Saturday, March 31, 2012

Swervedriver - Heaven -- Rock'n'Roll Hotel - Mar 30 2012

Heaven - Oh, the headache I have today. Maybe it was the brilliant musical pounding last night, but I really wish this band had a more peculiar name which would ease my pain. So I am not going to spend any more time trying to find their link. Too bad, as I may want to listen to more based on what I heard last night. They lined up with guitar, keyboards and drums. The sound is thick shoegaze, both dreamy and with some guts to it. The keyboards move around from bass support to synth runs and provide a lot of depth to the sound. Drums are steady and the guitar has the expected shoegaze/rock sound. The dual vocals are the key for me. the voices manage to evoke the classic dreamy quality but with a second voice present, they add an edgy undercurrent that exponentially expands the sound. Solid opening set, received well from this nearly packed house.
Swervedriver - Adam Franklin has been working a fine solo career in recent years and has a new album coming out this summer. But in the mean time, he has put together his famous (at least at cult level) band Swervedriver for a bit of touring. He retains the drummer he has been working with and along with what I believe was his original partner on guitar and a bassist, managed to whip up an incredible set. Franklin has a solid voice, which was barely heard with the twin guitar attack and pounding rhythm section. He has complexity in his songs, along with a driving enjoyable style that varies just enough to show his songwriting skill. This really is not shoegaze to me, aside from the pedals and volume. It is powerful rock music with hooks, with emotive vocals and a quality band where you can focus on any member and see the skill they bring to the group sound. The fans up front were very much into this and not just because of the quality they knew about ahead of time. The band was composed and on the mark throughout the set with nary a break between songs. Strong stuff tonight and they played a long set that was about 80 minutes or thereabouts. Most any rock fan should catch this act if they are nice enough to do it again. My guess is that you will see Adam Franklin & the Bolts of Melody in DC some time soon. You won't get quite the power, but you will get all the quality. He is someone, more people should be following.

Quote of the Day: Very quiet tonight so I'll go back to a lunch conversation where a guy much older than me and still at work at HUD (where I retired from over 4 years ago) took issue with some of the consulting I and another retiree were doing and said...
"You see, when I go, I am not going to be doing any of this anymore, I'm going to fully retire."

My retort... "And what (he) doesn't seem to want to get is that I have worked all of four hours this month and pick exactly what I want to do at the large hourly rate they provide for me. I have my freedom and I won't be the one having to go back to work after lunch..."

Friday, March 30, 2012

Wildlife City - Lethal Peanut - Western Affairs -- Red Palace - Mar 29 2012

Lethal Peanut - Since I was covering the Rock'n'Roll Hotel show I had to miss Western Affairs and only catch 2 1/2 songs of the middle band here. It is easy to see that this Vocals, guitar, bass, drums combo has a classic blues rock style that goes well in a bar or rock club. I'll need a full set to judge the songs better, but I did see some excellent rock guitar work and everyone else did their job well. The bass player even pulled out a violin which was a nice touch. They rock and the guitarist knows his craft.
Wildlife City - Their bio mentions five medical students bored after 2 months of school forming this band? Like most doctors, they may not have the math skills, as they are a four-piece with a couple guitars and rhythm section. Immediately, I am a lot happier tonight as this is what is supposed to happen in a club. The noisy people are all up front and are noisy because they are responding to the music, while the people on the periphery are attentive and into it in their own quiet way (see Aunt Martha review at Rock'n'Roll Hotel below for what I am talking about). It is really a simple formula if people will think about something beyond their own mundane existence a bit more frequently. Anyway, these guys do not knock your socks off with loud guitars. In fact, they don't opt for a lot of pedals and have a nice clean sound. They do manage to balance their pop hooks with rock power and pace and create some really catchy music. It has an early 70s feel to it, but it is akin to the good stuff of that era that got the radio play on the cool college stations. They almost had a soca beat on one song and did vary things well. A couple of the songs had some creative guitar interplay and have definitely raised my interest in this band. Unfortunately I caught only 20 minutes of the set before I had to rush back and finish my other review. Cloning procedures are not where they need to be for me to cover all that I want to and I really would not want another of me around anyway, so half a set is better than no set. And it was certainly enough to get me interested enough to do this again some time. This band has the right attitude and the musical skills to match. Good things await.

Quote of the Night: paraphrasing Abraham Simpson... "God gives us the wisdom when we grow old to find fault with everything he has created." I really don't want to turn into this, really I don't. That's one reason I still hit the clubs hard. So please... would you noisy patrons save your trivial conversations to between sets, or use your indoor voice, or just go to bars where you can sound idiotic in the presence of other idiots and come back for the one band you may want to see. Thus ends what is likely no less than the 15th time I have blogged on this issue.

Aunt Martha - The Last Monarchs - Luke Mitchem -- Rock'n'Roll Hotel - Mar 29 2012

Luke Mitchem - One man, one acoustic guitar, and one microphone on stage at the Rock'n'Roll Hotel. This has been a real problem in the past, but never was it as bad as tonight with noisy bar patrons loudly talking and laughing while Luke Mitchem plays a quality downer folk song. Fortunately, I was able to focus on Mitchem for a while and heard an excellent voice, good songs, and merely fair guitar work. Nothing dazzling but a controlled, deliberate pace set up a dramatic vocal line in many of the songs. Fine artist here, but hopefully next time I will be seeing him at Jammin Java or Sova or any of the few places where you can play this sort of music. Until then, I won't be able to get the full effect of the lyrics and the mood. Where is that ear piercingly loud band I saw the other night just when I need them to punish these people. Oh the irony...  At least I was able to hear that one of Luke Mitchem's new songs on his forthcoming album sounded like one of his best tonight, so he is worth another look for sure.

The Last Monarchs - It has been a while since I have seen this four-piece and I am glad I waited, for it seems they have gotten a bit better in the mean time. Not that they were not enjoyable before, but there seemed to be a disconnect between the players that I just could not get by. But tonight, the acoustic guitar, violin, bass, and drums came together both sonically (thank-you sound man) and with cohesiveness in the playing. Then putting a male and female voice on top, we were left with a nice rocking Americana. Some of the vocal work went a little bit country, but the rhythm section keeps things rocking well enough. Their new song also was a winner with a deep rumbling rhythm that offset the vocal melody line nicely. I am happy they are working hard and doing well. Nice set.
Aunt Martha - I must confessed I missed the first few songs as I was covering two shows tonight, as I lost track of my promises (fortunately I did not promise to do the third show that I was asked to cover). But I had seen the band before and I know they are good. They feature a combination of things that we heard earlier, but take it in their own original direction. I could easily see them slipping into Band of Horses type material, but like the Loom, Iron & Wine, and even the mighty Woven Hand, Aunt Martha uses some sonic creativity to stay out of the basic Americana folk-rock world. They feature drums and an acoustic guitarist who handles the lead vocals. The second guitar and bass player have keyboards next to them and are frequently adding fascinating sonic layers into the songs. This is a strong band where the sky is the limit as they continue to play out and release music and find their audience. One thing though, if you are fortunate to get enough rabid fans that continue to applaud and call out for an encore (as opposed to the ones that quietly wait for it), it might be nice to do one more--or just tell the soundman to start the house music right when you are finished. But on the positive side, check this band out (their album is streaming at their website). I will be back the next time they play DC.

Quote of the Night: Prior to the last song, Luke Mitchem wanted to discuss what it was about... "I don't ever tell an audience to be quiet, but..."  I know why he does not do that. And although I would like the bartenders or security to help out, I know why they do'nt, but someone has to do it. Three of us did after he said this and one guy told a group to quiet down earlier in the set. I have done it before, but I really get tired of playing the 'angry old guy' which I have vowed not to become. But if I check my temper and try to be polite about it, I think I will be doing more police work. It seems any time myself and others have done this, the people around us are happy we have said something.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Chance - Janel & Anthony -- Black Cat - Mar 29 2012

Janel & Anthony - Grant Hart canceled due to a bad back and I could not make another show due to a surprise dinner/visit with an old friend (and long time reader/occasional research helper--basically a music nut like me).  So time to try out what else is happening at the backstage at the Black Cat. We begin with a mostly instrumental duo with cello and electric guitar. The instruments vary a bit with 12 and 6 string guitars and one song with two guitars. The sound is a fascinating blend of all kinds of prog sounds with touches of psyche and a bit of jazz, rock, or whatever they come up with.
Bands that come to mind are Piirpauke, Hidria, Tomerclaus, Windy & Carl, and many others as they really have a comfortable manner of shifting between sounds and songs. The core of the music has really accomplished playing which sadly is lacking in many of bands of this general style. They do not overdo the virtuoso bits by balancing things with thoughtful sonic layering. This is prog music out of intellect that could work just as well as a score to a silent Fritz Lang film. They even remind me of some combination of fine local outfits Blue Sausage Infant and Kuschty Rye Ergot who I saw recently at a Velvet Lounge bill. They surprise me further when the cellist adds her vocals to song. This one takes off into further reaches of the stratosphere and has me longing for a bit more vocals next time I see them. They have a second album coming out shortly and I am certain there will be a next time to review this great band.

The Chance - Three guitars, bass and drums. That is usually a formula for southern rock or shoegaze. Actually southern rock would often have keyboards, so it is shoegaze here. It is more of a rocking shoegaze with kind of a glam post punk rock vibe to the loud shoegaze wash of guitars. They seem to have a decent fan base here, but I just cannot find a way to join in. There is a certain quality present, but ultimately this is not something I have connected with before or tonight. Especially tonight as you will read below...

Quote of the Night: From the vocalist/guitarist for the Chance before they start... "I hope everybody has your earplugs."

Well, no as  I forgot my plugs as it was rather a rushed evening and I can handle all but the most extreme volumes if I position myself toward or at the back. He was correct in that earplugs were mandatory tonight. And exactly why is that? What possible gains are there when everyone needs earplugs? If half the people do, I can see where the other half (usually including me) can enjoy the extra volume. But this was just harsh and unneeded. I don't mind Motorhead giving me cotton ears as they don't treble me to death while they are playing and cause any pain. This was annoying tonight, so I did not see much of this set. But I heard enough to determine that my opinion would not have changed much even if they were not assaulting my hearing.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Joy Formidable - A Place to Bury Strangers - Exitmusic -- 9:30 Club - Mar 26 2012

Exitmusic - This New York duo features a guitarist along with a female vocalist also on keyboards and guitar. Her long dress and striking looks do command attention and it is not too much of a surprise to learn she is also an actress on HBO's Boardwalk Empire. They are supported by an electronics/keyboard guy to help fill out the sound. And while that helps fill things out, I am not sure how much it is needed as this duo can deliver a whole lotta sound with just a few instruments. It helps that Alexa Palladino's vocals are nearly operatic at times, making Siouxsie Sioux look more like Olivia Newton-John. Devon Church's guitar provides a spooky background and churns out the chords into a music that sounds like some combination of Banshees/Midnight Movies/School of Seven Bells, etc. There is a lush feeling that never quite develops because the music is so edgy. This is a good thing. The crowd is here early tonight and is latching onto this music quite easily. The band employs a great control of the dynamics which I find compelling when it is done this well. There were a few moments when things were not gelling, but they passed quickly enough and the half-hour set was a real success. This band has a lot of potential, yet can deliver a striking sound today. They went beyond warming the crowd up here tonight.

A Place to Bury Strangers - It is high time I catch up with this powerful NYC area trio. In fact, it does not take long to realize I missed the earlier trains to sonic paradise. Thankfully the trains are still running and the 34 minute journey with this band was quite a trip. The sound was heavy and driving in some sort of Bunnymen/Jesus and Marychain/Spacemen 3 shoegaze psyche power rock sort of thing. Somehow they do it all on guitar, bass and drums with lead vocal work mostly with the guitarist. The power and volume were ever present, but music is so seductive that I never felt pummeled or overwhelmed. That is quite a difficult balance to maintain, but these guys have the vision and ability to make this alchemy happen. And the light show was a masterwork of Germanic expressionism that I wish more bands would employ. There was nearly no breaks in the sounds as they quickly brought out their songs which succeed by standing out as songs and not just one extended jam. This was an awesome set that was completely effective as a vibrant live presentation. I don't know about the rest of the crowd, but I could leave right now and be extremely happy with the show thus far.
The Joy Formidable - But why leave early when you can catch this hot Welsh power trio? They were my '2011 Best DC show' when they played the Black Cat and have since played on television a few times and had several huge arena shows opening for the Foo Fighters. So it is a packed house tonight with a sufficiently warmed crowd. They know the songs by now as this is 'the last tour of the first album' as guitarist/vocalist Ritzy Bryan states later in the set. I also did not know she had lived in DC and was up on the cherry blossom season going on. But she did not spend a whole lot of time pandering to the crowd, who were more excited to just dig into these fascinating noisy and tuneful songs. This band could be cutesy bubblegum pop if they wanted as they have it in them. Thankfully, that is down deep as they layer on thick slabs of sound atop powerful drums. Bass and guitar really lay it on thick with warm engaging vocals on top. Great stuff going over well with a nearly sold-out crowd (perhaps it did sell out by show's end as it was crowded). They encored with a song from their new album which is in the can awaiting release. It featured Bryan's vocals and bassist Rhydian Dafydd on acoustic guitar. This certainly changes the formula a bit which is a nice tease for the new album. They next brought out a guest harpist. But if anyone was worried about a low-key finish, they went from a harp based intro to a powerful version of "Whirring". They still proved to me that they are one of the best bands working today as they command a great sense of pop with creative heavy sound. And a whole lot of people are learning this.

Quote of the Day: It was Sterling Hayden's birthday yesterday. Although long passed, his work in such essential films as "The Asphalt Jungle" and "Dr. Strangelove" will forever live on. Additionally, I highly recommend his memoir "The Wanderer".  I read it after the Village Voice raved about it years ago. I have seen Robert Osborne of TCM wave it around telling people to read it. My friend is still blown away after he finished it a couple years back. Here's an excerpt...
To be truly challenging, a voyage, like a life, must rest on a firm foundation of financial unrest. Otherwise, you are doomed to a routine traverse, the kind known to yachtsmen who play with their boats at sea... cruising, it is called. Voyaging belongs to seamen, and to the wanderers of the world who cannot, or will not, fit in. If you are contemplating a voyage and you have the means, abandon the venture until your fortunes change. Only then will you know what the sea is all about. "I've always wanted to sail to the south seas, but I can't afford it." What these men can't afford is not to go. They are enmeshed in the cancerous discipline of security. And in the worship of security we fling our lives beneath the wheels of routine - and before we know it our lives are gone. What does a man need - really need? A few pounds of food each day, heat and shelter, six feet to lie down in - and some form of working activity that will yield a sense of accomplishment. That's all - in the material sense, and we know it. But we are brainwashed by our economic system until we end up in a tomb beneath a pyramid of time payments, mortgages, preposterous gadgetry, playthings that divert our attention for the sheer idiocy of the charade. The years thunder by, the dreams of youth grow dim where they lie caked in dust on the shelves of patience. Before we know it, the tomb is sealed. Where, then, lies the answer? In choice. Which shall it be: bankruptcy of purse or bankruptcy of life?

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Electric Eel Shock - Hot ChaCha - Thee Lolitas - Caustic Casanova -- Black Cat - Mar 24 2012

Caustic Casanova - This local power trio is back from South by Southwest and a surrounding week-long tour which hopefully got them a few new fans hungry for their twisted take on hard rock music. Their half-hour set on the big stage featured heavily from music from their recent album. Their usual psychedelic take on alt-metal went over well with a rather small crowd tonight. Only about 30-35 present, but the crowd was enthusiastic and made its way up front. They are opening for a wild Japanese metal band it struck me that this band would do extremely well over in Japan. Ah, but for the costs and logistical issues that would propose. But Japan's loss is our gain. For although there are lots of great bands in the DC area, here is one that adds a highly unique flavor to the mix. It is nice to see them at the Black Cat as part of this interesting bill.

Thee Lolitas - Another local trio that I more familiar with at the Velvet Lounge makes its way to the big stage here. They play a raw and raucous down and dirty brand of punk rawk, with even a hint of Doctor Feelgood in here. I was reminded of something I read earlier today in a Progressive Music forum. They were debating a statement by Greg Lake saying that punk rock was not a musical movement. First off, I could not even believe this generated discussion beyond mere derision. As one of my peers used to say when having a mortgage banker argue with him about the findings he had presented that disclosed errors in their underwriting decisions--"this is not a fucking debate." Anyone from that prog forum is welcome to clubs like this featuring bands like these doing their original music inspired by... was it "Karn Evil 9"? No wait, that was actually the Stooges "Dirt" that this rhythm section was warming up with. Steve Hackett or Johnny Ramone? You won't get confused by these sort of challenges when you spend your time debating Enid vs. Eloy. For me, I want it all and Thee Lolitas delivered everything I expected tonight.

Added note-- Kudos to the band for covering the classic 70s punk song "Agitated" by Cleveland's the Electric Eels. Nice choice for those of us that picked up on the tie-in tonight.

Hot ChaCha - This power trio had a female vocalist who exhibited a deep throated power in the opening raucous number. They sludged it out a bit and played around with noisy punk forms for their 18 minute set. The singer got in the crowd and pulled a semi-willing member of the crowd on stage. He was having fun, but got a bit of fear in his eye when he was not certain exactly how far the singer was going to go beyond pulling his shirt off. This was a bit shambolic by design with plenty of Iggy stylings, but it was never boring and got the crowd even more revved up with the Crampsian-X style that they finished with.
Electric Eel Shock - Crazy Japanese metal. These three guys make Boris look like a chamber quartet. They hit the stage to Iron Man with the singer/guitarist leading the crowd in a karaoke version for a verse. Then they are ready to rip into their own songs. The guys with axes are flashy with plenty of cliche metal moves delivered with speed and integrity (and by integrity, I mean a complete enthusiastic honesty in the manner of a satirist who completely accepts his subject). The drummer is wearing shoes and socks, two black gloves and one elongated sock. He often plays with two sticks in each hand. The last time I saw this was when someone was playing a xylophone. The crowd was a bit larger than earlier but still smaller than I would have liked. But what was great was that I have never seen a higher percentage of people up front at any show in recent memory. Basically, if you were not smiling with this fun loving band, then you would have left long ago. The music was crazy fun metal with lots of humor like Beatallica, Vandals, Hanoi Rocks, maybe a touch of Fang even. Carnivals are fun and I enjoyed all of this 50+ minute set. They played many recognizable metal riffs here and there and included a full "Iron Man". The mini-riffs reminded me of some brilliant medley I heard from Japan's 'Boredoms' who linked classic rock and metal riffs each played for only a few measures over the course of several minutes. But Electric Eel Shock takes all of this to an extremely crazed and fun level that had people yelling for an encore rather than standing there expecting one. Someone told me that these guys ripped apart South by Southwest, which is cool by me. We all need bands like this to wake us up from time to time.

Quote of the Night: Getting to the club a couple minutes early, I sat near the pool table where the light was good enough to read my book.  "Are looking for a game or just watching the table?"
"Actually, I'm reading a book." That really confused him for some reason.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The WeatherVanes - Whiskey Parade - The Reserves - Orchard Wall -- Black Cat - Mar 23 2012

Orchard Wall - The first of what appears to be a roots based local showcase on the big stage at the Black Cat. I don't know if it's the lack of touring bands in the last gasp of winter or the price of gas or the overall cost of touring, but these local showcases on the main stage of the Black Cat are welcome to me and a sizable crowd tonight. First up are a four-piece with drums, stand-up bass, guitar/harmonica/vocals and a violinist who adds some female harmony vocals. The guy singing lead has a nice rasp, although at times is a bit Dylanesque (thankfully well shy of parody). Some of the songs were really good and the third one particularly hit some subtleties, yet was easy to latch on to. I am hearing Appalachian folk approaches in this brand of Americana folk-rock. The violin is helpful, but the vocal harmonies are a little erratic in that the voices seem too distinct at times and do not really blend as nicely as one would hope. Still, I am being a little picky as this was an enjoyable 30-minute set by a quite likable band. They are a fine part of the local roots scene.

The Reserves - This band immediately takes a more electric indie rock approach to their brand of roots music. Quite simply, if you like the National, you will like this band--just imagine keyboards instead of violin and a less deep lead vocal. Colorful lead guitar work and thumping drums (from the WeatherVanes drummer) keep things lively. A few songs tapered off here and there, but mostly this band was successful and has some nice potential.

Whiskey Parade - Back to a more acoustic Americana roots music this time around. There is banjo, violin and some guest electric guitar late in addition to the acoustic and rhythm section. The banjo is nearly inaudible in the early set and this is sounding a bit like good folk songs that are being played by people that have not worked out arrangements. No sooner did I come up with that opinion, then the singer told us all that this was their first show. In that case, everything makes perfect sense. There is nothing like getting up on stage and learning as you go and this band has the talent to do that. I did start to hear some complex work in one song, but the vocals reminded me it was a cover of Dire Straits' "Money for Nothing". The banjo sound exploded in the second to last song as the violin also went nuts on a honky tonk stomper. This is what I expect a bit more out of from a band with a Pogues-like name. Still, a nice debut here and you don't have to wait around for them to grow into something special, as there is enough to enjoy right now.
The WeatherVanes - Well, if you want accomplished arrangements from four guys that have the songs and the ability and comfort to play off of each other with a touch of soul, then here is the band that puts it all together tonight. Americana folk-rock that folks a bit more when they are acoustic, with the switch to electric guitar focusing them more on rock. I will pause while you catch your breath from that startling revelation. The keyboardist adds some banjo and mandolin as well, so they do vary the sounds nicely which keep things fresh over a long set. But as interesting as it all was, my mind wandered as I was reminded of how much the look of this band reminded me of the Eagles of Death Metal. But sound-wise, not even close. This is sharp heartland music that Axl Rose also would 'not get'. But the sizable crowd tonight got it and showed their appreciation. The crowd had thinned a bit due to the hour but probably surpassed 200 tonight, making this a highly successful local show here at the Black Cat. Do check out the WeatherVanes some time soon if you even remotely enjoy this type of music.

Quote of the Night: Rather quiet night tonight, so another great example of British journalism (from Chelsea defender John Terry supposedly discussing an opposing goaltender)...

Headline from The Sun: 'TERRY: SHUT IT WOJ'.

Number of mentions of Wojciech Szczesny, shutting it or otherwise in subsequent article: None.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Kuschty Rye Ergot - Borborites - Blue Sausage Infant -- Velvet Lounge - Mar 20 2012

Blue Sausage Infant - The one man electronica act also known as Chester Hawkins returns to the Velvet Lounge. This is the third time I have seen his set and although I have always enjoyed it, I can now affirm that I am a fan. There is one word that tells me why: krautrock. There are two things present here creating a sound that works so well for me. First, is the krautrock style of Tangerine Dream, Cluster and many others. Second (and what complements the first reason) is his use of a sharply treated steel guitar and barely recognizable harmonica. These added sounds to the expected electronic washes and pulses add so much more sonic pleasure. Even his electronics are a bit more old school and don't merely resort to throbbing dance beats and deafening blasts of noise. There was even some nice use of stereo channels, although a bit overuse of looped dialogue (something I find more distracting than helpful in most instances). The 27 minute set established a lot of musical character tonight.

Borborites - This trio has a similar experimental approach of Kohoutek or the next band tonight. They have percussion, a guy on effects and a guy on guitar and effects/pedals. It is more on the experimental landscape side of sound with less rock moves than the other bands. They also lacked the drama in building and deconstructing the sound. It was only 21 minutes, but seemed a little long to me as it was pretty much just there with some nice sounds here and there, but fairly forgettable. Nothing harmful and they certainly may be capable of more. We shall see.

Kuschty Rye Ergot - Hmmm... the ever revolving line-up takes a sharp shift tonight with just John on guitar and no Kohoutek rhythm section. He is joined by a guy who played with Kohoutek the last time or two on a box of noise equipment and a third guy on keyboard and effects. You can pretty much guess the changes in sound tonight and the good news is that it all worked out well. The noise guys laid down a nice smooth throbbing slab of near-melody, allowing the guitar to move around and create interesting passages. There was a lot of vibrato going on and enough bite in the music to keep my interest level high. Although I did shut my eyes and imagine Comus playing "In the Lost Queen's Eyes" over the top of this for some reason. I know the band will not mind me saying that. When the guitar stopped, the two guys on effects kept going for a bit and the sound reminded me of a hurdy gurdy almost. A nice little finish to another fine set.

Quote of the Day: From the Mediawatch column of ...
Unnecessary Word Of The Day
From the BBC's gossip column: 'Barcelona are plotting a shock summer move for Manchester United twins Fabio and Rafael da Silva, both 21.'

Twins. Both 21. Who'd have thunk it?

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Courtesans - Nunchucks - Cane & the Sticks - Maple -- Black Cat - Mar 16 2012

Maple - First up is a local four-piece with a rhythm section and a couple of guitarists that both do some lead vocals. The lead player also employs some well place steel guitar as well. That adds a touch of honky tonk to this mix of classic and indie rock style. The rhythms are deep and rumbling, while the vocals come out on top carrying some nice melodies. There is an attractive rolling tempo through much of this and they manage to balance rock, pop, blues and a touch of Americana quite nicely throughout this 33 minute set. The closing number had some sharp guitar moves early in the song making for some added interest. This opening set of another 4-band local showcase on the main Black Cat Stage yet again shows why it is important to get to shows on time around here. More often than not, from top to bottom of the bill, the local scene features high quality music with nice personal flourish. Maple proved that once again.

Cane & the Sticks - The crowd has been at about 60 so far and will likely swell a bit more. That makes for a little extra room upstairs, but this is still a valuable way to get bands on the mainstage and allow the crowd to have some room and not get too packed into a smaller area (and short people can see the band!). Most of the crowd has been staying close to the stage thus far, giving the opening bands good feedback. For the second band tonight, we have a local power trio with most vocals from the guitarist, but plenty of assistance from the female drummer. I really like the throaty guitar sound with a nasty snarl to it. There is something odd or off-tune at times early in the set making them sound a bit like the Misfits live. Although, musically they are more into a twisted blues rock of sorts on the grungier side of another local trio, the Jones. It does sound a bit like the Misfits attempting to cover the Reverend Horton Heat or Jon Spencer at times. As the set moves on, they do lock in nicely at times for some rather exciting rock'n'roll. At first glance, the sound appears to be well ahead of the songwriting, but I will need to listen further. I do like enough of what I hear and they seem to have created a very nice sonic space for themselves.

Nunchucks - It has been a while since I have seen this twin guitar four-piece. They had a very fun, but raw power-pop set at the Slickee Boys last show and they bring a tighter presentation tonight. Thankfully, they have not lost any of the fun crunching power-pop/garage rock styling that makes them so easy to enjoy right out of the gate. Again, the lead guitar work during standard song verses gives this work a bit of originality which really helps as the hooks are not terribly new in this sort of music. They remind me of the Zeros, one of the finer power-pop punk bands of the earl west coast punk scene. Solid 38-minute set continuing this evening of fine rock music where each band has a clear personal sound.
The Courtesans - This power trio features the Blackberry Belles' guitarist/vocalist. But instead of the former band's organ, it's strong classic bass lines here. Ergo, the sound is more straight ahead rock, yet there is still elements of 60s garage-soul-rock that I am not sure I fully have noticed before in Courtesans' sets. These guys rock nicely and have some pop hooks and occasionally hit a Nils/Sloan sort of thing, but they move around a bit in rock territory nicely while keeping a steady sound. Lead Vocals are tagged off to the bass player at times and both singers add a distinctive style to the mix. The crowd is still enjoying the night and have stuck it out pretty much for every band. Another 38 minute set here as all four bands got a chance to showcase their talents on the main stage of the Black Cat. And whether they are playing a headline gig at a small club, or opening for a sold out big stage show, I would be happy to see all of them again some time. And the Black Cat is doing something like this again on the 24th. Hope to see you there.

Quote of the Night: From the Courtesans bass player... "According to my set list we are going to do a Spice Girls cover followed by a Judas Priest cover."

Ha. The main reason I wrote this one up was that it reminded me of when I was sitting in a moderately high end restaurant in Annapolis and Richard Hell & the Voidoids' "Blank Generation" came on after some jazz music. Then it was another jazz number followed by "Green Eyed Lady" by Sugarloaf, which was the fist 45rpm record my younger brother bought. It was so eerie that I asked my waitress who said it was probably a bartender or waiter's IPOD. Makes sense, but still unusual to me. But forever burned into my psyche are those early days of punkrock where virtually no one in this country's media outlets would play this music. Irony? Bitterness? What can you do.?

Friday, March 16, 2012

Elliott Brood - The Pack A.D. -- DC9 - Mar 15 2012

The Pack A.D. - Two women from Vancouver on guitar, drums and with microphones. Not sure if that sounds dangerous, but it was. The guitarist barely saw the back end of the mic stand arm whiz by her face as the drummer moved it aside (think 3 Stooges bit). "Wow, I just missed you. That would have been funny... and not." Revenge came later when guitars were changed as that big awkward arm got bumped and the drummer got the classic tooth polishing that all singers get from time to time. Ouch. The music was not quit this dangerous... not quite. No attempts at Jack White here, just the threat of reckless abandon that really stayed quite tight, but in your face. Vocal work was sturdy with good harmonies as opposed to intense shrieking. Drum beats were as rudimentary as they come, but they all varied which was cool. All cymbals were tightened to the point they looked like high hats and rang only a bit longer. Powerful Ramones type songs done faster with occasional pull backs into bluesier garage. Even a touch of psychobilly at times. Raw and composed, reminding me of after show jams such as maybe Randy Rampage on drums and Chuck Biscuits on guitar or something (to stick with the Vancouver theme reminding me of things I witnessed so long ago). Bright, funny, two-to-four chords, they had simple recipe cooked to perfection and were a hit with this large crowd. And the 50 minute set never felt long for a second.
Elliott Brood - The Toronto trio is back touring its third album. I have been a fan since the outset and saw nothing to lower my appreciation for them tonight. They channel a few of my favorite bands, 16 Horsepower, the Sadies and even the Pogues, but don't have the doom of the first, the moodiness of the second or craziness of the third. But they do have some of the catchiest songwriting this side of those great bands. They deliver loads of rootsy hooks that really rock out with a tempo that starts the toes tapping, but ends with more swaying and dancing. The cuts off the new LP sound very good, but old favorites like "Chuckwagon" still rocked the house thoroughly. And "Write it All Down for You" cannot fail to work live with its infectious 'hey hey hey's to shout along with. The drummer holds it all together while the guitars, banjos, and ukuleles strum powerfully along with some psyche coloring at times. They pull in all the elements and of great music and push forward rather than go out on limbs. This works when you are good and the size of the crowd and the enthusiasm generated proved that tonight.

Quote of the Night: From the Pack A.D.'s drummer... "It's fuckin' hot, eh?" "We don't even talk that way, eh? But if it will make you happy..."

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Jefferson Starship -- The Hamilton - Mar 14 2012

Jefferson Starship - The Starship is basically all things Jefferson, Airplane and Starship that is. Paul Kantner is guiding force and David Freiberg, founder of Quicksilver Messenger Service and member of both Jeffersons, is also aboard. They are joined with members that have been aboard for a good number of years: Mark Aguilar on guitar, Donny Baldwin on drums, Chris Smith on keys, and Cathy Richardson (interviewed here) on vocals. Like the Airplane, the starting point is the male and female vocals augmented by Kantner in the third voice. After that, there is the great psychedelic, rock, blues and folk based music. The band certainly can still put it altogether in 2012. It is not as crazy psychedelic as before, and it would hardly give off that vibe in this comfortable dinner club, but it rocks hard and the players all bring a lot of their individual style to the overall sound. The first set is the quieter material as Kantner explains with the crazy stuff coming in the second set. That was true enough ("Lather" and Quicksilver's "Fresh Air") and unfortunately the sound man had the vocals too low in set one, but that was corrected by the second set. Perhaps he was a bit intimidated by Cathy Richardson's incredible range (she is not all power although she certainly shows that when called upon). Still, it was a good enough start. Set two began with a Freiberg vocal on top of just the keyboard. Cathy Richardson did a song from her solo album a few year's back and then Paul Kantner came out to get back to Jeffersonian material with "St. Charles", a surprisingly strong Starship number. "You & Me & Pooneil" featured a lot of creative jamming and was quite fun, while the "Somebody to Love" closer and "Volunteers" encore both smoked and got the quiet weekday crowd up and excited. I was happier than I expected with the Starship material and the sets had great variety tonight. The vocals were outstanding and even the old guys still have it. The music was solid while a bit on the mature side, but even less than Hot Tuna I would say. Catch them while Paul Kantner still has the chops and more importantly the desire to keep doing what he has done so well for so long.
Set List (as best as I can come up with at least): Crown of Creation/Get Together (Valente)/Count of Me/Lather/Fresh Air/something from Blows Against the Empire?/White Rabbit/Wooden Ships -intermission- Harp Tree Lament/Cathy Richardson number/St. Charles/Jane/ ? (bad notes)/Miracles/Good Shepherd/Starship song/It's No Secret/The Ballad of You & Me & Pooneil/Somebody to Love/ Encore: Volunteers

Quote of the Night: Chatting with someone after the show...
"It's worth it just to hear Freiberg do "Fresh Air" even if he is starting to turn into Jerry Garcia"
me - "We all gotta grow into something."
Note - David Freiberg is 73 years old and Paul Kantner turns 71 this Saturday.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Interview with Cathy Richardson of Jefferson Starship

Cathy Richardson has an active and interesting career. She has been performing as lead vocalist for the Jefferson Starship in recent years and will be taking the stage at the Hamilton here in Washington DC on March 14th. She achieved much success portraying Janis Joplin in an off-Broadway musical, "Love Janis", and has received a Grammy nomination and won various awards for her solo and collaborative work. She had a few minutes to chat by phone while she was in Chicago before flying to DC.
David Hintz:  I would guess you were too young for Joplin and Slick to be your first musical influences, so what did attract you to music as a youngster?

Cathy Richardson:  My first heroes were Anne and Nancy Wilson of Heart. They were the ones that inspired me to get into rock music. My Mom was a singer and there was always a lot of music around the house. My Mom was more into church... she had a really beautiful operatic soprano voice and she liked Broadway music and that kind of stuff. But then when I was I guess eleven or twelve, my next door neighbor told me to listen to Heart if I wanted to hear some girls that could really play guitar because I was trying to teach myself to play. And then I remembered that my sister had one of their records, so I went home to listen to it and you know, my mind blew out of my school and I was 'oh my god, I want to be them' (laughter) So that is who I started worshiping and emulating, so as I got into high school, I started discovering the San Francisco sound, Janis Joplin, Grace Slick, the Jefferson Airplane/Starship and I really kind of gravitated to that kind of music.

DH:  OK, did the local Chicago scene play any role with you then or later in life?

CR:  Later on in life, yeah. At first I had a rock band in the 80s. And then I decided to go solo and it's the nature of being a girl with a guitar, people start lumping you into that folk category.

DH:  RIght.

CR:  But I was covering Indigo Girls, Melissa Etheridge, Tracy Chapman, Michelle Shocked, and Shawn Colvin and all those artists that were coming out in... like this was in the early 90s. And then writing my own music, too, and going out and playing and then, you know Chicago is such a melting pot being right in the middle of the country. There are so many influences and the sound of Chicago at the time anyway, was a kind of Americana sound, blues, rock,  country, funk... all of it converging and that was sort of the direction I went into when I started making records in the early 90s.

DH:  RIght. I should mention, too, that I was involved with the punk scene of late 70s and early 80s and we had a lot of connections with the Chicago bands and I recall the Cabaret Metro shows that I think is still...

CR:  Yeah, it's still there and it's just called Metro now.

DH:  So that's how you got going. Now did the Cathy Richardson Band form some time after that?

CR:  Yeah. I put my band together in the early 90s.

DH:  And that definitely got a lot of accolades then. And then you recently worked with the Macrodots? We'll get to the bigger named bands in a second, but what is next for you when Starship activities slow down?

CR:  Well, we are writing songs for a new Macrodots record. I probably have another solo record congealing in my mind. I have got maybe six songs and that will be sort of a return to my more rootsy side. You know, Macrodots is a very modern rock sound with a huge nod to classic rock, so the main thing we have is hooky songs where we are trying to make it sound fresh and new, but at the same time have a modicum of familiarity so that when you hear it, you are like 'what is this, I feel like I know this already'.

DH:  Yes, ok... But getting back to where you first became known, at least around the country, with the "Love Janis" musica...

CR:  Yes.

DH:  What are the difficulties of performing such an iconic figure's music when the goal is to convince people it is Janice Joplin. Are you trying to imitate or impersonate or do you perform as YOU would do the songs? How does that work?

CR:  It was really an evolution... Initially when they offered me the role, I was terrified because Janice is iconic. She is so unique that no one sounds like her, nobody could sound like her. They did not want somebody to do an impression, they just wanted a real singer that could sort of convey that energy. So when I started out, I did not know that much about her other than the songs that everybody knew, but I had not gotten that into her material or did not have much knowledge of her as a performer. I had not watched a ton of video or anything like that, so when I started, I was doing much more my own voice and as the years went on and I had literally ensconced myself in Janis Joplin--I did not listen to anything else for two years.

DH:  Wow.

CR:  On my way to the show, I would listen and watched every film I could get my hands on. I read every book... You go out there and reviews would come in and be critical of you for not sounding enough like Janis. You know, I just worked and worked to try to become her on stage, not to impersonate her, but as an actor, just let her spirit sort of embody my body. And I think I got better (chuckles) and better at it as the years went on, culminating with doing it in San Francisco, where people actually knew, you know. I mean in New York, they like to think they know everything (laughter), still she lived in New York for a time, but she was really a product of San Francisco and a lot of her friends are still living. And when I got to perform there, they invited the whole hippie contingent to the opening night and that was the most rewarding performance of my whole years of doing it... playing it for her friends and getting their feedback on how it was in seeing her this way.

DH:  Was the acting part all new to you or had you done some acting before?

CR:  Yeah, in school growing up. I took drama, extra-curricular activity, but it was not anything I thought I would pursue as a career and I was intimidated by it when I first started. The role that I played was more singing than... I don't want to say acting because the singing itself was acting, but as far as speaking lines, there was not a ton of that. But as time went on I got more comfortable and hopefully I got better. You just try and practice makes perfect.

DH:  Yeah, you get better and better for a long time until it may tapers off, too.

CR:  Right.

DH:  I am curious if you have a favorite Janis Joplin song?

CR:  Ummm... I love the whole "(I Got dem Ol') Kozmic Blues (Again Mama!)" thing... the first songs that pops into my mind is "To Love Somebody" which is a Bee Gees composed song.

DH: Oh yes, ok...

CR:  But Janis took that song and dug into it and that's what Ioved about her, she found a way to get inside of a song and make it her own... and wrench every ounce of soul and angst out of it and you know, the same thing with that song and maybe with one of the Chantelles songs originally and that was my favorite of all of them.

DH:  Is it less or more of your own voice when you do (Jefferson) Airplane/Starship material or do you still have to think of Grace Slick when you do those songs?

CR:  I don't purposely think of Grace, although I was much more of a Grace fan and was more familiar with them and i got to see them in concert when I was in high school. I have like an inkling of how I remember her being kind of weird and an ice queen with the eyes. I think I am more physical and I put a more theatrical spin on it, you know. I like to take a bit of her weirdness (chuckles)... it's such an improvisational band and I try to be as spontaneous as possible. And there is plenty of room to be as weird as you want to be and you can't really go over the top with it. So I love the freedom and the collaborative nature of Paul Kantner, you know he started this all in the 60s. He essentially started the Starship in the same spirit, but eventually it got away from him and became this commercial juggernaut, but since he's gotten the name back he's brought it back. You know, he is the Jefferson; he's the glue that holds it all together. But he gives everybody the freedom to make it their own which I think is really awesome.

DH: Yeah, that's good to here. I was surprised that listening to various live albums and bootlegs of Jefferson Airplane, how much the songs did vary. So you're saying the Starship now, too, has the freedom to improv?

CR:  Yes. Yes, but maybe not as much as they used to do in the 60s, you know. You know, taking acid and such (laughter), but we do go off and jam quite a bit. Paul's rather spontaneous. The other night, he said 'I want to do these four new songs'--not new but songs I have not done before and that some of the guys in the band had never played before or maybe some had twenty years ago. So we got together at soundcheck and ran through the songs and played all four of them in the show.

DH:  Cool.

CR:  That keeps you on your toes and makes it more exciting. It never ever gets old or boring and you never see the same show twice.

DH:  Yeah, that's great. So is Paul Kantner still got that optimistic hippie outlook or is he more of a world weary veteran these days.

CR:  Yeah, I would say the latter (laughter). I don't know, was he ever an optimistic hippie? He is sort of been calling for revolution for a long time.

DH:  Yeah, they were all kind of confrontational.

CR:  He's not like one of these peace and love guys at all. He's been around the block a few times He's hardcore, they don't make them like him. He's a very unique person, awesome, I love him.

DH:  I believe that. How about we get back to Chicago. Do you of any bands there now or ones you might see touring... younger bands that are favorites of yours?

CR:  Oh god, I wish I could answer that, but I have no idea since I have been on the road so much. What I see, is that when I was coming up, you could have an original band and you could make a living doing that and you could play clubs every weekend. And now what I see is cover bands and tribute bands. It is rather disheartening honestly. I feel the scene is diluted into something that is not really a scene anymore. But admittedly I could be out of touch of what is happening.

DH:  Actually you are correct. For instance, there are hundreds of bands in DC that are excellent, but only a few try to make a living at it and it's hard to get out much beyond weekend tours. Yet there are still the megatours and I knew of an indie band that gave it up and become a Pink Floyd tribute band because it paid 5-10 times more.

CR:  Exactly. I mean it's supply and demand and it's what people want to hear. It's crazy too, that we are at this point with population/saturation where here in Chicago, there are so many music venues and so many festivals in the summer. There's at least one ever summer somewhere and there's so many touring bands and now you have DJs, indie bands, oldie bands, 80s bands, 90s bands, and all these mid-level touring acts that has a name and want to keep it going, you know. There is so much music and so many bands, that it is hard to cut through and break through. I think that in a major population area like Chicago or New York, there is so much happening on any given night of the week, that how do you even find an audience to support it seems to get harder and harder. You know, there are new avenues like Youtube and internet radio, but it's almost like lightening striking. Back in the day, you wanted to get signed, they got behind you and you would go out and have a hit. But now, it is like the pond is just filled with so many people with old music turned into new music with computers and makes my head spin when I think about it (laughter).

DH:  Yeah, me too, for that matter.

CR:  And you probably come across a lot more of it than I ever will.

DH:  Oh yeah, and I just had that from a show I was at last night. I compared a band I saw with the Peanut Butter Conspiracy, a 60s band from the LA scene. I mean, they have never heard one note of that band, but I see that as my role where I remind people of the multiple histories that intersect in odd ways. That's why I like to see a band play in a small club in front of ten people one night and then go see the classic stuff like I'll see with your band tomorrow. Then, try to put it all together.

CR:  Cool.

DH:  So, a couple of Chicago questions here....Cubs or White Sox?

CR:  (laughter) oh, I honestly.. (laughter)

DH:  You going to take the high road on this one.

CR:  I hate to say it, but I honestly don't care about baseball.

DH:  Oh that's ok. I'm that way now.

CR:  I have sung the National Anthem at both stadiums. The one time I sang at the Cubs game, it got rained out, so I was like the only thing that happened that day at that game.

DH:  (laughter) OK, that's great. So how about when you get back from a tour, what do you go for first, deep dish pizza, a hot dog, or Italian beef?

CR:  Definitely the pizza (laughter)

DH:  That goes for me, too. I lived there in '86 and I still miss the pizza there.

CR: (laughs) Cool.

DH: So anyway, you will be at the Hamilton here in DC, a brand new club that should be quite comfortable for you. I was just there the other night and enjoyed it.... So, how much does the Starship tour these days and how much longer do you think it will last?

CR:  We do anywhere from 30-60 shows a year. A lot of those will be weekend jaunts here and there. But we are in the middle of a three-week tour now, although I came home for a few days because I have a six month old baby that I can't bear to be away from.

DH:  Oh! Understandable there.

CR:  But the guys are out in DC now and I will fly and meet them tomorrow before finishing up. We have a couple of these a year along with one-offs here and there. This year, hopefully we'll be busy and do a Europe run. We did a PBS Special taped a couple years ago, but just aired this winter and it's been playing over and over again and that's been a huge boost of interest for us. PBS is supposed to be getting behind us for a tour this summer with other 60s band.

DH:  Yeah, do it while you can. That's great.

CR:  Yeah, totally. I guess we'll just do it as long as Paul wants to.

DH: Yes, that's pretty much it at this point I suppose. Well it sounds like have plenty on your plate here, your other music and a baby--Is that your first baby?

CR:  Yes.

DH:  Well thank-you very much this interview. And I will be at the show and look forward to that as well.

CR:  Great, well, I'll look forward to meeting you.

Sweet Interference - Ditched by Kate -- Iota - Mar 12 2012

Ditched by Kate - This local band lines up with a couple of guitars, violin, bass and drums with a microphone in front of everyone but the drummer. Things start out very trippy somewhat in the manner of Jessie Sykes who I saw on this stage a while back. The vocal work is great with primarily a male and female voice in unison much of the time. It has a slight Black Mountain flavor to it. They really get a good melodic drone going, not unlike Kuschty Rye Ergot for instance. They continue to work out their grooves and are quite hypnotic with lots of cool things going on underneath and occasionally over the top with a guitar solo. They work the inner space side of spaciness with an Americana landscape far off in the horizon. This is powerful material that held my full attention for the nearly hour long set. They have an EP out and are working on their first album, so stay tuned to this exciting area band. The vision and execution are already at an exciting level.
Sweet Interference - Can this high quality and more established local band follow that great set? Why of course! The on-stage instrumentation is not too fdifferent with keyboards instead of violin and the vocal work is slightly more female lead but with loads of harmonies and alternating vocal lines. The vocal tradeoffs remind of that of the 60s psyche garage bands like the Peanut Butter Conspiracy and even have a touch of Dengue Fever. Musically, the PBC comparison really takes hold although it is far more modern unsurprisingly. But the band really connects with the psyche-pop scene of the 60s as opposed to the acid drenched jam bands or hard psyche powerhouses. The songs have a certain snap to them and melodies stand out with some occasionally show-off creative moments. I rarely lament the loss of hit singles being played on the radio, but when I hear three or four of their truly outstanding songs (including my favorite "Minimum Wage") that could really pull in a wide audience, my imagination goes back to my youth listening to tinny pop radio. Waking up at 4am and still hearing these hooks in my head is proof enough for me. But that era is gone, so hopefully touring, good local live shows like tonight's well attended affair, and plenty of accolades from people like me will help get this music heard. The audience tonight would agree with all of this as they enjoyed the hour plus set and wanted one more song before leaving. Two more outstanding examples tonight of the diverse and vibrant local music scene we have here.

Obituary of note... On a sadder note, Ronnie Montrose died recently. He had a big tour planned and I had a ticket to see him this May. That would have been the first time I had seen him since 1980. I caught him twice when I was young as he was one of the fastest and heaviest guitarists around. Although some people recall that he played on all the Edgar Winter hits, fewer still know that he also played on pivotal Van Morrison albums. But I have been giving "Space Station No. 5" a few extra listens as I am reminded of the monster rock songs he created. Here's a nice write-up from Sammy Hagar from Rolling Stone.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Black Lillies - Drew Gibson -- The Hamilton -- Mar 10 2011

Drew Gibson - Tonight, it's a review of two sets of music and one brand new club just five blocks from where I live. First impressions of the Hamilton are positive. It is basically a more formal version of the Birchmere with slick seating and a stage and light show that would suit the classiest lounge. There may be a tad less seating than the Birchmere but a lot more than at the Ram's Head in Annapolis. They also have a dance area right in front of the stage which makes for a better environment and sight lines are good.

And they have booked an excellent area folk singer-songwriter to open things up. I saw Drew Gibson with a band at Iota, but tonight it will just be Gibson with acoustic guitar and voice. He tells me this approach is more frequently used. And he easily has the quality songs that work in both formats. His finger-style guitar work is excellent and as I mentioned before in reviews of his live work and album, he can really write some masterful songs at times. It was a little tricky bringing this to a big stage as this club was a lot noisier than the Birchmere. I felt like I was in the Black Cat or Rock'n'Roll Hotel for a while. Part of the problem was their noisy bar in the back--the Birchmere has their sit down bar in an entirely different room. But Gibson kept the crowd involved easily enough with his quality songs, playing, and irreverently humorous banter. His style reminds me most of Michael Chapman, although I have a lot more trouble doing folk comparisons. Rock comparisons are much easier as there is too much personality in folk. At least there is plenty of personality for the quality performers such as Drew Gibson. That is evident once again.

And it was nice having a brief chat with before the show, even if he did confuse me by his resemblance to Jello Biafra. Thankfully, Drew actually used the art of listening in this conversation.
The Black Lillies - This band is built around singer/guitarist/pianist Cruz Contreras. His past includes some other bands that did not work out, but the Black Lillies seem to be building a nice following. And based on tonight's show, it is easy to see why. I was a bit worried early from the overall sound of the line-up that featured a drummer, bass player (stand-up and electric), a female vocalist and sometime acoustic guitarist, along with a pedal steel player who alternated with electric guitar. Contreras sang and played acoustic guitar before adding some piano late in the set. The problem early on was that although the vocals were good, things were a bit too country and the only instrument that had any flourish in the playing was the pedal steel. The guy sometimes added some good low notes to his playing so I found it better than most (although this instrument starts with lower expectations for me). But when he switched to electric guitar and the bass player went electric and showed more funk and rock, things picked up in a hurry. It never got to that 'Pentangle vibe' with masterful players showing off lead skills, but the accompanying sounds were solid and the lead guitarist was both highly skilled and quite creative. The songs and vocal work were outstanding and ultimately, they get great credit from playing country, alt-country, Americana, and rockers. There was plenty of distinction within their clear vision and I was reminded of Dave Alvin more than once. Contreras did a solo piano number to change things around even more. And when he played piano with the band, I did hear more Pentangle like interplay among three of them. They played 98 minutes and then came back for a two-song encore and had the crowd pulled in the whole time. This very solid band is from Knoxville, which I think is great that they are not from Nashville. It's akin to seeing a band from Syracuse or Buffalo instead of Brooklyn (which I don't think has happened to me yet, although I've seen a few hundred from Brooklyn). All it takes is a little creativity and ability to rock out and good bands can slip in some country and keep me happy. This band made it all work.

Quote of the Night: Drew Gibson parodying the pre-show announcement for the crowd to turn off their ringers on cellphones, but snap a picture... "Ladies and gentleman, please take out your cell phones and take a picture of me on this awesome stage."

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Double Saginaw Familiarity - Matt Tarka -- Big Bear Cafe -- Mar 9 2012

Matt Tarka - Two of the three acts I saw at the Velvet Lounge are here to kickstart a live music program at a nice little coffee shop/restaurant at 1st and R in the Northwest. The musicians had to supply all equipment which consisted of an amp and microphone. The place was crowded, although it was a mix of people here for the music and those just having dinner or drinks. Tarka has a rock approach to his folk songs, which seemed obvious enough to me although I appreciated him confirming that fact by saying he played bass in a rock band for a long time. I have compared him to the Kevin Seconds/Vic Ruggiero/Jesse Malin type folk school of rockers that can write well enough and have the voice to deliver good to very good folk sets. He chose to not plug in his acoustic, which was a tricky call with the crowd noise, but his striking style made it audible enough for the first half of the crowd. I would like to see this club get a small PA if they want to continue this sort of thing. He had a couple of new songs I have not heard which sounded quite good and I recognized some of his older set that I liked. I think the best of his style are the vocal lines he writes that are simple enough on the face of things, but have a few hooky moments that bring his songs to life. Another fine set by a hard working and genuinely nice guy who will hopefully continue to get the gigs.
Double Saginaw Familiarity - This time around it was Dan from that band who as he mentioned, left the electric guitar, pedal, and looping equipment at home and just tried it with voice and acoustic tonight. He did plug in, which was the right move as he used fingerstyle on some of the songs and generally has a softer style in guitarwork and voice. I was wondering how Nick Drake would do this century trying to take his quiet music over the usual crowd noise that seemingly gets louder and louder every year. Of course, then I remembered that Nick Drake did not exactly do too well on the live stage no matter what the crowd was doing or saying. Anyway, the music here was high quality and worked in the acoustic environment. Credit to Dan for trying hard to engage the crowd which was not to intensely into things. However, some times it is best to punt and just bang out the songs. I am sure there were times where he instinctively searched for those damn pedals! Still, the crowd was supportive and bought some CDs from both performers, so there was a good vibe tonight. It is a new thing here and we will see if it takes hold. All in all, a nice relaxing night was had, listening to some acoustic music. I do need these nights from time to time.

Quote of the Night: From Dan's set... "This song is called Texas. It's not about Texas." That got me thinking about other songs that are not about places. I came up with "Omaha" by Moby Grape and "Seattle" by Public Image Ltd. Any others? I'll have to work on it more.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Black Box Revelation - The Jones -- DC9 - Mar8 2012

The Jones - I have seen this powerful local trio before and have enjoyed them a lot. Nothing changed tonight, as they delivered a solid and well received 41 minute set. It is such a simple blues-rock formula, but there is a touch of old-school psyche in there as well. It's about a 40-40-20 ratio between those three genres and as I have mentioned before, they remind me a lot of the Groundhogs (for us old guys) and perhaps the Black Keys (for 21st century types). In fact, it was nice chatting with the guitarist/vocalist before the show who was quite happy discovering the Groundhogs through some of our previous communication. I am always happy to try to find historic connecting points between the many great bands, whether known well or not so well. But no matter if you know of a dozen bands like this or none at all, you should be able to get into this music if you like good driving rock music. It is so straight ahead that I am surprised there are not a lot of bands doing this. There are a few and perhaps it takes that little bit extra skill that this band has. The vocals have a nice Dead Meadow quality, the guitar solos have real bite, the bass playing is flexible with also a touch of Dead Meadow, and the drumming is tight and holds it altogether. Check them out some time as they do seem to be getting regular gigs around town.
Black Box Revelation - I saw this Belgian guitar-drums duo once before opening for Beady Eye at the 9:30 Club (reviewed here). The set was quite similar tonight with a couple of outstanding mind warping songs where their songcraft matched their instrumental intensity. The lesser songs were still quite good, but there were a few that really cried out for that thick slab of a bassline bottom. Continuing the blues-rock-psyche ratio theme, I would roughly place these guys at 30-45-25. I would say they have a looser quality than that of the Jones, just a bit more swing (kind of a bob and weave with the guitar). And like when the Sword was doing small shows in between opening gigs for Metallica, BBR is doing gigs like this in between shows opening for Jane's Addiction. I will always give bonus points for bands making this sort of effort and going into the smaller clubs and bringing it to the dozens and this band deserves credit. But they handled the large stage well when I saw them earlier, so they are doing a great job of building up a fan base through any means possible. They only have an ep out at present, so it will be interesting to watch this band that has hit the ground running.
Plug of the Night: The new issue of Folkworld is up with several articles in German and English, along with loads of CD reviews that have kept me very busy the last few years. There is a lot of coverage of bands from around the world and if you are folk-related and send me a CD, I post it both here and my blog (some of the live shows are also reprinted). Enjoy!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Anti-Flag - The Flatliners -- Rock'n'Roll Hotel - Mar 7 2012

The Flatliners - I caught half of the set from this Canadian punk band. I have long been a fan of punk rock from the great white north and these guys seem to work pretty well with that great foundation. I hear more of an SNFU sound, than that of DOA or the Nils. It's buzzsaw punk with plenty of melody and assertive vocals. Passionate, of course, and they add some cooler slow tempos which really do help avoid that old feeling of redundancy which dooms many a punk set. Decent job here to a very jam packed room.
Anti-Flag - No, not Wild Flag as originally misstated in my coming events column. Not even White Flag, Black Flag, or their earlier fellow Pennsylvanian punk forefathers, Flag of Democracy. These guys have been around a while and I surprisingly have not caught up to them. But they lived up to my expectations with the requisite combination of passion, power, speed, and melody. They were even a bit better than I expected with some creative guitar touches that kept things interesting for a set that went about an hour. The youth were working the pit up front, but things were contained and fairly normal beyond all that. A few cliches were had and it was amusing to see club staff check with the soundman that the microphone they slammed to the stage was the band's own microphone. If it wasn't already their mic, they would have been buying it. Still, good punk still has its place and the better bands who work the road hard can keep their fans energized. That is evident tonight.

Quote of the Night: From the Flatliners... "Starting early is a good idea since we have time for a couple more songs and won't go too long."    Oh cruel irony! It is great to see shows run in a timely fashion, but of course this is one of the rare nights where my dinner plans (with old friends and workers) kept me from seeing the opening set by the Have-Nots and had me missing some of the Flatliners. I don't always require early starts like tonight, but the point of getting up and stage and getting in a full set and then some is so very true. And the kids were smart enough to get there early and cut loose.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Silo Halo - The Water - Heavy Sons - Priests -- Sova - Mar 4 2012

Priests - This local trio has drums/vocals, guitar and vocals with a touch of guitar. Note to self... bring earplugs to smaller shows with simple PAs as stage volume is still very loud. Sova is a cozy little place and there was a nice audience for the show tonight. The guitar sound was kind of Crampsian with plenty of reverb, but little of the psychobilly. The primitive drumming set the tone for the Coathangers like vocal work. Edgy and fun at times, but punishing loud for all the wrong reasons. Work in progress, I would have to say.

Heavy Sons - This four-piece from Philadelphia features one guitar and a female vocalist in addition to the rhythm section. They are plenty loud themselves, but stop short of ear piercing. It also helps that they play a great brand of sludgy psychadelia. It's not too far off from fellow Philadelphians, Bardo Pond, but it is a bit more raw than that. They vary speeds from drones to snappy rock out moments, but manage to keep a great vibe going throughout their set. It appears this band raised a few eyebrows in this sharp crowd of heavy psyche music lovers (some Velvet Lounge regulars are here). They nailed it tonight and I hope to see them again some day.

The Water - This Baltimore duo plays as a five or six piece thanks to their quality loop work. The drummer lays down a raw rhythm guitar (or two) before moving to his kit. The second guy plays shimmering guitar parts and keyboards also employing loops. Their post rock sound as big as the ocean with an overall bright result (and a cool colorful lighting rig they employ). They contrast the bright dominating sounds on top with a murkier underbelly which is just the sort of musical stew that pulls people in. The songs were rather short considering their epic quality, but that was fine. Although it did lead me to wonder if they should not vary things a bit more. But they closed with a song that really shifted things around sonically, so they have that capability. I would think this band can really grab a lot of attention as they keep gigging.
Silo Halo - Three people with axes is search of a drummer. OK, now that I have gotten my usual complaint about drum machines out of the way, we can get to the quality music these three put out. I saw them open for Screen Vinyl Image recently (reviewed here) and enjoyed their set. And the Screen Vinyl Image duo was here tonight. It was more of the same tonight and I really enjoyed the different sensations they evoke by each taking lead vocal duties at different times. They harmonize well and one guy also changes the sound obviously enough by switching from guitar to keyboards. It's ultimately good psychedelic music that veers to post rock, edgy post punk, and dreamy rock. And I will give them extra credit tonight for booking such a nice show in this cozy space next to the Rock'n'Roll Hotel. But even without the behind the scenes effort, the musical performance was success enough.

Quote of the Night: Overheard from a couple of people wandering by me on the street who left the show 5-10 minutes before me... "Well this sucks, we should have hired a taxi... we're trying to find a car..."

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Drop Electric - Teen Mom - Mittenfields - Sam Cooper & the Sleepwalkers -- Black Cat - Mar 3 2012

Sam Cooper & the Sleepwalkers - The first of four local acts that get the mainstage at the Black Cat and the turnout thus far seems to justify using the larger venue. I have not seen these guys before, but they are lead by a vocalist who alternates between piano and guitar. Guitar bass and drums fill out the sound on this somewhat classic singer songwriter material that clearly rocks more than it heads toward folk. Good vocals, clean melodies, but I am thinking that maybe there is not enough distinction for this to stand out. Correction, they have some inventive guitar fills and some almost dirge like rhythms allowing some interesting downstage moves. All in all, these guys took a comfortable format and added enough personality to their quality songs and delivered a decent set.

Mittenfields - The three-guitar attack is back with a rhythm section and vocals as well. The formula is shoegaze, but it is always a question of where a band takes that sound. At their worst, Mittenfields blast away with some nice sound. At their best, they prove themselves to be capable songwriters where the combination of sound and song can create some magical moments. The key is where they add some Byrds-like jangle to the the more stereotypical shoegaze sounds. There are times when you can hear three guitars doing interesting things that relate, which can challenge 3-guitar bands, but they pull it off more often than not. A solid local band that had it working tonight.

Teen Mom - I am not sure this trio is placed particularly well on this billing between a couple of thick shogaze styled bands, but they still managed to chip in a nice little set. They have sharp little pop moves with dreamy vocals that had a bit more reverb to them than needed. It got a little too samey in the middle of the set, but they sharpened it up a bit and went over nicely by set's end. I have liked them more in the past, but I think it was more the surrounding than too much wrong with their approach or their songs.
Drop Electric - This was the first time I saw these six local musicians known as Drop Electric. They start with two female vocalists singing atop some electronics in a sonic plane somewhere near the Cocteau Twins or Dead Can Dance maybe. The full band next comes out and lays on the shoegaze with plenty of subtle dynamic shifts ala Mono. There is a goth chill in the air with these vocals and they can be quite dazzling at times, whether its moodily sung verses, or background wailing. Some bands sound like they are making their version of Ennio Morricone soundtrack music, but this band covers a more updated Goblin approach with a real eerie feeling present through much of this. They also remind me of Bardo Pond in some respects. No real breaks in the set which is a nice touch, just subtle shifts covering the seams between songs well. The club was about half full and they came alive for this set. This band, along with the first two tonight, are all headed to Mecca, make that Austin, so hopefully they will have a great experience and the novice listeners (like myself tonight) should be rewarded with a strong assured band.

Quote of the Night: Heard on the street... Oedipus was never so funny... "heh-heh-heh, killed my father, heh-heh, raped my mother, heh-heh-heh..."

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Kohoutek - Lo-Pan - Eye - Ambition Burning -- Velvet Lounge - Mar 2 2012

Ambition Burning - I haven't seen this local trio in a while and although my memory may be faulty, it sounds like they have been rehearsing a bit. I enjoyed them well enough before, but they have tightened up considerably as their speed/death metal moves are crisp and well executed. There's plenty of punk attitude and sound in the mix and they are like a less flashy Valiant Thorr at times. 20 intense minutes tonight that gets things rolling nicely.

Eye - Four biker looking dudes on drums, bass, guitar and synthesizer scream off into a Melvins meets Hawkwind space. This is pounding ultraheavy psychedelic rock with cool synth waves and cutting lead guitar. The sound is great which is surprising considering the soundman had to put a garbage bag up over half of the board as the rain was dripping steadily onto it. Fans of Wooden Shijps and just about any heavy modern psyche band should jump all over this Columbus, Ohio band.

Lo-Pan - Also from Columbus, this four-piece changes the look and style enough to be clearly unique from their tour mates, but still very sympathetic in sound. These guys eschew the synth in lieu of an exclusive vocalist. The vocals are up front (in spite of him standing behind the drums) with great power reminiscent of Graveyard and Kyuss. I hear the old welcome sounds of the Groundhogs deep within as blues-based rock are at the core even though the wailing guitars and fretboard runs on bass take this up a notch on the psychedelic scale. These guys would be perfect on a bill with Sweden's Graveyard. Where on earth were these bands when I lived in Columbus in the early 80s? Aside from Ron House's likable bands, there wasn't anything this gutsy. Good crowd tonight was digging it, although they were oddly quiet at times (this band got on at midnight and both bands had shortened sets).
Kohoutek -  It has been a while since I have seen one of DC's finest psyche-Krautrock outfits and once again they are apart of a great bill. The core trio is here with two guys on the floor playing various noise boxes and creating an unyielding psychedelic swirl. The band tended to be a lot heavier from the start than is often the case with perhaps the rush of getting on stage before everyone going home being part of that (crowd thinned a bit due to the hour, but it was still a good crowd). Still, plenty of those great audio dynamics with the drums and guitar building up and down along the sonic landscape the the bass laying the perspective lines down on the horizon. They did play their usual half-hour set, getting off at 1:35 and everyone that stuck it out applauded a excellent finish to an excellent night of music.

Quote of the Night: The opening band... "Is it worth the wait?" Well, ultimately it was, but I still find it frustrating that the Velvet Lounge tries to pack in 4 bands with a show that starts at 10:29pm. This after they have supposedly moved up starting times for weekend shows to 9:30 from 10:00. I stayed fresh for all the bands (thanks to my Thursday night off), but opening bands had to shorten their sets and hustle equipment faster than usual just to get it all in. Plus, some of the crowd just didn't stick it out for the evening. There weren't too many people getting there late either, so an earlier start still would have resulted in a big crowd for the opening band. Again, this is why if I am undecided about which weekend show to go to with all things being relatively equal on the bands, I will almost always hit another club. But the Velvet Lounge does book some stellar shows, so I will certainly be back many times for those (as well as the weekday shows which often go more smoothly).

Friday, March 2, 2012

Caustic Casanova Interview - February 17th

Interview with Caustic Casanova: Francis, Michael, Stephanie by David Hintz at the Velvet Lounge prior to the show.

I have seen this local trio for a few years now and have chatted with them a bit before. They have a great individual style that really comes together brilliantly in their new album (reviewed here a few weeks back as well). Do try and catch one of their shows and pick up their album if you like things heavy, metal-tinged, psychedelic, a bit progressive, and with a twisted original approach.
David - I'd like to do more interviews like the kind you read by Jack Rabid in The Big Takeover. I just love his interviews as opposed to major magazines where there is skepticism, but they just talk about music, so we'll take it that way.

Michael - Yeah, he sends us emails and actually they are going to review our CD.

Francis - Yes, and he's big on getting people to buy ads. He says it includes everything. It's only $25 for a quarter page or whatever

D - So anyway on to Caustic Casanova. Your album is out and I enjoy it quite a bit. I expected it to be good and it turned out to be better. Did you enjoy the recording of it? I mean J. Robbins is certainly a key figure here and I think he knows his way in the studio.

M - I think it was a very special experience. We were very excited to get there and get to work. I think it went much more smooth than we could have ever imagined. Not only does he know his way around the studio backwards and forwards, but he's truly a very very nice person. On the first day I was particularly nervous, quite frankly working with a figure like that, but he made us comfortable those first two hours.

F - He produced like one of my five favorite albums of all-time, Robot/Hive Exodus (by Clutch) in 2005. So I was beyond excited. We are genuinely, not like best friends, but we consider each other friends. That's a pretty thing to come out of a working relationship of any kind. We are going to go visit him on Sunday, drop off CDs and chat.

Stephanie - I mean I was really sad about leaving. You go into the studio and its hard work. You are in there for 12 hours a day, a week at a time. But I was genuinely sad about leaving. It was that good an experience.

D - Great.

M - The thing is we have only had experience doing things ourselves before. This was fun as we had never done anything before, but later it is just laborious. We did an ep/album in college with a guy who did not know what he was doing. Then we did one in like four days which is our other CD which is good and we are proud of it, but in four days in a guy's basement, so you just can't put a price on having someone who really knows what they are doing and is one of the best people out there based on my ears with the drum sound he gets. So it was just awesome as he got the perfect tone, knowing we had never been in a studio before, knowing that we were good enough. He did make sure we did the best we could do without being mean about it or anything. He wouldn't accept bad or subpar performances, but it was in a real collegial way.

S - He just added to whatever we were doing. He was never trying to influence us to do this--this sounds better, I want you guys to do this. Do what you want, you are the band.

F - He would say Michael likes this sound, so why don't we get out these five pedals and connect them together and see what that sounds like. Here's a good example of what a cool guy he was. For one of our (shorter) songs, "Your Spirit Festooned on the Bedposts", which is like a minute and half solo guitar piece; J. Robbins gets out this Leslie speaker which is like a refrigerator. We learn how it works while we dust it off and we spend like two hours setting up that for a minute and a half piece. Over two weeks, that is the kind of detail that makes it sonically polished.

D - Yeah that's good, because you had the songs written before you went in, which is not always the case. So you had the songs and sounds in mind? Or did the studio allow you to reshape your ideas?

F - Yeah, it would be like our ideas but he would how best to get them.

D - What are the most amount of guitars going at one time?

F - There is like a LOT on there.

D - Like the Sex Pistol had something like 35 guitars going at once at times.

F - Yeah, well all rhythm tracks are double tracks at a bare minimum. I think, though that the most that are going on most of the time is three probably. I mean, Michael is a really good guitar player, so you might think there are two guitars that are sonically compatible, but there is not. He's really good at using echo and retaining a note that works with another note.

D - Yes, I pick that up live.

M - I think there's one part in "the Space Needle" where there's three different guitar parts going and the double tracked rhythm.

D - Yeah, I didn't sense anything too crazy going on.

F- Yeah we didn't want to get too away from the live sound. Something where there were three incredible lines he'd like to do, but there's not way there's 25 guitars. And any time anyone says that, it's nonsense anyways. Like Billy Corgan using 100 guitars on one Smashing Pumpkins track. I mean, it sounds like three guitars. It just makes it worse to me if you are saying you used 50 guitars to sound like 3. We used one of J. Robbins' Beartone guitars.  What did you use?

M - I used a single coil, I used my Explorer, I used the Beartone for a couple things.

D - The songwriting... I am curious about that. Do you write together, add parts.

M - There's no easy answer. We have different approaches. Some songs come in that are... Francis will come in with a song that is pretty well written, like structured and then I will build around some and Stephanie and I will figure out how the two of us can build around that. And then there is some songs that we sort of jam out.

F - It's like you know, writing is weird. I love the way we do it and that is why I love being in this band. It is because I could say I wrote the song, but that is not what the song really is. When you are a three-piece and you are required to put in a performance. I think we all take pride that we are good musicians. If Michael writes a song or I write one... what might the legal definition of who writes it--like if he comes in with four riffs and a melody or the lyrics or something. But that's not to me what writing is. I wouldn't want to take credit for that, I don't either of us would.

M - We just try to be open minded, if someone brings in the idea, to try and build upon it.

F - When we were in college, there was a lot more of a 'this is the song' that Michael and I would come in with, you know. But every year, we've grown together, which is why it so fun writing now as we're writing a new record now. It's so fun to do because now it's all three of us have come so much closer that now we all know that anything we can do, like we can instrumentally do it.
D - So it has always been the three of you and how long have you been playing?

M - Fran and I started playing in 2004, the two of us working on songs.

S - I joined in the spring of 2005.

F - We had a different drummer for one day. And we were called the Casanovas then. But we met Stephanie the next winter, a burgeoning medium known as facebook had just started (laughter) and we were searching at William & Mary and their were only five people who had 'drummer' as an interest and she was the first person we contacted.

S - And the timing was just perfect because about 2-3 weeks after that drumming was no longer an interest of mine. So had it had not been there, they would have never found me.

F - We had a friend of ours play drums and all he could do was play snare drum. We couldn't believe he told us he could play drums. We were so desperate for just anyone.

S - Well, thanks. (laughter).

F - So she just came in and went (snare shot-high hat sound). We went fine, you're in, you're the drummer. Like if you can just do a little beat for half a second, that's fine.

S - And I have learned tremendous amount since then. I am the quintessential self-taught drummer. I took drum lessons one summer from a really good drummer, but that amounted to about five lessons and so I just played whenever I could. But being in this band has increased my abilities exponentially.

D - I would agree that you are good musicians and you can probably push each other upward because of that.

S - And we have just an amazing amount of chemistry being together for like seven years. That plays into the song writing aspect, too, where someone can say that's cool, keep going.

D - Now it has taken a while to put this record out and you have put it out yourselves, correct?

F - Yeah, we have a little label ourselves and we would like to try to put out other band's albums. There are cool bands we know of that we would like to try to organize.

D - It can be done, it's hard but still possible.

F - I think it can be done if you really believe. Did you see us play with a band called Disco Machine Gun?

D - Yes.

F - I really believe in that guy.

D - They were very good.

F - I would put my neck out for that band to work up CDs, mail them wherever because I have a passion for them.

D - Yeah, I just reviewed his Bottle Rocket ep which was very good, along with some other music. They are very, very good. You can really hear it on their records in addition to the live audience. Which is also true of your band now that the record is out. The quality of records that come out independently is just stunning, maybe even more than it used to be.

F - So we sat on the record for a while to see if there was any interest from labels and there was, but there was the label that puts out the Screaming Females (Don Giovanni Records), but they were like you know, we only under incredible circumstances will put out a band not from New Brunswick, New Jersey. And another one was like we can do this in 2013.

M - So it could have been worse.

F - But we are getting it played on college radio now...

D - Yeah, I mean if you do go to a higher level, bands tend to go to a public relations person as opposed to a label perhaps.

F - We did not really want to use a small label because we were probably going to do more work than they would and then it also took so long because we had delays with the art work, etc. The cover work was done by Michael's girlfriend who is a wonderful artist and the layout and the rest of the packaging was done by a woman named Mackie Osborne, who is Buzz Osborne's (Melvins) wife who has done some things for Tool and Bad Religion and I think she found the motif we were looking forward. She does a good job with old timey looking stuff. When you approach someone with 'I don't have a lot of money' and they give you an incredible discount on their services, then it can take you five or six months. You get unanswered emails... But we are happy with it. We had it mastered by Bob Weston of Shellac. That is another thing that took time. And we had production delays where the CD got made incorrectly.

M - Everything that went wrong...

S - Everything that could have gone wrong did go wrong.

M - Post the wonderful experience at the J. Robbins studio.

D - Yeah, we're getting more on the business side of things...

M - Yeah, like Fran just said, every single step of the way something came up, whether it was just us being low on the totem pole, or actual manufacturing problems. We still are awaiting the vinyl version which had problems with the lacquer. We were going to have that ready for the show, but hopefully for the next one.

D - Well, that was my next question.

F - That'll be cool, I'll send you one. Do you like vinyl?

D - That's a difficult question actually. Yes and no. I like to hold it and look at it, but I tend to play it once, record it and never touch it again because I hate scratches and pops so much. People talk about the warmth of the sound, but they wouldn't hear that on many of my old records (laughter). You see, I live in a condo and have over 2,000 records stuffed in every corner, so I kind of like it, but...

M - It is cool art.

D - It's funny, because I'm glad it is around and young people are picking up on it, I mean do you guys buy vinyl?

All - Yes.

F - I like to get downloads for IPODs, CDs, but I also like to have vinyl for the artwork. It is an art form.

D - That is the thing that people missed with it over the years, it's that big thing that you can hold and look at the art, because your art work is quite good...

M - I absolutely love that element of it.

F - Our vinyl release will have some things different than the CD, so it is a cool package.

D - Yeah, one music magazine will ask you 'are you vinyl, CD or MP3?' And it is all the above really.

M - Definitely.

S - My parents still have a huge record player from the 60s, so the next time I go home, if I ever buy vinyl, I can play it.

D - Ah, ok, is it like one of those big console things?

S - Yeah, it's like the size of this table.

D - That's the sort of thing I started with.

S - I mean that has me covered, and I do like the art like mentioned.

D - I would like you to discuss the music that inspired you earlier on, and as a younger (than me) band, I am interested in how you discover things going back before 'your time'.

S - I actually just recently started getting into that (older material). I know these guys have gotten into it longer than I have.

F - I did not get into music at all until I was 16. I had not interest at all, although I listened to embarrassing things (laughter). I had no interest until I saw AC/DC play. I had never really listened to their songs before. I didn't actually know them. My parents listened to music and my friends were into Nirvana in like 3rd or 4th grade, but I did not really have the musical upbringing.

D - So you did not play anything at that point.

F - I did not play anything then, but I heard it and I thought that's really cool. I really like that, it's awesome and I just became obsessed with AC/DC. I was on their message board at all times and then I got obsessed with classic rock, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, basically the hard rock. Then I heard Rush for the first time, I thought that was really cool. I am not sure you really know at the time what a bass was, although I guess I did, but once I heard Geddy Lee, I thought that was really cool, And nobody really plays the bass, everybody plays guitar, so I'll play that and my parents thought it was a good idea. I got one when I was a senior, didn't know how to play it for a while and then just kind of kicked around by myself for a while and then I played in sort of a death metal band for a couple of summers and then Michael and I started playing while we were in college, kind of messing around in a little jam band. We were friends, much better friends now, but he kind of inspired me to do it more, take it more seriously and ever since then I don't go a day without playing.
D - OK, sounds good, Michael?

M - I guess everyone has stages, but for me the part about going back and discovering stuff... if it is going back aways, that comes from listening to stuff with my Dad. I started listening to things like the Beatles, Led Zeppelin and Neil Young from my Dad and then even when I was really little, he would get early U2 at a very small age. So for me, I was interested in music since I was very young, but I could not perceive playing it. But when I got to be a teenager I got introduced to things like the Smiths, the Cure and then once those things were n place, for me, it's now like a scavenger hunt to find out things I'm not familiar with. It's so idiosyncratic from band to band. You'll read a review and it will compare a band that you know and like to X band and you then seek it out and you may like it as much, so you connect the dots.

D - That brings me to your mention of Disco Machine Gun. Do you network with other bands through social media or do you meet them one by one as you play with them at a show?

S - Definitely, social media is used. It started with Myspace until that go not really usable. But things like Twitter we use a lot--Michael does most of our Twitter. We'll consistently get 5-10 new followers a day by just constantly putting our stuff out there. And then the way we got shows, in the beginning a lot, was staying in touch via email and now Facebook.

F - Yeah, I mean the Internet does involve a lot of social media. It's nice that now Facebook, formerly Myspace, that  every band has the page that looks pretty much the same and that you can find email addresses. It is a very efficient way of connecting. If everyone had a web site, that would be fine, too, but not everyone has a website. But we are only close with bands that we have played with.

M - The bands that I know where I feel connected with are the bands I've seen live and have followed like the bands we've played with and was smitten after seeing them live.

S - It just depends on whether we choose to stay in touch with bands, that we would like to play with.

D - Yeah, I have seen with you other good bands that you have set up to play with. I say the same thing about a band like the Mostly Dead. So you have a good ear to get  good bands with you on the bill.

F - We do have impeccable taste (laughter)

D - What about playing out now. Are you going to try to get more out of town shows.

F - South by Southwest. We are doing that in March and we are doing that with Sweet Tea Pumpkin Pie if you know that showcase they have.

D - Yes.

F - And we just had that offered.

S - Two or three weeks ago.

F - Yeah, and that's a lot to do, so we're scrambling around and trying to get other shows. So far we have another show in San Antonio, one in Houston, a radio interview in San Antonio...

M - KSYM in San Antonio

F - College radio, they were really positive about our record. Then potentially, we might play in Nashville or Alabama, or Atlanta or Charlotte, hopefully one or two of those. Some people are really positive and a lot of people, while others... But some people are really helpful. So we're gonna do that in March and there might be some shows in April.. Philly, New York, Disco Machine Gun and us may do some show trades.

D - Is New York the furthest north you've played?

F - We've played Northampton, MA.

D - Cool, I have friends there...

M - It's not expensive in east coast, so we cover from Atlanta, Georgia to Northampton.  But now we'll go out to Texas.

F - What I would really like to do is go to Chicago, maybe Cleveland, Chicago, even if that's it. I have some cousins that follow us out there and I would love to get out there.

D - Great music town (where I used to live). I used to know bands from there.

S - Big Black.

D - I go on to tell a long story about John Haggerty, Santiago Durango,  the recent SLF show, and all my various connections in Chicago... Articles of Faith, Effigies, Steve Bjorklund, etc.

We talk further about how they all have a great time playing together and can't imagine doing anything else. I said then and say now that it is quite evident that these three can create great music together and the positive attitudes are evident.