Monday, December 31, 2012

Lilt -- Jammin Java - Dec 30 2012

Lilt - I first heard this Irish folk duo on their recent album "Onward" which I found to be a vibrant approach to classic Irish folk music. They hit the stage for 90 minutes of mostly instrumental Irish folk (one shared vocal song) which fully absorbs this matinee audience. Tina Eck plays a lovely wooden flute and a bit of whistle (not so much tin anymore). Keith Carr mostly plays a cittern and adds a little banjo here and there. Their virtuosity is quickly apparent and their notes deftly flow together in those classic ancient patterns. I really love this music and it is perfect for me today as it is quick, moving, and has that melodic pattern that circles back to the starting point to a harmonious conclusion--nothing like the ancient modal harmonic compositions to balance the soul. These two know their instruments, know the music, and show off their nice personalities on stage. They invited an Irish dancer (you know, that mostly armless style) to come up on final verses of several songs to bang out a nice little rhythm with his feet while showing off his various moves. It was a nice visual touch, with a surprising rhythmic boost as well. This music fits perfectly into the revival era of British (and European) folk in the post Sweeney's Men era. Back then, you could stray from traditional or stay roughly within those bounds (as Lilt does) yet provide a modern depth to the sound and the performance. I hope many more people will check out these two, either as Lilt, or playing with other band variations around town. As someone from the crowd said, 'next time, we'll be bringing our friends!'.

Quote of the Day: paraphrasing Keith Carr, as he and Tina provided lots of interesting details about the music and instruments... "This is a ten-string bouzouki, which is properly known as a cittern, although no one in Ireland will call it that. That's more of a UK-Scotland thing."

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Scream - Government Issue - Youth Brigade -- Black Cat - Dec 29 2012

Youth Brigade - Each and every year brings me into shows where I had long given up any chance of seeing a certain band from my past. And now it is Youth Brigade, a classic Dischord band--in fact, the first Dischord record I ever owned. Even though I was a fairly enlightened member of the Dayton, Ohio punk scene, I have to admit that I bought the record during my first visit to Chicago's Wax Trax Records when I thought it was a release by Youth Patrol, a band featured on the MI/OH comp, "Process of Elimination" (I would feel stupid except that there were a plethora of 'Youth' bands at the time including another Youth Brigade). This happy accident led me deeper into harDCore and was a great listen by itself. Three of the original members are back tonight with Steve Hansgen taking over on guitar and laying out those thick sludgy mid-tempo guitar lines that I remember so well. The rhythm section was up to the task and Nathan still has the resonance to bring some life and recognition to these songs. They brought out guests to help out on "Stepping Stone" which polished off these fun 23 minutes. The sold-out crowd was more filled with old-timers like me (but even more tied to the original scene) reliving their 'Salad Days', so there was not a whole lot of moshing, but a deeper involvement.

Government Issue - This is the third revisit I have had with this band in recent years and the line-up changes every time around. This time, it is the Nov '81 to early '82 line-up with Tom Lyle on bass and Brian Baker on guitar. Colin Sears, fresh from his Dag Nasty show the previous night, takes over on drums. And of course, John Stabb is the manic fun-filled frontman giving character to the musical blasts of these classic short punk/hardcore songs. They leaned toward the early material although crept forward into a few songs after Brian Baker had departed. The encore had Lyle and Baker switch instruments for a couple more latter day songs. This was fun and musically strong, although looser than the brilliant set they did the previous year with the full line-up of the final version of GI. But this was all about the continuing of the party atmosphere of the return of the early eighties. They played some snippets from the upcoming documentary film "Salad Days" between the first two sets which reinforced what this was all about on at least two levels.
Scream - This is also the third revisit I have experienced with this classic Virginia band, although they have done some recording and touring in recent years. It is the original quartet augmented with a second guitar. The second guitar is only a small part of the incredible blast of power and volume that these guys produce tonight. This may be the most ferocious show they have put on of the six or seven I have taken in. It was quite impressive, although some of the nuance may have been lost. But hey, this is all about cutting loose and having fun with bands and people that were a big part of your lives many years ago. The fact that the music can still bring the joy is a testament as to why multiple books and documentaries have covered this scene. I look forward to seeing "Salad Days" some day soon.

Quote of the Night: From Nathan S. introducing the guest singers... "We have Alec MacKaye... the other MacKaye."

Friday, December 28, 2012

Gifts from Enola - Time Columns - Gates - The Escape Artist -- Velvet Lounge - Ded 27 2012

The Escape Artist - This is the second time for me in catching this local twin-guitar quartet. They cover modern shoegaze sounds, but have their own approach that emphasizes the songs more than sheer volume or bombast. Yes, they can cut loose, but hold back on the predictable slow-to-fast, quiet-to-loud moves that so many bands employ. They are able to hold the tension in much better in this fashion and it makes for a more original set. I am not sure whether it was the sound or the vocals, but the vocals did not enhance the songs as much as I would normally expect, although they were effective on the more intense passages. But everything else clicked nicely in this 34 minute set and a surprisingly crowded room enjoyed it. The future looks bright here, as they are just beginning to record some material, as well.

Gates - This three-guitar New Jersey based quintet is doing a little east coast swing and is hitting DC for the first time. They play a slightly heavier brand of shoegaze than the first band and for some reason also have vocals that don't seem to fit or at least enhance as much as I would expect. Maybe it is just me tonight. The music is busy and quite powerful. They are a solid outfit that knows what they are doing, although it did not quite transcend into something wildly imaginative. Still, a good set was enjoyed by all.

Time Columns - Now we are stripped down to a trio from Philadelphia who gets rid of the vocals altogether. And it works. Feel free to toss a stone my way as normally I like more vocals, but when you play music this tight and with such power, there is no room at the inn for wee lyrical expression. There is less shoegaze here and far more progressive rock and even a bit of fusion jazz. The drummer has a computer that appears to just add some nature and bird sound affects, while the guitarist does engage some loops. These songs either snap or roar depending on how the band plays off each other. The drumming is inventive, while the bass playing counters and adjusts well. The guitar alternately roars and snakes around with a great Dick Dale reverb tone at times. This is all quite brilliant and the crowd seems to sense that little bit extra that these guys have. This band is well worth your attention.

Gifts from Enola - I am still not quite into the rhythm of things, so I had to cut out early before this fine local band played their set. I am sure it was good-to-great, as I enjoyed them previously a couple years back.

Quote of the Night: From someone chatting with me at the show... "You ok? You seem kind of somber."

Yes, although I realize I am, that got me thinking on how my trip to see my Mom and her husband at their retirement home went well enough, I learned my good friend lost a brother and my oldest friend (since birth) lost his father, both just before Christmas. I would have liked to gone to the latter funeral, but I am caring for my sick cat. Now I am off to write to a young girl who wants to know a little more about her uncle whose obituary I wrote earlier this year. Maybe then, I'll listen to some Joy Division albums and watch an Ingmar Bergman film marathon. So there are a lot of dots that I was not consciously connecting. Here's hoping Saturday night's Black Cat show takes me into some more positive ground. I certainly can not control the fullest extent of my environment, but hopefully can inject a little more emotional variety within. And then, I will prepare for more exciting music and other adventures in 2013.

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Red Palace - No More...

Someone suggested I write an obituary for the Red Palace which is closing at the end of this year. That is a good idea, as it was all too short-lived, but was generally perceived to be a good club by many people I talked to. I even liked the old Red & the Black, but the redesign with double the space made for a nice still cozy venue with a high stage and an effective PA. They booked well and I always had a good time there.
So why is it shutting down? Sources indicate that the profits were not quite coming in fast enough considering the increased value of this hot Northeast property. My initial thought that they would convert to a dance club was wrong as I learned they had some noise problems with the neighbors (who probably have lots of other problems with the crowds on weekends). So it is likely to be turned into a restaurant down the road.

Although I am sorry to see it go, there are many worse changes that happen in life. Many were disappointed at CBGBs' closing, but that club had been far less useful than the Red Palace was for several decades, despite the obvious historical importance CB's had (nearly 40 years ago). There are still plenty of clubs and house shows about and live music is still strong and hopefully will continue that way for a long time. There is even a new club called 9th & Beats just starting up now.

There are still a few shows left at the Red Palace with good shows on 21st (Courtesans, Maple) and 29th (Dance for the Dying, Paperhaus, Mittenfields) that I would recommend along with the closing show on the 30th that I hope to catch. Take it in, have some fun, and then move on to the rest of the clubs and shows in 2013. There will be many magical shows next year, but I'll still miss this club. Life goes on, mostly.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Spirit Animal - Kokayi - Kin Heads - Rock'n'Roll Hotel - Dec 15 2012

Kin Heads - This local quintet is making its live debut and has a lively contingent here to give them support. Turns out they don't really need a lot, as they are a fairly skillful bunch with good control of their sound. Like a reggae band, the basslines and the swing in the drums dominate, while the two guitars (and sometimes keyboard) emit sonic textures to set the mood. The female singer is solid as the band comes up with a feeling of indie as well as classic sounds. The guitars do cut loose now and then, but the rhythms are what holds it together. They are quite appealing and have the capability to expand on their skills and come up with even more complex arrangements over time. Add a cover of the Eurythmics "Sweet Dreams", a guilty pleasure of mine, and you have a successful debut.

Kokayi - Kokayi is a singer, but he is here with a guitarist, bassist and drummer which is a really good thing as this band is piping hot. He starts in a hip-hop, R&B, rock style of vocalizing, but eschews the hip hop for much of the set. While the guitarist occasionally channels Isaac Hayes, I hear much more of Keith Levine here. In fact the whole band could be Metal Box era PiL supporting someone like Seal on vocals. The drums are quick and powerful and the bass playing is big and thick. And the guitar keeps going into strange places as the guy squeezes out angular chunks of bliss. It is all crisp and powerful throughout the 35 minutes.  I hope they continue to stay together and work this kind of magic again some day soon.
Spirit Animal - I have seen these guys a few times before and they never fail to deliver an intense performance filled with fun songs, skillfully played. They have the usual bass, drums, and guitar and the lead vocalist sometimes uses a keyboard. The songs were a little less psyche this time around and they seemed even funkier than usual. It was a bit like NoMeansNo, but not quite as twisted and dark. They certainly are tight enough to push any limitations they may have previously had, and they are kicking up a nice din tonight. They start and end the set with brand new songs, one of which showed some severely intriguing songwriting. Both were heavy on the rhythms, which made for a little more movement in the crowd than what usually is seen. They play a fairly short set, but the energy is strong and they pack in plenty of songs, so that is not a problem. This hard touring band is well worth a visit and I doubt this will be the last time I will be checking them out.

Quote of the Night: From Kokayi introducing his band... "And behind me we have Twink on drums!" Uh, did I hear that right? (I did) Thankfully she was a lot younger and more in control of her brain and hands than the Twink of old...

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Of Montreal - Foxygen - French Horn Rebellion -- 9:30 Club - Dec 14 2012

French Horn Rebellion - Lights out, as the smoke fills the stage and sounds of a rainstorm come through the PA. I am awaiting those three distinct chords from 'Black Sabbath', but instead get a couple of guys behind keyboards and electronics with a drummer in the rear. Indeed, one guy does have a French horn wailing away to some mysterious music, before they settle into some more familiar rhythmic electronic pop. There were loads of energy and crazed stage patter and even some rap. At least until one member picked up his keyboard and mock killed his brother, sparing us from more MC Hammer moves. I liked the French horn and there was enough of that, but I could have used a little more rebellion.

Foxygen - There are five of them up there switching around amongst keys and guitars with the bass and drums keeping it going the whole way. All of them sing and there is one female voice in the mix, although one guy with a fascinating and twisted voice dominates. Vocally there is a touch of the psyche Fit & Limo and I also hear elements of Shadows of Knight (or any other pseudo-Jagger Nugget era vocalist). Musically, there is Skip Spence, Beau Brummels, Holy Mackarel... I could continue, but I sense a distinctly light pop psyche California sound from the 60s. And since I have never mentioned the last four bands in any sort of comparison in previous reviews, this band is channeling something unique and have the creativity to twist it into a modern sound that is full of their quirky personality. There are enough hooks to grab on to, although at times they tend to drift into areas where I feel like I am trying to grab a handful of fog. This is a highly intriguing band that is well worth a listen and I hope to see them back in town again some time.

Of Montreal - And speaking of lighter pop psychedelia... up comes this well established American band that has been showcasing their own brand of oddball charm for some time now. It is a sold out show, although there is more room than usual in the balcony tonight. They come out with oddly costumed stage hands passing out a ridiculously long sausage linked set of balloons for the crowd. They also have various stuffed animals amongst the costumed musicians (some, not all). I did not stay the full set as their death scene of a stuffed animal reminded me to head home and take care of my ill cat. The band is musically playful with some nu-psyche moves amongst the pop rock core. It is a nice sound, but does not quite dig into my world as much as I would like, as it reminds me of latter day Roxy Music as opposed to the edgier early Roxy (and there is not quite the intensity of Bryan Ferry anywhere here). Still, these guys have carved out space in their fun little world and have a lot of people who want to join them, and I will not argue against that. They have the skill to keep this going a long time.

Quote of the Night (from 2008): A 20 year old classical guitarist from Illinois was chatting with me on a boat from Stockholm to Helsinki... "My favorite musicians are Comus, Opeth, and Stravinsky." We were on the Melloboat which was a terrifically fun musical cruise over two nights featuring some of Europe's most interesting psyche, folk, prog, and metal bands from olden days and new. Many pilgrims were there from all corners of the globe mostly to see Comus, but were treated to lots of great bands. One Alaskan, interrupted his vacation in Thailand to join some Jersey buddies for the trip. They are doing it again with Opeth, Trettioariga Kriget, and many more leading the way for the cruise this September. No Comus, but it is giving me some serious pause for thought.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Charlene Kaye - Jay Stolar - Dance for the Dying -- Jammin Java - Dec 13 2012

Dance for the Dying - This is the second time around for me seeing this local pop rock quartet. The set is quite similar to last time as they are a sharp little outfit with high quality players. I particularly enjoy the nimble bass runs tonight. The drums and slashing guitar sounds keep the pace as well. They create a nice thick sound while establishing the pop hooks throughout. The female vocalist plays some keys (as well as two of the others at times), so there is a lot for her to sing over. Her voice is plenty powerful enough to keep up and it never loses the melody, making for a sound that cuts deeper than similar material. This is far smoother than edgy, but there sense of power is the key to what makes their more effective songs work so well. And they had balloons which rarely fail with the crowd, as long as you are not Bauhaus. Another solid effort that the 50 or so people in the crowd quite enjoyed.

Jay Stolar - From NYC comes this guitarist-singer who plays acoustic or just sings on top of the drums and keyboards that comprise his backup band. Everybody sings which works nicely, and adds more variety. I would call his music soulful folk with enough classic pop and rock moves to handle various arrangements beyond what is here tonight. He moves away from the mic often, which I usually find kind of gimmicky. But in this case it is shrewd as not only does it bring the crowd in, but it creates a bit of rising action and receding volume that creates a more flowing environment for the songs. This is subtle theater and is a nice way of doing more with less. And he and the band went out in the crowd which was fully absorbed by now. It was a young bunch and the enthusiasm was quite welcome with the performers and this reviewer. There was even a nice jam at the end with Charlene Kaye on guitar and Stolar on bass which showcased the excellent keyboardist. Stolar has the songs (some have made it to TV or movies) and the style and personality to match.
Charlene Kaye - Although Ms. Kaye more often plays with a band, she said she wanted to get back to the basics of the songs and do them solo tonight with just an electric guitar and her voice. She banged out a ton of songs in the 50 minute set and kept the crowd up front fully engaged. I was surprised at how bluesy the music was as I was expecting a little more pop rock. There are certainly a lot of those elements in her songs as well, but she had a modern twist on lounge blues that was both in her voice and in her intriguing guitar work. She had a song that reminded me of Steamhammer, which I never expected to write during this set. She was a quality player, but mostly made interesting choices that I don't often see in a solo set. Everything was playful and with a lot of enthusiasm that the crowd gave back. She mentioned it felt like a living room show which was quite true and extremely successful. The music was excellent tonight, but the vibe was even more uplifting. She will be back with some new songs and a band this spring, so I will be interested to hear what is new. I think everyone up front will be back as well.

Quote of the Night - Jay Stolar: "We drove down today from New York City. We ate at Chipotle... not that that has anything to do with anything."

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Dead Women - Company Calls - More AM than FM - Mariner Project -- Velvet Lounge - Dec 11 2012

Mariner Project - I arrived as they were playing but caught 32 minutes of music, so I have enough information to get a good sense of the band. Actually, it does not take that long as it is instrumental music featuring keyboards and drums. There is a little computer augmentation with beats and some bass and such, but it all follows a steady pattern. Initially, I felt like they may have needed one more instrument and that probably would not hurt, but thankfully I did catch enough of the set, as over time I ended up appreciating these guys' approach. They have a heavy keyboard prog sound like a Bo Hansson perhaps. They use synthesizer sounds well and keep things busy and vibrant. They create some surprisingly meaty textures with just this approach, so I was convinced and would welcome another listen some day.

More AM than FM - It is nice to see young people reference differences between AM and FM before those terms fade away to the land of 8-track tapes, kinescopes, and magic lanterns. This southern Maryland trio features plenty of grrrrl power and bluesy rock combined to remind me of the early punk days. They combine elements of Frightwig, the Ramones, and the Count Bishops (or some sort of gutter blues). It is all rather simple, although there are some quality guitar moves here and there. And every now and then they make some surprisingly creative songwriting moves. So there is a little potential here that lots of gigging like this can only help them to realize.

Company Calls - More riot action (although dialed down a bit) here as another trio hits the stage with guitar, drums, and vocals. It is a little thin instrumentally, but the quality is there, so it works out ok. The drums are really solid and the guitar work is just varied enough to keep things interesting. There is more to be done here, but they can work that out by more gigging, etc., etc. They covered Tegan & Sara and had a song that reminded me of the Vibrators "Baby Baby". Pop-punk with a bit of attitude again takes me back a few decades. I do recommend against doing the encore when things are running late on a 4-band line-up on a Tuesday, however.
The Dead Women - I stuck around for only half their set as I have personal things to closely monitor these days. I am quite happy I did as I saw some pretty great things from this power trio. They are definitely a power pop band, but have an assurance to them that keeps that a few steps beyond garageland and closer to a great mainstream pop rock sound. The playing is highly skilled and the vocals on top are smooth and assured with some good harmonies at times. The band seems to push each other into building intensity with songs that remind me of early 3 O'Clock material and some other bands that I cannot quite come up with tonight. But that is a good thing, because with the vocals and strength of playing and composition, these guys may be able to carve out their own territory into this ever crowded field. They are definitely a band to catch and after chatting with them a bit, it sounds like they get steady enough gigs, so check them out if you are any kind of fan of hook filled rock music.

Quote of the Night: The simplest of many quotes from More AM than FM's guitarist/singer... "I'm in a band full of jerks."

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Blue Oyster Cult -- State Theatre - Dec 8 2012

Blue Oyster Cult - This was the 40th anniversary tour of this still hard working, hard rocking band. I celebrate 37 of those years since I first saw them on stage way back in the days when I looked for something a little bit cooler and heavier than what the radio routinely provided. It is the usual band with the two long-time vocalists and guitarists, Buck Dharma and Eric Bloom. And by now drummer Jules Radino and guitarist/keyboardist Richie Castellano have been around almost as long as the Bouchard brothers (well, they'll pass them if they make it to the 45th anniversary tour). Castellano is a key member as his musical education and flash shredding guitar work would help any great rock band. He and Dharma trade leads with more distinction in their playing than most twin lead guitar bands. Basically Castellano shreds, while Dharma has a liquid playfully quick and expressive manner. "Last Days of May" showcases this yet again as Castellano deconstructs and reconstructs the song in a long brilliant solo leading to Dharma's more classic solo from that song. Every time out, there is a new bassist and this time around it is Kasim Sulton, who I think I remember from Todd Rundgren's Utopia. Yes indeed, they make that clear in smart and fun moment where Bloom introduces him prior to the requisite bass solo by mentioning three bands he has been in: Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, Utopia, and Meatloaf. Sulton and the rest of the band then jam on signature songs from those catalogs for a bit. It sounded like that was as much fun for the band as the audience, which would make only make sense.

There was a big crowd tonight with lots of enthusiastic people that have been into the band as long and longer than I (and the usual amount of really young folks--little in between). If you enjoyed this band at all, you usually enjoyed them a lot (kind of like Rush--a t-shirt reminded me of that link). They still have the skill and the back catalog, so there is not a whole lot to say beyond that at this point of their career... Other than that I doubt this will be the last time I see them.

Quote of the Night: Buck Dharma on the song 'Shooting Shark'.... "The lyrics are by Patti Smith."
Eric Bloom: "I hear she is the Hall of Fame... and we are not."

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Six Organs of Admittance - Blues Control - East Ghost -- DC9 - Dec 3 2012

East Ghost - This local trio features drums, guitar/bass, and guitar/vocals. They are a good choice for tonight's touring bands as they have an indie rock style that has some psyche touches in the sonic architecture. I am trying so hard not to compare them to Radiohead as even they would admit they are no where near that level. But the vocals do have that certain Thom Yorke timbre at times. They vary the pace and intensity some to keep things lively and close with a flourish. Nice effort and a band that is welcome on many a bill

Blues Control - This male/female duo plays mostly instrumental music with each member playing guitar, keyboards, electronics, all with some looping. So things are plenty busy as they create some thick and moving textures to work in a mixture of nice melodies and avant garde thrusts. It is like a cross between the harder side of Fit & Limo crossed with the dense spaciness of 50-Foot Hose. There is some rocking rhythms guitar at times, along with jarring piano pounding that also reminds me of a more modern krautrock prog jam. This is fun and pulls in the sizable crowd that has developed tonight.
Six Organs of Admittance - Ben Chasny continues to be very busy with this band (often just him) as well as other side projects (Rangda for one). He also moved to Northampton, MA which is fertile territory for his particular brand of psyche-folk. Yet, there is also an extensive noise scene there, and perhaps that influenced his return to the more 'Comets on Fire' approach to his latest batch of songs. Frankly, any approach he takes will work with me as he explores much of the same terrain where I most often musically reside. It was fun to see a full band this time around as he brought along the guitarist from Magik Markers and a rhythm section from other bands. They are rocking tonight with a relentless beat, exploding rhythm guitar and insane lead work from Chasny. He handles the vocals and crafts some songs out of it all with plenty of room for the guitars. The Eastern psyche moves are there, as well as a garage pop sense lurking within the menace. Instrumentally, there were Birthday Party elements in some of these songs, atlhough Chasny's classic style keeps it well within what you expect from his band (at least when they are at their heaviest). He closed by going solo with two songs including a great cover of the late Epic Soundtracks' "Roll the Stone". Being an original Swell Maps fan, that was a perfect ending for me for this brilliant set from one of the masters of modern guitar.

Quote of the Night: Chasny... "I gotta get this in tune--it's worse than Johnny Thunders and I'm not high at all."

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Kohoutek - Junzo Suzuki - Smoke Green -- Velvet Lounge - Dec 1 2012

Smoke Green - I thought I recognized Patrick on guitar, who was with the now defunct State Department. This outfit has a much richer and diverse sound that quickly explodes into various psychedelic explorations. Initially there is a spacey reach with a pummeling beat and glib bass runs snaking around washed out guitars and vocals. But then they head off in a Simply Saucer variation of garage psyche space punk. This is a sound we need much more of on this planet. Then it is back to a Fifty Foot Hose meets Can sort of psychedelic jam style that holds until a fascinating cover of the Temptations "Ball of Confusion" closes their 50 minute set.  There are some people who would be confused by this set, but none were present in this half-packed club tonight as Smoke Green found a way to put a personal stamp on some great psychedelic offerings. They are not quite there as they need to get a full handle on their sound, often lost vocals, and feedback control, but this band could turn into a monster of the absolute. Powerful and fascinating, I plan to hear more and hopefully soon.
Junzo Suzuki - I was less than thrilled that it took over 50 minutes to continue the show, as the lack of sleep I have had dealing with during my cat's illness has taken its toll over the last few weeks. But I wanted to stick it out, since Suzuki came from Japan to do a short tour in front of serious psychedelic music lovers. It was just Suzuki on guitar and some vocals. I felt it started a little slowly, but that was more likely due to my mood. When he introduced his bowing technique and began some loops creating a densely intriguing atmosphere, things picked up nicely. He added atmospheric vocals well and had a firm handle on his psychedelic soundscape. I only wish touring costs were lower, so he could have brought a full band over, but this was rewarding enough tonight.

Kohoutek - I am sure they were great as always, but I was not around tonight to find out. Hopefully some time again soon.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Last Bison - The North Country -- Jammin Java - Nov 30 2012

The North Country - There is a very large and energized crowd here tonight for the twin-band late bill following an earlier folk show. This local four-piece comes on to high expectations and quickly lives up to them. They feature vocals and guitar, bass, drums, and a violin. I have seen Andrew Grossman at a solo gig and came away impressed. Now, with the full band, it is even better. His songs and vocal work are quite strong in more of a folk-rock than alt country vein. The drumming is quick, but does not dominate while the violin is fascinating, especially when he snaps off playful plucking patterns. They are able to bring the volume and pace down and pull the crowd in or they can jam along creatively, causing a desire for even further stretching. This band could follow the same path of a band like Lost in the Trees has, and could easily pick up all of their fans and then some. If you like indie-Americana rock, you should certainly give this band a test drive some time soon.

The Last Bison - I see even Wikipedia compared this Chesapeake, Virginia band to the Fleet Foxes, which is one of the first items in my notes. Not only are the three part harmonies a wonderful part of their sound (one female voice in this version), but the songs are also in a similar vein, especially one that lifts the main melodic line of "Your Protector". But since I love that song, I would encourage other bands to latch on to that as well. Aside from that, there were tons of original moves, and an overall sound that was unique enough to the indie scene. There are light guitars, banjos or mandolin with lots of drums, percussion and strings (cello and violin going non-stop). A little glock and other instruments pop in and out and there is an intriguing space in the songs for the vocals to soar around in with plenty of energy and pace keeping the songs flowing with purpose. I even detected a similarity to a an old German prog-folk band, Parsifal, with strong vocals and intense nearly gothic melodies. Although this band is young to the scene, they are quickly becoming a big time player and it is easy to see why. The music is gripping and fun and the crowd was filled with fans that did not instruction or encouragement for singing along or clapping or whatever. The packed house at the Jammin Java got their money's worth tonight.

Plug of the Night - I mentioned it in the record reviews, but if you want to see coverage of the worldwide folk scene (covering blues, indie rock, gypsy punk-folk, worldbeats, etc) in four languages, no less, check out issue 49 of Folkworld. There is even a lot of DC in there, too.

Friday, November 30, 2012


DC has always been one of the most 'Wired" cities on this side of the Atlantic, with many bands covering many early Wire songs. Dot Dash makes it clear where they are coming from with their name which invokes the challenge to be able to bring the spirit and quality of Wire into their music. Tall order, but these four guys are up to it. They play pop music with strong instrumental backing and smooth vocal lines. There is as much Ride present as Wire, along with a host of British American pop/punk influences. It is not the 'grab you by the throat' brand of power pop, but a smart, silky, rocking brand of pop/rock that is immediately enjoyable, but even better after a few more listens. Their live set is always entertaining, and it is no surprise that they capture their sound so well in the studio. This sharp band should be part of every DC rock fan's world.

Available through their label, the beautiful music.

Songs to try out first:

Faraway - The opening cut is often the best place to start as the instrumentation hits with a wallop before ceding some volume to let the vocals in.

Two Octobers - The guitars jangle, the rhythm section creates a murky undulating pace, and the vocal work is mysterious--a fascinating atmosphere here.

Live to Tell - The basic pop hooks are augmented by some spacious guitar work.

This record starts off as if it will take a nice breezy pop-psyche approach with a modern indie vibe. But keep listening as mysterious elements crop up before you know it. You can skip down to the title cut which is as much a statement of lyrical and musical intent as anything. This psychedelic music in the very modern sense. They head it into spacious realms with a wink and a sly grin as they want to enjoy the ride more than find the destination. Musically, this really hits a twisted crossroads of the Gun Club and the Flaming Lips. Anyone with a slightly inventive bone in their body should try this once, and if you are like me, you'll be headed back many times.

You can see them live, opening for Of Montreal at the 9:30 Club on Friday, December 14th.

Songs to try out first:

On Blue Mountain- Spooky organ lingers in the background as a sharp and quirky pop song emerges until it morphs into a weird Jeffrey Lee Pierce vocal battle with a youth choir?!

Bowling Trophies - If anything can be called industrial pop, it may be this little dittie.

Shuggie - By the time of the Bop-bop-bah-dee-dah-dah fadeout, I was swaying along, completely hooked.

This area band has a big, big sound. They have already played some big stages (with no less than Cheap Trick and Blue Oyster Cult) along with some of the smaller area clubs and they manage to fit snugly into venues of any size just fine. That is in part due to a classic bar-room band blues rock that has strong Americana roots at the heart along with arena sized rock blasts from the guitar and rhythm section. The vocals manage to stay clean and strong on top of it all and there are some keyboards lending to the overall atmosphere. The songwriting shows some thoughtfulness with regard to form, as they occasionally succeed in elevating a fun bluesy rocker into something more memorable. It is evident that the songwriting is sharper on this sophomore album. And at the end of the day, end of the set, or end of this album, be assured that Midnight Hike rocks hard and pure.

Check them out live at the Album Release show at the State Theatre, Friday December 14th.

Songs to try out first:

Pilot- From the near-Mark Arm styled vocals to the harmonies and mid-tempo rock anthem pace,

Masters of the Sky - Has that early 70s sort of heavy rock with enough legit soul to get the groove on.

Shoot the Moon - As is often the case, the title track features a wide variety of explorations into their many musical skills and forms.


And if this is not enough, Issue Number 49 of Folkworld Magazine is out now with hundreds of my reviews and others by many fine writers from all over Europe.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Vinyl Side - Black Checker - Davey Brown -- DC9 - Nov 27 2012

Davey Brown - Davey Brown is with his full band tonight, emitting comfortable Americana folk-rock crossed with some bar-room blues. He sings and plays a gutsy acoustic guitar in front of drums, bass, and a steel guitar. The steel guitar is fascinating as it does the usual accompaniment much of the time, but often wails away like a lead guitarist stomping all over everything in a very fun manner. Those are the needed moments that help propel music away from the expected norms. The band left Davey Brown onstage to do one solo number which was pretty excellent until the twang of a broken string brought things to a halt. But he soldiered on for one more verse and once again proved himself and his band a worthy addition to the DC scene.

Black Checker - Alright, I have seen these guys a bunch lately, which means that they are paying their dues, working the stages, and hopefully having plenty of fun. So the question is whether or not there are signs of progress. Well, even after three or four viewings, I am not sure I can conclude whether it is their improvement or my comfort level with their songs. I would guess it is both as their power pop/punk sound continues to impress with its sharp attack. There are also some ska-esque moves that add some interesting rhythms to the pop hooks. Basically, this is a fun band that is going over well with audiences more and more. Proven again tonight with a good crowd on hand.

Vinyl Side - Second time for around for me seeing this offshoot of the Killer Balloons (previous review here). They greet me with a roar of guitar chords that work off of the Stiff Little Fingers riff in "Suspect Device", which is about as good as opening as you would want in a rock band. The drumming is crisp, bass lines pulsating, keyboards countering, guitars roaring, and vocals soaring. They play loud and classic rock that has no trouble fitting into anything even slightly heavy on the indie scene. It is vibrant music that really strikes a chord with someone like myself who grew up on these sounds. A few songs lapse into ordinary terrain, but when they connect, they do so in a big way. They finished up in 35 minutes and pulled together a night of fine local music with three distinct styles that easily worked on the same stage.

Quote of the Night: From Davey Brown to me... "Every time you see me, it's a bad gig."
Nah, just the last song, and those things happen.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Soley - Samantha Harmonie -- DC9 - Nov 26 2012

Samantha Harmonie - "That's my real name--I'd never make up anything that cheesy" states tonight's local solo opener. Although Harmonie does harmonize once, during the last song with her stepfather who comes up to play some classic blues guitar with her. But for most of the set, it is her simple acoustic guitar chords and flexibly powerful voice. The guitar work is clean and simple, but it is quite effective with its pace in creating a somewhat haunting environment (which will effectively foreshadow tonight's headliner). She covered sultry blues, classic folk, and folk-rock styles with her vocal work and songwriting. This was a fine opening set that was both pleasant and thoughtful.
Soley - From the island of Iceland and the band Seabear, comes Soley and two supporting musicians. She is touring a solo album, which has quickly brought her much acclaim, and has brought in a nice crowd of about 50 people here on a Monday night. She handles all vocals, plays a bit of guitar, keyboards, and creates several loops. She has a drummer who only adds drumming and light percussive touches as needed. There is also one guy on guitar and keyboards who also handles his parts with great delicacy. The musicians create a breathtakingly quiet atmosphere that is light on sounds and heavy on mystery and imagination. The pianos sound like they are from dreams of an unmade 1930 German film, while the guitars create a delicate psychedelic vibe that only the finest of psyche-folk players seem to evoke. Her voice is delicate, yet firm and only adds to the haunting atmosphere. There is so much quiet and space here and it is amazing that the audience is so quiet and absorbed by it all. Well, not really, a this music is simply that powerful enough to keep everyone at rapt attention. She thanks the crowd for that and in spite of the eerie vibe of the music, she displays a fun and engaging pattern in her heavily accented stage patter. I keep thinking of how I was pulled into her musical world in the same way that I have been at Spiritualized shows in the past. Not that the sounds are overly similar, but the magical environment is one place I am happy to visit. Soley's performance tonight was definitely one of the highlights of the year. Hopefully, this will be a regular occurrence.

Quote of the Night: Soley, after repeatedly apologizing for saying something about the President that I did not even pick up on... "What is said in clubs, stays in clubs".  Ahhh, it is that sort of charm and naivete that makes for such engaging music.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Duncan Sheik - Courrier -- Birchmere - Nov 25 2012

Courrier - It is unfortunate this band does not cover Charles Ives, denying me an audio pun. But this Austin quartet conjures up some interesting sounds during their short set. There is certainly that heartland Americana sound, but with shimmering guitars, treated bass sounds, and power drumming, you get an interesting European/American hybrid. I heard a bit of Fleet Foxes and Taken by Trees merged with whatever your favorite recent British pop rock band. Some times this a bit overly grand, but the songs were attractive and they had a nice approach. The modest crowd enjoyed this, as did I.

Duncan Sheik - Sheik performs on guitar with two guys on keyboards/glockenspiel and drums. Even if you did not know his history (which I did not, even though I knew the name), you could sense the intelligence behind his music. It is comforting enough with folk and rock moves, but it is well written and thought through. His voice is outstanding and reminds me of a confident Nick Drake at times with touches of Ralph McTell and the jazzier Donovan. There is assured delivery throughout and most of the songs strike deeply and pull you in. He has done a covers album recently, so you have interesting takes on Depeche Mode and Tears for Fears among others. He also invited Laura Warshauer (on tour with him, but oddly not playing tonight) out for a duet on a piece he wrote for theater, "I Don't Do Sadness". The enthusiasm in the modest crowd was good tonight, and he was thankful people got out on the holiday weekend, which can be a challenge. Smooth and thoughtful music was a great way for me to get back into the swing of hitting the clubs, and I went home quite happy tonight.

Quote of the Night - From the opening band during first stage patter... "We've been touring with Duncan Sheik and you guys are in for a real treat... from him, not us."

Monday, November 19, 2012

Kill Lincoln - Boardroom Heroes -- Black Cat - Nov 18 2012

Boardroom Heroes - As much as I needed a night off, the attraction of a good clean hardcore show at the Backstage part of the Black Cat was too good an idea for me to miss. I do need the energized playing of young musicians every now and then and this area quartet sated that desire tonight. The bass player handled the positive melodic vocals with the right amount of energy and tone. The drums rollicked along with two guitarists blasting away consistently throughout the forty minute set. It is tough to maintain the energy over 40 minutes, but the band did a great job of it. There was a bit of a lull in the middle as the stage patter was getting a little long, due mostly to an energetic crowd conversing with the band. I won't fault that much, as it was all smiles and good fun and the band revved it up to close strong. The key was in the guitar parts with the two guys straying from simple power chords quite often, where there were more creative counterpart moves than one often sees in hardcore. Hopefully they will further this with a few more change-ups in the songwriting. If so, they could be pretty awesome. As it is, they are doing just fine and delivered a fun set with plenty of quality attached.
Kill Lincoln - The popularity of ska-punk must be great for all those high school brass band players who don't want to head into jazz. We have two trombones and a sax joining with a power trio to create another approach to this popular genre. These guys keep the guitar, bass, and drums at a roar with only a few funky rhythmic moves. The ska part is pretty much left to the brass who blast in and out of the songs with plenty of power and finesse. The vocals were a little harsh and the sound was a bit hard on the ears for the most part. I love the power, but a little touch in the overall sound would really elevate things to a higher level. It still worked nicely as is, and a good crowd of 40-50 were having a great time tonight--good support for a couple of energetic young local bands.

Quote of the Night: From the opening band discussing the recent tour these bands did in the northeast... "We just Baltimore with Kill Lincoln. It wasn't even the same venue, it was the same town, but that is the nature of this tour."

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Sword - Eagle Claw - Gypsyhawk -- Rock'n'Roll Hotel - Nov 18 2012

Gypsyhawk - We begin tonight's sold-out metal show with a twin-guitar four-piece from the metal-Mecca we know as LA. The bass player handles the lead vocals with the guitarists chipping in to help. I chatted with guitarist Andrew Packer before the show, so look for that interview write-up here in a couple days time. He mentioned some of the more classic hard rock bands that I grew up with including Thin Lizzy and it was great to see one of those classic Gorham-Robertson double leads right in the opening song. Gypsyhawk is definitely old school hard rock with an understanding of the newer approaches as well. They play sort of the classic southern style, but don't lapse into endless boogies or overwrought ballads. They lay the power chords on, thick and heavy, with nice cutting vocals and a strong overall sound. The solos are sharp with good wah-wah pedal usage. They never carry things overboard, and present a tight gutsy set. This is old school music brought up to date that will appeal to a good cross section of hard rock and metal fans. We need more bands like this.

Eagle Claw - From the Sword's hometown of Austin, Texas, comes another metal band with a twin guitar line-up. This time the microphones are only used for stage patter, as these guys play instrumental metal ranging from classic riffs to stretched out math rock patterns. It immediately becomes clear how brilliant a bill this is tonight, as these guys provide the Yang to the opening band's Yin with the Sword encompassing it all into the center of their sound. What do you get when you take a Metallica and have them cover King Crimson? Or perhaps the inverse of that? The result is something like this highly engaging sound these guys create. Shifty, quick, and exciting, these guys pull off instrumental music that keeps the song oriented fans every bit as involved as those that simply love the heavy precision presented in this 36 minute set.
The Sword -OK, local promoters, it is high time to realize that this Austin smart-metal band has grown up to the big-time. Not Metallica big, but tonight's sell-out was quickly earned through their high quality, hard touring approach to fast, strong and smart metal/rock music that has been evident for many years onw. They feature compositional skills and clean execution of vibrant and even fun heavy music. The vocal work of one of the two guitarists is very rooted and real, even with the slight strain he showed (and apologized for) late in the set. Everything flows by seamlessly, as they roll out songs with just a few friendly words in between for their many fans packed up front.  I believe this is the fourth time around for me, and I never get tired of their performances. The balance they achieve between the many sub-genres of hard rock/heavy metal music is not as easy as they make it sound. If you are intrigued by heavier bands, but don't find it your style, I highly advise you to put that toe in the water with this band. They may open up forgotten parts of your mind.

Quote of the Night - From the opener... "Most of you look about 12 years old, so you probably heard your Mom listen to this." as they launched into a ripping version of the classic, "Black Betty".

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Dirty Guv'nahs - The Delta Saints -- Rock'n'Roll Hotel - Nov 16 2012

The Delta Saints - This Nashville quintet has that 'south of the Mason-Dixon line' feeling throughout their 40 minute set. In addition to the solid electric blues-rock style, the extra element that won me over was a ferocious rock sound. In fact, the rhythm section may have a been a bit too loud in the mix, but I prefer errors in that direction. They had a full-time harmonica player who added a little percussion as well. Normally, the harmonica is one of my leas favorite instruments, but not here. When a person knows how to play it and it is their instrument as opposed to a noisy prop for a folk singer/guitarist, it can really work well. The sound breathed and pulsed within the roar of the guitars, drums, and bass. It was a pleasure to see a sizable crowd tonight show up for a Friday night of fun, and this band was perfectly placed to start the night off right.
The Dirty Guv'nahs - It is nice to see a band from Knoxville, one of the three largest cities in Tennessee that is just a bit behind Nashville and Memphis is musical reputation. But this band does the city or any city proud with their nice concoction of R&B, rock, Americana, spiced with a dash of soul. I liked the keyboards, especially the organ parts as they cut through a balanced mix of the basic rock instrumentation. The vocals were soulful and expressive and could carry the song when pushed. There was a little more give and take in the rhythms of these songs compared to the opening band, but these are highly complimentary bands. And the room was nearly full by now with many happy patrons showing off a few more moves than that of most DC crowds. Thus, we have a perfect Friday night antidote to a long week. We have all heard variations of this before, but the formula is not even close to broke, so quality players that back it up with good songwriting will always pull the rhythmically hungered masses into the clubs. Live music was live and well tonight.

Quote of the Night: From the Delta Saints... "We're gonna play you a song about getting drunk in the city of New Orleans."

Friday, November 16, 2012

Ash - Dot Dash - Reputante -- DC9 - Nov 15 2012

Reputante - I am always struck at how infrequently I see bands with a 'classic' line-up of drums, bass, guitar, and lead vocals (you know, Zeppelin, Sabbath, Sex Pistols, Joy Division). You get it in the punk scene, but rarely in indie rock.  These guys are indie enough, but have a post-punk sound that does hearken back to Joy Division (add Bauhaus and the Cure, too) with the deep throated lead vocals and dark music. They vary the mood to happier sounds from song to song but keep a spacey strength throughout the set. They are a bit of a collaborative project having ties to tonight's headliners which you can read about at their site. The club was jam packed early and people were wise to show up early and catch this fine set.

Dot Dash - I am glad I have seen this local band several times now, as it does take a while to dig in and see exactly how good they are. Not that their infectious brand of power pop meets post punk lacks sufficient hooks to lure you in, but more that their musical intelligence takes some time to fully sink in (at least to this mind). The vocal work is intriguing since it is catchy, but has some distance within. The rhythm section seems solid enough, but impresses further as it works its magic over the full course of a set. The guitars carry the hooks and have a great ringing sound that doesn't really jangle but maneuvers within and without the form. Obtuse intellectualism aside, these veterans deliver sharp songs that have found a nice little fan base around here. And if you have not experienced it yet, keep watching the club listings for their next show.
Ash - This Northern Ireland trio has been around for twenty years and it was high time I caught up with them live. They have plenty of power and killer songs that have little twists and a dark sludge underbelly reminding me of a Thurston Moore take on Dinosaur Jr. There is even a bit of Motorpsycho heavy jam tendency when they get riffing. The vocals are good and the music is much smarter than cute, although it will hook you in. Maybe if the Buzzcocks played their songs like No Alternative. This was a treat for me and the full club attests to the many smart music lovers that figured these guys out long ago. They went deep into their back catalog even playing their first single "Jack Names the Planets" if I heard them correctly. And of course, I didn't hear them correctly as my notes identified the song as "Decade of Pies". I grant them license to write a song with that title before their next welcome visit to DC. So things finished off well tonight as all three bands combined comfortable sounds with strong individual identities giving smart music fans something to feast on.

Quote of the Night" From Dot Dash's singer, and something I plan to remind myself of daily... "Short, but painless."

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Interviw with Wes Tucker of Wes Tucker & the Skillets


Wes Tucker & the Skillets are one of the finer area roots-folk-rock bands. Whether you see Wes Tucker solo on acoustic guitar, or the full band with their rich Americana arrangements, you will sure to be moved. The band is playing at the Iota this Saturday night, Novermber 17th in celebration of the release of his latest record, "Afterlens". I was happy to talk with Wes Tucker as he prepares for this show.

We began by chatting about my recovering cat, Tam Lin, whose hospital stay forced us to reschedule this interview and do this shorter version via phone in the afternoon of November 12th.

David Hintz - First of all, you have a big show coming up to celebrate your latest CD release

Wes Tucker - It is this Saturday, November 17th, at Iota (in Clarendon).

DH - Yes, I've seen you play at Iota before, so you must enjoy playing at that club?

WT - Yeah, it is great. They have been good to us over the years. It is a good vibe in there and good sound usually.

DH - I enjoy it there, although I don't go enough, because I'm lazy and tend to go more to the clubs I can walk to.

WT - Yeah, I hear you.

DH - So have you always been in this area or did you grow up elsewhere?

WT - I grew up in North Carolina. I have been here in DC for nine years now... Alexandria.

DH - Did you get started musically in North Carolina?

WT - Yeah, I started playing open mics and stuff right out of college in Raleigh and put together my first band and we had time to play one show and I moved up here. (laughs)

DH - And did any of the band join you up there or did it just break up?

WT - No, the guys here are all local to DC.

DH - What got you started musically as a kid? What really inspired you?

WT -  I was fortunate enough to have parents that decent enough taste in music and they exposed me to a lot Motown early on and even Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley, and Bob Dylan, and stuff like that. I was introduced to that early on which was helpful. Then I guess I picked up a guitar around 16 or so and was more about making up songs than learning a lot of covers.

DH - Ah, that is a question I always ask as I'm curious how that works, as you became a songwriter early on.

WT - Yeah, just kind of making things up--maybe too lazy to learn the covers (laughter)

DH - Could be a little of both. Good, now you will play solo or with a band, about what percentage and how does that work in getting shows?

WT- Yeah, it goes back and forth. Here lately, it has been about 50/50. The guys in the band may be too busy or have other stuff going on, so I'll pick up a lot of solo shows then.

DH - Is there anything in the songs you write where you'll say that this will only work in a band or solo?

WT - There is, although hopefully they will stand up either way. But there are some songs that are the more rocking ones that will definitely work better with the band.

DH - Let me ask you about a pet peeve of mine, and although you might not want to complain too much about your audience, is it tough when you play solo at the more 'rock' clubs when the crowd noise is high?... since it is tough for me as a listener.

WT - Yeah it can be. That's often a problem, but here lately as (chuckles) I've gotten much older or less patient, I played an Iota show a couple months ago and actually stopped mid-song and asked everyone to be quiet and they actually did- be quiet.  (laughter). I didn't expect that response, but it was the right sized audience. So that was nice, as I never really had the confidence to ask before.

DH - That's good. I remember once someone did that from the stage and he was trying to be overly polite about it, so I just turned around and yelled 'shut up' which others echoed.

WT - It's always, you know... people are excited, they get in there and are with their friends, so they just start talking, you know...

DH - Yeah, I try to bite my tongue some times, especially if I'm standing at the back or bar, because you can't expect everybody to be at rapt attention.

WT - Right, right. And I watched all my heroes do that before. I mean, Jeff Tweedy will stop mid-song and tell people to shut up, so I guess it's ok.

DH - I remember Teddy Thompson (at the Iota) becoming visibly upset and I wish he would have said more than he did, as people would have listened.

WT - And when people are quiet, it's great. When they focus on one thing, it is communal. That is one of the things that draws me to see live shows. When it works, it is beautiful.

DH - And it does happen, it is just hard to predict sometimes. You are right in that the live experience can be magic. In fact, how do you work in the studio? Is it more difficult to get that same level of enthusiasm that you would have at a good live show?

WT - Yes, this record is really important to me. The last one, before the live CD, we did that one piece by piece which is rather standard as we were all dispersed, you know, building the song that way. But I just feel like our live show with everyone going at the same time, there is a real energy that is tough to duplicate in the studio. So this time, we recorded at Cue Recordings in Falls Church and we tracked everything live. So we would do a couple takes, and we got every song in three or four takes. But we thought it was important to all do this together and go back and fix whatever we need to, later. It turned out pretty good.

DH - I like that approach and since it is a full working studio, I assume you had good separation and things like that.

WT - Yeah, Cue Recordings had like this little vault of a vocal booth so I was kind of looking down on the band, but it worked.

DH - Great, now have you done over 300 shows is it?

WT - Yeah, we've been going on, doing mostly local shows or in the Mid-Atlantic area. But we've been playing together since 2004 or 2005 or so. So we've racked up some shows over the years.

DH - Right, and has it been mostly weekend jaunts or has there been any full tours?

WT - No, we have not made the leap to full tours yet, as everybody has got day gigs, careers and stuff. We try to get out town when we can. We've been to Charlotte, North Carolina, and New York a couple of times, but usually brief jaunts. I think I may start playing some more solo shows out of town, as there is more flexibility.

DH - Yes, that would be great if you can get around, and partner with the some bands, acts, clubs, etc. And is it pretty much the same Skillets you have played with in recent years?

WT - Yeah, it is has been pretty much same guys through the whole run. Had I known we would still be together after all this time, I might have picked a different name, but it kinda stuck.

DH - (laughter) Yeah, that's funny how that kind of thing works. That even happened to the band Jethro Tull who has probably released 40 albums or more.

WT - Did they?

DH - Yeah, they changed them name every few shows, to get more gigs, and their manager came in and stuck them with the name they had last used and it wasn't really their favorite choice, but it was too late.

WT - Right, right.

DH - Things happen. Any other area plans after the upcoming Iota show?

WT - Well, that's the big one for right now, but I'll try to do some solo shows coming up. There's December 5th at Vermilion in Old Town.

DH - Great, keep me posted (breaking for the usual chatter about me being busy, money,etc.). So do your band members bring different style elements--rock, folk, etc.  to the table?

WT - Yeah, we all kind of listen to different stuff. Our guitar player, Arch, plays like... he kind of came up in the 80's so he plays all kinds of stuff, rocking stuff, Crowded House band. He can quote you any Van Halen lick (laughs). And then Dave our drummer is a big fan of the Police.   Brian listens to a lot of bluegrass and some jam bands as well. And then Mark is a big alt-country guy, like the Jayhawks. We kind of touch on everybody's genre.

DH - And it is fun for me the listener to try to put it all together, especially with your band, who shows signs that you have all played together for quite a while and have YOUR sound together.

WT - Cool.
DH - Can you give me someone in the artistic field not from Music, who has been an inspiration to you? I'm talking novelists, films, even architects.

WT - Oh, that's a great question...

DH - You can think about it a bit, it tends to be a little tricky off the top of your head.

WT - Ok, I'm a big film fan... Filmmakers like Wes Anderson, Tarantino, you know, the usual.

DH - Yes, the same good films I see.

WT - Yeah, the Coen Brothers...

DH - Oh, they are at the top of my list for the modern filmmakers. Have you ever tried composing a soundtrack?

WT - No I haven't. We have had a couple songs that have been used in trailers here and there. I love soundtracks and the marriage of music and film. For this one, so people can use the songs, we mastered instrumentals as well as the ones with vocals off this latest CD, so people can use the music with out any of the words getting in the way. That's the first time we've done that, so we'll see how it goes.

DH - Oh, interesting. Now you are releasing this album yourself?

WT - Yeah.

DH - What are the challenges of releasing music yourself, even with the positive of retaining control?

WT - Yeah, the positive is that it is easy to throw it up on the web making it available at Bandcamp or your own website, Itunes and all that. With the ease of that, though, it is a lot more crowded out there--even compared to when I was just starting out a couple years ago. You have to break through with so many choices of stuff to listen to.

DH - I do know.

WT (laughs) Yeah. You just try to make something that resonates with people so they will come back to you.

DH - And you have the merch table?

WT - Yeah, people will take CDs home. A few people still like physical records.

DH - Yes, even the small shows get a few people over there and even a few dollars helps with gas money and such.

WT - Yeah, and it is really the best way to do it. It is basically going door to door as a musician. I love playing for people, I mean you can post things to Facebook walls or harass people listen to it on the internet, but to get your guitar and get in front of people and play is something that resonates with folks.

DH - And your show at the Iota is with Drew Gibson who I know and enjoy very much.

WT - Yeah, I've known Drew for a long time. And also playing are the Reserves who have been around and playing locally for a while. They are good friends.

DH - Let's see if there is anything else...

WT - You have me thinking of where I find inspiration outside of music, and aside from film, I love stand-up comedy--any comedy, really. And I love documentaries with people talking about their craft, whatever it may be. Rory Scovel is my favorite and he is featured in a documentary episode of a series of films by Scot Moran. I'll send the link.

DH - Thank you, Wes, and good luck with the show. And here is episode five of a nine-part documentary series on stand-up comedians...

The Revivalists - Van Ghost -- The Hamilton - Nov 14 2012

Van Ghost - From Chicago comes this tight little rock outfit, replete with two guitars, one of whom handles the lead vocals, a rhythm section, and a woman assisting on vocals and a bit of trumpet. Their 44 minute set is smooth bluesy rock with plenty of roots showing. There is not much out of the ordinary here, but occasionally there is a sparkle. The crowd was still filing in, so it was a bit more quiet than usual (although this is a quieter club anyway). The guitar tones had a breathy quality that was interesting. I wish they would have let Jennifer Hartswick cut loose a bit more on trumpet as that was a highlight. Solid, but unspectacular.
The Revivalists - Now where have I seen this New Orleans band before? Oh yes, they blasted away in a brilliant set at the Velvet Lounge. I concluded that review by not seeing any way they could fail to build an audience. And I am happy to see that tonight, in only four months time, they proved all of that and more tonight. They drew a fair crowd for this large space and had an enthusiastic dance floor filled at all times. They have that magical mixed style gumbo of sound that is par for the New Orleans course, as they hail from one of my favorite cities. Hard charging R&B would be the simplest way to describe this, yet the two guitars can absolutely roar over the steady drums and funky bass. There are guitar and keyboard solos with good vocal work throughout and those magical undulating rhythms that originate only from the sharpest of bands who can feed off each other like they've been doing this their whole life. They brought Jennifer back out to do her trumpet magic to match up with their sax player. So if you want to find a funky band that tear the house down and roar like Mastodon, check these guys out. There is little stopping this band from continuing on to great success. This is one fast moving train, watch your step.

No quotes tonight caught my ear, so I'll leave you with their music...

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Rezillos - 7 Door Sedan -- U Street Music Hall - Nov 13 2012

7 Door Sedan - U Street hosts a truly odd throwback punk show tonight and begins with a local twin-guitar quartet that I have not seen before. They start off with a good bar-room rocker that has just enough NY Dollsy trash-sleaze to make it interesting. I was kind of expecting to drift off in concentration as they continued, but they kept pulling me back in with some really good hooks, wah-wah guitar solos, and solid musicianship. They kind of remind me of the many solid bar bands that jumped on the punk/new wave bandwagon way back in the beginning like a Hammer Damage from Cleveland. Not a bad thing, but it shows a band that can flex into a few variants of rock music. Thankfully they have the skill to make for an interesting set. Good execution tonight and the growing crowd enjoyed it.
The Rezillos - Add this to the list of bands I never even dreamed of seeing live, either now or 1980. I remember playing this album on my radio show back in 1979 and 1980, enjoying their incredibly punk/pop sound evident on cuts like "Flying Saucer Attack" and "Top of the Pops", both featured early tonight. This Scottish quintet features 3 original members, most importantly retaining singer Fay Fife and singer/guitarist Eugene Reynolds. Their crazed energy in the vocal work and stage moves is what gave the Rezillos their charm and put them comfortably between punk and new wave with attractive pace and guitar bite to fans of the former along with dance moves and pop hooks for fans of the latter. The band looked and sounded great, with Fay Fife having tons of energy and wearing a great green dress right off the 'Germ-Free Adolescent's cover (yeah, I know-different band). The sound was a little muddy at first, but the guy at the Board figured it out and things popped with that great crunch for the rest of the 50-minute set. And they capped it off with their great rendition of a bizarre Fleetwood Mac song, "Somebody's Going to get their Head Kicked in Tonight". The crowd was really digging it all and it was a very simple, direct, energized hook-up tonight between band and audience. It was nice to feel the vibe and see the smiles.

Quote of the Night: From Eugene Reynolds "Was anyone at the Black Cat in 1980?" A few people clapped meaning I misheard the thick Scottish accent as it probably would have been the Atlantis with that year or the Black Cat at a more recent time. Either way, it's great that they made a rare visit to this side of the pond.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Fresh & Onlys - Quilt - Shark Week -- Red Palace - Nov 9 2012

Shark Week - Unfortunately due to some serious cat issues, I am having difficulty getting out as much, so I only caught the last half of the last song by this fine DC band. Fortunately, I have caught them recently--reviewed here. Based on the roaring closer, little seems to have changed. This is definitely a band you want to see. And for once, I was the late one squeezing into a substantially filled room, so I am sure they made some new fans tonight.

Quilt - From Boston comes a trio that features three voices, one female, who also play guitar drums and a second guitar with some switching to organ. They immediately establish some light trippy pysche-pop with a crisp beat and cool harmonies (icy at times although it warms considerably). They kind of remind of Galaxie 500, but I should say Damon & Naomi as I know their music more. These three touch on only the lightest of the psyche nuggets, but manage to create a smooth pool of irreverent bliss. They keep the breaks short which keeps their musical world strong and flowing. They amped it up a little toward the end, but in a subtle manner. The finisher with double finger picking parts was excellent. This is a young band and good things await.
The Fresh & Onlys - This San Francisco 5-piece has had a firm grasp of their intriguing sound for a few years on the scene. Thankfully, they tour the country to head our way and provide over an hour of fascinating new-psyche rock music. They have the rhythm section, a keyboardist, and a couple of guitars with one of them handling the vocals. The vocals have a droll, yet poppy quality and his range is substantial and intriguing in how he uses it. He does not sound exactly like Howard Devoto, but I just get a sense of a more modern Magazine type sound here. There are swirling psyche guitars, some jangle with tough stready and quick rhythms. This smart music with great feeling. It balances many styles with both finesse and power, while keeping a hook oriented basis in tow. When you have a band that is slippery and hard to describe, yet has the hooks, you have an excellent band that will be playing an even bigger club the next tour through based on the excitement generated tonight in this nearly full club.

Quote of the Night - From The guitarist/vocalist of the Fresh & Onlys after some monitor adjustments...
"Should we sound check now?"
Crowd: "Guitars up!"
...pulling his guitar up from waist to chest "like this?"

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Social Distortion - Lindi Ortega - Biters -- 9:30 Club - Nov 6 2012

Biters - From Atlanta, GA, comes this twin guitar four-piece that instantly invokes a NY Dollsian rock with power-pop punk pace. It's a little too pretty on top of it all, although it seems tough enough for the most part. There is a contrived sense to it all with a style they believe is sincere and at some level it is. I sense they are purposefully playing the 'heel' (see quote) which they do pretty much admit to later with singer saying he knew he pissed off some people here. And yes, I am sure you did. But thankfully you are NOT "the last of a dying breed (rock bands)" or if so, then see you later T-Rex. He also asked for a show of hands who thought their haircuts were funny. Some agreed and he said they were the type of people who made fun of the Ramones for their funny haircuts. Nice try, but speaking for the many SD fans here tonight that were actually there, let me inform you that the Ramones haircuts were entirely normal back when they started. They became funny by keeping them to the point of being a uniform, something which Dee Dee rebelled against. Actually, it was Sue Catwoman (lovely person btw), Darby Crash, and the mostly UK punks that had the funny haircuts that got them either a lot of magazine coverage or beaten up and stabbed depending on where they were. And one more answer to your comments. You may not have come here to be judged, but you if you go up on stage for money, you are going to be judged. Live with it or stay home.

Lindi Ortega - Here's a nice tight little trio with electric guitar, drums, and Ms. Ortega on acoustic guitar and vocals. Her fiery voice stays well above the gutsy energetic rock opener. There is a rootsy vibe with a loose sense of fun, yet solid songwriting at the core. In other words, a perfect match for tonight's headliner. And she put an exclamation point on that with a cover of Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues" to finish off her 45 minute set. In between, she varied it up nicely, keeping the audience involved and quite impressed based on the growing reaction throughout the set. This was excellent and she has easily made enough fans to headline a smaller club the next time through.

Social Distortion - There were always a few punk bands that you had the sense could really break big. This band was always at or near the top of that list for me as I really sensed some brilliance with Mike Ness's songwriting. Add his great vocal style and ringing guitar approach, I always kept hoping it would happen. And it was great to see that here in 2012 he and his band can sell out the 9:30 Club twice over. And the real kicker is that they sounded absolutely fabulous tonight. And oddly enough, for as much as I like them, I really don't listen to much of their material beyond the first two LPs and early singles. So a lot of this was new or lightly heard for me, yet it sounded just as warm and familiar as "1945" or "Ball and Chain" played tonight. Ness's voice still digs deep and whether he was the crazed punk kid, or the hard living survivor he is today, he has that magical ability to stir the soul. The guitar interplay was as engaging as ever with a straightforward and powerful rhythm section. I don't see how rock music lovers can find too many flaws here as this is how its done. This show really had me feeling good for too many reasons to mention. So I'll leave it with Mike Ness's remembrance. There were many smiles when he mentioned he was thinking that 30 years ago he was pushing a broken down school (touring) bus through the DC streets (as depicted in the documentary 'Another State of Mind'). "There were not as many people at that show."

The 'Keep talking, you're only digging yourself in deeper Quote of the Night: From the Biters... "We're trying to get every woman's pussy wet and every dick hard... in a non-gay way.... Feel free to drop your pants and jack off here. It's a free country and you have your rights today."