually played here last night, too."
"I was here last night. Tonight's way better. Last night you sucked."

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Kyuss Lives! - The Sword - Monstro -- 9:30 Club - Sep 24 2011

Monstro - My immediate comment as this 2-guitar four-man lineup started playing was "damn, forgot my earplugs". Unfortunately this band either did not get much of a sound check or was too busy drooling at the club's powerful PA and felt everything needed to be turned up to 11. A number of bands have made that mistake here, as it does take some skill to find the volume point where you can still be loud as hell but have everything sound great. That criticism aside, this was a really good opening band. I think they should win some fans on this tour as they have a strong and creative metal sound. The music is thick and powerful with good vocals similar to Dio, but without some of the histrionics (for better or worse). They played a little over a half hour and packed in a fair number of songs that varied enough in melody to sound like individual songs. This is an interesting band that I will keep my eye on as I like to find metal bands that avoid the cliches. Of course, tonight has two more examples of that.

The Sword - I've seen this band in Denver and at least one time here and always find their brand of metal highly enjoyable. The band looks pretty familiar with the two-guitar line-up featuring one of them on vocals. Maybe they could not fill this club by themselves, but a large number of the crowd would pony up some hard earned cash to check these guys out irrespective of anyone else on the bill. Again, these guys deliver some of the most balanced metal/hard rock out there. it is not a surprise that Metallica are fans as the Sword show off many of the regular guy features that Metallica did in the early years. Of course, that is if regular guys can play fast powerful music. These guys can and do. They even balance things further by not engage in an overdose of fretboard sprints during the solos. They more often do shorter creative runs and fills and quickly head back to the meaty rhythms. The vocals are clean and even the stage patter is a friendly guys next door style. The closer had a great moment where they all dropped to their pedals and created a whirlpool break before standing up and finishing off another verse. Great style, great substance and I continue to root for these guys.
Kyuss Lives! - Nick Oliveri is here on bass and I am not close enough to see if he's wearing an ankle bracelet but it seems that some of the dates (especially the Canadian dates) will have another former Kyuss bassist Scott Reeder filling in. The singer and drummer are key members and they have a Belgian guitarist named Bruno Fevery in for Josh Homme's spot. Like many people, I discovered this band a little late, well actually quite late as they had already broken up and in researching Queens of the Stone Age, I eventually pursued the Kyuss back catalog. It took a few listens for me to really hear the magic these guys can make. It seems a little too simple at first with thick monstrous riffs and a high pitched vocalist delivering more of a classic hard rock lyric than that of modern metal bands. There aren't a lot of frills, but further listens show a band really locked into a grove and focusing on the overall thrust of the sound. It's a bit like Motorhead taking more of a Groundhogs approach. I was not at all surprised that they put on a solid set of just under 90 minutes tonight. They had the crowd grooving and the guitarist nailed the sound down perfectly and handled wah-wah moves with the necessary grace. A couple of the songs maybe droned on a bit too long, but that's what they do. They covered their catalog well with the songs from "Blues for the Red Sun" going over well with me and much of the crowd. They had the large crowd swaying and some were dancing pretty hard. Singer John Garcia was quite humbled as the lights went up on the crowd. The desert psyche groove is back, strong as ever and depending on who lines up at bass in the future, it appears these guys will be around a while. Based on their performance tonight, I will be along for the ride.

Quote of the Night: Deciding that I did not want my eardrums blown out by the openers, thus spoiling sets by the two excellent bands to follow, I opted to put on my portable earphones. So one of the newer 9:30 Club staff came over as he had little else to do...
"What are you listening to."
"What's in your pocket."
I showed my IPOD and he looked at it and walked away.

It's always such a lovely time with the staff at this club. I also enjoyed having the guy look at me three times while studying my drivers license photo. Yes, I borrowed my 51-year old brother's ID to hide the fact that I was 47.

This club...

Friday, September 23, 2011

Renaissance - Birchmere - Sep 22 2011

Renaissance - Renaissance return to the Birchmere for the fist time in a couple of years, although they also played the State Theater once in between. This time around, they are playing both "Turn of the Cards" and "Scheherazade and other Stories" in their entirety. In all honesty, I am growing a little weary of this concept. I would rather be surprised at what songs a band chooses on a given night with recent compositions, classics, obscurities, cover songs, revisited oddities, or requests. But at least they picked my two favorite albums so I am not overly concerned. It appears to be mostly the same band with the two keyboard line-up that works really well at creating a full sound that still allows plenty of room for Annie Haslam's soaring vocals. She still has it and that is what most of this large crowd is likely happiest to see. They do the album in order with pretty much the same arrangements. I can see why they skip "I Think of You" during their previous tours, but everything else sounds excellent. They did three of these six songs last time, so it's clearly a favorite of theirs. "Cold is Being" was a nice change-up as Annie Haslam sings to a solo icy organ. The sound was really off in the beginning cut but it was righted by about the third song. The PA was shrill which was noticeable during the overly long entrance music. It thinned out the vocals and the rhythm section. Eventually Haslam sounded full and great and the rhythm section was balanced nicely with the keys and acoustic guitar. After a break, "Scheherazade" was next. I did enjoy hearing the full title cut and the other songs were solid. I learned  "The Vultures Fly High" is about music critics. Egad, at least I am flying high. They certainly had a point in the day as the gaggle of critics studiously avoided (at best) a lot of progressive bands in the 1970s. The title cut was great and the crowd was enthralled. I am not sure if it was better than last time's great show, but it wasn't much worse. They encored with "The Mystic and the Muse" which I would say was the only surprise, except I had it written in my notes before they even came back to the stage. Promises of live recordings and new albums were welcome with the crowd and I plan to check those out as well. A good night, but I look forward to next time with new material and an interesting mix of their back catalog.

Quote of the Night: Annie Haslam... "I used Frank's bells on the last tour and every night one would fall of and there were only five left at the end. Useless information, but now it's yours... a band thing."

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Peter Hook and the Light present "Closer" -- 9:30 Club - Sep 21 2011

Peter Hook and the Light - I was a bit uncertain a year ago when Peter Hook came to town with this band who promised the first Joy Division album played in its entirety. Not to worry, as the music was authentic, well rehearsed and delivered with genuine quality. Hook's voice was fine and they dug deep into the catalog and even did songs by the pre-Joy Division band, Warsaw. It was a great show with "Love Will Tear Us Apart" as an encore being the only song after the first album. So it was natural that Hook would return with the final Joy Division chapter, "Closer". The set up was the same with Hook singing and playing 2nd bass when not singing. The usual guitar, bass, and drums were assisted with a keyboardist. "Isolation" really cooked and this band really creates the unique Joy Division feeling well. Hook still does a credible Ian Curtis style singing by way of Jim Morrison, although I hope he does not carry his mini-Misfits haircut to the full Misfits extreme. "Closer" is a little deeper than the first album and is not as immediate. I enjoyed hearing it live, loud and complete as this helped navigate the dense forest of this album. And for an encore, the band treated us to "Digital", "Disorder", "She's Lost Control", "Day of the Lords", "Transmission", and "Love Will Tear Us Apart". With that kind of encore, maybe next time we will get the works in one big blow-out set. Although I note that he is touring both albums on this tour perhaps depending on if he did "Unknown Pleasures" previously in that city. This music will live a very long time and I am glad Peter Hook and his willing compatriots are breathing life into it so successfully on stage. Joy Division music is essential and this evening bore that out.
Gallery :: 
The-light-closer-gramercy-theatre-new-york-13th-sept-2011 :: 13
Quote of the Night: Peter Hook stuck to the basics tonight, so I had to venture further south of Manchester toward Birmingham to the city of Wolverhampton and their football manager Mick McCarthy... "Opinions are like backsides. We've all got one but it isn't always wise to air them in the public."

And as the Football365 writers note, it's the always that's slightly bothering us.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Zombies - Acoustic Strawbs -- Ram's Head - Sep 19 2011

Acoustic Strawbs - This is my third time seeing this three-piece line-up after seeing the whole band one time. I would like to see Oliver Wakeman and Rod Coombes again some time for the full-band sound, but I understand the touring economics. And there is no keeping me away from the trio of Dave Cousins, Dave Lambert and Chas Cronk as long as they keep their voices. I always look for that with aging bands and the two Daves still were able to hit all the notes needed to bring out the strength of the wonderful Strawbs material. Cousins still showed the required flexibility on the challenging "New World". Lambert's guitar work again is strong with nice slide touches, finger picking and electric-like solos on his acoustic. Cronk plays synth pedals as usual which is a welcome cheat on the acoustic concept. He also switches easily between 12-sting guitar and acoustic bass. Cousins played some alt tunings which seemed a bit off in the beginning of Copenhagen, but was not too distracting once the song got going. The only complaint I might have is that it would be interesting to rotate in a few more songs as the set does seem to stay the same over the years (In a few words, I miss "Witchwood"). But they prove to me once again, that they still have the energy and skill in spite of their humorous request to buy Strawbs merchandise to give to your appreciative grandmothers for Christmas. The Strawbs are still one of the great bands that have a bit more respect from other musicians than the far ranging music fans of their era. Thankfully, they are still catering to us hardcore fans and have the ability to even pick up a few new ones.

Set List: Benedictus/Sheep?/New World/Oh How She Changed/Ghosts/Copenhagen/Autum/Lay Down
The Zombies - I mainly went to see these legends a few years back because they were touring with Love which was my first chance to see Arthur Lee (sadly, the last as he passed away shortly thereafter). I had been hopeful the Zombies would still be fresh, but I was wary with the vocal requirements of their excellent back catalog. They delivered big-time that night and still are going strong. Colin Blunstone and Rod Argent can still bring it and Argent's keyboard flair with its surprising amount of jazz is still brilliant. Argent must be drinking from the same well as Comus's Bobbie Watson as it is hard to believe you are not seeing Rod Argent's son on stage. Perhaps he is touring with a Dorian Gray portrait hidden away, but whatever the case, he looks great and plays even better. His cousin, Jim Rodford, is on bass and although the former Kinks bassist may show more of his age, his musical ability is still strong and he has been with the Zombies for many years now. There were new folks on guitar and drums and they may have even improved things a bit. The drummer was a good hitter and really showcased the odd beat of the Argent tune "Hold Your Head Up" with its 1-2-3-4 on kick and floor tom with a snare on a half-beat once a measure. Odd how it sometimes takes a live show for me to notice interesting things on songs I have heard hundreds of times. But that is just one more reason to continue seeing great older bands. Most of them do not relish looking like charity cases and they do work hard to maintain the quality. The Zombies are clearly one of the better older acts out there. And when they showcase five songs from Odessey and Oracle, even lukewarm Zombies fans can see why these guys were one of the great unsung bands of the sixties. Argent does explain part of the story of that album and its odd history that has it selling more copies even now than it did in the day (a fate shared by their former touring mates, Love with "Forever Changes" and the Velvet Underground's first album among a few others). The band played plenty of the earlier hits as well as several songs from their recent album. Although songs like "She's Not There" and "Tell her No" are always going to get a bigger pop from the crowd, it is great to see an older band have the desire to not only record new material, but work a lot of it in to their present show. That may be the real secret of staying young. This is the 50th anniversary of the start of the band (although recordings came three years after 1961) and the end appears to be well off in the horizon. I would think most all of the people in the sold-out show would come back again next year.

Quote of the Night: Overheard before the show... "I  was the last person to see the Electric Prunes... alive. Oh, and I bought their last purple t-shirt."

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Tennis System - (the sound of) Kaleidoscope - Sight Seeing - Thomas Wyre -- Rock'n'Roll Hotel - Sep 17 20011

Thomas Wyre - This duo starts off at drums and keyboard and begins with an electronic throb that somehow bores right in to the annoying lobe of my brain. They start playing quietly but then up the volume which drowns out the electronica. The relief is there and I now notice that this is quite the nice pop song. The electronics do begin to work thereafter as they enhance the sound in a positive way. He can play some decent piano and the drum work is solid. The vocals are strong and they do manage to carry these well written modern pop songs. Being that my web search has nothing jumping out at me aside from this show, I am guessing that this is a fairly new act. If so, they got a nice foundation started. Hopefully they will stay with it, control their sound a bit, and keep writing.

Sight Seeing - All the dead give-aways are here showing that we have another young band getting their start. The stage patter is nervous, while the songs have some glitches and some very rough endings. This five-piece is from Brooklyn and they attempt to play swirling shoegaze rock. They have a decent enough sound with strong rock drumming keeping it up-tempo. The downer vocals don't seem to match the positive music. It is a bit of a disconnect akin to Peter Murphy singing for the Joy Formidable. From one set of comments, we learned a lot... "I totally messed that song up." "No you didn't, you totally jammed it out." The truth was in between. If they work on their parts, rethink their approach, find their voice, they may get there. Tonight was a lesson.

(The Sounds of) Kaleidoscope - Tonight it is just a solo presentation of this long running band. The singer/guitarist band leader has always done some excellent work in the past as the band got its start here before moving to Philadelphia. He played electric guitar tonight and sang. It was a nice acid folk style in a steadier Syd Barrett sort of way. It had that outsdier feel, but his songs are good enough to handle the solo treatment, even if one misses the full band psychedelic assault. But this is much more affordable for the tour he is on with his brother whose band is up next.

Tennis System - I have seen this band many times as a DC band, but now it is the first time as a touring band from Los Angeles. I believe there are two core members with a couple of newcomers for me. They still play that strong psyche-shoegaze rock that they did so well for a few years here. I did hear some growth in the songwriting. A few of the newer songs had better pop hooks with the guitars allowing the vocals to breathe a bit and the rhythm section to push forward nicely. The band is growing nicely. As much as I love the full frontal guitar assault, it is nice to hear the positive changes that can pull a large audience in while maintaining the basic sound. And the many friends and fans that have not seen them in a while seemed to agree as the energy was good tonight. The crowd was a little small as the late hour may have sent some home, but it was a successful return for this enjoyable band. Hopefully they will continue to grow and become a solid touring band for both coasts and the vast in-between.

Quote of the Night: From the opener... "Thanks a lot for sticking around and stick around for the other bands." At first I chuckled, yes you are welcome for my 'sticking around' for all of 20 minutes. But then, his point touched on classic themes where audiences are still a bit too divided at times with friends coming to see their friends play and then wandering upstairs to the DJ or down the street for more drinking or whatever. It is nice to see the same faces at the start of the opener to the end of the closer. My reviews are filled with countless surprises discovered in opening bands or late in someone's set. I don't always stay for every minute either, but it is more often worth the effort to give a thorough test drive with something new.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Savage Republic - Tone - Caspian -- Black Cat - Sep 16 2011

Caspian - From Boston comes this vibrant instrumental five-piece. It's all guitars with a rhythm section, aside from a brief glockenspiel moment. The pounding thump of the drums gives all the room needed for the guitars to shine and shimmer in splendid shoegaze glory. There are solid melodies reminding me of the prog stylings of Anekdoten and perhaps a bit of Mogwai here. This is not as twisted and varied as Boston mates, the Swirlies, but it is steady power that is quite involving. This is a high quality opener and they took their set to 45 minutes which flew by. This band is worth a headline show of its own.

Tone - I have lauded this band the previous two times I have seen them and will only try to throw a couple of exclamation points on top this time around. The band was celebrating 20 years together and in addition to the instrumental three guitar attack added some guest spots from former members during the last few songs culminating in a 9-man attack with two drummers working. I was reminded more this time that in addition to a great psychedelic swirl, they have powerful rock melodies working as well. They do not settle for introspective power, but really move their music along in ways that only the best bands of this style can do. This is a great band that we are priveleged to have here. Hopefully they will shoot for 30 years.

Savage Republic - This was a surprise. Making their DC debut 30 years after they began (in a newer lineup) is the mighty Savage Republic, a fascinating LA post-punk band. I bought some of their early music which I found dark, disturbing and powerful. So dark, I did not even listen to it often. They brought all of that and then some tonight as these four guys put together their incredible sound of post punk industrialism with a powerful furthering of the sound you heard on the first Public Image album (no doubt an inspiration to them). There was no shoegaze back then, but there was industrial and tonight they brought the oil barrel for metal on metal percussion (like an industrial band I worked with  in the early 80s called Dementia Precox). Sometimes when a band goes on late during the weekend, I start planning an early escape after I have heard enough of the set to get the gist of things. By the second song, I knew I would be here as long as they were willing to play no matter how late they went. They used mysterious modal patterns that seemed simple but activated more brain cells than usual. It seemed like one or two guys ground out the power while the other did intricate patterns. Fiery power and speed from the drummer laid the foundation for the other three to trade instruments from the oil can to a couple guitars and a bass. They all did some vocals which added to the intensity. It was a little late, so they drove a few people home early but everyone who stayed felt that extra quality on stage. OK Swans fans, where were you? These guys were here first and they do everything the Swans can do and maybe even a little bit more (and believe me, I really enjoyed the Swans show on this stage as well). I really wanted to do another show myself tonight, but am so happy that I chose this one to see a one-of-a-kind, somewhat forgotten classic post-punk band.

Quote of the Night: From the opener... "Thanks to Tone for this show, probably the only band that could get us to drive 12 hours for a show, but 20 years together? That's quite an achievement."

Tone's leader also gave a great intro to Savage Republic saying he saw them in Cleveland in the early 80s and that there would probably be no Tone without that experience. Well, thank you Tone and the Black Cat for putting together this spectacular show.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Marah (acoustic) - Jeffrey Foucalt -- Jammin Java - Sep 14 2011

Jeffrey Foucalt - Foucalt brings all the expected sounds to the table when you see a bearded, flannel shirted singer with acoustic guitar hit the stage. But from the first note onward, it was evident that these sounds would cohere into a nice set of songs. Lyrically, from what I picked out, the usual themes of rolling stones and railroads are there (How many folk songs are there about airports and planes?). But Foucalt's strong voice carries these themes to fine artistic heights and creates an effective mood for the entire set. His guitar playing is solid with the usual blues-folk-Americana moves and he has a good strong picking style. But he explains that he was doing some work around the house and worked his nails down too low with a bit of a sore finger as well, so finger-picking was not available tonight. He did some nice electric work that was closer to Neil Young than Billy Bragg in tone. Nice set and he kept it going for a solid 40 minutes.

Marah - This band has a tour of Spain scheduled soon, but to get warmed up three members are doing a brief acoustic tour. Someone may want to read them the definition of acoustic as very few songs were acoustic tonight. Not that I was disappointed and quite the contrary, the ringing electric guitar was appropriate and welcomed for these lively songs. For the most part it was two guitars and keyboards, although bass and drums were used at times. The Bielanko brothers have reunited for the first time in 3 years, although there was hardly any evidence of rust. The music is loose, assured rock'n'roll with a heartland folk undercurrent in the manner of Replacements. Odd that in doing this blog for 2 1/2 years, I have only made two Replacement references and they have both come this week (there is a long story of a horrid live show by the Replacements which is the likely reason). The roots were showing tonight and the down and dirty rock'n'roll lightened up by an acoustic guitar worked its magic on the large crowd. There was an interesting sludgey undercurrent which was more by design and gave the band a more unique voice than most who work in this genre. Like Langhorne Slim, this band could be a great house band at the most popular bar in town, but they have the chops and the songs to bring it to stages around the world. I would like to see the full band some day as they would likely rock the house down. I was daydreaming about AC/DC and Led Zeppelin which I thought odd, until one song reminded me of the kind of brutal efficiency that AC/DC was able to do. So yes, there was good variety tonight even as the overall theme was maintained. Some of the stage patter was a little funnier and more meaningful to themselves than to any of the crowd and I was worried things might get a little too off-the-wall, but they kept the momentum going well enough to deliver a rock-solid set tonight. But if you are game for a fun night out with a desire to cut loose, you can't do a whole better than this band.

Quote of the Night: From one of the brothers discussing the turntable they were given leading to a new found enjoyment of vinyl records for he and his wife... "My wife was always playing this Supremes record over and over, but it was always the same side. I finally said to her 'why don't you ever listen to Side 2?' Oh my god, there's a Side 2? And then it was like she found six brand new songs for free."

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Mediaeval Baebes -- Birchmere - Sep 13 2011

Mediaeval Baebes - This is an intriguing act for the Birchmere or most any stage in town. This long running collective features various numbers of women singing both simple and complex medieval based songs. It is classical, yet playful and I am intrigued to see how it comes off tonight. Even before the show I am impressed as the house music has loads of great psyche-folk songs including ISB, Pentangle, Barrett's children's song-Pink Floyd material and Dead Can Dance. But hearing the Trees' "Murdoch" was a real surprise. I highly doubt I will be hearing the Trees over a club's PA again in my lifetime. Anyway, my initial worries were alleviated as the small turnout grew into a good sized crowd that should please both band and club. Three men took their places upstage on guitar, bass and drums/percussion. Then six women resplendent in flowing white robes approached the flowered mic stands. They begin with vocals only songs that bring to mind the 2 and 3-part compositions of Tallis and Byrd. Although since these are works for the female voice, Hildegard de Bingen is more appropriate. I am hardly a classical music snob, but I do particularly enjoy ancient vocal compositions. And the Baebes do a fabulous job with their material. Next they add some instruments to the mix as one woman constantly plays guitar and a thin lute-variation. The others play recorders, violins, tambourines and a glockenspiel. The backing musicians join in to further the medieval magic the ladies cook up. They have some dancing and theatrical moves and ultimately this is an arresting presentation. They chat a little at times between songs, but more often the music comes quickly or they have some poetic transitions. They really managed to pull me in and the set (with break) of just under two hours flew by. I could have easily handled more. They changed gowns during their break and also switched to matching purple dresses with garlands as two of the women took solo turns on violin and voice. The backing musicians added a lot in a quiet way, although the guitarist was quite brilliant. The music was more toward the ancient, but they had some very modern numbers including one number with complex vocal thrusts that reminded of Philip Glass or something in that modern vein. This was a charming evening with the right balance of erudite and visceral music played by fine musicians and singers. The arrangement of both the individual songs and the full presentation was spot on. This may not be a band for the indie rock crowd, but the psyche-folk crowd will really come away with something here. Open minded classical fans already know far more than I about this band, so they are already here.

Quote of the Night: From one of the Babes telling everyone that they will be at the Merch store after the show... "We'll sign anything you put in front of us... within reason."

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Sloan - You am I -- Rock'n'Roll Hotel - Sep 12 2011

You Am I - Even in the 21st Century, it takes time for good news to make its way from Australia to various corners of the USA. This Australian band has been around for about the same 20 years as tonight's headliner with neither band exactly being household words in the mainstream music press. Their loss, as both of these bands can really deliver the goods. First up, You Am I lines up with a couple guitars, keyboards/tambourine, and a rhythm section. Everyone joins in on vocals although one guitarist steadily takes the lead with his fascinating voice--the tiniest rasp with a gutsy delivery that gets breathier the more he pushes it forward. The band rocks in a way the Replacements did on record, but most often did not onstage. These guys had the guts to handle slower ballads amidst the fun uptempo numbers. They also fused some cover song moments into songs such as "Like a Rolling Stone". I did not quite recognize the songs the singer claimed to co-write with Joe Walsh back in 1972 and Joe Perry back in 1974. Maybe I'll assign someone to research that... maybe. This is loose rock'n'roll with a band in full control of the presentation. They prove that loose does not mean sloppy, but instead describes the injecting of a playfulness into a great bar-room set. If I had not known a thing about them, it would have been obvious that these guys know their music and have been playing around together for some time. This does not happen immediately if at all for most bands. The room was nearly full tonight and it was nice to see that this band had quite a few fans before their set. By the end of their 65 minutes, they had a lot more.

Sloan - The second foreign band tonight, this time from Canada, where one of the members mentioned how much they had in common with the opener... plugging away for 20 years and still struggling to get people to listen in the States. Sloan does have a pretty good cult following at least, but with their sharp hook-laden power pop, I am surprised they have not broken a lot bigger. I saw an excellent Sloan set quite recently at the Jammin Java recently and nothing changed much tonight from what I recall. They have two guitars and keyboards going at all times along with their rhythm section. All five guys sing with four of them doing lead work at times which does give some nice variety to the blasts of comforting pop-rock they put out. They follow in a path that earlier had the Nils, the Nerves and even Cheap Trick perhaps. Aside from their baffling stage patter which elicited some (mostly?) good natured boos from their fans up front, they really put out a great 85-minute set. Twenty years does change your stage patter and the vibe was still good. I think most people can get the idea about whether they would like this band and I do encourage everyone to listen. However, I am clearly going to need to work on my handwriting so my notes make some sense to me the next morning. For instance, I am not sure I can really help anyone by rewriting my note... "the guitar rocks sometimes like a thirsty pink bird". But if that sends just one person to Sloan, then I have succeeded here.

Quote of the Night: From the opener... "No shit, we sat right next to Harry Shearer at the Chicago airport. Did we say anything? Nah. Did we take any photos? Nah."

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Male Bonding - Love Inks - Hospitality -- Red Palace - Sep 10 2011

Hospitality - This Brooklyn band features a woman on vocals and guitar surrounded by three guys on guitar, bass and drums. The bass player is left-handed and plays a Hofner bass but looks more like a young Mike Watt than a young Paul McCartney. The drummer has some electronic device which unfortunately worked. Actually it was ok and not overly used, but the initial sound was some annoying feedback loop whose pitch seemed to really hit a discordant note in my head. Guitars a bit twangy with arty rhythmic moves going on. They twisted and turned with their songs and were best when they just let it go. They are new with their record not out yet, so it's good to get shows like this to get a feel for what works and what doesn't. But it was a bit too arty for me at times and ultimately the band reminded me more of the Shirts than the Feelies.

Love Inks - From the other music capital of America (Austin), comes this three-piece. The sparse line-up features a female vocalist, a guitarist and bass player with drum programs worked at the push of a button by the singer. This is not an immediately go out and grab you kind of sound. There is a lot of space the guitarist and bass leave for the singer to roam around in. They basically take a Joy Division approach to loungey blues singing. Kudos to the soundman for taking the reverb out of the mic for her stage patter and instantly getting it back to a nice level for the vocals. The sound was interesting and although the band did not appear to blow the crowd away, I think most of the people were intrigued. I enjoyed it.

Male Bonding - This London based quartet features a couple of guitars and lead vocals split among one of them and the bass player. They are immediate and rock out in a manner akin to the Buzzcocks and Fastbacks. Great pace and plenty of hooks clearly get the crowd of about 50 going tonight. But then careful listening reveals a lot more intriguing noisy, grungey things going on within the pop punk ditties. Like a well written novel, this band has a great power chord hook-laden presentation filled with loads of subcurrents and allusions. It's easy to get lost in the fun, but ultimately you realize there are more clever moves going on here than in other fun bands of this type. The band barely kept up for air and kept the songs coming not allowing for a lot of thought. The vocals were a bit too understated and sound a bit better in the studio. But that was the only complaint I had as this band was very impressive. No surprise that Subpop would find these guys and want to work with them. They definitely deliver that something extra that turns a good band into a great band.

Quote of the Night: From the crowd... "I'm more of a St. Paul man, myself."

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Tommy Keene - Doug Gillard Electric - Sally Crewe & the Sudden Moves -- Iota - Sep 9 2011

Sally Crewe & the Sudden Moves - Sally Crewe is Austin based, playing electric guitar and singing. Her Sudden Moves include a bassist and drummer. Things start out nicely enough with a couple of short punchy pop-rock songs that remind me of the early work of Nick Lowe and Dave Edmunds. From the third song on until the last two songs, Doug Gillard joined in. Obviously the sound thickened up nicely with lots of additional twists and turns from Gillard's quick little leads and fills. Clever and fun little gems here. She played a long set and the crowd ate it up.

Doug Gillard Electric - Doug Gillard leads a trio for most of the set with Sally Crewe joining him for several numbers in the middle section. I first saw Guillard with latter era Guided By Voices when he was clearly the one guy on stage who drove the music forward and kept it all together due both to his skill and his relative sobriety. He has loads of experience, most of which I have never heard. Oddly enough, not only do I know his work with Death of Samantha, but I also had a record with his hardcore act, Starvation Army, which I doubt anyone in this audience had heard of.  So he has a massive body of work and he showcased plenty of it tonight with some songs that sounded familiar (from Gem, maybe GBV, maybe not but I heard some of this on Jack Rabid's radio show). Anyway, this is quirky, catchy indie rock with really great songwriting. The human jukebox, Robert Pollard, is not needed as Gillard can come up with super catchy songs on his own. He has a decent voice and the music combines a busy sense with a smooth flow. The bass player was from Phantom Tollbooth. He and the drummer did well and the band ultimately delivered a great set.
Tommy Keene - DC's Tommy Keene has had a great presence on the national scene for some time. He has been a major presence in the power pop scene as well as working with some other masters like Paul Westerberg and Robert Pollard. He leads a four-piece tonight and has a sizable crowd, many of which know his material quite well. Recovering from my cold meant I had to cut this set a bit short tonight. It was going pretty well, although it was just a little too smooth for my tastes. I think a lead guitarist with a more jagged edge would have worked wonders and brought what I heard up to the level of the earlier bands. The songs are there, but I bet the arrangements have been better in years past.

Quote of the Night: Sally Crewe after changing a guitar midsong... "Sorry, but I always play that A string." Yes, well there's a mathematical principle in their somewhere. Still, full credit for soldiering on and not stopping the song.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Weekend - Talk Normal -- DC9 - Sep 7 2011

Talk Normal - Still suffering a cold, I navigate through the rain to the DC9 for a nice little show featuring two out-of-town bands. First up is Brooklyn's Talk Normal who are simply two women with guitars, drums, some bass, electronica, and voice. The first songs sounds kind of cool with industrial riffing on top of a tribal thump. There's some white noise going on and interesting vocal work. I am immediately thinking that I will easily respect this band, but I am not sure I will rave about them. By the end of the second song, they hooked me completely. The vocal chants reminded me a bit of the Slits in front of Swell Maps most distorted rock tones. There is a lot of more musically oriented no wave sound and I find their use of space and edgy tones remind me quite a bit of Suicide. The sound is different with guitar and drums being the key. This band is a textbook example of how you can take average musical ability and apply a powerful vision and broad imagination to create unique music of monstrous proportions. This was the soundtrack to my feverish attempt to sleep the other night. Jarring and lovely.

Noise Pop/Bay Bridged Happy Hour

Photo: Colby Larson in My Photos by  
Weekend - This is a power trio from San Francisco. They play a nice brand of psychadelic shoegaze style rock. The rhythms are heavy with a mototik on the faster numbers. They slow it down a bit to show some nice variety, but the quicker ones are the really fun songs. They kind of remind me of a band playing Wire's 154 songs fast and hard. The only real criticism I had was with the vocals. The bass player sings a lot and I am guessing he has a pretty good voice. And that is the main problem I had was that I had to guess. The vocals were buried and dull. In the faster songs, it didn't matter as much but it did add up over the whole set. I think if they fix that, there is little they could not accomplish as the set was still fiery and exciting. This band has made a nice little name for itself and pulled in a good sized crowd tonight. They lived up to the hype and appeared to send everyone home happy. And I was happy that the quality of music made me forget about my cold for a while.

Quote of the Night: "We'll do that over." after a false start on one Weekend song. As good as the music was, it wasn't a night for stage patter or anything interesting I heard from the crowd. Probably more interesting was seeing a guy in an Arsenal jacket the week after they gave up eight goals which they have not done since William McKinley first beat William Jennings Bryan. That takes a punk attitude.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Interview with Casey Shea - August 2011

I had the pleasure of seeing Casey Shea at the Rock'n'Roll Hotel on August 12th and also reviewed his recent record. He graciously gave me a chunk of time before the show to sit down and talk a bit about his career and the music biz. And as usual, I took my time in writing it up. But here is a good half hour or so of our conversation. I certainly hope to see him again some time because he was a pleasure to talk with and is a songwriter/performer that is worth going back to.

David Hintz  OK, so keep in mind I've done about two minutes of research on you (laughter) but I have listened to your album and will review it shortly.

Casey Shea  Awesome. Is that the new one?

DH  Yes and this is your third album?

CS Yes. My first one was like a homemade demo and the second was kind of like a mixture of being in the studios and homemade. This one is the first one that is kind of a proper record. We went into the studio with like one band and then had a few people come in and out. So I'm excited about it.

DH  Do you have that band tonight?

CS  No, tonight it's just solo. it will be interesting in a lot of different ways. Because in New York I always play with the band. And when I do the solo thing, I try to make it as different as possible from the band thing and try to the toned down quiet acoustic thing.  But because of who I am opening for, Tally Hall, they've got this like great kind of young fan base that is energetic; I've found the first show I needed be a bit more entertaining and get the night started off right. I did not want to put everyone into somber mode (laughter).

DH  And this is a Friday night, too. So are you touring with them the whole way?

CS  Yes, it's the whole month and we're just past the 3 weeks part with 8 or 9 shows left.

DH  And it's  a substantial coast to coast tour?

CS  Yeah, a lot of driving.

DH  (after some discussion of Denver) And the Denver show went well?

CS  Great! And actually I had a friend from college who I have not seen since college in like ten years and she came out so it was really good. She drove from Parachute, so she drove like three hours.

DH  Nice. Have you toured before?

CS  Yeah, I've done like various little Northeast touring. I had another band where we did an out to LA and back kind of thing. I've also lived in England and did a little touring there. And then last year I was actually filling in for one of the members of Tally Hall and we did like a three week thing, but we didn't get out to the west coast.

DH  Actually that's the problem out west, the shows out there are a little far apart from each other.

CS  Oh man, I tell you. We started out in Michigan and for the first two weeks, every day was an eight-hour minimum drive. It is just so spread-out in the middle of the country.

DH  Yeah, and then it might be a small city, too. From my old home town of Denver, if you go to Salt Lake, Omaha, Albuquerque, Kansas City, that's 8-10 hours each. But it's nice that you mention one of the good things of touring is meeting up with all friends. That's really great.

CS  And it's nice that the fact that Tally Hall has a big fan base that after 8-9 hours in a car, you show up to good crowd and having that crowd in the rooms makes everything worth it.

DH  Yeah, this is a nice sized place tonight and Friday will have people pouring in. Because it's so sad when I see some one over here from Europe and there is like eight people in the crowd.

CS (laughs) yes.

DH  So did you grow up in Florida and get your start there?

CS  Yes, most of my life. I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana but when I was six moved to Florida, grew up there, went to college in Tallahassee at Florida State. And then after that we moved to Nashville with the band I had from college. Me and the guy that were writing all the songs... Have you heard of Duck Dunn?

DH  Yes (he is the bass player of the legendary Booker T and the MGs)

CS  The guy I was writing songs with grew up right down the street from Duck Dunn in Tampa and for the last year or two we tried to do some recording on our own, but were horrendous. We thought we were great...

DH  (laughs) But you weren't Duck Dunn.

CS  Exactly. So we would go back and play him these songs that were so bad... They weren't bad, but like the fact that we were steering them to a Rock'n'Roll Hall of Famer... (laughter) But he was always encouraging. He was like, you guys need to find a really good rhythm section and you have some good songs and I like your voice. So he called up Steve Cropper who had a studio in Nashville. We went up there to do a demo, we fell in love, so we moved to Nashville right after we graduated and lived there for about a year and a half. And then that band fell apart as happens. (laughter) Imagine that? And then my girlfriend went to New York and got an internship that turned into a job right when all signs were... Well, we had some people come up to us in Nashville and say you guys were more of a rock thing and you need to be in New York. And everything was kind of pointing to New York, so that is when I moved to New York.

DH  Yes, I am kind of curious about Nashville. The drummer for a punk band I managed became a good session drummer down in Austin. But he went to Nashville and found it a little more closed-door there.

CS  Yeah, it's very, very... you know, when we first decided to go there, our thought was man, everyone here is a musician. If this was LA or New York, you have big music scenes, but here it's like constant. You are going to be around people that really feel the same way as you do about music. But that kind of ends up being the downfall because you can't really build anything up or it felt like that to me.

DH  Especially just coming, if you lived there your whole life maybe, unless you are coming in as a star.

CS  Exactly, or with the country. We're doing like rock music, so it's not like we could get a deal with one of the labels in Nashville as they are looking for the next big country thing. But it was an amazing time. I really actually love Nashville as a town and the level of musicians and the studios everywhere.... So much great stuff, but for a person who is trying to build something, it did not seem possible.

DH  But now you are in Brooklyn. So now there's a band in every other house.

CS  Exactly. In certain ways it is the same, although there's least there's nine million people there and there are people that still don't do music and you can develop something out of New York.

DH  And very eclectic there with all the different styles off the charts. This all makes a lot of sense and I can certainly see Nashville with Cropper and Dunn as part of it. But back to the studio recordings. Your album sounds very slick, well done, so what were the challenges moving up from a lo-fi approach. Did you work slowly on the parts or did a have a live approach?

CS  So over the past two or so years, right when I finished the last album which was pieced together at different studios, nothing was done at the same time. The drum part was done at the drummer's apartment, the bass part at my apartment... After that the band that I was slowly putting together was taking shape and we were taking songs and making them a bit more 'bandy' than just like a guy or songwriter with a back-up band, so we spent like a year and half playing a ton and working out arrangements for songs and our original theory was we were going in and play it live and record that, which is always, you know, a lot easier said than done.

DH  Yes, it turns out that way.

CS  And we did do it that way somewhat, but overtime we went back in and patched things up and overdubbed things and then I kind of let it sit for a while and was listening to the rough mixes and a couple of new songs kind of came in to the fold. We felt like we needed to put these on. So then we went to another studio and actually did those two live.
And that was a good experience, laying it down. If I told you the songs, you could probably hear the difference.

DH  We'll see.

CS  Yeah, we'll see if you can tell. So it was some live and some things pieced together. I think probably the biggest obstacle to overcome was to make it feel cohesive and to hopefully to have it sound good enough, you know.

DH  RIght, that is what I listen for. Because initially I may hear singer-songwriter, Americana... I hear hundreds of these CDs when I review them for Folkworld, but when the first notes hit, I start thinking how do I differentiate this and so far so good on your record, slick, but raw. I thought you achieved that well. So how you achieve that in your studio sounds like it varies quite a bit. Did you use a producer or a specific engineer you worked with?

CS  When we first went in, we wanted to do it all at one studio. There was a guy named Chris Cubeta. Although we had things worked out, he was really good at getting certain sounds like guitar sounds and good with the vocals and putting me at ease when something was good enough and capturing something that was not perfect but had the right vibe. I think that is one of the hardest things about recording, especially when you are a singer and you know what perfect sounds like which is what you want, but it just sounds boring a lot of times. So you listen to certain songs you know your whole life and think what a great vocal, but if you really listen to it or listen to yourself, but it is pitchy, not great, but it serves a purpose and that's what makes it.

DH  Yes when I read about producers, they do mention the sort of psychological aspect or the mentoring that goes on. That is it as much as getting into the comfort zone with a band.

CS  Yeah.

DH  So this tour is almost over. What is next for you?

CS  I just found out I am going to go to do about a week and a half in England opening for Wakey! Wakey! They are on the same label I am on. They are doing well over there. Earlier at the end of last year, I opened a couple of shows for them in England and one where I was solo and another with my band. And both times the crowds over there were amazing--such music lovers. You could hear a pin drop a lot of the time.

DH  You won't have that here (laughter). One of my complaints I bitch about all the time is the talking during sets, like all the time. I pay $18 to listen, not talk.

CS  Yeah, it's such a hard thing. On this tour especially when I am doing the solo thing. When you walk into a room, you can kind of tell what kind of crowd it is going to be. And you sort of sense the rock venues that usually turn into people talking. And like you say, you can go either really quiet with people talking at a lower level or you say screw it and play loud and they just talk louder. So, we'll see how they are tonight.

DH  Yeah, I complain about it all the time, but if I'm in back by the bar or merch table, I don't mind short talks especially if it is musically related. But there was an old psyche folk artist Vashti Bunyan who played here. She came out of retirement when she googled herself and was stunned when her failure of an album was selling for a thousand dollars, etc. So she did a comeback album and played this stage. Her voice was about the most fragile thing in the world, so every bar noise was super loud and people were shushing every noise so it was spooky quiet. But we'll see tonight. You'll be on first. But on to a more off-the-wall question. Are there any non-musical artists or writers that you really look up to, inspirationally and all.

CS  Wow, yeah like Shel Silverstein--I am very into like children's stuff-- and I'm like a big Beatles fan,too. One thing I thought about them is that a lot of their songs sound like children's songs. You know, like a lot of times the lyric were like really dark, but melodically and vibe-wise, it was something a five year old kid could have the same experience as a 55-year old. So I've always been into childhood things like Dr. Seuss.

DH  Me, too.

CS  I think these guys are like geniuses and maybe in the art world I like Salvador Dali and Van Gogh is amazing. I grew up kind of a painter and drawer, but I didn't really explore it as much as I should have. I went to England a couple years ago with this other band. And we worked with a lable who had done a demo and we were just over there for six months and it all fell apart--typical kind of label experience. But when I came back with my life in tatters without a place to live, so I was back at home and that was the first time in a while I went back into painting. And it was amazing, there was something about it.

DH  (further discussion garbled by DJ chatter) Have you played here before?

CS  I think I played the Black Cat was it?

DH  Yes, was it the back stage or up top on the main stage.

CS  It was the main stage. It's been a while.

DH  It's still going strong.

CS  Yeah, it was a cool place.

DH  (more discussion on general business) I find labels interesting versus the whole DIY concept. Nowadays, there are so many different paths to take...

CS  Which is amazing as it makes things infinitely better and worse, you know.

DH  Absolutely. You have to say it that way, right.

CS  But I'm glad I came around when I did because 20 years ago I probably would not have cracked through.

DH  Or if you did, you it would be the all of the all or nothing formula.

CS  Somehow hopefully bands will find ways to make enough money and find audiences.

DH  How about New York gigs?

CS  I have kind of been around a long enough time that is pretty easy. There is one place I play a lot, maybe too much, called Rockwood Music Hall, lower east side.

DH  Do you do it solo?

CS  I generally do it with the band. I have developed a really good relationship with the club over the last five or six years and usually they send me dates, often Friday or Saturday nights. It's nice to be able to keep busy and not have to worry about really trying to push. When I first got to New York, it was the hardest thing--how to get to the point where... Because you wanted a show and they would say that you gotta bring this many people or you don't make any money or whatever. So it's like how many people can you bring in? I don't know, five maybe? There's that 'how do you get gigs if people don't know about you and how do people know about you if you can't get a gig.' I spent a lot of time playing open mic nights and make friends with people and that slowly over the years helps you out.

DH  Yeah, it's like that here, everywhere. But I am glad it's working out for you.

And we chattered away for a while longer, but it was too much of me blabbing about me, so I will spare you.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Ettes - Friends - The Bam Bams -- Black Cat - Sep 3 2011

The Bam Bams - Two women, one on guitar/vocals, the other on drums comprise the Bam Bams. Yeah, the sound is a bit thin, but their brand of light garage-pop sounds pretty cool. I am reminded of Leslie Gore singing done to a post Ramones garage styled drums and guitar duel. Shonen Knife fans can take note of this band as well. Apparently they did recently lose a third member over a song they do called "Donkeys". I was expecting something a bit off the wall with the lyrics but I could only make out "cuz I like girls, I'm a donkey." Well, there are other third members out there. Hopefully they will find a compatriot to fill out there sound a bit, as it's a nice sound.

Friends - A five piece from Brooklyn is up next. They have a combination of female vocals, drums, bass, guitars, and keyboards with constant instrument switching. It may have been worth the switching if I could notice any discernible difference in the playing, but I did not. They asked the DC audience if anyone liked to dance. I heard about two people of the 100-150 people say they did which is about right for a DC crowd at a rock show. Their music was danceable, but it did not really push people too hard in that direction. While it is refreshing that a band tries to keep it light rather than blasting drum machine beats at maximum volume to create a robo-dancing beat, I think this band could have done more. The vocals were good, smooth but sometimes with a touch of Ari Up cutesy-toughness. Likable enough, but a bit more pizazz is needed to win over crowds that have the choice of hundreds of bands.

The Ettes - From Nashville comes this decidedly non-Nashville sounding band (aside from the accent during stage patter). The Ettes have a great part garage, part punk rock sound with a slightly modern feel. Their songs remind me of the Joy Formidable covering Fang. Initially their own soundman was not getting much sound on the drums, which was unfortunate as she was bashing away with plenty of power. The soundman was fiddling with dozens of knobs that could have been set at sound check? I don't know, but after he fooled around with the tone, he got the levels working ok and I could focus on the band. The singer/guitarist also had to let the bass player tune her guitar which killed the brief momentum after the opening number. Odd, but no noticeable glitches thereafter. Just song after song of catchy hooks, powerful drumming, thick bass runs, and guitar chords. The vocals soared above nicely and were pivotal in giving the band its take on this sort of sound. It was a bit like the granddaughter of Karen Dalton belting out beloved pop songs. They really pulled the crowd in as the excitement built nicely over their hour long set. I suppose it didn't hurt that the guitarist took her shirt off and the drummer did too in exchange for rounds from the crowd. It was PG all the way as bras were in place. And it was the last night of the tour, so they were kicking it out, leaving it all on stage, but did come back for a well-earned three song encore. I think they added some more fans tonight.

Quote of the Night: Overheard coversation in the streets...
First woman reading a text message... "What's this h-u-s-s-i-e... Huh-SEE?"
Second woman... "Oh yeah, it's a nicer way of saying slut.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Black Cat's 18th Birthday Party -- Black Cat - Sep 2 2011

9 bands for $5--the sets are short, so just some quick reviews here...

Dirty Wars - Crucifix styled hardcore with some DRI type singing. This form was already tired when the Black Cat opened. These guys seemed young, so this was some nice experience on stage to learn from and hopefully grow from and get an easy to find web presence.

Autograph by Proxy - I am not sure how serious this outfit takes itself, but they delivered a fun little set. Old school sleaze punk with some hip hop moves and whatever they found in the kitchen sink went into these couple of songs. Mixed style, mixed genre, mixed gender, mixed age... I will always enjoy something like this, especially when it is  a short in your face jolt.

Raindeer - Two people on keyboards/electronics with a guitarist and bass/keyboardist. This was high quality dreamy synth pop. I do like electronica when the band has the vocals and pop tunes to keep interest high. This icy band had all of that. They could easily hold my interest for a full hour set based on this nice sampling tonight.

Looters DC - A casual set here for this trio who just did some fun punk covers as much for their entertainment as ours. The Damned's "Wait for the Blackout" was a good reminder that we will get a better version of this on October 3rd on this very stage.They also did Agent Orange's "Bloodstains", the Dickies' "Manny, Moe & Jack", and the Circle Jerks' "Back Against the Wall". A set that was a nice extension of all the great punk tunes the DJ was playing tonight.

Booze Riot - Good old call and response style hardcore here, straight out of "This is Boston, not LA" amongst other scenes of the era. Kind of fun with a bit more variety and skill than most, so a good listen for this festive evening.

State Violence - The DJ does seem to be pretty sharp tonight playing a Discharge song just before this band named after half a Discharge song. Fast, furious hardcore a bit too brutal to be interesting for very long. Antisect covering the first Meat Puppets records? Think about. The room thinned out a bit for some reason during this set.

Oh So Peligroso - Thankfully I get to see this band after cutting out early on their Ft. Reno show. I won't last much longer tonight, but I want to see what this four-piece can do. Plenty. This was an excellent set with good punk, pop and hard post punk moves going on in their catchy little songs. Their vocalist is up to the task of hanging on to the melody while handling the volume requirements to stay atop the loud raucous the other three create. Playful and powerful--a band I will gladly see again some time, and I'm sure there will be plenty of other people joining me.

Garland of Hours and Max Levine Ensemble - I was dead tired almost all night, so I needed to cut out early. I have enjoyed the first band previously as I showed in this review. And as for the Max Levine outfit, they are a solid established part of the DC scene and will likely be playing again at the Black Cat some day soon.

Quote of the Night: From the singer of Oh So Peligroso...  "The Black Cat is 18 years old today. (guitarist) Mike can actually hook up with them now."  Mike: "Don't tell Dante."

Maybe some day I will dig deeper into the club scene as I have thought about doing a feature on what I like and don't like about the various clubs I frequent. I will say that the Black Cat will have far more positives than negatives. They book well, run things smoothly and bring lots of great local and touring bands to the attention of DC music fans. I am over 50 times a year myself and don't see any reason to slow down. Long may they be a part of the DC scene.