Friday, November 30, 2012


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

Available through their label, the beautiful music.

Songs to try out first:

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

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

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

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

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

Songs to try out first:

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

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

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

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

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

Songs to try out first:

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

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

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


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

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Soley - Samantha Harmonie -- DC9 - Nov 26 2012

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

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

Monday, November 26, 2012

Duncan Sheik - Courrier -- Birchmere - Nov 25 2012

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

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

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

Monday, November 19, 2012

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

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

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

Sunday, November 18, 2012

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 17, 2012

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

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

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

Friday, November 16, 2012

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Interviw with Wes Tucker of Wes Tucker & the Skillets


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WT - Yeah, I hear you.

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

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

DH - Did you get started musically in North Carolina?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WT - Did they?

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

WT - Right, right.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DH - Yes, the same good films I see.

WT - Yeah, the Coen Brothers...

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

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

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

WT - Yeah.

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

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

DH - I do know.

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

DH - And you have the merch table?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

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

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

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

Saturday, November 10, 2012

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 5, 2012

Trixie Whitley - Taylor Berrett -- Jammin Java - Nov 4 2012

Taylor Berrett - Not 'Tyler Beret' as he informs us as way of introduction. He is there to warm the crowd with warm songs with acoustic guitar and voice. He has a somewhat intense vocal energy that does not get overpowering. His guitar work is rather basic although he will engage a soft fingerstyle strum which creates some interesting tones. The songs seem pretty good, although it is pretty much a respectable folky singer songwriter offering.

Trixie Whitley - I really enjoyed a preview of Trixie Whitley's new album coming out this January (reviewed here). She is out on a short tour to get people ready for the sounds to come. For me, it was an additional treat as the live sound furthered all the versatile sounds on the album into even more exciting terrain. Her voice is brilliant and the key is that she can flex it into power or restraint with crafty easy going shifts. There is both technique and emotional power present here. She plays some piano and even more guitar to do more than accompany these songs. Between that and exquisitely sharp bass playing and drums, this trio cooks up an amazing sound that hits the haunting netherworlds in between folk rock and indie rock. She has played here before with Daniel Lanois' Black Dub (which I kept hearing as Black Dove, which I think makes a better name), so she has plenty of smart fans that showed up tonight. They were pretty enthralled for the hour long set, as was I. This is great music and hopefully she can continue to tour her album in 2013 and find the many music lovers that would easily gravitate to this. I hate to predict big things... so I guess I won't.

Facebook Photo theft of the Night... Belated Happy Halloween...

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Woods - Widows Peak - Paperhaus -- Red Palace - Nov 2 2012

Paperhaus - The band tells me they are playing in a more pop direction lately. Evidence to support that is there right off the bat, but fear not edgy psyche fans, there is plenty of the old sound we have all come to love. The vocals have a slight cutting edge and the guitar interplay is crafty as ever. A few songs have some delectable pop hooks, and others are extended out in blues jams and a combination of jangle and reverb. It may be poppier with a few Byrdsian moves, but I hear the Feelies brand of edgy pop in there as well. The third song slowed it down but there was some serious skronk popping up, too. Add some epic Kattania style moves and you pretty much have it all from a band that has the assurance of holding it all together in a busy and enjoyable 30 minutes.

Widowspeak - This quartet comes in with light spacy pscyche-pop nuggets for our pleasure. The female vocalist/guitarist has a distant style with a trio of guys who can delicately jam with the best of them. They hit intriguing melodic grooves and reminded me of Jessie Sykes and her band although they kept it a little more ethereal. The vocals floated around care free in their own melodic pattern that somehow snugly fit in with the instrumental moves. They lost a little of the magic 2/3 the way through the set, but pulled it back with a strong closing number. This is definitely an appealing band to fans of older or newer rock forms.

Woods - Another Brooklyn quartet finishes things up tonight with a flourish. There has been quite a buzz about this band which had me wondering if they should not be in a bigger club. That turned about to be the case as the club was full early and completely packed for this powerful band. They start out with a fun pop-rock sound that reminded me of Sloan or the Posies. One guitarist handled lead vocals with a unique soft falsetto. The rhythm section featured silky bass lines and crackling drums. Another guitarist played electric six string and either an electric cittern or 12-string. When the singer took off the acoustic, the sounds moved into heavier psychedelic terrain. What made this band really amazing, is how they managed to keep the integrity of their pop-rock approach within dreamy and heavy psyche forms and extended jams. It then hit me that all three bands showed some elements of the band Love tonight. If you mix in a touch of Dead Meadow, you start heading toward the Woods. They were called back for a two-song encore by a very pumped up crowd and thoroughly nailed their hour+ set. Catch this band when and where you can, as the clubs simply have to get bigger with great songs and execution like this.

Quote of Night: Actually, earlier this week at the dentist...
Oral Surgeon poking me hard in the gums with me shaking my arms... "Are you alright?"
Me... "Aside from the extreme pain, I'm doing great."

Thursday, November 1, 2012

New Video from Dot Dash

One of my DC favorites has released a catchy new video so in addition to the record reviews pointing out some new sounds for you to explore, here are 100 seconds of new music for you right now.


Fresh after a nice live show at the Velvet Lounge, I get a listen to the new album by this Philadelphia band. It is a fine representation of the songs they executed so well on stage. This band is not a genre bending niche band, but a classic rock band that sounds like they've worked their way out of a lot of small bar shows and frat parties into an excellent band that can handle the clubs or record their songs that sound like classic 70s radio fare. The guitarist's lead vocals are soulful and emotive with three additional voices offering excellent harmonies throughout. The rhythm section is solid, the keys and guitar work well together and a good clean sound emerges. The album is not quite as flashy as the live set was, but that is often the case. I would certainly suggest a live show, and this would be a good souvenir to take home with you from that or just something to listen to even if they do not make it to your fair city.

Songs to try out first:

Boundary Blurring - The opening cut has all the punch, crunch, and vocal quality complete with harmonies that in combination nicely sum up their live shows.

Halfdone - This sounds like a rock song you would hear on the radio back in the old days sandwiched between Van Morrison and the J. Geils Band.

Vapors - A nice rocker with a great power-pop vibe to it.


Justyn WithaY is on guitar and vocals with a rhythm section backing. The music is outsider psyche-folk, which is one of my favorite little sub-genres. The outsider vibe is due to a slight real world approach to sounds a bit more lo-fi and even a bit independent of the independents. This music is somewhere between Perry Leopold and Cosmic Michael, to reference some real obscurities. It may br just off the fringe, but this is personal music played smoothly and capably while walking on the edge. The rhythm section fills the bottom end with care and the vocal harmonies are at times quite interesting with the guitar creating several interesting bits. I like the fact that these guys don't go precocious with this sound as many of the free folkers do. Instead, this is a little more relaxed with being 'out there' and not so self conscious. It is a nice collection of songs that would fit well in a psyche-folk collection, new or old.

Songs to try out first:

The Morning Song - The opener has a great relaxed strolling journey feeling with a nice instrumental psychedelic passage before the relaxing fadeaway.

Big Really - The title cut sucks you in with the opening spacey guitar intricacies before the song settles in with it's steady rhythm and intriguing backing vocals.

Year of the Rat - This has a classic psyche-folk vibe with the delicately picked guitar, wailing vocals, and even Roy Harper-like songwriting shifts.


These songs are less psychedelic folk than personal folk with playful instrumental additions that invoke a light psychedelia in the manner of Dulcimer, early Marc Bolan or Tir na Nog. The fragility is present throughout the songs and there is a slight uneasiness in the contemplative side here. Fey this is not. It is quietly presented, but there will be plenty going on in your mind as you listen. This album has 15 songs coming in at 32 minutes and with a couple songs passing the five minute mark, most are quite short and at times not complete enough to my tastes. There were a few cuts where I wanted them to continue on and explore the musical themes further. Still, this is a fascinating personal take on folk music that is well worth a listen. In the right room, this could be a mesmerizing live set.

Songs to try out first:

Sargasso Sea - This has a childlike simplicity to the melody with all kinds of fancy instruments bringing a happy Tim Buckley style into the song (yeah, I'm not sure there was such a thing).

Vain Prince - Delicate touch on the guitar, keys and a thoughtful song results.

Winter Blossom - This reminds me of a Donovan outtake from Sunshine Superman (that is high praise from me).


There is a kicking garage sound to this album, but it veers toward the heavy hard hitting variety. They slip in between styles with post punk moves, Australian classic punk sounds, heavy 60s garage punk, and loads of pop hooks. There are many bands in this general field and with enough energy and sense of melody, most all succeed at some level. I think if the Turbo Fruits continue with their songcraft, they can be as good as anybody in the field. The highlights here really manage to explore some new terrain while maintaining a firm grasp of the genre, which is exactly what long time listeners like myself desire. And although this music is invariably good live, there is enough variety in the songs here to make this album a pleasure as well, making for many relistens here.

Songs to try out first:

Gamble Tamble - Quiet intro quickly turns into rocker with a classic Sonic Smith like guitar solo.

Sweet Thang - Bands like this should always have titles like this and it turns out it to be a good ballad with edgy ringing guitar and pounding rhythms.

10 Years - Coolest song on the album with a real psyche vibe and loads of pace like Radio Birdman covering Love. Seriously, this is excellent.


It is not terribly surprising that Luke Mitchem performs the opening number with Josh Ritter as they are quite similar in their modern folk rock artistry. The arrangements are lovely with light steady percussion anchoring the guitars that move in and out from the keyboards and bass. This is a mature album balanced with heart and skill. It succeeds in transporting the listener deep into the song without being overly gothic and intense, but through the sharp song writing and vocal delivery. Luke Mitchem has crafted a sharp album that can hold up to any singer songwriter working today. It is hard to imagine this failing to make an impact with any fan of modern music from the heartland.

Songs to try out first:

Omaha Lillie - Not only is the lead vocal delicate, but the female backing vocal adds a haunting quality that coupled with the subtle yet startling raga quality makes this a real gem.

Charlie It's Alright - This has some nice rock elements along with the folk feeling. The electric piano is delightful and the slide guitar is subtle.

Steamboats Sing Hymns - A touch more Americana with an epic movie soundtrack like quality.


Trixie Whitley has a classic bluesy voice but showcases it in some interesting arrangements on this album. Ever imagine Siouxsie Sioux singing the blues? Yeah, me neither, but it may be somewhat in that direction. There are some PJ Harvey elements in here as well as this record embraces that modernist approach, although the vocals lean a bit more to the traditional blues and folk elements. But only a little, as there are classical rock and soul touches (such as in "Breathe You in my Dreams"). Everything sounds so fresh here and there is much power at the heart of this album. Even as it gets that smoky lounge feeling at times. There is plenty of versatility here and it is all fun and vibrant much of the time. Trixie Whitley is well worth seeking out and giving a listen to as she shows an experience beyond her years here.

Trixie Whitley is playing the Jammin Java on Sunday, November 4th

Songs to try out first:

Irene - The opener has that bluesy strength in the voice with a post-punk pop tune.

SIlent Rebel Pt. 2 - Trippy banjo with ethereal singing in a Woven Hand direction (a big compliment from my pen).

Hotel No Name - Intense electric guitar startles in the manner that it does in Roy Harper's work. Jefferson Airplane meets Nick Cave here.


Wes Tucker is one of the better Americana styled songwriters in our area who showcases his songs in solo shows or with the Skillets, a full rock band. But it only takes one note to tell you the full band is here raring to rock. It's a couple of guitars, bass, drums, and keyboards all maxxed out with just enough space left for Wes Tucker's hearty vocals. Things vary quite a bit thereafter with folky numbers, a brief touch of Byrdsian country-rock, and some more of the strong stuff. It all holds together with Tucker's smooth vocals and assured songwriting. The band pushes and pulls back song by song and their output flows as all good albums should. It closes with the quieter "Oncoming Train" which features Roseanne Cash (!) on guest vocals. This album is his most assured yet. The record release party is coming up soon, so be sure to give Mr. Tucker a listen live and pick this up for many more listens at home.

Wes Tucker is playing Iota at his record release show on Saturday, November 17th

Songs to try out first:

Good God - The opening cut is real blaster of a rock song that is sharp as nails in production and execution.

The Line - The delicate acoustic picking sets the stage for a nice vocal line, before the band slowly adds some heft to this lovely song.

Forgive - A nice long rocker that flows as a river with rapids that are controllable, but only just.


This record from the Cuneiform label has all the pleasure of the many Tangerine Dream records I listened to over the past four decades. It is not quite as krautrock-heavy as early TD, but certainly employs the distinct keyboard and synthesizer parts sounding like a keyboard quartet of sorts. The sequencer parts are pure class and the variation of ambient sound and direct tonal melodies meld together with these rhythms resulting in distinct compositions. Personally, a jarring guitar or saxophone or another keyboard element would have elevated this more for me. But Moore shoots for his specific sounds and succeeds smartly. It is easy to drift off in this music, but there is enough thrust to it all to keep the brainwaves flowing. He has played Sonic Circuits shows here previously, and no doubt went over well with the audiences that gravitate to that side of the musical spectrum.

Lisa/Liza has a fine command of ethereal psychedelic folk. She keeps the vocals beautiful with distant echo with only a slight nod to the warbley cute sounds which is too much the trend these days. Her songs here remind me of those of Shide & Acorn, which is a lovely band I do not reference too frequently--actually not at all until now. Her voice is even spacier, like a cross between Licorice McKechnie and Stone Angel's vocalist perhaps. This is a lo-fi recording but does keep a slight magic working much of the time within these songs with their nice acoustic guitar and delicate vocals. She hails from Portland, Maine which is a fairly fertile area for interesting folk variations. There are some experimental qualities with piano tape loops and the last few songs go into sharp left hand turns to parts unknown, or maybe part drone. These are wise choices as the songs break up expectations and are a challenge that most true psyche-folk fans will have no problem with and embrace with pleasure. Hopefully a live show is in the cards for us in DC one of these months.