Monday, December 31, 2012

Lilt -- Jammin Java - Dec 30 2012

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

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

Sunday, December 30, 2012

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 28, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Red Palace - No More...

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

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

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

Sunday, December 16, 2012

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 15, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 14, 2012

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Blue Oyster Cult -- State Theatre - Dec 8 2012

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 2, 2012

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

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

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

Saturday, December 1, 2012

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

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

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

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