Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Jackson (WeatherVanes) - Wes Tucker - Olivia Mancini - Drew Gibson - Patrick Hawkins -- Iota - Dec 30th 2013

This is a fitting way fto end 2013 for me, as I am not doing an overpriced New Years Eve special at the bigger clubs. Instead, it's a New Years Eve eve show with three of my favorite singer songwriters and two other fine local singer songwriters I hope to see more of. This was a free show with each performer doing a set of 2-3 songs and quickly rotating in the '9 Series' manner started up by Justin Trawick. It was a fun time and a great way for me to get back in the swing of things after my holiday travels. A Monday between holidays meant for a small, but involved crowd. Even you have to pay such weighty amounts as $8-$12 dollars, I recommend you catch any of these performers in 2014.

Real quickly...
Patrick Hawkins - He plays and sings in Benny the Band, who are playing with the Drew Gibson Band at the Iota this Friday night. He firmly strums his guitar with a little flourish in the chord shifts and plays some nice bluesy folk music.

Drew Gibson - I have long been a fan of Drew's music and I probably should read my previous reviews to whether I noted how good his fingerstyle guitar work is. I think it was always decent, but may even be better now. You can marvel at that or just sit back and drift away with his songwriting and lovely vocal work. It is all very good. As mentioned, check him out this Friday at Iota.

Olivia Mancini - I know the name, but don't believe I have ever caught a set, previously. My loss as the five songs tonight were all easy to dig into. She has a great folk style, good strong guitar work, and a comforting voice. But best of all, is a personality that will keep you fully involved with her set.

Wes Tucker - I have seen and enjoyed Wes Tucker many times with his band 'the Skillets'. I have seen a solo outing or two and tonight's show again reminded me of his fine songwriting skills. There is much warmth in his delivery and he can handle a guitar with flair when he chooses. Solo or with band, he should be on folk-rock fans' radar.

Jackson - The WeatherVanes are an excellent Americana folk rock band. Much of that is attributed to Jackson with his songwriting, vocal skills, and multi-instrumental talents. He sticks to acoustic and harmonica here, but shows many of skills in his fine songs. What was most noticeable was his dynamic sense of rhythm and volume in his playing. He understands the drama involved in delivering a song which is a key to really making an impact on stage (in anything you do). And if you are not at the Iota on Friday, check out the WeatherVanes at Hill Country BBQ (for free).

Quote of the Day: From me... "Happy New Year" for those that celebrate the new year. To me it is just an odometer tick and a frustrating time as I write 2013 now and then for the next six weeks. I have new year celebrations all year long at birthdays, fiscal year changes (not any more), anniversary of the blog, and any other events that mean something. But however you celebrate, I hope to see you out in the clubs really enjoying the fine music that so many people are capable of providing.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Ocean Blue - Riverside -- Jammin Java - Dec 20 2013

Riverside -Brought out of semi-retirement by the Ocean Blue to play some shows out east, this venerable Philadelphia quartet seems a fine addition to the bill tonight. The twin guitar quartet starts with a core style that reminds one of Buffalo Springfield or the Byrds. They take it through 1980s style power pop (I am thinking a less intense Smithereens) and fit comfortably into the indie rock scene in recent years. It is delivered with smooth assurance that foreshadows the sound and quality that we will be getting from the headliner. Their 32 minutes whizzed by as the sold-out crowd filled every corner of the club.
The Ocean Blue - I am surprised to see this band has now been around for 27 years. Their fans that they have picked up along this long journey are filling the club tonight in this the first of two sold-out shows at the Jammin Java. The band has a high quality Americana light rock style that is clearly crossed with the mostly Mancunian British pop-rock scene of old. You can close your eyes on a couple of cuts and swear you are hearing Morrisey croon away to a latter day Smiths song. They vary the British and American styles in subtle ways and retain a strong sense of identity in the process. At times, this is a bit too light for me and I could use a stronger component in some of the songs, but I can not argue strongly against the clear quality of this band. And neither could the crowd who were relaxed but absorbed by tonight's music.

Posting of the Day: A Black Cat Facebook post yesterday... "Just to clarify: Depeche Mode are not playing here. It's a DJ night. Just like The Smiths or The Cure DJ nights are not actually The Smiths or The Cure. Those bands would never play here. They are way too big to play the Black Cat. Most of this confusion happens because of Song Kick, which is a terrible website with a lot of glitches. It is best to consult either our official website or Ticket Fly, not a third party website."

Friday, December 20, 2013

New Canada - Brothers Kardell - Night Kitchen -- The Pinch - Dec 19 2013

Night Kitchen - Back to the Pinch, which is showing some staying power as a DC club that will cater to metal, punk, and local showcases that not all of the other clubs are willing to touch. Tonight it is three area bands, the first of which is a guitar/drums duo with vocals. They start with a song that is reminding me of Roky Erickson and the Aliens... and that is because it is a cover song of Roky's. OK, these two know their music. Interestingly enough, they go into an instrumental post punk cut after that before heading back to interesting pop-rock. The club's band provided PA is at its usual low level (at least every time I am here), muffling the vocal work (true all night, but I've heard worse), so it is hard to judge the full intended effect of the music. I also hope Night Kitchen fills out their band as their music would sound better with one or two more members. The core material is quite good to work with and I hope to see them again next year.

Brothers Kardell - Another duo, this time on keyboards and guitar with both players on vocals as well. Uh-oh, I hear the dreaded drum machine and 80s synth sounds, but no, there is some great jagged post punk guitar so the first cut goes well. But then, uh-oh, they both take microphones and rap in front of a backing track. Yet through humor, clever lyrics, and energy they have me smiling and won me over by song's end. Then it is back to their instruments for a fun and highly energized set. I really enjoy when a band beats back my cynicism into submission and these guys piledrove it deep underground. They are like a crazy Adam & the Ants and remind me quite a bit of Sparks, which you don't see too often. They also can really play and keep your full attention as easily as anyone around here does. I am not sure what billings are capable of fitting in a band like this, but if people have any daring or courage, they will get these guys on their bill.
New Canada - This trio has been around a bit, under other names, but is staking out some new and interesting ground merging their older brand of outsider folk-rock with some searing psyche rock moves. It is all welcome to these ears as they began with a jam that reminded me of Swedish psyche masters, Spacious Mind. Then they wove in various heavy and lighter textures throughout their engaging set reminding me of Doll By Doll and even some twisted psyche-punk sort of songs. They had one more extreme freak-out before leaving us with a folkier rock song reminding me of the outsider folk material guitarist/vocalist Justyn has recorded in the past. Another fine night provided by this steadily growing band that is well worth a listen by people who want good music one step away from the mainstream.

Quote of the Night: From the Brothers Kardell... "I know we're doing a show, but I'd rather be watching a movie."

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Goblin - Zombi -- 9:30 Club - Dec 13 2013

Zombi - Even with the obviously appropriate name, the music concocted by this Pittsburgh duo is even more appropriate a beginning to a Goblin concert. They have one man on drums with the other on keyboards and effects. They have dark symphonic songs that could work as soundtracks, but are just fine in creating an atmosphere for the large crowd tonight. They have piercing synth moves among a backing wash of sound and add more sequencers working with the live drumming as the set moves onward. They even bring out a bass for the last number which is a nice touch. Not a lot of visual excitement here, but fine music played loud and even a bit on the quick side at times.

Goblin - It took almost four decades, but Goblin is finally ready to conquer America. In fact, the first leg of this tour went so well that they booked some additional shows to round things off. Oddly enough, key member Claudio Simonetti did not make it back for this leg and tonight's show, but two additional original members are aboard. All that confusion mattered little as the two keyboardists, guitarist, bassist, and drummer put on a clinic displaying classic Italian progressive rock. The Italian prog scene was huge, although few bands ever tried to crack the US. Premiata Fornia Marconi (PFM) was my favorite as it was one of the few I heard back when I was young. Like so many others, I discovered Goblin through their brilliant soundtrack work in the horror genre, mostly with Dario Argento along with a spot in some versions of George Romero's Dawn of the Dead. You could kind of tell from the vast variety of ages and types of music lovers in the crowd, that people from all generations have picked up on this band and clearly the Argento films are a big reason (a giveaway was that this was one of the heaviest male dominated crowds I have seen in a while). The crowd was fully into the band as they blazed through some songs from their albums along with themes from Profondo Rosso, Suspiria, Tenebrae, and Dawn among others. They had a female dancer come out several times and her interpretations were excellent as she did a zombie dance for a Dawn of the Dead track and reappeared as a ballerina appropriately for the Suspiria theme. They had scenes from the movies projected above and it was fun seeing David Hemmings and Jessica Harper on screen in between the blood soaked scenes. It was such a pleasure to see the keyboard players actually playing with both hands and not just twiddling switches to get the computer to do the work. The guitar was piercing in full complement to the synthesizers, organs, and pianos with the rhythm section steady and strong. This is in your face progressive music bursting with color, fueled by controlled adrenaline. It was much better than even my lightly optimistic hopes had planned on and I believe the whole tour has been going great. They finished up the 95 minute set by taking a highly appropriate Operatic curtain call with their dancer, complete with roses being delivered to the stage. This is how Italian progressive music is done.

Quote of the Night: From a Goblin... "Thanks for waiting so many years. Never say never." And then they hinted they may return.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Heavy Breathing - The Jet Age - Tereu Tereu -- Tropicalia - Dec 12 2013

Tereu Tereu - I am not sure what I remember more from the last time I saw this band, the quality music they made or the sardonic patter. They take the two-man band approach with guitar drums along with vocals from the guitarist. This is always a challenge but they are good players and good songwriters, so although I would not mind another instrument or two, they are quite successful at pulling you into their songs. I hope that guy who looks like Larry 'Bud' Melman that did a walk-on on the stage is the owner or manager here. Weird. The band keeps the pace going and is not afraid to extend a jam or two as they set the controls for the spleen of the post modern universe. That guy is back and it is an owner/manager as he's signalling lighting cues back to the booth. You know, we can see the band, all is fine, do this later, ok? Fortunately, the band keeps the mood under control and finishes off a fine set with their more rocking Sebadoh-like songs. They are well worth a look on any bill.

The Jet Age - What? No Wedding Present set to follow? Yes, these three young veterans do play other shows and it is our gain tonight. They began with a light pop ditty before roaring into more explosive power pop material. They keep the variety of pace and volume changing throughout the set, which is all the better for creating a great environment to hear their fine songs. They are still one of the best power pop rockers for bands to look up to around here. They know all the tricks and make it all seem effortless until you pay attention to how skilled their execution is. There is not much more to say, they are good, so listen.
Heavy Breathing - It took quite some time (a bit much for me) before the final local band hit tonight's stage, but the sizable crowd tonight was still raring to go for more quality music. This trio (who previously worked as 'the Apes') delivered intriguing songs that were some sort of dance-rock hybrid. At least they played songs after a five-minute monologue that actually wasn't the worst thing I've heard and a snafu between the first and second songs. Things went smoothly enough thereafter (although I missed the final bit of the set) and the crowd was still rocking. Although dance music does not excite me that much, there was plenty of muscular guitar and strong drumming while the keyboards and electronics moves were throbbing and melodic in a more interesting way than many other things I've heard. Some songs worked more than others, but this is an interesting vision that this band has at their center. I like them and I am guessing that a whole lot more people will love them. And they had lasers as you can see.

And I want to add that this was  show sponsored by two fine area blogs run by some dedicated and intelligent music lovers, ShowlistDC and Hometown Sounds. Check them both out and don't be shy about heading out to the Tropicalia. It is an below street U Street venue that is a similar size to the U Street Music Hall, but it has a mix of slick and rough within and is much more of a relaxing place with seating and plenty of space in the back.

Quote of the Night... from the Jet Age, if not me... "Ah, I'm soooo old."

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Muscle Worship - Mittenfields - Static Scene -- Velvet Lounge - Dec 11 2013

Static Scene - I was reading someone's polite FB rant about tiring of all those lists with some commenters agreeing and others dissenting saying lists are a good way of learning about whatever the subject may be. I am fine with lists as they are snapshots in time which can change immediately after they are posted. Still, there are some lists I am glad I do not keep such as my favorite 100 DC area bands. Not only would it be a nightmare to maintain, but it would create the problem of where to place an excellent newcomer like Static Scene. Clearly, they would enter the charts with a bullet and displace some veteran bands, but they need some room to grow. They are fairly new to the scene, yet only show a raw inexperience with stage patter and presentation. Musically, they have nailed down a great style with substantial songs that are easy to get into. They have a solid drummer and just two guitarists that play in a thick and heavy manner due to excellent tone choices. One guitar is fuzzy and jangly while the other has piercing tones and slide moves. I do hear some bass notes in the mix at times and am not sure how that is happening, but clearly these guys know their sound and even more importantly, something about songcraft. The vocals are on the edgy side in a Bob Pfeiffer (Human Switchboard) or Richard Hell manner (he's on my brain as I just finished his autobiography). This band should appeal to heavier indie rock fans, shoegazers, and anyone who appreciates loud quality music.
Muscle Worship - This Lawrence Kansas band thanked Mittenfields for letting them play the middle slot as they learned from their New York show, that if things run late and four local bands play first, their tired friends tend to head for the hills and the band is left with an expensive rehearsal. They are a power trio in the manner of Mission of Burma and have a highly similar noisy approach to pop, very ragged, very jagged. I also hear some of the noisy guitar moves Honor Role did live. When it did not work, they were a bit more like Crazy Horse trying to ape these bands. But for about half the time it worked extremely well as they had catchy songs with all kinds of crazy moves from guitar and bass atop the thunderous drumming. I liked the bass chords as well, although the guitarist was playing at the edge of feedback all set, and stepped over the line a few times too many. Still, a really fun set by a very interesting band. I would be happy to hear more any time.

Mittenfields - This local band always puts on a good show. With three talented guitarists and good songs, there is always something to key on. Tonight, I felt their pop rock moves from their songwriting shine through beyond the shoegaze din that they have built up in the past. Nothing wrong with a good freakout and there still is some of that, but there was even more intricacy with the guitar work on top of the solid rhythm section. This is high quality music that has great appeal for a wide audience, and this band and the others drew a nice crowd on a cold Wednesday night, so it is great to see them still going strong.

Quote of the Night... from Muscle Worship chuckling at the fans shouting for Brian for some reason... "If you put three relatively sharp guys together, they would make one big stupid guy... named Brian"

Friday, December 6, 2013

Hugh Cornwell - Dot Dash -- Black Cat - Dec 5 2013

Dot Dash - I used to always recommend going to a Kahoutek show since you were guaranteed a great set along with a very special headline band as they were always on killer psychedelic rock bills. I can say the same with Dot Dash, although you will often get a great punk or post punk band as your reward. But you will never go wrong with a Dot Dash set or tonight, I guess we actually saw Do Das. When Wire lost a member, they became Wir, so as Dot Dash are named after a Wire song, tonight the three-piece band were Do Das. They were missing lead guitar which I didn't even notice was missing until the third song. While the extra moves are nice, you were still left with solid rhythm guitar riffing, even more noticeable and fully flexed bass runs, along with the usual powerhouse drumming anchor. The songs are still as good as ever with all the hooks and the strength from the three core members. This was 39 minutes well spent, yet again, as I never find anything bad to say or anything that distracts me from the pleasure of their music.
Hugh Cornwell - The backstage was only about half full or a tad more and maybe that is due to Mr. Cornwell's frequent visits to our fair city or perhaps the lack of having the name of his famous band, the Stranglers, on the billing. But not only will Hugh give you excellent Stranglers songs during the set, he has continued to forge ahead with his music that is clearly from that Stranglers style and even has a bit more flexibility. It is not exactly the same as he plays his guitar and sings in front of rhythm section sans keyboards. This particular band he has is really tough and gritty with plenty of skill in not just holding down the beat, but throwing a few body blows into the crowd. I like a lot of the solo songs with Stranglers cuts like "Hanging Around" and "Duchess" working their way in. The nearly hour set flew by as everything was so crisp and powerful. He came back for a long encore which only dragged a tad until a jumping "No More Heroes" closed things out after an hour, seventeen. There were some jazzy moves within the rock and solid vocal work throughout. He is still a guy to see for both old and new songs, which is not something you can say about people in their fifth decade of performing. The crowd was full of mostly punk veterans and sharp music fans (and even a London travel agent who knew nothing of Hugh Cornwell but was told the Black Cat was where it's at for rock'n'roll". Like me, they really dug the 2013 version of Hugh Cornwell.

Quote of the Night: Just a few funny quips from Hugh but this quick exchange got the laughs...
"Hey Hugh, play 'unheard strangles cut'"
"This isn't a request show, pal."

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Holograms - TV Ghost -- DC9 - Dec 4 2013

TV Ghost - Post punk meets psychedelic rock, to put it simply. But within those genres are many layers of complexity that these five guys from Lafayette, Indiana are fully capable of exploring. They have a full set of keyboards and a vocalist that adds some guitar to the core trio of GBD. The vocalist reminds me a lot of my late dear friend, Gyn Cameron of Dementia Precox and this band shares some of that band's cool sound with a depth of warmth that is revealed in the journey you take while listening to the set. There is a lot of Echo & the Bunnymen here which is never a bad thing and when the band slows things down, I am reminded of Magazine, which does not happen often. The band subtly adjusts tempos and volumes to keep the drama and involvement high and effectively pulled in the moderate sized crowd tonight. This is a very good band that fans of any remotely creative rock music that retains comfortable roots will easily get into. They combine style and substance as well as anybody.
Holograms - If you like Iceage, I urge you to explore Holograms. They are also Scandanavian, this time from Stockholm, and employ that same fierce simultaneous merger of punk and post-punk. They have all the ferocity and hooks of fast punk music, yet explore all kinds of intriguing sonics, some from the guitar, but mostly with a small Korg synthesizer. Three guys sing and they connect with some pop-punk singalong styles in a few of the songs. Yet the music is driving, powerful, loud, and ferocious. A couple of songs started causing my mind to wander, but a majority were highly effective at providing that enjoyable energetic surge while keeping the mind active discerning the twists and turns of the instrumentation. I am happy they are over here in the US and hopefully they will continue to grow into an exciting act. It was quite clear from the crowd's body language, that this band has plenty to offer already.

Quote of the Night: From someone in the crowd to me... "Did I kick you out of your seat?"

And the answer I did not give, was 'no, I actually sat down for a couple songs to avoid where you were standing before you and your boyfriend moved to the booth in front of me to continue your gabfest and makeout session.' Actually, as much of a pet peeve this is of mine, it was actually kind of funny tonight and considerate for her to come up to me (especially as I didn't employ my usual scowl). Thankfully the bands were loud, so I only wanted to avoid the distracting sight lines. Ah, the pleasures of the public.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Previews of Coming Attractions - December 2013

TV Ghost comes to the DC9 this Wednesday, Dec 4th, opening for Sweden's Holograms.

or try French Horn Rebellion opening for Savoir Adore at Living Social, Dec 4th.

Sofia Rei brings her South American jazz explorations to the Artisphere this Saturday, Dec 7th.

Brazos plays the DC9 on Sunday Dec 15th.

Anamanguchi opens for Dillon Francis at the 9:30 Club on Dec 19th

Sunday, December 1, 2013


Black Checker has been a steadily improving local power pop band for some time now. Their new EP should establish them as a serious player in that field. Of course, serious power pop is serious fun, especially with these three guys bringing it. The drums gallop along with speedy bass lines, crunching and fuzzy melodic explosions, and vocals that some how manage to keep up and stay tuneful. The speedy cuts sound like the Nerves with a dose of the Fastbacks, while the final song has some of the pop stylings of a Grant Hart song. I expected a good record from this band, but instead they delivered an excellent record that faithfully reproduces the intensity of a live show. Many power pop bands sacrifice the power they posses on stage when they record, but not here--these six songs rock hard.

Los Angeles based singer songwriter Cate Le Bon was originally from Wales, although this music in spite of being accessible yet personal would be extremely hard to put on any two dimensional map. From New Zealand to Japan through the UK to various points in the American continents (and realistically, all six of the occupied ones), pop music has certain styles to it. Cate Le Bon pulls from many different pop areas and is not afraid to experiment as she places a ton of personality in every cut. It is not quite as intense as Kate Bush, as there is more of a laid back feeling in a majority of the songs. That has more to do to tempo as the vocals and the guitars seem to be making mysterious observations and occasionally asking a tough question or two. There is a more somber Marissa Nadler style here as well, although the electric music is quite different and does not compare well with too many bands. If you are a fan of smart music, give this a try, I think you will have a good experience. And I have enjoyed the live show as well.

Cate Le Bon comes back to DC at the DC9 on January 15th.

Songs to try first:

I Can't Help You - The jangle is light, but the pop hook is strong and avoids being overly cute.

Duke - A lot of interesting songwriting moves going on here and maybe even a teaspoon of Kate Bush.

Sisters - I love the quirky keys, guitar, and bass in this one, plus the vocals sound like Penelope Houston trying to sound like Jennifer Miro.


There is little like the magical feelings evoked by a high quality finger style guitarist. Minnesotan Kyle Fosburgh has both the technique and style to bring out a lot of emotion from the guitar strings and hollow guitar body. There are just four cuts here on this EP, but they are strong and are a wonderful entrance to his music, if you have not been there before. Although you hear a lot of the great guitarists in here as influences, I think the resulting music does land in between that of John Fahey and Robbie Basho. There is that Fahey precision and inventiveness, but he jumps on the Basho style at times by going way, way out there with throbbing drones of shifting intensities. There are three instrumentals with one song employing some fine vocals and was recorded live in the studio.

This six-song electronica EP hits all the right buttons for me, which is not easy to do in this genre. There are crazed female vocals that remind me of some of the off kilter west coast punk bands that never made it big, such as No Mercy. The electronics, drums, guitars are all gnarly and attack oriented. This is akin to combining the Coathangers with Chrome. This is crazy stuff that even has the playfulness of Devo worked into songs that sound like traffic jams.

You can see them live (if you dare) at Comet Ping Pong on Friday, December 13th.


I was initially worried this might be a rather slight entry into the psychedelic low-key Americana genre. The vocals have that otherworldly sound and the instrumentation has a slower stoned pace to it all with a lot of acoustic instruments and echoey electric guitars and other sounds. There is a very easy going, Americanized version similar to the lighter side of what Jason Pierce does with Spiriualized. That this is a strong, professional record with lovely songs will be of no surprise to the many Fresh and Onlys fans, as this band features Tim Cohen of the F+Os. And as for my worries? Never mind, this record had me wrapped around its finger from early in the second song until the final notes drifted away. It is a fine achievement.

Songs to try first:

Blinding Light - Warmth amidst the spacey landscape of this excellent cut.

Bridge of Gold - What starts out almost too slight grows into a steady psychedelic vision.

The Store - Nimble light rocker with a great refrain. This one is addictive.


There are a lot harder things to do in life than review Magik Markers records, but the challenge of trying to figure out what this music grew out of, what makes it work, and who would like it is a true test. Covering the first point, although they clearly come out of lo-fi indie rock with a strong DIY ethic, there is much more going on. I suppose some of the style can be traced back to the Velvet Underground through Sonic Youth with a songs that pull back into thoughtful quieter moments to others that blast out in fury. If you can imagine refining Teddy & the Frat Girls a bit, that may be the root of the Markers. It works because of the odd guitar lines, murky rhythms, and intense vocals. The variety of songs keeps an album as well as a live set highly engaging from beginning to end. This band has developed a solid cult of fans out there and many others have turned to safer music, but anyone who wants a challenge. And how can you resist when they recorded songs in J. Mascis's attic and used a mellotron that he has in there?

Songs to try first:

Acts of Desperation - Some of the best music comes from acts of desperation.

Bonfire - Raw garage punk that sounds straight out of an echo filled concrete garage.

American Sphinx Face - Actually don't start with story of throbbing noise, unless you are already a fan of this or V.U.'s "The Gift".

This local trio is always such a pleasant band. This four song EP is filled with instrumental guitar and drum music that manages to sound so relaxing while staying busy and engaging. It is a neat little trick and it seems that they take progressive moves and put them to pop structures. They are far more nimble than many shoe gaze bands that aspire to these kind of melodies. The resultant appetizer here will leave a tang on your tongue as you wait for more.  And that more is coming right up as…

Sansyou plays the Marx Cafe tonight, Sunday, December 1st.

This local instrumental outfit puts on intriguing sets when I have caught them in the clubs. They fill the void of several working or defunct Socket Circuits bands, with closest resemblance to Buildings. They offer even a bit more variety, which is essential when you eschew vocals, such as the shifts in pace and volume in "Boogie Worms". I particularly enjoy the sound of the bass on much of this, which approaches something akin to Gang of Four/Big Black. There still is not quite enough variety for me to enjoy this style of music in my home as much as I do live. This band is really close, but I still prefer them in the club, as here I want more from an hour's active listening. You have to be as amazing as Mogwai or Mozart to instrumentally hold my interest that long. Even a band like Mono who I love in the clubs does not make my playlists with their recordings. But if you really get off on this style of music, do buy this record as ShowPony will offer you a lot to listen to with busy fluid guitar runs, popping drum rolls and that throaty bass. They are much better than many of their peers. And by all means catch them live and you can do that at the record release party…

ShowPony plays the Galaxy Hut on Monday, December 16th.

Normally I get turned off by hype over hot, high rising fliers in the rock world, but I keep it at the skeptical level and am always willing to join in if the music is good enough. Ty Segall has pretty much lived up to the hype with everything I have heard, even with a prolific pace that that could mirror that of Jay Reatard and maybe even Robert Pollard. And like them, an editor could help make for steadier albums. But adventurous listeners want it all and he is here to oblige. Segall is off more in psychedelic folk direction with this release--something between Marc Brierley and Marc Bolan, perhaps. There are some misses here, but the hits are quite good and the overall feeling is strong if like oddball folk with a warm psyche mist permeating the music. He often has a second vocal or surprise melodic shift to add some originality to this form. Some may want to try his more rocking albums, but this is just right for me.

Songs to try first:

The Keepers - Lilting psyche folk with a Germanic/UK crossed feeling.

The Man Man - Psyche folk tune twists into a gnarly rock ending.

Queen Lullabye - Murky distant percussion with spacey vocals and churning acoustic guitar--odd and interesting.

This album is very simple… and very seductive. Female voice and acoustic guitar and precious little else enters into play in these ten songs. In fact, even the guitar work follows the simple pattern of individual note picking through the basic and repeating chord shifts. The vocals are delicate with a careful use of harmonies at various points. There is not quite enough variety here for this to be a 'classic', but the steady unvarying style does create a rich atmosphere you can get lost in for 35 minutes. So if you like something between Anne Briggs and Marissa Nadler, give Sumie a spin.

Songs to try first:

Spells You - A warm welcome with lovely voice and equally lovely acoustic guitar.

Hunting Sky - Mesmerizing guitar repetition and quietly powerful voice.

Midnight Glories - The longest cut keeps the steady momentum throughout, aided with great harmonies.

This crafty area band continues to put their creative touches on new garage pop music. There are great hooks, jangly guitars, nice harmonies and a whole lot of what you remember from the 1960s. Yet they add electronics and modern touches at key moments to keep everything clearly grounded in the present. I hear reminders of other fine bands like Hush Arbors and even Dead Meadow at times, which works for me. And unlike many albums, the good songs are not front loaded making listening to the entire album more of a chore than a pleasurable exploration. These guys keep bringing on the quality songs with further and further creative flourishes to keep you at rapt attention. I highly recommend spending some time getting to know this album, there are a myriad of pleasures to be had.

Songs to try first:

Cardigan's Fable - I like the subtle menace of the guitar lines, as the song rocks along with great depths of sound.

What If - Invitingly warm vocal line wrapped around a classic 1960s jangly guitar and spirited rhythm.

Digitalis - Incredibly psychedelic and modernly lush with killer vocals. Gorgeous song.

This band centers around San Francisco musician Tim Presley. He has done at least one record with Ty Segall, which does get your brain working in the right direction immediately. But jumping right into this Iive recording will also give you an idea of Presley's approach to combining sixties garage rock, seventies punk, and modern indie jamming hookie nuggets. I am not a fan of live albums or having every recorded performance of even my favorite bands, but they do work well enough when they capture at least some of the fun of being there. This record succeeds, because even a it sounds kind of rough, this is garage rock that works just as well (maybe better) within rough sounding environments. And it is a great place to start to become a fan of White Fence, which I consider myself now. I look forward to the next tour out east.

Songs to try first:

Swagger Vets and Double Moon - Serious garage jamming in a Chocolate Watchband meets MC5 sort of way.

Baxter Corner - A real punk sound here, yet it is 2-3 times longer than the rest of the songs at over 8 1/2 minutes. It's epic and brilliant.

Lizards First - Crazed slide guitar work doesn't stop even with melodic vocal work carrying the tune.


This is a compilation of pop music made by fifteen (mostly) California bay area bands of today, many of which sound like they exist somewhere in the 1960s. There is everything from the harmony laden, tremolo guitar sound from the early part of the decade to the dreamy psychedelia dished up toward the end. There is even a few cuts that sound like 1980s interpretations of that sound. And just a few more songs morph into the odd nomadic psychedelia of Serpent Power and Joseph Byrd and more post-punk pop projects, so there is a lot to choose from here. And like most successful compilations, it plays well on its own because of its theme and quality AND  also gives you some ideas for bands to follow or see live. This was curated by Sonny Smith of Sonny & the Sunsets who are featured here.

Songs to try first:

The Memories - Higher: This has a great lilting hook to it in that freak folk way without being annoying in that freak folk way.

Jessica Pratt - Dreams: Double tracked vocals over acoustic guitars creating a warm psyche folk environment a bit lighter than Smoke Fairies.

Burnt Ones - Premonition: Heavy twisted fun.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Dawn Drapes - Money Cannot Be Eaten - The Post -- Iota - Nov 29 2013

The Post - Coming out of the murky depths of sound so dark and muddled that it would make grunge blush a bright pink, comes an interesting young up and coming band. I don't think this sound was entirely their choice as the soundman brightened things up a bit as it went on. But I hope they keep some of this unusually dark undercurrent that gives strong color to their pop rock moves. It reminds me of the production of an obscure psyche classic, Fenner, Leland & O'Brien, although the band has more in common with Ill Wind and other SF psyche rockers. The keyboardist takes the lead vocal role with her powerful pipes as the guitarist adds some interesting rock textures. They even had a guest sax solo. They are clearly raw and innocent at this stage, but I hope as they keep gigging, they retain as much of this as possible. It really works. One problem... they mentioned their facebook URL two or three times and I can now see why as I cannot find it. Perhaps they should call themselves the Posst or the Postte or something a little easier to find.

Money Cannot Be Eaten - This Harrisonburg Virginia trio has a name that is easy to find and you won't forget any time soon. Thankfully, their music is also quite memorable as they clearly have some strong creative moves within a comfortable rootsy, indie, Americana, rock structure. They employ a guitar, keyboards, and drums with plenty of stirring vocals mostly from the guitarist. The songs are melodic and seemingly simple and accessible enough, but they merge in some of the wildest breaks I have heard in this sort of music. Crazy uses of space, tempo, and sonic shifts rarely come out in ways as this. Most bands would take those ideas and become full fledged psyche bands and far too many bands ignore doing anything like this at all. Full credit to these creative moves as it elevates them from a solid professional outfit to something you should go out of your way for. They closed with a cover of John Lennon's "Jealous Guy" which was fine, but their originals are still sticking with me.
The Dawn Drapes - I saw this band as 'The Two Alpacas' a while back and enjoyed them. The name has changed, but the fine music remains. They do it with two guitars (with switches to keyboards), drums, and three voices. They have a bit of Canned Heat/Ten Years After jamming vibe early on but they roll it through a dough press and come out with something smooth, luscious and more up to date than those bands. The songs vary from near-Dead Meadow tinged folk-rock to straighter material. There is always something interesting going on and it is easy to dig into their material. The hour was a bit late and had people leaving a bit early unfortunately, although many of them were the loud obnoxious self-centered types that can do their bar hopping elsewhere as far as I'm concerned. Thankfully, the remaining crowd dug into the music and got plenty to chew on.  This was a good night of smart yet accessible music. Keep the name 'The Dawn Drapes' in your head as they should become another solid entry into the local DC scene.

Quote of the Night: From someone digging the Dawn Drapes... "Zeppelin!!! but you guys are awesome!"

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Temples - Myrrh Myrrh -- DC9 - Nov 27 2013

Myrrh Myrrh - On with the show. No matter that your vocalist quits on you and according to photos, also plays bass. The guitar and drums carry on with an instrumental set tonight. And as such, it made for a nice rehearsal. They have some skillful rock moves, modern, firm and occasionally playful. But as they said, we could pick up free music and listen to it online and see if the vocals matched what are imaginations came up with. Hopefully they will get that bass and vocals back some time, as there could be something to work with here.
Temples - Direct from Kettering (not the Ohio town I grew up in, but in Northamptonshire, England), comes this terrific quartet. OK, I give up, I am now a full fledged sucker for all of this excellent pop psychedelia floating about in the nethersphere. From the great Jacco Gardner show to the excellent (and a bit harder edged) Gringo Star show to this one, I am a full fledged convert. It still takes a band to come up with great songs and these guys have that down in addition to the fab sounds. They employ either two guitars and or a guitar and keyboards atop a steady and even murky rhythm section. The guitars are strong and alternate between lush melodies and edgy cutting barbs. The vocals carry the pop brilliantly, but make way for long instrumental passages that remind me a bit of a Wooden Shjips/Door hybrid. It is as if wild psyche bands like Group 1850 or International Harvester work hard on covering the Kinks or the Zombies. Rarely do bands cause me to move around in snakey undulations that I am glad I don't have on video. But these guys completely charmed me in an overwhelming way, which makes me utterly thrilled I made it out on this cold windy night. Please work this band into your listening and stay tuned for future tours, as this first visit to the US can not possibly be their last.

Quote of the Night: Fair warning from the opener's welcome... "Hi everybody--thanks for being here and not at Rob Zombie down the street. We're Myrrh Myrrh and we normally have a vocalist but she quit ten days ago."

Watermelon - Paperhaus - North Country - Gallons to Ounces -- Black Cat - Nov 27 2013

Gallons to Ounces - Seemingly from North Florida or Georgia, but actually from our DC vicinity comes this classic southern rock line-up complete with keyboards, bass, drums, and guitar. Well, that is one guitar as opposed the cliched three guitar line-up, but there is still plenty of guitar in this bluesy soulful rock outfit. The band gets rolling at 8:18 which means only about 10 of the eventually 50 people are there at the start, but at least it filled up rather quickly. Four area bands, holiday travel... this probably should have been booked in the smaller downstairs stage. Yet there was still enough energy to make this enjoyable set work. The band all have the ability to carry their parts where they both stand out as well as fit into the song's structure. The guitarist handles the lead vocals and has the power to liven up the material. It is in the classic Allman Brothers, Little Feat style with its southern blend of three or four genres. They move from fast to slow and focus on a specific genre a bit more in certain songs, which make for nice variety. The only thing to work on would be to create more distinctive songwriting as the most memorable number was their ripping cover of "Crosstown Traffic". The crowd really enjoyed the set and it got the evening off to a nice start.
Unfortunately for the rest of this show, I had to be off to the DC9 for another engagement (I am working on bringing in other writers next year, so I don't have to double book myself in future). I hope it went well for all bands as they all do a great job almost every time I see them.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Black Checker -- Acre 121 - Nov 22 2013

Black Checker - The EP release party takes place at a Columbia Heights venue I'm visiting for the first time. It is quite large with bar and restaurant area. The stage is in the corner and there is a lot of seating with room for standing and dancing, which a few people took advantage of. The crowd was large, filled with many familiar faces in the DC music scene which is a plus as the audience was into the music. And why shouldn't they be as Black Checker is becoming one of the sharpest power pop bands in the DC area. They have always been fun, but seem even tighter after plenty of gigging and continued songwriting. They have a new EP out which I gave a quick listen to and will review in a week. In three words: it is excellent. The only problem with it was that it reminded me of the weakness of the PA tonight. It simply was not sufficient for a large room and a big crowd. The soundman did as well as he could as the vocals were clear and strong, but the guitar was a bit too compressed and the drums did not have the sufficient drive. Yet, the energy was there and you could hear all the instruments well enough as they gave life to these snappy, varied songs. Of course they played the new EP, which I recognized. But the real test to how good of hooks they have is that I recognized older cuts that I had not heard in nearly a year. All good power pop bands should aspire to create songs that stick and stay with listeners and Black Checker has that going on. They even offer a few slices of varied tones and styles, both in their originals and their cover of the Toadies "Possum Kingdom". They asked if I remembered the 90s? Actually, no I don't, but this was a fun change of pace. This is a band that is worth going out of your way for and hopefully they will continue to follow the arc they are presently on.
Apologies to the Dead Women and the Joads who played after, but it was getting late and this is not the most healthy of weeks for me.

Quote of the Night: "MUSIC!!!" yelled the bar patron to my right as the bookers tonight made a major miscalculation by having a comic start of proceedings (and at 10:07pm with three bands to follow). Frankly, this booking has never been anything short of a disaster when I have experienced it before. I was stunned when Bonnie Prince Billy wanted a comic before his set of music (and after a brilliant opener) at the Birchmere some years back. You could hear every cough across the room as the leaden material was instantly entombed by the perplexed audience. Even Jello Biafra, who has drawn big crowds for spoken word shows, was heckled long and hard with his 'talk' between sets of music in Denver, as a sold-out crowd was dying for Slim Cessna's Autoclub (who were on Biafra's label and wanted him to perform). Tonight, this poor comic had a PA that did not cut through the indifferent crowd and spent 10-15 of the worst minutes of his career trying to garner the attention of the audience. It is a noble attempt to combine comedy and music (or not so noble if it is vaudeville), but I have yet to see it work.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Gringo Star - Ski Lodge -- Black Cat - Nov 21 2013

Ski Lodge - I am hearing the Cure and, of course, the Smiths says my musical buddy for the evening. I was picking up on the Smiths, which happens frequently enough, but his Cure comparison may be even better (which frustrates me since I listened to the Cure more than I did the Smiths). But enough about us, this NYC quartet is led by Andrew Marr (yes, really) and has a perky pop styling with a nod to psychedelic and the occasional rock oomph. Warm and pleasant are the words that come to mind. The 35 minute set is almost a little too comfortable, but there last song contained a wildly surprising melodic shift that was as exciting as it was unexpected. Hopefully they can come up additional strong songs and a nice little band could become a must hear band.
Gringo Star - Second time around for me seeing this Atlanta based psyche-rock band. Again, they show great skill in digging deep into some of my favorite sounds with a thorough understanding of 1960s music and the crisp energy of a post-punk world. They have all the hooks and stellar vocal harmonies to present popsike material. Instead, they rev it up into full fledged rockers, but not to the point of jamming or distorting the lovely core of a sincere pop song. They are very similar to Jacco Gardner, but move to the heavier rock side of that equation. I even hear some of the Sadies in a couple of songs, which is a nice nod to the heartland without moving too far into that territory. Their recent album was fantastic and the live showcases the creativity there in more of an upfront raucous approach. The variety of vocalists and the mix of keyboard or two guitars keeps things lively and these guys keep the music coming even with the instrument switching. This is a class act all the way and if you have not explored them yet, then I suggest you do so. They had a great room full of fans at the Black Cat backstage, but I just don't see how the smaller settings can contain this highly accessible music.

Quote of the Night: From Gringo Star (nothing terribly exciting, but it reminds me of a Keith Relf Yardbirds bootleg moment)... "We appreciate you all being here. You're the most lovely audience."

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Mono - Majeure -- Rock'n'Roll Hotel - Nov 20 2013

Majeure - This one-man show emits a Tangerine Dream blast that is welcome to these ears. He has a bank of electronics and synthesizers and coaxes out some pulsing synth runs atop a strong sequencer pattern with steel eyed Germanic melodies. The middle portion of the set is varied a bit before the strong sequencer patterns come back for the last cut. There was nothing terribly original or earth shattering here, but it was no less enjoyable for the quality of the music presented. And Majeure is the drummer for a coupe of interesting spacey Pittsburgh bands, Zombi and Timespan.
Mono - This hard touring Japanese band makes it through DC yet again. They have been around 14 years now and I have been checking them out regularly for the last seven years. The formula has not changed much with their instrumental music which is shoegaze, but instead of shooting for volume highs like most of the lazier bands of this genre, they instead work dynamics and classical music melodies and forms. Although there is the occasional volume burst, most of their music relies on steady ascensions and descensions. Theirs is some of the most majestic sounding music of any rock band you will encounter, yet they seemed even a bit heavier tonight than last time through. There are two guitars constantly at work with a drummer that spends some time on glockenspiel (as does the bass player). The bassist also plays quite a bit of piano, although the heavy moments still come through in most of those songs. This is music worth exploring and the club was over half full with a very attentive bunch that stayed extremely quiet during the quiet moments and crowded forward to get close to the sound. I am always quite happy after and evening with Mono.

Quote of the Night (actually Tuesday): Me, to my dentist.... "Actually, I hate my teeth" as he proceeded to give me one less tooth to hate.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Quilt - Happy Jawbone Family Band -- DC9 - Nov 17 2013

Happy Jawbone Family Band - Brattleboro, Vermont is a nice little place, but not so pristine that it is not capable of hatching a ragtag oddball group like this. These five smiling oddballs seem the perfect fit for many of the bands I have seen up there, maybe a bit more raucous and outgoing with spirited adventurous music. Primitive garage jamming, jagged edges, warts and all, is what I take away from this lo-fi style. Is it Jandek meeting Plastic Crimewave? Half Japanese becoming full? Sons of the brothers of Guided by Voices rehearsing for the sock hop? As ragged as it all can be, complete with a stoner vibe throughout, these people can put it all together and have some intriguing sounds going on. It is lighthearted and looooose, and certainly not for everyone, but I found it all surprisingly charming and fun. Some of the songs really clicked, especially the one where it sounded like Wishbone Ash on too many mushrooms. Small Sunday night crowd, but they seemed adventurous enough to enjoy what was going on.
Quilt - The very name of this twin-guitar quartet simply cannot keep me from thinking of one of my favorite bands--The Loom. I have not seen the the Loom in quite a while, but they always put on great shows in town with their fully realized vision of a new type of psychedelic Americana. The great thing about Quilt is that I can say the same thing about them, yet they have a fully distinct sound from that of the Loom and just about everybody else as well. It is the basic twin guitar, bass and drums line-up with some subtle synth washes coming out of somebody's pedal board. The real key beyond the high quality jangled guitar work and rock steady rhythm lines are the vocals. All four of them sing in various combinations with the guitarists carrying alternating leads. There are variations in harmony and droning tones in different registers. It is kind of like the Holy Modal Rounders meet the Hollies in the H section of the record bin (and if it was my collection, Jake Holmes would be between, interjecting some of his style). It is also a bit louder and more electric and the music flows actively with a strong undercurrent. There are some strong shifts of tone and style now and then, but it never stops the flow. I hope they find their audience, because if life is fair (one can hope) it should be a very large one the next time they come to town.

Quote of the Night: From the opener... "This song is 'I Have to Speak to Rocky Balboa' based on an actual event."

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Devil Makes Three - Shakey Graves -- 9:30 Club - Nov 15 2013

Shakey Graves - As I stepped into line tonight, they said the person in front of me had the last ticket as it was now sold out. Forunately, they had my name on the list and had space (barely), so I made it in a little late to see the opening solo act. Although I caught about half the set, I immediately was sorry I didn't catch it all as Shakey Graves is one interesting 'gentleman from Texas'. He sings, plays acoustic guitar and kicks at a kick drum (while standing), yet if you close your eyes, you swear you can hear a whole band roaring away. the fuzzboxes in use creates this strong sound for his heartland songs. The songs are good enough to work for acoustic busking, but I am happier to hear them fill the big club so well. He was over huge with the crowd where you could hear the building enthusiasm during the set. He is clearly one to watch for future tours.

The Devil Makes Three - When you have a trio of standup bass, acoustic guitars or guitar and banjo with three voices (one female) you can probably guess the general direction of the sound. And you would certainly hit their sound because this band has a wonderfully broad blend of Americana taking us through folk, Appalachian, Western swing, rockabilly, country rock, and many more. The songs are rich and hearty and the playing crisp, quick, and enthusiastic. They vary the rhythms, although most are infectiously toe tapping. They add a guest violinist for a few numbers which adds even more interesting sounds to the mix. Their vocals, personality, and steady enthusiasm pulls the crowd right into the hootenanny they created here tonight. I can't really find anything to fault here tonight. This is a strong band that plays in a comforting manner that will get a lot of fans from a lot of different places and genres joining in.

Quote of the Night: From the Devil Makes Three at 8:49pm, 50 minutes into their set... "Boy, it is early, isn't it?"

Yes it is, although at least the club started things early enough tonight, unlike Tuesday night's show. The bands' sets did not feel rushed and they left plenty of time to get set up for their 10:30pm show. So this one worked out ok for me (and if there was someone I wanted to see at the Velvet Lounge or Black Cat or DC9, I could have headed over there just after, but not this night).

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Lost Civilizations - Br'er - Marian McLaughlin -- Black Squirrel - Nov 13 2013

Marian McLaughlin - Joanna Newsom and Marissa Nadler do not have much of anything on Marian McLaughlin aside from a massive following and larger audiences respectively. Although she is off to Baltimore, she plans to be back in DC plenty of times, gracing stages and house shows with her lovely deep psychedelic tinged folk music. I am sure I have mentioned Vashti Bunyan, Veronique Chalot, and Joan Mills before and all of that is evident here tonight. In paying attention to her intriguing guitar technique, I find even more Incredible String Band flourish within the choices she makes. Like the ISB, this music is creative, but digs deep emotionally with comfort and style. It is beyond high time her music finds bigger audiences and hopefully her new record coming out early next year will help in that regard.

Br'er - This is a one-man show featuring voice, harmonium, and intensity. He begins with a Swans cover of "You're Not Real Girl" and although it was likely not planned, he got overly animated toward the end and toppled his harmonium over. That gave him the chance to walk among the crowd singing the 'nothing inside you is real' refrain in a chilling moment. Hard to top that beginning, but the set was solid the whole way through. The harmonium is a really cool instrument as it wheezes, bleats, and bends its sound out into a room. He used his voice to twist and turn along with it creating drama throughout the songs. Sitting with some fine local musicians, allows me to steal the name of Alan Vega of Suicide as an influence which does make sense to me. I was also thinking of Tuxedomoon's Winston Tong, although this is more intense. And of course Nico used a harmonium. Fascinating music that certainly demands attention.
The Lost Civilizations Experimental Music Project - I have long been a fan of this improvisational outfit and they (along with their well chosen opening acts) are particularly welcome tonight after last night's big name band debacle. The core of this group is Ted Zook on an electric basscello and Mike Sebastian on saxes. They are joined tonight by percussionist Amanda Huron sitting at a drum kit. Although jazz obviously comes to mind with the improvisational approach and choices of instruments, they hit many avant garde buttons along the way and live up to the 'experimental music' part of their name. Yet it is easy to drift off in the tones, occasionally being jarred by moments of sharp contrasts and integration between the players. It is not too far removed from the urban sounds of the no wave era of NYC. Urban comes to mind, but that got me thinking if a saxophone can ever truly sound rural? If there is an example, please let me know. Anyway, this was another fine set that let me drift off into those thoughts and more and I again recommend this band to anyone who enjoys the creative process and music lovers that want to grow outward.

Quote of the Night: Paraphrasing Br'er as he started... "Thanks for coming tonight, although I'll miss the person who was telling all of us about the South. It was so fascinating!"

So again, it is not just me. People who engage in "inane bar chatter" (his quote, but I think I've used the word inane, too) are incredibly annoying to those around them and they also cut into the musicians' concentration as well. Now tonight was a free show, which as great as that is, also invites people who come to the bar for usual bar things and don't have anything invested. Still, a little volume control would be nice. Why is respecting one's environment so difficult? Oh, the answers evident there.

The Black Squirrel is more bar than club with a long bar filling its narrow confines in its Adams Morgan locale. Yet, the stage affords room for small bands and solo acts and the sound was quite good tonight. So there are some positives here, for sure.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Flamin Groovies - Young Sinclairs -- U Street Music Hall - Nov 12 2013

Young Sinclairs - Garage rock and power pop is the theme for tonight with the venerable Groovies and the openers have the formula down pat. A 12-string guitar provides the jangle while the 6-stringer has the crunch. The rhythm section is steady, but the best part is the two-part harmonies they employ. The songs are solid, although they are the typically short pop ditties that start to blend together a bit too much. I would have enjoyed a reverb drenched extended jam to break things up a bit. They had a really sharp song that was their second-to-last cut that livened things up nicely. Oh wait, that was there last song as they were unceremoniously told after saying they had one more song to do. And thus concluded their 24-minute set. Now if you are going to cram two separate paying shows into one night, U Street Music Hall, perhaps you will let a band start a little earlier to get a full set in, rather than delay the start time to one hour after the doors open. The crowd was there.
Flamin Groovies - It is hard to believe this is the first ever show in Washington DC for this band that formed in the 1960s. Granted, their career has not exactly been on a straight trajectory and there were many years of down time, but this rare event did bring out a good crowd tonight. But based on tonight's show, this likely will also be their last show in DC as I doubt too many people would bother coming back. It is a credible line-up with 2-3 long-time members manning the guitars and bass along with a newer drummer. And there was some of their signature energized power pop flair evident in the set. But with the awful, awful sound full of feedback, there were plenty of grumbles on stage and in the crowd. They played a lot of cover songs which was ok, although when they played "Jumpin Jack Flash", it reminded me that I only saw the Stones play this a few months ago. They had a guitar string break (with no back-up), leaving one guitarist to go solo by playing the second Byrds (Dylan penned) song of the night, "Chimes of Freedom". I am not sure there was any magic even early on, but any positive vibes were slipping away, even as some of the crowd was trying to keep it lively. I had to laugh and agree with the shout of "Nooo!" when they said they were going to another Jagger-Richards cut. "Paint It Black" came out and again reminded me of the real deal just this past summer. I decided I had enough and followed a few people out the door, not waiting for the mighty "Shake Some Action".  Serves me right for not following my own advice I wrote only yesterday about shelling out $25 bucks for a name band as opposed to checking out 3-4 bands at the smaller clubs for $8. Oh well.

Quote of the Night: From a Groovie (Chris Wilson) to the sound booth after some feedback "This better stop, right now!"

This was one of two complaints about feedback after complaining that he couldn't hear himself in the monitor. Bravo, U Street. It will take a very special show to pull me back into your club with your supposedly great sound system. Whether the band deserves some blame, or whether it was double booking tonight, this was yet another dud.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

DC ROCK LIVE - Fifth Anniversary

DC ROCK LIVE is 5 years old. What started as an experiment in continuing a nearly 40 year love affair with music has become more established than I ever could have guessed. After some involvement with the music business over 25 years ago, this was my way to dive back in. It was simply an experiment in seeing how new media techniques worked as well as allowing me to try my hand at non-business writing for the first time since I did fanzines so long ago. I also wanted to keep a track record of the live shows I was seeing to communicate with my music buddies scattered about the globe. There have been a host of surprises along the way and ultimately it has been a blast. But 5 years is a long time, as my body constantly reminds me. I will be considering various changes to my modus operandi as I go forward, with everything on the table such as plowing on with the usual busy schedule, to getting more writers on board, or to the complete shutdown of the site.

But to help me with this decision, I will flesh out five positive factors that keep me going strong, along with five negative factors that will either get me to cut back or quit completely.


1. Live music is a joy, so why not write about it? Although I do a lot of album reviews and will continue to do so for a long time, there is an explosive charge from a live show that is easier and more fun to write about than the more clinical review of an album. A live show is a snap shot in time of bands simply trying to have fun themselves by playing their music to people, be it a dozen or thousands. The atmosphere is highly positive most nights and even mediocre music can resonate majestically in the right environment. I enjoy documenting an event when I feel it succeeds.

2. Local music is exciting and it is important to remind people of that. Although I certainly will embrace seeing bands that are spending the big dollars to tour, I always want to see the local openers as well as going to shows fully comprised of local bands. I have always struggled the mindset of being the 1,200th person in the 9:30 Club seeing some perfectly likable band for $30 or $40 as compared versus being that 15th or 30th person to see three bands at the Velvet Lounge for $8. And in my experience, you will often get more exciting music at the lower priced show. I want to play a part in reminding people to be adventurous towards the unknown band. They just might be headlining the 9:30 Club in a few years. For instance, the first time I saw Husker Du, they played to eight people.

3. It has been a great experience assisting local bands and vibrant touring bands coming to town in the desire to share their music to people that will enjoy it. One of the stupidest things that happened to me during the formative years of the blog, was not anticipating how many up and coming bands would be pleased with getting coverage and would get to know me. This led to all the basic networking within the local scene and beyond that I don't need to explain further. The stupid part was me forgetting that this would be an obvious result of the blog, as it was such an essential part of the late 1970s punk scene that I was a part of in Dayton, Ohio and beyond. The business has changed a lot since then, but the basics of networking remain the same and it is fun to be a small part of it all.

4. Seeing art created is a pleasure. It may be small 'a' art or be a rock solid capital 'A' artistic experience, but either way, I will always be a part of mankind's forays into artistic expression. I have always enjoyed movies, theater, almost all styles of music, literature and will continue to do so to the end of my days. Spending time on the creation side is important as well and I hope to expand my boundaries more and more.

5. Uncovering historical connections and learning more about musicians is what makes it fun for me. Even if I never wrote a word, I enjoy fitting sounds, songs, and styles into my musical history which covers the early 1960s through the late 1980s in depth. It impresses me seeing young musicians getting into bands who I personally knew and saw many times, when today's crop of musicians had not even been born. Also, the blog has given me the chance to interview some very interesting bands and artists which has been terrific fun. I would do more of this, but transcribing is the most annoying part of my work. But when I space it out well enough, it is especially invigorating for me.


1. The live setting causes increasing pain for me. I have had serious back problems and sciatica for almost 15 years now. The standing and hard seating at a majority of clubs takes its toll more and more, especially now that I am the ripe old age of 54. This is a young person's game for many reasons and physical pain reminds me of this every single day to varying degrees.

2. If you have read me regularly you know how tired I get of noisy crowds. I am glad that I have found others that agree with this, but the problem remains. Enthusiastic talk about the music is fine and yes, there is a bar and a merch table going, so there will be area noise that I am willing to accept. Yet I will never get used to the people that pay cover fees to have inane conversations with people, many of who they see regularly anyway. It is quite varied depending on the club or the bands playing, but it gets progressively worse and worse. I am not ready to fully retire to the Hamilton with comfortable seating and a nightly announcement to shut the hell up for the benefit of your neighbors and the artists, but there are nights I wish that DJ/announcer was there at the other club shows I attend. I am a firm believer in the need to protect and respect your environment in the broadest possible sense.

3. Doing 150 to 200 shows a year is a bit overwhelming. Really? How shocking, eh. The worst of it is when the music all starts sounding the same to me or I just start lazily clustering it together whether it makes sense or not. Some nights this mental exhaustion is more of a concern for me than the physical pain is on another night.

4. I don't have the desire to keep up with new musical trends. I will see the bands, but I do not see the linkages with the present and recent past as opposed to the longer historical view. This has its place, but ultimately becomes less meaningful over time. And even though I review over 300 albums a year, I do not have or am willing to take the time to hear many of the bigger artists. I went through four major magazine/webzine lists of top 50 albums from 2012 and found I had not heard more than two records on any of the lists all the way through.

5. I don't like losing the passion for seeing live music. Early on in this blog, I would comb the club calendars to find shows to do. Now, with bands, labels, and publicity agents sending me 20-40 emails a day, my calendar is loaded and I comb it in hopes of finding days off. I still don't want too many free evenings either, but I have to find the balance where there is a pleasure that builds to the point of going out for the evening. That does not happen as much as it used to.

But the positives still outweigh the negatives and even when that day comes that I know I should stop, I will do so with no regrets of investing the time I have on this project. And I see on my calendar that I have a show tonight and one tomorrow, both of which I am looking forward to very much. I hope I see a lot of people joining me.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

The Blow - Love Inks -- Black Cat - Nov 8 2013

Love Inks - It is Friday night on the big stage at the Black Cat. Austin's Love Inks steps up to get the crowd warmed up. Well, at least half of the crowd that actually chooses to pay attention to this entertaining music. The rest engage in their usual mundane conversations that could exist anywhere and at any time, but for some annoying reason, it exists here and now. It is worse than usual tonight as Love Inks has a mostly delicate sound with recorded beats, guitar and bass, electronics, and quietly intense female vocals on top. There are some intriguing contrasts in the music with the bass player mirroring the pace of the beats, while the guitar and even the vocals dance around make their presence known at alternate pacing and volume. At times they get too settled, but when this works, the guitars reach out with menace, while the vocals soothe and the rhythm goes and goes. It is a likable sound that would work better if you get lost in it and not have that extra buzz from people masquerading as an audience. The singer sounded a lot like the Nuns' Jennifer Miro, although she clearly is inspired by Yoko Ono (along with the Washington Generals, Richard Brautigan, Pamela Des Barres, and others from my young adult years). There was a nice cover of 'Rock On' by David Essex, making me wonder just how old this band is. No matter, they hit the right buttons with me and hopefully made a few fans from the huddled crowd that was engaged in this fine set.
The Blow - This 'band' has one woman on stage singing and dancing and talking a lot,while the other woman is on a platform set up between the soundman and the stage, looking like a conductor with nothing to conduct. But there are computers and some music of sorts comes out. They wanted the room darker, but the bar areas were quite bright as usual. Frankly, the lights left a bit to be desired anyway, so it hardly seemed important. But there was some interesting talk about silence (ha!, dream on), creation from nothing, etc. There were some catchy bits here and there, some intelligent although overblown banter. Yet this really was not working for me as a live presentation, and although a slightly higher percentage of the crowd was paying attention (at least after the first song), I chose to take my future conversations home early tonight.

Quote of the Night: From the Blow... "It's pretty hard to find silence in the world."