Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Drew Gibson - Freedy Johnston - Tom Freund -- Iota - Jul 30 2012

Tom Freund - This Venice California folkie has a few tricks up his sleeve. Yes, he plays the harmonica and the ukulele in addition to the acoustic guitar--we have seen all that before. But he also plays a couple of songs on stand-up bass which I thought were the outstanding moments of the set. The rest of his original songs were good as he had an easy going style and wry sense of humor. He reminded me of Joe Walsh for some reason (perhaps a friend seeing Walsh recently is to blame), as there was the relaxed California style working. He had a bass player join him for many songs, although the arrangements were kept pretty simple. Personally, his covers did not seem needed. The George Harrison was fine, but the Pete Townshend bored me (but virtually no one else in the audience truth be told). This was a nice set, but I do need to comment on a couple of logistical issues. At 61 minutes (with encore), it does not appear to be an 'opening set' of a three-act billing. Sure enough, not only did people leave before the local de facto headliner, but they also left before and during the middle set. The show did not start particularly late at 8:22, but there may have been some things that could have been done differently to make for a smoother show.

Freedy Johnston - Kansan born folk singer songwriter Freedy Johnston has had a steady and successful career. This is my first time seeing him perform and I was not disappointed. He has an awkward but commanding presence on stage with him stopping songs to go unplugged at the corner of the stage to direct his song to one couple. His chatter was amusingly disjointed like some sort of mad professor from Vanderbilt. But when he dished out his songs, all was composed and assured. The songs varied from heartland folk to deep contemplative songs. I found the latter quite effective as they reminded me some of Mac MacLeod. Johnston thankfully jumped up on stage quickly after the previous set, but seemed to determined to finish every song he planned in spite of a broken string and went for 67 minutes. He even apologized to Drew Gibson as he was cutting into his time. But for the music, it was engaging and effective.

Drew Gibson - Fortunately about 15 people stayed for most of the final set of the evening. Drew Gibson is a fine are songwriter who will play solo or with full band. Tonight, he had a drummer, bass player, and steel guitar player. I have written a few times previously that I believe Drew Gibson's songs to be every bit as good as many of the touring folk acts (tonight included) and nothing changed with the set tonight. I focused more on the band and was quite pleased to see how talented they were. Collectively, they had the ability to lock in and know how to stay in the background to allow a focus on the story of the song when that was required or to bring it up a notch and showcase their abilities in a longer groove. The steel player had the ability to solo like a slide guitarist and even a regular guitarist with a delicate touch. Bass playing was solid and kept the fluidity going all set long. I particularly like the drummer's right hand--a Richie Albright right-hand as my childhood drummer friend would say. He used to work hard to emulate (long time Waylon Jennings drummer) Albright's quick right hand. This drummer had the quickness and a rhythmic pulse working to a high degree here. They all put it together well and Drew Gibson was in fine voice and provided a great set.

Quote of the Night: "that was slightly jazz" from Freedy Johnston as he screwed up a guitar run and used the classic excuse Richard Thompson always uses when he hits a wrong chord.

Monday, July 30, 2012

John Wesley Harding -- Jammin Java - Jul 29 2012

John Wesley Harding - "My new theory is that we do not have to record these shows, tweet about them, or write about them online. We can keep them to ourselves because they are ours." Well... as much as I really do like this theory, on to the review. And my review can be used as a minor document of current journalism, a tiny particle of history, a point of comparison for music lovers, or a reminder of the fun of coming to these events and creating your own memories and position as patron of whatever arts you support. This two hour John Wesley Harding (Wesley Stace) show is a good memory for me as it was the first time I have seen him where I quickly learned what an engaging performer he is. It is not too surprising, as his songs are good, he is creative enough to also have written two novels, and he has been around a while. He played lots of new songs such as his opener, "I can't Make Love to Bob Dylan" which was very fun with lines like "I can lie on my back to Roberta Flack, but..." There is a Neil Innes quality to many of the songs, but he has some strong songwriting chops that head in the direction of Robyn Hitchcock or John Prine. Those are rather tall mountains, and he does not quite get there, but he leaves many other singer songwriters well behind the path upward. He explained his songs were really short and the Dylan song would be a 12" single with this really thick groove, maybe the loudest cut vinyl record since "Oh Bondage, Up Your" by X-Ray Spex. I hope a few of these folkies remember that one, as it gave me a good laugh. He was surprised how the time was flying by, but when you play engaging songs, tell great stories, use humor, the two hours did fly by, unlike a 35 minute set of a lesser talent. There was a touch of harmonica, but mostly a great voice, and good acoustic guitar work that was mostly picked. He did a few finger style moves, stopping to remind us that he had never played one passage as well as we just heard. He took some requests although could not do many of them. He joked that he wouldn't do a request where the guy got the title wrong, but added the last time he tried that joke, some guy wrote a 3,000 word blog entry on what a dick he was. I think I will stop short of that length by saying this was a fun time featuring great music and conversation that I will surely catch again. And I agree with his recommendation that we all come back to this club in September when he opens for the Acoustic Strawbs. He is doing a whole tour with them, as he is a big fan. No surprise that he has excellent taste as well.

Quote of the Night: Shout from the audience... "Are we allowed to ask for requests?"
JWH: "That in itself, is a request."

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Kwame Darko - DZD - Marco -- Rock'n'Roll Hotel - Jul 27 2012

Marco - A sizable Friday night crowd is here to greet this five-piece ensemble. I believe the acoustic guitarist/lead vocalist is Marco, who assisted by a female back-up singer, bass, drums, and keys. He also plays three solo songs with his band watching. These acoustic numbers may have been interesting, but the loud Friday night audience was severely limiting what made it to my ear. The songs are mostly mainstream pop and simple singer songwriter styled music. It is not bad for what it is, but I really don't listen to this much, so I don't have a whole lot to compare it to. If anyone wants the grouchy old guy commentary, send me an email, as I was wondering why I didn't double dip tonight and start at the Red Palace. At least the last number did show a little promise with its nice hook as it finished off this 26 minute set.

DZD - Stiff Little Fingers have a song called Roots, Radicals, Rockers, and Reggae. This local band covers three of those bases quite well. There is nothing at all radical about their sound as it is extremely comforting Friday night party music. But I did like the rock and reggae combination with nice searing guitar solos and a lot of energy in the rhythms and singing. These guys have a fiery fun-filled personality and it translates very well to a surprisingly crowded room (about as many as last night's powerful show here at this club). There are two vocalists who work well together and all the instrumentalists are nicely locked in. These guys clearly have the energy and skill to put on a great weekend show with an audience looking to cut loose. It will be interesting to see if they can continue to develop their personalities in the music and grab hold of a rabid core audience. It just might happen.

Kwame Darko - I could not last this evening, so I missed this rapper. I really need an intern to help with my schedule.

Quote of the Night: From Dennis the sound man after the first set... "Quite a contrast from last night, huh?" Quite, earplugs gathering dust tonight.

Friday, July 27, 2012

A Place to Bury Strangers - Hunters - Black Clouds -- Rock'n'Roll Hotel - Jul 26 2012

Black Clouds - A local power trio gets things underway with heavy sounds cut with some synth overtones lurking in the background. Even when it is just the three instruments, things are thick and heavy with the musical din created here. It is all instrumental, save for a vocal sample in the last number. The band keeps things interesting with enough shifts in the songs. I also liked the guitarist's sound where he would hit low chords with a deep crunch, but could also cut to a shimmering highs. The set did not have as dramatic and mannered a buildup as that of Tone or Mono, but these guys would be great additions to those bills, or right here before tonight's headliner. This is a fine foreshadowing of the things to come and the growing crowd was into it.

Hunters - This New York quartet features guitar, bass, drums, and a female vocalist. The guitarist also adds some vocals. They instantly made me think of an alternative history where Arri Up joined Wire and sang atop of their fastest and loudest songs. This was classic punk with just a bit of experimental touches as opposed to post-punk. It rocked and was a fun little blast. I think they were smart by keeping the songs coming fast and furious and ending it in 22 minutes. It was never boring and was surprisingly effective between two bands that take a different approach while employing the same basic principles being assertive and loud.

A Place to Bury Strangers - I really enjoyed their set prior to the Joy Formidable earlier this year and had many good things to say about their album last month, so it was a no-brainer in deciding to come to the show tonight. This New York trio has been here enough times to establish a solid fan base and they turned out tonight, nearly filling the club. They were treated to the usual great sound that balances shoegaze, psyche, and heavy rock. The vocals were deep in the mix but quite effective in adding to the character of the song. They did get a little too deep late in the set as the volume seemed to creep up a bit. The light show was not quite as effective, particularly in the projections, but they still had some of their great backlighting where the shadowy images enhance the music greatly. Some of the songs (perhaps of the new album that experimented a bit more than usual) sounded like a crazed pre-Joy Division Warsaw, which is a very good thing to my ears. They have the dynamics in the songs and can really nail heavy freak-out shoegaze moments as good as anybody. It continues to be a treat to see this band as it is a band you will want to see live. Thankfully, they appear to be willing road warriors, so I expect to do this again soon.

Blog of the Night: Just a quick plug for an old friend of mine, Jeff Wilson, who got back in touch with me after I got lost in my moves some 20 years ago. He was a college friend who was a music lover in the extreme. His forte was jazz and he exposed me to all kinds of great music such as Coltrane, Sam Rivers, Anthony Braxton, and David Murray. I in turn, gave him the lowdown on punk and post-punk (which was an easy enough sell with his Velvet Undrground album snuck into that great jazz collection of his). We created a few issues of a fanzine in order to shake up the dreary musical lives of Miami University students back in 1980, which got us both started in our musical writings. I am so happy that Jeff continues to write about music for magazines, newspapers and now his own blog, Gaslight Property (also about the Cincinnati neighborhood he lives in). He posted my write-up on my favorite concert at Bogarts and even wrote up an interview in his mid-July postings. So check out his blog if you want intelligent and passionate writing about jazz and rock music with an occasional Cincinnati perspective.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Apache Relay - The Kin -- Jammin Java - Jul 25 2012

The Kin - This NYC trio (two via Adelaide, Australia) is first to go on, although I would consider this more of a double headliner bill. Look for my interview with this band some time within a week or so (if my recorder worked well enough), as I had a fun chat with them before the show. The two brothers play keyboards and guitar and both handle all the vocals trading off some leads. Their songs are smartly balanced between classic pop, gutsy rock, and singer songwriter style. They sound amazingly fresh, yet manage to avoid settling for trendier indie rock patterns or Americana comfort (well there may be a reason for that, but there are quite a few Americana bands on foreign shores). And, oh yeah, their drummer is pretty amazing as well. He plays a modified kit with a large drum he straddles and several cymbals, with everything struck by hand. It was clear at the outset that these guys have played in DC several times as the crowd of 70 or so was packed up close to the stage digging deep into this music. The crowd may have swelled to about 90 by set's end and were some of the most attentive listeners I have seen in a while. The band came out into the crowd using only voice, acoustic guitar, and a clipboard for percussion. The crowd sang along and playing four songs in this manner only added to the energy of the set. But it was back on stage to plug back in until they closed with an explosive rocker. Vocals were excellent, drums were original and very cool, guitar parts rocked, and keyboards/key bass held the melodies together. They have the skill, personality, and the songs to attract a lot of diverse music lovers. This was a tune-up show of sorts as they had back to New York for a residency at the Rockwood Music Hall. Their autumn tour will bring them back right here on October 9th. I plan on being here.

Apache Relay - This Nashville band is six-strong with loads of guitars, well two or sometimes three anyway. They also feature keys, mandolin, and a violin quite often, along with a rhythm section. This is the rootsy, Americana, indie sound that is pretty prevalent these days. The great thing about this band is that they don't shy away from heavy sounds to match the vocal intensity. They rock hard in an even sort of way. They remind me a lot of the National and the Decemberists at their more straightforward rock moments. My only complaint is that my fondness for their sound wore off toward the end of the set as they didn't vary things enough or show any of the dynamic shifts in songwriting that helps create a bit of excitement for the listener. This is not a deal breaker, though, as they had enough talent to keep me hanging in there. And the violin always keeps my alertness up. Definitely a good band, but it will be interesting to see if they can take it up a notch and become a great band.

Quote of the Night: "Oh so that's why he has so many fingers taped up!" from me, seeing the Kin's famous street drummer bash away at those cymbals.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Greg Ginn & the Royal We - Cinema Cinema -- Paperhaus - Jul 24 2012

Greg Ginn & the Royal We - That people actually pay big money to see Henry Rollins talk and only handfuls pay pocket change to see Greg Ginn play guitar will forever be a mystery to me. Thankfully, Ginn continues on, long after the Black Flag days, to keep playing in his unique style. I saw him in Denver four years ago to even a smaller crowd than what was assembled in the Paperhaus living room tonight. That time he had a mandolin player and drummer with backing tracks and visuals. Now it is just him with the backing tracks and visuals. Sadly, the computer cut out on him in the three songs that followed the opening instrumental. So after 22 minutes, he cut it off and allowed his touring partners to play as he had planned to play a second set after their set anyway. So more on that set later, but first...

Cinema Cinema - We have a guitar/drums duo from Brooklyn up. The guitarist adds some hard edged vocals that try to keep up with the amazing mayhem these guys cook up. They remind me a bit of John Brannon's Easy Action crossed with a crazed Japanese metal band (pick your favorite). Not quite that sort of clean power in the vocals, but loads of power and speed in the playing. The riffs are flying and there is some distinction in the songs, noisy but structured. There is some looping but even when it is just the two sounds of guitar and drums, they have an amazing thickness to them. I may have been a bit worn down at the 46 minute mark as their set ended, but once I recovered, I really have to admire these guys. They tour a lot with Greg Ginn and hopefully that will happen again or they will just pop down here on their own some time. Hvy fans, take note.

Greg Ginn & the Royal We - Backing bands can offer serious problems with drugs, alcohol, attitudes, but the computerized Royal We also had its temperamental fits during the first set. No problems in the latter set as it locked in perfectly with beats, keys, and some bass. The thick and melodic sounds allowed Greg Ginn to add textural guitar parts and theremin sounds into fun patterns. This set was over an hour and was never tiring to me as there was always a great groove established. This is some of the more intricate drone work you will hear in a post Frippian way. Even when he was in Black Flag or Gone, his style was 'out there' compared to his peers creating music much less predictable than what people expected. He is still challenging listeners, although this was quite an agreeable sumptuous sound. I chuckled when I read Allmusic's description of the latest album as they got it right by describing it in basic terms and adding a 'but it's not...' clause to everything they were trying to say. It is exactly that comfort/contrast dynamic that was so effective tonight. One of the hardest touring guitarists ever has still got the chops, the creativity, and is still on the road. Hopefully that will continue.

Quote of the Night: Well, it was a quiet day and night for me, so I'll reprint something from Football365.com.  Former Futball star who has been on the ManU injury list for much of the last couple of years, Michael Owen, had an open Q+A on twitter and got these questions...

'Where do you get your tickets from for the match? I see you every week and they're good seats in the crowd.'

'I'm expecting a parcel on Thursday, would you be able to sit in for me while I'm out? I have Racing UK & ATR & my sofa's leather?'

'What's your favourite sport: football or shooting peasants?'

'Should more footballers support the ailing UK print industry by commissioning glossy promotional brochures?'

'What is the plural of octopus??'

'Have you been injured in an accident that wasn't your fault?'

'If a plane leaves at 8:53am & another at 9:32am both travelling at 532mph, at what point would you realise you're still a bellend?'

'Have you ever considered retiring and admitting that you actually hate football? Or taken Ketamine? Or w*nked off a horse?'

Monday, July 23, 2012

Andrew Grossman - Annie & the Beekeepers - John Heart Jackie -- Velvet Lounge - Jul 22 2012

John Heart Jackie - Portland, Oregon bands seem to be reversing Horace Greely's advice lately, as yet another two west coast musicians are here in DC, for their first time. They are man and woman on guitars and voices with some keyboards in a few songs and a couple of very minor rhythm tracks used, as they have a fuller band relaxing out west. They commanded the stage immediately with a quiet intensity that caressed the crowd right into their world of thoughtful slightly psychedelic folk music. The guitars had that same ethereal ringing quality that I find in the Welsh star, Meic Stevens. Their sound is quite reminiscent of his work with Heather Jones. The music is not steeped in Celtic tradition, however, but I also can not really call it Americana although the local roots show through. Their delicate touch with the vocals is what was quite amazing here and kept everyone transfixed throughout their 45 minute set. The crowd swelled to 35 or more and rarely have I seen such a quietly intense audience. They covered the Stevie Nicks song "Wild Heart" after dramatically urging everyone to listen to "Storms" which brought a few laughs. They succeeded in keeping the set fun with lots of drama and intensity in the songs, all with a light approach. Tight-wire walking can be quite elegant.

Annie & the Beekeepers -  This NY (via Mass) quartet is a perfect match for the opening band as they too showcase outstanding vocal work atop a folk rock base. They have the basic band format with rhythm section and a couple of guitars, electric and acoustic. Some of the bass is on stand-up and all four of them contribute to the lush, hearty vocals, although Annie Lynch handles the lead. There is definitely a stronger Americana folk sound here that never quite hits country. I'll steal the comparison to the Be Good Tanyas, offered by the Boston Globe, as it makes perfect sense. Really solid all the way through their 42 minutes with vocals that rivaled the Fleet Foxes on occasion. The crowd was about 50 or so by now and clearly dug these sounds. I am sure many of them will be back when they celebrate their album release just next month at the Kennedy Center.

Andrew Grossman - Andrew is in the guitarist/vocalist for a local outfit called the North Country. He goes it solo tonight. Alas, it is late, so the crowd thins down to about 12-15 or so, but they are treated to a really nice set. His guitar style is quite accomplished with a finger picking/strumming combination that is quite fluid. He has a few effects to allow himself to head off to outer space, but keeps a firm hold on the folk based songs. I imagine a few of them are simply solo takes on his band's songs. He does offer plenty of new material, though, so he can be as creative as he likes with that and no one would be the wiser. He offered a lovely version of Gershwin's "Summertime" which I will never get tired of. This was a great night of music and I would certainly like to see North Country some time soon, as well as the other two bands together or paired up with the many other thoughtful folk-rockers out there.

Quote of the Night - From the openers... "We played that in New York the other day and someone yelled 'that was really hot!' Really? It was two folkies harmonizing. I mean most people say that was sweet, lovely, but hot? But it was all fine--he bought a t-shirt."

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Riverbreaks - Megaphone Barons - Kalob Griffin Band -- Red Palace - Jul 20 2012

Kalob Griffin Band - I first encountered this Philadelphia quintet a couple of years ago and enjoyed their opening set then. They hit the ground running tonight with a powerhouse piano and crisp drumming. Eventually the bass player shows off some great runs and the electric guitar/banjo/mandolin player has some nice sonic interventions as well. It is all fronted by KG on acoustic guitar and vocals. He brings a great down-home folk rock style to his songs and the band really brings it all to life. They banged out 43 minutes of rootsy, occasional hard-driving songs that had myself and the 40-odd people here thoroughly absorbed the entire time. Rousing fun and being that they have only been around since 2009, an impressive sharpening of their skills since the last time around. They will stay on my radar.

Megaphone Barons - This local trio features a drum kit with some electronic drum wiring, keyboards, and acoustic guitar. Early on, I hear the keyboard handling bass lines and guitarist adding some fuzz, so I am thinking they have a full sound covered. As the set went on, however, things were a little too thin. The keyboards and drums had a light, airy Augustus Pablo feel to them with the guitar a little more restrained than I expected. These are nice sounds but they were not coming together tonight. The vocals and songs were decent, although the endings were often rather anti-climactic. The crowd was pretty much into their own world with the usual conversational buzz during the songs and little response between. There is something unique about this band, but it was not working tonight and perhaps they should not have been in between a couple of powerhouse bands. I will predict their upcoming Jammin Java show will go better for them.

The Riverbreaks - I have followed this local band for a while now and have found their slick, professional heartland sound to be something worth coming back to. The sound was a little off the last time I saw them, so I hoped for more of the old intensity form shows past. And they delivered tonight. The club was nearly full which attests to both their accessibility and talents. Not even some amusing flubs by the main singer-songwriter early on slowed them down--getting rid of the rust after not playing for four months. The sound was more balanced tonight. I did feel the electric guitar was a little low, but it was an interesting choice as the music sounded more like a polished record than that of a normal live set with amps cranked up to 11. So ultimately they convinced me that this was a good approach and the keyboards and violin had plenty of room to shine along with the solid rhythm section. They received a deserved rousing reception and came back with a couple of encores to finish off their 52-minute set. They were celebrating their new single that was recorded with Chris Stamey in North Carolina. I could not imagine a more perfect choice for them, so they clearly have a great vision for where they want to take their music. I look forward to the full length record and, of course, will be taking in this live set again some time.

New York story of the night... I visited my brother's family in the NYC area this week and we had planned to take in the Refused and Off! at an outdoor show in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. A massive storm came in and we took refuge in a bar/restaurant to eat something and see if the show was happening. Even though it was advertised 'rain or shine', a lightening strike canceled it. The bands decided to put on a free show at a near-by club. We headed for the line but were clearly not the first to hear about this show, as my brother correctly deduced that this was the downside of the on-line network (would have been ok if not for the message he received ending up in his Spam folder). The rain had cleared and it would have been a great outdoor show. But alas, the club was not big enough for everyone. They initially cut off the line about 25 people behind us, telling them that there was no way they could get in. All of us near-by quickly understood that we were not out of danger. Sure enough, when they passed out tickets, they ran out about 25-30 people ahead of us. Bad luck, but it was an odd little adventure fully documented and photographed here at the Brooklyn Vegan. Williamsburg is a cool little community that I would not mind spending more time in and the crowd was pretty relaxed about what was going on. Kudos to the crowd, bands, and club for putting this together.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Blankus Larry - Guantanamo Baywatch - Sad Bones -- Jul 14 2012

Sad Bones - A rare return to Comet Ping Pong for me will allow me to review three bands and a club which I do not enjoy. Reason one, is that this twin guitar four-piece 'starts' the evening at 10:30pm. Generally if my evening is not already roaring with excitement or at least active involvement with something by this time, I may as well focus on bedtime.  But I have made it to the club after a hot sweaty walk from a not-so nearby Metro station, so we are underway. The band plays a tight 30 minutes with plenty of power and volume. The style is energized hardcore music with a nice guitar swirl that elevated this a bit. Some songs were catchy, most were not. Fair enough effort, but nothing stood out enough for me.

Guantanamo Baywatch - After a 35 minute break for some reason, this Portland based power trio hits the stage. They start with a very cool crazed surf instrumental. The sound also has a very harsh echo in this room which dragged down the last band a bit, I felt. Here, it was absorbed a bit more into the sound, but a better room/PA would have provided a stronger core to the crazed guitar sounds. They add vocals now and then, which are some of the more throwaway vocals I have yet heard. The instrumentals are much better as they really achieve a nice garbage-garage sound. It's a bit like the earliest Meat Puppets sound done in a surf manner. They sound a bit more like their older neighbors, the Monomen. This is a very intriguing band if the sound had been better.

Blankus Larry - This local quartet is releasing some new tunes and asked me to come out to the show if I could, although they knew my issues with this club. Kudos to them for remembering, as this is not one the usual things I whine about. It is getting late and I am getting tired, but they snapped me back to attention with a powerful swampy rock song. They are managing their sound quite well tonight with their understanding of dynamics. There is a great combination of a Bo Diddley style rhythm sections on drums and stand-up bass crossed with a couple of guitars that are careening away in the manner of Gun Club or Slim Cessna. I also like the restrained vocal manner that reminds me a bit in timbre of the singer for the Black Angels. I don't know why I keep thinking this is such a simple likable band, when in fact they can really bang out such great thoughtful songs. Sadly, I didn't last the full length of the set as it was getting late and I had some morning errands to do. I took a less sweaty walk to the Metro about 1am only find people yelling at the person in the booth as she did not know when the next train would get here as there was no contact. I backed my way up and took a cab home. I wish I would have driven, but I did not trust these minor dizzy spells I was having. Oh well, I won't be repeating this journey too often as it will take some super high quality music and arm twisting to get me back. At least there was some engaging music tonight, I will grant them that. And I will certainly be looking out for the next Blankus Larry show.

Quote of the Night: On the Metro escalator... "She feels like she just got into a hot tub with five dudes."

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Baby Grand - Sinnet - Presto Bando -- Velvet Lounge - Jul 13 2012

Presto Bando - This is the second straight time they appeared as a two-piece. Curse the real world with job requirements and all that nonsense. Hopefully their bass player will return for their Black Cat show early next month. As was the case last time, there was still plenty to enjoy although it sounded a fraction thinner than at the house show they previously played at. But once the wild vocals kicked in, drums and guitar were enough backing to keep things rolling. Some new material crept in along with plenty of old favorites. Any regular reader knows that I always enjoy this band, but it is fun to see a few new faces get off on one of the most unique offerings we have on the stages in DC.
Sinnet - From Boston (with connections to Milwaukee) comes this twin guitar quartet on their first tour. One guitarist handles the lead vocals and also moves over to keyboards now and then. My first impressions are that of a soulful indie rock band that knows what they are doing. But during the nicely composed opening number, they explode with an instrumental break that comes straight out of Sonic Youth (might as well, they aren't doing it anymore). The next cut had a speedy tempo with a nice pop groove working. They range from quirky rhythms to focused power as they play on. The band continues with some really creative instrumental flourishes and keep the 25-30 listeners on edge throughout their 35 minute set. This could be DMZ members mixing with Birdsongs of the Mesozoic covering Feelies songs... or not. Whatever you hear in here, this is music you'll want to hear again. Although it appears they are experienced pros, it is early in their career as Sinnet, so hopefully this is the start of something.

The Baby Grand - Speaking of early in the career, the four youthful faces here (along with a few x'ed hands) are also in the early stages of their musical life. But they have been around a bit and do show plenty of polish. They are musically straightforward with strong acoustic guitar rhythms, busy lead guitar work, and a strong rhythm section. It is pretty much straight down the middle, earnest rock music that could fit comfortably aside many styles of rock music, thanks in part to the energetic playing. There are a couple ways this could go. They could find a bit more creative twists and turns and excite listeners like me more, or they could continue on their path with sharpened songwriting and capture a more mainstream crowd. They sound like they could be good enough to do either, but we'll have to wait and see what creative juices next start to flow.

Quote of the Night: From The Baby Grand... "Can you turn down the monitor for the drums? Everything, he's going deaf... and he's selfish. He just wants to hear himself."

Friday, July 13, 2012

Alberta Cross - Everest - Aaron Lee Tasjan -- Rock'n'Roll Hotel - Jul 13 2012

Aaron Lee Tasjan - Alberta Cross's lead guitarist starts things off with a brisk 22-minute set featuring a rather amazing display of sounds from his acoustic guitar. He began with a thumb and light finger picked song that featured loops and enough echo for his single notes to float into chords. His singing is solid, not otherworldly but effective. The second song had more forceful picking and rocked the 35 plus people here with a Jimmy Page-like solo. Finally, an acoustic guitarist that can hold this stage. He follwed that with a couple of folkier cuts, one with an American feel, the other a bit more like Roy Harper. One more step on the fuzz pedal and he left with a flourish. I am happy he did double duty tonight.

Everest - Three guitars, bass, and drums will give anyone a good clue on what is to come. They also start out with some three-part harmony moves before one guitarist takes over much of the singing. Yes, they rock and feature creative moves tucked into comfortable patterns. They have a surprising ferocity to what otherwise could fit into either a modern style indie sound or even a classic 70s rock sound ala Blue Oyster Cult even. The singer puts down the guitar at times and plays an acoustic as well, while another guitarist moves over to keyboards on occasion (again, ala Blue Oyster Cult). Actually, I am thinking a sophisticated Crazy Horse sound describes this well, although the band seems tighter than that. These guys can clearly play and lock in well. No surprise to see someone in the crowd 'flash the horns' as these guys have put out the energy every bit as well as the better punk or metal bands. There was a bit of a lull late in the 57 minute set, but they did manage to vary the songs a bit which ultimately is a positive when you play that long. The strong jamming finish ended things as they had begun, and they made some new friends and fans in what was now a pretty full room.

Alberta Cross - I saw these guys a number of times at the Black Cat and the 9:30 Club but that was long ago. Since I enjoyed them quite a bit, it was time to see if anything has changed. It looks and sounds pretty similar actually, although with some member changes as the core is simply the singer/guitarist and the bass player. They have keys and drums and the fine lead guitarist we have previously seen. They mixed in old tunes with plenty from their new album and everything still fit into their outsider's take on Americana. Songwriter Petter Ericson Stakee spent time in Sweden and London with the bass player also from England. But they have lived in the Brooklyn musical melting pot for some time and there is something just a bit exotic with their music even if the roots are not obvious (at least to me). They certainly pair well with Everest as they also can rock, although their is just a touch more American blues and folk in here. They banged out a full 70 minutes of music and encored with a Rolling Stones number and left the crowd happy. It is nice to see them still at it as they have proven to me that they have a lot to offer, both on stage and on their fine recordings.

Plug of the Night: The new issue of Folkworld is up with plenty of reprintings of shows reviewed here along with hundreds of CD reviews not featured here. There is a ton of material in English and German, so if you like world folk music, check it out.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Taxpayers - The Wild - The Harrison Four -- Black Cat - Jul 11 2012

The Harrison Four - This area trio plays fairly typical modern punk. They of course have the requisite energy and occasionally establish a decent hook, but it is all the sort of thing you've heard before. I was first thinking mid-80s, but it's probably even more modern sounding than that. There was the ska song. I was glad to see the guitarist wince at the beginning of his first solo run, as I was also wincing. He got it together, but the power chords were the place this was going to work. Some of the bass runs were good. There was a good crowd of over 50 who enjoyed this well enough as most of them were far too young to hear the bands I have heard in this genre. The three guys seemed quite nice and on the basis of their sometimes awkward banter (and occasional insight) and they appear to be fairly bright. I fear I would need to hear something beyond all of this if I were to return.

The Wild - The Pogues are the mightiest of oaks with acorns that have spread into a forest worth of trees that span the globe. This Atlanta quintet is one of the stronger trees that has picked up on the style and attitude, yet they are firmly rooted in the south. Just as the Street Dogs take this to their Boston extremes with their brand of gutsy punk music, the Wild does the same here in this 32-minute set. They sound like a hootenanny gone mad with plenty of rustic rootsy flourishes played with punk speed and power. The lead guitarist is deft enough to do many cool things within the upscale tempos, which really impressed me (and most everyone else in the now 60+ crowd). They even have both singers blast some harmonica which blends in well and does not head into overkill as there is so much volume elsewhere--even a bit too much as stage volume nearly gets out of hand early, but feedback was ultimately controlled. This was excellent material delivered with great energy and skill. I always make time for a band like this.

The Taxpayers - From Portland, Oregon comes this intriguing combination of guitars, bass, drums, trumpet, and accordion. They also play punk music with a touch of rootsy sounds, but it is more in a crazed power pop manner with all kinds of interesting sounds grabbing sonic space. Their banner said it all with a simple statement of "Goof Punx". Hmm... this is perhaps the first time I have seen a band define its genre in its backdrop. No matter, as the crazy fun continued and they were able to match the energy levels established previously. They really got the crowd going as well, and instructed all of us on how to do a bobsledding race dance or something like that. "You in the back, you'll lose the race." Yeah, ok, that is my cross to bear I suppose. Then they had a do-se-do song. Sorry, I gave that up after 8th Grad gym class where the two non-integrated (sexually as it was pre Title IX) gym classes combined for square dance lessons which was clearly an attempt to indoctrinate adolescents into the concept of dating the opposite sex. Oh the chills of those days. But the real point here is that this band was very good at their approach and very successful with the young crowd. And I am quite happy to a great crowd enjoying this unique performance.

Quote of the Night: From the Taxpayers talking about visiting the Smithsonian... "Does anyone know who George Reeves is?"
Apparently me and one other guy did (wonder if he knew he was in Gone with the Wind).
"That's right he was the original Superman whose outfit was in the Smithsonian"
Well, actually Kirk Alyn preceded him in a serial version a few years earlier. My Mom met him and I have an autograph picture around here somewhere. Also George Reeves committed suicide, or did he?

Monday, July 9, 2012

Tangerine Dream -- Howard Theatre - July 8 2012

Tangerine Dream - I need to offer my thanks to the uber-hot debut of the band Boston for my interest in Tangerine Dream. Back when I was in high school, Boston had sold out the Cincinnati arena they were playing on their initial tour. That did not deter 'the three Daves' from wanting to go. I found a guy at school who had a ticket but couldn't go, so he sold it to me for the face value of $5 or $6 (What did Radiohead cost again?). We did the hour drive to Cincinnati to see if we could buy a couple more tickets. Turned it out it was a sellers market with a hundred people combing the area looking for a seller. We gave up and I sold my ticket to the second person I responded to for $20 (the first couldn't afford $15). With this massive profit, we went out and got some chicken and then it was off to the record store to gamble on records I have not heard. I picked up "Stratosfear" and wore down the grooves by burning this into my skull. I have always liked this German synth band since, but I have not had the chance to see them until now. I find that odd since I have seen Kraftwerk and even Hans-Joachim Roedelius  here in DC before this.

On to the show... Edgar Froese is of course the center piece of the band. He has worked with another synth player for a while and has assembled four additional players on Percussion, Cello/Violin, Guitar, Keys/Saxes/Flute. There sound (and their look) was carefully controlled, but with some nice variations. A lot of different players and instruments came to the forefront depending on the arrangement. And did their guitarist ever take advantage of that. TD has always used effective prog rock guitar work as part of their songs, even as the synthesizers and sequencers were more the signature sound. This guitarist could shred with the best of them, but knew how to pull it back when needed. He was amazing. Froese showed he still had his guitar chops as he played on one song, trading nimble licks with the saxophonist. The live drums were also a fantastic touch as there was nearly always something going on there that enhanced the sequencers and synth rhythms (I love this style of electronic rhythm so much more than drum machine style beats). The violinist had her runs and also had rhythm portions of some songs which were quite strong. The synthesizers of course were the key to it all and the players stayed busy actually playing them and keys and not just letting computers do the work. The projections were good, stage presence excellent and it was quite easy to fall spell to the hypnotic music. Yet, the songs had enough changes and breaks that I never felt I was being droned to death.

Two full sets of music and with the encore, this band played for 2 hours and 54 minutes. Even while the house alarm briefly cut PA power, the band soldiered on.  Fortunately, Great White was not on the bill and there was no tragic story tonight--I did note the nearest exit. They closed with "Stratosfear" which was recognizable enough for me, but their treatment was completely mind-blowing. They let the electric guitar take most of the melodic parts and this simply roared with a power I did not know was available in that song. This arrangement was absolutely stunning as they updated this with full advantage of this band, which you could say for any song tonight. I don't have a set list and I am not sure it really mattered the way they played with old and new material, working it up in new yet recognizable ways. And if that were not enough, they came back with a great violin and band workout reminding me of Curved Air's "Vivaldi". They finished with the one song with vocals, an amazing take on the Doors' "The Crystal Ship". Edgar Froese, looking well worn but great with a full head of long gray hair, introduced the band, said a few words to a very appreciative audience, and took his leave. Like Van der Graaf Generator, hopefully this parting is brief and there will be another show.

Quote of the Night: From a person standing next to me... "I'd like to see more smiling".  Sheesh, glad you're not watching Kraftwerk.

Bad vibe of the night... The Howard Theatre mentioned this would be a 'standing show' when I bought the ticket. Their website confirmed this the day of the show. So I ate elsewhere before the show and arrived just before the starting time to see a full set of tables and a $10 minimum needed to move down there. Since I don't drink, minimums spent on anything but food are quite negative for me. I did stand in the bar area and had nothing. I hope they respect their customers plans in future.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

These United States - The Henry Clay People - Kingsley Flood -- Black Cat - Jul 7 2012

Kingsley Flood - Wow, if this isn't the American version of the Levellers, I am not sure what is. If you are going to do Americana these days, it helps if you have a burning rock pace working--especially if you're opening the show on a Saturday night. This Boston based sextet (1/6 DC based they tell us) has the usual rock band instrumentation but has a violin/sax player and a keyboardist employing a trumpet frequently. The brass and violin gives more life to the sound, but also simply adds to the pace and volume. They add some old rock'n'roll moves at times and have lots of solid vocal work. I even detected one break that sounded like the Voidoids (more of that, please). Some of it covered familiar well worn terrain, but was quite effective. At times, they transcended that into something special. This was absolutely fun, and occasionally something that resembled headliner material. Their 46-minute set felt a lot longer, not due to boredom, but they had very few breaks and packed in more notes per minute than most any Americana-esque band you will see.

The Henry Clay People - This band sounded familiar and sure enough I saw them about three years ago on a tour through town. I was not overly wild about this LA-based quartet to say the least, but I was looking forward to seeing them again as they are still touring the country. Immediately they made a good impression with me and the moderately sizable crowd tonight. Pretty much straight rock in an indie style is the formula with the twin guitar attack. They said Fugazi was the best band ever, and their music confirms that belief. As the 38 minute set wore on, I did feel the vocal lines became a tad monotonous, and aside from a nice Ramones move once and a few energized flourishes, it was getting a little overly steady and less vibrant. The crowd quieted a bit, too. Still, this is a solid rock band whose years on the road have paid off well, and was a lot more fun this time around for me.

These United States - Initially, it was evident that this five piece band was going to bring the volume and power down a notch. It takes a confident, talented band to do that and it was not more than a couple songs in before I realized this band had the magic and would deliver a winning set. They have the ubiquitous Americana/indie rock sound, but have sharp songwriting that is far more accomplished than most bands you will see. I do not often dig into the lyrics at a live show, but I heard enough that this does sound like a band I would want to explore further. They have a story telling style in their songs, but with tons of solid rock and heartland sounds to comfort the delivery. One guitarist switched to steel guitar and headed a bit too deep into cliches with that sound at times. Fortunately, over half of those songs had a more natural less dominating steel sound, so ultimately it all worked. They went from deep to playful with smooth, natural transitions that kept it all going well. They reminded me of a heartland Drive-by Truckers with less murder ballads and one focused vocalist. They did a Willie Nelson cover  and came back with one encore after reminding the crowd that chanting USA is not quite correct. The crowd quickly shifted to TUS without being corrected further. The 70 minutes flew by and this band established itself as a solid band that will likely get about everybody here back for the next show, next tour.

Quote of the Night: From These United States singer... "How about a round of applause for air conditioning!" I am grateful the Swans with their no air conditioning policy were not here on this 105 degree day (and I am thrilled that the Swans will be here on my birthday in the cool month of October).

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Lenorable - Synthetic Division - Miyazaki -- Velvet Lounge - Jul 6 2012

Miyazaki - I was watching "24 Hour Party People" just prior to heading over to the Velvet Lounge and found this local quartet to be in nearly perfect sync with the Manchester bands from that movie. The drums are nearly machine steady, the bass player lays down quick melodic runs, while the guitar and keyboards lay on the atmosphere. There are male and female vocalists that work well together, but also handle some individual leads. The male vocals make Ian Curtis sound like Bruce Dickinson, while the female vocals offer a bit more range. A bit of a keyboard problem on stage was quickly remedied and the restart did not bother the 40+ people there, many of which to see them. Musically this was solid and this band is worth a look for effectiveness more than creativity at this point. But if they invite their friends back next time, I hope they tell them to shut the hell up while the other bands are playing. As much as I prefer people to stay for all the sets, if you really don't care, just get the out and let the rest of us take in the music.

Synthetic Division - We have a vocalist and a guy on the synthesizer here. This is pleasant sort of pop dance music with a bit of a pulse to it. When the synth cranks up, it is reasonably effective. Other times it is a bit soft as the vocals are awfully quiet. The soundman got them up a bit in the latter half which helped as they are decent enough for the material. They did evoke a Tangerine Dream sound with a sequencer type rhythm a few times, which is a nice foreshadowing of this Sunday's show. Nothing too dazzling here for me, but they were effective enough, and there is a lot to be positive about when you see the quote of the night below.

Lenorable - I reviewed an ep from this local duo a few months back, but missed the release show. As I thought they were quite good, I am happy to be able to catch their 43 minute set tonight. They have a guy on 12 and 6 string electric guitar and a female singer who handles the backing tracks on computer. They exhibited all the moves I recall from the record with great goth/post punk shimmering guitar runs reminiscent of John McGeoch (Magazine/Banshees) or Robert Smith (Cure). I really like the vocals as she has a quivering strength as she graces the notes with a moody edginess that keeps this listener on his toes. The backing tracks are solid and thankfully the 20-25 people remaining were fully in communion with this band's music. They rocked well toward the end of the set, finishing it off with a flourish of strong chords and melodic vocals. They have all the goods to pull in just about anyone into post-punk. Although this is fine for now,  there are some limitations that they may need to address long-term. But that is a ways away and there is plenty to enjoy right now.

Quote of the Night: From the Singer of Synthetic Division... "I'm celebrating 25 years of being alive after being diagnosed with HIV at age 11(!! Hope I heard that age correctly). So let's all celebrate being alive tonight."   Hear hear.

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Disconnects - Crazy & the Brains - Black Checker - The Pharmacists -- Velvet Lounge - Jul 1 2012

The Pharmacists - This local trio was disguised as a duo tonight, as the bass player had trouble with traffic. This is a fair excuse as the weather has done some damage around here this weekend. We are left with guitar/vocals and drums blasting away at some slightly above rudimentary punk rock songs. The vocals had the typical harsh intense approach while the guitar playing had a pleasant tough grinding sound to it. The drumming was quick and to the point and the 15 people in attendance enjoyed it all simply enough. The crowd never got much bigger and included band members. This capped off a week's worth of shows that had some of the relatively lowest attendance I have seen in a while. But I read Japandroids sold out, so maybe it's the shows I am going to (not that I am ever going to change who I want to see by ensuring I hit the trendier shows).

Black Checker - I am prepped and ready for this local trio, as I just reviewed their four-song ep this weekend. These guys bring more power pop to a punk sound and it's a successful, balanced marriage between the two styles. I mentioned La Peste in the review, but you can toss in the Zeros and even a touch of the Dicks into the mix here. A couple of songs featured dual vocal work which was good as the two voices are different and can work some interesting harmonies. Hopefully, they will explore that further as they keep playing and writing. And that is about all that is needed here--like just about all bands, regular gigging and thoughtful writing could elevate this good band into something even better. But for now, the guitar sounds great, the vocals quite good, and the rhythm section has a fun careening feel to it. So I had a good time tonight, and will be happy to return for more next time around.

Crazy & the Brains - The first of two 'Joisey' bands hits the stage with guitar, bass, drums, and... glockenspiels? Yes, the guy is playing a couple of them with good technique using two mallets in each hand. So, I apparently have not 'seen it all' in 35+ years of punk rock listening and viewing. Their first song reminds me of Plastic Bertrand and is quite amusing. Then it's a straight up cover of the Ramones' "Oh, Oh, I Love Her So". These two tunes set the tone for the rest of the set with catchy fast power pop punk tunes and loads of three-voice singing. This is a good pairing with Black Checker, although there are differences. The goofy humor is more present here, but it's not over the top. They also did the Shangri Las tune also covered by Johnny Thunders, "Great Big Kiss". Only two negatives with this set:  First, the screams in the vocal mikes needed a bit of restraint as they were needless pain; and second, the set went about 6-7 minutes too long as the edge was wearing off. But, there was some fun to be had here.

The Disconnects - Hmm... more punk rock in store here, obviously with the look of this twin guitar-quartet. A more twisted, bespectacled Billy Zoom on lead, a singer/guitarist with a studded belt and a hairstyle reminding me of Kid'n'Play (Kid's, of course. I now see that 'Play' is a professor in North Carolina). I hear the classic "Sonic Reducer" riff as they are warming up, and that turns out to be a perfect foreshadowing of what is to come. These guys blast out the classic punk with a fervor and style that makes you instantly stop worrying about cliches or precedents and just step back and rock out. There is always just that little bit extra push or flourish on guitar (just as the Dead Boys had) and the rhythm section keeps it all together. The vocals are solid, straight-up and I don't have a thing bad to say about this band. It is particularly refreshing to have a straight punk band put on an entertaining set for me. I am a tough sell in 2012, since I have been doing this since 1977. But the Disconnects delivered a winner tonight.

Quote of the Night: "You are really tough on bass players, showing up."... This from Black Checker's bass/vocalist as we met at the last Presto Bando show where their bassist did not make it either. Maybe so, I thought, but no, nothing to do with me... Then again, I was supposed to go to the 9:30 Club this Friday and I was arranging this with a publicist, they found out that their band had to cancel due to a hospital stay. Then Saturday night, both bands were a question mark as I stuck around a near-empty club until I finally had enough....  Pardon me, while I ponder this further...

Sunday, July 1, 2012



This band's powerful stage presence and dazzling light show had me expecting something a little less interesting in the act of popping on their latest album while sitting quietly at my desk. On the overall intensity factor, yes, my lowered expectations were met as there was not the sonic wallop of the live show. But, as is often the case, I found this band can write far better songs than I ever had imagined after seeing their live set. "Mind Control" almost sounds like a hit single. Not really, but it does have a killer hook with instruments and voices layering over under sideways down, but forever flowing with Krautrock energy. The vocal work does need a touch more variety for all but the most ardent shoegaze fans, but does have a certain Ian McCullough or Reid Brothers effectiveness. It is great to hear that the band has the desire and talent to blow minds during their live show, while crafting interesting songs with a variety of paces and volumes on this record. So, with A Place to Bury Strangers, it is best to check out every live set you can and spend some time with this album as well. I've been through it twice and it will be played many more times.

And be sure to join me at the Rock'n'Roll Hotel on Thursday, July 26th for this incredible live experience.

Songs to try first...

You are the One - This moodier cut has a nice combination of Wire tossed into the shoegaze style. Nice throbbing sonics.

Mind Control - I love the talking vocal in front with the more distant harmony vocal coming from the clouds. I will risk overplaying this number.

Slide - Bringing it down a notch and adding Morricone 'Dollars Trilogy' guitars. I have heard this before, but did not expect it here, working so very well.


Live, I mentioned that this Brooklyn band reminded me of Toyah Wilcox fronting Public Image Ltd. Their new record ends up being a much dreamier version of that concept. The PiL edge is sometimes there in intense vocals and bursts of strong sonic combinations. Yet, there is a flowing cosmic pop element that is the successful element that pulls this album together. Although I felt the live set pushed things a bit higher on the intensity scale which is generally to my liking, this album effectively establishes a moody electronic pop sound that is quite lovely. This is not quite ready to push Siouxsie and the Banshees out of my conscious, but a few more listens and I may have to establish some cranial turf for Hundred in the Hands.

Songs to try first...

Come with Me - Nice guitar crunch offsets smooth melody of vocal line and perky rhythm section. If dance music was always this good.

Keep it Low - This is how goth, industrial, and pop should merge together.

Stay the Night - Sumptuous production on vocals give way to a thick bass throbbing and high end jabs.

Lead in the Light - Quiet contemplative close-out that sends you home in a good mood not unlike the Joy Formidable on the softer side of their sound.

Electronica... my way. Basically that means this local performer does not skimp on guitars and has decent vocals with creative musical shifts more the formula than simple pounding pulsating sounds. Although there are some songs that tend toward the experimental side of sound, there are a lot of interesting sonic reference points and a nice flow for the most part. If you go way way back like I do and enjoyed the sounds of Suicide, the Flying Lizards, the Residents, and Chrome, then you should really give this a listen. But if you are like the vast majority of music fans that understand modern electronica far better than I, you should also really give this a listen. The key to it all is that there is plenty of variety among the 15 songs for anyone to find some favorites and to keep digging into this all the way through to the final notes.

The album release show is at Sova, on Sunday, July 8th

Songs to try first...

Ricochet - A good reminder that several early punk bands chose the electronica route for their assertive lyrics and three chord songs.

Keith's Drum Machine - Takes me back to the days of Chrome, except the vocals are cleaner.

Feed the Good Wolf - Reminds me of Kraftwerk's "The Model" cone by Current 93. Actually it is much more fun than that.

Four quick blasts of power pop punk with a gritty barroom feel are served up here by this DC area band. The guitar sound has a great sound and they remind me a bit of La Peste there with the same sort of catchy songs and snarling guitar. They pull it back and focus on the rhythms as well, such as the quick and mobil "Bagel Girl". This recording is pretty much a starting point for them, but they have hit the ground running. They sound like a fun live show which I will be checking out and reporting back on soon enough.

Check them out live at the Velvet Lounge TODAY, Sunday, July 1st. Come early, they are the first of four bands for $8!


Grain Thief is a solo project of local guitarist/vocalist Patrick Mulroy. I first saw Patrick dueling with guitarist John Russell in a fascinating progressive band, Little Bigheart and the Wilderbeats. John is tearing it up with Mercies at present and Patrick took some time off before coming back with this 'double ep' of new songs. I was quite surprised and happy that his change to a more acoustic folk approach works so well. I knew he was a fine electric guitarist, but his acoustic work is nimble and interesting. There is a nice variety of instrumental and vocal tunes on the first ep with both US and UK style songs present. He shows some mature songwriting skills as both the guitars and his voice move around a bit more than the average folksinger. There are some effective vocal arrangements and this is a promising debut. He is touring hard, so give him a look when he comes your way.

Songs to try first...

Lazarus - This has a distant finger style pattern that creates an ethereal bed of melody for the vocals to deliver a very heartfelt song.

Stable Ground - One minute of spiritual folk is a good thing.

Would Not Say I am Stoned - More Americana than British, but in a more classic singer songwriter style than that of most indie alt-country, folk-rock, nu-Americana bands.


"The world don't remember Henry Clay, so here is what I have to say" is the lyric that turned my head in this local band's appropriately titled song, "Henry Clay". Thankfully, the cleverness of this band is not restricted to finding odd lyrical subject matter, but spreads out deep and far into their music. They mix up heavy sounds with atmospheric rock landscapes while keeping pop hooks at the fore. They remind me of one of my favorite west coast bands, Lovelikefire, although they are not quite as dynamic. But this young outfit is getting there as they show some ability here to craft intricate vocal harmonies while they keep things rocking. Their live shows have been interesting, but this recording shows a bit more depth than I expected out of them. They have made a fun and engaging album here and I look forward to their next live outing. 

And why not head to the album release party at the DC9 on Saturday, July 14th.

Songs to try first...

Breathe You - Very catchy opening cut that immediately pulled me into their sound.

For Me to Reach out to You - This lower key song with good male and female vocals and stinging acoustic guitar strikes perfectly hits the psyche folk portion of my brain.

Iowa - But after a psyche folk song, it's a welcome contrast to hear a scorching rocker with punk attitude and pop hooks.